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Chapter 8 : Of Disease and The Future
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“You’re telling me this will take care of the entire problem?”
The room was cold and dank. The grandiose fireplace burning in the decadent hearth towards the back of the chamber did nothing to quench the chill, neither did the demeanor of any man present. It was nigh dusk and everyone’s nerves were magnified by the looming dark; amplified by the suppressing silences.
The short man before him nodded with enthusiasm, his three chins wobbling grotesquely as he smiled to reveal a set of decaying yellow teeth. “It shall. Every last one of the little buggers.”
Lucius stood from the sofa he was perched on and moved towards the fireplace, deep amidst his own thoughts. He stood close to the flames, subconsciously aware that he could not feel the heat. He had not been able to feel the warmth for a very long time. He looked down at his hands and regarded them with intense scrutiny. He could be the great scourer. He could be The Cleanser. He could be greatly rewarded for his efforts, which now seemed to be on a much grander scale than that morning. This plan would take time and precision. Patience. But with these small sacrifices he could accomplish the greatest feat of all.
“And what exactly is it that you want in return for this information?” Lucius turned back towards the short fat man.
The man smiled, the grin spreading slowly across his features, cracking over his cheeks like a great widening precipice. He put his hands together in a mockery of thought. “The joy of being around while you put my children into action. As you undertake this project of mine. I provided the brains, I wish to watch the brawn. I wish to observe the methodical thought process that accompanies the unleashing of my creations.”
Lucius found himself amused. Sad, pathetic man. “Stay out of my way.” He commanded and then summoned a house elf to settle his guest into a room. He gave explicit directions that the man be placed as far as possible from his own rooms. He’d stick the man on his wife’s side of the castle. She deserved it.
At that moment, as if she had felt herself in his thoughts, his wife appeared at the study door.
“Lucius?” She asked as she entered the room, timidly and with her head bent towards the stone floor.
He sighed and collapsed into the sofa once more, immediately a house elf was at his elbow with drink and sustenance. “What do you want?” He asked in a frigid voice as he raised the crystal glass to his white lips.
She scuffed her foot on the floor, but that and her downcast eyes were the only sign of her fear of being in the same room as him. He rejoiced in that fear he evoked in her. It had taken years to beat into her. Years to push through her thick head. Years to show her he was the boss, and she was bound to him irrevocably to do as he wished. To cater to his every whim.
“I was wondering if you had received any correspondence from our son?”
He didn’t even pause to think about his answer before replying, “No.” His tone was of dismissal and she sighed brokenly as she turned to exit. As the door snapped shut behind her he tossed a piece of parchment into the fireplace that he knew she had seen. Words scrawled on paper he had purposely left where she could see their son’s name scrawled on the front, and he tossed it towards the flames, delighting in the swiftness with which it shriveled in the heat.
The voice was somewhere to his left but he ignored them all the same.
“Ron, wake up.”
He was wide awake. He was awake enough to feel the burning sensation in his chest. He was awake enough to be confused and depressed. He was awake enough for the setting sun drifting lazily through the high windows to cause a pounding pain behind his eyes and he was certainly awake enough to answer. But he didn’t.
“Ron, quit being an arsehole and respond.” His sister’s voice interrupted and seconds later her face appeared before him. He had been lying on the desk, head in his arms, face away from them, for most of the free period now. He was looking to make it the entire thing but they had been poking at him and prodding him for nearly three fourths of an hour now.
“What do you want?” He raised an eyebrow at his youngest sibling before turning his head away from her, only to be affronted by his best friend’s visage.
“Mate, you feeling ill?”
He groaned and sat up, running his hands through his hair in frustration. “I’m fine.” He replied in a clipped voice.
“You’re a bloody bad liar.” Harry said.
“This is over Hermione, isn’t it?” His sister predicted correctly. He chose not to respond, but his silence was answer enough. “I'm sick of your moping, Ronald. Get off your arse and go talk to her. I am so sick of the woe-is-me routine.”
Ron raised his head quickly to glare at his sister and then looked to Harry for support on how bad of an idea that was to only find that Harry was looking thoughtfully at his sister. “Don’t tell me you agree with her.” He groaned.
“I think maybe you should just do it Ron. You’ve been waiting for almost two years now to do something about it . . .you might as well do it now.” Harry answered.
“It hasn’t been two ye-” He stopped with a firm look from Harry and sighed, running a hand through his hair. “All right I’ll talk to her.” He said as he pushed up from his seat. Considering it was the final period of the day, he should be able to escape the classroom without too much of a problem. He would just slip outside the doors and take a quick walk around the grounds before going to speak with her. You know, to plan his thoughts. He wasn't running away from the problem. He tried to assure himself. He wouldn't do that.
As soon as he had disappeared through the doors Ginny turned towards Harry with a disgruntled expression, moving into the seat next to him. Dean and Seamus also crept their ways towards the table; all silent.
"I didn't know his feelings were that deep for her." Harry said, breaking the silence abruptly.
"What do you mean?" Dean had never been quick on the uptake.
"He's not eating." Harry sighed. "He's not even sleeping-"
"He sleeps all class." Seamus laughed.
"At night." Harry amended. "He just sits there."
"And you're sure it's over her?" Ginny questioned.
"It started when he found out Malfoy was tutoring her. I think he might start sneaking down to spy on them. He's constantly talking about finding out what's going on and what they're doing." Harry sat forward. "He's convinced that Malfoy's going to hurt her in some way."
"Malfoy's a nasty piece of work but I don't think he's stupid enough to do something to her in Hogwarts." Seamus said. "He's not the sharpest tooth in the dragon's mouth, but he has that evil calculating aura thing that evil people have, you know?"
Ginny's eyebrow quirked in disbelief. "I can't believe I actually understood the nonsense that just came from your mouth."
"Are you mad at Hermione?" Dean asked, averting his attention to Harry.
"No." Harry admitted, eyes towards his hands. "I'm worried about her, of course. I don't agree that Malfoy wouldn't do something to hurt her." He said softly. "But I'm no where near where Ron is. I wish I could speak to her, but Ron is making it impossible."
"I could glomp him over the head and stuff him in a closet so you could get a moment with her." Ginny mumbled, more to herself than the room at large.
Harry looked up at her, a smile spreading across his face. "Gin . . . I think that's a good idea."
Ginny looked up, startled, as did the others. "Knocking my brother out? I'm for it." She grinned.
"Maybe not knocking him out . . . but that's along the right line." Harry stood. "Meet me in the common room."
She stiffened at his words and shrunk away from his hand that was so delicately cupped beneath her chin. She shook her head, trying to clear it enough to stand or form a coherent thought. Warning bells were screaming in her mind. This was Malfoy. This was abnormal. This should not be comforting. This should not feel safe. This was not safe.
She could hear the frown in his voice. She pulled herself back up on the tub’s edge. She was hurting his pride, a dangerous thing to do, but entirely necessary to retain her sanity.
“Nothing’s wrong.” She mumbled. “Everything’s wrong.” She corrected herself. “Everything.” She allowed her face to drop into her hands, bent over her knees as she perched on her small porcelain cliff.
He was as still as stone. He noted how small the room has just become and how suffocating the blackness was. His eyes had adjusted to the point where he could see her sitting before him, her arms wrapped around herself. Contrary to a moment ago he did not want to reach out to her. He didn’t want to touch her at all, but he couldn’t move to leave either.
“I’m sorry I followed you in here Granger.” He said truthfully. There was some gap that had dissipated between them. Some gaping hole that they had never neared for fear of falling in, and now they had tried to jump across it and found the space to be far too large. Far too frightening, and they were pulling back.
She stood quickly, wiping her eyes as she did so. She made her way towards the door as he pushed himself to his feet, pausing as her fingers wrapped around the doorknob. She opened her mouth, breathed in as if she was about to say something, and then closed it a moment later as if she thought better and exited the room. He stayed where he was until he heard the finality of the click of her door closing and then he too made his way towards his dorm. He was stopped by a loud knocking on the portrait door.
He paused outside his bedroom for a moment, waiting for her to exit her room and see who it was, but she never did, and the knocking became more persistent. With a groan of frustration he closed his own half ajar door and made his way down the stairs and across their common room floor. He was met with a very unwelcome sight as he opened the portrait.
“What do you want, WeaselBee.” Draco crossed his arms and leant against the frame of the portrait hole, a sour expression on his face. His blood was riled as it was from earlier and this particular person was not going to help the situation any.
“I want you to back off and I want to talk to Hermione.” He said and made forward as if he was going to force his way into the room. Draco stepped back in the doorway and the redhead stopped in his tracks. “Move.” He said in a low growl.
Draco’s own voice growled back a long string of obscenities in his mind, but he managed to keep his arms tightly crossed against his chest and his mouth shut.
“Did you hear me?” Ron was beginning to loose steam. He wanted to see Hermione, to tell her that he was sick of playing games, but he couldn’t if the lard ass didn’t get out of his way.
“I did.” Draco replied coolly.
“Then move.” Ron demanded. He was beginning to doubt whether or not this had been a wise idea.
Draco laughed bitterly and his hand moved towards the portrait. “I want you to know I am going to greatly enjoy slamming this portrait in your face.” He said.
Ron extended his arm as Draco’s own moved past him and for a moment Draco was still, wondering why the Weasley was staring so intently at his shoulder. He looked down himself to find that his shirt had a large wet spot with smeared blackness all over it. Mascara tears.
“Where’s Hermione?” It was a firm question, tinged with slight panic and anger. He took another step closer to the blonde who’s expression bordered that of a wolf before it pounced on a victim; dangerous.
“None of your business.” Draco replied firmly as he moved backwards into the room. Ron took the opening and followed him, shoving the portrait shut behind him. “I think you and I should have a chat, Malfoy.” He said.
Draco’s hands were in fists. “Oh please.” He said mockingly. “Do enlighten me with your witful chatter.”
Ron took three rash steps closer to the blonde until he was centimeters from his face and then ground out, “Stay away from her.”
Draco laughed and pushed hard on the other’s boy’s chest, causing him to stagger backwards. “Weasley you have nothing on me. You can’t fight me. You can’t beat me verbally. You might as well leave before you upset the Princess.”
Ron’s eyes lit with an inner fire at the reference to his former best friend. “I doubt my hurting you would upset her.” He said. “She hates you.”
Draco felt the wind blowing out of his sails at those words. She did hate him. He knew that. And he hated her. He hated her. With the breath he dragged in he also pulled in the resolve to hate her. Hating was safe. The indifference was a wall that could keep everything in and everything away.
He hated the way she allowed her hair to do what it wanted. He hated the way she corrected him. He hated how she was the only one who even dared to correct him. He hated the way the air smelled after she got out of the shower and he hated that stupid white bathrobe she padded around in in the morning. He hated how she silently made herself coffee in their small kitchen and he hated how she then silently disappeared up the stairs with it. He hated how she hugged her textbooks to her chest when she walked down the halls and he hated how her skirt bounced against her thighs. He hated that he noticed that.
“I’m going to go to bed now. I’d appreciate it if you let yourself out.” Draco went to turn away but a fist connected solidly with his face, causing him to fall hard to the ground. He looked up at the blazing boy standing above him, still as he gauged the situation. There was an anger blazing inside of him that was mounting and rolling and he knew it was going to explode any minute.
“Get up!” Ron demanded. He wanted to brawl it out with him. He wanted an outlet for his pent up frustration and he was willing to pick a fight with an opponent he subconsciously knew could land him in the hospital ward for a month.
Draco launched so quickly at the other boy that there was no time to react. Ron found himself on his back with three solid punches to his face and one to his stomach before he could kick the other boy away. Draco dove at him again and they rolled dangerously close to the fireplace, flames reaching out from the hearth and greedily licking at their sleeves; trying to find a way to catch, mirroring the fire that was burning through each of them.
Draco twisted away and caused Ron to hurtle into the brick wall next to the hearth, a sickening thud echoing around the room.
The darkness around her was suffocating as she tried to breathe in deeply. She couldn’t see before her, or in any direction around her. The hushed voices of the girls standing around her were deaf to her ears as she reached down to adjust her shoes. Her stomach was fluttering and her toes were numb. She had been waiting for this night for weeks.
After fiddling with her Pointe shoes she reached up and toyed with the tutu that was wound tightly around her waist. She smiled as she ran her hands over the velour leotard. Tonight was her night.
“DON’T YOU DARE WALK OUT THAT DOOR!”
A small line of light appeared on the ground before her and began to expand as the darkness disappeared. She held her head high and plastered a smile on her face, the whispering around her instantly dissipated.
“YOU WILL NOT LEAVE ME ALONE WITH THIS CHILD!”
As the sweet sound of music filled her ears, she changed her pose with the floating melodies. The bright lights were obscuring the view ahead of her, only emitting darkness. She, however, had no problem with that. It was a release for once to be enveloped in blindness.
Her legs moved of their own accord, her arms changing positions without thinking. Her entire body flowed with the sounds that she had grown accustomed with over the months.
“I CAN’T STAY IN THIS HOUSE ANY LONGER!”
Soon, everything around her had disappeared: it was only her and her body, evolving into the music itself. The music quickened; her pace quickened. The music slowed down; her movements slowed down too. Her smile faded as her face changed into one of concentration. As her movements changed, they became more difficult, but all the same, they were enchanting, fluent and exotic.
“I HOPE YOU ROT IN HELL! YOU ROTTEN SON OF A-”
As she raised her arms above her head, she paused for a moment to rethink all her moves, just as she had planned. Her feet were pointed, and she smile once more to the darkness ahead of her.
She lowered her hands, but held them outwards from her body, as she moved her feet daintily, traveling in a circle of small leaps and jumps. As she twirled to the side, she stopped, positioning her arms and her legs in an arc that would soon help her.
“I WANT NOTHING MORE TO DO WITH YOU OR THIS FAMILY!”
The sudden change of music made her quicken her feet as she gently ran before raising both of her legs in the air, falling once more to the ground. With the conclusion of this move, she prepared for the finale.
As the music slowed down and was held on one note, she raised one of her arms in front of her chest, angled to the right position, the other pointing towards the opposite direction, angled downwards. She breathed in deeply, trying to concentrate as hard as she could.
“I AM NOT COMING BACK.”
She turned abruptly, in a perfect pirouette, then stepped forward once more.
She pointed her toes with all her concentration, before raising her leg in the air so it would be parallel to the ground.
As the sound of pleased mutterings hit her ears she was suddenly reminded of the voice that was not adding to those whisperings
The voice that would not ever again.
“THIS IS ENTIRELY YOUR FAULT.”
She suddenly felt her mind turning inwards on it's self, falling inside her own fears, her vision became black. Angry voices dimly echoed in her ears as tears stung her eyes.
He wasn't coming back this time, she had said. It was done now, they would have to move on.
She took a deep breath but it was already too late as she lost her balance and everything fell around her. Only this time, her eyes snapped open as her body met the firm chest of a figure she had not seen near her before. She sighed as she breathed deeply, and then her heart stopped in her chest as she recognized the powerful presence and the cold hands tightly gripping her back. She looked up into the bright startling blue eyes of Draco Malfoy, her breath hitching in her throat.
She sat upright, her hand flying to her chest as she tried to catch her breath. It was only a nightmare. It was only a nightmare. It was only a nightmare. She scooted her feet over the edge of the bed and bent over, allowing her heartbeat to stop racing and her thoughts to stop swirling violently around her head.
It was only a nightmare brought on by the events that had been heavily weighing on her mind before falling asleep.
It was only a nightmare. It was not real. It would never be real.
Sharp angry noises echoed up to her from the common room accompanied by loud crashes. She slid her feet into her slippers and wrapped a sweater around herself before slowly making her way towards the common room. Angry grunts and labored breathing met her ears, and upon descended the final stair she inhaled deeply in shock.
“Draco Malfoy and Ronald Weasley you stop this instant!” She cried.
The two boys fell back from each other, both regarding her with bright burning eyes. Draco had a small tendril of blood snaking over his brow and from the corner of his mouth. Ron was gingerly padding at the area slightly above his eye which was bright red and raised. Both were breathing in and out laboriously as if they had run around the castle grounds multiple times.
Her hands flew to her hips, her heart racing. “What’s going on? Ron, what are you doing here?”
Ron was indignant. “What am I doing here?! That’s the first thing you ask me!? Not, what the hell are you beating up my best friend for, Malfoy?!”
Draco turned towards the boy and spat viciously, “I’m sure if she cared she would have!”
Hermione stepped back, wishing she hadn’t entered the room at all. She suddenly found herself too hot in her robe as she gazed over the burning blonde in the corner. She was acutely embarrassed to be in the same room with him as his words filtered through her ears. I’ll catch you. He had said. I’ll teach you to remember to dance. Was he going to keep that promise? Did she want him to?
“What are you doing here Ron?” She asked, her gaze falling on her red former friend. For they were no longer friends. There was some vicious creature blossoming inside her that was raging at the knowledge that the small trickle of blood that was creeping down Draco’s cheek; the one he stubbornly refused to wipe away, was drawn by this person she had once possibly accepted as her future love. She knew he doted on her. She had always known that somewhere in their friendship there was something else waiting to wake up, and it eventually did for him, and she had felt guilty at times that it had not for her. She had wondered if perhaps something was wrong with her, but now she knew there wasn’t. Now she felt as if somehow this was the way it had to be. She didn’t know if Draco was the one these feelings were aimed at, or even what these feelings were, but she knew they weren’t for Ron and she knew that Draco has just sacrificed a great deal to give her the comfort he had only half an hour ago. All she could do was reciprocate in kind.
“I think you should leave, Ron.” She said softly, both heads turning towards her in surprise.
Ron sputtered for a moment before rising to his feet, his eyes never leaving Hermione’s. He finally exited the portrait, leaving a heavy silence behind him as she finally found the courage to turn and look at the other being in the room.
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