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Part Sixteen: Fait Accompli
"Is it a kind of a dream
Floating out on the tide
Following the river of death downstream
Oh is it a dream?"
Stephen Gately Bright Eyes
(Yes, that's the one about the rabbits!)
"What are we going to do?" asked Hermione, sliding shut the compartment door relieved to escape the looks of suspicion that she was attracting from the rest of the party.
"Deal with it," advised Draco pragmatically, stretching his legs along the seat opposite, "This is what we knew would happen all along. Okay, we didn't exactly plan it like this but lets make the best of the situation. Even if your friends aren't open minded enough, mine are."
Hermione doubted that but she kept quiet, imagining Ron's face becoming redder and redder until he blended perfectly against the Gryffindor colours, discernible only because of the steam that billowed out of his ears. And what of Harry? He always brooded when he was angry; she knew that from experience. He brooded until he was simmering so strongly that his lid blew off! But wasn't there a chance they would understand? Not likely, she admitted closing her eyes and leaning her head back.
"Shall I leave you alone?" Draco asked.
"Stay," she replied, not really wanting to be by herself, she had a lot of that to look forward to. Draco continued to lounge, unperturbed by their situation. It irked that he could be so untouched by the cool response of the others or was he just used to being viewed less than favourably by people like the holier-than-thou's in the next compartment. Hermione chewed her bottom lip and leaned forward resting her chin on her hands. "Can I ask you something?" she said, as if afraid of being overheard.
"Did you know?"
His arm dropped heavily from his lap and hung down, swinging like a pendulum in time with the train, "I've already told you that I did not," he said with a weary sigh.
"Then why did he do it?"
"I don't know. I suppose he thought it was right." Draco suggested irritably, "When father gets an idea, well its easier not to question him as to his motives." He turned his head and looked darkly at her, "I don't make the rules Hermione, I live with them."
Unsatisfied with that explanation, Hermione turned away and pressed her forehead against the cool window pane. She gazed at the sky, low cloud obscuring the mountain peaks in a layered haze of blurry black and greys, sunlight filtered through, brightening the hillside but casting a jaundiced tinge on the heavens from which distant rain fell. Only a few spots of water spattered across the window but minutes later it began to lash the side of the train. Draco stretched up to close the window.
He flopped back into his seat wiped a few drops of water from his nose, "You still don't quite trust me, do you?" he accused with all the tact and subtlety of a housebrick, "or is it the rest of my family?"
"Can you really blame me?"
"You only know what you've heard from people who aren't really all that qualified to comment. How often have you heard it said that all evil people get sorted in to Slytherin? If you'd listened to them then we would never have stood a chance in the first place. If you can be wrong about me why cant you be wrong about my family?… Hermione?"
She blinked, surprised that he was no longer talking. She'd settled back in the seat, arms folded and resigned to listen to one of Draco's infuriatingly long and patronising lectures, wary of the row that would follow if she interrupted.
"I don't know, Draco," she said hesitantly.
"Oh, don't be so silly. You don't have to like them. You'll never even see them."
But no matter what he said, she couldn't imagine Draco wasting too much time on someone of whom they didn't approve. He might claim that his father was "an arrogant bastard" and his mother "as dull as dust" but they wore those roles like a favourite pair of shoes, always with them. And like old shoes they had worn so thin that they had begun to leak and through those holes, Hermione detected an exceptional bond, as if they needed one another yet hated each other for knowing it.
It was tempting to ask him more about them but she didn't really think she'd get him to talk. Truth was she didn't think she wanted to know.
It was eight o'clock before the train pulled into a very dark and damp Hogsmeade Station, wet in a way that only a British summer can be.
A carriage was waiting at the gate for them and they piled on board and began the short journey up to the school. Draco squeezed Hermione's knee, just as they trundled past the boars. "Don't worry," he said.
As they rolled up to the main door, Professor Grubbly-Plank coughed loudly, "I think it would be best if you all went straight for dinner, I will arrange for your luggage to be taken in. Run along now, not much time left," this proposal met the approval of most of the occupants of the carriage but Hermione was less than enthusiastic.
As she approached the doors of the Great Hall, open a crack through which the buzz of voices escaped, Hermione felt more nervous than she had when she first made this walk.
This time she knew what awaited her.
There weren't many diners left at this hour. The staff table was empty and those students that were there appeared to have been waiting for their friends to return from London. Draco melted in into the Slytherin table, Brian Poulson joined Hufflepuff and the Ravenclaws welcomed Sarah Briggs. Hermione shuddered as she saw who remained at Gryffindor table. She had a choice, she could either sit alone at the end near the door through which she could quickly bolt if things got tetchy or she could make the walk of shame and face the jury at the far end. There was a seat just between Neville and the Creeveys, perhaps there? Just beyond them sat Harry, and Ron and Ginny.
Hermione dithered, relieved that no-one seemed to have noticed her but it couldn't last. Ginny was the first, she nudged Ron who nudged Harry and slowly twelve heads faced her way. Taking a deep breath, Hermione approached. Neville shifted uncomfortably then slid into the seat next to Dennis, still keeping a leg on his own.
"Here, Hermione," said Lavender still further down the table indicating an empty chair next to Parvati. It was very close to Harry but what other choice was there (apart from turning and running). But she couldn't run away any more. This had to be faced and putting it off for so long had only deepened the wound it caused but the chances of a fair trial were slim.
Each step seemed to take hours, was it always like this for the condemned? She wondered as her eyes flicked left to see Neville staring guiltily down at his plate.
"Traitor!" coughed Ginny as Hermione passed. Tempting though it would have been to push her face right into the half empty dish of sprouts that sat in front of her, Hermione ignored the comment, focussing on the vacant chair. Or was that a hoax? Would Lavender snatch it away and hound her from the hall?
"Thanks," said Hermione sitting at the far side of Lavender, hardly daring to look at the others.
"You're welcome," she replied so naturally that Hermione wondered if she had imagined that walk.
"I'm not hungry," said Ron loudly pushing back his chair with a crash, "Something's making me feel sick. Harry?"
"You certainly kept that one a secret, Hermione," remarked Harry, a touch bitterly, "All this time I thought you were one of us. How could you ever let that evil piece of filth touch you."
His eyes blazed, flashing between hurt and rage and maybe something even deeper than that. It confirmed what Hermione had known all along; that nothing she could say would change anything.
"Harry?" repeated Ron who hadn't even looked directly at her. "If she wants to play slutty games with Malfoy, let her. Like anyone else would want either of them."
Hermione stared wide eyed at Ron, he was almost purple and his eyes goggled strangely as if playing a role in someone's nightmare. She couldn't quite believe what he had said but how could she say anything, how could she blame them.
"Come on, Hermione," said Harry obviously not as ready as Ron to leave, "Tell us the details, when did this all happen? Are you drugged, or brainwashed or have you just lost your mind?" he asked loudly, not that it needed to be loud because everyone at the table was already listening. "What have they promised you? I always thought you were my friend, Hermione. Even through everything that has gone on this year, all the secrecy, all the sneaking around. I justified it. I told myself that it was all my imagination. I never believed it."
"Harry," Hermione squeaked instinctively reaching out.
"Don't touch me," he spat, flinching as if she were on fire.
"Listen to me…" she was on her feet not sure what she was going to say, trying to find something that would make a difference. "Harry," she grasped his arm again and this time he shook it, hard, knocking her back into her seat.
"Harry," said Ron sharply as though his friend had lost his senses, "What the heck do you…"
The rest of his words were lost as Lavender started talking rapidly in her ear but Hermione didn't hear what she was saying. There was pressure on her shoulder and she tilted her head instantly recognising the long, fine fingers that reassuringly squeezed. His eyes gazed upon her, sparking like molten granite then slowly he raised his head.
"Potter," he said in a tone as brittle and cold as ice, "I am going to make you pay for that."
"It's nothing to do with you, Malfoy?" snapped Harry livid.
"This has everything to do with me, Potter. Nobody damages anything that belongs to me especially not a scar-faced runt who is no more worthy of her friendship than Weasel is of the epithet wizard."
"Belongs to you?" Ron scoffed beside Harry now. "What a classic, how much'd you pay for her?"
"Ron!" Hermione shrieked scrambling to her feet, "How can you say…"
"I haven't even started yet," he replied nastily without removing his eyes from Draco, "Come on then, Malfoy. Make us pay!" his knuckles were white and his hands balled into fists.
"I will, Weasley. If you can afford it!" Goyle had joined Draco and Crabbe stood nearby under the shadow of Millicent Bulstrode though the Gryffindors were not without reinforcement. And members of the other houses were also showing their interest in the scene developing in the aisle between the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw tables.
"Please," Hermione was in a place that she never ever thought she'd find herself, wand in hand, shoulder to shoulder with Draco Malfoy, sizing up Ron and Harry. She really was on trial and it wasn't just the Gryffindors who were monitoring her actions, the Slytherins were also taking great interest, no doubt wondering whether or not she really had the guts for this. "Draco, just let it drop," she whispered.
"No," he said firmly without taking his eyes from his opponents, "They can't talk to you like that."
"Reserve that privilege for yourself do you?" sniped Harry.
"Just one more word," Draco warned, "From either of you."
"Shut your face, Malfoy."
"Flagrare," yelled Harry white fire erupting from his wand.
"Annullare,"roared Draco in the same instant.
"Odisse," Ron added his ire to the conflagration.
"Aegret..."Hermione began but the first curses clashed in mid air then deflected by Ron's they came directly at her. She threw herself to the floor narrowly avoiding the jet of fire that whooshed above. Finding no target, it erupted overhead with a deafening craaaack raw with power spraying the students with searing sparks.
Even the mossiest of Hogwarts professors, high in the most distant tower could not fail to have heard that!
On her knees beneath the table, Hermione saw a sudden rush of ankles head toward the door. She reached for her fallen wand then cautiously peered out. Three faces were contorted with absolute hatred, clearly getting ready for another assault then rage was replaced by confusion as Harry, Ron and Draco looked down at their empty hands. Hermione scrambled to her feet, her own wand clutched in her fist. She felt all her blood drain and come to a rest roughly parallel with the soles of her feet.
Professor McGonagall was standing at the end of the table with three wands in one hand, the air around it alive with vivid blue crackles.
"Malfoy, Potter, Weasley…" her eyes settled on Hermione who was clutching the edge of the table for support, "…Miss Granger. Come with me," she said softly.
Hermione tucked her wand out of sight as in silence they followed the Professor toward the staff table and through the door at the back of the hall. By the time the door clicked shut the hall was filled with murmurs.
As McGonagall examined the boys' wands Hermione looked sidelong at Draco, jaw set, his face was stony and pale and his hand left hand appeared to be trying to strangle the right. Her eyes flicked to the others both of who looked distinctly abashed and seemed to be taking great interest in the empty fireplace.
McGonagall turned, "Would one of you care to give me an explanation as to why two prefects and the captain and the keeper of a Quidditch team are to be found shrieking and hurling curses, particularly nasty curses at one another in the Great Hall? Miss Granger?" Hermione looked down at her own shuffling feet.
Sucking all the air from the room McGonagall continued, "A Quel! I cannot remember when Hogwarts last saw such a thing … and in the Great Hall. It's a disgrace! How you come to even know those words is beyond me but to use them…do you think perhaps this is a good example to set your fellow students?" she ventured humourlessly, "Very well then. I remind you all that your positions are a privilege, not a right. Mr Malfoy, your head of House and your parents will be informed of this incident and as for you three, I will write to your parents and you will all be informed of your punishment in due course."
McGonagall had clearly raked the depths of her mind to find a punishment that would make them think about what they had done, this close to the end of term there wasn't much that she could do to spoil it for them but she managed. The four perpetrators found themselves confined to school grounds, which was disappointing because after the exams were over, the sixth and seventh years traditionally enjoyed free access to Hogsmeade. Hermione and Draco however were not too troubled by the news, those left in the castle weren't all that interested in the pair who had been the cause of such excitement recently. They were free to lounge on the stairs of the castle basking in the sunlight relieved to be free of questioning eyes for the afternoon.
"Annullare?" Hermione said quietly, "That's vicious."
"Well, your erstwhile admirers weren't exactly reading from the 'Standard Book of Spells: Grade One', were they?"
"I'm shocked at all of you, those were bordering on the dark, every single one."
"I don't really care about that," he smirked flicking dust from his sleeve, "But I'm sure those two will when they've had a chance to reflect upon it. What I'm interested in, Hermione is what was on the end of your tongue?"
"What do you mean?"
"Your wand was out, your mouth was open," he leaned close, tracing the line of her jaw with his thumb, "If that old hag hadn't come along, what honeyed words would have spilled from these sweet lips?"
"I don't like to say," said Hermione playfully biting Draco's thumb.
"Do you really think it'll bother me?"
"No, that's why I don't want to tell you."
"No secrets, now"
"Aegretudo," she whispered.
Draco's eyebrow raised, "Aegretudo? Hermione, what a dark heart you have and against your friends too."
"I was just so angry with them being so horrible. I think I would have really got into trouble."
"Do you understand the concept of understatement? That one's landed people in St Mungo´s."
"I've only read about it, I've never tried it so it probably wouldn't have worked."
"I wouldn't be so sure, put the right amount of rage behind it and…"
"Draco!" he rolled his eyes and leaned on his elbows.
"What a way to end the year. Confined to school grounds and I lost fifty points."
"Did you? Maybe I got off lightly because I didn't actually use my wand."
"Well, diving under the table is a tried and tested method of defence," Draco sniggered, "But if you had… Aegretudo think of it, that pair stricken by slow hungry insanity!"
"Draco, I don't feel good about it."
"Feel as guilty as you like. But while you do, how about a walk."
"Where to?" she snapped, "Perhaps the village?"
"I don't think that would go down too well. Anyway, too much rabble. Come on." He took her hand and pulled her to her feet then hand in hand trotted down toward the lake.
The air was too still to walk far and by the time they came to a halt where the bole of a half fallen tree raised the bank, Hermione's shirt was sticking to her skin. The trunk of the tree bowed over the water and along it grew a tangle of ivy which trailed down to the glassy lake.
"It's perfect!" she said, dragging Draco toward it. She stopped and began to pull off her shoes, "Are you joining me?"
"No, stupid! That branch makes it just like a bench. I can't believe it exists."
Draco sighed but followed Hermione's lead leaving his shoes and socks on the ground.
Together they edged along the bough. And as Hermione had seen the branch behind provided support just like a park bench at just the right height for their toes to dangle in the water.
"It's wonderful," said Hermione as a flotilla of ducks quacked below, "It's like it was made for us."
"Did you really say that?" Draco asked scornfully, "should I start quoting poetry for you perhaps?"
He then draped one arm around her shoulders and swept the other out in a dramatic arc, "Shall I compare thee to a plague of frogs, thou be more lovely than the Cauterised Crone of…ouch!"
Hermione thumped his arm again for good measure, "How romantic," she remarked.
"Was that a question?"
"No, it's just… are you so jaded that you…" Draco leaned to her and placed a hand over her mouth, grasping her jaw when she tried to interrupt. Without releasing her he edged back a little extracting a penknife from his pocket. Her eyes flicked and followed the blade to a knot in the branch behind and as it dug deep she saw some lichen covered letters which suggested that they were not the first to find this place.
DM '98 HG
He carved, in intertwining letters that almost completely obliterated
"I wonder who they were…" muttered Hermione tracing her fingers over the carving.
"Nobody," he said stifling an exaggerated yawn, "it's our place now."
"You soppy twit!"
"Don't be offensive, Hermione. That's fighting talk where I come from!"
"I will ask you to read me poetry if you don't stop pretending to be so untouchable. I know you, Malfoy."
"I love it when you get all formal," he chuckled mischievously then he grasped her hands and fixed her with a look that Hermione could describe only as dangerous,
"What?" she asked as his grin broadened and her description mutated to pure wickedness, "I'll make you serenade me if you don't tell me."
"Is that a threat?" he raised her hands to his lips then without waiting for an answer he toppled backwards, his weight pulling Hermione with him.
"You evil swine!" she shrieked as her feet found the lake bed. Draco stood nearby, waist deep in water with his hair slick and his shirt plastered to his skin. Hermione waded toward him wishing that for once he could look like a drowned rat but that was too much to ask. Draco lived a charmed life, and part of that charm was that he looked stunning and would always look stunning, even if he was covered from head to toe in mud.
"I was a bit hot," he shrugged as she reached him and folded her in his arms, before bursting out laughing. Despite her annoyance, Hermione laughed too she couldn't help it, with the absurdity of it all there was nothing else to do.
It was with reluctance that Hermione parted from Draco to join her housemates for the end of term feast. Those last days had been a whirl of new faces, voices and opinions and in the confusion she had almost forgotten the hostility of her old friends. Almost.
"With us, 'Mione," said Parvati grabbing Hermione's arm and steering her into a chair between Lavender and Seamus Finnegan. Hermione was just grateful enough to forget to correct Parvati about how her name was pronounced.
Harry and his hangers on sat a little further down the table sending poisonous glances her way and Hermione was concerned to realise that she had been part of that group that scowled at anyone who didn't quite measure up. There was a bigger world out there and she had found it.
"So what is your secret?" asked Parvati, "Viktor, Justin, Draco?"
"Indifference," said Hermione with a wry smile, "I think perhaps it's irresistible!"
Gryffindor did badly in the house championship, the loss of a hundred points took them below Hufflepuff and a quirk of fate at the final Quidditch match allowed Slytherin to regain the points Draco had lost them in the duel but the Quidditch cup went to Ravenclaw. But nothing could revive Gryffindor and when the final point tally was announced a great roar erupted from the Slytherin table. Ignoring the disappointment around her Hermione smiled peering through the sea of hats to catch a glimpse of Draco who appeared to be holding court.
This was something they couldn't share. He was back in his world, she in hers and it would be morning before she saw him again as they boarded the old train that would take them home. But now there was a point where two worlds met and what they shared there was something more than perfect.
This year nothing was going to ruin the mood or change the Slytherin colours, Draco knew it. A feast, is a feast, is a feast, he thought but this one was slightly different. The old fool was waffling about something that Draco didn't care to listen to, he was obviously trying desperately to be so "fair" and find a reason to bump up the Gryffindors points but it seemed that this time his imagination had run dry.
That was it.
"Look at their faces," laughed Draco leaning on Pansy's shoulder as he reached over to slap Blaise's palm, "You could break rocks with them."
"HAAAA!" yelled Vincent and Millicent throwing themselves at one another in a most unseemly manner.
Similar scenes were repeated along the table as the Slytherins made enough noise to shake the foundations not only of Hogwarts but of the whole wizarding world. It was a signal. They were back.
Grinning broadly Draco snatched up his goblet, "To victory!" he roared to the cheers of his friends.
He saw her then, gazing at him from her prison across the hall, a rapt and wonderfully indulgent expression on her face. She was his true victory this year and as she turned away he smiled and muttered, "Sometimes Slytherins do win!"
In the immortal words of Bugs Bunny, That's all folks!
I have really enjoyed writing TdF from writing it, to reading your reviews, to drawing out a floorplan of the Malfoy's house, every little bit but it can't go on forever. We have reached a natural break. The end of the sixth year.
In the sequel Le Deluge…we follow Hermione deep into the heart of the Malfoy household and the Ministry. More mystery, more romance, more temptation… Read it and creep.
For news on Le Deluge please join:
Long Rambling Section of Authors Notes:
I cannot believe I have finished. I first started TdF in July 2001 under a different title but decided not to publish. Some time in October I re-read it and realised that I had the basis of a story, again under a different title but that was only planned to be two parts. That is when I first published this under the rather strange name "Can a Dragon Change its spots?"
It was then I realised that the story I had could not be told in two parts. I chose the title Transi de Froid because it reflected well the stagnation and impossibility if the relationship with existing friendships intact, breaking those was the only way to break the deadlock and for Draco and Hermione to move on.
I am re-writing the whole fic to expand the earliest chapters which read awkwardly in parts and I suspect have put a lot of people off wanting to read more. There are scenes (such as the Christmas Dance) which I never even knew had become a fic cliché but for this I have another scenario which will add to TdF and the sequel. There is also the question of my wooden Ron and Harry who I wheel out whenever I feel I should, what they have been doing is important in the sequel, so I need to add a few more hints and a lot more depth.
Sincerest apologies for my unplanned absence, but sometimes even picking up a pen is difficult.
Thank you all for your support!
Final, Blissfully Short Section of Authors Notes:
And here, courtesy of the BBC, you can find a fabulous picture of Lucius Malfoy looking superbly snooty and worryingly like my mental picture of him! http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/harrypotter/gallery_landscape_11.shtml (you might have to go back into the bar and delete an extra http://%20 before it loads!).
Have sympathy for me, I'll not see CoS until Sunday next week when I'm in Blighty!