Of Photographs and Flashbacks

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Memory Three –

“I bet you can’t top that,” Malfoy bragged.

Hermione looked up from where she was seated on the ground, on that bright July morning, not far away, on their old Quidditch pitch, and she rolled her eyes. She turned the page of her book and thought, ‘boys are such little boys sometimes’. True, it was Sunday, their ‘day off’, and they weren’t supposed to be working today, so she supposed these cast-offs could spend their free time doing whatever they wanted to do.

Still, did they have to ‘play’ near her? If they put half as much effort into their toil and work as they did into their play, perhaps things would go quicker and smoother than it usually did.

Malfoy, Nott, and two others were throwing stones across the field to see who could get their stone closest to the old Quidditch post. Seriously. Couldn’t they think of anything else do to? True, they weren’t allowed to have their wands as part of their punishment, and they couldn’t ride brooms for the same reason, and they couldn’t leave the school grounds either, but surely they could talk, or take a walk, or read. Hermione had given Draco a very good book to read only a few days ago. He couldn’t have finished it yet.

Nott threw a rather large rock farther than Malfoy’s rock and everyone laughed, save for Malfoy, who moaned and whined and accused Nott of cheating. Hermione had enough of their antics and was about to go find another place to read, (even though she was here first) as the boys continued to laugh. Nott proclaimed himself the winner and said, “We’re out of rocks gentlemen, and my last one was closest, so I win, unless we can convince the only person in the vicinity with a wand to get all of our rocks back for us?” All eyes turned to Hermione.

Hermione, (who had had enough of their juvenile behaviour) wanted to use her wand and blow all of the rocks into smithereens instead of retrieving them for them. She was about to do just that when one of the boys shouted, “Hey mudblood, be a sweet little dear and use your wand to retrieve all those rocks for us, so we don’t have to run across the field to get them, alright?”

Hermione stayed seated on the ground, but closed her book and opened her mouth, in true horror at how easily he said that word, especially under the circumstances that he was here, at this place, repairing damage caused by a war to stop oppression and tyranny caused by a lunatic who saw her kind as inferior.

When she didn’t respond, or move in anyway, the oldest looking boy in their group said, “The mudblood’s no fun.”

Hermione grimaced and turned back to her book, but not before she glanced at Draco. His expression was unreadable, and unchangeable. She didn’t know why she thought he would care. He had called her that name so many times growing up that she had lost count. She tried to tune out the laughter that followed that quaint little remark, but it was difficult, especially as it was followed by Nott saying, “she never was any fun,” and by a remark made by the first boy of, “if we had won the war, just think, they’d be no more mudbloods anywhere. Wouldn’t that be nice? She would have been the first one gone, too.”

Hermione stood up at that sentiment and stared at the small crowd of boys. That statement was uncalled for and it angered her. Her chest heaved and she stared intently in each of their eyes, first at Nott’s, then at the older boy’s, then at the cruelest boy, and then at Malfoy. She kept her gaze on him the longest, even though she knew he wasn’t the one who said it. In fact, she thought he looked slightly shocked by the whole thing.

One of the Aurors, who was acting as a sort of supervisor, walked by just at that moment. He was slightly older than them, and he had been very protective toward Hermione since the beginning. He could tell something was amiss as soon as he walked near. “Is something wrong, Hermione?” He wandered closer and added, “Did one of these boys say something to you? What is it?”

She felt a constrictive, heavy band around her chest, and she wanted to rat the boys out, she wanted to tell on them, and tell the Auror that they called her a mudblood and that they wished her dead, and that they were lazy and bad boys, and oh yes, she plain didn’t like them. Yet she didn’t like anyone fighting her battles for her, so she insisted, “Nothing’s wrong,” and she turned back to her book, sat back down next to the wall, and started to read again.

He didn’t believe her. He walked toward the boys and said, “Remember, each of you, if you fail here, or cause trouble of any kind, you can easily be placed in Azkaban or some sort of other assignment. Think about it.”

And as soon as the Auror walked away the boys retrieved their rocks and then went back to throwing them at the broken Quidditch post.

Hermione wanted to leave. She wanted to cry. However, she wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of seeing her do either. After another forty-five minutes of play, the boys left the pitch for lunch. When she was quite alone, she placed her book on the ground, pulled her knees up to her chest, placed her face in her hands and cried.

Things would never be different, no matter how much they changed.

After only a few moments she felt warmth next to her, and then sensed that someone had sat down. She turned her face away from the person, drew her hands across her cheeks to wipe away errant tears, and she opened her book back up to some page that she had already read. She assumed the person sitting next to her was the Auror, who was here to give her a speech full of encouragement, though she didn’t need or want it.

An apple was dropped onto her open book, along with a bottle of water. She looked over and next to her sat Draco Malfoy. He opened the book that she had placed in his tent days ago, and he started to read. He had an apple in his hand. He took a large bite, the crunch of the apple sounding loud in the quiet confines of the intimacy between them.

He turned the page, but didn’t turn his head to look at her. She was glad it was him and not the Auror. She knew he wouldn’t talk to her, or ask her questions, such as why she was crying, or why didn’t she hex the boys as soon as they called her that name. He would remain quiet. He would give her quiet strength and quiet encouragement, which was all that she craved.

It was odd, but to her, Draco Malfoy represented a sort of touchstone, a silent, reserve source of strength, and something that represented ‘home’. Oddly, she also saw him as a sort of lodestone, because she was becoming highly attracted to him.

She turned back to her book and began to eat her apple. Soon, she almost forgot he was there. Finishing her apple, her water, and the chapter that she had already read, she closed her book and stood up. He did the same.

He said, “I bet I can throw my apple core closer to that old Quidditch post than you can, Granger.” He didn’t wait for her to respond. He merely walked over toward the middle of the large field, placed his book and water bottle on the ground, and then pulled back his arm, and let go…his apple core sailed through the air at an amazing speed, and landed incredibly close to the post.

Hermione walked carefully, slowly, toward him. Heart beating in her throat, hands sweating, a bit confused, she placed her book and her bottle of water next to his on the grass and she handled the sticky apple core in her right hand. She started to throw it, under handed, and she heard him make a disgusted noise behind her.

She turned around quickly.

“It won’t get far that way!” he complained.

“How shall I throw it?” she asked.

“Over handed!” he instructed.

Eyebrows furrowed as she looked at the apple core in her hand. She turned back around and pulled her arm back, about to throw the apple core over handed. He came up behind her, and stood so close that she felt his chest touching her back. She smelled his scent, a combination of linen and musk, and to her amazement, he placed his large, strong hand right over her fist holding the apple core. He pulled her hand back further, held it higher, and said, “There, you’ll get a better trajectory this way, now, give it all you’ve got.”

He moved away all too soon.

She threw it as hard as she could. The apple core soared through the air, (she thought at an amazing speed) and it landed without ceremony, far, far away from his and the Quidditch post, but still farther than she expected.

She jumped up and down, actually happy, and she turned to him and smiled and said, “I did it! Did you see how far it went?”

And he smiled back at her.

She couldn’t remember ever seeing Draco Malfoy actually smiling. Grimacing, yes. Smirking, definitely. Leering, undeniably. But never actually smiling. He was handsome when he smiled. Without forethought she said, “You’re handsome when you smile.” When she realized what she said she felt as shocked as she was when that mean boy called her a mudblood. To cover her blunder, or perhaps to add to it, she reached down for her book and water, picked them up, and started to run from the pitch.

He picked up his things and ran after her, calling her name. “GRANGER! STOP!”

She stopped running, out of breath, and turned around. “What?” she asked. She turned to face him.

He placed his right hand on the back of his neck, awkwardly, and said, “Thanks for thinking I’m handsome, and you know, I didn’t call you a mudblood.”

“I know.”

“I just wanted to point that out,” he stated. Dropping his hand to his side, he stepped closer. They were standing so close that she noticed his nostrils were flaring, because he was breathing hard, and his chest was heaving, as he was also breathing deeply, as if he were trying to catch his breath.

“Why are you having trouble breathing?” she asked.

He laughed, looked up to the blue sky, and said, “Why do you state the most asinine, yet obvious, things?”

“Do I?” she asked back.

“Yes, but that’s okay,” he answered. “Oh, and sorry for the mudblood thing.” He tried to make light of it, but he knew that it hurt her, but he couldn’t say more on the subject, not yet, maybe not ever.

Because right now, all he could do was noticed the stray hairs sticking out all over her head, even though her hair was pulled back in a braid. He noticed her eyes sparkling, from the sunlight, from the tears she had shed earlier, and from their natural inquisitiveness. He noticed her chest heaving as heavily as his, although he wondered if it was for the same reason.

He knew how hurt she was earlier when those other boys called her a mudblood, and although he had called her that very same thing many times, and he might very well call her that again someday, that didn’t mean they had a right to call her it.

There was something about her that represented everything good and clean and right. It was as if he needed her here to follow as a path to righteousness. She was his lodestar. She was his home, at least for now, and the closest thing to family he had here, and he didn’t want anyone to hurt her, or harm her, or make her sad.

They continued to stand there, staring awkwardly at each other, until Hermione said, “Do you want to go back to the Quidditch pitch and read?”

It was the last thing he wanted to do, but he wanted to be with her, and he had to follow her as she was his 'lodestar', so he found himself saying, “Yes.”

He would follow her anywhere. She was his guiding light, his way toward redemption and his path toward righteousness, his own northern star. Likewise, she found that she was more than merely attracted to him…she was lured toward him by an unseen desire, almost as if he were a magnet. They were the lodestar and lodestone.

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