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Delilah's Black Book of Poems by Dark Whisper

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Format: Novel
Chapters: 34
Word Count: 169,327
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Contains profanity, Strong violence, Scenes of a sexual nature, Substance abuse, Sensitive topic/issue/theme, Spoilers

Genres: Drama, Romance, Angst
Characters: Hermione, Draco, OtherCanon
Pairings: Draco/Hermione, Draco/Pansy, Ron/Hermione, Other Pairing

First Published: 01/28/2011
Last Chapter: 12/01/2014
Last Updated: 12/01/2014

Summary:



Gorgeous Banner by enchantress@TDA         ~         115,000+ Reads!

A sad dream at Christmas has Draco scheming to prevent it from coming true. The two get close and on the night of Dumbledore's Death, she says, "No."  But a magical book keeps them connected during the war and teaches Hermione more about Draco than she ever imagined.


Chapter 1: Abraxas Malfoy and a Christmas Past
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Welcome to Delilah's Black Book of Poems.  Come, sit a spell, and read of a sad and forbidden love story set in this grand magical world borrowed from the gifted, J. K. Rowling.  I do hope you enjoy it.  Thank you for reading.

Dark Whisper

 




 

A very tired and bored Draco Malfoy sat in the cold luxurious Malfoy Manor on Christmas Eve alone, except for the house elves that stayed in their quarters, of course.

Draco’s mother had left him a note saying how deeply sorry she and his father were to be absent on Christmas Eve.

He learned early in life not to question or ask for reasons why they left to go about doing who knows what.  And even though she mentioned his father being sorry, no doubt, Lucius Malfoy couldn't care less about Christmas.

He had ruined Christmas for them long ago after what he did when Draco was seven years old. Nine years later, Draco glanced at the enormous Christmas tree, absent of any gifts. But then he quickly turned away from it, blocking the memory before it could rear its ugly head.

He sighed as he sprawled out onto the sofa in front of the warm fireplace, his long body taking up the entire length of it. His eyes looked up to a beautiful and exquisitely painted mural high above him on the ceiling.

It was a depiction of a gorgeous witch wearing a dark green flowing gown and a banner that read, “Purus Cruor,” the Latin translation for “Pure-Blood.” Her white-blonde hair flared out in all directions as she held a single crystal prophecy ball. Her large black pet, a majestic Norwegian Ridgeback Dragon, surrounded her, protecting her family’s pure-blood future.

He had always admired it for its meticulous detail and stunning beauty, but he slowly grew tired of the mural’s message as a certain mudblood female with a fiery spirit entered his mind and took residence.

He had been pondering her for months and it was no mystery to him as to why he wanted her. She was forbidden. That fact alone enticed him the most. That and her long hair and the way she would run her fingers through it in an attempt to tame it on windy days. He imagined running his own fingers through it someday, or rather pulling it in playful frustration.

Draco had come to discover that if someone is accustomed to having his way and is refused one thing, eventually it’s that one thing that he will crave most. And in spite of the exceptional consequences, this undeniable craving of his came in the form of Hermione Granger.

He recalled the countless times when he was caught staring at her. Her sensing of stares from a distance was as sharp as blade. So when her eyes would meet his, he wasn’t like most, as he never looked away. If there ever was a staring contest master champion, it was Draco Malfoy.

His eyes would lock to hers sending her nonverbal messages. But judging her expressions, he was only confusing her.

He recalled the time when she spoke in boldness, which had him confessing a truth to her.

“Honestly, snake, I can't tell if you loathe my very existance or if you want to kiss me.” She had glared up at him, full of confidence.

“I most certainly loathe your very existance and I want to kiss you." He replied with a deep sinister laugh as if he were only joking and teasing.

“With your forked tongue?  Ugh.” She reacted as if she were only half disgusted.

“I find you cute, Granger.” He had said. “Is that a crime?”

“It is in your family.” She replied hotly as her cheeks flushed four shades of red.

Mudblood or not, Hermione had become adorable and beautiful in his eyes and he couldn’t help but think of her, especially at times like this when he was bored and lonely.

As he continued his stare into the mural on the ceiling, he abruptly noticed something different about the witch hovering above him. She was now glaring at him in disgust as if she were fully aware of the tempting betrayal crossing his mind.

“I make a promise to you now, witch. When I gain full control of this place, your Purus Cruor banner will change,” he voiced with disdain.

“Something on your mind, Draco?” A voice above him asked with intrigue.

It was the enchanted portrait of Draco’s grandfather, Abraxas Malfoy that hung above the fireplace.

“Sorry if I disturbed you, Grandfather. It’s nothing.”

“Contemplating blood status… love?” Abraxas questioned with brow raised?

“It’s blood status first, love second in this family. What’s there to contemplate?” Draco remarked rather bitterly.

“Hmm. You should go to bed. Your voice suggests you are tired.”

“I don’t feel like it. Besides, I think I’ll just stay down here. My bedroom is always too cold.”

“Have it your way then.” The white-haired old man reacted with seeming indifference as he closed his eyes. “And sweet dreams, Grandson,” he added.

Draco’s thoughts quickly went back to Granger’s smile and how she had giggled almost uncontrollably at a bit of revenge he had taken on a fellow Slytherin student, Cole Devlin, secretly on her behalf.

The kid had it coming. Normally Draco didn’t care when bullies were doing their thing; knocking people’s books out of their hands on the way to class, scattering papers everywhere. He knew they would never have the audacity to mess with him, so in general, he didn’t care.

But when he witnessed Granger fall victim to Devlin’s antics, Draco performed as expected. He laughed cruelly at her discombobulated circumstance and stepped over her, not bothering to help. But he quickly decided that he couldn’t very well let Devlin get away with messing with his Granger.

So in the quiet of that same night, Draco secretly brewed a potion that ate the glue clean from the bindings of all of Devlin’s books. So when every page mysteriously fanned to the floor uncontrollably as he opened them in class, it was Devlin’s turn to be humiliated. And because there were too many of his victims to count, not a soul felt sorry for him.

Draco recalled how Hermione had giggled with delight in seeing the Slytherin crawling on the floor in embarrassment trying to pick up the mess. Her sweet laughter had caused her eyes to squint and she actually placed her forearms across her belly and doubled over in hysterical giggling.

When she finally was able to gain some control, she spoke breathlessly.

“Seeing that, just made my day. It serves you right. Someone finally got you, Devlin. And if I ever find out who did it, I shall thank them properly.” She dabbed at her eyes, catching her happy tears caused by the hilarious spectacle.

Seeing the smile on her face and the sparkle in her squinted eyes made it well worth it, even if it meant going against a Slytherin comrade. Draco didn’t do it to rid the school of the menace. He did it for her and he found great satisfaction in performing his good deed.

He thought of how cute she looked at the end of the last school year as she tripped over her trunk trying to get it onto the train’s baggage car. Her face was flushed in frustration and he was considering stepping out of his Slytherin character in chivalry, but before he could, she whipped out her wand and levitated it into place instead.

He wondered what it was like at her Muggle house at Christmas. Probably a tree spilling over with gifts, perfectly straight, whitened teethy grins, and the place reeking of peppermint candy canes.

He wondered what it would be like if she were there with him. It wouldn’t be so lonely. He thought of how fun it would be to argue with her over something petty and then spend the remainder of the evening making up. Oh, the unlimited ways he could make her blood heat to a boil.

He thought of what he might give her for Christmas, if she were his. The thought was preposterous, of course, and not to mention a complete waste of time. But he already knew what it would be. The Malfoy family library had a rare out of print book called Delilah’s Black Book of Poems that he knew she had wanted since they were Third Years. The ancient magical book hid dangerous curses within the text, which caused the Ministry of Magic to ban it.

Short of beginning to hallucinate her presence, he finally grew tired enough to fall into a deep sleep.

But it was short lived as the Malfoy Manor’s over-sized grandfather clock began loudly chiming its solemn midnight song. It abruptly woke him and he was about to stupefy it to silence, when he noticed a familiar shadowy figure standing beside him.

“Grandfather!” Draco abruptly sprang from the sofa, alarmed. “Did I die in my sleep or did you figure out a way to step out of your portrait?”

“Magical things can happen on Christmas Eve, Draco... interesting magical things.”

Draco didn’t speak. Instead, he stood and poked at his grandfather’s upper arm to see if he was really there or if he was ghostlike. When it was solid, he took a step back. 

“Relax, Grandson. I’m here to show you a few things is all.” 

“What things exactly?” Draco questioned cautiously.

“Things that were, things that are, and things that could be.”

“You mean like that stupid Christmas Carol story? You can’t be bloody serious. I must be dreaming this or I fell off the couch and bumped my head.” He started toward the stairs to escape the illusion, but his grandfather had other ideas.

The old man’s wand came out and a spell went flying.  Instantly, Draco’s body involuntarily froze like a statue.  After a moment, Abraxas walked up to Draco slowly, his cane tapping rhythmically on the floor.

“Have you forgotten who you are talking to?”

It came out as a slight warning as Draco realized, indeed, that he’d forgotten who this man was. He wasn’t just an old man in a portrait. This was Lucius’s father, a man fully capable of being just as cruel. Draco had a good relationship with him when he was alive and they always had lively conversations. But as good as their relationship had been, the old man Malfoy demanded respect from the younger.

He released the spell and let Draco respond.

“My apologies, Grandfather.” Draco sulked, knowing he was stuck; stuck with whatever the old man wanted to do. “Show me what you must.”
 

 

 




The house grew warmer then and the place lit up with color as it use to when Draco was a child. He looked then at a tow-head blond child sneaking under the huge Christmas tree to shake and rattle his presents in an attempt to find out what he was getting. Like all children, he couldn’t help but be curious.

Draco stood there in disbelief. He was looking at himself as a seven year-old boy. His favorite pet, Stella was beside him. The dog was always his shadow and Draco adored her.

She was a jet black stray mutt that had roamed the manor grounds looking for food and at their first chance meeting, she’d given Draco more affection, attention, and love than any human ever had. With much begging, it was finally his mother, Narcissa who convinced Lucius to go ahead and allow Draco to keep her.

Stella kept him warm in his cold room by sleeping beside him every night. She had to sneak in of course, because Lucius would forbid his son to sleep with a mangy dog. But somehow she managed to always get away with it and Draco loved the pitiful looking thing for going against his father’s wishes and cuddling with him anyway.

Draco started wearing all black clothing then, because Lucius would complain about all the black dog hair all over his clothes. He figured if he wore all black, then his father wouldn’t notice Stella’s shedding so much. And it actually worked.

They were inseparable friends and Stella didn’t seem to mind when he would pretend that she was a fierce and firey dragon. He would take out his toy wand and cast imaginary spells and she would play dead like a good slain dragon.

But Stella wasn’t just his furry companion and friend, she was also his protector.

“No. Not this. Why of all things would you show me this blasted dark memory?” Draco protested.

By now, Draco’s adorable little seven year-old bare feet were sticking out under the tree, revealing what he was up to.

“Draco, get out of there now!” Lucius shrieked at the boy from a foot away.

He tried to escape his father by crawling further into the tree and against the wall, but it was too late.

With one hand he grabbed the child’s ankle and viciously yanked him from under the tree, holding him upside down. The other hand was raised high and about to come down hard on Draco. But Stella leaped up and grabbed hold of his arm, sinking her canine teeth into Lucius’s flesh as deep as she could whilst twisting her head violently and growling ferociously.

Little Draco was abruptly dropped with a thud as his father winced and cursed loudly in pain as the dog tore into his forearm; streams of deep red blood dripping...

“Stella. No!” Young Draco ordered.

The dog reluctantly followed her master’s orders and released her hold.

But as she did, Lucius’s wand came out and a second later, Stella was dead.

Seven year-old Draco went into shock witnessing the horrific scene that was now forever engraved into his mind. His beloved dog had been pushed back by the deadly curse’s blow and was now dead, lying under the Christmas tree amongst the very presents that he was trying to get a peek at just a moment earlier.

His mother ran in to see what was going on then gasped in horrified disbelief. “Lucius, how could you do such a thing?” She yelled at him as young Draco stared at his dead dog.

“Do you not see my blood running down my arm and onto the rug?” He spat at her. “I should’ve done the deed months ago when it began growling at me. Worthless mutt.”

When his parents left to tend to the wound, little Draco noticed his father had left his wand on the floor. Without thinking too much, he picked it up, even though he knew he was never permitted to do so. He was only allowed to have toy wands.

He bent down and crawled under the Christmas tree, shoving dozens of presents out of the way. He held the wand over the dog and calmly but firmly repeated every healing spell he could remember his mother saying.

He tried the one she used when he fell down the stairs and bruised his pointy chin and his little ribs.

When that didn’t work, he tried the one that healed him when he fell from one of the apple trees on the manor grounds, slicing open his knee. He tried a couple more spells, but nothing worked.

Desperate, he tried the Reparo spell that could fix his broken toys, but that didn’t work either.

When Draco couldn’t think of any other healing charms, tears welled up so much that he could no longer see through his watery eyes. He began to cry as quietly as possible, afraid his father would hear.

Giving up on healing spells, little Draco carefully, lovingly, snuggled up close beside his beloved dog and buried his tearful face into her soft black fur.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry.” He sobbed into her with his little boy voice. “I just wanted to look at the presents.” His tiny body shook with grief as his little seven year-old heart broke on that fateful Christmas Eve.

Draco cried himself to sleep under the tree with her by his side, but awoke in his bed the next morning. When he realized she wasn’t there, he remembered that it was real. That his father really did kill her and she really was dead and that it hadn’t been a nightmare. It had really happened.

He felt his tiny heart sink inside of his little boy chest where an aching pain had started. He noticed a strange feeling deep inside as his stomach did flip flops. His body shook uncontrollably and he thought he was going to get sick, but he didn’t.

And for the first time, little Draco didn’t run down the stairs to tear into his gifts on Christmas morning. Instead, he stayed in his room and grieved over the loss of his best friend.

Narcissa went up to his room to coax him out. The only thing that worked was her telling him that the house elves had taken care to make his favorite breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes and hot cocoa, both topped with whipped cream. Thinking of the elves working so much, he finally made his way down the stairs and into the kitchen, avoiding the Christmas tree and its deadly memory.

Every gift went unopened that year. He told his father the only thing he wanted was his dog back.

“The Avada curse is not reversible, son. It’s a good lesson to learn now while you’re young. I can’t bring her back, even if I wanted to. But I’ll get you another dog if you want. A pure-blood this time. One that’s smart enough not to turn on its owner.”

“I don’t want another dog. I want Stella!” He had yelled back through tearful eyes.

And when they filled the manor with gifts the following year, they couldn’t get him to open a single one that year either. They ended up opening them for him and showing him all the wonderful things that other kids would die for. But he wasn’t the least bit interested.

“Alright, Draco, I apologize. Is that what you want me to do? Beg you for forgiveness?” Lucius quipped uneasily. “That dog attacked me.”

“She was only defending me.” Draco replied quietly.

“My arm still hurts occasionally and I have permanent scars from her vicious teeth puncturing my skin. Have you no concern for your own father?”

Draco hoped his father’s arm would hurt for the rest of his life.

When Draco said nothing, Lucius remarked, “You ungrateful brat. Do you even know what we had to go through to get you all of this?”

But Draco didn’t care. He responded with the shoulder shrug of indifference. He felt no happiness in any of those material things. He felt only bitterness... and guilt. After all, it was his own curiosity of those very gifts that got his dog killed. And now he wouldn’t be remotely interested in any Christmas gift ever again. So much so, that they eventually gave up on him and stopped buying Christmas gifts altogether.

That’s why there were none under the tree now, nine years later.

“Why did you show me this?” Draco's voice choked with emotion. “Do you think I’d forgotten about it?” He snapped.

“Draco, I show you this because it is time to forgive yourself and your father for what happened that night.”

“Why should I?” He said through gritted teeth. “He killed Stella for protecting me.”

“He killed her because he was in pain. She attacked him. You must forgive him. He didn’t mean to emotionally scar you in the process.”

“But he did, didn’t he? The man is malicious in his intent in everything he does.”

“That’s not true. He sincerely apologized to you and was remorseful.”

“He half-heartedly apologized and then turned around and justified the killing, just as you just did.”

“And you’ve been punishing him and your mother by ruining nearly a decade of Christmases with your stubbornness ever since.”

“Deservedly so,” he scowled.

“I may be an old man living in a portrait now, but don’t think I don’t know that a dark war looms. I want you to think about that for a moment and ponder the thought that this might very well be your last Christmas with them.”

“And that’s supposed to make a difference to me now?” Draco replied, his voice dripping of utter contempt.

Just then, loud clock chimes interrupted them. Malfoy Manor’s over-sized grandfather clock began to chime its one o’clock announcement.

“Come with me, Grandson. I’ve somewhere else to show you. A place that also has no presents under their tree as well, but for an entirely different reason.”

With a sigh, Draco plopped his hand on the old man’s forearm. “Any place but here,” he agreed rather sadly as they apparated away to a certain Burrow and into a house full of nine red heads amongst some brunettes and a blonde or so. 
 

 





Author's Note:
Poor little seven year-old bare-foot Draco lost his best friend on Christmas Eve. ;(
Thank you to so many for giving this story a chance. The dream sequence is only the first 3 chapters of this sad, heartfelt story. Thank you for reading.  

Dark Whisper
Credit:  "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens ~1843.

 
 


Chapter 2: Present Day Burrow and a Future with Astoria
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It didn’t take long for Draco to figure out where he was, given all the red hair in the place.

“We are at the Weasley’s!” His grandfather yelled above the noise.

“I gathered that!” Draco shouted as he took in the crowded surroundings.

There were people telling stories and laughter and happy Christmas music playing in the background. The place smelled of roasted ham and freshly baked cinnamon rolls.

He noticed a pathetic looking tiny tree with drooping limbs and just like his grandfather said, hid no presents beneath it.

“This was only hours ago. I wanted you to see what a happy family Christmas looks like," Abraxas explained.

That’s when Draco noticed Harry laughing at some animated statue that Fred and George had congured out of pinecones and Christmas lights.

Charlie was telling of an adventure with a young dragon named Norbert to Bill, Percy, and Mr. Weasley.

Mrs. Weasley was patiently trying to instruct Ginny on how to knit as she inspected something that looked like a misshapen mass of nothing. But that’s about the time when he heard Hermione’s sweet laughter.

“What’s she doing here? Shouldn’t she be with her family right about now?” Draco asked.

“Her parents went to the South Pole to see penguins in their natural habitat for their Christmas vacation. They sent a gift to her, an aboriginal trinket of some sort from their stop in Australia. She’d be alone if it weren’t for the Weasleys.”

Draco couldn’t believe it. Her Christmas Eve would’ve been spent like his, alone... if it weren’t for them? The thought of her being lonely tugged somewhere deep inside his chest a little. 

Abraxas couldn't help but notice his grandson's face as it turned to one of sadness and concern for her.

Ron’s billowing voice interrupted their thoughts.

“Are you kidding me? Malfoy probably has so many gifts he doesn’t know what to do with them accept burn them for fuel in his fireplace. The rich prat!”  Ron commented loudly.

“Look. I know your parents don’t have the money for material things right now... and your mother couldn’t even knit her sweaters this year because of the poor condition of her hands," she added lowly.  "But that’s no reason to go around being jealous of Malfoy.”

“Whatever.” Ron responded with distaste.

Her face grew even more serious then. “Let’s remember who his father is, Ron. It couldn’t be all that wonderful now could it?”

“How is it that you defend him? He’s been especially cruel to you.” Ron reminded.

Hermione shrugged her shoulders as if defeated. “Something just tells me that your rendition of his Christmas is completely incorrect. You have no idea what it’s like to be an only child. Christmases at my house are nothing like this full house, being surrounded by brothers and sisters and friends and laughter. On the contrary, it can be quite lonely and rather boring.”

She stared off into space for a few seconds, but if he didn’t know better, Draco could swear she was looking straight at him, her deep brown eyes to his gray.  Her words and her gaze held him, entranced.

“Just because someone is an only child doesn’t mean they will have a miserable Christmas.” Ron replied correctly.

“You are right, of course. But something tells me Malfoy’s Christmas is nothing like ours. As if it’s tainted somehow.”

“Who cares?” Ron said irritated. He left her then and went to refill his eggnog from a pitcher in the kitchen.

Draco stared at Hermione in disbelief, completely fixated. She couldn’t have been more right.

“How does she know this?” Draco finally asked. “That my Christmas is 'tainted’ as she put it.”

“Woman’s intuition, Draco. She’s been thinking a lot about you lately. That’s why she can zero in on what’s going on with you. She knows that Christmas as an only child is still pleasant. But she has that gut feeling that your Christmases are well… not normal. She doesn’t really know why though.”

Intuition?  She's been thinking of him most likely because of his stupid teenage gawking at her, he figured. 

“Why should she have any concern for me? He’s right, you know. I’ve only been cruel to her… mostly.”

“Perhaps it is your cruelty that has her curious about you. Look at her now, Draco. While everyone is talking and making all this noise, her thoughts remain on you.”

Draco couldn’t believe it. She had defended him and clearly she was still deep in thought and it took Ron’s shoving her practically off her seat for her to notice he was talking again.

“What?” She asked frustrated at being pulled from her concentration.

“Quit thinking about him and definitely don’t pity him. Malfoy wouldn’t spit on us if we were on fire. Besides, you don’t know what really goes on at his house. He probably has father's Death Eater friends over for Christmas and they probably kick the house elves around for a game of fun.”

“I don’t kick my house elves.” Draco defended. Except for the one time father made him punish one of them. He told Draco they had to learn to fear him, but he didn’t want to do it.

“You really think that’s what it’s like at Malfoy Manor?” She glared.

“Yes. I do. But even if I’m wrong and it’s an entirely miserable event, then he certainly deserves it.” Ron was completely irritated now.

"Maybe if he had some happiness in his life, he wouldn't be like he is." She defended Draco once again.

“Why the bloody hell are we talking about him? It’s putting me in a sour mood.”

“Sorry, Ron. But you’re the one who brought him up again after you came back from your eggnog refill.” She quickly pointed out.

“Enough then.” He demanded.

“Fine.” But this time her eyes began staring into the fireplace, thinking of what it might be like if she were with Malfoy on Christmas Eve instead of a bitter and jealous Ronald Weasley.

“Can’t you see?” His grandfather pointed. “She doesn’t hate you, Draco. She is genuinely concerned and wishes you had happiness in your life.”

Draco was astonished.  She cared, if even a little for him?  He then pondered what she’d said about her own home life. Was it lonely like his? They had that in common and he was bewildered to think Granger could understand his loneliness on that level.

Things got louder again and Draco looked around at all the people. She was right. Draco’s Christmas was nothing like this. People never laughed or had a good time at Malfoy Manor. Never.

And in that thought, Draco Malfoy felt it… the slightest hint of jealously of the Weasley household. It made him uncomfortable and he cringed a bit.

Once again, his thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of deafening chimes. The Malfoy grandfather clock striking two in the morning.

“Come on, Draco. Time to move on.”

“It hasn’t been an hour already, has it?”  He wanted to stay and watch Hermione as she went over to Ginny, trying to figure out what in the world the Weaslette was trying to knit.  But then he sighed his disappointment, knowing it was time to leave.

“Where to now?” He asked with a rather mundane tone, unable to take his eyes off her.

“To a possible Christmas future.”
 




Draco found himself in an unfamiliar home. It was much more modern than the old Malfoy Manor, but just as grand. It looked quite new and elaborate. It was a home he’d love to live in one day.

He took in the beauty of the intricate patterns of the shiny marble floor.  There was a quiet indoor waterfall that was magically defying gravity and going up.  It drew his eyes upward to the ornately carved wood trim of gothic cathedral-style arches that lead up to the top of a stained glass domed ceiling.

It was a quiet, comfortable, octagon-shaped living area, lit up in all the right places that highlighted the architectural details.  It was a bit dark, but in a romantic way, certainly not dreary.

"No. This is much better than Malfoy Manor."  He commented in awe.

His eyes then went to a tall but thin Christmas tree that sat directly in the center of the room, whose top went high up into the grand space. He looked down then and swallowed hard, noticing that it too lacked any presents beneath it.

He turned from it and then noticed a familiar scene as he gawked at his older, thirty-something self sitting in a comfortable oversized leather chair.

“Huh. I still look pretty good at this age.” He smirked to his grandfather. “Sad and deep in thought as usual, but I don’t look too bad at all, if I do say so myself.” He said pleased.

But as he heard a woman’s heels clicking towards them, he grew more serious. As she came into view, Draco felt a little relieved.

“Astoria Greengrass? Thank God I didn’t end up with Pansy Parkinson!” He snickered for a second, but then realized he shouldn’t have been with Astoria either. “Wait. Blaise always wanted her.”

Blaise Zabini, Draco’s best friend since meeting on that first train ride to Hogwarts and being sorted into Slytherin House. He silently wondered why he would be with his best friend’s love.

It wouldn’t be under the realm of possibility for a Slytherin to go against another to land a mate. They took the phrase, “All’s fair in love and war” quite seriously. But Draco thought that when it came down to it, he would respect his friend and be loyal, never crossing those kinds of invisible lines.

The closer she moved toward them, the more concern young Draco felt.

Astoria looked professional and beautiful wearing a custom tailored ivory business suit, designer heels, and matching dragon leather handbag. Her hair was tied up in a perfect twist revealing star-like diamond earrings. But the expression on her face was one of desperate pain.

From the grand hallway, she took the few steps down into the living room space and once she stood next to the older Draco, she finally spoke.

“I’m leaving you, Draco.” She said to him, full of pent up emotion.

But the older Draco said nothing. He only stared blankly under their gift-less Christmas tree.

“Did you hear what I said?” She asked louder, demanding a response.

Draco remained calm. “This is your home, Astoria. You don’t have to leave it. I’ll be the one to move out.” He quietly offered.

She looked at him as if it were the most ridiculous thing she’d ever heard.

“I planned and designed every inch of this house with you in mind, along with everything in it. I had hoped that you’d fall in love with the place. This was supposed to be our home, Draco, our dream. I cannot possibly live here with or without you. Not when everything about it reminds me of you. Can you understand that?” She said solemnly.

He exhaled slowly and bowed his head. “I fully understand. And I’m truly sorry.”

“Sorry for what? For loving someone else?” She huffed.

“No. For marrying you, thinking it would somehow make a difference.” He said sadly.

She looked at the ground and sighed. “I suppose that it was partly my fault. I married the rich and powerful Draco Malfoy knowing your heart wasn’t fully mine. But honestly, I had hoped that in time you’d come around and learn to love me.”

She ever so slowly sat down on the sofa closest to his favorite chair. “But oh, how wrong was I?” She added.

“Astoria... I do commend you for trying so hard, for so long. It certainly wasn’t for your lack of trying.” He paused. “For what it’s worth, I deeply care for you and I’m truly sorry that you feel the need to leave.”

“I feel the need to be loved, Draco. Deeply caring for someone is not the same as loving them. I’ve tried everything I know to do to have you open your heart to me, aside from using a magical potion or hex, but nothing has ever worked. I wondered then if maybe I was trying too hard. But recently, I’ve come to the realization that the problem is that I will never be her, which is something I cannot work on or fix. So I’ve decided to quit torturing my self esteem and go find love elsewhere.”

She placed a well manicured hand to her stomach then and her face looked as if she were going to be sick.

“You and Blaise have my blessing.” He said knowingly.

She gasped silently and gave him a ‘how did you know’ look.

“Blaise has been my best friend since we were First Years at Hogwarts, Astoria. I know him as well as I know myself. You have a brief past and he has always loved you.” He revealed firmly. “It practically killed him to stand as my best man and listen to you pledge your life to me at our wedding.”

It was her turn to be silent as she let that little revelation sink in.

“Despite Blaise going behind my back and having an affair with my wife, I still consider him my best friend. More like the brother I never had, to be honest. With that said, I couldn’t pick a better man for you. He loves you fully where I could not.”

“Your blessing cuts deep as you don’t even seem the slightest bit upset at our affair. Not a hint of jealousy on your lips.”

“Maybe it’s because your affair was no surprise and looking at it now, entirely inevitable. I’ve already forgiven you both.” He added, staring back under the tree.

“Too easily, Draco! Honestly, did you ever love me at all?” She asked, her voice growing emotional.

“You picked me up from the depths of my own private hell and saved my life, Astoria. I will always love you for that.” He said with a slightly irritated look.

“No. You will always be grateful for that. But gratitude is not the same as love either.” She looked away from him then, but continued. “You never did love me, did you? Not like you did her.”

When she received no answer, Astoria’s heart broke for him for the last time.

She decided then that it was time to tell him a little revelation of her own, one that tore at her insides. If he didn’t feel love for her, then she wanted him to feel guilt.

“Did you know that I was able to sense that when we went to bed, it was her in your mind that you were making love to and not me?”

Both Dracos looked up at her somewhat surprised.

“Do you know what that does to a woman who loves you? Do you?” She practically yelled.

He didn’t want to admit it, but it was true. When he closed his eyes, he wasn’t thinking of Astoria. He thought the strength of his Occlumency skill was enough to keep her out of his head. The truth made him feel like a cheating bastard.

She continued. “I would allow it because that’s the only loving affection I could get from you. As false as it was, I took what I could get. How pathetic!” She scolded herself. “You would say her name in your sleep, stabbing me in the heart every time you did it.”

She took out a tissue from her purse and dabbed at her eyes, while he remained silent.

“While I appreciate that you never physically cheated, you were unfaithful to me in your heart, which is much worse. I’d rather that I would’ve caught you having meaningless sex with a whore!” She cried out.

But Draco had heard enough. If there was one thing that irritated him about Astoria, it was her unwavering will to overly-dramatize everything. Not that she wasn’t fully telling the truth.

“None of this was ever my intention, Astoria. I never meant to hurt you in any way. I thought I could move on. There was a time when you certainly had me convinced it was possible, which is why I married you.”

“I wouldn’t wish our one-sided kind of marriage on my worst enemy. Loving someone who is incapable of loving you back is hell and torture and I’ve put myself through it far too long.”

She swallowed hard, reached into her handbag, and pulled out a legal envelope.

“I know of your disdain for Christmas presents, Draco, but I think you’ll appreciate this one.” She said, handing it to him.

“What is it?” He asked with a disgusted sigh.

“An easy... divorce,” she voiced with her heart in her throat, as fresh quiet tears rolled down her cheeks at the mention of the foul word.

He opened the package to see a simply written legal document granting her freedom and the return of her maiden name.

“You only ask to keep your wedding ring?” Draco asked in disbelief. “No alimony, no lump sum payment, no real estate holdings, nothing from our home, and not a dime of the Malfoy fortune?” He read out loud. “You actually spelled that out?” He looked up at her in disbelief.

“I want nothing from you, Draco. Our marriage was never about money. I loved you, you blind son of bitch! I only want my wedding ring.” She dabbed at her eyes again trying to regain her composure. “Blaise probably won’t like it, but I want to keep it as a reminder that I was indeed married to Draco Malfoy, the love of my life.”

“Blaise Zabini is the love of your life.” He gently corrected.

“I do hope so,” she replied with a whisper.

Draco looked back at the divorce decree. It was on their lawyer's letterhead with all the right signatures, witnesses, dates, etc... 

“Are you absolutely certain that you want nothing else?” He questioned intently.

She nodded with tormented, closed eyes. “I’m sure.”

With that, Draco picked up a quill from a nearby desk, signed the document, wax sealed it with the official Malfoy crest, and handed her the freedom she requested.

 

 






Draco turned to his grandfather. “Blaise loved her all his life. How did we end up together?”

He turned to Draco with a tap of his cane. “None of that matters actually. Why aren’t you asking the real question presented here? As in, who you couldn’t get out of your head?”

“Because I already know the answer,” he replied matter-of-factly. “Hermione Granger.”

“No.” The old man gently corrected. “Hermione Malfoy.”

“Show me what happened to us, Grandfather. I must know.”

“Fine, but I must warn you. This one is going to be... most painful.” His grandfather warned.

“This is going to be ridiculous.” Draco grumbled as the Malfoy grandfather clocked chimed to signal three in the morning.

____________________________________________________________________

Authors Note:

Hermione can tell something is wrong and wishes Draco had some happiness in his life.  And he has come to realize that they might share a common ground... loneliness.

And for Astoria, well... even in the prettiest of packages, money can't buy love. ;(


Thanks so much for reading,
Dark Whisper
 
 


Chapter 3: A Future Christmas Tragedy
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Draco looked around and he was back at Malfoy Manor. The Christmas tree was in its usual place, but he couldn’t help but notice the Christmas music seeming to come from nowhere and the room smelled of deep warm cinnamon.

“Draco. There you are, Love.” Hermione smiled adoringly at him as he walked into the spacious living room.

“How are you feeling, darling?” He went over to her, a bit concerned.

Draco rolled his eyes at his grandfather. “Darling?” He quoted. “Really? This can’t be real.”

“I’m fine.” Hermione replied, struggling a bit to remove herself from the luxurious velvety couch. “Merry Christmas Eve.”  She smiled lovingly as they came together in a sensual embrace.

“Whoa. She’s pregnant!”  Young Draco shouted, staring at the obvious bump on her belly. “Are you kidding me?”

“No. She is your wife now, Draco. And yes, she is seven months pregnant with your child.”

He stared in awe and wonder at Hermione in this state. He watched himself and the gentle way he was with her. And her eyes… she looked at him as someone in love, full of adoration.

'She could never look at me like that.  Could she?' His mind raced as he took in Hermione’s glowing presence in his ancestral home. He was pleasantly amazed.

He remembered something then.

He quickly looked up at the high ceiling to gaze upon the beautiful mural of the witch and her dragon, still holding the prophecy ball. Her banner had indeed changed. Instead of protecting her 'Purus Cruor' pure-blood family, she now protected “Amor Verus.”

True Love?” Draco translated, very, very pleased at the necessary revised message. “Much better, witch.  Much better.”

Hermione spoke then. “I know that you say you never want any Christmas presents, Draco, but…”

“But nothing. I told you. You are giving me the greatest gift a woman could ever give me. A son, Hermione. I don’t want anything else and I mean that.”  He smiled at her, his heart full of love for this woman standing in front of him. 

A son? He was going to have a son? The thought brought fear with it, but it was a strange kind of fear. Not the fear that Draco was used to feeling. “A son of my own?” He asked his grandfather in awe. “And with her of all people?” He kept his gaze on her with feelings of disbelief mixed with sheer happiness as a smile made its way across his face. It was short-lived though, as the conversation became serious.

“I got you something anyway. I couldn’t help myself,” she said, excited and pleading.

“I told you... no gifts.” He snapped. “Look, this no gift thing goes way back to a horrible childhood. One I take completely seriously.”

“Whatever happened to you back then should not prevent me from giving you a gift now,” she argued playfully.

“I gave you one rule. I expect you to fully respect it.”  He could feel the walls of fury beginning to build inside of him, feelings that had never surfaced when it came to his wife.

“Draco. Listen to me, will you? You are being completely irrational about this.” She tried to calm him, but those were not the right words.

Irrational? You have no idea what happened to me. You have no idea!” He practically yelled, his mouth tightening into a hard line.

“Maybe it’s time to heal your past and just accept a bloody gift for once.”

“You need to abide by my wishes when it comes to this. I’m absolutely serious. This holiday is extremely hard for me. I refuse whatever it is.” 

Draco's insides were now burning.

“You should see it first, before you refuse it,” she urged him with hope in her words.

“I said, no... and that is final.”

“I cannot believe you are reacting like this. You haven’t been like this with me since, well since our Hogwarts years. You’re being hateful to me and quite frankly you are scaring me here.”

He sighed and took in a deep breath, visibly trying to calm himself down. “Sorry, Hermione. It’s just that you don’t fully understand this. And I don’t ever expect that you will.”

“Tell me then. Maybe I will understand. You don’t give me enough credit.” She said, trying to convince him. “Trust me with this. As painful as it is, tell me so that I can understand why you feel the way you do.”

“Never,” he answered with a heated scowl.

“If you won’t tell me, then let me give you the gift then. You shouldn’t be able to have it both ways. Either tell me or accept the gift.” She said, trying to reason with her husband, whom she loved so dearly.

Young Draco turned to his grandfather then. “This isn’t right. She shouldn’t be relentlessly berating me like this. What happened with my father isn’t any of her business!” He yelled furiously.

“Why are doing this to me?” Draco asked her. “Why are you prying into the private hell that was my childhood? Why can’t you just leave it alone?”

“Why can’t you just accept a gift from me? You love me and I love you. I’d never hurt you with a gift. I got it for you because I think you’d love it… I love it.” She said lovingly. “It’s a gift for our family, really. For us,” she said, placing her hand on her oversized belly.

He let out a huge sigh, knowing that he was about to give in to his irresistible, stubborn wife.

Draco yelled at his older self, as if he could hear. “Don’t do it. Don’t you dare tell her what happened!” He demanded.

“I cannot bring myself to tell you what happened. So... I suppose, even though I’m thoroughly pissed off at you right now, I will see your gift and then decide if I want to accept it or not. Am I clear?”

Knowing she’d won him over, her face lit up with the smile and she kissed her husband. A full kiss that had the younger Draco amazed. “Unbelievable. This is all unbelievable.”

“Okay. Are you ready?” She asked teasingly.

“No.” Draco replied. “I really don’t want this.” He said as his nerves seered.

“Well you are getting it anyway.” Leaving his side, she walked into the adjoining room fully thinking she could help her husband get over his disdain for Christmas presents.
“I put a silencing charm on the room so that you couldn’t hear her if she started barking.” Hermione explained happily with her back to Draco.

His eyes grew wide.  'Barking?'  The word was like a shot directed at his chest as his heart's rhythm stopped for a split second.

“What the hell did you just say?”  Both Dracos were astonished as a fire grew within them. A deep vengeful, relentless fire.

His breathing grew heavy and fast as he prepared himself for the worst gift she could possibly give him.

The older Draco had closed his eyes, the memory fully rearing its ugly head until he wanted to explode in a fit of rage that had built up over a lifetime.

“How did she know?” Draco demanded of his grandfather. “How the bloody hell did she know?” He raged.

“She didn’t know. You never told her!” He yelled back. “Had she known she never would’ve have done it. I told you she could sense your feelings, but not truly know what was going on in your head. How could she with your Occlumency?”

Hermione walked back into the room with the very source of his pain and misery for the last twenty years and she was giving the foul thing to him as a bloody Christmas gift.

So much pain. He harbored so much pain. For years he’d try to ignore it, push it down deep into his gut. Even as happy as he was with Hermione as his beloved wife, it never fully went away. It was just ‘there’ and he thought he’d learned to live with it.

“For God’s sake, Draco, open your eyes and look at her.”

The lump in his throat grew thick as he opened his eyes to see a damned black puppy.  One that looked so eerily similar to his Stella... the dead dog of his youth.

He stared at her as if she’d just stabbed him in the heart.

Twenty years of pain came bubbling to the surface, like molten lava before the volcano erupts.

Hermione took notice that he was furious and was visibly shaken. The expression she saw on his face made her feel as if she were in danger somehow. She’d never seen him so upset.  Never.

“Draco?” She questioned cautiously. “It’s just a puppy.”

“You will remove it from this house. I don’t want to ever look at it again as long as I live!” He shouted.

“Draco, she’s harmless. I thought that…”

“What kind of sick game are you playing with me? Did you really think this was going to ‘heal my past’?” He asked mockingly, fully believing she must’ve known all along.

Sick game? This is not a sick game.” She answered shaking her head. “It’s your gift from me and she’ll be a wonderful addition to our family, you’ll see.” She urged.

But Draco was only seeing his childhood pain wriggling in her arms and he only felt hate for it.

She put the pup on the floor and began playing with it a bit, completely unsure of what to do about Draco. Her fear began to show and she felt that he had become rather unpredictable.

Hermione hadn’t noticed, but Draco had pulled out his wand.

“Draco. Tell me. What is going on here?” She pleaded cautiously.

But he wasn’t sure what was happening himself. He wanted to kill the thing. It was irrational and he knew it. He had loved that dog long ago. But now it had changed into something else all together.

“Grandfather, I think I’m going to be sick.” Young Draco said, witnessing the scene play out in front of him.

Just then, the volcano within erupted.  The older Draco raised his wand to strike a blow directly at the symbol of his childhood pain.

But as he did, Hermione’s motherly instincts kicked in and without thinking, she put herself between Draco and the black pup, fully taking the blow of his curse and knocking her hard into a stone wall.

“Hermione!” He cried, rushing to her side. As soon as he grabbed hold of her, they were apparating to St. Mungo’s Hospital.
 

 






“That was no killing curse. Don’t you dare tell me that I killed her!” He shouted as the flames in the fireplace tripled in response to his rage. “It was just a jolt to keep the thing far away from me!”

“The blow sent her into early labor.” The old man said sorrowfully. “Had it been in the eighth or ninth month, he would’ve been fine. But he was born too early. There were complications and he did not survive.”

Draco put a fist to his stomach as he felt a stab to his abdomen, letting out a guttural moan of grief and despair.

“Are you telling me that I killed my own son… before he even had a chance to live?” Draco leaned a hand against the fireplace mantle, trying to steady himself.  He felt sick, felt it in the pit of his stomach, the shock. “This is unimaginable. My own child dead because of what my father did when I was seven!”

His eyes blurred as tears escaped. As soon as he blinked them away he went to a small moving photograph of a proud Lucius and his wicked smirk. He picked it up. “You foul son of bitch!” He growled. With all the force in him, Draco reached back and rammed the photo into the fireplace flames, watching it burst and burn.

“After the funeral of your child, you both returned home and tried to go on with your lives. But every time you looked at Hermione, her eyes were sad and her arms were empty where there should’ve been a child. And no matter how many times she forgave you, you couldn’t forgive yourself. You were afraid to have another child. When she told you she was ready to try again, you were sick to death with worry that something would go wrong. You ended up pushing her away with your silence as you withdrew yourself from her life. You told her that you and your name were cursed and that you could only give her a cursed life.”

“I’m beginning to think that’s true.” Draco snapped.

“You shut her out emotionally and physically and she couldn’t take the weight of the depression that her life had become. So when Ronald Weasley came and took her out of the Manor, you didn’t stop him.”

Abraxas Malfoy seemed to age twenty years as he paused for a moment before revealing what was next.

“Potter warned Weasley that his wife was unstable and wouldn’t be able to take him leaving her. Harry tried to persuade him… saying that you just needed more time. But Ron wouldn’t listen. And a very distraught Lavender Weasley threw herself from the highest tower at Ministry Headquarters leaving a simple note that read... ‘I won’t die invisible’.”

“Oh, my God!” Draco voiced his painful anguish as he finally doubled over, fell to his knees, and buried his head in his hands, tears streaming at so much tragedy.

“That’s when Astoria took pity on you and your circumstances and began loving you, trying to show you that there could be life and love after tragedy. She pulled you out of the Manor and your mind off everything, at least at first. She showed you love and you married her, as you heard your older self say, ‘thinking it would make a difference.’ Your best friend, Blaise, fully stepped aside, believing that you needed Astoria to stay alive, putting your life before his own happiness.”

“Blaise would do that, wouldn’t he?"  He breathed.  "Such a loyal friend.” He whispered to himself.

Draco felt his soul crush from the inside.

“How could it all come to this? If this is truly the future of us all, then take out your wand and kill me now and spare everyone their pain!” He yelled.

“No! You must fix it.” His grandfather demanded. “You will fix it.”

“How? How am I supposed to fix all of this bloody hell on earth?” Draco slowly stood again and paced.

“You must forgive your father and make peace with the past.”

“How am I supposed to do that? I hate what he’s done. Even if I do forgive him, he won’t change!”

“You’re right. He won’t change. And let’s be honest. We both know this isn’t just about a dog’s death at Christmas!” His grandfather’s voice raged.

With that undeniable crushing truth, Draco’s pacing stopped as he stared deep into his grandfather’s heated expression, wondering just how much the old man had known while he was still alive.

“He’s been an abusive tyrant to you and your mother for years. I know why you fear the shadows and I know why there is no door to your bedroom closet.”

Draco couldn’t remember how old he was when the magic inside him shattered the solid mahogany closet door, but he knew he had been very, very young. It was his earliest memory of his use of magic.

Lucius would lock him in his bedroom closet for… God only knows how long.

After too many times, toddler Draco couldn’t take the darkness anymore and the magic he was born with... helped him get out.

He wasn’t sure how it happened exactly. He only knew that he had furiously concentrated on the door as his breathing became very rapid the more he wanted out. At the height of his breathing he reached up high above his head and slammed both palms against the door as hard as he could with a desperate and angry shout. There was a flash of light as the door reacted as if it were glass and shattered into hundreds of mahogany pieces.

The door was beyond repair and had never been replaced.

“You bring up the closet door… and still you expect forgiveness?” He said with a very shaky, cracking voice.  The lump in his throat almost fully choking him.

“As traumatic as your childhood has been, you must not let it ruin the rest of your life, not to mention the lives of those around you. Forgive him for everything and live to be the better man.”

The clock was chiming again, louder it seemed than all the other times.

“Be the better man!” Abraxas Malfoy bellowed loudly as his voice echoed in Draco’s ears, blending in with the sounds of the Malfoy Manor grandfather clock.

_______________________________________________________________

Author's Note:

And so here we are... The "Christmas Carol" dream sequence of the story is complete. 
I promise the next chapter isn't so sad, as Draco summons his house elves to do some good in his dark world.  Thanks so much for reading.

Dark Whisper
 
 


Chapter 4: Draco Awakes
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Malfoy Manor’s grandfather clock was striking and chiming relentlessly.

Draco awoke placing his hand to his throat, making sure no one was choking him, because that’s exactly what it felt like. His hand moved to his wet face, wiping the tears that had fallen while in his deep sleep. His head throbbed mercilessly and his throat hurt from the raw emotions that the dream had evoked.

He’d had plenty of nightmares before, but this one… this one by far… led him down the saddest path his mind had ever taken him.

He sat up from the sofa slowly, placing both elbows to his knees, one hand at his forehead as he pondered the dark, solemn dream.

A guttural moan escaped him as he recalled the pain he had caused his Granger, causing her to lose their child over something so completely senseless and unnecessary.  He thought maybe he shouldn't take it so literally and look at it figuratively.  Maybe the baby was their relationship?  He didn't know what to think... bloody stupid dreams. 

Draco sat half shocked that the unexpected was what had sent him over the edge of not being able to suppress, control, or own his emotions. It was something that he actually worked on. It had been a weakness of his that he hated. 

He had vowed to work on that weakness until it became his strength... maintain control at all times and not over-react to any given situation. 

So why would he cave in a dream set in the future?  It was something he would take note of... something about himself to analyze and figure out how to combat later.  As of right now, there were more important things to think about.

He knew that dreams were tricky things.  They were either nothing at all, prophecy, or a complicated mixture of both. What scared him most was thinking that even dreams of Muggles came true on rare occasion. And so that meant he had to take action to make absolutely certain that it couldn’t possibly be prophecy.

In his dream, his grandfather told him that the only way to fix everything was to forgive his father. But he wasn’t sure if he could do it. There would have to be a 'Plan B' or a remedy that was two-fold, partly forgiveness, partly personal intervention.

When he finally opened his eyes to look at the clock, he saw that it was only just after midnight.

He looked up at his grandfather’s portrait to find the old Malfoy glaring down at him.

“Grandfather, you wouldn’t happen to know anything about my dream, would you?” Draco asked.

“Have an effect on you, did it?” The old man replied rather blankly.

“Look, I don’t know if any of that would really come to pass, but I do think nine years of suffering through Christmas is long enough."

“Very wise, my grandson. Very wise indeed.”

Draco wanted to do something. What if this really was his last Christmas with his mother and father? If this was the last, he’d try to make it a memorable one. Especially for his mother, since she hadn’t deserved the brunt of his stubbornness all these years. It would make her happy if he somehow made amends with his father, if only a little bit. 

His thoughts went to the other task at hand... Intervention.  He thought of how Granger was most likely at the Weasley's and quickly devised a plan that would have her practically begging to be alone with him at Hogwarts.

“Trinket! Skippen!” He called for two of his house elves.

“Yes, Master?” Skippen questioned as he magically appeared.

“Where’s Trinket?” Draco asked.

“Trinket is here. Trinket is just a bit upset, sir. It is late on Christmas Eve, sir.”

“I’ll make it up to you, Trinket.” Draco said into the air. “I promise. Right now, I really need your decorating expertise. Please help me turn this place into something magical for Christmas.” He knew Trinket loved to decorate.

“Decorating, sir?” She magically appeared.

“I’m tired of Christmas being so dull and depressing at the Manor. I want you two to gather all the other house elves and turn this place into the most festive we’ve ever had. Starting with moving the Christmas tree.” He told her in a kind manner.

Trinket smiled then and with the snap of her fingers, the tree was hovering two feet off the floor. “Where to, Master?” She asked excitedly.

“Anywhere but in the same place it has always been. I can’t stand to look at it in that spot anymore.”

“How about in front of the palladium window? If it pleases you, sir.” Trinket said happily.

“Perfect. Do your best decorating magic, Trinket. Have twelve trees in the Manor if need be.”

He saw Trinket’s little face light up with a wide grin.

“What would you have Skippen do, sir?” His personal house elf asked.

“I need the kitchen elves to make cinnamon rolls and cookies and any other delightful Christmasy-type food they can make for tomorrow night’s dinner. Have them set the table for thirteen.” He instructed.

“Oh, and I need you to summon Dobby tonight,” he added, as if it would be an easy request.

“But Dobby’s a free elf, sir. Skippen might not be able to coax Dobby back to the Manor, sir.”

“I know. But tell him father is not here and I need him to help his friend, Harry Potter have a good Christmas.”

“Skippen will try, Master.”

“Good. Do it now and come right back.”

“Yes, Master. Skippen will try to summon Dobby.”

Draco went back to thinking about gifts. His mind raced at the possibilities at what he could give them at such a ridiculous short notice.

He went into his mother’s jewelry cabinet and easily guessed the password to unlock it. Once unlocked, he opened the drawer to where she kept mismatched earrings, loose stones, and broken jewelry. There was so much, he decided to just take the entire drawer.

After re-locking the cabinet, he went to the elves’ quarters and called out, “Tauller!”

“Yes, Master.” The oldest of the Malfoy elves appeared as if very tired and worn out.

“Tauller, I know that you formerly belonged to a jeweler before father won you in a Wizard’s Poker game. I need you to fashion a ring and a pendant from this old jewelry. Can you do this?” He asked as he spilled the lot of it onto a side table.

The elf’s eyes grew wide in excitement.  Draco watched as the old elf came to life, seemingly losing years of his age, as he displayed signs of being downright giddy. He clasped his hands together.

“Oh, Tauller loves the work, Master. Tauller will do a good job. It's a promise, it is.”

Draco gave him more specific instructions as to what he wanted, which required some research on the old elf’s part. When he nodded in understanding, Draco left Tauller to work his jewelry magic using Narcissa’s scraps.

He then remembered the book Granger wanted. He knew he had it. It was just a matter of finding it. That and asking permission from a member of the Malfoy family to remove it from the collection.

Once in the vast expanse of the Malfoy library, he used the Accio charm to summon it from its shelf.  Sure enough it came out flying toward him, landing directly into his hand. 

"I do love magic," he acknowledged as he headed back toward Abraxas Malfoy's portrait.  

“Grandfather,” Draco addressed. “I’d like to get permission to give this book to Hermione Granger.” He held it up.

Delilah’s Black Book of Poems? That was your grandmother’s. She loved that book. It is dangerous, you know.”

“I am aware of its danger. And honestly, Granger is the only one I know that I would fully trust with it. In my dream, she became a Malfoy. If there’s any truth to it, the book will be returned to its rightful place in the family library eventually.” He reasoned, hoping that would sway his grandfather.

“Hmm.” The old man carefully pondered the book’s message and what Draco had said of his dream. But more importantly, what he had said earlier that evening to the pure-blood witch in the mural over-head. And after a few moments of deliberation, he made his decision.

“Alright, I’ll allow it. But you must promise to personally remind her of its danger and be sure that she locks it with a proper enchantment.”

“I will. Thank you, Grandfather.”

With the poetry book in tow, there was another book that Draco wanted. With a copy already in the family library, the twin copy was in a storage crate in the attic, which meant he didn’t need permission to take it.

His parents had both gone to Hogwarts at the same time, causing them to have duplicate school yearbooks.

Once in the attic, he quickly searched for the crates he had seen long ago. He knew they were still there somewhere. When he found the one that was labeled Narcissa Black – Hogwarts, he popped off the top of the crate and pulled out the books. He was looking, searching for a glimpse of James Potter and Lily Evans. And he found them alright.

Draco glanced at the moving pictures. His father was a Prefect and five years older than Harry’s parents. There were others he recognized; Snape, Lupin, Wormtail, even Blaise’s mother. Lupin had just beat James at Wizard’s Chess. Snape was standing close beside Lily in what looked like a potions class.

Draco noticed then something a bit odd. It was Snape with a rather peculiar look directed at Lily. “Snape and Lily?” Draco questioned to himself. He decided not to read anything into it and snapped it closed. They were all so unbelievably young.

He grabbed the book and popped the top of the crate back in place and quickly left the attic.

Draco went to his room then in his quest to find more things to give away. He gathered professional Quidditch team paraphernalia that he had entirely too much of. There was more than enough for everyone in the Weasley household and he took all of it into his arms and walked down the hall to the balcony overlooking the great room.

As he came to the railing, he looked down below to find a cautious looking Dobby standing near Skippen.

“Dobby, Skippen! Here, catch this!” He told them as he heaved everything over the railing and let go.

They magically caught the bundle in the air and set it all gently on the table for Trinket to wrap.

“Wonderful to see you again, Dobby!” Draco smiled and Dobby’s eyes grew even larger than normal. As Draco stomped down the stairs hurriedly, he apologized.

“Dobby, I hope you forgive me for summoning you on Christmas Eve. But I have reason to believe that Harry Potter is at the Weasley’s house tonight and I don’t even know where they live, which is why I need you to deliver these gifts for me and place them under their tree. They must not be aware that they are from me. It’s a secret. Can you do this? Will you help me deliver gifts to your friend, Harry Potter?” He asked with a sense of urgency.

“Yes, but Dobby is concerned for Draco. Are you ill, old Master?”

“Ill? No. I’ve never felt better.” Draco said as he realized that his headache from earlier was now completely gone.

“It’s just that the Malfoys haven’t had a happy Christmas since before you know what happened.” Dobby said knowingly.

“Yes. I know.” Draco replied, bending down to his former house elf. “But I don’t want to let ‘what happened’ ruin any more of my Christmases, Dobby. I have a lifetime ahead of me and I’d rather look forward to them than dread them. Years from now, I’d like to think that I became a better person than father was.”

“Dobby thinks you already are, sir.” He replied.

“Thank you. Does that mean you’ll help your old Master then?”

“Dobby would be pleased to help Draco deliver gifts to Harry Potter.”

“Wonderful.” Draco smiled, which only served to frighten Dobby a little, not accustomed to it.

 

 






The next evening, Draco’s Christmas with his parents went precisely as he expected.

“While I hate what happened, I feel the need to not let it ruin my Christmas forever.” He told his father. “So, I’m forgiving you. That’s the only gift I have for you, I’m afraid.”

Lucius was puzzled, but pleased.

“I’m glad you finally came to your senses after nine years.” He sneered.

But then he extended a professional handshake to his son and Draco accepted it.

“Come, have dinner with us.” Draco's lips curled into a smirk, knowing full well his father would hate eating with his guests.

Draco’s mother, Narcissa loved everything the elves did to the place. And she just couldn’t stop looking at her pendant made from her old jewelry. It was fashioned with channel-set baguette shaped diamonds and emeralds perfectly fitted into a silver Malfoy family crest. It was dazzling.

She couldn’t have been happier at that moment, seeing her husband and son shaking hands to make amends. The change in Draco was heartwarming and wonderful.

And she didn’t mind at all dining with their ten house elves. They didn’t have the best table manners, but she didn’t care.  They seemed so happy, they were like children.

Lucius tolerated the beasts at his table, but only to show respect for Draco and Narcissa. He kept rolling his eyes and sneering at them while losing his appetite.

Draco was immensely amused watching his father sitting so uncomfortably. In contrast, Draco was having fun with them, conversing. And in return they shared stories and folklore of their ancestors, talking of the lost art of bending light and sending it to far away places.

He was shocked at how much a house elf could eat. It’s a good thing they made plenty.

He had invited Dobby, of course, but their former house elf politely and understandably declined. There’s no telling what Lucius would’ve done to him.

Draco considered the evening quite successful. His mother was smiling, the house elves loved him for their exceptionally good treatment- actually eating with and having dinner at the Master’s formal table, and Lucius was, well... just Lucius.

Draco couldn’t change his father, but he successfully changed a bit of himself that day.

It was a Christmas miracle of sorts.

And when they all had their fill, the elves busied themselves cleaning up the mess they made in the dining room, while Draco's thoughts went somewhere else.

He wondered what Hermione Granger was doing on Christmas night.  Was she lonely?  Was she reading his gift to her perhaps?
 




Late in the evening, Draco found himself in the very room that started the whole endeavor; the room that held his grandfather’s portrait.

“Well done, Grandson.” The old Malfoy voiced with pride. “I saw that you made amends. It felt good didn’t it?”

“I suppose.” Draco took in a deep breath and exhaled. “I can’t possibly forgive everything in one day, you understand. It’s not at all possible with everything… but I do feel as though a burden has been lifted, if only slightly.” He replied honestly.

“We are emotional creatures, the Malfoys, whether we show it or not. We can do one thing in an instant to make someone hate us. But love, Draco, true love can take years for us to grow.”

Draco picked up on the slight change in subjects. “What are you referring to exactly?”

“I’m referring to the recipient of your grandmother’s poetry book.”

“What about her?”

“It was smart of you to plant a seed, Grandson. A seed that will grow with patience and time. Trying to start a relationship with her before an impending war would be disastrous.”

Draco’s gaze moved downward to the plush carpet at his feet. “She is a Muggle-born, Grandfather. She is hardly marriage material.”

“Did that dog teach you nothing?” The old man asked in a raspy irritated voice.

Draco’s head snapped to the portrait, bewildered. Could the old Malfoy truly be questioning him about his dog, Stella?

“Excuse me?”

“Was Stella of pure blood?” His grandfather asked with a familiar smirk.

“No. She was a mutt.”

“Did it make her any less of a dog?” He asked with eyebrows raised.

“No.” Draco grew irritated.

“Did her blood status cause you to love her any less?”

“No!” He yelled. “Tell me, Grandfather, did you plant that dog on the Malfoy grounds so that I’d learn this lesson of yours?”

“I might have.” He said half-heartedly confessing in a non-guilty sort of way.

Draco’s eyes glared at the portrait. “Was my grandmother a true Pure-blood or is this all a charade?”

“She was, as I am, your father is, and you are.”

“So why the lesson? Were you in love with a Mudblood?”

“I prefer the term Muggle-born and at this point, it doesn’t matter.”

“If it doesn’t matter, then tell me.” He glared, folding his arms to his chest.

His grandfather let out a sigh. “Yes. I did. A lifetime ago.”

“My own grandfather, a blood traitor? Pardon me, while I let that one sink in.”

The thought was incredible, really. With all the hatred he’d been taught since birth, Draco had begun to think that maybe he was the only weak link in the seemingly infinite pure-blood chain… the only one with thoughts of loving a forbidden outcast. Somehow, the revelation made him feel a little more normal and that he wasn’t crazy after all. But it didn’t relieve any of the burden or the consequences.

“Let me be clear, Grandson. I loved your grandmother dearly, but she was the second great love of my life, as I was her second great love as well. Matters of the heart are quite complicated and I know all too well what crushing family obligations can do to someone.”

Draco contemplated that for a moment, wondering if Lucius knew this about his own father. No matter now, he figured. It wasn’t like he was going to bring it up in conversation… ever.

He took in a deep breath and exhaled slowly.

“It doesn’t really matter.” Draco finally said. “She could never love me back. I’ve been nothing but mean and nasty to her, and truthfully, once the war has started, we’ll be on opposite sides and any hope of her love will be as dead as… well… as dead as you are… so to speak.”

“Which is why you need to plant seeds, Draco. Giving her that book was perfect. You only need to give her miles of patience, walk a slow road, and hope that someday when the time is right, you’ll meet again.”

“Grandfather, you sound as though giving her that book was part of some grand future scheme. Truly it wasn’t.”

“If you would’ve read a single page of that book, maybe you would’ve realized the significance of it.”

“It’s simply a book she’s wanted for years.” Draco said full of doubt.

“It’s a book about a man’s heart. She’ll inadvertently learn more about you than you could ever possibly teach her.”

Draco grew quiet then. His headache had returned from lack of sleep and he decided it was time to call it a night.

“Merry Christmas and goodnight, Grandfather. Never a dull conversation with you,” he commented walking out.

As he trudged up the stairs to his room, he had much to ponder. His grandfather had loved a Muggle-born and he had planted Stella as a lesson for him? Good grief. And how could an antique book possibly teach Hermione Granger anything about Draco Malfoy?

As he dove under the heavy blankets of his bed, Draco thought of his plans that were well underway. He had forgiven his father somewhat, the gifts had been delivered to the Weasley household that morning, and the rest would have to wait until he got back to Hogwarts.

As he lay on his preferred left side of the bed, Draco thought of the conversation he might have with Granger when he got back to Hogwarts. He was so tired, he found himself dozing off and then opening his eyes to wake again. But as he did, she magically appeared on the right side of his bed as if she were sleeping. He wasn’t startled at all, as he knew she wasn’t real. At first he thought he was in a dream, but then realized that it was more like a hallucination.

He blinked slowly, but when he opened his eyes for the last time, she was gone.

‘That was strange,’ he thought, just before drifting off into a dreamless sleep.
 
 



Author's Note:

Well... that wasn't too painful, was it?  Draco is setting the stage to get Hermione alone to prevent his dreadful dream. 

What did you think of Abraxas?

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Dark Whisper
 


Chapter 5: Draco's Teenage Mouth and a Mother's Revenge
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The morning after Christmas, the house elves were still raving about the night before.  As a thank you, they remembered Draco's favorite breakfast as a child and served it to him with delight.

"Chocolate chip pancakes, hot cocoa, all loaded with whipped cream!  What an awesome breakfast."  He made over the enormous stack, knowing it was their gift to him.

"We're going to miss you around here."  Trinket said.  "I had such a wonderful time with Master Draco.  And it was so nice to see Dobby again."

With that remark, Lucius abruptly flipped down the newest copy of The Daily Prophet.  "Dobby was in this house?"  He practically shouted.

Narcissa brought her hand up to quiet him down and let the remark be.

Trinket went into a bit of a shock and started hurting herself.  "I... shouldn't have...said..."  Draco managed to stop her by giving her a gentle shove with the length of his arm.  "You can go now, Trinket.  Thank you."

Lucius sat there with tight lips until he couldn't take it anymore.

"They love you now."  He remarked as if that were a bad thing.

"That just means they'll do anything for me now."  Draco commented with a smile.

"They would do anything for you anyway, as they are house elves and that is what they are supposed to do."

"Yes, but don't you think they are more pleasant when they are happy?"

Narcissa remained quiet as she sipped her morning tea.

"I own them.  I'm not here to entertain them."  Lucius said swiftly.  "They have jobs to do and that is their place.  You might not see them, but even Hogwarts has a small army of them to feed everyone, do laundry, and clean up after all of you heathens."

"Heathens, Father, really?  Have you seen your Death Eater friends lately?"

Lucius looked at him with a fatherly scold. 

"Where are they now anyway?"  Draco asked.  He hated Death Eaters at the Manor.  They were invaders.  "It's been nice not having them lurking about.  Are you going to tell me they are all enjoying Christmas with their mummies?"

"A little less sarcasm, please, as you eat your sickening sweet chocolate breakfast.  And for your information they've been at Crabbe's."

With that piece of information, Draco finished his nostalgic breakfast and excused himself.  "Well I guess this is goodbye.  I'm heading upstairs to get my trunk and then I'm off to Goyle's."  He said standing and pushing in his chair.

"Draco," his father stopped him.  "Before you leave, how is the mission coming? You're half way until time is up and I wouldn't want you to waste too much time partying and playing Quidditch when lives are on the line."  He gave him a serious look.

Draco didn't like this reminder or his father's tone.  "I'm fully aware of my duties and my deadline, Father.  No need to remind me."  He said walking away, fully finished with the conversation.

 

 











It was a tradition started as First Years. Draco Malfoy and Vincent Crabbe would only spend two days of Christmas break at home… Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The rest of the time, the two would meet up at Gregory Goyle’s family estate.  A tradition that Draco refused to break, even if he and Lucius were getting along.

Draco had everything ready to leave.  He only needed the trunk.  But just as he was about to go, he found himself staring at the opening of his door-less bedroom closet. 

It's amazing what things you ignore as time passes.  But the dream brought up the memory and made him take pause.

He slowly made his way to it and when he got close enough, he placed a hand on the mahogany door frame, examining it.

He ran his fingers down the evidence, the deep gashes from where the hinges had been blasted off. A sadness came over him then, thinking of the blond child that was once trapped in it. He had a bit of a flashback, remembering his hands hitting the door and seeing the flash of light blow the door to splinters. He remembered hiding under his bed being afraid of the consequences for breaking the door. But he was never reprimanded for it. Instead, the house elves cleaned up the mess and it was never mentioned… as if it hadn’t happened at all.

Draco whispered his thoughts, “I forgave you for killing my dog yesterday. Will I ever be able to forgive you for the rest?” He breathed.

The gashes in the door reminded him of the concealed gashes on his shoulders and back.

“Draco.” A small voice said.

He looked up from his examination. “Mother.” He acknowledged with a solemn voice.

She had stepped into his room and saw him staring at the door frame.

“I’d hoped you were too young to remember what happened to the door.” She said sadly, slowly making her way in and gracefully sitting on the black cashmere blanket perfectly draped over his bed.

Draco stood quiet for moment. “Did you… know what he was doing?” He asked calmly and without blame.

“No. I didn’t. Not until you destroyed the door. I made sure it didn’t get replaced though.”

“I remember many things that he did to me, Mother. Locking me in the closet… the Cruciatus for forgetting my table manners and using the wrong fork at dinner… my favorite things tossed out if he felt they were in his way. The constant terrorizing in the dark as he actually thought it would build my character and make me stronger… which only backfired and made me afraid of my own shadow. He even had me running scared at someone throwing snowballs at me… because they were cloaked and I couldn’t see them.”

He said all of that with an eerie calm, as if there were no fight in him… but it was there… like the hot coals of a quiet campfire.

“He reared you into a tidy, well groomed, respectful, proper gentleman. I didn’t say I ever approved of his parenting techniques.” She said with her head held high.

“Techniques? Hmm.” He nodded his head slowly in fake agreement while she sat silent.

“You Obliviated me, didn’t you… when I was thirteen?” His voice remained calm. “That summer was when father started limping and walking with a cane.”

His mother’s only response to that was her clasping her hands together and placing them on her lap.

“I put two and two together when I went back to Hogwarts. I had pulled off my shirt to go to bed and Crabbe asked me what happened to my back. The wounds had healed, but they left scars, and I didn’t know how they got there.”

He thought it best to leave out Crabbe’s offer… “Want me to kill him for you?” His friend had offered.

Draco’s mother looked worried then and he saw a hint of shame on her features.

“Since I’m in the mood to forgive… Do you mind filling in the blanks?”

She took in a deep breath. “Draco, honestly… You will not fully realize how much your father loves you, until you have a child of your own one day.”

Her comment briefly had him recalling an image from his dream…. The image of Hermione ‘with child.’

“He loves you more than anyone in this world, including me.”

“Does he?” Draco said as if the notion sounded ridiculous.

“I’m sure that you are aware by now, that you have the power to hurt people with your tongue. You know precisely what to say to inflict the most damage. Frankly, your skills are quite remarkable… to inflict pain without a wand.”

“I’ve been told that before.” He acknowledged.

“Yes… well. When you were thirteen, your father threw a Cruciatus blow at you for something… I can’t even remember how it started. But it was the ‘last straw’ for you, so to speak. You had all that you could take and so you crushed him the only way you knew best… attacking him viciously with your foul teenage mouth.”

She took in a deep breath, choosing her words carefully. “You must understand that when you were born, you were your father’s pride and joy… You still are. He would beam and say… ‘I’m going to make him the greatest Malfoy that ever lived.’” She recalled with pride.

“But that summer night, you didn’t hold back your opinion of him. You made absolutely certain that he was clear about your feelings as you stood up for yourself and spoke your mind. You said if there was something worse than the word ‘hate’ then that was what you felt for him. You called him all kinds of creative nasty things that I’ve never heard of before. You went on a raging rant spitting so much venom, that it left us both stunned as if we’d been Stupified. And when you were done… you wanted to hurt him as much emotionally as he had hurt you physically. So… you proceeded to tell him the most disrespectful, hurtful thing you could possibly say… and Draco, you hit the bull’s-eye dead center.”

“Which was…?”

“Just after you told him that he was 'lower than a flea-infested Muggle' and that you were no longer going to call him ‘Father’…  You said, ‘It should have been you instead. It should’ve been you that the Dark Lord killed and not James Potter.’”

Draco’s eyes grew wide as he took in a desperate gasp of air. “I actually said that?” He was nothing short of shocked at his thirteen year-old boldness.

“You didn’t say it. You screamed it. And as soon as you did, you both took out your wands and began dueling in the house.”

“Seriously? Oh, I wish I could remember.” He said a bit excited.

“No… you don’t. It was a violent ordeal. Snakes flew out of your wand at him. It was the worst day of our lives as a family. I’m sorry that I didn’t interrupt you two sooner than I did, Draco. Honestly, I was trying to get out of the way of all the curses that were flying about, shattering everything in their path. You dueled bravely, but you were no match for your father, as you were only thirteen.”

She swallowed hard as she continued. “He attempted to Stupify you, but you ducked and it hit a large mirror behind you. It shattered and sent glass shards into your back.”

She shuttered at the memory. “It was an accident. He didn’t mean to hurt you. But when I saw you lying there with all that blood… Well… Let’s just say… That this old house had never seen a witch’s fury until that day. I magically slammed your father around the room like a rag doll and I broke his hip on purpose. I knew that it would never fully heal and I wanted it to be a constant reminder of the pain he caused you. I told him if he ever pointed his wand in an ill manner at you again, that I would have him begging for death. I’m not proud of it, but I am the reason he walks with a cane.”

Draco could taste the blood from his lip as he bit down hard on it, trying not to smile at his mother’s revenge. He eventually had to put a hand to his mouth, covering it. He wanted to run and hug her for what she’d done on his behalf. But the feeling quickly faded as he thought of why the hell it took her so long to finally do something.

“After that, your father was worried sick about your recovery. Healers came and removed the mirrored shards of glass from your back. It was dreadful. They said we were lucky you weren’t paralyzed. Your father didn’t eat for days, he was so worried. You refused to see him. And when he tried to enter your room, you were magically throwing things at him, slinging your mud and venom continually.”

She stood then. “I am the one that Obliviated you. So you can be mad at me if you want to… But I needed to have order in my house. He’s done nothing but spoil you since and you haven’t needed to tell him how you really feel.”

She stepped up to him, fussing with his jacket, smoothing out his shoulders like a mother would.

“Forgive him for being a terrible parent, Draco. He’s only truly wanted the best for you and he expects the best from you.”

“Perhaps he expects too much.”

“Look at you. You are perfection. You were a leader of Slytherin House as soon as you set foot at Hogwarts. Aside from one unfortunate episode… you have respect for your elders. You take care of yourself. You are trustworthy and most importantly… loyal. One day, the Manor will be yours. You will have a beautiful witch by your side and you will give me grandchildren. I don’t care who you pick, son… so long as she has pure blood running through her veins.”

“Time for me to go, Mother.” He said flatly, not wanting yet another lecture on blood status, especially with Granger constantly on his mind. 

“So soon? I really came up here to thank you for making amends with your father last night. I do hope I didn’t spoil it with the things I said today.”

“You didn’t.” He said as he swiftly grabbed the handle of his trunk, in a hurry to get to get out of there and get to Goyle’s.

“One last thing... don’t ever… under any circumstances Obliviate me again. It’s not good for me to have a chunk of my life missing, believing father must’ve done something unspeakable.”

As he stepped into the nearest fireplace to floo to Goyle's, he was wishing he could fast forward time to get back to Hogwarts.  He never thought he would ever think such a thing.  Unfortunately, there was a lot of time between now and then and a New Year's Eve party to get to before he would see his Granger again.
 

 

 










Author's note:

Well... what do you think about Draco's teenage mouth and a mother's revenge?

Please read and review.  I'd love to hear from you!

Hope you liked it.

Up next... We finally get a glimpse of what Hermione has been up to. 

Shhh,
Dark Whisper


 
 
 


Chapter 6: Hermione's Window Seat
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The one thing Hermione loved about her parent’s Muggle home was the large window seat in her bedroom. Well… it used to be large, but now that her older young adult body was sitting in it with her knees to her chest, it wasn’t large at all.

Despite her being all grown up, here she sat… in her favorite spot in the house with her temple resting on the window, dreadfully thinking… thinking… thinking.

It was the morning of New Year’s Eve and Hermione was already exhausted… emotionally exhausted.

As a child, she would sit there with the moon shining through the window lighting up whatever book she was reading when her parents thought she was asleep. She hated it when there was no moon, as she couldn’t read in the darkness.

She was surprised to still see the fingernail polish markings on it, thinking that her parents would’ve removed them by now.

As a little girl she would watch her mother blowing on her fingernails as if to dry them.

“Mummy, why do you always paint your fingers and toes?” Little Hermione asked.

“So they look pretty for my prince… your daddy,” she replied in her nice ‘spit spot’ English lady dialect.

The little girl wanted to have pretty fingers and toes too, so one day she snuck into her mother’s room and climbed her vanity and sat on top of it, going through a decorated box of nail polish. She picked a happy pink color, hopped down, and went to her window seat.

Her mother made it look easy. But when little Hermione tried it for the first time, she had painted over her toes, flesh and all… and by the time she was finished, there was nail polish on the seat, on two walls, the window sill, and her cute little face.

Her mother had walked into her room to put some laundry away and out of the corner of her eye saw her daughter frantically fussing with something. She glanced at her and did a double take.

“Well aren’t you a pretty sight.” She said. “Stay right there. I’ll be right back.”

Hermione sat frozen in her spot hoping her mother was bringing something to clean up her smeared pink paint because no matter what she did, it wasn’t coming off.

To her shock and horror, her mother only brought in… her father!

Instead of help cleaning up, she now expected a good scolding.

He held in a chuckle so as to not hurt his adorable daughter’s feelings.

“Look at your pretty toes.” He said with a wide grin. “You have the prettiest toes that I’ve ever seen.”

And then he noticed the spots on her face… the wall… and the seat… and the window sill.

“And I think you have a great idea going here.”

He took the bottle of nail polish and with a few simple strokes, he painted a tiny pink heart on her sunny yellow wall, and then another, and then a few polka dots. “There. Now you.” He said, handing her the nail polish brush.

Hermione smiled at her father. He always knew how to make things better.

After adding a few of her own lopsided hearts, she asked, “Daddy, how do you spell ‘Prince’?”

He spelled it out to her as she brushed the letters on the wall and surrounded it by a happy pink heart.

“Someday, when I have a Prince, I’m going to look pretty for him.” She smiled.

Hermione’s mind rushed back to the present. “Sorry, little Hermione, but I’m afraid you have no Prince to look pretty for.” She said sadly.

Her mind went to Christmas Day.

Someone, somewhere had done something wonderful to the entire Weasley household, Harry, and to her.

It had to be someone close to them, but no one was fessing up. It was maddening not knowing. She analyzed every person in the house and beyond twice… three times, but could not come up with a definitive clue as to who had arranged to give them all wonderful gifts and have them under the tree waiting for them to open on Christmas morning. Whoever it was obviously had some money and wanted to remain anonymous.

Whoever it was restored a sense wonder and joy to a family that otherwise wouldn’t have had any gifts to open at all on Christmas morning. It had been such a happy, wondrous surprise for each of them.

At the very least, she wanted to thank whoever it was for giving her something that she never thought was possible. She had wanted that book of poems ever since she found out about its unique magic. It was written in such a brilliant way that if someone read it out loud, they would unknowingly cast spells and curses. That’s why it was so unique… and why it was banned.

Hermione had wanted it because of its magical elements. She had no idea what it was truly about and wasn’t quite prepared for the content.

She was able to read a little bit of it on Christmas night and once again last night. She wanted to read it now, accept that it had been so sad that if she were any more depressed at the current moment, she just might hurt herself.

From her first read, she was surprised to find that the author of 'Delilah’s Black Book of Poems' was not Delilah herself. Rather, they were written by an unknown man to and about Delilah and they weren’t just poems. Some were letters. Some were stories.

The first and only passage she read was about the author as a child… being in darkness so long, that one day… Darkness came and took his voice so that he could no longer cry.

It amounted to a child giving up on anyone ever listening.

It spoke of a child’s loneliness on the most heart-wrenching of levels, wondering if anyone would ever come… to play, to read to him, or to just sit with him awhile.

She recognized the first hidden spell. If she had read it out loud, it would’ve conjured the tiniest of candles, akin to the kind one would blow out on a birthday cake. It would’ve been the tiniest of lights for the tiniest of hands trying to make their way out of the dark.

It was so sad, she couldn’t read it. Not today anyway.

She wondered how Christmas had been so wonderful and joyous, but in three days time Ronald Weasley had ruined it by officially dumping her and getting back together with Lavender Brown.

She had just started reading more of her new book when Ron came in and stood in front of her.

“Hermione.” He said flatly.

“Yes.” She said, not looking up from her book. “Just a sec…”

“No. Now!” He said grabbing the book and snapping it closed.

“Give that back!” She demanded.

“Will you stop worrying about your blasted book and pay attention to me for once in your life?”  He said rudely.

She gave a huff. “You have my undivided attention.” She said glaring. “Now what do you want?”

“I’ve decided to get back with Lavender.” He said in a rush.

Hermione stood abruptly.  Her full attention most certainly on Ronald Weasley at the moment.  “What? What about us? What about…”  She began to question as if shocked.

“Please don’t try to talk me out of it. I’ve made my decision.”  He stood looking down at her.

“And I’ve nothing to say in the matter? This decision is all yours? That’s hardly fair.”

“I care for you, Hermione, but I need us to be friends. You know full well this isn’t working.”

“All relationships have bumps in the road and issues to work out from time to time…”

“She’ll be here for supper.” He interrupted as his voice elevated. “You are a dear friend to me, Harry, Ginny... my entire family. You are more than welcome to stay here as long as you wish, just not as my girlfriend, you understand?”

“I’ll be gone by supper.”  She said quickly.

“I said you are more than welcome to stay."  He said in a bold tone.

“And I said... I’ll be gone by supper!”  She glared.  "Now give me my book."  She said through gritted teeth.

“Fine, here.  Have your precious book."  He said as he practically threw it at her.

Hermione packed furiously, only taking care to wrap her antique Christmas gift carefully. 

Ginny appeared to be more emotionally upset about the breakup than Hermione.  She hugged her best friend goodbye and asked, "Will you still come to the New Year's Eve party?  I really want you to go."  Ginny said pleading.

"I highly doubt it."  She said as she slammed her trunk lid down. 

It was the last thing she said before leaving the Burrow to go to her empty Muggle house.  Her parents were still on vacation and it would mean several lonely days spent doing who knows what to pass the time.
 

 

 









It was too quiet in the Muggle house all alone. She grew tired of the clocks ticking out of unison and the occasional train blowing its horn in the distance. It reminded her of the train to Hogwarts, so she enchanted their old upright piano so that it would play her favorite melancholy melodies that fit her mood.

She no longer felt like this was her home. It was merely her parent’s dwelling.

The clothes hanging in the closet and in the drawers no longer fit her, just like the window seat no longer fit her. For something to occupy her time, she went through everything in her room and put what she didn’t want into a box and headed for the local donation center.

Afterwards, she wanted to stop at a quaint old bookstore that she had loved. But much to her disappointment, it was now closed and boarded up. A huge national-chain bookstore had gone up across the street with a coffee shop inside of it.

She didn’t like the place. It was much too open and noisy compared to her old cozy favorite.

Standing in line to order a latte, she overheard two girls talking about a movie star that she’d never heard of.

And when a song that was new to her came on, a young girl next to her said, “This song is so over-played, I’m sick of it.”

Hermione began to feel out of touch with her Muggle world.

As she walked back to her parent’s home, a strange teenager pulled out of her neighbor’s house in such a hurry, he nearly ran her over. He rudely honked his horn at her impatiently as she crossed the sidewalk.

Clearly, new neighbors had moved in and seeing him driving a car made her realize that she would’ve had her license to drive by now. But instead, she had a license to apparate.

It seemed the Muggle world went on without her.  For the first time, she felt like a stranger in a foreign land. She’d never felt that way before… the feeling of not fitting in with Muggle society came as a shock to her.

And now, sitting in her window seat, Hermione Granger felt stuck in limbo, between two worlds. One that she no longer fit into and one that didn’t want her in it.

Ginny felt terrible about her brother’s stupidity and had tried to fix Hermione up with a date for the party. All seemed fine until an owl brought a letter the very morning of December 31st that read…

Hermione,
I think you are great and all, but my parents have ‘blood issues.’ I won’t be able to escort you to the New Year’s Eve party. Maybe I’ll see you there. If not… see you back at school. Sorry.”


As she read it, Hermione’s hand slammed against a piece of furniture to steady herself, as her knees had unexpectedly buckled underneath her.

As if she weren’t upset enough over Ron, her blood status had just killed any chance of getting a simple date for New Year’s Eve.

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” She shouted angrily. “Blood issues?!” She shrieked as she found her feet and tore the letter into long strips, put the strips together, turned them and began tearing again and again until there was nothing left of the parchment except a pile of tiny confetti squares.

She didn’t want her new neighbors to hear her blood-curdling scream and call the Muggle police. So she grabbed the nearest throw pillow and covered her face as she let out a high-pitched scream so loud it actually damaged her vocal chords and caused her to be hoarse.

“AAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” She screamed at the top of her lungs into the pillow. She came up for air to fill her lungs and then put the pillow to her face again as she screamed into it a second time.

When she was done screaming, she was so angry that she heaved the pillow as hard as she could against the couch, not really wanting to break anything.

Anger ran through her veins as she thought about the hateful meaning behind ‘blood issues.’

In the magical world it meant nothing more than unfair prejudice and bigotry.

In Muggle society it meant a real medical condition such as hemophilia, thrombophilia, sickle cell, or a host of other real blood issues.

She threw her fists up in the air wanting to punch someone. And if his blond headed, evil smirking face were in front of her, she would’ve punched him again, repeatedly… until she saw his own pure blood running down his blasted pretty face.

“Malfoy.” She said through gritted teeth and clenched jaw.

He hadn’t sent the letter, of course. But reading it felt like Malfoy had just slapped her clean across her face.

Deep down in her heart, she had always known that it wasn’t just him. It wasn’t like he made up the whole ‘mudblood thing’ all by himself.

That letter was a harsh lesson that she didn’t want to learn…. a lesson and a terrible reminder that there was an entire society of people out there with the same prejudice views.

She wanted to put the blame on him, but it wasn’t Draco Malfoy this time.

‘Not him this time.’ She thought sadly.

As that fact hit her, she felt the heightened energy from her earlier temper tantrum drain from her body until she felt almost lifeless.

She wondered then how many more times she would be faced with ‘blood issues’ in her life and it not have anything to do with Malfoy?

She thought of her ‘would be’ date. At least the guy was kind enough to owl her instead of being a ‘no show’ and hurt her feelings even worse… as if it were possible.

So now, she was back on her window seat sitting… listening to the piano play Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’ for probably the tenth time.

Her throat now hurting, she contemplated blood status, more seriously than she had ever before in her entire life.

How can a magical person be born to non-magical? She equated it to a Caucasian couple having a child with Asian eyes. It wouldn’t happen unless one of the parents had an Asian ancestry. Magic must be in her DNA somewhere along the line. There had to be a witch or wizard in her history.  She desperately wanted it to be true.

Hermione thought she would go crazy just sitting there. So she decided once and for all that she would research her ancestry until she found the one witch or wizard in her history that proved that her magical abilities she’d been born with hadn’t just appeared out of nowhere.

She got up and went into the spare bedroom closet where her mother kept a few family heirlooms in a box that was labeled “Keepsakes.”

Hermione opened it, half expecting adoption papers to fall out of it and easily explain it all. But instead there were stacks of yellowed obituaries from Muggle newspapers, some funeral cards, very old photos, and an old marriage certificate that dated back to the late 1800’s. She was sure they had a family Bible somewhere with names of family members hand written in it. She found it, but it was hardly a history, as it only went back to one set of fourth great-grand parents.

She thought it best just to write all of the names on parchment for use later when she got back to Hogwarts, where she would compare her list to known magical families mentioned in library books.

When her list was complete, she had twenty-two names.

And just before she tucked the list into her trunk, she had one more idea. 

She took out some parchment and quill and wrote a letter listing every name that she found.  When the night sky had grown dark, she owled it, hoping it would bring some answers.

She carefully tucked the copied list into her trunk and piled the keepsakes all back into the box and put it back into the spare room closet.

Time had gone by fast while going through everything and she was now hungry.  

She decided if she were going to stay alone in that Muggle house any longer that she would go insane.  She had to go to that party just so she could hear someone's voice other than her own.

So with painful reluctance, she showered, slipped on the pretty peacock blue cocktail dress that she’d bought for the New Year's occasion, and did her hair.

Looking at herself in the mirror, she grew sad and actually practiced smiling.

Smile. Frown. Smile. Frown.

Sighing, she decided on minimal makeup… some lip gloss and mascara, only because she didn’t feel like going ‘all out.’

“Pointless.” She said to her reflection. “Absolutely pointless.”

As soon as she felt presentable enough, she gathered her matching blue purse, and took one last look in the mirror. And as she did, a voice came to mind… a voice from a few years back.

Filthy little Mudblood.” She heard him say.

After a long sigh, she steeled herself and wondered if she would survive the night without a complete emotional meltdown.

But she would be fine, of course. Hermione was strong and would not give Ron the satisfaction of seeing tears escape her brown eyes this night, thinking they were all for him. She had bigger issues on her mind than Ron choosing Lavender.

She had issues with her blood that just might cause her pain for the rest of her life.
 

 

 








The party was enormous.  With the help of a normally large home and a few tents, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Year students from Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Gryffindor piled into the place.

She was never happier to see so many people and listen to so much noise.

She mingled with friends and acquaintances and in general put up an excellent front... as if absolutely nothing was bothering her at all.  Not Lavender annoyingly hanging onto Ron like an emergency life preserver and certainly not losing the night's date because of her blood status. 

But she it felt though... the weight of her hurt pressing down on her shoulders.  She swore if she were to step on a scale, it would prove she'd gained twenty pounds since reading that letter that very morning.

A few moments after she had the magical punch fountain concoct her favorite pomegranate and raspberry flavored drink for the fourth time, she found that she had been followed.

He came up to her and gently nudged her into a room for privacy.

When they were out of earshot from the rest of the party goers, she whipped around to face him. “What do you want?” She said curtly.

“I heard that you were supposed to be coming with a date tonight.” Ronald Weasley replied.

“Change of plans. What’s it any concern of yours anyway? Who or when I date is no one’s business but my own.”

“I came back here to say that I’m glad you liked someone, other than me. You need someone in your life, Hermione. I want you to find happiness with someone. I don’t care who it is.”

“Really? You don’t care who it is?” She replied, knowing full well that even though they were no longer a couple, that he would completely freak out if he knew that it was Malfoy that was on her mind… of all people.

“Well I would hope that you’d have enough sense not to pick anyone from Slytherin House, so that leaves pretty much anyone else that I’d be okay with.”

“You are not my father and you will not tell me who I can and can’t be with, even if it’s the Slytherin Prince himself.”

“It bloody well better not be him! You were thinking of him and sticking up for that bastard at Christmas!” He said accusingly in a gruff voice.

“Are you seriously going to stand here and be jealous of a relationship that does not even exist, when you dare give your sloppy kisses to Lavender Brown in my presence? At least you could go behind my back so that I wouldn’t have to suffer and watch! Who’s the bastard exactly?”

“Look.” He said, abruptly changing the subject. “We haven’t discussed this, but I need to tell you so that you can understand… Lavender needs me. That is why I’m back with her. You don’t need me. You are the strongest-willed, most resourceful, independent person that I’ve ever met.”

“Did you just say that you are not with me because…” She trailed off and put her hand to her head in disbelief at what he had just said.

“You give me compliments and tell me that those are the reasons why you chose her instead? Sorry, but I was under the impression that they were attributes. Not things that you turn down to be with someone that is weak-minded… someone who couldn’t make a decision to save her life, so she needs you to make it for her.” She huffed. “How noble of you to become her knight in shining armor.” She said mockingly, but full of hurt and disappointment.

“Hermione… It’s not just that. When she’s with me, she’s with me. When you are… you head is always somewhere else and I constantly have to pull you back to where I am. You are either thinking of homework, or exams, or the latest book you are reading. You are anywhere, but with me. And at times, your mind seems to be... on someone else."

He looked into her eyes as if she were the one who dumped him.  "As far as I’m concerned… you left me first.”

His comment infuriated her, but she wasn't quite sure what to say about that.

“Better get back to your needy, mindless Lavender before your absence causes her to have a bloody nervous breakdown.”

Ron chose to ignore her biting words.

“Our best times were as friends. I miss that, Hermione... Friendship... Remember?”

“You ask too soon, Ron. Right now I’m hating you more than I ever did Malfoy!”

Her voice began getting shaky against her will.

“And his foul name comes up yet again!"  He said with eyes squinted in fury and accusation.  "I know you’re not bloody serious.”

"Yes.  You are right.  He's been on my mind.... as you see... apparently he isn't the only one who thinks of me as a filthy mudblood."

He looked at her with curious concern.

"The reason I have no date tonight is because my date's parents did not think me worthy to be escorted by their son to something as simple as a New Year's Eve party.  I got a letter this morning telling me, 'Sorry, but my parents have 'blood issues.'"

She looked at Ron with a heated scowl.  "You dump me right after Christmas and now I can't get a date because of my tainted blood.  What a Happy freakin' New Year I'm having!"

Ron's face and shoulders fell in response. 

"Hermione, I'm so sorry."  He said as he put a hand on her shoulder in an attempt to bring comfort.

She picked up his hand and threw it off of her.  "You have no right to touch me.  Not anymore.  And I don't want your pity."

He stepped back, but still looked at her with sorrowful eyes... as he would always and forever care for her.

"If you would so kindly, please leave me alone, Ron.  I'd like this conversation to end now if you don't mind." She said with a sound of defeat.

Realizing there wasn't anything he could do to make the situation better, he did what she'd asked... to be left alone.  "I do hope you find someone, Hermione.  You deserve better."

As the clock was ticking closer and closer to midnight at the enormously huge party, Hermione never felt more alone in such a crowded place. She knew what was coming soon… all the kissing. Ron with Lavender… Harry with Ginny… even Neville with Luna most likely, and countless other couples.

She decided she didn’t want to witness the spectacle and be the odd woman out of place… and be looked down upon with pity when it was all over. It would be entirely too much to take, even with her Gryffindor bravery and strength.

Instead, she found a half-empty bottle of brandy wine and a glass from the kitchen and quietly snuck her way outside, unnoticed, to be alone under the stars. Once she was out in the cold night air, she decided not to bother with the glass.

She looked up into the vast darkness to find Draco, the star constellation in the northern sky. And just as she found it, she heard the muffled sounds of the party… “Three… two… one… Happy New Year!”

She tipped her bottle to the sky… “I wish you were here to argue with me, Draco.” She said, remembering his mixed-signal staring at her.

“You are a cruel man…” She told the stars. “But something tells me that you wouldn’t leave me for the reason Ron just did.” And with that, she tipped the bottle and put it to her lips as if she were dying of thirst.

For the rest of the night, Hermione wondered what Draco was doing. Probably shagging the deplorable Pansy, she figured incorrectly.
 
 






Author's Note:  Hello, my fellow Dramione fans!

What a difference in "parenting techniques"... right?

Well... we finally get a glimpse into what Hermione has been up to. 

Up next... Draco takes inventory of past lovers.  You will NOT want to miss that chapter!

Hope your enjoy...  I'd love to hear from you!


800 reads... 16 have Favorited!  Thanks so much!

Shhh,
Dark Whisper


 
 
 


Chapter 7: Draco's Women
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Warning: This chapter is truly the reason why this fanfic is rated Mature. If you are not older than 17, I ask that you heed this warning and skip this chapter. Because of a review from a young reader, I actually toned this down from the original version, but still feel that it should be rated Mature because of its "Scenes of a Sexual Nature."

Thank you,
Dark Whisper

 



 

The remainder of the holiday break at Goyle’s went as it always did. The trio would make camp at his favorite spot on the vast estate… next to a barley field, which was actually bare this time of year.

The boys were well-fed and spoiled. When they weren’t eating, they passed the time playing with Goyle’s latest Christmas gifts, sometimes practicing spells, but mostly playing Wizards poker and other card games. Draco would put protection charms up around the perimeter of the area and if the weather was decent, they would build a campfire.

The night before New Year’s Eve was one of those nights. It was cold, but not too bitter and there was no wind. The fire would keep them warm enough as they began to chat about things. Some important. Some not so important.

Draco sent Goyle looking for something in the tent so that he could finally have a word with Crabbe alone.

“I heard the Death Eaters were at your house. How’d that go?” Draco asked with a hint of concern.

“Alright, I guess. I hate having them at my house, but honestly some of them treat me better than Father. And really, when they are there, he treats me better too. What I can’t figure out is… if he is just too busy or if there are too many witnesses. Know what I mean?” Crabbe said with a short chuckle, but Draco didn’t laugh.

As the fire crackled and snapped, Draco thought about their common ground.

He knew Crabbe had it rough at home. Draco was the lucky one, as his father pretty much stopped the abuse with the mirror incident. But Crabbe didn’t have a mother to break his father’s hip for him. He was on his own and basically survived by staying out of the old man’s way.

Draco secretly worried for his friend, wondering if one day he would wake to hear that Crabbe killed his own father. He would testify on his behalf if necessary, knowing of some of the atrocities that had happened over the years, even witnessing a few.

Crabbe threw something into the fire and it sputtered wildly for a moment, so Draco thought it best to change the focus of the conversation.

“Mum finally told me how I got all of those scars on my back.” Draco said.

“Oh, really?” Crabbe sat up straighter, remembering.

Draco told Crabbe what happened, then added, “Not that a father should ever be dueling a thirteen year-old son, but I suppose it was sort of an accident after all.”

“You mean now I can’t kill him for you?” His laughter billowed out.

“Afraid not, but I’ll remember your offer just in case I ever need it.” Draco said in a kidding tone.

After Goyle came back out, they sat around the glowing campfire talking about a variety of things and eventually got on the subject of girls.

“You know what I told my mum I wanted for Christmas?” Goyle said laughing.

“What’s that?” Asked Crabbe.

“A girlfriend.” Goyle grinned.

A girl?” Crabbe piped up. “You wouldn’t know what to do with a girl if you had one.” Crabbe teased.

“Neither would you,” replied Goyle.

“You can have Pansy… if you want her.” Draco spoke as if he were serious. “I give her to you freely.”

“Pansy Parkinson looks at me as if I weren’t fit to be with a Muggle. As matter of fact most girls at Hogwarts look at me like that. Slytherin girls aren’t interested and the rest of the three houses aren’t interested because I’m a Slytherin.” Goyle complained. “It’s vicious, I swear.”

“Women are vicious.” Draco stated. “Trust me. I know.”

“Why are you even with Pansy, Draco? Is sex with her that good that you put up with her?” Goyle asked.

“No. But she has her use for me and I have my use for her. It usually works until she opens her wicked mouth.”

“So it’s a business-type relationship?” He pressed. “Business with shagging benefits?”

Crabbe thought that was hilarious and Draco gave a smirk.

“It’s sort of like that, I suppose. Except that Pansy does get jealous like a real girlfriend and she’s under some sort of delusion that our relationship will extend past this school.”

“Why don’t you just be done with her and get it over with?”

“Because as I said before, she has a use for me and I her.”

“Which is?” Asked Crabbe.

“She uses me for status, boys. The whole ‘do you know who my boyfriend is’ crap that gets her into exclusive stupid clubs and gets her friends, if you want to call them that, and whatever social event she wants to divulge into… and yes, I use her for easy sex.”

He didn’t want to tell them the real reason. They didn’t have women after them like Draco did. He used Pansy as a shield. The more girls that thought he was taken, the more they would stay away from him.

And it worked for the most part.

“Ask him.” Crabbe urged Goyle.

“No. You want to know. You ask him.” Goyle replied.

“Ask me what? Spit it out already.” Draco said.

“Is it true that you bedded Seborah Wolfe?” Crabbe asked. “Nott swears you did.”

“She bedded me. There’s a difference.” He said with a half disgusted look on his face at the mention of her name.

Seborah Wolfe. She was the witch that every wizard dreamed of being with and every witch wished they looked like. She was Aphrodite in sun-kissed flesh. Her hair color matched Draco’s blond locks, but hers was long and straight and went down the full length of her back.

She was tall and lean and naturally moved with the confident sophistication of a runway model, only more mysterious. Her plump lips glistened with light pink gloss which brought out her aqua blue eyes that always appeared to be half open, giving off a permanent erotic look. Her high cheekbones and pointed chin made her the picture of perfection.

She was hypnotizingly flawless.

She had attended Theodore Nott’s older sister’s birthday party. And it was at this party that Seborah Wolfe laid her bewitching aqua eyes on the young Draco Malfoy and saw him as her equal match of perfection… meaning he was her prey for the evening.

And she would have him, as Seborah always got her man.

“You lucky S.O.B. She is the most gorgeous woman in all the wizarding world!” Goyle said.

“Every man’s dream!” Crabbe added. “What did you say to get her in a room alone with you? That’s what I want to know.”

“It was other way around. It was what she said to me to get me alone in a room with her.”

Draco recalled what happened as if it had just happened the night before.

“As if her body wouldn’t do the trick, she looked at me with those tropical blue eyes of hers and enticed me, telling me she could, “teach me things about a woman’s body that grown men took years to figure out,” Draco quoted her. “And I was…” He paused to let out a cool breath of remembrance. “…most curious when it came to her body."  He recalled.

"It was a steamy August summer evening and she smelled of coconut oil. Her skin was wonderfully smooth with it.”

He gave an expression as if the thought of her body pained him as he shook his head slightly.  “Her aroma made me want to pick her up and apparate us straight to a private beach… and I hate sand.”

Draco stopped then, noticing Crabbe and Goyle gawking at him with their mouths opened and drooling.

“Draco Malfoy, I’ve never threatened you before, but if you don’t tell us what happened between you and Seborah Wolfe, I’m going to kill you.” Crabbe joked.

All three laughed at that one.

“There’s not much to tell. It was over so fast… all I have to say about it is that I wished I would’ve waited.”

“Waited on what?” Crabbe asked.

“Waited until I was older. Waited until I felt like I was more ready, I guess. You know… waited.”

“And miss the opportunity to shag a sex goddess? Are you serious?” Goyle said in disbelief.

“Very serious. I should’ve turned her down. And by the way… I hate the words ‘snog’ and ‘shag.’ It makes the acts seem cheap and vulgar. The two things are private and supposed to be beautiful things between two people and whenever a girl uses those terms I find her unattractive. So do yourselves a favor, be proper gentlemen, and don’t use them in front of respectable girls.”

Crabbe and Goyle seemed irritated that he changed the subject and wouldn’t ‘kiss and tell’ every detail of his night with Wolfe.

“Let’s kill this fire and go to bed. What is it now, two in the morning?” Draco asked standing, retreating to the tent.

When Draco made it adamant that he was finished with a conversation, his friends knew not to press it any further and the subject was dropped.

“Unbelievable. Did you catch what he said, Crabbe?”  Goyle asked as he began putting out the fire.  “He said he wished he would’ve waited. That means... Draco lost his virginity to Seborah Wolfe!”

“I swear… he’s got to be the luckiest bloke alive.” Crabbe responded. “And if he wasn’t my friend… I would hate him.”

When Draco was finally convinced they had put out the fire properly, he plopped down on the camping cot. He couldn’t sleep though, as he relived the memory of the steamy summer night with the one and only Seborah Wolfe.

She had led him up the stairs and into a bedroom where he thought he would get a kissing session to remember and brag about later… and if he were lucky, maybe she would let him explore her body a bit. That’s all he wanted, really… because that’s all that he was mentally ready for.

But she had further plans and before he knew what was happening, she had stepped out of her silky white sundress, whispering things into his ear that Draco would never forget.

She was giving him explicit instructions… where to touch her and where to kiss her. He did as she said like a good student, but was unsure if he should. He really didn’t know the gorgeous older girl who had just positioned herself underneath him with no clothes on.

He began to get intimidated… shy even… and wanted nothing more but to slow down.

But he did what she wanted him to do and after a short while her body began to shutter and her muscles constricted just as Draco’s desire for her went into over-drive.

“My senses are heightened. I need you now!”  She said in a breathless voice.

Draco’s heart pounded in his chest and his nerves were on fire. “I don’t think I’m ready.”  He admitted with hesitation.

“You are ready!” She said hungrily as she wrapped herself tighter around him, pulling him dangerously close.

He could have gotten away from her. He could’ve pushed himself from her and refused. His mind was in a race for a decision. Should he back away or just do it?

This was, after all... the Seborah Wolfe in the flesh, 'Every Wizard’s Dream' and she wanted him like she wanted her next breath.

There was nothing in his way… nothing except his conscience telling him that she was a complete stranger... and that this was wrong... and that he should be waiting for someone… someone he loved... someone that loved him.

Seborah knew what Draco was doing. His eyes were closed… he was bloody thinking... his mind evaluating the ethics of the situation... instead of evaluating her!

And she knew of only one remedy for that little problem of hers.

“Open your eyes. Open your eyes and look at me, my handsome lover.”  She whispered enticingly. “Do you not like what you see?” She hissed.

Again, he did as she instructed and his eyes moved slowly from her navel to her bare chest, glistening as she breathed. Her body shined in the moonlight as his eyes betrayed his mind, asking him what he was waiting for.

The sight of her beautiful body wanting and waiting for him over-powered his will to make a choice... and decided for him.

And in that split second in time, Draco Malfoy was amazed.

Amazed… that a man and a woman’s body fit together so perfectly.

Amazed… at the overwhelming craving for her that came with watching her arch her back in response to him.

It was too much for him and he lost control as the waves of pain and pleasure reverberated throughout his body like electrical shocks.

His chest heaving, he collapsed onto her as his muscles relaxed so much, he wasn’t sure he could move them.

And then she did something that brought him the most pain a female had ever inflicted on him.

She laughed at him… wickedly… followed by a few words of humiliation.

“Don’t worry young one,” she said as her long fingernails ran strips up and down his back. “You’ll last longer when you get older.” She added as she let out another wicked laugh.

He wanted to cry.

Not because of what she had just done to his ego… but Draco wanted his virginity back.

He wanted to take it back and share his first experience with a girl who at least acted like she cared.

But he knew it didn’t work that way. Once it was gone... it was gone.

And for what? Shameful bragging rights? Apparently one only had to be good looking to bed her. How did that make Draco special exactly?

As soon as he was able to, Draco smoothly removed himself from the bed, put on his shorts, and went into the adjoining bathroom to wash his hands and face so that he wouldn’t smell of sex and coconut oil for the rest of the party.

When he came back into the bedroom, Seborah was sitting up on the edge of the bed still nude with her long legs crossed. She held neither shame nor modesty.

“Draco, you gorgeous little thing… future girls are going to love you for what I just taught you tonight. It was my pleasure getting to you first. Tell me young one, how did it feel?” She said with her half-open aqua eyes.

His feelings were still hurt and he now wished he’d never laid eyes on her… wished he had waited.

“Exhilarating. Now I know why full grown men pay you for it.” He said, pulling his shirt back on.

He meant to inflict pain, but if it hurt, she didn’t show it. Her only response to his comment was a kiss to the air with her puckered pink lips and a sultry wink at him that ended with an arrogant smirk that rivaled his.

Draco easily decided that there was nothing about the ordeal to brag about and had never mentioned it to anyone before now.  It was Nott who saw him go up the stairs with her and mentioned it to Crabbe and Goyle. 

Seborah Wolfe only wanted to bed Draco because of his looks, seeing a rare perfection in him that matched her own. She was one of the beautiful people that only bedded beautiful people.

She had no use for him otherwise.


 




 

Draco let out a long sigh and shifted positions in his camp bed to get more comfortable as his thoughts went from Seborah Wolfe to a girl he had actually liked.

Her name was Jenna Stone. She was cute, smart, and… modest.

She made him happy and he looked forward to seeing her as much as he could. They would share little pecks on the cheek or lips on occasion, nothing further.

But one day as he was watching her walk away after a sweet little bit of flirting in the hall, Draco had an uneasy feeling in his gut about her that reminded him of a word of caution his father always said.

“If it seems too good to be true, son… It’s a lie.”


He patiently waited then, wondering how long it would go on until her true motive made an appearance.  And after about a month of happiness, it finally showed up.

“Draco, I was wondering… You know how your father and my father are businessmen. Well, Father is in need of an investment partner to start a new line and well, I hate to ask you this, as it is rather awkward. But… does your father make such loans… or capital investments?”

Money! She set all of it up… for his money.

He didn’t want it to be true. He really liked the girl.

“I’ll give him your father’s contact information and let them work it out.” Draco shrugged.

“Wonderful.” She said with a smile.

He owled the potential business opportunity to Lucius, but added…

If you want to say yes, please tell them ‘no’ for a week. I need to know if this girl’s friendship is genuine or not. After a week, do as you please.”

Lucius felt bad for Draco and wrote back.

“I’m afraid you will always have this problem, Draco… Not ever fully knowing someone’s motives for being with you. Unfortunately, it comes with being a Malfoy.

In this case, the deal is sound and profitable. However, let’s let her decide. If she is still your friend after a week of hearing of my ‘no’ answer, then I’ll owl her father saying that I changed my mind and the deal is on. But if she drops you, then the deal remains off. Let me know at the close of the week.”

It pained Draco to write it as her behavior made his heart sink a little. The truth bit at him.

“The deal remains off. She hasn’t spoken to me in a week with plenty of opportunity to do so. It’s a shame really, as I was beginning to like her.”
 

 




 

There were many girls that seemed to hound him relentlessly...  asking him for dates, sending him graphic love notes, and the like.  He thought them all to be shallow gold-diggers or sluts, all out to use him for something.

Another girl came to mind... Elise McCourt. 

Elise was another older girl who came about during some sort of party.  She came on to Draco, but not strongly, just enough to know of her interest in him.  She was an average looking girl, but what drew Draco to her was that she was the 'life of the party', and he over-heard some of the things she was saying that made everyone in ear-shot laugh.  She was witty and funny.

At the end of the evening, when most had left and it began to get quiet, they talked.  They talked for a long time and by the end of it all, Draco asked her what she was doing the next weekend.  

They went out and all seemed to be going well.  But on their third date, they went to her parent's home to find they were gone.  She took him to her room and was very clear at what she wanted.

Draco hesitated, feeling it was too soon.  It was technically only their third date after all. 

But he was a bit hungry for a much kinder experience than he'd had with Seborah.  There was no pressure weighing on him.  There were no 'instructions' coming from Elise as to what she wanted and certainly no demands. 

It was already a kinder experience.

Eventually he decided to go ahead and make love to her.  He took his time and was gentle with her.  And it was a much, much better experience.  

The bite to his heart came right after they had finished.  

Still in bed, he had tried to kiss her tenderly, but just as his lips were about to touch hers, she deliberately turned her head in rejection.

"That was beautiful."  She said.  "Now I can tell my friends I don't have to graduate Hogwarts a virgin."

Draco was stunned!

He had been used again!

And what the hell was not kissing him about?  How can a woman be okay with sharing the most intimate of acts between a man and a woman, but kissing was 'too personal'?!

Draco was speechless and hurt.  So much so, that he didn't berate her for what she had done... didn't have a snide comment waiting for her when she got back from abruptly leaving him to get dressed.   

If fact, he was so hurt, that he said nothing else to Elise for the rest of his brief time with her.  The relationship ended faster than it had started. 


 





 

When it came to Pansy Parkinson, she showed up one day in his bed and waited until he came out of his shower.

Draco never asked her to be his girlfriend… never asked her to go out on a date... never pursued her... never asked to sleep with her.  She just showed up in his bed and after putting her hands on him, he didn’t feel like kicking her out.

‘It just happened’ and the next morning, she was acting and playing the part of his girlfriend… always sitting a little too close… always wrapping her arm around his in the halls… pretty much sending a clear message to every other girl living at Hogwarts that Draco Malfoy was taken.

And what happened after that... astounded him. The hounds were actually leaving him alone!

Pansy used this ‘couple by default’ relationship with him to get ahead in her social life.  It was his status she desired.

And along the way, Draco realized, she didn’t even want him for sex!

Draco would try to make love to her, if for no other reason but to be a good lover and not disappoint. But she would always turn her back to him as her preferred position. He didn’t mind at first, except that it became a regular occurrence.

When he confronted her, he asked, “Why do you always turn from me? Do you not want to look at me?”

“It’s not that,” she replied looking over her shoulder. “It’s just that when I face you, I get entirely too hot and I don’t want to break into a sweat.”

After she said it, Draco felt his heart grow cold and he never tried to make love to her again. It was only brief sex… and only on rare occasion.

But he kept her. She was a shield.

And it worked… except in the case of one terribly bold unknown female.


 




 

One night, as Draco sat on the edge of his bed finishing a reading for his DADA class by candlelight, Pansy Parkinson showed up… taking off her school robe, revealing a black silk lingerie nightgown that went to the floor, but had a slit from toe to hip.

Draco knew it wasn’t really Pansy from the moment the girl walked into the room… obviously under the influence of Poly Juice potion to disguise herself.

‘This ought to be interesting.’
  Draco thought of the vulture that had just entered the room.

He snapped the book closed and gently placed it on his night stand. Taking in a deep breath, he pondered what he should do with her… kick her out immediately or turn her over to Snape?

He chose neither. He was curious as to how far the girl would actually go and the later choice would’ve gotten her swiftly expelled from Hogwarts, maybe even prison for using Poly Juice in an attempt to seduce.

“Come here.” He calmly instructed.

She stepped closer to him as he looked into her eyes trying to get a glimpse of who it might be. But he only saw Pansy’s eyes looking back at him… the evidence of a very good quality brewing.

“Are you sure you want to do this tonight?” He asked the unknown girl standing only inches away from him, giving her a generous chance to change her mind.

She responded by taking hold of the bottom hem of his t-shirt, pulling it up over his head, and quickly discarding it on the floor.

He stood and proceeded to pull down the covers of his bed as he held out his hand, offering her to climb into it. As soon as she slid in, he blew out the candle to darken the room.

He slid in next to her, knowing full well that he was not going to have sex with her.

But he let her kiss on him as she faced him. She kissed his neck, his chest. ‘Such a shame Pansy doesn’t do this.’ He thought.

When his body began to respond to her light touch, he knew it was time to stop.

He turned her over so that she was fully lying on her back. He moved onto her and entwined her fingers into his and pressed her arms to the bed with his weight.

“I have a little confession to make,” he said as he lustfully kissed at her neck. “The minute you walked into my room…”  He kissed.  “All dressed up for me…”  Another kiss.  “I knew full well… that you my dear…"  One last kiss.  "Are not Pansy Parkinson!”

He felt her body jolt and jerk in response to his comment… failing in an attempt to flee from him.

He had her pinned good and tight and she was not able to move.

He spoke calmly, but forcefully. “You could be a Slytherin because you had to have access to her to brew the potion, accept no Slytherin would be so brave as to go up against their Slytherin sister’s jealous wrath.”

The girl squirmed, but was still trapped beneath him.

“You’re not a Hufflepuff as they would never be determined enough to go through the great lengths that you did tonight.”

His grip tightened as she had still not given up on freeing herself.

“You could be a Ravenclaw in successfully brewing a damn good potion to be so accurate, but they don’t have the guts enough to actually follow through with something so risky. That only leaves one house… You’re a Gryffindor with plenty of bravery and much stupidity in thinking I wouldn’t know.”

She finally gave up on freeing herself and began pleading instead.

“What are you going to do to me?” She asked, now breathless from trying to shake free of him.

“First, I’m going to punish you by NOT giving you what you came here for. And you better come up with a damn good reason why you did this or I swear I’ll wait until your potion wears off to reveal your true identity. And since that’s not quite enough of the humiliation you deserve, I’m going to take you to the common room and wake up every Slytherin in this place and introduce them to the one who tried to screw over Draco Malfoy!”

“Please… I beg you… Have mercy on someone who has a terrible crush on you.” She said sorrowfully and full of remorse at her dark deed.

“Your reason, witch? Now!”

She was in tears and began shaking. Tears for fear of humiliation in front of the entire school and probably expelled.

“Forgive me. But you wouldn’t choose me or give me the time of day in a million years.” She sobbed. “I just wanted to know what it was like to be loved by you. Nothing more.”

“Loved by me? You sure as hell picked the wrong girl to transform in to!” He spat.

“You want to know what sex is like between me and Pansy?” He questioned in a low raspy voice. “Turn around!” He yelled in anger. “It’ll all be over soon so you can go back to your dorm to shower off any sweat I might’ve gotten on you! Is that what you came here for?! A night with me as Pansy?!”

He yelled at her as it pained him to describe it.

“NO! NO!” She pleaded. “It’s terrible if it’s like that. I just wanted to feel loved.”

“You obviously don’t love me… or you wouldn’t be trying to cheat! Love isn’t supposed to cheat and be gotten though ill will or dark deeds!”

He got off her then, but she remained in the bed, terrified at what he might do next.

Her only saving grace was that he wished the girl in his bed was a Gryffindor girl with a fiery spirit and long auburn hair. He wanted the girl to be his Granger, but at the same time he didn’t. He didn’t want to believe that she would actually go through with such a diabolical scheme to get to him.

So, he did the only thing he could do… let her go.

Let her go to spare her the experience of so much humiliation to the point of wanting to die when he was done with her.

It could’ve been anyone. And the remote, far-reaching, nearly impossible chance that it was Granger… his heart wasn’t quite dark enough to put her through it.

“Get out of my bed, you twisted, sick witch! And don’t you ever do anything so stupid again!”

He grabbed hold of her arm forcefully pulling her out of the bed and whipped her robes around her to cover her night gown. He then grabbed hold of her again and took long and fast strides to her quick small steps all the way to the entrance of Slytherin House, where he proceeded to push her out and slam the door in her face.

My God!” He had yelled just after slamming the door. “What the bloody hell is wrong with the witches of Hogwarts!”
 

 




 

As Draco tossed and turned on the camp bed, he was completely torn.  He wanted that girl to be Granger, but he also didn't want it to be her.

“I can only wish that she wanted me that bad to do such a thing.”

His thoughts went back and forth.

“No.  It wasn't.  She isn’t that stupid.  But she is that brave, not to mention bright enough to brew a perfect Poly Juice.  No.  She doesn't want me for anything.  But wait.  She didn't really want anything from me but to 'feel loved.'  That has nothing to do with money or status. And she mentioned that I wouldn't pick her in a million years, which totally could've been because of her blood status." 

As he pulled the covers from him, now heated from thinking of his sorted past with women, Draco missed it....

He missed the tiny little candle that had appeared out of nowhere on the floor next to him. It was so small, he didn’t even notice its glow.

If he would’ve noticed it, he would not have been able to put it out, because it was an apparition.

One that someone had unknowingly sent him while reading her book of poems in her lonely Muggle house on the Eve of New Year's Eve.

 




 

Author's Note:

What is wrong with these women?  Especially Pansy!


Are you mad?  Are you sad?  What do you think of these five women?  Seborah, Jenna, Elise, Pansy, and miss Unknown. 

By the way... now 2,571 reads and 34 have Favorited.  WOW! THANK YOU!

Up next... A Slytherin New Year's Eve Party that you'll all want to attend! 

 

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Love and appreciate ALL of you...

 


Dark Whisper


Chapter 8: A Slytherin New Year's Eve Party
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The Slytherin New Year’s Eve party was actually an ‘Invitation Only’ event. Not all Slytherins were invited and there were actually several young adult alumni in attendance adorning their class rings with pride.

Hosting the party was none other than Draco’s best friend, Blaise Zabini, with co-host Theodore Nott. Blaise supplied the venue and with Nott having an older sister, he brought loads of experience at throwing parties.

Blaise’s three story gothic mansion was the perfect place for such a celebration. Not only was the living space enormous, but the back of the place was open to three floors.

The first was reserved for the dance floor, a substantial bar, and several cozy areas with comfy couches.

The second floor was overflowing with party food, another bar, and held pub tables and bar stools for chatting. It also held a great view of the dancers and couches below.

And for those wanting a quieter celebration, the third floor held two billiard tables, a closed off area for flame darts, several gaming tables for Wizards poker, and of course… the smallest of the three bars.

This year’s theme was ‘Animal Instincts’ in which attendees were required to wear some sort of animal pattern or costume. Draco wore his signature jet black except for his neck tie… patterned after the skin of an eastern diamondback rattlesnake.

Draco, Crabbe, and Goyle showed up fashionably late, just in time to watch the crowd turn Blaise’s home into something that very much resembled an exclusive London night club… complete with the dance floor now full of people, a blaring variety of the best dance music, and a light show that was better than the best commercial clubs.

Zabini and Nott magically made it appear as though the actual musicians and rock stars were playing in concert for them, conjuring their images as 3-D holograms hovering above them. It was an amazing sight to see.

And of course to keep the night’s theme going, apparitions of animals would appear and run through the place like the ghosts of Hogwarts. Even the mirrors were enchanted so that when one looked into them, they saw some sort of beast standing or swimming behind them… things like sharks, snakes, jaguars, bison, apes… anything could pop up. This bit of fun magic had unsuspecting girls shrieking from time to time.

Draco had looked forward to the party… wanting to have some fun and hoping to take his mind off everything that was weighing on him.

For a few moments he actually enjoyed playing the role of observant crowd watcher… especially seeing all the girls get creative with the animalistic theme… but he always inadvertently drew a crowd at parties.

As he made his way through the place with Crabbe and Goyle as his shadow, he nodded hellos, gave hugs to some giggling rambunctious girls, and then shook hands and made conversation with some alumni he hadn’t seen in awhile that had stepped up to greet him.

As soon as Blaise saw him, he whistled loudly above all the noise… a whistle Draco instantly recognized as his best friend’s.

He turned toward the sound to see Blaise motioning for him to join his small entourage at the couches.

When Draco finally made his way through he complimented, “This place is incredible.”

“Thanks. It turned out well. Here. For you.” Blaise said pouring a drink from a private bottle.

“Thank you, friend.” Draco said taking the glass and easing back into the couch. It didn’t take him long to down it and was quickly ready for another.

Within seconds of sitting, Draco had no less than two girls hovering over him at any given moment. They would cuddle up to him, hands on his chest, flirting, giving him shoulder messages, and running their long fingernails into his perfectly styled blond hair.

He thought it most peculiar… the behavior of most girls when taken outside of the school environment.

He wasn’t looking for a relationship with any of them, but he’d be lying if he said he didn’t enjoy all the female attention. He knew they were shallow and quite eager to become his next girlfriend ever since rumor spread that he and Pansy were on ‘some sort of break.’

The rumor turned out to be true. Pansy got mad at him for something petty and thought she would upset him by calling for a break in their relationship. Much to her dismay, he didn’t go pining after her or apologize.

He simply said, “A break? Fine by me. I think it's an excellent idea." When he didn’t seem upset at all, it sent her steaming, which was precisely his ‘checkmate’ move in the game she was trying to play.

So for New Year’s Eve, Draco was technically a free man. But he didn’t want to be free. He wanted to be bound to his secret obsession that was Granger, but since that wasn’t possible at the moment, he decided to play the eligible bachelor for the evening and found that it suited him quite well.

He just had to be very careful and watch out for diabolical schemes.

It didn’t take long for him to recognize the first one of the evening.

“Draco!” A girl cooed. “Welcome to the party!” She said handing him a drink. “Here, drink this to get you started!” She smiled.

But Draco and Blaise already talked about this sort of thing. They both would only drink from glasses they poured themselves or to each other. No exceptions. There were far too many love potions floating around to trust a drink from anyone.

Blaise shot him a knowing look.

He took the drink. “Thanks, love!” He smiled. But as soon as she turned from him, he gave it away.

“Goyle. Quick, drink this.”

“What is it?” He asked.

“Quite possibly that Christmas gift you’ve been wanting.”

Goyle wasn’t quite sure what that meant exactly, but he downed the drink anyway and after a few moments was smitten with the girl who had given the drink to Draco. He then began reciting nonsensical poetry about her black swan costume, which made Draco and Blaise laugh hysterically.

As two other girls were about to start a fight amongst themselves for his attention, Draco caught a glimpse of Astoria Greengrass staring at him from the second floor and she abruptly reminded him of his dream.

It had disturbed him that Astoria mentioned that he was the ‘love of her life’ which meant she most likely felt something for him while at Hogwarts. If there was any truth to it, well… he felt it very necessary to clear the air and point her in Blaise’s direction as soon as possible. Despite his best friend busying himself with two girls, Blaise only had eyes for Astoria.

Draco’s gut told him it was time to set a few things straight. It was, in fact, part of “Plan B” to personally intervene so that his dream would not come true.

“Give me a diamond ring as big as the moon and I’ll love you forever,” said the girl on the right.

“Darling, even I can’t afford a diamond that big.” He replied playing along.

“Forget her,” cried the one on the left. “You are the most gorgeous wizard I’ve ever laid eyes on.” She flirted. “Pick me. We’ll have beautiful children together!”

“Looks do fade, dear. You will leave me when I’m old, fat, and bald and quite frankly, I just can’t take that kind of rejection.” He said to the other. “Now if you two lovely ladies will excuse me…” He said peeling himself away from them.

A half a minute later, he was taking Astoria by the arm, pulling her into a room with privacy. It was a bit dark, but he could see her looking up at him with adorable, hopeful eyes, smiling. After all, the Draco Malfoy had just pulled her into an empty room to do ‘who knows what’ to her. How exciting!

Astoria’s young heart began to flutter and she was hoping she wouldn’t pass out.

“Greengrass.” He said putting on a disgusted, hateful smirk. “Stop looking at me like that!” He yelled at her. “Listen to me… Blaise Zabini really, really likes you and he’s getting on my last nerve with it. Personally I don’t see what he sees in you at all.” He said looking at her up and down with disdain. “You’re a pathetic, immature, annoying drama queen and your older sister is much better looking.”

The insult hit its target, diving straight into her heart.

He saw her mouth fly open and her face twist into an immediate hurtful expression.

“You are a snake, aren’t you?” She yelled back.

“Yes! As a matter of fact, I am!” He spat. “And Blaise is a coward when it comes to real relationships. It could take years for him to actually spill his guts… so open your blind eyes and figure out the difference between someone who cares for you and someone who couldn’t care less.”

Astoria gasped, almost in tears. “People have feelings, you know.”

“Feelings? What the hell are those, Princess? Go have your fairytale life with Blaise, you stupid girl.”

“You are foul. I really hate you.” She remarked, abruptly leaving the room, returning to the party.

In little more than thirty seconds, Draco had attacked Astoria’s looks, her intelligence, her personality, and her ability to read people, not to mention he just cracked her heart. The dirty deed was done and he hoped she had paid attention enough to hear his underlying message… ‘Go after Blaise.’

Realizing that Astoria was, in fact, one of the few innocent Slytherin girls and a very good match for his best friend, he whispered under his breath, “I am a cruel bastard.”

After awhile, Draco wanted more to drink, but thought even if he poured it himself, the public alcohol in the place was just too vulnerable to tampering. He even worried about the very glass being laced with something. He began to think he was getting a bit paranoid, but still felt that it was better to be safe than sorry. So he decided to go downstairs, deep down into Blaise’s cellar to get some wine from the private stash.

While he was down there looking for wine with ‘a good year,’ he felt a presence in the room and was about to pull out his wand when a familiar female voice called out to him.

“Draco Malfoy. Turn around so that I can get a good look at you.”

He smiled to himself thinking about the sheer enjoyment that he was about to experience.

“Seborah Wolfe.” He acknowledged as he turned to face her. “Wow! Is it possible that you are even more gorgeous than I remember?”

Gorgeous she was indeed, in a party dress whose color matched her tan flesh with sparkles that glistened throughout… and a snake-like patterned material that wrapped around her body giving the illusion that she was wearing nothing but a black snake… only hiding her important parts, of course.

“Ah… nature has been kind to me… but even kinder to you.” She said in lustful delight. “Nott’s older sister said that you would be here tonight and I just had to come and see how you’ve grown. And I must say… I am not disappointed…” She said as she walked a slow circle around him, taking in his tall confident stature. “My student is all grown up into a deliciously handsome young man.”

“What are you doing here… really, Seborah? Should I warn the young ones that there’s a Wolfe in their midst… come to snatch their virginity from them when they’re not ready?”

“Oh… You aren’t still bitter about feeling too young, are you?” She winked. “It’s not my fault you were born a few years too late. And besides, you are not young anymore. What do you say to getting out of this kiddy party and going someplace a little more exotic? The British Virgin Islands are gorgeous this time of year.”

“You would pick the ‘Virgin’ Islands… wouldn’t you?”

She laughed that wicked laugh of hers… the one that he so despised.

“If you escape with me tonight, I can show you what I know about a man’s body that would give you sensations that happily married men leave their wives for.”

Oh, how Draco wanted this from her… the grand proposition… words that she thought would make the strongest of men weak.

“Oh, Seborah.” He breathed, stepping closer, closing the gap between them and now only inches away. “You come to me on this wild New Year’s Eve… looking like you are wearing nothing but diamonds and a snake… I have no doubt in my mind that I could now pleasure you… ‘til we saw the dawn.” Draco whispered hungrily into her ear.

He pulled her into a tight squeeze, brushing his lips lightly to hers… intentionally building her desire for him to the highest of heights… so that he could drop her like the bombshell she was.

“Are you sure you are ready for a new experience… with me?” Draco asked.

“Yes!” Her voice begged.

“Then it will be my true pleasure… to be the only grown man… to ever turn you down. Such a shame you couldn’t have waited for me on this night. Instead you had to take me too early. Now you’ll never have the opportunity to experience the best of me as a man. Your loss, I’m afraid, Seborah… as I’ve already had the best of you.”

She just stood there in disbelief. No one had EVER turned her down. “You don’t mean that. Come, Draco… let’s have a wild party of our own. We’ll go…”

“No, Seborah. We are not going anywhere… ever. And if I see you so much as talk to another underage at this party, I’ll have Aurors escort you out.”

“That won’t be necessary… I only came for you."  She said, still looking at him with lust.  "Such a pity you turned me down.” She said with puckered pink lips.

“Don't feel bad, Seborah... the night is young and something tells me you won't be alone for long." Draco said sarcastically... just before she let out a huff of frustration, then apparated away.

He then grabbed two bottles of wine, returned to the noise of the party, and took his seat on a different couch... very proud of himself for being able to turn her away.

Other girls had started in on him as soon as he sat down. ‘Leaches.’ He thought of them.

“I’m in love with you, Draco.” One of them said in her most flirty manner as she boldly sat on his lap and wrapped her arms around his neck. “Take me now and I’ll be yours forever.”

He let out a chuckle. “You’re not in love with me. You’re in lust with me. Know the difference, sweetheart.” He said in a deep sultry voice, just before pecking her slow-like on the cheek as he shoved her off of him in one smooth motion.

A much smarter and cunning witch heard what he said and decided on a much more serious approach.

“Draco Malfoy, have you ever really been in love?”

“Have you?” He replied knowing full well he was not answering that particular question.

“Yes. But it didn’t work out.” She said in a fairly sad manor as Draco looked at her a little more seriously.

“How did you know that you were in love and not lust?” He asked.

“When I knew of all of his faults and flaws… and loved him anyway.” The girl smiled a little, as if reminiscing.

Draco thought about that for a moment. Is that really the test of knowing that you love someone… or that someone loves you?

She looked at him with a raised eyebrow. “I can tell that you are thinking of someone… and it’s not Pansy.” She stated as if she were wise. “A very lucky girl to be on your mind, but she must be incredibly stupid not to be by your side tonight.” She waited patiently for his response and carefully watched.

Hermione’s face came to mind, but quickly left. “You can believe what you want my Slytherin sister, but I only ever think of myself.” He said, giving her a sly smile.

“You lie. But not to worry, I’ll keep your secret safe from Pansy… so long as you take me upstairs and show me what magical skills you put to use… in a bed.” She said with lustful eyes.

He let her words sink in and felt the blackmail was incredibly weak. “Blackmail me for sex? Really, do you think Pansy will be too upset if I were merely thinking about someone else? You’re going to have to come up with something more solid than that.”

Draco hadn’t realized it, but he had let his guard down for a split second. The girl had Legilimency skills that rivaled his Occlumency and she had waited patiently to read his mind.

She leaned in close and whispered a single name in his ear, “Hermione Granger.” She pulled away and gave him a most wide sinister smile, believing that she had indeed just won an evening making love to Draco Malfoy. What a beautiful New Year’s Eve experience it was sure to be.

“Say goodnight to your friends as I plan on keeping you busy for a very long time.” She purred.

Draco remained calm and pondered his words carefully so that the witch beside him would fully understand the magnitude of the error she had just made. He took a huge swallow of his drink and kept hold of his glass, as if she hadn’t fazed him a bit.

“I’m afraid… you’re the one who is incredibly stupid.” He said slowly. “Blackmailing me for sex… would be sex against my will… which I consider… a form of rape. So if you want me to speak your language, we can go upstairs right now. I’ll curse you and you can have all the sex you want tonight… but it won’t be with me… as I’ll offer your limp body as a gift to no less than a dozen of my father’s… Death Eater acquaintances. They’ll apparate upstairs and no one will ever know they were here.”

The girl tried her best to hide her terror, but Draco could feel it.

“If I summon them, they will be here in… two minutes.”

“You’re bluffing.” She said abruptly.

“Use your Legilimency. Am I bluffing?” He said roughly as he conjured images in his head of a host of black hooded, silver masked men with Dark Marks on their forearms.

She saw them… Images of evil doers. And her face fell then as terror ran through her veins.

“Okay!” She shouted looking away from him. “Just forget it, okay? I’m sorry. Just forget it.” She was breathing fast and she just wanted to run as fast as she could… away from Draco Malfoy.

But just before she ran off, he held her forcefully into her seat for one last memorable statement to make sure she never mentioned Granger to anyone. It was a simple demand, really…

“Don’t you EVER forget who I am!”

He could feel her begin to tremble just before letting her go. She was in such a hurry to get away that she almost fell, tripping over her own feet.

He wished he didn’t have to result to what he had just done, but blackmailing him for sex was a serious violation and certainly a punishable offense. But of course he never would’ve called for Death Eaters. He had the power to, but would never have done it.

The entire ordeal had him in a sour mood.

It only took a minute for another girl to approach. She sat down beside him, but at least she had enough sense to remain silent.

He was about to throw her from the couch when he saw the crowd move to let someone through. Once he saw who it was, he decided he didn’t need to throw the girl, as she would be leaving very soon.

Pansy Parkinson made her way to him a bit breathless and most certainly sweating. “Get away from my man.” She rudely told the girl who ran off immediately.

Pansy wore a dress that was fluorescent hot pink with black zebra stripes throughout.  The color contrast actually made Draco's eyes hurt, it was so obnoxiously bright.

But he was never so happy to see her as she plopped down beside him. “The break is off, we’re back on, and I forgive you.” She boldly announced to him and everyone else in earshot.

“What took you so long? I’ve had to practically beat the girls away from me!"  He yelled at her. "I’ve been propositioned, blackmailed, almost drugged, and I’m pretty sure I got two marriage proposals in there somewhere. Who knows what will come after midnight!”

She laughed as if it were a joke. “I had to make you suffer. Besides, I love dancing. Blaise always has the best music. I swear I could dance for hours. If he doesn’t open a night club after we graduate, it will be a crying shame.” She said fanning herself.

Draco looked at her through angry squinted eyes as he thought, ‘It’s fine for her to sweat on a dance floor with a hundred people, but not okay for her to break a sweat in bed! Incredible.’

He knew her game well. She had made her ‘we’re back on’ speech just before midnight, no doubt in time to get her New Year’s kiss from him and in full view of every Slytherin girl in the place.

‘That’s not going to happen.’ His mind decided. The only girl he wanted to kiss was his Granger. And since that wasn’t possible, then he wouldn’t be kissing anyone.

Just before the stroke of midnight, many paired up for New Year’s kisses, but not all.

Draco opted instead to say a few silent toasts and press his lips straight to a bottle of wine.

So at that final stroke of midnight, he glanced around the room to find Blaise tenderly kissing Astoria. Draco held up the bottle… ‘To Missions Accomplished.’ And just before he downed the drink, he stopped as he thought of another toast.

“To my Granger… who HATES me, which is why I love her. Be safe tonight, my love… wherever you are.”

With that, he didn’t waste any more time as he gulped the liquid down like he was dying of thirst.

“Draco!” Pansy found him too late for the midnight kiss. “You missed the countdown.”

“No I didn’t.”

“Punishing me now, is that it?” She asked.

“No. I’m giving you what you wanted... a break. Do you really think you can call us ‘on and off’ with the snap of your fingers? You only think you have that much control over me.”

“Oh, relax. Of course, I don’t. This is supposed to be a party and here you are all pissed off. Come on back and have a few more drinks. I’ll stay off you and my presence will keep the sluts away. I know how you use me.” She said knowingly, but not seeming to care. “And I use you for status.” She shrugged her shoulders. “So what?”

For the rest of the night, Draco thought it best to stay away from the crowd and spend his time on the third floor, playing Wizard Poker with his closest friends, letting Crabbe and Goyle win on occasion. 

But as he did this... Draco wished he was somewhere else... with someone else

He wondered what Hermione was doing on this New Year's Eve. Probably shagging the deplorable Weasley, he figured incorrectly.
  

 

 







Author's Note:

I don't know about you... but I want to go to the Slytherin party!  But what to wear...?

All of these horrible women are pointing Draco in the right direction... as when he eventually comes across something genuine... he will recognize it...

Sorry, but I just had to have him turn Seborah down...  hope you didn't mind that...

Up next...  Draco finally gets to be alone with Granger... on the train back to Hogwarts...

Please Review... It does my heart good...

Dark Whisper
 
3,300 Reads and 40 Favorited...  THANK YOU ALL!
 
 
 
 
 
 


Chapter 9: Alone with Granger
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***  Author's note:  I wasn't exactly happy with this chapter (especially the over-done un-original ending), so I revised it to make it better.  Sorry about that... and I hope that you will like the added 'feelings' depicted by both of them.

Thanks for your patience with me...

Dark Whisper







Draco Malfoy leaned against one of the many brick columns at the cold and damp platform 9 3/4 with the black hood of his robe pulled up over his head with something that looked like a candy cane hanging from his mouth. The steam from the train engine hovered and rolled along the platform helping to conceal his presence. Not that he cared if anyone saw him, really… it’s just that he hadn’t seen Granger yet and wasn’t going to board the train until he had.

He had his fun during the break. It made him feel good to make amends with his father a bit, have dinner with his house elves, and give Christmas gifts anonymously. He enjoyed spending time camping with Crabbe and Goyle. And even though a few women gave him some trouble, he actually loved attending Blaise’s New Year’s Eve party.

All of it had been a wonderful distraction, taking his mind off his dark task.

But the night before he was to return to Hogwarts, Draco was summoned by the Dark Lord.

His Dark Mark began crawling along his skin just before he was about to have a farewell dinner with Goyle’s family. They had just sat down to eat and as they began passing the food around the table family-style, Draco had jolted in surprise and was a bit embarrassed.

He had grabbed his forearm as if it hurt, but it was more like an automatic response to conceal it more than anything. Draco mentally scolded himself for jolting like he did... knowing he should've been discreet.

Crabbe had witnessed the jolt and the grab to his forearm. “You have to go. Don’t you?” Crabbe questioned knowingly.

Draco nodded a yes and noticed others had begun staring at him.

“Me too.” Goyle’s father added. “Sorry about dinner, dear.” He said to his wife. “Can’t leave the Dark Lord waiting.” He said as he stood. “Hopefully it won’t be too long.”  He then grabbed some dinner rolls and began shoving them into his mouth and sloppily drank some wine to wash them down.

Draco on the other hand had immediately lost his appetite.

Donning their black robes and covering their heads with hoods, the two Death Eaters quickly said their goodbyes then used a port key that landed them just outside of Crabbe’s home.

Draco recalled the look on his father’s face as Voldemort magically removed his hood and ridiculed him in front of everyone. The expression on Lucius’s face was one of dread, but it was also one of someone broken. And even though Lucius tried to hide it… for the first time in his life, Draco could sense his father’s fear.

It didn’t take long to figure out why. The announcement came soon enough. It would be the last meeting at Crabbe’s. The Dark Lord was officially moving the Death Eater headquarters to Malfoy Manor.

He’d never seen his father look like that and it affected him. It made him feel sorry for him. But more than that… Draco realized now more than ever that his parent’s lives were most definitely in danger.

Draco used all the power of his Occlumency to block out certain memories while the Dark Lord slid around the ever-growing circle of Death Eaters until he stopped at Draco.

“Still haven’t completed your task, have you young Malfoy?”

Draco stood frozen, but knew it would be disrespectful not to answer him and he certainly didn’t want to show fear.

“Not yet.”

“Not yet?” Voldemort repeated as he stepped closer to him. He held out an open hand and lifted it for all to see. “Five.” He said with a sneer for all to hear. “Five… months is all you have left.”

Draco said nothing further. He only bent forward slightly and nodded his acknowledgement.

Voldemort moved on to different Death Eaters… giving them orders and speaking of his plans.

When he finally stopped in the center of the group, it seemed that the meeting had come to an end. But instead, the Dark Lord surprised everyone when he suddenly sent a Cruciatus curse to one of the Death Eaters. The man collapsed to the ground and cried out in pain as Voldemort accused him of being a spy and selling information to Ministry Aurors. It turned out to be true.

Just as Draco was about to relive the murder in his head, Hermione finally showed up on the platform, pulling his mind out the darkness and into light.

She was walking toward him with her head down wearing a sad look on her face… a look that hovered on the edge of crying without actually spilling over. And there was something else. She looked exhausted.

Draco instantly grew concerned for her. Why was his love looking as if she would cry at any moment and why did she look so tired?

 
She stopped at one of the entrances of the train and turned to talk to Harry and Ginny before they all boarded.

Hermione wanted to get back into some normalcy and get back into studying for tests. She wanted to get her mind off her blood status. She was extremely tired and not rested at all.

She had spent the entire last days at home frantically surfing the Internet for her ancestry… only to find information that she already knew from her mother’s keepsake box. She did discover some Muggle cousins in the United States, but they would know nothing of the magical world.

She grew frustrated and was exhausted from her searching in the wee hours of the night, losing much needed sleep, and on occasion found herself falling asleep at her parent’s computer. She decided that she needed a break from it and welcomed the ride back to school. The rhythm of the train would certainly put her to sleep quickly and soon she would be at her true home.

When she met Harry and Ginny on the platform, they didn’t get her normal happy greeting of smiles and hugs. Instead she seemed to be in a daze and looking rather sleepy.

“Hermione, are you alright?” Ginny asked before Harry was about to ask the same question.

“I stayed up too late studying and now I’m paying for it.” She said with a yawn.

She didn’t lie. She just didn’t mention what she’d been studying. “If you two don’t mind, I’d like a compartment by myself to sleep. Truly I need it. We can talk when we get back to the Great Hall for dinner.”

“Alone?” Harry questioned. “Are you sure?”

“Yes, Harry, alone. I’m fine, really. I just need sleep.” She said with a slight bite. “You know I can get cranky when I’m tired.” She said, just as she saw Ron and Lavender arrive at the platform.

“Okay.” He succumbed, seeing Hermione’s face twist into something slightly unattractive.

She made a quick sound of disgust as she turned to board the train, leaving the four of them behind.


All of this was being watched of course… as Draco was close to them, but had not been noticed.

He quickly realized what was wrong with Hermione as he witnessed Lavender Brown hanging on Ronald Weasley as they made their way to Harry and Ginny.

It came as a shock at first, but Draco was pleasantly surprised to see Ron with Lavender and not his Granger. Obviously a lot had happened during the holiday break.

Draco’s concern for Hermione turned into wondering if Dobby actually followed through with the delivery of the gifts. And even if Dobby succeeded, he wondered if she got her book after all.

He purposefully waited to board the last available car… just as it was about to leave… and to his pleasant surprise she was in the last compartment… by herself. The door was open and she was peering out the window. He was very tempted at barging in and sitting down, but something told him that now just wasn’t the right time. So he walked on… proceeding to his normal seat with the rest of the Slytherins in the open car.

“Where’ve you been? I thought you weren’t going to show.” Pansy remarked seemingly irritated.

“I’m here.” He said plopping down beside her and removing his hood.

He acted like he didn’t want to be going back to Hogwarts, but he did. He was happy to see Granger, but a few glimpses of her was never enough for him.

He thought about her not being with Ron and pondered how she must be feeling. Down obviously. She was hurting, no doubt… and even though he couldn’t be sorry for the breakup, he did feel sorry for her.

He wanted to comfort her, but felt it wasn't really his place.  She would probably curse him as soon as she saw him.  But he wanted to go back to her so bad he couldn’t stand it.

He wanted to know if she got that book and what she thought of it. It practically killed him not knowing… and after what seemed like an eternity thinking of her and pondering whether or not he should go to her… he was getting fidgety.

“What’s wrong with you?” Pansy asked. “You can’t sit still.”

“I’m incredibly bored out of my mind. This train ride has to be the most boring way to get to Hogwarts! We can’t apparate there because of security. We can’t fly there because stupid idiotic Muggles might see us. We can’t even use a port key. I think its Dumbledore’s way of torturing us older students into numbing our minds to prepare for our mind-numbing classes!”

“I second that sentiment.” Blaise agreed.

“I can think of fifty places that I’d rather be right now.” Draco added. “Instead, I have to sit here and do nothing.”

“Wizard’s poker again?” Blaise offered.

“I’ve had all that I can take of that game during the break. I can’t stand it anymore, but thanks for the offer.”

A few seconds later… Draco stood abruptly. The rare opportunity to be alone with Granger was slipping by him and he couldn’t take it anymore.

“Where are you going?” Pansy questioned.

“To go harass a Mudblood for something to do.” He spat. “And don’t bother following me.” He added.

Draco made his way back to the last compartment. Every step toward her put him in a better mood. He wasn’t even sure if she was still alone… but he had to find out.

Harry’s compartment door was shut, so he easily moved past it without being noticed.

He peeked his head around the door only to find her sleeping. She had propped her head against the inner wall and was using her school robe as a blanket.

A warm smile came to his face as he stepped in, silently closed the door, and took the seat across from her.

So there he was… alone with his Granger… finally.

He wasn’t sure what to do. The conniving deviant in him wanted to shout at her and scare her half to death just to be mean. Or at least… conjure a feather and mess with her while she slept.

Already she was more entertaining than anyone in the Sytherin car and she hadn’t done a thing but sleep.

As he studied her in her peaceful state, he noticed 'Delilah’s Black Book of Poems' sitting on the top stack of a set of books she had lying next to her… serving as confirmation that she did in fact receive her Christmas gift, which gave him a good feeling inside.

Just then, the train shifted slightly and her robe of a blanket slipped off her a little.

He leaned in to fix it for her. It was January after all and the train was a bit cold.

He was so close to her that something inside of him was changing. Her very presence was actually causing him to have feelings he’d never felt before. Butterflies as they are called.

For a split second he thought he might kiss the sleeping beauty. But he knew he would have to be ready for the slap across his face that she would undoubtedly give him as soon as she woke.

He could watch her all day and not get bored.

She looked so peaceful, really... he thought as he watched her chest rise and fall in a slow rhythm of a deep slumber.  He searched her face and gazed at the thin line of her closed lips and then at her cute little nose... and how it turned up slightly at the end.  

'How am I to hate such a beautiful thing... so pretty?'

Her long hair looked like silk to him.  It went straight down past her shoulders and ended in long curls.  He had always loved her long barely-tame hair.

He thought of his vivid dream then... how she had looked up at him so lovingly.  They embraced.  They kissed.  They were happy and they were... having a son.  

'A dream...'   He thought, shaking his head slightly. "Just a dream.'

He saw her hand move slightly and he now wished that he could reach for it and hold it... or at least maybe touch her fingertips to his.

He knew she was upset over Ron.  Oh... how he wanted to pull her into his arms and comfort her. 

But then something strange occurred to him...

Maybe it was a bit of the reverse.  Maybe it was his wish that she would comfort him... that she would reach out her hand to hold his... that she would embrace him and tell him everything was going to be alright... even if it wasn't true. 

He let out a whisper then... words spoken under a breath to her sleeping ears... "It seems a Slytherin Prince may be in need... of a Princess."

She stirred a little and he slowly, silently backed away.

She was waking to the scent of the most wonderful masculine cologne. She recalled the scent in her sleep. She’d smelled it before. 'But who?'  She thought dreamily.

Draco Malfoy came to mind. 'Yes. That’s who wore it. Only him. He always smelled so good. It was definitely him. Definitely…'

“MALFOY!” She practically yelled his name as she abruptly awoke from her sleep.

“What?!” He yelled back.

“What are you doing here? Staring at me in my sleep now? That’s just creepy!” She woke fighting mad. “What do you want?”

“Nothing! But I am curious as to how you woke from a deep sleep screaming my name. Dreaming about me are you?” He asked with a smirk.

“No!” She yelled at him. “If you must know, it was your cologne that woke me up.”

“Do you like it?” He asked smiling.

“Of course I do.” She said as if she were disgusted. “I am a woman… and that stuff is actually made for us you know… a seducer of sorts. It should be illegal.” She said with a scowl.

She was telling the truth. Hermione absolutely loved men’s cologne... especially the expensive kind that Draco always seemed to have on him.

On a shopping trip she had joked with Ginny about how the stuff was so powerful it could melt her clothes clean off her body. And Ginny remarked that the scent would have her looking at a Troll differently. The two girls had laughed… but there was most certainly some truth to their statements.

“Why are you here invading my space?” She finally asked. “Come to make my life more miserable than it already is? Come to make fun of me for Ron breaking up with me? Kick me while I’m down?”

He didn’t say anything. He just sat and listened to her dark mood as she thought of all the past pain he had caused her… especially reminding her of her blood status every time she looked at him.

He could only think of how beautiful she was when she was mad at him.

“Go ahead say it.” She urged. “Say that I wasn’t worthy of being with a pureblood anyway, even if it was Weasel. Go ahead.”

Still Draco sat and listened. He could’ve replied with all kinds of nasty things, but he withheld his tongue and took it in.

“I swear,” she continued. “You could give lessons to Dementors in sucking the joy out of people’s lives. Honestly… Are you sure you’re a Malfoy and not a Riddle?”

Her last comment surprised him and rocked him to the core. A Riddle? How could she dare say such a thing? Draco hated Voldemort… hated the task that the snake of all snakes had given him… hated that the demon was going to kill his parents if he failed. Draco figured he wanted him dead more so than Harry did.

Her mood was even darker than he anticipated. Obviously she wouldn’t want to speak of Christmas.

“Would you like me to go?” He questioned in a serious manner.

She turned from him to look out the window… and under her breath… she said hurtful words… barely audible…

“I would like you to go to hell.” She said quietly… unable to look at him while saying such hateful words… even to him.

As tough as Draco was, this hurt him coming from her. He wondered then if his father, Lucius felt the same hurt when he told him he wished he was dead instead of James Potter.

He didn’t really mean it. And Draco was hoping she didn’t mean it either. She was just in pain. And he knew what that felt like.

“Such a dark whisper coming from your lips.” He remarked as he stood to leave… very disappointed.

“You taught me well, Teacher.” She said sarcastically.

But she didn’t really want him to go and she didn’t mean what she said.

Just as Draco was about to pull the door open, she asked him a question.

“Tell me. How do you do it?” She asked turning her head to look up at him.

“Do what?” He said as their eyes met.

“Not feel anything? How do you shut yourself down? Can you teach me?”

Considering the seriousness of her demeanor and her question, Draco returned to the seat directly facing her.

They sat in silence for a moment while he thought of what to say.

“You don’t want to be like that.”

“Maybe I do.”

“Shutting down your emotions isn’t some kind of special skill. Even Muggles can do it, but they only do it as a psychological defense mechanism. It’s the prisoner of war in solitary confinement who takes his mind to a different place… to trick the mind into thinking that he is at Sunday School singing hymns at a church that he attended as a child. It’s the woman who is severely beaten by her husband… who doesn’t feel the lashings because she has tricked her mind into thinking that she is running in a wheat field playing ‘hide and seek’ with her sister in her youth.”

He paused for a moment and noticed she had her full attention to him, listening to what he had to say... although her face still held anger.

“When wizards and witches do it, we don’t need a happy memory… we can block out certain situations, but not for long. It is temporary and it certainly doesn’t solve any problem. I wouldn’t think you would need such a thing for merely breaking up with Weasel… unless there is something else.” He said with an eyebrow raised, wondering if she would divulge any information.

“You can do that? Block out situations as they are happening?” She said as she cocked her head to the side.

“Yes. If the situation is… traumatic enough to warrant it.”

“That’s fascinating.” She said with intrigue. “But truthfully… that isn’t what I meant. I just meant that nothing seems to ever bother you.”

“I am not immune to being hurt, if that’s what you mean. I have a knack for hiding my true feelings. I don’t consider that a special skill.”

She shook her head. “You can’t be hurt… not in the way I’m feeling right now anyway.” She stared at him.

“Really? Why is that?”

“Because you’ll never be dumped. You have far too much money… way too high of status in society… and are much too good looking for someone to ever reject you. If you ever find yourself alone… it would be by choice.”

“Interesting.” He smirked.

“What?”

“You would reject me for all of those things. You couldn't care less about my money. You hate me for my status. And as for my looks, well… you’re into redheads.” He gave a look as if he were flirting.

“I agree with everything you just said. However, even though I reject you for all of those things, there’s no heartache in it, as you couldn’t care less for me. And not to mention… you have to be with someone before you can actually get dumped.” She said matter-of-factly.

He wanted to correct her and tell her how much he indeed cared for her… much more than she could possibly know. But it was much too soon for that.

“You want to know what I think about you and Weasel?” He asked as he relaxed back into the seat.

“Not really, no.” She replied untruthfully. Of course she wanted to know what he thought.

“I don’t think you love him as much as you think you do. You’re just ticked off that he chose to be with someone else over you. You’re furious at him. Give it some time and you’ll be friends again. And that, Granger will be the proof that you deeply cared for him, but did not love him fully. Two people that love each other can’t be friends after they break up. It’s too painful. It’s all or nothing. So tell me… what else is bothering you?”

She would never tell him it was her blood status. She might as well welcome his cruelty.

“What do you know about love? You can’t possibly sit there and tell me you love Pansy. And I’ve heard what you did to Elise McCourt… Took her virginity and haven’t spoken a word to her since. How typical. And how many others girls have you done the same thing to?”

Draco instantly felt the fire inside build at her words, but he kept it at bay. He was shocked that Elise’s name would be brought up. Then again, he was surprised at this entire conversation.

“How typical of you to believe that’s the only side of the story.”

Hermione never thought there could be more to the story. “What’s your side?” She asked curiously.

She used me… not the other way around. That’s why I haven’t spoken to her since. Think about it. Wouldn’t it be more typical of a guy like me to keep using a girl who puts out so easily?” He said calmly.

“I suppose so.” She said as she thought it strange to actually be trusting Malfoy with something he was saying.

“I don’t like being used, Granger. And it might surprise you… but I’d like to have a real relationship with a girl someday. One that won’t have me being used for money, status, or looks.” 

Hermione caught the seriousness in his eyes as he said it... and she was taken aback.  Draco Malfoy wanting a serious relationship?  Apparently something deeper than what he already had an abundance of?

She was shocked to find that her opinion of him had just shifted slightly... with something showing up that wasn't there before... a hint of respect or understanding maybe. 

Draco realized that he just told her something that he probably shouldn’t have. It left him vulnerable to a barrage of insults, but much to his surprise, she didn’t take advantage. He decided then that he wanted their conversation to be a little less serious.

“Hold out your hand, palm up.” He said as he did the same with his. “See the creases that make up the ‘M’?” He gestured.

“Yes.” She acknowledged, not knowing where he was going with it.

“When I was young, I thought it cool that my initial was on my hand.” He chuckled slightly. “Anyway… my Aunt Andromeda showed me once that my love line was long. She would say, ‘Draco… look here… when you find true love you will be with her for a very long time.’ When I asked her, ‘how will I know when I find her’ she replied… ‘The trick to finding your true love is to not go looking in the normal places.’ I was frustrated at what she said because she really didn’t tell me anything at all.” He smiled at her.

Hermione couldn’t help but smile a bit… then look at her palm. “Which line is it?” She asked with lighthearted curiosity as she bent forward so that he could show her.

Draco leaned in as well and she couldn’t help but think that it was the closest she’d ever been to him as she took in the scent of his cologne once again.

They were so close they could've kissed. 

“This one.” Draco said as his finger touched her palm and began tracing the line using the slightest touch.

His touch sent sensations through her that she did not expect and she could not help but smile.  Being touched by him was a good feeling that sent magic to her core. 

“See… yours is long as well. Breaking up with Ron is not the end of the world, Granger. Who knows… it could be the beginning of one.”

Her eyes moved from her palm to his warm, caring facial expression and their gaze held.

She was mesmerized. Not because of his looks, but at what he had just done. Draco Malfoy... of all people... had just cheered her up and she wanted to kiss him for it.  But she knew that wanting and doing were two very different things.

Draco became a bit lost in her eyes.  If he didn't know any better, she looked as if she wanted to kiss him. He wanted to so very badly.  Her lips were only inches away.

“Well that was risky.” She said closing her hand. “What if my line had been short?”

“Then I would’ve told you that all of that was just rubbish and I really don’t believe a word of it. It's more likely that your history is what will determine your future.”

“I’m not exactly in the mood for riddles. Whatever do you mean by that?” She asked in a friendly, but pleading way.

“It just seems logical that given your two best friends… that you already know how to put up with a man and that you will remain loyal no matter what. If you mirror that in your marriage… then you will be with your true love for a very long time.”

Hermione was baffled at his insight. Did he just say something that she didn’t realize about herself?

She became quickly skeptical. What was he doing? Whatever it was it must be some kind of scheme. Was he messing with her emotions? Was he pulling her up only to cruelly tear her down?

He noticed her face fall into a look of skepticism and she moved back from him as if any trust that he had just built with her had abruptly got up and left.

Draco sighed his disappointment at the unnecessary space she had put between them.

"Why are you being so friendly to me all of the sudden?"

"Is it sudden?"  He protested.  "When's the last time I called you Mudblood?"

Hermione couldn't remember the last time he did it.  She tried, but couldn't pin-point it.  "Well I don't know.  Surely you call me that behind my back all the time.  So you tell me... how long has it been exactly?"

He didn't want to tell the truth, but he didn't want to lie to her either.  "Alright."  He paused.  "I called you that just before I came back here."  He said with a guilty look.  "But I haven't said it to your face in months.  That has to count for something, doesn't it?"  He said with the cutest rounded puppy-dog eyes that seemed to be begging for forgiveness.

She wasn't sure what to think of his response... or his adorable guilty facial expression.  She didn't want to, but it made her smile.

“Why did you come back here? Can you tell me the truth about that?” She asked with caution, as if waiting for his cruelty to show up at any moment.

“I was bored out of my mind and came back here to harass you for fun. I didn’t expect to have a decent conversation with you.”

She sat silent in her seat pondering his words. They seemed truthful and it surprised her once again.

And she agreed. The last thing she expected from him was a deep and meaningful conversation about anything.

She knew he was her identical academic match... knew he was a highly intelligent individual... but actually speaking with him about something more meaningful than Quidditch matches, weather, and food had her completely intrigued... and it left her wanting more. 

He leaned in close to her. So close… that for a split second she anticipated his touch, wanting it.  But this time... it was her turn to feel disappointed when it didn’t come.

“What’s this book you’re reading?” He questioned… taking possession of 'Delilah’s Black Book of Poems' before retreating back to his seat.

It was an abrupt change in subject in which she became instantly defensive. “Give that back!” She demanded.

“Why? What is it a self-help book or something?” He asked trying to open it. “It’s locked… juicy romance novel, is it?” He said chuckling as he toyed with her.

“Real mature of you, Malfoy.”

She whipped out her wand. “You will gently hand it over… now.”

“Oh, put that away. Only you would duel over a book, Granger.”

“That book happens to be priceless.”

“Everything has a price.”

“You couldn’t buy that book from me with all of your Malfoy money.”  She said heated.

“Really? With all my money? Are you sure you couldn’t you just buy another copy and have a small fortune left over? I do have quite a bit, you know.”

“Seeing as how it very well might be the last copy on the planet, your money would be useless.”

“The last copy?” He questioned with a smirk. “That means the Ministry must’ve banned it.” He said still holding it away from her so she couldn’t get to it. “And yet you bring it to school. You do know what banned means, don’t you?”

“Of course I do. Now stop being annoying and hand it back!” She warned.

“And yet you break the rules and nothing ever happens to you. It must be nice to have the immunity that the Golden Trio has.” He said handing it back to her.

“As if you don't get away with plenty.” She replied.

He ignored the remark. “Where did you get it?” He asked.

“Christmas gift.”

He could barely keep from laughing at the little game he was playing with her.  But he managed to keep it in, except for the devious smirk that he just couldn't help.

But just then, Draco noticed the train slowing… which meant his alone time with Granger would be ending soon. Too soon. He quickly thought of how he might want to end it. He didn’t want to fight with her or be childish. Instead, he wanted to get her back to being relaxed around him and maybe build some trust.

Obviously it still wasn’t quite the time to talk about the Christmas gifts he sent everyone. That would have to wait a little while longer as he was out of time.

“That reminds me. I have a gift for you. I actually wanted to give it to you earlier, but you were telling me... where to go.”

He reached into his suit jacket and pulled out what looked like two candy canes. He kept one and gave the other to her. “Now you can’t say that I never gave you anything.” He said with a devious chuckle that made her feel as if there was much more to that statement.

“A candy cane?” She looked at it curiously. “Is it laced with poison?”

He let out another chuckle. “Some would say that. There’s actually a shot of brandy wine in it for you. Mine has a shot of Scotch.” He said removing the wrapper. “If you bite down and break it… it will give you a splash. But if you suck on it… it comes out slow-like. It’ll take the edge off the hurt you’ve got going on.”

“You sneak alcohol into Hogwarts?” She asked as he began sucking on his and holding the crook of it like a pipe.

“Of course I do. And you sneak in banned books. I’m afraid you win on the danger scale.”

She stared at the candy cane, torn between being a good girl or saying ‘the heck with it.’

Just then, both Hermione and Draco heard the annoying sound of Lavender’s giggling. “Oh Ronnie… You’re so funny.” They heard her say.

Draco gave her a knowing, sympathetic look and gave her an encouraging nod to try the candy cane.

She quickly tore off the wrapper and bit down. Draco was right. It gave her a cool splash that felt good on her tongue and tasted of sweet brandy wine. She closed her eyes and let out a hum of relief as she swallowed the liquid and proceeded to crunch the rest and finally lick her lips.

“You’re a terrible influence on me.” She scoffed.

“You like?” He asked smiling at her reaction.

“That was… quite good actually.” She admitted.

Draco bit down on his finishing it. “Well feel privileged. You are one of very few that knows about them. One day I hope to make them a business venture. But if you steal my idea, I’ll have to kill you.” He gave her his signature smirk.

“Something tells me we’ll end up killing each other, but it won’t be because of your liquor sticks.”

They shared a laugh as they both sat back in their seats feeling a little more relaxed.

They remained silent for a long while… both thinking how incredible it was to have this time spent with each other.

It wasn't often that they were able to face each other for such a long period of time. 

She looked at him, studying his face as she had never been able to before.  She noticed that he had a look about him that went beyond his true age.  She could sense he'd seen more darkness in his life than most.  There was an awareness in his eyes.  And something that spoke quietly to her... something that said he'd not had the childhood that everyone thought he did... that of a spoiled rich kid.  No... it had not been like that at all. 

He stared back at her, taking her in as well.  She too held a look that was beyond her years.  He had no doubt that it was knowledge of the darkness she must've obtained through her experiences with 'The Chosen One' being her best friend.  He could see it...  see that she knew more about it than most.

He also could see that something was bothering her... something much deeper than breaking up with Ron.  She never did answer his questions about it.  She kept it from him and he didn't blame her one bit. 

They were now looking at each other with serious expressions that hinted at genuine concern.

She wondered what it would be like to be loved by such a man... that is if he was capable of such a thing.  Before now she wouldn't have believed it possible, but now... he seemed different. 

He thought of other girls he knew that would throw themselves at him.  But not her.  She sat there, respectful, reserved, and with a dignity and grace that seemed rare to him.

They were both deep in thought... thinking of how the person sitting across from them was some sort of mystery to solved.

But as the train slowed, tension between them had suddenly come back as mutual feelings began to surface. Feelings of not wanting the train ride to end.

They wouldn’t acknowledge those feelings to each other. But they really didn’t need to. It was revealed in their faces and in their body language.

Knowing the train was about to come to a halt, Draco stood and slowly, reluctantly opened the compartment door as if he really didn’t want to make his exit.

But just as he was about to leave, he turned to her to say one last thing…

“It’s a shame we’re here already… I was wondering if Mrs. Weasley liked her ring.” He said as he took off down the hallway toward the Slytherin car as fast as he could without running.

It took a second for Hermione to register what he had just said.

Her eyes grew wide. Mrs. Weasley? The ring! Christmas! The book! She gasped as she realized… It was him!

“MALFOY!” She shrieked as loud as she could.

He heard her shout his name, of course... and he let out his own devious laugh at his victory at getting under her skin.  He loved that the beginning and ending of the conversation had her yelling his name.  He loved it.

She peered into the hall just as his blond head got lost in a sea of students gathering their belongings to exit the train.

Ginny came out of her compartment to check on Hermione. “Did you just scream Malfoy’s name?”

“Yes.”  She said in frustration.

“Why? What happened?”

Hermione had to think fast.  She didn't want to tell Ginny that her beloved new Quidditch blanket came from Malfoy... thinking Ginny would lose her fondess of it rather quickly and burn it most likely. 

She had to talk to Draco first and figure out what he was up to. 

“He's being his annoying arrogant self, as usual."  She played it off.  "I want to curse him for toying with me, that's all."  She said turning to gather her belongings.  "What's new?"

But she didn't really want to curse him... she wanted to kiss him!  She was pretty sure they had just shared some kind of intimate moment and he had given her the most perfect gift.  The question was... why?  It had to be some sort of cruel scheme against her and her friends.  

Ginny smiled at her friend.  "Well... just so you know, Harry and I will have a seat for you in the carriage.  My idiot brother and what's her name are getting one with Neville and Luna."

"Thanks."  Hermione replied picking up her Christmas gift from Draco and shaking her head in disbelief.  She let out a long sigh and remarked.  "This is all so unbelievable."

Ginny thought she was speaking of Ron leaving her for Lavender. 

But oh no... she was thinking of him... the thorn in her side... the pebble in her shoe... the annoyance of her life... her natural born enemy...  the cockroach that was... Draco Malfoy!






Author's Note:  Sorry, everyone...but  I just had to change what I didn't like about this chapter.  Especially that cliched ending that I hated!  Sorry about that.... but I hope this new one is a tad better! 

Well... Draco had been through a lot the night before... and well... Hermione is in pain as well.

They actually got some alone time together. It was a rough start, but Draco managed to break the ice a bit and they actually got to TOUCH... even if only briefly.

They got to share a few moments and have begun to feel the chemistry between them as they both didn't want that ride to end so soon.

And now Draco's secret is out... It was HIM...

Please review... Tell me your thoughts. What do really think? Give me some honesty... I can take it.

Until next time...

Dark Whisper

P.S. I just want to THANK YOU from my heart to all of you readers and especially the Reviewers whose words keep me going.

4,628 reads and a whopping 54 have Favorited! THANK YOU ALL!
 
 


Chapter 10: Surrounded by Magical Graffiti - Part 1.
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The carriage ride to Hogwarts had been a quiet one.

Harry and Ginny were talking, but Hermione wasn’t paying any attention.

Her racing heart had calmed back down to its relaxed rhythm and her boiling-over blood pressure was back to normal. But her mind remained busy, transfixed on the one man she’d just spent an unbelievable few moments with.

Draco Malfoy was an intolerable frustrating mystery that would haunt her until she knew why he did it. It made no sense whatsoever that a selfish arrogant hater of the trio would do something nice for them.

He had a lot of explaining to do.

He had played with her, harassing her with that book knowing full well where it came from… and it made her feel like a fool.

But he also made her feel other things as well.

Hermione quickly went back to their conversation… of things he had revealed. She replayed his voice in her mind. 

"I'd like to have a real relationship with a girl someday. One that won't have me being used..."  

She thought of how he could shut himself down... "if the situation were traumatic enough."

It had her wondering what his world was like, the things he had seen… what horrifying experiences he’d gone through. He was the son of a known Death Eater after all. And to her surprise, he had revealed things to her… very personal and private things, even sharing with her what he sneaks into Hogwarts!

He had trusted her on a fairly high level and she wasn’t sure what to make of it.

She couldn’t help herself. Hermione opened her palm once again, seeing his initial naturally engraved into it. She would never look at her hand the same again, even if she lived to see an old age. Her palm would always be a reminder of him. The thought was enough to irritate her until she recalled his gentle touch.

It had sent tingling sensations throughout her body that were not imagined. They were very real.

“Something wrong with your hand?” Harry asked with suspicion, pulling her into the moment.

“No. It’s nothing. It’s fine.” She replied closing her hand quickly and tucking it under her cloak as if she had something to hide.

She looked up at Ginny and Harry sitting across from her. And as she did, she recalled the looks on their faces when they opened their gifts on Christmas morning.

They were so happy in that moment in time, a memory they were sure to cherish. If she told them everything had come from Malfoy, it was sure to ruin that memory.

She knew her friends well. Ginny would burn her gift to ashes. Ron would sell his to the highest bidder and most likely Mr. Weasley would owl all of the unused luxury suite Quidditch tickets back to Lucius with a note of “No Thanks.”

And what of Molly’s ring? Would she continue wearing it if she found out that it came from Malfoy money? Would it still represent her beloved children or would it be a constant reminder that her husband could never afford such a beautiful thing?

Harry would keep the yearbook though. It would be too precious to give up, even if it came from Malfoy. He would be the only one to give a very brief, but sincere thank you.

Hermione knew then that she couldn’t tell them. She would have to keep it a secret, at least for now while it was still so fresh on their minds.

She thought of her book then. Did she think of it differently now that she knew it came from him? Did she not want it now? Did she think any less of it?

No. In fact, she thought the opposite. He had given it to her. And somehow it became even more precious to her, something she wanted to keep forever as her own heirloom of sorts.  Priceless, indeed.

One thing was certain. Hermione was desperate to talk to him again. She wanted answers about the gifts, but there was something else… a slight craving for him and an undeniable attraction that scared her a little.

She thought of his lips and how they were so very close to hers. She daydreamed of what it might be like to be kissed by her handsome enemy.

It would be soft, most likely, and as smooth as the silk sheets on his bed.  Yes... his bed.

“’Mione!” They shouted at her.

“What?” She abruptly woke from her fantasy, startled, and a bit embarrassed at her thoughts.

“It’s just that we’ve been talking to you and you haven’t so much as batted an eyelash. Where are you?”  Ginny asked.

“Sorry… still tired I guess. I have a lot on my mind is all. What were you saying?”

“Nothing too important. I’m worried about you.” Harry said.

“Well you worry for nothing.”

“Is it something Malfoy said to you? I swear I’ll hex him from…”

“No, Ginny. No. Forget him. He’s nothing.” She reassured them as her mind raced to find something else to talk about.

But she couldn’t think of anything else. She could only think of being close to Draco… him touching her, his scent, his eyes, the things that he had said… and how sad it was that none of it mattered.

The fact remained that she could never have him. “Not with the dirty blood I’ve got running through my veins.” She thought sadly as the carriage came to a halt.

 

Draco was in a bit of a daze while in the carriage with Blaise, Astoria, and Pansy. He was lost in his own little world where only he and his Granger lived.

Blaise noticed the rare happy look and was well aware of who Draco had been sitting with on the train. He smiled to himself, happy that Draco had found an amusement of some sort in his life. He knew his best friend needed it.

“What are you two so happy about?” Pansy asked as if she were irritated.

Coming out of his daze, Draco realized something about Pansy just then. She always sounded like that, irritated and unhappy, always ticked off at something.

“I’m in a good mood, Parkinson.” He said, still in his happy state. “It’s a rare thing. Don’t ruin it for me.”

Draco noticed Astoria Greengrass’s look of disdain… no doubt the effects of all the nasty things he’d said to her on New Year’s Eve.

He turned his gaze away from her and continued his daydreaming about Granger.

She had been in a terrible mood and he knew he had brought her out of it, if only for a few moments. He recalled her smile and her sweet laughter. The thought that they had actually laughed together was a complete surprise.

He thought of how far into the depths he had been, still feeling the effects of being in the presence of a demon. It was the experience of bone-chilling fear and dread that took him to hell and kept him there, gripping him tightly.

But all of that magically subsided the very moment he had seen her on the platform and then completely disappeared as soon he was in the compartment watching her sleep.

The realization of her ability to pull him out of darkness and into light suddenly did something profound and unexpected. He found himself completely overwhelmed as the thought of it brought a single tear to his eye.

He had heard about tears of joy before, but never had actually experienced them.

And there he was in a carriage ride with his closest Slytherin colleagues… unable to suppress it.

He felt ridiculous.

“Will she ever know the effect she has on me?” His mind wondered with awe at the discreet wetness on his face.

Another realization came to Draco then. They had made each other feel better and it was a wonderful notion. Could it be that they could do this for one another? Pull each other out of the depths?

He would be happy to have that effect on her. He wanted to do it… help her feel as good as she made him feel.

Only Blaise noticed as Draco shook his head slightly and wiped at the tear that had escaped, with a smile still on his face. It was the oddest expression Blaise had ever seen on his friend. Draco smiling… with tears? Unbelievable.

He couldn’t begin to guess what had happened in that compartment with Granger that would cause Draco to have such an emotional reaction, but he knew he would find out eventually. Draco didn’t keep much from him.

He was in such a hurry to get out of the carriage that he stood up and jumped from it before it had a chance to come to a halt.

Because of this, Draco was one of the first to the top of Hogwarts steps, but he didn’t go in. Instead, he turned around and looked back, his eyes once again in search for his Granger.

He watched her. She was stepping gracefully from her carriage with a look of sadness on her face yet again. But as soon as she took about three slow steps, her keen sense of staring had kicked in, stopping her in her tracks.

Her eyes went from the dead leaves on the ground to the top of the Hogwarts steps to find serious gray eyes staring into her own.

She stood there, expressionless. Because quite honestly, she didn’t know what to think anymore. She was too tired to analyze the situation any further.

She mouthed a few words then, only half-hoping he could read them.

“Why are you doing this to me?”

It was a loaded question, of course. It wasn’t really about Christmas at all. It was a reflection of her own confused feelings for him.

Hating him was as easy as breathing. Having feelings for him was going to rip her heart out.

He saw her mouth move, but did not catch the words. When she broke their gaze, he entered Hogwarts with Pansy by his side, making it look as if he had been waiting for her.

Hermione had turned to Ginny and Harry as they began walking.

“I’m too tired for dinner.” She finally told them. “And I’m not quite ready to eat within the same vicinity as Ron anyway. I’m going to bed.” She announced to them solemnly.

“We’ll bring you up something to eat later.” Harry offered.

“Don’t bother, as I hope to be asleep very soon.”

They separated then, the two joining the others at the Gryffindor table and her making her way to the dorms to put her things away.

Draco sat at the Slytherin table, but not for long. When he realized she wasn’t coming, he leaned over to Blaise. “I don’t need Dumbledore’s same old speech. I’ll see you later.”

 

Hermione unpacked her things, hung up her winter cloak, and put the books away that she had with her on the holiday break. All books, but one.

She ran her fingertips across the old book where the letters of the title were engraved in what appeared to be silver thread.

“Why did you give this to me?” She asked aloud as if he were next to her.

She was extremely tired, but just too curious to see if he would give her an answer that night.

So she put the book on her nightstand, checked herself in the mirror, which she decided was pointless… and made herself available to him should he decide to go looking for her.

It didn’t take long for them to find each other.

With the slightest upward tilt of his head, Draco motioned Hermione to follow him. He wanted privacy when talking to her and decided on a place where he was sure no one would interrupt them.

When she got closer, he began a brisk walk toward the courtyard.

“We’re going outside?” She questioned in a small voice.

“Yes.”

Worried about the freezing cold weather, she replied, “But I don’t have my cloak.”

“You won’t need it where we’re going.” He assured her. “But here. Take mine, if it makes you feel any better.”

While still walking, he slipped off his cloak and wrapped it around her shoulders. It was huge on her, but she didn’t really seem to notice.

She should’ve been shocked at his chivalry, but instead she was trying to hide the fact that she was in awe of his garment. As soon as she breathed in the scent of it, all thoughts of normal common sense failed her.

He led her outside where the Clock Tower Courtyard met the bridge. Except instead of going to the bridge, Draco made a sharp right turn and stopped where the castle wall met the courtyard wall.

“I know you’ll not want to do this, but I have to carry you on my back. There are steps beyond this wall that only allow one pair of footprints through. It’s a spell to prevent multiple students from going down.”

“Well maybe we shouldn’t be going down them then.” She said, partially regaining her senses.

“Since when did Hermione Granger start following the rules? Come on.” Before she could protest further, he gently grabbed her wrist, swung her around, and lifted her on his back with ease, the sides of the cloak now draping them both.

He stepped through the wall, an optical illusion, and proceeded to carry her down a flight of snow covered stone steps.

“If you drop me now, I swear I’ll hex you all the way to the hospital wing.” She said, clinging to him for fear of heights and falling to her death.

A brisk wind swept up against the castle wall, which caused her to bury her head into his shoulder.

“Oh, stop complaining. You sound like Pansy.” He said jokingly, enjoying her closeness, her body pressed against his, and especially, her hands clinging to him.

“Pansy?” She gasped in horror. “Calling me Pansy is worse than calling me Mudblood.” She said with her lips dangerously close to his ear.

“I’ll have to remember that.” He said with a smile as he whipped her around so that she safely landed on her feet at the bottom of the steps.

Scolding herself for trusting him with her life on such treacherous outdoor stairs, she entered the space directly under the courtyard completely surprised at what she felt and saw.

The first thing that she noticed was the warm air engulfing her senses. She welcomed the heat on her face just as she noticed that the walls appeared to be moving, but it was too dark to really see them.

With a smooth, slow wave of his wand, tiny flames within evenly-spaced glass jars began lighting the dark space all around them, bringing it to life in a soft glow so that she could finally witness the magical spectacle on the walls.

It was graffiti. It constantly moved like a moving photograph, but it was artwork. It was beautiful and colorful with the writings of lovers past confessing words of passion and poetry along with expressions of not so happy students’ hatred of their Headmasters and professors. And then it would change to words of House Cup spirit and the praise of past Quidditch Champions.

It was apparent that the magical graffiti spanned several decades as some of it was dated, although nothing seemed recent. It kept moving and perpetually changing before her eyes.

She hadn't noticed Draco with his hands raised to the exposed area, putting up protection charms.

“Cave Inimicum. Protego Totalum. Muffliato.” He said just above a whisper.

"This is amazing.” She confessed quietly. “How is it warm?”

He turned to face her then. “Furnace vents… here and here.” He pointed at the corners of the far castle wall. “We’ll stay plenty warm for as long as we want.”

“Wow.” She said, continuing her gaze at the graffiti. She began reading a piece of the wall for a moment and began chuckling.

Scabior was here with Lauren,” she read. But then the girl’s name changed to “Leela,” then to “Amelia,” then “Courtney”… and it kept going for thirteen names until it finally disappeared.

“Must’ve been a charmer, that Scabior.” She snickered a little.

A mischievous green cartoon-like snake made his appearance on the wall slithering along the top near the ceiling then diving into blue paint and making a little cartoon splash.  It's head came bobbing back up as if it was curious to meet her.

"That's the most adorable snake I've ever seen."  She smiled at the graffiti, no doubt put there by an artistically talented Slytherin.

It winked at her, then slithered away. 

"I think he gets curious as to who is here and then leaves."  Draco commented.  "He won't be back."

She thought of how the place wasn't on the Marauder's Map and quickly deducted that they simply must not have known about it.  Turning to him, she asked, “How did you know of this place?”

“My parents told me about it, as well as the trick to bringing someone down here. I imagine if we read the wall long enough, we would read of their disturbing sentiments to each other.”

She smiled, but then it faded.

She wondered what else he knew about Hogwarts that she didn’t. Having a line of ancestors living here was indeed an advantage, she figured. She realized then that he probably did have a vast knowledge of magic, much more than what was taught at Hogwarts… and it was most likely of the dark type.

She couldn’t help but think maybe a line of Purebloods was somewhat ‘better’ then the Muggle-borns with no history. Even though she didn’t want to think about it or admit it, she couldn’t help but ask herself if she’d been in denial all this time. There was a certain reality to it, wasn’t there? She forced the depressing thoughts out of her mind to think on later. For now, she wanted to focus on him and what she was there for… answers.

Hermione looked around for something to sit on. There were large boulders that had been magically moved there years ago that provided perfect seating. She chose a seat closer to the furnace vents to further warm herself while he remained standing.

She took in the glow of the tiny lights in glass surrounding them and noticed how it gave a warm tint to his usually pale face.

Draco began to pace slowly, unsure of how much to tell her about his dream, if anything at all. His hand rubbed at his jaw line nervously as he thought maybe this was all a mistake.

“Draco.” She finally spoke, basking in the warmth of the air and his cloak that she didn’t want to give back to him, even though she no longer needed it.

“So… now that you have me in this lovely cave, tell me. Why the gifts to us all?” She said in a kind manner, thinking it would be a better approach to get him to talk with her than shrieking at him. “Something tells me that you didn’t do it to be nice to my friends and it probably is part of some diabolical scheme you have going against us. Whatever it is, I’d appreciate the truth.”

“You are partly correct. I most certainly did not do it to be nice to your friends and it is part of a scheme… but not exactly a diabolical one.”

She looked at him as if not surprised at all, but still curious.

“Before I explain, can you tell me something?” He said with eyebrow raised. “Were you actually at the Weasley house on Christmas Eve and into the next morning? Or did you get the book at a later time?”

“I was there overnight and received it in the morning just like everyone else. Why?”

Draco looked at one of the walls, but looked as if he was looking miles past it. “Was Ginny Weasley trying to knit something?”

Hermione was taken aback at his question as her mind recalled the evening. She had been talking to Ron while Molly was trying to teach Ginny to knit. “Yes.” She answered slowly.

“And did you have a conversation with Ron about me kicking my house elves for fun?”

Hermione’s eyes grew wide at the remembrance of the conversation. Ron had said something like that and she had stuck up for Draco saying, “Maybe if he had some happiness in his life, he wouldn't be like he is."

She gasped at the realization that he was spot on. “Were you there? Spying on us? How did you…?”

“No. No, I wasn’t there.” He said adamantly, but then added, “At least I don’t think I was.”

He really did not like that this piece of the dream actually happened. A past memory could easily show up in a dream. But the present being true was a different issue entirely... a very serious issue.  It attached a whole new dimension to it, as he was a witness to the scene, but was never actually there.

“What time was it?” He finally asked.

“The time?” She question.

“Yes, do you recall the time of that conversation?”

“I, I don’t know… probably around midnight I suppose.” She said with concern.

“Bloody hell.” He swore under his breath.

As he was trying to grasp what it all meant, she began to get irritated.

“Malfoy, just tell me what this is about already.”

He let out a long sigh. He didn’t want to tell her anything, but he realized that he didn’t have a choice. In order to prevent his dream, he at least had to tell her about Stella.

“Alright.” He said stepping closer to her, but still keeping a safe distance. “But I warn you. You’re going to think I’m as loony as Lovegood.

“Really, now?” She said with eyebrow raised.

“Would you believe I gave away all of those things… just so that I could be alone with you?”

“That would be highly unlikely. Besides, you could’ve just told me that you wanted to chat.” She said sarcastically.

“With your hateful nature?” He said with a smirk.

“My hateful nature?!” She yelled as she fought off the urge to hex him where he stood.

“You told me to 'go to hell' on the train!” He said rather angrily.

She tightened her lips as a little twinge of guilt crept through her. And after several breaths, it had her apologizing.

“I didn’t really mean it. I was just in a very bad mood and very tired… which I still am by the way. So hurry up so that I can finally get some sleep.”

“Fine. All of it was to prevent a dream.” He finally blurted out. “On Christmas Eve, I had the most vivid dream that I’ve ever had. And you know of the dreams of wizards.”

“Yes.” She said with a hint of concern. “Either prophesy, nothing, or a mixture of both.”

“Right, well… part of my dream had me reliving something from my past… something very true. Then I dreamt the scene at the Weasleys. And then I was taken to the future, a future that I would like to prevent.”

Draco was being absolutely serious. So when he heard her burst out in laughter, he got a bit heated.

“You mean to tell me that you had a dream on Christmas Eve and that you were Scrooge?” She continued her laughter. “How fitting.” She giggled, holding her stomach as if it was the most hilarious thing she'd ever heard.

He clenched his jaw and gritted his teeth, trying to calm himself down at her humiliating reaction.

“Yes, go ahead and laugh. It’s hysterical, isn’t it?” He said full of sarcasm. “Especially the part when you surprise me by giving me a black dog, I kill someone, and many lives are destroyed because of it. Not that I should care, really… except one of those destroyed lives happened to be my own.”

With that remark, Hermione stopped laughing and began concentrating on what he had just said. “I gave you a… a what exactly?”

“A black dog. Which, caused me to freak out and I ended up doing something very bad.” He said in a mad tone, reminiscing the scene that played out in his dream of a pregnant Hermione taking the curse and hitting the stone wall.

She noticed that his demeanor had become quite serious.

He let out another long sigh and directly faced her. “For you to fully understand, I must tell you something very personal that I’d like you to keep confidential.”

“Okay. Confidential.” She promised, surprised yet again that he was revealing such personal things to her.

“This is going to sound really stupid, but… Christmas at my house isn’t happy like normal families. It is tainted with a very bad memory from when I was seven years old.”

Hermione couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She knew it. She knew in her gut that his Christmas was unlike most and she couldn’t believe he was actually going to tell her about it.

Regardless of some crazy dream, he was about to reveal a very serious event in his family history to her. In spite of having such a rocky past with him, she did want to know of his life. Her wanting to know everything about him actually went beyond a normal curiosity.

He was careful to study her reaction. She didn’t berate him with another sarcastic remark and she most certainly was no longer laughing.

Instead, she sat there and appeared to be ready to listen to him intently. Her face had changed to a caring expression, which was exactly what he was hoping for.

She looked up at him to see a sad vulnerability in his eyes, which made her very sorry that she had laughed at him a moment earlier. 

"Alright. Go on then.  I'm listening."

He inhaled a long breath as he began to tell her one of the saddest moments of his young life... one of many in the life of a seemingly privileged blond Malfoy child. 

He needed her to understand why the dog was so important and why it had him throwing a curse... a curse that would eventually kill their child, their son.

So with a bit of hesitation... under the courtyard, surrounded by a moving canvas of magical graffiti, Draco began...

“When I was seven years old, I had a black dog named Stella...”

 





Author’s Note:

I’M SORRY! This took forever to get to you. Please accept my humble apology!

This chapter was a difficult one for me. For everything I wanted to say, it reached 8,500 words. So, I had to cut it in half.


By the way... for those who might not remember, Scabior is the Snatcher that took the Trio to Malfoy Manor.  He was very attractive and I couldn't help but write him on that wall with 13 girls... 'Must've been a charmer, that Scabior.'  :  )

This chapter is a bit of filler, but I hope you enjoyed it anyway.


All I have to say is... Brace yourself for Part 2...

Love you all...
Dark Whisper

An astonishing 7,890 Reads and 72 have Favorited! I’m in awe of those numbers and each one is such a thrill. THANK YOU!  Please Review.  I'd love to hear from you.

 
 


Chapter 11: Surrounded by Magical Graffiti - Part 2
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Draco proceeded to tell Hermione about Stella, how she was killed, and how he had tried all the healing spells that he knew to save her lifeless body that had been pushed under the tree amongst the presents.

“Father used her death as a lesson for me. ‘The Avada curse is not reversible, son. It’s a good lesson for you to learn now while you’re young.’” He quoted in a perfect haughty Lucius Malfoy imitation.

Her eyes closed for a moment as she easily imagined him as a devastated blond child trying to save his beloved dog… under a Christmas tree.

“The man is as cold as I am stubborn. The only thing that I wanted for Christmas was my dog back and so I refused to open any gifts then. Or the year after that… or the next year. So eventually, they stopped buying me gifts altogether.”

“That’s terrible.” She finally said, not knowing what else to say. The story was so sad, she could hardly believe it. She thought of how filthy rich they were… how they could’ve easily spoiled him rotten with lavish gifts, just like Ron had assumed.

But in reality, Draco Malfoy hadn’t opened a single Christmas gift since he was six years old.

Her heart broke for him, wondering what other sad and horrifying things might’ve happened in his home.

“Don’t feel too sorry for me. I held on to my bitterness and anger far too long and was determined to ruin Christmas forever just to get back at my father for what he did. So, really it’s only been my fault the past several years with my own stubbornness.”

He wasn’t sure why. Maybe it was her sorrowful expression, but he wanted her to understand something very important to him. It was something that he had never actually told anyone before now.

“Please understand. It is not material things that I want anyway. Things are not important to me. What do you give a wealthy child that can get anything he wants, no matter the time of year?” He paused. “A good memory, Granger. A good experience. A happy moment in time. Those are the things I crave most, as I don’t have very many of them.” He confessed.

Hermione looked up and studied him. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. He was deep in thought, no doubt that his mind was searching for one… a good memory and quite possibly coming up short.

She thought of everything he had said and began to make the connection between his past and the future piece of his dream.

“So, when he killed Stella… he killed your happiness.” She said slowly.

“Yes.” Draco answered, taking in the kind and thoughtful look on her face.

“And in your dream, I surprised you with a dog that looked like Stella and you must have freaked out because…” She trailed off a little, thinking it through and figuring it out. “Because it became a reminder of the pain of what your father did when you were seven?” She questioned as she looked up at him.

“It reminded me of everything my father ever did and probably future things he hasn’t even done yet.” He pondered that thought for a moment, but continued. “You were giving me the dog as a Christmas gift, which was the reason why I lost my mind over it.” He said somberly. “Anyway… I ended up throwing a curse at the thing. You survived, but…”

For a split second he thought of telling her the rest… that in his dream her last name was Malfoy and she was very pregnant with his child.

But he didn’t want her to become the first witch in magical history to die of laughter.

“Bad things happened after that.” He said looking down and shaking his head slightly. “As stupid and ridiculous as it sounds… Just don’t ever give me a black dog.”

Since he stopped and didn’t elaborate on the rest of the dream, she figured that he wouldn’t tell her anything else about it, even if she asked.

“Okay, I promise.” She said, feeling a bit silly to be promising such a thing. “I swear that I will never get you a black dog. Dream prevented.” She declared. “Now about those gifts…” She said as she folded her arms into her chest.

She caught his expression as it changed from solemn and sad to downright playful. She could tell that speaking of his dream and especially of his father was taking a toll on his mood. So she was happy to see his eyes light up.

“Don’t make it out to be any more than it is. It was not a big deal. I used things that I already had.”

When her head cocked to the side a bit, he explained. “You are a curious one, Granger. I knew that doing something completely out of my character would have you practically begging me to be alone with you so that I would explain myself. And to my brilliant credit, it worked.”

He gave her a smirk that was most certainly more flirtatious than his usual type.

“Not a big deal?” She repeated with a huff. “Maybe not for you, but in your scheming of things, you accidentally did something brilliant and brought joy to your enemies.”

He folded his arms together and gave her a look that she could not read.

“That yearbook was a huge hit.” She remarked as if he needed convincing. “It was passed around to everyone. We were all amazed at those pictures… seeing Harry’s parents, especially. We all got a good laugh at Snape at that age. Even Sirius and Lupin are in it. It’s hard to believe they were ever that young.”

She thought of Harry’s reaction. “It was bittersweet for Harry, of course. But he was very appreciative to receive such a gift. We just didn’t know who to thank! It was a wondrous mystery. And the Quidditch tickets!” She said with excitement. “They were all jumping about the place and cheering and hugging each other as if they’d won the lottery or something.” She laughed that sweet laugh that he loved so much. “It’s one thing to go the World Cup, but it’s an entirely different experience on the luxury suit level!”

There was an unmistakable joy in her voice that made Draco feel that whatever the consequence his father might dish out for giving the family tickets away to the Weasleys would be well worth it. Just seeing her eyes as she smiled at him was worth it.

Draco watched her face and how she described that morning with a glow of happiness. He was amazed and astounded that he had caused such a beautiful reaction in her.

“Ginny wouldn’t let anyone touch her Quidditch World Cup blanket. She wrapped herself in it and held it close all day long. And when Ron saw all of those authentic autographs on that bat, I thought his red head was going to explode!”

She laughed again at the memory, but then her expression changed to one of adoration and Draco couldn’t help but be mesmerized by it.

“Then we heard Mrs. Weasley crying,” she said, looking up at Draco almost lovingly.

“Crying?”

“Yes. We all thought maybe something was wrong.” She placed a hand over her heart, thinking of the most touching moment of Christmas morning.

“That is, until she said, ‘Seven stones for my seven babies.’ Oh, Draco, she adored the mother’s ring. How did you manage it in such short timing?”

“I had one of my house elves fashion it out of my mother’s old jewelry scraps. I had him make a pendent for my mother and I just thought that since the Weasley mum had so many children, that a mother’s ring would be appropriate.”

“Appropriate?” Her jaw dropped as she gasped in shock. “It was so beautiful and meant more to her than you could possibly comprehend! That woman will cherish it until her dying day!”

Hermione shook her head, thinking of how incredible it all really was.

“None of us knew what to think, really. Molly thought someone in the room was responsible, but just wasn’t confessing to it. But I suspected otherwise. I knew it wasn’t Harry, because of the yearbook. And certainly none of us could afford all those luxury suite tickets either!”

“I may have gone a tad bit over-board.”

“No.” Her tone grew sad. “They had no gifts for each other. Even Mrs. Weasley didn’t knit any sweaters this year because of the arthritis in her hands now. Most of it is magically done, but she still has to piece them together.”

She paused for a moment, choosing her words carefully.

“Draco.” She said looking up at him. “You have no idea the wonderful thing you did. You know they are poor. And what you did brought laughter and wonder and joy to them. And to me,” she admitted playfully.

“Laughter and joy are foreigners in my house, Granger.”

“That may be so, but you are not immune to giving them, which means there is hope for you yet.” She said teasingly.

He gave her a shoulder shrug of doubt, but then cocked his brow, remembering. “Now about that book I gave you.”

“Yes, Delilah’s Black Book of Poems. Wherever did you get it? Of course you already know that it is banned and most of them were destroyed by the ministry.” She said, wryly.

“It was in the library at the manor. My grandmother’s name is written in the front, but I put a concealment charm on it so that you wouldn’t see it.”

“Your grandmother’s? Oh, I can’t possibly keep a family heirloom like that.”

“Yes you can. But if you ever want rid of it, please do send it back. I trust that you know the danger of it, right?”

“Yes. Never quote or recite it out loud.”

“Correct. There are hidden curses and spells within the text and sharp objects might go flying about and people might start bleeding, so do keep it to yourself.”

“Of course I will. And thank you so much for it.” Hermione’s face beamed. She was so happy to have that book that she could hardly contain herself.

“And make sure that password lock you put on it is a good one, so that no one else can start reading it out loud.” He warned. “Using, ‘MALFOY IS A GIT’ is too easy for someone to figure out.”

She giggled at his sense of humor. She never would’ve guessed that he had one.

“I assure you that no one will ever guess it. But do explain though. How did you know that I desired that particular book?” She asked curiously.

“I overheard you in a DADA class during our 3rd year, mentioning it to someone.” He recalled. “You weren’t feeling well that day. You said that the only thing that could possibly make you feel better was to get your hands on a copy of Delilah’s Black Book of Poems.”

Her eyes grew wide remembering. “I can’t believe you remembered that after all this time. That night I was surprised with chicken soup and crackers in my room.” She said, as she caught a guilty smirk crawl across his face. “You didn’t happen to have anything to do with that, did you?”

“I might have told a kitchen elf.” He admitted. “But I didn’t run to go get you that book, now did I?”

“It’s a good thing actually, as I don’t really think I would’ve been entirely ready for it. It’s quite heart-wrenching and sad.”

He shook his head adamantly. “Don’t you dare repeat anything that is in that book in my presence. I don’t need you to accidentally quote it and have hidden curses from a magical book to make my life worse than it already is.” He said in a half teasing tone.

She giggled softly, knowing he wasn’t really kidding, but being perfectly serious.

“So tell me. Must you do nice things in such secrecy?” She said with a flirtatious smile.

He snapped his eyes to hers and held her gaze. “I can’t very well be seen doing nice things for Gryffindors, now can I?”

“I suppose not.” She acknowledged.

“And I definitely can’t be seen doing something against a Slytherin, like when I put a stop to Cole Devlin’s antics either.” He confessed.

“That was you as well?” She was floored remembering Devlin’s pages fanning to the floor. “I can’t believe it. How did you do it?” She cocked her head to the side. “Why did you do it?”

“I brewed a simple potion that ate the glue from the bindings of his books.”

The ‘why’ was a little more complicated. “Why? Well, I’m rather possessive at what I think is mine, Granger. If anyone were to mess with you, it should be me. Unbeknownst to Devlin, he crossed an invisible line and I couldn’t let him get away with it.”

His words shocked her. He didn’t do it to stop Devlin from bullying the school and causing havoc. He did it to exact revenge of his own for messing with the wrong victim, his victim.

She was trying to make sense of it. He was revealing some sort of twisted affection for her and she felt a happy tingling sensation wash over her.

All she could do was look at him in awe and pleasant wonder. He liked her. He didn’t come right out and say it, but it had to be true. She could feel the sudden warmth on her cheeks as she blushed at the thought.

Silence grew between them as their eyes held. And it seemed to build a peculiar tension right along with it, the kind that leaves two people breathless.

She thought she knew Draco Malfoy. She thought she had him perfectly pegged. All this time she knew him as everyone else did… a cruel, arrogant, self-centered, bigoted, rich Slytherin prat that walked around Hogwarts halls as if he held title to the place… and not to mention… completely ‘heartless.’

But he had just proven that the general consensus had not been entirely accurate. He was still most of those things, but not all. He had just revealed a dimension to her that he’d managed to keep hidden from everyone. Everyone.

As she was thinking all of this, Draco’s thoughts went to how agonizingly difficult it was going to be to say goodbye to her.

His mission was accomplished. And as much as his heart desired to spend the rest of the night talking to her surrounded by tiny romantic lights and poetic graffiti of ages past, he figured that it was time to give her back to her friends. But he certainly didn’t want to.

“Malfoy,” she said, unmoving. “You’ve revealed much tonight… things very personal and confidential. I have to admit that I’m quite surprised that you would confide in me with such a painful memory of your past, with your father and everything.”

“I had to tell you… to prevent a dream. Nothing more.”

“Still, you didn’t have to. And your gifts, they weren’t random, but rather very well thought out. So fitting for each person and remarkably personal.”

She looked into his eyes, his beautiful silvery eyes that looked as if worried about what she was going to say next.

“Clearly there is more to you than your reputation.”

“There is more to you than yours.” He said with a look so serious that it hushed her thoughts and had her wanting him to stare into her eyes forever.

Her staring at such close range was doing strange things to him. It made him want her, very badly. He fought certain urges. His mind raced for a smart way to end this soon.

She contemplated all that he had revealed and done. Draco had given so much and truly, shockingly, expected nothing in return. She wanted to give him something back, but what?

The only word that came to her mind was ‘love’. Something deep inside of her heart gave her instructions.

“I want to give you something.” She said softly as she stood, placing a hand on the graffiti wall, and stepping on top of the boulder she had been sitting on. As she did this, she mustered all of the Gryffindor bravery that she could while extending her arm, palm up, inviting him to join her.

“You don’t have to give me anything, Granger. That’s not what…”

“Just come here.” She gently urged.

With a reluctant sigh, he stepped to her, unsure if he should.

With her being elevated, they were now face to face, eye to eye, and only inches apart.

He had no idea what she was doing, but all he could think of was how she was dangerously close to being kissed… whether she wanted to or not.

Before he could think of anything else, she carefully placed her hands to his shoulders, leaned in close, and planted a simple kiss on his cheek, then proceeded to explain herself.

“That’s for sending me the wonderful soup when I was ill all those years ago, for taking revenge on Devlin for me, and giving me the most perfect Christmas gift.”

She leaned into him again and kissed him on the other cheek. “That’s for your kindness to Harry and the entire Weasley family, whatever your cunning motives.”

When he stood frozen, she took that to mean he would allow one more kiss.

Her hands slid from his shoulders to the back of his neck. When she felt no protest from him, her lips went to his in a soft kiss.

It wasn’t one of passion, it was just one small little slow kiss.

“And that’s for doing something so wonderfully out of character and showing me that there is indeed, a wonderful side to Draco Malfoy.”

She wrapped her arms around him, pulling him into a hug, and whispered into his hear saying, “Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.”

Her breath on his neck set his insides on fire. He could barely control himself.

“Thank you so much, Draco.” She breathed as she hugged him tight.

He could barely think. She had kissed him and was now pressing her body into his.

When he stood frozen and rigid, not responding to her at all, she thought he just might throw her across the room in disgust. She braced herself for an expected insult… something about a Mudblood having the audacity to kiss him.

But all he really wanted to do at that moment was to kiss her passionately, stake his claim to her, and make her his.

A battle was raging in his mind and he wasn’t sure which side to take. ‘What was best for her’ fought valiantly against ‘overwhelming selfish desires.’

He thought of the sweetness of her kiss… the perfection of it.

Draco could no longer contain himself and placed his arms around her, reciprocating her hug.

He leaned in closer to her and could feel her anticipation as the air between them intensified.

She wanted his kiss and he was about to give in. His head tilted to the side a bit as he inched closer to her face.

Just as he was about to forget why he was there and get lost in her intoxicating closeness, he heard the wise words of his grandfather’s portrait echoing in his head like a gentle warning of a distant thunder.

“Trying to start a relationship with her before an impending war would be disastrous.”

The words of wisdom took his breath and served as a reminder that felt like her weight had been magically cast on his shoulders, effectively keeping him from kissing her.

He scolded himself for getting too close. “You must end this! But end it gently.”

He backed away slightly and when he opened his eyes to look into hers, he saw a bit of insecurity at what she’d just done and Draco didn’t want her to feel that way or have any regrets for kissing him like she had.

Without further hesitation, he gave her a slight smile. “Hermione Granger. You are one brave soul.” He paused. “But we really should go before I do something you’ll regret in the morning. Besides, you’ve made me miss my dinner and now I’m hungry.” He said as he turned around so that she could easily climb onto his back.

Taking the queue, she took a small leap off the huge rock and wrapped her arms around his shoulders with a smile that she could not remove from her face.

Once they left the space, the tiny flames in the glass jars went out on their own and stone steps to the courtyard were illuminated by the moonlight.

But as he carried her back up the stairs, Hermione thought about how much she didn’t want their conversation to end. She wanted more time with him… with this Draco that she was falling for.

Her mind was telling her to run far, far away as soon as her feet touched ground. But her heart was telling her to go with him to the kitchens for more than just food.

“Do you mind if I tag along?"  She asked bravely.  "I’m hungry as well and honestly… I’m not quite ready for our conversation to end just yet.” She smiled at him shyly and added, “You’ve been such an open book tonight... and I still have things I want to ask you.”

Draco pondered her request.

He loved the thought of more time with her, but was worried that she would ask him more about his dream. After weighing the risks and thinking their conversation could still be somewhat private, he began walking.

“I can’t prevent you from getting something to eat.” He said as if he couldn’t care less if she joined him or not. But he did. He was smiling on the inside and hiding it very well.


They would not return to the graffiti walls under the courtyard. But if they had, they would’ve seen a new message added to the perpetually changing wall.

For Hermione had touched it when she stepped onto the boulder.

In doing so, she left her print on the magical wall and it had read her heart, causing it to conjure a rather large pink heart that simply read, “Hermione was here… with her Prince.”

 






Author's Note:

Whew... that was a lot to reveal...
I hope I didn't disappoint and bore anyone to sleep!

Up next... Draco questions Hermione about something VERY personal. And after a serious conversation in the kitchen, these two finally end up having FUN together!

I hope you all return for more... And Please Review! What did you think of the revelation of his dream and the Weasley Christmas? Please do tell... Please?

Love you all...
Dark Whisper

9,319 Reads and 82 have Favorited! Wow! Amazing!
 



Chapter 12: Running from the Kitchen
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Author’s Note:
Caution: You are entering a bit of an ‘OOC Zone’. Their conversation got very serious and I wanted to end it on a fun note for these two. I hope you don’t find the dialogue too boring or the end too terrible. : )
Love you all…
Dark Whisper
   
 

 






They saw no one as they made their way to the kitchens. Since it was now well after dinner, everyone was settling into their dorms, hanging out in the common rooms, showering, or getting ready for bed.

The kitchens were located directly under the Great Hall. Once at the entrance, Hermione’s hand went to the pear on the portrait to allow entry. It opened to a room as large as the hall above it with matching long tables and stone walls, but it had what looked like an oversized fireplace at the far end.

They walked the length of it slowly, noticing the vast numbers of pots, pans, and skillets of all shapes and varieties hovering magically above them.

It would’ve been completely dark if the fireplace hadn’t still been giving off its warm glow.

It appeared that no one was there except for two hungry students. Everything was spit spot clean and ready for cooking the next morning.

“It appears we are too late for leftovers.” Hermione said sadly.

But just then a kitchen elf magically appeared. She seemed a bit shy and timid.

“Students in the kitchens?” She questioned. “No. No. Mustn’t have students in the kitchens. School rules forbid.” The elf said in a fairly kind manner, seemingly unsure of what to do about the situation.

Draco crouched down to her level and the elf’s eyes grew wide.

“Hello.” He greeted. “What is your name?”

“Starlet, sir.”

“Nice to meet you, Starlet. I’m afraid we’ve missed our dinner this evening. Is there anything left that we might have something to eat?” He said kindly. “We’re terribly hungry.”

Hermione was in such shock, she thought she might fall over. She fully expected Draco to threaten the elf’s life if she didn’t fix something for them immediately. But stooping down to her level and asking politely was baffling.

But the elf’s reaction was even more shocking.

She narrowed her gaze. “Master Malfoy?” She questioned him, unsure.

He was surprised that she knew him. “Yes. I’m Draco Malfoy.”

The elf’s face lit up with happiness. “Starlet has a cousin who serves the Malfoy family, sir… at Malfoy Manor.”

“Really, who?”

“Trinket, sir. Trinket is Starlet’s favorite cousin!” She said with giddy excitement, clapping her hands, and shuffling her feet happily. “Trinket told me what Master Malfoy did at Christmas,” she said excitedly. “And the decorating… and eating at the Master’s table… and seeing Dobb…”

“Oh she did, did she?” He interrupted.

The elf just nodded her head sheepishly with a huge grin on her little face.

“Well, I can see why she is your favorite cousin, as she is my favorite Malfoy elf.” He smiled.

Hermione rolled her eyes, unconvinced of the little ‘act’ Draco was putting on while her stomach made not so kind noises.

“Excuse me. But do you think you could get us something to eat?” Hermione piped in. “Something easy… like some bread or something?”

But Starlet didn’t like that her conversation with kind and sweet Master Malfoy was so rudely interrupted. She looked past Draco with an eyebrow raised at Hermione in disapproval.

Realizing that Hermione had offended the elf, Draco tried to divert her attention back to him. “Yes, Starlet. Bread sounds nice. And maybe some pumpkin juice to wash it down?” Noticing Starlet’s hesitation and reluctance, he added, “For both of us, please.”

She looked back at Draco. “Starlet would be most pleased to serve Master Malfoy.” The elf said as if purposefully leaving Hermione out of their conversation. “Be right back.” She smiled at him. But when she looked at Hermione again, her smile abruptly left. And with a huff and a snap of her fingers, the elf disappeared.

Hermione was shocked and a bit offended by what she had just witnessed and couldn’t keep her mouth from dropping slightly.

“Care to sit?” Draco offered as he chose a seat at the end of the table closest to the fireplace, which turned out to be a large old-fashioned brick oven created to feed the masses of students and faculty.

She meandered her way around and sat across from him so they were directly facing each other, placing his cloak on the seat next to her.

“Mind telling me what just happened?” She said a bit irritated.

“Whatever do you mean?” He said with a hint of playful sarcasm, knowing full well what she meant.

“Pardon me if I’m surprised that you were actually ‘playing nice’ to that elf.”

“I have ten house elves, Granger. I know the best way to go about getting what I want from them. First, stooping to their level usually surprises them and makes them feel somewhat respected. It usually works, but not all the time, especially with a free elf… as they don’t have to do anything at all.”

“I thought you might threaten her to get food. Isn’t that the Malfoy way?”

“Sure. If you want her to spit on it before serving it to you. Or worse. No thanks.”

The elf was quick to bring Draco something.

“Starlet has a treat for Master Malfoy.” She said as she magically placed a large plate in front of him… heaping with a variety of bread pieces and dinner rolls. “Dipping oil with spices for bread and softened honey butter for rolls.” She said happily at her upscale, gourmet offering.

“Excellent, thank you.” Draco said as Starlet began pouring his pumpkin juice.

But she did not do the same for Hermione. Instead, she blatantly placed an empty glass beside her with a clunk and set the pitcher down on the table for Hermione to help herself.

Hermione’s face twisted in offense and disbelief.

Draco just laughed. “Thank you for the bread and juice, Starlet. It was so nice meeting you. When I see Trinket again, I shall tell her of your kind hospitality and how Starlet served me after-hours when she didn’t even have to.”

Starlet beamed at his words. “For Trinket’s happy Christmas, Master Malfoy is most welcome anytime.”

“Thank you. That’ll be all then.”

As soon as the elf happily apparated away, Draco scooted the large plate of bread toward Hermione a bit so that they could easily share it. He also took her glass and filled it with pumpkin juice.

“There. Feel better now that someone poured your juice for you?” He said chuckling.

After she picked up a piece of bread and began chewing it, she picked up another and threw it at him.

It hit him dead in the chest and fell to the floor. “You wasted it.”

“No, I didn't.”  She smiled.

He just smiled again, amused that a kitchen elf managed to hurt her feelings.

“You treat them better than humans.” She said flatly.

He gave her a snide look. “Yes. Father hates it when I do that.” He said just before taking in another piece of bread.

His response surprised her and had her wanting to apologize for some reason. “Sorry.”

While they were filling up on their late night meal, Hermione began her questioning, beginning with what Starlet meant, talking of Christmas.

He answered her questions about everything, including how he used Dobby to deliver the gifts to the Weasley’s house.

“Dobby didn’t do it for me. He did it to help his friend, Harry Potter have a good Christmas.”

“You mentioned having ten of them. What are their names?”

“Well, there’s Trinket of course, decorator, general indoor cleaning, and help for Mother when she needs it. Tauller made the mother’s ring and is the oldest of them. He is mostly the maintenance and fix everything elf. Pickett, Starkin, and Lolly have kitchen and laundry duties. There’s Monty, who doesn’t like me too well. Father made me punish him once and I hated it. He serves as the butler and whatever it is my father wants him to do. Barley, Judd, and Britt are grounds maintenance and gardening. And lastly, is Skippen. Skippen is my own personal elf. He is the only one that I own outright… the only one I can free by giving him clothing. Since I am a Malfoy, I can give them all orders, but I can’t free them. Only Skippen.”

“Why don’t you free him?”

“He doesn’t want to be free.”

“That’s absurd. Of course they would want to be free.” She protested after downing her juice.

“You know nothing of their culture. They want work to do. It’s their pride. It’s what they do.”

“Dobby wanted to be free.” She protested.

“Dobby wanted to be free from my father, not free from working. It’s a disgrace to them to not have a family and have ‘no use for themselves’… as they put it.”

“That is not true.”

“Yes… It is.  They can even kill themselves just by losing the will to live.” He said adamantly. But he did not raise his voice to her. Instead, he pointed out something that he knew she would agree with.

“The way they are treated by their families is a separate issue. I happen to agree with you about treating them better than they are now… even paying them. Treating Starlet with respect was not an act.”

She quietly pondered his opinion of the subject. He had surprised her yet again. He had grown up with house elves and watched as his father treated them terribly. She considered then the possibility that that fact alone might’ve created some sort of soft spot in his heart for their treatment.

She shook her head slightly in thinking that Draco Malfoy had a soft spot in his heart for anything… let alone for the treatment of house elves.

“You do know that you’ve done nothing but shock me tonight, right?” She finally blurted out. “You have me wondering where the ‘real’ Malfoy is. You know him. He’s selfish and arrogant and insulting. He couldn’t care less about the ethical treatment of house elves and he would never, ever share a plate of food with me as my filfthy blood offends him!”

He expected her rant, but honestly was surprised that it took this long for it to finally show up.

“Feel better now that you’ve finally let that out?” He smirked. “Granted, I am the most selfish person you’ll ever meet in your entire life. And I’m definitely arrogant. You see, as you are the brightest witch of our age, I’m the brightest wizard. But no one says, because that fact goes without saying. It’s quite unnecessary.” He said with his gray eyes flirting with her.

“Huh!” She voiced a sarcastic protest, playfully rolling her eyes.

“And yes, I am a master of insults. But don’t take that away from me. It’s the only creative outlet I have in this place.”

“You call hurting people’s feelings a creative outlet?”

“Yes!” He said with his mouth full of bread, pleading as if trying to convince her.

When he was finally able to wash it down, he joked. “Being selfish, arrogant, and insulting is not a crime in magical law.” He smiled. “I can hear the judge now, ‘Sorry Miss Granger, but being an ‘intolerable, selfish git’ is not a punishable offense. Mr. Malfoy is free to go with all of his character flaws intact.’”

He had her giggling again. “Character flaws, indeed.” She agreed, dipping her bread in the spiced oil.

He grew a little more serious then. “To be clear, I’ve never treated my servants poorly. And as for your blood…” He paused, searching for the right words to say so that she wouldn’t call him a liar too.

“I was taught to hate you from birth. Taught that Muggle-borns were dirty, foul, stupid, second class citizens. But living with you here at Hogwarts had me questioning that logic. Of everything that I’ve revealed to you tonight… I would’ve thought you’d come to the conclusion that your blood no longer offends me. It… I know this might seem hard for you to believe… but it doesn’t matter to me anymore.” He shook his head a bit. “Not anymore.”

Hermione sat frozen in her seat. Draco Malfoy had just told her that her blood status didn’t matter to him anymore.

He felt her slipping away a bit and was quick to bring her back.

“You are still a second class citizen though… but that’s just because you’re a Gryffindor.” He said playing with her again as he flashed her a gorgeous smile.

It made her smile back.

“Draco Malfoy, prepare to be jinxed. Because one of these days when you least expect it, you’re going to wake up with that blond head of yours turned charcoal black and grown long. You’ll be running around here looking like Snape’s child when I’m done with you.” She said in a half serious, half kidding tone.

“What a terribly creative insult.” He teased.

“I swear your hair will be as black as your robes.” Hermione thought about that for a moment. “Speaking of black robes, must you wear the color of death all the time?” She asked while picking up yet another piece of bread.

“Black isn’t the color of death.” He friendly protested. “I’d say a lifeless ashy shade of gray would be the color of death. Black on the other hand is very much alive as the color of respect and reverence… of power and prestige. That’s why judges wear it, members of clergy, and businessman. It is serious and quiet. It’s a reflection of myself, I suppose.”

“You mean grief, sadness.” She countered.
 
“Mysterious and intriguing.” He shot back.

“Funeral attire.” She remarked flatly.

“If you were to ever wear my favorite color, I doubt that you’d be looking like you were going to a funeral.”

He was thinking of seeing her in a black party dress hiding something made of black lace underneath.

Hermione took notice of the hungry look in his eyes and it burned deep within her being. She never thought that she’d ever experience such a look coming from him. It had her saying something that she never thought she would ever ask.

“Your bed sheets are black, aren’t they?” She flirted back.  But as soon as she asked, she scolded herself for mindlessly speaking before she thought it out properly first.

Her question had him thinking. Had Hermione been the one to Poly Juice herself into looking like Pansy Parkinson, she would’ve known that his sheets were indeed as black as a shadow at night.

She would’ve had no reason to ask such a thing, unless she was just covering for herself.  But he didn't get that vibe from her though.

It made him happy to discover that she was not the twisted witch that used a potion to get to him.  Hermione Granger would never lower herself to such dark deeds and he was so happy that she unknowingly confirmed that fact.

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” He said in a gruff voice, more of a statement than a question.

He loved this… flirting with a girl whose very name rhymed with danger.

When she smiled, the darkness of his life seemed a world away. It was just the two of them sitting by a glowing fire, throwing playful insults at each other, learning about one another… caring for each other.

She was surprised that he was talking to her so much, such wonderful lengthy intelligent conversation mixed with lighthearted flirting.

The time passed quickly as they went back and forth with their playful banter, but eventually the subject got serious again.

“Tell me, what’s it like… at your home with your parents?” He asked her in a slow, quiet manner.

Hermione caught the tone of his voice. It sounded so wonderfully caring and warm. It was so soothing and reassuring. She never thought that he could actually sound like that, a deep calm washing over her.

Hermione looked into his eyes and saw a genuine concern. She saw the sincerity of someone trustworthy. It made her want to confide in him about things that she’d never revealed to anyone, not even Harry as her best friend or Ron as her past love.

“Do you truly want to know?”

Oh, how she wanted him to care. Did he? Could he? Was it even possible? Her mind raced.

“You don’t have to tell me anything if you don’t want.” He said, continuing the deep level of care in his voice.

There were things that she was hiding in her heart concerning her parents, feelings that she kept under the surface. She was reluctant to tell him, except that not answering his question truthfully when he had revealed so much of himself that night seemed wrong.

It was only fair that she open up to him, at least a little.

He noticed that her expression became one of wonder and sorrow as she cocked her head to the side a bit. He was wondering if she was actually going to answer.

She swallowed and finally, softly gave him a truthful answer, whispering one simple word.

“Lonely.” She finally said, as she looked to him for a reaction.  "It can be very lonely."

He nodded his head and closed his eyes briefly as if he held a deep understanding.

“Yes.” He whispered in return with his head down a bit. “I know what lonely is.”

He almost told her about how his father would lock him in his closet, but he thought against it. That particular experience was on a level of lonely that he hoped she would never fully comprehend.

Instead, he spoke of another time of feeling so neglected and lonely he thought he might run away to Hogwarts early.

In his young mind, he thought if he could be able to convince the Head Master that he was smart enough and that he already knew a long list of spells, that the old man would let him in early.

He got as far as the black wrought iron gates of their apple orchard when the young Malfoy realized he didn’t know where he was going or how to get there. And he found out rather quickly that he wasn’t very brave.

After a long pause, he added, “I once went almost a month without speaking to anyone one summer. I was wondering how long it would be before anyone spoke to me after my grandfather, Abraxas Malfoy’s funeral. It was also around the time when my mother’s sister, Andromeda had been disowned by the family for marrying a Muggle-born. My mother was deeply distraught. To her, it was like a death in the family and so I was basically left to fend for myself. My parents were busy with their problems and I basically became… invisible.”

“There were adults in the house with you that wouldn’t speak to you?”

“It’s a big house.” He replied, trying to be lighthearted. But there wasn’t anything light about it. “The ironic thing is when someone did finally speak to me it was my grandfather’s portrait that came to life one day. We had a good relationship when he was alive. But I didn’t find out how much I was like him until my conversations with his portrait.”

Hermione was in shock once more, sitting across from him while he revealed yet another glimpse into what it was really like at his home, growing up in darkness. Neglected and ignored? A month without being spoken to? Her heart broke for him again, his life not being at all as it seemed.

She fought the urge to reach across the table and comfort him. It was no wonder that he lacked good memories living like that. She wanted to ask, “You understand that is not normal, don’t you?”

But she didn’t.
 
“Have you no good memories of your childhood?”
 

“Of course I do. I once had the most amazing train set that a child could possibly have. It was set up in the large open space of the dungeon. I would go down there and play for hours, perfecting it. I had created a perfect miniature Diagon Alley, complete with Ollivander’s Wand Shop and Gringott’s Bank. I had people running about and I could make it snow if I wanted. And the train of course was The Hogwart’s Express.”

She could tell it was a fond memory with the look on his face as he described it.

“I had a replica of Hogwarts, but father kept telling me it was wrong. I hadn’t been to Hogwarts yet, so I couldn’t ever get it right. One day, I was determined, so I took the miniature Hogwarts to my room along with the yearbook that I gave Potter and used a picture of the castle in it to try to replicate it, but father told me it was still wrong. I really liked that train set and was proud of it until it was no more.”

“What happened to it?”

“One day I ran down there to play only to discover that every last bit of it was gone. Father told me that it was time for me to grow up and quit playing with childish toys and that he needed the dungeon space for its intended purpose. He had Dobby and Skippen dispose of it. An incorrect Hogwarts was the only thing that remained because it had been in my room, unfinished.”

“He couldn’t have kept it somehow?”

“I guess not. It was time to grow up, I suppose. I got my letter and left for the real Hogwarts shortly after that... and it was most definitely better than the one I conjured.”
 
Ever since his dream, he had been curious about something… curious about her home life. He wanted to ask her about something that had the potential for a very serious answer.

“Can I ask you something?”

“Of course.”

“Please tell me…” He said rather nervously. “Why were you at the Weasley’s for Christmas morning instead of your own home?” He asked in the same caring voice as before.

“They were on vacation.” Came the quick surface answer. It was the answer she had told everyone and it seemed to be a good enough excuse for Harry, Ron, and all the other Weasleys as none of them thought to further question her about it.

But Draco had read her deeper than that.

Time seemed to have slowed just then.  The air around them seemed so very quiet and private.

Everything slowed... including their words.

“You could’ve gone with them or apparated to wherever they were.” He said slowly. “It would seem that there might be another reason.”

Hermione took a breath at his insight. He knew there was more to it than her quick answer.

“They are very kind people and I love them very much.” 
 
She wanted to be clear about the obvious difference between her parents and his.

“But… let me guess. They don’t understand you?” He guessed spot on.

She swallowed hard.

“When I speak of mandrakes, house elves, and hippogryphs they look at me as if I’d gone mad with a wild imagination. And if they knew half of the dangers of the magical world, they would never allow me to return. So I have to choose my words carefully and limit what I reveal to them.”

He nodded slightly and gave her a look of understanding, encouraging her.

“I find it difficult to be around them because… I feel like I can’t be my true self. I feel like they don’t really know me at all.”

She took a sip of her pumpkin juice to clear her dry throat before continuing.

“When Ron broke up with me three days after Christmas, I stayed alone in my parent’s home by choice. The loneliness nearly drove me mad, but I still didn’t go to them. I couldn’t.”

The caring expression she saw on his face had the walls of her heart tumbling down around her as she quietly told him the real reason why she was not with her parents during the holiday break… the painful part of it.

“You have to understand that when they question me about our world, they want to know every detail of it. So, I have to put on my best fake smile and tell them that everything is wonderful in the magical world. But as we both know all too well, it is an enormous lie. I’ve been lying to them for years and I… I hate it. With each passing year, everything gets worse and worse… and more dangerous than the last. By avoiding them this year, I didn’t have to look into their eyes yet again… and lie my heart out.”

Her voice cracked as she confessed her inner-most feelings, trying not to shed tears as her eyes began to blur.

He listened as she spoke her heart. He already figured that Muggle parents would never really understand the life of a magical child and he expected that would be why she hadn’t gone home. That part would be obvious.

But her confessing to him the pain of lying to them for so long was completely unexpected and really, it surprised him. He never would have guessed that Hermione Granger would ever have a reason to lie to anyone. She was too good for that, right?

He let out a long sigh of a breath that he didn’t realize he was holding in.

Draco saw her watery eyes and wanted to comfort her so very badly. He had brought it on with his questioning and he was sorry for doing it.

“Our family lives are obviously very different, Granger, but I understand fully what it’s like to live a life lying to people. It is difficult and… regrettable.” He acknowledged in a gentle manner. “But take comfort in the fact that your parents love you. Even though they will never know who you really are or understand our world, they will love you anyway. And I would imagine that with you living here, they miss you… very, very much.”

She wasn’t sure if it was his words or if it was the way that he said them, but she couldn’t help but feel as if he had just wrapped her heart in comfort. He hadn’t pulled her into an embrace, but somehow, she felt held by him all the same.

He understood her, at least on some kind of level. She would never confess such things to Harry, as he would never know what it would be like to lie to a parent. And Ron would never have to lie about the dangers of their world to Molly and Arthur, as they were in the very thick of it.

Talking of Hermione’s parents had Draco thinking of a situation that could be very, very bad. He had to tell her… to warn her.

“Hermione. I have to tell you something.” He was trying to think of a good way to say it.

“Yes?” She questioned, thinking that it was going to be something about his parents.

“Having parents with no magical capabilities leaves them… vulnerable.”

That was obvious to her, but they weren’t involved in the magical world, so she didn’t consider them to be in danger in any way.

“Harry Potter is your best friend and he is the Dark Lord’s enemy. Hermione…” He looked at her with all seriousness. “He uses the ones you love the most to get what he wants. He will use them to get to you. Then you to get to Harry. Your parents will be in danger of being snatched.”

“They are Muggles. They wouldn’t go after them, would they?”

Draco knew full well that they would.

“I know the mind of a Death Eater.” He said with sorrow in his heart that he was one of them. “They will be in danger eventually. My parents will never win any parenting awards, but it doesn’t change the fact that they are still my parents. If it were me, I’d protect them at all costs, whatever the consequences of my actions.”

Hermione wasn’t sure what to think or say. The thought that her non-magical parents might be in grave danger never really occurred to her.

“I don’t know how or what, but you need to think of ways to protect them.”

He had rendered her speechless at his warning.

“Okay.” She managed to say with a nod.

Draco didn’t want her to feel bad, but he was happy that she had opened up to him and that he was able to warn her in time to help her parents. He felt good about it.

He realized the significance of it. The two were not friends. But they had made an emotional connection with their words… hidden in the depths of their conversation.

He knew that that type of connection had the power to bond two people together even more so than the physical kind.

It was more than he could’ve ever hoped for, but now he wanted to bring her back up to her happy self again.

He thought of something that he and Skippen would do when his parents weren’t home. It got him into some trouble, but he didn’t mind because it was fun doing something he knew he shouldn’t. And he hoped Hermione would feel the same.

The two had their fill of bread and had stopped eating several minutes before. Taking one of the leftover dinner rolls from the plate, he took out his wand to transform it into something that looked like a brown tennis ball.

“What are you doing?” She asked, alarmed that he had taken out his wand.

“Wizard’s table tennis.” He explained, taking down two of the many frying pans that were hovering above them.

“Skippen and I would play table tennis in the dining room when my parents weren’t home. Here.” He said, handing her the skillet and walking away from her to the other end of the long table. “We won't break anything of too much value.”

Hermione just stood there with a skillet in her hand not sure of what to do. She didn’t play games. Ever.

“Well… what are the rules?”

“There are no rules. It’s similar to Muggle table tennis, except our table is a half a mile longer and we have no little net. And you can bounce it off anything you want and it’s fair. The walls, the ceiling… whatever.”

“I really don’t think we should be do…”

“It’s coming to you, Granger.” He warned as threw the thing into the air and served it to her like a real game of tennis.

But she just stood there in disbelief and didn’t even try to hit it back to him. It went flying passed her and bounced off the brick oven’s hearth and onto the floor somewhere.

“You’re supposed to hit it back. Accio ball.” It returned to him and he caught it in mid-air. “What are you, afraid of it? Live a little, Granger.”

“Alright, fine.” She said, preparing herself. She would not be afraid of a transformed dinner roll.

But this time Draco served the ball too high and it blasted across the bottom of a dozen or so pots and pans that were hovering above the tables, causing them to clank and clatter against each other quite loudly.

“Shhh.” She scolded him as if he did it on purpose. “You’re going to wake the entire school. Accio ball.”

It came to her, but she did not catch it. Instead she whacked it as hard as she could with the back of her skillet. It made a line-drive to his head, but he was fast and was able to return it to her perfectly. They went back and forth exactly like a huge game of tennis. They were having fun, both of their minds on tennis and not their troubles.

But then it went off to the right and caused Hermione to hit the ball at an odd angle and it went flying into the ceiling. Which was fine except that when it made its descent, it got stuck above the hovering layer of pots and pans and bounced off a baker’s dozen before finally coming down. It made a noise much louder and longer than Draco’s errant serve.

Once the clatter had died down, Draco looked at her from her far off distance. Even though it was a bit dark, he could see her blushing cheeks of embarrassment.

“Accio ball.” He said quietly.

“Who’s down there!?” Came a loud gruff voice from the other side of the brick oven.

Hermione and Draco looked at each other and simultaneously, silently mouthed a name.

“Filch!”

They both literally threw their skillets into the air, returning them to their hovering state with the hundreds of others.

Hermione grabbed his cloak and ran toward Draco to escape through the portrait that was behind him.

Draco took out his wand to charm the pots into clanking and clattering against themselves making a horrible noise, hoping that it would stall Filch long enough to make their getaway.

At the last possible moment, she grabbed his arm, pulling him through the portrait.

They ran for their lives down a hallway and up a flight of stairs, through a corridor, and beyond. They didn’t stop until they were both gasping for breath from running and laughing so hard.

The pots and pans rang out loudly in the kitchen, causing it to echo throughout all of Hogwarts. When they finally stopped they could still hear the muffled sound of it in the background.

Draco watched as her eyes squinted in hysterical laughter at all the noise he had made.

“If Filch doesn’t get a professor soon that can stop it, the entire student body will be driven insane!” She said giggling. “It sounds like the loudest alarm clock in history.”

She continued her laughter and it was contagious. Soon he was laughing right along with her, hearing the same annoying sound playing over and over again by the clickety clanks of a hundred pots and pans that really did sound like an awful alarm going off.

“I’m regretting it already.” He said laughing.

Once her breathing finally calmed, she sighed a long drawn out breath and smiled at him.

“Draco Malfoy, I will never forget this night as long as I live. I hope this qualifies as one of those happy memories that you spoke of wanting.”

She had no idea! He wasn’t going to tell her that this night was the best night he’d ever had with a girl and he wasn’t even on a date.

And he certainly wasn’t going to tell her that if he could bottle an emotion, it would be what he was feeling right now, exactly at that very moment. A level of happiness so high that it made him feel truly, wonderfully alive.

“Oh, it qualifies.” He said with the most genuine smile that she’d ever seen on him.

“I do love your sense of humor.” She admitted.

He put a hand to his chest mockingly. “Did you just admit that you loved something about me?” He teased.

“Yes. I suppose I did, didn’t I?” She thought of what else she loved. “I loved what you did at Christmas. And I love what you did for me today.”

“What’s that?”

“You made me forget.” She said not looking at him. “Today on the train… there were things that were fiercely weighing down on me. And being with you… you made me forget. I only thought of Ron once or twice when we were talking of Christmas. But that was it. You made me forget that he rejected me. And well… thank you for that.” She cast a bittersweet smile at him.
 
He made her forget the hurt of rejection.  And she made him forget the darkness.

“You are most welcome.” He said in a quiet, serious manner, shaking his head slightly. “Trust me. You have the same effect on me. Forgetting things.”

He didn’t elaborate on what things exactly and she didn’t ask.

The pots and pans finally stopped and they took notice.

“And the torture finally ends.” He acknowledged with a smile.

She smiled back.

He took a photograph of it in his mind. When he closed his eyes, it was precisely what he wanted to see… Hermione Granger smiling at him… approval with a hint of affection.

“Can I say that this night turned out better than I expected? Not only did I get to prevent my dream, but we somehow managed to not fight, have some fun, and… Hermione Granger didn’t hex me. She kissed me.”

This made her blush profusely.

“Your cloak.” She said handing it to him, knowing their lovely evening together had finally come to an end.

Their eyes held with a quiet seriousness as they read each other’s expressions once again.

There was a certain sadness coming from them both for all the things they wanted to do, but couldn’t. So many things left unsaid.

Did they really need to say them?

Without words or action, they communicated a longing for each other that would go unfulfilled… for so many reasons beyond their control.

His eyes held an apology for it, while hers held an unspoken disappointment.

“As the brightest witch of our age, I must ask you a favor.” He said, not taking his eyes off hers. “When you figure out the potion that allows a wizard to re-live a day over and over again… let me know. Will you?”

Her heart soared with his words. Another man might've said, “I had a great time tonight,” but not him. He managed to say it with an ocean-deep meaning without actually saying it at all. And it was poetry to her ears.

“I will.” She said as if it were a vow. “And if you ever figure out how to make a magical night last forever, will you tell me?”

“I will.” He nodded with a look that could only be described as ‘almost shy.’

With that, Hermione Granger left Draco Malfoy in the now peacefully quiet castle alcove.

They didn’t say goodbye to each other or even bid one another good night.

They didn’t want to. It would seem too final.

And so he watched her as she disappeared into the darkness of the hallway, allowing time and space to separate them… as if they had not just spent the most amazing time together.

As soon as Hermione tiptoed into the Gryffindor common room, feelings of sleep deprivation kicked in at an overwhelmingly fast pace, rendering her half asleep as she slipped quietly into bed.

She lifted her shirt to her face, inhaling the remnants of his cologne.

And the only thing she recalled as she teetered on the brink of unconsciousness was his lips when she had kissed him.

He had kissed back. She had felt it… the slightest bit of pressure. And it made her smile while she slept, as if she was having the sweetest of dreams.


As Draco stealthy walked to the Slytherin common room, he couldn’t help but think of the wonderful gift she had given him… a kiss, yes. But it was actually much more than that. She had given him the one thing he craved most… a good memory.

One that he would hold close to his heart and cherish… no matter their future.

He walked into the common room to find a very awake Blaise Zabini on the couch with Astoria’s head on his chest, sleeping soundly.

He attempted to walk past them without incident. But Blaise simply asked, Did you two set off some kind of an alarm?”

“Actually... kitchen pots and pans.” He breathed a slight chuckle.

But Blaise did not laugh. Instead he remained quite serious as he whispered, “You can’t fall in love with her, mate.”

Draco gave him a serious look in return. “Too late.”

“Do you mind telling me how it was that you were smiling with a tear in your eye in that carriage today?”

Draco was a bit surprised that his friend had noticed or even remembered. He slowly sat down across from the couple in his favorite oversized leather chair, thinking of an explanation.

He voiced his answer in a low tone, being careful not to wake Astoria.

“She has a way about her, Blaise. It’s hard to describe. But being with her on that train…” He paused to put his feelings to words. “… took every bad thing that has ever happened to me, every dark thing weighing on me and made it all disappear. It’s a powerful thing that can manage that trick. What you saw was the effect it had on me. And when she smiles at me…”

“Lots of girls smile at you.” He interrupted.

“She’s different.”

“Yes. She is a Mudblood.”

Draco lowered his head and shot his friend a look of caution.

“You play with a most dangerous fire, my Death Eater friend.”

Just then, Astoria began to stir a little and Blaise gently put a hand to her head and stroked her hair lovingly to comfort her back to sleep.

Draco took in the scene, Blaise with Astoria, and suddenly became overwhelmingly envious of his friend.

Blaise had the privilege of having the woman he loved in his arms and not a soul blinked an eye of disapproval. But Draco could never have that… never hold the one he loved for all the world to see.

For the first time in his life, Draco Malfoy felt truly deprived. He could have any material thing he wanted and almost any girl he wanted, including the one that was currently sleeping on his best friend’s chest.

But he couldn’t have his Granger.

“If you love her, the best thing you could ever do for her is leave her alone.” Blaise warned quietly, fearing for Draco’s safety.

“I know… and I will.” He said sadly as he stood to make his exit.

Tossing his cloak over one shoulder, he breathed out a long sigh. “I’m envious of you, Blaise. Truly I am.”

He walked away then… wondering if he’d ever be able to get Hermione Granger out of his mind, while trying to keep her safely in his heart.

Was such a thing possible?

He would try.

 
As Draco stepped into the blackness of his room, he undressed rather quickly, looking forward to laying down and getting some much needed rest.

But just before he was about to slip into bed, he was greeted by someone who had been waiting for him.

"Draco, love.  I've missed you."  Pansy purred.

He cursed Blaise in his head as he realized why he and Astoria were still in the common room.  His friend had known Pansy was there and was giving him privacy... privacy to help him forget a certain Mudblood.

He wasn't remotely tempted of course, until she said something that made his will-power want to reconsider.
 
"It seems you have a lot on your mind these days.  Come, let me help you with that."  She said as she placed her well manicured hands to his bare chest.

  

 

 

 







Author’s Note:
 
NO!!!! Not Pansy!  Okay, from the reviews, people hated this ending.  I feel your pain.  I'm so sorry, but it was a necessary evil.  It pulled Draco from the clouds and back down to reality... and back to the Slytherin man that he is.  He is still sorting out his feelings and will learn what remorse is.  I promise.

On a good note, 'Poly Juice Girl' was not his Granger! Yeah!  And it was her that opened up and let him into her world a bit.

Thanks to all who follow this story and to the Reviewers who I appreciate so very much.  I want to thank you so much for taking the time to send me a message.

Up next, Lavender Brown will remind him of a very sad part of his dream… her last five words, “I will not die invisible.”

Until the next chapter…
Love you all,
Dark Whisper


P.S. Now at 11,200 Reads and 93 have Favorited. Just AMAZING! THANK YOU!
And, I started "Disappear with Me" for a Challenge. Feel free to stop by if you have time.

 
 
 


Chapter 13: Magical Art and Black Canvas Vaults
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The next morning, Draco turned on the water to the shower as hot as he could stand it.

He felt the heat of it sink deep into his muscles, almost to the point of burning his skin, while he attempted to sort out his feelings regarding the events from the night before.

He placed his left hand on the white shower wall and leaned against it while placing his right hand to his chest, resting it on a Slytherin pendent hanging from a silver necklace.

He closed his eyes and leaned in to allow the overly-heated water to wash over his hair and trickle down into his pained face.

Barely breathing, he silently wondered how he could possibly feel so heavy, but so empty at the same time.

Draco had found that Pansy Parkinson did not take away the darkness. She only contributed to the mountain of regrets that began piling up behind him.

Finding her in his bed after spending so much time with Hermione was like being rudely awaken from a most wonderful dream, forcibly pulled back into a depressing reality.

But when Pansy began running her hands over his bare skin, he closed his eyes and imagined being touched by Hermione. He didn’t mean to do it, but he couldn’t help himself.

It was just like his dream with Astoria. She told him that she could tell that when he closed his eyes, he was making love to someone else. It was in his dream.

But here, now… in the very real moment, he was about to do the same with Pansy.

His body ached for Granger. He wanted her body pressed against his… her hands grabbing at his neck and pulling him down onto the bed, wanting him to make love to her.

He kept telling himself that it was Granger doing this. Not Pansy.

When she was finally gone, Draco felt empty and was left feeling like he’d done something very wrong.

He wanted the feeling to go away.

So he took out his liquor sticks and began consuming them one after another, hoping the alcohol in them would slow him down and help him sleep.

It was the first time he’d used alcohol in such a way. Before, it was a social thing to celebrate and party with friends. But this time, it was different. He was alone, using it for another reason entirely.

As he lie in bed and closed his eyes, he saw nothing and no one except Hermione’s face… the one girl that had never used him for anything.

He could feel the alcohol burn in his chest and it heated his core. After several minutes, his world was spinning and he felt as if he was going to get sick. But he grabbed his pillow and pulled it to his chest, positioning himself in an attempt to prevent the bad effects of too much alcohol from taking over his body.

Sickness averted, his limbs felt heavy and his muscles eventually relaxed. His breathing slowed to a sleepy rhythm and he finally was able to sleep.  

And now, taking his shower the next morning, steam filled the space surrounding him while feelings of guilt crept into his chest. He felt like he had cheated on Hermione and was baffled by it.

How could he cheat on someone that wasn’t his? He thought it absurd that he would feel such a thing.

He shouldn’t be having such a struggle with it.

Men were supposed to be mindless when it came to sex, right? He wasn’t really supposed to feel such a connection between physical and emotional love, was he? He was supposed to be detached. Sex was just sex and love was something completely separate. Isn’t that what society told him?
 
Weren’t men supposed to indulge whenever a desirable woman offered themselves for the taking?

But thinking of it that way, it would mean that he was in fact using Pansy and it felt wrong, even if it were a mutual using.

And truly, if Pansy only had sex with him to claim him as a boyfriend for status, then wasn’t she in fact, prostituting herself for it?

And if that were the case, then what did that make him exactly?

Draco felt the twinge of sickness and wasn’t sure if it was guilt causing it or remnants of the alcohol that he had consumed.

He felt as if society had lied to him somewhere along the way. Men should not have sex just because a woman was willing. Men were not heartless, mindless beasts.

Maybe they were, but he didn’t want to be. He wanted to rise above it and be better than that. He always wanted to better than a mere man.

It had him questioning what it meant to be a proper gentleman verses what one might consider a good man.

His father was a proper gentleman in every formal sense to perfection and had taught him well, but no one would ever accuse him of being a good man.

And there it was… the distinct difference between the two. The proper gentleman was an outward appearance, where as being a good man was something internal.

Draco turned to let the scolding hot water punish his back while he opened his eyes to look at his forearm. He watched as the water streamed down his Dark Mark like tears falling over it.

He wondered then if it were possible for a Death Eater to be a good man.

The answer came easily to him as he voiced it in a sorrowful whisper.

“No.”

After lathering himself with a wood & leather scented soap, he came to the conclusion that he hadn’t cheated on Hermione… not really.

They were not together and they never would be… hence, he did not cheat on her.

But being with someone that he did not love was indeed, a crime against his own body and it was convicting him and punishing him with the tight squeeze of guilt felt in his chest, telling him that his deeds had been wrong.

By the time his steamy shower was over, he vowed that he would never be with Pansy again, but he didn’t feel it imperative to inform her just yet.

There would be a right time and place to end it with her. He just wasn’t sure when or how exactly, but he knew that an opportunity would present itself at some point. At which time, he would end whatever their relationship was… a loveless charade.
   
 

In the days following, Draco kept his distance from Hermione. And except for a few cordial nods and the occasional exchange of serious wanting glares at each other here and there, he purposefully avoided her.

The avoidance had hurt her feelings. She had hoped that he would continue talking to her after all that was shared. And surprisingly, she wasn’t mad at him for it. Instead, her heart only held a deep disappointment as she missed him.

And he missed her.  
 


As Draco sat at breakfast one day, he noticed how Lavender Brown was always clinging to Ron. It was downright irritating to witness, but it had him thinking of a very sad part of his dream.

When Ron turned his back on her for Hermione, she committed suicide, leaving a note that had simply read, “I will not die invisible.”

It was a very unique and sad farewell that held deep meaning in just five little words. It implied that while living her life, she felt invisible and so she refused to die that way.

Even now, as Draco watched, she was constantly touching Ron, making it impossible for him to ignore her… making sure that he knew that she was there.

What others might have construed as an annoying public display of affection, Draco saw it as a display of extreme insecurity by a girl desperate for attention.

He recalled what the experience of feeling invisible was like. His experience only lasted a month and it had him wanting to run away to Hogwarts early at only ten years old. He couldn’t imagine feeling that way all of the time.

And as he observed her actions, Draco was convinced.

Lavender Brown had been ignored and neglected not just for a month, but for most of her life and it made her feel…

“Invisible.” Draco voiced aloud.

“What’s invisible, your happy personality?” Pansy joked, taking a close seat next to him.

He ignored her comment, trying to think of some way to prevent another tragic piece of his dream from coming true. He couldn’t do anything about Lavender’s home life, but what if he could at least prevent her from feeling invisible at Hogwarts?

Pansy wasn’t really interested in what was on his mind. As soon as she sat down, she was on the subject of something important to her. Something huge was coming to Hogwarts and she couldn’t contain her excitement.

“Draco love, I am in the best of moods!”

“Don’t call me ‘love’.”

She seemed to not hear him as she continued her excitement.

“All that hard work in my stupid clubs, as you call them, is about to pay off heavily!”

“What are you talking about exactly?”

“My high authority in the clubs coupled with a little pushing has the Museum of Magical Arts loaning magical art equipment to the students of Hogwarts!”

Draco had never seen Pansy so excited about anything.

“This castle is going to turn into an art gallery of sorts. Each Year will have different art projects to complete and they will be displayed in the halls like an art museum, complete with couches to contemplate them and refreshments for the Gala Award Ceremony at the end. It is going to be something that Hogwarts has never seen before. It’s going to be beautiful.”

“Art equipment? Hogwarts has never had those kinds of art classes.” Draco replied.

“And that’s why the museum agreed to do this. They feel it important that students have a creative outlet here and frankly there isn’t anything. Isn’t it wonderful?”

Draco knew Pansy well.  She didn't do anything for the betterment of other students. She was much too selfish for that. It had him wondering what the underlying reason would be for her to willingly put that kind of pressure on her shoulders.

“And it will get me that dream job at the Museum after we graduate. I just know it. So what if I have to do something good to get it? It will be mine!” She announced excitedly.

And there it was… the real reason. She was doing it to secure a job, which was actually quite ambitious and not to mention brilliant on her part.

“Dumbledore agreed to this, I presume?” Draco asked in an uncaring fashion.

“Yes. But there are a few stipulations. First off, Dumbledore didn’t want to have two separate formal occasions, so the award ceremony will open the Valentine’s Day dance. I’ll be the Director of this project of mine, but I must appoint one Assistant Director and an assistant for each Year to head their projects.”

She rudely took a bite from his plate then continued.

“And I must include all Houses, not just Slytherin, which is a real problem because I have no idea who to appoint.”

Draco couldn’t believe his answer for Lavender Brown had practically fallen from the sky.

“I know the perfect person for your Assistant Director. It might seem strange that I would suggest her, but if you want someone to be dedicated to it, you might want to consider, say… Lavender Brown.”

Pansy looked over to the Gryffindor table and glanced at the girl whose hands were messaging Ron’s shoulders.

“She has an obsessive personality, which would serve you well in getting the job done right. And she’s not a Slytherin.”

“She is rather obsessive, isn’t she?” Pansy agreed. “But I’m not sure I can pull her away from her idiot Ron-Ron.”

“I think she’ll be as excited as you are about the whole thing. And she’d be excellent at helping you announce the awards as well. If Dumbledore requires you to share duties, then you must.”

Draco sounded convincing and Pansy always valued his opinion, even if she would never admit it.

“Alright, I’ll ask.”

Draco added, “If she says yes, then let her choose the other heads. If someone gets upset for not being chosen, you can put the blame on her and say that you had nothing to do with it, making you golden.”

“Oh, I do love how your cunning mind works, Draco.”

Cunning, indeed. He wasn’t saying any of it for Pansy’s behalf. He was helping Lavender feel less invisible.

Involving her in such an event that Hogwarts has never seen before was truly a brilliant idea. Having Lavender choosing the other heads would make her feel that her opinion mattered and was valued. A group of people would be looking to her for direction, and she would be seen in front of the entire school while she and Pansy took turns announcing the awards. And not to mention she would most certainly be congratulated and applauded for her accomplishments as the Assistant Director.

Draco’s thoughts went to Hermione then. They always did.

He decided to manipulate the situation to his benefit, possibly giving him more time with Granger.

“One last thing.” He said just before making his exit. “Convince Dumbledore to lift the curfew so students can work on their projects in the evenings. How else are we to get them finished by Valentine’s Day?”
 


The magical equipment arrived timely and the nine-student multi-house committee headed by Pansy and Lavender got busy with distribution, handing out instructions, and putting up posters as reminders of the deadlines and types of awards to be given.

Since the Gala coincided with the Valentine’s Day Dance, the committee voted and appropriately named the event, “For the Love of Magical Art.”

Once the students began diving into their projects and experimenting with the magical art equipment, Hogwarts halls became a mess of splattered paint, threads from tapestry weaving, and scraps from sculpting blocks. But no one seemed to mind as the air in Hogwarts changed to something fun and exciting, especially for the younger ones.

First Years received magical paint brushes that painted what they saw in their minds, without regard to actual artistic talent, while Second Years received magical paint that changed color every so often and could be animated to move like the graffiti under the courtyard.

Third Years received magical looms that weaved tapestries from memories or their imagination and Fourth Years received a magical sculpting block about the size of a trunk. While carving their sculptures with their wands, if they messed up or were unhappy with the result, they could easily correct the mistake or start over without the magical block being ruined.

Fifth Years received magical sheets of glass that they could mold or spin into different shapes such as vases, glass figurines, or wall art using their wands instead of the normal use of dangerous torches.

Sixth Years received what were called Black Canvas Vaults. They were the most complicated of the magical equipment on loan from the museum, but they were Pansy’s favorite, so she gave them to her fellow Sixth Years.

Seventh Years received the same magical sculpting blocks as Fourth Years, but they were massive in size, giving them freedom to complete large life-size works of art.

Lavender Brown had been elated to be chosen for such an important role. For the first time in her life, she felt like she was someone important. Her opinion was taken into consideration and her ideas were accepted and implemented. And even though it did take some time away from Ron, she promised to make it up to him later.

And of course Ron didn’t mind her being involved in the project because it allowed him time to breathe and not feel so smothered by her all the time. He felt that it actually helped their relationship.

What bothered him was the actual assignment.

“For the Love of Magical Art?” Ron read the header on the instructions on how to use a Black Canvas Vault. “What if we hate art? We’ve never had to do art before now. Dumbledore’s really lost his mind to force us into doing something so stupid as mindless art.”

“Dumbledore hasn’t lost his mind.” Harry protested. “Maybe he thinks it would be good for the students to get a break in their regular classes and do something different for a change.”

Or maybe use it as a distraction from something else. Harry kept the thought to himself.

“And we have to do this by Valentine’s Day?” Ron whined as he tossed the instructions to the floor. “I think I’d rather take on the spiders again.”

Hermione waved her wand to retrieve the fallen paper. “The awards ceremony is on Valentine’s Day, so they will have to be completed before then to give us time to decipher them all.”

“Only you would decipher them all.” Harry teased.

She acted like she didn’t hear her best friend’s comment and began reading the instructions aloud.

“Black Canvas Vaults can be fun, interesting, and challenging. Using their wands, students create a pictogram in the black sand that will give a clue to a password key. Once the pictogram is finished, the sand will solidify and appear as a work of iron art, or vault. Students will attempt to decipher the artist’s pictogram and must guess the password key to try to open the vault. If they guess correctly, the vault will open to reveal an object provided by the artist that relates to their riddle.”

“What’s a bloody pictogram?” Ron asked.

“It’s a series of pictures that relay a message. Some are obvious, like if the word was broom, you’d see a picture of a broom, instead of spelling it out. But others can be more complicated like a picture of a car and the outline of England. Putting the two together, it would be carnation. It was nothing to do with a car or a nation, but together they mean the flower. That would be considered an easy one. They can get quite complicated and far reaching.”

“Ron’s right.” Harry agreed. “This is stupid.”

“It’s not stupid. I think it’s rather brilliant. It’s an art form that makes you use your head and think… it’s a beautiful puzzle.”

“Some people don’t share the same love for puzzles as you.” Ron protested.

Hermione shook her head and continued.

“The best vaults have personal meaning and are thought provoking. Points will be given to the student who opens the most vaults and to the artist with the best design difficulty. At the end of the assignment, the artist will need to open their vault to retrieve their object then erase the vault back to its black sand form so that it can be returned to the museum.”

“Points? Who cares about points, really?” Ron asked with irritation.

“They are just trying to make it fun… an incentive of sorts.” Hermione replied with a sigh. “At least we’ve got some time. It says...  from February 1st to the 13th, the curfew has been lifted for all Sixth and Seventh Year students to give them additional time to complete their projects.”

Truthfully, Hermione wasn’t worried about the art assignment. It was the Valentine’s Day Dance she was most worried about. Her date for New Year’s Eve had backed out because of her blood status. Could she get a date for Valentine’s Day?

Draco’s face immediately flashed in her mind. She wanted nothing more than to be escorted by him to the dance… her and a hundred other girls. But she knew better than to think of it. It was never going to happen. The only thing she could possibly hope for would be more time spent with him. And since he hadn’t given any indication that he wanted to do such a thing again, that too was probably just wishful thinking.
 

  
Since it was to be something personal and thought provoking, there was only one thing that Hermione could think of that she wanted her vault to convey.

Her riddle portion had come to her fairly quickly, but she carefully chose her pictograms because she wanted it to be extremely difficult. She didn’t want everyone to decipher it because it was a message of sorts… one for a certain Slytherin.

It would open to reveal something very simple.

After several evenings of working on it, she solidified it into its final iron-like state. And when it was magically hovered into its place in the hall, she was quite pleased with the final result.

When she was finished, Ron asked her for help with his.

“Tomorrow, Ron. Right now, I need a break.”

She planned on going to bed to relax her neck muscles that were aching from working on her project. But as she walked past a set of windows of a dark hall, she noticed a line of white on the sills and realized that it had been snowing.

It was a rare kind of snow. The flakes were enormous like puffs of cotton falling so slowly that it looked as if they were almost suspended in the air.

It was her favorite kind of snowfall, so she decided to head up to the Astronomy Tower for the best view before it was gone.

When she finally reached the top of the stairs, she was pleasantly surprised to see Draco by the balcony edge, peering out to a space below… at the edge of the Forbidden Forest.

Her happiness to see him faded when she figured he hadn’t come up there for company and he would probably think she was following him like some obsessed fan girl.

She sighed a long drawn out breath and decided to find a different spot… the courtyard maybe. But just as she was about to leave, he called out to her.

He knew full well who belonged to that particular sigh.

“Granger, this place is big enough for the two of us… should you want to stay.”

Oh, how his dark heart longed for her to stay. 

 

 






Author’s Note:

Bit of filler, but originally, I had Draco helping Lavender during a school debate, but I thought a Magical Art Gallery would be much more interesting and perhaps more original.  I do hope you like the Black Canvas Vaults and can see them as I see them in my head. : )  As you probably guessed, Draco and Hermione's vaults will actually be messages to each other.  But what will they say? Hmm.

Lots of Dramione action in the next chapter.

Please review!  Say anything!

Love you all,
Dark Whisper


P.S. An astounding 15,000 Reads and 113 have Favorited! Amazing!
WOW! THANK YOU! My heart soars! Please review!


 


Chapter 14: Wolves, Rabbits, and Snowy Constellations
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Hermione's heart felt like it had just doubled in size at the sound of his invitation to join him on the balcony of the Astronomy Tower.

Draco did not turn to greet her. Instead, he motioned for her to join him in seeing something that held his interest below.

She was cautious and quiet as she took her place close beside him, feeling as if she was walking into a dangerous dream.

His hand brushed lightly against the small of her back and the tingling sensation that shot from her spine made her back straighten abruptly and the tiny hairs on the back of her neck stand on end.

“Look there.” He whispered and pointed to the ground by the edge of the forest. “Wolves.”

She looked down and sure enough, below and to the left, there were at least three wolves and probably more hidden in the trees.

“And there.” He pointed to the far right. “A den of rabbits.”

It was dark, but she could see little dark dots against the stark white snow scurrying about, but staying close to their home.

“The interesting thing about wolves,” Draco explained. “Is that they could kill every last one of those rabbits if they wanted to. But they don’t. They only kill when they have to… to survive.”

He paused for a moment, still looking at the beautiful creatures below.

“Somehow, wolves don’t seem as vicious as I once thought them to be… only killing to survive.”

“Is that what you come here for? To watch wolves and rabbits?” She asked.

“Yes.” He replied quietly. But really, he was speaking of his orders to kill. He didn’t want to kill Dumbledore. But like the wolves, he had to do it… for his family to survive.

And he didn’t want that to mean that he was a vicious monster.

It was much too vague for her to catch on to what he was really talking about.

“And you? What brings you up here?” He asked.

“As lame as it might sound… the snowfall. The huge slow-moving flakes happen to be my favorite. I thought I might come up and watch for a while, before it’s gone. It’s very peaceful up here.”

She was elated that he invited her to stay. She was starving for his company ever since she walked away from him. And every time she saw his sad eyes meet hers, she wanted to see him smile again.

“Since you confessed a few things the last time we spoke, I have something to confess to you about this place.” She said with a sly grin.

“Really?” He said, being pulled out of his dark mood and instantly intrigued. “Do spill it.”

Their eyes met briefly, but she had to look away from him to continue for fear that she might lose all thoughts and forget what she was going to say.

When she turned from him, he couldn't help but notice the lovely red scarf around her neck. Thoughts of wanting to grab the scarf and pull her close entered his mind. But he was never one to react on impulse and was able to keep his hands to himself, at least for the time being.

“Well.” She started with an adorable look on her face. “When we came back to school our Third Year and you… changed a bit and shall we say, grew into a more mature look…” Her face turned a bit red trying to say it.

She was a young woman after all and she couldn’t help but notice his striking good looks back then. Even if she hated him at the time, she wasn’t blind.

He arched an eyebrow, loving how she squirmed under her words.

“Um. Well, I did some research in the library and I snuck up here one moonless evening to find your constellation in the night sky. I found it very poetic that you were named after a group of stars… and curiosity got the best of me.”

“Ah, yes.” Taking out his wand, he magically stopped some of the large snowflakes that were falling and pulled them in to hover above them. “Draco, Latin for Dragon.” He said as the snowflakes moved into the positions of the stars that made his constellation.

“Disowned Aunt Andromeda would be here.” He added more snowflakes and they moved perfectly into the position of where they would be in the sky… as a spiral galaxy.

“And disowned Cousin Sirius was the brightest star in the Dog Constellation.” He moved more snowflakes above them and positioned them perfectly for her.

The huge cottony-like flakes hovered above her just as the stars would appear in the night sky.

Hermione wondered how in the world the man standing so close to her could be so romantic without even trying. She was amazed and in awe of this rare natural talent of his.

“It’s beautiful.” She said of his hovering snowflake stars.

Her warm glowing expression was enough to melt his heart and heat the space around them.

“Will you continue it? Naming your children after heavenly beings?”

Watching her beautiful face still looking up at his snowy display, he immediately thought of the dead child from his dream and wondered if they had named their baby boy after the stars... before they buried him.

The utter sadness at the thought caused his snowy stars to stop their hovering and gently fall from their little sky.

Hermione hadn’t noticed his staring as she held out a hand to catch one of the falling stars. She was disappointed when she saw it melt into nothing against her warm skin.

“I don’t know.” He replied honestly.

“Well, I think that’s one family tradition that is worth continuing. It had me curious long ago as to what your constellation looked like.”

It amused him that she would confess an affection for him from such a long time ago.

“That was the same year that you hit me. I should’ve known. My mother told me that when girls hit boys, that really means they secretly like them.” He teased with a flirtatious smile that she had longed to see again.

“I hit you because you deserved it, not because I liked you!” She protested.

Draco thought of several creative come-backs that he could say to that, but instead he said something that surprised her.

He looked at her with all seriousness and in a deepened voice simply acknowledged, “I deserved much worse. If you want to curse me, go ahead. You’re the only one allowed. Here.” Draco quickly offered.

He stepped back and stretched out his long arms, as if welcoming the punishment.

“I’m ready. Go ahead. Be quick and aim straight to my chest.”

When she didn’t move, he continued his encouragement. “Come on now. Hurry up. I’m not going to stand like this all night. I know you want to.”

She looked at him from head to toe and back again, and then made a face as if she were in agony. She wanted to do many things to him at that particular moment, but cursing him did not make her list.

So very tempting. But unfortunately, it wouldn’t work. You have to mean it. And right now, if I aimed a Crucio straight at your heart, you wouldn’t feel a thing.”

“Is that because I have no heart?” He asked with his arms still outstretched.

“Oh, put your arms down.” She reached out and quickly pressed his arms downward.

He liked it that she touched him and he wanted her to do it again, but didn’t want it to end so quickly.

“Draco, seriously… I actually find myself worried about you. You’ve changed so much. You offer to take a Crucio from me. It seems that you no longer take enjoyment from insulting people, or even bother to play Quidditch. And you don’t even hang out with your friends anymore.”

“Blaise is now fully occupied with Astoria. Crabbe has become extremely quiet so talking to him is like talking to a stone. And the only thing Goyle wants to talk about is how much he wants a girlfriend. How’s that for intelligent conversation?”

He didn’t bother mentioning Pansy.

“But it’s more than that, isn’t it? Even in class it seems your mind is somewhere else… deep in thought.”

“Perhaps you watch me too closely.” He said as he returned slowly to the balcony’s edge to be closer to her. “Perhaps it’s just me growing out of my immature self and becoming an adult.”

“I’ll believe that in part. But something is weighing heavily on your mind. What is it?”

“Many things weigh on my mind, Granger. Not just one.”

She could only try to imagine what was bothering him, but she was sure that it was dark, probably depressing, but most definitely important to him. Whatever it was, she could tell that it had changed him and it took a powerful thing to alter someone’s behavior as much as it did his.

“Sometimes it helps to talk to someone.”

“Do you honestly think that I would actually tell you anything?” He said with more harshness than he intended.

“I think you want to. Otherwise, why have you told me so much already? Are you testing me to see if I’m trustworthy?”

When he didn’t answer, she continued.  “I will never expect you to tell me anything. But if you should ever want to talk, then I do promise to listen."

“Why would you do this? Why do you care what is on my mind?” He asked her with all seriousness.

Draco searched her eyes for truth in her answer, wondering if she truly cared.

She took a slow breath before answering, hoping that her words would come out right.

She looked up at him and saw troubled gray eyes staring into hers.

“Because sometimes, when you look at me… you have the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen.” She said just above a whisper. “Just as you are looking at me now.”

He was doing it… looking at her with such sad eyes she thought she might cry, not even knowing why.

She folded her hands to her chest. “Forgive me if I jump to conclusions, but sometimes you look at me as if you are telling me without words that you want to talk to me… that you want to spend time with me. It’s what draws me to you and makes me care about what is making you so sad.”

If she knew him at all, she knew he could be cold-hearted and cruel with his words. He was born with the ability. So in searching for an answer, she added, “If that is not true and I’ve read you wrong, then please… please do correct me gently.”

She took an uneasy breath, waiting for harsh words.

Her answer was unexpected and as sweet as her perfume and he had no reason to correct her. She was right in every way.

After what seemed like an eternity, he finally spoke his words carefully.

“I will not deny that there have been times when I have greatly desired your company. Because when you look at me, it's as if you understand me on a level deeper than anyone living here in this place.”

Sweet relief rushed over her at his words. He confirmed what she wanted to be true and to hear him actually admit and say it meant the world to her, but she felt the need to be cautious.

“It has me wanting to trust you. But please understand. I trust no one fully."

Hermione knew what he meant by that. It meant that there were things that he would never tell her. And she understood his unspoken rule, but it did not deter her from prying a little.

“You trusted me the night we got back from the holiday break. Will you trust me with what is weighing on your mind this very night that has you alone in the Astronomy Tower watching wolves and rabbits instead of enjoying what remains of your teenage life with your fellow Slytherins?”

Truthfully, Draco’s mind was constantly on over-drive. It had been like that for as long as he could remember. His mind was never a blank… never at peace.

“My mind never stops thinking, Granger. Sometimes I envy mindless people, like say… Weasley, who can take a break from it and not think at all. And I suspect that you and I have that in common… Our minds constantly thinking. I’m right, aren’t I?”

Hermione had no choice but to agree with that statement.

“Yes, but something tells me that things on my mind compared to yours are not the same shade of dark. I understand that there are things you will never talk to me about. But maybe you could tell me of one thing. It may feel good to just let it out and say it.”

He took a huge breath and turned to watch the snow falling ever so slowly to the ground. He couldn’t tell her anything about his dark task, or Death Eaters, or anything like that and so he told her something that he’d been thinking about that he deemed safe to tell her.

“Alright, Granger. I’ll tell you one thing that is weighing on my mind tonight. I don’t think of it often, but here goes... Are you ready? You’re not going to care about it at all.” He warned.

But she looked at him with a warm caring expression in her eyes that made him weak as she mouthed the words that no other person had ever said to him before… words that his soul was so desperate to hear.

I care… more than you could possibly know.”

And as if those were the 'magic words' to get him to speak his heart, he took a chance and opened up to her... just a little.

“As you might know, Sirius Black was the last Black in my mother’s family that could’ve passed on the Black name. He was the last. And now that he is gone, so is the name. There will be no more magical Blacks… ever.”

Hermione had never thought of that. He died with no heir and willed everything he had to Harry.

“And well, even though my father is still living, I don’t imagine him having another son. So… that would make me the last Malfoy.  The name will die out, exactly like my cousin, Sirius. He was the last Black. And if I don’t live to have a son, I’ll be the last Malfoy.”

“Oh.” Hermione was surprised that he thought such things. But then she quickly changed her mind. Of course he thought of such things. The man’s conversations were as deep and wide as the night sky. It’s one of the things that had her thinking that she could fall in love with him if she weren’t careful.

When other people his age were playing Wizard’s Chess, Quidditch, and card games, he was thinking of dying the last in his family line.

“The name will be listed in the magical history books and one day… no one will remember us. It will only be a name in a book. And I fear that one day that will be me at the end of the Malfoy line. The last name in a very long and medieval list. And it will say that I was a selfish, arrogant wizard with a talent for hurting people with my words without uttering a single curse.”

He took a long drawn out breath. “And I don’t think a soul would care.”

Hermione stood listening, unsure if she should say anything at all.

“Being the last got me thinking, Granger… about what I want to do before I die and there are no more Malfoys. I’ve come up with two things, but they don’t count because they are things that I cannot control. So, I’m curious. If you expected your life to end sooner than later, what would the great Hermione Granger want to experience before she dies?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t thought of it really.”

Hermione tried hard to think of something quickly. She tried to think of what she wanted most in her life.

“I try not to think of my mortality, but I suppose before I die... It might sound terribly clichéd, but I want to fall madly in love with someone so much that I’d be willing to live in a cardboard box with him, just so long as he would love me just as much.”

He laughed inside about living in a cardboard box, because that’s all he would be able to afford once he was disowned by his family for loving a Mudblood. But that wasn’t going to happen. He wouldn’t let it.

“That is something that you cannot control. Anything else? Something more realistic perhaps? Maybe a place that you’d want to go before you died? Something you want to see?” He pressed.

“Alright. There might be two places, but you mustn’t make fun.” She pleaded with an insecure crooked smile.

He thought her absolutely adorable.

“Alright. I promise.”

She let out a sigh and steeled herself.

“The Westminster Abbey and Tromso, Norway.”

He gave her an odd look of surprise.

“Before you die, you want to go to church and to one of the coldest places on Earth?” He began to tease.

She held up her pointer finger as if that alone could stop the insult from falling off the tip of his tongue.

“You promised.” She playfully reminded as his mouth moved into its adorable smirk.

“A promise I now regret, but I will uphold my word. Why those places?”

“Tromso, Norway because I’ve read that it is the best place to witness Aurora Borealis. I should like to see the Northern Lights in person before I die. Not in a picture, but actually see it for myself. And well, Tromso, Norway is a town that actually sits inside the Arctic Circle and therefore, is one of the best places on Earth to view one of the most magical experiences ever found in nature.”

Draco loved the idea, especially because it was actually in the realm of possibility and something that she could control and actually do.

“Interesting. Okay, then what about the Westminster Abbey? Going there to visit the tombs of England’s Kings and famous poets?” He guessed. “Tomb of the Unknown Warrior?”

“While that would be wonderfully educational and reflective, that’s not why I want to go there.”

“I’m listening.”

She sighed again, thinking he would make fun of her reason.

Draco’s head went down a bit. He knew that her apprehension was his own fault. How could she trust him at all?

“I swear to you that I will not make fun. Please tell me. You have me fully intrigued as to why something would be that important that you’d want to go there before you died. It would not be something to make fun of, no matter what it was.”

She still paused for a moment before saying anything.

“Well… I want to hear the choir sing a song... Agnus Dei by Samuel Barber.”

This surprised him. She wanted to hear a song before she died?

“I’m familiar with it… sung in Latin.” He acknowledged.

It was indeed, one of the most beautiful songs ever written by man. The first time Draco heard it, he wondered what experience the man had gone through that would inspire him to compose such a hauntingly beautiful piece of music. Given the time the composer wrote it, he figured it out rather quickly. The experience was war.

“Yes. Well, it is said that hearing the sounds of the choir at the Westminster Abbey singing Agnus Dei is a moving experience unlike any other.” She took a breath before continuing. “It slowly builds and builds to a height of power and glory and then drops abruptly to a calm and quiet peace. They say it sounds as if the Holy Angels are singing on our behalf. And I should like to experience it one day… at the Abbey.”

“How could I possibly make fun of such a beautiful thing?”

She glanced up at him and with the look on his face, she honestly wasn’t sure if he was talking about the song… or maybe her.

Draco Malfoy was once the boy who would look at her with disgust and disdain, but this older version of him looked at her with a respect and sincerity that would’ve been unbelievable had she not be standing there to witness it.

“Your choices are most excellent and very possible… beautifully simple and uncomplicated. Should you ever find the time and have the means, you should definitely do those things.” He gently encouraged, silently wishing he could be there with her if she ever went.

“So tell me.” She said with a smile. “What things did rich and powerful Draco Malfoy want to do before he died, but had no control over?”

He rubbed at his chin for a moment. It was then that she realized that he did it when he was a bit nervous. It showed a glimpse of vulnerability and she thought it adorable.

“Find someone that would know all of my faults and flaws and still love me enough to be willing to live in a cardboard box with me, so long as I loved her as much.”

He gave her a warm smile that lit up her soul. And his words… playful but also sincere had her heart loving him, even though her mind told her she shouldn’t be.

Oh, how he loved how her eyes sparkled at his answer.

“That and witness the birth of my child so I could maybe name him after the stars…and see him grow old enough to get his Hogwarts letter.”

His smile faded and she noticed his eyes returned to their sad state.

“You see the error in my thoughts? None of it matters, as they are things I cannot control.”

“Oh, but they do matter, Draco.” She said with loving kindness. “Just because you cannot control them, doesn’t mean they are insignificant or meaningless. Those things have everything to do with a hopeful future. Doing the things we can control before we die would be wonderful, but it’s the things that we cannot control that truly give us hope and it’s hope that helps us along when we need it most… by giving us something to live for.”

Her words resonated in his mind. ‘Something to live for.’

Draco wondered if a person could fall in love with someone just by the things that they said. Because at that moment he felt nothing but love for the woman standing beside him as she spoke words that made him want to cling to a hopeful future, no matter how dark it was.

“I may or may not ever visit the Westminster Abbey or see the Northern Lights in the night sky. But I will cling to the hope that I will find someone that knows 'all of my faults and flaws and loves me anyway,' as you said it. Because the experience of that kind of unconditional love would make the other amazing and beautiful things pale in comparison.”

He didn’t want to say it, but he wasn’t exactly convinced that ‘unconditional love’ actually existed, but it sure sounded nice… if it were real.

“Sights and sounds of beauty cannot hold me and keep me warm at night.” She added. “They cannot make me feel safe or protected or make me feel important or wanted… or loved. And they offer no cure for loneliness. So yes, before I die, it is love and full acceptance above all else. And so, I hope. I find no error in your thoughts.”

There was a pause between them as they both pondered this… this beautiful conversation between two people that were not meant to discuss such things as love and hope.

Draco wanted nothing more than to be that person for her, the one that would keep her warm and make her feel safe, protected, important, wanted, and loved… even if it were in a cardboard box.

He thought... of all the places in the world of wonder and beauty, the only place he wanted to be at that very moment in time was in the Astronomy Tower with Hermione Granger.

And as far as loneliness, if it were in his true power to do so, he would take her hand and they would never be lonely again.

Her hand was so very close.

But Draco thought if he were to take her hand, where would he lead her? Down a path of secrecy and eventual destruction? Love her only to break her heart when she found out that the hand holding hers was mere inches away from the mark of a Death Eater?

“You are correct in everything you have said.” He agreed. “But I must stick to things that are in my control, as I fear that hope is much too dangerous and will only disappoint me in the end.”

“What kind of life is one without hope? I couldn’t imagine it.” She asked with concern coming straight from her heart.

He closed his eyes briefly and didn’t answer her. He was thinking of the few words in the English language that could describe how he felt deep inside without hope.

Dread… Emptiness beyond measure… Like a piece of his soul was dying… or already dead.

He could only shake his head no and bite at his lip. He wasn’t going to voice those things.

She wasn’t sure why, but something deep within her told her to stop. She could see from his reaction to her question about hope that it had touched a nerve within him and it looked to be dangerous territory.

Perhaps she had gone too deep with her questioning and needed to back off.

Realizing that she honestly had no idea what he was going through or what in his life had taken away his hope for a good future… one that had him thinking about death and dying and what he wanted to do before he died, she voiced in her head, “My, God! What has happened to you?”

What utter sadness he must be feeling in having no hope. It made her want to cry for him.

She realized then that there was most likely nothing she could do for him or his situation. But she could try to lift his spirits somehow, someway to make him feel better.

Her mind raced.

“Are you really concerned that you will be the last Malfoy?” She asked trying to look into his eyes.

But he quickly turned from her, leaning on the balcony, and peering down at the wolves again.

“I suppose. Maybe. I don’t know. It’s just strange to think about my place in the magical world is all. It’s lonely at the end of the line.” He huffed.

“Well, in that case… since you are so worried about it, you give me no choice.” She said as if completely serious. “I promise that if we ever become the two LAST magical people on Earth, then I’ll go ahead and have your child so that you won’t be the last Malfoy.” She teased.

His head snapped to her in disbelief, eyes wide. She was teasing him about having a child with him! He was in such shock, it rendered him speechless.

She continued her teasing by rambling on and on and pretending to think it all out logically.

“Of course, we would have to be the very last magical people for me to agree to such a thing. But I guess by then it wouldn’t matter if you were the last because there wouldn’t be anyone remaining that would care. And then of course that would leave a very interesting conundrum…”

She looked straight into his eyes and even though she was teasing, she asked him a very serious question.

“Which is more important to you? For you to die the last Pure-blood Malfoy or sacrifice your Pure-blood line to keep the Malfoy name from dying? If you’d rather die than have half-blood children, then it would spare me a whole lot of agony and pain and I wouldn’t have to go through with the repulsive act of having sex with you.”

Draco couldn’t keep himself from grinning. He started chuckling and it quickly grew into a full blown laugh.

She just stood there smiling, wondering which scenario he would choose.

But for whatever reason, Draco abruptly stopped laughing and glared at her.

“First off, you started with the nicest thing that someone has ever offered to do for me, but then you end it by saying that you would find sex with me repulsive.”

“Well which is it?” She pressed. “Have the Malfoy name live on or let it die pure?”

“My mother would disown me just like she did her own sister. My father would rather watch me die than defile the Malfoy name. But my grandfather, Abraxas Malfoy would tell me differently.”

“I’m not interested in what they think. I want to know what you think.”

He knew the answer, of course. Thoughts of her carrying his child were nothing new to him.

He stepped to her and grabbed the end of her pretty red scarf that was still wrapped around her dainty little neck.

Slowly he began wrapping the end of it around his hand... around and around. And when there was no slack remaining, he ever-so-slightly pulled on it, drawing her closer to him.

Her breath caught and her knees felt weak at what he was doing. She was so caught up in the moment that all logical thoughts had ceased except for one... him kissing her.

She wondered if he was going to do it. Was he drawing her near to kiss her? Was this the moment when he would finally press his lips to hers and kiss her like she wanted to be kissed?

Or was he angry with her for merely suggesting that a Mudblood have a child with the Pureblood Slytherin Prince?

Was this the time when he would say something so horrible that it would slice her heart clean in two?

She could not predict what he was going to do.

The anticipation of a kiss coupled with the dread of a verbal assault had her heart fluttering and her very soul trembling.

He felt her tense up and noticed that her breaths had become shallow.

Could it be that the one with so much bravery was afraid of him? Perhaps she should be, he thought.

But then he worried that maybe the scarf became too tight around her neck and he really was hurting her. He didn't mean to.

If it was too tight, she wasn't feeling it.

They were so close. The very threads of their clothing were now touching.

“I know you are teasing, but let me be very clear." He said in a rough voice as his warm breath touched her cheek.

"I’d rather die the last Malfoy on Earth than force you into doing something that repulsed you.”

Hermione snapped her head away from him slightly as his words shocked her... shocked her tormented soul with relief as the lashing she fully expected did not come... but neither did his kiss.

The snapping of her head exposed the slender tendon in her neck. And if it weren't for her red scarf getting in the way, Draco thought he might devour her with a vampire's rage.

When Hermione could form a complete sentence, her head turned back to him, but she could not look at him in the eyes. She had to either close them or settle on a spot just above his heart.

He had not answered her question. Even though she was teasing, she was hoping for an answer that never came.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t tell if I’ve made you feel better by taking your mind off sad things or if I’ve made you angry with me. Honestly, if I only add weight to your burdens, then I’m so very sorry.”

Draco could not recall anyone expressing such genuine concern for him. She genuinely wanted to know what was bothering him and she was truly trying to lift his spirits and make him feel better.

With her head down, she felt her scarf fall to her waist as he released her.

She stayed close to him though, unmoving as his hand went to her chin and lifted her face to his.

He looked into her eyes with his sad face and whispered to her.

"You are so very correct that there are things that have happened and things that are to come that weigh heavily on my mind. Extreme dark things. War. Death. And what I must do to survive it all."

Hermione began feeling completely lost in his eyes and in the words that he was saying. He was giving her a mere glimpse into what was making him so sad without any details.

"But then there is you." He said at her cheek. “My mind constantly wanders into the darkest of places imaginable. But even so, your very presence... comforts me."

Hermione could no longer keep her hands to herself as she placed soft fingertips to his face… his gorgeous, troubled, sad face.

Her touch was so loving and tender that it made him close his eyes and desperately want that child of theirs… a child that didn’t even exist except in her teasing and in his dream.

They stood there for a few delicate moments, long enough for him to engrave her touch into his mind, wondering why in the world it was so wrong to love her… this wonderfully kind and caring person that was sorry if she had added to his troubles.

Her touch made him so weak, his hands began to tremble. He wanted to touch her, but dare not.

He was fighting a losing battle. His emotions were quickly seizing control of his actions.

She brushed his bottom lip with her thumb, which caused him to press his lips to it and kiss it lightly.

And just before he did what his soul was aching to do, he reached up and took hold of her wrists and gently removed her fingers from his face.

For a split second, she thought she felt his hands tremble when he took her wrists, but quickly assumed it was because they were so cold from the winter air.

“You know, it is really difficult for me to hate you when you do that.” He smiled as he opened his eyes.

She let out a giggle. He couldn’t have broken the tension more perfectly.

“Sorry.” She replied as if embarrassed by her actions.

“Don’t ever apologize to me. I’m the one that should apologize to you.”

“For what exactly?”

“Everything.” He said as he moved away from her to leave.

She thought that it meant he was sorry for the past and how he had treated her.

But he meant so much more than that.

He was sorry that he couldn’t have a relationship with her. Sorry that in war, they would not be on the same side. Sorry for who he was… a Malfoy and a Death Eater.

But above all, he was sorry that he would never be able to tell her that he loved her.

Yes, he was sorry for everything.

“I find it unfortunate that we only spoke of what was bothering me tonight. Perhaps one day you will trust me with what has been bothering you.”

She tried not to react, but it was too late. She had already taken a slight gasp and her eyes grew wide in surprise. Before she could deny it and tell him that she was perfectly well and fine, he was saying his goodbye and leaving her.

“Enjoy your snowfall, Granger.” He said coolly as he tore his eyes from hers and disappeared into the darkness of the tower steps skipping several as he went and practically jumping from them to get a safe distance from her.

Over the last few weeks, she and Weasley had come around to being friends again, something that he had predicted would happen. And even though their relationship had mended, there was still something bothering her.

It wasn’t about Weasley and it wasn’t about her parents either. It was something else. He could see it in her own moments of being distant and in her own sad eyes.

He suspected that whatever it was, it had been bothering her when they were together on the train. And it was bothering her still.

Hermione couldn’t decide whether she was disappointed that he was gone or relieved that he left when he did.

He could’ve pressured her into talking about what was making her sad, but she was so very thankful that he didn’t.

How could she tell him that even though he said that her blood status no longer mattered to him personally, that it mattered more to her now than it ever did before?

Because somewhere in the deepest depths of her heart, she dared hope that whatever it was that they had between them would grow into a relationship more meaningful than she’d ever known. And it would be then that her blood status would eventually matter.

She peered out over the balcony at the huge snowflakes still falling. They were coming down faster now and the temperature of the air seemed to have dropped ten degrees at his leaving.

She looked below to see three wolves tearing at the flesh of a rabbit, but she quickly looked away not wanting to witness the savagery and horror of the bloody scene.

As Hermione made her way down the stairs to her room, she thought Draco was wrong.

Wolves were vicious creatures, regardless of their reason for killing.

He hated leaving her, but it was extremely late and they had a full load of classes the next day. He had a feeling that if he didn’t end their conversation, she would’ve stayed up all night with him until they saw morning, which wouldn’t have been such a terrible thing.

As he made his way down an empty and quiet hall heading to the Slytherin dorm, something caught his eye that had him stopping dead in his tracks at a newly finished Black Canvas Vault.

It was her name on a nameplate at the bottom of it.

'HERMIONE GRANGER'.

He looked up and gazed over the large black iron vault, her pictograms surrounded by a border of flowers. But at closer look, he could see that the flowers were drooping and wilted. It was as if the flowers were alive, but sad and dying.

To her credit, the pictograms were extremely difficult to figure out, but he stood there patiently studying her clues and sounding out the possibilities in his head. When he finally figured it out, his heart sank in his chest at her heart-wrenching and extremely personal message.

"One Word. One Truth makes me the less and sends the daggers.
With so much hate, does a Dark Heart have room for love?"

He wanted to run away from it, but his feet would not move. He had to know what was in that vault. He couldn't leave without knowing.

He had solved the message, but he needed to guess the password key that would open the vault.

He read the first part again. "One Word. One Truth." He was searching his mind for the word, scanning the clues she had left him.

He asked himself, "What one word would hurt her like a dagger?"

The answer came fast and furious. It was a word that he had called her many times. A word that had inflicted pain as if he held the dagger himself, stabbing her heart every time he said it.

He now hated the word and even though he didn't want to ever say it again, here he was saying it as the password key to open her vault.

"Mudblood." He uttered sorrowfully.

In half a second, it made a loud click and just like a real iron vault door, it slowly creaked open.

What he found inside held his gaze and he could not stop staring at it.

It was a Muggle picture of her... a beautiful moment frozen in time.

He reached out and traced the edge of her pretty jaw line to her chin then across her lips with careful fingers… the lips that he wanted to kiss in the hopes that it would take her pain away.

But that's right about the time when he noticed what she was holding. It was a book, but not just any book.

She was holding Delilah's Black Book of Poems close to her heart as if it were precious to her… further evidence that her vault’s message was to him.

He could've stood there forever looking at her beautiful still face, mesmerized by the frozen look in her eyes that spoke of how she cared for him without saying a word.

Of all the woman he had been with, even those at parties that would flirt with him, send him graphic love notes, or try to slip him love potions… none of them ever looked at him like that.

They all wanted something… to use him for sex, money, status, or whatever selfish reason.

None of them ever really gave a damn.

Except her.

After being hypnotized by her likeness for several long minutes, he did something he knew he wasn't supposed to do and he didn't care.

He stole it.

After shrinking it down to wallet size, he closed the vault and it clicked back into its locked position.

With her picture hidden on the inside pocket of his robe, directly over his heart, Draco looked up at her vault once again and pondered her message.

It was him that had sent the daggers. And apparently he had cut her much deeper than he originally thought. And even though he had told her that her blood status no longer mattered to him, the scars remained.

As Draco lie in bed studying her face by candlelight, he thought of the words of her vault and wondered.

How does one apologize for causing such wounds?

Perhaps the answer lied somewhere in the second part of her message.

“Does a Dark Heart have room for love?”

Still lying down, Draco reached over and pulled out the drawer of his night stand that held a quill and parchment as he became inspired to write down ideas for his black canvas vault. He would make it extremely difficult for anyone to figure out his vault and password key.

He thought of what he wanted to put inside the vault, should she figure it out. It would not be a picture. It would be a letter for her eyes only.

He recalled her talk of hope and the words came easily and straight from his heart.

When he was finished, he put a spell on the parchment to conceal his words until he could complete the vault. He put it back in his nightstand and hid her picture inside his pillow for the night. And with a quick wave of his hand, the candle went out and Draco went to sleep.

But in the morning, Hermione was woken by a frantic Ginny Weasley.

“Hermione, wake up.” She heard as she was rudely shaken and pulled from her slumber.

Forcing her eyes open and noticing that the sun had just risen, she pleaded. “What? No. I want to sleep.”

“No!” Ginny said worried. “You must wake. Ron’s been poisoned!”

 






Author's Note:

Hope you enjoyed his snowy constellations.... ahh... how romantic.
And now we know of Hermione’s vault. What will his say?


Merry Christmas to all and have a safe and happy New Year.

Love to all,
Dark Whisper

P.S. My eyes are amazed... 17,300 reads. Incredible. Thank you from my heart!

Also, "Agnus Dei" by Samuel Barber... beautiful.  I've been listening to it and getting inspired.  It will come up later, as you might guess. *winks* 


Chapter 15: The Art in Dark Arts
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Ron had been accidentally poisoned in Slughorn’s office when he drank oak-aged mead meant for someone else.

Harry had saved him by acting quickly and shoving the antidote in Ron’s mouth. And even though all of the drugs in his system had made him very weak… the Love Potion, the poison, and the two antidotes to combat both, Ron would be okay and make a full recovery.

When word got around to Draco, he skipped lunch and headed straight for his room.

He had to consume seven liquor sticks before his hands would stop shaking.

“It wasn’t meant for you.” He said through gritted teeth as he popped opened another. “You stupid git!”

It was Draco that had switched the bottle of mead that was to be gifted to Dumbledore with one laced with poison. But Slughorn had procrastinated for whatever reason and had not given it to Dumbledore at Christmas.

Draco downed another liquor stick as thoughts of Katie Bell also entered his mind. He didn’t mean for her to get hurt either. She was just supposed to deliver the necklace. It was supposed to be simple. She wasn’t supposed to get hurt.

Guilt and fear tore at Draco’s insides. He didn’t want this. He didn’t want any of it. Students had almost died because of him.

They were unwilling, unknowing, accidental players in a sick and dangerous game whose entire purpose was to kill Dumbledore without having to actually face him or watch him die. 

It was supposed to be the safest way. 

He took out Hermione's picture that he'd hidden the night before and as soon as he saw her face, he spoke to her... a silent conversation in his mind.  

"I'm so sorry." He said to her caring eyes.  "One day you'll know it was me who did this and you will never forgive me."

Lunchtime was nearly over and so he began to concentrate on his breathing so that his heart rate would slow down.  The alcohol was taking too long and he needed to act like nothing was wrong.

Draco downed one more liquor stick and tucked her picture into his suit jacket before heading to class nearly drunk, not wanting to look or act guilty or remorseful about anything.

But Blaise knew what he had done. He could see it in Draco’s glossy eyes and the way he sat half-slumped over in his seat. He bit his lip, not liking what Draco was doing.

By dinner, Ron was back to his old self. Only it appeared he was more hungry than normal as he stuffed his face like a starved dog.

Draco was quite relieved, but could only eat bread as his stomach turned into knots with fear of being found out.

Blaise shot Draco a knowing look. “Everything’s fine, mate.” He tried to reassure his friend in a short conversation that only they could hear.

“No, Blaise. Everything is not fine.” He replied discreetly as his eyes moved to meet Hermione’s looking at him from across the House tables.

He broke the gaze and looked down at the bread on his plate. It reminded him of his late night bread meal in the kitchen with her.

He picked some up and started eating, forcing it down with pumpkin juice.

“Potter will duel me again, Blaise. But the next time it won’t be chaperoned by professors and we won’t have an audience of peers cheering us on. He is rightfully suspicious and will challenge me. It’s only a matter of time.”

No. He’s supposed to be a good man.” Blaise replied with sarcasm.

“Good men have their limits. I have the patience of a saint, while he walks on edge, about to explode. He suspects me and is one of the few that has the guts to confront me.”

“It’ll do you good to prepare then, instead of walking around half lit. I know what you did today, mate. And I don’t think it was the wisest choice.” Blaise said of Draco’s alcohol binge.

“I'll do what I must.” He replied getting up to leave, not liking the lecture.


Three days later, the scores were in.

Draco was the only person able to open Hermione’s vault.

And she, being the brightest witch of their age had solved every vault except one… Draco Malfoy’s.

It had driven her half-crazy trying to solve it. She knew she was close, but the final piece eluded her and time was up.

There was no doubt that she would win for opening the most vaults and Draco would win for best design difficulty as his was the only one unable to be opened.

It was no wonder. Draco and Hermione didn’t intend for anyone to open their vaults… except each other. Hermione’s was a message to him. And Draco’s was a message to her. They made it so with their exceptionally difficult pictograms.

If there was an award for beauty, it would’ve been Draco’s. The design of it had a border that depicted snakes lying in Celtic knot pattern of eternal love and the pictograms were beautiful with exquisite details. And as if that weren’t enough, each verse of the riddle was its own lock that actually moved as if it were really unlocking. It was an amazing piece of artwork.

Ronald Weasley stuck with something easy. He didn’t want to think about it too much. Truthfully, he just wanted it to be done so he could enjoy the extra free time allotted by the suspended curfew.

His spoke of Quidditch with the vault key very simply being “Quidditch.” It opened to reveal one of his most prized possessions… an autographed Quidditch bat that someone had anonymously given him at Christmas. He wanted everyone to see it.

Harry’s was a little more complicated and personal. It was about a child missing his parents. The vault key was “Orphan” and it opened to reveal the moving picture of his parents holding him when he was very young.

When Hermione solved it, she let out a whisper. “Oh, Harry.” She said as she felt sorry for her friend, wondering if the hole in his heart for his parents could ever be filled.

She noticed that Draco was only bothering to decipher the vaults from fellow Slytherin students, as if no other House existed. It was just like him to do such a pompous irritating thing.

One vault had Draco laughing hysterically. It was quite disruptive as everyone had been deathly quiet holding their clipboards and trying to concentrate on deciphering pictograms and opening vaults. When she looked down the hall toward him to see what was so hilarious, she saw Draco and Blaise exchanging high-fives and Slytherin handshakes.

When she got to the vault that had him laughing, she quickly scribbled the words on her clipboard as she deciphered it. And when she finally read it to herself, she too was struggling to keep her chuckling to a minimum.

It was Blaise’s vault.

“What’s so funny?” Asked Ron.

Hermione deciphered the pictogram for him.

“Pansy Parkinson tried to play Quidditch,
But got hit in the throat by a bludger.
Pansy ended up losing her voice
And Draco lived happily ever after.”

She gave another muffled chuckle, trying to be quiet.

The ‘happily ever after’ part had her guessing the vault key.

“Bliss?” She asked it. Sure enough, it opened to reveal of moving photo of Pansy. You couldn’t hear what she was saying of course, but she had a scowl on her face and her mouth was moving fast, complaining about something.

It made Hermione cover her hand over her mouth as she giggled.

She looked to the side then to see that Draco had been watching her reaction. He had that flirty smirk on his face.

Hermione returned a half smile, but it was short lived as she took her place, clipboard in hand, ready to decipher the next Black Canvas Vault.

But she was finding it difficult to concentrate on anything, knowing that his eyes were on her.

Draco had been watching her, smiling on the inside. As others struggled with the vaults and giving up, she was clearly head and shoulders above the rest, being quite the intelligent problem solver.

He did not have the ambition to decipher every one of them like she did. He decided that academic awards didn’t have much meaning to him anymore.

It was just one more thing that no longer mattered.

 

By the time Valentine’s Day came around, the school was a buzz of whispers about ‘unofficial awards’ for cutest couple, best new couple, and even couples that should probably break it off and see someone else. But this year, news of a different kind of award surfaced and spread like wildfire throughout Hogwarts.

It was a special award they were calling the “Dark Valentine” and the recipients of this award were none other than Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger. It was “the couple most likely to kill each other” award.

When word got to Hermione, she simply rolled her eyes and said, “Hogwarts has a comedian. Lovely.”

Outwardly, she seemed indifferent as if the comment meant nothing. But inside, she was smiling at the title. People thought they hated each other and it would be true if nothing had changed between them.

But everything had changed. Everything.

She thought of a more appropriate title for them… the couple whose relationship was doomed before it ever started. Or… the couple with the secret affection that will never go anywhere accept in her dreams. No, that title was much too long.

She let out a long sigh when she realized that there was no need for a title. They were no couple of any sort and they never would be one.


When Draco was told of the title, the Slytherin men from First to Seventh Years were all crowded in the common room in their tuxedos waiting for their ladies to complete their last minute finishing touches before the start of the Gala.

It was quite a gorgeous site, really… young Slytherin men dressed to the nines.

Dressing up made them stand taller, take pride in themselves, and just downright feel good.

The manly group radiated even more confidence than usual.

It amused Draco how much respect, or fear maybe, that his fellow Slytherins showed him in the most subtle of ways. A perfect example of this was Draco’s favorite leather chair. He didn’t own it, but everyone knew it to be his.

Usually, people would not use it, preferring to stand just in case Draco walked into the common room. And if there was someone in it when he walked in, they immediately moved out of it.

This had been happening for years, including older students when he was younger.

He thought of his history at the school and the only time he remembered demanding that someone get out of that chair was sometime during his Second Year. That was a long time ago and it must’ve made an impression somehow.

He was sitting quietly in his chair surrounded by all the noise, thinking of all the special occasions throughout his years at Hogwarts and especially, how much he was going to miss it when his deadline approached… now only three months away.

This would be his last formal occasion. The thought made him feel a bit nostalgic and definitely sad. He knew he would never return, not even to graduate.

He felt that particular rite of passage was being involuntarily taken from him just like so many other things.

It would all be over soon.

He never thought he would be sad about leaving Hogwarts. He was supposed to be uncaring and indifferent. But if he were honest about it, he would have to admit that he loved the place.

Even with the noise of the people surrounding him, he studied the Slytherin common room to engrave it into his mind. The green glow of the Black Lake above them, the massive fireplace, every ornate carving of the arches and the columns, and the chandeliers hanging above them.

He wanted to be able to close his eyes and see every detail, because in a few short months, he would never see it again.

“Hey, Malfoy.” Someone shouted, catching his attention.

“Have you heard? You and Mudblood Granger have been dubbed a couple.” Cole Devlin hollered out for everyone to hear.

Everyone heard this and the entire common room grew quiet, waiting for his reaction. They all thought he might be furious at the joke aimed directly at him.

For a split second he feared that someone had found out his true feelings for her and he was going to have to openly deny everything and insult her for good measure. He knew that whatever Devlin was talking about, he would have to choose his words and actions carefully.

Outwardly, he remained un-phased and un-moving.

“What in the bloody hell are you talking about?” He asked threateningly.

“Blaise and Astoria got voted Best New Couple. But you and Mudblood got voted for what’s being called the Dark Valentine.” He laughed. “You two are… ‘The couple most likely to kill each other’!”

Draco sat silently as he let the comment fully register as all eyes awaited his reaction.

His lips moved to his signature smirk and he nodded as if he were amused. When he began a deep, rough, sinister laugh, others joined in his laughter as if to pause and make sure it was okay with him first.

He played along with the joke and with a voice full of sarcasm replied, “Kill each other? Someone at Hogwarts actually thinks I wouldn’t win that duel?” He remarked with a huff and shook his head as if it were the most absurd thing he’d ever heard. He waved it off as if the subject didn’t warrant further discussion.

The noise began again as everyone went back to their conversations.

But when he had a minute to think about it, he immediately changed the title in his mind to one not too far from the original version. To him, they were “The couple most likely to be killed for loving each other.”

Yes. That was much more appropriate. Loving her would get him killed. It would be a violation against everything a Death Eater stood for. He would be considered worse than a normal Blood Traitor.

Loving a Mudblood who was also a member of the Order and not to mention the best friend of the Dark Lord’s worst enemy would carry a death sentence.

Voldemort would call it a Death Eater ‘honor killing.’

Draco became lost in a vision for a moment. Instead of being surrounded by students in their black tuxedos, Draco suddenly saw them as black-hooded silver masked Death Eaters.

They were surrounding him in a circle, preparing to torture him before sending the final blow.

Blaise saw Draco’s facial expression change from blank to one of dread, almost sickly.

He was about to say something to intervene, but Draco was pulled out of his vision with the sound of applause and wolf whistles as the ladies finally appeared in their stunning formal evening gowns.

Draco refocused his attention as Pansy stepped into the crowd of men and made her way to him as the leader and star of the show.

This was her event after all and she had to wear something that stood out. She looked very good in a colorful floor-length gown in what reminded Draco of a dark-toned stained glass window. It was very artsy and would look formal and respectful enough to impress the officials from the Museum of Magical Art.

She was dressing to impress them, not Draco.

 

Reluctantly and with much hesitation, Hermione had said yes to a date that had been arranged by the Patil sisters. He was a Seventh Year Hufflepuff, Vaden Sharpe. He was tall and gorgeous with his smooth raven hair and dashingly bright royal blue eyes.

But she wasn’t really interested in him. And truthfully, he wasn’t that interested in her either. But they both agreed and it would have to be good enough.

But she was not dressing up for him nor was she nervous for him. She was quite calm and melancholy.

In her heart, she was dressing for Draco… the one her heart wanted to be with, but couldn’t.

She was thinking of him as she showered, wanting his touch and his embrace as she felt the steamy water fall against her skin. She tilted her head a little and allowed the warm liquid to touch and enter her mouth. She tasted it, trying to imagine what it would be like if it were his warm tongue brushing slowly against hers.

She was disappointed to find that water was certainly no substitute for a kiss. She felt silly to think such thoughts.

When she was out of the shower, she dried and pinned up her hair half up and half down. Using pins with shiny rhinestones on the ends, she situated them just so and curled the rest in long pretty ringlets. She liked the result, looking as if she had tiny stars in her dark hair.

She hoped that he would like them.

She thought of Draco as she slipped on the dress that she bought with his taste in mind, hoping he would like it and hoping to match him.

It was Draco that she was dressing for… not her date.

She painted her fingernails a pretty pearly pink that matched her lip gloss.

She wanted to look pretty for her Prince… a Prince that she could never have. But she did it anyway… for him.

As she put the finishing touch on her elegant and sophisticated look, a beautiful choker around her dainty neck, she looked at herself in the mirror and studied what Draco would see.

“Will you think I’m pretty, my Dark Valentine?” She whispered to the mirror, hoping that he would see her and realize that she had dressed for him.


The Gala Awards Ceremony was about to start. All of the students dressed for the occasion. It was a very special event that went surprisingly well with Valentine’s Day.

The students were guessing at who would win the awards and which House would win the most points. Of course there were students who truly didn’t care, but most were really excited.

Draco was scanning the place for Hermione, but didn’t see her until all of the students had taken their seats at large round banquet tables.

As fate would have it, Draco and Hermione inadvertently took seats facing each other from across the dining hall.

She saw him first and was a bit mesmerized by his gorgeous looks. How can one always look so formal and proper on any given day, but somehow still manage to step it up for formal occasions?

When his gray eyes looked up to find hers, he gave that ever-so-serious look that took her breath.

They would exchange stares and glares from a distance.

Pansy misinterpreted their glaring like everyone else.

“Draco dear, I see you’ve noticed your favorite person.” She sneered in sarcasm.

Draco let out a huff and thought to himself. ‘If you only knew.’

“Casting evil stares at each other and looks that could kill? How appropriate for ‘The couple most likely to kill each other.’” She laughed mockingly.

“Shut up.” He said fully irritated beyond the norm.

Pansy chuckled again. “I think it’s hilarious. Although, I do find it disturbing to call you two a couple of any sort.”

Draco gave her look of warning.

As fellow Slytherin, Theodore Nott crossed his path, he couldn’t help but take the rare opportunity to poke fun.

“Hey, Malfoy. Where’s that Mudblood Valentine of yours? Have you sacked her like Seborah yet?  I imagine her to be a real howler, eh?” He said too loudly, then laughed.

At first, Draco remained calm and cool despite the fire that flared in his head.

But in a blink, he had drawn his wand and sent a spell that grabbed Nott's tie.  Draco jerked it with a force that had Nott dropping to his knees and gasping for breath.

“It’s not in your best interest to make fun of a Malfoy, Nott.” Blaise remarked as Nott's face turned a dangerous shade of red from a temporary lack of oxygen and embarrassment as he stood back up.

Draco was able to keep his eyes off Granger for about ten minutes after the episode. But after that, he couldn’t resist and his eyes found hers again. He tried to distract himself by getting drinks for him and Pansy.

He wanted her to meet him at the punch fountain, but she didn’t. He thought it might be fun to pick a fight with her in front of everyone to get them both kicked out so maybe they could find their way to be alone again.

They certainly were not glaring at each other because of hatred. On the contrary, it was a desire and a hunger for each other that gave a shout that only they could hear. They didn’t need special powers of telepathy to know exactly what the other was feeling. They needed to see each other again… alone… before the night was over.


The Gala Awards Ceremony went perfectly. Pansy Parkinson and Lavender Brown were doing a wonderful job as co-hosts, announcing awards and points, taking turns with their announcements.

When Hermione stood to receive her award for opening the most vaults, Draco couldn’t take his eyes off her.

He noticed that she had indeed, dressed for him, wearing a full length gown of the darkest of all fabrics… black velvet.

She looked sophisticated, classy, and downright gorgeous.

When he went up to accept his award for design difficulty, they had to pass each other.

Everyone in the place hushed, wondering if the two would start fighting because of their newly appointed titles, but to everyone’s disappointment, they did nothing of the sort.

Instead, he did the only other thing that would've been accepted as normal.  He ignored her completely as if she didn't exist.

At the end of the Gala, Pansy Parkinson and Lavender Brown made their way to the podium for one last award before closing the art ceremony that would mark the start of the Valentine’s Day dance.

Lavender happily went to the podium, clearly in her element in front of the entire school. “Before we announce the last award, I would like to say something on a very personal note.”

She went on to thank the committee for their tireless efforts in making the art event such a success and when she thanked Pansy for the opportunity, she said something very peculiar.

“I just want to thank Pansy Parkinson, especially. She chose me to be the Assistant Director and honestly… I never expected that she would choose me or give me the time of day in a million years.”

Draco’s eyes grew wide and he almost choked on his drink as her words repeated in his head.

It was a common exaggerated expression, but that so happened to be the same exact expression that the girl who Poly Juiced herself into looking like Pansy actually said to him.

“You wouldn’t choose me or give me the time of day in a million years.”  The unknown girl had said, squirming underneath his weight.

It was her. Draco was convinced it had been Lavender Brown that had climbed into bed with him disguised as Pansy, wanting to feel loved!

Blaise saw his reaction and gave Draco a questioning look.

He had told his best friend about what had happened long ago. “Poly Juice girl.” He said so that only he could here.

It was Blaise’s turn to look shocked. “Brown?”

“Positive.”

The more he mulled it around in his head, the more he became convinced. He had suspected a Gryffindor and now thinking of how mental and obsessive she was, Lavender Brown was a perfectly fit piece into that disturbing puzzle.

“Are you going to confront her?” Blaise asked just under a breath.

Draco gave a shoulder shrug, undecided.


Once Lavender was finally finished with her speech, Pansy took over the last and final award.

“I am so very pleased to announce one last award for… ‘Best of Show.’ The Museum of Magical Arts would like to not only display this amazing work at the museum for an extended period of time, but they are offering full scholarship should this student pursue a career in art. I am so pleased that this honor has been bestowed upon a Hogwarts student from this show.”

"This special honor goes to..."  Lavender joined Pansy then as the two read from a single parchment. 

"Seventh Year, Vaden Sharpe of Hufflepuff for his sculpture titled, ‘The Dragon.’

The students erupted in applause as Hermione’s date made his way to the front.

His enormous life-size sculpture of a Norwegian Ridgeback Dragon was magnificent and would be on display for all the wizarding world to see and admire for years to come. After he had sculpted it to perfection, he used the magical paint of the First Years to paint it to life stunning accuracy. And he used scraps from the glass from the Fourth Years for the dragon’s eyes, teeth, and talons.

Every student in the place loved it, except for one.

Draco despised it. But that was only because it reminded him of the ceiling mural at home. Vaden might as well have gone ahead and sculpted the witch with her “Purus Cruor” banner to accompany the perfect dragon. He hated the reminder and couldn’t stand to look at it.

Pansy and Lavender then invited the rest of the event committee to the front where all of them received a standing ovation from all the students, faculty, and museum officials in attendance, recognizing them for their wonderful efforts in pulling off such an amazing event.

Photographers from the Daily Prophet were working frantically to get their pictures for the headline articles that would appear in the magical newspaper the next morning.

While Pansy was formally shaking hands with museum officials, Draco noticed the look in Lavender’s smiling eyes as a swarm of frenzied students bombarded her with ideas they wanted to do for next year’s show.

With all that she had done, it was obvious that it was Lavender that the students had come to love, not Pansy. It was something that Draco counted on.

Taking in the happy scene, Draco realized that Lavender Brown now had adoring fans.  Her picture would be in the Daily Prophet and the magical world would know her.  And if she continued on this new path presented to her, she would never feel invisible again. 

Being the wife of Ron Weasely would not define her completely.  If he ever left, she would have the confidence to move on and live.

“Dream prevented.” He said in his mind… and it felt so very good.


Draco realized then that he’d become somewhat of an observer of people. He didn’t realize he had become one, it just happened over time, he supposed.

He knew he had changed… knew the darkness had changed him and it wasn’t all bad.

It had caused him to mature at a much faster pace than those his age. It forced him to grow up and think, act, and play the part of an adult before it was time. It had caused him to become quiet and reserved, always calculating his every word and action, because everything he said and did mattered.

He once feared that the darkness would turn him into a monster. And maybe it would eventually when he left Hogwarts to live with pure evil. But for now, it actually had him caring about people. Because he had seen death… life wasted in front of his gray eyes.

And now looking at all of the people at Hogwarts, especially the young ones, he realized just how precious life really was… no matter their age, or House, their last names, and especially not their blood status.

None of it mattered to him anymore.

Death knew no prejudice and would take any of them, regardless.

While observing the people surrounding him, he had noticed something else that night… something that had to do with Pansy. He found it most interesting and peculiar.

And even though it was Valentine’s Day, he couldn’t think of a more appropriate time to break up with her.

When the dance began, she was finally able to make her way to Draco.

He had a drink and a seat waiting for her.

He stood like a proper gentleman and kissed her hand to greet her.

Hermione had been so caught up with what Draco was doing that she hadn’t realized that her date, Vaden Sharpe, winner of the grand prize, had been gawking at someone else all night.

“Vaden.” She finally said. “Thank you for escorting me to the dance tonight, but honestly… I’d rather be doing something else right now. If you don’t mind, I think I’m going to call it a night. Sorry.”

But Vaden was actually pleased to hear this. He didn’t want to hurt her feelings, but he just wasn’t interested. “Oh. Okay. No worries or hard feelings. It’s alright.”

He stood and walked her to the stairs until she turned to him to shake his hand politely.

“Thank you and congratulations on your win. Goodnight.” She said as she made her swift exit.


Pansy sat down beside Draco with a look of pride and relief that her art event and awards ceremony had gone so perfectly well.

“Pansy, I’ve never been more proud of you as I am right now.” Draco started.

She smiled a very genuine smile. He thought it looked good on her.

He thought of Hermione’s words and repeated them to her. “In your scheming of things, you accidently brought joy to others.” He gave her a dashing smile. “People may not like you Pansy, but they will certainly love what you did. Feels good, doesn’t it?”

She gave a long drawn out sigh and replied, “Yes. I suppose it does. And you were right about bringing in Lavender. Honestly, I don’t think it would’ve gone so well without her.”

“It couldn’t have been better.” He paused for a moment, choosing his words carefully before continuing.

“You do realize that you do not need me anymore.” Draco said smoothly as he lifted a drink to his lips.

“What?” She replied with an eyebrow raised.

“You admitted it at New Year’s Eve… that you use me for status. And well, you are no longer thought of as just the girlfriend of Draco Malfoy. You’ve made a name for yourself as Pansy Parkinson, the one who brought the magical art world to all of Hogwarts. You will get that museum job and it will have everything to do with your efforts and nothing to do with my last name. I’m quite proud of you for it.”

She wasn’t sure what to say.

In Draco’s observing of people, he had noticed that she was being watched adoringly by a certain artist.

“You’ve caught the attention of many this evening, but there is one person in particular that has been eyeing you all night. And if you look at the gentleman at the bottom of the stairs, he is probably staring at you as we speak.”

Pansy furrowed her brow and looked beyond his shoulder to find that someone was indeed staring at her.

It was Vaden Sharpe, sculptor of ‘The Dragon’ and Hermione Granger’s former date.

She looked back at Draco, unsure of what he was going to do about it. Would he go into a jealous rage?

Her answer came quickly. He would do nothing of the sort.

“It seems you both have a future career in the art world and would have much in common.”

Pansy caught her breath as her mind raced. What was he doing?

Draco pointed out gently the one-sidedness that their relationship had been.

“All those times that you came to me in the night, Pansy… I believe it is time that someone came for you.”

It was true. Draco never went to her. It was always her that went to him.

Pansy realized what he was doing then. He was breaking up with her in the most unexpected of ways... giving her permission to go to someone that was interested.

It was unbelievable.  

“I had thought that our breakup would be much more…” She tried to find the right word as she stared into her drinking glass. “Cruel.”

“It doesn’t need to be.” He said as he took her hand to tenderly kiss it goodbye.

There was a long pause as she considered what she should do. She didn’t really want to break it off. But seeing his expression, there would be no need for her to make an attempt at preventing it. She fought the urge to try to convince him to reconsider.

But looking into his serious gray eyes one last time, she knew.

It was over.

She wasn’t sure where it had come from, but without warning, a tear had slid down her cheek at what he was doing… breaking up with her in the kindest way imaginable.

“For what it’s worth, I did care for you.” She said wiping away the tear.

“And I cared for you. Otherwise I would have never allowed us to go as far as we did, but it’s time to end this.” 

Pansy wanted to be furious with him, but how could she be?

For a split second, she thought she really could possibly be in love with him at that moment… at the very moment of their breakup.

He stood her up from her seat so they were both standing and then pulled her into a tight embrace, a hug of goodbye and deep understanding.

“Go to him.” He said to her cheek. “He is waiting for the great Pansy Parkinson to congratulate him personally.”

She cleared her throat so that she could speak, but she could only manage two words.

“Thank you.” She said quietly, trying to hold back more tears, listening to his unbelievable words of encouragement.

As she backed from him to walk away, Draco added one last piece of advice.

“And Pansy, if you intend to keep him, try not to be too mean and… don’t turn your back to him every time.”

She saw a pained look in his eyes and her heart sunk a little at the mention of her error concerning their intimate nights together. Had she shown him love instead of cold indifference, things might’ve turned out differently.

Knowing she had been wrong, she could only close her eyes and nod her head in sad acknowledgement that her chance with him had come and gone with no way of going back to fix it, even if forgiven.

He watched as she walked up to Vaden and shook his hand in formal congratulations.

The two men exchanged glares of an unspoken language amongst gentlemen.

Vaden looked at Draco as if asking permission.

Draco gave him a look of warning that said if he ever hurt her, there would be hell to pay. But then he followed it with a nod of approval.

The Seventh Year Hufflepuff understood the warning, but he was also quite relieved with the nod, knowing it would not be good to disrespect Draco Malfoy.

Vaden, with his jet black hair and sapphire eyes looked at a teary-eyed Pansy. “Are you alright?”

She let out a cool breath, attempting to compose herself before answering.

“I just experienced the kindest breakup in Hogwarts history… and I will be okay.” She said dabbing at her eyes, hoping she wasn’t ruining her mascara. “I’m a little sad that it’s officially over, but I suppose… it was time.”

“Well, maybe I can take your mind off it. Would you walk your gallery with me?” He said with an unmistakable sparkle and desire in his eyes that captivated her. Draco had never looked at her like that. “I haven’t had time to see the works of other students and I’d like to do so before they are all gone.”

“Absolutely.” She replied almost happily.

He offered his arm to her and she gladly took it as they began walking.

“Let’s start with the First Years, shall we? You wouldn’t believe what those little tykes came up with in their heads. And would you believe my personal favorite of the tapestries did not win? Oh, and did you see the intricate details of that glass snowflake? It’s charmed to turn white when it’s about to snow. I want one for myself. It would look lovely hanging in my bedroom window. You must see it to believe it.”

Draco watched as Pansy took Vaden’s arm and they began walking and chatting. He took comfort in the fact that he knew she was going to be okay. There would be no bitterness between them and for whatever reason, it was important to him that it end without too much drama.

It was quiet, respectful, and… finished.


Draco scanned the place looking for Hermione, but she was nowhere in sight.

He had a pretty good idea where she would be and without wasting any more time, he went looking for her.

But just as he rounded a corner, Lavender Brown almost ran into him.

“Lavender.” He stopped her by taking hold of her shoulders.

She stood wide-eyed and scared as a kitten.

He let go of her shoulders and took her hand, shaking it in congratulations.

“Pansy told me of the excellent job that you did. She said that she couldn’t have done it without you. I wanted to congratulate you on your success.” He said, looking into her eyes.

“Thanks.” She managed to say nervously.

“And Lavender…. I know it was you.” He said quietly as she stiffened and held her breath, trying not to look shocked, but failing miserably.

“Whatever do you mean?” She asked with a squeal in her voice, her face now as red as a Gryffindor flag.

“I think you know what I mean… and not to worry. I’ll never say anything to Ron.” He promised. “And I hold no ill will toward you. It’s alright. I was only furious for that one night.”

Lavender felt like she was going to fall over.

Draco Malfoy was actually speaking to her and giving her compliments?  He knew what she did and wasn't berating or scolding her with his painful cruelty?

She blinked and Draco became concerned.

“Breathe, Lavender, breathe.”

She did as she was told and snapped out of her petrified trance.

“Maybe you should go sit down or something.” He suggested.

She nodded her head. “Yeah. Okay.”  She said, still in shock that he had treated her mercifully.

Draco stood there for a moment and watched her walk away, hoping that she wouldn’t fall down.

“Mental, that one.” He said under his breath as he walked away to begin his hunt for Granger.


Hermione had witnessed him tenderly kissing Pansy’s hand and couldn’t stomach it.

She got up and left, trying to get the scene out of her mind.

How could someone like Pansy have him, where she could not?

She knew the relationship was a farce, but she didn't want to witness it.  It all seemed so unfair.

There was only one place she wanted to go now.

It had become an obsession of late… to solve his Black Canvas Vault.

She felt it in her very being that he created it for her eyes only, just as hers was for him.  She only needed the last word. And so she decided it best to ditch her date and her pre-occupied friends and go back to trying to solve it before it was erased.

Before it returned to the Museum… never to be seen again.

And so she stepped up to it once more and read Draco's poetic words...

“Love is a curse.


And dark is the heart and mind of the one


Who will never hold the hand...


Or kiss the lips...


Or make love to...


The one that is  __________."










Author's Note:
 
What do you think the final word is? Did I make it too easy? I'd love to see guesses in your Reviews!

Did Draco surprise you by breaking up with Pansy gently?  He will now be the deepest regret of her life.

And what of Lavender being Poly Juice girl? Reviewers Sara_sj and GinGin06 guessed it at a time when I wasn't sure who it would be yet.  Great Job for pointing me to a perfect Poly Juice girl! Haha!

Up next:  Draco helps Hermione solve the final piece of his vault.  What do you think it is?

Please Review.  I'd love the hear from you!

Dark Whisper

P.S. 20,000 Reads!  An unreal milestone that makes my heart skip beats... THANK YOU!  And also... 142 have Favorited.  I cannot thank you enough!  And... a real fan of this story started a fan page in cyberspace. I am amazed that someone would do such a thing! 
 


 


Chapter 16: If My Eyes are Sad
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Author's Note:

I want to thank all of my Reviewers for making this so fun for me.  Your guesses were excellent and fit so well.  They were brilliant and so fun to read.  Thank you to all who participated and even those who had no idea and chose not to guess.  I have the best Reviewers.  Thank you so very much!  There were several that guessed correctly.  So now without further waiting... let's read what Draco's last word really is... 
 
 

 






As Draco walked a long corridor, he saw Goyle running toward him at a frantic pace.

“What’s wrong?” Draco asked.

“Kissed a girl before it was time, I suppose!” He managed to explain as he ran passed.

But that’s about the time he saw a very heated and angry girl running after Goyle.

“Gregory Goyle, get back here so I can hex you!” She yelled as she hurried passed.

Goyle apparently was going about getting a girlfriend the wrong way. He made a mental note to give his friend a few pointers later. Right now, he was after his own girl.

And a long walk later, he was happy to see Hermione alone and frustrated in front of his Black Canvas Vault.

She was stunning, standing in her black velvet form-fitting gown between his vault and a black leather couch, placed there by the art committee for those wishing to contemplate his difficult vault.

The place was dimly lit by a cluster of candles hovering high above her, glowing like a chandelier.  They had framed his vault with dark green drapes with silver fringe, indicating his win for design difficulty and points scored for Slytherin House.  And on the floor, a large matching green oval carpet was carefully placed, making it look almost cozy and romantic, a dangerous combination.

“So beautiful.” He mouthed silently as he took slow quiet steps toward her in the dark. But then he stopped about half-way and watched.

Hermione stood there… frustrated far beyond that of a normal person trying to guess the last word of his vault. She no longer needed a clipboard as she had memorized everything that she had already figured out.

His vault was very unique in that he made each verse a lock. All were open except for the last one.

She began reading the pictograms out loud, hoping that it might help point her to the final word.

“Love is a curse.
And dark is the heart and mind of the one
Who will never hold the hand…
Or kiss the lips…
Or make love to…
The one that is _______”

“Lost.” She guessed, but nothing happened. “Dead.” She guessed again to no success.

“Gryffindor. Ravenclaw. Hufflepuff?”

Draco suppressed a chuckle watching her guess. It looked like she was talking to an iron vault like a crazy woman.

She decided to try a different approach. “Loved. Hated. Adored?”

But it was none of those. She let out a long frustrated sigh.

“Or make love to the one that is… taken.” But still the lock did not budge. “It’s not ‘taken’?” She asked it in frustration, as her guesses went unanswered.

“Gone? Innocent? Pure?” She guessed again and again, but then got an idea. What if by some slim chance it was her?

“Muggleborn?” But the vault still did not move and she was so frustrated that she whipped out her wand and practically yelled the spell that would unlock it. “Alohomora!”

But the lock did not budge as it was not a lock of the normal type.

Seeing her impatience result in an attempt to cheat amused him immensely. Draco could no longer stand by without saying something.

“Well, well, well, Granger. It’s official. You have no patience… and truly a complete disregard for playing by the rules, which isn’t surprising in the least. Did you open all the others by cheating?” He teased.

“No. The others actually had solvable, logical solutions.” She said in a scolding tone, hiding her embarrassment that he had actually witnessed her attempt to cheat.

She turned to him then and that’s when she noticed something about him that she hadn’t noticed before. It was the thing that made him look different that evening, but in an exceptionally appealing way. It was so subtle she wasn’t surprised that she had missed it before now.

In his getting ready for the dance, he had indeed been thinking about her as well… thinking of her vault’s message about sending the daggers.

And so as he looked into the mirror and began shaving, he took the blade to his face and carefully carved his sideburns to look like curved blades running down the length of the sides of his face. They were perfectly even on both sides. So short were the hairs that it was barely noticeable, but it was there nonetheless... the slightest shadow left there purposefully.

Like curved blades of daggers on both sides of his face.

He looked like some sort of handsome mix of confident aristocrat and cynical bad boy… in a tuxedo no less.

Hermione surmised that it was fitting, considering he was both and not to mention, it made him look… irritatingly gorgeous.

But she also thought of her vault.  Did he solve it? 

Daggers?

“I’m so sorry for your loss, by the way.” He tried to say sincerely. “But I must say… in all your grief and sadness, you look absolutely stunning in your black funeral attire.” He smirked at the remembrance of her making fun of him for wearing his favorite color.

She smiled at this, then replied, “I’m surprised you noticed, being the boyfriend of the star of the show and all.”

He didn’t want to talk about Pansy, so much so that he didn’t even bother to tell her that they had just broken up.

“How could I not notice my Dark Valentine?” He said with eyebrow raised.

“Yes, we’re the couple most likely to kill each other. What did you make of that?” She asked with a curious smile.

“Childish. Not very creative. And it proves just how little people know me.” He said as he took a comfortable seat on the couch, the length of his right arm resting on the top of it casually.

“Depending on one’s perspective, they see me as the Slytherin Prince and hater of all things not Pureblood… a prized student… a loyal son.” A smile crept onto his face. “The Slytherin sex god.”

He let out a deep, raspy laugh and shook his head. “I am all and none of those things.”

She smiled at his little riddle.

He most certainly could play any of those roles perfectly at any given moment. But in many ways, he had shown her that he could very well be none of those things.

“You probably think of me as pathetic and mental.” He said with a look that welcomed her to sit next to him.

“On the contrary, I think you are brilliant mastermind. Isn’t that what you want them to see?” She asked, analyzing his words. “I think that is precisely what you want people to think of you. But you reserve your true feelings for yourself so that you can secretly go around doing good things for people.”

“Wrong.”

“Am I?” She questioned as she took a graceful step and slid onto the couch, sitting as far away from him as possible, keeping what she deemed to be a safe distance from him as the light from the romantic candle chandelier cast him in a sensual glow.

It was a good idea considering she could now smell his cologne. It wasn’t his normal scent. It was something new. Something hypnotizing, masculine, and wonderful that beckoned to her female existence.

She couldn’t help but think if the fluffy pillows on her bed smelled like that she would never get out of it. She quickly blinked away the thought and concentrated on the conversation at hand.

What was she saying? Oh, right.

“I remember that first night when we were sorted. You went up to the front right after me and I wasn’t surprised at all that you were sorted into Slytherin House. But that was because I thought you were sorted there because you were an arrogant and cruel slime-ball.”

He let out a short guttural laugh knowing full well she was telling the truth.

“But knowing what I know now, I’ve come to understand that there was an altogether different reason.”

Their eyes met and held as the air around them became serious.

He was enthralled by her, wondering what insight she might have, now that she knew him a little better.

“The Sorting Hat wasn’t reading you in that way. It was looking for House traits that would suit you best. It was looking for cunning and self-preservation, something that you must’ve had such abundance of, that it radiated from you to the point that the Sorting Hat didn’t even need to be placed on your head before it adamantly, without question or doubt, called out, ‘Slytherin.’”

He cocked his head to the side a bit. “True. And… what does that tell you?”

He knew she would get it. She would analyze it and figure it out. He wanted her to.

She thought it out logically. It seemed to her as if she were solving a puzzle concerning him. And so she continued her thoughts and came to a single conclusion.

“And that tells me that you were a master of it at eleven years old. Which tells me that… your upbringing must’ve been so strict and demanding that you had learned, as a self-preservation measure, to be cunning so that you were seen as the perfect son that your parents expected… playing the part from a very early age.  That's why that old hat put you in Slytherin before it was on your head."

“And here I thought it was because I was descended from a long line of Slytherins.” He said with eyebrow raised.

She didn’t say anything. She only shook her head no.

“All that… and you cannot figure out a simple vault?” He teased, standing to his feet.

Her eyes grew wide at his little insult.

“Simple?” She protested as she popped from the couch. “I know you are kidding!”

“Honestly, I’m quite disappointed in you, Granger. I can’t believe you haven’t figured it out yet. Oh, well.” Draco shrugged. “Time to erase it.” He said knowing full well she would stop him.

He raised his wand to erase it.

“No. Don’t.” She pleaded, grabbing his raised arm with both hands, attempting to pull it down. But it wasn’t working very well with his surprising strength.

“Give me more time or a hint or something… or just tell me what it is, if you are just going to erase it.” She practically begged.

“I’m not just going to hand you the answer. You were supposed to figure it out.” He said in a low growl.

“So, it is for me?” She asked, finally taking her hands off his muscular arm.

“Of course it is. It’s an answer to yours.” He said taking a more serious tone while lowering his wand.

Hermione tried to hide her surprise as she blinked at his revelation. He had solved hers? She was shocked that it was Draco that opened her vault. He was only opening the Slytherin vaults, or so it had seemed.

“Must you always irritate me to the core? Just tell me what it is so that I can move on with my life.” She said pointing to the vault dramatically and trying to prevent herself from having an all-out temper tantrum in front of him.

She was so frustrated that if there was a throw pillow on the couch, she was sure she would’ve screamed into it.

“No.” He said turning as if he were leaving, but he only stepped around to the back of the couch.

“But I’ve got everything except the very last word.” She pleaded, then turned to the vault, her back now to him, and read aloud what she had so far.

“I’ve tried all kinds of words, but none of them will open the last lock.”  She let out a long sigh with thoughts of giving up. If he wasn’t going to help her, then she would have to walk away and forget that it ever existed in the first place.

“You know what? Just forget it. It’s not worth the frustration.” She said, shaking her head, about to leave.

But he did not want her to give up and he definitely did not want her to leave. He wanted her to open it so that she could read what he had written to her.

He found it much easier to transfer his feelings to parchment than to actually say it to her face.

“Perhaps you are over-thinking it. You are trying too hard. It’s quite a simple answer if you concentrated on it a bit.”

She turned to him then. “Concentrated? I’ve lost sleep concentrating on it. I mean really, ‘Love is a curse’?” She folded her arms, clearly fired up in protest. “Love is not a curse. It’s a blessing.”

“What do curses do? They hurt people.” He reasoned. “Love can cause pain like the Cruciatus. It can cause people to do things that they wouldn’t normally do, just like the Imperious. And it can kill, as in murder and suicide, just as effective as the Avada. Love is all of the Unforgivables rolled into one nasty curse.”

“All that… coming from someone who told me not too long ago that love is something that he wanted to experience before he died? Did something suddenly change your mind?”

When he didn’t answer, she continued. “Love is a blessing and a gift. And while you say it destroys lives, love is the one thing that can actually create life. Ever think of that?” She argued.

Of course he thought of that. Ever since his blasted dream, he thought of it.

“Alright fine. Let us compromise so that we can move on, shall we? I suspect that we could argue all night over what love is and isn’t. So let’s just agree that it is both blessing and curse.” He hated compromising, but wanted the subject to end. “You can’t deny it.” He added for the sake of arguing.

She wanted to hit him out of sheer frustration, but she also wanted desperately to open his blasted vault. So she withheld her slap that she was sure to use for another day and agreed with him.

“For the sake of moving on, I suppose I can agree to that.” She turned to look at the vault once again, but her level of concentration was at an all-time low in being so close to him.

“Just tell me the last word.” She said defeated. “I cannot figure it out.”

“What is the last pictogram?”

“An apple. A stupid apple with four snakes eating it. You are always walking around eating them. The only thing that it tells me is that it’s you. You and maybe three of your Slytherin friends, which would make no sense at all. So I pretty much just ignored it and started guessing words that might fit the rest of your message.”

“It’s so obvious, you’re going to hate yourself for needing my help. Think, Granger. What is an apple?”

“An apple is… a piece of fruit that grows on deciduous trees that flower in the spring.”

“Over-thinking. It’s just a piece of fruit.”

“Fruit?” She said quietly as her mind scanned for the clue. “Apples?” She whispered as she thought of what people thought of apples. 'Fruit as in Adam and Eve?' She questioned silently in her mind, trying to figure it out.

She thought it might be forbidden fruit, except there are four serpents in his pictogram, not just one as in the Garden of Eden.

Draco knew she was on the right track, but she hadn’t said the right word yet. He decided on another angle.

“How many snakes are there, Hermione?”

“Four.”

He then worded the next question carefully.

“What is happening to the apple?”

“It is being bitten.” She said softly, still not putting the pieces together.

“Precisely.”

Her mind raced for the answer. Why was this so difficult? Four snakes. The fruit was being bitten. Four. Bitten.

But then… she blinked as the answer finally came to her.

Not Four Bitten. Forbidden!

She furrowed her brow and thought of the meaning behind it. Could it really be the last and final word?  She turned to him.

“Draco?” She said as if questioning him, worry and disbelief coming over her in waves. Surely that wasn’t it, was it?

Draco saw her reaction. She had obviously figured it out, but she was hesitating out of disbelief.

He stood there like a commanding and frozen chess piece waiting for her next move.

Hermione looked up at his Black Canvas Vault one last time, confident that she finally found the answer. And as she read it aloud, voice cracking, she realized that it was for her after all.

Every single word, line, and verse… all for her, speaking directly to her soul.

“Love is a curse.
And dark is the heart and mind of the one
Who will never hold the hand…
Or kiss the lips…
Or make love to…
The one that is… forbidden.”

The last lock of the vault clicked. She only needed to say the password key and it would be opened to her.

“The vault key is the same as yours.” He told her from behind the couch. “What was it again? ‘One word. One truth that makes me the less and sends the daggers.’” He quoted perfectly. “Say it.”

She couldn’t believe it. The one that was forbidden was her. And why was she forbidden? It was because she was a… a Mudblood.

She felt her heart fall in her chest at the sad reality… the dynamics of his message.

“Say it!” He demanded as tears streamed down her cheeks.

“Mudblood.” She whispered to the vault.

She heard a loud click and the vault door creaked open.

She was half afraid of what would be hidden inside it. Who knew what it could possibly be?

To her surprise, out flew an origami swan, looping in the air twice before landing softly into her awaiting hands.

Behind her, Draco took out his wand and lifted it high and parallel to the top of the frame of the vault and proceeded to move it downward in a flat and steady motion.

As he did this, the Black Canvas Vault erased like a large ocean wave wipes out a message in the sand and was no more.

She opened the swan to read Draco’s words that were carefully penned for her eyes only.

Her hands were shaky and her eyes were watery as the words blurred on the page. She had to blink several times before she could see clearly.

She turned to him for a split second, thinking that she saw him turn to walk away.

She understood why he would leave. He was satisfied knowing that she had received his letter, but he did not want to stick around for her reaction. She would not fault him for it.

She turned quickly back to his letter and began reading with frantic anticipation.

She breathed a deep breath and prepared herself to take in his words that were written straight from his heart and onto delicately folded parchment.

Words that were sure to break her heart…

“If my eyes are sad, it is because they cannot have what they see.”

Her eyes widened and she gasped for air as his words shot like lightning through her heart that had her knees buckling underneath her. She had to sit back down on the couch, needing something to prevent her from falling to the floor.

She told him that he had the saddest eyes she’d ever seen and here he was… giving her the most heart-wrenching of reasons!

“If my hands tremble, it is because they cannot touch what they want to hold.”

His words were incredible. She recalled him taking hold of her wrists while in the Astronomy Tower. She felt his hands shake for a second, but she thought it was because of the cold. But that was not the reason at all!

“If my heart aches, it is because it is not permitted to love the forbidden.”

She let out a suppressed sob then. The forbidden was her!  And just because loving her was forbidden, it would never mean that he didn't.

“Oh, Draco… Draco.” She whispered to the air as her emotions ran deep.

She had to remind herself to breathe as her hand went to her own heart as it sank deeper in her chest.

She had to close her eyes as more tears fell. She was afraid to read on, worried of what he might say next. But she had to keep reading. There was only one line remaining.

Just one more line.

What more could he possibly say that could have her heart breaking even more than it already had? She wondered as she opened her eyes to read his final words.

“What good is Hope when there is no remedy for any of it?”

Hope? They spoke of hope in the Astronomy Tower.  His final words were a question about hope.  It was a question that would have no answer.

And 'remedy'?  Interesting choice of words; implying a sickness... the sickness of society's prejudice, she thought.

She read his letter again and again.

His words were precious and golden and read like a whisper to her soul.

His secret feelings concerning her had been explained in such a way that had her heart melting with sympathy and compassion for him… and love.

She knew now that of all the things that she had already felt for him, combined with their stolen time together and in their in-depth chats about life and death and things that really mattered to both of them… that it would be this night that she truly had fallen in love with him.

If she had any doubt before, there was none now.

She was in love with someone that she couldn’t have.

He would love her if he were permitted to do so. His circumstances… the darkness he was living in would never allow him to love her.

She swallowed hard, wiped away her tears, and composed herself.

“You’re right. Love is a curse.” She said aloud, as if he were still there with her.

After reading his poetic words one last time, she folded the parchment. But as soon as she did, she was scolding herself for doing it.

She should’ve known better!

Because as soon as she folded it, the self-destruction enchantment kicked in and the parchment began jerking free from her grasp.

“No.” She pleaded, as she knew what it was doing. It got away from her. “No.” She said as it burst into flames and disintegrated in front of her eyes, all evidence of his true feelings for her… destroyed.

He was covering his tracks for them both as it would've been evidence of his true feelings for her, indeed.

It was by all accounts, a poetic Dark Valentine. One that spoke of love… forbidden.

She felt emotionally drained at that moment. She had no desire to leave the couch just yet.

With quiet frustration, she sat back on the couch and with her eyes closed, she tilted her head back to rest it on the back of the couch.


Draco had planned his escape. He had fully intended to leave when she was about to read the letter, but something stopped him.

Something shiny had caught his attention when she sat down on the couch in front of him.

She sat there, crying silent tears for all the feelings they shared for each other when they weren’t even permitted to be friends.

He wondered. How can they feel so much for each other, but have no relationship at all?

He stood behind her looking at the sparkly rhinestone pins in her hair that she had situated exactly like the stars of his constellation.

He stood mesmerized by them, understanding their significance.

Even though they couldn’t be together, he wanted to thank her, just as she had thanked him for all that he’d done… the soup, the book...

She had thanked him with three little kisses under the courtyard surrounded by magical graffiti… and so he felt it only right to do the same.

With her eyes closed, she tilted her head to the sky, resting her head on the back of the couch in sad frustration.

He stepped to her then from behind couch.

She felt a warm presence come over her.

Her eyes opened to see his grey, wanting eyes looking down at her, upside-down.

She sat frozen in her seat, unable to move… which was the best thing she could’ve possibly done in that moment in time.

For he had leaned down close and then proceeded to press his lips to her forehead.

“That’s for the stars in your hair that call my name.”

He moved down a bit and kissed the bridge of her nose.

“That’s for wrapping yourself in the blackest of fabrics tonight… like a gift to me, knowing that I would love it.”

Hermione knew what was coming next. He was about to kiss her on the lips, just as she had done to him under the courtyard… her three kisses of thanks being returned, albeit at a more interesting and erotic angle.

But of all the times that she had daydreamed of him kissing her, there was no way to prepare for the feelings of the intensity of the anticipation and desire of the purest form that had her mind completely lost in the shadow that he had cast over her.

Slowly he moved further down her pretty face and placed his lips softly onto hers.

It felt like the weight of the lightest feather against her lips… the experience of it overtaking her ability to breathe.

All senses left her except for the feeling of him on her lips.

Her heart pounded as if she were running a race against time as it would be over much, much too soon.

She desperately wanted time to slow to a near halt.

She moved her hands up to touch his dagger-shaped sideburns so that he wouldn’t end his kiss too quickly.

It was the slightest pressure at first.

But when he felt her hands on his face, it was as if his dark world stopped spinning for a moment, giving him pause… giving him a moment of freedom to kiss his love.

And so… he did.

Lips came together a bit more firmly. Mouths parted. Tongues tasted.

Fires burned and hearts melted.

It was a strange thing to be kissed upside down, something that neither of them had ever experienced before. It would be a unique kiss to them… both intriguing and perfectly hypnotizing.

The brushing of their tongues together at such a strange angle held them in awe… so warm, smooth, thrilling, and dangerously addicting.

When he stopped his kiss of perfection, his lips remained on hers just as he had begun, an unmoving touch of a feather… an intimate moment’s pause.

When he finally pulled away slightly, he brushed his cheek to hers. His hot breath fell against her ear and down her neck sending tickling sensations throughout her body as he whispered his explanation.

“That was for dressing for me as if…” He paused to breathe as he spoke his heart. “As if I had asked you to the dance tonight… and you had said yes. You don’t know what it means to me.”

She turned around in her seat to face him, in awe that in her dressing for him, he most definitely took notice, giving her the most amazing experience of her young life.

But that’s when they heard laughter coming toward them. It sounded like Pansy.

Hermione became a bit frantic, but Draco remained completely calm.

He put a finger to his lips, signaling her to be quiet.

He turned from her then, raised both hands, and then expertly placed an inaudible protection charm around them so they could not be seen.

Pansy and Vaden made their way to them and stopped in front of his erased vault.

Draco could see Hermione’s surprise when she saw her former date walking with Pansy.

Their voices were muffled, but could be heard.

“Well, this was Draco’s, but he erased it. The only part I was able to decipher was ‘Love is a Curse.’ Obviously, he was speaking of me and our relationship.” She gave a long sigh. “I’m trying to be mad at him, but how can I be when he broke up with me so kindly tonight?”

Hermione’s head snapped to Draco at the surprising news. He had broken up with Pansy this very night?

“Love is a Curse?” Vaden commented. “Sounds depressing.”

“Yes. Well that describes him this year. Depressing… and bringing everyone else down with him. It’s good to be finally rid of him. Let’s keep moving. I’d rather not think about my ex right now.”

Hermione’s eyes had only left his for a moment to be sure that Pansy and Vaden were gone.

When she looked back at him, all she saw was the sad image of him walking slowly in the opposite direction, underneath the high gothic arches of the long ornate Hogwarts hall.

He was the picture of loneliness.

But he would not be alone this night… not if she had anything to do about it.

And so she grabbed her pretty high-heel shoes, lifted her long dress, and ran after him barefoot.

 

He had walked away… away from Hermione and their wonderfully unique kiss, his vault’s message, and all that he had revealed to her.

He just began walking away from all of it because love was a curse. And right then it was causing him pain felt in his chest, wondering if he had done the right thing in kissing her.

It was only sure to complicate things.

 

 

 

 







Author's Note:

Well... there you have it.  He is not supposed to love the 'Forbidden.'  Wahh!  ;(

Thank you again for all of the guesses.  They put smiles on my face and I absolutely LOVED hearing from you!  My heart swells at each review and I cannot thank you enough.

I wrote so much of this encounter, that I had to split in two.  So I promise that the next chapter will not take so long.  I took a bit of a break to write a Challenge story called, "The Winds of Azkaban." Stop by if you are interested.

Enough of my rambling... Please tell me what you thought of his letter to her and his three kisses.  I'm dying to hear from you!

Dark Whisper

P.S. 152 have Favorited and 23,000 Reads. AMAZING! THANK YOU!

And... I'm so terribly sorry for making you wait so long.  Please forgive a busy person who would love to write all day, but cannot. ;(

 


Chapter 17: The Undeniable Craving in the Room of Hidden Things
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Hermione just barely squeezed into the Room of Requirement at the very last second as the door closed and sealed behind her.

But as soon as she stepped in, she had no idea where he went.

The Room of Requirement was now full of old junk. There were items of all sorts, piled high on top of each other... old and unused things were everywhere.

That’s when she remembered something about the magical room. It opened to those needing a room and provided that need, except when it wasn’t being used that way… it was actually referred to as The Room of Hidden Things.

She’d never seen the room in this manner… all kinds of items stacked in huge piles, sometimes to the ceiling. She saw broken furniture, rusty bird cages, old caldrons with cracks in them, empty picture frames that probably held magical portraits long ago, and all types of laboratory contraptions and vials, along with antique trunks, stacks of dusty outdated text books, old wardrobes, huge hideous looking hats, and much, much more.

She navigated her way through some of the narrow paths. It took her awhile, but she found him.

He was sitting on a wide stair step in front of a huge mirror.

By chance, Draco didn’t go to the Vanishing Cabinet this night. Instead, he wanted to be with her. And the only way for him to do it, was to look into the Mirror of Erised.

She was after all, his greatest desire at the current moment. He wanted her to be his. And the mirror would reflect that desire.

It was the only way that he could be with her… false as it was.

She knew what it was as soon as she looked into it.

“I’ll tell you what I see, if you tell me what you see.” She said, now standing behind his sitting form.

“I make no such deal.” He replied quietly, knowing that he would only be describing a mature scene of a forbidden love’s passion.

She reached out her hand and ran her fingers through his hair with the softest of touches, which only made him want her more.

But as much as he wanted to spend more time with her, he was not happy that she’d followed him.

“I won’t have some insane secret relationship with you… even if you were willing.” He said rather harshly.

“I wouldn’t want to.” She replied in a soft tone.

“What do you want then? Why did you follow me? Was my vault not clear? You are forbidden to me. It is not some head game or something that I can be talked out of. There is a reality outside these walls, Hermione that… that I would change if I had the power to do so. It’s bigger than us both. Do you understand?”

“I know. I understand that it’s not that your parents are just prejudice. I know that it is much, much deeper than that, Draco… because of who you are. And so I won’t. And so we won’t. There is no ‘us’ or ‘we’. We are nothing… not friends… not lovers… not even enemies anymore.” She said with her fingertips now touching his neck tenderly.

“Don’t be so sure.” He said, thinking of the dark life he had yet to live.

He pushed the thought out of his mind by looking at the mirror once again, but that only made him want to act out what he was seeing in the mirror.

He wanted to pull her down, catch her in his lap, hold her tight to his chest, and kiss her senseless.

He watched as it happened in front of his very eyes as she stood directly behind him.

Why was life so cruel?

He thought of how much had been true in his dream as he thought of something that was said… something about telling Hermione that his name was cursed and that he could only give her a cursed life.

It was so true, wasn’t it?

One of his Pureblood ancestors must’ve been Merlin's enemy for a curse to continue until the very last Malfoy walked the earth.

His mind was getting as dark as the sky outside, loving someone that he couldn’t have, watching in the mirror as she kissed him and tugged at his clothing… wanting him with passion and a fury.

His breathing began to get a bit heavy as he watched.

It was maddening.

Hermione looked into the mirror and saw the same thing as he did. She wanted to be pulled down into his lap, pressed against him and mindlessly lost in his kiss once more, tugging at his clothing.

“Oh… my… goodness.” She said, blushing as her greatest desire reflected back at her in the mirror.

“What happens if two people look into the mirror and see the same thing?” She asked him, trying to keep things light-hearted.

“It blows up.” He joked.

She laughed at his humor then looked back down at him, realizing it was probably not such a good idea to stare at themselves in those kinds of positions too much longer.

“Then I suggest we stop looking at it, before this place goes up in flames.”

He tore his gaze from the mirror and looked up at her smiling eyes.  Her cheeks were still a bit streaky from her crying only a few minutes earlier at his vault.  But she had dried her eyes, determined to have a pleasant time with him. 

“Do you know that in 152 countries, it is illegal to kiss a girl upside-down like you did and then walk away?”
 
He let out a quick huff as he raised an eyebrow, remembering their most amazing kiss. 

He loved what she was doing.  She was taking an insanely serious and depressing situation and making it bearable.

“You asked me what I wanted and why I followed you here, but you didn’t give me the chance to answer.”

“Speak your mind then.” He told her as his eyes returned to the reflection of his greatest desire. “Before I go insane staring into Satan’s mirror.”

She let out a giggle. A sound that made his heart melt to nothing.

“I wanted to tell you that I know the many reasons why we’ll never be together. It’s heartbreaking really, but let’s not let the outside world ruin the night. It’s the last night of a lifted curfew. Your friends are busy and mine will think that I’m with Vaden. Why waste the night when we can have a wonderful conversation? What’s the harm in staying up, enjoying each other’s company? I promise to keep the subjects light and neutral.”

She crouched down beside him and looked at him with a sly smile as she gave him a playful nudge.

“Besides, I bet you will fall asleep before I do.” She said enticingly.

She hoped beyond hope that he would take the bait. When he didn’t right away, she tucked her arm around his playfully and added, “When the sun comes up, we’ll just forget everything… mutual feelings, vault messages, and the most amazing of kisses… and we’ll leave each other alone… and go back to hating each other. It was much less complicated, don’t you think?”

He still hadn’t answered her. He was pondering what she said. How could he possibly just forget everything at sunup? The thought was nice, but it would be impossible.

“Give me one more night with you. Please?” She said with hope in her eyes.

How could he resist her offer? Her brown eyes offering one more night with her, but not one that would bring up forbidden feelings or forbidden kisses? Just one more night of enjoying each other? What harm could it cause?

“No.” He said teasing. “There is no way that you will last longer than me. I am nocturnal, Granger. You will not win.” He said with a smirk that lit up her soul. “What do you want to talk about?”

He was loving the idea of spending one last night with her and then going back to their simpler way of life… just one more night to add to the wonderful, beautiful nights that they’d already shared.

“Well, first… Teach me the spell that hid us from Pansy. How is it that she saw your vault, but didn’t see us? You must show me how you did it.”

Her curious mind had to know of this magic.

“Salvia Hexia.” He told her.

Draco stood then and pulled her to her feet. “Take out your wand and I’ll show you.”

She did as she was told and he moved behind her taking her wrists and showing her the movements.

It was hard for her to concentrate with him so close and actually touching her, but she tried her best to put those thoughts behind her. She really did want to learn how to perform it successfully.

“You must have both hands raised and the wand movement is an ‘x’ into the air, but you must drag the wand across kind of like pulling a quill across parchment with no real pressure. Like this.” He said as he took her wrists and did the proper motion with her.

She had to remind herself to breathe.

“Alright try it, Granger. Do it in front of me and we’ll know right away if it worked."

“Okay.” She said turning to him as he backed away, giving her space.

“Salvia Hexia.” She said with the proper wand movement.

She tried and failed a couple of times, each time getting more and more frustrated. But he was patient with her and eventually she got it right.

“You did it.” He said smiling. “I cannot see you.”

She could tell that the spell did in fact work because his voice had become muffled. She was elated, but did not predict his next move.

He could no longer see her, but he reached out for her anyway, his hand actually penetrating the spell’s barrier. And when he did, his hand came tenderly to her face.

It was very odd to him that he could feel her, but not see her. He moved his hand to her neck, then back up to just under her chin.

Hermione watched his face as he did it. Clearly he could not see her, but his tender touch was sending its fire through her once again.

“If one of us steps through it fully, it will be lost.” He told her.

She didn’t step forward. She practically jumped to him, thrilled at her success.

“I did it!” She proclaimed. “And you are an excellent teacher.” She smiled as she hugged him. “Brilliant. Thank you!”

“You are welcome.” He said half-chuckling at her reaction.

“Okay… so what about the little tiny flames in the glass jars? How did you do those without fuel? I must know?”

“The jars under the courtyard?”

“Yes. I looked in the library and couldn’t find it. Please show me.” She said excited.

“Well, we need a glass container of some sort.”

“Ok… there must be one somewhere with all of this junk.” She said as they both began looking.

Amongst all of the items piled high, Hermione came across a crazy looking old hat that must’ve been half her height. She put it on.

“Is this why they called it ‘high society’? Because of height of their hats? What do you think?” She said being a little silly.

“I think I’m very glad that those went out of style a hundred years ago.” He smiled. “But you are adorable nonetheless.”

She removed the old thing from her head and put it back where she found it and moved on to try to find a glass jar that would be suitable.

“What do you supposed they used this for?” He asked looking at a diabolical looking student desk that had all sorts of metal things coming out of it.

“Looks like something Filch would use on a student found breaking curfew.”

“Yikes.”

They had a bit of fun discovering many warped and strange looking things.

They passed a statue of the Hogwarts hog mascot and came to an enormous Wizards Chess piece. It instantly reminded Hermione of her first adventure with Harry and Ron looking for the Sorcerer’s Stone.

“Be careful of that thing." Hermione warned.  "She could take our heads off if she still thinks she’s in the game.”

They moved passed it carefully and came across something that caught her eye.

“This is really interesting… rather beautiful really.” She said of a tiny little ship inside a glass bottle. “The Muggle versions of these don’t have the ocean water moving back and forth. This ship is actually floating around. Quite amazing. Look at the intricate details. It’s so realistic.”

“It’s most likely a real ship, shrunken and placed there. Trapped, if you will.” Draco guessed.

“Oh, my. I think you are right.” She said, setting it back down carefully so as not to disturb the ocean waves too much.

The two enjoyed their time together... having fun commenting on the many objects they discovered, keeping things light-hearted.  Both knowing what was to come when the sun came up, but hiding their sorrowful feelings just under the surface.

They came across an old Grandfather clock that no longer held the time.  It was ornately carved and a shame it no longer worked.  It was peculiar in that instead of the number twelve at the top, the number was thirteen.  It was very strange and odd, but even so, it was certainly a reminder that time was indeed ticking away... so precious the moments they had together.

He saw her quickly look away from the clock, purposefully avoiding it, not wanting the reminder that it would end too soon.

"Let's find some glass jars."  He said wanting to get away from the clock.

She gladly followed him and they eventually found what they were initially looking for… an entire area of glass containers.

“Pick one. It doesn’t matter which.” He told her.

She carefully chose one that was within easy reach and he set it on a small table nearby so that he could show her how to make the tiny flames without fuel. It was fairly simple. The only problem was in controlling the amount of fire in the jar. If one was not careful, it could turn into a column of Fiendfyre.

“You must maintain absolute control and not be distracted. Once you get it right, it will be safe to use forever. You can light them and put them out easily.”

He was specific with his instructions and she did precisely as he said, practicing several times to get it exactly correct.

She looked up at him in awe as the tiny fire cast its glow on them.

“Where do you get your patience? Can you teach me that?” She said, smiling at his glowing face.

“I’m a wizard, not a miracle worker.” He gave her his signature smirk, but it turned into a warm smile.

But their eyes held much too long and the smile left his face.  

He had to tear his gaze away from her. He had to.

Staring into her eyes too long had the potential to become much too serious. He had to think of something quickly... a distraction.

“I found something.” He finally said. “I found it a while ago and thought you might like it.”

She followed him around several piles of things and stopped at something that was hovering inside protective glass.

He removed the glass covering that had a thick layer of dust on top of it. She was about to protest, as she didn’t think he had any business messing with whatever it was.

“Relax, Granger. I have one of these at home.” He said taking hold of it carefully.

“A conch seashell? The kind you can hear the ocean in?” She was a bit surprised that one would be in a Hogwarts junk pile, but then quickly changed her mind.  They were finding all kinds of strange things. It was beautifully polished and seemed to be in excellent condition.

He let out a frustrated sigh.

“Granger… we are magical people and magical people in general put enchantments on things like this to make them more interesting than they already are. I guarantee that you will not hear the ocean in this one.”

She took it from him and placed it to her ear.

“Well, apparently it’s in the junk heap because it doesn’t work. I hear nothing, not even the ocean.”

“That’s because you are doing it wrong.”

“How does one ‘listen wrong’?” She said sarcastically.

He stepped close to her then and in a soft voice gave her instructions.

“Close your eyes.” He said slowly.

She sighed, hoping it wasn’t some kind of trick that he had lured her into.

“Trust me.”

She closed her eyes and held the seashell to her ear once more. Still she heard nothing and was growing impatient.

“Take a deep breath and concentrate. Now… really listen.” He whispered into her other ear soft and slow-like.

She focused all her attention on hearing something. It took a moment and then she finally heard a faint sound that was definitely not the sound of ocean waves. It was beautiful… and incredible.

It was a faint piano sound that once she concentrated on it, began to build and become more pronounced. She recognized it immediately.

“It’s… it’s one of my favorites. Moonlight Sonata.” She said amazed.

She listened, but it became louder and louder and soon the sound came out of it like a magical music box.

He took it from her and placed it back into its hovering spot.

It continued to play for them.

“It must be a favorite.” He said, close and quiet. “That’s the only thing it plays… one’s favorites.”

“Oh.” She said as if out of breath. She swallowed hard, wondering if he would kiss her again… or maybe slow dance with her like she wanted him to.

Oh, the power of a sad and beautiful song.

“You were right… I love it. Thank you so much for showing it to me.” She said as though still holding her breath.  "And... Thank you for spending time with me." 

Draco heard her whisper of a thank you, but his thoughts were on what he should do next.

He was struggling with keeping their agreement, especially when she looked at his lips, wanting his kiss. It was like an inaudible spell cast on him… an Imperious drawing him closer to her... to kiss her lips once again.

"You didn't have to."  She said, still looking at him as if she were intoxicated by him.

"I wanted to."  He replied, trying not to succumb to the undeniable craving that threatened to overtake him.

“Hermione?” Draco whispered her name as he bent down close to her face.
 
“Yes.” She said completely lost in her desire to have his lips on hers... as every soft and serious sound coming from the enchanted seashell surrounded her.

“Tell me… How am I going to hate you at sunup, when I have the memory of you looking at me like you are now?”

Embarrassment flooded her senses. What was she doing? They had an agreement.

But she didn’t count on the tension or the electricity between them getting in the way.

They were like two opposite magnets attempting to stay away from each other, trying to defy the power of nature’s pull. Was it even possible?

“I’m so sorry.” She said as she quickly turned from him to the seashell, still playing and hovering. She found the glass case and reached for it to place it back over the shell, but he stopped her.

“Let it play.” He said softly, moving in behind her, closing the space between them as the music continued to build and play for them... ever so serious and sad... and dark.

Draco didn’t mean to make her feel bad. He was just stating the obvious.

She suddenly felt his arm around her waist.

He ran his hand over her belly, feeling the softness of her black velvet gown she had worn for him.

He embraced her from behind, pulling her into him.

She shuttered under his touch.

“Don’t be sorry.” He said into her hair. “I didn’t count on this being so difficult… I want you so badly.” He whispered hungrily.

She stood there, feeling him pressed against her.

He kissed the top of her head, but quickly moved down to a spot on her neck that was covered by her choker.

He wanted to tear it off her with his teeth.

Why was it that she always seemed to have something around her neck preventing him from devouring her? He wondered this while trying to hold back his emotions that threatened to run wild.

She closed her eyes as his words sunk in.  He wanted her?

The music was now commanding and dark. 

Yes, he wanted to make her his.  He wanted to give her a dark mark of her own... the bruise of a lustful kiss... branding her his... Taken!

He had to restrain himself and accept the fact that she truly wasn't his... she never would be.

She nearly cried as she heard his voice say it.

His voice.

The number one Mudblood hater… the very one that had started her innermost pain and private suffering wanted her.

It was as if a hundred wounds had begun to heal… wounds that she thought would never go away.

Here he was… wanting her, now kissing her exposed flesh tenderly on her shoulder and all she kept thinking about was that she was a Mudblood that could have him for a night, but she couldn’t have him forever.

She turned to him, wanting him as much as he wanted her.

“Draco.” She said his name, trying to keep her head as he kissed underneath her chin, working his way to her lips. “We must stop this.”

He felt her cling to him, but when he heard the word come from her lips… he stopped abruptly, but surely not wanting to.

The word, sliced through him like a knife so quickly, it had her surprised that he actually stopped so suddenly.

He stared deep into her eyes, silently willing her to change her mind.

“Too serious.” She said faintly. 

“Maybe we should end this now.” He said, still holding onto her, but taking long drawn out breaths to calm himself.

But she didn’t want it to end just yet.

“No.” She protested. “It just needs to stop being so serious… and that romantic music needs to stop.”

He agreed, reaching for the glass, covering the beautiful seashell, muffling its beautiful sounds that would've subsided eventually.

Hermione began looking around. She saw something earlier that had caught her attention.

“Come on. Our conversation needs to get neutral fast or I won’t be responsible for my actions.” She explained to him truthfully. “I think we need to just calm down and relax.”

She led him to a comfy place to sit amongst the junk.

It was a very old hand-carved Victorian settee with a high curved back, large enough for two to sit close and comfortable.

It was actually facing an eastern window, a bonus if they were to see the sunrise. Not that they wanted to see it. It would mean their end.

When the two sat down, she turned from him, raising her hair a bit, exposing the back of her neck.

“Will you help me with my choker? I’d like to be free of it now. The clasp is a little tricky.”

“Sure.” He said wishing she had told him that a lot sooner.

“That feels better.” She said placing the choker on the floor near her shoes.

While she did this, he removed his suit jacket and necktie, then unbuttoned his dress shirt, exposing a white cotton under-shirt.

He leaned against the high back of the settee, surprised that the old worn out seat was actually comfortable.

Hermione was a bit shy at first, but she was too tired to care. This was after all, going to be the only night that they would do this.

“Would you mind if I used you for a pillow?” She asked. “I’ll never get the chance again.”

“Of course.” He welcomed her. “But you’ll be falling asleep first, losing your bet.”

She gave him an adorable sleepy smile. “I've already won. You just don't know it yet. And I just want to get comfortable.”

He returned her sleepy smile with one of his own.

“Is it safe? Or do I need to keep my distance far, far away?”  She asked.

“As safe as shark-infested water.” He replied teasingly. “Come here.”

She actually laid on the settee backwards with her feet up, her right hip resting on the cushion and the rest of her body cuddled up to his chest.

"It's all your fault, you know."  He teased.  "I mean really, Moonlight Sonata?  Couldn't you have picked something else... something a little less emotional and deeply moving?"

"You're the one that showed me the thing in the first place.  So naturally, it's all your fault."  She gave him a bit of a squeeze as she nuzzled into him.

Hermione never felt so comfortable… living in a blissful dream, breathing in his intoxicating scent.

The feel of her soft warm body against his felt right and perfectly natural. He was elated that she hadn’t kept her distance from him or turned from him.

Instead, she remained facing him.

The two melted together as she placed her ear to his heart and her hands to his ribs.

The forbidden couple stayed up and talked long into the darkest hours of the morning... about everything that came to mind.  They were comfortable with each other, relaxed, and content just holding each other. 

They were getting sleepy when he finally told her.

"I must ask that you don't come looking for me again.  I'm sorry to be saying such a thing, but..."

She stopped him abruptly when she suddenly moved up and kissed him softly on the lips. 

"I know.  I won't.  But I don't want to talk about that.  I don't want to talk about what we already know will happen."

They kissed once more... a sweet goodnight kiss.

Her head went to his chest once more.  "Just hold me 'til sunup?"  She asked as if it were a question.

He pulled her tighter against him.  "I won't let go until it's time."  He promised.

After doing nothing for several moments but listen to each other breathe, she finally spoke.

“At my parent’s home, I have a favorite place.” She told him softly. “There’s a window seat in my room where I must’ve read several hundred books. And when I wasn't reading, I would curl up in the window seat with a blanket and pillow and watch it rain… or watch those huge snowflakes that I love so much.”

She told him of her Muggle home to ask him a question.

“Tell me about Malfoy Manor.” She asked sleepily. “I’ll never get to go there, but I’m curious as to what it’s like. I read somewhere that it has thirteen bedrooms. Is that true?”

She felt the weight of his hand touch the exposed skin on her back. He touched her lightly, running his fingers over her shoulder blades and back again.

This caused her to melt even further into him, as if it were possible.

“Actually yes and no. It is a magical property whereas it is possible to have thirteen bedrooms, but they would be small. In taking a few out, it makes the rooms larger and much more comfortable. So right now, we have seven very large bedrooms. The walls are easily added and removed so you can adjust the manor based on your needs whenever you want. It has too many rooms, really. Think of the Victorian era and the many frivolous rooms they had and you’ll have the manor.”

He thought of his ancestral home and described it to her a little bit, while his fingers moved lovingly against her bare skin.

It felt so good to her. His touch was nothing short of magical to her senses.

He began describing all of the many different rooms, but his voice was so soothing that she struggled to stay awake. 

“The drawing room houses my grandfather’s portrait, but high up on the ceiling there is a beautiful mural of a witch with her dragon. It’s gorgeous, but I hate it. We have seven fireplaces. There is a huge dining room with a table that seats twenty along with house-elf quarters, a butler's pantry, a wine cellar, and a library that you would fall in love with. As far as my bedroom… it has no closet door and it is always cold.”

“That sounds like a lot of rooms.” She said slowly. “But do you have a favorite place? A place like my window seat?”

“My favorite place is not inside the manor. It is outside.”

“Really?” She said curiously as he held her.

“We have an apple orchard that is so beautiful it’s like having our own private park. It’s vast and well-kept. There is a wonderful tree that sits high on a hill and I would climb it every chance I could. It was a perfect spot for watching the sunsets and it gave a most amazing view of the manor and all the grounds that surround it, including an enormous patch of Tiger Lilies that grow along a steep and quiet stream. That’s it. That’s my favorite place… away from everyone and everything. My escape, I suppose.”

“It sounds lovely.” She said in a breath, clearly slowing down as his voiced lulled her to sleep.

“It is.”  He whispered to her as he felt her body finally relax into a dreamless sleep.

The corners of his mouth turned up into a smile. He had won after all. She had fallen asleep first.

But in the end, he knew she didn't care about the bet.  In her mind she had won... not the bet.  She won a night spent with him and that was all that she had really cared about.

“I love you.” He admitted just under a whisper, knowing she wouldn’t hear him. “Truly I do.”

Draco willed time to stop, but knew it wouldn’t.

At sunup, they would forget whatever it was they had between them and become enemies once more.

But not yet… until then, he would hold her, love her… for as long as possible.


Hermione opened her eyes to see that dawn had indeed come.

She’d never dreaded the sun like she did on this morning.

She was pleasantly surprised and thankful to see that Draco was still with her.

Her head was still on his chest and she was listening to his beating heart’s peaceful rhythm. His slow breaths telling her that he was still asleep.

She dared not move at first, reveling the feel of him underneath her. She took note of the weight of his arm across her back.

He was still holding her.

She wondered what she should do then. Should she wake him?

She thought against it, sparing them both some awkward or potentially teary goodbye.

They were supposed to pretend that nothing had happened between them. They were supposed to be going back to a time when they hated each other… back to a simpler time when things were less complicated.

She thought of the agreement knowing it was the only way to convince him to share one more night with him. It had worked and so she would keep her end of the bargain.

She would get up and leave, walk back to her dorm, and start the day anew and move on with her life.

A relationship with him was impossible and even though her heart was aching, she knew that his was too. It was in his letter.

“If my heart aches, it is because it is not permitted to love the forbidden.”

His words whispered to her as she listened to that very heart that ached for her.

She lay pressed against him for only few more moments.

Her eyes closed, she breathed in his scent letting it soak into her memory.

Listening to him breathe, she didn’t want to get up. She just wanted to lay there and breathe with him, but knew she couldn’t stay that way.

It was time to slip out, preferably without waking him.

She lifted her head slightly but that is when she noticed his dagger-shaped sideburns had grown a tad bit more prominent.  She couldn’t help herself.

She reached up and traced it lightly with the tip of her finger until he stirred a bit.

She froze then, willing him to stay asleep.

Hermione was mesmerized by his sleeping form.

He seemed so at peace, but Hermione knew very well that his mind certainly wasn’t. It might not ever be.  She knew that she was able to keep his mind out of the darkness at least for a little while.

And with that thought, she carefully and slowly lifted herself from him, hoping that she wouldn’t disturb him too much.

As soon as she was up, she grabbed her shoes and her chocker that she had placed on the floor only hours ago, then looked back at him sleeping.

She took a few steps backwards away from him… thinking her departure bittersweet. She hated to leave, but glad that she didn’t have to look at him in his sad and serious eyes and say goodbye to him.

She wasn’t sure that she ever could.


As soon as he heard her quiet footsteps walk away, Draco opened his eyes and breathed out a long sigh.

He was awake before she was, amazed that she never did turn away from him.  He had finally closed his eyes, cherishing the last few moments with her as her body breathed in synch with his.

When she had touched the side of his face so lovingly, he felt the overwhelming urge to lay her gently on the carpet and make sweet, slow love to her.

But in doing so, he knew that they would eventually have to face each other and say goodbye.

The last thing that he wanted from her was a final goodbye.

And so, Draco sat up and for the first time in awhile, he heard his conscience scolding him.

"She will hate you.  She will spit in your face when she finds out that she kissed a Death Eater."  He swallowed hard as reality settled in.  "She will despise you more than ever before when she finds out that she spent the night with an assassin.  You defile her innocence with your deception... and it makes you one of THEM."

Walking to her dorm, she stopped by her Black Canvas Vault to retrieve her picture that was hidden inside it so that it could finally be erased.  But when she opened it, the picture wasn't there.

"He took it."  She said to herself as an enormous smile came to her face.  "He kept my picture."  She shook her head in disbelief, closing the vault door.  "That little thief."  She said happily as her heart soared.  

She raised her wand high then, parallel to the top of the vault, and proceeded to pull it down in front of her, the magical wave erasing the vault and putting it back into its sand-like state... her message forever gone.

"Does a Dark Heart have room for love?"  She had asked him in her vault's message.

"Yes."  She answered aloud.  "A Dark Heart most definitely has room... for love."

 

 





Author's Note:

Ah, these two... what an exhausting night.  :)


Well, since it took so long for me to post the last chapter, I hurried to post this one.  I do hope you enjoyed their bittersweet night... Valentine's Night.

Up next, they do leave each other alone for a long while, until he sees an owl deliver a letter to her... a letter that leaves her visibly upset.  

Thanks to the many of you that have graciously Reviewed.  Your words... I cannot tell you how much I am addicted to reading them and just how truly they keep this story going.  Without them, I surely would've given up by now.  How does one thank you for such inspiration, such encouragement?  Thank you so very much. 

If you are interested, I do have an Author Page on the Forums if you'd like to ask me questions about my writings, etc... I would adore hearing from you and I will always respond.  You are more than welcome to stop by if you can find it.  ; )

Until the next chapter...

Dark Whisper

P.S. 24,800 Reads. 155 have Favorited. Amazing!
Credit: Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata... Hauntingly beautiful, dark, and powerful. And probably over-used, but I couldn't help it.  
 
 


Chapter 18: The Animagus in the Library
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A full month had gone by and not once did Hermione go looking for Draco.

He admired her for keeping her promise and respecting his wishes. But at the same time, it disappointed him as it seemed as if Hermione had taken their departure quite well. It didn’t seem to bother her one tiny bit.

It was either that or she was a master at hiding it.

Of course, they could not keep their eyes from finding each other on occasion. His eyes still held sadness in them. Hers, still a deep concern for him like no other.

But she never once made an attempt to be alone with him.

The only noticeable difference in her demeanor since their night together in The Room of Hidden Things was that she had drastically extended her time spent in the library, telling her friends that she enjoyed assisting Madam Pince and that re-shelving books actually helped her find new books and topics that she’d never seen before.

It was all true, of course, but there was another reason why she was spending so much time there. She was researching.

It made sense, Draco supposed. Diving into books would be a distraction to get her mind off everything. It seemed only fitting that she would do such a thing.

While she was in the library, Draco was mending and testing the Vanishing Cabinet. His time was running out and he had to concentrate on it and finish the job, otherwise it could mean life or death for his family.

But truth be known, when he wasn't concentrating on his task, he would think of her and work on his Occlumency so that when the time came, he could block the Dark Lord from seeing any memory of her... their kiss, their conversations, their night together.  Those memories were his and he would protect them against the worst kind of invasion.  

 

Hermione happened upon a book about a blood experiment when she was helping re-shelve books returned by other students. She looked around to see if anyone could see her. When she was satisfied that no one was looking, she hid the book with several others.

When she wanted to read, she would find a larger book, open it in the middle and then tuck the book she truly wanted to read inside the larger one, making it look like she was reading a normal subject.

The latest was a book titled, Medical Experiments of 1962.

She would’ve missed it if she hadn’t looked at the Table of Contents. Only one chapter was about a blood experiment.

“Day 1. The magical patient came in with a wound to the neck and dangerously close to death due to the loss of blood.” The passage stated. “Our normal supply of magical blood had not been replenished adequately. We gave him all that we had during surgery. He still needed blood and the only available to us was Elvish or Muggle. Since the patient was human, we had no choice but to use Muggle. It was the only way to save his life. The side effects however, remain to be seen. There are several theories. Patient's magic could become greatly diminished, perhaps replenished over time, or magical ability could be lost entirely.”

She glanced up to see if anyone was watching.  When she was satisfied, she flipped the page, intrigued for the outcome.

“Day 2. Patient extremely weak, barely moving. Magic does not seem to be present at this time.  Unknown.”

“Day 3. Patient has magic, but is still extremely weak.”

“Day 4. Patient is now replenishing his own blood normally and has full recovery of magical ability. He seems unaffected by Muggle blood.”

“Day 7. Wounds have healed sufficiently and patient is being discharged. Remarkable recovery.”

“Conclusions: Muggle blood clearly saved the patient’s life and there seems to be no permanent negative side effects. It is undeterminable whether or not his weakness was due to his normal recovery time for his injuries and subsequent surgery or if the Muggle blood made him weak and magical abilities diminish during that time. No one has ever given Muggle blood to a Magical person and we consider this emergency experiment a success to magical sciences. Much has been learned, the most important being that Muggle blood can actually save a Magical life with no apparent adverse side effects. Seven vials of blood (1 from each day of recovery) have been magically frozen and kept for future testing.”

Hermione was disappointed that it was such a small reading. It really didn’t tell her much and she wasn’t exactly surprised by the patient’s outcome. If anything, she was surprised it took until 1962 for such an experiment to be documented. She supposed it might’ve been because no magical person would willingly volunteer Muggle blood to be put into their veins to see what would happen. It took an emergency situation.

She let out a long drawn out sigh as she closed the book and returned it to its rightful place in the library. Another dead end to her research of why a magical person would be born to non-magical parents.

She wanted a reason now more than ever before.


 

One night at dinner, Hermione could feel his eyes upon her. Draco was watching her again.

She knew if she looked up, she would find him staring at her from a distance. But this night, she kept her head down, looking at her plate of food in the Great Hall. She stared into it, not wanting to look into his wanting, sad eyes yet again.

Why fuel the torture?

She had found several new books in the library about blood, magical names, and the like. She wanted nothing more than to leave the hall and dive into them to see what she could find. It was becoming more and more of an obsession of late.

The more she read, the more unproved theories she had. She was convinced that the answer was somewhere… that maybe the pieces of the puzzle were never put together before now. There had to be answers somewhere and she was bent on finding them.

But as she was mindlessly about to stab her fork into whatever was on her plate, an unfamiliar owl had flown into the hall and dropped an envelope addressed to her.

“Mail for you?” Ron asked shocked. Hermione rarely got mail.

“I’m just as surprised as you are.” She said, picking it up.

But then she read the return address and sat stunned. She felt the heat of excitement mixed with embarrassment flush her cheeks as her heart instantly began beating at a runner’s pace.

Ministry of Magic’s Historical Records Administration - Office of Genealogy

It had been so long, she nearly forgotten how she had sent her list of twenty-two names to the Ministry’s Office of Genealogy. She had owled it on New Year’s Eve just before going to the party. She sent it in the hopes that they could find someone magical in her family history.

Perhaps they found someone and this was the letter that would end her research and be the proof she needed that she didn’t just become a magical person by some freak chance. It would give her the link that would explain everything.

Hope and excitement built in her chest, even though she knew better. Curiosity wouldn’t let her wait to open it. She opened it then and there and read the official parchment from the Ministry.


Draco sat staring at her, thinking of how he had told her in front of the Mirror of Erised that he would not have some insane secret relationship with her. He thought it ironic that even though he said it, he felt like they were in one regardless.

But no matter how strong the craving or desire that he felt for her, he would stay away from her. It’s what was best for them both. But he didn’t count on the evening when he saw the hurt in her face after reading that letter.

Draco watched as her face changed from an initial surprise, then intrigue as her eyes widened and scanned the page in a hurry. But by the end of her read, her face took on a hurt look as if the wind had been abruptly taken from her lungs.

Clearly something was wrong and it upset her immensely.

He saw her quickly fold the letter, tuck it back in the envelope, and then excuse herself from the table. She purposefully avoided his gaze as she sprang from her seat and ran off.

Draco immediately became worried for her. Clearly, whatever was in that letter had pained her somehow. And as he watched her leave, he had to fight off the urge to go after her.

“Don’t.” Draco heard a voice say.

It was Blaise.

Granger was upset for whatever reason and Blaise saw the concern in Draco’s eyes, knowing full well that his friend wanted to chase after her to find out why.

“Are you attempting to tell me what to do?” Draco asked harshly.

“Suggesting.” Blaise returned.

Draco knew his friend was right. He shouldn’t go after her… at least not at the current moment when the entire school would see him running after her like some pathetic pup. And so he waited.


It was extremely late in the evening, but he went looking for her anyway in the hopes that she would make herself known. Otherwise, he would have to give up. There were too many places in the huge Hogwarts castle to look.

It was past curfew, but that didn’t deter him one bit.

His love was upset and he wanted to be there for her, even if she never told him what was wrong. He had an uneasy feeling that maybe the letter had something to do with whatever was bothering her on the train. She never did tell him what was weighing on her mind.

He was right of course. That letter was just one part of her research. And what they sent her in return was not something that she wanted to read.

Draco eventually found her. She was not making herself known to him, like he had hoped. In fact, she had fallen asleep in the library surrounded by books.

Using the Orchideous spell, he conjured a small bouquet. He wanted her to feel better and thought flowers might help.

But when he silently stepped to her, he began noticing the names of the books that surrounded her.

Wizard Hematology: Case Studies in Magical Blood
Ancestral Names of the Magical World
Historical Bloodlines and Magical Family Names
Ancient Magical Genealogy: A Historical Look at Blood Status.

There were other books of similar titles. Draco wondered what in the world she was doing with all those books on subjects of family names and blood.

He saw a handwritten list of names on parchment… grandparents, greats, great-greats, and more. But then he saw the letter. It was the one that had seemed to take her breath and fill her with disappointment that even he could feel sitting across the room.

Her hand covered most of it, but he only needed to see the Ministry name and one line…

“We have gone to great lengths to research the histories of the names on your list, going back several hundreds of years, and regret to inform you that none in your ancestral line are of magical heritage.”

Draco’s heart sunk in his chest. She was searching her genealogy in the desperate hopes of finding a magical person.

“No. No. No.” He whispered. “What are you doing, Love?”

He didn’t understand. He told her that her blood status no longer mattered to him. Why was she doing this? The thought of her secret pain made him want to fall to the floor and beg her for forgiveness.

Just as he was about to do just that, he heard hurried footsteps coming toward them.

His instinct told him to flee the library, but he was trapped. His only option was to hide somehow, but there was no time.

In one quick and smooth motion, he tossed the flowers to the side and leaped into his Animagus form onto a library table. He leaped yet again to land stealth-like high atop a library shelf where he was able to look down upon Hermione and whoever it was who had just entered the library.

It was professor McGonagall.

Draco watched the scene from the dark and shadowy space high above them and used his keen animal hearing to listen in on their conversation.

McGonagall had stepped up to Hermione to wake her. But instead, the professor too was caught by surprise at the subject of her prized student’s research.

“Oh, my poor dear.” McGonagall whispered in a sad tone, letting out a sigh before waking the sleeping student in front of her. She took a deep breath as she placed a frail hand on her favorite student’s shoulder.

“Miss Granger, dear… do wake up. Curfew passed hours ago.”

Hermione stirred sleepily and opened her eyes.

“Sorry, Professor. I was just doing a little… um… research.” She began closing the books, trying not to draw attention to the types of books she was reading. “I must’ve fallen asleep and…”

“I’ll put them away.” The professor said. “You get to bed.”

But Hermione didn’t want McGonagall to have to put them away, considering her subject was of such a private matter. She stood abruptly from her seat.

“No. I’ll do it. I got them out, so it is only right that I…” But she was interrupted once again.

“Miss Granger,” McGonagall paused hoping the right words would come to her. “Normally, I try not to mettle too much into my student’s private and personal lives, but I must insist that you not go looking for something that isn’t here. You are only wasting your time.”

Hermione wanted to deny her research as if she was a child caught doing something that was wrong. But it was too obvious, so in a bold move, she decided to do the opposite and defend it.

“Is it wrong to research my ancestry?” She said defensively.

McGonagall recognized the tone. Her student was frustrated and above all else… tired. She tried her best to use a softer tone, given the sensitivity of the subject at hand.

“Sit back down. Let us sit and talk awhile, shall we?” In a rare move, Professor McGonagall took a seat at an adjacent table… close but also giving Hermione some space.

She knew what was coming, some grand lecture that would prove pointless in the end. But she did what she was told and sat back down.

“I’ve been at Hogwarts nearly all of my life.” The old woman gave a sigh as she thought of the many years. “And you are not the first student that I’ve seen in the library in the wee hours of the night searching for answers about ancestry and magical blood.”

“I’m curious as to why I have magic, while my parents do not. I am searching my ancestry in the hopes of finding a magical link. Maybe magic skips several generations or something. There must be one. A squib line perhaps?”

“No. There does not have to be one.”

Hermione couldn’t hide her frustration now. It burned at her insides and she wanted answers that she wasn’t finding in any of those books.

“Why then? How can a magical person be born from nothing? Was my mother exposed to magic while pregnant with me? Could that be how a child of Muggle parents gets magic from nowhere? There must be an explanation… something logical that I can wrap my head around and understand.”

Hermione had many theories. They were driving her mad.

“Did my mother unknowingly touch a magical object like a Portkey or did she accidentally get in the way of a spell that was cast, or drink a magical potion by accident? Or did I as a child unknowingly do any of those things? Or was one of my ancestors in some sort of accident whereby they received magical blood instead of Muggle blood at a hospital? There must be a reason, McGonagall.”

“If there was a common situation, like Muggle exposure to magic, then it would’ve been found. The question remains a mystery that will remain unsolved.”

“It must be solved.” Hermione adamantly shook her head.

“Why? Why must it be solved? Conception itself is a magical occurrence whether Muggle or otherwise. The fusing together of two different things with all sorts of chromosomes and molecules is a miracle of life that no scientist in all of world history has ever been able to figure out, let alone the question of why some have magic and some don't.  We are of a small minority of people.  It is a gift.”

“That does not help or make me feel better about my situation.”

“It’s been suggested that magic has the ability to choose the person.” The professor offered.  "We should embrace this explanation, however vague it is."

“That is just another theory, not unlike my own theories. Not proven.” Hermione countered.

“You are the brightest witch of your age and have nothing to prove to anyone. You are amongst the best of your generation.  Why would this bother you so as to have you doing research in such a way as to be hiding it, I presume?”  The professor raised an eyebrow accusingly.

“Perhaps it is because my blood status prevented me from getting a simple date to a rather uneventful New Year’s Eve party!”

The professor looked surprised.

“Yes. My date canceled on me the day of the party, sighting that his parents had ‘blood issues.’  They found offence with my dirty blood and would not allow their son to take me to a party!”

Hermione folded her arms to her chest.

“One can change their hair style or color. One can even change the color of their eyes or lose weight. How do I fix who I was born to? A Pureblood has no control over it either… and yet I’m the one tainted.” She felt like crying, but held back her tears in front of the professor.

Draco cringed at her words. She had lost a date to ‘blood issues’ on New Year’s Eve? That’s what must’ve been bothering her on the train. He knew it wasn’t just about breaking up with Ron. Of course she would never tell him.

Draco thought of her words.  She said that she was tainted and yet he was the one with a Dark Mark on his forearm. He felt the twinge of sickness. He was the one that was tainted, not her.

He recalled then how dark her mood had been. It’s no wonder she told him to go to Hell. He was the last person she would’ve wanted to see in her compartment.

And it was no wonder now why she would not open up and tell him what had been on her mind for so long. Blood status. He knew that he would be the last person she would confide in when it came to that sore subject.

Waves of guilt convicted him over and over again as he began realizing just how deep he had wounded her.

No one noticed, but the flowers he had conjured had become wilted and were suddenly dying, his own self-hatred killing them.

"It is society that is tainted, dear. Not you."  The professor didn’t say anything about Hermione losing her date and decided it best to listen.

“When I was a young girl, I had dreams like most ambitious little girls that believed what their parents told them… that they could be whatever they wanted to be so long as they worked hard at it. But when I found out that I was a magical person, those dreams were quickly forgotten because my reality was far better than any dream that I had for myself.”
 
Hermione seemed to stare beyond the stack of books in front of her while speaking her heart.

“You can imagine my disappointment when I found out that there were certain people that didn’t want me here… that didn’t think I should be taught magic. They thought of me as a filthy little Mudblood… the lowest class of magical human beings, underserving of magic.”

Draco shrunk at her words. She was talking about him… the first to cut her so deeply.

“Did Malfoy insult you again? Do I need to talk to him?” The professor asked as though fully ready to go to battle for her student.

“No!” Hermione nearly shouted. “Malfoy is the last… last person I want you to talk to about this!” She said mortified.

“Are you sure? I know that he’s said things in the past…”

“No, Professor.” She said shaking her head. “It’s not that Malfoy has called me a name. It’s not that at all.”

She remembered being at her parent’s home on New Year’s Eve and finally facing the fact that it wasn’t just Malfoy. She had wondered back then how many more times her blood status would be a problem. Perhaps if she were to become a healer, how many Pureblood patients would refuse to be treated by her? Or perhaps she would apply for a job and be turned away because she was a Muggle-born.

Those were the concerns that had started her research. But with such strong feelings for Draco now, even those things were nothing compared to what hurt the most.

Hermione felt the heaviness in her heart at the truth of the matter.

“Why then? What has sparked this sudden curiosity?” The professor asked with concern.

“Because I want to know… and trust me, it’s not sudden.”

The professor knew that merely telling Hermione to stop was not going to do one bit of good. Her convincing would need logic… a case study perhaps. Reluctantly, she began her debate.

“Filch’s brother wanted to know as well.” McGonagall said abruptly. “Out of guilt, I presume.”

“Filch?” Hermione knit her brow wondering what in the world a squib would have to do with her circumstance. “Filch had a brother?”

“Identical twin… except for magic. He too would come here looking for answers… blood, squibs, magical inheritance or transference. They were the same in every way… born only minutes apart. Why would one newborn babe have magic and the other one not, born to two magical parents? Don’t you think Filch wonders that while he roams these halls?”

“Why does he roam these halls?” She asked boldly.

The woman gave a forced sigh as if she didn’t really want to continue the story, but felt she now owed an explanation.

“Filch’s magical twin died in an accident the summer before his seventh year. When that happened, Filch wanted to see Hogwarts… wanted to see where his brother had lived. And after witnessing this castle, he didn’t want to leave and so he begged Albus for a job. That’s why Filch roams these halls.”

Hermione let out a long sigh and shifted in her seat, finding sympathy for someone she never thought she would. 

“The point of all that is… why would a magical couple have a non-magical child and even more so… an identical twin have magic while the other did not? Hermione, there is no logical explanation. And it reciprocates… why would Muggles have a child with magic? It is but a mystery that has no logical answer.”

Hermione did not like this lesson that had no answer. It told her nothing and only brought up more questions.

“Stop wasting your time, dear. There is nothing wrong with you.” The kind professor urged.

She gave a slight huff. “Oh, but there is something wrong.” Hermione countered.  "Something very wrong."

“What, child. What is wrong?”

Hermione questioned whether or not to answer her professor. She would’ve rather have talked to her mother, but her mother wasn’t there and would never understand anyway.

There was a long pause between the two before Hermione spoke her heart.

Draco listened intently, wondering what his love would say.

“There are lessons here at school… lessons that I never expected or wanted to learn, Professor.”

“Bigotry?” McGonagall guessed. "Hatred?"

“No.” Hermione swallowed hard for what she was about to say that would reveal nearly everything, but certainly not all.

“I learned that a heart is not unlike a wand. Like a wand that chooses the wizard, the heart chooses who it wants to love, even if against our will.”

Draco shrunk back into the shadows above. He could no longer look at them. Her words had become too painful to hear.

Hermione continued to stare beyond the books then asked, “Have you ever had feelings for someone that you couldn’t have, Minerva?”

The professor understood then… the reason behind the research. She also understood why she had called her by her first name. Because Hermione didn’t need a professor at that moment, she needed a confidant. It tore down a wall, so to speak, and Minerva gave the young woman sitting across from her a truthful answer.

“Yes.”

McGonagall had a tired look about her as her memory flashed to the past… to a tall, dashing and dark-haired young man that loved her once... a man now dead to her.

“I was young once. And yes, I had feelings for someone that I couldn’t have, but for very different reasons than blood status… but no matter the reason, I do know what that feels like.” She said as a frail hand moved over her own heavy, burdened heart.

Hermione was surprised that McGonagall had experienced anything similar and felt sorry for the woman.

“I wish we could just wave our magic wands, Professor, and fix opinions of society. But I know if we had that kind of power, the dark side would only use it against us… against people like me, I mean.”

The professor didn’t need to answer.

“And what do you suggest I do now?” Hermione asked, looking into the darkness of the library once again.

The older woman spoke the only wise words that she could think to say, hoping that they would have some meaning.

“Find someone else to love. Move on… before it is too late and you find yourself alone, married to your work, and the children that you love are someone else’s.”

The professor’s voice cracked from the weight of her quiet pain of having no children of her own.

Draco didn't want to hear anymore and prayed their conversation would end soon.  "Move on? Find someone else to love?”  The professor's advice hurt him like a Cruciatus blow, but it was truthful and the right thing to do.

The flowers he was going to give her had fully dried to a crisp and were now disintegrating like ashes falling.

McGonagall didn’t want the conversation to end on such a sad note and so she added, “Keep your heart open and one day, you will find the love of your life, Hermione. He will be a wonderful, kind man that will love you unconditionally. He will take away all of your fears and insecurities about blood status and will mend your heart.”

Draco's image flashed in her mind as the only person that could ever truly do that. 

A shiver ran down her spine. She thought she felt his staring once more. Was he there or was her sleepy mind playing tricks on her?

“Collect your things and get to bed. I’ll re-shelve the books.” McGonagall insisted, her voice returning to her normal professor-like tone.


Hermione left the library upset that she had no answers… only more questions. Her heart was hurting, loving someone she couldn’t have.

She walked abruptly toward Gryffindor Tower, hugging her personal letters and items to her chest.

When McGonagall was finally out of sight, Draco leaped from the top of the high library shelf silently to the floor and ran after Hermione. The only way for him to catch up to her was to remain in his Animagus form and sprint to Gryffindor Tower.

He wanted to talk to her… wanted her to stop this unhealthy obsession of blood and ancestry, but was unsure of what to say. He had already told her that it didn’t matter to him, but her heart was still hurting.


Hermione hurriedly walked down a long corridor getting more and more upset with each step. She wanted those books for research and figured that McGonagall probably re-shelved them so that she wouldn’t be able to find them easily.

“Find someone else to love?” She mumbled to herself. “Easier said than done.”

Draco ran as fast as he could, his huge paws hitting the floor with near complete silence, hoping that no one would see him in his state.

He caught a glimpse of her just as she was about the walk the steps to the Gryffindor Tower.

He needed to stop her in her tracks before he would be locked out. The opportunity was closing fast so he did the only thing he thought would stop her.

He leaped ahead of her onto the top of the landing and whipped around so that they were now nearly face to face.

But it wasn’t his normal face she was staring into.

Instead, a ferocious black leopard brought her to an abrupt halt as she gasped ready to scream the air out of her lungs. Her eyes widened and her heart skipped beats for fear at what had just leaped in front of her.

The commanding presence of the animal showing his sharp white teeth took her breath.

Stunning fear had her feet glued to the ground as she tried desperately to think logically as the gray eyes of the beast stared into her own.

The magnificent cat began to pace in front of her like one that was caged and frustrated.

Her logical senses began to take over.

Why would there be a fierce and brooding black leopard in Hogwarts? There wouldn’t be. Which meant that it was someone transformed into their Animagus state. Whoever it was… it was a most beautiful and amazing creature.

Its coat was sleek and of the darkest shade of black. It moved with strength and stealth as if watching its prey… ready to devour at will.

But as she looked into the beast’s eyes, she finally realized who it was.

She remembered being a little girl watching the mysterious and powerful black leopards at the zoo. They had piercing yellow eyes, but not this one.

This great and stunning beast had eyes of gray.

It continued its frustrated pacing in front of her as he contemplated what to say.

“Draco?” She questioned in awe of his beautiful form.

The Animagus state is said to reflect the traits of the wizard and this one was certainly no exception.

The black leopard, known for its high level of intelligence and cunning, a powerful lurking menace whose dark coat with hidden spots, reflecting Draco’s color of choice, a loner, proud, quiet, and stealthy… an exceptional stalker.

Yes… this was Draco Malfoy and he made one gorgeous beast.

“You are a shadowy stalker, aren’t you?” She asked mad at him. “You heard everything, didn’t you?”

Embarrassment and hurt flooded her. He could see it on her face. He was never meant to hear that conversation with McGonagall.

He continued his pacing in front of her, but his piercing grey eyes never left hers.

“Well now that you finally know what has been bothering me all this time, you’ll understand that you were the last person on the planet that I would talk to about it.”

His silent pacing was irritating her. Was he just going to stay in his transformed state and say nothing?

“Oh, just let me pass,” she said as she attempted to make her way around him.

But instead, she was met with a most threatening sound as the black leopard in front of her gave a fierce and low hollow rattle from deep within his chest.

“We had an agreement!” She practically yelled at him. “I wasn’t supposed to come looking for you and you weren’t supposed to come looking for me. It figures that you would be the one to break it!” She snapped.

Just then, the black predator sat up on its hind legs as Draco grew upward, reaching his full height into his human form.

“I saw your reaction to that letter and wanted to make sure you were alright.”

“Well, as you can see. I’m fine. Now move.” She demanded as she tried to speed passed him, hugging her personal things to her chest trying not to drop them.

But he caught her instead.

“You must stop this.”

“Stop what exactly? Trying to get away from you?” She said angrily.

“No. Researching blood issues.” He bent down to force her to look at him. “Does my opinion of you not matter at all?”

She was trying to hold onto her anger, but it was futile. She was more angry at society, than his eavesdropping.

“Of course you matter. But please forgive me for trying to find the answer that has eluded Muggle-borns throughout the ages. I was hoping to find an answer so that maybe our world would be a little less hateful so that someday… someday someone like me could be with someone like you.”

Her eyes began to water at the heaviness felt in her chest, but she fought the tears as hard as she ever had.

“Forgive me… a fool in thinking that I could ever make a difference.”  She told him.

She tried again to get passed him, but he was not ready to allow her to leave just yet.

“You are no fool, Hermione Granger. And for the record, I find your theories immensely brilliant. You’ve opened my eyes on such thoughts as to why and how, especially Muggle exposure to magic.”

Her eyes cast down to the floor as she suddenly felt silly at such a theory.  There was never proof. 

He could sense that what he was saying wasn’t helping her.

“Tell me. How can I make this better?” He asked as his warm breath reached her face. “Tell me and I’ll do it.”

Hermione recalled all that he had done to prove that he no longer thought of her as someone tainted. His closeness reminded her of the ways that he made her feel valued and wanted.

“How could I possibly ask a single thing more of you? The way you…” But she stopped mid-sentence, trying to choose her words carefully. “There isn’t anything you can do about this. I don’t expect you to ever fully understand.”

Draco wanted to comfort her… wanted desperately to make it right and take her pain away.

“There isn’t a Pureblood in this place who is worthy of you.”

She shook her head adamantly and was instantly furious at him.

“Stop it!” She yelled as she hit him in the chest. “Have you not been listening at all? How arrogant of you to decide who is worthy and who isn’t. I’m bloody sick of it! It isn’t up to you… or any Pureblood… or any Malfoy!”

Her words were like a slap to his face. He meant to give her a compliment, but what he said had ruined the moment instead.

“The only thing that you could possibly do for me now is to let me pass… and leave me alone.”

She spoke the last words in a hushed tone, knowing full well she didn’t want to say them.

After an uneasy moment of tension, she fully expected him to say something nasty to her in rebuttal. People usually do when their feelings have been hurt. But instead, Draco stepped aside silently so that they were now shoulder to shoulder, finally granting her access to pass.

To his surprise, she stood there for a few seconds, unmoving.

Her pause spoke to him. An unwritten language that said she didn’t really want to be left alone, but what choice did they have?

He didn't watch as she made her way to the entrance door.  But as soon as heard it creak open behind him, he uttered three little words. 

“I miss you.”  He said into his shoulder, never fully turning around to look at her.

His words nearly took her breath.

"And I... you."  She replied truthfully, wanting him to turn around and kiss her goodnight.

But as soon as he heard her response, Draco walked away without looking back, fully intending to abide by her wishes and leave her alone.

Hearing the door close, he could feel his heart grow cold and ice form like a thick shell, encasing his very soul.

 

After that, Draco’s dark demeanor worsened. He had become somewhat more of a loner and regressed into hardly speaking to anyone and had barely had an appetite to show up for meals. He was skipping breakfast to sleep in and would skip class on occasion. His grades were slipping and it didn’t seem like he cared at all.

Priorities were rearranged and everything about school became unimportant and meaningless, more so than ever before.

People left him alone for the most part, including girls. He would look at them as if he would bite them if they got too close. His ferocious actions kept them away so much so, that the normal sluts and gold-diggers were no longer a problem. Even Pansy kept her distance.

Blaise Zabini took notice of his best friend’s deteriorated state.

He was thinking about what to say to him when his girlfriend, Astoria Greengrass urged him to intervene.

“You’re his best friend. Something is bothering him.”

“I know full well what is bothering him and I can assure you that nothing I would do could possibly fix any of it.”

Astoria knew not to ask what it was. She wouldn’t get a truthful answer anyway. Smart girl. It was one of things Blaise loved about her. She knew there were limits to information, especially when it came to Draco Malfoy.

“Well you must try something. I’m worried sick about him.”

“Are you now?” Blaise clenched his jaw at her little confession, not that he couldn’t see the way her eyes would follow his friend whenever he passed them.

Apparently Astoria didn’t loathe Draco as much as he had hoped. And that thought ripped through his insides. Would she ever let go of her adolescent crush on Draco and realize what she had with Blaise?

It surprised him how quickly his jealousy became overshadowed by utter sadness as he thought of the only way that he might be able to pull Draco out of the darkness and prevent him from going mad.

Draco couldn’t have the Mudblood girl he wanted, but he could have Astoria. She cared for him and Blaise figured that fact alone would have Draco falling for her rather quickly.

Perhaps that’s what Draco needed most… a caring woman’s touch to take his mind off his dark task. And she would follow through with it, Blaise knew. And it cut him deeper than he’d ever felt possible. He felt the stab just under the center of his ribs. It’s what happens when you love someone whose interests lie with someone else.

Astoria had told Blaise of all the insults Draco threw at her at New Year’s Eve. He struggled not to laugh, knowing full well that Draco meant none of those things. Blaise thought it mighty noble of Draco to not partake in something that was his for the taking. Instead, he helped him by pointing Astoria his way.

And so, Blaise decided to return the noble gesture by giving up Astoria, his love, in the hopes of saving a friend.

“I’ll talk to him.” He said in a sad tone, pausing to kiss her tenderly on the cheek for what he thought might be the last time.

He was at the threshold of the door when he turned around to her to say one last thing.

“You know, Astoria, you are one of the few kindhearted Slytherins in this place.” He swallowed hard to lose the lump in his throat. “No matter what happens… don’t ever lose that, Love.” 

And so Blaise went looking for Draco to present an offer that would test a friendship and prove the loyalty and sacrifice of one Slytherin brother to another. 

 

 

 






Author's Note:

My apologies for the long delay.  So much has happened (from out of town sports tournaments to a loved one's open-heart surgery), but I'll spare you everything. I only ask for grace and extreme patience.

Well, Draco now knows what's been bothering her and Hermione knows his Animagus form.  What did you think of it?  A black leopard?

Poor Hermione... She wants to find the answer so that she could be with him someday. Her deepest insecurities were laid out in front of a trusted professor.  Poor dear. 

She never did get her flowers. ;(

Love to all,

Dark Whisper

P.S. Over 29,500 reads and 181 Favorited.  My heart thanks you! Unbelievable!

And... "The Winds of Azkaban" is now Completed (just 3 chapters). 
 
 
 


Chapter 19: Hermione Sends a Message
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Hermione tossed and turned in her bed, trying too hard to fall sleep. But sleep would not come because her mind kept thinking of him and his withdrawal from daily life… his skipping meals and sometimes classes. She would see him and know that his mind was wandering to some other dimension. 

Her heart ached for the one that was so very different now… a completely different person than he once was. Underneath the layers of haughtiness and hatred was someone hidden. And that hidden person was tender in his touch with thoughts and feelings for her that ran deep within.

She wondered how anyone could live two lives without things becoming blurred at some point. At times she thought of him as a sad mystery and he’d given her the keys to unlock the mystery… the truth of what it was like to grow up in the house of Malfoy… a luxurious prison with no freedom.

Her thoughts went to Harry and the conversations that would always seem to come up.

“He is a Death Eater, exactly like his father.” Harry said adamantly, as if he had proof.

“He is not exactly like his father.” Hermione protested. “And he is no Death Eater.”

“You might not be convinced, but I am. He walks around Hogwarts as if he hates the world and everyone in it. He is up to something. He’s been disappearing from the map, Hermione. Where is he going?”

Hermione suspected that she knew where he was going… either into The Room of Hidden Things or under the courtyard, both of which were not on the Marauder’s Map. But she would never let on to Harry what she knew, even if she felt a bit guilty for not telling him.

She didn’t want to believe that Draco was planning something diabolical or doing anything wrong. And she had convinced herself that there was no way he would ever agree to becoming a Death Eater. He didn’t believe what they believed. He expressed love to her and risked much in doing so. He would never be one of them. She wouldn’t allow herself to believe it. It couldn’t ever be possible. He would never serve a Dark Lord that would want to kill her.

“I'll never believe it.” She told herself.

Thoughts quickly went to the gift he had given her, the book hidden in the top shelf of her closet where she kept it magically concealed. It was banned after all… and dangerous.

She hadn’t read from it in a long while. She remembered how sad it was reading of a child that had been in the dark so long that it had stopped crying, giving up on anyone ever coming for him.

Hermione sat up in bed suddenly wanting to read more, hoping that it would help her fall asleep.

She crept out of bed and into her closet careful to not make a sound and not wake anyone. Once she had retrieved the book, she hopped back into bed and pulled the scarlet colored drapes surrounding it, giving her privacy.

Using her wand as a light, she spoke the password that would open it. A password that she created when her heart was hurting...

“Accio Prince,” she whispered as it magically opened to the last page that she had read.


The lonely child had been deathly ill for quite some time. He wondered if loneliness could cause such delirious fever and green-hued skin. For weeks he saw only shadows of various heights on the walls. They would bring food to sustain him when he thought he might die.

But one day, everything changed. And as if stepping out of the darkness, the child opened his eyes to the shadow he felt come over him. And there standing before him was a curious magical creature looking down at him with huge eyes, pointy ears, and a long nose.

“Hello.” The child said weakly. “Who are you?” He asked the creature.

The creature’s huge eyes grew even larger, seemingly surprised that the child spoke. But then he disappeared, much to the child’s disappointment.

The next time the creature was there, he brought fruit.

“Wait.” The child said to him. “Will you be my friend? I haven’t got any friends.”

But the elf didn’t answer. Instead, he covered his mouth with his long bony fingers.

“You are not allowed to talk to me, are you?” The boy guessed with sadness.

The creature bowed his head to gesture ‘yes’.

The child sighed his disappointment. “Will you at least stay a bit? Here, have an apple and eat with me.”

The house elf immediately liked the child, not accustomed to eating with a Master. Taking the apple, he rubbed his long fingers across it and levitated it back to the child.

It hovered to him and turned slowly with one simple friendly message carved into it. It spelled out…


“H E L L O.”

The child was elated then and it was the beginning of a fun and interesting friendship.


Hermione continued her reading and learned that the child had nearly died of Dragon Pox, leaving him with a slight but permanent greenish tint to his skin and learned that the elf was actually the fourth elf to care for him… the first three dying in the process of caring for him.

None of his human family dared to come near him for fear of catching the dreadful illness. They were royalty and far too important to die of his disease. That was the reason why the child was so lonely and gave up on anyone ever coming to his aid. He was under quarantine and had suffered a terribly sad, lonely existence.

She quickly surmised that he was pretty much left to die except for the elves that had tended to him, giving him medicine that would eventually cure him. She wanted to cry for the child and his horrible treatment that had undoubtedly gone on for months.

She read of happier times when the elf taught the child ancient elfish magic using creative methods, considering he was ordered not to speak to the prince who lived. He taught him how to bend light and send messages from afar. They communicated through fire… words spelled out in the air with streaks of fire and also water, even though that turned out to be a bit messy.

Eventually, the prince was taught to hide spells within written text… a difficult, but necessary skill for the two to communicate. It would become a rare skill that would prove to be most useful.

The prince had his magic teachers, but it was the house elf that taught him more magic than his tutors ever could.

But then tragedy struck one night when the house elf was caught teaching the boy… caught by none other than the king himself, who was sorely upset for the elf having disobeyed strict orders.  The elf technically never spoke, but the king deemed him guilty none-the-less. 

“Oh, my Delilah, the boy’s father struck the elf dead, much to the horror of an utterly devastated child in witnessing the loss of his only friend. It left a hole in the child’s heart that quickly filled with great personal guilt and a quiet anger.”

The story had tugged at Hermione’s heart. It instantly reminded her of how Draco had described the loss of his black dog, Stella all those years ago at Christmas by the hand of his father.

As she continued her reading, she learned that the Tutors were not kind people. They were serious, never smiled, and always looked at him as if his every move was wrong in comparison to his more civilized siblings. He sat wrong, carried himself wrong, held a quill wrong, and looked at them wrong. The boy hated them and their words that would hurt him.

One day, one of the tutors was especially cruel in using the Crucio to correct him for not putting his quills away properly before recess. It seemed his siblings never received the cruelest of treatment for the same offense and his anger welled greatly within. And so with careful thought and the proper words, the prince ridded himself of his tutor by using a carefully penned homework assignment that would deliver a curse not so easily forgotten.

And before the evening was out, the despised tutor and worst offender began scratching at what began as a tiny itch to the surface of his wand hand… the hand that delivered a most painful Crucio. The irritation grew quickly and moved up his arm to his neck and then to his face and into his hair. And so he scratched and scratched the itch that was overtaking his entire body. He itched until the blood dripped to the floor and beyond.

“What curse is this?” The cruel tutor cried out. “Somebody... help me!” He screamed.

But no one knew how to help the man except to commit him to a mental asylum for going insane in believing that something was crawling on him and causing him to itch obsessively. 


And no one ever found the darkness hidden within the words on parchment page.

As Hermione was reading, the text was messing with her mind a bit as it was making her scratch. She began to get worried that she somehow had possibly cursed herself in reading it, but it was short lived as the tiny itch on her arm subsided quickly.

But then she read the last line of the chapter that left her a little relieved and curious at the same time.

“My words shall never hurt you, my Delilah. But in reading this, you send a light to me. A light that gives me great joy in knowing that you are safe and that you have read my story.”

Hermione looked up from her book, but didn’t see a light of any kind except for her wand that was illuminating her bed just enough so that she could read. A quick thought crossed her mind. If she was sending a light in reading the text, where would it go? But she quickly reasoned that she couldn’t have sent any kind of light because she had not read it aloud. That was a requirement for the book to do any harm, right?

She was too tired to think about it any further and decided it was time to lay her sleepy head down and succumb to the heaviness in her head. Sleep would come fast as soon as she closed her eyes.

She closed the book and locked it again using the password that no one would ever guess and put it back in its place carefully concealed in her closet.

Hermione then crawled back into bed and a moment later, she was fast asleep and in a dream that visualized all that she had read.

 

Draco had gone missing for far too long and Blaise became worried. He knew his best friend well and had observed Draco’s behavior with a concerned caution. He despised what Draco was doing to cope. No one knew of his alcohol bingeing, but Blaise. The signs were all there, one just had to know how to recognize them.

It was time for an intervention of sorts.

When Blaise couldn’t find him in any of their normal spots, he made his way to the courtyard to see if the hidden steps would allow him entry to the graffiti below it. It blocked him as soon as he made the attempt, which only confirmed that Draco was hiding out underneath it.

There was only one other way to get underneath the courtyard. He’d have to travel by water.

With the moon lighting the path, he made his way down to the boat dock and was pleased to find the water was mostly frozen over, which meant Blaise didn’t need a boat. For it was the last freeze of the season and spring would come soon.

He took out his wand and sent a charm to thicken the ice and strengthen it so that he wouldn’t be falling through. It worked wonderfully and he now only had to walk on it to get to the space under the courtyard. He held his wand out in front of him so that it strengthened the ice ahead of each step.

His only concern was that his footsteps might wake the Merpeople living in the depths of the Black Lake. The last thing he wanted was trouble from them.

Blaise hated nearly all magical creatures and often thought that their only purpose in life was to make magical humans miserable. The only possible exception that he could think of was a decent house elf… and even they could push his limits of tolerance.

Once he was able to walk on solid ground again, Blaise raised his wand for more light.

“Lumos.”

Blaise found Draco alright... sitting around jars with tiny flames, surrounded by the wrappers of countless liquor sticks, drunk and looking sick with despair. His eyes were bloodshot with sickly dark patches underneath. He looked like he hadn’t slept in days.

“What do you want, Blaise? Come to have a drink with me?” He said with sarcasm.

Draco had been holding something… a piece of paper of some sort and set it down amongst the liquor sticks.

Blaise recognized it as a picture of Hermione Granger. But it must’ve had something wrong with it since it wasn’t moving at all. He had no doubt that Draco had been obsessing over it for weeks. He had caught glimpses of it several times before.

He wasn’t sure if he was surprised at the sight or not. He knew Draco had been drinking to take the edge off everything, but he was alarmed at the sheer numbers that he’d consumed. It was way too much for one person and he was baffled that Draco was still coherent.

“What do you think you are doing? Killing yourself with alcohol?” Blaise accused, disgusted with the scene.

Draco looked as if he barely had the energy to look at his best friend. In a raspy voice, he managed a reply.

“Is it terrible of me to drink away the darkness? Don’t pretend you’ve never indulged.”

“This isn’t New Year’s Eve, mate. You are not surrounded by friends and a hundred party girls having fun. This is entirely different.”

“Save your lecture for someone who isn’t going to die soon.” He said through gritted teeth. “What am I saying? I’m already dead. I just haven’t stopped breathing yet.”

He took yet another liquor stick from his pocket, cracked it open, and allowed the liquid to pour into his mouth. He then slammed the remains of it on the ground before he continued.

“You are not dead yet, Draco Malfoy. Until you take your last breath, there is much to live for. So stop acting like you are dead and re-join the living.”

“For what? Women? Parties? Quidditch? O.W.L.S. test scores and House Cup Points?” He spat. “It’s all meaningless, Blaise. Dust and ash… because we’re all going to die. Wake up and smell the bloodshed. Hogwarts is but a temporary shelter from what’s really going on out there, my dear Slytherin brother. Cedric Diggory was the first student victim. There will be more. And I will be one of them. Either Dumbledore will kill me while defending himself or the Dark Lord will kill me for failing. Either way, I am dead before I really have a chance to live.”

Blaise got it then. Darkness that he’d never known was consuming his friend. He couldn’t possibly fully understand the pressures that he was going through… the enormous weight of it.

Draco was being robbed of his teenage years. He was supposed to be thinking, acting, and playing the part of his true age. But it was being stolen from him, having to grow up too soon and take on responsibilities that he wasn’t ready for. And he had no choice in the matter.

“He’s coming for his real estate. He thinks this place is his home and Mudbloods are defiling it with their presence here. And one day, he will return and he will take it. And he will kill anyone who stands in his way. Dark wizards against children. A slaughter is coming and I have no faith in some ridiculous Potter prophecy.”

Blaise stood listening of diabolical plans that had been weighing on Draco so heavily. He had not known about them nor understood the seriousness or brevity of it until now.

“What's that old medieval poem?"  Draco questioned.  "The one about the rosebuds?" But then it came to him.  "Old Time’s still a-flying. And this same flower that smiles today, tomorrow will be dying.”  He quoted.

Draco shook his head at the thought of it's meaning.

“It’s not just a poem from our Old English Literature class. They were warning us.” He continued. “Carpe Diem and all that crap. Yes. Seize the day… because you’ll be dying soon.”

Blaise felt his heart sink a little at seeing how much his friend seemed to give up on life.  He knew what he had to do then. He had to make the offer that would hopefully bring Draco out of the depths.

“Draco, I know that you said that I cannot help you with your task. But there is something that I can do for you and I think you should seriously consider it.” He said in a sad tone that even a drunk Draco noticed.

“I know that part of the hell you are going through is that you cannot be with the one you want. You have no freedom in that and I cannot imagine what that must be like. I know that you’ve had plenty of women that have only used you for… for a variety of reasons, but I know of one that cares for you. And no one would question your being with her.”

It pained Blaise to speak of giving up his love, but he felt it was the only way to help his friend.

“If you need an escape… go to Astoria. She is worried about you and cares for you still.”

Draco couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Blaise giving Astoria to him so that he could get some comfort in his life? It was just like his dream. Blaise was stepping aside thinking he needed the love of Astoria to keep his sanity.

Draco wouldn’t have it.

“Don’t you ever say that to me again, Blaise Zabini. A girl is not something that you can give as a gift or allow a friend to borrow like a Quidditch broom!”

“Of course not, mate, but illegal potions and alcohol are not the answer. I don’t know what is, but something needs to keep you grounded and sane.”

“There is only one girl that I know of that can truly do that. And she is not Astoria Greengrass!” He growled. “So while I appreciate your sentiment of unwavering loyalty and brotherly friendship, don’t you ever sacrifice your happiness for me. Trust me, I’m not worthy of such a high price!”

Blaise swallowed hard and gave a rare, insecure look. He normally exuded an aristocratic confidence that matched Draco’s, but this subject was something deep that made his heart hurt and it showed.

“There is something else concerning her.” He said, trying hard to hold back his emotion.

“What could that possibly be?”

Blaise paced a little, thinking of how to express what had been weighing on his own mind as of late.

“Are we not equal in intelligence?” Blaise finally asked.

“We are.” Draco acknowledged.

“And are we not equal in magical talent and abilities?”

“I’d say we are very close. What are you getting at?” Draco asked, clearly losing his patience.

“Even so, we are not respected equally by our brothers and sisters of Slytherin House.”

“You are highly respected… without question.”

“Yes, but you have always been considered number one, the highest rank. I’ve always been second to you and I do honestly accept that. But there is a line that cannot be crossed. I cannot be second when it comes to Astoria… or any woman that I’m with for that matter. If I cannot be number one in their eyes, then it won’t work. Call me selfish, but I want a girl to want to be with me and only me. I refuse to be second best in her eyes. And with Astoria… I believe it is you that she would choose… if given the choice.”

“What do you want me to do, Blaise? Spit it her face? I will do it.” He said adamantly, as if ready and willing at that very moment.

“Don’t you dare. She’s done nothing to you but be concerned for your wellbeing.”

Draco didn’t know what to do or say. He had tried to prevent his dream by insulting her to the core, but apparently it hadn’t worked.

“She cares for you and I’m willing to let her go because I can’t be second best. Don’t you understand? You will be happy with her because she cares for you… something in which you’ve lacked in your previous relationships.”

“Astoria cares for me, you say?” Draco ran a hand through his hair and couldn’t help but think of someone else.

“As my closest friend, let me tell you something. Granger… is the only person that has never wanted to use me for anything. Not my status, not my fortune, or for anything else… but acceptance for who she is. And let me remind you that Astoria was sorted into Slytherin House for a reason. Perhaps those classic characteristics haven’t shown up yet… cunning, manipulative, self-preservation and all that. But forgive me if I suspect that she wants something from me. Perhaps it is competition with her sister to land a wealthier mate. Perhaps she wants to use my business connections to start a design career or something. All I know is that Astoria Greengrass doesn’t know me at all.”

“Wait. How did you know about that? About interior design? She only began mentioning it to me after the art show.”

Draco knew of it only because of his dream. In it, Astoria had said that she designed every inch of their new home with him in mind. It was her future career and he didn’t mean to mention it exactly. It just came out and he needed to divert the subject, not wanting to try to explain that he had some stupid futuristic dream at Christmas.

“Call it a hunch. It doesn’t matter. Look, Astoria is a perfectly fine, beautiful pureblood Slytherin and no doubt she is one of the nicest and most caring that we have. I won’t deny that. But you must realize something about her that I want you to really think about and seriously consider.”

“What’s that?”

“She is two years younger than we are. Two years. Don’t expect her to know who she wants to be with for the rest of her life. You need to give her time to grow up. She is far too young to be deciding such things now, even if she thinks she knows. You need to give her a mile of grace when it comes to you and a serious relationship. Give her time.”

“But what about you? You need her. Take her.”

“Take what exactly, her virginity? Assuming that you haven’t done the deed already.”

Blaise breathed in a deep breath and set his jaw. Clearly, he hadn’t.

“How would that make you really feel knowing full well that I loved someone else and that I was just using her in my bed, which right at the present moment, happens to be right next to yours in our dorm? What would happen to our friendship if I used her as ‘second best?’”

Draco could almost feel the rage boiling at the thought of him taking Astoria’s innocence in such an uncaring manner.

“Lucky for you, I still hold some things sacred… like a girl’s innocence and your friendship. And while I appreciate your offer, however sick and twisted it is, I must decline. Do what you must with Astoria, but I’m staying out of it. Why don’t you tell her that I’m a Death Eater and maybe that’ll take care of your ‘second best’ problem that you think you have.”

Draco’s sarcasm and obnoxious tone angered Blaise.

“And how did you manage to tell your Mudblood friend of your little secret? How did she react to the news? Did she take it well? Or is that why you two aren’t even on speaking terms right now? Have a lover’s quarrel, did you?”

“She is not your concern and never will be.” He said as if giving a warning.

“Oh, but she is. Believe it or not, Draco, but I am your friend and someday I hope you will forgive me for what I am about to do.”

Draco became instantly alarmed, but he was too slow with his wand, the alcohol slowing him down.

“Incendio!” Blaise commanded, sending the spell that set her picture ablaze.

“No!” Draco cried out in disbelief as he saw her image being consumed by the flames until it disappeared to nothing.

His head snapped to Blaise.

“You had no right to destroy her picture! None!” He yelled enraged… and followed it with a jinx that sent Blaise spinning in the air and flying into the graffiti wall.

As soon as his back hit the magical wall, it spelled out the words, “MY ASTORIA!” in blazing blue flame lettering, streaking like lightning across the entire length of the three walls.

“She is going to get you killed.” Blaise said, trying to recover. “I destroyed evidence is all. What do you think would happen to you if anyone one of them ever found out that you were a Blood Traitor with none other than Potter’s best friend? What if they found that picture of her on you? They would only use it to find her and kill you both. You know this!”

For hours Draco had stared into that picture of her, memorizing every detail of her face… her lips… her eyes… her caring, caring eyes. So much so, he could now close his and see it as if it still existed in his hands.

Knowing that his friend was right about the impending danger, Draco’s anger toward Blaise turned to feelings of great loss. He couldn’t have her, it was true. But having that picture somehow brought her closer to him. It was as if he owned a piece of her that he could keep close to his heart. But now… now he didn’t even have that.

The heaviness in his heart seemed to weigh him down to the point of leaning against the wall and using it to gently fall to the ground.

The magical graffiti wall instantly began turning into the darkest shade of black, like a huge ink blot crawling it’s way over every inch… shrouding it in the darkness that had consumed Draco’s heart.

And then… the words written ‘for her eyes only’ slowly and painstakingly appeared… one pure-white letter at a time as if he were penning it for the first time across the vast black space.

“If my heart aches, it is because it is not permitted to love the forbidden.”

The white letters on the black background held meaning that even Blaise recognized… the colors representing the seriousness and purity of love unblemished.

Reading the words on the wall, Blaise’s breath caught as he expressed his new understanding of the depth of Draco’s love for his Granger.

“I’m so very sorry, Draco. I… I didn’t really realize how much…” He paused. “Until now.”

The wall seemed to take it’s time before the message soaked into it and finally disappeared.

The heart-felt thoughts of both Slytherin men would be saved indefinitely and would resurface in time in its perpetually moving graffiti. Perhaps it would take months to come back again, but their messages would appear again and again and again.

“What am I going to do now, Blaise?” Draco finally asked, barely breathing.

“You are going to kill the old man, who has lived a ridiculously long life so that you and your parents can live to see another day. It’s time to sober up… and do it.”

The two exhausted men sat there a long while before attempting to get to their feet. The one drunk and feeling heavy and the other sore from his back hitting the wall.

Just as Draco thought of making the attempt to stand, something caught his eye.

It was a small light from the distance that seemed to be coming toward them.

“What is that?” He asked Blaise.

“What is what?”

“That light coming toward us. Can you not see it?”

“I don’t see anything. Did you lace your drink with something illegal?”

The light was getting closer and closer… it looked to be round, smaller than a Quidditch bludger, but larger than a snitch.

It came to Draco and hovered in front of him about a meter away.

“Are you telling me that you do not see this ball of light hovering directly in front of me?”

“No. I swear that I don’t see anything but the look of alarm on your face.”

Draco stared into the light which was slightly green in color and realized that it looked very much like an apple.

But then it turned slowly in the air and spelled out a word… “H E L L O.”

“It’s an apple that just said ‘hello.’”

“It said hello?” Blaise asked with concern thinking Draco was going mad.

“No. It didn’t say it exactly. The word is carved into it. And it is as clear to me as you are.”

“Draco, seriously. You must be hallucinating. I see nothing of the sort. Perhaps it is all the stress you are under.”

Draco extended his hand to see if he could feel what he was seeing, but his fingers went through the light. It was an apparition, similar to the ghosts of Hogwarts.

“I think it is time we destroyed the liquor sticks, Draco. Perhaps you’ve consumed too many and they are effecting your mind. Let’s get rid of them. You no longer need them anyway.”

“Yeah, okay.” He agreed, hoping the alcohol was the reason and not something else… not something horribly wrong with him. Perhaps he was cracking under the pressure. But why an apple?

He was baffled.

As soon as Blaise sent the spell that would incinerate the alcohol, the light that was actually sent by Hermione’s reading of Delilah’s Black Book of Poems had faded into nothing and was gone. It had been that same apple that the elf sent the boy in the book… their first communication.

“Come on. Let’s take to the ice and get to bed.” Blaise suggested using the spell to strengthen the ice underneath them once more as they walked.

But the Merpeople below did not like the two wizards walking on the top of their lake in the middle of the night. And so they began hitting their sharp staffs against the ice in an attempt to break it and punish them.

They began their pounding while Draco and Blaise began running for their lives.

“Come on!” Draco yelled as they held each other up for support so they wouldn’t fall. But each icey step could’ve been their last as they felt the ice shake and crack underneath their weight.

Draco gripped his wand tight and as soon as he thought they were close enough to solid ground, he sent a blasting spell underneath them that hurled them high into the air, landing them on the frozen, hard snow with a harsh thud.

The two breathed their harsh sighs of relief trying to catch their breath when Blaise finally commented, “I hate magical creatures! I swear I hate them.”

 

Another week later and a cool spring had arrived, melting away any remaining snow. The first birds had returned and began singing their song, which only reminded Draco that his task was to be completed soon.

The Vanishing Cabinet was ready, passing all final testing. He only needed to wait until the proper day and time, which he expected to be communicated to him sometime during the break.

But Draco had received an owl post, a brief letter from his mother instructing him not to go home for the short break. Instead, he was to go with Goyle to Hogsmeade and use a Port Key to the Goyle Estate.

It left him distraught and sick. It wasn’t what the letter said, but what it didn’t say. Clearly, it was not safe for him to go home. The Dark Lord was most likely getting irritated and anxious for Dumbledore’s death and was unpredictable.  All would be in grave danger there.

It made Draco suddenly feel like he was starving… not for food, but for Hermione. Her presence always had the power to calm him and take everything away if only for a brief time. His search for her became one of desperation. He wanted to be with her and talk with her about anything and everything but war, the Dark Lord, Dumbledore, and his dark task. He wanted talk of the weather or classes or anything… just anything for a slight escape and some form of inner peace.

He caught a brief glimpse of her holding a large white bath towel and a basket full of bath items and immediately knew where she was heading. She was going to the Prefect’s Bathroom to enjoy a sudsy bath in the over-sized tub. And whether she liked it or not, he decided to join her.

He ran to his dorm room and grabbed the largest towel that he had and on his way out, he grabbed the antique hourglass from the fireplace mantle in the Slytherin common room. For he knew that the best concealment charm would hide the scars on his back indefinitely, but it would only hide his Dark Mark for forty-five minutes to an hour at the most. He would keep a watchful eye on the hourglass.

Draco thought that this time with her might very well be his last. The only thing he was sure of was that time was running out and war was coming to Hogwarts and there was a good chance that he might never see her again.

Once in the changing area of the bathroom, his heart raced as he pulled off his clothing, down to his shorts. When he saw the concealment charm begin working and the Dark Mark seemingly disappear, he stepped into the room where he anticipated that Hermione would already be in the water.

He stood silent for a moment, watching her every move and making sure that she was alone.

She was absolutely adorable with her hair all pinned up, eyes closed, and surrounded by fluffy white clouds of endless suds, completely unaware of her uninvited guest’s presence.

He silently turned the hourglass to start the sands of time that would serve as a warning of when he would be losing the concealment charm. He placed his towel next to it, keeping his wand within reach in case he needed it.

Draco slipped into the water without making a sound, but Hermione noticed the slight swell of water that came up to her chin.

And that is when she opened her brown eyes to see his serious unblinking grays staring back at hers.

 

 

 




 

Author’s Note:

Admittedly, this chapter took a while to post. I had writer’s block that I’ll blame on a very sad summer.

Also, the brilliant owner of this site invited authors to post original fiction on his new site called fictioncentral to help test it. I was so excited, I couldn't help myself.
I have one chapter posted under the same pen name, Dark Whisper. So, should you be interested in my original writings that have nothing to do with HP, you can check that out. Naturally, it is a romance.

Quote Credits:
To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time (Gather ye rosebuds) by Robert Herrick.
Carpe Diem credited to Quintus Horatius Flaccus.

Please, please review. You know that I love to hear from you.
The next chapter promises a lot of intimate Dramione action as this chapter was left with them sharing bathwater.
What will they do? : )

Love to all,
Dark Whisper

An astounding 35,000 reads and 202 have Favorited. Amazing and Awesome! Thank you!

 
 


Chapter 20: Trust Me for an Hour
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It was the night before the spring break and while the rest of Hogwarts was abuzz with students packing the things they wanted to take for the short break home, Hermione had already done that and just wanted to get away to relax for a while.

She would see her parents soon and she still wasn’t sure what she was going to do to protect them. Draco had warned her that they would be in danger of being snatched and she thought it prudent to heed his warning.

There were several different spells that she could use to protect their home, but they were dentists that would continue their normal lives regardless if they were told they were in danger. They weren’t the kind of people to hide out in their home for a long period of time. She knew there would be no real way to protect them when they left the house every day to go about their Muggle lives.

She wanted to clear her head and think. So she decided a nice hot bath in the Prefects bathroom would be a perfect place. Grabbing rosemary and mint scented shampoo, a bathrobe, and a few glass jars for candlelight, she headed to the fifth floor.

Pinning up her hair and removing her clothes, she donned a white bathrobe while the over-sized pool-like tub filled with hot water and suds. When the fluffy white suds almost overtook the place, she stuck a careful toe in to test the temperature of the water, which was quite satisfactory. And since she didn’t want the water getting too cold too fast, she used her wand to cast a charm that would help hold the water temperature much longer than normal.

She then removed her robe and carefully slid into the tub, instantly surrounded by warmth.

Like a vigil, she sat near the ledge and lit three small glass jars with tiny flames just as Draco had showed her; each one representing the people she was most concerned about at the moment. She recalled from her youth the times she had seen people light candles at church, sending up prayers to God on behalf of loved ones.

Once done, she sat back against the wall of the tub and onto the underwater ledge, perfect for sitting and relaxing. She watched the flames flicker as if coming to life then inhaled some of the steam rising up from the water and closed her eyes, settling in.

Hermione recalled Draco’s gentle voice from the night they were in the kitchens together saying, “I don’t know how or what, but you need to think of ways to protect them.”  But how?

Hermione thought she felt a soft surge of a water swell and opened her eyes to see someone staring back at her.

“Ahhh!” Hermione screamed for her life, but then stopped abruptly when she realized who it was.

In a blink Draco grabbed for his wand but slipped a bit ungracefully as he turned around, sending splashes and streams of water and bubbles flying every which way, ready to annihilate whatever it was that was about to attack them.

But there was nothing and no one there.

Realization came over him then. He was the reason why she screamed.

When he heard her slight giggling turn into laughter behind him, he lowered his wand and tilted his head to the ceiling in frustration before turning to her.

“Bloody hell, Granger. I thought there was a Dementor behind me or something. What was that all about? Trying to give me a heart attack?”

“That was the scream of a naked girl finding an uninvited boy in her bathwater! You scared me half to death.” She tried to hold in her laughter, but she couldn’t help herself as she recalled the massive display of splashing he caused.

And not to mention he didn’t exactly look like he could do damage to anyone with bubbles dripping from his wand.

He watched as her laughing eyes sparkled and the corners of her lips turn into a wide grin that she just couldn’t help.

“No one laughs at a Malfoy and gets away with it. You’re going down, Granger.” He warned playfully.

“What? No!” She protested as he found her ankle under the water, grabbed hold, and pulled until she was completely submerged.

When she came up for air, her pretty up-do was now soaked and plastered to her head and face. It was indeed his turn to laugh, except that he kept it at a slight chuckle.

“Oh, I hate you.” She scolded while removing her now useless hair pins. “Do you know how easy it is to hate you? You make it so easy that it isn’t difficult in the slightest.”

“You don’t hate me.” He replied with a smile, wondering how long it had been since he had done such a thing.

“Oh, yes I do. You come in here invading my privacy, interrupting a perfectly peaceful, relaxing bath and you ruined it. So, now… now I’m going to have to ask you to… to get out.”

Hermione was completely frazzled at seeing Draco looking like he was wearing nothing but a silver necklace with a Slytherin pendant.

“You get out.” He told her, not believing that she actually wanted him to leave.

“I would, but I… I don’t have any clothes on. You’ll have to turn your head and close your eyes so that I can get out.”

“I won’t be turning my head or closing my eyes. I guess you’ll just have to stay.”

“Ugh. You see?” She gestured with one hand, the other attempting to cover herself. “That is precisely the reason that you are the easiest person to hate that I know.” Her cheeks flushed embarrassment as the hourglass that wasn’t there before caught her eye. “And what is the hourglass for anyway?” She said as if irritated.

“I believe an hourglass indicates when an hour has passed.” He played.

“Don’t patronize me, Malfoy. I know what it does. Why did you bring it?”

“Perhaps I wanted to spend time with you, but thought it prudent to set a limit.” He said as the air around them became a touch more serious.

He could tell that she was nervous and unsure by the way she had moved her arms and legs tight to her body to cover herself, which wasn’t exactly necessary with the mountains of suds and bubbles surrounding her. She attempted to move more suds around her to help the cause while she pondered his reason for the hourglass.

He adored her modesty and was greatly amused by it. It made him smile yet again.

“You know, you have nothing to be ashamed of.” He finally said in a serious tone, backing away from her a bit to give her more space. He wanted her to feel comfortable and safe with him, unsure if it was possible in her naked state. “You have a beautiful body. I do not wish to violate it or make you feel uncomfortable. I’ve kept my shorts on… in case you were wondering.” He said in a serious manner.

The look in his eyes told her that he meant her no harm. But she realized that she had nothing to worry about from him, when he finally voiced a simple, but at the same time difficult question, nearly pleading…

“Trust me for an hour?”

She took a peek at the hourglass, watching time slip by and then nodded her head in agreement.

He looked up at the stained glass window behind her. It depicted a pretty mermaid sitting politely above them.

“Will you play something for us, please?” He asked the magical window.

The magical glass mermaid nodded her head eagerly and began strumming her harp. The song was beautiful and slow… and romantic.

“I didn’t know she did that.” Hermione commented with wonder. “Something your parents told you of Hogwarts?”

He gave a nod in acknowledgement. “My father was a Prefect.”

“I remember.” She said quietly. “From his picture in the yearbook you gave Harry at Christmas.”

Her mention of Christmas reminded him of Delilah’s Black Book of Poems. “And have you finished the book I gave you?”

“Finished? I haven’t finished it by any means, but I do love it. Sometimes I can recognize the hidden spell, but I suspect most times I’ve read right over it and missed it completely. The storyline is sad and tugs at my heart every time, but it’s intriguing and brilliant.”

She thought about telling him how much the character had reminded her of him, but she thought against it, not wanting to bring up sad memories of his dead dog and how she related it to the elf in the story. She kept that to herself.

“Are you going to see your parents during the break?” He asked, interrupting her thoughts.

“Yes.”

“That’s good.” He replied. “Spending time with your parents is a good thing, Granger. I’m sure they miss you, especially since they didn’t see you at Christmas.”

“Yeah.” She said as she cupped her hand with water and patted her forehead, suddenly feeling a little too warm.

“Have you figured out what you are going to do to help protect them?”

“I have a few ideas, but honestly… I’m not sure just yet. For now, protection charms around the house, but I know that will not be enough.” She looked at her three candles. “I actually came here to think about it and lit jars for them… a vigil if you will. I know that I might have to do something that I don’t want to do so that they might live. Know what I mean?”

“Yes. Yes, I do.” He knew precisely what she meant, but he wasn’t thinking about that. Instead, he was wondering who the third lit jar was for. There were three and two were for her parents. What of the third?

“What about you?” She asked politely. “Going home for the break?”

He wasn’t going home and didn’t answer. Instead, he lunged forward a bit and submerged himself under the water. After a quick moment, he resurfaced in the same spot with his hands wiping the water from his face.

Hermione had to remind herself to breathe at the sight of Draco’s now glistening wet body sitting in front of her. The water, trickling down the chiseled muscles of his arms and the hollowed v- shape between his collar bones pointing to his heaving chest. All of him illuminated by candlelight, listening to beautifully romantic music, and sharing her bathwater. Never in her wildest imagination would she ever have thought she’d be bathing with Draco Malfoy.

“I don’t want to talk about going home.” He told her. “As a matter of fact, I’m not sure that I want to talk about anything.” He said looking deep into her eyes, as if he wanted her to know his very thoughts.

“Okay.” She said in an airy breath, suddenly worried for him.  She now felt bad at how their time had began with her screaming like a silly girl.  And then an alarming thought came to her... he wasn't the type to show up for no reason.  

Suddenly she hoped that he would open up to her even more than he had before.  But maybe he wouldn't if he really didn't want to talk. 

Up to that point, they had stuck to surface conversation, nothing too deep. But he wasn’t sure if he wanted it to get deeper. He just wanted to be with her.

He looked down at the water for a moment, then looked back up to see her caring eyes.

“If you trust me at all… will you come closer to me?” He breathed. “I ruined your peaceful bath and wish to remedy that.”

Hermione swallowed hard, trying to think of a reason why she should not get any closer. But she couldn’t think of anything. She couldn’t think at all.

In her hesitation, Draco reached out his left arm to her and her eyes immediately scanned his skin, terrified of what she might find there. But with his Dark Mark concealed, she saw nothing and her heart leaped with overwhelming joy and sweet, sweet relief. It was confirmation that he was no Death Eater and would never take the mark. She had been right about him all along, or so she thought.

Love for the young man patiently waiting for her to take his hand swelled within her.

He saw her face light up at not seeing the mark, knowing exactly what she was thinking. It pained him that she held onto hope for him yet… hope in something already long gone.

In a split second, he felt terrible offering her not only a hand, but the lie that went with it.

But those feelings melted away as soon as her delicate fingers touched his… calming the storm of self-hatred that grew within.

Hermione had taken his hand in full trust and she soon felt Draco pull her slowly, ever closer and closer to him. But she became self-conscience and insecure yet again and covered her breasts with her free arm.

But she didn’t need to because as she got closer, he raised her arm up and turned her body underneath it, as in a slow twirl of a dance, so that her back was to him.

Even though the water was wonderfully warm, her body began to shake as if she were freezing. Her nerves were suddenly on edge being so close to him without clothing. She could not help but be nervous wondering what he planned to do to her.

Her answer came quick as he took hold of her long hair and gathered it with his hands, which made her head tilt back, loving the way he was running his fingers in it. And soon enough, Hermione began to relax under his magical touch.

Draco put out the flame of one of her jars and transformed it into a pitcher. He then dipped it into the warm water and poured it over her hair three times then quietly voiced, “Accio shampoo.”

The bottle magically came to him and he proceeded to put a bit of it in the palm of his hand and began slowly messaging it into her hair. His touch was gentle as he lathered long strands, one after another.

The cool and clean scent of rosemary and mint filled the air around them as the soft sounds of a harp played on. And Hermione’s bath became altogether lovely and more wonderful than ever being alone.

Hermione couldn’t believe what he was doing. His tender touch on her scalp and temples felt so good that it almost relaxed her to the point of falling asleep, but then he went back to washing long single strands at a time.

She opened her eyes to take in the beautiful space around her. The founders must’ve been a creative lot to have built such a place as this with a bathroom fit for royalty; the arches, the carvings, the magic of an enchanted stained glass window. But then there was Draco and what he was doing to her.

“It’s amazing how you can make a girl feel like a privileged princess.” She whispered humbly.

“I have no idea what I’m doing, really.” He admitted. “I don’t know how you girls manage all this hair.” He gave a slight chuckle.

“Just keep doing what you are doing and then eventually rinse.” She smiled while in complete, relaxed bliss.

“If you were mine, I would make sure that you felt like a princess every day. I would spoil you just to see you smile at me.” He paused, then reiterated, “If you were mine.”

“If you were mine, I would make sure that you knew how much I appreciate the way you make me feel and that you would never need to spoil me for me to smile at you.” She answered.

He was happy to feel her relax in his hands and thought about what he really wanted to do if she were his.

“If you were mine, I would’ve kissed you in front of the Mirror of Erised.” He replied, filling the glass pitcher again and pouring it over her hair three more times to rinse.

Even though she couldn’t see it, she could hear the smile in his voice. It made her smile as well.

“Accio conditioner.” She said, catching the bottle as it came to her. “Do it again… with this.”

He did as she requested and began messaging the conditioner into her hair slowly.

“If you were mine, I would want to fall asleep with you every night and wake with you still beside me every morning… just as we did in the Room of Hidden Things.” The thought was bittersweet, but it made her smile none-the-less.

He let out a slight moan of agreement and simply stated, “Yes.”

He thought of that morning and how he didn’t want the sun to come up and how he never wanted their conversations to end. This time with her would be no different. He looked at the hourglass and watched the cruel sand slip through the small space to the bottom, literally watching time rush away entirely too fast.

“If you were mine, St. Mungos would have an influx of patients suffering from sudden shock.” He commented lightly.

She giggled, picturing a rather funny scene in her mind.

“And if you were mine,” she said teasingly, “I would have a long line of girls hounding me for the love potion that I must’ve slipped to you. But I would just turn them away, telling them that I have no idea what I did to hold your attention.”

“Snake oil, tell them.”

She giggled once more at his little joke and oh, how he loved to hear it.

When he was finished with her hair, he took hold of a bath sponge, lathered it up, and began running it lightly over the back of her neck, then over her shoulder blades and then moved slowly down her spine and back up again until he had washed over every inch of her back.

Hermione leaned forward a bit and let out a long sigh at the wondrous feeling on her skin. She wanted to squeal with delight, but dare not for fear of being childish.

He then reached around and ran it from under her chin to her collarbones then down her arms.

But when he reached her right hand, she took the sponge from him and took his hand, inspecting his Slytherin ring.

At first glance, she could tell that it wasn’t new. It looked a bit old, not something perfect. There were a few minor scratches and the features of the snake were smoothed out where a snake skin pattern once had been.

He could’ve had it restored shiny and new again, but he liked it just the way it was.

“Was this your father’s?” She asked curiously while turning it a bit with her fingers.

“No. It was my grandfather’s, left to me in his will.”

Draco liked the ring not only for what was seen by others, but what they could not see. For hidden inside the band was an engraved message that read, “Not all things pass from father to son.”

The message was subtle, but Draco knew that it wasn’t the ring that Abraxas Malfoy was talking about. He was speaking of much deeper things, like beliefs regarding blood status. His grandfather left him more than a ring. He had left him a hint of encouragement that it was okay to be himself and not an exact duplicate of his father.

While he was pondering this, Hermione managed to abruptly interrupt his thoughts when she took both of his hands and placed them under the water and onto her bare belly, silently giving him permission to touch her with his hands... and wondering if he would.

He sat frozen for a few seconds, pondering what her actions were telling him. Did she really want him to touch her?

He moved his hands across her mid-section and crossed his arms around her waist taking note of the smoothness of her skin. 

She felt his fingers explore her ribcage as he moved lower and lower. But then his hands moved slowly past her navel and then moved onto her hips, then to her legs, knees, then to her ever-so-sensitive inner thighs.

And that is when he noticed that she had paused her breathing.

Having his fingers and hands touch her so sensually had her tensing up with anticipation and wonderment of where he might touch her next. She was torn between wanting him to go further and not being ready for such sensations. It seemed as though she was living in a dangerous dream with a heightened excitement that sent electricity through her core. She hadn’t realized that she’d been holding her breath awaiting his next move.

As much as he was amazed that she was allowing him to explore her body, her unspoken tense reaction told him that she wasn’t ready for more and so he went back to wrapping his arms around her waist, then up her back, onto her shoulders, and finally to her bare neck.

Hermione let out a breath of relief that came with elation that he had not taken advantage of her when he could have. It was a move that had her trusting him even further. She was able to relax then and close her eyes as she concentrated on his sensual touch and the feel of his hands still moving across her skin.

When his touch went from her neck to her shoulders and back around her waist yet again, they melted into each other and the two just breathed as they listened to soft music coming from the enchanted window and the slight splashes on the water from their movements.

“Oh, if you were mine.” He voiced with lust mixed with sorrow and great wanting as he held her.

When Hermione opened her eyes, she looked up at the stained glass mermaid that continued the beautiful song, but noticed pale blue tears falling from the mermaid’s cheek.

“She cries for us.” Hermione commented in a whisper.

His sad gray eyes looked up briefly, then he answered with a kiss to her bare shoulder. It was soft and caring and tender. “Yes. She does.”

When she felt his lips against her skin, she thought she might melt into the water, while Draco worried that he'd gone too far.  Maybe he shouldn't have kissed her.  He feared she would move away.

Hermione glanced at the hourglass and realized their time together was slipping by fast. She could no longer stand to have her back to him and didn’t care that she was naked underneath the water. She slowly turned to face him and watched as his gray eyes showed surprise and wonder at what she was doing.

He looked at the beauty before him as she raised herself slightly and landed her bare chest to his, her arms resting high on his shoulders.

She felt his arms instantly wrap around her frame and they embraced as two lovers that were never meant to be together.

Draco was in awe of her.  He was flooded with a hundred different feelings that he could not put to words.  He never expected such a intimate display of trust and couldn't help but wonder how far she wanted the situation to go.  For now, it seemed she wanted to hold onto him and be held.  And so he did precisely that, wanting the same.   

With the wetness of their skin against skin, she slipped down a bit, which was okay with her because it allowed her to lay her head to his chest to hear his heartbeat once more.

It was strong, but the time between beats was surprisingly slow. It was as if he was so at peace, he was sleeping.

“How is it that your heartbeat is so slow?” She asked as hers seemed to race.

“I’ve slowed it down so that it beats slow and quiet because I don’t want it to get in the way of my thoughts.”

Anyone can calm themselves down, but she thought Draco might have more control over it than most, including wizards that had the power to do the most amazing things. She thought then that he might actually have the power to stop it from beating altogether.

“And what are you thinking right now?” She asked.

“I was thinking that… right now at this very moment, there is no magic holding you to me. No spell. No love potion. So, something this incredible must be a miracle, evidence that there is a God that cares about me after all in giving me such a gift.”

Hermione’s eyes began to water at hearing such beautiful words that had a gentle power to heal any insecurities that she had ever held about herself.

She felt him tighten his grip on her as he pulled her in close and kissed her damp hair.

But as he did this, something seemed to come over Hermione. Feelings coming straight from her heart flooded her entire being, making her shy reserve suddenly melt away.

She took a cupped hand to the water, wetting a spot on his neck as if washing it and then proceeded to kiss it. She tasted his wet skin with lips and tongue and an open mouth.

She began wetting the other side of his neck with delicate fingers and then repeated her open-mouth kissing, wanting to literally drink in the taste of him.

She wanted him to feel as good as he made her feel right at that moment. No words could express it and so she acted out what she was feeling, hoping her thoughts would transfer to him physically.

She felt his arm slide around her and up her spine where a hand caressed the back of her neck giving her sweet encouragement.

Hermione continued wetting his skin that she wanted to kiss… his collarbone once, twice, but then she lifted herself slightly so that she could wet and kiss his cheek. But then she stopped for a moment, long enough to wet his mouth, showing him what she wanted… to kiss his wet lips.

“Wait.” He said to her.

For a split second, fear seared through her, worried that he didn’t want her kiss. But he only made her wait a moment as his watery fingertips went to her lips, wetting hers.

Their eyes held as they stared at each other… both full of pent up passion for the other, water dripping like lustful drool from their chins.

“Is this really happening?” She questioned in an airy breath as if the entire experience with him suddenly became unreal.

“Do you want it to be?” He barely whispered.

“Yes. Do you?” She asked with worry that maybe he didn’t.

“Yes.”

“Then I want you to kiss me, Draco. Because right now, until the hourglass is spent… I am yours and you are mine.”

Her sweet words wrapped around his soul and resonated within his very being as she bravely gave herself to him and claimed him in the same breath.

He then took gentle fingers to her face and carefully wet her lips once more. His head tilted as he leaned in and kissed the water from her chin and then gave her the sweetest of moments when he finally kissed his way to her awaiting wet lips.

Draco was careful to take his time to savor this beautiful moment with her.

She opened her mouth to meet his, slowly inviting him in.

He touched his tongue to hers. Just a slight touch at first, but it seemed at every breath, he would ever so slowly move deeper into her. Softly and tenderly he tasted her while she did the same, matching his pace while his hands still held her face.

A tear fell onto her cheek at the beauty of it.

She began touching his hair, his face, his neck and back, all while kissing him tenderly. She ran her hands over every inch of skin exposed to her as if she couldn’t get enough of him.

He never felt so loved by any girl he’d ever been with. None had ever made him feel truly loved until now. She was touching, kissing, and loving the deepest part of his dark heart and filling it with light overflowing.

His hands roamed ever-so-slowly everywhere on her body, committing her to memory… as much as he could and still be considered a gentleman.

She noticed how respectful he was with her, so careful to not go too far or cross into any danger zones. It was then when she realized that she felt so very safe with him… and wanted… and loved… and fully accepted. That’s what she wanted most in this world, wasn’t it? It was what she wanted to experience before she died. It was all radiating from him and only heightened her desire for him to touch her in those very zones considered too far and dangerous.

He kissed her neck softly, holding back and trying to not devour her or bruise her as he reveled in the feel of her against his body and what her fingers were doing to his muscles.

“I can feel my body becoming addicted to this… to you.” She commented in a breath of passion.

Draco could no longer keep his heartbeat at bay as it now pounded in his chest.

“Then we shall both be addicts.”

Their lips crashed together and he thought he might not be able to stop kissing her as it built into one of deep passion for each other.

She let out a whimper against his mouth, which he returned with a low moan and suddenly he was picking her up and they found themselves in the middle of the tub. Never had he wanted his kiss to say everything for him until this moment. He wanted it to speak for him… how much he loved her, wanted her, and how much it pained him that he would have to say goodbye to her.

As he continued his power kiss, she found his hand and guided it to the side of her breast, giving him full permission to cross the line. But just before he was to do that very thing, he laced his fingers to hers hoping to conjure some resemblance of control. He carried her forward so that she landed on the underwater seat, opposite of where they had been.

“Hermione,” he managed to say against her lips in an attempt to stop himself from going further. Guilt crept within at what he was doing.

Both being breathless, he wanted her to understand why he was there. Yes, it was to use her, but not like this. He placed his hands on the ledge of the tub, his arms on either side of her, boxing her in.

“I came here today, seeking you out because I wanted to spend time with you. You have this power to… to comfort me when the darkness comes to swallow me. Just being near you and talking to you. I came here to use you.” He confessed. “I despise users and deeply regret that I’ve become one.” Still catching his breath, he continued on. “But I never expected this. I never expected this to get so… so amazingly physical. The way you touch me like I’m…” He had to stop to keep his emotions in check. He closed his eyes and shook his head in lieu of continuing his sentence. ‘Still a human being,’ he finished silently in his head.

He was about to pull away from her and remove himself from the water, but her hands moved lovingly to his face, holding him there with a grace that stuck like glue.

“You have neither the embrace nor the kiss of a user. And pulling away from me only proves that you are not. I cannot begin to guess what darkness haunts you. But there is nothing wrong with needing someone and if I can ease your mind then I invite you to come to me. But next time, don’t you dare take so long.”

“There won’t be a next time.” He vowed.

She kissed him again, but then moved to his cheek and eventually found the lobe of his ear. Her arms wrapped around him once more and he obliged to do the same.

“Draco.” She thought carefully of what she was about to say. She risked much, but grew tired of holding back things that she wanted to say. “I would live in a cardboard box with you.” She said to his ear.

His forehead dropped to her shoulder as he fully took in her words and their meaning. She mentioned that very phrase when they were talking about life and love while in the Astronomy Tower together. She had said that she would live in a cardboard box with the one she loved so long as he loved her as much.

“When I close my eyes and picture it, it is you who lies with me.”

She didn’t need a huge country estate, an over-flowing bank account, or 'a diamond ring as big as the moon,' he recalled one girl saying. She only wanted him.

Her cardboard box was a sacred place and a privilege, he knew… a place he would never deserve to be in.

With his head down and still resting on her shoulder, he opened his eyes and could now see her breasts through the water, her cloudy suds now barely existent. With her words of love, her wet kisses, the feeling of her body naked against his, and now seeing her intimate curves began sending messages to parts of his body that made him a man. He had to look away.

He said nothing as he pulled her into him and held her tightly once more, resting his chin on her shoulder. But in doing so, he noticed much to his horror that the concealment charm hiding his Dark Mark was fading. His time with her was at an abrupt end!

His eyes darted to the hourglass just as the last of the granules of sand dropped to the bottom.

‘No. Not now! Not yet.’ He pleaded in his head futilely.

She noticed that his body began shaking as he tried to breathe. Draco was trying his best to suppress his panic as he quickly dropped his arm into the water in an attempt to conceal the mark.

Fear gripped him tight and seemed to be crushing him. If she saw the mark, it would ruin everything. It would consume her love and destroy her trust in him. It would kill it and every precious word spoken and every precious movement they had made together on this beautiful night.

She would love him one moment, only to hate him the next.

“No.” He finally said, shaking his head at her shoulder and gripping her tight with his right arm. And with a shaky emotional voice, he began speaking of her future.

“You… You will not be mine.” He said solemnly. “You will… find someone else… someone who will love you and keep you safe. And will not be someone like me who uses you to escape into some unrealistic dream. He will be… a good man.” He said through watery eyes, still holding onto her for dear life as his Dark Mark became more and more dark… like the blackest of ink against his pale white skin. “He won’t be like me and his last name will not bring you shame.”

Her heart crushed inside of her chest at what he was saying. She thought that she was the one that would bring him shame, not the other way around.

She felt him cling to her. His words were meant to push her away, but his actions were telling her just the opposite.

“McGonagall was right. You need to find love with someone else.” He said to her ear. “I want you to forget about me… just think of me as dead and move on with your life. Keep your heart open. Do you understand? I want you to be happy with someone that is allowed to love you. Someone that will give you children that are as beautiful and smart as you. Maybe you’ll get back together with Ron or maybe Harry even. Don’t close the possibilities of being happy with your best friend someday.”

“Stop it!” She demanded as she held on tight and began kissing him just so that he would stop saying such things, but he pulled away.

“Harry… he has feelings for you. Being so close to you, he must. Don’t be surprised if one day, his feelings for you surface.”

“No, Draco. Harry is in love with Ginny.”

“Only because he feels that he can’t have you because of Ron. It’s the way it is with men, Hermione. Just don’t…”  He could barely continue, but it was the agonizing, right thing to do. “Just don’t rule him out.”

His words were breaking her heart, but she knew he didn’t want to say them.

Holding her, Draco felt like he was holding love in his hands and he didn’t want to ever let go. She was beauty… her very soul wrapped around his own, in light and love surrounding him, submerging him like the warm water around them.

He would’ve voiced his love for her had he not thought that it would only make his departure worse.

Such sweetness and power in being touched in the heart with the real thing… nothing false. That is, nothing false except for the ugly truth that he kept hidden from her.

“Hermione.” Her named sounded so sweet to him as he said it. “Our time is at an end. You are not mine. And I am not yours.”

Her hands came to his face once again and she kissed him as if willing him to stay.

He returned her kiss with equal tenderness, but then simply said, “I cannot stay.”

“But I don’t know how to say goodbye to you.” She said sorrowfully.

“Then don’t.” He replied not wanting to leave. But he felt he had no choice. And so, with painstaking caution and great care, he pushed himself slightly back and climbed out of the water.

As he attempted to dry himself off and still hide his Dark Mark, which was now fully prominent, he noticed that she had spared no time in transforming the glass pitcher back into a glass jar and re-lighting it.

He picked up his wand and the hourglass belonging to Slytherin House, thinking about her three lit jars.

“Your vigil?” He asked. “The third one is for me, isn’t it?” He guessed as the water dripped from his body and pooled at his feet.

“Yes.” She answered hoping that he wouldn’t think it lame to send a prayer on his behalf.

“And you wonder how you hold my attention? It is your kind soul that cares for me, even though it shouldn’t.”

Draco walked out unable to extinguish the guilt he felt in asking her to trust him for an hour knowing full well that she shouldn’t trust him for one second.
  
  
 
When Hermione returned to the Gryffindor dorm, she was still in a bit of a daze at the experience with Draco. His roaming hands felt so magical against her skin and that kiss when he picked her up and moved her across the water still made her face flush red at the thought of it.

She hadn’t realized that she was walking so slowly until Ginny asked, “Are you alright?”

“Yes, of course.”

“How was your bath?”

“It was… steamy and uh… hot. Very, very hot.” She uttered. “And exactly what I needed. Um, to relax. I mean… that is what a bath is for, right? Relaxing and everything.” She said trying to act as if nothing out of the ordinary, like finding Draco Malfoy in your bath, had happened. “I think I’ll go to bed now.” She nodded as if that was a good idea.

“Okay, goodnight then.” Ginny replied, a little worried at her friend’s strange demeanor.

“Yes. A very good night, indeed.” Hermione replied on her way to her room.

Once she got there, she practically dove into her bed. All she wanted at that moment was his hands on her as she missed him already. She even managed to arrange her pillows as if she were on top of him.

But her pillow didn't have his heartbeat or his arms to hold her and most certainly did not have his hands that had the ability to set her nerves on fire. And even though a disappointment from the real thing, she remained on top of them nonetheless, wishing that someday he would be loving her in a bed.



As Blaise walked into the Slytherin Common Room, he witnessed Draco returning the hourglass to the fireplace mantle, staring into the moving sand as if in a reminiscent daze.

“You were with her tonight, weren’t you?” Blaise accused as if he already knew the answer.

“Yes. And it was the most incredible hour of my life.”

“You had sex with her?” He assumed as if the notion were incredible.

“No. Something far better than the meaningless sex I’ve experienced.” Draco replied still looking into the sand as if it held the memory.

“And what could that possibly be?”

“We bathed together.”

“Bathed together? Like as in naked bathing?” Blaise asked, trying not to sound jealous of bathing with a Mudblood.

“She was naked, yes.” Draco finally looked away from the hourglass then. “If you have a list of things to do before you die, I highly recommend adding ‘bathing with the woman you love’ to the list.”
 


As Draco lie in bed, he looked at the pillow beside him and spoke softly.

"If I could will you next to me, you'd be here."
  
 
 

 





Author’s Note:
Okay, I admit, this chapter is a bit gratuitous in that it didn’t actually move the story along, but I loved writing this, giving them this intimate hour together and a memory neither of them will ever forget.
Up next, we finally get to Sectumsempra where he finally asks her, “Can you love a Death Eater?” *squeals*  Dramione action in droves... I promise.
Love to all,


Dark Whisper

P.S. An amazing 38,000 reads and 216 Favorited. I feel so blessed when I look at these numbers and especially when I read your wonderful comments. Please keep them coming. If you felt your own heart swell or let out a squeal, I’d love to hear about it.  Please, please review.
 
 

 
 
 
 


Chapter 21: A Lonely Friend
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When the time came to leave Hogwarts for the spring break, Draco and Goyle went to Hogsmeade as instructed and used a Portkey at night so they wouldn’t be seen. Once at the Goyle Estate, the two surveyed the place at a distance to see who might be there. The vast house looked empty and seemed quiet, no doubt because of protection charms. They entered through the back door with caution not knowing what Death Eaters might be there.

Once inside, they were solemnly greeted by Goyle’s mother who ushered Draco into a secret room where Lucius Malfoy awaited. It was a small windowless space dimly lit by four gas lamps, one on each corner of the dark red walls. Draco hadn’t been in the room since he and Goyle were just kids playing hide and seek. He had actually forgotten that it existed.

He recalled that there used to be a table in the center of the room, but it had been removed. And instead, the place was outlined with chairs for meetings. No doubt, it had been used recently for Death Eaters.

Upon seeing his father, Draco felt the weight of dread on his shoulders, a loathing that he hadn’t felt toward the man in a long while. The heavy air in the place told him that his father was in a dangerous and infuriated mood, which meant he would most likely get struck with a Crucio before one word was uttered. But to Draco’s surprise, this didn’t happen.

The door was sealed shut and Lucius cast the Muffliato spell inaudibly so that no one could listen in on their conversation.

Draco stood at the center of the room as Lucius circled him menacingly. He held an expression of disgust as if he was looking at the biggest father-son disappointment in wizarding history. Clearly he was pondering what to say to him and precisely how to say it.

Draco waited patiently for his father’s cruelty, preparing himself for the worst as feelings of shameful disloyalty crept about the room. He felt like a guilty child who’d sinned against his father… against his own flesh and blood. Not only because of feelings for Hermione, but because his parents’ lives were on the line and he’d done nearly nothing to save them as of yet. Only weak attempts had been made on Dumbledore’s life, which doesn’t exactly exude loyalty to his family or to the Dark Lord.

Lucius took in a sharp breath and finally spoke.

“The Dark Lord… has had much time to ponder just why that wretched old man is still alive and why it took you so long to mend the Vanishing Cabinet. And he has come to the conclusion that you mustn’t care of what happens to your parents.”

Lucius waited expectantly for Draco to react, to deny the accusation. But when Draco stood as still as a statue and said nothing, a deeper kind of disappointment came to Lucius. He had held some minor inkling of hope that the Dark Lord had been wrong.

“Even if you truly care not as to whether I live or die, I honestly expected that you would at least care for what happens to your mother.”

“Of course I care what happens to you both. Any notion to the contrary is absurd.”

“Well the Dark Lord wouldn’t believe it even if you told him yourself, because your inaction speaks otherwise. And so, regrettably, the game has changed, my son. It is now your life he will take should Albus Dumbledore live. It is imperative that he die! You are being tested and you are failing! Your loyalty as a Death Eater is being questioned as is your loyalty as my son.” Lucius got close to Draco’s face then. “You are no longer doing this to save your parents’ lives. You are doing it to save your own.”

Draco’s stomach turned and twisted into knots with a new kind of fear and worry… so much so that he thought he might be sick. He suspected Voldemort would kill him should he fail. Lucius only confirmed it.

“Your mother hides behind her beauty and does an amazing job at appearances, but I know her as I know myself and she is an emotional wreck at the new state of things. She is so worried sick, she’d probably make a deal with the devil to save you from your task. Nonetheless, she hides her fear well.”

Draco listened to the plans laid out for him. He knew them already, but there was now a date and time set for him. He was to let the Death Eaters into Hogwarts through the Vanishing Cabinet and his Aunt Bellatrix would serve as encouragement. Her sick moral support would be there to fight Dumbledore should he need assistance. And when the Headmaster was dead, Draco would be leaving Hogwarts and go into hiding.

There was a long pause as Draco was still wrapping his head around the fact that Voldemort really planned to kill him if he should fail. His fear and worry for his life turned into anger.

“You worry for Mother. Honestly, do you even care for what is happening to me?” Draco finally asked accusingly. “Could you do it? Could you go up against him, Order of Merlin, First Class? Grand Sorcerer? Do you think Hogwarts teaches its students half of what that man knows of magic?”

“If I could take this task from you, I would.” Lucius said to the floor. “But I cannot. Just kill him and there won’t be any consequences to think about. You must succeed. Failure is not an option.”

Draco noticed the change in his father, his face and voice declaring deep regret.

“Has it ever occurred to you that Dumbledore has done nothing against me?” Draco asked. “I suppose it would be easier to kill him if I hated him, but I do not.”

“Albus Dumbledore is the enemy of all Death Eaters. That makes him your enemy!” Lucius shouted.

Draco hated everything about this conversation, but he had no idea that it was about to get worse.

“To kill a man, you must put a stopper on any human emotion that could cloud your judgment and cause you to sway. Shut down any and all compassion and do what you must. With your opponent having a much greater skill than your own, you must be intelligent in your actions, take in your surroundings, make sure that he is alone, and try to anticipate what he will do to stop you. To send the killing curse first will not work on Dumbledore. He will only block it and do ‘who knows what’ after that. You must disarm him first, then strike him down with the Avada. It’s the only way to finish him without dying in the process.”

Draco couldn’t believe Lucius was actually giving him advice on how to murder another human being. Of all the advice his dark wizard father gave him over the years… like preserving the Malfoy wealth, heading a legitimate but shady business, the importance of underworld connections, and finding the loopholes in magical law, it was advice on murdering someone that screamed to Draco that it was wrong. He knew his father was dark, but never had he thought so dark as to commit murder. His opinion changed in hearing the sick advice that was coming from his mouth.

“There are several key people on the Black List now. Dumbledore, Shacklebolt, members of the Wizengamot, Ministry officials… and as they disappear one by one, they will be replaced with those who support the Dark Lord. Plans are underway… plans that start with Dumbledore. This is why it is so important that he be dead. It is time to do your duty and kill Albus Dumbledore!”

Lucius was so worked-up that his hands shook trying to calm himself. It was only then that Draco noticed that his father seemed to age past his chronological years. He looked old.

“In doing so, you secure your rank, bring honor to your family, and you will be respected for taking him down.”

Respected? Draco repeated in his mind as it made him sick to think of killing the Headmaster as something that would actually bring respect.

Tightening his cloak with a snap, his father composed himself about to make his exit, but not before giving Draco one last piece of advice.

“If need be, use your utter hatred and anger that you harbor toward me to kill the man. Point your wand as if you were pointing it at me. The image should serve you well.”

Draco was surprised by his father’s words that were meant to bring guilt. They hit their mark dead on as his words that were spoken in anger long ago really had hurt his father. His mother told him that he’d said he wished that it was him the Dark Lord killed and not James Potter. He was wrong to say it, no matter how heated the conversation.

“I will do my duty, Father. But for the record, I do not wish you death.” Draco replied truthfully.

He hated his father for his past treatment and hated him now for being a Death Eater and getting him involved in such a dangerous and gravely situation, but those things didn’t exactly warrant death. Could he ever forgive him?

No. Draco thought quite simply. There would be no forgiveness for Lucius Malfoy.

Lucius paused, but said nothing as he opened the door to walk out.

Narcissa stood just outside the door raising her eyebrows so as to not let out tears of joy at seeing her son still safe and alive.

“Draco, it’s been so long, son. You look thin. Have they been feeding you at school?” She started.

“Not to worry, Mother. I’m fine.” He said as the door shut to give them some privacy.

She continued to talk about nothing important and acted as if everything was fine, but it wasn’t. She spoke of talking to several people that he knew from the past and basically rambled about everything but his task.

Draco expected her to be like this. He let her rant and go on about nothing, but he was about to ask her a serious question about something that came to his mind when thinking of his duel with Lucius all those years ago.

“Mother, how is it that you can remember every detail of every conversation that you’ve ever had, but not remember what started the argument between father and I when the mirror shattered into my back?”

“What?” She asked, bewildered.

“Tell me what started that duel. I want to know.”

“Why do you continue to ask about that terrible day? I’d like to forget it.” She said with irritation.

“Tell me the truth and I’ll never ask about it again.” He negotiated. “But it must be the truth.”

Narcissa let out a long sigh and tilted her nose into the air. She didn’t really want to say, but thought it probably wouldn’t matter now. It was years ago. And so she told him rather quickly and bluntly.

“You wouldn’t shut up about some Mudblood girl and how she defied your father’s beliefs.”

Draco’s heart skipped a full beat as the air became stale in his lungs. Hermione?

He could hardly believe it. He remembered long ago questioning his father’s beliefs because of her, but that was just to himself. He never remembered actually voicing his opinion to his parents.

Do not react. He had to tell himself. Do not react.

“You began questioning him as to how she was at the top of your Year academically, when Mudbloods were supposed to be stupid and have less magical talent than Purebloods. Your father responded by saying that if a Mudblood beat you, then it must’ve been caused by your own slacking. Of course you argued that point furiously and when he forbade you from speaking about her again, you wouldn’t stop. You nearly shocked us into heart attacks when you claimed that she was... attractive. And so he sent the Crucio for your insubordination and utter disrespect and told you that he was pulling you from your friends at Hogwarts and sending you to Durmstrang. That’s when you decided you weren’t going to take any more of his lashings and so you started spitting your venom and using words to hurt him, saying you wished he was dead and all that. It all happened so fast. You started dueling and then suddenly your blood was all over the floor.” She shuttered at the thought of him nearly dying. “It was terrible and I won’t speak of it again. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Mother. I understand. Trust me. I won’t bring it up again.”

He had always been curious as to what really happened. All he could remember was that he had scars on his back that seemed to magically appear one day. He couldn’t remember what had happened because she had erased his memory. And now, years later he stood baffled by the truth of how it all started because Hermione defied Pureblood teachings. He had questioned those beliefs at thirteen years old and certainly took his lashings and had suffered greatly in doing so.

Narcissa searched for a better memory to talk about… a good memory. Perhaps they could speak of how wonderful last Christmas was and how the house elves had decorated the manor. No wait. She couldn’t bring up the elves. He would ask about them and be sad to hear that some of them were now dead. No. She couldn’t tell him. He had a task to complete and shouldn’t be worrying about them. She would have to tell him later, she decided.

But Draco saw the pained look on his mother’s face.

“Are you alright?” He asked with concern.

“Yes, of course.” She lied. “Let us have dinner. I just need something to eat is all.”

The Malfoys had a quiet, but tense formal dinner with the Goyles and afterwards, goodbyes were said and Draco couldn’t help but notice that his mother had hugged him a little longer than normal.

He hadn’t thought of it until that very moment, but it might’ve been the last… the last meal, the last goodbye with her should he fail.

As she embraced him, she whispered into his ear.

“Snape. Snape will help you, my son. Let him help you.”

It was difficult for him to witness the dreaded worry in her eyes and in her voice.

“Not to worry, Mother. All will be alright.”

It was a lie, but he didn’t wish her to worry herself sick. His father had told the truth about her. She was hiding her fear and worry quite well, except for in their goodbye.

“I love you, Mum.”

“I love you too, baby.” Narcissa managed to voice so quietly, it was almost silent. Her heart swelled at hearing the words that didn’t come often enough. She had to block out the possibility that she might not ever hear him say it again. It was far too much for a mother to bear.


When his parents left, Draco pondered his father’s advice about shutting down his compassion. How does one do that when every space of his heart loved someone? Was it possible to ignore such a powerful emotion and push it aside, pretending that it never existed? One way or another, he would have to figure out how to do it, or he would fail.

He let out a long sigh as Goyle motioned him to return to the secret room. Once they entered, Goyle resealed the door so that his mother couldn’t hear their conversation.

“You know I cannot discuss certain things with you.” Draco said first, thinking that his friend wanted to discuss Death Eater plans.

“I know. That’s not what I want to talk about.”

“Alright.” Draco said ready to listen to whatever Goyle had on his mind. He decided to pull a chair out from the wall a bit and Goyle did the same.

Reluctantly and with much hesitation, Goyle began.

“I was wondering…” He paused, unsure what to ask exactly. “Well, you’ve been with plenty of girls and I was wondering… Not that it’s my business exactly, but word has it that Blaise made Astoria available to you and you didn’t bother with her. I’ve been trying to get a girl forever and…”

“Let me stop you there.” Draco interrupted. “Blaise wants to keep Astoria and so while she might be technically available right now, truly, she isn’t. Unfortunately for her, all Slytherin men should understand this and leave her alone. Do not attempt to comfort her while she is vulnerable and complicate things. Stay out of it.”

Goyle clenched his jaw a bit frustrated. He didn’t like Draco’s answer, but would respect it.

“Who then?” He asked. “Who should I go after? I meant what I said about Slytherin girls not being interested and all the girls from the other houses seemingly don’t want me because I’m in Slytherin. I’m not a terrible person, Draco. Bloody hell, you are more cruel than I’ve ever been and yet you’ve never had a problem getting girls.”

“Those girls that you speak of throw themselves at me because of my name, my status, my money or whatever it is that they want from me. They don’t know me and certainly don’t care about me at all. Is that what you crave? A mindless, meaningless relationship with a clingy girl that wants you for nothing but what you can provide for her?”

“Yes. At this point, I’d be happy for any girl to use me.”

“No, Goyle. You don’t. And I know that you don’t because of the conversation that we are having.”

Goyle shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He was discussing his weakness to someone who didn’t seem to have any, especially when it came to girls.

Draco wondered then just how much Goyle knew about his past relationships. Did he know any truths at all or did he believe the rumors?

“How many girls do you think I’ve had sex with?” Draco asked frankly.

“I don’t know… a dozen probably.” He guessed.

“Three.” Draco admitted. “That hardly makes me a Slytherin sex god, doesn’t it?”

Goyle seemed to be surprised by this. Surely there were more.

Draco spoke of his past experiences with girls at length and explained how he was used. He hated bringing up his past with women, but wanted his friend to know the truth.

“Do not be envious of me. I learned from those women, Goyle.”

“What? That they can be diabolical schemers?”

“Yes, but more importantly, they made me want to crave the real thing… crave a real relationship with someone that wants me for me, nothing else.”

Hermione’s image came to him, her voice speaking of a cardboard box. A bit lost in the memory… as in a daydream, he began to speak of her as time seemed to slow.

There was a long pause and then Draco finally spoke.

“The girl of my dreams… would live in a cardboard box with me, if that is all that I had," he began as his memory played through the times that they were together. 

"She would talk to me about everything and nothing until we saw the dawn, just to spend time with me." 

His mind moved to the watery scene from the day before.  "She would send a prayer to God on my behalf because she truly and most genuinely cares for me."

His breath caught as he recalled the spark in her eyes when she smiled at him.  "And she would have a way about her that draws me up from the depths... and pulls me into the light, making my life not so dark.  And being around her would make me want to be better than I am."  

Coming out of his daydream, he added, "You see?  I don’t need women to make me happy, Goyle. I only need one. Even with all the experience I have, I still crave the same thing you do." 

“Then you speak of love, Draco.  What I don't understand is why is it so difficult to find? Why can’t I pursue a girl and make her love me?”

“Love is complicated. You cannot force a girl to want to be with you. You cannot force love.”

“Then why do they make love potions?” He asked as if he were desperate to use it.

“Profit. Any so-called love from a potion is only temporary infatuation. Even Slughorn taught that,” Draco replied matter-of-factly. “It will never be the real thing and it will never last.”

After a long moment, Draco asked Goyle a question.

“Why, Goyle, do you want to jump into a relationship so soon? Most people don’t find their mates until well out of school. Why the rush? Is there a reason?”

Goyle let out a few long sighs before being completely honest.

“Because I’m lonely, Draco. At the end of the day… I’m lonely. And I think I could be a good boyfriend.” He added. “You know… I would protect her and give her things that would make her happy. And I would be faithful and loyal to her. If Slytherin House has taught me anything, it would be how to be loyal and committed to something, or someone, no matter what.”

He let out another long sigh and confessed.

“I understand what you are saying about sex… about it being meaningful. But right now I would give everything to the girl that will take a moment to look at me instead of past me. I wish for a girl that will give me her hand instead of pulling away from mine. Is that too much to ask?”

Goyle swallowed hard and then added, “You say that love is complicated, but I think you are wrong. I think love is simple and its people and circumstances that make it complicated.”

Draco pondered his friend’s words and realized that even though Goyle might not be the sharpest person, he knew what loving someone was about and knew that he wanted it more than anything else.

“I suppose you are right about that.” Draco admitted. “But that girl might not be at Hogwarts, Goyle. But when you find her, she will be very lucky to have you. Be patient. Love can show up at any time and perhaps with someone…” He shrugged. “…someone completely unexpected.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

And with that, the conversation was over.

Draco tried not to think of Hermione, but she was there in every corner of his mind… her touch, her lips, her smile. She was there and he didn’t want her to leave.


School resumed without incident. Time passed and the days on the calendar turned to the dreaded day when his task was to be completed.

There was no way Draco could know that Harry’s suspicion had risen to a new height. Even though he had suspected weeks ago that a duel with Harry was coming, he didn’t expect Harry to send a Dark Curse that he’d never heard of.

“Sectumsempra!”

The curse sliced through his flesh and even though he was lying in a pool of cold water, he felt like he was on fire. His blood was draining from the wounds and he thought he might die right then.

But then Snape came along and spoke the incantation that would save him. He almost attempted to stop him, but the pain was so great, he didn’t want to move or even breathe. He just wanted to die and get it over with.

But Snape managed to pull his blood back into his body by some miracle of magical healing and soon Draco found himself in the hospital wing at Hogwarts.

After Madam Pomfrey gave him an elixir to help with the pain, Snape excused her for the night, not wanting her to see Draco’s Dark Mark. He then magically hung freshly cleaned white sheets for use as curtains surrounding the bed in an attempt to give them more privacy should anyone else enter.

But as he attempted to dress the wounds, he couldn’t see them. There was only blood.

Concealment charm.” Draco whispered through the pain.

Snape removed the charm, ignoring old scars while trying to seal new wounds.

“What happened to you?” Professor Snape asked shortly.

“Obviously, Potter attacked me.” Draco answered through gritted teeth.

“I’m talking about the scars on your back. As a professor, I am required to report certain… shall we say ‘suspect’ wounds.”

“It was an accident long ago. A mirror busted and the shards went into my back. There is nothing more than that.” He snapped.

“Right.” Snape replied, unbelieving. “Mirrors just burst into shards for no reason at all, don’t they?”

Draco steeled himself and didn’t explain further. What did it matter now anyway?

When Snape was finished dressing the new wounds, he began to cover the Dark Mark on Draco’s forearm.

“I’ll get it.” Draco snapped, grabbing the medical gauze from Snape. “Just leave me alone.”

“Fine.” Snape said, giving up. “But do a good job or its both our heads.”

 

Harry remorsefully confessed to his friends all that had happened. How Malfoy’s body lay gravely injured on the flooded floor of the lavatory, bleeding profusely from several gashes to his chest, barely moving. How Snape calmly waved his wand over him so that the blood that had mixed with the water seeped back into Malfoy’s chest.

Hermione became frantic trying her best to remain calm. But she could not hold in her shock when Harry described the watery and bloody scene. Her hands went to her face in horror with terrifying worry for Draco.

She knew Harry didn’t mean to hurt him so badly. She could see it in his eyes… the disbelief that the spell was a Dark Curse. He had no idea that it would do that much damage and had no right to meddle with magic he knew nothing about. It was downright dangerous and a terrible lesson learned at Draco’s expense.

While Ginny took Harry to get rid of the book that held the Dark Curse, Hermione took her opportunity and ran to the hospital wing.

She heard steps coming from the door and hid herself behind a large column. She watched Snape leave and rushed into the door before it had a chance to close. That’s when she saw the white hovering curtains and knew that Draco was behind them. Her heart leaped in her chest at the chance to be with him again, but it was mixed with fear at what damage she might find.

A few steps more and she saw him sitting shirtless on a bed with his back to her and wrapped with bandages where the curse had sliced into him. It looked like he had just finished dressing a wound on his forearm.

As Hermione stepped closer, she expected to see fresh wounds, but there were old ones as well. Scars… so many and so deep.

She knew where the new wounds came from. What of the others?

“Sss… scars.” She managed to say behind him. “They were not there before. They were not there when we…”

Draco was not exactly surprised that she showed up and was certainly not thrilled that she saw his scars.

“Yes, they were. You didn’t see them because I concealed them.” He confessed. “Very few know they exist.”

“How did you get them?”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” He replied shaking his head a little.

“Try me.”
 

 

 






Author's Note:

Well... This chapter had to be written for what is coming in the future.  And now Draco and Hermione are alone once more.  Stayed tuned.  All is ready for this heated and climactic conversation as he finally tells her the truth. 

Love to all for your patience and understanding this year.  I've lost five people in my life since July with the most recent just last week.  I have been extremely busy with funerals and making flower arrangements for them (just something personal that I enjoy). And their deaths inspired me to write, "When a Wizard Grieves."  Check it out if you are interested.

I love all of your Reviews.  Sometimes, I don't even know what to say.  But I do promise that I will get to them when I have the time. Please be patient with me. 

With humbled appreciation,

Dark Whisper

P.S.  An astounding 45,000 reads and 245 have favorited.  What a wonderful gift you give to me.  I am so blessed. Thank you.  A most sincere Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you. 
 
 
 


Chapter 22: Kiss Me Goodbye, Love
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Draco sat silent on the edge of a narrow hospital bed, sore from his wounds, pondering how much he should really tell Hermione about his scars. She asked and so he would answer. 

The duel with his father long ago began with a conversation about her, but he didn’t want her to feel some sort of misplaced guilt. He would be careful with his words.

Slowly Hermione moved to him, unsure if she would be welcome, considering it was her best friend that caused his pain.

His scars and bandages drew her ever closer and closer until she was sitting on his bed close behind him. She didn’t want to invade his space, but at the same time, she wanted to comfort him somehow. When she could no longer stand to not touch him, she placed soft fingertips to his shoulder blade, tracing the longest scar.

Oh, Draco… What happened to you?” She breathed against his skin.

He felt her touch, her warm breath. It was so calming, it allowed him to exhale nearly all of the pain that remained after taking the elixir. He wasn’t surprised at her ability to make him feel better.

“Several years ago, I questioned certain… things that angered my father.” He paused for a moment, being careful to tell her precisely what he wanted her to know. “Words were said. Threats were made and a duel ensued. A spell hit a mirror and it shattered into my back.”

Oh, no. Your father did this to you?” Full of pity, she pressed her lips ever-so-lightly to his back, again and again, softly kissing his scars as if they were still hurting. Placing her palm flat against him, she leaned in and placed her cheek to his shoulder blade, moving in closer.

“No father should ever duel a son. That’s terrible. It’s… it’s…” She struggled with the word she was looking for, but he finished her sentence.

“It was ultimately, an accident, Hermione. I started the duel, the mirror ended it. Father didn’t mean to hurt me so badly. I can’t say the same for the new wounds.”

Draco smartly changed the subject with an accusatory tone that had Hermione defending her best friend.

“Harry didn’t mean it.” She started, trying to be convincing.

“Oh, yes he most certainly did. For a curse to work properly, you have to mean it, Hermione.”

“Yes, but, he didn’t know that it would do that much damage. You must believe me.” She pleaded. “He only wanted answers. He thinks you hexed Katie Bell to deliver a cursed necklace to Dumbledore.”

She hadn’t meant to bring it up, but it just blurted out as an explanation of sorts.

He could feel the heat of guilt sear through his veins… that and anger that had him snapping his head to face her.

“Is that why you came here tonight? For answers? Is that why you got so close to me?” He accused. “So that you could spy for your precious Potter?”

His temper flared at the thought. Not her! The only person in the world he thought would never use him for anything!

“No. You know that isn’t true.” She said gently, trying to keep him calm, looking at him with sincere concern in her eyes. “You know it. Besides, I know that you could never do something like that. Long ago, I would’ve thought it possible, but not now. Not now that I know who you really are.”

He turned away, suddenly unable to look at her… unable to breathe in the presence of the dreadful truth.

“You two have distrusted each other from day one and it’s no surprise. He doesn’t know how much you’ve changed into this kind person that I know you to be.”

Kind? Her words were torture like stab wounds, killing his conscience. She didn’t know him at all.

“Forgive me.” He began, thinking about what he was truly sorry for, but the truth still wouldn’t come. “But I’d rather not discuss your saint of a friend that nearly killed me.” He practically spat the words like venom on his tongue.

“Alright. I’m sorry.” She scolded herself in her mind. Of course he wouldn’t want to talk about Harry. “But will you tell me?”

Draco instantly feared what she was going to ask next. Would she want a straight answer about Katie Bell? His heart skipped a beat as he waited for her words.

“Are you still hurting? I must know that you are okay. They gave you pain elixir, right? And they sealed the wounds good? Yes?”

Draco hid his relief well.

“Yes. The elixir began working before you got here. I’m alright. For now, anyway.”

His back still to her, she couldn’t help but feel as though he was trying to shut her out. He had answered her question, but remained purposefully distant.

“Draco, I feel as though I’m speaking to you through a wall. Please, turn to me.”

There certainly was a barrier between them, but she hoped it would be crumbling soon.

He shook his head denying her and simply stated, “You shouldn’t be here.”

Instead of being a bit hurt, his words only sealed her resolve.

She stood from the bed and stepped back through the privacy curtains still hovering around them, but only long enough to magically seal the doors to the hospital wing shut so that no one could walk in on them and then cast the Muffliato to keep their conversation as private as magically possible. Stepping around to his side of the bed, she stood very close, directly in front of him.

“No, Draco. It is you who should not be here.” Her belly practically at his face, she ran her fingers through his hair and placed her feather-light fingers onto his bare shoulders and then proceeded to press him toward her with gentle encouragement.

Giving in to the gesture, his hands slid to her hips and his forehead went to her midsection, wishing he could do more and knowing that he shouldn’t.

“Do you understand why I came here tonight? I had to see you, to touch you… and know that you were alright. I was so worried for you that I had to see you.” She looked down a bit before continuing, worried about what he would say. “I know that we are not together, but when I heard what happened, all I wanted to do was to find you and take your pain away. All of it.” She confessed. “I want you to forget what happened, forget what has been weighing on you all this time.”

She felt him squeeze at her hips. Perhaps she had hit a nerve of some kind. He was responding to her and pressing into her harder than before.

“I want you to forget that you’re a Malfoy and that I’m a Muggleborn. Forget everything just like we always do when we are together. Just you and me and no one else.”

His breathing grew a bit heavier as he pondered her words and the incredible feeling of her hands moving softly along his skin.

“Your vault’s message resonates in me over and over again. I’ve had many sleepless nights thinking about it and… And I have an answer for you.” She told him, still stroking his back lovingly while he remained ever-silent.

It was risky for her to voice her feelings, she knew, but somehow her heart told her that he was worth the risk.

You’ve held my hand. You’ve kissed my lips.” She paused and bent over slightly, kissing the top of his head and hugging him tighter to her body. “Now… make love to the one that is forbidden,” she whispered. “And then maybe your heart and mind won’t be so dark.”

Draco sat frozen against her, shocked at what she had just said and in disbelief. Did she just use his own words to offer herself to him?

He was about to tell her all of the reasons why they shouldn’t. How there wasn’t going to be a happy ending for them. How making love to her would not change him… or make him better… neither would it change the choice he had made.

But he didn’t expect to hear the intimate words that were to come next. And he certainly didn’t expect them to be so powerful.

“I only offer this because,” she swallowed hard, trying to gain her courage. “Because… I’m in love with you.”

Hermione had thought about this over and over again. She loved him and with him nearly dying, she didn’t want any more time to pass without telling him. And if he felt the same, then maybe they could find a way to be together and love each other despite the world.

Draco’s mind raced surprisingly to all the women that he had been with that wanted him for a variety of different reasons, but love was never one of them. It was never about love or even caring about him. She was so different in so many ways, but this… her reason was so deeply different. She wanted to be with him because she loved him. There was no other reason. Just him. And it was actually spoken, which brought a whole new level to everything. And it was genuine. And it was true. But most of all, it was tragic.

“We… we cannot.” He finally managed to say to the floor, but clearly torn and struggling. She could feel it in the way he clung to her hips and in the way he was breathing. He wanted her. He wanted nothing more in that moment than to love her. His reaction of a love restrained was enough to quiet her fears that he might not feel the same.

“Who is here to say that we cannot?” She asked him in a breath. “In saying it, we only deprive ourselves.”

She could feel the struggle within him and wished he would stop fighting his feelings for her. She wasn’t sure what to do except continue encouraging him so that he would understand that she was okay with it… that he was what she wanted.

Hermione backed away from him slightly and proceeded to lift the hem of her shirt, exposing her skin to him. She then placed her hands to his and nudged them from her hips to just under her ribs.

In feeling her bare skin, Draco couldn’t help but to look at her bare belly and without thinking a moment further, placed his mouth to a spot just above her navel, kissing her dangerously close to a zone normally off limits.

He felt her body shutter against his lips as he moved a hand to brush against that very zone through her clothes. His touch stole her breath and made her knees weak so much that she thought she might fall over. But that was okay because suddenly with one quick twist, she found herself wrapped in his arms and pulled to the bed.

His heart craved her, his very soul wanted to feel what it was like to experience someone who actually loved him. This was it… the real thing and he wanted it more than anything in this world and it was about to happen.

They began moving together, caressing and kissing and holding each other. But the bed was so narrow, she lost her balance and nearly fell to the floor, but he grabbed her waist and pulled her tight underneath him.

He was careful as to where he was placing his weight, so as not to crush her.

Hermione felt it so natural to send him clear signals as to what she desired. She was ready for this. She’d never been more ready in her whole life. She had waited to give her body to the one that she loved most that loved her in return. Her heart raced at the thrill of being with him and the anticipation of experiencing the most intimate act of love together… to feel him.

Draco couldn’t believe the way that she had wrapped herself around him. With her feminine touches and encouraging movements, he’d never felt so much love from anyone and was lost in wonder at how they were making love with clothes still on… only mere threads preventing him from going further.

He loved how she was holding him tight and how her kiss was revealing what her heart was feeling… nothing but love and desire for him.

Make love to me, Draco,” she whispered into his ear as she slipped her fingers into the waist band of his shorts.

But Draco began to think about what she was saying. Love was ‘knowing someone’s faults and flaws and loving them anyway,’ right? And she did not know everything. She didn’t know the truth.

He tried to block it out of his mind, but failed. With every taste, every move, he began despising the truth and hating every one and every thing that ever told him that he could not have her.

But he knew that making love to her now, without her knowing he was Death Eater would be twisted and diabolical and would bring her shame when she found out after the fact. He knew the sting of shame and regret from his past intimate experiences with women and he could not do that to her. He would not bring her shame even if it meant losing her. He would allow her to keep her dignity by allowing her to make a choice.

Would she still love him after all? He had to know. The truth had to be told before they went any further.

Oh, how he could have her now, but the concealed Dark Mark was like a handcuff restraining him.

He had to tell her, even if it brought the worst kind of reaction… her rejection.

Draco moved to her side and she took that as a queue to remove her clothing that she now wanted to be rid of. Heat was burning through her and she wanted her skin to be moving against his. She was breathless and felt desperate for him. She was about to remove her shirt…

But he stopped her.

“Wait.” He reluctantly told her. “You…” he paused; chest heaving in an attempt to catch his breath and unsure if he would actually be able to speak it. “You would make love… with a Death Eater?”

Hermione’s eyes grew wide at his words. What did he just say? The shock of it froze her breath and her heart. A cold terror crept its way through her as she lie next to him. It was as if a Dementor had just swept into the room and sucked the joy out of her life.

No. It wasn’t true. It couldn’t be. She knew there had been a possibility, but hadn’t believed that it was true. Not after everything they had shared together. Not the Draco that had shown her his heart. It wasn’t possible, was it?

As he waited for her reaction, he reached around her and began unraveling the bandage concealing his mark. Soon, she would be able to see it and feel it and finally know the truth.

The bandage dropped silently to the floor and suddenly everything felt cold.

Her answer would determine what would happen next. He waited, but her reaction did not come as abruptly as he thought it might. Instead, she stayed close to him, still in disbelief. She could not bring herself to look at the mark. She couldn’t do it. Instead, she turned her head in the opposite direction, not wanting to accept the truth.

His heart saddened at her reaction. He knew why she didn’t want to see it. It was far too heartbreaking. But not acknowledging it did not make it untrue.

Draco moved them so that he was now underneath her. Wrapping his right arm around her, he found her hand at his chest, moved it down to his left forearm, placing her fingers to the raised skin that formed the skull and the snake.

Can you feel it?” He asked in a low dark whisper.

Her senses on overdrive and her mind racing, she said nothing while Draco hoped for the nearly impossible… that despite the darkness, she could still find a way to love him.

Could you love a Death Eater?”

Draco could not breathe until he had an answer. Could she really love him?

No.” She whispered, not wanting to believe it. She could not bring herself to look at the Dark Mark. But when she traced the evidence with a delicate touch, she knew it to be true. Her head shook slightly at first. But then her whispered answer turned into a shout.

“No!” She yelled as she sprang from the bed to her feet wielding her wand, ready to defend herself against an enemy that had just shattered her heart to dust.

And with her answer painfully echoing in the vast space above them, she had unknowingly just shattered his.

As she turned to him, he already had his wand drawn and pointing directly at her.

“How could you do it?!” She screamed at him. “After everything this year? After our time in the Room of Hidden Things and… and after we came together in the Prefect’s Bathroom? How could you do it after everything?!”

“I took the mark last summer just before school started… before you and I ever got close.” He calmly explained, despite his the pounding in his chest.

“No. That’s not possible. You can’t hide the Dark Mark like you can your scars. It wasn’t there when we…”

“It can be concealed, but only temporary. Only for an hour or so.”

“Oh, my God, the hourglass!” Her freehand went to her head in disbelief. She should’ve known better. She should’ve known better than to trust him! “Trust me for an hour, you said. Was everything a lie?” She demanded to know.

Draco was immediately hurt by her accusation. She could see it on his face.

“Did my embrace ever feel like a lie to you? What we nearly did, just now? Did it feel like a lie?”

Whatever it was, it felt like a lie to her now. And she felt like a fool.

Wands pointed, hearts heavy with grief, the two glared at each other with pain in their eyes, wondering if they would actually use their wands. They didn’t want to. But Draco could not allow her to immobilize him in any way… not with what was supposed to happen on this very night. All she could feel was the pain of his betrayal, the one her heart loved the most in this world.

“It didn’t have to be like this.” She said through her tears. “It never had to be like this. You could’ve joined us. Dumbledore’s Army. The Order of the Phoenix. You could’ve joined us and helped us! You still can.” She pleaded, wanting to lower her wand, but her better judgment told her she could not. “I never asked you for anything, you know. I never pressed you for information, but if you know of dark plans, then I beg you… tell me. Tell Dumbledore… or the Ministry so that they can help you.”

“I told you in the tower, I trust no one fully. And a word of advice to you… Never trust anyone in the Ministry. I promise you, it is corrupted.”

“You see? With your connections, you have the unique opportunity to be great… to be an informant, Malfoy. Work with us.”

“I won’t.”

“Why? Because of your blasted dark family?” She yelled as she became fiery mad.

“With as much access as I will have to the Dark Lord and with them knowing I went to school with Potter and our hundreds of mutual school acquaintances, I’d be prime suspect number one as a bloody rat! I can’t do a single act that could be misinterpreted or minutely construed into a suggestion that I might try to pass any information along to the Order. If the time ever comes, don’t call on me to help you. I cannot and I won’t.”

“You coward!”

“Yes, a coward who warns you now. Dark times are not ahead. Dark times are now… as we speak.”

“Does a warning really help? You tell me nothing!” She spat.

“A warning is all I have to give you. And yes, I pray that my warning will have you thinking about war instead of that book I gave you or the next Arithmancy test! Does surviving what’s happening concern you at all? Because that is all that I think about. I will do whatever I must to help my family. I would expect you of all people, to understand that.”

“I will never understand how can you can kiss me and still be a Death Eater. You’ve broken my heart, Draco,” she sobbed. “And I hate you for it.”

As soon as the words uttered from her lips, she had to try her best not to collapse onto the floor and cry a river of sorrow at all that was lost.

“You hate me for breaking your heart, but truly I’ve done nothing to you or your friends yet. You will hate me for what I will do. You will hate me for what I have become.”

Her eyes glared into his. Gone was the great look of concern that had formerly defined her feelings for him. Instead, it was replaced with hurt.

Neither had lowered their wand. The air was thick with tension and emotional pain.

I loved you.” She finally told him, struggling to find her voice through the lump in her throat and the pain coming from her heart. “I truly loved you. But it isn’t enough to sway you, is it? It’s not enough,” she said as the realization tore her insides to shreds.

“Save your love for someone who deserves it.”

“You say that… and still you claim to be one of them?”

“I am everything Harry suspected me to be. I have made my choice. And you have made yours.”

The pain of his words sliced at them both. It hurt, cutting them deep until there was only one thing left to do.

With wands still pointed, he saw hers move… the slightest beginnings of a spell. He anticipated and was ready for whatever might come at him.

“Stupify!” She cast with all that was in her, but he blocked it and cast a perfect Imperius before she could blink.

It was so precise, it was as if he created the curse himself. For he wanted her to still have her mind, but not have full control over her body.

At first, he remained silent, carefully pondering what he should command of her. A rush of thoughts came to him, but ultimately he chose what was best for her sake… and his.

For they were truly over. What was never meant to be had climbed to a most beautiful height, only to abruptly plunge from a cliff in the end.

Trust was dead. Their relationship was dead. And yet through it all, love had survived, even if it was only one-sided, he thought.

Taking cautious steps, he finally approached her as a man fully in love, looking very much heartbroken by her choice, by her rejection. He could not blame her. He knew what would happen, which was why he had concealed the truth from her for so long. He had held an inkling of hope that she might understand. But hope had let him down, just as he suspected it always would.

Oh, how he would miss her, he thought as he looked into her now sad eyes.

Kiss me goodbye, Love.” He instructed with a pained look and all the love for her felt deep within.

Slowly her hands came up, fingers parted, to touch the face of the man she still deeply loved.

He leaned in and they came together one last time.

It was selfish of him, yes, but he wanted one last kiss that made it seem as though she still loved him, however false it might be.

He kept his kiss soft and loving as he thought of all the things that he wished could’ve been different. But a wish wasn’t anywhere near the reality that tore them apart.

Their kiss was far from that of two people that would one day kiss again. It was a final act of love laced with great personal tragedy that lingered until her emotions involuntarily surfaced. More tears fell and then he felt her sob and whimper against his lips. Only then did he end the kiss by barely moving from her.

He had interpreted her sob incorrectly and thought it was because she now despised him and what he was doing. But he couldn’t have been more wrong. It was her love that she would always have for him that had caused her tears.

He bent down and in a low, but clear voice, gave her specific instructions.

“You are very tired,” he told her, wiping away her tears. “You will go to your room… speak to no one… climb into bed… and go to sleep.” And in a rather broken voice said, “And know… that I’ll be loving you until the day that I die.”

He fought tears and then...

Go!” He demanded.

Hermione took a step backward as the curse took over. Then another as she watched his grief-stricken gray eyes turn glossy.

She fought turning her back to him, but it was no use.

She tried to shout, “Wait!” But it would not come out.

He had just told her that he loved her. He actually said it and she now wanted to take back what she said about hating him. She would always love him. But the powerful Unforgivable prevented her from speaking. She wanted to say it, but agonizingly could not.

It was too late.

The curse overtook her and she was at the door. It unlocked with a loud click and soon she was gone.


Draco nearly doubled over, feeling sick and wanting to crawl into a hole and never come out. What had he done? What pain had he caused them both?

But just then Draco heard something that abruptly caught his attention. It was a faint, but threatening roll of thunder in the distance that began to rattle the grand windows of the place, an omen of dark events that would be happening all too soon. 
 
 

 

 






Author's Note:

Not an easy chapter to write. Flow, order of things, how much to reveal, many struggles with this one. I'm so sorry to take so long. 

A thank you to Megthechef43 for her undying patience for this story and her help with the Snowflake that allowed me to push through severe writer's block. :) 

"Kiss me goodbye, Love."  ;(   *cries*

Much love to those still reading this story.

Dark Whisper

P.S. This story has reached 50,500 reads!  Unreal!  My heart thanks you for each and every single one.  Amazing!
 


Chapter 23: After the Fall
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The entire night had been some kind of tragic nightmare.

Dumbledore was dead.

Had Draco tried to tell her? Had he left subtle hints along the way? She tried to recall their conversations… how he thought of death all the time and of a dark future without hope. But her head was too fuzzy in her attempts to recall details, the lack of sleep and the emotional toll of the night fast catching up with her.

She wanted to collapse to the bed and sleep, but she dare not. She could sleep on the train. Right now, it was time to pack her things, knowing school was over… canceled. It was time to go home and she wasn’t sure if she was ever coming back.

Looking around the room, she noticed the place was empty except for her things and it was altogether too quiet. She was the last to pack, while others already had their trunks on the train and gathered for one final breakfast. But she doubted if anyone was actually eating. The thought of food repulsed her.

Her normal end of school-year routine had always been a precise, well organized event. She would begin by pulling out her personal effects from the walk-in closet and carefully place them on the bed. Clothing, shoes, book bags, school supplies, and various other things would be categorized and sorted before placing them in their designated spot inside her trunk. It all had to fit just so.

But this time was different. The task seemed so mundane… so unimportant. She went through the motions though, just trying to get through it. Her clothing fell to the bed quite a bit messier than her usual tidy standards. She would magically toss a few things to the trash bin and the things she wanted to keep were slowly accumulating in one very unorganized heaping pile.

Hermione found it difficult to stay on task, her mind wandering in and out of the recent past and finally settling on what Harry had vaguely described that morning.
 

~

She had stood high in the Astronomy Tower where it all happened and watched the sunrise with Harry and Ron as it cast a glorious pink and yellow hue to the vast sky over Hogwarts.

Hearing Fawkes, the phoenix, cry out and watching how the scarlet bird circled overhead seeming to be in search of its master was heartbreaking, but beautiful at the same time. Even Harry had commented on the beauty of Hogwarts that morning.

It seemed so opposite from the darkness and chaos of the night before.

Harry had explained Dumbledore’s final moments with quiet reverence, but he was never one for the details that she craved.

Malfoy had confessed to letting in Death Eaters using the Vanishing Cabinet. Bellatrix Lestrange had shrieked at Draco, ordering him to kill, but then Snape showed up and finished it.

Listening intently, Hermione wrapped her arms around her midsection holding herself tight in fear of completely falling apart. Her mind was flooded with questions. Did Draco say anything? Did he seem remorseful or hateful? What else happened? She ached for details that Harry wasn’t giving, but in asking for them she feared revealing too much and adding suspicion. There could only be one question, she figured. One would not be too much.

Her heart was in her throat when she finally asked what weighed on her like she was trying to hold up the Astronomy Tower all by herself, with failing strength. It was the one answer she had to know.

“Do you think he could've done it?  Draco?"

Not my Draco. Not my Draco, please. Her conscience begged.

When Harry didn’t hesitate to say, “No,” she had to turn away and look into the vast space of air stretched out before her and remember how to breathe normally.

Inhale. Exhale. Don’t fall apart.

Harry’s answer was supposed to bring some kind of great relief to her mind, but for some unknown reason, it hadn’t consoled her much. She didn’t want to believe Draco could be an assassin, but she didn’t want to believe he could be a Death Eater either.  But oh, how reality was a cruel, relentless thing. She didn’t know what to think as an unwelcomed uncertainty sunk deep into her heart.

As Harry moved to another scenic spot within the Tower to watch Fawkes, she followed noticing how Ron had grown very quiet and was eyeing her carefully. She was thankful that he didn’t voice any negative opinion of Draco. He didn’t even place blame like she thought he would. Much to her surprise, Ron remained silent on the matter entirely.

As conversation moved to a fake locket and a new mystery to solve, she hid her heart well, giving nothing away… even though she was standing in the very spot where Draco spoke of wolves and rabbits on a white snowy evening just a few months ago.

While mindlessly back on task in her room, rummaging through the top shelf of the rather dark closet thinking of wolves… rabbits, her mind was jolted to the present as her fingers ran across Delilah’s Black Book of Poems, the book that Draco incredibly had given to her at Christmas. The one book she still hadn't read all the way through.

Picking it up from its hiding place, she ran her palm over the precious heirloom and instantly she heard his voice echoing to her soul…

“The interesting thing about wolves,” Draco had explained. “Is that they could kill every last one of those rabbits if they wanted to. But they don’t.” She recalled him saying. And then she remembered… “They only kill when they have to… to survive.”

Her eyes grew wide as the memory choked her, stealing her breath. His words pressed down on her heart so much that her body gave out, losing the ability to hold itself up. Slowly she sunk to the floor, sliding down the wall until she was lying on the hard-wood floor, her temple finding its resting place on the face of the book.

Was he trying to tell her back then? Was he trying to tell her that he had to kill in order to survive? Surely he was.

Without the strength to stop the memories of Draco from flowing, she closed her eyes and suddenly his lips were on hers and their bodies moving together on a small bed surrounded by curtains of white sheets hovering around them, giving them their own private, intimate space.

How was it that she was longing to make love to him one moment then rejecting him the next?

How could he have that thing on his arm?

Her heart twisted inside her chest. He knew what was to happen that night and still he hadn’t said anything. The thought angered her.  Perhaps if she had said yes to him, the night would’ve turned out differently. Perhaps Dumbledore would still be…

No! She couldn’t allow her mind to follow that path. That plot had to have been planned long ago.

And now, after everything... did she still love him? Knowing what she knew now, did it change her feelings for him?

Her emotions ran from love to fury and back again in a whirlwind. But she was just too emotionally and physically exhausted to think about it anymore and soon her heart settled down and what remained was a deep worry for him… and yes, love.  Because right now, he was no longer living amongst peers and rivals at Hogwarts. He was with Death Eaters and most likely the Darkest of Lords…living in complete and utter Darkness.

“Oh, Draco. Why did this have to happen? What happened to you last night, Love?” She asked in a breath marred by a choked sob. “What happened to you?”

And as a few tears found their way to the pretty lettering on the book, Hermione could not help but to close her eyes and succumb to sleep, wondering where he was. Was he safe? Was he alright? Was he…?

~

As soon as Draco and his fellow Death Eaters Apparated out of the Forbidden Forest and set foot on Malfoy grounds, Draco doubled over, dry heaves convulsing through his body, greatly weakening him. 

His mother practically ran to him with Lucius not far behind, eager with worry to learn of what happened. Did he do it?  Did Draco succeed at his task?

Bellatrix nearly stopped in her tracks at the worry and dread in her sister’s eyes.

“Dumbledore is dead, but Snape did it. Your son is officially as cowardly as his father,” Bellatrix snorted.

Narcissa ignored the snide comment from her sister.

“Draco, are you alright, son,” she asked in a near whisper, placing a caring hand on his shoulder, but she didn’t expect him to practically bite her. For the fear and anguish that twisted his stomach to knots had morphed and molded into an intense anger at the entire situation as soon as he saw his father.

“Get away from me,” he warned lowly, making it known that her touch was unwelcome. She was taken aback by his venomous conduct toward her.

“He’s dead?” Lucius had to be sure, as if Bellatrix’s words were not heard correctly.  He stood close, demanding confirmation.  “Dumbledore… he really is dead?”

“That’s all you care about, isn’t it?” Draco raged as he gathered his anger for strength and stood. “That’s all you bloody care about!” He took three quick steps and grabbed hold of his father by the lapel of his dark aristocratic robes, his grey eyes furious and teeth clenched. “I hate you. Do you understand? From this day on… I will hate you for what you have put me through.”  His voice became a low raspy whisper then. "And I will never forgive you."

Draco abruptly shoved him away and directed his attention to Snape who was watching intently.

“And you…” Draco glared. “How dare you. I had him. And now I have to face the Dark Lord and convince him that I didn't fail.”

Snape said nothing, knowing he did it to save him… save him from a lifetime of guilt and self-loathing much deeper than he already felt. Save him from a darkness that would eat him from the inside out until the last of Draco’s days. Spare the boy and save a soul from having blood on his hands for the rest of eternity.

“I hate all of you,” Draco announced as he turned to walk into the manor and meet his doom.

“Draco.” His mother called out sternly, as if she didn’t approve of his words of hatred and disrespect.

But he whipped around to her and got close so that only she could hear. His lips curled in anger toward one of the few people he thought he could trust with nearly anything. But like he told Hermione, he trusted no one fully, not even his mother.

“Why didn’t you tell me three house elves were dead?”

She looked at him rather startled that he knew. How could he have possibly found out while living at Hogwarts?

“You could’ve told me at break. Why? You didn’t think they should matter to me?”

“I… I didn’t want to upset you.”

“So lie to me, Mother! That makes me feel so much better!” he lashed out, tapping at his chest. Everyone heard, but they didn’t know what it was about.  She hadn't lied to him directly, but it was certainly a lie of omission.

He turned yet again, storming through the manor's magical gate on a mission. He dreaded the mission, but not as much as killing the Headmaster. He had to tell Voldemort what happened before he heard it from someone else. He had to take a stand and put a mad spin on reality.

Of course he was terrified and didn’t want to do the deed. He couldn’t do it, really. He had failed. But in order to survive, he would have to come across as thoroughly furious to have been robbed of the task… or die for blatantly failing.

All followed into the manor after Draco, wondering what in the world was going to happen and hoping that Voldemort would be so thrilled with the news of Dumbledore’s death that he would be lenient in Draco’s punishment for not doing it himself.

Be strong or die… and tell him absolutely truthful statements. Draco demanded of himself just before he threw open a set of double doors to the parlor where he knew Voldemort would be sitting with some sort of self-righteous sick look on his face.

Voldemort's Legilimency skill was exceptional.  Draco knew he would have to tell the truth, just maybe not all of it. Twist it a bit.  Think, but not too much.  Just do it.

“Albus Dumbledore is dead,” Draco announced with hateful spite dripping. “Except Snape took it upon himself to rob me of my task and finish it himself.”

Even Voldemort couldn’t hide his shock at Draco’s bold manner or the announcement.

“Severus… killed the old man?” Voldemort questioned, brought immediately to his feet.  His eyes moving as if the news was incredible.  He refocused, eyeing them all carefully and mulling the end result in his head. He knew Draco would fail.  But Snape actually did the deed?  Dumbledore was actually deceased?  Gone?  The thorn in his side... forever silenced?  Did he really care who did it as long as it was done? 

“I finally had him cornered,” Draco continued. “I let in Death Eaters to assist if I needed them… which I didn’t. And then Snape comes along and tells me to stop. I had no idea what he was planning. I didn’t know if he wanted to try to get some final piece of information from him or what he wanted. Dumbledore begs him for help, then Snape Avadas him, blasting him off the Astronomy Tower... his body falling to the ground below. I assure you... the man is dead.”

Snape and Bellatrix exchanged glances, thinking the same thing. They both knew what Draco was doing. His well-practiced Slytherin self-preservation was kicking into high gear… protecting himself from the wrath of the Dark Lord. The kid was smart. Very smart, indeed. And his statements were technically all true. They considered Draco's move exceptionally cunning and nothing short of pure brilliance.

If Draco wasn’t her sister’s son, Bellatrix would’ve ignored his little synopsis of what happened and would’ve exposed him for what he was… a scared little puppy, unwilling and stressed to the brink. And then of course, there was the Unbreakable Vow that Snape had actually followed through with.

Snape finally stepped in.

“If we would’ve given the old man anymore time, he would’ve Disapparated. It was time to get it over with and start your plans, my Lord. I will not… apologize.” He replied with his usual stoic flatness.

Voldemort eyed them carefully, not seeing any untruth to their claims, but still he wanted confirmation from someone who held no bias in the situation.

“Greyback.” He called out to the Werewolf, his head cocked to one side in curiosity. “You were there. What say you?”

“It is as they say. The young Malfoy had him cornered in the Tower before we got there. But then Snape showed up, telling us to stop. I wasn’t sure what to make of it either… then Snape drew his wand and it was over.”

All were waiting for Voldemort’s reaction with collective apprehension. Would there be punishment for Draco?

Voldemort blinked a few times and then finally spoke with a sinister, evil smile, “Well then… tonight… we shall celebrate. Ha, ha. Ha, ha! The enemy of all Death Eaters is DEAD!"  He shouted, as nothing else mattered to him.  "Ha, ha!” He continued his evil laughter, well pleased at the news.

Bellatrix joined in with her evil cackling. 

Greyback growled, "Yeah!" 

A triumphant smile crept over Lucius's face. 

Narcissa relaxed as if she was finally able to breathe again, becoming elated that Draco would not see punishment. 

Even Snape's shoulders seem to fall, but only slightly.

Draco was a statue with no emotion whatsoever.  His mind wasn't ready to relax. It was not possible in the presence of someone so dangerous.

“Whiskey and wine for everyone!” Narcissa shouted above them.

And so the sick celebration began and Death Eaters were called to the manor to join them. And they would come.  They wouldn't miss it.

Welcoming the distraction, Draco immediately stepped to the nearest alcohol cabinet and began dispensing the inebriating liquid into goblets and glasses.

But where were the house elves to do this? His mind raced.  Were any of them still alive?

As soon as he was able, Draco slipped away unnoticed and went immediately to the house elves’ quarters.

“Skippen!” He shouted as he frantically searched.

“In here, Master.” Skippen answered with an eerie calm.

Draco went to the sound of his elf’s voice and found him with all the other elves attending to one that looked very ill. It was Trinket.

“What’s wrong with her, Skippen?”

“Trinket’s lost the will to live, Master. Pickett, Starkin, and Lolly are dead, sir. And living so long with ‘You Know Who’ and now with the news of Dumbledore, Trinket’s taken a turn for the worse.  She is dying, sir.”

Draco had been informed of the deaths of the three elves by none other than Starlet, the house elf at Hogwarts only an hour or so earlier. She told a tale of how they refused to take orders from the Dark Lord and were killed.

He noticed Monty, Lucius’s personal elf standing silent in a corner, the elf Draco never really trusted.

“Monty, Father requires more alcohol. Bring up more Fire Whiskey, wine, and whatever else we might have that will appease him. There will be many more coming. Keep them filled. Do this now.” He commanded.

The elf Apparated immediately to the cellar.

“Trinket.” He bent to the floor to speak with her as she lay on a lowly cot.

“Is it you, Master Draco?” She asked weakly.

“Yes. I am here.”

“So happy to see you… before Trinket is no more.”
 

 

 






Author's Note:

Draco is about to lose another house elf.  Where will he go to finally be alone so that he can grieve the night's events?  All is up next.

Love to all, 
Dark Whisper

P.S. 59,700 Reads! 287 have Favorited!  I cannot thank you enough for your excitement for my story in your precious reviews and for your continued readership. As a special note, this chap turned out to be so long, I had to break into two, so there shall not be a long wait for the next update. I know, I can’t believe it either. Look for it soon. 
*Quote Credit: “Do you think he could've done it? Draco?" - J.K. Rowling from Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.  

 

Please tell me your thoughts. I love to hear from you.


Chapter 24: Draco and his House Elves
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Draco really didn't know what to do.  He knew that house elves could die from merely losing their will to live.  He just never thought he'd actually see it happening first hand... not with one of his own. 

It was deathly quiet in their quarters except for an old Cromwellian clock ticking. Seven wax candles of varying colors and heights were lit on a low night stand next to a full length mirror.

Draco knew they would stop the clock, snuff out the candles, and cover the mirror at her final breath, as was customary for their age-old culture. They were waiting for her to die.

“You cannot die, Trinket. I promised your cousin Starlet that you would visit and go stay with her for awhile at Hogwarts.”

He wasn’t sure if this news would help her, but it was the truth. Maybe it would give her something to live for, enough to keep her alive.

Just then, he recalled how much the house elf loved to decorate the manor, especially at Christmas. “She’ll tend to you so that you can get better so that you can decorate Hogwarts castle for every holiday and special event they have there. They are going to need you now.”

“Decorating Hogwarts Castle, sir?” She asked him with curiosity and hopeful intrigue, as if it would be something to look forward to doing someday. Maybe.

He actually couldn’t promise that there would be festivities at Hogwarts. Not now. There were so many things uncertain. So he replied the only way that he could. “If the past is any indication, then certainly, yes.”

“Oh, Trinket would love to decorate a real living magical castle. A dream it is… and to see Cousin Starlet once more.” She managed a smile that crept across her face at the possibilities and the fond memories of the elfish duo and all the mischief they caused as little youngsters.

Draco could see the elf pink up as some color came back to her face. He was glad to see it and hoped the elf lived to see her castle dreams come true.

“Starlet graciously helped me this very night. I asked how I could repay her kindness and her only wish was to see you. I made a promise that I would send you to visit. It’s time to go now.”

Draco stood then with an idea that could very well get him into a lot of trouble with his parents, but he didn’t particularly care too much about their opinion on the matter. It would look like a bit of revenge, but that would be a convenient advantage that would hide his real reason. For he was about to give them all orders… sending all of the elves away from the dangers and nightmares lurking at Malfoy Manor.

“Barley, Britt,” he addressed the elves tending to Trinket. “You two are to take Trinket to Hogwarts and live there with her and do whatever tasks Starlet needs you to do. If she has nothing for you to do, then you are to tend the gardens. And if that doesn’t keep you busy, then take your time and slowly wash every stone block holding up Hogwarts Castle. Do you understand?”

All seven sets of eyes were on him as they realized what their Master Draco was doing.
He was saving them.

He picked up on their staring. It was a moment of silence.

“Hurry up and say your goodbyes if you need to. But you three need to go now,” he ordered a little more forcefully. “Save Trinket.”

“Yes, Master Draco,” Britt replied finally, blinking away large watery eyes.

Barley couldn’t speak. He nodded his head solemnly, worried for Trinket and for what was going to happen to Master Draco for sending them away.

He wasn’t sure what to do with Judd at first, but then someone came to mind. Someone that he hadn’t seen in awhile and she was still considered part of his family, even if she was technically disowned. She could probably use the help.

“Judd, you’ve been with the Malfoy family the longest of any elf. You know my Aunt Andromeda well enough. You are to go to her home, tell her that Draco Malfoy has ordered you to stay and assist her until I collect you at a later time. Do you understand?”

The elf bowed his understanding, but remained silent as he pondered what Draco was doing.

“Tauller,” Draco acknowledged the eldest of his house elves, the one that made the jewelry out of Narcissa’s scraps at Christmas. “I’m sending you back to your old Master, the jeweler, temporarily. I’m sure he’ll be more than happy to see you working your jewelry magic once more.”

“Yes, Master.”

“I know he will take you in and you’ll love the work. Go. Work for him, Tauller. And don’t you stop making jewelry until I summon you. I’ll owl him first chance I get so that he understands my expectations. I’ll pay him to keep you well fed. Here,” he said handing the elf every last bill and coin in his pockets. “Give him this now and tell him there will be more from time to time.”

The old elf stared at the heavy wad of money in his hands in awe. He blinked and remained silent for a long moment. The elf had his opinions of Wizard-kind gathered over years of experience, changing ownership every so many years. He came to the Malfoys when his last master lost him to Lucius in a game of Wizard’s poker. But this exchange was different. This young Wizard was temporarily giving him back to the Master that taught him his best skills… work that he loved. And he was doing it so that he wouldn’t have to live in darkness… or die in it.

“Trying to save us all, sir.” The old elf could barely believe it. “…Tis the kindest thing Tauller has ever witnessed from a Wizard, sir. Amazing, it is.” He commented, tightening his grip on the money.

Just then, Monty appeared again, finished with his task of retrieving alcohol for the growing party. He now watched Draco with much dislike and distrust.

“Goodbye, Master Draco. You’ve been so good… to Trinket.” She smiled a bittersweet smile as she said her farewell.

“Goodbye, friend. Get better.”

Her little face lit up at being called ‘friend,’ causing a happy tear to flow down her cheek. And soon after, the three disappeared to Hogwarts, fully intending to follow his orders or die trying.

“Get out of here, you old elf. That’s an order.” He kindly patted Tauller on the back, just seconds before the elf Disapparated to go find a particular Wizard jeweler living in the oldest parts of Westminster.

“Tell her… I wish her well, Judd.” Draco eyed cryptically to the elf going to his Aunt Andromeda.

Judd picked up on the young Malfoy’s cunning. For Draco had made sure that Monty had not heard where any of the elves were going. He purposefully made it so that Monty would not be able to tell Lucius of their locations.

Judd was not an elf of many words. He never had been. It was a rare occasion that he spoke his mind. Draco expected the elf to bow respectfully and leave. He did not expect his mouth to open as if he wanted to say something, but was holding back, waiting for permission.

“You have permission to speak.”

“Judd believes Master Draco to be… the greatest Malfoy that has ever lived, sir.”

Draco knew the elf had served the Malfoys for several generations, but wasn’t sure what to think about that sentiment. Surely that couldn’t be true, could it?

“Goodbye, Juddy,” Draco replied, using the name he had called him when he as a child.

Not looking at Draco in the eye, the elf gave a half-smile at the name, then Apparated away to begin his new task.

That left only two elves remaining…. Skippen and Monty. Monty was the elf that Draco was forced to punish years ago. He was also the house elf most loyal to Lucius.

“Monty?” Draco addressed, knowing full well the elf wouldn’t leave the Manor, but he made the one-word offer regardless.

“Monty only serves Master Lucius and will not leave. Master will not like what you’ve done here tonight. No. No. No. He will be most upset at what you’ve done.”

“Would you rather I let them all die like the first three?” Draco snapped.

Monty said nothing. He only snapped his fingers and disappeared, most likely straight to Lucius.

The noise in the Manor was getting rather loud with Death Eaters drunk on the spilled blood of their enemy… on their way to being drunk with Fire Whiskey and wine. Draco wanted to leave to some place safer before Lucius began barking orders at house elves who would not answer.

“Orchard. Let’s go.” He wasted no more time in Apparating to his favorite place on the grounds; the apple orchard.

As soon as they landed at the stone and iron features of the main orchard entrance, Draco lit four torch lamps with his wand.

“Where do you want to go? To Hogwarts? With Tauller or Judd? You can go anywhere in the world. Do you want me to free you? You can go be with Dobby… wherever that is,” he asked as they began walking and lighting more torch lamps on the path.

“Skippen stays with Master Draco.”

“You may be killed.”

“Skippen understands.”

“They will make you clean up blood and bury dead bodies and such.”

Draco noticed that the elf had stopped walking behind him. He turned to see him close his eyes and nod his understanding. It was more of a look of defeat and a sad memory that told Draco that he already had to bury the dead, most likely the three elves killed for not obeying Voldemort’s commands.

“I’m truly sorry about the three… which is why I’m not sorry for ordering the others to leave.”

Draco’s mind went to a dark place then; thinking of death and how easily people died… enemies and followers alike. A familiar dread crept into his chest, imagining what it had been like for the elves these past six months.

“I’m not sure,” he paused, taking a breath. “I’m not sure my family will survive this war, Skippen. Should Mother and Father not survive; will you help me bury them in the family cemetery on the northern end of the property? They would want to be buried there.”

“Of course, Master.”

“And Skippen, should something happen to me, I don’t want to be buried there. I want to be buried in the apple orchard, high on the hill that overlooks the grounds. Bury me under my favorite tree. You know the one? The one I fell out of when I was a child?”

The elf nodded. He knew the one.

“Do it magically if you have to. Even if you need to make it look like I’m buried in the family plot.” Draco looked down at his elf, who had become visibly upset. “That is not an order. It would be… a final request.”

Skippen was now silently crying because of the sad words his master was saying.

“What about you? Do you have a favorite spot?” Draco asked sincerely.

“Must not talk of such things, Master.” Skippen bowed his head and covered his eyes with his oversized hands and long fingers, now sobbing. “It’s too sad.”

“I’m just trying to be prepared is all. Tell me now and we won’t ever speak of it again.”

The elf could only think of one spot, only one place that he would want as his final resting place.

“The high edge of the brook where it meets the meadow, sir,” he managed to say through a sob. “Where the Tiger Lilies and Narcissa flowers grow all summer.”

It was a beautiful spot. The wildflowers grew in a vast sea of orange and white running alongside the brook.

The elf tried to hold in his sobs, but he let out a sound that was much like a wolf pup crying out a long and drawn out song.

“Okay, okay,” Draco assured his elf. “We won’t speak of it again.”

After a long moment, the elf wiped his long nose with his shirt and finally spoke.

“Give Skippen something to do, Master.” The elf needed to be occupied with work to feel like he was helping his master. “Skippen needs a job.”

“Guard the perimeter of the orchard. I intend to spend the night out here. I will not celebrate the death of Albus Dumbledore.”

It was Draco’s turn to bow his head in sad memory… or was it shame?

“Yes, Master. Skippen will stay and guard.”

“I might be in my Animagus state. So don’t be alarmed if you should see me.”

“Yes, Master. And Judd was right… being the greatest.”

Draco peered down at the elf and frowned.

“I’ve done terrible things. Things that you do not know about.”

“But you’ve done much good in secret. Dobby told Skippen of his orders, sir. ‘Must save Harry Potter.’"

Furious that the elf knew of it, his teeth clenched.

“Don’t you ever utter those four words again.” Draco warned lowly. “Do you know the danger of merely speaking of it? It would be good of you to keep it to yourself or you’ll be burying me by sunup.”

“Yes, Master. Skippen is most sorry and will never mention it again.”

Draco took his leave then… walking the path that took him deeper into the orchard, the one place in the world that he knew better than any other. He could walk it blindfolded and tell exactly where he was by the sounds of the trees, the trickling of the brook, and by the rolling hills of it. Tree after tree, growing in near perfectly straight rows, he loved it. It was his own private park, complete with several cobblestone paths and an occasional fountain or statue placed here or there. It was beautiful no matter the time of year.

And right now, it was an escape from the world. Finally, he could be alone and try to sort through all that had happened.

Knowing his blond head made him vulnerable, he took a few running steps and with a leap, transformed into a creature of beauty, strength, and stealth.

Passing the reflecting pool, he recalled the last time he was there. For it was here that after Occlumency lessons from his Aunt Bellatrix to assist with his dark task, he would come here to learn the grandest of transformation skills by none other than Wormtail.

He thought it a shame that he was the only available teacher of such difficult magic, but Draco was determined and patient during his lessons and did exactly what the rat was saying and demonstrating.

He remembered walking to the reflecting pool with thrill and curiosity at what he had become… the feeling of pride that swelled within at succeeding. But it was short-lived as he looked into the watery reflection only to see a Black Panther with his gray eyes.

No! No! He growled a hollow rattle deep within his chest. Father will be most disappointed, he thought of his form. Too closely related to a lion… like a Gryffindor.


He had lifted a large midnight black paw to see razor-sharp claws, but only felt ashamed of his transformation and quickly followed Wormtail’s instructions to return to his human form.

“You will tell no one of our lessons or what I have become… especially not Father… or you will meet a bloody end,” he warned with venom.

Wormtail promised silence to the young, powerful Wizard not understanding his demeanor. The transformation had been the most magnificent he’d ever witnessed. But he took heed of the threat, eyes wide and unblinking.

Besides the rat, Skippen was the only other being that knew of it and he wanted to keep it that way. Well, those two and now a third, Hermione. She knew.

Once he got to his destination, he took a flying leap and sunk his claws deep into the bark, pulling himself up the tree.  His wounds from Sectumsempra caused tolerable pain, but it took his breath a bit. He continued his climb and perched himself high above the grounds and took his favorite spot with a full view of Malfoy Manor.

Draco looked upon his ancestral home now lit up like a party. He watched as streams of black smoke descended upon the place, signaling the arrival of more followers of the Dark Lord.

He stiffened once more, muscles tight, high on the thick limb, watching the invasion of his home thinking of the sick reason for their celebration. 


His not being punished didn’t sit well. Voldemort was unpredictable, yes, but not merciful. He enjoyed head games and Draco didn’t trust it, feeling as though he hadn’t heard the last of not completing his task.

The memories of the night tore through him as he saw the Headmaster.

Dumbledore attempting to talk him out of it. His face as he was struck down. The horror of it. His part in it.

His stomach threatened to convulse once more and he began shaking uncontrollably.

Snape did it. Not him. Snape. But that was no consolation. It was supposed to be him. Either way, someone was still dead and he did nothing to stop it. He knew this night was coming. He was an accessory to murder. It was his fault.

Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.

The darkness consumed him; Dread, Shame, Disgrace. His soul felt as black as his thick coat.

He had to get out of this mind set. Escape somehow. Escape the only way he knew how…

Hermione.

Just the thought of her name brought a calmness to him like nothing else.

By the end of the wretched day, Draco had loved her and lost her in the very same hour. And with the help of a Hogwarts house elf named Starlet, was able to deliver a message that he hoped she would understand. He left it in a place hidden from site, but where he knew she would find it. He stood by her bedside while she slept like the angel that she was… a sleeping beauty… a princess who had fallen for the wrong wretched prince.

He watched her chest rise and fall peacefully underneath a faded and threadbare Hogwarts standard-issue bed covering that disgusted him. Surely her parents had money for better. But of course, Hermione wasn’t the kind to complain about using a sub-standard school blanket, which is precisely the reason why she deserved better. He shook his head at the thought. It upset him immensely.

“I would’ve given you the FINEST…” he told her in his head as his fist came to his mouth. He dare not make a sound. “If you only could’ve been MINE.”

He was glad of this last moment with her. It was peaceful. She wasn’t looking at him with hatred and hurt.

With one hand covering his broken heart that would always be hers, he mouthed one last farewell with a new fear. Fear that Hermione would follow Potter into battle against Death Eaters that would lead straight to her death.

“Be safe, Love. Be safe... and live.”

He looked down at Starlet and took her hand, signaling that he was ready for the elf to Apparate him away to confront his dark destiny.

He meant what he said about loving her until the day he died. He had no regrets in saying it and was happy to know that it was the last thing she heard him say. For the love he had for her would be a constant presence that would always be with him, an unfulfilled wanting that would never fully go away… living deep within until the day he would take his last breath.

Draco closed his eyes and could feel the way her hands were on him, loving him, wanting him. And when he opened them, he felt privileged suddenly. Not the kind of privilege that one would think he would ever feel. It was the privilege in knowing that he was truly loved by someone at least for a few moments.

He was humbled by the thought. For they truly had loved each other… at least right up until he had revealed the truth of what he really was. There would be none like her, he knew. No one that he would ever feel so strongly about ever again in all his life.

It was no wonder that in a futuristic dream, he was incapable of loving someone else. His feelings just ran too deep, untouchable.

Draco couldn’t believe that what truly began as a dream about hurting Hermione and their unborn son could actually come to this. Such feelings of love and pure joy at being with her could turn into equally opposite feelings of such utter brokenness and pain. Such disaster. For he had fallen in love with the Forbidden, who couldn’t ever possibly return that love.

Draco had hoped that regardless of the dire circumstance that would keep them apart, that at least he could go on knowing that he had her love, if nothing else. But that wasn’t reality.

Wasn’t love supposed to live and breathe despite being oceans or worlds apart? Wasn’t love supposed to transcend everything, even when all else was lost?

But no. It didn’t work like Draco wanted it to. It didn’t work like that at all, he thought. He knew now that it didn’t. Because when he point blank asked her, “Could you love a Death Eater?” she said, “No!”

He recalled her face as love and trust disintegrated to lifeless ash before his very eyes, burning to nothing.

Her rejection had struck directly at his heart, relentlessly squeezing and torturing him to near death, but there would be no such mercy.

She hurt him more than all the women of his past combined. He would take their hurt tenfold over the pain he felt from her.

It hurt far worse than anything his father ever did or said to him.

Worse than the pain of Cruciatus.

Worse than the pain of Sectumsempra.

The person he loved most in the world; the person that understood him more than any other couldn’t love him.

And why would she?

Draco felt a surge of power through him. It built and built into an eruption that he could not contain. He could no longer hold in his feelings, letting out a low moaning rattle deep within his chest that built into a fierce roar of grief and sadness at so much raw emotional pain. His claws sunk deep into the tree limb as again and again he roared and cried his utter frustration, his powerlessness, his hatred of the world… pouring his heart out until he collapsed, utterly spent until he could cry no more.

The sound of it echoed through the trees in the orchard and made Skippen shake a bit with fear. He knew his master was in pain and anguish at all that had happened and he would do as his master ordered to the best of his magical ability. He would stand guard and die for his beloved master, if need be.

Draco opened serious, brooding, angry eyes at his Malfoy Manor now filled and crawling with Death Eaters.

“Love,” Draco thought as his heart succumbed to an icy winter storm, “delicate and vicious.”







Author’s Note:

“Do you have a favorite spot?” Oh, so sad, speaking of where they want to be buried. Sorry if this chapter seemed rambling as Draco is really hurting right now and does not trust a ‘merciful’ Dark Lord.

Up next, Hermione gets his message and it is nothing that anyone will expect. It has been 90% written and will be posted when it is finished.

Love to all and thank you so much for your Reviews! Please keep them coming. Please do send an encouraging word if you are enjoying this story. :)


Much Love Always,
Dark Whisper

Update: 63,000 Reads! *gasps* And 293 have Favorited! Like Draco, I am deeply humbled and feel privileged. Thank you from my heart!

Also, "Follow Me Down" has been written for the House Cup 2013.- about a canon character who travels back home to retrieve the ashes of her beloved. Check it out if interested. Go Slytherin House!



Chapter 25: The Flower of a Death Eater
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Hermione was not on the train that was taking everyone home after the tragedy.  Ginny worried to the point of alarming McGonagall, who allowed her to summon a house elf and Apparate to Gryffindor Tower to try and find her.

“Hermione?” Ginny asked with quiet caution as she walked into the room with the elf behind her. But as she saw feet lying on the floor of the closet, she went into panic mode.

“Oh, no, Hermione! Are you alright?” She was horrified to discover her best friend lying unconscious.

“Wha… What?” Hermione woke a bit groggy.

“Are you hurt? What happened to you?”

“Nothing. I must’ve dozed off. Sorry.”

“McGonagall is holding the train for you! Get up and get this stuff into your trunk. We have to go now!”

Hermione sprang to her feet taking Delilah’s Black Book of Poems with her. The blood rushed to her head in getting up so fast, causing her to feel a bit light-headed, but thankfully the feeling didn’t last long.

As soon as she walked out of the closet, she did a double-take at the large familiar round eyes staring back at her. Immediately she recognized the elf from the kitchens… the one that served bread to her and Draco all those months ago. She shook off the memory, trying to concentrate on the task at hand, but recalled how the elf did not like her.

“Starlet,” she acknowledged politely while gathering a few things from her night stand.

“Starlet is to Apparate you to the train; professor’s orders,” the elf explained rather flatly.

“Just give us a few moments. This shouldn’t take long.” Hermione went to her trunk and unlatched it to start stuffing her belongings on top of her genealogy and blood status research papers that she didn’t want Ginny to see. But she got a shock as soon as the lid hinged open.

Peering into it, she found herself looking at a beautiful, rare Black Orchid with a single gray scrolled-up parchment tied together with… white medical gauze! The image of Draco and his wounds flashed to her mind.

Draco! Oh, God! She silently gasped at the realization. How did that get into my trunk? Was he here?

Thankfully, Ginny wasn’t paying any attention; busy with the closet and rambling on and on about how they needed to hurry.

She looked at the elf, who immediately looked away… rather guilt-like.

“Did you put this in here?” Hermione asked in a low forceful whisper.

The elf slowly shook her head from side to side, her lips pressed in a hard line.

“But you know about it, don’t you?”

The elf answered with a shrug. Maybe she did. Maybe she didn’t.

Hermione knew the house elf didn’t like her, but oh, how she loved Master Draco, didn’t she?

Knowing the flower would be destroyed if her belongings were hurled into the trunk, she grabbed it and shoved it under her bed alongside the book.

Hermione became frantic then, throwing clothing, more books, and personal items into an unorganized hodgepodge mess into the small space. Of course, the elf wouldn’t help her pack.

“Let’s go.” Ginny urged.

“Check the closet one last time… the top shelf,” Hermione replied, hoping it would buy her just enough time to collect the precious items hiding underneath the bed.

As soon as Ginny turned her back, Hermione placed the flower and the book on top of the pile so they wouldn’t get crushed and slammed the lid closed, locking it just in time.

“Closet’s empty. Come on,” Ginny announced taking the elf’s hand into hers and the other on the handle of the trunk.

Hermione held out her hand to Starlet, but the elf didn’t budge. She rolled her eyes and actually had to find Starlet’s hand and grab on to it.

It was a good thing Ginny’s mind was so focused on getting to the train, because she completely missed the elf’s animosity toward Hermione, which would’ve been difficult to explain without bending the truth.

Once they were to the train, Hermione watched with longing as her trunk was loaded with all the others. She desperately wanted that letter, but there was no time to retrieve it!

As soon as she set foot on the train, it lurched forward.

When she was finally in the compartment with Harry, Ginny, and Ron, she was happy to see that the seating arrangement wasn’t conducive to couples. Ron was sitting next to Harry, who was sitting across from Ginny. She took the empty seat across from Ron.

“I over-slept,” she half-hearted explained to the floor.

But when she looked up, Ron’s blue eyes were staring deeply into hers, full of concern and maybe pity… and possibly something else.

“Please don’t look at me like that.” She held his gaze, then watched him pale. But then she looked away and closed her eyes briefly, hoping that she wasn’t looking far too guilty for someone who had merely over-slept.

After several deep breaths, she sunk into the seat, the weight of too many things pressing her downward; Dumbledore’s death. The guilt in keeping something so secretive from her best friends. But by far the worst was losing Draco to the darkness… how her love was not enough to sway him. The thought pressed into her chest and she nearly winced in pain.

Would she ever see him again? Would she ever be able to correct the mistake of telling him that she hated him? She shouldn’t have said that. Her regret would run deep, but so would her fears, her frustration, and sadness. She would miss him terribly, she knew.

And that letter… She felt like she was lying to Ginny in keeping the letter so secretive. But worst of all, she was keeping it from Harry.

Was it a confession? Was it an explanation? Was it insider information that could help them? She felt faint at the last thought. Because if it was insider information that could help the Order, then she would have to confess her heart and try to explain how she fell in love with Draco Malfoy… to Harry. To Ron.

God help me.

It would be a long, long, tiresome, grueling ride home.  She would re-live the last six months in the matter of hours; the depths of their conversations, his closeness, his scent, his sad words on a Black Canvas Vault. "Love is a Curse," he had told her.  A curse, indeed.  

~

When the train finally began to crawl, nearing King’s Cross Station, it was Harry that finally spoke up.

“McGonagall is going to owl us the funeral arrangements. I suppose I’ll see you all then.”

He stood and urged Hermione into a long hug. She welcomed it, noticing he held on a little longer and tighter than his usual goodbye. And it had never been while they were still on the train.

Ginny hugged her goodbye as well and then stepped out of the compartment with Harry.

Hermione deliberately turned her back to Ron, retrieving her bag from the over-head storage bin. And that’s when she realized why Harry and Ginny had said their goodbye on the train instead of waiting until they were on the platform.

Ron discreetly closed the door, giving them a private moment alone while the noise from students leaving the train muffled just outside the door.

She let out a long sigh, suddenly angry at Harry and Ginny. They must’ve had this whole thing planned. She scowled at the realization.

“What do you want, Ron?” she asked, trying to keep the hiss out of her tone, her back still to him.

“Will you please turn around?” He asked rather gently considering her demeanor toward him.

Could she look at him? She hesitated wondering what in the world was happening and why he was suddenly interested in her again instead of having his hands all over Lavender Brown.

Biting her lip, she finally turned to him.

“What are we?” he asked in a soft voice with eyes to match that had her bitterness melting rather quickly.

Hermione didn’t know how to answer that. Exes… friends. Definitely not lovers… that title belonged to someone else. She would always have feelings for Ron, just nowhere near the strength of her feelings for Draco.

She just shook her head in response as if she didn’t really have an answer.

“Do you trust me?” He asked, but Hermione was surprised at this question. Why was he asking it?

“With my life,” she answered truthfully.

“Then besides Dumbledore… tell me what’s wrong.”

Everything. She wanted to tell him as her final kiss with Draco came to mind. That was wrong on so many levels, she dare not count. And… she loved a Death Eater. Yes, everything was wrong.

When she didn’t answer, he grew impatient.

“You’ve been distancing yourself from us and we’re worried about you. I understand if we don’t talk like we used to, but I don’t want what happened between us get in the way of your friendship with Harry and Ginny.”

It was a tempting way out, a grand excuse handed to her freely, but she couldn’t use it because it just wasn’t true. The last thing she wanted was another lie hovering around her conscience.

“If I’ve been distant with them, it isn’t because of you, alright? And besides, just because something might be bothering me, doesn’t mean I want to bring the whole world down with me. Everyone has enough problems to worry about, especially Harry.”

Ron knew she had a point and his face softened yet again in defeat.

“Fine. Just don’t shut us out. We don’t want to lose you.” He swallowed. “I… don’t want to lose you.”

She looked up at him then, trying to access what he meant by that last bit exactly.

But then he leaned in slightly and kissed her forehead quickly to end their conversation.

“See you at the funeral, ‘kay?”

“Yeah.” She nodded her agreement, finally able to breathe and glad to be at the conversation’s end.

~

Hermione was solemnly greeted by her parents on Platform Nine and Three-quarters.

When she got close, her eyes were watery and her heart heavy with all that had happened. But she would keep Draco hidden deep within her heart… her secret love and loss.

“Dumbledore… he’s… he died.” She said, trying to explain her tears.

“Oh, sweetheart, we know. We got the letter informing us of the news and telling us that you were arriving today.” Her mother hugged her tight. “Are you alright, dear? We’ve been so worried about you.”

Hermione wanted to tell her mother everything in that moment… how she fell hard… deeply in love, but he turned out to be something that she could not accept. She had fallen in love with the enemy. But she withheld her tongue and her heart for fear of a meltdown. She swallowed hard.

“I’m okay. I’ve just rattled a bit, that’s all.”

Oh, when did she become such a liar? A double life, just like Draco. Knowing and feeling one thing, saying another, hiding the truth. It was something that she’d always felt with Draco… a connection, an understanding at the very least. It didn’t make it right, regardless of their well-meaning intensions.

Thoughts went to opening her trunk for the letter right then but her father was already loading it into their Muggle car.

She let out a long, drawn out sigh as her thoughts abruptly changed on the matter. Somehow, the excitement from earlier had vanished and Hermione had grown bitter on the journey. If it was some kind of apology for what he’d done, then it was unwelcome and she didn’t want it.

What could you possibly have to say to me now? She scowled at the trunk and folded her arms, hating it for what it contained.

As soon as they were in the door of her parent’s home, her mother asked if she was hungry.

“I don’t feel like eating right now, Mum. I’d like to put my things away. Perhaps some tea afterward?” Her knotted stomach still wasn’t ready for food.

“Alright, some tea then,” her mum replied warmly while her dad helped get the trunk upstairs and into her room.

Catching his breath, he brought her into a hug.

“Oh, my little Princess. You’re not so little anymore.”

Hearing her father call her “Princess,” she felt safe, however false it might be and couldn’t help but to give him a glimpse of what she was really feeling.

“Oh, Dad,” she stifled a sob. “Things are so messed up.”

“I know, dear. Give it some time.” He paused. “Time has a way of healing wounded spirits.”

Wounded spirits?
She nearly gasped for how simple he made it sound.

But you don’t understand, Dad. My spirit is mourning more that the Headmaster… because the Love of my life is partially responsible for killing him!

“Hard times pass, darling, as they always do. But we become stronger people in the end. You’ll see.”

Hermione swallowed hard to quell the lump in her throat that had grown exponentially while trying to hold back the ocean. His words were meant to bring her hope and comfort, but fell far short. He meant well.

“Thanks, Dad.” She managed to get out, but was no longer able to look at him. “Let me put my things away please. I’ll be down when I’m finished.”

“Fair enough. But don’t be too long. We’ve missed you… more than you know.”

When her father walked out, she let out a sad breath, knowing she couldn’t talk to her parents about the realities of what was happening in her Magical world.

It was the same as always, except now at least she didn’t have to paint on a fake smile and pretend. At least she could be sad right now and they wouldn’t question or pry any deeper than the obvious.

Her secrets weighed on her soul… the burdens heaviness upon her shoulders. She felt as if someone knocked the wind from her lungs and she was still recovering, unable to breathe properly. Her stomach now in pain, she wondered if she was adding an ulcer to her problems.

She wiped a few tears that escaped then opened the lid of her trunk.

Another long breath and she picked up the precious cargo; the black flower, its unread message, and her ‘Delilah’ book and set them all aside.

She then began putting her things away, just as she had done at the end of every school year prior. The clean clothes were hung up neatly in her closet or re-folded and placed in drawers, books categorized and in alphabetical order on a low book shelf, and various miscellaneous effects put away in their place. And when it came to all of her blood status research, she popped open her window seat and hid it all in the small space below.

When she was finished, she finally picked up her flower and the book that she held so dear and took them to her seat.

Admiring the flower and glad that it had survived the move inside her trunk, she studied it.

A true, genuine Black Orchid. Another specimen existing in the Magical world, thought to be a myth in the Muggle world… listed amongst the Unicorns and the Pixies. The only Orchid of such rich true black color in the Muggle world were those of dyed silk and pieces of plastic. But this most certainly was not one of those. This was the real thing and it was … exquisite.

She thought of Floriology, the study of the meaning of flowers. This was a flower of death… a flower of departure…

The flower of a Death Eater.

She let out a long troubled sigh looking at the note attached to it and thought again. What do you have to say to me now, Malfoy? After everything?

She ran her fingers over the soft white medical gauze that he had used to tie the parchment to the flower, remembering his wounds and scars and how she had kissed them lovingly, wanting to kiss his pain away.

Surely it was the only thing available to him to bind the items together in such a hurried, short amount of time.

She bit her bottom lip, trying not to cry.

Untying the gauze and carefully removing the parchment, she brought her knees up and curled herself into her beloved window seat. Resting her temple on the window as she had done countless times before, she finally unrolled it, ready to read his last words to her.

But it was not what Hermione expected at all.

No apology. No explanation. No inside information that would help Harry.

As she read, tears sprang to her eyes and her heart twisted inside her chest at his words written for her.

For it was a message to keep her safe, an encrypted warning that she would need protection from the storm that was to come… a dire and dangerous future, possible torture and death for who she was.

It confirmed her grave reality… understood by the Wizard who still loved her oh, so very much.

She wrapped her arms around her knees and the tears flowed, her concealed silent sobs wreaking havoc on her body; the parchment dropping and flowing elegantly to the floor like an autumn leaf before curling and rolling up, returning into the scroll that it once was.

She never felt so loved.

For it was not a letter at all, but the words spoke of heart-felt love for her, nonetheless. It wasn’t even signed. Instead, it was a long hand-written list of every protection spell and enchantment Draco could think of, beginning with…

Protego
Protego Totalum
Salvia Hexia
Cave Inimicum…
  

 





Author’s Note:
Oh, the ability to say something without actually saying it. She has no trouble understanding the meaning behind his words. ;(
Up next, Hermione reads of an aristocratic Pureblood boy that meets a Squib girl named Delilah.
And for future, this story will eventually leap ahead to Christmas.

Much love to all,
Dark Whisper

P.S. 65,800 Reads and 298 have Favorited! Baffling! Thank you so much for your words of much needed encouragement. 


Chapter 26: A Squib Girl Named Delilah
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The first few weeks at Malfoy Manor had been uneventful for the most part. The Dark Lord remained in a decent mood, meetings were held, progress for the dark cause was made, and the Ministry was now infiltrated with quiet Death Eaters in strategic positions. It was all coming together.

Draco would be the first to show up for these meetings and be the last to leave, smartly showing his faith and loyalty, but would remain his ever-silent self… an observer to the madness.

Plans were still in the making for the final Ministry takeover; the final push to ultimate power. It would be no surprise that the current Minister of Magic would have a high price on his head with new puppet leadership waiting in the shadows until the time was right. Power would be exchanged under the guise of tolerance and fairness, but it would be anything but that.

Early in these plans, Draco had turned seventeen, the legal age of adult Wizard-kind. But he was quite appalled by his birthday gift. For his father had given him a proud pat on the back and a fifteen-hundred galleon bottle of the finest Fire Whiskey available… some sort of misguided symbol of manhood, Draco supposed. It was his… an entire bottle all to himself. But if Lucius Malfoy had known his son a little better, he would’ve known that Draco had become a borderline alcoholic with as many liquor sticks that he’d consumed at Hogwarts.

Draco sickly craved the burning liquid. He wanted to drink the entire bottle right then; drown the dreaded, unrelenting aching feeling in his chest for one night. But deep down, he knew life was about to get worse and so he saved it for a future misery. There would be no way to have just one sip, he knew. He wouldn’t be able to stop until he drank himself into a nasty oblivion.

It was a terrible gift; one that Draco kept in his room in the center of a large dresser with an even larger mirror, set there just in case life became too unbearable to be conscious. And so it sat there every day… staring at him, daring him to drink it, testing his limits on how much reality Draco could take, and reminding him that should hell ever come one day, it would be there for him when it did.

There were other things that stared at Draco in his home, whispering to him at times.

An hourglass that sat on a low stand in the library; the sands of time whispering to him, “Right now, I am yours… and you are mine.” He heard Hermione’s voice every time he obsessively turned it over and over again in remembrance of her.

Narcissa noticed his obsession with the object and became concerned, especially finding it broken into sand and shards of glass where it had once stood, the magic within him shattering it when he could take no more.

His mother’s perfect pearl-white magical conch shell playing their song, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, sad and haunting, would conjure a most powerful memory of their time together. Draco became torn. He couldn’t decide if he loved it or hated it. It was like sweet torture to his soul and a grand waste of time.

He listened to it every day. That is, until it went missing. It came as no surprise that his mother would hide it from him, not wanting it to succumb to a demise similar to the hourglass. He didn’t even bother asking where it went.

Draco had given up on seeing his Grandfather in his magical portrait. Abraxas was gone, no doubt ever since evil moved into the manor. He tried for three nights as the Malfoy Grandfather clock stroke midnight, hoping he would show up and talk with him. But there would be no such reunion.

Being in the room made his dream become real once more. It was the place where this strange heart-wrenching journey had begun. He and Hermione were having a son together, but its life was cut short over a terrible mistake linked to Stella, a dog he loved, killed by his father on Christmas Eve.

Draco gritted his teeth, full of spite and anger. It welled within, heating his core.

He looked up at the mural on the ceiling. The white-haired witch, still holding her prophecy ball surrounded by her dragon that protected the family’s Pureblood future glared in disgust at his betrayal. His eyes narrowed and his lip curled in equal disgust just before storming out of the room, vowing to himself to never look at her again.

It was apparent even to Voldemort that Draco had become restless and bored and so one evening, much to Draco’s surprise, he was called to witness an interview of three wizards.

"Here, put this on," the Dark Lord instructed, handing him a shiny new Death Eater mask.  "The workmanship on this one is quite stunning.  It is yours.  Keep it on until the interviews have commenced."

Draco did as he was told, concealing himself behind the mask, unsure of why until the questioning of the interviews began.

At the end of the third interview, Voldemort asked for Draco’s opinion.

“You are of legal age, Draco and so you should have choices. But you are considered a Seventh-Year in your schooling and I know you are lacking in the Dark Arts simply because Hogwarts didn’t teach it. One is the current Durmstrang Dark Arts professor. One is a former. The other is a Master of the craft. Tell me, Draco, what is your opinion of the three?”

“I would guess that the third is the current Durmstrang teacher. It would seem that it would draw too much attention if he should not return to his post. The first was the former teacher, which I find lacking in enthusiasm at the prospect of having to teach another student. The second one… he was the Master, having respect for its power. If you are giving me opportunity to choose, I would choose the Master. And I’d want him to teach me… everything.”

“Your hunger for the craft pleases me and so I shall give you the gift of knowledge, Draco… and it is powerful. It will make you more than human… more than merely Magical. For I have plans for you, my boy. Your knowledge of the Dark Arts will give you more power than all of the Death Eater Council combined. And in time, they will all come to fear you… as they fear me.”

“A gift, indeed, my lord.”

Soon after, Draco began regular lessons with the Dark Arts Master with occasional visits from the other two professors. He would learn to do things that would make his skin crawl. The more he learned, the more powerful he felt. He kept telling himself that it was to learn so that he could better fight against it, but the more he learned, the more he seemed to crave it. And soon, Draco wondered if he was becoming the monster he had always feared, slipping further and further into darkness.

The only thing that he enjoyed about being home was actually found in his door-less closet. In it, he found his old carving of the miniature Hogwarts. He thought all of his other carvings were disposed of by house elves when Lucius commanded them to clear out the dungeon. Hogwarts was the only surviving piece because he had moved it to his room to work on it. Finding it now and examining it, he realized his father had been right about it having numerous flaws. It needed a lot of work to be an accurate replica of his second home.

And so, to pass the time in his deathly-quiet solitude, Draco resurrected an old hobby, painstakingly fixing Hogwarts by carving and re-shaping using only his memory of it. Every window, every step, every stone, and architectural detail, every night… even taking care to include wolves and rabbits.

~

“Accio Prince,” Hermione uttered quietly in her bedroom. The password unlocked the so-called dangerous book she’d been avoiding. But she could no longer keep herself from it. She missed Draco terribly and worried for his well-being. She wanted desperately to feel some kind of connection to him.

She had magically preserved the Black Orchid under a glass dome and would look at it every night before turning to bed. But tonight she felt a deep restlessness and wished he were close to her. And so, with a new determination, Hermione picked up the book and settled in… reading chapter after chapter, poem after poem, until sleep forced her eyes to close and she could read no more.

She read of the boy and his siblings being bred for greatness. They were well-trained aristocratic Wizard gentlemen; witty and poetic. Anything less would’ve been considered uneducated, unsophisticated… even unworthy of inheritance. They were taught how to think, what to feel, and what opinions to have on all manner of subjects, both political and personal…

“They were expected to adapt these beliefs without question. Except Time and Experience, when combined together, have a way of breaking down those beliefs; opening eyes, altering hearts.

‘Tis quite a simple equation, really. We see. We feel. We change.

With his status, privilege, and prodigious magical talents that far exceeded those of his generation, the boy became immensely confident, if not unbearably arrogant.

But perhaps it was because of his isolation as an ill babe or because he had witnessed the death of his childhood friend, and had cruel tutors… whatever the reasons, he also grew in bitterness and resentment of those around him and his heart became accustomed to a cold existence.

But cold hearts inevitably yearn for warmth. And the only true way of finding it is through the warmth of another. And this warm heart would come at a chance meeting when he was merely thirteen whilst standing on the grand steps of a winter palace at a girl’s coming-of-age party; his elder brother a potential suitor.

“Delilah, hurry up! Timing is everything at functions such as these, you stupid girl,” a teenage witch scolded into her covered carriage.


The girl was a beauty wearing silk finery with polished gemstones to match, but by her haughty demeanor and cruel words, the boy assessed her heart to be as black as the bottom of her shoe.

“Would you rather the lace tear from the hem of your gown?” a younger girl asked politely, peering out the small door while unhooking the garment that had snagged on the carriage.

“Well if that were to happen, I can fix it with magic… unlike you, Squib,” the teenager hissed all too loudly.

A Squib servant? The boy couldn’t help but gawk at her. He had never met one prior to that moment. She was supposed to be filthy, ugly, and unworthy. But this Squib girl named Delilah was far from it.

As she stepped from the carriage, the boy took notice. Her hair was piled up in a homely looking bun and her dress was that of a typical servant’s, but very tidy. She had a pretty jaw line and a cute little nose and thin lips.

But then, as the witch continued her insults, he watched and witnessed the girl’s face fall into a most hurtful expression at the cruel witch’s unrelenting verbal assult. His eyes found hers; the most piercing blue-hazel he’d ever seen. But as he looked into them, he saw her quiet pain. He quickly recognized that pain and suddenly it all came back to him in one powerful blow, feeling it in his own chest. And in an instant he knew that her sad eyes matched his own.

But she shouldn’t have looked at him in the eyes. He was of royal blood and she was… nothing.

He wasn’t sure whether it was the royal emblems on his robes or the slight green tint of his skin left from the pox, but her gaze darted downward, embarrassed and terrified of what might come next.

He knew what was expected of him. He was to ridicule her publicly so that she would not be repeating the error. But because of the pitiful look on her face, he chose to ignore their exchange completely. For he knew what devastating disappointment felt like and the boy refused to make the girl feel worse than she already did.

Looking at the older girl with eyebrow raised, the boy commented with his usual flair for arrogance, “A lady of your status would do well to remember that patience is a virtue.”

She replied by saying something about being anxious for the night’s festivities, but he didn’t hear her. He was much too mesmerized at watching the lowly Squib girl’s thin lips curl into a smile that she was attempting to subdue.

With the ladies in their ball gowns and the men in their tailored finest, the beauty of the age danced in elegant circles of sophistication and prestige; long fabric flowing ‘round and ‘round on the exquisitely patterned floor of the highly-polished ballroom. The musicians played a happy tune with instruments of mandolin, harp, flute, meshing together in beat and in measure merrily along.

The boy would be expected to find a girl of his age and status and join the promenade, but the partner he desired was not to be in this snobbish crowd. She wouldn’t be part of the festivities, yet she would be close.

The boy looked to and fro until something high above caught his eye. ‘Twas the balcony above in which Delilah chose to watch and be hidden.

He climbed the steps to her, careful not to be seen, and was amused to discover that she was holding onto the balcony rail, her feet tapping and skipping happily to the tune. She then skipped and hopped ‘round the columns and bases of Italian marble statues, lost in the music, oblivious to his presence.

“May I have this dance or are you content to dance with the architecture?”

She embarrassingly halted her happy dance and her face flushed red.

He held out his hand, offering it and bowing slightly to the young lady in servant’s clothing.

“One has never danced with a partner before,” she answered shyly in the sweetest of voices, being sure not to look at him. “And a magical prince be punished if found with a Squib, like me.”

“Those that would care are hosting a ball. Dance with me?” he offered again. “Unless my green hue offends thee.”

“One has heard of a Magical prince who escaped Death and survived the Dragon Pox. How could such a miracle possibly offend?”

Oh, how his heart did soar at her kind words.

“Dance with someone famous then?”

“But one knows not the proper steps, sire.”

“Neither do I,” he fibbed. “We shall be equally terrible at it. Although, I do believe we must begin like this.” He gently took hold of her right hand with his left and placed his other hand respectfully around her ribs, resting it just beneath her shoulder blade.

The girl could not contain her shy smile and soon they were dancing merrily to a happy tune; circling ‘round the columns and ‘round the statues of white.

For that one dreamy night, Delilah the Squib danced with a Pureblood Prince, who could not recall a time when his heart had ever felt so light.

It was only when the music stopped and they heard the applause that they were reminded of the others below that would never have approved of their silly behavior. It just wasn’t proper, given their status, to be prancing around wildly like that.

With her heart pounding, she looked up at the prince with unsure, but hopeful eyes. He glanced away, but kept his smile. For her eyes were causing his stomach to feel odd and his chest to flutter. He instructed her then to go to a quiet alcove at the very tip top of the spiral staircase where he would meet her momentarily.

Upon his arrival, her face lit up at the site of a silver platter of cakes and sweets, a carafe of sweet-water lemonade, and two crystal goblets. He poured the refreshment and then they both consumed the cakes with youthful recklessness.

“Oh, sire, given my status, I consider me blessed to have such sweet crumbs from M’lady’s plate! Such sensation on my tongue, ‘tis heavenly,” she said with delight. “But please, pray tell, how is it that you’ve found favor and adorned such undeserved kindness upon me?”

“Just tell me, is your spirit lighter now than at your arrival at the grand steps of this place?”

“My spirit has soared to the stars.”

“Dancing and cake has soared you to the stars?”

“Oh, yes. And if you did it to cheer me, then I must thank you and M’lady for her cruel words. ‘Tis a lesson learned.”

“What lesson except one in senseless cruelty?” the boy asked incredulously.

“That good can find its way around cruelty. Good can become of it. If it hadn’t been for her impatience and cruel words, would you have come to cheer me?”

The boy thought on this for a moment. It was a peculiar viewpoint.

“You have a most intriguingly kind perspective of things, Miss Delilah. Quite intriguing.”

The two found their way to an outdoor balcony where he conjured a bench and a small fire to keep them warm.

He told her stories of his learning adventures with his house elf that caused sweet laughter from her lips while she watched for comets and falling stars to wish upon. She seemed to adore his stories. But the conversation took a turn when he grew quiet and his face became sad, thinking of the elf’s last moments.

“At the steps, your eyes held the same sadness as they do now. What troubles you so?” she asked.

Her question was unexpected. Feeling guilty for his part, he didn’t want to tell her of the elf’s demise and simply replied, “Being of high status does not protect one from feeling loss… or grief over the death of a friend. It does not protect against these realities of life. The elf is no more.”

“Oh, dear, I’m so sorry.” She covered his hand tenderly with hers, as someone that truly cared for him. “I shouldn’t have pried so.”

“I saw that same sadness in you at the steps and that is why I was compelled to cheer you,” he confessed. “I am not a cruel person, but I’m also not known for kindness. It is rather foreign to me.”

“Oh,” she let out a whisper, withdrawing her hand from his.

He did not expect the disappointment it brought.

“The hurt you saw was but a glimpse of my hurt in having no magic. I must admit that at times, I am envious of Muggles.”

“Muggles?” he questioned. Surely she meant the Magical.

“Yes. For Muggles only live magic in their imaginations and in their folklore tales. They don’t have to live in and around it everywhere and not have it. Should I have to live without magic, I would’ve rather been born to Muggles. For I find their ignorance to be bliss. I’d rather I had not known of it at all. Indeed, I am jealous of the Muggle.”

“Again your perspective astounds me. Your words; so kind and humble. So… unexpected.”

“And what of a Pureblood Wizard dancing with a Squib servant girl?” Her eyes sparkled happily.

“Unexpected,” he admitted, looking into his goblet. “But most certainly not regretted.”

The conversation moved to happier subjects and laughter well into the night. But eventually the boy’s eyes became sad once more. For the music had stopped.

“Did I say something wrong?”

He shook his head. “The evening is at an end. You need to go before someone finds you and I... well, you know.”

Disappointment washed over her pretty face.

“Yes. I should find M’lady before she starts wailing her complaints.”

Delilah stood to go. Being the gentleman he was groomed to be, he stood as well. He knew it was time to bid her farewell. But suddenly he was worrisome, wondering if their paths would ever cross again.

“Delilah?”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Please, don’t ever call me that.”

“Then what shall I call you?”

“Friend.”

The name was significant to him. The only other being he considered a friend was a house elf who was dead. He didn’t keep friends. But he wanted to keep her.

“Do you know? Can an owl find you?”

“I… I don’t know. No one has ever owled me before.”

“Well,” he really didn’t want to ask, but the question seemed rather important. “Can you… read?”

“Of course I can read! Just because I don’t have magic doesn’t default me dimwitted!”

She opened the door and stormed down a dark, but luxuriously carpeted hall, the boy following after. He thought about apologizing, but it wasn’t like him to do that sort of thing, especially a Pureblood to a Squib. But as soon as he thought it, guilt slashed through him. Their time together had been strictly human to human, not something defined by their societal status.

“Delilah, are you up here, child?” a voice familiar to Delilah called out.

She let out a gasp then rudely shoved him into the nearest open doorway as hard as she could to hide her company.

“Coming, Spencer. I’ve been roaming this huge castle, losing count of the many rooms, and I seemed to have lost M’lady’s favorite comb.”

“You’ve got one minute to find it or we’re off!”

“Tend the horses. I’ll be right there.”

As soon as the danger had passed, she let out a sigh of relief.

“M’lady’s favorite comb?” he gently mocked.

“It’s the only thing in my pocket,” she explained.

From the darkness of the room, he knew it was time to say goodbye, but he really didn’t want to.

“Goodnight, my Delilah. I shall not forget this night.”

“Goodnight, Friend. I shall eagerly watch for an owl… should one attempt to find me.”

And with that, she curtsied politely and was gone, leaving him to recover his heart in the darkness. For he was sure it had just leaped from his chest at the hope in her parting words.

Indeed, the owl found you, my sweet Delilah. And yes, my heart longed for yours that first night. This story is ours. And I write it in the hopes that one day, they will read and understand.

As Hermione read, she could not believe the parallels in her own life. She understood what it meant to be insecure of something she could not change. He was fearful that his green skin offended her, but she was kind in her response. People didn’t understand how he had lived and surely he would be treated differently out of fear of being contagious, even though he wasn’t.

She also knew what it was like to come to an end of an amazing evening with someone and not want to say goodbye. Yes, she knew that feeling. And she could visualize the young teen’s sad eyes. She had seen them before. She had witnessed those sad eyes in Draco. He was so much like Draco. She couldn’t help but wonder if Draco felt the guilt the boy had when the ingrained Pureblood thoughts came to his head. Did he feel the sting of remorse? Of course he did.

And little adorable Delilah… she didn’t think like most. She was a kind heart, but fiery when it came to Squib stereotypes.

“Oh, a Squib and a Pureblood Prince… this cannot possibly end well. Can it, Draco?” Hermione spoke aloud as though talking with him. “Can it?” she whispered, wondering what really would become of the two in this story.

The book was supposed to be dangerous because of its hidden spells that could go flying about. But as she read, she became convinced that it was the Blood Traitor content that must’ve rendered the booked banned. Yes, that was why. Not the spells.

The notion brought tears to her eyes. It would be a beautiful story, she knew. Young love… forbidden. But did she want to know how it would end? She wasn’t sure.

But she was sure of one thing. Delilah knew. She knew the danger from day one. She had shoved him into the nearest door to protect him… to protect them both.

Despite Hermione’s reservations to read on, she couldn’t help herself. She continued, reading of happy times. A year had past when he had gone on a shopping trip to a busy, bustling area of Magical London. Much to his surprise, Delilah was there, wearing a borrowed green dress that was entirely too large for her. It certainly wasn’t servant’s clothing.

He would’ve missed her entirely had she not tripped over the dress and made somewhat of a spectacle. Armed with a satchel full of candy and sweets, he came to her in commoner’s attire. She was shocked to see him, but seemed happy after her initial embarrassment wore off. After convincing her that a lady should not be without an escort in the city and her arguing the same about a prince, the two continued together, store after store, gathering the items on her list.

He watched as she carefully counted her coins, budgeting for each item and noticed when she was out. It meant that she was finished and would be leaving soon. But he didn’t want her to leave, so he invited her to rest awhile before heading back.

The two found a hiding spot high on a merchant’s thatched roof where he shared his candy with her. When he saw her tired face light up, he ended up giving her all of it, satchel included.

“But they’ll think I stole it,” Delilah declined.

“No they won’t,” he said, taking out his wand and turning the brown satchel a perfect shade of green to match her dress. “Now they’ll think it was yours all along.”

Hermione read a long chapter of light-hearted conversation of a perfect day. The two talked like old friends catching up. They spoke of all that had happened from their last letters and he confessed that on days like today, he wished he wasn’t a prince at all. The time went by all too quickly.

But when the two got up to leave, the mishap of mishaps ensued and after a rather large snapping sound, the two somehow plunged two stories onto an awning that swept them up and away. And in his failed attempt to save them from the fall using magic, they ended up falling into a water fountain.

Sopping and dripping wet, Delilah was trying not to cry. For not only was she utterly humiliated, but all of her purchases had been ruined.

But the boy was most definitely laughing, especially when the soaps she had just purchased nearly buried them in an enormous cloud of suds. But he wasn’t laughing long. Soon they were running hand in hand as fast as they could away from an angry constable; water flying every which way. But their wet clothing hindered their attempt at escape and soon they were cornered in an alley and immediately taken to royal guards to be punished for disturbing the peace with their mischief and running from authorities.

Hermione read that it wasn’t the guards he was worried about. For he knew it was his father that would receive a full report.

As soon as the guards recognized the prince, the air became quite serious and they released him immediately.

He commanded them to take five men and purchase every item on the wet parchment list, refill her green satchel with the finest candies, sweets, and pastries and return immediately. He demanded a maiden tend to Delilah’s needs and magically dry her hair and clothing. And after all was done as he commanded, he ordered his most trusted guards to escort her safely home.

But before they left, he saw the distressed worry in her blue-hazel eyes, which compelled him to reserve a moment alone with her. With a nod, the guards waited outside.

“Oh, my dearest Friend, what shall become of you?” She asked in a hushed whisper.

“I don’t know,” he replied honestly, wondering how such a perfect day could end so gravely.

“Write to me. Again and again, so I know that you are okay. I’m so worried for you.”

Seeing her eyes turn watery with fear, he made a promise that he would write again. But his heart was in agony. For the best hours of his life had been spent with this amazing girl. When would he ever see her again… this person that actually cared for him?

She stepped close to him and placed light fingers to his face while planting her lips tenderly to his cheek.

He leaned in to receive it and held her hand so that she kept it to his face.

“Your present touch will heal future lashings. Come what may, you were worth it.”

As their lips came together in the most innocent of kisses… the door opened.

~

As Hermione read of the strong bond of love blossoming, she could not help but be filled with memories of Draco and their time together; running from Filch trying not to get caught and enjoying her own pile of suds in the Prefect’s Bathroom.

Little did she know that as she read, she was sending her light… her image, like a ghost, sent to the one who sent her the rare, banned Magical book. And she had no idea what it was doing to him.

~

Draco had become accustomed to Hermione’s likeness, lit up like an apparition that was not really there.

At first, he was in fear of it.

He had tried to touch her, but his hand brushed right through the air. Nothing. He tried to communicate with her, but his words went unnoticed. It was baffling.

Some nights, it nearly made him mad with frustration. He wanted her. Longed for her. She was there, but she really wasn’t.

He tried to think it through logically, but could not come up with the reason for this bizarre connection. Was it a connection? Or was he just going out of his mind.

When she wasn’t there, he tried to conjure her. Perhaps in thinking of her and wishing she was really there is what brought about her amazing image. But that wasn’t it either. For that was tested and it certainly failed.

Sitting in his room, he thought of the first night her light visited him. It was a most troubling and dark time that he dare not put himself in that place again. For in a moment that he wanted to experiment with something very dark and see what would happen, she showed up, pulling him from the depths, saving his very life.

He had been drunk on the wine that flowed at dinner and was sitting in his room, slumped in a high-back chair, reduced to a man barely breathing.

He had slowed his heart, calming himself from the bitterness and anger that he felt inside, loathing the latest role given to him; torturing fellow Death Eaters who were deemed to be out of line and donning his Death Eater mask in bringing people to Voldemort like some hired low-life Snatcher.

Draco knew he was slipping downward… because sometimes he liked it. He enjoyed seeing grown men cower before the silver-masked Death Eater that he was. And he despised them for not having a backbone, which only fed him darkness by the pintful. He hated himself for what he had become. He was pawn and becoming more and more powerful with the dark magic he was learning and using almost daily now.

He loved the power and hated it at the same time. He was careful to respect it and not be careless. But he knew things now that effected his sleep… his nightmares. Some of the things that the darkness could do both thrilled and chilled his bones.

Even in all his hated past abuse by the Cruciatus curse, he was now the wizard casting it.

It was all so wrong, but it was also like a drug; an addiction that sometimes left him thirsty for blood. It was fuel for self-hatred. It was fuel for fear in others as they witnessed what he was now capable of. He hated his abilities and wished he had never started.

As Draco sat silent in his room, he had slowed his heart to merely half that of someone sleeping and fully at rest.

And at that one dark moment, he knew he had the power to stop his own heartbeat. He had the magic to do it. He could feel the rare and raw power over his own body.

His heartbeat slowed again and again as he stared into the blackness caused by a moonless night. Slowing, slowing, slowing the pounding in his chest that kept him alive.

But then from nowhere, like an angel, something came to him. A light.

With a gasp, he snapped out of his dark state and nearly fell to the floor.

“Hermione?” he whispered as if it was incredible. “Bloody hell. Is it you?”

Her light had saved him that day… and nearly every day, reminding him to stay alive. For what reason, he had no idea. Was it hope? If it was, he didn’t acknowledge it. What was there ever anything to hope for? What good was it!?

Blocking the memory of the first night he saw her, he was brought back to the present, a completed moon cycle later and yet another moonless night. So black… like his spirit.

She was there again, like she had been there most evenings. She would come at sporadic times and stay for a few minutes and sometimes a full hour. Tonight she stayed for a long time and so he spoke to her.

“I buried two more people today…” he paused for a long while, hoping in vain for some kind of reaction from her. Wouldn’t it truly be grand if she could hear him this time?

Probably not. She wouldn’t want to hear from him. But he spoke to her anyway. It felt good. He would talk and she would have that concerned look on her face as if she was listening.

“Well, Skippen actually buries them magically at the edge of the swamp near Ottery St. Catchpole while I’ve started to plot them on parchment, listing where they are buried, who they are, and date of their death. I figured maybe in time, their relatives would want to know where they were laid to rest. Maybe when the list gets full, I’ll owl it to someone trustworthy at the Ministry so that their families will know. As foul a creatures as some of them were, I figure they all must have someone who might care about them and their fates.

“Today, I wondered if they had a bucket list. You know; if they had things they wanted to do before they died. Did they ever want to be loved by someone like you or see their child be born? Did they ever want to hear the choir sing at the Westminster Abbey or look upon Aurora Borealis as you do? Or were their lives cut short by a madman, robbing them of such an important list?”

He looked at her again, but there was no response… only that beautiful concerned look of hers, but he continued anyway.

“Never in my youth did it ever cross my mind that I would play the role of Undertaker… nor did I ever expect the perspective that one gains from it. For we all will die someday, Love. We will meet our end at some point. And when it is my turn, I hope that someone would at least take the time to bury me properly, as I have done these poor souls.

“I’ve come to the realization that our bodies are merely dwellings for souls. For when death comes, the soul leaves it. I know this because the dead look empty… like empty shells. And I think a soul that leaves the body must go somewhere else, hopefully taking love with it. When I think of it that way, death doesn’t seem so scary then. And my thoughts move from death to contemplate where a soul goes. Heaven. Hell. Surely I deserve the last.

“Sometimes, I feel as if I have a terminal illness, Love. That death is eminent and close. It hovers over me like a Dementor and I’m just waiting for its kiss to take my soul to where it deserves to be.

“Forgive me… for speaking of such depressing things.” He paused yet again watching whatever breeze flow through her hair, wishing he could run his hands through it like she’d let him all those months ago.

He stopped talking then and just watched her… her face, her eyes, her breathing. He watched her with the heaviest of hearts, longing to touch her, longing for the part of their past when the world fell away and left them to themselves.

“You’d be proud to know that I’m now well-read on the subject of such thing as Faith and Religion and the lack thereof. And I must say that regardless of the teachings on either side, I know without a shred of doubt that evil exists. It lives and breathes in my home. And therefore, for such evil to exist, then I must reason and reconcile it with an opposite force and accept that there is Light and it does exist. For Darkness is only vanquished by Light. Faith is a choice. And so… I choose to believe.

“I’ll admit though, that my struggle lies with forgiveness. For I’m not sure that I am remorseful for all that I have done. But I am sorry for so many things. I am flawed. And that flaw was a condition to your love that you could not accept. A flaw… albeit a major one, indeed. Unacceptable. Unforgivable. From what I’ve read, the word has much more meaning than the three curses in our world. And it pains me that I cannot be perfect. Not in my father’s eyes. Not in yours. It isn’t possible to please you both. And so I leave both of you sorely disappointed in me. And for that, I am so deeply sorry.”

He searched her image again.

“Am I sorry that I am now a Dark Wizard, earning an advanced degree? Only when it comes to you,” he answered. “Pride in my accomplishments in the Dark Arts falls far short because of you. My conscience remains convicted and my regrets run deep… because I love you still… as I told you I would.”

He paused and studied her, truly amazed at the phenomenon directly in front of him. She seemed so close, but so far away. Within reach, yet unreachable. He took heart in believing at least, that if he was seeing her in real time, then she didn’t seem to be in danger, at least for now.

Draco stopped talking then, glad Hermione couldn’t hear how pathetic he sounded. He took in a long deep breath, leaned over, and put his head in his hands. But then suddenly, Draco felt a presence in his room and didn’t bother addressing the person he knew it to be.

“Who were you talking to just now?” Narcissa asked, not hiding the concern in her voice.

“Someone, but no one, really,” Draco replied cryptically.

“People are saying you’re going mad. They say you talk to a woman who isn’t there. You can tell me, you know. A ghost perhaps?”

“I pray that she is no ghost.”

“So it is true then? You are speaking to someone?”

“Yes, but you cannot see her; sitting there politely in the corner. And she cannot see or hear me. And am I going mad? Honestly, Mother, I am already there. Insanity it seems, has taken me and I speak to an imaginary person, who really does exist. And I love her actually. I’ve been in love with her for quite some time. She visits me mostly in the evening after dinner in the form of light. She loved me once, but you’ll be quite relieved to know that she most certainly hates me now.”

He watched as his mother’s face quickened with worry of his contradictory explanation.

He let out a deep and sickening chuckle at the absurdity of it all. He was beginning to think he really was losing his mind.

“And do you see this book that I have here?” He held it up. “It’s green!”

“Yes, I see that it is green.” She didn’t understand why the color was of any consequence.

“It wasn’t green when I started reading it.”

“Well, it had to have been. You just don’t recall it.”

“Mother, look.” He opened it to her. “Green pages and green ink! Have you ever seen a book use green pages and ink? I assure you, it didn’t start out this way. It turned green as I was reading it!”

Of course, what Draco was experiencing was a playful and harmless little spell sent by Hermione’s book reading of when the boy turned the satchel green to match Delilah’s dress.

“I think you need some rest. You aren’t sleeping well, are you?” She asked, concerned.

Sleep? I’m wondering how you sleep at night with a demon living in your house. And don’t even get me started on his beloved pet. I haven’t slept a full night since that thing ate a person on our dining table!”

“Keep your voice down,” Narcissa warned in a forced whisper.

Drawing his wand, Draco magically shut his door and instead of the using the Muffliato spell to conceal their conversation, Draco chose the Flagrate to spell out his thoughts to his mother with the use of streams of fire in the air.

“I DON’T WANT TO LIVE LIKE THIS ANYMORE,” Draco spelled out.

“What do you mean? You should be grateful to have been put into a position of power at your age.”

“IT IS NOT POWER THAT I WANT.”

“What then?”

“FREEDOM. I WANT OUT!”

“There is no turning back now. Besides, once the Ministry takeover is complete, I’m sure you’ll be doing something else for the cause.”

“I DON’T GIVE A DAMN ABOUT ANY CAUSE, BUT MY OWN. I WANT MY LIFE BACK!”

“Well, right now, the cause I care about the most is keeping this family together. And we will do what we must and what is expected. Things will get better, you’ll see,” she attempted encouragement.

“If you truly believe that, then you’re either as blind as father or in complete denial. I buried two more today, Mother… followers of the cause. When will it be my turn? Another week, another month, five more years of this?”

“No one has ever asked you to bury people. That is of your own accord.”

“Yes, because if father had his way, they would be dumped and decaying in the sewers of London. Or Nagini would have more to eat. I cannot get that image out of my skull. If you think I ever want to witness that again, you are sorely mistaken.”

He took to writing with fire in the air again.

“I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS ANYMORE. THE ONLY REASON I HAVEN’T FLED ALREADY IS BECAUSE OF YOU AND FATHER. IF I DEFECT WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU?”

“You will do no such thing. Don’t even think about it,” Narcissa whispered, terrified that his mind was actually thinking of such betrayal.

“SO, THE ONLY WAY OUT OF THIS LIFE SENTENCE IS DEATH?” Draco wrote out with a flourish, underlining it with a stream of fire from his wand.

But before his mother could respond to his grave question, Skippen showed up and interrupted them.

“Pardon sir, the Dark Lord requests Master’s presence for an important mission.”

He glanced at his mother who knew their conversation had come to an end. She gave him a look that told him they would speak later. He could tell that he had both worried and upset her. But at least with her, he didn’t have to pretend anymore. She knew how he felt and for now, that was enough. When she made her quiet exit, his attention went to his house elf.

“Do you know any details of this mission?” Draco asked, looking into his mirror and straightening his tie, readying himself to face Voldemort.

“A Muggle address has been found at the Ministry. The mission is to interrogate two Muggles in their home, sir, in order to find someone.”

“Did he mention any names?”

Draco was curious, but he didn’t expect to hear a name that he recognized. He didn’t expect his face to turn ashen, his stomach to lurch, his lungs to lose their breath, or his knees to weaken at the mention of a name.

“Skippen cannot remember the first name, sir, but believes the Muggle surname to be… Granger.” 
 

 

 






Author's Note:

Well, this happened to be the longest chapter of this story.  My apologies, but Hermione read a lot of that book and according to the rules, reading from books can only be 1/3 of the chapter.  I edited and edited for compliance so that it wouldn't get rejected.  This is why it turned out to be so long.  Anyway...  Many thanks to all readers and reviewers!  This story has now surpassed 72,000 Reads, passed the 600th Review, while 307 have Favorited.  Wow!  I just cannot believe these milestones! Please allow me to use the Flagrate spell and with fire write out... "THANK YOU FROM MY HEART!" into the air.

Also, thank you for your patience as I am not known for quick updates.  Just know this story will continue to the end.  Lastly, I adore hearing from you.  Your reviews are precious to me. Keep them coming.

Much love to all who have found this story and gave it a chance. I do hope you continue...

Dark Whisper

 
 
 
 


Chapter 27: The Child with 100 Gifts
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Three streams of black smoke descended upon the Granger residence at near dusk.

Draco was the leader of three ordered to enter a specific address to get information on the whereabouts of a key Order of the Phoenix member, Hermione Granger. Their instructions were specific; extract information by any means necessary.

When they arrived just before dusk, it appeared that no one was home and Draco told the other two Death Eaters to keep watch while he went inside.

Unwilling to question Draco’s reasons for going in alone, they remained outside, one behind a wooden gate that led to the backyard and the other toward the front corner of the home in the shadows of the landscaping. They would be ready to storm the brick house should any Muggles show up.

Draco had warned Hermione that her parents would be in danger, never giving thought back then that it would be him to do the deed. He wasn’t sure what she had done to protect her parents, but he knew that she would be smart about it. She would do what she thought best, but he wasn’t sure what lengths she would go.

Of all the people that fell to their knees in front of him, pleading, crying out in pain, it was the Grangers most of all that he didn’t want to hurt. They didn’t deserve what was coming. He would try to be merciful.

Using the Alohomora spell inaudibly, Draco opened the door to Hermione’s childhood home.

As he stepped in, there was still just enough sunlight to see clearly without aid. He closed the door behind him and scanned the room.

What he saw was very typical. Everything seemed to be tidy and in its place. Nothing fancy. There were cozy furnishings, throw pillows on the couch, white painted woodwork, along with a few motionless pictures in frames. Otherwise, the place seemed rather empty.

But before he got a close look at the photos, he came to an upright piano that had been covered with a white sheet and became curious. He cast a simple spell on it so that it would manipulate the keys to play the last song that was performed. But his heart lurched in his chest as soon as it began their song. Draco abruptly waved his wand and stopped it. He had hoped this wasn’t the correct address, but the song served as the first clue that his hope would be lost.

He looked for her to be in the photos, but she was in none of them. He looked at them closer, realizing the subjects weren’t centered. It seemed odd, as if someone was missing. But then he realized that the person missing was her. And the people that remained, he faintly recognized. He had seen them long ago at the bookstore in Diagon Alley. Sadly, they were Hermione’s parents, he knew.

It was silent in the house except for the clocks ticking out of unison. When he noticed, he thought it rather irritating and decided it was time to quietly make his way up the stairs to find her room.

Draco happened upon her parent’s room first and stepped in briefly. He eyed a closet door and magically opened it to get a look inside, but was surprised to find it nearly empty; almost no clothing and plenty of empty hangers.

The Grangers were gone!

He moved more quickly then and found Hermione’s room.

At first glance, it looked like any normal guest room. But then he saw her window seat and recalled her saying that it was her favorite spot in the house. He wondered how many books she must’ve read there, growing up in this very Muggle house.

It was so quiet. It was the only thing that reminded him of his own room. It seemed so lonely. And loneliness was something that they had in common. He recalled the conversation in the Hogwarts kitchens with her… about knowing what being lonely felt like, the emptiness of it.

Being in her room seemed surreal, like stepping into some dream that wasn’t his. He didn’t belong there, invading her space.

Slowly, Draco made his way to her window seat, taking in the view from it. It wasn’t spectacular, just a view to the neighbor’s lawn.

He turned slightly to go back, but something caught his eye on the wall. It was a little pink painted heart with a sloppy little “Prince” spelled inside of it. That tiny detail would not have meant a thing to him, except that he knew in his heart that it was her doing.

He stared at it for a long moment, thinking that it might be the only evidence that a little girl had ever lived here. Was this the only mark she left on this place? He wondered as he ran his fingers over the old raised nail polish painted there long, long ago.

His eyes followed the trail of tiny lopsided hearts down to the window seat. And that’s when he noticed a gap where the seat met the wall. Examining it further, he could tell that there might be some space underneath the seat… a possible hiding place. Knowing her well, he thought it a good chance that she would use her favorite spot to store things she wanted hidden from the world.

He tried to move the seat, but it wouldn’t budge due to the extra protections she had placed on it. But Draco made short work of it, blasting off the seat like a box with an unhinged lid.

What he found both surprised and intrigued him. For he didn’t expect to see the flower he’d given her, the beautiful black orchid, expertly preserved under a glass casing; the medical gauze still tied to it.

Not only did she get it, but she preserved it. Perhaps that meant something. Perhaps she didn’t really hate him after all. But then, he quickly dismissed the thought, figuring that out of all the things she must’ve taken with her, she chose to leave his flower behind. His flower most likely meant nothing to her at all.

Under the glass case lay a Daily Prophet with an article about a Muggle family that had been murdered. Surely it would’ve been Hermione’s worst fear. It would be the reason why she would take drastic measures to protect them.

He set the newspaper to the side and noticed there were two small boxes. He opened the first, seeing her documentation of her genealogy, her birth certificate, and research done on her blood status.

That familiar guilty feeling came over him. “I told you didn’t matter,” he uttered under his breath, pushing the material aside.

He then went to the other box and found a few clues; copies of passport applications for people by the name of Wilkins alongside copies of several old memory charms and spells.

And with those two things, coupled by her image erased from the photos downstairs, Draco knew what she had done.

“No,” he breathed.

It was getting dark. The sun had set and he went ahead and sealed the seat back into place, keeping the secret of her parent’s new names safely inside.

Standing to full height, he turned to take in her room once more. It eerily felt like times when he would see her light. She would be so close, but still so very far away. And now, being in her childhood bedroom, it felt the same. He could feel her presence there, but yet, she was gone.

A commotion on the first floor brought him back to the task at hand. He was quite relieved to know that it wouldn’t be Hermione’s parents. Instead, it would be two impatient, irritated Death Eaters.

Draco met them at the bottom of the stairs.

“It’s cold out there and I’m starving!” growled one of them.

“Well, feel free to search the kitchen for food, but there won’t be anything there. These people are long gone,” Draco replied as if irritated.

Following several explicative words and empty pantry cabinets slamming shut, the two reappeared in the living room.

“So it seems.”

“There’s no sign of them or their whereabouts upstairs either,” Draco added. “The closets are empty. Only God knows where they are or if they’ll ever return.”

One of the Death Eaters began rummaging through a desk, emptying the contents onto the floor, while the other began turning over sofa cushions.

“I swear. You’re like two children hoping to find a galleon!” he scolded their unprofessionalism and common thievery. “Let’s finish this and get out of here! Muggle homes give me the creeps.”

Draco would eventually tell Voldemort only part of what he found. He would say that the Granger’s wouldn’t be worth finding, considering their altered memories. But he would keep their new names to himself just so they wouldn’t be hunted and killed for revenge.

As he left her former home, Draco looked back, thinking of all that Hermione had sacrificed in protecting her parents.

She had succeeded, but the heavy price she paid had not been lost on him. She loved them with her whole heart and when he thought back on their conversation about how she lied to them by putting on her best smile and telling them everything was well, he understood that she’d been protecting them for a long time. Protecting them from the truth, from danger, from her world… and from Death Eaters who would come knocking one day. Death Eaters who would’ve tortured them to find out where she was.

She was bloody brilliant, but he knew her well. This would be unbelievably tough on her, even if she never showed it. Hermione was incredibly strong, but this would weigh on her tremendously. He also knew that this was something her friends would never have allowed her do. She would’ve done this on her own first, then told them about it later.

In many ways, it was a tragedy. It was as if she was choosing to be an orphan to protect them from harm. There was a strong possibility that there would be no more holidays with them. No family to attend her wedding. And her children might never know them. It was her sacrifice to bear in order to protect them; a tremendous loss.

Somehow, he felt both proud and sad for her. For she set out to protect her parents from Death Eaters… from him. And she had succeeded. Oh, the strength it would’ve taken… he could only imagine it.

~

Forgive me for not writing sooner, my Delilah. For my punishment in being discovered with you prevented me from being able to pen a letter until this moment. It is with heavy heart that I tell you yet another story. I tell it with the hope that you will understand why this will be my last letter to you.

For there once lived a spoiled child who received one hundred gifts. He could open ninety-nine of them, but not the one-hundredth. For he was told that he was forbidden to open it.

Naturally, even after opening all the others, he became curious about the one he couldn’t have. He began to wonder why. Was it dangerous? Was is fragile or rare? When he asked of it, he was only told that the gift was deemed unworthy and ‘not good enough’ for him.

He did not appreciate that answer. He wanted to see and judge for himself.

So, that very evening, the curious boy secretly possessed the box intending to open it. He peeled back the layers of pretty paper and opened the lid. What he found was something most definitely different than all of the other ninety-nine gifts.

What he saw was the very desire of his heart… what he longed for all his life. It gave him an indescribable joy just getting close enough to look at it, let alone hold it and feel it in his hands.

All the other gifts became meaningless and forgotten in the brightness and light of the one.

But danger came upon him as he attempted to hide the gift. And it came to pass, his secret discovered, the boy took ninety-nine lashings for his disobedience.

Nearly driven mad at coming so close to having what he truly desired, the boy found his heart exceedingly low and wanting.

For in time, the boy was caught yet again with the beloved gift that was never supposed to be his. When found, the gift was destroyed, leaving the child shattered and heartbroken.

You are my forbidden gift, my precious Delilah. I have suffered my lashings concerning you, but my soul cries out not from pain, but in remorse and regret. For I must leave you now because I cannot bear to live if you were to be destroyed because of my doing.


From the dim light of an old oil lamp in the rare quietness of the Weasley home, Hermione closed her eyes briefly… then closed the book. While there was no description of its author, in Hermione’s mind, he was a tall man, dressed in black, with silvery eyes and striking blond hair… one who looked eerily similar to the one who had referred to her as being a gift to him while in the waters of the Prefect’s Bathroom.

When she opened her eyes, she knew there was a danger in thinking such a thing. The words she read were written by someone else, not Draco. Yet, their situation seemed so eerily similar. Could this young author’s feelings for Delilah mirror Draco’s feelings for her? Whether or not it was true, it sure seemed real. And this letter to Delilah that she had just read seemed as though it could’ve been written by Draco and sent to her. It was a tenderly crafted let down for a fragile heart; one that Hermione was sure had left Delilah in tears.

Staring into the still, constant flame of the oil lamp, she wondered if Draco had been one of the masked Death Eaters who’d ambushed them in the air in their attempt to get Harry to safety. Had he been so close? Had he been the one to cause George to lose his ear? Had he been the one to cause Moody’s death?

Riding a Thestral with Kingsley Shacklebolt, Hermione had never felt such a mix and rush of emotions… dread, worry, and fear mixed with pure adrenaline as they all blasted through the night sky in a fury, dodging curses and spells in the blackness of the night.

Any of the Death Eaters could’ve been Draco. And if he had looked at her, he would’ve seen Harry’s likeness staring back at him, not hers. For they had both worn masks to conceal themselves that night; fighting on opposite sides.

Hermione’s heart squeezed in her chest. Had the one she loved really become her enemy after all… after everything?

Her face was aglow as the flame became watery before her eyes; the image of it becoming a little fiery blur from her tears.

“Hermione? Hey,” Ginny called to her from the darkness.

She quickly dabbed at her eyes.

“Come in,” she greeted with a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes.

“Pretty crazy night, huh?”

Hermione answered with a slow nod.

“How’s George doing?”

“Mum says he’ll be much better in the morning when his body recovers from the blood loss. And she’s distraught over his ear. She can’t fix it. He’ll just have to remain ‘saint-like.’”

George’s comment from earlier made both girls smile even though the air between them still remained quite serious.

“Look, I… um…” Ginny started. “I know the three of you will be leaving soon and not returning to Hogwarts this year. And I wanted to give you something to take along with you.”

“Oh, okay,” Hermione replied, unprepared for what she was about to receive.

Ginny held out a blanket, but not just any blanket. It was black and luxurious and had the World Cup Quidditch logo on it. She had seen that blanket before… at Christmas!

“I don’t have any money to actually purchase something, you understand? But I thought you might need this more than I do. You know, wrap up and keep warm and remind you of a wonderful Christmas,” Ginny explained, holding up her gift given by an unknown person that had shocked them all with generosity and gifts that were perfect for each of them.

But Hermione knew precisely who sent them. That blanket had belonged to Draco Malfoy.

Her eyes widened and her mouth dropped in disbelief.

“Oh, no. You love that blanket. You need to keep it and…”

“I do love it,” Ginny interrupted. “But I want you to have it. Besides, it’s just the World Cup emblem. If it were my favorite team, well… then I’d never let go of it, you understand,” she teased to lighten the mood.

Hermione could not refuse. Once the blanket was in her hands, she was mesmerized by its softness, but more so of its history. She brought it to her cheek… so amazingly soft.

A quiet, “thank you,” was nearly all that she could muster thinking about how it had been Draco’s… perhaps from his very bed. “You have no idea what this means to me.”

Ginny smiled at the sentiment, but after a friendly hug and a moment’s pause, she changed the subject.

“There’s something else I want to talk to you about,” Ginny confessed, finally taking a comfy seat next to her. “My brother… he still cares for you very much.”

“And I care for him.”

“Yes, but what I mean is that he wants you to care for him like you used to.”

“He made his choice, Ginny, and was quite clear in wanting to be like it was… as friends.”

“But sometimes people make the wrong choices,” she pleaded. “Sometimes people make mistakes that they would give anything to take back.”

Suddenly Hermione wasn’t thinking of Ron’s choice, but Draco’s choice and her own concerning him.

“Please forgive him,” Ginny begged for her brother.

“Forgive?” Hermione repeated rather distantly, remembering the feel of the Dark Mark on Draco’s forearm against her fingertips.

“He wants you back.”

Hermione thought of Ginny’s words, wishing it was Draco who wanted her back. Or did she?

Being with him had been a dream… a dream on fire. And as much as she felt there was no future for them, something told her differently. Like the book she’d been reading, it seemed the relationship was over, but there was plenty more to read of them. More was coming. And she didn’t want to give up her feelings for Draco just yet.

Sometimes she would catch Ron glancing at her. Most times, he would look away. But there were times when he continued to stare at her with a look that said he was sorry and that he definitely wanted her back. Those were the times when she would look away.

And on occasion, Harry looked at her too… with a seriousness that bore into her. It made her feel as though he would be willing to cross the lines of friendship into something deeper, should she ever feel the same. Like a silent, but sincere invitation; unspoken and withheld for the rift it would cause between them all.

On the day she had altered her parent’s memories, she could admit to craving a lover’s touch from any of the three men in her life… Draco, Ron, or Harry. But she would feel no such comfort on a day when she needed it the most.

For she knew that in a single moment of weakness, a single touch from Ron or Harry would’ve had her crumbling. And her will to stop… scattered to the four winds.

For Hermione had discovered something about herself that day. In the very hour of her strength, she was also at her weakest.

As Harry’s serious stare flashed into mind, Hermione felt that she was betraying the other girl in the room who had been patiently waiting for an answer. If Ginny knew her thoughts on Draco and Harry, Hermione had a hunch they wouldn’t be friends much longer. She had to say something.

“I suspected so. I can tell by the way that he looks at me sometimes.” Hermione let out a soft sigh. “There was a time when I would’ve given anything for Ron to look at me like that. But when I was ready, he wasn’t. And now that he is, I’m not,” she shrugged. “I have forgiven him. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t. But really, Ginny, I have fifty things on my mind right now and a relationship with your brother is not one of them. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but I just don’t want to deal with him right now. There’s the R.A.B. clue that I’ve made no progress on. And I’ve been trying to prepare for a trip where I don’t even know where I’m going or how long I’ll be there. And then there’s the unbelievably difficult task of saying goodbye to the people I love, worrying about what’s to become of them.”

Hermione stopped, putting her hands to her face briefly. She didn’t want pity from Ginny. She didn’t want her to know that she was on the brink of falling apart.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking,” Ginny began apologizing. “You’re right. There are more important things at hand. But really, your parents should be safe, right? In Australia?”

Hermione’s breath caught in her throat at the mention of them. She didn’t want to think about them and what she did or weigh for the millionth time if it was right or wrong. And frankly she was glad to have a book that she could dive into so that she didn’t have to think about her own sad reality; even if it meant reading of someone else’s.

“Ron told you what I did?” Hermione asked, swallowing hard and feeling ashamed somehow for altering their memoires so they wouldn’t know their real names or even know who she was.

“No. Harry did. He’s concerned for you too, you know?” Ginny gave a sympathetic look while Harry’s serious expression flashed into Hermione’s mind once again.

Ginny continued, saying something about tea being downstairs should she need help getting to sleep. And then she was gone, leaving Hermione with thoughts of guilt, but more importantly, a beautiful charcoal-black blanket.

She stared at it on her lap, running her fingers over it again and again. And when she could no longer stand to be apart from it, she grabbed the ends, flipped it open, and wrapped herself in it.

Soon she was lying on a thin mattress, closing her eyes against a cold throw pillow, remembering vividly Draco’s arms wrapped around her; remembering an embrace that was love without words.

“Oh, Draco, where are you tonight? Tell me I did the right thing. Tell me they truly were in imminent danger. Tell me it was not done in vain. I don’t know if I can bare this.”

~

It was nearly November. The autumn brought color to an otherwise dark world.

Normally, it was Draco’s favorite time of year, but it was now tainted.

Like fresh drops of blood over the Malfoy grounds, the bright red leaves lie splattered here and there and scattered about. It was as though fear had seeped into every crack and corner of the manor, tainting the very air Draco breathed.

And well, some believe that when a person has lived in fear and oppression for so long, eventually they grow weary of it, longing for a change in the status quo. And whatever the consequences, be it for better or worse, something in them pushes them to do something… anything so long as their everyday lives were somehow different.

And Draco, very tired and weary of living in fear of death from Voldemort’s doing, decided that he wanted a change. For better or worse, something had to change.

And when he felt ready, he grabbed hold of the bottle of Firewhiskey that had been his birthday present months earlier and began drinking. When he finally felt bold enough, he trudged through the manor, bottle in hand, bent on greeting Voldemort with it. For he was utterly sick of living in fear and either he was going to improve the situation or die trying.

Walking into the fire-lit room, Draco ignored the shadows on the wall that made it look like the black fires of hell were about to consume the place.

“Draco,” Voldemort greeted, seemingly happy to see him. “What brings you here on this fine eve of All Hallows Eve?”

Draco went to a nearby alcohol cabinet and grabbed two drinking glasses; thick crystal, appropriate for the drink at hand.

“Blaise Zabini once reminded me that it wasn’t healthy for a man to drink alone,” Draco replied, recalling the fight underneath the courtyard when Blaise destroyed a picture that belonged to him. “Care to have a glass of the magical world’s finest Firewhiskey? Father paid a small fortune for it,” he offered, pouring himself a glass.

Voldemort was amused by this surprising pouring of hospitality, figuring Draco surely wanted something in return.

“I’ll oblige you. But a drink amongst gentlemen must come with a toast. What do you propose?”

Draco poured the liquid into the second glass and let out a sigh. And then it came to him…

“World peace.” Draco laughed a genuine deep laugh and Voldemort joined in.

“I didn’t take you one for humor, Draco. Good one,” he said, accepting his glass as Draco sat opposite him in a high-back chair facing the fireplace. “To world peace,” he said with a smile.

The two raised their glasses and drank.

“Unfortunately, war tries everyone’s patience… both sides. One must have it in droves, stockpiled, and running over. War is a nasty business. What’s the quote? “No path of flowers leads to glory.””

“You quote Jean de La Fontaine, seventeenth century poet,” Draco commented matter-of-factly.

“Yes,” Voldemort acknowledged, clearly impressed. “I like many of his quotes. They still stand useful today. He understood well the workings of timeless human nature.”

“The one that pertains to me most these days is, “Happy is he who knows love through stories and not by his blows.””

“I’ll drink to that,” Voldemort magically refilled both of their glasses.

“You would drink to that? Sorry, but in my years, I’ve never heard that you had a love interest. Pardon the alcohol induced frankness.”

Voldemort, figuring Draco had been drinking for quite some time already, actually sat intrigued by the display of boldness. He wasn’t used to it. It amused him.

“I’ll have you know, that in my… adolescent stupidity, I once fell for someone. It didn’t work out. You see, her parents blamed me for corrupting her, accusing me of bewitching her and cursing her to do my will. But that was not true. They didn’t want to believe that she actually had feelings for me.”

The Dark Lord poured the harsh liquid down his throat and looked into the flames as if troubled by a distant memory.

“They feared that she would get pregnant with my child and one day, my Mini lied down to sleep and when she awoke, they had taken away her ability to have children.”

“Wh… what?” Draco sat horrified and frozen. He couldn’t believe the story he was hearing.  His gray eyes moved to the lush dark carpet, trying to register what the Dark Lord had just said.  It was appalling. 

“It was a long time ago. The concept of magical birth control was new and experimental… theoretical. They nearly killed her. And I never wanted to kill two people more than I wanted to kill them.”

“What did you do to them?” Draco asked, thinking of a few dark curses he would’ve used if in the same situation.

“Ironically, nothing. Even after what they did, she begged for their lives. In hindsight, I should’ve killed them long before that and consoled her while she grieved them. Our lives… could’ve been different. As it turned out, they suffered with the knowledge that they killed any chances of grandchildren and they did lose their precious daughter. She never spoke to them again and as I understand it, she didn’t attend their funerals either. Her mother drank herself to death and her father was found dead some time later. They never found the cause of death, but it wasn’t by me. I kept my word,” he sneered as though regretting the decision.

Taking another swig of his drink at the unexpected, shocking path of the conversation and becoming far too brave for his own good, Draco asked, “What of her now?”

“She lives.” Voldemort downed the remainder of his drink and magically poured another, keeping it coming. “She became afraid of me. She didn’t understand my ambition… my destiny. And even though she would have nothing to do with her parents again, she sided with their beliefs and did not come with me when she could have. To this day, she defies me.”

“She defies you… and lives?”

“She lives because I do not wish her dead. It is not impossible to escape my wrath. You of all people should know this, Draco. For you also live because I do not wish you dead.”

And with that, the two sat silent for a long moment, staring into the flames. To Draco, the temperature of the room shot up to boiling. He was pretty sure he felt a drop of sweat fall down his temple, but ignored it.

“She chooses to walk this world alone,” Voldemort continued. “As do I. When you cannot have the one you want, you tend not to want anyone at all.” Coming out of his reflective contemplation, he added, “But you wouldn’t understand that yet now would you?”

Draco answered quickly, not wanting to reveal the truth. Of course he knew. He understood all too well.

“No,” he lied. “My experience tells me that women are blood-sucking leeches… users that have only wanted me for my money, my status, my last name, or my dashing good looks,” he said with a wicked smile. “They have no capacity to care about anyone but themselves and are far more trouble than they are worth.”

“I’ll drink to that as well.”

After much drinking and more discussion on Jean de La Fontaine’s many quotes and insight about life, destiny, fear, patience, time, and strength, they were both surprised at the thoughts and opinions that had been revealed. It brought amusement as well as understanding and much to their surprise… agreement.

It was the turning point that Draco sought after.

“With the exception of tonight, you are too quiet, Draco. But you are not a mindless creature like so many others. Intellectual conversation is most welcome here. Since we’ve talked so much about human nature and fear, I give you this advice. To overcome that which you fear most, one must do what we can to prevent it. And to prevent it, one must seek the knowledge of the Dark Arts and grasp all the power that you can. The higher your achievement, the more confidence you will gain, the more courageous you’ll become.”

Voldemort paused for a moment, now knowing why Draco came.

“Above all others, it is you who has the greatest potential to lead your generation. They will respect you. They will fear you. And they will do whatever you say. I want sound, intelligent, talented, powerful leaders. I do not wish you dead. Do you understand?”

As Draco stood, his head went down respectfully. He was drunk and feeling the full effects… and the last thing he wanted to do was say something stupid, so he said nothing. Instead, he raised his glass one last time as if to toast what the Dark Lord had just said and gulped down his last full drink.

He set the glass down with a thud and picked up the bottle of Firewhiskey. It still had plenty for the future, should he need it. And even though his legs felt like he was holding up the weight of the world, he managed to put one foot in front of the other and make his way back to his living quarters.

And as he left, Voldemort had one last Jean de La Fontaine quote milling around in his paranoid, inebriated head…

“People who make no noise are dangerous.”

 

 





Author’s Note:

Shamefully, I work at a snail’s pace. Writer’s block reared its ugly head again and caused me to re-write. First, he interrogated her parents, but I hated it, so I had to completely re-write that piece. I’m still not completely happy with it, but alas, the story must go on. I spent entirely too long it. Ugh! Sorry!

This next chapter planned is very near and dear to my heart. I’ve had these images in my head since day one and I finally get to share them with you. Imagine if you will, Christmas Eve; a black-hooded figure with a silver mask; a remorseful Death Eater at Westminster Abbey. It’s coming up next…

Hugs to all still reading this story.  Thank you from my heart,
Dark Whisper


P.S. *78,600 reads and 316 have Favorited. Amazing! My hopes for this story were far exceeded long, long ago. I don’t know how to thank you!
News: I wrote a new one-shot for the Autumn holidays called “Blue Pumpkin.” It is very different than my normal writings as Molly tells a sad tale to one of her grandchildren. Check it out if you are interested.


And finally, Credits:
Yes, there really was a Jean de La Fontaine (French poet who lived 1621-1695) and many of his quotes are still around today.
Quote 1 is from Book X fable 14, reported in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations 10th ed. (1919).
Quote 2 is from Book IV (1668) fable 1.
Quote 3 is from Book VIII (1678-1679) fable 23.

 
 


Chapter 28: A Death Eater at Westminster Abbey
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Dear Reader,

This chapter is very near and dear to my heart. I’ve had these images in my head for a long, long time… since the very beginning of this story. A remorseful Death Eater at Westminster Abbey. I hope you enjoy it and can really ‘see’ what I see. And by all means, check out this amazing gothic cathedral that is centuries old on the Internet or in person. The research I did while writing this scene was fascinating and memorable. I do not wish to bring any harm or disrespect to any who are buried there or who live, work, visit, worship, or sing there. I know I would cry to be able to hear the Choristers sing live. What an amazing thing…

With utmost respect and love for a place so sacred,
Dark Whisper


~


Hermione’s eyes grew tired and dry. She had just read several hours of a beautiful love story. A vivid, descriptive story from the point of view of a Pureblood in love with a Squib.

It had been two years since they’d seen each other. They would write on rare occasion when it was deemed safe to do so. But it was a miracle of fate that her family moved her to a manor close to his for an entire winter. For one of his magical great-aunt’s health had been failing and it was Delilah who was offered as a family favor to help until the end.

Hermione read of how amazed he was when he first saw her again. He didn’t recognize her at first. She had grown into a beautiful young teenager and her hair had grown longer. But it was those piercing blue-hazel eyes of hers and the kindness in them that had not changed. He could barely breathe at the sight of her. And he wanted to know everything… why she was there and how long would she be staying.

She read of afternoon sleigh rides, an adorable story about a Christmas tree hunt, and quiet evenings beside warm fires while drinking heated pumpkin juice… and of one large holiday ball with every magical person within fifty miles dressing their best and dancing to the finest orchestra. The host even hired an artist to paint tiny likenesses that would fit into silver lockets, broaches, and ornaments.

“Paint her,” he told the man, nodding his head toward the servant girl running about refilling drinks for guests. Handing the artist a sapphire, a ruby, and an emerald as payment, he added, “For the painting and your silence. If you say a word, I will deem you a thief.”

Most were able to sit for their little miniature portraits, but not Delilah. However, in spite of her constant movement, the artist did amazingly without her or anyone knowing of it. It was stunning. And later that night, when all else had gone and Delilah’s chores were finished and she was utterly spent, he waited for her in the darkness just outside the covered carriage that was to return her to his great-aunt’s manor.

As soon as it began moving, he hopped inside of it, sitting opposite her and using the tip of his wand to light the small space. She was startled at first, but upon seeing him, her eyes sparkled. But then she looked embarrassed as she blushed and fidgeted with her hair and hid her hands underneath a wool blanket.

“I thought I would escort you home,” he told her warmly.

“That is very kind of you,” she replied, “but you don’t have to.”

“I want to… and I want to show you something,” the young prince said, holding up an amulet housed in luxurious black velvet cloth. “Open it.”

She unlatched the small token and when she saw her likeness, she was pleasantly amazed.

“Oh, my. However did you…? You had the artist…?” she gasped in awe. “Paint me?”

He could tell that her cheeks flushed a new shade of red.

“It’s amazing… it’s…”

“It’s mine,” he finished.

Her eyes strayed to her lap and she bit her lip slightly. He knew what she was thinking, but not asking. She wanted to know why he would want such a thing, but was much too polite and shy to ask.

“It’s mine because when my great-aunt leaves the living, I don’t know when I will see you next,” he said truthfully. “Two more years? Ten? Perhaps never? I wanted something to remember you as we are right now… before we grow old and the world changes us.”

“Do you think the world has changed you?” Delilah asked, looking straight into his eyes.

“Honestly, I think the world has made me who I am; poured me into the mold of their liking. It is you who changes me,” he said in a gentle, but serious tone. “For the better, I might add.”

Delilah smiled into the amulet with her likeness one last time and then closed it, handing it back to him inside its velvety fabric.

“It’s quite lovely… as is your reason for commissioning it.” She let out a solemn sigh. “Days, I’m afraid, is all that we may have. Your aunt is nearing the end. Please,” she begged, “dim the light of your wand and sit next to me? I’m quite cold. Tell me one of your stories.”

He didn’t hesitate to do what she asked. And as he began his story, she couldn’t help but cuddle up close to him as they rode the rest of the way by moonlight. But halfway through his tale, she was lulled to sleep by his deepening voice coupled with the rhythm of the carriage and her head ended up resting upon his shoulder.

His back still bore the scars from the lashings received from their first mishap at being found together. He understood all too well the threat of violence that loomed like a dark cloud following him should he be found with her once more. Yet, here he was again, enjoying every minute of her presence for an entire winter and lying every day about where he’d been and who he was spending time with.

When they arrived at his great-aunt’s manor, he touched her cheek to wake her, but she just cuddled closer to him. This amused him immensely. And being the selfish, over-confident wizard that he was, he decided that it was the perfect time to steal a kiss.

Her eyes shot open wide, but then he felt her smile against his lips. And after a blissful moment, he pulled away and bid her goodnight.


~

Draco stared blankly out of a window in a quiet room on the third floor of Malfoy Manor.  He couldn't remember the last time he was in this room.  His eyes seemed trained to the vast white space beyond, watching large snowflakes falling, falling, falling ever so slowly to the ground. 

They were the type that Hermione would've loved, he thought. 

He recalled the conversation about what she wanted to do before she died; Westminster Abbey to hear the choir sing and Tromso, Norway to see the Northern Lights. 

Even though at Halloween, Voldemort had told Draco that he didn't wish him dead, Draco knew that he was still in grave danger.  It would only take one miniscule thing to set the Dark Lord off to change his mind.  He would be alive one moment and possibly dead the next. 

His eyes moved to the orchard, to the barren trees in rows that seemed to stretch forever.  It was the season where he could see the most of it, now uncovered without foliage... jet black trees on a canvas of pure white ground.  He equated the contrast from a year ago to that very day.  White last year.  Black this year.

It was Christmas Eve.

He recalled giving all those gifts away the prior year.  It all seemed so silly now.  But for Granger, it was all worth it and he didn't miss a single thing given away.  The end result was precious time with her.  It was all that really mattered in the end. 

He could tell now that she was on the run, constantly moving around.  He could tell because of the light she was sending.  Sometimes, he could see what she was seeing, along with the people that she was with. 

He could see the Daily Prophet she was reading and know that it was the same day as the one that had been delivered to Malfoy Manor.  It had been a stunning revelation, but nothing helped him understand why it was happening.

After about fifteen more minutes of gazing out the window, Draco took out a pocket watch to check the time.  After letting out a long sigh, he closed it back up and put it back in its place.  He also closed the window and made sure it was sealed.

It was time for dinner and after that, a meeting with the Dark Lord.  
 

~


“Draco, do come in.” He heard Voldemort’s sinister welcome.

Voldemort was sitting in what used to be his father’s favorite chair next to one of Malfoy Manor’s many fireplaces and a now empty portrait where Abraxas once sat.

Draco stepped to him slowly, trying to get a feeling for the Dark Lord’s mood. Sometimes it was so dark he could feel the tension and anger radiate from him. But luckily, this was not one of those nights. It would seem that the Dark Lord was in a decent mood.

“It’s Christmas Eve, you know. And you’ve been a very good boy these past several months,” Voldemort said in his soft, but sinister voice. “And reports on your schooling have been exemplary. Your skills are coming along and your teachers have been most impressed.”

“Do you have a task for me, my Lord?” Draco questioned.

“I summoned you because I wanted to give you something.” He waved his hand, gesturing Draco to sit down in the chair across from him.

Draco nodded his respect and sat down. He thought it sick and twisted that Voldemort was giving out any gift in the name of Christmas and it made him cringe on the inside.

“I’m granting you a wish. What is it that you desire on this fine Christmas Eve?”

Draco’s guard immediately went up… more so than usual. He thought Voldemort might actually be trying to pry him for information somehow. Like maybe try to get into his head a bit and figure out his deepest desires to use them against him.

He tried to think of something that would be truthful, but not put anyone in any danger.

Voldemort hadn’t given him a chance to think too long before he guessed at what Draco might desire.

“Miss a woman’s touch, do you? I can arrange it, you know. Parkinson’s daughter perhaps? Pansy is her name, right? I can have her Snatched and in your bed within the hour. Just say the word.”

“No, thanks. I broke up with her last Valentine’s Day,” Draco smirked as if Pansy was nothing but a fling.

“Broke up on Valentine’s Day? Oh, I do love your style,” he voiced a dark laugh. “Cry did she?”

Draco huffed. “Of course she did.”

Voldemort gave him a half smile.

“So what is it then, my young Death Eater? What do you want?”

Draco thought it interesting that Voldemort was willing to give him an experience with a girl and not an actual material thing. He wondered if the Dark Lord read into his preference of actual experiences over material things.

And right at that moment, he could only think of doing what had been on his mind earlier.

“I would like permission to leave Malfoy Manor tonight and return at dawn.”

Voldemort was surprised at this and Draco felt the slightest hint of fear and distrust coming from the Dark Lord. He found it most peculiar.

“And where would you go exactly?”

“I want to stop in Westminster for an hour or so, then to Norway until dawn.”

“Be more specific.”

Draco glanced over his shoulder to see if anyone was in earshot, as if he wanted to keep his answer confidential.

Voldemort leaned in toward him, encouraging him to tell of his secret wishes.

“I hope you do not find me a bit off when I tell you this, but… I should like to visit the Westminster Abbey and listen to the midnight service held tonight and to Norway to witness Aurora Borealis firsthand. Two places I’d like to visit before I die.”

Voldemort was taken aback. He sat for a long moment, pondering his request.

“The Young Malfoy wants to go to church to confess his sins?” he asked with a slight chuckle.

“No. I go there to hear the choir sing Christmas hymns. I suspect it would sound… heavenly.”

Again, Voldemort was surprised at his truthful answer. Not many would admit such things, especially to him. He appreciated the truth and was grateful when Draco wasn’t struck dumb like most during a conversation.

He leaned back into his seat and glared at Draco for a moment.

“Your wish is granted. You have from now until the dawn.”

“Thank you, my lord,” Draco replied, eager to go.”

“I do have one stipulation, Draco.”

“Yes.”

“I’ll have two people to escort you… for security purposes, of course. I wouldn’t want anything… bad to happen to you.”

Draco gave him a nod and took his exit. Their distrust was mutual. Voldemort trusted Draco to go to the places he mentioned. He just didn’t trust him to make additional stops along the way, seeing and doing who knows what.

And Draco didn’t trust Voldemort or his two that he placed on security detail. He wasn’t convinced that they wouldn’t turn on him and leave his body somewhere in the mountains of Norway.

He didn’t trust them at all. So, he had Skippen Apparate them while keeping a careful watch.

~

The Westminster Abbey:


Poet’s Corner. The place in the South Transept of Westminster Abbey is where Draco found himself at near midnight on Christmas Eve.

The height and grandeur of one of the most beloved and cherished gothic cathedrals in all the world was nothing less than breathtaking. Mere words could not describe the beauty found there.

Upon his arrival, he could feel the age in the air and in his bones. But as his gray eyes moved from the floor up, up, up to the magnificently designed ceiling, he also felt the sanctity of the place as a house of God. His eyes moved back down to the polished checkered floor as a heavy feeling of a great unworthiness slowly crept over his spirit like a veil.

The two Snatchers that had followed kept their distance from him, wondering why he had come to such a place as this... a place of such holiness and history. Why would he come here?

While sounds from the grand organ pipes filled the senses, the shorter Snatcher couldn’t help but stand in true and complete awe of the place, while the other dutifully watched Draco.

The young Malfoy had pulled his black hood back over his head, magically donned his Death Eater mask, and sunk into the shadows of the age-old memorials of England’s literary greats; Chaucer, Tennyson, Byron…

Moving past the carved likeness of William Shakespeare, Draco imagined asking it if there could be another, less tragic ending to a forbidden love story.

But then his attention quickly moved to the floor, noticing a gold name engraved in black marble that would take him down to one knee.

CHARLES DICKENS
BORN 7TH FEBRUARY 1812
DIED 9TH JUNE 1870

It was such a simple memorial; speaking nothing of why the man, buried just below the slab, had been famous. As he placed a gloved hand on the memorial bearing the name, he couldn’t believe that exactly one year earlier he was having a dream based on Dicken’s best-known story.

He glanced at the birth and death dates, quickly figuring that the man died when he was only fifty-eight years old. He had a habit of doing that, calculating how old a person was when they passed and wondering how old he would be.

Would people say of him, “He was only seventeen?”

He wondered this for a long moment. That is, until he noticed that the Abbey had grown completely quiet.

And then, he heard it. The choir, without harp or organ, begin to sing the most beautiful song he’d ever heard. A song dedicated to those around the world that were suffering at war.  It was the song that Hermione had wanted to hear them sing before she died; so beautiful it was if the angels from Heaven were singing for them... on their behalf.

The voices of the choristers was pure and most perfect, singing the eight-part chorus that was Agnus Dei by Samuel Barber.

Draco closed his eyes as the song, sung in Latin, built ever-so-slowly, increasing in depth and power as they went. It built and built to an all-encompassing glory and just when it reached its highest height, it halted in perfect silence.

And then, ever-so-gently the choir started again… hushed and unhurried. Peace.

Over and over again, the verses repeated in Latin. And oh, how Draco wished the words were possible. He knew them. He understood them.

Draco still had his eyes closed for fear that if he looked up, a river of water would flow from them.

“Scabior?” the Snatcher asked in a hushed whisper to the other watching Draco’s every move. “Why do you think he wears his Death Eater mask in this place?”

“I reckon he is ashamed… ashamed to stand before God in this, this place,” Scabior surmised, not really knowing how to describe the space around him. “A remorseful Death Eater is rare, indeed. I’ve never witnessed one until this moment. This one is different, which makes him dangerous, I think. The Dark Lord thinks the same or we wouldn’t be here.”

“What are the words, Scab? The only Latin I know is in spells and stuff.”

Scabior knew what the choir was singing and he was trying not to think about it, knowing that it could gnaw on a man’s mind and question their thinking of things.

“They are singing the same two verses, over and over again.” As he listened, he translated…

“Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world…
Have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world…
Grant us peace.”

Mercy. Peace. Those were things that Draco wanted in his life, above all. Things were so different now that when he thought of how much he’d changed during the last few years, it amazed him. There was so much that just didn’t matter anymore.

At the song’s end, Draco swallowed the lump in his throat and didn’t wish to listen anymore.

Guilt-ridden, he thought of the original reason why he came and found Hermione to be absolutely correct.

He wished she could’ve been there with him… listening to most beautiful sound he’d ever witnessed. She should’ve been beside him. The experience of it was on her list and it was exquisite. It was divine. And it would be something that he would never forget.

Skippen came out of the shadows with Draco, who had just joined hands with him, ready to Apparate to Tromso, Norway. The house elf looked up at his master with huge saddened eyes and in a blink, the four were gone.

~

The town sat inside the Arctic Circle and as such, it was below freezing. It was a wonder that the place wasn’t frozen solid. How anyone habitated the land was beyond the normal imagination. And yet, here they were in the darkness near the top of the world.

Skippen found a beautiful spot away from the electric lights of the town… away from noise and people.

And when the four of them looked up, they saw the light that Hermione had wanted to see.

It was green with a hint of purple… Aurora Borealis.

Beyond the light, were billions of stars that sparkled like a canvas of diamonds.

They all watched in hushed silence. For there was no sound… only the most amazing natural lighting phenomenon on the planet; a light show that mesmerized all who had the privilege to see it.

Draco moved a few steps ahead, wanting to be alone with his thoughts.

He had given specific instructions to Skippen. Should he see the Snatchers raise their wands to his back, Skippen was to protect him by any means necessary, including killing them if need be.

Despite the cold, their eyes remained transfixed to the movement high above them. The light danced across the sky in waves and then it would dart and roll back and forth.

It seemed that the Earth had some kind of protective force. For when the light seemed to want touch the ground, it always fell short and stopped at some invisible line.

It was truly a magnificent, wondrous, hypnotizing experience. Draco was sure that one could inadvertently freeze to death watching it. He remained still and unmoving, wanting to stay as long as humanly possible.

“Have you… ever heard or seen such th… things?”

“No,” Scabior replied truthfully.

“Are we on the rrr… right side, Sss… Scab? Are we?” the Snatcher asked quietly shivering, feeling as though it was the second holy thing he’d witnessed that night. God’s Abbey and now God’s light.

“I’m no Death Eater and I take no mark. I’m a hired tracker and a Snatcher. I’m indifferent of who is being tracked or snatched or who it is that is paying me to do so. I take no sides of the war, but my own,” he answered without hesitation, even as the coldness stung him. “The only difference between a Snatcher and an Auror… is how we get paid. One earns his living by the number he brings in. The other gets a salary, no matter how many arrests he’s made.”

But even the hardened Tristen Scabior wasn’t immune to the night’s events. “I must say though, if you want to go home and not return to this line of work, I’ll understand. I won’t say anything. But if you choose that path, then it would be best of you to get good and lost and not found for a long, long while. You understand?”

“Aye, I do mate. It’s jj… just that well… that there light looks like all the magic contained in every wand ever made throughout all ‘a time. Bbb… but it isn’t hurtin’ nothing. It isn’t killin’ anyone that I can see. It’s rrr… really something magical, you know? And that music earlier… when they was singin’ ‘bout Peace. It’s just really somethin’ pure ‘n good.”

After watching the light fade a bit and stars come out in all their glory, Scabior never felt so small and insignificant, but he wasn’t ever going to admit to that. And he didn’t exactly know what to say. So, he said nothing and stood in silent agreement.

When Draco witnessed the stars that filled the sky, he nearly fell to his knees in awe.

“Oh, if you could see this with me…” he mouthed. “Where are you, Love? Here, here is where you belong… to witness the light… to see these stars as I see them. You will not believe your eyes,” he said to Hermione as if she could hear him somehow.

He could not believe how peaceful it was… no war, no killing, no torturing. He was just a mere young man on top of the world wondering why wars happened at all.

“It’s bbb… beautiful, Master,” he heard Skippen say next to him. “Bbb… but I’m afraid that if we don’t leave soon sir, I won’t be able to Aaa… Apparate us hhh… home. Sss…sorry.”

“Of course. Let’s go then.”

Draco took one last look at the amazing sight before him, bidding the view farewell.

~

Skippen got them all safely home. And once warmed up, Draco trudged to his room.

But there was a sick and twisted surprise that had been magically bound to his bed against her will; a Christmas gift from Lord Voldemort.

With a snap of his fingers, two candles lit the room in just enough light for him to be able to see. But what he found there horrified him.

“Luna? My God, what have they done?”

She looked horrible. Her hair was a knotted mess. She looked like she had been crying. And she certainly didn’t look happy to see him.

“Draco,” she acknowledged, but didn’t look at him. “Are you going to do what they say you are going to do to me?” she asked feebly.

He had never seen Luna like this. She was doing quite well under the circumstances, but there was fear in her voice… fear of him and what he was going to do.

“I’m no rapist, Luna,” he said as he pulled the covers over her body in an attempt to comfort her. “You can rest tonight. We’ll talk in the morning.”

“Will you let me go?”

“No,” he said quite bluntly. “I cannot allow you to leave. You are the Dark Lord’s prisoner of war, not mine. And he enjoys humiliating people. This is just another example of that. Get some rest.”

“I can’t sleep. I want to go home. It’s Christmas Eve. I want to be in my bed. I want to see my father in the morning and watch him open the gift I made him.”

Draco closed his eyes for a long moment, listening to her go on and on. With every word, he was getting more and more annoyed. He wanted to sleep. He didn’t want this drama. He hated drama. And he hated that Looney Lovegood was in his bed as a sick gift!

He left the room while she was still rambling. And when he came in, he had a potion with him.

“What is that?” Luna asked as Draco readied it.

“Sleeping Draught, drink it.”

“No, thank you. I want to go home. Take me out of here, please Draco. Do one good thing in your life and let me go.”

Draco’s patience had worn thin. He was exhausted and her words made him furious.

One good thing? Is that what you think of me? I’m a Death Eater and a monster, Luna. Incapable of doing anything good, right?”

She was already bound to the bed. So, with gritted teeth, he held her head and forced the potion down.

“I said… You. Will. Sleep
.”

As soon as it was down, he threw the bottle hard against the far wall.

He didn’t want to do it. He didn’t want to force her. He just wanted her to shut up and go to sleep.

He backed away from her. He needed to think. He needed to sort out what to do with her and what he was going to say to the Dark Lord the next day. He didn’t want this.

His head was pounding. What was he going to do? This must be a test. One that he could not fail. It was yet another one of Voldemort’s sick head games.

He wasn’t sure, except he knew one thing. He could not let her escape. She would have to stay until the Dark Lord allowed her to leave the manor and return home… hopefully before he killed her.

Once Luna fell limp and unconscious, he moved to her side, allowing himself to take a few breaths and slow his heart rate down.

He undressed and put on sleep pants. And after much sitting and thinking, he began to grow extremely tired and thought that if the Dark Lord asked if they had slept together, he could say yes and not be lying.

Yes, that’s what he would say, if asked.

And so, even though Luna was taking up the middle of his bed, Draco managed to lie down beside her.

And after a few moments of thinking of Hermione and how she would never have approved of his behavior, he finally was able to fall asleep, deeply sorry that he’d been so cruel and forceful to Luna.

Deeply and utterly sorry…


~

Author’s Note:
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone! I do hope you enjoyed the Westminster Abbey scene. I wanted to give it much more detail, but time has run out to get this in before the queue closure for Christmas break! Oh, how I wish I could visit it in person… that and Aurora Borealis as well. I can only imagine it and watch it from a computer screen. I would encourage anyone who has the chance… go see these wonders!

A special thanks to each and every one of you who have been so wonderful and faithful to this story. It has been my great pleasure to read your thoughts and amazing comments. I have a lot of replying still to do. I will get there eventually. I love having a conversation with you.

Update: 82,700 Reads! And 327 wonderful people have Favorited! Can you believe it? I cannot.
Credits: The amazing “Agnus Dei” by Samuel Barber… one of my favorite music pieces of all time. Listen to it if you can.
“A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. (If you can recall all those chapters ago, this was the very start and inspiration of this story).

Thank you all to my lovely readers and reviewers who continually make my day, leave me speechless, and give comfort to me in my hour of need. Merry Christmas and a safe and wonderful New Year.

Thank you, Love you,
Dark Whisper

P.S. From the previous chapter… yes, I ship Tom/Minerva. And for this chapter… yes, I loved Scabior from the movies and had to include him! Hope you enjoyed those little tidbits. Please, please, tell me what you think!

 
 


Chapter 29: Watching Hermione Read
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Hermione was so cold, her bones hurt and she could not stop shivering. Despite the heat of the lighted glass jars that Draco taught her to use coupled with layers of clothing, she just couldn’t get warm.

She imagined lying with Draco in the hospital wing; how his body had warmed hers. Thoughts of him actually relaxed her enough to stop shaking for a little while. But knowing it was just her imagination, the temperature in the room seemed to drop another ten degrees.

She turned to Harry, who was sleeping under a pile of blankets and resisted the urge to slip into bed with him. She needed to feel a warm body next to hers. And right then, Harry seemed a perfectly acceptable option.

He was the only option.

But just before she succumbed to temptation, he jerked and his eyes went wide in a trance, his eyes vacant and distant. After about ten seconds, he came back.

“Another vision, Harry?” Hermione asked with alarm, knowing of his connection with Voldemort.

Harry nodded his head reluctantly, but the look of dread on his face remained longer than normal.

“I saw Malfoy this time.”

Hermione felt her heart jolt, unable to keep it from reacting to the sound of his name. She shot right out of her seat and came closer to Harry. As if part of her was on auto-pilot and not completely in control of her actions, she placed a hand to his shoulder and nearly begged him for information.

“What of Draco? What did you see?” she urged with worry and fear in her eyes. “Tell me, Harry, please.”

Harry had witnessed Voldemort ordering Draco to cast a dark curse on some poor, pleading soul. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the Cruciatus. It was something else entirely. It had the man going insane, believing that something was crawling on him… or perhaps underneath his skin, Harry wasn’t sure. But he saw that Draco didn’t stop until the man had scratched himself bloody in horror. A dark curse, indeed.

But he also saw the reluctance in Draco’s eyes. He didn’t want to do it. It was the Dark Lord’s doing. And forcing someone to torture another was a rare and twisted kind of evil.

And for a long moment in time, Harry Potter felt sorry for Draco Malfoy; for the horrors he must be witnessing firsthand. For being born to parents who destined him to the darker side of magic.

“If he wasn’t a Dark Wizard before… he certainly is now,” Harry voiced low, failing to mention the dread in Draco’s eyes. He didn’t think it an important detail, considering what had happened. “He is using Dark Magic to torture people.”

“Oh, no,” she breathed a soundless whisper as if the air had been sucked out of the room. She closed her eyes and felt the world fall beneath her feet. As much as she had hoped and prayed for a miracle, Harry’s words confirmed the worst, causing her to nearly fall to the floor.

Draco was purposefully inflicting pain and hurting people. He was a Dark Wizard now… and in her heart she doubted he could ever return.

She didn’t speak for the rest of the night. She retired early to bed appearing utterly defeated. For she figured that in war, some were lost to death, it was tragically true. But then there were those who would be lost in a different way… alive, but lost to darkness.

As she lay down, wrapped in Draco’s now tattered and torn black blanket, she felt it; the hope of one day being reunited with him… dying.

It was the very thing that she had clung to for so long, however unrealistic it might have been. But what little hope existed in her heart was fading away like the mist that surrounded the tent in the wee hours of the morning; a foggy mist that would completely disappear and vanish by sunup.

“Harry… I’m so very cold,” she began shivering again. But it was not from the cold this time. “Please, lie down with me. To keep me from freezing to death."
 
Not being able to look at him in the eyes, she turned her back to him, hoping he would accept her invitation. Her wounded soul needed him just then and Harry did not hesitate.

He picked up the blankets he’d been using, settled in behind her, and covered them both in a comforting warmth.

“Better?” he asked as any friend would. But Hermione only answered by finding his arm and wrapping it around her waist where it would remain for the rest of the night.

~

As the war went on week after grueling week, there seemed to be times when there was nothing to do but watch Hermione as she faithfully read her books.

Harry came to discover that there were two in particular. One was the book of tales that Dumbledore left her and the other was something else entirely. For that was the one that she always went back to; a book that must be pretty deep, considering that whatever the words contained in it had the power to make her cry.

Why anyone would want to read such a story was a mystery to Harry, but he never asked about it. Instead, he remained silent on the subject. And truth be known, he remained silent on several subjects; one of them being Ron. And yet another was of how his feelings for Hermione had grown exponentially as they traveled alone together, just the two of them supporting each other, day in and day out.

After a heated accusatory argument, Ron had left them.

And after that, Harry couldn’t help but ponder his friend’s parting words. For when Ron voiced his accusation that Harry and Hermione had somehow crossed the lines of mere friendship into something deeper, it was a bit shocking to hear it actually voiced and discussed aloud.

Hermione had denied it completely. Harry however, chose to remain silent.

It was true that neither of them had done anything to provoke Ron’s suspicion. But Harry knew that deep down, saying he had no other feelings for her would’ve been a lie. How could he not have deeper feelings for someone who had been through so much with him… after everything?

Ron had done no favors in bringing it up. In reality, it made Harry dwell on his feelings he had buried long ago and forced them to the surface. Being alone with her, sharing danger in the same tight living quarters, Harry thought it was amazing how much their relationship could potentially develop into something more.

Conditions were certainly right. The timing was right. The reasons seemed right. She was his beautiful best friend. And they were alone.

Hermione was the one who was always there for him, just as she was when she conjured a wreath at his parents’ graves on Christmas Eve. He was glad it was her that was with him. He remembered thinking it when she had wrapped her arm around him and leaned her head into his shoulder. At that moment in time, he had been glad it was her and not Ginny.

It was not good to think that way, he knew. It seemed a betrayal not only to Ginny, but to Ron as well. But for whatever reason, he was glad to share that private moment with Hermione and no one else.

There were other times when he thought of her as more than a friend. He could pin-point the moments.

Her face flashed into his mind to happier, carefree times. To the ends of every summer when it was time for school to begin again. Every year, seeing her face light up with genuine joy to see him. Over and over again, each year becoming more beautiful to him.

Thinking back, she was the first person in his life that had ever touched him affectionately… the first to hug him in such a way that felt genuine and comforting. And she was never shy about it. These last few years, he wanted to hold her longer, but he never did, giving nothing away than mere friendship.

He watched her curl up once again into the black Quidditch blanket that Ginny had given her months ago. It was now frayed, torn, and even burned in a few places; evidence of their rough travels and near-miss escapes. But Hermione wrapped herself in it every day as if she hadn’t noticed its dilapidated state.

It was then that Harry wondered if a heart was capable of loving two people at the same time. He didn’t have a mother to ask these sorts of things. Like so many questions, he would have to search for the answer himself. In this case, the answer came quickly.

Yes, he decided. It was very possible, because at that moment, both women in his life occupied his heart.

In comparison, they were quite similar. Both magical, very pretty in his eyes, and both quite demanding.

One obviously fancied him, most likely because he had saved her from certain death and had a crush on him from the beginning. But it was her boldness that would eventually bring them together, almost forcing him to face her attraction to him. She made it easy on him as there was no guessing her feelings. But if he were honest, sometimes he felt pressured, which only left him feeling awkward and uncomfortable.

But the other neither pined after him nor forced anything on him. And because of their close friendship, he had never felt more comfortable than in being alone with her. When they had lied down together to keep warm, he had nuzzled in close behind her, never feeling more comfortable in all his life. It was something that he knew he could get used to rather quickly… that and more.

Right now, during the worst times of their lives, they only had each other. When things got tough, she could’ve left with Ron. She could’ve walked away at any time. But she didn’t. She stayed. With him. When he needed someone the most.

And that, more than anything else, had placed her in his heart where she would stay forever; perhaps hidden forever.

A part of Harry Potter’s heart would always feel for Hermione Granger… no matter how their lives played out.

Deep in thought, he hadn’t realized that he had been staring at her until she moved to turn the page of her book. She seemed hypnotized by it, oblivious of his gawking. And then a thought came to him.

He was glad she had her books. It was how she escaped the life they were living… an escape into a life that was hopefully better than the one she was living with him. She deserved so much better, he thought.

~

While Delilah tended to his dying great-aunt, M’Lady, the one she truly served, would visit the Prince and his family. She would make her advances and intentions clear, but the Prince wanted nothing of her pure blood, tainted with haughty entitlement and snobbery that knew no bounds.

She was not unlike him. It would appear to the outside world that it was a perfect match. To her credit, she was a cunning temptress, but not to a heart that was already given to someone else. He played and toyed as expected, but took great pleasure in turning her down and refusing her lustful attempts. For the door to his heart wasn’t just closed, it was locked and out of reach of M’Lady’s advances.

The secrets of the night were his and Delilah’s… dark and beautiful, at times taking innocence to the very brink.

On the night it was all fated to end, Delilah urged him to visit with his dying great-aunt one last time as the old woman was about to meet her end. He never cared for the woman, but he did so at Delilah’s request.

Unbeknownst to the young couple, the aunt had seen them together twice that winter. And she vowed if she saw them in each other’s company a third time, she would send her suspicions to the family.

And after lengthy conversation with him about his magical studies and commenting how Delilah had proven herself to be an invaluable assistant, she bid them both a feeble and weak farewell.

The aunt was dead by dawn, but not before she put quill to parchment, owling her conclusions to his father in a final act of loyalty to her Pureblood family.

He denied all, of course.

“Lies!” he vehemently proclaimed. “A squib? Proof that the old hag was clearly out of her mind in the end! I am a Wizard Prince and I will not have my name dragged through the mud by a dead woman’s sick accusatory allegations.”

But as he stood firm in denial, his gut seared and his heart twisted and squeezed in his chest at the betrayal of his own soul. For with the same lips used to kiss Delilah, he was lying and spitting his venom to sickly protect himself… to protect Delilah.

Hermione was hooked. She had to know what happened to them. She would read page after page of how Delilah had been rudely and harshly awakened by guards and told she must gather her things and leave at once. They told her the lady of house was dead and she had no place there. Delilah was pushed to an awaiting carriage and thought she was returning to her former home, but when they came to a fork in the road, they went the other direction… away from home. Away from M’Lady.

After traveling several days, she’d been told that she was deemed a criminal for her actions and banished to a distant land to assist with an encampment of soldiers and prisoners, both of which treated her inexcusably.

Delilah survived on little and did the best she could with cooking and dressing wounds, tending to their needs, but she was in an awful state. They were cruel, unforgiving, and relentless. And at night, Delilah would hide and make herself as small as possible, terrified at what might happen if she was found in the darkness by the evil lurking everywhere.

But however far away and distant, an owl would find her.

“I am sick, my precious love,” the letter read. “Ill with fear, more sickly than in the deathbed of my youth when I was hidden from my siblings. Worry for you has overtaken my soul and breathes sickly within, though my shell dare not reveal what lies beneath cold skin.

I must be upon a stage… all eyes on me searching for a glimpse of the truth hidden behind eyes like a serpent’s, as if all is right when everything is wrong. For I have mastered the craft. I make sure they see what they want to see. I speak what they want to hear. And I act the part of Pureblood Prince to perfection. I hide everything.

I don’t know where you are, love. I don’t know if you are safe. I am sick because everything in me tells me you are in grave danger. I can feel your terror in the night. I cannot sleep. I cannot breathe until I can see you again… until you are here with me.

I reach out for your light, but I cannot pull you to safety. I’m so sorry love. Forgive a man powerless to help you. For all the magic in me cannot save you. And my body ravages sick as if my soul is trying to tear from it.

I am but a shadow there with you, a powerless witness to your abuse.

Be brave my sweet Delilah. Do what you must to survive. Run if you can run. Hide if you can hide. Live so that my heart will not stop in its sick and agonizing grief.”

Hermione paused her reading for a moment, thinking of the similarities. For she too was running and hiding… and it was taking its toll on her as she longed for an end. Thoughts had crossed her mind on several occasions to pen a letter to Draco. But before she could figure out what she wanted to say, the urge would quickly pass, knowing it would be too dangerous. Just as Delilah knew.

Delilah dared not attempt to respond to his letters, knowing the danger he was in at home. She knew why she was banished and did not wish him the same fate, or worse. The prince understood, but would write her still.

“My memories of you will not fade. I will not let them. As I see the apparition of you before me, my memories are as clear as the day they happened and I will hold them and cherish them as I do you.

Read on, my Delilah, so that I might see you again and again in my sweet and lovely madness within these luxurious prison walls they call my home.

Such cruel punishment to live without you, to not feel your warmth pressed against me and your heart beating alongside mine… how I long for these beautiful things.

I never once took our love for granted, as I knew that any heartbeat could be my last if we were ever found out. Even so, my soul longs for its mate and my heart shall forever be dark until your light shines upon it once more.

You say you have no magic, yet my heart is truly accursed and my mind bewitched. For every time I close my eyes, I see you. And when I open them, my heart is sorely disappointed by your absence. You are gone, yet with me still. In parting, I must say this; pray you know…

Before there was you, I had eyes, but did not see; a soul that did not feel; a heart that did not love. Because of you… I see. I feel. I love.

Oh, my Delilah, how every part of me misses every part of you.”

In time, Hermione would read how he saw her pain… saw her tears when the magic of his letters would send her likeness as if bending the light of her soul.

Weak with heartsickness, he became exceedingly dark as he thought of the things that his magic could do to help her escape. Out of dark desperation did he indeed think of something sick and twisted with grave consequences should he fail. But revenge would have its day. The owls were always able to find her. They never failed.

Using old elfish wisdom, he would write her a letter that would have her walking away from the camp forever. He would hide dark spells within the text, just as his house elf, his old and faithful friend taught him to do. He had used the technique before… to send a cruel tutor to an insane asylum. Yes, it was time to use this rare skill and make them pay for what they were doing to his Delilah.

She didn’t know the words, but he did. They would be hidden so that even she would not know that she was performing dark, powerful, wandless magic. She would only need to read the deadly letter out loud to her magical captors.

None would live to witness her escape. For he cared not about the souls surrounding her. They would all die for her freedom.

He was a brilliant and powerful wizard. For he also made it so that Delilah would be protected, her eyes shielded even from the very blood that would flow like a river. She would not be a witness to the carnage, not even hearing their cries. His beloved would see nothing as if they all just disappeared.

Word would get out… a bloody massacre of soldiers and prisoners alike. And he would go to wherever in the world that might be and find her.

“Read aloud, my Delilah… and escape to the north of wherever you are. I am coming for you.”

Hermione swallowed hard before continuing; almost afraid of the Dark Magic surely hidden in the text on the next page. This was why the book was banned, she knew.

Very dark magic was present on the next page. And that fact had the little hairs on the back of her neck standing on end.

The entire long story seemed to climb and build to this magical moment in time. She had read of a rare kind of love that brought her tears many, many times. Every story and every poem contained in it revealed something about the man’s heart. A man that had to wear two faces in life, having to deal with agonizing dilemmas and forced to live with soul-imprisoning circumstances. A man capable of great hate, but even greater love. A man with quiet reserve on the outside, while a war raged within.

At times, Hermione had to force herself to stop reading because of the man’s overwhelming sadness. He seemed so much like Draco.

Returning her focus back to the page at hand, she grew fearful of the dark magic contained in the book and looked around her own encampment in the wilderness with Harry. Even Draco knew of the book’s reputation and she remembered his warning to never read it out loud or sharp objects could go flying about. She took inventory of the sharp objects lying around and decided against turning to the next page.

Instead, she skipped the next two pages entirely, hoping it would be enough of a leap forward to avoid any curses completely.

When he found her in the woods, they ran to each other like two starving souls, longing and living only for each other. And when they embraced, he took her in his arms, fell to one knee, and held onto her for dear life.

And the couple, whose love knew no bounds of society’s prejudice, embraced… and cried… and cried… and cried.

Tears escaped Hermione’s eyes as she imagined it. She took note that he did not write a description of her… most likely filthy, ragged, and bruised. He didn’t write it because he did not see her that way. The only thing that he saw was love radiating in all its glory and pure passion.

Chapter after chapter, this man’s heart grew for his love; the longing, the loss, the months apart hoping to see her.

As the tears continued to flow slowly down her cheek, Hermione wondered what a reunion with Draco would be like. Would they run to each other? Would he embrace her like a magical prince to his non-magical love? Would they cry together and hold on tight to the mere threads that bound them together?

No. That would not happen, would it? He was a Dark Wizard now. Harry had confirmed her fear. This was not what would happen with her and Draco. Hope was as lost as he was.

But then Hermione became puzzled at a lesson that was dawning. The wizard was dark. He performed terrible dark magic and had killed people. He had a serious black steak inside of him for certain. But what puzzled her was that even though he was a Dark Wizard, that fact had never diminished his ability to love Delilah unconditionally… with a fever and a passion that would rival the greatest love stories ever told.

He was a Dark Wizard… just like Draco.

When he could finally speak again, he whispered to her ear, “Marry me.” As tears of joy and love flowed down her cheeks at his words, he continued. “Marry me the next full moon so that it can cast its spotlight on you and our love as I speak the words of a vow that cannot be broken.”

“How can you love me so much?” she sobbed. “Me… born a lowly squib servant girl?” she asked in the sweetest voice his ears had ever heard.

“Oh, my Delilah, I love you. I will put a ring on your finger and a crown on your head and you will be mine and that is what will define you for all eternity. My darling, say yes.”

Hermione fought tears as she read of the love of a man to someone that society said was less and undeserving. Oh, how it touched the very depths of her heart and left her breathless.

“We will never be accepted. The magical world forbid… a prince to be with a squib. You shall be shunned and banished to Africa to die amongst the snakes and lions,” she sobbed.

“Do we not now live amongst snakes and lions who wish to keep us apart? Whatever ailed my despicable aunt, now plagues my father. He cannot live forever. And I cannot live without you.”

Oh, how Delilah wanted to say yes and spend her life with him, but feared the consequences in her bones.

“We’ll figure it out, Delilah. I have enough magic in me for both of us and I will use it to hide us forever, if need be. The only excuse you are permitted to have is that you do not love me. Is there another your heart desires and not I?”

“Are you asking if there is someone else that quickens my heart at the mention of their name? That someone other than you fills my dreams? Whose words on parchment makes my heart soar to the stars every time I glance at them? Only you… only ever you… your face, your voice, your touch, your eyes when they look at me… the love in your words penned for me only? My heart, indeed, is yours if you’ll have it.”

Hermione had wished for this… a happy ending for the two. In her mind, she thought the remainder of the book would detail a long life of love and children and pure joy. She wanted to believe that even forbidden love could survive anything that might stand in its way.

She tried to clear her head. Draco was not her Prince. She was not Delilah. They were on opposite ends of the earthly poles now. And a Dark Wizard rarely comes back to the light. She was so confused.

As much as she wanted the story to end happily, Hermione would discover that there would be no such ending for Delilah or her dark Prince. For tragedy was about to strike violently on the eve of their wedding and all would soon be lost.

~

Draco had moved Luna to the dungeon, not having much choice in the matter. And even though he was lonely and could’ve spoken to her on occasion, he was so ashamed that she was there, that he didn’t bother. Instead, he had his house elf, Skippen, tend to her needs, which seemed to be quite simple and without demands. Draco showed her no special treatment and decided the mere act of not treating her horribly and ignoring her would be as though he was treating her well, all things considered.

To the outside world, he was indifferent to Luna’s presence in the dungeon. But inside, there was deep shame in having her locked away as a prisoner of war. What was the point of it? To make her suffer for her father’s boldness in printing the truth was abhorrent.

Some days, it would drive Draco mad wanting to reach into wherever Hermione was and pull her through whatever time-space wormhole that was keeping them connected. She’d become more than light, but still less than flesh; so close and so real.

On this day, Hermione had become so vivid while in his room. Working on his old hobby and finishing the carving of his miniature Hogwarts, she became a solace in the silence. He didn’t feel so alone in the world when her likeness was there… ever silent, but breathing life into him nonetheless.

He was just putting the finishing touches on the steps that led to the space under the courtyard, when he noticed that she was crying.

“What is it, love? Why are you crying?” he asked, wanting to comfort her. “If you cannot speak to me, then show me what is wrong.”

Of course she did not answer, but he spoke to her anyway, like a madman to an imaginary lover.

Knowing that she was traveling with Harry and looking for who knows what, Draco simply said, “Whatever you do… wherever you go… whatever you are looking for… do not come here.”

Draco watched painfully as Harry interrupted Hermione’s reading of the Delilah story and lovingly took her by the hand.

Her brown eyes looked so sad, Draco could not take his eyes off her.

He couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

At first, he could tell that the lighthearted dance they shared cheered Hermione as Harry twirled her around and around, bringing her out of her sadness.

But then they got closer and closer… torturing Draco’s heart that was slowly sinking like quicksand in his chest. He knew what was happening. Harry was about to make his feelings known right before his very eyes.

Saddened with grief, Draco felt like an intruder. He was not supposed to see this.

As the two closed in on each other, Hermione wrapped her arms around Harry and her smile faded. She closed her eyes in comfort… and so did Harry. It was about to get serious.

“God, make this stop,” Draco pleaded. “I cannot bear to watch any more.”

He shut his eyes tight and covered his face with his hands.

He couldn’t watch them embrace. He couldn’t watch them kiss and fall in love.

Knowing he couldn’t run away from the apparition, he waited, shaking in the shadows, hoping for some kind of disconnect.

After what seemed like an eternity of waiting, Draco opened the swollen eyes of someone utterly broken, accepting of the inevitable. Never was he so relieved to see her image gone from him.

“I knew he had feelings for you,” he whispered to the darkness. “I told you that when we were together in the water. I told you he just wasn’t saying anything because of Ron.”

He took in a long breath, exhaling slowly. “How can any man be around you for so long without developing feelings for you? It’s impossible not to.”

The pain in his heart felt like an ulcer stabbing him; emotional pain coming alive physically, causing him to rock back and forth, clutching his chest.

“He is a good man. He will always be there to… to protect you. Just like I knew he would,” he said to her, all the while rocking back and forth, wondering how he would find the will to keep going and wishing it was his heart he was losing… instead of his mind.

 





Author’s Note:
Ah, Readers and Friends thank you for taking me thus far, such encouragement. Thank you!


Poor Draco! To my lovely Harry/Hermione shippers, I hope you enjoyed this chapter. ;) And I hope I have not bored you with the Delilah story. It has purpose, I assure you.

The time has finally come that I must ask you… What canon character do you think is the author of “Delilah’s Black Book of Poems?”

The mystery will be solved in the next chapter as Hermione finishes the book. I would LOVE to read your guesses and thoughts on the matter. Have I made it too obvious? Pretty please… take a guess in the Review box for me. It would truly make my day. :)

Update: 90,400 Reads! 344 Favorited! Only 5 more chapters to “The End.”
*drops to the January ground and makes snow angels*  

 


Chapter 30: The End of Delilah's Black Book of Poems
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Hello, dear Readers,
First, I want to thank everyone who guessed the author of Delilah’s Black Book of Poems. It was really fun to read the responses and you all had excellent guesses. However, one reader figured it out correctly. Great job, Ally! :)

Secondly, this chapter is quite long and covers four scenes. I would’ve put them into 2 separate chapters, but site rules state that a book within a book (like the Delilah story) must take a maximum of 1/3rd of the chapter, so I had to add more scenes in this chapter than anticipated. So, hopefully, you will consider this chapter a “2 in 1”.

And finally, my apologies for this long wait as I have not been able to write. I would tell you, but you don’t want that story… you want Draco and Hermione. Haha. Me too, so without further waiting, here’s to you… and my most dedicated, patient fans (Romance4ever and Megthechef, especially)…

Thank you all for your support and for returning to this story…
Dark Whisper

 



 


The dance that Harry had started as a way to cheer Hermione had turned into an unplanned moment of truth; that rare moment in time when there is a knock on the door of a closed heart with a question so delicate it need not be spoken.

Behind that closed door, it is Logic that carefully examines the consequences for opening the door. But the Heart has the ability to ignore Logic for its own needs. But then the power of Will is weighed and measured for sheer strength or fleeting weakness. And it is during this three-way pull between Logic, Heart, and Will that a split-second decision must be made.

Ultimately, it would be Hermione’s Logic that would win the battle behind the door, keeping it closed. For she knew what it was like to be burned by the heat of passion in the arms of the one she still longed for. And she knew that she could never love Harry like that. It was Ginny who had that kind of passion for him, not her. Anything they might start by succumbing to weakness would only complicate their lives and fizzle out in time.

As she turned to walk away from Harry, she remembered how surprised she was when Draco warned that Harry harbored feelings for her that would surface eventually. Given the circumstances, it didn’t seem so surprising now. How Draco picked up on it long ago, she didn’t quite understand. But then again, somehow Ron had picked up on it too.

Looking back, she supposed there were signs; but her eyes had been so transfixed on the gray eyes she loved, it was impossible for her to see what might lie behind the eyes of a friend.

~

When Ron returned, Hermione couldn’t contain her fury.

She wanted to hex him into the far reaches of oblivion for leaving them alone for weeks. She secretly blamed him for the awkwardness that sometimes crept between her and Harry now. If Ron wouldn’t have ran off, then there wouldn’t have been time for any feelings to surface. She silently scolded him in her mind, not wanting to reveal that his suspicion had come about, albeit unexpectedly and only after he mentioned it.

He was infuriating. His saving grace was a destroyed Horcrux and soft, loving words about finding them that only left her more confused than she already was.

As time passed, the Trio would find themselves with Luna Lovegood’s father, learning about the Deathly Hallows; the Elder Wand, Death’s Cloak of Invisibility, and the Resurrection Stone thought to bring people back from the dead. She read aloud the tragic folktale behind them known as The Tale of Three Brothers and now knew they were thought to be Antioch, Cadmus, and Ignotus Peverell.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione had narrowly escaped an ambush there. Snatchers had almost caught them because of her perfume. And now Hermione had a headache and was again, exhausted, cold, hungry, and emotionally spent.

She was desperate for her one easy escape from reality; her beloved book. She was compelled to finish it… compelled to read of their happy ending. For if there must be an ending to such a book, let it be a happy one, she silently begged.

With Harry on the watch and Ron fast asleep, she cuddled into her tattered blanket and finally finished the story of the Squib and her Pureblood Prince.

~

Secret plans were made and a bride-to-be had just tried on her gown for one last fitting to make sure that it fit perfectly.

But brewing in the night, a father’s revenge would not sleep. For his son was dead because of a letter found in the horrific ruins of the camp, telling a girl named Delilah to escape to the North.

He would come to understand how the letter manifested the curse that had sharp objects flying. It was of an old ancient elfish skill to pen such a letter. And so, the grieving man forced his house elf to pen a similar letter; one that would have Delilah thinking it was from her lover… even forging it in the same handwriting as the one left on blood-soaked ground.

And so, full of hope and love in her heart on the eve of her wedding, Delilah received a letter from an owl. She opened the parchment believing it was one last letter from her love, before becoming his wife.

“Read aloud,” it said. “Read so Heaven will hear of my love for you.”

As she mouthed the words on parchment page, innocent Delilah was unaware of the harm that was about to behold her. For a polished, sharpened sword had levitated behind her at the ready. And at the precise moment of her own command, it pierced her flesh, driving straight through her heart.

“What? No. No. No,” Hermione whispered in disbelief. Oh, the tragedy! “That cannot be her end. No!”

What Hermione read next was of a man’s gut-wrenching despair. Oh, she cried for him. She cried over his grief for his Delilah… losing her just before he could make her his. And he felt responsible, as if he had killed her himself. It was his fault, he thought. It was his dark soul that had killed to save her, but in the end, it only destroyed her… destroyed their future as all the happiness in his life was buried with her.

Driven mad with grief and utter despair at her untimely death, he thought he had hallucinated her light one last time. Suddenly, she was there in the flesh… alive and smiling shyly at him. She was as beautiful as the last time he’d seen her alive.

She had a wine goblet and had him drink from it. Soon, he was drunk with lust for her. His mind told him that she was dead, but his eyes told him differently.

They made love under the very moon in which they were to wed.

But in due time, his drowsy head cleared and he opened his eyes; once more looking at the woman who he’d just made love to and was horrified to discover that it was not Delilah! It was “M’lady,” as Delilah once called her.


Knowing he would be grief-stricken and not in his right mind, the conniving and cruel witch had consumed a potion so that she appeared to him as Delilah. Then she gave him Love Potion in order to seduce him to bed… and both had run its course.

Reality struck him hard, viciously snapping him out of any remaining potion she had given him.

Black thoughts of murdering her played out in his livid mind. Oh, he could count the ways he could do it.

But sadness and grief of what had just happened overwhelmed his urge to kill. Delilah really was dead and he would never make love to her. That thought alone had him leaning over the bed, convulsing until he was heaving and fully spent.

“I only wanted to comfort you the only way you would allow. I knew of your affair, as did your poor aunt,” she confessed, handing him Delilah’s tiny painted likeness, the one he held so dear. She had somehow found it and discovered the true desire of his heart.

“I’m the one that gave Delilah a new life far away to protect you both, but you just couldn’t leave her be, could you? You’ll forget about her eventually. I will help you. And then you can finally start living your life the way it should be… with someone of pure blood who would go to such great lengths to love you. Forget Delilah, my Prince.”

With the fog in his head now cleared away, the Prince found his wand and conjured a whip that snapped around her neck choking her; the tail of it slicing open her cheek.

“You are not fit to speak her name,” he spat. “How dare you deceive me and within the same breath speak of love. You know nothing of it. You know not how it sinks in and consumes the heart; how it sets a soul on fire. You know not the guilt I bear in the name of it. As my love for her is eternal, so shall my hatred be for you. Be gone, despised witch, or I swear on Delilah’s innocent blood, you will not live to see the dawn.”

He released her. She gasped for air then ran for her pathetic heartless life.

~

For the next month, the only visitors he would allow were his two brothers. He could not sleep without Delilah. He did not eat, because she could not eat. All he wanted was his secret bride with him. He wanted to see her light once more.

He would obsess over the magical possibilities to bring her back from the dead. He would dream of it, experiment, engineer contraptions, and conjure peculiar things. But when the magical sciences failed him, he researched Muggle ways to no success.

He was reduced to madness in his despair and would eventually throw himself on her grave, crying out a repeated apology, desperate for her to hear.

His brothers reported that there was a trace on the man who sent the letter that killed her, so the three started on a long journey to find justice for Delilah.

But in time, the Prince happened upon a talisman that he thought would help him bend a soul’s light. And this obsession had him leaving his siblings behind.

Without him, the youngest, wanting no part in the bloodlust, disappeared so that he could not be found.

Later that night, the oldest of the brothers found Delilah’s murderer and slay him. But soon after, someone killed him and robbed him of his possessions.

The little hairs on Hermione’s neck stood on end as a rush of chills overwhelmed her.

The Resurrection Stone? The Cloak of Invisibility? The Elder Wand?

She wanted to close the book and run far, far away from it because the pieces of the puzzle were fitting together, which meant only one thing.

She knew how the book ended without reading it.

“Cadmus Peverell?” she mouthed in utter disbelief. “And his fiancé’s untimely death!”

It all became so real to her… The Tale of Three Brothers!

Recalling the story in her mind, Cadmus had succeeded in bending her light, but she was sad and cold. And then… Cadmus, in all his sadness and grief ended his own life hoping to join her in death.

“Oh, no,” Hermione blinked away the water in her eyes as she turned the page, knowing full well what was about to unfold, but she needed to finish it. It was important to her to finish.

As she read, she took note that the author dropped his third-person perspective and wrote the remainder of the story straight from his own heart.

For my old friend, my dear elf, who was taken from me far too early in life, had taught me long ago how to bend a soul’s light in life. Using a blood-red gem, I figured out how to bend it in death.

If you could imagine for one moment a heart’s pure elation when I saw her before me. Her light was brighter than I’d ever seen; her dress sparkling from an unseen source. Her smiling face when she looked at me had my soul dancing.

It was not just her light. Her very soul was with me.

We conversed, which was something that the light could never do before.

I confessed all. She forgave all. And then told me that she still loved me, after everything.

As my burden lifted and joy soared, equally low was my disappointment when the realization dawned that I could not keep her. For she, in all her glory, did not belong with the living.

I had to say goodbye; a true privilege if I ever beheld one.

And when I witnessed her light fade away from me for the final time, my happiness in utter ruin, I felt my heart break in my chest and knew that I would no longer fight the darkness that had wanted to take me since birth.

When I told Delilah of the story of the Child with One Hundred Gifts, it was conjured out of fear of my father destroying her for my error in loving one so forbidden. Oh, how I never thought her final destruction be but for my error in my quiet, boiling hatred within.

For I had not the notion to forgive, nor to overlook the wrongs committed against love and all that was good in my life.

Should I have let the men at the encampment live, so would my Delilah be alive to experience the life of tenderness that my heart had planned for her.

For all her beaming light saving me, t’was my own darkness still… that lead her by the hand to her destruction. My sorrow and guilt will know no end.

As in nearly all my life, Delilah is apart from me, yet with me still. Forgive me, but I grow exceedingly tired of living without my Delilah. I had the privilege to know what it was like to be loved on this earth; a grand measure of life and how it is to be lived.


Looking back at all the schemes and lies told to protect us, let this one truth remain…

That even though many a' love be cursed, it shall never, never die.  For the tiny candle in the darkness still burns for those who must live apart from the one they truly love.”

~

Oh, how Hermione’s heart hurt. Her eyes were a blur at the last lines written. It was as if it was amazingly written hundreds of years ago so that only she could read it now, while she was still longing for the one she loved.

Would their love, however cursed, never die? Did Draco’s love for her still burn, however miniscule? Would it still be there after all; a tiny candle in the darkness?

Never had a story touched her so deeply. Never had she related to a story so much.

In the depths of her heart, she believed the story to be true. This was no work of fiction. Cadmus had actually lived this heart-wrenching, tragic life. And Delilah, the innocent, suffered so much. But after everything… their love never died. It had grown stronger with the passing of time.

At the book’s end, Hermione noticed a footnote from the publisher on the origins of the book. Apparently, Delilah’s Black Book of Poems was compiled from actual letters and poems accidentally discovered hidden inside an antique desk that was set to be burned as firewood during the blizzard of 1732. During dismantling, the lady of the house saved them from destruction.

It wasn’t until 1753 that the first edition was published by the Wormstock Magical Publishing House of Westminster, who deemed the collection worthy of publication. Much went into researching the identity of the true author to no substantial evidence as to who this man was.

“Regardless, the author told a tale that is to be a lesson for the ages; about a boy who longed for deeper waters than the shallow life bestowed upon him, in love with a girl who was different than the rest, whose kindness touched him and took hold, while showing him that there was a lighter side. But truly and most importantly, it was a tale of the true strength of a man’s heart; how deep it can love, how patient it can be, and how much truth it can hide from the world. In spite of what we think or feel, the seemingly coldest of men are quite capable of hiding the warmest of hearts.”

Hermione closed the book and after seven tissues were fully spent, she rested her head and cried for her Prince until she fell asleep.

 





The story of Cadmus and Delilah would stay in her thoughts in the coming days. It was not only in her head, but in her heart as well, where she knew the story would stay forever.

The Prince reminded her of Draco and the lessons she learned made her think of him constantly. She would trudge along, a bit lost in the story and its lessons.

But as the trio walked a certain section of woods, her internal instincts kicked in and jumpstarted her heart to a runner’s heightened rhythm. She froze… even stopping her breathing to listen. Someone was watching her. She could feel it.

Snatchers!

~

Draco had just returned to Malfoy Manor from visiting someone that he shouldn’t have. He had ordered Skippen to check on all the house elves that he had sent away for safety’s sake, making sure they were doing well.

But he wanted to check on house elf Juddy personally. Not to see him really, but to see the person he was ordered to help; his Aunt Andromeda Tonks. For he had overheard the whisperings of a heated conversation between his parents and Bellatrix; discovering that Andromeda’s Muggle-born husband, Ted Tonks had been killed.

He didn’t hear everything that was said, but knew his mother was highly upset and heavily burdened. Bellatrix still refused to see Andromeda as her sister, much to Narcissa’s anguish. She wanted to send condolences, but Bellatrix wouldn’t have it.

“Leave that traitorous witch alone!” he heard Bellatrix whisper forcefully.

Lucius supported his aunt’s position, sighting that too much time had gone by now anyway, causing his mother to back down.

While Voldemort was out on a mission, Draco decided to pay his Aunt Andromeda a visit; using the excuse of wanting to visit his elf, should anyone ask.

Judd opened the door when he found it was his master there to see him.

Draco placed a finger to his lips, ordering the house elf to be very quiet.

“Master Draco comes to collect Judd?” the elf whispered, wondering what his orders might be.

“Not yet, Juddy. It is good to see you are doing well, but I fear you are needed here, now more than ever. How is she?”

“She cries. She rocks,” the elf of few words admitted. “And when finished, she cries and she rocks again.”

Just then, the door creaked open to reveal someone coming out of a shadow who looked much like Bellatrix, only with lighter brown hair. The resemblance was a bit unnerving.

“Nephew? Is it you, a boy now a man before my very eyes?” They grew watery at the sight of him. “Are you here to kill me?” she asked with wondering eyes.

“No,” he replied quickly, surprised at her question.

“Oh, then come in, dearie. I insist you come in so that I can thank you for sending Judd here. Imagine my surprise when he told me that it was you who sent him to help me. He has been so good to me and…” she trailed off as she sunk back into her cottage-like home.

It was a weary welcome; one that spoke volumes of her grief-stricken preoccupied mind.

“I don’t suppose you come bringing the family’s condolences?” the witch who looked so much like her oldest sister looked at the ground in sadness at the thought.

“I come on my own accord and I am very sorry for your loss,” Draco replied, while remaining standing with his hands in his pockets, while his aunt sat in a wobbly old rocking chair.

“My, it's been a long time since our last secret meeting, hasn't it?  Thank you for coming.  I suspected nothing from Bella, but was hoping for more from Sissy.”

The woman pulled a new tissue from a low side table, dabbed it a bit under both red eyes, and resumed her rocking; the chair creaking rhythmically underneath her.

“I didn’t hear all of the conversation about the news of your husband, but I know my mother was upset. She thought of sending you something perhaps, but Father sided with Bellatrix on the matter.”

“Well, he would, wouldn’t he?” she commented with a hint of disdain for the man, pausing her rocking until the thought subsided.

When she saw Draco’s head drop, she was glad to see that Draco was not like his father.

She sunk back into her chair, causing it to creak louder as she rocked.

“Do you know… that you may look like a Malfoy, but you are more like a Black? The kinder ones, anyway,” she commented, but wasn’t sure if Draco would answer. When he didn’t, she continued. “I can see it in  you.  I suspect that your mother hoped for it. If I know her at all, it is why she named you after the stars.”

“I think you are wrong.”

“Which part? That you are more like a Black?”

“You are wrong on both counts. She let Father teach me to be a Malfoy and backed up his lessons, Aunt Andromeda.” He paused to shake off the anger that always came with that fact. “And some nights I feel that I have inherited the darkest of both sides.”

“But yet, you are here to visit a grieving, disowned Aunt… and wish no harm,” she easily pointed out.

“It might be easy to blast someone from a tapestry, but I don’t find it so easy to forget their existence. I find it absurd.”

What he said brought back a distant memory for her. Such a long time ago… but she felt the pain of it still.

“The three of us sisters were close once,” she swallowed. “I told Sissy of my situation, hoping she would find sympathy, but instead she ran and told Bella. I remember being scared out of my mind, begging and asking why I had to choose between family and Ted. It was an awful ordeal. But when he took me by the hand, I chose to not let go of it.

“It was Ted who told me to forgive them for their ignorance. I thought I had forgiven them for a time, but now… even when he is dead, they could not find enough pity for me to come and pay their respects. They lost respect for me and therefore; there will be none in my grief.” Her tears began to flow again. “Oh, how I wish your mother had…”

She didn’t finish her sentence for the raw lump in her throat. The thought of needing Narcissa hung there for a while, but eventually disappeared with a quiet sob. When she gathered her composure, the creaking of the rocking chair ceased and Andromeda spoke again.

“It is I who disown them now. I find power in it, really. If they cannot come to me in my hour of need, then they commit an Unforgiveable against me.”

“My mother wanted to. Please forgive her. There is so much at stake right now,” he nearly pleaded.

“And yet you are here.”

“With an excuse of checking on my house elf.”

“My husband is dead… and that is not enough of an excuse for them to come see me? Unforgivable.”

With that, Draco knew there was no defending them, not even his mother.

“I wish many things could be different, Aunt. So many things… more than you could ever imagine.”

This had her curious, but she didn’t pry. She could see the truth in his eyes; saw the regrets building.

“You told me something at our last meeting; something that I have not forgotten.”

“Oh?”

“You seemed so happy that day. You told me that when I went looking for love, not to look in all the normal places. I didn’t see you again after that. When I told Mother that I had seen someone in Diagon Alley who looked much like Aunt Bellatrix, she reminded me again of what happened and why I should stay away from you. I understood the reasoning for it. But what I didn’t understand was how you went against your family like that. I didn’t understand it… back then anyway.”

“And now?” she questioned as a light and an idea dawned in her head. “And you understand now… don’t you?”

Draco swallowed hard and looked down at the dusty hardwood floor. “Yes.”

“And did you find love on the path less traveled?”

There was not a sound in the place as the question hovered. No rocking. No creaking. Even the clock seemed to stop ticking, waiting for the answer.

“I found love on the same path that you found yours,” Draco finally admitted.

“A Muggle-born?” Her eyes grew wide, looking even more like Bellatrix than Draco could accept. He had to look away.

“We are not together,” he explained further. “She hates me now, but I cannot turn it off so easily.”

“Hates you?”

“She is a member of The Order of the Phoenix, traveling with Undesirable Number One. And I am a Death Eater living with the Dark Lord.”

Draco being a Death Eater was no surprise. But her hands went to her mouth in shock at the underlying circumstances and the seriousness of the consequences because of who she was. Never mind family.

“He will kill you.”

“I know.”

The conversation was at an end when Draco felt the urge to run far away from the truth he had just revealed.

“I am truly sorry for your loss; as is Mother,” he said in a rush. “Juddy needs to stay here for his safety, unless you don’t want him.”

“Stay, yes, fine,” she muttered with new tears, now in fear of her nephew’s life. “What else can I do?” she stood briefly, hoping there was something.

What can anyone do against Voldemort? Draco questioned in his mind.

“Nothing.”

As Draco turned to leave, Andromeda expressed her gratitude. 

“Thank you, Draco.  For not ignoring me as if... as if I don't exist.  Be safe, child.”

When Draco heard the return of the rocking chair creaking its rhythm, he nodded his head and walked away, leaving his aunt to return to her grieving.

~

He wasn’t home but a half hours’ time when Bellatrix had summoned him to the living room. For a split-second, he thought she might’ve found out where he had been. But the shock that he received when he walked in was nothing he was expecting.

For he found himself staring into Harry Potter’s misshapen face with his Aunt Bellatrix demanding that he identify him correctly or the Dark Lord would kill them all. The tension in the air seemed to choke all of those in attendance.

Even so, Draco’s mind was on the girl standing behind him in the arms of a Snatcher. He had only gotten a brief glimpse of her and could hardly believe he wasn’t seeing her apparition. Was she really there, standing so close?

But his attention was demanded on the task at hand. Was the person in front of him Harry Potter in the flesh? Of course it was him. There was no question. His mind raced to somehow stall the situation, knowing what was to come if he acknowledged the obvious.

Voldemort would be called and he would be burying them all and adding them to the list of the deceased that he kept.

He had to block out the thought of burying Hermione and seeing her lifeless body. He had to block it out or go insane.

As he looked into Harry’s eyes, he could only hope that Harry could hear his thoughts, telling him to get her to safety.

But the return stare was not one of understanding.

The entire event happened so fast, it was all a shocking blur.

Suddenly Harry and Ron were in the Malfoy dungeon and Hermione lie screaming, screaming, shaking and helpless on the floor… and now bleeding.

Defensive and offensive spells went flying about the place.

Where was Hermione? A knife to her throat, Bellatrix smiled widely telling Draco to call the Dark Lord.

But he could not. He wanted no part in their inevitable deaths.

The chandelier came crashing down, nearly taking down Hermione and Bellatrix.

It was Dobby.

Ron’s arms protectively wrapped around Hermione, supporting her as she stared blankly… seemingly exhausted from her torture.

A knife was flung at the Apparition point.

It was over.

While Narcissa attended to Lucius, Bellatrix nearly cursed up a storm, mad as hell that she no longer possessed her wand.

Worried that his inaction to call the Dark Lord would spark suspicion, he quickly sank into the shadows and made his way to his room where a bottle of Firewhiskey awaited him at the ready.

Placing the bottle to his lips, he drank until he felt the fire in his chest, burning, burning his throat as he replayed the scene in his mind. As soon as it subsided a bit, he would drink again, wanting the fire to burn his heart to a charred oblivion. All the while, he worried himself sick, praying that the dagger that Apparated with them had not reached her on the other side.

At about the time when his knees began to feel weak and his arms grew heavy, the light from his bedroom windows began to annoy him immensely.

He closed the shutters and the curtains, but still too much light was coming in.

He drew the heavy velvet drapes, but light was still creeping in on all sides.

He wasn’t sure why, but he became obsessed with shutting out all light. He wanted none of it and went into a frenzy ripping the sheets from his bed and wrapping all corners of the windows, completely shutting out all light from his room.

His energy spent, he went to the floor, grabbed the Firewhiskey, and crawled into the darkest place he could find, drinking the burning liquid until he became numb.

He wanted to be small and disappear into the darkness. Hermione had been tortured in front of his eyes. He heard her cries of pain and he did nothing to help her. He dare not stop Bellatrix and her cruel interrogation. He could do nothing. Paralyzed with fear, he committed an Unforgivable; just as Andromeda had mentioned an hour before. He had ignored Hermione as if she didn't exist.  Not helping her in the hour of desperate need, he committed a true Unforgivable against her; the one he loved most in this world.

Draco wanted to forget what had just happened; wanted the memory to go away and never return. But the more he drank, the more he heard her screams of pain and saw the blood of her wounds spelling out that hideous word that he used to torture her long ago.

He wanted to crawl into darkness and never see daylight again.

~

Narcissa used her wand as a light when she finally entered his room that evening. She found him on the floor of his door-less closet; the very place that he was so desperate to get out of as a child. Here he was, back in it, hiding from his hated reality.

“Turn off the light, Mother. I don’t… I can’t stand to look at it.”

She dimmed it slightly, seeing the drunken despair in her son’s bloodshot eyes.

“You’re drunk?”

Using reason coupled with a mother’s instinctive intuition, Narcissa began putting the puzzle together.

“That girl today… is she the one whose light you see? The one you said that you loved?”

He didn’t answer.

Wanting to get away from the light, but having no energy, he turned his head away from her and rested his temple against the wall.

While Narcissa mulled over the dire consequences of that discovery in her head, she could feel her heart sink low in her chest. She grabbed hold of the door frame as thoughts of her sister Andromeda’s shunning came to mind. How was it possible that her son could have feelings for a… a?

She couldn’t bring herself to finish the thought. It was awhile before she spoke again.

“Do you see her now?” she asked, finally breaking the uncomfortable silence. She wasn’t sure he would answer that either.

“No.”

“I think you’ve had enough for one night.” She took the liquor bottle from his hands, shocked to find it now empty, without so much as a drop remaining.  "Get up and get out of this closet.  I will not speak to you like this," she demanded.

Somehow, Draco found his feet and pulled himself together, thankful to find the chair in his room.

“Wh… Why did she have to do it, Mother?” he finally asked, still looking away from her.

“Why did who have to do what?”

“Why did that awful witch you call a sister carve Mudblood into her arm?”

“Because she was born with the insight to know what hurts a person the most and she uses it to inflict the most damage. You have that it common, in case you hadn’t realized.”

It sickened him to be compared to his Aunt Bellatrix, mostly because Narcissa was correct. The things he said in the past and did now were barely any different, save for one detail.

“I’ve never taken a dagger and carved into anyone’s arm. Honestly, Mother, have you ever lost sleep at night knowing you disowned the wrong sister?” he sneered.

“Ah, and there it is. I was wondering when you would turn and throw your insults at me. I’ll forgive you because I know you’re drunk and upset.”

“Upset doesn’t quite describe how I feel right now, considering that I cannot seem to get the sound of a knife cutting into flesh out of my head, never mind the sounds of her screams that will haunt me for life.”

“Oh, please,” she said with sarcasm. “That girl will be fine. The wounds will heal in time and be forgotten.”

“No. Not with this one. Carving that word into her arm, Bellatrix might as well have carved it into her heart. It cuts deeper and means more to her than any Mudblood that ever lived!” he growled. “I know this to be true, so forgive me if I seem upset.”

“You would rather that we invited them to dinner and put them up for the night?! Forgive me if I seem upset that my son is a Blood Traitor!”

“So is your sister, Bellatrix.”

Narcissa’s patience was wearing thin. With a huff, she placed a hand to her hip.

“What are you bloody talking about?”

“She married a Pureblood, yes. But we know who she truly desires. And if I am not mistaken, his father was a Muggle. Was he not?”

Knowing that Draco was insinuating that Bellatrix desired the Dark Lord, Narcissa pointed her wand at her son, but he didn’t care.

“Do me a favor, Mother. Before you cast the Cruciatus at me… Disown me first.”

But instead of torturous pain, it was a tongue-tying spell that was cast.

Draco wouldn't speak again for three days. 
 



Author’s Note:
Well, that was a lot to take in. Sorry. Yes, Cadmus Peverell, the brother who asked Death for something that would bring back the dead, eventually committing suicide in the hopes of being with his love. That, my friends, deserved a back-story and I only hope that Delilah’s Black Book of Poems did them justice. Please let me know what you thought of it. (P.S. To fill JKR’s plot hole, I figured that it would be M’lady and Cadmus’s illegitimate child who would inherit the stone). ;)

Coming up next, we skip ahead in time to just after the war and finally see the reunion you’ve all been so patiently waiting for… at Crabbe’s funeral.


Love to all...

Dark Whisper

** 99,900 READS! 355 Favorited!  Wow!


Scene Credits: “Deathly Hallows” and “The Tale of Three Brothers” by J K Rowling.

 

 


 
 

 


Chapter 31: The Funerals of the Fallen
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Dearest Readers, when I started this story three years ago, the final movie had yet to be released. In the book, it was Crabbe who died (not Goyle). As much as I love the movies, I stuck with canon on this subject.

I hope you enjoy…
Dark Whisper

 

 





Death had been hovering over the magical community like a Dementor king, searching for war victims of both sides. Everyone could sense that the end was looming near. But just to what or who’s end, no one could foresee.

The Great Battle was fought bravely; magical blood spilled. The predictable and unpredictable happened. And in the end, win or lose, the war would bring many funerals…

~

Draco wasn’t quite sure of what to feel when he heard the news of Voldemort’s death. He didn’t trust it and did not breathe easier for quite some time.

His Aunt Bellatrix was also among the dead. When he focused on that fact, he could not find pity for her. Dead or alive, he didn’t seem to care. The only thing he felt for her passing was an icy cold indifference.

His pity was saved and reserved for the friend of his youth, Vincent Crabbe; an accidental casualty of his own doing in not knowing how to control the dark and powerful Fiendfyre.

One warm summer evening, as he stood alone at the foot of his friend’s fresh grave just after dusk, he closed his eyes while the terrible scene replayed in his mind. He could feel the heat rising in intensity; could see the flames consuming everything in its path, clawing its way to him. He could feel his utter desperation in grabbing for things to climb; searching for a miracle that came in the form of three enemies.

“Enemies,” he voiced quietly as he opened his eyes to find Hermione’s apparition in the distance… visiting him now in a cemetery of old, just as it had so many times during the war.

He wondered when her image would stop haunting him; wondered if he would ever stop hallucinating. There had been a time when he thought there was a connection, that he was seeing her in real-time. But that belief had faded long ago and evidence long forgotten; as if he had dreamt it into being true.

He watched her gray likeness, seemingly standing on a low hill amongst weather-worn headstones, under a canopy of hundred-year-old English Oaks.

“Leave me be,” his conscience silently begged her image. “Please, just leave me alone.”

~

Despite a most unwelcome air at Gringotts Bank, Harry had been able to make a withdrawal from his vault. To his surprise, he saw Professor McGonagall there as well, but in her rush to leave, she hadn’t heard his greeting.

As Ginny helped him choose new funeral attire, he watched Hermione eye a pretty lacey outfit. But as she looked at the price, her face fell and her hands folded to her chest. Clearly, she didn’t have the money.

Without her parents’ backing, Harry knew she would struggle. A part of his heart would always be hers. And making sure she had money in which to live on seemed the right thing to do.

At first, she refused the money bag he handed her, as expected.

“You should wear something nice… for the funerals,” he told her.

There were entirely too many funerals.  Too many lost.  Too many lives destroyed.  And she wanted to attend as many as possible... to show respect and to say her goodbyes.

Thinking of the sad days ahead, she reluctantly accepted Harry's offer, but not before insisting it was a loan that would be paid back.

~

It was at Colin Creevy’s funeral visitation where the Patil sisters came up to Hermione and asked if she had heard about Draco Malfoy.

She had been looking at one of the many photo albums that Colin created over the years and found a photo of Draco sitting alone in an alcove; his eyes distant and sad. Oh, the memories of that face! She thought it amazing that Colin had captured him perfectly.

Her heart reacted at the mere mention of Draco’s name and she suddenly found the room to be too warm and uncomfortable. She closed the album nonchalant-like, hoping that the Patil sisters didn’t notice her infatuation with Dracos’ photograph.

“The Daily Prophet is saying that he’s different now... a bit off. Unstable, they are saying, because of what You Know Who put him through. Post- Traumatic Stress… Hallucinations… Seeing and talking to people who aren’t there,” Parvati quoted with an air of bitterness.

“I think its rubbish, made up to defend himself against the war-crime charges he’s up against. The heartless git wasn’t under the Imperious curse through any of it. He did the Dark Lord’s bidding on his own accord. Probably enjoyed it,” Padma added through watery eyes.

But Hermione knew better. The Draco Malfoy she knew was definitely not heartless and she had witnessed his face at the manor. He most certainly didn’t enjoy what was happening in his home.

But it was their other words that had her truly worried for him. Was he suffering mentally from unfathomable stress under Voldemort? Hallucinating and talking to people who were non-existent? Would it be permanent? Would he be okay?

“Hallucinations?” Hermione repeated with worry.

“Here. Read it for yourself,” Padma replied, handing her the Daily Prophet on their way out.

She read the article again and again and knew it would haunt her until she saw him. But how would she be able to get close to Draco? How could she possibly get him alone?

The answer was revealed on the very next page of the magical newspaper… in the obituary section.

~

Minerva McGonagall hadn’t been to her family’s Gringotts vault in over a decade. She couldn’t believe it had been that long ago and wondered where the time had gone.

With a careful hand, she removed a layer of dust from the top of an old red Gryffindor-crested box. She hadn’t laid eyes on the contents in more than half a century; a black feather of a raven; a dainty bracelet handmade from shed branches of the Whomping Willow tree; dried petals of a red rose; All items given to her by a boy named Tom Riddle back when they were young Hogwarts students.

There were three tiny corked bottles that held memories for safe-keeping. And at the bottom of the box was a hand-written note that he had penned long ago.

“Will you go to the Yule Ball with me, Minnie? If you say no, I will not forgive you. If you say yes, I will love you forever. What choice do you have, really?”

Her eyes blurred at the thought of saying yes and falling for a young man that would eventually become a monster. The utter shame threatened to overwhelm her. But she refused her tears, blinking them away.

“I buried you once before, Tom… deep into the depths of my heart when I realized that there truly was nothing left of the young man who had held me so tenderly when my parents...” She stopped short of voicing what happened. “Oh, how I grieved your passing. But not today,” she breathed. “Not today.”

And with that, she closed the box and magically buried it in a cemetery long forgotten. For before St. Mungo’s was a hospital, it was St. Mungo’s Church with a cemetery reserved for orphans who died of plague and Dragon Pox.

At the war’s end, there was nothing left of Tom to bury and there certainly would be no funeral.

But for Minerva McGonagall, she needed to have a funeral to bury her past and finally let it go.

~

By far the most difficult funeral to sit through was Fred's. 

Watching so many grown men break down was Hermione's undoing.  There wasn't a dry eye in the place when George cried out his twin's name. 

It was so hard to imagine one without the other, she wondered if George would ever laugh again.  

~

Nearly a week later, Hermione told Harry and Ron that she just wanted to be alone for awhile and they needed to stop their hovering and give her some space.

She wanted to attend one last funeral, but didn’t want them to know about it, for fear they wouldn’t understand… and for good reason.

For the funeral she wished to attend was Vincent Crabbe’s who had nearly killed them all with Fiendfyre.

Hermione wasn’t going to the funeral to pay respect to the dead exactly, but rather to maybe bring comfort to a certain someone still living. That is, if she could get close enough.

She readied herself with the new clothing she bought with the money borrowed from Harry. And as she looked in the mirror, she became quite displeased with her reflection. She looked older than her chronological years and wondered if her youthful appearance would return if she could ever get a full night’s rest.

Her fingers moved across the mirror, tracing the lines of tiredness that she felt, as if to erase them, to no avail. If only it were that easy.

When she gave up on improving her appearance any further, she quietly watched the clock until it was time to leave. Somehow she was calm, but reluctant. But when the time came, she couldn’t bring herself to actually attend the funeral, thinking she wouldn’t be welcome. Instead, she allowed the clock to tick away another half hour, then Apparated to the cemetery to wait.

~

In keeping with Pureblood Wizard tradition, Crabbe would be buried at sunset.

Hermione happened upon a stone bridge nearly covered with green ivy vines. Underneath was a lovely park bench where she waited until she heard the funeral procession walking above her.

When it passed, she peaked out and watched as a team of four Thestrals pulled an impeccably restored antique hearse. It was a glass-enclosed carriage complete with black curtains, tassels, and four torches on the four corners of it to light the way.

Careful to remain hidden, she moved into a spot under some huge trees and behind a few headstones, feeling the soft grass through her open toed heels.

As the hearse came to a halt, her eyes found Draco immediately. Hope had not failed her. There he was, attending a funeral of a friend. Her body shuttered and she had to steady herself, suddenly becoming a mess of nerves.

The casket was drawn out magically and hovered into place just above the ground in which it would be lowered.

She could see the casket had been draped with deep green velvet with a silver embroidered crest at the head. The only flowers were three gorgeous long-stemmed yellow roses, placed as symbols of friendship representing Draco, Goyle, and Zabini; the three young men standing closest to the casket.

The officiating Wizard clergy said a few words of which Hermione could not hear. She was too far away. But her eyes were trained on Draco nonetheless.

He wasn’t wearing black. He was wearing gray; the color that he had told her was the true color of death while they were dining on bread and pumpkin juice in the Hogwarts kitchen.

“An ashy shade of gray,” she quoted his words in her mind from long ago.

His complexion was so pale, she wondered if he’d seen the sun in a year’s time.

In keeping with tradition, Crabbe’s father would’ve taken a handful of dirt from the clergyman and sprinkled it over the casket as a sign of the ceremony’s end. But to Hermione’s surprise, it was Draco who completed it.

The utter sorrow in his eyes had Hermione tearing up.

As he began the task, Pansy couldn’t watch. She had turned toward her boyfriend, the artist, Vaden Sharpe, who held her tightly in show of support.

As Astoria’s hand went to her mouth in disbelief, Blaise wrapped his arm around her waist lovingly and touched his temple to hers.

Even Goyle, who looked like a complete and utter mess with grief-stricken eyes and tear-stained face had an unknown wide-eyed girl clenching one of his hands in both of hers.

There were other Slytherins in attendance, a few adults, and Professor Slughorn; all of which remained silent with solemn looks on their faces.

When Draco had finished the final task, he nodded his head to the clergyman. And just as the sun set on the horizon, the casket smoothly sunk into the ground, deeper and deeper until the only thing that remained was the velvet green draping and three yellow roses lying on the ground.

It was done.

After a long moment of silence, the small crowd shook hands or hugged one another, saying their final goodbyes, disbursing until Draco was the last.

His head was bowed and his eyes were closed as if he was praying. She’d seen him like that before… long ago.

Not wanting to step on a grave, Hermione was careful as she made her way closer to him. She placed a hand against a huge tree trunk to help keep her balance, then looked up at him.

And that’s when he finally saw her.

She was still some distance away, but he saw that look of concern in her eyes that had become so familiar to him.

He looked down again and shook his head slightly. She wasn’t real. It couldn’t really be her. She was just a figment of his imagination; an apparition like a ghost haunting him; evidence that he had lost his mind even now, seeing her in a cemetery at the grave of the Slytherin friend that nearly killed her.

He swallowed hard, thinking of Crabbe’s burnt remains now lying in the ground only a few feet away and thinking that he should be dead alongside him.

“Goodbye, Crabbe. I’m so sorry,” he said sorrowfully, his voice cracking. “I’m so sorry I wasn’t a better friend.”

When he was ready to leave in the last remaining Thestral-driven carriage that would take him home, Draco looked back up at Hermione’s light, wondering when he would see it again. When would it stop haunting him?

She was wearing a light gray formfitting blouse with lacey long sleeves that seemed to glow in the remaining light and a dark gray skirt that dropped to her ankles. Her hair was up.

She looked so beautiful, he thought. And so very real.

But he wouldn’t allow himself to believe that it was really her and so the two just stared at each other under a darkening sky.

He watched as her expression changed to one full of sorrow that most likely matched his own and wondered what she could be looking at. Surely it wasn’t him next to a friend’s grave. She couldn’t possibly be there. He was hallucinating again.

His mind had a tendency to see her so vividly, it was as if she were actually with him. Her light had been a welcoming refuge, pulling him out of the darkness when the reality of living with the Dark Lord was too much to bear. With every murder and torturous act committed in his home, the more real her apparition seemed to become; her light comforting him time and time again.

She appeared to be waiting for him. Her movements were slow and then she did something that surprised him. She lifted her arm slightly, palm up, as if reaching out for him. She nodded her head slightly as her fingers curled in, motioning for him; inviting him to join her on the hill.

When he finally realized that it actually might be her in the flesh, it brought a windfall of emotions that he couldn’t possibly begin to sort out in his current state.

Why would she be there? They had been on opposite sides; an ocean between them.  But most important of all, was that the last time they spoke face to face, she said she hated him. What could she possibly want now? To curse him, perhaps? Whatever wrath she would dish out, he fully deserved it, he thought.

His gaze went back to the grave before him and he thought of one last farewell to Vincent Crabbe, but couldn’t voice it for fear of more tears.

He turned and walked a slow pace to a cobblestone walkway that would take him up the hill. Up to her. But truly, it could be anyone or no one at all.

Hermione noticed his gait, his stature. The arrogance was gone and he now moved with much reverence and contemplation, one slow and deliberate step at a time.

Every measurement toward her was a memory coming to him like the flashing of pictures before his very eyes.

Touching her palm on the train to Hogwarts. Telling her about Stella and his dream by the graffiti walls. Dining on bread and pumpkin juice and running from Filch. In the Astronomy Tower using snowflakes as starry constellations. Kissing her upside-down in front of his Black Canvas Vault. Spending the night together in the Room of Hidden Things. Finding her asleep in the library amongst books about magical blood. Washing her hair in the Prefects’ Bathroom. Nearly making love to her in the hospital wing surrounded by curtains of white.

And in his final steps to her flashed the image of a Black Orchid with the words of his letter to her… “Protego. Protego Totalum. Salvia Hexia. Cave Inimicum…” Magical words that he hoped would protect, protect, protect her so that she might live.

He felt his hands begin to shake slightly, not unlike what he experienced in the Astronomy Tower with her long ago. So he shoved his hands into his pockets in an attempt to regain some control. As he closed the gap between them, his slow gait came to a halt, still keeping a cautious distance from her.

Every magical cell within her wanted to run to him. If he would just open his arms to her and let her in, it would take half a second to melt into him.

She thought of the reunion of Cadmus and Delilah as they ran together, crying, and embracing each other. She had hoped for such a reunion with Draco, but it wouldn’t come.

No joyful embrace. No endearing promises. No passionate kiss. It would not be like that for them and it broke her heart knowing it wouldn’t.

Instead of opening his arms to her, his hands remained in his pockets. She had to swallow the utter disappointment that rushed over her.

She wasn’t sure what to say exactly, so she kept silent as his eyes moved from the ground to her face and then back down again. She could scarcely remember to breathe. He was right there in front of her.

Draco was still in disbelief that she was really there, standing so close to him.

But the same breeze in the air that he felt against his skin had gently swayed a stray strand of her hair and picked up the familiar scent of mint and jasmine shampoo.

And suddenly and as sure as he was standing, he knew it was her by her scent; not just her apparition in front of him. And the emotions that came with that knowledge could only be described as a loving, guilt-ridden sorrow. He took in a short breath from the shock of her presence.

Despite all the times that he spoke to her light during the war, he could not find words in this moment. He stood completely silent, speechless and in awe of her.

Uncertainty and fear filled the air and stole the pretty words that they wanted to say.

He could not look into her eyes and certainly could not touch her. Draco felt that he had no right. None at all.

With all the inner strength and will-power in his being, he fought the desperate carnal desire to embrace her and cry a thousand tears knowing she somehow made it out alive.  If he hadn’t been so well-practiced at ignoring his emotions, he would’ve grabbed hold of her and never let go.

Draco buried it all deep.  On the outside, he remained still; frozen as if the war had made him a statue, robbing him of the ability to ever be human again.

Hermione’s body was as stiff as a board, tense and barely breathing.

“Somehow…” she finally spoke, breaking the intense silence. “I knew you would wear gray,” she said lifting her skirt slightly to show him the color.

He took in the sight of her petite form in her new ash-colored clothing.

“And you… dressed to match me?” his voice cracked, despite his best efforts to show no emotion. She had dressed for him long ago as his Dark Valentine.  And he looked at her now as if she was the most incredible wonder he’d ever witnessed.

“Yes,” she replied, watching his face, preparing herself for what the Patil sisters had said. He was uncertain, she could tell.

Maybe even terrified… 
 

 





Author's Note:

This chapter (the entire novel, really) is dedicated to my dad, who I lost June 2nd.  He was the first to encourage me to write and to reach for any crazy dream I ever had.  I will always hear his love and encouragement in my mind... and for that I am eternally grateful.  Oh, my sorrowful heart...

I must apologize for giving up on responding to every Review.  Please know that I love them, read them, and appreciate them so much.  I do promise more soon as the next chapter is nearly complete.

Love to all,

Dark Whisper

Credits: Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling. 

Update: 106,261 Reads and 363 have Favorited.  Words cannot express my feelings at seeing those numbers and I thank you, sincerely.
 
 


Chapter 32: Cemetery Bridge
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Draco swallowed hard, his mouth suddenly dry as desert air and his mind rapidly filling with distrust.

“You could be anyone with Polyjuice,” he voiced quietly. Or an elaborate hallucination conjured from my memory of you, he thought to say, but didn’t.

Hermione stepped to him slowly, wanting to take his hands to hers, but they remained buried in his pockets. So instead, she reached out to touch him.

But he wouldn’t allow it. And so, at the very last second, just as her fingers were about to brush against a spot near his collarbone, his back arched slightly and he took a step back, refusing.

This hurt her immensely, but she tried not to show it.

“Okay. Okay,” she whispered, nodding quickly as if she understood the boundary that he had just set, but she had no idea of the true reason. In her mind, he must’ve thought her touch to be poisonous.

But she didn’t understand the depth of unworthiness that he felt… unworthy of a loving touch from anyone, especially not from her. It snaked through him like a vine, pulling him away should anyone get too close.

“I am quite real, Draco,” she replied, blinking away the water in her eyes and the hurt in her heart. She thought that if her touch was unwelcome, then perhaps she might be able to reassure him with something that only she would know; offering proof that it was her.

“I am the recipient of an amazing magical book, Delilah’s Black Book of Poems. A book banned because of the dangerous magic contained in it.”

His gaze went immediately to her eyes then and held, searching for truth. It was then that he noticed how tired she looked. Even as the sky darkened above them, he could see the shadows under her eyes. The war had been over for quite some time. Why wasn’t she sleeping?

“It was the perfect Christmas gift, given to me by you… in the hopes of preventing a dream. And it was I who kissed you, thanking you under the courtyard. Do you remember?” her breath hitched. “Do you remember us… at all?”

She was worried what the Dark Lord might’ve done to his mind. Sure, he remembered that she had dressed for him long ago, but what of the rest? Would he recall ever being intimate with her?

He remained silent, analyzing her words. Given her question, he figured she had heard the rumors of him going mad. She had no idea how much he had fought to keep their past safe. He tried to think of a way to put his feelings to words.

“Granger, I hold on to every memory of you for dear life.” Like how you loved me once. He wanted to say, but set his jaw to prevent it. “I remember everything.”

Hermione’s heart ached at his words, or maybe it was the way in which he said them; spoken with sincerity and truth, but the last bit brushed with anger.

Her rejection had hurt him long ago and at that moment he was feeling the pain fresh anew; along with a growing animosity toward her. He wasn’t sure why he felt that way, but the selfish emotion ran through him regardless if it should.

“Walk with me, will you?” Hermione asked with hope. “There is a bench just under the bridge. Would you sit with me and talk awhile?”

He hesitated as he eyed the bridge well behind her. He wasn’t sure if it was such a good idea.

“The Ministry has me on House Arrest with special permission to attend funerals. Aurors and Hit Wizards could come for me at any moment,” he warned, wanting to reveal the truth of his status upfront should she want to change her mind. “They will arrest you if they find you with me.”

Hit Wizards were reserved for the most dangerous criminals, she knew, but it didn’t deter her.

“I’ll take my chances,” she assured, still looking up at him.

His head turned to the carriage to make sure it was still there to take him home, then looked back to the bridge. He wasn’t sure. Shouldn’t he just go home to avoid violating the judge’s orders? What if she were arrested for being with him? He didn’t want to risk that. He should just go home, he decided… without her. There was no way she was going to Malfoy Manor with him.

Draco’s heart softened slightly. He didn’t want to miss the chance of being with her, if only for a little while.

He questioned every decision now and over-analyzed everything to the point of indecision. He felt ridiculous.

But he didn’t need to say a word. She sensed the indecision. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to, he was just unsure if he should. She turned to stand beside him and with a nod toward the bridge, she coaxed him into a slow walk and he went with her without protest.

Other thoughts quickly entered his mind then. Dark thoughts.

She’s come to kill me under the bridge, he thought. That’s fine. He’d rather be killed by her than anyone else and it would spare him a long sentence in Azkaban.

With the blood-red sky of dusk now illuminating the cobblestone path, they made their way to the ivy-covered bridge, now lit by evenly-spaced streetlamps.

She took in the beauty of the night scene surrounding them, while he mostly walked with his head down. The sky made silhouettes of the old stone monuments of varying shapes and sizes, framed with spikey wrought iron fencing.

When they reached the arch of the bridge, he saw the park bench and took in the surroundings, then stopped.

“They won’t allow me to have a wand,” he admitted quietly. “Would you kindly put up protection and silencing charms?”

“Of course.”

He watched her intently as she gracefully moved about the space, lending them protection and privacy. He was mentally preparing himself to die… peacefully this time. Soon he would be with his friend, Crabbe.

He found it odd to fear death from the Dark Lord, but not by her touch. What strange irony. Wasn’t it the fear of death the reason why he had done those terrible things? In accepting his death by her hand, he decided that it served as further proof of just how much he’d lost his mind.

He was about to tell her to stop with the charms and just get the killing over with. But to his astonishment, when she had finished placing the charms, she put her wand away, gracefully strolled over to the park bench, and sat down facing him. Bending down, she took off her shoes and rubbed her toes.

“Sorry, I’m not used to standing or walking so much in high heels,” she remarked casually.

He stood bewildered at where his dark mind had taken him compared to the almost laughable reality. Would he always think of death?

He didn’t want to sit just yet, even though she offered with a gesture. He wasn’t exactly comfortable. If Hermione wasn’t going to kill him or at least torture him, then why was she with him now under a low bridge in a cemetery?

He looked at both entrances of the bridge, more like a tunnel, wondering if anyone was lurking about the place. But it appeared as though they were alone.

Draco backed up as close to the stone wall as possible without touching it, directly opposite from her bench. He folded his arms to his chest, took in a deep breath, and found his voice.

“Crabbe was my friend, Granger,” he told her solemnly. “You’d never guess how we became friends.”

Oh, how she had hoped for this. He had confided in her before. And she had hoped that he would talk to her and open up to her again, if possible.

“I know most people might say that it was because Crabbe was mentally weak and that I could easily manipulate him, but it wasn’t that,” he said matter-of-factly.

He bit his lip slightly, allowing the memories to flow.

“I have many issues, Granger,” he admitted. “One of them is with closet doors. Father would lock me in my bedroom closet when I was a child and in my first memory of having magic, I blasted the solid mahogany door to splinters. The first thing I did when I stepped into my dorm as a First Year at Hogwarts was remove my closet door from its hinges and stash it under my bed. When Goyle noticed it a month later, he asked, “Why is your closet door under your bed? Is it broken?” But I didn’t have to say a word. Crabbe answered for me. He said to him, “In general, Goyle, when you see a closet door removed, it’s best not to ask the reason. You just go with it.”” Draco spoke through fresh tears, letting them fall where they may. “Crabbe nodded at me as if he fully understood my particular issue and the subject was dropped.”

He paced a little as he spoke and she listened.

“And it was Goyle who was the most home-sick Slytherin that I’d ever met. As First Years, it was especially hard on him. He kept telling us repeatedly that he wanted to go home. When I had enough of it, I told Goyle to shut up or I’d personally kick him out of Slytherin House and send his belongings to Hufflepuff!” he bit.

“But when Crabbe finally spoke, he said rather loudly, “I don’t care to ever go home again as long as I live.” And I fully understood where he was coming from as he spoke my sentiments exactly. And we became friends instantly then, because even though we weren’t on the same level in academics or wit, it was our equal knowledge of parental cruelty that bound us as friends.”

He swallowed hard, reminiscing that first year of school, while she sat still, imagining the worst.

“That’s why every Christmas break, Crabbe and I would only spend two days at home. The remaining days of the break were spent at Goyle’s, whose parents were akin to ‘Weasleys with money.’ Happy to see all of us… caring even.”

Hermione’s eyes looked at his with sadness and now a deeper understanding of him and his friends.

“Crabbe suffered far worse than I ever did. And the most amazing thing was that sometimes he would make light of it and make a joke as if he accepted abuse as a normal part of life. I’ll never understand it.”

For years Draco had wondered why Crabbe and Goyle even qualified to be in Slytherin; for neither of them had possessed any ambition to do anything but eat and were about as cunning as a common rock. He had no doubt that it had been Dumbledore’s doing all along.

“Vincent Crabbe was my friend. That is why I am here… administering his father’s part in his funeral rites. Hit Wizards found him in a drunken suicidal rage when they hauled him in. But today, sober as he’d ever been, the bastard refused the offer to attend his own son’s funeral.”

His head cocked to the side slightly, his expression one of anger as he looked at her.

“Which brings me to the question… Why are you here?”

Wanting to see the truth, his piercing eyes locked to hers.

“I am here for you,” she replied simply, trying to ignore the fury behind his glare.

He shook his head in disbelief.

“Why?”

“There have been so many lost, Draco. I have plenty of people to help me through my grief. And all of your friends seemed to have someone today. Everyone, but you. Who do you have?”

“I am quite accustomed to being alone,” he replied looking at the ground. “Why should today be any different?”

“Because as you said, he was your friend. And it is being with people that helps us through such great loss. Everyone needs someone.”

“You are wrong. I need no one.” Draco didn’t understand why he was feeling so bitter, but the urge to get away and leave was suddenly very strong. He needed the sorrowful day to come to an end.

He turned a cold shoulder to her and was about to walk away from their conversation, so she panicked and stood abruptly, blurting out the subject that had her desperate to talk to him.

“I heard you weren’t exactly yourself these days. Some think it is true, others think it is a lie… conjured to help your case in court.”

He knew full well what the Daily Prophet was saying about him. He stopped and turned toward her looking more angry than before.

“A heinous paranoid mass-murderer… the darkest Wizard of our time declared my home to be his headquarters and by some miracle, I lived. Who can expect anyone to survive that kind of evil unscathed?”

His words confirmed the truth she was seeking. He was not well.

“I want to help you, Draco.”

“How could you possibly help me?” he asked with irritation digging at his core. “I suffer the occasional hallucination… of which, are no one’s business but my own. What can you do?”

She wasn’t sure what she could do, really. But her heart poured out to him, hoping he would do the same.

“The mind does strange things when it comes up against too much to bear. Share your pain with me so that I can help you bear it. I half expect that you would want to lash out in your grief. Well if that’s the case, then lash out at me. I can take it. I’ve been taking your cruelty for years.”

“Is that all you remember of me?” he growled, furious at her words. “Us?” he softened slightly as that one tiny word carried so much meaning, it ripped like a bullet through his chest.

“No,” she pleaded, again afraid that he would bolt. “Of course not. No. I just want to be here for you… to listen. Open up to me, Draco. Don’t shut me out of the truth. I promise to be quiet and listen. Aren’t you tired of keeping everything bottled up? Are you not as tired of it as I am?” she admitted, folding her arms into herself and leaning over as if her insides were burning.

He saw the dull glimpse of pain on her face and realized for the first time that maybe she was the one who needed to talk. But maybe she wasn’t quite ready yet or didn’t know what to say. Maybe she needed him to talk first.

They had a history of that. Him opening up first, then her.

His shoulders slumped forward as he took on a look of surrender, thinking of her words of being tired.

“I am so tired, Hermione,” he started. “I am tired of being Draco Malfoy. I am tired of blocking my feelings to the point of feeling nothing. I am tired of being the Dark Wizard that I have become,” he paused, worried if she had anything to say about that fact. When she said nothing, he continued.

“I am so angry at the magical world… angry at my father for putting me through living hell… angry at myself for so many things I cannot count… angry at Crabbe for doing what he did and for getting himself killed. And my God, I have been lashing out at you… but I don’t mean to,” he admitted, utterly ashamed and frustrated with himself.

He didn’t know how to not be angry. It boiled over like lava from the deep; time and pressure building and threatening.

Shouldn’t she be the one lashing out at him?  Instead, she had sat back down on the bench, keeping her arms folded in tight, hugging herself.

“I am being investigated for war crimes, but what the ministry really wants to know is how much of the Dark Arts I know. They want to know all the ways that I’ve learned to torture or to kill a man. But I block them out with a strength of Occlumency that they’ve never seen… and they fear me.

“I practiced and practiced that skill… meditating for hours on blocking everything out until the only thing the Dark Lord could see was me standing in a room of pure black, like an iron curtain of sheer willpower. And I know I succeeded… because he would’ve killed me had he known my feelings for you. A thousand times over, he would’ve given me a traitor’s death if he knew. But I won. It was my own personal victory over him.”

Thoughts again went to the Ministry. He despised them for their accusations and blame.

“And now, they fear my abilities and my knowledge. Witnesses saw that sick demon hug me like a beloved son and now the Ministry thinks I want to be the next Dark Lord… all because I block out everything. Can you believe it? They think I block out some diabolical scheme to carry out Voldemort’s plans.

“They have no idea that it is my memories of you that I protect. I tell them nothing of you… or us, as you put it. And I certainly know better than to tell them about the year of intense instruction in the Dark Arts I received or they’d hang me for my potential to live, breathe, and conjure evil.

“I can make a wizard’s blood boil while it’s still in his veins, place curses on inanimate objects, and brew at least three undetectable poisons. And I can make someone go insane thinking that something is crawling under their skin, while they scratch themselves bloody.”

Hermione gasped as goose bumps formed on her arms. “Cadmus!” she shouted in her mind, but remained silent wondering if she’d made a grave mistake in seeking him out. Maybe she shouldn’t have come. Maybe Draco was too far gone.

He thought of the many things he’d learned, but decided to spare her and perhaps ease her mind a bit.

“Not that I ever would do those things, but I could if I wanted. It’s like… the power is there. It’s in me to do great and terrible things. But the truth is that I have no future plans for anything. After so many months of worrying about staying alive… you tend to give up hope for any kind of future. It is so cloudy, you can’t see through the fog. And the next thing you know, you live by the minute, not by the month…and certainly not by the year. The only plans I’ve had are those made to survive.”

Draco eyed her carefully and wondered if she would talk yet.

“I suspect you know well enough about that,” he led, but she only nodded and said nothing. He let out a sigh, thinking maybe she wouldn’t say anything that was weighing her down. She was a tough one, he thought… walled up like a fortress.

“Did you know that he murdered Professor Burbage?” he asked, trying to get her to talk.

“No. I only heard her name when they broadcasted the list of the missing over the radio that Ron carried… when he was with us anyway.”

“While we were all sitting around my dining room table having a meeting, he had levitated her above us all and when our meeting was over, she was dead before her body slammed onto the table. Nagini finished her off.”

Hermione’s hand went to her face, imagining the horror.

“Normally, I would bury his dead, but not her.”

“You had to bury people?”

“My house elf and I were tasked with disposing of the bodies. I plotted a map of them so I wouldn’t forget their locations; in case they had families who would want to know what happened to them someday.”

He fought the urge to turn away and bury his face in his hands as the memories became too much. He didn’t want to talk about the living nightmare that his life had become. He didn’t want to talk about how his home had become a house of horrors. He needed the subject to be changed… fast!

Tears were now streaming down Hermione’s face. She wasn’t quite sure if she could listen to much more. It was no wonder that he’d been suffering mentally for all that he’d lived through. He was burying people?

“And what of you? You weren’t exactly on vacation with the boys, all this time.”

He’d given her yet another chance to open up, but she turned her head away from him, not wanting to speak about the worst she’d seen. She’d rather forget it than talk about it. Besides, she thought it paled in comparison to what he'd been through.

Draco’s time was running out and his patience was on a knife’s edge. She wouldn’t talk, so he’d had enough.

“While I’m being so open and honest with you, be honest with me,” he now demanded. Obviously she wasn’t there to speak her mind. “Why are you really here?!” he raged.

“I told you already. To help you get through your grief.”

“Crabbe’s death is but a small part. You really have no idea what my life has been like. You wouldn’t understand, even if I told you everything. How do you expect to help me?”

Suddenly Hermione felt small and insignificant. What could she do? He wouldn’t allow a simple touch or even a hug of support, like most normal people she knew.

“I don’t know really. Especially after what little you just told me. But I do understand some things about you,” she said, ignoring the growing apprehension threatening to choke her words before she could say them.

“I know it might seem really strange and silly even, but that book you gave me… I wanted it for its magical elements and what it could do, but I wasn’t prepared for the story it told. It was about a young man who spent his life guarding his true feelings about everything… his family, status, his love, everything.

“He so reminded me of you… leading a double life. The one that everyone saw outwardly verses the one he lived in his heart. It made me cry for him. It made me cry for you,” she confessed. “It said, that even the seemingly coldest of men can hide the warmest of hearts. It’s as if the entire story was written for me to read about you. I knew your heart once, Draco… and it was not cold.”

Draco set his jaw and immediately thought to disagree with her.

“When I heard you weren’t yourself, I had to talk to you. I’ve been so worried for you. Even when I’d heard that you had become a Dark Wizard, I couldn’t help but think… Not my Draco. Not the one that my heart had secretly loved.”

He couldn’t help but notice how her voiced dropped to a whisper at that last part, like she didn’t exactly want to admit it. And… she spoke of love in the past tense, not the present. She loved him a year ago. Not now.

“I still care about you, Draco.”

Oh, the pain of her words. She cared about him. But caring is not the same as love. He’d heard Astoria say that in his dream and it rang true in his ears. Hermione may as well have ripped his heart out a second time. He didn’t want her help. He didn’t want her pity for all that he’d been through.

He needed her love.

But apparently the only reason why she was really there was to see if he’d turned into a monster or if he was still human.

Draco released a long sigh of defeat.

“My life couldn’t possibly be spelled out in a book. And it sure as hell wouldn’t have a fairytale ending. If it’s a warm heart you seek, you need to look somewhere else.”

He didn’t give her the chance to explain that the book was neither fiction nor fairytale.

She wasn’t sure what she said wrong to cause him to leave exactly, but she knew she couldn’t force him to stay. She was about to cry out and beg him not to leave, but he had already breached her protection wards.

As soon as Draco came to the opening of the bridge, he immediately noticed his ride home had disappeared. He should’ve seen the glow of torches, but was met with darkness. The carriage was gone and he figured something must've spooked the Thestrals to make them leave.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw movement and quickly withdrew back under the bridge and headed straight toward her bench and back into her protection wards.

“What is it?” she asked alarmed.

“Hit Wizards are crawling everywhere. You have to get out of here now or they will arrest you for aiding a fugitive. I’ve been gone too long. We both know all they have to do is walk through the barrier to see us together. Go!” he whispered forcibly.

Neither Draco nor Hermione was afraid of them. They’d seen and come up against much worse. Draco’s true fear was awaiting trial in a tiny cell for months instead of being home and having her go through a lengthy interrogation for nothing. He turned around to see four of them with wands at the ready.

There were three others coming from the other end of the tunnel and closing in fast and about to step through the protection wards and arrest them.

“I thought for sure I saw him come in here.” Hermione and Draco heard one of them say, the voice muffled.

“He’s here. I can feel it,” said another.

They all stared at each other, unsure. The protections had worked perfectly.

“Either he has a wand… or someone is helping him,” he paused momentarily and then his eyes lit up knowingly. “A woman!”

One stepped closer and by the embroidered patches on his black cloak, Hermione could tell he was the leader of the group.

“Draco Malfoy!” he bellowed. “You are in blatant violation of Wizengamot orders! And so is the one aiding you.”

The man sneered, greedily looking forward to the arrest.

Just as the toe of the leader’s boot breached the protection barrier, Hermione grabbed the straps of her shoes and leaped to Draco, Apparating them both out of the tunnel and straight to the magical gates of Malfoy Manor. 
 

 

 





Author's Note:

Poor Draco can't see past his anger just yet. :(   Coming soon... Hermione faces the Manor and memories of her torture and happens upon his Death Eater mask. Much is revealed and the end is near...

Credits: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" by J.K. Rowling

Updates: 108,670 Reads and 367 have Favorited. Thank you from my heart!

 
 


Chapter 33: Facing Certain Truths at Malfoy Manor
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“You really need to work on your landings, Granger!”

The two had harshly fallen to the ground in the pitch blackness of Malfoy Manor after Apparating from the Hit Wizards about to arrest them.

“You didn’t get splinched did you?” she worried instantly. “I’m so sorry.”

“I’m fine,” he replied, picking himself off the gravel filled ground.

But she wasn’t fine. Hermione was in danger. She had gotten too close to a Venomous Tentacula plant.

“Ah!” she croaked as a barb stabbed into her upper right arm through her lacey shirt and broke off.

Draco instantly knew what happened and cursed under his breath.

“Come on. We need to get you some antidote.”

“Antidote for what? What was that?”

“Tentacula plant.”

“Venomous Tentacula?” she nearly hyper-ventilated at the thought, knowing what it could do to her. “It’s still in my arm.”

“Yes, come on.”

Hermione picked herself up, holding her now sore arm that was quickly becoming inflamed and bloody. She couldn’t believe he didn’t help her up, knowing full-well that she was injured. He was infuriating.

As soon as they entered the double door entrance of the manor, Hermione could only think of the venom working its way through her body.

“Tentacula anti-venom, Mother,” he heard Draco say. “She Apparated me home and landed too close,” he explained in as few words as possible.

Narcissa’s eyes grew wide at the sight of the young lady entering her home behind Draco.  She was holding her arm just under a needle-like barb still stabbing her. The wound dripped scarlet liquid through gray lace.  But never mind the injury, Narcissa recognized her as the Mudblood girl Draco loved!

“Mother, anti-venom!” Draco demanded, snapping his mother out of her shock.

“Of course,” she hurriedly agreed, attempting to clear the worrisome fog from her head.

As soon as Narcissa was out of ear-shot, Hermione went for the nearest chair to sit down and began her rant.

“Who in their right mind would keep that kind of plant?” she hissed through her pain. “It’s insane.”

“To ward off unwanted magical creatures. But at least the insane keepers of such plants have enough sense to store plenty of the cure,” he bit back with sarcasm.

He didn’t want her in his home. He felt like a pouting child, unable to get his way. He knew that discussing her torture was inevitable and he hated the thought of it. He didn’t want to talk about it. The last thing he wanted to hear was the level of hatred she now harbored against him.

He cursed the plant for doing this. After she Apparated them, he should’ve said goodbye and bid her an abrupt farewell.

Narcissa returned with all that she needed and set various supplies on a side table.

Hermione watched as the woman removed the venomous barb, which made her wince slightly.

“Draco, turn away,” his mother instructed. When she turned her attention back to Hermione, she explained, “You are going to have to remove your blouse; at least partially, so I can get to the wound.”

Hermione didn’t care what she had to do to get the slowly creeping venom out. And she didn’t quite care if Draco was watching or not.

He rolled his eyes and took a spot behind them, wondering how his mother would feel knowing he’d already seen Hermione’s fully naked body pressed against his while bathing together in the Prefect’s Bathroom at school. He would spare the Pureblood woman the heart attack she’d surely have.

As soon as the cool balm of the antidote was placed on the diamond shaped wound, Hermione felt better. It smelled of aloe and herbs and had the calming effect of aromatherapy.

While Narcissa worked the wide white gauze around her arm, Hermione lifted her eyes to her surroundings and let her senses evaluate her current situation.

The first thing that caught her eye was the largest Grandfather clock she’d ever seen. It was so old and ornate, she assumed it had belonged to Draco’s grandfather’s grandfather or something. There was no doubt that it had seen multiple generations of Malfoys.

To the left was a large ornately carved office desk whose lacquer made it shine, even in low light.

The drapes were a heavy luxurious material with perfectly placed pleats and swags, embroidered and fringed with delicate silver threading.

A magical portrait hung without its main subject. It would seem odd, except that it matched the magical portraits of Hogwarts… emptied by the people who had once occupied them.

The wallpaper was gray with a pattern of black flourishes that when out of focus, seemed to jump from the walls three-dimensional-like. It was mesmerizing.

Her toes sunk into the most wonderfully soft carpet her bare feet had ever felt. She briefly wondered where her shoes had gone, but quickly decided that she didn’t care.

The place was exquisite and shouted of old money.

But then something drew her eyes up to the high ceiling of the room where a gorgeously painted witch glared down at her in disgust. As Hermione scanned the mural, she caught a glint of the dragon’s eye as it protected a prophecy ball. She marveled at its realistic image. But then she read the blonde witch’s banner, “Puris Cruor.” And that’s when Hermione nearly ceased breathing.

Draco noticed her head tilted to the ceiling and knew very well what she was gawking at.

“Oh, God, kill me now,” he uttered under his breath.

Only when Narcissa began speaking did Hermione begin to breathe again.

“Sorry about the plant. It doesn’t normally attack humans. Your sudden appearance must’ve startled it,” she said finishing. “And look, your pretty blouse is saved,” she added.

Hermione absent-mindedly put her bandaged arm back into the lacey sleeve of her shirt.

She couldn’t believe Narcissa Malfoy had just apologized for a shrub’s behavior, but had not apologized for the torture that happened in her home. She didn’t know if she should be grateful or appalled.

She almost thought Narcissa’s acts were kind, but for the mural overhead telling her differently. She was still a Mudblood in a house of a Pureblood line that went on for generations. And the mural was there to present an obvious, clear message. She would never be welcome in this place. Ever.

The thought shook her and sent horrifying shivers. Bloody hell, what was she doing here?

Any kindness shown her was an illusion and Hermione had a sick notion that the look of disgust on the painted woman’s face hovering above her most likely mirrored Narcissa’s true sentiments. And for a split second, she felt a surge of desperation in wanting to run to Draco for protection from the hatred lurking… hatred that was sure to bring pain.

She could not bring herself to voice a thank you to Narcissa. So, Hermione nodded merely for the sake of not wanting to be rude.

“Thank you, Mother,” Draco voiced deeply… a quiet calm, clearly wanting his mother to make her leave so the two could be alone.

The hour was getting late, so Narcissa thought it best to retire to her bedchambers, graciously giving them the space they needed. But she bid neither of them a farewell as she retreated in icy silence.

“Pure Blood?” Hermione translated the Latin, gazing at the mural above her head. “She protects your Pureblood future; her and her dragon.” If looks from a portrait could kill, she’d be dead, she thought.

Draco stood utterly ashamed of it. But before Draco could think of anything to say, Hermione was on her feet. Her brave curiosity wanted to see the room across the grand foyer. It had a familiar chandelier hanging high above the dark wood flooring. As she got closer, it flickered to life, casting a candlelit glow on everything in the room.

Her bare feet moved along the smooth wood, a century of use had softened and worn it down giving her the feeling of walking on silk.

She remembered this room.

Draco followed her, allowing her this quiet moment of peace to remember the chaos.

A hand went to her throat when she looked straight up to ceiling, just like the day when his aunt Bellatrix had a knife to it.

It was the same chandelier, but a thousand crystals had been replaced with new and again Hermione was mesmerized, this time by the thousand tiny reflections; like a micro burst of stars. She took in a shaky breath and as she let it out, her head moved downward slowly until she was staring at the blackened wood floor.

Draco was transfixed watching her. He wasn’t sure how she was still standing and not collapsed onto the floor, sobbing as she relived her nightmare. But she stood amazingly strong. And he could only watch and be in awe of the display of inner-strength in front of him.

Never in her life did she ever expect to walk through this room again. When she woke that very day, she had only hoped to talk to Draco at a graveyard. She hadn’t seen this moment coming; never expected it. But here she was.

She turned slowly toward him, trying to think of something to say, but words; they wouldn’t come.

“I um…” Draco started, unsure of his words. “I failed… that day,” he said, trying to breathe normally. “In a moment so fast, like the speed of light, a test of character hails from the sky… and in a blink deci