A slightest hint of acknowledgement is all he can give before hastily turning away. Thirteen years since Draco’s move back to Britain and fifteen since their encounter in Paris, he still cannot bear to look at her. Not at times like this.
Every day they meet at the office, exchanging curt nods and clipped conversations, which never stray so much as half an inch from business. To be honest, they managed to avoid each other at first. But as time passed and they both advanced to higher positions within the Ministry, the interactions have become inevitable. It doesn’t matter, however, for Draco has gradually built up a defence strong enough to hold off during those times.
Nevertheless, there are moments when he wonders if she can see right through his façade. Perhaps it’s the way she looks at him whenever she thinks no one is looking. Is it pity? Because she knows that he hasn’t been able to move on after all those years? Is he really that obvious? The questions never cease to haunt him, yet he never asks.
He turns back to his wife and son, bidding his goodbye to the latter before the boy eagerly gets onto the train. Although Draco loves Scorpius more than anything in the world, he cannot deny the fact that his marriage with Astoria has been and will always be a compromise. Maybe this is the reason for the dull ache in his chest every time he sees her family—her happy, loving family. For a time, he used to believe that he was jealous of the Weasel. But then he’s come to realise that he has been jealous of her, of the woman who has taken away his heart and never returned it.
Hermione slips out of the bed when she thinks Draco is still asleep as per usual. On any previous day, he would just pretend that he hadn’t been awake and let her go. They were going to meet at work after all. But today is different, so he edges towards the bedside table and grasps at her hand, causing the box she’s been holding to fall unceremoniously onto the floor. Wordlessly, he sits up and pulls her into his arms, crashing his lips on hers. He pours everything he has into that one kiss, from the initial intensity to the lingering tenderness. And he can sense that she feels it too, responding to him and being swept along with his torrent of feelings and emotions.
‘Stay,’ he breathes into her ear when they break apart. She simply shakes her head and wriggles herself free from his embrace. ‘Please,’ he pleads.
‘I can’t,’ she replies, not quite meeting his eyes. Despite her words, they both know that all she has to do is accept the offer to work at the French division instead. His gaze follows Hermione’s hand as she smooths down the imaginary wrinkles on her skirt, seemingly trying to postpone the inevitable. He waits for her to say something else, but she only bends down to retrieve her dropped item.
‘Write to me,’ she says at last, sliding the velvet box into his hands. And then she is gone.
A full bottle of Ogden's finest is his only companion on a sleepless night. Sadly enough, the occurrence of those nights is much more frequent than Draco would ever care to admit, and to be quite honest, he has ended up greeting the morning in his study more often than he does his bedroom. Tonight should be no different, though he bitterly realises now that Scorpius has started his Hogwarts years, he will have to add it permanently to his already crammed ‘misery calendar’. Every year on this day, he will see Hermione sending her children off to Hogwarts.
Draco angrily flings the glass in his hand against the marble floor, watching the shattered crystal pieces mingling with crimson splashes on the milk-white surface. Life is bloody unfair. How could she be so damned happy after all that has happened? When all that she’s given him is a freaking pen? But angered by the thing as he is, Draco can’t seem to throw it away. He never uses it but instead tucks it away in the depth of the desk drawer in his study.
It takes him six more swigs from the bottle of firewhisky to work up the courage to take out Hermione’s old gift. He numbly opens the box to reveal an exquisitely-designed pen. As Draco traces his fingers on the smooth metal surface, he is seized by the powerful impulse that he has always managed to resist. At that moment, he doesn’t think at all, merely scribbling down the first letters that pop up in his brain. Hermione, the name blinks back at him before dissolving into the expensive parchment. At first he thinks his eyes are playing tricks on him, but then Hermione’s neat handwriting appears on the previously blank page.
I know this probably sounds stupid, but I charmed the pen so that when you write my name, this letter will appear. I need to make sure what we had these past months wasn’t just some kind of passing lust to you. Because to me, it wasn’t. And somehow I feel that you wouldn’t be using this pen to write to me if it was.
I’m so sorry, Draco, but I am too prudent to risk giving you my heart right then only to have it broken. Now that you know how I feel, please forgive me. I’ll be waiting.
Draco has to reread the message several times to wrap his drunken mind around the meaning, but once he does, his throat burns with a sensation that has nothing to do with firewhisky. It has taken him fifteen years to discover her true gift.