Chapter 12 : Memories
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Blaise’s head shot up from the letter he was reading at his desk to the sound of Draco’s voice; his familiar patronus was stood dead ahead of him.
“Blaise. We’ve just been reading through Rowle’s file, he’s in Australia. Hermione’s parents live there, the address is 14 Avalon Drive. Get on it, now.”
As quickly as it came, the patronus vanished and the room was silent once more.
“Shit,” Blaise muttered to himself. This was all he needed. Rowle wasn’t stupid, he knew that, and if he was in the same place as Granger’s parents it was by no means a coincidence. On top of everything else, she really didn’t need anything happening to them, and whether he liked her or not, he couldn’t let that happen.
He immediately discarded the letter in front of him and grabbed a fresh piece of parchment from his desk drawer and dipped his quill in the silver ink pot next to him.
His pace reflected his urgency and the letter was finished in under a minute, requesting the Australian Minister for Magic send out only his best and most trusted Aurors to protect the house. He hoped, as he strapped the letter to his large black owl, that he wasn’t too late. It would take a while for the letter to reach the Minister and they didn’t have a clue how long Rowle had been there.
Deciding he had better let his girlfriend know, Blaise apparated to their cottage where Pansy was currently working from home on tomorrow’s front page article. Once he arrived, she was busily scribbling away in the study, a room which was dedicated entirely to her and catered for her every need. On the right hand side was an almost floor to ceiling pile of parchment, and next to it sat a wicker basket full of expensive quills. Pansy never used a quick-quotes quill and relied solely on her talent for her writing, an attribute she was immensely proud of.
She obviously hadn’t heard him come in as she continued to write, her sleek hair tied in a messy knot on top of her head. She looked stressed out enough, Blaise thought, watching the woman in front of him attentively. He was so lucky. She was a beautiful woman.
Remembering his reason for being at home, he paced over from the doorway to her desk and put his hand lightly on her shoulder. She almost jumped out of her seat and drew out her wand immediately, scared by his sudden appearance.
“Merlin, honey, you can’t just creep up on me like that!” she said.
He smiled, brilliant white teeth dazzling her as he did so. “I live here too, remember.”
“You’ve well and truly ruined my flow now,” she said, narrowing her eyes at him playfully, “I was almost finished one of my most brilliant pieces yet!”
“Everything you write is brilliant, gorgeous,” he slurred, pulling her off her chair and kissing her deeply.
“You’re such a charmer,” she murmured against his lips, their noses touching lightly against each other.
Blaise was in serious danger of getting very distracted from the job at hand, so he stepped back from her. He walked back to the door and headed towards the kitchen, where he picked out two mugs from the cupboard and produced two large black coffees for them. Pansy had followed him to the kitchen and sat on one of the high stools and the counter, leaning her elbows on the side with her chin resting on her hands.
“So, what brings you home so quickly?” she glanced at the clock on the opposite wall, “you only left an hour and a half ago.”
“We seem to have a problem. Draco just sent a message to me at work, Granger’s parents live in Australia and guess where Rowle happens to be?” he said solemnly, taking a sip of his coffee and almost spitting it out. Pansy insisted he didn’t use sugar, but he usually added it when she wasn’t around.
Pansy’s eyes widened in panic. “Surely he must know they live there?”
“I would assume so. I’m pretty sure Draco will have convinced Granger otherwise though, he does seem to be treating her rather gently. Although she was always the brains of our year, she should work it out herself.”
“Stop calling her that, would you? Her name is Hermione. Bloody hell Blaise just get over that already,” she shot an angry look at him.
“I am over it! Old habits die hard, I told you. I was thinking we could invite them to dinner tonight to discuss where we go next. I suppose I sort of owe her an apology for last night anyway,” he mumbled.
Pansy beamed. “That’s more like it! I’ll owl Draco and arrange it all. You’d better be getting back to work honey.”
A wicked smile played across Blaise’s lips. He put down his coffee cup. “I’ve got some business to attend to first.” He grabbed Pansy’s tiny hand and pulled her from her stool, leading her towards their bedroom as she giggled.
“Right. There isn’t much we can do while Rowle halfway across the world where we are very unlikely to find him on our own. I think it’s best to wait until he returns to the country, which I’m betting won’t be long, so let’s go and get some lunch,” he said.
She nodded and they were both about to leave the room when an owl Draco recognised as Pansy’s flew directly into one of the bookshelves and collapsed in a feathery heap on the floor. Hermione rushed over and picked it up gently, removing the letter tied onto its leg and throwing it to Draco.
Blaise had just been home to tell me about Rowle. This is serious, and we need to discuss where we go next. I think it’s about time you told Hermione everything; we can’t keep pretending we don’t know what happened. Why else would Rowle be in Australia if he wasn’t targeting her directly?
Come round for dinner tonight, both of you. 7 o’clock sharp.
See you later sweetie
Draco hurriedly tucked the letter into his pocket. How did Pansy expect him to tell Hermione that? He’d just got her to trust him, barely. She was right though, he thought. Surely she must be wondering what on earth his friends were thinking about this whole situation.
“Anything important?” she asked, shaking him from his thoughts.
“Oh, just Pansy inviting us for dinner tonight. Are you okay with that?”
“Yes! I mean, that would be nice. Pansy seems very lovely, not at all how I expected her to be,” Hermione admitted.
“Yes, I suppose her reputation at Hogwarts wasn’t exactly glowing. She’s changed though, we all have,” he said.
“Hmm, Zabini seems as he ever was,” she said, rolling her eyes.
“Blaise is just difficult. He’s more pureblood-thinking than anyone I’ve ever met, but that was down to his parents and they’re gone now. All our parents are, and that changed us.”
Hermione took this as a final statement and didn’t press the matter. She had somehow acquired the knowledge of when to stop with Draco; she didn’t want to push him and think she was being rude. She was living in his house, after all.
They headed out of the library and down the corridor. As usual, it took some time before they reached the dining hall where Slinky had already laid out a selection of foods; sandwiches, soups, thick loaves of bread and several goblets of pumpkin juice. Hermione smiled broadly as she saw a muggle teapot sat in front of her place at the table. She went over to her seat and poured herself a cup, adding a little milk that had been provided in a small jug.
“Please, try it. I don’t take sugar so I’m giving it to you without,” she said to Draco.
He peered down at the brown liquid with disgust. He picked it up, sniffed it, and put it down again. She widened her eyes at him suggestively, a look that told him to do as he was told. He sighed, picked up the cup once more and took a sip. Feeling the heat crawl down his throat deliciously, he relaxed as he realised it actually tasted quite good.
An I’m-always-right look was plastered on Hermione’s face and they both laughed comfortably. Hermione poured herself a cup and drank deeply. Tea reminded her of cold winter nights snuggled up in front of the fire with her parents, before she’d even received her letter from Hogwarts. These were rare moments, but when she thought of them, Hermione forgot the misgivings of her past and instead remembered how much easier things were back then. Before magic, before Hogwarts, before Rowle. She sighed and ladled some thick vegetable soup into the bowl in front of her.
They ate in silence, giving Hermione time to think as she slowly spooned the hot soup into her mouth, savouring every mouthful. Slinky was a wonderful cook. She began to think about this evening; she’d need to prepare an outfit but had no idea what to wear to dinner with Draco’s friends. Suddenly, a thought hit her.
“Blaise and Pansy are being awfully helpful to us, but they must wonder what’s so important about catching Rowle,” she began.
“Like I’ve said, he’s a notorious Death Eater and we want to get rid of the lot of them before they manage to recruit,” he said, but it was too late. Hermione had already seen the look of panic in his pale eyes. He had hesitated for a second too long before he answered.
“Tell me the truth.”
“Look, Hermione, you have to understand that I was going through hell after the Battle-“
“Don’t talk shit to me Malfoy! Just tell me the truth!” she screamed, standing up and dropping her spoon into the soup she’d been enjoying, splashing it everywhere.
“Please, just listen to me, let me explain,” his voice cracked, “I had to tell them.”
He squeezed his eyes shut tightly as he recalled the night he’d told Pansy and Blaise the secret that had been weighing him down so heavily. He raised his wand to his temple.
It had been two weeks to the day since his world had crumbled around him. Everything he had ever thought or known had been called into question; his parents had been arrested almost the moment the Dark Lord had been defeated as ministry wizards descended on Hogwarts Castle, capturing anyone and everyone they could manage. Several Death Eaters had managed to escape of course, but he had come to the distinct impression that his parents hadn’t wanted to. They were finally free, and a life in Azkaban was preferable to one on the run. He couldn’t shake the memory of what he’d seen on the seventh floor that day.
He hadn’t left the manor since he’d returned to it the day after the Battle. The previous evening had consisted of gruelling interrogation at the ministry concerning his involvement with the Death Eaters. He had only very unwillingly been released; Kingsley Shacklebolt was now the Minister for Magic and he seemed to have more morals than his predecessors; he was far from soft, but he seemed to understand that most children of the Death Eaters had been coerced and had not willingly committed any crimes.
Today was a particularly torturous day. He hadn’t even gathered the energy to go to bed last night and he woke from a fitful sleep slumped on the floor against his armchair, earning himself an aching back and stiff neck. Deciding it was as good staying there for the rest of the day as anything else, he sat and pictured her pleading face. She swam in front of his eyes and he was unsure whether she was drowning in her own tears or his, which he felt cascading down his cheeks. He didn’t move, didn’t shudder, didn’t sob. He simply cried numbly, seeing nothing but her. He didn’t flinch when the fireplace turned emerald and his best friends stepped out. Pansy ran over to him after spotting him curled against the chair. She tugged his chin, forcing him to face her. Seeing his tear stained face she said nothing, only held him. For how long, he didn’t know. He had no concept of time anymore. He didn’t care how many days went by, how many weeks he sat alone at the manor because none of it mattered. All that mattered was her.
Hours later he woke on the sofa, his head in Pansy’s lap and Blaise sat dead ahead of him, both of their eyes fixed on him. He tried to regain some energy to sit up but failed, collapsing back against her.
“Draco, sweetie? Can you hear me?”
He stared blankly at the floor. He had words, but he didn’t know how to speak them. He hadn’t uttered a single word for Merlin knows how long. The tears started flowing once more and he made no attempt to control them; he couldn’t have done if he’d tried.
Pansy stroked his hair lovingly, her heart breaking at the sight of her oldest and best friend in such a state. The Draco she knew would never have cried in front of her, less so in front of Blaise. It just didn’t make sense; all of their parents had been arrested and it hadn’t affected either of them in such a way as it had Draco. Of all of them, it was he who resented his parents the most after his task of Sixth Year. She just didn’t understand it.
Draco vaguely heard conversation between his friends, it was as if he was stuck in a bubble and their words couldn’t he heard clearly.
“What are we going to do?” Blaise asked Pansy.
“Honestly? I have no idea. All I know is we can’t leave him like this,” she said.
He couldn’t stand it anymore. The sheer noise of it, the deafening sound of the silence was too much.
“I couldn’t do anything. I just couldn’t help her. I wanted to, I did, but I couldn’t,” he dragged himself up slowly and Blaise gasped as he stood. He looked skeletal. He must have lost dozens of pounds in weight and his black clothes hung loosely from his body. Unaware of this, Draco continued “I didn’t mean for it to happen. I just want her to know that, I want her to understand that it wasn’t my fault, I couldn’t help her, I couldn’t.”
“Honey, your mother will understand, she was going to be captured whatever happened. If she’d escaped, she would have just been avoiding the inevitable,” Pansy soothed.
“NO! Not her! I don’t give a fuck about her!” he shouted maniacally, clearly using the small amount of energy he had left and collapsing back on the floor once more. He tugged hard at his now dirty blonde hair and screamed. She had never seen him like this and clearly neither had Blaise as he had drawn his wand in panic.
“Draco,” he said. Blaise’s strong voice seemed to pull Draco out of his reverie and he stopped screaming and looked up at his friend.
“Get up, sit next to Pansy and tell us what the fuck you’re talking about,” Blaise said.
He did as instructed, and wrung his hands together in his lap. He stared down at them for a while, having no idea where to begin. The only thing he knew was that he couldn’t shoulder this guilt any longer, he had to tell someone. It would destroy him if he didn’t.
“He was too strong for me. He dragged me to the corridor and I couldn’t do anything, he was too quick. I couldn’t move and then he grabbed her. I could see bruises forming as he gripped her face in his disgusting hands and I just couldn’t do a thing,” he said, unaware that once again his salty tears were running freely down his cheeks,
“The way he touched her, I felt sick. She tried to scream but she couldn’t, she didn’t dare. She knew what was going to happen but she couldn’t stop it. She stood there while he fucking ruined her, while he took away everything. How could anyone do that? How could he? I wanted to help, I tried to force my feet to move but I couldn’t. She was broken right in front of me and I couldn’t do a thing to stop it.”
“Who did this Draco? Who are you talking about?” Pansy asked, tears stinging her eyes.
“Rowle. Rowle fucking did this,” he said, “He could have chosen anyone, why did it have to be her?”
“WHO?!” they both urged.
The room was silent once more as the tears finally escaped Pansy’s shining eyes and Blaise closed his. They all sat together, contemplating, for hours into the evening.
Draco pulled his wand away from his head, a long silver strand dangling from it. He took out a small vial from his pocket and let the strand fill it.
“Take it. Take this to my room. At the back of the wardrobe you’ll find what you need. Go, please.”
She did so, carefully taking the vial from his hands for fear of breaking it. She left the room and closed the door softly behind her.
“Is Master okay, sir?” Slinky said, making him jump. He hadn’t even heard her appear.
He didn’t reply and she looked pitifully at him. House elves had a way about them; you
knew that they knew almost everything about you, but you didn’t know how. She stood for a while, watching him closely, and left the room with a loud snap.
Hermione gasped breathlessly as she lifted her head from the pensieve which she’d found just where Draco had said. She had no idea how much time had passed, it had seemed like she’d been in his memory for an eternity.
Her face was blank as pearly droplets fell from her eyes. How was it that she was the one feeling guilty now? She felt such an awful sense of shame. She had underestimated the effect this had had on Draco extremely. It tore at her heart to watch that memory. The guilt that emanated from him seemed to come from his very soul and she felt tied to him now.
Somehow she felt a sense of gladness in the darkness; she was able to share her grief now. She didn’t have to keep it locked inside her because he felt it too. It was one thing for such a horrific thing to happen to you, but to be forced to watch it with no method of stopping it must have been absolute hell and she finally, truly understood.
She sat on the edge of his bed, feeling the silky sheets slide through her fingers and wondered what it was like to be him. Pureblood, Death Eater parents, both dead. The hugest house she had ever seen, all to himself. How lonely he must have felt these past years. She looked around the room and saw not one memoir of his life; no photographs of his parents or his childhood. The room simply consisted of the necessities; a bed, books, a desk, wardrobe, drawers, bedside table. Everything was pristine and remained in its place as if bound there.
She looked up as she heard the click of the large door in front of the bed and Draco stepped in. Before he could voice a single word, Hermione launched herself from the bed and rushed over to him, wrapping her arms tightly around him. He stiffened to begin with, unaware of what to do and certainly surprised. Eventually he eased and his arms circled her body protectively. For the first time since the war, Hermione felt safe.
He stepped away from her a while later, putting some distance between the two. He had witnessed first-hand her mood changes and wouldn’t have been surprised if she was going to turn round and smack him one in the face. That had happened on a few occasions in the past.
“Please, forgive me. In no way did I ever want to hurt you by telling them. I didn’t see any other option at the time,” he admitted, staring her straight in the eyes. There was to be nothing but honesty between them now and he wanted her to feel that.
“I understand. I forgive you, Draco. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry,” she said.
“Do not ever apologise to me. What I went through was nothing compared to the torturous years you must have spent since that day. Never say sorry to me, Hermione.”
He brushed away a solitary tear that had escaped from her beautiful eyes and he took a moment to really look at her. It had to be said that she was looking far better than when he’d first bumped into her at the ministry. Her cheeks had filled out again and although there were still slight dark circles under her eyes, her radiance was returning bit by bit. The tears in her eyes only made them gleam more brightly.
He walked over to his bed and sat where she had been when he came in. She joined him quickly and they sat together, basking in the new atmosphere that surrounded them.
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