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Chapter 22 : Checkmate
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“I should get going. I need to get back to my room and do a few things,” Hermione had stood up and was once again tucking the huge book under her arm. Draco made no move to stop her—it was a typical Granger Act of Consideration, making the sure that the defeat (whoever’s defeat it was to be) occurred in private. He sent her a quick wink and she answered with a tiny smile before she quietly left the library. He just hoped she knew where the hell she was going and didn’t inadvertently end up in the Owlery or something like that. When the door shut behind her, he turned back to the chess board and his mother, who had been watching the door shut with a curious expression. When she saw that Draco was watching her, she immediately changed to a more customarily aloof one, and looked down at the board once more.
After several minutes of silence, Narcissa finally reached out to her king and made the only move she could, the one that he had been expecting. Slowly, she looked up into his eyes and held them as he reached out and slid his king into position. Never breaking eye contact, he said softly, “Checkmate.”
The white king took the crown off of his head and threw it down onto the board.
Normally, Draco would have jumped up and celebrated raucously, but for some reason he just wasn’t in the mood. He merely sat back in his chair, folded his hands over his stomach and let out a slow breath.
“Well done, son,” Narcissa said quietly.
Draco continued to stare at the board in a contemplative manner.
“Draco,” his mother ventured gently. The soft tone was atypical, and it caused him to look up at her questioningly. She gave him the tiniest smile and glanced over at the vase of paperwhites that Hermione had given her upon her arrival at the Manor. They were still fresh and in perfect bloom. “I don’t just mean the chess game, either.” And with that, she gracefully rose and swept from the room, as elegant, as regal as ever.
Did that just happen? Draco remained in his seat for a full minute; unmoving, unable to process just what had occurred. Not only had he won at chess, his mother had just given her approval to Hermione. I don’t bloody believe it, he found himself thinking over and over. I. Don’t. Bloody. Believe. It.
Finally, he managed to rise out of his seat and walk over to the vase of paperwhites. He knew why Hermione had bought them for his mum—she had known that they were narcissus flowers, the clever girl. It was why his mother had been given them since she was a girl; they were her namesake and therefore, her favorite flower. Noticing that one of the tinier blossoms was beginning to wilt, he impulsively pulled it from the vase and tucked it into his pocket. Then he quietly left the library and casually strolled down the hall. As he crossed the drawing room, he noticed that the shadows that typically cast across the dark purple walls seemed to have fled, but there was one spot in the room that wasn’t quite right. Directly under the chandelier, where he remembered watching his Aunt Bellatrix torture Hermione and cut at her throat with a slim knife. Without slowing down his stride, he pulled the paperwhite out of his pocket and dropped the small blossom onto the floor as he directly passed the exact spot. Not looking back, he continued to the spiral staircase and began to ascend.
“Open up, bookworm…I know you’re in there!”
“Oh, for Merlin’s sakes…just a moment!” Hermione’s voice muttered from the other side of the door. Draco grinned. He knew that she was marking her place in the book she was reading and hauling herself out of the window seat and over to the door. Predictable little Gryffindork.
After a few moments, the door swung open and Hermione looked up at him expectantly. “Did you win?” she asked.
What in the hell is she talking about…oh, chess…right… He hadn’t even thought about it since he left the library. She blinked up at him. “Well?”
Draco didn’t even bother to answer; instead he took her face in both of his hands and kissed her with all of the pent up emotion that he felt. He could feel her start to sag against him as her legs went weak, and he used the opportunity to push her back into the room and towards the bed. Without missing a beat they toppled to the bed, kissing furiously the entire time.
Hermione didn’t even bother to put up any resistance; obviously, she was just as hungry for him as he was for her, and she returned every kiss with a passion that matched his own. “Draco,” she managed to sigh as he began to trail kisses down her throat. The only coherent thought that managed to cross his mind was how he would blast that ruddy house elf to smithereens if she even tried to interrupt this.
As Hermione’s hands tangled in his hair, his lips continued their trail down her throat until they reached her collar. He slowly began to snake his hands up to one of the buttons, but was startled by a low whistle from behind.
He whipped his head up to see Blaise Zabini grinning at them from the doorway. Hermione let out a squeal as she squirmed away from him (buggeration, blast and bollocks), and her sudden movement caused him to roll off of the bed and onto the floor. “Merlin’s balls!” he shouted upon impact.
“Well, well…perhaps I’ve been wrong all this time, playing for a Ravenclaw,” Blaise drawled, “looks like Gryffindors are far more friendly, eh, Malfoy?”
Hermione’s face had turned a bright scarlet to rival the cover of the satin duvet on the bed. Draco struggled to get up and search for his wand at the same time, unsuccessfully accomplishing either task. “Dammit, Zabini, I’m still completely brassed off at that spectacle you pulled at lunch!” he exploded as he hunted for his wand. Unable to find it, he grabbed a pillow that had fallen off of the bed with him and whipped it at Blaise’s face as hard as he could manage. Blaise responded with a muffled grunt.
“All right, Malfoy, I know that I should have kept my mouth shut,” he said, lowering the pillow and rubbing his nose in response to the blow. “I was just coming by to make amends, okay? I had a feeling that you might be visiting Granger’s room, and right I was, eh, Granger?” he added, winking at Hermione. If possible, she turned even redder and looked away, embarrassed.
Draco grabbed at the edge of the bedpost and finally pulled himself up. “And just what kind of amends could you possibly make after that bloody mess, you berk?” he griped angrily, turning to sit on the bed next to a crimson Hermione.
Blaise leaned in to Draco and said quietly in his ear, “Your father just came back from that pureblood club off of Knockturn Alley…seems he’s been drinking, so you’d better stay out of his way. If you can just avoid him tonight and leave tomorrow morning, well…”
Most of the heat of Draco’s anger cooled at Blaise’s thoughtfulness to not give the news loudly enough for Hermione to hear. “Right,” Draco said under his breath, “where is he now?”
“In his study. Last I heard, he was yelling for the house elf to bring him something to eat. Guess he won’t be having dinner in the hall.”
Draco nodded and turned to Hermione, who was now hugging a rather large pillow to her chest and looking like she was wishing that it was a portkey. “Oi, Granger, you ready for dinner? This meal should be a lot less eventful, I can guarantee,” he smirked, extending a hand.
She smiled back shyly and took his hand.
As Draco had predicted, dinner had gone much more smoothly than any other meal that they had had at the Manor. This was mainly due to the fact that the only ones who had shown up at the grand dining hall were himself, Hermione and Zabini. Draco was a bit disappointed that his mother hadn’t made an appearance, but most likely it was a tactical move intended to draw the attention away from Lucius Malfoy. His mother would die before allowing the family to come off in a less than favorable light, and at the moment she was probably making certain that his father was being kept sequestered in the library so that no one would know of the state that he was in.
As it turned out, dinner was an entertaining affair—Hermione finally managed to get over her embarrassment at being caught in such a compromising position, and began to respond to Blaise’s snarky taunts in kind.
“So, Granger, have you got any friendly fellow Gryffindors that you can introduce me to?”
“What’s the matter, Blaise, Morag’s too smart to fall for your lines? I’m not surprised.”
At that, Draco snorted into his custard pudding. Get him, Granger, get him.
“Ah, she’s merely unable to conceive of her good fortune, is all…”
“More likely she’s unable to conceive of such misfortune.”
And on and on it went. Finally, after dessert, Zabini bade them good night and sauntered off in the direction of his rooms, leaving Draco and Hermione with Tooky, who seemed quite determined not to leave them alone. After some unusual maneuvering (Tooky wouldn’t allow them to leave for Hermione’s room together), Draco finally blew up at the little elf. “Buggeration, what is it with you, Tooky? I’m ordering you to step out of the way!”
Tooky immediately stepped to the side, but her expression was as resolute as ever. “Master Draco,” she squeaked, “I is under orders to make sure that Miss Hermione is apparated back to her room!”
“And why is that?” he demanded.
Tooky took a step forward and said quietly, “So’s she doesn’t accidentally go by any other rooms that shouldn’ts be seen.”
Ah, right, the study. Draco grimaced. “Fine,” he sighed. “Take her back and I’ll go to my rooms through the north wing.” It was the most roundabout route, far out of the way of his father’s study. I’ll just use the secret passageway to get back to Granger’s room later on.
“Very good, Master Draco!” Tooky squeaked as she took Hermione’s hand and disapparated with a CRACK.
About an hour later, Draco was crawling through one of the secret passageways in the walls to get to Hermione’s room. He had to crawl because the small, hidden walkways in the walls were designed for house elves, not fully grown male Malfoys. They enabled the elves to pass from room to room in order to perform their duties, yet be seen as little as possible. It also cut down on the amount of disapparating and the loud CRACKS that went along with them. As he crawled along, he could see small strips of light coming in from the occasional door to a room, but they were few and far between being as the majority of rooms at the Manor were not in use. The house really was quite overwhelming for a family of three. Bugger, my back is killing me. How much further is it on this blasted path? I’m not quite sure... Luckily, there was a bright strip of light up ahead, coming from under one of the small doors. Either it’s Hermione’s room, or I can at least stop there and figure out where the hell I am so I can see how much farther I have to go. He crawled up to the doorway and pushed it open the slightest crack.
“Lucius, I won’t allow Tooky to send up any more wine,” his mother was saying in a firm voice.
Salazar’s sack. It was his father’s study, and both of his parents were in it. He could only see part of his father’s face from the leather armchair that he was sprawled in; the little that was visible was faintly flushed with drink. “This is my house and I should be allowed to do as I please,” Lucius groused as he raked his long, white blonde hair out of his face. Draco realized that he had gotten that gesture from his father—he also had a habit of raking his hand through his hair when he was particularly stirred up about something.
His mother took a step forward and into Draco’s view. Her long, light blonde hair was hanging loose—quite a rarity—and falling in soft waves about her face, shoulders and down her back. It leant her a look of vulnerability, but was in direct contrast to the determination in her voice. “Not when what you please is no longer good for this family.” Draco felt his mouth fall open. He had never seen his mother stand up to his father so much in his entire life as she had over the past two days.
His father wasn’t used to it, either. Slamming his empty wine goblet down on a nearby table, he stood up. “Narcissa, have you lost your mind? Our son has brought a mudblood into our house!”
She took another step forward and was illuminated from behind by the fireplace. “Yes, he has,” she stated simply. “And for the first time ever, he has stood up to you about it. All of his life, Draco has submitted to your wishes and sought your approval, but for once he has refused to back down to you and has become a man. He was more of a Malfoy today than he has ever been, Lucius.”
Lucius looked away from her and stared sullenly at the fire. Draco waited for the inevitable tirade against muggleborns, but it never came. Narcissa took yet another step forward and Lucius sank back down into the leather armchair. “I cannot accept this,” he muttered bitterly.
“You will have to learn to,” his mother said, lowering herself onto the arm of the chair. Her long, blonde hair had fallen over her shoulder and commingled with his father’s white blonde locks. “He is a Malfoy, and he, like I, would stop at nothing for the one he loves.” She gently laid a hand on his shoulder. “My darling, won’t you bend just the tiniest bit?” she said in a voice so soft Draco that could barely hear it from his hidden vantage point.
Draco found himself unable to breathe as his mother waited for a reaction from his father. For a few moments there was nothing. Then slowly, excruciatingly, Lucius Malfoy’s hand crept up to Narcissa’s throat.
Draco put his hand to the door, ready to burst into the room if his father dared harm his mother.
But Lucius’ hand had wound in his mother’s hair. “Cissa,” he murmured thickly as he pulled her head down to his for a passionate kiss.
Bloody hell, there are some things a person should NOT have to see, Draco thought in distaste, quickly turning his face away. Shutting the door fully closed, he let out a deep breath and turned to crawl back to his own rooms.
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