Chapter 32 – Longing:
When Draco arrived at Potter’s Hall the back wing of the large estate was fully engulfed in flames. The back wing was where, just weeks before, he stood under Hermione’s window on the night of the ball. It was now a window he could not even see due to the smoke and flames. Most of the residents of the village were already at the grand home, lending a hand. They were using a combination of magic and good, old-fashioned hard work to put out the flames. Draco started to run inside the house, but was stopped by Theo.
“You cannot go in there, Malfoy. Though the fire is contained to the back wing, it is still too dangerous. The place is too hot. All the staff and family have been evacuated. It is too dangerous to risk going in there now.”
“Everyone was evacuated?” Draco asked with urgency.
Theo did not know what to say. He shook his head and said, “Everyone we could evacuate, we did. I am sorry, friend. She was not one of the evacuees.”
Draco ran to Lupin and said, “Where is Miss Granger?”
“I do not know,” the man said wearily. He looked so much older than his years. He leaned against the side of the house and hung his head.
Draco took him by the collar and said, “Has anyone seen her?”
“I really do not know,” he answered.
Draco let him go and ran over to where he saw Harry sitting next to a tree, tears running down his face. He had his hands in his hair and soot and water all over his clothing. Draco grabbed him by the shoulders and stood him up. “Where is she?” he screamed.
“She did not get out,” Harry cried.
“You lie! You hate me and that is why you lie!” Draco shouted. “She must be helping the injured. She must be somewhere. Why do you lie to me?”
Harry pushed Draco back and said, “She’s dead! She did not get out!” Harry sat back down by the tree, defeated. Without looking up he said, “If only she had gone to the Manor tonight, none of this would have happened!”
Draco said, “Do not lay the blame at my feet, Potter! If she is dead, which I refuse to believe, then you killed her! You should have protected her! You told Ginny Weasley about Hermione’s parentage! Ginny Weasley, the girl who is waist high in guilt! Where is the bitter harpy? I would not be surprised if she was not responsible in some way! She knows where Hermione is! Hermione is not dead! Where is Ginny Weasley?”
Harry pointed toward another tree. Draco looked over and saw the dead body of Ginny Weasley, and all her relatives hovering over her, crying. Harry said, “She just died. They pulled her out only moments ago. Before she died, she said she started the fire in Hermione’s bedchamber. She said she was sorry. She said Hermione was dead. She said she did not get out, and that she died quickly.” Harry stood up and pointed toward Hermione’s bedroom. “She is there, in the smoke and fire!” He turned back to Malfoy and said, “SHE IS DEAD!” He pointed to Ginny and said, “And so is she. And so should I be. And so should you.” He sat back by the tree and cried.
Draco Malfoy sunk to the earth and screamed.
Morning came with a brilliant bright light. All that remained of the fire was an occasional puff of black smoke, and the awful smell of burnt embers and death. Theo stationed members of the Militia all around the mansion to make sure there would be no flare-up of the flames.
Lupin was nowhere to be found. The Weasleys took the body of their only daughter home with them. Harry was still under the same tree, but silent now. No more tears could come if he tried. Draco remained pacing back and forth. He had to get in that house and make sure for himself! He had to see if she was there. He still would not believe she was dead until he saw it himself.
Finally, Theo came out of the house. He said, “The room was mostly destroyed. It appears the fire started with the curtains. We saw no obvious body remains, but everything in the room and the surrounding rooms are nothing but ashes. There was no way someone could have survived that. I am so sorry, Draco.”
Theo walked over to Harry and said, “Lord Potter, Lady Pansy is here. She wants to help you. Will you let her see to the burns on your hands?”
Without a word, Harry nodded. Theo helped him to stand and Pansy took him over to a chair to tend to his wounds.
“Why would the Weasley girl try to kill Hermione?” Draco asked. He was in shock, but he still did not believe she was dead.
“Revenge for her lost engagement, or perhaps she was continuing the work she started for Zabini. We still need to find Flint. From what you and Harry told me, Flint killed Zabini. Flint was the one who blackmailed the Weasley girl. It all points to him, and when I sent men to find him, he was gone. His mistress, who was sister to the dead maid, claims she has not seen him in days. The strange thing is that, no one can find Lupin now, either. He disappeared just before dawn.” Theo patted Draco’s shoulder and walked away.
Draco looked up at the window of her bedroom, black and broken from the fire. He closed his eyes and concentrated. He knew two things, if he knew nothing else. One, she was alive, for he felt it in his heart. Two, she was in danger, but she would survive, because if she died, he would, too.
Hermione awoke and was aware of two things. One, she was no longer at Potter’s Hall. Two, Draco would find a way to find her, because she felt him as if he was as close as the next room. She was aware of little else. All she could think was ‘Please, not again. Let this be over, and not happen again!’
The last time she was in a similar predicament, she was in a great deal of pain. This time, only her head hurt. The blinding pain she felt from the Crucio was not present. She was not bound, nor was she blindfolded. She was not gagged and she was not on a cold hard floor, but a soft, warm bed.
She tried to sit up, but a man walked over to her, put his hand on her shoulder and said, “Lie back down. When Miss Weasley stunned you, you obtained a head injury. I am sorry. She forgot the cushioning charm, either on purpose, or not. You have a nasty gash on your head, which I tried to heal the best I could.”
“Why did you take me from my cousin’s home, Mr. Flint?” She had to admit, she was surprised to find her in his company. She was also surprised to find what appeared to be kindness in his words.
He pulled a chair next to the bed and said, “I am not prepared to answer all of your questions yet.” He stood up, poured some water in a tin cup, and walked over and placed it near her mouth. “Water,” he explained. She took a drink, and then was forced to lie back down, due to the pain in her head. “Ask me something else, and perhaps I can answer a different question,” he told her.
“That’s the one I want answered the most,” she said.
He laughed. “I can see what Lord Malfoy sees in you. You are as stubborn as he is. You would have made a good pair. If I had my way, you would have made a good pair, but now it is too late. I have things to attend to, and you will be alone here, but quite safe.” He put the chair back in the corner and said, “I left you some books to read on the table, next to the pitcher of water. There are fresh linens, soap, and water in the washbasin. There is a chamber pot under the bed. I left some food on the table, by the books. There are even clean clothes in the wardrobe. I think they will fit you. I am not sure. I think that covers everything. I will return tonight and we will figure out what we are to do with you.”
“Are you going to kill me?” she asked, sitting up again.
“If I was going to kill you, you would already be dead,” he said bluntly. “Now, lie back down. I won’t be gone long.”
“How long is not long?” she asked. She wanted to remain strong, so she would not cry in front of this man, however, a tear slipped down her cheek on its own.
“Please do not cry,” he said with a gentleness that surprised her. “I cannot answer that question at this time. You will be here until after your funeral, at least. It would be risky to move you too soon.”
She sat up with a start, her head spinning, and said, “You said you were not going to kill me!”
“I am not, but that does not mean that Lord Malfoy and Lord Potter do not assume you are dead. I heard from Lupin that Miss Weasley died as well. That is unfortunate, but she was a liability, who knew too much, so it is just as well.”
“She died?” Hermione asked, shocked.
“Yes, in the fire, along with you, at least, that is what is assumed,” he said.
“Did you kill Blaise Zabini?” she asked.
“Ah, so you have your memory completely back. Yes, I did kill him. I also got rid of Penelope, although I did not have to kill her. Threatening her seemed to work well.” He actually shrugged, and then, in an act that seemed too familiar, he sat at the end of her bed and said, “Do you have any other questions, which I may or may not answer, before I beg my leave?”
“Are you sure you are not going to kill me?” she asked.
He smiled and said, “I am a scoundrel and a cad. A miserable excuse for a human being. Unfortunately, I also seem to be a man of my word as well. I will not kill you. We will keep you here a while, and then Remus Lupin will come do the job he was supposed to do in the first place. He will Obliviate your memory so completely that you will forget all about Godric’s Hollow and its residents. He will take you away and tell you that you are his daughter. I think you will have a good life together. You can find happiness and even love again someday.”
“Second question, please,” she said, holding up one finger as she sat up in the bed. Before she asked her question, she placed a hand to her throbbing head. “Do you have a headache potion?” He nodded and stood to retrieve it, but she was quick to add, “That did not count as my second question, however.”
“Yes it did,” he smiled. He handed her an elixir.
She took a drink and placed it on the table next to the bed, and then she took another drink of water. “Why are you doing this?” she finally asked.
“Well, my lady, thanks to Remus Lupin, I have to clean up his mess. He was supposed to make sure you and Lord Malfoy had the chance to pursue your admiration for each other. It was a simple enough task, seeing that you already liked each other. Then, the Weasley girl was supposed to do the same, but she too missed the mark.”
“Also, Remus made the fatal mistake of telling Lord Potter and Lord Malfoy who your real father was. He had not even told me that, yet he told them. He had to see the chain of events his truthfulness would unfold. He had to know that they would not be able to keep the secret.
“I overhead Draco tell you the happy news of Sirius Black being your father in the garden the other night. Miss Weasley had informed me that Lord Potter told her. It is unfortunate, for it is hard to tell whom else she might have told. If you and Malfoy had just fallen in love in the first place, none of this would have happened.”
She wanted to tell this man that they were in love, but he did not need to know of their connection. “But Lord Malfoy would never have continued to pursue me if he thought he would lose his estate,” she said.
“Of course he would have. He was already hopelessly in love with you. You would not exactly have been poor, you know. Lord Potter set aside a very large dowry for you. In fact, the night he found out you were Sirius Black’s daughter, he told Mr. Lupin he was going to see that you inherited the entire Black fortune, which is vast indeed, with money, titles, and an estate of its own called Grimmauld Place. You and Lord Malfoy would not have been destitute.”
“Why do you care?” she asked. She sat up, her head still throbbing. “What would you gain by the marriage between Lord Malfoy and me?”
“Well, nothing now. That doesn’t matter and I am not yet willing to discuss this with you, but it is a moot point, because now that you know who your father is, my plans have changed,” Marcus said. “Please, do not try to get out of bed yet.” Marcus walked over to her and put his hand on her arm, as she tried to stand.
She sat back down and said, “How will sending me away solve anything? Lord Potter and Lord Malfoy will continue to look for me. When they find me, and I am sure they will, I would still inherit Lord Malfoy’s estate if we marry. Even if he does not find me, and we do not marry, he will keep his estate, so your motive cannot be money, so what is your motive?”
“Let me say that they will not search for you, for at this very moment, they are under the assumption that you died. I just came from there, and they were both beside themselves with grief.”
Hermione let out a gasp. She did not understand what he meant by the funeral comment before, but she understood now.
“Also,” Flint said, “Nothing will be gained by anyone if Malfoy continued to live... you are right on that account.”
She could stand it no longer. She stood and slapped his face. It was a feeble attempt, and he did nothing to refute it. She said, “You will not kill Lord Malfoy!”
“I can see you are upset. You need to lie down again,” he said. He scooped her up in his arms, and as she cried, he sat on the bed with her, actually rocking her back and forth, tenderly. “I am so sorry. This was never supposed to turn out like this. None of this was suppose to turn out like this. If Blaise Zabini and Penelope Clearwater had not had their own agendas, my plan would have worked.
“If Miss Weasley and Mr. Lupin could have been trusted, things would have turned out differently. You would have married Malfoy, and even if Harry hadn’t known about your true father, and had not planned on giving you the Black inheritance, I happen to know that he set aside a rather large dowry for you.”
“You and Draco would have been happy, alive, and none the wiser and the Malfoy estate could go to the rightful heir. You would not have been paupers! You would have money, status, and love! Damn Remus Lupin! I could have taken care of the Zabini and Clearwater problem, if he had just not told anyone his secret.”
She continued to cry. If she had been in her right frame of mind, she would have noticed how odd it was that the man who held her hostage, also held her on his lap, stroked her hair, and said soothing words to her to stop her tears.
She finally said, “May I ask one last question?”
“Where is the harm?” he answered, “After Remus Obliviates your memory again, this time for good, you will not recall anything I tell you anyway. Ask away.”
“Do you know who my mother is?”
Draco walked around Malfoy Manor, still in denial, still in a state of shock, waiting for Lord Potter to come to his home. Potter was so distraught from losing his cousin, his love, and his surrogate father that he was not aware of his surroundings anyway. Lady Pansy kept vigil at his bedside.
Back at her hideaway, Hermione walked around the little room where she was being held captive. She had no idea where she was. Marcus Flint told her who her mother was and the news was most surprising, but gave her some comfort in the face of her recent horrors.
He told her he was almost complete certain that Lily Potter was her mother. She was Harry’s sister and he might never know. She was born not even a year before Harry - only ten months before infact - and yet Harry would forever think she was dead!
It also gave her comfort knowing that the woman she thought of as her mother all those years was in fact kin to her, for the woman who raised her was Lily's sister. She wondered if she would forget her too, when they Obliviated her mind. She did not mind forgetting about Lily, for that was new to her, but she did not want to forget the only mother she ever had, and she really did not want to forget Draco. She refused to believe she would ever forget him.
Draco refused to believe she was dead. He still felt a connection to her. It was more than the connection of a man to a woman when they are in love. He felt a connection to her in his soul. She was alive.
He walked to the room in which she had slept while at the Manor. Her belongings were still there. She had sent a groomsman to collect them the night before and Draco refused to let the man enter. The truth was that he wanted her to return, so he held her clothes and belongings captive. How he regretted not holding her captive as well. He acted like a child…a spoiled child, when she told him she was shocked by his declaration of their engagement at dinner. She had every right to her feelings and opinion and yet Draco cast them aside without consideration!
He opened a book that was on the bedside table. It was the book on Ancient Runes he had given her. He held back a cry as he sat on the bed and opened the book. He recalled how happy she was when she read it for the first time and how she continued to lean over to him to ask him to translate different runes.
She was so pretty that day. Was that the day he knew he loved her? No, he knew he loved her in the mercantile that first day, when he thought he hated her. He smiled. He really knew he loved her when she imposed on his solitude that first day, when she entered the little church on his property to escape the rain. He closed his eyes to try to remember what she looked like that day. She had removed her straw hat and had placed it on the pew. She had on a teal dress, which looked lovely with her hair colour, little lace gloves, which she removed and put in her small drawstring reticule, which she wore on her arm. When she looked up at him, she was shocked. He almost wished she had not discovered him so soon, because he remembered that he wanted to stare at her for a while longer.
When did she first decide she loved him? He longed to know. He longed for her.
Hermione sat by the window on the small chair. Marcus Flint left hours ago. She did not know how long ago, but at least three to four hours. She washed and dressed in one of the dresses he left for her. She tried to read, but could not concentrate. She was worried for Draco and Harry. Were they mourning her right now? Were they in pain? She put her hand on the glass of the window and looked at her engagement ring. She wished she had acted better. She wished she had put it on in front of him. She should have told everyone how happy she was at his proposal. She was afraid, that was all. Now she might not ever see him again.
When did she first fall in love? She hardly knew, for it felt like she had always loved him. Perhaps that first meeting in the little store, when she dropped her hat, and he passed it to her and their fingers touched. More likely, it was several hours later when she was walking back to Potter’s Hall from the Weasleys, and she became lost and wandered into the little church on his property. When he made his presence known, she was secretly happy to see him again. He wore no hat and his coat was thrown over a pew. His waistcoat was open. He still looked splendid. He was the most handsome man she had ever met. He was arrogant, proud, boastful, and opinionated, and she loved him from the start.
How odd that he would pick the berry-picking incident for his happy thought for his patronus. If she had to pick a moment from that day, she would have picked the moment he picked her up, and carried her out of the ravine. She had never felt so safe in her life. She longed for that now. She longed for him.
Draco placed the book down to lay upon her bed. He turned to his right side. He placed his hand on the empty space beside him. He remembered the moment in the gazebo. Not the lesson, but the moment after the rain started: the intimate moment they shared. Their desire for each other that day was as thick as the condensation that covered the glass windows. He closed his eyes so his mind could wander back to that moment.
Hermione lay back on the bed on her left side. She placed her hand out in front of her and imagined he was there in front of her. Her dream, if that was what it was, that she had last night before the abduction was so real. She actually felt him kissing her, touching her, and all of his intimate gestures. It felt as real as the day in the gazebo. That was truly her happiest moment. If she shut her eyes and thought hard, she could feel herself transported back to that day.
He kept his eyes closed and said, “I know you are alive. I feel you beside me. Tell me where you are.”
She kept her eyes shut, to hold her tears at bay and said, “Draco, come find me. I am here. I am alive. I need you. Please, I know you will find me.”