A Feeling Unknown

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Chapter 26: The Art of Telling the Truth:

Draco sat at his desk at the Ministry of Magic; Three hours ago, Hermione Granger had told him everything she knew about the death of their friend, Theo Nott. She held nothing back. She didn’t gloss over anything. She kept to the facts. She didn’t speculate, or lay blame at anyone’s feet.

Now he was the one that felt numb. He didn’t know what to think. He left her at his house after she went to sleep on top of her bed, still fully clothed, and he came to the Ministry to look for the files on Theo’s death. Since he was a Wizard, the Ministry also investigated his accident. After reading the file, he realized that the Aurors of the time came to the same conclusion: he caused his own death.

He leaned his head in one hand, and folded the folder. Harry Potter came walking in the office, looked at his watch, and then toward Draco. “What are you doing here at eleven o’clock at night?”

“Did you know?”

“Did I know what?” he asked.

Draco looked up. “Did you know that Theo killed himself?”

Harry looked down at the folder on the desk, and then back up. He walked up to the other man’s desk. He looked back at the folder, now closed, in front of Draco. “I was an Auror at the time, and though I didn’t investigate his death, I knew. Yes, I knew.”

“Did you know about the note he left?” Draco asked steadily.

Harry gave a slight nod.

Draco rose. “Did you know that he saw Hermione and me in bed together?”

Two nods.

Draco picked up the folder and threw it at the other man’s chest. Harry didn’t even try to catch it, though he easily could have. He left it sprawled out; papers strewed everywhere, on the floor at his feet.

“Who’s with Hermione?” Harry asked.

“Who cares?” Draco said. He sat back down.

Harry leaned forward, his hands in fists on the desk, holding up his body, and he repeated, “Who’s with Hermione?”

“Weasel. She’s sleeping anyway. She was so exhausted after she told me, from all the tears that she crawled right into bed, not even changing her clothing. She’s fine,” Draco concluded. Then he laughed. He looked up at the ceiling and laughed some more.

Harry pushed away from Draco’s desk and stared at him. “What’s so funny?”

“The fact that I said she was fine. She’s not fine!” Draco shouted, between laughs. “She’ll never be fine! Why didn’t you tell me, Potter?”

“You weren’t an Auror at that time, and you weren’t privileged to that type of information,” Harry spouted.

Draco ran over to the other side of the desk, and pulled out his wand. He held the collar of Harry’s coat and pointed the wand under his chin. Harry remained calm. “NOT PRIVIDEGED TO THAT INFORMATION!” He was no longer laughing. “You knew that I was in love with her! She took all of this on herself! She took all the blame and no one tried to help her! I could have helped her!”

The young Auror named Timmons walked in the room and said, “Do you need help, Mr. Potter?” Harry was their immediate supervisor after all.

“I’m fine,” Harry said evenly. Draco let him go. “No one could have helped her at the time. Don’t you think I tried? Don’t you think her mother tried? All that would have happened if you knew was that you would have taken the blame as well, and then where would everyone have been?”

“Together, Potter,” Draco said, walking toward the door. He looked back once more. “We would have been together. We wouldn’t have wasted three years of our lives apart. I wouldn’t have let her leave, or I would have gone with her. Don’t ever make decisions for another person again.”

“Hermione made the decision to leave, I just respected it,” Harry said to Draco’s retreating figure as he left the room.

Without looking back at Harry, Draco responded with, “And I’m making the decision right now to bring her back for good, and I don’t care who respects that decision.”

Hermione woke up, disoriented. She had been here for over a week, and yet she was disoriented every time she woke up. She felt so tired that she wasn’t sure she could even sit up, but she was aware that she was still in her clothes, and she wanted to dress for bed. She was slightly weary of going out toward the bathroom because she might see Draco, but she desperately had to go to the toilet. She opened the bedroom door, looked toward the living room, and saw the gentle glow of the television against the backdrop of the room. The sound was soft, but she knew he must be in there. She padded to the bathroom to change and use the toilet.

She slipped on the nightclothes that Draco had bought for her, wearing them for the first time, because for the first time felt strong enough to do so. She knew that wouldn’t make sense to anyone but her, but it was the truth. Each day she was here, and each day she peeled away the façade and put to rest the lies, she felt better about herself.

She went to peer into the living. Instead of seeing Draco on the couch, as she expected, she saw a sleeping Ron Weasley. She walked over to him, placed a hand on his arm and said, “Wake up, Ron.”

He opened his eyes. “What time is it?” he asked. She smiled down at him.

“I have no clue, but I think it’s rather late.” She looked around the room. She noticed that news was on the telly. She picked up the remote and turned the television off, which fixed the room in almost total darkness. Ron rubbed his eyes as Hermione walked over to the side table to turn on a light. “I’m going to have a snack, care to join me?” She didn’t ask him what he was doing there. She didn’t ask where Draco was. She just accepted everything as it was.

“I wouldn’t mind food,” Ron said with a laugh. She started to the kitchen, followed by Ron. She fixed them both sandwiches and poured them both some milk. They ate in silence. She glanced at the clock. It was after midnight. She took her empty glass and placed it in the sink. She was no longer tired.

“Ron?” she asked. She looked out the window over the sink. She only saw her own reflection.

“Yes, Hermione?” he answered as he placed his own empty glass beside her glass in the sink. He leaned his chin on her shoulder, put his arms around her waist, and he smiled at her reflection. She smiled back.

“Where did Draco go?”

“He left a couple of hours ago. He wanted to look up the file on Theo’s death,” he said truthfully. He saw no reason to lie. Draco had filled him in slightly.

She turned in his arms and said, “I know it’s late, and what I’m about to ask you will be sort of a pain, but will you escort me out to the shed? I need to look through the boxes of things that were salvaged from my house.”

“Now?” he asked, incredulously. “It’s really late, sweetie. Can’t it wait until tomorrow? I’m off work tomorrow, and I’ll come over and help you, ‘right?”

She gave him a weak smile. She nodded, three times. He stretched and said, “I’m heading back to the couch. I’m beat. Wake me when Malfoy gets back.”

He walked back to the living room. She remained leaning against the sink, until she heard his snores in the other room. She really needed to look through her things tonight. She wasn’t sure why, but she did. She had started the healing process, by peeling away the layers of deceit, so it was important to continue healing. She also wanted to go to her mum’s house tomorrow. She was certain that all the things she left behind from her life before Theo’s death, the things she left when she ran away, were probably stored there, and she wanted them back. She wanted to reclaim her things, thus reclaiming her life. She wanted to do it now, not tomorrow.

She walked over to the hook by the door where her and Draco’s coats usually hung. She touched the spot where his coat should be. She slipped her coat on, and then slipped on a pair of boots, which had to be his, on her feet. She opened the back door slowly. She didn’t know if the wards were up, and if anything would happen. When nothing happened, she slipped outside, sure to grab the keys to the shed before she slipped outside.

She padded through the snow slowly, the boots on her feet threatening to slide off with each step, and she went to the side of the shed to unlocked the door. Placing the keys in the pocket of her coat, she opened the door slowly. She didn’t know where the light was, and she didn’t bring her wand. She felt around on the wall by the door. She finally felt a switch. She turned on the light. There, in front of her, was her car. She cursed at herself, realizing she needed her car keys and aware that she not only didn’t have them, but she didn’t remember seeing them on the hook by the door. She was sure that Draco had put them there the other day. She turned to walk back out the door, resigned that she would have to wait until tomorrow.

Then the lights went out, leaving her in total darkness.

She gasped.

Someone grabbed her throat and pushed her against the car. They pushed her with such force that the air was knocked out of her lungs. A single hand was on her throat, squeezing, and her eyes watered. Her hands went to the hand at her neck, and her legs kicked out at her unknown attacker. All she thought was, “Draco.”

Draco drove around the block five times. Five ‘effing’ times! He was avoiding going home. What if she was awake? What if she wanted to talk some more? He didn’t want to talk. He wanted to figure things out in his head. He wanted to make sure he had a grasp of his emotions before he came home. He drove by his house again, and glanced fleetingly toward it, when he saw that the light was on in his shed. He frowned, and since he had already driven past the house, he would drive around the block once more, and then go see why the light was on inside the shed.

She struggled against the person who held her against the car. Their hands went from her neck to her shoulders, and the person practically picked her up and slammed her once more against the car door. Her back hit painfully against the door handle. She tried to scream, but a hand went to her mouth. ‘NO, no, no!’ she thought silently to herself. “NO!” she finally managed to scream when the person picked her up by the waist and tried to dragged her out the side door.

Draco pulled up to his house and parked the car. He opened the car door, and then he felt a chill, that wasn’t due to the snow and cold. He felt a chill because he heard her scream. He heard her yell, “NO!”

He ran toward the house, assuming the scream came from within.

The person continued to drag her toward the door. She held onto the doorframe. It dawned on her that this was probably a wizard, even though they had yet to do magic. Draco’s wards probably kept anyone but him, and probably her, from apparating or disapparating from the house or garage. That was the reason why the person was trying, in vain, to drag her outside. A cry stuck in her throat as she grabbed onto the door jam with both hands, her assailant continuing to pull her out the door.

The person picked her up by the waist, which threw her off guard. They rushed back in the building, which was enough to cause her to let go of the doorframe. They threw all of their weight, hers and theirs combined, toward the car again, her shoulder ramming painfully into the metal of the car.

Draco threw open his back door and ran into the house. He ran through the kitchen and lit all the lights with a simple flick of his wand. Weasley jerked up from the couch. “What’s going on?”

“Hermione!” was all Draco said. He ran toward the bedroom, Weasley behind him. As he turned on the lights in the bedroom, and Ron turned on the ones in the bathroom, they both heard her scream again. It was a long, piercing scream. Without forethought, Draco ran back toward the back door, Ron right behind him.

The person had her shoulders in their hands, was sitting astride her, and was banging her head against the cement floor. She fought hard. There was only one other time she fought this hard, without magic, and it was the time she was raped. She fought that day with every fiber of her being, and so she did now. The person stopped banging her head against the ground, and instead started to squeeze her neck. The life was literally being squeezed out of her. She didn’t want to die. She wanted to live, for herself, and for Draco. Her hands went up and clawed at the face of the person on top of her, because no matter who this person was, she wasn’t going to let them kill her.

Then she heard her savior’s call. She heard Draco shout, “HERMIONE!”

The weight left her body and the person ran out the side door. She turned to her side and struggled to breathe. It still felt as if the person’s hands were around her neck.

Draco stormed in, lighting the lights, and saw her on the floor. He noticed right away that she was struggling to breathe. He rushed to her side, and placed his hand on her shoulder. Ron ran back outside to chase the dark figure they had seen running out of the garage.

Now Draco could barely breathe, because she could barely breathe. Because someone tried to kill her. Because he failed to protect her again. He sat down on the ground, pulled her body over to his lap, and cradled her in his arms. There was blood all over the back of her head, and she was crying hysterically, but due to her breathlessness, each cry came out as a silent hitch.

He held her, rocked her back and forth, and said the only thing he could say. He said the one sentence that he felt summed up everything he not only felt at the present, but also, he felt was due to her for such a long time and in so many ways. He exclaimed, “I’m so sorry.”

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