Chapter 20 : Pretenses
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The whole common room seemed to vibrate with music. Another party, another night. It was clear to Elizabeth that the Slytherians loved the typical sins—liquor, sex, and other lewd behavior. Elizabeth had avoided the parties at the beginning of the year. After befriending Hera, she had attended most of them, where she realized she could handle her liquor better than any of the girls and even some of the guys. She also realized that dancing in the states was very different than dancing here, where she’d surprised a few guys with the way her hips moved across them. By October, she noticed the way Draco watched her, particularly when she was dancing with other guys. Even in the darkened room, she could see his eyes flashing. It only made her want to do it more.
After the events of the last few weeks, though, she had allowed Draco to occupy a closer orbit. He seemed somewhat pleased with the change, and she tried to negotiate the shift in their relationship. The shift was partially inevitable as she was now expected to help him complete his task. However, the other part was murkier and may have been fueled by the fact that, at times, she could still feel his lips on hers as they had been on Bonfire Night. Sometimes when she would wake up in the morning, she could swear the taste of him was still in her mouth, lingering there to taunt her. She had hesitated to tell Hera, but eventually had and was met with a bit of squealing and a bit of I told you so.
When she looked at him sitting beside her just then, her mind began to drift back to his lips and she wondered if she’d like to have his lips on hers again. His kiss had been so different than the ones that had passed between her and Khan. And now, with her memories almost fully returned, she wondered how Draco would fair—if it would be different or the same.
“Are you okay, Ellie?” Draco looked at her, and she could feel him observing her with his critical eye. “From what they’ve been saying throughout the castle, whatever happened between you and your sister was pretty shocking. You know He will want to hear about this. If you don’t want to tell Him yourself, I can address it in my next letter.”
Elizabeth downed her drink, letting her eyes close as she tilted her head back. It burned all the way down, and she loved that feeling.
Draco continued, “I know you’re probably still in need of rest, and my aunt feels that you should not attend the meeting tomorrow night. I agree with her, and I know that she will petition Him on your behalf. Not that you need to worry—He seems to be very sympathetic for your condition. Though, He’s eager to meet with you again. My aunt believes He’ll want a private audience, but I think we should develop more concrete plans before you arrange that.”
He was rattling on, but Elizabeth could barely decipher his words from the music.
“Draco, get me another drink—and let’s talk upstairs.” He obeyed, and she smirked—loving his obedience. She rose to meet him by the stairs to the boys’ dormitory, casting a glance to Hera who was watching them from the dance floor. Hera feigned shock before sending her a thumbs’ up. She wondered briefly what her friend assumed may happen, but that didn’t stop her from following Draco down the stairs.
The doors were organized youngest to oldest, and, once they passed the fourth year doors, Elizabeth noticed that many of the doors that they passed had school ties draped over the doorknob, indicating occupation. She smirked to herself, following Draco into his room and noting that he did not pause to place a tie on his doorknob.
Draco immediately began to repeat the things he had spoken of earlier in the common room, beginning with her confrontation with Evelyn. He handed her one of the two drinks he had carried up the stairs, and his voice prattled on again. Her attention refused to be kept, and she began to walk slowly around the room, examining his side of the space. Slyterians only slept two to a room, and the rooms were small. Draco’s desk sat opposite the foot of his bed with the armoire off to the left. The door to the bathroom was on his roommate’s side of the dorm, which featured a bed, armoire, and desk similarly arranged. Elizabeth was relatively certain that his roommate was Blaise Zabini, and she felt the large mirror that had been fixed over the desk confirmed her suspicion. She turned her attention back to Draco’s objects.
“Did you want to keep up any pretenses?” Elizabeth asked coyly, sipping her drink. She ran her fingers across the parchments that were scattered across the desk, eying half-finished assignments that she was pleased to see she had already completed. Her fingers roamed over his tie, which had been discarded there next to a quill, and she looked at him archly.
He stopped abruptly in his discussion of her sister and how the confrontation should be communicated to their superiors, and his face shifted into a smirk.
“Got something on your mind?” He took another sip of his drink, and set it down on his side table. She liked the way he held the glass. He seemed to breathe sophistication, and she looked at him standing there across from her with a hungry glint in his eyes. She wondered how long he would look at her like that; from what Hera had told her, Draco wasn’t one for yearning endlessly after a girl. The rumors were that he’d had plenty, even ones that had flung themselves at his feet only to be ignored. Hera couldn’t say that she had known him to commit to anyone for an extended period of time, though he had his habitual hook-ups.
She eyed him carefully, and returned his smirk. “Plenty of things on my mind, but I’d hate to disappoint you as most of them have to do with business. I just thought we’d be less likely to be interrupted if people thought we were busy.”
The wild look of disappointment that displaced the look of hunger in his eyes was almost as inviting to her as its predecessor. Her smirk widened into a grin, and she moved towards him, taking a seat on his bed without being asked. She slid out of the heels that Hera had insisted she wear and brought her feet up onto his bed, tucking them under her dress. She tussled her long hair, and looked up at him. He was still standing, and his disappointment had shifted into annoyance. She smiled sweetly, and patted the bed.
He made to move towards her, but corrected his path first, taking up the tie from his desk and then smoothly opened up the door and slipped the tie around the external doorknob. She could tell he made eye contact with another boy—probably doing something similar—and the smirk briefly returned to his face before he closed the door and turned the lock. He moved with long strides back across the room, his eyes washing over her as he sat on the bed beside her. He too removed his shoes, but leaned back across the bed in the posture of a Muggle fashion model.
“Tell me about your plan for the opal necklace.”
He balked at her directness, looking down at his hands, which he’d laced in front of his abdomen, and shifting on his elbow. When he looked back up at her, his posture was more comfortable and his face was set with indifference and pride. It was the face he sported on a regular basis, and the look in his eye that she felt had been reserved just for her had slipped away. She wasn’t sure if it bothered her or not—this sense of being treated as equal to the rest of their housemates—but she feigned indifference as he began to lay out the plan for her. She nodded along, watching his lips round out words and interrupting to ask questions, to insert herself, or to see where she might be of service. She knew she couldn’t take credit for this plan; Draco had purchased the necklace well before she was instructed to assist him. But, if they were successful, she felt that she could at least say that she had aided in its execution if not its invention—which would please Him. Though, she knew just as well that if they weren’t successful, He would be just as pleased.
Voldemort had told her his feelings on the matter explicitly after she was marked. The task he’d given Draco was, at its root, an opportunity to teach the Malfoy family a lesson. While their bloodline made it difficult for Him to extinguish them outright and He leaned on Lucius for certain luxuries, He didn’t feel as though he needed Draco to kill Dumbledore, who was a formidable opponent but weak man. In fact, Voldemort had admitted that He didn’t believe the boy capable. Draco was talented, particularly at Occlumency, and had proven a desirable young recruit, but Voldemort could smell weakness on him, the same as his father, and was uncertain of what the boy might produce in response to this challenge. Either Dumbledore was killed or Lucius and Narcissa were—and Voldemort felt confident that either option could be beneficial to him.
For this reason, He had asked Elizabeth to take on part of the task not so much to ensure success but to observe Draco—to get a better sense of the boy and to monitor his work. He hoped that the weakness was something that could be squeezed out of the boy, but it was difficult to enter his mind for more than a fleeting moment so that He could be certain.
She’d been reporting back to Him through Bella, and He had admitted mixed feelings to their progress. In a rare direct correspondence, He had told her that He almost wished Draco would fail so that He could kill Lucius. He hadn’t wanted to share these thoughts with Bella, knowing that at times she could be too fragile and could react poorly to the destruction of pureblood families (particularly her sister’s), but He had written her because He trusted her.
She had been chosen.
Elizabeth wondered how He would react to this latest development, and—with an eye towards the future—she wondered what His plans for Draco might be whether he succeeded or not. He had reassured her multiple times that the result of their efforts would have no bearing on her status or rank. His plans for her superseded this task, the knowledge of which had filled her with pride and eagerness. She wanted to bring Him joy, to increase His trust, and to make reciprocal the feeling of pride. But, at this moment, she wasn’t sure if helping Draco succeed or allowing him to fail would achieve that.
For herself, she felt the death of Dumbledore would be more beneficial for their cause than the death of Lucius. So, she asked Draco to start from the beginning, again, and continued to question his plan until she felt that it was ready to be implemented.
It was late into the night when she rose from her position on his bed. The torches were burning low, and she wondered momentarily where Zabini was. Draco didn’t seem surprised that his roommate had not returned. She pulled her dress down, adjusting seams and picking up her shoes, her hair falling across her face as she moved about his dorm. She could feel him watching her, waiting.
Finally, she said, “It’s a good plan, Draco.”
He nodded curtly, standing to walk her to the door. His hand rose to the small of her back, as if to guide her, despite the fact that the door was immediately in front of her and impossible to miss. She avoided his eye, smirking and noting to herself that he must have wanted desperately to touch her. She could feel her body relax against his palm involuntarily, forcing her to note secondarily that she didn’t mind when he touched her.
“Hogsmeade then. December, the last trip right before break.”
“Should I tell your aunt?”
“No,” he paused. They had reached the door, but neither of them moved to open it. “I think we should wait until afterwards, when we can share real news rather than a proposal.”
She nodded in agreement, knowing that Bella would want to involve herself if informed prematurely and she didn’t feel that was necessary. “I agree, it may be wise to follow the news home for the holiday rather than allow the proposal to hang there without word until you arrive. Depending on how it goes, at least.”
He muttered his agreement, leaning forward to place his hand on the doorknob. He was close to her then—closer than he had been all night—and her face lingered near the nape of his neck, which smelled like faded cologne and whiskey. She heard rather than saw the door unlatch, and the light from the corridor peaked into the room, cutting across Draco’s chest. Her hand moved to it before she could stop herself. He tilted his face to hers ever so slightly, his eyes tired but wild and his lips nearby. Again, she couldn’t stop herself.
She leaned forward, allowing her lips to settle against his for a moment. His lips were warm and smooth, and they seemed to meet hers with that hunger she’d seen in his eyes, and which she hadn’t felt in any kiss from any person before. She forced herself to retreat, pulling her coyness up around her to shield herself from feeling anything more.
“Keeping up pretenses, right?” She murmured, pulling away fully and exiting quickly into the corridor, where she thanked him a little louder before striding towards the stairs.
Author’s Note: So, I’ll confess that I know Katie is cursed in October 1996 in the novel, but I felt like it was a good place for Elizabeth to interject and moving it back to December wouldn’t have too much of an effect on Rowling’s underlying narrative structure. Plus, as this story is marked AU, I took the liberty! But—just for the record—it was purposeful. And… you’ll see why… pretty soon!
Hope all the Elizabeth fans out there enjoyed this chapter; I love taking her on for whole chapters, and there are a few ahead that I'm looking forward to sharing with you all. Thank you again to pink bunny, who leaves the kind of reviews that make you exclaim, “Oh! So sweet!” and that make you wish you had more time to get things into the queue!
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