Chapter 25 : The Flower of a Death Eater
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Hermione was not on the train that was taking everyone home after the tragedy. Ginny worried to the point of alarming McGonagall, who allowed her to summon a house elf and Apparate to Gryffindor Tower to try and find her.
“Hermione?” Ginny asked with quiet caution as she walked into the room with the elf behind her. But as she saw feet lying on the floor of the closet, she went into panic mode.
“Oh, no, Hermione! Are you alright?” She was horrified to discover her best friend lying unconscious.
“Wha… What?” Hermione woke a bit groggy.
“Are you hurt? What happened to you?”
“Nothing. I must’ve dozed off. Sorry.”
“McGonagall is holding the train for you! Get up and get this stuff into your trunk. We have to go now!”
Hermione sprang to her feet taking Delilah’s Black Book of Poems with her. The blood rushed to her head in getting up so fast, causing her to feel a bit light-headed, but thankfully the feeling didn’t last long.
As soon as she walked out of the closet, she did a double-take at the large familiar round eyes staring back at her. Immediately she recognized the elf from the kitchens… the one that served bread to her and Draco all those months ago. She shook off the memory, trying to concentrate on the task at hand, but recalled how the elf did not like her.
“Starlet,” she acknowledged politely while gathering a few things from her night stand.
“Starlet is to Apparate you to the train; professor’s orders,” the elf explained rather flatly.
“Just give us a few moments. This shouldn’t take long.” Hermione went to her trunk and unlatched it to start stuffing her belongings on top of her genealogy and blood status research papers that she didn’t want Ginny to see. But she got a shock as soon as the lid hinged open.
Peering into it, she found herself looking at a beautiful, rare Black Orchid with a single gray scrolled-up parchment tied together with… white medical gauze! The image of Draco and his wounds flashed to her mind.
Draco! Oh, God! She silently gasped at the realization. How did that get into my trunk? Was he here?
Thankfully, Ginny wasn’t paying any attention; busy with the closet and rambling on and on about how they needed to hurry.
She looked at the elf, who immediately looked away… rather guilt-like.
“Did you put this in here?” Hermione asked in a low forceful whisper.
The elf slowly shook her head from side to side, her lips pressed in a hard line.
“But you know about it, don’t you?”
The elf answered with a shrug. Maybe she did. Maybe she didn’t.
Hermione knew the house elf didn’t like her, but oh, how she loved Master Draco, didn’t she?
Knowing the flower would be destroyed if her belongings were hurled into the trunk, she grabbed it and shoved it under her bed alongside the book.
Hermione became frantic then, throwing clothing, more books, and personal items into an unorganized hodgepodge mess into the small space. Of course, the elf wouldn’t help her pack.
“Let’s go.” Ginny urged.
“Check the closet one last time… the top shelf,” Hermione replied, hoping it would buy her just enough time to collect the precious items hiding underneath the bed.
As soon as Ginny turned her back, Hermione placed the flower and the book on top of the pile so they wouldn’t get crushed and slammed the lid closed, locking it just in time.
“Closet’s empty. Come on,” Ginny announced taking the elf’s hand into hers and the other on the handle of the trunk.
Hermione held out her hand to Starlet, but the elf didn’t budge. She rolled her eyes and actually had to find Starlet’s hand and grab on to it.
It was a good thing Ginny’s mind was so focused on getting to the train, because she completely missed the elf’s animosity toward Hermione, which would’ve been difficult to explain without bending the truth.
Once they were to the train, Hermione watched with longing as her trunk was loaded with all the others. She desperately wanted that letter, but there was no time to retrieve it!
As soon as she set foot on the train, it lurched forward.
When she was finally in the compartment with Harry, Ginny, and Ron, she was happy to see that the seating arrangement wasn’t conducive to couples. Ron was sitting next to Harry, who was sitting across from Ginny. She took the empty seat across from Ron.
“I over-slept,” she half-hearted explained to the floor.
But when she looked up, Ron’s blue eyes were staring deeply into hers, full of concern and maybe pity… and possibly something else.
“Please don’t look at me like that.” She held his gaze, then watched him pale. But then she looked away and closed her eyes briefly, hoping that she wasn’t looking far too guilty for someone who had merely over-slept.
After several deep breaths, she sunk into the seat, the weight of too many things pressing her downward; Dumbledore’s death. The guilt in keeping something so secretive from her best friends. But by far the worst was losing Draco to the darkness… how her love was not enough to sway him. The thought pressed into her chest and she nearly winced in pain.
Would she ever see him again? Would she ever be able to correct the mistake of telling him that she hated him? She shouldn’t have said that. Her regret would run deep, but so would her fears, her frustration, and sadness. She would miss him terribly, she knew.
And that letter… She felt like she was lying to Ginny in keeping the letter so secretive. But worst of all, she was keeping it from Harry.
Was it a confession? Was it an explanation? Was it insider information that could help them? She felt faint at the last thought. Because if it was insider information that could help the Order, then she would have to confess her heart and try to explain how she fell in love with Draco Malfoy… to Harry. To Ron.
God help me.
It would be a long, long, tiresome, grueling ride home. She would re-live the last six months in the matter of hours; the depths of their conversations, his closeness, his scent, his sad words on a Black Canvas Vault. "Love is a Curse," he had told her. A curse, indeed.
When the train finally began to crawl, nearing King’s Cross Station, it was Harry that finally spoke up.
“McGonagall is going to owl us the funeral arrangements. I suppose I’ll see you all then.”
He stood and urged Hermione into a long hug. She welcomed it, noticing he held on a little longer and tighter than his usual goodbye. And it had never been while they were still on the train.
Ginny hugged her goodbye as well and then stepped out of the compartment with Harry.
Hermione deliberately turned her back to Ron, retrieving her bag from the over-head storage bin. And that’s when she realized why Harry and Ginny had said their goodbye on the train instead of waiting until they were on the platform.
Ron discreetly closed the door, giving them a private moment alone while the noise from students leaving the train muffled just outside the door.
She let out a long sigh, suddenly angry at Harry and Ginny. They must’ve had this whole thing planned. She scowled at the realization.
“What do you want, Ron?” she asked, trying to keep the hiss out of her tone, her back still to him.
“Will you please turn around?” He asked rather gently considering her demeanor toward him.
Could she look at him? She hesitated wondering what in the world was happening and why he was suddenly interested in her again instead of having his hands all over Lavender Brown.
Biting her lip, she finally turned to him.
“What are we?” he asked in a soft voice with eyes to match that had her bitterness melting rather quickly.
Hermione didn’t know how to answer that. Exes… friends. Definitely not lovers… that title belonged to someone else. She would always have feelings for Ron, just nowhere near the strength of her feelings for Draco.
She just shook her head in response as if she didn’t really have an answer.
“Do you trust me?” He asked, but Hermione was surprised at this question. Why was he asking it?
“With my life,” she answered truthfully.
“Then besides Dumbledore… tell me what’s wrong.”
Everything. She wanted to tell him as her final kiss with Draco came to mind. That was wrong on so many levels, she dare not count. And… she loved a Death Eater. Yes, everything was wrong.
When she didn’t answer, he grew impatient.
“You’ve been distancing yourself from us and we’re worried about you. I understand if we don’t talk like we used to, but I don’t want what happened between us get in the way of your friendship with Harry and Ginny.”
It was a tempting way out, a grand excuse handed to her freely, but she couldn’t use it because it just wasn’t true. The last thing she wanted was another lie hovering around her conscience.
“If I’ve been distant with them, it isn’t because of you, alright? And besides, just because something might be bothering me, doesn’t mean I want to bring the whole world down with me. Everyone has enough problems to worry about, especially Harry.”
Ron knew she had a point and his face softened yet again in defeat.
“Fine. Just don’t shut us out. We don’t want to lose you.” He swallowed. “I… don’t want to lose you.”
She looked up at him then, trying to access what he meant by that last bit exactly.
But then he leaned in slightly and kissed her forehead quickly to end their conversation.
“See you at the funeral, ‘kay?”
“Yeah.” She nodded her agreement, finally able to breathe and glad to be at the conversation’s end.
Hermione was solemnly greeted by her parents on Platform Nine and Three-quarters.
When she got close, her eyes were watery and her heart heavy with all that had happened. But she would keep Draco hidden deep within her heart… her secret love and loss.
“Dumbledore… he’s… he died.” She said, trying to explain her tears.
“Oh, sweetheart, we know. We got the letter informing us of the news and telling us that you were arriving today.” Her mother hugged her tight. “Are you alright, dear? We’ve been so worried about you.”
Hermione wanted to tell her mother everything in that moment… how she fell hard… deeply in love, but he turned out to be something that she could not accept. She had fallen in love with the enemy. But she withheld her tongue and her heart for fear of a meltdown. She swallowed hard.
“I’m okay. I’ve just rattled a bit, that’s all.”
Oh, when did she become such a liar? A double life, just like Draco. Knowing and feeling one thing, saying another, hiding the truth. It was something that she’d always felt with Draco… a connection, an understanding at the very least. It didn’t make it right, regardless of their well-meaning intensions.
Thoughts went to opening her trunk for the letter right then but her father was already loading it into their Muggle car.
She let out a long, drawn out sigh as her thoughts abruptly changed on the matter. Somehow, the excitement from earlier had vanished and Hermione had grown bitter on the journey. If it was some kind of apology for what he’d done, then it was unwelcome and she didn’t want it.
What could you possibly have to say to me now? She scowled at the trunk and folded her arms, hating it for what it contained.
As soon as they were in the door of her parent’s home, her mother asked if she was hungry.
“I don’t feel like eating right now, Mum. I’d like to put my things away. Perhaps some tea afterward?” Her knotted stomach still wasn’t ready for food.
“Alright, some tea then,” her mum replied warmly while her dad helped get the trunk upstairs and into her room.
Catching his breath, he brought her into a hug.
“Oh, my little Princess. You’re not so little anymore.”
Hearing her father call her “Princess,” she felt safe, however false it might be and couldn’t help but to give him a glimpse of what she was really feeling.
“Oh, Dad,” she stifled a sob. “Things are so messed up.”
“I know, dear. Give it some time.” He paused. “Time has a way of healing wounded spirits.”
Wounded spirits? She nearly gasped for how simple he made it sound.
But you don’t understand, Dad. My spirit is mourning more that the Headmaster… because the Love of my life is partially responsible for killing him!
“Hard times pass, darling, as they always do. But we become stronger people in the end. You’ll see.”
Hermione swallowed hard to quell the lump in her throat that had grown exponentially while trying to hold back the ocean. His words were meant to bring her hope and comfort, but fell far short. He meant well.
“Thanks, Dad.” She managed to get out, but was no longer able to look at him. “Let me put my things away please. I’ll be down when I’m finished.”
“Fair enough. But don’t be too long. We’ve missed you… more than you know.”
When her father walked out, she let out a sad breath, knowing she couldn’t talk to her parents about the realities of what was happening in her Magical world.
It was the same as always, except now at least she didn’t have to paint on a fake smile and pretend. At least she could be sad right now and they wouldn’t question or pry any deeper than the obvious.
Her secrets weighed on her soul… the burdens heaviness upon her shoulders. She felt as if someone knocked the wind from her lungs and she was still recovering, unable to breathe properly. Her stomach now in pain, she wondered if she was adding an ulcer to her problems.
She wiped a few tears that escaped then opened the lid of her trunk.
Another long breath and she picked up the precious cargo; the black flower, its unread message, and her ‘Delilah’ book and set them all aside.
She then began putting her things away, just as she had done at the end of every school year prior. The clean clothes were hung up neatly in her closet or re-folded and placed in drawers, books categorized and in alphabetical order on a low book shelf, and various miscellaneous effects put away in their place. And when it came to all of her blood status research, she popped open her window seat and hid it all in the small space below.
When she was finished, she finally picked up her flower and the book that she held so dear and took them to her seat.
Admiring the flower and glad that it had survived the move inside her trunk, she studied it.
A true, genuine Black Orchid. Another specimen existing in the Magical world, thought to be a myth in the Muggle world… listed amongst the Unicorns and the Pixies. The only Orchid of such rich true black color in the Muggle world were those of dyed silk and pieces of plastic. But this most certainly was not one of those. This was the real thing and it was … exquisite.
She thought of Floriology, the study of the meaning of flowers. This was a flower of death… a flower of departure…
The flower of a Death Eater.
She let out a long troubled sigh looking at the note attached to it and thought again. What do you have to say to me now, Malfoy? After everything?
She ran her fingers over the soft white medical gauze that he had used to tie the parchment to the flower, remembering his wounds and scars and how she had kissed them lovingly, wanting to kiss his pain away.
Surely it was the only thing available to him to bind the items together in such a hurried, short amount of time.
She bit her bottom lip, trying not to cry.
Untying the gauze and carefully removing the parchment, she brought her knees up and curled herself into her beloved window seat. Resting her temple on the window as she had done countless times before, she finally unrolled it, ready to read his last words to her.
But it was not what Hermione expected at all.
No apology. No explanation. No inside information that would help Harry.
As she read, tears sprang to her eyes and her heart twisted inside her chest at his words written for her.
For it was a message to keep her safe, an encrypted warning that she would need protection from the storm that was to come… a dire and dangerous future, possible torture and death for who she was.
It confirmed her grave reality… understood by the Wizard who still loved her oh, so very much.
She wrapped her arms around her knees and the tears flowed, her concealed silent sobs wreaking havoc on her body; the parchment dropping and flowing elegantly to the floor like an autumn leaf before curling and rolling up, returning into the scroll that it once was.
She never felt so loved.
For it was not a letter at all, but the words spoke of heart-felt love for her, nonetheless. It wasn’t even signed. Instead, it was a long hand-written list of every protection spell and enchantment Draco could think of, beginning with…
Oh, the ability to say something without actually saying it. She has no trouble understanding the meaning behind his words. ;(
Up next, Hermione reads of an aristocratic Pureblood boy that meets a Squib girl named Delilah.
And for future, this story will eventually leap ahead to Christmas.
Much love to all,
P.S. 65,800 Reads and 298 have Favorited! Baffling! Thank you so much for your words of much needed encouragement.
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