Chapter 21 - Punctum Fractionis
By the time Monday’s classes had rolled around the next morning, Hermione’s delivery from the apothecary had yet to be delivered. Not willing to discuss the fact that she was well and truly addicted at this point, she kept this to herself. And that was how she found herself hunched over the cool porcelain of the loo in a girl’s bathroom on the second floor.
She’d stubbornly decided to go to her classes today, and had been on the way to an early breakfast so as to avoid most of her friends when a wave of nausea hit her out of nowhere. After throwing up the contents of her stomach -which was mostly bile as she’d yet to eat today-, Hermione shakily sat back against the door of the stall. The cool tiles under her body helped some, but not nearly as much as she needed to be able to get to her feet just yet.
Hermione didn’t know how long she sat there on the floor of the girl’s bathroom, vision swimming with black spots and entire body shaking. But she heard voices as girls came and went on their way to classes, giggling and gossiping without a care in the world.Bitches. By the time she felt well enough to peel herself off the ground and retrieve her wand to check the time, it was almost the end of breakfast.
Risking a glance in the mirror, the sight that stared back at her was so awful she had to laugh, or she might’ve cried. Her hair was damp with sweat around her face, and her clothes were completely dishevelled. Her skin was white as parchment and not only were her hands shaking but her teeth were chattering slightly as well. The worst -but most laugh inducing- part of it all was the fact that her eyes were completely bloodshot. Or, well, bloodshot wasn’t the right term. All of the vessels in her eyes were standing out against the white of her sclera, except they were blue. The exact same shade of blue she so fondly recognized from the potion.
She brought a hand up to touch her face, not entirely believing her reflection wasn’t being cruel and making her look worse than she was. It was then that she realized, as her hand lightly pressed against the bags under her eyes, that her fingertips had taken on the exact same shade of blue as her eyes. Oh, fucking Merlin’s Christ she thought as she groaned aloud.
It’s fine she reassured herself nothing you can’t fix with a few glamour charms. Realizing she was going to be late if she agonized over her reflection any longer, she cast some simple charms on herself, so she didn’t look quite so much like she’d crawled out of her own grave. Once her order came in from the apothecary, everything would be fine again. She could get through one day of classes sober. Sure, she had no cigarettes or potion, and she only had half a flask of tequila; but it wouldn’t kill her. She could do this.
Without giving herself a chance to change her mind, Hermione walked out of the bathroom and down the hallway, letting her thoughts race as she hurried towards the classroom. Hermione Granger wasn’t stupid, she didn’t just get the title ‘Brightest witch of her age’ for nothing. She was rational and logical, and she knew that she was well and truly addicted to her sine sensu. She knew that she needed intervention, and that the side effects she was displaying after a day’s withdrawal were severe and dangerous. But the issue was, Hermione also knew that if she were to ask for help, she’d have to stop with the potions and the alcohol and the cigarettes, and then she’d have nothing to protect her from the onslaught of other people’s thoughts. And that was so much worse.
Before the potions she’d been a wreck, the first week and a half had been awful. Hermione can confidently say that she would willing lay herself down on the floor of Malfoy Manor and offer Bellatrix Lestrange her other arm before she ever went back to the time before she’d started with the potions.
The headaches had been unbearable, like someone had clamped a vice on either side of her skull and were tightening it ever so slowly. It felt like her eyes were about to pop out of her skull with the pressure and also simultaneously like they were melting in their sockets. It had driven her to momentary insanity, she’d made her childhood home unplottable before locking herself inside for almost five days before she realized the solitary confinement just forced her magic to turn on itself and read her own thoughts like some kind of ‘worst moments of your life’ highlight reel.
Her potion was her escape. It made her feel everything a little less. Like before she’d been standing in a rainstorm and she couldn’t go inside, but then someone offered her a raincoat.
Arriving at the door to her class a minute before it was due to start, Hermione took a steadying breath and braced herself mentally for the day ahead before she pushed open the heavy door and walked in.
One hour. Sixty minutes is how long she lasted sober. Not even a whole class block. Pathetic.
The first eighteen minutes were alright, she’d managed to keep her eyes fixed on her parchment. After so long unfortunately, the magic decided it didn’t need eye contact or even for her to be looking at someone; it just reached out and latched onto anyone immediately around her.
Thirty-nine minutes into the class she gave up on trying to think over the onslaught of images and thoughts coming from those around her, and resorted to trying to exhaust her magic by taking notes via a wandless leviosa.
Forty-six minutes into class she broke into a cold sweat from the crushing pain bearing down on her skull from the inside.
Forty-eight minutes into class she wondered if St. Mungo’s would put her into a medically induced coma by request. She then wondered if a coma would even stop her magic. Maybe she would just end up trapped in some sort of magical mind-reading limbo.
Fifty-one minutes into class she gave up and left. She walked calmly out of the room, the last thing she needed was for someone to come after her and make sure she was alright. She most certainly wasn’t. As soon as she heard the door shut behind her, Hermione broke out into a run.
Fifty-seven minutes into class, she was shoving through the entrance to the Head’s dorm, wheezing with the exertion of running up six flights of stairs. She hadn’t run that hard since they’d been chased through the woods by snatchers. For a moment it felt as though her heart may beat right through her ribcage and out of her body.
Fifty-eight minutes into class, she was rummaging through the compartment at the bottom of her trunk where she stored vials of nonviable potions. Most of them were rejects she’d collected over the months while trying to experiment with the original recipe. The process for settling on the batch she used now had been trial-and-error, where she tried it on herself and usually the errors landed her with some nasty side-effects.
Fifty-nine minutes into class, she was pouring three unlabeled vials into a glass; one was a purple colour similar to dreamless sleep potion, another was a shimmering gold, and the third was a cloudy greyish-green. With shaking hands, she drank the murky glass of mixed potions in one go, not particularly caring if they killed her at the moment. She hoped they wouldn’t of course, it had been a while since she actually wished for death or actively sought it out; but the risk was something she was willing to take if she gained any form of relief.
Sixty minutes into class, she was laying on the soft carpet of her bedroom, eyes glazed and staring at the stone ceiling. Maybe this is it she thought as the feeling of her entire body caving in on itself washed over her. She was aware of her surroundings still, so not unconscious yet, but her body was immobilized on the floor and her lungs burned when she drew breaths.
Sixty-one minutes after, she was spinning into unconsciousness, the heavy darkness wrapping itself around her brain like devil’s snare.
He hadn’t seen Granger since first thing this morning when he’d left for an early quidditch practice. He’d woken up still at the foot of his bed, his back and neck were aching from sleeping in such a weird position. His legs had been tangled in both the comforters and the legs of his sleeping witch. Before he got up for the day, he laid there and just looked at her. He’d stared at her plenty in the previous weeks, but he never turned down an opportunity to stare some more.
She was so pretty, it boggled him that he’d never noticed before the war. Her hair was fanned out over his pillow, making it look like she had a lion’s mane, and her nose twitched adorably in her sleep. He wondered if she knew she mumbled while she slept, not enough that he could understand what she was saying, but enough that he knew they were words.
He quietly got out of bed and changed into his flying gear, so he didn’t wake her. She’d opened her eyes long enough to kiss him goodbye and whisper a ‘don’t fall off your broom’ before she fell back asleep.
He’d skipped first block to get some extra flying time in on his own, and she hadn’t shown up to any of their other classes. Draco was concerned when she didn’t show up to their second class, and by the time lunch started and she had been absent for a few hours, he was extremely alarmed. Judging by the look on her friend’s faces at the Gryffindor table, none of them had heard from her either. Granger didn’t skip class, especially not more than one in a day.
Foregoing his lunch altogether, Draco hurried out of the hall to find her. He headed straight for their dorms; he knew she wouldn’t go to the hospital wing even if she was sick. Fuck. She’d seemed fine this morning -granted they hadn’t really talked at all- but she hadn’t looked ill. He rushed into their room, not even bothering to shut the entrance behind him. Her bag was thrown haphazardly onto the couch.
Her bedroom door was closed, and she didn’t respond when he knocked, twice. A quick alohomora and a mental note to apologize for invading her privacy later, and he was inside her room. It didn’t look like anyone was there at first, then he spotted some of her hair on the floor by her bed. Fuck. He hurried over to where she was.
“Fuck, Granger, wake up” his voice was panicky as he shook her by the shoulders. She was laying in front of her trunk and there were empty vials scattered on the floor around her. Fuck. “Merlin Granger, what the fuck did you do?” Her skin was hot to the touch and gave off an eerie blue shade, her lips were purple, and her head lolled to the side when he pulled it up onto his legs.
Draco had no idea what to do -he wasn’t a fucking medi-witch- and it didn’t help that he had no idea what she’d taken. He checked the vials but of course, they were all unlabelled. With a quick hope to the founders that it worked, he laid her on her side and in quick succession cast a rennervate and a expulso on her. In seconds, her body jerked as her eyes opened. She stared at him for about half a second with wide terrified eyes before she heaved forward and violently threw up the entire contents of her stomach.
There really wasn’t much for her to throw up, and after a few moments she was simply dry heaving on her hands and knees. With a wave of his wand Draco vanished the mess off the ground and cast a quick air-freshening charm. She was shaking terribly, to the point where he could hear her teeth rattling against each other. Her chest was rising and falling shakily with each shallow breath she drew. He got up, gathered her into his arms, and settled them both onto her bed; him leaning against the headboard and her curled up in his lap.
He was pretty sure she was crying; he could feel the wet tears soaking through his shirt. She kept trying to talk but every time it ended up nothing more than a broken syllable followed by wracking coughs.
“Shh” he stroked her hair as he tried to calm her, he conjured a glass of water and accio’d a calming draught from the medicine cabinet in their washroom. He poured a few drops into the water and handed the glass to her. “It’s okay, just drink the water and take some deep breaths. It’s alright.” He continued to run his hand gently from the crown of her head down her back and she drank half the glass before she handed it back to him. Immediately he felt her breathing steady out against his chest.
“Draco-“she wrapped her arms around his torso and buried her face into his shirt.
“You’re alright” he cooed gently. “Do you want to tell me what happened?” She just shook her head against him without saying a word. “that’s alright love, just sleep for now, we’ll talk about it when you wake up.” Within minutes he felt her body relax against his as she fell asleep.
Hermione’s entire body hurt when she woke up. Her eyelids felt like they were glued shut and she wondered if her limbs had been transfigured into lead. She knew she was laying on her side on her bed but she didn’t know how she got there, last she remembered she was-. Oh. It all rushed back at once, the mixed potions, the blackness, throwing up, Draco. Draco, shit.
She then realized that there was in fact an arm belted around her waist and she could feel a body pressed up against her back. Hermione could feel his breathing against her back, the steady rise and fall of his chest was soothing. He must be sleeping. Turning gingerly in his arms, she turned over to come face to face with a very much awake Draco, who looked equal parts worried and angry. She offered him a sheepish smile, to which he simply raised an eyebrow at her in return.
“Erm,” she started, her voice came out raspy and it felt like she’d swallowed sewing needles. “hi”. She really had no idea what to say to him.
“Hi.” Oh, so he wasn’t going to make it any easier for her, alright.
“How was your day?” He didn’t look impressed at that.
“Oh, my day was lovely” he started, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “First I wake up to a lovely witch naked in my bed, then I went for a long fly, had some classes, oh and then I found the previously-mentioned lovely witch unconscious on her bedroom floor, overdosed on potions.”
“I-“ she started to defend herself, but didn’t have anything to say. “I’m sorry.” His expression softened slightly at her words.
“You don’t have to apologize to me Granger-“
“Hermione” she interrupted to correct him, “please”
“Regardless, you shouldn’t be apologizing to me, you have nothing to apologize for. But I would appreciate it if you talked to me about what happened.”
“I, um, I ran out of potions on Saturday.” She started, he didn’t say anything, just watched her intently as she continued to talk. “ I’m supposed to have more ingredients coming soon so I thought I could make it through my classes today, I didn’t think it would be so bad.” She was crying again, she feel the hot tears on her cheeks. Draco tightened his arms around her as she cried and rambled out an explanation. “But the magic, it just got worse, and it hurt so much, I just wanted it to stop and I had some of my old experiments in my trunk.” She was crying harder now, her tears soaking through his shirt again.
“It’s okay love shh” he was stroking his hand in circles between her shoulder blades. His face was blurry through her tears when she looked at him.
“I-I just wanted to shut off my brain and make it stop for a while, it’s too much” her chest was burning from all the crying and she knew she must look awful. Her nose was almost certainly bright red and her eyes felt puffy from crying so much.
“You know Hermione, I might actually have an idea.” She perked up slightly at that, pushing away from him slightly so she could see his face properly. She sat up and tucked her legs underneath herself, he sat up beside her and leaned against her headboard.
“What? But I don’t have any ingredients, and the apothecary-“
“No,” he interrupted her. “No ingredients, no potions.” She cocked her head at him curiously, what could he possibly be talking about? “Do you remember when I told you I’m gifted with occlumency?” He seemed uncomfortable talking about it, his eyes were guarded and his shoulders looked tense. She nodded. “What do you know about it?”
“I know it’s a mind charm,” She started, mentally recalling what she’d read in her textbooks. “and that it’s a means of closing your mind against legillemency. I also know that it’s extremely difficult and talent can be passed on through magical bloodlines.” He nodded along with her.
“It is passed on through bloodlines.” He confirmed “the Black bloodline is known for its mind charms, there’s a whole bunch of boring lore about it that I’ll tell you about another time. But I wass thinking; maybe if it works to keep legillemency out, I can teach you how to keep it in.”
She felt it then, for the first time since she saw Harry defeat Voldemort, hope. With a smile so big it actually hurt her cheeks, she threw herself at him, wrapping her arms around his neck and crushing her mouth to his. She pulled away quickly, her excitement so intense she was practically bouncing on the spot.
“You really think that could work? And you’d really teach me?” She asked him eagerly.
“I don’t see why it wouldn’t work.” He shrugged. “Plus, if these are the types of thanks I’ll be getting” he smirked at her “I’ll teach you anything love.” Hermione had to laugh; her heart hadn’t felt so light in months. There was a glimmer of hope in her future, finally.