Chapter 14 – Heartbreak and Harbinger
Hermione was lost, of that she was certain, and so she had to think rationally. By now, Lord Malfoy must be looking for her. At least, that was her fondest wish. She knew this was entirely her fault, and his wrath was bound to be full and swift. He would probably cut all ties to her, out of anger and embarrassment. To think, she did not even know they were courting, and now, they would no longer be. She could not abide such a fate. She must find him before he found her so that she could act as if that she was never lost at all.
She decided to sit on a fallen tree, and contemplate her next move. There was a small patch of little purple flowers, whose name and genus escaped her memory. She bent down and picked a few. She twirled them on her fingers. All she could do was wait to be rescued, like some silly damsel in distress. The humiliation was not to be abided.
Harry ran toward the red sparks. He saw Malfoy, who was bobbing around trees, calling his cousins name. “Malfoy!” Harry yelled, “Where is my cousin?”
“Lord Potter, if I knew where you cousin was, do you think I would be looking for her willy-nilly, and calling out her name?” Draco asked, annoyed.
“I never imagined that you might actually lose Hermione!” Harry shouted. “When I told you not to lose her, it was a joke, Sir!”
“And apparently she took it at face value, and became lost all on her own!” Draco spat in return.
“When did you last have contact?” Harry inquired.
“At least twenty minutes now,” he returned. “I even tried to locate her with my wand, but I could not get a trace. It’s these damn woods. There is such old magic in them that it befuddles spells and charms.”
“Let us stop wallowing on the subject and search for her!” Harry beseeched. He ran down the path, calling her name.
Hermione decided to walk. To sit and wait to be rescued was not to be borne. She thought she found the path again, and began to follow the trail, when she came upon a man, all in black, kneeling by a bush. He turned quickly, raised his wand, and she screamed.
Draco heard her scream and it cut him to the quick. She had come to harm, and it was his fault in its entirety. Potter also heard the scream, and both men ran in its direction.
The man in black lowered his wand when he recognized the woman who screamed. “Miss Granger?” Mr. Snape asked, “What are you doing alone in the woods, and why on earth did you scream?”
“My humble apologies, Mr. Snape, your wand pointed at my person scared me in light of the fact that I am lost in these woods. I was with my cousin, Mr. Lupin and Lord Malfoy, and I soon found myself lagging behind, and then I became lost,” she explained, her hand on her chest to steady her breathing.
“The foolish men let you become lost?” he asked. “They should be whipped for such idiocy.”
She noticed that he had a basket full of plants. “May I inquire what you are doing, Sir?”
“I am collecting ingredients for my potions, Miss.”
She went up to his basket. “Perhaps for our next lesson Monday, you might tell me the names of these plants, so I shall be able to assist you next time,” she urged, fingering the plants in his basket.
‘What a silly girl,’ he thought. Lost in the woods, and she still had the need to learn. If he were honest with himself, he would admit her found it admirable and not silly at all.
“That would be amendable, but now, we should find your companions,” he offered. He presented his arm to her, and she accepted. “It seems that my godson has formed an attachment to you,” he said out of the blue.
“I believe he has, Sir,” she returned.
He stepped over a large rock, and took her arm to steady her. “You must realize his attachment is an alliance that is not fitting for either of you.”
Hermione stopped walking. “Sir?”
“Oh, do not mistake his intentions, I believe they are sincere, as I am sure yours are,” he said, continuing, “It is just, he is betrothed to another.” Hermione’s heart stopped beating in her chest at that statement. His words pierced her very soul. “So you see, Miss Granger, a further attachment would not be prudent.”
“He told me of no such attachment,” she said.
Snape faced her and said, “Nor would he, for he is in denial. It was his parents’ fondest wish, before they died, that he would marry a pureblood, so they signed a marriage contract with a Miss Penelope Clearwater. She is the daughter of a baronet, and my ward. She has been away at school.”
Hermione looked down at the ground. She knew Lord Malfoy would not deceive her, yet Mr. Snape seemed to speak the truth. “I say these things not to hurt you, my dear, but to spare you pain, and to let you know that much is expected of my godson and he must marry well. He must marry someone of his station, and a pureblood.”
Harry and Draco came running toward the pair at that moment. Hermione’s heart felt heavy and full. She ran to her cousin’s arms, not once looking at Lord Malfoy. “Take me home, cousin, take me home.”
Lord Malfoy walked up to her; saw her fresh tears, the scratch on her face, and her disheveled appearance. He reached for her, and touched her bare arm. She turned, placing her body behind her cousin. She held onto Harry’s sleeve and said, “Now cousin, take me home, please, I beg of you.” She would not even look at the face of the man who deceived her.
Harry nodded goodbye to both of the men, and took her in his arms and Disapparated away.
Malfoy turned to Snape and said, “Why is the lady so distressed?”
“Why indeed!” Snape snapped at the younger man. “How could you mislead her? You did not tell her of your intended, so I took the liberty!”
“NO!” Draco shouted.
“Yes! The marriage between you and my ward will take place, Draco! It was the wish of both sets of parents before they died. She will be visiting from her school next week, at which time you will host a party and announce your engagement.” Snape turned, his black robes billowing behind him, and he left Draco to his despair.
Draco sat down on a fallen log and felt his heart break in two. He loved Hermione. He did. He felt his heart belonged more to her than to him, and now she must hate him.
He held no emotions for Penelope Clearwater. He had only met the girl twice, and both times he found her to be a silly, vapid bore. He was under no obligation to fulfill a marriage contract that was signed by their parents when he was a child. Even wizarding law stated that contracts such as those are null and void when the parties involved died.
Why would his godfather tell her these things, and right after he declared his intentions to her. She had not even yet declared hers. The look on her face was pure sorrow. Curse Snape! He began to run through the woods, blocking out all thoughts and sounds and his surroundings. He could only hear the sound of his own heart beating in his ears, and his breath in his lungs. Would she ever forgive him? Would she even try?
Back at Potter’s Hall, Harry placed his cousin on her bed, as sobs racked her body. He was at a loss. He said, “My dear, you look quite done for, shall I get a healer?”
“Leave me, cousin, leave me now!” she cried.
“What happened? Did Snape say something to alarm you? Did Malfoy? I must know these things,” Harry said. He stroked her hair.
“Malfoy told me he asked for your blessing so that we might court,” she said through her tears.
“And that makes you sob?” Harry asked, confused.
“Snape informed me that Lord Malfoy is betrothed to another!” she informed him.
He stood up suddenly, in shock! He drew his wand in his hand. He left her room without a backwards glance.
Harry had been afraid of this. Malfoy’s goal was to humiliate his cousin… cause her distress. He wanted her to fall in love with him and then break her heart. Did he really hate Harry so much that he would hurt an innocent in his quest of hatred? He would make the man pay.
Draco collapsed at the edge of the woods. He looked up at the sky, and cursed the day he was born. Lupin walked up to him and looked down. “Bad day, Lord Malfoy?”
Draco sat up and explained everything to the man. He did not know why, but it was as Hermione said, Lupin was fast becoming one of his own favourite acquaintances, and he felt he could confide in the man. Lupin sat on the ground beside Malfoy and said, “And now, what shall you do, my boy?”
“What can be done?” he asked.
“The right thing. The proper thing. If you do not love the lady in question, you must make that plain to her, and to Snape. You must stand up to your godfather, because you are a man now. I have known him most of my life, and I know he can be difficult, but you alone are responsible for your happiness."
"Lastly, you must make it up to our girl. She is a sweet, trusting sort, and I am afraid that on this day, you may have broken her trust forever. I will talk with her for you, but the responsibility to fix this lies with you. Tomorrow, I will escort Miss Granger to her lesson at Spinner’s End. When we leave, I will make sure you have the opportunity to talk with her before Harry takes her on the tour of the village. Agreed?”
“Why do you agree to help me, Sir? What am I to you?” Draco asked.
“You are a human being, as am I. Is that not a good enough reason for us to help each other?” Lupin said, standing. He held out his hand to offer it to Draco. Just then, Harry Apparated in front of them, and knocked Draco back down to the ground with a flash of red light from his wand.
“Get up, you scoundrel!” Harry shouted, “So that I might once again knock you down.”
“Listen Potter, I can explain,” Draco said from his back, his hands up in defeat.
“Up, I say. I shall duel you the proper way, and when I kill you, and be assured I will, I will have the satisfaction of knowing that I have avenged someone who hurt a girl who is very dear to my heart!” Harry bellowed.
Draco stood and took out his wand. “She is dear to mine as well, Potter!” he yelled back.
“Lies! You are truly your father’s son!” Harry accused.
Draco went to curse Harry, but Lupin knocked his wand out of his hand with a flick of his own. He quickly turned to Harry and did the same. “There will be no duel, gentlemen,” Lupin said with a calm that was inappropriate. “The lady in question would never have that.” He threw Draco’s wand on the ground, and handed Harry’s to him. “Let us leave, Lord Potter. Our presence is needed with your cousin, I am sure.”
Harry turned to leave, but rushed back up to Draco, and put his wand directly under the other man’s chin. “Do not ever speak to my cousin again. If you wanted to hurt someone, you should have gone after me. She did nothing to deserve this!” He Disapparated away, followed by Lupin. Draco bent down and picked up his wand.
Draco kicked at the ground, and threw his wand as far as he could. Potter was right; she did not deserve such maltreatment. He would make this up to her, somehow. He had wrongs to make right. He would not give up on her, not yet, perhaps not ever. Once Draco Malfoy gave his heart, it was gone forever.
Hermione spent the remainder of the day in her room, refusing company, refusing food, refusing respite of any kind. Harry paced outside her door. He said to Lupin, “How can she be this despondent? She has not even known him long.”
“Harry, old man,” Lupin said with a smile, “the heart is a wondrous thing. A person does not have to know another forever, to love them without end. All it takes is an inclination. She was inclined, he was receptive, and she gave her heart, formally or not. A person does not get over a hurt like this so easily, but she will get over it, in time. Also, we should not count Lord Malfoy out yet. I explained to you that he doesn’t even know the other woman in question.”
“But I know him!” Harry said. “He will do the proper thing, for decorum. Things like love, and a woman’s heart, means nothing to him. Only purity of blood. He will marry this other woman, if only to show his malice toward me! I say when I next see him; I will smite him from the face of the earth!”
Lupin laughed and added, “Now Harry, not everything is about you.”
Hermione stood by her door, listening. What if Lupin told the truth? What if Lord Malfoy did not intend to marry this woman? However, what if Harry knew his heart better than Lupin. What if blood purity did mean more than love to Lord Malfoy?
Closing her eyes to think, she could still smell his scent on her. She could see his face, hear his deep baritone voice. She was in agony. Fresh tears came, and she did nothing to stop them.
She went to her bed, and looked at the three ribbons he gave her. These were the extent of her mementos of the man. The man she thought she loved. How could she love a man she had only known a week? She knew how. By a tone of voice, a smile, a turn of the head, a touch of a hand. A love from such things was a love that was earnest and true. She was in infinite pain and full of regret. She did not even give him time to explain. Woe was the woman who acted with haste, and who led with her heart and not with her head.
The next morning, she asked for breakfast in her room. Lupin brought it up to her. He informed her that he would take her to her lesson with Snape. Of course, Lord Malfoy was supposed to take her, but those plans had to be changed. Would she ever see him again?
“Would you like to walk or Apparate to Mr. Snapes’ house?” Lupin asked.
“I would like to walk Sir, if that is amendable?” she said.
“By all means,” he said. He offered his arm.
They started along the lane when Hermione said, “You look tired, Sir.”
“We are upon a full moon, Miss, so this is not the best time for me. I feel rather put out, I must say,” he answered. “Do you remember the way from here? I need to rest after all.”
“Of course, Sir,” she assured him. “I can make it on my own.”
“Harry will be back for you, and take you on your tour of the village,” he said.
He held her hand and gave it a squeeze, before Disapparating away. Hermione walked on to Spinner’s End by herself. A light rain was falling. She had only a light shawl over her shoulders, and a thin straw hat. Nothing to prepare her should an onslaught take place of the drizzle.
She stood under a tree, under the ruse that it was because of the rain, but the truth was that she was not feeling up for a lesson. She decided to go elsewhere, when the much-anticipated storm broke loose. Soon, she was wet without end. She started over a covered bridge. She stood by a post, and held onto it as if it were a dear friend. She hung her head, and wondered how her life could get any bleaker. She heard an approaching horse, the steady clip-clop of the hooves as the horse cantered on the wooden slates of the bridge, caused her to look up. It was Lord Malfoy.
He said nary a word. He approached her and held out his hand. Was this a dream? Why was he here? What did his outstretched hand imply? She reached for his hand. Without effort or invitation, he pulled her up and placed her on his horse, in front of him. He placed his arms around her, as she sat sideways. Her hat was in the way, and her hair already wet, so he took it off her head, and put it on her lap.
He said, “I saw Lupin. He asked me to make sure you got to Spinner’s End. Do you realize you were going the wrong way?”
“I decided not to go to my lesson,” she admitted, without looking at him. He took a deep breath in. Her wet hair smelled like cinnamon and vanilla. He kicked the horse, which began to trot over the bridge.
“Where were you going?” he asked, without much emotion.
“I have no idea,” she said.
“Then I shall take you to your lesson,” he decided. He would not try to explain things to her yet, not when she looked so sad and broken. They reached the village in due time, and soon they were at the edge of the village, heading toward Spinner’s End.
“Miss Granger, I have one request. As a friend, will you grant me a favour?” he asked.
She turned to look at him, and her position in front of him caused her face to be a hairsbreadth from his. She looked from his eyes, to his mouth. He stopped the horse, and let go of the reins. He kept one hand around her waist, and the other came up to either wipe a tear or a raindrop from her wet cheek.
He slid her off his horse and came to join her on the ground. The horse bucked slightly, she leaned against the tall mare, and was thrown into Malfoy’s chest. His arms encircled her waist. He said, “You have not answered. Will you grant me one favour?”
She could no longer look at him. She looked at his neckclothe and nodded. He placed one hand under her chin, urging her chin up so that she was looking at him. “No matter what occurs over the course of the next few weeks, trust that what I feel for you is true, Miss.”
She found herself leaning into his chest. The warmth from his body, despite the rain, or perhaps because of the rain, gave her comfort. She should not grant him anything. She held him no regard, did she? She owed him nothing. Why should she grant him a favour?
“Miss?” he said.
She looked up.
“Please tell me that an understanding still exist between us. Tell me I have not so disappointed you that you will not forgive me. Tell me that I have not disappointed you too much. You are so fair, with an even temperament; I would be astonished if you said you would not give me a fair chance. I will take care of the present problem, Miss. I will. My favour is, trust me. Trust me, and do not lose hope.”
“It is providence that brought me to this place, so who am I to mess with fate?” she answered.
It was all she could say at that moment in time. He brought her to him, and held her, tightly, for the very first time. It would not be the last. He rested his chin on top of her wet curls. The rain fell like sheets, obscuring any passing views, if there had been any homes nearby. As it was, there was only Snapes’ house. He let her go and said, “I will wait for you, outside, until the end of your lesson.”
“You must go. Harry will collect me. You cannot let him see you.” She stepped away from him, but he grabbed her arm. As if slow motion was made for a moment like this, his hand slid from her upper arm, to her elbow, to her wrist, to her hand. She continued to walk away, until his grip on her hand caused him merely to touch the tips of his fingers to hers. It was as if an imaginary rope was pulling her from him, but it was really only she, and she was walking away from him.
Snape opened his door just as they parted. “Draco, is that you out there with Miss Granger?” he asked.
“Yes, godfather, I brought her in Lupin’s place,” he said through the sound of the rain.
“Well, come in and dry off, you too, Miss Granger. I have wonderful news. Your intended, Penelope, and her friend, Daphne Greengrass, have just arrived! I sent my servant to pick them up in the village. Come and dry off so you might be presentable for when they arrive.”
Hermione looked back at him in shock. She looked as if she was in pain, but her pain could only rival his. She shook her head, telling him no… no, I will not go in there, no, I will not wait for you, no, you lie, no, I hate you! He saw these things in her face as she shook her head. He felt a bad omen, as he saw her run down the lane, as if this were a harbinger, a sign, of what was in store for him, in matters concerning her. She ran down the lane, in the rain, away from him, perhaps forever.
Snape walked out of the house, and out into the rain. “Where is the blasted girl going? Did she not want to stay for her lesson?”
Draco had no words. No words at all. How could a man be expected to speak, when his heart was bleeding?