Part Three: Avada Kedavra
Disclaimer: Harrius Potter non meus est. (No one ever said disclaimers had to be in English, after all…)
Thanks for 48 reviews go to: Pheonix, Ives, Go10, willowfairy, lavenderskies, Monitor, Storm079, Madam Midnight, knivesgirl346, Kou, Shun'u, Mother Zephyr, doce, jules37, PINSXandXSPIKES, Gizelle, Shouri Malfoy, MoonDancerCat, mesmer, Flexi Lexi, Saraiyu, Paganicewand, PinkTribeChick, Saotoshi, Raiast.
A/N: I find it an odd but intriguing coincidence that last week, my review count was 24, and this week it's 48. I wonder if it'll be 72 the time I update Fallen next week…
… because, yes, this is the last part of Cursed, and yes, Fallen updates resume as normal next week! Only two more exams to go! Celebrate!
Until last night, I hadn't had time to write anything for over a fortnight, which was resulting in some serious writing-deprivation. Then yesterday, Fawkes Ashes (a wonderful forum for HP lovers, the link to which is in my profile, end of shameless plug) started a new writing challenge. I decided, in order to limber up those writing muscles, that I'd make a start on my entry before I began the new chapter of Fallen. Which I did. And then I didn't stop.
As a result of this, 'He Was Brave Enough' can now be found on my profile. Have fun.
And with that, to the final chapter of Cursed. I think this is the only story in which, even though my reviewers (lovely reviewers!) like the story, reading my reviews page leaves me soundlessly mouthing, 'I'm so so so sorry!' Some of you can say really ironic things without knowing it.
Anyway, you're here for the story, and more of poor, poor Draco. Enjoy.
It was one of those early spring days where the Earth seemed to have forgotten the natural order of the seasons and raced ahead, laughing, into summer. The trees had put out their brightest, freshest leaves to play in the breezes; daisies and buttercups graced the lawns with silver and gold, and all the students of Hogwarts were enjoying the sunshine, Slytherin and Gryffindor, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw, all lazing on the cool grass or racing each other in the shade of the trees.
Some of the Quidditch-lovers had brought out their broomsticks, and a mad variation of the game had begun in the Quidditch stadium. There was at least twice the usual number of people playing, so they'd brought out twice the number of balls – two Quaffles and two Snitches, though they'd left the Bludgers behind, and a cacophony of a game had begun, with everyone seemingly attempting to play every position at once, flying madly in and out and up and down and twisting through the goalposts. No one was bothering to keep score, or even to pay any attention to what the teams were; it had become a glorious free-for-all.
Harry, Ron and Ginny were playing, and though they'd attempted to persuade Hermione to join them, she'd refused.
'I'm supposed to be meeting Draco,' she'd explained, and though they'd protested that Draco would want to join in the game, she'd shaken her head. Over the past month, the boys had learnt to tolerate Draco; perhaps even like him, but for some reason Hermione wanted him to herself today. It was too beautiful a day to share him with anyone else.
And so she was sitting on a rock near the lake, toying idly with a daisy and thinking about Draco. A month had passed since she'd discovered the identity of the mysterious letter-writer, perhaps a little more, but it was still amazing how much her perception of him could change in that short space of time.
When she'd tried to get him to speak to her, to tell her why he'd helped her, he'd refused to speak at fist. But then conversation came, in short answers and meagre sentences, and they'd led to longer speech, to full and free-flowing conversations, discussions, debates that had kept her in the library talking until well after her preferred bedtime.
Draco had proven himself much different to the childish annoyance he'd been throughout their first few years. Now his childhood taunts had run to a sharp-tongued wit that always, to Hermione, seemed well-placed and superbly observed. His cruelty had hidden kindness; his sneers had covered smiles and laughter, and his harsh exterior had slipped away to reveal an intelligent man with a love of knowledge equal to Hermione's own. He seemed to encompass everything she could ever want in a friend – she couldn't think of a single quality of his that upset her or hurt her.
He hadn't told her why he'd helped her, but she didn't mind any more. It didn't seem to matter. Indeed, it gave him an air of mystery, reminded her there were still parts of him she didn't know, avenues of the labyrinth of his mind down which she hadn't walked, only caught glimpses of in a razor-edged smile, in a black glint of his pale eyes.
She almost didn't notice him walking towards her, wearing his habitual black and nothing but. Hermione privately thought he looked best in black, or shades of grey. Malfoy was pale skin and silvery eyes and white-blonde hair, and it was a crime to mar that monochrome with colour. White didn't suit him, making him look altogether too pale, like a ghost. Black was perfect, and as she looked up to see him walking across the path towards her, he looked like the child of the moon by the midnight sky, misplaced in the golden daylight.
But he was smiling at her, the open, warm smile she had come to trust and adore, and holding out a hand like a gentleman to help her up. 'Sorry if I'm late,' he said. He wasn't late; five minutes too early.
Hermione took his hand – it felt warm and firm – and stood up. 'I should be the one saying sorry,' she apologised, feeling guilty, 'I'm the one who had to run off last night in the middle of the conversation…'
'Don't worry about it, I understand,' he said reassuringly. 'Helping Neville with Charms was far more important.'
She smiled, and was about to speak when a roar came from the Quidditch stadium, catching both their attentions. Unbidden, Harry's remark from earlier came back to her, echoed in her mind, won't Draco want to join in the Quidditch? He would, Hermione knew, and she felt strangely selfish for wanting to keep him to herself without caring what he'd want.
Hoping he'd say 'no', she asked anyway. 'Do you want to… to go play Quidditch? I wouldn't mind if you did,' she said, knowing it was a lie – she wanted to talk to him, to be around him, and she would mind if he went…
To her delight, he shook his head. 'I'm not in the mood for Quidditch,' he explained, 'and I'd rather carry on with our conversation anyway. Where were we?'
Beaming widely, she reminded him, and they sat down together on the smooth rock and talked for hours.
Days and nights and further days passed by, caught up in a whirl of glorious weather, of lessons and studying and conversations with him, with Draco. The time she spent with him seemed to stand out somehow, like silvery stars in the soft black night, or sunbeams across the grey stones of a forgotten castle.
And she remembered the way he spoke, the light in his eyes as he thought of something to add to their discussion, the gentle way he laughed, the electric feeling when his hand brushed hers accidentally, the way she sometimes couldn't think for the gentle sweep of his pale skin, the curve of his lips…
Ginny, sitting beside her on the sofa in the Gryffindor common room, poked her sharply in the ribs.
'What was that for?' Hermione protested, frowning and rubbing her side.
'Because you were off in dreamland,' Ginny pointed out, giving a furtive glance around. They were reasonably alone; Ron and Harry were off playing chess together on the other side of the common room with a small cluster of people gathered round to watch, and the sofas around the two girls were reasonably abandoned.
'So,' Ginny asked slyly, 'what were you thinking about?'
'Hmm? Oh, nothing…'
Ginny cocked her head on one side, giving Hermione a disbelieving look. 'It was quite definitely something, Hermione. And if my guess is right, an attractive male something?'
Hermione coloured. 'Well, I suppose…'
'A freakishly-blonde, mysterious, ferrety, Draco Malfoy something?' Ginny asked triumphantly.
'… Yes.' Hermione admitted very quietly, then sighed and leant back into the cushions of the sofa, avoiding her friend's grin. 'I just… I mean, I know he's been a prat for ages, but he just doesn't…'
'Act like a prat anymore?' Ginny said knowingly, and Hermione nodded, then bit her lip.
'All the stuff that happened in the past six years… it seems like it was a completely different person. He's so different now. He's kind, and caring, and intelligent, and he never hurts me. Not even in little things, like going off to play Quidditch when I want to talk to him, or saying something I don't like, he never does anything like that. And its just the way he smiles…'
Ginny, if possible, grinned even wider. 'You've got it bad,' she remarked. 'Completely head-over-heels…'
Hermione thought for a moment. She'd had a feeling that she might be falling in love, frightening though the concept may be, for some time. And remembering the way she'd felt around him lately, the way he made her smile...
'I guess… I do.' She said slowly. 'Ginny? What should I say?' she added with a note of panic.
'Perhaps you should try telling him and asking if he feels the same?' Ginny pointed out.
'What if he doesn't…'
'Don't go into what-ifs, they never help.' Ginny told her firmly. 'He's nice, a lot nicer than I ever thought he could be… if he doesn't feel the same he won't be too hard on you. And if you don't ask, you'll regret it for ages.'
Hermione remained unconvinced. 'I don't know, he wouldn't even love someone like me…'
'Hermione!' Ginny cut in firmly. 'Look, he obviously likes you, look how much time he spends with you. Every time you ask to see him he always agrees, he always seems to be spending time with you… I'd say you have a damned good chance of him saying yes.'
When Hermione still looked worried, Ginny frowned at her. 'Come on, where's your Gryffindor courage?'
Hermione almost laughed. 'Ginny, it's not like…'
The redhead wouldn't let her friend finish. 'You're a Gryffindor, aren't you? Brave and daring? So go on, show me that bravery. Say you'll tell him.'
Hermione gave Ginny a look of desperation, then closed her eyes and took a deep breath. 'Okay,' she said at length, 'Tomorrow.'
He glanced at his hands and they didn't belong to him, couldn't belong to him, because they were normal pale-skinned human hands and he wasn't human, didn't feel human. He had been human once, before, but all of that was forgotten in the burning black mass of hate that engulfed him, drowned him, stole his blood and filled his veins with black shadows that snarled and twisted and burned with hatred and goodness help him he wanted more of it, wanted to hate more and more and more until it burned his mind away and left him a shell.
She was there. Couldn't she see what a monster she was? How foul and filthy, how ugly, her skin slimy and repulsive to the touch, her face twisted and malformed, her hair a stinking, tangled, disgusting mess. How did she live in such a polluted skin, how could she keep herself from leaping off the highest tower of Hogwarts in despair of her own fetid, revolting self?
Mudblood. Dirt and filth. Sewers took the place of her veins, and if you cut her, she would not bleed, merely leak foul waste and effluent. How he wanted that, to rip and tear her disgusting flesh to shreds, to crush her filthy bones. He'd tear her rotting eyeballs from her skull, block up the back of the eye sockets, and place maggots in the cavities before sewing the eyelids shut. Yes. Mudblood.
She toyed with the fabric of her robe and he hated her for it, hated with a deep and unchanging passion everything about her. She bit her lip, and all the fires of Hell, burning inside his heart, screamed out at the nauseating repulsion of that act.
'Draco…' she said slowly, and her voice was loathsome enough to make an angel claw through its breast and crush the heart that beat there to a pulp, purely to escape the horror of living in a world where such an abomination as she existed. 'I… well, I wanted to ask you something…'
He smiled, a soft and gentle smile, while in his head he tore her sickening head from her shoulders and tore and tore and tore with his bare fingers till the putrid flesh came away from the bone, decomposed jelly in his hands. 'Go on,' he invited.
'Well… I don't want to spoil our friendship. And I don't want to put any pressure on you, or anything, but…' She looked up at him, nervousness in every line of her twisted mockery of a face, and said, 'Do you think… do you… love me?'
He hated her. So much he would tear her apart if he could, mash her flesh and crush her bones to powder and smear it out of existence, so much he would torture her if he could, slice pieces of decaying flesh from her own skin and feed them to her, carve words into her abhorrent body, Mudblood, Filthy, Foul, Loathsome, and feed her suffering to the fires in his own heart, the only sacrifice that could appease his bark black hatred…
…may they be bound never to harm them by word, blade or spell…
And the curse pressed in on him again, the chains inside his own blood, compelling him to smile in surprise and affection and love when he wanted to tear rip shred slash scratch slice…
Because if he didn't love her, it would hurt her…
'You mean… you love me?' he asked, and when she nodded he took her fetid aberration of a body into his arms and held her close and whispered softly in her vile ear, 'I love you too.' And then he drew back to plant a kiss on her repugnant lips and taste the flavour of rot and corruption and filth and feel nothing but the burning desire to rip her unworthy flesh in chunks and bites as she kissed him back with sweet love and he needed to scream and scream and scream in horror and disgust but couldn't because it would hurt her…
Summer came early that year, and brought long, golden days that saw the students gazing longingly out of the windows in their hot, stuffy classrooms, then abandoning the cool grey stone for evenings of basking in the glorious rays. For the seventh and fifth years, facing NEWT and OWL examinations, it was torture; long hours spent in the lifeless library while the sunbeams filtered through the windows, turning specks of dust into diamonds.
But they did manage some time off, and when even Hermione became sick of leafing through fat books her friends and boyfriend dragged her outside, laughing, to sit on the cool grass and drink in the sunshine.
'Okay, you were right,' Hermione agreed, turning her face to the sunlight, 'I do need a break. I feel like I haven't breathed fresh air in years.'
Draco was sitting beside her, and she wished idly that he'd slip an arm around her waist, let her rest her head on his shoulder. He was an ideal boyfriend; she could hardly believe that this was the boy who'd been such an annoyance in her childhood. Now he was kind, considerate and attentive, always seeming to know what she wanted, what she needed. He never hurt her.
And she felt so lucky, to be loved by a boy like him…
Ron, sitting opposite from them, grinned and lay down full length on the grass. 'It's brilliant to be out of that library,' he said.
'I think my brain's going to explode if I try to learn any more,' Harry complained, rubbing his head. 'And I'm forgetting it all already…'
'You'll be fine,' Hermione murmured lazily, and just when the skin on her back began to ache for his touch, Draco slid his arm around her as she'd wanted, and she turned her head into his shoulder with a smile. She was barely aware that she wanted him to kiss her forehead until he did.
Her eyes were closed, already tired after the day's hard work in the library, but she felt the gentle tickle across her hand of what she realised was Ron throwing some grass at them. 'Cut it out, you two, you'll make me throw up,' he told them mock-seriously.
When she'd told them that Draco and she were partners, in love, they'd taken it very well. After all, he'd been protecting her from her childhood, although they didn't know why, and they'd watched Draco acting kindly to Hermione, seen the way she looked at him, the way they talked together late into the night. Harry didn't bear grudges, and Ron had managed to put his aside, and they'd accepted Draco.
But Ron had never had a stomach for public displays of affection, and Hermione laughed a little at his reaction, brushed the grass away, and kissed Draco on the cheek, feeling the tug of his skin beneath his lips as he smiled.
He turned his face and caught her lips with his own for a brief chaste kiss that her lips had been aching for, and then rested his forehead against hers as Ron grumbled at them and Harry laughed.
She looked into his beautiful grey eyes, a sheen of happiness and love dancing just below their surfaces, and knew she would never stop loving him.
Night, and the Room of Requirement was small and dimly-lit with a bathroom en-suite. A large soft bed was the room's main feature, the thick carpet that surrounded it littered with abandoned clothing, and tangled in its sheets lay a couple, boy and girl, their bodies still glistening with sweat, arms round each other.
Her head was buried in his chest, and he stroked her hair softly as she fell asleep to the sound of his heartbeat, but the moment her breathing slowed enough to show that sleep had claimed her his fingers froze, a soft sob torn from his throat.
Mudblood filthy disgusting foul and dirty and I touched tasted kissed loved…
He began to shake, eyes wide and blank with horror, and the softest cry escaped his lips, a cry of utter despair.
…No, no, no, this couldn't have happened, filthy creature, disgusting, freak of nature, aberration and I held stroked squeezed no no no no no…
He began to push her away, still shaking, trying desperately to disentangle himself from the sheets that tied him to the repulsive thing, the shadows making her a monster, not human at all. He couldn't wake her up; the curse would make him stay close because it would hurt her if he left…
She didn't wake. He pushed himself away from her and fell to the floor on his hands and knees, his whole body trembling and shaking and nausea curling in his stomach.
… filth her filth all over me in my mouth on my hands on my skin seeping into my blood she'll make me as filthy as she is no no no please let this not have happened please…
Bathroom. He tried to stumble to his feet, but his legs refused to hold him, so he crawled naked on his knees to the door. His breath came hard, as though he'd just been tortured, and a hard cry – though not so loud as to wake her, it would hurt her to see this – escaped his lips as his shoulder shook and his head bowed, broken, spilling silver-blond strands across the carpet.
He made it to the bathroom, clinging to the doorknob and fumbling with it, unable to open it; his hands were shaking and his vision blurred by tears and he was going to throw up. It opened, eventually, taking pity on him.
… not a Mudblood, not that, anything but filthy dirt all over me stinking no…
He pushed himself to his knees, clinging to the cold porcelain sides of the toilet, and he did what he'd wanted to do since he'd opened the door earlier that night and realised what was going to happen. He vomited. His body heaved as he brought up everything in his stomach, continued to heave even when nothing was left as though it was trying to purge itself of some foulness it couldn't reach.
…her touch, her hands on my pure skin Mudblood kisses sighing and moaning and no no no no filthy my skin filthy with her kisses her touch no…
He slumped to the floor, his stomach finally silent, his hair matted with sweat and clinging to his forehead. Curling into a foetal position, he moaned, tears filling his eyes and spilling down his cheeks, sobbing without shame. Why should he feel shame? All his dignity, all his pride, had already been battered down and beaten and tortured, burnt black by her touch, her kisses, her love.
He needed to be clean. He opened his eyes and looked with blurry vision at his hands, and though there was no visible mark on their pure white flesh he could feel it, the foulness that coated them after touching her skin. There was a shower in one corner; he dragged himself towards it.
… please please no let me clean myself wash myself get the dirt filth off me out of my skin out of my blood how will I ever be clean again after her after this…
Unable to stand, he sat in the bottom of the shower and reached up with shaking hands to the controls, thankfully positioned low, and turned it on. The water poured out, cold at first, then tepid, lukewarm, warm, hot, scalding. He let it sizzle round him, turning his skin bright red with its heat. If the water couldn't wash her touch off him, the heat might help…
… how will I ever be clean again no soap can clean her off me no water can wash this away her touch no no no her touch no no please make it not have happened take it away hurts too much…
He leant his head against the wall, fingernails biting his palm, and cried out at the torture, the horror of it all. Water couldn't clean him; he grabbed the soap from the small shelf half-way up the cubicle and scrubbed as hard as he could but it couldn't erase the memory of her touching him, kissing him, loving him, and having to touch and kiss and love back when he really wanted to tear and rip and kill…
… why please why no no no why can't I kill her please knife slice through skin screaming aaaaaa her screams not mine I've screamed too much her turn her pain she made me suffer why can't I make her suffer why why please…
The soap had slipped from his hands; now he scratched at his flesh with his fingernails, as if he could scrape away the torment of her touch. His nails cut, the water making each thin slice agony, but he didn't care, he had to be clean, to be pure again.
Nothing worked, and he tipped his head back with the water pouring down his naked body and screamed in anguish, water filling his mouth, then crumpled till his head was on the floor and shook with torment.
… no no no no no why this why this torture I can't escape no way out everything hurts her every whim I have to follow every desire no no please let me out of this why can't it all end why can't I die…
His eyes flickered open.
The shelf which he'd taken the soap from had also held a razor.
… I want to die yes please please let me die this will work I can escape no more torture no more pain her touch filth disgusting never be clean again death yes yes…
Breathing heavily, shaking, his hand closed on the razor's slim handle; it was made of cheap plastic and took only a moment for him to smash the head open on the tiled floor, leaving the blade glittering on the floor. He picked it up, pressed it to his wrist, took a last gulp of air and sliced as hard as he could.
… death death please let me die let this end no more her to more touching filth disgusting freak yes die…
Something was wrong.
He'd slashed with all his strength, but the blade had only produced the faintest of lines, only a single drop of blood beading on his skin to be washed away by the water.
He sliced it across his skin again, pressing as hard as he could, and again and again until he screamed in desperation.
… want to die need to die only escape why won't it cut it's sharp want to die blood my pure blood not her filthy blood spiral down the drain want to die escape end why can't I…
He tried again to slice his arm, desperate for the end, and in a sudden horrible torturous epiphany he knew what was wrong.
… my dead body blood everywhere under the shower she finds it in the morning screaming crying hurting I want it want it so much…
But, if he killed himself… he would hurt her.
A/N: And yes, that is the end…
Now I shall quietly Polyjuice my worst enemy into myself, then leave them behind to face the approaching hoards of furious Draco-lovers bearing pitchforks…
Or you may want to take the advice of Lou, who asked me, 'What's the final A/N? A comment on how you deserve to be burnt at the stake? And this is the antichrist saying this. Your evilness disgusts me.' Of course, she also pointed out that I've quoted her in my A/Ns of every chapter I've written so far, so I immediately vowed not to do so in this one… oops…
Anyway. I'm going to run off quickly now, before the pitchfork-bearing masses discover they've got the wrong person and tear me to pieces. If you want to tear me to pieces, do so in your reviews – it's anger management, you know!