Chapter 24 : The Elements Revisited
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Rising from just beneath the horizon, the sun rose to its apex at a meager pace where it then hung resolutely in the sky among a delicate assemblage of morning haze and vapor. The day was warm and though Draco felt no need to squint, he could feel the blinding intensity of the sun upon his skin. His face even began to burn, as his pale visage often did in the light of day.
Draco sighed. In spite of the light breeze now flushing his jawbone, a comforting and pleasurable distraction in this odd morning heat, he once again remembered where—or more importantly—when he was.
With a familiar feeling of unease taking up residence within the cavities of his chest at the very idea of time travel—or memory travel as Hermione had so astutely clarified the night before—Draco sat up quickly so as to relieve some of the intensifying pressure surfacing among his ribs. His sudden shift in orientation, however, sent a fresh surge of blood to his head, rousing his senses slowly with his body, as his mind transitioned away from sleep towards a more vigilant state of mental acuity.
He couldn’t remember when during the night his need for rest had overcome his anxiety, but feeling a new vitality course through his veins, he was grateful for having finally succumbed to his exhaustion, even if only for an hour or two.
Draco grazed the surface of the ground with the palm of his hand, attempting to glean a basic image of his surroundings using his remaining senses. Smooth and undisturbed on one side of his reviving form, the ground on the other exhibited familiar signs of panic and distress, baring the contours of a pitch disheveled by the forceful flavor of human footsteps—no doubt, courtesy of Hermione from the night before.
Hermione turned over in her sleep.
Draco could hear the restlessness in her breath even as she dreamed and wanted nothing more than to reach over and lend a reassuring hand—to be able to tell her that everything would be all right in the end (and truly mean it).
Turning his face back towards the sun, stretching his neck in the direction of the now illumined sky, he feared that he would never be able to do just that, however.
Waiting was a painful process, an uncertain process; one Draco had reluctantly become quite acquainted with after losing his ability to see. Dumbledore had reassured him that his vision would return in due time, that this was but a test of patience both of mind and body.
Draco’s patience, however, was beginning to wear thin and waiting for the rebound-of-fate to just reveal its secret plan as Hermione had suggested the night before, no longer sat well with him. He had always been a man of action. And, he knew that he needed to do something other than wait for a change.
Looking back now on his conversation with Dumbledore the night of the Halloween ball, Draco couldn’t help but think the Headmaster was wrong about him not being his father’s son. Was it his own greed that was driving his impatience at this very moment, his intensifying (if not genetic) need to intervene, to set things straight? Or was it love—as Dumbledore had suggested—love for his mother, for Hermione?
True, he may not always think in terms of blood like his father, but his reaction to hearing his mother in the company of the one and only James Potter was certainly proof of some kind of inheritance, one he feared he would never be able to fully exonerate himself from.
He shuddered. His entire body had burned with an incomprehensible anger upon hearing Potter’s voice and name; it had been a reaction only the Potter name could arouse in him—though, he admitted to himself, the Weasley name especially when juxtaposed with Hermione’s was beginning to elicit a remarkably similar effect these days.
Draco shielded his face in shame, casting a protective shadow over his dormant vision.
An underlying fear surfaced in the pit of his stomach at this fleeting thought, generating a new layer of sweat, now pouring from the sides of his forehead.
He feared he would always be his father’s son, unable to escape the intolerance bequeathed to him at birth.
In many ways, Draco had begun to hope he would always be bound to Hermione. Though unable to see, he knew he would feel more in an eternity—blinded—but with her by his side than he could ever experience alone, vision intact, at the mercy of his father’s name and the responsibility that necessarily accompanied such a mark of permanence.
At least in her company, he was free to be who he wanted to be and not necessarily what his father envisioned.
At the same time, however, he knew he was a burden—a burden to the one person for whom he cared most deeply. It was, in the end, Hermione that kept him from just leaving their situation as is. He knew she was still uncomfortable with him and their past—a pureblood, a Slytherin, her sworn enemy since the age of eleven; and, though he was ready to admit to the world the way he now felt about her, unashamed, he knew she was still struggling with everything that had happened to them, around them—between them.
She was a genius, one that survived on reason and logic. This he knew. Yet, both reason and logic had failed her in the past couple of months, thanks largely to the elements.
Elemental magic, he surmised long ago, has always had a mind of its own. But understanding and accepting this fact, this lack of precision and control was an entirely different matter for a bookworm like Hermione. For her, the elements were disconcerting, destabilizing—a threat to everything she stood for.
Surprisingly, it was anything but disconcerting for him. Earth, rain, wind, fire—the elements made sense to him in a way most other magic did not. He had mastered spells, curses and potions before, but he understood the elements in way he never thought possible. He felt connected to them—like they were as much a part of him and his history as his father and his intolerable ways.
It was as if he lived and breathed the elements—and, in a way, always had.
Draco understood that the rebound-of-fate was derived from fire, the product of passion unspoken. He accepted that there was some prophecy derived from earth, which bound him to Hermione in a way no other magic could. He saw with his own eyes that the Shrouding Solution had come from wind, destructive like a flame, but creative in its wake. And he took as truth that love, with the properties of rain, was perhaps the most powerful emotion known to man and wizarding-kind, alike—a magic unto itself.
Perhaps, the only thing that continued to puzzle him in spite of this connection to, this understanding of the elements was why the rose, the rebound-of-fate, the elements had all conspired to bring them here—to this moment in time, to this memory, to his mother’s past of all places.
Dumbledore had mentioned his mother’s condition, his father’s meddling, and the existence of a second prophecy. But what was it exactly that his father had done?
What had he changed that Draco felt so desperately now that he had to change back, was meant to change back, to make right? Why had Dumbledore kept the contents of the other prophecy hidden from him? What more did he have to learn?
Though his actions and words suggested otherwise, Draco had always admired Dumbledore from a distance. He had this feeling that Dumbledore always knew more than he was letting on. In the case of his mother and father, Draco was sure of it. This also frustrated him, of course.
He felt one with the elements now, with Hermione. He accepted his condition—even, at times, took pleasure in it—wasn’t that enough?
Was anything ever going to be enough?
Hermione shot up in a flash, snapping Draco from his silent daze, her palms rushing to cradle her cheek as if she had just been slapped in the face with the force of an Unforgivable Curse.
‘What the…’ but she couldn’t even finish her sentence, her poor choice in words muffled by the consoling touch of her palm to skin. She continued to cringe, rocking backward and forward in sincere pain from, again, what appeared to be an invisible force aimed deliberately at her face.
‘Hermione, what’s wrong?’ Draco exclaimed, overcome with concern by the sudden change in her disposition. He reached out—more instinctively than by actual choice he noticed—to lend a comforting hand, but his palm only met with her back; she was keeling over in unexplained anguish.
Too bewildered to maintain any sense of coherency, she stuttered in between a flood of warm tears now streaming down the sides of her face, ‘My…my cheek…it’s bur…burning, Draco!’
An inexplicable onslaught of fear quickly rushed to take the place of the remaining traces of sleep still plaguing Hermione’s subconscious. She was now fully awake and though slightly disoriented by the strength of the sun, had begun to look around rapidly for the source of her painful alarm.
Draco too was feeling a bit strange. It wasn’t nausea per se; but, his stomach was definitely overcome with something. It tasted like anger. His muscles tightened, again instinctively rather than by actual choice.
‘What happened? You were sleeping peacefully just a moment ago!’ he said, raising the volume of his voice to match the anxiety in hers.
‘Draco—‘ she panted. She was still trying to get her breath back, the wind having been physically knocked out of her. ‘Did you notice anything, before…’ she managed, while hastily scanning their surroundings for anything out of the ordinary, almost in a panic.
Unfortunately, he had not, too caught up in his own thoughts and ramblings. Before he could communicate this to her, however, Hermione quickly fixated her eyes on Narcissa and James who had also apparently spent the remainder of their night out of doors. A tall and slender third figure was also in the mix now though, standing on the pitch just beside them. She could not as of yet clearly identify him, given her physical distance from the scene but she had a growing suspicion he was an antagonist in their budding romance.
Shielding her from the figure towering above them, James was kneeling next to Narcissa, who to Hermione’s astonishment was crouching on all fours, cushioning the side of her cheek with the palm of her hand just as she herself had been just a few moments before.
‘Hermione, are you ok?’ Draco asked again confounded by her sudden silence. He could not for the life of him comprehend women and their universal affinity for abrupt mood swings.
Hermione continued to ignore him, brushing away his hand with the tip of her wand, which she had now whipped out from inside her robe, a precautionary instinct instilled in her after two years of defensive, magical training as a founding member of Dumbeldore’s Army. Although now that she thought about it, her wand was probably of no use now, not while they remained in this memory, as it were.
‘Stay here,’ she whispered to him; but, Draco was not about to sit around, waiting for Hermione to figure out what was going on. He was blind, but not entirely useless—or so he tried to convince himself.
Lucius stood over Narcissa’s heaving form and watched as James Potter attempted to console her. It was a disgusting sight to say the least. Lucius’s stomach churned.
To say she deserved what she had gotten, however, was an understatement in Lucius’s opinion and there was no way he was going to act otherwise. Narcissa had been behaving with the utmost impropriety these past two weeks, unbecoming of a Slytherin, pureblood and, above all, a Malfoy, as she would be in the not-so-distant future.
He understood there were certain limitations that required her to remain in proximity of that insufferable Potter boy, but that did not mean she had the right to shirk on her responsibilities to her family and friends. She was the same person, after all—just in a bit of a predicament, one with a solution that Lucius was determined to find.
Sure his actions were rash, impulsive, somewhat unbecoming in and of themselves, but the one night—the one night he had needed Narcissa to be there for him, to comfort and console him, to tell him things would work out in the end, that he had made the right choice for himself—and, for them—she had been off frolicking with Potter, having a laugh, a good time. He hated to see her with him. It killed him inside, as if he were being ripped in two, piece by piece.
His forearm burned where the mark of a new allegiance now lay, permanent and irreversible.
Narcissa seemed to be regaining control of herself after several seconds of blinding pain. More so than the pain of Lucius’s palm to her face, however, it had been the surprise of his ‘attack’ that had unhinged her so. She had always known Lucius to be drawn to violence, given his volatile temperament, but he had never before this been one to enact it against her and that to—out of nowhere.
Still on the ground, in a kind of half embrace with James who was not only examining her cheek, which was bruising now, the faint outline of a handprint taking shape, but also supporting her back, Narcissa leaned against him and closed her eyes in an effort to pacify her spinning head. Thankfully, there was a gentle breeze. The wind had always been a source of comfort to her.
‘Are you, ok?’ James whispered to her. If she had not known any better, she could have sworn there was a tinge of real concern lining his voice—his soothing voice.
She nodded quickly, almost indiscriminately. It was all she could do really—all other forms of affirmation required too much effort and energy on her part, which she just didn’t have to give quite yet, let alone use.
The pain had been too much for her to handle and she had fallen to the ground out of necessity. Her back had buckled, just as quickly as her knees and she feared this was but the beginning. She knew Lucius well and the anticipation of what would happen next was almost as paralyzing as what had just transpired.
She was locked in place, as close to the earth as possible.
‘Don’t hate me, ok!’ James whispered in response. With that, he let go of Narcissa and rounded forcibly on Lucius.
She tried to go after him, to reach out and grab his hand to thwart any kind of retaliation that he might have been planning. But, instead, she lost what balance she regained and fell flat.
James hadn’t realized how tall and menacing Lucius actually was until this moment, now that they were face to face. Usually, when it came to Lucius, Sirius was the one to take him on. Sirius, after all, was the one who had serious beef with the guy. Though probably a bit of an exaggeration, it almost felt as if Lucius was a foot taller than he was and stronger, certainly stronger.
Yet, James drew his wand all the same. This was met by a piercing laughter.
‘Are you sure you know what you’re doing, Potter?’ Lucius asked, haughtily. ‘Are you certain you’re ready for this?’
James wasn’t ready but he had been in plenty of trouble before now and there was no way he was going to let Lucius get away with hitting Narcissa. ‘I assure you, Potter. You’ll regret this tomorrow,’ Lucius finished.
He probably would. But, in truth, he would have stood up to any wizard who laid a hand on a woman. It was just in James’s chivalrous nature that which his father was sure to bequeath him and that at an early age. That it was Narcissa who was hurt made the situation even more dire, in James’s opinion. Lucius’s attack had felt like an affront to him as well—something personal.
James hated getting personal, but that did not mean he wouldn’t, should the right opportunity arise that is.
This was that moment. He could feel it.
James twirled his wand in his right hand, gripping it firmly with his fingers. He stepped towards Lucius who had taken no time to ready himself into a defensive posture oddly reminiscent of a fencer on point.
With ‘Stupefy’ on the tip of his tongue, James made to flick his wand but, unfortunately for him, was a second too slow. Lucius had been too quick for him, too resolute in his offense.
‘Relashio!’ Lucius exclaimed before James could muster words of his own. A jet of red, fiery sparks spewed from his wand, bound straight for James’s chest.
James was thrown from his feet with such force; he flew straight up in the air and backwards slightly, only to come crashing down near to where Narcissa still lay. He was lying flat on his back, still conscious, but it took everything he had to turn over on his side so he could breathe.
‘Lucius, no!’ he could hear her scream. ‘What have you done?’
James could hear someone running towards him, footsteps displacing sand and dirt. But they were growing fainter by the second.
Her touch was so sweet, so soothing—like rain.
Lucius had been right he would regret this tomorrow. He had not been prepared for a full on duel with a seventh year; nothing could have prepared him for this.
‘James—James,’ Narcissa was panicking now. ‘James, are you alright?’ She was beginning to shake him awake when he opened his eyes slightly. Clearly hurt, he nodded. It was the best he could do—she understood that.
Laying him back down as gently as she could—Narcissa rounded on Lucius.
‘Are you happy?’ she yelled at him.
Perhaps, for the first time, Lucius evaluated the merits of his actions—traces of what felt like fear flickering across his eyes.
‘Are you happy, Lucius?’ she couldn’t even look at him, so disgusted she was. ‘Just go,’ she said finally.
When he didn’t move, fearing what would happen if he did, Narcissa repeated herself—this time with a bit more force. ‘Just go, Lucius! Get out of here!’
She didn’t wait to see if he obeyed, however, too concerned for James. Instead, she turned back to James who had come to while she had been speaking with Lucius. She was relieved to see that he was beginning to sit up.
‘Are you alright?’ Narcissa asked again.
‘No,’ he smirked, his usual biting air returning ever so slightly to his speech. ‘But, I will be,’ he affirmed.
He caught Narcissa’s gaze at this comment. For a second, he thought he saw relief flash across her face. It made him smile.
‘Why are you smiling?’ Narcissa said, clearly irritated. ‘Do you think this was funny or something?’
James said nothing.
‘Oh get up you idiot!’ Narcissa said, doing the best she could to contain her own smile. It was hard not to laugh at everything when James Potter was your constant companion. ‘Let’s get you to the hospital wing before you die of a concussion or something.’
She helped him up and they headed to the hospital wing, hobbling along up towards the castle.
Hermione watched them go. She was so stunned at the scene that had just transpired.
What was going on? she thought to herself. Nothing played out as she had expected.
It just all seemed very wrong. Lucius slapped Narcissa, his one true love, who was consoled by James, a Marauder, a Gryffindor, who was then attacked by Lucius because he rose to her defense.
And to top everything all off, the whole thing had exhausted her, like she herself had been involved in the mix somehow. Hermione had been ambushed by a wave of emotions that ranged from fear to anger to great concern, the latter of which was still stirring in the pit of her stomach.
She turned around to explain this all to Draco, but to her surprise he was gone.
‘Draco?’ she said aloud. ‘Draco? Where did you—‘ but her question was interrupted by a voice in her head—his voice.
Hermione… he mustered. She could sense he was weak; the volume of his thoughts in her head was meek at best.
Hermione… help… he whispered across her mind again.
Hermione spun around a full hundred and eighty degrees to find Draco just a meter or two away from where they had both been standing just moments before. He was crawling on the floor, using all of what seemed like his remaining strength to try and stand.
Hermione was beside herself. She ran to Draco’s side at a full sprint closing the gap between them at pace very foreign to her.
‘What happened?’ she said, when she reached him. She was supporting most of his weight now and encouraged him to lean against her until he could catch his breath fully.
‘I—have no idea,’ Draco said slowly, between gulps of air. ‘One minute,’ he breathed, ‘I was following your footsteps and the next I was thrown back so hard—‘ Draco trailed off for a second before continuing. ‘It felt like I had been hit by a curse, Hermione—of some kind.’
Hermione was stroking Draco’s head in an effort to soothe his obvious pain and discomfort.
‘Like you had been hit by a curse?’ she questioned. ‘But no one would do—‘ she stopped talking so abruptly it was as if the wind had been knocked out of her for a second time.
Draco could feel her heart quicken ever so slightly and knew Hermione was at work putting two and two together. He waited until she was ready to share.
‘Draco—I don’t think you were hit,’ she said at last.
This was not what Draco had been hoping to hear. Of course, he had been hit—he had felt it—lived it. ‘That’s impossible. I felt it Hermione. I flew backwards in the air for Merlin’s sake. Thrust into the ground!’ He was more than prepared to argue this point.
‘No, Draco—you don’t understand. Someone was hit—but it wasn’t you.’
She was right he didn’t understand.
‘If it wasn’t me that was hit, Hermione, how do you explain my sudden flight or the pain resounding in my torso,’ Draco pointed to his upper body—it still very much hurt to breathe.
‘The same way I explain this,’ she said, taking his palm and placing it squarely on her cheek where a bruise grew darker.
He had forgotten all about her injury, her moment of pain, having been overwhelmed by his own.
She continued. ‘Draco—you weren’t hit. Neither was I slapped. But—‘ she paused briefly choosing her words carefully, ‘But, they were—‘
‘Who is they?’ Draco prompted.
‘James and Narcissa! James and your mother!’ She had forgotten that he had not witnessed the events of the past as she had.
Draco still didn’t understand, however.
‘So what are we connected to them somehow?’ he blurted out. He was so frustrated and it read plainly on his face.
‘Actually, Draco—I think that is precisely what we are,’ Hermione’s voice was slightly ominous. ‘I don’t think we are meant to see what happens to James and your mother. I think we are meant to relive it—every bit of it.’
Tears were streaming down her face, but she brushed them aside quickly so that Draco would not notice. He had become very good at sensing any changes in her temperament and she didn’t want to give him reason to worry, anymore than she already had, that is.
He was so furious. This was not what he had signed up for...none of this was. If you were to ask him truthfully, however, he was more scared than anything.
What did this mean? What did it all mean—to relive another’s memory.
‘It seems,’ Hermione carried on partly in response to Draco’s thoughts, ‘that, based on our respective injuries at least, you are linked directly to James and I am linked to Narcissa. It must be due to the rebound somehow—like we are all on the same wavelength or plane or something. But, this also means that nothing is set in stone, I suppose—especially given what we know and what we’ve already experienced with the rebound ourselves.’
‘What do we do now, then?’ he asked her, dread lining every inch of his voice. He couldn’t help it; he couldn’t pretend that he had hope anymore. ‘Wait?’ His tone was rough and aggressive.
‘We go after them I suppose?’ Hermione suggested in an attempt to abate him. ‘Are you ok now to walk?’
Her voice was gentle and he could tell she was worried. ‘No—‘ he answered truthfully. ‘But I will be.’
At this, Hermione helped Draco to his feet, albeit carefully so as to not agitate any of his many cuts and scrapes; and, they headed, rather reluctantly, in the direction of the hospital wing.
Memory travel, Hermione mused, was turning out to be much more complicated than she had originally thought.
And, she was beginning to think she didn’t like it—not one bit.
-- A/N --
So this chapter has been in the works for over a year now. And, seeing as its been forever since I've updated, I thought it was high time I put quill to parchment.
Chapter 25 in the works already. In the meantime--check out the Narcissa/James companion story now up!
Thanks for your patience and for sticking with this story. It really means a lot to me as a writer. And I assure you, Draco and Hermione's journey is far from over.
As always, constructive criticism, opinions and comments are welcomed and appreciated.
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