Chapter Eighteen: The Sense Potion
The following two weeks after the Quidditch match were the longest, most painful two weeks that Blaise had ever endured. He only wanted the end of November to come quickly, so that Astoria could wake up and everything would be normal again. Maybe not normal exactly, but he definitely wanted to eat breakfast without watching Mia and Draco together. It was too painful to watch them. It was very obvious to Blaise that Draco was in love with Hermione, whether he knew it himself or not, and he felt like breaking into tears every time he saw them together. He barely managed not to, most of the time, but of course he did. Because Slytherins did not cry—at least, not in front of people—and he didn’t fancy being called weak by the entire school, thank you very much.
On the morning of November 18th, he walked to the room where the Sense Potion was being held, muttered the password to the portrait of a little girl in a white dress (the password was Toujours) and went inside to find that Hermione was already there, waiting for him.
He didn’t say good morning, like he usually did, and instead went straight to work, stirring the last few ingredients in. The potion was almost ready—most likely it would be ready this week—and he was quite happy about it. It had turned liquid gold, and it looked beautiful as it simmered in the cauldron. Hermione was silent as she handed him the ingredients, but only for a few minutes.
‘What did I do wrong?’ She asked at last, sighing.
He glanced at her, but didn’t take his eyes off the potion. ‘Nothing,’ he said. ‘Why would you think that you’d done something wrong?’
She scowled. ‘Don’t lie to me, Blaise. You’ve barely spoken to me at all during the last two weeks, so I know you’re upset with me,’ she said. When he didn’t answer, she sighed again. ‘Please tell me, Blaise. Tell me what I did to upset you.’
Her voice was gentle, soft and beautiful. He found it very hard to resist giving her what she wanted, but he couldn’t. He had no right to tell her that Draco was in love with her. It wasn’t his place to tell her anything. ‘You didn’t do anything,’ he told her. At least that was honest. She hadn’t done anything, except be perfect enough to make Draco fall in love with her. Which wasn’t really her fault. She couldn’t help that she was beautiful and smart, and funny and… and perfect in every single way. ‘I’m just worried about Christmas, is all,’ he added hastily.
Her worried expression dropped from her face immediately, almost as though someone had wiped it away. ‘Oh, right. Christmas. I’d nearly forgotten it hadn’t happened yet,’ she said.
Blaise stopped stirring so he could look at her fully. She was biting her lip, and tears were shining in her eyes. ‘Mia… you’re not going home for Christmas, are you?’ He asked quietly.
‘No,’ she said. ‘I mean, my parents are vacationing in… er… Florida for Christmas. I don’t do very well in the sun, so I decided I’d simply stay here.’
He could tell she was lying, because she was fiercely chewing on her lip, and she was avoiding looking at him. ‘That’s not the reason,’ he said. ‘You’re not staying because your parents are on vacation, Mia. You can’t go home because there is no home for you to go to. I don’t know why you bother lying to me at all, you know. I see right through you. It’s useless to try.’
He stirred the potion again, because it had started to bubble a little, and she handed over the last of the unicorn hairs. ‘Not many people know this,’ she began softly. ‘But when I went away with Harry and Ron to hunt Horcruxes, I put a m-memory charm on my parents, to keep them safe. The Death Eaters were hunting muggles left right and center, and I knew they’d go after my parents. I did it to protect them. I sent them to Australia with false identities, and made them forget that they had a daughter at all. I went back a-after the war, to lift the charms, but… my parents had adopted another child, a boy. He’d just turned three by the time I found them. His name is Alexander.’
Blaise swallowed thickly. He could see the tears shimmering in her eyes, her will to keep them from falling, and wished that she would just let them go. She didn’t need to be strong for him. ‘Did y-you lift the charm?’ He asked quietly.
‘Obviously not,’ she said. ‘How confusing would that have been for the child? He’s only ever known them as Rachel and Mark Wallace not Olivia and Robert Granger. I couldn’t remove the charm, not without causing a whole lot of confusion. I mean, maybe I could have convinced my parents to keep their new names for Alexander’s sake, but they’d have to lie to him about it, and it wouldn’t be fair for my adopted brother, to have his entire life built on a lie.’
‘So you… so what? You just decided not to tell them about you? You’re their daughter, Mia. They’re real daughter. They have no idea who they are, or who you are.’ Blaise could see the pain on her face, and he wanted to hold her, to take the pain away, but he had no right to do that. Not anymore. He’d given that right to Draco when he told him about Nott. He couldn’t hold her, no matter how much he wanted to.
‘I know that,’ said Hermione. ‘I know, but that doesn’t make a difference. I couldn’t ask them to lie to Alexander. He’s only three and a half. That’s too long to be lied to, and my parents deserve to be happy. They deserve to have a normal life. I took that away from them when I got my Hogwarts letter, but they deserve it, so I’m going to let them have it, even if it hurts me not to have my parents.’
Blaise swallowed. He hadn’t realised, that she was so alone. She hid her pain well, yes, but he should have seen it, even if she did a fantastic job at keeping the hurt all bottled up inside of her. He should have known. ‘Mia…’ he said softly. ‘Why did you keep it all a secret? Why didn’t you tell Harry? Or Ginny or Draco? Or… or me? We would have been there for you.’
She looked away, and he saw the single tear that slid down her cheek. ‘I didn’t want to be pitied,’ she said. ‘I still don’t want to be pitied. Everyone would start feeling sorry for me, and I hate the sympathy looks. It makes me want to rip all my hair out.’
‘It’d be a waste of beautiful hair,’ he said, and she flushed a little. ‘But still, you should have told us. We wouldn’t have pitied you. I would never have pitted you.’
‘Maybe not, but I didn’t need anyone to feel like they had to take care of me. I don’t need to be taken care of,’ she said.
He smiled a little, because he’d expected that. ‘I know,’ he said. ‘You’re one of the strongest, most independent people I’ve ever met. But even you need a shoulder to lean on sometimes, Mia,’
She smiled, too, weakly, and his heart broke. He’d always thought that she couldn’t be broken, that nothing could ever destroy her. But he was wrong. She was human, just like everyone else, and human emotions—especially sadness and loss—would eventually catch up, and they could destroy even the strongest of people. ‘Draco’s going home with his mother. The Weasley’s and Harry are all going home to the Burrow… and you’re going home, too. I’m sure the Weasley’s would be thrilled if I stayed with them, but I don’t really want to spend two weeks in the same house as Ron, so I’m just going to stay here,’ she said.
‘I’m sure if you told Draco about your parents, he would invite you to stay,’ he said. ‘But you probably don’t want to stay at the Manor. Too many bad memories.’
She nodded. ‘Exactly,’ she said. ‘I can still go to my parent’s house, but I don’t want to spend Christmas in my parents house without them.’
‘You don’t have to be alone on Christmas,’ he told her. ‘No one should ever be alone on Christmas.’
Hermione frowned, looking confused. ‘But where would I go? I’m not intruding on the Weasley’s, and I’m certainly not going to stay at Malfoy Manor, and my house is too empty. I’d rather stay at Hogwarts,’ she said. ‘It’s comforting, and there are teachers. I’m sure I won’t be the only student to stay here for the holidays.’
‘I didn’t mean stay with Draco or the Weasley’s,’ he said. ‘I meant… you can stay with me. It’s just my mom and me. I know my mom will love you, and you shouldn’t be by yourself.’
Hermione stared at him, her eyes wide with surprise. ‘Blaise…’ she said, after several moments. ‘I think that it’s very kind to ask, but… I don’t think I should. Besides, won’t your mother care I’m muggleborn?’
He snorted. ‘Of course she won’t. My mother’s muggleborn herself. She only likes to pretend that she’s half-blooded,’
‘What about your father, then? Is he… half-blood, or muggleborn?’ She asked curiously, looking quite intrigued.
He scowled. ‘I don’t know who my father is. I’m quite sure he’s probably a half-blood, but my mother refuses to tell me anything. It doesn’t matter anyway, and I never really cared enough to find out,’ he said, shrugging. ‘My father obviously didn’t care about my mother, or he would have stuck around.’
‘It doesn’t matter to me what your blood status is,’ she said. ‘I still think you’re a brilliant wizard. I mean, you figured out what caused Astoria’s unconsciousness, and you know how to brew the cure. It’s because of you that she’s going to wake up at all.’
The compliment was not like her, but he smiled anyway. It was nice to be complimented every once in a while, and it was even better when the compliment was from by the girl he loved. ‘Thanks,’ he said. ‘My mother collected a lot of rare potions books, though. I’ll show you them, if you come home with me for Christmas, that is.’
Hermione smiled. It was a real smile this time. ‘If you’re sure your mother won’t mind, then I’d be delighted to come home with you for Christmas. But, just to be safe, you might want to ask her first,’ she said.
‘She’ll be fine with it,’ he assured her. ‘But my mother doesn’t like surprises, so I’ll write her tonight and ask her if you can come stay with us. If she says no, then I’m staying here with you. Either way, you won’t spend Christmas alone.’
She looked rather grateful as she thanked him, and then the two of them turned back to the potion.
Blaise’s offer lifted a heavy weight from Hermione’s chest, and she was a little happier over the next two days. She didn’t really want to tell Draco about her parents, and she wasn’t going to unless he asked her outright. It was obvious that he was trying to figure out why she got upset every time someone mentioned “Christmas”.
‘You’re keeping something from us,’ Harry accused as they walked to Herbology, two days later. ‘What are you hiding?’
She tried not to blush. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ she mumbled.
‘Oh, c’mon, Mione. You’re a terrible liar,’ he said. ‘Please don’t tell me that you’re seeing Nott again.’
She glared at the mention of Nott. He’d been frequenting in her nightmares lately, torturing Draco, Ron and Blaise as she stood helplessly by, Bellatrix holding a knife at her throat. ‘Of course I’m not,’ she said. ‘I’m not hiding anything from you, Harry. I promise.’
He raised his eyebrows. ‘If you don’t tell me, I’m just going to assume it’s something dreadful,’ he said. ‘Or embarrassing. You’re dating Malfoy, aren’t you?’
She looked up in surprise. Where did he get that idea? She wondered. ‘No! Of course not! What… why would you even think something like that?’ She sputtered out, staring at him incredulously.
‘It was the only think I could think of that you’d hide from me. You know I don’t care if you are secretly dating Malfoy, right?’ He asked.
She flushed. She had wondered what it would be like to date Draco, but she knew it wasn’t a possibility. He didn’t like her that way. ‘I know you wouldn’t. But, for your information, I’m not dating him. He’s technically still dating Astoria, so… that’s not even an option,’ she said.
‘OK, I believe you. So what’s the big secret, then?’ He asked.
Her cheeks had gone even redder now, and she was sure her face was probably the color of the Weasley’s hair. Briefly, she wondered what he would think when she told him about Blaise’s offer. He might be a little worried. Unlike Draco, Blaise hadn’t bothered making an effort to get to know her friends, and she wasn’t sure if Harry knew him at all, besides his name. She did want his approval first, like she’d want from her brother. And in all the ways that counted, Harry was like a brother to her.
Hermione stopped biting her lip—not realising that she’d been doing it at all—and took a deep breath. ‘Blaise asked me to stay with him over the Christmas holidays,’ she blurted out, flushing again.
For a moment, Harry only stared at her, and then he frowned, confused. ‘But… won’t you be staying with your parents?’ He asked.
She lowered her eyes, blinking back tears. She didn’t like thinking of her parents, because she knew they weren’t thinking of her. ‘Oh. Hermione… I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking,’ he said quietly.
‘It’s fine, Harry. Really. It’s not your fault,’ she said. ‘I just didn’t… I didn’t want to tell you… or anyone, as a matter of fact. If Blaise hadn’t mentioned Christmas while we were working on the potion, I wouldn’t have told anyone. And he offered for me to stay with him, so I said yes because… because I really don’t want to be here alone and I really like Blaise… and Christmas is my Mum’s favorite holiday and I really don’t want to spend it without her…’
Harry pulled her into a hug, and she buried her face into his shoulder. He was the only family she had left now, she realised. Ron was gone, and Ginny might’ve been like a sister to her, but she couldn’t tell her everything. Harry was the only one who’d been with her through everything, the good times and the bad, the smiles and the tears. He was the only one who remained by her side, even after Ron had left. Without him, she would’ve fallen apart the first time Ron left. She would have fallen apart now, too. But Harry, her brother, her best friend, was always there to pick up the broken pieces.
‘I know,’ he murmured to her. ‘I know, and you’re not alone. You’re never alone, Mione, no matter what. I promise you’re not alone.’
She took a deep breath, and pulled away. It was a good thing no one was around to see her cry. She wiped the tears away. ‘Thank you,’ she said. ‘Promise you won’t tell the Weasley’s anything at Christmas?’
‘Of course not,’ he promised. ‘But Mione?’
He had a serious look on his face. ‘What?’ She asked, a little hesitantly.
‘I do think you and Malfoy would make a good couple,’ he said.
She stared at him, her mouth open a little. Harry’s tone was utterly serious, and so was the look he was giving her. But she had never actually thought about it—she and Draco as a couple—not really. It was always just a fantasy, never a possibility. Not with Astoria in the picture. And in a few days, the potion would be ready, and she would be waking up. No. Hermione could not be with Draco, not like that. It would have to remain a dream, a private fantasy that no one else could ever know about.
And then Harry started laughing, bursting her out of her thoughts. ‘You… actually… thought… I meant… it!’ He sputtered out between laughter.
Hermione glared at him, realising that he was only joking. Of course he was. No one could actually see the Gryffindor Lioness, member of the Golden Trio, and the Slytherin Prince, former enemy of said Trio, getting together. It was absurd.
But still, she was upset with Harry for joking about such a thing. ‘Y-you are such a… a rat, Harry Potter!’ She cried, slapping him on the arm.
‘Ow!’ He exclaimed. ‘That hurt, Mione.’
She glared at him, and then, because he was still grinning, she started smiling herself. She could never be mad at Harry for long, and were both still laughing by the time they headed down to the Greenhouses.
Hermione was avoiding him. He was absolutely certain of it, although he didn’t know why.
It had been days since he’d talked to her, and he was missing her terribly. If he didn’t already know he was in love with her, the pain he felt being away from her would have told him so. But she was most certainly avoiding him, because she made sure to lock the door to her bedroom at night, and she had started taking the Sleeping Draught more often to stop the nightmares, so he couldn’t go in and comfort her. It was killing him, not being around her.
It was the 18th, and he was sitting at Astoria’s bedside, digging his fingers into the armrests of the chair. Potter, who’d got the information from Blaise and Hermione, had told him yesterday that the potion was going to be finished in just a few short days. There was a part of him that was almost dreading Astoria’s return, but another part of him that longed for it, longed to see her eyes open. But the dread was winning, and he was terrified of having to explain things to her, explain what had happened in the last four months and why he was suddenly so friendly to Hermione. If she tried to stop him from being there for Hermione, then he would break up with her. He wasn’t going to be controlled by anyone.
‘Astoria,’ he said quietly, taking her cold hand in his. ‘I don’t know if you can hear me or not. Madam Pomfrey says you can. I hope you can. I feel kind of strange, talking to someone who can’t answer me, but hopefully you can answer when you wake up. You’ll be waking up soon, you know. The potion will be ready in a few days.’
He paused, as if waiting for a reply, and then continued. ‘Anyways, I really wanted to talk to you about Hermione. Yes, Hermione Granger. I know you don’t like her much, but I’m going to cross my fingers and hope you’ll get over it. We’ve become quite good friends, you see. I’ve even taken to sitting at the Gryffindor table for meals. Oh, also, I danced with her at the Ball a couple weeks ago. She looked absolutely radiant. Like an angel.’
If his father could hear him now, talking this way about a muggleborn, he would kill him without blinking. But it didn’t matter. He hoped that Astoria would understand, that she’d let him continue being friends with her. ‘You probably want to know why I’m doing these things,’ he said. ‘Right then. Let’s see… I told you about her being tortured by my crazy Aunt, didn’t I? Yes, I did. Well, that’s when it stared. Ever since then, I’ve felt this fierce need to… protect her, make up for not protecting her then. Becoming Head Boy was probably the best thing that ever happened to me, because it gave me a chance to make up for my mistakes. You know all of this, though. I’ve already told you.’
He wondered briefly what he could tell her. If she couldn’t hear him, then it was safe. But if she could, then hopefully it wouldn’t be too horrible. ‘We know Nott was the one who gave you the potion, Tori, but we have no idea why he did. Perhaps you found out something, I don’t know. Whatever the reason, I must tell you this so that you know there’s a reason behind my friendship with Hermione.’
Draco looked around the room, to make sure no one would be listening to what he had to say. Madam Pomfrey’s office door was closed, and she was locked inside, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t still hear, or that no one was on the other side of the door. So he muttered a Muffliato that surrounded the exterior of Astoria’s bed, and took a deep breath. ‘You see, Astoria, Nott is planning something. Perhaps you already know what it is, but I’m going to tell you anyway. It started on the first day back. Hermione got a note, asking her to meet him in the Room of Requirements. She showed me, and I knew instantly whom it was from. She went off on her date the next night, and, when they came back, Nott gloated about how he was going to destroy the Golden Trio for destroying Voldemort. I warned Potter, of course, and he knows what he’s planning. Nott already succeeded in ruining Hermione and Weasel’s relationship—that Lavender Brown helped—and also Potter and Weasel’s friendship by default. That Brown girl has the Weasel under the Imperius, but it’s getting weaker. In fact, it’s loosening to the point where the Weasel might be faking it half the time. Nott’s also got Weaslette hidden somewhere, probably his mansion, and he’s using a glamour potion on someone else, who’s pretending to be her. The glamour potion’s a lot stronger than the Polyjuice, and it lasts longer, too. He was going to pretend to date Hermione and have her lie to her friends about it, so they wouldn’t trust her and then their relationship would go downhill, too. But that plan backfired, and he ended up hitting her just before Halloween, so now Hermione won’t go anywhere near him. I don’t know what he’s planning to do now, but I know it’s not good, and I have to protect her. You understand, don’t you? I can’t let him succeed. He won’t destroy the Trio, not if I have anything to do with it,’
When he was finished, it felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders. He felt so… relieved, to finally tell someone, even if that person wasn’t going to reply. ‘I can’t let him hurt Hermione, Astoria. I have to protect her now, after what happened in the Manor. I’ll give my life to save her, if I have to,’ he murmured.
He could have sworn he saw Astoria nod in agreement, but that was probably just wishful thinking. He removed the Muffliato, and for a long while later, he sat there, holding her hand, wishing that he could keep them both—Hermione and Astoria—from harm. But it was impossible to do so, not while Nott’s threat still hung over their heads. Maybe one day they would both be safe, maybe one day there would be no enemies, no danger, but Draco had a feeling that day was not going to happen for a long time.
Several days later, the potion was ready. Blaise was proud that they had finally finished it, and Hermione looked like she was about ready to shout for joy. He snapped his fingers, and a house elf appeared a moment later.
‘Sir called for Nellie?’ The elf squeaked.
Blaise smiled. ‘Hello, Nellie. Could you do us a favor and fetch Professor McGonagall, please?’ He asked.
Nellie the House Elf nodded vigorously, grey eyes bulging. ‘Of course, Sir and Miss,’ she said, nodding to Hermione, who smiled widely at her. Nellie bowed, flicked her fingers, and disappeared.
He smiled, and noticed that Mia was staring at him. ‘What?’ He asked, almost self-consciously.
‘You’re nice to them,’ she said in awe.
It took him a minute to remember that she had started S.P.E.W. in Fourth Year—she’d never asked him to join, but he would have—to help save house elves. ‘Of course,’ he said. ‘They should be treated with respect, too. They’re not dirt.’
She grinned, and opened her mouth to say something—possibly to agree—but the door swung open, revealing McGonagall. ‘Mr Zabini, Miss Granger,’ she said, nodding curtly at them both. ‘Is the potion ready, then?’
They both nodded. ‘It is, Professor,’ said Blaise. ‘The potion is finally ready.’
Professor McGonagall looked relieved, and produced a vial from her robes. She handed it to them, and Hermione took it. She held it steady as he poured the potion, and McGonagall called for a house elf, telling them to go get Draco Malfoy at once and send him to the Hospital Wing. Blaise thought it was odd that she didn’t include Daphne, but decided it didn’t matter.
When he had finished pouring the deep golden-brown potion into the vile, Hermione capped it, and showed it to McGonagall, who gave a satisfied nod and tucked it back into her pocket. Then she grabbed her bag, and they left the room and headed, at last, to wake up Astoria.
When they reached the Hospital Wing, Draco wasn’t there, but Madam Pomfrey was—she was fixing Astoria’s pillows—and she looked startled when the three of them entered the room. Hermione was grinning, though, so she didn’t look too startled for long.
‘You finished it!’ Madam Pomfrey cried happily.
Hermione nodded, still smiling ear to ear. She looked far too overjoyed to even utter a single word.
The doors burst open just then, and Draco walked into the room, his face pale. He was obviously expecting the worst.
‘What’s happened?’ He demanded at once.
Blaise smiled. ‘The potion’s ready, mate,’ he said. ‘You owe us big time for this, by the way. We’ve been working our knickers off since September.’
Draco was clearly relieved, because he ended up hugging Hermione—something that made Blaise’s insides twist with jealousy—while repeating ‘thank you’ over and over again. Hermione looked stunned, too, and he saw that her cheeks were pink when Draco pulled away.
‘Alright, then, Mr Malfoy. Would you do the honors?’ Professor McGonagall asked, handing him the vial.
Draco looked at Hermione, worry written on his face. ‘Go ahead,’ she said. ‘Just tip it into her mouth.’
‘Will it really work?’ He asked, looking doubtful. Like it was too good to be true, or like he was hoping it wouldn’t.
She nodded. ‘Of course it will. Just go on, Draco. She’ll open her eyes approximately twenty-five seconds from now,’ she said.
Draco took the vial cautiously, and walked over to Astoria’s bedside. Blaise moved to stand next to Hermione, and took his hand in hers, giving what he hoped was a reassuring squeeze. She squeezed back, holding her breath as she watched Draco pry open Astoria’s mouth.
Time seemed to slow down, and suddenly he was aware of everything and nothing at once. The soft squeaking of Draco’s shoes against the floor. Madam Pomfrey’s sharp intake of breath. Hermione’s hand, sweating as she tightly gripped his fingers. His own racing heart.
Hesitantly, Draco tipped the vial into Astoria’s mouth, and he waited until every last drop of the potion had trickled down her throat.
Astoria gasped, like she was drowning, and then she opened her eyes.
Wow, I can't believe we're at 18 chapters already!! This is really amazing. I hope you guys all liked this, because I worked really hard! Anyway, please read and review, and thanks again for all your awesome comments! :)