Bring Me To Life
Chapter One: Life Chose Me
"I've poured this bottle of light from the sun"—Dar Williams
It was a sunny day. The sky was the perfect shade of blue, a few puffy white clouds dotted the expanse, and a cool, spring breeze was blowing. It was the perfect kind of day.
Hermione smiled as she walked through London on her way from her flat to the offices of the Daily Prophet, located very near the Ministry. Usually she Apparated, but when she'd looked out the window that morning, the weather was begging her to walk.
A sidewalk vendor was selling flowers and she stopped to admire them. He was stationed on one side of the Waterloo Bridge that spanned the Thames. The cart was almost bursting, there were so many flowers from which to choose. Hermione decided to buy a colorful bunch for her office—the grey walls of the Prophet could be depressing.
She thanked the man and, with a small wave, started across the bridge. She stopped about a third of the way over to admire the city and the river. Sometimes London was breathtaking! She loved spring. The angle of the sun highlighted all the new colors bursting into life on trees, bushes, and in the city parks. The geraniums she'd planted in her window box were just starting to bloom.
Hermione smiled and started to continue her walk, but as she turned her head, something caught her attention. A red scarf was fluttering down toward the river, and it was light enough that the wind twisted it in and around itself. She watched as it landed softly on the water and began moving with the current.
Almost as an afterthought, Hermione looked toward the middle of the bridge to see who had dropped the scarf. Instead of seeing someone looking over the side of the bridge at her scarf in dismay, she saw a woman crouched precariously on the outside.
For a moment, Hermione panicked. As she watched, the woman made no attempt to jump, or stand, or even move. Hermione glanced around her frantically; no one else seemed to have noticed the woman. Hermione ran over to the middle of the bridge, and when she looked down, saw that the woman hadn't moved.
"Don't do it!" Hermione yelled, afraid that anything she might say would frighten the woman and cause her to fall.
Without looking up, the woman said, "Why not? What's the point?"
"Please, there's always a point. Come up here and let's talk." Her mind was spinning and she felt utterly helpless. The dark-haired woman was too far to reach, as she was in a crouched position. Hermione decided she would use magic if she had to, should the woman fall.
"He doesn't love me," came the woman's pouty voice.
Hermione resisted the urge to roll her eyes, even though no one would have seen. "I'm sure that's not true," Hermione said encouragingly. She had no idea if it were true, of course, but she was fairly certain it wasn't important to know at this point.
The woman scoffed and shook her head. "You don't know him."
"No, you're right, I don't. But—he's not worth this, I know that much. Now, come up here and let's talk. Tell me all about what a creep this bloke is."
"Why bother? He said he'd never love me."
"I'm sure he was just angry," Hermione offered, practically pleading for the woman to listen.
"You don't know Draco."
Hermione's blood froze for just a fraction of a second. There could be no chance of this Draco being any other than the Draco. It wasn't exactly a common name.
The woman continued what promised to be a long soliloquy on the virtues of Draco Malfoy. "He's horrible and wonderful all at the same time."
"Pansy?" Hermione blurted.
She looked up, finally. "Granger?"
"Are you mad? Get up here right now!"
"Draco Malfoy is absolutely not worth this. If you're not up here with me in five seconds, I'm going to hex you. One. Two. Three—"
"Okay, okay, Merlin. Keep your knickers on." Slowly and carefully, Pansy stood, then climbed over the bridge railing and onto the sidewalk.
When Pansy was safely on the right side of the rail, Hermione slumped to the ground, breathing hard. Her flower bunch fell to her side. Pansy wrung her hands before slumping next to Hermione. She curled her legs up to her chest and cried.
Cars rushed by, oblivious to what had almost happened. Hermione looked to the end of the bridge and spotted a blue car whose driver just might have seen Pansy climbing over the railing. As the car took a right turn, Hermione mentally cursed the driver for not having the decency to stop.
Pansy's sobs drew Hermione's attention. She put an arm around her and gave her a comforting squeeze. It was awkward, as she was a foot away from Pansy, but she sat that way until Pansy's shoulders stopped shaking.
She wiped her nose with the back of her hand and looked at Hermione. "What are you doing here?"
"I—I sometimes walk to work."
"Pansy, were you really going to jump?"
"I don't know. I wanted to, at first, but then … I got to thinking about this painting I'd started, but hadn't finished, and I really wanted to. Finish it, I mean. If I'd jumped, and … and died, I wouldn't have been able to."
"You paint?" Hermione asked, unable to hide her surprise.
Pansy nodded with a sniff.
"What were you painting?"
"There's a garden on Draco's property. In one part of it, there's a bench, next to an orange tree. In the evenings, the sun shines through the garden and the trees, and—it's just beautiful. You really should see it. I can't describe it. That's why I wanted to paint it."
"Forgive me, I don't mean to pry, but I simply don't know … are you and Malfoy … married?"
"No," Pansy said sadly. Then, "You're wondering why I'm painting his garden, right?"
"I live at his house."
"You live with him?"
Pansy gave a wry laugh. "Yes and no. Not with him, just in his house. That's all."
"Oh." Hermione's mind was racing once again. She felt a kind of duty to Pansy, after what had just happened. She couldn't simply walk away from her with a 'good day, then.' She had no details whatsoever about Pansy and Malfoy's relationship; she only knew that Pansy should notreturn to his home. Probably ever again. Anger for Malfoy started boiling in Hermione's blood.
"Pansy, what are you doing today?"
"Come to my place. I'll write to my boss at work to tell them I can't come in. You look like you could use some sleep."
Pansy frowned and appeared to be thinking. "But Draco expects me for lunch."
"Cancel. You probably shouldn't see him for a while anyway. Don't you think?"
Again Pansy shrugged.
"I mean it," Hermione said, standing. She held a hand out for Pansy. "Let's go… do… girly things."
Pansy looked up at her and half-smiled. "I've always wondered if it would be possible to deal with that hair of yours. We could make you over!"
Hermione gritted her teeth and once again refused to roll her eyes. "Whatever you want, Pansy. What do you say?"
The very brief moment of happiness passed as quickly as it had appeared. Pansy's smile faded and her entire aura slumped. "It's hopeless. Your hair is always going to look like … that," she said with a dismissive wave.
"Pansy," Hermione said, very patiently. "If anyone can do something with my hair, I'm sure it's you."
She looked up. "You mean it?"
"Of course I do," Hermione said. "Now, are you coming? You can have free reign over my hair."
Slowly, Pansy nodded and sighed. "I should tell Draco."
"No. You're a big girl. You don't have to tell him anything."
"He'll worry," said Pansy, standing.
"No, Granger, he's not like you think at all."
"Uh-huh. Come on, this way." Hermione started back down the bridge the same way she'd come, but after taking a few steps she stopped. Frowning, she went to the railing and looked down. "Pansy! You couldn't kill yourself by jumping off this bridge!"
Pansy walked to her side and looked down too. "I realized that when I got here."
Hermione looked at her and though she tried her best to suppress a giggle, she couldn't. Pansy scowled, then smiled and started walking along the bridge.
"Honestly, Granger, he's – "
"Let's make a rule, shall we?" Hermione said. "No talking about Malfoy. Okay?"
"Pansy, I think it would be best for you right now not to talk about him."
Pansy grudgingly agreed and followed Hermione to her flat. They talked about nothing of consequence, Hermione asking a lot of questions to keep Pansy's mind occupied.
When they arrived at Hermione's flat, she sent Pansy to the bathroom for a long, soothing bath. She gave Pansy her very best bath oils and bubbles, and cast a spell so the water would stay hot. While Pansy soaked, Hermione made tea and when it was finished, she took Pansy a cup.
"Thank you," she whispered as she took the cup from Hermione. She took a sip and closed her eyes. Hermione quietly left the room.
When Pansy was finished, Hermione gave her a towel and her very best, most comfortable pajamas to wear. Hermione asked if she wanted to do her hair then, but Pansy shook her head and asked instead for a bed. Apparently, she hadn't slept well the last few nights.
Hermione led her to the spare room and with a flick of her wand, put sheets on the bed and extra fluffy pillows. She made sure to lock the windows, as she was on the sixth floor, and remove any sharp or potentially dangerous items. Hermione asked Pansy about her wand, and she frowned and said she'd left it at Draco's.
Pansy was asleep before Hermione even left the room.
The next three days were both difficult for Hermione and horrible for Pansy. Hermione refused to let Pansy leave the flat, or to run home to Draco, or to even talk about him. She was still trying to figure out just what to do with the girl. Harry and Ron had come over the second night, worried because she hadn't been to work in two days.
Hermione told them what had happened and they were both concerned, for her and for Pansy.
"Why do you have to keep her?" Ron asked.
"What about Malfoy?" Harry added.
"She's not going back there, Harry." Hermione crossed her arms; the matter was not open for debate. "I have no idea what happened between them, and I'm not letting her return to a place where she'd been so depressed she wanted to jump off a bridge." She turned to Ron. "I'm keeping her here because she has nowhere else to go. At least, she hasn't mentioned anywhere else. All she wants to do is go back to Malfoy."
"But Hermione, I'm worried about you," said Ron, looking away from her and fidgeting with the corner of her counter. "What if … what if she tries something while she's here?"
A few images flashed through Hermione's mind but she pushed them away. "I'm taking appropriate measures. I've removed all sharp objects from her reach, locking them away. And you know she won't be able to get through my locking spells. I keep all the windows locked, and prepare all her food. She doesn't know how to use most of the appliances, since they're Muggle. And she doesn't have her wand. I've even taken a few psychology books out from the library—to refresh myself—and I'm halfway through the second."
"So you'll be an expert in a week?" Harry asked.
"No," she said crossly. "But … I've had experience, and I think I can help her. She said she wanted to jump because Malfoy didn't love her anymore. Or something like that."
"I'd be throwing a party if I were her," said Ron with a chuckle.
Hermione scowled at him. "She honestly cares about him. That much I've learned since yesterday morning. She thinks he's the most perfect person alive."
"And I'm really a Death Eater," said Harry.
"I want to work with her to get her to see that he has faults. Once he's no longer this perfect image in her head, maybe she'll see that there are better men out there for her. Or, more importantly, that she doesn't need Malfoy or anyone to make her happy."
"Good luck," said Ron.
"I intend to call upon you two to help me," Hermione said in a tone that suggested they really had no choice in the matter.
Harry and Ron exchanged a look. "What exactly do you mean?" Harry asked.
"Right now, I'm not leaving her alone in the flat. But I'm going to have to leave occasionally, and eventually, I'll run out of sick time and have to return to work. You two can help by running errands for me, or sitting with her."
"She's not a baby," Ron said.
"I know that, but this is what I'm doing. If I leave her alone, she'll run off to Malfoy. And that is not what she needs." Hermione looked at her friends. "Please. Can I count on you?"
"Yes, of course," said Harry reluctantly. "You know you can. But please, promise me you'll get help when you're in over your head. Okay?"
"I will," she said sincerely, grateful for their understanding and friendship. "Oh, thank you!" Hermione hugged first Harry, then Ron. "So, Ron, how are things with Fleur's cousin?"
Ron blushed and looked away. "Fine. Her name is Suzette, by the way."
Hermione grinned. "I know. It's just fun to tease you."
"Oh, Hermione. I didn't know you had company." Pansy was standing in the doorway in Hermione's pajamas, looking sheepishly at those present.
"Pansy, come in. It's just Harry and Ron. Would you like some tea?"
"Yes, please," she said shyly. She sat on the edge of the sofa, as far away from the men as she could get. They waited in silence for Hermione to return.
"Thanks for offeringme some," Ron kidded nervously when she returned.
"Oh! I'm so sorry, would you—"
"No," he said quickly. "I'm fine. I think we were just leaving, right Harry?"
"Huh?" Harry said. "Sorry, I was… what?"
"We're about to leave, right?" Ron said emphatically.
"Oh, well, Hermione, do you need anything?"
"No, thanks anyway," she said, sitting beside Pansy and giving her a warm smile. "Do you need anything?" Pansy shook her head. "I guess I'll see you two around?" she said.
"Yeah, of course," said Ron. "Anything you need just let us know."
"It's nice to see you again, Pansy," said Harry, as he and Ron gathered their things to leave.
She looked up at him, eyes wide. "Oh, uhm, thank you."
Harry smiled at her, and followed Ron out the door. "Bye, Hermione!"
Two days later, right after dinner, there was a knock on the door. Hermione was expecting Harry to bring her a few groceries, so she didn't bother asking who it was. Mistake.
When she opened wide the door, she found Draco Malfoy standing there, looking like he'd walked three miles in the rain and caught pneumonia and thenchosen not to eat for a week. He looked awful.
Before she could think, Hermione heard running and soon Pansy had shoved Hermione out of the way and thrown her arms around Draco. He returned the hug and held her tight. Hermione watched in amazement.
"Don't ever do that again," he said sternly, as he pushed her off him. "Ever! Okay? I've never been so scared."
Pansy nodded, biting her lip and smiling. "I won't. I'm so glad you're here."
He nodded, his anger rapidly defusing. "I'm just glad you're okay."
Hermione loudly cleared her throat and both Pansy and Draco looked at her. "Pansy, I need to talk to… him." Pansy looked very reluctant to leave his side. "Please? It'll just take a minute, I promise."
"Can I go with him?" she asked.
Hermione looked at Draco and was surprised to see that his eyes were wide. "We need to talk about that," she said, still holding his gaze. "Malfoy? Hallway?"
He nodded and stepped back through the door that had never been shut. Hermione followed him and then locked and cast an Imperturbable charm on the door. Then she slowly turned around to face him, not sure exactly what she was going to say.
Fortunately, he relieved her of that worry. "What happened? Why is she here?"
"She sent me a letter saying she was staying with you, asking me to come get her. I've been worried sick."
"If you'd let me talk, I'd be more than happy to fill you in."
"Oh, right. Go on, then."
Hermione took a deep breath, still not sure where to start. "I'm not sure how to say this. I found Pansy three days ago, standing on a bridge. She… had gone there with the intention of jumping."
Draco's eyes widened and his lips parted in surprise. "What?"
"It was complete coincidence that I found her. I talked her into not jumping, somehow, although really, she was just so surprised to see me that she did what I said. Anyway, I brought her here. She said she'd been living at your house, and that she'd wanted to jump because you didn't love her. I wasn't about to let her go back to you. And I'm not letting her go with you tonight, either."
Draco nodded, slowly processing the information. "I—I cannot believe she would do that." He let out his breath and grabbed his hair in his fists and pulled, startling Hermione. "She cannot come back. I—I can't do this anymore."
"Do what? What's going on? She's told me nothing, essentially. Would you start from the beginning?"
He looked at her, considered her for a moment, then Conjured a chair and sank heavily into it. "Pansy's parents were killed in the War. Voldemort had taken everything they had, so she was left with nothing. I took her in. She has been my friend for as long as I can remember; there was no way I could simply abandon her. She has been living with me ever since.
"At first, it was fine. We had fun, and I let her redo a few of the rooms where she was staying. But after maybe six months, she started getting really possessive. She would ask me where I was going, with whom, for how long… among other things. I… I reckon I knew she had a thing for me, but I never encouraged it, never led her on. At least, not intentionally; she claims I did.
"After a while, I cut down on my social outings. She would really go to pieces if I went on a date. She kept insisting that she was the one I was supposed to be with. I told her, repeatedly, that I didn't feel that way toward her. I was never anything but nice about it, and truthful. I'd had plenty of experience with Pansy being jealous in school, and knew how best to deal with it. At least, I thought I did. Apparently with her living with me, none of those strategies worked. She just got worse.
"After maybe another six months of that, I decided it was not worth fighting all the time and stopped going out as much. I thought she would lighten up, and we could return to just having fun as friends. But that didn't work, for either of us. I started resenting that she was keeping me from having a life, having friends, a girl—whatever. She kept expecting something to happen between us, and when it didn't, she would get angry.
"Another four months, maybe five, passed, and I couldn't take it anymore. I started seeing someone, and Pansy fell apart. Five nights ago, I was on a date with the girl, and Pansy must have followed me because she showed up and made a huge scene. It was, embarrassing, and she was loud, and… well, there were children present who heard a lot of things they should not have. I had to tell her, in front of the entire restaurant, that I didn't love her. She made me. I had always told her I would tell her the truth, so I did.
"She didn't scream, she didn't yell—nothing after that. She shed a few tears, looking at me as if I'd betrayed her, and then quietly left the restaurant. Needless to say, I'm no longer seeing that girl. She rightly told me she didn't deserve to be in the middle of what she called 'a lover's spat' and broke things off.
"I was so angry at Pansy when I got home I went straight to her rooms to continue our fight, but she wasn't there, and she didn't come home that night, or since. So when I got her letter, I came straight over."
While he was talking, Hermione had sat down on the floor and leaned on her door. Though he never really looked at her while he talked, she couldn't take her eyes off him. The whole story—everything he'd done for Pansy—seemed too surreal. That he would; that he could be such a good friend flabbergasted Hermione. It was true that he'd changed; everyone knew that. Everyone knew the story of him joining and fighting for the Order. He was a hero, like Harry; and, like Harry, he shunned the spotlight.
They hadn't talked much during the War, and had certainly never become friends. There had been too much else to do; she'd barely seen him. So in her mind, he'd remained very similar to the Draco Malfoy she knew in school, and she figured only his allegiance had changed. He'd never tried to get close to anyone in the Order; he'd just stuck to his duties and performed them flawlessly.
So to have him sitting outside her flat, pouring out his heart and telling her very intimate details about his life, left her head spinning. Mostly with more questions.
"I had no idea you'd be so worried."
He just looked at her, and his eyes told her a story of long, worried hours and restless sleep, if that.
"I—I wanted to do what I thought was best for her. I had no idea she'd written you… she must have used the owl that delivered my mail yesterday. I'd asked her to let him go."
"She's very resourceful."
"I gather. Has she… tried anything like this before?"
He shook his head. "But she's threatened. That's why I've been so worried. I really, truly care about her, but I can't give her what she wants from me. I just can't. If I could, I would have, a long time ago. But… I can't make myself feel that way for her. I can't…" His voice trailed off and he put his head in his hands.
Hermione thought he might have been crying, though he gave no visible signs. She wanted to hold him, just as she'd held Pansy three days earlier. It was obvious he was in pain too. She stood up and walked across the hall and stopped just beside him; she didn't know what to do, exactly, so she put a hand on his shoulder.
He stiffened, and brought his hands away from his face. Then he looked up at her, his eyes red. Hermione removed her hand and stood awkwardly beside him until he looked away.
Then she said, "Well, let's talk. You don't want to take her back."
He shook his head. "I can't. I—I've done everything I can, but I don't think it's good for her to live with me."
"I agree. Look, she can stay with me. I was planning on keeping her awhile anyway."
The look he gave her then was mixed with surprise and gratitude. "Really?"
"Yes. The last thing she needs is to be around you right now. I've talked to Harry and Ron, and they've agreed to help me. I want to keep her away from you. She thinks you're perfect, basically. Nothing can touch you. I said one negative thing about you, and she nearly bit my head off. That's not normal; you know you're not perfect."
He chuckled sadly. "Thanks."
"Well, you know it's true. No one's perfect. Once I get her to realize it, I want to work on her image of herself. She's so much more than a girl willing to give up on life just because some bloke doesn't like her, and she needs to see that. I don't want her to see you for a very long time, as long as possible."
"Whatever you think is best," he said dully.
Hermione sat down on the floor beside his chair in a huff and sighed. "I think I can do this. But I'm not sure. I know it's going to be huge, and I just hope I'm up for it."
"Anything I can do to help, I'll do," Draco said quietly.
His words, though soft, were like a shout to Hermione, so different from the Draco she had grown up with, and she had to shake her head again at her present reality. Malfoy was sitting in her hallway, her Mugglehallway, offering her whatever she needed. True, it was for his friend who was sitting inside Hermione's flat, probably wringing her hands in anticipation of seeing him again, but still…
She sighed. "I don't think it would be good for you to be around."
"I know that," he said, sounding somewhat annoyed. "I meant money. Or supplies.Whatever I can do."
"Oh. Well, thank you. But I don't think that will be necessary."
"Granger, she's going to be difficult."
"I can tell."
"She's going to be really angry about not coming home with me."
"She's very resourceful, like I said before. You're going to have to—"
"Malfoy, I get it. I fought Death Eaters, remember? I think I can handle Pansy."
"Those two things are not nearly the same."
Hermione gave a half-smile. "I know that as well. But I have some experience in this area. I was in Healer training for a few years."
He raised an eyebrow. "I take it you are not a Healer, then."
"No. It didn't work out," she replied quickly, not anxious to discuss the specifics. "Regardless, understand that I'm not going into this completely blind. And Harry and Ron have already made me promise not to get in over my head. I will get help if I need it."
"And who is going to be the judge of whether or not you need help? You?"
"I'm sure Harry and Ron will be watching me closely."
He looked at her, sitting on the floor beside him, and smiled; a tired, desperate smile, and she didn't even see it, but he meant it. "I do not doubt that you truly want to help, nor do I doubt that you believe you can. I don't even know what to say. There's no way I can adequately express my thanks."
"I haven't doneanything yet. Save the praise and accolades until there are results."
He chuckled. "I don't even know what to think, what to do now. None of this has quite sunk in."
"Pick up with your life. Try and get that girl to go out with you again."
He quirked an eyebrow. "I don't even think I really liked her. I just needed—out. Away. And she was a good enough reason."
"Fine. Then go find some other girl to go out with you."
He looked at her, and this time she was looking at him and smiling. He was pretty certain it was because of how raw he felt, and hesitant, relieved, and terrified, that he was suddenly struck by how very little he really knew about Hermione. She seemed very different than she had in school—more relaxed—and even during the war, despite the fact that they'd never been friends.
"I'm not bowing out. I need you to know that. I truly do care about her, very much. This is only temporary."
"Of course, I know that, Malfoy. You don't want her out of your life completely; you just need a break from her for a while. And she needs a break from you. I hope that the next time you see her, she's feeling better."
"Me too. Will you keep me informed of what's going on with her?"
"I suppose I can do that."
"Please. Write to me and tell me of her progress."
She nodded. "I will. Only you can't write back. If she sees your handwriting, or your owl, I don't know what effect that might have."
He frowned. "Okay. What do I do if I absolutely have to get in touch with you? Say, for example, in an emergency."
"You could use the method of instant communication employed by the Order during the war."
He nodded. "All right." He stood and Vanished the chair, then held out a hand to help Hermione to her feet as well. Only he pulled a little too hard, and she crashed into him.
"Sorry!" she said hastily, and backed away as though he might burn her.
"My fault," he said, avoiding her eyes.
They stood in the hallway for a few moments, neither sure what to do or say next, or if anything really needed to be done or said. Draco seemed highly interested in a picture hanging in the hallway, and Hermione concentrated on a few spots of dirt on her door. Finally, Hermione spoke.
"I'd better get going, she's probably making up all kinds of stories about what we're doing out here." She regretted it instantly.
Draco turned red, which was not at all a flattering look against his pale complexion. He mumbled something, and started as if to walk down the hall. He'd taken two steps when he turned around, any embarrassment he'd felt gone.
"I don't suppose you'd let me say goodbye to her, would you?"
"Right." He nodded to himself, staring hard at the floor. "But you'll write."
"Yes, Malfoy. Now go, already."
She watched him walk to the end of the hallway and press the down button for the lift. He tapped his foot randomly as he waited, his hands in his pockets. Only then did she notice that he'd worn Muggle clothes—grey pants and a black, long-sleeved button down shirt with the sleeves rolled up to just below his elbows. Even when he'd spent three days worrying for his friend, he still managed to appear put together.
He must have felt her staring, because he turned around. She quickly looked forward, but did nothing but stare at the doorknob. Hermione heard the ding that indicated the lift had arrived. She listened as the door slid open, and he took the two steps required to get inside, and the doors slid shut. She shut her eyes tight and opened the door.
Pansy was sitting on the sofa when Hermione returned. She'd been waiting for nearly twenty minutes. When she saw Hermione she stood up, anxiously peering around the other witch for the person she really wanted to see. Hermione closed the door behind her and looked at her.
Pansy sat back down on the sofa and Hermione walked over to the chair. She sat and faced Pansy.
"He's not taking me home, is he?" she asked.
Hermione shook her head.
"We both thought it would be best if you not see each other for awhile."
Pansy nodded slowly, a swirl of panic building in her gut. She could feel her heart beat get faster, and it suddenly felt much warmer than it had a moment earlier. "Why?"
"It's upsetting to you. He wants you to know he cares very much for you, and he wants what's best for you. Right now, that isn't living with him. You're going to stay with me until you feel better. Okay?"
Pansy frowned. "I—I want to see him."
"You will, just not tonight. Or for a few weeks, maybe, or months. It depends."
"Months?" Pansy exclaimed. "Months! You cannot be serious!"
"I am. I know you're probably going to be angry with me, but I'm doing this for you."
Pansy crossed her arms and slouched in her seat. She knew—she knew—she knew. But she couldn't quite be there right now. She needed him, she needed him, she didn't know how to be without him. And she knew—she knew—this was good. But she hated it all the same.
"I hate you," she said, and stormed out of the room.
The next morning, after she'd awakened and had time to think, Pansy found Hermione at the kitchen table, drinking a cup of tea. She sat down across from her; Hermione didn't look up from the newspaper.
"I don't hate you."
"I'm glad," she replied, without taking her eyes from the paper.
"What did he say?"
Hermione set the paper on the table and took the cup in both hands, looking at Pansy. "He told me a lot of things. About the two of you. Why you were living with him, what's been happening." She paused and took a sip. "I want to hear your side too, Pansy. I want to understand, I really do."
Pansy nodded. "I know."
"Whenever you're ready to talk, I'm here, okay?"
She nodded again. "What did you eat for breakfast?"
"Oatmeal. Would you like me to fix you a bowl?"
"At Draco's, I always had shirred eggs and rusks."
"I don't have those things. It's oatmeal or nothing, I'm afraid."
It was an entire week before Pansy talked to Hermione again. She slept a lot. When she woke up, she would eat, wander around the flat looking for something to do, sometimes take a bath, and then fall back into bed. Hermione knew it was because she was depressed, so she tried to be understanding, but she was getting discouraged. She'd asked if she could work from home for a few weeks, and her boss approved the request. But she just wasn't getting anywhere with Pansy.
Harry and Ron came over a few times during the week, to bring her food, or DVDs, or to give her a break. She would walk around her block, thankful for the spring air and the chance to be outside.
Hermione was sitting at the table eating dinner when Pansy came and sat down. Without a word, Hermione got up and fixed Pansy a plate, set it down in front of her, and resumed her own meal.
Pansy picked at her food for a few minutes and then sighed. "We were supposed to get married."
Hermione's eyebrows shot up. "Really?"
"Yeah," she replied, a far-away look in her eye. "He asked me when we were five and I said yes. We told our parents, and they said we had to wait until we were older. But he promised. Then, our parents made it sort of official, right after we started Hogwarts. I think they were all thrilled at the opportunity to have such a potentially complicated thing as the marriage of their children over and done with."
"It was arranged?"
"Yes, to the extent that we both said we wanted it. Naturally, if either of us wanted out, it would have been allowed, but I knew I never would. We… tried. To be a real couple, but it really didn't work. We were so young, and had no idea what love was all about. How can you know, when you're five, if you want to spend your life with someone?"
Hermione nodded, afraid that if she spoke, she'd destroy whatever was giving Pansy the ability to say all that she was saying.
"All through school, I adored him. He was perfect. He always said the perfect thing, did the perfect thing. And he was so smart!" Pansy smiled. "And the most good-looking bloke at Hogwarts."
Hermione cocked an eyebrow and smiled. "I would have to say you were biased in that regard."
Hermione laughed. "Pansy, I did not find him attractive in the least in school."
"Yes, it's true. I'm sure I'm not the only one who felt that way. But let's not argue. Please, continue your story."
Pansy nodded. "Anyway, as I was saying, we tried. Fourth and fifth years. It didn't work well, and he was always getting annoyed with me, but I tried really hard. Probably too hard. When sixth year came around, I was all ready to be perfect for him. Only… he had, you know, joined the Death Eaters, and he didn't really have time for me. Or anything. I waited, all through the War, for him to return to me, and when it finally ended and he took me in, I thought for sure it would happen.
"We would finally get married. Things were going smoothly, but…" Pansy looked at Hermione and she had tears sitting in the corners of her eyes. "He didn't fall in love with me."
Hermione reached across the table and squeezed Pansy's hand.
"I knew it, too. There was one night when I thought he was going to kiss me, and I, I leaned in, but he just said my name. In that way that says he's sorry I got the idea he wanted to kiss me, that he hates that he's having to say that he can't. And then he pulled away, only not completely, just enough that I knew, you know? I knew he didn't feel the same. And, well, it made me crazy.
"Just… thinking of him with other women. I got completely obsessive. I know I did, but I was okay with that. I thought I could win him back. If I just paid enough attention to him, just showed him I cared more than anyone else ever could, he'd realize we were meant to be."
Pansy chuckled. "That did not happen. I only drove him crazy, which meant he was always agitated and on the verge of blowing up at me all the time. He started avoiding me—not that I could blame him—so I started seeking him out. Sneaking looks at his planner, even following him a few times. Like the last time."
She started crying and Hermione handed her a tissue. "I knew he had a date, but I went after him anyway. I was so stupid! I made a whole bunch of ridiculous accusations, and basically forced him to tell me how he felt. Even though I already knew!" She blew her nose. "When he said it, when he really, actually, finally said it, I felt numb. I didn't know what to do.
"Everything in my life had revolved around him, and he just… said no. I don't even know where I went that night, or what I did. I wandered around in a fog and wound up on that bridge. When I came to myself, I figured I was supposed to jump. I really felt like I could, too, and it would be okay. No one would miss me, if Draco didn't."
Pansy looked at Hermione, her eyes red and watery, but clear. "He was all I had. I clung to him so, after my parents died, and… and I guess I never really got over that. He was just there. And I knew I had nothing else. But then I remembered that I love painting, and then you showed up."
She took a shaky breath and blew her nose again.
Hermione smiled and stood up. She walked around the table and gave Pansy a hug, which only made her start crying again. Hermione just held her and let her cry, and she could tell that this time, it was different. It was more of a letting go. Pansy cried for another twenty minutes, great wrenching sobs that shook her whole body. Hermione couldn't help but cry too.
When Pansy's tears started to slow, Hermione gave her one last squeeze and returned to her seat. Pansy blew her nose three more times, then finally gave Hermione a weak smile.
"Hermione—" she started.
"Know what we're going to do tonight?" Hermione interrupted. She didn't need for Pansy to apologize. For anything. "We're going to watch sappy romance films, and eat ice cream and popcorn until we're sick."
Pansy frowned. "That doesn't sound like fun."
"Oh, it is, trust me. And we're also going to bash every single guy we've ever liked."
Pansy giggled. "So who are we bashing for you?"
Hermione smirked. "That information can only be obtained over double chocolate chunk, I'm afraid."
Pansy giggled again. "Okay, let's do it."
"Excellent. It's about time you had a real girl's night."
"Yes. Firewhiskey and darts with Draco doesn't really count, does it?"
"Uhm, no. Great. I'm going to get the films. Want to come?"
"Okay, I'd like that."
Hermione smiled. "Let's get four films and stay up 'til tomorrow morning!"
Pansy smiled too. And she felt okay.
A/N: Thanks for reading!