Written for the final week of the GE Malfoy Manor fic war. Prompt: Numbers. Thanks as usual to lwalters5 for the efficient beta work 3
Part of the 'Modal Realism in Practise' series. There is a possibility that I will write more in this universe, but for now I am all Malfoyed out!
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respecitve owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author of this story. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators or producers of any previously copyrighted material. No copyright infringement is intended
The only spot of warmth between the sheets was that where her own body had tossed and turned fitfully for seven and a half hours. It wasn't the first time she had woken to a half a cold bed, but this time was different. This time the possibility of the bed remaining cold was very real, and very terrifying.
She sat up reluctantly, brushing messy hair away from her face, and looked down at the mussed duvet. Rubbing her face roughly she swung her legs over the side of the bed and stood, not bothering to clothe herself, and grabbed a twice used towel from where it lay discarded over the back of a shell chair.
She padded towards the bathroom, shoving the door open a little more harshly than normal, and it bounced off the doorstop with a thud, almost hitting her in the foot as she stepped through into the room. Her reflexes helped her sidestep quickly and she dropped the towel on the floor as she reached into the shower to turn on the water, stepping in immediately with a brief thought to the instant heating charm she had recently placed on the showerhead.
It hadn't been intentional. Quite the opposite actually. She loved her husband to the point of aching sometimes. The idea of losing him forever frightened and disturbed her more than anything else.
But she'd done it. She had fucked up the one thing that was perfect in her life. Well, perfect by her standards, perhaps not anybody else's. And he'd just taken it, waiting for her to see the light, prepared to ignore her indiscretions, content in the satisfaction that he would win in the end.
But he hadn't won. She had kept doing it, kept going to him. He was an asshole, She knew that. Self centred, greedy and opportunistic. They both were. They allwere.
All three of them. Narcissistic, detestable excuses for human beings. She hated herself.
Leaning a hand against the wall below the showerhead, she shut off the water, staring blankly at the white tile for well over a minute in the chill air of the bathroom. Eventually she grabbed the towel from where she had discarded it on the floor and dried herself off.
The mirror was charmed to stay clear, and she caught a glimpse of her face as she rubbed her hair with the towel. Dark circles surrounded sallow, dead eyes, and her skin was pale and dull. She dropped the towel and slapped her cheeks a few times in an attempt to put some colour in them.
It didn't work. She cast a quick drying charm on her hair and set to work applying makeup, meticulously brushing foundation across her skin, being careful to blend it smoothly into her neck. The foundation was followed by a thick under eye concealer, blush, eyeliner, and three layers of the blackest of black mascara. The effect was profound.
Rose Tyler: eat your heart out.
Raising a carefully groomed eyebrow at her reflection, she plucked a lip gloss from her makeup bag, not bothering to check the colour, and swiped it on. She looked good, if overdone. Good enough that you couldn't tell she'd spent the night wallowing in self pity and hatred, rehashing events of the past few months. Imagining how things could have been different. Imagining how things could have stayed the same.
Her breakfast had been rushed, a quick cup of tea and some plain weetabix, but the short time she spent standing in the kitchen consuming it was enough to have her detesting the idea of being alone with her thoughts. They weren't nice thoughts, they weren't productive, weren't filled with ideas on how to repair her relationship or what to do about her Scorpius situation.
She had left the apartment in a minor state of panic, her brain refusing to turn to other things.
When she had finally arrived at the Ministry, she walked directly across the atrium, not sparing glances for any of her colleagues, ignoring greetings from some of the friendlier staff, and made a beeline for the lift.
The lift that held so many memories. Memories of first kisses and secret liaisons and fighting and making up and flirting and unwarranted jealousy. Memories that held anger and joy and love. Memories of the first time she had ever really felt love for anybody in a way that made her ache with wanting.
She could feel the angry tears welling up beneath her eyelids, but she held them back, her blank and stoic expression not moving. Refusing to allow the other occupants of the elevator car to be privy to her internal struggle.
Finally the lift reached sub basement five, and she stepped out and hurried towards her office, this time acknowledging her co-workers when addressed, but otherwise keeping her eyes focussed blankly on the floor a few feet ahead. As her heels clicked down the long, black tiled hallway she caught a glimpse of a flash of blond, and looked up to see the objects of her distress standing on either side of her office door, blatantly ignoring one another.
She stopped in her tracks and gulped, eyes switching between the two men. She felt a rush of anger and a shiver of self-loathing as her eyes fell on Scorpius, his own eyes fixed intently on her, mouth set in a firm line. She sucked in a sharp breath and switched her gaze to Draco, and her eyes softened. To the casual observer he would have looked put together, the epitome of the aristocratic and yet dangerous unspeakable. She knew better, noticing the small details, the slight scuff on his right shoe, his tie lazily set in only a half Windsor, and the slight stubble on his chin.
She swivelled on her heels and turned, heading back towards the break room. She couldn't deal with them right at that moment. Running away wasn't her style, but this was just too much.
The walk was short, only a few offices, the perks of being a high level employee. There were only a couple of occupants, early risers who enjoyed sitting down to a cup of tea and a read over the Prophet with other like-minded wizards and witches. She strode purposefully towards the long, stand alone bench at the far end of the room, pressing her wand against the silver icon that symbolised a drink, envisioning a very strong cup of espresso, tugging her jacket off while she waited. Moments later a tinkling noise came and a small demitasse cup appeared on the bench, steaming a little and smelling like it was little more than powdered beans with a little water added. She picked it up with her free hand and rested the edge of the cup against her bottom lip, blowing on it gently, looking blankly out of the enormous fake picture window that filled the entirety of the back wall.
"Everyone out." The voice came from behind her and she stiffened. There was some shuffling and scratching and the faint murmurs of the room's other occupants ceased, instead replaced by a heavy silence.
She swallowed the espresso in one gulp and summoned another, spluttering a little as instead of a small cup of black sludge, a glass with three fingers of clear amber liquid appeared. She shrugged and tossed that back in two somewhat jittery gulps, wincing a little at the burning, her eyes watering and throat threatening to send her into a fit of coughs. She heard the door click shut, but she kept her eye trained on the magical window in front of her, today's Thames scene feeling far safer than what lay behind her.
"Aren't you going to look at me?"
Soft footsteps came closer and hands landed on the bench on either side of her hips. She could feel his presence against her back, close enough for the warmth of his body to permeate her thin shirt, but not quite close enough for her to feel his touch. He breathed in deeply and took the glass from her hand, setting it back down on the counter where it promptly disappeared.
"I'm going to kill him."
She sucked in a breath and stiffened. "No, you're not."
He chuckled mirthlessly and she felt his breath against her neck. "You're right, I'm not going to kill him. But after I'm done with him, he'll wish he were dead."
"Don't hurt him, Draco. This whole mess is all my fault." A short sob escaped her lips and she clutched harder at the cold stainless steel beneath her fingers. Her jacket had long since slipped to the floor.
Prying her hands off the bench, he turned her slowly, fighting with her determination to avoid his gaze. Eventually they were face to face, her eyes vaguely staring at a point slightly to the left of his neck.
"He's going back to his own universe. I have a proposal that will convince the Minister that his existence here jeopardises time and space as we know it. He knows very little of arithmancy, a bit of a flub here and there..."
"The Minister will never buy it."
"I can be very convincing."
She sighed and scratched her head, finally meeting his eyes. "I just can't stay away. I don't understand what's wrong with me. I love you." Tears had escaped and spilled over her lashes, and she knew it was only moments before ugly, desperate sobs overtook her ability to speak. "Please don't leave me."
His hand reached up, cradling her cheek but before he could speak she felt a buzzing against her left wrist, followed by a shrill beep. A panicked look crossed her face and she pulled away.
"What was that?"
"The veil is active."
His eyebrows raised in surprise. "Active how?" She crouched down and picked up her jacket, pulling it on haphazardly and attempting to step around him. He blocked her way, and she shoved hard at his chest. "Active how, Hermione?"
She flinched at the use of her first name, something they so rarely did even since their marriage. Roughly wiping away the wetness from her cheeks she met his eyes once again. "It means exactly what it sounds like. This wristband has only ever alerted me once, when do you think that was?"
"Yeah, shit's right." Pushing him aside with an arm, successfully this time, she made a beeline for the door. She heard him following, not bothering to remind him that he wasn't cleared for work on the veil project, instead making a snap decision that having him around when the unexpected was happening wasn't necessarily a bad idea. "If you're going to join me, do I have to remind you that there is a strict rule about casting aggressive spells in the chamber?"
He grunted his response and picked up his pace, catching up the last couple of strides so they were side by side. A number small number of other witches and wizards were heading briskly in the same direction as them, and as they turned a corner in the labyrinth of corridors, the large ornate doors loomed ahead of them. Four storeys high and improbably wide. A short, portly wizard stood next to them, a panicked look on his face and his wand gripped firmly in his right hand.
'Oh, Madame Granger, thank goodness. I couldn't stop him, he stunned me before I had the chance to react."
"Who?" The wizard glanced at Draco and gulped. She patted the distressed wizard on the shoulder and turned to the other occupants of the corridor. "Don't worry, Ogney. I get the idea. The rest of you should all go back to your jobs, you won't be needed here."
A surprised look crossed a few of the wizards' faces and one of them questioned her. "How do you know it isn't dangerous?"
She turned and fixed the man with a glare. "I just do, Rancett. I'll buzz if things get hairy, now piss off." Rancett flinched and shuffled away, the others following closely. She turned back to the door, where the wizard who had greeted her still stood. "You too, Ogney."
Ogney ducked his head and scuttled away without a word, and she pushed open the door with more force than was probably necessary.
Striding up to the base of the plinth, her eyes trained on the only other occupant of the room, who sat cross-legged on the cold stone floor. She sighed. "If you want to go back, then just step though. You know where you'll end up. You've done the arithmancy, I've done it. We know where it leads."
He didn't look at her, instead continuing to stare at the veil, occasionally prodding it with his wand. "I can't go back."
She could feel Draco move closer, stepping up to stand just behind her right shoulder, his hand coming to a rest against the small of her back.
"Why not?" Her voice was aggressive, almost angry in its tone.
"Because of you." His tone was soft, and he poked at the veil again, this time allowing his hand to almost slip through to the other side. "Because I love you... well her... and she'll never love me back."
"Doesn't that seem a bit obsessive, a bit of an unbalanced view of relationships?"
He sighed and twirled his wand in his fingers. "Yeah."
"So you came here in the hopes of snagging the woman you fell in love with? The one who was your professor?"
She felt Draco's hand grip her shoulder tighter. "And when you discovered I was married to Draco, you didn't think that maybe your plan was flawed?"
"I didn't want to fail. I never fail." He stood and turned to face them, his eyebrows twitching as he caught sight of her companion.
"Failure doesn't necessarily mean weakness."
"Obsession is weakness."
She shrugged and cocked her head, not bothering to respond.
"Obsession means you care." They both turned to Draco in shock, surprised at his willingness to defend the other man. "You just need to dial it back a bit."
"I can't go back."
"You don't belong here. You don't belong with my wife."
Scorpius smiled wanly and met Hermione's eyes. "I know. She isn't her. She looks like her, but she... isn't."
"People change, Malfoy."
"I don't know, can you?"
"We'll see." Casting one final glance back at the veil, he pulled a slip of paper from his pocket and tossed it carelessly towards the wispy, fabric like haze. Striding towards the door, he called out towards them, his voice suddenly cheerful and almost carefree. "I might see you around."
And with that he was gone. Hermione felt a sense that his parting words were mere lip service. The sense of finality she felt from the interaction calmed her. She sat heavily on the top step of the plinth and sighed, looking up at Draco, who was still staring after the other man. His face was blank, unreadable.
After a few moments he joined her in sitting on the cool tile, rubbing his hands along his thighs and turning his head towards her.
She smiled cautiously, running a hand through her hair. "So."
"Where do we go from here?"
She let out a breath, eyes focussing on the doors, and scratched her head. "Dunno, you tell me."
He smiled softly, almost hesitantly. "You want to go get a coffee?"
"Only if there will be cake."
His hesitation was broken and he grinned fully, chuckling a little. "I'm not entirely sure you're in a position to make demands on my person."
She sighed, meeting his eyes and biting her lip. "Yeah... but this means you're coming home, right?" He rested his hand on her thigh and gave it a squeeze, his smile just a shade short of reassuring.