Chapter 32 : Check Mate
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Draco sat across from Harry, their chess pieces moving as they commanded. The game had gone on for awhile, and it almost looked like Harry was going to win this time. Hermione sat beside Ginny, both of them watching and wondering. Both boys had an intense look of concentration, and one by one each side of the board began to line up with the fallen pieces.
“Checkmate,” Harry said with a glimmer of satisfaction, and his knight moved into position. Draco countered, and Harry frowned. The sounds of his king's screams had him sighing. Another loss.
“Next time, Potter,” Draco said with a smirk. Potter was getting better, but he wasn't going to let the other win. Plus, Harry wouldn't want it either, for both were competitive.
The four teenagers were in the sitting room alone, and Draco waved his hand to clean up their game. “We need to talk about what happened in Knockturn Alley,” he said, his face going somber. He walked over to the settee and sat down by Hermione, his arm laying across her shoulders.
“So, did he have it?” Harry asked, Ginny walking over to the chair he sat on. Sitting down on the arm, she slid beside him with a soft grin on her face.
“No, it was sold to a Death Eater, and I couldn't see what was written in the ledger.” Draco rubbed his hand tiredly on the back of his neck and leaned back to rest his head on the couch. “It may be hopeless to get-”
“We have to!” Harry sat up to rest his hands on his knees as he looked at all three of them. “If he gains entrance into the school before we destroy it, all will be lost. Even if we win the battle-”
“We lose the war,” Draco interjected, and his head nodded to the now neatened chess board. “We need to break into the shop and-”
“You won't do anything of the sort,” Severus Snape hissed from the doorway. “The Dark Lord has already heard of Artie Davies and his search for the necklace. Did you really think that would escape his notice?” He walked into the room and stood beside the fire.
“I was hoping-” Draco began to say as he stood up, but stopped at Snape's raised hand.
“Is your brother here, Miss Weasley?” Snape said, his eyes trained on her. “The one that likes to fly dragons and anger the ruddy hell out of the other side?”
“Charlie's here, he was-” Ginny began to speak like Draco had, but stopped when he raised his hand yet again.
“You all just like to make my life that much harder, don't you?” Severus asked the rhetorically, his fingers drumming on the mantel before he sighed. “Whatever information you could have gleaned from Borgin and Burke's has been removed.” He nodded towards Draco, and then looked back to Ginny. “Your brother's dragon killed a few Death Eaters before flying off, and Charlie is marked for death if Voldemort figures out it was him. Somehow I think his trademark red hair at least has given them ideas that it was a Weasley- the dragon makes him Charlie.”
Harry's hair seemed to stand more on end as Snape talked, for his hand ran through it dejectedly.
“But,” Snape smirked as he looked around the room, “I managed to be the one to take care of the book,” His eyes watched their frowns turn into grins, and he nodded at them. “No more stupid antics and maybe I'll tell you.”
Caleb sat in Minerva's office after she stepped out to check on the wards once again. He'd been in this office a few times, and the pictures of the former headmasters intrigued him. He nodded his head to Dumbledore's before going on to look at the others.
“What are you looking at, boy?” Phineas Black asked him, a slight arch to the painted eyebrow. “I don't know you, or your family do I?”
“I doubt it sir,” Cal replied respectfully, another nod of his head. “Before going to America though, the Sanders family were all in Gryffindor. Did you know any of them?” he asked, his arms folding over his chest.
“Sanders? Christopher... I went to school....” Black repeated reflectively, his eyebrows wiggling with his thoughts beneath the fringe that covered his forehead. “Ah... yes. Blighty rotters they were! Always interfering with my Slytherins. Definite Gryffindors.” He nodded his head, then walked out of his portrait, signaling the conversation was done for him.
Cal gave a small chuckle as he made another turn around the room, stopping at a stool in the corner. On it sat a hat, and he remembered what Minnie had told him it was used for. “How can a hat place students?” he wondered out loud, and picked it up to look at it. He turned it around in his hand a few times, taking in the age and how worn it was because of it. Sitting down on the stool, Cal did an odd thing, he placed it on his head.
“Ahhh,” The Sorting Hat breathed out, “An older one to place today! I see you have good qualities of all four Houses. The bravery of Gryffindor, like your parents. The loving attitude of Hufflepuff, the intellect of the Ravenclaws. But what do I see here? The cunning of Slytherin? It fits you well my boy,” the Hat continued to talk to Caleb's astonishment, his hand reaching up to take it off but then he stopped.
“Where would you have placed me?” Cal asked, his interest showing his voice. He'd read many of the journals his ancestors had written in about their times in Hogwarts, and with his grandfather migrating to the States during the Second World War he'd missed his time here.
“It has no bearing now, my boy- but Ravenclaw would have served you well!” The Sorting Hat intoned, and Caleb's eyebrow rose. He'd expected Gryffindor like days of old.
“Having fun, Cal?” Minerva asked from the doorway, “The Hat is never wrong, though I'd have thought Gryffindor also.” Her tone held a laugh, and she remembered the boy she had known years ago as a classmate. Many years may have passed, but the Caleb looked so much like his grandfather she sometimes had to blink twice.
“Minerva!” Cal grabbed the Hat from his head, a sheepish expression on his face. “Sorry, I know it's not proper-” He placed the Sorting Hat back on the chair after jumping up from it. He felt a sense of guilt, and rocked slightly on the balls of his feet in embarrassment.
“Don't worry!” Minerva laughed merrily, and her eyes twinkled at him. “Many have wanted to place that Hat on their head that have never attended here, and if it had minded- it would not have sorted you.” She walked fully into the room, and stood by him. She gazed fondly at the Hat, remembering all those that had come before him to be sorted. Would there be another time? She questioned the Fates, a frown forming before turning to look at Caleb.
“How is your Defense class going?” Minerva asked him, settling herself on the edge of her desk. Between counseling the students and helping out in various classes, the young wizard was kept very busy. Mixing some of the American style magic with the British defenses seemed to working for her students, and she only hoped when the wards finally dropped it would be enough.
“I think the kids are adjusting, both to what I have to teach them and working together. Harry seemed to have been the one to start it all in the first place with Dumbledore's Army,” Cal smiled at the name of the group, and the fact the children wanted to keep the same name to honor the beloved headmaster's name. It seemed fitting to him also, for what Dumbledore had started would be finished by them.
“Good,” Minerva replied, “May I sit in and watch one day?” she asked, intrigued to see them all at work. She had deliberately kept away so the students would get a sense and respect for young Cal, and from what she'd seen of them when they were around him out of classes, it seemed they had.
“Any time Minerva,” Cal grinned at her, and stood up. “I have to get to class myself. The older kids wanted to learn some new spells, and you can sneak in when you want.” He winked at her and headed for the door. He knew of her Animagus form, and had often seen the black cat walking the halls at night when neither could sleep.
“I just may, see you later,” The headmistress said with a nod of her head before rounding her desk to sit behind it. She pulled out her glasses and began to look over the mountain of papers.
“Bye madam,” Caleb left the room and headed down the winding stairs. The gargoyle at the door silent as he passed by it. The castle was a wonder to him, filled with the history of his ancestors and and of the magic it was built on. He only wished he had brought his grandfather's journals with him, for it had been years since he'd read them. What he did remember from the books though hardly did Hogwarts justice.
His journey led him to the dungeons, where he had set up a room for his classes in Defense. It amazed him how the kids responded to him, and how they worked as a team. When he had first arrived the fear had been evident, and while still there, hope was also growing also.
“Mr Zabini, Miss Parkinson,” Cal smiled with his nod at the two Slytherins that waited outside the door. Both had returned after the Christmas holidays. Zabini's parents had died for their decision to finally pick a side in the war, Parkinson's parents were part of the legion of Death Eaters that stood outside the walls and barriers of Hogwarts.
“Hello, Dr Sanders,” They both said and followed him into the room as he opened the door. Though both had attended meetings before, they waited for him to enter as if some unspoken deal they had made between them. Though they had been 'accepted' by the Army, they still felt out of place.
“Good evening,” Cal greeted those already in the room, taking a mental count and grinned when he realized all were there. A chorus of greetings came from the assemblage, and Pansy and Blaise went to sit near the Hufflepuffs, where her boyfriend also sat.
“Last week we talked about a lot of things,” Cal began, and settled himself on the edge of the desk in the front of the room. He didn't consider himself a professor, but it was odd to him that he was teaching. He was a Healer, and he was teaching them defenses. He looked out at the young faces before him, and wondered how the world had stooped so low as to make children fight their wars once again. Most were considered adults because they were seventeen here in England, but to him it was still wrong.
Caleb watched their faces, “There has always been a fight for freedoms.... both here and in America also.” He shifted on the desk, and took in their puzzled looks. Today he hoped to plant a few more seeds of hope and learning.
“We know that sir,” One of the Creevey brothers said after he raised his hand and Cal nodded towards him. He liked the respectfulness that these students had for authority, and that they were willing to ask questions or make comments.
“Good!” Cal said, standing up to walk though the desks that they sat in. “I was reading 'Hogwarts: A History', and making comparisons to Muggle history and when the Dark made its attempts to gain power. Grindelwald's was during the Second World War, and I'm sure you've all heard about that,” He arched his brow as he looked at them. Most nodded, and he grinned at them again.
“You-Know-Who,” Cal continued, using the acronym that they were all comfortable with. To him the snake would always be Voldemort or Tom Riddle in his mind, for he remembered references to Riddle in his grandfather's journal. They hadn't been friends, and when the elder Sanders left Hogwarts he had left England because of him. But James Sanders had kept his contact with Dumbledore, and so the rest of the family had also. James had returned when Voldemort had first tried to come to power, leaving his American wife and son William in Salem, and had never returned; being a casualty of that time. “Has made a few attempts to be leader of your magical community, first back when the Potters were killed and the Longbottoms were tortured. We all know what happened then, and now he faces Harry once again.”
Caleb stopped to stand where Neville sat and placed his hand on the young boy's shoulder. “Like them, we face You-Know-Who also. Harry Potter isn't alone in this, for we will stand behind him, around him and for him.” He looked into Neville's face, and nodded. “I liken him and his crowd to the Nazis of that time, for You-Know-Who searched out the perfect scapegoat to pin all the problems of the world on. The Nazis used the Jewish, Gypsies and the mentally challenged to wrack havoc on, You-Know-Who has tortured the Muggles, Muggleborns and those he considers Blood-Traitors.”
Caleb returned to the front of the room, and made a sharp turn to look back at them. “The Nazis didn't win, why?” He looked around the room, and waited for a hand to pop up. He nodded towards a Ravenclaw as her hand raised.
“Because people stood up to make a stand against him?” Cho said, her statement coming out more like a question.
“Yes- though for some it had come too late to save them. But that's the point of it, they made a stand and came together to defeat the enemy. Were they all normally allies? No, but for freedom's sake, they unified and became a power to be reckoned with. Just like you all have,” His hand gestured around the room, “Now....” He pulled his wand out, and waved it at the board, words forming a new spell for them to learn in defense. “Let's begin!”
Hermione lay snuggled in Draco's arms beneath the blanket that covered them. Her eyes were half closed as her finger trailed along his arm. It was late, and the sounds of the clock in the entry hall could be heard ringing in midnight.
“Happy Valentine's Day, Kitten,” Draco whispered in her ear, kissing the lobe tenderly. His arms tightened around her, and he felt their hearts beating.
Hermione rolled over to look at him, and smiled softly. “I almost forgot!” She laughed slightly, and gave him a kiss that slowly deepened. Sighing when he pulled away, she watched him get up and go to the dresser. She heard him pulling the top drawer open, and sat up. “Draco... it's late...” she whispered, and clasped the blanket around her.
“I have something for you,” Draco replied, and with a small sound of happiness, closed the drawer with a bang. He turned, and Hermione quirked an eyebrow at the serious look on his face she could see by the muted light of the candles that floated from the walls. He walked over to her, and then fell to his knee before her once he reached the bed.
“Draco?” Hermione whispered, her hand touching his shoulder lightly. Her fingers tangled into his hair behind his ear in a soft caress. He place a finger on her lips and began to speak.
“Once long ago, a boy met this girl. He was nasty, arrogant and a prat to both her and her friends. He didn't like her or those she hung around with, and made it his immature joy to make them miserable. One day,” Draco grinned at her, one hand reaching up to cover the hand that lay on his shoulder, “The girl got angry enough at the boy that she slapped him. Now some say that hate and love are just mirrors of each other,” he inched in closer to her, “But that slap woke the boy up, making him think. It still took a few years, and a few more things to make the boy grow up,” Draco opened his other hand, and an object sparkled on his palm, and he grinned wider at Hermione's small gasp, “And for the boy and the girl to see what was looking them in the faces.”
Draco felt the emotions in him well up, and he took a deep breath to continue, “Hermione Granger, you have been the most challenging person in my life. If not for you and that slap, I would still be that coward of a boy following my father.” He moved his hand, watching the candlelight making a rainbow in the glittering of the diamond in the ring. “I love you, and want to one day be the man that fathers the children you will have,” He looked into her eyes, and saw the tear that slid down her cheek, “I want to grow old with you, and fall asleep in your arms every night. If you will take this ring. For you make me whole, not just part of a person.”
“Oh, Draco!” Hermione whispered, and leaned down to kiss him. His arms wound around her to hold her close, his hand holding the ring tightly in his fist. She breathed out an 'I love you,' on his lips.
“Shall I take that as a yes?” Draco asked her once the kiss ended and he pulled back to look into her face. His thumb reached up and rubbed at the tear that sparkled on her cheek.
“Yes!” Hermione said happily and nodded her head, and watched as he slipped the ring on her finger. It was old, but time had only enhanced its beauty.
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