Bathwater

The Strange and the Fragile

"—Weasley!" Kicking the door of her chamber open, Pansy Parkinson stormed past her small living room, fuming as she headed towards her room. Her anger was leaving a trail behind her, along with the echoing sounds of her stomps on the marbled floor.

She was going to tear his head off and make a rug out of his red hair as soon as she got a hold of the redheaded Weasel. She was going to send his decapitated body to his mummy wrapped in a bow. How dare he destroy something that was hers, for starters, and then aim a curse towards her direction? (Her life was precious, damnit!)

"Weasley!" But just as she felt a sense of joy of being a second away from murdering him, she stopped abruptly after she kicked the door of her bedroom open. Her coal eyes found and took in the image of a redhead slumped on the floor, his knees brought to his chest and his hair covering his freckly face as he leaned against the bordered edge of the bed.

She remained solid for a second, waiting for him to look up or something, but nothing came. "…Weasley?"

"Get out," Ron hissed in a low, raspy voice. Not picking up his head from his knees.

Pansy's nostrils flared up in anger, her rage boiling in her blood once more; remembering why she'd chased after the Gryffindor in the first place. "Look, Weasley, you thickheaded git. I don't—" She stopped again as Ron let out a shaky breath.

The redhead hugged his knees tighter, his hands overlapping on his kneecaps were shaking.

Catching the changes to his appearance, Pansy couldn't help herself and she dropped the accusing finger she'd lifted up in her prior anger. "...Oh, for the great Salazar," she huffed, slamming the door behind her as something ordered her to take a few steps closer to the Gryffindor.

Ron's hands were still shaking, his body rigid.

"….Are you alright?" She asked hesitantly.

But not seeing that the dark-haired witch was being possessed by a demon that was attempting to be nice to him, Ron's angry voice came out threateningly again. "Out, Parkinson. Get out."

The Slytherin girl counted to three, inhaling deeply as she took a couple of steps towards the redhead with determination. "Weasley, are you okay?" She pressed once more.

Ron grunted, squeezing his palms tightly and exposing the light blue veins contrasting on his pale skin. "…No," he breathed, keeping his head plastered on his kneecaps. "I'm not okay."

Pansy froze, she was completely taken aback. She had expected him to continue fighting with her, to hiss at her until she lost her patience, hexed him, and then they continued on like always. She didn't think he'd speak, that his voice would come out that low, and that that demon possessing her wanted to continue to help.

"Do you...erm...Do you want to—you don't have to of course, but maybe it'll..." She was a complete idiotic bint right about now. She just continued to stumble with her words, like she'd never spoken to anyone before.

And, honestly, if it wasn't because Pansy was a coldhearted bitch—something that she was extremely proud of—she would've known exactly what to say. But it was clear as day that she wasn't the type of girl that knew how emotions and being sentimental worked. She'd never been the friend, if you can call her that, to sooth another person when they most needed it. Pansy was always the one who stepped on you when you were down on the floor, and who made sure your day was extra awful when it was already a drag. She was a rough-skinned Pureblood: the legacy of her mother and father and she was not equipped with emotions.

"…Hermione's right," Ron said without thinking, playing the brunette's words over and over in his head. Letting her expression sink back into his memory and prove to him how much of a disappointment he actually was these days. "I have become an egotistical prat."

"I wouldn't call you egotistical," Pansy said slowly, sinking to her knees in front of him. "A prat, yes, but not egotistical. Well, not more than usual, that is."

"….I cant help it, to be a prat," Ron mumbled to the Slytherin. "I'm just so angry all the time now. Nothing seems...right...I feel like I lost myself after the war. I feel like after everything that happened...everything I saw and experienced...It broke me..." Underneath his hair, a curtain between him and Pansy, Ron bit his lip. Trying to keep some of the pride he had left.

Pansy extended her arm out, her palm a centimeter away from the Gryffindor's red hair. "…You do have a right to be bottled up with rage," she said in a tone of voice that was strange for her. It was gentle and free of sarcasm. "As much as I hate to admit it, things for your side during the war were far worse than anything someone from mine ever experienced. We were recruited and treated like royalty. Never harmed if it wasn't necessary." She dropped her arm, slapping it down to the marbled floor as she couldn't bring herself to touch him.

"I lost my brother," Ron muttered hesitantly. He wasn't sure why he was discussing any of this with the Slytherin, but he was coming to the conclusion that no one was willing to hear him anymore. Not even Hermione. He'd sunk low enough that he let the worse of him creep out of the hole. He didn't have patience enough to handle his best friends, nor to be able to handle the look Harry would give him if he told him that he was tired of everything. That he no longer saw the light and was so close to quitting. "...I watched him die."

The Slytherin heard the Gryffindor let out another shaky breath, and this time she heard a clear sob mix with oxygen—the Weasel King was in pain.

She lifted her arm forward again, and this time she let her fingers dance into his red hair. She let the tips of her fingers roam inside of every strand, ruffling it soothingly. And with her free arm, she pulled herself forward and clutch onto his shoulder; embracing him. It was a close contact a Parkinson would never allow themselves to make, but for that split second, and that moment of his pain, she forgot who she was. She forgot that she was that coldhearted bitch she adored.

"I understand where you're coming from," she finally spoke. "To feel like everything you knew and believed in...All of it just ended up hurting you. You gave your all for something that you knew was for the best, and in the end... it took what you loved the most."

Ron lifted his head up, his red hair flying back and exposing his bright and miserable eyes to the Slytherin witch. "Everything I thought that was worth it...wasn't anymore. I saw my brother break, die so easily along with many others...They were all supposed to be the strong ones, they were supposed to make it out, but they didn't. They all broke without any effort, fell to the ground and died.…

"All I could think about after that was of my own pain...My own selfish thoughts emerged and took over." Ron looked deeply at Pansy, allowing his eyes to penetrate into hers. Every hateful feeling he ever felt towards her was momentarily erased. He didn't see the girl who was as evil as they came, he just saw a girl that was holding him when she didn't have to.

"Everyone goes through their own pain," Pansy murmured, her left arm still wrapped around his neck and her right hand in his hair, "but it's all about getting up and moving forward from it." She met his stare, not cowering away from the redness surrounding his pupils. "I lost my Grandparents in the war. Believe it or not, our loved ones were murdered too. Our motives might have been twisted and wrong, but we suffered too...I lost the two people that meant the world to me...That were more parents than my own. And to think that I'll never see them again, that they'll never hug me...It's so hard." Her dark eyes were burning now. She felt an odd pressure form in the back of her throat, a lump forming—something was happening to her.

"It gets better?" Ron asked, letting his arms slither their way towards her waist and wrapping themselves there as they pulled the Slytherin closer.

Pansy nodded, pressing her lips into a tight line. "I think about it this way—" She pushed his knees away from his chest and then sat herself on his lap. She let him cradle her, her face resting on the crook of his neck. It was an act so despicable and loathing that she'd to ignore the voices in her head that told her she was breaking the barriers she'd created long ago. "We're already deep in the hole, that there's no way to crawl but up."

"Sounds exhausting. I've never been much for exercise," Ron stated as he squeezed her by the waist. It was the first humanly contact he had in months and it felt warm, he could not deny that.

Pansy smiled softly, no trace of the smirking Slytherin present. "Don't worry. Between you and I, the abyss isn't so profound." She paused for a second, taking a breath of courage to say what was coming next. "….I'll be here for you, Ron."

The Gryffindor's eyes widened momentarily. "Ron?"

"Weasley," Pansy cleared her throat, "if you prefer." She shrugged in his arms.

"No...Ron's okay," the redhead said softly, smiling lightly as well. "Just as long as you don't call me WonWon."

Pansy inhaled through her teeth. "Oh, I can't promise anything there."

And as he scowled playfully at her, his blue eyes suddenly twinkling, they laughed together. They continued to sit on the floor of their bedroom, their bodies shaking from the amusing, strange, feeling in the air that had suddenly changed. They held onto each other with a feeling that wasn't hate, but was something much more than sympathy.

X

"Come, come—" Blaise Zabini opened the door of the chamber, allowing a dark-haired witch to enter first. "Make yourself at home, please."

Hermione, who was seated on a nearby armchair, snapped her book closed at the sudden intrusion to her living headquarters. "Oh, by all means, Zabini, drag the Ravenclaw in here and take over my chamber."

Blaise clucked his tongue at the brunette, his eyes in a scolding, disapproving manner. "That's terrible hospitality from your part, Granger. If you were to come by our chamber, we would greet you with warmth and a hot cup of tea."

Hermione glared, fixing her pajama pants as they wrinkled by the knee before she stood up. "If I were to go to your chamber, Zabini, I assure you it would be only to murder you."

Zabini's eyes grew wide, he's teasing gone. "You're joking, right?" He waited for the Gryffindor to laugh and say that she was just trying to scare him, but that moment never came. "Malfoy!" He shouted, hiding behind his fiancée. "Your woman's threatening me—again!"

Cho rolled her eyes and swatted the Slytherin away from her. "I'm sorry, Hermione," she said sincerely as she took off her house-colored scarf. "Zabini has been trying to make up for his past errors since our last Family lesson, and he said he had a 'double date' planned with you and Malfoy."

Hermione coughed. "A date?" She asked, her eyes turning away from Cho and towards the Slytherin. "Zabini, what in Merlin's name—"

But before Hermione could grill the dark-skinned Slytherin, Draco exited the chamber's bedroom. "Ah, Blaise," he interrupted, his toned arms carrying a box as he smirked, "I thought I heard your girlish screams." He settled the box on the center-table of his living room, smirk still powerful. "Did Chang beat you again?"

Not finding anything amusing at the moment—especially not the smug look of authority on Cho's face by Malfoy's comment—Blaise glared thoroughly. "You've got to do something about her!" He pointed an angered finger at the Gryffindor from behind the couch. "She's starting to get a lot more violent! You're rubbing off badly on her, Draco."

"I honestly doubt that three days of living with Malfoy can cause me to turn bitter and sarcastic," Hermione snorted, tucking her wand into the waistband of her pajama-pants. "Anyway, what's this about a double date, Malfoy? He better have meant you and Goyle because I don't have time for your games."

"No, I meant you, Granger. It's a last minute thing, of course, but I thought you'd appreciate it," Malfoy responded, trying his hardest not to snap and insult the girl. So, instead, he moved over the to the table and began to ruffle through its contents. "I owled Blaise after we entered the chamber and you went to do your womanly needs, and asked if they'd like to join us tonight."

Noticing Hermione's frown deepen, Cho decided to step in. (She might not really like her, but she knew that getting paired with Malfoy in all this rubbish was torture enough for Hermione.) "It's past curfew, you know? Where can you two possibly take us for this...date? Maybe we should forget about this."

"No one said we were going out, darling." Blaise dropped himself on he open seat next to his future wife as he sent Hermione an I-Come-In-Peace smile; throwing an arm around Cho's shoulder. "We decided, since Granger so cleverly had Draco volunteer in class, that we would have a Muggle night."

"And shoot me with a gun?" Tossing her book carelessly on the floor, Hermione felt a deep anger rising inside of her that disappeared the momentary feel of comfort and peace she'd felt when she curled up on the armchair to read; even making her forget that upon entering their chamber, Malfoy opened the door for her, laughed a joke shared among them.

As much as she was trying to be civil, to be friends, Hermione could not let her defenses fall like that. She knew Malfoy, and he wasn't going to stop being a slimy ferret from one day to another.

Taking something from the box, hiding it behind his back, Draco turned to the Gryffindor. "We're not planning your murder, Granger," his voice was wary, "I just thought it would be something you'd enjoy. For us to enjoy. It's just so we can test waters on how to be an engaged couple."

Feeling a mixed and unclear rush of something, Hermione narrowed her eyes at the Slytherin. She still was very suspicious of him, but she could also see the tiniest flicker of something sincere in his silver eyes. So, with her chin raised high, an attempted look of acceptance, she said, "Alright, Malfoy. Let's see what you had in mind."

Keeping his own share of anger at bay, Malfoy revealed what he hid behind him.

"Is that a—" Shoving him aside, Hermione peered into the box he'd brought out and laid on the table. "Movies, Malfoy?" Her disbelief was very apparent as she could see the video cassettes stacked together. "How'd you get these?"

"They were owled to me," Draco explained, smiling lightly as he noticed her surprise turn into curiosity. "I sent Arthur Weasley a letter that asked if he could please lend me a few of his muggle-films."

Hermione couldn't help but smile. "How did you know he'd have them?" But the real question playing in her head was: Why would he owl Mister Weasley? A man that represented everything he hated in the Wizarding World.

"He's the only wizard I knew that would have any muggle devices that'd fit the television-set Professor Slughorn gave me." Draco pointed a slender finger at the front of the living room, to the furthest wall.

Hermione's jaw dropped. How the hell did she miss a television-set laying in her living room? "He gave you the television-set from our lesson?"

"Turns out Slughorn thought Draco had great potential in disguising himself as a muggle man," Zabini laughed mockingly, nudging Cho towards the set like it was the most ridiculous thing ever.

Taking an unconscious step towards the blonde Slytherin, Hermione began to whisper in the smallest voice so the other couple wouldn't overhear. "Why'd you do this, Malfoy?"

Turning a slight red, Malfoy tried to adjust himself as he replied in the same low tone she'd used. "I actually meant when I said I wanted to be friends."

Hermione bit her lip, holding a video cassette in her hand. "I'm sorry if I've been...insufferable," she cleared her throat, suddenly feeling it go dry. "This is difficult, you know. And...I can't say I want to trust you, but I'll try to."

THUD.

And from the loud smack that bounced off the marbled floor, Draco turned away from Hermione to raise an eyebrow at his fallen best friend. "What are you doing, Zabini?"

Zabini cleared his throat. "Erm...Well—"

"He was trying to overhear your conversation," Cho said honestly and blankly as she stood from the couch and took the cassette from Hermione's hand.

"Was not." Blaise jumped up. "I was merely searching for dust." He looked at Hermione, pushing Draco away from the Gryffindor. "What kind of wife are you going to be? Look at this mess!" He pointed at his sleeve that was covered in dirty powder.

"So, what are we going to watch in the television?" The Ravenclaw picked up another cassette that read Little Mermaid.

"Let's select randomly." Blaise shoved a hand into the box, mixing the tapes up. "Aha!" He said after a moment, pulling out a movie. "Titanic, it is!"

"Titanic?" Cho and Malfoy questioned together.

Chortling, Hermione walked over to the set as she mumbled, "this should be interesting."

X

Dark as night, darker than black, the Malfoy Chamber was at as dimmest. Nothing could be seen from any corner, not even the marbled floor—except, for the tiniest blue light that emerged from the television-set on the furthest wall of the living room.

Blaise Zabini and Cho Chang looked at it from their seats on the couch, eyes wide open and mesmerized at the muggle contraption ahead. Both stuck together closely, a cloak thrown over their legs and a cup of tea sitting beside them.

Hermione sat on Draco's left side on the armchair they transfigured into a decent size couch, seeing as Blaise claimed the only one as his. (The selfish prat.)

Draco had an arm around Hermione's shoulder after an hour into the film. They both sat with more distance between each other than the other couple, but could both feel each others heat radiate off the others body. It was a strange sensation in which Hermione felt a pull to lay her head on his shoulder and snuggle close, to be intimate in a way you would with someone you were comfortable with. But seeing as that would be the highest level of awkward, she handled the sore feeling in her neck.

"—I love you, Jack," the woman, Rose, in the movie said a she a laid on piece of wood in the floating water.

The man in the film, holding on to the woman's hand from inside of the water, looked at her quickly. Cold air coming out of his nostrils like thick fog. "Don't do that. Don't you say your goodbyes," he managed to mutter through the cold oxygen pumping in his lungs.

"…I'm so cold."

"Listen, Rose," Jack said, still shivering, "you're gonna get out of here, you're gonna go on and make lots of babies, and you're gonna watch them grow. You're gonna die an old... an old lady warm in her bed, but not here, not this night. Not like this, do you understand me?" The man said desperately, staring at the woman with all he had.

"…I can't feel my body," she responded, her pale skin turning blue.

"Winning that ticket, Rose, was the best thing that ever happened to me... it brought me to you. And I'm thankful for that, Rose. I'm thankful. You must do me this honor, Rose. Promise me you'll survive. That you won't give up, no matter what happens, no matter how hopeless. Promise me now, Rose, and never let go of that promise."

Hermione slapped a hand over her trembling mouth, the sleep that was closing her eyelids was now replaced by a sudden urge to cry for the smallest moment—this part always got to her.

"…I promise." Hermione saw the almost-frozen woman say.

"Never let go."

"I'll never let go. I'll never let go, Jack. "

A sob broke out in the living room.

"Merlin, she's going to die! Why? Not like that...not like that..."

"Blaise," Cho placed a palm on the Slytherin's shoulder, "it's just a film. It's fiction. This never happened."

"No!" Tears dropped from Zabini's emerald eyes. "Don't you lie to me, Cho! She's going to let go! She's going to let go!" He rocked himself on his seat as his eyes focused on the lifeboats floating away from the freezing bodies in the water.

Forgetting about the film for a moment, Cho turned all her attention on Zabini. "Blaise, listen to me..."

And as Chang began trying to soothe his best friend, Draco leaned closer to Hermione and whispered, "come now, Granger. I see your eyes drooping. Time for bed."

"They aren't drooping, Malfoy," Hermione protested, watching him stand from their transfigured couch. "I'm just simply blinking."

Rolling his eyes, Malfoy reached over and grabbed a hold of her slender arm. "Whatever you say, Granger."

"But—"

"It's better if Blaise finds out how the rest of the film turns out on his own. I expect him to be a grand mess once its over, and Chang should learn how to deal with that already."

"Who knew he was so sensitive?" Hermione let Draco pull her off the couch, a hand on the small of her back, pushing her forward to their room.

"He's Italian." Draco shrugged, tearing the metallic sheets from the mattress and fluffing Hermione's pillow. "They're quite sensitive over everything. You should meet his father, it's quite the show to watch."

The cold midnight air blew all around the chamber, and Draco watched Hermione shiver as she slithered into the bed. "We're never going to get rid of him now, you know."

She stuttered, her teeth clattering. "He'll want the television set now," she pointed out, watching him snake his way inside the sheets as well. "And I'm willing to sacrifice it. I don't want him here."

"Well, he's out of luck, then. Mister Weasley will want his films back as soon as possible." Draco turned to face Hermione, a small space separating them. He could see the cold air blow out of her lips and he couldn't help but compare her to the woman from the film. Remembering how she shivered and grew pale and numb, so fragile and easy to break in that moment.

And really, that's what Granger was, right? She was all words, all logic, but she was still a girl; still fragile. She could be broken, she could be crushed if you stripped her away from her knowledge.

"I can't believe you did this for me," with a quivering lip from the cold, Hermione whispered to Malfoy softly before yawning.

Not replying, Draco watched as her eyelids closed abruptly, sleep washing over her suddenly. Her face went blank as she curled into herself from the cold; a look so peaceful on her face.

As sneakily as he could, Malfoy reached his finger over and moved a curl from her face, staring at the Muggle-Born with profound eyes and gazing at her like something he'd never seen before.

He always saw her as a strong, vital, part of the Golden Trio. She was strong and fierce, she had to be. Her exterior was rough and domineering, and he knew she had a soft side, but he didn't know what it was. He knew, from years of hearing her ramble about pathetic things, that she found importance in the life of every creature and she protected everyone who needed it.

She was a noble person, and that was her weakness. She trusted everyone.

She was gullible to believe anyone, even if she was the Brightest Witch of the Age. Book smarts and instincts couldn't always protect her, he knew this now. She was a soft bubble, and she was constantly letting herself be around sharp objects by her nobility and heart .

"…Pop," Draco whispered, hearing a bubble in his head explode dramatically.

It was going to be quite simple crushing her. Poor Gryffindor Princess, she'll never see it coming.

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