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Chapter 12 : Of Tradition and An Unwanted Date
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They were running along the edge of a cliff that hugged tightly to a large lake, laughing loudly. Ron and Ginny were perched beneath the large oak off the embankment and an eleven-year-old Harry was before her in the water up to his knees, his hands digging around in the mud.
“Careful,” she warned him. A slight breeze rippled through the air, causing her legs to itch. She looked down to find that the odd scratching against her thighs was due to a white tutu wrapped around her waist. Her pointe shoes were laced up her calves in matching pearl white.
“Or the lake monster might get you,” Draco’s voice came from behind her. She looked over her shoulder and saw the startling figure of a seventeen year old. He was leaning casually against the rocks, his arms crossed, a pair of identical pointe shoes dangling from his hands. She turned to look back at Harry but he was suddenly gone and cold fingers were wrapped tightly around her arms.
She was scared for a fleeting moment before she turned around and the fingers suddenly warmed and she saw Harry’s laughing face. “Scared yah, didn’t I?”
Hermione sighed in relief. “Yes, you did.” With surprise she noted she was now in jeans and sneakers. Her head began to throb; right behind her temples.
Harry was now walking along the rock edge, teetering ever so as the breeze picked up. “You remember how we went to that beach last summer and I told you I couldn’t swim?”
“Yes, I still don’t believe you.”
He smiled. He obviously could swim, but he liked to joke with her. “I really can’t,” he said with large eyes.
She laughed and gave him a gentle shove, but he lost his balance and tottered backwards over the edge. His hands reached out to catch anything to hold his balance, his fingers curling into the material of the tutu that now clung to her hips again. She watched in horror as the flimsy material gave way and fluttered after his falling body.
Time suddenly stood still and the clear calm summer day was gone. She found that she was no longer watching the eleven-year-old Harry fall, but the seventeen year old, his eyes closed. The air became thick and static. Dark masses of cloud rolled overhead and the wind become suddenly violent. It was quickly growing dark. The lake surface was freezing slowly, the crystals forming like icy fingers crawling over the waves as they hardened, and she found that she was no longer eleven either.
"HARRY!" she screamed, her long hair whipping her in the face. His body met the frozen lake with a sickening crash, his head falling backwards and tiny tendrils cracking around him from the impact. "Harry!” she screamed again, but he did not move and the world began to rotate around her like a top.
Draco appeared next to her, his head bent. He paid no heed to her standing there; he seemed to be deep within a world of his own. The pointe shoes he had been clutching before he now held away from himself over the cliff edge. With an unreadable expression on his face, he opened his hand and allowed the ribbons to streak through his fingers, the shoes landing within inches of Harry’s fallen form.
She was instantly no longer standing by a lake, but in a dark forest.
"Hermione!" she heard a male's voice calling to her. "HERMIONE!"
In a panic she turned in an entire circle, trying to find her path, which way to go. She was shivering in the matching white leotard she was still wearing. Her pointe shoes sunk into the mud of the forest floor, turning a dull brown.
"Hermione!" They screamed in agony. She choked back tears and took off towards what she hoped was the source of the voice. Running in the dance shoes was practically impossible. She was moving blindly towards their voice; the agony filled moans.
There was a sudden moment where her feet stopped moving and she nearly collided with a large tree before her. The wetness on her cheeks stung in the cold air as she sniffed and drew a ragged breath. With a frustrated noise she bent over to unlace the shoes form her feet, only to find herself glaring at a pair of sneakers once again.
"Hermione!" she heard again, but just as she started towards the voice once more, another, different, cry arose from the opposite direction. "HERMIONE!"
Torn between the two voices, she walked three steps in one direction and three in the other and wound up in one large tangle of feet and exasperated confusion. She sank to the ground, sinking into the mud, her hands rising to her face and tears threatening to spill over. As she dragged her hands over her cheeks muddy finger streaks followed their wake.
"Hermione,” a voice whispered in her ear.
She jumped, startled, and shot to her feet, turning around quickly, but no one was there.
"Hermione," the whisper said in her other ear. She could feel its breath dance across her skin and turned abruptly, but again there was no one behind her.
She wrapped her arms around herself as she began to shake, in the distance she heard another agonized scream; "HERMIONE!"
"Hermione, are you afraid?" The whisper was in both ears now and she cried out in alarm and jumped almost clear across the small glade she was standing in. She was once again bedecked in dance clothes and shoes.
The voice laughed, this time in the distance, and she turned slowly to find herself standing about ten feet away from a dark black robed figure, their face hidden within the folds of their cloak. She couldn't find her voice.
"Cat got you're tongue?" The voice hissed at her, echoing around the clearing, neither distinctively male nor female. She could hear every voice of every person she had ever known in that sound. She could hear Ron, Harry, Ginny, their professors, Draco, her mother, everyone within that one voice.
"Who are you?" She whispered into the darkness.
They laughed and their voice became distinctively Draco. "I'm you're worst nightmare," they said.
She whimpered in fear as her hand rose to her mouth and they took a step towards her.
"I'm everything you've ever hated," they said in Harry’s voice. "Everything you've ever loved," they said in Ginny's voice. "And everything you will ever loose," they said in that powerful mixed voice again.
"What do you want?!" she screamed the question through her fear and over the calling of her name in the distance. The callers were getting closer, their shrieking growing louder and more painful.
The figure stepped closer to her and slowly reached up to pull down their hood, revealing a haggard and drawn face that sent her crashing to her knees. "Your time is coming, Hermione," a pale blonde man hissed at her. He bore a striking resemblance to her current roommate.
She couldn't raise her eyes to meet his. She couldn't make her voice leave her throat. Her hands were clenched so tightly into fists that the right hand had begun to bleed. The red trailed over her palm and dripped steadily onto the pointe shoes, which were now entirely blood red.
There was a sharp cry next to her and she turned and looked down only to see Harry's body strewn out next to her, blood dripping from the corner of his mouth and one eye disfigured and closed, a motley of black and blue. She shrieked in fright and fell backwards, her hands landing on soft flesh. She whipped around and her hands flew to cover her mouth as a scream fell from her lips.
"Hermione," Draco gasped, his gruesome hand reaching for her.
She scuttled backwards on her hands, trying to get away from their gazes, but stopped as they touched her slick shoes. She looked up, only to find the cloaked figure, its cloak back over its face, standing above her. She shot to her feet and realized tears were streaming down her cheeks.
They extended a hand that she never got a good look at, for it was quickly around her neck, squeezing tightly. "Time is running out,” they said.
In that moment Hermione’s heart clenched tightly. “Daddy?“ she squeaked.
The hood fell back from the face to reveal that it was indeed her father. He squeezed tighter and she gasped, her hands instinctively rising to cover his and try to loosen their hold.
"Hermione!” a distant voice called. "Hermione!"
She was gasping by now, the world dizzily spinning out of control. The figure holding her laughed and it was Ron's laugh at first, and then Draco’s deep laugh.
It couldn't be Draco’s laugh, because that was Draco’s voice calling to her.
Her mind began to slip away as it tried to find oxygen and failed. Her body stopped moving and her hands slipped from the figure's own. He let her go and she fell backwards. As soon as her rear touched the ground the scenery changed and she was no longer in a forest, but a dance studio.
She looked around and her eyes came to rest on Draco, standing before the mirror, his head bent, and his profile to her. His arms were braced on the barre. She felt like a child of three. It wasn’t the fall that hurt, but rather the actual act of falling. It was the realization that she could fall. As if she was a young child who had just fallen off the monkey bars for the first time. She swallowed painfully.
“Draco,” she said in a scratchy voice. “You said you’d catch me.”
He turned, not ever meeting her eyes. She saw that he had the white pointe shoes held tightly in his hands. He deliberately began towards the studio doors and as he passed her he threw the shoes at her feet, exiting without a second glance.
“Hermione!” a voice called. She stalled mid reach for the clasp of the classroom door. “Hermione Granger!”
Hermione turned around to find a small fifth year running towards her with a piece of parchment trailing behind them. “Can I help you?”
“I have - the - list - you asked - for,” the girl panted as she handed the parchment over.
“That was fast,” she noted as she scanned over the handwritten scrawl. “But everything seems intact. I’ll take this to the Headmaster now and send you a note on the verdict. I’d appreciate it if you spread the word of his answer for me.” The girl didn’t move, only stared at her with an odd expression. “Yes?” she asked impatiently.
“Are you skipping class?”
“I have a free period,” she replied tersely.
“Oh, alright. My name is Georgie Biggle. I have Transfiguration next, you can send me the note there and I will spread the word for you.”
Hermione said thank you and set off down the hall. She hadn’t meant to snap at the girl, but since waking up this morning she had been experiencing the most painful headache she could ever recall having. She was used to recurring nightmares; she had dreamt of her stage accident since its occurrence years ago, but last night’s dream had woken her in a cold sweat. She had never been so terrified. She had spent all of first period trying to piece together the puzzle. What did the dream mean? Why was she having it? Why had it suddenly been so different?
The other reason for her major headache was that she had agreed to tell Ron that, if the Headmaster accepted this ball, she would go with him. She found she couldn’t even be appropriately mad about the idea because Draco was right about the entire situation. There was no way they could publicly be together in any sense other than tutoring, class, and prefect meetings. She did, however, take some form of comfort from his promise to not let them out of his sight the entire night. Now all she could do was hope there was a flaw with the younger years’ plans and the Headmaster would deny them the privilege to hold the ball.
Before she could knock on the Headmaster’s door it swung open and a cheery voice called to her; “Come in, Miss Granger!” She stepped across the threshold, suppressing a smile. The portraits must have warned him of her imminent arrival. “Please, take a seat,” Professor Dumbledore was at the large bookshelf behind his desk, teetering on a ladder as he reached for a particularly dusty volume.
Hermione settled into the chair across from his desk as he dismounted the ladder and took his own seat, opening the book before him, a cloud of dust erupting around him. She coughed slightly. “Professor, I have a proposal from the prefects.”
Dumbledore nodded but his eyes were busily scanning the book before him. “Ah yes, they wish to have a holiday dance, am I correct, Miss Granger?”
Hermione smiled, bitter inside. “Yes, that is the plan.”
Dumbledore pulled his nose from the binding of the book and sat back in his chair, his hands settling comfortably across his stomach as he gazed over his half-moon spectacles at her. “You are discontent, Miss Granger,” he observed.
Hermione sighed. “That is neither here nor there, with all due respect, Professor,” she said. “I have this list here, if you would just review it-”
Dumbledore took the list she proffered and took a moment to glance over. “January the twelfth at seven p.m.” He nodded as he spoke what he was reading aloud absentmindedly. “Staff and Faculty invited,” he chuckled. “How considerate,” he continued scanning the page. “Ginerva Weasley heading the decoration committee-” he read off a list of names and their designated duties before setting the list before him and setting is gaze on her once more. “This is very thorough, Miss Granger,” he said. “There is no reason for me to deny the request.”
Hermione’s stomach clenched and she found herself fighting an overwhelming sense of nausea. She took the list back with a shaky hand. “Thank you, Headmaster,” she said as strongly as she could.
“I leave the rest in your very capable hands, but there is one matter I wish to discuss.”
Hermione, half way out of her seat already, settled back in with mild confusion gracing her expression. “Yes, Headmaster?”
“Will you be observing the traditions set forth with the usual procedures of a ball?” he asked.
Hermione found herself at a loss for words. “Traditions?” she asked. “Procedures?”
Dumbledore nodded and rose from his seat once more to pull a book from his collection and open it before them on the desktop. “Balls are not thrown for giggles, Miss Granger,” he explained as he opened to an ornately engraved page in the volume. The lettering was gold and there was a black mask decadently embossed into the decoration of the page. “There is tradition and customary rules and responsibilities that accompany the event.”
Hermione nodded to show she was following.
“As you are well aware, due to the ball we held in your fourth year, not all of a ball is about free flowing fun,” Dumbledore smiled whimsically. “Ah, when I was a younger man, the stories I could tell you about-” he stopped and cleared his throat. “The Yule Ball held in your fourth year, you were in the honorary promenade.”
“As I said, balls are not thrown for fun. They are thrown to celebrate an event.”
“Well in this case we are celebrating the holidays,” she suggested.
“Yes, but we can’t have the Christmas season lead the dance, now can we?”
Hermione did not pretend to understand. “I am confused, Professor.”
“The Yule Ball was held in honor of the champions participating in the Tournament, thus, it was the champions who let the dance. This ball is indeed in honor of the holiday season, but as you and Mister Malfoy will be heading the planning committee, it will be your responsibility to lead the dance.”
Hermione felt ice instantaneously crawl through her veins. Her fingers froze and she found she could not bend them. Dumbledore, misreading her expression hurriedly added; “This does not mean you and the Head Boy must be each other’s dates, but you will both require dates and must lead the customary opening ceremony together. The positive side to this is you have already learned the traditional dance for your fourth year. I merely recommend brushing up on it before taking the floor together,” Dumbledore chuckled as if recalling a fond memory. Meanwhile, Hermione had just thawed out her body and attained the ability to move once again.
“Oh,” she said on a ‘whooshed’ breath.
Dumbledore stood and returned the book to his vast shelving unit. “January the twelfth at seven it is, Miss Granger. You should probably be heading out now, so as not to miss your next class.”
Hermione said a rushed and insincere thank you and then exited his office. As soon as she reached the door she made a mad dash for the common room.
“Do you hear what I’m saying, Draco?”
Draco did not pull his eyes from the fireplace he was staring so intently at. She had been uncharacteristically quiet during their entire dance class and now he was discovering why. “Yes, I hear you,” he grumbled. “Did you talk to Weasel yet?” Hermione threw her book, hitting the wall just to the right of the fireplace. He turned around. “You’re over reacting.”
“Over reacting?!” she gaped. “Did you honestly hear me?!”
He turned back to the fireplace. “Is the idea of dancing with me publicly so repulsive?” his voice was cold.
“You know that’s not it,” she sighed and settled into the armchair to his right. “I don’t want to ask him,” she said firmly.
“You’re not,” he replied, trying to ignore the fact that she was still wearing her dance shorts. Damn spandex. “You’re accepting an offer that was already made.”
“Why are you so calm about this?!” she shrieked, on her feet once more.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Hermione, listen. You’re going to the ball with Weasley because I am not taking you. I refuse to take you. “
She felt as if her lungs caved in at his words. Her hand rose to her chest, grabbing the material over heart with a death grip. “And if I refuse to take him?”
“Then you’re screwed, Hermione,” Draco said as he rose from the couch, “Because as you just told me, the Headmaster told you we are both required to have dates.”
“Well, who are you going to take then?”
He shrugged. “Pansy Parkinson, most likely.”
“Pansy Parkinson?“ she gasped. Draco did not respond. He walked to the small kitchen across from the common room and pulled out his wand and a mug. “Pansy Parkinson?” she whispered to herself as she sank onto the couch.
Draco mixed the brown liquid in his mug with his wand tip, his back purposefully to her. It was easier when he couldn’t see her, her body and her facial expressions. This attraction to her was unreasonable. The only thing he could explain the odd sensations away with was a strong desire to possess her. Of course, hadn’t he already told her as much? Why was the girl so distraught over the entire situation? He raised the steaming liquid to his lips then set it back down and stuck his wand back in it, deciding it was still too bitter.
Of course, then again, if the feeling was anything like what he felt knowing he was pushing her to the red headed Weasel; he felt he could possibly understand.
There was a loud sound from behind him and he turned to find Hermione had knocked all of his books onto the ground and was on her way out of the room.
“I blame this all on you, Draco,” she said as she reached the portrait. “I blame the entirety of what we both know will happen that night, on you,” then she slammed the door behind her.
He set his mug on the countertop and went to the sink, turning the water on cold as far as it would go, splashing it across his face. He braced his arms on the sink edge, allowing the water to drip over his facial bones. It was just a physical attraction, he told himself. There was one way to fix it, and that was to continue as he was. All he had to do was ensure not to allow emotional attachments. He had to prevent moments such as those in the bathroom after her admission and his consequential promise to always be there to catch her. He just had to avoid moments that would be confusing to his own mind, never mind hers. It was just a physical attraction.
“Ron,” Hermione asked as she ventured towards the table he and Harry sat at in the back of the library.
Ron ignored her completely.
“How are you, Hermione?” Harry asked without looking up from his textbook. She smiled slightly. His diversion wasn’t out of spite, like Ron’s; he was always like this when stuck on a particularly difficult problem in his homework assignment. It brought back fond memories of nights before the Gryffindor common room’s fire. Memories she instantly repressed.
“I’m good, Harry,” she set her stack of books on the table, stalling for all the time she could. “Dumbledore approved the ball proposal earlier today.”
Ron’s head finally rose from the book he was pretending to read, which was incidentally upside down.
“Congratulations, Hermione,” Harry spared a second to grace her with a quick smile before burying himself in his book again.
Hermione sighed, there was no way to postpone the inevitable; it only made it all the more painful. “Ron,” she asked. “May I speak to you privately?”
Ron, apparently still in a foul mood form the night before, frowned. “Whatever you have to say, you can say it in front of Harry.”
Harry turned to him with a burning glare. He apparently didn’t agree.
“I just want one moment,” Hermione said in a begging tone; praying he would not make a scene.
Harry nudged Ron in the ribs, casting him a significant look. A silent conversation seemed to pass between them before Ron pushed his char away from the table and stood. He wordlessly made his way towards the never-ending stacks of books on dusty shelves. He found an empty aisle and she followed him into it, coming to a stop as he leant against the shelf and crossed his arms. “Well?”
She took a deep breath. She didn’t want to do this. She loved Ron, yes, but as a brother. She couldn’t imagine him touching her in any way or dancing with him closer than a meter. “I changed my mind. I will go with you to the ball.”
Ron’s expression changed drastically before he was able to control his thoughts. He immediately settled it back to a nonchalant expression. “You were pretty clear on not wanting to go with me last night.”
“Things changed,” she gulped. “I decided I wanted to.” What she really wanted to do was bite her tongue off so this conversation would be forced to end.
Ron moved closer. She forced herself not to withdraw. Not to cringe. “Alright, we’ll go together. If you ask me nicely.”
Her mind was screaming all sorts of obscenities at him. She found herself running through a list of curses and hexes she could send at him. She didn’t find this response to her friend of seven years odd in the slightest. “Will you go to the ball with me?” This whole lying thing was becoming easier and easier. It frightened her.
“Of course I’ll go to the ball with you,” he stepped closer to her again, a cocky smile on his face.
“I’ll see you around then, Ronald. I have homework back in the common room that needs to be done for tomorrow,” which was an entirely preposterous notion because she always had her homework done days ahead of time. Ron was in such a state that he didn’t even notice this incongruity.
“Bloody Arsehole!” he yelled as he launched towards the other boy. “Keep your hands away from her!”
“Ron please stop!”
He ignored her words and pulled back for another punch.
“Ron he didn’t mean it!”
He felt hands on his arms, trying to restrain him, but he tugged and pulled at them, trying to get his hands around the neck of the disgusting boy before him. “You stay away from her,” he growled as he felt the hands on his arms tighten.
The boy raised his head, eyes gleaming and blood streaming from his nose. “She’s not your property, Weasel Bee.” He grinned crookedly and turned his eyes to hers. He noted how still she became as those eyes gazed over her. She looked like a porcelain doll with her pale face and the clean and crisp tutu and leotard that hugged her body. The only imperfection was the dark circles under her eyes. The purple and black splotches like bruises that, despite the passage of time, still refused to disappear. The light in the room showed how much brighter the marks around her swollen eye became and how transfixed she was. There was no fear. “She belongs to me more than you could ever know.”
He struggled again and pulled against those who were holding him back and the blonde staggered to his feet. She caught him in her arms, worry written clearly across her face, and they shared a slow, deep kiss. He felt nails biting into his biceps now but finally he broke away and began to run towards them. Everything started to go black as he struggled forwards. It was as if he was running through water, and with every step he took they were two more steps away. Soon they had all but disappeared and the black completely came across his vision. Ron woke up panting and sweating in his own bed.
Narcissa Malfoy pulled her robe tightly about her as she made her way down the dark hallway. She was barefoot, and her hair was splayed about her face in wisps, but as indecent as this may be viewed, she did not care. She was running to the library, running to some sort of sanctuary. Running from her husband, and Gustave, and the letter from her son that had yet to come.
Narcissa’s world was closing in on her. It was slowly becoming smaller and smaller. She felt as if she was locked in a black room with no windows. No oxygen. No candles and no food. She was dying. Suffocating.
She gently tugged the massive library door open and then softly closed it behind her. The marble stones were bitingly cold on her feet. The fire on the opposing wall crackled merrily within it’s own world of ignorant bliss. She hurried towards it and the small circle of heat it offered her. She turned her back to it, allowing the flames to warm her back and feet, as she scanned the shelves, wondering where to begin.
That was what she had heard him say. Latin. The first thing she needed to do was find a Latin dictionary. After she looked up those words, she would know if she should retreat or go forward. If her husband and Gustave wished to cook up plans in her house, she would be aware of them. Whether they wanted her to be or not. They had yet to catch her spying and eavesdropping on them. She felt a false sense of dexterity.
Gritting her teeth she darted from the fireplace and into the shelving that lined the middle of the room. She scanned the rows of books until her eyes caught the title of one “Romanian Dialects” and she paused. She ran her fingers over each cover as she passed it until her eyes fell on her prize. “Latin Prefixes, Suffixes, and Definitions”.
She pulled the massive volume from the shelves and struggled with it as she made her way to the desk, which fortunately was near the fire. As she set the book on the deep mahogany a cloud of dust erupted and she found herself swatting away the air and coughing as silently as possible into her robe. As the dust settled she slowly lowered herself into the armchair behind the desk.
So this was the moment where she found out if her husband was the monster, or the monster’s puppet. She opened the cover of the book and the smell of decaying paper filled the room. The pages were hard and water stained.
Did being the hands and fingers on the arm of a monster make you, as a part of that monster, a monster too?
She turned to the D section.
Where had Gustave come from? Was he a servant of the Dark Lord too?
Da… Db… Dc….
Why had Draco not sent her a letter yet? Had her husband intercepted it? Oh, how she wished he was here now. It had been a long time since Lucius had dared to hit his son. Sometimes Narcissa felt that the pent up frustration came out in his own path of verbal abuse to her.
Why was she doing this again? No matter what her husband was doing, she had heard them talking. The Dark Lord knew nothing of it. Lucius thought that his actions would reap some great reward, but Narcissa Black knew better. Narcissa Malfoy, however, only hoped her husband was correct in his assumptions.
There it was. She sat back in the chair for a moment. She didn’t have to go through with this. It was not as if she had anyone she could tell if she learned her husband was working on some ancient forbidden spell. The only person she cared about was her son, and he would come home as soon as he received her letter. She was sure of that. Nothing would keep him from coming home to her.
Defaeco - v - to cleanse, purify, purge.
Narcissa’s breath hitched in her chest as she flipped to the I section in a blind panic.
Immunda - n - unclean, impure, dirty, foul.
Narcissa fell back against the arm chair, her hand clenching the fabric above her heart.
Defaeco Immunda. To purge the impure.
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