Chapter Ten: Intertwined Vines
A/N: Heyy, sorry I know this wait has been longer than usual, things just got a bit crazy with the exams. Hope you enjoy this next chapter! I'm always thankful for your on going support.
Draco sat very still even though his skin was alight with goosebumps and his heart shook in his throat. The chair he found himself on was stone hard and cold to the touch. He was sat in the middle of a room so covered in shadows he could not even see where it ended.
He had made a dangerous decision. He had sought out the New Generation and asked to join. He thought this way he could protect her if he knew what they were doing. He could become powerful and though he might lose her forever once she found out, she would be safe.
But naturally, he was having his doubts about the solidity of the plan…
"Draco," a voice whispered ominously. Candles flickered on around him as the fear bled further into him. "I hope you understand why I can't let you see me just in case you're not what you claim to be."
"I understand," he answered, "But you have nothing to fear from me."
The voice laughed and he thought it felt fingers trail through his hair but only seconds later it felt like a cool breeze. "We'll see."
"Will you give me the Mark?" he inquired.
Another laugh, "Eager I see."
His jaw tightened, "You've ordered I let myself be put under a trance just so we can speak undetected. Which, as you must know, isn't the most pleasant thing in the world. I apologise for my desire to get out of here."
"And you think you're in any place to make demands?" the voice asked playfully but the darker undertones did not go undetected.
"I didn't mean-"
"Yes you did. But no matter. I like a little spark in recruits. It just means they have fun whilst they work."
Draco was violently thrown by the memory of his aunt, Bellatrix. Someone who described killing in a similar fashion. He felt bile climb his throat.
"So you'll take me?" he asked, throwing a fake smirk on.
A chuckle flickered through the flames of the candles, "Of course, Draco."
A weight he had expected to lift from his chest only grew heavier. He ignored it. "So I get my Mark?"
"Not yet?" He tried desperately hard to keep the irritation out of his tone.
"Patience. You must prove your loyalty and worth. I'm not going to give the Mark to just anyone. You're lucky I even conceded to seeing you. I normally seek people for myself. It is rare that they are able to find a way to me."
"So how can I prove myself?"
"Oh you'll find that out in time. They'll come to you when the time is right." He pursed his lips. He was up to here with this vague shit. "Patience is a virtue, Draco."
Then he felt everything sway, the candle light danced in front of his eyes until darkness engulfed him.
Hermione sighed as hot water flooded through her hair and down her back. The hot steam stuck to the glass of the shower and to the flush of her cheeks. She felt her muscles relax as she lifted her face to the tumble of water. Her eyes fluttered shut as it washed over her face. She urged herself let go. Of the pain, of the stress, of the fear, of the worry and of the rest of her demons.
She had spent three long weeks avoiding Malfoy, too scared to find out if he really was part of the new Death Eaters or not. Every rational thought was telling her it shouldn't surprise her if he was. If his behavior towards her wasn't telling enough, what else explained her violent attack? But still her heart was wishing there was some crazy explanation that meant he was not what her friends thought he was.
Hermione ran the facts through her head again: In their third year, they had thwarted Peter's plans and the Ministry had announced to the public that they had found and killed the vulnerable Voldemort. Yet if Death Eaters were still trying to find him, were the Ministry actually telling the truth? Many retired Death Eaters worked in the Ministry so it would have been easy for them to find out if Voldemort was actually dead or not. So if they were searching for him, all signs pointed towards Voldemort still being out there.
Fear started pricking at Hermione's skin as all her demons crashed into her. If Voldemort was back and Malfoy was involved in anit-muggle attacks… He must be one of them. The world started crumbling in around her as a sob climbed up her throat.
There was no denying it now. She was shamefully in love with him. And if that wasn't bad enough, she didn't even know if the person she loved was real or just a cruel joke.
As Hermione wrapped a towel around her she caught herself in the mirror and saw her eyes were still rimmed red.
'That's it,' she decided, 'No more moping or feeling sorry for myself. No more not knowing and no more hiding. I'm finding out the truth. Screw, spying. I have more efficient ways of making him talk.'
Draco emerged from the darkness slowly, blinking and groaning. "I feel like shit," he grumbled to no on in particular.
Blaise laughed, "Yeah, I know. You get used to it though."
"I don't want to get used to it," he snapped, taking Theo's outstretched hand before being hoisted up. Blaise shrugged, a silent 'That's not really your call to make.'
"So will they take you?" Astoria asked eagerly.
Draco nodded, "Just need to prove myself."
A grin broaden on Blaise's face, "Brilliant. That's the fun bit."
His muscles tightened, in this context he was pretty sure it would anything but fun. "I was told you'd tell me what to do."
Astoria pulled an envelope from her cloak pocket, "Here." She passed it to him. "It's magically sealed. Only you can open and read it. We don't know what it says, nor do we want to. This test is all about being able to stand for yourself and prove your loyalty without someone else egging you on." He nodded slowly.
She smiled, "We'll let you read it, alone. See you later, Draco." And then they left, sparing him no final parting look. The doors of the Room of Requirement clicked shut. Then he turned the envelope over in his hand, noting that the right corner bulged with a small rectangular object.
His curiosity won over as he broke open the seal. Immediately a wave of magic burst out, throwing him backwards. The envelope hovered in the middle of the room, shooting out random strings of magic until finally it dropped to the ground yet the room still remained misty with magic.
He made to walk towards it but with the first step he took, a person emerged from the mist. It took him only seconds to recognise her.
"Granger?," he half whispered. She couldn't be here. He wasn't in the trance anymore... She had to be real. Right?
"Malfoy?" she asked but her voice trembled with a paralyzing fear. That's when he noticed the growing gashes and slashes across her body. Blood tumbled down her body, soaking into her clothes, over her lips, down her neck, around her fingers and dripping onto the floor.
He rushed to her, real or not she was in pain. He moved to touch her face but as his skin met hers she screamed and recoiled away from him. A burn mark formed where his fingertips were. His eyes widened in horror. "Granger-"
"No! Stay away-"
He moved to her, "I'm not going to hurt you, I just-"
"You're lying! You're always lying! You don't care about me!"
Before he could respond a ghostly figure of himself emerged from the mist. His words halted in his mouth. The doppelganger grinned wickedly before bringing out his wand. Before he could even hear the words, "Crucio." Granger had crumbled to the floor, crying and and screaming.
Draco wanted to move but he couldn't. He could only watch as she sobbed and begged for death. Then finally, after an agonizing few minutes, green flashed and she was still.
His doppelganger turned to him and spoke to him in a voice that wasn't his, "Did you think we wouldn't know? Did you think you could trick us? Her attack was your warning. You continued to go against us. You have made your choice. She will be dead by the time the Christmas holidays are over."
And then everything disappeared, the mist, the ghost him and her bloody broken body. He wiped away the tear that had trailed down his cheek and as he made to leave he noticed something on the floor, where the envelope had been.
He walked towards it and lifted it. It was a small red velvet box. He inhaled sharply, he knew what this was. He flicked it open.
He pressed his lips together. As he expected, a blood traitor ring. He had heard stories about them from his father. To receive one was disgraceful, it meant you were being called out as a blood traitor. If you chose to wear the ring, it meant you had declared yourself as a blood traitor. This way, purebloods could tell who were blood traitors and who were not.
He twirled it in his fingers. He had never seen one before and he was suprised at the beauty of it for what it was. The ring looked like two vines, one gold and one black, twisting together to form the ring. To represent purebloods and the other wizards. Then an elegant blood red jewel was sat upon it.
It was dangerously reckless to wear one, especially if violent hate was brewing up again. It was basically asking to be tortured and killed.
But then Draco thought about Granger. He thought about how they had attacked her and the threat they had just made against her. He thought about how he had just seen her screaming and how much he had hated that... and his mind was made up. He slipped the ring on.
Hermione was sitting on the sofa in the common room when Malfoy burst in, his face pale but set in determination.
"Granger, we need to talk."
She held back the smirk, "Yes we do." She held out a mug of hot chocolate to him, "Here."
"What? No. I don't-"
"You look pale. Chocolate always helps," Hermione insisted.
He sighed but took it begrudgingly. She watched him eagerly. He lifted the mug to his lips and swallowed. He tensed. "Why the fuck is there Veritaserum in this, Granger?"
Her eyes widened, "How can you tell?"
"It's not hard to recognise the effects," he hissed, "Now answer my fucking question."
"I need the truth," she answered simply.
"And I was about to give it you," he snapped.
She gave him a cold smile, "You have nasty habit of lying to me." He didn't respond. "Now. Are you part of the Death Eaters?"
"Currently, I can't be sure," he answered tightly.
"And what does that mean exactly?" She saw him painfully try to resist. "It's a strong dose, Malfoy. Don't bother trying to fight it. So, why are you unsure?"
"They accepted me but then threatened me afterwards." He waved his ringed hand at her, "I suppose you know what this is."
Her eyes widened, "Did they make you wear that?"
"So you chose to wear it?" she asked slowly, trying to process the information. Surely he would not inflict that kind of disgrace onto himself?
"That doesn't make sense why would you choose to?"
He pressed his lips together and closed his eyes. "Please don't make me answer that," he begged, his voice ached with the pain of resistance.
"Tell me," she demanded.
He sighed, "They threatened you and it made me angry. I don't like being blackmailed."
"W-what?" her words faltered. He met her shocked gaze. His grey eyes were dark and an carried emotion so strong it sent a shiver to trail down her spine. "Uhm... What did they say?"
"That you'd be dead in the end of the Christmas holidays."
"Why did they threaten me and not you?" she asked.
"I tried to trick them," he answered, relaxing, letting the potion control him, "I wanted to pretend to be one of them so you would be safe. I didn't want them to attack you like they did before. I thought it could work and it didn't. They saw right through me."
Her heart pattered, an odd mixture of excitement and fear crawling up her chest. "I don't understand. Why would they threaten me because of what you did?"
He clamped his hands in fists, "Granger, I don't want to answer that because I have to, I'd rather answer it willingly."
She noted the amount of effort he was putting into fighting the potion. Deciding she was through with force, she pulled a small vile out of her pocket and silently offered it to him. He recognised it quickly as the antidote, pulled the cork out and drank it.
"Will you answer my question now?" she queried.
He sighed again, "They threatened you because they know I care about you." Her heart jumped in her throat. "And that, Granger, is the truth. I'm not trying to play you or trick you."
"But you said it was a lie. That you were just joking abou-"
"I lied. I had pulled away from you because it was dangerous for us to be close but it seems like the only thing I did was get you in more danger."
"I didn't need you to do that," she said icily.
He shrugged, "It was the easiest option for me."
"Typical, self loving Malfoy then," Hermione drawled.
He raised an eyebrow, "Of course. I risk my fucking life for you and that's what you think of me?"
"Of course it is!" she snapped. "You broke me, Malfoy! Do you expect me to forget? Do you think because it wasn't true that all the damage you've done was just going to go away?!"
"I was trying to protect you, Granger," he snarled, "You have no idea what those fuckers will do to you."
"Actually, I think I have a pretty good idea seeing as they attacked me a few weeks ago," she hissed.
He barked out a laugh, devoid of emotion, "If you think that's the worst they're going to do to you then you have another thing coming. They will tear you apart and have you begging for death. Begging at their fucking feet, Granger. So forgive me if I'm trying to save you from that humiliation."
"Oh so that just makes everything you did okay?" she demanded, the threat of tears made her voice shake.
Malfoy sighed, "No, it doesn't make it okay. What I did was not okay but you were meant to move on. Don't you have Krum for that?"
Hermione clenched her jaw, "I broke up with him the day after my attack."
A silence echoed through the room. "I just wanted to keep you out of it. Take the attention away from you," Malfoy said dejectedly.
Hermione huffed. "And how were you planning on doing that?"
"I don't even know. I just needed to do something."
"Why though?" she asked angrily, "I don't understand! Why am I that important to you?"
"You just are."
He paused for a moment, "You know why."
"Then why can't you say it out loud?" Hermione implored furiously.
He smiled bitterly, "Would it makes a difference?" She opened her mouth to protest but then shut it again. "As I thought. Regardless of what I say you can't forgive me. Never expected you to. Even though I want you to forgive me, you won't because you're stupidly stubborn, self righteous and you would never allow yourself to settle for someone who your friends have put below you."
"You think I think like that?!"
"Yes! I do! I know you do, Granger!" he cried, "Even if this had never happened, you would still never give in to me because you could never 'betray' your dumb ass friends like that. I've tried to break through the idiotic prejudice that your friends have plugged into you for way too long but you are so determined to believe that Slytherins are evil, self-loving pricks that you will not hear sense. And honestly, I've given up trying because I will die of old age before you give in."
The anger flushed through her veins, flared through her heart and pumped venomous words up her throat. She opened her mouth-
"Save it, Granger. I don't want to hear it. You've heard my side and I've heard yours a thousand times. I know you're not going to forgive me so just... save it." His tone was so tired and sad, contrasting so deeply from his anger...
They fell into silence.
"We should go to Dumbledore," Hermione murmured finally, "He'll know what to do about the Death Eaters." Malfoy nodded silently.