Chapter 2 : The Formula of Attraction
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It was the second Friday of the month once again and it was like thunderclouds were rolling in the bright sky and cracks were forming in the ground. Marigold wished they were; that way, she could fall into one of them and not have to endure the lingering awkwardness between her parents that coming evening.
Sitting on a stone wall outside her school, the fourteen-year old waited in her uniform, glancing up into the air occasionally, fearing a storm. She gripped her schoolbag nervously and gazed up and down the street where members of the private school were walking home or into town in groups.
Marigold’s watch taunted her and so she rolled her eyes; someone was late.
“Is she a no show?” came a voice behind her. Max, Marigold’s friend of over two years, jumped over the wall with ease and sat beside her, eating a cheese sandwich. He had transferred schools after numerous incidents of bullying and a few violent encounters with the said bullies. Marigold befriended him very quickly although she would not call him her best friend for she did not have one.
Marigold eventually nodded. Her mother only collected her on Fridays and she usually got the bus.
“Mine too,” he replied solemnly. “She called me earlier. Said she was running late.”
“My mum’s probably at home stressing out, destroying the place. Or worse, fluffing pillows.”
He laughed and flattened his dirty blonde hair. “What’s so wrong with your mum wanting to see you dad?”
“She never wants to see him, Max.”
“But she still stresses out? I think she’s just like us, like a nervous teenager when they know their crush is around.”
She looked at him, disbelieving, mouth slightly open. “They wouldn’t have divorced if they loved each other.”
He shrugged. “You know adults, Mari. Don’t know what they want.”
“As opposed to kids like us who do?” He smiled enigmatically at her and she frowned at first and then succumbed, laughing. Noticing the pink on his cheeks, Marigold pulled open her bag, desperate to change the subject because she knew his blushes were nothing related to basic embarrassment. She pulled out a history exam paper, which she had scored a thirty-two out of one hundred on.
“Want to see something that will cheer you up?”
“Didn’t think I needed cheering up.” She showed him the score and he raised his eyebrows. “Well, I don’t feel so bad about my fifty.”
Marigold grinned. “Good.”
“Your mum should be pleased,” he analysed sarcastically.
“Ecstatic,” he countered.
“Jubilant,” she replied.
“Exuberant, blissful …!”
“Well no one can say you’re failing English,” Max muttered. He stuffed the remainder of his sandwich in his mouth as a car slowed to a stop beside them.
“Who’s failing English?” Marigold’s mother had pulled up, window down with a smile on her face. The old faded blue hatchback rattled slightly. The engine had seen better days. The tyres needed to be replaced and so did the entire thing, Marigold thought. She felt embarrassed as the Aston Martins and expensive Mercedes Benz cars strolled down the lane beside them.
“No one,” she muttered while stuffing her history paper in her bag. “See you, Max.”
She ran around the car, dark hair flying, and jumped in the other side.
“Bye,” he called quietly.
Hermione smiled at him and he smiled politely back. “Would you like a lift?”
“Mum,” Marigold muttered.
“Sure. Thanks Ms Granger.” He slid into the back seat happily. “I’ll text my mum and tell her.”
The beaten down car rolled down the busy street, slowly at first because of the time of day and all of the parents arriving for their children, but the farther away they got, the smoother and quieter the journey became. Max stifled laughter with Marigold through the rear view mirror and she had to exercise total restraint while her mother sat beside her. Marigold looked at her. She took a good look.
Hermione was wearing a fitted black dress that came to the knee, heeled shoes, a plain blue jacket and she was wearing make-up. It happened every time. Marigold would witness her mother’s efforts to impress her father at the same time as verbally abusing him. Whenever in each other’s presence, arguments were destined to occur. And he would bite back. But Marigold would see him trying to stop himself from ravishing her on the spot. In truth, she knew they were still attracted to each other. Despite the few relationships they had both had in the past nine years, nothing had quite compared to their love.
Hermione’s phone rang and vibrated as it laid by the handbrake. Looking down for a moment, she glanced at the screen to see who it was.
It continued to ring while she ignored it and focused on the road.
Marigold saw her father’s name on the screen. “Are you going to get that?” Marigold asked, watching her mother struggle to decide.
Hermione bit her lip apprehensively. “You answer it.” Marigold raised an eyebrow. “I’m driving.”
She picked up the mobile phone and answered. “Hi, Dad … We’re in the car so she asked me to pick up. What’s going on?” Hermione held both hands to the wheel. “I can pass on a message if … oh, okay, hang on … Mum, he wants to talk to you. Says it’s important.”
“It always is,” she replied.
“He heard that,” Marigold told her.
“Fine.” Hermione coasted to a stop, taking her time, set the handbrake and took the phone from her daughter.
“You okay, Max?” Marigold asked.
Marigold pulled a face into the rear view mirror which told him that she would rather be anywhere but there in that moment. They chuckled.
“Hello?” Hermione said politely into the phone. Her free hand gripped onto her knee. “Hello. No, I wasn’t, I - Okay, what was so important that you couldn’t possibly contain yourself for three hours?” She listened intently, but her face showed that she was in disagreement long before she said so. “Wow. You must have woken up this morning thinking that I was a different person, that I had changed completely since the last time we spoke. If you think I’m going to - You know what I’m going to say, so why even ask? I know. I know you’re her father but if - if you were - if you were any kind of father you’d … You know what? You know what? Don’t pull that card … Of course it’s a card! You don’t mean it. You -” Hermione looked into the roof of the car. “I’ll think about it, okay? That is, by no means, a yes … Yeah, whatever. I’ll see you at seven. Oh, okay, eight-thirty then. Okay. Okay. No, I didn’t even - Bye, Draco.”
Hermione hung up the phone and began driving again in a second. Marigold dare not try to communicate with Max at that moment. She could tell that her mother was fuming because her eyes barely moved, her hands were gripping the steering wheel like a vice and her lips were pressed tightly together. Marigold was used to the little disagreements her parents had but Max was not and she was so embarrassed that he had to hear that.
Three minutes later (Marigold was watching the clock), Hermione spoke: “Your dad’s going to be coming over later than usual. Eight-thirty.”
“Okay,” Marigold replied.
“Is it a left here, Max?” Hermione asked him.
“Yes, I think so. Towards the church.”
Hermione nodded. She had only driven to Max’s house once before and it was months ago. “Before you leave, make sure your room is tidy.”
“Do we have to do this now?” Marigold asked.
“You left clothes everywhere last time.”
“I couldn’t decide what to wear and I didn’t have time to -”
“He wasn’t going to leave without you,” Hermione said with a smile. “And if you have any homework, I’d rather you get it done before you go rather than having to rush it when you get back on Sunday.”
“Make sure you tell me everything -”
“I got a low score on my history test,” Marigold blurted out.
“Thirty-two out of a hundred. Terrible.”
“It is,” Hermione agreed, turning left. “What’s that, a D?” Marigold nodded. “Why are you trying to change the subject?”
“Max is still here. It’s kind of embarrassing when your mum’s telling you to spy on your dad.”
“I didn’t actually say that yet.” Hermione laughed. “But if it bother’s you, I’ll remain silent for the rest of the journey.”
“Come on, Mum. You can talk.”
“No, it’s fine. You two talk amongst yourselves. I won’t say a word.”
Hermione smiled broadly until Marigold and Max began discussing the relationship of some girl and some guy in the year above them and whether or not they would last. Marigold seemed to think they wouldn’t, at which Max began calling her a pessimist. In return, she gave the typical reply, claiming that she was a realist. Max said there was no such thing because everyone and everything was real and it’s not up to humans to only have faith in the physical because it was easy.
“You mean like when he physically kissed that other girl last year?” Marigold said wittily as they both climbed out of the car.
“If Cassie can forgive him for that …” Max began.
“She should have dumped him,” she said bluntly.
“What is wrong with you?” Max said, appalled.
“I inherited my dad’s stubbornness and my mum’s determination. Leave me alone.”
"Yeah, and her short temper,” Max said as he put his key in the door.
“What?” Max’s face turned red. “What did you just say?”
“No, I -” He turned to face her, the key dangling from the hole.
“You just made a comment about my mum. And you meant it.”
“She did just have an argument with your -”
“You see? You’re shouting at me now!”
“You’re the one who’s shouting!” she said, yelling. “There’s nothing wrong with her.”
“I didn’t say there was. There’s nothing wrong with her or with you. You’re both … fine.”
“Oh, shut up. Compliments don’t work on me, you should know that already.” She turned on her heel and walked down to the car.
“I’ll see you Monday,” she yelled back.
Throwing herself into the car, Marigold folded her arms.
“He likes you, you know.”
“I forgive you,” she said.
“What?” Hermione asked.
“I forgive you for that outrageous observation. It’s okay. You don’t know any better.”
Hermione smiled. “He does, Mari. Did you see how easy it was for you two to argue?”
“And that’s a sign of attraction? Anyway, what do you know?”
Hermione was not hurt by the comment. “Your father and I have argued since we met. Since we were teenagers.” The car went over a pothole.
“I thought you hated Dad then.”
“I did. And how many times have you told me that you can’t understand Max?” Marigold said nothing. “Either way, there’s something, Mari. Your father frustrates me to no end and I feel as though I could kill him most days and we’re not even together any more. And, yes, I absolutely detest him for everything he has done and said that has damaged this family … but I love him.”
Awe filled Marigold for a second and her body felt very warm. “That’s the first time … Mum, the last time you said that, I was five and we were both crying.”
They both remembered the night he left extremely well.
“He’s the father of my child. We were married. How can I not love him?” was all she said.
“I don’t think that’s the only reason,” Marigold told her.
“What do you know?” Hermione mimicked, smiling to mask the sadness that had been evident upon her face for the past thirty seconds.
“Nothing,” Marigold resolved to say.
The car drove into a below-ground car park, reserved only for residents of the block of apartments. Hermione and Marigold lived together just out of the expensive catchment area of the school, where housing was marginally cheaper and they weren’t judged for the car they drove and the clothes they wore. They parked and then took the stairs up two levels to their small flat.
Number Sixteen was small but small was all they needed. The living room consisted of two chairs, a large rug, fireplace and a television on a stand. Behind that was a wooden dining table for two, two chairs and three bookcases across the walls and a desk with a computer. The kitchen came next with few units, a small electric oven, a fridge, freezer, toaster, kettle, washing machine and all of the other essentials within a few square metres. Two bedrooms were situated left of the front door; Marigold’s came first and it was a shoebox. There was a single bed and a wardrobe that did not fit all of her clothes. The rest were in the larger wardrobe in her mother’s room. Hermione’s room had a double bed, a dressing table slash work desk, the wardrobe and that was all. Finally, the bathroom was located at the back of the apartment, with a bath shower combination, sink and toilet which was even smaller than their tiny kitchen. Hermione liked to see it as a bachelorette pad, trying to find the positive within the terrible, but Marigold thought differently. That was probably because she spent every other weekend in Malfoy Manor where the bedrooms were spacious and the corridors were cold.
Instantly, Marigold disappeared into her room to prepare for her weekend. She didn’t have to do much. She had most of her things in her room at the Manor so all that was left was to do her maths homework, decide what to wear and tidy up afterwards. As her mother heated up something for dinner, Marigold decided on blue jeans and a black blouse. She tied her hair back, showing all of those freckles she bore. Staring at herself, she tried to find each of her parents in her features but just couldn’t. She figured that Marigold was just Marigold.
“Dinner!” Hermione called.
Marigold threw some of her clothes into her wardrobe and ran out to the dining table where a steaming hot pasta dish waited.
Hermione sighed. “You look like him.”
“Dad? No.” She sat down.
“Mum, we don’t even have the same colour eyes. Or hair.” She tucked in while Hermione didn’t even touch her cutlery.
“It’s the shape of your eyes, the same look you have. And the nose, chin, lips …” She smiled. “Ignore me.”
They ate quietly, while talking about this and that, their eyes watching the wall clock anxiously. When Hermione came into the living room after washing the plates, Marigold smiled at her. She was doing that thing she did when she was nervous. The wedding ring that Hermione kept on a chain was out and she was shoving her finger in and out of it nervously. This made Marigold quite sad for her. When she wasn’t doing that, she was rubbing her ring finger absently; she knew her mother missed being married and it was a shame that she refused to talk about it.
“You look nice,” she said.
“Didn’t you notice before?” Hermione asked.
“Couldn’t see behind the dishes,” she remarked. They laughed.
“Thanks.” She did not explain why she was so dressed up but it was self-explanatory. Hermione put the chain back beneath her clothes, looked into the mirror and checked her appearance. It was past eight-thirty and she was getting irritable.
“Do you have your phone?” Hermione asked.
“It’s in my room. I’ll get it.” Marigold scampered off to get her phone and her bag. She came back into the room looking at a message. “He said he’ll be ten minutes. And that was eight minutes ago.”
At that moment, there was a firm knock on the door. Hermione walked over to it as Marigold sat down on the sofa; she knew that this would take a while. It always did. She expected her dad to turn up say hello and for them both to be gone within ten minutes. But no, he would be there for about an hour, mostly having secret conversations with her mother where she could not hear.
The door opened and Draco appeared, well dressed as usual in a shirt and trousers, well presented and handsome. He had his hands in his pockets and took them out upon seeing Hermione in her black dress.
“Hi …” he said, looking her up and down.
Marigold looked secretly upon the scene. Draco looked as though he was going to pass out. That or kiss Hermione. Either would be strange.
“Hello,” Hermione replied quietly, almost a whisper.
And then Marigold witnessed the weirdest thing as she leaned over the back of the sofa. They hugged each other. Not a quick one, but a prolonged embrace and, considering their argument earlier that day, Marigold thought that would be the last thing they would do. It seemed that the world had officially plunged headlong into madness. Draco’s hand touched the small of Hermione’s back and she put her arms around his neck.
“It’s good to see you,” he whispered into her hair as though it had been years when it was only two weeks.
Draco stepped into the apartment and the living room where Marigold was pretending to watch the television rather than eavesdropping on her parents.
“Draco,” she replied.
Hermione looked between them before they burst out laughing, evidently some inside joke that she did not understand.
“Hey, Dad,” Marigold said. She stood up and put her bag on her shoulder. “Ready to go?”
“Hang on, hang on.” He turned to his ex-wife. “I want to know what your mother has to say to what I asked her earlier.”
Hermione suddenly put up a wall against him, her voice turning colder. “I don’t know yet.”
“Don’t know what?” Marigold asked.
“I thought you said you’d think about it!” Draco replied.
“I have. And I haven’t decided yet.”
“What are you talking about? If this has to do with me, can’t you tell me?” Marigold asked.
Draco replied: “Your grandmother wants to throw you a party for your birthday next week at the Manor.”
“Mum!” Marigold exclaimed.
“Mari, really? You expect me to just say yes? It’s your fifteenth birthday not your Sweet Sixteen. You don’t need a huge party. You don’t even need a party when you are sixteen …” Hermione added.
“Mum!” she said again.
“We’ve gotten by fine on our own for the past ten years,” Hermione said.
Draco glared at her. “Oh, do you pay for her school tuition? Funny, I thought that was me.”
Hermione threw daggers at him with her eyes. “One thing, Draco. That’s the one thing you do. I pay for this flat, her food and -”
“This is barely a home,” he retorted, looking at the walls as if they were dirty.
“Which you remind her of whenever you take her to your grand manor.”
“I said that you could stay,” Draco reminded her.
“If we weren’t together, why would we still live under the same roof?”
“I could have moved out if you wanted me to.”
Marigold exhaled, annoyed and removed herself to her bedroom to eavesdrop from there. The arguments were really beginning to annoy her to the point where she didn’t want to be in the same room as both of them.
“My wages pay for all of this,” Marigold heard her mother state proudly.
“How is work at St Mungo’s?” Draco asked, successfully diverting the conversation.
“It’s good. I’m only really getting into it having only been a fully qualified Healer for two years.”
“So the money has increased?”
“A little,” she said. “Not enough to move out from here.”
“I was just going to ask that.” He paused.“Gringotts gave me a bonus. Last month.”
“Good for you,” she muttered, stiff.
“I want you to have it.”
She laughed, incredulous. “We are not a charity, Draco. I won’t take it.”
“I know. I want you to have it. I don’t know, put it towards a new house or give it to Marigold in the future. A new car maybe? That old one is going to give up one day.”
“I won’t take it.”
“I’m giving it to you, Hermione.” His voice softened. “What I said on the phone wasn’t just ‘the card I play’. It’s the truth. I still love you. You know that.”
Marigold waited and listened. There was nothing but silence and she sat by her bedroom door in shock. She knew they loved each other but he said ‘still’. Which meant he never stopped and that they were very much in love. Biting her nails, Marigold waited.
“You should go,” she heard her mother say. “Mari!”
“Time to go.”
After pausing for a second, Marigold went back out into the wild to find her father watching her mother carefully. Something must have happened in those seconds of silence that made him look as though he was scared and Marigold was out of ideas.
Hermione pushed her short hair behind her ears and walked to the door, the others following. She turned and kissed Marigold on her cheek.
“I expect you back at six on Sunday,” she said to either or both of them. “Be good.”
Draco smiled briefly. “Bye.”
“Bye,” she replied to him, looking at Marigold. “See you later, Mari.”
When they walked out of the door, Hermione asked Draco, “Did you bring the car?”
He looked guilty. “Erm, no.” Hermione sighed. “I was running late, Hermione, what did you expect me to do?”
“Whatever. Just make sure nobody sees you.” She slammed the door shut and Marigold heard her father audibly take in a breath.
“You think she’s mad?” Draco asked. They both chuckled.
“A little,” Marigold replied. “Car park?”
Draco nodded and they walked to the end of the corridor and down to the parking spaces and the blind spot from the cameras that they knew so well under the staircase.
“Question,” Draco said. “Does you mother own casual clothes? Every time I see her she looks so -”
“Don’t finish that.” Marigold could tell from the look on his face that he was going to say something sleazy, something that would make her vomit in her mouth. “She does own jeans, she just pretends not to. I think she wants to show you that life is treating her good.”
Marigold sighed. “I honestly don’t know. She’s a good actress.”
Draco looked around, distracted and quite possibly thinking of how lonely his ex-wife will be this weekend and how lonely she has been all these years.
“Ready?” he asked his daughter, holding out his hand.
“Am I ever?” Marigold held her breath and took it. The next thing they knew, they were travelling between the boundaries of space and time, unable to move, think or do anything as they Apparated into Malfoy Manor.
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