Chapter 7 : Torn Roses
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A flash of green, blinding light passed between his half closed eyes. He placed his hand in front of his face as if to protect himself from the burning sensation of pain and terror, but when he finally opened his eyes, he found himself in darkness. The pulse of his own heart was racing his ears, over and over again until the mattress he was lying upon became a bed of soaking, cold needles, stabbing at his flesh, biting it, making it bleed with numb pain. He stood up abruptly, searching for the glass of water on the wooden table by the bed, but it was empty and dry, like his own throat. A moan of frustration escaped his lips and hit his head with his right hand, then with his left and then with his right hand yet again. When his breathing slowed down, he stood up and started pacing around his room, his prison and sanctuary that he did not completely comprehend. The stone walls were alien to him, the green rug beneath his empty feet was reminiscent of the grass he once knew and the tall ceiling was a substitute for the sky he did not see in…years, decades? He didn’t remember how long the strange and alien place he woke up in every morning was his home. He ran his hands through the tangles dark mess he called his hair, the unshaved jaw and the he smiled absently at a memory he could not fully remember.
“What was that?” asked Rose stopping in her tracks. She looked at Scorpius who was quite pale. The blonde hair that was usually neatly arranged, no longer gave him a look of maturity and authority. She could see how nervous the coiling walls of the dungeons made him feel and goose bumps appeared on her freckled arms. She liked the darkness, but the darkness of the Malfoy dungeons was too intense. It was too cold and violent. It wasn’t the warm and illuminating darkness she was used to at home. Home? This was her home, she thought. But the darkness no longer welcomed her as it once had. It was a darkness that turned her stomach upside down with anxiety and...fear.
“We’re not supposed to be down here,” he whispered looking around as if the walls would swallow him in hunger. He ran his hands over his face, but, upon remembering that he was supposed to seem brave, replaced the worry with a nonchalant smile. Rose looked at him rather strangely. “Maybe we should go back up then,” she said, but beneath the confident words, Scorpius’ fear was transmitting on to her as well.
“I can’t leave it here,” said Scorpius leading them down some narrow steps, into a corridor that was much darker. “I saw it going down here,” he continued, gulping and slowing down ever so slightly.
“I’m scared,” said Hugo who tugged his sister’s blouse. The sudden darkness of the corridor overwhelmed him. The monsters with red eyes glared at him from dark corners, their claws wanting to grab him from behind. “Can we go back up, Scorpius?” he asked, but the latter shock his head no, giving the young boy an angry look.
“It’s your fault it escaped from the room. You should have closed the door when I told you,” said Scorpius but Hugo was too worried about the darkness to care about the older boy’s words.
“Maybe we should get your dad to find it,” suggested Rose hugging Hugo closer to her.
“No,” said Scorpius. “He…umm…told me not to take it out of the room. We’ll find it and go back up. You can’t mention a word of this to him!” he continued in a rather desperate voice as his eyes pleaded the other two children for silent secrecy.
“What’s down here?” asked Hugo in a small voice, holding on to Rose for dear life. “Can I wait here?”
“We have to keep together,” said Rose drawing him closer. They followed Scorpius down another flight of narrow steps with their small child steps. Rose could not remember how it happened but Scorpius’s warm hand was holding her own, as she felt the surge to blush just a little.
“What was that?” she asked, but her eyes were stuck on the wooden black door, barley visible in the dim light of the corridor, trying not to contemplate of what it held inside. “What’s in there?” she whispered, but Scorpius, too scared to verbalise his thoughts made a sign that he did not know. His eyes were on the floor, at the edge of the door where a small and frail golden wing was sticking from underneath as if desperate to escape from the monstrosity that kept it imprisoned inside. It fluttered a few times and then, following another loud noise, ceased to move.
“No…” whispered Scorpius and Rose could see his eyes flooding in tears that he wiped away, hoping that no one noticed his childishness.
“It’s just a ball,” whispered Rose trying to keep her act together. She placed a hand on his shoulder but he moved away, to her surprise closer to the door. “It’s not just a ball…” he whispered and took another step towards the door.
“Let’s go back up,” urged Rose attempting once again to grab his hand. She could not understand how a little flying, golden ball could evoke such strong emotions in Scorpius. “Please,“ she whispered.
“You can go if you want,” he said a little hurt. “I need to get the ball back. I don’t think it’s too hard,” he continued his voice much braver than he, himself, was.
“What do you need to do?” she heard herself saying. She could feel the hands of her stupidity and immaturity pulling her hair but she couldn’t leave Scorpius all alone and Hugo was too scared to go back up alone, through the darkness and find help. Besides, she thought, he got her out of trouble earlier, so she must pay him back. She instructed Hugo to go and stand in a dark corner, thinking that it would be better if he were invisible. He did not protest.
“The ball is just down there…I doubt that whatever is inside will be standing by the door. All we need to do is open the door, take the Snitch and then slam it shut. We then go back up the stairs and pretend that nothing happened. Deal?” his grey eyes showed stubborn determination. Rose nodded once, hoping that she looked surer than she felt. Scorpius tiptoed to the door, took the small key that was hanged on the wall and placed it in the lock. The sound of metal on metal echoed through the dungeons, into the stone walls and back out again, making the little hairs on Rose’s arm stand up alerted. Scorpius opened the heavy wooden door just enough to drag the Snitch out, but before either child could make the apparent simple move, the door flew open in all its glory and the man inside, smelling victorious and terrifying freedom, pushed them out of his way into the nearest stone wall.
He saw a blinding green light and felt the uncontrollable anger within him rise to unimaginable levels. They shouldn’t have released him…for he was not part of a real reality. He wanted to hit them for their stupidity. There was a sane part of him that wanted to tell them to run away while they still could. But the anger was too much for him to bear…he couldn’t control his hands as they dragged a small blond boy up from the floor by the collar. He was kicking his feet and shouting words and tears he did not hear. His grey eyes were wide and watery. A red haired girl…red haired girl…freckled girl…was hitting his leg with all her strength, but the pain was too numb for him to feel. He wished he could.
“Stupefy!” A flash of white light hit the mad man right in the chest, making him drop the little boy and fly back into his dark hole. The wooden door closed as he lay on the floor, wishing for death to come over him like a long lost lover. He closed his eyes.
“Scorpius!” Draco kneeled beside his teary son and hugged him tight before letting go. “Are you hurt anywhere? Is anything hurting?” Scorpius shock his head that everything was fine, wiped his tears on his sleeve and mentally slapped himself for acting like such a baby when the tall, dark haired man started shaking him. Really…it wasn’t that bad, he thought lamely. “What in Merlin’s name were you three doing down here?” he looked for a minute at Rose who was hugging little Hugo. He breathed again upon the cool realisation that they too were not injured. “ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?” his attention returned to Scorpius who seemed to do all his best to evaporate into the air. He bowed his head down and became extremely fascinated by his shoe laces. “Look at me when I’m talking to you, young man. What were you doing down here?” He placed his index finger under Scorpius’s chin and lifted his guilty head up.
“I think this explains it," said Lucius, holding between his fingers a half squashed golden Snitch, one wing still fluttering incoherently in the air.
Draco gave his son a disapproving look and then continued, “Scorpius Lucius Malfoy, this is by far the stupidest thing you’ve done this year!”
“I’m sorry,” he said too quickly to really mean it.
“That’s all you have to say for yourself?” Draco took the little boy’s ear as he led him up the stairs. “I told you that you are not allowed to come down here alone, how many times before?” Although it barely stung, Scorpius gave out a small cry as his father led him down the dungeon corridors and back up to the ground level. Lucius motioned for Rose and Hugo to follow and with one last look at the wooden door, he placed his wand back in his cane, dusted it off a little and then followed them back up the stairs, making a mental note to tell a house elf to cover that blasted barred window so that his grandson’s silly toys would cease ending up in the most dangerous places of the mansion.
“I’m sorry,” whined Scorpius, this time finally realising how close he was to shaking hands with death in the past half an hour. “I won’t do it again, I promise.”
“Yes, you will be sorry once all those toys are going to disappear out of your room and all you’ll have to entertain yourself with will be my old school books. It’s about time you started reading more, young man and if locking you up in the library for a day is what it will take for you to stay out of trouble, than that’s what I shall do.” Draco veered left and led the boy up the final flight of stairs before the midday sunlight bathed them all into a warm light. “I am very disappointed in you. You are going to be eight years old soon and this is how you behave?” Draco’s words finally got to Scorpius, because he bowed his head down in embarrassment and he once again felt his eyes bathe in tears. “Go and wait in my study, Scorpius. You and I are going to have a very long talk before lunchtime about what it means to disobey rules again and again. It appears that our last conservation was obliviated from your mind.” Scorpius gave Rose a sad look as he made his way down a corridor towards his father’s study, wishing that his Quidditch obsession would just go away and cease bringing trouble at his door and shoving it in his room through the keyhole.
“As for you two, I have no idea what was going through your mind, but if I ever catch you down in the dungeons, there will be consequences. Go to your room,” finished Draco looking at the Weasley kids and wondering why on earth he cared so much about their safety when he only just met them. Wasn’t he a Slytherin after all? Or did Huffelpuff puffiness started taking residence as he got older?
“We’ll discuss the Potter child issue after lunch. Don’t be too harsh on Scorpius,” said Lucius, gave his son his usual cold smile and walked along a narrow corridor into a part of his former mansion he particularly liked, raising his eyebrows as a salute as he walked past his father’s painting.
Hermione huffed and said something not too charming in her head. It was true that she was still an avid supporter of house elf rights, but even she had to admit how annoying the wrinkled bloody creatures could be sometimes. At the particular moment she found herself in, they insisted she takes lunch to the main table, claiming it signified her entrée into the Malfoy employment and than every new kitchen hand had to do this. “How humiliating”, she thought as she levitated a few plates into the air and walked out of the kitchen, up the stairs and into the main lunch room, where a long mahogany table waited, decorated with red apples, grapes and pears in its centre. Her stomach rumbled and she went slightly red, as she emerged from the Hogwarts style pillars circling the oval shaped room. But when the pillars ceased blocking her view, her eyes widened at the familiar image of a blond man with a heavy jaw sitting next to an annoyingly beautiful middle aged woman. She had to calm her breathing just to make sure that her levitation charm did not break. Her pulse was racing as memories from a long time ago flooded her senses…memories from when she was so young that you could stay she was still a child…memories when these blond people looked at her, with emotionless cold eyes as Bellatrix Lestrange craved the words MUDBLOOD into her flesh as if in a piece of insignificant wood. The plates trembled a little as they were placed on the table.
“Thank you,” said Draco curtly, avoiding looking into her eyes, for he could see the rain clouds were about to release thunder and lightning. She did not look at him, and she tried for her eyebrows to stay as straight as they could, but he knew better. “You may go,” he added, hoping that his words would liberate her from the visual torture of his wife and parents and even himself. Hermione nodded once and started making her way back towards the exit, when Astoria’s loud voice stopped her in her tracks.
“What is…this?” she asked, scrutinising the piece of turkey coated in mushroom sauce on her silver plate.
“Turkey,” replied Lucius who was about to place the fork into his mouth. He did so, making sure that he smiled when Hermione, or Anna looked up at him. Astoria said nothing. She looked at Draco who was busy with his portion. Was he avoiding making eye contact? Her eyebrows tensed slightly as she watched them all enjoy their lunch. She then looked back at Hermione who was waiting patiently, her hands drawn together on her apron. “We were supposed to have beef today,” she said curtly and gave Hermione a cold look. “I specifically asked for…”
“The turkey is fine,” interrupted Narcissa looking at her daughter in law with slight annoyance and coldness. “I’m sorry if your arrangements were not met…I asked for the change. I’m allergic to beef, you see.” She gave Astoria a cold smile. “You may go,” she said to Hermione as she disappeared out of the lunch room with quick steps, grateful that she made it out of such a private family moment. “I thought Draco had told you,” she finished looking at her son who was adding some more sauce over his turkey, pretending that his mother’s words were in a different language.
“He didn’t,” said Astoria turning slightly red, but then resuming her ice face and starting with her lunch. Draco and Astoria ate the rest of their meal in silence as Narcissa and Lucius continued in their small conversations, smiling at each other every now and then and holding hands under the table like rebelling teenagers.
Back in the kitchens, Hermione stole an apple and she was savouring it like she hadn’t savoured food in a long time. The house elves were on their lunch break and she enjoyed the solitude and the smell of the spices surrounding her. She could not remember ever feeling so happy to be alone. She thought of Narcissa Malfoy and her delicate hands over the silver cutlery…she thought of Lucius looking all calm and humane. She wondered if he still had the Death Eater tattoo, or whether his too became a scar. Astoria intrigued her. She was not an ugly woman, on the contrary. Her features were a little hard, but she was a Malfoy for Merlin’s sake! She was slim and tall and elegant…and she just didn’t comprehend why Draco was not more husband-like towards her. She could not imagine him stroking her back or kissing her neck. She could not imagine her hugging Scorpius. She seemed more like a walking marble statue with a loud voice and feelings too hidden to be seen. She thought back of Ron and what they used to be like. They kissed whenever entering the room, they kissed in the morning before breakfast and in the afternoon before tea. They kissed when Rose and Hugo were not looking and they kissed in the passionate hours of the night. Even their hands kissed when they were together. So why did Astoria and Draco never kiss like that? She pushed these thoughts away as she heard approaching footsteps. “Hey honey,” she said when Rose appeared in the doorway. Her hand ran over the table as she picked up another red apple. “Are you still hungry?” she asked looking at Rose who was quite pale.
“No,” she replied looking at the apples. “Yes, can I have one of those? Two, actually.”
Hermione nodded once and Rose took two red apples from the tables and was about to run off when Hermione called her back. “What’s the hurry?” Rose smiled a little but said nothing. “Hugo and I are playing.”
“I thought Hugo was with Scorpius,” said Hermione biting into her second apple. She was sitting on a high table, like she used to do at home in her own kitchen. She missed her kettle and microwave…at Malfoy Manor she had to do everything with a wand and it exhausted her.
“He did, but his Dad needed him. I think they will play again tomorrow,” said Rose looking rather uneasy. She hated lying to her mother, but if she told her the truth about Scorpius and the dungeons then she was afraid her mother would not let her play with him again. “I’ll see you later, mom,” she said giving Hermione her usual sweet smile and she ran out of the kitchen, leaving Hermione deep in thought.
She made her way across winding corridors, carpeted and well cared for. There were flower pots in e corners and vast numbers of paintings of people who looked down at her curiously. She was grateful that none spoke to her, for she did not want another incident like the one with Abraxas Malfoy. Veering left, she thought of Hugo sleeping sweetly in bed, the covers all around his as if a shield for reality. She hoped Hermione would not notice her absence, for she didn’t wish for her little adventure to be too long.
“Now what?” she thought when arriving on a corridor filled with doors, more doors. Scorpius’ room, she though, must be one of these. But which one? She knew that all the adults were downstairs, eating lunch, so she did not worry about running into them. What she did worry about was another incident like the one in the dungeons. The Malfoy Mansion was vast…she had no idea who else could live in it. Holding her heart with her teeth, she opened a random door, but found it to be en empty dormitory, as if for guests. Door by door, she tried until she reached the end of the corridor. She came across more guest rooms and more guest rooms and some doors that led into other corridors…a few were locked and finally, there was one door on the left, the last on the corridor, right before a big window. She turned the door knob and when it opened, Scorpius Malfoy stared at her, rather nervously before breathing out again in relief. He was holding a book that was still on the front page.
“What are you doing here?” he asked rather surprised at her entrée. Rose held the two apples towards him, feeling a little as if he were some sort of cute animal in a zoo. Scorpius raised his eyebrows, quite perplexed. “Did you have lunch?” she asked.
“Here,” she said giving him the apples with a small smile. “When I used to be grounded I was not allowed to eat lunch until supper,” she said remembering the time when Hermione grounded her for going out of the house and ending up three streets away. “I thought you might be hungry.”
“Umm...thanks,” he said going slightly red. “Would you like to eat one with me?”
“Maybe you should keep it for later,” said Rose sitting down on the floor next to him.
“It’s okay, I had a big breakfast.”
Rose gave him yet another small smile and took one of the apples from him. They both started eating at the same time, not saying anything until they arrived at the centre. “Was your dad harsh on you?”
“Harsher than ever,” he said looking at her with big grey eyes.
“He wants me to finish half of this book by evening. It’s not that I don’t read…but this is just the most boring thing I’ve ever seen,” he huffed in boredom. Rose raised her eyebrows. Harsher than ever? Really?
“How much did you read?” she asked looking at the cover that spelled out Pre-Hogwarts History of Magic.
“Two pages,” he replied laughing a little. “I know it seems like a stupid punishment, but he was quite angry. I haven’t seen him like this in ages and he said he might send Lucius to speak to me later. It’s usually serious when he says this.”
“You call your granddad, Lucius?” asked Rose imagining what it would be like to call her granddad Arthur. She laughed a little at the thought, imagining his facial expression when his name would come out of her lips. Would he laugh? Will she ever see him again?
“Well, that is his name,” said Scorpius as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “Grandfather seems a little inappropriate,”
“Well…he doesn’t exactly look like a grandfather,” he laughed a little, “the blonde hair and the cane and all that…he’s not even that old. I imagine a granddad to look like Mr Duncan.”
“The man who sells wands on Diagon Alley.”
“Oh,” said Rose remembering the wrinkled face, pale eyes behind huge spectacles and mad white hair of the wand maker she first saw when she was five. She dreamt about finally being old enough to walk through his shop and get her wand ever since then.
Silence engulfed the two children once more as they ate some more of their apples. The sunrays were beginning to settle down with lunch’s departure and Rose and Scorpius were bathed in an orange autumn light.
“Who was that man in the dungeon?” asked Rose, not being able to conceal her curiosity any longer.
“I don’t know. Father never told me…I tried to ask him today, but he said I should have nothing to do with it.” Scorpius looked as intrigued as Rose. His eight year existence at Malfoy Manor had been decorated by such mysterious events. He would find strange objects in strange rooms, only to be told that he was not allowed to go in a certain part of the mansion anymore, or that he was not supposed to touch such objects. When his burning curiosity made him disobey rules again, he went in search of his mysterious discoveries, only to find that they had been removed from their original location. He wondered whether the mad man was bound to disappear as well and how many more doors would become locked for him. But no, this time he wanted to find out who the man was and why he was living in the dungeons. If only is father were more cooperative with sharing information, Scorpius would cease endangering his life to solve grown up, dangerous riddles. “I will find out,” he said looking at Rose again. He though she would disprove of his sudden interest in the mad man. He had only properly met her in the morning, but there was sometime strangely mature and yet intriguing about her. She seemed like a person who would risk a lot for adventures…she could become a good companion. For even though he was nearly eight years old, his interest in toys was fading. Harry, his new playmate made his interest in Snitches and moving dragons return for a few hours, but it was still this red haired new girl that he wanted to spend time in, looking for hidden treasures within the mansion.
Rose said nothing. A part of her wanted to tell him he was mad, but even she had to admit that the curiosity was eating her alive, making her mind itch with the desire to investigate. She thought of the blonde haired boy sitting down next to her, and she saw something very familiar within him. She found it strange, she had only met him properly in the morning and yet she felt that there was more of her in him than in Hugo. There was something that drew her in, his openness, his calm nature and his adventurous ways. She ached for company of her own age. It seemed to her that her complicated life at Malfoy Manor in the absence of a father could be soothed by his existence. “When you do, I’ll come with you,” she heard herself saying. But she didn’t regret it. Scorpius gave her a small smile and was about to say something, when the sound of approaching footsteps set them both on their feet abruptly.
Rose looked at the door in distress. There was not enough time for her to make an escape without being seen. Scorpius pointed at the bed and whispered for her to hide under it. She moved quickly and to her relief she found the space to be gig enough for her to fit in. She held her breath when the door opened.
Draco Malfoy was looking at his son with cold eyes, holding a tray of soup in his hands. Scorpius sat down on the edge of the bed, the usual place where he got lectured and watched his father as he placed the tray on his side table. They said nothing for a while and Draco sat down next to his son, letting out a sight.
“Why do you enjoy disobeying me, Scorpius?” he asked in a rather exasperated and calm tone. The little boy said nothing, for he knew it was a rhetorical question. With one hand, he tried to hide the book his father had given him as a torturous reading behind the mattress, but Draco’s eyes were too quick. “How much did you read, Scorpius?” He raised his eyebrows as Scorpius went slightly red.
“Umm…I’ve started it,” he said in a small voice, not looking into his father’s eyes.
“Well, in that case you can spend tomorrow continuing it,” he said and the evil Malfoy smirk appeared on his face.
Scorpius wanted to object but he had a funny feeling that would get him into even more trouble. He sighted and looked down. The weight of the book’s pages was already drawing him down.
“Now, look at me when I am talking to you, Scorpius. This time I was very lenient with you. You are to remain grounded for the rest of the week and then we shall forget about this. If, however, I catch you down in the dungeons again, there shall be graver consequences. You’re lucky I don’t give you the punishments my father did when I disobeyed,” continued Draco reminiscing of those times when Lucius’s deep voice haunted his dreams for nights after his punishment ended. But then again, he thought, that particular tone of voice may be needed if Scorpius were to go down there again. He made a mental note of changing the mad man’s location. “Did I make myself clear, young man?”
The little boy nodded his head. “Use words, Scorpius, that’s why you have a mouth!” scolded Draco and an automatic “yes sir” escaped from his son’s lips. “Now…there’s something else I have to speak to you about.” Gray eyes met grey eyes in a questioning glare.
“I want you to spend less time with Rose Welloby. I don’t know what she was doing down in the dungeons with you, but Harry is enough of a playmate. She is here as a servant and a servant only, and I don’t want you to distract her from her chores,” said Draco in a cold voice. It wasn’t that he did not like the little girl, on the contrary, she proved to be as different from her annoying dead father as he was from Harry bloody Potter. She seemed intelligent but in a reserved way, not the bookworm style that Hermione used to be in her Hogwarts years. But he did not want his child to get entangled into a chain of murders and potential targets. Besides, despite her rather high maturity level, he thought, she was still a child. And a seven-year old could easily let the truth slip out. And he definitely couldn’t have Scorpius knowing about the Weasels.
“Why?” he asked in a small voice.
Merlin's bloody beard, thought Draco. Why does he have to be so interrogative?
“Because I say so, young man,” he said sounding more severe than he intended. He stood abruptly looking down at the blonde haired little human. Merlin he resembled him so much that it sometimes still shocked him. “Eat your lunch, read six more chapters and then off to bed.”
“But it’s barely past four,” protested Scorpius looking at his father rather incredulously. He wasn’t five anymore, Merlin’s sake.
“Look at the clock when you finish those six chapters…you will be surprised.” With that, Draco gave his son a small, cold smile and walked out of the room, leaving the child in a rather internally angry state.
Astoria stared at herself in the mirror. Her hair was wet. She quickly chanted a drying spell and, flicking her wand in a circular movement, managed to achieve a slight wave. She touched the sapphire earrings that she had just taken off with the tip of her finger. The stones felt cold against her pale skin. They felt emotionless, beautiful and mean. Suddenly, her eyes filled with diamonds as she broke down into hot tears that ran down from her pale eyes on her cheeks and then fell on the mahogany desk at the centre of their vast bed chamber. She shouldn’t have said yes. She shouldn’t have let the burin fingers of another man touch her skin, for now she bore the burn marks. She wiped the tears away violently and, with a bit of struggle, placed the emotionless mask back on. She tried to smile at her appearance in the mirror but the smile she achieved seemed more like a parody making her face seem fake. She drew her lips back into a straight line and, with her left hand applied a layer of pink balm to illuminate her face. There were heavy bags of tiredness under her eyes…it had been a long day.
She could hear the shower running in their matrimonial bathroom. She considered going in to greet Draco, imagining the touch of his wet skin against her own as their bodies danced a sensual waltz…his hands around her frail body. She missed the masculine protection he emitted when they lay in a sleepy embrace in the early hours of the morning. How long had it been…? Weeks…months? The sound of the shower stopped. When she lifted her eyes from mirror daydream, he was standing in the bathroom doorway, a white towel covering the lower part of his body. His abdomen was a constellation of muscles underneath pale flesh and a line of dark blonde hair hiding down, into the towel. He acknowledged her with a small nod and then changed into his pyjamas. Astoria stood up from her table and approached their bed, placing a hand on his chest and then embracing his head, pulling it slowly towards her own, until their lips met. She had missed him, but right when the cold ice within her began to melt, he moved away, rather abruptly. “I’m tired,” he declared not meeting her eyes.
“You’re tired?” she asked in an incredulous tone.
“It was a long day,” he replied moving towards his side of the bed and picking up the book he had started the previous night.
“Draco,” she said and sat down on the bed next to him. “What’s going on?”
“Nothing is going on.”
Astoria said nothing. She stood up with a huff and went to her side of the bed. “What did your mother say to you?”
“She said very little to me today. We barely spoke.” He gave her a penetrating look, sensing the direction she wanted to take with their conversation. “I don’t discuss you or our relationship with my mother,” he continued, placing the book back on the side table and looking at his wife’s cold expression.
“We both know that’s not true, Draco,” she said, pulling the covers over her silk nightgown. “Because she was a real bitch to me today.”
“Don’t say a word against my mother!” he said in an orderly tone, his eyebrows tensing and his eyes becoming a few degrees cooler. “After all that she did for you…”
“She doesn’t want me as your wife, Draco. The woman loathes me, and I will speak like this about anyone who tells me I’m not good enough. I am good enough! Merlin, I am better than “good enough”…I’m the best damn thing you’ll ever get. It’s about time your mother stared showing me some respect! As for your father…”
“ENOUGH!” roared Draco before he could have the decency to refrain himself. He hated her when she spoke badly of the people that gave up everything for him. He hated her for being so blinded…he hated her for being a meaner Slytherin that he ever was. But he loved her nonetheless.
“Don’t you dare tell me what I am to do, Draco Malfoy!” she said, as her voice became louder as well. “Are you having an affair?”
“What?” he asked in an incredulous tone. He had not foreseen their conversation taking such an abrupt direction, when she was in the position to avoid such words.
“Of course I’m not having a bloody affair. Where did this come from?” he asked as Astoria ceased looking at him. She stood up from the bed and started pacing around the room. She seemed incredibly small to him…she seemed in that minute more like a frustrated teenage girl than a grown up woman.
“You’re avoiding me,” she said in a low, cold voice, stopping and looking at him as if she were a lioness ready to devour something.
“I’m not avoiding you. I’m just busy. You know that.”
“I’m not talking about that. Draco…” she said her voice becoming softer. She sat down in front of him, taking his hand and placing it on her breast. Draco withdrew it, as if an electric shock made his hair stand on edge. “Why won’t you make love to me?” she asked in a small voice.
Draco was lost for words at his wife’s sexual frustration. He missed it too, quite a lot if he allowed himself to be honest. But he wanted it, not her. Her body was beautiful…it was more than beautiful. Her long legs and perfectly pale back, he once kissed day night. He couldn’t get enough of her when they had gotten married. Her perfume was unique and her eyed could see straight into her soul. But he hated her. Every day, in every way more and more. The acrimony in her voice when she spoke to anyone except for Scorpius made him go mad. He could not look at her and wan to make love to her…she seemed, all of a sudden, poisonous.
“So you are having an affair.” Astoria stood up abruptly and walked away from the bed. Her voice was calm and cold, but the thunder clouds were starting to show.
“I am not having an affair,” said Draco standing up as well and followed Astoria. He was at the point of exasperation. He even felt a little sorry for her…but that did not justify the absence of love he felt towards her. He attempted to place his hand on her arm, to reassure her that he really was faithful to her. Or had been before his body failed to respond to the frozen insides of her soul.
“Take your hand off me,” she spat in a poisonous tone. “You’re just like your father! You think that the world is down there, at your feet and you can spit on it whenever you have something bitter in your mouth. You’re not that special, you know?” Draco’s yes became colder, harder and his jaw clenched.
“But don’t you see?” he asked in a cold, low voice.
“See what?” she asked, lighting a cigarette between trembling fingers. The smoke blocked her face for a while, giving Draco a break from her acrimonious features.
“You’ve just painted a description of yourself.”
“Get out. GET OUT! GO!” she screamed, throwing several vases in his direction that shattered in his protective spell and fell in pieces all over the floor. Her eyes were filled with tears as he walked out of the room, slamming the door shut behind him and murmuring something too inaudible to be heard even by the walls. She was better off in the other man’s arms, he thought. His no longer wanted to hold her.
She looked at the clock. Quarter after one. She breathed out a heavy sight, wishing that sleep could just come. She felt it to be a rebellious teenager, staying at some forbidden party long after its curfew. She wanted to ground sleep, for it was the only thing that gave her peace from constant image of Ron falling into the infernal abyss of a green light. Her throat felt dry…sandpaper dry and she felt the urge to drink something cold. With one reassuring look at her sleeping children, Hermione tiptoed out of the room and headed towards the Malfoy kitchens.
The dungeon corridors were dark, but it didn’t take her long to make her way up the stairs and into the vast rooms filled with thousands of ingredients that sent her pregnant senses on edge. And just like that, a glass of cold water in the moonlight coming through the magical windows was no longer enough to satisfy her. She wanted strawberries…their sweet taste bather her tongue and she sat down on a chair, eating them slowly and savouring their strong aroma. Her eyes ran over the green grass and the silvery rays emitted by the moon. How long had it been since she breathed fresh air that didn’t make her hungry with some mysterious aroma within it? Her feet were itching for a walk outside…maybe she would find sleep hidden behind the Malfoy rose bushes. Without a second thought, she made her way towards out of the dungeons, through a vast room with French windows and at last, through an open French window in a windy corner that made white curtains dance in the night.
She breathed in the fresh air that engulfed her senses…as if she were never to breathe in again. It was a rather nice September night; the sky was clear and the wind did not have the strength to make her feel cold. She stared walking, one foot in front of the other, feeling quite a lot like a newborn child learning how to walk again. Thought of her own mother entered her mind and threatened to disturb her newly found peace. Was she worried? Was she safe? What if Death Eaters captured her? She refused to let the tears run down on her cheeks. She had to be strong now.
Hermione walked and walked and walked, but tiredness did not arrive. She emptied her mind of all thoughts as she walked, refusing to think or Ron, her children, both born and unborn…their situation. She just concentrated on finding sleep until she arrived on a rather small and narrow wall of roses. The smell was so prominent that she could not resist going it. Their red was bloodied even in the dark of the night and she felt them taking control over her sense, making her walk forward and think of nothing but their indulging smell. She veered left and continued to walk, absent minded, until she saw a bench waiting a few feet away from her. Her first instinct was to walk to it and sit down to allow her feet to rest for a while. But it was then that she saw Draco Malfoy sitting down there, with a glass of Firewhisky as his only companion.
He did not see Hermione’s approaching silhouette until she stood right in front of him. Her expression gave out mixed feelings…on the one had she wanted to run back to the safety of the dungeons, yet on the other hand she felt compelled to find out why Draco was sitting down on the bench, half drunk and quite upset at nearly two o’clock in the morning. She refused to ignore the rational side of her mind and she sat down next to him, making his eyes look up from his daydreaming point in a surprised way. “Granger,” he acknowledged in a calmer voice than she thought would come out of his lips. He sounded almost as if he had expected her.
“Weasley,” she corrected yet again, but a small smile was playing on her lips. He did not seem that drunk after all.
Draco’s lips also curved into a half smile. “I don’t care,” he said rather playfully. “Don’t you realize you will always be a Granger to me?” He looked at her properly for the first time that day.
“Why is that?” she asked, relaxing slightly.
“Because you don’t have red hair. And you’re a bookworm.”
“Why are you up so late?” she asked, finding that a topic about the Weasleys acted as salt on a freshly inflicted wound.
“I might ask you the same question.”
“I couldn’t sleep,” she said looking at his grey eyes and pale features illuminated by the moonlight. There was something that was very attractive hidden deep beneath his emotionless mask.
“Neither could I,” he said, finding her brown eyes warm and tender…kind. He hadn’t seen such eyes in a rather long time and he found, quite annoyingly, that he missed such warmth. “Would you care for some?” he asked as he pushed his glass of half drunk Firewhisky towards Hermione.
“No,” she said rather quickly. Truth to be told, she yearend to get drunk and forget. But there was a little human developing inside of her…a little human that she loved quite a lot, because it was Ron’s last gift for her. She pushed him out of her mind as soon as he entered, afraid that she would end up in tears on Draco Malfoy. Besides, she thought, she wanted this little silly moment for herself. It made her feel as if she were yet again at Hogwarts, trying something new…being friends with the enemy. But he was no longer the enemy.
Draco wanted to say how sorry he was for her loss. He wanted to say how sorry he was for Ron’s death. But, he thought, if her were to express his condolences, he would have to do so with lies. He was not sorry that the weasel was dead. He never liked Ron. But this Hermione was a different story. Her hair was pulled back in a low pony tail and the freckles on her small nose were visible even in the moonlight. And her eyes…her kind eyes compelled him. He felt bewitched. He blamed this irrationality of the alcohol.
He blamed kissing her on the alcohol too. Before he could stop himself, he was close to her…too close to her. She looked up at him with wondering eyes, but did not move away. She didn’t protest when his lips crushed hers and when his tongue entered her mouth, starting to dance with her own. He could feel tears running on her cheeks and then she started shaking, as if she saw something that greatly bothered her in her mind. But he didn’t stop kissing her. He kissed her more, his hands drew her closer, before she broke away and slapped him across the face. Even that felt sweeter than anything he’s ever experienced.
“How dare you?” she asked as tears sprang from her eyes like droplets of rain. ”My husband….”she started but didn’t have the strength to continue, because the tears broke her down into desperate sobs. Draco stood up from the bench and enclosed her in a hug. She protested at first, fighting his strong arms, but then the feelings of safety and warmth overwhelmed her and she found herself weeping her heart out in the arms of Draco Malfoy.
A/N I am so sorry for the delay. I realize that I can take ages to post chapters...I'm sorry for that too. You have all been amazingly patient so far in waiting for new chapters and I don't know how to thank you for that. Your reviews help me so much to improve as a writer and also to improve this story. I am trully flattered that you like it!
But anyway, I hope you liked this chapter--I tired to make up for its prolonged absence by making it slightly longer. I hope you liked that. As always, I appreciate and wait eagerly for your comments, be they good or bad.
Did you like the kissing scence? >.<
Many thanks for all your time and lovely feedback,
Merope :) xxxxx
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