Chapter 3 : Encounters
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The castle was being prepared for Christmas, but I couldn't find my Christmas spirit. It was my first one without Mum and Dad, and I truly felt as if they had died.
We were released from classes a week before Christmas day. Many students would be going home, but I had chosen to stay at Hogwarts for the time being. I had nowhere to go other than the Burrow, and nothing but heartache waited for me there.
My rebuilding team were completing our last task before the holidays, and I focused on my work so I didn’t have to listen to two girls chatting excitedly about their plans. I was so absorbed in restoring a tapestry to its former glory that it took some moments to notice Malfoy working alongside of me. I spared him an awkward nod, and his eyes flickered in response.
“Hemione, where can I hang this?” a tiny girl - the second year who had surprised me with a hug on the first day back – asked, tugging on my shirt. I’d since found out that her name was Lucy Abbott, Hannah’s little sister.
“Over here, Lucy. Thank you, I can do it.” I tore my eyes away from Malfoy to turn to little Lucy. Taking the small tapestry from her hands, I walked towards a blank wall space and then stared at it in confusion. I knew, as the team leader, it was my responsibility to hang up the tapestry – but I couldn’t remember the spell.
I was still standing there, confusing warring in my mind, when the tapestry was taken from me.
“Here, Granger. I’ll do it,” Malfoy muttered. His eyes had dark shadows underneath, and I acquiesced without a word. I missed the look of surprise in his eyes, too focused on his wand as he performed his spell work.
“Wingardium leviosa, permanento,” he said, attaching the tapestry to the wall. I scrunched up my face in confusion – I remembered wingardium leviosa, but not the second spell.
“Thanks,” I said with a frustrated sigh. I rubbed my forehead where a headache was steadily building.
“You’re… welcome?” he said, seemingly in question. I’d learnt over the last two weeks that when people acted hesitantly around me, it was because I treated them differently than I did three months ago, back when I still had my memories. Given Malfoy’s reaction, I guessed that he hadn’t been high on my list of people to be kind to.
I forced a smile at him, and he glared suspiciously at me. There was the Malfoy I remembered, the one who didn’t wander around like a ghost with exhausted eyes and slumped shoulders.
“Look, Granger –“ he started to say, but was cut off.
“Hermione! There you are!”
I turned to see Ron walking towards me. It still surprised me, the way I expected him to be the fifth year version of himself. Instead, he looked more like George every day.
His eyes flickered between myself and Malfoy, and only then did I realise how close we were standing. I took a step away, and stiffened as Ron quickly grabbed me in an embrace. Over Ron’s shoulder I saw Malfoy roll his eyes and turn back to his work. Ron let me go and tugged me to a quieter spot before I could pull my hand from his.
“What do you want, Ron?”
“I just wanted to talk to you, Hermione,” he said, tightly squeezing my hand. The way he stood over me, eyes locked onto mine and fingers tracing patterns on my palm, was so familiar yet so foreign. My headache grew, and I snatched my hand back.
“What about?” I asked lightly, forcing a smile. Every time we’d been alone in the last two weeks, awkwardness seeped into our conversations. He insisted on touching me in such an intimate, uncomfortable way, brushing my hair from my face or putting his hands on my waist.
“Come home with me for Christmas,” he said quietly, half reaching out to me but dropping his hand by his side as I shifted away.
“Ron, we talked about this,” I sighed, looking away. He’d cornered me several times over the last few days, and each time made me feel more and more confused and uncomfortable.
“How about you come as my… as my friend,” he said, voice growing smaller as he said ‘friends’. He truly looked heartbroken, and I ached to see my best friend in so much pain.
“I’ll think about it, okay?” I started to walk away, but he caught my waist, spinning me back around to face him.
“I’m not going to give up on you Hermione,” he said in a low voice, blue eyes intent on my brown ones, “I’m going to fight for you. I’m going to fight for us. Even if you don’t remember what we had, we can make new memories all over again. You can fall in love again.”
He didn’t give me a chance to reply, and I stood frozen as he bent his head and pressed his lips against mine. My mind was reeling in shock and confusion, and I broke away from him.
“Don’t , Ron!” I yelled, tears splashing down my face, “You’re my best friend and you’re confusing me! Leave me alone!”
I ran from him before he could grab me again, trying to escape the confusion and heartache raging in my body.
Everything was so different.
I stood on the reconstructed astronomy tower, trying to breathe deeply and calmly lest the confusion and terror overcame me. Snow fell peacefully around my feet, but I felt anything but peace inside. I hardly noticed my shivering as I stared out at the mountains surrounding Hogwarts.
In the castle, everyone who had stayed for Christmas was feasting. A memorial had been held earlier in the day for our casualties, and it was the most subdued Christmas I’d ever seen. I couldn’t stand the fake smiles and forced cheerfulness, so I left.
The Weasley’s had decided to stay for Christmas, with Mr and Mrs Weasley visiting during the day. According to Ginny, it was too awful at the Burrow without Fred; too painful.
“Granger? Do you want to die out here?” a cool voice interrupted my jumbled thoughts, and I jumped. Turning around, I saw Malfoy standing at the tower entrance. His face was its usual pale, and his darker hair swept across his eyes.
“That’s up for debate,” I said drily, and turned my back on him, rubbing my arms for warmth.
“That’s not funny,” he said quietly, and I shrugged.
“Wasn’t meant to be.”
There was silence, and I assumed he’d left until I heard his footsteps crunching through the snow.
“Here,” he muttered awkwardly, placing his coat around my shoulders.
I meant to ask why he was being so kind, but instead, “Why are you staying for Christmas?” came out of my mouth. As soon as the words were said, I wanted to snatch them back. My sluggish thoughts caught up with my mouth, and I remembered that
Lucius Malfoy was dead.
“Nothing to go home to, is there?” he said with a bitter laugh, leaning against the rail beside me. Goosebumps were raised on his skin, and like everyone else, he too had healing scars criss-crossing his skin.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean-“
“Whatever, Granger. Everyone knows you’ve lost your mind and gotten loopier, don’t need to apologise,” he said cruelly, and I felt my mouth tremble. An urge, one that I remembered from previous years, rose up inside. I had to hurt him, had to make him feel as much pain as I felt.
“At least my father is alive,” I hissed, and he whipped around to face me.
“He doesn’t even remember you,” he sneered, but not as viciously as he once would have.
“That may be so,” I said, forcing the tremor out of my voice and hands, “But at least I grew up knowing both of my parents loved me.”
He blinked at me, and I suddenly wanted to take my words back for the second time in one night. Hadn’t we all already been hurt enough? What was it about this insufferable boy that made my blood boil and say awful things?
“Once a mudblood, Granger, always a mudblood,” he said through gritted teeth, closing his eyes briefly. He pushed himself off of the railing and advanced towards me. Grabbing for my wand would be useless, because I’d forgotten any useful spells and hexes.
“Malfoy, don’t –“
“Sod off, Granger!” he yelled in my face, and it was so like everything I remembered, like nothing had changed, that I returned to myself somewhat. I pulled my wand out of my pocket and gripped it with more strength than I felt.
“Leave me alone!” I yelled back, but somehow a tremor made its way back into my hand, and my wand wavered. Malfoy’s eyes flicked between my eyes and my wand in surprise, and it was only then that I noticed he was empty handed. He reached out and I winced, but he only grabbed my wrist and tugged my wand out of my fingers.
“What are you doing?” I yelled, but he didn’t answer. He took a step closer, and I braced myself for what was coming. However, he only slid my wand back in my pocket and stepped back again. He had stood close enough for me to feel his body heat, and I shivered without it.
“Merry Christmas, Granger,” he muttered, before turning and striding away.
“But I still have your coat,” I said to the empty air in front of me.
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