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A Tale of Two Princes by academica
Chapter 8 : Year Seven: Part One
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 5


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Author’s Note:

Year Seven is incredibly intense for Harry and the gang, and the story on Voldemort’s side is no different. Due to that fact, I have decided to pull a Warner Brothers and split the year into two parts. I realize this may pain some of you, so I’ve tried to make up for it by writing an epilogue to round it out to ten chapters. I mean, Paige and Draco deserve it, right? :) Well, so do you. Thank you for being loyal readers and kind reviewers!

Kingsley Shacklebolt's line during the wedding comes from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I. 

-academica


 







 

Once again, Paige found herself leaning against the railing on a tower, waiting for something.

 

The night breeze blew her hair gently off her shoulders, causing her to shiver slightly. The air was warm and pleasant, but she flinched at the slightest touch these days. Living under Voldemort’s regime meant never knowing when you should stay or go, speak or stay silent. To make matters worse, the manor was full of lonely men who had no qualms about following her with their eyes or coming to haunt rooms where she had tried to find a moment to herself. Paige’s solution had been to stick very close to the Malfoys, though they had little influence even in their own home. She spent most of her time with Narcissa, who was also left behind when Voldemort had assignments for her husband and son. Severus was gone almost all of the time, as he was sent out to investigate each and every lead the Dark Lord’s followers brought to their leader’s attention.

 

He was the prince she awaited tonight, as she stood in Draco’s bedroom and silently watched from the balcony. She wore a long black gown, the silk off-the-shoulder straps displaying her smooth collarbone and lightly defined back muscles, and plain black pumps. The dress was a beautiful loan from Narcissa, but she longed for her Muggle jeans, even for the normalcy of a school uniform. Her Hogwarts clothes were tucked away somewhere, still in need of a wash.

 

Behind her, Draco stepped out of the shadows, wearing his usual all-black ensemble. He placed his hands gingerly on her waist, anticipating her fearful surprise, and placed a single kiss on her neck, getting close enough that she could smell his identity. He felt her relax in his hands, and his kisses moved to her jaw, then behind her ear. The smell of her hair was intoxicating. It was difficult to resist the urge to pull her gently away from the open air and into his arms, but he knew Snape would be arriving soon. He would not deprive her of the sense of relief she felt every time he returned safely. In a way, Snape’s continued presence made him feel safe, too.

 

“There.” She whispered softly, and he looked up, seeing a black cloud of smoke pass through the heavily fortified gate that led into his family’s estate. As he walked, Snape’s form began to emerge out of the fog, parts of him becoming clearer as he proceeded. He glanced up, accustomed to seeing Paige on her perch as he returned from yet another mission. Draco offered him a nod, and he returned it, locking eyes with Paige a second time before looking where he was going as he entered the house.

 

“Come on.” Draco said quietly, offering her his hand. She lingered at the balcony for a moment, but then she obliged his request, turning and entwining her fingers in his as they approached the staircase together.

 

Downstairs, the Dark Lord and his soldiers were all seated around the Malfoys’ large dinner table. A few of them glanced up as the two teenagers came down the stairs, but most kept their eyes focused on the head of the table, where their master patiently waited for his most trusted servant to make an appearance. They passed Pettigrew, who was busy keeping a prisoner silent. Paige dared not look up, too afraid she would see a close friend or former classmate under his spell. As they continued along the side of the room, she noticed that only two seats remained: one, next to Lucius, was clearly intended for Draco, and the other was situated next to Voldemort. The Malfoys looked up as the pair drew nearer, and Narcissa placed a hand tenderly on Paige’s back as Draco took his seat, communicating her desire that the girl remain with her son. After Draco settled, however, Paige moved down the line, coming to rest behind the empty seat. As she felt the Dark Lord’s gaze shift toward her, her hands delicately gripped the ornate back of the chair, and she wished with all her might that her father would not tarry any longer.

 

Suddenly, Voldemort addressed her. “I do hope he’s all right. I’ve become a bit concerned.”

 

Paige looked at him, bracing herself before confronting his ruby eyes. He was certainly more genteel than the other men who inhabited Malfoy Manor, but his attempts at friendship and charm disgusted her just as much as the perverted glances she received from everyone else. She could feel Bellatrix’s eyes boring into her without even glancing at the other end of the table.

 

“Yes, I’m sure he’ll arrive soon.” She replied softly, twisting her face into a neutral expression.

 

On cue, Severus stepped into the room, and the few quiet conversations that were taking place at various points around the table died away. He took the chair his daughter guarded, looking at the Dark Lord. “Potter will be moved by the Order Saturday next.” He said without being prompted.

 

“Are you certain?” Voldemort studied him.

 

“I’ve heard otherwise, my Lord.” A thin man with ratty blond hair tied back in a ponytail piped up, leaning forward so that Voldemort might better see him. “At the ministry—”

 

“The ministry has been infested with liars and traitors.” Severus said without batting an eye.

 

“Easy, Severus, you know I trust your judgment above all others.” The Dark Lord chuckled, clearly entertained by the fact that his followers were continually at one another’s throats. “However, Yaxley, I appreciate your… contributions.” He added, standing up. The older blond wizard sat back abashedly, shooting a glare at Paige and her father.

 

“I suspected, Severus, that you might bring me some good news tonight, so I arranged for a special treat for you and the rest of my loyal friends.” He paced along the edge of the room, his despicable serpent following in his tracks. “I am pleased to see that I was correct. Wormtail!”

 

Pettigrew flicked his wand, sending his prisoner forward for all to view. Paige nearly fainted when she recognized the woman suspended before them, her face contorted by terror and agony, to be her kind Muggle Studies professor, Charity Burbage. She focused on her breathing, knowing that Bellatrix would be watching her like a starving dog, searching for even the tiniest sign of disloyalty. Deep breath in, deep breath out, she said to herself. Voldemort was speaking now, telling the group about her professor’s views on blood purity, but her heartbeat was pounding in her ears, obstructing her hearing. A stray glance, and to her horror she saw that the woman was now speaking to her father, begging for mercy. Severus maintained a straight face, reaching behind his chair covertly and squeezing Paige’s hand just as Voldemort cast the killing curse. Burbage’s limp body hit the table, causing Draco to jump, and the Dark Lord set his pet on her without a beat. Paige held his hand tightly with both of her own now, her eyes boring into a place in the wood that was a safe visual distance from the scene of the snake enjoying her prey.

 

Draco rushed to her side as soon as the meeting was concluded, but Paige remained calm, taking measured steps toward the bedroom so as not to arouse suspicion. Her father and Draco’s parents followed them in, closing and locking the door behind them. Downstairs, the Death Eaters took turns abusing the house elves that brought them glasses filled to the brim with wine; Voldemort had ordered Lucius to prepare a proper celebration for his guests. The noise of the debauchery below echoed through the wide corridors, muffled only slightly by the mansion’s walls.

 

Paige returned to her post at the balcony, closing her eyes to try to keep her tears at bay. With the Dark Lord paying so much attention to her and Bellatrix watching her just as closely, she would have to practice keeping her face from betraying her thoughts. Draco moved next to her, leaning over the balcony as well. He tightly clutched a glass of red wine, his hands still shaking.

 

“Here.” Narcissa’s gentle voice stirred her, and she turned to find the woman extending another glass toward her. “It’ll help you sleep.” She whispered in explanation. Paige took it, taking a generous gulp. She imagined she would have to drink for hours to keep the nightmares away.


 







 

“I can’t believe you convinced me to do this.” Draco said, staring down at the warmly lit purple tent that stood prominently on the grounds of the Burrow. Paige stood next to him on the hill overlooking the wedding, gazing mournfully down at the celebration. She broke from her reverie after a moment, handing Draco one of the containers of Polyjuice Potion she’d been brewing in secret over the last month. Her eyes met his, and she didn’t need to speak her gratitude aloud.

 

Paige had come to find life at the manor more unbearable than ever following the murder of her former professor. The men who resided there continually sought her attention, and they did not take well to being turned down, let alone more than once. As punishment, they had come to treat her like a whore rather than a lady, freely touching her if she walked too close to them and letting their eyes roam over her without discretion. Draco spent his nights holding her, attempting to comfort her as she cried, but it was no use when the harbingers of her depression would merely descend upon her again the next day. Thus, when she found the wedding announcement in the Daily Prophet and begged Draco to allow her to see her friends again, he had little choice but to oblige her. Her face had been a bit too innocent, and Snape had been a bit too clear when he charged Draco with ensuring that his daughter was looked after properly, whatever that entailed.

 

He took the potion from her, closing his eyes tightly as he tossed it down. He felt an odd tingling sensation overtake his body, and he felt his blonde hair receding, being replaced gradually by darker strands. At the same time, Paige was also shedding her dark locks in favor of hair that was closer to his usual color. Her startling green eyes gave way to irises of chocolate brown, and he knew that his own orbs were also experiencing a change of hue. It was a shame, he thought suddenly, that they had to rid themselves of their normally admirable features all in the name of appearing less conspicuous. As he considered this, the transformations completed themselves.

 

They headed slowly down the hill, slipping past the Aurors that lined the tent in the form of anonymous guests. Paige would not get to congratulate the happy couple in person tonight, nor could she risk coming too close to any of her former allies, but she could at least use her temporary body to enjoy the festivities from the center of the jovially throbbing crowd.

 

Draco took two glasses of champagne from the table as they passed it, offering one to her. “Might help rinse the taste out of your mouth.” He whispered to her, and she accepted it, taking a small sip. He grimaced at the thought of what the Weasleys considered fine spirits, but he took a drink anyway, surprised to find that it approximated his usual taste. He supposed it was sort of sweet that they had clearly spared no expense in ensuring that their son and his new bride had the perfect wedding night, though they couldn’t possibly have done it without the Delacours’ help.

 

Paige smiled, drinking a bit more. “This is wonderful.” She said quietly, looking around.

 

Draco had to agree, considering that it was the best night he’d had in several months, even though he had only been there for a few minutes. “Are you enjoying yourself?” He asked her.

 

She finished her glass, leaning forward and pressing a gentle kiss onto his lips. She held it for a few moments before it became an embrace instead. “I love you.” She whispered into his ear.

 

He downed the rest of his champagne, setting both of their glasses down on the table. “I love you, too.” He said, offering her a gentle smile. “Do you want to dance?”

 

“I’d love to.” She said, taking his arm and following him onto the dance floor, where the other guests, including the bride and groom, were engaged in a simple waltz. The edges of Paige’s light blue dress turned up just slightly as he spun her around gently, and she gazed into his face blissfully as he dipped her, enjoying her ability to recognize him behind all of his disguises. To the others in the room, they appeared to be just another young couple in the throes of romance.

 

Suddenly, the conversation around them fell silent, and Paige was filled with a sense of dread. She and Draco mimicked the others around them, their dances interrupted and their attention drawn to the center of the room. Paige peered around the elaborate hairpieces and hats that adorned the heads in front of them, finally seeing the source of the commotion. A Patronus had lighted on the dance floor, and Kingsley Shacklebolt’s voice emanated from it gravely.

 

The Ministry has fallen… the Minister for Magic is dead… they are coming. They are coming.

 

The crowd erupted into chaos as two Death Eaters penetrated the walls of the tent, others trailing close behind them. Out of the corner of her eye, Paige saw Ron grab Hermione, pulling her out of the reach of a Death Eater she recognized as Antonin Dolohov. Draco looked at her in horror, and she felt a stray piece of hair fall onto her shoulder. It was the color of a raven’s feathers. Draco’s hair was also lightening rapidly, his blue-grey eyes already having reclaimed their rightful place. She knew her green ones wouldn’t be far behind, if they weren’t already there.

 

She locked eyes with Harry for just a moment, and then Draco Apparated them both back to the safety of the manor, the two uninvited guests disappearing just as mysteriously as they’d arrived.


 







 

If anyone at Malfoy Manor had noticed the absence of the two youngest people living there, they allowed Paige and Draco to elude punishment for their excursion. Paige, however, was still hesitant to attempt another escape, and she sequestered herself in the bedroom she shared with Draco and busied herself with her schoolbooks between meals. Draco came in one day to find her standing over a steaming cauldron, her copy of Advanced Potion-Making open next to her.

 

“What are you doing?” He asked curiously, sitting down on the bed.

 

“Working on my Draught of Living Death.” She murmured softly, dropping some chopped valerian root into the bubbling brew and waiting patiently until the water turned a rich dark blue.

 

“Do I want to know why you’re making that?” Draco asked, quirking a brow at her.

 

“Just for practice.” She said, finally looking at him. As usual, her makeup had left evidence that she had cried at least once so far that day. However, a half-smile now lighted her pale face.

 

“Practice?” He glanced at the book, and all of a sudden it made sense. “Your N.E.W.T.?”

 

Paige smiled a little wider at him, and then she returned to her work.

 

“You really think you’ll sit for it once all this is over?” Draco asked, unable to hide the incredulity in his voice. “I mean, you think life will go back to normal?”

 

“It has to, one way or another.” Paige shrugged. “I mean, what if the Dark Lord defeats Harry? You and I and everyone else will still have to work in order to live.”

 

“And what if he loses?” Draco asked.

 

“Well, we’ll all probably end up in Azkaban.” Paige said flatly. “But this is my backup plan.” She bit her lip, not wanting to think about either of these realities. She had told her father that she wanted to become a potions master when she finished school, and she intended to do just that. She and her father had a way of escaping imprisonment if Voldemort fell to the Order. Draco, however, had no such avenue. Neither did his parents. And what if the others didn’t believe her?

 

Draco watched her finish the potion, producing yet another perfect specimen. She tucked it away inside a drawer, clearing up the mess with her wand and glancing back at him. “Do you remember when we were first years?”

 

“It seems like an entire lifetime away.” Draco sighed, standing up and coming to rest before the balcony railing.

 

“Daphne tried to trick me once into helping her brew a love potion for my father.” Paige said with a smirk. “She told me it was for Theo, and she had me fooled right up until we had to add the personal ingredients.”

 

Draco glanced back at her. “She really liked him that much?” He asked, surprised.

 

“I know.” Paige took her place next to him. “I don’t think he ever noticed it, either.”

 

“Remember when Krum asked you to the Yule Ball?” He said, causing her to giggle despite herself. “D’you think he honestly forgot that you and I were together?”

 

“You know, I think there is a good chance.” She laughed. “Remember when you broke up with Pansy at the end of second year?”

 

Now it was Draco’s turn to laugh. “I swear, I’ve never seen someone strut so furiously—”

 

The unlikely sound of laughter drew the attention of Lucius and Narcissa, who had just returned from a walk around the grounds of their home. They crept up to Draco’s door, opening it very quietly and peering in. The two young Slytherins were bent over the balcony as usual, but they were both smiling and enjoying what appeared to be a very amusing conversation. Lucius felt someone behind him, turning to see Severus approaching as well. He started to speak.

 

“No.” Narcissa said softly, moving aside enough for Snape to see. “Let them be children.”

 

The three adults watched them peacefully for some time, disappearing from the doorway at last when a house elf from below signaled that it was time for dinner. Paige and Draco turned to the door a few moments too late, both of them oblivious to the fact that they had ever been watched.


 







 

It was like the first day of school again, except this time it was so much worse.

 

Draco squeezed Paige’s hand as they prepared to board the Hogwarts Express. She suspected the motion was just as much for his benefit as for hers, considering that he probably had just as many nervous butterflies pounding the walls of his stomach as she did. Several of the families on the platform around them gave them looks of distrust and anger as they said goodbye to Lucius and Narcissa and maneuvered their things toward the open doors. Professor Snape, who had taken McGonagall’s place as the new permanent headmaster, would be meeting them at school.

 

Paige moved carefully down the aisle, noting that none of the other students would look her in the eye. Draco kept close behind her, holding his wand tightly in case any of the members of Dumbledore’s Army decided to attempt an attack before they even made it to Hogwarts. When they passed their old friends, Pansy and Blaise offered them seats, but Draco shook his head, gesturing instead to an empty compartment at the end of the row. Paige gave the Slytherins an apologetic look and followed Draco to the compartment, knowing he coveted his privacy.

 

The train ride and opening feast went by in a blur, punctuated only by Snape’s announcement that Paige and Draco had been selected as Head Boy and Girl for the year. This aroused no one’s surprise, but Paige now found both professors and students glaring at her and Draco openly.

 

After dinner was over, the two of them headed to her father’s new office to receive their badges.

 

“Now, I trust you both will handle these with the respect they deserve.” Severus said, handing the badges to his daughter and her boyfriend. “If you have questions, you should refer them to me or the other professors. The Prefects will likely take care of most minor problems. Understood?”

 

Paige looked down at the badge in her hand. She didn’t deserve it. “Daddy—” She whispered.

 

“Just try to have a normal year.” He said quietly, watching her. Draco nodded, gently reaching for her arm. “Come on, Paige, we should get to the common room.” He suggested softly.

 

Paige nodded reluctantly, turning to go. She almost didn’t hear her father when he next spoke.

 

“I love you, Paige.”

 

She paused, turning back to him and forcing herself to adopt a more confident expression. “I love you, too.” She said quietly, and she let Draco take her away before the tears came once again.


 







 

As she grew accustomed to channeling the other students’ resentment of her into authority, Paige became more and more adept at doling out punishment to students caught breaking school rules. Thankfully, her father often overrode the sanctions chosen by the Death Eaters who had been appointed at Hogwarts by sending misbehaving students to work with Hagrid instead. The few familiar teachers that remained at Hogwarts often avoided dealing with her and Draco at all.

 

They had a bit of an unusual mission tonight. It pertained to a few fifth-year students from Gryffindor who had escaped to try to find Harry and his friends and get help. She and Draco, along with Pansy, Blaise, Crabbe and Goyle, were to locate the missing individuals and return them to Hogwarts. While Paige was grateful for the chance to get out of the castle for a little while, she did hold some bitterness toward the fact that they were in the dead of winter.

 

They had been combing the streets of Hogsmeade for hours when Draco finally spoke up. “Why don’t we split up?” He suggested, turning to the group. “You four go and check around Diagon Alley. We’ll stay here and finish checking in the abandoned flats at the other end of the road.”

 

The others did as he said, not willing to argue with a Death Eater, even if it was only Draco. Paige turned to her boyfriend, confused. “Who would they hide with up there?”

 

“I don’t know.” Draco looked at her. “I just wanted to get rid of them, that’s all.”

 

Paige stepped closer to him. “What did you have in mind?”

 

He smirked, putting a hand on her waist. “Dunno.” He said, but he kissed her passionately. The cold melted from her fingertips as her heart pounded delightfully, the snow polluting their hair as they stood kissing in the brisk, icy breeze. Draco paused after a moment, glancing around them.

 

“What?” Paige asked, moving toward his lips again.

 

“I thought I heard something.” He frowned slightly.

 

Paige heard it too, now. The unmistakable sound of an Irish drinking song resounded over the rooftops, and she suspected it was coming from the very edge of town. She set off after it, Draco following close behind. They finally reached a small pub, brightly lit and full of laughter. Paige glanced back at Draco, who was mystified by the music. “You want to go in?” He asked suddenly.

 

They were greeted with full tankards of ale as soon as they stepped in the door and shed their coats. Several people were dancing wildly in the center of the room, and many others were engaged in pleasant conversation all around its perimeter. It was almost as if no war were taking place, like no one had been murdered today or the day before. It was a sort of heaven.

 

After a couple of drinks, Paige was asked to dance. She looked automatically at Draco, about to refuse, but he smiled and gestured for the gentleman to go ahead. She danced multiple rounds before Draco took over, spinning her around in the warm firelight and laughing recklessly.

 

Several hours of drinking and dancing took their toll on the exhausted students, and Draco suggested that they take one of the rooms upstairs and rest for a while before compelling themselves to return to school. When they got into the room, however, Paige saw Draco’s true intentions.

 

He forced her gently against the wall, smearing her lipstick slightly with his kisses as he dug his fingernails into the skin on her lower back. She felt her blood rush in its stream, kissing him back roughly and wrapping her legs around his waist. After a few moments of this, they found their way to the bed.

 

When their tryst was completed, they took their rest, falling asleep easily on the soft bed in one another’s arms. Later, the voices coming up the stairs caused Paige to stir from her dreams.

 

“Are you sure it’s them? They seemed like normal kids when they were down here—”

 

“No, it’s absolutely them. I remember the blond one from the summer’s wanted posters.”

 

Draco!” Paige hissed, waking him and clamping her hand over his mouth. When he was conscious enough to interpret what the voices were saying, he threw himself out of bed, and they both dressed as quickly as possible, leaving only an open window for their would-be captors to find.


 







 

They did not escape punishment this time.

 

When they turned up at Hogwarts in the early morning hours, Snape refused to believe Paige’s story about how they had hidden away to avoid being captured by Aurors, informing them that they were to spend the Christmas holidays locked away together in Draco’s bedroom. Their meals would be brought up to them, and Draco was only allowed out for Voldemort’s missions.

 

Paige wondered how obvious it was to her father that this wasn’t much of a punishment at all.

 

She was perched along Draco’s balcony once more, staring out at the stars, when she saw a small group of people entering the manor’s main gates. Draco’s aunt emerged from the house, coming out to meet them. With a start, Paige recognized the teenage girl held by one of the men.

 

“Draco.” She breathed, catching the attention of the young man sitting against the wall behind her. In the next breath, however, Bellatrix’s louder voice called for him as well.

 

“Draco!” He moved to the balcony, and he and Paige stared down at the people outside. “Come downstairs, darling.” She cooed, and then her expression turned sour. “Bring her too, I suppose.”

 

The two of them ventured down the stairs and into the Malfoys’ mostly bare drawing room. Bellatrix was waiting for them, along with Lucius, Narcissa, the gang of Snatchers, and a familiar trio of Gryffindors. One of them, however, looked like he’d seen better days.

 

“Draco, we can't be wrong with this.” Bellatrix said pleasantly, like she was discussing the weather with her nephew. “We have to be sure this is the real Potter.”

 

Draco stepped forward, staring at Harry, who appeared to have been cursed quite recently. “His face looks... strange.” He said quietly.

 

“Yes, it does!” Bellatrix responded. “A stinging jinx, I presume.” Suddenly, something else caught her eye. She stepped toward one of the Snatchers, who held a regal blade with a handle encrusted in rubies. “It can’t—where did you get that?” She demanded.

 

“Found it.” The Snatcher responded. “I'm keeping it, too.”

 

“Not hardly.” Bellatrix hissed, grabbing the sword from him. “You lot are dismissed, after you wrangle the boys down into the dungeon. I’d like to have a chat with their little friend.” She added, forcing Hermione onto the stone floor of the cold room with an Imperius curse.

 

Paige watched in horror as Bellatrix began to carve the word “mudblood” into Hermione’s arm, adding a letter whenever the girl provided her with an unsatisfactory answer. When Hermione shrieked for the fifth time, Paige had had enough, moving to seek refuge down by the dungeon.

 

Draco followed her, gently taking her arm. “Paige—”

 

“I can’t do this anymore.” She said, concealing her sobs in his shirt as they erupted from her chest. “I didn’t want any of this. I can’t just stand by and watch—”

 

“We never had a choice.” Draco said softly. “And you have to. Just stay with me, all right?”

 

Paige nodded, looking up at his face. “I know.” She uttered hopelessly. “I will.”

 

She led the way back up the stairs, clearing her tears away with a flick of her wand and trying to hold her head high. They came to rest beside Narcissa and Lucius, who turned from the scene of Bellatrix completing her bit of inscription to look at them questioningly.

 

“Had to shut them up.” Draco explained. “One of them started crying.”

 

Lucius crossed his arms behind his back, nodding. “Right.” He said, accepting the excuse.

 

When Bellatrix had finished with Hermione, she turned toward the dungeons, but the boys emerged on their own, leaving a deceased Pettigrew in their wake. They withdrew their wands, aiming curses at Bellatrix. One of them nearly hit Paige, and she stepped back as Draco and his mother moved forward to keep the Gryffindors at bay. Bellatrix stopped the duel quickly, however, revealing her knife at Hermione’s throat. Then, a squeaking sound filled the air.

 

Everyone looked up, and Paige spotted Dobby slowly unscrewing the chandelier above Bellatrix and Hermione. She grinned despite herself, having missed the unruly elf’s presence at Malfoy Manor. Bellatrix dove out of the way as the object came hurtling to the floor, serendipitously tossing Hermione into Ron’s arms. Dobby gathered the trio around him, along with the remainder of the Malfoys’ prisoners, and the whole group vanished in the blink of an eye.


 







 

It had been three hours, and Draco still hadn’t returned to her. She was starting to fear the worst.

 

At last, he walked through the door. He did not act as though anything was wrong, but the cuts and bruises on his face betrayed him. Paige moved to him, gently lifting his shirt and displaying a disturbing amount of damage to his skin. It looked like he might even have a fractured rib.

 

“Cruciatus.” He muttered, looking at her with shame.

 

“Draco—” Her voice broke, and she guided him to a seat on the end of the bed.

 

“Father got it worse than me.” He said softly. “I don’t think he’ll be able to move again tonight.”

 

Paige sat down next to him on the bed, placing a hand on his leg. “You’ll be okay.” She sought out his eyes, and when she found them, they were full of tears. “I can make a healing potion.”

 

“No, it’s all right.” He said, and he paused for a long moment before standing up. “Look, Paige, I’m glad you’re here with me.” He added, sticking his hands in his pockets.

 

She smiled sadly, looking up at him. “Of course, Draco.”

 

“No, I mean it.” He looked at her intensely. “You and I are the only two people going through this… I mean, people our age. The others at Hogwarts can’t understand it, not even our friends in Slytherin. I’m just glad you didn’t abandon me that night. I don’t think I could do this alone.”

 

“Well, we’re wanted by the Aurors.” Paige mused. “Our kind sort of has to stick together.”

 

“I know.” Draco withdrew one hand, pulling out a black box with it. “I was thinking the same thing.” He opened it, revealing a large emerald surrounded with diamonds on a white gold band.

 

Paige tried desperately to swallow her heart, which had become lodged uncomfortably in her throat, as she watched him kneel before her. She would need to speak, after all.

 

“I want you to be with me when all of this is over, too.” He said. “Will you marry me?”


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