A/N: Back to Hermione. Yup. She's a lot more exciting. Anyway, I'm glad you're all enjoying this fic so far. I've gotten quite a few flames, but as long as some people are enjoying this fic, I'll keep writing. I'd like to get to 500 reviews by the time I finish this fic, however far in the future that may be.
This is a huge chapter, mainly because I wanted to update and I'm not sure how long it'll be before I get another chance. I haven't written anything past this point, so it may be ages.
So, final words, I know that with Deathly Hallows showing Narcissa as a Death Eater along side of her family, my version of Narcissa will seem completely OOC. I wrote this chapter ages ago in a notebook, so yeah. Um… She's cool though.
Chapter 15: Relationships
We flooed to Hogwarts that afternoon, and I left the fortress with a mild feeling of dread. I wasn't scared, per say, because on a logical level I had little to be afraid of; Roderick wouldn't see me if I was careful, and Tom was right when he said my new status as his wife would protect me. No one could hurt me in any way, unless they wanted to face his fury. It was the silver lining to my sudden marriage. Roderick would be safe too.
Roderick was the only thing in the world that mattered. I had sacrificed my privacy in order for him to be educated at Hogwarts, I had found myself once again in contact with the wizarding world because of his trouble making, and now I was married to the Dark Lord who had killed my family and friends just to ensure his protection! But it wasn't his fault that I had slept with Tom twice. It wasn't his fault that I had sold my soul to Tom twelve years ago by taking his hand when I was defenseless and scared.
The suite at Hogwarts was nice though. I mean, it wasn't my ideal apartment, but it had a nice little study with three walls covered by bookshelves that housed sections of the library from the fortress. Tom said he would use it as his office but that I was welcome to share it. There was a bedroom with a king sized bed that was draped in silk curtains and sheets of varying shades of silver. Upon seeing my nervous expression at the thought of a single bed, he told me he wouldn't be doing much sleeping. There was also a small kitchen that was really just a table with place settings for two, and a fancy living room with an ornate fireplace and several plush green sofas. The entire suite reeked of Slytherin taste, but it wasn't as nauseating as I imagined Lucius Malfoy's had to be.
After escorting me to the apartment, Tom swept off, saying he had work to take care of. Once he was gone I found myself at a loss as to what to do with my time. I spent a good three hours reading a nonfiction novel about magic in its raw form, thinking I could learn more about what had happened to me when Blaise and I had fought. The subject eventually lost its novelty and I spent a good hour and a half bewitching things in the room just to get some energy out. When a candlestick collided with a stack of parchment on Tom's desk and nearly set fire to the entire suite, I decided it was time I went and found someone to talk to.
Tom hadn't forbidden me from leaving by any means, but had warned me not to wander about in public. Heeding his advice, I decided to experiment with floo powder and see who I could find. The first person who came to mind was Narcissa.
"Narcissa Malfoy's suite at Hogwarts," I enunciated into the flames, attempting to not get ash on my nice pair of dark purple roves. I had always hated floo transport, it was so messy and bad for your knees. I shifted my weight from leg to leg as I knelt on the stone, watching as an empty living room similar to mine came into view. "Cissa?" I called out anxiously, fearing that she wasn't there. I waited awkwardly for some sort of response.
"Who is it?" she yelled back, her voice wafting down the hall. I smiled at the familiar purebred drawl that was endearing on Draco and Narcissa. I didn't think about Blaise.
"It's Hermione! May I come in? My knees are smarting!" Her laugh responded and I felt so relieved to know that I wasn't the only wife in this castle.
"Of course, darling! I'll be right in, I'm spelling my gray hair out." I smirked as I levered myself out of the fireplace and tried to cross the room without trailing soot on the carpet. As I waited for her to finish, I stared around myself at the pictures and paintings on the walls, recognizing several of Draco in his Hogwarts and quidditch uniforms. Over the fireplace was a painted family portrait that had to have been taken recently, with Narcissa sitting in a throne-like chair and Lucius and Draco standing beside her, each with one hand on her shoulder. Draco looked jaded and sad, and I wondered what on earth had happened to make him age so much in only a decade. He was still handsome though, and I wondered when I would go visit him.
"I've got a picture of you and Roderick somewhere around here," Narcissa said as he entered the room. I smiled as she pulled me into a tight hug, pressing her face into my shoulder.
"Oh Cissa, I've missed you," I whispered as she pulled away. I wasn't surprised that she still looked young even though she had to be at least fifty.
"Merlin, you're a grown woman now, look at you. The last time I saw you, you were a little thing forced to behave like an adult."
"But you haven't aged at all," I commended wryly, sitting down on a lounge chair. She eased herself onto the couch, rolling her eyes.
"I'm old, dear, and that's the truth." But he smiled and changed the subject. "How are you? It must be a shock to be back in this horrid place." I shrugged and shook my head.
"That's not really what's shocking," I said honestly, "It's knowing that I'm the wife of the most powerful man in the world that's shocking." To say her jaw dropped would be an understatement. "Our lord says it's for my protection, but I'm not sure what to make of it." Narcissa floundered for something to say before settling on,
"Do you love him?" Ouch. Next question please.
"I love who he is with me, but not who he is other wise," I said vaguely, and she frowned, staring at her family portrait above the fireplace.
"That's who I sometimes feel about Lucius. He's a right old bastard with his Death Eater nonsense, but he can be quite sweet to me. Honestly, why do men feel murder and power so appealing?" I laughed.
"I think that Bellatrix would disagree," I jested and she winced at the mention of her violent sister.
"Well Bellatrix is a few knuts short of a sickle. A few months ago she tried to seduce Draco, her own nephew! Apparently he asked her, 'Are you trying to seduce me, Mrs. Robinson?' but she didn't get the joke." My attention grew as she mentioned Draco, and I asked,
"How is he?"
"A little scarred, she is a blood relative."
"No, how has he been since I left?"
"Oh." She paused, collecting her words. I noted that she avoided my eyes. "I'll be honest with you dear, he took it hard. Draco loves you and he missed you all the time. We all did. But he understands why you had to leave." Of course Draco would understand, he was nice and responsible. I missed that about him. "You didn't belong in the fortress, it wasn't the right place for you."
"New York wasn't the right place for me either. My whole life there was a lie." Her eyes lit up.
"You were in New York? I hear they have a great fashion there!"
"Cissa, focus. Me. Remember?"
"Oh fine. Look, cheer up. You're back where you belong –with us- and everything's going to be fine." I hoped I could believe her.
Tom didn't come back until it was late, in the early hours of Tuesday morning. He seemed exhausted, a scowl set on his face that could make even the late Bill Weasley pee his tight little pants. I was fading, equally tired, but had forced myself to stay awake for his return. I lay down on the couch, my head resting lightly on a large stuffed pillow, and watched as the far wall of the living room dissolved into the hallway, and he entered. He ignored me, already annoyed.
"Why are you still awake?" He went straight into the bedroom, but I didn't move. Closing my eyes, I said evenly,
"Wrong. I do believe your line is 'Honey, I'm home!'" There was no responding smirk or snicker, only the dull thud of dresser drawers opening and shutting in the next room. "And then I say, 'Hello darling, how was your day? Dinner's almost ready and your laundry is all pressed and folded!'" He re-entered the room, half dressed with his red eyes blazing. His charcoal trousers slung low on his hips, and his shirtless chest was just as pale as his face. Again I didn't flinch, my face blank as his contorted into a nasty snarl.
"I don't have the energy to deal with a hissy fit, Hermione." Well he would just have to deal with it, because I didn't feel like playing Holly Housewife. My peaceful dinner with Narcissa had been interrupted by Lucius striding into her rooms like he owned them, which, I suppose, he did. After bearing a few snide remarks about my poor parenting skills I left and moped on the sofa. I hadn't moved since, with a bottle of elf-made wine to keep me company.
"Oh but dear husband, you chose to marry me, didn't you? You loved me enough to promise to remain with me as long as we both shall live. Not that you can die, of course." Lack of sleep always made me cranky, not that he could know that. His jaw clenched and I rolled my eyes as he strode across the room, knowing better than to fear him. I was surprised, however, when he scooped his arms underneath me and lifted me off the couch roughly. "Gonna carry me over the threshold, baby?" I crooned, slurring my words, but I leant my head against his bare chest and didn't put up a fight, feeling like lead.
"You're drunk, Hermione," he hissed, kicking the door to the bedroom open wider. "You're going to go to sleep and when you wake up, you and I are going to have a civilized chat." To punctuate his speech, he dropped me on one side of the soft bed. I melted into the covers and closed my eyes again to stop the room from circling around me. The world tilted, though I knew it was only Tom getting into bed. He snuffed the few candles in the room and rolled over, his back to me.
"You tricked me, you fooled me!" I moaned, shivering in my delicate dress. He groaned in frustration, sitting up to glare at me.
"I swear I am this close to shoving you off this bed," he threatened.
"You seduced me! You blackmailed me! I hate you, I hate myself, I need my baby, my Rick! What have you done to him!" He winced, my drunken wails affecting him somehow. I was falling and I couldn't see. Where was I? Hogwarts was burning, my skin was on fire, Ron, help me! Please, Harry's dead. They killed him and Ginny oh Ginny's gone too! Everyone's dead, it's just us! And I never freed the elves, poor things. Will you join SPEW? Please, Harry? I made badges and everything, see? And oh, I've got a date with Krum! Can you believe it? But don't tell the boys, they'll ruin everything, they'll ruin it. They made me cry, and that Ronald Weasley, he's the worst, but he's just jealous of me. He's just jealous.
Arms circled around my waist and I pressed my face against the chest in front of me, tears falling. And then I was out.
I woke up with no memory of what I had done the previous night. I was still dressed, had a hangover equal to any that Fred or George Weasley could have ever suffered, and a salty face. These three things could only mean one thing, I'd had another drunken nervous breakdown. Already blushing at the thought of what Tom could have seen, I eased myself out of bed and pulled off my wrinkled dress from yesterday to change into a faded terry-cloth robe that I recognized from my apartment. Then I slowly opened the door to my living room, and found my husband sipping tea in an armchair, devoid of emotion.
"Good, you're awake," he said crisply, gesturing to the sofa across from him. I felt like a student about to be lectured by the headmaster.
"What on earth happened last night?" I groaned, leaning the back of my head against the soft cushions.
"You polished off an entire bottle of very strong elf-made wine by yourself and had a chain of flashbacks, rambling about Hogwarts being on fire and your feelings for the youngest male Weasley." His voice was bitter, sneering on his last three words. I winced, imagining spilling my heart out to him without realizing what was appropriate for him to know. "And then you passed out."
"To my defense, this never happens," I protested, but he held up a hand to silence me. It was clear that he didn't want excuses.
"Do you ever drink in front of Roderick?" he asked, and I immediately knew why he wanted to know. Offended, I snarled,
"I have always been a responsible mother! I have always put Roderick first, ever since he was born! How dare you accuse me of getting drunk around him?" His serious demeanor softened.
"I didn't mean to insult you. Seeing you like that last night worried me and I wanted to make sure that Roderick had never been in the same position." He spoke in a soothing tone that I was already very well acquainted with, and I wondered why I was so easily manipulated by him if I was as strong as everyone said I was.
"It won't happen again," I promised, more to myself than to him. I didn't want to have him see me in such a vulnerable position. I didn't want anybody to see me in such a vulnerable position. He seemed to believe me and stood up.
"It's around one in the afternoon." I reddened. I had slept all morning? "Draco has no classes after lunch. Why don't you go visit him? See if you can make yourself feel more comfortable here." I felt a little patronized by his wording but liked the idea nonetheless. "I have business to attend to."
"You always say that," I said without thinking. He was moving about the room now, pulling his cloak out of a closet in the kitchenette. "What do you do during the day?" Tom swung the cloak over his shoulders and walked towards the wall that would open to the outside hallway. Just before he left, he turned and said
"I keep our son safe." Before I could ask what he meant, he was gone.
Draco wasn't in his office when I arrived that afternoon, so I sat down in a chair across from his desk and decided to wait, seeing as I had little else to do. I had been in most of the offices of my professors during my time at Hogwarts, and each professor had found a way to make this office their own. Lupin had filled his with fantastic animals, which he would later use during lessons. Lockhart had mounted pictures and paintings of himself on every flat surface. Imposter Mad-Eye Moody had stuffed it with dark detectors and dangerous artifacts that went along with the curriculum he had invented himself. Draco followed their lead and did the same, choosing to hang posters of famous wizards along the walls, most of them life sized.
I stared around the room, watching the inhabitants of the posters walk into each others frames and talk with one another. A detailed painting of Merlin was chatting on a stage next to a cocky William Shakespeare, while opposite them Newt Scamander stroked the snout of a thestral as he conversed politely with Abraxas Malfoy, Draco's grandfather. Upon twisting around in my chair I came face to face with a picture of myself, standing next to Ron and Harry. There were no words to describe how shocked I was to see my younger self in red and gold robes among the most legendary wizards in history when for all my life I couldn't think of one good reason why I should be up there.
Picture me was smiling, listening to her two best friends chatter away. She was silent but she seemed so happy to be in between them. She was right where she was supposed to be. Home.
"Hermione?" Draco's voice jolted me out of my revere. I hadn't noticed him enter. Shaking myself back to attention, I stood up and turned to face him, the image of myself in sparkling Gryffindor robes quickly replaced by Draco and his nervous smile. He didn't look much different than he had when he'd come to see me in my New York apartment a few weeks ago, though perhaps he was more tired. His hair was tied back with a neat black chord, revealing his as gaunt and shadowed. He hugged me before I could properly greet him, pulling me tightly against his front as he buried his head into my hair. A little stunned but appreciative of his warm welcome, I closed my eyes and breathed in his comforting, spicy scent. It was tempting to simply never move, to spend the next few hours standing wrapped in his supportive arms. I didn't want to say anything and break the silence. So I didn't.
Eventually, however, Draco pulled away, blushing as he realized what he had been doing. I smiled and bent up to kiss him on the cheek, tempted to linger near his face. He gulped audibly and quickly said, "I was hoping I would see you soon. Mother told me you were here." For some reason Draco was nervous, fidgeting with the handle of his wand in the pocket of his cloak. I ignored it.
"I got here a few days ago, supposedly for my protection," I said, rolling my yes. It was much easier to be irritated by Tom and his patronizing behavior when I wasn't around him. Draco didn't laugh, perhaps knowing that I really was here for protection. He changed the subject.
"Here, let's sit down." Taking my hand, he led me over to a worn leather sofa underneath a poster of Gellert Grindelwald. His fingers lingered over mine but he folded his hands in his lap after a few seconds. I cleared my throat.
"So how's teaching going?" I asked in an attempt to start a conversation. He latched onto the topic, probably also sensing the awkward silence.
"Well, the kids are exhausting and I hate grading papers, but I can't complain. I like my quarters and I like the freedom that the job has." He relaxed into the cushions, gesturing with his hands as he spoke. "I mean, it's not like the ministry cares what I teach the kids. I can teach them really advanced stuff as long as it's age appropriate and no one gets hurt." He began to smile, and I watched his face light up with pride and passion for his job. "I got this job because my father's headmaster and it was convenient for him to have me around, but this has wound up being something I'm good at." My heart warmed at his happiness. Draco had never been truly good at something; his quidditch skills during school were well honed, but never as good as Harry's, and his grades had always fallen second to mine. However it seemed now he was actually enjoying his job, free from competition.
"I bet the kids love you. Roderick has had only positive things to say about you." He nodded, continuing,
"Rick is fantastic, 'Mione, able to do any spell on the first try, just like you always did." I blushed at his praise, knowing that he had not always approved of my know-it-all behavior when we were young. "He has incredible talent, though that's not a surprise considering who his parents are. He arrived here with more experience and skill than most of the purebloods who grew up around magic. It's a real reflection on you, Hermione, everyone's really impressed by his ability." I scoffed, knowing the staff better than to believe they spoke wonders about me.
"Not bloody likely," I said with a scowl. "Perhaps they're impressed by Roderick but I doubt they admire me very much. Who works here now, Severus? Slughorn? I hear Macnair is teaching Care of Magical Creatures, that's an ironic twist of fate." Draco shrugged sheepishly.
"Well, Severus isn't very fond of you, that'll never really change, but Professor Sinistra is still here and she simply adores you." The Astronomy teacher had always favored me and I was relieved to learn that some of the nice staff from my childhood had found ways to remain at Hogwarts.
"Regardless, I don't like being here. I love seeing you and Cissa, of course, but I can hardly leave my room in case I'm seen by a student. I'm not at home here. I'm not at home anywhere." No matter how much time I spent away from Draco, I could go straight back to being his best friend instantly. Being with him now made me feel so much better, and I wasn't at home at Hogwarts anymore, but at least I was with Draco.
"You're always welcome in my rooms," he said warmly, reaching out to grasp my hand. The heat in his eyes made me hesitant, but I gently placed my hand over his. He lifted his free hand to trail his fingers down my cheek. "God, Hermione, I've missed you so much." There was something about his voice, a note of pleading desperation that indicated there was more behind this statement than just companionship. Because for a time there had been more than companionship, and it was clear now that we couldn't ignore our… whatever.
"We can't," I protested, feeling my eyes drift closed. "Draco, you know we can't."
"Why not?" he whined, cupping my face in his hands, kneeling on the sofa in order to face me. He stared at me fiercely, eyes hungry.
"He'd kill you, kill both of us," I said, my resistance waning quickly. Draco grabbed my wrists, jerking me forward.
"What's different now?"
"I'm married," I snarled, no longer so tempted. He was desperate now.
"Hermione I lo-,"
"Don't say it!" I cried.
"Love you," he finished, pleading. I was speechless, not sure what to do. If Tom found out, oh if Tom found out. "Let's run away together, get away from here! We could leave tonight, leave now!" I shook my head, forcing back tears. "Please, Hermione, please." His hair had escaped from its band and tumbled into his upset face, highlighting his gray complexion. He looked as tortured and ill as Remus Lupin had during the war, and I wondered what he had left anymore. His job? His family? Would he give it all up for me?
"He'd find us and kill us," I said slowly, my voice choked. I continued before he could cut me off, "And then Roderick would have no one."
"We could take him with us, get him away from the Dark Lord."
"He's the boy's father, he should be with him."
"But he's not, is he?" Draco snarled, leaping from the sofa to pace angrily around the room. I winced as I examined my red wrists, knowing I would have bruises there in the morning.
"He's trying, he's here!" I said feebly.
"Oh Merlin," he breathed, turning around to face me. His eyes were accusing and jealous. "You love him, don't you?" I gasped but he continued before I could deny it. "He's got you fooled, hasn't he? You think he loves you but he doesn't care, Hermione. You're a pawn and you don't even realize it. He's telling you what you want to hear, can't you see that?" I froze and didn't hear anything else he said. He's telling you what you want to hear. What you want to hear. Want to hear.
No. Tom hadn't tricked me. I wasn't that stupid as to be fooled again. I knew he didn't love me. I knew exactly what he was. No!
"I have to go," I said numbly, interrupting him mid-rant. He softened immediately, following me as I walked towards the archway that led to the stairs to the Charms classroom.
"Hermione, I'm so sorry, I don't know what made me blow up like that." I did my best to keep my face blank and tried to ignore his quick footsteps behind me.
"I know, Draco," I said tiredly and descended the stairs, gliding my hand down the stone handrail.
"Please, Hermione, hear me out!" I didn't turn and strode to the doorway. "Wait, I'm sorry!" I paused as my hand landed on the doorknob, knowing I couldn't leave like this. Turning, I smiled sadly at my friend as he leant pitifully against a desk, looking devastated.
"It's fine, you said what you had to say." I took a deep breath. "I wish we could be like we used to, but too much has changed. I can't afford to be rash and selfish because I have a son to worry about. We're not twenty anymore, and we need to act like adults. This can't happen." I opened the door.
"I do love you, you know," he said quietly.
"I know." I left, closing the door behind me.
What I quickly figured out, however, was that I didn't actually know where my rooms were. So overcome by frustration, fear, and confusion, I promptly burst into tears. Thankfully, class had already started and the corridor outside of the Charms classroom was empty. Shoulders shaking, I did what any girl going through emotional trauma would do. I retreated to the nearest lavatory, which happened to be Moaning Myrtle's fairly private bathroom. Wanting nothing more than to collapse in a stall and revel in my misery, I burst into the room without considering Myrtle's possible presence, and let the door smack loudly against the wall. I stumbled into the first stall I saw and sunk to the ground.
I don't know how long I sat there, my knees drawn up under my chin as my head leant against the wall. Perhaps I was there for hours, oblivious to the time flickering by. I repeated Draco's proposition over and over again until I could no longer stand it. 'Let's run away together!' I wanted to. Merlin, I wanted to just leave and live together in secrecy, fall in love and feel protected. There had been a time when I had considered this. I had been 19, scared and infatuated with the boy I had spent seven years hating. He had been my secret romance, my risky adventure. Whether Tom knew about those passionate moments in the bookshelves, I didn't know, but I coveted the memories of intimacy and trust. 'We could leave tonight, leave now!' But I was right, we were adults now. I wasn't in love with Draco and I wasn't truly in love with Tom either. It didn't matter who I was in love with anyway, seeing I was married, with a son. End of story. Thus resolved, I calmed myself down and left the stall, only to come face to face with Moaning Myrtle.
"Oh you're back now, are you?" she said with a note of irritation. Rolling my eyes, I walked past her and settled myself in front of a mirror to do some glamour spells. She watched, drifting beside me. "Well, you can't just stride back in here and steal him." Laughing humorlessly, I commented,
"I have no intention of stealing Draco Malfoy from you." She frowned, confused, and said petulantly,
"I wasn't talking about him but he hasn't come to visit me either since he started teaching. And I'm not allowed to go into his rooms or anything." I magically straightened my hair, a charm I had mastered over my years as Jane Matthews. To be honest, I wasn't paying much attention to Myrtle, as she was a teenage ghost who wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed. I had learned long ago not to take her seriously, as she enjoyed causing drama in an attempt to gain attention. She pouted and perched herself on the sink next to me, even though she couldn't actually sit. "I was talking about your old friend. Dark messy hair, tall, huge sword." She winked at me, giggling at her own dirty joke. No longer following, I cast her a sideways glance.
"I'm not sure I know who you're talking about." She smirked, pleased with herself, and blew a kiss at her reflection in the mirror. Instantly wary, I listened carefully to her response, knowing that a happy Myrtle was never a good sign. She simpered.
"Harry of course! He's been around for a while now, skulking around Gryffindor Tower with a sexy scowl. He has plenty of time to share my U-bend now, he does!" She dissolved into cackles, absolutely thrilled. I blinked. Then I blinked again.
"Harry's here?" I asked, my voice hoarse. She grinned, and I took that as a yes. "Here at… at Hogwarts?"
"Yup! Been ages since we've had a new ghost! I'm not the youngest anymore." But I didn't hear the rest of her girly chatter, as I promptly passed out onto the floor.
I woke up in my bed in Tom's suite, a pair of red eyes staring coldly down at me. I coughed, immediately sitting up, and peered around the room. Tom was kneeling on the bed beside me, scowling unpleasantly, his wan in his hand. Sighing in irritating, he sneered,
"Do you find it entertaining to randomly pass out and force me to immediately bring you to safety?" A sharp twinge of pain in the back of my head followed my cough, and he said with slightly less ice, "You suffered a mild concussion, most likely from hitting your head on the floor." I winced, having gingerly touched a small bump on the back of my head.
"How did you find me?" I asked, envisioning nightmares of Myrtle flying into the Great Hall, screaming that Hermione Granger lay dead in the second floor girls' bathroom. The image wasn't particularly appealing, and I fought not to think of Roderick's horrified expression. Tom slid off the bed and walked to his armoire. He responded evasively as he opened its doors,
"I'm your husband, it's my duty to save you from whatever messes you get into." I recognized this as the dismissal of my question and frowned, watching him rifle thoughtlessly through his robes.
"Whatever you say, Tom," I said quietly, more to myself than to him. He shook his head humorlessly, apparently having heard anyway. I lay down and sank my aching head into a pillow, closing my eyes. Eventually Tom eased back down onto the bed next to me. He rested his palm on my stomach, studying my face with an unreadable expression. "You scared me today. What were you thinking, going out into the school alone like that?" Surprised by his concern and rare display of affection, I rolled over onto my side to face him. His face remained blank, but his eyes were anxious.
"I suppose I wasn't thinking," I mumbled, embarrassed. It wasn't as if I enjoyed depending on Tom. He reached over to tuck a loose curl of my hair behind my ear.
"You need to be more careful, you could have been seen." His warnings were getting tiring. Did he think I didn't already know that? I bit back an irritating retort. Being patronizing just went with being the Dark Lord. It was his right to be patronizing. Acid crept into my voice anyway.
"I made a mistake, I wasn't thinking clearly." He frowned, sensing there was more bothering me than he knew.
"What happened?" I sighed and closed my eyes, not wanting to see his face.
"Draco said some things to me that were hard to hear," I answered hesitantly, choosing my words carefully. What Draco had done was stupid, but I didn't want him to get in trouble with Tom, who was prone to overreact. "I got upset and stormed out." I cut myself off there, unsure if Tom already knew that Harry was still here, even if as a ghost. "I realized I didn't know how to get back here, so I went into Myrtle's bathroom, knowing I should go somewhere I wouldn't run the risk of being seen." Both of us could see the flaw in my logic, and he pointed it out.
"And you fainted… why exactly?" I still didn't allow myself to look at him, and said,
"I guess I was just overwhelmed." I wasn't surprised when he didn't believe me and didn't protest when I felt him entering my mind. He quickly found what he wanted, and I was forced to hear Draco plead with me, insist I was being used. Then me, crying in the bathroom, horrified as Myrtle discussed Harry. Tom didn't speak for a while after he let me go, only stroked his hand over my stomach as I stared up at the ceiling. I didn't trust my voice enough to talk. Finally, he said calmly,
"Potter's ghost has been limited to Gryffindor Tower. He is physically unable to leave, and he hopefully won't even find out you're in the castle. You will never cross paths with him." But I wasn't worried about seeing Harry. I was thinking about Roderick, standing in Gryffindor Tower, cornered by Harry. Harry would most likely be wearing his school robes, and Myrtle had mentioned Gryffindor's sword. If Roderick had seen him, had he run? Or had they talked? What must Roderick have said, have thought? Had Roderick learned I'd run from battle? Had Harry?
"Do you know if Roderick…" I couldn't bring myself to continue.
"I can't be sure, but I don't think so. Did he mention anything to you?" I shook my head. He hmmed under his breath. After a few quiet moments, he commented,
"I could kill Malfoy for saying those things to you." I stiffened, hoping he didn't mean Draco's proposal of running away together. Having a relationship with him all those years ago had been stupid, but not forbidden. Surely that wasn't what he was protesting? I bit my lip, wondering what he would do. "You do know that I'm not using you, right?" If that was what offended him, I was surprised. Whether he was using me or not, it didn't really matter; I was here and I wasn't going anywhere. I was completely dependent on him.
"Then what am I here for?" I asked timidly. Because there was no reason for him to try so hard to protect me. I wasn't useful, I wasn't special, he didn't love me, and I kept causing problems. Was I just something to entertain him, to amuse him? To keep him busy?
"You are here because you are Roderick's mother and it is my responsibility to keep you safe." But the explanation he had clung to for years was no longer enough for me. I was safe enough at the fortress without him, there was no need for him to take me to Hogwarts and let me live with him. And regardless of what he had said, there was no need to marry me. He had said that to Pansy and had probably known that saying that made it necessary for him to do so. And then he had said it again to my friends! It was as if he wanted to be married to me, though I couldn't imagine why. But it wasn't because I was Roderick's mother. Having married parents might have made a difference for our son when he was younger, or it Tom wasn't the Dark Lord, but getting married now didn't make much of a difference.
"I was never your responsibility," I said simply instead of refuting his statement. Tom sighed, moving his head from my stomach to my face. He gently held my chin in his palm and turned me to look at him. I couldn't pull my eyes away from his earnest expression.
"Hermione," he started, his voice soft and surprisingly loving. "I made you my responsibility. I wouldn't have it any other way." He smiled nervously, stroking his fingers across my cheek. The smile looked awkward, out of place, as if he wasn't sure how to smile at all. My heart began to race. "After all, life is so much more fun when I constantly have to save you from betrayed friends, jealous ex-lovers and fainting spells." I grimaced and he pulled his hand away to rest it on my neck.
"Please don't kill Draco," I said feebly, and he laughed in surprise.
"Since you asked nicely, I'll resist for the time being." But I wasn't amused. By letting Tom into my memory, I'd given him access to a treasure trove of secrets. He didn't need to know how or when Draco and I had conducted our affair. All he needed to know was that it had occurred, and he could punish Draco for any reason he wished. Adultery, treason, perjury. The only thing worse than Draco being punished and taken away from me would be to know it was my fault. I could never forgive myself.
"Thank you," I said quietly, placing his palm over the back of his hand, flattening his fingers against my cheek. He nodded, once again expressionless.
"One thing you said to Malfoy was correct, however," he added calmly, gently placing his index finger on my lower lip. Wary but curious, I didn't protest as he pulled my lip slowly down before letting go. "You are my wife, Hermione." He drew out my name, letting it play across his tongue. My eyes drifted closed.
"I am your husband." His voice wasn't a seductive purr, there was no flirtatious slant. He was seducing me with the undeniable truth, his tone deliberate as he stated the only facts he didn't have to manipulate. "I am going to protect you and our son." My fingers went slack over his hand, and the bed shifted as he drew closer, kneeling once again. He began to unbutton my blouse, each little ping sealing me into my new life. "And right now, as your husband, I am going to make love to you in our bed."
It didn't feel like love, no matter how much I wanted to believe it was. Especially not after, when I woke up alone to find the bed cold.