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Beyond Condemnation by writers_passion
Format: Short story
Chapter 4: Pleasant Torture
Hermione was sitting in the living room with books and scrap paper galore covering the floor, the sofa she was sitting on, as well as the coffee table that she was hovering over. Her eyes were tired and felt extremely strained, but she had promised herself that she wasn’t going to put the books down until she had found what she was looking for. Hermione had already dedicated the past three days to her search; ignoring owls and phone calls when they came her way. There was no time for distractions. Draco was in danger and the only way to find out what kind was if she kept her head in her books.
She was so engrossed in what she was doing that she didn’t even hear the fireplace activate in the next room. She did hear footsteps however, but didn’t bother looking up. She could recognize Ron’s, as well as Harry’s, footsteps any day and thought this little talent was a great asset because then she didn’t have to divert her attention from her work.
“Merlin, send me back to the Hogwarts days, why don’t you?”
Hermione smiled. She took a moment to give him eye contact and watched him sit down on the armchair that faced sideways from her.
“So this is what you’ve been doing instead of talking to or seeing your friends.” Ron asked as he gestured to all the books and paper surrounding her. “Harry and I thought you’d become a hermit. What’s with stepping into old shoes?”
Hermione sighed and flipped a few pages before answering. “I’m just doing a bit of research. I’m trying to figure out a way to reveal a ghost.”
“Reveal a ghost? But ‘Mione, you know who’s haunting you. I don’t see what-”
Ron’s words were cut off from him when the television in the corner of the house unexpectedly turned on. He was surprised at it, but Hermione wasn’t, and she gave a sympathetic frown.
“Draco, please, I’m trying to concentrate. Do you mind turning it off or at least turning it down?”
The television was subsequently placed on mute and a few channels were changed until it settled on one that was showing a game of cricket. Ron stared bemused while Hermione’s face bore a rather complacent one. She grinned and pushed a few loose strands of hair behind her ear.
“He loves cricket just as much as Quiditch.” Hermione laughed. “So much for downplaying muggle sports,”
Ron cocked a brow at her and she merely shrugged her shoulders and continued combing through her books. “Merlin… He’s really here, isn’t he?”
Hermione eyed him a moment and then huffed. “Hadn’t believed me then I see,”
“It’s not like that at all.” Ron replied quickly. “It’s one thing to hear about it, but to actually see it… Seven years of Hogwarts spirits hasn’t prepared me well enough for this.”
“It made me a bit skittish at first too. But I’ve gotten used to it. It’s like he’s still alive.”
“…Yeah, I guess so.” Ron cleared his throat and tore his eyes from the television and back on Hermione. “So, about what you’re searching for? Revealing ghosts..?”
“Yes. I don’t know when, but I remember reading something about a spell that rids a ghost of its invisibility. I know it’s in one of these somewhere.”
“But ghosts prefer to be invisible.”
“Not Draco,” Hermione shook her head definitively. “He wants me to see him and I want it just the same.”
“How do you know? Not that he wouldn’t want it but…he hasn’t been talking to you, has he?”
“We’ve developed a system. I ask him to flick the lights for a yes-no answer. It’s proven quite effective.”
All Ron could say was “oh,” and he glanced back at the television that had been turned on by Draco’s doing, shivered, and then looked away from it. After a moment of contemplating it, bracing himself for Hermione’s reaction, he swallowed and took a breath.
“Listen, you’re probably going to hate me for saying this, but… Don’t you think that what you’re doing is just making things more real?”
Hermione looked up from her books and frowned in confusion. “What do you mean?”
“All I’m saying is, is that right now with Malfoy turning on the television and doing other things like that is already making it like he’s here. If you find that spell and make him visible, it’d be even more so. I know it’s hard but you got to face the fact that he’s dead and not here anymore.”
Hermione jumped in fright as the rocking chair in the corner of the living room got knocked to a side and then the door to the kitchen roughly pushed open. She let out a gasp and then immediately pushed all of her things off of her.
“Oh no, you’ve upset him!”
Ron followed Hermione into the kitchen, mumbling in disbelief that he couldn’t understand how the hell he had upset a ghost.
“Draco!” Hermione called as she stood in the middle of the kitchen. “Draco, Ron didn’t mean that! Ron, say you’re sorry, please.”
“…Um…yeah, I…” Ron looked all around him and then stopped. He put his hands at the rim of his pockets out of having nothing else to do with them and gave a faux cough. “Look, Malfoy –Draco, mate, I… I didn’t mean to say it like that. It’s just…you’ve got to understand that you don’t belong in this world anymore. I don’t want either of you holding onto something you can’t have.”
Ron and Hermione’s eyes were brought to the kitchen sink which was situated underneath a window. The faucet turned on and it was pure hot water. Once the steam had covered enough of the window, Draco began writing.
“I know. But you don’t understand. Not yet.” Hermione read out loud. She turned to Ron who was confused at what she had just read. Sighing, she led the way back out into the living room where Hermione had left all of her materials. Her heart had gone out of looking through them and decided upon a break. Ron shook his head and ran a hand across his face.
“What did he mean, Hermione?”
“…Draco’s in danger, Ron.”
“In danger..?” Ron repeated. “He’s dead. How could he be in danger?”
“I don’t know, but if I keep on with these yes-no questions it’ll be years before I ask the right ones. I need to reveal him so I can figure out what’s going on.”
“This is unbelievable.” Ron muttered. “Out of everything we’ve seen. Out of everything we’ve done. This tops it all.”
“I agree.” Hermione cupped her hands about her face and absentmindedly stared. “And about what you were saying before…about making Draco visible so it’d be like he was still here-”
“I’m really sorry about that, ‘Mione. I thought that was what this was all about. Not because he needed help-”
“It’s fine, really.” Hermione reassured. She took a deep breath and stared at a book in front of her. ”Aside from trying to figure things out, it’s what we want. Normalcy beyond the grave, that is. I understand what you’re saying, Ron. Having Draco doing odds and ends around the house make me feel like I’m not really alone. And if matters weren’t so pertinent, I’d want to reveal him anyway.”
“I get it.” Ron nodded. He then pulled to him the book she had been looking in and grabbed some paper. “You need some help looking through all this. Let’s get to work, shall we?”
Extra help came from Harry and Ginny once Ron Owled them. They were brought up to speed on what was going on; and though credulous at first, having Draco fix the armchair so the footrest could come up made a full believer out of them. “He’s the only one who knows how to get it out properly.” Hermione said simply, and no more words were said. The four of them combed every book and loose-leafs of paper before finally realizing that what they were looking for wasn’t in front of them.
“I’m going to lose my mind.” Hermione breathed. Harry, who was sitting the closest to her, put an arm around her.
“Don’t say that. We’ll figure it out. Can you at least remember how long ago it was when you came across reading about ghost revealing?”
“What does it matter? It’s not here. We’ve looked through everything twice, three times even.”
“Merlin, I hope Draco’s nowhere around listening to you give up like this.” Ginny huffed. “Think… You read a lot, ‘Mione, but there’s only so many places you do it.”
“I suppose,” Hermione cupped her hands about her face and thought. She had gone through every room in the house and found every book and piece of paper there was to find, eventually throwing them onto the coffee table and floor. She had come across the desired text months ago. Before the summer. And yet it wasn’t entirely cold. She knew this because one of her idiosyncrasies was to read with gloves on if she felt cold, so it had to have been during the spring. Hermione supposed she could go to the local libraries and ask them to look through their records and see what books she had taken out during that time. It wouldn’t have been much, preferring to buy books rather than having them loaned.
“…What do you think he could be in danger of?”
Hermione snapped her eyes to Harry’s. She shrugged and sunk into the softness of the sofa with her arms crossed about her chest. “I wish I knew. Or maybe I don’t want to know. What could possibly trouble someone in death?”
Everyone in the room shuddered at the thought of it.
Draco’s presence felt cold. Ever since Hermione let on that she knew he was haunting her and that his alias was no longer fooling her, she felt cold all the time. He was always there; waiting and watching and helping out wherever he could. It was funny, Hermione thought. No matter how good of a person he was during his life, in death he caused others around him to develop frostbite.
Hermione no longer opened the blinds. The neighbors’ houses were very close to hers and she was getting tired of the stares. They would often spot her in her bedroom, smiling, laughing, and talking to someone they couldn’t see. No, Hermione couldn’t get more than a flick of the lights to get answers out of Draco, but that didn’t mean that he wasn’t listening. She had taken up the habit of talking out loud; describing her day in great detail when she got back home from work and recalling memories that she had long-forgotten.
Sometimes it got sad. Sometimes Hermione paused in her speech and stood in the middle of her bedroom with a frozen smile, waiting for Draco to respond to her or hear a laugh at a joke but receiving nothing. Once she collapsed to the floor in an explosion of tears. She screamed aloud for Draco to talk to her –to not be a mute and to stop ignoring her. Right then and there Hermione felt like she had been dipped into a bucket of ice. Goosebumps rose on her arms and she shivered. She imagined that Draco was hugging her. She imagined that he was telling her that it was alright. If only she could hear it for real.
From time to time Hermione wondered what this was doing to her –to have something so close and yet so far away. It was a mental and emotional torture that she simultaneously wanted to keep and push away. It was doing her no good. A month of this had made Hermione look years older and everyone took notice. Her supervisor at the Ministry thought it best that she take off from work for the rest of the year.
“You lost your husband, Hermione.” Her boss had said. “Clearly you’re not ready to be back yet. Take your time.”
Hermione had waned to tell him that she hadn’t “lost her husband.” He was simply unreachable. But that was something that couldn’t be said. Her friends knew. And each one was working overtime in trying to find out a way to reveal ghosts. It was the only way to potentially end this. “Potentially” because it was decided secretly among Harry, Ron, and Ginny that revealing Draco might backfire. They wondered if it would put Hermione in an even deeper slump. Then where would they be? But one thing that they knew for sure was that right now was that their dear friend was living an utter hell.
In late October Hermione was reading in her study. She had a blanket wrapped around her and her head kept nodding to the left because of how sleepy she felt. Three hours of ghost research had been done prior and this reading time was her break. Unfortunately her eyes were too tired to make it. What eventually brought her out of her reverie was the sound of her fireplace going off in the next room.
Lethargically, Hermione moved. She left the study and into the hallway and saw Ron who was staring at her with concern. “When was the last time you slept?”
“Right now if that counts,” Hermione shrugged and then gestured to a piece of paper folded over in Ron’s hand. “What’s that?”
“It’s for you.” Ron glanced at it and then sighed. “I went to Madame Giana. Harry, Ginny, and I…we’ve been looking through everything for you and then it hit us. Seers deal with the dead all the time, so why not-?”
“She knows how to reveal ghosts?” Hermione said excitedly. She reached for the paper in Ron’s hand, but he pulled it out of reach.
“No? Ron, stop playing games with me. I need-”
“You need rest.” Ron ordered her. He tucked the paper into his back pocket and then proceeded to lead Hermione to her bedroom. “You’ve been going downhill long enough, Hermione. You’re not getting this until you sleep and sleep well.”
“But Ron… Draco-”
“Draco will understand. Besides,” Ron smiled. “This is the first time you’ll be seeing him in months. I’m sure you don’t want to look like a train wreck.”
author's note: and another chapter for you all :) ...this one makes me feel so sad for hermione. all the hard work she put it and the toll it was taking. but the chapter ended on a good note...and a cliffy lol *evil face*
hope that you liked the chap and i must stop and say THANK YOU!! i've been getting such great reviews and it really keeps me going. you guys are GREAT ^_^