Chapter 11 : Owls and Apparation
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By the time the class ended and Raglow dismissed us, the panic had fully risen to my throat. Draco had stood up and gathered all of his items before I had even got out of my seat. He waited for me in silence as I finished getting all of my stuff together, and when I turned to face him, he didn’t have to speak for me to know what he was feeling. His eyes were blank and yet sad at the same time, and his mouth showed the slightest signs of frowning. I didn’t know what to do as he turned on his heel to walk with me on our way to a free period. I was worried that everything I had fought for in the past day was gone.
“Why did you do that?” I asked him quietly as we walked; the silence had gone on for too long.
“Do what, Hermione?” he sighed at me softly.
“Er- answer all of those questions about… Death Eaters,” I said. I didn’t know where I was going with my questions and I didn’t know how he would respond to me either, I just couldn’t bear to walk in silence anymore.
“Because nobody else would,” he answered quietly. I didn’t like his answer much. I simply raised my eyebrows at him, and when he saw that I was expecting more, he sighed at me again.
“It’s reality, Hermione. We can’t pretend that it isn’t there,” he explained gently.
I didn’t know what to say. Somehow, days before leaving for my parents house, I felt like I was going to be one person short on the trip.
“We aren’t pretending,” I responded in defense, but he gave me a weak smile in response. “Or, at least I’m not.”
“Oh come off it, you know I am not pretending,” he responded to me truthfully.
“I know,” I said.
“As I was saying, we are not pretending about everything. But we are about some things.”
“Like what?” I continued to question him.
He looked at me, my wide eyes staring back at him, unfaltering in our minor discourse. After a few moments, he shifted his books and materials in his hands and then used his free hand to grasp onto mine. He seemed to be thinking about how to approach my question. I wasn’t sure that I was ready to hear his response.
“I’m dangerous, Hermione. And I know that you are going to bring up going to your parents house, but I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to come with you. Do you even understand how afraid I am that someone from…from that group…is going to barge in and ruin everything? I don’t know what to expect, and I don’t really know what is going to happen in my future. I am going down, and I don’t want to take you down with me,” I listened to him carefully as he spoke, not speaking a word until long after he finished.
We were silent for a long time after that, wandering the halls. I began to pull him towards our aisle in the library as I thought carefully about my response as we walked past the first rows of books.
“I love you,” I said simply. He watched me in slight shock at my short response, as if he was expecting me to pummel him with a counter- argument.
“I love you, too. You know that,” he said cautiously. We found our usual spot in the library and walked towards the cushioned chair that stood at the very end.
“I do know that. And you need to know that nothing is ever going to change that,” I said with conviction, taking my other hand to stroke his forearm gently. “And I think that if you send a post to your parents and tell them that you are going to stay at the school, then you don’t have anything to worry about. They will leave you alone.”
“Hermione, you don’t understand,” he started at me.
“You said you would fight, Draco, remember?” I started back, looking at him longingly. “Do this for me. I know you can.”
At that point, he didn’t have any words for me. He opened his mouth to defend himself again, but then he closed it abruptly and looked away. I completely understood why he was so concerned, and after he told me that, I began to fear the same thing. The last thing I wanted to do was put my family in danger. However, I trusted him, and I felt like this visit was so important for the two of us that I simply could not let the opportunity pass by.
“You need to come with me,” I said to him calmly. He looked at me, his face angry and frustrated.
“Hermione,” he said, sounding tired, “don’t.”
I slowed down to a halt and managed to smile at him despite the current situation. I faced him and brought my hand to his face. “Listen to me, I trust you. I trust you, Draco. I trust that everything is going to be all right.”
“Well, I don’t,” he defended stubbornly, just as I decided I needed to sit down. I fumbled for my wand without taking my eyes off of him. When I found it, I pointed at the small couch behind me and enlarged it just enough so that we would be able to sit on it comfortably. I tucked the wand away inside my robes and turned back to him.
“I do. And we need this. We need this trip. We need to be together.”
“Why can’t we just stay here?” he said to me in a stubborn tone.
“We both know I can’t do that,” I responded to him gently. I slid my hands up his chest and inched closer to his face. “Please, Draco. Say you will.”
He was starting to give in to the closeness of my lips, watching me as I let my eyes flutter shut, my lips frozen, waiting for him to meet me halfway.
“I don’t want to hurt you,” he said to me quietly. I could tell by his voice that he was not any closer to me than he was before I had closed my eyes. I kept my eyes shut.
“I think we are past that,” I whispered, slightly smiling at him.
“Hermione,” he said angrily, letting go of me abruptly. My eyes opened quickly and I felt my heart race when I realized how close he was to my face; he was much closer than I had expected him to be.
“What?” I said, still taken aback by his closeness despite his obvious anger.
His eyes were wide and solemn. “I don’t mean like that. I am not talking about the past. I could not be more serious about this. This is your life I am talking about.”
I cocked my head to the side at his apparent fear, giving up on avoiding the evident. “Oh, Draco, I know,” I responded quietly, letting my head sink a little.
“I-I love you. And I can’t lose you,” he responded to me, conviction thick in his voice. My heart ached as he pulled me close.
I didn’t know what was going on in his head at that moment, but he looked so sad I thought he was going to break down in front of me. His face was serious; his eyebrows furrowed as his arms tightened around my lower back. I didn’t have a chance to respond because I felt like my throat had closed. I closed my eyes as he kissed me hungrily. We split apart for only a second, and before I knew it, he was kissing me again, pushing me slowly back until I could feel the couch at the back of my knees. I allowed myself to fall back until I was almost lying down, feeling Draco’s warmth immediately as his body almost completely covered my own. When he pulled away from me, I found my voice, despite being out of breath.
“I trust you,” I repeated to him, breathing heavily and looking at him fully. His god-like features were just inches from me, and his striking blonde hair was strewn messily in front of his face. I ran my fingers through it in an attempt to push his bangs out of his face.
He kissed me quickly and said bitterly, “you can’t trust a guy like me.”
“I can’t help it,” I said, smiling despite myself. “Tell me you will come with me.”
He sighed at me. “Fine, I will come.”
“Good,” I smiled at him. He smiled back, even though I could see the fear all over his face. He inhaled deeply and closed his eyes, my heart racing as I anticipated his next move. He wrapped his arms around my back and lifted me slightly off the couch so I could press against him as he kissed passionately. Without realizing it, I became lost in our own world.
After our last class of the day together, Draco and I walked to the library to write letters to our parents. I was nervous and had no idea how I was going to go about telling my parents that I had a boyfriend, but Draco was coming with me and I knew that was what was most important.
We sat down next to each other at a table and pulled the appropriate materials out of our bags. I took out my inkwell, quill and parchment and set it up in a strict manner. Draco fumbled with his quill beside me, looking like he was thinking about how he was going to go about lying to his parents.
“Come here,” I said, and I pecked him on the cheek quickly, giving him a reassuring smile.
“Here goes nothing…” he mumbled and he turned towards his paper to begin writing. I could tell he was dreading every second of drafting his letter.
I turned towards my paper and did the same.
Dear Mum and Dad,
I cannot wait to see you all in a few days! I hope that Collin is well. I can’t believe that by the time I see him he will be almost a month old! I know that I have not been exactly detailed in what is going on with my life right now, and I just wanted to ask you if we could have a special guest over for the holiday. To be completely honest, we are dating. His name is Draco and he is lovely and I know you two will both love him. I know you must be thinking about what happened with Ron, and truthfully, we went through a bit of a nasty breakup in the beginning of the year. Anyways, I hate to drop this on you, but I assure you that Draco and I will be very helpful in during the break! If you don’t respond, I will assume that this plan is all right with you two. Love you and see you in a week!
I put my quill down and stretched, reading my work carefully. I thought that it was pretty good for the first try and I rolled it up quickly when I noticed that Draco had already finished.
“Are you ready to send these off?” I asked him. He nodded at me and smiled despite his clear reluctance.
We gathered our items and walked off, walking hand in hand.
“Can I read yours?” he asked me after a few moments.
“Sure,” I said, “but only if I can see yours.”
He thought about our agreement for a few seconds, and then he nodded his head once. We traded, and he let his slip into my hand rather reluctantly as we continued to walk down the hallway. I opened it carefully and read Draco’s fluid writing.
I have decided to stay at Hogwarts over break. I have to catch up on a lot of work that I missed from being absent while Father and I were out of town. I will keep in touch.
I noted the lack of feeling he expressed when addressing his immediate family, and I instantly felt bad. I folded mine up, watching Draco as he finished reading mine. He looked up from the piece of parchment after a few moments and cleared his throat.
“Well, that was a nice bomb you dropped in this,” he said to me with a smile, though I could tell by the sound of his voice that he was bitter. We had reached the top steps of the owlery. The sky was turning variations of pink and purple as the sun set.
“Oh, come off it. I worded it the best I could. Now let’s send these off, all right?” I responded to him confidently.
He nodded at me as we reached our owls. The silence was both relaxing and overwhelming as we set up the owls for flight. Draco called for his owl, and it quickly flew to him and landed on the ledge in front of us. I called for Hedwig who came to me only after a few moments. I pet Hedwig as she hooted quietly, clearly upset that I had disrupted her nap. I folded up the letter and attached it snugly to her right foot. After a little bit of trouble, I picked Hedwig up carefully, only to find Draco waiting for me patiently, owl already in hand.
To my surprise, he smiled at me. For a few moments, balanced the owl perfectly in his grip and he bent forward to give me a soft kiss on the lips. When he drew away from me, he smiled again and turned towards the large, glass-less window in front of us.
“On the count of three. One…two…three!” Draco said, pumping his arms along with his counting. When he reached three, the two of us lifted our birds and let them go, allowing them to spread their wings and fly off. Draco slipped his hand in mine shortly after, and we watched the birds fly away. At first they flew side-by-side, straight out into the horizon, but after about a minute, they split and went in opposite directions. I walked closer to the ledge as the disappeared from view, becoming specks in a sea of crimson and yellow.
We were silent for a few moments after they disappeared, and I stood there imagining how the owls would arrive in their final destinations and what the reactions would be from our parents. Somehow, I felt better because I know that Draco was standing with me, more confident than he had been earlier that day. I exhaled deeply and grinned as Draco kissed me gently on the cheek.
“All right, when do we leave?” he asked me with a whisper, holding me close.
I rested my head against his shoulder and couldn’t help but smile.
A week later, the finals for the semester had ended and I felt a sigh of relief, a rush of energy and a slight amount of fear as I packed my bags to go home. I hadn’t received an owl back from my parents, so I assumed that I had convinced them that having Draco over would be all right- and that my mum did not remember exactly who Draco was, even though she had unofficially met him just a few months prior.
I rolled my luggage out to the common rooms and was greeted by Ron, who was sitting with his wand watching his Patronus, a terrier, roll around in front of him before disappearing in a puff of white smoke. He was about to cast the spell again, but he heard me coming and turned to look at me with a smile.
“Hey Hermione, you heading off?” he asked me.
“Yes, I am. What are you still doing here? I thought you were going back to the burrow.”
He looked a little distraught over my question. “Well, Harry and I were supposed to leave this morning, but he’s disappeared again… I’m really worried about him.”
This sparked my interest, as I had noticed his strange disappearances. There was a possibility that Ron knew more than I did about the situation. I let go of my luggage and sat down in the chair facing where he was seated.
“I’ve noticed that too, Ron. Do you know anything about what he is doing? He is being so secretive about it,” I asked him in a hush.
“And no teachers seem to have a problem with it when he comes back. It’s like they are all in on something that we aren’t aware of,” Ron said, now huffing in frustration.
“So you don’t know anything?” I asked him again, trying to get any information out of him that I could.
“No. Absolutely nothing,” he said bitterly. “It is so bloody frustrating. I feel like he is doing something all by himself and won’t ask us for help.”
“We will figure it out, Ron,” I assured him, although I wasn’t too convinced about anything I was trying to convince him of.
“I hope so,” he said, exhaling vehemently. “Well, I am going to stick around until tonight, and if he isn’t back by then, I am going to send an owl and see if it can find him. I will somehow help him get to the burrow…I just…” he trailed off, clearly worried about our friend.
“Like I said, Ron,” I repeated, looking at him confidently, “we will figure everything out. Keep my posted, okay?” I asked him, lifting myself from the seat and walking back to the luggage.
“I will. Merry Christmas, Hermione,” he said to me, trying to sound merry, though I could tell that he was worried.
“You too, Ron,” I responded, beginning to push my items towards the portrait hole. Before I went fully out, I stopped and turned around. “He will be back, Ron, I know he will,” I assured him with the smallest of smiles.
“I know,” he said quietly, smiling back at me. With that I waved at him and walked through the portrait hole. Draco was waiting for me in the busy corridor. There were students everywhere pulling and pushing luggage; all of them buzzed with excitement over the holiday vacation. I walked up to him and smiled in excitement and relief.
“Hi,” I murmured to him happily, and he planted a soft kiss on my lips.
“Hello,” he responded to me with a smile. “Okay, so what is your plan for getting to your parents house?”
“I thought we would apparate,” I grinned at him, knowing that he disliked the mere thought of apparation.
Draco gulped. “Are you…er…serious?”
“Of course I am!” I said, almost laughing.
“When did you get your license?” he asked me cautiously.
“A few days after I turned seventeen! Why? Are you scared?” I taunted with a wink.
He cleared his throat. “Of course not. I just thought we would fly.
“I thought so,” I responded. “Plus, you should know by now that I am afraid simply from the thought of being on a broomstick. Now take my hand.”
Draco slipped his hand into mine. I winked at him again, and he was the last thing I saw before closing my eyes. My mind cleared; I shut out the bustle surrounding the two of us and thought only of my home.
“Keep a firm grip on your luggage,” I reminded him, my eyes still closed. I could feel him reposition himself momentarily before returning to stillness.
The buzz around me slowly faded out of my head, and my home came back into my mind. I thought of the quiet street we were located on, with the quaint lampposts and brick sidewalks. I thought of the butter cream paint and the forest green doors and window panels, they grey roof and the small details of the porch trim. I focused in on the exact spot where I wanted to land: at the side of my house, where Muggles wouldn’t see us. It was the side of my house that my bedroom was on. My mind continued to focus until I could picture the grass beneath my feet and the soft, sinking feeling that you got when you stood in it. This time, however, I thought of my home in it’s winter condition; the trees bare, and the house wearing a layer of the frost on the roof and surrounding grass.
Suddenly, I felt a sucking feeling, like my entire body was being forced through an enclosed space, or through a human-sized vacuum. Within a few moments, it was over, and I was feeling the familiar feeling of supple grass and soil beneath my feet, but with a thin layer of snow on top of it. When I opened my eyes, I realized with a smile that I had done it. I still had my luggage safely in my left hand, and Draco was grasping firmly to my right hand, though I became aware of the fact that it was now very clammy.
I turned to him and smiled reassuringly while letting go of his hand and wiping my own against my pants. It was a typical late afternoon in my neighborhood; the sun was beginning to make it’s descent in the sky and my neighbors were slowly beginning to go inside to make dinner and prepare for the next day.
Draco breathed a sigh of relief and swallowed before speaking, “So this is it?” he said, measuring the lines and angles of my home.
“Yes, I assume it is very different than Malfoy Manor,” I admitted while shrugging at him.
He looked at me and shook his head at my slight embarrassment, “No, it’s perfect,” he assured me. He approached me, wrapped his hands around me quickly and gave me a short but passionate kiss, as if it would be the last time he would be able to do it for a few weeks.
“Come on, let’s go inside,” I said to him, nodding my head towards the front entrance of the house. Rather reluctantly, Draco followed me towards my front door, where I knew my parents would be waiting expectantly for our arrival on the other side.
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