Chapter 25 : The Perfect Arabesque
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When I look back to my days at Hogwarts, my memory blurs. I remember colors more vividly than faces. I remember words, more explicitly than events. I remember Draco and how he stood by me but he has gone now.
I find that five years have not brought me closure. I have discovered more than many people do in their lifetimes, and I have lived more honestly, openly and fully, than many before me have and many after me ever will. I loved once. I loved someone who gave their life for me, someone who put me back together after I had fallen to a level I should never have returned from. That is how I have reached this cross in the roads; this epilogue.
You see, it’s been five years and I have been unable to speak of what transpired in those days until this moment. Until I found this aged quill and made the acquaintance of this particular piece of parchment. Funny, how it sometimes works that way. All you need are the proper circumstances and the truth will come pouring forth and you can do nothing to stop it. I wonder now if I would have changed anything. If I would still have fallen in love with him as I did if I knew what would come of it. I find I can picture no other ending to the story. No other way out than the one we took.
I was escorted from the funeral and the proceedings continued without me. Ron was my brother; his blood ran in my veins and yet my presence had not been required. Funny, how the truth was. Draco followed Ricardo, my mother’s boyfriend himself, to the upstairs bedroom he had yet to see in all of his stay; the room belonging to me alone.
Ricardo kicked the door open with his foot and carried me over the thresh hold, depositing me on the lavender covered bed on the far side of the room. He left immediately after, excusing himself by saying he needed to find mother and make sure she knew her daughter was alright.
I remember that my eyes were open and staring blindly at the ceiling above me. My hands were clenched in fists around the blankets I lay on. Blood was seeping into the purple, turning it a mottled russet. Draco reached for my arm, taking his coat off and setting it beneath the seeping wound. He then turned away, looking about room for a clean piece of cloth. He grabbed the first thing he saw, a white camisole, and ripped it down the side, creating a large, clean bandage. He then gently raised my arm and pushed the skin together, tying the material as tightly as he could using his mouth and open hand.
“Hermione,” he said softly, running a hand over my hair. “It’s alright.”
“He’s dead,” I said emptily. “Isn’t he?”
“He died for you,” he said, hand trailing across my forehead and down my cheek. “He gave his life to you.”
My eyes closed, tears leaking from the corners. “Why?”
He was silent for a moment. When he finally did speak his voice was almost inaudible. “Because he loved you.”
“What happened to me?” I finally asked.
Draco took my hand, slowly and softly explaining to me what had happened. He told me everything he could, everything that made sense and did not. He told me what his father had done to his mother, to me, and to him. And then he gave me his vow.
“I will kill him, Hermione,” he said, eyes unable to meet mine. “I will kill him.”
And I knew it was true, though neither of us could have grasped then what that would have meant.
It’s been only three years since his death and yet all I can imagine is the child, the boy he was when we met. The man he became is a mystery I may never understand. I will never forget the care he took with me. Things I never saw back then have awoken me in a cold sweat for these three years. I remember vividly the time he dunked my sore body in a tub of ice, the time he held me up and taught me inch by inch how to move my body to perform a perfect arabesque.
And when I begin to think of it all I realize there is no such thing. There is no ‘perfect arabesque’. The body will always turn away from the desired angle. The foot will always be too high or too low, the hands too hard or too soft, the face too distant or too penetrating.
Yes, I loved him once, but I suppose that time has stolen even that from me.
I was kept in my room. Visitors were turned away and at the end of three days I was taken from my home and back to Hogwarts. My duties as Head Girl were lifted and fell upon the shoulders of a Hufflepuff prefect. I would not leave our common room. I drifted from my bedroom to the couch before the fire. I ate very little of what Draco brought to me. Madame Pomfrey was forced to come to us to inspect my arm, though there was little to be done about it. The cut refused to heal even with the aid of magic. It continued to pucker and swell, skin drawing closer together in a battle it looked as if it might lose.
Draco began to think I was not letting myself heal. At the end of the second week he could take no more. He had just come back from the dance studio to find me sitting on the floor, mere feet from the flames and he threw his bag across the room in anger. I didn’t even flinch.
He vaulted across the room, grabbing my shoulders and hauled me around to face him. “Wake up!” he cried. “Stop this! Stop it!”
He told me that I remained vacant, eyes glazed, staring back at him expressionless.
“You have to get up! You have to! You have to dance, Hermione! Your Jury is next week! For fuck’s sake, get up!”
My eyes drifted close but I gave no other response. “That’s it, Hermione. I have had it.”
Draco stormed up the stairs and into the bathroom. He was gone long enough that I became completely entranced with the flames once more and his reappearance startled me.
He leant over, picked me up and carried me upstairs. He stood with me in his arms for a second, hovering over the icy bath. I wouldn’t look at him. In desperation he let me go and I fell into the tub, cold water sloshing over the sides. I was completely emerged for a moment and then my eyes shot open and my hands shot out of the water and grappled for the sides. I couldn’t find leverage so he grabbed on to one hand and I shot upright, gasping and spitting water out of my mouth. Then I began to cry.
I screamed, kicking at the base of the tub with bare feet and sending water spraying across the entire bathroom. I hit the porcelain sides with my fists and all the while I cried, a guttural and disgusting sound spewing from me. Draco let me go, watching with mild fascination and horror. When I had finally spent myself I lay back in the water, shivering and panting, clutching my right hand to my chest. We sat like that for a while, silence the only thing between us.
“What will I dance?” I finally said.
“What?” he asked, coming to sit on the wet edge of the tub.
“My jury,” I said, voice gravelly. I looked up at him, tears in my eyes. “What will I dance?”
Draco grabbed me then, pulling me, wet body and all, to his own. He wound his hands in my hair. “We’ll put something together from the steps I taught you already. You can do this.”
I have known failure unlike many human beings have ever known. I have known the taste of blood and the taste of pain. I have known the darkness unlike any human should ever see. I have known the tunnel without a light at the end.
Standing before the panel for my final jury I felt a fear I had never known. I knew I could not fool them. I knew they would see right through me. Who had I been trying to fool? I could not dance. I never had been able to dance. I never would dance again. Nothing anyone did would ever fix that. I was a failure at this; my greatest passion.
“Miss Granger,” Professoressa said. “Are you ready to begin?”
I was frozen in the center of the room. I might have nodded slightly but I wasn’t sure. I was lost in my own thoughts, limbs unable to move. The music began to drift through the room. I was supposed to be moving. I was supposed do something now.
“Miss Granger.” That voice sounded like McGonagall, although what assistance the Transfiguration professor could give for a dance jury was lost on me. “You’re music began.”
The music stopped. “We will try again,” Professoressa said.
I took a deep breath, head lifting. Their faces were blank. None of them seemed to be expectant but I knew better. I knew. The music began again and I begged my muscles to do something, anything.
“Miss Granger,” Professoressa said. “It is time to dance now.”
“Dianna, perhaps you should give the child an extension. She’s recently lost a very dear-“
“No, Minerva,” Professoressa said, standing. “Miss Granger and I had an explicit deal made. If she dances this jury she has a chance of passing. She must dance. She must do it now.”
“No, Minerva.” Professoressa made her way from behind the table and stood before me, assessing me with sharp eyes. Her face was not unforgiving but it was not merciful either. “Hermione, the true test of the artist is when they can stand up before adversity and still give the world their gift.” Professoressa tipped my chin upwards. “Child, you will dance now or you will fail. You are a dancer and that is what we do.”
“Dianna this is completely unnecessary, clearly she is not prepared to do this,” Professor McGonagall protested.
“Then she will fail,” Professoressa stated simply. “That is it. You would do the same for one of your own students if they could not perform what they needed to. What is the difference between dancing under stress and casting a spell under stress? Why should my art form differ from yours? No. Miss Granger will dance. She will show us all now what a true dancer does when they are in pain. We will start again.”
Professoressa primly took her seat. I closed my eyes, breathing deeply and knowing every word she had said was the truth. This was my last moment. This was my chance. I could hear nothing, though I knew the music was playing. I knew Draco was standing outside the door. I knew he was watching through the window. I knew he would be angry with me but I could not move. Move, foot. I begged. Bend, leg.
I took a step forwards, foot pointed. I was unsteady, my movement disjointed. I allowed my back to arch and my body bent backwards, one arm carefully making its way over my head. I straightened and opened my eyes, stepping backwards as he had demanded. My arms lilted forwards and I saw it; that bandage.
My vision went white, blood pounded in my ears. Why should I dance? Why should I? What reason was there to dance now?
My body froze and I was unable to tear my eyes from the bandage. What was so alluring about it? What drove me to stare at this white piece of cloth so intently so many times throughout the day?
It was him, I realized. It was Ron. This was all that was left of him. This white bandage. It was all I had in the entire world to hold on to. I clasped my arm to my chest and suddenly I was sobbing. My knees buckled and I continued to cry as they slammed violently into the ground.
The music continued to play, drifting through the room, unworried about the panic and turmoil that lay around it. The professor’s rushed for me. Hands grabbed at me. I continued to cry. Somewhere in the mix Draco came in to the room and took me away from them all. I saw Professoressa as I passed through the doors and her eyes met mine for the briefest of flickering moments. Professoressa looked away.
There is no fix for what is supposed to be. I have given up everything I ever knew. I am certain of nothing. I find solace at Ron’s grave; solace I can find no other place on the earth.
I failed my jury, as I had suspected. It was the first thing I had ever failed at and yet I found very little of me truly cared. When Madame Promfrey had come to check on me this evening she had been smiling. She chattered like a magpie the entire time she was here. They had used Ron’s blood to make a potion that had cured all the sick students.
They had taken it from him, put it in a vial, and given it to others. Just like that. They were cured.
Draco knocked on the door, not waiting for me to respond before coming into the room. He had a steaming bowl of porridge in his hands. He handed it to me wordlessly. He turned to leave the room.
“You’re angry with me,” I said, setting the bowl on the side table. My arm was uncovered now. Madame Pomfrey wished for the skin to breathe. There would be a vicious scar, she had said.
Draco paused by the door, turning to face me. I noticed he was grasping something tightly in his other hand. “I’m not angry with you,” he said.
“I’m angry with myself,” I admitted.
Draco came to the foot of the bed, settling himself down amidst my mussed blankets. “Give me your arm,” he said.
Without question I raised it to him, skin less angry and swollen then it had ever been before. The edges no longer created a gaping open wound but were coming together. It was scabbed over and mottled purple and yellow, but it was healing. He unwound a black satin ribbon from his hand and tied it midway around my arm, the bow tickling the skin of my inner arm. “You will heal,” he said, kissing the skin.
I bit my lip in an effort to keep from crying and flew at him, falling into his arms. He shushed me, gently petting my head and holding me close.
“I’ve been asked to perform the final dance in the recital,” he said after a moment.
“Recital?” I asked, pushing away and blinking up at him.
“They cast it from the juries,” he said. “They’ve asked me to close it.”
“That’s quite the honor,” I said softly.
“Will you be there?” he asked, eyes on my arm.
I was quiet for a moment. “Of course,” I said. “Of course I’ll be there.”
I remember that reality was a distant cloud in the days after he returned to me, his father’s blood on his hands. I remember there came a point where the world would stop spinning and I would find myself standing there, looking down at what had happened and wondering how I could fix it. Fix everything. Fix me. Fix him.
I stood in the shadows of the Great Hall, pressed as far back against the wall as I could get. The show had been in progress for well over an hour by the time Draco took the stage. He was in all black, as was usual for him. He took center stage and stood there for a moment, looking out at the crowd with no expression to his face. He shifted and I realized he was holding his wand. He pointed it at his throat.
“I am supposed to be performing a solo dance for you all this evening, but I’m here to inform you that I cannot do that,” his voice rang throughout the hall.
Cold shock swept through me. What on earth did he think he was doing? I stepped from the shadows and his eyes found me. He took a visible breath and then turned back out towards the rest of the student body.
“I’ve learned something this year that, perhaps, many of you may find to be quite a bit shocking.” He stopped, looking down, a small smirk creeping on to his face. “I’m only human,” he said.
The people around me were whispering. Professoressa was standing in the back of the Great Hall, arms crossed tightly against her chest, an expression of extreme disapproval on her face.
“My mother was murdered this year,” that brought quite the few gasps. “The same man who took my mother from me almost took the only other thing in the world I care about. I am leaving after this and most of you will never see me again.”
I found I was unable to move. I was stuck where I stood, blood pounding in my neck and ears, entire body cold.
“There is something I know about her that no one else knows and they must.” He turned to me then. “Hermione, please come up here.”
The coldness I felt seemed to radiate throughout the room. It took a few tries before I could get my feet to move and if it hadn’t been him standing there beckoning me it would never have happened. I mounted the stairs and went to his side and he pulled me to him.
“I can’t do this,” I protested.
He pointed his wand at his throat and then set it on the edge of the stage, taking my hand and pulling me away from the edge. “Yes, you can. You deserve this and you will do it.” He ran a hand down the side of my face. “You will dance, Hermione, and I won’t let you fall.”
He put a hand behind my shoulder blade and took the other in his. A beautiful waltz lilted through the air and I closed my eyes, settling my free hand on his shoulder. “You said you were leaving,” I suddenly remembered, the shock of being called onto the stage wearing off. “What do you mean?”
“I promised you, Hermione,” he said. “I will find vengeance for you.”
“You’re going without me,” I said in understanding.
“Yes,” he said, lifting an arm so that I would spin under and around. “I would never put you in danger like that.”
“What will I do?” I asked, coming back to face him.
“You’re dancing,” he said with a soft smile.
With a bolt of panic running through me I realized he was right. He dug his feet into the floor and around we spun, weaving through each other effortlessly.
Voldemort killed my beloved. Thomas Marvolo Riddle himself came to our apartment one night and pulled Draco from our bed with his own hand. Draco had known death was coming for him. He did not fight back. He locked his eyes with mine, reaching towards me in a way that conveyed all that I needed to know. The green light from the outer room was so brilliant it blinded me for a moment. I screamed, shock radiating through me. I vaulted from the bed, hurtling out of the room and into the next. He was on the floor, limbs askew and face soft with the peace he had made for this outcome. Dear God, how I had not wanted it to come to this. Even the slight of the Dark Lord hurt me. I wasn’t worth his time; my death was not important enough to him.
I wanted death at that moment. I grabbed on to him, wrapping my body around his own and pulling him as tightly to me as I could. Part of my cheek lay on my arm, the puckered skin of my scar rough and uncomfortable. It was the memory of the smell of the blood of that wound, the memory of the metallic scent of the blood on his clothes when he returned after the murder of his father and a man resurrected from the dead, Gustave, that brought tears into my eyes. I cried that first night. I haven’t cried since.
The sun continued to rise and set without him. Time continued to progress.
Draco wasn’t supposed to be with me. He was supposed to have died that day and Ron had swooped in and ruined it all. His selfless act had ruined everything, had brought us to this. You could not delay the pain. I was meant to mourn Draco. The two years we spent together were borrowed time – time I should have lived with another. Draco was not supposed to be mine and we knew it but we couldn’t let it go. We clung to each other, desperately wishing for other circumstances.
Draco had taught me what I needed to know to survive. He had taught me that it was okay to be me and it was okay to fail if only you stood up again; if you danced once more. I will move on with my life embracing the joy I now can feel. I kiss that scar every morning when I wake and sometimes I fall asleep with a black satin ribbon wound between my fingers.
I stand before the window now, hair tied back from my face and arms raised. I no longer need the music; I hear it on my own. I no longer need him to hold me up; I know he is there. I don’t see him, but I feel him. He gave me back the life I had known as a child. I find joy and beauty in dance unlike I ever had before.
I realize I have been swaying in the sunlight before this window for quite some time, thinking on him. A beautiful blonde child darts in to the room, her tiny dance shoes clapping against her legs as she throws herself at me. I scoop her up in my arms and plant a large kiss on her cheek.
“Mummy we’ll be late!” she cries, kissing me back.
I scoot her out the door and pick up the piece of parchment, folding it many times before placing it in an ivory box that sits atop my dresser. She’ll never know him. She may never see a picture of him, for I have none. She may never know his name, for I never say it. She won’t ask for years just yet who he even is – and I won’t tell her.
It is something I have pondered late at night as I lay in our bed alone. He and I were never supposed to be together. Death chose him, he resolved to meet it, and once that particular opportunity had passed he spent all his time waiting for the next. And yet, if Ron had not done as he had and given me his life, I would never have her.
“Mummy!” she appeared in the doorway again.
“Come here and let Mummy tie your hair back,” I said to her, arms outreached.
She ran over, throwing herself on the bed and sat before me, prim and proper young lady that she was. I reached behind my own head, withdrew the black ribbon, my hair falling about my shoulders, and reached up to gather her own.
Once the bun was set atop her head and the bow tied I patted her on the bottom and pushed her towards the door once again. “Mummy’s coming,” I assured her.
She darted out with a laugh and I turned back to the window, hugging my arms about myself. Perhaps we had given each other the only thing we could. I gave him a reason to escape the life he did not want, a life of only dead ends and subservience. He gave me a daughter who loved to stand before the window and spin around in circles, a simple waltz drifting through the air. He gave me joy.
“Arabesque!” I called to the door. She turned, peeking her head in. She giggled in the way only a small child could. “Ara, don’t forget to pack your white leotard this time, alright?” I smiled. She nodded, small footsteps running away down the hall.
Maybe I was wrong, I thought as I turned to the window one last time, maybe there really was a perfect Arabesque.