A/N: I'm back!! That took forever, I know. But you all know the complexities of computers, so it's not entirely my fault.
First off, I feel compelled to advise any of you who have yet to do so to see Batman as soon as humanly possible. Heath Ledger was phenomenal and the movie itself was amazing. That is all.
One of my reviewers under the pen name of Loveeee suggested that at the beginning of each chapter I post recaps from the chapter before. I think it was an excellent suggestion, as even when my computer is functioning properly, I have a poor habit of procrastination, which can result in chasm-like gaps between posts and you may have forgotten what was going on.
So with that said:
Previously, on Pure Gold: Hermione runs into Christine and her sister Amanda, and realizes she is weary of the girl. She then visits the Hospital Wing, and Madame Pomfrey gives her a list of materials that were found in the victim's bodies and requests that she and Draco try to find the significance of them. She then meets Vivian Morbrook, a vapid airhead who named her schoolbag, Frank, and is deliriously under the impression that Draco wants her. That night she gets sick with a cold, and Draco shows his caring side and helps her feel better. Unfortunately, when he says something uncharacteristically romantic, Hermione makes a typical sarcastic remark about the whereabouts of her real boyfriend, since he would never say something like that, and he takes it a little too personally. When she tells her brother and best friend about his reaction, Blaise becomes suspicious and approaches Draco. He asks him something and Draco gives him a positive answer (the question was a mystery... anyone solve it? If not, no worries, you'll know soon enough). The two run into Harry and Ron, and the latter accosts Blaise. Draco comes to his defense, which results in Ron almost spilling Draco and Hermione's secret. Draco warns him to hold his tongue, at the same time showing the two that he really does care for their friend. Harry shows a rare ounce of respect to Draco, but Draco is left with a bitter taste in his mouth.
And here we go!
'Twas the ultimate oxymoron: the silence was deafening.
Every miniscule sound—the slight scraping of the sharp end of the knife against the wooden table, the splash as the chopped roots fell into the simmering potion, the rustling of robes as we moved our arms about—was amplified tenfold.
The only words spoken were polite requests to pass a certain ingredient or a small apology as hands accidentally brushed against each other.
It wasn't due to my lack of trying.
No, no. It was his. He wouldn't even look me in the eye, and when he did, all I saw was bitterness.
Oh, Merlin, I was confused.
"Granger, I think we're done here," Draco said. Ha, so he talks.
"I agree," I replied. "I'll just get these results to Madame Pomfrey. I must say, I'm rather surprised at what we found."
Draco merely shrugged.
We cleaned everything up and shouldered our bags. He let me lead the way out of the Potions room, following a few steps behind me.
When we reached the corridor where we'd have to split ways, I glanced at him awkwardly.
"I'll, er, see you in the common room?"
He nodded. I leaned in and gave him a peck on the cheek. When I pulled away his eyes were closed and he looked as if he was in a battle with himself. After a moment, I stepped back and walked away.
I tried to put on a brave front for Madame Pomfrey's sake, but the entire time that we were going over the results, all I wanted to do was cry. I didn't know what was happening with Draco, but I didn't like it.
On the way back to the common room, I saw Harry, Ron, Parvati, and Lavender heading to the Gryffindor tower. I shrunk into a shadowy corner, hoping not to let them see me. Though, I might as well have hid behind my wand for all the good it did me.
Ron looked straight at me as they passed, and gave me the "sigh and head shake."
It felt as though he had hit me in the stomach with a ten-pound brick. Ronald Weasley was disappointed in me, Hermione Granger. Ron Weasley is never disappointed in Hermione Granger… it's always the other way around.
True, my conscience whispered, but Ron Weasley isn't disappointed in Hermione Granger… he's disappointed in Hermione Zabini.
I watched them disappear down the hall toward their tower… no, my tower… while the same question replayed over and over again in my mind: Who am I?
I used to be the Gryffindor Queen, I used to be Harry Potter and Ron Weasley's best friend… I used to be a Muggle-born who exceeded expectations set by bigot-driven Purebloods.
Now? Now, I hardly identify myself as a Gryffindor, and spend more time with Slytherins than I do my own House. Now, Harry Potter and Ron Weasley don't speak to me, and I associate myself with their enemies. Now, I am a Pureblood.
The sense of loss was staggering and I had to take a moment to control my breathing. No, no, it wasn't the loss of my House, my friends, or my blood status that affected me so… it was the loss of myself.
I looked around to find an innocent and bright face framed by blonde waves, a kind face I hadn't seen for too long.
"Hello, Luna," I smiled. For all her quirkiness, I've learned that Luna has an aptitude for making the world seem less heavy.
"It's good to see you," she said, in her all-too-familiar dreamy voice. "I feel like I haven't seen you since Wobbleworm season; they only come out when the star, Sadalbari, sneezes, and she hasn't sneezed in five-hundred years."
It was then that I realized how much I've missed Luna's loony-ness.
"I think that is a slight exaggeration," I laughed.
She smiled. "I suppose so, but still." Her expression became sympathetic. "I heard about your falling out with Harry and Ron."
Biting my lip to keep from tearing up, "Oh, it's nothing too big, I wouldn't worry about it."
She nodded. Then her head tilted as she gazed at the necklace I wore around my neck. It was a simple gold chain with a golden H that Blaise had given me for my birthday.
"That is a very pretty necklace," Luna said. "Though, I don't like gold much; it's too gaudy for me. Gold is beautiful and elegant, but sometimes people wear so much that they lose themselves in it." She shrugged. "It was good seeing you, Hermione."
She smiled and skipped off.
I watched her go, smiling at the notion that the weirdest person can say the truest of things.
When I returned to my common room I was unsurprised and a little hurt to find that Draco had not been waiting for me.
Ignoring the whirlwind of emotions in my heart, I climbed the stairs and entered my dormitory, almost immediately collapsing on the bed.
It was too much for me to handle, and all I could think about was how I missed my two best friends. Harry and Ron would always make me feel better, even if they didn't know why I needed cheering up. I was never really open with my emotions when it came to expressing the reasons for them, but they could read me like a book, and knew when I was upset.
Harry would immediately sense my discontent and alert Ron, who would immediately pick up the scent, and within the minute they'd be asking me who was in need of a good hexing.
Yes, they were like my guard dogs… with wands.
Not that I need guard dogs, for all you die-hard feminists out there. We all know I could hex the shite out of anyone who tried to face me.
Still, it is nice to have people care enough about you that they want to protect you. Hence, my guard dogs with wands.
I almost smiled at the mental image, but remembered that my Rottweizards (hehe) were currently not speaking to me, causing tears to prick my eyes. Before I knew it, I was sobbing.
"You miss them," Draco said from the doorway.
I immediately sobered and sat up, wiping the tears from my cheek.
"Thanks, Detective, but Helen Keller could have spotted that one."
He ignored my comment—probably because he doesn't know who Helen Keller is—and continued, leaning against the door frame.
"Go to them and apologize," he said.
I started to protest but he cut me off.
"Swallow your pride, Granger."
Defeated, I looked down at my hands. "They'll never forgive me."
"Tell them we've broken up," he shrugged.
My eyes immediately shot up to look at his.
"And have we?"
"I think it's best."
My anger flared. "For whom?"
"Bullshit," I spat. "There's something else, isn't there? Something you're not telling me?"
"Just because you keep things from me, doesn't mean the secrecy is reciprocated."
Oops… I farted and it smells like hypocrisy. Which, consequentially, smells like it feels: like shite. Which, once again consequentially, is what farting really smells like. So it all works out, really.
But I digress.
"You're a coward, Malfoy."
Silence. "I'm not the one crying on my bed, too afraid to apologize to my best friends."
He left and the tears fell faster.
I allowed myself a few minutes to pull myself together, then resigned to taking my now-ex-boyfriend's advice and swallowed my pride.
Tiptoeing so as not to wake the monster, aka Lord Phillip, I snuck out the portrait door.
"Where are you headed?" Silvia asked.
"I'll be back in a bit."
"Nice try, doll, get back in bed."
"Lord Phillip says hello, by the way," I said, sending her a meaningful look.
Her cheeks reddened. "Don't be long."
I nodded and walked on.
After a few minutes, I reached the Fat Lady's portrait and whispered the password. She let me in only after I showed her my Head Girl badge, angrily mumbling about being woken up in the middle of the night.
The Common Room was empty save for a third year asleep by the fire with a book in her lap. I smiled despite my emotional state; the girl reminded me of myself. I shook her shoulder to wake her.
She stirred and her eyes blinked open. "What time is it?"
"Late," I replied. "You should go upstairs. Is that due tomorrow?"
"No, not until Friday," she replied. "I just wanted to get it done ahead of time."
I smiled at her. "Do me a favor?"
"When you become Head Girl, tell Lord Phillip that Hermione says hello."
She cocked her head confusedly.
"Nevermind. Go to sleep."
Wearily, she packed her things and left the room. I followed her, but instead of taking the stair that led to the girl's dormitories, I took the one to the boys.
I reached the landing for the seventh-years and fumbled for my wand. I was going to light it, but decided that I didn't want to wake anyone up, so I put it back in my pocket.
I opened the door as quietly as I could, and shut it softly behind me. I walked by the first bed quicker than I meant to, and misjudged the distance between myself and the trunk at the end of it, resulting in a stabbing pain in my toe. I let out a string of whispered curse words, hopping on one foot, before I tripped over a broomstick. To prevent myself from falling face-first, I grabbed on to the nearest thing, which happened to be the curtain of the four-poster bed. The curtain ripped and I heard an ear-splitting scream as Neville jumped up in his bed, aiming a pencil, which he had obviously mistook for his wand in the confusion, at my head. Dean sat up in his own bed, shirtless, with a mumbled, "wuzzgoinon?" The other three had woken up as well and were staring at me open-mouthed as I stood in the middle of the room, holding Neville's ripped curtain in my hands.
So much for being quiet.
"Hermione?" Harry asked.
"What are you doing here?" Ron questioned.
"I decided that I needed new curtains, and I've always admired Neville's, so I decided to swing by in the middle of the night to retrieve them," I replied. "What do you think I'm doing here? I came to apologize."
"In the middle of the night?" Harry asked with disbelief in his eyes.
"Well, it has been my experience that everything exciting happens in the middle of the night," I replied. "Who was I to mess with tradition?"
"And the curtain?" Neville asked shakily, cheeks reddening as he returned the pencil to his bedside table.
"For all her brilliance, she's not very talented in the art of maintaining her equilibrium," Harry answered for me, a slight smile gracing his lips. "Hermione, would you like to move this to the common room for a bit of privacy?"
I glanced at the other three boys, all staring at me as if I had escaped from the insane asylum, and nodded gratefully. Ron and Harry both stepped out of their beds and followed me out the door.
We sat in our favorite seats by the fireplace and stared at the empty hearth for a long while. Finally, I looked over at them and drew in a deep breath.
"I'm sorry," I said.
They both looked up at me. Harry nodded, the same small smile still present, and Ron sighed wearily.
He opened his mouth to say something but I cut him off.
"I'm no longer with Draco."
His mouth closed again and he studied my face.
"Do you think that is supposed to make me happy?" he asked.
"Does it?" I asked in way of replying.
"Are you happy?"
I opened my mouth to say yes, but realized that if I was going to make this work, honesty was the best policy.
"No," I whispered.
"Then it doesn't make me happy," Ron said. "Look, Mione, for once in your life you have this all wrong. We were upset with you before you told us about Malfoy, so what makes you think that this is about him?"
"I know it's not, but I thought it would help," I replied.
"Above all else, Hermione," Harry cut in, "we want you to be happy. How could something that obviously doesn't make you happy, help us?"
"You both hate him," I replied. "I thought you hated me dating him?"
"You never gave us the chance to tell you what we thought about it, Mione," Ron reminded me. "Truth be told, I did hate it, but I recently realized how much he cares for you and have changed my mind. Now I'm only uncomfortable with it."
"But yet you've still ignored me?" I asked, confused.
"Because this isn't about Malfoy!" he said, irritated.
"Hermione, this is about you changing and abandoning us," Harry said calmly.
"I know," I said, a sob escaping my throat. "But I haven't abandoned you." They both started protesting. "No. I haven't abandoned you, I've abandoned Hermione Granger."
They both stared, not knowing what to say.
"But Hermione Granger is a fighter, and you both know that," I said. "All this time, in my head, I've thought of Hermione Granger and Hermione Zabini as two different people, and have acted according to which ever one was currently in control. As time went by, Hermione Zabini gained more and more control, and Hermione Granger less, until eventually she only made brief appearances. When you guys stopped talking to me, Hermione Granger started fighting back. She won, hence my presence here tonight. The thing is, though, that now that Hermione Zabini has introduced herself in my life, she will always be a part of it. I just have to find a way to combine Hermione Granger and Hermione Zabini, and to convince myself, and everyone else, that they are the same person… that they are both me. In order to do that, I'll need your help."
"And we will help you," said Ron. "We're glad to have our best friend back."
"She's glad to be back."
We all grinned, and four a moment I felt as if nothing had changed, and we were sitting by the fire after a night of merriment and homework.
"So what's the latest news on the anti-Zabini-Granger movement?" Harry asked.
Way to shatter my moment, Harry.
"Well, Madame Pomfrey gave Draco and me a list of materials that were found in the victims' bodies, and we assessed them," I told them. "The only potion we came up with was the Sleeping Draught, which suggests that whoever is attacking these people mean no harm to them. We think that the person responsible for this is solely concerned with sending me a message."
"And what's that message?" Ron asked.
"They don't want me to be a Pureblood," I replied. "However, since I can't exactly help that, nor would I ever willingly do so, there's not much I can do."
"Except go back to the days of old, when you were solely a Gryffindor and hated the Slytherins," Ron joked, though it didn't look as if he was completely joking.
I laughed. "You know I can't do that."
"So who do you think it is?" Harry asked, changing the subject.
"Easy," Ron said. "It's that Pale-arse kid."
"Paleman, you mean? No, I'm starting to believe it isn't him," I said. "In fact, I'm starting to wonder if it is even a Slytherin at all."
"But why would someone who isn't in Slytherin care if you're a Pureblood?"
"I don't know. But I do know that most Slytherins wouldn't just slip a Muggle-born the Sleeping Draught if they had a chance to poison them."
"Morning, Gryffie," Theodore said, taking a seat beside me.
I looked up and smiled sleepily.
"Why are you so tired?" Adrian asked. "Did my mate keep you up late last night?" He winked.
I sighed, glancing over at Draco, who was sitting next to Crabbe and Goyle this morning, and shook my head.
The flutter of wings announced the arrival of owls, and students began moving their plates to allow space for letters to land.
I had only just put money into the Prophet owl's pouch and sent it on its way when an enraged gasp sounded down the table.
Heads all throughout the Hall turned.
I tried to see over Theodore's head, but it was impossible, so I merely returned to my breakfast and decided to rely on his account.
Turns out there would be no need for relying on someone else's account.
There was a tap on my shoulder, and too late, I realized that everyone was now looking at me and whoever was standing behind me.
I sighed and turned.
Drum roll, please…
Pansy stood fuming, nostrils flared, eyes narrowed, jaw clenched, and her fist gripping a small piece of parchment.
"Is it true?" she asked in a voice of controlled calm.
"That you are a whore?" Ginny asked. "Of course, it's true."
"Shut up, Weasley," she spat. "Granger, is it bloody true?"
"I'm afraid you'll have to be more specific," I replied.
She slammed the parchment down on the table and pointed one short, pudgy finger to it.
I looked down at the words written and my heart sank.,
Draco has a new pet. Sorry, Kitty, but you've been replaced by a Lion, a Lion who wears the face of a Serpent.
I pocketed the parchment so that nobody would be able to read what it said.
After taking a deep breath to try to calm myself (unsuccessfully, of course), I looked at Draco, trying to convey the words without speaking them. The look of horror on his face told me that he had understood. Then I sent a quick message to Blaise, who's eyes widened before leaning to whisper it to his girlfriend.
"Pansy, can we take this somewhere less… public?" I asked quietly.
"Personally, I think this is as good a place as anywhere," Pansy replied snippily. "Besides, you don't get to make requests."
I stood up with every intention of leaving, hoping to draw her out of the Great Hall, but she grabbed my arm and whispered menacingly in my ear.
"You walking out of here won't prevent me from announcing it to the whole school, Granger," she said.
I cursed silently, my palms starting to sweat and my heart rate increasing. If Pansy told everyone about Draco and me, the Slytherins—and possibly other houses as well—would hate us for it, and would be looking for blood.
"Pansy, don't… please," I whispered.
"So it's true?" she asked.
There was nothing for it; I would have to tell her the truth. I nodded, and her face went redder.
Suddenly, I felt something poke into my side and looked down to see Pansy's wand.
"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't hex the shit out of you."
I sighed. When will people ever learn?
Ever my loyal best friend, Ginny had reached for my bag under the table with her leg once she realized what was going on, had retracted my wand, and was currently pressing it into the hand that I strategically placed behind my back.
"How about I give you three?" I asked. "First of all, it is extremely rude to pull a wand on an unarmed student in a Hall full of other students and teachers, not to mention stupid." Much like that night months ago on the balcony by my door with Draco, I held up my pointer finger. "Secondly, I'm Head Girl, and being threatened by someone with less than a quarter of my own mental capacity does nothing if not amuse me." I held up my middle finger. "And lastly, Expelliarmus!" As her wand flew away from her and shock registered across her face, I held up a third finger and wiggled them in emphasis. "Now if and when you're ready to discuss this maturely and in private, come see me and we'll talk. I can guarantee you that there are at least six people in this room whose positions in this school wouldn't be compromised by hexing you until your face fell off, and would be willing to do so if any word was spoken about what was written on that note, so I would advise you not to speak of it. In fact, you're lucky I'm Head Girl, or I would have done it myself. I don't take kindly to threats, Parkinson, and you'll do well to remember that."
"You think you can keep me from telling people?" She laughed. "There's nothing you can do to stop me."
Draco stood up. "Actually, Pansy, you're forgetting something. You might want to be weary of what you tell people, because you wouldn't want somebody else sharing your biggest secret, would you?"
Her face paled, and my curiosity was piqued.
"Fine," she breathed, and turned on her heels to walk away, stopping to pick up her wand.
I breathed a sigh of relief and sank back into my seat, cradling my head in my hands. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite over.
"What was that all about?" Paleman asked me.
"None of your business, that's what."
But other people started speaking out in earnest as well. Pansy had raised suspicion and I felt it was only a matter of time before someone decides to play detective and learns our secret.
"Hermione, calm down," I said soothingly. "Pansy hasn't told anyone yet."
"That doesn't matter, Blaise!" she snapped.
She was pacing in the middle of her common room while Ginny, Weasley, Potter, and I looked on. Draco had disappeared after breakfast, and I was curious as to why he wasn't here trying to console his girlfriend, not to mention a little peeved at him for it.
"The entire Great Hall heard our argument," Minny said. "True, they didn't know what it was about but I'm sure at least one of them was curious enough to want to try to find out. Once he or she does find out, who's going to stop them from spreading it to any ear that'll hear it? And once word reaches the Slytherins, I'm as good as dead and Draco will be shunned, ridiculed, and possibly worse. Oh, and that's not even mentioning that an outsider already knows, because nobody here would send an owl to Pansy about Draco and I!"
"What about—" Ron began, but Hermione cut him off angrily.
"Don't you dare, Ronald Weasley," she warned.
"No! I won't hear it."
"You're too quick to trust, Mione."
She glared at him, but said nothing.
"Where's Draco?" Ginny asked. "He should be here."
Potter and Weasley exchanged glances and Minny's eyes locked with mine. The pain I saw in her blue irises and the way her two friends' gazes focused on their shoes, made the words that she whispered unnecessary.
"He broke up with me last night."
Watching my sister sink into an armchair with her eyes closed and drape a hand over her eyes wearily, was like watching a sappy romance movie in which the main character gets her heart broken. I felt helplessness at first, but it slowly turned into an intense anger and determination.
"I have to go," I announced.
"Blaise!" Minny said, jumping up. 'Don't do anything stupid.'
I shook my head reassuringly and practically threw myself out the door.
She didn't specify what "stupid" was. To me, hexing my best mate's balls off for breaking my sister's heart didn't sound stupid, but she may have other ideas.
I'll give it the benefit of the doubt and say that hexing Draco would be an ingenious idea and Hermione would find it very commendable.
First, there was the simple matter of finding him.
"You!" I said with a nod, putting up my best air of seniority as a fourth year Slytherin walked by. The boy pulled back and looked at me expectantly. "Have you seen the Head Boy?"
"He was headed to the Common Room with those two fat idiots," he said.
"Crabbe and Goyle," I corrected him, though the use of "those two fat idiots" to identify them was common, so I could hardly blame him for saying it. "Now get back to class so you don't end up as a fat idiot, yourself."
"I'd sooner become a ballet dancer, Zabini," he said with a wink.
I like this kid, I decided.
I smirked. "What's your name?"
"Paleman? As in Richard Paleman's kid brother?"
"I prefer to be known as Richard Paleman's smarter, more rational, and more mature brother despite the fact that he's older, but yes, Richard's my brother," he said, his eyes smiling at his own joke that he's obviously delivered on multiple occasions.
I chuckled and shook my head, before patting his back in a brotherly manner and walking away.
"Zabini?" he called.
I turned back to face him.
"My brother may be stupid, irrational, and immature, and there may be a lot of rumors going on about his participation in the Muggle-born attacks given his public verbal assaults on your sister," he said, "but I have it on good authority that he really has nothing against Granger's blood status."
"Really?" I asked, taken aback. "And how do you know this?"
A mischievous grin spread across his face.
"He keeps a 'journal,'" he used two fingers to emphasis the quotations, "and it might have magically flown into my room while he was on the Quidditch pitch and fell open on my bed. It seems my dear brother has a secret obsession with the Head Girl but knows that nothing will ever come out of it due to many set backs including but not limited to: his girlfriend, his parents, me, Potter, Weasley, you, and Granger, herself, all of whom he is amusingly scared shiteless. In fact, he's even afraid of Weasley's younger sister, probably more than the rest of them."
I laughed openly at this. "Can't say I blame him."
"Hey, Zabini?" he asked. "Would you mind not telling anyone about this? While I have no shame in admitting that my brother is a coward, he's still my brother and I'm bound to family loyalty. I just didn't want him to be falsely accused of anything."
At this, I gained respect for the kid. "Sure, Paleman, his secret's safe with me."
"Thanks," he nodded.
"No, thank you," I replied. "Richard's lucky he has a brother like you."
He shrugged. "Not entirely." The grin returned to his face, causing me to chuckle.
I walked away and for a moment I forgot where I was headed. When I remembered, a renewed wave of anger washed over me, causing me to overenthusiastically tear through the entrance to the Slytherin common room. A group of girls sitting by the fire looked over at me with curious eyes, then turned back to each other and started whispering. I ignored them as I searched the room for a blond head.
He was in an armchair in a circle with Crabbe, Goyle, and two other girls. One of them, the stupid blonde who named her bag, was sitting on the arm of the chair, one hand resting on his chest, the other running through his hair. Her brunette friend sat next to her, with an uncomfortable expression on her face that clearly said she was only there out of loyalty and would rather be anywhere else than next to the two fat idiots who were currently ogling her.
Draco's face was carefully blank, so anyone who didn't know him would think he was playing the part of an aristocratic male chauvinist. What the blank face really meant was that Draco Malfoy's mind was currently not with us, and was instead focused on a particularly painful, stressful, or worrisome aspect of his life. Some of my anger deflated, at the sight of his face, because I knew that it meant he was at least conscious of the magnitude of the situation at hand.
"Draco, a word, please?"
He looked up at me and sighed as though he knew what was coming. The blonde, Vicky Whorebrook, or something, whined when Draco stood up and slid into the now-vacant armchair with a pout that I was sure was meant to be seductive. It really only made her look like a toddler begging for a bottle.
"You'll come back, won't you?" she asked.
I could tell Draco was fighting to keep his eyes from rolling when he answered. "Sorry, Vivian, but I'm not interested."
He ignored her shocked, indignant scoff and motioned for me to lead the way. We went down to the seventh year dormitories, cast the Muffliato charm on the room, and sat on the trunks at the end of opposite beds.
"She told you?" he guessed.
"Yes, and you're lucky I'm not hexing you to kingdome come," I replied. "Why'd you do it?"
"What do you mean?"
"Don't be a bloody arse, Draco, you know what I mean," I said, annoyed. "How could you break up with her, especially after what we talked about?"
"I broke up with her especially because of what we talked about."
"You lost me," I said."Do you love her, or not?"
"If love means that you would put someone's happiness before your own, would do anything to make sure that she's safe, and know that she deserves so much more than you can give her, then yes, I love her more than anything," he said, "and that's why we can't be together."
Thanks for reading. Reviews welcomed.