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Chapter 8 : Chapter 8
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Behind haunted gray eyes that shone with unshed tears and the cold blue light of the room, Draco’s mind raced seamlessly between his loathsome past, precarious present, and grim future making sleep an impossible dream.
He remembered absolutely everything including how he was raised to the opinions and feelings he once held before being hit with the curse. At the same time, he also retained the memories of his time with Sarah. What she taught him, and how he had evolved into the man he was now.
After all was said and done, he considered the day he lost his memory to be the luckiest of his entire worthless life. He would have given anything to go back, and spend what time he had left being clueless with her. But those days were gone, and he had clearly, and definitively shut the door on ever having them back again. What faced him now was a cold, dark future that he very rightly deserved.
Draco rolled over to face the window. He looked out at the piercingly white moon, and wondered briefly if it was actually full. If not, it was pretty damn close. Suddenly, the door to his room opened emitting a soft warm light from the hall. Without rolling over to face his visitor, without moving his head to even acknowledge them, Draco’s eyes remained fixed on the celestial canvas outside.
With quiet resignation, he said, “I was wondering when you’d be by to fetch me.”
Hermione was suffering from a pounding headache, and her name was Lavender Brown.
After learning of Draco’s removal from the hospital by the Ministry the night before, Hermione went to seek out the therapist for a little one on one. Her intention, however, was not for a session, but rather to confront the woman about her possible involvement in this latest development.
She finally came upon the healer in Draco’s old room sitting on the bed staring out the window clutching his pillow to her chest. The picture this presented had almost softened Hermione to her mission. Almost.
She was able to get out that Lavender had gone to the Ministry with Draco’s mental change, and now she found herself in the middle of a heated argument with the woman.
“How could you just run to the Ministry, and tell them that Draco’s back to his old self?”
“You don’t understand what his words did to me. I… I just wasn’t thinking straight.” Lavender said defensively.
“It’s your bloody job to think straight!” Hermione yelled.
“I know that. Don’t you think I know that? I’ve never felt this way about anyone before. Sure there was Ron…”
“What do you mean there was Ron?”
Suddenly, it occurred to Lavender that Hermione may not have regained that particular memory yet, and she tried desperately to back peddle. Maybe if she only gave part of the truth, it wouldn’t seem so bad.
“Well, I just… I had a crush on him at Hogwarts in sixth year, but that was ages ago.”
But the wheels in Hermione’s head had already started to turn rehashing the memories, and bringing them to the forefront.
“You little bitch!” Hermione finally whispered threateningly. “You didn’t just have a crush on him. The two of you made my life a living hell for our entire sixth year!”
“We were teenagers Hermione. Of course everything feels larger than life…”
Hermione was not listening anymore. She began to pace about the room seething with rage.
“No. You are not going to shut me out on this. You’re recalling these memories as if they happened today, and the feelings you’re having are those of a sixteen year-old girl. You have to know these memories are well in the past, and that they were only the hormonal antics of teenagers.”
Hermione got right in her face. “You stole him from me. You were my dorm mate. You knew how I felt about him, and you took him anyway.”
“Hermione,” Lavender said grabbing Hermione’s forearms, and giving her a quick shake. “That was eight years ago. We were kids. It’s in the past. We’re both different now.”
“You haven’t changed one bit." Hermione bit out viciously. "You were vindictive back then, and you’re vindictive now. Ron broke it off with you, and you became a bitch to him. Draco makes a nasty comment, and you turn him into the Ministry.”
Lavender dropped her hands getting angry herself.
“Ron and Draco are two very different people to me.”
“They don’t look all that different from where I stand.” Hermione said with a cool bitterness.
“Ron was a bloody teenage crush. I’m in love with Draco Malfoy for Merlin’s sake.” Lavender screamed. “I can't believe I'm in love with Draco Malfoy of all people!”
A tense silence descended between them. Lavender’s chest was heaving with laboured emotional breaths, and Hermione stood paralyzed, shocked back to the present.
“No Hermione, you don’t understand,” she said as she turned, and walked away from Hermione.
“I’m in love with an awful man who will only ever consider me a mindless piece of garbage. You go along in life thinking you’re a strong, worthwhile, independent person, and then one day, you wake up and find that you’ve lost yourself to someone who thinks less of you than dirt. I hate that I’m one of those women who loves someone who treats them like shit. I never thought I’d let that happen to me. No matter what I tell myself to erase these feelings, I can’t make them stop. Even now, when I know he’s back to his old self, I still can’t stop.”
Lavender seemed to deflate completely after this emotional tirade, and collapsed in a heap on the floor staring off at nothing.
“What’s worse is that I’ve compromised my professionalism over this entire affair," she finally continued. "Hermione, I never did exceptionally well at Hogwarts. I had acceptable grades. Nothing outstanding. That whole situation with you and Ron really woke me up though. I wanted to be more than just a stupid tart. I can’t tell you how hard I studied, or how proud I was the day I earned my certification. And now, just like that, Draco has taken it all away with a few well-chosen words. I… I can’t continue here after this. My actions were in direct violation with the code of ethics I’m obligated to uphold.”
She buried her face in her hands, and her entire frame began to tremble.
Hermione could not move. She stared down at Lavender in absolute shock. Finally regaining her senses, she slowly dropped to her knees at Lavender’s side, and regarded her for a moment.
If Lavender was aware of Hermione’s close proximity, she didn’t let on. Gingerly, Hermione wrapped her arms around Lavender’s shaking form, and pulled her slightly toward her. Lavender bore no resistance, and moved into the embrace willingly.
In the silence that followed, Hermione’s mind reeled with the pain Lavender must be going through. Yes, she loved Draco too. And yes, it was excruciating to lose him to his former self, but she didn’t think she could handle it if she and Ron were in their position.
As misguided as Ron was sometimes, he loved her. And as if each hour was a day, and each day, a month, her feelings for him grew to the point she felt she was bursting. It wasn’t so much what he did or said now, but she knew her body and mind were reawakening to old feelings that had always been there. Each day, she didn’t think she could love, or miss him more, and yet she did.
She hadn’t seen him since the morning after their night together. She realized he must have been staying away because he thought she was angry with him, or even uncaring about him. She’d have to find a way to make it up to him.
Suddenly, a slight sniffle brought her back to the present, and she considered the plight of the woman in her arms. Lavender didn’t need her derision. She needed her sympathy, and support. And with that, Hermione held on tighter.
Draco sat in yet another dull gray room. One in a long line of dull gray rooms he’d been subjected to over the past several hours. He had been put through not one, but three interviews in which he’d had to answer what seemed like the exact same questions.
In the next two rooms, he’d had to complete two different written tests about himself. Well-known facts, if you would, about his life. The first was more basic, but the second delved into intensely personal information. It was apparent they wanted to ensure he actually had regained his memory, and wasn’t just trying to put one over on them. Why they cared was beyond him, but he did as they asked without argument.
In the fifth room, a bloke came in, and simply chatted with him for twenty minutes about nothing in particular. Then he was escorted to where he was now. In this, the sixth room, he was alone with Ginny for his daily potion treatment. Perhaps this was a sign he’d passed.
“Open,” Ginny said in a methodical voice interrupting his thoughts.
Draco was unable to administer the potions for himself. His hands had been bound behind his back for much of the day save for the two written tests.
He glared at her, but obeyed her instructions, and opened his mouth. She placed the cup to his lips, and slowly tilted it back allowing him to only take as much as he could handle.
When he started to convulse slightly, she pulled the cup away to allow him to cough and retch. He had yet to grow accustomed to the awful taste of the potions. As he finally recovered himself, he noticed she was far more watchful of him than usual. The attention made him uneasy.
“What the hell are you looking at Weaselette?” He sneered at her.
Ginny eyed him closely, and then said. “Nothing."
Her lack of offense at his unusual rudeness disturbed him slightly. He looked away as she continued their daily routine of his treatment.
“It must be really hard,” she finally said after a long silence.
“And what is that Weaselette? Please share,” he questioned frustration evident in his tone.
“Trying your hardest to act the way you used to.”
He snapped his head back to her, and pinned her with a vicious glare. But before he could respond, the door opened admitting Ron with a rectangular box under his arm.
“Hey Gin,” he called to her, “are you almost done?”
She sighed heavily. The real interrogation of Draco Malfoy was about to begin, and she wanted no part of it.
“Yes Ron,” she said packing everything back into her satchel, and gathering her cloak.
“What’s that you have there?” She asked testily. “I didn’t think the Ministry sanctioned torture.”
He gave her a disbelieving stare, and said, “It’s a chess set, Gin. The Council’s going to be a while, and I was taking you up on your suggestion to play a few rounds with him.”
Embarrassed by her previous accusation, Ginny reddened slightly, and said, “Right. Well, have fun.”
She looked back to Draco, and offered him a small sympathetic smile before leaving the room.
The two men regarded each other warily. Not liking the palpable tension in the air, Ron moved to sit in the chair opposite Draco who, in turn, sighed dramatically and looked around for a way out.
“I’m not talking to you Weasel, so give it up.”
“I’m not asking you to. I’m actually here because Gin told me you’re the best chess player she’s been beaten by besides me. I can’t have anyone challenging my title. So, I want a game.”
With the air of a five year old, Ron began to set up the chessboard. Draco couldn’t help but laugh at Ron’s enthusiasm and focus.
“Yes. Well, that and the Council is deliberating their next move with you, and that may take a while.” Ron offered quietly.
“Fine Weasley, whatever you want, but I can’t exactly play with my hands tied behind my back.”
Ron considered him for a moment. “Not a problem.”
Ron pulled out his wand, and Draco tensed up immediately as fear flickered through his eyes. Seeing this, Ron smiled at him reassuringly, and performed a simple charm to unbind Draco’s hands.
Draco brought his arms forward, and began rubbing his wrists where the restraints had dug in slightly.
“Let’s make this interesting though.” Ron continued. “If I win, you have to tell me the names of every bird you’ve ever shagged.”
“And if I win?”
Ron scoffed loudly. “Yah, right.”
Draco tried to send him the dirtiest look he could, but couldn’t hold the smirk back.
“Fine. If you win, I’ll tell you the same.”
“I have one condition.” Draco said somberly.
Ron tensed a little. “Go on.”
“If any of them is Hermione, I don’t want to know.”
They stared at each other for a long moment.
Finally breaking the silence, Ron said. “Well, I guess if you win, I really won’t have much to say then.”
Draco stared at him in shock, then burst out laughing, and a pink flush spread over Ron’s face.
“You romantic sop!” He managed through his peels of laughter. “Fine. Let’s play.”
A half an hour later, Draco was describing the unpleasantness of his very first time with Pansy Parkinson as Ron, through fits of giggles, begged him to stop. When Draco had finally finished his rather long list and the story to accompany each, Ron piped up. “Well that’s thirty minutes of my life I’ll never get back.”
“You’re the one who came up with the bet,” he accused Ron lightly.
Draco seemed to like the betting nearly as much as Ron did. They both enjoyed the risk. Ron, however, had an ulterior motive for continuing the gamble.
“Alright, I have a better one for you.”
At this, Ron took a deep cleansing breath, and seemed to become nervous.
“If I win, you have to tell me why you’re pretending to be the old you.”
Draco’s face fell instantly.
“If you win, I’ll go out there, and tell them you’re the same surly, pompous git you’ve always been.”
Draco eyed him cautiously, but then came to a decision.
Another half hour passed, and Ron had just barely beaten Draco.
“Alright, you know the cost of losing,” Ron said with a wide grin on his face.
“Fine,” Draco spat out begrudgingly.
He inhaled deeply, and ran his hands through his hair, before finally bringing them forward to be clasped in front of him.
“Ron, I remember everything,” he began reluctantly. “Every person I cursed, or insulted, or hurt, or… killed. Their faces are burned into my mind for the rest of my life. I agree with Colin. I deserve to be punished, and I don’t think a simple slap on the wrists will suffice.”
“Mate, I think you’re living through your punishment. Being who you are now, it must be hell to know you did those things, and there’s nothing you can do to go back and change them.”
Draco nodded quickly, but averted his eyes to regain his composure.
“It’s not just that Ron. Some of the things I did were…” He paused to find a suitable description. “They were vile, and disturbing. What’s worse, I remember enjoying it at the time. It makes my stomach turn every time I think on it. Even though I’m sorry for it, my victims deserve some kind of retribution. In all rights Ron, I should be put to death for some of the things I’ve done.”
“Is that why you said those nasty things to Hermione, and Lavender?” Ron asked apprehensively.
“They deserve better, a life without pain, or judgment. I don’t really see a future for myself without those two things present.”
Draco was quickly withdrawing into a sullen state.
“Let’s play another one.” Ron interjected.
Recognizing he was not in the position to make the proposition just yet, Draco said. “Alright. What’s the wager this time?”
“How about this? If I win, you have to tell Lavender, and Hermione why you acted the way you did, and that you didn’t mean it.”
Here, Draco visibly stiffened, but before he could protest, Ron kept going.
“If you win, I promise to tell them both that you’re a right git, and that… that I think they should stay away from you.”
Draco seemed to consider the risk against the painful reward.
Unfortunately for both, Ron lost.
The rest of the afternoon proceeded in very much the same manner, however, they played for wagers of far less importance. Both won and lost, and enjoyed immensely the challenge of finally playing a worthy adversary.
“So, what’s it going to be this time?” Draco asked jovially through a light chuckle. Save for the first few rounds, this had been quite an enjoyable venture.
For his part, Ron felt ready to make the ultimate wager. He steeled himself, and knew this game would be on par with his life-sized match of first year.
He took in a ragged breath, and released it slowly.
“If I win, you agree to provide the Ministry with everything you know - names, places, and events of any, and all Deatheater, and Dark Arts activity - in exchange for a considerably lessened punishment.”
Draco’s face was a blank.
“Ron, that’s not something you can offer me.”
“Yes, it is. The Ministry would give anything for the opportunity to get their hands on that kind of information. Plus, at least some good would come from all the bad things you’ve done in the past.”
“And if I win, what then?”
Here was the true gamble.
“I make sure you go away for a very long time.”
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