A Feeling Unknown

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Chapter 6 – The Moment Time Stood Still:

Standing by her mother’s open grave, Hermione had one thought: time was standing still. It wasn’t moving forward, and it never moved back, though sometimes, like now, it stood still.

If Hermione had the time turner she had in third year, she would go back to that year and change everything. Maybe she would go back to fifth year. No later. To go back later would mean that she would have to live through too many horrors. In third year, Voldemort was still just a vacant, far off threat. Her father was still alive. Of course, her mother was still alive, and Harry Potter was her best friend.

In her heart, she knew that was the only thing that was the same.

Harry Potter was a hero in the eyes of many. He was a kind, decent man, who more or less saved their world. However, to Hermione Granger, he was still just one thing: Her best friend.

He arranged everything for her mother’s funeral. She didn’t have to do a thing. She assumed he even paid for it. While she would never ask him that, it didn’t matter because if he did he wouldn’t let her pay him back anyway. Draco bought her dress and shoes, so in his own way, he helped as well. That was how things often were. They both had helped her throughout the years. Harry out in the open, where everyone could see and acknowledge his help, and Draco behind the scenes, in quiet, who no fanfare and no recognition, which was the only thing the men had in common. Neither wanted recognition when they helped her.

Even though she hadn’t seen Draco, Ron, or any of her other friends in the last three or so years, she had seen her mum, and she had seen Harry. Just here and there, occasionally. He always made it seem like an accident. “Oh, Hermione, do you shop at this market?” Or, “Funny running into you here at the University where you work”. Hermione didn’t mind the intrusion in her life. She knew it was his way of keeping tabs on her, keeping watch over her, and making certain that she was safe.

It was also his way at achieving atonement, at least in his eyes, never in hers. To her, no penance ever needed paid, but to him, he felt he had let her down the two times in her life she when needed him the most. With the death of her mother, the count was now three. She had never blamed him for anything, but she knew that didn’t mean he didn’t blame himself.

The first time was during the final battle, when he was in the Forest with the Death Eaters and Voldemort. He had his hands rather full, so how was he to know that three rogue Death Eaters had come back into the school, and had cornered Hermione Granger, and that what happened next was something she never wanted to remember, and worked hard to forget? It was something Harry Potter couldn’t seem to forget, no matter how hard he tried.

The second time he wasn‘t there for her was when her fiancé died. It was the worst day of her life up to that point, and Harry wasn’t there for her.

She never once blamed him. She didn’t think of things in that context. She never assumed that he would blame himself either, but he did.

She knew in his own, self-effacing way, he blamed himself for what happened to her mother, when anyone could see it was her fault completely. Nevertheless, he blamed himself.

Moreover, he wasn’t the only one who wanted to share in that blame.

Unlike Harry Potter, who blamed himself for NOT being there for her during the three worst times of her life, Draco Malfoy blamed himself for BEING there for during those same three times. He was the one that witnessed her attack at Hogwarts, and he was there when her fiancé died. Where else would he have been. After all, the man was his best friend.

He was also the one that was there when her mother died.

This time, all Harry could think was, ‘here we go again’. Her mum died and he was gone, and who should be there for her but Draco Malfoy.

Her house was blown to pieces, and her neighbour killed, and to whose arms did she seek comfort, but Draco Malfoy.

It bothered Harry to no end.

It haunted him and disturbed him. It wasn’t that he still hated Draco Malfoy, because he didn’t. He disliked the man, but he didn’t hate him. Still, this was Hermione. His friend and no one had a right to be there for her but him. Even though she tried hard to block everyone else out of her life for the past 38 months, five days, 12 hours and fifty-two minutes, Harry would not budge. He refused to be let go. He would always be there for her from now on, since he had failed her so miserably in the past.

Such was his life.

Today Hermione was grateful for the fact that Harry Potter was a bullheaded, self-centered, controlling, sweet, sensitive man.

Hermione wanted the funeral to be quick. She didn’t want a bunch of people there, but she could hardly turn people away. Her mother had many friends. Her patients came to her funeral, her neighbours, her friends, her family, and every one of them told Hermione how sorry they were for her loss.

Hermione thanked them, believed them, but wanted nothing more than for each and every one of them to leave her alone so she could grieve in peace and quiet. Alone. Well, as alone as Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy would let her be.

At the graveside service, after the last person left, Hermione threw a single yellow rose in her mother’s grave. She said a simple sentence over the grave. “Bye, Mum.”

Feeling the sting of tears coming back to her eyes, she saw Harry standing by a black car waiting for her, then she saw Draco Malfoy, away from the fringe, standing behind a tree, pacing back and forth uncomfortable as ever, and she felt torn. She wanted to go to them both, yet she wanted to go to neither.

She started walking in the opposite direction. She had a silly, errant thought -whichever one caught up to her first could have her. She actually smiled. Then, she heard a man call her name. “GRANGER!”

“Well,” she said aloud, “Harry would have said my first name.” She turned to see Draco jogging toward her. She looked to her right and saw that Harry was opening the car door to leave. He figured that she had made her choice. She held up her hand to Draco for a moment, and then shouted toward Harry. “Harry!” He looked her way.

Then she smiled. He nodded and said, “You’re welcome.”

Draco walked back toward her and said, “Shall we go home?”

She wondered why he kept referring to his house as ‘their home’. He had done that since day one, yet he acted irritated that she was there.

It wasn’t always like that.

The first day she saw him in University he was running across the grounds and something that resembled a golden snitch was flying above his head. He jumped up to catch it, and when he landed, he crashed right into her, knocking them both to the ground.

He turned so he was lying face down on top of her. She was flat on her back. He noticed who she was right away. He felt embarrassed, and was about to apologize, when Theo Nott came upon them, pushed Draco off, held out his hand to Hermione, and said, “Sorry, Granger, but Malfoy’s never had very good balance, and his manners are even worse.”

She blushed, smiled, took his hand, and thus a friendship was born. A friendship among all three of them. An easy, affable friendship, at least on her part.

As their three-way friendships grew, she knew that she was secretly falling in love with one of them. Unknown to her, they were both secretly falling in love with her. Only one of them ever told her so.

What’s more, the one who claimed he loved her wasn’t the one in which she loved. Life was truly unfair back then, and in many ways, it still was.

“Do you mind if we go to my Mum’s house first? I need to collect a few things from there and I don’t want to go alone.”

He agreed to take her there, but instantly regretted it when they stood on the back porch. They had to apparate back there, since the back porch was well covered from the view of neighbours. The reason he regretted it was that they had stood outside the back door for a full five minutes, not moving. Not moving one iota. The screen door was opened, a key was in her hand, he stood behind her, and that was it. Nothing else happened.

“Granger, it’s cold out here.”

“Give me a minute,” she said softly.

“I’ve already given you five,” he said. He moved away from her, because frankly, being this close to her was unnerving. He stepped down off the porch and pointed to a little wooden structure. He said, “Is that what I think it is?”

Hermione blinked and turned to follow the line of his hand as he pointed to a faded pink and white playhouse. She said, “The one and only.”

“Oh, this I have to see,” Draco said. He had heard the story about this little playhouse. She had once told Theo and him that this was the place where she had first snogged a boy. Yes, he had to see it.

He strolled through the back garden, and when he reached the place he said, “You are such a liar.” She was right behind him.

“Why do you say that?” she asked.

“You couldn’t fit in there alone, let alone with another human being,” he said. “You didn’t do the deed in there.”

“The deed?” she asked, and then she chuckled. “The deed, in deed. There were no deeds done, just kissing.” She opened the little house and walked on through the little door. She had to stoop over, because the ceiling was so low. He entered and had to stoop even more.

“No bloody way,” he said, once they were inside. “You lied to us that day. Theo and I told you in good faith the time, the place and the person to whom we first kissed, and then you told us this outlandish story about a pink playhouse, cherry cordial, a boy named Donald, and you lied to us.”

“I didn’t lie. It happened right here, I swear,” she said.

“You can’t even stand up in here!” he said incredulously.

“We didn’t stand up,” she said back, blushing.

“Even on the ground there’s no room. Was he a man of short stature? If he was, then other things might have been small, too, so I feel really bad for you,” he said.

“He was normal height,” she said. She would push him, but seriously, they were cramped in such a small space, so where would he go?

“Was he a figment of your imagination? Did Donald exist? Let me put it this way, Granger,” Draco began, “Could other people see him, too?”

She said, “He was as real as Daphne Greengrass,” reminding him of his first conquest.

He smiled and said, “Yes, she was definitely real.” He looked back to her to gauge her reaction, but she was looking at something on the other wall. He turned slightly and saw that it was a picture of Theo.

She took it down, her hand passing by his head, and said, “The summer before he died we came here to visit my mum for the weekend. We got a bit pissed, and he wanted to see the world’s famous playhouse, too, and we came in here, laughed, and giggled, until my mother came outside and told us to act our ages, and that we would wake the neighbours. As we were getting ready to leave the next day, he said, “Run out to the playhouse and see what I left you.” So I ran out here, saw his picture taped to the ceiling, and I had to laugh. When I walked back out of the playhouse he was standing there and said, “Next time you kiss Donald O’Reilly in your little pink playhouse, you will look up and see my picture and think of me.” I laughed and taped it back up there, and told him that who knew, I might have to have kiss him in here sometime to erase all the Donald memories away.”

Suddenly, Draco was uncomfortable. He was uncomfortable at how comfortable he was with talking about Theo with her. He had worked hard to try to forget the man, be it an impossibility. What’s more, he always assumed that Granger couldn’t remember a damn thing about him, because from the day he died until four days ago when she held the picture of him at Draco’s house, she hadn’t even uttered his name to him. She didn’t even come to the man’s funeral.

Draco walked out of the little house and stood upright. It was snowing again. She walked out, and he noticed that she was stuffing the picture in her pocket. He took the keys, which she still had in her hands, away from her and practically ran to the back door. He opened the screen, unlocked the door, threw it open, and said, “Let’s hurry up and get what we need and then get the hell out of here.”

She said, “I don’t need anything from there.”

“But,” he started, and then he stopped. Perhaps she had remembered enough for today. He nodded. Her cheeks were red from the cold, there were snowflakes clinging to her hair, and all he wanted was to brush away the snow, as if that would brush away her pain. He reached out and in a show of kindness, which he rarely emitted, he touched her cheek.

She closed her eyes and leaned into his touch. She said, “Take me home, Draco.”

He smiled. She called it home.

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