I want to thank all of my Reviewers for making this so fun for me. Your guesses were excellent and fit so well. They were brilliant and so fun to read. Thank you to all who participated and even those who had no idea and chose not to guess. I have the best Reviewers. Thank you so very much! There were several that guessed correctly. So now without further waiting... let's read what Draco's last word really is...
As Draco walked a long corridor, he saw Goyle running toward him at a frantic pace.
“What’s wrong?” Draco asked.
“Kissed a girl before it was time, I suppose!” He managed to explain as he ran passed.
But that’s about the time he saw a very heated and angry girl running after Goyle.
“Gregory Goyle, get back here so I can hex you!” She yelled as she hurried passed.
Goyle apparently was going about getting a girlfriend the wrong way. He made a mental note to give his friend a few pointers later. Right now, he was after his own girl.
And a long walk later, he was happy to see Hermione alone and frustrated in front of his Black Canvas Vault.
She was stunning, standing in her black velvet form-fitting gown between his vault and a black leather couch, placed there by the art committee for those wishing to contemplate his difficult vault.
The place was dimly lit by a cluster of candles hovering high above her, glowing like a chandelier. They had framed his vault with dark green drapes with silver fringe, indicating his win for design difficulty and points scored for Slytherin House. And on the floor, a large matching green oval carpet was carefully placed, making it look almost cozy and romantic, a dangerous combination.
“So beautiful.” He mouthed silently as he took slow quiet steps toward her in the dark. But then he stopped about half-way and watched.
Hermione stood there… frustrated far beyond that of a normal person trying to guess the last word of his vault. She no longer needed a clipboard as she had memorized everything that she had already figured out.
His vault was very unique in that he made each verse a lock. All were open except for the last one.
She began reading the pictograms out loud, hoping that it might help point her to the final word.
“Love is a curse.
And dark is the heart and mind of the one
Who will never hold the hand…
Or kiss the lips…
Or make love to…
The one that is _______”
“Lost.” She guessed, but nothing happened. “Dead.” She guessed again to no success.
“Gryffindor. Ravenclaw. Hufflepuff?”
Draco suppressed a chuckle watching her guess. It looked like she was talking to an iron vault like a crazy woman.
She decided to try a different approach. “Loved. Hated. Adored?”
But it was none of those. She let out a long frustrated sigh.
“Or make love to the one that is… taken.” But still the lock did not budge. “It’s not ‘taken’?” She asked it in frustration, as her guesses went unanswered.
“Gone? Innocent? Pure?” She guessed again and again, but then got an idea. What if by some slim chance it was her?
“Muggleborn?” But the vault still did not move and she was so frustrated that she whipped out her wand and practically yelled the spell that would unlock it. “Alohomora!”
But the lock did not budge as it was not a lock of the normal type.
Seeing her impatience result in an attempt to cheat amused him immensely. Draco could no longer stand by without saying something.
“Well, well, well, Granger. It’s official. You have no patience… and truly a complete disregard for playing by the rules, which isn’t surprising in the least. Did you open all the others by cheating?” He teased.
“No. The others actually had solvable, logical solutions.” She said in a scolding tone, hiding her embarrassment that he had actually witnessed her attempt to cheat.
She turned to him then and that’s when she noticed something about him that she hadn’t noticed before. It was the thing that made him look different that evening, but in an exceptionally appealing way. It was so subtle she wasn’t surprised that she had missed it before now.
In his getting ready for the dance, he had indeed been thinking about her as well… thinking of her vault’s message about sending the daggers.
And so as he looked into the mirror and began shaving, he took the blade to his face and carefully carved his sideburns to look like curved blades running down the length of the sides of his face. They were perfectly even on both sides. So short were the hairs that it was barely noticeable, but it was there nonetheless... the slightest shadow left there purposefully.
Like curved blades of daggers on both sides of his face.
He looked like some sort of handsome mix of confident aristocrat and cynical bad boy… in a tuxedo no less.
Hermione surmised that it was fitting, considering he was both and not to mention, it made him look… irritatingly gorgeous.
But she also thought of her vault. Did he solve it?
“I’m so sorry for your loss, by the way.” He tried to say sincerely. “But I must say… in all your grief and sadness, you look absolutely stunning in your black funeral attire.” He smirked at the remembrance of her making fun of him for wearing his favorite color.
She smiled at this, then replied, “I’m surprised you noticed, being the boyfriend of the star of the show and all.”
He didn’t want to talk about Pansy, so much so that he didn’t even bother to tell her that they had just broken up.
“How could I not notice my Dark Valentine?” He said with eyebrow raised.
“Yes, we’re the couple most likely to kill each other. What did you make of that?” She asked with a curious smile.
“Childish. Not very creative. And it proves just how little people know me.” He said as he took a comfortable seat on the couch, the length of his right arm resting on the top of it casually.
“Depending on one’s perspective, they see me as the Slytherin Prince and hater of all things not Pureblood… a prized student… a loyal son.” A smile crept onto his face. “The Slytherin sex god.”
He let out a deep, raspy laugh and shook his head. “I am all and none of those things.”
She smiled at his little riddle.
He most certainly could play any of those roles perfectly at any given moment. But in many ways, he had shown her that he could very well be none of those things.
“You probably think of me as pathetic and mental.” He said with a look that welcomed her to sit next to him.
“On the contrary, I think you are brilliant mastermind. Isn’t that what you want them to see?” She asked, analyzing his words. “I think that is precisely what you want people to think of you. But you reserve your true feelings for yourself so that you can secretly go around doing good things for people.”
“Am I?” She questioned as she took a graceful step and slid onto the couch, sitting as far away from him as possible, keeping what she deemed to be a safe distance from him as the light from the romantic candle chandelier cast him in a sensual glow.
It was a good idea considering she could now smell his cologne. It wasn’t his normal scent. It was something new. Something hypnotizing, masculine, and wonderful that beckoned to her female existence.
She couldn’t help but think if the fluffy pillows on her bed smelled like that she would never get out of it. She quickly blinked away the thought and concentrated on the conversation at hand.
What was she saying? Oh, right.
“I remember that first night when we were sorted. You went up to the front right after me and I wasn’t surprised at all that you were sorted into Slytherin House. But that was because I thought you were sorted there because you were an arrogant and cruel slime-ball.”
He let out a short guttural laugh knowing full well she was telling the truth.
“But knowing what I know now, I’ve come to understand that there was an altogether different reason.”
Their eyes met and held as the air around them became serious.
He was enthralled by her, wondering what insight she might have, now that she knew him a little better.
“The Sorting Hat wasn’t reading you in that way. It was looking for House traits that would suit you best. It was looking for cunning and self-preservation, something that you must’ve had such abundance of, that it radiated from you to the point that the Sorting Hat didn’t even need to be placed on your head before it adamantly, without question or doubt, called out, ‘Slytherin.’”
He cocked his head to the side a bit. “True. And… what does that tell you?”
He knew she would get it. She would analyze it and figure it out. He wanted her to.
She thought it out logically. It seemed to her as if she were solving a puzzle concerning him. And so she continued her thoughts and came to a single conclusion.
“And that tells me that you were a master of it at eleven years old. Which tells me that… your upbringing must’ve been so strict and demanding that you had learned, as a self-preservation measure, to be cunning so that you were seen as the perfect son that your parents expected… playing the part from a very early age. That's why that old hat put you in Slytherin before it was on your head."
“And here I thought it was because I was descended from a long line of Slytherins.” He said with eyebrow raised.
She didn’t say anything. She only shook her head no.
“All that… and you cannot figure out a simple vault?” He teased, standing to his feet.
Her eyes grew wide at his little insult.
“Simple?” She protested as she popped from the couch. “I know you are kidding!”
“Honestly, I’m quite disappointed in you, Granger. I can’t believe you haven’t figured it out yet. Oh, well.” Draco shrugged. “Time to erase it.” He said knowing full well she would stop him.
He raised his wand to erase it.
“No. Don’t.” She pleaded, grabbing his raised arm with both hands, attempting to pull it down. But it wasn’t working very well with his surprising strength.
“Give me more time or a hint or something… or just tell me what it is, if you are just going to erase it.” She practically begged.
“I’m not just going to hand you the answer. You were supposed to figure it out.” He said in a low growl.
“So, it is for me?” She asked, finally taking her hands off his muscular arm.
“Of course it is. It’s an answer to yours.” He said taking a more serious tone while lowering his wand.
Hermione tried to hide her surprise as she blinked at his revelation. He had solved hers? She was shocked that it was Draco that opened her vault. He was only opening the Slytherin vaults, or so it had seemed.
“Must you always irritate me to the core? Just tell me what it is so that I can move on with my life.” She said pointing to the vault dramatically and trying to prevent herself from having an all-out temper tantrum in front of him.
She was so frustrated that if there was a throw pillow on the couch, she was sure she would’ve screamed into it.
“No.” He said turning as if he were leaving, but he only stepped around to the back of the couch.
“But I’ve got everything except the very last word.” She pleaded, then turned to the vault, her back now to him, and read aloud what she had so far.
“I’ve tried all kinds of words, but none of them will open the last lock.” She let out a long sigh with thoughts of giving up. If he wasn’t going to help her, then she would have to walk away and forget that it ever existed in the first place.
“You know what? Just forget it. It’s not worth the frustration.” She said, shaking her head, about to leave.
But he did not want her to give up and he definitely did not want her to leave. He wanted her to open it so that she could read what he had written to her.
He found it much easier to transfer his feelings to parchment than to actually say it to her face.
“Perhaps you are over-thinking it. You are trying too hard. It’s quite a simple answer if you concentrated on it a bit.”
She turned to him then. “Concentrated? I’ve lost sleep concentrating on it. I mean really, ‘Love is a curse’?” She folded her arms, clearly fired up in protest. “Love is not a curse. It’s a blessing.”
“What do curses do? They hurt people.” He reasoned. “Love can cause pain like the Cruciatus. It can cause people to do things that they wouldn’t normally do, just like the Imperious. And it can kill, as in murder and suicide, just as effective as the Avada. Love is all of the Unforgivables rolled into one nasty curse.”
“All that… coming from someone who told me not too long ago that love is something that he wanted to experience before he died? Did something suddenly change your mind?”
When he didn’t answer, she continued. “Love is a blessing and a gift. And while you say it destroys lives, love is the one thing that can actually create life. Ever think of that?” She argued.
Of course he thought of that. Ever since his blasted dream, he thought of it.
“Alright fine. Let us compromise so that we can move on, shall we? I suspect that we could argue all night over what love is and isn’t. So let’s just agree that it is both blessing and curse.” He hated compromising, but wanted the subject to end. “You can’t deny it.” He added for the sake of arguing.
She wanted to hit him out of sheer frustration, but she also wanted desperately to open his blasted vault. So she withheld her slap that she was sure to use for another day and agreed with him.
“For the sake of moving on, I suppose I can agree to that.” She turned to look at the vault once again, but her level of concentration was at an all-time low in being so close to him.
“Just tell me the last word.” She said defeated. “I cannot figure it out.”
“What is the last pictogram?”
“An apple. A stupid apple with four snakes eating it. You are always walking around eating them. The only thing that it tells me is that it’s you. You and maybe three of your Slytherin friends, which would make no sense at all. So I pretty much just ignored it and started guessing words that might fit the rest of your message.”
“It’s so obvious, you’re going to hate yourself for needing my help. Think, Granger. What is an apple?”
“An apple is… a piece of fruit that grows on deciduous trees that flower in the spring.”
“Over-thinking. It’s just a piece of fruit.”
“Fruit?” She said quietly as her mind scanned for the clue. “Apples?” She whispered as she thought of what people thought of apples. 'Fruit as in Adam and Eve?' She questioned silently in her mind, trying to figure it out.
She thought it might be forbidden fruit, except there are four serpents in his pictogram, not just one as in the Garden of Eden.
Draco knew she was on the right track, but she hadn’t said the right word yet. He decided on another angle.
“How many snakes are there, Hermione?”
He then worded the next question carefully.
“What is happening to the apple?”
“It is being bitten.” She said softly, still not putting the pieces together.
Her mind raced for the answer. Why was this so difficult? Four snakes. The fruit was being bitten. Four. Bitten.
But then… she blinked as the answer finally came to her.
Not Four Bitten. Forbidden!
She furrowed her brow and thought of the meaning behind it. Could it really be the last and final word? She turned to him.
“Draco?” She said as if questioning him, worry and disbelief coming over her in waves. Surely that wasn’t it, was it?
Draco saw her reaction. She had obviously figured it out, but she was hesitating out of disbelief.
He stood there like a commanding and frozen chess piece waiting for her next move.
Hermione looked up at his Black Canvas Vault one last time, confident that she finally found the answer. And as she read it aloud, voice cracking, she realized that it was for her after all.
Every single word, line, and verse… all for her, speaking directly to her soul.
“Love is a curse.
And dark is the heart and mind of the one
Who will never hold the hand…
Or kiss the lips…
Or make love to…
The one that is… forbidden.”
The last lock of the vault clicked. She only needed to say the password key and it would be opened to her.
“The vault key is the same as yours.” He told her from behind the couch. “What was it again? ‘One word. One truth that makes me the less and sends the daggers.’” He quoted perfectly. “Say it.”
She couldn’t believe it. The one that was forbidden was her. And why was she forbidden? It was because she was a… a Mudblood.
She felt her heart fall in her chest at the sad reality… the dynamics of his message.
“Say it!” He demanded as tears streamed down her cheeks.
“Mudblood.” She whispered to the vault.
She heard a loud click and the vault door creaked open.
She was half afraid of what would be hidden inside it. Who knew what it could possibly be?
To her surprise, out flew an origami swan, looping in the air twice before landing softly into her awaiting hands.
Behind her, Draco took out his wand and lifted it high and parallel to the top of the frame of the vault and proceeded to move it downward in a flat and steady motion.
As he did this, the Black Canvas Vault erased like a large ocean wave wipes out a message in the sand and was no more.
She opened the swan to read Draco’s words that were carefully penned for her eyes only.
Her hands were shaky and her eyes were watery as the words blurred on the page. She had to blink several times before she could see clearly.
She turned to him for a split second, thinking that she saw him turn to walk away.
She understood why he would leave. He was satisfied knowing that she had received his letter, but he did not want to stick around for her reaction. She would not fault him for it.
She turned quickly back to his letter and began reading with frantic anticipation.
She breathed a deep breath and prepared herself to take in his words that were written straight from his heart and onto delicately folded parchment.
Words that were sure to break her heart…
“If my eyes are sad, it is because they cannot have what they see.”
Her eyes widened and she gasped for air as his words shot like lightning through her heart that had her knees buckling underneath her. She had to sit back down on the couch, needing something to prevent her from falling to the floor.
She told him that he had the saddest eyes she’d ever seen and here he was… giving her the most heart-wrenching of reasons!
“If my hands tremble, it is because they cannot touch what they want to hold.”
His words were incredible. She recalled him taking hold of her wrists while in the Astronomy Tower. She felt his hands shake for a second, but she thought it was because of the cold. But that was not the reason at all!
“If my heart aches, it is because it is not permitted to love the forbidden.”
She let out a suppressed sob then. The forbidden was her! And just because loving her was forbidden, it would never mean that he didn't.
“Oh, Draco… Draco.” She whispered to the air as her emotions ran deep.
She had to remind herself to breathe as her hand went to her own heart as it sank deeper in her chest.
She had to close her eyes as more tears fell. She was afraid to read on, worried of what he might say next. But she had to keep reading. There was only one line remaining.
Just one more line.
What more could he possibly say that could have her heart breaking even more than it already had? She wondered as she opened her eyes to read his final words.
“What good is Hope when there is no remedy for any of it?”
Hope? They spoke of hope in the Astronomy Tower. His final words were a question about hope. It was a question that would have no answer.
And 'remedy'? Interesting choice of words; implying a sickness... the sickness of society's prejudice, she thought.
She read his letter again and again.
His words were precious and golden and read like a whisper to her soul.
His secret feelings concerning her had been explained in such a way that had her heart melting with sympathy and compassion for him… and love.
She knew now that of all the things that she had already felt for him, combined with their stolen time together and in their in-depth chats about life and death and things that really mattered to both of them… that it would be this night that she truly had fallen in love with him.
If she had any doubt before, there was none now.
She was in love with someone that she couldn’t have.
He would love her if he were permitted to do so. His circumstances… the darkness he was living in would never allow him to love her.
She swallowed hard, wiped away her tears, and composed herself.
“You’re right. Love is a curse.” She said aloud, as if he were still there with her.
After reading his poetic words one last time, she folded the parchment. But as soon as she did, she was scolding herself for doing it.
She should’ve known better!
Because as soon as she folded it, the self-destruction enchantment kicked in and the parchment began jerking free from her grasp.
“No.” She pleaded, as she knew what it was doing. It got away from her. “No.” She said as it burst into flames and disintegrated in front of her eyes, all evidence of his true feelings for her… destroyed.
He was covering his tracks for them both as it would've been evidence of his true feelings for her, indeed.
It was by all accounts, a poetic Dark Valentine. One that spoke of love… forbidden.
She felt emotionally drained at that moment. She had no desire to leave the couch just yet.
With quiet frustration, she sat back on the couch and with her eyes closed, she tilted her head back to rest it on the back of the couch.
Draco had planned his escape. He had fully intended to leave when she was about to read the letter, but something stopped him.
Something shiny had caught his attention when she sat down on the couch in front of him.
She sat there, crying silent tears for all the feelings they shared for each other when they weren’t even permitted to be friends.
He wondered. How can they feel so much for each other, but have no relationship at all?
He stood behind her looking at the sparkly rhinestone pins in her hair that she had situated exactly like the stars of his constellation.
He stood mesmerized by them, understanding their significance.
Even though they couldn’t be together, he wanted to thank her, just as she had thanked him for all that he’d done… the soup, the book...
She had thanked him with three little kisses under the courtyard surrounded by magical graffiti… and so he felt it only right to do the same.
With her eyes closed, she tilted her head to the sky, resting her head on the back of the couch in sad frustration.
He stepped to her then from behind couch.
She felt a warm presence come over her.
Her eyes opened to see his grey, wanting eyes looking down at her, upside-down.
She sat frozen in her seat, unable to move… which was the best thing she could’ve possibly done in that moment in time.
For he had leaned down close and then proceeded to press his lips to her forehead.
“That’s for the stars in your hair that call my name.”
He moved down a bit and kissed the bridge of her nose.
“That’s for wrapping yourself in the blackest of fabrics tonight… like a gift to me, knowing that I would love it.”
Hermione knew what was coming next. He was about to kiss her on the lips, just as she had done to him under the courtyard… her three kisses of thanks being returned, albeit at a more interesting and erotic angle.
But of all the times that she had daydreamed of him kissing her, there was no way to prepare for the feelings of the intensity of the anticipation and desire of the purest form that had her mind completely lost in the shadow that he had cast over her.
Slowly he moved further down her pretty face and placed his lips softly onto hers.
It felt like the weight of the lightest feather against her lips… the experience of it overtaking her ability to breathe.
All senses left her except for the feeling of him on her lips.
Her heart pounded as if she were running a race against time as it would be over much, much too soon.
She desperately wanted time to slow to a near halt.
She moved her hands up to touch his dagger-shaped sideburns so that he wouldn’t end his kiss too quickly.
It was the slightest pressure at first.
But when he felt her hands on his face, it was as if his dark world stopped spinning for a moment, giving him pause… giving him a moment of freedom to kiss his love.
And so… he did.
Lips came together a bit more firmly. Mouths parted. Tongues tasted.
Fires burned and hearts melted.
It was a strange thing to be kissed upside down, something that neither of them had ever experienced before. It would be a unique kiss to them… both intriguing and perfectly hypnotizing.
The brushing of their tongues together at such a strange angle held them in awe… so warm, smooth, thrilling, and dangerously addicting.
When he stopped his kiss of perfection, his lips remained on hers just as he had begun, an unmoving touch of a feather… an intimate moment’s pause.
When he finally pulled away slightly, he brushed his cheek to hers. His hot breath fell against her ear and down her neck sending tickling sensations throughout her body as he whispered his explanation.
“That was for dressing for me as if…” He paused to breathe as he spoke his heart. “As if I had asked you to the dance tonight… and you had said yes. You don’t know what it means to me.”
She turned around in her seat to face him, in awe that in her dressing for him, he most definitely took notice, giving her the most amazing experience of her young life.
But that’s when they heard laughter coming toward them. It sounded like Pansy.
Hermione became a bit frantic, but Draco remained completely calm.
He put a finger to his lips, signaling her to be quiet.
He turned from her then, raised both hands, and then expertly placed an inaudible protection charm around them so they could not be seen.
Pansy and Vaden made their way to them and stopped in front of his erased vault.
Draco could see Hermione’s surprise when she saw her former date walking with Pansy.
Their voices were muffled, but could be heard.
“Well, this was Draco’s, but he erased it. The only part I was able to decipher was ‘Love is a Curse.’ Obviously, he was speaking of me and our relationship.” She gave a long sigh. “I’m trying to be mad at him, but how can I be when he broke up with me so kindly tonight?”
Hermione’s head snapped to Draco at the surprising news. He had broken up with Pansy this very night?
“Love is a Curse?” Vaden commented. “Sounds depressing.”
“Yes. Well that describes him this year. Depressing… and bringing everyone else down with him. It’s good to be finally rid of him. Let’s keep moving. I’d rather not think about my ex right now.”
Hermione’s eyes had only left his for a moment to be sure that Pansy and Vaden were gone.
When she looked back at him, all she saw was the sad image of him walking slowly in the opposite direction, underneath the high gothic arches of the long ornate Hogwarts hall.
He was the picture of loneliness.
But he would not be alone this night… not if she had anything to do about it.
And so she grabbed her pretty high-heel shoes, lifted her long dress, and ran after him barefoot.
He had walked away… away from Hermione and their wonderfully unique kiss, his vault’s message, and all that he had revealed to her.
He just began walking away from all of it because love was a curse. And right then it was causing him pain felt in his chest, wondering if he had done the right thing in kissing her.
It was only sure to complicate things.
Well... there you have it. He is not supposed to love the 'Forbidden.' Wahh! ;(
Thank you again for all of the guesses. They put smiles on my face and I absolutely LOVED hearing from you! My heart swells at each review and I cannot thank you enough.
I wrote so much of this encounter, that I had to split in two. So I promise that the next chapter will not take so long. I took a bit of a break to write a Challenge story called, "The Winds of Azkaban." Stop by if you are interested.
Enough of my rambling... Please tell me what you thought of his letter to her and his three kisses. I'm dying to hear from you!
P.S. 152 have Favorited and 23,000 Reads. AMAZING! THANK YOU!
And... I'm so terribly sorry for making you wait so long. Please forgive a busy person who would love to write all day, but cannot. ;(
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