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Paper Hearts by Giola
Chapter 3 : Approaching Deadlines
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 8

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In hindsight, staying up till 4am to finish the latest chapter of my book probably wasn’t a smart idea. It was now midday; I had three owls waiting for my replies, two hung-over friends in my apartment, a large pile of dirty dishes (though that’s fairly normal) and no clean clothes.

I’d only remembered around seven that the interview with Narcissa Malfoy was this afternoon. It was now eleven, which left me with only a couple of hours in which to get ready. Reno and Tabby weren’t helping matters.

“Oi, get up!” I yelled at the two sleeping forms on my couch.

All I received in reply was a vague grunting, so I resulted to whipping out my wand and dousing them in water. Harsh, yet effective.

“What the hell, Tori!”

Amused, I retreated to my bedroom and the never- ending dilemma that was my closet. Seeing as I’d only called on Daphne for clothes two days ago, I didn’t feel like it was prudent of me to ask for her help again. Instead, I hunted, looking for something, anything that was suitable to wear for an interview with a Malfoy.

“You know, it’s really not that hard.”

I looked up to see Tabby, looking surprisingly awake considering last night. I stared blankly at her in response. She sighed, turning to rummage through my closet on her own.

After two minutes, she resurfaced, clutching a relatively normal skirt and top. They weren’t entirely clean, but Tabby, being clumsy, had mastered cleaning spells long ago, to help in embarrassing situations.

An hour later, I was dressed, full of caffeine, my house was mercifully empty and Tabby had even done the dishes as a thank-you for letting her crash. Out of the three owls I’d received earlier, only one was urgent.

One was Creevey, asking how the interview with Terry went, the next was from my father reminding me about the family dinner this coming weekend, and the final one was from my agent.

That one was the urgent one.

Being me, I answered the first two within ten minutes, and then sufficiently distracted myself with cups of tea and biscuits for the next half an hour, putting off replying to Vine. He wanted an update on my progress, and an estimated time till I would be submitting my final manuscript.

I had no idea what the estimated time could be. A month, a year, a lifetime…knowing my procrastination skills, it was probably one of the last two. The problem, however, was that I had limited funding and a deadline. The wizarding publishing industry paid me for signing the initial contract, which stated that I had a year to complete the book. It was now approaching ten and a half months. I wouldn’t receive any more money until the manuscript was completed, published and sold.

Of course, the editor had to look over my manuscript first, which meant, to keep everyone happy, I really should submit it just a little bit before the deadline, though they couldn’t really be mad at me for not doing so.

Eventually I settled on a vague response, referring to a few chapters I had left to polish, and saying ‘around a month or so’ as my deadline. I was running out of time, and I knew it. However, from my experience with N.E.W.Ts and O.W.Ls, stress and an approaching deadline (and a pinch of fear) were great motivators.

After that, I gathered up some paper and a quill in preparation to head to the Malfoy’s. I only had a rough idea of what I wanted to ask Narcissa – the conversation I overheard between Draco and Lucius kept interfering with my train of thought.

I apparated to the outskirts of the Malfoy property. I’d been here several times as a girl, for various society functions. The manor was as grand as ever, several peacocks visible from where I stood. As far as I knew, Lucius and Narcissa had put as much effort into restoring the house to its original pre-war state as they had with their family name.

The gates swung open and I walked up the driveway, the ghosts of childhood memories washing over me. I’d always hated the events my parents had dragged Daphne and me to. The imposing front doors swung open just as the gate had, and I found myself in the entrance hall.

Draco was waiting for me, leaning against the stone staircase.

“Miss Greengrass,” he said with a curt nod.

“Malfoy,” I replied, stepping up to meet him by the staircase.

“Mother’s in the parlour.”

He set off up the stairs, and I followed two paces behind him. The house was strangely cold for summer, with only a few windows letting sunlight in. Draco was clad in Ministry robes, making me think he’d either just arrived from work, or was just about to leave. Most likely he’d wanted to supervise my interview with his mother.

We approached a room on the second floor, and I saw a rare glimpse of sunlight streaming from within. Obviously Narcissa had opened the curtains.

“Mother? Astoria Greengrass is here,” Draco announced, standing in the doorway.

I waited awkwardly behind him, stepping inside the room only once he’d done so himself. Narcissa was seated in an armchair facing the window; the sunlight cast an almost unearthly glow on her pale hair. Her skin was white and chalky, her body fragile. I hadn’t seen her in months, but I could tell she wasn’t well.

Suddenly, a lot of what had passed between Lucius and Draco made sense.

Draco showed no signs of offering me a chair, so I dragged one over from beside an expensive-looking wooden table, placing it next to Narcissa’s.

“Hello, Mrs. Malfoy,” I said formally, my quill and paper floating on their own accord, ready to take notes.

I heard Draco take a seat in the far corner, but I ignored him. If he was going to be unsociable and taciturn, that was fine with me. Frankly I didn’t need his input in my interview.

“How are you?”

Narcissa turned to face me, smiling slightly in greeting. This close, I could see the dark circles beneath her eyes. It was clear she wasn’t well, and I would hazard a guess that it wasn’t a mild illness, either, from Draco’s behaviour.

“I am well enough. Yourself?” she said, her voice slightly rough.

“I am good. Are you ready to begin? If you feel uncomfortable at any time, or don’t want to answer any of the questions, simply say so,” I said; it was standard interview procedure.

Narcissa was a special case, being integral to Harry Potter’s victory. However, she wasn’t innocent. She’d done her fair share of bad things during the war, as had her husband and son. Her act on that evening, however, had redeemed them all. Her love for her son had changed the outcome of the wizarding war.

She nodded, and I began. It didn’t take long to fill sheets of paper with her memories. An hour passed, and Draco hadn’t said a word. Narcissa was often quiet for long periods of time; I let her regain her strength. I had no idea what was wrong with her, and I wasn’t about to ask. It wasn’t my place.

It was just approaching three o’clock when I bid farewell to Narcissa, and left the room. She barely acknowledged me, returning to staring out the window. I could hear Draco following me out, but I made my way to the entrance hall without acknowledging him.

“I trust I don’t need to tell you that my mother’s condition is private, and should not be spread around the media?” Draco said suddenly.

I stopped in the middle of the stone hall, turning slowly to face him.

“Draco, you may think I’m an idiot, but I assure you, I never had any intention of alerting anyone to your mother’s illness. That’s your family’s business. I’ve never asked what’s wrong with her, but I will say that I hope she gets better, quickly,” I said, watching his face shift slightly from it's usual cold mask.

He paused for a moment, considering how to respond.

“You did well with her, in the interview. Most of our circle still holds reservations when it concerns my family, but you’re different,” he said slowly, studying me.

I held my head high, feeling oddly like I was being inspected. I never quite understood Draco. He’d told Lucius that he was happy doing what he was, holding a respectable job. Yet, he obviously wanted to please his mother, and according to Lucius, he had to marry well to do so. As archaic as it sounded, I could sympathise. My own mother had held similar views.

“Draco, I’m sorry for eavesdropping on your conversation the other night, I-”

He cut me off with a wave of his hand.

“It’s fine.”

There was an uncomfortable silence, I was unsure of what to say. Lately it seemed like I never knew quite what to say to Draco Malfoy, if I were to speak my mind it would be quite impolite and rude. I knew enough of his social activities (unrelated to the upper echelon functions his parents’ also attended) to be able to form an interesting opinion of him. He had definitely improved since his days at Hogwarts, yet I didn’t trust him.

Something about him intrigued me. I had a feeling I’d be pondering over his inner turmoil for days to come, a product of the writer’s instinct in me.

“Well, goodbye, Draco,” I said finally, turning to the door.

“Goodbye, Miss Greengrass. Perhaps I will see you at a society event in the future.”

I turned my head back as he spoke, only just catching the bare whisper of a smile. Confused, I turned and walked out the front door, almost missing his last words.

“Good luck with the book.”

Once again, a big thank you to StEpH_M for betaing. I know this was a short chapter, but chapter 4 is already in the works, so it shouldn't be too long!

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