Chapter 29 – Naiveté and Humility:
Hermione removed her hand from Draco's face and said, “A lesson in love shall be our goal this day.” She walked around him and the look on his face combined his usual smirk with another look that denoted his amusement.
She removed her lace gloves, for they served no purpose, and threw them on the ground with her previously admired hat. She took the rest of her hairpins out of her hair, and her soft brown tresses fell in waves upon her shoulders.
He was mesmerized. He was also confounded. What did her lovely, long, bare arms and her mass of curls hanging down her back have to do with a lesson on love? If this were a lesson on desire, he would understand. Hats and hairpins meant nothing when she herself embodied love at its purest form. He removed his hat (which had fallen off earlier when he toppled to the ground, and he had since replaced), and his white leather gloves, then placed them gently on the ground next to her things.
He stood back up and cocked one eyebrow and actually said, “We match in our states of undress, now continue with the lesson.”
She grinned and said, “I felt encumbered, that was all, Sir.” She bent down and picked up a long blade of grass, stood two strides from him, and with an animated look upon her lovely face she said, “Love is the most important lesson to learn in the world. Without love, a child cannot flourish, for unlike a blade of grass, a child needs more than sunshine and rain, or mere nourishment to grow. He needs love.”
“But, Miss,” he interrupted, “the nourishment of love alone cannot sustain a man. He needs other things. He needs clothes on his back, food in his belly, and money in his pocket.”
“No one really needs money. They want money,” she chastised, pointing her finger at him.
“I beg to differ; a man needs money to buy food for his belly and the roof over his head. He cannot live without these things. He can live without love,” he confided. “Money can even buy love, in some forms, for that matter.”
“It can only purchase a shadow of love, not love itself,” she countered.
“You are wrong.” He smiled. She was right and he knew it.
“You are more wrong than I,” she leveled with a grin. She knew he knew it.
“A man can live a life without love, but he cannot live without other things,” he said to provoke her.
“But what sort of life is that?” she asked.
“A sad, unfulfilled life, but a life nonetheless,” he said, suddenly serious. He would give up those things for love. He did not think he would, but he now knew that to be true. He glared at her and begged her to continue by his stare.
“Is love so unimportant that a man would pick riches over its pleasure?” she asked.
He felt she was accusing him somehow. “Is this meant to be a debate or a lesson?” He strode toward her and she stepped backwards to maintain her distance. Soon, he had her back pressed against the same magnificent oak tree as before.
“Fine, I will not argue the point that a man needs other things as well as love, but love is the most important. Love is the reason for the person’s life in the first place. An act of love leads to an act of marriage, which leads to an act of passion, which leads to a life being born,” she explained.
He was so close that she felt his breath on her face when he stated, “You are either naïve or ignorant to the facts of life. A person needs neither love nor marriage to produce a child. The only need the passion.”
“I am neither naïve nor ignorant and I assure you, I am aware of the fact that passion can lead to a child, with or without love,” she said steadily. She was referring to herself, since she was apparently produced out of wedlock.
“Shall we have a lesson on passion next? I am an expert on the subject,” he said with a smile. He reached for a long tendril of her hair and pulled his hand down its entire length. When he let it go, it landed on her breast. He stared at it intently.
She pushed on his chest with her hands and moved away from him. She turned back around and said, “Love is more than an emotion. It is more than passion and desire. It is an all consuming entity in its own right.”
She circled around him, so that he was forced to turn to continue to stare at her. She stepped forward, her hand still on his chest, and pushed him so that his back was pressed against the tree, as hers was before, which surprised him. He could not help but smile down at her. He reached over and smoothed the same piece of hair that had been consuming him since he first touched it. He pulled on it again, his fingers skimming the bare skin of her chest as he lifted it. He wanted to touch more than her hair, but he kept his passion in check since this was a lesson on love and not desire.
He smoothed down the hair and said, “Continue.”
“Love is a thought,” she said, touching the side of his head, her fingers threading through his hair. She had often wondered how soft it was. “Love is a tangible feeling,” she continued, taking his hand in hers and holding it. “And as stated before, love is an emotion, displayed many ways.” She brought his hand to her mouth and kissed the side near his thumb. She released his hand and said. “You portray your love through your eyes, your smile and your breathing.”
Both hands went to his brown waistcoat and she fingered the upright lapel. She placed her forehead against his chest, and as his chest continued to rise and fall with each breath he took, so her head moved gently as well with each breath he took.
“Look up at me, please,” he urged. His hands went around her waist and she peered up at him.
“Your eyes are the eyes of a woman who loves me. They betray you so clearly. I know it is true. I know my eyes tell the same story. I do love you. I hope you understand how much. I have never loved a woman before. You are the first.” He kissed the side of her head and felt contentment just to hold her in his arms.
He finally asked, “Has your cousin found the time yet to tell you why Mr. Lupin Obliviated you?” She pulled away from him and walked across the field of heather, beyond a field of gold. He ruined the moment. It was not his intention, but it happened all the same.
He watched her walk away. He looked back to the horses; he made sure they were well secured with his wand, and then followed her.
She found a weathered old fence and leaned against it. It was in the way of her walk and she felt tired anyway. He did not need the rest, so he did not lean beside her, but stood in front. “You should tell me what you know,” she finally said.
“I will tell you some,” he said. “My godfather apparently told Mr. Lupin a lie. He said he revealed something to you, which he did not. He found out from Mr. Flint that Zabini was holding you, so Lupin went to the little house where you were bound on the floor. Lupin said it was apparent Zabini used the Cruciatus curse on you. He was also afraid that Snape had revealed secrets to you, therefore he Obliviated your memory to take away the memory of the curse, and the story he thought Snape had revealed to you.”
She looked confused. She said, “That’s not entirely true. I remember being cursed with the Crucio again right before I was Obliviated. It was from the same hand. He did both,”
“You must be wrong,” Draco insisted.
“I am not, and please stop assuming that,” she said in anger. “I remember someone walked back in the room. The person knelt down beside me and pulled me into a sitting position, and then they cast the same spell that was cast upon me earlier, and I felt incredible pain. I recall that I screamed. When the pain subsided, he pulled off my blindfold and I saw Mr. Lupin, who said these words exactly, ‘Lord Potter has just discovered you are missing, and by now, so has Lord Malfoy. We do not have much time. Think of him one last time, before he ceases to exist for you,’ and he stood me up and pointed his wand at me and Obliviated my memory.”
The recollection of her memory seemed so detailed, so complete, that he could hardly refute it, but why would Remus Lupin Crucio her before wiping her memory? Draco took her by both shoulders and shook her. He implored, “Think hard. You were still blindfolded when the curse hit you again. Was it Lupin?”
“I do not recall another in the room,” she said reflectively.
“How was his demeanor? Did he speak with malice, or in that even temperament of his?” Draco asked.
She closed her eyes, to help her remember. She opened them again quickly as a new memory flashed to her mind. She said, “I recall thinking that the way the person walked across the floor boards, with such a heavy walk, that it was a man.” She shut her eyes again and then opened them suddenly! “I recall something else!” She looked shocked at her silent discovery. She placed her hands in front of her body, the way she did at the church the day she was kidnapped, when she first recalled who she was and why she was there. She stepped away from him and he held out his hand to her.
“Are you afraid of me?” he suddenly asked, reaching for her.
“No,” she said.
“Then why are you so guarded? Why back away?” he asked. She was stepping back carefully so as not to trip and fall. He kept his right hand out to her, to beckon her to stay. “What else do you recall?”
“When Lupin walked in the room, I now remember there was another already in the room with me. He was lowering his wand when Lupin removed my blindfold. He stood beside Lupin. It wasn't Lupin who used the Crucio curse on me, because the other man had just cursed me mere seconds before Lupin Obliviated me.”
“If you remember that, then just tell me who it was!” Draco said desperately.
“It was Blaise Zabini,” she revealed. “But now, I recall that there was someone else in the room as well. He was there before Lupin entered. He was there with Zabini, which is why I only recalled hearing one set of footsteps when I was blindfolded, because this man was actually there before Lupin."
"Just as Zabini lifted the Crucio curse from me, this other man cursed him. I did not see it occur, I only heard it, but when Lupin lifted my blindfold, I saw the other man before Lupin removed my memories. It was Mr. Flint. I recall Mr. Zabini falling in a heap beside me as I sat on the floor right before I was Obliviated. He fell silent from the effects of the curse.” She did not seem upset at her memory; instead, she seemed to be concentrating, trying to remember more.
He took her arms in his hands, rather roughly, and said, “Are you sure? You must be sure!”
“I am sure!” she yelled back. She broke from his grasp and said, “I recall something else. After I was Obliviated, I started to collapse, but Mr. Lupin caught me and laid me gently upon the floor. I remember that he stroked my hair and he said that all would be well. He turned to Marcus Flint and said, ‘Why did you kill Blaise Zabini? Now we may never know why he took her,’ and Marcus said, ‘I killed him and that is enough explanation. You do not need to know everything, Wolf.’ Then, Mr. Lupin said one more word, ‘Why?’ and Flint said, ‘You know why, old man. Take her out of here before I change my mind’, and Mr. Lupin bent down, picked me up, and Disapparated with me.”
“I recall him placing me on my feet on the road that led to the village. He kissed my forehead and said that he was sorry. He said he did a terrible job of protecting me. He told me to walk straight toward the village and if I found someone, I was to tell them to take me to Lord Harry Potter.” She did not seem upset by her rash of new memories, but relieved.
“Does that mean Zabini is dead?” he asked.
“Yes, and if he died, then we may never know why he kidnapped me,” she answered. “It cannot be merely the fact that he found out from Snape that I am James Potter’s daughter,” she concluded. “It cannot be only because he feared we would marry.”
Draco took a step back, aghast. His mouth was in a firm line. He said, “Where did you get that idea? Why would you say that about James Potter?”
She was disappointed in herself! She did not mean to reveal the fact that she knew the secret yet. All the memories were just rushing toward her, and those words just came out. “I overheard Mr. Lupin say that to you and Harry in the upstairs lounge last night.”
He did not know what to do or say. She heard the wrong thing! She believed the wrong secret! Should he let her continue to think that? He said, “Miss, what you heard was the lie that Lupin told everyone at the time! You are not James Potter’s daughter.”
“But it makes sense,” she insisted.
“No, it does not. He revealed the truth to Harry and me that night, but the lie that you are James Potter’s daughter was merely a lie perpetuated by Lupin to manipulate my godfather and Harry’s godfather. I am so sorry, but Potter was not your father.”
She looked as if she was about to cry. He moved his hand toward her, and she backed away again. “Then what is the truth?”
“The truth is too complicated to repeat and you are not safe at the moment, so I shall not tell you the truth. I do not even know the whole truth. I think we need to get back to the Manor. I need to tell Theo and Harry of your memory of Marcus. I don’t know why Lupin never told anyone.”
He motioned for her to come to him with his hand, yet she lingered. He said, “We shall Apparate back to the Manor, and I will have a groom come and collect my carriage and the bays. Please, take my hand.” He smiled at her, to gain her trust. “Besides, we did not finish our lesson. I also have a lesson I would like to teach you later, and a present for you. Please, let us go home.” He needed to distract her from her troubles.
“I no longer have a home,” she said meekly.
“Home is a subjective word,” he replied.
He stepped closer, her hand in front of her be damned, for it served no real purpose. It could not stop him from approaching her if he did not want it to stop him. “Home is here,” and he pointed to her head, “And here,” he pointed to his own. “If you would finish your lesson on love to me, perhaps I would also be able to say that it is here,” he pointed to his heart, “and here.” He ended by pointing to her heart.
He stepped closer, and this time she did not back away. He placed the tip of his finger above the neckline of her dress, touching her chest lightly. She felt heaviness in her chest, even though his touch was feather soft and did not linger.
She placed her hand on his face just as she had at the start of their lesson. The feel of his face under her hand made her want to cry, not from sadness, but from pure, unbridled bliss. She wanted to show him how very much she loved and trusted him. Hermione removed her hand from his face and stared into his slate grey eyes. She took a breath to steady herself and she said, “How do I begin to tell you the things my heart feels? My heart is at this very moment overflowing with emotions for you.”
Back at the fair, the other members of their party were all leaving. Ginny Weasley told her brother Ron that she would see herself home. He felt badly for her. He wanted her and Lord Potter to commit to each other, but he knew that her selfishness might have permanently cost them their love, and it was a price she would have to pay. She had confided everything to him, and while he thought it was admirable that she was looking after her family, her brother George’s problems were not hers to solve. Furthermore, if Miss Granger did turn out to the Harry’s sister, it would soon become known anyway. Ginny should not have interfered, no matter what. The only thing she did not tell Ron was who her blackmailer was.
She started down the lane, to find a secure spot to Disapparate, when a man approached. He jumped from the shadows. “Miss Weasley.”
“Lord Potter, I thought you were someone else,” she said. She thought it was her blackmailer. She had worked all day to avoid him.
“Who did you expect?” he asked.
In truth, it was not that she expected anyone. She feared someone. She looked down and said, “You and Lady Pansy seemed very happy together today. Has she replaced me in your heart?”
“I will not be made to feel guilty for not forgiving you,” he said with a frown.
“I do not want you to feel guilty,” she said. “I did a wrong deed and I will face the outcome of my indiscretions.”
“Why did you seek to hurt Hermione? What did she ever do to you?” he asked.
She started to cry. She told him everything. Just as the old hag told her, she cleansed her soul and laid it bare at his feet. She told him that George had many gambling debts, and that he skimmed some profits from his business that did not belong to him to repay the debts. She told Harry that to save George from prosecution, a man asked her to do him a service. She said that man was Blaise Zabini.
He was the one to whom her brother owed the debt. Zabini told her that Snape told Miss Clearwater that Hermione Granger was the daughter of James Potter and Andromeda Tonks. Mr. Snape was afraid Lord Malfoy would marry Miss Granger if he found out that she was now a pureblood. That is why Miss Clearwater and Mr. Zabini decided to kidnap Hermione.
She confessed that in the beginning, she was supposed to make sure to drive a wedge between Hermione and Harry, and Draco and Hermione, and try to convince Hermione to leave Godric’s Hollow. That was her intent the night of the Ball. That did not happen.
Next she was to make sure Hermione was left alone with Professor Snape, but only with the intention that he was going to convince her to leave Godric’s Hollow. She said she was the one who paid off the downstairs maid that day, so that Snape had time alone with Hermione. She said she did not know anyone would kidnap Hermione. She swore that to Harry.
She told Harry that Zabini was dead, killed by the same person who killed Harry’s maid. While Ginny was dismayed by their deaths, she thought the blackmail was over. She thought she was free. She had no more reason to try to sabotage Hermione, or so she thought. She started to cry and Harry begged her to continue.
“Another man took up Zabini’s cause. He was the one that killed Zabini and the girl. He said he was the one who held the proof of George’s recklessness, and that Zabini never did. He said that I had a new goal. He said I needed to make sure Hermione and Lord Malfoy fell in love. It was such a turn of events. Zabini wanted them apart; this new man wanted them together. However, I was afraid. I admit that I was more afraid of this new man than I was of Zabini, but still I thought I could act in my own self-interest. I tried to convince Hermione that she and Lord Malfoy meant nothing to each other. I thought she did not remember anyway, so I didn’t see the harm.”
“Why, Ginny? Why would you do that to her?” he asked.
“Because Blaise Zabini told me that she was your elder sister. He said that she was the daughter of James Potter. I wanted her to leave, because I thought she would take your inheritance from you, since Magical law dictates the eldest sibling, regardless of gender, inherit the home, title and land.”
“You should have come to me in the beginning, exposed Zabini and this other man, and I would have taken care of everything. You are wrong about one thing; however, Hermione’s father is not my father.”
“But Snape said….” she started.
“Snape was lied to all those years ago. Lupin told us who her father was. It was not my father, and her mother was not Andromeda Tonks. Now, tell me who is blackmailing you. I will go to the head of the militia immediately and we will stop this,” Harry said.
Her tears continued. “I cannot. He will hurt my family. I cannot tell, and neither can you. Please, do not go to anyone, especially the Militia. Give me time to consider things.”
He took her in his arms and held her. “If you love me, you will trust me. You will tell me the truth.”
She looked up in his green eyes and said, “You start. Tell me one truth first. Who is her father?”
“Sirius Black,” Harry said.
A man in the shadows, who had followed Miss Weasley, heard their exchange and wanted to scream. Well, this changed things, did it not? He Disapparated away, followed moments later by Lord Potter and Miss Weasley.
Hermione closed her eyes and reached up for Draco’s face again with her delicate hand. She touched his lips and said, “My heart is opened and consumed with love for you. I can no longer deny what I feel.” She opened her eyes and the brightness of the noonday sun overwhelmed her senses, and she once again closed her eyes quickly and leaned her forehead to his chest. His hands came up to grasp her face. He stroked her hair from the top of her head to her shoulders, then placed his hand back to her face, forcing her to look at him once more. “I do not know how to continue our lesson. I feel too much right now,” she told him.
“You meant to teach me a lesson on love, and you had a wonderful start. Please, do not give up on me yet. I am very fast learner. Perhaps not as fast and competent as you were when you learned Apparition,” he said with a smile. He rubbed her cheeks with his thumbs. “But, I intend to have my lesson. You promised me a lesson.”
“I can no longer think, let alone teach,” she repeated in a voice that was barely above a whisper.
He brought his hands away from her face, to her slender neck, to her shoulders. His eyes landed on the sweet swell of breasts. Now he closed his eyes, to memorize this moment forever. With daring and bravado, which he did not even feel, he placed one hand on the exposed skin above the low-cut neckline of her dress. He could feel her heart beat. Her arms hung limply at her sides. He had to let her go, or betray them both, for her warm skin felt as if it was on fire under his touch. He stepped away from her quickly, and she fell, like a leaf, to the ground in a sitting position. It was both elegant and shocking. He was in awe and could not even move to help her to stand.
He took another step back and she continued to sit upon the ground, her left hand in front of her body, her right hand on her lap. He fell to his knees in front of her. “I demand you continue my lesson.”
Without further ado, she came to her knees, and threw both arms around his neck. The moved surprised them both, and he tumbled onto his back, bringing her on top of his body for the second time that day. She placed her head on his chest and began to cry.
He understood her tears. She was plagued beyond words with her love for him, but also at the recent turn of events. This was the best lesson he had ever received. She ventured a gaze into his eyes, and saw that he was as bewildered and besieged as she was. Overwhelmed with love for her, he rolled her to her back. He placed his forehead in the crook of her neck, and kissed her collarbone.
She brought both hands up to her face to cover it in shame. She began to take deep ragged breaths. He rolled onto his back beside her, inundated with the love he felt. If he continued to touch her, he would not be able to stop.
“This will not last, you know,” he said, sitting up so that he was facing away from her. He rubbed his hands through his hair in frustration. He meant so much with that statement. He felt her hand on his back. She sat up beside him, and leaned her lithesome, supple frame against his strong one. Her cheek came to rest below his shoulder. He clutched both his hands together in his lap. “It will work out.” He did not know if he was trying to convince her or himself. The words merely needed said.
“You are a fast learner,” she finally said, coming up to her knees.
He glanced over his shoulder at her and laughed. “And you are an odd woman, Miss.”
“So I have been told,” she said, “and so I know.” He stood up, without pretense, bent down, and lifted her to stand as well.
“What an interesting lesson,” he finished. “You said practically nothing, yet you brought me to my knees. I think you are indeed very fond of me, as you stated earlier. I no longer even feel as arrogant as before. You taught me love and humility, curse you.”
She laughed at his sarcasm. “You will have to teach me something now,” she said.
It took every ounce of her resolve to walk away from him. Little did she know that when her back was turned to him, he reached out for her. Good thing for her she was quick, for if he caught her, he would be forced to teach her a lesson in impropriety. He would have to kiss her long and hard and with passion. Passion would be their lesson, and desire their goal.
“I should teach you to produce a Patronus Charm,” he said suddenly. He felt ill at ease and was not sure why. Once again, just as last night, he felt as if someone was watching them. He needed to get her back to the protection of the Manor and now.
She turned to face him. “I read about that, I even tried it on my own, but I could produce nothing but a small wisp of white smoke.”
“You need me as a teacher, then,” he said with a cocky smile. “You also need the happiest of memories, which perhaps before you did not have. After today’s lesson, I would gather that you would have a few.”
She smiled. He was right. She could consider any number of moments from today as her happiest memories. She stepped to him and said, “Tomorrow we shall have another lesson. You will teach me the Patronus Charm and I will teach you something else as well. Agreed?”
He eyed her with a fake dubiousness, and held out his hand. “We will shake on the matter.”
She put her hand in his. He Disapparated them to the same hillside right outside the Manor.
She took her hand from his and said, “You should never Apparate a lady somewhere without her expressed permission, Sir.”
“I will remember that in the future.” He smiled. “Was that another lesson?”
“It was,” she said. “What of our things, my hat and gloves?” she asked.
“The groom can pick them up with the horses. Believe me, I like that little hat, and I would be as distressed as you if you lost it.” He would be twice as distressed if he lost her. “The day is still upon us, let us have some lunch, and we will start our lesson immediately after.” He held out his hand to her and without hesitation, she set her hand in his.
They learned love this day, she learned he was not only arrogant, but he also had humility, so she did not care who saw them holding hands. He learned she was not as naïve and ignorant to the ways of love as he thought, and frankly, he was tired of hiding his feelings for her. Let the world see and rejoice in their love, and if the world held them in disdain, then the world could go to hell.