AUTHOR'S NOTE: I am sooo so sorry for making you wait so long. You see, I had no computer access for a while. But now I do, so I'm posting Chapter 11. Thanks to everyone who reviewed, and please enjoy the next chapter! I worked really, really hard to make it perfect! :)
Chapter Eleven: A Display of Affection
Draco didn’t think that he was the type of person to become nervous over something as simple as a kiss. After all, he’d kissed many girls before, so it wasn’t anything new to him.
But perhaps, because the person he would be kissing was Hermione, it was different this time. Perhaps because they had spent the last seven years hating each other with a passion, he found the idea of kissing her to be quite strange indeed.
He wasn’t disgusted, as he might have been long ago. To put it honestly, Draco found that he was quite looking forward to it. But he was still nervous.
It was Monday evening, the day before his big kiss with Hermione, and he was sitting under a tree near the Black Lake. He couldn’t believe he’d already been back at Hogwarts for two weeks, and his mother hadn’t once written him.
Not that he expected Narcissa Malfoy to write him a letter every two days. But it would have been nice to know how she was doing, and what was happening with his father in Azkaban. Of course, he didn’t care quite so much about Lucius as he did Narcissa. He’d always hated his father, even before he turned eleven. Of course, no one else knew about what Lucius had done to him. Just Hermione.
Maybe that’s what made her different. The fact that she knew what he had done, and what his life was like, and had still trusted him. Well, she had, before that whole fiasco with the potion. He still felt terribly guilty about that, even though Blaise had told him over and over again that he couldn’t have changed it. He didn’t say it wasn’t his fault, though.
‘You look like you’re thinking really hard,’
He looked up at the sound of Luna Lovegood’s dreamy voice. She was wearing dream-catcher earrings, which he admitted looked very different and less creepy then her usual radish ones, and a jumper.
‘Not really,’ he answered. Although he’d never admit it to anyone—even Hermione—Draco found talking to Luna to be quite pleasant. He was certain that if the Trio hadn’t shown up at the Manor when they did, he would have ended up breaking them out when everyone was sleeping.
‘Interesting,’ Luna said.
‘What?’ Draco asked, amused. Luna confused him sometimes, but he still enjoyed her company when no one was around.
‘Oh, nothing,’ she said. ‘Just that you sort of looked like you were worried about something.’
He thought back to what he’d been thinking about before, and realized that she was right.
‘My mother,’ he found himself saying. ‘She hasn’t written me.’
Luna nodded, and nodded to the spot next to him. ‘Mind if I sit?’ She asked.
He looked around, to make sure that no one was around to see him talking to Luna, and nodded. ‘Sure.’
She sat down. ‘So Narcissa hasn’t written you? At all?’
‘Not once,’ Draco said. ‘I’ve been thinking of asking Professor McGonagall if I can go to the Manor for a minute, to see if she hasn’t been killed by rouge Death Eaters. But I feel stupid, especially if it turns out to be unnecessary and my mother just hasn’t bothered to write me.’
‘It’s not stupid,’ Luna said. ‘In fact, I think it’s a rather smart thing to do. There could be a number of reasons as to why she hasn’t written. But there is also a possibility that she was harmed.’
‘Yes, but I think if she was missing or killed, someone would’ve told me. They don’t keep that sort of thing secret.’ He said.
‘You’re right,’ she said. ‘But it never hurts to check. I can go with you to McGonagall, if you want. Or I can get Hermione.’
‘No,’ Draco said quickly, thinking of the glare he would probably get from Hermione if he asked her to go with him to Malfoy Manor. ‘I think I’ll go alone. I don’t want to bother Hermione with this.’
‘On the contrary, Draco, I don’t think she would be bothered at all,’ she said, giving him a small smile.
‘Well, I hope you’re right, but I’m not going to test that,’ he said. ‘Anyway, if I’m going to go, I might as well go now.’
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘I think I’ll just stay here, if you don’t mind. I won’t tell anyone we were talking.’
Draco didn’t say it, but he had a horrible feeling that telling anyone that he’d been talking to Luna was a bad thing. And not because the entire school thought she was nuts, but because Theodore might begin to get suspicious of him.
‘OK,’ he said. ‘I’ll see you around, then, Luna.’
She nodded, and he headed back up to the castle to talk to McGonagall.
Draco stopped at the gargoyle in front of McGonagall’s office, and frowned, trying to remember what the password was.
‘Albus?’ He said questionably.
The gargoyle didn’t budge.
‘Dumbledore,’ he tried. Still nothing.
‘It’s Fawkes,’ someone said behind him.
He turned around to see Harry, looking as if he had just come from the Head’s Dorm after talking to Hermione.
‘The password is Fawkes? Why?’ Draco asked, confused.
‘After Dumbledore’s Phoenix.’ He explained, shrugging. ‘I just spoke to Hermione, by the way. She found something that might help us.’
‘You told her!’ Draco said, horrified. ‘But you can’t tell her. It’ll ruin everything if she knows.’
‘Not about the plan,’ Harry said. ‘I asked her about the Glamour potion that Blaise mentioned. She reckons she might be able to find something in the Restricted Section, if she gets permission from someone.’
He felt relived, but still a bit wary. Hermione was smart—she was bound to make a connection. ‘OK, but no telling anything else or she’ll get suspicious. I’m surprised she isn’t already.’
‘Of course I won’t. I’m not stupid, Malfoy,’ Harry said.
Draco smirked. ‘Of course not. Now, I’m going to see McGonagall. Go find ‘Ginny’ and make sure she doesn’t attack before tonight.’
Harry nodded, and left him alone. He turned back to the Gargoyle.
‘Fawkes,’ he said. The gargoyle moved, and he stepped in.
When he arrived in McGonagall’s office, he found her sitting at the desk, bent over an old leather book.
The Book of Dark Potions, by Griselda Granger, the title proclaimed. He was almost certain that it was the book Hermione would need.
Griselda Granger, Draco thought. What a strange coincidence.
‘Um, Professor,’ he began.
McGonagall looked up, nearly jumped out of her chair, and put her hand to her chest, as if to calm her probably racing heart. ‘Good Lord, Draco. You nearly gave me a heart-attack.’ She said.
‘Sorry, Professor,’ he said. ‘I thought you heard me coming up. I didn’t mean to scare you.’
‘It’s alright, Draco,’ she said, snapping Dark Potions shut. ‘Is there something I can do for you?’
‘Um… well, I was wondering if it was alright to floo back to my mother’s. See, she hasn’t written me at all, and I was just wondering if I could go check on her. You know, to make sure she’s alright.’ He said. He felt quite stupid asking McGonagall this, since it would all be a waste of time if his mother was fine and he was simply being paranoid, which wasn’t really that far off. He’d been feeling paranoid since he first discovered Theodore’s plans.
‘I don’t see why you can’t,’ McGonagall said. ‘I suppose it would be alright if you went, but you must come back after dinner. Are you capable of sending out a Patronus message?’
He nodded. He’d been working on it ever since Voldemort had moved into the Manor, so he could alert his mother if there was danger. His mother’s Patronus was a dove. His was a fox. His father’s was a peacock.
‘Yes. Here, I’ll show you mine so you know what to look for.’ He said. He quickly cast a Patronus charm, and his fox slid out of the end of his wand.
‘A fox?’ She said curiously. ‘That’s very interesting, Mr Malfoy. Foxes are very sly and clever creatures. They are also intelligent, wise and persistent.’
‘I didn’t know that.’ He said, a little stunned. He wasn’t all of that. Well maybe the sly part, and he had to admit that he was persistent. But smart? Okay, yes. After all, he didn’t get all O’s for nothing. But he definitely wasn’t wise.
McGonagall smiled. ‘I feel that our Patronuses represent our souls,’ she said. ‘You are like the fox, Mr Malfoy, therefore your Patronus takes the form of a fox. Just as your animagus will, if you were to transform into one.’
‘That’s really interesting,’ he said. ‘But I think if I want to be back before dinner, I should probably go now.’
‘Oh, yes. Of course. I’m afraid I have to go ask Professor Slughorn for a pinch of floo powder—I ran out yesterday. I hope you don’t mind?’
‘Of course not.’ He said.
She said a quick ‘I’ll be back’ and then left the office. Draco looked around. The Headmistress’s Office looked exactly the same as it did before Dumbledore died, including the portraits. There was a portrait of Professor Dumbledore right behind the desk, in fact. Next to it, on the window ledge, there was an old hat.
The school’s Sorting Hat.
Draco swallowed. He had never told anyone this, but the Sorting Hat had argued with him for a second, wanting to place him in Gryffindor instead of Slytherin. Of course, he’d begged it not to, and he’d gotten his wish. He hadn’t really regretted it until last year, when he’d realised that being in Slytherin might lead him to his death. Because, after all, if he was in Gryffindor, then Voldemort would leave him alone.
‘No one blames you, you know,’
Draco looked at Professor Dumbledore’s voice. The portrait was talking to him.
‘You did what you had did to protect your mother. In your position, I would have done the same.’ Dumbledore said again.
‘I almost contacted the Order,’ Draco said. ‘I didn’t want to do any of it. My father… he threatened to kill my mother if I didn’t.’
‘And that, my dear boy, is your strength. You will do anything, even join Tom Riddle, to protect your mother.’ He said. ‘And you are going to great lengths now, to protect Miss Granger.’
‘H-how did you know about that?’ He stuttered.
Professor Dumbledore smiled, just a little. ‘I like to take strolls into the Slytherin dormitory, you know. I overheard Mr Nott talking to Miss Parkinson and Miss Greengrass.’
‘Astoria?’ He gasped. ‘Astoriais in on this, too?’
‘Not Astoria,’ Dumbledore said. ‘Her sister, Daphne. I assure you, Draco, that Astoria knows nothing.’
‘Good,’ he said, relieved. ‘I want her out of this.’
Dumbledore nodded in agreement. ‘I will warn you, though, Draco, that there is something very dark on the rise.’
‘Yeah, I gathered that,’ he said. ‘D-do you think that Hermione will be OK? Nott isn’t planning to seriously hurt her, is he?’
Dumbledore looked very solemn, and Draco swallowed back fear. ‘I don’t know, Draco,’ he said.
Draco opened his mouth to say something, but he was cut off because Professor McGonagall had come back.
‘Here you are, Mr Malfoy,’ she said, handing him a little package that held a small pinch of floo powder. ‘You will have to use your own dormitory’s fireplace to get home, though.’
Draco nodded. ‘Thank you, Professor.’ He said.
‘Well, you’re welcome, Mr Malfoy. Now, please come to my office as soon as you get back,’ she said. He promised that he would, gave a curt nod to Professor Dumbledore’s portrait, and left the office.
When he entered the Head’s dorm, he was half-pleased that it seemed empty of Hermione at the moment. He hoped that she was in the library, and not off with Theodore somewhere. He stepped into the fireplace said, ‘Draco Malfoy’s bedroom, Malfoy Manor’, and disappeared into a swirl of green flames.
Draco stumbled out of the fireplace, landing face first on the dark blue carpet. He stood up, brushed himself off, muttered a spell that cleaned up the mess of soot and ashes, and looked around his bedroom. He was pleased to find that it was exactly as he’d left it two weeks ago.
His huge, four-poster bed was freshly made with black covers, with gold pillowcases on the pillows. There was a small nightstand beside his bed, which was in the center of the wall facing the fireplace, and it was completely empty except for the silver lamps, and he’d charmed the white lampshades to make it look like it was flames. His bookshelf, which would probably make Hermione’s jaw drop, was shaped in an L and covered almost the entire far side of the wall on the left side of his room. On the right side, there was a huge window that overlooked the gardens below, where his desk stood. He had his own bathroom right next to the room, and a huge closet that was magically concealed at the end of the wall, where a painting of an apple orchard hung, next to his bookshelf. To enter the closet, he had to tap the golden apple, and murmur ‘Gryffindor’. His favorite part of his bedroom, though, was probably the private sitting room that was hidden behind his bookshelf. His father never discovered the entrance, although he’d tried, because the code to enter was something only Draco and his mother knew about. He would whisper the three constellations that he and his mother favored—Draco, Andromeda, and Sirius. The hidden room was the only place he was allowed to be free of his father’s torture. His mother had showed him the room after his first year at Hogwarts, and he spent as much time as he could down there. Either there, or the secret apple orchard where he eat apples all day long and read under the trees.
Draco sighed aloud, walked over to the door, muttered ‘Alohomora’, and left the room. It was completely silent in the house. He went downstairs, and found his way to the drawing room. It was empty, as expected. His gaze went to the spot where the chandelier used to hang, and he shuddered. His mother hardly ever came to the drawing room now. But, after the War—before Lucius had been taken to Azkaban—his father had loved to come in here and boast about how the Mudblood was tortured, describing every little detail. He’d had nightmares about it for weeks after, but instead of Bellatrix torturing Hermione, it was his father.
He shuddered, left the room, and made his way down to the sitting room. He found his mother curled up in a blanket in front of the fireplace, reading a book. She looked perfectly healthy and unharmed.
‘Draco,’ she said, clearly surprised to see him standing there. ‘Is something wrong? What are you doing here?’
‘Nothing’s wrong,’ he said. ‘I just came to check on you.’
She smiled, set the book down, and scooted over to make room. ‘Well, come sit, then, and you can tell me why you haven’t been answering any of my letters.’ Draco walked over and sat down, his stomach twisting in fear.
‘What… letters?’ He asked.
‘I’ve written you twice a week, Draco,’ she said.
He felt sick with fear. ‘Mum…’ he began. ‘I think… I think someone’s been stopping my letters.’
Hermione had been unable to find anything in the library that referenced ‘HTBD’ or ‘A.D’, and so she walked back to the Head’s Dorm feeling slightly disappointed.
She turned the corner that led to the dorm, and ran right into Harry.
‘Hermione! Oh, thank Goodness. I’ve been looking everywhere for you!’ He said, panting.
‘I’ve been in the…’ She stopped, noticing the look on his face. ‘What’s wrong?’
He shook his head. ‘No time to explain. We’ve got to get to the Hospital Wing.’ He said, grabbing her arm.
She almost protested, but then she shrugged, and allowed him to drag her to the Hospital Wing. A few seconds later, they had thrown open the door, and Hermione let out a scream.
Astoria Greengrass was lying on one of the beds, looking very pale. It didn’t look like she was breathing, and her eyes were closed.
‘Is… is she…?’ She couldn’t finish.
‘She’s not dead,’ Harry said. ‘Only we don’t know what’s wrong with her. No one’s seen anything like this.’
The doors opened then, and Professor McGonagall came running in to the Hospital Wing, with Madam Pomfrey trailing closely behind her.
‘Oh my,’ McGonagall gasped. ‘Is she…?’
‘She’s alive,’ Madam Pomfrey said, her voice hushed. ‘But we have no idea what’s wrong with her. She hasn’t been cursed or petrified.’
Hermione exhaled. ‘She might be poisoned,’ she said quietly. ‘Only I can’t imagine what kind of poison it could be…’
‘It’s called the Tropere Potion,’ said a voice behind them, and they all turned to see Blaise Zabini standing near the door. He was watching her with an expression she couldn’t quite name. ‘Which is otherwise known as…’
‘The Numbness Potion,’ Hermione finished for him, her heart sinking horribly. ‘But that’s an extremely advanced potion. It involves nightshade berries, bloodroot juice, and a whole bunch of other things that I can’t begin to remember.’
‘The Tropere Potion,’ Madam Pomfrey said, sounding as if she had just been told someone had died. ‘Is there a cure, Mr Zabini?’
‘Yes,’ Blaise said. ‘But it’s highly complex, more so then the Tropere, and it will take until at least November to make.’
‘I’ll help you,’ Hermione said.
‘That might make it go a little quicker,’ Blaise said, nodding.
Professor McGonagall looked relieved. ‘Thank you, Mr Zabini, Miss Granger. Do you know if the potion will k-kill Miss Greengrass?’ She stuttered over the word, and Madam Pomfrey flinched.
‘As far as I know, it won’t,’ Blaise said. ‘She’ll just be in a sort of coma until we get her the cure.’
‘Do you know that for certain?’ McGonagall asked.
Blaise hesitated, and then shook his head rather reluctantly. ‘I’ve never seen the Tropere potion in action, so I can’t be sure… but I don’t think so.’
‘Well, I don’t think we should leave Miss Greengrass unattended until we can be certain that she won’t die.’ McGonagall said.
‘I agree,’ Harry said, speaking for the first time in a while. ‘Has anyone told Daphne or Draco what happened?’
Hermione stiffened at Draco’s name coming from Harry’s mouth. Blaise moved to stand beside her, almost as if he noticed that she had tensed.
‘No, I didn’t have the time,’ Madam Pomfrey said.
‘Draco will have to be told when he gets back,’ McGonagall said. ‘In the meantime, Mr Potter, will you go fetch Miss Greengrass? I believe she has Herbology in greenhouse seven last class. Tell Professor Sprout that it’s an emergency.’
Harry nodded, and left the Hospital Wing.
‘What do you mean, when Draco gets back?’ Blaise asked.
‘He went to see his mother for a while,’ McGonagall said. ‘He’s supposed to be back before dinner.’
‘Oh,’ Blaise said. ‘Right.’
Hermione said nothing, but she couldn’t help feeling a little bit worried. Surely, though, if Narcissa was sick, Draco would have said something to her. Then again, they weren’t exactly on speaking terms at the moment.
‘Miss Granger, may I speak to you in private for a moment?’ McGonagall asked.
She was confused, but she nodded and followed McGonagall outside.
Professor McGonagall looked at her very gravely for a moment, and then she held up a slip of parchment. ‘Miss Granger, this was found beside Miss Greengrass when Mr Potter discovered her passed out on the Seventh Floor Corridor, in front of the Room of Requirements. Do you happen to know what it means?’ She asked, handing Hermione the note.
Hermione swallowed. TJN, DE, it read, in careful cursive.
She was extremely confused now, even more so then when she had discovered the necklace, which she now wore on her neck. ‘Maybe it’s a name?’ Even to her own ears, she sounded doubtful.
‘Perhaps,’ McGonagall said. ‘I will keep looking. Anyway, I must go write Miss Greengrass’s parents. Tell Madam Pomfrey where I went.’
She nodded, and McGonagall left, then she went back into the Hospital Wing. Madam Pomfrey was nowhere to be seen, but Hermione assumed that she was in her office.
‘Where’d McGonagall go?’ Blaise asked. He was now sitting in the chair next to Astoria’s bed.
‘To write Astoria’s parents,’ she said. ‘She also gave me this. Apparently, Astoria had it when Harry discovered her. I have absolutely no idea what it means. I assume it’s some kind of name or a code.’ She walked over, and handed him the note. He took it, read it once, and then shook his head, as if confused.
‘I have no idea what it means, either, sorry.’ He said, and she got the sense that he was lying, although she had no idea why.
‘Well that’s too bad,’ Hermione said. ‘I was really hoping you would. Maybe Ginny will know…’
‘No!’ Blaise said quickly. She raised her eyebrows at him, and he flushed. ‘I mean… uh… nothing. You could ask Luna Lovegood. I hear she’s good at solving things like this.’
‘I think I will… later.’ She said. Maybe I’ll ask her about HTBD too, she added mentally. Blaise nodded, and they fell silent.
Author's Note 2: Well, there's Chapter 11. I hope you all enjoyed it, and I look forward to hearing your theories. Please review!! Thanks. Love you all.