A Feeling Unknown

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Chapter 35: Panic:


Two hours and thirteen minutes after Draco left Hermione by the side of the road he apparated to his back garden. He didn’t care if any of his neighbours saw him. He wanted to come home, even if she never wanted to come back here.


To kill time, and so he could clear his head, he had walked around a park for about twenty minutes, but when his nose felt numb from the cold he decided to go sulk indoors somewhere. He went to a little Muggle coffee shop for 16 minutes. After two cups of coffee, he went to see his mother.


He hadn’t seen her in such a long time. He didn’t know if she would want to see him. She did. They talked, about nothing in particular, for around 34 minutes. Draco wanted to tell her his troubles, but he sensed that she wouldn’t appreciate hearing about his sorrows, so he told her work was good, he was healthy, he was happy, and he would see her on Christmas if she wanted. She smiled, offered him some money, which he took, kissed his cheek, and then told him to make it the twenty-sixth instead of the twenty-fifth, because she had plans with friends for Christmas.


Wonderful.


He went back to the road where he left her, an hour and twelve minutes after he left, but of course, she was gone. He regretted throwing such a spoiled fit. Her words, “I’m not leaving you,” kept swirling around in his head. She didn’t once say she didn’t love him, or that she was unhappy with him. She merely stated that she wanted to get on with her life. She never once implied or inferred that she wanted to do so without him. He was such a fool.


He killed some more time at her mother’s house. He wasn’t sure why he wanted to go back there, but while he was there, he set up some protection wards and anti-apparition charms. He secured the windows and doors with magic, and then he decided it was time to go home and face her.


He walked from his backyard to his garage and started to look inside for his car, when he remembered that her car was in there. He looked by his house and then out on the street, and he still didn’t see his car. She was bound to be home by now. Where was she? He saw that the light was on in his kitchen, so he opened the backdoor and saw Weasley and Potter sitting at his kitchen table. They both turned to stare at him as he entered. He felt panicked, suddenly. Something wasn’t right, and it wasn’t just the fact that two complete poofs were sitting at his kitchen table. It was the fact that they were there, and Hermione apparently was not.


Harry turned to his cup of coffee, and without looking at Draco asked with a firm voice, “Where have you been, Malfoy?”


“Are you keeping tabs on me now?” he asked. He just realized that Hermione was right. He did have a habit of answering a question with a question.


Harry pushed his cup of coffee away as Draco shut the door. Draco walked toward the table as Harry said, “I should fire you.”


“On what grounds?” Draco asked, all the while screaming in his head, “WHERE’S GRANGER?”


“Dereliction of duty,” Harry said back.


Ron said, “You’ve not been on a bloody holiday, Malfoy. You were supposed to be watching out for her!”


The panic inside Draco, which started when he didn’t see his car, continued when he saw Scarhead and Red in his house, and exacerbated when he saw how angry they both were, squeezed his heart until it felt as if it were squirting blood out of his chest. He took a deep breath and finally asked, “Where is she?”


“Why do you care?” Ron asked.


Draco took his coat off and flung it on the floor and said, “Can’t I just get an answer from you, you stupid son of a bitch? Is she okay?”


Ron stood up and said, “And like I said, you pile of horse shite, why do you care? When she was injured while I watched her, you acted liked I was lower than the dirt on your fancy black shoes, so don’t get all high and mighty with me now, Malfoy! At least I didn’t leave her!”


“JUST ANSWER MY FUCKING QUESTION!” Draco shouted.


Harry stood as well, but before he could defuse the situation, Ron said, “Like you care about anybody but yourself.” And the next thing Harry knew, Draco ran across the room and knocked Ron over onto the floor. It all happened so fast that Harry hardly had time to react. He pulled Draco off Ron, pushed him toward the wall and shouted, “Stand down, Malfoy!” He offered Ron his hand, which Ron swatted away. “Go outside, Ron.”


“NO!”


“I’ll fire your arse too, so help me God, I will,” Harry seethed.


Ron stood up on his own, kicked Draco’s table, and slammed the door so hard that the glass in the window cracked.


Harry looked at Draco, who was still on the floor, and he said, “Two week suspension without pay, Malfoy.”


“But your little boyfriend just gets a slap on the wrist?” Draco asked as he stood. He picked up a chair they knocked over, but then threw it against the wall.


“You fought him in your own home, while you weren’t on duty, so I could care less about the fight. The suspension is for leaving your charge,” Harry said as he picked up the chair that Draco threw.


Draco sat in the chair that Harry had abandoned earlier and with his head in his hands he pleaded, “Please tell me if she’s alright.”


Harry sat down opposite Draco, in the chair Ron had been in, and said, “After you left her she sent out her patronus to me. She told me later that she had left her mobile phone here and so she couldn’t call me.”


“Why didn’t she drive home?” Draco asked. Why hadn’t Harry yet told her if she was okay?


“She noticed that there was some sort of liquid leaking from the car, and she was afraid to drive,” Harry stated. “We found out later that someone had cut the brake line with magic. If you two hadn’t stopped when you did, you wouldn’t have been able to stop, and since the road turned into a large hill, you both probably would have been killed. It was a good thing she was cautious and didn’t get in that car.”


“She sent her patronus and sat on the hood of the car to wait for me. She said that after a few minutes she was cold so she went to get in the car, when she saw a man apparated on the other side of the vehicle. She said that in a panic, she tried to get in the car, but she dropped the keys, and the doors were locked. She tried to get her wand, but the man, who she said had on a white mask and a long red robe, disarmed her. He then stunned her. She fell over the hood of the car, and then onto the frozen ground.”


Draco didn’t want to hear anymore. “Is she dead?”


“No,” Harry said, almost shocked that Draco would assume that, although Draco thought it was a perfectly reasonable thing to ask. “She said that the person then placed the Cruciatus Curse on her. She said that she never thought she would ever have to feel that pain again. I think that’s what has Ron the most upset. After she was cursed during the war, at your house, by your aunt, well, let’s just say that he still has nightmare about that.”


Draco rubbed his eyes thinking that he still had nightmares about that, too. When Harry stopped talking for a moment, Draco looked up at the other man and said, “What happened next?”


“After he cursed her, he walked up to her, and lifted her from the ground by her neck. He had both hands around her throat and he was choking her when I finally appeared. He heard me apparate. He turned, and before I could stun him, he disappeared. She fell back down on the ground and I helped her to St. Mungo’s.”


“Is that where she is?” he asked.


“No, she wouldn’t stay. She wouldn’t even be checked out, because she said she had to come back ‘home’ before you got here, because she didn’t want you to think that she left you, because she said that she promised you that she wasn’t leaving you, and she didn’t want you to misunderstand the reason she wasn’t here. Ron offered to come and wait for you, but she insisted that we bring her back. She’s in the bedroom. She took a bath and went right to bed. She didn’t even want to eat any dinner.”


“She’s here?” he asked. She didn’t want him to think that she was leaving him. He felt like the lowest life form on earth.


“Yes, she’s here. She wouldn’t tell us why you left her alone. What happened?” Harry asked.


“I guess it was just a misunderstanding,” Draco said, though he knew that was an understatement.


Harry asked, “You left her because of a misunderstanding? You had a job to do.”


“And I failed. Fire me, or suspend me, which I guess you already did, but I screwed up and I can’t change things,” Draco said. He stood up and started toward the bedroom. He said, “You can leave now, Potter.”


“Malfoy,” Harry called out. Draco turned to face him. “You can’t let your emotions overrule your duty.”


“I have no emotions, not anymore,” Draco said drolly. He turned to walk back toward the bedroom.


Harry said, “I’ll stop back in an hour to pick her up. Let her know.”


This time Draco turned around on his own accord and said, “Where…where is she going?” Panic surfaced again, and he felt overwhelmed.


“I’m taking her to my house until we find this man. We were able to get another magical fingerprint from the spell used on Hermione, and on the spell used to cut your brake line, and the magical DNA matches the magical DNA used to kill her mother. It was definitely the same person, and it couldn’t have been Theo’s mother, because we’re having her watched, and also, because I saw him, and it was a man.”


Draco took two steps toward Harry and asked, “What does that mean?”


“Well, Hermione heard him speak. He told her that she was going to die, finally, and he was happy that he was the one to do it. She said that it was Theo Nott’s father.”


Panic! That awful feeling, which gripped him when he first walked into his house and he didn’t see Hermione, and hung onto his frayed nerves like a magnet to metal, was no longer on the fringe, but was now embedded in his entire mind, body and soul. He felt like Potter had punched him. He said, “That man’s dead! He died in prison!”


“Yeah well, we’re having his body exhumed tomorrow, but she swears that she’ll never forget that voice, and that was who it was,” Harry said steadily. He walked up to Draco and said, “Are you going to be alright?”


“I was late again, wasn’t I?” Draco asked.


“What?”


“Nothing.” He was late to protect her at Hogwarts, and if only he had gone back to the car earlier, he might have stopped that man again, but he once again he was too late. He walked to the bedroom and stood outside the door, trying to brace himself for what he might see inside those four walls. He had to prepare for the worst.


Harry walked up to him and said, “I rescind your suspension, and she can stay here.” Harry had a feeling that Draco needed her here more than she needed to stay here. He added, “She said that she didn’t want to leave anyway.” Draco nodded. Harry patted his shoulder and said, “Your car is still be examined for evidence, but will be returned tonight.” He turned and walked out the backdoor.


Draco tried to muster the nerve to enter the bedroom. What should he say to her? I’m sorry. I’m a idiot. I know you weren’t leaving me. I was a spoiled brat. What would she say in return? Would she tell him it was too late for them? Would she ever forgive him, or was she too scarred, too burdened with bad feelings, ever to feel anything good with him again?


Would he walk in there and find the same crying, broken girl he first embraced outside her mother’s house after she found out her mother was dead? He wasn’t sure he was strong enough to help her again, especially since he felt he was to blame this time.


He opened the door slowly, sure that she was probably crying her eyes out again. She sat up on the bed as he entered, and closed a magazine that she had been reading. She didn’t look as if she had been crying. She had a nasty bruise on her cheek, bruises on her neck, and her hair was a mess (as usual), but besides that, she looked normal. He continued into the room and noticed that she had ‘his’ pajamas on, and he took that as a good sign.


She sprang up on the bed, walked straight across the top of it, and practically flew into his arms. She threw her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek. He held her tightly and before he could apologize for being a wretched human being, she said, “I told you I wasn’t leaving you, didn’t I?”


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