Broken Boy and Blood
"What are we going to do about the others?" Hermione spoke with a tremble in her voice as she tried regain her composure from the apparition. No matter how many times she did it, she would still never be used to it.
"I don't know, and sorry to say this, but right now they're not a priority."
Hermione's eyes widened and she could almost feel the blood in her veins boil. She whipped around, her eyes narrowed and her fists clenched.
"Not. A. Priority?"
Draco was actually quite taken aback by how livid she seemed. Sure he had seen her angry before, but this was a whole new level of anger. And, honestly speaking, he was a tad bit scared. Just a tad.
"I-I meant, we need to focus on the mission. We can't get sidelined by them and get distracted. It'll ruin everything." He was trying his very best not to stammer, though that was getting harder and harder by the second as her glare got sharper and sharper.
"How could you say that?! How could you not care about them at all? Malfoy, they're missing!"
"They're grown witches and wizards who can take care of themselves, just like how we're taking care of ourselves!"
"They were attacked, you prick! They could be injured, be getting tortured right now, or worse...dead! We have to look for them!"
"We'll do no such thing! It's too risky!"
"Risky?! Gosh Malfoy, you really are selfish aren't you. Willing to put others' lives at stake to protect your own pathetic one!"
"I'm just focussing on the mission, Granger. You know, the mission of ending that ass and saving the world? Or have you forgotten your duty..."
"Don't you dare accuse me of forgetting my duty!"
By now, the 2 of them were right in each other's faces, their eyes bearing into one another's. Both we're panting heavily, their little shouting match having gotten them all flustered up. Draco' nostrils were flared, and Hermione's knuckles were white.
"And don't you dare accuse me of not caring."
And suddenly, he was walking away from her. And Hermione's heart dropped into the pit of her stomach, not from anger, but from sadness.
It had been an hour since their yell-off. Draco had gone into some room somewhere in the house, Hermione knew once she heads a door slam. Meanwhile, she had been standing by the fireplace, desperately thinking of a way to help her friends, then thinking of where the second coin could be, and then back to thinking of her friends. Back and forth her thoughts wandered, so much so that she got startled when a cuckoo clock on the wall chimed.
It was then Hermione realized she didn't actually pay attention to where Malfoy had brought her, and so she looked around what seemed to be a little cottage.
As Hermione looked around, she couldn't help but feel a warmth settle in her heart. It was not a very grand cottage, no it was simple and in fact, rather plain. But there was no denying it was adorable, with its light pink and cream hues and minimal but tasteful furnishing. One could easily tell this belonged to a woman, and a rather sophisticated one at that. The view outside was a stark contrast to the inside though- grand and majestic vs simple and elegant. The snow-covered pine trees, chill temperatures and distant silhouette of mountains in the misty blue horizon gave hermione the feeling she was in Switzerland, in the Swiss alps.
"This was my mother's holiday cottage." Hermione heard the familiar voice from behind her as she stood by the living room window and looked out at the spectacular landscape before her. It was odd, she thought, she was in her enemy's...well...partner's holiday cottage, in a country she had never been in, in a very precarious situation; yet, she felt so peaceful and, for the first time in a really long time, at home.
Here and there, Hermione could actually spot some photos of people, all looking regal and aristocratic. But none of them she recognized. And what was even more weird, was that she was not able to spot Draco in any of them.
"So you used to have holidays here with your family?" Hermione asked innocently as she noticed a little silver figurine of a dragon on the mantle above the fireplace, which reminded her immediately of Draco.
There was no reply at first, which prompted her to turn around only to find Draco sitting on the armrest of the sofa, slouched with his hands clasped as he looked down. He didn't look upset, or troubled, or show any emotion for that matter. But he did look likes he was in deep thought, as if he was remembering something...someone.
"Ma...Draco?" Hermione didn't know what made her say his name, his real name, so tenderly like that. Perhaps it was just appropriate, or perhaps it was the result of the tug she felt in her heart as she noticed how vulnerable he looked, sitting there, almost as if his guard was finally let down.
"This was our sanctuary." Draco's voice was so soft, Hermione doubted for a moment whether she heard his right.
He looked up, inhaling a deep breath and then letting it out. From her position, Hermione couldn't see his eyes clearly, unfortunately, because at that moment, she desperately wanted to.
"My father, well, I'm sure you're aware of just how...vicious and cold he can be. When I was younger, he used to abuse my mother a lot. I would have to watch him hit her and yell at her, and I couldn't do anything. Afterwards, I would ask my mom why she let him do that to her, and she would just sob and say that he was supposed to be like that- manly and bold and fearless. I was too young to understand why she was always defending him, but because she constantly praised him, I always thought he was a good role model, and I had to be just like him. It sickens me now, to think about how much I worshipped him."
Hermione was stunned to say the least, and she remained completely silent as he spoke, watching him closely to see the mask of coldness fade away, and his real self appear before her very eyes- a broken boy. That's all that he was. Not a death eater. Not a Slytherin. Not a pure blood.
Just a broken boy.
She noticed he had paused, and was pinching his nails as he seemed to be scolding himself in his mind, or so appeared the look on his face. Hesitantly, Hermione walked up to him and sat beside him on the armrest, arm-to-arm. She thought he was going to move away, or grimace at her, or even make some snide remark, so what he did next baffled her to say the least.
He moved closer to her.
"It got to a point where my father started to abuse me too. First it was verbally, but then he started becoming physical, which my mother could not take. First few times he hit me, she would just comfort me and apologize on his behalf. But once he started getting more violent, she just couldn't take it anymore, and she would grab my arm, pull me away from him, and apparate us here."
"Your father didn't know about this place? What would happen when you 2 returned home?" Hermione knew better than to just ask a question like that, but the damn inquisitive side of her kicked in.
Draco chuckled, not in a sarcastic or belittling way, but in a genuine way Hermione found so endearing. "No, that git was never smart enough to track us down. And whenever we returned home, he was too busy to even care, the only time he ever interacted with us, was to abuse us."
Hermione nodded in understanding, not that she would ever understand what it was like to have a childhood like that, but she did understand what he was saying, and so that seemed the only appropriate form of response.
"Mum said this was her grandmother's cottage, and she used to come here on vacations with her family as a child. I don't know, for some reason, nobody can find this place, unless you already know about it of course. The floo network doesn't work, so the only way to get here is through apparition. I don't know, I think it might have some spell on it or something."
As Hermione looked around the house, she couldn't help but smile as she thought about how this cottage was a sanctuary for Draco and his mother back then, and ironically, a sanctuary for Draco and her now.
"It really is a beautiful cottage Draco."
Hermione felt something burning into the side of her face as she looked around, and she turned to find Draco staring right at her, a distant look in his grey eyes. They were so close, she could smell his spearmint aftershave, which made her heart speed just a little bit. He was looking at her so attentively, studying her, memorizing her, as if she was an art piece that he was trying to decode. Normally, Hermione would squirm, or look away, or stutter something, as she always did whenever she felt uncomfortable with a person. But this time, she remained completely frozen.
But there was no doubt she was feeling uncomfortable at the very moment. She couldn't tear her gaze away from his eyes, partially because they were actually really nice to look into, but also because she physically couldn't look away. It was like her body just decided to not listen to her brain anymore and just act on its own accord. No matter how much her brain yelled at her to do something, anything, she just couldn't.
"You have really brown eyes."
Before Hermione could even register properly what he had just said, she felt a warm pair of lips on her own, and it felt like a grenade had just gone off.
Draco Malfoy was kissing her.
"Ginny?! What the bloody hell are you doing?!"
"Oh shut up Ron, I'm sick and tired of hearing you use that phrase 'bloody hell'. Honestly, get something new for crying out loud."
Ginny Weaseley was currently securing some non-verbal charms on the cell that contained her family and the boy that she used to love, to make absolutely sure they could not escape.
"Why are you doing this Ginny?" Harry asked, his voice hoarse from the lack of water, and the lack of belief in what was happening.
When there was no reply, Molly Weaseley walked up to the door of the cell, looking up at her daughter with unshed tears.
"He has you under the Imperius doesn't he? That's...that's what's happened here. Yes, yes he's controlling you."
It pained everyone else to see Molly Weaseley in denial, so hopeful that her daughter was still her daughter, still the good little girl she always was. It was quite obvious Ginny was not under the Imperius, there was a certain look in one's eyes when they were under the Imperius, which both Arthur and Harry knew very well. And Ginny did not have that look.
"Oh Mother, always so keen to only see the good in everyone. It's sad really. And to think, your own daughter turned out like this."
She had spoken in a snarl, and by then, she had completed the spells and just smirked down at her mother before turning around and heading out of the dungeon.
Molly's back was to everyone else as she clutched the bars of the cell, staring after her daughter, and Arthur went up to her and wrapped an arm around her shoulder, though his face showed that he was on the verge of crumbling as well.
"I don't understand. What could possibly make Ginny choose them over her own family, her own blood?" Fred asked, the expression on his face so upset, it was really a rare sight to behold.
A choked sob came from Molly, and what she said next made everyone freeze.
"Because she's not actually blood."