The next morning, Draco turned on the water to the shower as hot as he could stand it.
He felt the heat of it sink deep into his muscles, almost to the point of burning his skin, while he attempted to sort out his feelings regarding the events from the night before.
He placed his left hand on the white shower wall and leaned against it while placing his right hand to his chest, resting it on a Slytherin pendent hanging from a silver necklace.
He closed his eyes and leaned in to allow the overly-heated water to wash over his hair and trickle down into his pained face.
Barely breathing, he silently wondered how he could possibly feel so heavy, but so empty at the same time.
Draco had found that Pansy Parkinson did not take away the darkness. She only contributed to the mountain of regrets that began piling up behind him.
Finding her in his bed after spending so much time with Hermione was like being rudely awaken from a most wonderful dream, forcibly pulled back into a depressing reality.
But when Pansy began running her hands over his bare skin, he closed his eyes and imagined being touched by Hermione. He didn’t mean to do it, but he couldn’t help himself.
It was just like his dream with Astoria. She told him that she could tell that when he closed his eyes, he was making love to someone else. It was in his dream.
But here, now… in the very real moment, he was about to do the same with Pansy.
His body ached for Granger. He wanted her body pressed against his… her hands grabbing at his neck and pulling him down onto the bed, wanting him to make love to her.
He kept telling himself that it was Granger doing this. Not Pansy.
When she was finally gone, Draco felt empty and was left feeling like he’d done something very wrong.
He wanted the feeling to go away.
So he took out his liquor sticks and began consuming them one after another, hoping the alcohol in them would slow him down and help him sleep.
It was the first time he’d used alcohol in such a way. Before, it was a social thing to celebrate and party with friends. But this time, it was different. He was alone, using it for another reason entirely.
As he lie in bed and closed his eyes, he saw nothing and no one except Hermione’s face… the one girl that had never used him for anything.
He could feel the alcohol burn in his chest and it heated his core. After several minutes, his world was spinning and he felt as if he was going to get sick. But he grabbed his pillow and pulled it to his chest, positioning himself in an attempt to prevent the bad effects of too much alcohol from taking over his body.
Sickness averted, his limbs felt heavy and his muscles eventually relaxed. His breathing slowed to a sleepy rhythm and he finally was able to sleep.
And now, taking his shower the next morning, steam filled the space surrounding him while feelings of guilt crept into his chest. He felt like he had cheated on Hermione and was baffled by it.
How could he cheat on someone that wasn’t his? He thought it absurd that he would feel such a thing.
He shouldn’t be having such a struggle with it.
Men were supposed to be mindless when it came to sex, right? He wasn’t really supposed to feel such a connection between physical and emotional love, was he? He was supposed to be detached. Sex was just sex and love was something completely separate. Isn’t that what society told him?
Weren’t men supposed to indulge whenever a desirable woman offered themselves for the taking?
But thinking of it that way, it would mean that he was in fact using Pansy and it felt wrong, even if it were a mutual using.
And truly, if Pansy only had sex with him to claim him as a boyfriend for status, then wasn’t she in fact, prostituting herself for it?
And if that were the case, then what did that make him exactly?
Draco felt the twinge of sickness and wasn’t sure if it was guilt causing it or remnants of the alcohol that he had consumed.
He felt as if society had lied to him somewhere along the way. Men should not have sex just because a woman was willing. Men were not heartless, mindless beasts.
Maybe they were, but he didn’t want to be. He wanted to rise above it and be better than that. He always wanted to better than a mere man.
It had him questioning what it meant to be a proper gentleman verses what one might consider a good man.
His father was a proper gentleman in every formal sense to perfection and had taught him well, but no one would ever accuse him of being a good man.
And there it was… the distinct difference between the two. The proper gentleman was an outward appearance, where as being a good man was something internal.
Draco turned to let the scolding hot water punish his back while he opened his eyes to look at his forearm. He watched as the water streamed down his Dark Mark like tears falling over it.
He wondered then if it was possible for a Death Eater to be a good man.
The answer came easily to him as he voiced it in a sorrowful whisper.
After lathering himself with a wood & leather scented soap, he came to the conclusion that he hadn’t cheated on Hermione… not really.
They were not together and they never would be… hence, he did not cheat on her.
But being with someone that he did not love was indeed, a crime against his own body and it was convicting him and punishing him with the tight squeeze of guilt felt in his chest, telling him that his deeds had been wrong.
By the time his steamy shower was over, he vowed that he would never lay with Pansy again, but he didn’t feel it imperative to inform her just yet.
There would be a right time and place to end it with her. He just wasn’t sure when or how exactly, but he knew that an opportunity would present itself at some point. At which time, he would end whatever their relationship was… a loveless charade.
In the days following, Draco kept his distance from Hermione. And except for a few cordial nods and the occasional exchange of serious wanting glares at each other here and there, he purposefully avoided her.
The avoidance had hurt her feelings. She had hoped that he would continue talking to her after all that was shared. And surprisingly, she wasn’t mad at him for it. Instead, her heart only held a deep disappointment as she missed him.
And he missed her.
As Draco sat at breakfast one day, he noticed how Lavender Brown was always clinging to Ron. It was downright irritating to witness, but it had him thinking of a very sad part of his dream.
When Ron turned his back on her for Hermione, she committed suicide, leaving a note that had simply read, “I will not die invisible.”
It was a very unique and sad farewell that held deep meaning in just five little words. It implied that while living her life, she felt invisible and so she refused to die that way.
Even now, as Draco watched, she was constantly touching Ron, making it impossible for him to ignore her… making sure that he knew that she was there.
What others might have construed as an annoying public display of affection, Draco saw it as a display of extreme insecurity by a girl desperate for attention.
He recalled what the experience of feeling invisible was like. His experience only lasted a month and it had him wanting to run away to Hogwarts early at only ten years old. He couldn’t imagine feeling that way all of the time.
And as he observed her actions, Draco was convinced.
Lavender Brown had been ignored and neglected not just for a month, but for most of her life and it made her feel…
“Invisible,” Draco voiced aloud.
“What’s invisible, your happy personality?” Pansy joked, taking a close seat next to him.
He ignored her comment, trying to think of some way to prevent another tragic piece of his dream from coming true. He couldn’t do anything about Lavender’s home life, but what if he could at least prevent her from feeling invisible at Hogwarts?
Pansy wasn’t really interested in what was on his mind. As soon as she sat down, she was on the subject of something important to her. Something huge was coming to Hogwarts and she couldn’t contain her excitement.
“Draco, Love, I am in the best of moods!”
“Don’t call me ‘Love.’”
She seemed to not hear him as she continued her excitement.
“All that hard work in my stupid clubs, as you call them, is about to pay off heavily!”
“What are you talking about exactly?”
“My high authority in the clubs coupled with a little pushing has the Museum of Magical Arts loaning magical art equipment to the students of Hogwarts!”
Draco had never seen Pansy so excited about anything.
“This castle is going to turn into an art gallery of sorts. Each Year will have different art projects to complete and they will be displayed in the halls like an art museum, complete with couches to contemplate them and refreshments for the Gala Award Ceremony at the end. It is going to be something that Hogwarts has never seen before. It’s going to be beautiful.”
“Art equipment? Hogwarts has never had those kinds of art classes,” Draco replied.
“And that’s why the museum agreed to do this. They feel it important that students have a creative outlet here and frankly there isn’t anything. Isn’t it wonderful?”
Draco knew Pansy well. She didn't do anything for the betterment of other students. She was much too selfish for that. It had him wondering what the underlying reason would be for her to willingly put that kind of pressure on her shoulders.
“And it will get me that dream job at the Museum after we graduate. I just know it. So what if I have to do something good to get it? It will be mine!” she announced excitedly.
And there it was… the real reason. She was doing it to secure a job, which was actually quite ambitious and not to mention brilliant on her part.
“Dumbledore agreed to this, I presume?” Draco asked in an uncaring fashion.
“Yes. But there are a few stipulations. First off, Dumbledore didn’t want to have two separate formal occasions, so the award ceremony will open the Valentine’s Day dance. I’ll be the Director of this project of mine, but I must appoint one Assistant Director and an assistant for each Year to head their projects.”
She rudely took a bite from his plate then continued.
“And I must include all Houses, not just Slytherin, which is a real problem because I have no idea who to appoint.”
Draco couldn’t believe his answer for Lavender Brown had practically fallen from the sky.
“I know the perfect person for your Assistant Director. It might seem strange that I would suggest her, but if you want someone to be dedicated to it, you might want to consider, say… Lavender Brown.”
Pansy looked over to the Gryffindor table and glanced at the girl whose hands were messaging Ron’s shoulders.
“She has an obsessive personality, which would serve you well in getting the job done right. And she’s not a Slytherin.”
“She is rather obsessive, isn’t she?” Pansy agreed. “But I’m not sure I can pull her away from her idiot Ron-Ron.”
“I think she’ll be as excited as you are about the whole thing. And she’d be excellent at helping you announce the awards as well. If Dumbledore requires you to share duties, then you must.”
Draco sounded convincing and Pansy always valued his opinion, even if she would never admit it.
“Alright, I’ll ask.”
Draco added, “If she says yes, then let her choose the other heads. If someone gets upset for not being chosen, you can put the blame on her and say that you had nothing to do with it, making you golden.”
“Oh, I do love how your cunning mind works, Draco.”
Cunning, indeed. He wasn’t saying any of it for Pansy’s behalf. He was helping Lavender feel less invisible.
Involving her in such an event that Hogwarts has never seen before was truly a brilliant idea. Having Lavender choosing the other heads would make her feel that her opinion mattered and was valued. A group of people would be looking to her for direction, and she would be seen in front of the entire school while she and Pansy took turns announcing the awards. And not to mention she would most certainly be congratulated and applauded for her accomplishments as the Assistant Director.
Draco’s thoughts went to Hermione then. They always did.
He decided to manipulate the situation to his benefit, possibly giving him more time with Granger.
“One last thing,” he said just before making his exit. “Convince Dumbledore to lift the curfew so students can work on their projects in the evenings. How else are we to get them finished by Valentine’s Day?”
The magical equipment arrived timely and the nine-student multi-house committee headed by Pansy and Lavender got busy with distribution, handing out instructions, and putting up posters as reminders of the deadlines and types of awards to be given.
Since the Gala coincided with the Valentine’s Day Dance, the committee voted and appropriately named the event, “For the Love of Magical Art.”
Once the students began diving into their projects and experimenting with the magical art equipment, Hogwarts halls became a mess of splattered paint, threads from tapestry weaving, and scraps from sculpting blocks. But no one seemed to mind as the air in Hogwarts changed to something fun and exciting, especially for the younger ones.
First Years received magical paint that changed color every so often, while Second Years received magical brushes that could animate their works to move like the graffiti under the courtyard.
Third Years received magical looms that weaved tapestries and Fourth Years received a magical sculpting block about the size of a trunk. While carving their sculptures, if they messed up or were unhappy with the result, they could easily use their wands to correct the mistake or start over without the magical block being ruined.
Fifth Years received magical sheets of glass that they could mold or spin into different shapes such as vases, glass figurines, or wall art using their wands instead of the normal use of dangerous torches and cutting blades.
Sixth Years received what were called Black Canvas Vaults. They were the most complicated of the magical equipment on loan from the museum, but they were Pansy’s favorite, so she gave them to her fellow Sixth Years.
Seventh Years received the same magical sculpting blocks as Fourth Years, but they were massive in size, giving them freedom to complete large life-size works of art.
Lavender Brown had been elated to be chosen for such an important role. For the first time in her life, she felt important. Her opinion was taken into consideration and her ideas were accepted and implemented. And even though it did take some time away from Ron, she promised to make it up to him later.
And of course Ron didn’t mind her being involved in the project because it allowed him time to breathe and not feel so smothered by her all the time. He felt that it actually helped their relationship.
What bothered him was the actual assignment.
“For the Love of Magical Art?” Ron read the header on the instructions on how to use a Black Canvas Vault. “What if we hate art? We’ve never had to do art before now. Dumbledore’s really lost his mind to force us into doing something so stupid as mindless art.”
“Dumbledore hasn’t lost his mind,” Harry protested sharply. “Maybe he thinks it would be good for the students to get a break in their regular classes and do something different for a change.”
Or maybe use it as a distraction from something else. Harry thought to himself.
“And we have to do this by Valentine’s Day?” Ron whined as he tossed the instructions to the floor. “I think I’d rather take on the spiders again.”
Hermione waved her wand to retrieve the fallen parchment. “The awards ceremony is on Valentine’s Day, so they will have to be completed before then to give us time to decipher them all.”
“Only you would decipher them all,” Harry teased.
She acted like she didn’t hear her best friend’s comment and began reading the instructions aloud.
“Black Canvas Vaults can be fun, interesting, and challenging. Using their wands, students create a pictogram in the black sand that will give a clue to a password key. Once the pictogram is finished, the sand will solidify and appear as a work of iron art, or vault. Students will attempt to decipher the artist’s pictogram and must guess the password key to try to open the vault. If they guess correctly, the vault will open to reveal an object provided by the artist that relates to their riddle.”
“What’s a bloody pictogram?” Ron asked.
“It’s a series of pictures that relay a message. Some are obvious, like if the word was broom, you’d see a picture of a broom, instead of spelling it out. But others can be more complicated like a picture of a car and the outline of England. Putting the two together, it would be carnation. It was nothing to do with a car or a nation, but together they mean the flower. That would be considered an easy one. They can get quite complicated and far reaching.”
Harry immediately pictured the iron vault that opened the Chamber of Secrets. He had to speak Parseltongue to open it. “Ron’s right this time,” Harry agreed. “This is stupid.”
“It’s not stupid. I think it’s rather brilliant. It’s an art form that makes you use your head and think… it’s a beautiful puzzle.”
“Some people don’t share the same love for puzzles as you,” Ron protested.
Hermione shook her head and continued.
“The best vaults have personal meaning and are thought provoking. Points will be given to the student who opens the most vaults and to the artist with the best design difficulty. At the end of the assignment, the artist will need to open their vault to retrieve their object then erase the vault back to its black sand form so that it can be returned to the museum.”
“Points? Who cares about points, really?” Ron asked with irritation.
“They are just trying to make it fun… an incentive of sorts,” Hermione replied with a sigh. “At least we’ve got some time. It says... from February 1st to the 13th, the curfew has been lifted for all Sixth and Seventh Year students to give them additional time to complete their projects.”
Truthfully, Hermione wasn’t worried about the art assignment. It was the Valentine’s Day Dance she was most worried about. Her date for New Year’s Eve had backed out because of her blood status. Could she get a date for Valentine’s Day?
Draco’s face immediately flashed in her mind. She wanted nothing more than to be escorted by him to the dance… her and a hundred other girls. But she knew better than to think of it. It was never going to happen. The only thing she could possibly hope for would be more time spent with him. And since he hadn’t given any indication that he wanted to do anything of the sort, the idea was highly improbable and at minimum, just wishful thinking.
Since the assignment was to be something personal and thought provoking, there was only one thing that Hermione could think of that she wanted her vault to convey.
Her riddle portion had come to her fairly quickly, but she carefully chose her pictograms because she wanted it to be extremely difficult. She didn’t want everyone to decipher it because it was a message of sorts… one for a certain Slytherin.
It would open to reveal something very simple.
After several evenings of working on it, she solidified it into its final iron-like state. And when it was magically hovered into its place in the hall, she was quite pleased with the final result.
When she was finished, Ron asked her for help with his.
“Tomorrow, Ron. Right now, I need a break.”
She planned on going to bed to relax her neck muscles that were aching from working on her project. But as she walked past a set of windows of a dark hall, she noticed a line of white on the sills and realized that it had been snowing.
It was a rare kind of snow. The flakes were enormous like puffs of cotton falling so slowly that it looked as if they were almost suspended in the air.
It was her favorite kind of snowfall, so she decided to head up to the Astronomy Tower for the best view before it was gone.
When she finally reached the top of the stairs, she was pleasantly surprised to see Draco by the balcony's edge, peering out to a space below… at the edge of the Forbidden Forest.
Her happiness to see him faded when she figured he hadn’t come up there for company and he would probably think she was following him like some obsessed fan girl.
She sighed a long drawn out breath and decided to find a different spot… the courtyard maybe. But just as she was about to leave, he called out to her.
He knew full well who belonged to that particular sigh.
“Granger, this place is big enough for the two of us… should you want to stay.”
Oh, how his dark heart longed for her to stay.
Originally, I had Draco helping Lavender during a school debate, but I thought a Magical Art Gallery would be much more interesting and perhaps more original. I do hope you like the Black Canvas Vaults and can see them as I see them in my head. : ) As you probably guessed, Draco and Hermione's vaults will actually be messages to each other. But what will they say? Hmm.
Lots of Dramione action in the next chapter.
Please review! Say anything!
Love you all,
P.S. An astounding 15,000 Reads and 113 have Favorited! Amazing!
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Credits to "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" by JK Rowling.
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