5. Of Passion and Pathos
Hermione lay in bed, gazing up at the ceiling and replaying her scant memories of the evening before over and over again.
She could hardly believe she'd got so drunk. It had never happened to her before. Sure, she'd got tiddly now and then, high days and holy days. But paralytic? Never.
And, judging by her pounding headache and dry, parched throat, she vowed never again. She was too old for this.
Ron breezed into the room, carrying a tray piled high with warm buttered toast, a cup of hot tea, and best of all, a glass of Ginny's famous homemade Hangover Draught.
'Thought you needed a bit of pepping up,' Ron said cheerfully. He placed the tray on Hermione's bedside table and swung open the curtains, allowing a bright shaft of winter sunshine to flood the bedroom.
Hermione groaned loudly, crawling under the bedclothes and burying her face into the pillow.
'Sorry, love,' Ron muttered, rapidly closing the curtains again, plunging them back into grey gloom.
'Just wait until I've drunk this,' Hermione croaked, reaching out for Ginny's draught. It was cool, minty and hugely refreshing. She gulped it back greedily. It wasn't a cure-all, but it helped.
'I hope I haven't made too much of a fool of myself, Ron.'
'Don't be silly,' he said tenderly. He gingerly sat on the bed next to her and stroked her forehead.
'You wouldn't lie to me, would you?' Hermione asked tremulously, for what must have been the hundredth time that morning.
Ron assured her, yet again, that she'd done nothing more than get a tiny bit argumentative with Tony Goldstein – which she remembered anyway – and was a little sleepier and less surefooted than normal.
'You were tucked away in a corner. Nobody could see you.' At this point, despite his outwardly sunny disposition, she was sure his lips seemed to tighten a little with some remembered irritation. Something he was keeping to himself. And why did she feel almost… guilty? She knew she hadn't done anything wrong, not really, really wrong; but there was still that nagging feeling.
The scary truth was that after a certain point in the evening she could remember just two things: Tony Goldstein had brought her a glass of water, and her head had rested on somebody's chest, which she presumed was Ron's - it had to be Ron's, except… it wasn't Ron. She could sense that. And this same person was laughing. A deep, rumbling laugh.
'Ron,' she asked in quavering tones, 'was Malfoy there?'
Ron nodded. 'Just being a prat as always, love. Don't worry about it.'
'Someone might have spiked my drink last night,' Hermione blurted. 'I think it was him.'
Draco was the obvious contender. He hated her enough to want her to make a fool of herself in public.
Ron burst out laughing. 'Sweetheart, you got drunk! That's all. And you were already well-pissed by the time Draco showed up.'
'But I only drank Exultante,' Hermione whined. 'A bit more than usual perhaps, but then I've been so wound up over this Tribunal business.'
'I know, I know,' Ron soothed. 'No harm done.'
How could he be so sure? She thought grimly.
'You're paranoid, you know that?' Ron murmured.
Hermione's heart beat a little faster. Last night, somebody else had said that. Those exact same words.
Dracohad said that, she felt certain. She could even hear his voice – unusually low and soft-spoken, which was strangely disturbing in itself – resounding through her head. The sensation was so unpleasant that her stomach lurched horribly, threatening to eject Ginny's Hangover Draught even before it had worked its magic.
But Ron was right. She had to put this in perspective. She had definitely been feeling a little peculiar while she was talking with Tony Goldstein, which meant if her drink was spiked, logically, it had to have happened earlier in the evening.
Could Tony have done it? He had certainly procured an Exultante or two for her. Might he have slipped something into her glass when she wasn't looking? Except, he was Padma's boyfriend. Nice, harmless.
Then there was Melinda Osgood's Pink Exultante. Her father was an apothecary so she might well have the expertise… but the opportunity? The motive? It didn't seem probable.
Or might it have been something altogether different? An enchantment of some kind? Something she wore? There was her red dress, of course, which she had worn for the first time. But as that had been a present from her sister-in-law, it was hardly likely to be jinxed.
Hugo bounded into their bedroom and jumped on her bed, instantly dispelling any further rumination. She spent the next twenty minutes tickling him until he couldn't breathe for laughing, all the while desperately trying not to throw up. Ron eventually bustled him away to finish getting dressed for school, claiming that Hermione had gone a strange hue of sickly green.
'I'll owl your office if you like. Tell them you've gone down with something,' he said helpfully. 'Get some sleep, love. You'll need energy for this evening.'
This evening? What was happening this evening? she wondered blearily. Oh no. Blasted Narcissa Malfoy and the Berlin Phil. That was what was happening this evening.
Hermione sighed in exasperation and snuggled deep into her bed, piling a pillow on top of her head to shut out the world.
If it had been the son, a rude rebuttal would have been easy enough. But she couldn't do that to the mother. She'd been brought up to respect her elders.
So here she was in Berlin, freshly nauseous from a decidedly juddery Portkey experience, and squeezed a little too tightly into a jade green mandarin dress that her mother had passed onto her, insisting that she, of all people, could 'carry it off.' Hermione was having serious second thoughts about her mother's good judgment. She genuinely feared that her ribs might cave in, accidentally spearing her lungs.
Still, she had to admit that the rather zany, modernist design of the Berlin Philharmonie - the concert hall where the Berlin Philhrmonic Orchestra regularly played - was spectacular, even if it reminded her a little of a half-eaten, yellow-tiled piecrust, or perhaps a misshapen crown. The auditorium itself was a vast yet orderly space, famous for its acoustics, and to her surprise, was populated entirely by witches and wizards in full-gowned regalia. Indeed, Hermione was probably the only audience member in what looked like Muggle dress.
Possibly to her credit, Hermione thought, Narcissa Malfoy showed no embarrassment in venturing out to what was clearly a prestigious wizarding event with what looked like a 'Muggle.' Indeed, Narcissa had seemed perfectly sincere in her compliments, calling Hermione's dress 'exquisite' and praising Hermione's 'neat little figure'.
This had been the first surprise of the evening and a fairly pleasant one at that.
The same could not be said for the second.
'I'm only staying for the Wagner,' Narcissa informed her the moment they had settled themselves into their rather plush aisle seats, located about ten rows back from the stage where the orchestra was currently tuning up. 'It's that obnoxious little man Beethoven after the interval. His third. The Eroica. Do you know it?'
'I've heard it,' Hermione said, wondering why she had bothered coming at all.
'I simply can't stand all those swirling circles he likes to paint with his orchestras… up and down, round and round… it's positively exhausting. Makes me feel horribly queasy,' Narcissa explained. 'Still. At least the Prelude to the Lohengrin will be nice enough, although the Tannhauser's a bit too bombastic for my liking. I much prefer Tristan and Isolde, don't you?'
Hermione really didn't know what to say.
Narcissa seemed to take her slack-jawed silence as concern for her well-being.
'Don't concern yourself, Mrs Weasley. I'll be absolutely fine. I've already spoken with Dorothy Nott and we'll be going home together. Theo's wife Honoria had twins last week – a very difficult birth, apparently - so we'll have lots of news to catch up on.'
Hermione was about to ask if she should accompany them, but then the lights dwindled and an expectant silence fell on the darkened auditorium. Hermione's eyes were drawn to the stage where the orchestra looked set to play.
'Of course, I won't be leaving you alone,' came Narcissa's voice, pressed close to her left ear. 'Draco's arriving in the interval.'
Any enjoyment Hermione might have ever had from the 'Wagner' had been totally quashed by this news. By the time the Tannhauser Overture had completed its never-ending cycle of climbing scales and brassy crescendos, her nerves were jangling.
'Oh dear,' Narcissa sighed, fanning herself with her concert programme. 'He completely lost control of the brass section, didn't he? What a mess.'
'The conductor, of course! Oh look, there's Draco,' Narcissa said, waving her programme in the air to attract his attention.
Draco was standing by the stage, scanning the audience, and to Hermione's surprise, was wearing a dark three-piece suit. She hated to admit it, but the Muggle look really suited him.
No wonder his mother hadn't been phased by her appearance.
'I hope he's not tired himself out,' Narcissa sighed. 'He's come straight from work.'
He had spotted them and was striding up the stairs in their direction.
He did look terribly tired, Hermione thought uncharitably. Not that she cared. She had the distinct impression that Draco's presence last night had exacerbated her strange behaviour. Even if he hadn't actually drugged her, she felt sure his vitriolic manner had driven her to greater excess than she was accustomed to.
Draco raised his eyebrows in vague greeting, which she acknowledged with a chilly smile.
'Evening, Mother,' Draco said. Hermione instinctively recoiled as he leaned across her, planting a kiss on Narcissa's cheek.
'How was the meeting in Dresden, darling? You look worn out,' Narcissa cooed, briefly caressing her son's cheek.
'A little longer than the meeting in Prague.'
'Oh dear. And the meeting with Ephraim this morning, too?'
'He's decided to come along as well. Said he would pay his respects to you.'
'Narcissa!' came an avuncular American voice from the aisle. 'How lovely to see you.'
Hermione wondered if this was the same 'Ephraim' Golowitz, Tony had referred to last night. The same 'super-rich' guy who had bought Arcana. Tony Goldstein had praised him to the hilt, and Hermione had to admit he was a pleasing-looking man. Like Draco, he too was wearing a Muggle suit; beautifully cut, with a deep crimson silk tie. She guessed he was mid to late fifties. Tall and well-built with craggy, handsome features and an earthy charm.
Narcissa appeared to think so, too, Hermione thought. Her eyes were twinkling and her cheeks were aflame. 'I hope you haven't been working my poor boy too hard, Ephraim!' she chortled.
Draco shifted position, enabling Ephraim to assist Narcissa from her seat. 'Word of warning, there's a pretty nasty squall brewing out there,' Ephraim said, draping Narcissa's thick purple velvet cape around her shoulders.
'It's been such a pleasure, Hermione. I can call you Hermione, can't I?' Narcissa gushed. 'Do come for tea next week, my dear. I'm sure Sylvestra would love to see you.'
'Ah! You know my little girl, do you?' Ephraim said gleefully. He now turned his full attention to Hermione. She couldn't help but feel a little mousy and shrunken in his presence, so much so that she wondered if he had covertly cast an inferiority spell of some kind, but swiftly realized it was the effect of his penetrating, blue-eyed stare.
Ephraim eagerly grasped Hermione's hand in greeting. He had large, smooth hands, pleasantly warm to the touch, sporting a giant ruby ring the size of a small walnut.
'We - we met a few days ago,' Hermione said, a little too timidly she feared.
'Sylvestra is very impressed with Hermione,' Narcissa said kindly.
Hermione blushed deeply. She really had no desire to mean anything at all to these people, let alone impress them. Her displeasure was further piqued by a keen awareness that Draco was listening intently to this exchange, a sly, mocking smile on his face.
'It's been very nice to meet you,' Ephraim said cordially. 'I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name?'
'Hermione. Hermione Weasley.'
A brief flash of recognition sparkled in his eyes, which then darkened with interest, but he was quick to collect himself.
'It's a great pleasure to meet you, Mrs Weasley,' he said. 'Now if you'll just excuse me, I need to escort Mrs Malfoy to the Portkey station.'
He patted Draco on the shoulder in a friendly, familial manner and led Narcissa towards the exit.
Hermione sighed inwardly, realizing her night was about to get a whole lot worse.
'You don't have to sit with me, Malfoy,' she said wearily. 'In fact, I'd really rather you didn't.'
'That's remarkably uncivil of you, Mrs Weasley,' Draco said, barging past her knees and landing heavily on Narcissa's freshly vacated seat beside her. 'I really don't understand what my mother sees in you.'
'She doesn't need to be so nice,' Hermione said frostily.
'No, she doesn't,' Draco mumbled, picking up the concert programme his mother had left on her seat. 'Maybe she's trying to make amends.'
'Amends?' Hermione asked, a little stunned. He could only be referring to what had happened all those years ago at Malfoy Manor. After all, it had been Narcissa's own sister, Bellatrix, who had tortured her.
'Yes. You heard me,' Draco said irritably. 'It's very stuffy in here, isn't it?' He stripped off his jacket, folding it neatly onto his knees, and loosened the top button of his shirt.
Draco seemingly hadn't noticed her perturbation and was now flicking casually through the programme, acting like he had said nothing out of the ordinary.
How could he say something like that, something so hugely meaningful for her, and then… nothing? What was he? A sociopath?
Hermione stared fixedly ahead, watching the audience gradually filtering in to the auditorium, returning to their seats. There was a gradual hum and bustle about the place, punctuated by the occasional shrill burst of laughter.
On the plus side, she supposed, he hadn't made any cutting remarks about her behaviour last night, which was surprising to say the least.
Yet she soon found Draco's stony silence gnawing away at her.
'Is that something your mother has told you?' Hermione asked archly. 'That she wanted to make amends?'
'Not in so many words, no,' Draco said. He continued to browse through the programme, not even bothering to look up.
'So that's your take on it?'
Draco sighed. 'I wish I hadn't said it now.'
They returned to weighty silence. A silence that grew ever more disconcerting as each minute passed, because it now occurred to Hermione that, rather than being a source of comfort, Draco's notable silence on the subject of last night was possibly most disconcerting of all.
He would never normally have passed up a major opportunity to take the piss out of her. So why now?
She had to say something, if only to dispel any idea in her own mind, that there may have been a moment last night, of what she hesitated to call intimacy pass between them. Something so alien and unwanted, that it made her feel sick just thinking about it.
The problem was, she had a strange, buried sense deep within her, that somehow this had been the case. She just didn't know how or why. Truth be told, she couldn't bloody remember, that was half the problem in a nutshell.
Hermione decided attack was her best tactic in this situation. She needed to break the deadlock. To move their relationship – if that's what mutual loathing could be called – back onto an even keel.
'Was it you who spiked my Exultante last night?' she asked in accusing tones.
'Don't be pathetic,' he drawled. 'Babysitting you when you're drunk isn't my idea of fun you know.' He gave her a swift sidelong glance. 'I'm amazed you made it here in one piece, actually.'
'I nearly didn't.'
'You wouldn't have been missed.'
She was desperately trying to conjure a pithy, witty retort when Draco suddenly declared, 'I really don't know why my mother wanted to come to this concert anyway. She hates Beethoven.'
'Yes, I know,' Hermione replied, relieved that the conversation had shifted so quickly to neutral ground. The strange awkwardness between them had dissipated. This was a good sign. Maybe he'd seen no reason to taunt her about last night because nothing had actually happened.
'I think the Eroica's a bit too martial for her liking. Too intense,' he continued. 'She prefers music with a lighter touch. More feminine.'
'What's that then? Thrumming harps and choirboys? Little dicky birds tweeting in meadows?'
Draco looked at her askance, his brow furrowed quizzically.
'Maybe it's all that 'Passion and Pathos'?' Hermione murmured, referring with deliberate irony to the title of the concert programme, which described the Eroica using these same words. 'It's all a bit misleading really. Sounds like a love story, rather than a homage to a trumped-up, pint-sized dictator.'
'Passion and pathos. Is that really your idea of a love story?' Draco cackled. 'There must be more to Ron than I thought.'
'What's that supposed to mean?' Hermione asked tetchily, instantly craving the stilted silence she herself had broke.
'Just that I wouldn't have put you and Ron in the 'Passion and Pathos' category myself.' Draco smirked, his cool, grey eyes dancing with amusement.
‘And why’s that then? Actually, no. Don't answer that. I don't want to know what you think,' Hermione said, grabbing the programme from Draco and furiously thumbing through the pages.
'Whoa there, you've just skipped all the interesting stuff about Napoleon!' Draco said. 'I was still reading that.'
Hermione impatiently thrust the programme back at him. 'I forget. This is probably very educational for you. I bet you don't even know who Napoleon is!'
'Of course I know who Napoleon is! What do you take me for? An imbecile?' Draco scoffed. 'I have an ancestor who served in Napoleon's Imperial Guard, I'll have you know.'
The orchestra had returned to the stage and the audience erupted into appreciative applause. Hermione was glad, even though something was rankling her.
She really, really knew that she shouldn't rise to the bait. Leave it alone, Hermione, she told herself, but it was too late, she couldn't help herself… she was already asking.
'Go on then, Malfoy. Amaze me with your wondrous powers of observation. What category would you put us in?' she asked in a shrill whisper as the audience simmered down and the orchestra briefly retuned their instruments.
Even though the lights had dimmed, she could feel Draco's eyes appraising her curiously, even triumphantly. She was glad of the relative darkness, as she could sense the heated glow of humiliating retreat staining her cheeks.
'You and Ron?'
'Who else would I be referring to?'
'I dunno. I always thought you and Potter might get it on –'
'Harry? That's ludicrous!'
'The lady doth protest too much, methinks,' Draco said in wheedling tones. 'Broke your heart, did he?'
There was hushed anticipation in the auditorium as the conductor raised his baton.
'There was never anything between Harry and me,' Hermione said sternly, aware of the tension in her voice.
'He'd have been a better bet than Weasel,' Draco said drolly. 'Less of the cosy comfort and carpet slippers…'
'Oh, shut up, you pillock,' she snapped, her voice ringing out a little too loudly.
'Control yourself, Granger,' Draco chuckled softly in her ear. 'You'll get us thrown out.'
'Mother definitely wouldn't have enjoyed that,' Draco asserted, as they streamed out of the busy concert hall into the crowded lobby, following signs for their appropriate Portkey station to whisk them back to England. 'It would have made her very dizzy.'
'Isn't that your friend Ephraim waiting for you?' Hermione asked.
Ephraim was an unmissable, imposing presence; holding court with a number of wizards who seemed to hang on his every word, close by the entrance to the UK Portkey stations.
Draco glanced furtively towards him, then tugged Hermione's arm and pulled her away from the flow of UK-only traffic and into the path of 'Frankreich/France' instead.
'We'll take the long way around,' he said curtly.
'But I'd rather get home as quickly as possible,' Hermione complained.
'I have my own Portkey.'
'I'm not travelling with an unauthorised Portkey,' Hermione said snippily. 'Look, there's more UK stations over there.'
Sure enough, a sign pointed into the car park.
Outside there was a light drizzle and a chill wind, not quite the 'squall' Ephraim had warned against. Draco flipped open his attaché case and produced an umbrella, for which Hermione was glad of.
The Portkey stations were arranged in an ordered line on the opposite side of the car park, each manned by an efficient-looking wizard. The queues here were much shorter.
'So, tell me, Malfoy. Were you deliberately trying to avoid Mr Golowitz? I presume that's who he is,' Hermione asked, buttoning up her black Macintosh.
'It's been a long day,' Draco said. 'We've seen plenty of each other as it is.'
'Tony Goldstein told me he now owns Arcana.'
'Yes. I found that out today myself,' Draco said, a little peevishly Hermione thought. 'He's a shrewd businessman. Arcana's stock will soar.'
'Tony seems to like him.'
'Ephraim's a good man. Very clever.'
As they walked across the car park, Hermione couldn't help but wonder exactly what being a 'good man' entailed for someone with Draco's dubious morality.
'He's just your kind of wizard actually,' Draco said, a little caustically. 'Actively worked against Voldemort in both wars. Raised funds. Provided safe houses. Lots of do-gooding stuff, that I'm sure you'd find very impressive.'
Hermione was surprised to hear Draco use Voldemort's name so casually. Clearly Ron was right. Time had definitely moved on since the end of the Second Wizarding War.
'Where's Ephraim from?' Hermione asked.
'So how do you know him?' Hermione asked, bewildered how a decent wizard like Ephraim Golowitz had managed to get himself embroiled with the Malfoys.
'Is that a serious question?' Draco asked in bemused tones.
'Don't mock me, Malfoy. I've taken as little an interest in your life as possible these past fourteen years,' Hermione said sniffily.
'He's my father-in-law. And no, I'm not married to Sylvestra,' Draco said tersely. 'Her sister… her sister Katya was… is my wife,' he added, a little hoarsely.
'Oh,' Hermione said, thinking back to Padma's instructive conversation the other day, the pieces now falling into place. 'So Ephraim Golowitz became an investor in Herb Healing and that's how you met Sylvestra, and-'
'Yes, yes. He's my business partner. Enough of the fucking inquisition,' Draco huffed. 'There's a Portkey there going to my local village. You can floo home from the manor.'
'I'd rather Apparate, thanks,' Hermione muttered.
'Actually, I've got something for Ron. It's too heavy to send by owl.'
Hermione rolled her eyes. Would this torture never cease?
"TRISTAN UND ISOLDE: PRELUDE" byRICHARD WAGNER
"GOYA! SODA!" byCHRISTINE & THE QUEENS
Disclaimer: I own nothing except my original characters.
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