Chapter 10 : Hermione: Nothing But Emptiness
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My chest hurt as I tumbled out of the fireplace into the Weasley’s living room. The fire didn’t feel like the usual tingling, warm sensation. It felt hot and sharp like I was tied to a stake, like I deserved to burn in hell for what I had just done. I knew it wasn’t the right decision, but I put myself first stupidly and as soon as I got back, I realised what I had done. I stood staring at the empty fireplace, wondering what would happen if I climbed back in and went back to him …
I was so ready to be his completely. Draco Malfoy and I, a family. With a child. I had been fretting about our meeting since I took the test and his reaction was the best it could be. I mean, he asked me to move in with him! He was kind, underneath it all. Draco was a gentleman and he cared about me. It was amazing how a child could bring people together, could make enemies allies, friends. And even as I stood staring at the dusty armchair in the Weasley’s living room, I could not help but see myself and Draco and a little fair-haired child between us. I could see us happy, complete, a family. And he was right; I would have given up Harry, Ron and Ginny in a heartbeat if it meant that we could raise a child together …
What was wrong with me? There was no child. There was nothing. I should forget about him, but it did not seem possible. He even said he would give me a child if I wanted him to. Didn’t he understand? I would have let him had it not been for my impulse to get back to my best friends. If I had, it would be like I was purposely defying my relationship with Ron. In the Leaky Cauldron, it was a drunken accident, but any other time it would have been a premeditated course of action, a blatant breach of trust and a full blown affair. On the other hand, I could not help but think that it would be better if I chose to sleep with him, rather than let alcohol choose for me. I should have let him …
Accidents beget life changes, which generally create decisions and my life was recently full of them. In the space of a week or so, all within my head circulated around Draco and not Ron and I. I should have been thinking about him, us. We had years together and Draco and I only had a week, one unplanned evening, yet my feelings for him were battling against my feelings for Ron and coming in at first place. Did he feel the same way? He was my first and nothing would change that and like a magnetic pull, somehow I felt my heart, mind and body belonged to him and not myself. My heart was in Malfoy Manor. Here, in the Burrow, I felt like an empty shell, hollow and deficient, like something was missing. And that something was him.
Angelina walked into the living room from the kitchen with a mug of tea in her hand. “That was fast. Are you all right?” She had spotted my red eyes.
“Oh, the soot got in my eyes.” I wiped my face on my sleeve. “Erm, Gringotts was full, so I walked around for a while and then gave up. Is anyone else up yet?”
“No. Well, Charlie’s gone out and Bill and Fleur have gone home, but besides that, everyone else is in bed.” She came over and whispered, “Harry’s in Ginny’s room.”
I nodded. “So I take it you’re with George - in his room I mean.”
She smiled. “In more ways than one,” she winked.
“Congratulations,” I said as I hugged her. My eyes stung as fresh tears made their way out of my eyes. How I envied her. We had both slept with somebody on the same day and yet it was only her who was celebrating. My lip quivered. “Erm - what did George say?”
“He was very quiet at first. Then he asked me if I was sure so I took another test. I told him that I wouldn’t have slept with him unless I wanted to and that was it really. We’re telling his parents today and then mine tomorrow.”
Smiling rigidly, I congratulated her once more and then walked upstairs to the bathroom. After washing my face and trying to leave my mind blank, I went up to Ronald’s room to find him sat on the edge of his bed waiting for me.
“When did you get up?” I asked him.
“Only a few minutes ago. You?”
“About fifteen minutes ago.” He patted the bed beside him and I reluctantly sat down.
“You look upset,” he told me.
I shrugged, but before I could think of a lie I was crying heavily, my chest bursting with pain. I fell into Ron’s arms and he held onto me whispering, “What is it, Hermione? What’s wrong?”
I didn’t speak for a while.
For a good ten minutes, my sorrows and my tears spilled over Ron’s shoulder. I was so stupid! Crying, bawling, because I hated how sorry my life had turned out. My heart hurt so badly and all because of another man, not the one I was holding onto right now, but because of Draco Malfoy. I wasn’t ready to have a child, but in the space of half an hour he had convinced me that I was, that we were and that we would get through it together. And now, nothing. Nothing but emptiness…
“Ssh …” Ron soothed. “Come on. Tell me what’s up.”
“I - I thought …” My hands twisted painfully on his clothes.
“You thought what?”
“I thought that I …” Was pregnant. Say it, Hermione. Say it, you stupid girl. Tell him that you slept with Draco Malfoy and that you thought you were implanted with one of his little pureblood, muggle-hating seeds. Tell him, so that you would have no other choice but to go back to him. That’s what you want, isn’t it, you irresponsible wench?! You want to go back to Malfoy Manor, so go ahead and tell Ron and then you will have your invitation back.
But the look on Draco’s face when I left … He couldn’t even look at me. I told him that I was happy that I wasn’t pregnant and that I wouldn’t have to stay with him. He had actually cried. Surely, he wouldn’t let me come back after that? He must hate me for what I did. There was no turning back now.
“Hermione?” Ron asked concernedly.
“I - I thought … that I was going to lose you …” A few more tears rolled down from my tight shut eyes as I lied once more to him.
Ron laughed quietly. “No. You won’t ever lose me, Hermione. I know now that you’d never do anything to hurt me. Those articles were a pile of dung and I don’t know why I ever doubted you.”
I cried some more at that.
“Just promise me something,” Ron said quietly. I nodded while my head hung over his shoulder. But he pulled me away so that I was facing him. “Promise me that you’ll stay away from Malfoy. I don’t want you to give the papers any more ammunition to make up stories about you.”
I blinked a couple of times. “Yes,” I whispered. “I promise.”
I promised, even though I knew it would hurt me. I promised even though I knew it would hurt Draco. I promised even though it was wrong on so many levels. What a fool I was.
It turned out that it was some kind of food poisoning and I suppose this would be the part where somebody laughed. Ha ha ha. Hilarious. The virus spread quickly around the household, spiralling into a horrid stomach bug which made living in the Burrow a terrible experience.
Mine had cleared up first, although I had inevitably passed some onto Ron - and probably Draco too, I thought to myself - who had somehow given it to Percy, then Charlie, then Mr and Mrs Weasley, Ginny, then George and Angelina. Harry was the only one lucky enough not to be ill.
Due to Angelina’s pregnancy - which Mrs Weasley seemed delighted with - she decided not to heal her herself, but to send her in to St Mungo’s for a safer treatment. Angelina moaned at this and suddenly doubted staying with the Weasley’s - she had officially moved in and was trying to convince George to go back to the flat above the joke shop, but he just wasn’t ready yet.
Angelina’s baby was due some time in January and I could not help but think that mine would have been also. It was nearly September now and Ginny was getting ready to go back to Hogwarts for her final year. Yes, I would have been about four months pregnant by now and I was stabbed with heartbreaking jealousy whenever I saw Angelina and her tiny bump about the house. I tried not to talk to her much to make me feel better, but it never really helped. I would just feel incredibly guilty for being so pathetically moronic and so rude to her when she had not intentionally done anything to hurt me.
Harry and Ginny were going into Diagon Alley to do some shopping and had invited Ron and I to tag along. I gratefully accepted to get away from Mrs Weasley talking for hours on end about her first grandchild. She never stopped. It was always ‘baby’ this and ‘baby’ that and even Ginny had started. I wanted to curse them whenever they said the ‘B’ word.
It had been raining all day, so when we emerged from the fireplaces and made our way into Gringotts bank, most of the dirt had been washed away. Ginny had her arm through Harry’s and my hand was clasped tightly between Ron’s fingers as we went inside. The bank was still busy so we had to wait a while to go to the vaults. The goblins looked on at us shrewdly, probably remembering the occasion where Harry, Ron and I had forced our way in and out, in the process smashing the place half to smithereens.
Harry and Ron looked at each other and laughed.
“Do you think they’ve forgiven us?” Ron joked sarcastically.
“They can’t exactly throw us out,” Harry said.
Ginny shook her head. “I don’t know how you did it …”
Ron took this as his cue to tell the tale again, speaking extremely loudly so that the other witches and wizards around us could hear the story firsthand.
“… biggest dragon I’ve ever seen, but I wasn’t scared …”
Just when I was about to tell Ron to be quiet and to stop drawing attention to us, I saw him. Draco had emerged from the other side of the hall, stowing a money bag into his pocket.
“… that vault was full with all kinds of gold. Shame we couldn’t take any of it …”
Oh god, he could see me. I was soaking wet, holding onto Ron’s hand and he was staring at me. I tried to pull away but Ron’s grip was iron tight.
“… burnt holes straight through our robes, it did …”
It was almost as if I could see him hurting. I knew that he was grinding his teeth together slowly as he looked down into the polished floor and began to walk towards the door, towards us.
Please let him ignore us, I hoped.
“… and then when we were trapped, I thought we were going to die -”
“Oh, we could only hope,” Draco muttered as he passed Ron.
Harry swung around and said, “What did you just say?”
“You heard me, Potter. He’d be doing us all a favour if he just died.”
Ron turned a violent red colour and pushed Draco backwards. He stumbled, regained his footing and laughed.
“You stay away from us,” Ron spat. He stood in front of me protectively and I looked over his shoulder nervously.
Draco darted his eyes towards me and sneered. “Her?” he asked vehemently. “You really think I’d do anything with that mudblood?” He pointed at me fiercely as I stared at him with a stone cold expression. On the inside, my heart was breaking. I could barely breathe. “You must be out of your tiny little mind, Weasley, to believe the Daily Prophet.”
“I don’t believe it,” Ron said strongly.
“Good,” he said. “Because I’d rather be tortured into insanity than lay one finger on her dirty body.”
It was so hard to keep my tears falling from my watery eyes, but as soon as Harry and Ron took their wands out and pointed them at him, the goblins got mad, the crowd got agitated and I had a sneaky chance to wipe my eyes while Draco sauntered out into the rain.
“Let’s go,” I said to Ron while pushing him to the other side of the bank.
When we had gotten all the money we needed, Harry and Ron went to look at broomsticks, while Ginny and I were in Madam Malkin’s shop getting new dress robes.
When I had just decided on a nice dark purple set, Ginny turned to me and said, “You’re upset, aren’t you?”
Without looking at her, I replied, “No. Why should I be?” I ran my fingers over the sleeve of the robes soothingly.
“You can’t seriously be trying to pretend that what he said earlier didn’t hurt you?” Ginny put a pink set of dress robes back on a shelf and faced me, looking determined.
“It didn’t.” What was wrong with her? If she knew I was upset, why was she badgering me about it? This certainly wasn’t going to make me feel better; I could feel the tears stinging behind my lids as she spoke. “Why would it?” I whispered in a faraway voice.
Ginny stamped her foot and my head shot up to look at her. “Why are you doing this to yourself?” she asked me angrily.
“I’m not doing any -”
“Yes you are! You’re actually falling for Draco Malfoy and you don’t even have to decency to admit it.”
I scoffed. “I am not falling for Draco Malfoy.” But I knew a lie when I heard one - and more importantly, so did Ginny.
Holy cow, I was falling in love with Draco Malfoy …
I went over to Madam Malkin so she could put my robes in a bag, I passed over the money and turned to Ginny, eyes watering involuntarily.
“You are,” she whispered. “You are. I saw your face in Gringotts. You looked so hurt. Kind of like how I was feeling when Harry broke up with me after Dumbledore died. And do you know what the saddest part of this is?”
I sniffed and moved away from the shop owner. “That I’m deluding myself?”
Ginny shook her head. “No. That he’s falling for you too.”
“Ha!” I exclaimed. “Now you’re the deluded one.”
“He is, Hermione.”
She pulled me into a tight hug and I let her pat my shoulder as I cried quietly over her shoulder.
“How do you know?” I said, my voice barely above a whisper.
Her mouth beside my ear, she said quietly, “Because he’s standing outside, in the rain, looking at you right now.”
I shook my head. “He’s not. He’s not. Ginny, don’t lie to me.”
“Just take a look,” she encouraged.
Face burning hot, I removed myself from her shoulder and looked through the shop window. It was raining heavily now, water white-washing the windows, people running about with packages over their heads because they - like ourselves - had foolishly forgotten to bring an umbrella.
And there he was.
Standing right there, on the other side of the glass, hair looking browner, plastered to his face, body soaked, staring at me.
I walked to the other side of the shop, to the left of the door to where he stood. Opposite to him, just glass between us, I looked through the blurry window into his grey eyes. Was this the metaphor of my life? Was I going after something I could never have? Was I not seeing clearly?
But how could I not be attracted to him? He cared about me really, otherwise he wouldn’t be staring at me intently, getting soaked through and through, standing in the cold just to look at me.
The corners of my lips lifted. My hopes of him returning my smile were dashed as he turned and began walking through the streets. My feet took me out of the door to follow him. I could feel Ginny’s glare on me, but I didn’t care. Feet splashing in the puddles and hair getting wet, I lightly ran through people to catch up with him. He was heading for the entrance into the Leaky Cauldron and I was getting close. If it had not been for a wizard who bent down to pick up a fallen bag of potion ingredients, I would have caught him. Instead, I tripped over this man’s foot and fell into the deepest puddle I had seen in my life, mud all over me.
Ginny appeared by my side and pulled me up by my arm. “Are you alright?”
I looked up. Draco had gone.
“I’m fine,” I whispered. The tears on my face were indistinguishable from the rain.
Ginny and I walked silently back down the street until she finally said, “You have to tell Ron.”
“What?” I asked as I used my wand to siphon the mud from my face and clothes.
“You don’t love him anymore -”
“You don’t love him romantically anymore and I’m not condoning your affair.”
“It’s hardly an affair, Ginny. Draco doesn’t want to speak to me.”
“And he shouldn’t! He knows this is wrong, so why don’t you see that it is, Hermione?”
My mouth gaped open. “I do!”
“You don’t. If you had a shred of decency or loyalty to your friends you would tell Harry and Ron.”
My chest felt tight as she stared at me angrily. Shaking my head, I said, “I can’t.”
Ginny shrugged without compassion. “Fine. But you must never see Draco again. Not if you can’t admit the truth.”
“You’re giving me an ultimatum?”
“Too right I am, Hermione,” Ginny muttered sternly. “When are you going to get it in your head that you can’t be with two people at once?”
“I know that …” I was starting to feel like a schoolchild being told off by their teacher.
“Clearly you don’t. So … either we can forget this all happened and you can keep your precious secret. Or … ?”
“Or I tell Ron.”
* 10th September 1999
About a year had passed since that unfortunate event in Diagon Alley and I had not seen Draco. Ginny had left school and began working part time in Flourish and Blotts. Angelina had given birth to little Fred Weasley on January 8th and she and George had moved out into the flat above the shop. Similarly, Fleur was pregnant and Percy had gotten engaged to a woman named Audrey. As you could probably guess, I decided to stay with Ron, but I knew deep down that my heart protested.
It was Autumn of 1999 and at the age of 19 (20 in nine days) I had finally joined the Ministry of Magic’s Law Enforcement team. I was working very low down at the moment while Harry and Ron had gotten a years head start. I didn’t fancy doing Auror training just yet; the war was still fresh in my mind and I needed a well-earned break.
The kind of things I did was get people coffee and filing mostly. It was like I was everybody’s personal assistant. The only people who did not boss me about and the only people who seemed to know how to use please and thank you were Harry, Ron and a nice young witch named Evelyn Puckle. She was 25 and a Hit Wizard - one of the youngest on the team. I had considered her a good friend.
I was sitting at my tiny desk eating lunch in the corner of the bustling office, when she came over with her head in her hands after a very long four-hour meeting.
“What’s up?” I asked, after sipping my juice.
“What’s up?!” she repeated agitatedly. Her short brown hair was sticking up in all directions today. Something must have been wrong. “What is up is that stupid old tosser Robards has ordered a crackdown on all suspected, released, and uncaptured death eaters! That’s thousands of people!”
“And how is that going to work?” I asked eagerly. I never usually got this kind of news. Harry and Ron mostly were doing Auror training and didn’t really hear all the juicy gossip, however this time I would because they were in this meeting also. I was happy that I was hearing about this early - before the boys relayed it to me dramatically.
She threw down a file onto my desk and I dropped my turkey sandwich to flick through it.
“Well, all aurors and hit wizards have been given one of these. They’ve collected names over the years of families and businesses in league with the dark arts and he intends to raid all of them without any warning in some stupid plan to get rid of the last death eaters and eliminate the possibility of a revolt. He calls it a ‘pre-emptive strike on the opposition.’ Does he not understand that there are no sides anymore? Just because he’s Head of the Auror Office, he thinks he can do whatever he likes. And worst of all, the Minister approved it!”
“Evie, how is this bad? Isn’t this a good idea? To find out who was involved in all the dark stuff years ago?”
“That’s just it, Hermione. This was years ago. By now people have had time to think of cover stories and go into hiding. Also, he’s gone and put out a bill that says you can bring them all in for interrogation and anyone who has been proved to have any involvement in the dark arts can be immediately given a minimum three years sentence in Azkaban without trial. There’s not enough money or time to do this for the hundreds he has on that list, let alone the ones we don’t know about. Azkaban will be overfull in the next few months! He’s gonna crackdown without any warning, completely ignoring people’s human rights. They’ve even decided not to tell the public. Only ministry members know and it’s top secret - you can’t even tell your families. The Prophet have been told not to print anything until the Minister says so. He doesn’t want people to think the dark arts are thriving again.”
“Does he think so?” I flicked past the page which had a picture profile of Gregory Goyle.
“‘Possibly,’” she quoted bitterly. “Which means he doesn’t know what to think. There’s been some activity, but when has there not been? Anyway he’s roping in some Junior Aurors to sit in with interrogations, so Harry and Ron will have something interesting to do in the next few weeks.”
“Lucky them,” I said sullenly.
She smiled. “I know. You don’t get anything much to do, but this year is different and not for the better. Because of Project: Capture everyone in Law Enforcement has to be in work during the Christmas period. It’s mandatory.”
“What?” I exclaimed. “What exactly could they need me for?”
“Well probably filing on the people they caught - if they get any. They may need you as a scriber for interrogations or just to do little errands for everyone.”
“Lovely,” I said.
“Don’t worry, Hermione. You’ve got it easy compared to rest of us now that - Are you okay?”
My face had frozen stiff as I looked down to the page:
NAME: MALFOY, Draco
BLOOD STATUS: Pureblood
MARITAL STATUS: Unknown
APPEARANCE: Around 6ft, light blonde hair, grey eyes, slim build
WAND: (Ollivander) 10”, Hawthorn, Unicorn hair core (possibly no longer in possession) / New unknown wand
PARENTS: Mr Lucius Malfoy (imprisoned) and Mrs Narcissa Malfoy (location unknown)
RESIDENCE: Malfoy Manor, Wiltshire, England, United Kingdom (high protection)
EDUCATION: Home schooling (age 4-11), HOGWARTS School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (age 11-16)
QUALIFICATIONS: 10 O.W.Ls, Apparition Pass Certificate
SUSPECTED/ILLICIT ACTIVITY: Death eater activity, possible murder plots
ASSOCIATIONS: Malfoy family and dwelling have been known to be associated with the dark arts for over a decade. Father imprisoned for death eater activity and association with Lord Voldemort. Frequent visits to Borgin and Burkes in youth.
INSTRUCTIONS: AQR (Apprehend, Question, Release/Remand)
NOTES: May bear the Dark Mark, reasonable force allowed during capture, Veritaserum may be used for questioning if he does not talk, take his wand for examination, try to find location of Narcissa Malfoy, permission to keep for overnight interrogation
Beside this was an accompanying moving full-colour photograph. Draco looked down, then looked straight at me with a plain face and empty grey eyes. Never how I remembered them.
“Hermione?” Evie called for the umpteenth time. “Hermione, what is it? Do you know him?”
“What?” I dragged my eyes away from the page and looked at Evie’s worried face.
“Do you know this Draco Malfoy?” She took a good look at the page.
“Erm … no … I - I erm went to school with him. It was … just a surprise, that’s all.”
“The whole thing is.” She picked up the file. “At times like this, I’d love to resign.”
“Why don’t you?” I whispered.
“Are you crazy? The money’s too good. See you later.” She skipped over to her desk on the other side of the room and threw her folder down. Meanwhile, floods of people from the meeting returned and filled the room and as if from nowhere, hundreds of red flyers landed on each desk.
It had ‘PROJECT: CAPTURE’ in black bold print on the front with the hundred or so names of suspects and instructions from the Minister. These included the secrecy element, the mandatory work over Christmas and the departments involvement. Inside, the list had been compiled based on priority. I knew Draco was high priority so I looked to that section and saw that there was only sixteen other names - including Narcissa Malfoy - so it was only a matter of time …
That night when I went home to the Burrow, I looked over the list and already three low priority names had magically crossed themselves off the list - the harsh strikethrough made me nervous.
Harry and Ron came into Ron’s room, where I had been lying across his bed checking the list.
“Great, isn’t it?” Ron said over my shoulder. I looked at him. “Project: Capture. Finally I feel like part of something good since the war.”
“If you call invading people’s privacy good …” I muttered. “Some of these people could be perfectly innocent, you know.”
“But most aren’t.”
I turned to Harry. “Why aren’t there dates on here? The dates that they are capturing.”
“Because the Aurors don’t decide until last minute in case someone tips them off. Amazing.”
“Mmmh,” I agreed quickly. “Do you know when they’ll be getting the high priority ones?” I asked, faking vague curiosity.
“In the next couple of months I expect. Remember not to tell anyone about this. We can’t even tell Ginny.”
I nodded but I doubted that I would keep my promise. As soon as I got in I wanted to tell Ginny but I was just waiting for her to get back from work. Poor Draco. I knew they would lock him up if they knew about his Dark Mark and his plot against Dumbledore wouldn’t help. I had to do something, didn’t I?
Ron looked at me. “Are you okay?”
“Fine,” I muttered.
“Good.” He moved over to me and kissed me. Harry immediately turned away. He still probably could not get over the idea of his two best friends getting together.
“Excited about your birthday?” Harry asked me.
Shrugging, I said, “Same every year, isn’t it?”
“Not this year.” Ron looked at Harry knowingly.
Squinting my eyes at them, I tried to figure out what Ron was planning. But I could not guess. I would not know until my birthday that my gift would be him asking for my hand in marriage.
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