Chapter 23 : Memories
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You're banging on a heart of tin
Please don't make too much of it baby
-Crush by Jennifer Paige
Hours had gone by in that attic, snooping through memories that Draco had cared not to mention. There were countless things from Astoria Greengrass in his attic, so many that Hermione decided that they had been very close during the time that she hadn’t known him. Closer than she ever could have guessed. It made her realize that although she thought she knew Draco, there was a piece missing. She thought she knew his past from Hogwarts, and his present from the time they had spent together playing house, but what about all the years in between?
The room was littered with things from that time, and Hermione felt like an archeologist as she sifted through Draco’s belongings that were now coated in an even layer of dust. She found one box that was especially interesting, as it was filled with old letters on delicate, threaded parchment. The letters had been from Astoria, and they varied in size and content. The girl’s handwriting was feminine and swooped and draped over other words, making Hermione suddenly conscious of her own which was terribly less poetic-looking.
Since the letters had been written on carelessly thin parchment, and had been locked away without any thought given to them, Hermione found that they were illegible, and so she had no idea just how close Astoria and Draco had been. But there had been more photographs in the box, along with girlish hair ribbons which she supposed were Astoria’s as well.
Eventually Hermione stood up from where she had been kneeling amongst all of the old photographs and other such things, and looked around. She was ashamed to see that she had gone through at least half of the boxes filled with the Malfoy’s private belongings, and that their contents were now scattered on the floor in abandoned heaps of disarray.
“Okay, that’s it, I’m done.” Hermione muttered to herself, deciding that she would not go through any more. Draco would not be pleased if he found her now, surrounded by things he had purposely kept locked away. But as she went to put everything back as she found it, Hermione noticed a blue trunk tucked away behind some old chairs.
“Oh, blast it.” Hermione said with a groan as curiosity got the better of her.
The trunk was easy to pull out, and thankfully it had no lock, and so discovering it’s contents was no real feat. The thing was not covered with dust, revealing that it was probably the most recently used item in the attic, which only made Hermione’s curiosity grow.
Inside the trunk was more photographs and letters, and Hermione decided that Draco probably sent more letters in a year than Hermione had in her entire life, since the room seemed to be filled with them.
The letters were still in envelopes and seemed to be mostly between Narcissa Malfoy and Draco, although some were addressed to or from Lucius, although none of them were written by the man himself.
With her palms to the ceiling, Hermione brought envelopes upon envelopes from the trunk, like water from a trough. Immediately she plunged into what had been written between Draco and his parents, and quickly discovered that they were, at most, a year or two old. Hermione supposed they were from the time that Lucius and Narcissa had left the scene.
The letters did not contain much in the way of information, and Hermione had quickly gone through at least ten. They were mostly check-ups from Narcissa on how her son was doing, and telling him that her and Lucius were having a lovely time in Paris, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, or wherever they happened to be, as it seemed they were in a different country ever letter. Narcissa also asked about Astoria in her letters, which Hermione found curious, for she never once asked about any of Draco’s other friends.
Sadly, Draco’s responses were even less interesting, since he seemed to be quite secretive, and had been attempting not to talk about himself and Astoria, and frequently changed the subject back to what his parents were doing. Hermione, by the time she was slipping her twelfth letter back into it’s envelope, decided that she would simply have to ask Draco about everything when the chance arose, since she was learning very little by reading the written conversations between him and his mother.
“Hermione?” It was Draco’s voice, and his footsteps could be heard outside the door.
Immediately Hermione stood from where she was sitting, and frantically pulled her wand out and spun around on the spot, revel ling in the mess she had created.
“Tersus sursum.” Hermione whispered, and watched as everything she had touched flew back into it’s original position, the blue trunk closing with a bang and hiding back behind the old furniture.
There was a quick knock at the door before it opened with a creak. Sure enough it was Draco in the doorway, and Hermione couldn’t help but take in how tall and aristocratic he looked just then. The top of the doorway was less than an inch taller than he, and his Malfoy air was magnified as he stood in his dusty, forgotten attic made of cardboard boxes and loose floor boards. Hermione was sure that her hair had frizzed dramatically since she had come up, and she hoped she didn’t look like a girl who had just spent the last few hours prying into a business not her own.
“Are you almost done?” Draco asked.
“Uh, yes.” Hermione turned, and saw some old dining chairs to her left. “I was just looking at the furniture. It’s quite lovely.”
Draco narrowed his eyes and stared at her suspiciously. “Alright.” He answered. He sounded casual but still he didn’t seem to really believe her. “Well, no matter. Dinner is ready downstairs.”
It was then that Hermione realized the attic was windowless and that she had just spent at least five hours looking at “furniture.”
Hermione said that she was ready to eat, and after gathering their costumes in her arms, walked towards where he stood in the doorway. He looked down at her in amusement before shutting the the rickety, wooden door with a light bang behind them. His gaze was on her, and she wanted to know what he was thinking.
“You must really like chairs.”
A blush quickly spread to her cheeks and Hermione winced. “They’re very nice chairs.”
Draco chuckled quietly behind her, and Hermione wanted to throw herself down the stairs in embarrassment. Her skin felt hot and she was sure he knew that she had been looking through his things. He would be daft if he didn’t, and if Draco Malfoy was one thing, it wasn’t stupid.
“They are!” Hermione argued quietly.
“Alright, I’m sure they’re great.” Draco gave in, the hint of amusement not having left his voice. “Now what did you get us for costumes?”
“Your mothers black-beaded flapper dress for myself, and a grey nineteen twenties gangster suit for you.”
Hermione was not looking at Draco’s face but it was like she could just feel the smirk crawling up the corner of his mouth.
“So we’re going in a costume set, are we? Like a real couple.”
“Yeah, it’s like we’re engaged or something.” Hermione’s voice was overflowing with sarcasm, and she suddenly felt Draco’s hand on her hip, leading her to the dining room.
“How did I possibly land such a witty fiancée?” His tone was also very sarcastic, and Hermione shook her head, trying to suppress a laugh. It was good to be friends with him again.
Dinner went as well as one would expect. The food was magnificent and they dined, apparently, in the more casual dining room, but to Hermione, and especially to her parents, it looked more like a cathedral.
A golden chandelier adorned with eleven candles hung from the ceiling, and the floor was a heavily polished wood. The candles gave off a soft glow, and wax dripped down their sides, but never spilt onto the table below. The room was not extremely vast like the Great Hall, but in size it wasn't very different. It had one table that stretched along the middle of the room, with a deep red carpet laying underneath of it.
The walls were made of the same polished wood that the floor was, although there were only three of them. The fourth wall was made up of windows, all of them slightly dusty, and a large pair of white French doors. The windows were the true source of light, as the candles seemed to be mainly for creating atmosphere.
Draco told her parents a few funny stories about Hermione, and teased her almost incessantly. William took part in the jokes, and Jean didn’t hold back from sending her daughter knowing glances from across the table on the way Draco was looking at her. Hermione brushed the looks off, and sincerely hoped Draco hadn’t caught any.
“I have some good news!” Draco spoke up just as everyone was finishing off their dessert of baked alaska. “It seems that the Death Eaters have stopped trying to find the Manor, and so we are safe for the time being.”
“Why would they stop looking?” Mrs. Granger asked.
“I can’t say why exactly, but their resources are most likely dwindling. They will start the search again, but what matters is, is that for the next few weeks we can live at ease.”
After that everyone’s spirits grew even lighter, except maybe Hermione's, because conversation turned towards the costume party, and immediately her thoughts went to Astoria. She was most likely invited, and even more likely to show up. In those pictures she looked like a close friend to Blaise, and so he most likely invited her. The only surprising thing was that no one had mentioned her, and that she hadn’t been at Blaises apartment when she was meeting everyone.
“What sort of plants do you keep in your garden, Mr. Malfoy?” Jean asked.
“You can see it yourself, if you would like Mrs. Granger. The flowers don’t get violent until night falls, and we still have a couple hours of daylight left.”
“Violent?” Jean’s eyes widened, and Hermione watched as a small smile curved up the side of Draco’s mouth.
“Well, of course. We only keep Wizarding plants, here.” Draco smiled at Jean, throwing her a friendly wink. Mrs. Granger nodded quickly, as if trying to wrap her head around the idea of violent flora.
“Yes, I would love to see the gardens before nightfall. Where...?”
“Oh, just through the French doors connected to the verandah. Right over there, yes, yes, that’s it.”
Mr. and Mrs. Granger both walked towards the back exit. Through the doors you could see the beginning of a field, and several different paths and hedge mazes leading away from it.
“I’ll clear the plates.” Hermione offered as she began scooping the china off of the table.
“That’s what elves are for.” Draco argued.
“It’s alright, I can do it.”
“It would insult them if you did not trust them with menial household chores.”
Hermione looked at him, and set the plates back down with a small clang. “I-I suppose you’re right.” She felt suddenly very useless, and didn’t know what to do. “I guess I’ll retire to my room.” Hermione started to walk by him, but Draco caught her elbow.
“Let me walk you.”
Hermione peered up at him. “Alright.”
Although they walked in silence, they walked very close to one another. So close that every now and then Hermione could feel his hand slide against hers, and she knew that interlacing their fingers would be painfully easy. The path ahead of her ended up becoming harder and harder to concentrate on, and her mind whirred with something to say in order to break the silence, and hopefully her daze as well.
“So, who is going to be at the party?” Hermione asked. Her voice was raw and she had to clear her throat.
“Almost every pure-blood family that has stayed within the circle, I suppose.” Draco drawled, seemingly unaffected by their walk.
“So the Greengrasses?”
“Uh, yes, I suppose them as well.” Draco drew his eyebrows together. They were quickly approaching her door now, and so she casually slowed their gait. “I didn’t think you even knew who the Greengrasses were.”
“Of course I do. I saw you with the sisters back at school.” Hermione feigned surprise, as if it was obvious she knew of the Greengrasses.
“Yes, I did see them sometimes.”
“It seemed like more than just sometimes.” Hermione chirped. She was treading on thin ice, since she actually had no idea if he talked to any Greengrass whatsoever back at Hogwarts.
He didn’t reply to her and so she quietly continued. “I suppose you were all rather close?”
“Do you have anymore questions, or is that it?” He snapped. They were outside of her door by this time, and Hermione saw that this was not something she could simply ask him about.
“Oh, no, that’s it. I was just wondering since, I mean, you guys seemed like friends but now you never even talk about her-” Hermione realized her mistake. “I mean them. The sisters. I never hear you talk about any of them.”
“What’s with your sudden interest?” Draco asked. He took a step towards Hermione, and she quickly took one away. Her back hit against the door, and she found herself stuck between a rock and a hard place.
“Oh, I was just wondering.” She replied. He raised an eyebrow in an unimpressed fashion. “No, really, I was.”
“I don’t believe you, but alright.” He answered.
He took a step away from her, and racked a hand through his hair. Hermione felt like a weight was lifted off her chest, and she stepped away from her door.
“If you must know, I was very close friends with Astoria Greengrass at one time.”
Hermione nodded, and silently urged him to go one. She wanted to hear the story from him so that she wouldn’t have to keep guessing as she was.
“Well, to say that we were close friends would be an understatement. I actually...” He trailed off and Hermione could feel her heart beat increase. He was actually what?
“I mean, I...” Draco started again, and then shook his head. “Ah, don’t worry about it. I won’t keep you up any longer. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Yes, see you.”
He began walking down the hallway, and Hermione turned to walk into her room when something overcame her. She wasn’t sure what it was, but she leaned back in the doorway and watched him get further and further away.
“Hey, Draco!” Hermione called. She saw him stop and turn to face her. “Thank you!”
“For what?” He sounded far away, but she could still see the expression on his face. He was staring quizzically at her, and seemed awfully confused.
“I don’t know. For everything, I suppose!”
She could see the hint of a smile forming on his lips, although he still look perplexed. His hand rose and he gave her a small, confused wave before turning and continuing his walk back down the hallway.
Hermione quickly stepped back into her room and closed the door behind her. Her heart was beating terribly fast, and she was wondering if she had just done something foolish. It was okay to thank him, right? He had taken her and her parents in, after all.
“Dammit.” She muttered. He probably was very confused, since he had no idea what was going on in her head. But then again neither did she. When nothing was happening all she could so was think of him, but then when she had the chance to make something happen, she couldn’t bring herself to do it.
Hermione put her back to the door and slid down it. She had to figure herself out. She had to decide what she was feeling, and so that next time an opportunity arose she wouldn’t miss it and then feel uncomfortable about it for the next few days.
She buried her face in her hands, promising herself that at the party tomorrow night, she would figure out exactly what it was that she was feeling, and not let another opportunity with Draco pass her by.
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