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Don't Forget to Breathe by perfect_circle
Chapter 21 : Mouth's Cradle
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 5

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“What happened?” Nott asked Draco as Draco sat beside him in the nearly empty library. They were seated way, way back, far away from other students who were cramming for the last day’s exams. Nott was looking at Draco’s bandaged palm, fresh blood seeping through the gauze.




“I- I believe I figured it out,” he muttered.




Nott’s brows rose and then he broke into a smile. “Merlin’s balls, you actually figured it out?”




“Keep your voice down.”




“Right,” Nott said in a smaller voice. “But you did it!” His eyes glistened under the candelabras surrounding them. “How did you- and your hand!” Nott sputtered excitedly.




“I can’t have it healed. I need the wound. It’s like…my key. “




“The bloody hell…” Nott whispered, trying to understand the process. “What did you find?”




“A relic stolen by some descendant of Slytherin from a Peverell descendant.”




“You don’t mean the Tales of Beedle the Bard, do you?”




“Exactly that.”




“Merlin fucking Morgana.”




“That’s disgusting, Nott.”




 “I didn’t mean that literally, but bloody hell. You sure are disappointed for an achievement this immense.”




“I…still have to straighten a few things out,” he said. And it was true. It was a highly complicated task, to bind the wand. And if his aunt planned an attack on Hogwarts soon, they certainly wouldn’t have time for silly rituals just to use the relic. It was up to him, then. He would pursue the ritual and encase his own wand, as soon as the exams were finished. He would owl his mother, then.




“Well, in case you’re still in the running to graduate with honors, you might as well study for the last two exams tomorrow. The Dark Arts comes in the afternoon. Both written and actual,” Nott told him.




Draco cringed and then sighed, his pallor showing just the tiniest tinge of gray now. A month of having no sleep was taking its toll on him, physically at most. Walking for the Dark Arts section three rows behind their seats, Draco stopped in place when he saw Hermione standing in the same section. Damn it!




Without thinking, Hermione rushed for him, his hand cradled in her hands. “What happened?” she whispered, tracing the outline of blood with her fingers in almost featherlike strokes.




“I- accidentally hit the clock in our Common Room when I tried to hit a pesky bug.”




“And you haven’t gone to Madam Pomfrey?”




“No need. It’s too small to require for her help.”




“Here, I’ll help you,” she quickly offered, pointing her wand at his wound.




“No!” he said as Hermione’s eyes widened with surprise. He took a step back and unconsciously scratched his bandaged palm.




“Are you sure you won’t need my help?” she felt a bit taken aback. Useless at being unable to make a fraction of pain in Draco go away.




“No. Thanks though. This was a product of my stupidity,” he told her. Stupid it was to have gotten himself into this perfectly carved mess.




Hermione shrugged, wondering why Draco was protective over such a tiny injury. Men, she mused, always wanting to show examples of bravado.




“Are you ready for tomorrow?” she asked him. “Last day of exams and all for the season...”




“And that is why I’m here,” Draco smiled tiredly.




“Are you sure you’re alright? Look at you. You haven’t had much sleep, have you?” she asked him, going nearer to his face. His eyes seemed bloodshot, his eye sockets looked more bruised than ever and he was paler than the usual pale Hermione had been accustomed to.




He laughed hollowly. “We all haven’t had much sleep. My roommates snore so much, sleep is a luxury nowadays.”




“Don’t lie to me,” she suddenly said, tired of pretending that Draco always said he was alright and that she believed it.




Draco thought he didn’t hear right, but his muscles tensed. “I beg your pardon.”




“You heard me, Draco.”




“Why the bloody hell would I lie to you?” his temper began to flare. She was actually questioning him, thinking he was truly betraying her trust.




“There’s a far better reason than snoring that’s making you look like you belong to the walking dead,” Hermione said, recalling Draco disappear into Hog’s Head. But she didn’t mention anything pertaining to that.




“I can’t sleep, so there,” Draco snapped. “Are you questioning my other activities now?”




“I just want to know what’s making you look unwell,” she reasoned, trying to hold his hand. Draco swatted it away.




“Nothing, nothing is making me sick. If I look this way, it’s probably because of fucking irritants like you!” he breathed out harshly, almost forgetting that things were different now with Hermione, forgetting his politeness, forgetting that he actually fell in love with someone.




Hermione sucked her breath in. That hurt. That actually hurt…the last time she had bickered with Draco, it didn’t hurt so much, probably because she knew they were adamant on teasing each other. But now, he truly meant it. She took a step backwards. The neurons in her brain sent pain throughout her chest. She almost couldn’t breathe. In this sudden turn of events, Draco was back to his old, inconsiderate self.




“Hermione-“ Draco began, realizing the outcome his careless words had on her. “I didn’t mean that, I-“




Hermione shook her head, spun her heels and ran, leaving Draco standing there with his mouth wide open and his palm bleeding again from his now clenched fist.




“Well, that was pretty tragic,” Nott’s voice drawled as he entered the space. “You didn’t look like a convincing Tristan to our Isolde.”




Draco glared at him. “Shut it.”




“Excuse me then,” Nott said drily, leaving Draco standing alone in the middle of hundreds of books that suddenly seemed accusing.









Theodore Nott left the library at half past eight in the evening, fiddling with his wand as he walked the hallways of Hogwarts. He had heard most of the conversation they both had while in the library. Draco’s nature was to snap at people when he got cornered, that he understood perfectly. It wasn’t easy to work for the Dark Lord when you weren’t assured of your survival. He stopped by the prefect’s classroom first and heard someone sniffing from the far corner. Bingo.




Quietly entering the room he slipped beside Hermione who had taken a seat on the table, her feet perched on a chair. She had cried quickly, he assumed, as only her nose and eyes were red now.




“I’m sorry about Draco, he can be such a total idiot-“




“What are you doing here?” she interrupted him, nearly glaring at him for his intrusion.




“A half hearted effort to console someone who got upset.”




“Half hearted,” Hermione repeated bitterly. “Is that what people from your house do all the time? Do half hearted efforts? Trick people into thinking you’re grand and then throwing them away like rubbish?”




“Partially,” he admitted. “But let me correct you by saying that Draco never threw you away.”




“His words-“




“Words are tricky, you see.”




“Words mean everything.”




“In my world, it only means what benefits I can gain from it. Perhaps Draco is under a load of stress now,” he suggested, eyeing her reaction.




Hermione stood up.”I’ve had enough of Slytherin for today, thank you. Now, if you’ll excuse me-“












“Listen to what I have to say first. As a prefect, if it makes you feel better,” he said, waiting for her to sit. How he wished it could be always like this…he cleared his throat, wondering what he was doing, for Merlin’s bearded sake.




“I don’t bloody know what’s going on between you two exactly, if it’s just some love for Slytherin and Gryffindor, or some awkward hormonal experiment. But the fact is you should stay away from Draco.”




It was simply said and it suddenly left Hermione devastated. She studied Nott’s movements, trying to read if he was lying, but the man was so damned composed and aloof, she could only see it as the truth.




“Why?” her voice cracked.




“Why?” Nott repeated, nearly mocking. “Why? What kind of a bloody question is that? For your self-preservation of course, Head Girl! You don’t think people won’t realize this soon? Wait till you’re out of Hogwarts- is that what your elementary plan is? People from both sides will destroy you and Draco as well. It’s not easy, what you’re doing. If it’s like, stop it, if it’s love, stab it in the heart-“




“Stop it,” Hermione murmured, fresh tears forming in her eyes.




“Stop what? Telling you what the truth is? Look at yourself now; if you can’t handle Draco at his worst, then you don’t deserve him.”




“And you’re the authority on Draco’s behavior?”




“I’m an old ally. I know him best, far better than Blaise, Pansy or any other pawn. So I suggest you keep away from him, for his safety also.”




“Safety? He’s in danger?”




Nott threw his hands in the air. “Can I not exaggerate a bit? Look, ever since the inquisition last year, Draco’s been under immense pressure to prove himself worthy of the Malfoy name, his father left them to fend for themselves. You think he’s safe? He is while he’s still in Hogwarts, but after he steps out of this school, that’s when he’s vulnerable. He-who-must-not-be-named has supporters and they, in all probability, want Draco dead.”




Hermione gasped, unable to believe what she was hearing. “Then he needs all the help he can-“




“I don’t mean to be rude, but shouldn’t you ensure the safety of your bespectacled buddy?” he said. “That Potter brat- sorry for the adjective, needs your skills.”




Hermione stopped and narrowed her eyes. “What are you doing? Are you in on this? You never spoke to me directly before and now-“




“Call it a change of heart. Draco will probably be the last Slytherin prince. And I’ll see to it, in accordance to my family’s loyalty, that he will stay safe while I’m also in Hogwarts.”




“But…you never talk to each other. You avoid each other.”




“Ah, you’ve been observant. But isn’t that the point? No one in Slytherin wants to have a chum buddy. You’re either the leader or the slave. Draco and I- our alliance goes far back, that’s why we’re never together, because we’re equals.”




Hermione felt stunned by his admission. So here was the shady Theodore Nott, actually a willing associate to Draco…her footing shifted and she stared at the floor, wondering what Draco was doing right now. It did hurt, she told herself, but Nott said she didn’t deserve him if she couldn’t handle him…She suddenly felt like a dragon-keeper, cautious around the beast that splayed fire when provoked.




“What do you get out of this?” Hermione suddenly asked.




Nott was silent. The words hit home. Right, what did he get out of this? He felt that he succeeded in turning Hermione’s mind around; change her heart a bit about Draco. Call it a selfless act, if one must, when he could have coaxed her into thinking more about him instead of Draco. Would his family rise up once more to claim a place among the pureblooded ‘royals’ of his time? Would he gain back the riches his family had lost when they first joined the Death Eaters? He was certainly not too poor now, but they had more than their fair share of wealth before the First Wizarding War occurred.




“I’m waiting to see what I will get out of this,” he said slowly and carefully. True, he had ambitions, but he was patient. Waiting was a part of regaining some authority in the Wizarding world. “Don’t get me wrong, Granger. But I still believe Mud- Muggleborns shouldn’t practice magic. How you got this skill for magic, I cannot fathom. We’re envious, we truly are. You don’t deserve what you have now.”




“There’s nothing I can do about that,” she said stiffly, her brows creasing. “How was I to know I’d end up here?”




“Perhaps…it is fate.”




Hermione recalled the night Draco showed her the book containing information on the two star crossed lovers from the 17th century, of Areatha and Colin. He had shown her a subtle sign of magical lineage, if she truly was connected to that Muggleborn mother Melaine Granger-Thwaite…




“Fate,” Hermione said again, hollowly. “Is it fate that I sit next to you now?”




Nott laughed. “Fate? No, it’s a choice. Who in Slytherin would want to sit beside you? But I sat beside you and it’s not easy.”




Of course it wasn’t easy. Here he was, sitting, conversing with a Mudblood, a Mudblood he had also begun to have feelings for. If he couldn’t compete with Draco in terms of leadership, he could compete with his women. Blaise had thought he was king to that. There was a reason Blaise kept bragging about his liaisons and that was to keep interest in him alive. Draco didn’t like showing off and had kept to himself when it came to his male needs.  But this moment- this was his chance to make it well with her. If he could just steer her into thinking that he was better, more deserving of her liking…He suddenly felt disgusted with himself. He was betraying his bloodline, his oath to Draco and his oath to himself that he would never consort with their kind.




He stood up. “Leave him, while it’s still early, while you still can.”




“But you’re not leaving him.”




He snorted. “What am I? His lover? You’re the one who needs to stay away from him. Don’t distract him anymore. He needs to fix his problems with his family first.”




“I can help,” she said timidly.




Nott laughed as he stood in the doorway. “Help. Such a fine word. Help yourself first. The world is better off without the two of you together.”




“Maybe we can change things-“




“Wake up, Head Girl. This is the real, harsh world of wizardry. Slytherin and Gryffindor together may be, but Muggleborn and Pureblood like him- never.”




Hermione suppressed the sob that was about to escape her throat. She held onto the edge of the table for support. She was looked at the floor and then to the door; a glow came in from the torches outside, framing Theodore Nott in subdued light, making him look more of a kind human than a harsh bastard. Was he enjoying this? Was he gloating over her? She was trying to make the tears stop.




Nott stood in silence, observing the sad yet beautiful creature in front of him. In the soft, orangey glow, Hermione stood, one hand clutching her other arm, silent and contemplative. His heart suddenly wanted to reach out for her; he wanted to hold her, do all those namby-pamby actuations that lovers do, just to stop her from heartache. He clenched a fist. What the hell was he thinking?




“Don’t cry,” he said stiffly, approaching her. Gingerly, he held out a hand to put on her shoulder.




“What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing?” a voice interrupted.




Nott whirled around and Hermione looked up. Draco’s lips were stretched thin and his eyes narrowed, looking at the hand Nott had placed on Hermione’s shoulder. Nott quickly recoiled and Draco strode for them. His eyes were tense, as if he was controlling his anger.




Nott stood ground and faced Draco. Draco was taller than he was by around an inch and a half and had a better build.




“What’s this, Draco?” Nott drawled, eyeing him.




“You didn’t answer my question,” Draco held Nott’s arm, gripped it tightly.




Nott glared at him and tried to remove Draco’s hand away. Draco wouldn’t budge. Nott tried harder, gritting his teeth as he did.




“Stop it!” Hermione cried out, just as Nott had successfully removed Draco’s arm, hitting Hermione in the face with the back of Draco’s hand.




Hermione stumbled to the floor.




A/N: sometimes, I just love drama. lol. till next! ^^



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