Warning that this story (and chapter) contains sensitive topics, substance use and abuse, and strong language, and is MATURE, so read at your own risk.
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When I finally forced myself up out of the bed and shuffled down the hall, Malfoy was already up and finishing off a piece of toast. His light blue dress shirt pulled nicely across his shoulders as he brushed some crumbs off the coffee table and rose to greet me.
“Good morning,” he said, not being overtly loud, but too cheerful for seven am, nonetheless. I winced at the sound of his voice. He noticed.
“Not a morning person, are you? Had you pegged as one,” he seemed genuinely upset about this news, as if by him getting this piece of information wrong, his whole life was a sham or something.
“I wake up early, yes. But I prefer quiet mornings.” Especially when I was hungover. Usually they were worse. I liked being hungover. It probably meant I was the strangest person to ever roam the earth, but hangovers reminded me that I could still feel things, if only it was just physical for now.
“You seem to prefer quiet everything.” He caught on quick. Normally, I could take it or leave it. But when you have nothing but noise for two weeks straight, the quiet becomes your best friend. It's like not realizing what you have until it's gone. And with so many people living at the Burrow, it was never quiet. All I could do was grunt in answer to his statement.
“Well. You'll have plenty while I'm at work. Help yourself to anything in the kitchen, and any books you might like in the library. Merlin knows I don't have time to read them,” he buttoned the top of his shirt and picked up a tie from the back of the couch and began tying it around his neck. In my opinion, he looked better with just the shirt.
“See you in eight hours,” with that, Malfoy grabbed his suit jacket and briefcase and headed downstairs toward the fireplace, leaving me to wonder when I'd started caring about his shirts.
I took Malfoy up on his offer and raided his pantry. It was rather sparse – the pantry of someone who spent more time at work than at home. It looked a lot like mine. However, he did seem to have the staples. Twinings tea and HobNobs. I turned the stove on, failing a couple times to ignite the pilot light as always, and set the kettle down. While it heated, I began searching the cupboards for a mug and saucer. Finding what I wanted, I began preparations. It was simple enough, as I only took a teaspoon of sugar, and about as much milk as I could handle without completely weakening the tea.
Once the water was completely boiled, I poured it into my mug. Of course, if I'd had my wand, I could have foregone the kettle entirely. But trying to kill yourself has its repercussions. Which I am still trying to understand. Technically, a witch's wand will not allow itself to kill its owner. So I didn't understand where it being taken away came into the equation at all. I filled my mug to the brink with milk and disposed of the tea bag, dumping a few (okay, five) HobNobs onto my plate.
I made my way to the library, which I had eyed up upon my arrival, and had subsequently kept in the back of mind, the way one keeps random tidbits of information about things like the speed of light and immigration, in case it ever comes in handy in a life-or-death game-show-type situation.
I sought after books like most women sought after shoes, men, and make-overs. Not to say I'd never wanted those things. I just recognized them as temporary things that momentarily filled a void but left you empty and filled with regret the morning after. But books... books stay with you. For a few hours, you get to enter this completely different world. You can escape, recognize the parallels between your life and the characters, you can add details where they are otherwise vague, and imagine an entirely new place to be. Long after you're gone, that book will stay with you. It will give you a glimpse of something different, if only momentarily, that will change a small part of you for the rest of your life.
When I arrived and took a proper look, I saw one book, sitting alone from all the shelves. It sat on a small coffee table, containing nothing else but a lamp, and was situated next to a chair of green velvet. I made myself comfortable and picked up the book. It was well-worn. It looked like something that had either been handed down from generation to generation (unlikely, given the publication date) or had been flipped through several times. Given that Malfoy seemed to be the only one with access to the house, I managed to put two and two together and figure out it was one of his favorite, or at the very least, most-read, books. Which was strange, given that on the cover was a loopy, girlish scrawl, and a daisy.
I cracked it open to the first page and began to read.
“Hermione!” Malfoy sought me out as soon as he came home, sounding panicked. He must have realized at some point that there were knives in his kitchen and I could easily commit suicide while he was away, a final “fuck you” to him and his impossibly clean carpets. Sadly, that was not the case. For whatever reason, I had decided to give therapy a shot. If it helped me, great. If not, I had an excellent plan B.
“In the library!” I called back. I had finished the first book – and had trouble understanding why it was Malfoy's favorite. It was a wonderful book, mind you. It just didn't seem to be something he could relate to. A nerdy high-school kid, going to his dad's preparatory school, and making friends and falling in love and pulling pranks. Granted, Malfoy had always been quite the prankster. Or rather, asshole. But he wasn't nerdy. He didn't fall in love with a girl who may or may not have killed herself in the end. There was nothing about it that I could see in Malfoy.
After finishing the book, I had catalogued it into my mind to purchase it for myself at a later date, and found the spot on the shelf it called home. If Malfoy was anything like I thought, his books were organized by height, colour, size, genre, author, or something. But there had to be a pattern. His bookshelves were packed to bursting and to the untrained eye, a missing book would be hard to place. I found it within seconds.
Malfoy found me studying the bookshelves. I had ruled out height, as they were clearly in disarray and it was hard to order books by height when some were stuffed sideways to fit on top of other books. I ruled out alphabetical by title as well as by author; colour co-ordination was ruled out at first glance, but I could also have guessed before looking. Malfoy just didn't seem the type to sit with piles of books, determining whether a certain book was closer to forest or olive green in colour. Genre was out; The Phantom of the Opera sat next to Catcher in the Rye. For once, as it happened on rare occasions, I was completely at a loss.
I was contemplating drawing a diagram to study them further when he walked into the room. I turned around, wondering how strange it looked for me to be standing in the middle of the room. I was holding two books from the same section, trying to decipher his system.
“How was work, Malfoy?”
“Harry confronted me,” he began, as he loosened his tie.
I dropped the books to my sides. “And?”
“Yeah, he'll be over in about two minutes.” He said it nonchalantly, presumably so I wouldn't give him the look I did. And he was lucky, almost, because if I had been holding anything other than books, they'd have now nicked some flesh off his stupid face.
“Malfoy, you asshole. The whole point was to get away from them!” Just when I was starting to think he wasn't completely annoying and might be kind of alright, he did something like this. Guess it was just in his DNA, to always piss off the closest mudblood.
“I know what the point of this was. You'll never get better if you avoid them. Have you even made any progress?” Of course he was a little right. And I know I said I'd give the therapy thing a chance, but I really did not want to talk to Harry right now. I'd had such a nice day, with minimal human interaction, and maximum quiet and relaxation and he was going to take that all away from me.
“Ask my therapist.” I told him, my voice a little more than acidic. I took the books with me as I walked past him, bumping his shoulder roughly.
He made an annoyed, almost tired noise, and rather than follow, he picked up my forgotten plate and mug and brought them to the kitchen. As for me, I went downstairs to the foyer, awaiting the inevitable.
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