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Chapter 19 : Without Him
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I hope everyone is enjoying this holiday season. Finals have finally ended and as promised I am here to deliver to your computer screens the latest chapter of Blinded.
I know it has been a terribly long wait and I am very sorry about that, but as many of you know schoolwork must come first. Your patience has been greatly appreciated and I hope the chapter does not disappoint.
Because it has been so long, I have included a brief recap of what happened at the end of the previous chapter. I hope you enjoy this latest addition and the fresh perspective it brings to the story. I hope it answers a few questions, and leaves you with a few more.
I am on vacation for the next couple of weeks but as soon as I get back, I promise you another chapter!
Thank you so much for your patience and support! Please don’t forget to leave a review. Questions, constructive critique, suggestions, all welcome!
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 forever 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.
Chapter 19: Without Him
Her hand trembled ever so slightly under the lamplight, as she fumbled quietly through the pages of the delicate book, resting beside her feet. Doing her best to respect the silence of the shadows around her not to mention her sleeping companion, she fought against the anxiety now trespassing into her decidedly mute vocal chords.
She shifted within her skin, tears streaming down the sides of her cheeks as she let her frustration get the better of her. She was never going to find an answer to her problem.
Books were sprawled recklessly across the floor. Her potion kit, open and half empty, rested precariously at the edge of the hearth where the fire, usually a blaze with a suffocating heat, was weak, barely a flame. Her cauldron, worn with age and still sporting the unmistakable burn from the explosion in her fifth year, hung lifelessly in the fireplace—her last hope, gurgling away at its very bottom.
She continued to search through the pages of her book, letting her eyes hurdle from potion to potion. Nothing was jumping out at her and she didn’t know what to do. This was the first time the library had denied her an answer—what good was it at finally having access to the restricted section if all it was going to do was fail her. She had waited six years to gain access to the corner of the library that had sparked the curiosity of every Hogwarts student at one point in time; and now that she had it, she realized it wasn’t enough.
Her companion rolled over, pushing his disheveled black hair against his hazel eyes. The moonlight streaming from the clerestory of their dormitory illuminated his tranquil features; she almost chuckled seeing him smirk, even in his sleep.
See Narcissa! This is exactly what I am talking about. You are letting yourself get distracted by this boy. The voice in her head was growing louder by the minute and to her dismay began to sound more and more like her mother’s. It is unhealthy what you are doing. Let’s be honest, dear—it would never work. You must find a cure to this rebound-of-fate or whatever the headmaster called it, for your sake and his… she let her thoughts trail off into the night as she sat in the almost darkness of her dormitory letting herself imagine the forbidden, improbable and unrealistic “what if” scenario. What if it could work and her mother was wrong? She smiled.
Realizing, however, what she was doing, she pinched her arm and let out a tiny squeal. “Bloody hell!” she whispered, relishing the first sound she had made in hours while massaging her forearm. The body next to her stirred again, but thankfully did not regain full consciousness.
She took a deep breath. This was all becoming too much for her to handle. Pushing back her long beautiful, silver blonde hair, she turned her attention back to her advanced book of potions. She had more hope of finding an answer to her problems within the pages of the critically acclaimed potions book than the pages of her imagination.
Polyjuice Potion, Prix de Polynices, Pomeranian Poison… Finding the section of “P” to be rather useless, Narcissa flipped through a chunk of the pages. Shrapnel (elusive liquid formula), Shrinking Solution… she banged her fists against the open book, forgetting about the shadows and the silence she was trying not to disturb. She cupped her face in her open palms, her neck bowing to the inevitable while the depths of her throat struggled to hold back another wave of tears.
Glancing over the ingredients for the Shrinking Solution, she quickly gathered that this potion was not the one she was looking for; but, before she lost all hope, her eyes flickered across to the next page. The upper right hand corner of the page was folded down, like someone had marked it for a later date.
She read the heading. Shrouding Solution. Intrigued, she continued on.
Designed to disguise even the most talented of wizards, the Shrouding solution tops every disguise known to mankind. Difficult to make, the Shrouding solution requires weeks of hard labor and for this reason is generally looked to as a last resort for many Aurors or wizards seeking to masquerade themselves quickly. Unlike the invisibility cloak, the Shrouding solution does not glean its power from the ability to deceive sight, but relies, instead, on its ability to deceive all of the senses. When brewed well, it is designed to reach into the depths of the drinker’s soul and change not only the person’s appearance, but also the sole characteristic that makes them who they are.
She read over the passage several times. Depths of the drinker’s soul. It sounded like a powerful solution indeed, but again her heart sank. Despite its fascinating appeal, it wasn’t what she was looking for. Neither she nor her companion was blind after all—just bound together by this stubborn shield of light. She kept the page marked, however, in case it was needed sometime in the future, or the person who had originally marked it came looking for it again.
“What am I going to do?” she whispered to her sleeping companion, her emotions tearing her up inside.
“You could try to relax for starters,” he breathed unexpectedly into her ear. His breath, slow but deep, warmed the back of her neck, sending a comfortable tickle down her spine. He had woken up at last, but instead of letting her know right away, he had used the darkness to his advantage—stealing the opportunity to watch her, to admire her, to simply be with her.
She jumped at the sound of his voice, her chest heaving with adrenaline upon realizing that she was in the company of more than her own thoughts.
“I’m sorry!” she said mechanically. “I tried not to disturb you.”
“You didn’t,” he said warmly to her. She could feel his grin without having to look at his face. Somewhat exhausted, her body melted at the thought of his seductive, side smile—it was her weakness.
“What are you doing up so late, anyways?” he continued. “If it’s school work… I can help you.”
“It’s not school work, James,” she said dismissively. “It’s my own problem. I’ll figure it out on my own. I always do.” Her voice was curt, cold and cruel in comparison to his, but he didn’t mind. He never did.
“I never said you couldn’t. I was just offering, trying to be nice,” he responded, more to her defensive tone than the actual content of their conversation.
“Just go back to sleep. Please, just leave me alone.” She had stood up, her blonde hair catching the moonlight with every strand. Sensing her distress, he wiped the sleep from his eyes and followed her towards the fireplace.
Placing a comforting hand on her shoulder, he inched closer to her. “Whatever is bothering you, forget about it. It’s not worth it.”
His tone was so caring, so sincere. “Why do you have to be so wonderful?” she said, without thinking. Immediately, she brought her hand to her lips, silencing them before she had the chance to blurt out anything else she might come to regret.
James was taken aback by the comment. He was confused—not only by her words, but by the darkness, their increasing proximity, and the anxiety building in the pit of his stomach. Narcissa turned around to face him, tears streaming uncontrollably down the sides of her face.
“Narcissa, what is wrong?” he couldn’t stand the sight of her tears and he didn’t understand why. In that moment, everything that had defined their relationship—their past, their families’ history, his feelings for Lily Evans—everything disappeared and all he could think about was her and her apparent pain.
“You! You! You are the problem!” she scrunched her face in distress. “My life made sense before you, before this—before us,” she hesitated for a second. “I had a plan. Graduate with honors, maybe travel for a year, become a Malfoy like my mother always planned, settle down and get fat off chocolate frogs and pumpkin pasties because I married for money rather than love. And then you—you changed everything.”
James lifted his hand to her cheek, wiping away her tears. She pushed his hand away, but only halfheartedly.
“Don’t you get it!” she screamed at him. “This mess—it’s ALL your fault.” She was pointing at her potions kit, the cauldron and the general unkempt disposition of her normally impeccable dormitory. Her legs were shaking underneath her heaving chest. She sank to the floor.
“I hate you for ruining my life, my plan—everything that was written in the stars. I hate you for your popularity. I hate you for your stupid marauder friends. I hate you for beating Slytherin every year in the Inter-House Quidditch cup. I hate you for being so wonderful to me, especially when I don’t deserve it. I hate you for showing me that love does exist in this world. But most of all, I hate you for loving Lily—when all I can think about is the day you will love me just as much as you love her!”
He was speechless. He didn’t know what to say, how to console her tears—how much he had come to love the person now lying within his own embrace.
The door slammed and Narcissa sat up quickly. She had been innocently staring out of the windowsill, before being enticed by memories of years passed. She looked around the room, the upper west chamber of the Malfoy Manor; to her disappointment, everything was as usual. Nothing was out of place, the fire was a blaze and she was alone—aside from the footsteps now approaching her location.
The footsteps grew louder with each passing second, drawing her closer and closer to the reality in which she was trapped. Her face grew stiff and stern, releasing any traces of warmth her memories may have instilled or left behind. She couldn’t remember the last time she had smiled or felt anything really, besides the icy touch of the Manor air on her flesh.
Lucius entered into the room, flooding the chamber with unwelcome light from the corridor. His face fell immediately upon seeing his wife immersed in thought, next to the windowsill. He hadn’t been in a good mood to begin with but he had hoped he would find her doing something for a change. Having just returned from seeing Dumbledore, he had expected his wife to have at least ordered the house elves to prepare dinner for him. But of course, things were as usual. Things did not meet his expectations.
She didn’t turn to look at him, but breathed focusing on the view in front of her. These days she found it painful to be in the same room as him, let alone let him into her line of sight.
“He didn’t come,” Lucius stated, in reference to his son’s decision to stay at Hogwarts.
“I told he wouldn’t,” she retorted, without shifting her gaze. “He may look like you, but he is more like me than you are willing to admit, Lucius.”
The words stung the air and Lucius flinched at his wife’s biting tone. “What is that supposed to mean?” he replied.
“We both know, you know exactly what that means.” She didn’t scream. She wasn’t angry. It was more a monotonous tone, an indifferent one.
“Merlin, Narcissa! Will you at least look at me when I speak to you?” Narcissa did not move but Lucius pushed onward. “You owe me that much.”
“I owe you nothing,” she breathed, her cheeks flaring with sudden irritation.
“You owe me everything. I gave you food, money, shelter. I gave you a life, a family, a reputation and this is how you repay me, by sitting in front of the window all day dreaming of him.”
“You took away the one thing I lived for. I owe you nothing,” she scathed.
“I loved you. I saved you from him—because I loved you,” Lucius defended.
“You saved me from him because I was the one thing in your life that you couldn’t have. You were jealous, Lucius; and, jealousy was the one emotion you could never handle. You and I both know that you never really loved me. You wanted me because you couldn’t have me.”
“This is ridiculous. I don’t have to tolerate this nonsense.”
“Why didn’t you just leave me with him?! Then you wouldn’t have to tolerate this nonsense NOW!” she screamed.
“He was doomed, Narcissa! Him and all of his stupid little friends were doomed. You Know Who was going to kill them all, it was written in the stars—I did not want you to suffer the same fate. If that meant I had to save you from that stupid fantasy of yours, toil in some elementary magic, help you break your rebound-of-fate, then so be it. It was worth it to see you alive now in his wake.”
“I would have gladly died a thousand deaths to be with him for one more second than to live the life I’m living now!”
“Is it really that bad? Is your life really that bad? Do you really think you would be happier with him?” Lucius was screaming now, trying his best to overcome his wife’s barricade of indifference but his desperation was met only with silence.
Silence. She bowed to the distance that had grown between them—the distance that had always been there. Narcissa turned back to her window leaving her husband to storm out of the room, slamming the door behind him with an ear-shattering bang.
“Stop, Lucius…” Narcissa said playfully in his ear, as he pinned her up against the closed entrance to her dormitory. “Someone will see us and James—well, he is just on the other side of the door. It was nice of him to give us a minute alone but I don’t want him to…”
“To hear us?” Lucius smirked devilishly. He leaned in and pulled her lips towards his. The kiss was deep and Narcissa enjoyed it immensely. One thing Lucius Malfoy knew how to do was kiss a girl. Breathing for air, he pulled back, kissed her on the hand and walked away leaving her breathless and wanting more. Or so she made him believe.
Narcissa watched him until he disappeared into the darkness of the corridor and then sank to the floor. She was exhausted.
Entering into her dormitory, she was greeted by the enticing heat of the fire. James was standing over the hearth, warming his hands. He looked up as she entered into the room.
She watched him and smiled. “How long do I have to keep pretending?”
“Pretending?” he probed.
She knew he was trying to provoke her but she nevertheless took the bait. “Pretending that I love a Malfoy—when you and I both know, it’s not true.”
He was walking towards her now, sending butterflies to the pit of her stomach. “It’s not?” he smirked and she knew her pretending was finally getting under his skin. “From what I heard—it sounded pretty true. I believed your pretending, as you called it.”
“Jealous are we, James?” she replied, raising her eyebrows in suspicion while inviting his curiosity. He was inches from her and she could feel his breath on her skin.
“Should I be jealous, Narcissa?” he asked her, but he didn’t wait for a reply. Before she had time to think, she felt his lips on hers as her body melted into his embrace.
Pulling away for just a second, she whispered, “I can’t pretend anymore.”
Hermione woke with a start. She had been dreaming about something, but it was all fading fast from her memory now that she was awake. She just couldn’t shake off the feeling that she was forgetting to do or to say something. She looked over to her sleeping companion and sighed, air streaming heavily from the depths of her chest. She and Draco had fallen asleep in front of the fireplace, after talking about all that had happened in the past few months. It had been awhile since they had sat down and really heard one another speak; and it was unfortunate that it took two mental attacks to bring them together. He had filled her in on everything that Dumbledore had told him about Narcissa and James and the elements. It was amazing how simple magic had once been.
She laid back down and shifted to her side so that she was facing Draco. He was so peaceful when he was unconscious. His blond hair, now covering his eyes, caught the moonlight from the clerestory in just the right way. She didn’t know what made her do it but she couldn’t resist him. She watched as her hand brushed away the stray strands hiding his eyes, stroking his cheek gently, warmly.
He stirred slightly but didn’t wake. She pulled her hand away and turned onto her other side—it was a close call.
“I can’t pretend anymore,” she said into the darkness.
“Neither can I,” an unexpected but welcome voice responded.
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