Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all related characters, settings, and terminology belong to J.K. Rowling. I am not making a profit by using them and only do so for my own fun. All will be returned relatively unharmed.
Author's Note: Finally! After a lot of time, here is the next part of Diary of a Songbird! Enjoy the first chapter and review if you like it! A big thanks to everyone who has held on since DoaS, and to Lyndsie Fenele for beta-ing.
Chapter One: Worries
She stood from her seat, stepping into the aisle that separated two large sections of chairs—all of which were taken by people she didn't know and some that she did. Her back was straight, her head held high. The eyes of the crowd followed her as she reached the top of the aisle and took the roll of parchment that signified the end of her Hogwarts career from Professor Dumbledore, and shook his hand.
"Congratulations, Miss Granger," he whispered proudly, smiling at her cheerily. She smiled back.
"Thank you, sir."
She shook the Deputy Headmistress's hand as well; the Scottish woman had tears in her eyes.
"Well done. I'm so proud. So very proud."
"Thank you, Professor."
Hermione took her place to the right of the Headmaster, beside her fellow students who'd come before her. Her eyes scanned the audience and found her parents, looking amazingly comfortable around the wizard majority. The Weasleys were easy to spot with their bright red hair. Mrs. Weasley dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief and waved at Hermione. She gave a short wave back, feeling over the moon.
After seven years of hard work, she was graduating from Hogwarts. Her school life may have been ending but she was free to pursue any occupation she wished now.
She gave Neville Longbottom an encouraging grin as he joined her and the other students already called.
He certainly had occupied much of her life for the past few months that they'd been dating. Draco walked up the aisle looking like the sex god she'd always thought him to be, his long hair shimmering in silver, his eyes flashing like ice. Her heart swelled just looking at him and her smile grew wider. Hermione had been in love with Draco for most of her seventh year. She couldn't imagine her life without him, as young as she was.
Draco took his certificate, but instead of standing at Professor Dumbledore's right, next to Neville, he stood at the Headmaster's left. Hermione tried to catch his eye and let him know he was standing in the wrong place, but he wasn't looking at her. His eyes were focused on the end of the aisle, though Hermione couldn't for the life of her tell why.
Hermione stared at the Headmaster, as if trying to tell him that he had made a mistake. Theodore Nott should have come before Parkinson. Searching for him in the crowd, Hermione was sure she would find the Slytherin outraged at being skipped at his own leaving ceremony. But he wasn't. She was shocked to see him smiling as his eyes turned to the bottom of the aisle where Pansy Parkinson stood, covered from head to toe in white.
Long, delicate silk gloves covered her arms up to just above her elbows. Her dress robes were cut to accentuate her fine figure, a gauzy material laced beautifully to her body. Her short black hair fell in silky waves above her shoulders, blowing in the wind like a bloody super model.
The whole ensemble must have cost more than an average wedding would, but every Galleon was worth it. With an angry stab of envy, Hermione noted that pug-faced Parkinson looked more gorgeous than she had any right to be at a graduation ceremony.
Parkinson walked towards the altar—and yes, Hermione noted, it had always been an altar—slowly, throwing seductively smug smiles and glances towards the audience. It tittered in approval. Even Draco had an enraptured look on his face that bordered on a smile.
Hermione could only stare in disbelief as Draco took Parkinson's hand, both turning to face each other. Draco had to be under some sort of spell. This had to be stopped!
"Friends… Strangers… Loved ones," the Headmaster said to the crowd at large. "We gather here today to bear witness to—"
"No!" Hermione cried, stepping out of her place. She went ignored. It was as if no one even heard her.
"—the binding of Draco Sex-God Malfoy and Pansy Pug-Face Parkinson—"
"No! Draco, what are you doing?" Hermione screamed, a hole already forming in her beating heart. He didn't even acknowledge her. He only had eyes for his apparent fiancée. "You said you loved me! Were you lying?"
"Do you, Draco Sex-God Malfoy, bind Pansy Pug-Face Parkinson to yourself until death parts you?"
"Yeah, I do," Draco answered.
No! He couldn't! Draco had given himself to Hermione months ago, and she'd given herself to him. How could he just forget those months? Hermione ran to his side, grabbing his arm and tugging on it. She could hear people in the audience shout, "Get out of the way! We can't see!" She ignored them all.
"I love you, Draco!" she whispered to him, trying not to let smug Parkinson and the curious headmaster overhear. "I don't want to be without you!"
She was still invisible. Tears she had no desire to stop poured down her face, but everyone watched the happy couple and nothing else; the happy couple were too absorbed in themselves.
As Parkinson agreed to bind Draco to herself, Hermione lost the will to stop the strange wedding. She stared at the three people in front of her, her heart shattering in her chest. She found that she couldn't breathe and clutched her heart as if that would bring air back into her lungs. Great choking sobs wracked her body.
"By the gods above and the witnesses below, I declare Pansy and Draco bound! So mote it be," Dumbledore concluded to a din of applause.
The crowd shouted, "So mote it be!"
Professor Dumbledore smiled and spread his arms wide. "You may now kiss the bride!"
Draco threw Pansy over his arm and kissed her with more desire, more passion, than he had ever put into a kiss with Hermione, who watched half-choking, half-sobbing. Draco pulled his lips off his new wife and looked up at Hermione through his eyelashes.
Feeling numbly cold, she whispered through her tears, "Why are you doing this to me?"
He straightened up again clutching Pansy's hand possessively. Hermione tried not to remember how he used to hold her the same way and failed dismally.
"You knew from the beginning this was going to happen, Hermione, and yet you clung on foolishly, thinking, no doubt, that you could talk me out of going through with my engagement."
Draco didn't speak unkindly, but his words still stung like a slap in the face. Hermione tried not to show him any more of her distress than he'd already witnessed, but she'd never been a master at masking her true feelings like he had.
"But no worries. I've found another Malfoy for you," Draco said happily. Hermione's eyes followed the gesture of his hand and landed on the tall, arrogant frame of Lucius Malfoy. She shook her head violently, her eyes wide, but he'd managed to be at her side in seconds, clutching her hand in a death grip.
"Don't worry, pet. I am here for you now."
Her head spun in dizzy circles. Hermione tried to pull her hand free but it was captured in Lucius's iron grasp. "No!" she sobbed, but no one heard her. No one listened to anything anymore because they seemed to be setting up another wedding. "No!" she cried repeatedly, as the man beside her pushed her in front of Professor Dumbledore at the altar. "Draco, no!" It was all she could say. But Draco was carrying Pansy down the aisle, the couple smirking at each other happily.
And just like that, Hermione Granger woke with a start, sitting up in bed so quickly that she really did feel dizzy. Her stomach churned with nausea, but a slurred voice next to her calmed her heart and body immediately.
Draco leaned on his forearm, his eyes still closed. The green duvet that had once covered both of their bodies now resided mostly on the floor of the bedroom assigned to Draco as Head Boy. The absence of the cover revealed two scantily clad teenagers, one still half-asleep, the other never more awake.
Hermione had the fleeting desire to hold onto her bed partner and never let him go. With some difficulty, she restrained herself. She couldn't let Draco know how badly shaken she was. It was enough that the end of their seventh year was fast approaching, and with it, the un-spoken-of betrothal, but to also tell him that she worried about his father being free and able to hurt people—when he was supposed to be dead—would only bring the stony glare back to his eyes. He'd worry needlessly when there might not be any danger at all—and worse of all, he wouldn't worry for himself—he never did—but for her. Draco's worry for Hermione on top of Hermione's worry for everyone else would only drive her mad.
Besides, for all she knew, he was worrying and dealing with all of this. Maybe he didn't want to be reminded—or nagged—about it.
So for these reasons that might or might not have made any sense to another sane person, Hermione kept her fears to herself.
"I'm sorry I woke you. Please go back to sleep," she murmured, quite proud at how steady her voice was. She pulled the blanket from the floor and recovered their selves. Draco snuggled back into the warmth of his bed and her body, one possessive arm snaking over her bare stomach.
Hermione lay in the dark thinking about that arm. It had once borne the tattoo of the Dark Lord Voldemort, the Dark Mark, a connection and identifier of Voldemort's supporters. Once, Draco had sought the power and the glory he thought he could obtain from becoming a Death Eater like his father, but the Death Eaters had ended in ruin. Harry Potter, one of Hermione's best friends, had saved the world and defeated He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, killing Lucius Malfoy in the process.
Until this past September when evidence that could prove Lucius was not dead surfaced in the form of an attack on Draco's mother. Found near Narcissa Malfoy's comatose body was a note written in an elegant hand. Hermione still remembered the bold words, and ran them through her mind.
YOU DISMISS YOUR HUSBAND SO EASILY?
Draco had said the only people who knew the wards into the Malfoy manor were his mother, his father, and himself. If Lucius were still alive, it would have been too easy for him to punish his wife for moving on from her supposedly deceased husband and not be blamed for his actions.
If that wasn't the most curious thing, while Narcissa lay in a coma at St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, she received bouquets of flowers with unsigned cards apologizing for some misdeed. Draco had demanded the flowers be removed and for the hospital to take no more deliveries of them. After the incident at St. Mungo's concerning Boderick Bode being strangled in his sleep by a potted plant, Hermione couldn't blame him.
If Lucius Malfoy was alive and exacting revenge, he could easily go after Harry, and to hurt Harry most, he'd just need to hurt someone he loved. The Boy-Who-Lived had already lost so many people he cared for. Despite killing a dark lord, he might not be able to take the loss of any other loved ones.
Hermione worried for him and for herself. She was a Muggle-born—a witch born from non-magical parents—and to some people like the Malfoys, she didn't deserve any place in wizarding society. Malfoy senior could hurt Hermione by going for her defenseless parents. It was a truth she struggled with daily, because she was more than ready to believe that Lucius Malfoy had faked his own death.
And once he found out that Draco had been dating Hermione for months…he'd be angry, wouldn't he? Whom would he punish: his own son or his son's Mudblood girlfriend?
She shivered in the cold air, remembering how little she was wearing. Pulling the duvet up to her neck and settling closer to Draco, she did not expect to see his silver eyes watching her.
"You'll tell me what's wrong tomorrow, won't you?" he asked her seriously, sounding much more awake than he had previously.
Her eyes softened for him and her body warmed. Nothing could ever measure the amount of love Hermione Granger held for Draco Malfoy. She would forever be grateful that he had realized the truth about his former blood purity ideologies and fallen for her as well.
She nodded slightly and replied, "Yes, of course. Now go back to sleep."
His eyes held hers for a second longer, trying to determine the truth, but soon he was falling back into his dreams—more pleasant ones than hers, Hermione hoped.
But as she stared at the face of the man she loved—his fair hair framing his flawless face, blond eyelashes settling on snow-pale cheeks—she knew that no matter what she promised, she never would tell him about her worries.
The passing of time was not signified by the last class of the day, dinner, or even the eventual night. The only way Hermione could mark the end of one day and the beginning of another was the dream—or nightmare, as was most cases—she had in the interim. She dreamed every night, her subconscious reminding her of the horrors hidden away in her daily life. Most nights, she startled awake, usually waking Draco with her since they shared the same bed. She had no idea how long Draco would continue to go without voicing his worry for her lack of sleep—there couldn't possibly be any way he had not noticed.
Ginny Weasley, on the other hand, tended to notice Hermione's health, to the Head Girl's chagrin. At breakfast, the younger girl liked to mention how tired Hermione looked, and Hermione was always tired. Maybe it was just the nightmares, but Hermione hadn't felt like she'd gotten a full night of sleep since October. As it was the beginning of February, she wasn't quite sure exactly how she had been able to function properly.
After breakfast, as Hermione gathered her bag to go to her first class of the day, Ginny liked to bug her about how little she'd eaten, but because of her fears and nightmares, Hermione woke up nauseous every morning and never felt much like eating until lunchtime when her stomach settled. So far, Draco was the only one who knew of the nausea. He always watched over her while she became sick in their shared bathroom with a scowl on his face and a crease in his brow.
Hermione knew he was thinking the same thing she was. What if the curse came back? What if it had never gone? Either way, she couldn't let herself think that. Professor Snape had brewed the cure for her months ago. It couldn't possibly come back.
Or could it?
No. It couldn't. She would not allow it.
And even though Hermione's loss of appetite prevented her from eating too much, she seemed to be gathering weight. Her robes didn't fit quite as loose around her chest as they used to, and her jeans were becoming tighter and tighter around the waist. She tried not to think about the reasoning behind her weight gain. Really, ever since fear had begun dominating her life, she'd let herself go. She no longer used the shampoo that made her hair wave gently, so it became a wild bushy mass again. The little make up she had started to wear the summer before, she couldn't be bothered to put on anymore.
The fear that the curse had never truly been gone, the possible threat of Lucius Malfoy, Draco's imminent engagement, even the upcoming N.E.W.T.s examinations, were all too much for Hermione to handle, especially as isolated as she was making herself. She never saw her friends save for meals and classes, and when she did see them, she was usually withdrawn or lost in her own thoughts. Of course, she tried not to be so unoccupied that her mind could wander; it usually found its way to Lucius and everything else she feared now.
Praying became her nightly ritual before sleep. For the first time in her life, Hermione prayed for her family's safety, for a sign that Lucius was dead, for a way that Draco could be released from his betrothal. Draco didn't understand what praying achieved for her, but he could see that it was an act of desperation or she would have done it before now. As the days passed, he worried for her more—no matter how much she lied trying to assure him that she was fine.
Until the owl arrived on February 13, shoving his worries for Hermione to the back of his mind.
On that morning, Hermione pushed her food from her face, too sickened with it to eat, when she saw the brown, white-speckled bird land in front of Draco. His face was indifferent as he received the letter, but while reading it his eyes widened fractionally and his mouth tightened at the corners. His head lifted, scanning the Great Hall until he found Hermione's enquiring eyes.
She watched him leave the Slytherin table and head her way, and then he was sitting next to her with the Gryffindors. He had sat with her at the Gryffindor table on one occasion before, but that was months ago, on the day he'd decided that everyone should know they were dating. The whispering fourth year girls at the end of the table giggled and stared at them now. Hermione was only aware of the triumphant, but grim, sparkle in Draco's eye.
Before speaking, he looked around as if to make sure no one else could hear them. Hermione's interest peaked exponentially, though she knew his secrecy shouldn't have surprised her.
"Mum's awake and she's asking for me," he said quietly, leaning towards Hermione with caution towards eavesdroppers. "I'm going to ask Dumbledore if I can start my weekend early to visit." Draco still hadn't mastered muttering the headmaster's name without the typical tone of disgust, but Hermione had long ago stopped trying to change it.
She looked up at him in surprise, never expecting him to say that. Hermione had never liked Narcissa Malfoy, or thought of the day she would wake up from her coma. Strangely, if Narcissa had not been attacked and hospitalized, Hermione and Draco never would have become friends—or started the precarious relationship they now had. Despite the upcoming engagement between Draco and Pansy Parkinson, Hermione was still grateful for the time she had with him and the love that they shared. Selfishly, she couldn't regret the attack on Narcissa and only sympathized with the woman because she was Draco's mother. The attack had worried him severely, causing Hermione to see a deeper side to him than the spoiled, arrogant jerk she'd always thought him to be.
Hermione was grateful for every circumstance that brought them together, even the attack on Narcissa. Hearing that she had woken up produced conflicting emotions within the teenaged girl. She was startled to realize that she was genuinely happy for Draco.
Especially since visiting his mother would give him a distraction from everything that worried him. Then Hermione could get a little room to breathe for a while.
Draco frowned uncertainly. Hermione grasped that he was waiting for her to say something. She conjured a smile and put a hand on his arm.
"That's wonderful, Draco. No, really, you should go see her. And don't worry about me, I'll be fine here." She was again startled by her own sincerity. It felt like lately she had been out of touch with even her own emotions, but she knew that every word she said was true. Draco knew it too.
"I want you to come with me again," he murmured purposefully, but Hermione was already shaking her head gently.
"She's been comatose for five months. You should have some privacy with her first. She doesn't even know about me yet," she replied.
Draco's eyes searched hers—Hermione didn't know what he was looking for, but she didn't turn away. He seemed to have found it, because he leaned in and kissed her lips softly. Hermione responded with unexpected eagerness. It seemed as though she hadn't been close to him in months, though she knew that wasn't true. She felt like she was starving for him and, quite suddenly, she didn't want him to leave.
But as she reached up to wrap her arms around his neck, he pulled away slightly.
"Thank you," he whispered against her lips, his voice thick with emotion. He stood up quickly and left the Great Hall before anyone could witness his strange mood, Hermione thought. As the large wooden doors closed behind him, she couldn't help but liken the sound to the blade of a guillotine crashing down on someone's unassuming head. Hers, maybe.
At the end of the table, the fourth year girls tittered and murmured.
Author's Note: The second chapter is written, I just need to type it up and send it to my beta. Despite that, quick updates are not guaranteed. Sorry, sorry. School starts Monday and I'm also writing an original story so my time is limited. (Besides, I was never very good at budgeting my time, either.)