Chapter 22 – Where there is Hope, There is Hermione
Neither man knew what they could do to help the poor girl. Her anguish was apparent. Harry could not believe that she had to relive losing her mother all over again, even if she did not recall losing her the first time. This was not any form of justice that he knew. He approached her slowly. It was only when he came upon her closely that he noticed that she had wounds all over her body, no doubt from withering on the ground in pain while under some dark curse. He took one step closer, and she scrambled to stand, tripping slightly over her dress hem, and backed into the corner of the church.
“What kind of evil trickery is this?” she pleaded. “Take me to my mother! You are not my cousin! My mother is not dead!” However, even as she stated these words, the realization that the truth was something very different descended upon her, and she cried, long, anguished tears. These fresh tears and sobs came from the very pit of her soul.
Draco Malfoy’s heart broke. He felt pain for this girl, because of the ordeal she had been through, and the one she was presently facing, but he was unable to help her in any way. He could also not help but feel slightly responsible, and he was not sure why. He also had remorse and self-pity, for any love she might have felt for him must surely have disappeared just as her memory had disappeared.
She sunk back to the floor, her back heaved with a wave of fresh tears. Malfoy walked up to Lord Potter, who stood in the exact same place, his hands still out toward his cousin. Draco said to Harry, “Only a very powerful wizard could have Obliviated her memory.”
“Do you have anyone in mind?” Harry asked.
“No,” he said. ‘Yes’, he thought.
“Hermione,” Harry said slowly. “I would never lie to you. Before you came to live here, we met twice, both times when we were very small children, if you would only try to recall that. Also, we have written to each other often. Surely I have not changed so much that you do not recognize your own kin?” He walked slowly up to her, until he was by her side. He sank to the floor and said, “May I escort you to Potter’s Hall?”
Through her heaves she said, “What is Potter’s Hall?”
“My home.” He stood and offered her his hand and clarified, "Our home." She shook her head no.
She pointed to Draco and said, “Are you my kin?”
“No,” was all he could manage to say.
“Where is my stepfather?” she asked.
“Back in Kent,” Harry said.
“Does he wonder where I am?” she asked.
“No, he knows you came to live here with me,” Harry said. “Hermione, he has already married another.”
With that declaration, a fresh wave of sobs broke through. She stayed on the floor, and the two men who loved her most stayed by her side. Twice, others entered the church. Once it was Remus, who after a few minutes, understood and went to tell the others they found her. The other person, looked in unnoticed, and closed the door and walked away, secretly pleased. This girl would never remember that she loved Draco Malfoy, and perhaps she would leave this place as suddenly as she entered.
After a few long, agonizing hours, she finally stopped crying. The sky outside was now pitch black. There was still a gentle rain falling, just as it had fallen for most of the day. She was on the floor, on her side, curled in a ball. Harry finally thought he should approach her. He walked up to her and put his hand on her arm. That was a mistake. She stood up and ran to the other side of the church.
“I do not know you!” she screamed in terror.
“Hermione, we have written to each other since we were small children. I know you must remember me,” Harry said, with remorse.
She pointed at Malfoy and said, “Who is he, then, if he is not kin?”
“A friend,” Harry said.
A friend? Was that all he was? Would she even accept that, if she would not even accept her own cousin? Malfoy approached her, and lit his wand. She ducked her head. The full extent of her injuries now before him, a laceration on her cheek, and bruise on her forehead, her beautiful gown torn in place... but those were only her physical wounds. Her memory was gone, which was perhaps the greatest wound of all.
Draco said, “Miss, you must let either your cousin or I help you. You need to see a healer for your wounds. You need some nourishment, and you need to rest. I know you are afraid, trust me, I know. I know you are confused, but we speak the truth. We would never hurt you. We both care for you very much, and only want what is best for you.”
There was something reassuring in what he said. She felt she could trust both of these men. She looked at Harry and said, “What was my mother’s name? If you are my cousin, you will know this.”
“Rose. Her name was Rose, and she was two years older than my mother was. My mother’s name was Lily, and my father was James. Your father’s name was Edward. You were born in September, and your favourite colour is red.”
She exhaled a breath and sat on the front pew. She said, “I don’t want to live without my mother.” Harry walked up the aisle and stood beside her. “Cousin Harry, may I have a word alone with this other gentleman?”
Harry looked from Draco to Hermione. He was confused, but he conceded. He nodded and walked down the aisle, and out of the little wooden doors. Draco walked up to her, and as she tilted her head up, he looked down at her and smiled. She stood up and said, “I want to remember. I need someone to help me remember. If you are truly my friend, will you help me?”
His heart was filled with joy! She wanted to remember! Perhaps she wanted to remember him! “I want you to remember, too. What can I do to help you?”
“You seem kind, Sir. First, tell me if what my cousin said is true,” she pleaded.
“To the best of my knowledge, it is all true,” he said.
“Are you a friend of my cousin? He said you were a friend,” she asked, tears still rolling down her face.
“No, I would not say we are friends, Miss,” Draco said truthfully. “What your cousin meant was that you and I are friends.” He approached her with caution, and said, “We are good friends.”
“I need friends,” she said sadly. “I can hardly believe my mother is dead.” She stood stock still and wept. He took the remaining steps toward her. Without warning, she rushed to him and put her arms around his neck, just as she had earlier in the day, in the gazebo. Her raw emotions made her lack of decorum all that more endearing.
He left his arms to his sides, and when Lord Potter reentered the church, he approached the pair and looked over at Malfoy, before turning to his cousin. Harry reached for her, placing her in the confines of his arms, and Disapparated with her to Potter’s Hall.
Draco knew one thing for certain, as he turned to watch them leave, his face half-in shadow, half-in moonlight. Whoever did this to her, to him, to them, would pay with his life. He may be a man in love, but he was also a Malfoy, and he would have his revenge.
Unable to bear it any longer, Malfoy walked down the cobblestone street, as a cold drizzle fell around him. All the noises of the night, the occasional footstep, the sound of horse hooves, and the occasional sound of voices in houses, all ceased. He heard and saw nothing as he traveled on the quest before him. He had to find who did this to her, and his first visit would be to Marcus Flint.
He went to the home of Marcus Flint’s mistress. It was well known that although the lady was married, her husband lived elsewhere, in a city unknown. Since there was a fire in the chimney, Draco was reasonably certain the man would be within. The streets in this little run down hamlet were quiet, and there were no lights from street lamps. Lord Malfoy would not merely knock on the door. He wanted to take the man by surprise. He took his wand, and rapped on the nearest window. Soon, Marcus Flint went to the window, and threw up the sash. Draco Malfoy took his wand, uttered “Incarcerous!” and bound him in no time, pulling him out of the window and onto the ground.
Flint looked up from the ground by the window and said, “If you wanted to talk Malfoy, you only had to knock on the door.”
The healer left Hermione’s room, and walked down to the Library. Harry turned to the man and said, “Well?”
“Trace magic shows definitively that the Cruciatus curse was used on her, repeatedly I would wager, and Lord Malfoy’s assumption that her mind was Obliviated would also be correct. She remembers nothing that has occurred at least in the last six months,” the man said. “I have tried a counter curse, but it has not helped. She may never regain her memory. She may have to start over, from this point in time.”
Harry Potter was angry! He had suffered much in his life, but his one consolation was that that his only living relative, a simple, intelligent, beautiful being, was always safe from the perils that plagued their world. During the war with Voldemort, she was in danger, just for the fact that she was his kin, and a Muggle-born, so safeguards were put in place to watch over her. Kind neighbours she had known all her life were really witches and wizards who kept her from safe from harm.
The tinker who worked in the square was an Auror, who worked for their government, and he helped to keep her safe. The woman who worked at the Inn near her home was a witch who watched out for her. Yet here she was, the threat from the Dark Lord over, and Harry could not keep her safe. Where was the fairness?
“Tell me what you know, Flint,” Draco said, with a gleam in his eye, and his wand under the man’s chin.
“Draco, my man, let me stand and I will be more inclined to speak,” he said.
“No, I think I will keep you bound, and that way, it will be ever so much easier to throw you in the river, and let you drown. You are liable to sink to the bottom,” Draco said with his foot now on the man’s chest.
“Fine! All I know is that three men tried to sabotage your carriage that day because they knew Miss Granger would there. Only one in the party knew their real mission. The other two thought they were robbing you. The third was to take the mudblood far away, and then Obliviate her memory so that she would no longer remember you, and the way would be clear for you and Clearwater to marry.”
Draco unbound the other man. He stood and leaned against the side of the little house.
“Who hired these men?” Draco asked.
“I don’t know, but I heard about it from Blaise Zabini, so perhaps he did,” Marcus said, brushing the mud from his clothing.
“Why would Blaise Zabini care if I married Miss Clearwater or not? Why would he want to harm Miss Granger?” he asked.
“Because you need to marry a pureblood to retain your fortune, which Zabini plans to live off of, like the leech he is. He and Penelope have, shall we say, a prior commitment to each other. However, not all worked out as planned. I know nothing more.”
“The Viscount’s cousin was abducted today,” Draco said.
Flint looked concerned. “Seriously? I did not know. Have they found her?”
“Yes,” Draco leered, “with her memories Obliviated. What would be the purpose of that?”
“Perhaps the interested parties realized that you and she care for each other. They could not very well wipe your memories, as if they would even try, so they did the young lady’s. Although, still, I am not sure that makes much sense to me, but I am not as clever as the rest of you, am I?” Marcus said. Just then, his lover looked out the door. “Go back inside, my love. I am fine. Lord Malfoy is just conversing with me, and nothing more.”
“Are you the one that told Lord Potter of this plot against my carriage?” Draco asked.
“No, because I found this out after it happened,”
“He wasn’t told until after it happened,” Draco said.
“It still was not I, for if I knew, I would have warned you all,” Marcus continued. “Blaise was drunk the other night, as he is apt to be, and his tongue wagged while I listened. I know nothing more. I do not think it was Zabini who went after the young lady this time. He was seen at the Inn earlier. He was kicked out, due to failure to pay. I believe Lady Pansy took him in. Good luck finding out what happened to the young miss, but know this, Malfoy,” Flint said, looking around to make sure they were alone, “I don’t believe it is over, but I do believe it has more to do than just with you marrying Penelope. Call it my intuition.”
Draco shoved the man against the wall one last time, and Disapparated home. He had much to think on, and much to uncover.
Draco arrived at Potter’s Hall the next day, to inquire on Miss Granger. He was greeted at the door, and taken to the lounge. Harry told him that she had not spoken a word about her mother since the previous night. She seemed finally to accept all they said as the truth. He told Draco what the healer told him.
He said, “She was cursed, with pain and malice, and I, the one who should have protected her, was powerless to do so.”
Lord Mafloy saw the anguish in the other man’s eyes. How could he tell him that he felt just as much at blame? He could not, so he did not.
“Come to the garden with me, and see if you can help draw her out of her shell,” Harry pleaded. Harry walked Lord Malfoy to the edge of the garden, and pointed.
Sure enough, Miss Granger was walking alone, looking peaceful, but he was sure that she was feeling so very much different. The tightness in his chest would not disappear as long as she looked so forlorn. He felt he was intruding on her solitude, and was about to walk away, when she looked up and saw him. She quickly averted her eyes.
The sounds of his boots on the graveled path were secondary to the sound of the blood that rushed through his ears. He wanted to run to her, hold her, and kiss her sweet lips fervently. He was transported to the day before, when he held her in delight, and now they were once again strangers. He found that hard to abide. He wanted to shout, “REMEMBER ME!”
He continued his approach and he thought she continued her indifference. She looked beautiful as always. At least he still had his memory, so even when he parted from her, he could see her beauty. He took in the sight of her long neck, her ample bosom, her red cheeks, her long curls, hanging partly down, her lips, parted and wet, and her eyes, deep, full of expression, and at the moment, staring right in to his.
He walked deeper into the garden, and watched as she walked up the path between the rose bushes, looking more herself, but incredibly sad. Her hands were clenched together, and her eyes, which were once upon his, were now downcast. Her lashes fell upon her cheeks until she heard him approach, when she once again looked up to his face, the rise of her bosom apparent with the intake and release of rapid breaths.
The morning air was crisp, due to the rain the day before, and there was a cool nip to the breeze. The breeze caught her long curls, which hung around her head, falling from their crown on top, and she reached up to capture one long tendril, and tucked it behind her ear. She once again held his gaze. He wondered, what did she see?
He slowed his strides until they were together on the path. He said, “Your cousin said you are not fairing any better today than yesterday, Miss. I am sorry for your loss, and for your pain.”
She curtseyed and said, “Thank you, your lordship. My apologies, but I do not recall your name. I have met so many kind people today.”
There was no denying the truth: he loved her more today than the day before, and she did not even remember his name! It was, as he feared. Was it all for naught? Would she ever remember? Could he start from scratch? Could he contain himself with simple stares, simple touches, when he felt they had already surpassed that? He remembered with great delight the feel of her bare skin against his fingertips. Just yesterday, she brought his palm to her mouth and kissed it, as if it was his lips! It was something he would give all his possessions, just to feel again.
His heart faltered when she said, “My cousin told me just this day he was to be married. I wonder what will become of me.” He wanted to hold her and tell her not to worry once more about that. He could not.
“I wasn’t aware your cousin’s marriage was a set arrangement,” Draco said honestly. “I thought he and his intended were to give it some time.” Hermione began to walk back toward the middle of the garden, so he followed.
“He said that after what happened to me, he knows that life is precious, and not to be wasted,” she said.
Truer words, Lord Malfoy thought. Truer words were never said.
She stopped walking and tilted her head, to regard him. “Are you betrothed?”
He laughed. If only she knew. “No, I am not, nor I doubt that anyone would have me,” he said.
She laughed and said, “Are you a cad?”
“If I said yes, would you hold it against me?” he joked.
“No, I would not.” She sat on a stone bench that was at a meeting point of two paths, one that ran north and south, and one east and west. There was another bench across from the first. He sat upon it, and looked upon her face. Their eyes met and he found he could not pull away, nor will his breathing to quiet, or his heart to stop its loud symphony. She held so many questions behind those beautiful, brown eyes. He ached to answer them for her. He ached to tell her it would all be fine. Nevertheless, no words would form on his lips. Therefore, he just stared.
“Mr. Lupin tells me that he and you were tutoring me,” she said. “I always loved learning. Tell me what you were teaching me.”
“Apparition and you were quite good. You mastered it your very first time,” he revealed.
“I always wanted to learn to Apparate,” she said with a small smile.
“You do not need to learn, for you already know,” he answered. If he continued with such formal exchanges with her, his heart would surely burst. His arms ached, an actual, but unnatural, ache, to hold her. An ache to hold her and never let her go. He found that she was smiling at him when he returned his attention to her. He tried to gain his senses, to return the smile, and it turned out wrong.
He stood up and said, “This will not do!”
She stood as well. “Excuse me, Sir? Did I do or say something to offend?”
He wanted to turn to her and smile, and exchange pleasantries, but more than that, he wanted resolution! He wanted the end to his torment! He wanted to turn to her and say, ‘you and I were in love! I am sorry if that shocks you, but it is true. I do not just speak of my own heart, but of yours!’ He could not utter a word, for if he tried, those would be the exact words that would escape, and he would scare her away forever!
She kept his stare, and he said, “I am sorry for my outburst. You said nothing offensive. I am saddened by the loss of your memory that is all. Yes, it is true, and you may not remember, and remembering might cause you pain, but there you have it. Sometimes a person must feel pain to feel alive! The truth must be spoken. I cannot hide my feelings, nor do I want to hide them.”
“Then do not, Sir. Tell me the truth. At least, tell me one truth. I ache for the truth,” she pleaded. “I do not even know you,” she said, suddenly afraid. She stood from the bench and backed away. “I am sorry.”
He stayed rooted to the spot, but said, “Do not fear. I spoke out of turn. I should have let you remember these things on your own.”
She stepped back again, and said, “Were we intended?”
He wondered what made her ask that. “No,” he answered truthfully.
“Were we more than friends?” she asked hesitantly, with downcast eyes.
“Not in so many words,” he said.
“So we were not to marry?” she asked.
Those words cut him deep, to the bone, until he felt openly wounded, and exposed. They were not to marry, because he was not free to marry! He could not say, ‘I love and desire you!’ when the next sentence could not be, ‘and I want to make you my wife’. Perhaps it was best that she not remember. It would hurt her less.
He finally said, “No, we were not to marry, I was set to marry another.”
“Then I do not understand, and I think that I do not want to, Please, do not say anything else which might cause us both pain and regret. You must know, I no longer remember, and I have no idea how I felt about anyone or anything!” She seemed as desperate as he felt. She finally said, “Perhaps it is best that I don’t remember you. I feel like I might have cared for you, but apparently, if we were not intended, and you say we were not more than friends, and you were engaged to another, perhaps my feelings were one sided. I feel nothing but embarrassment at my current words and actions. Forgive me, milord. I beg my leave!” She ran down the path, but stopped.
He could see she was crying, by the heaving of her shoulders. It would have hurt less if someone had taken a sword and cut out his heart. He wanted to tell her what they were to each other, but he knew not how to express it in words, for words were insufficient. He loved her, yet he had made her no promises. He loved her, yet he could hardly stake his claim. He felt alone and lost, in a sea of uncertainty.
She turned back to face him. He bowed at the waist and said, “I shall cause you no more grief, madam. Know that I never intended to cause you discomfort. I can scarcely tell you what we were, when I hardly know myself. Perhaps what I thought was a mistake. It would serve you better if you never remember me, and maintain your indifference. I bid you farewell.” He bowed once more and stormed down the path, his right hand beating his left one with a closed fist.
“Lord Malfoy!” she called after him.
“I am sorry.”
“No, don’t be,” he said. “You merely asked a question, of which I have no answer. The fault lies with me, not you.” He turned again, when she called out once more.
He took two deep breaths before he gained the courage to turn around. He could feel her eyes upon him. He heard her footsteps, as she walked closer to him on the path. She was directly behind him.
“Sir, beg my pardon. I do not wish to cause you pain. Perhaps I will remember in time,” she pledged. He felt her small hand on his forearm. The fleeting gesture, for it was fleeting, there one minute, gone the next, sent a storm into his brain. He turned around to face her. She said, “I do not wish to feel indifference toward you, because I know deep in my heart, indifference is not what I felt before.”
He tried to smile, but it came out false. “Let us start anew, and let a new friendship bond us,” he said. The pained expression he was sure he carried was erased when a look of delight crossed hers.
“I agree that we might become friends. Perhaps you can give me another lesson,” she said.
“Apparition or Comportment?” he asked with a wirily smile.
She smiled as well and said, “Sir, I believe you do know me.”
His eyes could not leave hers. His thoughts once again were in turmoil, but he took her hand, and brought it gently to his mouth. He kissed the warm skin of her hand. Once again, he would be content with that. He said, “Yes, Miss, I do know you, as well as I know my own heart.”
He let go of her hand, and she looked at it. He wondered what she thought she saw. The image of her now, and the image of her, almost at his mercy yesterday in the gazebo, dwelled in his mind, swirling around until it was a mumbled mess, and he could not decipher one thought from another. What was real, and what was not? What happened before, and what was yet to happen?
He reached out, no longer caring about the consequences, and tucked another stray curl behind her ear. “I shall see you again, Miss, that I promise.”
He bowed to her and turned to walk away, glancing back only once, to gaze upon her perfect loveliness. He would not trifle with her memories and feelings yet. He made her fall in love with him once, and rather fast at that. He could do it again, after all, he was Draco Malfoy, and she seemed less hesitant than the first time she fell in love with him. She seemed opened and approachable, and accepting of his attentions. She was not beneath his touch, nor was he above hers. This time, no one would get hurt. No one would touch her. He looked back for the last time, and there she stood again, his constant. He would not waver, and he had a feeling neither would she.