Chapter 2 : Clandestine Operations
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As it turned out, the Zabini manor was even creepier than it looked on the outside. Hermione stuck close to Draco as Blaise led them up a marble staircase and into one of many stone corridors lined with portraits, Pansy half-skipping beside him.
How the girl managed to walk, never mind skip, in the shoes she was wearing was beyond Hermione.
“Your house is really nice, Blaise.” she said out loud, hoping to ease the awkwardness between them. It was no secret that he and Pansy hadn’t taken to the idea of Hermione dating Draco as well as some others had, and while Pansy was coming around for the sake of her friend, Blaise hadn’t really had the chance.
His responding comment eased her worries slightly. “Thanks Hermione. It’s kind of boring, though, when you’re growing up an only child and my mother… well, she always had other things to do.”
His words were chosen carefully, but she felt the small amount of warmth behind them and smiled.
“So where are we going anyway?” Pansy asked, taking Blaise’s hand. “Please don’t tell me you’re taking us into some dark labyrinth underground that houses a secret army of illegitimate children.”
Blaise looked down at her, one eyebrow quirked. “What?”
“One of the many rumours, B. I also heard that there are secret passageways behind the walls and two-way mirrors and… you know, that kind of ‘say this and you’re three seconds from being slaughtered’ stuff.”
Hermione found it slightly disconcerting that Pansy could say all of this in such a chipper voice, swinging the arm holding Blaise’s hand as they walked past reproachful paintings of his ancestors.
“I was talking to Tilly Bluestone the other day; you know, that Ravenclaw you banged the week before school let out, and she said that her mother reckons this house is only the tip of an iceberg, and that your family actually lives in this hive of levels beneath the ground.” Draco commented mildly.
Blaise laughed, and only Hermione noticed how Pansy’s face soured at the mention of Tilly’s name.
They continued through many similar corridors, pausing only a few times to chat with the portraits, until their route finally led them into a much darker wing of the manor where the last few rays of sunlight didn’t seem to reach.
Large windows overlooked the courtyard below on their left hand side, where the guests were huddled together against the cold listening to Sylvia Zabini’s speech. Their absence seemed to have gone unnoticed, although Hermione spotted Narcissa Malfoy looking around in annoyance every so often, and also the blonde head of Daphne Greengrass still apparently searching for her missing sister.
“Daphne still hasn’t found Astoria.” she commented. “I wonder where she is…”
Draco shrugged and squeezed her hand, running his free palm through his hair and making it stick up in comical directions.
They reached the end of the windowed corridor and Blaise turned to them. “These are my mother’s quarters.” he said quietly. “I haven’t been here in a while and… well, I think most of her belongings are in boxes, but I know where she stashed her drinks and Aunt Sylvia wont have found them yet.”
“Are we taking them somewhere else?” Draco asked.
Blaise paused and then nodded. “Yeah, I don’t think it’d be wise to stay in there for too long. I was never allowed in this wing of the house… but we might as well take a look now.” he gave a shrug and turned to open the door.
“Do you want us to wait outside?” Hermione said abruptly. “Just… for a minute? It seems unfair that you cant be alone with your mother’s things for the first time in so long, I just thought…”
“That’d be nice.” he said, meeting her eyes for the first time and nodding his thanks. “Not totally alone though, her quarters freak me out. Come with me Pans?”
Draco coughed lightly and Hermione stepped on his foot. If Blaise noticed his friend’s smirk he didn’t comment; Pansy shot Draco a narrow-eyed look before following Zabini into the darkness of his mother’s room.
They closed the door behind them and stood in the darkness for a long moment, listening to the sounds of Draco and Hermione idly chatting by the windows halfway back down the corridor, commenting on the funeral going on below.
As far as Pansy could make out, the room was pretty huge. She could vaguely see the dark shape of a bed directly opposite them, covered in what she could only assume were boxes. Blaise was in front of her, rigid and unmoving. She didn’t produce any kind of light, knowing that if he was upset in any way he wouldn’t want her to see it.
Instead, she went out on an instinct and stepped forward to stand close beside him, head against his shoulder.
“It’s…” he said, choking back tears. “The drinks… they’re in her bedside cabinet… can you…?”
“Yeah, I got them.” she whispered, stepping blind past him with one arm out in front of her. A shiver travelled down her spine and her heart started racing as inappropriate thoughts of objects touching her fingers flickered through her mind. “Ow.”
Her calf collided painfully with the bed and she staggered a few more feet until her hands met the smooth ebony of the bedside table. She crouched down and felt for a drawer or door handle, pretending she couldn’t hear Blaise wiping the tears from his cheeks with his jacket sleeve.
She badly wanted to comfort him, but couldn’t think of what to say that wouldn’t sound stupid.
“I remember the last time I was here…” he said, his voice coming from somewhere close behind her. Not realising he had moved, Pansy jumped and turned her head - Blaise was sitting a few inches away from her on the edge of his mother’s bed, expression indistinguishable in the dark.
She didn’t say anything, but kept feeling for the drinks with one hand and waiting for him to continue.
“I was twelve.” he said eventually, voice breaking. “It was the biggest thunderstorm we’d had in years and I was absolutely shit scared. Mother was single at the time; it was after James Bernshaw went missing and before she met Ben Hayes, so I ran all the way through the dark manor at midnight and jumped into her bed.
She whacked me for waking her up and then stroked my hair until I fell asleep.”
Pansy heard the gently clink of bottles and triumphantly withdrew her hand to rest it on Blaise’s own. “I’m really sorry Blaise.” she said quietly. “I’m sorry about her.”
He didn’t have time to reply; there was a thunderous banging at the door. “Are you two done in there, lovebirds?” Draco shouted. “Some of us are thirsty!” His calls were followed by the hisses of Hermione reprimanding him, and Blaise and Pansy couldn’t help but smile.
“Come on then.” Blaise sighed, crouching beside her and loading his arms up with bottles.
“Are you sure you don’t want to stay here for a while? I can kick Draco’s ass over to your quarters if you want…?” Pansy offered, following suit and feeling the cold of the bottles seeping through her thin dress. “Obnoxious little-”
“No,” Blaise said, grinning. “You’re twice as obnoxious as he is Pansy, and it’s fine. Lets go.”
Arms laden with freezing bottles, they straightened up and struggled out of the room to unload a few on Draco and Hermione. “Ooh, vintage Elvin wines, eh Blaise? Nothing but the sweetest.”
“God, is expensive stuff all you ever think about, Barbie?” Pansy scoffed as they started to make their way back down the corridor. Blaise and Hermione listened in contented silence as the two argued their way all the way around the manor in almost-darkness, as the night had completely set in now and the guests were making their way home somewhere beneath them.
They paused in the entrance hall, standing on the balcony overlooking the marble floor, until Narcissa Malfoy appeared amongst a crowd of guests. Draco leaned over and hailed her.
“We’re spending the night here.” he said, not bothering to keep his voice down for the benefit of the other dispersing mourners. “Can you tell Mrs Parkinson?”
Narcissa nodded. “Don’t get too drunk, Draco, you know what you’re like.”
“Yeah, yeah, night mother.”
Pansy waited patiently for him to finish his banter, feeling Blaise’s eyes on her back. “She’s right you know, Draco. You’re as bad as your Uncle when it comes to drinking. Next thing we know you’ll be the one doing the chicken dance and threatening to take all your clothes off for some old woman.”
I know it's a bit short; but I'm being yelled at to go to bed XD
r&r for much love <3
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