Chapter 14 : Wolves, Rabbits, and Snowy Constellations
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Hermione's heart felt like it had just doubled in size at the sound of his invitation to join him on the balcony of the Astronomy Tower.
Draco did not turn to greet her. Instead, he motioned for her to join him in seeing something that held his interest below.
She was cautious and quiet as she took her place close beside him, feeling as if she was walking into a dangerous dream.
His hand brushed lightly against the small of her back and the tingling sensation that shot from her spine made her back straighten abruptly and the tiny hairs on the back of her neck stand on end.
“Look there,” Draco whispered and pointed to the ground by the edge of the forest. “Wolves.”
She looked down and sure enough, below and to the left, there were at least three wolves and probably more hidden in the trees.
“And there,” he pointed to the far right. “A den of rabbits.”
It was dark, but she could see little dark dots against the stark white snow scurrying about, but staying close to their home.
“The interesting thing about wolves,” Draco explained. “Is that they could kill every last one of those rabbits if they wanted to. But they don’t. They only kill when they have to… to survive.”
He paused for a moment, still looking at the beautiful creatures below.
“Somehow, wolves don’t seem as vicious as I once thought them to be… only killing to survive.”
“Is that what you come here for? To watch wolves and rabbits?” she questioned.
“Yes,” he replied quietly. But really, he was speaking of his orders to kill. He didn’t want to kill Dumbledore. But like the wolves, he had to do it… for his family to survive.
And he didn’t want that to mean that he was a vicious monster.
It was much too vague for her to catch on to what he was really talking about.
“And you? What brings you up here?” he asked.
“As lame as it might sound… the snowfall. The huge slow-moving flakes happen to be my favorite. I thought I might come up and watch for awhile, before it’s gone. It’s very peaceful up here.”
She was elated that he invited her to stay. She was starving for his company ever since she walked away from him. And every time she saw his sad eyes meet hers, she wanted to see him smile again.
“Since you confessed a few things the last time we spoke, I have something to confess to you about this place,” she voiced with a sly grin.
“Really?” he said, being pulled out of his dark mood and instantly intrigued. “Do spill it.”
Their eyes met briefly, but she had to look away from him to continue for fear that she might lose all thoughts and forget what she was going to say.
When she turned from him, he couldn't help but notice the lovely red scarf around her neck. Thoughts of wanting to grab the scarf and pull her close entered his mind. But he was never one to react on impulse and was able to keep his hands to himself, at least for the time being.
“Well,” she started with an adorable look on her face. “When we came back to school our Third Year and you… changed a bit and shall we say, grew into a more mature look…”
Hermione's cheeks flushed trying to say it. She was a young woman after all and she couldn’t help but notice his striking good looks back then. Even if she hated him at the time, she wasn’t blind.
He arched an eyebrow, loving how she squirmed under her words.
“Um. Well, I did some research in the library and I snuck up here one moonless evening to find your constellation in the night sky. I found it very poetic that you were named after a group of stars… and curiosity got the best of me.”
“Ah, yes.” Taking out his wand, he magically stopped some of the large snowflakes that were falling and pulled them in to hover above them. “Draco, Latin for Dragon,” he said as the snowflakes moved into the positions of the stars that made his constellation.
“Disowned Aunt Andromeda would be here.” He added more snowflakes and they moved perfectly into the position of where they would be in the sky… as a spiral galaxy.
“And disowned Cousin Sirius was the brightest star in the Dog Constellation.” He moved more snowflakes above them and positioned them perfectly for her.
The huge cottony-like flakes hovered above her just as the stars would appear in the night sky.
Hermione wondered how in the world the man standing so close to her could be so romantic without even trying. She was amazed and in awe of this rare natural talent of his.
“It’s beautiful,” she remarked of his hovering snowflake stars.
Her warm glowing expression was enough to melt his heart and heat the space around them.
“Will you continue it? Naming your children after heavenly beings?”
Watching her beautiful face still looking up at his snowy display, he immediately thought of the dead child from his dream and wondered if they had named their baby boy after the stars... before they buried him.
The utter sadness at the thought caused his snowy stars to stop their hovering and gently fall from their little sky.
Hermione hadn’t noticed his staring as she held out a hand to catch one of the falling stars. She was disappointed when it melted into nothing against her warm skin.
“I don’t know,” he replied honestly.
“Well, I think that’s one family tradition that is worth continuing. It had me curious long ago as to what your constellation looked like.”
It amused him that she would confess an affection for him from such a long time ago.
“That was the same year that you hit me. I should’ve known. My mother told me that when girls hit boys, that really means they secretly like them,” he teased with a flirtatious smile that she had longed to see again.
“I hit you because you deserved it, not because I liked you!” she protested.
Draco thought of several creative come-backs that he could say to that, but instead he said something that surprised her.
He looked at her with all seriousness and in a deepened voice simply acknowledged, “I deserved much worse. If you want to curse me, go ahead. You’re the only one allowed. Here,” Draco quickly offered.
He stepped back and stretched out his long arms, as if welcoming the punishment.
“I’m ready. Go ahead. Be quick and aim straight to my chest.”
When she didn’t move, he continued his encouragement. “Come on now. Hurry up. I’m not going to stand like this all night. I know you want to.”
She looked at him from head to toe and back again, and then made a face as if she were in agony. She wanted to do many things to him at that particular moment, but cursing him did not make her list.
“So very tempting. But unfortunately, it wouldn’t work. You have to mean it. And right now, if I aimed a Crucio straight at your heart, you wouldn’t feel a thing.”
“Is that because I have no heart?” he asked with his arms still outstretched.
“Oh, put your arms down.” She reached out and quickly pressed his arms downward.
He liked it that she touched him and he wanted her to do it again, but didn’t want it to end so quickly.
“Draco, seriously… I actually find myself worried about you. You’ve changed so much. You offer to take a Crucio from me. It seems that you no longer take enjoyment from insulting people, or even bother to play Quidditch. And you don’t even hang out with your friends anymore.”
“Blaise is now fully occupied with Astoria. Crabbe has become extremely quiet so talking to him is like talking to a stone. And the only thing Goyle wants to talk about is how much he wants a girlfriend. How’s that for intelligent conversation?”
He didn’t bother mentioning Pansy.
“But it’s more than that, isn’t it? Even in class it seems your mind is somewhere else… deep in thought.”
“Perhaps you watch me too closely,” he accused as he returned slowly to the balcony’s edge to be closer to her. “Perhaps it’s just me growing out of my immature self and becoming an adult.”
“I’ll believe that in part. But something is weighing heavily on your mind. What is it?”
“Many things weigh on my mind, Granger. Not just one.”
She could only try to imagine what was bothering him, but she was sure that it was dark, probably depressing, but most definitely important to him. Whatever it was, she could tell that it had changed him and it took a powerful thing to alter someone’s behavior as much as it did his.
“Sometimes it helps to talk to someone.”
“Do you honestly think that I would actually tell you anything?” he asked with more harshness than he intended.
“I think you want to. Otherwise, why have you told me so much already? Are you testing me to see if I’m trustworthy?”
When he didn’t answer, she continued. “I will never expect you to tell me anything. But if you should ever want to talk, then I do promise to listen."
“Why would you do this? Why do you care what is on my mind?” he asked her with all seriousness.
Draco searched her eyes for truth in her answer, wondering if she truly cared.
Hermione took a slow breath before answering, hoping that her words would come out right.
She looked up at him and saw troubled gray eyes staring into hers.
“Because sometimes, when you look at me… you have the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen,” she admitted just above a whisper. “Just as you are looking at me now.”
He was doing it, looking at her with such sad eyes she thought she might cry, not even knowing why.
She folded her hands to her chest. “Forgive me if I jump to conclusions, but sometimes you look at me as if you are telling me without words that you want to talk to me… that you want to spend time with me. It’s what draws me to you and makes me care about what is making you so sad.”
If she knew him at all, she knew he could be cold-hearted and cruel with his words. He was born with the ability. So in searching for an answer, she added, “If that is not true and I’ve read you wrong, then please… please do correct me gently.”
She took an uneasy breath, waiting for harsh words.
Her answer was unexpected and as sweet as her perfume and he had no reason to correct her. She was right in every way.
After what seemed like an eternity, he finally spoke his words carefully.
“I will not deny that there have been times when I have greatly desired your company. Because when you look at me, it's as if you understand me on a level deeper than anyone living here in this place.”
Sweet relief rushed over her at his words. He confirmed what she wanted to be true and to hear him actually admit and say it meant the world to her, but she felt the need to be cautious.
“It has me wanting to trust you. But please understand. I trust no one fully."
Hermione knew what he meant by that. It meant that there were things that he would never tell her. And she understood his unspoken rule, but it did not deter her from prying a little.
“You trusted me the night we got back from the holiday break. Will you trust me with what is weighing on your mind this very night that has you alone in the Astronomy Tower watching wolves and rabbits instead of enjoying what remains of your teenage life with your fellow Slytherins?”
Truthfully, Draco’s mind was constantly on over-drive. It had been like that for as long as he could remember. His mind was never a blank… never at peace.
“My mind never stops thinking, Granger. Sometimes I envy mindless people, like say… Weasley, who can take a break from it and not think at all. And I suspect that you and I have that in common… Our minds constantly thinking. I’m right, aren’t I?”
Hermione had no choice but to agree with that statement.
“Yes, but something tells me that things on my mind compared to yours are not the same shade of dark. I understand that there are things you will never talk to me about. But maybe you could tell me of one thing. It may feel good to just let it out and say it.”
He took a huge breath and turned to watch the snow falling ever so slowly to the ground. He couldn’t tell her anything about his dark task, or Death Eaters, or anything like that and so he told her something that he’d been thinking about that he deemed safe to tell her.
“Alright, Granger. I’ll tell you one thing that is weighing on my mind tonight. I don’t think of it often, but here goes... Are you ready? You’re not going to care about it at all,” he warned.
But she looked at him with a warm caring expression in her eyes that made him weak as she mouthed the words that no other person had ever said to him before… words that his soul was so desperate to hear.
“I care… more than you could possibly know.”
And as if those were the 'magic words' to get him to speak his heart, he took a chance and opened up to her... just a little.
“As you might know, Sirius Black was the last Black in my mother’s family that could’ve passed on the Black name. He was the last. And now that he is gone, so is the name. There will be no more magical Blacks… ever.”
Hermione had never thought of that. He died with no heir and willed everything he had to Harry.
“And well, even though my father is still living, I don’t imagine him having another son. So… that would make me the last Malfoy. The name will die out, exactly like my cousin, Sirius. He was the last Black. And if I don’t live to have a son, I’ll be the last Malfoy.”
“Oh.” Hermione was surprised that he thought such things. But then she quickly changed her mind. Of course he did. The man’s conversations were as deep and wide as the night sky. It’s one of the things that had her thinking that she could fall in love with him if she weren’t careful.
When other people his age were playing Wizard’s Chess, Quidditch, and card games, he was thinking of dying the last in his family line.
“The name will be listed in the magical history books and one day… no one will remember us. It will only be a name in a book. And I fear that one day that will be me at the end of the Malfoy line. The last name in a very long and medieval list. And it will say that I was a selfish, arrogant wizard with a talent for hurting people with my words without uttering a single curse.”
He took a long drawn out breath. “And I don’t think a soul would care.”
Hermione stood listening, unsure if she should say anything at all.
“Being the last got me thinking, Granger… about what I want to do before I die and there are no more Malfoys. I’ve come up with two things, but they don’t count because they are things that I cannot control. So, I’m curious. If you expected your life to end sooner than later, what would the great Hermione Granger want to experience before she dies?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t thought of it really.”
Hermione tried hard to think of something quickly. She tried to think of what she wanted most in her life.
“I try not to think of my mortality, but I suppose before I die... It might sound terribly clichéd, but I want to fall madly in love with someone so much that I’d be willing to live in a cardboard box with him, just so long as he would love me just as much.”
He laughed inside about living in a cardboard box, because that’s all he would be able to afford once he was disowned by his family for loving a Mudblood. But that wasn’t going to happen. He wouldn’t let it.
“That is something that you cannot control. Anything else? Something more realistic perhaps? Maybe a place that you’d want to go before you died? Something you want to see?” he pressed.
“Alright. There might be two places, but you mustn’t make fun,” she pleaded with an insecure crooked smile.
He thought her absolutely adorable.
“Alright. I promise.”
She let out a sigh and steeled herself.
“The Westminster Abbey and Tromso, Norway.”
He gave her an odd look of surprise.
“Before you die, you want to go to church and to one of the coldest places on Earth?” he began to tease.
She held up her pointer finger as if that alone could stop the insult from falling off the tip of his tongue.
“You promised,” she playfully reminded as his mouth moved into its adorable smirk.
“A promise I now regret, but I will uphold my word. Why those places?”
“Tromso, Norway because I’ve read that it is the best place to witness Aurora Borealis. I should like to see the Northern Lights in person before I die. Not in a picture, but actually see it for myself. And well, Tromso, Norway is a town that actually sits inside the Arctic Circle and therefore, is one of the best places on Earth to view one of the most magical experiences ever found in nature.”
Draco loved the idea, especially because it was actually in the realm of possibility and something that she could control and actually do.
“Interesting. Okay, then what about the Westminster Abbey? Going there to visit the tombs of England’s Kings and famous poets?” he guessed. “Tomb of the Unknown Warrior?”
“While that would be wonderfully educational and reflective, that’s not why I want to go there.”
She sighed again, thinking he would make fun of her reason.
Draco’s head went down a bit. He knew that her apprehension was his own fault. How could she trust him at all?
“I swear to you that I will not make fun. Please tell me. You have me fully intrigued as to why something would be that important that you’d want to go there before you died. It would not be something to make fun of, no matter what it was.”
She still paused for a moment before saying anything.
“Well… I want to hear the choir sing a song... Agnus Dei by Samuel Barber.”
This surprised him. She wanted to hear a song before she died?
“I’m familiar with it… sung in Latin,” he acknowledged.
It was indeed, one of the most beautiful songs ever written by man. The first time Draco heard it, he wondered what experience the man had gone through that would inspire him to compose such a hauntingly beautiful piece of music. Given the time the composer wrote it, he figured it out rather quickly. The experience was war.
“Yes. Well, it is said that hearing the sounds of the choir at the Westminster Abbey singing Agnus Dei is a moving experience unlike any other.” She took a breath before continuing. “It slowly builds and builds to a height of power and glory and then drops abruptly to a calm and quiet peace. They say it sounds as if the Holy Angels are singing on our behalf. And I would like to experience it one day… at the Abbey.”
“How could I possibly make fun of such a beautiful thing?”
She glanced up at him and with the look on his face, she honestly wasn’t sure if he was talking about the song… or maybe her.
Draco Malfoy was once the boy who would look at her with disgust and disdain, but this older version of him looked at her with a respect and sincerity that would’ve been unbelievable had she not be standing there to witness it.
“Your choices are most excellent and very possible… beautifully simple and uncomplicated. Should you ever find the time and have the means, you should definitely do those things,” he gently encouraged, silently wishing he could be there with her if she ever went.
“So tell me,” she urged with a smile. “What things did rich and powerful Draco Malfoy want to do before he died, but had no control over?”
He rubbed at his chin for a moment. It was then that she realized that he did it when he was a bit nervous. It showed a glimpse of vulnerability and she thought it adorable.
“Find someone that would know all of my faults and flaws and still love me enough to be willing to live in a cardboard box with me, so long as I loved her as much.”
He gave her a warm smile that lit up her soul. And his words… playful but also sincere had her heart loving him, even though her mind told her she shouldn’t be.
Oh, how he loved how her eyes sparkled at his answer.
“That and witness the birth of my child so I could maybe name him after the stars…and see him grow old enough to get his Hogwarts letter.”
His smile faded and she noticed his eyes returned to their sad state.
“You see the error in my thoughts? None of it matters, as they are things I cannot control.”
“Oh, but they do matter, Draco,” she uttered with loving kindness. “Just because you cannot control them, doesn’t mean they are insignificant or meaningless. Those things have everything to do with a hopeful future. Doing the things we can control before we die would be wonderful, but it’s the things that we cannot control that truly give us hope and it’s hope that helps us along when we need it most… by giving us something to live for.”
Her words resonated in his mind. ‘Something to live for.’
Draco wondered if a person could fall in love with someone just by the things that they said. Because at that moment he felt nothing but love for the woman standing beside him as she spoke words that made him want to cling to a hopeful future, no matter how dark it was.
“I may or may not ever visit the Westminster Abbey or see the Northern Lights in the night sky. But I will cling to the hope that I will find someone that knows 'all of my faults and flaws and loves me anyway,' as you said it. Because the experience of that kind of unconditional love would make the other amazing and beautiful things pale in comparison.”
He didn’t want to say it, but he wasn’t exactly convinced that ‘unconditional love’ actually existed, but it sure sounded nice… if it was real.
“Sights and sounds of beauty cannot hold me and keep me warm at night,” she added. “They cannot make me feel safe or protected or make me feel important or wanted… or loved. And they offer no cure for loneliness. So yes, before I die, it is love and full acceptance above all else. And so, I hope. I find no error in your thoughts.”
There was a pause between them as they both pondered this… this beautiful conversation between two people that were not meant to discuss such things as love and hope.
Draco wanted nothing more than to be that person for her, the one that would keep her warm and make her feel safe, protected, important, wanted, and loved… even if it was in a cardboard box.
He thought... of all the places in the world of wonder and beauty, the only place he wanted to be at that very moment in time was in the Astronomy Tower with Hermione Granger.
And as far as loneliness, if it was in his true power to do so, he would take her hand and they would never be lonely again.
Her hand was so very close.
But Draco thought if he were to take her hand, where would he lead her? Down a path of secrecy and eventual destruction? Love her only to break her heart when she found out that the hand holding hers was mere inches away from the mark of a Death Eater?
“You are correct in everything you have said,” he agreed. “But I must stick to things that are in my control, as I fear that hope is much too dangerous and will only disappoint me in the end.”
“What kind of life is one without hope? I couldn’t imagine it,” she asked with concern coming straight from her heart.
He closed his eyes briefly and didn’t answer her. He was thinking of the few words in the English language that could describe how he felt deep inside without hope.
Dread… Emptiness beyond measure… Like a piece of his soul was dying… or already dead.
He could only shake his head no and bite at his lip. He wasn’t going to voice those things.
She wasn’t sure why, but something deep within her told her to stop. She could see from his reaction to her question about hope that it had touched a nerve within him and it looked to be dangerous territory.
Perhaps she had gone too deep with her questioning and needed to back off.
Realizing that she honestly had no idea what he was going through or what in his life had taken away his hope for a good future… one that had him thinking about death and dying and what he wanted to do before he died, she voiced in her head, “My, God! What has happened to you?”
What utter sadness he must be feeling in having no hope. It made her want to cry for him.
She realized then that there was most likely nothing she could do for him or his situation. But she could try to lift his spirits somehow, someway to make him feel better.
Her mind raced.
“Are you really concerned that you will be the last Malfoy?” she asked trying to look into his eyes.
But he quickly turned from her, leaning on the balcony, and peering down at the wolves again.
“I suppose. Maybe. I don’t know. It’s just strange to think about my place in the magical world is all. It’s lonely at the end of the line,” he huffed.
“Well, in that case… since you are so worried about it, you give me no choice,” she told him as if completely serious. “I promise that if we ever become the two LAST magical people on Earth, then I’ll go ahead and have your child so that you won’t be the last Malfoy,” her voiced teased.
His head snapped to her in disbelief, eyes wide. She was teasing him about having a child with him! He was in such shock, it rendered him speechless.
She continued her teasing by rambling on and on and pretending to think it all out logically.
“Of course, we would have to be the very last magical people for me to agree to such a thing. But I guess by then it wouldn’t matter if you were the last because there wouldn’t be anyone remaining that would care. And then of course that would leave a very interesting conundrum…”
She looked straight into his eyes and even though she was teasing, she asked him a very serious question.
“Which is more important to you? For you to die the last Pure-blood Malfoy or sacrifice your Pure-blood line to keep the Malfoy name from dying? If you’d rather die than have half-blood children, then it would spare me a whole lot of agony and pain and I wouldn’t have to go through with the repulsive act of having sex with you.”
Draco couldn’t keep himself from grinning. He started chuckling and it quickly grew into a full blown laugh.
She just stood there smiling, wondering which scenario he would choose.
But for whatever reason, Draco abruptly stopped laughing and glared at her.
“First off, you started with the nicest thing that someone has ever offered to do for me, but then you end it by saying that you would find sex with me repulsive.”
“Well which is it?” she pressed. “Have the Malfoy name live on or let it die pure?”
“My mother would disown me just like she did her sister. My father would rather watch me die than defile the Malfoy name. But my grandfather, Abraxas Malfoy would tell me differently.”
“I’m not interested in what they think. I want to know what you think.”
He knew the answer, of course. Thoughts of her carrying his child were nothing new to him.
He stepped to her and grabbed the end of her pretty red scarf that was still wrapped around her dainty little neck.
Slowly he began wrapping the end of it around his hand... around and around. And when there was no slack remaining, he ever-so-slightly pulled on it, drawing her closer to him.
Her breath caught and her knees felt weak at what he was doing. She was so caught up in the moment that all logical thoughts had ceased except for one... him kissing her.
She wondered if he was going to do it. Was he drawing her near to kiss her? Was this the moment when he would finally press his lips to hers and kiss her like she wanted to be kissed?
Or was he angry with her for merely suggesting that a Mudblood have a child with the Pureblood Slytherin Prince?
Was this the time when he would say something so horrible that it would slice her heart clean in two?
She could not predict what he was going to do.
The anticipation of a kiss coupled with the dread of a verbal assault had her heart fluttering and her very soul trembling.
He felt her tense up and noticed that her breaths had become shallow.
Could it be that the one with so much bravery was afraid of him? Perhaps she should be, he thought.
But then he worried that maybe the scarf became too tight around her neck and he really was hurting her. He didn't mean to.
If it was too tight, she wasn't feeling it.
They were so close. The very threads of their clothing were now touching.
“I know you are teasing, but let me be very clear," he said in a rough voice as his warm breath touched her cheek. "I’d rather die the last Malfoy on Earth than force you into doing something that repulsed you.”
Hermione snapped her head away from him slightly as his words shocked her... shocked her tormented soul with relief as the lashing she fully expected did not come... but neither did his kiss.
The snapping of her head exposed the slender tendon in her neck. And if it wasn't for her red scarf getting in the way, Draco thought he might devour her with a vampire's rage.
When Hermione could form a complete sentence, her head turned back to him, but she could not look at him in the eyes. She had to either close them or settle on a spot just above his heart.
He had not answered her question. Even though she was teasing, she was hoping for an answer that never came.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t tell if I’ve made you feel better by taking your mind off sad things or if I’ve made you angry with me. Honestly, if I only add weight to your burdens, then I’m so very sorry.”
Draco could not recall anyone expressing such genuine concern for him. She genuinely wanted to know what was bothering him and she was truly trying to lift his spirits and make him feel better.
With her head down, she felt her scarf fall to her waist as he released her. She stayed close to him though, unmoving.
He looked at the confused girl in front of him and whispered to her.
"You are so very correct that there are things that have happened and things that are to come that weigh heavily on my mind. Extreme dark things. War. Death. And what I must do to survive it all."
Hermione abruptly looked up began feeling completely lost in his eyes and in the words that he was saying. He was giving her a mere glimpse into what was making him so sad without any details.
"But then there is you," he said at her cheek. “My mind constantly wanders into the darkest of places imaginable. But even so, your very presence... comforts me."
Hermione could no longer keep her hands to herself as she placed soft fingertips to his face… his gorgeous, troubled, sad face.
Her touch was so loving and tender that it made him close his eyes and desperately want that child of theirs, a child that didn’t exist except in her teasing and in his dream.
They stood there for a few delicate moments, long enough for him to engrave her touch into his mind, wondering why in the world it was so wrong to love her… this wonderfully kind and caring person that was sorry if she had added to his troubles.
Her touch made him so weak, his hands began to tremble. He wanted to touch her, but dare not.
He was fighting a losing battle. His emotions were quickly seizing control of his actions.
She brushed his bottom lip with her thumb, which caused him to press his lips to it and kiss it lightly.
And just before he did what his soul was aching to do, he reached up and took hold of her wrists and gently removed her fingers from his face.
For a split second, she thought she felt his hands tremble when he took her wrists, but quickly assumed it was because they were so cold from the winter air.
“You know, it is really difficult for me to hate you when you do that,” he smirked as he opened his eyes.
She let out a giggle. He couldn’t have broken the tension more perfectly.
“Sorry,” she replied, embarrassed by her actions.
“Don’t ever apologize to me. I’m the one that should apologize to you.”
“For what exactly?”
“Everything,” he replied as he moved away from her to leave.
She thought that it meant he was sorry for the past and how he had treated her, but he meant so much more than that.
He was sorry that he couldn’t have a relationship with her. Sorry that in war, they would not be on the same side. Sorry for who he was… a Malfoy and a Death Eater.
But above all, he was sorry that he would never be able to tell her that he loved her.
Yes, he was sorry for everything.
“I find it unfortunate that we only spoke of what was bothering me tonight. Perhaps one day you will trust me with what has been bothering you.”
She tried not to react, but it was too late. She had already taken a slight gasp and her eyes grew wide in surprise. Before she could deny it and tell him that she was perfectly well and fine, he was saying his goodbye and leaving her.
“Enjoy your snowfall, Granger,” he said coolly as he tore his eyes from hers and disappeared into the darkness of the tower steps, skipping several as he went and practically jumping from them to get a safe distance from her.
As Draco had predicted, Hermione and Ron had come around to being friends again. And even though their relationship had mended, there was still something bothering her.
He could see it in her own moments of being distant and in her own sad eyes. He suspected that whatever it was, it had been bothering her when they were together on the train. And it was bothering her still.
Hermione couldn’t decide whether she was disappointed that Draco had gone or relieved that he left when he did. He could’ve pressured her into talking about what was making her sad, but she was so very thankful that he didn’t.
How could she tell him that even though he said that her blood status no longer mattered to him personally, that it mattered more to her now than it ever did before? Because somewhere in the deepest depths of her heart, she dared hope that whatever it was that they had between them would grow into a relationship more meaningful than she’d ever known. And it would be then that her blood status would eventually matter.
She peered out over the balcony at the huge snowflakes still falling. They were coming down faster now and the temperature of the air seemed to have dropped ten degrees at his leaving.
She looked below to see three wolves tearing at the flesh of a rabbit, but she quickly looked away not wanting to witness the savagery and horror of the bloody scene.
As Hermione made her way down the stairs to her room, she thought Draco was wrong.
Wolves were vicious creatures, regardless of their reason for killing.
He hated leaving her, but it was extremely late and they had a full load of classes the next day. He had a feeling that if he didn’t end their conversation, she would’ve stayed up all night with him until they saw morning, which wouldn’t have been such a terrible thing.
As he made his way down an empty, quiet hall heading to the Slytherin dorm, something caught his eye that had him stopping dead in his tracks at a newly finished Black Canvas Vault; a shiny new nameplate.
He looked up and gazed over the large black iron vault, her pictograms surrounded by a border of flowers. But at closer look, he could see that the flowers were drooping and wilted. It was as if the flowers were alive, but sad and dying.
To her credit, the pictograms were extremely difficult to figure out, but he stood there patiently studying her clues and sounding out the possibilities in his head. When he finally figured it out, his heart sank in his chest at her heart-wrenching and extremely personal message.
"One Word. One Truth makes me the less and sends the daggers.
With so much hate, does a Dark Heart have room for love?"
He wanted to run away from it, but his feet would not move. He had to know what was in that vault. He couldn't leave without knowing.
He had solved the message, but he needed to guess the password key that would open the vault.
He read the first part again. "One Word. One Truth." He was searching his mind for the word, scanning the clues she had left him.
He asked himself, "What one word would hurt her like a dagger?"
The answer came fast and furious. It was a word that he had called her many times. A word that had inflicted pain as if he held the dagger himself, stabbing her heart every time he said it.
He now hated the word and even though he didn't want to ever say it again, here he was saying it as the password key to open her vault.
"Mudblood," he uttered sorrowfully.
In half a second, it made a loud click and just like a real iron vault door, it slowly creaked open.
What he found inside held his gaze and he could not stop staring at it.
It was a Muggle picture of her... a beautiful moment frozen in time.
He reached out and traced the edge of her pretty jaw line to her chin then across her lips with careful fingers… the lips that he wanted to kiss in the hopes that it would take her pain away.
But that's right about the time when he noticed what she was holding. It was a book, but not just any book.
She was holding Delilah's Black Book of Poems close to her heart as if it was precious to her… further evidence that her vault’s message was to him.
He could've stood there forever looking at her beautiful still face, mesmerized by the frozen look in her eyes that spoke of how she cared for him without saying a word.
Of all the woman he had been with, even those at parties that would flirt with him, send him graphic love notes, or try to slip him love potions… none of them ever looked at him like that.
They all wanted something… to use him for sex, money, status, or whatever selfish reason. None of them ever really gave a damn.
After being hypnotized by her likeness for several long minutes, he did something he knew he wasn't supposed to do and he didn't care.
He stole it.
After shrinking it down to wallet size, he closed the vault and it clicked back into its locked position.
With her picture hidden on the inside pocket of his robe, directly over his heart, Draco looked up at her vault once again and pondered her message.
It was him that had sent the daggers. And apparently he had cut her much deeper than he originally thought. And even though he had told her that her blood status no longer mattered to him, the scars remained.
As Draco lie in bed studying her face by candlelight, he thought of the words of her vault and wondered.
How does one apologize for causing such wounds?
Perhaps the answer lied somewhere in the second part of her message.
“Does a Dark Heart have room for love?”
Still lying down, Draco reached over and pulled out the drawer of his night stand that held a quill and parchment as he became inspired to write down ideas for his black canvas vault. He would make it extremely difficult for anyone to figure out his vault and password key.
He thought of what he wanted to put inside the vault, should she figure it out. It would not be a picture. It would be a letter for her eyes only.
He recalled her talk of hope and the words came easily and straight from his heart.
When he was finished, he put a spell on the parchment to conceal his words until he could complete the vault. He put it back in his nightstand and hid her picture inside his pillow for the night. And with a quick wave of his hand, the candle went out and Draco went to sleep.
But in the morning, Hermione was woken by a frantic Ginny Weasley.
“Hermione, wake up,” she heard as she was rudely shaken and pulled from her slumber.
Forcing her eyes open and noticing that the sun had only just begun to rise, she pleaded. “What? No. I want to sleep.”
“No!” Ginny persisted with dire worry. “You must wake. Ron’s been poisoned!”
Hope you enjoyed his snowy constellations.... ahh... how romantic.
And now we know of Hermione’s vault. What will his say?
Merry Christmas to all and have a safe and happy New Year.
Love to all,
P.S. My eyes are amazed... 17,300 reads. Incredible. Thank you from my heart!
Also, "Agnus Dei" by Samuel Barber... beautiful. I've been listening to it and getting inspired. It will come up later, as you might guess. *winks*
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