Chapter 5 : Confusion
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Sitting at a corner table sipping a cup of tea with Dad was perfect; perfect but for the fact that to him, I was Hermione on holiday from England with my parents and hating the awfully hot weather. I both loved and hated the new version of him. Loved because I would always, for the rest of my life, love my father unconditionally - hated because I had no place his new world.
“What part of England are you from, then? I do miss my Cornish pasties,” he was saying, a wistful look in his familiar brown eyes. I wanted to reach over the table and grab his hands, never letting go because this might be my only chance to see him.
“Eastbourne,” I lied quickly, tracing patterns on the table.
“Ah, lovely,” he said conversationally. He was sitting opposite me, all customers seen to. Judging by the way he was talking about England, I knew he missed it and guilt stabbed into my stomach. “We went there once, ate butterscotch ice cream at the pier. I just love the sea, and my wife does too. Oh, here she is now!”
My head snapped around to see the door to the dentist office opening, and a woman with familiar brown hair and eyes exiting. She was wearing a skirt and shirt, and I’d never seen her look so relaxed. Mum.
“Hello, love!” Dad called, waving her over, “Come and meet Hermione! She’s visiting from Eastbourne.”
“Now Wendell, I hope you’re not pestering the poor girl,” Mum said as she approached, rubbing at her stomach. She was hungry; I remembered that gesture well. “Hermione... What a beautiful, unusual name. It’s a pleasure to meet you, dear.”
She met my eyes, and I yearned for recognition to show on her face, yearned for the love that usually filled her gaze. Apart from polite interest, nothing else showed on her care-worn face.
“Th-thank you,” I forced out, sternly telling myself not to burst into tears. My magic must have been so much stronger than it was compared to my fourth year, for me to have performed such a powerful memory spell. For the first time, I found myself wishing that I wasn’t so nearly as smart as I truly was.
There were so many things that I wanted to say to these two people, to my parents, but I couldn't find the words.
“How long are you here for, Hermione? Australia is a very beautiful place,” Mum asked, and I conjured a smile onto my face.
“Just for a few weeks. Can’t miss out on too much school,” I said, fidgeting uncomfortably in my uniform. Thank Merlin they were far too polite to ask why I was wearing it.
“Right then, love,” Dad said briskly, and my heart ached to hear his familiar words, “Better get back to it. Tea, dear?” The last was directed at Mum, and they both wandered behind the counter preparing an afternoon tea.
I watched as he tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, and she smiled up at him with love in her eyes. I stood up abruptly, chair screeching across the tiles. I couldn’t do this. They were so happy, so in love again, and I had no place in their lives even if I could remember the spell. They seemed to love their new lives in this exotic, beautiful country.
In response to the polite, inquisitive look on my father’s face, I waved and left. Pausing by the door, I looked back and stared at them hard. The mole next to Mum’s right eyebrow, the grey in Dad’s hair, Mum’s warm brown eyes and Dad’s chortling laugh. Both of their white, even teeth. There was plenty of blank space in my mind, and I let their images fill it completely.
“Bye.” They acknowledged my small goodbye with waves, and I let the door shut.
My feet dragged along the pavement as I walked back towards Peter O’Hanlon. Girls my age walked past in shorts and bikini tops, eying my school uniform disdainfully. An elderly couple smiled at me, and a dog sniffed at my shoes. I barely noticed anything. Once upon a time, I would have been staring around me in awe, wondering when I’d see a kangaroo or where the nearest beach was.
But things change.
“How was it, Miss Granger?” Peter O’Hanlon asked as I neared the alley, his rough accent grating on my ears.
“Everything you warned me of,” I said flatly, avoiding his face, “Can I go back to Hogwarts, please?”
“Of course. Madam?” he joked in a very Dumbledore-style way. I forced a smile and took his proffered arm, and we disappeared with the tiniest, pop!
From the Australian Ministry, I waited an hour for the next international portkey and was gone with barely a goodbye to O’Hanlon. McGonagall looked up at me in surprise as I fell next to her desk.
“Miss Granger! I wasn’t expecting you for days. You’ve only been gone for hours.”
I picked myself up off the stone and forced yet another smile. I was so confused, all the time. McGonagall in Dumbledore’s office, Mum and Dad in Australia, apparition, Ron, Fred dead, Malfoy-
“Hermione?” McGonagall used my first name this time, and it sounded foreign. She must have been worried.
“I’m fine, Professor. Really. It was everything that I expected,” I said, dusting myself down. I still had sweat on my brow from being in Australia only moments previously.
“If you don’t mind my saying, Miss Granger, I’d like to remind you of the counselling services available to you,” McGonagall said, looking at her desk awkwardly. Clearly war changed even the hardiest of people; I didn’t remember McGonagall ever speaking to me without a piercing stare to accompany her words.
“Thanks, Professor,” I said finally, fully intending to never take her up on the offer. I turned to leave, and she didn’t stop me. I was walking down the spiral staircase when I ran straight into someone coming up.
“Sod it… Granger!” came Malfoy’s voice. We’d fallen a few steps down the stairs, and he was rubbing his knee. I idly studied my grazed elbow and shrugged.
“Sorry? Sorry? Damnit, you just pushed me down the stairs and that’s all you can say?” he yelled, standing up. I remained sitting on a step and just looked at him with a raised eyebrow. I felt so emotionally drained that he was almost amusing. For Merlin’s sake, it was just a few steps.
“It was an accident, Malfoy,” I finally said, rolling my eyes, “Don’t be such a little girl.”
Clearly not the reaction he was expecting, he stared at me. I wondered briefly if he was purposely picking a fight.
“Just get out of my way, Mudblood,” he finally hissed, pushing past me. I stared at him, incredulous.
“Really, Malfoy?” I said loudly, just before he disappeared around the spiral, “After everything we’ve been through, after Voldemort and his cronies were defeated, you’re still using that word? You know what? I’m proud of my blood! Proud that I fought for what is right, so shut up!”
He had stopped moving the moment I started speaking, and finally turned to face me. I wasn’t sure if it was his intention, but him towering over me on the steps above was intimidating.
“You don’t even remember ‘fighting for what is right’” he mocked in a high pitched voice, and finally I was at the end of my patience.
“But I remember Harry telling me two weeks ago what you have tattooed on your arm! So how dare you call me a mudblood when you’re the one who actually has something to be ashamed of? I bet your father died of shame rather than live knowing you’re his son.”
I was breathing heavily, and I knew, as soon as the words left my mouth, that I’d gone too far yet again. This boy, this damn Malfoy boy, brought out the very worst in me.
In the next moment, we both moved so fast that I reacted mindlessly. His wand whipped out at the same time as mine, flourishing in an elaborate pattern. It exploded with a nonverbal spell, and I immediately moved my own wand. A shield stretched between us, and his spell hit it before being rebounded into the wall.
We stared at the smoking hole in the wall, panting. Footsteps sounded, and McGonagall rounded the stairs.
“What- what are you doing?” she shrieked, hair going frizzy by the second. I’d never seen her lose her cool so fast. “House unity! For Merlin’s sake, we’ve just been through a war! Miss Granger, I expected so much more from you. Mr Malfoy, you’re supposed to be setting an example. You both are. Detention. Every Friday for the rest of the term.”
I stared at her in dismay, before studying the ground by my shoes. Detention with Malfoy when I should have been catching up on so many years of lost schoolwork. I barely heard Malfoy’s protests as I retreated into an empty corner of my head and tried to work out if I’d ever had detention in my lost years.
It was only later that night as I lay in bed, my mind drowsily thinking of my parent’s faces, did I realise.
I did magic that I couldn’t remember learning.
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