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Chapter 8 : Chapter Eight: The Darknesses in Life
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On Sunday morning, Hermione woke and dressed quickly before Draco awoke. She put on a cute flower-print dress that she had worn earlier in the summer, and put her hair up, with a pair of black flats and a light sweater just in case she got cold. She left a note for Draco, telling him where she'd gone in case he worried, and then headed towards the Room of Requirement.
Theo had left a note, telling her how to enter the room again, and he was waiting for her when she entered. This time, the room had taken the appearance of a beautiful flower garden, complete with a gazebo.
‘Good morning,' Theo said when she approached. He took her hand and kissed it, which made her giggle.
'Good morning,' she replied, sitting in the adjacent chair. ‘How are you able to make the room look like this? It’s beautiful.‘
'I don't know. I guess I just wanted to be in my mother's garden,' he said. 'It's exactly the same as it used to be. It doesn't look like this anymore, though.'
'This is your mother's garden?' She asked, surprised. He nodded sadly. 'It's beautiful.'
Theo smiled a little. 'My mother was a wonderful woman. She was so bright and happy, so full of life. When she got sick... I thought, how could the sun still shine? It wasn't fair that the sun shone so beautifully when my mother, who was always happy, always smiling, was dying? It wasn't fair.'
'How old were you, when... when it happened?' She asked. She didn't want to ask how Mrs. Nott had died.
'I was eight,' he said. 'She had contracted some muggle disease. Cancer. My mother, a powerful witch, was killed by a muggle disease. And all the magic in the world couldn't cure her. They tried. She even tried muggle doctors, but the treatments weren't working. I was there, when she died. It's why I can see the Thestrals. I'd curled up in her bed. After I discovered that she had stopped breathing, Mrs. Parkinson had to drag me out of the room kicking and screaming.'
'Mrs. Parkinson was there?'
He nodded. 'She was my mother's best friend. Her daughter got her attitude from her father, though. She's actually a nice woman, Mrs. Parkinson, once you get to know her. Probably because she was a Ravenclaw. But no one talks about that,' he said.
Hermione tried to imagine it. She'd always thought of Mrs. Parkinson as being exactly like her daughter. 'What was your mother's name?' She asked.
'Morgan,' he said. 'Morgan Clarissa Nott.'
Hermione had always thought the name Morgan was pretty, in a dark sort of way. The way Theo had described his mother's personality, she didn't sound like a Morgan. But then, names didn't make a person. 'Pretty,' she said. 'I'm sorry about your mother.'
'It's alright. It was a long time ago,' he said, sighing. 'Let's order some breakfast, yeah?'
She had forgotten that there was a plate in front of her. Hermione ordered a breakfast sandwich—bacon, cheese and an egg on a biscuit-- with fresh fruit and a glass of orange juice. It was the kind of breakfast she'd loved at home. Theo ordered sausage and pancakes drenched in maple syrup with a side of fresh berries and peach juice. They ate in silence at first, enjoying the food. The House Elves always outdid themselves.
'What do you want to do after Hogwarts?' She asked him.
He shrugged. 'I'd really love to work at the Department of Mysteries or something like that. I'm also interested in wandlore,' he said. 'But who knows? It'll depend on NEWTs and what job offerings I can get. What about you?'
'I'm not sure yet,' she said honestly. 'I used to think I wanted to do something like teaching, but the idea doesn't appeal to me so much now. I think I want to get into The Department of Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, to continue to fight for House Elf rights and things like that.'
'I remember you going on about 'spew' in fourth year,' he said. 'My family's had a House Elf forever. If it were up to me, I'd pay him, but my father is very old fashioned. I feel badly for the poor creatures.'
'They are treated horribly,' she agreed. 'The Hogwarts House Elves are treated much kinder now, I think, since Dobby and Winky.'
'I knew Dobby. And I think I've met an elf named Winky, during one of my many trips to the kitchens,' he said.
She laughed. 'So, um, the Hogsmeade trip is scheduled for the seventh of October. I was wondering if you would go with me?' She asked hesitantly.
'Sure,' he said. 'I'd love to.'
She grined. 'Great,' she said. 'We're to meet up with Draco and Astoria at some point as well, to 'promote' House Unity.'
'That sounds like a good plan,' he said. 'Would you mind if we met up with Pansy, as well? She always drags me along to go shopping.'
She did not want to spend the day shopping with Pansy Parkinson, but she was supposed to be supporting House Unity now. 'That would be great. I'll invite Harry and Ginny along as well, and perhaps Neville and Luna?'
'Alright,' he said. 'And since Astoria's coming along, it wouldn't be fair not to invite Daphne and Blaise as well.'
'Okay,' she said. 'We can all agree to meet at the Three Broomsticks after we've finished up our shopping.'
'I'll let them know this week,' he said.
They continued their breakfasts, and Hermione found herself looking forward to the Hogsmeade weekend. Sure, she didn't like Pansy. But she didn't know Daphne or Astoria Greengrass. Perhaps the Slytherins would turn out to be not as bad as she had assumed. She hoped so, anyway.
Astoria had accepted his invitation to join him in the Head's Tower, and now she sat beside him on the sofa, a mug of tea clasped between her hands. She was quite pretty, Astoria. With her raven-black curls and dark green eyes that glittered when she smiled. Two years younger than Daphne, her older sister. She was in the year below Ginny Weasley. At one point Draco had thought her to be a silly little girl that he only put up with because Daphne was her sister. But Astoria was sixteen now, and she had grown out of her awkwardness. Now Draco found that she made for pleasant company. She wasn't nearly as snobby as her sister.
'Are you enjoying being Head Boy?' She asked him. 'I thought for sure that you and Granger would be at each other's throats, but you seem to be getting along.'
'Granger's not as insufferable as she was,' Draco admitted. 'And being Head Boy does have it's perks. Like this Tower.'
'Yes. I'm sure you don't miss having to share a dormitory,' she said enviously. 'I would trade places with Granger in a heartbeat. I hate sharing a dormitory.'
'I definitely don't miss it, that's for sure,' he agreed. 'Although that bloody portrait is quite aggravating.'
She laughed. 'Muggles are weird,' she said, and he nodded in agreement.
'Has Nott said when Quidditch trials are being held yet?' Draco asked. Quitting the team had been one of the hardest decisions he'd had to make, but there was no way he could pass his NEWTs and keep up with his responsibilities as Head Boy. He'd had to give up something, and as much as he loved Quidditch, he had more important things to focus on.
'Tuesday,' Astoria answered. 'I was thinking of trying for Seeker.'
He remembered when they would play Quidditch at his birthday parties and when he was invited to the Greengrass' for 'play dates'. Even though she was younger than the rest of them, Astoria had always been a fairly decent Seeker. She was faster than he was, at times. 'You should do it,' he said.
'Really?' She asked, surprised.
He nodded. 'Yeah. Go for it,' he said. She was biting her lip, a worried look on her face. He sighed. 'Tori, don't worry about offending me or anything like that, OK? I can't be offended. I'm not the Seeker, and even if I was, you still have every right to try out for the team.'
'I know that. I'm just worried that I won't be as good as you,' she said. 'And what if someone else tries out whose better than me? What if I humiliate myself?'
'You won't humiliate yourself, Tori. And don't worry about not being as good as me. You won't be as good as me, because you'll be better.' He said.
Astoria looked up, green eyes meeting his. 'Better?' She half-whispered.
'Much better,' he said.
Without even thinking, Draco leaned forward and kissed her. Astoria made a startled noise, but she kissed him back, grabbing the front of his shirt to pull him closer.
His brain shut off, and he stopped thinking. The part of him that had longed to be this close to someone hummed in contentment as he pulled Astoria closer, his desperate longing finally satisfied.
Hermione would've been happy to spend the rest of the day in the Room of Requirement with Theo. If not for the fact that they both had homework to do, she probably would've. Instead, at half-past noon, the two parted ways, Theo heading back to the Slytherin common room and Hermione heading to the Gryffindor Common Room. She used a summoning charm to get her books from the Head's Tower, rather than wasting time walking.
Ginny and Harry were waiting for her when she arrived, already pouring over their books. She told them about her plans for Hogsmeade, and while Ginny didn't care what they did one way or another as long as she got a dress, Harry protested.
'The Slytherins have never been anything but horrible to you, Hermione. What makes you think they're going to change now?' He asked.
'I don't think they're going to change. And I'm not expecting to become friends with any of them. I just don't see the harm in having a friendly Butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks together,' she said. 'See, this is why McGonagall introduced House Unity. You're being just as prejudiced as they are, Harry.'
'I don't see why you're so against the idea,' Ginny said. 'You've been civil with Malfoy thus far. And like Hermione said, it's just a butterbeer. No one's expecting you to be best friends with any of them.'
'I don't like it,' he said. 'And just because I've been civil with Malfoy doesn't mean anything. I don't trust the lot of them. Ron would agree with me.'
'Well, Ron's not invited, so he can't agree one way or another,' Hermione snapped. 'Fine, then. If you don't want to go, don't go. But you could at least give them a chance, Harry. Who knows? They might not be as bad as you think.'
Harry snorted like he very much doubted that. 'I'll go, but only because you're my friend and I'll try to support you even if I don't like your decisions. But I want it to be clear that this is not my choice.'
'Oh, that much is very clear,' Hermione said. 'Thank you, though.'
He nodded. There was a look on Harry's face that said he clearly wasn't happy about it. Hermione wondered what his problem was. She hadn't even mentioned the fact that she was sort-of dating Theo, and he was already being judgemental. It was probably best, then, that she didn't say anything until after Hogsmeade, when she might be certain of her relationship with Theo. His reaction was a very Harry-like reaction; he'd always disliked the Slytherins, especially those who had any sort of a connection to Draco. But she'd thought that had changed now that he and Draco were behaving civilly towards each other. She'd thought it would be different now, with House Unity.
But perhaps Hermione should've expected this. After all, it would take more than a week to change life-long traditions and ideals. House Unity wasn't going to happen overnight, as much as she might want it to.
The following morning, Hermione woke long before she should've been awake, covered in a cold-sweat and shaking from nightmares. She stuffed her feet into slippers and left her bedroom. The fire had died some time during the night, and she wrapped her arms around herself, shivering.
To her surprise, though, the common room was not empty. Draco was sitting on the sofa, and from the way his back was moving up and down, and the choked noises he was making, she thought he was crying.
She knew she ought to leave. She had no right to be invading his privacy. But then, on the train, he'd said that they should be the other's support. And it wasn't right not to try and comfort him when he was clearly distraught over something.
Hesitantly, she walked over to the sofa. He had his head in his hands, and the sobbing was more distinct now that she could hear it better.
‘Draco?’ She said softly. ‘Draco, are you OK?’
He looked up. His eyes were puffy, and he had tear-stains on his cheeks. He looked away from her quickly, and she expected him to move or tell her to go away, but he didn't. So she sat down next to him.
'When I was ten,' Draco began, 'the summer before I came to Hogwarts, my father took me to my first Quidditch game. I was thrilled, of course, and afterwards we went out for ice cream. When we got home, he let me fly on his broomstick with him. And I remember thinking that, for the first time, my father really did love me. But later, when I was about to go to bed, he told me to bring him my broomstick. I did. He took it... and then he snapped it in half. I remember crying, and he just... he slapped me. Told me I was weak, that I'd let my guard down and shown weakness and I was pathetic. Then he said "Draco, there are darknesses in life. The things you love will be used against you. You can never allow yourself to show that you love anything. Happiness is an illusion. Darkness takes away everything. Then he sent me to my room, and I remember staring at the wall for hours. The next morning, my mother came in. She kissed me on the cheek and told me that no matter what happened, she would always love me. I never cared about anything or anyone after that, except my mother. And in a way, my father was trying to protect me. Showing emotion was a dangerous thing, especially around the other Death Eaters. So I learned to hide my feelings. And I've never allowed myself to care about anyone, except my mother.'
His voice quivered as he finished. Hermione felt a new wave of hatred for Lucius, and she was quite glad that he was in Azkaban. Otherwise, she probably would've gone to Malfoy Manor and hexed him until she sent him to Hell.
'I'm so sorry,' she whispered.
He laughed bitterly. 'Why should you be sorry for me? I'm just a foul, evil little cockroach to you.'
'You were when I said it,' she said softly. 'But I had no idea. I mean, I had an inkling of an idea, from what your mother said at your trial. But I didn't know...'
'No one was supposed to know,' he said. 'I didn't tell anyone. You're the first person I've ever told.'
'He abused you, didn't he? And Narcissa, too?'
A flicker of pain flashed across his face, and he nodded. 'My mother... she was terrified of what he would do to us if she ever told someone. It didn't matter that he beat me. I just didn't want him to hurt her. And he hurt her anyway, even if I did exactly what he said. He got some sort of sick pleasure out of listening to me screaming for him to stop hurting her,' he said. 'I remember in my second year, I came home for Easter Holidays and mother was covered in bruises. I flipped out. I didn't even know any defensive spells yet, but I freaked. I just attacked him with my fists, knocked his wand out of his hand and just went at him. I was twelve, and my father was ten times bigger and stronger and more powerful than me, but I didn't care. I couldn't just allow him to keep hurting her like that.'
'What did he do?' She was trying to imagine Draco from their second year, beating up his father. The image wouldn't come.
'He knocked me unconscious,' he said. 'When I woke up, my mother had him tied to a chair and she was screaming at him. She threatened him with a divorce. She kicked him out of the house. I went back to school. She'd written to me that he had gone to get some help, some kind of anger management. I think it was working for a while there, but something changed. During the summer holidays, he started using different methods. Spells.'
'No,' Hermione whispered. 'What... what did he do to her?'
Draco didn't answer her right away. 'He used Crucio on her. On both of us, actually. Multiple times, too. Merlin, I still remember her screaming,' he said, and he flinched. 'That's why I learned that numbing spell, the one I used on you.'
She shivered. 'Please tell me you did something,' she said.
'I was a lot better with my wand then,' he said. 'I used a bunch of hexes on him. And I broke his nose.'
'Good,' she said. 'It's a good thing he's in Azkaban. He deserves it. I still want to hex him, though.'
He laughed, and then they were silent for a minute. 'You know, I've always envied Potter, just a little. My father makes those muggles he had to live with look like angels. A beating here and there... I would've traded with him in a heartbeat. That's nothing compared to being tortured every day,' he said.
'My parents' never hit me,' she said. 'Well, maybe once when I was little and I got a spanking. But never like that. I can't even imagine it.'
'You're lucky,' he said. He didn't sound bitter or jealous.
She had been, she thought. The thought of her parents made her chest ache a little, but she shoved the feeling away. 'Hey, what are you doing up anyway? I just realized-- it's not morning yet.'
'I had nightmares,' she said quickly.
He gave her a sympathetic look. 'Do you want to talk about it?' He asked.
Ron had never asked her that. He'd just pretended that her nightmares were non-existent. She realized that yes, she did want to talk about it. She was sick of pretending that her nightmares didn't exist. 'It was Bellatrix again,' she said, and he flinched. 'But this time it wasn't me she was torturing. She was torturing my parents, and I had to watch. Every night, it's the same. I have to watch as she tortures the people I love.'
'I'm sorry,' he said. 'I wish... I wish I had been able to stop her. I should've stopped her, even if it had gotten me killed.'
'Don't say that,' she said. 'You couldn't have stopped her. We've been through this before. And besides, your numbing charm probably did save my life. Or at least my sanity.'
He still had a guilty look on his face. 'D-do you still have... I mean, do you still have the scar?' The question was reluctant, like he couldn't help asking.
Hermione rolled up her sleeve and bared her wrist. Draco flinched seeing the word mudblood. She'd thought about getting rid of it, but she couldn't seem to. She wasn't ashamed of it. The faded letters were what she was, and she wasn't ashamed of her bood. Tattooing over it or even covering it up would mean that she was ashamed, and she wasn't. 'What about yours?' She asked hesitantly. 'Can... Can I see it?'
She could've sworn that he smiled a little, but it was gone when she blinked. He rolled up his own sleeve and showed her his arm. But the Dark Mark was gone, and in it's place a tattoo. It was an angel's wing, and written on the inside of it were the words: Numquam desistas.
'It means 'never give up', in case you were wondering,' he said. 'It's Latin.'
She smiled. 'It's beautiful,' she said. 'When did you get it?'
'A few days after my trial. I just... I couldn't stand looking at it anymore,' he said. 'It was a reminder of what I had done. I hated it. I'm trying... I'm trying to change, Granger. I want to change, badly. To forget my past. But it's so hard...'
'I know,' she said quietly. 'Don't forget your past, because it's made you who you are. But don't let it define you in the present or the future. You're more than your past. And I believe, I truly believe, that you are capable of changing.'
'I think this is helping,' he said, gesturing around the common room. 'Being here, in a different environment helps me not to fall back into the same old patterns. Being around the other Slytherins is hard. And today, being with Astoria, helped, too. At least with her she wasn't such a huge part of my past. It's easier to let it go when I'm around people who don't bring up constant memories.'
She hadn't known he was with Astoria. But if she helped him... then Hermione was all for having her around. 'On the train, you said we should be each other's support. I think... I think that's a good idea,' she said. 'Supporting each other, though, is more than discussing the nightmares and being that shoulder to cry on. I know you have silencing charms put up on your room. I have them too. I know you get the nightmares, too. I know you have to take the sleeping draught, too. All I'm asking is that you don't hide them from me. Having someone there always chased the nightmares away for me.'
'Are you suggesting we sleep together, Granger?' He asked, a smirk playing on his lips.
She flushed, embarrassed. 'Not like that, of course,' she said. 'Just... to help with the nightmares. If you want.'
'Okay,' he said. 'We'll wake each other up then. Deal?'
She nodded, a little relieved that he'd accepted. 'Deal,' she agreed, smiling a little. Then, a passage from a book popped into her head. '" There are darknesses in life, and there are lights. You are one of the lights, the light of all lights ."'
Draco peered at her curiously. 'Darknesses in life... What's that from?' He asked.
'Muggle book. Dracula, by Bram Stoker,' she said. 'Sorry, I just... Your story made me remember that passage.'
'Oh,' he said. 'I don't think my father read it, if it was a muggle book, so he can't have been quoting it. But he could've heard the line somewhere. Anyway, it's not important.'
She nodded in agreement. 'Are you going back to bed, do you think?' She asked.
'No. No point, I think. It'll take me too long to go back to sleep, and then I'll end up over-sleeping,' he said. 'Why, are you?'
She shook her head. 'No, I was just going to stay here, if that's okay with you.'
'Sure. I'll get one of the elves to bring us cocoa, yeah?' He asked, and she nodded, not minding that it was extra work for the elves. At the moment she didn't particularly care. Draco called one of the elves, and a few minutes later it returned with steaming mugs of hot chocolate and whipped cream. It was delicious.
Draco decided to take out a game of Gobstones, and the two sat up in front of the now-roaring fireplace (the house elf had re-stoked it), laughing and talking until the very wee hours of the morning, chasing their previous nightmares away.
The bold quote “There are darknesses in life, and there are lights. You are one of the lights, the light of all lights.” is indeed from the book Dracula by Bram Stoker.
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