Chapter 25 : Chapter 37
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Hermione opened her eyes as the squeezing feeling left her and they met Ron’s. He stood in the doorway of the living room leaning against the wall. In the silence they looked one another over.
She saw sorrow, anger, hurt, and hope in his gaze. He saw pain, anger, hope, and tiredness in hers.
“I’m sorry,” he began as he took the first step, literally and figuratively.
She held up her hand to stop him and stepped back from him a bit. “For what?” she asked.
“For everything,” he answered, clearly frustrated. When she merely looked at him, he ran a nervous hand through his hair before burying both in his pockets.
“Okay fine, for having him, you guys, tailed, for being a general pain, and for not letting you live your life the way you wanted to.”
Hermione tilted her head to the side, “Is that all?”
“What more is there?” he asked as he stood straighter. “I know you want to hear that I’m sorry for not giving him a chance, that I should have trusted you more, that I fully accept that you and Malfoy are together. Is that want you want me to say?”
“No, Ron,” she sighed. “I don’t want you to say anything you don’t feel. I want to hear what you have to say honestly. Then I want you to listen to me. This doesn’t all just go away today with an ‘I’m sorry’. I just hoped we could at least talk.”
He nodded and went to sit on the sofa. With a gesture from him she sat across from him in a chair.
At her nod, he sighed and looked down at his own clasped hands, “I am sorry, Hermione. Truly sorry for causing you pain. That was never my intention. I just wanted to…hell, I don’t even know anymore. I was just blinded with rage that he dared touch you after all he’d…I was just blind, I guess. Even as I watched it happen, him fall in love with you, I couldn’t believe it, didn’t want to believe it. Even when Harry talked to me about it, I…it was just easier to hate him and look for something, anything to keep you from him. Georgie and I have talked a lot about it, you know? It really wasn’t jealousy. It wasn’t that I didn’t…don’t want you happy. I do. More than anything. You deserve so much and I just couldn’t see him as the person you’d choose to…But I do now. Mostly. I know I should be sorry that I reacted the way I have and did what I did, but I can’t be. No, don’t get mad, just listen, okay?”
Hermione swallowed and nodded briefly, her eyes flashing, but she kept her mouth shut and let him finish.
Ron cleared his throat and continued, “I will not be sorry for trying to protect you, for trying to keep you safe. I won’t be sorry for loving you so much, respecting you so much, that I only want the absolute best for you. I won’t be sorry for checking on him to make sure he didn’t hurt you. I won’t. But, and here’s the part you need to really hear, Mione, I am truly sorry that I hurt you. I am sorry that my protection and love was and is so absolute and so intense that it caused you pain. I am sorry that I allowed my own feelings to get in the way of what should be a perfect time for you. Yesterday was one of the hardest days of my life. I knew you were happy, loved and respected, as you should be. I knew you wore that ring because you wanted to and not because you were coerced. And, I knew that what should have been one of the happiest days of your life was marred by me and what I’ve done to you in the name of love.”
He watched her eyes lower and saw the shuddering breath she drew, and waited until she looked back at him before he finished.
“I am sorry for the past few months. I missed you. I missed us. I know you love him and he…he loves you. I don’t know how things ended up here and I feel like I have missed so much of what’s been going on with you. You have no idea how much it has hurt to hear about your life second hand from Georgie. I wanted to be there for you when you went to that house for the first time. I wanted to hold you when you two fought and tell you that everything would be okay. I never wanted to be on the sidelines of your life. And, it kills me that my own actions made it so.
“I love you so much. And, I want to be back in your life. If that means making nice with Malfoy for the rest of our lives, I will, because there is nothing, no one, more important to me. You were my first love, my girlfriend, my first girl who was a friend, my protector, my support…my everything. I may not be in love with you anymore, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love you more and more each day. Oh don’t cry, please. And, please say you forgive me. Let me have my Mione back.”
‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’
“Hello?” Draco called out as he stepped from the fireplace.
“Draco?” his mother called. He could hear her hurrying from the stairs.
“Hello, Mother,” he answered as he made his way from the room.
Narcissa drew up short, one hand on her heart, the other on the railing. Her eyes were wide with worry.
“What happened? What’s wrong?” she asked anxiously.
“Nothing. Everything’s fine,” he answered. He took the last steps to her and gave her a brief hug.
Narcissa took a deep breath to calm her racing heart. The alarm had rung to let them know someone “approved” had flooed into the manor. As the only people who were approved to do so were Lucius, Draco, herself, and as of Friday night, Hermione, she had panicked that something had happened to Draco for either to come unexpectedly.
“Okay, darling. I am happy to see you, of course, but what brings you here? I mean, you didn’t say you were coming when we spoke Friday night.”
Draco led his mother down the remaining steps and into the sitting room as he spoke, “It was kind of unexpected. And, I didn’t decide to come until this morning. I apologize for startling you.”
“Oh dear, I am fine. And, I am so pleased to see you again so soon.”
Draco smiled softly as his mother drew her feet up under her on the sofa. Most of the world saw only the proper, pretentious, straight-laced, pureblood wife she let them see. But, with him, she could be herself. He realized belatedly he had missed these quiet times with her.
“And, I am very happy to see you again, Mother. How are you?”
Narcissa smiled at her son as he took her hand gently in his. It was a rare gift to have him home voluntarily, and one of which she didn’t want to waste a moment.
“I am doing very well. My son is happy. And, I love my daughter-in-law-to-be more each time I see her. She sends me the most lovely letters every once in a while. Does she tell you?”
Draco nodded and she continued, “Well, good. I had lunch with the ladies yesterday and told them about your engagement. I thought Mrs. Parkinson was going to choke on her watercress. It’s bad of me, I know, but it was so nice to finally get that woman’s goat. She’s been planning your wedding to her horrid daughter for so long and I had to put up with it. It was finally my turn to have the last word.”
“So, was anyone actually happy for me?” he chuckled.
“Well, of course, Baina Zabini was just thrilled. More, I think, because she felt she was ‘in the know’ than because of your engagement to Hermione, but still she was happy. Where is she anyway? Why didn’t she come home with you?”
Draco leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest, “She felt the need to go make up with the weasel.”
“Oh, darling, you aren’t jealous are you?” Narcissa asked as she reached out to put a hand on his arm.
“What?! No. It’s not that, Mother.” He shook his head and relaxed his arms as he took a breath. “Nothing like that. It’s just the thought of playing nice with that arse for the remainder of my life…ugh!”
“But, you will,” Narcissa said knowingly.
He sighed and nodded, “I guess I have to, don’t I?”
Narcissa laughed lightly and reached forward to ring for tea and cakes, “Well, marriage is, if nothing else, compromise, darling.” When the elf appeared she ordered them a light snack and turned back to her son. “Think of it this way, you are better off than most. You like her parents and her family. And, from what you’ve said they like you. And, you have learned to tolerate and even like most of her other friends. Not liking only one isn’t so bad.”
“I know,” he sighed. “There’s just something about him that makes me want to pummel him into the ground.”
Their snack and drinks appeared as Narcissa’s tinkling laughter spilled out. She sat forward to add cream to her tea and for the next few minutes they talked quietly and comfortably together. He told her of the day before and the dinner they’d had to celebrate. She told him about the party they had attended and more about her lunch with the other ladies of her circle.
When the tea was drunk and the cakes nothing but crumbs on the plate, Narcissa leaned back and looked at him more seriously.
“So, Draco, tell me the truth. Nothing is wrong and no one is hurt. You and Hermione are still happy. As much as I would love to think you simply missed our little talks, I know something else made you come here today. What is it?”
Draco looked over at her, “I have missed our talks, Mother. But, you are right, I did come for other reasons.”
When she raised an eyebrow at him, he continued, “I need to speak to Father.”
“Is this about the tension between you the other evening?” she asked softly.
Draco nodded and said, “There are some things I need him to explain; to make me understand.”
“This is about his decisions and actions during your school years, is it not?” Narcissa asked her eyes fixed on the teacup in her hand.
She felt more than saw his nod and drew in a sharp breath, “I don’t know if he is ready.”
“What?” Draco asked more harshly than he meant to. “What does he have to be ready for, Mother? He wasn’t the one hurt. He wasn’t the one who almost died! He isn’t the one who has to live with…”
“Yes, he is!” Narcissa interrupted as she lunged to her feet. Draco’s shock kept him quiet as she paced away and then back. “He has to live knowing he lived, and even enjoyed, that life. He has to live with knowing he is responsible for so many senseless deaths and evil, evil…he has to live each day knowing that his son betrayed him, no matter for good reasons or not, you did and he knows it. He knows his actions put you in more danger than he ever could have thought possible and he has to live knowing that you could very easily grow to hate him the more you learn. He has to wake up each and every day and know that his life will never be the same. That his beliefs were not only shattered, but so very wrong. He also now has to live with knowing that he took part in activities that nearly took his future daughter-in-law’s life.”
Draco stared at his mother as if he had never seen her before. She had never spoken with such passion, hurt or vehemence about the past. And, he had never heard her defend Lucius like that. He watched as tears slid down her face and she wrapped her arms around herself, as if cold.
She didn’t look at him as she continued, “He will never let you see it. He barely lets me. But, he hurts, too, Draco. He lost everything. Everything, but us. And, he knows he was given another chance. He acts as if he doesn’t care, like nothing has changed. But, you don’t see him. Alone. So alone. He makes sure no one sees it, the loneliness, the confusion, the pain, the fear… He has changed. He is not the same person he was then. He can barely bring himself to think of all the things he did, much less speak of them. You have to understand that. You need to give him more time, Draco. Please.”
Draco shook his head, “I hear you, Mother, but no. Why should he get more time? Why should he get to hide his feelings away and pretend it didn’t happen? Why doesn’t he have to face the proverbial music like everyone else?”
“Because he’s Lucius Malfoy,” she responded, as if that answered everything.
Draco almost smiled at her answer, “Your loyalty is commendable, Mother, but this is something he and I both need. I ran away from it all. He pretends it never happened. But, neither of us can keep going like this. One thing I have learned from Blaise and Hermione, even Harry and Ginny, sometimes, no matter how much it hurts at the time, you have to let it out. I need answers and he needs to talk. It is time. Things were done to me, Mother. And, I have a right to know why!”
“But, he…” she began.
“He thinks his son should come to his study,” Lucius interrupted, startling them both with his sudden appearance.
Narcissa stepped toward her husband, “Lucius, maybe you should…”
He shook his head to stop her, but smiled a little at her as he spoke, “No, Cissa. He’s right. It is time.”
Narcissa stopped and stared at him for a moment before she seemed to wilt a little and nodded. Then she looked from father to son, at a loss as to what to say. With an aggrieved sigh she stepped over to Draco and spoke softly to him.
“Try to remember it was long ago. Keep Hermione’s forgiveness in mind and don’t forget we love you.”
Draco nodded and squeezed her hand before she walked over to Lucius.
She kept her back to Draco as she spoke just as softly to her husband, “He loves you, too, remember that. And, I love you and trust you in this. No matter what.”
When he closed his eyes for a moment and then nodded, she turned back to Draco. “I love you so very much, my little dragon.”
“And, I you, Mother.”
Matching eyes watched her walk gracefully from the room and then they heard her open and close the front door. They knew she would go sit in the garden a while to clear her mind.
Finally, turning his eyes on his son, “Shall we?”
Draco nodded once and moved to follow his father from the room.
When they entered the room Draco once again glanced at all the items in his father’s study.
“Why do you keep all this?” he asked. He hadn’t meant to say it out loud, but he was even more surprised to hear his father answer.
Lucius heaved a sigh and sat in his chair. He looked at his son and then around the room. It was time for some truths.
“Those who forget the past, are doomed to repeat it. I will not allow myself to forget all that has transpired. I will never again allow myself to fall prey to the desires of others. These…artifacts remind me.”
Both men then stilled as they thought how to begin.
Draco took the first step, “You heard what I said downstairs to Mother?”
“Then it is time for those answers,” Draco stated as calmly as possible.
Lucius looked him in the eye, “You will have to be more specific.”
Draco stared at his father for a moment. So many questions crowded his mind he didn’t know where to begin. It had taken them a long time to get to a place where they could enjoy each other’s company again. They had finally reached a comfort between them that didn’t rely on Lucius’ demands or Draco’s subservience. He thought his actions after the war had been understood and forgiven. To hear all the things his mother had said stalled his tongue. As angry as he was, his love for his father crept in. He wanted to rage, to scream. But, his respect, although tarnished, was still there. With a heavy sigh he sat forward in his chair and looked at the man he had once wanted to emulate.
“Make me understand how,” he finally said.
“How what, Draco?” Lucius stood and moved to his window to stare out as he spoke. He started softly, but his voice grew as the bitterness took over. “How could I follow the commands of deranged, half-blood, power-hungry, mad man for most of my adult life? How could I let my need for more; more power, more money, more everything, blind me to what was right? How could I stand by and let children be tortured and die and think it was somehow justified? How could I take part in it gleefully? How could I put your life in jeopardy time and time again? How could I make you to live the life I forced on you? How could I let your mother live like that? How could I almost lose everything before turning back? How can I live each day knowing my son betrayed me?”
Draco sat up straighter in his chair as his father rounded on him, his eyes blazing, “How could I still believe to this day that I, you, all of us of pure blood are still somehow better? How can I still hate Potter? Look at what he has reduced me to! How can I look you in the eye and know what you think of me and my choices? How can I look your intended in the eye at all when she was there for some of my lowest… How can I show no remorse to those who feel I wronged them? How can I…”
Draco surged to his feet, “Father, stop!”
Lucius’ upset was so complete he couldn’t stop, “No, you had these questions and many more I am sure. I thought you wanted answers! Well, let me tell you, there are none! None! Don’t you think I have asked these questions time and time again? Don’t you think you’re mother has thought to try and get them? How, you ask. I ask you the same. How, Draco, can I do anything but what I am doing? I have not forgotten. But, as you so eloquently put it, I pretend! I pretend I don’t abhor what my life has become. I pretend I understand how you could turn from us as you did. I pretend to understand how I somehow still respect you more for it. I pretend I don’t see the looks of contempt, fear, and pity from everyone I pass! I pretend! And, I hope one day that pretense becomes reality. I pretend I live in a time when the past is just that. I can not change it. I can not undo it. I can not unmake the decisions I made. I do what I can today, now. I wake up each day and try to remember that I have a wife and son who mean more to me than anger, remorse, vengeance or grudges. I wake up and swallow the ‘what ifs’ and go about my day trying to do as you have done, put the past where it belongs and live my life! What other penance do you have for me? What else would you have me do?”
Draco stared wide-eyed at his father. Nothing his father had said had answered one question, but he still felt he had many of his answers. Lucius had not forgotten. He, like everyone else, had changed. He felt remorse. He felt pain. His pride was his only shield.
When Lucius turned away to calm himself, Draco sat back down and looked down at the floor. Even with all that had been said, he still needed one more answer.
Lucius finally turned and looked at his son, “I know you think you deserve answers, and maybe you do, but I don’t have them. I can’t answer for you, or Ms. Granger, things I can’t answer for myself.”
Draco was quiet a minute more before he asked, “Does Mother know I was obliviated?”
Lucius’ short answer gave him pause, but he plowed ahead, “Why? Why did you do it? I had already given you up. I had already spent my time in Azkaban. What good did it do to erase my memories after the fact?!”
“I can not answer those questions,” Lucius said as he looked back at the window.
“Can not or will not?” Draco demanded, once again coming to his feet.
When Lucius turned back to face him, Draco noticed for the first time, the sorrow in his eyes, “I can not.”
“Why not?” he asked loudly as he slammed his fist on his father’s desk.
Lucius looked from his son’s fist to his face and sighed, “Draco, it was not I, who made that choice. Nor was I the one to do the deed.”
“What are you saying? You let someone play with mind and you don’t even know why it was done?!”
“They were not playing!” Lucius spat at him as he leaned into his son’s face. “It was done for your own good!”
“How the hell could wiping away moments of my life be for my good?! Who could think that…”
“I could,” his mother’s voice washed over him.
At the same time his father moved from behind his desk, “Cissa, no.”
Draco turned in abject shock to see his mother standing in the doorway with tears sliding down her face.
“Your father was not aware of it until after the fact,” she confessed, her eyes slipping shut. “I just couldn’t stand to know you were going to have to live with all of that. When I came to you that last day in Azkaban you were so lost, so…gone, I couldn’t take…I just couldn’t let you live with all of it. It was my decision, Draco. My actions. I loved you too much to allow you to remember all the things you had seen.”
Draco sank back into the chair and stared from his father to his mother. His voice was choked when he tried to speak, “But…”
Narcissa moved forward to kneel beside his chair and take one of his hands in hers. Her eyes were red, her face blotchy, but her voice never wavered, “I was careful, my little dragon. I made sure to only remove the most horrid ones, the others I just left a bit hazy. I know you may hate me for it, but I have lived with these memories. And, I have watched your father live with them. I know what they have done to us. I know how they eat at you until you want to cry, scream and lock yourself away. I just couldn’t let the one person I loved more than my own life live that way. I did it for you, my son. Because I love you and I would do anything to make you happy and keep you safe. I knew the day could come when you would find out, and I knew I risked much in doing it, but I’m your mother. It was my duty to protect you in any way I could. It’s all I could think to do to help you become whole again. I am not sorry I did it, but I am sorry for your hurt. I must also confess to planting the suggestion that you move in with Blaise afterward. It was not that I didn’t want you home, Draco, it was all I wanted. But I couldn’t allow you to see this place as it was. I couldn’t risk it. I knew there you would be able to begin again. I knew Blaise and his family would help you heal. And, even if I lost you forever, you would be whole again.”
Narcissa fell back on her heels and lowered her head. She looked defeated. In the silence that followed Lucius moved forward and kneeled to help her up, but Draco stopped him as he fell to his knees beside her.
He looked from one pair of eyes to the other and said the only thing that came to mind, “I don’t hate you. Either of you.”
His mother’s eyes misted again as she reached for him and asked hopefully, “So, you understa…”
“No,” he said softly as he backed away from her hand. “I don’t understand anything right now. I need time to…to…I need time.”
He stood and moved back from them as they stood slowly together. No one spoke as they stared at one another, the truth he had been seeking still ringing in the room.
With a heavy sigh he said, “I will return, but for now I need to go.”
They nodded and as one moved to the side to allow him room to pass. He shook his head and thought of a place where he could think, where he could find peace and support. With this place in mind, he turned to apparate. His last view was of his father’s normally stoic face, saddened, and his mother reaching out to him.
‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’
“And, now he’s upstairs sleeping up in your old room,” Julie said softly into the phone.
Hermione sat crosslegged on the bed in their bedroom and cried. Draco had sent her a patronus earlier to let her know he was okay, but that he still needed some time and would be back later. She had paced the floor wondering what had occurred and when he would be back for almost three hours before her mother had called. The story her mother told had made her ache for him.
“Honey, are you okay?” her mother asked when Hermione had been quiet a long while.
“I guess,” she said. “Is he?”
Draco had gone to the only place he could think of where he felt he could get perspective and be understood. A part of him had wanted to go straight home to Hermione and forget all of it for a while. But, he knew that would be too much like running again. He needed to face it. He needed to talk about it. He needed someone who could listen and maybe help him understand it. When he had stood facing his parents, knowing he needed to get away, the only place that came to mind was Hermione’s parent’s house. Next thing he knew, he was in their parlor, a sob escaping his throat, and Julie was hugging him tightly. After alleviating their initial fear that something had happened to Hermione, everything poured out. He spoke of his parents, school, Dumbledore, Snape, the Fall, and his life afterward. He told them of his time in Azkaban and his running away from it all. They were made privy to his feelings for each member of the Zabini family, Hermione, the Potters, and the Weasleys, even Ron. He eventually came around to his conversation with his parents and their confessions.
Julie and Rich had listened, offered sympathy, and held their feelings in check as the man before them broke. When his story ended, Julie held him and the three talked. They helped him sort out his feelings as best as they could, and they offered him want he had been seeking, understanding. Julie gave reason and sense to Narcissa’s actions. Rich helped him understand what a father would do for their child. He came to realize that Lucius’ desire for more, was also a desire of more for him, as his son. The Grangers unconditional love and support finally let Draco find his equilibrium and gain a sense of peace, but the day had drained him.
When Julie took him upstairs and put him to bed to “get some rest from what has been a very long day” he smiled a little. They were not his blood. They didn’t share a history with him. And, they now knew all he had done and somehow still opened their home and hearts to him. He knew where Hermione got it from. He knew what ‘family’ meant.
Her mother sighed into the phone, “He will be okay, honey. I think he just needs some quiet and some time. I’ll wake him in another hour or so and send him back, okay?”
“Okay, but…” Hermione began, only to stop and stare at the ring on her finger.
She moved the phone to her other ear and asked, “But, what do I do? Or say, when he comes home?”
“He asked me to call you so you wouldn’t worry. I am sure he knows you well enough to know that we would have discussed things. All you can do, hon, is be there. Hold him if he needs it, cry with or for him, and let him know you aren’t going anywhere. Follow his lead and your heart.”
Hermione sniffled and blew her nose again before she said, “Okay. Thanks, Mom. For him and for me.”
“I love you,” her mother answered.
“And, I love you.”
“So, what happened with Ronald?” her mother asked.
When Hermione finished her story, Julie had expressed her happiness that Ron was finally coming around. And, Hermione confessed to her how weird things still were, but that at least she now had hope.
“I just don’t know what else to say to him, Mom,” she sighed. “He apologized and I know he meant it, but I just don’t think he really understands the damage he’s done.”
“Have you forgiven him?”
“Yes,” Hermione answered as she plucked at the coverlet under her. “But, I just don’t know how long before I can forget it, I guess.”
“What did you say to him before you left?” Julie asked.
“That we would eventually be okay. That I forgive him.” Hermione paused and laughed at little, “That he would have to start accepting Draco and making nice like a big boy.”
Julie laughed, “And, how’d he take that?”
“Normal Ron fashion,” Hermione laughed. “He snorted and started to spout off, but Snoop gave him a look and he just shut up. She certainly has him wrapped around her finger.”
“That’s something I’d like to see,” Julie smiled. “Every time that boy was here during the summer, I wanted to ring his neck after only a few minutes of his stubbornness. I never understood how you put up with it.”
“Me neither sometimes. Especially fourth and fifth year.” She laughed in memory and then sobered, “Mom?”
“What can I do to, well I don’t know, make them be friends sounds silly and I know it can’t be done. But, Mom, I can’t live the rest of my life with them at odds.”
“I hate to say it Hermione, but you may have to. There are many people in this world we like, some we tolerate and others that we will simply never get along with. I’m afraid Draco and Ron have too much dislike between them to ever learn to see past it.”
“But, they can’t stay like this forever!”
“Don’t worry, they won’t. They’re men, honey, so they will continue to crow at each other, and try to one-up one another. But, they both love you, so they will also learn to grin and bear each other for longer and longer lengths of time.”
Hermione harrumphed and Julie laughed, “You know how your father feels about my brother, Kenny?”
Hermione grinned and mimicked her father’s voice, “Can’t stand that sod. Damn know it all.”
“Exactly,” Julie laughed with her. “After almost thirty years they still can’t be in the same room for more than three hours before they start to argue like children.”
“So, that’s what I have to look forward to?” Hermione sighed dejectedly.
Julie smiled, “Well, honey, it used to be only an hour.”
When what Julie had said filtered through, Hermione smiled and laughed. “Well, they are already up to an hour, so there’s hope.”
They spoke for a short while longer before Hermione said she needed to go.
Before they hung up Julie asked, “Call me tomorrow, okay?”
“I will. Bye, Mom.”
“Bye, my angel.”
‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’
Author’s Notes – Every read is a treasure, every review a gift. And, I thank each and every one of you!
With only two chapters to go I would like to thank each and every one of you who have stuck through this with me. Your reviews have made my days brighter and knowing that a large number of people have read it, has made me smile. I loved writing it, but knowing others have enjoyed it has been such a gift. Thank you!
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