Chapter 4: Same Bright Star
The first night in a strange place always made it difficult for one to sleep. Draco could remember the first night at Hogwarts. Being in the dorms under the lake made for a vastly different atmosphere than the one he grew up with. The smell of damp stone, the snores from his oversized dorm mates, even the sheets felt scratchy. Here, in his room at the Grangers, it was just…odd. He could hear Mr. and Mrs. Granger downstairs preparing to come upstairs for the night. He heard Hermione walk past his room towards the end of the hall to use the bathroom, but had yet to hear her come back.
In the mansion, such noises would be non-existent. His parents had the tendency to retire before he did, and always to their rooms in the northern wing. As his rooms were located on the south side of the house, his parents could have a full house party and he would never hear a sound. This settling in routine was foreign to him, and he felt as though he should be doing something besides sitting on the edge of his bed and listening.
He was concentrating on the sounds of the dishes they used for dinner chiming against one another as Mrs. Granger put them back into their cabinets. He could also hear the sounds of scrapping alongside the house, when he glanced out the window that faced the backyard, he could see Mr. Granger dragging back a large bin and placed it beside a small shed. Focusing on these specific sounds, he almost would have missed the light knock upon his bedroom door.
He cracked open the door to find Granger standing there with her hair tied back and wearing a light blue pajama set.
“I was just about to turn in,” she explained. “I just wanted to see if there was anything else you need.”
Draco took that moment to study her. He noticed that since his arrival, anytime she had to speak to him, she refused to look him in the eye. Even now her gaze was fixated on a small scratch in the paint on the wall beside his door frame. This law would make anyone uncomfortable. She most likely had the hope that she would be spending the summer away at the Weasley’s, as she usually did. Take the time away from her parents and learn how to live from sickle to sickle while taking care of every member of the family she would soon be integrated into. Although it would be a sight to see Weaslbee try to survive here.
Without her usual sidekicks, one could say that she was relatively tall for a girl. Potter and Weasley were part troll as far as he was concerned, but standing here in front of him, the top of her head easily came to his chin. Her white robe was open in the front to reveal her summer nightwear. The shorts she wore could be claimed as modest, but seeing them on her gave Draco the realization of what a year on the run could do for muscular strength. Her arms were crossed in front of her lower ribs, sleeves slightly pushed up from the position, to show the beginnings of a tan and slight freckling of her skin. Her face was shiny. He noticed that her hairline was wet, not from sweat, but perhaps from being freshly washed. The splattering of freckles across her nose wasn’t as prominent as Weasleys, but still noticeable.
When it seemed as if he was taking an incredibly long time to answer a simple question, Hermione chanced a glance at him. She raised an eyebrow at him. He stood there half in the hallway, half in the bedroom, but his eyes were glazed over, he was here in body, but not in mind. She understood his state of mind, as she was frequently brought from it. The bathroom seems to be the only safe haven in the house. No one would dare question why she was in there so long, and if they did, she could claim a through flossing, or her hair. But in reality, that’s when she let it all break out. Gave into the tunnel vision, allowing her body to deal with the stress, even if it meant laying on a towel on the bathroom floor. When she would awake, a calm frame of mind, normal heart beat, and sharp vision would greet her. Most of the time, it felt as though she had taken a good long nap and felt more energized than she had when she woke in the morning. Yet, there were times when it felt as though she had not been out long enough, she would be left feeling groggy, nose stuffy, and a headache. These blackouts did not happen every day, but often enough when she knew when to excuse herself from the sight of her parents.
As she was getting ready for bed, she entered the bathroom to brush her teeth and wash her face, when the black tunnel started. She fought it off long enough to get through her routine, but now she wanted to go to bed. Welcome the darkness in the comforts of her bed, not the hard tile. Yet this tool was keeping her from it.
She focused on him again, finding that as the day goes on, the hair product that he uses to keep his strands from his face has failed. They weren’t long enough to be in his eyes, but annoying long that they would tickle his brow until he pushed it back, only to eventually fall again. She could remember his eyes being the color of steel when they were in school. Many a time they would be glaring straight at her followed by some repugnant comment from his lips. But now she found them to have lightened, more like a clear ice cube melting in glass of water. She could swear she could see a hint of light blue in the right light. Cold frosted ice, ready to freeze anyone in his path.
Yet, as she stood there examining him, she could see that he was just as tired. Tired of fighting, tired of pretending, tired of this day. They needed sleep, they needed the freedom the night offered. A shifting in her stance seemed to bring him back.
“I believe I have everything I require,” Draco responded, “Thank you.”
The last part seemed to take the last bit of energy he had to say it. Hermione nodded.
“Alright then. Have a good night.”
She turned and entered her room. She waited until she heard the soft click of his door before she reemerged in her door frame. He may have signed a contract, he may seem as though he is changing for the better, but if he was to stay in this house, she would do everything in her power to protect her family.
She tiptoed back down the hallway and cast at least six protection charms that would inform her if anyone tried to enter her parent’s room via magic, or pass through the door with any magical device, wand or otherwise. She would do the same for her own room, then turn and place the one charm she could thank Umbridge for teaching her: Stealth Sensoring Spell.
In the winter, when the air becomes cold and sharp, when there is literally no humidity in the air, and one is privy to electric shock from various objects, that’s what it feels like when magic is in the air, where it normally is not.
Almost as soon as he shut his door, Draco could feel the sting in the air. He knew Hermione was placing as many charms on the house as she could. There were basic ones put in place already, but now she was adding to the protection, every casting sent another shiver up his arm. He stood by his window again and stared up at the sky. It was moonless, and the stars were shining brightly. They seemed to pulse with light to keep in time with her spell casting. It was when she cast the final one on his door, that one particular star sparkled brighter than the others.
A/N: I was in a nostolgic mood, and made my daughter watch An American Tail...thus the title of the chapter...tell me what you think!
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