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Chapter 29 : His Dark Mark
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She picked at her food, barely eating, which Ron didn’t even notice. She focussed on the door to the great hall, so she didn’t have to look at Draco Malfoy, or at the gaping hole where her father should be at the teacher’s table. She had a glimmering moment of relief as Luna, Harry, and Severus came through the doors. Then it all crashed as she noticed her father scowling, and Harry covered in blood.
“What happened to your face?” Ginny asked.
“I had a run-in with Malfoy.”
The group all turned to look at the blonde Slytherin and Hermione couldn’t help herself.
He was sitting at the table, not speaking to anyone, not eating his food either. He looked paler than usual, if that was possible, with a permanent scowl on his lips, not his usual sneer, or even the smile he had when he thought no one was looking. Even from across the room, Hermione could see the purple around his eye. It was faint, like he had tried to cover it up poorly with a spell he wasn’t very good at.
“And you two had a fist fight?” Hermione asked, turning back to Harry.
“The coward stunned me. He must have been too scared to duel, he stepped on my bloody face.”
Hermione glanced at Draco again, in shock.
“That ferret!” Ron said, “Don’t worry, Harry, we’ll get ‘em back.”
He definitely had a black eye though. Hermione could see the bruise from across the room. Did no one else notice? Did she know his face better than them? Or did everyone else just not care?
“I need to tell you what I heard him say on the train.” Harry recounted how Draco had bragged about some mission for the dark lord.
Hermione was about to open her mouth and defend Draco when Ron spoke. “You can’t be serious, Harry. There’s no way he’s been chosen as a death eater, why would they want a sixteen year old?”
Halfway through dinner, Draco got up and left. Hermione looked toward her father, but he seemed content not to make any eye contact. So, Hermione muttered something about using the washroom and slipped out behind Draco. He didn’t notice that she was behind him until they were a fair way down the hall, then Hermione shoved him through the nearest door before he could speak. It turned out to be a cupboard. Hermione lit her wand and Draco rounded on her, brandishing his own wand. He faltered when he noticed who it was, and he dropped his wand.
“What the hell are you doing, Granger?”
Her last name stung Hermione. “I could ask you the same thing. Breaking Harry’s nose, treating me like I’m dirt again, ignoring every message I’ve sent you on that paper, what the hell are you doing?”
“I threw the parchment out.” Draco said, “I had no use for it anymore, just like I have no use for you. Why don’t you keep your bushy little head out of my business.” Draco made to leave. Hermione grabbed his wrist and he yanked it away from her.
“How did you get the black eye, Draco?”
Terror spread across his face, if only for a second, before being replaced by his scowl.
Hermione raised her wand to his face and Draco grabbed her wrist. In the tussle, his shirt sleeve slid down an inch, and the top of a curving black tattoo could be seen. Hermione pulled his sleeve further up, her wand still pointed at his face. The two stared down at the dark mark on Draco’s white skin, swollen and red around the tattoo still, hot to Hermione’s touch. Draco yanked his arm away and fastened his shirt sleeve tight. When Hermione looked into Draco’s face, it was the face of a boy once again. He didn’t look like a death eater or a man, but a child on the verge of tears, trying to cover up his fear and his sadness by throwing a tantrum.
Hermione whispered a spell and the black eye disappeared.
“If those are the sorts of people you’re putting your trust in, you’ll need to learn better healing spells.”
Severus was no help. Hermione sent a letter to him immediately, and his reply simply said for her to leave Draco alone. There was nothing she could do for him now. The next day in Defense against the Dark Arts, Hermione got to see her dad close up for the first time in months. Despite finally getting his dream job, he didn’t seem any happier about teaching, in fact he seemed more stressed than Hermione could remember ever seeing him. He ignored Hermione completely, even when she raised her hand in class, which just made Ron mock him in whispers, which just made Hermione more upset. Even more unnerving was the fact that Draco wasn’t in defense against the dark arts. Hermione wasn’t sure if he was missing class, or he simply wasn’t taking defense against the dark arts. She supposed being part of the death eaters now meant he had no need to take the class.
After class, Hermione packed up her books slowly. She gave a slight nod to Harry who took that as his sign to take Ron out and leave Hermione with her dad. Hermione held her bag to her chest as she approached the front desk. The rest of the students were on their way out the door.
“Professor Snape.” Hermione said quietly, “I had a question to ask you about today’s lesson.”
Snape turned away from the blackboard. There were still other students heading off to lunch. “You always do, miss Granger, don’t you?” Snape said, forcing the deepest annoyance into his voice. One hufflepuff glanced back at the two of them, then hurried to leave.
Hermione looked around at the few straglers. “It’s about what we were reading in chapter nine, page sixty-two, I believe. I can find it, my book is right here.”
“I remember well enough what is in my own textbook, thank you.” Snape drawled.
Hermione looked around again, finally everyone had left.
“I thought I told you this was too dangerous.” Snape whispered.
“I know about Draco.”
Snape stared at her, but said nothing.
“Were you even going to tell me, or were the two of you just going to ignore me all year like I didn’t exist? You told him he couldn’t talk to me, didn’t you?”
“He was smart enough to make that decision on his own.” Snape whispered.
“You think if you just ignore me, cut me out of your life and his, I’ll just cease to be your daughter, his friend. That’s what you want isn’t it, so no one will ever know who I am.”
“That is what I want.” Snape said.
Hermione glared at him. Her lips shook and she began to cry, but as she thought of leaving Snape gripped her hand in his. Not soothingly, but as though letting go of her would end him.
“Do you know why Draco joined? Because his father joined. Because when he was as old as you are now, Lucius made a stupid choice, just like I did. That choice sealed Draco’s fate before he was born, before he was even imagined. If He isn’t defeated, Draco’s children will be forced to endure the same fate as well. If they knew who you were, you would be where Draco is now. That is the best case scenario. More likely, they’d kill all of us because your mother is a muggle. That is how their world works, Hermione.”
“So that’s it, you’re just going to abandon him to his fate? Is that what it is?”
“There’s nothing you can do for him now, Hermione. The important thing is to keep yourself out of danger.”
“Just because you’re good at abandoning the people you love when it gets tough, doesn’t mean I am.”
Hermione turned and stomped out of the room.
Hermione stayed in a bad mood all the way through dinner, and through most of the night too. She curled up in a large chair and refused to let either Harry or Ron copy her homework, snapping at them for even asking. They had finally given up and given Hermione a bit of space when a loud crack echoed through the air. Standing right in front of Hermione’s chair was the house elf Dobby. He wore two especially bright and mismatched socks and bowed so low his great blue eyes and his nose almost touched the floor.
“Dobby? What are you doing here?” Harry asked, staring at the elf.
Dobby stood up straight and smiled wide. “Mister Harry Potter sir, and Mister Weasley, and Miss Granger. Please, Dobby has been told to bring this to miss Granger, please.” Dobby passed a great big thermos and a mug to Hermione then bowed again.
“Dobby, who is this from?” Hermione asked.
“Please, Miss Hermione.” Dobby smiled, but looked a little worried all the same. “I was told to bring it to cheer you up.” Hermione could guess by his shifting gaze someone with power had told him to keep quiet, a professor and father no doubt. Good, Hermione thought, at least he knew he was wrong.
Hermione set the presents aside and leaned toward Dobby. “Thank you very much, Dobby, but you do know you don’t have to do what people say just because they ask it. You are a free elf now.”
Dobby looked even more confused now. “I was happy to do it, miss. I don’t like to hear that one of Harry Potter’s friends are sad. I was happy to.”
“She’s very happy, Dobby, you can go now.” Harry said. Dobby disappeared with a crack and Harry sighed. “You’re just confusing him more with your S.P.E.W stuff, Hermione. Honestly.”
Hermione rolled her eyes and unscrewed the thermos. She inhaled the smell of creamy earl grey tea, and began pouring a mug.
“You can’t drink that!” Ron shouted. “It could be poisoned. You don’t know who sent that!”
“I’m sure it’s fine, Ron.”
“Unless you know who sent it, you can’t drink it.”
“Well, I assume...” She was cut off.
“Who’s sending you hot beverages by house elf past curfew?” Ron asked.
The two of them stared each other down. Ron’s ears turned pinker and pinker. Hermione racked her brain as fast as she could for an excuse not involving Snape.
“Well?” Ron asked.
“It was me.” Harry said.
Hermione and Ron both whirled around to face him. Hermione mouthed “thanks,” but Harry was distracted by Ron, who’s expression was quickly turning from confusion to jealousy.
“It was both of us, really, wasn’t it Ron?” Harry gestured to Ron as well as himself.
Ron’s face went back to confusion. “Remember, at dinner.” Harry looked from Hermione to Ron. “Ron said you looked more stressed out than usual and we should do something to help you relax. So I did.” Harry said.
“Right, now I remember.” Ron said. “So, then you sent her the um...”
“It’s earl grey tea.” Hermione said.
“It’s a muggle thing.” Harry explained.
“Right, that’s fine then.” Ron leaned back.
“Thank you, both of you. I suppose I have been a little grumpy today.” Hermione said, giving a special look to Harry and drinking her tea.
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