Chapter 11 : The Flight of the Lioness
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Disclaimer: I own nothing from the universe of Harry Potter. Awesome CI by Dora Winifred @ TDA.
When I awake, the first thing I notice is that whatever room I am in is filled with some kind of summery light. The second is the great pounding in my skull that comes with such a light. The third is that Hermione Granger is standing by the window, sipping what appears to be a cup of tea.
Struggling to sit up and hoping that I will have the strength to Apparate, or, at the very least, the strength to crawl away from her, an involuntary groan escapes my mouth as a jet of pain shoots down my spine. Hermione, of course, whips around, sets her tea down on a small table, and rushes to my side. “Lay down,” she orders sternly, and with one hand on my chest, pushes me gently back into the pillows.
She sits down on the edge of the bed. As she presses a hand to my forehead, it is all that I can do not to flinch away from her. This goes against everything that I know – to let a Muggle-born look after me, even if she is a Gryffindor and was Head Girl – it is wrong. No matter how reformed I claim to be, the force of habit is not easily broken.
Her hand drops to her lap and she sighs. “Still feverish…” she mutters. Looking me in the eyes, she asks, “So, Draco, are you going to tell me who and what you are addicted to?”
My mouth, I am sure, gapes open. How could she know? “What?”
She shrugs. “You have all the symptoms,” she replies, pointing to a chalkboard on the wall opposite us. From this distance, most of the small, neat handwriting is illegible – except the category of “Not,” under which “Astoria Greengrass” is listed. The title of the investigation seems to be “Draco’s Love Potion Addiction.”
Every moment, I grow more and more suspicious. Hermione Granger, the fiancée of Ron Weasley, the man who cannot stand to be within sight of me unless he is attempting to capture or kill me, is assisting me – trying to cure me of this wretched ailment that Pansy has placed upon me. To what end or ulterior motive, I have not a clue.
Hermione must have noticed a quizzical look, for she says, “Draco, I need you to understand something, and I also need you to understand that it is not something that is easy for me to say.” She looks away from me, out a window, and then back. Her brown eyes are on the brink of overflowing with tears. I have not once seen Hermione cry, even through all the stress of our seventh year. A crying Granger is just not something that I am used to – she only ever cried with rage or passion, if she cried at all, and I cannot once recall having witnessed it. Therefore, as I see her eyes glitter with unshed tears, I hold my arms out to her for an embrace, all qualms at her blood status forgotten for the sake of a human kindness.
I wait as patiently as I can for her to tell me what I must understand.
“Ron,” she mumbles into the collar of my white cotton shirt, “I have broken off our engagement. He is too obsessed with the hunt to pay me any kind of proper attention… And when he does, it’s horrible.”
I pat her back and sit in mortified silence as I wait for her to continue. Waiting, once again, is all I can do – this time, it seems that I am incapable of moving without pain. If it were otherwise, I would have brought her tea to her and made her sit on the bed to relax before she told me whatever else is hard to say.
She sits up, sniffling, and wipes furiously at her eyes. “He yells, throws things. He frightens me,” she says, and even as she thinks about it, I can see the fear growing, far back in her eyes. “And he is paranoid. He thinks that because I’m leaving him – because I’ve left him – that I’m switching sides. He thinks I’m joining you, helping you to escape him, because I know his moves so well. Even Harry can’t talk him out of it.” She stops talking to give a reluctant smile. “I figured that I might as well prove him right. Aside from that, I know that you are innocent of the crimes that the Ministry has convicted you of.”
No one knows the crimes that I was convicted of – my mother was determined to keep it a private case, and it was, as such, very private… Though the drowning of Astoria’s family was highly publicized. I was convicted of planning and carrying out their murders; my motive, to be sure, was ridiculous – “They would not join Voldemort’s followers.” He was dead by that time, and our name was cleared from the books as Death Eaters, except for my father’s, who was sentenced to a lifetime in Azkaban for his insistence that the Dark Lord would rise again and that he was, indeed, a Death Eater. My case, the murder of Henry, Vermillion, and Daphne Greengrass, was wholly fabricated – the Ministry just felt the need to pin the blame on someone, and who better than a Malfoy? It was almost as if they were determined to make it look like a pureblood feud.
“What crimes do you think I was convicted of, Hermione?” I ask her, trying not to sound guarded or guilty. I am innocent, and most people do not know the reason I was sent to Azkaban, but that makes me far more suspicious when presented with reasons full of rumor and falsehood.
She takes her tea from the small table and sits down by my feet again, looking at me between swallows. “Well,” she says, “when the Greengrasses drowned on their vacation, you and your mother were one of the few who knew where they were going, since it was only a weekend getaway. They’d left Astoria at home, in the care of their maid, so she had an alibi, and Narcissa was in Diagon Alley with friends, according to your file… You were the only one left. Inky wasn’t in your service than, and even if she had been, they wouldn’t have taken her testimony into account…” Hermione seemed almost to be talking to herself now, and she was staring out the window opposite her. She looked at me again. “I wish you had not been so wrongly judged by so many, Draco. I hope we can set the record straight, if you will take my help.” She offered her hand for shaking.
Instead of taking it, I shake my head. “I cannot let you do this, Hermione,” I say. “If you can help me with the so-called addiction I have, fine. But I can’t let you help me with anything else. Your reputation would be ruined, and you’d probably be added to my list of alleged lovers.” Sighing, I push myself up, ignoring the strange pain that travels the length of my body.
“What’s wrong with being on your list of alleged lovers?”
I freeze. With wide eyes, I slowly turn to look at her. “Hermione,” I say. “Do you realize what you just asked me?”
“I’m not even going to answer that. Have you gone mad?”
She scowls at me. “No. I was only asking, since having a Muggle-born on your list would surely top anything that anyone else can think of in the way of scandal.”
“Hermione, come on – ”
“Apparently, we’re not good enough for anybody, even if we’re the brightest. Harry’s mum was smart, and I’m smart, and most of the others are, too – ”
“Hermione, please, stop this.”
“Ron was always copying my homework, and so were Harry and everybody else. There is very little appreciation for people that do their own work nowadays, let me tell you – ”
She pauses in her rant, and looks at me. “Yes, Draco?”
Relieved that I have finally gotten her attention, I ask, “Why is it that you seem to think that being on my list would be, in any way at all, good for you? I am a fugitive, Hermione. I’ve been blamed for three murders. I’m no good company, and if you aren’t away from me soon, you’ll be a fugitive, too.”
She doesn’t appear to be paying attention anymore. I snap my fingers in front of her eyes. She glares at me. “Hermione, listen to me,” I plead. “I don’t want that.”
She gives me a peculiar look, one that I can’t place. It gives me a certain foreboding, though – there is a want for danger in her eyes, in her smile. “But what if I do?”
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