Chapter 8 : Involuntary Memory
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Disclaimer: I do not own the characters and places you recognise. The storyline is mine, though.
06/03/08 EDITED BY FALLSTAR
Hayden let his grey eyes wander over the austere gargoyles resting above the castle porches into which Draco had disappeared. The mild September breeze surrounded him, enveloping his growing panic and worry about the intricate circumstance into which he, himself had woven as neatly as the lace veil his father had lifted from his mother’s face at their wedding. The wind danced in his curly, short, light blond hair, causing it to fall into his eyes as he looked up the rock-lined path that led to the castle. He closed his eyes in disbelief and uttered an almost inaudible groan.
This is what happens when you act without thinking of the consequences, he sighed, rebuking himself.
Deep inside, he wished that, somehow, upon opening his eyes again, he’d be back in his own bedroom at his foster parents’ home. He wished the Time Traveller potion, which had taken him months to brew, had never worked at all, and had only grown him warts on his face…or turned him into a Lilliputian…or made sparks and bubbles come from his…or something of that sort. It felt odd, wishing for the failure of the many trials before.
He wished he could spend one day with Naomi again, just one, and let her know all about him being a wizard. Would Naomi admit to him that she was a witch? What if the private school Naomi had supposedly visited was in fact Hogwarts?
The memory of her battered his heart. Hayden opened his eyes and looked up at the blue sky. It was a hopeful cerulean, a daytime colour; the sun was at that wonderful point where it looks as if resting from a climb and preparing for the downward trek. It smiled at him brightly, warming his face.
On days like this, he used to hang around with Naomi on a basketball court in the park a few blocks away from Naomi’s place. Absentmindedly, Hayden’s hand moved to the round pendant that was dangling from a silver chain around his neck. He rubbed his finger gingerly over the pendant and felt the uneven rough surface that bore the initials: N.C.
“Happy eleventh birthday, Naomi,” Hayden said, his eyes shining as he handed a tiny box that was wrapped in a colourful gift paper to his best female friend. Her eyes grew wide as she stared at the box. “I went with Nana Cissy to Diagon Alley last weekend and looked for a suitable gift for you. I wasn’t sure what to get you first,” he said and then smirked, “but I thought a combination of the hackneyed stuff that girls fancy and something that would always remind you of me would be ideal.”
Naomi looked from the box in Hayden’s hand to the famous smirk on his boyish face. “Oh, Hayden,” she said, lifting her lips. When Hayden’s words sunk in, however, her smile faltered. She said, blinking at him, “Hackneyed stuff huh? How charming of you. I thought you had almost forgotten my birthday.”
“Why would I forget if you reminded me all week about it,” Hayden said teasingly, earning a playful punch from Naomi.
Hayden spoke again, with the completely serious adolescent emotion of unease. “So… you’re leaving in a week. I’ll only see you during holidays… then?” He sighed and looked at his shoes. “It’ll be a long time until I see you again.”
“Just a couple of months,” Naomi placated, unwrapping her present. “Time’ll pass, you won’t even notice.”
“How come I can’t accompany you to the airport? Dad or Nana Cissy would surely bring me.”
“Erm…” she stammered, her hands clasping the velvet casket that came into view when she removed the gift paper. “It’s n – not possible, Hayden. I already explained to you, didn’t I?”
“There are so many private schools here in England…Are you really going to that all-girls private school in North America? Why so far?” Hayden asked. On her eyes were painted all of the doubts flooding his soul. But Naomi averted her light-hazel eyes quickly before he could read in them that she was lying to him.
Hayden drawled, “I’d like to see you leaving off at the airport. I don’t care if your prosimian foster parents don’t take pleasure in my presence.”
“Why can’t you talk like an ordinary ten-year-old?” Naomi asked, rolling her eyes.
“Stop digressing, Naomi,” Hayden snapped, jumping to his feet, his back to his best friend. “Besides, I’ll turn eleven in two months and you won’t even be here to celebrate my birthday with me. You’ll find new friends and forget me.”
“Why would I do that?” Naomi said, exasperated. She tried to grab his elbow, but Hayden didn’t turn around and just shook her hand off. He sniffed and kicked a stone angrily away; his hands were shoved in his jeans pocket. “I promise to owl… er… send you mails twice a month. We’ll keep in touch, and I will tell you about my school and stuff. Deal?”
“No,” he said grumpily. He turned slowly around to her, his face stony. “No deal… You have to promise!”
Naomi breathed a small sigh of relief. “Okay, promise.” Hayden returned a smile, his gentle silver eyes looking at her with the utmost trust.
When Naomi remembered the casket in her hand, she opened it. Her jaw half-dropped when she looked at the contents of it. “Whoa…? Where’d you get this?” Her eyes went glassy, and Hayden chuckled when he noticed her awestruck expression.
“Yeah, right. You’re a wealthy Malfoy,” she said, chuckling nervously under her breath.
The casket contained a simple, elegant white-gold bracelet. The bar links were interspersed with sparkling diamonds, featuring a slim ID tag bearing the name Naomi Corner on the centre. Naomi examined the bracelet as though she’d never seen something so wonderful in her entire life. On the back of the tag was engraved in fine letters: ‘Wo ai ni’ - H.M.
“Wo ai – what? What does that mean?” she asked, giggling at the funny words as she looked up at him. He took the bracelet from its container and strapped it around her slender wrist. It suited her cream-coloured skin perfectly; it was a bit big, but it didn’t matter.
“Your ancestry is allegedly Chinese and you can’t even understand what’s written there?” Hayden grinned, poking her forehead softly.
“You know I wasn’t raised by my real Mum,” she said, furrowing her brows at him. “Anyway, thank you.”
She rummaged through her sweater pocket. She handed Hayden something, a silver chain with a pendant dangling from the end.
“This is for you; something that would always remind you of me,” Naomi said. “Happy birthday in advance, Hayden.”
Seven years. It had been seven years since Naomi had given him that silver chain on his eleventh birthday; seven long years Naomi had lied to him, hiding the truth that all along she’d been going to Hogwarts instead of the all-girls private school in North America; seven beautiful years in which he had kept her gift, in which he had believed her, in which he had loved her.
He winced. She was the only person he’d trusted entirely, and yet she’d broken his trust by lying to his face.
He dropped his head and kicked a stone away angrily, startling as a hand was carefully placed on his shoulder. He turned around to face the intruder of his thoughts.
He looked down at his mother’s teenaged version and was suddenly reminded of his mission.
“Hey, H – Hermione,” Hayden said, scratching his neck. “Yeah, sure, I’m fine.”
“Oh, c’mon, Malcolm,” Ron’s voice came from behind Hayden as he pounded him on the shoulder, “looks like some girl did it to you, eh? Heart broken, maybe?”
“Ron, stop being such a nosy git,” Ginny said, who came into view, carrying her broom. Harry was carrying his own broom in one hand and in his other hand was the ball that looked like an enlarged leather handball, with which they’d played this odd game earlier.
“Catch!” Harry said, throwing the ball towards Hayden. Hayden, out of reflex, blocked the ball with his hands. Ron picked it up from the ground, laughing.
“Bloody Merlin, you can’t even catch a Quaffle?” Ron laughed, throwing the ‘Qua-full’ at Hayden again. He wondered how he knew the word… but even this time his motor coordination failed as the Quaffle slipped from his hands. He let out another groan. Harry tried to stifle a laugh while Ginny threw him a warning look.
Hermione picked up the Quaffle and pressed it against Ron’s stomach harshly. “Stop it, Ronald.”
“What? I was just playing,” Ron said, sniggering.
“I was not prepared,” Hayden said in defence, narrowing his eyes at Ron. “By the way, Hermione, can we talk? You know, regarding that issue we talked about after lunch.”
Hermione looked at him, heaved a deep breath and then said, “Okay,” she turned to her friends, “would you guys excuse us for a minute?”
“What are you going to talk about?” Ron asked, resting his arm in friendly way around Hermione’s shoulder. He looked from Hayden to Hermione, who raised a brow at him; neither of them answered. “Fine! Then don’t tell me.”
“See you in the common room, then, Hermione,” Ginny said, dragging her brother away behind her.
When Harry, Ginny and Ron were at a far enough distance, Hayden turned to Hermione. “Have you decided yet?”
“I don’t know yet,” Hermione said, shaking her head and then staring back at Hayden. “Tell me something, Hayden, why do you care so much about Malfoy? Like he’s someone special.”
Hayden made a repulsed face, his nose cringing. “You make it sound like I’m someone with-er-homosexual tendencies.”
“I didn’t mean that,” Hermione said, rolling her eyes. “Why are you so concerned about him? Does it mean you’re bestestest friends with that prat? When you protected me and Ginny from Malfoy the other day…was that just a ploy?”
“Oh, c’mon! You have to start singing a new song,” Hayden sighed dramatically. “We already discussed that, right?”
Hermione looked at him expressionlessly. She tucked a curl behind her ear and grumpled something under her breath.
“Okay,” Hayden said, after a moment of silence, “I won’t push you to do something you don’t want to. And I know you can’t stand him.”
“It’s not about what I want,” Hermione said, struggling with her words. She looked away from Hayden, staring into the distance. “And it’s not because I can’t stand him; I loathe him! It’s about … I don’t know if I can be alone with him for more than a few minutes without killing him.”
“Believe me, I know that feeling,” Hayden chuckled. “Poor Malfoy, though. I heard he got a Troll for his spoiled potion, he’ll definitely not pass his um … Potions N.E.W.T. next year. Luckily, it wasn’t my cauldron you blew off, huh?” He tried to kid with Hermione, but her expression turned blank.
“I can’t believe you’re doing this!” Hermione said, flabbergasted. “You’re using guilt to persuade me?”
“I’m definitely not guilt-tripping you,” Hayden exclaimed. He was displaying the fake innocence which, picked the hearts of his parents so well and so often. He remembered it working—like a charm, as the muggle phrase went—when he had broken valuable objects in the manor. “I just overheard some Slytherins saying that Malfoy was the only one who failed that test. He’d never received a Troll before and even his mates Goyle and Crabbe got a much higher grade than their master.” He watched Hermione’s facial expression filling with sudden compassion.
“Alright, fine! I’ll do it.”
“Great! I knew you’d do it!” he beamed.
“Just one condition,” Hermione cut him off, “you have to be there, too. You’ll not leave me alone with that insufferable prat.”
Hayden met Hermione at eight pm in front of the library entrance. A brown leather-bound book was pressed against her chest; some pieces of parchments sticking between the pages. A stray line of wariness seemed to mar her features, but she came to their meeting place. It was a wonder she came at all, due to her lack of motivation.
“Ready?” Hayden asked, ushering Hermione through the door. She gave a small groan and walked in with feigned enthusiasm.
“Sure,” Hermione said, idly lifting a corner of her lip. “I’ve been looking forward to this opportunity to tutor the most arrogant snot I have ever had the misfortune to meet.”
Hayden sighed; it’s not that he was unaccustomed to the negative opinions his parents expressed about each other behind the other’s back. “Hermione,” he said, placing a hand on her shoulder, “always remember: ‘what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger’.”
They marched through the centre aisle of the immense library of Hogwarts. To the left and right of them were a few students sitting in small groups around the tables, occupied with their personal business. They walked up toward the end of the aisle, and entered a rectangle that was bordered on three sides by shelves crammed full of musty, moth-eaten books that surely needed to be repaired so their lost wisdom could be regained.
And Draco was there. He was sitting at a table with his book open in front of him, flipping through the pages and looking at some interesting pictures. This gave the impression that he was busy with reading.
Honestly, as Hayden thought about Hermione, he hadn’t expected Draco to come either, not after the nerve-racking show Hayden presented to him during dinner. It was just for the sake of persuading him to meet Hermione for the supposed tutorial in the library … for Draco’s own good.
“Oh, Malfoy, so early, huh?” Hayden said, causing Draco to startle. He greeted both of them with a well-trained scowl, and raised an eyebrow in an aristocratic manner. Hayden pushed Hermione gently forward, and declaimed, “Draco Malfoy, I, Hayden Malcolm, want you to meet Hermione Granger. Her-”
“Stop that,” Hermione hissed, elbowing Hayden in the side.
Draco slammed his book shut and watched Hermione taking a seat in front of him. He locked his upper body upright; he folded his hands together as if he were going to interview Hermione. Hermione, in turn, put her book on the table and straightened her skirt before sitting down. She didn’t avert her eyes from Draco’s cold ones; showing intimidation wasn’t an option for her. Hayden had to suppress a grin at their stiffness towards one another; his instincts told him that this was the calm before the storm. He leaned his back against the bookshelf behind him, watching the pubescent versions of his parents shooting daggers at each other. He gave them a minute, at the most, before they would be at each other’s throats. He almost pulled out a stopwatch, but thought better of it, thinking it would be crass.
“Malfoy,” Hermione purred. “Would you like us to start with the theories from last week’s lesson? Or do you have another topic with which you’d like to begin?”
Draco kept his cold glare on Hermione, a small smirk forming on his lips; he didn’t think he needed to answer.
Hermione finally managed to take her eyes from his. Her frustration was clearly showing through just by the way she opened her Advanced Potion Making book and flipped through the pages with obvious harshness. “Fine,” Hermione mumbled with a dramatic sigh, “you don’t have to talk. We’ll start on page 233: ‘Garamond's theory of permanent extra sensory perception is a rare side effect of the Seer potion when used on young children’. Perception is a task far more complex than was imagined in the 1950s and 1960s, when Garamond proclaimed that –“
Draco made a snoring sound, consequently earning a glare from Hermione. “Granger,” he said, “First of all, I am not illiterate. Or, if you have not been given the goodness to know what that means: I know how to read. Thank you. And secondly, my pride is already under siege from having to receive tutorial lessons from Pot-shot and Measleface’s brain carrier. So…spare me some dignity.”
“Fine! You know what? I don’t need to do this!” Hermione said, slamming her book shut and crossing her arms over her chest. “I offered you my help, and you thank me by insulting my friends and –”
“I suppose I really should be grateful then,” Draco spat, cutting her off. His voice was calm but inside he was almost certainly raging. Hayden could see the fine muscles of Draco’s jaw line clenching, his grey eyes burning towards Hermione. “Really sorry, Granger, for my lack of appreciation. Let’s just proceed to page 245, shall we?” he slammed opened his book, “Topic: ‘Apologising to Draco Malfoy. Subtopic Being a Destructive..." He trailed off with such implied hatred that she was silent as he finished with his question: "Shall we start with the ingredients or do you want to read me the theory first?”
Hermione blinked at him in confusion, it took her a few seconds before she understood; her face blanching. “I am not destructive,” she said, furrowing her brows.
Hayden stepped from the background and tried to calm the both of them down; apparently, his plan was getting out of control. But what did he expect? Take two people together who’d hated each other from the very beginning, and expect them not to kill each other when put in one box? They hadn’t even reached one minute and they were already fighting.
“What do I need apologising for? For spoiling your grade on a potion that would have received a poor grade anyway since you didn’t use the correct ingredients?” Hermione hissed in one breath through clenched teeth. Hayden suddenly wondered how she’d known that Draco didn’t use the correct ingredients. “You weren’t so purely innocent either. That was the very first time I sought revenge in that way, just to even out the many times you annoyed, humiliated and physically hurt me in public!” she added.
Draco jumped to his feet so quickly that his chair fell back, causing a loud echoing clunk to resound throughout the library. He slammed his hands on the table and said in clear tones, “I have never hurt you physically, Granger! You’re the one attacking, slapping me, and blowing off my things…”
Hayden wanted to intervene, but an inner force held him back as Draco’s and Hermione’s voices became distant in his ears. A shiver ran down his spine, and suddenly he felt fear overcoming him. The entire library dissolved into darkness, leaving only two figures that transitioned into their respective older versions that Hayden was familiar with. Everything was in slow motion as Hayden relived once again the unbearable pain of watching his parents fighting in front of their son. The last time he had seen this scene was on the fateful night that his mother had died in that unavoidable accident. She had stormed out of their house and into the street, where she had been hit by a Muggle car.
Hayden was snatched back from the vortex of his darkest memory only to hear Hermione shouting back at the bloke she couldn’t bear spending a minute in a room with, yet was destined to become her husband. She rose to her feet, her lips curled in anger. “It’s because you deserve it! What do you want me to do? You’re humiliating me and calling me all sorts of names, and now you want me to bow and be grateful?”
Tears started to form in Hermione’s eyes as she added, “Just because I am a M – Mudblood, right? Just because you don’t see me as someone equal to a human being, just because you hate me so much doesn’t mean I have to let you treat me like garbage.”
“But … I don’t hate you.” The last words died away in the leaden silence. If Draco’s typically pale face hadn’t turned crimson, betraying him by his reaction to the revealing statement, no one would have guessed that it was him who had said it. Nobody was used to such a fragile voice emanating from the most arrogant and prejudiced Pureblood. He quickly averted his eyes from her flustered state.
Before Hermione could respond, a tall, black haired woman with a shrivelled face and an old-fashioned outfit stepped into view from behind one of the library shelves.
“What is going on here?” she growled, shifting a stern look from Hermione to Draco, “Mr. Malfoy,” she growled, narrowing her eyelids to little slits. Both Draco and Hayden automatically faced her. Hayden quickly realised that the nasty bat hadn’t meant him, and he looked over to Draco, who didn’t flinch but disrespectfully frowned back at her. “And Ms. Granger, your voices were resounding through the entire library. Please have some respect for the other students or get out!” She re-arranged the glasses on her nose and gave everyone a last warning glare. “Is that clear?”
“Yes, we’re sorry, Madam Pince,” Hermione said.
Draco grabbed his book and walked past the librarian, mumbling some excuse before disappearing behind the tall lady. Before Hayden knew what was happening, Hermione grabbed her potions book and practically ran down the aisle after Draco. A siren sounded in Hayden’s head; he didn’t want his not-yet-parents to kill each other before they had had the opportunity to establish the deep and undying love in their oh-so-perfect relationship.
He sprinted right after Hermione, with Madam Pince yelling something unclear after him. He reached the exit and found Hermione and Draco a floor beneath him, standing a safe distance from one another. They had obviously decided to continue their argument in the hallways, which gave the echoes of their voices a more vibrant resonance.
Hayden shook his head in disbelief. At least they aren’t pointing wands at each other.
“Stop acting so immature, Malfoy, and tell me why you’re being so spiteful to me,” Hermione said, pressing her book tightly against her chest. “And now you lie to my face, saying that you don’t hate me at all?”
“You don't have to believe it!” Draco huffed. “Believe what you want to believe, Granger. I know what you and your freckled buddy and Scarface think of me. But guess what? I don’t care!”
“Cripes, I didn’t believe it was possible to have such a senseless argument with someone other than with Ron!” Hermione exclaimed with exaggeration.
“Don’t you dare compare me to that moron!” Draco snarled. Hermione was taken aback by the harshness of his voice, and the infuriated way he insulted Ron.
“Okay,” Hermione said quietly, though her voice grew shrill as she added, “just next time, Malfoy, if you continue to annoy me, don’t expect an apology if I blow your stuff up, and then sulk like a cry-baby.”
Draco, confused, blinked at her. It was like he couldn't held it anymore, to held back what he was feeling, his anger, his sorrows, so the words just rushed out of his mouth. “Have you ever thought that this whole thing is not just about the issue from our last Potions class?” Draco said, his voice breaking. “Have you ever thought that the reason why we both can’t get along is not because of hating or loathing each other… but because of…”
“Because of what?” Hermione asked tentatively.
“…because of misunderstandings?” he completed, staring directly at her.
Draco, for the first time ever, managed to strike Hermione Granger speechless. She looked him in the eyes, breathing heavily.
“You don’t know what bloody damn situation I’ve gotten myself in. You don’t know how it feels like to have everyone looking at you, watching you as if they’re all waiting for you to fail,” Draco said, his voice unexpectedly filled with sadness. “I’ve been raised to certain standards, and failure is absolutely unthinkable! Whether in my studies or in my … assignments…” Draco dropped his head, and pressed his eyes close together.
And as the girl Hayden knew Hermione to be, she spoke softly, full of sincerity and compassion, to her most hated enemy. “What is it that I can do for you then?”
Draco looked up at her slowly, his eyes glassy. He finally let down his defences. He didn’t blink, his nostrils flaring, his expression full of anger … anger at himself for showing weakness.
“Help,” he whispered, “I – I need you to help me.”
(A/N: Thanks to Unwritten_Curse for beta-reading this chapter.)
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