Chapter 8 : The Bloody Lotus
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October, Hogwarts, Scotland. 1997 A.D.
The Great Hall was full as usual at dinner time when Hermione was allowed to return to her normal activities the next evening, but it wasn't nearly as loud. It was Friday evening, and everyone was winding down from a long week of lessons. But hardly anyone said a word when Hermione showed up in the enormous doorway. When she stopped walking and looked around, she found everybody in the hall staring at her. Not just a few curious people here and there anymore.
A moment passed, and Hermione willed herself to make her way down the aisle to the vacant seat across from Ginny and beside Neville at their respective table, inwardly counting down the number of feet she had left until she reached her destination. She shut her eyes, and took a deep breath.
When she exhaled, the sound of a flashbulb bursting a few feet away made her jump. "Yes! I've gotten the first picture!" Hermione's eyes opened abruptly, and she found Colin Creevey turning to high five his friend, waving a photograph in the air triumphantly.
"Colin!" She yelled, pressing the heel of her hand against her forehead. "What did I tell you about personal space?"
"Who cares?" Colin shrugged. "I'm going to be rich - hey!"
Someone plucks the photograph from his hand, causing him to stop talking abruptly. "Not if I can help it," said Draco. Hermione looked over at him, puzzled but grateful for the intervention. Then he took her by the arm and dragged her back towards the entrance.
"Hey, wait a second -" called Colin, but Draco kept on moving. Hermione stumbled a few times as she tried to keep up with him. Everyone had gone back to speaking again, but some people were still watching them. Especially the Slytherins, who seemed rather skeptical about why Draco was so intent on helping her.
"Where are we going?" She demanded. No response. "Malfoy! Where are you taking me?" They turned a corner abruptly and as he led her down the dimly lit corridor, she felt disoriented and lightheaded.
Get a grip on yourself, and look around, Chione told her. He clearly wants to be alone with you.
Suddenly Draco released Hermione's arm and pushed open the door to an empty classroom before following her inside and shutting the door again with his foot. When she turned round to face him, she found him pulling out his wand and pointing it at the photograph.
"Incendio," he muttered, and they both watched the picture go up in flames.
"Is there any reason to your madness?" Hermione asked him calmly. He dropped the burning photo on the floor and tucked his wand away in the pocket of his trousers before striding away.
Draco trailed his fingers along the edge of a nearby desk, and then inspected his finger tips with little interest. "Creevey was going to be paid by Rita Skeeter if he provided a photograph of you and a full, first-hand account on your collapse," he explained evenly. Hermione's hands clenched around the edge of the desk she was leaning against.
"I hate that woman," she hissed.
"That makes two of us then," laughed Draco bitterly. She toyed with her time turner thoughtfully, glancing over at him through her eyelashes. The old room was dark, with only the moon's light to illuminate it.
This was getting ridiculous. He'd been nice to her since they got back to school, and she had no idea why. She could admit that he was acting highly unsually, what with kissing her, visiting her in the hospital ward, and this impromptu rescue. Sure, people could change, but not this quickly.
Not this much.
Ask him, she heard Chione say in her head. "Why do you keep doing this?" Hermione demanded, straightening up seriously.
"Doing what?" Draco replied, barely glancing over his shoulder at her.
"Making me feel this way," she wanted to say, but she swallowed it back and changed her mind instead. "Helping me," Hermione decided, "and being nice to me. It isn't... well, you,"
He turned to face her then. "You'd rather I be more of my old self again?" Draco inquired, raising an eyebrow at her as he started to approach her again.
"Well, no -"
"Then what's the problem?" He said. He was right ontop of her now, gazing down at her through stormy grey eyes, his breath hot on her cheeks. She averted her eyes just as her cheeks began to grow warmer.
Then she pressed her lips together firmly.
"This is the problem, Draco," Hermione hissed, as if somebody would hear her. "I'm not supposed t- to feel..." she trailed off as her gaze returned to his. Draco cupped his hand behind her neck, tangling his fingers in the wavy hair at the nape of her neck. But it felt nice; it felt right. Almost as though his hand was meant to be there all along. Hermione closes her eyes and sighs. "Draco, I think Ginny was right. I really shouldn't be -" The moment she opened her eyes, he kissed her, for the second time in a month.
Almost instantly, Hermione felt herself leaning closer to him, as if he were radiating some sort of gravitational pull that was reeling her in. Suddenly, nothing else mattered. She forgot about the journal, the drastic change in appearance, the staring. Hermione's bag slipped from her shoulder and fell to the floor.
Her heart was beating fast, pumping adrenaline through her veins. Draco picked her up by her thighs, and set her down on the nearest desk, laying her out across it. She undid the buttons down his shirt with uncanny swiftness, pushing it off his shoulders in a matter of seconds.
He kissed her along her jaw as he removed her shirt just as quickly, as his lips traveled down her neck and across her shoulder blade. She closed her eyes again as she focused on the feel of his lips on her skin, gentle and impeccably smooth. Each time his lips made contact she could feel a jolt of electricity surge through her body, and a fluttering in her stomach. So, this was how it all would end; where it would all begin.
In an empty classroom.
For once, she did not hear Chione's voice guiding her through her thoughts. Hermione was all on her own here, and this time she was deciding that she wouldn't go through with it. She couldn't.
"Draco, wait," she said, pushing him away and trying to sit up. But he just continued kissing her as if Hermione hadn't spoken at all. His kisses became forced and his lips uninviting. She pushed harder. "Give it a rest, Malfoy! I'm not interested anymore,"
That seemed to get his attention. He sat up, looking down at her. She exhaled with relief, running a hand through her hair. "What do you mean, you're 'not interested anymore'?" He demanded. "Do you only decide to fancy me when it's convenient for you?" She sat up then, and Draco stood up before her.
"That's not what I meant," Hermione told him quietly, chewing on her bottom lip. When she looked down, something she had never noticed before caught her eye. A long, white scar, curving from a spot just above his navel up and around his torso. "What's this?"
"Don't -" Draco tried to protest, but her fingertips had only just grazed the scar before something neither of them expected happened. Once again, Hermione was propelled into a certain darkness.
August, Alexandria, Egypt. 30 B.C.
"You fight for an empty cause, Antony," laughed the man I fought. He was quite the swordsman, but not nearly as quick as I.
He blocked an attempt I made at his side. "Is that so?"
"Very much so, I am afraid," he told me, narrowing his eyes in concentration as he aimed for my neck but I was faster, bringing my shield up to protect myself and deflect the blade. "Your lady is dead."
"Lies!" I shout on impulse. Catching him off guard by my outburst, slashing my sword across his thigh. He stumbles away, before losing balance and falling over. I turn around, and knock out a second man with the butt of my sword as I cross the battlefield purposefully toward Agrippa.
He noticed me as he ran another man through with his own blade. "Antony! What news has you so disturbed?" Agrippa inquired.
"What of Cleopatra?"
"Cleopatra?" Agrippa repeated, his eyebrows furrowing. "I saw her not long ago. She is quite well. A bit disconcerted by the fact that she must remain in hiding, but well enough."
The news of her safety should have settled the restlessness in my gut, but it did not. "How long ago?" I demanded. Agrippa looked well concerned, when he turned and faced me. The sounds of war filled the air around us, the atmosphere polluted with tension and humidity and hateful yells.
I wondered where Octavian was now.
"Antony, are you sure -"
"How long, Agrippa?" I ground out impatiently. He averted his gaze, exhaling and nodding once to know that he understood that he wasn't helping matters.
"An hour... at the least,"
That was all I needed to know, before I pushed past him, and headed for the pyramidal structure in the distance.
"Cleopatra!" I cried out the moment I set foot inside.
It was dimly lit inside with only the light of the fires burning and dancing on the torches lining the walls to pierce the darkness. I looked about frantically for her as I ran, my sword held tight in my hand. It had been a terrible idea to leave her all alone, so close to the battle. I had known that I would be putting her in danger, but I hadn't cared. I had wanted her as near to me as possible. I had needed her; she was my good luck charm.
But I shouldn't have left her. I made such a colossal mistake when I let her go. I should have told her how I felt - how I really felt...
I stopped running, my eyebrows pulling together.
Who was I thinking about again?
Suddenly, I saw Chione in my head. She was smiling, and beautiful, and had a lotus flower in her hair, holding back her dark hair on the left side. She was exactly how I remembered. The minute that I shut my eyes, and started to remember the way she felt and smelled, I felt a presence in the corridor.
And I heard a voice.
"Antony," it murmured, as if on a breeze. I spun around on my heel, my eyes snapping open and scanning the corridor. It was empty, and dark as a few of the torches had blown out.
I looked down, and found a flower fluttering against my shoe. I knelt down and scooped it up, holding it in my palm as I examined it. It was a lotus flower, perfect and pale pink just like the ones that Chione sent down the Nile River for her sister. As I looked closer, I realized that the flower wasn't as perfect as I had assumed.
One of the petals was corrupt, ripped halfway down the middle.
Then, a moment later, Cleopatra emerged from a corridor a few feet away, her eyes wide with terror. "Antony, look out!"
"It is Antony! Kill him!" I heard someone shout. I turned around, the hand around my sword momentarily slack for a moment too long. Once it registered to me what was happening, it was too late.
All I saw was a blur, a blade, and a priest, running me through with his dagger. He sliced a gash through my side, and I stabbed the priest back weakly, before letting my sword fall to the floor with a clatter as I dropped to my knees.
"No!" Cleopatra screamed, running towards me. I hit the floor before she could reach me, lying down in a quickly growing pool of my own blood. My eyesight was growing hazy. I felt droplets of water fall on my face. Cleopatra was sobbing and cursing the priest.
So this was the end. The last thing I saw before I blacked out was the tainted lotus flower, lying a few inches from my fingertips and veined with my blood.
"Oh my... goodness," Hermione gasped when she regained consciousness, collapsing into his arms with wide eyes.
"What is it?" Draco asked. "What did you see?"
She looked up at him, her eyebrows pulling together in confusion. "I -"
They both looked round then, staring at the door to the classroom. It was Ginny. And they were both half-dressed, and pretty much on top of eachother. Hermione quickly regained her strength and snatched up her shirt, hastily trying to button it up as fast as possible.
"Fucking hell," Draco chuckled, pulling on his own shirt as well, leaning against the desk across from hers, "are we ever going to get a minute to ourselves?"
Hermione eyed him up and down. "I'm not too certain if I'm ready to be alone with you just yet, Draco," she explained. Something inside of her wondered how he knew about her going into the memory, but she decided not to voice it. She was puzzled enough about the fact that she had gone into a memory that wasn't Chione's in the first place. How had that happened?
All she'd done was touch his scar and then - wait.
The scar. Maybe -
"Hermione? Where on earth did that pompous idiot take you?" Ginny called. Her voice was getting closer.
"Ginny," she heard Neville say this time, "what if he hadn't taken her anywhere? What if they're not back here at all? What if she just snuck away to her dormitory and -"
"Neville," Ginny chided.
Draco ran a hand through his hair and smoothed his shirt, before straightening up. "I suppose that would be my cue," Draco said, turning for the door. Hermione shook her head, stopping him with a hand on his arm.
"I'll, um," Hermione began, "I'll go." Draco watched her as she retrieved her bag from the floor, and started to head for the door.
But he caught her wrist before she could reach it, and pulled her into a quick, feverish kiss. When he pulled away, they pressed their foreheads together, and Hermione closed her eyes, exhaling a bit shakily. "You have to trust me, Granger," he breathed.
She could feel the corners of her mouth turning down slightly with displeasure. She couldn't deal with this right now.
"I have to go," she told him, before turning on her heel and heading out the door.
"Herm - ah!" Ginny yelled in surprise when Hermione appeared from the doorway to the classroom suddenly, and they ran into eachother. Neville ran into Ginny's back as he was walking behind her, causing her to drop her books. She shot him an irritated look, but he didn't notice.
Neville looked at Hermione skeptically, glancing between her and the door. "What were you doing in there?" He asked.
"I was lost," replied Hermione quickly. "Can we go? Now?"
"Cor, Hermione," Ginny said as she stood up again, "I never thought anyone would be so eager to get to Trelawney's class, not even you of all people," she glanced at the door to the empty room behind Hermione. "What's your rush?"
"Who says I'm in a rush?" Hermione inquired, stopping to look back at her friend.
Ginny and Neville exchanged a glance.
"Well, you just sort of -" he tried to say, but Hermione grabbed his and Ginny's arms, and tugged them along after her down the corridor back towards the Entrance Hall.
"You weren't with him again, were you?" Ginny demanded.
Hermione stopped walking abruptly, and Neville stumbled forward a few feet as a result, running into a pretty blonde Hufflepuff prefect with her hair in pigtails. He turned scarlet and apologized repeatedly for his clumsiness.
Slowly, she turned back to Ginny. "I was, actually," she admitted quickly, "but I have something really important to -"
"I have to get to class," Ginny pointed out suddenly, interrupting Hermione. "Potions, you know. Snape doesn't take too kindly to those who are late to his class." Then she stalked away.
Without even saying goodbye.
"Doesn't she ever get tired of teaching about omens?" Neville inquired as he turned the pages of his textbook to the number indicated by Professor Trelawney. It was awfully stuffy and the room was filled with copious amounts of scents that irritated her nose quite a bit. But the atmosphere wasn't the only thing that was making her uncomfortable.
Draco sat right across the classroom, at his usual table with Astoria and Blaise, staring right at Hermione. His friends didn't seem to mind or even notice, as they were too busy sneaking in quick snogs whenever Trelawney wasn't paying attention. Which was, unfortunately, very often.
"Alright, everyone," Trelawney called out to her class from the front of the room, "drink up, and then record one another's futures in your journals. You'd be surprised what you may find in the dregs of your tea!"
Everyone did as instructed (unhappily, but they did it), drinking the tea down to the dregs and examining what they found. "That one looks like a bird, sort of," Neville was saying to himself. He held out the cup to Hermione. "Doesn't it?" She peered into it, and shrugged.
She tilted her head to the side a bit. "It sort of looks like a falcon, if you really look at it," Hermione told him. He flipped through his book, and then ran a finger down the page before tapping it twice.
"Great," Neville said. "I'm going to be facing a deadly enemy. That should be interesting. What does yours say?"
"I have no idea," Hermione admitted. "I was never good at this,"
He held out his hand. "Here," he told her, "let me have a look." Hermione handed the cup to him, and Neville squinted as he gave it a good look. "That one there looks like a sort of... flower. But the rest is sort of a blob," he explained, before looking up. "Maybe you don't have a future. Maybe yours will just be filled with happiness and flowers and no deadly enemies,"
Hermione smiled as she took the cup back.
"Nice try," she replied. "Is it in the book?"
Neville flipped through again, before looking up and shaking his head. "Nope, I don't see any flowers in here," he told her.
"Hm," Hermione said thoughtfully, before getting Trelawney's attention as she passed. "Professor, wait! Could you tell me what this means? I'm completely lost,"
Professor Trelawney nodded, pushing her spectacles up on the bridge of her nose. "Yes, of course, my dear," Trelawney said, taking the cup from her and examining the dregs within. Her face fell almost immediately. She took her glasses off, blinked, and then put them back on. "This must be some mistake," she whispered.
Hermione looked worried. "What? How?"
"My dear," she told her slowly, looking up and cupping her cheek with her hand, "what you have seen is the Bloody Lotus. It is very rare, and hasn't been seen by anyone alive in at least a few centuries,"
"What does it mean?" Hermione asked, swallowing hard.
Professor Trelawney set down the cup on her table, and turned away from Hermione, bowing her head. "What it means is," Trelawney explained, "that you are harboring a secret that no one is aware of. A secret so dangerous it could be deadly. You are tainted, Ms. Granger, like a lotus flower veined with blood,"
And then she walked away, leaving Hermione completely shocked and unable to speak. Everyone in the room was staring at her, but this time, she didn't care. Her fate was sealed.
Her world was beginning to unravel.
AN Well, what did you think? This one took particularly long to write, but I finally made it across that finish line of 3000+ words. I hope it wasn't too horrible. More twists and turns have just developed! I want to know what you thought of the Draco/Hermione scene. It was basically put in to serve as a crutch for the Mark Antony memory/unveiling, so I want to know how you liked that bit as well? And the connections with the lotus flower (in the memory) and the revelation in Divination. Was that too confusing? It probably seemed better in my head...
Agrippa - a close friend, son-in-law, lieutenant and defense minister to Octavian, who became loyal to Mark Antony in the Battle of Actium.
At any rate, general comments/questions/concerns/critiques/feedback is appreciated and welcome as always. Thanks for taking the time to read, and for the people that have kept up with the story, thanks for coming back every time!
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