Chapter 19 : Of the Death of a Loved One and Isabella the Unfortunate
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This was it. This was the moment she had been unknowingly yearning for all along. This was the place where she found Eden: his arms.
Draco’s sheets were not silk, they were not 600 thread count Egyptian cloth. They were black as midnight. They were cool and slippery against her back. They were wound around her legs.
Draco’s skin was luminescent in the dark. He was not white, he wasn’t really even a color. He was transparent and made up more of a glow than a solid shade. As she trailed her fingers down his chest and over his navel she tried to decide on the hue of his skin, but could not. He caught her fingers as they neared the hem of his black slacks, which had remained on his body the entire time.
“Don’t do that,” he scolded.
She smiled slightly. “Are you ticklish?”
He scowled at her as his fingers tightened around hers. “Of course not.”
She shook her head. “Despite the fact that I can’t imagine the great Malfoy Dragon having such a weakness, I think you are.”
“Try to find out and I will eat you like the dragon I am,” he grinned.
She stilled, allowing her head to fall onto his chest. His arms tightened around her. “This is a little disorientating,” she admitted softly.
“I like it,” he said.
“You like me being disorientated?”
“I like you here in my arms in my bed with my sheets wound around you and your hair all over my pillows and that adorable shy smile on your face,” he said as he tugged her dress straps back over her shoulders.
Hermione blushed profusely. “Oh,” she said meekly.
He shifted, her head falling off his chest and onto the bed. He loomed over her, his bangs falling across his eyes. “If anyone should be disoriented its me,” he said. “You’re everything I’ve been taught to hate and yet I find myself desiring nothing more than your company or contact between our skins. I find this coiling beast in the pits of my stomach that unfurls angrily any time other men walk around you or look at you. Especially that redhead git,” he turned away from her, seemingly entranced by their reflections in his mirror.
She placed a hand on his cheek and turned his face back to hers. “We must be careful and not let anyone see us together,” she warned him. “Your describing dangerous things.”
“Nothing could be more dangerous than this,” he whispered into her lips.
“Promise me, Draco,” she said.
“I promise you,” he captured her lips again. After a moment he added, “What am I promising?”
She moaned softly. “Promise me you won’t let anyone see us. They won’t accept us. They won’t understand.”
“I promise,” he sighed.
Hermione awoke the next morning alone in Draco’s bed. His door was open and the sounds of water running echoed to her from down the hall. She went to turn over and found her head lurched with the motion. She instantly felt as if she was going to throw up.
As she struggled into a sitting position, her head hanging over the edge of the bed, Draco strode back into the room, a towel wound around his lower half and water dripping from the ends of his hair. “Are you alright?” he asked, concern lacing his tone.
She pushed her hair from her face as she stood. “Yah,” she said in a vague tone. “I just feel a little funny. I’m sure after I eat something I will be fine.”
Draco nodded, quelling the overprotective urge that surged through him as she staggered to the door and then into her own room.
As she closed the door behind her the urge to retch became unbearable and she vomited all over the floor. She slid down the door, reaching for her wand and tipping it off the end of the bureau as she met the ground. She waved it shakily, the mess disappearing instantly. She felt horrid. Getting dressed in her school uniform was a battle that she just barely won. Getting down to the Great Hall to eat a breakfast she could not imagine eating was a war she almost lost. By the time she sat down at the table she was seeing double. She picked up what she thought was a fork, splitting her palm wide open by the sharp blade of a knife. She watched in mild fascination as the red liquid gushed from her palm, but she was not conscious of anything around her.
“Dear Merlin she’s sliced open her palm!” someone yelled.
“She looks like she’s going to faint!” that was Ginny.
“Grab her!” Harry commanded.
Someone reached for her and there was a mumbled curse. “Damnit! She’s still holding the knife!”
“Get it out of her hands then,” Ginny impatiently instructed.
The edges of Hermione’s vision was going dark.
“What’s going on?” she heard Draco.
“None of your business, Malfoy,” she recognized this voice as Colin Creevy.
“You’re bleeding, Creevy,” Draco informed him.
“It doesn’t matter. I’ll take her down to the infirmary.” She was swept off her feet in an instant. The joggling motion sparked the familiar nauseous urge in her stomach and, unable to control it in her state, she threw up again. She was unconscious the moment after.
“What happened to her?”
“Madame Pomfrey said its the flu.”
“You think she caught it from Malfoy?”
“That’s the obvious choice.”
“But why was she so disorientated? That’s not characteristic of just a bout of the flu,” Harry’s deep voice was laced with concern.
“I don’t know, Harry,” Ginny responded in a tight whisper. “Malfoy was really out of it.”
The sheets on this bed were scratchy. She was freezing. The air was light; clean smelling. Through her closed eyelids she could see white.
“But what about Colin?” Ginny asked. “He was fine until he got here. Madame Pomfrey healed his hand, he should be as good as new.”
“He doesn’t look good, does he?” Harry answered vaguely.
What was wrong with Colin? She tightened her hands into fists, an uncomfortable pulling resulting in her left palm. She groaned and Ginny’s cold hands were instantly on her face.
“Hermione! You’re awake! Merlin you gave us a scare!”
Hermione’s eye blinked open, the afternoon light pooling in through the windows burning her retinas. She gave another small whimper of discomfort as she tried to assess the damages. It took a moment for her eyes to focus on the infirmary bed hangings that surrounded her.
“Madame Pomfrey healed your hand right up, but she thinks you’ve caught the flu. So much for never getting sick,” Ginny smiled.
“I never get sick,” she protested. “I’m not sick.”
“Whatever you say, Hermione,” Ginny rolled her eyes. “You were so out of it this morning that you split your hand open without realizing it and then threw up all over Colin Creevy and Harry here and then passed out.”
Hermione looked to Harry with an apologetic expression and he waved his hand in dismissal. “What about Ron?” she croaked.
Ginny and Harry looked sufficiently uncomfortable for a moment before Harry said, “He said he and Malfoy got into it last night. He tore up our dorm room; shattered a lamp and almost broke the tiling in the bathroom sink. He wouldn’t give details but he painted you a bunch of nasty colors and then told me I was not allowed to talk about you to him or around him. He didn’t even bother coming down to breakfast this morning. He’s furious with you. What happened between him and Malfoy last night?”
Ginny, who exhibited a bit more tact than Harry did, changed the subject. “What happened last night? Were you out in the cold air? Something must have happened to trigger the flu bug.” Little did she know that the subject of what had happened last night was no better then the one to do with Draco and Ron.
Hermione tried to push herself into a sitting position. “Where’s Draco?”
“No idea,” Ginny settled on the edge of the bed. “I saw him lurking on the other side of the Great Hall as Colin carried you down to the infirmary.”
“I’m right here,” his voice was the most soothing medicine she could ever ask for. He rushed from the infirmary door to her side, kneeling on the ground next to the bed. He took her hand. “I’m sorry it took so long for me to get here and I’m sorry I couldn’t bring you here myself.”
“Its not your fault. I understand,” she said as she allowed herself to settle back into the pillows.
“Oh look, Prince Charming has dismounted from his great white steed to grace us with his joyful presence,” Ginny sarcastically muttered as she left Hermione’s side, a bit of a smile twitching on her face.
Draco turned to Ginny and Harry, and in a very uncharacteristic moment said, “Thank you for staying with her.”
Ginny almost smiled at him. Harry frowned and crossed his arms against his chest. “Perhaps you’ll tell us what she will not. What happened between you and Ron?”
Draco, without even missing a beat, replied, “Weasley decided manners were no longer important and that it was not required to have a woman’s permission before touching them.”
“My brother did what?!” Ginny shrieked.
“Draco, please,” Hermione said in a low voice.
“Weasley confronted Hermione on the grounds during the ball and I was forced to step in.”
Harry divested this information slowly, turning his back from the bed and towards the still figure of Colin Creevy.
“Are you sure your all right? Your white as a sheet,” Draco said, concern laced throughout his words.
“I’m fine. Should you really be here?”
He ignored her. “You have a fever too,” he added as his hand softly trailed across her forehead. “Your eyes are dilated and puffy.”
“Thank you, Doctor Malfoy,” Hermione ground out. “Should you really be in here?”
“Until someone comes in and I have to hide, yes,” he replied.
“Draco, I think Hermione’s point is valid. Its not a good idea for you to be seen in here. Not if the two of you are attempting to keep it a secret that you’ve been romantic with each other.”
Draco’s head whipped around so fast Hermione imagined she heard it crack. “What did you say?” Draco said as he slowly uncoiled from the ground.
“Oh please, Draco,” Ginny waved a hand at him. “Its positively scrawled across both of your faces and the way you are looking at each other now. I’m no idiot.”
Draco took a step towards the red head. “Please, Ginny. Keep your overly perceptive mind turned away from the ideas you’ve just stated. Keep them to yourself.”
Ginny smiled. “No one would believe me anyways.”
“Draco, please, what if someone walks in?” Hermione grabbed his hand.
“Stop fretting. If anyone gets to fret it’s me.” He picked up her hand, examining her palm. “I don’t understand how this thing just suddenly manifested itself. You were fine last night.”
Harry snorted in the background.
“Shut up, Potter,” Draco shot over his shoulder.
“Madame Pomfrey thinks she’s caught the flu bug, you know, the one you so graciously exposed her to.”
“Then why hasn’t the old bat given her a healing draught? Why is she suffering in the middle of a blasted magical infirmary?”
“She hasn’t had a chance just yet with Creevy over there moaning and groaning every ten minutes,” Ginny said.
A low moan erupted from the bed across the room. Its occupant thrashed violently, the white sheets rippling as if a monster was beneath them. Madame Pomfrey rushed out of her office and Draco quickly ducked below the other side of the bed, out of Madame Pomfrey’s view.
“What’s going on?” Hermione asked after she realized her head felt far too heavy to lift from the pillow. Ginny’s expression was not helping the overwhelming feeling of foreboding that crept through her body.
“Colin is just proving my point,” Ginny said softly. She tried to keep the worry from her voice but failed.
“Merlin what is going on!?” The elderly healer’s voice rang through the high windowed room. “The boy is bleeding!” Madame Pomfrey turned and bellowed for her small assistant to come quickly. A spritely woman scuttled across the room a second before Madame Pomfrey drew the curtains around the bed shut and there was a long drawn out male scream.
Draco’s fingers tightened around Hermione’s and she scrunched her eyes tightly against the noise of the commotion.
“Well,” Ginny cleared her throat as silence began to drift across the room a few minutes later.
The curtains were abruptly pulled back and the small pixie-like woman who aided Madame Pomfrey went scuttling across the floor, one of her hands cradled against her stomach, blood trailing down her white smock and onto the floor. Behind her Madame Pomfrey was muttering; “Clumsy girl! There’s enough blood from the patient without you adding your own to the pot!”
“Blood?” Hermione squeaked.
“He cut himself on the knife you were holding this morning,” Harry offered as an explanation but Ginny shook her head.
“Madame Pomfrey healed that when he first got here; before the fever set in. This must be something different. Something Madame Pomfrey can’t heal.”
“Can’t heal?” Draco asked from his hiding spot.
“It must be magical then,” Ginny continued. “Whatever is wrong with Colin must have to do with magic or a healing spell or draught would have taken care of the problem. And whatever it is it must be something-”
“Isabel prepare the floo! We must get this boy to St. Mungo’s! I can’t stop the bleeding and his fever is far too high!”
Hermione decided her head wasn’t worth it and forced herself to sit upright. What she saw was haunting. Madame Pomfrey had left the curtains open, leaving a clear view of the teenage boy who was convulsing on the hospital bed. The sheets were splotched with red and from where Hermione sat it looked as if he was crying blood tears. He had bit his lip as he thrashed and blood was streaming over his chin and trickling down the side of his neck. His fingers were white from where he grasped the sides of the bed. His face was puce, his eyes yellow. Not a sunny yellow, or a lemon-happy-yellow, but the color of parchment after it has sat in the elements for a long time, unprotected from the damages of time. His face was sunken and his expression pained. He screamed again and blood bubbled over his lips. He convulsed one final time before lying still on the bed. He was dead before they could wheel his bed to the fireplace.
“I don’t understand what happened.”
“Everything will be okay, I promise.”
“What could have happened to him? Who could do that to someone? What’s going on Draco?” Hermione sat with her face buried in Draco’s shirt as he rocked her back and forth gently while she sobbed her heart out. He ‘shh’ed her every once in awhile and ran his fingers gently over her hair, but all she could do was hiccup in reply. There was no misery quite like this. He had been there just two hours ago. 120 minutes. 7,200 seconds. His body was probably still warm, wherever it was. Colin Creevy; dead. She just couldn’t process it. After Madame Pomfrey had pronounced him to be deceased she had distractedly given Hermione a draught and packed her safely into the arms of Draco, whom she had tripped over as she approached the bed. She hadn’t even stayed to see if it worked before rushing to call the Headmaster. Ginny, Harry, Draco, and Hermione had been sequestered for the night under the demand of the headmaster to not tell anyone what they knew. They were to wallow, alone, in their grief until a way was found to tell the school body that an otherwise healthy student had suddenly died an unusual, painful, bloody death.
Ginny, unable to stay silent and pretend everything was alright in the Gryffindor common room and still numb from the entire course of events, was wandering through the infirmary shortly after Hermione had been released into Draco’s care when she had stumbled across the small fairy-woman curled into a dark corner of the room, tears streaming down her cheeks. The redhead, emotionally unstable as it was, sank to the floor next to the healer in training and wiped the tears from her face with her fingers, trying to comfort the woman and alleviate her guilt, but there was no remedy to be found for such a wound. Guilt was a poison that ate away at one’s soul.
“Its all my fault,” Isabella sighed. “Its all my fault!”
“How is this possibly your fault?” Ginny wondered as she admired the slight woman’s fine features. She had never met the woman before tonight. Her reaction was puzzling.
“Its my fault the boy died. Me and my clumsiness!” The woman moaned in self loathing. “I always mess up! I always do! If I hadn’t sliced my fingers open on the edge of the goblet-” she held up her bandaged fingers as proof.
Ginny took the young woman’s hands in her own and leveled with her. “I used to be like, you know. It took me a long time to realize that not everything was my fault. Especially in a situation like this. You did not kill Colin Creevy. Some sort of spell or rotten magical food or something killed him, not you slicing your fingers open on his goblet.”
Isabella was comforted by the words, and looked up to the girl with a small glimmer of hope in her eyes. There was a sudden ‘POP’ that caused the two of them to glance about the room, but after not seeing any immediate danger they sunk back into their grief together. Sadness has that effect, acting as a blanket to our senses and dulling our abilities to sense danger.
“Begun it has, Master.”
The room was ornate. Silver. Wrought black iron. A desk sat at one end, a fireplace on the wall to the right. At the desk sat a sallow looking man, a small grin twitching on his face. “Tell me,” Lucius drawled to the small house elf, who was shaking like a leaf. “Who was it? Was it the mudblood Granger?”
“It was a young boy, Colin Creevy, Master.”
Lucius froze. “A young boy?” His fingers wrapped around the edge of his desk. The smile disappeared. “How did this happen? How did it skip the mudblood?”
“Excuse Jake, Master,” the house elf continued, “but Jake believes the boy was not the only sick one. There was a girl in the hospital wing too, Jake saw her,” Jake nodded as if to prove his own story was truth. “And Jake saw another woman before he came here I the infirmary and Jake saw that she was crying. She cut herself while tending to the Creevy and they shared blood. Yes, Jake thinks there are more sick people in Hogwarts.”
Lucius took his seat once again, calm coming over his face. “Of course,” he said thoughtfully. “It could not be an immediate thing and if what you say is true then it will continue to spread. Soon Hogwarts will be infested and they won’t have any idea what has hit them. I will punish my son and all those born who think they are worthy to hold the title “witch” or “wizard” who are not.” At that moment Gustave sauntered into the room. He looked from the quivering elf to Lucius and smiled.
“Good news?” he asked as he took a seat, the couch groaning beneath his weight.
“Most wonderful,” Lucius concurred as he flipped his hand, dismissing the house elf from his presence.
The house elf exited with a loud ‘POP’ as Gustave allowed a smile to cross his cheeks. “The plan is working then?”
“Everything is going well. The first death occurred today. Some boy named ‘Cheevy’ or ‘Cheasy’,” Lucius confirmed. “It will only be a matter of time before I exact my revenge.”
Gustave grinned. “In the meantime you may wish to take a peeksie outside the study door. I do believe your lady-wife has assumed a post there and has overheard many conversations such as this.”
Lucius flew to the door with a roar, throwing it open and pulling the startled woman into the room. He threw her onto the fireplace hearth where her head bounced against the stone and she lay motionless. Lucius, upon seeing the still figure stopped in his movement. He regarded her for a moment before turning from her prone figure with a look of disgust. “I’ll deal with her later when she is in a state to remember it.”
“Shall I watch over her?” The glint in Gustave’s eye was entirely unfriendly as he raked his gaze over the woman.
“No, we need to get dressed, Gustave. Very soon there will be an inquiry at the Ministry and all the important people will be beckoned forth. We must look our best.” He strode from the room, stepping across his wife’s still body as he went.
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