Chapter 20 : Desperate Times
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I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. I want to personally thank each and every one of you who read and reviewed my latest chapter. Your support and feedback were just incredible and really pushed me in new directions, in terms of both plot and personal writing expectations.
I realize that I promised you a new chapter about a week ago, but my undying commitment to this story and to you forced me to push the release of Chapter 20 back a week. This story is developing in ways I never imagined and I hope that you are as excited as I am about the upcoming additions.
The last few chapters have been very intense and have bombarded you with a roller coaster of emotions as well as new information regarding the rebound-of-fate and the relationship fated to bloom between our two leading characters. I thought it was time to speed things up a bit and introduce a little conflict with a hint of comic relief.
I have included a slight recap for your reading convenience. Feel free to skip over it if you would like.
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.
Chapter 20: Desperate Times.
The cool icy feel of stone to spine was very inviting in the mix of their heated corner. He pulled her closer to his chest so that his heartbeat caressed the bare sides of her neck, leaving little room for the two of them to glean adequate breath. Even in the darkness, Dean Thomas stood taller than the shadows lining the empty corridor. Hunched over slightly, lips pressed inseparably to hers, he stroked the sides of her arms with his gentle and welcoming touch, leaving her fearless and inevitably wanting more. Daphne Greengrass hesitated in his embrace, her mind catching a glimpse of the red and gold badge branding the upper left hand corner of the robes she was, at the moment, very tempted to remove.
“What’s wrong?” he whispered into her ear, pulling her so close she could feel the sweet anticipation in his arms. He glanced down to where her eyes were fixated and understood why she was hesitating.
Kissing her cheeks softly and then her lips, he said, “We don’t have to do this, if you don’t want to. I understand where your loyalties must lie. I mean you can’t just throw away thousands of years of house rivalry for one night with a tall, dark, handsome and might I add charming stranger,” Dean chuckled trying to lighten the mood, masquerading his burning desires behind a veil of uncomfortable humor.
“It’s just—I’m a Slytherin, Dean. I have a sister in the fourth year. What would she say if she found out that her sister was one of the blood-traitors?”
“Well technically, I’m a half-blood, so that makes you a half-blood-traitor!” Dean smirked, invoking, in Daphne’s opinion, his irresistible charm.
“Not helping,” she smiled, completely consumed by his presence.
“Look, I’m not going to force you to do anything you don’t want to. All I’m saying is that if Hermione and Draco can fight for whatever it is they have become—then I see no reason for us to conceal our feelings anymore. Daphne, it hurts me to see you in the arms of that You-Know-Who wannabe, Crabbe. You deserve so much better. You deserve a guy who cares whether or not you come to breakfast in the morning, whether you are warm at night when you fall asleep in northwest corner of the library.”
“You deserve someone who will treat you to butterbeer in the Three Broomsticks, when you are chilled by a sudden gust of wind because you forgot your hat in the Great Hall.”
“That’s where I left it, by the pumpkin juice,” Daphne sighed.
Dean ignored her side comment. “You deserve…” he continued but he was cut off by a brisk but determined interruption.
“I deserve someone like you,” she finished. She leaned in and pressed her lips against his with the resolve of a true rebel, for the first time ignoring the hissing serpent tarnishing her chest.
“Exactly!” Dean said pulling away. “That was what I was trying to…”
“Will you shut up already!” she laughed, and they sunk to floor only to meld with darkness of their chosen corner.
Pansy choked silently on her disgust, as she watched the pair succumb to the flames of passion. Absolutely horrified by the sacrilege before her, she turned to escape their company, making sure to hold her breath until she reached the other end of the corridor, as if in fear that she was suddenly in proximity of a contagious disease immune to all known magical remedies.
Having suspected her roommate Daphne of traitorous behavior in the past few weeks following the Halloween ball, she decided that tonight was the night to make something of her suspicions, which unfortunately for her, she did.
“I can’t believe she would do this!” Pansy rampaged silently while a potent revulsion came to a boil underneath her writhing skin.
“She was supposed to be my ally!” Pansy barked quietly to a passing suit of armor. “First Draco, now Daphne, if I see one more…” but she stopped whispering to herself to hide swiftly behind a statue of Gregory the Smarmy.
Sure enough, without a care in the world she spotted another of her seventh year companions, Theodore Nott, hand in hand with none other than Susan Bones.
“For Merlin’s sake, Theodore! A Hufflepuff? At least Daphne had standards,” but Pansy bit her bottom lip to stop her irritation from resounding loudly throughout the corridor. Susan shifted uneasily in Theodore’s embrace as they continued to patrol the hallway, hearing Pansy’s remarks but instinctively dismissing them as ordinary sounds of the castle at night.
Once out of sight, Pansy sunk to the floor, holding onto Gregory’s marble leg for support. She knew that things had been changing socially in the castle ever since Draco had been cursed with the rebound-of-fate but she had not fully realized the extent of the damage.
“This cannot be happening,” she breathed, trying her very best to regain her calm from the impending darkness around her. After checking to make sure no one else was coming, she stood up and continued on her way. With no particular destination in mind, she let her feet plunder the hallways, leading as if with a mind of their own to an isolated destination of random choosing—a place where her mind could deconstruct all that she had witnessed in the last thirty minutes of her complicated existence.
It wasn’t long, however, before she found herself in the Astronomy tower, in the company of the crenellated architecture of years passed. Under the stars, she let the late November wind dishevel her neatly pinned hair, relishing in what she thought was a moment of solitude.
“Didn’t expect to see you here!” a deep, soothing voice admitted from one corner of the tower. Obscured by the vestiges of darkness in the presence of starlight, a tall imposing figure rose from the remaining traces of shadow, emanating a red glow from the top of his brooding limbs.
Taken aback by his confident tone, Pansy extinguished a fleeting flutter in the depths of her stomach, replacing it with an unwavering curiosity to know who relieved her of her seclusion.
“Mourning your girlfriend, are you Weasley?” she asked, doing her best to snarl at his pathetic form. But it was forced and he could tell.
“Why Pansy, I think you’ve lost your biting touch. We both know I’m not the only one who has lost in love,” Ron replied calmly, challenging her patience and need for tradition.
Pansy was lost for words. He had spoken the truth and she was too frazzled by her journey up to the tower to formulate an adequate reply. So she settled for polite conversation for perhaps, the first time in her life. “So—then, what are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be in your dormitory protecting your dear Potter friend from his ghastly nightmares?” So she would have to work on the politeness for sometime in the near future. She couldn’t help it if her tone became a tad biting. She was a Slytherin; sarcasm was in her nature.
“No—I’m off duty tonight,” Ron chuckled, playing along, clearly attempting to avoid an altercation. “Actually, I came up here to escape the chaos happening down there,” he continued pointing towards the sleeping castle.
Intrigued, Pansy asked, “What do you mean?”
“Ever since the beginning of the year, I feel like Hogwarts as I know it has slowly been deteriorating and for the first time Harry, Hermione and I are powerless to stop it.”
Pansy guffawed at her companion’s complacency. “When were you three ever powerful?”
Ron ignored her and continued in his explanation. “For example, on my way up here just a few moments ago, I saw Natalie MacDonald and Malcolm Baddock snogging outside the Gryffindor common room. I mean Hermione and Draco are at least seventh years but bloody hell! Natalie is only in her fourth year as a Gryffindor.”
“No, not Malcolm too…” Pansy sighed, disappointed to hear that her protégé had finally succumbed to his unhealthy desires.
“And last I heard, Millicent Bulstrode fell asleep in Binns’ class last Tuesday and apparently began fantasizing about Neville Longbottom in a romantic way,” he paused to stress the significance of those last words. “Granted he and Luna Lovegood are going out, but still—something is terribly wrong with our student body.”
“She told me she dreamt she was pounding him into the ground,” Pansy flinched at the idea that Millicent had in fact been lying to her.
“Yeah… with her body!” Ron chuckled at his own cleverness.
“Shut up! This is no laughing matter you dim wit! Don’t you see what is happening?” Pansy crescendoed. “Hermione and Draco’s little romance, if you can even call it that, has converted the entire school into an inter-house breeding ground. They are testing our loyalties, our commitment to convention—how can you just sit back and laugh about it?” Pansy’s eyes lit with a new, intense and all-consuming fervor.
“So, let’s do something about it!” Ron suggested, effacing his smile with a severity akin to Pansy’s usual, unforgiving character.
“I can’t align myself with a blood-traitor like you. That is what they want… oh no, no, no, no. They won’t convert me,” Pansy breathed harshly while looking around, glaring critically into the darkness waiting for her enemy to strike.
“Typical. Even when the fate of your precious world lies in the hanging, you would rather die trying than align yourself with a PUREBLOOD who happens to be in a different house. You’re on your own Parkinson.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, Weasley,” her biting tone having fully returned. “You forget that I still have Blaise on my side.”
“That’s what you think,” Ron scoffed, embracing the ambiguity of his last words, before descending the tower only to return to his dormitory and the unwelcoming depths of his sorrow.
“That IS what I think,” Pansy mouthed childishly, in an unsuccessful almost pitiful attempt at a retort.
After just four hours of deep sleep, Pansy awoke in a hurry. She dressed hastily, putting on her robes while simultaneously slathering her hair with a mixture of styling spells. She didn’t look her best but her unfortunate appearance was not her top priority at the moment. She desperately needed to talk to Blaise, recruit him for battle and start formulating their plan to change the school back.
Plopping down next to Crabbe and his daily pile of pumpkin pasties, tarts, eggs and everything else within arm’s reach, she dismissed his ridiculous appetite as a normal occurrence and turned her loathing to Daphne who was sitting on his other side, pouring pumpkin juice into his now empty goblet while forcing some kind of communication. Pansy glowered at Daphne’s audacity to live a double life and had half a mind to expose her right then and there if it hadn’t been for a certain redhead trying to catch her attention. He was pointing to somewhere across the room, mouthing what came across as three big yawns and a faint whistling noise. She ignored him and turned her attention elsewhere.
Usually delighted to see the Bloody Baron in the morning for a dose of evil but refreshing scorn before classes, Pansy was surprised to see him in a rather fanciful mood. Sitting over by the Ravenclaw table, he seemed to be—dare she admit—flirting with the Grey Lady. Everyone had to admit at some point in time that the Grey Lady had a hint of beauty embossed within her ghostly form, but to see the Bloody Baron actually turn on the charm for a female form he couldn’t even touch, was absolutely pitiful and a sure sign that the situation at Hogwarts was not self-ameliorating but rather self-destructing.
Turning back to Ron, she realized that the redhead was just indefatigable at times. Still attempting to capture her attention, he pointed again this time in a more straightforward fashion towards the Hufflepuff table.
There in broad daylight, Pansy jumped with fright. Susan Bones and Theodore Nott were sitting inches from one another enjoying a plate of raspberry tarts. Theodore, his clumsy self had dropped a bit of sauce on his shirt and Susan in an almost loving fashion helped him to clean it off. Kissing her cheek gently as a thank you, she blushed at his unexpected but welcome audacity. No, it was not this public display of revolting affection that almost knocked Pansy out of her seat. It was the couple sitting just across from them.
Hand in hand, Blaise Zabini and Parvati Patil smiled at Theodore’s spur of the moment surprise. It was cute and they were suddenly aware of the pressure to do the same. They resisted, however, choosing instead to exchange quiet remarks about the day ahead. The affection was evident—it seemed you would have to be blind not to see the glow in Blaise’s cheeks at the sound of Parvati’s laughter or his playful side smile at catching a whiff of her perfume.
Pansy could see Parvati blush at the sound of Blaise’s voice; instinctively, she cringed at the inevitable realization that she was alone in this war. Her last ally had been infected, converted, torn from under her wing.
She glared at Hermione and Draco who were enjoying each other’s company, albeit a bit more discretely than either Theodore or Susan. They were to blame for all of this. Them—the outcasts who suddenly for the first time in months seemed to blend into their surroundings more than they stood out.
Pansy pushed him against the icy stonewall of an empty corridor just outside the Great Hall. She had lured him here for one purpose and one purpose only. As soon-to-be allies, they needed to formulate their Inquisition, their crusade for wizarding kind. Pushing him, somewhat forcefully against the wall, she was surprised by how fit and handsome she found him to be at first glance, but dismissed the blasphemy from her mind almost immediately.
“Take it easy, Parkinson or I’ll start to think you’ve been infected,” Ron mused, enjoying the hint of anger that slowly rose from her cheeks, masquerading behind her eyebrows.
“We need to separate them. It’s the only way to get things back to normal,” Pansy began. “Their little relationship is what started it all.”
“And how do you propose we do that?” Ron asked, assuming an immediate seriousness that summoned an austerity characteristic only of a true Slytherin.
“You’ve done it before, haven’t you?” Pansy probed.
“What do you mean? Are you talking about the Amortentia?” Ron asked in surprise.
“Yeah! I mean it is a long shot but it distracted Hermione for almost twenty-four hours! That would be enough time to seduce Draco.”
“That was months ago,” Ron surmised. “I don’t think it will work again. I just get this feeling that their bond has grown inexplicably stronger. I don’t think a love potion will break them again or any plans of seduction you may have up your sleeve.”
“What about that vial I stole?” Pansy tried again only slightly disheartened.
“The Shrouding solution? Maybe but its risky. Remember what Snape said about it in class! The Shrouding solution has its origins in elementary magic, powerful but very unpredictable. Even if we do brew it, the Shrouding solution could easily backfire on us, emotionally pulling them closer together even though physically they can part.”
“Wow, Weasley—I think Granger has rubbed off on you over the years.”
Ron smirked. “Wait, wait what was that? Do I detect a hint of a compliment, Parkinson?”
“No not at all,” Pansy assured him with forced resolution. She changed the subject, “There must be some way to get them apart.”
“I think the only way is to break the rebound-of-fate itself,” Ron suggested.
“But Hermione and Draco have been working on that for months—I’m beginning to think it’s impossible,” Pansy retreated.
“Have they? Honestly, they looked a bit distracted from their horrifying condition today at breakfast. The worst is when they hold hands under the table—like we can’t see.” Ron was growling now, squinting with fury at an invisible Draco.
“Ron, get a grip. We are going to get your Hermione back to you—just take a minute to think!” Pansy demanded.
“What is the one thing holding them together?” Ron asked after a few moments of uncomfortable silence.
“Their growing affection for one another,” Pansy spat miserably.
“Well,” Ron began. “What if we forced them to see each other for who they truly are? The rebound-of-fate for some reason is liberating their inhibitions, allowing them to overlook even forget about their past, including their inherent hatred for one another. What if we brought the past back to them?”
“…so that they remembered why their relationship could never work in the first place?”
“Exactly, all that talk about earth, rain, wind and fire in Binns’ class the other day and we overlooked one of the vital elements that sometimes comes into play in the course of human interaction,” Ron recalled.
“Hope,” Pansy breathed.
“Early wizards and witches were never able to explain its existence because it had no solid basis like water or soil—but it was clear from the beginning that Hope had a power source of its own,” Ron recited from memory. “Why can’t I remember these things for exams?”
“Focus, Ron!” Pansy snapped.
“Right now, we can assume that Draco and Hermione are forming a relationship based on a false sense of hope. If we destroy this foundation by turning all of their hopes into doubts—POOF!” Ron waved his hands in imitation of the Muggle “magicians” Harry had told him so much about.
“We can break the rebound and the school is back to normal. Hermione no longer loves Draco and all is right in the world,” Pansy finished, releasing a well-earned sigh of relief.
“What do you think?” Ron questioned.
Pansy paused, wondering why she hadn’t contemplated their alliance earlier. “It’s worth a shot. At this point, desperate times call for desperate measures.”
“Agreed!” Ron nodded. “We really have nothing to lose.”
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