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Chapter 26 : A Squib Girl Named Delilah
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The first few weeks at Malfoy Manor had been uneventful for the most part. The Dark Lord remained in a decent mood, meetings were held, progress for the dark cause was made, and the Ministry was now infiltrated with quiet Death Eaters in strategic positions. It was all coming together.
Draco would be the first to show up for these meetings and be the last to leave, smartly showing his faith and loyalty, but would remain his ever-silent self… an observer to the madness.
Plans were still in the making for the final Ministry takeover; the final push to ultimate power. It would be no surprise that the current Minister of Magic would have a high price on his head with new puppet leadership waiting in the shadows until the time was right. Power would be exchanged under the guise of tolerance and fairness, but it would be anything but that.
Early in these plans, Draco had turned seventeen, the legal age of adult Wizard-kind. But he was quite appalled by his birthday gift. For his father had given him a proud pat on the back and a fifteen-hundred galleon bottle of the finest Fire Whiskey available… some sort of misguided symbol of manhood, Draco supposed. It was his… an entire bottle all to himself. But if Lucius Malfoy had known his son a little better, he would’ve known that Draco had become a borderline alcoholic with as many liquor sticks that he’d consumed at Hogwarts.
Draco sickly craved the burning liquid. He wanted to drink the entire bottle right then; drown the dreaded, unrelenting aching feeling in his chest for one night. But deep down, he knew life was about to get worse and so he saved it for a future misery. There would be no way to have just one sip, he knew. He wouldn’t be able to stop until he drank himself into a nasty oblivion.
It was a terrible gift; one that Draco kept in his room in the center of a large dresser with an even larger mirror, set there just in case life became too unbearable to be conscious. And so it sat there every day… staring at him, daring him to drink it, testing his limits on how much reality Draco could take, and reminding him that should hell ever come one day, it would be there for him when it did.
There were other things that stared at Draco in his home, whispering to him at times.
An hourglass that sat on a low stand in the library; the sands of time whispering to him, “Right now, I am yours… and you are mine.” He heard Hermione’s voice every time he obsessively turned it over and over again in remembrance of her.
Narcissa noticed his obsession with the object and became concerned, especially finding it broken into sand and shards of glass where it had once stood, the magic within him shattering it when he could take no more.
His mother’s perfect pearl-white magical conch shell playing their song, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, sad and haunting, would conjure a most powerful memory of their time together. Draco became torn. He couldn’t decide if he loved it or hated it. It was like sweet torture to his soul and a grand waste of time.
He listened to it every day. That is, until it went missing. It came as no surprise that his mother would hide it from him, not wanting it to succumb to a demise similar to the hourglass. He didn’t even bother asking where it went.
Draco had given up on seeing his Grandfather in his magical portrait. Abraxas was gone, no doubt ever since evil moved into the manor. He tried for three nights as the Malfoy Grandfather clock stroke midnight, hoping he would show up and talk with him. But there would be no such reunion.
Being in the room made his dream become real once more. It was the place where this strange heart-wrenching journey had begun. He and Hermione were having a son together, but its life was cut short over a terrible mistake linked to Stella, a dog he loved, killed by his father on Christmas Eve.
Draco gritted his teeth, full of spite and anger. It welled within, heating his core.
He looked up at the mural on the ceiling. The white-haired witch, still holding her prophecy ball surrounded by her dragon that protected the family’s Pureblood future glared in disgust at his betrayal. His eyes narrowed and his lip curled in equal disgust just before storming out of the room, vowing to himself to never look at her again.
It was apparent even to Voldemort that Draco had become restless and bored and so one evening, much to Draco’s surprise, he was called to witness an interview of three wizards.
"Here, put this on," the Dark Lord instructed, handing him a shiny new Death Eater mask. "The workmanship on this one is quite stunning. It is yours. Keep it on until the interviews have commenced."
Draco did as he was told, concealing himself behind the mask, unsure of why until the questioning of the interviews began.
At the end of the third interview, Voldemort asked for Draco’s opinion.
“You are of legal age, Draco and so you should have choices. But you are considered a Seventh-Year in your schooling and I know you are lacking in the Dark Arts simply because Hogwarts didn’t teach it. One is the current Durmstrang Dark Arts professor. One is a former. The other is a Master of the craft. Tell me, Draco, what is your opinion of the three?”
“I would guess that the third is the current Durmstrang teacher. It would seem that it would draw too much attention if he should not return to his post. The first was the former teacher, which I find lacking in enthusiasm at the prospect of having to teach another student. The second one… he was the Master, having respect for its power. If you are giving me opportunity to choose, I would choose the Master. And I’d want him to teach me… everything.”
“Your hunger for the craft pleases me and so I shall give you the gift of knowledge, Draco… and it is powerful. It will make you more than human… more than merely Magical. For I have plans for you, my boy. Your knowledge of the Dark Arts will give you more power than all of the Death Eater Council combined. And in time, they will all come to fear you… as they fear me.”
“A gift, indeed, my lord.”
Soon after, Draco began regular lessons with the Dark Arts Master with occasional visits from the other two professors. He would learn to do things that would make his skin crawl. The more he learned, the more powerful he felt. He kept telling himself that it was to learn so that he could better fight against it, but the more he learned, the more he seemed to crave it. And soon, Draco wondered if he was becoming the monster he had always feared, slipping further and further into darkness.
The only thing that he enjoyed about being home was actually found in his door-less closet. In it, he found his old carving of the miniature Hogwarts. He thought all of his other carvings were disposed of by house elves when Lucius commanded them to clear out the dungeon. Hogwarts was the only surviving piece because he had moved it to his room to work on it. Finding it now and examining it, he realized his father had been right about it having numerous flaws. It needed a lot of work to be an accurate replica of his second home.
And so, to pass the time in his deathly-quiet solitude, Draco resurrected an old hobby, painstakingly fixing Hogwarts by carving and re-shaping using only his memory of it. Every window, every step, every stone, and architectural detail, every night… even taking care to include wolves and rabbits.
“Accio Prince,” Hermione uttered quietly in her bedroom. The password unlocked the so-called dangerous book she’d been avoiding. But she could no longer keep herself from it. She missed Draco terribly and worried for his well-being. She wanted desperately to feel some kind of connection to him.
She had magically preserved the Black Orchid under a glass dome and would look at it every night before turning to bed. But tonight she felt a deep restlessness and wished he were close to her. And so, with a new determination, Hermione picked up the book and settled in… reading chapter after chapter, poem after poem, until sleep forced her eyes to close and she could read no more.
She read of the boy and his siblings being bred for greatness. They were well-trained aristocratic Wizard gentlemen; witty and poetic. Anything less would’ve been considered uneducated, unsophisticated… even unworthy of inheritance. They were taught how to think, what to feel, and what opinions to have on all manner of subjects, both political and personal…
“They were expected to adapt these beliefs without question. Except Time and Experience, when combined together, have a way of breaking down those beliefs; opening eyes, altering hearts.
‘Tis quite a simple equation, really. We see. We feel. We change.
With his status, privilege, and prodigious magical talents that far exceeded those of his generation, the boy became immensely confident, if not unbearably arrogant.
But perhaps it was because of his isolation as an ill babe or because he had witnessed the death of his childhood friend, and had cruel tutors… whatever the reasons, he also grew in bitterness and resentment of those around him and his heart became accustomed to a cold existence.
But cold hearts inevitably yearn for warmth. And the only true way of finding it is through the warmth of another. And this warm heart would come at a chance meeting when he was merely thirteen whilst standing on the grand steps of a winter palace at a girl’s coming-of-age party; his elder brother a potential suitor.
“Delilah, hurry up! Timing is everything at functions such as these, you stupid girl,” a teenage witch scolded into her covered carriage.
The girl was a beauty wearing silk finery with polished gemstones to match, but by her haughty demeanor and cruel words, the boy assessed her heart to be as black as the bottom of her shoe.
“Would you rather the lace tear from the hem of your gown?” a younger girl asked politely, peering out the small door while unhooking the garment that had snagged on the carriage.
“Well if that were to happen, I can fix it with magic… unlike you, Squib,” the teenager hissed all too loudly.
A Squib servant? The boy couldn’t help but gawk at her. He had never met one prior to that moment. She was supposed to be filthy, ugly, and unworthy. But this Squib girl named Delilah was far from it.
As she stepped from the carriage, the boy took notice. Her hair was piled up in a homely looking bun and her dress was that of a typical servant’s, but very tidy. She had a pretty jaw line and a cute little nose and thin lips.
But then, as the witch continued her insults, he watched and witnessed the girl’s face fall into a most hurtful expression at the cruel witch’s unrelenting verbal assult. His eyes found hers; the most piercing blue-hazel he’d ever seen. But as he looked into them, he saw her quiet pain. He quickly recognized that pain and suddenly it all came back to him in one powerful blow, feeling it in his own chest. And in an instant he knew that her sad eyes matched his own.
But she shouldn’t have looked at him in the eyes. He was of royal blood and she was… nothing.
He wasn’t sure whether it was the royal emblems on his robes or the slight green tint of his skin left from the pox, but her gaze darted downward, embarrassed and terrified of what might come next.
He knew what was expected of him. He was to ridicule her publicly so that she would not be repeating the error. But because of the pitiful look on her face, he chose to ignore their exchange completely. For he knew what devastating disappointment felt like and the boy refused to make the girl feel worse than she already did.
Looking at the older girl with eyebrow raised, the boy commented with his usual flair for arrogance, “A lady of your status would do well to remember that patience is a virtue.”
She replied by saying something about being anxious for the night’s festivities, but he didn’t hear her. He was much too mesmerized at watching the lowly Squib girl’s thin lips curl into a smile that she was attempting to subdue.
With the ladies in their ball gowns and the men in their tailored finest, the beauty of the age danced in elegant circles of sophistication and prestige; long fabric flowing ‘round and ‘round on the exquisitely patterned floor of the highly-polished ballroom. The musicians played a happy tune with instruments of mandolin, harp, flute, meshing together in beat and in measure merrily along.
The boy would be expected to find a girl of his age and status and join the promenade, but the partner he desired was not to be in this snobbish crowd. She wouldn’t be part of the festivities, yet she would be close.
The boy looked to and fro until something high above caught his eye. ‘Twas the balcony above in which Delilah chose to watch and be hidden.
He climbed the steps to her, careful not to be seen, and was amused to discover that she was holding onto the balcony rail, her feet tapping and skipping happily to the tune. She then skipped and hopped ‘round the columns and bases of Italian marble statues, lost in the music, oblivious to his presence.
“May I have this dance or are you content to dance with the architecture?”
She embarrassingly halted her happy dance and her face flushed red.
He held out his hand, offering it and bowing slightly to the young lady in servant’s clothing.
“One has never danced with a partner before,” she answered shyly in the sweetest of voices, being sure not to look at him. “And a magical prince be punished if found with a Squib, like me.”
“Those that would care are hosting a ball. Dance with me?” he offered again. “Unless my green hue offends thee.”
“One has heard of a Magical prince who escaped Death and survived the Dragon Pox. How could such a miracle possibly offend?”
Oh, how his heart did soar at her kind words.
“Dance with someone famous then?”
“But one knows not the proper steps, sire.”
“Neither do I,” he fibbed. “We shall be equally terrible at it. Although, I do believe we must begin like this.” He gently took hold of her right hand with his left and placed his other hand respectfully around her ribs, resting it just beneath her shoulder blade.
The girl could not contain her shy smile and soon they were dancing merrily to a happy tune; circling ‘round the columns and ‘round the statues of white.
For that one dreamy night, Delilah the Squib danced with a Pureblood Prince, who could not recall a time when his heart had ever felt so light.
It was only when the music stopped and they heard the applause that they were reminded of the others below that would never have approved of their silly behavior. It just wasn’t proper, given their status, to be prancing around wildly like that.
With her heart pounding, she looked up at the prince with unsure, but hopeful eyes. He glanced away, but kept his smile. For her eyes were causing his stomach to feel odd and his chest to flutter. He instructed her then to go to a quiet alcove at the very tip top of the spiral staircase where he would meet her momentarily.
Upon his arrival, her face lit up at the site of a silver platter of cakes and sweets, a carafe of sweet-water lemonade, and two crystal goblets. He poured the refreshment and then they both consumed the cakes with youthful recklessness.
“Oh, sire, given my status, I consider me blessed to have such sweet crumbs from M’lady’s plate! Such sensation on my tongue, ‘tis heavenly,” she said with delight. “But please, pray tell, how is it that you’ve found favor and adorned such undeserved kindness upon me?”
“Just tell me, is your spirit lighter now than at your arrival at the grand steps of this place?”
“My spirit has soared to the stars.”
“Dancing and cake has soared you to the stars?”
“Oh, yes. And if you did it to cheer me, then I must thank you and M’lady for her cruel words. ‘Tis a lesson learned.”
“What lesson except one in senseless cruelty?” the boy asked incredulously.
“That good can find its way around cruelty. Good can become of it. If it hadn’t been for her impatience and cruel words, would you have come to cheer me?”
The boy thought on this for a moment. It was a peculiar viewpoint.
“You have a most intriguingly kind perspective of things, Miss Delilah. Quite intriguing.”
The two found their way to an outdoor balcony where he conjured a bench and a small fire to keep them warm.
He told her stories of his learning adventures with his house elf that caused sweet laughter from her lips while she watched for comets and falling stars to wish upon. She seemed to adore his stories. But the conversation took a turn when he grew quiet and his face became sad, thinking of the elf’s last moments.
“At the steps, your eyes held the same sadness as they do now. What troubles you so?” she asked.
Her question was unexpected. Feeling guilty for his part, he didn’t want to tell her of the elf’s demise and simply replied, “Being of high status does not protect one from feeling loss… or grief over the death of a friend. It does not protect against these realities of life. The elf is no more.”
“Oh, dear, I’m so sorry.” She covered his hand tenderly with hers, as someone that truly cared for him. “I shouldn’t have pried so.”
“I saw that same sadness in you at the steps and that is why I was compelled to cheer you,” he confessed. “I am not a cruel person, but I’m also not known for kindness. It is rather foreign to me.”
“Oh,” she let out a whisper, withdrawing her hand from his.
He did not expect the disappointment it brought.
“The hurt you saw was but a glimpse of my hurt in having no magic. I must admit that at times, I am envious of Muggles.”
“Muggles?” he questioned. Surely she meant the Magical.
“Yes. For Muggles only live magic in their imaginations and in their folklore tales. They don’t have to live in and around it everywhere and not have it. Should I have to live without magic, I would’ve rather been born to Muggles. For I find their ignorance to be bliss. I’d rather I had not known of it at all. Indeed, I am jealous of the Muggle.”
“Again your perspective astounds me. Your words; so kind and humble. So… unexpected.”
“And what of a Pureblood Wizard dancing with a Squib servant girl?” Her eyes sparkled happily.
“Unexpected,” he admitted, looking into his goblet. “But most certainly not regretted.”
The conversation moved to happier subjects and laughter well into the night. But eventually the boy’s eyes became sad once more. For the music had stopped.
“Did I say something wrong?”
He shook his head. “The evening is at an end. You need to go before someone finds you and I... well, you know.”
Disappointment washed over her pretty face.
“Yes. I should find M’lady before she starts wailing her complaints.”
Delilah stood to go. Being the gentleman he was groomed to be, he stood as well. He knew it was time to bid her farewell. But suddenly he was worrisome, wondering if their paths would ever cross again.
“Yes, my lord.”
“Please, don’t ever call me that.”
“Then what shall I call you?”
The name was significant to him. The only other being he considered a friend was a house elf who was dead. He didn’t keep friends. But he wanted to keep her.
“Do you know? Can an owl find you?”
“I… I don’t know. No one has ever owled me before.”
“Well,” he really didn’t want to ask, but the question seemed rather important. “Can you… read?”
“Of course I can read! Just because I don’t have magic doesn’t default me dimwitted!”
She opened the door and stormed down a dark, but luxuriously carpeted hall, the boy following after. He thought about apologizing, but it wasn’t like him to do that sort of thing, especially a Pureblood to a Squib. But as soon as he thought it, guilt slashed through him. Their time together had been strictly human to human, not something defined by their societal status.
“Delilah, are you up here, child?” a voice familiar to Delilah called out.
She let out a gasp then rudely shoved him into the nearest open doorway as hard as she could to hide her company.
“Coming, Spencer. I’ve been roaming this huge castle, losing count of the many rooms, and I seemed to have lost M’lady’s favorite comb.”
“You’ve got one minute to find it or we’re off!”
“Tend the horses. I’ll be right there.”
As soon as the danger had passed, she let out a sigh of relief.
“M’lady’s favorite comb?” he gently mocked.
“It’s the only thing in my pocket,” she explained.
From the darkness of the room, he knew it was time to say goodbye, but he really didn’t want to.
“Goodnight, my Delilah. I shall not forget this night.”
“Goodnight, Friend. I shall eagerly watch for an owl… should one attempt to find me.”
And with that, she curtsied politely and was gone, leaving him to recover his heart in the darkness. For he was sure it had just leaped from his chest at the hope in her parting words.
Indeed, the owl found you, my sweet Delilah. And yes, my heart longed for yours that first night. This story is ours. And I write it in the hopes that one day, they will read and understand.
As Hermione read, she could not believe the parallels in her own life. She understood what it meant to be insecure of something she could not change. He was fearful that his green skin offended her, but she was kind in her response. People didn’t understand how he had lived and surely he would be treated differently out of fear of being contagious, even though he wasn’t.
She also knew what it was like to come to an end of an amazing evening with someone and not want to say goodbye. Yes, she knew that feeling. And she could visualize the young teen’s sad eyes. She had seen them before. She had witnessed those sad eyes in Draco. He was so much like Draco. She couldn’t help but wonder if Draco felt the guilt the boy had when the ingrained Pureblood thoughts came to his head. Did he feel the sting of remorse? Of course he did.
And little adorable Delilah… she didn’t think like most. She was a kind heart, but fiery when it came to Squib stereotypes.
“Oh, a Squib and a Pureblood Prince… this cannot possibly end well. Can it, Draco?” Hermione spoke aloud as though talking with him. “Can it?” she whispered, wondering what really would become of the two in this story.
The book was supposed to be dangerous because of its hidden spells that could go flying about. But as she read, she became convinced that it was the Blood Traitor content that must’ve rendered the booked banned. Yes, that was why. Not the spells.
The notion brought tears to her eyes. It would be a beautiful story, she knew. Young love… forbidden. But did she want to know how it would end? She wasn’t sure.
But she was sure of one thing. Delilah knew. She knew the danger from day one. She had shoved him into the nearest door to protect him… to protect them both.
Despite Hermione’s reservations to read on, she couldn’t help herself. She continued, reading of happy times. A year had past when he had gone on a shopping trip to a busy, bustling area of Magical London. Much to his surprise, Delilah was there, wearing a borrowed green dress that was entirely too large for her. It certainly wasn’t servant’s clothing.
He would’ve missed her entirely had she not tripped over the dress and made somewhat of a spectacle. Armed with a satchel full of candy and sweets, he came to her in commoner’s attire. She was shocked to see him, but seemed happy after her initial embarrassment wore off. After convincing her that a lady should not be without an escort in the city and her arguing the same about a prince, the two continued together, store after store, gathering the items on her list.
He watched as she carefully counted her coins, budgeting for each item and noticed when she was out. It meant that she was finished and would be leaving soon. But he didn’t want her to leave, so he invited her to rest awhile before heading back.
The two found a hiding spot high on a merchant’s thatched roof where he shared his candy with her. When he saw her tired face light up, he ended up giving her all of it, satchel included.
“But they’ll think I stole it,” Delilah declined.
“No they won’t,” he said, taking out his wand and turning the brown satchel a perfect shade of green to match her dress. “Now they’ll think it was yours all along.”
Hermione read a long chapter of light-hearted conversation of a perfect day. The two talked like old friends catching up. They spoke of all that had happened from their last letters and he confessed that on days like today, he wished he wasn’t a prince at all. The time went by all too quickly.
But when the two got up to leave, the mishap of mishaps ensued and after a rather large snapping sound, the two somehow plunged two stories onto an awning that swept them up and away. And in his failed attempt to save them from the fall using magic, they ended up falling into a water fountain.
Sopping and dripping wet, Delilah was trying not to cry. For not only was she utterly humiliated, but all of her purchases had been ruined.
But the boy was most definitely laughing, especially when the soaps she had just purchased nearly buried them in an enormous cloud of suds. But he wasn’t laughing long. Soon they were running hand in hand as fast as they could away from an angry constable; water flying every which way. But their wet clothing hindered their attempt at escape and soon they were cornered in an alley and immediately taken to royal guards to be punished for disturbing the peace with their mischief and running from authorities.
Hermione read that it wasn’t the guards he was worried about. For he knew it was his father that would receive a full report.
As soon as the guards recognized the prince, the air became quite serious and they released him immediately.
He commanded them to take five men and purchase every item on the wet parchment list, refill her green satchel with the finest candies, sweets, and pastries and return immediately. He demanded a maiden tend to Delilah’s needs and magically dry her hair and clothing. And after all was done as he commanded, he ordered his most trusted guards to escort her safely home.
But before they left, he saw the distressed worry in her blue-hazel eyes, which compelled him to reserve a moment alone with her. With a nod, the guards waited outside.
“Oh, my dearest Friend, what shall become of you?” She asked in a hushed whisper.
“I don’t know,” he replied honestly, wondering how such a perfect day could end so gravely.
“Write to me. Again and again, so I know that you are okay. I’m so worried for you.”
Seeing her eyes turn watery with fear, he made a promise that he would write again. But his heart was in agony. For the best hours of his life had been spent with this amazing girl. When would he ever see her again… this person that actually cared for him?
She stepped close to him and placed light fingers to his face while planting her lips tenderly to his cheek.
He leaned in to receive it and held her hand so that she kept it to his face.
“Your present touch will heal future lashings. Come what may, you were worth it.”
As their lips came together in the most innocent of kisses… the door opened.
As Hermione read of the strong bond of love blossoming, she could not help but be filled with memories of Draco and their time together; running from Filch trying not to get caught and enjoying her own pile of suds in the Prefect’s Bathroom.
Little did she know that as she read, she was sending her light… her image, like a ghost, sent to the one who sent her the rare, banned Magical book. And she had no idea what it was doing to him.
Draco had become accustomed to Hermione’s likeness, lit up like an apparition that was not really there.
At first, he was in fear of it.
He had tried to touch her, but his hand brushed right through the air. Nothing. He tried to communicate with her, but his words went unnoticed. It was baffling.
Some nights, it nearly made him mad with frustration. He wanted her. Longed for her. She was there, but she really wasn’t.
He tried to think it through logically, but could not come up with the reason for this bizarre connection. Was it a connection? Or was he just going out of his mind.
When she wasn’t there, he tried to conjure her. Perhaps in thinking of her and wishing she was really there is what brought about her amazing image. But that wasn’t it either. For that was tested and it certainly failed.
Sitting in his room, he thought of the first night her light visited him. It was a most troubling and dark time that he dare not put himself in that place again. For in a moment that he wanted to experiment with something very dark and see what would happen, she showed up, pulling him from the depths, saving his very life.
He had been drunk on the wine that flowed at dinner and was sitting in his room, slumped in a high-back chair, reduced to a man barely breathing.
He had slowed his heart, calming himself from the bitterness and anger that he felt inside, loathing the latest role given to him; torturing fellow Death Eaters who were deemed to be out of line and donning his Death Eater mask in bringing people to Voldemort like some hired low-life Snatcher.
Draco knew he was slipping downward… because sometimes he liked it. He enjoyed seeing grown men cower before the silver-masked Death Eater that he was. And he despised them for not having a backbone, which only fed him darkness by the pintful. He hated himself for what he had become. He was pawn and becoming more and more powerful with the dark magic he was learning and using almost daily now.
He loved the power and hated it at the same time. He was careful to respect it and not be careless. But he knew things now that effected his sleep… his nightmares. Some of the things that the darkness could do both thrilled and chilled his bones.
Even in all his hated past abuse by the Cruciatus curse, he was now the wizard casting it.
It was all so wrong, but it was also like a drug; an addiction that sometimes left him thirsty for blood. It was fuel for self-hatred. It was fuel for fear in others as they witnessed what he was now capable of. He hated his abilities and wished he had never started.
As Draco sat silent in his room, he had slowed his heart to merely half that of someone sleeping and fully at rest.
And at that one dark moment, he knew he had the power to stop his own heartbeat. He had the magic to do it. He could feel the rare and raw power over his own body.
His heartbeat slowed again and again as he stared into the blackness caused by a moonless night. Slowing, slowing, slowing the pounding in his chest that kept him alive.
But then from nowhere, like an angel, something came to him. A light.
With a gasp, he snapped out of his dark state and nearly fell to the floor.
“Hermione?” he whispered as if it was incredible. “Bloody hell. Is it you?”
Her light had saved him that day… and nearly every day, reminding him to stay alive. For what reason, he had no idea. Was it hope? If it was, he didn’t acknowledge it. What was there ever anything to hope for? What good was it!?
Blocking the memory of the first night he saw her, he was brought back to the present, a completed moon cycle later and yet another moonless night. So black… like his spirit.
She was there again, like she had been there most evenings. She would come at sporadic times and stay for a few minutes and sometimes a full hour. Tonight she stayed for a long time and so he spoke to her.
“I buried two more people today…” he paused for a long while, hoping in vain for some kind of reaction from her. Wouldn’t it truly be grand if she could hear him this time?
Probably not. She wouldn’t want to hear from him. But he spoke to her anyway. It felt good. He would talk and she would have that concerned look on her face as if she was listening.
“Well, Skippen actually buries them magically at the edge of the swamp near Ottery St. Catchpole while I’ve started to plot them on parchment, listing where they are buried, who they are, and date of their death. I figured maybe in time, their relatives would want to know where they were laid to rest. Maybe when the list gets full, I’ll owl it to someone trustworthy at the Ministry so that their families will know. As foul a creatures as some of them were, I figure they all must have someone who might care about them and their fates.
“Today, I wondered if they had a bucket list. You know; if they had things they wanted to do before they died. Did they ever want to be loved by someone like you or see their child be born? Did they ever want to hear the choir sing at the Westminster Abbey or look upon Aurora Borealis as you do? Or were their lives cut short by a madman, robbing them of such an important list?”
He looked at her again, but there was no response… only that beautiful concerned look of hers, but he continued anyway.
“Never in my youth did it ever cross my mind that I would play the role of Undertaker… nor did I ever expect the perspective that one gains from it. For we all will die someday, Love. We will meet our end at some point. And when it is my turn, I hope that someone would at least take the time to bury me properly, as I have done these poor souls.
“I’ve come to the realization that our bodies are merely dwellings for souls. For when death comes, the soul leaves it. I know this because the dead look empty… like empty shells. And I think a soul that leaves the body must go somewhere else, hopefully taking love with it. When I think of it that way, death doesn’t seem so scary then. And my thoughts move from death to contemplate where a soul goes. Heaven. Hell. Surely I deserve the last.
“Sometimes, I feel as if I have a terminal illness, Love. That death is eminent and close. It hovers over me like a Dementor and I’m just waiting for its kiss to take my soul to where it deserves to be.
“Forgive me… for speaking of such depressing things.” He paused yet again watching whatever breeze flow through her hair, wishing he could run his hands through it like she’d let him all those months ago.
He stopped talking then and just watched her… her face, her eyes, her breathing. He watched her with the heaviest of hearts, longing to touch her, longing for the part of their past when the world fell away and left them to themselves.
“You’d be proud to know that I’m now well-read on the subject of such thing as Faith and Religion and the lack thereof. And I must say that regardless of the teachings on either side, I know without a shred of doubt that evil exists. It lives and breathes in my home. And therefore, for such evil to exist, then I must reason and reconcile it with an opposite force and accept that there is Light and it does exist. For Darkness is only vanquished by Light. Faith is a choice. And so… I choose to believe.
“I’ll admit though, that my struggle lies with forgiveness. For I’m not sure that I am remorseful for all that I have done. But I am sorry for so many things. I am flawed. And that flaw was a condition to your love that you could not accept. A flaw… albeit a major one, indeed. Unacceptable. Unforgivable. From what I’ve read, the word has much more meaning than the three curses in our world. And it pains me that I cannot be perfect. Not in my father’s eyes. Not in yours. It isn’t possible to please you both. And so I leave both of you sorely disappointed in me. And for that, I am so deeply sorry.”
He searched her image again.
“Am I sorry that I am now a Dark Wizard, earning an advanced degree? Only when it comes to you,” he answered. “Pride in my accomplishments in the Dark Arts falls far short because of you. My conscience remains convicted and my regrets run deep… because I love you still… as I told you I would.”
He paused and studied her, truly amazed at the phenomenon directly in front of him. She seemed so close, but so far away. Within reach, yet unreachable. He took heart in believing at least, that if he was seeing her in real time, then she didn’t seem to be in danger, at least for now.
Draco stopped talking then, glad Hermione couldn’t hear how pathetic he sounded. He took in a long deep breath, leaned over, and put his head in his hands. But then suddenly, Draco felt a presence in his room and didn’t bother addressing the person he knew it to be.
“Who were you talking to just now?” Narcissa asked, not hiding the concern in her voice.
“Someone, but no one, really,” Draco replied cryptically.
“People are saying you’re going mad. They say you talk to a woman who isn’t there. You can tell me, you know. A ghost perhaps?”
“I pray that she is no ghost.”
“So it is true then? You are speaking to someone?”
“Yes, but you cannot see her; sitting there politely in the corner. And she cannot see or hear me. And am I going mad? Honestly, Mother, I am already there. Insanity it seems, has taken me and I speak to an imaginary person, who really does exist. And I love her actually. I’ve been in love with her for quite some time. She visits me mostly in the evening after dinner in the form of light. She loved me once, but you’ll be quite relieved to know that she most certainly hates me now.”
He watched as his mother’s face quickened with worry of his contradictory explanation.
He let out a deep and sickening chuckle at the absurdity of it all. He was beginning to think he really was losing his mind.
“And do you see this book that I have here?” He held it up. “It’s green!”
“Yes, I see that it is green.” She didn’t understand why the color was of any consequence.
“It wasn’t green when I started reading it.”
“Well, it had to have been. You just don’t recall it.”
“Mother, look.” He opened it to her. “Green pages and green ink! Have you ever seen a book use green pages and ink? I assure you, it didn’t start out this way. It turned green as I was reading it!”
Of course, what Draco was experiencing was a playful and harmless little spell sent by Hermione’s book reading of when the boy turned the satchel green to match Delilah’s dress.
“I think you need some rest. You aren’t sleeping well, are you?” She asked, concerned.
“Sleep? I’m wondering how you sleep at night with a demon living in your house. And don’t even get me started on his beloved pet. I haven’t slept a full night since that thing ate a person on our dining table!”
“Keep your voice down,” Narcissa warned in a forced whisper.
Drawing his wand, Draco magically shut his door and instead of the using the Muffliato spell to conceal their conversation, Draco chose the Flagrate to spell out his thoughts to his mother with the use of streams of fire in the air.
“I DON’T WANT TO LIVE LIKE THIS ANYMORE,” Draco spelled out.
“What do you mean? You should be grateful to have been put into a position of power at your age.”
“IT IS NOT POWER THAT I WANT.”
“FREEDOM. I WANT OUT!”
“There is no turning back now. Besides, once the Ministry takeover is complete, I’m sure you’ll be doing something else for the cause.”
“I DON’T GIVE A DAMN ABOUT ANY CAUSE, BUT MY OWN. I WANT MY LIFE BACK!”
“Well, right now, the cause I care about the most is keeping this family together. And we will do what we must and what is expected. Things will get better, you’ll see,” she attempted encouragement.
“If you truly believe that, then you’re either as blind as father or in complete denial. I buried two more today, Mother… followers of the cause. When will it be my turn? Another week, another month, five more years of this?”
“No one has ever asked you to bury people. That is of your own accord.”
“Yes, because if father had his way, they would be dumped and decaying in the sewers of London. Or Nagini would have more to eat. I cannot get that image out of my skull. If you think I ever want to witness that again, you are sorely mistaken.”
He took to writing with fire in the air again.
“I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS ANYMORE. THE ONLY REASON I HAVEN’T FLED ALREADY IS BECAUSE OF YOU AND FATHER. IF I DEFECT WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU?”
“You will do no such thing. Don’t even think about it,” Narcissa whispered, terrified that his mind was actually thinking of such betrayal.
“SO, THE ONLY WAY OUT OF THIS LIFE SENTENCE IS DEATH?” Draco wrote out with a flourish, underlining it with a stream of fire from his wand.
But before his mother could respond to his grave question, Skippen showed up and interrupted them.
“Pardon sir, the Dark Lord requests Master’s presence for an important mission.”
He glanced at his mother who knew their conversation had come to an end. She gave him a look that told him they would speak later. He could tell that he had both worried and upset her. But at least with her, he didn’t have to pretend anymore. She knew how he felt and for now, that was enough. When she made her quiet exit, his attention went to his house elf.
“Do you know any details of this mission?” Draco asked, looking into his mirror and straightening his tie, readying himself to face Voldemort.
“A Muggle address has been found at the Ministry. The mission is to interrogate two Muggles in their home, sir, in order to find someone.”
“Did he mention any names?”
Draco was curious, but he didn’t expect to hear a name that he recognized. He didn’t expect his face to turn ashen, his stomach to lurch, his lungs to lose their breath, or his knees to weaken at the mention of a name.
“Skippen cannot remember the first name, sir, but believes the Muggle surname to be… Granger.”
Well, this happened to be the longest chapter of this story. My apologies, but Hermione read a lot of that book and according to the rules, reading from books can only be 1/3 of the chapter. I edited and edited for compliance so that it wouldn't get rejected. This is why it turned out to be so long. Anyway... Many thanks to all readers and reviewers! This story has now surpassed 72,000 Reads, passed the 600th Review, while 307 have Favorited. Wow! I just cannot believe these milestones! Please allow me to use the Flagrate spell and with fire write out... "THANK YOU FROM MY HEART!" into the air.
Also, thank you for your patience as I am not known for quick updates. Just know this story will continue to the end. Lastly, I adore hearing from you. Your reviews are precious to me. Keep them coming.
Much love to all who have found this story and gave it a chance. I do hope you continue...
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