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Chapter 1: someone else
Our eyes met as he looked up. The first time in eleven months.
It seems so long that I can’t recognize anything within their depths. They looked just as grey to me as the concrete beneath my feet and a year back I had built my world within them. No they are not home anymore, just alien. Like Mars.
He is not supposed to be here, he shouldn’t have come here. I looked up at the “Privet Drive Wizard Colony Annual Bash” banner fluttering a foot above his head. Fate can play cruel jokes, I knew, but it also had a vendetta against me, now that was something I wasn’t aware of.
“Hermione… Mum’s calling you” Aaron, my step brother(wizard) came behind me.
I love him. He is a sweet person, a year older, but he and his Dad (wizard), my step-dad, were the best things that happened to me after Dad died. Until HE came along.
I turned to him, a smile gracing my lips. A smile I tried to put more affection in. I tried.
“I’ll go and see her then”
Dragging my feet in the opposite direction to the one I was looking in, was like trying to apply the opposite force to iron flakes getting attracted to a magnet, like smelling gardenia yet turning away from the blossoms.
Aaron appeared by my side while I meandered in my thoughts.
“I know I told you about this rumour going around about him moving in the neighborhood that day but I didn’t know he really did. He is here”
You see why I said I really love my brother. He doesn’t go around beating around the bush, he didn’t use the stupid consoling soothing voice to say it. He knows me in and out, he knows how I feel about HIM.
“Apparently he did” my voice didn’t shake like my mind was doing. I’m calm and collected.
“It was your decision, you ‘let him go’…. He loved you. You loved him. You left him”
“I love him”
“Then why did you use past tense?”
“I thought you would prefer it that way. You seem to prove the past tense to the world yourself”
He saw within the calm and collected me as well.
“I don’t have any other option”
“You never did”
“Say that again without sarcasm”
“I can’t, then what i say won't be true”
“Then say the truth”
“You always had options. You have them now. You have just chosen one of them”
“Is it the right one? Pretending to not care?”
“I can’t judge that ‘Mione. You listened to yourself when you ended it. You should do that now too”
“But see how it went. I love him still. I don’t have a reason why I left him, I didn’t give him a reason. I didn’t give myself a reason”
“There must be a reason. Just let it go now. Anyways he has someone with him” He says looking back for a second. HE has someone. HE has found someone. HE accomplished something I have tried to do since The End.
“Will it ever be normal again?”
“Only if you will let it be”
“Is love that easy to forget…. Or let go?”
“People die all the time…. Love for them is not forgotten, it just changes”
“He is not dead”
“To you he was until today”
“And now he is back”
“Only if you think that way. There are many others. There is always a ‘someone else’”
There’s always a ‘someone else’. HE found his. Joy.
Aaron left me when I saw mum arranging tiny cupcakes on the food table. I plopped down on the table and just listened to her humming while she finished her arrangements.(mum is not a witch but since we live in a magical colony she has entered the Ladies circle)
“Hermione I want you to go and check all the mike arrangements, Mrs. Kingsley is going to make her speech soon.”
“I saw Draco, dear. Still his charming self, doesn’t smirk anymore though”
I know that too. Apparently I’m the culprit, his ‘smirk’ was one of the things that deserted him along with me.
“Matured I guess, you kids grow up so quickly. We can have a similar marquee for Aaron’s twenty-first birthday party” Mum continues to babble.
“he wants to have a pool party mum.”
“Phishh!... that boy, he is one to never grow up. Haven’t even found a good girl yet, see Draco for instance, Melina is such a darling. Pity you both broke up, he is one good boy”
Mum believed me the moment I told her that we broke up after two years of relationship because it wasn’t working out. She still thinks I’m 15 who knows not real love and just fools around. I love her for that. One less person on my case.
“You mean a good man”
“Yes man! Young lady. Now why don’t you go and check on the mikes so then you can find time to find a ‘young man’ yourself”
Two people, one who knows me in and out and one who knows me as I let her know, both pointed the same thing. ‘Someone Else’. Coincidence?
Melina, the girl beside Draco Malfoy wasn’t beautiful and for once I’m not lying about it to even myself but her eyes held such compassion that I felt so low in front of her.
We introduced. I even said ‘hello’ to him. Not once did I look back into the round grey strange dead pools again.
Mellie, as she insists me to call her, is something I can never be. Someone who has unconditional love for the man I left in the dirt, who doesn’t have a mean cell in her body. She is not pretty, should I feel superior?
I don’t. I envy her.
She was shy, but she understood everything. She was like a female Dumbledore without the wise know-it-all trait.
I said I envy her? No I hate her because she is something one can never hate. For that I hate her.
And I can keep saying that to myself as long as I want to too.
“Are you okay? You seem a bit pale. Here Draco is the one who is always pale.” She said as Draco looked up at me.
“I’m fine. Mrs. Kingsley seems to go on and on. I wish I hadn’t fixed the mike. It’s freezing”
“Even I wish we had put on something warmer too but all our things are still in the cartons”
“Just wait here a moment. Aaron!.... Aaron here!!”
He finally registered the shout in his brain and turned to walk towards us. No one else can see it but I can see the question ‘how come you chose this interesting group to stand with?’ in his eyes. Don’t ask me bro, I don’t know.
“Something needed? Hey Draco. And Melina”
“Ah Mellie, this is my step brother Aaron Bryden by the way and brother dearest can I have the house keys. We need something warm to wear”
“Oh no Hermione don’t go into the trou---”
“Mellie I live just across the street”
“You wouldn’t be needing keys if you hadn’t given up magic” Brother Dearest spoke up as he fished keys out of his pocket.
Draco looked up at neck-snapping speed at that. Glaring doesn’t have any effect on Aaron I just discovered. Ok fine! I did snap my wand into two because I had had enough of this world. This is also in my i-don’t-know-why-i-did-that list.
“I’m coming along”
“Why did you give up magic?” Melina asked me as we walked to the house. The men were walking few meters behind. We were really enjoying the peace up till now.
“ I don’t really know, I was a muggleborn. I lived 11 years of my life magic-less-ly so I thought maybe I can live without it forever.”
“Then why do you live among wizards?”
“I can’t escape from who I am even if I give it up at will. Anyways they are family, they always were”
Aaron listened to our conversation with his lips twitching slightly upwards, a lit cigarette in hand and Draco, well, I saw something for the first time in his eyes today : Questions.
Questions he didn’t dare ask because I guess he knew those came in the I-Don’t-Know category.
Once we reached the house the boys disappeared into Aaron’s room and I lead Melina to mine upstairs.
“Here choose any” I said opening my closet and taking out a jacket for myself.
I waved her off with the back of my hand. She started to skim the various sweaters, cardigans and jackets and I saw a flash of lime green as she pulled one out.
Out of everything she had to choose that one. It was nothing special to look at.
Nah… nothing special, but you smell it and you smell the blonde standing in the room below, you’ll know it. It was the pullover he wore when we first kissed. It smells of him still due to the everlasting charm I cast on it. The last spell I ever cast (A/N—yes the past tense of ‘cast’ is ‘cast’ only.) before I snapped my wand into two.
The way her delicate fingers are holding it, it suddenly seems no more my property. It can belong to her. Its real owner does, in a way. Plus, this would be another string, which connects me to the past, snapped.
“It would look nice on you……..” I’m draining off energy by maintaining the nonchalance. I just want to curl up and die somewhere.
“Ok. Thanks again”
Problem. Another one just ahead. As we descended the stairs there were shouts from Aaron’s room and soon we were rushing down the quickest we can.
There was smoke rising from the half open door of the room.
“Damn his smoking problem” I muttered under my breath and then shouted “Wait till Mum hears that you got a cigarette into the house!”
And then we opened the door fully. It wasn’t a measly blaze, one whole cabinet had somehow caught fire and then it struck me.
It was the cabinet that I kept my Dad’s old stuff in because my room was full.
“Aaron!!!” I shrieked and before any one or even my brain could stop me I jumped to the cabinet and tried to salvage everything I could.
The last thing, Dad’s photo album was wedged at the end and as I tried to retrieve it the cuffs of my jacket caught fire.
Melina was shrieking on the top of her voice, paralyzed at the spot.
Aaron was scrambling around the messy room for his wand.
Draco had pulled me out of the fire zone and had started dousing my cuffs swearing under his breath, also muttering many idle threats under his breath as to what all he would do to me if I ever repeated the stunt and how I’m going to pay for my stupidity as well.
It seemed as if some one transported me back to a year ago. He was there. I was there and we were a “We”.
And Melina was here too. That thought made a shiver pass through my body. How easily I let myself get lost in bygone memories and forgot my resolve to let it all go.
Apparently Draco thought I shuddered because I was scared of the fire and pulled me into an intimate assuring embrace. His hands moving up and down my back and his whole body flushed with mine. At least he doesn’t know what I am actually afraid of. What is wrong with him? His girlfriend is standing right there.
No !! no!! memories please don’t come flashing back… please.
Remember how I said Fate has a vendetta against me. I was right!
All memories came rushing back, the hugs, the caresses, the words, the promises, the little insignificant conversations, the fantasies, the kisses. They started clogging me with nostalgia. I felt claustrophobic within this shell. Either I get out or I stay forever and the girl standing in front of me was an answer enough. I didn’t have an option this time really. Aaron was wrong.
I pushed a very startled Draco aside and fled to my room. He called after me but it never came out more than a groan. A groan was strong enough to stop me.
Surprisingly it didn’t.
I’m celebrating the 1 year anniversary of the fire that day with my father’s half burnt photo album open in front of me on my bed.
Yes it has been one year since I last talked or came face to face with Draco Malfoy. He tried to talk and reach me but he never was able to thanks to a member of my family who may not share the same gene pool but is the most supportive family member nonetheless.
First few weeks he came almost every day, repeating the same question every time.
And getting the same answer every time. Every time he turns to leave he looks up the balcony of my room and I hide to get a glimpse from a place he can’t see me from.
Aaron’s excuses varied between “She has joined secret service”
“She’s joined the church and shifted to the Vatican” or the last “Centaurs and unicorns kidnapped her”
I’m kidding. It was just two things “She’s not at home/ she can’t meet you right now”
Time went by for me in hiding, time went by for him in searching and as time went by he tired. Some days he would bring along Melina and sometimes she would come alone too but the same favour was extended towards her as it was with Draco.
I may sound harsh. Barbaric. Sadistic.
But I’m just a coward.
So I continue staring at the picture when my parents and I went to skiing when I was 14, while my mind was somewhere else.
Someone was bounding up the stairs and no one bounds up the stairs in our house except my hyper brother.
“Mione..... Draco came”
“Tell him I can’t talk to him”
Aaron rolled his eyes at that. “Like I wouldn’t do that already, he has left. I came here to give you this” he hands me a white envelope.
“Is it a letter??”
“No it’s an invitation. He’s getting married. To Melina”
He waits for my reaction. I don’t have any. Another item in my I-Don’t-Know-Why list, I guess I just can’t believe he is getting married, so it hasn’t got registered in the main processor yet.
“You should go” he says as he places the invitation again in my hand from where it had fallen to the floor. I start opening it with trembling fingers.
“You of all people are saying that?”
“You have hidden for too long”
“You should go. You owe him that at least. You are not a coward”
“Call him. Call him and say that you will come, he was a bundle of nerves about your reaction. The number is at the back of the card”
I picked up the cordless phone and punched in the digits and Aaron left the room to give me privacy. The phone rang several times and I waited while fingering the silver and green, definitely slytherin calligraphy. Holy matrimony of Draco Malfoy and Melina Bloomsted……… july 23rd.
“ Hello” the male voice said.
Hesitation is not a good virtue. So naturally I possess it, it was about 10 seconds until I answered him.
“hey. Is that the London Flooport? Yh. Can I get a one way fireplace to New York on july 23rd?...... yes……can you repeat that?… yes. Thank you. Thanks a lot” I cut the call.
Aaron was wrong again. I am a coward.
I put the mail from the office mailbox under my arm as I take the lid off my Starbucks cup. Ooff it’s hazelnut, they gave me the wrong flavor. I keep walking and drop off the cup in a bin on the way and turned towards the mail as my high rise apartment building came into view. 43rd floor. That would be mine.
Ok so the mail. My issue of Witch Weekly, some leaflets. And a plain white envelope with a silver ‘DM’ seal on it.
I almost threw it in the bin too. How did he find me? How. I didn’t even get a landline phone to keep the trail off. I don’t exist, I must be declared dead by now in England.
Why does he do that? Why does he keep jumping into my life at unexpected moments. It’s been nine years since he became a married man and got his lived-happily-ever-after ending. NINE!!...... what does he want now?
I walked into my building and pressed the elevator button, ripping the envelope open as well.
I know where you are. What were you thinking?? Running off to America on my wedding day?? Nine years Hermione… you didn’t feel like telling your parents you were going? And your brother… he spent a year in depression, what did he do to deserve this. He was always there for you and I hardly knew him but the effect of his incoherent sentences and his sudden recollections of you was enough to go into depression myself. I will not come and get you nor will I tell anyone, I want you to think for once.
You are selfish woman. I thought you were just scared of everything, no you just think of yourself. No one else matters, it’s just you. Your feelings, your fears and your emotions.
If you have cared to read this letter fully or even opened it before 25th august I request you to come to Melina’s funeral on 27th. Before you ask how did that happen, she died in childbirth. That was supposed to be our first child. Mother and child both didn’t survive. And don’t wonder at my tone, it sounds just like you. Coincidence?
And last me. What have I done? What have I ever done?
Apart from loving you… apart from trying to move on just to help you feel less guilty.
And was this a way to pay me back. You left me once when I thought I loved you more than anything in the world, you just disappeared. Then when I met you again I thought at least now I’ll have you as a part of my life again, even just as neighbors. You left again and just because you have this hobby of leaving me you punished you family and friends in the process. Are you happy now? Living like a ghost?
Oh of course you are happy… I’m the one here living in guilt.
Guilt of your departure as you left because of me.
Guilt for the condition of your family which was indirectly my fault.
Guilt for showing an innocent girl false love.
Guilt for being the cause of her death when she could have had a better life if I hadn’t entered the scene.
(the letter softened here…)
Mya I know for once you are not happy. Why are you putting yourself and us through the torture? That day when your Dad’s cupboard caught fire, you weren’t scared of the fire. I know that, you weren’t scared of me or our past. You were scared of yourself.
Come back Mya, we love you , I love you. You had your reasons to what you did, or you may have no reasons at all but that is a part of you. We can’t live without you. I can’t.. please come home. I have lost you twice in my life now I want you back…. I thought you died. Died!.... but it was just so difficult to believe it and I didn’t, you taught me that. Not to give up. You taught me love when I could only say it in words but you taught me to THINK love, you taught me to feel it and make it felt. Remember when we broke up and you left , I accused you of never loving me back but I know you always did even though you never showed it much but you tried to make me feel it. I was too thick to believe anything beyond words and expressions. I want to feel it now, please come home..
The elevator doors had opened by now. Do I feel anything?
Yes and no.
I ran, I hid. Did I escape?
Melina died? How can someone die like that…. She was too young.. 28? Did she really die?
Should I talk to him?
For once I felt the Gryffindoor in me alive again after so many years. I was supposed to be a coward, wasn't I?
I walked out of the elevator and towards my destination. There was a contact number scribbled behind the letter, its last digit a bit smudged by the numerous tear stains on the sheet.
I didn’t feel my fingers trembling on the mobile’s keypad. Maybe it was because I was calling the right person this time. I kept walking.
“Draco?” See I said it. I said his name.
“Yes its me Draco” and that’s when I broke into tears.
“Oh Merlin. I thought that letter would never reach you. I thought I was mistaken for once. You are there” he sounded hysterical. Hysteria does nothing to soothe my nerves.
“Draco.. stop.. I want you to hear what I’m saying without interrupting once no matter what”
“But you are coming back right? I’ll hear it all when you come back. I want to see you saying it, whatever it it…. Not on the phone.”
“ NO!… listen”
He did shut up.
“Draco it can never be. We love each other, more than anyone can ever love us individually but we are not meant to be”
I waited for an interruption. He didn’t say anything.
“We have too much history, too much of past to overlook. I’m fed up of running Draco. We have changed, we may even stop loving each other if we start it again. I don’t want to stop loving you ever, Draco. I can’t let go this love. Sorr—“
“You don’t even mean what you say half the time. You do stuff and you regret it Hermione. I’m not letting you commit that mistake again. I’m not going to let you shove yourself to hell again. I'M NOT LETTING YOU GO”
His determination scares me. It always did.
“No Draco it’s not hell. I have found my ‘someone else’”
“What the hell are are you talking about?” he was astounded, that was all I could deduce.
“I have found someone else”
“Who is HE?? WHO? You just said that you loved ME!”
“You don’t know him”
“Of course I don’t……… you are sitting in some other bloody continent!!... Who THE HELL IS HE?”
“I –I --- can’t tell you”
“Why can’t you..? does he exist?... you are not making it up right?”
“No I’m not making it up” Truth was almost radiating from my voice, It was true.
“Mya… who is he?” his voice was barely audible, it was so weak.
By this time I had reached my destination. Manhattan is a beautiful place and the sun glistens so beautifully on the buildings at sunset, it's almost painful to the eye. Now that's sadistic beauty.
“That someone else is……….” He waited for my answer as I took the last step. The wind swished my hair as I looked down.
From the edge of the roof.
Even in the milliseconds that were my fall and before everything went black forever for the coward that was me… I could hear his reply from the mobile clutched in my hand.
“You left me again…….”