Chapter 5 : The Absent Echo
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She had seen me. Draco thought to himself as he walked briskly down an abandoned corridor, lit with only two bleak candles whose flames were soon to perish. Seconds after Hermione had confirmed his visibility he fled the hall, his destination unknown, with numerous questions brewing in his mind. How had she seen him? Everyone else had their heads bowed, some sobbing lightly, others were mourning silently and Draco was sure that some, namely Gryffindors, only had their heads lowered because their lack of emotion would prove disrespectful to the death of their fellow pupil. However he had noticed that Grangers deep Chocolate eyes appeared watery when they made contact with his own; was she crying at his funeral?
“Impossible.” He chuckled to himself. In an abandoned hall such as this, his voice would usually carry to produce an eerie echo, but not this time. Not even his footsteps made a sound. Draco looked down anxiously to confirm that his size 12 feet were actually touching the ground. Of course they were.
“Echo!” He yelled childishly, a foolish grin dominating his perfect powdered plumb lips. Nothing. “For fucks sakes.” He groaned. If his voice didn’t echo, did it even exist to anyone but himself? The thought of not being able to talk to anyone for the rest of his prolonged life infuriated Draco. The two weeks of Christmas spent home alone was enough for him to be driven clinically insane by the absence of conversation. In Hogwarts, conversation was free to roam the halls, sometimes gleeful, other times slightly aggravated, but at least she was present. If only people could see him, then maybe conversation would forgive him for his untimely departure and return. Suddenly, the light inside of Draco’s mind sparked as he turned abruptly and rushed off in the direction from which he had come.
“I’ve got to find Granger.”
Hermione had been lying awake for what felt like an absolute age. It was proving difficult for her to eliminate the ghastly image of Malfoy, which had stubbornly remained in her mind since his impetuous appearance at the funeral, despite the various spells she had tried. Hermione sighed heavily as she turned to face the arched doorway, “Only Malfoy could taunt me when dead” she thought to herself. Closing her eyes to allow the sound of the deep breathing and gentle snores of her roommates’ sooth her, Hermione stupidly hoped that her conscience would take pity on her and avert the mental image of her deceased opponent away long enough for her to sink into unconsciousness. No such luck. As soon as her upper lid was reunited with the lower, Malfoys’ spectre returned to fill the darkness. She sat up hastily, Hermione was angry now. “You are a true bastard, Draco Malfoy!” She said aloud, swinging her legs from under her burgundy duvet and scurrying over to her allocated wardrobe.
Settling for a pair of grey skinny jeans and a rose pink flannel top, Hermione grabbed a pair of dollies and shoved them onto her bare feet, picking up her favoured ebony biker jacket as she shuffled to the door. As soon as she was sure that she had escaped the bedroom without waking one of the girls, she made her way down the cylindrical stone staircase to the caliginous common room. She drew out her wand; “Lumos!”
“Bloody hell, Malfoy!” Hermione gasped; unable to figure out if what she saw before her was real, or just her mind playing tricks on her.
“I would have thought dying would have some effect on your attitude, Malfoy. Yet, you’ve become even bitterer, something I thought was impossible.”
“Then I guess we’ve both been surprised today then, you were crying at my funeral, something I thought was impossible.”
“That just proves I’m capable of emotion, you died Malfoy, what did you expect?”
Despite his hatred towards the mudblood, Draco confessed to himself that if it was her that had died, he would feel a certain amount of remorse as to his attitude towards her over their years in education. He also had to confess that, ignoring the standard of witch to whom he was talking, he was glad of having someone to talk to. Hermione was intelligent; maybe she could help him answer some of his questions? He looked up to meet her questioning gaze.
“Why are you still here, Malfoy?” She tilted her head, as though she could see directly through his eyes, into his mind.
“Want me to leave?”
“You know what I mean.”
She was right, of course, Draco knew exactly what Hermione meant, he just didn’t know how to answer her question. Why was he still here? He knew it was nothing to do with his loyalties to Voldermort, he had no loyalties.
“One is finding it problematic to counterclaim your enquiry.”
“So you don’t know then?” Hermione rolled her eyes at Draco’s unnecessary complex response. It was typical of the pupils belonging to the Slytherin house to avoid making themselves sound stupid.
“No,” He sighed. Hermione let a smirk play along her plump lips, never before had Malfoy admitted to not knowing something, to Hermione, this was progress on proving that ‘mudbloods’ such as herself were just as good as the purebloods, “I think I need your help.”
This caught Hermione off guard. Draco freaking Malfoy wanted her help. Correction, the ghost of Draco freaking Malfoy wanted her help. He had got to be kidding? She studied his face in detail; there was no sign of a joke. All of his sharp, angular, annoyingly perfect features were sincere. Crap.
“Admiring my natural beauty, Granger?” He smirked. Hermione ignored this.
“You want my help?” She raised one eyebrow questioningly.
“Well, you passed the hearing test,” He snorted, “Yes, Granger, believe it or not, I want your help.”
Christ! Considering Granger was apparently one of the smartest students ever to attend this school, Draco couldn’t help but laugh at her question.
"What?!” She asked, slightly irritated that she was being laughed at by a ghost. Thinking about it, Hermione didn’t actually know if Draco was a ghost. She subtly looked him up and down, he looked solid. Biting her lip in thought, she wondered how he would respond to her taking a jab at him. She swiftly raised her arm, curled all but one of her fingers into her palm, and prodded him once, twice. A look of utter confusion pasted on her face as she discovered that not only did he look solid, but he also felt solid.
“For gods sa-” Draco stopped mid-sentence as he felt a jolt of mild pain in his upper arm, “What the devil are you doing, Granger?!” She did it again, “OW!” he yelled, rubbing his arm whilst backing away from her. “What was that for?!”
“Really hot?” Draco offered.
“No.” She frowned, still looking him up and down.
“Highly arousing?” He asked, allowing a cheeky irresistible smirk dance across his mouth.
“Ew, No! You’re solid!” She exclaimed.
“Only for you, Granger.” He winked.
“You’re disgusting! How is that even possible?”
“Yeah, you’re right, I prefer blondes.”
“Draco Malfoy, actually.”
“Urgh! I’m going to bed. Good night, Draco.” Hermione threw a fake smile in his direction before turning back to the girls’ dormitory. That Slytherin really did infuriate her.
“No! Wait!” Draco cried, grasping onto her arm. Hermione turned and looked at his outstretched arm gripping onto her own.
“You’re hurting me.”
“Sorry.” He let his arm drop.
An awkward silence filled the space between them as Draco considered all of the possible ways to ask Hermione to help him without losing his reputation as the proud Slytherin pureblood.
“Just spit it out, Malfoy.” Hermione sighed.
“You’re the only one that can see me.”
“And hear me. You’re the only one I can talk to, so therefore the only one that can help me.”
“Help you do what, exactly?”
“Help me find out why I’m still here.”
Hermione’s eyes reconnected with Draco’s. For the first time in their entire conversation Draco looked helpless. Should she help him? He had taunted her for seven whole years, and there he was, Draco Malfoy, almost pleading for her to help him. Hermione pursed her lips and slowly nodded.
“Yes, I’ll help you.” She breathed. Draco let out a sigh of relief. He reached out and gently lifted Hermione’s hand before giving it a courteous squeeze.
“Thank you, Hermione.”
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