Chapter 19 : Dying Fires
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Chapter Song- Human Qualities
“HE WHAT?” Ginny yelled, her voice echoing around the empty classroom she and Hermione were in.
“Shhh, Ginny! Yes, he kissed me.” Hermione ended, exasperated.
“But why the hell would he do something like that to you! I mean, I just can’t think of… of all the lowdown, selfish…”
“Ginny!” Hermione cut in. “Let’s just drop it, alright? You’re filled in, everything’s right.”
“No, this isn’t right Hermione. He can’t just use you as he pleases.”
Hermione paused for a moment. “That’s the thing Gin, I don’t think he would.”
“Hermione, if you think that he’s going to come back…”
“I’m not saying he’s going to come back, I’m saying he’s never really left.”
Ginny looked at her for a few moments, blank, before Hermione spoke again. “He had a reason to leave. I don’t know what yet, but he has one. When Harry was talking to him the other day, Draco said that he still cared for me.”
“Did he say those words exactly?” Ginny said, skeptical.
“It was close enough.” Hermione said seriously. “What if it’s got something to do with his father?”
“…How would you guess that?”
“Well, Draco’s always had awful dreams about his mother’s death, which his father had something to do with. Maybe something else has happened between them.”
Ginny looked away in thought. “It’s not entirely crazy I guess…. But how on earth are we going to know for sure?”
Hermione gritted her teeth for a moment, then blew out a sharp breath. “We find out for ourselves.”
For the next few days, the girls played sleuths. They interviewed everyone they knew had classes with Draco for information of his behaviors, and Hermione knew all Draco’s haunts, so she was able to catch him there a few times as well. Although, those stake outs turned up no evidence.
After everything they could do had been exhausted, Hermione and Ginny sat around thinking of their next move.
“The way we’ve been going about this isn’t direct enough. It seems the only way to get the answer is to ask Draco himself.” Ginny said, sighing and crossing something off a list.
Hermione let her head rest in her palm. “We need to find someone willing to talk to us, who’s close enough to Draco. That way we can see if something’s going on.”
“Who’s actually close to Draco? He doesn’t take to many people well, not as well as people take to him.”
Hermione nodded. “There has to be someone who at least hangs around him enough.” The two sat in silence for a moment, when Hermione suddenly smacked her hand to her forehead. “Of course! Zabini!”
Ginny grinned delightedly. “Yes! Zabini follows Malfoy everywhere! He’ll be able to tell us something.”
“Only question now, is how we get him to talk. He doesn’t like Gryffindors anymore than the other Slytherins.”
Ginny cast a dark look towards her friend. “There’s one Gryffindor he likes, a lot.”
Hermione rolled her eyes with a groan. “Ginny we are not asking Padma for help.”
“Of course we’re not! Lucky for us, Padma happens to have a Ravenclaw twin sister.”
“You guys, I’m not sure about this. What if he knows it’s me?” Parvati said, sounding fully nervous.
Hermione and Ginny both rolled their eyes. Parvati was completely different from her sister. Nicer, warmer, but a lot less bold or willing to take risks.
“You’ll be fine Parvati, just do like we told you to and things will go smoothly.”
“What if he wants to snog me or something?”
“We warned you that might happen, and he’s not that bad looking, he’s just an ass.” Ginny said in a sharp whisper. “He’s getting closer; be ready.”
Hermione watched Parvati square her shoulders and take the posture of her snobbish sister, then stride forward to meet Zabini as he passed through the hallway they were in.
Hermione and Ginny had been able to nab Harry’s invisibility cloak, and were waiting in the wings, listening to the whole exchange.
“Hey Blaise, long time no see.” Parvati said, sounding just like Padma.
“What’s up Patil.” Blaise answered, oozing his arrogant attitude.
“I just wanted to see what’s been going on, how you’ve been doing since the last time I saw you.” At this point, Parvati adjusted her skirt, which had been made shorter for the occasion.
“I’ve been well.” Zabini said, starting at the part of her legs she’d just touched. “You look alright too, a little bit… different.”
“I… I’ve done… something new with my hair. Thanks for noticing.” Parvati said, saving herself.
Hermione exhaled. The hair flip she’d just done looked right on point.
“Well, now we’ve got the formalities out of the way.” Blaise leaned in, placing his hand right on Parvati’s bum.
“Wait!” She said swiftly.
Blaise pulled away, puzzled. “What is it?”
“I have to ask you something.”
“Snogging now, talking later. Those are the rules.” Blaise grinned evilly, lowering himself to Parvati yet again.
Hermione and Ginny stifled groans of disgust, as they shut their eyes from the scene in front of them. Unfortunately, they could hear everything.
After what seemed like hours, they two began to talk again.
“So what did you want to ask me babe?” Blaise said.
Hermione felt Ginny cringe.
“I wanted to see how Draco was doing, I don’t get the chance to see him anymore… you know, now that he and Hermione are…”
“Oh, the Granger girl. Yeah he never talks about her, except for once or twice when he’s sleeping.”
Hermione’s heart skipped a beat.
“Oh, so he’s over her?”
“Not quite. I at least know that he still hates Parkinson.”
“Then why did he kiss her?”
“You know, I asked him that. I gather he’s covering up for something; no idea what he needs to cover, but you know him. He never tells anyone anything.”
“Yeah, true.” Parvati added. “Well, I’ll see you around Blaise.”
Blaise winked and cast her a seductive sneer. “See you.” And smacked her on the bum. Parvati gave a squeal and hurried away.
Hermione took small spoonful’s of her food at dinner, lacking an appetite yet again. Her friends around her tried to console her aching mind to no avail. There was no getting her off something once she’d started.
Every few minutes, she’d come up with another theory, only to be reasoned out of it by Ginny or Ron. The constant up and down of excitement was wearing on her.
She could see Draco from her seat. He was in the middle of the Slytherins, not talking to anyone. The devil may care mood he had been in seemed to be fading. Hermione was starting to see glimpses of the Draco from the Underground in the days since they kissed. He was back to snapping at everyone during class, falling deeper and deeper into himself. It worried her greatly. She may not find out what was wrong with him in time to help.
By the time dessert came, Draco decided to leave. Hermione watched him stand and exit the Great Hall gracefully, then blend into the darkness of the corridors.
She made a split second choice. This was the way she’d find out what was going on. There was no method more direct than this.
“I’m going to bed early. Goodnight everyone.” She said to her friends.
Harry and Ron watched her uneasily as she walked out of the room. Ginny grimaced, knowing just what Hermione was setting out to do.
Hermione made it out in time to still see Draco in front of her. She still had Harry’s cloak from earlier, and it was currently hanging around her, keeping her safe.
She and Draco walked past windows that reveled pieces of dark January skies. Hermione could see the moon and the stars hanging far away from them. She thought of the Ferris Wheel she’d been on not a month before, with Draco, where the skies had seemed so close….
She followed Draco to the library, where he strode into the most cramped and secluded aisle that there was and stopped.
“Take off the cloak Granger.” He said softly, but gruffly.
Hermione felt her heart rate quicken, and she couldn’t move.
Draco sighed impatiently, walking up to her and pulling the cloak over her head. Hermione gasped and attempted to recover herself.
“How did you know I was there?”
Draco rolled his eyes. “You seem to be forgetting that you’ve got a habit of being loud, wherever you are.”
Hermione swore under her breath.
“What do you want Granger?” Draco demanded silently. “I thought we weren’t to speak to one another.” He raised an eyebrow, mocking her.
“I know why you left now.” She said, feigning confidence.
“Really?” He smirked, resting against a bookshelf. “This should be good. Go on then, why did I leave?”
“It has something to do with your father.”
Draco’s eyes glazed over, and Hermione now knew he was definitely keeping something locked away. His face did not change its position.
“You’re wrong.” He said frankly. “No one made me leave, I wanted to.”
“No, no you didn’t. I know you have a reason for leaving, I just haven’t figured out what it is… or was…”
“There is no reason other than what I told you. I left because I wanted to. I didn’t want to be around you, or the muggles, for another minute. I left to be free again.”
Hermione was shaking her head furiously. It had been torture to think these things in her head, and a whole other one to hear Draco say them aloud.
“I heard you, in the corridor with Harry. You said you cared for me still.”
Draco was silent a minute. “I never said that.”
“Well maybe not exactly, but it was close!”
“Granger, it is over between us!”
“Then why did you kiss me?!” Hermione yelled. “Why, Draco? You could have snogged Pansy, you could have any girl you wanted in a heartbeat. So, if you don’t want anything to do with me, why did you pick me again? Tell me, and I’ll leave you be.” Abandoning everything, she took a few steps closer to him, effectively closing the gap between them. “Give me an answer.”
Draco looked down at her. Hermione thought she saw the glaze in his eyes falter for a moment, as if he was going to break and tell her everything, but he never did.
“I realized, that I had been wasting both of our time.” He said softly, controlled. “I simply don’t want to be with you, I just wanted your kiss again.”
Hermione saw his face weaken and knew he was lying. “I don’t believe you.” She murmured.
“Damn it Hermione!” Draco fumed, storming away from her and knocking some books over. “When are you ever going to leave well enough alone!? This,” he said, motioning between them. “Is never going to amount to anything.”
“You and I both know that you’re lying Draco! Why can’t you just tell me the truth! Whatever is going on we can get through it. I will be here for you, you will be here for me. We can do this together.” Hermione said. She was filled with hope when Draco walked to her again. He lowered his face to hers, looking deeply into her eyes. Hermione thought for a fleeting minute that he was going to kiss her again.
“I am going to say this once more; That kiss, and all the ones before it, were as empty as an old hag’s womb. We have nothing together. Now, let’s both make better efforts to uphold our previous agreement.” Draco stared at her for a lingering second, then left the room in a flurry or robes and anger.
Hermione sank down into the corner of the aisle, and took deep, strong breaths to steady herself. Once she was ready, she went to the Room of Requirement, wanting nothing more than to have a dreamless sleep.
The following morning, Hermione woke up to the sound of the dying fire in her room. She yawned and rose, arching her back in a stretch. The post sleep daze she was in prevented her mind from bringing up the events of the past night, which worked in her favor. She dressed silently and made her bed, then coaxed her hair into a simple plait.
Once she was ready, she crept up to the door that lead out into the hall, easing it open gently. With a few quick glances, she determined that no one was around, and she stepped outside and shut the door to the room behind her. Just as she did, noises of footfall began to fade away to her right, leading down a dimly lit path.
Hermione started, cursing herself for not being more careful. She whipped out her wand, and set off in the direction of her follower for minutes until her search turned out absolutely nothing. She had stopped at the end of the corridor, right in front of a picture of a woman and her son. They both waved at her as she stared, she waved back. She took a moment or two more to observe the two of them in action.
The mother had a kind face, pale blond hair done up in a bun, and red painted lips. She was bouncing her son, looking just like her at about seven or eight, on her knee as he squealed with happiness.
Hermione smiled, thinking of her mother. The last time they had shared some time alone was at Christmas, when Hermione had explained how Draco lost his mother, and how much she meant to him. Hermione’s heart fell for a moment. Draco had been very depressed by his mother’s death when they’d first met. He would talk about her so fiercely, with a fire that said he would do anything to get her back.
Suddenly, everything clicked into place. It was like Hermione’s mind had been a puzzle all along that now formed one gigantic, clear picture. There were still loose ends that needed to be cleaned up, but it could be done. Hermione ran up into the Gryffindor common room, not feeling so clueless anymore.
It was astronomically impossible, it was barely sane for her to be thinking this, but she let herself be carried away anyway. Hermione flew up the stairs to the girls dorms, shaking Ginny awake in her bed when she arrived.
“Ginny! Gin, wake up I’ve figured it out!”
“Hermione Granger!” Ginny slurred, rubbing sleep from her eyes. “What time is it?”
“That doesn’t matter! Come downstairs with me, right now.” Hermione didn’t wait for Ginny to respond, but tore her from her bed without letting her dress, and down to the common room.
“Hermione, what the bloody hell is going on? What have you figured out?”
“Why Draco left. It hit me a few minutes ago; he would never do anything for his father; he hates Lucius with everything he is! The only thing that could bring Draco away would have to be something so valuable to him, that nothing else would matter in the face of it.”
Ginny looked intrigued, so Hermione pressed on.
“We thought about Draco’s father luring him away, but we never thought about his mother.” She let the last word hang in silence for Ginny to grasp.
“His mother is dead Hermione.”
“Draco himself said he never saw the body, doesn’t know where she’s buried, if she was! What if this was a plan of Lucius’s all along? He must need something from Draco; something big.”
Hermione’s heart fell when she saw Ginny’s disbelieving face.
“Hermione…. I just don’t think that could be it. It’s too strong of an idea. What could Draco offer Mr. Malfoy?”
Hermione sighed, disappointed she wouldn’t have Ginny with her on this one. “I don’t know Ginny, but I know I’m right about this; I can feel it.”
Ginny shook her head, knowing there was no arguing to be done. “What are you going to do now?”
Hermione looked out the window, watching the sun as it cast light in a pattern over to carpeted floors.
“I’m going to talk to Draco; one last time.”
Hermione’s day passed in frantic tones. She nearly knocked over three bottles of ink while taking notes in Potions, messed up a curse in Defense Against the Dark Arts, and spilled pumpkin juice down her robes at dinner.
“What is wrong with you today ‘Mione?” Harry wondered as he passed her a napkin. “You’ve been so sporadic all day.”
“Yeah!” Ron agreed, taking a bite of his stew. “What’s the matter?”
Hermione shared a glance with Ginny, who then shook her head. Ginny didn’t think she should share her idea of Draco’s mother with the boys.
“Just a bit frazzled is all. I probably shouldn’t have had that coffee this morning.”
“Yeah, you’ll just keep getting shorter and shorter won’t you?” Harry chuckled, and Hermione promptly smacked him on the arm.
The group shared a laugh, and Hermione felt some of her stress melt away. The boys continued to make good natured cracks on the girls heights, then moved on to joking about other things. Hermione stayed focused on them, letting their antics distract her.
After the dessert was finished, all the students filed out of the Great Hall to their respective dorms. Hermione split from her friends, saying she was going to the library before it closed when, in actuality, she was headed to the Room of Requirement.
Hermione walked into the room and changed from her robes almost instantly, so ready to fall asleep. Her body ached from the day it had just endured, and she rewarded it by falling into her covers eagerly.
Moments were passed in silence as the fire died around her, casting a soft glow around the peaceful room. Looking around, she noticed that the place didn’t look exactly the same as it had been last night. The bed was not one, but two twin beds pushed together. Her fireplace had moved in front of it, and another door had appeared next to a dresser with a radio perched on top.
Hermione gasped. This was a replica of the room she had shared with Draco during the Underground, exactly. She sank her head back against the pillows. This was the last thing she needed, more thoughts of him.
She picked up a book that she’d started earlier and buried herself in it, attempting to block out her memories. She succeeded in distracting herself so much, that she barely noticed someone walking in the door about a half hour later. She only stirred when she felt another presence on her bed.
She threw the book in front of her with a loud gasp, the figure she’d hit took a corner to the ribs.
“Hermione! It’s only me, don’t be frightened.”
She exhaled angrily, it was Draco who’d stolen upon her. “What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to see you. It’s a good thing you were thinking of me, otherwise I’d still be outside those doors.” He smirked happily, making Hermione even angrier. Especially since he was right.
“Whatever. You’ve seen me, you can leave now.”
“I can, that doesn’t mean I want to.”
“You snarky bastard, what do you want from me?”
“To talk.” Draco said, eyes almost pleading. “I really need to tell you something. It’s important.”
“I don’t want to talk to you.” Hermione said. “Leave.”
“I’m not leaving until you hear me out.”
Hermione swore. “Then I’ll go.” She stood, getting about as far as three steps before Draco had her pinned against the wall.
“Let me go, you arrogant little…”
“Hermione.” Draco said, lowering his voice to a husky whisper. “Please, listen. We can sit on the bed and talk; that’s all I want.”
Hermione huffed, thinking it over. She agreed with a nod, knowing he wasn’t going to let her up otherwise. They sat together, Draco keeping a safe distance away.
“What are you doing in here?” Hermione asked franticly once they’d been seated. “How did you know I come here? You’re the one who’s been following me?!”
Draco shut his eyes for a moment. Hermione watched the light dance across his face. His hair and skin were illuminated. “I wanted to see you, and I’ve seen you come here because, yes; I’m the one following you.”
“What do you want from me?”
Draco sighed. “You’ve been asking about me, trying to figure out why I’ve been avoiding you.” He stated.
“So there is a reason?” Hermione said excitedly.
Draco looked torn. “Yes. Not one you’re going to want to hear. Not one that I can tell you.”
Hermione’s heart fell. “You come all the way here to tell me that you can’t tell me anything?! I think you should leave now.” She began to stand, but Draco caught her arm.
“I’m leaving tomorrow. I’m leaving Hogwarts.” His eyes burned into hers, begging her to sit and listen.
Hermione sank down, feeling like she’d just been hit by a train. “Why?”
Draco grimaced. “That’s the part I can’t tell you yet.” He twined his fingers with hers. “It’s for your protection.”
“Are you saying, that this past month of hell has been for my protection!” Hermione fumed. “You have no idea how I’ve been feeling Draco Malfoy!”
“Hurt, conflicted, alone; I’ve been feeling it too Hermione. It killed me inside to leave you. I never, ever wanted to. I wish I didn’t have to leave tomorrow. I have missed you more every single day we’ve been apart.” He said, sliding himself closer to her. “Every day. My kissing you almost drove me over the edge.”
“I need you to tell me what’s going on.”
“And I need you,” He said, slipping a hand into her hair. “To understand that I can’t.”
Hermione blinked away tears. “Draco, please don’t leave me again.” She whimpered.
Draco moaned in sadness, wrapping Hermione in his arms. She melted into them, relishing the way he felt around her, his smell, his touch…
“You can’t go.”
Hermione felt his chest heave as he sighed and held her tighter. “You were right; this does have something to do with my father.”
Hermione pulled away, staring into his eyes. “What do you mean?”
“I’m not telling you anymore than this; He’s the reason I had to leave you, he’s the one that’s going to set this war into motion.”
“There’s going to be a war?” Hermione gasped gravely. “For certain?”
“I can guarantee it. So much has been happening right under all our noses. What I’m leaving to do will protect you from all of it, If I’m careful.”
The tears were flowing freely from her eyes now. Draco wiped them away with his thumbs.
“I know exactly what I have to do, and it is going to make all this seem so worth it, you’ll see. Once this is over, we’ll be able to be together in peace. We’ll go to Spain, maybe we won’t ever have to come back.” He pressed his forehead to hers. “You have to trust me.”
“How do I know that I can trust you now?” Hermione whispered slowly. It was almost completely dark in the room. The fire only cast the faintest of glows around the room, and the candle next to them was giving off its last light.
Draco met her eyes a moment later, Hermione’s heart jumped as his trademark smirk crossed his face, then became serious again.
“I love you.” He said, smiling as he did. “I really, truly do.”
Hermione felt her mouth drop open for a moment. “You can’t mean that.”
“Absence makes the heart grow fonder. I’ll say it a million times if you want. I love you, I love you, I love you….” He was murmuring now, still staring into her eyes with a passion.
Hermione had never felt so connected to him. The past was erased. Everything that had gone on between them would be resolved, she just had to trust him. “Swear it.” She whispered.
Draco slid off the bed and onto his knees in front of her, taking one of her hands. “I, Draco Lucius Malfoy, do love Hermione Jean Granger with all my heart and soul. I swear this on my life.”
Hermione exhaled the breath she had been holding, pulling Draco back up to her. She kissed him passionately, despite all the grief she had felt moments ago.
“And I love you too.” She said, placing her head on Draco’s chest. “So much Draco.” She could feel his heart beating a mile a minute as he threaded his fingers through her hair.
Draco placed three soft kisses upon her face, then stroked one of her cheeks with his thumb. “I need you to promise me something now.”
Hermione nodded. “Anything.”
“Don’t try to follow me. Stay here where you’re safe.”
“What if you need me?”
“I need you to be here. I need you to be taken care of. I wouldn’t leave you if there weren’t protection here, but there is. Please stay.”
Hermione exhaled a ragged breath. “I promise.”
Draco kissed her again. “Thank you. I won’t be gone long, you’ll see.”
They stayed like that for what seemed like hours, not exchanging words, just being wrapped in each other, when Draco got up to leave.
He kissed Hermione one last time, cupping her chin with his hand. “I will miss you so much.” He whispered. “But, I will come back for you; count on it.”
Hermione took a deep breath, making another split second decision, she rose with him. There was virtually no space between their bodies, and she didn’t want it any other way.
“Draco.” She whispered.
“Are you going to leave without saying goodbye?”
“I’ve just said goodbye.” He said, stroking her hair.
“We both know that’s not what I mean.”
Draco stared at her, looking so alive and afraid in that moment. They both knew that this was the right time, this was what they had been waiting for. Nothing could stop them now.
“H-Hermione…” Draco murmured, his breath waving over the side of her face. “Are you sure?”
“I never say things I don’t mean.” Hermione said with conviction. “If you’re, leaving tomorrow… this is how I want to remember you when you’re gone.”
Draco smiled sadly slowly lowering himself back to her mouth. “I won’t leave you any other way.”
They met together in a tangle of longing and anticipation. Hermione could feel Draco’s heart thumping loudly in tune with hers. Her fingers fumbled with his tie and the buttons on his shirt, until he finally removed his clothes himself.
His breathing was quiet, but ragged as he stood bare before her, making Hermione smile slightly. His hands were gentle as they undid the various clasps and buttons on her robes, but Hermione could tell he was just as scared as she was.
Once they were equal again, they met in another kiss. One that was not broken for minutes, or hours or seconds; it didn’t matter. Everything around them dissolved completely, save for their skins moving together in the light of the dying fire
A/N: hello lovelies :) I really hope you liked this chapter! We're getting closer and closer to the end! I can't believe it! Anyway, please do leave me a review if you wish!