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Chapter 29 : More than mere Friendship
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Hermione was so cold, her bones hurt and she could not stop shivering. Despite the heat of the lighted glass jars that Draco taught her to use coupled with layers of clothing, she just couldn’t get warm.
She imagined lying with Draco in the hospital wing; how his body had warmed hers. Thoughts of him actually relaxed her enough to stop shaking for a little while. But knowing it was just her imagination, the temperature in the room seemed to drop another ten degrees.
She turned to Harry, who was sleeping under a pile of blankets and resisted the urge to slip into bed with him. She needed to feel a warm body next to hers. And right then, Harry seemed a perfectly acceptable option.
He was the only option.
But just before she succumbed to temptation, he jerked and his eyes went wide in a trance, his eyes vacant and distant. After about ten seconds, he came back.
“Another vision, Harry?” Hermione asked with alarm, knowing of his connection with Voldemort.
Harry nodded his head reluctantly, but the look of dread on his face remained longer than normal.
“I saw Malfoy this time.”
Hermione felt her heart jolt, unable to keep it from reacting to the sound of his name. She shot right out of her seat and came closer to Harry. As if part of her was on auto-pilot and not completely in control of her actions, she placed a hand to his shoulder and nearly begged him for information.
“What of Draco? What did you see?” she urged with worry and fear in her eyes. “Tell me, Harry, please.”
Harry had witnessed Voldemort ordering Draco to cast a dark curse on some poor, pleading soul. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the Cruciatus. It was something else entirely. It had the man going insane, believing that something was crawling on him… or perhaps underneath his skin, Harry wasn’t sure. But he saw that Draco didn’t stop until the man had scratched himself bloody in horror. A dark curse, indeed.
But he also saw the reluctance in Draco’s eyes. He didn’t want to do it. It was the Dark Lord’s doing. And forcing someone to torture another was a rare and twisted kind of evil.
And for a long moment in time, Harry Potter felt sorry for Draco Malfoy; for the horrors he must be witnessing firsthand. For being born to parents who destined him to the darker side of magic.
“If he wasn’t a Dark Wizard before… he certainly is now,” Harry voiced low, failing to mention the dread in Draco’s eyes. He didn’t think it an important detail, considering what had happened. “He is using Dark Magic to torture people.”
“Oh, no,” she breathed a soundless whisper as if the air had been sucked out of the room. She closed her eyes and felt the world fall beneath her feet. As much as she had hoped and prayed for a miracle, Harry’s words confirmed the worst, causing her to nearly fall to the floor.
Draco was purposefully inflicting pain and hurting people. He was a Dark Wizard now… and in her heart she doubted he could ever return.
She didn’t speak for the rest of the night. She retired early to bed appearing utterly defeated. For she figured that in war, some were lost to death, it was tragically true. But then there were those who would be lost in a different way… alive, but lost to darkness.
As she lay down, wrapped in Draco’s now tattered and torn black blanket, she felt it; the hope of one day being reunited with him… dying.
It was the very thing that she had clung to for so long, however unrealistic it might have been. But what little hope existed in her heart was fading away like the mist that surrounded the tent in the wee hours of the morning; a foggy mist that would completely disappear and vanish by sunup.
“Harry… I’m so very cold,” she began shivering again. But it was not from the cold this time. “Please, lie down with me. To keep me from freezing to death."
Not being able to look at him in the eyes, she turned her back to him, hoping he would accept her invitation. Her wounded soul needed him just then and Harry did not hesitate.
He picked up the blankets he’d been using, settled in behind her, and covered them both in a comforting warmth.
“Better?” he asked as any friend would. But Hermione only answered by finding his arm and wrapping it around her waist where it would remain for the rest of the night.
As the war went on week after grueling week, there seemed to be times when there was nothing to do but watch Hermione as she faithfully read her books.
Harry came to discover that there were two in particular. One was the book of tales that Dumbledore left her and the other was something else entirely. For that was the one that she always went back to; a book that must be pretty deep, considering that whatever the words contained in it had the power to make her cry. He was sure it was the book that she'd received at that amazing Christmas more than a year ago... when they all opened gifts from an unknown source.
Why anyone would want to read such a sad story was a mystery to Harry, but he never asked about it. Instead, he remained silent on the subject. And truth be known, he remained silent on several subjects; one of them being Ron. And yet another was of how his feelings for Hermione had grown exponentially as they traveled alone together, just the two of them supporting each other, day in and day out.
After a heated accusatory argument, Ron had left them.
And after that, Harry couldn’t help but ponder his friend’s parting words. For when Ron voiced his accusation that Harry and Hermione had somehow crossed the lines of mere friendship into something deeper, it was a bit shocking to hear it actually voiced and discussed aloud.
Hermione had denied it completely. Harry however, chose to remain silent.
It was true that neither of them had done anything to provoke Ron’s suspicion. But Harry knew that deep down, saying he had no other feelings for her would’ve been a lie. How could he not have deeper feelings for someone who had been through so much with him… after everything?
Ron had done no favors in bringing it up. In reality, it made Harry dwell on his feelings he had buried long ago and forced them to the surface. Being alone with her, sharing danger in the same tight living quarters, Harry thought it was amazing how much their relationship could potentially develop into something more.
Conditions were certainly right. The timing was right. The reasons seemed right. She was his beautiful best friend. And they were alone.
Hermione was the one who was always there for him, just as she was when she conjured a wreath at his parents’ graves on Christmas Eve. He was glad it was her that was with him. He remembered thinking it when she had wrapped her arm around him and leaned her head into his shoulder. At that moment in time, he had been glad it was her and not Ginny.
It was not good to think that way, he knew. It seemed a betrayal not only to Ginny, but to Ron as well. But for whatever reason, he was glad to share that private moment with Hermione and no one else.
There were other times when he thought of her as more than a friend. He could pin-point the moments.
Her face flashed into his mind to happier, carefree times. To the ends of every summer when it was time for school to begin again. Every year, seeing her face light up with genuine joy to see him. Over and over again, each year becoming more beautiful to him.
Thinking back, she was the first person in his life that had ever touched him affectionately… the first to hug him in a way that felt genuine and comforting. And she was never shy about it. These last few years, he wanted to hold her longer, but he never did, giving nothing away than mere friendship.
He watched her curl up once again into the black Quidditch blanket that Ginny had given her months ago. It was now frayed, torn, and even burned in a few places; evidence of their rough travels and near-miss escapes. But Hermione wrapped herself in it every day as if she hadn’t noticed its dilapidated state.
It was then that Harry wondered if a heart was capable of loving two people at the same time. He didn’t have a mother to ask these sorts of things. Like so many questions, he would have to search for the answer himself. In this case, the answer came quickly.
Yes, he decided. It was very possible, because at that moment, both women in his life occupied his heart.
In comparison, they were quite similar. Both magical, very pretty in his eyes, and both quite demanding.
One obviously fancied him, most likely because he had saved her from certain death and had a crush on him from the beginning. But it was her boldness that would eventually bring them together, almost forcing him to face her attraction to him. She made it easy on him as there was no guessing her feelings. But if he were honest, sometimes he felt pressured, which only left him feeling awkward and uncomfortable.
But the other neither pined after him nor forced anything on him. And because of their close friendship, he had never felt more comfortable than in being alone with her. When they had lied down together to keep warm, he had nuzzled in close behind her, never feeling more comfortable in all his life. It was something that he knew he could get used to rather quickly… that and more.
Right now, during the worst times of their lives, they only had each other. When things got tough, she could’ve left with Ron. She could’ve walked away at any time. But she didn’t. She stayed. With him. When he needed someone the most.
And that, more than anything else, had placed her in his heart where she would stay forever; perhaps hidden forever.
A part of Harry Potter’s heart would always feel for Hermione Granger… no matter how their lives played out.
Deep in thought, he hadn’t realized that he had been staring at her until she moved to turn the page of her book. She seemed hypnotized by it, oblivious of his gawking. And then a thought came to him.
He was glad she had her books. It was how she escaped the life they were living… an escape into a life that was hopefully better than the one she was living with him. She deserved so much better, he thought.
While Delilah tended to his dying great-aunt, M’Lady, the one she truly served, would visit the Prince and his family. She would make her advances and intentions clear, but the Prince wanted nothing of her pure blood, tainted with haughty entitlement and snobbery that knew no bounds.
She was not unlike him. It would appear to the outside world that it was a perfect match. To her credit, she was a cunning temptress, but not to a heart that was already given to someone else. He played and toyed as expected, but took great pleasure in turning her down and refusing her lustful attempts. For the door to his heart wasn’t just closed, it was locked and out of reach of M’Lady’s advances.
The secrets of the night were his and Delilah’s… dark and beautiful, at times taking innocence to the very brink.
On the night it was all fated to end, Delilah urged him to visit with his dying great-aunt one last time as the old woman was about to meet her end. He never cared for the woman, but he did so at Delilah’s request.
Unbeknownst to the young couple, the aunt had seen them together twice that winter. And she vowed if she saw them in each other’s company a third time, she would send her suspicions to the family.
And after lengthy conversation with him about his magical studies and commenting how Delilah had proven herself to be an invaluable assistant, she bid them both a feeble and weak farewell.
The aunt was dead by dawn, but not before she put quill to parchment, owling her conclusions to his father in a final act of loyalty to her Pureblood family.
He denied all, of course.
“Lies!” he vehemently proclaimed. “A squib? Proof that the old hag was clearly out of her mind in the end! I am a Wizard Prince and I will not have my name dragged through the mud by a dead woman’s sick accusatory allegations.”
But as he stood firm in denial, his gut seared and his heart twisted and squeezed in his chest at the betrayal of his own soul. For with the same lips used to kiss Delilah, he was lying and spitting his venom to sickly protect himself… to protect Delilah.
Hermione was hooked. She had to know what happened to them. She would read page after page of how Delilah had been rudely and harshly awakened by guards and told she must gather her things and leave at once. They told her the lady of house was dead and she had no place there. Delilah was pushed to an awaiting carriage and thought she was returning to her former home, but when they came to a fork in the road, they went the other direction… away from home. Away from M’Lady.
After traveling several days, she’d been told that she was deemed a criminal for her actions and banished to a distant land to assist with an encampment of soldiers and prisoners, both of which treated her inexcusably.
Delilah survived on little and did the best she could with cooking and dressing wounds, tending to their needs, but she was in an awful state. They were cruel, unforgiving, and relentless. And at night, Delilah would hide and make herself as small as possible, terrified at what might happen if she was found in the darkness by the evil lurking everywhere.
But however far away and distant, an owl would find her.
“I am sick, my precious love,” the letter read. “Ill with fear, more sickly than in the deathbed of my youth when I was hidden from my siblings. Worry for you has overtaken my soul and breathes sickly within, though my shell dare not reveal what lies beneath cold skin.
I must be upon a stage… all eyes on me searching for a glimpse of the truth hidden behind eyes like a serpent’s, as if all is right when everything is wrong. For I have mastered the craft. I make sure they see what they want to see. I speak what they want to hear. And I act the part of Pureblood Prince to perfection. I hide everything.
I don’t know where you are, love. I don’t know if you are safe. I am sick because everything in me tells me you are in grave danger. I can feel your terror in the night. I cannot sleep. I cannot breathe until I can see you again… until you are here with me.
I reach out for your light, but I cannot pull you to safety. I’m so sorry love. Forgive a man powerless to help you. For all the magic in me cannot save you. And my body ravages sick as if my soul is trying to tear from it.
I am but a shadow there with you, a powerless witness to your abuse.
Be brave my sweet Delilah. Do what you must to survive. Run if you can run. Hide if you can hide. Live so that my heart will not stop in its sick and agonizing grief.”
Hermione paused her reading for a moment, thinking of the similarities. For she too was running and hiding… and it was taking its toll on her as she longed for an end. Thoughts had crossed her mind on several occasions to pen a letter to Draco. But before she could figure out what she wanted to say, the urge would quickly pass, knowing it would be too dangerous. Just as Delilah knew.
Delilah dared not attempt to respond to his letters, knowing the danger he was in at home. She knew why she was banished and did not wish him the same fate, or worse. The prince understood, but would write her still.
“My memories of you will not fade. I will not let them. As I see the apparition of you before me, my memories are as clear as the day they happened and I will hold them and cherish them as I do you.
Read on, my Delilah, so that I might see you again and again in my sweet and lovely madness within these luxurious prison walls they call my home.
Such cruel punishment to live without you, to not feel your warmth pressed against me and your heart beating alongside mine… how I long for these beautiful things.
I never once took our love for granted, as I knew that any heartbeat could be my last if we were ever found out. Even so, my soul longs for its mate and my heart shall forever be dark until your light shines upon it once more.
You say you have no magic, yet my heart is truly accursed and my mind bewitched. For every time I close my eyes, I see you. And when I open them, my heart is sorely disappointed by your absence. You are gone, yet with me still. In parting, I must say this; pray you know…
Before there was you, I had eyes, but did not see; a soul that did not feel; a heart that did not love. Because of you… I see. I feel. I love.
Oh, my Delilah, how every part of me misses every part of you.”
In time, Hermione would read how he saw her pain… saw her tears when the magic of his letters would send her likeness as if bending the light of her soul.
Weak with heartsickness, he became exceedingly dark as he thought of the things that his magic could do to help her escape. Out of dark desperation did he indeed think of something sick and twisted with grave consequences should he fail. But revenge would have its day. The owls were always able to find her. They never failed.
Using old elfish wisdom, he would write her a letter that would have her walking away from the camp forever. He would hide dark spells within the text, just as his house elf, his old and faithful friend taught him to do. He had used the technique before… to send a cruel tutor to an insane asylum. Yes, it was time to use this rare skill and make them pay for what they were doing to his Delilah.
She didn’t know the words, but he did. They would be hidden so that even she would not know that she was performing dark, powerful, wandless magic. She would only need to read the deadly letter out loud to her magical captors.
None would live to witness her escape. For he cared not about the souls surrounding her. They would all die for her freedom.
He was a brilliant and powerful wizard. For he also made it so that Delilah would be protected, her eyes shielded even from the very blood that would flow like a river. She would not be a witness to the carnage, not even hearing their cries. His beloved would see nothing as if they all just disappeared.
Word would get out… a bloody massacre of soldiers and prisoners alike. And he would go to wherever in the world that might be and find her.
“Read aloud, my Delilah… and escape to the north of wherever you are. I am coming for you.”
Hermione swallowed hard before continuing; almost afraid of the Dark Magic surely hidden in the text on the next page. This was why the book was banned, she knew.
Very dark magic was present on the next page. And that fact had the little hairs on the back of her neck standing on end.
The entire long story seemed to climb and build to this magical moment in time. She had read of a rare kind of love that brought her tears many, many times. Every story and every poem contained in it revealed something about the man’s heart. A man that had to wear two faces in life, having to deal with agonizing dilemmas and forced to live with soul-imprisoning circumstances. A man capable of great hate, but even greater love. A man with quiet reserve on the outside, while a war raged within.
At times, Hermione had to force herself to stop reading because of the man’s overwhelming sadness. He seemed so much like Draco.
Returning her focus back to the page at hand, she grew fearful of the dark magic contained in the book and looked around her own encampment in the wilderness with Harry. Even Draco knew of the book’s reputation and she remembered his warning to never read it out loud or sharp objects could go flying about. She took inventory of the sharp objects lying around and decided against turning to the next page.
Instead, she skipped the next two pages entirely, hoping it would be enough of a leap forward to avoid any curses completely.
When he found her in the woods, they ran to each other like two starving souls, longing and living only for each other. And when they embraced, he took her in his arms, fell to one knee, and held onto her for dear life.
And the couple, whose love knew no bounds of society’s prejudice, embraced… and cried… and cried… and cried.
Tears escaped Hermione’s eyes as she imagined it. She took note that he did not write a description of her… most likely filthy, ragged, and bruised. He didn’t write it because he did not see her that way. The only thing that he saw was love radiating in all its glory and pure passion.
Chapter after chapter, this man’s heart grew for his love; the longing, the loss, the months apart hoping to see her.
As the tears continued to flow slowly down her cheek, Hermione wondered what a reunion with Draco would be like. Would they run to each other? Would he embrace her like a magical prince to his non-magical love? Would they cry together and hold on tight to the mere threads that bound them together?
No. That would not happen, would it? He was a Dark Wizard now. Harry had confirmed her fear. This was not what would happen with her and Draco. Hope was as lost as he was.
But then Hermione became puzzled at a lesson that was dawning. The wizard was dark. He performed terrible dark magic and had killed people. He had a serious black steak inside of him for certain. But what puzzled her was that even though he was a Dark Wizard, that fact had never diminished his ability to love Delilah unconditionally… with a fever and a passion that would rival the greatest love stories ever told.
He was a Dark Wizard… just like Draco. And his dark heart still had room for love.
When he could finally speak again, he whispered to her ear, “Marry me.” As tears of joy and love flowed down her cheeks at his words, he continued. “Marry me the next full moon so that it can cast its spotlight on you and our love as I speak the words of a vow that cannot be broken.”
“How can you love me so much?” she sobbed. “Me… born a lowly squib servant girl?” she asked in the sweetest voice his ears had ever heard.
“Oh, my Delilah, I love you. I will put a ring on your finger and a crown on your head and you will be mine and that is what will define you for all eternity. My darling, say yes.”
Hermione fought tears as she read of the love of a man to someone that society said was less and undeserving. Oh, how it touched the very depths of her heart and left her breathless.
“We will never be accepted. The magical world forbid… a prince to be with a squib. You shall be shunned and banished to Africa to die amongst the snakes and lions,” she sobbed.
“Do we not now live amongst snakes and lions who wish to keep us apart? Whatever ailed my despicable aunt, now plagues my father. He cannot live forever. And I cannot live without you.”
Oh, how Delilah wanted to say yes and spend her life with him, but feared the consequences in her bones.
“We’ll figure it out, Delilah. I have enough magic in me for both of us and I will use it to hide us forever, if need be. The only excuse you are permitted to have is that you do not love me. Is there another your heart desires and not I?”
“Are you asking if there is someone else that quickens my heart at the mention of their name? That someone other than you fills my dreams? Whose words on parchment makes my heart soar to the stars every time I glance at them? Only you… only ever you… your face, your voice, your touch, your eyes when they look at me… the love in your words penned for me only? My heart, indeed, is yours if you’ll have it.”
Hermione had wished for this… a happy ending for the two. In her mind, she thought the remainder of the book would detail a long life of love and children and pure joy. She wanted to believe that even forbidden love could survive anything that might stand in its way.
She tried to clear her head. Draco was not her Prince. She was not Delilah. They were on opposite ends of the earthly poles now. And a Dark Wizard rarely comes back to the light. She was so confused.
As much as she wanted the story to end happily, Hermione would discover that there would be no such ending for Delilah or her dark Prince. For tragedy was about to strike violently on the eve of their wedding and all would soon be lost.
Draco had moved Luna to the dungeon, not having much choice in the matter. And even though he was lonely and could’ve spoken to her on occasion, he was so ashamed that she was there, that he didn’t bother. Instead, he had his house elf, Skippen, tend to her needs, which seemed to be quite simple and without demands. Draco showed her no special treatment and decided the mere act of not treating her horribly and ignoring her would be as though he was treating her well, all things considered.
To the outside world, he was indifferent to Luna’s presence in the dungeon. But inside, there was deep shame in having her locked away as a prisoner of war. What was the point of it? To make her suffer for her father’s boldness in printing the truth was abhorrent.
Some days, it would drive Draco mad wanting to reach into wherever Hermione was and pull her through whatever time-space wormhole that was keeping them connected. She’d become more than light, but still less than flesh; so close and so real.
On this day, Hermione had become so vivid while in his room. Working on his old hobby and finishing the carving of his miniature Hogwarts, she became a solace in the silence. He didn’t feel so alone in the world when her likeness was there… ever silent, but breathing life into him nonetheless.
He was just putting the finishing touches on the steps that led to the space under the courtyard, when he noticed that she was crying.
“What is it, love? Why are you crying?” he asked, wanting to comfort her. “If you cannot speak to me, then show me what is wrong.”
Of course she did not answer, but he spoke to her anyway, like a madman to an imaginary lover.
Knowing that she was traveling with Harry and looking for who knows what, Draco simply said, “Whatever you do… wherever you go… whatever you are looking for… do not come here.”
Draco watched painfully as Harry interrupted Hermione’s reading of the Delilah story and lovingly took her by the hand.
Her brown eyes looked so sad, Draco could not take his eyes off her.
He couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
At first, he could tell that the lighthearted dance they shared cheered Hermione as Harry twirled her around and around, bringing her out of her sadness.
But then they got closer and closer… torturing Draco’s heart that was slowly sinking like quicksand in his chest. He knew what was happening. Harry was about to make his feelings known right before his very eyes.
Saddened with grief, Draco felt like an intruder. He was not supposed to see this.
As the two closed in on each other, Hermione wrapped her arms around Harry and her smile faded. She closed her eyes in comfort… and so did Harry. It was about to get serious.
“God, make this stop,” Draco pleaded. “I cannot bear to watch any more.”
He shut his eyes tight and covered his face with his hands.
He couldn’t watch them embrace. He couldn’t watch them kiss and fall in love.
Knowing he couldn’t run away from the apparition, he waited, shaking in the shadows, hoping for some kind of disconnect.
After what seemed like an eternity of waiting, Draco opened the swollen eyes of someone utterly broken, accepting of the inevitable. Never was he so relieved to see her image gone from him.
“I knew he had feelings for you,” he whispered to the darkness. “I told you that when we were together in the water. I told you he just wasn’t saying anything because of Ron.”
He took in a long breath, exhaling slowly. “How can any man be around you for so long without developing feelings for you? It’s impossible not to.”
The pain in his heart felt like an ulcer stabbing him; emotional pain coming alive physically, causing him to rock back and forth, clutching his chest.
“He is a good man. He will always be there to… to protect you. Just like I knew he would,” he said to her, all the while rocking back and forth, wondering how he would find the will to keep going and wishing it was his heart he was losing… instead of his mind.
Ah, Readers and Friends thank you for taking me thus far, such encouragement. Thank you!
Poor Draco! To my lovely Harry/Hermione shippers, I hope you enjoyed this chapter. ;) And I hope I have not bored you with the Delilah story. It has purpose, I assure you.
The time has finally come that I must ask you… What canon character do you think is the author of “Delilah’s Black Book of Poems?”
The mystery will be solved in the next chapter as Hermione finishes the book. I would LOVE to read your guesses and thoughts on the matter. Have I made it too obvious? Pretty please… take a guess in the Review box for me. It would truly make my day. :)
Update: 90,400 Reads! 344 Favorited! Only 5 more chapters to “The End.”
*drops to the January ground and makes snow angels*
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