Chapter 16 : The Muggle Snapshot
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I was crying when I saw this chapter image. Made by the talented Violet at TDA
Credits: The idea of Pseudo-Appiration is not mine, but I've slightly changed the rule set. According to my beta, Dr. Pinkerton, the famous researcher of magical attack, defense, and espionage techniques, invented PA.
The description of "fate" was written by my beta. And well, my beta is Fallstar. :) Read his stories. They're great.
Disclaimer: Well, HP is still JKR's, but the plot and OCs are mine. :)
Why can’t you keep yourself out of trouble, Hayden?
You’ve broken your arm—AGAIN?
If only I could cast a permanent protection charm on you just to keep you from getting hurt, I definitely and gladly would.
His mother’s voice was as clear in his ears as it was when he’d last seen her. As though his mother—not the Hermione Granger in this era, but his mother from the future, Hermione Malfoy—was in the same place like him. And her lovely but all the same authoritative tone rebuked him for always getting in trouble. It got him on the nerves sometimes.
It was most likely the umpteenth time Hayden Malfoy had showed up at home with an injury. That fateful time he had come home with a bleeding nose and sore left eye, his light blue sweater stained with blood. Whether it was his fault or the boys’ in the park who had thrashed him for protecting his best girlfriend, his mother didn’t care to know.
“But, Mum, they started it! They said she’s a freak. I can’t let them get away with it.”
“I don’t care what they’d said this time. You can’t solve problems with violence. How many times have I told you...”
“Blah blah... please spare me your tedious speech!”
And with that, as the bad-tempered eight-year-old that he was, he had slammed his bedroom door right into his mother’s face.
“God damn it, Hayden!” Naomi fumed when she had, once again, apparated into an empty room. Where she exactly was, she couldn’t immediately tell. Here, there and yon were cauldrons in all sizes and shapes, so she assumed she had landed in the cauldron store room near Dungeon Five. She clutched her wand tighter: “Where. The. Heck. Are. You?”
Another squeezing sensation, another plop, and she was falling—falling—falling. And then she landed on her back. “OUCH! My bum, ow ow!” she cried out in pain, rubbing the hurting spot. Scanning the room quickly, she got to her feet, as realisation hit her. “I forgot that this isn’t the extra classroom used for Pseudo-Apparition designed for students who are of age in my era. Way to go, Headmistress Sprout!”
Good thing I got my license for that already, Naomi thought, proud of herself, no one will ever catch me since no one knows that I can circumvent the invincible Anti-Apparition spell on this castle. Pseudo-Apparition works by completely different principle from the classical Apparition of this era.
“I’d better worry about getting my license confiscated for using Pseudo-Apparition unwisely, Naomi rebuked herself, “But later...Much later.”
She got up from the pile of boards and sacks she had landed on; she then dusted her skirt down while walking towards the shelves that were stacked up with dusty books and unused objects.
Okay, he’s apparently not here too, Naomi realised, sighing loudly.
“I’ve checked all the common rooms in this castle, part of the forest, the Astronomy Tower, and even got lost in the Room of Hidden Things...” Naomi counted on her fingers, though on the last one she was sure that Hayden couldn’t know about.
She looked in her pocket for her notepad, and read the handwriting—that wasn’t hers—
scribbled there. There was a brief description of Hermione Granger’s physical appearance, a very detailed information about her character, hobbies, friends, her general life in Hogwarts, and most importantly, the times she had spent with Draco Malfoy. The dates were listed down according to events: their very first encounter, conversations and also about their plans, first kiss, and last but not least, the inaccurate date of their first time.
Naomi felt her head heating up. And then her heart dropped, when she realised that the last date was dated in the upcoming month. She remembered very clearly the voice of the man who had provided her with these information.
‘Well, um, yeah,’ he had said, blushing all over his usually pale face, ‘that’s all. That must be the only time. I still can’t believe it actually happened...’
Then below the scribbles was, in Naomi’s handwriting, her own strategy on how she was going to make everything work.
She remembered the feeling of Hayden’s lips on hers and as the consequent sudden wave of guilt washed over her, she whispered: “I shouldn’t have let that happen.” She subconsciously stroked Hayden’s name on her pad; that word, that name which was the indefinite date when Hayden must disappear. “But just in case I’ll not see him again.”
A voice from the neighbouring room caught Naomi’s full attention again, and on instinct, she hid behind a pile of old books and brooms.
“No, not today,” a light-sounding, merry voice said. “I have to sit in with the sixth years in Potions again. You know, to catch up with the lessons I’ve missed last year. I didn’t even work on my essay, which is... unfortunately due to tomorrow.”
“Make sure you sit next to me again, a’right?” A husky male voice replied playfully, but it was somewhat controlling too.
Naomi flinched when she recognised the voices of her teenaged mother with the boy who was destined to ruin her whole life, and got up from her hiding spot to move a bit closer to hide behind the door; it was, to her luck, a crack open. She watched them share a short kiss, Cho standing on her tip-toes to reach Michael’s face, which she brushed lovingly with her palm.
“Of course, I will.” Cho smiled, and turned away. There was something on her face that was distracting somehow; she seemed to wipe off the loving facade she put on when she faced Michael. She crossed her arms over her chest, her mind distances away.
“What’s wrong?” Michael stepped behind her.
Her fingers massaged her temple, but she didn’t turn to look at him. “Probably just a migraine.”
He placed his hands on her shoulders, seemingly oblivious that Cho had stiffened under his touch. “Relax. It’s just you and me,” he purred close to her ear, a half-smile on his boyish face.
Naomi watched them, perturbed and somehow disgusted. She wanted to end it—them—him right then and there. Her hand shook, fingers tightening around her wand.
Cho turned around this time, her eyes filled with sadness. She had to crane her neck to look up into Michael’s eyes. He took another step towards her, placed his hands on the sides of her waist, and brought their bodies closer. Cho hesitated, biting her lower lip. “Listen, Michael,” she started, her voice breaking, “Do you actually love me? You’ve never said it. I mean, we’ve been dating for—how many months now?—and yet you’ve never—”
He cut her off by kissing her. “Shh... You know how I feel about you. No words can ever describe that.”
“That’s bull,” she muffled against his lips, irritated. Pushing him slightly away, she tried to catch his eyes; he was confused, and taken aback by the harshness of her voice. “There are times when I watch you, Michael. I see you watching her. Is the reason why you can’t tell me you love me is because you’re still in love with her? Just be honest...”
“I don’t think this will work with the two of us, Michael, if you’re in love with another girl,” Cho accused, stepping away from him.
Naomi, listening intently, knew the veracious reason why Cho was doing this, and she had no intention to witness it live.
“You can’t be serious,” Michael croaked, shaking his head in bewilderment. “Which girl do you mean? What the frack are you talking about?” He threw his hands in the air. “You are the one entertaining the guys, remember? You sodding flirt! What about that guy from Slytherin—the curly one, the blond—who’s very obviously oggling you all the time?”
“This is not about me,” Cho replied in a patient tone. She took a deep breath, her expression determined—determined to break up with him. “It clearly bothers you that Ginny has ditched you for no apparent reason, and now here you are, dating me, acting like you’ve moved on, but secretly you’re still mourning over your breakup.”
“Ginny?” Michael repeated, looking surprised as though he had never heard that name before. “You can’t be serious.”
“Why won’t I be?”
There was a long silence until Michael made a step forward: eyebrows narrowed down to little slits, his anger was cold. “Now you want to break up with me? Is that what you want?”
Warily, Cho lifted her shoulders to a weak shrug.
“You do that. You do that. But listen to me first, you filthy tart,” Michael spat through pursed lips. His posture was rigid; his arms shaking by his sides. It was obvious that Michael Corner wasn’t used to getting ditched. “I’ve ignored your secret-freaking-affair with that bastard you write—”
Cho’s eyes grew wide in shock, as though Michael had just hit her in the gut.
His voice pulled up a half octave, but it only became crueller. “—Yeah, you thought I didn’t know anything about it? Really? You thought that?” He sneered, eyes fierce.
“You’ve sifted through my personal belongings?” exclaimed Cho, shaking all over, too.
Michael merely smirked and said, in his ordinary conversational tone, “Of course! I had to, sweetie-pumpkin. Your owls never reached him.” Then he mimicked Cho by raising his voice exaggeratedly high. “ ‘Dear Marcus, I miss seeing you. Can’t wait until the Christmas holidays start,’” then he snarled—louder, angrier, “But what about me, Cho? Ditching me first before giving in to that Marcus-bastard to have a clean conscience when shagging him?”
Tears welled up in Cho’s eyes, she held her ears and shook her head. Even Noami, who was clutching her chest in sympathy for her mother, held her breath and felt her hand twitch around her wand.
“This isn’t part of the mission I have to accomplish,” Naomi seethed, with a heavy heart, through gritted teeth. “Unlike Hayden I have accepted my fate. I'm sorry, Mum.”
Closing her eyes, she felt another pull around her body, purging every image from her mind of her depressed and emotionally unstable mother in the future and thanking the kind-hearted man, who had married her despite it all.
Once she landed on her feet, Naomi told herself, “I owe him that.” And she focused her attention on Hayden again.
Draco couldn’t remember the exact date when it all began, or what time of the day it was, but he could remember in detail the way she had looked like when she had done it to him the very first time.
Usually around that time of the day, he felt extremely hungry. The hunger became less painful the longer he endured it; until his body would grow weaker that he had no choice than give in and just eat. It was hurting him to know that his parents were taken hostage by Death Eaters that the Dark Lord was threatening to kill them if Draco failed his mission.
It was pathetic to make himself suffer more; it was absurd to think that the pain of hunger would distract him from his passionate sorrow. He would only preoccupy his mind with all sorts of food and all those sweets, and not thinking of his distressed mother or the disappointed look on his father’s face. And while sating himself with a big sandwich filled with his favourite fillings, he wouldn’t think of his upcoming assassination of Albus Dumbledore.
How pitiful he was, was he? But at least it was working…
Ignoring the mass of students in the Great Hall during mealtime and then sneaking in the kitchen in the meantime was very inconvenient and sometimes risky, considering he could get caught, but it was worth spending some bitch-free hours from Pansy, Astoria, or whichever girl swooned for him this week. Or last week. Or next week.
The hour was late. His stomach grumbled. He felt dizzy. His hands felt nearly numb. His feet gave him the same dull sensation. He was lost in thought, thinking about what he could get in the kitchen when he was there, consciously thinking of the essays he still had to write, and the upcoming test in Potions. Freaking Skrewts!!! Just so his thoughts were occupied...
Something hard but squishy ran against his legs. This was followed by a loud clash and a clatter. Snatched back to reality, Draco looked down to see what it was. Cutlery and a tray had fallen from about three feet and hit the ground.
A small house-elf knelt on the ground, bowed in front of him, and tried to pull down his ears as if he was beginning his punishment. “Dobby is sorry for Dobby did not see you, s-sir.” He mumbled something against the floor that didn’t make sense to Draco, bowed his oversized head a few times, even slamming it now and again on the hard floor.
In a similar circumstance and if he were his usual self, back then when Dobby was still his personal servant, Draco would just kick away the house-elf and go away. But to his own surprise, he reached a hand forward and made Dobby stop from hurting himself. Then he drew his wand and cleaned up the mess the clumsy elf had caused on the floor, and handed him back the tray with the food on it.
“Stop hurting yourself, all right? Just be more careful next time,” Draco said, lifting one corner of his lips to a faint smile.
After another exaggerated bow, Dobby turned around, and then froze in surprise. Draco followed the elf’s gaze, looking blankly. He tossed his chin at her direction, not saying anything.
Dobby, bowing once again, and leaving Draco behind while expressing his gratefulness with his squeaky high-pitched voice , disappeared in the kitchen.
About a few yards away from Draco was Hermione, one hand pressed to her chest, and only in the torch lights visible was the most kind-hearted smile on her gentle face—directed at him.
Draco couldn’t believe that it’s been a half year already since he had developed these strange, inexplicable feelings for Hermione Granger, getting more intense with each and every day.
A half year.
He noticed in the distance Hermione carrying a package in her arms, looking all lovely when a slightly surprised look appeared on her face once they locked eyes together.
Six months, he thought, smirking, were twenty-six weeks.
He leaned against the door frame and shoved his fists inside his robe pockets, to hide the tension that shook through him once she was very close that he could smell her sweet fragrance.
Six months were one hundred and eighty-two days.
Hermione got the small package which she had asked her mother to send her a couple of days ago from her dormitory and went to the Muggle Studies classroom in the first floor. She wasn’t at all surprised when a lean, tall and light-haired Slytherin waited for her at the door, leaning against the door frame with his fists shoved inside his robe pockets, and smirking his Malfoy trademark smirk.
Okay, she was surprised. She didn’t truly expect him to spend his free period with her even though he was the one who had suggested seeing each other.
“You came,” was all she could say when she approached him.
One of his eyebrows rose theatrically, he said with mockery in his voice, “You don’t miss a thing, Granger.”
Groaning inwardly, she didn’t show further reactions to his comment, and tried to turn her back to him. Hermione wasn’t a person who gets ill-tempered easily but Draco’s arrogance and sometimes his sole existence itself could make her go spare for no apparent reason. But since she needed to be civil with him to spy on him, all she could do was be nice to him. As best as she could. As realistic as possible.
“Anyway,” she said, straightening her shoulders, “You didn’t have lunch today? I haven’t seen you in the Great Hall.” This time she needed to find out where he was spending his free time, like when all the students were assembled in one place like the Great Hall or when everyone was in their classes or dormitories, but Draco was always obviously missing. It was possible that he used these times working on his evil plans, if there were any. She couldn’t completely trust him.
“I had no idea you missed me.” He grinned, looking smug.
“Keep dreaming, Malfoy.” All she could do was roll her eyes and walk past him. But to her surprise he grabbed the package from under her arm and carried it for her. She ignored her own bafflement at his chivalry and followed him in silence inside the classroom.
Hermione hadn’t been in here since she had dropped the subject in her fourth year due to overload on her schedule. The cramped room was sun-filled, the walls painted in utilitarian grey. In the shelves that covered the walls were some books and very few antiquated Muggle items Hermione knew from her home, since her mother loved collecting antiquities, or from her grandmother’s house.
“What’s inside of this?” came Draco’s voice, breaking through her momentary trance.
She cleared her head, drawing her wand. “You will see. Step aside.”
“Patefacio!” With a swing of her wand, the package opened. She retrieved a cell phone, a camera, and binoculars. “Professor Burbage asked me to bring these simple devices, to show how Muggles communicate by long distance without using the Floo network, or Apparation, or a Patronus, or any of the sort. And this is,” Hermione pointed at the next object, “Is a Polaroid Camera, it’s an instant camera. To put it simply: Muggles take pictures with this; it works from the same concept as magical cameras. The pictures don’t move, though. It’s from my great grandmother. The last one is used to produce stereoscopic vision. Comes in handy if you want to spy someone from a distance…” she explained, completely wrapped up in her world.
Draco pretended to snore.
“Fine, you ass!” she muttered, squirreling away the items.
But Draco’s hand was faster: he placed his on hers. Hermione swallowed hard at the sudden contact. “Now let’s move on to the more interesting part,” he suggested, lifting a half-smile. “How does this one work?” He took the binoculars and knocked on it, showing more interest this time. When he noticed the big glasses, he looked through them. “But…everything’s so small,” he complained.
“You have to turn it around,” Hermione said, repressing the urge to giggle at him. The image of the Slytherin Prince using clumsily a simple Muggle device was hilarious. “Go over to the window and watch outside.”
He did as he was told, looking all amazed as he did. “I can see Hagrid’s Hut from here. Hairy Pothead and Weasel-fart are with him,” he chuckled in amusement. “Probably trying to figure out why I didn’t kill you during breakfast this morning.”
Hermione, stifling a groan too loudly, merely narrowed her eyebrows. When she was about to scold him for calling her friends such names, Draco’s question threw her off-guard. “Have you told them about…you know, us?” Draco, still peeping through the binoculars, asked, sounding nonchalant.
A long silence stretched between them that Draco turned around, looking unsure whether Hermione had heard him or not.
“Us,” Hermione repeated thoughtfully, more to herself than to him, “it’s such a strong word and an unreservedly inappropriate term to describe this ridiculous show of ours.” She brushed her chin contemplatively, leaning against the edge of the table. She felt Draco’s gaze burning at her from the side. “I thought it over. No, I haven’t told them. But I’ll explain it to them when it’s over. Hayden shouldn’t suspect anything. Right? He should think that my friends keep distance from me because we’re together.”
There was a slight reaction on Draco’s face when Hermione looked at him, brief as it may have seemed, as if for a tiny second in a cosmic time scale of the universe his eyes lit up by the words we’re together. But it might have as well just been her delusion. She shook her head. “If they all behave around us like they comprehend what is happening, then the situation won’t look realistic.”
Lying to her friends felt bad. It betrayed their friendship being seen with Draco, but that was what she had signed up for. Hadn’t Ginny, at breakfast earlier, just asked her if she was seeing someone? And hadn’t Hermione denied it, well, sort of. That it turned out that she was seeing someone, and that it was, of all people, Draco, and she and he had moved from being deadly foes to become…what? Lovers? Well, that was what they wanted everyone to believe. Especially Hayden. But did that little, small action of their’s, Hermione and Draco, in the Great Hall earlier sufficed to make everyone believe they were a couple now? How mind-wracking.
“We have to show them more,” she said aloud, simultaneously feeling her cheeks heating up.
Stepping back to the present and standing right in front of her, Draco grabbed the next object laying on the table. “Excuse me—what?” He turned the object in his hands, examining it. For a short moment it seemed like Draco hadn’t been listening at all. Hermione didn’t answer, feeling silly for even encouraging their ‘Game’, expanding it and making everything worse.
Draco, hustling in his hand, seemed to have noticed her tensed posture. “If it makes you feel better,” he said slowly, “my friends are mad at me for hanging out with you, too. And yes,” he added with a friendly smile, which knocked her breath off for a second, “I do believe we have to show them more.” He winked.
She laughed back nervously, as another moment of silence passed. “We expected this to happen, didn’t we?” Hermione rubbed her elbows, averting his eyes. “We have to trap Hayden soon. You have to get on his good side, be civil with him, win his trust until he tells you about his secret. If there is one that involves the two of us.” Clutching her chest and furrowing her brows together in deep thoughts, she realised that all of this was what Hayden wanted to happen for them. She bit her lip, and added in a sinister way, “If only there wasn’t this…this mystery around Hayden that keeps me from sleeping at nights. It’s been bothering me like an itch that won’t go away, but every time I reach for it to scratch it, I just can’t. He’s not just any boy trying to win some bet with a friend if he gets us hooked up together, because if that were the case, I wouldn’t have encouraged this—” she pointed at Draco and her “—in the first place.”
Draco sighed from her side; he was also leaning against the edge of the table that their elbows were touching. “That reminds me of something,” he said, “when I’ve talked to Myrtle—now don’t ask me why—she told me that maybe someone was messing around with our feelings. That’ll explain this…this…” he trailed off, clutching his fist near his chest as though he was squeezing his heart. Once he realised what he was about to admit, his head snapped to the side to look at Hermione’s confused face.
Furrowing her eyebrows, she asked sceptically, “What kind of feelings do you mean?”
“Well, remember, gold-faced Cupid wanted us to be together, and consequently, maybe, to make us fall in love with each other, too? And that’s why, I thought, well, he manipulated our feelings for each other. That now, I don’t feel as much hatred for you as I used to feel before.” His cheeks flashed crimson at this admission. Keeping his hands busy by fiddling the buttons of the camera, he coughed very slightly. Draco Malfoy was definitely not used in expressing his emotions, less so if he did it in front of his most-bullied victim.
Hermione’s lips twitched. Unable to grasp the meaning of his words, she asked simply, “You mean…you don’t hate me anymore?”
When he refused to say something, not even looking at her, she knew the answer, “Are you kidding me? Since when?” And if it was humanly possible, Draco’s face turned from crimson to cherry red. He almost dropped the camera. “That makes life easier, you know,” she remarked, giggling lightly. “Is that why you lessened your insults in the last couple of days—weeks, actually?”
Draco shrugged, frowning at the camera. “I know there is no chance in hell that we could evolve into something more than what we are now— archenemies?” he chuckled, bemused. “I’ve tried to be spiteful, you know, but…” Shaking his head, he lifted his head to face her. “Do you think it’s the magic or some kind of spell he’d put on us? I mean, do you still hate me, Hermione?” He sounded hopeful, expectant. Hermione was caught off-guard once again, and only because he used her first name this time.
She, for some reason, didn’t want to dash his hopes, despite the fact that she didn’t believe Hayden had something to do with Draco’s decreased hatred and loathing towards her.
Since when did she actually care about disappointing him?
There’s no such kind of magic, Malfoy! she thought, and yes, yes! I still hate you...with every fibre of my being.
“No, I don’t hate you anymore,” she answered, returning a smile. Oops.
But surprisingly, it felt true. She hoped to burn in hell for this admission. What if! What if...Draco was merely trying to lure out her secrets to later make fun of her in front of his friends?
Merlin, why was it so hard to just trust him?
Because he’s Draco Malfoy. Period.
She nudged him in the side. “We’ll find out what Hayden’s really up to, and when we have figured it out, the spell or whatever it is, will be broken. You can go back to hating and despising me again,” she giggled, nudging him playfully again. “Do you want me to show you how this camera works?” She took the Polaroid Camera from his hand, changing the topic quickly. “But there’s no pack film inside. Let me see…” Looking around towards the shelves of Muggle items and antiquities, she Accio’ed a ladder from nearby and climbed it up. “There must be somewhere an old film here made for these particular cameras…”
“Be careful,” Draco said, stepping next to the ladder and holding it tight. She certainly still had to get used to his new side—his kind side. It was hard to ignore that kind side.
“Do you believe in fate?” asked Draco out of the blue. That side was new too. “Everyone has a stick frame and threads. One can only make the patterns which are possible with the threads and loom available, but within those rules anything can be done,” he paused, “But there are two ways of escape. Someone can make his threads so tight that the loom breaks and his fabric is ruined. Or two people, especially two people whose patterns would not be thought to mix, can share, trade, mingle threads until they have a more beautiful life together than either could have apart.” He looked up again, repeating his first question, “Do you believe in that?”
“Oh” was all she could muster, as she looked down from the wooden ladder and imagined each space between the rungs a loom.
Hermione, moving to shift her weight, held her breath, when she suddenly slipped and landed directly in Draco’s arms. He looked at her intently “—and now here you are, carrying her in your arms,” he added with a sly smile. “I told you be careful.”
“I-It’s just the magic that’s talking there, Malfoy,” Hermione chided, her voice shaking slightly. She tried to convince herself more than him. Maybe...he was under some spell or something. If Hayden had really something to do with Draco’s changed of character, then why trying to stop him and break the spell? Draco was so much bearable now.
“I know, I’m sorry,” he said, putting her down carefully.
“Look what I’ve found.” Hermione, just so to ease the awkward tension in the air, presented a pack of film for her camera in the palm of her hand. “We can use this.” After a moment of fiddling and loading the film, she took the first snapshot of the table in front of them with the other objects on it. “It works!”
“Can I try?” Draco had taken a snapshot from the room and walls, and later he moved the camera towards Hermione. “Smile.”
“No! Please don’t take a picture of me,” she exclaimed, feeling self-conscious about her messy, frizzy hair, and not to think about her probably oily-looking skin. What if Lavender was right and she really was fat. Inconspicuously, she ran her palms over her waist.
“But how will you enlighten me with the difference between a magical camera and a muggle camera if you won’t pose for me?” he asked, raising an eyebrow as if to press his point.
Huffing, Hermione grumbled, “Fine. But just one picture, all right?”
“Move over there to the light.”
Hermione walked over to the windows and let the sun rays shine on her. Then she stripped off her robe so that she wouldn’t look too fat—if ever he took a whole-body picture of her—and smiled bashfully into the camera. “Make it quick,” she hissed.
And then, after a few attempts, he took a shot, forever capturing a still-image picture of her face and her smile. When the photo rolled off the camera, he glanced at it with awe in his eyes. He pocketed it inside his chest pocket, and patted the spot.
“Now you’re mine…” he said, trailing off as he reached out and kissed the back of her hand, perhaps to hide the lovely smile she’d never seen on his face before.
Hayden had no time to lose. If his birth was the seventeenth of August the following year—he did a mental calculation in his head, given that the birth went without any complications—therefore, his conception must be around November the twentieth this year, during the pre-Christmas Party probably.
As he’d feared...
Although he had been squelching the idea of just being conceived under the influence of alcohol and that he was an unplanned child, he couldn’t help but feel the sting in his heart. Wondering if he could make his parents fall in love properly for each other before that said date—he closed his eyes: he doubted it.
November was next month!
What if Naomi was right and his parents were just pretending to get along together? So that he, Hayden, would leave them in peace and stop harassing them to see each other on a regular basis, to speak well of each one to the other, to try and convince them to see the good side of the other. Could such a shared charade compel a couple to fall in love with each other wholeheartedly and faithfully—two people whose relationship was established on making each other’s life a living nightmare?
Holding in one hand the old Muggle snapshot of his mum he got since he could think back, and on the other a test tube of grinded Ashwinder eggs—one of the ingredients of the love potion, he contemplated whether the theory of his current idea was clever or not.
He would have to convince Draco to slip Hermione some of the love potion, that his love will be returned. But since knowing Draco—knowing his father—Hayden didn’t believe that Draco, despite his opinions and pretended hatred towards Hermione, would do something like that to the love of his life. Hence, Hayden must find a spell to control Draco…
Why did this idea sting him less? That it would be more bearable to think that his mum and dad had loved each other even if their feelings were non-natural, even if their own son had been responsible for it all. Would he live with this kind of truth better, rather than being under the notion that he had been conceived due to damnable five minutes of a temporary mental impairment caused by an excess of alcoholic drinks?
He doubted it, too. But what other choice did he have?
“November is next month,” his eyelids closed in memory, he repeated, again and again, “it’s next month. Next month...” He couldn’t help it. But when he was about to give up completely, a shimmer of hope shone through his cloudy mind. He had another option; how risky it may seem, it could be his only chance.
He had to show one of his teenaged parents their unescapable future.
It was never his intention to play God and change people’s fate, but, if he didn’t come up with a cleverer idea...then...
“Mum, or Dad?”
He weighed his options in his hands. “Which of them had the power to change their cumulative destiny for them together?”
He looked over the list of ingredients in his hand and thought of where to find the rest.
“You know, you don’t want to be conceived that way, do you?” after a cracking sound, Naomi’s voice—harsh and angry—startled him, coming from somewhere. He turned his head towards the source of the voice.
“Do not even think of doing that to your parents, for their sake. For your own good…” she warned, popping right there in front of him as though she had appeared out of the ground. A wand was clutched in her hand. She glared from the ingredient he was holding and then examined the expression he wore on his face—whatever she found there, she knew at once his intention. “Why do you always want me to scold you like a little boy, Hayden?”
With a quick movement, and without even giving time for Hayden to react, Naomi slapped the test tube out of his hand which smashed against the nearby wall, scattering the powdery content on the floor. The snapshot, though, flew on the table in front of him.
“I don’t have much time, Naomi…” Hayden said, his voice breaking. He was desperate and willing to do anything—anything—to save his parents. “If only you could be much more of a help…” he broke off, trying not to sound whiny.
“There was a dark wizard, a long, long time ago, who was conceived under the Amortentia,” Naomi recited darkly. She seemed to have composed herself a bit. She glared at Hayden and he backed down. “And you don’t want to end up like him, right? At least I won’t allow it.” She stuck out her tongue at him, easing the tension. Despite the teasing in her voice, Hayden noticed the sincere concern in it.
He rolled his eyes. “I don’t believe in magical myths and legends, silly!” he groaned. “Besides, Nana Cissy told me that Voldemort was an orphan. His father abandoned his pregnant wife, probably not knowing that she was pregnant, while Voldemort’s mother died at child birth. So he never experienced and learned about love. That turned him into an evil, power-craving wizard.”
“And you, being a half-orphan at the age of eight and having grown up under the assumption that your dad has abandoned you, don’t think that it wouldn’t turn you into such an evil creature, too?” Naomi countered. There was something in her words and the way she looked at him that he felt a shiver run down his spine.
After a momentary hesitation, Hayden said, self-assured, confident, “Despite those facts, I was raised by a wonderful mother, who had cared for me and loved me unconditionally, before she had ‘joined the angels’…” he trailed off, swallowing the lump in his throat. At that thought, Hayden closed his eyes, reminiscing the very sound of his dad’s voice nights—or maybe months—after his mother had passed away. “My—my father might not have been the best dad, but he had been there for me when I needed him the most.
I-I would never hurt other people,” he, re-opening his eyes, said through clenched teeth.
“I know” was all Naomi could say, inconspicuously holding her left, still bruised wrist. Her gaze fell on the picture on the table in front of them.
She picked it up quickly, looking at it. For a brief moment she remained silent.
“’She has a beauty that shines brighter the longer you stare at her.’” Naomi, lost in deep thoughts that seemed only familiar to her, said as if she was quoting somebody. “But she doesn’t understand that truth, doesn’t see herself that way. She doesn’t know that your dad thinks about her that way. Ron shouldn’t get in her way and mess her around like he’s already doing.” Though it was just a harmless statement of Naomi’s, Hayden noticed the hair of his neck stand upright by her words.
From the snapshot in her hand, she stared up at Hayden, smiling sadly. “Do you know who took this picture?”
He shook his head slowly, for a moment thinking she was merely diverting the topic. He was still wondering who had hurt her like that. “I don’t even know where I got it from,” he said, sighing, and throwing another glance at his best friend’s exposed blotchy wrists. “Do you? Though I can already guess who… I guess Ron. Since my dad would never touch a Muggle device.”
Naomi chuckled in amusement, shaking her head, then beamed. The smile on her angelic face was infectious, but Hayden couldn’t smile. “Wrong, silly! There is still hope for them.” It was clear in her voice that she was referring to Draco and Hermione.
“H-how do you know?”
The door knob behind them suddenly turned, and the door opened with a creaking noise.
“I’ve got to go,” Naomi hissed in a whisper. Crack! And then she was gone.
“Is that you, Hayden?” A very gentle-sounding voice emanated from the doorframe. Ginny stepped in, in her tow a forbearing Harry and a very pissed-off Ron.
“Well, she’s not here, either,” Ron croaked; ears scarlet. “Why would she hide down here anyway?”
“Hi, Ginny,” Hayden said, disregarding Ron’s whining. He realised that the picture of his mum was gone, Naomi must have taken it. “What’s up with him?”
“He—” Ginny indicated with a nod towards her brother, who remained standing at the door, preoccupied with peeking up and down the corridor. “—is worried about Hermione.” Stepping closer to Hayden, she sat two tables away from him on a vacant chair. There was clearly worry in her eyes. But not the kind of worry you feel for a friend lying in their sickbed, but the sort of worry that something really bad will happen.
“Ginny, c’mon, I reckon she’s upstairs,” Ron suggested, and without another look at Hayden, or waiting for his sister and his mate, he ran off.
“Ron!” Harry called after him. “I really don’t think it’s a good idea stalking Hermione,” he added in a mumble, torn between following his best mate and staying with Ginny. The way he looked at her, Hayden assumed that Harry and Ginny were now dating.
Too bad she’ll have to face a terrible future, drawing her every ounce of sanity. Losing her brother. Losing her husband.
If only Hayden had the power to change that too, he gladly would have. But he couldn’t even make it work for his parents.
Hayden locked eyes with the youngest Weasley, intently, studying every pore of her still sleek face. Her red mane crowned her head, caramel-brown eyes were staring back in confusion.
“What’s wrong, Hayden?” Ginny’s voice broke through his reverie.
He cleared his head, noticing that Harry had stepped beside his girlfriend, seeming to be unsure on how to react at Hayden’s behaviour.
“Honestly, for a moment you looked bedevilled,” Harry remarked in mock concern, grinning. “Everything’s all right?”
“Y-yeah.” Hayden rubbed his temples. What just happened to him? “We p-probably should get going. I’d rather not have Ron meet Hermione and Draco together—if they are together at this very moment.”
They hurried out of the empty classroom in silence. Harry, holding hands with Ginny, stared at Hayden from the side, as though he was afraid Hayden might faint any moment. Also, Hayden noticed how Ginny shook her head, like she’d answered a question that Hayden had missed; then they were exchanging another worried look.
“So, Malfoy and Hermione are an item,” Ginny said. It was rather a statement then a question.
Hayden noticed Harry shaking his head in disapproval, but ignored him nonetheless, “I do hope so. They complement each other, don’t they?”
There was a groan that came from Harry. With narrowed eyes, he said, “I don’t think so. He treats her like the shit under his shoe. Hermione respects herself too much to let him treat her like that. That arrogant jerkass.”
“Why? Because you think Hermione’s better off with your mate, who purposely snogged another girl in front of her just to hurt her feelings?” Hayden retorted, defending his father. “I don’t think so.”
Ginny by raising her hand in a sort of mock plea for attention, intervened before Harry could say something he would regret. “Were you talking to someone before we got inside the classroom, Hayden?” she asked, changing the topic quickly. “Sounded like you haven’t been alone in there.”
Hayden drew in a deep breath. “Er…no.”
Ginny, shrugging, scanned him suspiciously. “I thought I’ve heard someone Disapparating. But then again, Apparation within Hogwarts is simply not possible, due to all kinds of unbreakable spells and charms cast over the castle. Stuff from the founders—Flitwick mentioned it in class. So, what was that noise I’ve heard? Did you hear it too, Harry? Harry?”
Harry didn’t reply at once. Maybe he had been, based on his rigid posture and slightly troubled expression, worrying about Hermione too. Still, as he contemplated the absurd and treacherous idea of one of his best friends dating their enemy, and how fast he could put an end to it, he mumbled,. “Yeah, I thought I’ve only imagined that sound, but since you heard it, too...”
They all walked up the staircase, after another moment, and just before Hayden could reply, they all heard a loud explosion from one of the classrooms in the first floor.
Harry was the first who reacted immediately and ran ahead, Ginny followed suit and Hayden was just frozen on the spot.
But once, that seemed like hours had passed until his heavy and shaky legs dragged him to the first floor, he could see the other end of the corridor, where the classroom door stood open, and a person laying on the ground.
Like hearing from a distance even though she only was a few yards away from him, Hayden heard Ginny gasp, then screamed once she identified the body on the floor. She ran towards the lifeless body, faster than before.
“NO! RON! NO!”
“Bloody—NO!” Harry yelled, drowning out Ginny’s screams. He bent down to pick his friend’s body off the floor once he reached him, shaking him, as though that way he could awaken his friend’s unresponsive form. “Ron! RON!”
A few students, who noticed the hysteria, gathered around the incident—gasping, wailing. The older ones called for Professor Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall, both had quickly arrived at the place shortly after. Professor McGonagall’s jaw slackened in shock, eyes mirroring the same expression as Harry and Ginny’s, while Professor Dumbledore’s face turned ash-white.
“What happened, Mr Potter?” McGonagall’s voice quavered, clutching her chest.
“Everyone, leave the classroom,” Dumbledore ordered in his authoritative voice. “Now!”
Ginny was kneeling beside her brother’s dead body, shaking all over but not shedding a single tear.
The blood in Hayden’s body froze like ice, his vision was blurring. Neither Hermione nor Draco were anywhere in sight. It didn’t look like there had been a fight going on, that Ron had stumbled upon them, provoked Draco and duelled him. That Hermione had run off, hiding, instead of staying, mourning over the loss of her best friend.
Cho, who stood nearby, held her mouth close to keep herself from screaming, her face whiter than an egg shell. A lean, dark-haired Ravenclaw guy, who Hayden recognised as Michael Corner, disappeared amongst the mass of students who left the room too, unperturbed and jaw clenched together.
Rather than burst forth into the wide wide world, Ron’s sky-blue eyes stared into emptiness; rather than the most vibrant face of life, mere pallor was left; the arms that had embraced and fought were reduced to being sprawled on the floor. Ron looked like a dropped and abandoned porcelain doll. It didn’t seem that he’d fought hard for his survival or that he’d had a fatal accident, such as slip and hit his head hard. Clearly, from the position he was laying on the floor, with the tables and chairs unmoved around him, with fresh blood dripping from his nose and the corner of his lips, it had been quick, and, hopefully, painless, too.
Ron is dead.
But, who had killed him? And worse: what had been the murderer’s motive?
Ron shouldn’t get in her way and mess her around like he’s already doing.
That was the last thing that echoed in Hayden’s mind, spoken by the voice he would even recognise in his dreams—or nightmares—before he slipped away into unconsciousness.
(A/N: Remember in previous chapters, when Hayden remembered the magical snapshot his mother held in her hand with her two friends on them? Harry's 17th birthday... It wasn't Ron's time to die yet.
Any comment or feedback would be appreciated. And sorry for the long wait. :)
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