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 The Morning After, chapter 60

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Anzahl der Beiträge : 19
Anmeldedatum : 25.10.14
Ort : Bodensee

BeitragThema: The Morning After, chapter 60   Sa März 31, 2018 4:56 am

Chapter beta: Faykan and Dani

Chapter translator: Aivy

~WHF~WHF~WHF~WHF~WHF~WHF~WHF~WHF~

The next morning came much to soon, as I had fallen asleep rather late due to my less than encouraging thoughts. The rays of sunlight tickled me and their brightness, shining through my closed eyelids, unfortunately managed to awaken me fully. Grudgingly, I flung myself on my side. I didn't want to wake up. That meant facing reality, and I wasn't sure if I was ready for that. Sometimes I was afraid that it was all going to become too much for me, but I didn't want to bemoan my fate, as it was already too late for that.

But what should I do? I had to be strong and rise to those new challenges. I was tough, after all, and what were three snakes against me? I gave a tortured groan. When had it begun to get so far out of hand? I asked myself this question with resignation. When had the control slipped from my hands, or had it merely begun to slip?

Was it when I approached Draco on the train? Or was it when I engaged in friendship with him, starting a relationship? Was it because I did so without knowing the exact reasons that urged him to agree? After all he was a cunning, manipulative young man. Oh help me; there were questions upon questions, but no answers!

I reached next to me and felt nothing... Draco had apparently already gotten up. This was good, very good, as I didn't know how to act towards him

Did I struggle with myself in the end? Was I conflicted about yesterday evening? Of course! I mean, thanks to Draco I had a tattoo; I was marked! Forever! After I arrived at this horrible realisation with my dream addled brain, I groaned loudly, pulling the pillow over my head, and released a frustrated scream, muffling it with the pillow.

Did I feel better now? No? What a shame! It was so annoying! However, on the fly nothing else came to my mind to relieve my frustration.

I glumly removed the pillow and got up. As might be expected my eyes were drawn to my fancy, new, and incredibly beautiful tattoo, etched unmistakably into my skin. Just great. Once again I ran the tips of my finger reverently over the now pitch black lines. It was smooth, the outline of the mark only slightly raised, but I could feel it in its entirety! That resulted from the tattoo being drawn with Draco's blood and branded into my skin with black magic.

How dare that swollen-headed, smug, inbred, degenerate asshole brand me, Hermione Granger with a - no, with his mark! Did I look like a cow, or a horse?

Was it a burn mark, as if I was a lowly possession?

My gaze darkened. I was much too proud and strong, physically and mentally, to let myself be claimed like this by anyone. I might need help or protection, but I still chose for myself. How dare he take this choice from me!?

I believe I told you earlier how much I liked magic, especially blood magic, and didn't care that it was counted as black magic. I revoke that hereby, because it meant that rituals and curses evoked this way were practically... oh well, I should be honest to myself... they were completely irreversible! Once up shit creek, you remained there. And did you know what that was? Crap!

It was such a dead-end situation, from which I saw no avenue of escape. I had to make the best out of this messy state of affairs. I was confident, sure of myself and self-centered, I could do this. First, I had to find out everything there was to know about the ritual. And as for Draco? Well, I wouldn't kill him immediately; I would not ram a knife into his intestines, then turn it slowly first one way and then the other with relish, but to imagine it felt good, very good in fact, and so I indulged myself for a moment.

Maybe I could salvage the situation to my advantage. Let's wait and see, I thought, trying to boost my confidence.

Three snakes, all sly; all cunning; all dangerous! All not to be underestimated! What had I done to deserve this? And as loath as I was to admit it, I wasn't blind; I never shut my eyes against the facts: I needed protection! Excellent protection, against so many. I only wished he hadn't acted so rashly, and above all that he'd asked me first! Was that too much to ask for? Once again I was working myself into a frenzy.

We weren't living in the Dark Ages. The boy would come to know me, all right. But wrath, revenge and fury were never best served hot. They were much more effective when served cold, and thus I would be able to wait. After all, I was an exceptionally gifted actress, wasn't I?

Okay, I would go shower now. I had enough complaining, otherwise I would go stark raving mad and that would help nobody, least of all me.

When I climbed down the stairs, clad in jeans and a cosy red turtleneck sweater, it was Christmas after all, the scent of coffee wafted from the kitchen. It smelled heavenly. I could use some right now, so I turned the corner cautiously and saw something unbelievable: a head of bright blonde hair with the corresponding body, who was standing in front of the old gas stove, hazardously brandishing a frying pan. What was this about? Malfoys did nothing of the sort, it was unbearable to look at.

Before I gallantly intervened, I searched my heart for the feelings the sight of Draco elicited after last night. The discrepancy between the thoughts I had concocted earlier and what I was truly feeling was alarming. Once more I was cursing my flexible morals, though I could live with it. I would have to until I had learned what the new circumstances meant for me. And should I become a slave to the Malfoy family, he would die, that I vowed to myself earnestly, as long as my name was Hermione! I was not so sure about my surname at the moment.

However, I could remember the solemn and honest declaration in his eyes that he was worried; that he had viewed it as the only option to protect me and that was what counted first! The intention and not the deed! Thus, I was prepared to hear him out and not hurt him seriously for the time being.

We all knew that a Slytherin never did something for a single reason. However, I had engaged with him with my eyes wide open, so I shouldn't whinge about him acting in a way that had been reasonably foreseeable. I had been shaped by the school of hard knocks in the meantime, and was too strong and too proud to hide my face in the pillow for too long. I would meet my fate with my head held high and fight it as well if it should be necessary.

I sighed silently. Draco could be such an idiot. Men! Would I be able to conceal the "M"? Ahrrrg... Questions upon questions... And still no answers.

"Bugger. Bloody eggs..." I could hear annoyed grumbling, while he was wielding the spatula like a weapon to murder someone at that moment. Where was the camera when I needed one? Nobody in the whole world would believe me if I told them about the scene in front of me, absolutely nobody.

Draco, the domestic one, dirtying his hands with household chores. I smiled benignly, honestly amused, still leaning against the door frame.

A moment later I approached him, resolved to put an end to the tragedy.

"Draco, the eggs are already dead." I said. He spun around, holding his weapon in his hand in a not exactly manly manner. "Or do you want to attack me with that?" I added, biting the inside of cheek to stop myself from roaring with laughter at the delightful sight he was presenting me with.

After yesterday, I wouldn't have thought that I would be this relaxed when encountering him again, though I hadn't expected to find him in a situation I could only describe as... - I tried to not think it, but I had to permit the thought - cute! Simply cute, the way his hair was flying around and his face was displaying a slightly haunted expression.

"Pour me a cuppa and hand that over, I'll finish that. Okay?" And I divested him swiftly of the tool in his hand. Not that he offed himself with it in the end! He was only allowed to die at my hand.

"Hermione... uh, awake already?" He ran his fingers through his hair with a touch of insecurity. Before I could react, he hugged me, planting a kiss on my brow.

"Good morning, darling!" he greeted me determinedly. Never let it be said my heart couldn't melt. Ever seen a Malfoy with a guilty conscience? Well, I just did. And with it came the comforting realization that all of us were still human at heart, no matter what parts we were playing or what we were ready to do, all of us were humans. Only humans. Flawed humans.

"Good morning, Draco!" I greeted his shirt. "Since when do Malfoys show their emotions?" I tilted my head back provocatively, looking at him calculatingly and quiet coldly.

"Well, you are kind of one as well now. I believe, I can risk it to show them to you," he stated with pronounced nonchalance, placing a careful kiss on my lips, then turned around and got the coffee while I stood there slightly confunded. The man was truly unbelievable!

I tried now to salvage the eggs, a pointless endeavour, and so I chucked them out, picked a new pan and dropped a piece of butter inside, which started to melt immediately, sizzling loudly.

I summoned green onions and bell peppers with my wand and spelled a knife to chop them into small pieces, meanwhile I placed the bacon in another frying pan, from which it dispersed its tasty aroma into the whole kitchen while I was calmly pottering about. From time to time I grabbed for my elixir of life and gulped the coffee down greedily.

Draco had sat down at the country-style kitchen counter and was observing me closely. He appeared slightly insecure and nervous, though still arrogant and confident enough that I recognized the young man in him I was so used to.

I fetched the eggs from the fridge and scrambled them, at the same time adding the bell pepper to the butter. While the vegetables stewed I seasoned the eggs with white pepper, salt and a bit of cream, then poured it into the pan as well and let it simmer. As soon as the eggs began to set I threw the onions in as well and once again I had to wait, using the time to prepare the bacon. I laid it down on a paper towel and let the excess grease drip off. This systematic work gave me the time to collect myself and I needed it for sure.

"Will you cut the bread?" I enquired. Draco didn't look up, just did as asked.

"Done," I announced and immediately two plates were thrust into my line of sight and I transferred the scrambled eggs to one and the bacon to the other with the floral pattern. This was practiced normality, at least I tried to convince myself of that.

I didn't want anything, I wouldn't get anything down.

When we sat down at the small, cozy breakfast table in the kitchen bay, it was very quiet. No further words had been uttered. The annexe with the floor-to-ceiling lattice windows had a beautiful view of the gardens powdered with snow, which looked very idyllic. It couldn't compare to the amounts of snow in the Scottish Highlands, which could seem downright threatening in its mass, though that was a crucial part of Hogwarts' atmosphere in the Winter months.

But right now the atmosphere was stretched to a breaking point as well.

"Very good. Where did you learn that?" He picked up his fork with impeccable manners. We were all very polite, weren't we?

"From my mother," I replied non-committedly. Taking a long drink from my coffee, I plucked up my courage.

"Draco, we have to talk... That book... That rite is old. If not ancient?" I inquired and looked around slightly miffed after all.

"Yes, very old. The rite is believed to be lost to the world, though we, the Malfoys, had it in our collection all the time!" He explained with much empathy, meanwhile looking so smug, I would have liked to punch his face, alas I only stared at him with an expression inviting him to elaborate.

"I see. Why did the spell, get lost?" I got to the point quickly.

"Because people stopped to get married and witches and wizards couldn't allow that to happen. Many pure blooded girls back then, hundreds of years ago, fled to their lovers and got their marks, thereby saving themselves from arranged marriages," he explained forthrightly, nodding, and resumed his meal unconcernedly, causing me to stare at him, dumbstruck.

"Therewith, they were under the protection of their new family and threw a dangerous spanner in the plans of their parents. Hilarious, isn't it? Technically, its purpose is to tie you to a family and make you a part of it, similar to the clans and their oaths... only with magic!" He shrugged lightly. "Naturally the spell doesn't provide only protection, its a mixed blessing, there are responsibilities as well..." He didn't dare to face me during this revelation, instead looking out into the garden.

At that I muttered sarcastically: "Of course there are, there is always a catch!" I put my elbow on the table and leaned heavily on it to keep myself from crawling over the table to wring his aristocratic neck.

"So, where was I...? Responsibilities, right. Well... obedience towards the head of the family and the one who marked her. Though I would never demand that. As customary in all ancient families loyalty, fealty, yada-yada-yada. However, now comes the good stuff. It works like in a normal family. If you defy the patriarch and don't obey a command given, nothing happens magic wise. If he finds out, he will punish you, but that's it. And that's one more reason the spell got lost. The family heads of old regarded the rite as not fulsome enough!" he explained flamboyantly and I began breathing more and more easily as his explanation progressed.

I would have done it differently as well, if the ritual had been an invention of mine I would have incorporated some type of punishment. As it looked, it would bring me more benefits than disadvantages. But I didn't let relief overwhelm me. Considering my fickle fortune I wouldn't celebrate too soon!

And Draco hadn't had any right to go over my head and act without my consent, I didn't want to forget that.

"You never eat in the morning?" Draco inquired after he had finished. I had been so lost in my thoughts that I hadn't noticed when he concluded his meal.

"Yes, you know that, as much as you monitor me while in school," I showed him an artificial smile, swishing my wand and the used dishes vanished and cleaned itself. I was a witch, after all.

"Don't sidetrack, Draco Malfoy. What do you mean, you won't expect obedience? I will give you obedience right now, I... You are not out of the wood, my friend, you presented me with a fait accompli!" I stated calmly and casually as I believed that would make more impact on him than screaming or raging could.

"Hermione, I... I am sorry that I acted so rashly in the heat of the moment... I might have acted a smidgen too hasty..." He looked ruefully at me with wide grey eyes.

I couldn't reply, for that I was still to angry, instead pouring myself another cup of coffee. Right now I could relate very well to Snape's habit to throw glassware at Lucius, as I was very much tempted to hurl my own cup at Draco and thus I clutched it tightly to keep myself from losing my temper, as it was one of my favorites.

"Come, let us move to the living room. I have some questions left," he said carefully for he definitely noticed my battle for control. Oh, bugger, what was coming now?

A short while later I sat stiffly on the couch, my legs folded below me, and Draco boldly took the seat next to me and placed his hand possessively on my thigh, caressing me absentmindedly.

"You wanted to tell me why you haven't been on the train," he started already and I wanted to smother myself with a pillow again. Why did he pick the one topic I certainly didn't want to talk about right now?

I cleared my throat awkwardly. "Well, Harry had a vision... that came to pass just as he had seen. He saw that Mr. Weasley was gravely injured and we all went to the headmaster and he sent us off with a portkey when Umbridge approached," I provided willingly.

"Where did he sent you?" Due to the pitch of his voice and the way his hand stilled on my thigh I suspected my clever little viper might have guessed where I ended up.

He didn't look at me when I answered "Black House" and I could feel how his fingers digged harder into my leg.

"At Black's. And how did it go? Your last encounter didn't go so well! Did you come to blows again? Did you kill him? If so, congrats!" He tried to show a facade of indifference, but today Draco's mask didn't fit as well as usual and I could hear the jealous bitterness in his voice.

"You are hilarious as always, Draco!" I retorted cynically and slapped his knee.

"We had a talk in the library..." I carried on, when he interrupted me harshly.

"What? You were alone with him?" he hissed furiously in between my words.

"Draco, please let me finish!" I reprimanded him, annoyed, and he shot me a haughty look and pursed his lips, but didn't dare to talk back to me.

"Thank you. So we were in the library together with the Twins!" I sneered at him, which turned into a smirk and he almost snorted in relief.

"They refused to leave me alone with him, aren't they sweet?" I tried to imitate Pansy's squeaky voice. It was funny to see him this defensive, as he looked very pleased that I hadn't been alone with Sirius, but at the same time displeased and ill-humoured that the meeting had happened at all.

"It seems like the redheads have some brain cells left in the right place! Why did he want them to leave?" he inquired with consideration and watched me carefully.

"Oh, I don't know. I was happy, though, that they stayed... I don't trust me and him, in the end we would have attacked each other after all. He suspected I had something with a snake!" I replied sardonically while shrugging my shoulders unconcernedly.

"Oh, did the mutt attempt to resurface his buried intelligence and try his hand in divination? But he had no idea who of the Slytherins in particular would want you?!" He seemed so full of himself, I had the desire to take him down a peg or two.

"Draco, that statement doesn't do you any good!" I disclosed coldly. "Furthermore, 'want' is not 'have', I belong to no one but myself, you would do well to remember that!" I clarified vigorously. To provoke me today could prove hazardous.

"Sorry," he replied sheepishly.

"Well, we made peace, more or less... We will probably never like each other again. Which I find sad. However, we don't go for each other at sight and he interrogated me regarding my intentions towards Harry... " I related further, rolling my eyes when I remembered that Draco had implied something similar once.

"He has seen it, too?" He was downright gleeful for his pinched expression disappeared.

"Draco, you... I only comforted Harry, he was down, I couldn't stand it. I can't conceive what you always believe to see, you and your bias against Harry!" I looked at him with indignation.

"Pity that you didn't punch the mutt!" He tried to divert the conversation with his vindictive petty-mindedness.

"Draco, I am sorry to have to call your attention to it, however, he gave me nothing that will last!" I stated quietly, expertly packaging my criticism as he flinched visibly under my harsh words.

"Ow, that was below the belt! I told you, I won't apologize for that!" He showed me his perfectly stubborn Malfoy face, he appeared very implacable.

" The way it happened though, for that I will..." he whispered suddenly, his voice positively raw, catching me off-guard with the quickness of his changing emotions.

"Oh, you are moping now?" I somehow remained surprisingly calm in the face of that behaviour and showed myself unforgiving.

"Oh, Granger. How does Severus phrase it? How can one shut you up? And do you know what? I know just the right way!" He grabbed my upper arms seamlessly and pushed me into the couch to kiss me forcefully. He then breathed feathlight kisses upon my lips and caressed them playfully with his tongue, and I reciprocated. It was nice to see that the balance of our relationship had changed this way. I was definitely on top considering the way he tried to cosy up to me, as he was very affectionate and gentle.

Quickly we succumb to the gorgeous feeling the kissing brought upon us and much too quickly we had to end our amorous play.

"I prefer you this way, with your cheeks shimmering red and your eyes sparkling," Draco said smugly, though he could have described himself instead for he looked the same. "Unfortunately I have to go to Blaise. I think I will be back in one hour or two, if that's right for you?" He showed honest regret.

"Alright." Good, I would have time to delve into the stolen records that had sparked the whole mess. If they didn't contain the information I expected from them I would be in for a temper tantrum and it would be better if I was alone for that.

Wow!

A short time later I was positively flabbergasted. Who would have thought that the good old professor had such a shady past? Rita had made a good attempt in her 'book', however, she didn't dig deep enough yet, the way I had.

Dumbledore, Dumbledore, you have done well to conceal, cover up and hide the past, but not well enough for me.

Though I sincerely doubted that Rita had tried or dared to break into the Department of Mysteries, for that she was lacking the courage.

I accepted thereby and instantly my destiny as a member of the Malfoy family, being Lucius' prey and being stuck with Draco, the records were worth the trouble. The benefit for Harry alone was worth the trouble.

I shrunk the files and carried them to the safe behind the large landscape painting above the fireplace and locked them up, warding it for good measure.

I would have to think about what to do with the information gathered from the records, but that could wait. For the moment I set out for the attic to fetch the box of christmas decoration. With the help of magic I would manage to decorate the house before Draco's return and the distraction would do me good.

It was funny to watch the green garlands wrap themselves around the banister, the mantel shelf which was already adorned with green tinsel and baubles by now, and not even the door frames were safe before my frenzy, I let my creativity run wild. With a swish of my wand the fake sprigs were real, that's what magic was for, filling the house with the heavy fragrance of fresh pine needles, which put me right into a festive mood and lessened my anger for the moment.

I directed some more baubles and wreaths to fly through the room when I heard the door open all of a sudden.

"Wow, what has happened here? Do we live in the woods, now?" Draco stepped up to me with a bright smile and kissed me once again, which I returned happily and instantly in my good mood.

"Do you like it?" I hadn't ceased my Christmas decoration frenzy when he entered the room.

"Yes, it's something different. Maybe a bit too much green," he looked around, turning in a circle.

"I would have thought you could never tire of the colour green," I teased him.

"Haha. We still have to cast the Fidelius. Are you coming?" All at once he looked serious, it appeared to be very important to him and I trusted his judgement, as Lucius was his father.

"Oh, I had pushed that successfully to the back of my mind..:" I replied earnestly and came back down to earth with a bump.

"That's what you have me for... Who is going to be the secret keeper?" he enquired while helping me into my coat like a gentleman.

"I thought I could be the secret keeper myself. Thank you." I answered. He opened the door for me chivalrously.

"Sure," he followed me out of the house.

When we stopped in front of the gate, I drew my white wand without hesitation and started casting the Fidelius Charm by reciting the incantation. That's the way I tackled most things, by throwing myself into them. I was confident that I could manage it. Wow, I could feel the magic coursing through my body, from my arm into the wand, it felt like getting tapped. It was magic with an intensity I had never experienced before. Now I understood why the books said that the spell should only be attempted by very experienced wizards or witches, as it was quite tricky. Beads of sweat formed on my brow and breathing felt more and more difficult, as did holding my wand steady, while the magic took hold around the property.

Focused and with grim determination, I aimed my wand on the house and performed the charm. There was a reason Dumbledore was the secret keeper of the Order, it was outrageously hard and exhausting as I was learning the hard way.

It was a very complex spell and by now I was swaying slightly, then I felt two arms embracing my waist while steadying me, for which I was extremely grateful. If I didn't finish soon, I would collapse.

"Huc Focus Sevare, Fidelius," I spoke the final part of the incantation and we were able to observe a large silver dome forming above the plot not unlike a waterfall, encompassing the house, it was an exhilarating experience. I had done it.

"Impressive," Draco whispered in my ear. "It is gone, completely!" I turned my head to him and gave him a beaming, happy smile, albeit I felt very tired. For this was proof that it had been successful, my first Fidelius had been a raving success.

"Here," I handed him a slip of paper from my jeans pocket containing the address. He read it swiftly and set it aflame immediately after with a silent Incendio.

"You are as white as a sheet, darling... Was it very taxing?" He sounded worried. With a flowing motion he scooped me up and carried me into the house. How chivalrously, Malfoy men could be so terribly old-fashioned. It appeared he had a very guilty conscience, which he would never admit openly, probably. However, it had been exhausting.

"Draco, stop it, I can walk by myself," I laughed, feeling liberated and very proud of myself, not everybody accomplished a Fidelius Charm. But I admitted freely that had been the most difficult spell I had ever cast, I had positively felt the magic get sucked out of me. I was tired but content and incredibly proud.

"Forget it, I'll decide that and I say you will get spoilt today... No, no backtalk, young lady." He closed the door with a kick and carried me to the couch as if I weighed nothing, laying me down gently.

"What should I make us, what do you need? Blaise and the charm took longer than anticipated, it is afternoon already... Tell me what you want," he asked me insistently, swiping a strand of his fair hair out of his pale face.

"Tea, please, and some sandwiches. Wait, I'll cast the spell," I aimed my wand at the kitchen and was robbed of the slim piece of wood in the twinkle of an eye.

"Hey!" I yelled, enraged.

"No, Hermione, for today you are finished with doing magic. I can do that, Malfoys can do everything if they want it. And you know I'm right... Otherwise I wouldn't have managed to take it from you," he stated very arrogantly and left the room very sure of himself.

I was dumbfounded for a second. He had my wand, but to my chagrin he was correct, I would have to replenish my reserves first.

When he reappeared with a floating tray which was ready to collapse under the sheer amount of food stacked upon it, I was baffled, astonished. He had actually done it. And he showed me a diabolic grin when I gulped down the first piece hungrily.

"Yummy." My appreciation seemed to please him.

"I told you, don't underestimate me..." He smirked.

"How did it go... with your aunt at home?" I asked him a short while later curiously.

"Oh no, don't even start. She is truly mad, giggling permanently and blubbering about torture and nonsense like that. Strange woman! Unfortunately I recognise traits of Mother in her, seems to be hereditary." He crossed his legs elegantly, making himself comfortable in the armchair.

"Alas, now that I think of it, what was your purpose of attending the ball? I presume you didn't show up to see Krum, or father, or me... So what was the reason for your attendance?"

"You are good. Yes, I had a reason though I won't reveal it to you until I have everything together and I'm afraid I am still missing a piece, but as soon as it is complete I'll tell you, I promise!"

"I can accept that. However, I want to know where you went. You were gone for a long time! I am dying of curiosity," he declared, and I had to admit, even if he made some mistakes, he was nice and, sadly I still liked him.

"Does the 'Department of Mysteries' ring a bell?" I was ready to let him in in my deeds.

"Sure, they are performing a lot of strange experiments, and apart from that, what everybody knows, about their employees, the Unspeakables. That's it."

"I broke into the department!" I grinned like a Cheshire cat.

"You did what...?" Draco's teacup was wobbling dangerously. It was nice to see his face fall. "That can't be true, it's impossible, they don't let just everybody in!" His voice was loud and his tone agitated. "Hermione, you are pulling my leg!" He fought to regain his composure. I believe, I wanted to shock him for good right then, so he knew for sure that I was no possession of his.

"Draco, I don't lie to you! It wasn't my first break-in and it won't be my last. Honestly, either I am much too good, which I don't believe in, or the protective measures in the wizarding world are good for nothing!" I projected arrogance and took a sip of warm tea.

He stared back, overwhelmed, appearing downright stunned that I, goody-two-shoes Hermione, committed burglary. Though I had to say, it was very amusing for me every time I got to rob other people of their illusions.

"Why do you still manage to astound me? I should be used to it by now, that you are a walking surprise. You are serious, aren't you? You really did break into the Ministry and somewhere else... I mean, honestly, you looked like always... Not anxiously?" He spoke with an unfamiliar stutter, his beautiful eyes looking at me wide with shock.

"Draco, did I ever say I couldn't act? Although, actually I wasn't nervous!" I dragged my lip between my teeth deep in thought. "And seriously, Snape's stockroom in my second year had been more of a challenge, and I know it because he told me that I had overlooked a hex which let him know someone had broken in. Alas, he would have noticed anyway with some ingredients missing," I shrugged my shoulders nonchalantly.

"You broke into Severus' storage with twelve. How did you...? The spells... I know he has powerful wards." Draco seemed deeply shocked, his mouth pressed into a narrow, indignant line.

"Well, I am a born burglar. I did it, and believe me, it wasn't easy, I was sweating blood ensuring that I did it in time. Other than that I paid a visit to the flat of the beetle and nicked one thing or the other from the hospital wing," I listed my crimes, pushing some hair out of my face.

"You are incredible. I don't know anybody who would dare to steal from Severus. Now I know why you always end up in situations like that. You have yourself to blame. Bad things happen to someone who seeks danger like you. Do you know what would have awaited you if somebody had seen you? Azkaban! How can I ever again sleep restfully? I will get grey hair worrying about you, and Malfoys never get grey hair!" He sounded truly distraught, looking at me openly and with honest concern in his eyes. I had never seen him like this before. I meant something to him. An intriguing thought indeed.

"I think I agree with you, regarding Azkaban. But believe me, if somebody had seen me, he wouldn't have been quick enough to tell someone that I had been there! Believe me when I say that the Ministry isn't half as... oh, even less than half as well protected as Snape's things. The risk was relatively low and you don't have to worry, I can take care of myself," I let him know quite coldly.

"You did really break into that department and would have been ready to...? Oh, I don't want to know." He tousled his hair in a gesture very uncharacteristic for him, though it didn't take long until he seemed to resign himself the circumstances as his head jerked upright determinedly.

"Well, tell me, how was it like inside the Department of Mysteries?" His curiosity won out and he looked at me demandingly. So I told him in detail about my detour into the depth of the department and about the halls and rooms hidden inside and he listened with rapt attention.

"Wow, wicked. What might they be doing with all of that? And that you remembered to cover your trail... And, did you find what you were looking for in the archives?" he asked, excited. However, my eyes were falling shut right now, as I was still tired from the Fidelius and hence I was yawning heartily behind the cover of my hand while scooting lower until I was lying flat between cushions.

"No idea what they are doing. And do you think I'm stupid enough to let everybody know I was there? Maybe I'll have to return and then I'll be glad when it goes quicker. Most of the time I plan my trips through till the end. And yes, my search was successful, but raised some more questions. I don't have the whole picture yet and I don't want to get ahead of myself. That wouldn't be like me!" I emphasized the latter in allusion to last night and his - in my eyes - more than rash act of marking me.

I was falling fast asleep after this eventful time, succumbing to a deep, exhausted sleep.


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The Morning After, chapter 60
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