The Velveteen Noose
By Marmalade Fever
Disclaimer: I do not own nor claim the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. No profit is being made.
I really couldn't tell you what it was I'd been thinking. Nothing that made sense either logically or instinctively, that's for certain. He had this smile; this lazy smirk curled up at the corner of his mouth. Wendy might have called it a kiss, always just out of reach. I call it an omen, ready to ram its way into your wellbeing and batter it to shards.
Either way, this Wendy-Bird was shot, hook, line, and sink her into the earth, ten feet under. Yes, I know it's sinker. I'm trying something.
Sorry, sorry. Brain's stretched. Where is that bleeding—aspirin. Aspirin is good.
It's getting hard to focus. Ever since he went and married me, I—why did I marry him? I told you. I couldn't tell you what it was I'd been thinking. I'm not even sure what I'm thinking right now, to be honest. Yet there's a clarity. Everything makes sense, despite the fact that absolutely nothing makes sense whatsoever.
The pillow on my side of the bed is soft. He snores. It isn't a horrible snore; no, it's soft… like my pillow, actually. It's almost comforting because while he snores, he seems almost human, and I grow hopeful.
Sometimes I am reminded of the story of the Velveteen Rabbit, and I think that if I can only pretend hard enough that this marriage is real, then it will be, and I will go hippity-hoppity off in the garden, made of flesh and blood instead of velveteen and sawdust. But my boot button eyes will not lie to me. Still I see that omen curled up in his smile, ready to spring out at me at any moment.
He proposed in the standard way, in a restaurant on bended knee, and whatever compulsion gripped me, it caused me to say yes. It was the same compulsion that had me agreeing to date him, one year prior.
Harry and Ron do not visit me, and why this is I cannot say, but I take it as yet another omen. My owls never return when I send them, though there is always a replacement owl with the exact same feather pattern waiting in the Malfoy Owlery. I once sent one out and watched it fly away, only to turn around and find its duplicate perched directly behind me, staring at me with round, unblinking amber eyes.
He rolls over, and turns in my direction, his snores ceasing. "Are you still awake? It's late. And you shouldn't write in the dark like that. You'll strain your eyes." I tuck my parchment into the nightstand drawer, and he cradles me to his chest, pressing a kiss to my shoulder. I memorize his words and movements, planning to transcribe them here.
He acts the doting husband and worries over me, and I am reminded of The Yellow Wallpaper, but I do not find a woman shaking the bars of her cage in the walls of this room, only in my brain, in the far corner where my sanity and independence are in cold storage. I don't remember using so many mixed metaphors before in my life.
I find myself tired at the wrong moments. I will be doing something—reading, eating, taking a walk—and find myself very suddenly unable to go on until I have rested. It is unnerving to find myself unable to chew. He has summoned a healer thrice now, and each time I am given a clean bill of health. I can see his disappointment when he finds out that I am not with child. There is nothing physically wrong with me, we are told.
Busy little ants in my head. Shuffling, creeping, seeping into every nook, and he is the largest one of all. To him, I am an aphid, and he milks me until I am nothing at all.
Still I imagine myself the rabbit, hoping to turn my stuffing into flesh and blood. He is not a bad husband, on the surface, and sometimes it is easy to pretend that everything is real. In the beginning, I had almost convinced myself that it was.
He asked me out one year, four months, three days ago, next to a sandwich trolley at the Ministry. I had seen him keeping an eye on me all that previous week, and I had half-expected him to hex me. I suppose he probably had, which would explain the compulsion. He looked nervous, his hands gesticulating jerkily. He said he'd been thinking about the past a lot lately, and when he'd realized I was single, he'd begun thinking less about the past, and more about me. He said he'd understand if I didn't want anything to do with him. He paid for my ham sandwich and walked with me back toward my office. I sat at my desk, and he stood watching me. "When?" I asked, and he smiled, that very first sign of the lazy smirk curling at his lip, leering at me. I blinked and his expression was normal. The smirk was just a smirk, the same as he'd had at eleven.
On that first date, he started out very quietly, and then, after some time had passed and it had become sufficiently awkward, he started to talk. He told me about his social views, about his parents, about his regrets and endeavors. Then, just as suddenly as he had begun, he stopped. "This is a horrible date, isn't it?" he asked. I told him that it wasn't. He then asked if I had enjoyed my ham sandwich, which I had.
I do not want to dwell on the past. There are too many questions. I can't understand it at all. How did he fool me? As I have written, everything makes sense, yet nothing makes sense. It all seems so normal, except that it can't be.
If I were a rabbit, would I only be able to scream?
Caution, caution. He's approaching. Danger, Will Robinson. Snap the pages closed and smudge the ink.
I do not trust the House-Elves. They are too loyal to him. They are ashamed of their lost kinsman. Dobby well and truly was an anomaly. They don't want to speak of him, and when I remind them that I'm their mistress, they simply refer to him as the Lost One. Dobby's mother works in the kitchens, and she won't look me in the eye for fear that I'll dredge up the memory of her son. I have to be careful not to act suspicious around them. They have seen me with my journal before, and I can't be sure they won't tell him.
Two hours ago when he found me, I hid the truth in the piano bench. Then we continued to lie to each other. Despite the fear his smirk brings me, his lips are another matter. He whispers such sweet things to me sometimes, and his kisses make my traitorous knees give out from under me. Today he stopped a moment and just held me, and I listened to his breathing level out. "I love you. How did I ever live without you?" I didn't tell him that living with him is killing me. Every day the noose is pulled a little tighter around my neck.
Sometimes his mother visits. She is the more accepting of the two, but only marginally. She and Lucius have moved out of the manor now that their son has wed. They live in a mother-in-law cottage at the back of the property. Cottage isn't a very apt word. It is more like a small fortress. The only reason they seem intent to put up with me is that my presence sends a message to the rest of the wizarding community. It says that they are changed, and therefore they should not be viewed as a threat. I count this as one possible reason why this is happening.
Narcissa is just as anxious as her son to find out if she's to be a grandmother. They aren't aware that I've been taking potions without their knowledge. I brew them, where else, but in an abandoned lavatory off the south wing. I collect Queen Anne's Lace during my walks, and sometimes I pinch celery seed from the kitchens. They are an old remedy, but effective when brewed correctly.
Sometimes, I find myself daydreaming about having his baby. Rabbit-me has no objections. I rather enjoy the idea of a brown-haired, gray-eyed child, though I'm sure my genes would overtake his in both the hair and eye departments. I do not kid myself to think I could ever give birth to a blonde. But I am reminded too much of the story of Griselde. He cannot take my child away from me unless I have it. In any case, I am ill. I will not make a double-noose.
I catch him speaking to the healer through the floo. He motions for the other man to withdraw his head, and the connection is terminated. "Hermione?" he asks. "Are you feeling okay?"
I tell him yes.
"Honey," he begins, and he stops, sighing slowly. "I don't want to upset you, so please don't take this the wrong way, but is there something you're not telling me?"
"What do you mean?" My heart speeds up, and I can feel it pounding away in my chest. ….
He nods toward the sofa, and we both sit. He takes my hands in his own, his thumbs gently caressing the backs of my palms. "You've been acting off," he says. "For months now. Ever since—did you not want to get married?" There is a nervous edge to his voice, and he avoids my eyes.
"Of course I did. Don't be silly," I say, and I squeeze his hands tightly.
"But something is wrong, isn't it? You can tell me anything; you know that. If it's too soon for a baby, I'll understand. We have years. Just please, I don't… I don't want to lose you." I am terrified to hear a sob in his voice, and I reach forward and wrap my arms around him. He is warm, and for a moment, so am I.
"You're right; I'm not ready," I say, a partial truth.
"Okay," he says, sounding relieved. "But I'm still worried. All the near-fainting spells, and… you're sure nothing else is wrong?"
"I'm positive," I lie, and we continue to feign love.
The Malfoy library is extensive. No one finds it odd if I spend my time there. I have been researching, though I don't know what to look under. Mind control spells explain some things but not all. I have definitely not been put under the imperius. He comes in sometimes, doing research of his own, and I pretend to read novels. I ask what he's looking for, and in response he mumbles something about his father saying something or other. He does not seem willing to go into detail, and I do not press him, afraid he will be suspicious about my suspicion. Once he left abruptly, called to another room, and I took up the book he only half-pushed back into its space. It is about the history of the family. I have since read a few pages of it every day. So far I am only finding myself disgusted rather than enlightened.
My script is crooked. Hand is shaking, wobbling like a fish. Journal out of sight.
I do not work now. We both agreed—though I cannot say why I did—that we would both take a six month respite while we are newlyweds. Peter and the Lost Boys are not here, only Tink, and she has a naughty look about her. I am caught without an exit.
My wand. My wand is off. I try to use it, and something stays my hand. I try to use the floo, and I cannot remember the names of places. The words will not come to me. I work myself into a frenzy, and he comes, trying to console me. He asks again and again what's wrong with me, but I am the rabbit. Everything is real, or so I tell myself. Everything is safe and nothing is wrong, and all I can do is scream. Everything; nothing; everything; nothing. Makes sense.
He doesn't let me out of his sight. He holds me and whispers inconsequential lies, and I nod in agreement. We are the world's best false couple. He strokes my hair, running his fingers through the tangles until he gets stuck in the bramble, where the real rabbits live. The boy and I play in the garden, but soon he will have scarlet fever, and the fairy will make me real. I would give anything to be oblivious. I cry into his shoulder, sobbing, but I cannot tell him why. I am comforted by my enemy who is my husband who is my hangman who is my salvation who is my fairy and my boy, as well as the germs that mean I must be set ablaze.
"I know what's wrong," he says, and he grips my hand.
"You do?" I ask.
"Yes." He smiles, and the omen is back, but at the same time, I am tempted to call it a kiss. He holds up a very old, decaying piece of parchment. "I found it."
He presses his kiss against my temple. "It's a very old curse meant to keep the Malfoy line intact. It must have been activated the moment we said our I do's." He repositions his hands, so they are both at the top of the page. "You," he tears, "are braver," he rips, "than I can ever tell you." He holds up the two separate sheets, puts them in the fireplace, and they turn to ash.
I watch as the omen sinks into the oblivion of his smile, and I am real.
We are real and have been all along.
Peter Pan by J.M. Barry
"The Velveteen Rabbit" or "How Toys Become Real" by Margery Williams
"The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
"The Clerk's Tale" by Geoffrey Chaucer