Chapter 7 : Of Changed Paths and Sudden Discoveries
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“Bloody Arsehole!” He yelled as he launched towards the other boy. “Keep your hands away from her!”
“Ron please stop!” He ignored her words and pulled back for another punch. “Ron he didn’t mean it!”
He felt hands on his arms, trying to restrain him, but he tugged and pulled at them, trying to get his hands around the neck of the disgusting boy before him. “You stay away from her.” He growled as he felt the hands on his arms tighten.
The boy raised his head, eyes gleaming and blood streaming from his nose. “She’s not your property, Weasel Bee.” He grinned crookedly and turned his eyes to hers. He noted how still she became as those eyes gazed over her. How much brighter the marks around her swollen eye became and how transfixed she was. There was no fear. “She belongs to me more than you could ever know.”
He struggled again and pulled against those who were holding him back and the blonde staggered to his feet. She caught him in her arms and they shared a slow, deep kiss. He felt nails biting into his biceps now but finally he broke away and began to run towards them. Everything started to go black as he struggled forwards. It was as if he was running through water, and with every step he took they were two more steps away. Soon they had all but disappeared and the black completely came across his vision. Ron woke up panting and sweating in his own bed.
Ugh. I’m going to be late. I’m going to be late. Hermione was scrambling around trying to locate her other heel which had decided to hide on her. I don’t even want to go on this stupid trip. Harry and Ron are acting stupid, Ginny is being ridiculous, and Malfoy is going to be there. She snatched the shoe, which peeked out from behind her trunk and slipped it on her foot as she hopped to the door. Of course I see him all the time. Day and night. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner. Homework, meetings, and then tutoring. I just can’t get away from him.
As she reached the door she grabbed her jacket, which was lain across a chair, and then flew out her dorm room and down the stairs into the common room. Thankfully, Draco was no where to be seen as she slipped her jacket on and exited their dorms. The hallway was mostly deserted and very cold. She hugged her arms around herself and mentally ran through the list of things she had to pick up while she was in Hogsmeade. If she was going to be subjected to the trip, she might as well make it worthwhile. For the briefest flicker of a moment she wished she could slip into some other group of friends for the day, considering the only ones she had were mad at her.
As she skipped down the steps that led into the courtyard, her breath beginning to fog out before her, she realized that that was untrue. She did not want to join just any group of friends. She certainly did not want to join Malfoy’s.
“Hermione!” She stopped abruptly and turned towards the source of the voice. “Hermione where have you been?!” Padma Patil was much taller than she had been last year, and her hair had been cut into a short bob that ended right above her shoulders. Next to her, her sister was smiling, much shorter, and with far longer hair, but her eyebrow was pierced. Hermione stared at them, wondering when they had changed so very much. “Hermione, girl, where have you been all this year!?”
“I… I’ve been here.” She stuttered.
The girl’s laughed and each slipped an arm through hers. “Today you simply have to, like, walk around with us! We’re going to, like, all the best stores!” They steered her away despite her meager attempts to shake loose. They continued to jabber, like chickadees, to her as they neared the group of students huddled together waiting for the carriages to Hogsmeade.
Parvati was detailing her new pair of boots to Hermione when they passed Ron, Harry, and Ginny, standing with Seamus and Dean. Hermione tried to catch one of their eyes but as soon as she was in view each and every single one of them turned their backs on her. All except Harry, who cast her a woeful look, and then put a hand on Ron’s shoulder, who shrugged him violently off. Harry said something in his ear and he turned around, whispering something angrily back to Harry, who whispered something back and Ron looked immediately as if the wind had blown out of his sails. He turned to her but her vision was suddenly blocked by another body.
“Granger.” A deep, familiar voice said from above her head.
With an inner groan she looked up at Malfoy. “What do you want?”
He smiled crookedly at her before making a sweeping gesture towards a carriage that she now noticed held the Head’s symbol.
“We have to ride together?” She said a bit too loudly. Next to her he laughed as he took her arm and began to walk towards the carriage.
She turned with pleading eyes to the twins, but they were staring in awe at the blonde dragging her away. “We’ll see you in Hogsmeade!” They chorused together before turning to each other and whispering excitedly.
“Can’t you let go of my arm now?” She said up at him as they reached the carriage door. It was the first in the line, heading the train of student bearing coaches. He smirked as he opened the door and rudely stepped in before her, ensuring she would have to lift herself in after him without help. “You are an indecent creature, Draco Malfoy.” She sneered at him as she finally managed to clamor into her seat.
He set his gaze fully on her and smiled, a mouth full of dazzling teeth. “I’ve been told as much.”
She crossed her arms and decided she didn’t have the energy to banter with him today. She settled comfortably into the crook of the seat as the carriage lurched forward. “Why didn’t you just have that Zabini kid, or Parkinson ride with you in here? I would have just gone with the Patils.”
“It wasn’t for your benefit, although you should be thanking me for saving you from those two-” he stopped to search for a word but apparently couldn’t find one that matched the grimace on his face, so continued. “But as much as you would have enjoyed their company, is about equal to how much I enjoy Zabini and Parkinson’s.”
She sat upright, leaning forward, interested in this little bit of information. “I thought they were your friends. Or rather, the nearest thing someone like you could call friends.”
“Someone like me . . “ He mulled that phrase over for a moment before smiling at her. “I suppose you could say that.”
She huffed and leaned back in her seat. “You’re in an awfully chipper mood.” She pouted into her scarf. Was it just her then? She was the only one who was so glum?
He looked out the window and was silent for the rest of the trip, and she did not push anything out of him. Whatever it was that had altered his personality, it probably existed with brevity and therefore should not be over analyzed, else wise her head would hurt more than it did presently. Merlin forbid.
Upon arrival in Hogsmeade she dropped from the depths of their carriage first, then quickly scuttled into the crowd to be lost amidst the sea of strangers before any twins or ex best friends could sight her.
Later that night she was settled into the couch before her tutoring session, waiting for Malfoy, a letter clutched in her hand. It had oddly been delivered by Owl Post during dinner and she was curious to the contents, but she had a horrible foreboding sensation.
She finally gave in to her curiosity and unfolded the letter.
How is this year so far? I imaging you are doing wonderfully. You always had a beautiful talent for embracing the idyllic senses of the mind. You’ve always captivated people; I was always captivated by you, I always will be. You are the most beautiful daughter a mother could ask for, outwardly and inwardly.
Do you remember the man I wrote of? Oh dear, did I write you of him? Things have been in such a state of upheaval since you left that I don’t know what to do with myself! I fear my mind has gone a-wandering and lost it’s self in those fields of imagination I know you traverse so often.
Dear, I digress so easily. I was writing to tell you there is no need to return home for Christmas break! I know you love to stay there with your friends, maybe you can go to the Weasley’s again this Christmastide, I know you love that! As for me, I will be in Paris with Ricardo. Oh Hermione, aren’t you ever so excited? I think Ricardo might propose! I must remember not to be a scatter brain when in France, I talk too much sometimes, do I not?
I’m sorry this note is so very short, but Ricardo is waiting in the car, we have French lessons and then we’re going to dinner at his parent’s house. His parents Hermione!
Give Harry and Ron my Christmas wishes, and I will see you in the spring!
“Ricardo?” She whispered under her breath. “Ricardo?” Her breath hitched as she analyzed the note once again, her eyes blurring. Don’t come home for Christmas break? “Paris? Mother is going to Paris?” She crumpled the note up violently as disdain for her mother washed over her. Paris for Christmas with Ricardo and she dos not want me there. “Propose!?” She unwrinkled the letter and read the lines over and then leapt to her feet and thrust it into the fire, watching as it burst into flames. That’s what I think of Ricardo, Mother. I hope you have a nice flounce in Paris.
She turned abruptly, falling backwards on her hands as if she were a child caught with her hand in the cookie jar. She could feel the hot embers very close to her fingertips. It was uncomfortably warm.
He cocked his head to the side, one eye crinkling a bit as he regarded her coldly. “Are you ready to go?”
She took a deep breath and shoved the entire letter to the back of her mind as she rose to her feet. “Yah.” She said brightly. “I was just waiting for you.” She didn’t move. He raised his eyebrows and gestured that she should then start walking towards the door so they could leave, and feeling like an idiot, she did so.
He walked a few paces behind her as they traversed the empty halls, until they reached the studio, where he stepped before her to enter the room first.
“Alright let’s start right away.” He said quietly. “You warmed up after dinner right?”
She nodded as she took her place before the mirror.
“Good. Arms up.” He commanded as he lit the torches that surrounded the room. She did as he said, only she now anticipated these exercises, she half tuned him out as he called out directions to her, she was far away, fuming over her mother’s letter. Fuming over a past she wished she could forget. Ricardo shouldn’t bother her so much. But Ricardo was not her father.
“You need to get this.” He said as he slid down the mirror front, coming to a halt against the ground. “She’s testing us tomorrow. You know that. You need to pass. What is it that’s on your mind tonight? What the hell is stopping you?” He shouldn’t have been growing frustrated. He shouldn’t have outwardly showed his frustration because he knew by now that all that did was cause her to lock up more.
She huffed and crossed her arms, coming out of the position she had been attempting to hold. “What do you care if I fail or pass?”
“What you do now reflects me.” He growled at her. “If you fail that test tomorrow it shows one of two things; either I can’t teach you, or you can’t dance.” He stopped, his voice dropping. “And I know it’s neither of those things.”
The air whooshed from her lungs and she suddenly felt very empty, she cast her eyes downward obediently. She needed to quit the obstinate routine. Malfoy or not he was trying to help her save herself from herself. “How can you be so sure?”
He didn’t reply. He rose from the floor and walked to the stereo, hitting the large button on the front. A light and airy tune flooded the semi dark room; a violin, cello and flute trio.
“Take your stance.” He said.
She closed her eyes and let the music fill her before slowly obeying.
She couldn’t do this. Her mind panicked. She could not do this. He was asking the impossible.
“Arms up.” He said.
She raised her shaking limbs, her eyes on the mirror now, but focused above her head so she could not see herself. She hated that reflection. Her eyes reminded her of her mother’s. Her nose was her father’s. Her stance was that of a stranger. She tuned it out.
“Prepare!” He commanded. She was no longer sure of where he was, she wasn’t seeing clearly anymore. He was a disembodied voice, telling her to walk up the stairs and not peek from beneath the black bag over her head. She would hang soon. It would be over soon.
Her legs locked and every muscle in her body screamed in protest. She panicked as she tried to relax them, but only caused herself to panic more and tighten more. She was reliving the nightmare. The floor was falling beneath her and the noose was tightening.
He’s gone forever.
Her eyes clenched shut as she fought back the pain.
We’ll have to move on. You and I. We can do it. We can live without him. We don’t need him.
“Up!” He called to her.
She took a deep breath as her muscles obeyed jarringly where her mind could not and suddenly she had taken that final step off the executioner’s block. She had hurtled herself off the cliff, kicked the chair from beneath her. Everything was falling away and the ground was rising up to meet her. She collapses, gathering her wounded self into a huddled mass. She pulled her legs to her chest and allowed the tears to fall freely.
Oh Hermione, aren’t you ever so excited? I think Ricardo might propose!
There was a moment while he stood there staring at her in shock, at her crumpled body, her shrunken posture, where something clicked inside of him. It was as if someone had flicked a switch, or thrown a lever. Something to jump start his cold heart which was rapidly beating in his chest.
So now he knew. Now he knew he could have walked away at any point in time and why he had not. Now he knew why when he was adjusting her position he so delicately ran his hands over her arms and legs, adjusting her waist just so. Now he understood why his assignments were not being done and he wasn’t eating dinner. Why he was here in this studio with this girl who was everything he was told to hate.
Emotions make you weak my son.
He full heartedly agreed to this statement at that very moment when he gazed at her tears pooling in a silver puddle on the dance floor.
And he also came to the startling conclusion that he didn’t give a damn.
“Hermione?” He asked softly as he knelt next to her. He reached a hand out towards her but she pulled away quickly and without a ward she had pushed herself to her feet and staggered across the studio, the door slamming shut behind her with a violent thud. It was that noise that woke him up and he was after her immediately.
She was not in the hall and he had a horrible moment where he had to decide what direction he needed to go in. Giving over to his better judgment he took off for their Common Room. Normally he knew she would have gone to Weaslette or Potter, but he wasn’t blind and he had seen the way they had been treating her lately.
He ignored the blinding sensation the knowledge that it was his fault they were ignoring her thrust at him.
It took a matter of moments to reach the Common Room and he flew through the portrait and then shut it softly behind him as he entered the dark apartments. The living area was almost completely in blackness, but he could tell she was not there. He made his way through the kitchen, and then the hallway that led to the staircase that went up to their separate dorms. He stopped at the base of the stairs and strained to hear anything at all that might clue him in to which direction she had disappeared in. Silence greeted him coldly. He went up the stairs two at a time, forgoing his room on the assumption she would not choose to hide in there, checked her room, and then turned his attention to the dark bathroom door that was the end of the hallway. This was it. She had to be in there even though there was no light pouring from beneath the door frame.
He gently pushed the door open and stepped into the darkness, closing it behind him once more, closing himself in the dark space. Now he could hear her soft sobbing as he stepped farther into the darkness. He could not see anything in front of him and silently hoped he would not step on her.
He reached down until his fingers grazed the cold side of the bathtub and by the sound reaching his ears he knew she was perched on the edge of it. He slid to the ground before her as he hands groped through the darkness until they found her arm, and then her shoulder, and slowly her face wet with tears.
“Tell me.” He said softly. It was all the prompt she needed before collapsing in violent tears as if she was once again that eleven year old girl in her memories. He took her by the shoulders and pulled her to him as he fell back against the sink base and she settled against his chest, her face tucked into his neck, her tears sliding coldly beneath his collar.
He let her stay like that, immobile against him, his arms wrapped around her as she spent herself. He did not pretend to understand what was wrong, and he made no assumptions. The one thing he did know was Hermione Granger was a beautiful young woman who was strong at heart, strong like his mother. A girl who used to laugh and then suddenly turned into an upright cold being. A person who had a passion burning in them to dance. A fire he had seen in her eyes but not dared speak of. Someone who obviously knew how to dance and why to dance and had done it often. Someone like him.
He felt as if he was clutching a broken piece of glass. He wanted so badly to put it back together, to appreciate it’s former beauty. A stained glass window is not a stained glass window if broken and shattered on the floor. It no longer retains the entire picture, but the tiny shards still sparkle their individual colors; holding a hope of a greater picture to once more be brought to light. They are still beautiful pieces of glass, even when broken.
She suddenly regained her composure and pushed herself from his chest, but she did not move from where she had fallen against him on the cold floor. She seemed to be calculating everything that was happening, but couldn’t put it together.
He wished he could see her face.
“I’m sorry.” She said softly after a moment.
“Why?” He hadn’t meant to sound so cold. But old habits die hard.
She stiffened and pushed away from him till she was perched against the tub again. He leant his head against the sink base and closed his eyes. He had to be careful or he was going to hurt her. His tone was far too cold from years of embracing a cold demeanor. She didn’t know yet what he had discovered. She still saw Draco Malfoy; enemy number one.
“It’s been almost exactly six years.” She whispered.
“Six years since what?” He prompted gently.
She took a shuddering breath and went to say something, but it never left her mouth. He was resigning himself to having to find some other way to get her to talk to him when he heard her move and then felt a warmth on his side as she lifted one of his arms and snuggled against him beneath it. Desperately quelling the feelings that swamped through him head to toe, he relaxed as he heard her sigh.
“Six years since he left.”
Draco shifted so that he could find her face and ran a cold finger down her cheek bone. “Since who left?” He questioned.
“My father.” Her voice choked on the edge of that word. “It’s been six years since Father walked away from me and my mother. Six year since he packed his bags and left me alone.”
He didn’t know how to handle this situation, it was suddenly out of his control. He would probably have a party if his father ever decided to just pack his bags and leave. It would make his life so much more simple if he did so.
“I was eleven years old and the prima for the upcoming performance.” She whispered into the dark.
Suddenly he had a foreboding sense of danger fall over him. He was near the source of discovering why she no longer danced. He stiffened, not daring to move and frighten her and loose his chance at knowing what drove you so far you lost your passion.
“It was the upper class’s show, but the teacher asked me to perform the finale. I felt so important, strutting about in my specially colored leotard and tiara. I was the only one who got to wear white, and my father-” She strayed off for a moment. “-he tucked a white rose in my hair that morning.”
He tightened his arm around her. It felt unbelievably amazing to be sitting here with her.
“Before I left for the theatre they fought. Which wasn’t anything new, but this one was bad. I heard them screaming, but I hid in my room and covered my ears, pretending I was on stage and everyone was applauding for me. I couldn’t hear them fighting over all the applause. When we got in the car she told me he was leaving. She said we’d make it through without him and that we didn’t need him. All I could think about that night when I went on stage was everything that had happened. Things they had said. My father was the only one who supported my dream to dance, and yet he wasn’t there to see me. Mother thought I could never make a living doing it and ought to put my mind to books. With Father gone I had no chance of continuing my dream. All of these things kept running through my head and when I entered on stage I couldn’t force a smile to my face. I reached center stage and prepped for my big step, the Arabesque.” Her voice was becoming thick with tears again. “It had been the marvel of my studio, the Arabesque that I could execute, at the age of eleven. My teacher applauded me endlessly. My peers hated me for it. And there I was in my little leotard and tiara and I rose up on my Pointe shoes, my mind reeling and screaming at me that he was never coming back, and my knee buckle. I feel on my ankle, put myself in a cast for four months. I haven’t danced since.”
The quiet echoed around them as he groped for words to respond, to comfort her in some manner. He took hold of her firmly and moved her till she was pressed against his chest, his arms tightly wrapped around her and her face buried in his shirt. He pressed his cheek against her hair, breathing deeply the comforting scent. “You will dance now.” He said softly. “You and I. I’ll show you. I’ll help you remember.” And even though he knew she could not see his face, he pulled her back as if he could look her in the eyes. “And I swear to Merlin, next time you fall, I will catch you.”
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