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Chapter 11 : Reveal
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Chapter 11 (Reveal)
As she pulled herself from sleep, it was the aroma that she noticed first: warm, outdoorsy, and surprisingly, familiar. It was a comforting smell: a mix of cloves, vanilla, and something that brought to mind open fields after a thunderstorm. Without opening her eyes, she attempted to find the source, but she soon realized that the fragrance permeated the whole room nearly equally. Groaning, she pried her eyelids open. The room, too, was familiar, though it took her a moment to realize why. She was lying in Draco Malfoy’s room. “This cannot be good,” she thought. A whisper in her mind wanted to protest, but she threw it off as ridiculous nonsense brought on by her lingering concussion.
A door swung open and footsteps filled the silence. “I see you’ve awoken from your hundred-year sleep, Sleeping Beauty.”
Hermione chuckled lightly. “It seems that is true.” She paused, “How do you know about Sleeping Beauty?”
His grinning face appeared before her as he sat down beside the bed. “Aunt ‘Dromeda used to tell me muggle fairytales when I would visit as a child. Nymphadora would laugh when I would ask about the princesses from her old books.”
“I thought that Andromeda was disowned when she married Ted.”
“She was, but my mother still visited her often, despite her family’s protests. Also, she was a convenient babysitter. My mother doesn’t believe in house-elves looking after children.”
“Ah. So the Slytherin Prince is really a muggle-lover.” There was a quiet challenge in her eyes accompanying the strong mischievous glint.
He feigned terror. “Don’t tell my father!” he squeaked. A laugh rumbled through his chest as her own chiming laughter rang out.
“I won’t. I pinkie-promise.” She held out her smallest finger as he hesitantly reached out with his. Their fingers joined, and the pair grinned like little children. They laughed loudly at their jest.
When the fit subsided, Draco gazed at her, seeming puzzled. “What?” she laughed.
“You seem well enough. How would you like to get some fresh air; maybe, walk around the grounds a little? Get rid of that rebellious streak that landed you here?” he asked nonchalantly.
Searching his eyes for treachery, she replied, “That’s sounds won…good.” Her dark curls bounced slightly as she nodded her head.
“Good. You get dressed, and then I’ll accompany you on the excursion.”
Hermione prepared to slide out of the comfortable bed, but stopped short as she realized what she was doing. She was wearing an oversized shirt that she figured was the closest thing to a T-shirt that the Malfoys owned. Despite its size, the hem only came halfway down her thigh. Blushing, she demanded that he leave.
“Why?” he asked, acting innocent though she was sure he knew what she was wearing. He may have even dressed her himself, she couldn't be sure.
“You’re such a perv! Now leave!” she screamed at him. Draco chuckled heartily, but left anyways. She hissed at his cheeky grin and wink.
A few minutes later, she had changed into a pair of moss green short shorts (She was sure that Draco had picked those out.) and a comfortable white tank top. Draco knocked once and entered to find her examining herself in the mirror. He quietly observed her from a discreet distance. Fading bruises covered her arms and legs. A white scar could be seen on her forearm from where the knife had drawn her blood. Her brunette curls were as unmanageable as ever, but she had managed to contain most of them in a low ponytail. Her once-bright eyes were still haunted, something that he noted with contempt. Even when her laugh filled the room, the empty, scared look never left those golden-brown orbs. She was still fragile, but her posture portrayed her resolve and strength.
She frowned at her reflection, pulling at the shorts and a loose curl. Softly, he spoke. “You… you look fine. No, more than fine. You’re beautiful.” He whispered the last word to himself.
She spun around, a hint of anger in her eyes. “How long have you been there?”
“Not long,” he offered. “Perhaps a minute or two. That’s all.”
She breathed a sigh of relief. She turned away briefly, but he still noticed her wipe her eyes with the back of her hand. “So Granger’s been crying. I wonder why,” he thought to himself. He knew that she would never accept his pity, though, so he did not ask. “Come on, Granger. Let’s head out,” he said instead.
He held open the wooden door for her and she slowly exited. At the end of the corridor, she paused at the top of the staircase. “What’s the hold up, Granger?” he asked, annoyance tinting his voice at the sudden stop. She stared desolately at the descending steps. Coming to her side, he marked the concern in her honey eyes. “Oh.” He knew that she wouldn’t allow him to carry her the whole way down. Even in her current state, she had too much pride for that. Instead he lifted her arm around his shoulders, and carefully they made their way down to the sunroom in the back of the house.
He threw open the white French doors. She gasped. He repressed the urge to chuckle at her reaction. Beyond the doors, the green slopes rolled gently toward a majestic pine forest. Flower gardens flourished on either side of the cobblestone pathway that wound through the grounds and eventually reached the shining blue lake far to her right. Hermione believed that she had never seen anything more beautiful, besides her first glimpse of Hogwarts from the small boats in their first year. Standing there, she could almost forget that she was a captive in a house full of Death Eaters. He nudged her shoulder, and she began dreamily walking the path. He pointed out the large maze of hedges and flowering vines that made up the traditional Labyrinth. She marveled at the variety of plants that grew in the year-round greenhouses. He drew her attention to a field of wildflowers that had been allowed to run wild. She savored the sweet berries they picked from the tangle of raspberry and blackberry bushes.
Finally, they arrived at his favorite piece of the intricate web that was the Malfoy gardens: his grandmother’s flower garden. It was a simple thing with only some daisies, a few dahlias, a rose bush, and many smaller, colorful flowers. Draco bent down to pull a few weeds with his bare hands. She noticed that those hands did not quite fit with the rest of his aristocratic appearance. His hands were long and slender, but they had a light brown stain from working in the dirt. They also had a few calluses that had begun to form, she suspected, from working with garden tools such as trowels. A soft smile graced his face as he worked, his blonde hair adding to the angelic image.
She sat down and fingered a delicate blue blossom. Her thoughts wandered to summers spent chasing gnomes and watching Quidditch games at the Burrow. The little blue flower was the color of the clear sky that greeted them most mornings. Sighing, she remembered those carefree days spent with Harry, Ron, and Ginny; their laughter permeating the warm air. She missed Harry’s bright green eyes and reckless courage. She missed Ginny rambling on about the latest fashions. She even missed Ron’s ignorance and hilarity. Her parents’ brown eyes and warm, caring smiles flooded her vision, and tears sprang to her eyes.
A completely different set of eyes met her startled pair. The storm that usually raged in his grey eyes had calmed. Surprisingly, those silver eyes seemed friendly and inviting. His eyes entranced her even as a smirk formed upon his lips.
“Thinking of me?” he asked cockily.
“Never,” she replied, matching his tone perfectly. Her face softened. “I was just reminiscing.”
“Me too,” he said, smiling lightly. “This used to be my grandmother’s garden. She would work out here every day. She was the one who taught me how to plant seeds, pull weeds, and help the plants flourish. She died almost a year ago.”
“It’s fine. This is my memorial, my way of remembering her. Sometimes I feel… her spirit with me when I’m here.”
Unsure of how to respond, she hesitantly reached out to place a hand on his shoulder. He sighed and allowed his head to drop slightly. A comfortable silence and understanding passed between them.
Slowly, he stood and offered her his hand. “Shall we go?” he inquired. She could only nod. He pulled her up carefully, and they resumed their tour of the grounds. The whole time, Draco was a step behind her, ready her catch her should she stumble from exhaustion or loss of balance.
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