Friday, August 27, 1999
They’re murmuring again. Trying to keep their voices low so the prisoner can’t hear. But the prisoner is fifteen feet away, and they are failing.
I wish they would take me out of the room if they need to discuss. Bring me back to the small room I was in this morning. But, of course, they let me stand in this cage in the middle of them. On display.
I pick a spot four feet in front of me and maintain my gaze. I don’t want to look at them and I don’t want to fall asleep. I feel a yawn.
“Mr. Malfoy. Your next witness is here. Are you ready to proceed?”
I almost smile. Do I have a choice?
I nod my head, interested to see what “witnesses” I have.
And Harry Fucking Potter walks in. He looks over at me and has the audacity to grimace, like he pities me. What a joke.
They question him about the night Dumbledore died. No one has ever told me that Potter was there the whole time. Something about a cave, and flying back, and then me appearing on the Astronomy Tower.
I know this story already so I close my eyes.
“And then I saw him lower his wand.”
My eyes open. Potter is already looking at me, and I hold in a sneer as it would probably not help my case. His eyes are glistening. Is he going to fucking cry?
“I saw Draco Malfoy lower his wand when Albus Dumbledore offered him protection. I believe that he would have taken the offer if the Death Eaters had not entered the Astronomy Tower at that very moment.”
“Mr. Potter, the night that Albus Dumbledore was murdered is already on file from the testimony you gave for Severus Snape. We cannot reopen that night.”
“And what if I have new information? Information to help the accused.”
“You have already told us that Draco Malfoy failed to kill Albus Dumbledore” – I wince – “and we have that in the file.”
A redhead. “Do you have more information for us, Mr. Potter?”
I watch as Potter stumbles over his words, trying to find a pathway back to his noble intentions. He starts talking about the night the Snatchers got him. He looks at me once, quickly, and I’m happy to note that I’m already glaring back in confusion.
What could he possibly have to say about that night? I think of his bubbling skin, the scar bulging out, distorting the stupid lines of it. My father bringing me down to look at him. And his disturbing green eyes looking back at me.
Of course it was Harry Potter. Anyone with half a brain would know.
“—And he refused to identify me,” Potter says.
A laugh bursts from my throat. A scoff. I guess that’s one way of looking at it.
Potter turns to look me. And the slight horror on his face is worth it. I smile at him. Like I just caught the Snitch.
“Mr. Potter,” the redhead asks. “I have several questions about Dolores Umbridge, and Mr. Malfoy’s actions under her reign at Hogwarts.”
I sigh. I settle myself in my cage. I lean back against the bars and cross my ankles and my arms, and let them condemn me.
The sound of Potter’s voice blends into the background. And I wait for a shift in the air. After ten minutes or so, I feel him dismissed.
“Mr. Malfoy.” A grey-haired man. “This is your opportunity to comment on the testimony provided. Do you have a comment?”
I lift a brow.
The grey-haired man rubs the bridge of his nose. I’ve exasperated him. Ten points to me.
“Mr. Malfoy, may I remind you that you are facing up to eighty years in Azkaban. If you have a comment or a clarification to make after a witness has testified, you are encouraged to do so if you think it will help your case.”
Nothing will keep me out of Azkaban, you dolts. You’ve already decided. If the testimony of Harry Potter himself won’t help me, they’ll need to dig up Dumbledore.
“Got it.” My voice is scratchy, but the insolence is at least in place. Several purple robes roll their eyes.
“Shall we proceed then, Mr. Malfoy.”
“Go for it.”
A blonde woman sighs, and looks at me with pity. I hate her for it.
The grey-haired man asks the short, portly wizard at the door to bring in the next witness.
Another one? Really? I keep my ankles crossed, my arms folded, and I lean my head back on the bars, closing my eyes.
“State your name.”
“Hermione Jean Granger.”
My eyes snap open. My left foot touches down on the solid ground, uncrossing my ankles in case I fall over.
I look at her. Taupe colored robes, ugly grey shoes. Neutral tones all around. She looks like she’s trying to play the role of Ministry dreg. Which, last I heard, she is.
“Hermione Jean Granger. You are here of your own free will. You have not been summoned in defense of the accused. Is this correct?”
I’m holding my breath. Waiting for her.
“Yes, that is correct.”
She’s gripping the railing of the testimony platform, and she’s looking straight ahead. She launches into a speech – much more rehearsed than Potter’s – about some night last March, and it’s not until too late that I realize it’s that night.
And she still hasn’t looked at me.
I tear my eyes off of her and glance at the purple robes. The blonde woman that pitied me, catches my eye. I turn away and resume my position. Ankles crossed, arms folded. I don’t remember letting my arms drop.
I concentrate on building the walls I haven’t needed for months. I’m rusty. The only Occlumency one needs in Azkaban is to hide thoughts from oneself.
The melody of her voice cuts through me and I try not to listen, only hearing snippets of “buying us time” and “choosing not to identify Harry Potter.”
I start from the basics.
A pile of bricks in front of me. Red, and common. I lay a simple line before my feet. A hand tool moves quickly to fill the holes with the sticky paste.
The Wizengamot begins asking her questions. She hasn’t rehearsed this. I’m not listening to her words but to her tones and tempos. It sounds like when Severus used to grill her until she slipped.
A second layer of red bricks on top of the first. And slowly there is a wall forming, building up from nothing. A third layer, mortar squeezing between brick.
“Did you have a relationship with Mr. Malfoy at Hogwarts?”
I grind my teeth together, and concentrate on the nothing I’m feeling.
“We were classmates.”
I build the fourth line of bricks, getting sloppier, hurrying to get to the fifth row, and the sixth.
I picture her in my mind, and suddenly the wall is built up to her navel. She stares at me in my imagination, asking me what I’m doing.
Bricks to her neck.
I hear my mother’s name from her lips and it pauses me. I turn to look at her in real life. She grips the railing and she’s flushed.
“—due to her ‘assistance with the Battle of Hogwarts.’ I believe I have just presented a moment that his assistance was necessary. I think I could give you several other citations and moments where his actions spoke not of a Death Eater, but of a son and a child. I think Mr. Malfoy’s crimes should be expunged and a full pardon given.”
And I laugh when I realize that I am the “Mr. Malfoy” in this case, and Hermione Granger has chosen me to rescue.
A full pardon. Like the house elves. I’m a pet project for her.
She turns to look at me, and her eyes are wide and terrified. And I hear the bricks crumble and crash to the floor.
Terrified. Of me?
Or for me. Imagining a life in Azkaban for me. Terrified. And pitying me.
She turns back to the older people in purple, and I watch her as she fights for me. For no reason whatsoever except that she pities me.
“—What qualifies me is that I am human and I see room for forgiveness –“
And she’s forgiven me.
Well, who asked her to.
I watch as the heat rises in her as she talks back, her face pink and her hands squeezing like they want to be around someone’s neck. And she’s magnificent, and it’s bringing forward everything I’ve tried not to remember. She looks exactly as I remembered her. And my bricks are scattered at my feet.
“Draco Malfoy did not kill Albus Dumbledore. He did not kill anyone. So, I do not see why he is being tried in full Wizengamot as if he is a murderer and a staunch supporter of the Dark Lord. Just because his name is Malfoy does not mean you can place the sins of the war on his shoulders.”
There is silence. The Wizengamot is still.
And she thinks she’s got me pegged.
I’ve kept myself from thinking of her for over a year. Cancelled my subscription to the Prophet months ago. Kept her in her box, and she had to come storming in here, reinserting herself. I expected to rot away in peace, but she had to ruin my plans.
A familiar burning inside my gut fires up, where I can’t tell if I would like more to kiss her or to kill her. Like a candle’s flame being pushed either direction by the wind.
I feel the Wizengamot shift. They thank her for her testimony.
She turns to look at me, and I know I’m glaring daggers at her. The Merciful Hermione Granger. Protector of the downtrodden.
And in a moment, she loses all confidence. She loses the heat and the passion, and she blinks at me like I’ve drained her. I expect her to glare back. Maybe toss a “You’re welcome, Malfoy” in my direction.
But she looks like she regrets glancing at me. Looks terrified.
She steps down off the witness stand, and exits, her ugly grey shoes clicking away.
This is now the last time I’ll see her? Terrified and cautious? And pitying me.
A memory of her smiling, clutching onto Potter and holding hands with Weasley. Tired and happy and victorious after the Final Battle, as I looked on from the Slytherin table with my mother. That was what I had.
And now this.
“Mr. Malfoy. Would you like to comment on the testimony provided?”
Something’s off about her. Something doesn’t make sense. And I’m about to head to Azkaban for twenty to eighty years.
“This will be your last opportunity to address the court today. We will ask questions after lunch, and then on Monday we will reconvene to take your closing statements and discuss your verdict.”
Why was she here? What did she want? Was I just a house elf to her?
I hear them call my name one more time, several crotchety women getting antsy.
One thought presses on me, pushes through my throat and down into my chest.
I have to get out.
It takes an hour to convince them of my value to the Ministry in the ongoing investigations of dark objects and Death Eaters. I suggest a probationary period, for as long as they’d like, but they aren’t satisfied. Finally, the redhead suggests that I provide memories as testimony. They love that idea.
I struggle to find a way around it as I piece together a list of everything I would never want another soul to see. All the memories that live in a different part of my mind. The memories that skill and training helped me bury.
Finally, they are in agreement. Memories of anything significant in upcoming trials and investigations, three months of probation at the Ministry – working directly with Potter, I assume – and appearances at court dates for any Death Eaters still on trial.
They look at me, waiting for my acceptance. Like it’s easy. I’m just about to accept when the redhead says, “And of course, I would like March 30, 1998 included in your provided memories.”
A murmuring of “here, here!” and “it will only help you, dear.” I click my jaw shut, and think of a fireplace and a scream. I scratch my temple and ask, “Who will have access to these memories?” I imagine Harry Potter snacking on popcorn while he cozies up to his Pensieve with his Weasley bird.
“And the Auror’s Office?” I ask.
“The Wizengamot exclusively,” the blonde says. She’s watching me closely. Seeing right through me.
I nod. I hate this. I consider the twenty years my father received. I’d be thirty-nine then. I remember the plans I made in my first few months of Azkaban, how I dreamed of starting a company possibly, or just escaping to France to run the vineyards.
And then her terrified eyes, pale and stale, like her clothing. Like everything else about her. And I need to find out what happened.
Double Potions with the Gryffindors used to be my absolute favorite thing. I loved watching Potter and Weasley fumble their way through the easiest recipes, and when Severus would mock them, or ignore her hand in the air – ah, that was golden.
It’s become an impolite torture now.
I dreamt of her last night. It wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last, I know, but it makes these double classes unbearable.
Snape watches me closely throughout the lesson, and I do everything in my power to keep my eyes off of her. He calls on me once, and I quickly recover and provide him an answer. It may be wrong. His gaze stays with me as her hand shoots up to ask a question, and I blink – more of a twitch – to keep my eyes on the front of the room.
“But wouldn’t the fluxweed mix too rapidly? Shouldn’t it be added slowly?”
I feel the muscles in my jaw clench. She’s right. And I would give anything to get her back, but I have no idea what potion we’re even talking about. And then I think of how I’d like to correct her. With her arms stuck down on the desk, and her skirt pulled up.
I shake my head.
And suddenly I’m imagining her correcting me. Teaching me, with her thighs on either side of mine and her hands on my shoulders, bouncing as she tells me the proper way to mix the fluxweed.
“Miss Granger.” Snape’s voice snaps me back to the present. “I didn’t ask for corrections.”
I hear Crabbe laugh lightly on my right. And I train my eyes on the chalkboard, shifting in my chair, and ignoring the discomfort in my trousers.
I don’t need to look at her to know that her cheeks are pink. And with any luck, she’s biting her lip to keep from biting back at him. I don’t need to let my eyes drift in her direction to know she is scribbling furiously, handwriting messy and inconsistent. It doesn’t matter. She’ll go over her notes again later and rewrite them, making them legible and detailed.
I swallow, and begin taking my own notes.
Twenty minutes later, and I guess the class is over.
“Dismissed. Mr. Malfoy, please stay.”
I stare down at my potions book, feeling my classmates’ eyes as they pack up around me. I sit. Still and patient. A movement from the corner pulls my eyes and of course it’s her. For no reason, whatsoever.
She looks away as soon as our eyes meet, and continues packing up her things, the second to last person out the door.
“Draco.” He’s used my given name, so I know that whatever Severus has to say, it will be nothing about school. “Why are you distracted?”
I bite my tongue, and look up at him. He looks down his nose at me.
“O.W.L.s coming up,” I say. “Lots of things in my head. And I’m a Prefect now. Lots of responsibilities.”
He examines me. I decide to stay quiet until spoken to.
“I would suggest,” he says, “sorting out these… responsibilities sooner than later, Draco.” His eyes flicker to the door. He waves a hand and it locks. He waves his hand again and I feel the hum of a silencing charm. I let out a slow breath, and he says, “It won’t do to be distracted. Times like these call for concentration.”
I blink up at him, and wonder why this moment required a silencing charm. He’s staring directly into my eyes, like I’m supposed to understand something. He doesn’t look like he’s going to say anything more, so I stand, gathering my books.
“Of course, Severus.”
“You are going home for Christmas this year, yes?”
I look up at him, potions book halfway into my bag. “Yes, that’s the plan.”
“I’m sure you’re aware that you may have… visitors at the holidays.” His voice lilts at the end, and now I know why he’s silenced the room. “Possibly even house guests.”
I shiver at the idea of Lord Voldemort slithering through the Manor.
“I’m not sure I was aware, no.” I swallow. “Thank you for telling me.” I stand still, unsure if we are finished.
“You may even have the opportunity to meet a few relatives. On your mother’s side. If not by Christmas, then shortly after, I’m sure.” His eyes are black and diving into mine.
Aunt Bellatrix? But she’s in Azkaban. A breakout?
He’s telling me top secret plans. He’s looking into me, pouring information into my mind and I don’t know what he wants from me.
“That will be a happy reunion, I’m sure,” I try. Maybe he’s testing me.
“I encourage you to concentrate. When meeting new people, Draco.”
Concentrate. “Of course. Thank you, Severus.”
“Your distractions… could be very dangerous,” he says. He steps closer to me. “For you, and for Miss Granger.”
Cold seizes my chest. I feel the skin on my face buzzing, tightening. My eyes are open and trained on him.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
He sighs. He drags his eyes across my face, my neck and shoulders, and back up to my eyes.
“That will never work on him, Draco. Or your Aunt. Or even your father –“
“I have no idea what you’re talking about –“
“Are you in a relationship with her, or are you just imagining one?”
I step into him, and my face heats. “I. Have. No idea. What. You are talking about.” I clip my words, hissing them into his face. I’m almost as tall as him now.
He frowns, and looks to the side. He moves away from me, back to the front of the room.
I’m seeing red as I shove my quill and ink into my bag.
“You have all the makings of a great Occlumens, Draco. When you are cornered, your mind blanks. You tend towards self-preservation. Most would start thinking of consequences or of their loved ones, but your mind focuses on the task at hand.” His back is to me. “It will be quite easy for you to learn.”
“I don’t need Occlumency,” I hiss. “I have nothing to hide from the Dark Lord.” I throw my bag on my shoulder. “Do you make it a habit of reading your students’ minds?”
“I didn’t have to delve into you at all, Draco. You were screaming it at me,” he says. I snort in response. “You will need to control your emotions and your thoughts. I can help you—“
“I don’t need help. I don’t need you.” I stomp to the door, pulling my wand to unlock it.
“If the Dark Lord finds out –“
I spin. “He won’t find out!” And I feel my breath leave me. I’ve admitted it out loud. He doesn’t look smug about it. He looks devastated. I squeeze my hand around my wand. I try to relax my face, and scoff. “It’s just sex. It’s just fantasy.” I shrug. “I’m fifteen.”
He looks into me. “Then I suggest you find a more… suitable outlet.”
I swallow. He waves his hand and releases his spells on the room. I pull the door open and run.