Chapter 7: Mud in the Purified Waters
Hermione had to keep the smirk off her face. Never had she seen Malfoy squirm so much. At first it started with the blatant refusal to go, then questioning if she had been dropped on her head one too many times as an infant, to the resounding murmurs under his breath. Now as they walked down the street towards the center of town, she could see out of the corner of her eye that he had now resorted to constantly pulling and fixing his shirt and hair.
“This is it. My true sentencing, this could possibly be worse than a life sentence in Azkaban.” He said as they neared the church.
“Oh, stop being so dramatic. A few hours with the Weasley’s will only leave you with a full stomach and a light ringing in the ears. Besides, they know you’re coming, they insisted you come along.” She explained as she took the alleyway to the back of the church.
She found slight humor in the fact that her town’s appartion point was in the back lot of the church. How many people had been falsely persecuted for their ways of life? It made a very concealed area for her to go between her muggle existence and her adopted family.
Draco was in mid-complaint when she stopped them at the back hall stairwell.
“Just in case you have forgotten,” she said in her matter of fact tone, “the Weasley’s are also pureblood, which means that they too have been ordered to take in a student for the portion of the summer. Now, I wouldn’t say that they are as completely ignorant in the muggle way of life, but they still have a lot to learn as well. They felt it would be best for you to come along so that you can see that they, even as blood traitors, have to evolve.”
Draco frowned as he took in her words. He followed her as she tucked herself just under the staircase.
“Who’s staying with them?” he asked as he ducked under a spider web.
Hermione looked to him, smiled, and let out a small laugh.
“That,” he accused, as he pointed a finger at her, “that laugh, you’ve done that a lot lately, Granger, and nothing ever good comes after it.”
Hermione sighed, “You have so much to learn.”
She grabbed the accusatory finger and before he could pull it away, she turned.
He hadn’t apparated in a while. It took him longer to find his bearings. When he felt his eyes had finally synced with his brain, he found himself on a larger hill with a single willow tree. Hermione waited for him at the edge of the leaves and prepared to part them. Draco steeled himself for what was about to become a very long day. As he passed through the flowing leaves, he looked upon the most haphazard building he had ever seen. He rubbed his eyes jut to be sure the pressurized travel still wasn’t affecting him.
“Is it supposed to look like that?” He said as he tilted his head to try to make the residence straight in his eyesight.
Hermione gave him a look, and refused to answer. He took that as an affirmation. He followed her down the steep hill towards a lazy stream that seemed to feed into the pond located just behind the household. As they crossed a small creaky bridge, he felt it. The barrier of safety charms that were originally meant to keep the likes of him out. It made him stop halfway across the bridge. He waited for something to happen, alarms, boils, Aurors, anything to attack him and drag him away from the area.
Hermione turned when she realized he was no longer following.
“Nobody is trying to keep you out anymore. But if you continue to dawdle, so help me, I will place an entrapment charm on the property so that you have to spend the night.” She scolded.
The thought of having to survive a night in this lopsided hovel was more than enough to get his feet moving forward. As they approached the door, he noticed the very fragrant scent of honeysuckle. The Weasleys had quite a few well-placed bushes of the flowers just outside their windows. Honeysuckles were one of the many flowers Draco’s mother had in her own personal gardens. Although she has a hard time keeping that viscous peacock away from them.
The noise that came from the opened front door was enough to make his ears bleed. Being an only child in a large manor, if there was a noise to be heard, someone had to be dying in the dungeons. Not only that, but being forced to stay in a household that normally had a single child came with the minimal sound of passing cars. This was sheer madness.
The Weaslette had let them in with the explanation of Ronald being scolded for not degnoming the garden like she asked hours ago. It was met with shouts from somewhere above about where a certain pair of socks could be located, and the further callings on whether the post arrived.
If he had ever been in the Gryffindor common room, he would imagine that it looked exactly like this living room. Mismatched shabby couches and chairs near a fireplace, with volumes of books on how to be obnoxiously courageous and self-righteous. It was gaudy, it was worn, and annoyingly red. The only thing in the room that looked somewhat distinguishable was the grandfather in the corner. The shiny red oak and highly detailed carvings along the side was most likely the most expensive item in the house. Upon closer inspection, Draco noticed that in fact it did not tell time at all. But rather where each member of the family was. He watched as one of the hands labeled, Ronald, moved from ‘Home’ to ‘Garden.’ Seems that the Weasel lost that fight. As he continued to look it over, he found one hand pointed in a peculiar spot. It seems as though the clock found Fred Weasley as ‘Lost.’ Draco looked around to see if anyone else seemed to notice this. But Granger seemed to be reassuring the girl weasel, while she openly glared at him. He could hear sounds, from what was presumably the kitchen, but other than that, no one seemed to notice.
“No, I’m fine, Ginny.” He heard Granger explain. “No, I’m not under an imperious curse, honestly…” she scolded as she walked away from the girl and towards Draco, but was stopped halfway by a short plump woman wiping her hands on her apron.
“Oh, Hermione dear, I didn’t hear you come in.” She exclaimed as she patted the girl’s cheek. “You’re looking awfully thin, dear, would you like me to make you something?”
“No, thank you Molly, I just ate a while ago.” Hermione smiled then looked over towards Draco. “Molly, you remember Draco Malfoy.”
The portly woman glanced over, just realizing that another guest had entered her home. He waited for her to spit on him, cast him out of her house before he could endanger her precious kits. Instead he was met with a soft, comforting smile.
“Of course, welcome Draco dear. Thank you for joining us for lunch. I hope I’m not taking the two of you away from any enjoyable experiences in the muggle world.” Molly fretted as she glanced between the two.
Hermione shook her head, and the two were escorted into the kitchen where a fresh batch of ‘tea with ice and lemon’ had been made and a fresh batch of banana bread. When they rounded the corner, Draco’s eyes landed on someone he did not expect to see pouring the tea in tall glasses.
Ava Eugenia Burke was a short, dark haired, green eyed girl in the same year as Ginny. As Pansy was pug-like, Ava was plain. Unlike most in her house, Ava did not possess any striking features. Because of this, she seemed escape the attention of most of her classmate and professors. She was a shy, quiet girl that mostly kept to herself whenever she was in the Slytherin common room. Draco could count on one hand the amount of encounters he had with the small girl in the five years he had known her. She was smart, well versed in Ancient Runes and Charms. There were quite a few times she held study sessions for others in their house that seemed to be struggling in those classes. But she was calculating, she always seemed to be observing the world around her, so that she could remain one step ahead. If he was completely honest with himself, she was the Slytherin equivalent of Granger. But he still didn’t understand what he was doing here.
“Hello, Draco.” She greeted as she placed the pitcher down on the table.
He could feel Granger watching him, trying to gauge the reaction, but in all honesty, he was confused. He could not recall the Burke family ever becoming blood-traitors, that’s not to say that they hadn’t kept that bit of information to themselves, as there were no members of her family that had joined the Dark Lord when he came to call. Then what was she doing here?
“Why don’t we sit?” Granger suggested as she pointed a well-worn wooden chair at the head of the table for him.
Hermione sat on the bench that was opposite of Ava and pushed a glass and cozy towards Draco, as if he was going to need that drink in order to process the information that was about to be thrown his way. Ava seemed to hesitate and looked to Hermione for how to proceed. The older girl just shrugged.
“It will be better coming from you.” Hermione answered.
Ava nodded and took a deep breath.
“First year, I was the third student to be called to sit on the stool to be sorted. The moment McGonagall called my name I was met with whispers and surprised looks. I didn’t know why, I didn’t know what I had done. I sat in my own compartment on the train ride over, shared a boat with three other first years to the castle, I spoke to no one.
I climbed onto the stool, felt the hat on my head and thought I was losing my mind. A voice questioning my traits, my values, and all that I held dear. I thought for sure I was going to be placed in Hufflepuff. It seemed the most logical of houses for someone like me. So it was a complete shock when it had commanded I be placed in Slytherin.
The instant I sat down at our house table, I knew why there were whispers. I overheard a fourth year rejoicing in the fact that the ancestor of Elizabeth Burke had joined Slytherin. ‘How lucky were we to have the five times great grandchild of a once true and proper headmistress.’” Ava paused as she looked to Draco.
Elizabeth Burke had been the headmistress of Hogwarts School in the late 1680’s. Prior to that, she herself was a member of the Slytherin house. Draco knew that before she became the headmistress of the school she was a professor Ancient Runes. Thinking of the vast tapestry that hung in his family’s library, Elizabeth Burke had married a Potter at one time and had a child together that would carry one the Potter line. He also knew the Elizabeth was an extremely distance relative of Draco’s, as her mother was a Malfoy.
Elizabeth Burke was the quintessential pure-blood. She believed that magic should only belong to those families of pure lines. The half-bloods and muggleborns had no place in their world. Passing her portrait on the way to the common room, he could hear her encouraging the taunting and teasing his housemates displayed towards others.
“I went along with the story for so long. I researched all that I could on that vile woman. Every day I had to go along like I was better than everyone, more worthy of the powers I possessed, hateful to people I didn’t even know. I reached my breaking point in fifth year.
I was in the library, trying to translate runes in the most intricate Celtic knot I had ever seen. When who should just walk by to return a book in my aisle, but one Hermione Granger. At first I glared at her, it was becoming instinctual at that point, but then I remembered, she could be the one, the one person I could confide in. And I told her everything.”
Ava turned in her seat so that she was facing Draco straight on. Her green eyes bore into his icy grey. He could see the courage and power she was gathering as she prepared to speak again. It frightened him, the surge of energy in the room was overwhelming, and he had never felt such strong magic.
“Draco, I’m a muggleborn. They say it’s extremely rare for someone like me to be sorted into Slytherin, but the Sorting Hat said I needed to be there, that I had a greater purpose. I am not related in any way to Elizabeth Burke, trust me, I looked into my lineage. I live in Mablethrope, my dad’s a fisherman, my mum volunteers at my primary school that my younger brother attends. I have been living a lie the last six years in order to survive.”
Draco watched as the condensation from his glass slowly made a trail down to the cozy. As it landed, he saw the flash of a tear on the dining room table that he would focus on as the giant snake devoured a human in front of his eyes.
“Those cunning folk use any means…” he whispered.
“…to achieve their ends*.” Ava finished.
“It’s a miracle she lasted as long as she did with you lot.” A voice from behind Draco piped.
Draco turned his head to find that Ron leaning against a counter, when he had joined them at some point in the story, Draco couldn’t tell. He looked as though he grew another two inches and had gained some muscle in the process of the war. He was currently wiping his dirt coated hands on a rag and inspecting what seemed to be a small bite mark.
“A right surprise when we got the letter from the Ministry. Thought they had botched the partners.” He explained as Hermione left her seat to greet her friend.
It was an awkward reception to say the least. Almost pained. The two friends silently stared at each other for a moment before Weasel wrapped a hand around the back of her head to kiss her forehead. Granger in response had patted his chest before turning away.
Hermione stood in the middle of the stuffy bedroom listening to the sounds of distance conversations and the running water of the shower. It was a room filled with the optimistic views of childhood. A time when your biggest worry was whether or not your quidditch team would make the finals, if your brother’s hand-me-down potions book could last another year, or if your best friends could come a few weeks earlier than planned. The house flags displayed proudly on the wall with the star player of the Chudley Cannons; smiling faces in frames scattered throughout the chaos of the desk.
“Are we just going to pretend this isn’t awkward?” Ron asked as he re-entered his room, drying his hair with a towel.
Hermione placed the picture of her and Harry sitting in the courtyard of Hogwarts back on the desk. She was pointing some fact out to Harry in one of their textbooks, when he made, what seemed to be a sarcastic comment, which led to a light smack on the arm, followed by laughter.
“Don’t have to pretend. The fact that Draco Malfoy is currently sitting at your picnic table eating your mother’s cookies is odd enough.” She replied as she looked out into the backyard.
“He probably thinks they’re poisoned, the pale git.” He replied as he threw the towel over his foot board.
They were quiet for a while as Ron dug through his drawers to find a fresh shirt to wear. Hermione continued to watch as Draco and Ava attempted to exchange in a conversation. But even from here she could see that it was strained. She turned when she felt Ron step closer to the window.
“What do you want me to say, Ron? I told you I needed more time.” She sighed as she looked up at her friend.
“I know. You needed time to find your family in Australia. You needed time to restore their memories. You needed time to move them back to England. You needed time away…away from magic. I just need to know, whether I should keep holding out for time, or let it pass?” Ron questioned.
“We went from learning non-verbal spells and transporting our bodies through space, to traveling the expanse of England and Scotland hunting objects that could kill us, being chased by people that wanted me exterminated and watching our friends and classmates die. It’s not exactly how a normal teenager is spending their last years of schooling. I should be graduating at the top of my class, with university’s tripping over themselves for me to attend. Instead I find myself barely holding on to reality. Locked in the bathroom losing pieces of time, embracing darkness just to find a sense of calm.” She looked back out the window and watched as a flock of birds landed in the pond. “How can I care for someone, when I can’t even care for myself?”
She felt his hands on her shoulders bringing her closer to him. He enveloped her, as she kept her arms at her sides.
“I’m here. In whatever form you need me, I’m here.” Ron whispered into her hair.
“I know.” She answered into his t-shirt.
The shout from Mrs. Weasley five floors let them now that their alone time had exceeded.
The afternoon went on in a strained silence. Neither party willing to bring up a conversation they weren’t willing to participate in. So many questions left in the balance, yet too afraid to have them answered as it might jolt the reality they were trying to hold onto. Draco’s mind was processing too many facts at once. Is this how Granger felt on a daily basis when she entered his world? How did she manage the headache and eye twitch, let alone organize a thought? He needed to lie down, let his brain process this while he slept. One thing was for sure, he would be weary of any other adventure Granger took him on, lest he let his world come to a crashing end.
* Quote from Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone, Chapter Seven: The Sorting Hat.
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