Ron had been accidentally poisoned in Slughorn’s office when he drank oak-aged mead meant for someone else.
Harry had saved him by acting quickly and shoving the antidote in Ron’s mouth. And even though all of the drugs in his system had made him very weak… the Love Potion, the poison, and the two antidotes to combat both, Ron would be okay and make a full recovery.
When word got around to Draco, he skipped lunch and headed straight for his room.
He had to consume seven liquor sticks before his hands would stop shaking.
“It wasn’t meant for you.”
He said through gritted teeth as he popped opened another. “You stupid git!”
It was Draco that had switched the bottle of mead that was to be gifted to Dumbledore with one laced with poison. But Slughorn had procrastinated for whatever reason and had not given it to Dumbledore at Christmas.
Draco downed another liquor stick as thoughts of Katie Bell also entered his mind. He didn’t mean for her to get hurt either. She was just supposed to deliver the necklace. It was supposed to be simple. She wasn’t supposed to get hurt.
Guilt and fear tore at Draco’s insides. He didn’t want this. He didn’t want any of it. Students had almost died because of him.
They were unwilling, unknowing, accidental players in a sick and dangerous game whose entire purpose was to kill Dumbledore without having to actually face him or watch him die.
It was supposed to be the safest way.
He took out Hermione's picture that he'd hidden the night before and as soon as he saw her face, he spoke to her... a silent conversation in his mind.
"I'm so sorry."
He said to her caring eyes. "One day you'll know it was me who did this and you will never forgive me."
Lunchtime was nearly over and so he began to concentrate on his breathing so that his heart rate would slow down. The alcohol was taking too long and he needed to act like nothing was wrong.
Draco downed one more liquor stick and tucked her picture into his suit jacket before heading to class nearly drunk, not wanting to look or act guilty or remorseful about anything.
But Blaise knew what he had done. He could see it in Draco’s glossy eyes and the way he sat half-slumped over in his seat. He bit his lip, not liking what Draco was doing.
By dinner, Ron was back to his old self. Only it appeared he was more hungry than normal as he stuffed his face like a starved dog.
Draco was quite relieved, but could only eat bread as his stomach turned into knots with fear of being found out.
Blaise shot Draco a knowing look. “Everything’s fine, mate.” He tried to reassure his friend in a short conversation that only they could hear.
“No, Blaise. Everything is not fine
.” He replied discreetly as his eyes moved to meet Hermione’s looking at him from across the House tables.
He broke the gaze and looked down at the bread on his plate. It reminded him of his late night bread meal in the kitchen with her.
He picked some up and started eating, forcing it down with pumpkin juice.
“Potter will duel me again, Blaise. But the next time it won’t be chaperoned by professors and we won’t have an audience of peers cheering us on. He is rightfully suspicious and will challenge me. It’s only a matter of time.”
. He’s supposed to be a good man
.” Blaise replied with sarcasm.
“Good men have their limits. I have the patience of a saint, while he walks on edge, about to explode. He suspects me and is one of the few that has the guts to confront me.”
“It’ll do you good to prepare then, instead of walking around half lit. I know what you did today, mate. And I don’t think it was the wisest choice.” Blaise said of Draco’s alcohol binge.
“I'll do what I must.” He replied getting up to leave, not liking the lecture.
Three days later, the scores were in.
Draco was the only person able to open Hermione’s vault.
And she, being the brightest witch of their age had solved every vault except one… Draco Malfoy’s.
It had driven her half-crazy trying to solve it. She knew she was close, but the final piece eluded her and time was up.
There was no doubt that she would win for opening the most vaults and Draco would win for best design difficulty as his was the only one unable to be opened.
It was no wonder. Draco and Hermione didn’t intend for anyone to open their vaults… except each other. Hermione’s was a message to him. And Draco’s was a message to her. They made it so with their exceptionally difficult pictograms.
If there was an award for beauty, it would’ve been Draco’s. The design of it had a border that depicted snakes lying in Celtic knot pattern of eternal love and the pictograms were beautiful with exquisite details. And as if that weren’t enough, each verse of the riddle was its own lock that actually moved as if it were really unlocking. It was an amazing piece of artwork.
Ronald Weasley stuck with something easy. He didn’t want to think about it too much. Truthfully, he just wanted it to be done so he could enjoy the extra free time allotted by the suspended curfew.
His spoke of Quidditch with the vault key very simply being “Quidditch.” It opened to reveal one of his most prized possessions… an autographed Quidditch bat that someone had anonymously given him at Christmas. He wanted everyone to see it.
Harry’s was a little more complicated and personal. It was about a child missing his parents. The vault key was “Orphan” and it opened to reveal the moving picture of his parents holding him when he was very young.
When Hermione solved it, she let out a whisper. “Oh, Harry.” She said as she felt sorry for her friend, wondering if the hole in his heart for his parents could ever be filled.
She noticed that Draco was only bothering to decipher the vaults from fellow Slytherin students, as if no other House existed. It was just like him to do such a pompous irritating thing.
One vault had Draco laughing hysterically. It was quite disruptive as everyone had been deathly quiet holding their clipboards and trying to concentrate on deciphering pictograms and opening vaults. When she looked down the hall toward him to see what was so hilarious, she saw Draco and Blaise exchanging high-fives and Slytherin handshakes.
When she got to the vault that had him laughing, she quickly scribbled the words on her clipboard as she deciphered it. And when she finally read it to herself, she too was struggling to keep her chuckling to a minimum.
It was Blaise’s vault.
“What’s so funny?” Asked Ron.
Hermione deciphered the pictogram for him.
“Pansy Parkinson tried to play Quidditch,
But got hit in the throat by a bludger.
Pansy ended up losing her voice
And Draco lived happily ever after.”
She gave another muffled chuckle, trying to be quiet.
The ‘happily ever after’ part had her guessing the vault key.
“Bliss?” She asked it. Sure enough, it opened to reveal of moving photo of Pansy. You couldn’t hear what she was saying of course, but she had a scowl on her face and her mouth was moving fast, complaining about something.
It made Hermione cover her hand over her mouth as she giggled.
She looked to the side then to see that Draco had been watching her reaction. He had that flirty smirk on his face.
Hermione returned a half smile, but it was short lived as she took her place, clipboard in hand, ready to decipher the next Black Canvas Vault.
But she was finding it difficult to concentrate on anything, knowing that his eyes were on her.
Draco had been watching her, smiling on the inside. As others struggled with the vaults and giving up, she was clearly head and shoulders above the rest, being quite the intelligent problem solver.
He did not have the ambition to decipher every one of them like she did. He decided that academic awards didn’t have much meaning to him anymore.
It was just one more thing that no longer mattered.
By the time Valentine’s Day came around, the school was a buzz of whispers about ‘unofficial awards’ for cutest couple, best new couple, and even couples that should probably break it off and see someone else. But this year, news of a different kind of award surfaced and spread like wildfire throughout Hogwarts.
It was a special award they were calling the “Dark Valentine” and the recipients of this award were none other than Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger. It was “the couple most likely to kill each other” award.
When word got to Hermione, she simply rolled her eyes and said, “Hogwarts has a comedian. Lovely.”
Outwardly, she seemed indifferent as if the comment meant nothing. But inside, she was smiling at the title. People thought they hated each other and it would be true if nothing had changed between them.
But everything had changed. Everything.
She thought of a more appropriate title for them… the couple whose relationship was doomed before it ever started. Or… the couple with the secret affection that will never go anywhere accept in her dreams. No, that title was much too long.
She let out a long sigh when she realized that there was no need for a title. They were no couple of any sort and they never would be one.
When Draco was told of the title, the Slytherin men from First to Seventh Years were all crowded in the common room in their tuxedos waiting for their ladies to complete their last minute finishing touches before the start of the Gala.
It was quite a gorgeous site, really… young Slytherin men dressed to the nines.
Dressing up made them stand taller, take pride in themselves, and just downright feel good.
The manly group radiated even more confidence than usual.
It amused Draco how much respect, or fear maybe, that his fellow Slytherins showed him in the most subtle of ways. A perfect example of this was Draco’s favorite leather chair. He didn’t own it, but everyone knew it to be his.
Usually, people would not use it, preferring to stand just in case Draco walked into the common room. And if there was someone in it when he walked in, they immediately moved out of it.
This had been happening for years, including older students when he was younger.
He thought of his history at the school and the only time he remembered demanding that someone get out of that chair was sometime during his Second Year. That was a long time ago and it must’ve made an impression somehow.
He was sitting quietly in his chair surrounded by all the noise, thinking of all the special occasions throughout his years at Hogwarts and especially, how much he was going to miss it when his deadline approached… now only three months away.
This would be his last formal occasion. The thought made him feel a bit nostalgic and definitely sad. He knew he would never return, not even to graduate.
He felt that particular rite of passage was being involuntarily taken from him just like so many other things.
It would all be over soon.
He never thought he would be sad about leaving Hogwarts. He was supposed to be uncaring and indifferent. But if he were honest about it, he would have to admit that he loved the place.
Even with the noise of the people surrounding him, he studied the Slytherin common room to engrave it into his mind. The green glow of the Black Lake above them, the massive fireplace, every ornate carving of the arches and the columns, and the chandeliers hanging above them.
He wanted to be able to close his eyes and see every detail, because in a few short months, he would never see it again.
“Hey, Malfoy.” Someone shouted, catching his attention.
“Have you heard? You and Mudblood Granger have been dubbed a couple.” Cole Devlin hollered out for everyone to hear.
Everyone heard this and the entire common room grew quiet, waiting for his reaction. They all thought he might be furious at the joke aimed directly at him.
For a split second he feared that someone had found out his true feelings for her and he was going to have to openly deny everything and insult her for good measure. He knew that whatever Devlin was talking about, he would have to choose his words and actions carefully.
Outwardly, he remained un-phased and un-moving.
“What in the bloody hell are you talking about?” He asked threateningly.
“Blaise and Astoria got voted Best New Couple. But you and Mudblood got voted for what’s being called the Dark Valentine.” He laughed. “You two are… ‘The couple most likely to kill each other’!”
Draco sat silently as he let the comment fully register as all eyes awaited his reaction.
His lips moved to his signature smirk and he nodded as if he were amused. When he began a deep, rough, sinister laugh, others joined in his laughter as if to pause and make sure it was okay with him first.
He played along with the joke and with a voice full of sarcasm replied, “Kill each other? Someone at Hogwarts actually thinks I wouldn’t win
that duel?” He remarked with a huff and shook his head as if it were the most absurd thing he’d ever heard. He waved it off as if the subject didn’t warrant further discussion.
The noise began again as everyone went back to their conversations.
But when he had a minute to think about it, he immediately changed the title in his mind to one not too far from the original version. To him, they were “The couple most likely to be killed for loving each other.”
Yes. That was much more appropriate. Loving her would get him killed. It would be a violation against everything a Death Eater stood for. He would be considered worse than a normal Blood Traitor.
Loving a Mudblood who was also a member of the Order and not to mention the best friend of the Dark Lord’s worst enemy would carry a death sentence.
Voldemort would call it a Death Eater ‘honor killing.’
Draco became lost in a vision for a moment. Instead of being surrounded by students in their black tuxedos, Draco suddenly saw them as black-hooded silver masked Death Eaters.
They were surrounding him in a circle, preparing to torture him before sending the final blow.
Blaise saw Draco’s facial expression change from blank to one of dread, almost sickly.
He was about to say something to intervene, but Draco was pulled out of his vision with the sound of applause and wolf whistles as the ladies finally appeared in their stunning formal evening gowns.
Draco refocused his attention as Pansy stepped into the crowd of men and made her way to him as the leader and star of the show.
This was her event after all and she had to wear something that stood out. She looked very good in a colorful floor-length gown in what reminded Draco of a dark-toned stained glass window. It was very artsy and would look formal and respectful enough to impress the officials from the Museum of Magical Art.
She was dressing to impress them, not Draco.
Reluctantly and with much hesitation, Hermione had said yes to a date that had been arranged by the Patil sisters. He was a Seventh Year Hufflepuff, Vaden Sharpe. He was tall and gorgeous with his smooth raven hair and dashingly bright royal blue eyes.
But she wasn’t really interested in him. And truthfully, he wasn’t that interested in her either. But they both agreed and it would have to be good enough.
But she was not dressing up for him nor was she nervous for him. She was quite calm and melancholy.
In her heart, she was dressing for Draco… the one her heart wanted to be with, but couldn’t.
She was thinking of him as she showered, wanting his touch and his embrace as she felt the steamy water fall against her skin. She tilted her head a little and allowed the warm liquid to touch and enter her mouth. She tasted it, trying to imagine what it would be like if it were his warm tongue brushing slowly against hers.
She was disappointed to find that water was certainly no substitute for a kiss. She felt silly to think such thoughts.
When she was out of the shower, she dried and pinned up her hair half up and half down. Using pins with shiny rhinestones on the ends, she situated them just so and curled the rest in long pretty ringlets. She liked the result, looking as if she had tiny stars in her dark hair.
She hoped that he would like them.
She thought of Draco as she slipped on the dress that she bought with his taste in mind, hoping he would like it and hoping to match him.
It was Draco that she was dressing for… not her date.
She painted her fingernails a pretty pearly pink that matched her lip gloss.
She wanted to look pretty for her Prince… a Prince that she could never have. But she did it anyway… for him.
As she put the finishing touch on her elegant and sophisticated look, a beautiful choker around her dainty neck, she looked at herself in the mirror and studied what Draco would see.
“Will you think I’m pretty, my Dark Valentine?” She whispered to the mirror, hoping that he would see her and realize that she had dressed for him.
The Gala Awards Ceremony was about to start. All of the students dressed for the occasion. It was a very special event that went surprisingly well with Valentine’s Day.
The students were guessing at who would win the awards and which House would win the most points. Of course there were students who truly didn’t care, but most were really excited.
Draco was scanning the place for Hermione, but didn’t see her until all of the students had taken their seats at large round banquet tables.
As fate would have it, Draco and Hermione inadvertently took seats facing each other from across the dining hall.
She saw him first and was a bit mesmerized by his gorgeous looks. How can one always look so formal and proper on any given day, but somehow still manage to step it up for formal occasions?
When his gray eyes looked up to find hers, he gave that ever-so-serious look that took her breath.
They would exchange stares and glares from a distance.
Pansy misinterpreted their glaring like everyone else.
“Draco dear, I see you’ve noticed your favorite
person.” She sneered in sarcasm.
Draco let out a huff and thought to himself. ‘If you only knew.’
“Casting evil stares at each other and looks that could kill? How appropriate for ‘The couple most likely to kill each other.’” She laughed mockingly.
“Shut up.” He said fully irritated beyond the norm.
Pansy chuckled again. “I think it’s hilarious. Although, I do find it disturbing to call you two a couple of any sort.”
Draco gave her look of warning.
As fellow Slytherin, Theodore Nott crossed his path, he couldn’t help but take the rare opportunity to poke fun.
“Hey, Malfoy. Where’s that Mudblood Valentine of yours? Have you sacked her like Seborah yet? I imagine her to be a real howler, eh?” He said too loudly, then laughed.
At first, Draco remained calm and cool despite the fire that flared in his head.
But in a blink, he had drawn his wand and sent a spell that grabbed Nott's tie. Draco jerked it with a force that had Nott dropping to his knees and gasping for breath.
“It’s not in your best interest to make fun of a Malfoy, Nott.” Blaise remarked as Nott's face turned a dangerous shade of red from a temporary lack of oxygen and embarrassment as he stood back up.
Draco was able to keep his eyes off Granger for about ten minutes after the episode. But after that, he couldn’t resist and his eyes found hers again. He tried to distract himself by getting drinks for him and Pansy.
He wanted her to meet him at the punch fountain, but she didn’t. He thought it might be fun to pick a fight with her in front of everyone to get them both kicked out so maybe they could find their way to be alone again.
They certainly were not glaring at each other because of hatred. On the contrary, it was a desire and a hunger for each other that gave a shout that only they could hear. They didn’t need special powers of telepathy to know exactly what the other was feeling. They needed to see each other again… alone… before the night was over.
The Gala Awards Ceremony went perfectly. Pansy Parkinson and Lavender Brown were doing a wonderful job as co-hosts, announcing awards and points, taking turns with their announcements.
When Hermione stood to receive her award for opening the most vaults, Draco couldn’t take his eyes off her.
He noticed that she had indeed, dressed for him, wearing a full length gown of the darkest of all fabrics… black velvet.
She looked sophisticated, classy, and downright gorgeous.
When he went up to accept his award for design difficulty, they had to pass each other.
Everyone in the place hushed, wondering if the two would start fighting because of their newly appointed titles, but to everyone’s disappointment, they did nothing of the sort.
Instead, he did the only other thing that would've been accepted as normal. He ignored her completely as if she didn't exist.
At the end of the Gala, Pansy Parkinson and Lavender Brown made their way to the podium for one last award before closing the art ceremony that would mark the start of the Valentine’s Day dance.
Lavender happily went to the podium, clearly in her element in front of the entire school. “Before we announce the last award, I would like to say something on a very personal note.”
She went on to thank the committee for their tireless efforts in making the art event such a success and when she thanked Pansy for the opportunity, she said something very peculiar.
“I just want to thank Pansy Parkinson, especially. She chose me to be the Assistant Director and honestly… I never expected that she would choose me or give me the time of day in a million years.”
Draco’s eyes grew wide and he almost choked on his drink as her words repeated in his head.
It was a common exaggerated expression, but that so happened to be the same exact expression that the girl who Poly Juiced herself into looking like Pansy actually said to him.
“You wouldn’t choose me or give me the time of day in a million years.”
The unknown girl had said, squirming underneath his weight.
It was her. Draco was convinced it had been Lavender Brown that had climbed into bed with him disguised as Pansy, wanting to feel loved!
Blaise saw his reaction and gave Draco a questioning look.
He had told his best friend about what had happened long ago. “Poly Juice girl.” He said so that only he could here.
It was Blaise’s turn to look shocked. “Brown?”
The more he mulled it around in his head, the more he became convinced. He had suspected a Gryffindor and now thinking of how mental and obsessive she was, Lavender Brown was a perfectly fit piece into that disturbing puzzle.
“Are you going to confront her?” Blaise asked just under a breath.
Draco gave a shoulder shrug, undecided.
Once Lavender was finally finished with her speech, Pansy took over the last and final award.
“I am so very pleased to announce one last award for… ‘Best of Show.’ The Museum of Magical Arts would like to not only display this amazing work at the museum for an extended period of time, but they are offering full scholarship should this student pursue a career in art. I am so pleased that this honor has been bestowed upon a Hogwarts student from this
"This special honor goes to..." Lavender joined Pansy then as the two read from a single parchment.
"Seventh Year, Vaden Sharpe of Hufflepuff for his sculpture titled, ‘The Dragon.’
The students erupted in applause as Hermione’s date made his way to the front.
His enormous life-size sculpture of a Norwegian Ridgeback Dragon was magnificent and would be on display for all the wizarding world to see and admire for years to come. After he had sculpted it to perfection, he used the magical paint of the First Years to paint it to life stunning accuracy. And he used scraps from the glass from the Fourth Years for the dragon’s eyes, teeth, and talons.
Every student in the place loved it, except for one.
Draco despised it. But that was only because it reminded him of the ceiling mural at home. Vaden might as well have gone ahead and sculpted the witch with her “Purus Cruor”
banner to accompany the perfect dragon. He hated the reminder and couldn’t stand to look at it.
Pansy and Lavender then invited the rest of the event committee to the front where all of them received a standing ovation from all the students, faculty, and museum officials in attendance, recognizing them for their wonderful efforts in pulling off such an amazing event.
Photographers from the Daily Prophet
were working frantically to get their pictures for the headline articles that would appear in the magical newspaper the next morning.
While Pansy was formally shaking hands with museum officials, Draco noticed the look in Lavender’s smiling eyes as a swarm of frenzied students bombarded her with ideas they wanted to do for next year’s show.
With all that she had done, it was obvious that it was Lavender that the students had come to love, not Pansy. It was something that Draco counted on.
Taking in the happy scene, Draco realized that Lavender Brown now had adoring fans. Her picture would be in the Daily Prophet
and the magical world would know her. And if she continued on this new path presented to her, she would never feel invisible again.
Being the wife of Ron Weasely would not define her completely. If he ever left, she would have the confidence to move on and live.
“Dream prevented.” He said in his mind… and it felt so very good.
Draco realized then that he’d become somewhat of an observer of people. He didn’t realize he had become one, it just happened over time, he supposed.
He knew he had changed… knew the darkness had changed him and it wasn’t all bad.
It had caused him to mature at a much faster pace than those his age. It forced him to grow up and think, act, and play the part of an adult before it was time. It had caused him to become quiet and reserved, always calculating his every word and action, because everything he said and did mattered.
He once feared that the darkness would turn him into a monster. And maybe it would eventually when he left Hogwarts to live with pure evil. But for now, it actually had him caring about people. Because he had seen death… life wasted in front of his gray eyes.
And now looking at all of the people at Hogwarts, especially the young ones, he realized just how precious life really was… no matter their age, or House, their last names, and especially not their blood status.
None of it mattered to him anymore.
Death knew no prejudice and would take any of them, regardless.
While observing the people surrounding him, he had noticed something else that night… something that had to do with Pansy. He found it most interesting and peculiar.
And even though it was Valentine’s Day, he couldn’t think of a more appropriate time to break up with her.
When the dance began, she was finally able to make her way to Draco.
He had a drink and a seat waiting for her.
He stood like a proper gentleman and kissed her hand to greet her.
Hermione had been so caught up with what Draco was doing that she hadn’t realized that her date, Vaden Sharpe, winner of the grand prize, had been gawking at someone else all night.
“Vaden.” She finally said. “Thank you for escorting me to the dance tonight, but honestly… I’d rather be doing something else right now. If you don’t mind, I think I’m going to call it a night. Sorry.”
But Vaden was actually pleased to hear this. He didn’t want to hurt her feelings, but he just wasn’t interested. “Oh. Okay. No worries or hard feelings. It’s alright.”
He stood and walked her to the stairs until she turned to him to shake his hand politely.
“Thank you and congratulations on your win. Goodnight.” She said as she made her swift exit.
Pansy sat down beside Draco with a look of pride and relief that her art event and awards ceremony had gone so perfectly well.
“Pansy, I’ve never been more proud of you as I am right now.” Draco started.
She smiled a very genuine smile. He thought it looked good on her.
He thought of Hermione’s words and repeated them to her. “In your scheming of things, you accidently brought joy to others.” He gave her a dashing smile. “People may not like you Pansy, but they will certainly love what you did. Feels good, doesn’t it?”
She gave a long drawn out sigh and replied, “Yes. I suppose it does. And you were right about bringing in Lavender. Honestly, I don’t think it would’ve gone so well without her.”
“It couldn’t have been better.” He paused for a moment, choosing his words carefully before continuing.
“You do realize that you do not need me anymore.” Draco said smoothly as he lifted a drink to his lips.
“What?” She replied with an eyebrow raised.
“You admitted it at New Year’s Eve… that you use me for status. And well, you are no longer thought of as just the girlfriend of Draco Malfoy. You’ve made a name for yourself as Pansy Parkinson, the one who brought the magical art world to all of Hogwarts. You will get that museum job and it will have everything to do with your efforts and nothing to do with my last name. I’m quite proud of you for it.”
She wasn’t sure what to say.
In Draco’s observing of people, he had noticed that she was being watched adoringly by a certain artist.
“You’ve caught the attention of many this evening, but there is one person in particular that has been eyeing you all night. And if you look at the gentleman at the bottom of the stairs, he is probably staring at you as we speak.”
Pansy furrowed her brow and looked beyond his shoulder to find that someone was indeed staring at her.
It was Vaden Sharpe, sculptor of ‘The Dragon’
and Hermione Granger’s former date.
She looked back at Draco, unsure of what he was going to do about it. Would he go into a jealous rage?
Her answer came quickly. He would do nothing of the sort.
“It seems you both have a future career in the art world and would have much in common.”
Pansy caught her breath as her mind raced. What was he doing?
Draco pointed out gently the one-sidedness that their relationship had been.
“All those times that you came to me in the night, Pansy… I believe it is time that someone came for you.”
It was true. Draco never went to her. It was always her that went to him.
Pansy realized what he was doing then. He was breaking up with her in the most unexpected of ways... giving her permission to go to someone that was interested.
It was unbelievable.
“I had thought that our breakup would be much more…” She tried to find the right word as she stared into her drinking glass. “Cruel.”
“It doesn’t need to be.” He said as he took her hand to tenderly kiss it goodbye.
There was a long pause as she considered what she should do. She didn’t really want to break it off. But seeing his expression, there would be no need for her to make an attempt at preventing it. She fought the urge to try to convince him to reconsider.
But looking into his serious gray eyes one last time, she knew.
It was over.
She wasn’t sure where it had come from, but without warning, a tear had slid down her cheek at what he was doing… breaking up with her in the kindest way imaginable.
“For what it’s worth, I did care for you.” She said wiping away the tear.
“And I cared for you. Otherwise I would have never allowed us to go as far as we did, but it’s time to end this.”
Pansy wanted to be furious with him, but how could she be?
For a split second, she thought she really could possibly be in love with him at that moment… at the very moment of their breakup.
He stood her up from her seat so they were both standing and then pulled her into a tight embrace, a hug of goodbye and deep understanding.
“Go to him.” He said to her cheek. “He is waiting for the great Pansy Parkinson to congratulate him personally.”
She cleared her throat so that she could speak, but she could only manage two words.
“Thank you.” She said quietly, trying to hold back more tears, listening to his unbelievable words of encouragement.
As she backed from him to walk away, Draco added one last piece of advice.
“And Pansy, if you intend to keep him, try not to be too mean and… don’t turn your back to him every time.”
She saw a pained look in his eyes and her heart sunk a little at the mention of her error concerning their intimate nights together. Had she shown him love instead of cold indifference, things might’ve turned out differently.
Knowing she had been wrong, she could only close her eyes and nod her head in sad acknowledgement that her chance with him had come and gone with no way of going back to fix it, even if forgiven.
He watched as she walked up to Vaden and shook his hand in formal congratulations.
The two men exchanged glares of an unspoken language amongst gentlemen.
Vaden looked at Draco as if asking permission.
Draco gave him a look of warning that said if he ever hurt her, there would be hell to pay. But then he followed it with a nod of approval.
The Seventh Year Hufflepuff understood the warning, but he was also quite relieved with the nod, knowing it would not be good to disrespect Draco Malfoy.
Vaden, with his jet black hair and sapphire eyes looked at a teary-eyed Pansy. “Are you alright?”
She let out a cool breath, attempting to compose herself before answering.
“I just experienced the kindest breakup in Hogwarts history… and I will be okay.” She said dabbing at her eyes, hoping she wasn’t ruining her mascara. “I’m a little sad that it’s officially over, but I suppose… it was time.”
“Well, maybe I can take your mind off it. Would you walk your gallery with me?” He said with an unmistakable sparkle and desire in his eyes that captivated her. Draco had never looked at her like that. “I haven’t had time to see the works of other students and I’d like to do so before they are all gone.”
“Absolutely.” She replied almost happily.
He offered his arm to her and she gladly took it as they began walking.
“Let’s start with the First Years, shall we? You wouldn’t believe what those little tykes came up with in their heads. And would you believe my personal favorite of the tapestries did not win? Oh, and did you see the intricate details of that glass snowflake? It’s charmed to turn white when it’s about to snow. I want one for myself. It would look lovely hanging in my bedroom window. You must see it to believe it.”
Draco watched as Pansy took Vaden’s arm and they began walking and chatting. He took comfort in the fact that he knew she was going to be okay. There would be no bitterness between them and for whatever reason, it was important to him that it end without too much drama.
It was quiet, respectful, and… finished.
Draco scanned the place looking for Hermione, but she was nowhere in sight.
He had a pretty good idea where she would be and without wasting any more time, he went looking for her.
But just as he rounded a corner, Lavender Brown almost ran into him.
“Lavender.” He stopped her by taking hold of her shoulders.
She stood wide-eyed and scared as a kitten.
He let go of her shoulders and took her hand, shaking it in congratulations.
“Pansy told me of the excellent job that you did. She said that she couldn’t have done it without you. I wanted to congratulate you on your success.” He said, looking into her eyes.
“Thanks.” She managed to say nervously.
“And Lavender…. I know it was you.” He said quietly as she stiffened and held her breath, trying not to look shocked, but failing miserably.
“Whatever do you mean?” She asked with a squeal in her voice, her face now as red as a Gryffindor flag.
“I think you know what I mean… and not to worry. I’ll never say anything to Ron.” He promised. “And I hold no ill will toward you. It’s alright. I was only furious for that one night.”
Lavender felt like she was going to fall over.
Draco Malfoy was actually speaking to her and giving her compliments? He knew what she did and wasn't berating or scolding her with his painful cruelty?
She blinked and Draco became concerned.
“Breathe, Lavender, breathe.”
She did as she was told and snapped out of her petrified trance.
“Maybe you should go sit down or something.” He suggested.
She nodded her head. “Yeah. Okay.” She said, still in shock that he had treated her mercifully.
Draco stood there for a moment and watched her walk away, hoping that she wouldn’t fall down.
“Mental, that one.”
He said under his breath as he walked away to begin his hunt for Granger.
Hermione had witnessed him tenderly kissing Pansy’s hand and couldn’t stomach it.
She got up and left, trying to get the scene out of her mind.
How could someone like Pansy have him, where she could not?
She knew the relationship was a farce, but she didn't want to witness it. It all seemed so unfair.
There was only one place she wanted to go now.
It had become an obsession of late… to solve his Black Canvas Vault.
She felt it in her very being that he created it for her eyes only, just as hers was for him. She only needed the last word. And so she decided it best to ditch her date and her pre-occupied friends and go back to trying to solve it before it was erased.
Before it returned to the Museum… never to be seen again.
And so she stepped up to it once more and read Draco's poetic words...
“Love is a curse.
And dark is the heart and mind of the one
Who will never hold the hand...
Or kiss the lips...
Or make love to...
The one that is __________."
What do you think the final word is? Did I make it too easy? I'd love to see guesses in your Reviews!
Did Draco surprise you by breaking up with Pansy gently? He will now be the deepest regret of her life.
And what of Lavender being Poly Juice girl? Reviewers Sara_sj and GinGin06 guessed it at a time when I wasn't sure who it would be yet. Great Job for pointing me to a perfect Poly Juice girl! Haha!
Up next: Draco helps Hermione solve the final piece of his vault. What do you think it is?
Please Review. I'd love the hear from you!
P.S. 20,000 Reads! An unreal milestone that makes my heart skip beats... THANK YOU! And also... 142 have Favorited. I cannot thank you enough! And... a real fan of this story started a fan page in cyberspace. I am amazed that someone would do such a thing!