Chapter 10 : Recovery, Rebellion, and Renaissance
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She blinked rapidly, trying to clear the blurriness from her vision. She could see a pale arm that was stretched to reach toward her forehead where something cool rested gently. A concerned face peered down at her. She only caught the fringe of the light blonde hair before she closed her eyes, hoping to fool her caretaker into believing that she was still asleep. “I saw that, Granger.”
“Drat,” she thought. She warily opened first one eye and then the other. A pair of icy blue-grey eyes met hers, daring her to defy him. She groaned as she put two and two together, realizing her fate. “Great. Just what I need: Malfoy to mess me up even more,” she thought sarcastically.
Her headache increased dramatically as she struggled to raise herself unto her forearms. “Hold up there, Granger.” He gently, but forcefully, lowered her head back unto the down pillow behind her. “I thought a genius like you would know better than to move unassisted right after waking up from a bad injury.”
“Harry was the one who was always in the hospital wing, not me,” she replied in a slightly self-depreciating voice. She often blamed herself for many of Harry’s various injuries. She may have been the brightest witch of her age, but she had rarely been able to prevent or ease his pain.
“Well, here’s rule number one: Always listen to and obey your caretaker: Me.”
She resisted the urge to laugh aloud at the way he turned his thumbs in to point to himself and his matter-of-fact voice. Instead, she scoffed, “Like I would ever answer to you, Malfoy.”
“You will, at least until you won’t crumple to the ground after less than ten steps.”
“Oh,” she said in a small voice. She had not realized that her condition was that degraded.
“Yeah. Rule number two: Drink plenty of fluids.” He pushed a cup of water into her hand and lifted her into a seated position with ease. She took in her surroundings as she drank steadily. White walls and floors alienated the room but little touches of color, such as the vase of fresh flowers by her bedside, brought life to it. The room distinctly reminded her of the hospital wing in Hogwarts, only this room was much smaller and only made to accommodate two people.
Her stomach rumbled, startling the two teens who were gazing off into space pensively. The blonde-haired boy abruptly turned around and reappeared with a platter of crackers and apple slices. Greedily, she shoved the proffered food into her mouth. “Slow down, Granger. It’s not going to disappear.” He grabbed her wrist as her hand snuck out to grab another morsel. “Chew and swallow. You’re going to choke yourself if you keep that up.”
She indignantly swallowed her mouthful and shot back, “I’m not a little kid. I know how to eat.”
“Then why are you acting like I just told you that all the food in the world would disappear tomorrow?”
“I am not. If all the food were to disappear, I would horde it all together, and then redistribute it among the needy children.”
“Sure you would, Miss Goody-Two-Shoes.”
The two teens entered into a tense staring contest, locking eyes, and neither allowing the contact to break. Suddenly, the two were doubled over in laughter.
“Ow! My side!” Hermione exclaimed as her exertions took their toll.
His concerned eyes met hers, but before either could do anything more, they resumed giggling.
“Wow,” she thought. “Dra-Malfoy has a sense of humor. He seems almost human when he laughs. No, he is human, when he laughs he just becomes more likeable. I can’t believe I just thought that: Malfoy? Likeable? I must have hit my head hard.”
"Malfoy," she asked when she awoke the next morning, "what exactly happened? How long was I unconscious?"
"I'm not the one to ask what happened; but you were out for two days after they brought you in. Father volunteered me to take care of you immediately; I think it was supposed to be some sort of punishment for not capturing Potter and Weaselbee when they came to the manor."
Hermione perked up. "Harry and Ron were here?"
"Yeah. Along with Mad Eye and a few others. Idiots tried to storm the manor while you were off on your little trip. They couldn't get in, of course: there's too many protections. I was the only one here so I just let them wear themselves out against the defenses and then left them with a little message saying not to come back. Apparently that wasn't good enough for my dear father."
She couldn't help but notice that he never called the manor "home" and that the term of endearment for Lucius dripped with sarcasm. He was clearly unhappy there.
"Don't let that go to your head. You're still not allowed any letters or other means of communication, and they're not likely to come back. You are not getting rescued anytime soon by those wannabe heroes. And keep your trap shut about it - I highly doubt that you were supposed to know."
Narcissa came to visit soon after and explained what had happened at the lake. Voldemort had become enraged when he discovered that the horcrux was missing, and he crucioed her repeatedly. Luckily, he eventually remembered his purpose for her and gave her the antidote to counteract the poison in the basin. She was hurriedly transferred back to Malfoy Manor and placed under Draco’s care. The combination of the poison and the spell had brought her to the brink of death. Narcissa held her as the realization of what had happened to her sent Hermione into shock and eventually tears. The older woman was kind and gentle, wiping away her tears and promising a good recovery.
However, the double-whammy slowed her recovery in unexpected ways, although within the month, she was able to walk a short ways with Draco hovering nearby to catch her if she so much as wobbled.
Draco was a surprisingly good caretaker. He was gentle as he nursed her, even when their voices turned cold and they argued until he had to step out of the room to cool down. As long as they avoided the touchy subjects of Harry and Ron, Voldemort, and the war, he could be personable and even made her laugh occasionally with his dry sense of humor and stories of going-ons around the manor. Hermione was surprised to find that she sort of looked forward to waking up to see him by her bedside waiting with breakfast.
Nearly a month into summer, Hermione felt that she was strong enough to return to the guest room. Draco, however, disagreed.
"You're being a damned, prideful fool, Granger!"
"I am not! You just enjoy having control over me and don't want to lose that power!"
"You think this is about power and control? We've already established that you are powerless against me without your wand - I don't need you to be infirm to overpower you! And you best keep that in mind!" With that, he stormed out of the room.
The door slammed shut, and Hermione sighed. She hated being reminded that she did not have a wand and was, therefore, weak.
Suddenly, the door jerked open again. A familiar white-blonde head peeked through. "I'm going to take a shower and get ready for the night. I'll be back in a half hour. Don't try anything stupid." The door slammed again, and he was gone.
Feeling angry and rebellious, Hermione crept slowly and carefully out of her sickbed. Shakily, she hobbled over to the door. Her pale, frail hand turned the doorknob as hope and rebellion swelled within her. She was slightly surprised to find it unlocked as Malfoy typically locked her into the room when he left, but she was thankful that she would not have to waste energy reaching to get the key from above the door. She closed the door as quietly as possible and began the long and tedious trek to her room.
Her body was weaker than she thought after all, but she was almost there after nearly twenty minutes. “A little farther, just a little farther,” she told herself repeatedly as she crawled up the final staircase. Exhausted, she laid down at the top of the stairs. “Just a quick rest. I’ll just…just…” Sighing, she gave up her struggle, closed her eyes, and allowed her weak body to collapse completely, sending her back into darkness.
“Hermione. Hermione! Where are you? HERMIONE!” Voices called her name and still she didn’t stir.
“Oh no! Hermione!” his worried voice sounded as he found her limp form lying on the staircase. “I found her!” he called to the other searchers, trying his best to sound nonchalant. He didn’t need the whole manor to hear his anxiety at seeing her unconscious, again.
He flashed back to the night in the Slytherins' corridors, commonly known as the dungeons. That night at least she had fought. Now he saw her broken, having given up in her struggle. Instead of the hate that had overtaken him that night, all he could feel was concern and worry tonight. He had only been acting under the Dark Lord’s orders. As the Death Eaters stormed the castle, he was charged with making sure that no one escaped through the multiple passages down in those cold, dark halls. Unfortunately for her, she was ever the valiant and intelligent one. She had searched him out when she noticed his absence from the fray above. He had been wary of her pondering gaze all year. He was sure that she knew of his plot, his piece in the inevitable battle to come, as her eyes raked over him. She had been the one to discover him. She had been the one to fight him. She had been alone. She hadn’t had a chance against his strength and speed. He had disarmed her and cornered her. Even then, she had not given up Harry’s quest nor any other information about her friends and allies. He had beaten her down, the defenseless thing she was. He had trapped her, called on his own allies, and she had struggled. He’d had no mercy for her. A part of him had even enjoyed this revenge on her. In the end, he had actually given her a small mercy: unconsciousness.
As he lifted her carefully, he marveled at how he could have been so horrible to such a defenseless, spirited girl. She had been weak, even then. The stress of school and her work against the Dark Lord’s rise had zapped her of much of her strength and vitality. The night of the battle, she had looked wraith-like and ghostly in the dim corridors, much as she looked now. But there was a fire in her eyes then. He had not seen that fire since she had been imprisoned here. Her spirit was crushed. In that moment, he determined that he would bring that fire and spirit back to her.
He entered his room, carrying her lifeless form. Gently, he laid her on his bed and pulled a chair over to wait for her to reawaken.
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