Chapter 15 : A Change of Mind...
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A Change of Mind...
She was in a dimly lit pub. The music was pumping out of the scattered speakers throughout the walls plastered with posters of pin-ups from Playwizard and advertisements for the latest kind of firewhisky. In the middle, a few steps away from the bar, was a cleared space of tiled floor. There were couples places precariously inside of it, moving so close to the other it shouldn't even be considered dancing, more like trying to have sex with their clothes on. The tiles moved along with the beat of the song, but the same couldn't be said for the occupants of the dance floor. They weren't even moving to the beat of the song, which was a fast-paced one that someone might find in an underground rave. But none of this mattered to her. All she knew was that she was horny and she needed to find someone to assist her in sedating that awareness to a dull ache rather than a pulsing throb in her lower abdomen.
She was sitting upon a tiny bar stool, scanning the pub for a victim. Unfortunately to the oh-so-willing suitors that kept approaching her with corny come-on's she was very picky. But once she saw something she liked, she went for it like a tigress and her prey. That is what they were to her, prey. Poor, unfortunate souls wouldn't know what hit them. Draco didn't know what she was up too, for all he knew she was out shopping for a new dress. Oh, she had bought a new dress alright. But it couldn't really constitute as a dress when it barely reached her mid-thigh and was tight enough that you might have thought it was a second skin if you were placed at the right distance. That's what these slime balls liked, and that is what she was going to feed them. Only then would she be in control.
A dark figure entered the bar and her attention snapped just as the door closed to announce the newcomer. He was wearing a long black cloak that flowed behind him as he walked, revealing a pair of black jeans and a dark grey jumper. It was clear that he was intending to be inconspicuous, but failing miserably as he had caught her attention and perked her interest. He had taken a seat a few down from hers and ordered a firewhisky in a deep, husky voice.
She had found her prey.
She turned her seat towards him and angled her legs so that one dangled lazily over the other, trying to draw his attention to her. She pretended to be nonchalant when her mind was commanding him to notice her so she didn't have to walk over to him. It was a waist of energy if he wasn't willing to comply with her wishes. Twisting her neck to see if her tactic was working, she was pleased to see his hooded face turned towards her. She threw a seductive smile towards him and twiddled her fingers as a sort of wave. He seemed to be too entranced to come up with a proper response and she smirked. Knowing that it would be pointless to exchange formalities, she nodded towards the dance floor and he seemed to move his head in confirmation that he understood. She smiled as she walked over towards the middle of the crowd and waited. Not even a minute later, the mysterious man made his way through the crowd and she pointed a finger at him, motioning for him to come over. He complied and she wrapped her arms carelessly around his neck, pulling him more firmly against her. In turn, he wrapped him hands around her petite waist and began responding to the music.
Game, set, and match.
Unlike the others on the dance floor, their bodies moved in rhythm with the now steady beats of music emitting from the speakers. She tried to get a good look at the man's face but he kept on twisting about so that it would remain hidden. She furrowed her brows and huffed loudly, making it apparent to him that she was frustrated. He chuckled deep in his chest and because of their close proximity she could feel it vibrating against her own. There was something familiar about that laugh, but she couldn't put her finger on it. If she knew this person, it would be dangerous for her to be seen here. They could report back to someone who had the power to punish her…
Before she could elaborate further, he twisted her so that her back was pressed up against his chest. His hands remained delicately at her waist as she turned her hips and tried to adjust to this new position. She was usually the one in control and yet she was letting this stranger was lead her. Oh well, it was only a dance. At least that was what she was trying to convince herself as the two of them finally found a rhythm with their hips. He could sense the hesitation of her hips as the cogs in her brains started functioning again to figure out who he was.
He lowered his lips to her ear and huskily whispered in the same tone he had used to order his drink, “Stop thinking so much, Hermione.”
She turned so that their position was changed back to the one they started with, never losing their rhythm with the blaring music. “How do you know my name?” she asked dangerously.
He twirled her at arm's length and brought her back so that her back was turned to him once again, both of their hands intertwined at her hips. He lowered his lips to her ear again, “That's for me to know and you to moon over.”
She craned her neck to look up at him and placed one of her arms around his neck. To any onlooker they would look as though they were about to kiss. “I think you highly underestimate me” She purred, trying to scare him into revealing who he was.
He chuckled as he let one of his hands move further down her hips and towards her upper thigh. She couldn't stop the shiver that wracked her body and made her eyes become hooded. “On the contrary,” he said firmly as he traced a finger down her neck and made her mouth form a small “O”, “I think that you highly underestimate me.”
She calmed herself as he removed his finger from her now boiling skin. “Just who do you think you are?”
He turned his head upwards slightly so that the shadows of his hood uplifted to reveal his smug smile. “Who do you think I am?”
She didn't have the answer to that so she avoided his stare. Even though she couldn't see his eyes, she could feel them burning a hole in her. This wasn't how it was supposed to go. She was supposed to seduce him, ask him to her room and then send him off. It was going to be a one-time thing just to try something new. But this… this… prick was ruining everything! She just had to go for the mysterious one, didn't she? Stupid, stupid, stupid.
“Hermione” he called breathily. She turned back to him and before she could react, his lips were on hers. It wasn't forceful, but not to be confused with chaste either. He pulled back before she could make the move to deepen it. Their noses bumped and she opened her eyes. Her eyes met a pair of emerald orbs and she pulled back in a rush. He held onto her arm tightly, not letting her get away. “Don't run away.” He said desperately as she turned back to face him. They were a herd of two standing among a cluster of sweating dancers.
Something about the way he said it made her stop struggling. “Harry…”
He nodded and caressed her cheek. She leaned into his touch and he cupped her chin to make her look up at him. “You shouldn't be doing this.”
He looked at her meaningfully, “You know exactly what you're doing.”
She remained silent as she got his point. But then she looked up defiantly as her better judgment began to settle in, “You can't tell me what I can and can't do!”
“You're right, only you can do that.” He said softly.
Harry then disentangled himself from her and she felt a cool breeze sweep over her. But before she could complain, he lowered his head to hers and placed a quick kiss on the corner of her lips. She wanted to move that fraction of an inch so she could feel his lips again, but she was immobile. As soon as his lips left her skin, his image faded and she was left alone in the middle of the dance floor, the couples around her blissfully ignorant of what had just taken place. She stood there and felt a flood of loneliness come over her; it was enough to make her nose crinkle up as a tingling feeling appeared. It was only when she felt a lone tear escape down her cheek that she pulled herself out of this nightmare.
She gasped as consciousness settled in and her body shot upwards. She looked around and let her body grow slack against her headboard. She was in her bed and not in the middle of a dance floor. The dream had been so real, though, She thought to herself. Well, it was. At least, at a time.
In fact, it had almost been exactly like one of her trips to the pub near Malfoy Manor. Well, more like one trip. Early in her “relationship” with Draco she had discovered a nearby pub called “The Wizard's Broomstick” and figured that one person to shag wasn't healthy. It was normal to want to experiment with others, right? Well, at the time she thought so. Everyone else around her seemed to do it: Bellatrix, Narcissa, and pretty much every female Death Eater that she had come to meet. And since she was well on her way to becoming one at the time, why not follow in their footsteps? If that's what Death Eaters did, then she had to do it eventually. Her body was her greatest weapon, willing to be manipulated at her every command. Finding a stranger and using him for experimental purposes seemed to be a surefire way to train her self control. Of course, the end product would also be quite beneficiary to sedate her other needs as well.
After that one night with a stranger, she knew that she was truly her greatest weapon. So, of course, she milked it for all it was worth in the beginning; with Draco, and occasionally with a pick-me-up at the local pub. But there came a point where she knew that it was pointless to be selfish. She knew that after a while it wasn't about training her body, but rather sedating her need for change. She had a perfectly fine life and should have been focusing on more important things. So, she stopped her trips to “The Wizard's Broomstick”. But revisiting it in her dreams reminded her of the empowerment she had felt… and then how quickly it was torn away when she unmasked her mystery man.
It was the second time she had dreamt of Harry, the second time she had turned to mush around him, and the first time that she felt completely helpless as he disappeared. She had thought living with him was hard, what with the constant aches and pains that she felt while around him (she really needed to figure out what those were). But living without him, even for a moment, felt as if the world had come to an end. She couldn't move, and she became so numb that she didn't even realize she was crying until she had jerked herself awake.
Unconsciously, she wiped her eyes to find that her palm came back wet. She threw off the covers and rushed into the bathroom, checking her reflection. Staring back at her was a complete stranger. Gone was the strong, confident, wise-beyond-her-years Hermione that she had taken so much time to build. In her place was a puffy-eyed, weak young girl who was trying desperately to find her purpose. It was times like these that she usually wanted to blow the nearest flammable object to smithereens. But now, the weak part off her consumed her practiced habit and replaced it with the need to cast a strong silencing charm and sob.
What was wrong with her—what had happened? Surely a single dream couldn't do this to her. There must have been something building up inside of her that she was unaware of, something that now had chosen to burst and consume her. But why now? She was in the middle of the most important mission of her life. This mission was going to be the key to finally securing her place beside the Dark Lord and ruling by his side as the world, both, Wizard and Muggle, succumbed to them. So why did she feel as if she should have declined it? Was the mission the reason that she was going through these changes—turning soft? Or, could it not be the mission, but the people to whom she was assigned to befriend? The person she was assigned to befriend.
Shaking her head she stepped back out of the bathroom to check the clock. Seeing that it was around the time she would usually awake to begin preparing for the day, she made her way to the shower and allowed the steaming hot water wash over her and with it, calm her befuddled mind. These few minutes under the wet beads would be her only escape for the day, for she had a feeling that her mind would not rest until she found an answer to all of the questions swimming around in its depths. She had to soak up these few minutes, cherish them, and try to keep them printed in her head to dwell upon when her mind would choose to wander.
After her time expired, she stepped out of the shower and let the cool breeze of the outside world wrap around her and drag her back into its dark clutches. Sighing, she dressed and grabbed her book bag from beside her bed and shut the door just as the light flickered on and the chorus of morning moans drifted throughout the room.
She wasn't surprised to see an empty common room awaiting her as she descended the stairs. She didn't expect anything less after the way Christmas had gone. Truth be told, she felt sorry for Ginny… and anger at herself for causing her pain. She didn't quite like this new feeling. Sympathy. It really could put a downer on your morning. This new Hermione was really starting to take toll on her. Oh, how she wished that it was only temporary; she didn't know if she could take this much emotion in one day, let alone for the rest of her life. She was completely content to being a heartless wench.
Down in the Great Hall wasn't much different. She went to take a seat across from Ginny only to receive a cool glare and complete ignorance of her presence. Again, she expected nothing less. This girl's heart was broken and it was all her fault. At least, from what she heard of their shouting match those few days ago it was. The guilt was overwhelming but she knew that she could do nor say anything to make the situation any less heavy. It had to end soon, anyways. How long could one be bitter?
You're one to talk—Shut up.
Thankfully, Harry and Ron showed up sooner than expected with sleep deprivation written all over their faces. Harry took a seat next to her and Ron next to his sister, who was playing with a helping of eggs. It was an awkward silence as the group just sat there and for once, just ate. No talking, no jokes, just eating. Ron seemed to be the only comfortable one there, although it was clear he was just as tuned into the situation as everyone else. His way of avoiding it, however, was stuffing his face much like he always did. At least there was one person who was acting normal. If Ron ever stopped eating, there would be uproar.
Hermione's appetite for the school food was gone. She took small nibbles of toast once in a while, but her stomach seemed to be weighed down with something else to be bothered with digesting food. She reached for another piece of toast and her hand brushed against Harry's for an instant, sending the now all too familiar lightening strike up her arm. She played it off as a small twitch and pulled back with her second helping of toast. It was sad that she was now used to the feelings that Harry made her feel. The more she became familiar with them, the more curious she became as to what they were. Ginny had told her that they meant that she liked him. Well, now that she acknowledged that and the feelings were still there, something else must be there as well. The closest feeling she could compare them to was lust and she knew that she couldn't feel that for him.
Hermione snapped out of her revere to see Seamus standing next to Harry with a wide grin on his face.
“Hey Seamus,” Harry greeted.
“Just wonderin' if the D.A. meatin' is still on for tonigh'?”
Through her dazed state of mind she could barely understand what he was saying through his thick accent. She really needed to stop thinking so much.
Harry nodded, “Yep, same time and place as always.”
“Alright, see you then” he said, turning his back and walking back over to where he was sitting before with Dean and Neville.
Truth be told, she had completely forgotten about the D.A. meeting today. It was the first day back after break and her mind was still adjusting to the fact that she had class in fifteen minutes. The last D.A. meeting hadn't gone so well, so it wasn't a surprise that she didn't dwell upon it. Well, now she was going to have another chance to make a fool out of herself. Great.
She decided it was time to leave and grabbed her book bag. Her first class was Arithmacy and she knew that no one had taken that course besides her, so no one would jump to walk with her. Besides, she liked being alone. It seemed as though that was the only thing that hadn't changed—her desire to work alone. She had better hang onto it so that wouldn't disappear as well. The least she could do was have one remnant of her former self. It was the most dominant part of her, so if Draco decided to pull one of his stunts and nearly pull her arm out of its socket again, she would remain unchanged and he wouldn't get suspicious. The last thing she needed was Draco on her tail while she was going through an identity crisis.
The day seemed to go by in a daze, each class a blur of note-taking and lectures. Dinner was a sweet relief from the plethora of new information that Hermione had packed into her brain. Her appetite still hadn't changed, unfortunately, and all she could do was stare at the delectable treacle tarts that seemed to be trying to persuade her to eat them… eat something. But she couldn't. Why should she eat when there was a mystery that had to be solved? Forget food when there were demons to be conquered!
The D.A. meeting was set to begin soon and Hermione decided that it was time to drop off her work in the tower before making her way down to the Room of Requirement. So, without a second thought otherwise, she sat up and left her seat and exited the Great Hall, glad that no one had elected to walk with her. It seemed as though there was a mutual agreement between the four of them: Don't push it. Don't tempt the thin lines between them, for they could collapse and cause a new disaster altogether. The last thing Hermione needed was another reason to worry for the sake of her mission. If she tested those lines, she was sure to blow it. Her work would be for nothing, and she would surely be punished. Although the new Hermione seemed more nonchalant, the old Hermione was still a faint whisper that was just loud enough to persuade her body towards not committing what was sure to be considered suicide.
The common room was somewhat empty, with only a few of the younger students scattered about, either working on homework or slacking off. She was a whisper of a presence as she disappeared up the staircase to the girl's dormitories and re-appeared minutes later. They were all so consumed with their own lives that they didn't notice the ghost of a girl seemingly glide right past them. But could she really blame them? They needed distractions in times like these.
Whoa, where had that come from?
Hermione stiffened as she turned to observe a pair of what looked to be second years playing a game of exploding snap. Half of her was repeating what she had just thought, while the other was screaming “How could they be playing a foolish game like that when they should be training?!” She knew that was all she did at their age. She had been brought up by daily training routines with Draco and never once had played a game like exploding snap. That was when the third voice appeared, one sounding much like her own: You're jealous. These kids have the opportunity to have fun when you had none. They can be carefree, laugh, and do whatever they please because… well, they're kids. Normal kids that have so much and it could all be taken away so easily.
It was the first time that she really let it all sink in. Jealousy. It wasn't the burning jealousy she knew to exist, but the jealousy in which you longed to have what others did. In this case, a sense of normalcy. It was foreign, scary, and eye-opening. This emotion didn't seem as dangerous as she originally thought. From what she had heard, jealousy was an ugly sense that made you want to burn the person you were feeling it towards alive. All jealousy did for her was cause a dull ache in her chest. Not like the ones she felt around Harry, but more tugging towards the two second years and their innocent game. It made her feel alive—human. She let a faint smile grace her lips as she exited through the portrait hole, in a much better mood than only minutes before.
As she reached the Room of Requirement and walked down the hall three times, she couldn't help but feel more confident about the meeting. Sure, she had made a complete idiot of herself last time, but she could still rise above that easily. She was Hermione Granger, tough ass Death Eater who could do anything she put her mind to! Funny how it took a bout of jealousy to figure it out. She could feel a tinkle of the old Hermione return, the part that held her confidence. She opened the door with a smug smile and saw that everyone was gathering in the far right hand corner. She jogged over and sat down just in time to see Harry stand up and address everyone.
“Hello everyone, I hope you all had a pleasant holiday. I thought that we could use today to review Patronus Charms. I know we have covered them once before, but I figured because of the recent holiday, your Patronus's should be much stronger than the last time we released them.” He sent a small smile to the crowd of people and a few heads bowed down, blushes filling their cheeks. “Now, for those of you who are new to the Patronus Charms, they are really quite simple. All you have to do is think of the happiest memory you have and recite the spell Expecto Patronum. It's not as easy as it sounds, so don't be disappointed if you can't get it on your first try. The memory has to be very strong, the strongest you can think of. I'll be around to help those who need it.”
Everyone dispersed and Hermione was left in a frozen state. She didn't really know what her happiest moment was. Hoisting herself up, she walked toward a secluded corner where she was far off from any onlookers and leaned against it. Bending her head towards the ground, she tried to think of a happy moment to use for the backing force of her Patronus Charm. She had plenty of happy memories, but which to choose? After a quick scan she decided on her sixteenth birthday—her first time. Draco's first bout of trying to be a romantic and failing miserably. The thought still made her laugh and so she pushed it into the forefront of her mind as she recited the spell briskly. “Expecto Patronum!”
She saw a bit of white dust emit from the tip of her wand before quickly disappearing. She guessed that that wasn't exactly what a Patronus was supposed to look like. Huffing, she tried reciting the spell again, the same memory in her head and the same result coming from her wand. Becoming frustrated, she tried the spell a final time, raising her voice in volume. Still nothing but a small spurt of dust. Hermione was never someone to give up on something without trying her hardest beforehand. So, for a grueling two hours that's all she did; try and try and try again.
She had just finished what was sure to be her two-hundredth attempt when the sound of footsteps broke her concentration. Spinning around, she came face-to-face with a pair of emerald eyes for the second time in recent memory. Her heart leapt up in her chest and she did her best to control her breathing as he opened his mouth to speak in a gentle tone.
“Have you been practicing that for the whole meeting?”
She nodded in conformation and surprise washed over his face. “What?” she asked.
“The meeting ended twenty minutes ago, Hermione.”
Surely enough, as she let her eyes travel behind him, the room was vacant. She let her head shake a little in disbelief as she met her eyes with his again. “Wow, don't I feel like a dolt….”
He shook his head, “You're not a dolt. It took me a fair amount of times to get it right.”
“I don't think two hundred constitutes as a fair amount of times.” She said bitterly.
“Two hundred—well that's… umm… wow.”
She nodded shortly, turning her head to the ground, “Exactly. I think I've come to terms with the fact that this charm is more of a curse.”
“Don't say that.” He said, reaching out to put a comforting hand on her shoulder. The pressure sent a strange feeling of comfort throughout her body and she lifted her downturned head. He did a quick scan of the room around them and gave her a small smile. “Listen, since we're out of time now… how about I help you out a bit?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, like a private lesson. You and me in here trying to get a shiny Patronus out of that wand of yours.”
“You… you'd really do that for me?” she asked, a warm feeling spreading throughout her chest.
“Yeah,” He said with a nod. “I've done it plenty of times with Neville and a few others.”
“Oh” she said softly, the warmth quickly dropping down a few degrees.
“So are you up for it?”
“Sure. I could really use the help.”
He removed his arm from her shoulder with a small pat. “Great. How does this Thursday night sound, around seven?”
“That sounds perfect.”
“Alright then. Do you want me to walk with you up to the tower?” he asked, jerking a thumb behind him towards the exit.
“No, that's fine. I'll stay here for a few minutes and get some more practice in.”
He nodded and turned to leave. She kept her eyes on him up until he shut the door behind him. The sound that the door made echoed throughout the empty room as Hermione made her way over to it and slumped against the cool wood. She felt the tingling sensation in her nose again and her eyes began to blink repeatedly. The new Hermione was turning her into a sap. She vaguely wondered if the private lesson was a good idea now that her strength was quickly dissipating. Where did the old Hermione go to, anyway? What caused her to leave in the first place? The answers seemed so far away. She could really use her in a time like this.
Little did she know that her answer was sitting on the other side of the wall, banging his head repeatedly against the cool stone where the door one appeared.
A/N: Wow, have I neglegted updating this story! Well, I can promise you that it will be done in no time. Since it is already finished and has been for some time, all I have to do is make the chapter images and validate the rest of the chapters so I can update My Confusing (and Hard to Believe) Love Life and upload a whole new story! Thank you, summer :)
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