Chapter 15 : Library Returns
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Hermione slept fitfully after Draco's visit and woke with the early morning sun feeling un-rested but unable to sleep any longer. Her mind wandered incessantly but always returned to the confusing enigma that was Draco Malfoy. What was he doing? Was he safe? Why had she kissed him? Had he ever killed anyone? Was he killing or torturing on Voldemort's orders now? Why did he think of the kiss? Was he thinking of her? Would he come back? The questions raced through her mind over and over again, threatening to drive her insane. Perched on the windowsill of her room, she found herself staring at the pathway he had taken the night before, hoping to see his tall form walk back through the gates.
Finally, she decided that she needed a distraction. Pulling on a pair of white shorts and a simple grey tank top and grabbing the comfiest sweater she could find for the drafty corridors of the manor, she set out for her sanctuary: the library. The stone hallways were still dark and dreary in the morning light but less foreboding now that she had traversed them many times. She still walked slowly, careful not to exhaust her recovering body. She breathed in deeply as she dragged open the massive maple doors that guarded the library and stood for a moment in the sunlit doorway. Then Hermione stepped forward, letting the doors close behind her with a thump, and began browsing the shelves for whatever caught her eye.
She curled up in a padded window sill with Hogwarts: A History, her old favorite. The book brought her some comfort, reminding her of the place that had been her home for six years and the friends that she had not seen since May, yet she struggled to keep her eyes on its pages. Her gaze frequently drifted out the window towards the gardens; her subconscious hoping to catch a glimpse of his blonde locks over the walls of the labyrinth or his tall figure sauntering between the greenhouses with a trowel in his hand. While she was recovering, he often escorted her to the library where she would read while he would venture out to tend to his beloved gardens. She had grown used to his presence, even just in the peripheries of her life.
Giving up on Hogwarts: A History, she padded over to a nearby bookshelf and began her search for a book that might hold her attention better. A large leather-bound with gold writing caught her attention. She slipped it off the shelves, read the title, and returned to her seat to explore the collection of wizarding fairy tales.
That was where he found her that afternoon: leaning against the glass of the window, feet tucked up under her, sweater falling carelessly off her shoulder, so engrossed that she had not heard him open and close the large doors. "Typical Hermione," he thought. "It was either here or her room." Even as he scoffed at her predictability, he could not help but notice how unusually beautiful and at peace she looked with the afternoon sunlight creating a halo of the ever-present flyaway hairs that had escaped from her messy bun and a slight smile gracing her lips. "What would Father say?" he chastised himself. "He wouldn't... Father's dead. He's dead. Dead, which means he can never again tell me what to do. Screw him. Oh Godric, he's dead." The beauty of the girl before him no longer paralyzed him. Instead a whirlwind of conflicting emotions held him in their grasp; his thoughts warred with lances of grief, spears of fears, shields of anger, and a faint battle hymn that whispered of freedom. He wanted to break down, to cry like a child who has lost his mother in the store, but he was a Malfoy and Malfoys do not cry.
Reigning in his reeling mind, Draco lifted himself from the support of a obliging bookshelf and stepped closer to his charge. His footsteps fell heavy enough to snatch her attention, and her head shot up from its prone position, her eyes alight with slight fright from the interruption. "Draco," she breathed.
If he had hoped that hearing her voice would make everything right, he would have been severely disappointed, for, instead of the comfort that he sought, that one word brought another mix of emotions to the surface. He suddenly found himself struggling to find the words that would neither push her away nor encourage the compassion that she was known for. "Hermione... I'm back."
She felt his tension, and, as if it were a catching disease, her excited questions disappeared from her tongue, replaced with a biting "I can see that." He flinched, and she hurriedly backpedalled. "I mean, I'm glad you're back. Are you okay?"
"Well enough." The words hung in the air, both of them comprehending the lie but unable to say anything more. Eventually, he walked out of the library. She turned her melancholic gaze toward the sky which had turned grey with the beginnings of an infamous English rainstorm.
A/N: brrrr... is it cold in here or is it just me? I'm not going to plead for forgiveness or make any promises about updating quicker (I do feel bad, though! I promise!), but it is a chapter and not two years later or whatever like the last gap!
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