Chapter 1 : I've Become So Numb
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He stopped abruptly, spinning around, anger dripping from his expression. “Shut up!” he growled. “Just shut up!”
A sudden pain erupted in her chest but she couldn’t pry her fingers from the railing. “Draco!” this time it was a plea; a begging question that only sought out answers, answers attached to no more pain. But that was impossible.
“I don’t care!” she cried, “I don’t care what he thinks! I don’t care what he says! Oh Merlin, oh please, don’t! Please! Don‘t leave me!” Her voice snapped at the end of her shriek. She couldn‘t rein herself back in. She couldn’t pull herself back.
“Goodbye, Granger,” he said, emotionless.
“No!” she screamed, her legs collapsing from beneath her. The world seemed to go on forever, echoing across the large empty space between them.
He stalled for a moment, his back to her so she could not see his face. She could not see the tormented anguish twisting his expression. He had to get out. He had to get out or she would die. She would die, and her blood would be on his hands.
The truth be told, she was already dying and his hands were permanently stained with her blood, and nothing, not her tears, and not even his, could ever remove the mark.
He strode purposefully to the door, violently almost wrenching it off its iron hinges, and then he slammed it shut behind him as he stepped into the heavy rain, pulling his hood over his face.
The wind breezed carelessly through the trees, fresh and laden with the scent of freesia. He cringed and tugged his heavy cloak tighter around him, ignoring desperately how the air around him was saturated with her scent.
He could have apparated but as the rain soaked through his cloak and the wind picked up, he longed to feel the feelings. Anything. Anything to drag him from his pit of numbness he had been living in. Now, like a bubble, it had grown until it burst and everything had erupted.
He reached the sprawling manse far quicker than he had imagined he would. Or perhaps it had been longer, but his mind was so far gone now that he couldn’t be sure.
“Don’t move,” he whispered in her ear as his arm snaked around her.
She squirmed anyway beneath his cold hands. “What took you so long?” she asked as she sat up, her hair falling gently around her shoulders. He smiled softly at how adorable she was.
“Nice pajamas,” he said pointedly, a crooked smile tugging at his lips.
She didn’t even blush as she shrugged and looked down at the overly large, over-long black shirt she was wearing.
“You and I are going shopping,” she said as he rolled over, pinning her beneath him in one fluid movement
“We are, are we?” he murmured as his lips brushed her neck.
“Did you know your entire wardrobe is black?” she continued.
He chuckled into her hair, breathing deep. “That’s not true,” he said as he moved to her shoulders. “There’s a few white shirts in there too.” His hands ran lightly up her arm until it met her own, his fingers curling tightly into hers.
She sighed and suddenly remembered why she had previously been so anxious.
With a hand on his chest she pushed him back. “Where were you?” she asked.
He slid off the edge of the bed, his back to her. So she suspected.
He tried to summon the empty emotionless pit he had created for himself to live in, only to find that with her so close he couldn’t find it.
She scooted to the edge of the bed, “You’re doing it again,” her voice contained tiny shards of pain and long cracks of anger. He was falling into that state that caused her so much frustration; he was withdrawing.
“Doing what?” he turned around quickly, his anger bristling. She had no idea. She lived in a state of euphoric ignorance; blissfully unaware of the danger surrounding her.
“You’re pushing me away,” she said bitterly. “You’re shutting me out.”
Shut her out. The command rang in his ears and he turned his back on her again. Cut her off. He closed his eyes, the memory of his orders assaulting him.
“I can’t keep living like this,” she declared. ”I can’t stay in the dark,” Her voice was soft but he was so hurt by her words that he reeled on her.
“What?” she asked, her mind incapable of comprehending what Draco had just said.
He strode toward her in long strides, grabbing her arms tightly as he reached her. “Rather,” he growled, “I’m leaving.” He glared at her shocked expression than turned on her, concreting his resolve to get out. He’d leave now so that he’d never have to follow his orders. He’d be long gone.
“No!” she said vehemently. “No don’t leave.” He was already out the bedroom door and halfway down the stairs when she started out the door after him.
“Draco, I love you! You can’t just walk out!”
He allowed his mother’s voice to enter his head, her soft lullaby hum drifting through his mind, blocking her screams.
I will choose my own fate, he promised himself. I will leave and she will live. I will not be like him.
He had reached the bottom of the stairs and was striding across the empty foyer as she reached the railing.
“Draco!” A sharp voice cut through his thoughts. “Draco, what are you doing here?”
He looked up at a face that greatly resembled his own and fought to keep the hate from burning visibly in his eyes.
“Hello father,” he said stiffly as he rose from the black armchair he had been sitting in. His father looked greatly out of place amidst the books of the library Draco had escaped to after his arrival.
“What are you doing here?” his father repeated the question in a demanding hissed tone.
“I live here,” he shot back coldly. The truth was he hadn’t lived here since his mother’s suicide and he never would again. But for now he had nowhere else to go.
“No,” his father corrected coldly, “You live with a Mudblood slut.”
Draco had to remain silent until the searing white cleared from his vision and his jaw unlocked enough to retort, “Not anymore,” he spat.
Lucius regarded him venomously for a moment. “So, she’s dead.” It wasn’t a question.
“Yes,” Draco grit his teeth. “Just like you said.”
An expression that would have been a smirk on any other man crossed his father’s face. “Emotional ties make you weak, son,” he said.
“Mother made no one weak,” he retorted so quickly he was unprepared for the staggering blow he received.
“You do not mention that woman to me,” his father hissed. “She does not exist. Not in this house. Not now. Not ever.”
Draco slowly recovered from the stinging blow as his father’s painful words sunk in.
He was alone in the library by the time he was able to move again.
“Mother exists,” he said in a soft whisper. “She always will.” The echo was unheard except for the dusty volumes around him. His thoughts reached out to Hermione, sitting cross-legged in an overstuffed armchair, a book teetering on her knees and a small smile on her face. This room, his mother’s sanctuary, was now a tormenting solace to him.
He moved carefully, terrified to disturb the gentle memories of the two women that were the only comfort he could find. Before long he found himself at the far wall of the room, a wall bedecked with portraits, and not one smiling expression.
The family portraits traced back as far as time, stacked one above another, reaching up to a ceiling he could not see. He slowly walked down the wall, gazing emptily at the latest row. Three fourths of the way down the wall he stopped, two portraits in particular catching his eye.
The first was taken before a dark gothic fireplace and was faded far more than the other before it. Standing in the center was a proud, pale figure with an angry scar diagonally across his face. Next to the man was a brilliantly raven haired beauty of a woman, and finally, seated in a stiff-backed chair on the man’s right was a young blonde man with a sharp chin and dark eyes.
Draco’s grandfather’s gaze was hate-filled and aimed at the young man; his father. Lucius stared straight ahead. Draco’s grandmother’s eyes were cast downward submissively. Hers was a face that had been untarnished by a smile for a long time.
The portrait next to it was taken next to a large willow tree. A cold lean man held the focus point in the center, this time a young man, who was almost identical in appearance, was standing next to him, his eyes towards the beautiful blonde woman, his mother, who stood to the left of his father.
Draco recognized the loathing glare his father bestowed upon him in the portrait and turned back to the portrait of his grandparents and father, hate boiling in the pit of his stomach.
“Master Draco,” a soft voice said from beneath his right elbow. As he looked down at the old bent houself it was only the thought of Hermione that kept him from kicking her across the room for intruding.
“We all miss her,” she continued, gazing softly at the final family portrait.
Draco’s fists clenched.
“Master is a wicked man,” the house elf said quietly.
“What?” Draco asked incredulously.
“Forgive Desty,” the house elf bowed but continued anyway. “Desty speak out of turn. Master not well liked by house elves here,” the old creature said.
Draco wondered if this particular house elf had a death wish.
“Master seems surprised,” Desty noted. “Master is of course aware of what happened to the Mistress,” the house elf spoke so softly when speaking of his mother.
Draco was overcome with sadness and anger. “I know my mother killed herself if that’s what you are getting at,” he said through ground teeth.
The house elf turned to him in alarm. “Mistress? Kill herself?” she squeaked.
“Yes,” Draco said as he turned his eyes to the beautiful woman in the portrait. “They found her body crumpled in the middle of the foyer, where it had fallen after she had flung herself over the staircase,” he finished dispassionately. He had always held a small bubble of resentment in his chest toward his mother for doing it and leaving him there alone.
“Mistress did not throw herself over the railing!” the house elf squeaked indignantly, “She was pushed!”
“Pushed?” he turned back to the wall of portraits.
“By Master Malfoy,” the house elf hissed with searing resentment.
Do away with her. Emotional ties make you weak, son. His father’s words rang in his head as he saw the situation fully.
His father had killed his mother.
He had been told that emotions were a weakness and done away with the woman who placed herself in his care; a woman Draco had loved.
And now he was pushing Draco to make the same decision.
Suddenly he was overcome by thousands of emotions at once and with an angry yell he put his fist through the portrait of his father.
He would not walk the path his father wished. He was tired of being what his father wanted him to be. Blood trickled over his knuckles and for the first time; he was no longer numb. He felt the pain and he relished in it. Draco was no longer numb.
He had to find her.
Draco ran from the library, racing to the front of the manor, only to stop abruptly at the bottom of the grand staircase.
Draco’s heart was beating rapidly in his chest. She had come after him. He went to run up the stairs but he got no further than four steps before his father stepped from the shadows, a hand firmly grasping the back of her neck.
“Get your filthy hands off her!” Draco started up the stairs again but came to a sudden stop as Lucius pushed the sobbing girl against the railing. “Hermione,” he cried.
“Draco,” his father drawled. “Look what just walked in.” He gave her a rough shove and she cried out in pain as the stone railing bit into her stomach. “The Mudblood slut you told me was dead.” He gave her another shove and she cried out in acute pain.
Draco instinctively reached for his wand. “Release her.”
His father laughed.
“I said let go of her!”
Hermione couldn’t even look up at him; her neck was locked so firmly in place by his father’s hand.
Lucius pulled his own wand from his robe and pointed it at Hermione as he released her roughly and stepped back.
Draco didn’t dare move.
“Hermione are you alright?” he called to her, but she refused to look at him. “I love you,” he said roughly. “You hear that? I love you.”
His father snarled and waved to her and Hermione took an unsteady step onto the railing.
“What are you doing!” he cried as she got her second foot braced on the cold stone.
His father laughed in the background. “The girl and I made a deal,” he said.
Draco’s expression became pained as she straightened, teetering precariously on the edge.
“She’s going to jump,” his father proclaimed. “She’s going to kill herself. Her choice was to jump or you’d be the one to end her life.” He turned a sarcastic eye towards the silent girl. “She said you’d never be able to kill her,” he laughed. “I said if you didn’t, I’d kill you in front of her, and then kill her anyways.”
“Hermione,” Draco said painfully, but she still refused to turn her eyes to meet his, resilient tears were streaming down her cheeks.
“Do you see now, Draco?” his father hissed. “Attachment to another human being makes you weak! If this foolish girl didn’t fool herself into thinking she loved you and that you even had the capacity to love, then she’d live to see the sun set this day.”
In a final attempt to detract his father, Draco proclaimed, “I know you killed Mother!” After his outcry things fell from his control too quickly to stop.
His father growled and lunged towards him. Draco sidestepped him and Lucius stumbled head first down the two flights of marble stairs, landing with a sickening crunch on the shining floor below, unmoving.
Draco turned quickly to Hermione, only to find she was not standing on the railing anymore. “Hermione!” he flew to the rail, but the floor beneath was empty. His heartbeat quickened. “Hermione!”
A small noise drew his gaze to the left hand stair case’s second level landing, where a crumpled body was strewn, still and unmoving.
“No!” He raced down the flight of stairs, collapsing next to her and pulling her into his arms. “Hermione, Oh Merlin, please no.”
She groaned, slightly stirring.
“Hermione!” he cried, brushing her hair away from the sticky wound on her forehead.
“Draco?” she asked groggily gazing into a tear streaked face.
“I thought you were dead!” he hugged her close.
“I cast a cushioning charm on the floor,” she said as her eyes drifted shut.
He was filled with so many feelings at once he couldn’t respond.
“Draco?” she asked after a moment.
Draco took a deep breath, pulling her gently away from him for a second.
“He killed your mother? H-he murdered his wife?”
Painful tears filled his eyes as he nodded. “Were you really going to jump?” he whispered.
“Yes,” she said without thought. “I love you.”
Draco pulled her close again. “He was wrong,” he declared. “It’s not emotions that make you susceptible. It’s not feeling love, or sadness,” he cast his eyes to the crumpled man that had once tormented him. “It’s not feeling these things that make you weak; it’s not feeling them at all.”
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