"Romantic love is mental illness. But it's a pleasurable one. It's a drug. It distorts reality, and that's the point of it. It would be impossible to fall in love with someone that you really saw." ~ Fran Lebowitz
Chapter Forty-one: Duality
"What did the prosecutor talk about when she was… prosecuting?"
Gerard looked away sadly; Hermione's fatigue was costing her some articulation. "She brought Shalvin, one of the Aurors that rescued you, to talk about the investigation and the battle. That actually worked out in our favor a little. But she also got a former Death Eater from Azkaban to talk about Draco as he was last year… I think that was the most damaging thing to our case. And she brought a Healer from St. Mungo's to talk about your injuries. Did you refuse psychological analysis at St. Mungo's?"
Gerard raised an eyebrow. "You should have gotten it, or at least told us. That came as a big surprise during the proceedings."
"I'm sorry. I just didn't want to waste time treating myself when Draco… I just thought I'd have time to sort myself out later. Besides, I'm fine."
"No you aren't, Miss Granger. Draco told us about what you looked like when he got to you. He said you were suspended by hooks on one of Master's machines. He said he had to pull needles out of you, and unstrap you… he thought you were dead."
Hermione swallowed, knowing her eyes were welling up with wetness and trying to hide this fact. "It wasn't so bad, just painful. It's more the memory torture I don't want to remember."
He inclined his head knowingly. "That may be true. But the prosecutor is claiming that you are 'suffering' from Stockholm Syndrome. You should have been evaluated at least for mental trauma immediately after you had woken up. It would have made you seem less... crazy."
Her heart dipped into her stomach. She didn't want to blame him, nor did she want to realize that yes, she may have been a victim of this phenomena. She didn't want to think that someone as smart as she could be blindsided by so common a psychological occurrence. Surely she was smarter than to fall into that?
But she could see that she really was a classic example. It was even confusing to her as to why she had started to have feelings for him in the first place. They had seemed to develop out of nowhere, with nothing to base them on but a few choice actions and words, after years of torment.
She had been alone with him almost every second of every day for months, and thus had gotten used to him fairly quickly.
They had stopped arguing after a while.
She had stopped hating him somewhere in there.
He'd healed her, making it clear that he had begun to care for her safety.
And then she had decided to join him, help him in his mission, his quest. The fact that ultimately she had the same goal now seemed unimportant. She had gone along with him.
"Maybe she's right," Hermione conceded, "but it doesn't matter."
"Yes, it does matter," Gerard said pressingly. "It matters because if it's true, it proves her argument. It was no wonder she didn't oppose you going on the stand. She's really going to let you have it."
"No she won't," Hermione muttered, adjusting the parchment on her lap. "Don't you think I already thought of this?"
"I certainly hope you have," he murmured, plucking his tea off the table and draining the cup. "She's trying to prove that Draco was only working against the Death Eaters for his own benefit, and if you try to disprove that, she's going to say it's because he's fooled you. And she has psychology on her side."
"I'll be careful," she retorted, already irritated that no one seemed to understand how much she was going to destroy the prosecutor.
"I'm not saying that this trial needs a boost… but let's be honest, Hermione. I know that somewhere in those books you've been reading and those memories you've been examining, you must have found something, some gem to help you."
"I have, actually."
"Really? And what might that be?"
"It's not a law, nor is it from an old trial. It's just something that is understood." She paused. "He didn't really kidnap me to begin with. He saved me and we went into hiding."
Gerard snorted. "Your memories say otherwise."
"Yes, but I didn't understand then, because I hated him. He kept me bound because I would have tried to get away, and in doing so would have been caught by Death Eaters."
"Cognitive dissonance," he said.
"Cognitive dissonance, Hermione. It's when you basically make up excuses for why someone is doing something wrong. It's like an abused wife thinking her husband only hits her because he is stressed out, or that she didn't cook the roast properly."
"I know what it means," she replied crossly.
"I'm on your side. I'm just trying to tell you what the prosecutor is going to say." He paused, glancing at the door as the guards opened it and led a shackled Draco to the table, where they forced him into a chair by the back of his neck. Draco's eyes flashed in irritation, but he said nothing. "I'll be back," Gerard said, standing up. "Too much tea." He left quickly.
Gerard's sudden departure was not lost on her. She leaned over and cupped Draco's face in her hand, rubbing her thumb over his stubble. He leaned into her hand tiredly, obviously enjoying the only comforting human interaction he'd had in a few days. He had tried to push his hair back from his eyes in its old style, flattening it against his head with water. Hermione reached up and threaded her fingers in it. "I like your hair better down," she said, and tugged it forward.
He grumbled something about, "too long," but she continued to comb his damp hair with her fingers, pulling his fringe back into his face and ruffling the back to dry it more quickly.
"It makes you look more... boyish," she said, fingering through his fringe one last time before she rubbed her thumb over his cheek again. "And less like a prat."
When he tried to lean in to kiss her, however, she leaned away and murmured, "I brought you lunch."
He looked up as Hermione pushed a paper bag towards him and tried to catch her eye as she pulled out a sandwich, an apple, and a large bar of chocolate, scooting his glass of water closer to his hand when she finished. She had packed him what looked like a schoolboy's lunch, but he dared not be ungrateful.
"Granger…" he began.
She shook her head. Draco had gotten into trouble the last time she had attempted to be somewhat intimate with him in this room, regardless of whether or not the crafty defense attorney had left them alone on purpose. "Gerard is in the loo, and is coming."
He nodded, deflated, and picked up the sandwich she had made him. It looked fantastic – sharp, flaky cheese over smoked ham and lettuce, on a large roll. He bit into it immediately, excited for food that wasn't porridge or stew. He wasn't looking forward to eating that for the next however many years.
"I've been summoned by your mother for lunch."
"Have fun with that," Draco said around his mouthful, shaking his now hanging fringe out of his eyes.
"It means that she wants to talk, and maybe even give her blessing," Hermione continued, unperturbed by his dismissal. She glanced up at his face; since the last time she had seen him, only a week before, he had already gotten thinner. The purple smudges under his eyes defined them unnaturally, and the skin around his mouth stretched so thin when he took a bite that she could see veins under his skin.
She averted her eyes quickly. It was odd to be close to him when she had spent years of her life avoiding him. Even though she knew it was him that she had grown to love, it was not enough to blanket the memories of his eyes glaring at her across the dining hall during meals, or his mouth spewing insults at her and her friends. She'd rather close her eyes, where his presence was unchanged by the face she knew. He was different now to be sure, but his sarcastic, and sometimes gloomy tone was the same as it had been in the forest.
She tried not to show him her aversion however, since she could already feel his eyes on her when she visited him, and could already feel his question: do you still want me now that you've seen me?
"I go on the stand soon."
He nodded, taking another bite, and waited until he'd chewed it before he said, "And then they will deliberate over my sentence."
"Perhaps they'll drop some of the charges," Gerard said, closing the door.
Hermione stood up immediately, grateful for the break in her feeble attempt to draw him out of his funk. "I'm going to ask him questions."
He nodded once and raised his palm, dismissing her formality. "Of course, Miss Granger. Besides, I have some good news I'd rather you both be here for." He regarded Draco, who was still chewing, and said, "Nora has spoken to the warden over at Azkaban and he has agreed to put you in solitary confinement should you be admitted there. I know it isn't much, but it should protect you for at least some time until you can appeal for a place in the lower cells."
"The lower cells, next to the smaller criminals?"
"Yes. With any luck your cellmate there will have been arrested for tax fraud and you won't have to worry about former Death Eaters picking on you. Also, I hear that Rita Skeeter is trying to get a book deal based on your journey."
"How lovely," Hermione said shortly. "She hasn't even spoken to either of us about it."
"Ah ah," Gerard chided lightly. "It is generating sympathy for his trial, you realize. If she gets the deal, be cooperative. The book proposal is over six-hundred pages, I hear, and called 'The Price of Courage'. So perhaps it may not be as… flowery… as she normally portrays everything. It may help, if he is sentenced to years in Azkaban, how quickly he can appeal. In any case, would you like to interview him now, or wait until after I've finished for the day?"
"Now." Hermione pulled her parchment pad toward her and fished around in her handbag for a muggle pen. She flipped a few pages, and Draco nearly snorted at all the lines of questions she had, pages of them. She had apparently taken her new certification of "analyst" very seriously.
"Surely you don't intend to ask me all of those?" he muttered, stuffing the rest of the sandwich into his mouth and eying the apple she had brought.
"No," she replied absently, reading. "Just the important ones."
Draco knew that if she had written something down at all it was already deemed "important," but knew better than to say anything about it. "Alright then."
"Remember what I told you, Draco," Gerard said quietly, reminding Draco to be honest and to forget his pride. He had already done plenty of that in the past few weeks, so it was not a new thing. On the other hand, Hermione's presence made answering difficult questions just that much harder. It was hard to imagine that he could be any more embarrassed around her after what had happened at the Worthington's house, but… there were still some things he didn't feel like sharing.
Maybe she had seen his mind, his soul, and hadn't felt disgusted. Maybe he knew she understood some things. But talking about it all was not his favorite pastime.
"At what point did you recognize that Lord Voldemort and Master No Name were wrong in their ideas?"
He grimaced. She wasted no time. "Maybe I always knew."
"Then why did you go along with them?"
"I… " So heavy, and so soon! Draco looked down at his hands. "He promised us comfort, wealth, and glory. And my father was already bound to him as a former Death Eater."
Hermione shook her head. "That didn't answer my question."
"Well, when you are specifically requested to do something by the Dark Lord, you can't exactly - "
"That's not what I'm talking about."
"Can we move on?" Draco snapped.
There was a flicker of fear in Hermione's eyes, but before Draco could apologize for being snippy she had already put a star next to the question and moved on. "At what point did you decide to intervene in Master's plan involving me?"
This one was easier. "As soon as she imprisoned me."
"And when was this?"
Draco paused. "A few days after the Dark Lord fell."
She stopped writing and glanced at Gerard, who was watching the two of them with interest. "Where were your parents? I thought they went into hiding."
"No. My father was arrested, and the other Death Eaters said we had to go far away to avoid being sent to Azkaban. So they took me to Canada. It was there that I learned that Master, who at the time was just called No Name, had been plotting to overthrow the Dark Lord. She seized power immediately, and I was suddenly the Boy Who Couldn't Kill Dumbledore again."
"That's why you were imprisoned?"
"Yes. Because not only did I prove that I doubted our cause," Draco paused, swallowing, "but also that I lacked the ability to be of any real use."
Her eyes were suddenly on his, and she understood how much that must have angered him. No matter what, if someone said you weren't valuable as a wizard, it was the lowest insult. It was a rejection of what you were, to your core, and what you study for years to master. She couldn't imagine how insulting that must have been for him as a pureblood; it's already insulting enough for a muggleborn.
"Why did you decide to intervene?"
"I hated her," he muttered darkly. He looked up, and saw in her expression that this answer wasn't good enough. "Because I didn't believe what they were saying anymore. I still couldn't… couldn't respect muggles and muggleborns, but I didn't think it was worth it to fix the lot. It occurred to me how much pain and death would be involved for everyone. And I just knew that whatever she was planning was going to hurt the wizarding race most of all."
"So you didn't believe in the Dumbledore's goals?"
"Honestly… I don't know."
Hermione scoffed. "Protecting life, all forms of it? Promoting kindness and acceptance and that. How can one not?"
He waved his hand, indicating that she needed to move on.
She fixed him with a determined stare, realizing that he was disappointing her with his answers. Maybe he still was the same person he had been a year ago; maybe not enough had changed. Maybe she hadn't done enough.
"I know you think that you changed me," he muttered. "And you did, Hermione. I'm talking about the past, remember."
"Right," she said, faltering slightly. "You don't believe in any of that anymore, do you?"
He shook his head. "I've seen too much for myself to believe it." Instead of relying on things I shouldn't have.
"Good." She put a star next to the question and read the next one: "What were your intentions when you first rescued me?"
"I was originally going to warn you, but then I realized that you would curse me on sight. Then I was just going to kill Rubinoff and Krokesh, but before I could, Rubinoff got away. So I knew that if I didn't keep you safe myself, they would just try again with different people. And there is only so much the Ministry can do to protect you. They'd get you eventually."
"And you didn't trust the Ministry regardless."
"Exactly. How could I, after it basically let the Dark Lord control the Minister like that? Control everyone? No. There was no way I was going to trust the Ministry with this, after how Master made the whole scheme sound like the fate of the world depended on your capture." He paused. "But then I did mess everything up by trying to fight back."
Hermione ignored the last bit. She tried not to think about how nonchalantly he spoke about his plan to kill the other Death Eaters. Even though she would certainly kill someone if her life or any of her friends' lives depended on it, she would never take it so lightly.
"What were your intentions after you rescued me?"
"I… was just going to hide us away, for as long as it took."
"If it came to that. But I realized that I couldn't do that. Hiding from everyone is too tiring and taxing, and I knew we wouldn't last more than a few months, or even weeks. I think I knew, even then, that I had to take them down."
"Why didn't you just go to the Order?"
He snorted. "Where was I going to find them? Besides. I wanted to do things myself."
"And the Order was since disbanded, Miss Granger," Gerard put forth, and Hermione started slightly, forgetting he was sitting there. "It only came together in the final hour of need. Afterwards, there was no formal reunion."
Draco smoothed his hair back from his face, though it only stayed for a second before it fell forward again, and said, "How are you going to present this to the Minister?"
"I'm not. This is purely for the sake of your case."
"So you aren't going on the stand."
"I am going on the stand. But not as an analyst." She fingered the edges of her parchment pad and looked away from him, closing her eyes. "I'm going on as the victim."
She dared not open her eyes and see Draco's expression, but she could feel the sadness coming off him in waves. He exhaled. "Look, Hermione… "
"There's nothing that can be done. I… didn't do enough."
"No, Miss Granger, you did plenty. The victim status just trumps all."
Hermione met Draco's eyes apologetically. Could he tell that she was afraid of him? Did he know that even though she loved him, she would rather not have to look at him?
And most of all, was he angry?
"I got you in," Richard said enthusiastically, passing her a roll of parchment.
Hermione's eyes lit up. "Excellent timing. I just finished my argument." She scanned the official document. She would appear in front of the Confederation of Wizards… in two days time. Her heart thudded against her ribcage.
"I know you've already talked to some members of the Wizengamot and I know you go on the stand in the Malfoy trial at the end of next week. I'm sorry I couldn't get you in sooner… but this is what I could manage before his trial ended."
"No, this is perfect, thank you Richard!"
"Not a problem at all. You've been doing good work. How are your preparations going for the witness stand?"
"Alright, I suppose. I'm hoping that the Confederation can change some things before he is sentenced. I know the hope is dismal, but I have to try."
"Yes. The Confederation does take a while to deliberate on things. I don't want to pressure you further, but it may depend on how well you convince them."
Hermione nodded solemnly, the determination in her eyes outshining her tired appearance and giving light to the purple rings under her eyes. "I know. Also, I have finished the project you asked for."
"Great work. Pass it over to Helen, and I'll have a look at it on Monday. And Hermione? Why don't you take next week off. I know you've only been working four hour shifts these days, but you are going to need next week to get your mind right."
"Thank you, Richard. You are doing me a huge favor."
He waved her off, smiling. "Anything I can do. I'm not getting nearly the same flack that Nora is getting for helping with the trial. I heard that Marjorie Kindle, the prosecutor, has gotten the Auror Office's support. That has got to be stressful for Nora."
It seemed that Richard had been right about the trial - the Ministry seemed to be splitting down the middle these days. Whenever Hermione went to work, she could feel people's eyes on her, hear them whispering about how crazy she was or how great of a girlfriend she must be to help him.
Mr. Weasley was rather silent about the whole thing, but it was no secret how much his department disliked the Malfoy family and all that they stood for; their side was made clear very early on. The Department of Mysteries did not seem to care about the trial, but was rather trying to get ahold of Hermione for questioning, as she was the only person within reach that had been privy to Master's explanation of her research. Hermione avoided their questions as much as she could, as she did not want to think about that night ever again.
"She even had Shalvin on the stand. I thought Nora and Kingsley Shacklebolt were supposed to be friends."
Kingsley hadn't spoken to Hermione directly since she had convinced him to back her up in her scheme to get the Order involved with the trial. Even when she had been in the same room as him he hadn't so much as glanced at her. She wondered how he had gone from offering his support to backing the prosecution in so short a time. "They are. But this trial is different. Kingsley has dealt with the Malfoy family too many times to support Draco in this, even if it means supporting Nora."
"Hmm. This is definitely going to be a defining moment for us."
"My only hope is that the Wizengamot can at least see how important this is for the rebuilding of our world." And that in the end, all the strings she was pulling for Draco would pay off.