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Blinded by foreverfleur

Format: Novel
Chapters: 29
Word Count: 102,045
Status: WIP

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Strong violence, Scenes of a sexual nature, Spoilers

Genres: Mystery, Romance, AU
Characters: Ron, Hermione, James, Narcissa, Draco, Pansy
Pairings: Draco/Hermione, Other Pairing

First Published: 07/05/2006
Last Chapter: 05/01/2017
Last Updated: 05/02/2017


In his seventh and final year at Hogwarts, Draco Malfoy is blinded by his own wand. When Hermione Granger comes to his aid, neither student realizes the extent to which their lives will change. Having harbored the contents of a secret prophecy for years, Dumbledore is intrigued by the relationship fated to bloom between these two individuals. He begins to wonder whether Draco and Hermione are the two he has been waiting for. (A/N - story to shift to shortly)

Chapter 1: The First Step
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It was late at night. A darkness he had never known fell over the castle hallways, emitting a stillness that sent shivers down his spine. He stood in the Defense the Dark Arts classroom focused intently on the spell he was practicing, trying all too hard to ignore the shadows on the wall behind him. Tonight there was something different in the air—he could sense it and he didn’t like it. It was like something was watching him practice for his exams and he could feel its gaze. Draco Malfoy looked at his watch, seeing that it was one o’clock in the morning, he realized why the darkness that he usually drew his strength from was beginning to scare him.

“You’re tired Malfoy—not insane,” he whispered assuredly to himself, while letting the tension drain from his muscles. Malfoy had gotten into this unusual practice of studying before examinations (unusual for him anyways). For some reason, he enjoyed the solitude of the classrooms at night and, more importantly, the prospect of showing off the next day in classes. You could say this new practice of his was an outlet, his way of getting away from the suffocating life his father had chosen for him. Tonight he was practicing a blinding spell on the boggart, conveniently stored under Snape’s desk. He didn’t really need to practice this particular spell; he had mastered it during class in fewer than five minutes. Malfoy had just taken an unusual liking to it. “To blind is to harness the ultimate power” he recited from memory. Snape had said those exact words earlier today and for some reason they seemed to be burned permanently into Draco’s memory.

“All right. One more time and then I guess I’ll go to bed,” he said letting out a final yawn. It happened in a flash. “Sansvoir!” Malfoy exclaimed, while aiming his wand at the approaching boggart for the forty-third time tonight; but, this spell did not play out like the previous forty-two. The blinding red light shot from his wand, as usual, but before he could duck, the light suddenly changed paths and hit him directly between the eyes. A searing pain took up residence in his sinuses, leaving him to drop helplessly to his knees. Crawling around on the floor with hopes that the slight movement would dissolve the pain, Draco found the strength to let out intermittent yelps for help. The moment he thought he failed, he could sense another enter into the room, running up to him and answering his now muted moans. He heard the soft but experienced voice echo the counter spell, “Avecregard!” but nothing happened. He could feel her hands grip his sides in a panic. Finally, as if surrendering to the pain now pervading throughout his bloodstream, he allowed the darkness to blind him.

The dainty figure with bushy brown hair watched in sheer terror as Draco Malfoy collapsed into her arms. Helpless and unconscious, his head rested comfortably on her forearm. Drawing upon her muggle intuition, she checked his pulse to make sure the silver haired brat was still breathing.

“Unbelievable!” she sighed. She knew staying in the library past curfew was a bad idea but she just could not put down the latest edition of Hogwarts A History. “Uggh…” she grunted. She knew breaking rules would have consequences, but this was a ridiculous twist of fate. She thought she would lose points from Gryffindor or at most receive a detention for staying out late. Hermione Granger never expected, however, that she would have to save her archenemy—Draco Malfoy.

Dragging his evil but well-toned arse up to the hospital wing, Hermione could have kicked herself. “This is the worst punishment of all time!” she growled at the empty corridor before her. Entering the hospital wing, she couldn’t help but notice as Mme Pomfrey rushed to take Malfoy out of her embrace that the pureblood before her was quite handsome when he was helpless—that is when he wasn’t snickering at her or branding her a mudblood. As quickly as the thought crossed her mind, however, it evacuated, leaving Hermione exhausted and extremely sorry she had broken school rules. She turned to leave the hospital wing, finally obeying her body’s craving for rest, but found that stern figure blocked her way out.

Startled but intrigued by the figure standing before her, Hermione let her curiosity get the best of her. She took a step closer to the entrance of the hospital wing and recognized, at once, the sharp stance of one assistant headmaster. Professor McGonagall, in her teacher’s robes, stepped ominously out of the shadows, letting the moonlight from the clerestory illuminate her curt expression.

“Ahh! Miss Granger, I see it was you who found Draco Malfoy,” Professor McGonagall stated in an uncharacteristic voice that was faintly reminiscent of the Divinations teacher, Sybil Trelawny.

“Yes Professor, I found him in the Defense Against the Dark Arts room! I’m sorry that I was out past…” Hermione began but she was quickly interrupted.

“Ahhh. Blinded by magic, I see—it’s the first step!” McGonagall stated more to herself than to Hermione; a smirk of disbelief crossed her hard face as she stared at the disabled boy lying directly behind Hermione.

“Uhh Professor?” Hermione asked completely puzzled.

“I never thought… I never… those two?” McGonagall trailed off. “Dumbledore you sure know what you are doing… you sure know what you are…” McGonagall stopped mid-sentence again, shocked and amazed at the sight of the two students before her. At this point, Hermione was too exhausted to follow her Professor’s train of thought let alone comprehend it. Hermione allowed herself to collapse in a chair beside Draco’s cot and watched as Professor McGonagall apparently put two and two together. A mixture of boredom and confusion overtook her, as Hermione let herself doze off. So exhausted was she that she did not see the Headmaster appear beside McGonagall.

“Indeed Minerva, it seems that the prophecy had some truth to it. Blinded by magic, oh it is the first step! But it is only the first. I fear what is yet to come—a battle of minds, hearts, and souls that could unite or destroy our student body. Only time will tell whether these two are the pair we have been waiting for. But you are right, Minerva. Blinded by magic is the first step,” Dumbledore said, gazing at the two students now fast asleep.

Chapter 2: Fate or Fortune?
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Draco awoke with a splitting headache. Clearly, the pain that had inhabited his sinuses the night before had chosen not to relocate. In fact, the pain was almost as blinding as it was when the light first hit him last night. Finding it hard to focus his eyes this early in the morning, Draco began to feel around, drawing upon his other senses to glean an inkling of where he was.

He could feel soft and silky sheets beneath him and immediately knew he was not in the Defense Against the Dark Arts room. He remembered someone trying to help him before he fell unconscious, but did not expect that they would take him all the way up to the Hospital Wing—having just taken in the full smell of the room, he just assumed that was where he was.

Draco stretched his arms above his head, encouraging blood to flow through his tired and aching muscles. Ready to get out of bed and more importantly the Hospital Wing, Draco rubbed his eyes, trying to hasten the “waking-up” process. His eyes, however, still would not focus. He rubbed harder, but a curtain of blackness still kept him in the dark.

“I can’t see. I can’t see? Merlin, I can’t see!” he blurted out in a series of progressive statements that just got louder and louder and louder, until all that could be heard in the Hospital Wing was a resounding cry of panic.

Previously in a deep sleep, Hermione was suddenly drawn from her dreams by the screeching soundtrack of Malfoy’s revelation. “Malfoy, what’s wrong with you?” she questioned more in a response to her agitation than to her concern.

“Granger, what are you…” Draco began to question recognizing her voice, but soon stopped himself. In his current situation, he realized it was probably best that she was in the room; even if she was born a mudblood, her heritage did not change the fact that she was the school’s most intelligent witch.

“Granger, help me!” Draco demanded, “I can’t see and someone tried to help me last night – I heard them say the counter spell – and it didn’t work. Obviously, Mme Pomfrey couldn’t do anything! I mean for God’s sake I’m still blind.”

“Calm down, Malfoy!” Hermione began with a hint of sincerity, “You have magic on your side don’t you! If you were blinded by magic, magic will definitely provide the cure. Just calm down.” At that instant three figures appeared out of thin air, one with half moon spectacles sliding down his nose, another with a tall black pointy hat, and the remaining with greasy black hair. Hermione let out a grateful sigh. The sight of her three professors entering the Hospital Wing was reassuring, like the burden that is Draco Malfoy was finally lifted off her shoulders for the first time since last night.

Malfoy, unaware that his three professors had appeared by his bedside, began to whimper in spite of Hermione’s confidence in magic. His whimpers quickly grew to dramatic moans and he did not stop until Snape suddenly snarled from behind Dumbledore, “Shut up, Draco! You are not dead now are you! Just suck it up.” Malfoy fell silent almost immediately, after he had jumped at the unexpected sound of Snape’s voice.

“Now, now, no need for that tone Severus,” Dumbledore said nonchalantly, but Snape did not need telling twice. Dumbledore turned his attention to the two students before him. “Draco, I know you must be very worried right now but there is no need. You will not be blind permanently. If I can recall correctly, you have been affected by what is called—a rebound of fate. See, the ministry of magic is not the only body to govern the magical community. The concept of fate actually holds quite a powerful grip over us wizards. Harry Potter is a perfect example. Time will be your cure, not magic. Once your fate has been fulfilled, your sight will return to you. 20/20 if I’m not mistaken.”

“Fate?” Draco blurted out, “Fate? I have to live without the ability to see because of fate. You have to be kidding me. This is ridiculous.”

“Calm down, Malfoy!” Hermione said, “It won’t be that bad.”

“You’re right Hermione,” the third and final figure said to her student. Those were McGonagall’s first words of the entire morning and Hermione was already confused again. “Hermione, you were the one who saved Malfoy if I’m not mistaken?”

“What?” Malfoy gasped in surprise.

“Yes, Malfoy! Not everyone is as cruel as you,” Hermione retorted to Malfoy’s disbelief.

“Hermione,” McGonagall stepped in, “You too are affected by the rebound of fate. You are his savior and are consequently tied to Malfoy until he regains his ability to see. If you try to go further than seven feet from him, you too will lose your sight.”

“WHAT?” Hermione screamed.

“Calm down Hermione. It won’t be that bad,” Malfoy mocked. Hermione glared at him, but realized that it was of no avail since Malfoy couldn’t see her.

“We know this news will come as shock, but we also know that you two will be able to figure this out. You will not be exempt from classes, or examinations. You will just have to figure out a way to help one another. Professor McGonagall has arranged for a new dorm to be made for the both of you. You will stay there as long as this situation remains as is. Good luck and remember you must accept your fate before you can change it,” Dumbledore concluded. The two students just sat in silence, not knowing what to say. Neither was calmed nor reassured by the whole rebound of fate idea, but neither had a better explanation.

Chapter 3: Rumors
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Entering into the Great Hall for dinner, Harry was intrigued by the unusual air of excitement that seemed to have infected the school’s student body. He was used to hearing whispers when he entered any room. What was unusual was that for the first time, his entrance went unnoticed—even by the Creevy brothers. Something was up and he had to find out what.

“Hey Harry! Over here, come over here!” Ron gasped in between sips of fresh pumpkin juice, drawing Harry from his thoughts and over to the Gryffindor table.

“Hey Ron, what’s up with everyone? Something seems different,” Harry said puzzled. He sat down and turned to observe the buzzing hall before him.

“I dunno,” he mumbled while stuffing his face with pumpkin pasties. “By the way, have you seen Hermione? I haven’t seen her all day and it is obviously not like her to miss any classes.”

And that is when the rumors surfaced. At the mention of Hermione’s name, both Ron and Harry were suddenly clued into what was currently plaguing Hogwarts’ social scene.

“Hermione? I heard she blinded Draco Malfoy last night on her way back from the library,” Seamus explained.

“Oh, I heard he tried to blind her and it backfired,” Dean replied.

“I heard that they were in the midst of an intense duel and Hermione got the better of the stupid prat,” another put in.

“I heard they were having an affair and Malfoy’s wand went off… you know when,” another dared to mention.

And the rumors continued on and on and on—getting worse with each speculation. The only common similarities that Ron and Harry could elicit from the numerous stories cascading through the room were the names Hermione and Draco.

Both names used in the same sentence, they knew something was not right. Harry and Ron, of course, were not stupid enough to believe any of the rumors floating about; they knew Hermione too well. Unfortunately, they also knew that their fellow classmates thrived on fresh gossip and couldn’t guarantee that the rest of the school would be as skeptical of the rumors as they were.

“Draco, will you hurry up! If I can dress myself with my eyes closed, you can definitely do it blind. It’s not that hard. Your shirt goes over your head and then your arms go through the…” Hermione said, obviously irritated at the pace with which Draco had chosen to get ready.

“Chill out woman!” he retorted, interrupting her explanation.

“I don’t want to miss dinner. Thanks to you, I haven’t eaten since last night,” she stated, making it very clear to him that she would kill him in the next twenty minutes unless she had something to eat.

When Hermione finally guided Draco out of the Hospital Wing, she let go of him immediately and stayed a precise seven feet away from him at all times. Of course, this made walking a bit difficult for Draco since he had no idea where he was going.

Draco managed to bump into seven walls, fall down one flight of stairs and smash into sixteen coats of armor. All of these incidents, of course, left Hermione unfazed and with no more of a desire to help him than when she had first found him the night before. She rather enjoyed seeing him close to tears for once. It was almost refreshing.

A true Gryffindor, Hermione could only stand Draco’s pathetic desperation for so long. As much as she enjoyed seeing the Slytherin in pain, she could not ignore her duty to her house and more importantly the values she had a responsibility to uphold. So, in an effort to pacify her conscience, Hermione moved a precise three feet closer to Draco and started calling out directions, so that Draco had a slight chance at preventing any future bruising.

“Right, Draco. Right—no the other right,” she called out from behind him.

“Make up your mind!” Draco yelled in frustration, “Grrrr… Hermione could you just lead me to the Great Hall for goodness sakes. You know, take me by the hand.”

“Touch you? Ummm, let me think. No!” Hermione mocked. “Besides, we are here.”

Draco could hear the familiar bustle of students and indeed recognized the sounds to be reminiscent of the Great Hall. The pair entered into the room, eager to get their hands on some much-needed nourishment. As soon as they did, however, an ear-shattering hush engulfed the room. Every face was turned toward Hermione.

Shocked by the reaction her entrance received, Hermione froze. She didn’t know what to do. She saw how her best friend, Harry, handled the unusual amount of attention everyday of his life, but never had she been in his position—never until today.

Suddenly, whispers broke out. She heard bits and pieces of many conversations, still frozen to the spot.

“See, I told you. She blinded him.”

“Ah ha! I was right. They are having an affair!”

“A pureblood and a mudblood—what a saga.”

“She’s disgusting and he’s mine!”

She couldn’t take it. As if her legs had read her thoughts, Hermione bolted out of the room. Draco could feel her pass him and could almost hear her tears burn her skin. He heard the rumors too and as much as the whole “love-affair” idea disgusted him, he knew it more than disgusted her—it hurt her.

“Hermione! Wait, Hermione. Don’t leave me—I don’t know where…” Draco began, but was quickly interrupted by a slight scream of panic.

Hermione had run out of the room, passed Draco and passed her seven feet limit. She was upset, embarrassed and now blind.

“Oh my God! Why did this have to happen to me?” she questioned in between the flash flood of tears streaming down her once cheerful face.

Having no choice but to inch closer to Draco Malfoy, she found him and regained her vision. Her composure, however, was long gone.

“Sorr… Sorry Draco! Can we please go back to our room?” Hermione pleaded, hoping that for once Draco would not bicker or protest or be his Slytherin-self.

“Sure,” Draco said with an unusual hint of sincerity, “As long as you guide me this time—with your hand, I mean.” Surprised by the undertone of sympathy in Draco’s voice, Hermione let out a grateful sigh.

They left the Great Hall together, leaving their fellow students to concoct more stories about their ridiculous twist of fate.

Chapter 4: Rules of an Affair
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His thoughts consuming his every move, Dumbledore paced throughout his office. He had never, in all his years as Headmaster, faced anything quite like this. He knew it was coming; he just hadn’t known when.

He remembered the cool afternoon when he first came to know of the prophecy. He had just exited The Hog’s Head and was headed back to school, when he eyed an unusual looking man. This man was seated on a bench, wrapped in a woolen blanket that was covering his threadbare robes. Nothing about the man’s appearance was inviting, yet Dumbledore could not help but notice him. It was almost like he was drawn to the man’s obscurity.

As usual, Dumbledore had let his curiosity get the better of him and no sooner had he sat down next to him, had the man turned to stare directly into Dumbledore’s eyes. It had been a long time since someone had had the courage to establish direct eye contact with him, something that intrigued Dumbledore even more. He was mesmerized by the man’s piercing, unwavering black eyes because it seemed to emit a confidence he could only admire.

Then the man began to speak. Just when Dumbledore thought the situation could not have gotten any weirder, the man began to recite a rhyme. Dumbledore had not thought much of it then, but now he knew it carried more significance than he had originally perceived.

Blinded by magic, at first, it seems. Surrendered to silence, next, it deems. Bound by beauty of mind and men. Love, inevitable, shall follow then. Unity you seek, your heart is true. But first you must wait for the right match of two.

The words were burned into his mind—Dumbledore repeated the rhyme, again and again. He couldn’t relieve his mind of the image of that man and their unexpected meeting. His thoughts and, more importantly, his hopes were holding him captive. Letting his mind wander off, Dumbledore began to question. If Hermione and Draco were the two, how long would it be before they fulfilled the second part of the prophecy, if they hadn’t already?

Extremely exhausted, Draco collapsed into a cozy chair. A blanket of heat wrapped around his tired limbs, telling him that he was in proximity of the room’s fireplace. Draco massaged his right hand, like he was trying to wash away invisible dirt. He didn’t know why he had asked Hermione to help him; he knew he could have managed by himself.

Hermione watched Draco carefully, as they entered their new residence. Still disgusted by their current situation, she kept her guard up at all times. Seeing Draco massage his hand, she couldn’t help but think he would never change.

“Ashamed that a mudblood touched your hand, Malfoy?” Hermione inquired more defensively than she intended. “Or shocked that a mudblood would dare to help you?”

Draco turned his head in the direction of Hermione’s voice. Aware of her vigilant presence, he dropped his hands to his side and stood up. “Neither,” he replied.

“Really?” she said, surprised by his ambiguous response.

“Really. Now can you get over yourself? You’re no saint! You are only helping me because that is what the Headmaster ordered, Miss ‘I was born to be Head Girl’.”

“True,” she said hesitantly.

“Under ordinary circumstances, I would NEITHER ask for nor accept help from a mudblood like yourself,” Draco explained. “That reminds me. Why did you go out of your way to help me last night?”

Hermione knew he was bound to ask this question eventually. She still didn’t know the answer herself; so, like any human being, she avoided answering by changing the subject.

“You know, Malfoy, this common room is really nice. These chairs are ten times softer and more comfortable than the ones in Gryffindor tower. And it’s larger than our common room too.”

Not the response he had expected, he could sense that Hermione did not want to answer his question. Following Hermione’s lead and turning his attention to his surroundings, Draco had to agree with her. The chair he had just risen from was extremely comfortable. Even though he couldn’t see the room, his remaining senses were informing him of its spacious and inviting nature.

“What are the dormitories like?” he questioned.

“I don’t know yet. We have to go together otherwise neither of us will be able to see, remember?”

“Right,” Draco surrendered, closing in on Hermione and following her up what he gathered to be a spiral, stone staircase.

Hermione gasped.

“What?” Draco asked.

“Whaaa… oh my… holy crap. This is IMPOSSIBLE! I can’t live like this,” she screamed.

“What?” Draco asked again, a little louder this time. “Are the dorms really that bad?”

“Dorms? What dorms? I see one dorm, one bathroom…”

“One bed?” Draco asked, snickering at Hermione. He knew Dumbledore would never make them sleep in the same bed.

“Yes!” she responded forcefully, hating him for his audacity.

“What? Are you serious?”

“NO! This is absolutely ridiculous. One bathroom—I mean what happened to a thing called privacy?”

“It’s not like I can see anything,” Draco muttered.

“Okay that’s it. It is time for some ground rules!” Hermione stated.

“Rules…” Draco began to ask, but his attempt was quickly overshadowed by Hermione’s determination to establish boundaries.

“First, NO touching my stuff! Second, twenty minutes in the bathroom tops! Third, no spells in the dormitory unless you need to study.”

“So, are the corridors off limits, as well mum?” Draco retorted to Hermione’s ridiculous tirade.

“NO SPYING while I am changing,” she continued relentlessly.

At that Draco jumped. He was fed up with Hermione’s list and this ridiculous situation. His frustration finally got the better of him and he exploded, “Shut up! Shut up!” Hermione froze, immediately silenced by Draco’s sudden outburst.

“You are not the one that is blind. You stupid mudblood! I am the one that has to live without my sight and, on top of everything, I have to live with you constantly by my side! Do you understand how hard this is for me? I have tried so hard to be patient with you, because I know, if anyone in this school can figure out how to help me, it is you. I have tried to accept my situation and go with the flow. But I cannot anymore—I cannot live at your mercy.”

Hermione did not know what to say. She just stood there, ineffable, staring at the boy in front of her, recognizing for the first time that he, too, was human.

“Just, stop with the lists and realize that you are the not the only one involved in this whole affair,” Draco said, immediately regretting his choice of words.

“Affair?” Hermione stuttered, in between impending tears.

At that, both surrendered to the silence that was destined to separate them. Fate had clearly taken hold of them and they had no choice but to live with it—forever, if it came to that.

Chapter 5: The Morning After
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Breakfast was a bit strange. They had not spoken to one another since Draco’s outburst the night before; and, neither seemed to want to be the one to speak first. It was kind of like their silence had become the backdrop to their ongoing battle. Winning was synonymous with not speaking; the weak, they gave into their voices and the strong, they learned to elicit a power from the absence of words.

Although strong and capable, Hermione could not avoid her agitation. Draco had not only intentionally violated the rules she had firmly established the night before but had also used up all of the hot water. Why he needed to take a fifty-minute shower—she still did not know. He was disgusting, but not dirty. In fact, his side of the room mirrored his incredible sense of hygiene; surprisingly, it was impeccable, not a thing was out of place.

They had walked down to breakfast together, after Hermione had indulged in her cold, but nevertheless refreshing, shower. The silence was as pervasive as ever. You could hear Draco’s resonant heartbeat if you listened carefully enough. Awkward was not the best word to describe the aura of that morning’s walk to the Great Hall, but it came very close. There was an indescribable tension between the two that was masquerading itself behind the silence they refused to break.

It had been less than twenty-four hours and she already hated not talking to Draco, the one person who understood their situation entirely. Over these past three days, arguing with him had become a routine for her—one she now realized, she enjoyed completing. He kept her on her toes; and she liked that.

The smell of pumpkin pasties was slowly creeping into the air, signaling to the pair that their solitude was quickly coming to an end. They would have to face the rumors, head on, together but so far apart.

Hermione crossed the threshold of the Great Hall, guiding Draco to the Slytherin table. He could tell they were being watched, for a familiar hush swept through the air once again just like the evening before. Draco sat down and could feel Hermione slide into the seat just beside him. He could hear Goyle’s hard breathing and Crabbe’s inept skill at using a fork and knew the two of them were seated at the Slytherin table. What he couldn’t understand was why Hermione had not left his side. He knew she could handle being blind for twenty minutes while eating in proximity of her fellow Gryffindors, but she had chosen not to leave him.

Strange he thought to himself. It was strange but comforting.

Hermione began to dish eggs, pancakes, bacon and sausage onto Draco’s plate. She didn’t care to ask him what he wanted for that would mean actually speaking to him. She just gave him some of everything she could reach. She filled her plate up next and finally began to satiate the hunger that had settled at the pit of her stomach. She hadn’t eaten in almost a day and half and she was grateful that no one at the Slytherin table had stopped her from eating.

Suddenly a tapping from the front of the room diverted the attention of all the students for the first time since the duo had entered into the room. Dumbledore, in his long robes, had stood up to make this morning’s announcements. He made the usual ones—reminding everyone that this weekend there will be a trip to Hogsmeade for all students with signed permission forms, that the Owlery will be closed for routine cleaning and that house quidditch tryouts will be held at the end of this week.

Draco dropped his spoon. Hermione, almost instantly, noticed the sudden shift in Draco’s mood.

In the meanwhile, Dumbledore continued, “Oh, yes. One more thing before I leave you to disperse among your classes. As all of you know, Halloween is just around the corner. I have decided to spice things up a bit and make this year’s celebration a bit different from previous years. Hogwarts will be hosting a costume ball.” Everyone seemed really pleased with Dumbledore’s words, for Hogwarts rarely played host to fun events like these. Hermione, however, was paying very little attention to the headmaster’s words. She was still looking at Draco who was now a shade paler than he was a moment ago.

Dumbledore was not finished, “Everyone must come in costume, thus adhering to the definition of a costume ball. The task I am giving all of you is, with a partner of your choice, you must devise a costume that effectively conceals your identities—the couple or partnership that can most effectively fool the judges in masquerading their identities will be rewarded. The catch, you can only use one spell between the two of you—so choose wisely. I thought I would let you know this far in advance so that you can all prepare. Remember, teamwork is key!” And with those last words, he made sure he caught Hermione’s eye.

When Dumbledore was finished, the entire hall burst out in excited murmurs, leaving Hermione and Draco to their own devices.

Finally—something to distract the student body. Thank you Dumbledore! Hermione thought to herself.

Draco was now so pale that Hermione had no choice but to break the silence. “Draco, are you okay? What’s wrong with you?” she asked very concerned.

“Quidditch tryouts,” he whispered.

“What?” she asked again.

“Quidd…” he trailed off.

“Oh no!” Hermione said with an air of comprehension. She continued with little sincerity, “Draco, don’t worry. Gryffindor will beat you whether or not you play on the Slytherin team.”

“Shut up! No! You don’t understand! I am captain. How am I going to hold tryouts? How am I going to hold practices? Merlin, how am I going to play? I’m the best Slytherin has got! I have been waiting five years for a shot at this…”

Hermione knew this was true. Slytherin had good beaters but in terms of actual point scoring, Draco was all they had.

“Well, can I help you out in any way?” Hermione asked.

“You? You don’t even know the fundamentals of the game—how would you captain my team?” Draco questioned. ‘And, for that matter, why are you speaking to me? I was quite enjoying the silence.”

Hermione just glared at him. “Look if you don’t want my help, fine. I don’t care. I don’t need to help you but I was offering. I’m not a fan of flying; I don’t like playing quidditch but we are in this together. Isn’t that the point you made very clear last night?”

“Well yeah, I guess,” Draco said, baffled at the way Hermione turned his words against him. She was getting good at arguing with him. He never thought he would see the day when Granger actually impressed him.

“Okay then, we’ll discuss details later. Can we please go to potions? I don’t want to anger Snape anymore than my mere presence already does.” Hermione took one more sip of her fresh pumpkin juice and rose to help Draco out of the room. She was surprised to notice that he did not quiver as she reached for his hand.

Maybe I can be friends with Draco Malfoy she thought to herself, confused by the excitement she felt at the idea.

Co-captains, Granger and Malfoy—oh has my life really come to this? Malfoy ruminated over the idea, puzzled by the mere fact that he was seriously considering it as a valid option.

Dumbledore watched as the pair made their way out of the Great Hall. “It has started,” he whispered to himself. “Bound by beauty of mind and men.” Dumbledore just shook his head and chuckled a mischievous laugh, while reciting the third part of the prophecy. Indeed, something was about to begin.

Chapter 6: The Defense's Verdict
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Draco sat on the quidditch field, allowing the wind to caress the sides of his bare neck. The beginning of October, the fall breeze was beginning to set in, lining the outside air with a distinct sharpness only a Slytherin would legitimately enjoy.

The past couple of days had been insane, driving his stress and frustration to the point where he just needed to get away from the confines of the castle. Yes, he and Hermione were old news after Dumbledore’s announcement this morning, but there was still a lot of unspoken tension, between his house and hers, between his friends and hers, between him and her.

Granted he was not entirely alone. He was sharing the field—his sacred place—with Hermione; she was just sitting a couple of rows away from him, lost in her thoughts as he was in his.

This morning had been weird. Not only was he reminded of the fact that he would not be able to play quidditch but also he and Hermione had some how come to a truce—spoken but unspoken. The wrath he had always felt towards her seemed to be alleviated by the circumstances of their predicament. In fact, there was no one in this school that he felt closer to. Unfortunately, he was not the only one to come to this realization—lets just say Potions, today, was a little different than usual.

“You’re late!” a growling voice snapped, as Hermione and Draco walked in. Hermione could feel a shiver go down her spine at her professor’s words. She knew what was bound to come next.

“Twenty-points from Gryffindor!” Snape barked.

She could feel the need to retaliate seeping up the sides of her throat. He was so biased—so unfair. The anger only Snape provoked in her was making its way up from the depths of her chest, contaminating her relatively good mood. Hermione was about to speak, protest even, if it hadn’t been for the hand. It was warm, reassuring and, most surprisingly, sympathetic.

Draco sensing a change in Hermione’s disposition, and not wanting to draw any more attention to them than was necessary, quickly grabbed her hand in an effort to calm her. He knew Snape very well; he knew that Snape thrived on retaliation and impudence and he was not going to let Hermione walk right into his trap—not this time.

Hermione said nothing. To the dismay of her Gryffindor classmates, she took Snape’s injustice without a word in protest. Snape was very amused by Hermione’s sudden restraint.

“What, cat got your tongue, Granger—for the first time in your life?” Snape spat.

Having memorized the layout of the dungeon, Draco dragged Hermione to one of the back tables and forced her to sit down.

“Don’t say anything!” Draco whispered, “Just let it go!”

Again her silence amused and somewhat confused him. As Draco expected, Snape seemed to get bored with her and he proceeded with the lesson, rounding this time on Neville, as his new victim.

“Why did you do that?” Hermione asked Draco, in hushed but forceful tones, “I am quite capable of handling things on my own.”

Draco chuckled. “Hermione, I could hear you shift in place. You just seemed like you were about to explode. And, I know from experience that explosions in Potions don’t usually go over too well.”

Hermione smiled.

“You’re welcome!” he whispered back.

The pair turned their attention to Snape who was in the process of explaining the method used to concoct a Shrouding solution. Hermione turned to the back of her textbook. She couldn’t believe that they were learning such difficult magic. Of course, she had already read about the Shrouding Solution—in her fourth year—but she never thought she would see the day when she would be able to practice it.

She let her fingers skim through the pages of her text, landing finally on page 971. Her eyes followed her fingertips down the page to a passage highlighted by the spots of ink and frantic scribbles left in the wake of her quill three years before.

The mark of an excellent potion’s master is his ability to create an effective Shrouding solution. Designed to disguise even the most talented of wizards, the Shrouding solution tops every disguise known to mankind. Difficult to make, the Shrouding solution requires weeks of hard labor and for this reason is generally looked to as a last resort for many Aurors or wizards seeking to masquerade themselves quickly. Unlike the invisibility cloak, the Shrouding solution does not glean its power from the ability to deceive sight, but relies, instead, on its ability to deceive all of the senses. When brewed well, it is designed to reach into the depths of the drinker’s soul and change not only the person’s appearance, but also the sole characteristic that makes them who they are. Although a ministry sanctioned potion, the Shrouding solution lies on the border of good and dark magic and should be used with extreme caution. Changing one’s appearance is one thing, changing one’s soul is another.

Hermione skimmed the ingredients that followed. Not one of them was obscure or hard to obtain. Curious, she thought to herself. Returning to Snape’s sharp commentary, she noticed that everyone has started to get up and move around, scrounging for ingredients.

“Hermione, hey Hermione!” Draco nudged his companion. Drawn from her thoughts, she turned to Draco. “Hey, so are you going to get the ingredients or am I going to have to do it,” Draco said sarcastically, making fun of his condition for the first time since, well, ever.

“Oh, yeah. Sorry, I’ll be right back with everything,” Hermione laughed. She set up her cauldron over a hungry fire and proceeded to the front of the room. Snape eyed her curiously, but she ignored him and proceeded to fill her kit with everything on the list.

She returned to her seat and handed Draco a knife and three strips of dragon hide. “Do you think you could cut this while, I attempt to do everything else. I need you to cut them into medium size pieces. And since, you’re a master in Potions, I figured you could handle it, given your—I mean our—situation.”

“Yes, Hermione, I do believe cutting some dragon hide is well within my capabilities, even though I am blind.”

And that was Potions. It was unbelievably peaceful. Hermione sat frantically preparing her ingredients while Draco struggled to cut the Dragon hide into small squares. Hermione had started to add Wolf’s bane and Dragon’s blood, but stopped when her potion turned a steamy purple. She stirred it carefully and consistently. She looked around the room and was worried to see that her classmates’ potions were either red or blue. None of them were purple—that worried her.

“Draco! Hey, do you remember what color our potion is suppose to be after you add the first three ingredients?”

“What was that Ms. Granger? You, my dear girl, forgot the directions?”

“Does he have nothing better to do than to eavesdrop on our conversations?” she blurted out to Draco, much louder than intended.

Her comment resonated off the enclosed dungeon walls right to the front of the room where a now very smug Snape was standing.

This was the opportunity the professor had been waiting for. “What was that Ms. Granger? Ten points from Gryffindor for being the rude little prat that you are. Now, attention idiots! Yes, that means all of you before me. From glancing around the room, I see that not one of you has brewed your solution correctly. I see a lot of reds and blues but not a single purple.”

“Draco,” Hermione nudged him in the side, “our potion—its purple!”

“Really?” he asked, “Surprise, surprise, you’ve done it again.”

“No, it is really purple. Should I tell Snape?”

“Yeah, go for it, if you want to die, right here and now, by decapitation.”

Hermione had ignored the second half of his comment and timidly raised her hand. After having been ignored by Snape for about ten minutes, Hermione began to wave her hand around anxiously. Her potion was purple and she had no idea what that meant.

“Now, as I stated earlier in the lecture, the mark of a good Shrouding solution is its color. The more purple it is, the more powerful,” Snape preached. “But, as expected, not one of you has the talent nor…”

“Excuse me, professor!” Hermione shot from her corner of the dungeon. Draco shrank into the shadows, waiting for Snape to attack.

“Yes, Ms. Granger? Do you have anything relevant to say… NO? Okay, then let me proceed without further interruption. In fact, ten points from…”

“Sir, our potion is purple. Bright purple in fact?”

Snape was taken aback. “That is not possible. You are not at the level at which you could concoct…” Snape started. He was silenced when he saw the potion. Clearly, he was wrong. But being the proud man that he is, he did not concede to Hermione’s obvious victory. Instead, he made things worse.

“Well, well. 50 Points goes to Slytherin. Obviously, this is all Draco’s doing. Very good, Draco.” The anger Hermione was feeling just as she had entered class had returned and her face was flushed with a new resolve. Again, however, she was stopped.

“Are you kidding?” Draco spoke from the shadows, “This potion you see here, is none of my doing.” The Slytherins and Gryffindors were taken aback by the blonde’s uncharacteristic statement. Hermione couldn’t help but stare at Draco, as he rose to defend her. “Every day, you decry Hermione for being a know-it-all, never once acknowledging her obvious talent for magic. Sure, I am happy to accept the points for Slytherin…”

“Then, sit down,” Snape barked.

“No. Not until you give Hermione the credit.”

“Detention, both of you and leave my classroom, right now. We will schedule this later. I cannot have the two of you acting out against me like this. It is disrespectful. Leave your potion, you can finish it later.”

The two, without protest, gathered their things and turned to leave the dungeon. But before they could get as far as the door, they heard Snape utter loudly, “It is has been what three days and the mudblood is already rubbing off on you, Draco. I’m disappointed—I thought you were stronger than this.”

Draco followed Hermione out of the dungeon and slammed the door behind him. The pair walked back to their dormitory in silence. Hermione could not believe what had just happened; and, neither could Draco for that matter.

“Why did you…?” Hermione began to ask.

“I don’t know,” he responded. It was the truth. He didn’t know.

Draco sat, in the cold stands breathing in the crisp air of the quidditch pitch. The day had definitely had its uncomfortable moments. That is why he loved the quidditch fields at night. There was nothing more comforting.

Then the dread, he had been avoiding all day, began to set in. He didn’t know what he was going to do about quidditch. He needed to play—but he couldn’t. He had contemplated Hermione’s offer, but had never really talked to her about it. She didn’t know the fundamentals about quidditch; she probably knew only what Harry told her. She couldn’t captain his team; she could make a Shrouding solution but she couldn’t captain his team—or could she?

Draco felt a new presence stand up and sit next to him. He withdrew from his thoughts and turned to confront a fruity scent distinct from the scent of fresh pine emanating from the Forbidden Forest; he knew it was her.

“Draco, can we go inside, please. I know you are in a special place right now, thinking and what not, but it is getting really cold.”

Not knowing what came over him, he blurted out in desperation, “Hermione, I need your help!” Silencing her complaints at once, Hermione forgot the cold immediately and turned to Draco, for the first time without masquerading the concern she felt for her new friend.

Surprised by her thoughts, she ruminated over the concept before turning her attention to her former rival—the verdict was in. Draco was her friend and at this moment, probably one of her best.

Chapter 7: Trust and Seek
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A high-pitched scream pierced the night air, shattering the moonlit silence.

“DRACO MALFOY, YOU BETTER GET ME DOWN FROM HERE RIGHT NOW,” Hermione screamed from her broomstick, hovering just five feet off the ground. But it was too late. Losing her balance, there was a loud thump, as Hermione’s figure made contact with her shadow.

“Apparently, you didn’t need my help,” Draco breathed in between fits of uncontrollable laughter. But he quickly regained his composure, when he heard Hermione get up. He could feel her glare; and, although it was hilarious that she had just fallen off a broom barely five feet in the air, he really needed her help.

In an attempt to pacify her frustration, he met her now tear stained face with uncharacteristic compassion. “Calm down, don’t get frustrated. That’s the worst thing you could do. Flying doesn’t come naturally to everyone at first—just try again.”

“Draco, I can’t do this. I want to help you—I do. But, there is no way I can fly in tomorrow’s match. I’m a wreck. I can’t stay on the broom for more than five minutes—I’m just too nervous,” Hermione was almost pleading with him. She had never been able to fly. Flying had always been Harry and Ron’s thing—not hers. She usually watched them comfortably from the stands.

“Yes, yes you can. Hermione this is not the time to lose confidence,” Draco preached. “You are doing ten times better than what you did in quidditch tryouts earlier today.”

“Ugghhhh. Tryouts, lets not mention those please. They were perhaps the most embarrassing three hours of my life.”

“I can see why!” he chuckled, “I mean you fell off your broom four or five…”

“YOU ARE NOT HELPING!” she screamed.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Okay, let’s see. Let’s try something different. Accio Fusion!”

With a wave of his wand, his brand new broomstick flew from Hermione’s lose grasp into Draco’s firm grip. He ran his hand down the newly painted handle. The icy touch of the wood to his palm was oddly soothing. Blood coursed through his veins in anticipation of his flight. The only place Draco had ever felt at home was in the air.

He grabbed Hermione’s hand and walked her to the center of the quidditch pitch. He whispered in her ear, “There is no need for you to lose confidence. Let the air befriend your fears. Let the moon guide your way. Let the broom take you—trust me, you’ll have no problems.”

He could sense her hesitation. Her muscles were still tight in protest and her heart was beating uncontrollably. Her fears getting the better of her, she refused to mount the broom. She turned her back to Draco and took in a deep breath.

“Come on, I’ll show you!” he coaxed.

With that, Hermione mounted the broom, silenced by Draco’s determination. When her shifting came to an end, he mounted the broom behind her, assuming that the broom was finally stable enough to support two bodies instead of one. Draco reached across Hermione’s body and placed his hands on her shoulders. Running his hands down the sides of her arms to her wrists, he relaxed her. When her hands stopped shaking, he sensed she was ready. He pushed off and soared into the stands, letting his memory guide them.

The wind cut into the sides of their faces, leaving their cheeks flushed with traces of pink. For a while, Draco continued to guide Hermione’s hands, leading her from one end of the quidditch pitch to the other. And then he let go.

Hermione let out a slight cry of panic, causing the broom to dip ever so slightly. Quickly remembering Draco’s words, she took a deep breath and then a leap of faith. Putting all of her trust in his words, she let the air take her. Almost instantly, her nerves melted away, and she became one with the broom.

“Oh my goodness. I’m actually flying!” Hermione said, a smile beaming across her face.

“I told you, all you needed was a little patience!”

Hermione quickly glanced back at her friend so that he would hardly notice. “I think I needed a little more than that,” she whispered to herself.

The day was perfect. The sun glazed the morning mist with a ray of warmth, electrifying the quidditch pitch and drying the remnants of the early morning dew. Hermione sat in the stands. An hour before play commenced, she forced Draco to take her to the pitch early, so that she could collect her thoughts—and fears. Not that the change in venue was helping any.

Butterflies cascaded through her stomach. She could not believe she was flying in a quidditch match—and of all positions, she was going to play seeker. She couldn’t catch a frisbee when her parents used to play with her; there was no way she was going to be able to fly around on a broomstick seventy feet in the air and catch a little golden ball with wings.

But her incompetence was only half of the problem. Even though she was not facing off against Gryffindor, no one knew yet that she would be playing today—including Ron and Harry whom she had deliberately avoided these past couple of days.

“What time is it, Hermione?” Draco asked, interrupting her thoughts.

“We have about 45 minutes to spare.”

“We should probably head down to the changing rooms then.”

With one final breath, Hermione stood up and turned to lead Draco down from the stands. Entering into the Slytherin changing room, her eyes were taken by surprise. A palette of greens and slivers greeted her unsuspecting eyes. She felt like such a traitor. But if this is what Dumbledore meant by teamwork, then she had no choice but to continue on.

“Why is she playing on our team?”

“He could have picked anyone else!”

“You know she could lose on purpose! She is a Gryffindor through and through! Did our beloved captain ever think about that?”

“That stupid mudblood is contaminating our purity!”

“I know. I feel dirty at the thought of being on the same team as her.”

Upon hearing the whispers emanating from one end of the changing room, Draco could sense a change in Hermione’s mood. She had stopped dead in her tracks, just listening to her former rivals now teammates talk about her behind her back. He knew her playing for Slytherin would be hard—he just hadn’t known how hard.

Snapping Hermione out of her ineffability, Draco had Hermione lead him to the locker marked with his name and the prized captain’s emblem that he had worked seven years to finally acquire. She started emptying his locker and handing him his robes. Suddenly, Hermione gasped, startling Draco from his thoughts. She had spotted it.

The locker right next to Draco’s had caught Hermione’s attention. Not only was her name engraved at the top in a beautiful silver script, but her locker also had the acclaimed captain’s emblem on it.

“Draco…” she began in protest.

“We are partners right?” he asserted.

“Right,” she conceded.

“Then we are also co-captains.”

Having opened the locker with a tap of her wand, Hermione pulled out a set of brilliant green robes—they were a perfect fit. She slipped them on quickly. Warm and soft to the touch, they clung seamlessly to the curves of her body. She was ready.

Five minutes to go, the team clambered around Draco, waiting for his last minute words. Seeing the captain’s emblem embroidered at the top of Hermione’s robes, the entire team just glared at her with venomous stares. Hermione had expected this, of course. None of them had been entirely pleased upon Draco’s announcing her as his replacement. But, they had no choice—Draco, after all, was their captain.

Hermione watched as her teammates mounted their brooms and soared into the crowds. The screams were so overwhelming; they penetrated her chest, erasing her nerves and leaving her with nothingness. She didn’t know what was worse—being nervous or numb.

This is it. We are a team—there is no turning back. Whatever comes will come. I’m a Gryffindor no longer. Hermione thought to herself.

She turned to mount her broom and hovered for a while. She turned to look at Draco who was standing idly by the entrance of the changing rooms.

“Hey, co-cap, you coming?” Hermione asked, smirking at the nickname she had chosen for him.

“What?” Draco asked, intrigued.

“I’m blind without you!” Hermione explained.

With that, Draco mounted the broom behind Hermione. She pushed off and they soared into the expectant crowd of students—fearing the worst.

“Harry, over here!” Ron bellowed to his best friend.

Harry had just entered into the Gryffindor section of the quidditch stands, eager to the see the match between Slytherin and Ravenclaw. With Draco’s condition, the entire school was curious to see how exactly the Slytherin team was going to resolve the issue of their seeker being blind.

“Any word yet, as to who the new seeker is going to be?” Harry asked Ron.

“No, but there are a ton of theories!” Ron responded.

“Of course there are,” Harry said as he sat down next to Ron. “Fill me in.”

“Okay, well most of them are hilarious. Seamus told me that Draco put his lover in as his replacement--”

“Who?” Harry asked, at last turning his attention away from the charged quidditch pitch to his friend.


“Oh of course! Ha! What a match that would be!” Harry laughed.

“I know, right? Then, Dean told me that Crabbe might be playing two positions, which would be a practical solution. But the most ridiculous rumor, yet, is that Draco put Hermione in as his replacement. I mean she can’t even fly.”

Harry laughed at the idea of Hermione playing quidditch. He remembered her pathetic attempt to fly in their first year. There was no way Draco would risk his team’s chances by putting Hermione in as his replacement.

The Ravenclaw team soared passed the two friends, as the announcer bellowed each of their names into his voice-magnifying wand. Engrossed in their conversations the crowd was suddenly silenced by the blur of green robes that followed the introduction of the Ravenclaw team. Every face was eager to see who would be playing for Draco.

“Filling in for Draco Malfoy, is Slytherin team’s co-captain, Hermione Granger. Blimey, I never saw that one coming—replacement and co-captain? Ladies and gentlemen, this promises to be an interesting game,” the announcer commented.

Stunned, the entire crowd watched, as Draco and Hermione made their way onto the quidditch pitch.

Harry and Ron just sat there, dumbstruck by the news that their best friend was playing for the enemy. Their shock was quickly replaced by a wave of anger. They did not know what to say—only that Hermione had gone too far. This whole “rebound of fate” situation had gone too far. Now, it had overturned loyalties, something Harry and Ron could not tolerate—would not tolerate. Internalizing their anger, the two boys turned their attentions to the pitch, praying to Merlin that Hermione did not catch the snitch.

It had been ten minutes since Madame Hooch had blown her whistle and released the little golden snitch, which Hermione was supposed to catch. It had been ten minutes, and Hermione, now somewhat adept at flying, didn’t have any inkling of where the snitch could possibly be.

“Draco, what do I do? I can’t see the snitch anywhere? What if I never find it? I read Quidditch Through the Ages last night—quite an interesting read by the way—but Draco, it didn’t give me any helpful hints on what to do if I can’t find the snitch. Oh no, Slytherin is going to lose. I am going to make Slytherin lose. This is not what Dumbledore meant by teamwork. Draco, what…” Hermione panicked.

“Patience woman, patience!” Draco screamed over Hermione’s ramblings. “Patience.”

“Patience?” Hermione questioned. “I have the entire school looking at me in disgust. I have the entire Slytherin quidditch team hating me for wearing this stupid emblem but at the same time counting on me to catch that ridiculously fast golden ball. My best friends probably hate me right now. And all for what? So, that you have a chance at winning that stupid trophy at the end of the year. I need more than patience, Draco. I need more than patience!”

“You? What about me? The entire Slytherin house is probably wondering why I would trust a mudblood with my team—and of all mudbloods in this school, you!

"Mudblood?" Hermione whispered suddenly very hurt by Draco's words.

Draco continued, "I have just as much riding on this game as you do. My entire reputation, for one thing. If you don’t catch this snitch—“

“If I don’t catch this snitch? Way to relieve the pressure Draco! You didn’t have to pick me to be your replacement. Do not put this on my head! I am doing you a favor!”

“A favor? You are doing this because Dumbledore said we need to work as a team.”

“NO, I was actually doing this for a person I thought was my friend! But, apparently not.”

“Apparently!” Draco retorted.

With Draco last comment, Hermione gasped.

“What is it now? Worried that Potter and Weasel will laugh when you fall of your broom?” Draco replied.

But Hermione had no time to answer. She had seen it. The golden snitch was hovering just above the Ravenclaw’s middle goal post. Taking in a deep breath, she turned her broom and dove.

“Hang on Draco!” Hermione warned.

“What… WOAH!!” Draco exclaimed, at the realization that they were no longer just hovering in midair. But his cry of panic was quickly overshadowed by a huge uproar from the stands.

Hermione had just caught the snitch.

“What happened?” he asked a bit relieved that he was not dead, damaged or in anyway disfigured.

“A mudblood just saved your reputation,” Hermione responded curtly.

With that, it was as if the past week had never happened. In an instant, with the exchange of a few words, Hermione and Draco were as good as strangers. A deafening silence once again defined their relationship. They were no longer friends, but acquaintances forced in each other’s company by a twist of fate they could no longer tolerate.

Chapter 8: A Silent Pane
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Hermione lay in her bed. The red and gold covers of her bed wrapped tightly around the curves of her body, forming a layer of warmth shielding her from the bitter draft coming from Draco’s open window. It had been a week since the quidditch match and the pair could not be on worse terms.

They talked to each other in class when they had no other choice. But, Hermione could not even bring herself to ask Draco to close his window. She preferred to live in the refrigerator that had become their room than swallow her pride. The bare minimum—that was the form their amorphous relationship had assumed.

In two weeks, she had gone from mudblood to Granger to even Hermione at times, then in a flash, back to mudblood. The range of emotion she had experienced throughout that first week was beyond even her comprehension. She hated not talking to Draco, but at the same time, this recalled silence between them was refreshing. It slowed things down—gave her a chance to catch her breath and understand Draco before befriending him.

And right now, she did not like him one bit.

But, at the same time, she needed to talk to him. Something had happened to her during that quidditch match. Something she had never felt before. She had mentioned something to Ginny, the only Gryffindor still on speaking terms with her since the match, at break on Tuesday; but, Ginny said her newfound talent at seeking was just the adrenaline, nothing inexplicable.

Hermione, however, knew it was something more. Right before she caught the snitch, something in her changed. All of a sudden she felt herself in such command of the broom without being in command of herself—like she was channeling another’s skill. It was confusing her, distracting her and the only person that might understand would not even blink in her direction.

She was frustrated, scared, and alone without ever being alone.

Draco, on the other hand, was calm, cool and collected. He seemed very well adapted to the silence between Hermione and him and he was quickly adapting to his sightless lifestyle. This, however, was just a façade that Hermione never even for a second saw through.

Truth be told, Draco was a wreck. The emotional rollercoaster that Hermione far from understood, was penetrating Draco’s patience. In the week after their fight, he quickly realized how valuable Hermione’s friendship was. Crabbe and Goyle, although loyal friends, could never understand his situation as well as she could.

But she is selfish—she renounced our friendship the first chance she got. Draco thought to himself over and over again, almost convincing himself that Hermione was in the wrong. There was only one thought stopping him from blaming her for this unbearable silence.

She had caught the snitch; she had flown seventy feet in the air. And all to give Slytherin a fair shot at winning the Inter-house Quidditch Cup—he didn’t think so.

She had flown for him.

And he had repaid her kindness with pain. Why he had called her a mudblood was beyond him. It was a moment of weakness that was now tormenting him every minute he went without apologizing.

He had called so many people by that name. It was an instinct bequeathed to him by his pureblood father. This was the first time, however, he felt guilty and ashamed of his heritage. It was as if he was channeling a compassion his conscience had never known. It was intriguing and tormenting. Nevertheless, he suppressed his feelings and acted the way he was expected to. A cold-blooded Slytherin by birth, Draco fought with himself to keep up his impertinent reputation. He was freezing, yet he opened the window to their dormitory hoping that he would make Hermione as uncomfortable as possible. Yes, opening the window was a difficult feat in itself given his condition, but he was willing to do anything to protect his pride.

Both were stubborn, proud and completely oblivious to the fact that each needed the other in some way. The silence that had come between them once before, was once again separating the two, while bringing them closer and closer together.

Dumbledore paced his office. Something was not right. He stopped; bending over in frustration, he placed his hands firmly on his antique desk supporting his exhausted limbs. He drew his wand from the inside pocket of his robes and placed its tip at the center of his left temple. Extracting a glimmering liquid from the depths of his head, he placed the silver thought in the pensieve residing on his desk. In the large bowl, sat a glistening reflection of Hermione and Draco arguing on a stalled broom seventy feet in the air.

Hermione and Draco were making such great progress, at such an unusual rate; and, he had been ecstatic. This past weekend, however, had destroyed everything. Observing the two, he watched them go from rivals to friends back to silent acquaintances. Perhaps it was the mark of impatience, but Dumbledore was restless. He was tired of waiting—but he knew waiting was necessary, that this second round of silence was necessary.

Moreover, something was bothering him. More specifically, it was Hermione’s new skill for flying that puzzled him. He knew that Hermione was talented in many areas but flying was just not one of those areas. And even with Draco, a most adept flyer, tutoring her, there was no way she could have flown the way she did without some kind of help.

The ease with which Hermione and Draco became friends had given him so much hope—all of which was now replaced with an unbearable uncertainty. If Draco and Hermione were the two the prophecy had pertained to, the pair should be moving forward, fulfilling the third and fourth steps not backtracking.

Why? Why did they revert back to silence? Dumbledore ruminated. Think… think!

Hermione sat shivering under her thick covers. Her teeth clattered as a sharp wind engulfed her bones. She had had enough. She sat up quickly and pulled her covers off, ready to stomp her way over to Draco’s bedside and demand that he close the window.

To her utter surprise, however, Draco was already standing by his window.

Draco turned his head toward Hermione’s bed. He could feel her gaze and for some reason wanted to acknowledge it. For the first time in days, Hermione met Draco’s empty stare, making eye contact with him.

With that, Draco closed the window.

Dumbledore stood pondering to himself, There is no way she could fly like that after a couple of days of lessons. She is flying like a professional—as good as Draco. She is flying like Draco. There is just no way! No way, unless…

“Ah ha. That must be it. Well, well Dumbledore. I think you have found them after all,” he chuckled to himself, a flicker of hope illuminating his tired and frustrated eyes, as he continued to replay the match in the pensieve on his desk.

Chapter 9: The Dark Side of Assumptions
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Charged voices greeted Hermione and Draco, as the pair made their way to the Slytherin table for Sunday brunch. It was three and a half weeks until the highly anticipated costume ball and students were pairing up all around them, devising spells left and right to conceal their identities.

Hermione felt alienated from the excitement, she had no idea if she and Draco were even going to attend, let alone what spell they would use if they happen to go together. She knew a lot of the faculty assumed that she and Draco would be attending the ball together; but, she hated making assumptions. They were useless and only good for one thing—giving her false hope.

With great reluctance, Hermione sat down at the Slytherin table. Having slept poorly the night before, she frantically searched the table for pumpkin pasties, wanting nothing more than to quell her sudden craving. She was exhausted, frustrated and fed up with the person to her right. Releasing her anger, she slammed her hands down on either side of her golden plate, sending small vibrations down the long table.

Taken aback by Hermione’s sudden outburst of emotion, Draco suddenly became very aware of his surroundings. He could hear Goyle to his right clumsily chewing his bacon and he could feel Pansy’s piercing stare from across the table. He didn’t know what made him do it, but ignoring his Slytherin companions, he reached out and randomly grabbed the tray of food in front of him and instinctively passed it to Hermione.

Hermione’s eyes lit up suddenly calmed by Draco’s gesture. The tray was full of pumpkin pasties.

“Licorice Wands!” Snape sneered at the gargoyle in front of him. It quickly leapt aside, revealing a long, spiral stone staircase leading to Dumbledore’s office.

This better be good Snape thought to himself, as he reached up to bang the brass knocker on the oak door now in front of him.

But before his hand even grazed the golden griffin before his eyes, a majestic voice resounded knowingly from the depths of the headmaster’s office, “Enter, Severus.”

Snape entered a room he knew well. Greeted by the sea of portraits of headmasters past, Snape made his way over to a seated Dumbledore.

“I have some important information to share with you, Severus,” Dumbledore said as Snape approached his desk.

Severus stood silent waiting for Dumbledore to explain himself.

“I have a theory that I think might interest you. It involves Mr. Malfoy and Ms. Granger,” Dumbledore continued.

Snape suddenly found himself very intrigued.

“I realize that this “rebound-of-fate” has not come at the greatest time, considering the difficulties it poses for your house quidditch team. But, Severus this is quite a serious situation. The prophecy which I mentioned to you earlier, appears to have some truth to it,” Dumbledore explained.

“Truth?” Severus questioned, doing little to hide his skepticism. He had never been one to believe in prophecies or rely on divination.

“Yes. Our Mr. Malfoy and Ms. Granger have already fulfilled steps one and two. Surely, you have noticed a change in their behavior towards one another.”

Snape quickly recalled the last Potions lesson he had had with the pair. It had undoubtedly been unusual.

“Yes, I have, indeed, noticed some changes,” Snape admitted hesitantly.

“Their connection, however, seems to be transcending my original expectations,” Dumbledore reflected.

“Original expectations?” Snape asked.

“Oh yes, they have come much further than I thought was possible, given who we are dealing with here. But Severus, it appears they have reached a—how shall I put it—a plateau in their progress. They seem to be backtracking not progressing.”

Snape raised his eyebrow—a little confused, a little intrigued.

“I tried to figure out why, Ms. Granger and Mr. Malfoy stopped making progress. I assumed that there was only one way to go with these prophecies. Forward, of course. Alas, it appears I have assumed wrong. I gave no thought to the idea of stalled progress, let alone BACKTRACKING! But, it seems, in this case, there is an added dimension, which I was unable to foresee.”

At this point, Snape was completely lost, but he, nevertheless, continued to listen carefully to Dumbledore’s words.

“The only reason that I can legitimately attribute to their lack of progress is that they have yet to develop something—some kind of connection, something required of them—for their fate. This is where you come in, Severus,” Dumbledore said.

“Sir, I don’t quite understand,” Severus stated.

“Indeed, I am in great need of your assistance. It has come to my attention that you have issued a detention to both Mr. Malfoy and Ms. Granger,” Dumbledore questioned.

“Why yes, those two…” Severus snarled before being cut off by a determined Dumbledore.

“I understand, Severus, but I would like you to set aside any punishment you may be planning.”

“But sir, they need to be taught a…” Snape interrupted.

“Severus, I need you to explore this connection between Mr. Malfoy and Ms. Granger and see if you can uncover its source. I am still unclear as to exactly how Draco and Hermione are connected. It appears that times of extreme emotion in which they experience together trigger a unique and, more importantly, mutual power. In fact, it goes even further than I predicted, Severus.” Severus fell silent at Dumbledore’s revelation.

“They seem to acquire a certain ability to channel one another’s powers, predilections and personality traits. I don’t know yet if they are aware of this ability yet, but I do know the connection is there—and, it is extremely powerful if used correctly. It could be the key,” Dumbledore explained.

“To blind is to harness the ultimate power,” Snape recited, as if finally understanding what Dumbledore was trying to explain to him.

“Indeed, Severus, indeed.”

Hermione looked up at the ceiling in between bites of her pumpkin pasty, as a flurry of owls entered resolutely into the Great Hall searching for their owners.

She coughed, almost choking on her food, as she saw two brown tawny owls flying in her direction, each gripping a letter embellished in Hogwarts’ signature green ink.

This cannot be good she thought.

“Draco, hey, Draco!” She said nudging her companion in the ribs, trying to elicit his attention, “We received a summons from Snape.”

“A summons?” Draco questioned.

“Yes, a summons. Listen to this,” she began, as her eyes skimmed the letter now in her hands. Five words were written clearly across the piece of parchment, followed by an emboldened Slytherin crest.

Monday. Dungeons. Nine O’clock Sharp.

“Yours is the same,” Hermione continued, opening Draco’s scroll.

“This should be interesting,” Draco responded, trying hard to conceal a growing sense of anxiety. He had never received a detention from Snape before, but he assumed it was not going to be pleasant.

Having finished their food, Hermione and Draco started to make their way out of the Great Hall when their progress was impeded by an unexpected squeal.

“Draco! Draco,” Pansy exclaimed almost out of breath as she ran to catch up with them. “Draco!”

“Bloody hell, what does she want now?” Draco whispered, so that only Hermione could hear. She chuckled, as Pansy approached them.

“Draco, could I have a word with you in private!” she said firmly while glaring at Hermione.

“Umm, let me think. NO! I thought you weren’t speaking to me anyways,” Draco replied, but Pansy ignored him and pulled him away from Hermione.

“Hey!” Hermione yelled in defiance. Breaching the seven feet divide, Pansy had pulled Draco a little too far away from her, plunging Hermione into a darkness she had experienced only once before. “I don’t appreciate your blinding me, thank you very much.”

“Cool it, mudblood! I just want a word with my boyfriend!” Pansy retorted.

“Do not call her a mudblood!” Draco said firmly backing a few feet away from Pansy, while giving Hermione a chance to see again.

“Draco… I… oh, it doesn’t matter. Draco, I wanted to talk to you about our costumes for the Halloween ball. I was thinking…” Pansy rambled.

Hermione was soon distracted, however, by a tap on her shoulder. She turned around to see a tall, freckly redhead, standing before her.

“Ron!” Hermione blurted out in surprise.

“Hey!” he responded calmly. “Hermione, I noticed Draco is a little preoccupied, and I was wondering if I could have a word with you.”

“So, you are speaking to me then?” Hermione asked in surprise.

“Don’t do this,” Ron responded. “Hermione, I have just come to talk to you about costume ideas, for the ball.”

“For the ball? What are you talking about?” Hermione questioned.

“Yeah, I figured after the Yule ball fiasco in our fourth year, you and I would go together this time. I just assumed…”

“Ron, neither you nor Harry have spoken to me since the quidditch match. I think going to the costume ball together is a bit out of the question,” Hermione interrupted.

“Hermione, you can’t be serious. I really want to take you to this ball…” Ron began.

“No, Pansy! I will not wear your stupid costume nor will I go to the ball with you. I am not your boyfriend and I’m sorry Pansy, but you really just need to back off!” Draco shouted from somewhere behind Hermione.

“Wait, are you coming with me or not?” Ron pursued, in the midst of all the drama trying hard to regain Hermione’s now-divided attention.

“Draco…Drakey-poo…” Pansy began, almost pleading with him.

At this point, Draco and Hermione had backed so far away from Pansy and Ron that they had practically backed into each other. Overwhelmed by the confrontations, the pair lost all control.

“No!” they both cried in unison, channeling each other’s frustration and silencing their companions.

“I’m sorry Ron, but we don’t always get what we want…” Hermione whispered.

“Or what we assume we have…” Draco spat in the direction of Pansy’s whimpering.

At his last comment, Hermione grabbed Draco’s hand and pulled him out of the Great Hall, leaving Pansy and Ron behind them, both stunned and speechless.

“I’m sorry Draco, but I had to get out of there,” Hermione said as they entered into their warm and welcoming dormitory.

“Don’t worry about it,” Draco responded, “I should be thanking you, really. It was as if you read my mind.”

Chapter 10: A Drop of Amortentia
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Ron raced up to the Gryffindor common room, cursing under his breath. His face blushed red with fury, and he made no effort to hide his malcontent. The one girl he liked most in the entire school had just turned him down—ruthlessly at that.

Rushing from the Great Hall, he found it easier to flaunt his anger than surrender to his pain.

“Amortentia!” Ron shouted angrily at the portrait of the fat lady, guarding the entrance to the Gryffindor common room.

“What’s wrong, deary,” the portrait questioned, noticing an uncharacteristic irritation in Ron’s voice.

“Will you just open the door?” Ron spat impatiently.

“I was just…” the fat lady continued, but Ron did not stick around to hear her finish. Deliberately ignoring her sympathetic words, Ron raced into the Gryffindor common room, to find Harry and Ginny sprawled in front of the crackling hearth, beneath scrolls of parchment and unfinished essays.

In all honestly, the fire was soothing, but nothing could shake the agitation consuming him at that very moment,

“What’s wrong?” Harry probed, as a flushed Ron sat down next to him.

“It’s Hermione!” Ron shouted.

“What about her?” Harry said resentfully, dismissing the name. Harry had not forgiven Hermione for the quidditch match. She had turned her back on Gryffindor and shown her true colors—none of which were red or gold. He was probably overreacting, but any situation involving Malfoy tended to bring out the worst in him.

“I asked her to the—you know—to the costume ball…” Ron began, blushing furiously.

“Oh good, I don’t think I could take another Yule Ball fiasco. You guys were insane!” Harry laughed, invoking the long forgotten memory.

“Yeah, that is what I thought. I thought that whole incident implied that we would be going to the next ball together, if there were to be one. So, I explained this to Hermione and she…” Ron said.

“She what Ron?” Ginny asked disgusted, “Rejected you?”

Ron was a little taken aback by his sister’s audacious tone, but he managed to mumble, “Well...uhh… yeah. She rejected me!”

“Well, what did you expect idiot! You don’t talk to a girl for almost a month, shun her for an entire week, and then expect her to melt when you ask her out?” Ginny inquired devilishly, “Even you’re not that thickheaded!”

Harry couldn’t help but find this whole battle of the redheads hilarious. Harry and Ginny had been dating for a little over a year now; and, he still loved it when Ginny got angry and defensive. She was just so irresistible when she was feisty.

“But still,” Harry put in, while wrapping his arms around an unsuspecting Ginny, “I thought she liked Ron. I mean neither one of them is good at concealing their feelings. She wouldn’t just turn him down like that.”

“I would have turned you down,” Ginny responded curtly, turning on Harry. Harry fell silent, retracting his embrace and trying desperately to hide behind an unfinished essay, so as to avoid Ginny’s glare.

“I mean, you never know. Things can change quickly,” Ginny continued, turning back to a now very worried Ron.

“You think things have changed?” Ron asked desperately.

“No! I don’t. But, these past few weeks have been really hard on her. When she needed her two best friends the most, they were too selfish to swallow their pride for a second and just listen to her. I know this, because I have been the only one talking to her,” Ginny ranted in the boys’ direction. “No, Ron. I don’t think things have changed, but that does not mean that they won’t.”

“Draco, will you hurry up!” Hermione bellowed at the bathroom door. Draco had conveniently chosen to take a shower twenty minutes before their detention with Snape, and Hermione’s patience was wearing very thin. “You know it was our lack of punctuality that got us this detention in the first place!”

“Calm down! I’m coming… no need to scream. I’m blind not deaf, remember,” Draco said calmly, as he opened the door to their bathroom. Draco stood in the doorway for a second, letting the steam from his hot shower evacuate into their bedroom. He ran his fingers through his damp hair, ignoring the one stray strand that had fallen out of place, shading his right eye from her view.

Hermione could not help but think how handsome he looked; it was a fleeting thought, however. One, she dismissed very quickly.

“The time…” Hermione stuttered, regaining her composure, “We are running out of time.”

“Okay, will you just give me a second,” Draco chortled.

“Draco, we don’t have time for your games,” Hermione declared impatiently, “I may give you a second, but Snape sure as hell won’t and then he will blame everything on ME!”

“Oh suck it up, Granger! So, Snape hates you. Deal with it for a change,” Draco responded.

“Merlin, what have I done to deserve this!” Hermione shouted, raising her hands up toward the ceiling in absolute surrender.

“Hermione! Will you hurry up! We are going to be late,” Draco spat.

Hermione did not know what to say. She let out a frustrated growl and abiding by her better judgment chose not to respond to Draco’s tantalizing comment. She took his hand and the pair made their way to the dungeons. It was two minutes to nine.

“You’re LATE!” Snape snarled, at the two students now entering into the dungeon. Hermione glanced down at her watch. Indeed, it was five past nine.

“We’re sorry…” Hermione began, but was quickly interrupted by a very irritated Potions master.

“Shut up, Granger!” Snape barked, “And sit down.” He pointed fiercely, directing them to the desk right in the front-center of the room. A cauldron was already set up over a ravenous fire. Draco could feel the heat crawling up his spine, as Hermione and he approached their desk.

“Because of your impertinence and lack of respect, the two of you were unable to finish…” Snape started.

Unable? Are you kidding me? You freaking monster! Unable? More like prohibited, Hermione thought glaring at Snape. She felt the familiar anger filling her chest, stifling any patience she had reserved just for this night.

Draco sniggered. Hermione turned her head sharply towards Draco, surprised by his sudden outburst.

“What are you laughing about?” Hermione hissed, almost inaudibly.

“I never thought you would be one to talk back to a professor, let alone Snape,” Draco said, “I’m impressed, Granger.”

What is he talking about? She thought taken aback by Draco’s words.

“Excuse me, Mr. Malfoy! But, are my instructions interrupting your conversation? Or may I continue you unappreciative little ferret,” Snape sneered.

Draco sat with a bewildered look on his face. Why did Snape snap at me? Hermione was the one who intentionally disrespected him. Did she not just call him a monster?

“I did nothing of the sort,” she responded defensively.

Draco was officially confused. Did she just respond to my thoughts? Merlin, I think we are spending way too much time together, Draco continued thinking.

“Agreed!” Hermione whispered.

“Enough!” Snape yelled. He was enjoying this immensely. Never before had he been given permission to provoke students. Usually, he took his chances, and provoked them anyways. But something Dumbledore had said had hit a nerve.

It appears that times of extreme emotion in which they experience together trigger a unique and, more importantly, mutual power.

Snape ruminated over Dumbledore’s carefully chosen words.

Times of extreme emotion? What does that mean? Snape thought. He did not clearly know, but he was determined to find out.

Glaring disapprovingly at the two students before him, Snape continued, “As I was saying, because you were unable to finish your Shrouding Solution, I have already failed you for the assignment.”

Hermione began to whimper at the word failed when an unsuspecting pinch on the side of her thigh made her stop.

“Ouch!” she whispered so that only Draco could hear her.

“So, you failed one assignment! Suck it up, Granger!” Draco whispered back.

How did he know her so well? Hermione inhaled Draco’s words and turned her attention back to Snape.

“…but, I am giving you a chance to complete it. I am curious to see if your solution was a result of skill or chance. I know for a fact that it was the latter. I just thought you, too, should face the facts. Nothing is as it appears,” Snape finished menacingly.

Hermione sat over a bubbling solution that was now a bright purple—brighter than before.

Practice does breed perfection, Hermione thought smugly to herself. She had just finished adding the third ingredient. Stirring the hungry liquid carefully, first clockwise, followed by three stirs counterclockwise. She continued this pattern carefully and meticulous for seven minutes precisely.

As if on cue, the bubbling ceased, leaving Hermione and Draco with a calm, bright violet draught that was releasing a vague but enticing scent into the air.

Damn it! I need to do one more thing. Why does my memory fade me at the times I need it most! OH for goodness sake what it is my final ingredient. I’ve added Wolf’s Bane, Dragon Hide and Moonstone… what is the final ingredient!!! Hermione thought on the verge of tears and a freakish outburst.

“Love, Hermione,” Draco yawned. He had fallen asleep, something Snape had conveniently chosen to ignore.

“What?” Hermione bellowed, completely caught off guard by Draco’s sudden input.

“Relax. It’s not what you think,” Draco rolled his eyes, “Why are you always so defensive when I mention anything like… oh never mind. The ingredient you forgot—its love.”

“Oh, now I remember—a drop of Amortentia!”

“Only the world’s strongest love potion…” Draco said before falling back into his dreamy state.

“Right,” Hermione whispered. Draco never ceased to amaze her with the random bits of knowledge he kept hidden in his seemingly small brain. Hermione shook her head and let a small smile escape onto her face, as she added the lustrous and pearl-like liquid to her potion. A spiral of steam swirled into the air as the single drop hit the bright purple liquid beneath Hermione.

She gave the liquid a final stir in the counter-clockwise direction. She had finished, and by the looks of it, her Shrouding Solution was nothing short of perfection.

Snape sat silently, observing the pair. Their silent, often fragmented, interaction was puzzling and, at times, incomprehensible to the cynical Potions master.

They can read each other’s thoughts—that is clear; but, they are far from being masters of Occlumency. They don’t just read each other’s minds. It’s deeper than that—it must be for their power is too inconsistent, too uncontrolled. Snape thought. In the instant they can read each other’s thoughts, they are not mind readers, no. Oh no. In that instant, they are much more. They become one.

“Uhh! Professor…” a meek and unconfident voice suddenly drew Snape from his thoughts.

“What is it, Granger!” Snape barked at the bushy haired student before him.

“Professor, I’ve… I mean Draco and I have finished our Shrouding Solution,” Hermione finished.

“I see. So, you think you have finished…” Snape began rounding on Hermione and Draco’s cauldron.

Draco raised his head quickly, hearing Snape’s harsh and firm footsteps approach where he and Hermione were sitting. He couldn’t see Snape, but he could somehow feel the disbelief written all over Snape’s face at the site of Hermione’s potion.

“Did she… I mean… did we pass your test?” Draco asked provokingly.

“I am impressed, Granger. I did not believe you could be more full of yourself until today. You think that just because your solution is of the right color and general appearance of the Shrouding Solution, that you have automatically achieved what you have set out to do,” Snape snarled. “My dear girl, you have a lot to learn. Nothing is for sure until you test it.”

“Test?” Hermione squealed. Draco, too, shifted uneasily in his seat at Snape’s impending words. He did not like where his Head of House was going.

“Why, of course.”

“Doesn’t it take weeks to fully prepare the solution,” Draco put in, once again surprising Hermione by his knack for remembering details.

“To prepare a truly effective shrouding solution, yes, Draco. It does take two to three weeks. But this does not mean that your potion will not have any effect, if tested now. If you are on the right track, it will simply have a diluted, but nevertheless similar effect on the human soul once ingested,” Snape explained.

“But this is borderline dark magic. The ministry—Dumbledore—would never in their wildest dreams approve of such a test,” Hermione articulated, arguing her case logically while trying hard to ignore the fear filling her chest cavity.

Snape sneered, a sinister smile now occupying his cruel face. Dumbledore wanted him to test their power. He knew of only one way to do so.

“Granger, argue what you will. Nothing will change the fact that neither the Ministry nor the Headmaster are in this room!”

Chapter 11: The Interruption
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Unlike the invisibility cloak, the Shrouding solution does not glean its power from the ability to deceive sight, but relies, instead, on its ability to deceive all of the senses. When brewed well, it is designed to reach into the depths of the drinker’s soul and change not only the person’s appearance, but also the sole characteristic that makes them who they are.

Hermione ruminated over the description of the Shrouding solution she had found in the rear of her Potion’s textbook in her fourth year. She had found this particular potion to be especially intriguing since it was the first potion she encountered that truthfully scared her. She had always wanted to learn how to brew the potion; but, never had she, in her six and a quarter years at Hogwarts, ever thought of testing it.

“Fill the vials carefully to the brim, Ms. Granger—I said carefully,” Snape sneered, doing little to hide the menacing undertone of his voice.

Hermione’s hands were shaking as she slowly poured spoonful after spoonful of silky violet potion into the twin antique silver vials seated on her desk, now separating her from Draco.

“That’s it. Now let the potion sit, wait till it foams at the top,” Snape directed.

Hermione was almost in a panic. She looked to Draco for support, but being the blind bat that he was, he showed no emotion to the whole situation—no fear, no support. He sat patiently, almost as if he were in denial, like he was expecting the ministry to walk in at any moment and save them from the atrocity that was to come.

Nobody came—much to Draco and Hermione’s disappointment. And, the potion—had started foaming.

“It is time!” Snape said menacingly. Hermione could tell that he was thoroughly enjoying this.

“Remind me again why we are testing our solution?” Draco queried, the anxiety rising in his voice. “I mean what if Hermione made a mistake—I can’t see so I don’t know what is in… OUCH!”

Hermione struck Draco in the rib cage, causing Draco to lose his balance momentarily while gasping for air. Grabbing hold of the table, Draco prevented his fall, but his lungs, now thoroughly sore, found it a little harder to breath.

“Nothing is as it seems,” Snape replied. There was a temporary pause.

“NOTHING IS AS IT SEEMS?!??” Hermione cracked. “What kind of answer is that? You want us to risk our lives so you can have a little fun. I can’t believe… I mean you are a professor…there are protocols and a code of decorum… I mean, MERLIN, Dumbledore trusts… he…”

“…is not here, Ms. Granger!” Snape finished. “Now, drink. The two of you, NOW!”

Obeying orders, Hermione handed Draco his vial and, in turn, reached for hers. She was about to drink when, suddenly a voice, emerging for the shadows of the eerie dungeon, made her stop.

“Put the glass down please, Ms. Granger.”

Thrown completely aback by the headmaster’s unexpected appearance, Draco fell off his chair smashing his empty vial to smithereens. In a flash, Snape’s grin transformed into an unmistakable frown, and Hermione—well Hermione was just plain relieved.

Ron was growing desperate. Hermione had avoided him all weekend and he did not know what to do anymore. He liked her. He really liked her.

Why, of all years, did this whole rebound of fate have to happen NOW? Ron thought furiously, disgusted by the irony of his life.

This was his year. The year he had resolved to finally ask her out. In fact, that night—the night this whole thing had started, he had approached her in the library. Actually, he had waited, past curfew, for the library to empty, so that he could talk to her—alone.

He had been so nervous. His palms were wet with sweat and his face was burning, reaching a complexion hotter than that of the sun. How many times he had performed a drying charm, he did not remember. A calming drought probably would not have had any effect over the anxiety that had pervaded his bloodstream that night.

After many hours of waiting in anticipation, he remembered the library finally being vacant. He remembered approaching her from behind a stack of Defense Against the Dark Arts books. Of course, she was in the library reading the latest edition of Hogwarts a History. She was always quoting from that book.

He remembered sneaking up on her and placing his shaking hand firmly on her left shoulder—slightly frightening her. The smile that had crept across her face, however, upon her realization that it was her red headed friend who interrupted her studying and not some stranger, haunted and teased him day and night—giving him hope when nothing else did.

“Hi!” he had managed to whisper, gracing her ear with his playful voice.

“Hi!” she had said back. He swore there was a kind of expectancy in her voice, like she had been waiting for this moment—the moment where they could be alone—just as long as he had.

Ron collapsed on his bed, emerging from the flashback. He placed his head in his hands—defeated. Not only had he failed to ask her out, but they had fought that night: something along the lines of never doing homework and always taking advantage of her.

Lying back on his pillows, he sprawled himself out over his covers. He was desperate. He was running out of time and he still needed to convince her. He needed to show her—just how much he cared. He sat up against his pillows, in the comfort and privacy of his bed. Reaching into the inner pocket of his shoddy second-hand robes, he withdrew a vial. Letting the antique encasing rest firmly in the palm of his hands, his fingers began to fiddle with the pearly liquid, almost nervously—almost guiltily.

He was desperate. Now, locking his eyes on the vial of Amortentia in his hand—he began to wonder.

Am I desperate enough?

“Severus, could I have a word with you?” Dumbledore said wistfully, emerging fully from the shadows to reveal his billowing robes, accented by his long white beard and half-moon spectacles.

“Of cour…course, Headmaster,” Snape stammered, half annoyed by the interruption and half fearful of his superior’s forthcoming reaction. Snape walked over to Dumbledore’s side of the dungeon, just out of earshot of a relieved Hermione and a fallen Draco.

“Severus, would you be so kind as to explain what exactly you are planning to gain by this course of action?” Dumbledore probed.

“I am just following orders, Headmaster,” Snape responded.

“Severus,” Dumbledore began, carrying an undertone of disappointment in his voice, “I am afraid this is not what I meant, when I came to you for help. Do you understand the severity of the situation at hand?”

“Yes, Headmaster.”

“I don’t think you do. We are dealing with a sacred prophecy and you are too engrossed in procuring revenge on their momentary insolence that you too have been blinded,” Dumbledore said calmly.

“Headmaster…” Snape began, but was quickly silenced.

“These two students are neither aware of the prophecy nor do I want them to be aware of it. They have been affected by some extremely powerful magic. I do not need them to worry about the ulterior motives of a professor they are supposed to be able to trust. You will grade their potion without further testing. Are we clear…” Dumbledore said.

But before he could finish, Dumbledore’s intervention was interrupted by a cry of confused panic. Draco had stood up and was frantically looking around the dungeon. He was running in place, turning around and around. Laying eyes on the student next to him, he ran up to Hermione, a grin making its way onto his face.

Draco grabbed Hermione’s shoulders.

“Hermione! Ask me… ask me what color your shirt is?!? God damn it, ASK ME!”

In a half confused, half panicked voice, she obliged to Draco’s request, “What color is my shirt, Malfoy? Not that you will be able to…”

“It is blue with a white lacy trim on the edges of the sleeves,” Draco exclaimed proudly.

Hermione was so shocked at Draco’s correct response; she did not know what to say. There was no possible way he could have known what she was wearing. Besides the fact that he was blind, he had never really seen her wearing normal, muggle clothing before. In his presence, she usually sported her black Hogwarts robes, with the red and gold Gryffindor logo. For Snape’s detention tonight, she had unusually opted for something more comfortable. Lazily, she had put on a muggle outfit, replacing her black robes with a pair of denim jeans and the lacy blue top, Draco had just described to her.

“How—Draco, how did you know?” Hermione stammered.

“Hermione, I can see. My vision is not as clear as before, but I can see you! I—I think it was the potion. I had already drunk my potion before Dumbledore had instructed us not to.”

“That’s impossible… you can’t just be cured like that,” Hermione said, doing little to hide her skepticism.

“Fine, ask me something else!” Draco prompted.

At this point, Dumbledore and Snape had made their way over to the pair, curious as to what had made Draco scream with such utter panic and joy.

“Alright, Mr. Malfoy,” Dumbledore began intrigued by the young man’s challenge, “Please describe the vial, which contains Ms. Granger’s serving of Shrouding Solution?”

“The one sitting on the desk, directly in front of her?” Draco clarified.

“That is the one…” Dumbledore said, a little more excitedly.

“It is silver, but it has lost its shine. It looks rather antique, definitely not something you could find in Diagon alley nowadays. It is too outdated,” Draco recited, accurately.

“Headmaster, how—I mean how is this possible?” Snape reacted in disbelief.

“Interesting, Draco. It seems that the rebound of fate may have worn off or fallen into a type of remission…” Dumbledore said a little disappointed; he had hoped Hermione and Draco would be the ones.

“Not quite!” Hermione interrupted Dumbledore’s pre-emptive disappointment.

After Draco’s miraculous recovery, Hermione had let her skepticism get the better of her. Instead of rejoicing with her companion, she decided to perform a little test, while a seemingly cured Draco distracted Dumbledore and Snape. Hermione had inched slowly away from the three men standing before her, purposefully breaching her seven feet limit. Standing towards the back of the dungeon, Hermione called to Dumbledore.

“He may be able to see, but I still cannot go beyond seven feet without losing my sight. So, either his sight is a further development in this whole rebound of fate situation or his sight is only temporary,” Hermione analyzed.

“Professor, I can see—well not clearly, but I can see,” Draco told the Headmaster eagerly. “Please tell me that this is a permanent thing. I don’t think I can go on living without my sight,” Draco said honestly, almost pleading with Dumbledore.

“Draco, we cannot be sure that you have permanently regained your sight,” Dumbledore replied, instantly depleting Draco’s high hopes.

“I don’t know how to explain it to you, but I can see. I mean—I drank some of the potion—and then my vision, it just cleared up. It was like this curtain had been lifted revealing an audience that was Hermione. I could see her, so incredibly clearly—and then you,” Draco rambled.

“Wait—you did drink some of the potion then,” Snape said sinisterly. “Professor, this isn’t permanent. It is a diluted effect of the Shrouding Solution.”

“I see…” Dumbledore said pensively, now eyeing Draco’s smashed but empty vial on the floor behind Draco’s feet.

“NOOO! I can see; I swear I can—I have to be able to see,” Draco howled. The blond was so distraught by the prospect of losing his sight yet again that he just broke down. What emotion he had attempted to contain these past few weeks, flooded from the depths of his chest. In front of everyone, he bent down on his knees and collapsed on the frigid dungeon floor, letting his frustration fall relentlessly from his eyes.

Hermione leaned down next to Draco; and, as if obeying an unexpected instinct, wrapped Draco in a tight embrace. What she did not expect was for Draco to return the gesture. Finding comfort in Hermione’s reassuring hug, Draco collapsed in her arms for the second time in his life. The pair stayed there on the dungeon floor, under the watchful eyes of both Dumbledore and Snape, both of whom were absolutely taken aback by the display of emotion and affection between Draco and Hermione. Minutes rolled by, before Draco regained his composure.

“How long do I have before my sight wears off again?” Draco asked, directing his question more towards Snape.

“Because the potion was not brewed to its fullest capacity, probably only a couple of hours,” Snape responded curtly.

“May we leave?” Draco asked Dumbledore.

“Yes, Draco—you may.”

Without further discussion, Draco took Hermione by the hand and led her determinedly from the dungeon.

A familiar silence accompanied Draco and Hermione, as the pair made their way into their common room. Hermione did not know what to say to comfort Draco—she knew how hard it was for him, but she also knew that words were of no comfort to him right now. So, she obeyed the silence between them, waiting for Draco to make the first sound.

And he did.

“I’m sorry—“ Draco began, standing in front of the fireplace. He was oddly handsome, standing before the faint light of the flames. Half in shadow, his face embraced a sadness Hermione had never seen before. His blond hair had fallen slightly out place, giving Draco a slightly disheveled air. But he wore it well—and she noticed.

“Why are you sorry?” Hermione asked sincerely.

“I did not mean to break down back there—it was inappropriate and if I made you uncomfortable in any…” Draco answered.

“You didn’t,” Hermione replied. “In all honestly, I knew it was bound to happen eventually. I mean you can’t blind yourself and then be forced to live with a complete stranger and not have a meltdown eventually.”

“I am a Malfoy. We are strong—meltdowns are not acceptable. Therefore, I am sorry.”

“Why do close yourself off—you sound like a geometrical proof. Let A be this, then B is this by this ridiculously stupid theorem, and therefore we can conclude that C is this.”

“Geometrical proof?” Draco questioned.

“Right, sorry. No muggle speak!” Hermione apologized. “But seriously, Draco. It is okay to be vulnerable—I mean I won’t tell anyone if that is what you are worried about.”

“I am not worried about—ahh, just forget it,” Draco said, defeated.

“No, Draco, I won’t forget about it—you are a human first, Malfoy second. You can’t deprive yourself of your humanity,” Hermione argued.

Silence. Believing the conversation to be over, Hermione turned to leave, knowing that for the night at least, Draco would be able to find his own way up to the dormitory. She, of course, had memorized the layout of the dormitory; and, even though she hated having her sight taken away from her, she could manage without her sight for a little while—if that meant giving Draco some much needed space.

“Do you know how beautiful you are?” Draco asked, as she began to climb the first step.

Hermione stopped dead in her tracks, baffled by Draco’s comment. She did not know how to respond. She did not know if he was kidding; and, she did not dare ask for any kind of clarification. She just stood at the bottom of the stairs, staring at the handsome man standing before her.

“Do you know how beautiful you are?” he repeated.

“No, beautiful is not usually a word used to describe a mudblood like me,” Hermione said, choosing her words carefully. She had turned away from Draco’s gaze, almost in shame.

A sudden grasp on her shoulder, startled her but at the same time sent a wave of comfort down her spine. Draco’s grasp on her shoulder was firm and purposeful; and, in that moment, all she knew was that no one’s touch had ever done as much to her as his had just then.

“Well, you are,” Draco said, before ascending the stairs ahead of Hermione, leaving her in an uncertain daze.


Dearest readers and reviewers,

So, this chapter marks a pretty momentous point in my story and I thought I would take the time to thank you personally. I cannot say it enough… all of you have made writing this story an absolute pleasure. And, even though I have taken forever to update, you have been patient with me and I thank you. Thanks for catching my mistakes as well! I really do thrive off your feedback and I cannot wait to hear what all of you have to say about where my story is heading.

Thanks for the reviews and reads and I hope you enjoyed this latest addition to Blinded.

Yours always, foreverfleur

P.S. Here is a shout out to my wonderful editor-in-chief Melissa, who has worked tirelessly along side of me from the very beginning to make this story the best it can possibly be.

Chapter 12: Somewhere Between the Robes
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Hermione stood in front of the mirror, furiously combing the uncontrollable mess streaming from her head. She stared at her reflection and frowned.

Me…beautiful? What was he thinking…? Hermione thought hopelessly.

“He wasn’t thinking, that’s what,” she spat at her reflection.

A week had passed and things had returned to normal—or as normal as they could ever be after the incident on the stairs. Draco was back to being his annoying and narcissistic self. His blindness, however, seemed to bother him more than usual these days, especially after letting it just slip through his hands for the second time in his life. Hermione, however, was finding it difficult to forget.

Do you know how beautiful you are? Hermione ruminated over Draco’s words. His voice was so calm when he had spoken those words to her Monday night. She, on the other hand, had almost collapsed; her heart was beating so rapidly. And then he touched her.

Why did he have to touch me? Hermione thought, getting angrier and angrier at her reflection.

There was a loud bang on the bathroom door. “Hermione will you hurry up! You have been in there all morning—if you haven’t fixed it yet, there is absolutely nothing you will be able to do!” Draco yelled at the thick wooden door, barring him from the bathroom.

Ever since the incident, she had started to break her own “twenty-minutes only” rule. What she did in front of the mirror, he had no idea.

“Will you shut up and be patient for one second in your life!” Hermione said irritated with the blonde’s impatience. Hermione shot her hair with three sparks of green light from the tip of her wand. Her bushy brown hair fell to her shoulders, forming loose, thick curls.

“Whatever…” she whispered to herself, giving her reflection one last look. She opened the door, to meet Draco’s aggravated expression.

“Finally…” Draco exclaimed. Using his hands to guide him through the wooden entrance, he walked his way into the bathroom, brushing up ever so slightly against Hermione’s robe, catching a whiff of her fragrance. He slammed the door behind him. And fell heavily against the back of the now closed door.

Draco closed his eyes, re-conjuring the unexpected events of Monday night. He had gone over the incident several times over the past couple of days; and still, he had trouble understanding exactly what had happened. He knew what he had said. He knew he had meant it too; but, for the life of him, he had no idea what made him say it—what made him lose all control.

Standing in the warmth of the fire, he remembered seeing Hermione turn to leave just when he needed her most. The only person that made him feel whole was ending their conversation, and he couldn’t let her go. It was like he was obeying instinct, like he knew from the beginning, what words would get her to stay just a second longer.

Ridiculous! Draco thought, quickly shaking the memory of the previous Monday from his mind. He turned on the tap and dipped his legs into the pool of hot water.

Is it so ridiculous? He questioned one last time, before jumping in and completely submerging his body under water.

“Are you ready, yet?” Harry bellowed to his red-haired companion from the bottom of the girl’s staircase in the Gryffindor common room. He knew Ginny’s habits inside and out and had expected that she would not be ready on time—but this was getting a little ridiculous. He could handle ten or fifteen minutes but thirty was borderline insanity.

“What is the rush, Potter? I waited for you for four years and you can’t wait an extra couple of minutes for me to get ready?” Ginny retorted while walking down the stairs toward the cushion where Harry was laying down.

“Was I worth the wait?” Harry said playfully, pulling her down to the floor. As she fell to his side, her red hair flared in the light of the flames, illuminating her brilliant brown eyes.

“No, but I certainly am!” Ginny said smirking, doing little to feign modesty. She yawned, “So, why are we going into Hogsmeade this early in the morning anyways. No one usually goes till mid-morning.”

“Don’t we have to get our costumes for the Halloween ball?” Harry questioned a little surprised that he had to ask. Usually shopping was the girls’ thing—but since Hermione had left their group, he, as the good boyfriend, was forced to take over for her.

“Right! I completely forgot about the Halloween ball,” Ginny said, amazed at her boyfriend’s actual willingness to go shopping.

“We only have two more weeks to prepare and this is the last Hogsmeade visit. So, I thought we could get a head start. Plus a little extra time with you—I mean,” Harry trailed off, sporting a mischievous grin on his face.

“Hey! What are you two doing up so early…” Ron asked, emerging from the boy’s dormitory. “Heading to Hogsmeade already?”

“Yeah, Harry wants to go shopping!” Ginny said laughing. Ron just looked at the pair of them with a puzzled expression, but decided against asking for clarification.

“Do you want to come with us? We’re going to look for costumes for the ball,” Harry asked.

“Nah… I think I’ll…” Ron began before being interrupted by his sister.

“Hey, Harry! Do you think Hermione will be there today? Flitwick wanted me to give her something—and I just haven’t found the time to give it to her. Plus with Malfoy around these days—”

“Yeah probably,” Harry said, only slightly resentful. In weeks following the match, he seemed to have gotten over his anger about the quidditch matter. He realized now, he missed Hermione more than he was angry with her.

“Okay good,” Ginny said, standing up and turning to leave. “Oh, so Ron! Are you coming with us or not?”

“Uhh, you know what, I think I will! But can you give me a second! I forgot something in my room,” Ron said, as he sprinted back to his dormitory, leaving the pair behind him.

Ron rummaged through his trunk, searching frantically under the piles of clothes and books that were dispersed throughout the room.

I had it last night he thought. His eyes scanned the room and stopped when his gaze landed on his nightstand. There.

Ron walked solemnly over to the nightstand and stood in an almost pensive trance, before reaching out for the object sitting on the table’s surface. Grasping it in his hand, he pocketed the vial of Amortentia before heading out to meet his sister and best friend.

“Will you stop whining?” Hermione hissed, trying not to make a scene. Dragging Draco by the hand, Hermione entered Gladrags Wizardwear with an agenda to find the perfect costume for ball that was less than three weeks away. She had not yet found a date to the ball, but that was the last thing on her mind—or so she tried to convince herself.

“Why can’t we just wear our school robes?” Draco questioned, “We are allowed to use one spell, aren’t we? I don’t understand why we can’t just wear our school robes!”

“You can wear your school robes if you would like,” Hermione said calmly. “I would like to take the chance to wear something different for a change. It is a costume ball, Draco. And by definition you are supposed to go in…”

“I know what a costume ball is, thank you very much,” he barked back at her between the racks of secondhand dress robes. “Fine, I’ll wear your stupid costume, if you are going to be this adamant about it.”

“You don’t have to wear anything. I’m not forcing you to do anything—that was Pansy remember,” Hermione said, smirking smugly.

“Oh yeah,” he smiled slyly. “So—” he began, feeling his way from rack to rack of robes, uniforms, and surprisingly muggle clothing.

“So, what?” Hermione said nonchalantly, while taking a look at the red gown in front of her.

“So, what spell are we going to use—for the ball I mean? We can only use one, so we better make it a good…”

“WE?” Hermione replied, intrigued by Draco’s question.

“Yeah, well given our situation, I thought—maybe—we could, you know, go together,” Draco managed to mumble.

“Actually, I have been meaning to ask you too!” Hermione said, a little bit more confidently.

“Oh, you have…” Draco said puzzled.

“Yeah! Only because, well do you remember our shrouding solution?” Hermione asked.

“How could I forget?!” Draco grumbled.

“Oh, right. Well, I have been meaning to tell you that I stole my vial of the shrouding solution before we left the dungeon that night and have been secretly brewing the potion in our bathroom. I figured we could use it the night of the ball that way you could have your sight for a couple of hours and I could get a chance to see what effect the potion has over me. It’s not a spell and we might get disqualified from the competition but I’m just so curious!” Hermione rambled mischievously.

So that is what she has been doing in the bathroom all that time Draco thought excitedly.

“We would only need one vial for the two of us, because by the time the ball comes around, it’s going to be twice as strong as when you tested it. So we will only need to drink half as much. But yeah—It should be ready by the night of the ball, if you want to try it,” Hermione continued.

I swore she was doing her hair Draco thought half listening to her.

“I was NOT!” Hermione responded indignantly, half lying to her companion.

“You were not what?” Draco asked, a little surprised. He turned to face the direction from where Hermione’s voice had resonated.

I am not that shallow! Hermione thought to herself. “Nothing, nothing,” she said, trying to change the subject.

“I never said that you were shallow! When did I say that you were shallow?” Draco was now very confused. He remembered the argument they had had in Snape’s dungeon. He swore they had been able to read each other’s minds.

Can you read my thoughts? He thought.

“No, I cannot read—” Hermione stopped dead in her tracks, silenced by the realization that she and Draco were more deeply connected than she had originally predicted. “What does this mean?” she questioned, reducing her voice to a hushed and hurried whisper.

I don’t know Draco thought. His heart was racing now.

“Why do these things keep happening to me? You know a normal girl has to decide between a strapless dress or a halter, blue or red, silk or cotton. Why am I stuck with a Malfoy who can read my mind?” Hermione said in frustration.

“Hermione, calm down. It’s not the end of the world…” Draco began.

“It’s not the end of the world? I have no privacy any more!” she was almost screaming at him.

You can read my thoughts, my private thoughts Hermione thought, glaring at the blond, almost in tears.

“Listen to me. First off, I am not intentionally trying to read your mind, it just happens. Second of all—” Draco said, closing in on Hermione who had turned her back on him.

“What?” she said, turning around only to find Draco within four inches of her body.

“Second of all—I think you should wear the blue, silk, strapless dress,” he whispered in her ear, “It goes better with your eyes, and will go nicely with my black—what do you muggles call them—my black tuxedo.”

Hermione was breathless. Her heart was racing at a hundred kilometers an hour. She had no idea what to do, what to say—how to react. She backed into the rack of robes behind her.

“Okay?” Draco said calmly, raising his firm hand to stroke her loose curls.

“Okay,” she managed. Hermione looked away, and Draco, coming to his senses, backed away.

“I’ll go pay for these then. You can pay me back when we get back to our room,” Hermione stated. “Stay here, I’ll be back and then we can go—” Hermione lost track of her words again.

“—to the Three Broomsticks. Perfect, I’ll wait here,” Draco finished. He did not know what had come over him, but for some reason he liked it. “Yeah, I’ll wait here,” he repeated, almost in a daze.

“So, what spell should we use?” Ginny asked, as she strolled out of Honeydukes, hand-in-hand with Harry. Ron had decided to go ahead to Zonkos without them; he said he needed to replenish his collection of dungbombs, but he was really sick of feeling like a third wheel.

“I don’t know?” Harry replied.

“We could use some kind of transfiguration spell! I would love to be a lion or something…” Ginny said.

“Of course you would,” Harry said absentmindedly.

“What is that supposed to mean?” she said, hitting him on the arm.

“Ow!” he chuckled. “Nothing…I didn’t mean anything by it!”

“Yes you did…”

“No! I didn’t…”

“Yes… Hey Harry! Is that Hermione in Gladrags?”

“Yeah! I think it is!”

“Great! So, I’ll meet you and Ron in Zonkos in a second. I have to go give this to Hermione really quickly!”

“Yeah, okay!” he said, a little relieved the sighting of Hermione had ended their argument.

“And don’t think you are getting off that easy. I’m going to find out what you meant… you just wait!” Ginny bellowed at Harry’s back, as she entered the clothing store.

She turned to find Hermione but stopped when she saw Draco. Ginny quickly found a hiding place between two incredibly hideous racks of secondhand dress robes and watched as Draco used the clothing racks to feel his way closer and closer to Hermione.

“Second of all—” Ginny overheard Draco say. She saw Hermione turn around, so that she was face to face with Draco, no less than four inches from his body.

What is she doing? Ginny thought completely thrown aback by the whole situation.

“Second of all—I think you should wear the blue, silk, strapless dress. It goes better with your eyes, and will go nicely with my black—what do you muggles call them—my black tuxedo.” Draco’s voice carried over to where Ginny was hiding.

She saw him raise his hand and caress Hermione’s curls. This can’t be happening! Ginny thought in disbelief. She ran out of the store in search of Harry, leaving the pair behind her.

“Harry! Harry! You are never going to believe this!” she said, panting as she ran into Zonkos. “I think…”

“What’s wrong?” Harry questioned, a little concerned.

“No, no nothing’s wrong! Well, something is wrong! But, Harry…” Ginny managed, gasping for air.

“Spit it out will you!” Harry said, anxiously.

“Harry, I think something is going on between Hermione and Draco! I saw them in Gladrags. They were in a corner and…”

A loud noise had interrupted Ginny’s stream of words. She turned around, to find a very angry and worried Ron towering above a broken set of wizard’s chess that was shattered to pieces all over the floor.

It had been fifteen minutes since they had sat down to drink their butterbeers in the Three Broomsticks, and neither Draco nor Hermione had uttered a word. Both were confused and a little scared about what had happened in the corner of Gladrags.

“So—” Draco began.

“Oh goodness, not another so—” Hermione said, flustered by Draco’s attempt to start conversation.

“No, I—what do you think is going to happen to us when we ingest the final solution?” Draco asked.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Hermione stated frankly. “Wait, then you agree with me? You want to try it?”

“Yes! Of course!”

They each took a sip of their butterbeers. Hermione suddenly started laughing.

“What is so funny?” Draco asked looking at her in amused disbelief.

“You have…” Hermione couldn’t control herself. “You have a foam moustache.” She had no idea why she found it so hilarious. In that moment, all she knew was that she preferred her laughter to their silence.

“A moustache…” Draco couldn’t help but chuckle at the idea.

“Yeah…” Hermione said, while she lifted up her hand to wipe the foam from his upper lip.

“Hermione!” Ron said, catching her completely off guard.

Hermione looked around. “Oh! Hi, Ron!” she said, turning away from Draco and his foam moustache, a little surprised by the intrusion. “Hey would you like to join us for drinks? Here, I’ll get you one!” Hermione hopped down from her chair and went up to the bar, leaving the two boys behind her.

Ron pulled up a chair and sat next to Draco, who seemed very absorbed in his thoughts. Ron held the bottle of Amortentia tightly in his hands for a second and then opened it slowly so that Draco would not hear him place it on the table. Draco noticed a change in the scent of the air, but dismissed it when Ron began to speak.

“Draco, I know what you are doing, and I want you to know that I’m on to you,” Ron whispered menacingly, so that only Draco could hear him.

“Oh you do, do you? And what might that be Weasel?” Draco sniped back at him. The scent was stronger now—familiar even.

What is that smell? Draco thought. Ron’s hand trembled as he poured the potion into Hermione’s drink.

“Just know ferret, I’m on to you!” Ron said, while tucking the now empty vial into the inside pocket of his robes.

“I’m back! Here you go Ron!” Hermione said.

“Thanks, Hermione!”

“Hermione, I thought you would like to know that your friend, Ron here, has just been threatening…” Draco stopped mid-sentence, as he put two and two together—first the change in the air and then Ron’s accusatory statement.

Merlin's beard! It’s Amortentia! I knew I had smelled that scent before—in the dungeon while making the Shrouding Solution.

“Wait a minute! Hermione don’t take a sip of …”

But it was too late. No sooner that she had taken a seat, had she taken a sip of her butterbeer. It was as if a huge gust of wind had flooded her system, leaving her empty save her need, her desire, her love—for him.

“…your drink.” Draco finished.

She blinked and smiled, looking up at one of the two handsome men before her. “It’s strange that I’m only telling you this now, I have meant to for awhile. But, I think I’m in love with you!”

Chapter 13: His Only Chance
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Ginny bent down to clean up the shattered wizard’s chess set, her brother had abandoned in a hurry. Her hand was shaking as she began to pick up the pieces, one by one. How much had her brother heard? What was he going to do? She thought to herself. She knew that Ron had liked Hermione for years. Apart from Harry, she was the only other person he had confided in, not that it was entirely difficult to tell. Practically, the entire student body knew how Ron felt towards the bushy brown haired know-it-all.

“Ginny,” Harry whispered, bending down to lend her a comforting hand. “You don’t need to…” and with a wave of his wand, he repaired the chess set to its original condition.

“Oh right,” Ginny said, still fully absorbed in her thoughts. She stood up quickly. “Harry, you don’t think…”

“What?” Harry questioned, an air of concern lining his voice.

Anxiety flushed her already rosy cheeks. “You don’t think—Ron will do something stupid,” she questioned. “We should go after him.”

“Ron wouldn’t do anything.”

“No, you are right,” she said sarcastically, gaping at Harry in disbelief. “He has only loved Hermione since, I don’t know, the beginning of time!”

Ginny stared searchingly into Harry’s eyes. Without another word, the pair traced Ron’s steps out of the shop and into the streets.

“I love you!” Hermione breathed.

“Excuse me?” Draco exclaimed bewildered by the passion exuding from Hermione’s voice.

“I love you,” Hermione blushed.

“You what?” Draco questioned again.

But Hermione ignored him. “I love you!” she said more forcibly, staring directly into Ron’s brilliant blue eyes.

“I…err…me too!” Ron offered, overwhelmed by Hermione’s sudden affection. She had inched her chair closer to his and was now looking adoringly into his eyes, her lips inches from his.

Draco choked on his butterbeer, almost spitting it out onto the table in front of him. “That’s it!” he snickered at Ron. “She finally divulges her love for you—and that’s all you can give her! I…err…me too!” Draco mocked relentlessly. “Weasel you are one hopeless idiot.”

“Shut up, Malfoy,” Hermione snapped quickly. “At least someone loves him. That’s more than I can say for you.” She turned back to Ron, her fingers brushing through his soft and welcoming red hair while a small but purposeful smile inched across her face.

A million thoughts raced through Draco’s mind as he sat silently, sipping his butterbeer just listening to the now very-in-love and very annoying pair whisper into each other’s ears. He knew from the beginning that she was not talking to him. He knew from the beginning, but for some reason he was not convinced. He was not ready to give up—hope.

Draco groaned. The Amortentia, he thought, good thing it was just a sip. I don’t know how much of this lovey-dovey crap I will be able to take.

“You don’t have to take any of it!” Hermione spat in response to Draco’s thoughts, turning away again from a very surprised and confused Ron.

“Bloody hell, can’t a man think to himself these days!” Draco exclaimed.

“I will not have you thinking poorly of my love—my soul mate,” she said in a daze again, looking at a smiling Ron.

“Your soul mate?” Draco snickered. I feel very bad for you, madam, if Ronald Weasley turns out to be your soul mate! he thought knowing very well that Hermione would be able to read his mind. He heard her huff and knew instantly that she was not amused by his telepathic retort.

“Draco, honestly, what is your problem?” Hermione bellowed from under Ron’s warm embrace.

“You’re the problem,” Draco mumbled in reply.

Holding Hermione close to his chest, Ron loosened his grip as he watched the pair banter back and forth. Even with the Amortentia I can’t keep her thoughts off him for more than ten minutes, Ron sighed to himself, frustrated by the scene before him.

“Hermione, don’t… don’t let him bother you,” Ron pleaded lovingly, stroking her beautiful curls, stopping them from obscuring her mesmerizing eyes while, at the same time, trying to regain her full attention.

“Actually Hermione,” Draco continued knowing fully well that he was being an annoying—interrupting—prat, “I wouldn’t mind another butterbeer—if it isn’t too bothersome. Uh…” Draco cleared his throat. “Hermione will you get me another butterbeer? Her… HERMIONE!”

“What DRACO? Can’t you see I’m in the middle of something here! Why are you constantly interrupting my life,” Hermione snapped back.

“Oh oh, I’m sorry. I had no idea that I was interrupting your precious little life!” Draco said dramatically, with a side of obvious sarcasm. “I mean if my disabling blindness is getting in the way of you know…”

“Oh stuff it, ferret face!” she retorted.

“Seems like you have a feisty one on your hands, there Ron! No wonder you needed Amort…” Draco started, half out of irritation, half out of plain jealousy.

“Hermione will you please get me another butterbeer,” Ron said, cutting Draco off mid sentence, while waving his empty bottle in front of her.

“Of course, I will my Ronnykins. Anything for you!” she said while getting down from her chair.

“Oh yeah sure, get him a refill but ignore the disabled one. You’re the best Hermione!” Draco spat sarcastically. Ron handed her two sickles and gave her a small, but audible kiss on the cheek.

“Hear that Draco, that’s why I get him refills,” Hermione said mischievously, with a flick of her light and flirtatious curls. Ron blushed scarlet.

“Okay so, that’s all I have to do—kiss you on the cheek…that is where he kissed you, I mean I can’t see and all,” Draco smirked trying very hard to hide his jealousy, but Hermione ignored him, turning to converse instead with a very busy Madame Rosmerta.

Knowing very well that Hermione was out of earshot, a smug yet defensive Ron finally chimed in. “Jealous much, Malfoy?”

There was a hard knock on the large oak door of Dumbledore’s office. Snape gripped the golden griffin attached to the door tightly between his sweating fingers, as he continued to knock impatiently bruising the ancient oak with the brass knocker.

“Enter, Severus,” a voice echoed from within. Doing his best to ignore the snoring portraits, Snape rushed through the doors, his black wizarding robe billowing in his wake.

“Headmaster, I need a word with you,” Snape said with an air of urgency.

“Of course, Severus. Here, have a toffee, I just imported them from Wales and they…”

“Headmaster,” Snape said forcefully, clearly not interested in the toffee from Wales, “We may have a problem.”

“I see. What kind of problem might this be, Severus?”

“A Hermione-Draco problem.” Dumbledore set the toffee he was in the process of unwrapping on his desk, and turned to Snape, giving him his full attention. “Headmaster, I was doing my inventory count today—you know ever since Potter stole the gillyweed three years ago, I have made a point to check—”


“Right, so as I was saying, I was doing my inventory and I noticed that Hermione’s vial of Shrouding Solution is missing.”

“I see. Yes, this could be a problem.”

“If Hermione or Draco took it… Headmaster, Hermione is very capable of brewing that potion to full capacity.”

“Oh, I am well aware of this, Severus.”

“If they have any intention of using the solution in the near future, who knows what adverse consequences might ensue. We should confront them right away—not to mention give them detention for the remainder of the term. I would be happy to give it to them myself…”

“Bound by beauty of mind and men.”

“Uh? Headmaster, did you hear a word I said…” Snape muttered, confused by Dumbledore’s sudden and very exclusive epiphany.

“Blinded by magic, at first, it seems. Surrendered to silence, next, it deems. Bound by beauty of mind and men. Love, inevitable, shall follow then. Severus, it’s happening.”

“What is happening, sir?”

“Of course. Beauty of mind. Of course.” A sly smile crept momentarily across the Headmaster’s face. “It is beginning, again.”

“What?” Draco responded intrigued by Ron’s sudden audacity.

“I never thought I would see the day when a Malfoy fell for a muggleborn,” Ron said slowly, putting special emphasis on each syllable.

“In Merlin’s name, Weasley, what are you on about!” Draco hollered, feigning ignorance.

“You like Granger!”

“I most certainly DO NOT!” Draco heard himself respond rashly.

“Yes, you do.”

“No, I do not!”

“I can’t believe this,” Ron chuckled. “You are so jealous you are blushing…”

Draco felt his burning cheeks in disbelief with his right hand. “I am not blushing. I am not jealous and I certainly do not like Granger…” Draco said more quietly and purposefully.

“Now you are lying,” Ron blurted out, letting his superficial amusement give way to his anger. “I see the way you are with her. And the way she looks at you. If only you could see,” Ron finished.

“Are you kidding—” Draco began, extremely defensive. “Me, like Granger, that mudbl—”

“You can’t even call her a mudblood,” Ron mocked, somewhat in disbelief.

“You didn’t let me finish! How could I ever like that mudbl—” Draco could feel Ron glaring at him. “Shut up, Weasel! I don’t like Granger. My taste is of a much higher quality than yours.”

“Oh yeah,” Ron grimaced, “Prove it!"

“I don’t need to prove anything to a second-hand pureblood like yourself!”

“Take Pansy to the ball,” Ron said, motioning towards the window table, where a very jealous Pansy was sitting, among her usual troop of Slytherin followers. “She is sitting over there, by the window. Go and ask her, why don’t you?”

Draco hesitated. He knew very well that Pansy was sitting by the window. Ever since he had rejected her invitation to the costume ball, she had been keeping a very close eye on him.

“Hermione and I—we already said that we would---”

“Why go to the ball with someone you don’t like very much?” Ron questioned furtively.

“It’s up to Hermione, whatever she wants…”

“I dare you, Malfoy” Ron said, threateningly.

Draco sat up straight, his back tensing from the pressure. He had just been dared. He recognized Pansy’s very audible whisper and knew very well that she had been listening to their conversation from the moment she had entered the Three Broomsticks and spotted Draco with Hermione. “You don’t need to dare me, Weasley,” Draco rebutted in defeat. “I can think of no one better to take to the ball than Pansy.” Draco could hear Pansy breathe a sigh of ecstasy. She had started talking again to her friends, discussing her and Draco’s costumes. He could feel Ron’s complacency beaming from across the small bar table at the realization that Pansy had just accepted Draco’s "invitation".

“Harry—HARRY! Over here! Come this way!” Ginny yelled over the crowds of bustling students roaming the streets of Hogsmeade. “It’s Ron,” she continued pointing towards the pub now crammed with students and visitors of all shapes and sizes. “He is in the Three Broomsticks!”

“I’m coming! I’ll meet you in there!” Harry cried back to his girlfriend, doing his best to fight against the crowds.

Ginny entered into the pub, running in to find her brother’s table.

“Ron, thank goodness I found you! Are you—alright?” she asked in a very concerned whisper, oddly resembling Mrs. Weasley.

“Yes, I’m fine. Ginny, I’m fine,” he said while swatting his sister’s sympathetic hand away from his forehead.

“Listen, about what I said—what you heard back in Zonko’s,” Ginny began but halted almost instantly at the sight of a very irritated, but curious Draco. “Oh hello, Draco.” The tense awkwardness that had suddenly sprung up was quickly jarred by a sudden and very enthusiastic shriek.


Ginny spun around, only to fall into a squealing Hermione’s overly affectionate embrace. This is odd, Ginny thought to herself, while eagerly returning the hug at the same time. Hermione’s affection was fleeting as she quickly turned back to Ron.

“So, Ron,” she squealed in excitement, “I was discussing this with Madame Rosmerta—no, actually, I was more just telling her—but anyways, that is not the point. I have an idea for our costumes.”

“Costumes?” Ginny questioned. The last time she remembered Hermione mention costumes and Ron in the same sentence, things had not gone too well for her brother. She was intrigued almost confused; Hermione seemed different.

“Yes, didn’t Ron tell you. We are going to the ball together!” Hermione stated matter-of-factly, excitement streaming from her toothy smile.

“No, actually he did not!” Ginny replied now glaring at Ron in search of an explanation. Ron looked away.

Draco stopped fiddling with his empty bottle of butterbeer, suddenly very intrigued by the conversation at hand.

“So, Ron,” Hermione continued, “I thought we could go as Romeo and Juliet. I bought this gorgeous, blue, strapless dress, that with a few modifications…”

“Who?” Ron said, dumbfounded.

“Romeo and Juliet, only the greatest…”

“…lovers of all time,” Draco finished her sentence.

Draco heard all three of his companions shift to stare at him. “What?” he said quickly in response to their apparent disbelief. “So, I’m a fan of the muggle classics.”

“Just of the muggle classics…” Ginny provoked almost inaudibly thinking back to what she had seen. Draco shrugged the comment off, sure that no one but himself, with his now impeccable hearing, had heard the sly comment.

“Right, so what do you think, Ronnykins?” Hermione said turning her head slowly back to Ron, still a little fazed by Draco’s surprising knowledge of Shakespearean literature.

Ronnykins? Ginny mouthed in utter disbelief. There was only one explanation for this unusual turn in her behavior. In a moment of understanding, Ginny gave her brother a murderous stare. “Yeah, Ron! What do you think?”

“Uh… I like the blue strapless idea,” Ron said, avoiding his sister’s glare, preferring instead to meet Hermione’s adoring gaze. But Hermione had looked away.

“Harry,” Hermione cried in delight, “I didn’t see you there!” Having just entered the Three Broomsticks, Harry approached Hermione, who upon eyeing her dear friend nearly flung herself on him.

“So, Harry what do you think of my idea?” Hermione exclaimed, jumping into a detailed explanation of her costume idea, for Harry who had missed out on much of the conversation.

Ginny hit Ron on the head, now that Hermione was sufficiently distracted by Harry’s presence. “Oww! What was that for?” Ron mumbled, rubbing his bruised forehead.

“You gave her a love potion, you dim wit!” Ginny hissed into her brother’s ear.

“Not just any love potion!” Draco chimed in, overhearing Ginny’s tirade. “Tell her, Ron. Tell your little sister how you gave her best friend Amortentia!” Draco whispered, exacerbating the situation to his own delight.

“Are you kidding me?” she hit Ron on the head again. “I knew you liked her, but I never thought you would sink this low,” she growled, disappointment exuding from her chest.

“Ginny, why are you hitting my dear Ronny?” Hermione exclaimed in exasperation, turning away from Harry and edging closer to Ron.

Because he deserved it. Slipping you love potion, forcing me to take Pansy to the ball… Draco thought, mentally condoning Ginny’s little show of violence.

“YOU! You stay out of this!” Hermione said, pointing menacingly across the table to Draco.

“I didn’t say anything to you,” Draco replied, feigning his innocence well.

“BUT you were thinking it,” Hermione said sharply.

“Yeah, so what if I was,” Draco remarked derisively, “What are you going to do about it?”

“Ron, I—we don’t have to deal with this,” she said, fawning over him. “Let’s leave, right now!”

“Correction!” Draco said. “You do remember the whole seven feet rule don’t you?”

“Ughhh!” Hermione sighed. “You are trying to ruin my life.”

“This is all you fault!” Hermione cried, as she fainted melodramatically onto the couch in the middle of their common room. She was massaging the sides of her forehead; ever since they had left the Three Broomsticks, she had had a splitting headache and was forxed to cut her date with Ron short. Draco suspected that her sip of Amortentia was beginning to wear off.

“My fault?” he shouted back. “What is my fault?” Draco collapsed in an armchair, directly across from the complaining Hermione. He closed his eyes, exhausted from everything that had happened in the past few hours.

“My headache! You are the reason for my headache!” she answered.

“Well you are the reason for many things in my life—but you don’t see me complaining, do you?” Draco snapped cryptically.

“What?” Hermione had sat up.

“Nothing,” Draco said, exhausted and not wanting to pick a fight.

“No. Say what you need to say. You have been avoiding my questions all day, mumbling to yourself and what not. My dear Ronnyk…Ronnyk…my dear Ronnykins was so furious with you. What is wrong with you today, Malfoy?”

“Your dear Ronnykins does not know how to mind his own business. Someone had to put him in his place.”

“Shut up! My Ronnyki…”

“Your Ronnykins is a desperate fool born into a desperate lot. Do you know what he did? I will tell you not that anything goes through your love stricken brain,” Malfoy began.


“He gave you a love potion. He saw us or heard from Ginny about our little—whatever it was—in Gladrags and he got jealous. He gave you love potion and turned you into this blabbering git!”


“I knew he was in love with you—but he gave you Amortentia that he stole from Potions class. If I hadn’t stopped you from drinking your entire butterbeer, who knows how much of that stuff you…”


“So don’t talk to me about your stupid, Ronnykins and how unbelievably perfect the two of you are going to look as Romeo and Jul…”

“Enough!” Hermione shrieked. She was clutching the sides of her forehead with such force that she was practically lying on the floor in pain.

“Hermione—are you alright?” Draco said concerned.

“Alright?” Hermione asked, her voice trembling between octaves. “Alright? One of my best friends just gave me Amortentia and you ask me if I am alright?” Draco sank lower into his armchair. The potion, he realized, had finally worn off. “What did I do, Draco? Anything embarrassing… anything that you can use against me in the near and formidable future,” she sneered. “Oh I bet you loved this. I bet it was the best day of your life, watching me fawn idiotically over Ron.”

“No…Hermione…that’s not…” Draco had gotten to his feet.

“What? Did he convince me to go to the ball with him too… oh yes… Romeo and Juliet! How could I forget? You know—I was going to suggest that for us—who would be able to guess that the school’s two greatest enemies would go to the ball as lovers. It would have been perfect.” Hermione was on the verge of tears now and Draco was speechless.

Hermione started to pace back and forth. Draco took in the driving rhythm of her footsteps and was surprised to hear them stop. Hermione had halted in front of the fireplace while hastily wiping away her tears. She took hold of the vial of Shrouding Solution that was sitting on the mantle of the common room’s fireplace. “I guess we won’t be needing this?” Hermione menaced.

“Need what, Hermione?” Draco asked. “Talk to me, will you?” He listened as her conflicting emotions took control of her behavior. He could hear her pacing again.

“The Shrouding Solution. We won’t be needing it—”

“You don’t know that—” Draco tried to pacify her. He had managed to make his way closer to his distraught companion.

“Yes. Yes, I do,” she said rather calmly. And then, without a moment’s notice she raised the vial of Shrouding Solution above her head, holding Draco’s only chance at regaining his sight just above the flames.

“No!” he exclaimed, realizing what Hermione was about to do.

She ignored him, opening her fingers only to let the small vial slip from her grasp. As if obeying instinct, Draco reached out his hand and caught the vial before it came in contact with the flames. He collapsed next to the fire, letting the adrenaline pump through his veins.

Hermione stood breathless at the scene she had just witnessed. She abandoned her humiliation and anger for absolute bewilderment.


“What?!” he said irritated.

“How—how did you catch that. You—you can’t see!”

Draco squeezed the vial firmly between his sweaty fingers at her words; breathing in a sigh of relief, he replied, “I don’t know, Hermione. I really don’t know.”

Chapter 14: The Visionary's Guide to the Emerald Heart
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

“What do you mean you don’t know?” Hermione squealed, falling to her knees so that she was sitting at Draco’s eye level. She reached for his face with both of her hands and moved it from side to side, trying desperately to examine his dormant eyes.

“Hermione, what are you—will you just—HERMIONE LET GO!” Draco spat, massaging his cheeks.

“You can’t not know, Draco,” Hermione probed. “I know your remaining senses have improved since you lost your sight, but that vial was small, it could have been going in any direction. How did you—”

“I don’t know,” he breathed inwardly, as if speaking to himself.

“You can’t not—” but Hermione’s tirade was cut short.

“It was unlike anything I had felt or seen before,” Draco began.

“Seen?” Hermione questioned, very much intrigued.

“Yeah, one second I was trying to make my way over to you, to comfort you, to calm you down and the next—” Draco hesitated, deep in thought. “And the next, I see this image flash across my eyes, enticing me to look.”

“What did you see? Me? The vial?” Hermione encouraged, completely engaged by Draco’s explanation. Her hand now rested supportively on his thigh.

“I saw,” but Draco stopped. He grabbed Hermione’s hand, and gave it a little squeeze. “I saw through you.”

“Through me? Draco, I’m not the Bloody Baron. There is no way you could see through me,” she scoffed.

“Not through you. I mean I saw what you saw. I felt the vial slip from your grasp and before I knew it, I had reached out and caught it. All I remember is catching it, feeling the sleek antique glass, in the palm of my hand.”

Hermione was silent. “This is impossible—” she hissed incredulously. “This doesn’t make any—” and then she fell silent again.

Preferring to ignore Hermione’s outcries of disbelief, Draco continued, “It was incredible, but at the same time—”

“Frightening,” Hermione finished.

“Yes, exactly,” Draco looked up, following the sound of Hermione’s words. “Wait, but how did you know?”

“Because in that moment, where you could see and feel the vial slip from my grasp, I couldn’t.”

“What?” Draco said now very confused. “What do you mean you couldn’t?”

“It all makes sense now,” Hermione whispered. “It was only for a second, no a millisecond, not even. That is why I brushed it aside like nothing was the matter. But now that I think about it, Draco,” she said, her voice slowly getting louder with every word so that Draco could hear her more clearly. “I lost control. When you could see, I couldn’t. Everything went kind of dark and I felt like I was falling—yeah. That is why I reached out my hand.”

“No,” Draco paused. “That is why you reached out my hand—and that is why, I was able to catch the vial in time, when we,” Draco hesitated, searching for the right words, “switched back?”

“This is crazy, it is almost like we switched places, bodies—souls,” Hermione exhaled, still trying to process exactly what had happened in the past five minutes.

“I agree, this is absolutely insane,” Draco admitted.

“You know,” Hermione exclaimed, suddenly rising from the floor. “I have had enough of this!” She pulled Draco to his feet. “Come on!” she beckoned.

“Where are we going?” Draco said, while struggling to remove himself from her tight grasp.

“To the library!” she revealed reluctantly.

“The library?” Draco asked, a little confused.

“I think it is about time we figure out exactly what this rebound of fate thing actually is before we permanently switch bodies or something,” Hermione said.

“I don’t know, Hermione. It wasn’t so bad,” Draco mocked, but Hermione ignored him, only tightening her grip on his wrist. He could hear the resolution in her step as she made her way towards the portrait hole to their dormitory, and for some reason, he wasn’t annoyed at all, but oddly impressed.

Ron collapsed in the Gryffindor common room, inhaling the warmth of the crisp and blazing fire in front of him. He closed his eyes, reliving the events of his latest Hogsmeade trip. A smile tiptoed gently across his face at the thought of him, taking Hermione to the costume ball in two weeks. He began to picture her silk, blue, strapless dress when he was jarred ruthlessly from his thoughts.

“You are an idiot!” a very angered voice bellowed from behind Ron’s chair. “You are an idiot and I am genuinely ashamed to call you my brother,” the voice finished.

The smile Ron had sported just moments ago erased itself immediately upon hearing his sister’s words.

“Why did you do it, Ron?” a deeper but still disappointed voice questioned. Ron knew it belonged to Harry but he refused to look in his direction. He stood up and walked to the edge of the fire, the flames illuminating his now distressed features. Slowly, he turned around to face his best friend and sister, one of which was concerned, the other unmistakably furious.

“I don’t know,” Ron responded half-heartedly, trying to conceal his desperation.

“I don’t believe you,” Ginny retorted.

“Ron, why of all things love potion, and to Hermione?” Harry probed a little more sympathetically than his fired-up female companion.

“Because I was losing her,” Ron surrendered. “I was losing her to him.”

“To who?” Harry questioned, disbelief etched across his stern expression. “To Draco?”

“WHO ELSE!” Ron screamed, alarming the other students who had piled into the room after a joyous day at Hogsmeade. “Who else!” Ron repeated at a normal volume so as to not attract any more attention.

“Ron, love potion was not the best way to go about this, even if you did feel like you were losing her,” Harry said.

“I was desperate,” Ron admitted, almost at whisper. “I panicked!”

“You were an idiot!” Ginny chimed in.

“It worked. I’m going to the ball with her. Now, I will be able to convince her for sure,” Ron defended.

“Ron, did you ever think about what would happen when the potion wore off?” Ginny argued. “Ron, you are not going to ball with Hermione. Goodness, she probably will never want to speak to you again.”

“Ginny, come on that is ridiculous,” Harry said unconvincingly. “Hermione would never—Ron you haven’t lost her,” he said turning concernedly towards his best friend.

Ron looked up, making eye contact with his sister, searching for a hint of optimism. Her eyes were cold and unsympathetic. He closed his eyes, but no reassuring images of Hermione comforted him this time.

One week and fourteen stacks of heavily bounded leather books later, Hermione and Draco had still discovered no new information on the rebound of fate. It was like their little “malady” had been conveniently left out of every book known to wizarding kind. Even Old and Forgotten Bewitchments and Charms, a book that proved to be very useful to Harry during the Tri-Wizard Tournament in their fourth year, had failed them.

“Ugghh!” Hermione screamed, releasing her frustration as she slammed the latest edition of Curse and Countercurses by Professor Vindictus Viridian on the wooden coffee table in front of her.

“Nothing?” Draco yawed, unsurprised.

“It has been a week since we first set foot in this library and I still can’t find a single piece of information,” Hermione said disbelievingly. The library to this day had never failed her. “Even Madame Pince has given up, although she wasn’t that huge of a help to begin with.”

Hermione had hoped that the aged librarian would be their greatest asset in their quest to find out more about the rebound of fate; but, from the beginning, Madame Pince had, for some unknown reason, shied away from helping them out. Hermione picked up the Guide to Medieval Sorcery and started flipping through the pages. Draco, however, just sat in the chair next to her bored out of his mind.

“Remind me again, Hermione, why I am in a library full of books that I can’t read,” Draco drawled.

“You are here for me!” Hermione said off-handedly.

Draco sat up. “For you?”

“Yes, I need you here,” she said, while continuing to thumb her way through the aged pages.

“You need me?” Draco smiled.

“Why are you smiling?” Hermione had looked up. “You are here, because without you, neither one of us would be able to read nor research!” Draco did nothing to hide the confusion that had made its way onto his face. “The seven foot rule, you dimwit!”

“Right!” Draco said, coming to his senses.

“Plus, if I do happen to come across something we can discuss it immediately,” Hermione continued.

“Immediately, right, sure,” Draco said, while trailing back into his state of paralyzing boredom.

Hermione had abandoned the Guide to Medieval Sorcery and Important Modern Magical Discoveries in favor of the Visionary’s Guide to the Emerald Heart. A small, leather-bound book that fit in the palm of Hermione’s hand, it was Madame Pince’s sole contribution to their search. Hermione had forgotten about it until now.

Hermione opened the cover, and to her surprise the book enlarged to normal size. Resting on her knee, the book quivered and then before Hermione could stabilize it, flipped to a page towards its center. Having come across several mischievous books in her days at the library, Hermione set her skepticism aside and carefully examined the page, which the book had turned to.

Hermione giggled as her finger traced the contents of the page.

R.A.ES also known as Reactive Amorous Epidermis Syndrome is a common skin condition that surfaces when a witch or wizard faces an extreme situation of unrequited love. The skin can play host to red, blue or purple boils and depending on the hearts involved the boils can display a sort of defensive power (exact power remains unknown). Only a change of heart or a brewed antidote (ingredients on next page) can cure it.

Hermione turned the page and sure enough found a list of ingredients very similar to those found in a love potion. But she brushed her suspicions aside and continued down the page.

Her finger traced over several more heart conditions including, Reasonable Surrender, the solution for the scorned magical lover unwilling to give up his or her heart’s rightful place. Hermione’s favorite, however, were the Rebellious Love Binoculars, a convenient tool for any one separated from their loved one.

Hermione continued down the page, her index finger following her line of sight. Then she spotted it.

Rebound of Fate is a legendary and very rare charm that has been known to affect only the most powerful witches and wizards of the past, present and future. Usually connected to a prophecy, a rebound of fate is infamous for its power to bind unsuspecting individuals to one another. Known to manifest itself in various forms depending on the individuals involved, there are no known immediate cures. Known cases include, Cliodna, Hesper Starkey, Rowena Ravenclaw, and Narcissa Black.

Hermione shut the book. Narcissa Black! she panicked. She looked over in the direction of the now snoring Draco. Malfoy’s mother?

A large eagle owl flew in through the window of Dumbledore’s office. Almost sun down, Dumbledore was sitting at his enormous desk, lighting the candle that would see him through his long night’s work. The owl, on a mission, landed gracefully next to a silver inkpot, which usually played host to Dumbledore’s scarlet quill. Tonight, however, Dumbledore and his quill were extremely busy with the ministry paperwork he had neglected to complete for the past seven months. Looking up from his notes, Dumbledore welcomed the owl’s interruption, even though it carried a smoking red envelope.

“Now, now, what do we have here,” he smirked, stroking the eagle owl till it smiled with delight. Dumbledore opened the burning letter. “It has been years since I’ve received one of these,” he remarked to owl once more.

“REBOUND OF FATE! AND THIS IS ONLY COMING TO MY ATTENTION NOW? MARK MY WORDS THIS IS NOT THE END ALBUS, YOU WILL BE HEARING FROM ME SHORTLY!” The words ricocheted off the stonewalls of the circular room. The owl jumped slightly.

“He sounded very angry, didn’t he?” Dumbledore said calmly, while continuing to stroke the owl. “Very angry, indeed.” The owl was too distracted to note the prevalent sparkle in Dumbledore gaze.

Hermione watched as Malfoy slept soundly in his armchair. She sat back, frustrated by the realization that Malfoy’s mother, Narcissa Black, had gone through a bit of a rebound herself.

Should I tell him? Does he already know? No, I won’t tell him. No, I should tell him, Hermione sat entranced in her thoughts, struggling with whether or not to wake Malfoy with the news.

She decided to let him sleep and instead got up to peruse the shelf of books just behind her armchair. Hermione peeked out through the shelves at her resting companion and smiled. He was peaceful laying there, his hands resting on his stomach, not to mention very handsome.

She turned towards the rows of books before her, finally ready for another long night of work and research. Something moving beyond the bookshelf, however, caught her attention and made her stop. Turning back to look at Draco, she realized they were no longer alone.

Pansy Parkinson strolled up to Draco’s side and began stroking his blond hair gently. Draco stirred slightly at the touch of her cold, firm palm to his pale, warm skin.

“Hermione, aren’t you supposed to be studying?” Draco asked sleepily, turning over to face a very irritated Pansy. Hermione froze behind the stack of books, so as not to divulge her whereabouts.

Pansy looked at Draco in disbelief. “Hermione?” she managed. “Draco, I am not Hermione.” Pansy retracted her hand and folded her arms in disgust.

Startled by Pansy’s unexpected voice, Draco sat up. “Oh, Pansy. I’m—I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were here. What are you doing here anyways? Isn’t it late?” Draco checked his watch. Fed up with Draco and his tendency to arrive late to everything, Hermione had taken matters into her own hand. She stole Draco's antique watch last week from his bedside table when he was sleeping and removed its glass covering. She enlarged the dials slightly for him, so that he could tell the time using his sense of touch instead of sight. Given the now vertical, upright position of both the minute and hour hand, Draco could tell that it was almost midnight.

“Oh, I thought I would just stop by and say hi. You have been spending all of your time with that mudblood Granger lately, I thought I would give you a bit of fresh air.” Hermione bit her lips to stop herself from retaliating.

“How—how kind of you,” Draco forced. “But if you wouldn’t mind, I have a lot of work to do.” He started feeling around for books and papers, trying to shake Pansy off anyway he could. Hermione chuckled at his feeble attempt. This whole spying on Draco thing was turning out to be quite amusing.

“Oh alright, but I thought we could discuss our costumes for the ball. We only have a week and I want them to be perfect,” she beamed.

Hermione hiccupped surprised at Pansy’s words. Since when was Draco going to the ball with her?

“Yeah, sure. What do you have in mind?” Draco asked nonchalantly.

“Well, my father just imported these beautiful robes from Japan. I thought we could wear those. They are made from silk, the embroidery is absolutely flawless, and we would match.” Pansy looked very excited at these last few words. “As for the spell, I thought—”

“Yeah sure. Anything you think of is fine,” Draco gave in. He didn’t want to discuss it any further. He had resigned to the fact that he was taking Pansy to the ball, even though he refused to like the idea.

“Oh, but Draco are you—” she cut in.

“Yes, anything you come up with is fine,” Draco repeated.

“Oh, Drakey-poo you are the greatest,” she said, giving him a quick but purposeful kiss on the cheeks. “I knew you would come back to me. You always do.”

A pang of jealousy ran down her spine. Pathetic, she thought to herself as she watched Pansy kiss Draco’s cheek.

“So, will I see you tomorrow at breakfast?” Pansy asked, almost pleading with the blond.

“Yeah, maybe. Once Hermione and I finish in here—” Draco began.

“Why do you have to keep mentioning that mudblood’s name,” Pansy asked very distraught.

Because I am ten times better than you, Hermione thought smugly to herself.

Draco turned his head in Hermione’s direction. Oh no, he heard me think, she thought to herself while slinking down to hide more effectively behind the stack of books in front of her. Draco smiled slyly before turning back to Pansy. He had heard her think.

“I’m sorry, I won’t mention her again,” Draco said, aware that Hermione was listening in on their conversation. “Now could you please let me work? I will see you tomorrow, I promise.”

“Alright, then. See you tomorrow.” Pansy turned to leave, but before doing so Draco pulled her down closer to him and leaning in, he kissed her.

“What was that for?” Pansy whispered, so that her lips brushed against his momentarily.

“I just wanted to make them jealous,” Draco smirked.

“Them?” Pansy breathed, looking around.

Feeling her body shift, Draco lifted his hand to her face to regain her attention. “Anyone who was watching,” Draco finished.

“I see,” Pansy smiled, a sly and furtive smile, and turned to leave, finally disappearing between the shelves and shelves of books, lining the library walls.

“Hermione,” Draco beckoned complacently, once he presumed Pansy to be out of earshot. “You can come out now.”

Hermione stumbled from behind a stack of Herbology books, a little embarrassed. “Ahhh, Draco. I see that you finally woke up.”

“You tend to see a lot of things lately,” Draco said accusingly.

“What was that?” Hermione asked, trying to change the subject at all costs.

“Oh, nothing.”

But she couldn’t contain herself. “Since when are you taking Pansy to the ball?”

“Well, well I see someone has adopted espionage as her new hobby,” Draco teased.

“Just answer the question, ferret face.”

“Since you decided you were going with Ron,” Draco stated matter-of-factly. “I had no choice, really.”

“That is not fair,” Hermione whined. “I was under the influence of a love potion.”

“You seemed very content with the idea, how was I supposed to know the love potion was not a manifestation of your true desires,” Draco probed.

“Hypothetically speaking,” Hermione began more cautiously this time, “What if I told you that I wasn’t going with Ron to the ball, that I am too furious to even speak to him let alone dance with him and I would rather give the Shrouding Solution another chance.”

Draco looked uncertain at Hermione’s pending proposal. “The Shrouding Solution with which you almost extinguished our common room fire?”

“Yes,” Hermione responded firmly.

“What about Ickle Ronnykins?” Draco asked. Draco could hear Hermione flinch at the sound of Ron’s name. “He hurt you, I know, but he is still your friend.”

“He won’t mind,” Hermione responded curtly. “If he values our friendship, he will give me my space. And, on the same note, what about Pansy?”

“Now, now Hermione. I haven’t even accepted your hypothetical proposal yet,” Draco smirked.

“Oh right,” Hermione admitted, a little defeated.

Draco paused. “Don’t worry about Pansy, she will understand.”

Hermione beamed. “So, what do you say?”

“I guess I would say—” Draco paused to listen to Hermione’s now racing heartbeat. “I guess I would say we are going to make a fine pair of star crossed lovers.”

Hermione heaved a sight of relief. Regaining her wit, she replied, “Quoting from Shakespeare now are we?”

“Why, are you impressed fair Juliet?”

“Only in your dreams, dear Romeo.” The two, realizing that they were probably the only ones left in the quiescent library, began to laugh. Apparently, they were both very pleased with their hypothetical decision.

Pansy fell to the floor of the library, using the shelf behind her as a backrest. She surrendered to the laughter resounding in the background. Pansy clutched her chest; it was so painful to bear.

How could he just abandon me like that, Pansy thought to herself, And for her!

Anger was flooding through her veins as she sat among a collection of Defense Against the Dark Arts books, but she didn’t dare move. Draco believed her to have left the library and she did not want to betray his trust. In all honesty, Pansy had taken to spying on Draco since the blinding incident. She trusted him, just not Hermione. Pansy knew her to be a smart and clever girl.

It seemed, however, as she peered from behind a shelf of books, that her worst fears were coming true. Draco was falling for a mudblood.

“This can’t be happening,” Pansy hissed. “No, I won’t let it happen.”

Pansy stood up and marched out of the library for real this time. “I am supposed to marry, Draco. He is supposed to love me!” she said while glancing back through the library doors.

Something is going to happen, Pansy smiled deviously. Something is going to change.

Chapter 15: Against the Rules
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The sunlight shifted slightly as it streamed through the library’s glass windowpanes, illuminating Hermione’s rosy cheeks. Her chest heaved a huge sigh as she turned over in her chair. This was the third time she and Draco had fallen asleep in the library, hidden among books of every shape, size, color and texture and scrolls of parchment filled with research. Pages and pages of research that neither answered their most burning questions nor provided any clues on how to solve their condition.

Draco could sense the sunrise as the heat streaming in from outside got warmer on his pale skin. He had been awake for most of the night, maybe managing to sleep an hour or so. He sat in silence listening to Hermione breathe in an out. She did not breathe hard; she did not snore, but every now and then she would shift slightly in her chair, searching for a comfort her previous position had once provided her delicate limbs.

He had no idea why he couldn’t sleep. His eyelids drooped heavily over his silver stained pupils, hoping to catch even a wink of sleep, but it never came. Perhaps, he couldn’t sleep because he was not used to sleeping on sofas, in libraries among so many books or because the person beside him no longer disgusted him. He sat with his frustration and let it hang over him like a cloud before a storm, visible and impending.

“Draco?” Hermione sighed groggily, sitting up from the semi-twisted position she had shifted into just minutes before. “Draco, you’re awake already?”

“Yeah, I couldn’t get much sleep,” he responded truthfully while taking in the soothing tones of her voice.

“Is everything okay?” she mumbled from behind her hands that were tediously wiping the sleep from her exhausted eyes.

“Now, it is,” he said while smiling in her direction. He had erased his thoughts from the front of his mind, hiding them behind his craving for Sunday brunch in the Great Hall. “You hungry?” he asked as Hermione started to fumble through all of last night’s research.

She looked up. “Starving,” she replied.

Draco got up to stretch. He had been sitting in the same position for several hours and needed desperately to get the blood flowing. “Great, should we get some food then?” He started to stumble his way around the stacks of books and piles of parchment sprawled on the floor, masquerading all of his escape routes. He put his hands out to guide his way, but soon realized that he could not find a way out from under the clutter.

“Here let me help you,” Hermione said, a small smile crept across her face. She grabbed his hand and pulled him towards her. To her surprise he did not flinch. In fact, he clasped her hand firmly. A shiver sent butterflies straight to the pit of her stomach as she guided Draco from the library. Exiting towards the Great Hall, she paused and looked back at the fort of books that had enveloped them this past week and smirked slyly, feeling oddly content with herself and more importantly with the boy standing, hand in hand, right next to her.

The Great Hall smelt of freshly made bacon and eggs with pumpkin juice and warm pumpkin pasties. It was late morning and most everyone had waken up to eat Sunday brunch. Daily Prophets lay strewn across tables broadcasting the latest headlines and quidditch scores. (The World Cup was only a couple months away).

Hermione led Draco carefully to the Slytherin table. After making sure he was comfortable, she served him a little of everything, giving him a few extra pumpkin pasties since she knew that they were his favorite. It was strange what she did for him. What once had been forced kindness now was welcomed instinct.

Hermione sat down, and stared at the food. She had been so hungry in the library, but staring at the food in front of her, just made her sick. She had passed the Gryffindor table and knew that everyone including Ron had been staring at her. On Sundays, she and Draco usually sat at the Gryffindor table, but ever since the Hogsmeade trip, she just could not stomach sitting next to Ron even for one second to say hello to Ginny.

She could see out of the corner of her eyes, Ron’s desperate attempts to make eye contact with her, to glean even a hint of acknowledgement. But she focused intently on the food that she no longer cared to eat.

“What’s wrong?” Draco asked from across the table, in between mouthfuls of scrambled eggs, toast and pumpkin pasties. “Why aren’t you eating?”

“I don’t feel like it,” she surrendered.

“But you just said that you were starving?” Draco protested. He knew something was not right. No one in her right mind could change her appetite that quickly. “Come on, Hermione. Here have a pasty.”

Draco smiled, a toothy smile. Hermione couldn’t resist. She took the pasty from Draco’s hand and took a bite. She began to breath a little easier and Draco, a little concerned, finally went back to his meal.

Oh no, Hermione choked on her pasty, quickly picking up a napkin and spitting out the bite she had taken.

What is it, Hermione? Draco thought so as to not attract any attention.

Surrendering to her new connection, Hermione replied, Why in Merlin’s name is he coming over here?

Ron? Draco confirmed. He could feel Hermione tense in place upon receiving Draco’s telepathic inquiry and knew for sure that it must in fact be the redheaded pureblood. Hermione shifted nervously in her seat, heat rising from her chest, illuminating her cheeks. She couldn’t contain her fury. Draco placed a firm and comforting hand on Hermione’s fidgeting one. She looked up into his eyes, knowing very well that he couldn’t see her, and gave his hand a firm squeeze, a kind of thank you.

Ron walked across the Great Hall, a swift hush following his footsteps as he made his way over to the table rooted in green and silver. He tapped Hermione on the shoulder and whispered a few words into her ear.

Hermione tried to ignore his presence but found it very difficult with all eyes in the Great Hall now upon her. Ron tapped her shoulder again and this time mumbled something a bit louder, along the lines of, “Hermione, I need to speak with you about…you know.”

Hermione was so flustered by the whole situation, by her anger, by the attention the entire student body was bestowing upon her at this very minute and by the fact that the only thing comforting her was Draco Malfoy’s reassuring hand.

She turned quickly to face Ron and let everything go. She was angry and she let him know it. “You need to speak with me?” she said furiously.

“Oh, Hermione I need to talk to you about what happened in Hogsmeade. Whatever Draco told you…” but Ron was cut off. Hermione let go of Draco’s hand and stood up to meet her antagonist.

“Whatever Draco told me…” Hermione breathed more slowly, the tension rising in her voice. Draco stood up; whatever she was about to say, he knew she would regret it.

“Sit down, Draco,” Hermione said calmly, seeing him rise from the corner of her eye. This is no time to hold me back she thought confidently. Reluctantly, Draco took his seat.

“Yeah, sit down ferret,” Ron yelled over Hermione’s shoulder.

Hermione glared at Ron, bewildered by his audacity and outright stupidity. “You, do not talk to him that way.”

Pansy who had been sitting at the end of the Slytherin table was very intrigued by the situation that was brewing between the two Gryffindors. She silenced her nonsensical friends and turned to watch as Hermione turned on Ron. She sat, taking in the warning signs of an impending war. This could be her chance to win Draco back.

“What is it that you have come to talk to me about?” Hermione growled.

Ron noticed her tone of voice but ignored it and continued. “I just wanted to let you know that what happened in Hogsmeade was an accident.” Draco coughed, choking on a sip of pumpkin juice at Ron’s words. Hermione remained unfazed by the minute interruption, but Ron hesitated before continuing. “I..err..I have been trying to tell you this all week but you have been nowhere to be found. I just wanted to make sure that we were still okay for the ball on Satur…”

Hermione had no words. How could he lie to her face? How could he stand and lie to her face in front of all these people?

“I am speechless,” Hermione managed through her fury.

“Oh, great. That’s great, Hermione,” Ron breathed a sigh of relief.

“What’s going on over here? Everything okay guys?” Harry asked, out of nowhere. Harry, Ginny and the rest of the Gryffindor quidditch team had just entered the Great Hall and made their way over to Ron.

“Yeah, everything is great! Hermione and I were just clearing things up about the costume ball!” Ron replied, a smile actually crossing his face.

Ginny did not look pleased at all, at Ron’s words. She was staring at Hermione’s bewildered expression. Hermione’s eyes had never once left Ron’s face. She could feel her chest swelling with emotion. She did not know what made her do it but she could feel her hand rise swiftly from her side, smacking Ron hard across the face, so that every freckle on his skin stung with an ephemeral but purposeful pain.

Keeling over, Ron clutched his face, meeting Hermione’s eyes in outright confusion.

“An accident,” Hermione breathed. Whoever in the Great Hall had lost interest in the confrontation were now watching Hermione and Ron for sure. “You sure it was an accident Ron?” Hermione asked threateningly almost screaming at him.

“Well, it might not have been...exactly…” he admitted slowly, still recovering from the shock.

“I can’t believe I trusted you, that I considered you my best friend, that I even liked you at one time,” Hermione said. Ron blushed at Hermione’s confession.

“You knowingly humiliated me in front of EVERYONE!” Hermione snapped. “I can’t believe you would think that I could forgive you let alone that we would be going to the ball together.” Hermione shook her head, never once breaking eye contact. “If you were half the man, Draco…”

“Why do you always have to bring him into this,” Ron interrupted seeming to find his strength. “Draco, Draco, Draco. Even when I gave you the Amortentia you couldn’t stop talking about him. That stupid brat is a coward and you know it. Damn it Hermione, what has gotten into you?”

“I think she likes him,” a voice came from the end of the table. Pansy had found her moment to intervene.

“Shut up, Pansy,” Draco barked, recognizing the enticing voice.

“Or maybe,” Pansy continued threateningly, “it is you, Draco, that likes Hermione?” The entire school was listening in now, but silence fell. Both Hermione and Draco had lost their words.

“She doesn’t like him,” Ginny interjected.

“Yeah,” Hermione said, snapping out of it. “Yeah, you are the one that likes Draco. Not me,” she said a little more convincingly.

“I don’t believe you,” Ron turned on Hermione. Hermione stood overwhelmed by the situation. When had the topic of conversation changed to her relationship with Draco? This was about Ron!

“She doesn’t,” Draco stood up for the second time. “We are just friends. Given our situation you can understand why we have been forced to become friends. It would not work any other way.”

Pansy snickered. “You did not look like just friends in the library last night.”

The entire Great Hall gasped and looked expectantly at Hermione and Draco who were now both flustered beyond belief. Even if this whole situation were cleared up, Draco and Hermione would never escape the rumors now.

“Pansy, whatever you saw or heard, it is not what you think,” Hermione said reassuringly.

“I don’t believe you,” Pansy snarled.

“I DO NOT LIKE DRACO MALFOY!” Hermione screamed, so that her words resonated off the wall of the Great Hall making the teachers look in their direction.

“Prove it!” Pansy menaced. “Spend the entire week apart. No contact, no communication for one week.”

“And then you will believe us,” Draco chimed in.

“I guess so,” Pansy said furtively.

“What happens if…” Hermione whispered.

Hermione don’t ask questions… Draco began to protest silently.

“…if you fail?” Hermione flinched at Pansy’s words. “Draco has to take me to the ball. Yes, I know about your little hypothetical plan,” Pansy said, dismissing the shocked looks on both Hermione and Draco’s faces. “And I get to use this.” Pansy stretched out her hand, taunting a small vial in front of Hermione’s eyes.

It was the shrouding solution.

“How did you get that?” Hermione shrieked.

“Oh come on, Hermione. I know you saw me visit Draco in the library.” Hermione looked puzzled. “Even you are not that dumb, Granger. I swiped it from the table when you weren’t looking.”

“Accio Shrouding…” Draco attempted, envisioning the vial and Pansy’s hand. But Pansy was too quick for him. She blocked his spell and chuckled.

“Give it back, Pansy,” Draco said calmly after his failed attempt to retrieve the vial.

“Not until you both agree.”

Can we do it? Draco asked Hermione silently from across the table.

She has the shrouding solution, your only chance to see again! Hermione responded desperately.

So, do you want to try it? You will be blind, Hermione, Draco asked again, embracing his telepathic powers fully.

“Fine,” Hermione said to Pansy.

“Then it is done!” Pansy said smugly. “You have one week to win your solution back.” Draco could hear the contentedness underlying Pansy’s conniving voice.

“Hermione, its for the best…” Ron began.

“Do not speak to me, Weasley!” Hermione retorted, a tear streaming down her face. She turned to Ginny who handed Harry her broom and willingly guided her from the Great Hall, up to the Gryffindor tower, away from Draco, away from the light, just away from everything.

Hermione sat in her old bed, in the girl’s tower of the Gryffindor common room. She brushed her fingers along the ripples of the freshly ironed bed sheets, searching for imperfections in the fabric. More than seven feet away from Draco, Hermione found herself lost within herself, unable to see the evening light streaming through the window panes to her old, but very familiar dormitory.

Ginny had led Hermione to her bed a couple of hours ago and per her own request, left her in peace to grapple with the craziness of all that happened in the Great Hall. Hermione traced the wooden bedposts holding up her mattress, taking in the unique patterns carved into the ancient wood. She found the curtains to her bed and pulled them shut, isolating her from the rest of the dormitory.

It had been no more than a couple of hours since she and Draco had been sitting in the library together and she already noticed his absence.

How did I let Pansy walk away with that vial? Was I that distracted? Hermione did not have to finish the thought before she knew the answer. She had been very distracted. She couldn’t understand it, but there was no denying that seeing Pansy all over Draco, she had been jealous. She hadn’t felt this way since Ron went out with Lavender in their sixth year. Hermione turned over and hid her face in her pillow.

Do I really like Draco Malfoy?

A knock on the dormitory door drowned out her thoughts, however, realizing that she was no longer alone. Ginny walked silently up to Hermione’s bed and parted the secluding curtains. The redhead took a seat at the edge of the bed saying nothing; instead, she patted Hermione’s back in comfort.

Hermione didn’t move. She had so many thoughts racing through her head, overwhelming her to the point of exhaustion. She couldn’t face Ginny, her best friend, who was more importantly Ron’s sister. Ginny was the first to break the silence.

“Hermione, do you like him?” Ginny’s words were soothing, much like Mrs. Weasley’s. “I don’t care, Hermione. It’s just…” Hermione shifted so that she was lying on her side, back towards her friend. “It’s just, I would rather hear it from you if you do and not some Slytherin who thinks she owns the world.”

Hermione knew Ginny was trying to be the best of friend that she could be given the situation, but she knew that if she admitted anything, things would never be the same. Gryffindors cannot like Slytherins. Gryffindors do not like Slytherins.

“I don’t know,” Hermione compromised truthfully.

“What do you know?” Ginny asked quietly.

“I know…” Hermione began, shifting so that she was now facing Ginny. She still could not make eye contact. “I know that I…I do not like Ron anymore. I know that… that what I said and did in the Great Hall today was not right. I know that I have it in me… I do… to forgive Ron for what he did—it will just take time. And I know that right now, Draco is the only person in this school that understands me. I know that I have not been the greatest friend to you so far this year. And, I know that I’m sorry for that, Ginny. But I also know that I feel different when I’m around him—very different.”

There were tears streaming down Hermione’s cheeks as she spoke her words. Hoping for a hint of understanding, Hermione searched for Ginny’s hand among the embroidered fabric of her bed sheets. Ginny did not know what to say. Before getting up to leave, she gave Hermione’s hand a slight squeeze and then, without a word, walked out the door.

The first couple of days had been relatively easy to bear without Hermione constantly by his side, but by Wednesday Draco had truly started to miss the bushy-brown haired chatterbox. Pansy had taken to following him around wherever he went, taunting him with schedules and costume designs for the night of the costume ball. She was apparently determined to win whatever prize Dumbledore had in store for the winning couple.

Draco put up with her nonsense; putting forth all of his mental strength to convince Pansy that he did not in fact have feelings for a muggleborn. But, lately, he was having trouble convincing himself let alone his annoying and ever-persistent sycophant. But Pansy seemed to be oblivious to Draco’s disinterest.

In the Slytherin common room, Draco sat in front of the blazing fire taking in the warmth of the biting flames. Fighting to tune Pansy’s voice out, Draco tapped his fingers instinctively in annoyance. But Pansy just rambled on. Draco’s head was throbbing; he could not take any more of this game Pansy insisted on playing.

“Will you just shut up, Hermione!” He stopped, realizing what he had just said. He always tapped his fingers like that when Hermione would not stop talking. He usually got mad, yelled at her and waited for her to storm away in anger. Pansy, however, did not seem pleased with Draco’s comment.

“What did you say?” she questioned, the fury rising from the depths of her vocal cords. Draco could hear the tension straining in her voice.

“I mean, will you please just leave me alone for a few minutes,” but hearing her body tense in her armchair, he added, “We can finish going over your plans tonight at dinner.” She seemed content and left him to mope in peace.

Draco heaved a large sigh, once Pansy’s footsteps had died down. He took in the silence, realizing for the first time that he missed Hermione’s incessant chattering, the way she hummed some muggle composer’s music—Beet oven or something like that—when she got nervous. He missed the way she always let him attempt his homework before rewriting it herself. Pansy just insisted that some worthless second year write it.

This is crazy, I have to get her out of my mind, he thought to himself. She is a mudbl—muggleborn.

“Pansy!” Draco called towards the girl’s dormitory.

“Yes, Drakie-Poo?” she called back. Draco flinched; he hated when he called her that, but decided to let it go.

“Let’s go to dinner!” he suggested. Pansy’s eyes lit up.

“Okay, sure. Let me get my plan book, we can go over the details for the costume ball in more depth.” Draco sighed. It was going to be a long night.

The infatuating aromas of the Great Hall pierced Hermione’s nostrils as Lavender helped her take a seat at the Gryffindor table. Ever since her conversation with Ginny a couple of days ago, she had been left in the company of Lavender Brown. Although Hermione understood why Ginny needed her space, she did not understand why she would leave her in the company of Lavender.

Hermione felt like her head was about to explode. If Lavender said one more thing to her about Seamus Finnegan’s new haircut or the Bloody Baron’s apparent affair with Moaning Myrtle, Hermione did not know what she was capable of doing. She had slapped a boy in the middle of the Great Hall.

Lavender served her some of today’s special. It was Italian night in the Great Hall and Hermione always loved the ravioli. The house elves always knew how to cook the pasta to near perfection to where it just melted in your mouth.

Taking a bite of her steaming pasta, Hermione almost choked while putting the food into her mouth. A familiar voice flew through across her thoughts.

If I have to listen to one more itinerary of Saturday night I am going to jinx Pansy like there is no tomorrow.

Hermione smiled. She had not heard his voice in several days and to hear that he was miserable was oddly comforting.

I know this is breaking the rules but I have to admit, I kind of miss you, Hermione thought across the room in what she thought to be the direction of her dearly missed companion.

Over at the Slytherin table, Draco jumped slightly in place, smiling only after he recognized the familiar voice in his head. She was in the Great Hall.

This is definitely against the rules, he thought in return.

How are you? Hermione was completely engrossed in her thoughts, she had completely forgotten about her food and the delicious pasta in front of her.

Annoyed. Pansy will not leave me alone. He thought while tuning out the completely oblivious and self infatuated girl sitting across from him.

Hermione chuckled. Well not everyone can be as perfect as me.

Draco smiled. You, perfect?

Hermione gasped at the hint of sarcasm, but quickly closed her open mouth so at to not attract anyone’s attention. That hurt, ferret face!

Draco snickered. Oh so, I’m ferret face now am I?

When were you not ferret face? Hermione sniped back.

Draco out right laughed. Realizing that the people around him had stopped eating intrigued by his sudden outburst, he took a bite of food, playing it as cool as possible.

Meet me tonight? Draco asked telepathically. You know where.

Hermione blushed. All right, she thought back. But only so we can discuss our plan of attack. Pansy is going down.

As long as her schedules and costumes go with her, I am definitely okay with that, Draco thought.

Tonight then, Hermione whispered through his mind. Then she continued eating, a little more content than usual.

Time seemed to inch by. When night finally fell, so that light no longer flooded the window, Draco stood up. Pansy had gone to sleep hours ago; nevertheless, he had waited to make sure she did not pick tonight to sleepwalk. When he was sure that no one was awake to see him leave the common room, he slowly and cautiously felt his way out of the room.

Having lived without his sight for quite sometime now, he had gotten very good at finding his own way around. Several times, when Hermione was sleeping, he would traverse the corridors, exploring the darkness through his darkness.

Keeping one hand on the cold stonewalls leading from the dungeons, he carefully avoided suits of armor, trap doors and moving staircases as he made his way toward the quidditch pitch, where he hoped Hermione would meet him. Making his way through the locker room, he was proud of himself. The first time he had tried to walk on his own, had been an extremely painful experience.

Walking onto the pitch, Draco welcomed the midnight breeze. He shivered slightly, letting the air hug his bare neck. Searching the stands for the soothing sounds of Hermione’s voice, he waited. Hermione who had been sitting in the stands ever since she had convinced Lavender to take and leave her there, looked up to see a familiar face roaming the grounds. Within seven feet of him, Hermione could see the handsome blond strolling towards the center of the pitch.

Hey you! She called to him telepathically.

Draco stopped. Hermione touched his shoulder and led him over to the stands where they both sat down.

“So, how has your week been?” she asked while looking to the stars. She did not understand how Draco did it, living without his sight day and night.

“I have been okay! It is not like I need to be around you twenty four seven to survive or anything,” Draco smirked.

“I missed you too, ferret,” Hermione whispered, bumping into his side in jest. They both smiled.

“So, I’ve been thinking!” Hermione continued.

“Oh no. You have been thinking! This can’t be good!” Draco snickered while breathing in the fresh evening air.

“Yes, Draco, thinking you should try it sometime!” Hermione retorted.

“Ouch, that really hurt,” Draco feigned, clutching his heart.

Hermione looked at him, hesitating. She had missed their banter. “Anyways,” she proceeded, “I was thinking about this whole shrouding solution situation. We need to get the vial back. Do you know where Pansy keeps it hidden?”

“Huh? Sorry I wasn’t paying attention. You lost me at Pansy,” Draco chuckled.

“Draco, come on! Be serious! This is the only chance we have to win this stupid costume ball!” Hermione protested.

Draco stopped. “Now you sound just like her.”

Hermione frowned. “That is just not fair. I haven’t even discussed fabric patterns yet for our costumes!” The two burst out into a fit of uncontrollable laughter. Even Hermione, the focused one, couldn’t help but give in to the ridiculous image of Pansy and her costume plans.

“Honestly, though Draco, we need to get that vial back!”

“Why?” Draco replied surprisingly serious.

Caught off guard by the question, Hermione took a second to collect her thoughts. “Why? What do you mean why? So that we can…”

“So that we can win Dumbledore’s prize?” Draco probed.

“Is that honestly what you think I want? Honestly, Draco I thought you knew me better than that!” Hermione finished, a little hurt.

“Then why do you want the vial so much? What is it to you? Why did you agree to this challenge in the first place, if not to win! You have had to live without your sight, in a dormitory with the one person that betrayed your trust. Why Hermione are you doing it? Me, I have no choice, but you do.”

Hermione did not know what to say. In all honesty, she had no idea why she had so hastily accepted the challenge. All she knew was that the shrouding solution was Draco’s only chance.

“I wanted to give you back your sight,” Hermione whispered into the night.

“You what?” Draco asked again.

“Everyday you live without your sight and I know how hard it is for you, but you do it so graciously. I have watched you. You never complain,” Hermione said, her voice trailing off. She raised her hand to brush the stray of silver blond hair from out of his face. “You never once complained,” she repeated while staring into his deep and enticing eyes.

“You did this all for me,” Draco turned away his voice trailing off, disbelief etched across his features. “But you are a mud—” Draco stopped himself.

“A what, Draco? Go on, say it. I am a mudblood,” Hermione dropped her gaze. “You just can’t let that go, can you? Not even for one second. I can’t believe I thought I could—I can’t believe I thought you were my friend,” she whispered more to herself than to him.

“Hermione,” Draco said, trying to get her attention.

A tear slipped down the side of her cheek. She looked up into his dormant eyes. He put his warm arm around her shoulder and pulled her in close, so that his lips brushed against her cheek, wiping away the tear.

“Hermione,” he whispered, nuzzling his voice close to her ear. “Don’t cry, Hermione.” Without another word, Hermione let her eyelids close as Draco pulled her in closer. She could feel his breath on her skin, as her lips came in contact with his. They were wet, warm but inviting. The kiss was deep, purposeful. Her lips tingled with a hint of passion she had never felt before. When they finally parted, her lips lingered, taking in the momentary shock of what had just happened.

“I’m not sad anymore,” Hermione whispered back, and he smiled. Reaching into his robe’s inner pocket, Draco pulled out the vial of shrouding solution and handed it to Hermione.

“Pansy likes to take naps in the afternoon,” Draco shrugged.

Hermione couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Falling back into Draco’s warm embrace, she clutched the vial tightly to her chest.

“Now, I get to see you in that dress,” he smiled, kissing her once more on the cheek.

A tall-white haired man stampeded through the ancient oak door of the headmaster’s office, his robes blowing in his wake as he made his way swiftly through the collection of headmaster’s portraits. The Sorting Hat greeted the man with a slew of irritated comments, having been disturbed by the man’s sudden entrance.

He narrowed his cold gray eyes, on the chair that was facing just away from him. He cleared his throat, to make it clear to the man sitting in it that he had arrived.

Dumbledore swiveled around, and greeted the man with a very sly smile.

“You received my letter?” the man asked.

“Yes, yes I did!” Dumbledore replied, a twinkle flashed across his eyes as he pointed to the remaining ashes of the howler he had received a few days before.

“Then you know why I am here,” the man grunted.

“Yes, I think I have an idea,” Dumbledore managed. “Why don’t you sit down, Lucius. Here have a toffee, they are from Wales.”

Chapter 16: Boundaries
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Lucius stared at Dumbledore in absolute bewilderment; the veins in his neck pulsed distorting the under layers of his skin with a note of disgust, anger and impatience. “No, I will not have a toffee,” Lucius growled, gripping the edges of the ornate oak armchair he was sitting on, to stop himself from hexing the content smile off the Headmaster’s all-knowing expression.

“Oh, but they are wonder—” Dumbledore continued, turning his attention away from the furious blonde in front of him only to thumb aimlessly through the remaining candies in his dish.

“Dumbledore!” Lucius shouted impatiently.

“Yes,” Dumbledore hummed, not even bothering to look up. He was very much enjoying this; he was always a fan of the arts, particularly acting.

“You know why I am here, and it does not involve toffee—my son, DRACO!” Lucius screamed, blood rushing to his cheeks staining them an unusually dark shade of red.

“Ahhh! Yes, your son, Draco—is in perfectly good health. Why are you here?” Dumbledore provoked, feigning oblivion.

“My wife is very concerned about Draco’s condition. I have come to take him home until we can get this problem,” Lucius hesitated at this word as if taking a minute to search for the correct phrase, “all sorted out,” Lucius breathed a little more calmly.

“Your wife is concerned?” Dumbledore lifted his eyebrow in a disbelieving expression.

“Yes my wife—” Lucius continued.

“If I am not mistaken, Lucius, your wife knows the rules of this problem very well,” Dumbledore reflected. “The last thing she would want to do would be to separate your son from Hogwarts and more importantly from Miss Granger.”

Lucius flinched at Hermione’s name. Dumbledore watched Lucius rack his brain for a quick comeback but as usual he was too quick for the devious blonde.

“Or, Lucius, is it that you are concerned about the effect a certain muggleborn will have over your son?” Dumbledore probed expectantly.

Lucius looked as if he was about to implode. He stared at Dumbledore, narrowing his eyes in sharp, undeniable fury.

“Dumbledore, I am taking my son away from this school! I will bring him back when this problem is resolved,” Lucius said firmly, turning to go.

“You are scared,” Dumbledore accused. Lucius stiffened, his back facing the Headmaster. His robes billowing in the wind from the open window to Dumbledore’s right, Lucius stood and waited for Dumbledore to explain. Dumbledore continued. “You are scared that he might—”

“Might what?” Lucius snapped, turning around menacingly to face Dumbledore.

“That he might not be able to fight them—as your wife did,” Dumbledore said, sporting a sly smile.

“Fight what?” Lucius asked, already knowing the answer.

“She loved him. You loved her. And you can’t bear the thought of your only son loving—” Dumbledore finished. Lucius stood silently, his words lost in memories past.

“You’re wrong,” Lucius added halfheartedly.

“I’m wrong?” Dumbledore said, encouraging Lucius to finish his thought.

“She never loved him,” Lucius said more to himself, to convince himself, than the old man in front of him. “She never loved him,” he repeated.

“You know very well, she did. You cannot cure a rebound of fate, without the most essential ingredient. You know this. I know this. She knew this.”

“My wife did NOT love him,” Lucius growled, denying the obvious.

Ignoring Lucius’s outburst, Dumbledore began, “Narcissa Black, in her seventh and final year at Hogwarts, was affected by a rebound-of-fate. There is no denying it, Lucius. Sure, she was not blinded as your son is but she was undeniably connected to him.”

“Stop,” Lucius started.

“She came to the aid of a certain, troublemaker while he was practicing his patronus. Am I not correct in saying this, Lucius?” Dumbledore paused; he was now very serious. “For the entire year, they were inseparable—”

“Stop, stop,” Lucius covered his ears with his hands, attempting to tune out the Headmaster’s voice.

“—they were inseparable by a shield of light, a kind of perpetual patronus. They couldn’t go more than seven feet from one another without being shocked by an impenetrable shield.”

“Will you just STOP!” Lucius barked.

“She loved him,” Dumbledore continued, “It was the only way to fulfill her prophecy and break the spell.”

“Enough,” Lucius said. “Enough.” He breathed, pausing to collect his frustration. “Do you know why in her sixth year, Lily Evans finally fell for that scum, James Potter— because for the first time, Lily Evans couldn’t have him. You are right Dumbledore!” Lucius threw his hands up in exasperation. “Isn’t that what you wanted to hear? My wife, in her seventh year came to the aid of a sixth year Gryffindor. When she was supposed to love me, she loved him. If it hadn’t been for my wife, our dear Harry Potter would not be here. If hadn’t been for that stupid curse—Lily Evans would never have realized what James meant to her. Narcissa would not—she would not—she, SHE LOVED JAMES POTTER. And he—he loved Lily.” For the first time since Dumbledore had met Lucius Malfoy, he saw a never before seen pain flash across the face of the heartless pureblood.

“I will not let that happen to my son,” Lucius finished, coming to his senses. “Narcissa and I were destined for one another. Yes, we encountered a few obstacles along the way, but I will not let any obstacles come in the way of my son’s future. I have it down in the books. He is supposed to love the purest of them all. Clearly, that is not the mudblood Granger, perhaps Miss Parkinson, but not Hermione Granger. I have already picked out the wedding colors, none of which include hues of red and gold.”

“Did you ever think, Lucius, that purest referenced something other than blood,” Dumbledore questioned intuitively. “Did you ever think that Draco could be different from what you think he is? That unlike you, he could love beyond the boundaries of blood?”

His shoulders tensing underneath his black wizarding robes, Lucius tightened the corners of his mouth. “I will be back for my son on Saturday.” He turned on his heels and without looking back, left Dumbledore alone, with only his pulsating thoughts to comfort him.

Hermione stood in front of the mirror to her bathroom. It had been a frustrating two days and the dark shades under eyes proved how tired she was of pretending. She and Draco had decided to keep up appearances after Thursday night, but when Pansy found that the vial was missing the next morning, she knew that somehow, Hermione and Draco had bent the rules.

Of course, the entire school discovered the truth of Hermione and Draco’s supposed failure and as result the taunting had been endless. So vicious were the remarks from their fellow students that she and Draco had spent most of the last two days in their dormitory. It was nice to be with him, but at the same time, the pressure of having the entire school against her was suffocating, isolating. Even Draco was showing signs of stress—his comments were more abrasive than usual.

Hermione curled a strand of her hair and watched as it fizzed out, immune even to the workings of magic.

“UHH! I hate my hair!” she screamed at the mirror, throwing her brush hard into the glass, watching it break and repair itself all in a matter of five seconds. Flustered, she rested her face in her hands. The tears came next, interrupting the smoothness of her freshly applied make-up.

“At this rate, I’ll never be ready for the ball,” she admitted while looking up at her reflection. Her beautiful, blue strapless dress hung lifelessly against the door to her bathroom, taunting her. “I will never be pretty enough to wear that dress. What was I thinking?” she scoffed at her audacity, turning away from her reflection.

You will and you are, she heard the familiar voice crawl reassuringly across her thoughts. She smiled and quickly opened the door to the bathroom.

Draco stood smirking in his towel, as he heard her open the door. “You’re beautiful,” he whispered.

“How do you know?” she asked brushing him aside and going towards her bedside table in search of a new shade of lipstick. “You can’t even see.”

“I don’t need to see you to know that you are beautiful,” Draco tried.

“I see someone has discovered the cheesy romance-comedy,” Hermione chided, embracing her sarcastic side.

“Huh?” Draco breathed, a little confused by the muggle-reference.

“Oh never mind. Here, I need the bathroom for a few more minutes.” She handed him a vial. “This is your share of the Shrouding solution. Take it, after you get ready and before you go down the stairs. I will be there in a minute. I just have to put on my dress.”

“Wait, you’re not wearing anything,” Draco teased, suddenly wide-eyed and feigning sight.

“Oh please, will you grow up,” Hermione rolled her eyes, tightening the drawstrings of her robe while embracing the small smile that had found its way onto her face. “I’ll see you in ten minutes, okay!” she shouted before slamming the bathroom door shut.

“Yes, I’ll see you in ten my fair Juliet,” Draco whispered, while a jolt of anxiety, the good kind of course, soared restlessly through his stomach.

Hermione stared at her reflection for one last time. Holding her half of the Shrouding Solution in her hand, she swirled the liquid gently like wine, watching the silver swirls meld with the violet solution.

This is it! She thought to herself before downing the entire solution. What is the worse that could happen!

Draco Malfoy, clad in the new tuxedo he had found at Glad Rags, fidgeted within the form fitting fabric. Tighter than his wizarding robes, he struggled with the cuff links that Hermione had forced him to wear with his outfit.

Taking his vial of the solution out of the inside pocket of his trousers, he felt the smooth glass in the palm of his hand. It was enticing—the thought of drinking the solution for the second time, the thought of seeing again, the thought of seeing her again. But at the same time, it was frightening. What he had before was only a taste of what he was about to experience.

Lifting the vial up to his lips, he finished the solution in one sip. It was stronger than he had remembered and burned his throat, leaving a ruthless trail of fizz from his tongue to his stomach. His head seared with a sudden flash of pain and he collapsed to the floor clutching his ears. His skin began to burn from the inside out and he could feel his chest erupt into flame without ever burning or leaving a scar. His eyes, however, remained cool and calm, as if they were waiting for something—anything.

Hermione fell to the bathroom floor. Her skin was on fire and yet goose bumps ran up and down her spine. Her heart was racing within the confines of her chest and her hair felt like it was going to fall out of her scalp. She shut her eyes, absorbing the pain, letting it consume her body, her limbs—her entire existence.

And then it was gone.

Hermione stood up, looking at her reflection. Nothing had changed; she was still the same girl who could never pull off a silk, blue, strapless dress, even if her life depended upon it. Based on the fact that she could still see, she knew that Draco had not changed much either and that he too was still in the next room getting ready. Turning towards the bathroom door, she pulled the dress down from the hanger and slipped it on. Pulling the zipper shut, up the side of her slim figure, she sighed. She pulled her hair up into a tight bun and slipped on her tattered silver heels that her mother had given her during her third year.

Why can’t I be beautiful?

Draco stayed put on the floor, his eyes remaining shut. He could hear Hermione shuffling around in the bathroom and assumed that she was almost finished getting ready. The pain in his chest had gone, and he vowed never to eat before taking a potion ever again.

He opened his eyes and was surprised to see—nothing.

“Damn it!” he screamed while pounding his fist into the ground, inciting a sharp pain to shock its way up his wrist bone.

“Damn it!” he said again, doing all he could to curb the flood of tears that was mounting behind his exhausted eyelids.

“Damn—” but before Draco could finish his exclamation the door of the bathroom swung open, and Hermione stepped out. He turned his head in the direction of her footsteps and looked up. Hermione locked her eyes with his—and that was all it took.

The veil covering Draco’s senses melted away, liberating his eyes for the first time since that night in the dungeons. The light streaming in through his pupils was so overwhelming; Draco hesitated, taking a moment to process the scene. He rose from his crouched position on the floor, never once looking away from Hermione who was, from the moment she stepped out of the bathroom, enveloped in a beaming light.

Hermione was the first to break eye contact looking down at her body. Her skin was emanating an ethereal light and her dress clung to her body in a way no garment had ever done before. Her hair, hung controlled and perfect at the side of her neck, leaving just enough skin bear. She was not the same girl that she had seen in mirror two seconds before.

She looked up at Draco, confused by her transformation.

“What happened to me?” Hermione spoke, examining everything from her suddenly manicured fingertips to her once tattered-now-perfect heels.

Searching for words, Draco remained silent, ineffable in Hermione’s presence.

“Draco, are you okay? Can you see?” Hermione asked making her way towards him in a very concerned fashion.

“I couldn’t see…” Draco began turning away from Hermione. Hermione stopped, looking down.

“That is impossible, I brewed it correctly; I double checked my methods. I knew I should have asked Dumbledore for help, but he could have stopped me from trying…” Hermione rambled.

“Hermione,” Draco said again, calmly but seriously. “I couldn’t see until you walked through that door.” Draco paused, hesitating before his next sentence. You gave me my sight, he thought to her.

Hermione closed her eyes, taking in Draco’s sensuous words. She looked down at her dress, realizing that Draco too had given her something in return.

“And you,” she beamed, “Gave me my beauty.” He turned around, making eye contact once again with the beautiful woman before his eyes. His eyes scanned the length of her body, taking in the elegance and perfection of her attire. He had chosen well

“We are more connected that we thought,” Draco smiled slightly.

“It does seem that way,” Hermione returned, walking up to him so that her shoulder brushed lightly against his side. “I wouldn’t want it any other way,” she whispered into his ear, before turning to walk down the stairs towards the portrait hole.

Draco watched her go, smiled and quickly followed her down the stairs. She didn’t go far however, before her progress was halted unexpectedly. Catching up to her, curious as to why she had stopped at the bottom of the stairs, Draco caught a glimpse of the mobile shadows cast by the firelight. Sure enough, he could see the outline of a tall, ominous figure standing impatiently in front of the hearth. Realizing who it was, Draco tried to ignore the anxiety suddenly flooding his chest cavity. Grabbing Hermione’s hand more in search of support than reassurance, Draco found his voice.

“What are you doing here?” he glared.

“Now, now, Draco. That is no way to greet your father,” Lucius Malfoy sneered in the direction of his son. Slinking out of the shadows into full view, Hermione and Draco could see the sinister expression crossing Lucius’ face; it was not inviting and Hermione took a step backwards, hiding slightly behind Draco’s protective figure.

“Sorry,” Draco uttered automatically, like a traitorous solider addressing his vehement captain. Hermione looked to Draco in surprise at the ease with which he submitted to his father’s presence.

“There is no point in beating around the bush, as you muggles say,” Lucius started acknowledging Hermione for the first time since he exited the confines of the flames, “I have come to take you home, Draco.”


Draco did not even utter a word in protest; he just stared blankly into the abyss of darkness hovering around his father’s form. It was Hermione who dared to speak first.

“What?” she proclaimed indignantly. “Why do you have to take him home. Surely, you have been informed about the situation—I mean, unless, you were planning on inviting me into your home, which seems highly unlikely given your past allegiances…” she found herself in that state of rambling for which she was so famous.

Draco let her words roll through his head, doing nothing to interrupt her train of thoughts.

“Silence,” Lucius roared. Hermione, not unlike Draco just moments before, obeyed almost unwillingly.

“I have been informed about your situation,” Lucius teetered on this last word as if tiptoeing passed it before continuing onward, “And, my wife and I have agreed that it is best if we relocate our son to a purer location.”

“Your son is not a cauldron of potions in need of a proper storage location,” Hermione barked back, shrewdly in defense of her companion.

Draco put a hand out in front of her, gesturing that he would take it from here. “Thank you Hermione for pointing out that I am human. What my father meant, however, was that he, not he and my mother, want to separate me from you.”

“I knew…” but one look at Draco’s face, Hermione knew not to continue.

“Let me see if I understand you properly, father,” Draco began. “You think that taking me away from Hogwarts, away from Dumbledore and more importantly—away from Hermione,” he paused, “Will be better for my situation?”

“That is precisely what I think and Dumbledore agrees,” Lucius added.

“That is a lie! He would never agree to something as ridiculous as…” Hermione had found her voice once again but no sooner that she began her retort did two figures enter the portrait hole to their dormitory, silencing her once more.

“You are right, Miss Granger,” Dumbledore said, as he glided towards Hermione. “I do not agree with Lucius on this point.” Pansy Parkinson had stepped out from behind Dumbledore and made her way over to Lucius, who seemed content with the pained effect Pansy’s presence seemed to have over Hermione.

“You,” Hermione breathed, narrowing her eyes towards Pansy, who had taken a step back towards Draco’s father, hiding in his shadow. “You have a lot of guts, showing your face in this dormitory. Do you know the trouble you have caused us? My entire house has virtually turned against me since your stupid little challenge.”

Pansy didn’t answer but remained protected behind Lucius’ billowing robes.

“I have every nerve to just start hexing you right now…” Hermione continued but was quickly interrupted by the Headmaster.

“That will be enough, Miss Granger,” Dumbledore said calmly.

“No, I won’t be quiet! You,” she began while looking directly at Lucius, “Want to take Draco away from me, the one person that has stayed by my side through everything that has happened. And you,” she continued directing her scything remarks now towards a shielded Pansy, virtually shouting at the top of her lungs, “Want to turn the entire school against me because I’ve had the audacity to befriend a member of a rival house. Do either of you know what the two of us have been through these past two months? Any of you?”

There were tears streaming down her face, as she clutched her stomach in distress. This time, however, her make-up remained undisturbed, as beautiful as ever.

She turned to Draco, looking into his eyes for the first time since they had come downstairs. “Do you know how hard it is to be blind?” she said addressing everyone in the room, anger flushing through her, releasing tension into the air. “I don’t know how you do it, Draco? But, you live without your sight day in and day out, without ever complaining. I had to live without my sight for what, seven days? I couldn’t do it! Not being able to open a book to a random page, letting myself get lost in the words of some celebrated author, not being able to see the colors of the potions that I mixed in class based merely on the sense of smell alone, not being able to see my best friend’s face every morning before I went to class…It nearly killed me.”

She turned to Lucius Malfoy, “And it is killing your son!” Draco had grabbed onto Hermione’s waist, holding her back while at the same time trying to get as close as possible to her. Her skin was burning, but she never looked more beautiful in all the years he had known her.

She regained her composure. “And you, want to relocate your son, take him away from the one place in this world that might have the answers, because you can’t stand the fact that your son is spending all of his time with a mudblood,” Hermione seethed; she heard the word come out of her mouth, burning its way to the air.

“You are pathetic,” she spat at Lucius. “And you,” she said to Pansy, “Are just jealous. Can’t you see, he doesn’t care about you in the way you want him to? I can’t believe you stole the Shrouding Solution! I worked for weeks and weeks on that potion, but in the end,” she said while pointing to her dress, “Draco and I were the ones to take it no? He gave me my beauty and I gave him his sight!”

Hermione stopped. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She had never heard nor felt this strength, this passion exude from her words before. The only time she had ever felt this kind of all consuming strength, was when she had heard Harry recount his encounters with the Dark Lord. Dumbledore looked almost amused watching Hermione come to Draco’s defense, realizing for the first time that Draco and Hermione were in fact different, almost disguised—surely transformed.

“And you my dear,” Lucius started slyly, “have just proven that this is, in fact, not the most hospitable environment for my ill son.”

“Ill?” Hermione repeated. Even Dumbledore was intrigued by Lucius’ choice of word.

“Yes, you are just ill, aren’t you, Draco?” Lucius said, addressing his son for the first time since Hermione’s tirade.

Draco let go of Hermione’s waist and stood, empty in front of his father. Hermione couldn’t believe her eyes and the submission in his form. It was ruthless and she couldn’t bear to witness.

“As you wish, father,” Draco replied. He turned his head away from Hermione; he couldn’t bear to see the shocked expression on her face. She would never understand; there are just some fights you can never win.

“As you wish…” Hermione began to question, but was quickly silenced by Lucius.

“Good, now go pack your things. We will leave at once,” Lucius finished.

“Dumbledore, can’t you do something?” Hermione pleaded turning to the one person who so precariously shielded her last hopes.

“Alas, Miss Granger, I have done all that I can. He is Draco’s father—his word before mine,” Dumbledore replied, a little defeated. All hopes of completing the prophecy surely depended on Draco’s proximity to Hermione.

“Your mother is very eager to see you,” Lucius added, offhandedly as he sat down on one of the couches lining the fireplace; but that was all it took to jog her memory. Hermione gasped and looked from Draco to Lucius.

“You are scared,” she said at last. Lucius turned around but Hermione did not hesitate. “You are scared that Draco and I will never break the spell, curse whatever this rebound-of-fate thing is. You are scared, because,” Hermione paused, collecting her words very carefully, “Your wife—she must not have—your wife almost didn’t.”

Draco turned around, confused but intrigued by Hermione’s accusation. Had she withheld information from him—information so key to their conflict and his history? He quickly retraced his steps back the way he came until he was eye level once again with his breathtaking ally.

“Excuse me?” Lucius questioned, narrowing his eyes until they were little slits focused intently on the beautiful woman before him.

“You heard me,” Hermione breathed tensely. “Your wife, was affected by a rebound-of-fate, I read it in one of the books.”

“You what?” Draco exclaimed, instantly reminding Hermione of her decision not to tell Draco of her findings.

“Clearly, muggleborns are not to be trusted Draco, as your dear friend apparently hasn’t told you everything,” Lucius distorted. “I’ve told you time and again that muggleborns are not to be trusted.”

“Your wife…” Hermione began.

“Yes, my wife—silly girl—was affected by a rebound-of-fate but that has nothing to do with you and Draco,” Lucius said dismissively.

“Father, with whom?” Draco questioned. “Who did mother…”

“That is not important,” Lucius said at once. Hermione smiled, finding her secret weapon at last.

“That bad?” Hermione said, in an uncharacteristic and evil tone.

“Quiet, Granger!” Draco said; his voice was cold and apparently unforgiving. Dumbledore sat, observing the situation at hand. Lucius looked pleased with Draco’s command.

“With whom?” Draco repeated, this time commanding his father.

“It is not necessary for you to know this information,” Lucius said, defensively immediately regretting his engagement in this conversation.

“It couldn’t be that bad; it wasn’t like she fell in love with James Potter or something as ridiculous as that,” Pansy scoffed from behind the shadows, but quickly fell back into her state of obscurity. Draco and Hermione both had forgotten that she was there.

There was silence in the room, as everyone looked to Lucius’ seething face, expecting a rebuttal. His expression had gone from cold to freezing in a matter of ten milliseconds as he looked at the idiotic girl standing before the fireplace.

Recognizing the glare, Draco bellowed in disgust, “James Potter?”

“James Potter?” Hermione repeated, an air of ironic amusement lining her words. She looked to Dumbledore for verification. The headmaster catching her eye, nodded. It was true.

“Draco, you can’t trust him after this!” she said while pointing at Lucius. “You can’t let him separate us? His own wife…” but her words trailed off towards the end of her argument.

“I don’t know what to think any more,” Draco admitted truthfully. “How could you keep that information from me?” he said, turning on Hermione.

“I… I…” For the first time tonight, Hermione couldn’t formulate a retort.

“I need to be alone right now,” Draco said, more to Hermione than to his father.

“Draco, I’m walking out that door. I’m going to the ball, just come with me!”

“I need to be alone,” he repeated.

I defended you. I did everything for you, and you are just going to pick up and abandon me with this CURSE because your father shows up and destroys everything, she thought to him, communicating a kind of desperation.

Why didn’t you tell me about my mother? He retorted telepathically.

Draco, I’m sorry! You were sleeping and I didn’t want to…Hermione pleaded across his mind, tears running inconsolably down the sides of her cheeks.

Want to what? I’m stronger than you think, I could have handled—but his train of thought derailed. Sorry just isn’t good enough, Hermione! His reply burned her mind.

If you leave with him, this is the end! Hermione replied, more defensively than before in an attempt to gain her composure. The end of whatever it is we just started…

Draco gazed at her maintaining eye contact, not saying anything or really alluding to an answer; he merely nodded in understanding; Hermione rushed out of the portrait hole, towards the Great Hall, where music was emanating loudly into the corridors. Hearing her leave, Draco walked up the staircase to their room, to think—really ruminate over the pain that was contaminating his lungs— to think about where his loyalties resided, what boundaries had been crossed and who, at this moment of truth, he dared to trust more.

Chapter 17: Betraying the Elements
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]


Dearest Readers,

Thank you so much for all of the support you have given me! Your reviews and advice have given me so much to look forward to and work towards. I couldn’t ask for anything more! You make writing Blinded worth it and I look forward to the upcoming chapters (and I hope you are too!).

I know I have taken a while with this latest chapter and I am truly sorry for the delay and I appreciate your patience. This is an extremely important chapter as we learn more about the rebound-of-fate and a little bit about how Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy come into play. New relationships are coming into play and old ones are rekindled. I warn you that this chapter is very technical; so, if you have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to ask. I’m constantly revising to make sure that every part of the story is as clear as it can be.

Because it has been awhile, I’ve included a little recap of what happened at the end of Chapter 16. I hope you enjoy this latest addition to Blinded! And please, don’t forget to review! Thanks very much again!

Yours truly,


I defended you. I did everything for you, and you are just going to pick up and abandon me with this CURSE because your father shows up and destroys everything, Hermione thought to him, communicating a kind of desperation.

Why didn’t you tell me about my mother? He retorted telepathically.

Draco, I’m sorry! You were sleeping and I didn’t want to…Hermione pleaded across his mind, tears running inconsolably down the sides of her cheeks.

Want to what? I’m stronger than you think, I could have handled—but his train of thought derailed. Sorry just isn’t good enough, Hermione! His reply burned her mind.

If you leave with him, this is the end! Hermione replied, more defensively than before in an attempt to gain her composure. End before ever really beginning…

Draco gazed at her maintaining eye contact, not saying anything or really alluding to an answer; he merely nodded in understanding; Hermione rushed out of the portrait hole, towards the Great Hall, where music was emanating loudly into the corridors. Hearing her leave, Draco walked up the staircase to their room, to think—really ruminate over the pain that was contaminating his lungs— to think about where his loyalties resided, what boundaries had been crossed and who, at this moment of truth, he dared to trust more.

Chapter 17: Betraying the Elements.

Hermione scurried out of the portrait hole, resisting the temptation—the need—to look back. Her chest heaved violently with anger and remorse as her frustration inundated her eyes with tears, which she was doing her best to hold back. Walking in a straight line was proving to be a difficult task in her glass heels; and her head, which had been spinning intermittently since she had downed the Shrouding Solution twenty minutes ago, felt as if it were about to shatter. Her blue dress clung to her sides as she walked, leaving a slight trail of fabric in her wake. She was beautiful—tonight she was beautiful, but without him—she was lost.

Before she really knew what had happened, Hermione collapsed, grabbing hold of the first thing to come in contact with her fingertips in an effort to cushion her fall. A suit of armor gently took her by the waist and lowered her slowly to the floor. The tears were coming faster overpowering her ability to hold them back. Raising her hands to cover her face, she surrendered to the pain and confusion. It was easier than ruminating over her relationship with Draco, her unexpected confrontation with his father, and his betrayal. It was easier than questioning why she could still see, given the distance between her and her companion. It was easier than putting your heart and soul into a friendship—perhaps more—that was doomed from the very beginning. It was just—easier.

Hermione watched as her tears slowly dripped from her cheeks into the palm of her hands, creating a puddle of disappointment and resentment. Hearing the soft approach of footsteps, her heart began to beat a little quicker within the suffocating confines of her chest. She didn’t look up—she refused to look. He put his hand on her shoulder to comfort her pain, but she did not relinquish her pride.

“I can’t—I can’t talk to you right now,” she managed.

“I’m sorry,” a muffled voice said. “Hermione, I’m really sorry.” His voice was trembling, as he stroked her bare shoulders.

At the sound of his voice, she turned around in an effort to make eye contact with the muted form now masqueraded by the shadows of the dark corridor. But only a bitter wave of disappointment ensued, engulfing her lungs in a moment of surprise as she realized who was standing before her.

“I’m really truly, from the depths of my heart, Hermione—sorry for everything that I put you through.”

“I know you are, Ron, I know you are,” was her only reply.

Draco slammed the door to his bedroom. He had never been this furious in his entire life. His father, his mother, his girlfr—Hermione—had all lied to him, kept him in the dark when darkness was all he had to begin with.

Letting the lion within him reign, Draco paced. He paced and paced, scowling furiously at anything in his way. So caught up in his fury, he didn’t even realize when a composed Dumbledore entered into the room, sporting a solemn, all-knowing expression. Draco looked up as Dumbledore approached.

“How could she keep this from me?” Draco heard the words before he realized he was speaking. “How could my father—Professor, is it true about my mother and…” he stopped. He couldn’t even bear to think about the possibility of his mother and a Potter, let alone speak of it.

Dumbledore answered calmly, “Yes, Draco. Your father has spoken the truth.”

“But why, what does that mean?” Draco exclaimed out of sheer confusion, disbelief engraved within the product of his vocal cords.

“It means, Draco, that your mother was affected by a rebound-of-fate, much like you and Miss Granger,” Dumbledore responded calmly.

“Is this thing genetic?” Draco bellowed, “I’ve read Hermione’s muggle magazines and genetic diseases are said to be the worst kind.”

“It is possible that it is genetic,” Dumbledore admitted a little surprised by Draco’s knowledge of muggle diseases. “There have been so few cases that I’m afraid the magical world has been unable to draw concrete conclusions as to the cause of this very powerful magic. Most of what we know is speculation really,” the Headmaster finished.

“Speculation?” Draco said, contorting his fury into an expression of bewilderment. “All you have is speculation?”

Hearing the desperation in Draco’s voice, Dumbledore continued, “Yes, Mr. Malfoy. As legend has it, the rebound-of-fate stems from one of the four ancient sources of magic—you probably know them as the four elements.”

“You mean like, earth, rain, wind and fire—those elements?” Draco questioned while trying to recall his limited knowledge of Binns’ History of Magic lectures, urging the Headmaster to continue.

“Those are the ones,” Dumbledore replied, giving Draco a sly smile before continuing on. “From my research of previous cases, I am pretty sure that the rebound-of-fate is more specifically a derivative of fire.”

“Fire?” Draco was very confused. “Why, fire?”

“Why? I would think that to be obvious,” Dumbledore chuckled seeing Draco’s expression. “Fire—traditionally known as the element of passion. I’m surprised to see that you and Miss Granger have not discovered this yet. I swore I saw sparks flying—” Dumbledore grinned. “I was counting on it really.”

“Counting on sparks?” Draco said, shifting a little on his feet. “No, Hermione did all the research; I know nothing and clearly she tells me nothing.” He looked hurt, disappointed, even betrayed at this last statement but quickly continued. “Wait—you were counting on it that means—you knew this was going to happen?” Draco said looking up, a new tension straining his voice.

“Alas, that is the question isn’t it?” Dumbledore said while breaking eye contact for the first time since he had glided into the dormitory. “I knew it was going to happen, yes. To whom, however, I did not know,” Dumbledore confirmed.

“How di—did you—” Draco managed, stammering in between the rising fury now strangling his vocal cords. “And wh—why didn—didn’t you tell—” He had gone back to pacing and was only half listening to the Headmaster. He let his fingers massage his temples in an effort to pacify the thoughts rampaging through his mind, giving a new more irritating meaning to the word headache. “How did you know?” he managed to say calmly, after a few minutes.

“You must understand Mr. Malfoy, that elemental magic is very powerful. There are few men and even fewer man-made objects in this world that have the strength to overpower it,” Dumbledore explained. “I could not tell you—for your safety. Your father may have been able to intervene once before, but I assure you he will not be able to do it again.”

Draco looked up, glaring at the Headmaster. “What does my father have to do with you not telling me about this rebound-of-fate? We could have prevented this—tried to at least.”

Dumbledore shook his head. “You have been studying Divination, have you not?” Dumbledore asked, piercing the impregnable tension between them.

“I suppose,” Draco answered reluctantly, thinking back to how little he had actually learned about Divination from Professor Trelawney.

“Then you are fully aware of the strength of prophecies. They cannot be prevented.”

“Prophecies? What do prophecies have to do with anything?” Draco questioned. “My father, what about my—”

“Every rebound-of-fate has been attached to a prophecy,” Dumbledore interrupted. “Your father was a very selfish man, intent on getting what he wanted despite what the fates had to say.”

“My mother,” Draco whispered, comprehension slowly dawning on him.

Dumbledore nodded. “He toyed with some very ancient and powerful magic—modifying prophecies is neither easy nor wise. They like rebounds-of-fate are also derived from one of the four elements—Earth—the basis, the foundation for life and all things magical. I did not want you to make the same mistake your father made.”

“Loving my mother was not a mistake,” Draco was outraged.

“No, but refusing to love another because of greed—challenging the fates because of greed—changing what was meant to be because of greed—is.”

Draco bowed his head, letting Dumbledore’s words crawl across his mind. “How did he intervene? What did the prophecy say about my mother and—” Draco was desperate for information.

“That I cannot tell you,” Dumbledore said firmly. “That I will not tell you.”

Draco looked defeated.

“The only thing I am sure of is that he loved your mother very much. Love, Draco—a derivative of rain—is the only thing that has proven strong enough to change what was meant to be. Love is the only reason your father succeeded in doing what he did.”

“And what was that EXACTLY? What did he do that was so impossible—so impossible that he comes barging in here wanting to whisk me away to the Malfoy Manor leaving Hermione behind to deal with the curse all on her own. My family has been affected by powerful magic before this, but never—NEVER—has he reacted as he did today,” Draco finished.

“You still don’t understand, do you?” Dumbledore paused to examine Draco’s behavior.

“Understand? Understand what? That my mother was affected by a rebound-of-fate and then fell in love with a Potter, that my father is a genius mastermind toying with incredibly difficult magic to satisfy his avarice or that love is supposed to be the answer to all my problems?” Draco was shouting at the top of his lungs, his voice rebounding viciously off the walls of the dormitory. He met Dumbledore’s eyes, confused as ever, dying for a simple explanation.

There was a moment of silence before Dumbledore spoke, “Your father is afraid.”

“Afraid?” Draco posed back.

“Afraid of who you are.”

“And who exactly am I?” Draco smirked, a hint of sarcasm lining his question.

“Everything he could never hope to be.”

Draco’s sly smirk disappeared as he took in the full extent of the Headmaster’s words.

“I am my father,” Draco contended.

“No, Draco you are not. You are anything but your father,” Dumbledore returned instantly. “If you want proof, just look at your disguise. The Shrouding Solution never lies.”

Draco looked down at his tuxedo. He was the same. He didn’t look or feel any different, aside from the fact that he could see.

“What is the one thing that the Shrouding Solution changed about you tonight?” Dumbledore inquired as if he were in front of a classroom full of students. Draco didn’t answer. “The shrouding solution is designed to reach into the depths of the drinker’s soul and change not only the person’s appearance, but also the sole characteristic that makes them who they are,” Dumbledore recited.

“Look at me,” Draco had started pacing again, flailing his arms in the air. “I am the spitting image of my father—the proud pureblood who cannot see past his own cupidity.”

“Don’t you see Draco, you are not your father. He would never be caught dead wearing a muggle tuxedo.”

“But the Shrouding Solution didn’t do that. It didn’t change my appearance. I was wearing the tuxedo before I drank it,” Draco protested.

The Headmaster pushed onward, “It didn’t need to change your appearance, Draco. Don’t you see—you had already done what the Shrouding Solution was designed to do. The tuxedo, a symbol of muggle culture, is the polar opposite to the tradition that flows through your veins. It would be the perfect disguise. You, having already dressed in one, had changed your appearance yourself. All that was left for the solution to do was to open your eyes to what was right in front of you.”

“Granger?” Draco whispered to himself.

But Dumbledore wasn’t listening to him. “By returning your vision, the Shrouding Solution unveiled your unhappiness, your bitterness, your willingness to change, to be different. Understand this. What you were, you are no longer.”

“I am my father,” Draco objected.

“No, Draco,” Dumbledore said firmly. “You were your father. Your father could never love as you do now.”

“There you go again with all this love business. Who is it exactly that I can love and my father can’t?” Draco asked, permitting a kind of impertinence to pierce his tone.

“I thought that would be obvious,” Dumbledore blinked. “The purest of them all.”

Draco looked up, staring blankly into Dumbledore’s eyes. A numbness spreading from his ankles to his knees and then through his thighs, Draco fell to the floor, his heart beating to the thought of one name.

“Granger?” Draco thought, ruminating over the idea of loving the brainy brunette.

“You see that is the difference between you and your father.” Draco looked up expectantly at the speaking Dumbledore. “All I said was purest and your mind immediately went to Miss Granger,” Dumbledore chuckled. “You, Draco, are not like your father in the slightest. Unlike your father, you, dear boy, do not think in terms of blood.”

This was all too much for Draco to handle. He rubbed his temples again; his headache had returned and this ongoing conversation with Dumbledore was not helping. He had so many questions and concerns. He wanted to know everything—there was so much to know and so little time. The pressure of time was wielding heavily on his chest, suffocating his heartbeat.

“So, my father wants to take me away from Hogwarts because he is scared I will fall for a muggleborn?” Draco asked, trying to see if he had in fact understood the main gist of their conversation.

“Your father is a conventional man. He is incapable of seeing past the traditions of the Malfoy name. He wants to take you away from Hogwarts to protect his beliefs, his traditions—his reputation.”

“He is doing what he thinks is best for his family,” Draco conceded.

“That is exactly what he wants you to think. What was right in the past is not always what will be right in the future,” Dumbledore said cryptically.

“So do I go with him? He has solved this rebound-of-fate before, you said so yourself? Or do I stay?” Draco asked frankly.

“That is a choice you must make for yourself,” Dumbledore said, turning to leave. “Like I said Draco. Your father may have been able to intervene in this ancient magic once before, but I assure you he will not be able to do it again.”

“Wait,” Draco said, pausing a moment to collect his thoughts. “How did the Shrouding Solution affect Hermione? Is she alright?”

“Ahh, yes. Her case was a bit different from yours, I’m afraid. Unlike you who had already begun the physical transformation, she got a true taste of the solution’s effect. Did you not notice her unnatural beauty and the glowing light emanating from her skin?”

“She was always beautiful,” Draco admitted. Dumbledore smiled.

“This is true but I’m afraid, Miss Granger never thought that way—that is until you came along. She defined herself by her intelligence, her ability to separate right from wrong, her knack for concealing her emotions in favor of logic and reason. She prided herself on her perfect marks but little else. Believe what you will but I think she had lost a little confidence in herself and her inner beauty. Tonight, the world gets to see just how beautiful Miss Granger is thanks to the Shrouding Solution you both ingested. Tonight she is unable to mask her emotions behind logic. You witnessed this inability just a few minutes ago—her defense of a certain pureblood was quite the act, wasn’t it?” Dumbledore said looking directly into Draco’s eyes.

“The Shrouding Solution didn’t work right away,” Draco divulged to Dumbledore. “It wasn’t until Hermione walked through the bathroom door, until we came face to face that we both morphed, I suppose, into our disguises.”

“I see,” Dumbledore said, taking in Draco’s observations.

“Headmaster, the Shrouding Solution,” Draco commenced rapidly collecting his thoughts, “it does not disguise does it? Not like it describes in the textbook anyways.”

Dumbledore was nodding, encouraging Draco to continue.

“It does not create disguises, it breaks them,” Draco finished.

Dumbledore was impressed. “Indeed, Draco. The true nature of the Shrouding Solution is that of the final element—wind.”


“Yes. Wind does not create...”

“It destroys,” Draco said, completing Dumbledore’s sentence. There was a moment of silence before Draco mumbled something, “To blind is to harness the ultimate power.” He didn’t know what it was, but a feeling unlike any other, crept through his veins, for the first time cementing a kind of comprehension, a kind of confidence, a kind of satisfaction with himself. “To blind is to harness the ultimate power.” The phrase seemed to hold so much more power now.

“Ultimate power, indeed, Mr. Malfoy. Ultimate power indeed,” Dumbledore uttered.

“How is she?” Draco asked, his back to Dumbledore hiding his shame.

“A little betrayed, but able to see,” Dumbledore said.

“She can see,” Draco’s voice deepened with curiosity.

“It appears that the effects of the Shrouding Solution have overpowered your physical connection for the time being, giving Hermione her sight despite her not being in your proximity. I do not know how much time you have left, before the both of you are plunged once again into the depths of darkness.”

“I see,” Draco muttered almost in surrender.

“I suggest you find her, Mr. Malfoy. But the decision, of whether or not to leave tonight with your father, is ultimately up to you. I have given you more than you need,” and with that, Dumbledore glided through the door, leaving Draco in the dormitory lost in thought.

The dormitory door closed quietly behind Dumbledore as he made his way down the spiral staircase towards the common room. He had divulged a little bit more than he had wanted to about the rebound-of-fate, but the desperation in Draco’s voice had proven very persuasive.

“So? Is he ready to leave?” a cold voice emanated from the vicinity of the fireplace, jolting Dumbledore from his thoughts at once. Lucius Malfoy looked over his shoulder at the Headmaster, who was caught a bit off guard by the sound of Lucius’s voice.

“I’m quite sure, I do not know what you mean, Lucius?” Dumbledore said evasively. He had gotten so involved in the conversation upstairs with Draco that Lucius’s presence had completely slipped his mind.

“You know exactly what I mean!” Lucius growled venomously between his teeth. “Is he ready to go? You were up there for an hour at least? Is he packed?”

“You will have to ask him yourself,” Dumbledore said firmly.

Lucius turned on his heels, looking Dumbledore straight in the eyes. “What did you do?” he breathed. “What did you say to him?”

“Nothing he shouldn’t have already known.”

“What in Merlin’s name does that mean? I am tired of your games old man. I’m just tired of you and what you think you are doing for my son. I’m saving my son from this so called ‘Institution for Higher Learning’ once and for all and there is nothing you can do about it,” Lucius was breathing heavily, his chest heaving with frustration and anger.

“You must give him the choice, Lucius. Otherwise, he will regret as you do now,” Dumbledore said, a little more desperately than he intended.

“Choice? You are truly senile Dumbledore if you think I’m going to let my son—we are purebloods, there is no greater choice than that of our heritage,” Lucius snarled.

“Is that what you truly think, Lucius?” Dumbledore asked, trying to remain calm.


“’Tis unfortunate, really,” Dumbledore said, truthfully disappointed in his companion’s reply. “A lot of good could have come from this.”

“From what exactly,” Lucius shot back, poison seeping from his sharp retort. “What are you implying Dumbledore?”

“Nothing but what is apparent to even the plainest of eyes,” Dumbledore dared. “Even you can’t deny it, Lucius.”

“Deny what, Albus?” Lucius grumbled.

“The first symptom of love in a young man is shyness; the first symptom in a woman, is boldness,” Dumbledore recited.

“Victor Hugo,” Lucius conceded softly.

“Your knowledge of the muggle classics is impressive, Lucius—well-rounded like a true pureblood. If only you had excelled in mathematics,” Dumbledore said, clearly crossing the line.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Lucius defended.

“You can’t even put two and two together,” Lucius was silent at Dumbledore’s words. “Your son was a bit quiet this evening. In fact, a certain muggleborn did a lot of talking tonight did she not?” Dumbledore continued shrewdly making sure not to break eye contact with the blonde.

“I have no idea what you are talking about,” Lucius mumbled avoiding the observation completely.

“Yea, but I do!” a younger voice said, making its way into the conversation.

Both Dumbledore and Lucius turned around, eyeing the staircase with suspicion. Draco Malfoy emerged slowly from the shadows and walked down the stairs to come face to face with his father.

“You are scared that I’ll fall in love with her,” Draco said disbelievingly. “That is why you want me to leave!”

Lucius was silent.

“You think,” Draco continued, “that I will disappoint you—that I am not strong enough to fight fate—that I will succumb to whatever this is that is binding me to Granger.”

Lucius made motion as if to defend himself but Draco quickly cut him off.

“I don’t know what exactly went on with you and my mother, but I know one thing is for sure,” Draco started. “I will not be told how to live my life by a man as unhappy with his as you are, Father. That includes telling me who and who not to like—possibly love.”

Dumbledore’s eyes glimmered faintly with an inundating sense of pride. A shy young man no more, Dumbledore thought while observing Draco confront his father.

“Draco, go upstairs right now and pack your things. You will be coming home with me tonight,” Lucius growled under his breath, grinding his teeth to the rhythm of the fury pulsing through his skin.

“No. My place is here. And until I can get this rebound-of-fate sorted out with Hermione by my side, I will not be coming home. You cannot just walk in here as you please and expect me to obey,” Draco affirmed.

Lucius glared venomously at Dumbledore, shooting daggers with his eyes straight into the heart of the man he knew was at the center of his son’s transformation.

“What did you say to him?” Lucius roared.

“Nothing,” Draco interrupted regaining his father’s full attention. “Professor Dumbledore said nothing to me. This is my choice. This is my life. I will not live in your shadow or bear the burden of your mistakes.”

“Mistakes? My only mistake was sending you to this ridiculous institution you call a school!” Lucius screamed, directing his hate more towards the Headmaster than his son.

“Your mistake was hiding everything from me—your past with Mom and James Potter,” Draco managed with difficulty. “Your mistake was in your hypocrisy. Ancient magic? Changing prophecies?” Lucius looked to Dumbledore again at his son’s words, where as Draco did not take his eyes off his father. He continued, “Are you really that selfish that you can’t even give in to what’s written in the stars?” Draco screamed at the top of his lungs, pleading with rage and disappointment.

“I am not you. I will never be the son you want me to be. And I am not going home tonight.” Draco looked at his father before storming out of the room in pursuit of a very upset brunette.

“Hermione what’s wrong?” Ron asked immediately, noting the tears streaming down her immaculate face. “Why are you here, in the corridor and not at the ball—I thought you would be with—well,” Ron’s cheeks flushed a violent shade of red, “I thought you would be with him,” Ron breathed in deeply. It was hard for him to accept Hermione and Draco’s friendship, let alone try to understand it.

“No,” she said firmly, wiping away her tears. “I’m never—I decided not—I’m definitely not—I decided to go by myself,” she finally managed.

“You are lying. I can tell by the defeat in your eyes. Hermione, why are you so upset? Why won’t you tell me what’s wrong?” Ron had grabbed a hold of her shoulders, forcing her to look him in the eyes. “Did he do something to you? Because if he did—”

“What?” Hermione gasped, a bit confused by the onslaught of Ron’s words. “No—no, of course not. He would never do anything like that.” She turned away flustered by the implication.

“Hermione, will you just—why won’t let me in? I’m here for you, damn it!” Ron was desperate and overwhelmed with concern for his friend.

“I know you are and I’m sorry. I really am. I’m sorry for neglecting you, for letting us drift apart in the past couple of weeks. This term has just been different,” Hermione said.

“You don’t say,” Ron’s sarcasm was beyond evident but he was quick to change his tone upon noticing the pained look on Hermione’s face. “I mean—why is it so different besides the fact that you are attached to that evil, two-fanged ferret?” Ron asked, in an understanding tone that was neither pushy nor sympathetic.

“I don’t know, Ron? There’s just something about him that I never saw—that I never wanted to see before I really got to know him. And I can’t ignore it, no matter what you say or think. But that was before—before…I don’t even know why I’m telling you this,” Hermione cried.

But before she could control herself, she found herself telling Ron everything; everything that had happened in the last hour, the last of couple of weeks, how it had all started, how their relationship had progressed, the importance of the Shrouding Solution, Pansy’s ridiculous challenge, her desire to win Draco’s sight back—the kiss. Everything came flooding out; she talked for a good thirty minutes before taking a moment to pause, to catch her breath, to really look Ron in the eyes. The only thing she had kept to herself was the telepathic connection she and Draco shared. For some reason, she felt it was too intimate of a detail to reveal to Ron, just yet.

“And, then he just walked back up the stairs. Leaving me humiliated in front of his father and the Headmaster. I just didn’t understand. One minute everything was fine and the next—the next he’s there and I’m here. You could say I got what I was asking for—”

“Hermione, don’t say that,” Ron whispered.

“Betrayed! Betrayed by a person I knew from the start I could never trust. I knew it—I knew I couldn’t trust him. It’s my own fault,” Hermione stuttered, heat flaring her cheeks, her fists clenched tight.

“Hermione,” Ron began, “I don’t know what to say,” he hesitated. He was having difficulty coming to grips with the intimacy of Draco and Hermione’s relationship. Regaining his composure, for Hermione’s sake if not his own, Ron continued, “Hermione, I am not one to judge, but please—you need to be careful. He is a Malfoy and you—”

“A mudblood! I know. I know this! Lucius Malfoy made it very apparent tonight,” Hermione was tearing up again.

“Well, if it’s any consolation I’m a blood traitor according to Lucius Malfoy,” Ron smirked and Hermione smiled at the comment. “And, as a blood traitor, I would love to take you to the ball, if you still want to go. I have to say, mudbloods and blood traitors tend to go well together!”

Hermione looked up at him. “As friends?” Hermione asked.

“As friends,” Ron repeated taking her hand and leading her towards the Great Hall.

The Great Hall was crowded with buzzing students clad in handmade costumes, secondhand dress robes, muggle clothing imported from London’s most fashionable boutiques. Neville’s bright green toad costume definitely stood out above the rest except, perhaps for Luna’s interpretation of the Tooth Fairy; a magical creature she and her father contend is a crossbreed between a hippogriff and a niffler. Even Dean Thomas’s protests that the Tooth Fairy was merely a mythological figure created by muggle parents to appease their teething children, did nothing to influence the state of Luna’s costume. The fact that Neville and Luna entered the Great Hall together made the combined attire even more ridiculous.

The walls of the Great Hall were covered in Hogwarts paraphernalia, alternating lions among silver snakes, emboldened ravens and the Hufflepuff badger. Greens meshed with golds tainted by reds and blues; and, candles hung in the air lighting all parts of the sky that the rays of the very full moon could not reach. It was beautiful, in the oddest of ways of course.

Students were shouting out spells, drinking potions, trying to disguise themselves as best they could before entering the Great Hall in pairs. It was chaos really all in the name of the coveted prize, which Dumbledore had kept so well hidden.

Ron and Hermione ambled towards the back of the line that was nearing the stairs, talking lightheartedly with one another. Having returned to an almost-normal state of friendship from the moment Hermione confided in Ron, Ron was updating her on all of the gossip going around Gryffindor tower.

Eyeing Luna and Neville at the front of the line, Ron added at the sight of Hermione’s raised eyebrow, “Yeah! They have been going out since that Hogsmeade trip, apparently.”

Hermione chuckled, “Well, I think it’s great!”

“Harry and Ginny are doing really well,” Ron slipped in. “They came a little while ago, so we might see them inside.”

“Oh okay,” Hermione said meekly.

Noting her tone, Ron put in quickly, “They aren’t angry with you like the rest of the Gryffindors. Trust me, they’ve been defending you and jinxing everyone who talks badly about you.”

“I hate Pansy for turning the school against us,” Hermione said angrily.

“Don’t let them bother you. Anyone who believes Pansy Parkinson is clearly not worthy of a wand!” Ron said confidently.

“You’re right. I know you’re right! But—wow, Ron will you look at that,” Hermione said amazed. They had just reached the front of the line leading into the Great Hall and the room looked absolutely stunning. Taking in the colors and the costumes and hundreds of students dancing to the Weird Sisters’ latest hit, Hermione was breathless.

“This is incredible!” Ron beamed. “I have never seen the hall this beautiful! Not even for Tri-Wizard Tournament! You remember—” But he trailed off, gaining sight of Hermione. She was glowing in the darkened hall while her bare shoulders and loose curls caught the light of the illusional moon. For the first time tonight, Ron noticed her strapless blue dress and how it clung perfectly to the curves of her body. She was beautiful—absolutely beautiful.

He walked up to her. “Can I have this dance, my lady?” Ron pretended, extending his hand in a gesture of Shakespearean chivalry.

Hermione turned around and smirked. “You may, dear sir.” For the first time tonight, her worries seemed to melt away. Losing herself in the music, she rested her head on Ron’s shoulder as he pulled her closer to his warm body. Turning in circles, keeping to the time to the slow paced melody, Hermione whispered in Ron’s ear, “Thanks for this. Tonight was really rough.”

“Shhhh,” Ron said with a hint of compassion. “You don’t need to say anything.” He pulled her in closer and caressed her ear with his voice. “Just dance.”

Slow, fast, medium-paced, it seemed Hermione’s feet were ready for any rhythm. She didn’t even have to remove her shoes. Unlike any heals she had ever worn before, they were so comfortable, she could have been barefoot. So lost in the music, she never once stopped to realize how many people were staring at her, in awe of her beauty and poise.

Girls were whispering viciously to their dates, jealous of her costume, her hair, her make-up, while their dates just ignored them, completely fixated by the brunette. If Ron had not been proud to have Hermione as his date before, he most certainly was now.

Pulling her close, he took in the fresh scent of her hair. He knew they were just friends, but the longing came back—he couldn’t lie to himself. He wanted so much more.

“May I—” a voice interrupted the serenity of Ron’s perfect night. “May I cut in?” The voice was timid, yet confident, shy but bold. It was deep and the only thing that made Hermione stop dead in her tracks. She lifted her head off Ron’s shoulder and turned her head.

“So you came?” Hermione said to Draco. “I thought you would be long gone by now,” Hermione exhaled. “Does your father know you are here? Have come to say goodbye? What is it? Why are you here?” Hermione was smiling but only because she was trying her hardest to hold back her tears.

“I’m not leaving,” Draco said, a bit triumphantly more for himself than to notify Hermione.

“You’re not leaving?” Hermione said, a flicker of what seemed like hope wavered the octaves of her voice.

“No,” Draco affirmed.

“Why?” Hermione probed.

“We need to figure this out together,” Draco said. Ron put a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

“Together?” Hermione looked down, collecting her fury. “You want to work this out together?” she articulated harshly.

“It’s the only way. And Dumbledore told me all of this new—” but Draco was cut off.

“No. You do not get to walk away from me and then change your mind,” Hermione began, anger flushing her cheeks faster than the tears could come.

Draco looked at her puzzled. He didn’t know what to say.

“You do not get to walk away from me and then expect forgiveness,” she continued. The music had stopped. All eyes that had not previously been on Hermione were definitely on her now. “I told you—I told you that if you walked away from me back there—it would be over.”

“But—” Draco started to plead.

“So, Draco to answer your question—No! You may not cut in,” she turned back to Ron, making sure to keep Draco in her peripheral vision.

Hermione please! Draco’s plead crawled desperately across her mind. I know you don’t want to do this.

She turned around sharply, glaring at him. Do not ever presume that you know what I want! She thought fiercely.

Damn it, Hermione! I need you! Draco confessed.

You need me? Hermione was hysterical. You need me to make more potion? To stand up to your father? To give you your sight? You need me, Draco? I don’t want you to need me? I need you to want me, Draco!

I do… Draco was almost on his knees. I do want you!Hermione was silent, as if taking a second to have a fierce battle with her own conscience.

“Occlumency,” Hermione stammered after processing Draco’s last thought. “I want—I need—to learn Occlumency.”

“What?” Draco said, returning to the realm of spoken word.

“I can’t take this. I’ve had enough. I need to shut you out. Occlumency—it’s the only way,” Hermione breathed.

“What? Surely you don’t want—Hermione?” Draco was ineffable. But Hermione had turned back to Ron and the music, leaving Draco to stand alone at the center of the dance floor.

Dumbledore collapsed in his office chair. Things were not going as he had planned. He had been expected at the costume ball nearly twenty minutes ago, but he was so exhausted, drained by disappointment and anger that he needed a minute to himself.

Blinded by magic, at first, it seems. Surrendered to silence, next, it deems. Bound by beauty of mind and men. Love, inevitable, shall follow then. Unity you seek, your heart is true. But first you must wait for the right match of two.

The words of the prophecy streamed onerously through his head, leaving a wake of uncertainty in his left temple. Dumbledore massaged his head, trying to dissuade an oncoming headache from making an appearance. The only thing to comfort him was the relief he felt that Draco had not asked about his and Hermione’s prophecy blinded only by curiosity for his mother and father.

He had sworn that Hermione and Draco were the ones he had been waiting for. But this—this was not what he had bargained for.

“They will never be ready,” he whispered to himself. He closed his eyes in defeat, resolving to take a short nap before heading down to the ball.

Chapter 18: Masquerade
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--- A/N ---

Dearest Most Patient Readers,

I just wanted to say thank you for waiting so patiently for this chapter. I really do appreciate it and just would like to say that I hope it is worth the wait. I have to warn you that the first half of the chapter sets up the second half so don’t get disheartened by the relatively slow pace.

I hope you enjoy this latest addition to Blinded and please review! I would love to hear what you think about where the story is headed and if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

So for now, I say goodbye until the next chapter. Thanks for reading!


Chapter 18: Masquerade.

“I must say Mr. Potter—you do clean up well,” Ginny teased, eyeing Harry with her gleaming brown eyes while mischievously looking him up and down from head to toe. She moved closer to him, wrapping her hands softly around his neck. Uncharacteristic of her usual boyish attire, Ginny sported a beautiful pink dress that meshed perfectly with her vibrant hair, which hung pin straight down the center of her exposed back. Harry smiled slyly, pulling her in closer. He stroked her bare back, as she rested her chin on his shoulder, their bodies moving in tune with the romantically slow melody of the latest muggle song sweeping the dance floor. The one thing muggles did seem to know was music.

“Well?” Ginny asked expectantly, jogging Harry from the serenity of the music.

“Err—you look beautiful?” Harry said meekly, hoping those were the words she had wanted to hear.

Thankfully, Ginny smiled and pressed her chin against his shoulder, letting her body melt into his. Harry exhaled a momentary sigh of relief before letting his thoughts once again preoccupy his mind.

Noticing him to be stiffer than usual when in her company, Ginny didn’t hesitate to break the silence. “A sickle for your thoughts?” Ginny mused but her words gathered little if any a response out of Harry, his gaze fixated on a distant corner. Ginny followed it and turned to see what he was staring at.

Malfoy was sitting hunched over in a chair, masqueraded behind the shadows of an obsolete corner. He didn’t seem angry or sad but exhausted by the energy cascading through the room. All expression was drained from his already pale features and he was staring longingly at the dance floor. His eyes were moving rapidly within his head, as if attempting to trail and record the precise movement of light. Harry followed Draco’s gaze and found his attention to be incontrovertibly on Hermione and Ron.

“He looks so—” Ginny began.

“Lost,” Harry finished.

“Do you think it’s true?” Ginny turned back, looking directly into Harry’s eyes.

“What? That Draco and Hermione have fallen for one another?” Harry asked. “You’ve heard the rumors. Anything is possible, I suppose.”

“Forget the rumors, Harry,” Ginny spat, slapping Harry’s shoulder playfully. “Do you think that we may have misjudged him, after all these years? That he is capable of loving her—loving anyone at all for that matter?”

“I do not doubt that he is capable of love—but loving Hermione? I always thought Pansy would be the object of his affection,” he paused and Ginny respected his silence. “He may be a Slytherin at his core,” Harry continued, as if thinking aloud, “but there is no denying that he challenges her in ways Ron and I never could. It’s exciting, something new but I don’t think they’re in love,” Harry said, a bit half-heartedly.

“Would it be a problem if they were?” Ginny asked, adopting a more serious tone while refusing to take her eyes off her boyfriend.

“As long as she’s happy—” but Harry didn’t finish his sentence and Ginny knew not to push the subject further. She had started to come to terms with rumors and the prospective romance between Draco and her best friend—but it still made her a little uncomfortable. Considering the history, everything she and her friends had been through, the years of fighting with Draco and his cronies, it just seemed surreal to think that after all of that—Hermione would or even could fall for him.

Towards the center of the Great Hall, Hermione and Ron were dancing in silence to the tune of the same melody. The effects of the Shrouding Solution had yet to wear off liberating Hermione from Draco’s constant company, for the time being. Wrapped in Ron’s warm arms however, Hermione could not rid her mind of Draco’s presence.

I need you! Draco had said—or rather thought—precisely what Hermione had wanted to hear. She couldn’t understand why, at that moment, she had denied him forgiveness, why those words that made her very being melt were just not enough. She buried her chin into Ron’s shoulder, pressing the side of her face against his neck in frustration.

Ron shuddered internally. He was so close to her, yet he knew he could never have her. His fingers stroked the sides of her dress, wrapping her tighter in a close embrace. Moving swiftly to the tune and rhythm of the music, he moved flawlessly to the rhythm of the countermelody, thanking the heavens that he had inherited his mother’s knack for dancing.

Ron noticed Draco sulking in the corner. Stroking Hermione’s hair, he smiled furtively in Draco’s direction, making sure he could see them. Draco gripped the edge of his chair tightly, straining his already bulging knuckles. He knew Ron was trying to provoke him—that the redhead had waited years to do so.

Hermione felt Ron’s soft fingers stroke her scalp and she closed her eyes. It was very relaxing being in the comfort of a friend. She had forgotten what it meant to truly trust a person with all her being without having to grapple with constant doubt and suspicion.

Draco’s words made their way into her thoughts for the second time in under a minute. She hated fighting with him, being apart both physically and emotionally. Her attachment and remorse surprised her—she never thought she would grow to truly like someone like Draco in less than three months no less. Then again, he had turned out to be much different than she had originally thought.

He was handsome, kind, loyal, witty—he challenged her in a way no one had ever done. Everything about their relationship was new and exciting. He never underestimated her, or took advantage of her. Hermione pulled away from Ron’s shoulder and smiled at the thought of Draco.

She’s smiling, Ron thought, catching a glimpse of Hermione’s facial expression. He caught her gaze and they stared at one another for a moment. Maybe… Ron leaned in and without thinking, kissed her. The kiss was deep, passionate but fleeting. Before Hermione could truly understand what was going on, she had pulled away from the confines of Ron’s embrace wiping her mouth of the intrusion.

“Ron—” she exclaimed, but before she could begin to ask for an explanation, Ron was squirming helplessly on the ground, nursing a bloody nose.

Having leapt furiously from the shadows leaving his feigned indifference in the corner, Draco was shaking out his hand. Looking from a writhing Ron to a fuming Draco, Hermione was speechless. The music had stopped and everyone was for the second time that night distracted by the enthralling drama of Hermione Granger’s apparent love life.

Finally finding her voice, she exclaimed, “Draco! What are you doing?”

Foaming at the mouth with utter, uncontrollable rage, Draco yelled back, “Putting this worthless piece of second hand—” But he didn’t need to finish his sentence for Hermione to understand that Draco was defending her honor in the name of his jealousy.

Harry and Ginny had rushed over from their secluded section of the dance floor, to consol their injured friend.

“Hermione, what happened?” Ginny questioned, shocked by the utter ridiculousness of the scene.

Hermione glared at Draco and then Ron, not knowing exactly how to tell her best friend that Draco had just punched her brother in the face, after her brother had unexpectedly kissed her on the lips.

“I—I don’t really know,” she was paralyzed with frustration, flustered beyond control by the actions of her companions. She didn’t know what to do except for run. Hermione turned around and bolted through the doors of the Great Hall leaving Draco and Ron bickering behind her.

“I wi’ te’ you, Gin nee,” Ron said while pinching his nose with his fingers in a failing attempt to cauterize the bleeding. “Hee hit meen!” he pointed accusingly at the blond.

“You were asking for it!” Draco growled.

“How was I asking for it?” Ron bellowed back, in a meek attempt to defend himself, but Draco was too concerned about Hermione to respond. Watching her run from the room, he turned to follow. Ron bleeding profusely from the nose followed after Draco, determined to get to Hermione first in spite of his injury.

Almost reaching the doorway to the Great Hall, both boys stopped, as Hermione turned and came striding back into the room to face them of her own accord, a new but fierce resolution etched across her face.

“Why would you kiss me, after everything that had happened tonight? We came as just friends—I just don’t understand you sometimes,” Hermione stammered.

“I am your friend!” Ron stood up to glare directly into Draco’s menacing eyes, blood dripping down the sides of his cheeks into his hands and mouth.

“Some friend you are! Last time I checked manipulation by Amortentia was not in the manual on How to be a Best Friend.”

“And you why would you think hitting Ron is okay?” Hermione was tearing at this point, turning now on Draco. “I can’t believe you would resort to such petty measures—I thought you were better than that.”

This was his chance. Letting go of his inhibitions, Ron ran full-force into Draco’s stomach. Using his head instead of his wand, Ron knocked Draco to the floor. The two, abandoning all sense of magical decorum, sacrificed the use of their wands for the pulverizing effects of a muggle fistfight.

“Enough!” Dumbledore’s voice boomed silencing the crowd and bringing the ridiculous display of muggle conflict-resolution tactics to a screeching halt. Ron and Draco scrambled to their feet, both sporting a series of injuries, neither able to look the headmaster directly in the eye.

Disappointment emanating from his gaze, Dumbledore continued. “Harry, Ginny please take Ron up to the Hospital Wing and have Madame Pomfrey take care of his nose before he suffers from anemia.”

Dumbledore looked to Draco, who was massaging his stomach. “Hermione, Draco—meet me outside in the foyer, at once,” there was no reassuring jest underlying the tone of Dumbledore’s voice and the students knew not to ask questions but obey.

Returning the Great Hall to what appeared to be a state of normalcy, Dumbledore exited the Great Hall. The silver dress robes he had chosen for the special occasion, trailed elegantly behind him, leaving in his wake an air of mystique characteristic only of the Headmaster and his fantastical ways.

A glint shimmered behind his spectacles as he made his way to the pair of students waiting for him in the foyer. They were in the midst of a heated argument and although he was intrigued by the source of such fury, he was determined to separate them. He was disappointed in their behavior but at the same time a bit relieved—the prophecy seemed to still be in effect and Draco’s jealousy was proof of that.

“What were you thinking when you punched him?” Hermione screamed at Draco. “I can’t believe that you of all people would sink to such low standards.”

“He provoked me!” Draco spat back.

“HOW could he have provoked you? Were you staring at us?” Hermione bellowed with such conviction, it made Draco shrink a little bit in his shoes. “See this is why I need my privacy! I can’t believe you were staring at us!”

“Of course, I was staring at you. It’s hard not to when you are as beautiful as you are. Plus, I wasn’t going to let him just whisk you off to the dance floor to do Merlin knows what—I don’t trust him after he poisoned you with that love potion stuff, I don’t know how you can?” Draco was confused, irritated, overcome with emotion.

“You will never be able to understand my relationship with Ron. It’s complicated yes, but at least for most of the time, he understands the true meaning of friendship! That is more than I can say for you!”

“You call kissing you when you made it clear you just wanted to be friends is him understanding the meaning of friendship?” Draco looked appalled at the accusation.

“I said for the most part! For the most part, he is a better friend than you could ever hope to be,” Hermione was screaming.

“You have no idea what you are talking about? You have no idea what you want and you know that Ron is no where near as good a human being—let alone friend—as I have been to you these past few weeks,” his voice was softer as he inched closer to Hermione.

“Draco, you left me back there!” she finally divulged the truth, along with an inundating stream of tears. “You left me humiliated in front of your father, in front of the Headmaster and Pansy. You left—and, and,” she stammered searching for words, while hitting him on the chest, “You cannot just come waltzing back into my life and punch the one person who provided me with even the slightest bit of comfort! You can’t!”

“Kissing you when you clearly don’t want to be kissed is comfort?” Draco retorted.

“You lost the right to be jealous the moment you walked up those stairs!” Hermione’s voice decrescendoed quickly; she had turned away from Draco.

Why can’t you forgive me, Draco thought to her, inching closer while putting his hands on her shoulders. I was confused—I was just bombarded with all this information. You can’t blame me for

Hermione turned around, trapping Draco’s gaze with her own.

“I defended you when you needed it, and you repaid me by—” Hermione articulated.

“What do you mean needed it—I didn’t need it,” Draco argued defensively, now backing away. “I didn’t need you.”

That’s right you don’t need me, Hermione traversed his mind and Draco immediately regretted his choice of words. “That is exactly what I’m trying to say.”

Dumbledore stopped just before he reached the pair, watching them engrossed in an overwhelming stare down. Hermione fidgeted under her beautiful dress. Her nerves were taking control of her body, making her shake violently under her skin. She broke contact, realizing that Dumbledore was in their proximity.

“I do not understand,” Dumbledore began, “how you two got to this point.” He was looking at both Draco and Hermione with the fiercest of intensity. “You two are model students, who occasionally get into trouble this is true. But you should be setting an example for the school not being the example of what not to do. I thought if anyone in this school, you two would be the ones who could handle this kind of pressure—this kind of destiny. Clearly,” Dumbledore was eyeing Draco’s injuries, “I was mistaken. Perhaps, Mr. Malfoy, it would be best if you left with your father tonight—seeing as this present situation is not going to—” but he was cut off by Hermione’s insistence.

“That won’t be necessary, sir,” Hermione managed. Draco looked up at her, relief pouring through his body. “I have a solution to our problem—well not our big ‘problem’—just our little problem of not being able to be in the same room without making each other furious beyond belief,” Hermione rambled, her nerves dethroning her confidence.

“A solution?” Dumbledore said, curious by Hermione’s proposition.

“Yea, a solution?” Draco posed, completely forgetting about their previous argument in the Great Hall.

Hermione rolled her eyes, ignoring Draco’s deficient memory, “Yes, I—we want to learn Occlumency.”

“Occlumency? But why—” Dumbledore said, a bit confused by the request.

“Draco and I have a kind of connection, which is probably a side effect of the rebound-of-fate—I’m sorry we didn’t mention it earlier,” Hermione began dismissively and to the point.

So they have discovered their internal connection, Dumbledore smiled inwardly.

“For some reason he can read my thoughts and I his, but more than that—I can plant thoughts in his head inducing a kind of telepathic conversation. This is why I thought Occlumency could help. See,” Hermione paused, “I don’t trust him anymore.”

“What? Why—” Draco protested, but Hermione ignored him.

“I don’t trust him and I need my space. I need time to breathe. Too much is happening too fast and I just don’t trust him with my thoughts anymore. And I know that learning Occlumency can help close the mind off to magical intrusion and influence or that’s what Harry told me when he first started learning in fifth year; so, I was hoping that you could teach us, Professor,” Hermione finished.

“This is ridiculous, we don’t need to—” but again Draco’s protests were ignored.

“All right,” Dumbledore had no choice but to give into Hermione’s adamant demands. More than defeated, he was curious as to where these lessons could lead the pair. “I will set up lessons for the two of you if you are sure that is what you want.” Draco shook his head, but Dumbledore pushed on. “In fact, I think it’s best to start now, while the two of you still have the benefits of the Shrouding Solution.” Hermione looked shocked by Dumbledore’s quick and accepting response. She was surprised that he didn’t ask further questions, but grateful at the same time.

“Yes, that is best. Make your way down to the dungeons—I will notify Professor Snape. Who knows how long we have before you lose your sight again Draco. We don’t want to make these lessons more complicated than they already are,” Dumbledore was lost in thought.

“Professor Snape—sir?” Hermione asked tentatively. “But the last time we were with Snape, things didn’t go very—”

“He is the best, Miss Granger. Now please, the two of you, make your way to the dungeons. Snape will be there promptly to instruct you further.”

Without another word, Dumbledore reentered the Great Hall and Hermione and Draco turned to make their way to the depths of the dungeons.

Draco tapped his fingers on the desk in front of him, doing little to hide his irritation and apparent boredom. With a huge sigh, he let his body sink forward onto the desk, perching his chin purposefully on his open palm. He rolled his eyes in Hermione’s direction, only to receive the livid glare he had grown so accustomed to seeing.

Hermione unscrunched her face, releasing her frustration and allowing herself to melt back into her thoughts. The anticipation of finally being able to control her mental connection with Draco was keeping her on edge. She wasn’t sure how this was going to go, if she was going to be at all successful—if she really wanted to end the telepathy in the first place.

No, she shook her head. You need this, she thought firmly to herself.

“You do not. In fact, this whole thing is ridiculous,” Draco, responded instinctively.

“Will you PLEASE get out of my head?!” Hermione screamed, having finally given into her irritation she had so rationally tried to repress. She was so furious with her situation, with her lack of privacy that she made to cover herself up with her hands, trying with all her will power to run from the excruciating nakedness she felt while in his presence. “We are doing this, whether you like it or not.”

Draco looked up, embracing a new fervor as if he had just awoken from a year of hibernation. “You speak as if you are the only one in the room.”

Taken aback by his apparent impudence, Hermione did not know how to reply. “What?” she managed, defensively.

“You speak and act, as if you are the only one affected by this whole situation. Who in the name of Merlin do you think you are, Hermione! I feel like we are back at square one—the same two individuals who on the first night were unwilling to admit that they needed each other to make this work—to make any of this work,” Draco was livid, his eyes bulged with a frustration uncharacteristic of his usual temperament. “Did you honestly think I would have left you like that?”

“I don’t know what to think anymore,” Hermione mumbled nonchalantly.

“Excuse me?” Draco asked curtly.

“I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO THINK ANYMORE!” Hermione screamed at the top of her lungs. Hearing her voice several decibels above its normal volume was oddly liberating. “I cannot think anymore without you knowing everything,” she said, this time employing an appropriate volume.

I can’t handle this kind of intimacy—I won’t handle it especially when you are the one on the receiving end of it all. She thought to herself, facilitating a feeble but nevertheless pervasive reassurance.

“I see. So if I were—I don’t know—a redhead with an unhealthy amount of freckles scattered across my face, we wouldn’t be having these problems?” Draco speculated in response to her thoughts.

Hermione felt the fury rising in her chest again at the implication of Draco’s words. “You did not just say what I think you did and in response to something I didn’t even say,” Hermione articulated angrily, fighting the temptation to slap Draco upside the head with her murderous fist, now clenched in anticipation.

“What? That you would be happier if I were Ron?” Draco mused. “It would be so much easier, wouldn’t it? If I were Ron, there would be no unbearable rumors; you and your precious little friends would be back together and all would be right in your stupid little fantasy of a world. You wouldn’t have to stand up or even defend yourself. You wouldn’t need Occlumency to protect yourself from your desires. Everything would have played out as planned. Written in the stars, they would say,” Draco finished his tirade, his hands up in the air, glaring defiantly into Hermione’s sparkling brown eyes.

“Do not talk to be about my being afraid to defend myself and my feelings when you can’t even stand up to your own father,” Hermione managed through gritted teeth. She stood up and was walking over to Draco, never taking his eyes off him. “We are learning Occlumency, whether you like it or not.”

“Fine,” Draco said unexpectedly. “Let’s start now then. You want to learn Occlumency, let’s stop talking about it and just get it over with. The only way you learn is through practice, right?”

“FINE!” Hermione rebutted without thinking, falling prey to her instinct for battle, which always surfaced when in Draco’s presence. “No, wait—Professor Snape—he’s not here…” But it was too late; Hermione was taken by surprise, unable to defend her mind against Draco’s purposeful invasion.

“Legilimens!” Draco shouted artfully above Hermione’s hesitations, almost too artfully for a beginner.

Hermione felt his mind press against hers, thumbing through streams of memories from years past. She watched helplessly as her life flashed before her eyes, like a silent film in color. Jumping from her earliest memory from when she was about three, reading in bed with her mom on one side and her little stuffed elephant on the other to some of her most recent memories, Draco finally stopped invoking a sacred memory from the depths of her mind. She screamed in silent protest, realizing which one he had chosen; of all her memories, she had hidden this one especially in fear that it would one day be found.

Mentally overwhelmed by the memory forced to the foreground of her mind, Hermione could see her twelve year old self at the apex of her vulnerability, tears streaming uncontrollably down the sides of her cheeks, quill secured tightly between her fingers as she sat in the Owlery among her sleeping companions, committing her pain to paper. It was dark and the only light streaming through the clerestory was that of the lustrous moon. Her hair was out of control and her face was stained red from hours of uncontrollable tears.

They don’t understand, she wrote on the parchment. They don’t understand what it feels like to be called… she paused unable to continue her written thoughts. Tears blurring her perfect penmanship, The twelve-year old Hermione breathed in a heavy sigh before continuing her thoughts on paper… what it feels like to be called a Mudblood. I just can’t believe he said it to my face without even flinching, without showing a bit of remorse, like he possessed less than a human conscience. He stared at me with those piercing silver eyes hiding behind his evil smirk, and destroyed everything that I am with a word that means nothing to him and everything to me. He knows Harry didn’t unlock the Chamber of Secrets, he knows… Yet, he insists on seizing every opportunity he can to remind me of where I come from—my innate inferiority. Nothing I do is ever good enough. I will always be filth to him, a filthy little Mudblood. I feel…

Draco pulled away, unable to watch the young Hermione record her misery. He never knew how much his naïve antics as a young man had affected her back in their first couple of years at Hogwarts. He knew he had a reputation for being mean—but he had thought it was more the Slytherin in him than a reflection of his own volition. Receding into his mind, taking a brief moment to reflect on his own memories, he could feel Hermione fight against his telepathic grip; snapping from his momentary lapse, he retained his skillful hold over her mind. He was beginning to understand why his father had forced him to learn Occlumency when he was younger, for moments like these when power was key to survival.

Draco perused her other memories intrigued by what he would find, stopping again on a familiar scene.

They were outside. Potter and Weasley were rapt with excitement, lost in conversation and shock about what had apparently just taken place. Hermione a little ways from her friends was massaging her hand. Draco could feel the confidence and satisfaction filling the thirteen-year-old Hermione, as if it were he in her position. I can’t believe I just slapped Draco Malfoy. Merlin knows that felt good to give that son of a Deatheater exactly what he deserved—a taste of his own insubordination, his own hateful, intolerable behavior. She smirked. I don’t care what anyone says, revenge is worth every sickle, every pang of remorse. Draco watched as Hermione smiled and returned to her friends.

Draco pulled away again, surprised by the utter hatred she had felt for him. He knew she never liked him, that they had been anything but friends—but such hatred. For the first time, Draco Malfoy was uncomfortable in his own skin, fully conscious of the consequences of his behavior. He didn’t like himself, yet he couldn’t let go of his mental control—not until he knew how she felt now. Draco streamed through her thoughts, fighting the retaliating pressure of Hermione’s mind. She was getting stronger, and he could feel her presence pressed up against his skull. Yet, he pushed on, determined to find out what her mind continued to hide.

Music filled Draco’s mind as he plunged into Hermione’s most recent memory, dancing in Ron’s arms. Only slightly aware of her surroundings, Hermione melted into Ron’s body losing herself to her dreams.

Draco could feel the overpowering jealousy rise once again in his chest as he watched Hermione’s memory recall what had already been too painful to watch the first time around. Hermione too could feel this jealousy, a new addition to the memory she had not experienced before Draco’s invasion. The two watched as the scene unraveled. Draco watched himself watch from a corner of the dance floor as Ron spun Hermione slowly and calculatedly around in a circle to the smooth rhythm of the soothing melody.

He is handsome, kind, loyal, witty—he challenges me in a way no one has ever done. Everything about our relationship is new and exciting. He never underestimates me, or takes advantage of me. Hermione thought while in Ron’s embrace. Draco watched as Hermione pulled away from Ron’s shoulder smiling inwardly while taking in the full extent of Hermione’s commentary.

He let go of his mental blockade. Relief flooded his veins as he and Hermione both snapped back to reality, “You smiled because of me,” he said barely audible so Hermione could hear only traces of his sudden realization. “You smiled because of me—you were pulling away from him, not repositioning for the kiss,” he repeated so that she could hear him now. “He is handsome, kind, loyal witty—you weren’t talking about Ron!” His glee was terribly self-evident. “Me, me! You were smiling because of me!”

“Yes DRACO! I smiled because I was thinking of you—goodness you didn’t need to kidnap my memories to figure that out!” Hermione had risen from her reverie, irate and emotionally unstable. Taking hold of her wand, she screamed, “I may have been thinking about you then, but the only thing I’m thinking now is a little payback is in order!”

Before Draco could even think to come to his defense, Hermione caught him off guard, “Legilimens!”

Unlike Draco, however, Hermione had little control over her newfound position of power. Having yet to refine her Occlumency skills, she did not know how to effectively peruse, let alone choose, one of Draco’s memories. Her mind kind of just stumbled into one, as if tripping clumsily over an ill-placed book.

You are worthless—a downright disgrace to the Malfoy name, you know that! How could you let that fool of a boy beat you at your game? I bought you that broom—I bought that entire team very expensive brooms—so that you could prove to the world that you in fact belong in this family—that you are better than that stupid Potter boy. Good think the Dark Lord was not hear to witness this catastrophe. Without fail, you let me down like you always do.

Little twelve-year-old Malfoy cowered in the face of his father’s words. I’m sorry father, he whispered, I didn’t mean to…

Hermione losing control over the memory skipped ahead. Her head was spinning from the growing pressure of Draco’s mind. He was closing her out, quicker but more effectively than she had managed to. The scene had fully formed. Hermione was in one of Draco’s most recent memories. She recognized the blazing room—the one she had stormed out of just moments before. She watched tentatively as Dumbledore came down the stairs, followed by a seemingly timid Draco.

“Your mistake was hiding everything from me—your past with Mom and James Potter,” Draco managed with difficulty. “Your mistake was in your hypocrisy. Ancient magic? Changing prophecies?” Lucius looked to Dumbledore again at his son’s words, where as Draco did not take his eyes off his father. He continued, “Are you really that selfish that you can’t even give in to what’s written in the stars?” Draco screamed at the top of his lungs, pleading with rage and disappointment. “I am not you. I will never be the son you want me to be. And I am not going home tonight.”

Hermione sank to the dungeon floor, surrendering what was left of her mental hold over Draco. He had effectively closed her from his mind, cowering in shame at what he knew she had just witnessed. Hermione was speechless. Making her way over to Draco, her eyes were apologetic and filled with regret for ever having doubted him; Hermione held out her hand to help Draco up from the dungeon floor. Waving a white flag, she held out her hand in front of her body in the name of a truce, compelling him to let her help him from the ground.

He didn’t take it. He couldn’t take it.

Getting up of his own accord, his legs shaking beneath his weight, weakened by the mental war that had taken place just moments before, Draco stood up standing in front of Hermione. Both were motionless and exhausted and still stubbornly refusing to give in to the deafening silence of the air hovering precariously around them.

Draco was the first to move. He turned away from Hermione. It was his turn to hide his nakedness. What she had seen—he knew she would never look at him in the same way.

Hermione made her way over to him, coming within inches of his skin. She breathed warmly on his neck, turning her face away into her own shoulder. Regaining a bit of her courage, she went to place her hand reassuringly on his shoulder, but at the last minute changed her mind. She turned away, so that they were once again back to back—neither one speaking, confined to their own thoughts.

“I think—” Draco began, “It is time we visit my mother.”

“Why?” Hermione said.

“Because if we don’t resolve this rebound-of-fate soon, neither one of us will have a fate to look forward to. Clearly cooperation is not getting us anywhere and honestly it will continue to not get us anywhere but the gossip hall of fame,” Draco paused. “We need answers before we kill more than each other’s pride,” Draco conceded.

Hermione looked up, a single tear streaming down the side of her cheek. They had masqueraded their true desires for so long, that they had become irrelevant to their present. There was no way they could go on living like this, in the shadow of a life they hoped to live, in the arms of one another but at the mercy of everyone else.

“And,” Draco continued.

“And?” Hermione said wiping away the tear, surprised by the amount of make-up smudged on her fingertips.

“And Hermione, because I think Shrouding Solution has finally worn off,” Draco concluded collapsing into the closest chair, resigned to the inevitable. “I can’t see, Hermione,” he whispered, his voice trailing off slowly into their surroundings, blending into the humid mist of the dungeon air.

Chapter 19: Without Him
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-- A/N --

Dearest Readers,

I hope everyone is enjoying this holiday season. Finals have finally ended and as promised I am here to deliver to your computer screens the latest chapter of Blinded.

I know it has been a terribly long wait and I am very sorry about that, but as many of you know schoolwork must come first. Your patience has been greatly appreciated and I hope the chapter does not disappoint.

Because it has been so long, I have included a brief recap of what happened at the end of the previous chapter. I hope you enjoy this latest addition and the fresh perspective it brings to the story. I hope it answers a few questions, and leaves you with a few more.

I am on vacation for the next couple of weeks but as soon as I get back, I promise you another chapter!

Thank you so much for your patience and support! Please don’t forget to leave a review. Questions, constructive critique, suggestions, all welcome!

Yours always,


Hermione sank to the dungeon floor, surrendering what was left of her mental hold over Draco. He had effectively closed her from his mind, cowering in shame at what he knew she had just witnessed. Hermione was speechless. Making her way over to Draco, her eyes were apologetic and filled with regret forever having doubted him; Hermione held out her hand to help Draco up from the dungeon floor. Waving a white flag, she held out her hand in front of her body in the name of a truce, compelling him to let her help him from the ground.

He didn’t take it. He couldn’t take it.

Getting up of his own accord, his legs shaking beneath his weight, weakened by the mental war that had taken place just moments before, Draco stood up standing in front of Hermione. Both were motionless and exhausted and still stubbornly refusing to give in to the deafening silence of the air hovering precariously around them.

Draco was the first to move. He turned away from Hermione. It was his turn to hide his nakedness. What she had seen—he knew she would never look at him in the same way.

Hermione made her way over to him, coming within inches of his skin. She breathed warmly on his neck, turning her face away into her own shoulder. Regaining a bit of her courage, she went to place her hand reassuringly on his shoulder, but at the last minute changed her mind. She turned away, so that they were once again back to back—neither one speaking, confined to their own thoughts.

“I think—” Draco began, “It is time we visit my mother.”

“Why?” Hermione said.

“Because if we don’t resolve this rebound-of-fate soon, neither one of us will have a fate to look forward to. Clearly cooperation is not getting us anywhere and honestly it will continue to not get us anywhere but the gossip hall of fame,” Draco paused. “We need answers before we kill more than each other’s pride,” Draco conceded.

Hermione looked up, a single tear streaming down the side of her cheek. They had masqueraded their true desires for so long, that they had become irrelevant to their present. There was no way they could go on living like this, in the shadow of a life they hoped to live, in the arms of one another but at the mercy of everyone else.

“And,” Draco continued.

“And?” Hermione said wiping away the tear, surprised by the amount of make-up smudged on her fingertips.

“And Hermione, because I think Shrouding Solution has finally worn off,” Draco concluded collapsing into the closest chair, resigned to the inevitable. “I can’t see, Hermione,” he whispered, his voice trailing off slowly into their surroundings, blending into the humid mist of the dungeon air.

Chapter 19: Without Him

Her hand trembled ever so slightly under the lamplight, as she fumbled quietly through the pages of the delicate book, resting beside her feet. Doing her best to respect the silence of the shadows around her not to mention her sleeping companion, she fought against the anxiety now trespassing into her decidedly mute vocal chords.

She shifted within her skin, tears streaming down the sides of her cheeks as she let her frustration get the better of her. She was never going to find an answer to her problem.

Books were sprawled recklessly across the floor. Her potion kit, open and half empty, rested precariously at the edge of the hearth where the fire, usually a blaze with a suffocating heat, was weak, barely a flame. Her cauldron, worn with age and still sporting the unmistakable burn from the explosion in her fifth year, hung lifelessly in the fireplace—her last hope, gurgling away at its very bottom.

She continued to search through the pages of her book, letting her eyes hurdle from potion to potion. Nothing was jumping out at her and she didn’t know what to do. This was the first time the library had denied her an answer—what good was it at finally having access to the restricted section if all it was going to do was fail her. She had waited six years to gain access to the corner of the library that had sparked the curiosity of every Hogwarts student at one point in time; and now that she had it, she realized it wasn’t enough.

Her companion rolled over, pushing his disheveled black hair against his hazel eyes. The moonlight streaming from the clerestory of their dormitory illuminated his tranquil features; she almost chuckled seeing him smirk, even in his sleep.

See Narcissa! This is exactly what I am talking about. You are letting yourself get distracted by this boy. The voice in her head was growing louder by the minute and to her dismay began to sound more and more like her mother’s. It is unhealthy what you are doing. Let’s be honest, dear—it would never work. You must find a cure to this rebound-of-fate or whatever the headmaster called it, for your sake and his… she let her thoughts trail off into the night as she sat in the almost darkness of her dormitory letting herself imagine the forbidden, improbable and unrealistic “what if” scenario. What if it could work and her mother was wrong? She smiled.

Realizing, however, what she was doing, she pinched her arm and let out a tiny squeal. “Bloody hell!” she whispered, relishing the first sound she had made in hours while massaging her forearm. The body next to her stirred again, but thankfully did not regain full consciousness.

She took a deep breath. This was all becoming too much for her to handle. Pushing back her long beautiful, silver blonde hair, she turned her attention back to her advanced book of potions. She had more hope of finding an answer to her problems within the pages of the critically acclaimed potions book than the pages of her imagination.

Polyjuice Potion, Prix de Polynices, Pomeranian Poison… Finding the section of “P” to be rather useless, Narcissa flipped through a chunk of the pages. Shrapnel (elusive liquid formula), Shrinking Solution… she banged her fists against the open book, forgetting about the shadows and the silence she was trying not to disturb. She cupped her face in her open palms, her neck bowing to the inevitable while the depths of her throat struggled to hold back another wave of tears.

Glancing over the ingredients for the Shrinking Solution, she quickly gathered that this potion was not the one she was looking for; but, before she lost all hope, her eyes flickered across to the next page. The upper right hand corner of the page was folded down, like someone had marked it for a later date.

She read the heading. Shrouding Solution. Intrigued, she continued on.

Designed to disguise even the most talented of wizards, the Shrouding solution tops every disguise known to mankind. Difficult to make, the Shrouding solution requires weeks of hard labor and for this reason is generally looked to as a last resort for many Aurors or wizards seeking to masquerade themselves quickly. Unlike the invisibility cloak, the Shrouding solution does not glean its power from the ability to deceive sight, but relies, instead, on its ability to deceive all of the senses. When brewed well, it is designed to reach into the depths of the drinker’s soul and change not only the person’s appearance, but also the sole characteristic that makes them who they are.

She read over the passage several times. Depths of the drinker’s soul. It sounded like a powerful solution indeed, but again her heart sank. Despite its fascinating appeal, it wasn’t what she was looking for. Neither she nor her companion was blind after all—just bound together by this stubborn shield of light. She kept the page marked, however, in case it was needed sometime in the future, or the person who had originally marked it came looking for it again.

“What am I going to do?” she whispered to her sleeping companion, her emotions tearing her up inside.

“You could try to relax for starters,” he breathed unexpectedly into her ear. His breath, slow but deep, warmed the back of her neck, sending a comfortable tickle down her spine. He had woken up at last, but instead of letting her know right away, he had used the darkness to his advantage—stealing the opportunity to watch her, to admire her, to simply be with her.

She jumped at the sound of his voice, her chest heaving with adrenaline upon realizing that she was in the company of more than her own thoughts.

“I’m sorry!” she said mechanically. “I tried not to disturb you.”

“You didn’t,” he said warmly to her. She could feel his grin without having to look at his face. Somewhat exhausted, her body melted at the thought of his seductive, side smile—it was her weakness.

“What are you doing up so late, anyways?” he continued. “If it’s school work… I can help you.”

“It’s not school work, James,” she said dismissively. “It’s my own problem. I’ll figure it out on my own. I always do.” Her voice was curt, cold and cruel in comparison to his, but he didn’t mind. He never did.

“I never said you couldn’t. I was just offering, trying to be nice,” he responded, more to her defensive tone than the actual content of their conversation.

“Just go back to sleep. Please, just leave me alone.” She had stood up, her blonde hair catching the moonlight with every strand. Sensing her distress, he wiped the sleep from his eyes and followed her towards the fireplace.

Placing a comforting hand on her shoulder, he inched closer to her. “Whatever is bothering you, forget about it. It’s not worth it.”

His tone was so caring, so sincere. “Why do you have to be so wonderful?” she said, without thinking. Immediately, she brought her hand to her lips, silencing them before she had the chance to blurt out anything else she might come to regret.

James was taken aback by the comment. He was confused—not only by her words, but by the darkness, their increasing proximity, and the anxiety building in the pit of his stomach. Narcissa turned around to face him, tears streaming uncontrollably down the sides of her face.

“Narcissa, what is wrong?” he couldn’t stand the sight of her tears and he didn’t understand why. In that moment, everything that had defined their relationship—their past, their families’ history, his feelings for Lily Evans—everything disappeared and all he could think about was her and her apparent pain.

“You! You! You are the problem!” she scrunched her face in distress. “My life made sense before you, before this—before us,” she hesitated for a second. “I had a plan. Graduate with honors, maybe travel for a year, become a Malfoy like my mother always planned, settle down and get fat off chocolate frogs and pumpkin pasties because I married for money rather than love. And then you—you changed everything.”

James lifted his hand to her cheek, wiping away her tears. She pushed his hand away, but only halfheartedly.

“Don’t you get it!” she screamed at him. “This mess—it’s ALL your fault.” She was pointing at her potions kit, the cauldron and the general unkempt disposition of her normally impeccable dormitory. Her legs were shaking underneath her heaving chest. She sank to the floor.

“I hate you for ruining my life, my plan—everything that was written in the stars. I hate you for your popularity. I hate you for your stupid marauder friends. I hate you for beating Slytherin every year in the Inter-House Quidditch cup. I hate you for being so wonderful to me, especially when I don’t deserve it. I hate you for showing me that love does exist in this world. But most of all, I hate you for loving Lily—when all I can think about is the day you will love me just as much as you love her!”

He was speechless. He didn’t know what to say, how to console her tears—how much he had come to love the person now lying within his own embrace.

The door slammed and Narcissa sat up quickly. She had been innocently staring out of the windowsill, before being enticed by memories of years passed. She looked around the room, the upper west chamber of the Malfoy Manor; to her disappointment, everything was as usual. Nothing was out of place, the fire was a blaze and she was alone—aside from the footsteps now approaching her location.

The footsteps grew louder with each passing second, drawing her closer and closer to the reality in which she was trapped. Her face grew stiff and stern, releasing any traces of warmth her memories may have instilled or left behind. She couldn’t remember the last time she had smiled or felt anything really, besides the icy touch of the Manor air on her flesh.

Lucius entered into the room, flooding the chamber with unwelcome light from the corridor. His face fell immediately upon seeing his wife immersed in thought, next to the windowsill. He hadn’t been in a good mood to begin with but he had hoped he would find her doing something for a change. Having just returned from seeing Dumbledore, he had expected his wife to have at least ordered the house elves to prepare dinner for him. But of course, things were as usual. Things did not meet his expectations.

She didn’t turn to look at him, but breathed focusing on the view in front of her. These days she found it painful to be in the same room as him, let alone let him into her line of sight.

“He didn’t come,” Lucius stated, in reference to his son’s decision to stay at Hogwarts.

“I told he wouldn’t,” she retorted, without shifting her gaze. “He may look like you, but he is more like me than you are willing to admit, Lucius.”

The words stung the air and Lucius flinched at his wife’s biting tone. “What is that supposed to mean?” he replied.

“We both know, you know exactly what that means.” She didn’t scream. She wasn’t angry. It was more a monotonous tone, an indifferent one.

“Merlin, Narcissa! Will you at least look at me when I speak to you?” Narcissa did not move but Lucius pushed onward. “You owe me that much.”

“I owe you nothing,” she breathed, her cheeks flaring with sudden irritation.

“You owe me everything. I gave you food, money, shelter. I gave you a life, a family, a reputation and this is how you repay me, by sitting in front of the window all day dreaming of him.

“You took away the one thing I lived for. I owe you nothing,” she scathed.

“I loved you. I saved you from him—because I loved you,” Lucius defended.

“You saved me from him because I was the one thing in your life that you couldn’t have. You were jealous, Lucius; and, jealousy was the one emotion you could never handle. You and I both know that you never really loved me. You wanted me because you couldn’t have me.”

“This is ridiculous. I don’t have to tolerate this nonsense.”

“Why didn’t you just leave me with him?! Then you wouldn’t have to tolerate this nonsense NOW!” she screamed.

“He was doomed, Narcissa! Him and all of his stupid little friends were doomed. You Know Who was going to kill them all, it was written in the stars—I did not want you to suffer the same fate. If that meant I had to save you from that stupid fantasy of yours, toil in some elementary magic, help you break your rebound-of-fate, then so be it. It was worth it to see you alive now in his wake.”

“I would have gladly died a thousand deaths to be with him for one more second than to live the life I’m living now!”

“Is it really that bad? Is your life really that bad? Do you really think you would be happier with him?” Lucius was screaming now, trying his best to overcome his wife’s barricade of indifference but his desperation was met only with silence.

Silence. She bowed to the distance that had grown between them—the distance that had always been there. Narcissa turned back to her window leaving her husband to storm out of the room, slamming the door behind him with an ear-shattering bang.

“Stop, Lucius…” Narcissa said playfully in his ear, as he pinned her up against the closed entrance to her dormitory. “Someone will see us and James—well, he is just on the other side of the door. It was nice of him to give us a minute alone but I don’t want him to…”

“To hear us?” Lucius smirked devilishly. He leaned in and pulled her lips towards his. The kiss was deep and Narcissa enjoyed it immensely. One thing Lucius Malfoy knew how to do was kiss a girl. Breathing for air, he pulled back, kissed her on the hand and walked away leaving her breathless and wanting more. Or so she made him believe.

Narcissa watched him until he disappeared into the darkness of the corridor and then sank to the floor. She was exhausted.

Entering into her dormitory, she was greeted by the enticing heat of the fire. James was standing over the hearth, warming his hands. He looked up as she entered into the room.

She watched him and smiled. “How long do I have to keep pretending?”

“Pretending?” he probed.

She knew he was trying to provoke her but she nevertheless took the bait. “Pretending that I love a Malfoy—when you and I both know, it’s not true.”

He was walking towards her now, sending butterflies to the pit of her stomach. “It’s not?” he smirked and she knew her pretending was finally getting under his skin. “From what I heard—it sounded pretty true. I believed your pretending, as you called it.”

“Jealous are we, James?” she replied, raising her eyebrows in suspicion while inviting his curiosity. He was inches from her and she could feel his breath on her skin.

“Should I be jealous, Narcissa?” he asked her, but he didn’t wait for a reply. Before she had time to think, she felt his lips on hers as her body melted into his embrace.

Pulling away for just a second, she whispered, “I can’t pretend anymore.”

Hermione woke with a start. She had been dreaming about something, but it was all fading fast from her memory now that she was awake. She just couldn’t shake off the feeling that she was forgetting to do or to say something. She looked over to her sleeping companion and sighed, air streaming heavily from the depths of her chest. She and Draco had fallen asleep in front of the fireplace, after talking about all that had happened in the past few months. It had been awhile since they had sat down and really heard one another speak; and it was unfortunate that it took two mental attacks to bring them together. He had filled her in on everything that Dumbledore had told him about Narcissa and James and the elements. It was amazing how simple magic had once been.

She laid back down and shifted to her side so that she was facing Draco. He was so peaceful when he was unconscious. His blond hair, now covering his eyes, caught the moonlight from the clerestory in just the right way. She didn’t know what made her do it but she couldn’t resist him. She watched as her hand brushed away the stray strands hiding his eyes, stroking his cheek gently, warmly.

He stirred slightly but didn’t wake. She pulled her hand away and turned onto her other side—it was a close call.

“I can’t pretend anymore,” she said into the darkness.

“Neither can I,” an unexpected but welcome voice responded.

Chapter 20: Desperate Times
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-- A/N --

Dearest Readers,

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. I want to personally thank each and every one of you who read and reviewed my latest chapter. Your support and feedback were just incredible and really pushed me in new directions, in terms of both plot and personal writing expectations.

I realize that I promised you a new chapter about a week ago, but my undying commitment to this story and to you forced me to push the release of Chapter 20 back a week. This story is developing in ways I never imagined and I hope that you are as excited as I am about the upcoming additions.

The last few chapters have been very intense and have bombarded you with a roller coaster of emotions as well as new information regarding the rebound-of-fate and the relationship fated to bloom between our two leading characters. I thought it was time to speed things up a bit and introduce a little conflict with a hint of comic relief.

I have included a slight recap for your reading convenience. Feel free to skip over it if you would like.

Yours truly,


Hermione woke with a start. She had been dreaming about something, but it was all fading fast from her memory now that she was awake. She just couldn’t shake off the feeling that she was forgetting to do or to say something. She looked over to her sleeping companion and sighed, air streaming heavily from the depths of her chest. She and Draco had fallen asleep in front of the fireplace, after talking about all that had happened in the past few months. It had been awhile since they had sat down and really heard one another speak; and it was unfortunate that it took two mental attacks to bring them together. He had filled her in on everything that Dumbledore had told him about Narcissa and James and the elements. It was amazing how simple magic had once been.

She laid back down and shifted to her side so that she was facing Draco. He was so peaceful when he was unconscious. His blond hair, now covering his eyes, caught the moonlight from the clerestory in just the right way. She didn’t know what made her do it but she couldn’t resist him. She watched as her hand brushed away the stray strands hiding his eyes, stroking his cheek gently, warmly.

He stirred slightly but didn’t wake. She pulled her hand away and turned onto her other side—it was a close call.

“I can’t pretend anymore,” she said into the darkness.

“Neither can I,” an unexpected but welcome voice responded.

Chapter 20: Desperate Times.

The cool icy feel of stone to spine was very inviting in the mix of their heated corner. He pulled her closer to his chest so that his heartbeat caressed the bare sides of her neck, leaving little room for the two of them to glean adequate breath. Even in the darkness, Dean Thomas stood taller than the shadows lining the empty corridor. Hunched over slightly, lips pressed inseparably to hers, he stroked the sides of her arms with his gentle and welcoming touch, leaving her fearless and inevitably wanting more. Daphne Greengrass hesitated in his embrace, her mind catching a glimpse of the red and gold badge branding the upper left hand corner of the robes she was, at the moment, very tempted to remove.

“What’s wrong?” he whispered into her ear, pulling her so close she could feel the sweet anticipation in his arms. He glanced down to where her eyes were fixated and understood why she was hesitating.

Kissing her cheeks softly and then her lips, he said, “We don’t have to do this, if you don’t want to. I understand where your loyalties must lie. I mean you can’t just throw away thousands of years of house rivalry for one night with a tall, dark, handsome and might I add charming stranger,” Dean chuckled trying to lighten the mood, masquerading his burning desires behind a veil of uncomfortable humor.

“It’s just—I’m a Slytherin, Dean. I have a sister in the fourth year. What would she say if she found out that her sister was one of the blood-traitors?”

“Well technically, I’m a half-blood, so that makes you a half-blood-traitor!” Dean smirked, invoking, in Daphne’s opinion, his irresistible charm.

“Not helping,” she smiled, completely consumed by his presence.

“Look, I’m not going to force you to do anything you don’t want to. All I’m saying is that if Hermione and Draco can fight for whatever it is they have become—then I see no reason for us to conceal our feelings anymore. Daphne, it hurts me to see you in the arms of that You-Know-Who wannabe, Crabbe. You deserve so much better. You deserve a guy who cares whether or not you come to breakfast in the morning, whether you are warm at night when you fall asleep in northwest corner of the library.”

Daphne blushed.

“You deserve someone who will treat you to butterbeer in the Three Broomsticks, when you are chilled by a sudden gust of wind because you forgot your hat in the Great Hall.”

“That’s where I left it, by the pumpkin juice,” Daphne sighed.

Dean ignored her side comment. “You deserve…” he continued but he was cut off by a brisk but determined interruption.

“I deserve someone like you,” she finished. She leaned in and pressed her lips against his with the resolve of a true rebel, for the first time ignoring the hissing serpent tarnishing her chest.

“Exactly!” Dean said pulling away. “That was what I was trying to…”

“Will you shut up already!” she laughed, and they sunk to floor only to meld with darkness of their chosen corner.

Pansy choked silently on her disgust, as she watched the pair succumb to the flames of passion. Absolutely horrified by the sacrilege before her, she turned to escape their company, making sure to hold her breath until she reached the other end of the corridor, as if in fear that she was suddenly in proximity of a contagious disease immune to all known magical remedies.

Having suspected her roommate Daphne of traitorous behavior in the past few weeks following the Halloween ball, she decided that tonight was the night to make something of her suspicions, which unfortunately for her, she did.

“I can’t believe she would do this!” Pansy rampaged silently while a potent revulsion came to a boil underneath her writhing skin.

“She was supposed to be my ally!” Pansy barked quietly to a passing suit of armor. “First Draco, now Daphne, if I see one more…” but she stopped whispering to herself to hide swiftly behind a statue of Gregory the Smarmy.

Sure enough, without a care in the world she spotted another of her seventh year companions, Theodore Nott, hand in hand with none other than Susan Bones.

“For Merlin’s sake, Theodore! A Hufflepuff? At least Daphne had standards,” but Pansy bit her bottom lip to stop her irritation from resounding loudly throughout the corridor. Susan shifted uneasily in Theodore’s embrace as they continued to patrol the hallway, hearing Pansy’s remarks but instinctively dismissing them as ordinary sounds of the castle at night.

Once out of sight, Pansy sunk to the floor, holding onto Gregory’s marble leg for support. She knew that things had been changing socially in the castle ever since Draco had been cursed with the rebound-of-fate but she had not fully realized the extent of the damage.

“This cannot be happening,” she breathed, trying her very best to regain her calm from the impending darkness around her. After checking to make sure no one else was coming, she stood up and continued on her way. With no particular destination in mind, she let her feet plunder the hallways, leading as if with a mind of their own to an isolated destination of random choosing—a place where her mind could deconstruct all that she had witnessed in the last thirty minutes of her complicated existence.

It wasn’t long, however, before she found herself in the Astronomy tower, in the company of the crenellated architecture of years passed. Under the stars, she let the late November wind dishevel her neatly pinned hair, relishing in what she thought was a moment of solitude.

“Didn’t expect to see you here!” a deep, soothing voice admitted from one corner of the tower. Obscured by the vestiges of darkness in the presence of starlight, a tall imposing figure rose from the remaining traces of shadow, emanating a red glow from the top of his brooding limbs.

Taken aback by his confident tone, Pansy extinguished a fleeting flutter in the depths of her stomach, replacing it with an unwavering curiosity to know who relieved her of her seclusion.

“Mourning your girlfriend, are you Weasley?” she asked, doing her best to snarl at his pathetic form. But it was forced and he could tell.

“Why Pansy, I think you’ve lost your biting touch. We both know I’m not the only one who has lost in love,” Ron replied calmly, challenging her patience and need for tradition.

Pansy was lost for words. He had spoken the truth and she was too frazzled by her journey up to the tower to formulate an adequate reply. So she settled for polite conversation for perhaps, the first time in her life. “So—then, what are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be in your dormitory protecting your dear Potter friend from his ghastly nightmares?” So she would have to work on the politeness for sometime in the near future. She couldn’t help it if her tone became a tad biting. She was a Slytherin; sarcasm was in her nature.

“No—I’m off duty tonight,” Ron chuckled, playing along, clearly attempting to avoid an altercation. “Actually, I came up here to escape the chaos happening down there,” he continued pointing towards the sleeping castle.

Intrigued, Pansy asked, “What do you mean?”

“Ever since the beginning of the year, I feel like Hogwarts as I know it has slowly been deteriorating and for the first time Harry, Hermione and I are powerless to stop it.”

Pansy guffawed at her companion’s complacency. “When were you three ever powerful?”

Ron ignored her and continued in his explanation. “For example, on my way up here just a few moments ago, I saw Natalie MacDonald and Malcolm Baddock snogging outside the Gryffindor common room. I mean Hermione and Draco are at least seventh years but bloody hell! Natalie is only in her fourth year as a Gryffindor.”

“No, not Malcolm too…” Pansy sighed, disappointed to hear that her protégé had finally succumbed to his unhealthy desires.

“And last I heard, Millicent Bulstrode fell asleep in Binns’ class last Tuesday and apparently began fantasizing about Neville Longbottom in a romantic way,” he paused to stress the significance of those last words. “Granted he and Luna Lovegood are going out, but still—something is terribly wrong with our student body.”

“She told me she dreamt she was pounding him into the ground,” Pansy flinched at the idea that Millicent had in fact been lying to her.

“Yeah… with her body!” Ron chuckled at his own cleverness.

“Shut up! This is no laughing matter you dim wit! Don’t you see what is happening?” Pansy crescendoed. “Hermione and Draco’s little romance, if you can even call it that, has converted the entire school into an inter-house breeding ground. They are testing our loyalties, our commitment to convention—how can you just sit back and laugh about it?” Pansy’s eyes lit with a new, intense and all-consuming fervor.

“So, let’s do something about it!” Ron suggested, effacing his smile with a severity akin to Pansy’s usual, unforgiving character.

“I can’t align myself with a blood-traitor like you. That is what they want… oh no, no, no, no. They won’t convert me,” Pansy breathed harshly while looking around, glaring critically into the darkness waiting for her enemy to strike.

“Typical. Even when the fate of your precious world lies in the hanging, you would rather die trying than align yourself with a PUREBLOOD who happens to be in a different house. You’re on your own Parkinson.”

“That’s where you’re wrong, Weasley,” her biting tone having fully returned. “You forget that I still have Blaise on my side.”

“That’s what you think,” Ron scoffed, embracing the ambiguity of his last words, before descending the tower only to return to his dormitory and the unwelcoming depths of his sorrow.

“That IS what I think,” Pansy mouthed childishly, in an unsuccessful almost pitiful attempt at a retort.

After just four hours of deep sleep, Pansy awoke in a hurry. She dressed hastily, putting on her robes while simultaneously slathering her hair with a mixture of styling spells. She didn’t look her best but her unfortunate appearance was not her top priority at the moment. She desperately needed to talk to Blaise, recruit him for battle and start formulating their plan to change the school back.

Plopping down next to Crabbe and his daily pile of pumpkin pasties, tarts, eggs and everything else within arm’s reach, she dismissed his ridiculous appetite as a normal occurrence and turned her loathing to Daphne who was sitting on his other side, pouring pumpkin juice into his now empty goblet while forcing some kind of communication. Pansy glowered at Daphne’s audacity to live a double life and had half a mind to expose her right then and there if it hadn’t been for a certain redhead trying to catch her attention. He was pointing to somewhere across the room, mouthing what came across as three big yawns and a faint whistling noise. She ignored him and turned her attention elsewhere.

Usually delighted to see the Bloody Baron in the morning for a dose of evil but refreshing scorn before classes, Pansy was surprised to see him in a rather fanciful mood. Sitting over by the Ravenclaw table, he seemed to be—dare she admit—flirting with the Grey Lady. Everyone had to admit at some point in time that the Grey Lady had a hint of beauty embossed within her ghostly form, but to see the Bloody Baron actually turn on the charm for a female form he couldn’t even touch, was absolutely pitiful and a sure sign that the situation at Hogwarts was not self-ameliorating but rather self-destructing.

Turning back to Ron, she realized that the redhead was just indefatigable at times. Still attempting to capture her attention, he pointed again this time in a more straightforward fashion towards the Hufflepuff table.

There in broad daylight, Pansy jumped with fright. Susan Bones and Theodore Nott were sitting inches from one another enjoying a plate of raspberry tarts. Theodore, his clumsy self had dropped a bit of sauce on his shirt and Susan in an almost loving fashion helped him to clean it off. Kissing her cheek gently as a thank you, she blushed at his unexpected but welcome audacity. No, it was not this public display of revolting affection that almost knocked Pansy out of her seat. It was the couple sitting just across from them.

Hand in hand, Blaise Zabini and Parvati Patil smiled at Theodore’s spur of the moment surprise. It was cute and they were suddenly aware of the pressure to do the same. They resisted, however, choosing instead to exchange quiet remarks about the day ahead. The affection was evident—it seemed you would have to be blind not to see the glow in Blaise’s cheeks at the sound of Parvati’s laughter or his playful side smile at catching a whiff of her perfume.

Pansy could see Parvati blush at the sound of Blaise’s voice; instinctively, she cringed at the inevitable realization that she was alone in this war. Her last ally had been infected, converted, torn from under her wing.

She glared at Hermione and Draco who were enjoying each other’s company, albeit a bit more discretely than either Theodore or Susan. They were to blame for all of this. Them—the outcasts who suddenly for the first time in months seemed to blend into their surroundings more than they stood out.

Pansy pushed him against the icy stonewall of an empty corridor just outside the Great Hall. She had lured him here for one purpose and one purpose only. As soon-to-be allies, they needed to formulate their Inquisition, their crusade for wizarding kind. Pushing him, somewhat forcefully against the wall, she was surprised by how fit and handsome she found him to be at first glance, but dismissed the blasphemy from her mind almost immediately.

“Take it easy, Parkinson or I’ll start to think you’ve been infected,” Ron mused, enjoying the hint of anger that slowly rose from her cheeks, masquerading behind her eyebrows.

“We need to separate them. It’s the only way to get things back to normal,” Pansy began. “Their little relationship is what started it all.”

“And how do you propose we do that?” Ron asked, assuming an immediate seriousness that summoned an austerity characteristic only of a true Slytherin.

“You’ve done it before, haven’t you?” Pansy probed.

“What do you mean? Are you talking about the Amortentia?” Ron asked in surprise.

“Yeah! I mean it is a long shot but it distracted Hermione for almost twenty-four hours! That would be enough time to seduce Draco.”

“That was months ago,” Ron surmised. “I don’t think it will work again. I just get this feeling that their bond has grown inexplicably stronger. I don’t think a love potion will break them again or any plans of seduction you may have up your sleeve.”

“What about that vial I stole?” Pansy tried again only slightly disheartened.

“The Shrouding solution? Maybe but its risky. Remember what Snape said about it in class! The Shrouding solution has its origins in elementary magic, powerful but very unpredictable. Even if we do brew it, the Shrouding solution could easily backfire on us, emotionally pulling them closer together even though physically they can part.”

“Wow, Weasley—I think Granger has rubbed off on you over the years.”

Ron smirked. “Wait, wait what was that? Do I detect a hint of a compliment, Parkinson?”

“No not at all,” Pansy assured him with forced resolution. She changed the subject, “There must be some way to get them apart.”

“I think the only way is to break the rebound-of-fate itself,” Ron suggested.

“But Hermione and Draco have been working on that for months—I’m beginning to think it’s impossible,” Pansy retreated.

“Have they? Honestly, they looked a bit distracted from their horrifying condition today at breakfast. The worst is when they hold hands under the table—like we can’t see.” Ron was growling now, squinting with fury at an invisible Draco.

“Ron, get a grip. We are going to get your Hermione back to you—just take a minute to think!” Pansy demanded.

“What is the one thing holding them together?” Ron asked after a few moments of uncomfortable silence.

“Their growing affection for one another,” Pansy spat miserably.

“Well,” Ron began. “What if we forced them to see each other for who they truly are? The rebound-of-fate for some reason is liberating their inhibitions, allowing them to overlook even forget about their past, including their inherent hatred for one another. What if we brought the past back to them?”

“…so that they remembered why their relationship could never work in the first place?”

“Exactly, all that talk about earth, rain, wind and fire in Binns’ class the other day and we overlooked one of the vital elements that sometimes comes into play in the course of human interaction,” Ron recalled.

“Hope,” Pansy breathed.

“Early wizards and witches were never able to explain its existence because it had no solid basis like water or soil—but it was clear from the beginning that Hope had a power source of its own,” Ron recited from memory. “Why can’t I remember these things for exams?”

“Focus, Ron!” Pansy snapped.

“Right now, we can assume that Draco and Hermione are forming a relationship based on a false sense of hope. If we destroy this foundation by turning all of their hopes into doubts—POOF!” Ron waved his hands in imitation of the Muggle “magicians” Harry had told him so much about.

“We can break the rebound and the school is back to normal. Hermione no longer loves Draco and all is right in the world,” Pansy finished, releasing a well-earned sigh of relief.

“What do you think?” Ron questioned.

Pansy paused, wondering why she hadn’t contemplated their alliance earlier. “It’s worth a shot. At this point, desperate times call for desperate measures.”

“Agreed!” Ron nodded. “We really have nothing to lose.”

Chapter 21: The Rose
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-- A/N --

Dearest Readers,

I am so incredibly sorry for the wait. I have been so busy this semester with class and extra-curriculars, unfortunately leaving me little time to write. To add insult to injury, I had a very difficult time finishing this chapter, because (as you will see), this latest addition is a very technical transition—vital to the coming excitement but nevertheless tricky to write. (Oh yes, let me emphasize that excitement is definitely on the way!)

My story is constantly heading in new directions (thanks to your continued support!) and can get exceptionally confusing at times. I hope that my thoughts and ideas have translated clearly into words, but if they haven’t please feel free to leave me questions and suggestions and I will do my best to clear up anything that is either inconsistent with the storyline or just too confusing.

I feel so horrible to have made you wait so long for an update and I thank you so much for your patience and support. That being said, I have included a slight re-cap for your reading convenience and I hope that this chapter lives up to your expectations.

I hope you enjoy this latest addition to Blinded and please don’t forget to review.

Yours always,


“What is the one thing holding them together?” Ron asked after a few moments of uncomfortable silence.

“Their growing affection for one another,” Pansy spat miserably.

“Well,” Ron began. “What if we forced them to see each other for who they truly are? The rebound-of-fate for some reason is liberating their inhibitions, allowing them to overlook even forget about their past, including their inherent hatred for one another. What if we brought the past back to them?”

“…so that they remembered why their relationship could never work in the first place?”

“Exactly, all that talk about earth, rain, wind and fire in Binns’ class the other day and we overlooked one of the vital elements that sometimes comes into play in the course of human interaction,” Ron recalled.

“Hope,” Pansy breathed.

“Early wizards and witches were never able to explain its existence because it had no solid basis like water or soil—but it was clear from the beginning that Hope had a power source of its own,” Ron recited from memory. “Why can’t I remember these things for exams?”

“Focus, Ron!” Pansy snapped.

“Right now, we can assume that Draco and Hermione are forming a relationship based on a false sense of hope. If we destroy this foundation by turning all of their hopes into doubts—POOF!” Ron waved his hands in imitation of the Muggle “magicians” Harry had told him so much about.

“We can break the rebound and the school is back to normal. Hermione no longer loves Draco and all is right in the world,” Pansy finished, releasing a well-earned sigh of relief.

“What do you think?” Ron questioned.

Pansy paused, wondering why she hadn’t contemplated their alliance earlier. “It’s worth a shot. At this point, desperate times call for desperate measures.”

“Agreed!” Ron nodded. “We really have nothing to lose.”

Chapter 21: The Rose.

Tightly woven, encasing an intricacy of simple beauty behind a veil of slight hesitation, the red petals were surprisingly soft and inviting to the touch of her coarse hands. Revolving it ever so slowly within the grasp of her finger tips so as not to disturb its priceless delicacy, Pansy examined every inch of the long-stemmed rose with a critical eye, as if challenging its apparent perfection.

In all honestly, it was what she was good at—finding flaws when there were none to be found.

Sitting on the edge of the cackling hearth completely mesmerized by the flower’s allure, she did not know what exactly intrigued her so, why she found herself drawn to such a clichéd token of romantic sentiment. She had stolen it from Professor Sprout’s classroom earlier in the day, originally out of pure Slytherin spite. Having lost several house points for her inability to identify the basic properties of Mimbulus Mimbletonia, Pansy felt the need to express her harbored resentment toward Professor Sprout through physical retaliation—which amounted to nothing more than her stealing a flower Professor Sprout would hardly miss, given her vast collection of more abnormal plant life.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Ron whispered into her ear, emerging decidedly from the shadows for the first time in the five minutes since, he had entered into the Room of Requirement.

Pansy jumped slightly at the sound of his voice on her neck, pricking her skin with a thorn. A trail of blood leaked from the tip of her finger, leaving a slight trace on the edge of the stem.

“Damn it, Weasley!” she said in muffled agitation, while cushioning the injured finger with her moist tongue in an effort to quell the bleeding. “When did you get here?”

“Just now,” he lied.

“I didn’t hear you come in,” she said, dismissing his rather obvious prevarication for flattery. On several occasions since the beginning of their alliance, she had caught him gaping at her for no apparent reason. She learned, however, to dismiss his odd behavior as just another reason why she was thankful she had not been sorted into Gryffindor House.

“Where did you get the rose?” he asked, in an attempt to avert an awkward silence.

“Sprout let me borrow it,” Pansy smirked.

“So, in other words, you swiped it from her desk when she wasn’t looking,” Ron sighed, dropping his books onto the table and collapsing into an armchair, directly across from her.

“Is my reputation really that bad that your mind immediately jumps to criminal action?” Pansy replied, engaging in their daily dose of useless but amusing banter.

“No, just a Slytherin,” was his reply.

“Ouch, that hurts Weasley,” she feigned softly.

“But seriously,” he began embedding a bit of gravity into the witty foundation of their conversation, “The last thing I would expect to see is you holding a muggle plant. It has no magical properties.”

“If it has no magical properties, why would Sprout keep it on her desk?” Pansy retorted, coming to a rather impassioned defense of the entrancing object. “For all we know, it’s exactly what we need to complete our plan.”

Ron scoffed at the ridiculous idea. “To complete our plan?” he repeated sardonically. “The only thing roses are good for is getting a good snog on Valentine’s Day.”

Pansy blushed profusely, angered by Ron’s audacious remarks. “Have you ever stopped to wonder why a single red rose is one of the most powerful symbols of love?”

Ron chuckled at her insinuation.

She rolled her eyes at his indifference. “No, of course you haven’t. Well if you would take a moment to stop thinking with what’s in your pants and use your head for a change…”

Ron shifted slightly in his chair at the accusation, but ultimately let her continue.

“…you might come to realize that the rose does have a power of its own,” she finished.

“What might that be, Einstein?” Ron probed defensively.

“Einstein? Ron, seriously where do you come up with these nicknames… they don’t even make any sense.”

Ron made like he was going to explain his thought process, but found it too difficult to engage the peculiarities of growing up with a muggle-obsessed father.

“Never mind! Will you just spare me the theatrics and just get to the point please,” he recovered. They had reached a frustrating point in their alliance to save Hogwarts from romantic turmoil; and, if she was serious about incorporating the rose into their plan, he was eager to hear what she had to say. They had nothing to lose; yet, over the past few weeks, they had lost a lot of time.

“Right. Well, the rose’s power lies in its ability to deceive.”

Ron stared disbelievingly at her, doing little to hide his skepticism. “Are we talking about the same thing here?” Ron said stubbornly. “You expect me to believe that this flower has the power to deceive! For Merlin’s sake, Pansy it can’t even think.”

“It doesn’t need to be able to think, Ron,” she said in exasperation. “You don’t believe me. Here take it,” Pansy said slyly, doing her best to conceal her ulterior motives.

“I don’t want—“ he began, pushing it away before Pansy forced it into his palm. “You know you’re right, Pansy. It seems to have some kind of dangerous hold over me… what am I to do but succumb to its treacherously soft petals.” He raised his hands mockingly into the air, exaggerating an already awful performance. “I can feel its power poisoning my blood—its beauty is worse than a killing curse I tell you,” he continued with little regard for his companion’s solemnity. “Little by little it, it consumes my—OUCH!” The theatrics came to a sharp halt. “Damn it! I’ve been pricked.”

“You see! Even you forgot there were thorns,” Pansy chimed in, taking advantage of the moment.

Ron fell silent, his sarcasm banished by insurmountable truth.

“So,” he started. “If it is as powerful as you say it is, what do you plan on doing with it?” he conceded.

She smiled at having finally won him over. “Don’t you see, it is the perfect object for us. It deceives—blinds if you will—with its beauty. A relationship we also see…”

“…with Hermione and Draco,” Ron finished, in understanding.

“Precisely. The rebound-of-fate has blinded Draco and Hermione into thinking they are in love that their love for one another is at all possible. The only difference is that unlike Hermione and Draco, the rose has the power to break its own magic with its thorns.”

Ron seemed lost and Pansy, without letting her impatience get the better of her, continued. Somehow in the past few weeks, she had conveniently taken over as the brains of the operation, leaving Ron, pretty much in the dark. He didn’t mind of course—he like women who took control leaving him to indulge in his slothful ways.

“See, their relationship is a beautiful thing,” she spat albeit with a hint of sarcasm, “but like the rose’s power, it is only temporary,” Pansy paused.

“So you are saying we have to somehow prick the rebound-of-fate and all will be well?” Ron tried.

“No. We have to get the rebound-of-fate to prick itself, to break its own deception, to reveal to Hermione and Draco the reality of their situation that their ‘relationship’ is not and never has been plausible,” Pansy said shrewdly. “Only then will Hogwarts return to normal, leaving Hermione and Draco to realize that we are soul mates.”

Ron raised his eyebrows and Pansy flushed red, realizing her mistake. “We are their soul mates—I mean,” she corrected, stressing the with so much force she nearly strained her vocal cords.

Ron smirked inwardly, believing it best to just ignore the mistake. “And we do all of that by sending them back to the past, as I suggested?” Ron asked, seeking confirmation.

“Yes, but to specific moments in the past,” Pansy concurred. “I have been looking at this rose for hours now and I just can’t shake the feeling that we are meant to use it in some way. So that got me thinking…”

“Oh no,” Ron mused, jokingly.

“Shut up, you git!” but Pansy couldn’t help but smile. “If the rose has the power to deceive the wizarding-mind with nothing but a mere glance, why not a wizard-made object.”

“The portkey!” Ron suggested, finally seeing where she was going.

“We have been working on developing a device that would send Hermione and Draco back to certain events in the past for weeks now and nothing has worked. We’ve only been able to go from one place to another, in one defined time. But, if we apply the Portus charm to the rose,” she said while brandishing the fallen flower forcefully in front of his face in an effort to supplement her argument with visual effect, “There may be enough elemental magic for the rose to deceive levels of time—to not only transport Hermione and Draco from one place to another but from one time to another. If we can get Hermione and Draco to the right moments in time we can in effect expose the rebound’s thorns.”

Ron was speechless. It was the most ridiculous idea he had ever heard, but said nothing because it was the only one they had. “It’s a stretch. You do realize that,” Ron said, massaging the tip of his bleeding finger.

“What great magic isn’t?” she posed, in an attempt to convince him.

“What makes you think it won’t backfire on us, sending them back to a different time than we originally intend?”

“It won’t backfire. We’ll tell the rose exactly where to take them. Plus, when love comes into play—nothing can go wrong,” she said with an assured confidence that belied her naïveté.

“Then only one question remains,” he started.

“Let’s have it then, Ron,” Pansy said, half-intrigued by what he had to say.

“If this whole thing relies on your apparent love, I ask you only this,” Ron looked directly into her eyes for the first time since he entered the room. “Are you sure you love Draco as much as you say?”

“Y-yes. What kind of question is that. Of course, I do,” she affirmed, overlooking her very slight, hardly traceable, ray of hesitation.

Stepping from the shower with her towel wrapped tightly around her damp skin, she closed her eyes and breathed in heavily, letting the warm steam pour into her lungs, erasing all traces of sleep from her overworked limbs.

Having fastened her towel around her bare body, sure that it would not fall, she reached up to release her bushy brown hair from the grasp of her hair clip. Relaxed and calmed by her moment of solitude, she paused before displacing the coat of steam painting the mirror’s surface with the palm of her bare hand.

Reaching up with her tired arm to expose the mirror’s reflective nature, Hermione sighed as her favorite part of her day came and went in under a second. A moment between worlds, the time it took her to step from the shower and reach the mirror was a moment where she could hide within the steam, free from herself and from it all—however much, she had grown to enjoy the companionship the rebound had forced upon her.

There was a loud knock on the door, and she jumped slightly within her skin. Having woken up more exhausted than usual, she had rewarded herself by taking an unusually long shower, making them relatively late for breakfast and the start of classes.

“I’m coming,” Hermione managed, speaking loudly so that that he could hear her through the thick walls of the bathroom.

She opened the door and walked out of the room, clad confidently in her bathrobe. She brushed against his chest, to let him know that she had finally finished.

Draco smirked more to himself than to her. I can’t wait for the day that I can see you walk out of that door, he whispered across her mind.

“That’ll be a great day,” she mused aloud, resisting the temptation to respond telepathically.

“Oh yeah?” he said, intrigue lining his words.

“Yeah! The day you can see me walk from the bathroom in my very sexy bathrobe,” she paused for effect watching him drool in the direction of her voice, “Will be the day that I’ll finally be free of you.” She laughed seeing his expression fall into a frown. The one thing she had learned to do, thanks to this whole experience, was to tease.

Then I hope that day never comes, he whispered through her mind.

His words swept her mind clean of everything but her growing affection for him, instinctively sending chills down her spine; she fell weak in the knees. She knew this was part of their morning routine, senseless banter built upon layers and layers of sarcasm and carefully hidden truth—a truth they both conveniently denied. Usually, she was good about obeying the rules of the game, staying on one side of the line they had both refused to cross, careful not to confuse wit with something more enticing.

Today, for some reason however, the fine line proved to be as fine as ever—her heart fighting against her chest daring to reach out to him while at the same time falling prey to her own fear.

She knew he was teasing but she was finding it increasingly difficult to deny his effect over her.

No one could make her feel the way he did and what scared her so, was the fact that he didn’t really have to say much to make her forget, to make her wish, to make her change her mind—he always said exactly what she wanted to hear at the exact moment she wanted to hear it. But since, the ball, the telepathic war in the dungeons that followed, and the night in the common room, they had chosen to leave a few things unspoken for, tacitly understood rather than out in the open.

She fell onto her bed, shielding her eyes with her red and gold comforter while falling back into the restless depths of her mind, forgetting that they were already very late for breakfast and class. After a seconds pause, she shivered with an unknown ecstasy, feeling his concerned hand stroke the exterior of her robe.

She looked up to see him sitting beside her. He had found his way from the bathroom door to her bedside in a matter of a few seconds. Adjusted though he was to his lack of sight, he was exceptionally aware of his surroundings this morning.

“Are you all right?” he asked. “Your voice seemed really stressed a moment ago, definitely not your usual—might I add—annoying self,” he chuckled, but was quick to change his tone noticing the tense gravity of her form. In a quick explanatory defense, he started, “I was only teasing before; I promise. Hermione, are you seriously okay?”

She didn’t understand why he cared so much. Yes, they had become friends, forced upon one another by sheer geographical proximity; yet, she couldn’t understand how over the past several weeks they had become more.

She wanted him, yes. But, she just couldn’t understand why, and it seemed all of her uncertainty had finally surfaced, extracted by the steam between worlds.

She snapped out of it, meeting his concern with feigned assurance. “Yes, sorry—I’m fine. I thi-think I was just in the bathroom too long, a little overwhelmed by the heat. I’ll be fine.”

He wasn’t convinced and she could tell by his momentary hesitation. Nevertheless, he returned to his side of the room to finish getting ready and she sighed softly with a bit of relief.

Turning the conversation away from its usual fanciful nature, Draco started on a more concrete topic: the Christmas Holiday. After much discussion, they had both come to the conclusion that it would be best if they didn’t have to separate from one another. Yes, they had grown to enjoy each other’s company but they had also made great strides in the past few weeks in solving the rebound-of-fate. They hadn’t made any physical progress, since the night of the ball and still found themselves to be bound to one another.

Instead, they had turned much of their attention to understanding the extent of their connection, hoping that it would lead to some kind of resolution. They knew from aspects as obvious as the telepathy that they were connected in more ways than the seven-foot restriction. What proved interesting were incidents as small as sensing what the other was feeling to actually tapping into one another’s capabilities in times of great emotional stress. They had experienced the latter twice, that they knew of offhand: the first time, on the quidditch pitch in Slytherin’s first match against Gryffindor, the second when Hermione almost destroyed the vial of Shrouding solution.

Given the progress they seemed to be making, they saw it only logical to spend the Christmas Holiday together. Hogwarts, of course was an option, given that the castle was open to anyone who wanted to stay.

Hermione didn’t like the idea of Christmas at Hogwarts, and she made that perfectly clear in her continued protests. She liked the family atmosphere and assured Draco that her family would love to have him spend the holidays with them.

But, Draco didn’t like the idea of spending two weeks in the Muggle world and proceeded to persuade Hermione to think about spending two weeks at the Malfoy manor.

“So, what do you think?” Draco asked.

“About what, exactly?” Hermione breathed, slipping on her robes over her carefully chosen outfit, of jeans and a t-shirt.

“About spending the Christmas Holidays at my house?” Draco pressed, albeit gently.

“Honestly?” she asked.

Draco could hear the intonation in her voice rise slightly, awaiting confirmation, which he gave her. “Yea, honestly.”

“I don’t like it. I don’t understand why you won’t even give the Muggle world a chance. It can be really fascinating and I know my dad will be a bit intimidating at first because you are a boy and you are physically bound to his only daughter but—Merlin—he is a dentist and can’t really do much about it now can he. Although he is pretty fierce with fluoride, so if I were you I would watch what I eat in the first couple of days…” she was rambling now and Draco knew it was only to avoid giving him a straight answer.

“But, if you come to my house, we could avoid the whole—what is it—fluoride situation; and, we’ll finally get a chance to talk with my mother,” he argued, stressing the latter part of his sentence. Hermione had to admit that Draco made a convincing case and she really had no reason not to go except for the small fact that his father hated her and the small problem that she was a muggleborn.

“Draco, I don’t think I can. As much as we need to see your mother to figure all of this out… your father…”

“…will be in Bulgaria for the Holidays on official ministry business. He isn’t expected back until the New Year, giving us plenty of time to enjoy the holidays, speak with my mother and return to Hogwarts, undetected.”

Hermione bit her lip, clearly uncomfortable with the proposal but failing to come up with a good argument against it. It seemed failsafe but she knew with her luck that something would inevitably go wrong.

Draco could hear her shifting underneath her apparently calm façade, and added, “I won’t let anything happen to you.”

She stood up to head down the stairs, protesting the whole situation with a disturbed silence.

“Look, I just don’t think this is a good idea,” she said a bit frustrated. “We can find another way to contact your mother.”

“You and I both know that there is going to be no other way to talk with my mother, uninhibited by my father. You’ve heard what he is capable of. If he gets wind of the fact that we are trying to get in contact with my mother for the very reasons he doesn’t want us to, he will make our lives more difficult than they already are.”

“Difficult? Is that what I am to you?”

He knew she was just looking to pick a fight, to avoid admitting that going to the Malfoy Manor for the Christmas Holidays was exactly what they needed to do. But, he was in no mood to give into her petty tactics.

“As of right now, yes difficult is exactly what you are!”

Hermione was thrown completely off guard by his comment, having expected him to give into her demands. In frustration, she grabbed her school bag, and with a slight huff, hurried down the stairs, leaving Draco to fend for himself.

“Oh real mature of you, Hermione,” Draco hollered at her back.

“I only complicate things right? I’m sure you can find your own way to the Great Hall!” Hermione yelled back.

Grabbing her wand, which was lying on the table next to the hearth, she made her way to the portrait hole, surprised that she could still see given that she had left Draco at the top of the stairs. Unfortunately, Draco proved more adept at finding his own way than she had originally expected and was right behind her in exiting the dormitory.

The portrait hole slammed shut and Draco, recording the swift pattern of her footsteps, quickly grabbed hold of her arm before she got away.

“Will you just stop and be reasonable, please? I know you are not really angry with me and I also know you are not thrilled by the idea of spending the Holidays at the Malfoy Manor, but can you please just consider the possibility? That is all I’m asking of you.” He could feel her harsh breathing subside slightly, and assumed that she had started to come to her senses.

Hermione watched Draco plead his case. Why did he have to be so irresistible? She began to wonder if for some reason she had woken up on the wrong side of the bed—the uncontrollable emotional side, but before she could respond to his plea, she noticed something lying in the middle of the corridor that in their haste they had completely overlooked.

She held her breath, looking over Draco’s shoulder in an attempt to get a better look. Something about the object had completely entranced her to a point that she had pushed Draco to the side and started for it.

“Look, we can talk about this more over lunch or something—Hermione, where are you going?” Draco asked, his fingers still tightly wound around her wrist. “Look, I’m not letting go of you until you agree to consider my proposal.”

Unfortunately his words fell to deaf ears for she was too distracted by the beautiful object to give him any kind of answer, leaving Draco to stumble over his own feet back towards the portrait hole behind her, holding onto her wrist in pure obstinacy.

A new aroma began mixing with Hermione’s usual fragrance and he immediately knew she was distracted by something tractable yet ephemeral, either on the floor or on the wall. Intrigued by her sudden fascination with whatever was emitting such a strong and novel fragrance, he asked, “Hermione, what is it?”

Before she could answer him, however, it was simply too late for questions. She had picked up the beautiful rose, only to find it had deceived her.

“See, I told you it would work,” Pansy affirmed complacently from within the dark cabinet. They had moved it there so that they could furtively watch Hermione and Draco find the rose, jump-starting their plan into motion. “The rose never goes unnoticed.”

“Yeah, well it almost did. You are just lucky they didn’t walk right passed it,” Ron chimed in.

“Will you shut it! I’m trying to enjoy the moment,” Pansy huffed in his direction.

“The moment?” Ron probed, turning his attention away from the corridor to Pansy’s shadow of a figure.

“Yeah,” she sneered, “The last moment of their naïve bliss—the last moment, Draco believes he is in love with her—the last moment, he is without me.”

“So you are positive then, that this isn’t going to backfire?” Ron said, while peeping through the crack in the cabinet door, watching Hermione kneel to the floor, entranced by the rose.

There was a slight breeze that flushed through the corridor, finding its way through the cracks in the wooden cabinet where Pansy and Ron were hiding.

It was Pansy’s turn to take her eyes away from the scene unfolding before their eyes. “I’m positive, Ron. If you charmed the rose to use the timeline of memories I chose from my penseive, like I told you to do before we left the Room of Requirement that night we formulated this entire plan, we should have no problems—the rose should know exactly where to take them. In fact, the rose should send them back to three distinct moments in time, all of which will remind Hermione and Draco—and more importantly the rebound—why they are not meant to be.”

Ron’s stomach churned. “Like you told me to do so? The night in the Room of Requirement?”

“Yes, like I told you do so. Why, what is the matter with you?” Pansy asked offhandedly

“Pansy,” Ron hesitated fearing the onset of nuclear wands, “You never told me to charm any part of that rose. In fact, we never really discussed how we were going to tell the rose where to send Hermione and Draco—a minor detail, I suppose, but with major conseque—”

“WHAT!?” Pansy cried, stepping forcefully through the cabinet door into the corridor, letting a rush of fresh air into her lungs; she was fuming with uncontrollable rage. “You mean to tell me that we never… the rose is just…a regular old…good for nothing… portkey…” Pansy stopped. Smirking she let her anger subside.

Pointing a finger at Ron, as if all-knowing, she continued, “Oh I see what this is, you are trying to freak me out on purpose. Ha ha, the joke is on Pansy. I get it, but you can stop now! You know you can never really deceive me.”

But Ron was shaking his head, his unwaveringly stern expression flooding her with a sudden wave of doubt.

“Ron,” she began, her voice shaking, “If we didn’t tell the rose where to take them,” she began, “and the rose was merely a Portkey—then…” she paused, taking a moment to a do a 360 in the middle of the now silent corridor. “Where could they have gone?”

Realizing for the first time that they were no longer in the confines of the dark cabinet, Ron looked over to where Hermione and Draco had been kneeling only seconds before. Panic flushed through his system, sending adrenaline through his chest when he realized that he was only in the company of Pansy.

He rushed over to the portrait hole where Pansy was now standing completely still, only to find a single red petal resting quietly in Hermione and Draco’s wake, the only trace that they had once stood bickering arm in arm just moments before.

“Pansy, they could be anywhere--in any time for that matter! And we have no way to bring them back!” he turned angrily on her, panic taking permanent residence in the pit of his stomach.

Pansy collapsed onto the floor. Disbelief etched across her face.

“Ron, I don't know what to say... I don't...” Pansy breathed shaking her head from side to side, ruminating over and over just how they could have made such a devastating mistake.

Dark clouds lined the horizon of her window, thundering above her with a rage rivaling her own. She breathed in the thick humid air, streaming in from the few cracks in the tainted glass. She loved watching the landscape change right before a storm, the rays from the sun slowly encased behind a veil of gray nothingness. The imminent rain was oddly comforting to her lonely self, as though in a moments notice, all could be washed away.

Narcissa sat down to watch the storm play out its course. Melting into the warm depths of an old green armchair, she turned to light a candle. In the absence of the sun, her room was oddly dark for the middle of the day.

The candle now burning, she turned her attention away from the storm for a mere second. In the corner of her eye, she caught a glimpse of a decrepit rose, placed delicately on the mantle next to a cropped picture of her, back when she was young, just a student at Hogwarts. Lifeless, colorless, like her, the rose still held a certain beauty that could not be explained.

Why she had kept it all of these years—no one could ever understand.

It’s beautiful, but not more than you.

His words crept slowly across her mind, a memory inviting her back to a time when she feared rather than reveled in storms, a time when she was alive rather than living.

She looked at the rose one last time before turning her attention back to the window; she sighed heavily. She had kept it all these years, because something in her had hoped he would come back—that he would return, realize, remember, forget.

Wiping a stray tear away from her cheek, Narcissa turned backed to the window, leaving the rose to blend into the darkness; and, with a blink of the eye, she welcomed a downpour of rain.

Chapter 22: Déjà Vu
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Dearest Readers,

First, I would like to apologize for taking nearly four months to update this story. After finals had finished at the beginning of May, I fully intended to update this story on a much more regular basis. Unfortunately, I was hit with a severe case of writer’s block and completely lost my place. I thought I had it all planned out. I knew how I wanted the characters to end up and where the story was going but something just happened I just couldn’t seem to put anything into words.

So, for the past couple of months, I have been reading and reading trying to find something to inspire me and, in all honestly, save me from this dry spell. Thankfully, after a bit of patience and a lot of frustration, my block seems to be wearing off and that is where Chapter 22: Déjà Vu comes into play.

If you were confused by the fragmented and confusing plotline of Chapter 21, I sincerely hope that this chapter sheds some light on Pansy and Ron’s plan, how it backfired and what exactly that means for the next couple of weeks in Draco and Hermione’s continued relationship.

We’ll see some new personalities—or rather older I should say— come into play as they reveal new information behind the history of the rebound-of-fate. An unconventional pairing, if I do say so myself, I hope you enjoy the new complexity as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Thank you for reading this latest addition to Blinded. I really hope you like it.

Yours truly,

Chapter 22: Déjà Vu.

Her eyes narrowed, cold and dark—an unnatural frustration clouded her pristine blue irises with a thunderous veil of gray. Her face devoid of her usual, bitter cheer, she stood silently absorbing his vilifying laughter with feigned graciousness, her features hardening with fury with every additional minute she withstood his presence.

Dumbledore had mentioned the difficulties they would undoubtedly face over the next couple of weeks, but assured them that they were fully capable of handling whatever fate had in store. Eyeing her companion with agonizing disgust, she could not help but wonder if the Headmaster had purposely underestimated her self-control.

She gripped her wand firmly, re-familiarizing her moist palm with the intricate set of engravings on its otherwise smooth wooden surface. She breathed in deeply savoring the sweet flavor of the crisp autumn breeze tousling her straight blonde hair—her honorable attempts at controlling her mounting temper staying undetected by her insufferable companion.

James Potter was charming when he could control his egotistical impulses, which thankfully for Narcissa happened only once in a blue moon—an occasional phenomenon even for the wizarding world.

His disheveled black hair and gorgeous hazel eyes, mesmerizing even through his pair of black, thin-rimmed glasses, were to any other girl a “hook” of sorts—that which made him simply irresistible. Narcissa, a pureblood of “the purest” decent according to her father, had grown immune to these superficial temptations, erecting purposeful barriers to the attraction she as a woman would ordinarily feel in his presence.

Standing in the middle of the quidditch pitch, a curtain of darkness almost upon them, signaled the close of another long day in his ruthless, never-ending company; she waited for him to finish, his laughter pillaging mercilessly through her insides, somehow leaving her bare and hollow.

On any other day, she would have blamed his hazel eyes for such a breakdown of her composure, but she knew it was more than that. In her seven years as a Slytherin, she had never once let a Gryffindor affect her as he did now at this very moment. It was disorienting and she did her best to fight it.

“You really think I can’t ride this, pathetic imitation you call a broomstick,” she scathed, picking up his second-edition almost pristine-condition Cleansweep, brandishing it threateningly in the air with only one finger holding onto the smooth wooden handle.

Calling her bluff, James roared with laughter, his hazel eyes inundated with a wave of cerulean tears he didn’t even attempt to hold back. He was rolling on the ground now, much to Narcissa’s obvious dismay.

“No,” he managed, wiping a wave of tears from cresting down his flushed cheeks. “I know you can’t. You just proved you can’t even mount the ‘pathetic’ imitation, I call a broomstick,” he mocked, pointing explicitly at her scraped knees.

Feeling her chest tighten in intensifying humiliation upon fully realizing the extent of dirt lining her kneecaps, she took a minute to compose herself. So she was a bit out of practice. Yes, she may have fallen while trying to mount his broom but in all honesty—even if she had managed to stable herself—no one could ever live up to his standards, to fly as he did with such confidence and ease. She brushed the dirt from her knees and turned resolutely once more towards the figure now rolling about the floor.

She was infuriated that he felt her moment of minor—yes, minor—ineptitude constituted such a boisterous and utterly obnoxious response. But, she was not about to let a measly Gryffindor get the best of her—not now in her final year at school.

She waited for the fury to come, half expecting it to rise at any moment and exert itself in full force, taking no prisoners just as a werewolf might at the dawning of a full moon. She shuddered at the thought. No, she was stronger than her instinctive though admittedly ravenous impulses. Instead, she suppressed all traces of the deadly curses now lingering on the tip of her tongue and took a conciliatory step towards James, her fury subsiding with each pace—a new more vengeful determination rushing to take its place.

“Get up,” she said calmly, trying to salvage what dignity remained coursing through her veins. He ignored her, dismissing her request as insignificant and unworthy of his undivided attention.

It wasn’t until he felt the cold blade of her wand at the nape of his neck that he finally gained control of his laughter. “Get up,” she said more forcefully, her composure calm and confident as to not betray her act. She could feel a slight change in his breathing pattern. Though not yet anxious, his chest no longer exhaled to the relaxed rhythm of just moments before. She didn’t scare him, nor did she intimidate him—far worse, in fact. She challenged him in a way not even his partner in crime, Sirius Black, could.

She smiled a malicious smile. She could tell he didn’t like it.

“Mount the broom, Potter!” she ordered, her face austere and deadly serious.

He raised a brow playfully while trying, rather unsuccessfully, to decipher her tone. It had been two weeks since he was forced into her constant company and though he could tell when she was irritated, a majority of her facial expressions still remained a mystery to him.

“You know, you are going about this all wrong,” he joked, attempting to lighten the air with his usual, unappreciated wit. He could see the fury rising in her cheeks but pressed on. “I’m not going to fly the broom for you! That would be too easy…”

Before he had a chance to finish, Narcissa’s icy breath was at his ear—he didn’t move. “Mount the broom, or you will be sorry!”

He could feel a kind of vengeance in her words, aching to be released from the depths of her chest. Wary of her wand still too close for comfort, he obeyed wisely silencing any sarcastic comments he would ordinarily have made.

Mounting the broom with a professional ease, he slid to the middle of the handle, finding a comfortable position with one leg on either side, his fingers taking their usual grip, secure and steady. He was surprised, however, when she followed his every move—occupying the front of the broom with her beautiful yet menacing form.

She is going to prove herself after all, James thought to himself oddly impressed by her silent recovery.

She was nervous and he could tell. Trying to take her mind off her next move, he asked, “Why exactly was it necessary for me to mount the broom?”

“I want to show you that I can fly!” she said, dismissively turning her attention to more important things like the handle for one thing.

“I could have just as easily assessed your skill from the ground,” he pursued.

“Yes, but then I wouldn’t be able to go very far now would I?” she insisted.

“Huh?” his attempts at distracting her had backfired into a spurt of utter confusion.

“You didn’t listen when Dumbledore was explaining the rules of our little predicament, did you?” she was shaking her head. Typical.

“I was listening…” James defended, scowling into the darkness at her acuity.

“No, you weren’t. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have that confused expression all over your face,” she mouthed, turning to look at him in what light remained. His face was clouded in shadow but she saw enough to know she was right. “See, I can tell because your eyebrows do that funny scrunching thing,” she smiled to herself. She was surprised at how well she had come to know him in the mere two weeks they had been forced to live together. Though he was oblivious to the idiosyncrasies of her own character, she had always prided herself in her ability to understand human behavior especially its subtleties.

“For your re-information then,” she said a bit mockingly, “We can’t go more than seven feet from each other without being shocked by that thing…”

“Oh the thing… right,” James remembered, a little too excited.

“The shield of light—a force field of sorts with the same physical properties of your patronus,” she affirmed.

He was taken aback by her sudden and profuse use of academic jargon—it was disorienting enough when his professors resorted to such levels of vocabulary during school hours let alone his peers. Massaging his temples with his index fingers, he finally began to wrap his mind around the memory of Dumbledore’s initial explanation. He did indeed recall the “seven foot rule” now that he thought about it—though the thought of remaining seven feet from Narcissa Black—soon to be Narcissa Malfoy—made his head spin again and he stopped.

“Yeah, sure I remember now,” he spat, hastily changing the subject so as to avoid a migraine, “More importantly can we please get on with this flying thing? I still don’t believe you are capable of maneuvering anything five inches above the ground let alone…” but before he could finish, Narcissa had pushed off the ground, plunging them deep into the night.

“Honestly, Headmaster—that boy is the most insufferable and arrogant git to grace these grounds since James, himself. Every week he prances into my classroom—my classroom—as if it makes any difference to me that he has the entire magical community wrapped around his little finger,” Snape remarked, scrunching his face with intolerable disgust, as if an entire galleon’s worth of dung bombs had at that very moment exploded under his nostrils.

He leaned forward, hovering threateningly over the Headmaster’s desk, grinding the ends of his tendril-like fingers into the wood’s delicate carvings, to the rhythm of his impassioned tirade. Dumbledore sat back in his oversized armchair and just listened, indifferent to Snape’s habitual complaints about the poor boy.

When Harry Potter had first arrived at the school, Dumbledore had spent countless hours defending him against such unfounded slurs—only to come to the realization that even his words of commendation were of no avail in the eyes of a person so consumed by a hatred that in all honesty ran much deeper than the boy who lived.

As talented as Snape was in the Dark Arts, Dumbledore could never understand his emotional attachment to the past—why it was so difficult for him to just let go, why it was near impossible for him to come to grips with the way things had turned out, why Severus Snape—the most feared teacher in all of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry—continued to cower at even the slightest recollection of his own years as a student.

No, Dumbledore found it much easier to just let the revered Potions Master exhaust his own patience for the topic before probing the week’s more pressing issues.

In between periodic grunts of “A disgrace to wizarding kind!” and “His hair alone should be grounds for expulsion!” Dumbledore stole a glimpse of the latest piece of Ministry parchment to join the large and unorganized piles of paper cluttering his desk.

Dumbledore shifted in his armchair tensing ever so slightly upon realizing that the letter was not a letter at all, but an official transcript of an article slated to be released in tomorrow’s Daily Prophet. Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic, had signed it of course along side a rather insincere, Thought I Might Warn You.

Reading the headline, Dumbledore just looked away in disappointment. It wasn’t what he expected, but he wasn’t surprised.

Ministry Blames Hogwarts for Wizarding Woes

Of course they would. They always did. Unlike Fudge, a cowardly leader and even lesser man who would crumble at the slightest tarnish of his reputation, Albus Dumbledore could take the heat of ministry criticism, could be the media’s villain and still remain the public hero.

Under normal circumstances, Dumbledore would cast such articles immediately to the depths of his dustbin, but Snape was showing no signs of relenting any time soon and the subheading proved particularly intriguing. He began reading again, pretending to be sympathetic to Snape’s complaints while ignoring them completely.

Ministry Blames Hogwarts for Wizarding Woes
Inter-House Rivalry Breeding Grounds for Dark Arts?

Some of the most powerful witches and wizards of our time have received their magical educations from the widely renowned Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry currently under the leadership of Albus Dumbledore. For centuries, Hogwarts has distinguished itself from its academic counterparts, as the best the wizarding world has to offer its brightest and most voracious young minds. Even now, no one doubts the school’s ability to train and harness the most gifted, up and coming talents.

Yet, it seems an objective education is not all Hogwarts has to offer our youngest generations. Sorting, a kind of hazing ritual stemming from the time of Hogwarts’ four founders themselves—Godric Gryffindor, Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga Hufflepuff, and Salazar Slytherin—seems to be a growing source of tribulation within the enchanted walls of our deeply beloved school.

From the very first meal, students are mercilessly sorted into a house—one, not necessarily of their own choosing—based upon their “compatibility” with a set of subjective criteria that, in all honesty, has been anything but consistent over the past several centuries.

Witches and Wizards of all shapes, sizes and personal character have graced the insides of each of the houses, because of no other reason than the fickle whims of the much-revered Sorting Hat, an enchanted object said to have been blessed by the four founders themselves.

Nevertheless, the physical sorting of students is not necessarily that of Ministry concern, rather the subsequent effects of such rash and arbitrary selection. The immediate loyalty students of each house are expected to have and to uphold, the implicit set of social rules and restrictions these young and susceptible minds are expected to abide by without even the slightest bit of inquiry—this is what the Ministry argues is the root of all evil, social and otherwise.

Yes, it can be argued that these houses do develop communities where students can feel safe and respected—where they can develop life long friendships, even loves—similar to that of a muggle Fraternity. But is it enough? Can we as a wizarding society be satisfied with such forms of institutionalized social homogeneity?

Hufflepuffs, for example, are chosen for their compassion and patience two qualities that in any normal circumstances would be considered a valuable asset to human character. Yet, many students outside of the Hufflepuff house remain reluctant to associate with them, regarding them as incompetent outcasts, soft in character in comparison to Gryffindors—by far the most desirable house—of which its members tend to pride themselves on their strength and bravery.

Slytherins, on the other hand, are in no need of stereotypes to keep them from associating with students outside their own house. Many Slytherin students avoid Gryffindors for no reason at all but their own, often familial, prejudices. Slytherin House’s strong historical association with the Dark Arts and Gryffindor’s to the Defense against such magic does little to ameliorate such behavior.

Though the “Sorting” system has its advantages, the inter-house rivalry that it fosters, a rivalry many carry with them even after graduation, is simply unhealthy for our society still in recovery from the traumatic experience of the first war. Need we not be reminded that the rise of he-who-must-not-be-named stemmed from a similar yet arguably more innate intolerance for difference.

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the leading educator in our community needs to take a good look at the environment it is providing our students and ask itself, is its social hierarchy a breeding ground for the Dark Arts? For wizards like he-who-must-not-be-named? Is it, in fact the source of our wizarding woes? The Ministry of Magic seems to think so.

Dumbledore cast the article aside, disgust lining every inch of his fierce scowl. The Ministry had no right to turn against such social practices; most if not all of the venerated members of the Ministry, if he remembered correctly enjoyed their time at Hogwarts, in part, because of the House they had been sorted into.

He knew Fudge to be an ignorant man, but this was taking things to an entirely new level.

Besides, he, Albus Dumbledore, was fully aware of the unfortunate role Inter-House rivalry at Hogwarts played within the magical community. He didn’t need a judgmental, incompetent and obviously biased reporter reminding him of things he already knew.

He knew the consequences and he even had a plan to eliminate them. Of course, his plan at present rested in the hands of two very hormonal teenagers—but it was a plan nevertheless, however stagnant it currently appeared.

Turning from his thoughts to ensure Snape had remained unaware of his temporary detachment from their conversation, Dumbledore was pleased to hear the familiar snarl of Snape’s voice reaching what he judged to be the third of several dramatic climaxes in this week’s edition of Why Potter Stinks. A stream of footsteps coming from the corridor just outside his office struck his curiosity, however, prompting him to silence Snape, at least for the time being.

Snape spun around to stare down, rather ominously Dumbledore noted, whomever it was who had dared to interrupt his ineffectual diatribe. Seeing Pansy Parkinson, a devout member of his own house, run hurriedly towards the headmaster, hand-in-hand with an extremely pale Ron Weasley was perhaps the last intrusion he would have expected.

Pansy looked rather flushed, her usually hardened features oddly softened by an overbearing sense of concern—or was it guilt; Dumbledore couldn’t tell as she hastened her step approaching his desk in a matter of seconds.

“Uhh… Headmaster,” she began, unsure of her words. She nodded to Snape on her left in a salute of respect to her Head of House and then glanced pleadingly at Ron for what seemed like moral support. Ron, looking as if about to pass out across the stone floor of the Headmaster’s office, looked straight ahead, his eyes blank with fear and apprehension.

“Headmaster,” she began again, still trying to sort out her words.

“Spit it out, girl!” Snape spat impatiently, clearly still irritated by their unexpected intrusion, though admittedly intrigued by Pansy’s uncharacteristic incoherency.

“Yes, Professor. Well you see, Headmaster,” she beamed, trying to avoid direct eye contact with anyone in the room, “there has been a bit of a situation,” she continued vaguely, involuntarily fidgeting with her fingers. “It’s Draco and Hermione,” she finally managed.

Though attempting to remain calm at the young witch’s final words, Dumbledore could not refrain his eyes from widening in immediate and irrational fear.

“Go on, Miss Parkinson. What is it about Mr. Malfoy and Miss Granger that seems to be upsetting you so?” Dumbledore probed, calmly so as to not alert her of his deep concern.

“Well, Ron and I may have… accidentally…” she broke off, finally finding the courage to look the Headmaster directly into his eyes. He could see she was scared and he knew he no longer had time for patience.

“Accidentally what?” the Headmaster encouraged, in a slightly raised voice, belying his tranquil façade.

“Accidentally sent them to another time,” she finished. “Except we didn’t because Ron here forgot to charm the rose as we had planned.”

“The Rose?” Dumbledore asked, his voice hushed and hurried. She could tell Dumbledore didn’t fully understand and immediately resigned to telling him the full extent of their devious plan to tear the new Hogwarts down from the inside out. She explained her jealousy, her pain—all of which seemed trivial in light of the present consequences and how it prompted her unlikely alliance with Ron.

Dumbledore listened to her story intently, trying to reserve judgment for the end. He couldn’t help but wonder if the Daily Prophet article had some truth to it after all. If a student like Miss Parkinson was willing to go to such dangerous lengths to keep things, as they were—divided and discordant—maybe, the Ministry’s critique of Hogwarts was not as unfounded as he had originally believed.

“So, you see—when we realized Ron had stupidly—or perhaps wisely,” she amended, “forgot to charm the rose according to our plan we rushed out to see if Draco and Hermione were still in the corridor. But, Headmaster—they were nowhere to be found; and, the rose was gone. Only this remained where they had once stood, just moments before, arguing with each other at the top of their lungs,” she explained, handing him the dilapidating petal.

He took the petal from her hand, turning it over and over gently in the palm of his hand completely lost in thought. He was no longer overwhelmed by fear, rather intrigued by Pansy’s intuitive choice for a portkey. He knew the rose was always said to have elemental properties like that of the rebound-of-fate, yet he had never fully been aware of how powerful they really were.

“Miss Parkinson,” he reflected, directing his words at both students though Ron was still in no condition to be standing let alone listening and comprehending to what he was about to say, “I don’t believe any of this is your fault,” he paused to watch her reaction. He had expected her to relax even slightly, and was surprised when the anxiety in her face seemed to heighten at the sound of his next words.

“Though I do not condone your actions to ‘take down the school from the inside out’ as you put it Miss Parkinson,” Dumbledore continued, “this is far more complicated than even I am aware. In fact, what seems to be happening to Mr. Malfoy and Miss Granger is definitely not the result of ordinary human action,” he kept the petal firmly in the center of his palm weighing it as if it concealed an enormous yet visually undetectable mass. “I’m afraid when elemental magic is involved, as in the case of your friends, there is very little we can do when such occurrences take place. Where ever the rose has taken them, it’s for a reason only Draco and Hermione will be able to understand.” Dumbledore paused, more to collect his thoughts than for dramatic effect.

“Though it does seem your little plan hastened the process, I’m afraid you are off the hook, Miss Parkinson. This disappearing act of theirs was inevitable.” Dumbledore looked up from his palm to see Pansy’s face flushed of all natural color.

“But Headmaster, I still don’t understand…” Pansy began. “Where could they have gone?”

Dumbledore reflected for a moment. “Where you intended for them to go all along, Miss Parkinson.” He was sure of it now, all of the pieces fit just as they had before, when marauders roamed the halls of Hogwarts.

Pansy sported a bemused expression and this time Snape jumped in to clarify. “The Past, Miss Parkinson. They have been sent to relive the Past.”

“But why the past?” she asked, a bit more frantically trying her best to comprehend as Dumbledore seemed to.

“Because history has all the answers, Miss Parkinson,” Snape said shrewdly, not taking his eyes off Dumbeldore.

“Yes, the past,” Dumbledore affirmed. “Love, inevitable shall follow then,” he recited the third segment of the prophecy almost at an inaudible whisper. Comprehension dawning, he repeated the phrase, “Love, inevitable, shall follow then.”

The moist air chilled the nape of her neck as she flew into the night. Narcissa knew she was entirely capable of flying a broomstick—her father had spent a good many galleons on her private lessons when she was just five or six, she couldn’t remember which. Though she knew for a fact she had not enjoyed the anxiety of such heights before this night, James close behind her at her back.

She had been surprised at the broom’s ability to handle the weight of two fully grown wizards. She half-expected for the handle to eject her off the broom halfway to the sky, but the broom flew with an adept ease, hardly slowing under their combined weight.

She turned the handle slightly to the left. They had flown past the boundaries of the quidditch pitch. Glancing down at the vast expanse below her, she could tell she was coming to the edge of the Forbidden Forest and thought it best if they turn back. She had proven herself hadn’t she?

Just behind her, James had his eyes closed, no longer in fear of her incompetence; after all she had proven him wrong. No, he had closed his eyes to fully absorb the biting yet refreshing feel of the wind racing passed the sides of his cheeks, flushing them with a natural, healthy glow. He rarely flew for the pure enjoyment of flying anymore. As chaser and captain of the Gryffindor team, he just never found the time between practices and matches.

His body swayed slightly to the right as she turned the broom back towards the heart of the castle grounds. He could feel her gentle yet firm maneuvering of the broom and could tell that she had not been lying when she had said she had been trained. Having been only a bit rusty in the beginning of her ride, Narcissa had seemed to regain her confidence fairly quickly.

He had never seen a girl who could fly as she did and wondered why she hadn’t tried for the Slytherin team, though come to think of it, he probably knew the reason after all. A pureblood himself, he was fully conscious of the rules girls like her were expected to uphold—the propriety they were expected to maintain—even if it came to sacrificing something you were good at, something you may even love.

Narcissa could hear his breathing at the base of her neck and was oddly comforted by the proximity of his solid form. Never in all her years at Hogwarts had she let a Gryffindor affect her the way he was now; and, she was surprised by how much she enjoyed it.

It happened in a flash. Flying at a relatively harmless speed towards the quidditch pitch, the broom suddenly jerked with a force that rivaled even the greatest of natural turbulence. It was like they had suddenly run into an invisible force field with just enough power to stop the Cleansweep in mid-air, catapulting their bodies with full force, from the wooden handle towards the now uninviting ground.

Racing through the air, cursing gravity and the being that created it, James without thinking pulled his wand from his pocket and pointed it at Narcissa, who was screaming at the top of her lungs with little regard for the grace of her usual character.

If he hadn’t been plunging to his death at that very moment, he would have found the sight to be very amusing.

Pointing his wand with precision at her panicking form, he cried into the night, reciting with ease a spell that slowed their fall to a less threatening pace. A strong light emitted from the end of his 11-inch mahogany wand—now lifesaver—and he and Narcissa slowed in mid-air only to tumble comfortably towards the sandy center of the pitch they had been earlier in the evening.

He looked up, was surprised for the second time tonight, to see that Narcissa was bent over, not because she was deathly ill from fright, but because she was overcome with a hysterical fit of laughter. Bracing her stomach with the palm of her hand, she just couldn’t help herself from rolling about the floor.

“Why are you laughing?” he managed, a smile now creeping across his own face at the very sight of her.

She couldn’t answer. Rolling on the floor, sand mixing with her blonde hair, she could barely manage to spare a moment’s breath to look at him.

“You could say, thank you James for saving my life!” he huffed, in between spurts of his own laughter.

Instead, she fell silent. “What was that?” she asked. “You felt it right? It was like an invisible shield of some sort that just came out of no where.”

“I have no idea! It’s not like we were seven-feet from one another or anything,” he put in purposefully to prove to her he had in fact been listening earlier.

“It was weird like time had suddenly stopped long enough for the broom to throw us into the air. One second, I was completely in control and the next we were in each other’s arms plunging to our deaths.”

“Losing control—it’s an odd feeling,” he mumbled more to himself, while staring her up and down to make sure that she had in fact survived unscathed. The concern he felt for her at that instant was disorienting, he usually had some kind of control over these types of emotions.

Turning over to lie on his back, he took in a deep breath. The stars were quite a sight he had never taken the time to fully appreciated until now—now that he was sure his life was no longer in danger.

Narcissa rose to come sit next to him on the ground, looking up as if to spy furtively on what he found to be so fascinating.

“What are you thinking about?” she asked breathlessly. She was still in recovery from her case of the giggles.

“Honestly?” he challenged.

“Yeah, honestly,” she affirmed, not taking her eyes from the stars.

“I was thinking about,” but he chickened out at the last second, resigned to being a coward at least when she was in the room. Not wanting to admit how beautiful he found her to be in the twilight, he simply said, “I was thinking about how Slytherin would definitely give Gryffindor a run for the Inter-House Quidditch Cup if only they had you as their seeker.” He grinned, trying hard to hide his true thoughts.

She blushed even in the darkness. “James Potter, you are such a liar.” He couldn’t tell if she knew whether or not he was holding back or if she was genuinely surprised by his compliment. Either way, he laughed enjoying for what seemed like the first time in their two weeks together, having Narcissa Black at his side.

Just a few yards away, Hermione sat up disoriented by the sound of screaming. It was dark but not completely because she could see Draco’s face, cold and immobile right beside her.

Her legs were intertwined with his and though she tried to be careful so as not to disturb his beautiful form, she had no choice but to rather ungracefully place one arm on either side of his chest to support herself in a very awkward push-up pose.

As if on cue, Draco came to, dragging with him a haze of unconsciousness and confusion. He stared up into Hermione’s face, and she was very grateful to know that he could not see her.

He could, however, feel her sweet breath on his face and knew that she was very close. He smiled, “What are you doing?” he whispered, resorting to hushed tones, as he was unsure of their location. He, too, could hear the screaming and looked in the direction of the quidditch pitch. “What is that?” he scrunched his face in discomfort; the noise was giving him a headache.

“I don’t know!” she said while trying to look in the direction of the evident panic, still awkwardly perched overtop of Draco’s body.

Ignoring the distressed voice, he pulled her close, her arms collapsing at the surprise of his embrace. “Where are we?” he breathed seductively into her ear.

She used his obvious curiosity as an excuse to break from his grasp. “I don’t know,” she admitted, sitting up. It was strange—the screaming had stopped and something much more troubling had taken its place—it couldn’t be laughter, could it?

“One minute we were in the corridor arguing over…” and then she saw it, lying lifeless about three feet from Draco’s right foot.

“The rose,” he finished.

“And the next, we are plunged into the darkness of the night on what seems to be the outskirts of the quidditch pitch,” she remarked rather perceptively.

“It’s dark huh?” he mused. “So, now you know what its like!” He smirked so that she could tell he was just being his usual sarcastic self. She stood up, however, gesturing for him to follow.

She was leading the way towards the center of the pitch where she could make out two distinct voices. It was strange, how familiar one of them seemed to be—she shivered, it was definitely not a good familiar. She tightened her grip on Draco’s hand, leading him albeit a bit more slowly towards the source of the sound.

They could pick up on distinct pieces of the conversation now. Hermione knew that they must be close.

It was faint but definitely audible. A female voice managed, “What are you thinking about?”

Draco stopped at the sound of this, listening intently. His face had gone all rigid and pale but Hermione forced him to inch closer to the pair sitting in the direct center of the pitch—close, almost arm-in-arm.

“Honestly?” a voice responded, this one male, deep and inviting.

“Yeah, honestly,” the female voice replied. Draco stopped again. Hermione turned to him, his face was cold as ice—he seemed to be entranced by the female voice as if he found the bittersweet enunciation to be familiar.

“I was thinking about,” there was a slight pause and Hermione smiled. Maybe from personal experience but she could tell the man hesitated ever so slightly because he liked her, whoever the graceful blonde was sitting beside him. “I was thinking about how Slytherin would definitely give Gryffindor a run for the Inter-House Quidditch Cup if they had you as their seeker,” he continued, flatteringly.

Draco was completely beside himself. No longer ineffable, his eyes were wide with fury.

“Draco, are you okay?” Hermione whispered tapping his shoulder in an effort to retrieve his attention.

He said nothing until he heard the woman’s reply. “James Potter, you are such a liar.” Hermione’s head snapped to the couple sitting before her very eyes, a painful realization finally stepping from the shadows of her subconscious.

“Hermione, is that--?” Draco scathed, inaudibly.

“Your mother,” she confirmed. He made to leap in the direction of his mother’s voice wanting nothing more than to tear her from her companion; but, Hermione was too attuned to his every move. She held him back.

“Draco, we can’t. Draco, calm down!” she said as loudly as she could without risking detection. He heeded her words, still glaring menacingly in the direction of their voices. “Draco,” her voice was quivering with panic as she said his name for the third time in less than ten seconds. “I think something has gone horribly wrong.”

“Yes, my mother in the company of that James Potter,” but he choked as he said the name, coming, at last, to the same realization Hermione had made just minutes before. “James Potter?” he questioned.

“James Potter,” Hermione nodded, trying very hard not to breakdown at the mere thought of her being stuck—yes, stuck—in the past with Draco Malfoy.

Chapter 23: Mercy
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Dearest Readers,

I hope you are doing well and are enjoying the New Year, which has hopefully brought nothing but good times thus far for you and your families.

I am writing to you today to finally reward your unbelievable patience and support with the next installment of Blinded, a chapter I know I promised you several months ago but has only come to me as of last night. It appears that as I get closer and closer to the end of this story, my writer’s block gets more and more severe, making it extremely difficult to finish a chapter.

I hope you do enjoy this twenty-third chapter, Mercy. I hope it clarifies some of the ambiguities of the previous two chapters and provides a little bit of direction as to where the story is headed.

In this chapter, we see a return of the elemental magic alluded to in Chapter 17 and though a bit technical I hope you find it interesting as I dive into new facets of the Rebound-of-Fate. New relationships continue to develop as old ones fall apart; and, we see Inter-house solidarity continue to be of great concern, as does the past. I hope to come back and revise this chapter at some point but I thought I would post it for you anyways.

As always, thank you for your patience and support. You are the reason I have yet to give up on this story, in spite of my writer’s block.

More is definitely to come!

Yours truly,


Just a few yards away, Hermione sat up disoriented by the sound of screaming. It was dark but not completely because she could see Draco’s face, cold and immobile right beside her.

Her legs were intertwined with his and though she tried to be careful so as not to disturb his beautiful form, she had no choice but to rather ungracefully place one arm on either side of his chest to support herself in a very awkward push-up pose.

As if on cue, Draco came to, dragging with him a haze of unconsciousness and confusion. He stared up into Hermione’s face, and she was very grateful to know that he could not see her.

He could, however, feel her sweet breath on his face and knew that she was very close. He smiled, “What are you doing?” he whispered, resorting to hushed tones, as he was unsure of their location. He, too, could hear the screaming and looked in the direction of the quidditch pitch. “What is that?” he scrunched his face in discomfort; the noise was giving him a headache.

“I don’t know!” she said while trying to look in the direction of the evident panic, still awkwardly perched overtop of Draco’s body.

Ignoring the distressed voice, he pulled her close, her arms collapsing at the surprise of his embrace. “Where are we?” he breathed seductively into her ear.

She used his obvious curiosity as an excuse to break from his grasp. “I don’t know,” she admitted, sitting up. It was strange—the screaming had stopped and something much more troubling had taken its place—it couldn’t be laughter, could it?

“One minute we were in the corridor arguing over…” and then she saw it, lying lifeless about three feet from Draco’s right foot.

“The rose,” he finished.

“And the next, we are plunged into the darkness of the night on what seems to be the outskirts of the quidditch pitch,” she remarked rather perceptively.

“It’s dark huh?” he mused. “So, now you know what its like!” He smirked so that she could tell he was just being his usual sarcastic self. She stood up, however, gesturing for him to follow.

She was leading the way towards the center of the pitch where she could make out two distinct voices. It was strange, how familiar one of them seemed to be—she shivered, it was definitely not a good familiar. She tightened her grip on Draco’s hand, leading him albeit a bit more slowly towards the source of the sound.

They could pick up on distinct pieces of the conversation now. Hermione knew that they must be close.

It was faint but definitely audible. A female voice managed, “What are you thinking about?”

Draco stopped at the sound of this, listening intently. His face had gone all rigid and pale but Hermione forced him to inch closer to the pair sitting in the direct center of the pitch—close, almost arm-in-arm.

“Honestly?” a voice responded, this one male, deep and inviting.

“Yeah, honestly,” the female voice replied. Draco stopped again. Hermione turned to him, his face was cold as ice—he seemed to be entranced by the female voice as if he found the bittersweet enunciation to be familiar.

“I was thinking about,” there was a slight pause and Hermione smiled. Maybe from personal experience but she could tell the man hesitated ever so slightly because he liked her, whoever the graceful blonde was sitting beside him. “I was thinking about how Slytherin would definitely give Gryffindor a run for the Inter-House Quidditch Cup if they had you as their seeker,” he continued, flatteringly.

Draco was completely beside himself. No longer ineffable, his eyes were wide with fury.

“Draco, are you okay?” Hermione whispered tapping his shoulder in an effort to retrieve his attention.

He said nothing until he heard the woman’s reply. “James Potter, you are such a liar.” Hermione’s head snapped to the couple sitting before her very eyes, a painful realization finally stepping from the shadows of her subconscious.

“Hermione, is that--?” Draco scathed, inaudibly.

“Your mother,” she confirmed. He made to leap in the direction of his mother’s voice wanting nothing more than to tear her from her companion; but, Hermione was too attuned to his every move. She held him back.

“Draco, we can’t. Draco, calm down!” she said as loudly as she could without risking detection. He heeded her words, still glaring menacingly in the direction of their voices. “Draco,” her voice was quivering with panic as she said his name for the third time in less than ten seconds. “I think something has gone horribly wrong.”

“Yes, my mother in the company of that James Potter,” but he choked as he said the name, coming, at last, to the same realization Hermione had made just minutes before. “James Potter?” he questioned.

“James Potter,” Hermione nodded, trying very hard not to breakdown at the mere thought of her being stuck—yes, stuck—in the past with Draco Malfoy.

Chapter 23: Mercy.

Caught between an onslaught of nausea and disbelief, Draco felt his knees buckle under, his head spinning out of control under the weight of that name. James Potter.

From a young age, he had been taught to loathe that surname without giving thought as to why. Yet, the only thing Draco felt was a wave of unexpected shock that hit him hard in the abdomen, leaving him ineffable with a deafening ringing in his ears. He fell to the ground, cushioned by the grip of silent resignation, which spread quickly through his veins filling every cavity in his body with an inexplicable anger.

“Draco!” A hurried whisper graced his eardrums. Draco’s eyes fluttered open at the sound of Hermione’s voice, blinking rapidly as if trying to clarify an image—though the reflex ultimately did nothing to brighten the obscurity in which he remained.

“Draco, are you alright?” she whispered again. Sounds were becoming clearer, as he regained control over his remaining four senses. His head was still pounding with a mixture of confusion, anger and incredulity—but the sound of her voice was truly calming. He felt his heartbeat slow to a measurable pace as the reality of his surroundings began to set back in.

He sat up suddenly, knocking with great force into Hermione, who out of genuine concern had been leaning over his fallen self.

“Ouch!” she unleashed, managing to keep her distress to a low whisper as the throbbing in Draco’s forehead quickly spread to her own.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” he pleaded, trying to reach out to her in a gesture of comfort. Unable to see, however, he missed her by at least a broom’s length, waving his arms around like a fool in the complete opposite direction of where she too had fallen.

His words were not as muffled as Hermione’s had been and were met consequently with a compelling, “Shhh!” rather than a bout of reassurance.

Draco surrendered to the silence between them, allowing instead for Hermione’s thoughts to flow freely through his head.

His mind was greeted by a long list of concerns, which he could now feel emanating from her body language and quick pacing. Apparently, Hermione had recovered quickly from their accidental collision and was now standing up right, lost behind a veneer of calm panic.

It was an incredible feeling, being trapped. The air seemed colder and sharper on her skin knowing that she had nowhere to turn and no one to depend upon, her one companion incapacitated by his own panic.

Draco frowned at this, but was comforted by the quick realization that she neither blamed him for his moment of presumed weakness nor was he alone in it. Though Hermione’s initial disorientation had long passed through her system having been well versed in the art of time travel since her third-year at Hogwarts, traces of panic still filled the hollow cavities in her chest with silent hysteria and sharp pangs of nausea.

Only after forcing herself to ignore such impediments to collecting her composure did she begin to recall something Dumbledore had mentioned to her in her third year.

“You must not be seen,” Dumbledore had stated explicitly.

Images of the Ancient Ruins and Divinations classrooms and snippets of conversations with Ron followed this particular memory, streaming through Draco’s head as they did hers. For some reason, he found his cheeks flushing red with heat, burning with jealousy even at the thought of Ron, which of course did nothing for the traces of pain still residing between his temples.

He shook the feeling from his beneath his skin and continued to peruse her mind, hopefully still undetected.

Can this be time-travel? James Potter, Narcissa Black—yes, yes of course, it must be. There is no other explanation.

Hermione had quickened her pace, engraving into the ground beside him a distinct trail of footprints as she walked back and forth. Draco could hear the firmness of purpose she placed in every step she took. For a moment, his heart raced in excitement only to be replaced by the haunting anger he continued to feel.

Hermione continued. But how did we get here? If not by time turner, the only conventional means of time travel regulated by the Ministry, how is it possible that we are here—with them?

Hermione stopped. She looked up into the near distance. Just a few paces away, James Potter and Narcissa Black were sitting side by side, their gazes locked in mutual and growing admiration despite the quickly rising sun. She had but an hour to figure out a plan, before the grounds were plunged into the effervescence of the morning sun illuminating her and Draco’s now hidden location. If they were in another time, they had to remain hidden so as not to effect history. She continued her pacing.

Draco turned in the direction that Hermione had just been gazing, his ears straining to hear the voices of his mother and her unanticipated companion. They weren’t saying much; yet, he could hear the flirtatious undertone now lining every word to escape their mouths and knew intuitively that their conversation on some level had long strayed from its innocuous beginning. He growled inaudibly, his facial expression festering with disgust.

I just can’t understand how this happened. After everything we’ve been through in the last few months and now this… Hermione’s frustration distracted Draco momentarily from his seeping repugnance as he turned back to her thoughts.

Having grown tired of pacing back and forth, Hermione had finally sat down next to him, twirling the rose, which had apparently made the journey with them, carefully between two fingers so as to avoid its piercing thorns.

One minute we were crouching on the floor, she continued to herself unaware of Draco’s furtive lurking, and the next we were here, sprawled under the stars next to Narcissa and James. Coincidence? Hermione paused for a moment, distracted by her sharp, momentary pain in her right index finger. Preoccupied, she had allowed the rose to prick her finger. Coincidence? she thought again, the rose in her hand hiding a minute trail of blood now seeping towards her palm. The rose radiated with an unusual beauty even for a rose— so simple, almost elemental, she thought.

That’s it! Draco interjected. Hermione jumped at the sound of his voice, once again streaming unexpectedly through her head. The look of fury upon Hermione’s face to follow her realizing he had been eavesdropping in on her mind this whole time was probably fiercer than anything Draco had seen prior to this moment in his life, and he was thankful for the first time that he would not be able to “appreciate” it due to his current disability. She must have picked up on this and supplemented her look with an effective slap across the face that quite easily got her message across, in spite of his being vision impaired. How she wished the occulmency had worked.

I deserved that, he continued massaging his cheekbone with the palm of his hand. But will you at least hear me out?

He could hear her huff with indignation and took her subsequent silence to mean, “go ahead, if you must”. The rose—it was a kind of portkey that transported us from Hogwarts to the quidditch grounds, right?

But Draco, Hermione protested telepathically, the rose if it was any kind of portkey transcended time. No normal portkey has that capability only time turners do.

Exactly my point, he affirmed. Think about it. A rose is quite an unusual choice for a portkey isn’t it?

Hermione had never given the idea any thought. She was intrigued and remained silent, waiting for Draco to continue his telepathic tirade.

Ordinary muggle objects are usually used for portkeys like shoes, pots, pans, and trash, even by my pureblood parents.

Hermione smiled inwardly as Draco continued. Perhaps for the first time in their entire relationship, she noticed that Draco had used the word muggle without hesitation, without derision. Perhaps, more importantly still, he had separated himself from his “pureblood” parents. She couldn’t explain it but she felt something flare up at the pit of her stomach—something that felt oddly like hope, but even so, the flame extinguished as quickly as it had come. She had gone down that path once before—she knew it would never work, not with him anyways.

But the rose—the rose is far from ordinary. Draco was getting very excited and almost forgot to keep their conversation strictly telepathic, slipping every now and then into hushed whispers.

The rose is elemental—and holds the same powers as the four elements Dumbledore mentioned—what were they? He made a face as if using all of his mental capacity to remember exactly how Dumbledore had phrased it. Fire, rain, earth and wind.

Hermione could finally see where he was going with this. So because the rose had been the portkey instead of a random object, it transcended established laws of magic making it possible to travel between times with out a time turner? She posed, intrigued by the implications of his hypothesis.

Draco was nodding fervently. It must have tapped into the rebound-of-fate somehow, giving it a medium to control us further—to impose on us directly.

“You make it seem as if the rebound-of-fate has a life of its own,” she said a bit too loudly. She clasped her hands to her mouth, glancing in the direction of James and Narcissa who were thankfully too lost within each other’s company to notice her fleeting outburst.

Actually that is exactly what I am saying. Draco continued, returning their conversation to the security of their own minds. I don’t know who enchanted the rose in the first place but they surely had some knowledge of its elemental significance. Once it came into contact with the rebound, its effects must have been exacerbated or intensified bringing us here for no other reason than the rebound wanted us to come here.

Hermione was astounded by Draco’s knowledge of elemental magic. His conversation with Dumbledore must have affected him more than he had let on when he was describing it to her afterwards; nevertheless, she quickly released herself of her disbelief. His logic made sense and that was all that mattered to her at the moment.

Draco continued. Dumbledore told me that elemental magic is extremely powerful, incomprehensible even to the average witch or wizard and can rarely be tampered with. He said few people have been able to harness its power, able only to manage its effects.

So the question remains why does the rebound want us to be here? And do the problems of regular time travel still apply? Hermione asked, Dumbledore’s warning still underlying her every thought.

At her last comment, Draco stood up. “There’s only one way to find out.” With a huge intake of air, he belted out a huge scream to rival even the most terrifying of banshees, piercing the tranquil silence with all the strength his vocal chords could muster.

A painful silence followed in which Hermione saw her entire life, as she knew it, flash before her eyes.

If Hermione hadn’t been horrified by the possible consequences of Draco’s rash decision, she would have found the scene to be quite comical. If she hadn’t known any better, Draco quite resembled the muggle Tarzan, beating his chest ferociously like an ape heading into the depths of the jungle preparing for the battle of the century; but again, she was absolutely horrified and found the scene to be anything but comical.

Whipping around to see whether or not Narcissa and James had heard or at all been affected by Draco’s eruption, she was elated and admittedly a bit confused to realize they persisted, undisturbed and unaware of their co-existence.

Despite his triumph, he received another momentous slap in his left shoulder from Hermione that not only knocked the wind out of him, but also had him keeling over in painful exuberance, his groaning muffled by simultaneous fits of laughter.

Idiot! You could have risked everything! Hermione screamed across to his mind.

“No risk, no reward,” he chuckled. He knew he was capitalizing a little bit too much on the state of her nerves but the Slytherin in him just couldn’t resist. A little more seriously, he continued, “At least we know now that normal rules no longer apply.”

Hermione had tuned him out, pondering their situation further while still recovering from the near heart attack Draco had almost induced. “It seems,” she began, abandoning their efforts at telepathy now that they knew they were incapable of impacting their surroundings, “that we are in a kind of memory.” She was tracing her own memory back to Tom Riddle’s diary and Harry’s ability to relive certain memories Riddle desired to show him.

“Memory travel?” Draco questioned.

“Yeah, and until we’ve seen what the rebound wants us to see, experience or realize, for that matter, we cannot return back to our time,” she finished, slightly disheartened by her own recitation. “I guess you could say we are at fate’s mercy.”

“So, what is it that the rebound wants us to realize?” Draco asked, rather rhetorically.

“Something to do with your mother and James,” she offered. Draco shuddered at the mentioning of his mother’s name in conjunction with his. “They were affected by the rebound just like us, Draco,” Hermione said, noticing the familiar scowl on his face at the mention of Harry’s father.

It did make sense. He just still couldn’t wrap his head around the idea of his mother and him. All this time, his parents had been hiding this deep secret, masquerading behind what he now realized to be a fallacious allegiance to the Dark Arts. Draco felt like such a poser within his own skin, unaware of who he truly was. It was an uncomfortable feeling, itchy even.

“What do we do now?” he asked.

Hermione picked up the rose that had fallen between them. She revolved it slowly within the palm of her hand, counting the number of thorns in its stem. “We wait.”

Ron sat in the Great Hall, starved yet unable to satiate his hunger. It had been almost twelve hours since leaving Dumbledore’s office with Pansy and though the Headmaster had assured them that they were not in fact the cause of Hermione and Draco’s disappearing act, his guilt had been anything but assuaged.

He had been sure that what they had planned would bring Hermione closer to him—the one thing he believed he desired most in the world. Yet, sitting across from Pansy Parkinson at the Slytherin table in the Great Hall, the light of the evening’s moon radiating from the depths of her eyes, he was no longer so sure about what exactly it was he wanted.

He had loved Hermione, but after everything that had happened with Draco in the past several months he no longer knew if he still did. It was a realization he was having difficulty dealing with, as evinced by the untouched almost pristine plates of food sitting before him.

The Great Hall had emptied as usual following dinner, leaving Pansy and Ron among the last of the few stragglers to finish eating. Ron’s friends had all but disowned him at seeing him enter the room alongside Pansy. Though he usually gave a great deal about what people thought about him and his family, he ignored the stares for a change and followed Pansy to one end of her House’s table. He never thought he would be one to engage in the inter house camaraderie that had upset Hogwarts’ social homogeneity since Hermione and Draco “happened”, but sitting across from Pansy, he thought—albeit temporarily—that maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing.

He looked up at her, watching her sip the last of her pumpkin chowder. They hadn’t spoken since they had left Dumbledore’s office, nor had they actually looked at one another—simultaneously at least. It was disconcerting, how unbearable he found the silence between them to be. He wanted so desperately to break it, yet felt obligated to obey his patience—something he was not usually known for doing. Hermione, if she were here, could attest to that fact. Ron smiled inwardly.

How desperately he wanted to know what was going through Pansy’s mind; if she was freaking out as much as he was—if she had any inklings of a plan to rectify what they both knew needed to be rectified as soon as magically possible.

She looked up, a bit surprised to find Ron staring so intently at her. He was worried; she could tell by the slight frown in his bone structure and the melancholic profundity of his stare. She stared back into Ron’s eyes, forcing him to look away—his cheeks flushed in what appeared to be embarrassment as he looked down at his plate, but what really happened to be frustration with her and her presumed silence.

Neither she nor Ron would be the ones to break the silence. Instead with a rather dramatic cry, Parvati Patil came running through the Great Hall from the foyer, tears flushing down her cheeks while managing to annunciate three words of complete anguish between painful sobs. “I hate Slytherins!”

Pansy looked up, a bit shocked as she watched Parvati, a girl of conventional propriety, run through the Great Hall with impassioned fury, towards her sister who was still sitting amongst a small group of her Ravenclaw classmates at the neighboring table.

Padma was taken aback by her sister’s uncharacteristic outburst and looked extremely angered by the explanation Parvati seemed to be giving between howls of emotional torment. She was pointing towards the staircase, clutching her heart with the utmost intensity. Though Padma tried to calm her twin down, wiping the tears staining her sister’s face a rosy shade of red, Parvati was an absolute mess.

“Isn’t she dating, Blaise?” Pansy asked Ron, slightly confused by the Parvati’s emotional collapse.

Ron nodded. “Yeah, last I heard in the Gryffindor common room, the two of them were getting pretty serious. Seamus was going on an on about how she and Blaise have been spending all of this time together and how they are making plans for the holidays. I think she was going to meet his parents. Seamus was pretty torn up about the whole idea. He has always liked Parvati even when she went to the Yule Ball with Harry three years back,” Ron chuckled.

“I wonder why she is so upset. Hate is a pretty strong word to be using when her boyfriend is in Slytherin, isn’t it?” Pansy said.

“It doesn’t look like he is her boyfriend anymore,” Ron mumbled rather perceptively for his standards.

Pansy couldn’t understand it. Was the inter house solidarity she and Ron had tried so hard to discourage that easily broken? Strangely enough, after seeing Parvati in tears over a failed inter-house romance, Pansy felt a wave of unexpected disappointment befall her. Whether she was growing soft to the idea of Hogwarts’ changed social landscape or just disappointed to realize her scheme of removing Hermione and Draco in order to return things at Hogwarts to normal was working with little effort on her part, she had no idea.

All she knew was they had to get them back. Hogwarts without Hermione and Draco was not as she had expected. Gazing up at Ron again, who had finally managed to start eating, Pansy couldn’t help but smile to herself—Hogwarts without Hermione and Draco was definitely not what she had expected.

Chapter 24: The Elements Revisited
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Chapter 24: The Elements Revisited.

Rising from just beneath the horizon, the sun rose to its apex at a meager pace where it then hung resolutely in the sky among a delicate assemblage of morning haze and vapor. The day was warm and though Draco felt no need to squint, he could feel the blinding intensity of the sun upon his skin. His face even began to burn, as his pale visage often did in the light of day.

Draco sighed. In spite of the light breeze now flushing his jawbone, a comforting and pleasurable distraction in this odd morning heat, he once again remembered where—or more importantly—when he was.

With a familiar feeling of unease taking up residence within the cavities of his chest at the very idea of time travel—or memory travel as Hermione had so astutely clarified the night before—Draco sat up quickly so as to relieve some of the intensifying pressure surfacing among his ribs. His sudden shift in orientation, however, sent a fresh surge of blood to his head, rousing his senses slowly with his body, as his mind transitioned away from sleep towards a more vigilant state of mental acuity.

He couldn’t remember when during the night his need for rest had overcome his anxiety, but feeling a new vitality course through his veins, he was grateful for having finally succumbed to his exhaustion, even if only for an hour or two.

Draco grazed the surface of the ground with the palm of his hand, attempting to glean a basic image of his surroundings using his remaining senses. Smooth and undisturbed on one side of his reviving form, the ground on the other exhibited familiar signs of panic and distress, baring the contours of a pitch disheveled by the forceful flavor of human footsteps—no doubt, courtesy of Hermione from the night before.

Hermione turned over in her sleep.

Draco could hear the restlessness in her breath even as she dreamed and wanted nothing more than to reach over and lend a reassuring hand—to be able to tell her that everything would be all right in the end (and truly mean it).

Turning his face back towards the sun, stretching his neck in the direction of the now illumined sky, he feared that he would never be able to do just that, however.

Waiting was a painful process, an uncertain process; one Draco had reluctantly become quite acquainted with after losing his ability to see. Dumbledore had reassured him that his vision would return in due time, that this was but a test of patience both of mind and body.

Draco’s patience, however, was beginning to wear thin and waiting for the rebound-of-fate to just reveal its secret plan as Hermione had suggested the night before, no longer sat well with him. He had always been a man of action. And, he knew that he needed to do something other than wait for a change.

Looking back now on his conversation with Dumbledore the night of the Halloween ball, Draco couldn’t help but think the Headmaster was wrong about him not being his father’s son. Was it his own greed that was driving his impatience at this very moment, his intensifying (if not genetic) need to intervene, to set things straight? Or was it love—as Dumbledore had suggested—love for his mother, for Hermione?

True, he may not always think in terms of blood like his father, but his reaction to hearing his mother in the company of the one and only James Potter was certainly proof of some kind of inheritance, one he feared he would never be able to fully exonerate himself from.

He shuddered. His entire body had burned with an incomprehensible anger upon hearing Potter’s voice and name; it had been a reaction only the Potter name could arouse in him—though, he admitted to himself, the Weasley name especially when juxtaposed with Hermione’s was beginning to elicit a remarkably similar effect these days.

Draco shielded his face in shame, casting a protective shadow over his dormant vision.

An underlying fear surfaced in the pit of his stomach at this fleeting thought, generating a new layer of sweat, now pouring from the sides of his forehead.

He feared he would always be his father’s son, unable to escape the intolerance bequeathed to him at birth.

In many ways, Draco had begun to hope he would always be bound to Hermione. Though unable to see, he knew he would feel more in an eternity—blinded—but with her by his side than he could ever experience alone, vision intact, at the mercy of his father’s name and the responsibility that necessarily accompanied such a mark of permanence.

At least in her company, he was free to be who he wanted to be and not necessarily what his father envisioned.

At the same time, however, he knew he was a burden—a burden to the one person for whom he cared most deeply. It was, in the end, Hermione that kept him from just leaving their situation as is. He knew she was still uncomfortable with him and their past—a pureblood, a Slytherin, her sworn enemy since the age of eleven; and, though he was ready to admit to the world the way he now felt about her, unashamed, he knew she was still struggling with everything that had happened to them, around them—between them.

She was a genius, one that survived on reason and logic. This he knew. Yet, both reason and logic had failed her in the past couple of months, thanks largely to the elements.

Elemental magic, he surmised long ago, has always had a mind of its own. But understanding and accepting this fact, this lack of precision and control was an entirely different matter for a bookworm like Hermione. For her, the elements were disconcerting, destabilizing—a threat to everything she stood for.

Surprisingly, it was anything but disconcerting for him. Earth, rain, wind, fire—the elements made sense to him in a way most other magic did not. He had mastered spells, curses and potions before, but he understood the elements in way he never thought possible. He felt connected to them—like they were as much a part of him and his history as his father and his intolerable ways.

It was as if he lived and breathed the elements—and, in a way, always had.

Draco understood that the rebound-of-fate was derived from fire, the product of passion unspoken. He accepted that there was some prophecy derived from earth, which bound him to Hermione in a way no other magic could. He saw with his own eyes that the Shrouding Solution had come from wind, destructive like a flame, but creative in its wake. And he took as truth that love, with the properties of rain, was perhaps the most powerful emotion known to man and wizarding-kind, alike—a magic unto itself.

Perhaps, the only thing that continued to puzzle him in spite of this connection to, this understanding of the elements was why the rose, the rebound-of-fate, the elements had all conspired to bring them here—to this moment in time, to this memory, to his mother’s past of all places.

Dumbledore had mentioned his mother’s condition, his father’s meddling, and the existence of a second prophecy. But what was it exactly that his father had done?

What had he changed that Draco felt so desperately now that he had to change back, was meant to change back, to make right? Why had Dumbledore kept the contents of the other prophecy hidden from him? What more did he have to learn?

Though his actions and words suggested otherwise, Draco had always admired Dumbledore from a distance. He had this feeling that Dumbledore always knew more than he was letting on. In the case of his mother and father, Draco was sure of it. This also frustrated him, of course.

He felt one with the elements now, with Hermione. He accepted his condition—even, at times, took pleasure in it—wasn’t that enough?

Was anything ever going to be enough?

Hermione shot up in a flash, snapping Draco from his silent daze, her palms rushing to cradle her cheek as if she had just been slapped in the face with the force of an Unforgivable Curse.

‘What the…’ but she couldn’t even finish her sentence, her poor choice in words muffled by the consoling touch of her palm to skin. She continued to cringe, rocking backward and forward in sincere pain from, again, what appeared to be an invisible force aimed deliberately at her face.

‘Hermione, what’s wrong?’ Draco exclaimed, overcome with concern by the sudden change in her disposition. He reached out—more instinctively than by actual choice he noticed—to lend a comforting hand, but his palm only met with her back; she was keeling over in unexplained anguish.

Too bewildered to maintain any sense of coherency, she stuttered in between a flood of warm tears now streaming down the sides of her face, ‘My…my cheek…it’s bur…burning, Draco!’

An inexplicable onslaught of fear quickly rushed to take the place of the remaining traces of sleep still plaguing Hermione’s subconscious. She was now fully awake and though slightly disoriented by the strength of the sun, had begun to look around rapidly for the source of her painful alarm.

Draco too was feeling a bit strange. It wasn’t nausea per se; but, his stomach was definitely overcome with something. It tasted like anger. His muscles tightened, again instinctively rather than by actual choice.

‘What happened? You were sleeping peacefully just a moment ago!’ he said, raising the volume of his voice to match the anxiety in hers.

‘Draco—‘ she panted. She was still trying to get her breath back, the wind having been physically knocked out of her. ‘Did you notice anything, before…’ she managed, while hastily scanning their surroundings for anything out of the ordinary, almost in a panic.

Unfortunately, he had not, too caught up in his own thoughts and ramblings. Before he could communicate this to her, however, Hermione quickly fixated her eyes on Narcissa and James who had also apparently spent the remainder of their night out of doors. A tall and slender third figure was also in the mix now though, standing on the pitch just beside them. She could not as of yet clearly identify him, given her physical distance from the scene but she had a growing suspicion he was an antagonist in their budding romance.

Shielding her from the figure towering above them, James was kneeling next to Narcissa, who to Hermione’s astonishment was crouching on all fours, cushioning the side of her cheek with the palm of her hand just as she herself had been just a few moments before.

‘Hermione, are you ok?’ Draco asked again confounded by her sudden silence. He could not for the life of him comprehend women and their universal affinity for abrupt mood swings.

Hermione continued to ignore him, brushing away his hand with the tip of her wand, which she had now whipped out from inside her robe, a precautionary instinct instilled in her after two years of defensive, magical training as a founding member of Dumbeldore’s Army. Although now that she thought about it, her wand was probably of no use now, not while they remained in this memory, as it were.

‘Stay here,’ she whispered to him; but, Draco was not about to sit around, waiting for Hermione to figure out what was going on. He was blind, but not entirely useless—or so he tried to convince himself.

Lucius stood over Narcissa’s heaving form and watched as James Potter attempted to console her. It was a disgusting sight to say the least. Lucius’s stomach churned.

To say she deserved what she had gotten, however, was an understatement in Lucius’s opinion and there was no way he was going to act otherwise. Narcissa had been behaving with the utmost impropriety these past two weeks, unbecoming of a Slytherin, pureblood and, above all, a Malfoy, as she would be in the not-so-distant future.

He understood there were certain limitations that required her to remain in proximity of that insufferable Potter boy, but that did not mean she had the right to shirk on her responsibilities to her family and friends. She was the same person, after all—just in a bit of a predicament, one with a solution that Lucius was determined to find.

Sure his actions were rash, impulsive, somewhat unbecoming in and of themselves, but the one night—the one night he had needed Narcissa to be there for him, to comfort and console him, to tell him things would work out in the end, that he had made the right choice for himself—and, for them—she had been off frolicking with Potter, having a laugh, a good time. He hated to see her with him. It killed him inside, as if he were being ripped in two, piece by piece.

His forearm burned where the mark of a new allegiance now lay, permanent and irreversible.

Narcissa seemed to be regaining control of herself after several seconds of blinding pain. More so than the pain of Lucius’s palm to her face, however, it had been the surprise of his ‘attack’ that had unhinged her so. She had always known Lucius to be drawn to violence, given his volatile temperament, but he had never before this been one to enact it against her and that to—out of nowhere.

Still on the ground, in a kind of half embrace with James who was not only examining her cheek, which was bruising now, the faint outline of a handprint taking shape, but also supporting her back, Narcissa leaned against him and closed her eyes in an effort to pacify her spinning head. Thankfully, there was a gentle breeze. The wind had always been a source of comfort to her.

‘Are you, ok?’ James whispered to her. If she had not known any better, she could have sworn there was a tinge of real concern lining his voice—his soothing voice.

She nodded quickly, almost indiscriminately. It was all she could do really—all other forms of affirmation required too much effort and energy on her part, which she just didn’t have to give quite yet, let alone use.

The pain had been too much for her to handle and she had fallen to the ground out of necessity. Her back had buckled, just as quickly as her knees and she feared this was but the beginning. She knew Lucius well and the anticipation of what would happen next was almost as paralyzing as what had just transpired.

She was locked in place, as close to the earth as possible.

‘Don’t hate me, ok!’ James whispered in response. With that, he let go of Narcissa and rounded forcibly on Lucius.

She tried to go after him, to reach out and grab his hand to thwart any kind of retaliation that he might have been planning. But, instead, she lost what balance she regained and fell flat.

James hadn’t realized how tall and menacing Lucius actually was until this moment, now that they were face to face. Usually, when it came to Lucius, Sirius was the one to take him on. Sirius, after all, was the one who had serious beef with the guy. Though probably a bit of an exaggeration, it almost felt as if Lucius was a foot taller than he was and stronger, certainly stronger.

Yet, James drew his wand all the same. This was met by a piercing laughter.

‘Are you sure you know what you’re doing, Potter?’ Lucius asked, haughtily. ‘Are you certain you’re ready for this?’

James wasn’t ready but he had been in plenty of trouble before now and there was no way he was going to let Lucius get away with hitting Narcissa. ‘I assure you, Potter. You’ll regret this tomorrow,’ Lucius finished.

He probably would. But, in truth, he would have stood up to any wizard who laid a hand on a woman. It was just in James’s chivalrous nature that which his father was sure to bequeath him and that at an early age. That it was Narcissa who was hurt made the situation even more dire, in James’s opinion. Lucius’s attack had felt like an affront to him as well—something personal.

James hated getting personal, but that did not mean he wouldn’t, should the right opportunity arise that is.

This was that moment. He could feel it.

James twirled his wand in his right hand, gripping it firmly with his fingers. He stepped towards Lucius who had taken no time to ready himself into a defensive posture oddly reminiscent of a fencer on point.

With ‘Stupefy’ on the tip of his tongue, James made to flick his wand but, unfortunately for him, was a second too slow. Lucius had been too quick for him, too resolute in his offense.

‘Relashio!’ Lucius exclaimed before James could muster words of his own. A jet of red, fiery sparks spewed from his wand, bound straight for James’s chest.

James was thrown from his feet with such force; he flew straight up in the air and backwards slightly, only to come crashing down near to where Narcissa still lay. He was lying flat on his back, still conscious, but it took everything he had to turn over on his side so he could breathe.

‘Lucius, no!’ he could hear her scream. ‘What have you done?’

James could hear someone running towards him, footsteps displacing sand and dirt. But they were growing fainter by the second.

Her touch was so sweet, so soothing—like rain.

Lucius had been right he would regret this tomorrow. He had not been prepared for a full on duel with a seventh year; nothing could have prepared him for this.

‘James—James,’ Narcissa was panicking now. ‘James, are you alright?’ She was beginning to shake him awake when he opened his eyes slightly. Clearly hurt, he nodded. It was the best he could do—she understood that.

Laying him back down as gently as she could—Narcissa rounded on Lucius.

‘Are you happy?’ she yelled at him.

Perhaps, for the first time, Lucius evaluated the merits of his actions—traces of what felt like fear flickering across his eyes.

‘Are you happy, Lucius?’ she couldn’t even look at him, so disgusted she was. ‘Just go,’ she said finally.

When he didn’t move, fearing what would happen if he did, Narcissa repeated herself—this time with a bit more force. ‘Just go, Lucius! Get out of here!’

She didn’t wait to see if he obeyed, however, too concerned for James. Instead, she turned back to James who had come to while she had been speaking with Lucius. She was relieved to see that he was beginning to sit up.

‘Are you alright?’ Narcissa asked again.

‘No,’ he smirked, his usual biting air returning ever so slightly to his speech. ‘But, I will be,’ he affirmed.

He caught Narcissa’s gaze at this comment. For a second, he thought he saw relief flash across her face. It made him smile.

‘Why are you smiling?’ Narcissa said, clearly irritated. ‘Do you think this was funny or something?’

James said nothing.

‘Oh get up you idiot!’ Narcissa said, doing the best she could to contain her own smile. It was hard not to laugh at everything when James Potter was your constant companion. ‘Let’s get you to the hospital wing before you die of a concussion or something.’

She helped him up and they headed to the hospital wing, hobbling along up towards the castle.

Hermione watched them go. She was so stunned at the scene that had just transpired.

What was going on? she thought to herself. Nothing played out as she had expected.

It just all seemed very wrong. Lucius slapped Narcissa, his one true love, who was consoled by James, a Marauder, a Gryffindor, who was then attacked by Lucius because he rose to her defense.

And to top everything all off, the whole thing had exhausted her, like she herself had been involved in the mix somehow. Hermione had been ambushed by a wave of emotions that ranged from fear to anger to great concern, the latter of which was still stirring in the pit of her stomach.

She turned around to explain this all to Draco, but to her surprise he was gone.

‘Draco?’ she said aloud. ‘Draco? Where did you—‘ but her question was interrupted by a voice in her head—his voice.

Hermione… he mustered. She could sense he was weak; the volume of his thoughts in her head was meek at best.

Hermione… help… he whispered across her mind again.

Hermione spun around a full hundred and eighty degrees to find Draco just a meter or two away from where they had both been standing just moments before. He was crawling on the floor, using all of what seemed like his remaining strength to try and stand.

Hermione was beside herself. She ran to Draco’s side at a full sprint closing the gap between them at pace very foreign to her.

‘What happened?’ she said, when she reached him. She was supporting most of his weight now and encouraged him to lean against her until he could catch his breath fully.

‘I—have no idea,’ Draco said slowly, between gulps of air. ‘One minute,’ he breathed, ‘I was following your footsteps and the next I was thrown back so hard—‘ Draco trailed off for a second before continuing. ‘It felt like I had been hit by a curse, Hermione—of some kind.’

Hermione was stroking Draco’s head in an effort to soothe his obvious pain and discomfort.

‘Like you had been hit by a curse?’ she questioned. ‘But no one would do—‘ she stopped talking so abruptly it was as if the wind had been knocked out of her for a second time.

Draco could feel her heart quicken ever so slightly and knew Hermione was at work putting two and two together. He waited until she was ready to share.

‘Draco—I don’t think you were hit,’ she said at last.

This was not what Draco had been hoping to hear. Of course, he had been hit—he had felt it—lived it. ‘That’s impossible. I felt it Hermione. I flew backwards in the air for Merlin’s sake. Thrust into the ground!’ He was more than prepared to argue this point.

‘No, Draco—you don’t understand. Someone was hit—but it wasn’t you.’

She was right he didn’t understand.

‘If it wasn’t me that was hit, Hermione, how do you explain my sudden flight or the pain resounding in my torso,’ Draco pointed to his upper body—it still very much hurt to breathe.

‘The same way I explain this,’ she said, taking his palm and placing it squarely on her cheek where a bruise grew darker.

He had forgotten all about her injury, her moment of pain, having been overwhelmed by his own.

She continued. ‘Draco—you weren’t hit. Neither was I slapped. But—‘ she paused briefly choosing her words carefully, ‘But, they were—‘

‘Who is they?’ Draco prompted.

‘James and Narcissa! James and your mother!’ She had forgotten that he had not witnessed the events of the past as she had.

Draco still didn’t understand, however.

‘So what are we connected to them somehow?’ he blurted out. He was so frustrated and it read plainly on his face.

‘Actually, Draco—I think that is precisely what we are,’ Hermione’s voice was slightly ominous. ‘I don’t think we are meant to see what happens to James and your mother. I think we are meant to relive it—every bit of it.’

Tears were streaming down her face, but she brushed them aside quickly so that Draco would not notice. He had become very good at sensing any changes in her temperament and she didn’t want to give him reason to worry, anymore than she already had, that is.

He was so furious. This was not what he had signed up for...none of this was. If you were to ask him truthfully, however, he was more scared than anything.

What did this mean? What did it all mean—to relive another’s memory.

‘It seems,’ Hermione carried on partly in response to Draco’s thoughts, ‘that, based on our respective injuries at least, you are linked directly to James and I am linked to Narcissa. It must be due to the rebound somehow—like we are all on the same wavelength or plane or something. But, this also means that nothing is set in stone, I suppose—especially given what we know and what we’ve already experienced with the rebound ourselves.’

‘What do we do now, then?’ he asked her, dread lining every inch of his voice. He couldn’t help it; he couldn’t pretend that he had hope anymore. ‘Wait?’ His tone was rough and aggressive.

‘We go after them I suppose?’ Hermione suggested in an attempt to abate him. ‘Are you ok now to walk?’

Her voice was gentle and he could tell she was worried. ‘No—‘ he answered truthfully. ‘But I will be.’

At this, Hermione helped Draco to his feet, albeit carefully so as to not agitate any of his many cuts and scrapes; and, they headed, rather reluctantly, in the direction of the hospital wing.

Memory travel, Hermione mused, was turning out to be much more complicated than she had originally thought.

And, she was beginning to think she didn’t like it—not one bit.

-- A/N --

Dearest Readers,

So this chapter has been in the works for over a year now. And, seeing as its been forever since I've updated, I thought it was high time I put quill to parchment.

Chapter 25 in the works already. In the meantime--check out the Narcissa/James companion story now up!

Thanks for your patience and for sticking with this story. It really means a lot to me as a writer. And I assure you, Draco and Hermione's journey is far from over.

As always, constructive criticism, opinions and comments are welcomed and appreciated.

Yours truly,

Chapter 25: Blood and Lust
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My first attempt at Chapter 25 (previously posted as 'Of Mind and Men, Ink and Quills') just didn't feel right and quite honestly beckoned for a complete overhaul. Here's Take #2. Sorry for the confusion and really, really hope you enjoy the latest installment of Blinded. Couldn't have done it without you and your continued support. Reviews and constructive criticism welcome and much appreciated, as always!!

Wishing you and your families the happiest of holidays.

Yours truly, 

Chapter 25: Blood and Lust

Hermione strummed her palms against the shelves of books on either side of her, as she swayed rhythmically through the stacks of the library, her fingers stopping every so often on a dusty spine she didn’t recognize, just long enough for her to mentally add the title to her long list of books to read before graduation—that is, if she ever graduated.   

It was a concern that had only recently begun to carry serious weight among the many other troubles in her life, exacerbated not by her near-perfect grade-point-average but by her tenuous—it seemed—relationship with fate.

Every step she and Draco had managed to take forward, towards a solution to their little situation, always ended up feeling more like two steps back, any and all progress impeded by a new twist, a new turn courtesy of the elements they had begun to so fear.

It was exhausting. She just couldn’t keep up with everything anymore. Her patience had long been replaced by a deep-felt anxiety and, at times just like this one, when an air of uncertainty rivaled the shadows of nightfall, she could feel her heartbeat hasten to a pace irregular, uncomfortable, but now all too familiar.

She breathed in the scent of the stacks, willing a kind of strength from their mix of ink, paper, dust and centuries-worth of insight, a strength—it seemed—only she found hidden between their pages. The scent calmed her mind, restless as it was, in a way few things could these days.

After what felt like an eternity of following Narcissa and James, this way and that, all throughout the castle, the pair much to Hermione and Draco’s relief had settled in for a night’s worth of research and … Merlin knows what else. James was always up to something new, Hermione had quickly realized in their short time together. It had in reality only been a day or two and she was already finding it difficult to keep track of his various machinations. 

In fact, for what seemed like the first time in her entire life, Hermione found herself in complete agreement with Severus Snape. Harry’s schemes, his penchant for trouble was but a matter of blood, an inheritance bequeathed to him by nothing other than genetic proximity to the one and only James Potter.

Not long after their arrival in the library had Draco managed to etch out a comfortable spot for himself within the stacks, to catch up on some much needed rest. The poor lad, though he tried his best not to let on, was still suffering from a painful headache. This, of course, was courtesy of his fall the day before, which was in truth more of a calculated push, if you counted Lucius at all responsible for what had transpired on the quidditch pitch. Draco certainly did, perhaps more out of an inborn spite for his father than anything else though.

Indeed, it took Draco almost no time at all to fall asleep in the Herbology Section of the library, somewhere Hermione had noticed between Encyclopedia of Toadstools and Miranda Goshawk’s famed Guide to Herbology. And Hermione, perhaps a result of intuiting more than Draco would have liked her to, just couldn’t find the heart to wake him, though they admittedly had much to accomplish in the library before the night’s oil ran out.

Instead, she took the opportunity to steal a few moments for herself, hard to come by as they were. Carving out a seven-foot radius from where Draco laid dormant, she let herself wander about the stacks, taking in the moonlight streaming through the giant window-panes of the clerestory above, while walking comfortably in and out of sight. It was amazing the way it no longer scared her, the threat of darkness. Of course, it also comforted her to know that she was in the library, the one place in the entire castle that she knew like the tip of her wand; the one place in the whole wide world that she didn’t need to see necessarily to know exactly where she was.

She too, like Draco, was exhausted. But they had both agreed that at least one of them should always brave the night lest anything of importance occur while they slept unaware; and since Draco was clearly not going to be of any use tonight, Hermione did her best to wipe all traces of sleep from her limbs.

She didn’t mind doing it though—not for him.

And in all honesty, staying awake proved to be an easier task than she had initially thought it would. Her mind, jammed packed with a slew of questions, none easily answered, was too busy to really entertain any prospects of sleep.

Though some might argue they had seen very little in the days since their arrival on the quidditch pitch, having only been privy to a few minor interactions between Narcissa, James and their respective friend groups (minus Sirius and Remus much to Hermione’s disappointment), they had in truth experienced more than their fair share. Emotions were constantly running high between James and Narcissa, no doubt a consequence of the rebound-of-fate, not to mention Narcissa and James’ mutually abrasive affection for one another.

These in combination with Hermione and Draco’s own emotions, which on their own always managed to be the most complex of roller-coasters, were almost too much for them to muster through. But, in the end, they did somehow or another manage to survive until now, but not without leaning on each other for support in a way, even Hermione had to concede, they had never had to before.

They had become close again in a way that always surprised Hermione when it happened; and though it was always a good surprise, Hermione still could not shake an underlying feeling that something still wasn’t right, that it just couldn’t be real. It, of course, didn’t help matters that at present they both happened to be stuck in another’s memory, with no real idea yet as to how they were going to free themselves or if that was even a possibility to contemplate.

After completing what felt like three rounds of the Herbology Section, investigating to some satisfaction at the least the few books on its outer rim that she had yet to read or thoroughly peruse, Hermione reluctantly retraced her steps back towards her sleeping companion, only somewhat ready to commit to a night’s worth of work.

However, after catching a full glimpse of the moon in all its harvest glory, Hermione seduced from the corner of her eye, quickly and gladly abandoned her course for the nearest window.

Full moon, she thought inwardly as she gazed across the grounds and up towards the midnight sky, through the glass barricade of the window keeping her firmly inside. Maybe that’s why Remus and Sirius have been so absent of late.

Hermione had learned of Remus’ unspeakable condition in her third year, having pieced together his symptoms following Snape’s well-timed assignment on werewolves. It was not until a few months later, however, that she learned of how the Marauders had responded to the same news, becoming animagi just to keep their friend company and in check during his monthly transformations.

How brave of them, she admitted to herself, not entirely sure she would have reacted in the same way—with as much courage.

Perching herself on the windowsill, her body taking in the cool surface of the glass pane, her eyes eventually landed on the Whomping Willow in the distance—unusually still and peaceful it was, keeping its treachery hidden carefully in the shadow of nightfall no doubt.

Hermione made a mental note to avoid the Whomping Willow for the next couple of days, knowing the full extent of what it kept safe at this time of the month. She feared, however, that should James and Narcissa suddenly have the desire to make their way in that direction that she too, thanks to their uncertain connection, would not be able to resist a visit. Turning her mind back to Draco, she wondered how much he knew of the Maurader’s—not many were privy to their secrets, though Remus’ condition had been revealed to the wider wizarding community a few years back, after his stint as Hogwart’s Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.

Cursed, Hermione thought, shaking her head at the thought of the post. In truth, she had yet to have a teacher to stay at that post more than a year. And now, Snape had won his way into the position. Very cursed.

As she cracked open the window to let in to the library some much needed fresh air, the breeze ruffled her robes with unexpected warmth, inviting her outside and into the night. Resisting the temptation to join the stars above her, however, she sat back against the stone niche carved out by the window frame, breathing in a huge gulp of air and balancing her form.

A faint bout of laughter emanated from the other end of the library, recalling Hermione’s attention from the grounds back onto the stacks behind her. James and Narcissa, it seemed, were going through somewhat of a good spell in their relationship at the moment and Hermione, remembering once again all that she needed to accomplish tonight in the library, hoped beyond all else that it lasted till morning.

With a renewed sense of resolution, Hermione turned back towards Draco, jumping down from the windowsill and edging closer to him, though on tiptoe so as not to disturb his slumber. She had no idea what she would be able to learn about the rebound-of-fate in the Herbology Section of the library and even began to curse Draco’s thoughtless decision to fall asleep here of all sections, not that he would have known where he was necessarily, still unable to see. No sooner had she started, therefore, did she stop, catching herself mid-curse. She convinced herself to instead think positively, to remain hopeful that a hidden gem of a book indeed lied among the stacks before her.

This new faith, however, dwindled rapidly as she began to peruse the titles once more, it taking but a second for her to remember why exactly she and Draco had yet to truly explore this group of texts to begin with: because it was the Herbology Section, plain and simple. No one apart from Neville Longbottom, perhaps, ever hung around long enough to take in what it had to offer inquiring minds, for fear of drowning in a ravine of absolutely futility or, worse yet, boredom.

Hermione made a second mental note never to think such thoughts around Professor Sprout, assuming that she ever made it back to the present to be able to do so. In her seven years at Hogwarts, Hermione had come to know Professor Sprout as one easily offended by the stray opinions of others, in spite of the strong exterior she so often boasted for her students; and, though she had much respect for Professor Sprout and her craft, unlike Professor Trelawney and Divination that is, the last thing she needed right now was a teacher to somehow read her mind and misinterpret, to turn against her.

It’s possible, she assured herself. With what she had experienced in the last few months, she was certain anything was possible.

‘Lumos’ Hermione whispered, lighting the tip of her wand. The moonlight was admittedly only so helpful to her the deeper she waded into the room.

Draco was snoring loudly now, but she did her best to tune him out, concentrating instead on the texts before her. Hermione crouched down on all fours, scanning the titles for anything remotely useful. Her eyes jumped from spine to spine, taking in first a Guide to British Gardens 1100-1950 before moving quickly onto Hadrian Whittle’s Magical Plants of the Highland Lochs, not to mention all those in-between.

Hermione shook her head, her mouth cringing in frustration as she read the titles in front of her. None of them showed the slightest bit of potential in helping to unravel her current predicament. She spun around on her heels, her thighs throbbing slightly under the weight of her body, and then plopped down on the stone floor, finding use in the Herbology Section after all, this time as a much-needed backrest.

With only a fragment of hope remaining, she pointed her wand across the way from where she now sat, illuminating the other side of shelves, which after some of the library’s usual shifting and scuffling found relief in a display of books beginning with the letter ‘R’.

How does one just go from M to R … in a library? Hermione thought to herself, her exasperation starting to get the better of her. Though she had over the years grown accustomed to the library’s organized mess it somewhat illogically insisted was a ‘system’, at times, she just really missed the easy simplicity of the Dewey Decimal system.

Flitting her wand impatiently from a book on Radishes and other Red Plants to another on The Redcurrant Cure, Hermione finally paused on a third. It was tucked away between two giant texts, one of which to Hermione’s distaste was covered in white fur. In fact, if it wasn’t for the book’s golden spine, that reflected the light of her wand somewhat painfully back into her own eyes, she likely would have missed it entirely, left with only her waning patience and a snoring Draco for company.

It took her a full three seconds of squinting to make the book out completely, her curiosity eventually goading her to her feet. Taking in the title slowly so as not to miss a letter or misinterpret a word, she felt a rush of unanticipated excitement flow from her toes through her torso. She even, almost let out a shriek, before managing luckily to catch it in her throat, storing it for a later date when Draco wasn’t busy dreaming the good dream.

A Rose By Any Other Word: Herbology at Magic’s Origins, she read the title in disbelief, repeating it over and over again in her head until she was convinced it was, in fact, real.

So simple. Roses, roses, roses … why didn’t I think of that sooner, she mused. After all, was it not the very thing that had brought them to the past in the first place?

Grabbing the book from the shelf on which it was securely perched, she started rifling through it pages, surprised to find them blank. Her heart skipped a beat and dropped just a little in her chest. She knew she had been getting ahead of herself, to think that a book—even with a title as tempting at this one—would hold all the answers that she so desperately sought.

Too easy, it would have just been too easy, she admitted.

She couldn’t bring herself to re-shelve it though, too mesmerized by its emptiness. Instead, against all reason, she continued thumbing through its pages, taking in the texture of the book in its entirety, even pausing on its binding.

It was undoubtedly an older text. She could tell by the striations in the paper, the way it was bound with thread, as if woven together by hand; so peculiar it was in her grasp, it looked as if the book had veins, its own life force. She didn’t know what made her think of it but she looked down at her own hand, turning it back to front, back to front, watching the blood pulse through her veins.

Her mother had once told her that she had inherited the Granger curse, veins lodged on the surface of her skin, inconcealable even with the thickest of make-up. And, where Hermione had grown to like the specks of blue that tainted her pale skin from within, a reminder of her mortality even with magic as her companion, her mother never did cease looking for a cure.

Turning her hand over and over, it came to her in a flash—a truly absurd idea, not that anything about this whole situation wasn’t already absurd enough.

Perhaps that is exactly what the book needs, she thought, convincing herself. A life force—my life force?

She had seen many things in her time in the library—from books that grew in size, to books that turned viciously on its reader, sporting sets of teeth that rivaled even the scariest of monsters that called the Forbidden Forest home. It, therefore, wouldn’t have been a surprise to her if this happened to work, if what the book needed was, in fact, blood; it was elemental magic, after all, that she and Draco were dealing with here. And, from what she could tell, there were no rules when it came to the elements.

In a moment of utter defiance, Hermione swiped her finger across one of the book’s rougher edges, hoping a paper cut was all that would be needed to do the trick. It didn’t take long before her finger gave in to the pressure, the book ripping her skin, blood rushing to the surface in need of air, meshing with the open pages.

It was, in truth, an unbelievable sight, one she had never witnessed until then—the blood taking on a life of its own, scrawling into ink, indelible.

Hermione read the first line as it appeared across the page, in a calligraphy fitting of its poetry.  ‘A rose, by any other word would smell as sweet.’

She smiled, recognizing the reference immediately.

How many nights as a young girl, having far surpassed her grade’s reading level, did she sit up with Juliet’s famous soliloquy, repeating the words to herself, conjuring the image of her own Prince Charming who would one day steal her heart in the same way Romeo did Juliet’s on that balcony.

She turned towards Draco, comparing him to her long-forgotten dreams.

Uncanny, she chuckled inwardly before turning back to the page. Apart from the silver blond hair, he was almost on point.

Scanning the rest of the text, she began to breathe a little easier. 

For, what she loved most about Romeo and Juliet’s story all those years ago was not its fateful romance, nor its tragic ending—but its poetry, its innocence, its hope.

Indeed, it was hope—above all else—she realized now that she held in her hands, that which, when it was all said and done, she had needed most to find.

Ron grasped Pansy’s wrist firmly with the palm of his hand. Though she tried restlessly to wriggle free, twisting her arm back and forth against his grip, in what he surmised to be but feigned reluctance, he refused this time to let her go, to let her off so easy.

She would come to him—in time.

Pansy glared at Ron, hoping beyond all else that her usual scoff would do the trick and scare him into submission as it so often did for many of her minions. But alas—they had been spending too much time together these past few days for it to be even the least bit effective. In fact, many of her preferred weapons of choice—her seething wit among them—seemed to be failing her of late, no longer of any use against her latest accomplice, comrade in arms, ally…friend?

Though she continued to protest, he pulled her closer, quickly collapsing the expanse between them, that which had separated them for so long and in more ways than just one. Pansy could feel her body stiffen in anticipation as his breath—calm, relaxed, inviting—neared the nape of her neck.

She closed her eyes.

Her skin was radiating with pins and needles, numb yet so alive. And, her pulse—her pulse was racing, but not with trepidation, as she had expected. It was for once excitement she felt running through her veins, accelerating the lapses in her heartbeat.

It had been ages since someone had made her feel this way, as though the world—her world—had been turned upside down and inside out. In fact, so foreign to her body was the fluttering now in the pit of her stomach that she began to wonder if anyone—Draco included—had ever made her feel as she did now. So blissful.

This thought, however, caught her off guard and, instead of giving way to a quick and painless surrender, fueled her resistance one final time. She was fighting a losing battle though and ultimately conceded defeat to his grasp, for once in her life allowing her heart to trump her head.

Why this felt so natural, so right—she just couldn’t explain it in words even to the most inquiring, the most compassionate of minds. She thought of Draco and Hermione. Was this how he felt with her? Pansy could only guess—hope, for his sake.

Meanwhile, Ron’s arms had slipped down across her waist, leaving her arms free to move about at last. Forsaking the obvious chance at freedom, however, Pansy found her fingers to instead be traipsing rather instinctively up his embrace, pulling him ever closer. He returned the gesture in full force, grazing his lips, warm, slightly wet, against her bare shoulders…


THUD! A book dropped in the distance, jarring Pansy from a deep sleep.

Her head was spinning and she noticed an unusual tingling residing in the pit of her stomach, discomforting yet oddly pleasurable. She massaged her head, as her eyes adjusted to the darkness around her.

What a strange dream… she mouthed into the darkness, as she affirmed her surroundings, not knowing really what to make of it. She could only remember bits and pieces of the narrative—the warmth of his touch, the grace of his lips against hers—but what she could recall she really couldn’t believe. Ron? And me? She shook off the idea, as quickly as she could, shuttering at the thought, the betrayal.

She was currently sprawled beneath a monstrous book that was resting unconcernedly in her lap, immobilizing her legs and creating sharp, somewhat painful indentations into her skin. Coming to her senses quickly, she rolled over onto her side to escape its paralyzing grip, exhaling a dramatic sigh of indignation, as she tossed the heavy text to one side and proceeded to unfold her legs from their once seated, crossed and admittedly cramped positioning. 

She took a deep breath, reveling in the effect the renewed circulation was having over her body. As she made to inhale a second, she let her body drop against the floor, pressing her bare back into the stone, her shoulder blades aligning somewhat comfortably now with the crevices in the ancient surface beneath her. Stark, yet inviting the stone of yore.

Pansy closed her eyes in search of but a moment’s worth of relief. But, the relief she so desperately sought was nowhere to be found—nowhere away from her dreams, that is. Her body remained awake with contrition, unable to find refuge even in the remotest of confines the Restricted Section of the library had to offer her.

Though Dumbledore had assured her repeatedly that what had happened between Draco and Hermione in the corridor but a few days back was far from her fault, guilt—a guilt she had never known—began to eat away at her, mixing with her tendency to overthink, to overdo, leaving her with nothing but a powerful, empty anxiety stewing within her bones. It was a feeling both unfamiliar and unwelcome, yet somehow unrelenting, as well. Questions on top of questions swarmed her mind when all she longed for was but a moment of peace.

Had she not left the rose for them to find? Had she not been the one to hatch the plan, designed to send them away? Had she not been the one to suggest they use a rose, of all objects, as the portkey to do it? Why of all objects had she been drawn to the rose?

After a minute or so, she sat up, her hair a bit disheveled, sitting off to one side. She made to move, craving air neither musty nor tainted by the smell of centuries-old ink, but managed only to shift her weight from one palm to the other. 

Her nose cringed as she fought off the smell of the stacks, her mind trailing a short distance from her previous distress. Binns had told her once that blood had been the preferred material for ink way back when, used even as early as the time of the Founders Four.

‘Pure, trustworthy, common to most…complete even with a bit of color,’ he had stated, quite matter-of-factly, when Pansy had asked rather impudently why, in his opinion, such had been the case.

Pansy remembered the conversation well. That was the day Binns had tried to convince her that her family, Draco’s family, etc. were in fact all mad for giving such importance to matters of family and marriage; that the blood wars had never been about lineage at all, but were in their origins quite literally about blood itself and its uses—that is, who’s blood, given its consistency and color, was fit for use in such areas as record keeping, contracts, literature and so forth, and who’s quite frankly, for strict matters of preservation, was not. 

‘The invention of ink and quills saved our world long ago,’ Binns had shouted gleefully while exiting the classroom. ‘You people place such importance on pureblood, mudblood, this blood and that blood, because you simply don’t know your history.’ 

It was the only time she had ever heard Binns speak in a tone that was not his usual, monotonous drawl. She had been taken aback sure, but had quickly recovered, in the end giving little thought to his claim. In fact, she had scoffed at his words then, taking Binns for the fool most nowadays believed him to be. 

But perhaps there was more truth to his words then than she had initially given him credit for, than she had ever given him credit for, for that matter. 

‘Ink and quills…ink and quills…’ she mouthed into the darkness, as if in hopes that repeating Binns’ insight would incite some progress of her own. 

She and Ron had in truth made little progress on the research front in the past few days. Though they had begun to devote almost every waking hour to scouring the library’s most ancient, most noble of resources, the rebound of fate remained as elusive as ever, referenced only fleetingly here and there, if mentioned at all.

She had never been one for research and from the looks of it neither was Ron.

‘Do-er, I’m a do-er,’ he would say over and over again, when Pansy would nudge him to keep going, in spite of his growing stupor. ‘Hermione was always the one with the books. Not me, never me.’ 

Where the infamous ‘do-er’ had gone to now, she could only guess.

Forsaking her usual grace, Pansy stumbled as she stood, grabbing onto the mounds and mounds of books now surrounding her for a much-needed bout of support. It seemed the stacks were having an adverse effect on her health after all, making her weak and hazy. Even standing felt more like floating these days. But this could just as easily have been the sleep deprivation talking. Pansy had yet to have a complete night’s rest in over four days much to Ron’s chagrin. Ron couldn’t go three hours without a nap if he had his way.

Pansy fumbled around in the dark for a landmark of sorts, keeping her hands firmly out in front of her so as to keep from knocking into anything sharp, as she made her way slowly through the organized mess of books she had read, books she was currently in the process of reading, books she had yet to touch. But this too was to little avail, as her lamp had long died out, with but a few remaining embers holding steadfast and strong; and her wand, her only other source of light that she cared to make use of anyways in this dead of dawn, was far from at her disposal, stowed securely somewhere or another on one of the many shelves before or behind her, somewhere she couldn’t at the moment for life of her recall, even if offered all the galleons in Gringotts in return.

Blind she was to her surroundings. It was a wonder she hadn’t just fallen asleep…again.

Feeling her way from stack to stack as she waded her way across the library, through the neighboring Herbology Section, where a lone window remained ajar, unhooked at its latch.

Odd though she found it to be—Madame Pince was usually very thorough about locking all the windows and doors before retiring to bed, not one to miss an open window—Pansy quickly displaced her worry, distracted by the piles of books that had been so stoically, so loyally keeping guard around her.

Such heights they had managed to reach, she was surprised she was only noticing the books now. They were in truth slightly daunting. And, if Pansy hadn’t noticed the air around her beginning to sway in rhythm to the inpouring night’s wind, she might have been a bit frightened; fearful even that she had somehow become trapped in a labyrinth of unending pages, an otherworldly dream with no evident point of entry or return.

Grabbing hold of the windowsill with one hand, she pushed the window fully open with the other—taking in the night’s warm breeze with her cheeks, flushed by moonlight. The wind ran rampant up her bare shoulders, playing tag with the few strands of lose hair hanging across the back of her neck, leaving her feeling more refreshed than before.

She laid her head against the window frame. She could see the Whomping Willow standing in the distance, still as could be. But beyond that, she could make out only forest, kilometers worth of trees.

Hogwarts in the moonlight was indeed quite the sight, she admitted to herself, even for a witch in her seventh year.

Hermione was biting her lip with unease, as she read through the book. Though she had managed to read through a few of the book's pages, a majority remained quite indecipherable.

She had quite frankly been expecting a textbook by the looks of the book’s title—simple, straightforward. And while, there had been a quick opening section on the physical anatomy of the rose, which covered the plant’s basic properties—its stem, petals, thorns—corresponding each to various magical abilities in a properly engraved diagram, most of the book proved cryptic, sometimes literally so in that it was also partially written in runes.

Most puzzling of all, however, was the book’s commitment to rhyme and verse. Though some of the book’s initial pages were written as prose, much of the book’s later pages fell in and out of a poetic meter, frustrating Hermione to no end. She had never liked poetry much, even as a child. Dickens over Tennyson, a motto she lived by–the only exception being her love of Shakespeare, perhaps.

Inconsistency had always been one of Hermione’s greatest pet peeves. At times, she even found herself lusting for predictability, hanging on to it with bated breath, cursing all those—including her most cherished friends—who dared to come in the way. She had been drawn to Ron for this reason, almost certainly. 

Lettering her frustration overtake her reason for the second time tonight, Hermione threw the book across the room.

It didn’t go far, though it made a smashing orchestral performance as it went, rolling about before landing near Draco’s ear. It was the gold spine—the product of gold to stone was only ever cacophony.

Draco, of course, didn’t budge, still captive to his dreams. Hermione shook her head. Typical.

Exasperated, she glared at the book, before swallowing her indignation and heading towards it once again. She picked it up in her hands, dusting it off, though in truth it was perhaps more pristine than before her little outburst, as if to top it all off it also had healing powers internal to itself. She opened it again towards its rear and began reciting it, as if a play. Perhaps hearing it will give her new perspective, she thought.

Pansy jumped down from the sill, a glint stronger than the moon having caught her eye from within the stacks, drawing her attention back onto the lanes of books before her.

With her back now facing the grounds, she started in towards the Herbology section again, stopping but midway through. Her feet paused at a de-shelved book that lay strewn in the middle of the floor. It was a beautiful book, not too big, not too small, with a golden spine that rivaled her parents’ fortune.

Pansy picked up the find, making a move to re-shelve it so no one would stumble upon it and trip. This must be what had fallen, she thought holding it in her hand, the thud that had drawn her from her dreams. Pansy felt suddenly grateful towards the book, her savior.

She turned it in her hands, examining its cover and binding. Her curiosity spiked upon reading the title: A Rose By Any Other Word: Herbology at Magic’s Origins.

A coincidence? She breathed. It was as if the book had found her not fallen, as if she was meant to see it, to read it.

Obeying the impulse, she took a closer look, noticing specks of something on its edges. It looked red in the moonlight but she couldn’t be sure; light was dim as it was and growing fainter in the darkest dark before dawn. Dismissing it as ink, Pansy opened the book to scan its pages feeding her lust, her need to know more. She was disappointed, however, to find the book entirely blank.

Weird, she mused. A book with no words, no ink?

She brought it closer to the window to examine it further. The specks of red had grown darker in the time she had spent with it—if that was possible—and, she remarked, they were now even accompanied with a faint but nonetheless unpleasant odor. She began to wonder if it was indeed remnants of blood, her thoughts trailing back to her conversation with Binns.

Perusing the pages, one by one—Pansy became mesmerized, reveling in the book’s emptiness. She had never seen anything like it, not that she was an expert of books or the library. There was just something about it that she felt connected to.

‘Ouch!’ Pansy shouted into the stacks. The book had clipped her finger, adding to her slew of paper cuts from her past few nights in the library.

Her pain was quickly pushed from her mind, however, when she saw how the book responded.

‘Unbelievable!’ Pansy’s eyes were aglow. Sitting atop the windowsill, she watched as her blood unraveled across the page into ink, into prose.

‘A rose, by any other word would smell as sweet,’ she read, overcome.

Chapter 26: Letting Go
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Chapter 26: Letting Go

'James!' Narcissa hissed through the night air, shoving him awake as she ruffled his shoulders with the backs of her fists. James responded wearily at the sound of her voice, reluctantly pushing aside the need to sleep, to dream, that which had overcome him in the last half hour of their latest escapade into the forays of the library.

He was still recovering from his duel with Lucius the day before and thus desperately craved sleep, but the pair had been talking non-stop since arriving in the library earlier that evening, providing him little opportunity. They had covered an array of topics, ranging from their families, to their friends, to those they could no longer count as such, before hitting the books in search of any and all leads on the Rebound. It had been a productive few hours for their friendship. However, they found little by way of information, even after countless hours of research and extended discussion.

'James...' Narcissa said a little more gently this time. She was attempting a change in strategy, so as to entice her companion away from the edges of sleep rather than scare him further into its grip. 'Have you ever wondered what might happen if we never figure this out? If we go on living, attached as we are...' Narcissa breathed in '...with no possibility of separation?’ She exhaled, liberating with it a wave of frustration she had been keeping to herself for what seemed like ages. 'Do you ever wonder how our lives, our families, our friends might change?'

James sat up as straight as he could, which really was hardly straight at all. He realized quickly that in spite of the midnight hour and his obvious exhaustion, Narcissa was expecting a full-on conversation. Not yet ready to participate, however, with the appropriate level of gusto, he chose to deflect for a moment with a half-hearted 'Not really?' 

But, his answer hardly mattered, for she had already launched into a monologue of her own, her fears cascading through the air, from a place James quickly realized she usually kept to herself, well out of reach of the prying eyes of outsiders.

'I do,' she admitted, feeling a bit foolish. But she pressed on, embracing a ‘now-or-never' mentality. 'Actually, James—if I’m being honest, I can't stop thinking about it.'

'That's because you're a girl...' James whispered, wiping the remaining traces of sleep clean from his eyelids with flecks of humor and sarcasm. She ignored his sexist pleasantries, and continued.

'I'm serious. If we don't figure this out...' she trailed off slightly, before asserting, 'James, you just don't understand. My whole life has been planned out for me since I was eleven. Mother always said...’ And, then she began reciting her life plan, as if it were a shopping list of items she needed to casually pick up on her next trip to Diagon Alley. 'I would attend Hogwarts. I would be sorted into Slytherin. I would receive top marks and be elected Prefect. I would graduate with high marks and the promise of a respectable position in the Ministry. I would marry Lucius shortly after graduation. I would retire from my job after an appropriate amount of time and assume my responsibilities at Malfoy Manor. I would have children, preferably a son. I would uphold the honor of my family and the purity of my bloodline,' Narcissa paused to catch her breath, her chest heaving under a great weight, as if she had just run a marathon.

'It’s all I have ever known. And, it will be gone, all of it,' she finished, staring blankly ahead of her.

'Sounds like a good thing, if you ask me,' James guffawed into the twilight, insensitive to her fragile state. 'I mean honestly Narcissa, how could you even consider marrying...'

'I never had a choice in the matter. Not really...' she interjected. 'I have only ever had my duty, my duty to my family, to my bloodline. It wasn’t forced upon me necessarily, so much as it was just expected of me?' 

'What about your duty to yourself?' James questioned, genuinely curious to know how she felt. He was looking wide-eyed and awake for the first time, since rousing from his nap.

Narcissa looked at him blankly, as if he were speaking in parseltongue, a gift her side of the family had not been blessed with. 'All of it will be gone. All of it...' was all she could manage.

'Now you are just being dramatic...' James brushed her words aside, seemingly disappointed in her reply. He had clearly been hoping for some more insight into her past. If he had once hailed Remus as his most secretive friend, he was nothing compared to Narcissa, even while trying to hide his more beastly side from the rest of the Marauders in their first couple of years at Hogwarts. In spite of their newfound proximity, she remained a bottle of mystery to James, and never failed to surprise him, to defy his once strongly held expectations of her. His opinion of Narcissa had been heavily tainted by Sirius over the years. It had been a struggle these past few weeks to let his prejudices go.

'Am I?' She bellowed back, tear drops flooding the lower levels of her lids, ready to flow at a moment’s notice.

'Yes, you are...' James began, emphatically. 

She could think of no other retort, but 'I am not!' The words sounded feeble and reluctant, as she said them.

'You are...' James pressed on. 'And, do you know how I know?'

Narcissa shook her head, prompting James to continue as she quivered with a growing bout of anxiety.

'I know...' he mustered, 'because when you look in the mirror, you don't see what I see everyday.'

‘And, what is that exactly? And, please James…this is no time for jokes,' Narcissa pleaded.

James shifted to his knees, held out his arms and grabbed Narcissa's shoulders firmly with his hands. The warmth of his fingertips sent shockwaves down her spine. She jumped slightly in his embrace. James tightened his grip.

'You see a woman bound by duty and blood, a victim of a life not her choosing. I see...' he paused ever so slightly for effect, watching Narcissa's eyes grow brighter with the level of his voice. 'I see a woman fully capable of making her own decisions, of making up her own mind, of finding her own path with or without her family and their expectations. You just have to let go Narcissa…let go of whatever it is that is holding you back.’

He stared at her for a long second, and then asked, ‘Tell me this, Narcissa. Why are you so afraid? What is that scares you so? Because I can assure you there are worse things in this life than an eternity spent with me by your side.’ His attempt to sever the growing tension with humor went unappreciated by Narcissa, who countered with a question of her own. 

‘Why are you not?’ Narcissa beamed back. The earnestness in her eyes caught James off guard. He fell back a bit, loosening his hold on Narcissa’s arms. This had little to no effect on her heartbeat, which continued to pound against the inside of her rib cage with the intensity of a raging centaur, running through the worn paths of the Forbidden Forest. ‘Why are you not afraid at all?'

‘Everything will work out as it is supposed to,’ he reassured her. ‘Doesn’t the prophecy say so?’ She couldn’t decide if he was just stupidly confident, or if he just wanted out of the conversation, too cowardly to admit his own fatigue. She watched as he turned back to the small enclosure he had dug out for himself amongst the stacks, as he wedged himself between two piles of books, his long legs curled up beneath him in a tight ball. 

She wasn’t, however, about to let him off that easy. ‘What about Lily?’ she brandished, aiming for his Achilles heel, trying and failing to provoke a response, any response from him akin to her own trepidation. ‘What of your precious redhead? Everyone knows how much you care for her.'

Narcissa could tell she hit nerve, though he did his best to camouflage it with a careful array of wit and shadow—his clenched fist, to the knowing eye, his only remaining tell.

'There are worse things in this life than the thought of an eternity spent with you by my side...' he defended, hesitating ever so slightly at the thought of Lily.

‘I see,’ she mustered. Narcissa, unbeknownst to James, had recognized the hesitation in his voice, uncharacteristic as it was. Suddenly, without recourse, the tears began to flow down her face. Narcissa craved to know more but seeing his eyes bend to the weight of his exhaustion, she admitted defeat and let the conversation fizzle.

If only, she thought, he had been a bit more convincing then perhaps she could do away with what was frightening her so.

It wasn't her family she feared any longer. No. What scared her now more than ever was herself, her own fickle heart which by the day was building new allegiances of its own choosing, with little to no regard for the sanctity of her bloodline.

‘Let me in you old bat!’ Pansy screamed at the portrait before her, raising her fists to the canvas. ‘You know exactly who I am—I’ve only been around this way ten times this week. Doesn’t facial recognition count for anything these days?!’

Pansy was not one for public tantrums, at least not since the Yule Ball fiasco in her fourth year, when Eloise Midgen, of all people, had the nerve to show up in her exact gown. How she had enjoyed ripping that poor girl to shreds with shrieks of disgust that many would later claim artfully rivaled the shack down in the village. The Fat Lady was, however, giving her little choice in the matter. Tired, frustrated, in need of a three-course meal to satiate the twinge of hunger burning at the pit of her stomach, Pansy was on the tip of her last nerve, more than willing at this point to plunge into the abyss of her exasperation, and let it consume her.

‘Facial recognition,’ the Fat Lady scoffed. ‘Not with this lot and their Polyjuice potions. I’m under strict orders from the Headmaster. No password, no admittance, Miss Parkinson.’

Pansy’s lip curled as the Fat Lady said her name. She knew the portrait was having her fun, taunting Pansy in her moment of great urgency. Turning her back to the garish painting, Pansy took a deep breath in an attempt to calm her nerves. She took another, and another, but to no avail.

She needed desperately to find Ron.

The night had been her most productive yet. Maybe it was fate, maybe it was her good fortune, maybe it was a little bit of both that had brought the peculiar book to her attention, with its carnivorous pages and golden spine, the keeper now of a newfound hope she was eager to share with Ron.

She just needed his confirmation. She just needed to know that this wasn’t all but a dream, that what she had found was indeed what she thought it was.

‘Hey!’ A voice echoed through the corridor where Pansy stood furiously pacing back and forth. ‘What is it?’ Ron bellowed. ‘I heard you screaming at the Fat Lady from the top of Gryffindor tower. Couldn’t this have waited until morning?’

‘It is morning, you dimwit!’ Pansy scowled. She was holding nothing back at this point, as she fell back on her heels and began charging in Ron’s direction. ‘Where have you been? I’ve been looking for you all over.’

This was a bit of an exaggeration. In truth, the Gryffindor common room had been the first place Pansy had thought to look after leaving the library in a hustle. It had been a maximum ten minutes since the beginning of her inquisition, but she was hardly about to tell him that, content with injecting a bit of guilt into his morning routine. Ron became squeamish, leaving Pansy slightly amused. She liked that she had such an effect on him.

Ron took a step back, as Pansy rushed towards him. ‘I…uhh…I was uhh…napping?’ Ron admitted, hesitantly. ‘I’m sorry, Pansy. I just couldn’t take one more night of the library. I had to get some real sleep. The stone floor is not good for my back, you know.’

‘Who are you? Nicolas Flamel?  Six and half centuries old? Pull yourself together, Ronald, because while you were off gallivanting with unicorns or whatever it is you Gryffindors dream about…’ her angered tone trailed off. She just couldn’t stay mad at him, not for this. ‘It doesn’t matter,’ she said, pivoting to a new tonal range, one with a little less angst, and a little more optimism. ‘I think I’ve found something, and I need you to take a look.’

Pansy whipped out the book from underneath her robes, cradling it in the palm of her hands with the utmost care as if a pirate, reuniting with her long lost treasure. Seeing the twinkle in her eye, Ron was half-expecting her to pull out a bottle of rum and exclaim ‘ARRR matey, that’ll do it!’ He shook his head in an effort to scourge the image from his mind, which did not come and go as easily as he would have liked. Pansy was looking particularly serious and all he could think about now were the stories he had suffered through as a young boy, at the hands of his muggle-obssessed father, tales of Blackbeard and Hook, when all he ached for was more Babbity-Rabbity.

Pansy looked up at Ron, who appeared a bit distressed. ‘What is it?’ she said, mildly concerned. This was not the reaction she was hoping for when she had previously envisioned the big reveal.

‘Nothing—just my—’ he was going to say father but thought the better of it and merely reassured her that nothing was wrong. ‘What is this?’ he asked, touching the spine of the book with his fingertips.

‘I’m not entirely sure,’ Pansy admitted. ‘It’s unlike anything I’ve found in the library before and certainly not a Herbology textbook,’ she said dismissing the book’s title, as false. ‘It’s almost like the book had been placed in the Herbology section to ensure it would never be found.’

Pansy then launched into an explanation of how the book had basically fallen into her lap, only to come alive after clipping her skin, her blood rushing through the striations of the paper as if it were bound with human veins, coursing with life. She flipped through several of the pages, remarking on a few couplets, here and there. The pages were full of verse, some intelligible, some written in ancient runes that she could not decipher. Then she paused, towards the book’s center and pointed to marks written in the margins.

Pansy looked up at Ron, expectantly. ‘Do you recognize this at all? The marks?’ she prompted.

Ron took a closer look, realizing the neat curvature of the marks contrasted with the calligraphic nature of the book’s medieval script. It was an annotation of some kind, foreign to the book, written in a hurry.

‘Do you? Do you recognize it?’ Pansy was getting impatient. ‘The moment I saw it… I knew I had seen it somewhere before. Many times before, in fact—usually in class, on the blackboard. Binns is always having students write on the board when he gets tired of lecturing at us. And, then it hit me…’

‘It’s her handwriting,’ Ron confirmed. ‘Hermione’s. It’s Hermione’s handwriting!’ How had he not seen it immediately? How many countless times had he copied her essays for assignments he had been too lazy to complete on his own? ‘I can’t believe this. It’s her handwriting? But Pansy, how?’

‘I think the more important question, Ron, is when?’ Pansy said, thumbing through the pages once more. ‘When did she make these marks?’

To Ron’s delight, he saw pages and pages full of notes, shoved rapidly towards the book’s edges, all in a familiar handwriting that lit a fire of excitement in his heartbeat. Leave it to Hermione to annotate the very book they needed.

He felt closer to her, closer than he had ever been before, and he relished it, secretly hoping, subconsciously even, that the feeling would never extinguish.

‘Hermione! Wake up! Wake up! Are you alright?’ Draco had woken suddenly to the sound of uncontrollable sobbing. It was a ghastly and intolerable sound, not because Hermione was an unusual or terrible crier or anything of that sort, but because the thought of tears streaming down her delicate face was cacophony to his heartbeat, and made his chest surge with an anguish of its own.

Draco felt his way slowly over to where she was sitting, using the stacks of books on either side of him as his guide. His fingers found her back first, and then slowly made their way through her hair, tangled but soft, then towards her face.

She had fallen asleep at some point during the night, in spite of her resolve to see the night through. Her head was propped up by her arms, one folded neatly under her chin, the other sprawled across freshly inked pages, still gripping what felt to Draco like a Quick Quotes quill, given the length and plushness of the feather.

She must have found something interesting, he thought briefly, pausing to take in the full shape of the quill, to have picked up one of those.

Hermione had sworn off Quick Quotes quills in her fourth year, following a slew of slanderous articles that came out about her and Harry in the Daily Prophet. Mortifying and untrue, they had done a number on many of her relationships, bringing out the worst in herself and her friends. When she found out the insufferable Rita Skeeter was behind the series, an avid user and sponsor of the brand, she swore never to use one of those quills again in symbolic protest of Skeeter’s lack of journalistic integrity—except of course if a dire situation presented itself in which there was no other possible alternative. Hermione was all about the Plan B. Indeed, she was always telling Draco, ‘You can never be too prepared.’

He nodded to himself. Their situation was anything if not dire.

Placing the quill on the floor, freeing her hands to dangle a few centimeters off the ground, Draco brushed his fingers along the sides of her cheeks, which were wet with tears. They were cascading from her tear ducts as if entirely out of her control. He moved his hands up towards her forehead, massaging her temple so as to rouse her gently from her dreams, or whatever it was that was causing such internal ruckus.

‘Hermione?’ he said soothingly. ‘Are you alright?’ His concern was overt, and endearing, and flushed Hermione’s cheeks red, as she came to.

‘I…I…I must have fallen asleep,’ she said, sitting up quickly. She raised her palms to her cheeks, and gasped slightly upon realizing she had been crying.

‘Why are you sobbing?’ Draco asked. ‘Were you having a bad dream of some sort?’ He had seen her in almost every emotional state there was and this was not like her at all. He endeavored greatly to know the cause, so he might provide some comfort, if he could.

‘I don’t know—I don’t think so,’ she said, scrunching her face, trying to remember. ‘All I can recall is feeling a wave of disappointment, or perhaps sorrow hit me in the abdomen. It was so painful Draco, like I was being knocked off a broom by a bludger. Oddly, I think it put me to sleep, because I don’t remember being tired before then. I don’t know, Draco. I don’t really know how to explain what happened.’

She was looking around a bit disoriented, trying desperately to get her bearings. All seemed as it was before, books sprawled all around her, moonlight streaming in from the window sill above, everything was the same save perhaps a newfound silence that punctuated the air.

‘I think James and Narcissa fell asleep too,’ she observed, putting two and two together.

‘I’m not worried about them, so much as I am about you right now,’ Draco posed, trying to refocus her attention back on to her own state of mind.

This is how they had gotten through the past couple of days, the mutual anguish of living through another’s memory, by leaning on each other for support, by casting away their usual stubbornness and letting the other see their vulnerabilities for a change. It was not an easy adjustment for the pair to say the least, but it was a necessary one.

‘It must have been something Narcissa was feeling. I lost track of their conversation because of this book,’ she gestured to her lap before remembering once again that Draco could not see her. She regrouped, ‘That is the only likely explanation, right?’

Draco sighed, relaxing ever so slightly, ‘Yes, you’re probably right.’

They still hadn’t fully gotten used to the mood swings that came and went with memory travel under the Rebound. While some were quite enjoyable, light and amusing, others were extremely painful. It wasn’t so much a physical pain that had made them come undone, though they had certainly experienced some of that as well in the past day or so. It was more the emotional pain that sent them into a tailspin.

Teenagers were already infamous enough for their emotional outbursts without adding a bit of elemental magic into the mix, which magnified every emotion James and Narcissa felt by at least ten according to Hermione’s ‘calculations.’ Every stray thought, every hope, every disappointment James and Narcissa felt traveled through Hermione and Draco’s person too, mingling with their own emotional states before finding release upon their next few breaths. It was a pain both familiar and unlike any Hermione and Draco had experienced before—the pain of a love, not unrequited, but forbidden.

Hermione took several deep breaths, trying to regain her composure now that the mood had sufficiently passed through her system. This was no easy feat, especially these days when in such close proximity to Draco, who made her skin stand on end, and her heart race at the speed of light just by being in eyeshot of her.

Instead, she tried diverting her attention back to the book that lay comfortably in her lap, using it as a crutch with which to regain her footing. It was a truly beautiful object, its golden spine ornate and strong, the product by its craftsmanship of a time long spent. It was the book’s interior, however, that was the more mesmerizing to Hermione, having come alive at the taste of her blood. In its filled state, it reminded her of the great illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages that dotted the exhibition halls of the British Museum, a place she had frequented as a kid while on day trips into London with her parents.

They used to do all sorts of fun things together, when she was in grade school: picnics in Regent’s Park, ferry rides down the Thames, bustling through Trafalgar square before catching a matinee show just down the West End. She made a mental promise to take Draco to the theater when they finally figured their way out of all of this. He would hate it at first, she knew. But, she also had a feeling it might grow on him after awhile, given what she knew now about his softer side.

Hermione was running her fingers over the book’s pages, taking in their prickly texture. They didn’t make books like this anymore, she thought, with thick, handmade paper individually crafted to better absorb the blood, or ink or whatever it was that illuminated its pages.

‘Give me your hand,’ she said to Draco, almost instinctively. ‘You have to feel this!’

‘What?’ Draco said, a bit confused.

‘Just give me your hand, will you?’ Hermione chuckled slightly.

Draco obeyed, albeit a bit reluctantly, until he realized what she meant to show him. Falling into rhythm with Hermione’s own hands, he traced the interior of the book with the tips of his fingers. He could feel the ink against the page, slightly raised. It created an almost intelligible patterning, one he couldn’t quite read, but one he could in some ways still understand.

Understanding did not always require literacy. This was one of the greater insights blindness had bequeathed him over the course of the past few months.

‘The text…’ Draco observed, ‘It’s broken up into discrete sections, almost like verse would be. Is it written in prose?’ he asked.

‘No, you’re right, Draco. It is written in verse,’ Hermione remarked, impressed at his skills of deduction. ‘Well a lot of the book seems to be written in verse, anways,’ she backtracked a bit.

‘Where did you find it?’ Draco pressed.

‘Here, in the Herbology section,’ Hermione responded. ‘It looked like a textbook at first, but I think it is much more than that.’

Draco nodded, listening.

‘Some of it is not even in English, but written in runes,’ she said, turning towards the rear of the book, where she had left a few notes in the margins. ‘I had been translating this page, when I fell asleep.’ Hermione reached out and grabbed Draco’s hand once again, directing it back towards the book.

‘This is all in runes?’ he asked, interested.

‘Yes, the entire page. It’s broken up into three couplets or limericks of some kind.’

‘Yeah—I can feel the breaks in the ink,’ Draco affirmed. ‘And what about this? I think I felt this on the last page too? It’s smaller than the rest of the lettering and slightly off center, towards the books edges.’

‘Wow—good eye—I mean touch?’ Hermione chortled. ‘I’m not entirely sure, what it is—but it does appear repeatedly throughout the book, like a crest or a…’

‘Signature, perhaps?’ Draco mused.

‘Perhaps!’ Hermione agreed. ‘I didn’t think of that, actually.’

‘What does it translate to, if anything?’ He was greatly intrigued by this find. It was the first time in ages he had felt anywhere close to being productive.

‘Let’s see…’ Hermione paused, re-reading her notes. ‘It could be a few things, but I think most likely it's a crest of some kind, formed from the initials R.R.’

‘R.R.?’ Draco asked, more to himself than to Hermione. ‘Who could that be?’

‘Your guess is as good as mine, Draco. I’m clearly fresh out of ideas,’ Hermione responded.

‘R.R…R.R…’ Draco was repeating the letters out loud, wracking his brain for a match.

Seeing the frustration mounting in Draco’s expression, Hermione went to distract him. ‘The first two couplets on this page were a bit difficult for me to translate. I’m still working on them…The last one, however…It’s quite fun. It even rhymes a bit. Shall I recite it?’ Hermione asked.

‘R.R…R.R…’ Hermione pulled Draco from his thoughts, still centered on the initials, repeating like a ticker running across his brain. ‘Uh, yeah sure. Give it a go!’ He replied, once he came to.

Hermione launched into the limerick, embracing a naiveté, an innocence in her recitation fit for a child’s nursery rhyme. It was a side of her he had yet to see, giddy and childish. He enjoyed hearing such lightness in her voice.

Blinded by magic, at first, it seems. Surrendered to silence, next, it deems. Bound by beauty of mind and men. Love, inevitable, shall follow then. Unity you seek, your heart is true. But first you…’

‘Uh Hermione…’ Draco interjected, doing away with her translation for a moment. He had been struck by an idea, remembering one of their very first visits to the library. ‘Do you remember that list of names you found of people who had been affected by the Rebound?’

The question came as a bit of surprise, especially since she was in the midst of what seemed to her to be a children’s rhyme. She stopped reading, leaving her finger to bookmark where she had left off. ‘I don’t have it on me—but I think I remember most of them. Let’s see, your mother’s name was there, obviously.’ Her eyes glanced back to where she knew Narcissa and James lay sleeping. ‘And then there was…Cliodna…’

‘That Irish witch on the Chocolate Frog cards, who could turn into a wave?’ Draco asked.

‘Actually, fun fact about Cliodna,’ Hermione had used his comment as an excuse to slide into her encyclopedic temperament. ‘No one has ever substantiated that claim. She was actually more famous for turning into a sea…’ but Draco did not let Hermione finish.

‘Who else?’ Draco asked, impatiently. ‘Who else is on the list?’

Hermione looked a bit peeved, but let his impatience brush over her. ‘Some witch whose name began with an ‘H’ I think, and…’ and then Hermione gasped, realizing what Draco was getting at.

‘And, Rowena Ravenclaw,’ he finished for her.

‘Oh Draco…’ she said in utter disbelief. ‘You don’t think…you couldn’t possibly think…’ Hermione was stuttering. ‘You don’t think that this book once belonged to Ravenclaw, do you? This book? This tattered old thing hidden away hastily in the depths of the Herbology section?' She was clearly exaggerating here, in her description of the book, for it was anything but tattered.

‘No, Hermione. I don’t…’ Draco smirked. Hermione let out a short sigh, but in the end it was for nothing. ‘I think,’ Draco continued, ‘that it could be her diary. Why else would her initials recur page, after page?’

She had to admit, he had a point. ‘They do mark breaks in the verse,’ she reasoned, flipping through the pages. ‘And, the book is certainly very old, made at a time when they clearly still used blood as ink. It could have very well been made while the Founders were alive.’

‘Didn’t Ravenclaw die of a broken heart?’ Draco was latching on to any and all evidence he could recall now, to give added plausibility to his theory, no matter how romantic.

‘That was just a rumor…’ Hermione countered. ‘She likely died of distress, brought about by old age.’

‘But it’s possible—’ Draco was looking giddy. She had never seen him like this before. It unsettled her a bit, his loss of control.

‘But Draco—’ she was cautious in the face of any and all excitement, fearful of what it might do to them, if she let it get the best of her…again.

‘Always the voice of reason, Hermione,’ Draco said, a bit exasperated. ‘When will you just let go…and realize that nothing about this situation makes sense. Nothing about this whole situation will ever make full and total sense.’

She was momentarily appalled at his suggestion that logic and reason played no part in their reality.

Always the voice of reasonYes! That’s right! She was. Someone had to be. She thought forcefully. If Harry, Ron, Draco, the men in her life all refused to adhere to the building blocks of the universe--logic, reason, Arithmancy—wasn’t it up to her to take up the post, regardless of how exhausted it made her feel?

And yet the thought was tempting all the same, Hermione had to admit. Ravenclaw’s diary… The idea traveled from Draco’s mind to hers, taking stronghold in the very depths of her cerebellum where she stored her deepest, darkest hopes, unable to let it go.


To my newest readers, thank you for taking a chance on my story. I know there are many to choose from on this wonderful site and the rest of the interwebs, and that you selected mine to read, means the world. I hope you’ve enjoyed Hermione and Draco’s journey thus far.

To my older readers, all I can say, is if you’ve gotten this far, I cannot express how grateful I am to you for your patience, and your willingness to stick with Blinded through my two years of busy schedules and writer’s block. You are the reason I keep coming back to this story—that, and my love for James, Narcissa, and the unexpected pairing.

Thank you for the continuous support, the continuous inspiration.

More soon, 

Chapter 27: The Worst of Times
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Chapter 27: The Worst of Times

The shadow of dawn befell the castle, as Narcissa entered the grounds. She was holding a piece of thick parchment firmly to her chest, while walking a brisk pace. Her robes bellowed in the early morning breeze, echoing the meek cries of the Whomping Willow in the distance, which had awoken abruptly at the rustle of her unfamiliar footsteps against the morning dew.

You were always such a sensitive creature, Narcissa reminisced, locking eyes with the tree’s deathly branches before turning her gaze upward, upon the castle’s ominous spires.

It had been several years since she dared to lay eyes on Hogwarts, once her oasis from the antics of her once noble family. The castle struck her as remarkably different in this time, in this light, the light of an exhausted moon awaiting its circadian reprieve. It felt almost foreign to her, estranged from her memory of its ancient contours. It was certainly not the home it had once been for her and her friends. That home, in truth, had gone long ago, banished to the canals of the past along with James.

The letter had come in the night, asking her to return to a place she hoped she never would. It wasn’t a howler, but it might as well have been for it bled with the same sense of urgency as the screaming missive. She could see it in Albus’s brash signature, almost illegible towards the lower edge of the parchment, a stark contrast to his usual well-tended scrawl.

The letter said hardly anything at all. It dispensed with familiar pleasantries, and merely asked her to come. The headmaster needed her expertise in some matter or another, it seemed. It was vague, and thus evermore the unusual.

So, against her better judgment, and the twinge of her heartbeat, Narcissa left her chores and responsibilities aside and made for the broom cupboard, towards the left of the foyer. The trip would at least be a good excuse to fly. Her memories of James were beginning to fade, and flying--flying was a safe way to remember him by. In the air, with the wind at her back, she felt nearer to him, nearer to him without the pain of having to remember him fully.

Dumbledore had asked her to come just before the break of dawn so as to avoid unsettling the flood of students, adrift with hunger, to the Great Hall just before morning classes, which was just as well. Unlike her husband, Narcissa did not wish to interfere in her son’s experience at Hogwarts, however curious and concerned she might be about his current affliction and burgeoning relationship with Hermione.

Though its corridors reeked largely of pain and regret for her now, she recognized the sanctity of her time at Hogwarts, Draco’s time at Hogwarts, the independence it daily affords young witches and wizards to become their own person, should they choose to embrace the castle’s possibilities and promise.

Narcissa paused at the castle’s main entrance, hesitating for just a moment before proceeding up the stairway. She sighed inwardly, relishing the smell of the castle’s stone. It had a rustic scent that quite unexpectedly stirred memories of better times, older times—with her sisters, with Lucius, with James. A time when she could honestly say she was happy, vibrant, alive. 

The castle had given her so much in her seven years as a student, but it had also taken just as much upon her leave. It was memories of this theft that consumed her now most days, rather than the brighter spots.

Narcissa slipped through the main gate and walked resolutely up the grand staircase. She gave little notice to her surroundings lest they invoke a memory she dared not engage. Remembering to skip over the trick step hidden amongst the flight, she landed gracefully on the first floor, proving herself still quite agile in her middle age.

Taking a moment to settle her bearings, Narcissa tucked Dumbledore’s letter into the inner pocket of her robe before adjusting her grip on her broom. A vintage Comet 180, in near perfect condition, she had no desire to drop it on the castle’s inflexible flooring. Satisfied with her grip, Narcissa then caught a moving platform up to the seventh floor, surrendering to a muscle memory she had thought long dissipated.

After safely disembarking, she could plainly spot the gargoyle in the distance that beckoned her presence, and without further delay swiftly made her way to the end of the corridor, ignoring the slight ruffling of the paintings on either side of her, most still fast asleep and snoring, as she went.

‘Treacle tarts!’ she murmured at a whisper. The gargoyle, infused with life at the sound of her voice, stepped aside, revealing a spiral stone staircase in its wake. It too sprung into motion as Narcissa made her way through the portal, transporting her with ease up towards the office door. It was a familiar path, one she had made several times in her final year at Hogwarts courtesy of the once famed Marauders.

As she approached the great oak door, she took a deep breath before announcing her presence, bringing her hand first to her heart, as if to comfort it from any further distress.

‘You’re OK,’ she whispered to herself, eyeing the brass knocker with a new sense of purpose and faith. ‘You’re OK.’

‘James! James! Get up, mate!’ a voice hissed abruptly, piercing the still air of the library at night, rough and sudden like the bark of a dog.

Hermione dropped her quill, along with her train of thought, taken aback by the somewhat familiar intrusion.

‘Draco!’ She shoved him awake. ‘Draco, wake up! I think someone is coming.’

She rose quickly to her feet, and while on her toes, peeked through the bookshelf to her rear, to try and steal a better glance at the person who had just arrived by James’s side.

‘I don’t hear anything unusual,’ Draco said drowsily. ‘I think you’re imagining things again. Have you slept at all?’ He knew that to be an idiotic question the moment he heard the words come out of his mouth. Of course, she didn’t sleep. Hermione was her very own breed of night owl. 

‘Draco, I’m serious. There is someone here. I can see…’ but Hermione didn’t bother to finish her sentence, at least not in earshot of her companion.  She quickly moved between the stacks to get a better listen at the scene unfolding before them.

‘Prongs! Prongs—mate—we have a problem.’ The voice was strong, gruff. Hermione had heard it many times before and was amazed at the thrill she felt upon hearing it again.

‘What is it, Sirius?’ James said calmly, though Hermione could tell by the slight quiver in his tone that he was still a bit disoriented by the unexpected appearance of his friend.

‘It’s Moony, James. We thought we could handle things this month without you, but it must be an atypical moon. Peter and I—we need you to come with us.’

‘What happened? Is Remus all right?’ He was fully awake now. Any and all drowsiness had dissipated at Sirius’s mention of the moon.

‘James? What’s going on?’ Hermione could hear Narcissa’s drawl join into the mix, as she came to, roused from her dreaming state by the sounds of a foreign exchange.

‘Sirius, is that you? What in Merlin’s name are you…’ But, before Narcissa had a chance to finish her thought, Sirius cut her off rudely.

‘We don’t have time, Narcissa. We need to move!’ Sirius urged, leaving Narcissa more than a bit befuddled.

‘Where are we going?’ she said to James, as he scrambled to his feet.

‘We…’ Sirius mouthed while making a triangular motion in the air that connected their three bodies together, ‘…are not going anywhere. We…’ he broke off, this time pointing obnoxiously to just James and himself, ‘…are going to help a friend.  Something you would know nothing about…’ he added on, just to spite her.

She smirked, brushing off his brash assumption of her character. ‘That’s where you’re wrong, Black.’ She gestured at James with her eyes, searching for some support.

As if on cue, James responded,  ‘Actually mate, she’s right. She has to come too. We can’t be more than seven feet apart without being shocked by this...light thing.’ He didn’t know how else to describe it really. ‘It’s kind of a rule. I had told you guys at breakfast the other…’

‘No, James, you didn’t!’ Sirius retorted, overcome with frustration. ‘Really, mate. This is just…splendid.’  His sarcasm tickled Narcissa’s chin into a grin.

‘We can’t tell her…’ Sirius was speaking only to James at this point.

‘If you can’t handle it on your own, we have no choice, Padfoot,’ James shook his head.

‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’ Sirius’s sarcasm was slowly turning into anger. ‘James…you can’t honestly tell me that you think we can trust her with this.’

‘What other choice do we have?’

Narcissa was pretending not to listen, to at the very least make them think she was not above giving them their personal space when needed.

‘And for the record, I do trust her. I don’t know what exactly she did to you that made you hate her so, but I assure you… she’s not the person you think she is, Sirius. She can keep our secret.’

Narcissa was rendered speechless by James’s words, the confidence he had in her and her character. So much so, she ignored Sirius’s offence almost entirely.

She stood up, so that she was neck and neck with the boys. ‘You can trust me,’ she asserted, doing her best to live up to James’ faith in her, to give him reason to keep on believing as he did.

James looked at Narcissa, and then shifted his gaze, locking eyes with Sirius, who sighed in resignation.

‘Ok—but only because this is a downright emergency,’ he bellowed into the stacks, searching for an audience to corroborate his exasperation, but to no avail.

‘Narcissa—’ James paused taking in a deep breath, ‘you have to solemnly swear that you will tell no one of what you see, hear or smell tonight.’

Narcissa began to chuckle at the last bit, but quickly stifled her laugh as she saw the boys’ dispositions begin to change, becoming solemn and unusually grave. Both, she also   noticed, had raised their right hand, as if administering an oath in a muggle courtroom. She followed suit, and nodded to make her agreement visible.

‘We are heading down the grounds...’ Sirius began slowly.

‘Why?’ Narcissa prompted hesitantly.

‘To help a friend,’ Sirius was finding it difficult to be forthright with his cousin, in spite of the vow.

‘A friend?’ She prompted again.

‘To help Remus,’ James amended.

‘Why?’ she asked, more curious then ever.  ‘What’s wrong with him?’

‘Remus is a werewolf,’ James said quickly and in a hushed tone, as if ripping off a bandage. He was watching the panic rise in her eyes, like the tide at full moon, and desperately wanted to minimize the shock.

Narcissa fell back slightly, suddenly dizzy in the head. The news hit her like a wave crashing against the shore, unapologetically. A werewolf.

‘You’re OK!’ James said, soothingly. He had rushed over to her and put his hand against her heart, confident that steadying her heartbeat would steady her mind. ‘You’re OK!’ He breathed against her ear, before realizing how close they had become and taking a step back.

Narcissa pushed his hand away, steadied herself, and then stood silently for a moment, processing the news against the memory of his touch.

‘Ok,’ was all Narcissa could manage for a moment.

‘Ok? Ok!’ James affirmed.

‘So he needs our help?’ she began, voicing the facts as they rolled through her mind.

‘Yes, he needs our help,’ Sirius confirmed this time.

‘Ok,’ Narcissa nodded.

‘Ok,’ James repeated, as if a parrot practicing a new word.

‘So, where do we go from here?’ She asked, still processing the last minute of her life, slowly and on repeat.

‘The Whomping Willow,’ Sirius said, resolutely.

‘The Whomping Willow,’ Narcissa repeated. 

She thought about asking for clarification.  Millions of questions raced through her mind: How has Remus kept this secret? Why did Remus need their help today? How were they going to help him exactly? Why of all places did they need to approach the Whomping Willow?

But then, she thought the better of it, mostly because she didn’t know if she could handle any more truth at the moment. Instead, she decided to just follow Sirius and James blindly through the door of the library, and wait to see how things played out.

Hermione watched as one by one all three fell silent, and then all three left the library. Once their shadows had disappeared down the corridor and into the night, she released her pent up exasperation in one fell gasp. It was so big that she almost fell over. Luckily, Draco had inched his way over to her during the course of the conversation and was there to steady her as he heard her wobble.

‘What’s wrong? We knew that Lupin was a werewolf. We found out in third year, don’t you remember? My father led the charge in having him removed. I remember because mother’s letter had been especially grumpy that day, she was going on and on about how stubborn my father…’

Hermione glared at Draco, silencing him with the grunt implicit in the turn of her head. ‘Of course, I remember. I was the first to figure it out—oh, never you mind. Draco—we have a problem.’

‘I’ll say—I’m exhausted. Don’t they ever sleep? I feel like a zombie following them every which way…’

‘No, Draco—focus!’

‘What now?’

‘Draco, let’s review the facts—first, Remus is a werewolf.’


‘Second, Narcissa and James are on their way to help him right now.’


‘We have no choice but to follow them, right?’

‘Yeah, I guess…’



‘Don’t you get it, Draco? It’s a full moon!’

‘How in Merlin’s name would I know that, Hermione? It’s not like I can see out the window and admire the view,’ Draco begrudged.

Hermione brushed aside his comment. There was a time and place for empathy, and this was just not it.

‘Regardless…’ she compromised, softening her tone, ‘We might as well be walking into a cave alight with Inferi.’

Draco took in a deep breath as he processed that image.

‘And, we have zero choice in the matter. No choice. No control.’  They could already feel the pull of the Rebound, pushing them to follow James and Narcissa down the grounds.

Hermione’s voice trailed off as she resisted moving, stinging the air with a terrible silence, full of shock, awe, fear and an awful anticipation that had both of their hearts sinking deep into the back of their chests.

‘Ah yes, Narcissa, please come in,’ Dumbledore said, as the oak door opened to reveal Narcissa waiting, albeit a bit impatiently. ‘Do make yourself comfortable,’ he added pointing to the large cushioned chairs just opposite his own. ‘Can I offer you a treacle tart? I’ve just had them brought in from Honeyduke’s. They are quite delicious at this time of year. Something to do with the holiday season and the addition of red sprinkles to the batter…’

‘No, thank you, Albus,’ she refused politely, while taking a seat.

‘Did Lucius give you any trouble?’ Dumbledore inquired softly. ‘I thought he might, given our last interaction.’

‘He is not pleased with you,’ Narcissa admitted with reserve, before lightening the mood with another admission. ‘But when is he ever, Albus.’ Dumbledore smiled, before Narcissa continued. ‘No, he didn’t give me any trouble. He didn’t have the chance really. Lucius was called to Bulgaria two days back. Urgent ministry business, it seems.’ She breathed in, hopeful. ‘He will be there through the holidays and New Year.’

‘I see,’ Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled with a knowing smile, sensing the relief in Narcissa’s voice at the sudden departure of her husband. ‘Well, then, I suppose I should get right to it. No point in dawdling. I do not wish to monopolize any more of your time than I have to.’

Narcissa nodded, appreciatively.

‘Well, I’ve called you in Narcissa because I’m afraid things have gotten a bit out of hand.’

‘How do you mean?’ Narcissa questioned, concern lining her drawl. Her thoughts immediately went to Draco and Hermione.

‘It seems…well…the Rebound is at it again,’ Dumbledore chuckled uncomfortably, trying to sever the mounting tension within the room with a bit of lighthearted laughter.

‘What do you mean, Albus? Is Draco all right?’ Dumbledore’s efforts had little effect on Narcissa whose concern was obvious and contagious.

‘Yes—I think so. I believe he and Hermione both to be just fine.’

‘Then what is it?’ She was getting more restless by the second, shifting around in her seat like a child. She thought of her mother and how she would turn in her grave at the sight of Narcissa’s fidgeting disposition.

‘Narcissa—I need you tell me everything you remember about the night you and James disappeared.’

‘Oh…oh my,’ she breathed, taking in the full implications of Dumbledore’s inquiry. ‘So—it’s happened again, hasn’t it Albus? They’ve gone, haven’t they?’

‘I was hoping it would never…again come to this, that they might figure things out before… but, yes, I’m afraid they have.’

Narcissa was blinking rapidly, shaking her head from side to side, as if scrolling through a Rolodex of her memories one by one.

‘Where have they gone Albus…’ she said, before amending her question. ‘When, I mean, have they gone?’

‘I have my suspicions,’ Dumbledore admitted. ‘But I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to use them, that you might be able to tell me instead.’

‘How long has it been?’ Narcissa delayed.

‘About two days.’

Narcissa’s expression turned inward. Dumbledore could see the battle raging up inside of her, as she struggled with her memories, and whether or not to let him in.

‘I know this must be difficult for you…’ Dumbledore assuaged. He had never probed her before this night. He knew the full extent of the sacrifice she had once made, and did not want to be the reason she was asked to relive it. But he had no choice now. He had never expected the Rebound to recur so soon. So, in spite of the discomfort etched plainly across her face, and perhaps his better judgment, he pressed on, ‘But, anything you can tell me about that night Narcissa…would be most helpful for me and your son.’

‘Frankly, Albus—even if I could tell you where they have gone, there is nothing I can say or do that will be of any help to either one of us.’

Dumbledore looked a bit disappointed at this, but let her continue freely.

‘You know as well as I that the Rebound has a mind of its own. And only those affected by it can do anything to change its grip.’

‘Yes, I do...’ Dumbledore began to respond, but his reflections were lost to Narcissa’s subsequent interjection.

‘I can no longer recall where exactly it took us…’ This was an overt lie and Dumbledore knew it too. He could see the perjury flush her cheeks red. Indeed, Narcissa would never forget the day she came to face to face with the memory of Rowena Ravenclaw, the scent of the castle, freshly built, still flushed her nostrils from time to time.

‘But I do remember the feeling…the feeling of memory travel,’ she conceded. ‘It was unlike anything I have ever experienced, Albus,’ Narcissa writhed a bit in her seat, as if the Middle Ages were still alive and well throughout her body. ‘We felt everything…as if we were there, living it truly, day by day.’

‘Was it painful?’ Dumbledore interrupted.

Narcissa opened her eyes. ‘At times. Yes—it was. But not in the same way we experience physical pain in the present. There is a slight difference—you needn’t worry about Draco and Hermione in that sense. They will be able to handle it, so long as they have one another.’

Narcissa’s voice trailed off. Dumbledore suspected, and rightly so, that she was thinking of James.

‘If I’m being honest, Narcissa,’ Dumbledore said hesitating, trying his best to be empathetic in his choice of words, ‘My primary concern is returning Draco and Hermione safely to the present.’

‘Oh they are not far off from us…’ Narcissa mused. ‘We were never far off from the present, just blinded a bit, hidden for a while.’

Dumbledore internalized her words, but proceeded without further acknowledgement. She seemed to be talking more to herself than to him, after all. ‘I know there is little I can likely do. The Rebound will unfold at its own pace, but if there is anything you remember…anything at all that you are…’ Dumbledore chose his words carefully, ‘…willing to tell me, I would be most grateful for the assistance.’

Narcissa looked up, tears began to flush her eyelids. ‘You must think me a right fool, Albus. My son is somewhere—I don’t even know—and I have hardly been forthcoming.’ She buried her face in her palms. This was all just too much for her to bear.

‘Not at all, dear girl. Not at all.’

Dumbledore rose from his seat and glided over to where Narcissa sat. He put his hand on her shoulder, lending comfort through gentle touch. ‘You have experienced a love and sacrifice few people are privy to in this life. I can only try to empathize with your situation, and do all that I can to help your son.’

There was a moment’s silence before Narcissa spoke, as if she needed a second to wrap herself in it. ‘The mind… is a beautiful thing. But it is not without its flaws, Albus. In our lives, we have this tendency to overthink, overdo…to the point of overwhelming ourselves, and our hearts. Why is that? Why is it that living day by day is one of the most difficult tasks we face?’

Dumbledore let her question fester in the air. It did not seem like she was fishing for an actual answer, not that he could provide a satisfactory one at that.

‘The prophecy,’ she said, finally. ‘I would return to the prophecy. And not just Draco and Hermione’s. I’m assuming they have one, of course.’

Dumbledore nodded.

‘Return to mine, as well. Looking back, it was plain as day—what I needed to do, though I couldn’t see it at the time. Not until after I had returned to the present, at least…’ She looked at Dumbledore, a bit crestfallen. ‘You must remember it, or would you like me to write it down for you?’ The words were seared across her heart, never to be forgotten.

‘I remember it,’ Dumbledore acknowledged. ‘I have not, however, informed Draco and Hermione of theirs, as of yet. I always felt that was the mistake I had made with you and James, informing you of the prophecy before you were ready.’

Narcissa flinched as Dumbledore said his name aloud.

‘Maybe,’ Narcissa said, albeit dismissively. She blamed no one but herself for her fate, however trying Dumbledore seemed to shift the blame.

‘Prophecies…in the end, they are nothing more than what you make of them, Albus. Isn’t that why they are of the earth? The founding element.’

‘Quite right, Narcissa,’ Dumbledore agreed. ‘Quite right.’

Pansy reclined in her chair, somewhat awkwardly. After tracking Ron down and subjecting him to the usual tirade, she and Ron had tried to make themselves at home in a corner of the Gryffindor common room, while scouring over Hermione’s notes. But, try as she might, she could not dispel a persistent feeling of discomfort in the pit of her stomach, like she was somehow trespassing into enemy territory.

The common rooms had once been sacred territory for each of the houses, inborn with a ‘No Trespassing’ clause that went understood across the student body. It was much like the house tables in the Great Hall, though in truth the tables were the first terrain to be compromised this past year. The growth of inter-house camaraderie had exposed their weaknesses, and once the Great Hall tumbled it was not long before the common rooms followed suit.

Slytherins were now just as frequent a sight in Gryffindor tower as Gryffindors were in the dungeons, even in spite of all the red, the sight of which still made Pansy a bit queasy.

‘What do you think it means?’ Pansy pressed. They had been staring at the same page for over an hour, watching the margins as they filled up with Hermione’s handwriting right before their eyes.

‘I don’t know—why are you looking at me? I’ve never been good at poetry,’ Ron conceded, frustration oozing from his pores.

‘She clearly thinks it’s important,’ Pansy offered, yawning. ‘Look at all these red lines.’

Indeed, almost the entire page was underlined in red.

‘This last couplet could be related to Draco—it mentions blindness,’ Ron offered, taking on the easier of the two.

‘You would go for the literal translation, you lazy bum.’ Ron yawned, ignoring the insult much to Pansy’s dismay and Ron’s growing pleasure.

Nevertheless, Pansy had to admit the interpretation had its strong points. ‘Blinded by magic, at first, it seems…’ But it was not this passage that held her attention. ‘I’m more interested in the one above it. And so—it seems—is Hermione.’ Pansy could tell from the scribbles in the column that, over the past hour, had come and gone as Hermione sat—somewhere—translating it from runes into English.

‘It’s strange to think that Hermione and Draco are somewhere right now working on this too—but in a different time…’ Pansy found herself halfway between a state of complete awe, and utter bewilderment at the thought.

‘Yeah—I try not to think about it. It’s all too confusing for me,’ Ron admitted, honestly.

‘Look!’ Pansy exclaimed, ignoring Ron.

‘What? I don’t see anything.’

‘She’s stopped writing! I think this is the final translation.’ Pansy raised the book up, so she could take a closer look.

‘Read it aloud,’ Ron pushed.

‘Ok—’ Pansy began, hesitantly, before finding her flow. ‘Love, they say, manifests in threes. With joy and pain comes possibility. Loyalty, now that’s another beast. Where sacrifice and duty find true feast. The time will come when one must choose. A life unseen, a fate undone. Between loyalty and love, a light will go dark. But not before hope ignites its spark.’

Pansy finished, breathless.

‘What do you think it means?’ Ron chimed in, beating her to punch this time. ‘It can’t just be poetry, can it?’

Pansy read over the words again and again, pausing on the phrase ‘when one must choose.’

‘It sounds ominous,’ he added.

‘Ron—what if it's a prophecy? Every Rebound comes with its own prophecy, we know that, and Trelawney just had that whole lecture about the long history of prophecies and rhyme…’ Pansy looked up at him.

‘Yeah, I don’t pay attention in Divination.’

Pansy shook off Ron’s indifference. ‘And, you even said it yourself, the last couplet seems to relate directly to Hermione and Draco’s situation. What if they are all prophecies of some kind?’

‘That is quite the jump you’re asking me to make here, Pansy.’ She was getting irritated with him, which amused him to no end.

‘Shut up. I’m being serious here, Ron.’

‘Ok—ok. Let’s just say for argument’s sake that this is a prophecy. If the last couplet relates to Hermione and Draco—and even that is up for debate if you ask me, it could just as easily refer to you and me…’ Ron’s voice trailed off.

‘Speak up will you?’ Pansy blustered. ‘If the last couplet relates to Hermione and Draco then what…’

‘—then, then who, for argument’s sake, does this couplet relate to, or for that the matter the untranslated couplet at the top of the page, who does that relate to? Is it one long prophecy? Or are they separate?’ Ron regrouped. He was overwhelming her with his skepticism.

‘I don’t know—I’m just saying, I think it's a prophecy of some kind.’

‘Well, I’m just saying, I’m not convinced,’ Ron huffed.

‘Well you’re an oaf. So there’s that.’ Pansy looked at Ron, who beamed back at her bemused.

‘Was that a joke?’ In retaliation, he made to mess up her pristine hair. ‘Because I don’t like jokes.’

Ducking his advances, she chortled at the suggestion, fighting every urge in her body not to burst out into a fit of giggles, befitting a schoolgirl beside her crush.

Narcissa remembered the words plain as day, the prophecy that had changed the course of her entire life. They raced against her mind, as she left the Headmaster’s office behind her.

Love, they say, manifests in threes. With joy and pain comes possibility. Loyalty, now that’s another beast. Where sacrifice and duty find true feast. The time will come when one must choose. A life unseen, a fate undone. Between loyalty and love, a light will go dark. But not before hope ignites its spark.

She feared for Draco, for Hermione and their friends. If her memory served her correctly, things were bound only to get worse, before they got any better.

--- A/N -----

Dear Readers,

I hope you have enjoyed this latest installment of Blinded. I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to read my story, and continue Hermione, Draco, Narcissa and James' journey with me. I hope it did not disappoint.

More soon,

P.S. Please consider leaving a review. I would love to hear your thoughts on the story thus far. As an author, I thrive on your feedback and constructive criticism. 

Chapter 28: When
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Chapter 28: When

Narcissa couldn’t get Dumbledore’s voice out of her head. ‘You’ve experienced a love and sacrifice few people are privy to in this life,’ he had said.

His words, though obviously spoken in a spirit of empathy and concern, had somehow reified her pain as privilege, and she resented him for it. She couldn’t help it, even though she knew rationally Dumbledore had meant only kindness. When it came to James, she was still just too angry—at times, incapable of forgiveness.

So his voice played over and over again in her head, patronizing her heart, as if on a sticker tape running marathons between her eardrums, making and unmaking her balance.

‘I can only try to empathize with your situation,’ he had further assured her. ‘And, do all that I can to help your son,’ as if she wasn’t willing or already trying to do the same.

Narcissa’s anger fumed beneath her scalp, giving way to a migraine that throbbed to the rhythm of her own pulse, ruthless, relentless. With little else to do, she put her hand out in front of her, and grabbed the castle’s stone walls in a desperate attempt to stabilize her stride, which had momentarily gone off kilter with her head.

Narcissa pressed her back up against the hard surface of the wall, in resignation, in search of support. Leaning back, and taking some of the pressure off her heels, she gazed up, and quickly scanned the opposing wall for presence of mind, a muted reflex of an inborn, familial paranoia that still, at times, ran rampant through her veins.

From a young age, Narcissa and her sisters had always been taught never to be seen in a state of panic, for loss of mind, in public at least, usually led to a loss of respect, and status—the Black family’s most treasured asset. The lesson, once a guiding principle of Black family decorum, seemed faded now, out of reach to Narcissa, her levels of anxiety having reached unchartered heights.

Her gaze, once again pointed and sure, was greeted by a familiar array of portraits; stranded somewhere between sleep and consciousness, they were beginning to stir, perhaps even bound to wake at a moment’s notice. While this uncertainty might once have scared her, into submission, or an unfeeling silence, for once in a long while, Narcissa found herself indifferent.

She didn't care. She didn't care who might see her, not really. Instead, she closed her eyes and fell neatly to the floor with a hard sigh. She just needed a moment, a moment’s reprieve and then she would be on her way.

It was true. She had been of little help to Dumbledore in their impromptu meeting, but that did not mean she was unwilling to help, unwilling to protect her son in this hour of need. He was all she had in this world. There wasn’t anything she would not do for Draco.

But, at the same time, it was hard, impossibly so. Helping Draco meant drudging up a time in her life she had for so long kept hidden—and, not just from her son, or her family, but also from herself.

Thinking about James, allowing herself the sinful pleasure, meant risking much more than anyone knew: her sanity, her self, the semblance of a life she had built without him. And if there was anything life had taught her up until now, it was that she was more human, than magical in such matters—beautifully, irrevocably fallible.

For remembering James was never without its due punishment. It came with a dangerous rabbit hole, an endless spiral of grief, built of blocks of remorse and regret that pulled her in, and down, drowning her sensibility mercilessly in the memory of how things were, or how things could have been, and she was tired. She no longer had the energy to fight it, to pry herself free of it. It had just become safer not to remember at all.

But, the thought of Draco stranded in a time, not his own, was equally unbearable for her, given what she herself knew of the condition.

When had her only line of self-defense also become her greatest weapon—a trigger with the promise of a devastation she feared much more than the shadow of her past?

Narcissa shook her head in disbelief, pressing it hard into the wall behind her. She could not lose Draco. She could not lose him the same way she had lost James. She wouldn’t allow it—not this time, not without a fair fight.

When? That was the question she needed to answer then. When was Draco? When had the Rebound taken him to?

Dumbledore had seemed convinced that Narcissa would know the answer, that the answer would lie somewhere deep in the depths of her mind, if only she allowed herself to recall it. Narcissa was less convinced of this.

In her experience, the Rebound had always had a mind of its own. It was profusely fickle, and rarely embraced a pattern of behavior recognizable to the wizarding mind, even one as perceptive as the Headmaster’s. It thrived on the element of surprise, as much as the other fundamental four, if not more so, though it remained, quite ironically in Narcissa’s opinion, rooted in premonition—theoretically at least, born of a decipherable, predictable code that unraveled itself as prophecy.

If the answer was anywhere, Narcissa thought to herself, it was there—with the prophecy that haunted every decision she had ever made since her days at Hogwarts. She had told Dumbledore as much, that the Rebound’s end must lie with its beginning. In retrospect, the prophecy had always been the closest thing she and James had ever had to a blueprint of the Rebound’s intentions.

Dumbledore’s voice, still traipsing aimlessly across the back of her mind, melded into rhyme, as Narcissa pulled the prophecy to the forefront of her internal monologue. How easily the words returned to her, seared across her memory, as if etched permanently in stone.

Love they say manifests in three,
With joy and pain comes possibility.
Loyalty, now that's another beast,
Where sacrifice and duty find true feast.
The time will come when one must choose:
A life unseen, a fate undone.
Between loyalty and love, a light will go dark;
But not before hope ignites its spark.

She lingered on the prophecy’s last line most of all: but not before hope ignites its spark. It brought with it a heaviness that weighed her down further into the crevices of the castle floor.

Hope? What was hope anyways, but misplaced faith in the human condition? She thought. It was a bitter admission, one that stung the inside of her mouth with an unwelcome, and unexpected flavor. She hated that she almost half believed it to be true.

She had hoped merely remembering the verse would be enough—enough to trigger the memory Dumbledore had hung his own hopes on when he had finally decided to call upon her the night before. But little changed within her, as her mind meandered up and down the prophecy’s verse, digesting its contours and contradictions, and the pain it stirred within her. Instead, all she was left with really was an unflinching desire to leave the castle’s premises, to breathe a slight of fresh air, to run—far and away.

She felt her feet move instinctively beneath her robes, guiding her up and out from where she sat crouched, and hidden. From the seventh floor landing, she glided in the direction of the Great Hall, down the grand staircase and out the school’s main gates, as easily as if her feet had a mind of their own.

The sun had finally risen to its morning peak, and hung resolutely in the east, erasing all traces of the dew that had greeted her upon her arrival a few hours before. The castle looked altogether different in this light—proud, and boisterous.

She took in a deep breath, letting the morning air cascade through, and then out her lungs. It helped with the exhaustion that had crept into her aged joints in the time that she had spent stooped in the depths of the seventh floor corridor. Her blood, circulating fast throughout her legs, now up right and tight, mixed with a fresh bout of adrenaline that kept her moving forward and down the grounds.

It was a few minutes before she realized where exactly she was headed. Her chest tightened as the Whomping Willow grew brighter, sharper—the temperament of its branches coming into greater focus. It was a marvelous sight, one that few really took the time to admire.

Narcissa smirked, taking in the tree’s human silhouette. She still remembered the year it had been planted. It was her second year. She had returned triumphantly from the summer holidays, excited to see the sorting ceremony for the first time, without the anxiety of participating in it, or being new to the student body. Like many of her classmates, she had planned to revel in the Sorting Hat’s song, to have it memorized by the end of the feast, so that she could recite it on repeat in the dungeons, annoying her friends, and her superiors, while also making them dance to its hallowed rhyme. Dumbledore’s announcement had preceded the sorting. It came in the form of a warning that quite dampened the spirit of exhilaration that usually characterized the Great Hall at the start of term. It wasn’t his words exactly that had left an impression on her. He had merely stated, quite matter-of-factly, that: the tree would now be a permanent fixture on the grounds, and that students were to be wary of its moods. It was, in fact, a dangerous creature, despite also just being a tree. It was, rather, Dumbledore’s tone that had set her on edge for the remainder of the evening, spoiling what promised to be a memorable sorting. It was one of his more mystical moments—where he was saying one thing, but really concealing another. From that moment on, Narcissa found it difficult to trust Dumbledore, or rather to take his words at face value. She had always felt him to be hiding something, taking cover behind his infamous half-mooned spectacles.

In the minutes she spent staring at the Whomping Willow, taking in both its beauty and treachery, she became acutely aware that she was no longer alone. If not the crunch of leaves beneath his feet, the fall before the dawn of winter, it was Dumbledore’s long, and emaciated shadow that gave him away. It crept up onto her own, as he glided up to Narcissa’s side, carrying her broomstick, which she remembered now, she had left perched beside the entrance to his office.

‘You know for many students I went to school with—especially after Davey’s accident—this tree symbolized nothing but fear. They saw reflected in its branches everything that secretly, or not so secretly, scared them about Hogwarts, and the wizarding world: the mystery, the uncertainty, the possibility of a dark side that inevitably came with their magic.’

‘Yes—it was a great concern of many parents as well,’ Dumbledore mused, recalling the flood of owls that had swept his office that first year after the Whomping Willow had been installed at Hogwarts—parents wondering why such a deathly creature had to preside over the castle’s grounds. Was Hogwarts otherwise unsafe? Many had dared to ask. The letters, he recalled, had been similar in tone to the ones that he had later received when the Ministry had approved the presence of Dementors at Hogwarts in the wake of Sirius Black’s infamous escape from Azkaban. Still, Dumbledore had preferred those letters to any he might have received had he told the truth about Remus Lupin’s condition—first when the boy came to Hogwarts, a mere student, and then again when he returned full-grown, a professor worn by the Dark Arts and its effects. For Dumbledore knew all to well the wizarding world, both then and now, to be no better than its muggle counterpart, not really. It too was steeped in its prejudices.

‘Of course, that was a different time—before the war,’ Narcissa mulled.

‘Yes…’ Dumbledore trailed off, unconvinced. Both he and Narcissa knew that times were changing again, and it was beginning to feel much like it had before.

‘I had always been more curious than scared,’ Narcissa continued, unwilling to acknowledge Dumbledore’s ambivalence, which hung in the air like an omen, as menacing as the Dark Mark.


‘Well—not at first. At first, I was scared like the rest. It was just so unpredictable—you never knew when or how it would strike. And, all you had to do was be one step too close to its trunk—within reach of its tallest branch. I’m mean poor, Davey.’

‘Ah—yes. We had to have it trimmed after Davey, well you know—he as good as lost his eye.’

Narcissa ignored Dumbledore’s aside, thrust deep in her own memory of the tree. ‘But that fear quickly faded with time. I actually used to come out here at dusk, before Prefect rounds, to watch the sun set behind its branches. It was one of my favorite times of the day. You could see the branches shutter ever so slightly, as the sky faded to dark, like they were afraid of a sky without light. Everyone was so scared of getting too close, they failed to see how sensitive the tree actually was…or is, I suppose.’

Dumbledore smiled. He never thought he would find someone who admired the Whomping Willow as much as he did. ‘It is majestic in that way, isn’t it.’

‘Yes, and human,’ she agreed.

‘I assume you know the real reason it came to be posted here…’ Dumbledore posed.

‘Yes—I heard rumors once,’ she admitted, not letting on how exactly she had come to know the truth behind the tree’s sudden, and promised appearance. That was an adventure she did not have the courage to relive just yet. ‘Rumors of a student in need of a monthly sanctuary.’

‘Ah—that’s the thing about rumors, isn’t it? They often are lined with the very truth, they are meant to conceal,’ Dumbledore reflected, wisely. He paused for a moment before switching course. ‘Why is it so important to you, Narcissa? This tree, this vantage point… forgive me, but I’ve never seen someone so drawn to it.’

‘I don’t know,’ she lied, her voice meek, and unsure.

‘When did it become important to you?’ Dumbledore tried again, this time more pointedly.

‘I don’t know,’ she said again, even less convincingly.

‘I don’t believe you,’ he brandished back, boldly.

‘Please—just leave me alone,’ she managed.

‘Was it when you knew, the first time?’

‘Knew what? What are you implying?’

‘Knew you had experienced a change of heart…’

Narcissa laughed wickedly, more to herself than to Dumbledore. ‘Oh no, Albus. I was always the first to fall. With Lucius, and then James.’


‘The Whomping Willow—‘ she paused, finding her voice, and the confidence to call up the memory, ‘The Whomping Willow came a bit later.’


‘When he knew—when he finally admitted it might be possible that...’


‘I was here. I was standing almost right here, Albus—when James finally realized, he loved me too.’

----- A/N ----------

Dear Readers,

This chapter may seem like just another installment in a story that gets updated far too infrequently, but for me it actually marks an important occasion. In a few days, I'm coming up on my ten-year writing anniversary of this story, of my writing for HPFF--and I wanted to get this chapter out there to let you know what a marvelous ten years it has been--full of amazing story lines, discourse, friendships through this site, not to mention too many twists in my story to count. In many ways, I feel like I came of age -- as a writer -- with this story. And though I had hoped to be much farther along at the ten year mark than Chapter 28, I see a lifetime in these chapters, and I can't thank you enough for reading them, and mostly for sticking with me through my many writer's blocks. I know there have been many.

I hope you enjoyed this latest chapter, and getting another glimpse inside Narcissa's head, and her love for James. She's such a fascinating character -- I've so enjoyed unravelling her past, her secrets, and all that she knows about the Rebound. To tell you the truth, when I started this story -- she was never really apart of it. I was going for a more traditional Dramione storyline. But now, reflecting on where this story has gone, I couldn't imagine it without her. I hope you feel the same way.

Thanks again for all the support these past few years -- for keeping me going, and keeping me writing. It really has meant the world.

Yours truly,

Chapter 29: Doubt
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Chapter 29: Doubt

Hermione clutched Draco’s hand tighter, and pulled him closer into her side, as they followed Narcissa, James and Sirius out of the library, into the bleak depths of the castle at night. It was less a gesture of affection or reassurance, Draco knew, than it was a fearful reflex. Hermione was scared, and the only thing Draco could think to do in response was wrap his fingers tighter around her palm, and brush his shoulder up against her back to remind her that, regardless of how alone she felt, he was here too, with her, in this. She breathed out, letting the warmed air from her lungs tickle her throat, and funnel out slowly through her nose. The stream steadied her pulse, ever so slightly, as did Draco’s modified grip.

Hermione could hear Narcissa, James and Sirius whispering furiously a few paces ahead, but took no comfort in their shadowed company. Presumably, Sirius and James were solidifying the details of a makeshift plan. Expert rule-breakers that they were, Hermione imagined they were brainstorming ways to minimize Narcissa’s involvement in the impending rescue mission, as the novice Marauder of the night, to maximize James’s ability to help Remus, in spite of the rebound’s seven-foot rule, and ways to protect Peter, the meekest of their group, from the hazards of a direct werewolf encounter. But, she and Draco were too far behind to make out the conversation in full, and as a result her mind wandered elsewhere as they continued to make their way through the maze of dimly lit corridors.

Instead, Hermione began to home in on the growing twinge in her feet; the pinch of pain radiating up and down her thighs; the now-familiar nausea in her gut. They were the signs of her imprisonment, fate making itself known throughout her body, as the rebound took control of her stride, forcing her and Draco on the heels of an adventure they wanted no part of. Much to her dismay, these signs were becoming increasingly difficult to ignore, intensifying with every new twist, and turn in Narcissa and James’s story, along with her connection to Narcissa, herself.

Hermione had long given up on the idea that she and Draco were meant to simply witness Narcissa and James’s relationship unfold. The pain of Lucius slapping Narcissa across the face on the quidditch pitch had wrung too sharply through Hermione’s own body for this to be the case. No—Hermione quickly understood that she and Draco were meant to live the scenario playing out before their eyes, as much as they were to observe it with a critical eye. But, the gulf between comprehension and lived experience of this new reality was more expansive than even Hermione, with all her knowledge of books, could have predicted.

To an extent, she could bear the physical intrusions that came with memory travel—the added weight in her stride, as the rebound self-corrected any false steps, the throbbing in her legs, the rolling of her stomach, inside and out, as past and present collided in her veins. The intrusions, they were annoying, and somewhat painful, but they were also a source of comfort to her, in a weird and perhaps masochistic way, a reminder that she was real, and had lived a life beyond the memory before her. It was the mental strain that she was having difficulty managing now.

Everything was beginning to blur together in her mind’s eye—the jitters Narcissa experienced as James placed his hand on her chest to calm her down upon realizing Remus was a werewolf, felt indistinguishable from Hermione’s own when Draco brushed her hair from her eyes, or placed his arm around her waist, or grazed his shoulder against the bare of her back, or called her beautiful. But it didn’t stop there. Narcissa’s pain, frustration, tears invoked her own in ways she did not understand, and the longer Hermione and Draco remained trapped by fate, the more Hermione felt herself losing control of her mind’s contours. Hermione feared the time was nearly upon them when she would no longer know where to draw the line, between herself and Narcissa. This doubt, but a seedling waiting to take root at a moment’s notice, scared her in ways she never thought possible. It made her question everything around her, everything she felt, everything she thought she knew to be true.

Because how could she trust herself, her own mind, her own heart, her own free will, when she was so intertwined with another?

Hermione had faced this kind of paralyzing self-doubt once before, when she and Draco had first discovered their telepathic connection. But, it had been short-lived. After a failed attempt to learn occlumency, she had found a way to set aside her doubts, and come to terms with the intimacy of sharing her mind with Draco. It had not been easy to move forward in this way, but she had managed it, in part because she never once had to question her mind’s ability to distinguish Draco’s voice from her own. This was simply not the case with her connection to Narcissa, and memory travel, and instinct told her now that what had worked for her and Draco in the past would not work for her here. Her new reality required new solutions.

‘Draco,’ Hermione mustered. ‘Say something—anything. I need you to distract me…’

‘Why? What’s wrong?’ he pushed back.

‘I just need to think about something, anything else…and get out of my head.’

Draco could hear the desperation dripping from her intonation, and, though curious to know more, he abided Hermione’s request. ‘Uhh—well, I’ve been thinking a lot about that book of yours, Hermione.’

She had completely forgotten about the book, tucked in the back pocket of her jeans. With her free hand, she checked to make sure it was still there, and that it was secure.

‘The one with the couplets—‘ he continued, jogging her memory further.

‘Sure, yes—what about it?’ she encouraged, as she led them around the corner, and quickened their pace so as not to lose complete sight of Narcissa, James and Sirius up ahead.

‘Do you really think it could have belonged to Ravenclaw?’

‘I don’t know—‘ she affirmed, ‘It does seem a bit far-fetched?’

‘Or too good to be true?’ Draco offered.

‘Your theory about the [RR] seal, that repeats at the bottom of several of the book’s pages though, Draco—it’s really convincing, especially when we take in everything we know about the book itself.’ Hermione began listing its unusual properties. ‘Its thirst for blood alone must place its origins in the Middle Ages, when we know blood was used as ink.’

‘Thanks,’ he conceded, humbly, ‘but, even if the book did belong to Ravenclaw, does that necessarily make it her diary? How can we attribute those verses to her, without knowing for sure?’

‘I don’t know. The seal certainly repeated, as if it were a crest or signature of some kind. And, from what I read of the runes, it doesn’t feel like a stretch to assume that the book is a series of letters, perhaps a series of journal entries.’

‘I guess—I’m just having trouble wrapping my mind around the idea that Ravenclaw is somehow connected to all of this. To us, to my mother, to the rebound—‘

‘I know what you mean—it feels more like a myth, than something that could happen to us.‘

‘What do we even know about Ravenclaw? She was one of the most gifted witches of her age, a founder of Hogwarts, who prized intelligence, and wit above all else. She died of a broken heart...’

‘That last part, again, is speculation,’ Hermione cautioned, falling into a very professorial mode. ‘Historians have never been able to prove how she died.’

Draco ignored Hermione’s aside, and pressed on. ‘You know—I was always vaguely aware this kind of magic existed. You hear rumors about this stuff, growing up in a family like mine.’

‘A pureblood family, you mean?’ Hermione did not mean for the words to come off harsh, but they did…inevitably.

‘Yeah—I guess,’ Draco stumbled. ‘My mother used to tell me tales of the elements, and the great feats of magic witches and wizards of yore could accomplish by simply tapping into their environment. Many of them didn’t need wands, or any kind of conduit for their magic. They just understood the complexities of the natural world, and knew how to use it to their great advantage. She told me once that her grandfather, and her grandfather’s father had revered the elements like gods, almost. But I always thought them more mythology than real, something to help us make sense of the present, and the way magic has developed, not as something that could still be accessed, or experienced today. That’s why I tuned Binns’s out when he began to lecture on them a few weeks ago, and was surprised when Dumbledore told me that the rebound was likely elemental too, a derivative of fire. It just doesn’t seem real.’

‘Why do you think Ravenclaw prized intelligence above all else?’ Hermione interjected. She had only been half-listening to Draco’s recollection, when something he said struck a chord in her.

‘I don’t know—smarter equals better, maybe?’

‘I mean—your question about what we really know about Ravenclaw, it really resonated with me. If you had asked me at the start of term, I could have recited an essay’s worth of textbook jargon on the subject, and convinced myself I knew who Ravenclaw was, and what she represented. But the more you think about it, all we have is myth when it comes to the founders, myth filtered through the Sorting Hat, every year at the start of term feast.’

‘Hey—the Sorting Hat is maybe my favorite thing about Hogwarts,’ Draco said, feigning offense.

Hermione chuckled lightly. ‘Oh come on--limericks, and stories from a bewitched hat that reify age-old divisions of blood, and character for the bemusement of students, and faculty…what is the Sorting Hat, if not the perfect conduit for lies.’

‘Now, you’re just being downright cynical, Hermione.’

‘Perhaps—‘ she conceded, ‘but I still think you’re right to question what’s real and what’s not. Especially now--’

Draco couldn’t see Hermione’s expression, but he could feel a growing intensity in her grip, and imagined her to be glaring ahead at the three figures before them, anger and frustration writ large in her gaze.

‘To answer your question, with another question—‘ Draco defused.

‘Ahhh, my favorite kind of answer, how did you know?’ Hermione mocked.

‘If we take the Sorting Hat and its stories at face value, I think we also need to ask ourselves, how Ravenclaw may have defined intelligence when the founders first started Hogwarts?’

‘I see what you’re getting at—‘ Hermione urged. ‘Today, we tend to stereotype intelligence as book smarts, an aptitude for learning, and excellence in school, but maybe that’s not what she meant?’

‘Yeah—what if Ravenclaw meant something else entirely? What if by intelligence, she meant a witch’s ability to commune with her environment, to perceive the complexities of the natural world in a way most could not…’

‘And then be able to use it to her advantage?’ Hermione gestured back to Draco’s childhood memories.

‘Yeah—what if by intelligence, Ravenclaw meant an aptitude for elemental magic?’

‘I don’t know. Why would Ravenclaw narrow her focus so? Elemental magic—it seems too specific for a new founder of a great school of magic.’

‘Well, its not like the other founders were necessarily more open in their criteria for taking students. Take Slytherin, for instance. He obviously had a preference for students indoctrinated in the Dark Arts.’

‘True,’ Hermione nodded. She appreciated how forthright Draco had become with her, with regards to his family, his background, his proximity to the darker side of things. She felt like she was finally getting to see the real Draco, not the persona he performed for everyone at school.

‘Elemental magic is supposed to be powerful. It is also supposed to be extremely difficult to master. Right, wasn’t that the underlying theme of Binns’s lecture? It would only make sense if Ravenclaw, one of the brightest witches of all time, were drawn to it, and want to make it her legacy.’

‘Unless—it wasn’t her legacy at all…’ Hermione interrupted. She was having a moment of clarity.


‘Draco—what if the elements weren’t her legacy. What if they were her greatest predicament?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘We know she was affected by the rebound, just like us. Her name was written plain as day in The Visionary’s Guide to the Emerald Heart, right next to your mother’s. What if she was drawn to the elements for another reason, and studied them not to master them as her legacy, but to free herself of them, to free herself of the rebound?’

‘That’s a possibility. I’d buy that. But, if I’m being honest, Hermione, I’d buy anything at this point that felt like a lead to getting us out of here.’

‘I know, Draco.’

‘I just feel so lost, and alone.’

‘I do too.’

‘Nothing is making sense. Why now? Why this memory? What does Ravenclaw have to do with anything? Why does it feel like we have no control? Why can I still not see your face?’

They had stopped walking now, and as they grew further and further from the company of Narcissa, James, and Sirius, the pain in their legs intensified, as if being punished for their tardiness. But, they resisted fate, using every ounce of strength they had left to stay put, and carve out a moment for themselves.

‘I just want to see your face,’ Draco managed. He had turned his body deliberately towards her, and raised his palm up, so it was resting on her cheek. Hermione leaned her head into his hand, before releasing his fingers to sift gently through her tousled hair. She closed her eyes, and smiled. Her body relished his gentle touch in the darkness, more so than she allowed herself to remember.

‘Is this real?’ she said aloud, her voice wavering with doubt. ‘Are you real? I just—I don’t know what I feel anymore. I don’t know what to trust. Is this real?’

‘It’s real for me,’ he whispered into her ear. ‘You are real for me.’ Draco pressed his cheek up against hers, before resting his forehead on her shoulder in resignation. She ran her fingers through his hair, tucking a loose strand behind the back of his ear, and then, against her better judgment, she wrapped her arms tightly around his waist, falling into a long embrace. She felt so comfortable with him, so safe, though nothing about their situation was actually safe or secure. In response, he ran his arms up and down the sides of her back, and then pulled her in as close as he could, to reassure her, like a promise to never let her go. She sunk further into his embrace, releasing her fears, and doubts into his chest, while taking in the slow, pulsating rhythm of his heartbeat.

‘We can’t stay here. We have to go,’ she breathed after a minute or so.

‘I know.’

‘I don’t want to.’

‘I know that too.’

They pulled apart, as quickly as they had come together, and without a word began sprinting towards the Great Hall, giving into fate’s call. Almost immediately, the pain in their legs began to subside. But this was the least of their worries, for in place of the pain rose something new, mutual, and powerful—an affection to hold on to, a reason to resist.

-- A/N --

Just a quick note to say thank you for your patience, and for taking the time to read the latest installment of Blinded. I hope you'll also take the time to leave a review, because I would really love to know what you think of the story so far. This chapter came to me in a flash, and would not leave me alone, nor let me work on my dissertation until I gave it some form. I may revise for clarity in the coming weeks, but wanted to get this out as soon as I could, if only to tease more romance is on its way!

Yours truly,