Chapter 23 – Peace and Understanding:
Walking around the massive house called Potter’s Hall, Hermione Granger had a purpose and a mission: she wanted to remember! The last few days had been frustrating. No one seemed to want to tell her anything and everyone walked around her as if on eggshells. They were treating her like a fragile, breakable figurine, and she was anything but.
She could not help but think that there was more than friendship between her and Lord Malfoy. When she looked at him, her heart skipped a beat. He was handsome, one did not need to regain one’s memory to make that observation, but it was more than just the physical. She thought, or rather she felt, she might love him.
If that was the case, why would he not tell her so?
She sat in the front drawing room on the settee and did nothing but think. She had to remember. She felt an urgency to remember. Miss Weasley walked into the room. Her cousin had introduced her to the young lady a couple of days before. For some reason, Hermione did not like her. She seemed treacherous.
“May I impede on your solitude?” Miss Weasley asked.
“By all means,” Hermione said sweetly, although she felt quite the opposite. “To what do I owe this visit?”
“Your cousin is just so worried for you, he asked me to make sure you were well,” Ginny said.
“You may report back to him that I am quite well,” Hermione said back.
“It is hard not to remember, am I correct?” asked Ginny.
Hermione said, “That would be true, and likewise, it is hard that no one will help me remember. I remember most things about my life, but almost nothing about Godric’s Hollow.”
“I will fill in the gaps, if you would allow,” Ginny volunteered.
Hermione sat upright, full of excitement. “Why do I feel a connection with Lord Malfoy?” she asked.
“Oh, well Harry asked us not to talk with you about that subject,” Ginny began, “but you are an adult, and you deserve answers. You had feelings for the man, but they were unreciprocated feelings, I am afraid. He was intended for another, and you made things very difficult. So difficult that his intended broke the engagement, even though he did not return your feelings. In fact, he made it very clear to you that he did not do so.”
Hermione may not remember things, but she knew what type of person she was, and that was a statement that she simply did not believe! “That’s insupportable! Whatever do you mean?”
“The Lordship was kind to you, danced with you at my engagement ball, was kind enough to help Mr. Lupin tutor you, always a perfect gentleman, but you misread his intentions. You became infatuated with him. The day you went missing, you heard he had broken his engagement, so you threw yourself at the gentleman. He politely refused you, and after that, we do not know what happened, for it brings us to the present.”
Hermione felt the girl was lying. Before she could say as much, Ginny continued, “To save his own face, and to save you any embarrassment, Lord Potter has asked Lord Malfoy not to tell anyone these things, or else people will think lowly of you, and believe you to be a fallen woman. You will not marry well, or find a suitable arrangement if all the facts become known. Even I was sworn to secrecy, but I want you to know the truth.”
Hermione stood up and looked out at the grey morning. This could not be true. Nevertheless, when she last met with the man in question, he did act noncommittal. He seemed pained by her presence, to the point that he even had an outburst when he yelled, “This will not do!”
The younger woman came up to Hermione and said, “I wish to put your mind at ease, Miss Granger. After Lord Potter and I marry, we will help you find employment, or else a husband, so do not worry on those accounts.”
Hermione spun around quickly. “My cousin told me just yesterday that this was my home, and when he married, I was to stay.”
“My dear, he knows you are fragile right now, and he feels guilty about your accident,” the other woman started, “but it was always the plan that you would leave when we married, you merely do not recall it. Goodness, now, Harry will be cross with me for revealing too much to you.”
Hermione felt the floor give out underneath her feet. None of this made sense, but what would be the young lady’s purpose in lying? She put her hand on Hermione’s arm and said, “My own brother Fred, whom you re-met two days ago, asked for your hand at one time, but your one-sided feelings for Lord Malfoy made you convince your cousin to turn him down. Also, I know that Lord Malfoy’s godfather sought you employment at his school. See, you have options, all is not lost.”
“Why would Harry bring me here only to send me away again?” Hermione asked.
“Oh, my dear, poor girl, you are so confused, for he did not bring you. You took it upon yourself to come, and he could hardly refuse his own cousin, his only relative, when she showed up uninvited at his door, could he?” Ginny lied with a small smile. “Buck up my dear, you will find a solution, I know you shall.”
Ginny started to leave but Hermione called out, “Miss Weasley, one more thing, if I may?”
Ginny turned around and said, “Yes?”
“Why did Mr. Malfoy break his engagement to another?” she asked.
“I would have no idea, but I would not be surprised if it is not reinstated. You see, they are both purebloods, and so it would be a fortunate match. In Godric’s Hollow, a pureblood simply does not marry one of lower birth or station. It is just not done,” Miss Weasley said with an unfaltering smile.
Hermione felt indignant, so she said, “Then I find I must ask you a second question, if I may."
"But of course," Ginny replied, smiling.
Hermione took in a deep breath. "Why are you lowering yourself to marry my cousin, since you are a pureblood and he is only a half blood?”
Ginny laughed, what Hermione knew to be a forced laugh, and said, “It is different with him, is it not? He is a viscount. His father’s family comes from one of the longest pureblood lines in Great Britain. He vanquished the Dark Lord. He cannot be held responsible for the misfortune of his mother’s birth, or that of yours.” The girl smiled again.
Hermione felt her blood boil. She felt forced to ask, "If all you say is true, of people marrying those of equal birth, blood and station, then I wonder why Harry would lower himself to marry you, seeing as your station is so far below his?" She raised one eyebrow as the yonger woman's face turned red with anger. However, Ginny didn't reply. Instead, she turned on her heels and walked out of the room.
Hermione looked at the door long after she left and thought two things. The girl was lying, and Lord Mafloy did return her feelings! She knew he did, the stupid girl!
A few days later, Hermione sat alone in the music room at Potter’s Hall by the small pianoforte, feeling every bit as sad and blue as she had the days prior. She hit a key, the sound of the ‘G’ resonated around the room. She put her whole hand on the ivories, black and white, and played a ‘C’ chord. She took a deep breath, and placed her other hand there as well. She began a sad, melodic, song. She did not even know what it was called, or who wrote it, or how she remembered it. That was the way things had been for the past week. She would remember things sporadically, recalling some things from the past, and not others. She had no idea how far back her memory went.
She continued to play, unaware that she had a silent visitor, who was already in the room when she entered. Remus Lupin sat in a Queen Anne chair, and he closed his eyes to savor the rich tones of the song she produced. When she was done, he applauded. She stood up suddenly.
“I’m sorry,” he said, also standing. “I should have made you aware of my presence, but I did not want to ruin the moment. You play beautifully. That was Bach, was it not? Mass in B minor?”
“I really do not know, Sir,” she said. She bowed slightly and started to leave the room.
“Please, do not leave on my account. Stay and play some more. If you do not wish an audience, I shall take my leave. I have things to attend to, I should think,” he said politely.
He started to leave but she said, “Sir, what is your relationship to Harry?”
“He informed you that I was his father’s best friend, did he not?”
“He did, but I wonder if there was more,” she said.
“Such as?” he asked.
“I mean no unseemliness, Sir, nevertheless, you seem more like a father to him,” she revealed.
He smiled. “You once told me that you and Harry would be my proxy children, since I had no children of my own.”
“I did?” she asked. She sat down on the piano bench. “My father, Edward, was a kind and generous man. You remind me so much of him.”
He wanted to remind her that she had said as much before, but instead, he smiled and said, “Thank you, what a kind and generous compliment, to be compared to a kind and generous man. I shall cherish it always. Now, off to my studies. Please, continue your pursuits.”
He walked from the room, and she turned around and began to play another song. This one she recognized. It was the Brandenburg Concertos, also by Bach. It was her mother’s favourite. She played the entire piece, with tears in her eyes. When she finished, a flash of her mother lying in bed, and a physician pulling a sheet over her head, telling her and her stepfather that she had passed away, flashed through her mind.
She slammed the keyboard shut and stood up abruptly. She threw some sheet music across the room, and took a vase with flowers in it, picked it up, turned around, and threw it toward the door. It hit the doorframe and shattered to pieces. Flowers and water were strewn all around, mingled with broken glass. A very haggard looking Draco Malfoy was standing by the same doorframe, speechless, and slightly damp, from the spilled water.
“Was it something I said, Miss Granger?” he asked with a frown.
Instead of niceties, such as, “I beg your pardon, Lord Malfoy,” Hermione Granger barked out, “What do you want?”
"That is not very kind of you, my lady,"’ he said, “especially after I have gone to great lengths to procure these text for you, so we might have a lesson today. That, was what I wanted, Miss. Conversely, if you deem it necessary to break the furniture and throw vases, go at it, I will not protest. This is not my home. I will keep my head low, and my wand out, just in case, however.”
“I – well, I had a memory, an unpleasant one, and I overreacted, but I will not apologize. I had no intentions of hitting you with the vase,” she retorted. He was glad to see she had not forgotten her spit and vinegar. He took out his wand and cleaned up the mess.
He said, “Is a lesson amenable to you, or would you rather throw some more crystal? I am sure Lord Potter has some wine flutes we might toss.”
She smiled. He had not seen her smile in over ten days. He missed everything about her, but he did not realize that he missed her smile most of all, until he had gone so long without it. “I am fine now, Sir, you do not need to fear.”
She walked up to him and held out her hands. He could only assume she wanted the books. He handed them to her and she went to the large window seat at the bay window, and sat down. He sat next to her. She read the title aloud. “Numerology and Arthimancy, and Ancient Runes of Great Britain”. She put the Ancient Rune book down beside her and began to finger the other one, her finger stroking the spine, her hand opening the cover, and flipping through the pages.
She looked charming, engrossed in the book as she was. He wondered what it would be like to wake up to something so sweet every day. He wondered what it would be like to go to sleep beside something so sweet every night. Would anything be as sweet as that? He should not have such errant thoughts, but he could not escape them. Luckily, his sense of honour, and his need to keep his life unless Lord Potter killed him, kept his thoughts in bay, and likewise kept his thoughts from turning into actions.
She looked up from her reading and said, “Do we mean to have a lesson, or are you content to just stare at me all day?”
“I am content to stare at you all day,” he said seriously.
“Stare away,” she pressed, her nose still in the book. However, she could not concentrate on her reading with him staring at her. He did not seem like a man who found disfavour in her, as Miss Weasley suggested.
Her little statement of ‘stare away’ made him laugh, hard. She looked up at him as he laughed and then back at her book. She leaned toward him several times, to ask him what something meant, but before long, she was so engrossed in her reading that he wondered if she realized he was still there.
Finally, she yawned, which drew his attention to her once more. “Have you not been sleeping, Miss?” he asked.
“In truth, Sir, no I have not. I am plagued with worries,” she admitted.
He knew he should not ask, but conventions held no merit where they were concerned. “Tell me your troubles, my lady.”
“I wonder what is to become of me. My future, if you will. If I do not marry, I must make my own way in the world, but who would hire me, seeing as I can't remember? For what employment am I fit?”
“We actually have already had this discussion, several times actually, though you must not recall it,” he said with a sigh. He took the book from her slender fingers, and closed it. He fingered the spine for a moment and without looking into her face said, “Your cousin will provide for you.” He wanted to be the one to provide for her, but he could not tell her that. He would do things differently this time. He would not show her his feelings until he was free to make her his wife. His damn solicitor was being paid a mild fortune to uncover a way around his father’s illogical will, but until that time, he must not encourage her feelings.
“But when my cousin marries….” she started.
He put his hand up to hush her and repeated, “He will provide for you, I promise. You will still have a home here.”
“No, I will not,” she insisted. She stood up and paced the room. Should she confide in this man, this man she did not remember, who said they were not even really friends, although she begged to differ. Should she find in him a confidant, and tell her secrets to him? Miss Weasley said he was indifferent to her, but he did not seem indifferent to her.
She stared at him, minute after minute, until Lord Malfoy said, “Honestly, Miss Granger, tell me why do you worry?”
“I beg your pardon, Sir; I do not wish to speak out of place. Thank you for the lesson, and the books,” she said, turning to leave, having decided NOT to reveal her discussion with Miss Weasley with him.
Apparently, he was being dismissed. She started to walk away from him, but was shocked when his bare hand touched her arm. He too, stood. She looked down at his arm, and then up in his face.
“What worries you?” he reiterated.
He asked, so she would comply. She said, “May we take a walk-about through the estate grounds? I would feel better discussing such things to you away from others.”
Draco did not see any others around, but a walk with her would be glorious, so he agreed.
Hermione put a light shawl around her shoulders, but wore no hat. She was as improper as ever, and Draco loved her for it. She did not even place gloves on her hands, and a lady should never go in public without gloves. As they walked out the front doors to the grounds, Draco placed his gloves in his pocket. He would rather be able to touch her skin at his leisure, and not worry about the impediment of gloves, since she did not worry about them.
They started their walk and at first, Hermione was perfectly content just to walk. No words went between them. Draco thought this was to be a ‘walk and talk’, but this was nice as well.
She stumbled over a rabbit hole, and he reached out his hand to steady her. He laughed and said, “Perhaps you should take my arm, to ensure you do not turn your ankle, or hit your head. There are a host of troubles that could befall someone like you.”
She put her hand on his arm, but then moved it so her arm was linked in his. He placed his free hand gently on her arm, the feel of her skin as sweet as it was the last time he touched her.
“So, is this to be just an amiable walk about, or shall we talk? We could discuss the weather,” he said.
“The sky is gray and the temperature chilly,” she said in response. He stopped walking and looked at her. Were they really to discuss the weather? She added, “Your eyes are gray as well.”
“Thank you for informing me, I was not aware,” he said with a smile. They resumed their walk.
“Your Lordship has a biting wit,” she returned. “Let us see, what else might we discuss? What is the proper topic for two people who are not as intimate as lovers are, but are apparently more than acquaintances? I know, have you read any good books lately?”
He laughed again. “I read a fascinating book on Numerology and Arthimancy, but I seem to have misplaced it.”
“I happen to have a copy you may borrow,” she said, teasingly. He turned his face to glare at her, and she smiled. “It is your turn to find an appropriate topic.”
“My turn?” he asked.
They walked by a large tree, with a large canopy of leaves, and he leaned against the trunk. She was forced to abandon his arm. She clasped her hands together. He bent down and picked up a stick and threw it across the grass. “I know no more proper topics,” he suddenly said, irritated. He pushed away from the tree and ambled on, under the impression she would follow. He looked back, and she had taken his abandoned spot against the large trunk of the tree. She leaned her shoulder against it, her back to him.
He walked around to face her and she said, “Why are you so easily irritated by me? We were not friends, were we? You find me an imposition, just as Miss Weasley stated.”
He put his hand under her chin and brought it up, so she was forced to look in his eyes. “You are under a false impression, one which I shall rectify right now. You are not an imposition, you are anything but, and we certainly are more than friends, but I cannot tell you more at the moment, because I myself do not know what else we are.”
She tried to walk away, but he grabbed her arm and pulled her back. She leaned her back against the tree and sighed. He placed his body directly in front of hers and said, “Pray tell me what the cunning Miss Weasley told you?”
“It is a secret,” she said. She turned her head to look over the landscape.
The sight of her profile gave him pause. He wanted her, not just for making love, but as his wife, although he definitely wanted to make love to her. He loved her too much to offer her one without the other. Was she so unaware of the way she was affecting him? Was she unaware of her influence? He would find out.
If he could sneak her off somewhere unnoticed, he could replay the kisses and caresses that they had already shared. He leaned forward, taking in her intoxicating scent. Her face turned to his suddenly and they stared in each other’s eyes. He brought her hand to his mouth, and gently kissed each finger separately before kissing the top of her hand. He leaned forward still more, and whispered in her ear, “A secret between two, such as we, is intolerable. Tell me your secret.”
She leaned her body slightly to the right, which caused him to place his left hand beside her head, in case she fell over. She said, “It is not my secret to tell. It is Miss Weasley’s.”
“To hell with Miss Weasley,” Draco barked. He let his nose skim her cheek, and without notice, to either of them, he let his lips linger beside her ear, and then kissed her ear gently. Her hands came up to his chest. He placed his other hand beside her head, trapping her.
Damn it all, he wanted to kiss her. So much for taking the high road, or a different course. “I have a secret, which I will reveal to you, and then you can reveal yours, agreed?” he asked in a mere whisper, directly in her ear.
She could not speak, because she could barely breathe. Her arms and legs tingled. She nodded her response.
Each word he spoke was barely above a whisper, and each syllable of each word was like kisses to her soul. He said, “My secret is that I completely and utterly adore you. No, that is not true. I love you,” he admitted. She turned her face to his. “I am sorry I did not tell you that before, but there you have it… that is my truth, my secret, such as it is.”
He brought his right hand to her cheek, and stroked it with his thumb. He leaned forward, and without any urging, he placed his lips softly upon the pillow of her mouth, and it was pure heaven. The kiss lasted no more than a few seconds, but she met it eagerly. Hermione grasped the collar of his jacket, and he leaned his face next to hers, and said, “I want you so much.”
Her mind was in turmoil, a storm brewed inside and would not rest. Her instincts about this man were right, which meant that Miss Weasley lied, but why? Her mind was still reeling from the shock of it all, her lips still on fire from his kiss.
She was happy for his body in front of hers, for it kept her from collapsing right at his feet. She wanted to throw herself in his arms, and beg him to kiss her again. He put his hand back on her cheek and said, “If one kiss could bring about such a blossoming of emotions, what does that say for me? For us? You must know I love you.”
“Do I love you in return?” she asked without guile.
He laughed and pushed away from the tree, her question making him as giddy as the kiss they had just shared, chaste though it was. He said, “Only you can answer that question, Miss.” He took her hand and pulled her from the tree so they might resume their walk. “Now, I shared my secret, and yet, no secret from you is forthcoming. Where is the justice? I demand justice!”
She smiled and said, “Miss Weasley said that my attentions to you were one sided, and an embarrassment to you and my cousin. She said that you were betrothed to another, and that I caused friction there, and your intended left because of me. She also said that Lord Potter only has me here as a sense of obligation and that I forced myself upon his good nature and that as soon as they marry, I am meant to leave Potter’s Hall, and even Godric’s Hollow.”
Her admission shocked him to his core. He was forced to stop walking. He was so angry he saw red. She could tell he was angry. She said, “Sir, I apologize. If there is any truth in her words, please, have the decency to tell me.”
He turned to her, and placed her hand over his heart, his hands over it. Holding it captive he said, “Even without a memory, look into my eyes, feel my heart beating, and tell me what you think might be the truth.”
The sounds of someone Apparating nearby caused Draco to release her hand. Remus Lupin stood beside the young lovers and said, “You must bring Hermione back up to the house. The young maid that was there the day she disappeared has just been found. She is dead.”