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Chapter 18 : Masquerade
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Dearest Most Patient Readers,
I just wanted to say thank you for waiting so patiently for this chapter. I really do appreciate it and just would like to say that I hope it is worth the wait. I have to warn you that the first half of the chapter sets up the second half so don’t get disheartened by the relatively slow pace.
I hope you enjoy this latest addition to Blinded and please review! I would love to hear what you think about where the story is headed and if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.
So for now, I say goodbye until the next chapter. Thanks for reading!
Chapter 18: Masquerade.
“I must say Mr. Potter—you do clean up well,” Ginny teased, eyeing Harry with her gleaming brown eyes while mischievously looking him up and down from head to toe. She moved closer to him, wrapping her hands softly around his neck. Uncharacteristic of her usual boyish attire, Ginny sported a beautiful pink dress that meshed perfectly with her vibrant hair, which hung pin straight down the center of her exposed back. Harry smiled slyly, pulling her in closer. He stroked her bare back, as she rested her chin on his shoulder, their bodies moving in tune with the romantically slow melody of the latest muggle song sweeping the dance floor. The one thing muggles did seem to know was music.
“Well?” Ginny asked expectantly, jogging Harry from the serenity of the music.
“Err—you look beautiful?” Harry said meekly, hoping those were the words she had wanted to hear.
Thankfully, Ginny smiled and pressed her chin against his shoulder, letting her body melt into his. Harry exhaled a momentary sigh of relief before letting his thoughts once again preoccupy his mind.
Noticing him to be stiffer than usual when in her company, Ginny didn’t hesitate to break the silence. “A sickle for your thoughts?” Ginny mused but her words gathered little if any a response out of Harry, his gaze fixated on a distant corner. Ginny followed it and turned to see what he was staring at.
Malfoy was sitting hunched over in a chair, masqueraded behind the shadows of an obsolete corner. He didn’t seem angry or sad but exhausted by the energy cascading through the room. All expression was drained from his already pale features and he was staring longingly at the dance floor. His eyes were moving rapidly within his head, as if attempting to trail and record the precise movement of light. Harry followed Draco’s gaze and found his attention to be incontrovertibly on Hermione and Ron.
“He looks so—” Ginny began.
“Lost,” Harry finished.
“Do you think it’s true?” Ginny turned back, looking directly into Harry’s eyes.
“What? That Draco and Hermione have fallen for one another?” Harry asked. “You’ve heard the rumors. Anything is possible, I suppose.”
“Forget the rumors, Harry,” Ginny spat, slapping Harry’s shoulder playfully. “Do you think that we may have misjudged him, after all these years? That he is capable of loving her—loving anyone at all for that matter?”
“I do not doubt that he is capable of love—but loving Hermione? I always thought Pansy would be the object of his affection,” he paused and Ginny respected his silence. “He may be a Slytherin at his core,” Harry continued, as if thinking aloud, “but there is no denying that he challenges her in ways Ron and I never could. It’s exciting, something new but I don’t think they’re in love,” Harry said, a bit half-heartedly.
“Would it be a problem if they were?” Ginny asked, adopting a more serious tone while refusing to take her eyes off her boyfriend.
“As long as she’s happy—” but Harry didn’t finish his sentence and Ginny knew not to push the subject further. She had started to come to terms with rumors and the prospective romance between Draco and her best friend—but it still made her a little uncomfortable. Considering the history, everything she and her friends had been through, the years of fighting with Draco and his cronies, it just seemed surreal to think that after all of that—Hermione would or even could fall for him.
Towards the center of the Great Hall, Hermione and Ron were dancing in silence to the tune of the same melody. The effects of the Shrouding Solution had yet to wear off liberating Hermione from Draco’s constant company, for the time being. Wrapped in Ron’s warm arms however, Hermione could not rid her mind of Draco’s presence.
I need you! Draco had said—or rather thought—precisely what Hermione had wanted to hear. She couldn’t understand why, at that moment, she had denied him forgiveness, why those words that made her very being melt were just not enough. She buried her chin into Ron’s shoulder, pressing the side of her face against his neck in frustration.
Ron shuddered internally. He was so close to her, yet he knew he could never have her. His fingers stroked the sides of her dress, wrapping her tighter in a close embrace. Moving swiftly to the tune and rhythm of the music, he moved flawlessly to the rhythm of the countermelody, thanking the heavens that he had inherited his mother’s knack for dancing.
Ron noticed Draco sulking in the corner. Stroking Hermione’s hair, he smiled furtively in Draco’s direction, making sure he could see them. Draco gripped the edge of his chair tightly, straining his already bulging knuckles. He knew Ron was trying to provoke him—that the redhead had waited years to do so.
Hermione felt Ron’s soft fingers stroke her scalp and she closed her eyes. It was very relaxing being in the comfort of a friend. She had forgotten what it meant to truly trust a person with all her being without having to grapple with constant doubt and suspicion.
Draco’s words made their way into her thoughts for the second time in under a minute. She hated fighting with him, being apart both physically and emotionally. Her attachment and remorse surprised her—she never thought she would grow to truly like someone like Draco in less than three months no less. Then again, he had turned out to be much different than she had originally thought.
He was handsome, kind, loyal, witty—he challenged her in a way no one had ever done. Everything about their relationship was new and exciting. He never underestimated her, or took advantage of her. Hermione pulled away from Ron’s shoulder and smiled at the thought of Draco.
She’s smiling, Ron thought, catching a glimpse of Hermione’s facial expression. He caught her gaze and they stared at one another for a moment. Maybe… Ron leaned in and without thinking, kissed her. The kiss was deep, passionate but fleeting. Before Hermione could truly understand what was going on, she had pulled away from the confines of Ron’s embrace wiping her mouth of the intrusion.
“Ron—” she exclaimed, but before she could begin to ask for an explanation, Ron was squirming helplessly on the ground, nursing a bloody nose.
Having leapt furiously from the shadows leaving his feigned indifference in the corner, Draco was shaking out his hand. Looking from a writhing Ron to a fuming Draco, Hermione was speechless. The music had stopped and everyone was for the second time that night distracted by the enthralling drama of Hermione Granger’s apparent love life.
Finally finding her voice, she exclaimed, “Draco! What are you doing?”
Foaming at the mouth with utter, uncontrollable rage, Draco yelled back, “Putting this worthless piece of second hand—” But he didn’t need to finish his sentence for Hermione to understand that Draco was defending her honor in the name of his jealousy.
Harry and Ginny had rushed over from their secluded section of the dance floor, to consol their injured friend.
“Hermione, what happened?” Ginny questioned, shocked by the utter ridiculousness of the scene.
Hermione glared at Draco and then Ron, not knowing exactly how to tell her best friend that Draco had just punched her brother in the face, after her brother had unexpectedly kissed her on the lips.
“I—I don’t really know,” she was paralyzed with frustration, flustered beyond control by the actions of her companions. She didn’t know what to do except for run. Hermione turned around and bolted through the doors of the Great Hall leaving Draco and Ron bickering behind her.
“I wi’ te’ you, Gin nee,” Ron said while pinching his nose with his fingers in a failing attempt to cauterize the bleeding. “Hee hit meen!” he pointed accusingly at the blond.
“You were asking for it!” Draco growled.
“How was I asking for it?” Ron bellowed back, in a meek attempt to defend himself, but Draco was too concerned about Hermione to respond. Watching her run from the room, he turned to follow. Ron bleeding profusely from the nose followed after Draco, determined to get to Hermione first in spite of his injury.
Almost reaching the doorway to the Great Hall, both boys stopped, as Hermione turned and came striding back into the room to face them of her own accord, a new but fierce resolution etched across her face.
“Why would you kiss me, after everything that had happened tonight? We came as just friends—I just don’t understand you sometimes,” Hermione stammered.
“I am your friend!” Ron stood up to glare directly into Draco’s menacing eyes, blood dripping down the sides of his cheeks into his hands and mouth.
“Some friend you are! Last time I checked manipulation by Amortentia was not in the manual on How to be a Best Friend.”
“And you why would you think hitting Ron is okay?” Hermione was tearing at this point, turning now on Draco. “I can’t believe you would resort to such petty measures—I thought you were better than that.”
This was his chance. Letting go of his inhibitions, Ron ran full-force into Draco’s stomach. Using his head instead of his wand, Ron knocked Draco to the floor. The two, abandoning all sense of magical decorum, sacrificed the use of their wands for the pulverizing effects of a muggle fistfight.
“Enough!” Dumbledore’s voice boomed silencing the crowd and bringing the ridiculous display of muggle conflict-resolution tactics to a screeching halt. Ron and Draco scrambled to their feet, both sporting a series of injuries, neither able to look the headmaster directly in the eye.
Disappointment emanating from his gaze, Dumbledore continued. “Harry, Ginny please take Ron up to the Hospital Wing and have Madame Pomfrey take care of his nose before he suffers from anemia.”
Dumbledore looked to Draco, who was massaging his stomach. “Hermione, Draco—meet me outside in the foyer, at once,” there was no reassuring jest underlying the tone of Dumbledore’s voice and the students knew not to ask questions but obey.
Returning the Great Hall to what appeared to be a state of normalcy, Dumbledore exited the Great Hall. The silver dress robes he had chosen for the special occasion, trailed elegantly behind him, leaving in his wake an air of mystique characteristic only of the Headmaster and his fantastical ways.
A glint shimmered behind his spectacles as he made his way to the pair of students waiting for him in the foyer. They were in the midst of a heated argument and although he was intrigued by the source of such fury, he was determined to separate them. He was disappointed in their behavior but at the same time a bit relieved—the prophecy seemed to still be in effect and Draco’s jealousy was proof of that.
“What were you thinking when you punched him?” Hermione screamed at Draco. “I can’t believe that you of all people would sink to such low standards.”
“He provoked me!” Draco spat back.
“HOW could he have provoked you? Were you staring at us?” Hermione bellowed with such conviction, it made Draco shrink a little bit in his shoes. “See this is why I need my privacy! I can’t believe you were staring at us!”
“Of course, I was staring at you. It’s hard not to when you are as beautiful as you are. Plus, I wasn’t going to let him just whisk you off to the dance floor to do Merlin knows what—I don’t trust him after he poisoned you with that love potion stuff, I don’t know how you can?” Draco was confused, irritated, overcome with emotion.
“You will never be able to understand my relationship with Ron. It’s complicated yes, but at least for most of the time, he understands the true meaning of friendship! That is more than I can say for you!”
“You call kissing you when you made it clear you just wanted to be friends is him understanding the meaning of friendship?” Draco looked appalled at the accusation.
“I said for the most part! For the most part, he is a better friend than you could ever hope to be,” Hermione was screaming.
“You have no idea what you are talking about? You have no idea what you want and you know that Ron is no where near as good a human being—let alone friend—as I have been to you these past few weeks,” his voice was softer as he inched closer to Hermione.
“Draco, you left me back there!” she finally divulged the truth, along with an inundating stream of tears. “You left me humiliated in front of your father, in front of the Headmaster and Pansy. You left—and, and,” she stammered searching for words, while hitting him on the chest, “You cannot just come waltzing back into my life and punch the one person who provided me with even the slightest bit of comfort! You can’t!”
“Kissing you when you clearly don’t want to be kissed is comfort?” Draco retorted.
“You lost the right to be jealous the moment you walked up those stairs!” Hermione’s voice decrescendoed quickly; she had turned away from Draco.
Why can’t you forgive me, Draco thought to her, inching closer while putting his hands on her shoulders. I was confused—I was just bombarded with all this information. You can’t blame me for—
Hermione turned around, trapping Draco’s gaze with her own.
“I defended you when you needed it, and you repaid me by—” Hermione articulated.
“What do you mean needed it—I didn’t need it,” Draco argued defensively, now backing away. “I didn’t need you.”
That’s right you don’t need me, Hermione traversed his mind and Draco immediately regretted his choice of words. “That is exactly what I’m trying to say.”
Dumbledore stopped just before he reached the pair, watching them engrossed in an overwhelming stare down. Hermione fidgeted under her beautiful dress. Her nerves were taking control of her body, making her shake violently under her skin. She broke contact, realizing that Dumbledore was in their proximity.
“I do not understand,” Dumbledore began, “how you two got to this point.” He was looking at both Draco and Hermione with the fiercest of intensity. “You two are model students, who occasionally get into trouble this is true. But you should be setting an example for the school not being the example of what not to do. I thought if anyone in this school, you two would be the ones who could handle this kind of pressure—this kind of destiny. Clearly,” Dumbledore was eyeing Draco’s injuries, “I was mistaken. Perhaps, Mr. Malfoy, it would be best if you left with your father tonight—seeing as this present situation is not going to—” but he was cut off by Hermione’s insistence.
“That won’t be necessary, sir,” Hermione managed. Draco looked up at her, relief pouring through his body. “I have a solution to our problem—well not our big ‘problem’—just our little problem of not being able to be in the same room without making each other furious beyond belief,” Hermione rambled, her nerves dethroning her confidence.
“A solution?” Dumbledore said, curious by Hermione’s proposition.
“Yea, a solution?” Draco posed, completely forgetting about their previous argument in the Great Hall.
Hermione rolled her eyes, ignoring Draco’s deficient memory, “Yes, I—we want to learn Occlumency.”
“Occlumency? But why—” Dumbledore said, a bit confused by the request.
“Draco and I have a kind of connection, which is probably a side effect of the rebound-of-fate—I’m sorry we didn’t mention it earlier,” Hermione began dismissively and to the point.
So they have discovered their internal connection, Dumbledore smiled inwardly.
“For some reason he can read my thoughts and I his, but more than that—I can plant thoughts in his head inducing a kind of telepathic conversation. This is why I thought Occlumency could help. See,” Hermione paused, “I don’t trust him anymore.”
“What? Why—” Draco protested, but Hermione ignored him.
“I don’t trust him and I need my space. I need time to breathe. Too much is happening too fast and I just don’t trust him with my thoughts anymore. And I know that learning Occlumency can help close the mind off to magical intrusion and influence or that’s what Harry told me when he first started learning in fifth year; so, I was hoping that you could teach us, Professor,” Hermione finished.
“This is ridiculous, we don’t need to—” but again Draco’s protests were ignored.
“All right,” Dumbledore had no choice but to give into Hermione’s adamant demands. More than defeated, he was curious as to where these lessons could lead the pair. “I will set up lessons for the two of you if you are sure that is what you want.” Draco shook his head, but Dumbledore pushed on. “In fact, I think it’s best to start now, while the two of you still have the benefits of the Shrouding Solution.” Hermione looked shocked by Dumbledore’s quick and accepting response. She was surprised that he didn’t ask further questions, but grateful at the same time.
“Yes, that is best. Make your way down to the dungeons—I will notify Professor Snape. Who knows how long we have before you lose your sight again Draco. We don’t want to make these lessons more complicated than they already are,” Dumbledore was lost in thought.
“Professor Snape—sir?” Hermione asked tentatively. “But the last time we were with Snape, things didn’t go very—”
“He is the best, Miss Granger. Now please, the two of you, make your way to the dungeons. Snape will be there promptly to instruct you further.”
Without another word, Dumbledore reentered the Great Hall and Hermione and Draco turned to make their way to the depths of the dungeons.
Draco tapped his fingers on the desk in front of him, doing little to hide his irritation and apparent boredom. With a huge sigh, he let his body sink forward onto the desk, perching his chin purposefully on his open palm. He rolled his eyes in Hermione’s direction, only to receive the livid glare he had grown so accustomed to seeing.
Hermione unscrunched her face, releasing her frustration and allowing herself to melt back into her thoughts. The anticipation of finally being able to control her mental connection with Draco was keeping her on edge. She wasn’t sure how this was going to go, if she was going to be at all successful—if she really wanted to end the telepathy in the first place.
No, she shook her head. You need this, she thought firmly to herself.
“You do not. In fact, this whole thing is ridiculous,” Draco, responded instinctively.
“Will you PLEASE get out of my head?!” Hermione screamed, having finally given into her irritation she had so rationally tried to repress. She was so furious with her situation, with her lack of privacy that she made to cover herself up with her hands, trying with all her will power to run from the excruciating nakedness she felt while in his presence. “We are doing this, whether you like it or not.”
Draco looked up, embracing a new fervor as if he had just awoken from a year of hibernation. “You speak as if you are the only one in the room.”
Taken aback by his apparent impudence, Hermione did not know how to reply. “What?” she managed, defensively.
“You speak and act, as if you are the only one affected by this whole situation. Who in the name of Merlin do you think you are, Hermione! I feel like we are back at square one—the same two individuals who on the first night were unwilling to admit that they needed each other to make this work—to make any of this work,” Draco was livid, his eyes bulged with a frustration uncharacteristic of his usual temperament. “Did you honestly think I would have left you like that?”
“I don’t know what to think anymore,” Hermione mumbled nonchalantly.
“Excuse me?” Draco asked curtly.
“I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO THINK ANYMORE!” Hermione screamed at the top of her lungs. Hearing her voice several decibels above its normal volume was oddly liberating. “I cannot think anymore without you knowing everything,” she said, this time employing an appropriate volume.
I can’t handle this kind of intimacy—I won’t handle it especially when you are the one on the receiving end of it all. She thought to herself, facilitating a feeble but nevertheless pervasive reassurance.
“I see. So if I were—I don’t know—a redhead with an unhealthy amount of freckles scattered across my face, we wouldn’t be having these problems?” Draco speculated in response to her thoughts.
Hermione felt the fury rising in her chest again at the implication of Draco’s words. “You did not just say what I think you did and in response to something I didn’t even say,” Hermione articulated angrily, fighting the temptation to slap Draco upside the head with her murderous fist, now clenched in anticipation.
“What? That you would be happier if I were Ron?” Draco mused. “It would be so much easier, wouldn’t it? If I were Ron, there would be no unbearable rumors; you and your precious little friends would be back together and all would be right in your stupid little fantasy of a world. You wouldn’t have to stand up or even defend yourself. You wouldn’t need Occlumency to protect yourself from your desires. Everything would have played out as planned. Written in the stars, they would say,” Draco finished his tirade, his hands up in the air, glaring defiantly into Hermione’s sparkling brown eyes.
“Do not talk to be about my being afraid to defend myself and my feelings when you can’t even stand up to your own father,” Hermione managed through gritted teeth. She stood up and was walking over to Draco, never taking his eyes off him. “We are learning Occlumency, whether you like it or not.”
“Fine,” Draco said unexpectedly. “Let’s start now then. You want to learn Occlumency, let’s stop talking about it and just get it over with. The only way you learn is through practice, right?”
“FINE!” Hermione rebutted without thinking, falling prey to her instinct for battle, which always surfaced when in Draco’s presence. “No, wait—Professor Snape—he’s not here…” But it was too late; Hermione was taken by surprise, unable to defend her mind against Draco’s purposeful invasion.
“Legilimens!” Draco shouted artfully above Hermione’s hesitations, almost too artfully for a beginner.
Hermione felt his mind press against hers, thumbing through streams of memories from years past. She watched helplessly as her life flashed before her eyes, like a silent film in color. Jumping from her earliest memory from when she was about three, reading in bed with her mom on one side and her little stuffed elephant on the other to some of her most recent memories, Draco finally stopped invoking a sacred memory from the depths of her mind. She screamed in silent protest, realizing which one he had chosen; of all her memories, she had hidden this one especially in fear that it would one day be found.
Mentally overwhelmed by the memory forced to the foreground of her mind, Hermione could see her twelve year old self at the apex of her vulnerability, tears streaming uncontrollably down the sides of her cheeks, quill secured tightly between her fingers as she sat in the Owlery among her sleeping companions, committing her pain to paper. It was dark and the only light streaming through the clerestory was that of the lustrous moon. Her hair was out of control and her face was stained red from hours of uncontrollable tears.
They don’t understand, she wrote on the parchment. They don’t understand what it feels like to be called… she paused unable to continue her written thoughts. Tears blurring her perfect penmanship, The twelve-year old Hermione breathed in a heavy sigh before continuing her thoughts on paper… what it feels like to be called a Mudblood. I just can’t believe he said it to my face without even flinching, without showing a bit of remorse, like he possessed less than a human conscience. He stared at me with those piercing silver eyes hiding behind his evil smirk, and destroyed everything that I am with a word that means nothing to him and everything to me. He knows Harry didn’t unlock the Chamber of Secrets, he knows… Yet, he insists on seizing every opportunity he can to remind me of where I come from—my innate inferiority. Nothing I do is ever good enough. I will always be filth to him, a filthy little Mudblood. I feel…
Draco pulled away, unable to watch the young Hermione record her misery. He never knew how much his naïve antics as a young man had affected her back in their first couple of years at Hogwarts. He knew he had a reputation for being mean—but he had thought it was more the Slytherin in him than a reflection of his own volition. Receding into his mind, taking a brief moment to reflect on his own memories, he could feel Hermione fight against his telepathic grip; snapping from his momentary lapse, he retained his skillful hold over her mind. He was beginning to understand why his father had forced him to learn Occlumency when he was younger, for moments like these when power was key to survival.
Draco perused her other memories intrigued by what he would find, stopping again on a familiar scene.
They were outside. Potter and Weasley were rapt with excitement, lost in conversation and shock about what had apparently just taken place. Hermione a little ways from her friends was massaging her hand. Draco could feel the confidence and satisfaction filling the thirteen-year-old Hermione, as if it were he in her position. I can’t believe I just slapped Draco Malfoy. Merlin knows that felt good to give that son of a Deatheater exactly what he deserved—a taste of his own insubordination, his own hateful, intolerable behavior. She smirked. I don’t care what anyone says, revenge is worth every sickle, every pang of remorse. Draco watched as Hermione smiled and returned to her friends.
Draco pulled away again, surprised by the utter hatred she had felt for him. He knew she never liked him, that they had been anything but friends—but such hatred. For the first time, Draco Malfoy was uncomfortable in his own skin, fully conscious of the consequences of his behavior. He didn’t like himself, yet he couldn’t let go of his mental control—not until he knew how she felt now. Draco streamed through her thoughts, fighting the retaliating pressure of Hermione’s mind. She was getting stronger, and he could feel her presence pressed up against his skull. Yet, he pushed on, determined to find out what her mind continued to hide.
Music filled Draco’s mind as he plunged into Hermione’s most recent memory, dancing in Ron’s arms. Only slightly aware of her surroundings, Hermione melted into Ron’s body losing herself to her dreams.
Draco could feel the overpowering jealousy rise once again in his chest as he watched Hermione’s memory recall what had already been too painful to watch the first time around. Hermione too could feel this jealousy, a new addition to the memory she had not experienced before Draco’s invasion. The two watched as the scene unraveled. Draco watched himself watch from a corner of the dance floor as Ron spun Hermione slowly and calculatedly around in a circle to the smooth rhythm of the soothing melody.
He is handsome, kind, loyal, witty—he challenges me in a way no one has ever done. Everything about our relationship is new and exciting. He never underestimates me, or takes advantage of me. Hermione thought while in Ron’s embrace. Draco watched as Hermione pulled away from Ron’s shoulder smiling inwardly while taking in the full extent of Hermione’s commentary.
He let go of his mental blockade. Relief flooded his veins as he and Hermione both snapped back to reality, “You smiled because of me,” he said barely audible so Hermione could hear only traces of his sudden realization. “You smiled because of me—you were pulling away from him, not repositioning for the kiss,” he repeated so that she could hear him now. “He is handsome, kind, loyal witty—you weren’t talking about Ron!” His glee was terribly self-evident. “Me, me! You were smiling because of me!”
“Yes DRACO! I smiled because I was thinking of you—goodness you didn’t need to kidnap my memories to figure that out!” Hermione had risen from her reverie, irate and emotionally unstable. Taking hold of her wand, she screamed, “I may have been thinking about you then, but the only thing I’m thinking now is a little payback is in order!”
Before Draco could even think to come to his defense, Hermione caught him off guard, “Legilimens!”
Unlike Draco, however, Hermione had little control over her newfound position of power. Having yet to refine her Occlumency skills, she did not know how to effectively peruse, let alone choose, one of Draco’s memories. Her mind kind of just stumbled into one, as if tripping clumsily over an ill-placed book.
You are worthless—a downright disgrace to the Malfoy name, you know that! How could you let that fool of a boy beat you at your game? I bought you that broom—I bought that entire team very expensive brooms—so that you could prove to the world that you in fact belong in this family—that you are better than that stupid Potter boy. Good think the Dark Lord was not hear to witness this catastrophe. Without fail, you let me down like you always do.
Little twelve-year-old Malfoy cowered in the face of his father’s words. I’m sorry father, he whispered, I didn’t mean to…
Hermione losing control over the memory skipped ahead. Her head was spinning from the growing pressure of Draco’s mind. He was closing her out, quicker but more effectively than she had managed to. The scene had fully formed. Hermione was in one of Draco’s most recent memories. She recognized the blazing room—the one she had stormed out of just moments before. She watched tentatively as Dumbledore came down the stairs, followed by a seemingly timid Draco.
“Your mistake was hiding everything from me—your past with Mom and James Potter,” Draco managed with difficulty. “Your mistake was in your hypocrisy. Ancient magic? Changing prophecies?” Lucius looked to Dumbledore again at his son’s words, where as Draco did not take his eyes off his father. He continued, “Are you really that selfish that you can’t even give in to what’s written in the stars?” Draco screamed at the top of his lungs, pleading with rage and disappointment. “I am not you. I will never be the son you want me to be. And I am not going home tonight.”
Hermione sank to the dungeon floor, surrendering what was left of her mental hold over Draco. He had effectively closed her from his mind, cowering in shame at what he knew she had just witnessed. Hermione was speechless. Making her way over to Draco, her eyes were apologetic and filled with regret for ever having doubted him; Hermione held out her hand to help Draco up from the dungeon floor. Waving a white flag, she held out her hand in front of her body in the name of a truce, compelling him to let her help him from the ground.
He didn’t take it. He couldn’t take it.
Getting up of his own accord, his legs shaking beneath his weight, weakened by the mental war that had taken place just moments before, Draco stood up standing in front of Hermione. Both were motionless and exhausted and still stubbornly refusing to give in to the deafening silence of the air hovering precariously around them.
Draco was the first to move. He turned away from Hermione. It was his turn to hide his nakedness. What she had seen—he knew she would never look at him in the same way.
Hermione made her way over to him, coming within inches of his skin. She breathed warmly on his neck, turning her face away into her own shoulder. Regaining a bit of her courage, she went to place her hand reassuringly on his shoulder, but at the last minute changed her mind. She turned away, so that they were once again back to back—neither one speaking, confined to their own thoughts.
“I think—” Draco began, “It is time we visit my mother.”
“Why?” Hermione said.
“Because if we don’t resolve this rebound-of-fate soon, neither one of us will have a fate to look forward to. Clearly cooperation is not getting us anywhere and honestly it will continue to not get us anywhere but the gossip hall of fame,” Draco paused. “We need answers before we kill more than each other’s pride,” Draco conceded.
Hermione looked up, a single tear streaming down the side of her cheek. They had masqueraded their true desires for so long, that they had become irrelevant to their present. There was no way they could go on living like this, in the shadow of a life they hoped to live, in the arms of one another but at the mercy of everyone else.
“And,” Draco continued.
“And?” Hermione said wiping away the tear, surprised by the amount of make-up smudged on her fingertips.
“And Hermione, because I think Shrouding Solution has finally worn off,” Draco concluded collapsing into the closest chair, resigned to the inevitable. “I can’t see, Hermione,” he whispered, his voice trailing off slowly into their surroundings, blending into the humid mist of the dungeon air.
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