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A Tale of Two Princes by academica
Chapter 5 : Year Four
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 5


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The long stretch of light-colored brick that formed Wiltshire Lane was mostly unpopulated on this late August evening, but that was normal for much of the year. In fact, the only time the wealthy residents of the street entered and exited their houses with any sort of regularity was around the holiday party season or when it was time for the parents of Hogwarts students to take their children to King’s Cross for the start of a new year. The latter occasion was just around the corner, but for now, Paige found herself alone, save for the few house elves and servants that the women of the neighborhood had set to work in their expansive gardens.

 

She walked at a normal pace along the street, wearing a simple lavender dress and carrying an oversized purse, which held the few items she had deemed necessary for her brief stay at Malfoy Manor. Lucius had secured seats in Cornelius Fudge’s box at the Quidditch World Cup final tomorrow night, and Narcissa had been so thrilled when Draco had invited Paige to join them that she had insisted Paige stay for an extra night or two in the comfort of one of their many guest bedrooms. Judging by the smirk on Draco’s face, Pansy had never received such a warm reception, and this added detail made Paige ever more eager to accept.

 

She performed the necessary identification spell that would allow her to enter the manor grounds and trailed up the long walkway to the front door, knocking politely. A house elf answered, clearly pleased to see Paige instead of one of the Malfoys’ more pompous associates. He took her bag and gestured to the massive family room, where the three Malfoys were seated.

 

“Paige.” A smile spread across Narcissa’s face, and she gestured to the empty seat to her right. “Please, dear, make yourself at home. How is your father?”

 

“He’s well, thank you.” Paige replied. “I’ll be sure to pass along your regards.”

 

“Yes, please do.” Lucius said from his place by the fire.

 

Paige turned, not having noticed him at first. By his reserved expression, it appeared that he still held Pansy somewhat above her when it came to his opinion about a suitable match for his son. Still, he and her father were close associates, and he tolerated her presence as a result.

 

“You look lovely.” Draco now entered the room, another elf trailing along behind him with a cup of tea in hand. “Jasmine tea is one of your favorites, as I recall, yes?”

 

“That’s right.” Paige said softly, smiling at him as he strode up to her and kissed her cheek.

 

“Excited for the game, then?” Draco asked, settling into his chair, motioning for her to take her seat as well.

 

“Yes, very.” Paige turned to Draco’s father, seizing an opportunity to win some favor with him. “Thank you very much for inviting me. Dad isn’t much a fan of Quidditch, so I don’t think I’d get to go otherwise.”

 

“It’s no trouble.” Mr. Malfoy drawled. “Draco insisted.” He stood up, looking at his wife. “Ready for bed, love?” His tone was gentle, but it was clear that he expected her to comply.

 

“Of course, dear.” Mrs. Malfoy stood as well, turning to Draco. “I expect you can show Paige to her room, darling.” She offered Paige a smile. “Our finest guest chambers, of course.”

 

Paige returned the smile, grateful that at least one of Draco’s parents approved of her.

 

As they moved up the grand staircase, Draco took the seat next to Paige that his mother had just vacated. “Drink your tea, then, before it gets cold.”

 

Paige nodded, taking a large sip. As usual, it was exquisite.

 

“I’m looking forward to seeing Krum in action, myself.” Draco continued. “Father’s associates in Bulgaria can’t stop raving about him. They say he could play the whole team by himself.”

 

Paige smiled. “I’m sure he’s very good.” She didn’t care much for professional Quidditch, an arena in which all the players were strangers to her. Still, she imagined it would be quite an experience to share a box with the Minister of Magic, and there would surely be a variety of interesting people and festivities to enjoy. Best of all, she got to spend time with Draco.

 

“Anyway, I suppose we’d better get to bed. We’ve got to get up early tomorrow.”

 

Paige stood up, swallowing the last of her tea and setting the cup down softly on the tray of a passing elf. “Thank you for the tea. And the invitation.”

 

“Nonsense.” Draco smiled at her, standing up as well. “Always so modest.” He teased gently. “Besides, as Father said, it’s nothing.” He took her hand, leading her up the stairs and to the room across from his.

 

He moved to open the door, but paused suddenly. “Oh, wait, I almost forgot.” He fished in his pocket, retrieving a flat black box. He opened it to reveal a large round diamond on a simple silver chain. “D’you think this will go with your outfit for tomorrow evening?”

 

Paige reached over, squeezing his hand gently. “It’s beautiful. Thank you. And yes.”

 

“Good.” He motioned for her to turn around, looping it around her neck and fastening it gently. “Yes, gorgeous indeed.” His eyes drifted up from the pendant to meet her own.

 

Paige found herself pleasantly frozen by his gaze for a moment, and she was only freed when he closed his eyes and pressed his lips gently to hers. Down the hall, a small team of elves and servants couldn’t help but stare at the two of them as they folded linens and put them away.

 

As always, the kiss ended too soon. He pulled back gently, squeezing her hand. “G’night.”

 

Paige watched him enter his room and close the door. A good night indeed.


 


 

The following evening, Paige enjoyed a delicious dinner of roasted chicken and twenty different side dishes with the Malfoy family before the four of them set off for the Cup. They had the luxury of leaving only two hours before the start of the game, seeing as their seats had been reserved several months in advance and they were going to Apparate in pairs to the pitch.

 

Paige was currently waiting with Mrs. Malfoy outside the concession stand, where Mr. Malfoy had instructed the two of them to meet him and Draco. She had chosen a simple black dress, which looked sort of elegant when paired with tidy black flats and the necklace Draco had given her. Narcissa wore a black dress as well, though hers was embellished with embroidery and jewels.

 

After a moment, Lucius’s white-blond hair peeked through the crowd, with Draco striding along next to him. They joined the ladies and Draco took Paige’s hand as they began to make their way up to the Minister’s box.

 

They walked up several flights of stairs, and Paige found her attention captured by what little she could see of the stadium through the throngs of moving bodies around her. The pitch itself was massive, and the rows of seats seemed to extend upward for miles. Inside, Paige felt extremely grateful that the Minister’s box was situated comfortably halfway up the stands. After all, she would likely be too scared to look out and over the railing at the game if they were seated at the top. Beside her, Draco’s parents were greeting associates and friends as they passed.

 

Suddenly, Lucius paused, looking upward. Paige followed his gaze and saw that he was speaking to most of the Weasley family, who were accompanied by Harry and Hermione.

 

“We have seats in the Minister’s box. You know, with Cornelius Fudge.” Draco cut in, smirking at Harry. The group of Gryffindors looked down at Paige, who could only offer a weak smile.

 

Draco’s father stuck his cane out, blocking their way. “Don’t boast, Draco.” He glanced back at the Weasleys. “There’s no need with these people.” After he shared a mutual glare with Mr. Weasley, he removed the cane and they continued up the stairs.

 

When they finally reached the box, Mr. Malfoy headed straight for Cornelius Fudge, who greeted each of the Malfoys in turn and cordially shook Paige’s hand when Draco introduced her to him. As they stepped over to their seats, a witch came by with a cart of sweets, offering some to Draco and Paige.

 

“A box of Bertie Bott’s beans, please.” Paige requested. “A chocolate frog as well.” She opened her clutch purse and fished around for the money, but Draco gently pushed her hand out of the way. “A Sugar Quill for me.” He paid the witch, accepting the sweets from her and passing the beans and the frog on to Paige.

 

“We’ll want to get a closer spot for the toss.” He motioned to the railing, putting his arm around her and guiding her forward. “Are you enjoying yourself?”

 

“Yes.” She smiled at him. “Is this your first final?”

 

“No, no, we go every year.” He leaned against the railing. “It is the first year in the box, though. Father got it as part of his promotion package at the Ministry.” He looked down at her candy. “Can I have a couple of your beans?”

 

“That’s lucky.” Paige replied, handing him a marshmallow-flavored one and a blue one she thought might be boysenberry.

 

“I suppose.” He moved closer to her, holding her softly at the waist. “To be honest, I’m a bit prouder of the fact that I’ve got you here by my side.”

 

Her green eyes sparkled just slightly, and he seemed sort of entranced by them as she stepped forward and gently moved a stray piece of hair out of his face. “I don’t think there’s anywhere else I’d rather be.”

 

She only meant to kiss him for a moment, but he held her lips as his blissful prisoners, and she thought she saw a camera flash out of the corner of her eye before she surrendered.

 

When it was finally time for the game, Draco and Paige took their seats and watched as the two teams zoomed onto the field. The players were well matched for one another, and the action progressed quickly, but in the end it was a clear victory for Ireland. The majority of the people around the box streamed down the stairs, eager to partake in the celebrations, but Lucius held his family and Paige back.

 

“We’ve got to get you two to bed.” Narcissa said on cue. “We’ll have to get up early tomorrow if we want to have time to shop for school supplies in peace before all the others show up.”

 

Draco looked at his mother. “It’s only ten o’clock.”

 

“Draco, don’t argue with your mother.” Lucius said sternly. “Go home.”

 

Draco grudgingly followed his mother, and Paige came behind them. At the last minute, she turned to look back at Mr. Malfoy, but he was already gone.


 


 

The next morning, it became very clear what Mr. Malfoy had been trying to shelter his family from.

 

The gigantic photograph of the Dark Mark dominated the front page of the Daily Prophet the first day after the attack, and the next day boasted a blurred shot of a group of the masked assailants under the headline WHO ARE THEY? When the editors of the paper ran out of sensational snapshots of the event, they resigned themselves to running opinion pieces on the identities and whereabouts of the “new phase” of Death Eaters and their infamous master. All of the attention focused on the destruction at the game meant that hardly anyone had any desire to flip through the rest of the paper, which happened to include a short article on the Society page about Draco Malfoy, heir to the Malfoy fortune, and his mysterious new girlfriend making their first major public appearance together.

 

Paige was looking over the article in question for the fourth time as she sat in the common room, enjoying her quiet place by the fire. At this point, she mostly just liked examining the photograph of her liplock with Draco, but she sometimes indulged herself by going back over Rita Skeeter’s characterization of her as an “unknown beauty” whom “Mr. Malfoy clearly enjoyed doting upon”. She was just reviewing the part where Draco “proudly acquainted” her with the Minister of Magic when her father walked into the room, a strange wizard coming in along with him.

 

“This is where the Slytherins sleep.” He said, gesturing to the two staircases that led up to the boys’ and girls’ dormitories. “I assure you that my students would be more than willing to assist the gentlemen from Durmstrang if they experience any trouble getting acquainted here.”

 

“Ah.” The taller gentleman said with what sounded a bit like a Russian accent. He visually panned the room, coming to rest on Paige and the fireplace. “Is this one of them, then?”

 

“Yes, this is Paige, my daughter.” Snape said, the tone of his voice suggesting that he wished the other man had somehow missed Paige’s presence. “This will be her fourth year.”

 

“Ah, delightful.” The man grinned, showing off a rather disgusting array of yellowed teeth. “I’m sure she wouldn’t mind looking after Viktor, hmm?” He looked expectantly at her.

 

Paige opened her mouth to speak when Krum himself entered the room.

 

“Viktor, this is Paige, Severus’s daughter.” The man said, gesturing to her. Krum stepped forward, taking a moment to look her over. “This is Viktor Krum, as you obviously know, and I am Igor Karkaroff, Headmaster of Durmstrang Institute.” The man continued.

 

“Pleased to make your acquaintance.” Paige said quietly, keeping her mouth closed as much as possible so as to take in as little of the man’s horrible breath as she could. Krum continued to look at her but stepped back a bit out of politeness.

 

“When will I meet the others?” He asked.

 

“The Slytherin prefects have informed me that they intend on holding a little get-together this evening to welcome your students. I’m sure everyone will be eager to meet Mr. Krum.”

 

“Of course.” Karkaroff said dismissively. “Come on, Viktor, we mustn’t miss the feast.”

 

Indeed, the feast was not one to miss. The house elves had clearly gone all out in their efforts to impress the guests of Hogwarts. Everyone seemed very impressed to see Krum walking down their corridors and eating their food, and not one of the boys could take their eyes off of the French girls from Beauxbatons. As the girls pranced down the center aisle, Paige and Pansy accidentally made eye contact while wearing identical looks of disgust. Pansy quickly scooted closer to Daphne, who was also staring at the girls, and Paige looked down at her plate.

 

After the feast and the announcement of the Triwizard tournament, the Slytherins all trooped back to their common room, talking excitedly of who might be selected as the Hogwarts champion. As the Prefects were setting up the Butterbeer for the party, Paige quickly swiped a glass and headed over to the fireplace. There, she kicked off her shoes and socks, warming her bare feet by the flames.

 

Krum came to rest against the opposite end of the mantle, tankard of Firewhisky in hand.

 

“So, you like it at Hogwarts?”

 

“Mmm-hmm.” She smiled politely. “Is it very different from where you’re from?”

 

“Yes.” Krum took a sip. “No girls.”

 

Paige resisted the urge to laugh. “I see.”

 

“What kind of magic you like best?”

 

“I’m good at Potions.”

 

“Ah, makes sense.” He looked at her. “Your father is Potions Master, yes?”

 

“That’s right.” She drank some of her Butterbeer.

 

“I like casting spells.” He added. “What do you call it here – Charms?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Because, you know, Potions, I—is too delicate for me. I drop in wrong ingredient, everything explode.”

 

She laughed, looking up to see him crack the first smile he’d managed since his arrival.

 

Across the room, Draco entered, Crabbe and Goyle beside him as usual. He scanned the area for Krum, eager to meet him personally, but his face fell when he saw the Quidditch star talking and laughing with Paige by the fire. He walked over to the pair of them. “Paige, why—”

 

“Oh, Viktor, this is my boyfriend, Draco Malfoy.” She smiled at Draco. “I’m sure you’ve heard of him, even all the way out in Bulgaria.”

 

“Oh, yes, the Malfoys have friends at Durmstrang.” Viktor smiled. “Pleased to meet you, Draco.”

 

“Yes, charmed.” Draco said, somewhat in disbelief as he shook Krum’s hand.

 

“Well, I think I will go talk to that girl over there.” Krum said, taking another swallow of his drink and gesturing to the opposite side of the room, where Daphne was talking to a pair of Durmstrang students and giggling. “Good evening, Paige.” He paused, as if the effort of trying to remember names was burdensome. “And Draco.”

 

They watched him go, and Paige offered Draco some of her drink. “What were you saying?”

 

“Nothing.” He smiled, kissing her on the cheek. “Wait here, I’ll get you another one.”


 


 

At the end of the first week, the Triwizard Cup made its selections for the school champions. Krum was a natural choice for Durmstrang, as was the Beauxbatons champion, a prim and proper blonde named Fleur Delacour. No one was surprised when Cedric Diggory was chosen to be the Hogwarts champion, either. However, everyone was shocked to see the Cup spit out a fourth name: Harry Potter, who had mysteriously hoodwinked Dumbledore’s age line for entry into the tournament. The Weasley twins, who had asked Paige to oversee their brewing of an aging potion in an attempt to fool the Cup themselves, seemed particularly disappointed by this turn of events.

 

In spite of all of the excitement, however, the students of Hogwarts still had classes to attend.

 

“…So I got the idea from the campaign badges from the last Ministry election.” Draco was saying, walking along the corridor toward Defense Against the Dark Arts with Paige. He pulled a purple badge out of his pocket and tapped it with his wand. The badge turned yellow and flashed “POTTER STINKS” in a grisly font. “See? They’ll be animated when I’m done with them.”

 

“Draco, is that really necessary?” Paige stopped, turning to face him. “I mean, has Cedric even approved these things?”

 

“Why wouldn’t he?” He grinned, offering it to her. “Tell me you’ll be the first to sport one.”

 

“Will you break up with me if I don’t?”

 

Draco frowned slightly. “Well, no.”

 

“Okay, then.” Paige smirked, turning to walk forward again. As she did, she ran smack into the person in front of her, who had been walking in the opposite direction. It was Cedric himself.

 

“Sorry, I’m sorry.” She said, helping him pick up his spilled books.

 

“It’s all right.” He looked her in the eye, every bit as handsome as he had been described.

 

“Diggory, you’ve got to see these.” Draco cut in, offering the badge to Cedric now. “See, if you just tap it—”

 

“I’m sure it’s great, but can we talk about it later? I have to get to Charms.” Cedric offered Draco a smile. “You two going to Defense?”

 

Paige nodded.

 

“Well, you’ll want to hurry. I don’t think Moody has much tolerance for lateness.”

 

They continued down the hall and took their seats. Before too long, class began. Moody scanned the room, taking a moment to closely examine each of the Slytherin students. His eyes lighted on Paige and Draco a second time, and then he began.

 

“Unforgivable Curses. There are three. Who can name one?” He looked over to the Gryffindor side briefly and then back to the Slytherins. “Snape, is it?”

 

Paige frowned. None of the teachers ever referred to her by her last name. “Yes.” She said shortly.

 

“You got one, then?”

 

“No.”

 

He smirked. “Malfoy?”

 

“No.” Draco retorted defensively.

 

Moody looked back over at the Gryffindors, continuing the lesson. With the help of Hermione, their side was able to name all three curses, and Moody forced the entire room to suffer through a demonstration of each spell. At the end of class, both houses rushed for the door at equal paces.


 


 

October brought the arrival of the first task for the four champions, and the students were all very excited to see what the challenge would be. On the morning of the event, Draco and Paige headed down to the Quidditch Pitch with everyone else and took their seats to await the start of the task.

 

“What they’ve done to the ground is awful.” Draco complained, looking out at the large rocks that now covered the surface of the pitch. “It’ll be in no shape for Quidditch next year.”

 

“It’ll be fine.” Blaise said, leaning up against the rail next to him. “There would be too many complaints if they left it torn up.”

 

“Yeah, like the bloody school can afford it.” Theo chimed in bitterly.

 

“Hush, they’re starting.” Paige said, gesturing to where Dumbledore was now taking the stage.

 

“Welcome to the first task of the Triwizard Tournament.” He said, his voice projecting out over the entire stadium. “The contestants will each be facing one of the most fearsome beasts known to mankind – a dragon.” The crowd gasped collectively. “Each of them will have one hour to obtain a golden egg, a prize that the dragons have every intention of guarding. They may use any method to accomplish this goal, provided that it can be done with a wand. Now, without further ado, Mr. Diggory will be the first to attempt to take the egg from his dragon.”

 

Down below, a team of handlers guided a fearsome-looking dragon with a blunted nose into the arena, chaining it down at multiple points and leaving a brilliant golden egg sitting in front of it. On the other side, Cedric hesitantly entered the stadium. Curiously, he did not look at all surprised to find himself facing a dragon several times his size.

 

One by one, the champions eventually retrieved the eggs from their respective dragons, including Harry, whose success could be attributed to his superior flying skills. When the task was over, everyone headed back toward the castle, most of them dreading having to return to their homework. Paige was trailing a little behind Draco and the boys when she felt a gentle tap on her shoulder.

 

It was Krum.

 

“Paige, do you have a minute?”

 

“Sure.” She smiled. Draco and his friends had paused a few feet ahead.

 

“I wanted to see if you would like to come to the ball with me.”

 

“Excuse me?” She looked confused. “What ball?”

 

“The Yule Ball. Have you not heard?” He said. “It is a dance that is held with every tournament. All of the champions do a dance together at the beginning. I need a date.” He smiled. “Would you like to go?”

 

“Oh.” Paige laughed gently. “Um… Viktor, I’m very flattered, but I have a boyfriend, remember? Draco?”

 

Krum looked up the path, where Draco was glaring at him.

 

“Oh, right.” He blinked. “I—I’m sorry. I forgot.”

 

Paige smiled. “It’s okay.” She looked at him. “There are plenty of girls here who would love to go with you. Don’t worry.” With that, she turned and headed up the path to rejoin Draco.


 


 

As the weeks passed and the holiday season approached, more and more students began talking about the upcoming ball. Girls ducked into bathrooms between classes to compare notes on fashionable styles for gowns, and boys asked them to go with increasingly elaborate gestures nearly every day.

 

As Paige walked past yet another display of affection, this one in the form of hired house elves carrying massive bouquets of pink roses, she wondered when Draco would put one of them together for her benefit. Perhaps he wouldn’t even ask. After all, they had been dating for almost a year and a half, and everyone sort of assumed they’d be going together. Just the other day, though, Cedric had cast a gaudy, glittering message on the wall outside the Ravenclaw Common Room to invite Cho Chang, his girlfriend of three months, to attend the ball with him.

 

Okay, it had been gaudy, but it was a bit romantic, too.

 

Sometimes a girl needs some tackiness in her life.

 

As she entered the Great Hall and paused to talk to Professor Sprout, Blaise leaned over the Slytherin table to speak to Draco. “Are you going to ask her or what?”

 

“What?” Draco said absently, watching Paige.

 

“I don’t care if she’s your girlfriend. If you don’t ask her, I will. She’s too gorgeous to go alone.”

 

Draco glared at him. “I’m going to ask her. I just haven’t figured out how yet.”

 

He looked at the house elves, burdened with their roses, and it came to him.


 


 

The next morning, Paige woke up and found a note next to her bed.

 

Stop by my office before breakfast.

 

Her father was waiting, not with an assignment, but with a single red rose.

 

“There are eleven others waiting for you.” He said, handing it to her.

 

“What?” She asked.

 

“I’m just a pawn, Paige.” He smirked. “Go on, get the rest.”

 

She headed out into the hallway, nearly running into Theo, who handed her another rose.

 

As she continued toward the Great Hall, seven more roses flew at her from all directions, all of them tossed to her by Slytherin boys as they passed. Adrian was waiting at the entrance to the hall, and he smiled as he handed her another one. “Lucky bloke.” He said quietly.

 

Paige headed in the direction of the Slytherin table, but Blaise blocked her way. “There, that should be eleven.” He said, handing her his rose as well. “That is, if the Slytherin boys can count and Crabbe and Goyle didn’t get distracted by breakfast.”

 

Paige laughed. “Dad said the total was twelve.”

 

“Good job, genius.” He teased, moving out of the way. Draco was perched up on the table, one more brilliant red rose extending from his hand.

 

“Not so fast.” He said, smirking at her. “I’ll only give it to you if you’ll go with me.”

 

“Of course I will.” Paige took the rose, tucking it into her now full bouquet. “Thank you.”

 

“You’re welcome.” He kissed her on the cheek, standing up. “Unfortunately, I and the rest of your potential suitors have to get outside and make sure we’ll still be in shape come next year’s Quidditch season.” He took off his tie, looping it around the base of the bouquet to hold the blooms together. “See you in Potions?”

 

Paige smiled, watching him go and setting the bouquet down on the table.

 

“There you are.” Harry said, coming up behind her. She turned to face him.

 

“Listen, d’you have a date—” He paused, looking down at the roses. “Oh.”

 

“Sorry, Harry.” Paige offered him a weak smile. “Draco—”

 

“Yep, got it.” Harry nodded. “See you around, Paige.”

 

He walked away, and she picked up the flowers, taking a whiff.

 

They weren’t gaudy at all. It was perfect.


 


 

They had made the paper again.

 

Draco, in his expensive suit, and Paige, in a stunning strapless black gown with black lace trim that Narcissa had let her borrow, were in a couple shots with other students, and they even had one picture all to themselves, though it was a bit smaller than the photos of the champions and their dates.

 

The Ball had been a blast. She had been on Draco’s arm all night, and they had taken turns between dancing feverishly and stepping outside to cool off and kiss. They stayed until the last song, and when they’d finally separated inside the common room, Draco had said that he had enjoyed himself more than he had at any of his family’s regal pureblood-only parties.

 

Her copy of the paper was currently folded up and sticking out of the back pocket of her jeans. She had come straight from breakfast, where she had obtained the newspaper, and was dutifully taking inventory in her father’s private stores.

 

Armadillo scales. Check.

 

Alligator saliva. Ugh—check.

 

Boomslang skin.

 

She looked up and down for it, but found none. Undeterred, she made a note and continued. By the time she reached the bottom of the list, fluxweed, knotgrass, and lacewing flies were also missing. Frowning, she climbed slowly down the ladder, preparing to go deliver the list to her father. The list of ingredients that were unaccounted for seemed familiar, but she couldn’t place them.

 

Behind her, the door opened. It was Moody.

 

He stared at her for a few minutes, and she stared back. Suddenly, he cleared his throat.

 

“Sorry, Snape, ‘ppears I’ve got the wrong office.”

 

With that, he turned and left.

 

Shaking her head, Paige exited and locked the room, heading down to see her father. When she arrived, she handed him the list.

 

“Are you certain these are missing?” He asked, staring at the list.

 

“Yes.” She replied. “Erm, you might want to look into Moody, though… I just ran into him and he looked like he’d been Befuddled or something. He came into the storeroom thinking it was his office.”

 

“Really.” He said, glancing up at her. “Well, thank you, dear. That’ll be all.”

 

She turned to go, pausing at the door and turning back. “Oh, um… I didn’t write it down, but it looks like we may be a bit low on gillyweed as well. Just so you know.”

 

“All right.” He nodded, looking back at the list. “Thank you.”

 

He sat down, gazing at the piece of parchment with concern. She took her cue to leave.


 


 

It was almost noon, and Paige was still in bed.

 

Several layers of blankets covered her, but she still shivered from her place in the bowels of the Hogwarts dungeons. A trash can stood on one side of her bed, and on the other side, a thick bouquet of white lilies adorned the vase on her bedside table. Next to them, her Herbology textbook lay closed on top of an old issue of Witch Weekly and several back copies of the Daily Prophet. She had been trying to study for an exam, which was less than a week away, but her fatigue had overtaken her and stolen her away into sleep. She moved just slightly, knocking a stray tissue into the garbage bin.

 

The door opened, and Draco entered her room, pulling a chair over from the corner and taking a seat next to her bed. “Paige?” He whispered.

 

She stirred, looking over at him. “Hey.” She said weakly. “What are you doing here?”

 

“No fun watching Potter swan dive into the Black Lake after one of his rabid fans without you there to listen to my commentary.” He smirked, glancing up at the flowers. “Lilies?”

 

“Yeah.” She sat up a little, smiling. “They’re my favorite.”

 

“Is that so?”

 

“I don’t know why. Dad always grew them, every variety you can think of, from when I was a little girl. I guess they just sort of make me feel like I’m home.”

 

Draco smiled, noticing a bottle of blue liquid next to them on the nightstand. “And this?”

 

“Yes, he brought that along as well.” She replied. “I’m sure it’s just the twenty-four hour—” She paused suddenly, and her face paled even more than it naturally was, if that was possible. After a moment, she grabbed her hair with one hand, holding it in a makeshift ponytail as she leaned over the bed and retched into the can.

 

After a minute or two, she achieved some repose. “I’m sorry.” She said weakly, before her nausea found her again.

 

“’S all right.” He said, leaning over and taking over the job of holding her thick black hair out of the way, politely waiting for her to finish. “You okay?”

 

“Yeah.” She wiped her mouth embarrassedly. “What time is it?”

 

“Twelve, just about.”

 

She nodded, reaching for the blue potion and swallowing a bit of it.

 

“So, you’re really not interested in Krum?” He asked suddenly.

 

“Krum?” She looked at him. “Because he asked me to the ball?”

 

“I mean, he seemed to get on all right with you from the start.”

 

“It’s nothing.” She laughed softly. “What, you think I must want him because he’s some big Quidditch star?”

 

“I don’t know.” Draco said somewhat defensively. “I mean, he’s famous.”

 

“He can barely string together a complete sentence in English.” She snorted. “I mean… he’s a nice guy, sure, but he’s not particularly attractive. Anyway, I can’t possibly respect a man who can’t even brew a proper potion.”

 

Draco looked at her. “I don’t think those things typically matter to his fans.”

 

Paige sighed. “I don’t know what you want me to say, Draco.” She laid back against her pillows. “Why would I want to be with anyone else when I could have you?”

 

He blinked at her, thinking about how often he’d seen the other girls in school rushing after Krum wherever he went. Pansy, for one, made a point of sashaying past him dramatically and wiggling her hips as furiously as she could every time he sat down at the Slytherin table for a meal. He blinked again, and then he leaned up and softly touched his lips to hers.

 

She kissed him back, smiling as she deepened the exchange. The tips of her fingers dug softly into the platinum hair at the base of his skull, and he gingerly pulled her closer, almost as if he was afraid he would shatter her into a million pieces if he wanted her too badly.

 

After a moment, they broke apart. “Thank you for coming up here to keep me company.”

 

“You’re welcome.” He smiled, pulling her hands to his lips and kissing them as well. “Just… please do warn me if you think you might toss your cookies again, hmm?”

 

She barely had time to make that promise before he advanced toward her lips once more.


 


 

Sadly, Paige wouldn’t make the third task either.

 

When he went home for Christmas vacation, Draco had been sent to bed early yet again on the first night. Annoyed, he had snuck back into the corridor and attempted to eavesdrop on his father’s meeting with what he thought were business associates. Instead, he had overheard his father discussing a rumor that someone important would be returning in the spring with Walden Macnair, a man who worked with the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures at the Ministry. Lucius was somewhat skeptical about the information, but Macnair insisted that he had received his intelligence from a close associate, who had even provided a possible date.

 

That date was tonight.

 

While the other students headed down to the newly constructed hedge maze to watch the four champions battle it out for the Cup, the two Slytherins had sequestered themselves in Draco’s room to wait for news. Paige now found herself sitting on Draco’s bed, watching him attempt to study from his place on the floor against the wall. His brow was slightly furrowed, but it was clear that he wasn’t really reading any of the text on the open pages before him. His frustration stemmed from his thoughts, full of concern for his father, who had appeared somewhat troubled and exhibited a short temper toward Narcissa and Draco ever since the meeting.

 

“What do you think they do there? At the meetings?” Paige inquired, hoping to break the tense silence.

 

“I don’t know.” Draco snapped. “Everything is secret.”

 

Paige frowned, standing up. “I can go, if you don’t want me here.”

 

“I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t.” He said bitterly.

 

She folded her arms across her chest, staring at him. “Draco…”

 

Finally, he looked up at her. “I’m sorry.” He said quietly. “Just… stay. Okay?”

 

“Okay.” She took the spot next to him on the floor.

 

“I—I just sort of assumed it had to do with Ministry business, you know? I mean, half of the people he meets with work for the Ministry.” He looked back down at the book. “That’s all it is, right?”

 

“Yeah, sure.” Paige nodded. It didn’t quite add up to her, though. What was with all the secrecy if it was Ministry business? And who would be returning that had been gone? She bit her lip, remembering the vivid photographs of the destruction of the World Cup final from the fall.

 

“Draco… you don’t think this has to do with what happened at the Cup, do you?”

 

He put the book down and closed it. “No.” He said softly, but he didn’t sound convinced.

 

“It just doesn’t add up. Your father sent us home early and then—”

 

“I know.” He said, sounding frustrated. “Look, Paige, my father is not a bad person, all right?” He looked up into her eyes. “He’s just been acting strange. Obviously this meeting is very important to him, whatever it’s about, and I just want to wait here until I hear that everything is all right.”

 

“That’s perfectly understandable.” She said gently, rubbing his back softly with one hand.

 

For a moment, they just sort of looked at one another. No words needed to be said. Paige had been thinking about the events of the World Cup final in the back of her mind all year, and it wasn’t like Draco hadn’t put the pieces together for himself. Inside, they both knew that Lucius Malfoy was involved in something dangerous, probably even illegal. They had both read stories in the paper and heard others talking about the crimes of Lord Voldemort and those associated with him. They knew that he might lose his job or have to go to Azkaban if he was caught, or worse, that he might make a fatal mistake and never be seen again. They knew that one day this secret of his might come to affect his family.

 

“I’m… I’m just a bit scared.” He admitted at last.

 

Paige laid her head gently on his shoulder. “Your secret is safe with me.” She said softly.

 

He put his arm around her. “Thank you for coming up here to keep me company.” He said quietly, pressing his lips to her temple and closing his eyes.

 

After a few hours of silence, they fell asleep, Paige still curled into Draco’s side and his arm still looped loosely around her back, his head resting against hers. They didn’t wake up until Crabbe and Goyle wandered into the room, Blaise and Theo behind them. They all looked quite pale.

 

“What is it?” Draco asked, standing up and helping Paige to her feet.

 

“Diggory’s dead.” Theo announced gravely.

 

What?” Paige asked, shocked.

 

“You know. Him. Potter said he’s back.” Blaise said.

 

Paige stared at them, then back at Draco, who looked equally taken aback. After a moment, she remembered that she was in a boys’ dormitory and that the others might want to get some sleep. With a last glance at her boyfriend, she gathered her sweater around herself and left the room.


 


 

Cedric’s funeral was simple but very beautiful. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as Dumbledore described how the boy had embodied all of the qualities anyone would want in a friend: bravery, truthfulness, loyalty, kindness. Everyone agreed that if there was such a thing as a good person, Cedric embodied that idea. For a few moments, House boundaries were tossed aside as everyone lamented what a terrible loss Cedric was.

 

The next morning, the students packed up and prepared to go home on the train. Draco, who was still waiting to hear from his father, barely picked at his breakfast. He was thankful that Dumbledore’s cancellation of final exams meant that Paige and her father would return home early this year, where she could easily come visit if he needed her shoulder again.

 

After breakfast, the students got a chance to wish the visiting schools goodbye before they each embarked on a long journey home. Paige edged through the throngs of female admirers to have a chance to wish her friend Viktor well.

 

“May I write to you?” He asked, earning a cold stare from Draco. “No, no, not love letters.” He corrected quickly, much to Paige’s amusement. “I just want to see how things are going.”

 

“Yes, Viktor, I’d like that.” Paige smiled, jotting her address down on a piece of parchment for him. “Draco and I will read them together. How’s that?”

 

Behind her, Draco smiled just slightly, somewhat enamored by her easy attempt at diplomacy.

 

“That sounds good.” Krum grinned, taking the paper. Karkaroff began to gather up the Durmstrang boys. “I will miss you both. It was nice to meet you.” He gave her a hug. “Also, could you pass my address to Daphne?” He said, gesturing behind Paige.

 

She nodded. She didn’t know how, but in some way she’d accomplish this favor for her friend.

 

“Goodbye!” Krum said, heading into the bowels of the ship. Paige stood alone now in the midst of the crowd, Draco having gone to speak to Blaise and Theo.

 

“I didn’t see you at the third task.” Harry said quietly from beside her.

 

She hadn’t seen him approach. “No, I, um… I was doing something for my father.”

 

“That’s funny, because he was there. He helped us carry Cedric’s body inside.” He met her eyes, and his gaze made her very uncomfortable. “He was there when we found out Moody was just a Death Eater in disguise.”

 

“I knew there was something weird about him.” Paige said softly, trying to change the subject.

 

Harry came to stand in front of her. “I saw Lucius Malfoy there, you know.” He said, barely audible, still not looking away from her. His voice conveyed something different now, not anger, but something more like worry. “When Voldemort came back. When Cedric died.”

 

Paige tried to speak but found she had nothing to say. He stared at her desperately, wanting her to say something, anything. After it became clear that silence would be all he could hope for, Harry turned and walked away without another word.

 

Paige looked down. She was still holding Krum’s address. It had certainly felt like it for a moment or two, but maybe the world hadn’t stopped after all.


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