And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear
You shout and no one seems to hear
And if the band you're in starts playing different tunes
I'll see you on the dark side of the moon
-Brain Damage by Pink Floyd-
Hermione was disgruntled, befuddled, confused. But most of all she was mad. She was, in fact, pissed off, and it was all the stupid Healers and their illogical reasoning's fault.
Several weeks had now passed as slowly as honey dripping from the jar, drop for drop, and Hermione was sitting in her bed with her bedcovers pulled up to underneath her pale chin. The sheet and her face were nearly the exact same, ghostly white color and the bright August sunlight did nothing but illuminating her sickened features.
“Please don’t make this any harder than it already is, Granger.” Malfoy said in evident exasperation, rolling his eyes in annoyance as the strong stench of alcohol continued to emanate from the cotton ball he held in his left hand.
He had been sitting there for the best part of fifteen minutes, but Hermione hardly cared if he was growing both impatient and annoyed. He was supposed to rinse the wound on her neck with some strong solution that was supposed to kill any infections that might, or might not, be what prevented the sore from healing. The solution burned like acid upon contact with Hermione’s sensitive skin. There was no way she was going to give Malfoy the pleasure of seeing her whimpering in pain on her sickbed.
Hermione had lost count of the days that had passed since she had laid eyes upon her personal assistant and felt the rush of hatred that went through her cursed veins. She had, of course, complained, although her invectives had held no strength whatever opposed to the orders of the Head-Healer and his board of medically experienced wizards. So here she was, stuck all alone at St. Mungo’s, forced to be at the mercy of her very least favorite person on the face of earth.
“Granger,” Malfoy hissed, finally losing the last bit of patience as he inched the chair closer to Hermione’s bed. The sound of the metals legs of his chair against rubber made Hermione turn in the bed and look at him with an expression that clearly said I couldn’t care less about how you are feeling. Usually she plainly refused to meet his silvery, hard gaze and instead chose to stare into the mint green nothingness of the boring, blank wall beside her bed.
“If you don’t expose your neck this instance I will wrench the sheets from your body and drench you in this stuff.” Malfoy sneered, holding up the bottle of clear liquid as though it was some kind of intimidating weapon. He had not been unpleasant up until now, although it was becoming clear that he had had his share of Hermione’s self-pitying behaviour.
Hermione raised an eyebrow at her assistant, her ever-worrying mind suddenly wondering if her eyebrows had grown out of shape after weeks of non-attendance. “Am I supposed to feel scared?” she asked Malfoy coldly. It was the first time she had opened her mouth all day, and her voice admittedly did sound a bit hoarse after the long lasting silence.
Hermione expected Malfoy to lose his calm and seriously follow through with his threat, in fact she was surprised to find that she actually wanted him to do just that. It would be satisfying to know that she was able to get back on him after all the years of constant torture by snide comments and caustic invectives that she had endured from him. It was time for revenge, and revenge is sweeter than sugar.
However, Hermione was waiting in vain for the bittersweet pain of getting drenched in antiseptics. Instead of seeing the enraged expression of her nemesis she saw the smooth face and the expressionless, silver eyes of her St. Mungo’s assistant. Evidently he had decided to act completely puerile and refuse to talk to her until she obeyed.
"This is for your own best, you know."
“How can incarcerating me and nailing me to the hospital bed like some kind of animal be ‘for my own best’?!” Hermione hissed, flaring up at once at the lack of anger and loss of control in Malfoy's voice. He was a good actor, there was no doubt about it. His whole family were good actors. That was how they had managed to convince numerous courts and wriggled free of countless tight trials in front of the Wizengamot. By sneaky acting skills and silvery tongues. “Do you think I need this? Do you think I’m dangerous? Do you think-”
Malfoy cut her off mid-sentence, his voice as quiet as though they were sitting at the library at Hogwarts with Madam Pinch hanging over their shoulders. Not that they would have ever been caught dead together at school, of course. “I meant disinfecting the wound on your neck.” he said, unsmiling.
“Oh.” Hermione said, her pale face flushing. This was another thing she hated with Malfoy: he could always make her feel stupid and worthless, even when he was on his best behaviour.
Finally resigning, Hermione lowered the soft pillow, unbuttoned the first two buttons of her hospital shirt and pulled down the collar to expose the cursed bite. She wasn’t looking at Malfoy as he dabbed it with his cotton pad. Instead she was staring at the sheets that hid her legs from view, trying to keep the pointless, embarrassing and completely wasted tears from falling. She was not wasting her tears on the boy that had made her life a living hell for seven years straight. She was saving the salty droplets for someone that mattered, someone that cared. Someone like Ron.
When she thought of his name she could feel her throat tightening, as though she was being strangled by emotional pain fifty times worse than the stinging of the alcohol that Malfoy was currently dabbing her wound with.
He didn't offer a word of thanks as he screwed the lid back on his bottle of antiseptic and threw the now rust-colored cotton swab into the small, white trash-can next to Hermione’s bed. Then he grabbed a small notebook and an eagle feather quill up from the rubbery floor and started scribbling upon the paper.
Hermione buttoned her shirt back up to her neck, not looking at the blond youth sitting next to her bed. However, soon enough the sound of his quill scratching against the paper, forming mysterious words, had her intrigued, and she shot a glance sideways at his notebook, hoping he wouldn't notice. From the angle she could distinguish words that looked like ‘not healing’, ‘worse’, ‘source’ and ‘cursed’. They all were synonyms, as far as she was concerned, for 'not good' or 'on her death bed'.
“Can I get you something?” Malfoy inquired suddenly, placing the notebook and the quill back at the floor and leaning slightly closer to Hermione. She could see him out of the corner of her eyes, see the way his no longer sleek and gelled hair fell into his eyes and made him nearly irresistible to any female. Excluding herself, of course “Is there anything I can do?” he said, his voice now low and intense; impossible to ignore. She thought she could hear him struggling to keep a snare raising from his throat, and it gave her an immense satisfaction. To offer her stuff was probably down in the rule-book for an assistant. What else where they good for?
Hermione let another silent sigh escape her dry and chapped lips. She could ask him for some water, or a chap-stick, or some other material goods. In fact, him being her personal assistant meant that she could take advantage of him and use him to get exactly what she wanted, asking him to run a million pointless errands just for her amusement.
She tapped her chin twice with an overlong fingernail, appearing to be deep in thought as she stared out in space. What would make her happy? What could Malfoy possibly do for her that could make her smile again? As it turned out, there were no specific objects that could make her feel more satisfied in the current setting. Hermione, as always, thirsted for knowledge. She had always been a good-for-nothing bookworm, as Malfoy had never let the opportunity to mention go by.
“Why did you tell the Healers that your last name is ‘Black’?” she asked him abruptly, and she could see him cringe beside her under the sudden harshness of her tone. It sounded accusatory, and that was perhaps exactly what it was. The question had bothered her a lot over the last couple of weeks, and she suddenly saw the obvious solution to her wonder.
“I... ehrm...” Malfoy stuttered, and Hermione turned to him with her eyebrows raised. It was highly amusing to watch him, for the first time in living memory, struggle for words. “What’s it to you, anyway?” Malfoy then shot, suddenly annoyed. The act of hospitality that had been there just a moment before was gone, replaced by the resentful manner she knew so well. “I’m here to change your bandages, bring you food and bring you whatever else you might want. I’m not here to have pointless conversations with nosy mudbloods.”
Hermione slumped back down in her pillows, feeling suddenly savage. Well, at least she had spurred a reaction from him at last, even though it had taken longer than expected. “Well then, I’ll let you do what you’re here for. you can bring me today’s edition of ‘the Daily Prophet’, a chocolate donut, a bottle of crystallized water, a couple of good books, and let’s see... Oh yeah, a hairbrush.”
Malfoy glared at her, and his gray eyes flared dangerously. His hand slipped into the pocket of his cloak and for one wild moment Hermione was sure he was about to get out his wand to hex her, which wouldn’t have been fair at all considering that she hadn’t even seen her wand since she was bitten. However, instead of pulling up his wand Malfoy simply retrieved a small bottle filled with pills. “Take three of these.” he snapped at her, throwing them at her and ignoring the fact that they fell on the floor and out of Hermione's reach as he strode from the room, leaving the angry banging of the door lingering in Hermione's ears for minutes after he had disappeared.
The next week passed by quickly, with regular visits from Harry. Ginny was back at Hogwarts again and Ron was still mysteriously absent from Hermione's life. Harry omitted mention of their friend, and the one time Hermione had dared to ask he had just given a vague reply and claimed that Ron was busy with Auror training. Hermione didn't see how it could take that much time, and especially not when Harry could fir her into the schedule along with Auror-training and weekly interviews with magazines, but instead of pressing the matter further the two of them held casual conversations, discussing the election of the new Minister of Magic, the newest interviews Harry had done and what little they had heard about their fellow Hogwarts students since they had left school. Apparently Cho Chang was also training to become an Auror, to both Harry and Ginny's great annoyance.
"I think she's jealous," Harry admitted to Hermione in confidence, one sunday afternoon.
Just as Harry avoided talking about Ron, Hermione had somehow eluded to mention that that Malfoy was serving as her personal assistant. She knew Harry would be upset and cause a ruckus about it, so she thought it best not to say.
Then one day, Hermione woke up feeling as groggy as always, only to find at least a dozen healers cramped into her small hospital room; all were wearing expressions of strain and concentration.
She had slept in, like she did every day now that she didn't have anything better to do. A glance outside showed her that the sky was colored a dull pink, and that the burning sun was sinking.
A female Healer that Hermione had seen in the corridors when going to the bathroom, but never actually talked to, noticed that Hermione was conscious. She smiled and strode over to the patient, taking Hermione's hand with her own small and cold one. “How are you feeling?” She asked kindly. Her voice was silk and velvet, and her tight curls were the color of maple syrup.
“What’s that?” Hermione inquired, rather rudely, looking past the Healer and unable to keep a note of panic away from her voice. A number of Healers dressed in pale lilac had just, by combined efforts, rolled something into Hermione’s room that looked as though it belonged in a medieval torture chamber.
The female Healer followed Hermione’s gaze before turning back to the bushy-haired brunette again with a calm smile on her glossy lips. “Tonight’s the night. We need to have all apparatuses ready just in case things get out of hand and we need to strap you down.”
“Tonight’s the night..?” Hermione repeated slowly, finally releasing the strap-bed with her eyes. She was feeling nauseous, as though she was about to throw up.
“That’s right; tonight’s the night.” the young woman said. “The full moon will appear on the sky.”
It took Hermione a few moments for this last sentence to sink into her still drugged brain. Then it struck her, with the same kind of shock as received when an unknown balloon pops right behind your back. Full moon meant transformation; her first transformation.
The vomit shot up through her throat before she knew it, and Hermione sat upright just in time to spray her pure white covers with sick as her eyes teared up.
At that precise second the door to her hospital room was opened and Draco Malfoy entered, his blond hair windswept and a pinkish tinge in his usually pale cheeks that bore witness of the windy day outside. If anything it made him look even better, which again made Hermione’s situation even worse when his silver eyes landed upon her.
“Ew.” Malfoy said shortly, taking a few more steps into the room and closing the door behind himself. Hermione felt equally horrified and humiliated, and she could only stare at him through tear-filled eyes. “I think we need some tissues, Bessie.” he told the maple-haired nurse that stood immobile by Hermione’s bed, obviously paralyzed at the bedside manner that had gotten out of hand. The nurse gave a nod that made her caramel curls dance, and she departed. Malfoy stepped forward to the space that Bessie had so recently occupied. “What happened, Granger?”
Hermione found this a totally ineluctable question. It was obvious for all what had just happened; she had thrown up. It was as simple as that, although if he expected her to voice it out loud he was sadly mistaken. Hermione kept her lips pressed tightly together, as though trying to prevent another serving of stomach acid from escaping from between them.
Malfoy raised an arm and used the sleeve of his white coat to wipe away the brownish liquid that was dripping towards Hermione’s chin. A frown creased his flawless forehead for the briefest second, and Hermione blushed rose. It would have been crimson if she had had enough blood left in her body. Was it possible to feel any more humiliated, disgusting and miserable?
And how come Malfoy was suddenly so, well, almost nice? Was it possible that he had changed his ways, that he had come onto the prestigious road of becoming a fully-fledged Healer without any dark intentions, simply to repent for his past sins? Did he, for the first time, have the chance to show his true colors? To show the world the Draco Malfoy not oppressed by pure-blooded aristocracy and hidden behind an closely guarded layer of sarcasm and scorn?
“Okay, we’re all set.” a skinny, gangly wizard with pimples squeaked from behind Malfoy, and Hermione was shaken out of the thoughts about her personal assistant. She realized with a small gasp of terror that she had completely forgotten about the events that were now less than half an hour away because she had gotten too lost in pondering over the meaning of this new, and improved, Draco Malfoy.
Malfoy gave a curt nod and the pimply wizard departed. Hermione could see the small crease between his eyebrows once more, before her view was blocked by Bessie the nurse, who started dabbing away the sick from Hermione's sheets and face with rubber gloves and what looked like six dozens of tissues. She barely looked at Hermione while she worked; instead her caramel eyes were fixed at Malfoy with evident admiration of his profile, although Malfoy seemed absorbed in his own thoughts as he stared towards the window.
“Okay, the moon will be up in about fifteen minutes!” Healer Livengood exclaimed as he stormed into the room, waving his arms and looking slightly demented. His handsome features didn’t look quite as stunning when he feared for his own welfare. “For all we know the curse might be very efficient, which means that the transformation can happen instantly, and whilst this is true we are all in mortal danger!”
The one dozen Healers seemed in a sudden rush to leave and they all lined up by the door, trying to press their way out as the twilight loomed outside the window. Hermione’s eyes were large and terrified. “I haven’t drunken any Wolfbane potion!” She protested to the only person not in an obvious haste.
Malfoy, who had been watching the rolling clouds outside with a pensive expression on his fine features, looked down at her again with a rather stony expression. “We never give Wolfbane potion to werewolves before their first transformation.” he explained carelessly as the last Healer slipped out of the room, leaving the two former classmates alone in the now werewolf-prepared hospital room. “The first time we need to observe and take notes. Then the next time, and all the following times, we can use these notes to predict how to make the condition the most... comfortable for you.” He said this with such emphasize on the word ‘comfortable’ that Hermione easily understood that it wouldn’t ever become even close to comfy.
The two of them sat there for a silence, or that will say Malfoy stood while Hermione sat on her bed. She was staring out the window, watching the sky darkening before her eyes while she wondered where Ron was. Maybe he was at home at the Burrow, enjoying some of Mrs. Weasley’s cuisine. Maybe he and Harry were at a Quidditch match, watching the Chudley Cannons losing yet another battle. Or maybe, just maybe, Ron was sitting somewhere just like she was, looking up at the heavens like her and thinking about the girl who had been his best friend for almost seven years. The girl he possibly loved, even if he hadn't realized it himself just yet.
“Mr. Black; the moon is about to rise!” Healer Livengood’s voice said urgently from the doorway.
Malfoy, who had obviously been in his own thoughts, looked surprised. It was an emotion Hermione had rarely ever seen written on his visage, although now it looked as though he had been on a planet very far away and just landed back on earth after months and years away.
“The moon... Right...” he said distractedly, looking over his shoulder at Livengood before gazing back down at Hermione. “Well, Granger. I guess I’ll see you on the other side of the moon.” he said abruptly, and with that he turned and strode from the room without another word of consolation.
Hermione had an unexpected, and highly unnerving, urge to call him back. To grab onto the fabric of his cloak and refuse to let him leave her alone. However, she repressed the urge while cursing herself for having felt that way. The silence fell as though someone had just put the ‘Muffliato’ charm as soon as everybody had evaporated from it, and only Hermione's shivering breaths could be heard as an echo thrown back at her by the minty walls.
The wind was howling outside; it sounded like a hundred wolves calling. Calling for her. Calling for Hermione Granger to join their ranks; to be savage and free; to be the animal she was meant to be.
Hermione licked her dry lips and droplets of sweat appered on her pale forehead. Her eyes were wide and watchful, and the chocolate irises seemed to morph into gold as the pupils reflected the clouds outside.
A shimmer of silver could be seen in the far distance, glittering between the rolling clouds.