Chapter 18 : Conversations and Explanations
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Ok… so I wasn’t exactly speedy with this update. I’m not going to lie: I have trouble getting things done without deadlines. But once I got started with this one it was a lot of fun! There was so much stuff I wanted to put in this chapter I had to keep going back and adding things I’d forgotten. I’m still hoping I got everything in, but I guess if I didn’t it’s too late now!
Hope you enjoy this long-in-coming update and that it was worth the wait!
Disclaimer: *sings* I own you, you own me, we’re a happy family! *stops singing* Wait…that’s not how it goes…
~ ~ Draco’s POV ~ ~
Draco hadn’t seen her at breakfast, but then he had been making a point of not looking in the direction of her usual seat and he assumed she had been avoiding him as well. It wasn’t until he “accidentally” overheard her roommates discussing how Jade had never come to bed last night that he became curious – not worried, of course, just curious – as to where she could be.
His first guess was automatically the garden; it seemed to be her default hiding place. A quick check showed, however, the garden was empty except for a new set of stone steps along the far wall and he went to his first class wondering where else in the castle she knew well enough to go. Returning to the Common Room after class, he found Jade’s roommates in possession of the couch, talking in low, slightly worried voices. Wandering casually a little closer, Draco was able to pick up the words “missing”, “lost”, and “kidnapped”.
Although he highly doubted Jade had been “kidnapped”, he suspected “lost” might be a little closer to the truth. Before he sent out some first year to search the castle for a dark-haired girl with a sharp face and weird powers, he decided to check the garden one last time. Maybe she had gone there since he last looked. As he made his way down the long corridor to the garden he told himself he wanted to find her to give her a piece of his mind – yes, that was it. He wanted to tell her calmly what he had been trying to say last night: she was being unreasonable!
Draco opened the garden door and received a blast of cold air.. He pulled his robes tighter around him. Loose leaves whirled in circles around the garden and swirls of clouds did the same across the dark sky. Casting a quick glance around the garden he still didn’t see Jade. ‘Maybe she climbed a tree or something,’ he speculated, focusing on the tree in the corner, a few feet to the left of new steps. ‘That would explain the steps.’
He crossed the garden and climbed the first two steps, peering into the top of the tree.. The tree was decidedly empty. His gaze drifted across the top of the brick wall in front of him and stopped on something just showing over the edge. Draco climbed the next step and that something became fingers clinging desperately to the brick before him. Something in his mind screamed ‘Jade!’ and he flung himself forward as his arm shot out to grab her.
Jade’s hand slipped off the wall just as his fingers closed around her wrist and Draco gave a involuntary gasp as he was slammed against the wall with the force of her fall. He stuck his other arm over the wall and strained his hand down in the hopes that she could reach it. Relief flooded him as he felt her grab it. With the pull on his arms equal and his balance regained, he got his footing on the final step and pushed himself up, bringing his head above the wall.
Glancing down at Jade, he smiled wryly and asked, with only a bit of amusement, “Hello. Could you use a lift?”
It had taken more work than Draco had expected to pull Jade over the wall. Finally they had succeeded as he pulled from one side with Jade bracing herself against the other. She had been able to slowly inch her feet up the wall and now she was at the top, one leg over the edge. With a finally pull, Jade slid over the top and fell, pushing Draco down the steps with her. They crashed to the bottom and landed in a heap, Jade pressing the air unpleasantly out of Draco’s chest.
“Get off,” he managed to gasp, and she rolled to the side, collapsing with her back to the ground. When he sat up and looked over at her, he could see her eyes were closed and her breathing was shaky. It looked as though she was trying not to cry. He hoped she would succeed because he hated seeing girls cry. It made him feel annoyed and helpless, both of which were emotions he could do without.
Trying to distract her and bring her attention back to what was really important here – him – Draco demanded, “What did you think you were doing?! You could have gotten yourself killed!”
Jade’s eyes immediately popped open and, as she sat up abruptly, narrowed into angry slits. “What do you mean ‘what did I think I was doing?!’ It wasn’t like I was hanging there on purpose! Like I thought to myself, ‘it would be really fun to see how long I can hang on before I fall into a raging lake!’” Her voice was sharp and sarcastic.
Draco almost breathed a sigh of relief; this Jade he could handle; this was almost back to normal. “What were you doing over the wall in the first place?!” he shot back. “You obviously made those steps so that part was on purpose.”
“I was trying to get away from you!”
~ ~ Jade’s POV ~ ~
“I was trying to get away from you!”
Silence followed this pronouncement. Jade shut her mouth quickly, not quite believing what she had just heard herself say. It wasn’t even really true. She had climbed over the wall to think about problems in general; she hadn’t been hiding from Draco… had she? Whatever the case, it had definitely not been wise to make this about him.
“That’s ridiculous.” His voice was firm, but there was something about it that made Jade wonder if he was trying to convince himself, too.
“You betrayed me.” Jade stared at him, challenging him to deny it.
He stared back, refusing to back down. “If you’d just shut up a minute and let me explain myself, maybe you’d understand!”
Jade’s annoyance at being told to shut up was overwhelmed by her desire to hear his side of the story, so she simply continued to glare at him. When he didn’t catch his cue, she prompted, “Well… start talking.”
Draco seemed taken aback by her sudden willingness to listen and stammered for a moment. “You see I… Last night there was… It was like this: I met Snape and he answered some of my made-up questions. Then he made me walk back to his office with him and I agreed to help tutor some of the first years because I’m so good at potions, so he thanked me and gave Slytherin points!” Draco finished triumphantly.
Jade gave a little gasp of indignation, got up, and headed toward the door. I don’t have sit here and listen to him lie to me. She stomped through leaves that had blown to cover the stone path, the wind pulling at her hair.
Draco scrambled up after her and demanded, “Where are you going?!”
Jade spun around and spat, “I’m leaving. I’m not going to waste my time listening to you lie to me! I know Harry and Ron told you to back out on me, and I know you choose to turn me in! If you don’t have the decency to tell me the truth when I ask for it, then as far as I’m concerned this friendship is over!”
She turned back to the door, but Draco had crossed the garden to close the space between them. As she reached out to put a hand on the door, he grabbed her wrist, much like he had done the previous night. This time, however, there was no lightening: Jade had no power left to summon, even in her anger. “Stop running away from me!” He pulled her around to face him. “How do you know about that?”
“Why should I tell you?” hissed Jade, wishing desperately she could dump cold water over his head. She satisfied herself with wrenching out of his grip and taking a step toward the brick wall behind her. Thunder rumbled above them, but this morning Jade knew she had nothing to do with it.
“Because– because–” Draco stammered in an attempt to find a reason. Finally he sagged against the door and sighed. “Ok, I don’t know why. I’m sorry,” he muttered as he pressed his hands to his face.
The furious expression slid from Jade’s face to be replaced by one of mild curiosity. “What was that?”
He took his hands away from his face. “I said I don’t know why you should tell me.”
A tiny, slightly wicked smile crossed Jade’s pale lips, “No, the second part.”
Draco looked up from where he had been staring intently at the ground and noted her expression. At once he glared at her. “You heard what I said.”
“I don’t think I did,” she replied lightly, sounding for all the world as though she hadn’t heard what plate he had asked her to pass.
“Fine.” He sounded furious, but he rolled his eyes. “I said I’m sorry.”
“Huh?” Jade had been inspecting her fingernails and looked back at him. “Sorry, I wasn’t listening. What was that, again?”
He leaned forward to yell into her face, “I’M SORRY!”
Jade smirked. “It’s ok, I heard you the first time.”
“Argh!” Draco spun around and stalked over to the fountain in the middle of the garden. “You’re impossible.”
Jade followed him, grinning in a very self-satisfied manner. “I know. But you are too so it balances out. Now,” she sank down on the stone bench that was part of the fountain, “why don’t you tell me what really happened.”
Draco sat next to her but countered, “Why don’t you tell me what you already know, considering you seem to know everything already.” There was a hint of a sneer in his voice.
Jade smirked back, “Alright.” She took a deep breath before beginning. “Harry and Ron don’t trust you, so they told you to back out of your deal with me so I wouldn’t trust you either. They told you that if you didn’t, they would tell the whole school, including me, that your father’s in jail for being a Death Eater and then no one would trust you. Because you are terrible at following orders, you somehow thought it would be a good plan to turn me over to Snape instead.” She turned to face him, “Sound about right?”
He scowled darkly. “Not quite. The first part was close, but I didn’t turn you in to Snape!”
Jade arched her eyebrows. “Sure looked like it.”
“Well, I didn’t mean for it to work out that way!” Draco leaned back against the stone basin of the fountain behind him. “Look, here’s what happened: I was going to take a long time to meet Snape in the library, giving you more time to search. When I got there I would tell him I had overheard some kids talking – I couldn’t tell who it was – saying that they were going to break into his office. Then, when he headed back to his office to catch them, I was going to take a short cut through some secret passages I know and beat him back. I’d warn you that I had accidentally given Snape the impression someone was in his office and he was coming back to check, and you’d get out of there. You may or may not have had time to find the page, but you’d think I couldn’t handle helping with so important a plan,” Draco made a face at the thought of looking inept. “You’d tell the ‘Golden Boys’ that you couldn’t trust me to help with anymore plans and they would be satisfied.” He made another displeased face.
“Unfortunately,” continued Draco, “it didn’t work out that way. When I told Snape someone was going to break into his office, he insisted on me accompanying him back to his office to see. I don’t know if he suspected I was involved, or if he just wanted me to see his triumph in catching the intruder. Whatever it was, I didn’t have the chance to sneak back and warn you so…you got caught.”
Jade frowned slightly. “I think I understand, except…why couldn’t you just back out like Ron and Harry said? Why come up with this whole elaborate scheme?”
Draco dragged the toe of his finely-polished shoe in circles in the dirt as he thought. Finally he answered, “I guess I’d rather look bad at executing plans than too scared to go through with it in the first place. Besides, we’d made an agreement that I’d help you and Malfoys always keep their word.”
“That and you’d do anything to avoid doing what Harry and Ron told you to do.”
He gave a wry smile. “Pretty much.” They sat in silence for a minute, unsure of what came next, but the tension had trickled out of the air. Abruptly Draco asked, “How do you know Potter and Weasel anyway? Why are they out trying to protect a Slytherin?”
“Do you remember when I told you I accidentally discovered Diagon Alley?” Draco nodded. “Well, Harry and Ron discovered me wandering around and – after knocking me out – took me to Dumbledore to find out what to do.”
“Why would they do that? Wouldn’t they just think you were a muggle that got in by mistake?”
“When Harry did the spell that knocked me out, I tried to defend myself. I put up a shield of water. The spell went right through, but it was enough to show them I had some sort of magic. They told me about Hogwarts and, after I was sorted, Harry, Ron, and Hermione showed me around.”
“I can’t believe they would still talk to you after you were put in Slytherin!” He paused. “They do know, right?”
“Of course they know! Don’t be ridiculous. And they wouldn’t suddenly dislike me just because I was put in a certain House! It doesn’t make me a different person. Although,” Jade amended, “they want the Sorting Hat to move me to Gryffindor as its favor to me.” This was as close to the truth as she felt he could handle.
Draco scowled. “They know about that, too?”
Jade nodded. “There’s another part to the Sorting Hat’s deal that I didn’t tell you about. In addition to finding out about my past, I’m suppose to ‘unite the Houses,’” she quoted the Hat.
“What?!” Draco exclaimed in outrage. “What kind of nonsense is that?” His scowl deepened. “I bet this is all Dumbledore and another one of his stupid ‘House unity’ ploys.”
Jade shrugged, “I don’t know. I think it was all the Hat’s idea. How am I supposed to accomplish that anyway?”
“You can’t,” he told her flatly. “I’ll never be friends with a Gryffindor, and I’m sure every other Slytherin will agree with you. It’s impossible. But don’t worry about it; the Hat’s ‘favor’ can’t be that great. You don’t want to change Houses so what else could it do for you?”
Jade didn’t answer and the conversation lapsed into silence. The wind howled over the walls of the garden and she could hear waves crashing against the garden wall. Something was nagging at the back of her mind. It took her a minute before she remembered what it was. “So,” she remarked casually, “Harry and Ron are convinced that because your dad’s a Death Eater, you will be, too.” The question was left unasked, but it was clearly there. Jade added, “I told them not to assume things about people based on their parents.”
Draco scoffed, “Quite right.” After a pause he added, more seriously, “I certainly don’t want to go into the servitude of anyone. Frankly, I don’t know how Father can stand it. He’s always told me that Malfoys serve no one; people serve us. And did you know,” he continued in a quieter voice, as though someone might be trying to listen, “the Dark Lord isn’t even a pureblood? It’s true!” His voice dropped to barely above a whisper. “Most of his followers don’t even know, and the ones that do ignore it, but I can’t. How can he speak of the superiority of purebloods and call for our loyalty when he himself is a halfblood?”
Draco broke eye contact with Jade and stared over the brick wall in front of them as lightening flashed through the sky. “But,” he continued, speaking in a normal voice once more, “I probably won’t have a choice. It has always been assumed that I would follow Father’s path. Father expected me to, or he did before…” He broke off. “Now I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Jade didn’t know how to respond. She wanted to tell Draco she could sympathize: she would hate knowing she didn’t have the final say over her future. But she had never been good at putting her feeling into words. It was a skill of which, up until recently, she had had little need. Now all she could do was nod encouragingly and hope that everything would turn out alright.
Finally Draco asked, “How did it go last night?”
Jade gave a sigh, “Unexpected. That’s the only way to describe it.”
“What exactly does that mean? Did you find the page?”
“I found it alright,” murmured Jade. Suddenly recalling she had put the page in her robes last night, she reached into her pocket and pulled out the folded paper. “Here,” she offered it to Draco, “just read it.”
Draco took the worn page, unfolded it, and began to study it. After a second, he glanced sharply up at Jade. “Does this say what I think it says? Snape’s your uncle?”
Jade nodded, staring not at Draco but the opposing brick wall.
“No. Bloody. Way.”
Jade gave an undignified snort at his reaction.
“No wonder he had the page. He wouldn’t want anyone to learn this!”
“Excuse me?” Jade turned to face him.
Draco raised a hand in defense, “I’m just saying… I can’t imagine you’d want this around the school either.” Suddenly his eyes widened. “How’d Snape react when he caught you? What’d he say? How’d he explain it?”
Jade gave a short laugh at the excited and expectant look on the blonde boy’s face. “He wasn’t too pleased: I can tell you that much.”
“Did he say you could tell people?”
“No,” Jade shrugged, “but it’s my information, too. I’m not going to tell that many people, though. Just you and–” She broke off, thinking better of telling Draco who else would be included in the secret. “–a couple others.”
Her attempted cover-up didn’t succeed, however, as a frown creased his forehead. “I don’t know how you can associate with those Gryffindors, especially now after their scummy trick.”
“Oh, I’ll be having words with them about that, don’t worry.”
It was Draco’s turn to laugh. “Good luck with that. Let me know how it goes.” He continued with his questions, “So what exactly did Snape say? Why were you living in an orphanage if you had family? Did he not want you?”
“No! Of course not!” Jade glared at him. “It’s like this…” She proceed to explain what Snape had told her the previous night, skipping over how he believed he had caused her parents’ deaths. Mentioning the acquisition of her powers and the unsuccessful search for her, she finished, “Imagine his surprise when I showed up in his office a few nights ago.”
“Yeah…” Draco was quiet for a few moments, absorbing what he had just been told. Finally he asked, “So, is Snape going to take care of you now?”
“What are you talking about? I can take care of myself! I’ve never needed looking-after.”
“I don’t mean at school; I mean during the holiday. You know we go home over the summer, don’t you?”
Jade froze. “We…we have to leave?”
“Yeah,” Draco frowned, “I guess I assumed you knew that. So are you going back to that orphanage or is Snape going to take you?”
Jade blinked several times. Her mind was inexplicably blank. “I don’t know. I had thought we lived here permanently, but I guess it makes sense other people would want to go home to see their families. But I don’t think,” she added slowly, “Snape wants anything to do with me. It never even crossed my mind that I would…live with him or anything.”
“But you are related,” pointed out Draco. “He’s family, so he would have custody of you if he wanted.”
Jade shook her head, a distant look in her eyes, as she emphasized, “Wanted being the key word here. He didn’t look like he ever wanted to see me again, let alone want custody of me.”
Draco shrugged, “You never know what could happen by the end of the year. Just suck up to him a lot and maybe he’ll like you. You are a Slytherin.”
“He’s already made it clear I won’t get any special treatment,” corrected Jade. “He gave me detention for breaking into his office.”
“Don’t worry about it too much, Snape takes any chance he can get to give detentions. He just wants an excuse to get out of the work he doesn’t like. You’ll probably be cleaning cauldrons or labeling potions or something.”
“How will I know when my detention is?”
“Oh, he’ll send you a note with the time and place on it. You’ll probably get it some night at dinner. And speaking of food,” Draco stretched and rose from the stone bench, “I have the feeling we’re late for lunch, if we’ll even make it.”
Jade stood, too, and together they headed toward the garden door. “Maybe I’ll be able to catch Ron and Harry after lunch,” Jade remarked, more to herself than to Draco.
Draco shook his head, “I can’t believe you’re still talking to them.” Stopping before the door, he turn to Jade expectantly.
Ignoring his comment, Jade realized Draco was waiting for her to open the door. A little embarrassed, she admitted, “I can’t really open it right now. All my power’s used up for the moment.”
“What?” Draco gave her a puzzled look. “Used up?”
“It’s like an inner strength, sort of. When I’ve overexerted myself I have nothing left for a while until it builds back up again. I’ll be back to normal in a day or so.”
“Oh. So should I just blast it down?”
“Can you fix it again once we’re out?”
“Then go ahead. That’s essentially what I do anyway.”
Draco took out his wand, pointed at the door, and shouted “Reducto!” The stone door exploded from its frame, fragments flying into the hallway beyond. Jade and Draco stepped through the vacated doorway and, once through, Draco ordered, “Reparo.” The stone reformed, leaving a complete door. After admiring his work for a moment, Draco followed Jade toward the Great Hall.
So there. The second longest chapter yet! And the next chapter was originally planned to be the second half of this one! (Or as much as I make plans, anyway.) Oh well, I hope this one was satisfying. If it was and you’d be willing to drop me a note, even if just to say “Update quicker, fool!” it’s always appreciated. You drive the guilt home, just like a stake in a vampire’s chest. A wooden stake, that is, not the meat kind of stake…but you knew what I meant…yeah.
Happy Holidays to everyone! Have a very merry whatever you celebrate!
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by Horton Trask