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Chapter 10 : Naomi's Plan
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Terrific chapter image by the talented Caren at TDA
Disclaimer: Everything you recognise from the Potterworld is property of JK. Rowling. The storyline is mine.
(A/N: This chapter has been grammar checked and edited by Fallstar, but I couldn't resist adding and changing some bits. So if you find anything awkward, it's me to be blamed.) ^_^
The girl standing in front of him was, indeed, Naomi Corner. Her hazel eyes, filled with resentment and sadness, returned the grey of Hayden’s. How had Hayden not known and recognised his childhood best friend?
Her voice! How come he had not been able to hear Naomi’s soft and determined voice that had always accompanied Hayden since childhood?
Her temperament! How come he had not noticed that this Cho was rather more snappy and bossy than the original Cho, that withdrawn and demure mouse?
Though Naomi had disguised herself as her mother, those little characteristics should have been…well…obvious. She just walked and talked in a very different manner. She exuded self-confidence and determination, which her mother did not have. Her mother was charming in her own unique way, amiable to people with whom she was acquainted; Naomi was a little anti-social: she hated befriending other people who couldn’t handle or accept her attitude. Hayden, from having grown up with her, was, he felt, used to Naomi, and, he thought, her personality. It was the way she shielded her heart from getting close with other people, to maintain a certain distance, maybe of fear to get hurt.
“I broke it,” Naomi whispered, snapping Hayden back to the present situation. He looked confusedly at her, wondering what she meant. She added, as though reading his mind, “The potion. The potion that is necessary for us to get back home.”
Naomi stared dejectedly at her soot-smeared hands, as though imagining holding a potion glass in them. “It slipped,” she said, and then she looked up with tears in her eyes at Hayden, looking like a little girl whose balloon slipped through her fingers and flew in the sky. “It’ll take six months to brew it, provided that we find all ingredients: Powdered Erumpet Horn, Aramdillo Bile, Fairy dust—the only potion that facilitates Asportation—broken,” she trailed off, her eyes glassy.
Hayden moved closer to her, and tried to hold her in his arms, but Naomi backed away.
“It’s your fault, Hayden,” Naomi said, her voice trembling.
“Why is it my fault?” Hayden asked, his compassion for his best friend crashing. After all, he hated being blamed for something with which he had nothing to do. His anger was rising as he remembered how much she actually had hurt him, that she had been lying to him since they had known each other. “Neither did I ask you to follow me, nor did I ask you to brew that potion for us. There was no need for you to concern you with this whatsoever.”
Her lips started quivering and she froze.
“You do stuff behind my back; you’ve been sneaking around to spy on me,” Hayden breathed too calmly to be anything but venomous. Whence this sudden anger emanated, he did not know. Had he not just wished to see Naomi again, to hold her one last time, to tell her about his true feelings for her? But then…Why? Why was he feeling so outraged? Why was he feeling so outraged that his blood boiled, that his hands trembled in fury when staring at Naomi?
“You lied to me,” he said simply, not taking his eyes away from hers.
Hayden knew something else was there inside of him. It was not only because of her having lied to him, having risked her life just to follow him.
He remembered their childhood.
He remembered Naomi’s foster mother.
He remembered hearing the screams and cries of a little girl being spanked.
He remembered the feeling of her tear-soaked cheeks pressed against his.
He remembered small arms wrapped around his neck, a soft-vulnerable voice whispering in his ear.
He remembered what she said: “She said I’m dangerous, Hayden, that I’m hurting other people.”
“Why did you never tell me?” Hayden asked into the silence, his voice surprisingly composed, tension gone from his hands. He suddenly realised that he had not been mad at Naomi, but about himself for having been so clueless about her—his best friend. The best friend he had known almost his entire life, yet was a complete stranger to him.
“It was for my own protection,” Naomi replied, wiping away a tear from her eyes. “I wasn’t supposed to tell you.”
“Why?” asked Hayden, confusion drawing his face.
“I—I can’t tell you,” Naomi said silently that Hayden had to lean closer to hear her.
“You don’t trust me, do you?”
“It’s not that, but—“
Hayden backed away from her. “Y—your whole life, you’ve been lying to me. You hid your real identity from me, you never trusted me—”
Naomi tried to reach out for him, but Hayden made another defensive step backwards.
“Hayden, please,” Naomi begged, as new tears filled her eyes.
He looked at the ground, as though hoping to find the answer there, until it hit him as forcefully as the recent explosion. “You knew I was a wizard, didn’t you?” he asked and stared back at her, his lips curled. “Still you didn’t say anything; still you kept on lying to me. After all those years—why?”
Naomi hesitated before she nodded. “Yes, I knew you were a wizard. I couldn’t tell you about me, Hayden, I didn’t want to risk your life and those of your parents’.”
“What does that have anything to do with my parents?” Hayden snapped, “How can I ever believe you again? Tell me, you’ve been lying to me your entire life and now you expect me to believe you?”
“I can tell you the whole truth now, Hayden, but please stop shouting.” Naomi, looking worriedly down the corridor, said, running a hand through her hair. “Let’s go somewhere else, we’re not safe here. Peeves might be eavesdropping us, and he can get really nasty.”
“Peeves is the school poltergeist,” Naomi replied certainly, lifting a corner of her lips slightly, but Hayden remained frowning.
“So, you’ve been to Hogwarts,” Hayden said after a moment when he slowly started to understand. “Why does that even surprise me?” he commented ironically. “It’s not that you’ve never lied to me…”
Naomi grabbed his hand and pulled him away to a direction further down the torch lit hallway. Her hand felt soft and warm; she was real. He missed her; he recognised it. It was merely his sudden anger about her engulfing lies which precluded him from clear thinking. Despite his confusion and hurt, he knew the true happiness that she was here with him.
He pulled on her arm to make her slow down her pace. She looked back at him, he smiled, and Hayden felt that she knew he wasn’t mad at her anymore.
He reached out a hand forward and traced her face, as though reassuring that she was real, that she really existed in this whole chaos he had caused. That everything was going to be alright with her by his side, even though his mission would fail. Instead of giving voice to these thoughts, he asked, “What house were you in?”
Naomi smiled back, and they continued to walk, hands intertwined with the other. Hayden knew he would never let go of her again. He would never leave her again.
“Do you really want to know?” Naomi asked back, shrugging. “Eleven years from now, it won’t matter anymore what house you’re in. But it still matters to some parents.”
“I’m wondering what house you would have been sorted into,” Naomi said, changing the topic quickly, “if you had gone to Hogwarts.”
“My dad would have wanted me to be in Slytherin,” Hayden told her.
“And my father had probably wished me to be in Ravenclaw,” Naomi mumbled. “But I disappointed him.”
But…I don’t hate you.
Because of misunderstandings.
I need your help.
Draco Malfoy’s distraught voice was still hollering in Hermione’s mind, making her feel this compassion for him again. Why did Malfoy not hate her? What was he talking about misunderstandings? Why did he need her help?
Her friends’ voices were only distant mumbles in Hermione’s ears. Looking around the Great Hall towards the elongated Slytherin table, she searched discreetly for Malfoy. He was picking with his fork on his food, lost in thought. Only now Hermione noticed how pale he really was; his pallor was such as is seen in a washed out chalk sketching. Although Harry had already mentioned it, only now was it truly perceptible to the naked eye.
Inhaling deeply, Hermione wondered what Malfoy must be going through right now. He had skipped classes in the last couple of weeks, had slept during class; he was receiving almost daily detention, failing his tests. That was not the ambitious and industrious Draco Malfoy Hermione had known. Also, he had lessened the power of his mockings and insultings. He might make some thought-shy comment just for the sake of good old times, but they weren’t that hurtful anymore. Malfoy was not fighting back anymore. He had changed, or rather; he had stopped being such a brute.
He was up to something that was keeping him to doing all those usual nasty things to her, something that kept him busy during the nights; hence, the swollen eye bags, his sleepiness, his exhaustion.
Lost in her thoughts, Hermione didn’t notice that Malfoy was all the time staring back at her. A small, but weak smirk on his pallid face indicated that the look was directed at Hermione. He drew his eyebrows together, an incisive expression on his face.
Hermione tried to lift the corner of her lip slightly, but Malfoy had already turned his head away to talk to the girl who sat next to him. Her face, a creamy porcelain was trimmed by long, full-bodied and fluffy hair of gold: not the straw which passes for gold, but the rich and earthy tone of old gold such as might have been buried ages ago by Pirates. She seemed to be a year or two years younger than he was. The effect, when one took all of her into account, including the way she wore her robes, was that she was a frenzy on a china shepherdess by a repentant prude.
Hermione knew that girl’s older sister, with whom she was taking some classes.
Draco nodded at the girl beside him, looking interestedly at her; his smirk had softened a bit. Hermione figured that it must be the way Draco Malfoy smiled. Who was that girl beside him, and how did she elicit a smile from him?
“I can’t,” Naomi replied without looking at Hayden, “my mum’s in the Great Hall. We can’t be seen together at the Ravenclaw table, or elsewhere. Our similarities might cause suspicion.”
“Well, they said my dad and I look similar,” Hayden pointed out after a long pause, “but no one cares. No one suspected that I’m—“
Then he remembered something, those people around him who had false memories about him, those who got suspicious about his sudden appearance, his never existed past as a Hogwarts student. “Did you do it?” he asked when turning around the next corner with her, walking upstairs to the ground floor.
“Did I do what?”
“Did you alter their memories?”
“Whose memories?” Naomi asked back in the same monotonous voice.
Hayden sighed impatiently, “I’m not in the mood for this silly game. Did you alter their memories when they were about to become mistrustful about me? What kind of spell did you use? Not even the teachers noticed me.”
“Well, I did a major modification on all the Hogwarts teachers, then followed by the students and staff,” Naomi explained. “I couldn’t modify any of the ghosts, though, since they don’t have memories at all. The same goes for the house elves. I mean not that they have no memories, but it would just take too long to cast the Fortius Memory Charm upon them all. It’s a charm that was invented—I mean, will be invented in 2001.”
After a short pause, Hayden inquired, “So it was you! You’ve been watching over me, haven’t you?” He squinted down at Naomi, who was pressing her lips together to keep them from smiling mischievously. “I sort of knew it, but hadn’t paid attention to it because I knew it couldn’t be you. Because I thought you were—not magical. A Muggle? Yeah, I thought you were a Muggle. Only just recently I found out you weren’t, when I met your biological parents.”
Naomi didn’t say anything, but merely dropped her head to watch her footsteps.
“Those two girls when I had talked to Hermione, one of them were you. And then in the library, those two first years again.” It was not a question, but a statement.
“Yes,” Naomi said tersely. She became serious all of a sudden. “I’ve seen you, Hayden.”
“I believe that was what I just established.”
“No,” Naomi said, now turning at him and stopping in her track. “I’ve seen you. You’ve been flirting with my mum.”
Hayden’s jaw almost dropped. He felt his blood shooting up, up to his head. They stopped right on the upper stairs leading to the ground floor. He touched the wall behind him for support, because somehow his knees had gone weak. “I—I didn’t,” he stammered, feeling slightly guilty.
Naomi turned her head again, down the hallway. Her voice sounded sad or annoyed, Hayden couldn’t really differentiate since it was hard to read this girl. “You’ve been gawking at her, haven’t you? Is she so gorgeous, Hayden?”
It was when Hayden finally realised that Naomi was—probably, jealous. He was not sure yet, but he had to try and tease her more. “Yes, she is,” he smirked. Naomi shrugged off his arm from her shoulder. She is jealous, he thought, his impish smirk still plastering his face. “It’s merely because her beauty is yours distilled and strained; yet I must say that in order to taste something correctly, it must be whole and gentle,” he reassured her softly.
Naomi swatted his arm playfully, that familiar confusion on her face again whenever Hayden talked so—“sophisticated” as she called and hated it. She was half-heartedly smiling back at him. He knew they were okay again. At least in the next few seconds, before Naomi said, “You have to continue that, Hayden.”
The torch lights were reflecting suggestively in Naomi’s hazel eyes, there was a different glint in them.
“You have to make my mum fall in love with you.”
Hermione turned around to look into those sky blue eyes that belonged to the lanky boy walking right behind her, a bright smile on his creamy, freckled face, who she at once recognised as Ron’s.
“Where are you going?” he asked. He looked back towards the Gryffindor table where Ginny and Harry were looking up, and back at Hermione. “You didn’t say anything.”
“Sorry,” Hermione said uneasily, squinting unnoticeably towards the Slytherin table, where Draco had a mere minute ago had sat. He had, as the many evenings before, left earlier the Great Hall. His two cronies, Crabbe and Goyle remained on their seats. There was Parkinson, who had been twirling her long black hair around her index finger, lost in a conversation with the flabby looking girl in front of her. “Could you tell the others that I’ll still get some books for research in the library before it closes? I’ll be right back. I promise.”
“Research in what?” Ron inquired. “Need company?”
“Not necessary,” Hermione answered without even looking at Ron, her eyes scanning the Great Hall, though not searching for anyone in particular. She just hated it when lying to her friends. “I’ll really get back to you guys later.”
Hermione strode away without giving Ron time to respond. Now, where could Malfoy have possibly gone to? Back to the dungeons? To his common room? He had looked quite a bit tired, so maybe he just wanted some rest. Hermione looked down the opposite direction, and started running; she re-passed the giant double doors of the Great Hall which, as closed, would not let in the sound of her hurry. When she reached the next corner, she made a sudden halt as though she had crashed against an invisible wall.
What would she ask Malfoy if she found him? She would have to ask something. He would never in this life talk to her, share with her like old friends, tell what he was up to. Hermione needed a plan. Maybe confiding in Harry and Ron, that she had suspicions regarding Malfoy, since he had asked for Hermione’s help the previous night.
Hermione walked up slowly, still deep in thought. Once again she stopped in her track, when she heard some distant voices not far away from where she was standing. The voices were coming from the staircase that led down to the dungeons. But Hermione couldn’t understand what was said. She tried to glimpse through the torch lit hallway, seeing familiar light blond hair shimmering in the dimness. That pale face, that straight and confident posture, as that tall guy leaned against the wall behind him, his arms crossed over his chest. When Hermione’s eyes slightly adapted to the light, she could not believe the vision which presented itself to her eyes.
“Malfoy?” she whispered behind a covered mouth, hiding behind the silver armour near the wall.
He was talking to someone, who Hermione was certain, was, because of the soft sound of the voice, a girl. She was slim and had long straight hair. As she turned around slightly, Hermione recognised her.
“This can’t be,” Hermione squeaked.
The girl, apparently Cho Chang, played with Malfoy’s scarf a bit, not looking up at him. He was shaking his head, as though refusing something she was asking of him. Their voices sounded soft, playful, in a way like two friends that were familiar with each other, as though they had been close—closer than simple friends, maybe—for over a long time.
Malfoy put his hands on Cho’s shoulder, and looked down at her intently. Hermione couldn’t really see if his lips had moved, but he heard him speaking. When Cho replied with a nod, he leaned his forehead against hers, and then took her into his arms in a comforting manner, almost caring.
And then finally it dawn in upon Hermione: this was definitely not Draco Malfoy.
This was Hayden.
(A/N: My thank you to Joanne K for the names of the ingredients.
The next chapter will have a little bit more Draco/Hermione.
And well, I'd appreciate if you let me know what you think. :) )
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