Chapter 15: Trust
Draco wasn't that surprised, because he knew she was a woman of character. Still, he'd never known someone to continue sulking two days after a kiss. Finally, Hermione Granger appeared in his bedroom, and she was in a crabby mood. After a long moment passed in silence, he stood up from his bed. It had been a torture, him fixing his eyes on the ceiling, her looking at the window, neither willing to break the malaise.
He leant on the wall near the bedroom's door, and studied the witch.
"I don't know what's wrong with you." He said, deciding to act as if nothing had happened. The look she shot him would have made him cower if he wasn't the son of Lucius Malfoy.
"You're the one having trouble with his libido." Hermione replied.
"My libido? What are you talking about?"
"Nevermind." She looked back out the window at the sky, fuming inside.
Draco shook his head, smirking. He could have said something reassuring, but he was Draco Malfoy, a coward, a prat. And to be honest, he didn't want to have this discussion.
"Don't tell me you fancy me Granger." He mused.
"In your dreams."
"So why are you sulking?"
"I..." The bastard! "You're lamentably clutching onto Donia's apron. And I just can't help feeling pity when I see you persisting in establishing some kind of connection with someone living thousands of miles away from your home. It makes no sense." Her heartbeat sped up as she said that.
"So nice of you to worry for me…" He mocked.
Hermione gave him her haughtiest look, and disappeared into thin air, leaving Draco alone again. The wizard sighed. He felt bad. Something like remorse was eating at his gut, and it made him feel like a prince in a freezing cold kingdom. He could feign disinterest and arrogance but he was powerless.
She sighed for the umpteenth time. Their departure for the mountain was set for this evening and Hermione was both excited and anxious, almost forgetting the grudge she held against Draco. She was staring at the window, willing the sun to go to sleep faster. After a moment of wonder, she looked at her companion. He was in his quiet mood, and Hermione knew that it meant that he was preoccupied too.
"May I ask you a question?" She tried.
Draco shrugged, so she went on.
"You remember the day Harry, Ron and me had been captured and imprisoned in your manor? Why did you seem reluctant to denounce us?"
She could see his entire being tense at her question.
"There's nothing to say." He answered, remaining as detached as possible.
"I deserve to understand."
"If you were so intelligent, you would have understood it...There was nothing heroic." He said that with a bored tone, trying to focus on the parchment he had been reading.
"Allow me to disagree; even intelligent minds need explanations when confronted with an unknown situation."
"What do you know about it? You've never been intelligent."
"I try to be." She said.
"Oh my... Poor you!" He replied, now glaring at her with his trademark smirk.
"I was already ugly and idiot, do I have to add poor to my portrait?"
"One cannot hide anything from you. However I've never said you're ugly..."
"Should I take that as a compliment?" Hermione teased him.
"Come off it, certainly not!"
"Now, will you answer me...?"
"I was living bad times." He began, after a long pause.
"And? Is that all?"
"What is this? An interrogation?"
"Malfoy..." She said impatiently. She just needed to know. The idea that, possibly, he had tried to help them had always floated inside her mind.
The wizard sighed.
"It was just a lack of reaction... Strangely, I was scared. Horrors happened inside the manor, besides it wasn't our manor anymore. My dreams of grandeur were wrecked. I didn't handle anything and I was unable to react because difficulties had always been levelled off for me, giving me the impression that I'd never made any error."
"Didn't you question yourself?"
Now Draco turned his look toward the window, as though the answer was somewhere far in the distance. After another moment of silence he answered:
"I refused to question myself because that would've implied too many upheavals in my life and required too many definitive decisions. I've never been courageous: I was a teenager completely lost in something too big and too atrocious for him. And, well, my parents had been publicly humiliated."
"I used to believe that you would open your eyes to what you were doing, like Regulus Black, but you never changed..." Hermione confessed in a quiet voice. There was pain in her voice.
Draco stared back at her, touched by her words. Despite himself, he felt ashamed to be the cause of her disappointment. Hermione Granger had believed in him, she had thought there might be a decent person behind the immature, spoiled brat he once had been. Why people wanted to find light in him, he couldn't tell. Maybe he was the only one unable to see it.
"I'm not saying that I wasn't racist anymore, that I wasn't bad..." He carried on the conversation. "I'm saying that my faith in Voldemort and his crap wasn't the same anymore. Like my Uncle Regulus though, I realised what it really meant to be a Death Eater; however, I didn't have his bravery or his latitude of action and I wasn't ready to change my opinions. I'd chosen my camp, presumably the strongest camp, a long time before that moment. I was terrified, stuck, unable to make a choice because of fear, of weakness...or indecision..."
Hermione stayed silent for a moment, pondering his words. She suddenly realized that during their time together his rehabilitation had become incredibly important to her and his tacit admission of regret left her feeling victorious, as though his step toward redemption was a personal achievement.
"I'm sure the man you are now would have helped us." The witch concluded.
Help was a big word. Regardless, Draco wished he had made better choices. Maybe... maybe he would have been in the wining camp, maybe they would have been friends.
"I wish I was courageous, that's the tragedy of my life."
He stood up, unable to continue the conversation, but before he left the bedroom, Hermione spoke.
"Bravery isn't the exclusivity of Gryffindor. Look at Snape."
The falling night was hanging over their minds like a sombre lid. The sun was completely gone now, and they were waiting for Raebert to signal their departure. They stood silent, pensive and prepared.
Polite knocks threw them out of their thoughts. Draco grabbed his bag and Hermione stood up.
But it was only the nurse. Donia came inside the room, holding a long packet.
"I have some things to give you." She said and unfolded the packet, revealing a jar full of oriental confectioneries, a golden lamp, and a thin Indian sabre.
"This lamp belonged to my great-great-uncle, Amid. The genie has been gone for a long time now; nevertheless, you can imprison anything you want inside it for eternity. You just have to rub it vigorously and lift the lid. But be careful, you can use it one time only."
Draco and Hermione stared at the lamp with great fascination.
"I don't know what kind of quest you're undertaking, but I guess it's important, and I thought you might need something like this."
She put it on the bed next to Draco's bag.
"I appreciate your gesture Donia but I can't..."
"I insist that you take it." The nurse cut him. "It has decorated my lounge for too long."
Draco felt incredibly grateful to the nurse. He awkwardly tried to promise her money, but she declined it, claiming that she didn't expect something in return.
Then, Donia held the door's knob and looked back at Draco one last time.
"Be careful, do not trust Raebert..."
She opened the door, and like a fatal sign, Raebert was standing in the doorway.
They arrived in front of the Palestinian mount in the middle of the night and decided to wait until dawn to find an entrance.
Draco wanted to transfigure his flying carpet into a good and cosy bed, but without his wand, all he had was a sleeping bag. He didn't like sleeping somewhere besides his bed. Even when he was younger, when Blaise, his cousin Antigone and Goyle had wanted to sleep in the wooden shack they had built at the far end of the garden, he had gone back home in the middle of the night. He smiled, remembering the way it ended. Blaise had called him a coward, claiming that he was scared to sleep away from his Mummy. It had made Draco very angry, and they had fought, like vulgar Muggles, with punches and kicks. It had been his first fight, for real, for his pride, alone. Why was he thinking about it now? He shook his head, and continued trying to make his place as comfortable as possible.
Raebert came to him and pulled out a wand from his cloak. The young man recognized it as his. It was a part of him, a part of his identity, and even if he knew how to do wandless magic, he had missed it like he would have missed an arm. At this moment, he felt sympathy for Hermione who hadn't practice magic in seven months.
"I think it's time to discuss." Declared Raebert McGregor.
Draco's eyes detached from his wand to lie on Raebert's face. He sat on his carpet and started to sum up the events that had happened since that night at Borgin and Burke's.
"Hermione Granger? Harry Potter's best friend?" Raebert asked incredulously.
Draco nodded. "Yes, and she's with us now." He looked at the place where she was sitting.
Raebert followed his gaze, expecting to catch even the slightest sign of her presence. Seeing nothing, he turned to Draco, suspicion shining in his eyes.
"And how would I know that she's actually here? You could be lying..."
Draco rolled his eyes.
"We made a vow. I fill you in on my quest; you give me my wand back. If I was lying I would be dead by now."
"Can she hear me?" He finally demanded.
The hippogriff hunter stared randomly where Hermione was supposed to be.
"I met Lucius Malfoy and his sister-in-law, Bellatrix Lestrange, when they were 'recruiting' Dark Lord's followers. Are you really putting your life in the hands of their heir?"
Time seemed to stop for Draco. His dislike for the man grew instantly.
Hermione looked warily at the young man then at Raebert. She cleared her throat.
"We are fooled more by distrust than by trust. Draco is not his blood. He made a promise, and I trust him to honour it. He wouldn't have gone so far if he wasn't sincere."
Draco was feeling something odd, something between shock and tenderness. Better than being mortified. Because she could have made him feel bad, she could have said she had no choice, she could have denounced their deal. Her life against his glory, it suddenly seemed supercilious to him... But it was Hermione Merciful Granger. Again, she was putting a lot of faith in people. He suppressed a grin, as he thought that it was what made her charming.
He turned to Raebert who stared silently at the scene and noticed the change in the young man's bearing.
"She, she trusts me." Draco muttered. "She said I'm not my blood, I made a promise and she trusts me to honour it."
Raebert snorted, a wry smile on his lips. He added more twigs to the fire they'd made at their arrival, and settled his own couchette some meters away from them.
"Granger, don't you sleep?"
She was sitting cross-legged next to him, her eyes gazing unfocused into the dark night.
"I don't feel the need to." She replied, not taking the trouble to look at him.
"So what were you doing in my bed last time?"
"What? I never..."
"After the poker party."
"Oh! Yeah, after the poker party..."
Draco waited, but the answer never came. She seemed to have plunged back into her thoughts.
He turned his body and looked at the sky. He couldn't sleep either. After several minutes he moved over to leave a little place on his couchette. The noise of his movement caught Hermione's attention.
She looked at him.
"Come here." He said.
The sound of wood crackling on the fire seemed suddenly far away.
Hermione reached for his right hand. It was as warm and strong as she remembered. She slid under the blanket and smelled his natural scent, masculine and fresh.
"I love your hands." She murmured. Draco felt his whole body tense; he couldn't find a thing to say.
Instead, he gave her a sidelong look. A wave of desire raced through him. Was it because of her smile? Was it because of what she said? Or was it because of the false intimacy created by the silent night? She gave rise to so many contradictions inside him...
Fortunately for him, Hermione quickly fell asleep, but she never let his hand go.
Draco observed her. All he could see was a woman, a brilliant woman, pretty if you learnt to like the form of her lips and her piercing brown eyes, too honest but earnestly humanitarian.. A woman like other women who exist on this Earth, and not a Mudblood. He thought about the kiss they shared and struggled with his stupid desire to talk about it. After all, she had Ron. Besides, what would people say?
Meanwhile, in England, Ron let the ministry owl hang upon his forearm.
He read the message brought by the animal and passed it to Harry, who was standing next to him.
"The signal is sent, we can go." Harry confirmed.
Ron nodded, sombre. Finally, they could go into action. He looked at the sky and said:
"If anyone lets me face Malfoy alone, I'll kill him."
Harry hesitated, he felt the same anger, the same sense of injustice, but something was making him feel doubt as well and he couldn't put a finger on it.
"This Raebert is a criminal himself, we're not certain that Malfoy actually killed her." He confessed to his friend. "I don't know, something makes me believe she's still alive…"
A/N : How can I ask people to comment when I never reply to any reviews? I'm a horrible writer and I'm going to drown my pain in my ink, and jab the blackened quill into my heart... Okay, reading Phèdre and other Greek tragedies makes me react a little over-dramatically...
Well, to reply to everyone... I feel that... When you're Draco Malfoy or Hermione Granger, it just can't be easy. It had to be a slow process. I keep on reading some part of the book to remind me of their personalities, and this exercise guides me there : the kiss had to be intense but brief, and confusing... Hum, I don't know if I succeeded in summing up my ideas... Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this chapter^^. Next one : The avenging Fairy. We're closed to the end...
Post scriptum : Michelle rocks. Her beta-work is wonderful! And thanks to Happy who made a pertinent remark.