Chapter 8: Learning to Fly

The early morning was chill in the pre- dawn light. Shadows still hung darkly around the room, not yet banished by the sun's rays.

But it was the silence that enveloped Hermione the most. At this hour the house was only beginning to stir. From her room in the East Wing she could faintly hear the house elves, moving through the rooms and preparing for the day. Lights would be turning on, the magic illuminating the rooms in a dull glow until the sun was strong enough. Yet, even the glow wouldn't be able to hide the misery and darkness of the rooms, which were all decorated in eerily familiar dark shades.

Hermione curled her legs under her in the large chair, gazing mindlessly out the window. Unable to sleep she had thrust the heavy drapes back only to find that it was still too early for her to make out any shapes from the inky grey.

The only other human life in the Manor was probably still fast asleep, she mused. For that alone was probably why the place was coldly silent.

This place, even at her favourite hour, still seemed desolate and oppressive to her. The dark nights could only be filled with deeds of the unsavoury so solace and quiet brought no real comfort. It was like trying to find peace and serenity, while trying to sleep on a bed of nails- the points had you constantly on guard, agitated and awake when your body desperately craved a respite. It sought to grow paranoia for the absence of sound only new grew malevolent possibilities.

At Hogwarts, dawn had always been bright and warm, filled with the new day of adventures: adventures that she could face with her friends by her side. There was never anything real to fear, just frivolous teenage worries. Her misplaced concerns then seemed so silly now. Oh sure, there had been monsters, dark magic and dangerous adventures but it was always Harry that got himself in immediate danger. They never wanted anything from her.

Hermione sighed wearily and shifted her position: legs dangling over the chair's arm while her head rested heavily on the side wing. She was starting to feel claustrophobic but her limbs felt to lethargic to move. Besides, she was a virtual prisoner in this room until her esteemed warden decided to let her out. She had a painful curiosity to search the rooms of the Manor but she believed Malfoy when he warned her that she would just be getting herself killed. Gratingly, she realised her curiosity only stemmed from the old habit of conspiracy and protection of Harry. What she found would no longer serve any purpose but to herself and even that wasn't an incentive to get up out of the very comfy chair.

The Mudblood of the famous Trio no longer had a reason to fight. What was the point of fighting when there was nothing to fight for? Fight to survive? Why survive when there was no one else to live for? Hermione shrank backwards into the chair, she felt so selfish sitting here using people for her own stupid gain. Malfoy was right, she couldn't just lie down and stay there. But she would never forgive herself if she didn't try. What would everyone think of what she had become now? Harry and Ron's face flashed briefly, features contorted into disgust and then sympathy. She squashed the vision ruthlessly, not sure what was more painful to see.

She flicked her wand, tracing a small treble clef in the air. "Gabriel," she whispered sadly. The familiar tune washed over her, doing nothing ease her distress. Grinding her teeth together she forced herself to listen to the lyrics and to focus on the melody of the notes.

I can fly

But I want his wings

She was growing tired of the situation: of the running, hiding, lying, pretending, hating. It was like the darkness she had been coupled with was always growing, feeding sardonically off her misery and it wouldn't be long till it won. It was getting harder to tell herself she had to keep going, like a Dementor followed her every move. Her stubbornness would only last so long.

I can shine even in the darkness

But I crave the light that he brings

Each old memory cracked the fissure in her heart. Ever since that day she found it a struggle to hold it together. Happy memories sought to taunt her- what was can never be again. Painful memories sought to show her the pain she had caused on those that would never love her the same again. She never asked to be like this. She wanted to be stronger so she didn't have to feel. She wondered how Harry had kept it all together.

The pain tore at her very soul until it felt like her body was falling apart. And at some point she'd stop feeling the pain and loosen her arms from around herself. She's stand on the verge of the void, infinitely numb but too scared to dive forward.

Revel in the songs that he sings

My angel Gabriel

Then something brighter would flare inside her, rushing heat through her brain and she'd feel whole again and determined. She was alive, she could fight and she wasn't about to give in. Yet, she was living on a knife edge; so easily toppled one way…

No, dwelling wasn't healthy. Hermione unwrapped around her arms from her stomach and brushed the tears from her eyes. Even the ghost of the pain was enough to send her spiraling. She wasn't strong enough. Yet.

I can love

But I need his heart

She smiled sadly at the lyrics. She knew what it was like to loose an angel. The song held more for her than anyone would probably ever know. Her glazed eyes stared back out the window. Light was just revealing the shapes of the outside world. Had an eternity not passed? Maybe it was just her, after all.

I am strong even on my own

But from him I never want to part

He's been there since the very start

My angel Gabriel

Suddenly, her mind cleared as the memories and tears faded behind her barrier. The room seemed to snap into focus and she felt the blood pound in her veins. She was alive, alert and life wasn't to be wasted. She was so tired of brooding on what was- she wanted a relief so badly it burned through her body. These walls were too small. She felt like a trapped animal and she began to panic slightly. This feeling was irrational she told herself yet it was wild and rolled off her in waves. A dull roar sounded in her ears as fever wracked over she skin, heating her in the morning chill.

She was still staring at the window when a thought tracked across her mind. She smiled at the idea and rose jerkily from the chair.

Bless the day he came to be

Angel's wings carried him to me

Heavenly

A new energy lifting her she unlatched the window. In another corner of her mind she reached out for a different emotion- one that was free and wild. Immediately, she felt her body shift in response and she let herself become overtaken with the soothing pulse of her heart. Closing her eyes, Hermione let the world fall away. She felt herself shrinking, her body becoming unrecongisable as her blood pulsed through new veins. It was a familiar change. Heat pulsed over her skin; shrinking, tightening as it surged through her body, muscles tightening and stretching.

There was more than one way to be free. Even for a little while.

I can fly

But I want his wings

She opened the world with new eyes. With one giant stroke she lifted herself from the ground and dived out the window. The wind shifted every feather on her body as she climbed the currents for a pocket of calm. Her new muscles strained slightly when pitted against the wind but it stood no chance.

I can shine even in the darkness

But I crave the light that he brings

Revel in the songs that he sings

The world quickly fell behind her but in the sky there was nothing to aim for, only the pale shape of the moon. The wind currents changed, pushing firmly against her left side. In response Hermione titled her wings and rolled as the wind pushed her away. When it finally eased she followed with a 360 roll, laughter erupting from her beak in the form of a few short cries. The world righted itself and she turned to look back. She let the air keep her up with gusts through her large wings, like the wind whistling through the trees. The sensation of being steady with nothing substantial under her was something she was still yet to get used to, even if her instincts told her it was okay.

The Manor was now the edge of her horizon, a black shape enveloped by the forest. Hermione was uncertain exactly how far the security barriers of the property reached but it wouldn't matter if she stayed in this form. No amount of magic could distinguish the ordinary animal from the extraordinary.

She angled her body downwards towards the trees, heading for one of the larger, sturdier branches. She landed gently, relishing for a moment the feeling of her talons slicing into the thick limb.

The morning was a world full of changing colours and sounds. Her keen eyes were able to distinguish the differences in greens of one leaf, the colours of bark. It was if the whole world was a changing dance of colour and form, filled continually with echoing sounds and murmurs; most of which she was able to pinpoint with relative accuracy. A small grey blue caught in her left eye and she lazily followed the small mouse as it frantically ran around the base of the tree. The eagle in her screamed breakfast but her human half had enough power to mentally retch on the idea and throw it out the metaphorical window. She would…could never lower herself to feed in this form; it was so barbaric she would probably end up throwing it up later. It was amazing; Hermione marvelled silently as she let her gaze trail deliberately away from the creature how strong the animal instincts of the chosen form were. Sirius had never mentioned it and, as far as she knew, Lupin's transformation completely overruled his more intelligent senses. But when transforming into an animal one acquired the same instincts; to kill, to run, to fly and to protect. And on top of that they were so much stronger than anything she'd experienced. Sure, emotions were from her human reasoning but no one ever taught her how to fly or hunt. The eagle just seemed to know how.

Sighing mentally Hermione turned to look back up to the sky, now crested with hues of pink and orange. She would have to head back, soon. It wasn't her place to stay here and, if she believed in fate she could conclude it was probably not her destiny to live a life as easy as this. Really, animals had it so easy: be born, grow up, eat, sleep, mate, die. No annoying hormones and ridiculous gossip, no homework, no dangerous flying spells and definitely no lost friends to care about. In a few minutes her world would be waking up. Hermione entertained herself briefly with the idea of Malfoy with a bed head before the beast half of her mind lost interest. Really, didn't that boy ever not look immaculately groomed?

…Not that his grooming habits were any of her concern she chastised herself.

And now she was just stalling. Before she found another point of exploration Hermione took to the skies and angled towards the black smear on the horizon. Her home. Her prison. Her only hope.

oOo

"You look terrible, Granger," Malfoy remarked blandly from across the table.

The muscle under Hermoine's eye twitched. Before she could open her mouth to retort Malfoy cut in smoothly, "I expect you to look at least somewhat… no, in your case: perfectly presentable for Mother this afternoon. No buts, Granger," he concluded.

Hermione fumed as he continued to play with the handle of a cup a small house elf had just placed before him. She wasn't stupid, damn it! Yet, Malfoy continued treating her like she was five years old. Then again, she would be horrified if he spoke to any small children in such a manner. They would probably keel over. Serves him right if they stunk up the whole stupid, expensive building.

Hermione breathed out loudly, rubbing the bridge of her nose. She really needed more sleep. Good peaceful sleep with fluffy clouds, lollipops, cute flying ponies and preferably half naked angels with soft white wings-

"Oh," she groaned. There she went again.

But the sound was enough to grab Malfoy's attention. Granger was tired; he could see it in the slump of her shoulders, her head sagging to the left and the dark circles under her eyes. Hadn't the woman ever heard of beauty sleep?

He sat back and took another appraisal. 'No sleep. Tired. Tired leads to… crabby woman and no brain function. Which results in…Mistakes being made. Mistakes mean death and death was…. Well, death. Not good,' Draco thought. Granger needed a really sudden and hard grip on reality. 'One doesn't fall asleep when they're scared shitless,' reasoned Draco. Pleased to have solved one possible dilemma for the day Draco increased the volume on his glare from 'mild' to 'icy torture.' Just like he expected Granger's head shoot right up.

"What?" she snapped. She had been having a fine delusion until the static on the back of her neck woke her up. She didn't have to look far to detect the source of her aggravation, the blonde… well, The Blonde was glaring at her from across the table.

Draco thought quickly, he hadn't really planned past getting her attention. Then a light bulb, well a metaphoric non-muggle light bulb flicked on. "Your supposed dark magic capabilities… I need to confirm if you have any skill whatsoever. Otherwise this charade is over and Mother comes home to an empty house." Yes, now it seemed completely obvious. How could he have let something so simple slip? Draco gave himself a mental pat on the back. Two problems down and he hadn't even left the breakfast table.

Hermione for her part felt her fire go out with a big puff, leaving only a cold smoke trailing in her veins. She had been expecting Malfoy to broach the idea at some point. But now? The mere thought caused her muscle to tighten and her palms to sweat. "Malfoy," she began, "Do we have to do this now?" She wanted to cringe at the desperate not in her voice.

Granger's hands wouldn't stop playing with her damn empty bowl. Not that it was distracting in anyway…Nope, definitely not. "No," he drawled. "We do this now or I send you flying out the door."

Rising fluidly from his chair Draco beckoned Hermione to follow him. This couldn't be put off any longer, especially with all the inevitable work on her 'talent' that would need to be done.

Hermione was finding it difficult to move. Dark alleys, angry words and green lights were filling her vision.

"Go to hell, Harry," she hissed furiously, her wand resting dangerously on the soft flesh of his throat.

"What am I doing?? Why can't I move? My body isn't responding," Hermione struggled. "Why are you standing there?? Run, Harry! For God's sake… RUN!"

She was screaming but no sound burst from her mouth. "Why isn't he running!?"

"Hermione?" he whispered, emerald eyes full of hurt and disbelief. "What's going-"

But then she was drawing back, body shifting into a fighting position she had no knowledge of. The fingers holding her wand were sweaty but the grip was firm. She couldn't feel the chill of the night through the heated adrenalin coursing through her veins.

"Crucio," she laughed. The sound was icy and void and it filled Hermione's mind with crevasses that went on forever.

Harry was dodging with practiced skill: rolling, sidestepping, twisting. But the alley was small and she was only missing by centimetres. Some part of her, the one horrified and powerless, couldn't deny that he wasn't fighting back. It was getting harder to hold on to her sanity; the dark magic trying to smother the last light she was holding on to. She could feel the raw power pounding in her head with each breath.

"Why? Why aren't you fighting. Harry? I can hurt you…Damn it! Fight, stupid! Please!" She was staring straight at him but even her eyes refused to water. The curses were coming easier now, rolling off her tongue. Why was it s easy?

Then she was drawing a knife that wasn't hers from a cloak she never owned. The blade glowed eerie and iridescent in the moonlight.

No…

She blinked and the dining room snapped into focus, including Malfoy's face inches from hers. "Wasn't he on the other side of the room?" she pondered groggily.

Draco peered curiously into her face, so close he could see himself projected in her terrified eyes. The slight pulse in her neck confirmed she was alive but she looked dead to the world. "Granger?"

Then the colour flooded back into her face and her eyes sparked to life. Draco caught up in the flecks of emeralds blazing in her unnatural eyes didn't acknowledge her until…

"Ah, you're a little close, Malfoy. I can't get out," Hermione mumbled.

Malfoy shrugged nonchalantly and withdrew. But even as he began walking back out the door he kept a firm eye on her movements. There were a million things he could say at the moment: things that would definitely cause her to wake up and fire up that temper. But, there didn't seem the incentive at the moment. You didn't need to be a genius to guess where her fears lay. He had certainly never inspired that amount of terror in Hermione Granger. Potter… Draco fought the urge to grind his teeth together. That bastard has whatever he gets coming. And…yet, he was walking through muggle-trapped corridors with the prick's best… well, ex best muggle friend in tow. The fates were cruel sometimes.

After checking again to make sure she wandered off and not from any misplaced concern of her condition Draco paused in front of a pair or double, black iron doors. Each panel on the door was embossed with a scene of Malfoy history- gruesome and political.

"Well, let's begin," he stated, watching in grim satisfaction as Hermione's eyes widened while she took in the sight of the rooms.

"Oh god…" Hermione concluded. However, since the thought didn't seem powerful enough in her head she decided to voice her concerns, "Shit."

Thank you all for being so patent! I'm so sorry this took so long. School work and writer's block just built up then I had a few weeks overseas. But we are back on track now. My apologies for all the mistakes. I read through an older section and felt like banging my head on the table. If anyone knows someone to Beta for a major procrastinator please let me know!

Up next- some dark magic fun. Hopefully I'll settle into a writing pattern soon. I still feel like I'm jumping around a bit and comments are definitely helpful!