The school was abuzz for well over a week after the shock result of the quidditch match. Draco became somewhat of a hero among the Slytherins, and even many non Slytherins who were now accepting of Draco, congratulated him on the win. The fact he hadn’t caught the snitch didn’t seem to matter, his previous matches and the spectacular crash landing seemed to have earned him the title. The Draco of past years would have been reveling in the attention and taking every opportunity to rub it in the Gryffindors' face, but the Draco of today was hating every moment of being in the lime light and was avoiding it as much as reasonably possible.
With quidditch now out of the way, Draco was spending each evening with Hermione studying for the N.E.W.T.S which were approaching at a rapid rate. It was already nearly April, leaving only two months before the exams. Draco needed to do well so his options remained open. He was still unsure of what he was going to do once the year was over, the only certainty was that he was not staying in Britain.
The dance classes were still running and Draco and Hermione attended one night a week and practiced every so often in the common room when they needed a break from studying. It was a nice way to relax the body after spending hours cramped over textbooks and parchment. While Hermione would often go and see Ginny, Harry and Ron, the majority of her time was spent with Draco studying. He unlike, her other fiends, seemed to understand the importance of proper exam preparation.
It was in this way the April and May passed by in rapid fashion. After the events that led to the revelations at the fountain, Hermione and Draco had fallen into a comfortably friendly relationship. It wouldn’t be uncommon to see Hermione curled up next to Draco with a book in hand. They always greeted each other with a hug in the morning and another hug to say good at night. They shared looks and laughter than no one understood and a each had a smile that they reserved only for the other. They said nothing of the night by the fountain; it was somewhat of a mutual unspoken agreement. They both knew how the other felt, but both understood that it was best for things to be left unsaid if heartache was to be avoided. At least that was what they were hoping for.
The exams were one week away. While most other senior students of the school were all stressed, Hermione closed her charms book and leaned back into the sofa with a sigh. Draco, who was sitting beside her, scoped her up into his arms and brought Hermione in close.
“Ready for the exams” Draco asked as he played with a curl that had managed to free itself from Hermione’s hair tie.
“I think so” Hermione replied, as she felt herself rise and fall with the rhythm of Draco’s breathing. “At any rate, I’m exhausted and need a good nights sleep.
“You’ve put a lot of time into studying, I’m sure you are going to ace the exams,” Draco assured her.
“Anything could happen though. They may go back over some of the not so common charms from second year or something, or they may ask for some really difficult transfiguration or I may just have a total mental blank or…”
Draco silenced Hermione by putting his hand over her mouth. “You worry too much. You are the most intelligent witch who has ever come through the doors of Hogwarts. You have memorized every textbook and know more spells than wizards three times your age.” Draco removed his hand from Hermione’s mouth and brushed away the hair that had fallen over her forehead. He looked into her chocolate brown eyes and smiled. She was beautiful, and she was in his arms. Only a fool would let go of her, but before he could continue with his current thought, he was interrupted by a voice from the door.
“Mister Malfoy and Miss Granger.”
They both turned around to see the Prince standing in the portrait. They looked at him with questioning eyes.
“Head Mistress McGonagall is her to see Mister Malfoy.” He swung open and the professor walked in, a solemn expression on her face. Draco's heart immediate sunk. Something wasn't right.
“I'm afraid I have some terrible news Mister Malfoy” Professor McGonagall said worriedly. She walked over and took a seat opposite Draco and Hermione who had quickly and inconspicuously untangled themselves from each other. They both looked at her in silence, their eyes pleading for the unwanted knowledge that she was about to share.
“Miss Granger, if you would excuse us,” the Professor politely suggested. Hermione made to stand but she felt Draco grab her hand.
“No, I would like her to stay” Draco said through a barely controlled voice. He was on the edge of tears.
“Very well” Professor McGonagall affirmed with a nod of her head. She handed the letter to Draco. “I received this letter from your father five minutes ago. I came to give it to you as fast as my legs could take me.”
Draco gingerly took the letter and unfolded the parchment and read the neat sloping script
Dear Headmistress McGonagall. Please inform Draco that his mother took seriously ill today. She is in St Mungo's. The healers are unsure of what is causing her illness and I request that Draco come to the hospital as soon as possible. Thank you for you understanding in this matter. Lucius Malfoy”
A tear slid down Draco's cheek and landed on the parchment. He crumpled up the piece of parchment in his hands as tears overcame him. He felt Hermione slide an arm around him and pull him close. Her warmth was comforting as he let his grief and worry flow out. He heard Professor McGonagall talking but the words made no sense as he struggled to comprehend the letter that was crumpled in his fist. He couldn't let anything happen to his mother. She had to be all right.
Professor McGonagall stood to leave, bringing Draco back to the present. “I will see you soon Mister Malfoy” With that, she left and Draco turned expectantly to Hermione, knowing that she would be able to fill in the blanks where his grief had blocked out everything else.
“She would like you to pack some belongings and go to her office. You can floo directly to St Mungo's. They are expecting you.' Hermione answered to his questioning eyes.
He nodded in understanding. “I want you to come with me,” Draco sobbed.
“I can't do that,” Hermione said soothingly.
“I don't want to face him alone” Draco admitted, voicing his true fear.
“You know that this is a journey that only you can go on. You have come here and made a new life for yourself. You broke free from him and he no longer has any hold on you. He can only hurt you if you let him.”
“He couldn't even send the letter directly to me. He sent it to McGonagall. This is my mother we're talking about” Draco fumed, and edge of anger creeping into his voice.
“That's right Draco. This is your mother.” Hermione said forcefully, hoping to get Draco to see reason beyond his grief and anger. “She is sick and she needs you. For everything that has gone on between you and your father, you need to put it aside and go to your mother. You do not want him to be the reason for another regret in your life.”
Draco looked at Hermione for a moment and then slowly nodded. She was right. He would hate himself forever if he delayed arriving at her bedside because of his father and then something happened to her. He had come a long way this year, he knew who he was now. His father no longer held any power over him. And what ever happened, he would have Hermione when he came back.
“I'll go get my things.” Slowly, Draco got off the couch and went to his room. He throw a few clothes into a bag and was soon back in the common room with Hermione.
“Take these” she said, handing him a few text books. “For those boring hours of waiting.”
Draco couldn't help but smile as he slid the books into his bag. Even in a time like this, Hermione was still thinking of exams. It was what he loved about her.
Wordlessly, they walked arm in arm to Professor McGonagall's office. When they arrived outside the gargoyles, Hermione turned him to face her.
“I'm only an owl away. If you need anything, let me know. I may not be beside you, but I am here for you.”
Draco nodded, not daring himself to speak. He was too sick with worry. Hermione reached up and gently placed a kiss on Draco's check. A tingling sensation spread through his body at her touch and he momentarily forgot about anything else, then gargoyles started to open and Draco was rapidly thrust back into reality.
“I'll see you when you get back” Hermione said in a final good bye.
Draco reached in and gave her one last hug and then broke away. “Thanks” he said before starting his accent up to the headmistress' office, still feeling the warmth on his cheek from where Hermione had kissed him. At least through this terrible situation, he had one fond memory to hold on to.
Draco entered the Headmistresses office and found the Professor waiting patiently at her desk. The eyes of every portrait were on him as he approached. Draco glanced up at Professor Dumbledore and a pang of guilt once again coursed through him. It was his fault that his old Headmaster was now just a portrait on the wall.
“Return when ever you need to” Professor McGonagall instructed as she held out the box of floo powder.
Draco nodded and took a handful then walked over to the magnificent fireplace that graced the wall. He was afraid of what state he would find his mother in. Maybe he had already delayed to long and she was already gone. He didn’t want to see his father but he had to see his mother. He loved her too much not be by her beside in her hour of need. Draco stepped inside and looked at Professor McGonagall who gave him a small nod and smile. He threw down the floo powder and pronounced St Mungo’s. As the world began to spin Draco took a final glance up at Professor Dumbledore, and in those last few seconds before the office disappeared, Draco was sure that his old headmaster was smiling at him.
Just as Professor McGonagall had said, they were expecting him. As he stepped out of the fireplace, a young, female healer with long blond hair greeted him and immediately set out down the corridors, up the stairs and onto the third floor. “Potions and plant poisonings?” Draco inquired as he realized what sort of maladies inflicted people on that level.
“I’m afraid so” the healer confirmed as she continued to lead Draco down the corridor. She was all business and Draco practically had to run to keep pace with her. Then she stopped. They were outside a room that read ‘Mrs Narcissa Malfoy’ on the board beside the door. There were no other patients listed. The door was closed and Draco looked at it ominously, unsure if he really wanted to face the reality of the situation on the other side.
“Here we are,” the healer said, stating the obvious. “She is unconscious but I suspect that she will be able to hear you. If anything changes, a senior healer will come immediately. Your father has been filled in on everything we know so I will let him tell you the details.”
Draco scoffed at the thought of asking his father for anything, but said nothing to the healer. He politely thanked her and she took her leave. It was only now that he was alone that Draco remembered how ominous a place St Mungo’s was, with its long empty corridors, the smell of death, blood and potions, and the sound of pain and grief. He hated this place. Bracing for what he was about to find, Draco turned the door handle and entered his mothers room.
The room was dim, a couple of flickering orbs the only light that cast eerie shadows across the wall. It was a small room with only one bed, a bed side table and a couple of chairs, one of which was occupied.
“What happened?” Draco asked as he took the final few steps to his mother’s bedside. He gasped as he saw the lifeless figure lying before him. She was so pale, her skin looking ashen against the white linen, her lips were cracked and her usually perfect hair was knoted and clumped.
“What happened?” Draco repeated through the tears that were starting to run unhindered from his eyes. He pulled the second chair up to the bedside and took he mothers hand in his. Draco was immediately struck by how cold she was; it was like touching ice and coldness spread through his body and settled in his heart.
Draco looked at his father who was gazing through red puffy eyes at his wife. He began to shake his head as he turned his eyes on Draco for the first time. It was only then the Draco noticed how much he had changed. Even the grief couldn’t mask the dullness of his father’s eyes. His once well maintained main of blond hair was limp and dry. He had lost a lot of weight and his wrinkled and torn clothes hung off of his frame. The once proud man was now but a mere skeleton of his former self, the air of self importance evaporated to be replaced with depression as he tried to live with his guilt and regrets.
“I don’t know,” Lucius whispered, shaking his head. “I don’t know.”
“What do you mean you don’t know?” Draco yelled as his sadness turned to anger in a heart beat. “My mother is lying near death and you want me to believe that you have no idea what happened to her.”
“She came home from shopping and was fine, then without warning she collapsed,” Lucius continued softly. “I immediately apparated here and the healers managed to kick start her heart which had stopped. They worked on her for several hours until they determined that she had been poisoned. But they don't even know what the poison is.”
“Several hours ago” Draco repeated angrily, “My mother has been here for several hours and you’ve only just decided it was time to let her son know.”
“I fainted when they were trying to restart her heart. I hit my head and slipped into unconsciousness. I sent the owl as soon as I could. Naturally, it is not my proudest moment” Lucius explained.
“To Professor McGonagall no less” Draco snapped back, unleashing all of his built up anger, intensified by his grief.
“I thought that it was a safer bet that she would be awake at this time of night and also more assessable to late night owl post. She also needed to know what was going on” Lucius said.
On closer inspection, Draco noticed a dull red colouration to his fathers hair, collaborating his story of knocking himself out. His reason for sending the letter to Professor McGonagall was, much to Draco's annoyance, reasonable, even logical. The rift between them was still as wide as ever, but at this moment in time, the needs of his mother came first.
“So what happens now?” Draco asked, much calmer than he had previously been.
“We wait and hope that the healers find the antidote, and soon.” The final words were nearly incoherent as they mingled with Lucius' chocked sobs.
“How long?” Draco feared the answer but he had to know.
“Hours, days, no one knows. They don't even know what the poison is yet, and once they isolate it, they then have to find the antidote.” Lucius explained. “I don't know how this happened Draco, I'm so sorry. This is all my fault.”
Draco watched as his father broke down into silent tears. Never before had he seen his father cry. He had always been angry, disappointed or just simply disinterested. But he had never been one to cry. To him, tears were a weakness and Draco had been told this many times. To see his father now was like seeing a different person. He may have made Draco's childhood a nightmare, but as they both stood by his mothers hospital bed, they were for once, united in something.
Draco stood, picked up his chair and went around to the other side of the bed and placed it beside his fathers. He sat down beside the man he had been avoiding all year and gently wrapped an arm around his shoulders. Together, they sat in silence, as tears washed their checks, gazing sorrowfully upon the mother and wife they both loved so much, wishing they could do something other than wait and hope.
A/N I can now say that this story will be 26 chapters long and is finished!!! So updates will become pretty regular now.
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