Author's Note: Are you proud of Celtic? This update was uber fast to make up for the delay in the last one. As ever, enjoy!
There were some things that Draco would never understand. As he followed his mother down the long hallway that led to her apartments he knew one thing for sure, he would never understand her. He would never comprehend how a woman like Narcissa Black metamorphosed into a woman such as Narcissa Malfoy. They were polar opposites of each other. Could human nature really change so greatly within one being?
His mother’s parlor was a decent sized room that branched into her inner apartments. As the Malfoy Manse was a castle of the medieval construction, it held true to the basics of such a building. Her apartments would have belonged to the great lady of the house when the castle had held people of noble birth. Draco’s father, however, probably was under the impression Malfoys of noble birth still resided within its walls. Draco had his own wing of the castle to himself, as did his father. Family gatherings weren’t frequent within these walls.
Narcissa delicately settled into a settee, but Draco did not take the vacant seat next to her, choosing instead to pace the floor before the hearth. There was a moment of silence as he walked back and forth and Narcissa fidgeted with the material of her robe. Draco was mulling over the repercussions for returning home. He would have to confront his father tomorrow. He wondered how his father and mother were at all compatible. What was it that evoked such steadfastness in her?
A few years ago Draco had stumbled across a neglected diary in one of the rooms in his mother’s hallway of the manse. The pages had been tipped with yellow and the cover was water damaged. It screamed of age when he opened it. Inside he had found writing in his mother’s hand from when she had been his age. That diary was the only way he had had to come to know the people his parents were. He learned what they had been like when they themselves were in Hogwarts and whom they had hated or who had followed them around adoringly. The words of his mother from back then were very different from her words now. She had seemed almost pixie-like in that diary. She cared about nothing. She had been shallow and cruel. She believed she was beautiful. She believed she deserved everything life had to give her. When he turned to look at the small, frail creature sitting before him he wondered, ‘who is this person?’ Where had she come from?
“I should call Lacy and Huey to take care of,” she stopped and sniffed, “Evie.”
Draco was shocked to realize that he hadn’t even known their house elves had names. Of course they would have names, he had just never taken the moment to even consider they were alive. “Evie was the one in the library?” he asked.
His mother nodded. Her face was cold and smooth; not one single tear. “She was my favorite,” she admitted in a whisper. The knowledge shocked him. There was compassion in this house. His mother had not only known their names, but had been close enough with them to feel attachment towards them.
“You can deal with that later,” Draco said as he turned to the hearth. “We have more pressing matters at hand.” Draco turned from the mantle to face his mother. “What were you doing with a Latin dictionary?”
“I was looking up something,” she replied. She now had a lace-edged handkerchief clutched in her hand. She was tearing at it as if it would give way to pieces in her grip.
“Mother, please don’t be coy with me. What was so important that you risked father’s library?”
“I overheard something he said to that Gustave creature and I needed to know what it was,” she shivered as she mentioned Gustave’s name.
“What was it you overheard?” Draco asked, trying to convey patience in his voice, which he did not feel.
“Something horrible,” she whispered. “Something very horrible.”
Draco took a deep breath and moved closer to the woman. “Mother, please, I can’t help you if you don’t tell me.”
She raised large eyes to his and sighed. “My son, there is nothing you can do.”
Draco shook his head and walked past her to a gold tray that sat on a table in the corner. He poured himself a glass of the dark fruit juice from the pitcher. “He doesn’t want me here,” he said as he raised the glass to his lips.
“But I do,” Narcissa said.
“I shouldn’t be surprised,” Draco said as he took another sip. “He never did.”
“Your father loves you,” Narcissa instantly rebutted.
Draco laughed sharply. “My father does not love. He feels no such emotion. No Malfoy does.” He set his goblet down with a loud clink of glass on glass. His mother said nothing. “Why did you call me home? I never come back here for the holidays.” In fact, it wasn’t just that he ‘didn’t’ come back, he didn’t even ‘want’ to. He did not want to even when school wasn’t in session.
“I missed you,” she replied feebly.
“It’s more than that. I came all this way and now you need to tell me, truthfully, what it is that was so pressing that you called me home from school, which in seven years you have never done.”
Narcissa’s gaze fell to her lap where she was now fidgeting with the black robe she was wearing. “I told you, something terrible is happening.”
Draco lost his patience. “I’m exhausted. I’m going to my room for the night. I suggest you stay here: away from him. I’ll stay long enough to find out what is going on and then I am leaving.” As he opened the door a small squeak startled him. A small house elf scuttled through the doorway.
“Pardon Lacy, Master,” the female bobbed a curtsy.
He looked back at his mother with a raised eyebrow. She beckoned the little creature to her.
“Lacy, please go find Evie,” he heard his mother command as he exited the room.
“Evie? Lacy saw her in the kitchens before dinner Madam. Lacy saw her, she was-”
“She’s dead, Lacy. Please go find her.”
“That bloody fool,” Lucius stormed. “That good-for-nothing pup!”
Gustave laughed from where he was sprawled out, his body encompassing the entirety of the settee. A toothpick dangled above his three chins. “He’s your son, Lucius.”
“He’s a disobedient whelp!” Lucius supplied. “The Dark Lord would never tolerate such behavior.” Lucius picked up a glass vial in such a hurry that it shattered in his grasp. Blood trickled from between his fingers. He grabbed the tablecloth with an irritated growl and held it to the gashes.
“You said your son has not yet been initiated,” Gustave raised an eyebrow as he popped a plump plum into the cavernous depths of his mouth.
“It won’t be long now; especially as our plan comes to fruition. The Dark Lord will be practically begging for his service. And mine,” Lucius threw the tablecloth onto the ground and kicked it beneath the table as he reached for a second vial.
“If, and only if, the plan ever comes to fruition. You’ve yet to find a way to spread them,” Gustave looked about as Lucius turned his back and with a shrug, he spat a wad of saliva and seed over the side of the couch.
“All we need is a subject, Gustave. Just one ignorant fool who can take the disease some place where it can find as many victims as it wishes. Somewhere where it can cause catastrophic damage.”
A small smile creased Gustave’s face. “A place like Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry?”
Lucius froze where he stood. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Right under that mudblood lover’s nose; right under the Ministry of Magic’s nose. “They won’t even know what hit them, and by the time they do, it will be far too late for it to matter. It’s absolutely perfect.” Lucius settled in the chair across from Gustave’s bulk, raising a goblet with a curiously scented liquid swirling in its depths to his mouth. “Tell me again how the creatures work.”
Gustave smiled. “The virus is of the blood variety. It can only be contracted through the exchange of fluids. It leeches onto magic and uses the energy to suck its host’s body dry. Symptoms include sporadic bursts of uncontrollable magic through the host’s body, external bleeding, vomiting, fever, dehydration, and ultimately death. Pureblooded individuals are immune to the virus, as are muggles. The virus only works when there is a concentration of magic in the blood to be removed. Muggles have no magic to feel the effects and purebloods have no human aspects for the virus to attack. Anyone can be a carrier, but only halfbloods and mudbloods will feel the effects. The disease has three stages. Once stage three has been reached, it will be incurable.”
“And how long will it take the victims to reach the third stage?” Lucius’ eyes sparkled as he sat forward.
“It depends on the individual and the concentration of magic in their blood,” Gustave removed the toothpick from his mouth and moved to sit forward as well in an obtrusive rolling motion. “The less magic in the blood, the quicker the death will be.”
Lucius sat back with a satisfied smirk. “We’ll infect Draco and he will unknowingly spread the disease throughout the school. It’s flawless.”
“From what I’ve witnessed of your darling baby boy, I highly doubt he will allow himself to be injected with the virus,” Gustave noted.
“Leave that to me. He won’t have a choice. In fact, he won’t even know.”
“Well, we’re all packed.”
Hermione let the book she was reading drop into her lap. She forced her face to remain expressionless and her voice impassive as she said, “Oh, well, have a happy Christmas.”
Ginny sighed and stepped through the portrait into the Head’s common room, her arms crossed against her chest. “You’re moping,” she noted.
Hermione shook her head. “No, I most certainly am not.”
Ginny laughed in mocking disbelief and sat down in the adjacent arm chair. “You’re staying here all week? Alone?”
Hermione sighed. “I have Crookshanks.”
Ginny’s eyebrow quirked. “And he’s good for what exactly? Making sure you aren’t attacked by rabid mice while the castle is mostly deserted?” Hermione didn’t reply. Ginny rose to her feet. “I’m staying.”
“You can’t skip out on Christmas with your family,” Hermione protested. “Especially with your family.”
“Have you told Ron you’re planning on staying here alone for an entire week?”
Hermione’s silence was answer enough.
“Exactly what I thought. You know as well as I do that the second he finds out he’ll be back here. Therefore, because I have eyes in my head and have seen the way you’ve behaved towards him since the beginning of this year and because I know if I’m here we can convince him not to be, I am staying.”
“All right,” Hermione proclaimed in defeat. She noticed the trunk next to the portrait. “I take it now is when you go inform them?”
Ginny threw her hair over her shoulder. “They’re leaving any minute.” She headed towards the portrait then stopped. “Come with me.”
Hermione groaned as she pushed herself up off the couch. “Fine. But I’m hiding around the hallway corner or a suit of armor.”
“Fine, fine.” Ginny said as she took her friend’s hand and stepped into the hallway. “By the way, I’m staying in your common room with you. There’s no way I’m staying by myself in the Gryffindor Tower.”
“Who’s the big tough girl now?” Hermione smiled.
They traveled in silence to the entrance of the Grand Hall. As they came into earshot, the voices of Harry and Ron reached them. Hermione ducked into an alcove where she was able to peak around the corner just enough to see what happened as Ginny continued on into view.
“Ginny! Merlin where have you been? We’ve got to be in Hogsmeade to catch the train in fifteen minutes. Mum will murder me if we miss that thing.”
“Ron,” Ginny leaned against the wall. “Tell Mum and Dad that I love them. I’m staying here for the week.”
Ron was so caught up in ushering them out the door that at first he didn’t hear her words. “All right Ginny. That’s fine. Get your trunk over here.”
Harry, however, stepped forward with concern apparent on his face. “You can’t stay here all by yourself for a week, Gin.”
“I’m staying with Hermione,” she said in a low voice out of the corner of her mouth.
“Can I stay too?” Harry shot back and he turned back to his best mate, who had just realized what his sister had said.
“You are NOT staying here alone for the week!”
“Why? You don’t want to spend a week with my big brother?” she whispered back.
Harry glared at her as Ron stormed over, preventing them from continuing. “If you are not on that train when it reaches King’s Cross Mum will have my head for Christmas dinner!”
Ginny rolled her eyes at her big brother. “You’re completely over reacting,” she informed him.
Ron’s mouth dropped. “I,” he fumbled “am most certainly NOT!”
Ginny sighed and put two fingers to her temples, rubbing firmly. “Stop yelling. You’re giving me a headache.,” she said in a startlingly calm contrast to Ron.
“YOU HAVE A HEADACHE? You’re worried about your HEADACHE when you just casually waltzed up to me and announced you were staying in a deserted castle ALONE for an ENTIRE WEEK and skipping out on the family Christmas?!”
“I’m staying here with Hermione. Shut up, Ron.” Ginny’s hands were on her hips.
Ron stopped rampaging. He stared at his sister as he processed this new information. “Hermione is staying here alone for Christmas?”
“No,” Ginny corrected. “I’m staying with her.”
“She was invited to come with us,” Harry pointed out. “Mrs. Weasley invited her at the train station at the beginning of the year.”
Ginny glared venomously at Harry. “Well for obvious reasons she has chosen to stay behind,” she replied in a near growl, her eyes on Harry’s: that thickheaded numbskull.
“I’m not letting both of you stay here alone,” Ron declared.
“You don’t have a choice,” Ginny informed him.
“Yes. I do. I have the biggest choice as you are my sister and she is my-” he stopped as he tried to find a word.
“That’s what I thought. The only thing you are right now is her date to the ball and that’s it. And that is entirely your fault in my opinion.”
Ron’s cheeks were aflame. Harry stepped between the two. “Perhaps it is a good idea if she stays here for the week. As long as you are here with her,” he supplied.
“What?! You’re on her side?!”
“Listen to me, mate,” Harry turned to Ron, who looked about ready to explode. “She needs a break. I hate to say it, but she needs a break from you-” Ron’s mouth opened and Harry quickly added, “-and me.” He turned to Ginny. “I think a week with just Ginny might help her open up to us again.”
Ginny couldn’t help herself and added; “If you hadn’t been positively hovering about her every second of the day since she accepted your invitation to the ball you wouldn’t be in this situation.”
Ron dove towards his sister and Harry’s outstretched arm stopped him. “Every second she spends with me is one she doesn’t spend with Malfoy!”
“We have to leave, Ron. We’ll miss the train and if none of us come home your Mum will be positively furious.”
Ron stopped. “Is Malfoy here too?” His eyes glittered with hate.
For a moment Ginny considered telling him he was just to get him riled up again. “Malfoy left this morning. He won’t be back till the end of the week. I’m moving into the common room with her, so you don’t have to worry about either of us being alone. I promise we’ll use the buddy system and eat all our veggies while you’re gone and do all our homework before going to bed nice and early.”
Ron bit back a retort and shrugged away from Harry’s grasp. “Fine. I’ll make up some excuse to tell Mum.”
A broad smile spread across Ginny’s face as she leapt at her brother in a hug. “Thank you!”
Ron pushed her away. “Yeah, whatever,” and went for his suitcases. “Is she going to come say goodbye?”
Ginny stopped. “Erm. She’s… in the library.”
“Figures,” Ron sighed. “I’ll see you at the end of the week.”
As the boys made their way out the door Harry paused and turned to look over his shoulder. “Ginny!” The redhead stopped and turned, looking at him with a questioning expression in her eyes. “Take care of her.”
Ginny smiled and waved then turned and skittered around the corner and out of sight. Hermione grabbed her as she ran past. “Thank you,” she said.
Ginny slipped her arm through Hermione’s and pulled her down the hall. “You can thank me by telling me what exactly it is you do with this wicked boy in your common room all alone.” Hermione made a noise of disapproval and Ginny laughed. “If you expect me to start growing keen on the boy, then expect me to start teasing and prodding you. There is no other way.”
Hermione sighed. “There was one instance… well maybe two.”
Ginny’s mouth dropped and she stopped walking. “Merlin, I was joking. You mean… you really do have …”things”… to tell me along those lines?”
Hermione blushed. “Will it help you learn to like him?”
“I doubt anything could make me learn to-”
Hermione cut her off. “Accept him? Accept that I may like him?”
Ginny sighed. “I guess we’ll find out, won’t we?”
Everything was black. The room he was in was black. The space before him, and behind him, was as black as night. He felt heavy. Mind, body, and soul; heavy. He knew but one thing: he had to find her. He set off into the blackness and in a matter of moments found himself at the entrance to their common room. He flew through the portrait and stood immobile in the center of the room.
“Draco,” Hermione’s voice beckoned from the darkness. He could only see spots of dark and the shapes of furniture, which were even darker. He tentatively picked his way across the room. “Draco,” her voice moaned in pain.
He made his way around the couch before the fireplace and as he neared the stairs, his foot made contact with something. The fire suddenly flared into brilliance and he looked down to find a bloody mess at his feet.
Hermione was sprawled on her back, her hair about her face and blood trickling out of the corner of her mouth. She tried to speak as her eyes met his, except nothing but violent coughing came out. He dropped to his knees and reached for her hand. Her fingers were tangled through a bunch of ribbons which appeared to have been white at one time, but were now streaked with crimson. Attached to these ribbons was a pair of pointe shoes, blood trickling from her hand and over the toes. He tried to pry her fingers away from the ribbons and she screamed, a second stream of blood trickling over her lip.
He slid his hands beneath her neck and pulled her up on his lap. “Merlin, Hermione,” he breathed. His hands were groping at her face, trying to wipe the blood away. “Please. Talk to me. Say something. Anything.”
Her mouth opened and closed but sound refused to emit. Slowly her body became heavy in his grasp and her eyes shut, her head drifting limply to the side. Suddenly she vanished. The room was lit as if it was a normal evening. A fire crackled merrily in the fireplace. He slowly rose from his knees, his eyes riveted on the spot she had just been laying. There was no blood; no sign she had ever been there.
He raised his hands to his face, and then ran them through his hair. When he dropped them he noticed a cold, wet, feeling and looked down to find red streaming between his fingers. Startled, he clenched and unclenched his fist and raised it only to find as he blinked the feeling and the color was gone.
“Malfoy!” a man’s voice beckoned from upstairs.
Draco rushed up the stairs, taking them two at a time, to find once he reached the end there was an infinite amount of doors and a foreign hallway that stretched on as far as he could see.
“Draco!” he heard her call, her voice pleading.
“Malfoy!” This time the male’s voice dripped with anger and shock. Draco started down the hallway at a run. What door? What door did he pick?
“Malfoy, no! Leave her!”
Draco stopped. There was no choice. The voices were coming from all the doors. He turned to face the closest one and took a deep breath. He didn’t know what he would find on the other side.
“Draco, please! Oh, please! Let him go! Draco!”
“I swear on my parents’ graves, Malfoy, if you don’t let her go I will kill you.”
“Tell them Draco!” This last cry ended in a shriek. Draco hurtled towards the door before his resolve could disappear on him. Behind the door lay a scene that stopped him cold. He saw himself on the floor, Hermione in his arms, and Harry across from them with his wand pointed at them. Behind Harry, a female body with long hair splayed about them lay motionless.
“Draco,” Hermione sobbed, clutching at his shirt. “Tell them,” her voice cracked. It was but a hoarse whisper.
“Hermione.” He watched himself in shock. His face was streaked with blood and his hair hung limp in his eyes; eyes that never left the brunette’s who hung limply in his arms. “Please don’t leave me.” He was surprised at the sound of his own voice. It was hoarse as well. It was full of so much pain.
“Malfoy,” Harry was nervous. He was anxiously shifting his weight from foot to foot and the hand holding his wand was shaking. “I didn’t want to believe it.”
“Believe it!” Draco’s self cried. He was horrified to see tears creeping down his own cheeks. He had to get out of this room. He turned to go back through the door, but the door was gone.
“It just isn’t possible!” Harry screamed at him.
“You’ve seen them! You’ve watched it all happen, Potter! Damnit! She’s getting weaker!”
Something grabbed him mid-stomach and he had the odd sensation of being ripped backwards. The room disappeared and he found himself in blinding darkness once again. He carefully began to pick his way through the blackness. His foot hit something hard, and after groping about he deduced that he had stumbled across a staircase.
At the top of this staircase was another dark hallway, but this hallway had a definitive end: a door. He gently pushed the door open and stepped inside, closing it behind him once more; closing himself in the dark space. Now he could hear a soft sobbing as he stepped farther into the darkness. It was Hermione.
He reached down until his fingers grazed the cold side of something that felt ceramic, a bathtub, and by the sound that reached his ears he knew she was perched on the edge of it. He slid to the ground before her as his hands groped blindly until they found her arm, and then her shoulder, and slowly her face wet with tears.
“Tell me,” he said softly. It was the only prompt she needed before collapsing in violent tears. He took her by the shoulders and pulled her to him as he fell back against the sink base and she settled against his chest, her face tucked into his neck, her tears sliding coldly beneath his collar.
“Catch me, Draco,” she whispered into his shirt. “Catch me before I’m gone,” and she vanished.
Draco shook his head. Something wasn’t right. Something wasn’t-
“I was the prima ballerina.” She was standing before him, her hair wet and covering her face. Her back was hunched. A white nightgown trailed about her feet. There was a small trickle of red making it’s way down her cheek from her eye. She was crying blood.
He took a step away from her and she was gone again.
“He was the only one who supported me. He put a white rose in my hair that morning.” She was right behind him. He whirled but there was nothing there.
“It had been the marvel of my studio, the arabesque that I could execute.” There was two of her now. They spoke in unison in a voice that grated against his ears. One stood to his left and one to his right.
“Catch me, Draco,” a third said from behind him. “Catch me, Draco,” they all chanted together. “Catch me, Draco.”
Suddenly they all disappeared and just as quickly as they had gone, he felt the light pressure of hands on his shoulders. Her voice whispered in his ear, “Catch me, Draco. I’m falling.”
Draco sat upright with a gasp, his blanket pooling around his torso. His breath came in pants and his hand immediately reached to his chest where a sharp pain was beating. It was just a dream, he told himself. It was just a dream.
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