Chapter 5: Slowly
The rest of the day he waited. He couldn’t exactly say what he was waiting for, but somehow he knew that he was waiting. It was hard for him to focus on something for more than a few minutes in a row. He couldn’t concentrate on reading; he couldn’t get his heart into writing his next transfigurations assignment.
Around him the Slytherins talked and smirked and lived, but he was like in his own little bubble detached from all of them. But he wasn’t here to make friends. He was here to finish his seventh year properly.
His parents hadn’t completely understood why he wanted to return to Hogwarts again, when he’d been there all of his seventh year. Maybe he didn’t even understand it himself.
He only knew that the last year had taught him nothing and that he had no final exam he could use to advance in the education system. Somehow it felt important to him to finish his education right here. And show the world that he wasn’t a coward. That he dared come back.
That things had changed.
But right now he only wanted to make time go a little faster so he could stop waiting. Or at least find out what he was waiting for.
He tried sitting in the common room watching the younger students play exploding snap, running around in their green robes or eating goods from Honeydukes. Two second years were sitting next to him drawing sketches in a notebook. They seemed so young, he didn’t think he had ever been that young, he had been much older in his second year.
Even his fellow seventh year students appeared much younger than he felt, even though there were only a one year difference between them.
He needed to get out of that room. The atmosphere in the common room felt oppressive, he needed some fresh air and he couldn’t get that in the dungeons where the stone walls pressed against him and reminded him of barriers every time he looked around.
The two drawing girls next to him seemed startled as he suddenly got up from his seat, shut his book with a snap and exited the room without looking back. With hurried steps he half walked half ran down the hallway and up the stairs into the more friendly air of the halls on the first floor. For a moment he stood there not really knowing where to go, then he made a quick decision, turned right and headed for the main entrance.
Outside it was light and a thin layer of grey clouds covered the sky. A calm wind lifted locks of his blond hair and out here he felt like he could breathe freely.
In front of him he could see the Lake mirroring the grey clouds of the sky. His steps took him in that direction and almost without noticing that he had moved quite far he found himself at the edge of the Lake.
He brushed the surface of one of the rocks before sitting down facing the water. With one elbow on his knee he supported his head looking blankly into the bright emptiness.
There weren’t many students out as the weather didn’t exactly look inviting, but being outside wasn’t that bad, the air wasn’t cold and the wind wasn’t too harsh. It was tolerable.
He fiddled with his quill. Looked at the grey sky. Opened the book in his hand. Closed it again and put it on the ground next to the rock he was sitting on.
Why do I feel this way? he asked himself and made a face even though no one could see it. Everything around him was changing. Or were they changing inside himself? He couldn’t tell and somehow he didn’t even want to speculate about it.
He didn’t have anyone to whom he could tell about this strange occurrence. All his friends had left Hogwarts and even if they had been there he was completely sure he wouldn’t have told them about it. They wouldn’t understand, couldn’t understand.
Though they seemed to be in the same boat he knew that wasn’t the truth. At least not any longer. He didn’t feel self-pity that they weren’t. He didn’t cry for the loss of connection to all of those people he had grown up with, he wasn’t even sure he was sad.
Stone-faced he sat looking across the Lake into the horizon where everything became slightly blurred and unrecognisable.
It wasn’t that he needed them to be there or even felt the slightest urge to stay in touch with those he had spent the last seven years of his life with. He could just use someone to talk to. Someone, who could tell him why it suddenly mattered why a stranger had fallen down a set of stairs. Preferably someone who wasn’t more interested in him or herself than in what he had to say.
Well that excludes the entire Slytherin house, he thought with an ironical smile playing on his face and picked up the book again. He didn’t open it though just put it in his lap feeling the weight of it there as a solid force keeping him to the ground. Keeping him from drifting of.
He hadn’t been prepared for this. Hadn’t been prepared for suddenly feeling things. Noticing things.
When he had walked down that hallway yesterday and seen the girl lying on the floor he had picked her up. And then he had expected the whole thing to end there. He hadn’t expected the questions, the late night visit or the early morning one for that matter.
He found a pebble next to him and threw it in the water. It immediately sunk to the bottom, but on the surface it had made small ripples in the water. He watched the circles form and spread out. Watched until there was nothing left to see and the lake was completely still again. Until no one would be able to tell that he had rippled it at all.
Thinking of Dumbledore’s questions again he was reminded of Hermione’s fall. He wondered if she was normally the type of girl who fell or tripped. It didn’t take much thinking before he reached the conclusion that he had never seen her being even remotely clumsy.
That conclusion led to an even more uncomfortable truth that also explained why both Dumbledore and Madam Pomfrey had asked so many questions when he had brought her in. If Hermione hadn’t accidentally stumbled on her own feet and fallen down the staircase, which seemed somewhat unlikely, then someone must have done something so that she would trip.
Could it have been a stupid prank pulled by some of the younger students?
Draco furrowed his brows in concentration as he tried to put together the different parts of the puzzle for which he did not yet have all the pieces.
He wondered how, why, Hermione could have fallen down those stairs and hurting herself so badly. A fall like that would cause some injuries of course, but they could have been a lot less severe if she had eased of some of the fall with her hands. If she had tried, but it didn’t seem like she had done that at all.
Maybe there had been a spell involved.
It was time to do some detective work as the matter had gotten him curious. And besides that he didn’t have anything else to do with his time.
The Slytherin common room was just as lively when he returned, as it had been when he left earlier. Just inside the room he stopped and glanced around to find the right person to ask his questions.
In one of the corners of the room he saw two girls sitting. Probably fourth years, but he didn’t recognise them from anything in particular – they just looked like the kind of girls who liked to gossip about other people, the kind of girls who would do him a little favour. Perhaps it was the fact that they were sitting bended gossiping over something that looked like a photo. Perhaps it was just his intuition. He smirked sarcastically as he approached them and smoothed his robes.
“Hello,” he said rather formally and sat down opposite the two girls. One of them nodded in response as the other hurriedly flipped the photo so he couldn’t see what was on it. They had stopped in the middle of their conversation to face him. The one who had nodded to him had a thick dark braid and a little too much makeup around her brown eyes.
“What do you want?” the other girl asked with a hostile expression in her blue ones and flipped her blonde hair back with a practised motion. Draco smirked to himself. He knew how to do this.
“Information,” he answered coolly and looked at his hands as it was of no importance to him to attain this information.
“On what?” the girl with the braid asked and leaned a bit in over the table with her eyes squeezed slightly together and suspicion written in every feature. Draco raised an eyebrow and leaned back in his chair with a casual expression on his face.
“The whereabouts of some of our fellow students,” he answered and folded his hands at the back of his neck. The blue-eyed girl flashed a dirty smile. Her friend with the braid just raised an eyebrow. They obviously thought he was after another kind of information. No gossip for you today, he thought ironically, but let nothing show on his face.
“It isn’t free,” the blue-eyed said with a malicious smile that completely distorted her face and hid the fact that she could have been a pretty girl. In a different world.
“I can pay.”
This was his game. He had been there much longer than they had. He would get what he wanted, at the price he wanted. The girl with the braid nodded for him to tell him what he wanted information about.
He waited half a minute before asking the question he had meticulously formulated already before he had sat down with the two girls. He knew that almost no matter how he phrased it they wouldn’t guess his real motives for asking. Weird questions weren’t out of the ordinary in the Slytherin common room.
There was always someone plotting for something, who asked questions of varying sort.
“I want a complete list of people who have classes on the third floor in first period on Fridays, names, years and houses,” he said and got up from his seat in a fluid move,
“I pay when I have the list in hand.”
Then he turned on his heel and left.
Then he was back in waiting position, but at least this time he knew what he was waiting for, and if those girls knew what was best for them they wouldn’t make him wait for long. He smiled a crooked smile to no one in particular. It was common knowledge that Draco did not like to wait. Not at all.
A/N: Sorry, this chapter hasn't been betaed yet, because my current beta is experiencing some trouble with her computer - but it will be edited as soon as she gets back to me. I just wanted to get this chapter out so you wouldn't have to wait too long for it.
Hope you enjoyed it and that you'll review to let me kow what you thought about it.