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Chapter 5 : 'Witch!'
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As my eyes opened the next morning, I was sure that what I had just experienced was an ethereal dream or a strangely realistic fantasy. But I was wrong beyond my comprehension. Malfoy was holding me tight as he slept, with his arm around my waist; his warm breath skimmed my cheek and his hair mixed with my own. He was laying so close to me that there was no denying what we did, although I never would. Him, maybe, but not me.
Sure, I was sore all over. Not only from my injuries when I had almost been robbed, but from last night. It hurt to sit up, but I did anyway, wrapped in the bed sheets and looked down at him, fearing what would happen when he woke up. Would he tell me how he felt? It would surprise me if he didn’t ignore the feelings that had accumulated between us. All the same, he looked so content as he slept beside me, he even rubbed his hand over the warm spot where I had just been laying.
I held onto his hand and he slowly woke up. His vacant eyes looked at me as though he could see through me. Frowning, I tried to make out what he was looking for.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” I whispered.
He pushed himself up and noticed that he was naked. He pulled the sheets over himself.
“Don’t get all embarrassed now, Malfoy,” I whispered sadly. I knew he would be like this.
Closing his eyes, he said, “You’re not to talk to anyone about this.”
“What?” I said, outraged. “Who have I got to tell? You’re the only person I talk to. I would say that you were my only friend, but seeing as you cant even admit that …”
I turned away from him to hide my anger and disappointment.
“I …” he began timidly. “Just give me time … okay?”
“Time?” I said shrilly, staring at the wall. “We’ve been living together since you came to the safehouse. And then when we left you had months to -”
“I don’t know if last night was …” I watched as he searched for the words. “Right.”
“You don’t know if it was right? You initiated the whole thing.”
“How do you know?” he asked with his eyes focused on his languid hands.
Turning around, I said, “What?”
“How do you know that you love me?”
And he just stared at me, as if he were asking me something as inane and trivial as what programme was on the television next. This was so complicated that I just couldn’t put it into coherent words, into an orderly sentence. Whenever I thought of him, my vocabulary shrunk and my speech and thoughts would be one large indistinct babble. How could I possibly explain how my head had gone from saying ‘no’ to my heart saying ‘yes’? No language could accommodate the words that would fully capture how all of my prior rationality had metaphorically gone out of the window and been replaced with feelings of adoration when I should be hating every fibre of his body. History was there to be learnt from, so what the hell was I doing falling in love with Draco Malfoy?
“What do you mean?” I asked, wishing for anything but that question.
“I mean, how do you know? When did you know?”
Swallowing hard, I said softly, “You … you cared enough to help me when n-no one else would. It didn’t matter that I hated you at Hogwarts … I knew it when we started living together. I don’t know how, but I just did.”
Malfoy frowned, somewhat confused. “How do you know that what you’re feeling isn’t just some strong sexual desire?”
“Well, if it was just a sexual desire, I wouldn’t be attracted to you anymore, would I?”
“That’s what I thought.” He smiled a little as if he had just figured out a really hard puzzle. “That’s exactly what I thought! You see, last night was an experiment of mine …”
“Excuse me?” I said, offended.
“I d-didn’t mean it like that …” His faced turned a little red and then he got up and began putting on his clothes while he talked. He faced the wall, probably because he was embarrassed. Sad, but true.
“I thought that if I slept with you, I’d know what this was.”
“You said you loved me,” I tested shakily, my voice a shade above a whisper.
He shook his head, still facing the wall. “I told Helen Morris that I loved her. Daniel Morris told his wife what she wanted to hear.”
“So what are you saying?”
He breathed heavily into a vacant sigh. “I’m saying that Draco Malfoy wasn’t so sure about Hermione Granger.”
“So you used me?” I said, finally realising that once again, he was not to be trusted. I was so stupid. I crossed the room, pulled on my dress, picked up my bag and left. The bathroom was empty so I stepped in to clean myself up, each move I made aching from physical and mental pain.
When I returned, he was gone. Probably for good. I sat on the bed and looked through my things, counting the money and trying to figure out what to do next. My mind was scrambled. Should I find my best friends? Did I have any other choice? Where I would begin, Merlin knows, but my safest bet was to stay in and around London in the hope that word of their location would appear.
Hitching my bag onto my shoulder, I left through the swinging front doors and sat on the wall as I tied my shoelaces.
Someone sat beside me.
“I thought you were gone,” I told Malfoy monotonously.
“No,” he said. He handed me a sandwich. “I brought you this.”
“Thanks,” I said dully as I took it and ate it. It had peanut butter in it and I ate chunks of it even though the taste was putrid.
Then I got up and started walking.
He was following me. “Got any ideas for where we should go next?”
Face heating up, I spewed, “Why are you following me, Malfoy?” A tear fell from my face. “What do you want? More games? Your little experiment not enough for you?”
I turned onto a high street where hundreds of people were out shopping and meeting people. Muggle people were doing their regular day-to-day business with not a care in the world. Leaning through the crowd, I hoped to shake him off but he sure was persistent.
“You misunderstand me,” he said, getting out of breath from the pace that he was following me at. I rushed through market stalls, bumping into people and for once not caring that I had done so and not apologising to them.
Malfoy caught my hand and pulled me aside to the back entrance of a shop. I watched the people walk by us as I caught my breath.
“What exactly am I misunderstanding?” I said, with my arms folded.
“I asked you how you knew you loved me and whether it was just a sexual desire. Because that’s what I thought. I thought that while you were telling me all of those things, giving me plenty of signs -”
“So you noticed, then?”
“Of course I did,” he said, slightly offended. “I’m not stupid. You were practically throwing yourself at me.”
That was it. I stamped out of the shadows, but he yanked on my arm again. “Get off me Malfoy,” I said darkly.
“Is he bothering you?” a small man selling fruit asked.
“Yes,” I said.
The man made to move around the fruit to help me, but Malfoy stepped backwards.
“No, I’m not,” he said, loosening his grip. “She’s my girlfriend.”
“I’m not his girlfriend,” I pressed.
“She is,” he persisted. The man stared at us with an unconvincing eye. “Are you trying to get me in a prison cell again?” he raged.
“You’re wasting my time,” I said lightly.
“Just listen,” he muttered tiredly. “I thought that if we spent the night together that I would know how I felt afterwards. If I felt nothing then what my head does whenever you walked into the room would just be me wanting to screw you and that’s it.”
“And what exactly does your head do when I walk in the room?” I asked testily.
“I get confused,” he admitted unhappily. “I look at you in a certain way. In a way that I had never imagined you and I’d like it. I hated that. But when I was with you, Granger, I realised I wanted more. I wouldn’t just be satisfied by having a one night stand. Like you said, you were still attracted to me after last night. You still are.”
“Listen to me,” he stressed, annoyed. “Just shut up for once, Granger, please.” My mouth hung open. “My point is that I still get that feeling. When I saw you this morning … it never went away. Me wanting you never went away because I’d happily be with you again one hundred times over. It wasn’t just a sexual desire I have for you have.”
Without looking at him, I said, “Then what is it?”
He took my face in his hands, his soft fingertips caressing my cheeks, each stroke filled with a tempting lust that sent my heart beating one million times a minute. “You know what it is.” His mouth reached down for mine but before we could make contact, I whispered, “Say it.”
“What?” he asked as if I was asking him to do the impossible.
“I already did.”
“No,” I said and I shuffled away from him. “You told Helen Morris that you loved her. In fact, Daniel Morris, told his wife that he loved her. That wasn’t you. It was all an act. It has been ever since we left the safehouse. How do I know that anything you have said to me wasn’t a lie?”
“That’s right, I don’t. Because you’re Draco Malfoy, pureblood badass who doesn’t give a damn about other people or their feelings. Certainly not second class muggleborn witches who don’t even have the worthiness to shine your shoes. Why should I believe a word that comes out of your mouth? This could all be another act. You pretended to be my boyfriend, so why not pretend to love me? Pretend that you love the girl you put down, the girl you cursed, belittled, the girl you scared every single day that she was in Hogwarts -”
“I never scared you,” he said quietly.
“Didn’t you? Just because I held my head high, it didn’t mean that I wasn’t terrified whenever I saw you in the corridors or whenever you walked into the classrooms. I feared what you would do to me if we were alone together. Why did you think I stuck so close to Harry and Ron or - or the professors? I needed their protection. From you.”
He genuinely looked hurt. I had hurt him. But he had no idea how much he hurt me - even now. He couldn’t possibly know. I felt as though I was betraying my own common sense. For years I told myself to stay away from him and now I was turning my back on that strong girl I used to be, forgetting what I had told myself all those years ago. Malfoy was bad news. He can’t have changed.
“I didn’t want to -”
“Hurt me? Is that what you were going to say, Malfoy? Well you did. Not on the outside, but here.” I put my hand over my heart. “On the inside. I was terrified of you. I trusted you to help me months ago because I was desperate and now here you are being vague again like you have for months and I don’t know what to do! I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. I have no friends, no family and only you for company. I hate you so much right now.”
“I thought you said -”
“I do love you, Malfoy. But the difference between you and me is the fact that I have the guts to admit it.”
“Just … give me time,” he tried again. “Granger, we -”
I balled up my fists in anger. “Wake up, Malfoy! There is no time. Half of the City is burning and our kind are becoming more and more extinct by the minute! Either you tell me now that you love me or you don’t. There’s no better place than here and now. What have we learnt from doing all of this running? That nothing is certain. We didn’t know all of this would happen when we were in school. We thought that Voldemort would be gone and that’s it. But things have changed and we just have to deal with it. So?”
Malfoy stared at me. “What?”
“Have you not been listening to a word I’ve said?!” I raged at him. “You are so …” I grunted loudly. The word annoyed did not even cover how pissed off I was at him.
“Granger, I’m a man. It’s hard … with all of this talk about feelings and love … Y-you can’t expect me to admit something we’ve already established, something you already know. ”
“So just say it.”
“What is your problem?”
“What is my problem? What is my problem? My problem is you, Malfoy. You got me out of the safehouse, for which I am grateful, but ever since then you floated further and further away from me when I tried to bring us closer. And just when we make some progress, you - you -”
He kissed me firmly and lovingly; his hand was secured around my chin and his open mouth groped my own, the tip of his tongue joining the embrace tenderly. After a moment or two of enjoyment, I remembered that I was supposed to be mad at him. Withdrawing my arm, I slapped his cheek and shoved him away from me with both hands.
Flinching, he said, “That didn’t even hurt.”
“It wasn’t supposed to.” I wiped my mouth and regained my composure. “Don’t think that kissing me will make what you’ve done any less annoying. I just want you away from me.”
He frowned. “I didn’t get that impression last night.”
“That was before you decided that I’m not special enough to know how your tiny little brain works. You see, it stinks being a lowly mudblood.”
“Don’t use that word,” he spoke softly.
“Why? You loved it! And speaking like an arrogant bully seems to be the only language you understand!” He leaned towards me and I jumped back as if trying to avoid the plague. “Just stay away from me.”
Malfoy took my hand and said, “Granger, I - I lo - I really do, just -”
“Didn’t seem that way when you were screwing that blond tramp from your workplace in my bed.”
He gritted his teeth. “I didn’t feel anything for her; I was drunk. It didn’t count.”
“Not drunk enough to throw me out. You were clear about that. You don’t love me and you don’t need to feel sorry for me. There’s no need to feel pressured into saying it. You don’t owe me anything.”
“You know I do, Granger. It’s just hard, I’ve never said it before and really meant it.”
Smiling sadly, I said, “You can’t say it so don’t hurt yourself trying to.” My hand slipped from his grasp. “I think we should go our separate ways from here.”
“What? No! We can’t split up now, we -”
I pressed my fingers to his lips. “There is no ‘we’. there never really was and there never will be. You made that clear only moments ago. How would we have a relationship when you can’t even express your feelings to me? This must just be a phase I’m going through. Nothing more. I plan to find my friends, find Ron …”
“No,” he pleaded. He knew what would happen if I found him. I would be Ron’s again. “Granger, you can’t. What about us?”
“This is nothing. It would never ever work out. I’m sorry.” I ignored the tears forming in my eyes.
He stood there shocked and generally appalled at what I was suggesting. My wand shifted in my hand. I wondered if I Obliviated him whether it would make things better. Then I had an idea.
“Erase my memory,” I told him.
“No,” he blurted. “How could I -?”
“Only so that I forget the last few months. Change my memories so that I remember the witch trials, but not you.”
“Granger, no. You can’t ask me to do this.”
“I already have.”
“I’m not doing it. I don’t want you to forget me.” Neither did I. That much was clear, but what other choice did I have? These last few months were so life-changing and would affect everything I did from hereon in. I didn’t want to forget him. I would very much prefer to keep these loving memories of him rather than the bullying, scathing ones but it was better that way. All would be as it should.
“I’m only asking you because I don’t think I can do it. It would take too much concentration to try to do it to myself and I just don’t have the energy right now.”
“Then I guess you’re not doing it, because I’m not helping you. Let’s go.” He held his hand out to me for me to take, but instead I pulled my wand out of my sleeve and pressed the tip against my temple. “Granger, don’t you dare say another word.” His face contained nothing but fear, fear of one small incantation.
A tear fell from my eye. “I have to …”
“I’ll say it,” he whispered as he held my teary face in his hands. “I will. For you. Just - just don’t. Granger, I love y -”
“OH MY GOD!” I tore my eyes away from Malfoy to see an old lady drop her shopping bags and point at me, saying that damning word which would seal my fate: “WITCH!”
There was panic as more and more people rounded the corner to see my wand in my hand and Malfoy by my side.
“WITCH!” the woman shouted again, pointing at me.
The whispers travelled through the crowds. Some people ran away, scared, while others scrambled to their phones to call the police or their families - some had decided to take pictures and videos.
A few people came forward and Malfoy grabbed my arm to pull me backwards. “What the hell are you doing?” he whispered to me. “Put your wand down.”
Instinctively, I had held it up to defend myself. I put my arm down, but it was too late, some people had advanced on us and then we were running, hand in hand sprinting down the street while the rabble of people shouted dirty threats at me.
A police car hurtled around the corner and then we ran hard left. My heart was burning as I tried to keep up with Malfoy, my fingers barely in his own. He was so fast, dodging everything and everyone to leave, but I fell down as someone threw something hard at my head.
My shaking hand felt the stinging on the back of my skull. There was bleeding, lots of it, and my vision doubled confusedly. It hurt so much …
Just move, Hermione. Get up. Run. Now.
Screaming for his help, everything went black and white for a moment. The shiny blood on my hand lost its rich colour, the sky was no longer blue, my life and all my achievements no longer clear. There was no meaning to anything anymore. The people where pressing down on me in slow motion. I had a thousand hands on my small vulnerable body pulling at my clothes, ripping chunks out of my hair. Someone stole my wand and threw it to the ground. Then it was in irreparable pieces under their shoe and all of my magical ability seemed lost after its destruction. My bag was dragged off my shoulders and my body twisted awkwardly in response. One of my shoes was gone and my bare foot was severely battered from the gang of people surrounding me.
Malfoy was running towards me, shouting something at me, at them. Someone hit me between my shoulder blades and I yelled out in pain, crying at the realisation of what was happening to me. My days had always been numbered, but now? So soon? Rows of police officers - Riot Control police officers! - formed a line and pushed the crowd away from me. The police fought off the people, only to drag me up forcibly, tying my hands behind my back with sharp metal handcuffs. I screamed for Malfoy, for Draco, for the man I had suddenly become to love, who was being held back by the police, by those misunderstood few. It looked as though he was trying his hardest to get at me, like he was scrambling angrily through the crowd, but I could have been wrong. After all, I wasn’t focusing on him, I was focusing on how hot my funeral pyre would be.
I didn’t want to die. Let’s face it, not many people do. I had always imagined living until I was about eighty years old or so, with children, grandchildren, plenty of extended family and a lovely home to boot. With Ron maybe and now there was the possibility of being with Draco … Who knew what my life would have ended up like? The worst part was that if it wasn’t for the witch trials, I would never have fallen in love with the most unlikely man of all. Was it sad of me to be glad of this strange turn of events? I suppose it was, because at this moment in time I would give anything to be as far away from these heartless muggles as possible. They seemed to forget that I was human too, that I had feelings and instead treated me like some sort of caged animal, like a rogue and dangerous creature that would cause damageable harm to the public if I wasn’t exterminated as soon as possible. People spat at me, kicked and clawed at me as I was led to the police cars. There was dozens of them - for added security no doubt - and even the news channels were there to record my capture and broadcast it on every network possible. All over the world, they would know my name and know my face. My parents wouldn’t even recognise me and probably laugh or think it unfortunate or that I had gotten my comeuppance like most muggles thought. The only silver lining was the possibility that Harry and Ron would see and visit me before it was too late.
I wanted my parents, but mostly my mother, to kiss my forehead and tell me that everything would be okay. She used to tell me that scary stories never really happened in real life. As a girl, she told me that things always turned out better in the end.
In the end …
It seemed like I had lived a sheltered life because, in reality, nothing seemed to turn out good. For every happy event there were a million bad ones contaminating it. Yes, Voldemort was gone, but now many of us witches and wizards were living out our last days.
Oh God, I was going to die … Please no … Not now …
I don’t want to burn. No person would ever wish to go that way.
Any other way than this …
Please no. I’m not ready. No, I thought as my body shook with an intolerable fear. Please …
Not knowing who I was pleading to, not knowing anything much, my knees shook and my feet placed themselves one in front of the other to the series of police cars. I was exhausted, but I didn’t have to use much energy because I was half-dragged to the end of the street by two thick-set officers. The shouts around me were hysterical. People swore (‘Let that bitch burn!’), screamed in fear (‘Keep it away from our children!’) and degraded my very existence.
Fear. Sadness. Regret. These things made you do terrible things in life, but never would I have ever thought to do such a thing to muggles. Immediately I thought of Dumbledore’s plans in his youth to have the world being dominated by wizarding kind. It didn’t seem possible. Somehow they would always have the upper hand. Somehow they had acquired help from people on our side and it was a shame that I would never find out who was responsible for my murder, for my unwarranted persecution.
I would give up anything, trade everything I had in order to escape this kind of death. I was prepared to give up the clothes on my back, my friendships, Draco … all if it meant that I could live.
Hurting all over, I was shoved into the back of a large black van and driven to a place where I would surely meet my end.
All I could feel was my thundering heartbeat pounding in my chest. Wondering what it would be like without that, I wailed in protest, screaming and crying with so much hopelessness and despair that I passed out and everything went black.
A/N: Every chapter is now edited. Thanks to the readers/reviewers and especially apocalypse for the constructive criticism. Hopefully now the characterisation is on point. Hope you enjoyed this. Please review and let me know if you have any comments for upcoming chapters.
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