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Wait by DianaApollo

Format: Novella
Chapters: 10
Word Count: 21,947
Status: Abandoned

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Mild Language

Genres: Action
Characters: Draco, Harry, Hermione, OC, Ron
Pairings:

First Published: 03/26/2004
Last Chapter: 08/29/2004
Last Updated: 08/29/2004

Summary:
Seven Years after Hogwarts, New trouble arises.


Chapter 1: Chapter 1
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Chapter I




Chapter I


You Shouldn’t have waited so long…


She owned a simple flourishing florist shop on the corner between Flourish and Blotts and the newly-expanded annex of Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. It was a small, crisp, and clean store nestled in between two towering brick-and-mortar monstrosities. Both interior and exterior were painted a bright white, and large picture windows displayed flowers of every shape and color. The entire premises was enchanted, so that the white paint needed never to be recovered, the windows in front never had to be cleaned, and the flowers remained bright and fresh. In addition to stocking the best and broadest variety of flowers and greenery for wizarding and muggle weddings and holidays alike, she stored the freshest and rarest herbs for difficult potion-making, and even Severus Snape had to admit that, although she was a former Gryffindor, her asphodel root was the best around.


Ron Weasley stood in the doorway of her shop, brushing his fingers vaguely over the glistening petals of a golden rose on display as he watched Diana Apollo rush around her store, re-enchanting the odd flower and packaging cuttings of herbs for her never-ending chain of customers. She had changed a great deal in the seven years since they had both graduated from Hogwarts together. Her hair, once flowing to mid-back, was now cropped just below her earlobes, with a thick fringe that hung down to just above her eyebrows. It had darkened a bit, too, from almost a platinum blond when she was seventeen to a deep golden blonde now that she was older. She was wearing loose moss-green robes that accentuated her hips and her hazel eyes, green like her cousin's, though perhaps from a different bloodline. She carried herself differently, too. She stood a bit taller, shoulders a bit more straight, as if she had weathered and finally cast off all the burdens she had accumulated over the years.


It was with more than a trace of sadness that he took note of the white-gold ring on her third finger. He'd heard the rumors, as had everyone else in the wizarding world, but he was unwilling to believe them without first seeing it himself. After all, how likely was it that the ex-girlfriend of Ronald Weasley and cousin of Harry Potter would ever be engaged to Draco Malfoy?


To be fair to the slimy git, Ron acquiesced, Draco had undergone a sort of transformation in the time since he'd left Hogwarts. His father had been out of the picture since the beginning of Draco's sixth year, rotting away in Azkaban with no end in sight, and his mother had been killed a year later when she'd resisted an auror raid on Malfoy Manor. Within a month of graduation, Ron had heard through the grapevine that the new Master of Malfoy manor was seeking to hire a contractor for a complete renovation of the mansion. Another month after that, and Malfoy family heirlooms, valuables, and portraits began to appear in shops all around England. Draco might have changed over the years, but in Ron's view nothing could reverse seven years of torture and cruelty. He had run into him a few times and found him to be still rather arrogant and swaggering, though perhaps without the dangerous edge now. He hid himself in his mansion most of the time, spending his wealth on adding annex after annex to the manor, spending millions upon millions of galleons on it, according to one source (though by all rights the Quibbler wasn't exactly the most reliable of magazines).


Diana was laughing now, and it pulled Ron out of his reverie. An old woman, clothed in brown robes, was examining Diana's ring. He stepped a bit closer to listen in, sliding behind a display of snapdragons which growled at him until he shushed them.


"Exceptional quality," the woman murmured, critiquing the diamond, "not too large, either. The perfect size." Diana smiled slightly at this, then stopped as the woman's gaze became serious. "I see great trouble for you in the future," she whispered. "Happiness, yes, but great trouble as well."


"who are you?" Ron could see Diana's lips form the words more than he could hear her.


"No one of importance, child." The woman said. She lifted up her package of herbs and ambled slowly towards the door. As she passed Ron, she glanced up at him and he caught a glimpse of large thick glasses. "you've waited too long already." Ron wasn't even sure he was hearing the words, they were so quiet. In another instant, she was gone, and Ron looked back to where Diana had been standing a moment ago. A movement to his right made him glance quickly up. Diana stood right beside him, eyes reflecting back the same surprise he was feeling.


"Ron..." she remained still, gripping in one loose hand her alabaster polished wand, the other hand resting on the table beside him. "What are you doing here?"


He glanced down, ashamed to think that he was spying on her. "I just.. I saw your shop, and I wanted to come in and say hello." The expression on her face and the way she pursed her lips told him that she didn't believe him. Slowly, she turned away and ambled slowly over to the cases of golden roses Ron had been admiring when he came in. Hesitantly, he followed her. "its a new breed," she said quietly, "Neville's developed them. He gave me full rights to sell them." She had dated Neville, too, for a short while.


 


"I heard." his throat was dry, and he was terrified that she would simply walk away from him at any moment now.


"And Fred and George had developed a special chocolate for me to sell in my shop." she wandered over to a case of pink-foil wrapped chocolate. Ron began to realize where this was going. Fred and George had both had the honor of dating her at several points over the past seven years. "Seamus and Dean write me Christmas letters. Ginny's made me godmother of Colin's and her first child." She turned back to Ron, lower lip slightly trembling. "But from you-- nothing. For seven years I haven't heard a word."


Ron paused for a moment, considering his options when confronted with this simple fact. He had been avoiding her, for nearly seven years now. "You left me," he said, not without bitterness. "You told me--"


"Ron," her voice broke in, quietly, as she glanced around the shop. "I have customers. Come back in an hour. We can talk then."


"We can talk now. I'm not waiting for you any more." his voice almost seemed desperate.


"That's just it, Ron," she said, picking out six golden roses and wrapping them up as he trailed after her, "I never asked you to wait for me." She turned around and pushed the roses into his arms. "Give these to your mother for me, and send my best wishes." With that, she turned and strode to the front of the store, where a line of customers was waiting for her attention.


***


"I can't believe she's marrying him!" Ron mumbled in annoyance as he downed another shot of firewhiskey. Harry sat beside him, his brow furrowed in consternation.


"I can't say I'm happy about it, mate," he said, "but you haven't spoken to her in seven years."


"She left me!" Ron exploded in frustration. "she bloody left me!"


"She tried to contact you. For three years, and you never responded." Harry was at a loss. Sure, he hated Draco Malfoy, but for the first time in seven


years, his cousin seemed truly happy. It wasn't a curse or a spell–Diana was too headstrong for that, and Harry knew for a fact that Draco was beyond that now in either case. He gestured for another bottle of mead and took a sip quickly before returning to attempt to comfort his slightly-inebriated friend. "Besides, Draco Malfoy might be an ass, but he's not a bad guy. He's not his father. He'll take good care of her. Not to mention the fact that she's happy. I thought you wanted her to be happy."


"Of course I want her to be happy!" Ron took another shot of whiskey. "I just want her to be happy with me!" His words were slurring together, and Harry wasn't sure whether it was due to the four shots of whiskey, the fact that he looked about to cry, or a combination of both. Irregardless...


"I think you've had enough, Ron." Harry looked an arm around his shoulders and guided him up from the bar, leaving the bartender a galleon. She winked at him. blowing him a kiss, and he blushed slightly. Ron's flat was small, but well-furnished and well stocked with all of the necessities. Harry thought it needed a woman's touch, or perhaps any touch but Ron's. He thought for a moment of Hermione, wondering if perhaps she would be willing to lend a hand. She and Harry were engaged, and had been for quite some time now. The problem was that Hermione had been up to her elbows in research in a dozen different countries for the past year and a half, only returning to England on holidays or when she had a few days to spare. Harry missed her terribly, and he looked forwards to the days when he would awaken to find her in his arms after she'd come in from the field.


Ron didn't have that, though. He didn't even have the anticipation of being with Diana. He hadn't had that for seven years, and it wasn't likely that he'd ever have that again. He knew from talking to Diana that she had no intention of leaving Draco, and his "friendly" chat with Draco had left him thinking the same thing.


What Ron didn't understand is that he'd had his chance, four years ago, and he had lost it. Diana had asked Harry to personally deliver the last letter she would ever send to him if Ron didn't choose to respond this time.


Harry, feeling he just had to know what was going on, opened the letter and read it quickly before sealing it back up again. He wasn't sure whether or not Ron had read it, or even opened it, but Harry did know that he had never responded to it.


Ron had fallen asleep on the couch, mouth open, snoring loudly. Harry sighed and tossed a blanket over him before apparating silently out of Ron's flat to his own. A few moments later, Ron opened one eye and looked around. The room was empty, so Ron slid off the couch. He looked around again with a wistful expression, his brow creased, mouth turned downwards into a confused frown. Sighing, he kneeled beside a cabinet in the corner of his small living room, and drew out from one of the drawers a small flat box. Settling himself on the couch again, he opened it and dumped the contents out on the coffee table. A multitude of envelopes, wax seals still in place, pictures creased from constant handling, and yellowed newspaper clippings fell and fluttered out, landing in a messy pile on the table. He dug around and finally drew out the newest of the envelopes, identifiable by its less-yellowed exterior. Turning it over, he slit open the wax seal and drew the parchment out. It was written in a woman's script, tiny and neat and straight. He read over the letter slowly, trying desperately to absorb each word as it appeared to him. At the end of the letter, he slowly set the paper down, his chest aching from the weight of the words she'd written there.


She had apologized. She had apologized. For everything she'd done to hurt him, but he had never answered her letter. He had never even acknowledged... And now Diana had moved on, past him and onto Draco. Maybe she was happier now, he didn't know. But the last sentence she had written echoed through his mind. "I will always love you..."


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 





Chapter 2: Chapter 2
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Chapter Two




Chapter Two


You Aren’t Going Alone…


His fiancée envisioned a glamorous but tasteful wedding, with yards of creamy silken fabric, crimson rose petals strewn everywhere, and pure white lilies—and even with her flower shop able to provide the flowers at cost, it was going to be a very expensive affair. Draco didn’t terribly mind, though he found the endless lists of details and addendums to the wedding (and expenses) rather tedious. So when Diana slid into his study that evening, Draco was busy going over yet another list and idly wondering why any woman would spend over fifty galleons on a handful of greens and dead flowers that was going to be torn apart by lusty witches in the end anyway.


She looked very tired, he noted—her short hair was in slight disarray, soft green robes unclasped to reveal a simple black pantsuit, now wrinkled, and she had already discarded her shoes by the time she let herself drop onto the couch beside his desk. He also noted that there were few times in his memory in which she looked as sexy as she did in this moment.


"Rough day?" he asked, and conjured a glass of sweet red wine for her, which revolved slowly at her fingertips for a moment before settling delicately into her palm. She gratefully took a small sip, closing her eyes to savor the taste for a moment, lips parted slightly.


"You’ll never guess who I ran into," she said at last.


"Whoever it was," Draco said, "it can’t beat the day I’ve had—"


She opened her eyes.. "It was Ron Weasley," she said simply, pursing her lips.


As nonchalant as she was attempting to seem, Draco knew better. She was perhaps the worst liar in the world, and Draco understood the problem immediately. "He’s an ass."


"He certainly is now," she muttered, then sighed, "I don’t know, I just feel—guilty." This sentiment was reflected in her expression, which Draco studied carefully before deciding to move on. In the four years since they had left Hogwarts, Diana had slowly begun to discard certain emotions—guilt, sympathy, mercy—in favor of developing a protective exterior. She had been prepared to murder, too, in the end, as had everyone else. Still, the fact that this was bothering her so much…


"He hasn’t spoken to you in—what—years?"


"He wouldn’t return my letters," she affirmed.


"He refused to accept your apology—"


"If he even read it."


"So tell me, Diana, why are we talking about him again?" She smiled—a little, but he knew the situation was salvageable. Standing up, he rounded the corner of his desk and sat down on the couch next to her, enjoying for a moment the cool black leather against the back of his neck, and slipped the wine glass out of her hand, depositing it on the ebony and glass coffee table in front of them. "Now, now, Woman," he purred, very much aware that no one, not even his rigid fiancée, managed to resist this particular tone that he had perfected in his schooling years, "just relax and forget about him. You’re with me, now, and I’ll take good care of you…"


She relaxed slightly, tilting her head to rest it against his shoulders. The muscles in her shoulders unknotted visibly as she curled up slightly. Short strands of her hair tickled his chin and neck, and he shifted slightly, barely brushing his lips against her forehead. Her eyelids fluttered at this almost-contact, and she allowed him to gently push the folds of robes off of her shoulders and onto the back of the couch. "Come on now," he continued soothingly, "put on some comfortable clothes and we can talk more if you feel like it." From the way she put her arms around his neck and snuggled closely, she was feeling better, and, thankfully, not at all like talking. He smiled teasingly and brushed his fingers over the side of her face. "Or we can express things in more concrete ways, if you like."


This elicited a smile from Diana, and she allowed herself to be drawn off the couch, standing to embrace him. He kissed her cheek, wrapping his arms around her waist, squeezing her and pulling her hips closer to press against his. "Come on, you witch you. Lets get some dinner, and then I’ll show you exactly what I love about you."


Draco sat up with a start in bed, and at the same moment realized that Diana’s familiar warm form was not in bed beside him. After patting the soft sheets beside him and finding them still warm, he ascertained that she was indeed gone but had not been for very long. He looked around frantically, unreasonable fear ringing in his ears. An unsolicited jealous image of his fiancée in a redhead’s arms filled his mind and caused him to leap out of bed and tug a silk green sleeping robe tight around him.


Padding out of the bedroom, he began to look for Diana, bleary-eyed and trying to focus his vision. He found her after five minutes, kneeling on the carpet in the parlor and gazing into a pink granite bowl, glowing with the silvery-gray light of the memories which, over the years, she had chosen to forget. She was wearing a golden robe he’d bought for her last year in Paris, feet bare and pointed like a dancer’s as she directed a figure out of the bowl with her wand. He remained silent, hoping to catch a glimpse of the past which she so carefully kept secret.


The image took shape, finally revealing a younger Harry Potter, stern as he gazed down at the kneeling form of his cousin. "No, Diana." The words echoed forcefully off the walls. "This is something I have to do myself." A muffled sob startled Draco, and he realized she was crying. Part of him wanted to rush to her and comfort her, but he was compelled to remain in place, eyes reverting back to the figure of his old rival. The scene changed now, to a raging battlefield, littered with black-robed death eaters and the white robes of fallen aurors. The pensieve settled on a grouping of figures, and Draco recognized immediately Diana and Harry in the foreground, amidst a heated argument. Diana and Harry both were wearing the badges of Auror officers, and Draco was surprised to discover that he had never known this about her. Her robes were torn and bloodied, and there was a certain rigid determination in her eyes. In the background he could make out Weasley and Hermione Granger, watching the argument with grim patience.


"You aren’t going alone," Diana said, her jaw set. "You need help." Draco realized suddenly that this was from the last moments of the war against Voldemort, and Harry was about to defeat the dark lord.


"Diana," said the image of Harry, "you can’t go. I’m sorry." Suddenly, he drew out his wand. "You’ll understand later." Aiming it at her throat, he whispered, "stupefy…" and apparated out before Diana’s unconscious body had even hit the ground. The image faded away then, and Draco was left, enraged and faced with the decision of whether or not to announce his presence to Diana. After a moment, he decided against it, and turned silently to climb back up the stairs to await her return to the bedroom.


This month, Hermione was in New Orleans. She had only just arrived, and was wandering the French Quarter in pursuit of the elusive wizarding community hidden away there, the Refuge Magique as it was called here. Many of the witches and wizards here practiced a different form of magic, much more concrete, than what was practiced in Europe and even in the North Eastern United States. Hermione found it fascinating. Passing by a store window, she paused to take in the sight of the tiny detailed Voo Doo dolls, pierced in different places by multi-colored pens, and felt obliged to enter.


Stepping inside the shop, she looked around and felt as through she had stepped into Flourish and Blotts back at home in Diagon Alley. Stacks of books were oddly balanced here and there, and there was the distinct scent of incense in the air. That was when she noticed the candles. The brass wall sconces were all empty, but a foot above them hovered ornately-engraved cream colored candles, flickering in an unseen air current. Swiftly, she looked around, wondering if perhaps she had stumbled upon her goal. A swinging door in the back of the shop opened, and a young girl eased out, balancing a handful of cauldrons in her hands. She paused to look over the top of the stack and smiled at Hermione. "Welcome to the Refuge Magique. Can I help you in some way?"


Refuge Magique, she’d learned, was less like London’s Diagon Alley than it was a series of stores, interconnected, deep in the heart of New Orleans’s French Quarter. Over a cup of strong chicory-scented coffee, the girl had explained that the wizarding population in this part of the world was lower than in England and Europe, and therefore a larger establishment was not needed. The clerk was a senior, she’d said, at the local wizarding school, one of only fifteen or so other seniors. Her name was Delia, and had just been setting up a display of new cauldrons for her boss before she got off. "Would you like to go along with me afterwards?" she asked, "I’ve just got a few errands to run, and I’m sure my parents would love to have you for dinner."


Eager to learn more about the wizarding culture in America, Hermione agreed, and, standing up, followed Delia through a narrow door in the back of the shop and into a whole new world.


Diana used a muggle shampoo in her hair which Draco was quite fond of. It had an intoxicating minty scent which lasted hours after her hair had dried and permeated the sheets on her side of the bed. Now he lay beside her, one arm draped protectively around her waist, with his face buried in his hair. She had come back to bed a few moments after him, crawled underneath the covers after discarding her robe, and allowed him to tug her closer to him. It was slightly disconcerting to him to know things about her past that she was unaware of his knowledge of, but he was glad he knew.


A part of him was certainly glad that she hadn’t been permitted to accompany Harry on his mission, but he knew the effect it had had on her. The Daily Prophet had reported a few days after Voldemort’s defeat that Harry was still in St. Mungo’s listed in critical condition owing, ironically, not to any spell of Voldemort’s, but the surge of curses hurled at him by death eaters who had witnessed their Lord’s downfall at the hands of Potter. He remembered the grim satisfaction he felt, followed by a wave of guilt, upon reading about his old rival’s condition.


He still hated Harry, yes, but The Boy Who Lived was as much his savior than anyone else’s.


Twenty-four hours later, the boat slid silently through the black glassy water, jagged cliffs rising from the abyss. Fog shrouded the vague outline of a fortress, and it was at this that Draco was staring. It had been at least five years since he had last been here, and understandably, he was nervous. The invisible but somehow tangible shroud of fear and despair was even now beginning to descend over the small boat. His heart pounded unheard but strongly felt in his chest, and his breathing seemed as loud as a scream. Steering itself, the boat glided through a black whole in the cliff, beyond which was the heavily guarded entrance to Azkaban Prison.


Glancing up, he noted that the cliff was dotted with black cloaked figures, motionless against the stiff sea breeze. Then he passed into darkness. Ahead of him in the distance was a dim yellow light, glowing with only enough power to illuminate another dementor waiting silently to meet the boat. Draco shuddered. Voices were already beginning to murmur in his head, and he muttered a quiet strengthening spell to quell his anxiety. The boat came to a rest at last beside a stone dock, and it was onto this he climbed and steadied himself before proceeding up a series of stone steps to the platform where the dementor waited, radiating pure unpleasantness, to grant him entrance. Stopping in front of it, he took a deep breath. "I wish to see Lucius Malfoy."





Chapter 3: Chapter 3
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Chapter Three




Chapter Three


You could have been great, you know


 


"After five years, finally, you return." His father's appearance was putrid-- rivulets of grime almost seemed to dribble down his long, tangled hair and onto what was left of his dress robes. His grey eyes were shadowed, but he clutched a yellowed newspaper in his hand, watching his son with all the sanity that he had once possessed. He seemed, somehow, to be holding back the effects of the oppressive dementors. Draco regarded him carefully, as one would a caged manticore. He knew that, even behind bars,


Lucius Malfoy was still dangerous.


 


"Yes, I came back." he watched his father cautiously, keeping his distance


from the bars. His father popped the rolled-up newspaper once in his palm,


then opened it up and opened it to a page about midway through.


 


"The daily prophet," he read in a smooth quiet voice, "is pleased to announce the engagement of Master Draco Vlad Malfoy of the esteemed Malfoy family to Miss Diana Anne Apollo." He stopped, looked up, and fixed his son with an unmelting steady gaze. "Is this your idea of a joke? Perhaps some prank? Or is it a longstanding mission from our Lord in order to undermine the Potter family?"


 


"Voldemort is dead, Father," Draco spat, "he has been for four years."


 


"I don't believe you," his father snipped, "you always were a disgrace to our family. You couldn't even win a simple game of Quidditch." Draco flinched at the memory of a few past defeats, then looked back up at his father. "We won seventh year. But I don't suppose you'd remember. The dementors don't let you listen to the WWN in here do they?"


 


Lucius narrowed his eyes. "You ungrateful brat. After all we sacrificed for you, you throw it all away for a silly little girl. A Potter, no less."


 


"All you sacrificed for me?" Draco asked incredulously. "You meant for me to be a death eater. That was always your plan. That isn't sacrifice, in my opinion. That's homicide."


 


Lucius looked at him for a moment, then chuckled. The eerie, unfamiliar sound echoed off the walls quietly. "Ignorant boy, I never meant for you to be a death eater."


 


"What?" Draco stared at him intently. "What are--"


 


"I meant," he interrupted smoothly, "For you to lead the Death Eaters."


 


Draco stared at him, not quite sure if his father was entirely sane. After a moment, he decided that he wasn't.


 


"Our Lord was ingenius, that much is true. He had the right idea. But he wasn't strong enough-- oh, no, not he. He was a mudblood, Draco, and mudbloods will never be strong enough to achieve the goals he was aiming for. We knew that, eventually the Potter boy might defeat Him, but you-- you we knew could prevail."


 


"This is ridiculous," spluttered Draco. "Absolutley bloody ludricrous."


 


Lucius just shrugged, and went back to reading the newspaper. "Suit yourself. You could have been great, you know."


 


Could have? Draco fumed silently on the way back to shore, the dreariness of Azkaban fading away slowly from his mind. The sun was just rising over the land, the clouds reflecting a penetrating dark red hue. Could have been great was, in Draco's opinion, barely good enough. But then again, how was his father to know what "great" was? He was successful, he had money, a fiance, and he wasn't constantly scurrying to hide dark arts paraphenalia from ministry raids.


 


<I> This should be more than enough, </I> thought Draco, <I> to convince anyone that I'm "great." </I> Still, something was niggling in the back of his mind, and he took


this moment to consider it. The thought made him shiver, and he tightened the clasp on his robes slightly as he stepped off the boat--  His father had never meant him to serve the Dark Lord-- he had meant him to *be* a Dark Lord.


 


***


 


Harry was lounging in the office chair in his cubicle, levitating it so he could keep an eye on events in his office when the call came. His office was in the Department of Magical Law Enforement, in the Auror's Office room, filled with a few dozen cubicles for working aurors. His tiny space was decorated sparsely, with a few pictures of Hermione, Diana, and Ron, and on one wall a large map of Briton, marked by shining pins where dark activity had occurred in the past year.


 


As director of Auror operations, he had been offered by the ministry a large office, complete with "windows" operated by Magical Maintenence, but he had turned it down. He preferred to work near his aurors.


 


Work in the last year had been slow, with only a few sporadic incidents that required the aid of an auror team. Lately, though, intelligence lines had been buzzing with information about a rising force. Who or what this is, none of them had been able to divulge, but Harry had the office on alert.


 


Today, however, had been their slowest yet. With a sigh, he let his chair settle back to the ground. Just as he was leaning back to close his eyes for a few moments, the alarms went off.


 


A high-pitched shrieking filled the room, and Harry lept up to look for the source of the emergency. On one wall of the room was a gigantic clock, with over two dozen hands, each  labeled with busy wizarding locations.  Most of the hands on the clock were pointing at "peaceful" or "boring," but the hand labeled "Diagon Alley" was pointing straight at "Emergency."


 


Harry immediately clapped his hands and whistled to gain the attention of the wide-eyed aurors, none of whom were expecting a situation today. "Groups of five, to Diagon Alley. Find the source and stop it." With nods to him, the aurors turned and apparated out of the room. Harry cast a nervous glance at the picture of Diana before apparating out as well.


 


***


 


Diana was arranging a half-dozen violet irises into a boquet for a waiting customer when the blast shattered her storefront windows and half the vases in the front of the store. Immediately, she and the customers in the shop dropped to the ground, looking around frantically. Diana cautiously stood up for a moment, looking around and doing a quick survey to assure herself that no one in her store was injured, then pulled her wand out and raced into the street.


 


As the smoke cleared, she saw several dark-cloaked figures retreating into the distance. Without another moment's hesitation, she took off after them, wand gripped tightly in her right hand as she ran. As she passed Quality Quidditch Supplies, Oliver Wood, the new owner, stepped out and help out a broom. The handle read Firebolt III and Diana raised an eyebrow.


 


"Here." Oliver was red-faced and wide-eyed. "Take this."


 


Diana was not Harry. She knew this, but she could certainly ride a broom well enough to catch the retreating Dark Wizards, whoever they were. She vaulted onto the broomstick with a "thank you," to Oliver and raced away, urging the broom to speed up as she flew. Diagon Alley was large and crooked, and she found herself jerking the brook around hard corners in pursuit of the figures. She was catching up quickly, and soon was within finger-reach of the farthest one back. She aimed her wand. "Stupefy!" she yelled, and an arc of light shot out and hit the hindmost figure, who stumbled and fell, headfirst, into a stack of cauldrons. The rest, without looking back, instantly apparated.


 


Diana dropped to the ground, setting the broom down, and ran over to the unconscious wizard. "You’re under arrest," she said, as she rolled him over. "You’re also very fat and—"


 


"and its lucky he’s unconscious," Harry muttered as he raced up behind her. "Um.. good job, Di…" he leaned over the masked man. "Who’ve we got here?" Reaching out, he tugged the mask off, widened his eyes, and immediately dropped the mask. "Dudley?"


***


Hermione was sitting in a curiously crowded little house near the quarter, sharing dinner with Delia and her parents, both of whom seemed obviously delighted to have an English witch in their house. Between the main course of blackened fish and the pecan pie for desert, she’d explained almost the entire British system of magic law to Mr. And Mrs. Sinclair and was throroughly tired of speaking—a rarity for Hermione. In a moment of desperation, she asked about the American system—and was pleasantly surprised by an in-depth explanation from Delia’s father as her mother cleared the table.


 


According to him, the American Magical Government functioned very similarly to the muggle government—they had a constitution, a legistlature, and a court circuit. Their executive—called simply Head Wizard—was chosen by a convention of all of-age witches and wizards in the country.


 


Hermione, fascinated, listened in, catching every detail. While a Hogwarts education certainly impressed much of the wizarding world, not much detail had ever been given to explaning other systems of government, and it was a subject that Hermione, amazingly, had never thought to research.


 


After what seemed like only a few moments, she was finding hersef thanking them for a pleasant evening and dinner, and slipping out of the door before apparating to her hotel. As she slipped her light coat over the back of the hotel chair, she glanced in the mirror, reaching up to unconsciously straighten a misbehaving bit of hair. As she lowered her wrist, something caught her eye, and she turned her hand over to glance at the wristwatch she wore, which Harry had given her for Christmas.


 


It was similar to the Weasley’s kitchen clock, with hands labeled "Hermione," "Diana," "Ron," "Harry," and, recently, at both Diana and Hermione’s insistance, "Draco," as well. Earlier, she had seen Draco’s hand fixed firmly on "Prison," which Hermione suspected meant he was visiting his father, the slimeball. Now, however, Draco’s hand was set on "Home," and she watched in growing horror as the hands labeled "Diana" and soon after, "Harry" swung around to point directly at "Mortal Peril."


 


Feeling helpless, she grabbed her wand in desperation, fully prepared to apparate to wherever it was they were, but then the logical part of her realized that there was no way of knowing where they were. She grabbed her coat, re-buttoned it, and swiftly apparated to the place she knew she would get information the quickest.


 


When she arrived at her destination, she stepped into the phone booth and dialed the correct number. A clear woman’s voice reverberated through the booth. "Welcome to the Ministry of Magic, visitor. Please state your name and business."





Chapter 4: Chapter 4
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Chapter Four




Chapter Four


Crimes Against Wizardkind


Dudley Dursley blinked several times, feeling woozy and sick to his stomach. There was a foul taste in his mouth, and his ears rung incessantly. After a moment the sound seemed to clear, and he could make out the sound of muffled screams and shouts in the distance. Had he been caught? Cautiously, he opened his eyes fully, squinting at the force of the sunlight in his eyes. As his eyes focused, he found himself staring at a gold-rimmed woman, with short cropped hair and green eyes. She was infuriated, he could tell, and from the wand which she pointed at him, she was also a witch. And on her left side… Harry Potter, looking equally as angry, if not a bit startled as well.


"Dudley," he began, then fixed him with a stony gaze, "What the hell is the meaning of this?"


Dudley worked his mouth a few times, opening and closing it wordlessly, without answering Harry.


"Answer me!" he hissed, "there’s a street full of injured and dead people back there, Dudley. People. And if you don’t tell me why you did this and who else was involved, so help me God I’ll lock you away for life!"


When Dudley whimpered and again refused to answer, Harry lunged at him, drawing a fist back to punch him, but Diana reacted quickly to restrain him. "Harry," she said forcefully, "take him back to the ministry." Harry paused, then nodded reluctantly and stood, aiming at Dudley with his wand.


"Dudley Dursley, you are under arrest for muggle crimes against Wizardkind, conspiracy to murder, and conspiracy to terrorize civilians. You will come with me." With his wand, he bound Dudley’s hands and feet, then grabbed his shoulder. With his free hand, he reached to his neck to touch a glowing silver pendant there, and instantly vanished.


Diana stared at the empty space for a moment, absentmindedly clutching a similar silver pendant on her neck. The Auror’s instant portkey and identification marking. In addition to serving as an instant portkey to the ministry, if anything should happen to an auror wearing this pendant–and they all wore the pendants–it would transmit an instant emergency signal back to headquarters. She sighed, then turned, grabbed the discarded Firebolt III, and jogged back towards the main street to see the damage that had been inflicted.


It was catastrophic. There was a fifty-foot wide crater in the middle of the street in front of Flourish and Blotts. All around it were scattered bodies and the injured figures of Diagon Alley shoppers. As it was late August, a number of the figures were wearing Hogwarts robes. She had to turn her head for a moment, closing her eyes so she wouldn’t be sick. Aurors were scrambling around, white-robed figures wearing the traditional red, blue, or green sashes that denoted their level and class in the order. Diana's eyes lingered on a young woman with a crimson sash tied tightly around her waist. On each shoulder was a single golden star. Diana had once worn the red sash, but she had had three stars on her shoulder before she retired. Sometimes, she almost wished she was still active…


When she opened them again, she unclasped her cloak and laid it over the nearest figure she saw. It was a Hufflepuff, she noted, and there was no way she could still be alive. Quickly, she did a mental note of the people around her. Only a few were alive. Of those three or four, all but one had critical injuries. Calling for an auror to assist her, she began to frantically attempt to save as many lives as she could.


Advanced healing spells were reserved for medi-wizards, but Aurors by default had to be taught the most basic to prevent unnecessary deaths in the field. Blood clotting, Burn healing, and broken bone splints were the only ones Diana was familiar with. Unfortunately most of her patients were beyond auror assistance, and badly needed medi-wizard aid. In a few moments they arrived, hoards of yellow-robed witches and wizards, spreading out to assess and control the damage. Stepping back, Diana caught one of the medi-witches as she passed. "You can have space in my shop. I can get some of the aurors to clear it out–"


The witch turned around. "Diana?" The redhead blinked.


"Ginny!" Diana managed a weak smile. "Do you need my shop? To get people inside?"


She smiled slightly. "That would be a big help." Diana nodded and hurried off to recruit a few of the aurors into clearing out the front of her shop as temporary clinic. It was not safe to portkey patients in the condition that many of these were in; they had to be stabilized first. She sighed, and pulling out her wand, began levitating cases of supplies and flowers into the store room in the back of her shop.


***


Draco heard it on the Wizarding Wireless network as he was settling in at his desk to go over a few contracting bids for the solarium he was planning on building over the summer. The announcer was solemn and grave, and he knew right away that there was a big problem.


"Diagon Alley," he began soberly, "has just been the site of a major terrorist attack on England’s wizarding citizens. Eyewitnesses say that it seemed the work of muggle explosives rather than from any magical source. First count leaves over fifty dead and another hundred injured--"


Draco leapt up, grabbed his cloak and wand, and was out the door of his office in less than ten seconds, taking the broad stairs which led down to the mansion's foyer two at a time. When an emergency like this happened, he knew, the ministry shut down apparition abilities for all but the most crucial of wizards, so there was no point in reaching Diana that way. His heart was pounding in his throat as he grabbed his racing broom from the coat closet. He also grabbed an invisibility cloak, an old relic of his father's, and swung it over himself. As he burst out the front doors, he mounted the broom and rose into the air, shooting off across the island towards London.


 


Diana sat in a darkened room beside Harry as the two watched Dudley being interrogated. Diana had to give the wizards questioning him a great deal of credit-- they were obviously furious, but were managing to restrain their tempers. A bottle of veritaserum was set on a table next to the door, and from the way Dudley's questioning was going, they might have to use it.


Dudley was sweating now, shaking his head desperately as, again and again, the wizards asked him who he was involved with, who had planned the attacks, and how he had gotten into Diagon Alley in the first place. Finally, Harry signed and tapped on the glass separating himself and Diana from the interrogators. The glass disappeared for a moment, and Harry sighed. "Use the veritaserum." The glass returned and one of the wizards retrieved the bottle, forcing it down Dudley's throat.


After a moment, his pupils dilated, and he gazed up at the interrogators.


"what is your name?"


"Dudley Dursley."


Diana dutifully began a transcript of the questioning with a blood red quick quotes quill, which, Harry noted in relief, was actually recording *only* the words spoken and not allowing room for commentary.


"What is your residence?"


"Number seventeen, Abbott Drive. Surrey"


"How did you gain access into Diagon Alley?"


"A Wizard let me in."


"Who?"


"I don't know his name. He never told me."


Dudley's voice was monotone and quick to answer, without hesitation. Harry had no reason to disbelieve him.


"Why did you attack us?"


"They told me-- They told me to."


"Who?"


He was sweating now. "I don't know! People! in cloaks with wands."


"What kind of cloaks?"


"Black, all black. And they had these mask things... I couldn't see their faces."


Diana sucked in a breath. "Death Eaters," she hissed.


Dutifully, the Quick Quotes Quill took this down.


"What did you use to attack us?"


"I don't know. A bomb thing.. I don't know. They just gave it to me."


Diana tapped on the glass. "Do a priori incantatum on him."


"Him?" The interrogator looked at her.


"Yes, just do it."


The man nodded and pointed his wand at Dudley, who whimpered and shrunk back. "Priori Incantatum."


***


Draco strode into the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, attempting to appear calm and imposing at the same time, but feeling frantic. If Diana was alive, this is where she would be.


He knew she hadn't really retired from her job as Auror-- she had merely transferred her service to field work. Diagon Alley had been her jurisdiction, and should anything happen, he knew she would report straight back to Auror Headquarters.


He paused as he rounded a corner. Sitting at Harry's desk and sipping a cup of coffee and looking considerably pale was Hermione Granger. Now, he had made a serious effort to, if not be nice to, at least tolerate Granger over the past year. He couldn't remember having called her a mudblood, or insulting her hair, but there was certainly no love between the two.


She looked up and noticed him, and his first reaction was to narrow his eyes. Then, remembering why he was there, he burst out the question he had been thinking since he'd heard the radio report, forgetting his attempt at composure. "Is Diana All right?"


Hermione looked almost touched at this, and gave him a curt nod. "She's fine. She's in the interrogation room."


Draco allowed himself a relieved sigh and sunk into the nearest chair. "Thank God."


She eyed him for a moment, taking another sip of coffee and looking thoughtful. "You really care about her, don't you?"


Draco blinked. "Of course I do! Why the hell would you think I didn't?"


Hermione looked a bit taken aback. "I don't know-- I just thought..."


"You thought," Draco said, insulted, "That because I'm a jerk and an asshole and a Slytherin that I am also incapable of loving someone. Is that it?"


"I didn't mean that--"


"You thought it. Listen, I'm an ass. I know this. But at least I'm not a malicious ass anymore."


She thought about this for a moment. "so you've changed?"


"To some extent." He watched her curiously. "certainly, I don't support the people who did this, if that's what you're asking."


She nodded. "I know." She paused again, hesitantly, then offered him a small smile. "Diana has sense, and if she's going to marry you, then I trust that you've changed."


"Look, Granger," he said quickly, trying to salvage a bit of his dignity. "I didn't say I wanted to go have a pow wow with all of you in the woods or something. I'm just saying--well, if you need anything, I'm there. Well, as long as you promise not to tell anyone about it." She looked about to say something else embarrassing, so Draco barged on, changing the subject. "So who did this?"


"We don't know yet. Dudley Dursley's in questioning right now, but I highly doubt he'll be the only one responsible."


"Dudley Dursley? That fat idiot muggle cousin of Potter's?" He blinked. "I mean, he's fat and an idiot and just happens to be a muggle--"


"I know what you meant."


 


 





Chapter 5: Chapter 5
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Chapter Five




Chapter Five


 Draco's Going to be Furious, you know


It was past ten o'clock, and Diana, Harry, Draco, and Hermione were all still sitting in Harry's cramped cubicle, surrounding by blinking push pins and wizarding wanted posters blinking eerily down at them. The large hand reading Diagon Alley was now pointed at "cleanup" on the clock. Diana was sitting next to Draco, her arm compressed in a strong squeeze from Draco's right hand, though Draco's eyes were fixed on Harry, who was trying to explain the organization of the Auror's division to him.


"Nine orders of Aurors, Potter? Do you think you're a bunch of bloody angels? And what's with the white?"


Harry rolled his eyes. "Yes, Malfoy. Nine orders. Three groups. Crimson, Jade, and Azure."


Draco burst out laughing. "Come on, Potter, that is quite possibly the dumbest thing I have EVER heard. Crimson? Jade? Azure? What, are you a law enforcement agency or a fashion magazine?"


Harry scowled. "It works for us, Draco."


Hermione and Diana had long since decided to stay out of the argument, and were now looking on with slight amusement as Harry stood up in frustration and tugged open an overflowing desk drawer. From a file at the back, he extracted a long sheet of parchment, glowing in red, green, and blue. "Here." he shoved the paper into Draco's hand. "The organizational structure."


Draco glanced over it, then gave it back to Harry. "Honestly, I don't care. I was just trying to make you angry, Potter."


Harry sharply arched an eyebrow and yanked the parchment back. "Fine."


Draco looked at Diana and grinned. "What are you? Scarlet? Emerald? Cerulean?" She poked him hard.


"I'm crimson, you moron." she paused. "Or at least, I was."


"Yes, well..." Harry paused. "Di, I've been meaning to talk to you about that..."


Just then the doors burst open, and Percy Weasley strode in, adjusting his cloak and hat as he did so. "Harry, good. I was hoping you'd be here." He paused, stopping at the edge of the cubicle when he spotted Draco. "You're here, too? Well, then, that simplifies things."


"Simplifies what?" Harry said quickly, standing up and saluting. "Minister, what is it?"


"This whole--" Percy waved his hand "--bombing thing-- seems to be only the beginning. There've been some developments."


Five pairs of eyes turned to glance at the clock, but all seemed normal.


"At Azkaban," Percy clarified. Draco was on his feet in an instant. "It seems," began Percy, "that we've had an escape."


"Who?" Diana said quickly, glancing anxiously at Draco.


"It seems he escaped and replaced himself with a muggle under the influence of both polyjuice potion and the imperious curse," said Percy slowly, taking off his hat and turning it slowly in his hands. "The dead muggle was found early this afternoon, and there's no trace of the prisoner."


"Who was it?" Hermione whispered, eyes growing wide.


"Lucius Malfoy."


An hour later, Draco slammed into his mansion, hands shaking and feeling quite helpless. His father had escaped. He was free, and no one had a damn idea of where he could be. He looked around quickly, then dismissed the possibility that Lucius could be lurking around the manor. He had put up extensive wards guarding against anyone who would do him harm, and together with Harry, Diana had put up even more when she moved in.


Speaking of Diana... He sighed, running a shaking hand through his hair as he wandered aimlessly around the entry way, bordering on a nervous pace. She had insisted on staying at the ministry for at least a while more, claiming she had to help settle things. He was worried about her traveling home alone, though; he, at least, knew who Lucius would really be aiming for this time.


He paused beside a vase of glittering blue tulips. They were an almost unnatural dark blue color, curved upwards into the perfect bud, each one handpicked and charmed to last forever by Diana. He lifted one gently out of the vase, examining it, feeling a twist of despair at the thought of what Lucius would do to him, to Diana-- to all of the people he had grown close to-- if he could get his hands on them. Unable to think of this anymore, Draco let out a frustrated yell and slammed his arm into the vase, knocking it to the floor with a shatter. "Dammit!" He yelled, stomping his foot on the ground and throwing the tulip in his hand down with the rest of the scattered flower. He turned to march out, and paused. a small service door had opened at the base of the staircase, and a house elf was peeking out, apparently in preparation to clean the mess once he had left. It cringed as it realized he had spotted it, and started to sink out of view.


"Leave the vase," Draco said quietly, feeling once again sorry for the years of mistreatment he had given them. "Do you think you could get some dinner together? Something simple, don't..." he paused, sighing. "Don't go to too much trouble. And let me know when Diana gets home."


It nodded and slid a bit more out of the doorway. "Sir," it began in a high-pitched squeaky voice, and Draco recognized it, now that it was in the light, as the house elf named Dosley. "We was wondering, sir, if you have the date set for the engagement party, sir. We is very happy that you is getting married, sir, and we wanted to have time to--"


He cut off the elf with a wave of his hand, smiling slightly and feeling rather flattered. "Two weeks from Friday, Dosley. I'll have Diana talk to you about what she wants served." He paused, glancing at the dirty pillowcase encasing the elf's body, and felt a wave of guilt. "And maybe we can get you proper uniforms..."


The elf's eyes widened. "No clothes, sir. The master cannot be suggesting that he give us clothes?" It looked rather panic stricken.


"No, no," Draco corrected quickly, feeling rather stupid and confused at the same time. "Just...new pillowcases. Would you like that?"


The elf nodded quickly, smiling. "The master is too kind."


Draco sighed, feeling helpless once again as the elf disappeared, then looked around the entranceway. He was standing between a two grand staircases that led up to the second floor gallery, and directly in front of him was a double doorway that led to the massive atrium and the rest of the house beyond. After a moment's hesitation, he started through the doors and towards the library.


***


Diana was trying to calm the fears of a massive group of people who had gathered in the atrium of the ministry when Harry found her. She was surrounded by crying, hysterical people, and the added stress of her fiancée's father escaping didn't seem to be helping; in fact, she looked close to a breakdown herself. "Diana." Harry grabbed her arm and tugged her slightly away from the mass of witches and wizards desperate for information about their loved ones. "Diana, you aren't helping anyone if you're just as upset as they are."


She turned to look at him, rather wide-eyed. "Harry, look at them! They just want information."


"The junior Aurors can help them," he said firmly. "Come on, I need to talk to you, and then you need to go home. You look exhausted.


She hesitated, considering this, then nodded in consent. "All right, lets go." She allowed him to lead her back to his cubicle, and sat down on the edge of a chair. "What did you want to talk about?"


"Diana..." he signed, sliding his glasses off and rubbing the bridge of his nose with two fingers. "Diana... We need you to come off reserve."


There was a pause, in which Diana looked at him for a moment, silent and waiting for him to speak again.


"We're getting more and more reports of death eater movements every day, and with this new information.. Well, we need you back."


"Harry, I'm getting married in three months--"


"Please, Diana. I've talked to Percy, I've talked to the Wizengamot, I've talked to Dumbledore, and even before today, they all agreed that we need you back. Please, we need you."


"You can do it by yourself." she gave him a frustrated look. "What help am I?"


"Diana, I need you." he frowned. "Can't you see that I can't keep a handle on things by myself? I don't trust anyone else to do this."


Diana sat still for a long moment, staring around at Harry's cluttered cubicle, then looked down at her hands, frowning deeply, then looked back up at Harry. "All right. But only because you asked so nicely." She forced a smile. "I'll come back."


"Thank you."


"Draco's going to be furious, you know."


"I think you can handle him, Diana."


"Yes, but can you?" She sighed and stood up. "Look, I'll be in tomorrow morning. I'm going home."


***


They were gathered in what seemed to be an underground room, sitting in a circle of old wooden chairs surrounding a fire. Lucius looked around at the hooded figures and smiled, triumphant. "Its good to be back," he hissed softly.


There was a nod of assent, and the figures all looked at him, as if waiting for him to continue. "I have heard a nasty, disgusting rumor that my son is marrying Potter's cousin. Is this true?"


There was a rustle of cloaks, and one of the figures removed a hood, bowing her head. Bella LeStrange frowned, eyes downcast. "Yes, your lordship. He is engaged to her."


Lucius scowled, then spat into the fire. "That marriage will not happen." He looked around contemptuously at the other figures in the room. "And you did nothing to stop this?"


"Sir, he has broken off all ties with his past. He refuses to acknowledge his family ties."


"Then we will teach him a lesson." From out of his cloak, he drew an old book, opening it to a page. "The bloodline potion. Dangerous, deadly, and, above all, untraceable because it isn't present in the victim's body." He allowed himself a smile. "In other words, perfect."


Bella frowned. "But, your lordship, we must get a sample of blood first."


Lucius smiled, then reached into another pocket. When he opened his hand, a few strands of white hair clung to his palm. "Yes. We must." he handed the hairs to Bella. "Make a polyjuice potion." He looked around at the gathered hoard of Voldemort's old followers. "In thirty days, our plan goes into action."


***


Diana knew something was wrong when she spotted the shattered vase and crushed tulips on the floor of the foyer. Glancing around, she slid her robe off, setting it on a dark oak table, and drew her wand out. Slowly, she edged into the atrium, looking around. Nothing seemed amiss in here. She paused, holding her breath for a moment. From a distance came the sound of muffled yells. She took off running to her left, following the sounds, which brought her to the doors of the library. She pushed the doors open and stepped into the massive room.


As always, the first thing she noticed was the mural on the ceiling. Bright blood red was the dominant color in this painting, which seemed to document the Malfoy family's bloody rise to success. Draco had actually tried to paint over it, but, gruesome as it was, Diana had insisted that it was historical, and, in a compromise, used a charm to make silver halos glow around the heads of the victims that were being tortured, murdered, and raped in the scene. The second thing she noticed was that the yelling was much higher in here, and she could now make out words.


In a high-pitched, slightly slurred voice, Draco Malfoy was screaming obscenities at the painting above. "You dirty bastards!" he yelled, trying desperately not to cry. "I don't deserve this! You should all be bloody dead, but you're still here! you're still here haunting me, you assholes!" He hurled a half-empty fifth of rum at the ceiling, but before it hit gravity dragged it back down again, where it shattered on the marble floor.


Diana hurried forwards and grabbed his arms before he could do any more damage to the ancient library. "Draco," she said quietly, "Draco calm down. Its me."


He turned and looked at her for a moment, eyes confusedly struggling to focus on her. "Di..." he breathed, looking pathetic. She smiled weakly and tugged him into a hug. He buried his face into the crook of her neck for a moment, squeezing his eyes shut and for the first time that evening noticing how drunk he was. "Dammit," he whined.


"Shh." She pulled away slightly, taking his hand. "Come on, lets get you some food and a sobering potion." he nodded weakly and allowed her to lead him, stumbling, into the family dining room on the other side of the house. The house elves had indeed set out a simple dinner, though there was more food than an entire household full of people could ever eat in a week.


Diana set Draco down and set about filling his plate with fruit, cheese, chicken and herb pastries, and several large pieces of fudge. They ate in silence, Diana only speaking once to ask the house elves to please fetch a sobering potion from the medical stores, and after drinking this, Draco felt his head clearing considerably.


"Feeling better?" Diana asked softly. Draco nodded. There was a moment of tense silence. "Well, then, I suppose I should tell you," she said, "I've been reactivated."





Chapter 6: Chapter Six
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Chapter 6


I knew I was Right


"I’ve Been Reactivated? That’s what you said, Di? Honestly, no wonder he went nuts." Diana gave Hermione a nasty look and flopped helplessly on the long couch in Harry’s flat’s family room.


"Well, how was I supposed to know that? And besides, he didn’t go nuts."


Hermione held up the remnants of Diana’s auror necklace. The long, silver, supposedly-unbreakable chain was dangling in two pieces from the pendant. The ends of the clasp were no where to be found. "Of course not, Diana."


Diana sighed. "Well, Hermione, you tell me, then! What the bloody hell am I supposed to do? I can’t just tell Harry no, can I?"


"You can, and you should. You got out of this two years ago. It isn’t fair to ask you to go back in again just when things are getting worse." Hermione folded her arms.


There was a heavy pause, during which time Diana stared absent-mindedly at the dangling trinket in Hermione’s hand, a remnant from darker days, when Diana couldn’t even be sure that a trip to the market would bring her home again safely. Now, though… things were different. She had a shop to run, a wedding to plan, a fiancée… and (dare she think it?) children, possibly, in the near future. "You’re right, Hermione. I shouldn’t feel obligated to Harry."


She stood up, slowly. "Thanks for your time." Diana reached forwards to take the necklace back from Hermione.


"Wait—can I put some tea on for you? Maybe you should rest a bit before heading back."


"No, thank you. I think I had better go and find Draco now before he does anything that may permanently injure Harry." Diana smiled wanly, then turned, taking her cloak up from the coat rack. She slung it over her shoulders, thanked Hermione again, and apparated out.


 


Draco had long since resigned himself to lying face-down on the dark sheets that were twisted and tangled on his bed. He was still not sure whether Diana was mad at him or whether it was he who should be angry with her. Gripped between his thumb and forefinger was a tiny silver clasp which had inexplicably clung to his hand when he’d ripped the pendant off Diana’s neck. At the time, he had been swearing quite vehemently that he’d never see her back on active duty in the Auror’s legion. Now, though, he would take it all back in an instant. He shut his eyes tightly, remembering the harsh words he’d screamed an hour earlier.


Diana, you are not going back there to die! He’d grabbed her shoulders. How can you even think of going back? Then the necklace. I’ll die before I see you return to the Aurors. He ripped the necklace off, more out of desperation than anger, but he could see that he scared her.


She took two steps back, mouth agape, then, as the effect of his words hit her, her stance changed. She narrowed her eyes and strode forwards again, ripping the necklace out of his hands and apparating out without a word.


He shook his head, overcome with a sudden, heavy wave of guilt. She had every right to return to the Aurors, but he was so afraid of losing her that his instinct took over. He sighed, shaking his head, then started to sit up. He had to find Diana, before she found someone who made her realize what an ass he’d been.


"Draco?" her soft voice echoed around the room. She stepped in, hair hanging mussed and in disarray around her face. Her face revealed hesitance and fear, making Draco’s guilt grow even more. She sighed audibly when she saw his face. "Draco, I’m sorry. I didn’t think before I agreed. I promised I wouldn’t go back to the aurors, and its not fair to you."


"No, its my fault, Di. You should not have to get permission from me. Go back to the aurors if you want to." He took a step forwards hesitantly.


"Can I show you something?" she took his hand, turning it over and depositing the broken chain of her pendant into his palm. "The necklace broke when you grabbed it, Draco."


"I’m sorry," he interrupted quickly. "I didn’t mean—"


She cut him off, continuing with her calm, quiet voice. "There’s only one way it can ever break."


Draco hesitated, then after a moments’ consideration, cautiously asked, "What’s that?"


"If I decide that I don’t want to be an auror anymore."


Draco remained quiet for a long while after she said this, staring at the pendant and burdened with the weight of the words she’d just spoken to him. "You—you don’t want to be an auror anymore?"


She shook her head. "I served, and I did my part. But now, I want to settle down. I want a family and I want to run my flower shop. I can’t have that if I’m an auror."


Draco smiled slowly at her. "So you aren’t mad?"


"No. Our life together comes before Harry’s wishes. You were right."


"Of course I was right." Draco tilted his chin up. "I knew I was right."


"Shut up." She slapped him lightly on his arm. "I’m going to sleep."


 


Diana was roused late that night by the intensity of the moonlight shining through Draco’s open bedroom window. A light breeze tickled the air, and the sheer curtains danced like cloaked ghosts in the silvery light. The house was eerily quiet, holding its breath for any sign of the night’s awakening, and Diana was compelled by the same sense of foreboding to slip out of bed.


Beside her, Draco rolled over, looking pallid and wan sprawled out in the light. He had long since kicked off the heavy down comforter in the hot and oppressive night air, and was swathed from the hips down in black satin sheets. His stomach was white and smooth. This series of details flashed swiftly through Diana’s mind, a by-product of ingrained auror instincts. She stood up, wriggled her toes on the cold marble floor, and took two hesitant steps towards the open doors which led onto the bedroom balcony. She glanced to her left and absorbed her image in the full-length mirror across the room. Naked, she looked frail and faded, long spindly legs seemingly frozen in their trek across the room, arms trailing behind her in a spectral flow. She put a hand over her abdomen, and for a moment felt it swell, smooth and stretched, under her fingers. Images began flickering in the mirror like candles plagued by a breath of warm air from pursed lips.


An infant, pink wrinkled, coddled in a blue blanket.


A blond boy, green-eyed and laughing.


A girl, red hair, brown eyes.


A coffin—Diana put a hand to her head—


Her wedding dress, stained red with blood.


Ron’s smiling face.


Draco’s.


Diana stepped forwards, drawn to the mirror, but the images faded away. Draco remained still and sleeping on the bed, and the night pressed in around her. A soft, lilting melody was now drifting through the window—a quiet song that drew Diana into the moonlight and out onto the balcony.


She felt hazy, her head clouded with the beauty of the song that filled her head. She stepped to the railing and gazed down at the ground below.


A piercing howl rang through the air, almost tangibly shattering the delicate song. A shadow raced by below, massive and hairy, on all fours racing from tree to tree. A sharp snout protruded, exposing jagged teeth and a panting tongue. She recognized it immediately.


"Remus," she whispered, and felt her feet slide from under her.


 


Draco found her the next morning. She was completely naked, sprawled out on the stone balcony in full sunlight. He hair was wild, draped in a makeshift veil over her face and shoulders. Her skin was tinged pink with sunburn, almost unnaturally so in the early morning sun. Within ten minutes, he had a doctor make a house call, and within fifteen she was in a hospital bed in the creature-induced injuries ward at St. Mungo’s.


"A vampire?" Draco asked incredulously, staring at the twin puncture marks on her neck, revealed by a nurse who had swept aside a few locks of Diana’s hair. "How could she have been bitten by a vampire?"


The nurse gave him a cold look, scuttled to the edge of the bed and began smearing a cooling salve on her burned skin. "She’s lucky, Mr. Malfoy. The effects will fortunately be only temporary." Draco was still looking shocked, so she continued. "This it obviously only her first bite. She should wake up in a few hours, and then we can see if she remembers anything, although I doubt that she does."


Draco cleared his throat. "And why do you think that?"


She gave him another look, obviously exasperated and not terribly eager to begin explaining anything to him. "Vampires tend to visit visions on their victims in order to prevent them from remembering the actual attacks."


"What kind of visions?" Draco persisted.


"Why don’t you just ask her when she wakes up!" the nurse said, finally giving up.


"Fine, Fine." Draco sighed. "Look, you might want to call her cousin. He’d probably want to know about this."


"Her cousin?" the nurse looked skeptical.


"Yeah, her cousin." Draco made a face before sitting down on a chair placed next to Diana’s head. "Harry Potter."


 


By the time information of Diana’s attack reached Ron, it was either so twisted as to give the impression that Draco himself had attacked his fiancée, or Ron decided on his own that this was the case. Either way, the first thing he did upon reaching the hospital wing that now held Diana, Draco, Harry, and Hermione was to swing straight at Draco’s face.


"You bastard!" hissed Ron as he landed a perfect right hook on Draco’s left eye. "What the hell did you do to her?"


Draco was completely taken aback by his course of action, and stepped back quickly as Harry moved to restrain Ron. "Me? What do you mean, me, Weasley?" Draco narrowed his eyes. "I didn’t do a damn thing to her."


"The hell you didn’t, Malfoy!" yelled Ron, face matching his hair as he struggled to get around Harry’s restraining arms. "I knew something like this would happen eventually!"


Draco rolled his eyes. "She’s in creature injuries, you moron. How the hell could I have done something?"


Ron seethed, gritting his teeth and glaring at Draco. "Ron," Harry cut in, "Draco didn’t do anything. It was a vampire."


"A vampire?" Ron stopped at this, confused and looking at Harry in consternation. "Since when do vampires come to England?"


"The last one was in 1808," spoke up Hermione, from the corner of the room where her nose was buried in an old and tattered looking book. She looked up at Ron and arched an eyebrow. "And it was a vampire, Ron. She has all the classic symptoms. Unconsciousness—"


"And that’s such a decisive one, too, Granger," Draco cut off, his eyes flashing from beside the bed, where he had once more claimed his chair.


"Shut up, Malfoy," Hermione said, tossing her head slightly, before continuing. "The bite marks, obviously. Sunburn, severe dilation of the pupils. Not to mention that Draco found her outside, which makes it likely she was lured out of bed."


"Someone could have faked all that," Ron persisted with the stubbornness of a small child trying to blame a classmate for breaking a toy. He glanced at Draco with narrowed eyes. Draco returned the favor.


"It was a vampire," came a voice from the door. They all turned to see Remus Lupin step inside, looked exhausted. "I saw him."





Chapter 7: Chapter 7
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Chapter Seven

 


Chapter Seven


Then You're out of luck...


In her mind, things were twisting. A myriad of colors were dripping together, spinning and blending into a backdrop of clashing hues. Crimson. Emerald. Vermilion. Lemon. It was so confusing, millions of flashing drops in every shade of every color imaginable.


Then it was white. A blinding, unpalatable bland white that filled her mind. There was a man there. Tall, blonde, cloaked in black. Pale face. Icy blue eyes as deep as gushing wellspring and as inviting. He held a hand out, broadening his smile to reveal white teeth. A lilting note or two drifted through her head.


And then Diana woke up. She ached all over, inside and out, and for a few moments she remained still, eyes closed and adjusting to the new feeling. A cool sensation alighted on her forehead, and she heard a soft murmur of voices.


"When she—"


"If—" There was a long pause, and then she recognized Harry’s voice, hesitant and more than a little bit sheepish. "Thank you, Draco" I think we all might have underestimated you. Thank you for taking care of her."


"Might have?" Draco’s voice, with its usual cockiness, strained somehow. "Definitely have."


She opened her eyes slowly, not moving yet. The room was dark, curtains drawn tight. No one was looking at her. Draco sat to her right, one hand holding a cloth to her forehead, the other gripping her hand. Harry and Ron and Hermione were there too. She was surprised to see Ron, and felt a rush of uncertainty. She opened her mouth to speak, found no words coming out, and turned her eyes to Draco in silent plea. He glanced at her, then looked away. It took him a moment to register her eyes on him, and slowly he looked at her, breaking into a broad smile.


"You’re awake," he whispered, looking relieved. "How do you feel?"


"Terrible," she managed to squeak out. "What happened?" Harry and Draco exchanged glances. Ron was suddenly at her side, opposite Draco, with an expression of intense concern.


"You don’t remember?" Harry ventured cautiously.


"No." Diana furrowed her brow. "I…don’t think so."


Draco cleared his throat. "Diana, honey? You were attacked by a vampire." He looked supremely uncomfortable. "I found you on our balcony."


Ron burst out suddenly, sounding venomous. "Our balcony--" What do you--"


Harry kicked him sharply in the shin. Diana looked from Harry to Draco, confused. "When?"


"Last night." Draco glanced over at Harry. "I'm not sure what time."


"You don't remember anything?" Harry pressured.


"Not about any vampires," Diana said slowly, trying to think. "I got up. The moon was very bright. It was hot, and I--" she paused, coughing and grimacing. "Can I have some water?"


Draco quickly poured her a glass of water from a pitcher on the bedside table. She took a few sips before lowering the glass from her lips. "Go on," he said quietly.


"I looked at the mirror," she said softly. "I saw images, lots of them, flashing by."


"What kind of images?" Ron pressured.


She glanced at him, then continued on. "Then there was this sound, coming through the door... I went outside and looked over the railing. Something howled." She closed her eyes. "The moon was full. I saw Remus running through the woods but I wasn't scared. I could sense that it was him. And then... that's it." she shrugged helplessly. "No vampires."


"We know Professor Lupin was there," Harry said quietly. "He stopped by earlier, to tell us what he'd seen." Diana looked up at him, lifting her eyebrows in question. "He sensed the vampire. Apparently," Harry said, "They smell like stale blood to werewolves." he shrugged, implying his inability to either confirm or deny the statement. "He was investigating when he saw it attack you. When he pursued it, it ran away and left you there."


"And then he left?" Diana furrowed her brow. "I don't understand."


"He might have taken the potion to return himself to human mind, but he didn't trust himself." Harry paused, then clarified. "You had an open wound, and it would have been a risk to go up there. So he retreated and waited until dawn to investigate. By the time he got there, Draco had already found you and brought you here."


"What I don't understand," Draco grumbled, "Is why he didn't just go into the house and get me."


"First of all," Harry said, giving Draco a cold look, "is that your house is warded against anything that could do harm to the two of you." (At this, Ron opened his mouth to protest, but was silenced by Hermione, who had finally put down her book to join the group.) "And that includes werewolves."


"But not vampires?" Hermione asked, wrinkling her nose.


"Technically," muttered Draco, "It wasn't actually in the house. I didn't ward the verandas or the balconies."


Ron rolled his eyes. "Bloody brilliant, Malfoy. Now look where it got you."


"Shut up, Weasley," hissed Draco, standing up. "AT least I have a house to ward."


"Both of you, SHUT UP!" Shrieked Diana, who promptly gasped and collapsed into a coughing fit. Draco pressed more water into her hands, looking guilty. Ron reluctantly took a seat.


Harry cleared his throat. "As I was saying--" he gave Draco and Ron each dirty looks. "secondly, Draco, how likely would you be to follow a werewolf who had wandered into your bedroom?"


Draco scowled. "That's not the point, is it?"


"Actually, that's exactly the point." Harry rolled his eyes. "Even if Lupin did get past the wards on your house, its likely you would have stabbed him with a silver baby spoon or something."


There was a pause during which the only sound was Diana wheezing into the glass of water in what appeared to be a weak attempt at laughter.


"I don't see how that's so funny," Draco said indignantly.


***


Diana's doctor wanted to keep her an extra night for observation, but Diana complained so loudly and forcefully that he felt compelled to let her go, giving Draco strict orders to keep her in bed for the next two days, and to close and lock the bedroom door until the vampire could be found. In addition, he recommended hiring a vampire hunter to keep watch just in case the vampire returned.


"Once a vampire's found a victim he likes," the doctor said as he reluctantly signed Diana's release papers, "He's likely to come back. You've only got three bites, and then you're out of luck." he handed the papers to Draco. "Have a nice day."


Draco looked down at Diana, who was perched indignantly on the edge of the wheelchair that had been insisted upon. "Can't I just walk?" She asked. "I'm not an invalid."


"You need to rest," Draco said. "The doctor said you shouldn't walk for a few days." Diana scowled up at him. "I'm sorry," he said, "but that's the way it is."


"Fine," she said, folding her arms and slumping down in the chair as Draco started to push her out, then she looked up at him with a weak smile. "Thanks," she said, "by the way."


"It wasn't a problem," Draco said vaguely. "You were in my way when I walked out onto the balcony. I figured I might as well move you."


***


Harry felt decidedly uncomfortable sitting in the middle of the atrium in Draco’s mansion, shifting his feet nervously.


The house elf who had let him in squeaked that it would go find Draco, and true to its word, Draco came down the stairway into the room a few minutes later. "Diana’s asleep," he said without prelude. "Can I get you something to drink?"


Harry arched an eyebrow. "What do you have?"


Draco laughed, and Harry felt a trace of resentment bubble up. "Whatever you want, Potter."


Harry gritted his teeth. His old grudge was not dying anytime soon. "Just a butterbeer, Draco."


He shrugged. "Suit yourself." He glanced behind Harry and nodded. "And I’ll have a white wine."


Harry turned his head and saw another house elf scamper off towards one of the side wings of the house. "Got plenty of servants, Malfoy?" He arched an eyebrow.


Draco shrugged again, taking a seat in an armchair and draped one arm gracefully along the back, arching an eyebrow. "They won’t leave. You try and suggest it, they’ll throw a fit." He took a sip of wine as the house elf returned with their drinks. "So, Potter, to what do I owe the honor of your presence?"


Harry swallowed his butterbeer and fixed Draco with a firm gaze. "I’ve hired you a vampire hunter, Draco."


There was a very poignant pause, during which time Draco froze and stared at him over the rim of his glass. "You… what?"


"Hired. You. A. Vampire. Hunter. I thought I’d enunciated well enough for you, Malfoy." He sighed. "That vampire will come back, and when it does, we should be ready."


"We? She’s my fiancée."


"Well, she’s my cousin, Malfoy, and I want to protect her just as much as you do."


"You know, everyone should probably just consult with her directly instead of having secret meetings behind her back." Draco and Harry both jumped, turning to see Diana standing, arms folded, on the stairwell. "I’m not stupid, you know."


"You should be in bed," began Draco.


"Why aren’t you resting?" said Harry at the same time. Diana fixed them both with a level glare.


"Because the damn house elf came in and told Draco that you were here." She looked at Draco. "I’m not an idiot, you know. I know the vampire’s going to come back." She descended the rest of the stairs and took a seat on the couch next to Harry. "And Harry, I think a vampire hunter’s a good idea. But you should have spoken to Draco first."


Both Draco and Harry seemed to have a mingling of satisfaction and resentment on their faces.


The was a cough from the entranceway, and they all turned to see the tiny figure perched there. "Excuse me, Master," the house elf squeaked, "But there’s a Miss Abigail Corelli to see you."


"Ah," said Harry, smirking and downing the last of his butterbeer, "she’s here."





Chapter 8: Chapter Eight
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Thank you to my loyal readers! You are certainly appreciated!

Chapter 8


People are Stupid about Vampires



Abigail Corelli was a compact, slightly muscled one hundred-forty nine centimeters tall. She had light olive skin with dark brown eyes with the depth and color of a mug of blackberry tea. Currently, one neatly arched auburn eyebrow was raised, and her matching dark red-brown hair was pulled back from her face in a neat dangling french braid. She folded her arms over the light material of her pine green sundress and scowled, looking around with burgundy lips pursed in impatience.


The house elf who had let her in had disappeared several minutes ago, leaving Abby alone in the Malfoy Manor foyer. She looked up, examining the room critically. It had a high, domed roof, plated in a shiny silver coating, white marble floors that extended up both stairways on either side of the closed oak double doors through which the house elf had vanished. The banisters were marble as well, carved in the intricate design of what appeared to be spiderwebs.


Overall, the room gave off a distinct air of class and malice, a curious combination that somehow suited the former mansion of Lucius Malfoy. Abby wrinkled her nose and tossed her hair slightly, shifting her eyes to the shimmering curtain of magical energy that she could clearly see blocking the front entranceway, as well as the first floor windows. She had sensed the wards the moment she entered, layered to keep out at least two or three specific people in addition to the additional general wards to keep out those who wished to do harm. Interesting, she noted to herself. They have enemies.


At least they had wards, she thought. It certainly helped to ease her job knowing that a vampire couldn't simply slip through the front door in order to gain entrance to the house.


She rolled her eyes. Her last clients had been dense enough to whimper out some urban legend about Vampires only being allowed into a household when they were invited. Silly, she thought, snorting slightly to herself as she remembered, to imagine a vampire asking to borrow a cup of sugar in order to get in. The truth was, it was a muggle myth that all of the idiot wizarding families clutched on to like a protective talisman that was, in reality, only a useless joke shop trinket. She sighed, folding her arms. People were stupid about vampires.


"Miss Corelli?" The squeaky voice alerted Abby to the house elf's presence.


"Yes?" she turned and paced the steps over to the elf.


"They are ready to see you now, Miss," it informed her, turning to lead the way.


Abby nodded, supressing the urge to be irritated that she wasn't met personally, and followed the house elf through the double doors and into the atrium beyond.


The atrium was a massive structure of glass and red sandstone, permeated with blazing hearths and framed by fountains and streams of water. It was a striking and impressive room that seemed to be significantly newer than the rest of the house. She stood in a gallery of red sandstone columns supporting a similar roof, grottolike. She paused for a moment to look out at the room before her.


To her left was a sweeping stairway the led up to what appeared to be a loft-like overlook, and to her right was an elevated platform that supported a grand piano and various chairs for performing. In front of her were her clients. There were three of them, two men and a woman, all watching her with interest. One of the men was standing up, tall and pale with white-blonde hair. He was gripping a crystal goblet of white wine and watching her with icy blue eyes. The second man she immediately recognized as Harry Potter. He looked wary, bright green eyes flickering between Abby and the woman. He was sitting next to her, and as she turned her eyes to the seated woman, she remembered her as Potter's cousin. She was also, quite obviously, the victim of the vampire attack. Tall and pale, her round cheeks were tinged a light pink. She was wearing a creamy silk dressing gown and housecoat, pink slippers, and a platinum ring on her left hand, visible from here It was either a wedding band or an engagement ring, she didn't know which. A quick glance confirmed the tall blonde as her fiancée and not her husband.


She was sitting tall, with one ankle crossed underneath the other, watching Abby with glowing green eyes that reminded Abby eerily of gold coins deposited in a bed of moss. Her hair was swept back, and Abby immediately confirmed the slowly-vanishing pin pricks on her neck.


Abby assembled all this information and started forwards. "I'm Abigail Corelli. I was told you are in need of my services?"


The pale blonde spoke up. "Yes. We need you to kill a vampire for us."


Abby lifted an eyebrow and fixed him with a somber stare. "First of all," she said, "I don't kill vampires. Not unless I can help it. Second of all," she stepped closer to him, "I don't believe you've introduced yourself yet."


"I should think it was obvious," he said, gesturing around. "I'm Draco Malfoy." Abby noted Harry Potter's reaction at this show of arrogance, and therefore disregarded it as harmless and an unintentional by-product of being a jackass. "Why don't you kill vampires," he was asking now, "I thought you were a vampire hunter."


Abby sighed in frustration. "I am a vampire hunter," she said, "but that doesn't mean I kill vampires." She fixed Draco with a look, daring him to comment. "Look, that isn't the point right now. I need to know everything you know about what has happened here in the past few days. When she got attacked. Where. How. And from that, I might just be able to help you figure out who, and stop him before you become the bridegroom of the undead."


Draco scowled at her, and Abby sighed. She didn't like him, but unfortunately she had a feeling that she'd be seeing a lot of him over the next few weeks. "That isn't going to happen," he said firmly.


"Well, I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure it doesn't." Abby folded her arms. "Now, are you going to let me sit down, or do I have to remain standing?"



***



"Absolutely not," Draco Malfoy refused a few moments later. "We are not putting her in danger again." He was now sitting on the couch next to Diana, one arm around her shoulders protectively. Diana looked tired, but alert, watching this conversation in silent interest. She had been quiet during the entire conversation, glancing from person to person with glittering green eyes.


Harry agreed, nodding his head. "Isn't there some other way?" He was on Diana's other side, sitting on the edge of his seat and watching Abby with wariness. "I mean, that's a bit dangerous, isn't it?"


Abby sighed. "Look, first of all, the vampire won’t come back unless Diana’s in the house. Secondly, as long as she’s not in sight, he’s going to be wary."


"He?" Harry cut in, "how do you know it’s a she?"


There was a moment in which Abby stared at Harry and Harry stared right back, apparently confused. "I mean, you can’t *know* can you?"


"Well, no," Abby conceded, looking irritated. She folded her arms and leaned against the back of the armchair she was seated on, one leg folded neatly over the other. "I don’t know that the vampire is a male. She gave him another annoyed glance. "May I continue?" Harry looked slightly rattled by this, and nodded. She nodded curtly. "Good. Now, as I was saying, as long as he hasn’t lured her out into the open, he’ll be wary of an attack, but as soon as he sees her, blood will be on his mind. He’ll be vulnerable to attack, and that’s when I strike."


"I?" Draco interrupted, leaning forwards. "You can do it by yourself?"


Abby was instantly incensed. "I work alone, Mr. Malfoy," she hissed. "I always have, and it works for me. I have never failed to subdue my vampire." She gave him a cold, quite angry look. Out of the corner of her eye, Abby registered Diana wincing in sympathy for Draco.


"That isn’t what I meant," Draco said quickly, holding up his hands in front of him as though to ward off a punch. "Honestly, I just was wondering… what I was supposed to be doing. I mean, I can’t exactly just sit in bed knowing that Diana’s about to be attacked, can I?" He looked at Abby, a bit plaintively, with his blue eyes sparkling in the light that was filtering in through the windows in the atrium.


"You’re going to have to." Abby gave her dark hair a little toss. "You can’t go running after her, or we may never catch the vampire. The moment he sees you, he’s gone." She folded her arms. "And that means that he’ll come back, eventually. You don’t want that, do you?"


Draco watched Abby for a moment. One dark eyebrow was arched, her eyes piercing. Obviously, she meant it. Beside him, Diana had moved to place a hand gently on his arm. The soft pressure was comforting, and he nodded. "Fine," he conceded. "I understand." Beside him, Diana smiled for just a moment, and then looked over at Abby, growing serious. "When are we planning on doing this?"



 


Ron had, once again, found himself to be dangerously close to inebriation. Three shot glasses, empty of the rum they had once contained, were stacked one atop the next, upside-down on the bar in front of him. A fourth was being rolled around between the fingers of Ron'’ left hand. He stared blankly at the rough dark wood in front of him, dark brown eyes glassy and forlorn. He liked it this way, when he was feeling just drunk enough to blur the edges around his stagnant life and make it seem more profitable. "After all," he muttered, holding the small glass up for a refill, "I’m doing okay for myself." —he knocked back another shot, slamming the glass onto the table–"I’ve got a good, solid job, right? I mean, jeez, they need me!" he scratched his chin in a futile effort to rid himself of the itching of his five o’clock shadow. "I’ve got a nice flat. Sure, it’s a bit small, but I do okay. It needs painting, yeah, but I can do that easy." The bartender, a large pale hulking mass of a man, was used to Ron’s usual pattern of drunkenness, and scooped up the empty shot glasses.


"You had enough yet, Mr. Weasley?" Ron looked up at him, eyes practically sloshing in a bath of rum.


"Gimme another rum, Dan," he muttered. He looked up plaintively at Dan. He arched his eyebrows up, eyes widening at a sudden drunken realization.


"Oh, Bugger," Ron said, letting out a slight sigh and wobbling dangerously on his stool. "I think my life is shit."


As Ron keeled over unconscious onto the top of the bar, Dan turned with a tired sigh and drew a handful of floo powder from a ceramic pot on the hearth. "Mr. Potter?" he called, tossing the powder into the fire. "I believe you need to come and collect him again."





Chapter 9: Chapter 9
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Chapter 9




Author's Note: Thanks to everyone for the fantastic reviews! I really am quite honored by your attention to my story.


P.S. Lucius will reappear, I promise.


 


Chapter 9


He was still my cousin…


His first sensation was a crippling pain in his head, followed by a vague sensation of nausea that was, unfortunately, growing more and more concrete as the seconds passed. Ron groaned, rolling out of bed and tripping over the scattered clothes and magazines that adorned the bare floor as he stumbled quickly across the bedroom and into the tiny bathroom adjacent. He wretched, feeling his stomach twist inside him and groaned again, regretting deeply the night before and all the rum he had drunk. His skin felt clammy as his fingers brushed too-long locks of hair off of his forehead. Ron groaned again, sitting slowly on the bathroom floor and wondering painfully why he did this to himself night after night.


"Its because you miss her, isn’t it?" The voice came from across the bedroom, and Ron jerked his head quickly to see who was standing there. Harry slipped out of the chair he was sitting in, wearing his white Auror’s robes adorned with the traditional crimson sash. The sight made Ron feel even more useless. Harry Potter, a respected auror, and his best friend, Ron Weasley, sick on the floor.


Ron looked down at his pale hands, long spindly fingers, and short ragged nails. "Not anymore," he said with a sigh. "I still love her. I don’t think I’ll ever get over that, but—" he hesitated, sighing, and looked back up at Harry. "—Its more than that, now. I feel… I’m useless, Harry." He looked around, waving his hand in the general direction of the rest of his flat, pausing in his speech a moment to fight another wave of nausea. "I have a job that is effectively leading me nowhere, a ratty one-room flat that wouldn’t impress a beggar---" He sighed. "I need a new track, Harry. It isn’t Diana anymore."


Harry hesitated, then made his way over and offered Ron a hand up before pulling a vial of potion out of his robe sleeve. "Its from Hermione," he said quietly, "to help you get over your hangover." Ron smiled in thanks and downed the potion in one gulp. He leaned against the bathroom sink and ran a hand through his hair. Harry hesitated, still watching his best friend in concern. "So if it isn’t Diana, then you don’t mind her marrying Draco?"


Ron looked up at Harry, narrowing his eyes slightly in thought. For a moment, he looked angry, eyes tinged green with a tangible veil of jealousy. Then he softened. "Don’t get me wrong, Harry. I still hate the little prat, but…" he paused again, looking reluctant to speak. "…but if Diana’s happy, then I guess… then I guess this is what I want for her. I don’t like it, and I don’t know what she’s thinking, but if she’s happy…" he sighed again. "That’s what’s important." He looked up at Harry, seeming for a moment in the dim light of the bathroom to be a child again, fourteen and burning with an inner desire to be someone, to do something important. "I don’t want to be poor, Harry," his voice came as a whisper. "I saw what it did to my parents, I saw the regret in their eyes when they couldn’t afford to buy us real clothing or new brooms. I don’t want that to happen to me, or to my children." He smiled lopsidedly. "As if anyone would ever want me."


Harry remained silent for a moment in light of this new development, quietly contemplating the consequences of this confession. "I understand, Ron," he said after a moment, his voice soft. "And I think I can help you."


Ron looked up at him, fiery red hair falling back from his face. "You can?" His eyes were hopeful, his face reflecting a tense anticipation.


Harry smiled, nodding and pulling a silver chain out of his sleeve, extending his hand and placing it in Ron’s hand. Ron felt his hand grow heavy, then cautiously reached out to turn the pendant over with his free hand. "Harry, is this--?"


He shrugged. "Its on a probationary basis, you understand. My superiors don’t like it." He flashed a grin. "But we’re out an auror, and I need a partner."


Ron looked up at Harry, eyes wide in absolute ecstasy. "Harry, I don’t know what to say."


Harry arched an eyebrow. "You can start by saying you’ll take the job." He grinned again, turning and starting out the door. "Now get dressed. I’ve got some work to do and I want to give you the tour."


 


***


Abby was inspecting the third floor room directly overlooking the master bedroom's balcony. It was a dusty and disused room that was now apparently being used for storage, as it was filled with stacks of ebony wooden chairs and tables of varying sizes and colors. In one corner an ordinary broom stood, gathering dust. Apparently it had once been charmed to sweep on its own, as every once in a while it shivered from handle to bristles and made one or two feeble twitches.


The window was the only portion of the room that was sparkling clean, and Abby could understand why the house elves would choose to clean this. It was a cathedral-style round stained glass window, brilliantly shining in deep reds, greens, blues, and golds. She stopped to appreciate the design for a moment, a single crimson rose, thornless, with a twisting stem emerging and blossoming emerald leaves which framed the lower half of the picture. This was backed by a bright azure sky interrupted by a golden sunset.


"I wonder," she murmured in awe to herself, "how such a beautiful thing could exist in such a horrid house."


"Its not so horrid anymore." Draco's voice made her start and spin swiftly to face him. He was leaning casually against the door, all in black save for his pale skin and hair. His eyes were deeply shadowed, and he seemed filled with remembrance. "It was, years ago, a dark house filled with ugliness." he narrowed his eyes slightly, straightening and taking a few steps forwards. "You could put your hand to the wall and feel the screams of the souls who died here. Their suffering thickened the air and their twisted bodies crowded your mind when you tried to sleep." Abby watched him silently, voice caught stubbornly in her throat as she listened to him speak.


"You don't know what it was like, Abby Corelli. I lived in this house with him for fifteen years. He was a walking Imperious curse, he didn't need to cast a spell to make you do what he wanted. Fear was his incantation." He gave Abby a searching look, then turned to leave. "I have made every effort to wash this house clean of Lucius Malfoy's memory, but he will not leave."


Abby watched him go, arms folded with a slight scowl. "Just because I feel sorry for you," she grumbled, "doesn't mean I like you."


***


Harry remained still, in silent contemplation, as the junior Auror warily informed him of the break-in. He belonged to one of the lower ranks and was relatively new. Harry didn't know him very well, but could tell that he was feeling both frightened and ill at the same time. His face had a grayish tinge, and Harry noticed that his hands were shaking. His blue sash was loose around the white robes, which had a smattering of what appeared to be blood around the hem.


"Mr. Potter, unknown perpetrators gained access to the holding area where we were holding the muggle prisoner before his trial."


"And?" Harry's voice came out sharper than he had intended, causing the man to hesitate in his description.


"Well, sir," he winced, looking down for a moment, then back up before continuing weakly. "It is safe to assume that the muggle won't be standing trial, sir."


Ron hovered behind Harry, who was just beyond the threshold of the tiny cell where Dudley Dursley had been held. Blood was spattered across the walls, on the floor, over the ceiling. Once white and neat, the room now almost resembled a monochromatic Pollock painting that had been rendered on the inside of a cube of canvas. And in the middle of it all was Dudley, lying in the largest pool of blood, covered in deep slashes and lying completely still. At first glance, it seemed to be the gash on his neck that had finally done him in.


Ron turned away quickly, feeling his stomach twist in revulsion. Harry was still quiet, not moving in the middle of the carnage with a curious blend of emotions flickering across his face. It was a long time before Harry said anything.


"He was a murderer," he whispered at last. "he killed out of hatred, and he didn't regret it." He sighed, turning his head to where a message had been smeared in blood on one wall: MUGGLE TRAITOR.


"But he was also my cousin," he finished, and slipped off his cloak, crossing the room to place the fabric gently over the body of Dudley Dursley.


***


Night had fallen over Malfoy Manor, and it felt to Draco as if a great nightmarishly black cloak had fluttered over the grounds, slowly suffocating them in a burning wet haze. The moon was hidden by dark clouds tonight, and thunder rumbled somewhere in the distance. Abby had vanished shortly after sunset, presumably to lie in wait for the vampire. The only instructions that she left were to Draco; in no way was he to interfere with the vampire's call to Diana. He was sitting on the edge of the bed now, staring out at the night beyond with a lead veil gripping his heart and a sense of foreboding clouding his thoughts. Diana, beside him, was lying in bed, turned on her side and watching him with bright eyes. She was completely silent, too, pale brow wrinkled in worry. Slowly Draco reached out and lay a gentle hand on her shoulder, feeling the soft silk of her nightgown strap slide slightly to give way to soft skin beneath. She smiled, weakly, and opened her mouth to mouth out to him. I love you.


He smiled weakly, and then it happened. The breeze picked up, rustling the sheer curtains over the open door to the balcony, and a soft tune was carried on the wind. Draco could barely make it out, but the sound stirred up more fear in him than he could bear. He looked swiftly to Diana and saw with a rush of anxiety the struggle in her eyes to resist the melody.


"Go," he whispered reluctantly, wanting to pull her into his arms and forcefully hold her to him.


Diana looked away from him quickly, sliding out of bed and feeling the sweet lilting music draw her once more onto the balcony. She resisted looking into the mirror this time, but could see from the corner of her eye the flashing scenes haunting her once more.


She slipped past the sheer curtains, the cold breeze making her shiver and freezing her feet to the cold stone. She wiggled her toes, glanced around, and slid further outside, to the edge of the balcony. The grounds were still again, silent. There was a flutter beside her and she spun, quickly. The oppressive darkness yielded nothing but black, and she took a hesitant step backwards.


She felt her back press against something cold, and for a moment mistook it to be the stone railing of the balcony. Then a frigid hand slid around her waist and she knew she had been mistaken. She felt the walls of the musical spell collapse around her like glass, and fear rushed into awareness. She turned to struggle, but a powerful voice boomed out from above.


"Solaris!" A blinding flash of light shone out, and she felt the hand slip from her waist. She stumbled away, quickly, and turned in the fading daylight to see her attacker. Abby jumped lightly down from her position on the roof to land beside Diana, as Draco raced out from the bedroom beyond.


A man was lying unconscious on the stone, swathed in deep red robes. His face was pale and pointed, and two small glittering fangs descended between his pale lips. A mess of curly blonde hair seemed scattered by the fall and lay disorganized on his head.


Abby scowled. "God dammit," she hissed. "Adrian." As the last of the daylight faded, the man stirred, opening one eye and sitting up weakly. Diana took a quick step back and Draco leapt forwards, growling, but paused when he saw Abby remain still.


"Ah," the vampire said, rubbing his forehead painfully, "Hello, Abby. Fancy seeing you here."





Chapter 10: Chapter 10
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This one is quite a bit shorter than some others, but its been 4 months, so I figure something is better than nothing! Sorry!


Chapter 10


Vampires get hungry, too




Adrian slowly stood, dusting himself off with long graceful strokes of his fingers and looked up at Abby in silent question just as the sky opened in fury around them. Streams of water torrented down, soaking the four instantly. Diana's nightgown clung wetly to her skin, rivulets of water dripping down onto the stone balcony. Draco's white hair was plastered to the side of his head, and Abby's ponytail drooped dangerously. Adrian, however, merely looked annoyed, glancing up at the buckets of rain pouring towards him as if it were merely a slight drizzle.


Abby growled in annoyance and thrust her hand into her pocket, drawing out a small clear vial. "Here." she tossed it towards Adrian, and as it flew through the air, Draco caught a glimpse of a deep red liquid glittering inside. Adrian caught it, wrenched the top open, and drank the contents.


"Good!" Abby yelled over the sound of the rain, "now lets get the hell inside, and I'll explain."


Draco hesitated, directing a distrustful look in Abby's direction. "You aren’t bringing him in!"



he ordered, narrowing his eyes.


Abby rolled her eyes, giving Draco an incredulous scowl. "Just go inside, Malfoy! If he wants to hurt you, the wards won't let him in."


Draco calmed slightly, contemplating the wisdom of this statement. "Right, then," he said, a bit sheepishly. He turned to look for Diana, and found her standing just inside the door, waiting a bit impatiently for the rest of them to come inside. He nodded, starting towards the door. Abby and Adrian followed. He stepped inside, immediately crossing to Diana and putting an arm firmly around her waist. He was surprised to see Adrian slip easily through the door, and glanced at Abby for an explanation.


She opened her mouth to speak, but was interrupted by four house elves scurrying in, bearing thick fluffy towels. Draco smiled gratefully and slung the towel over his shoulders. Abby drew her wand out from a hidden pocket of her clothing, aiming it at her middle and performing a drying spell, which left her dry, though steaming slightly.


Diana slipped a towel around her, holding it tight, and watched Adrian with an expression of wary curiosity. In the brighter light of the bedroom, they could see him clearly now. His hair was light blonde, though slightly darker than Draco, and it framed his angular face in mounds of soft curls that gave him an eerie cupid-like quality that didn’t quite fit his long thin nose or the numerous other sharp features on his face. His eyes were a misty blue in color, and from out of these poured an almost tangible ageless wisdom that commanded the highest form of respect. He was well-dressed, his long thin body clothed entirely in black; black pants, black silk shirt, black trench coat that reached to his knees. All of his features seemed stretched and elongated, as though too much use and too many years had forced his body into this unnatural shape. He had accepted a towel from one of the elves, although he seemed somehow to already be dry.


Draco was watching him with an expression of disgust. "What do you want with my fiancée, Vampire?" he hissed, taking a threatening step forwards. His fists were raised, wand forgotten somewhere at his side. Abby considered for a moment warning Malfoy off from attacking, but then decided that it would be quite amusing to see him try.


Adrian raised an eyebrow at Draco, giving him a rather icy gaze that made Diana shiver and take a half-step backwards. "The usual," he said, lifting a hand and examining a set of long thin nails. "Vampires get hungry, too."


Draco growled, narrowing his eyes and lunging forwards to swing at Adrian, but struck only thin air as the vampire danced backwards across the air to land safely several feet away. "Really, Malfoy," Abby intoned. "If you’ll just listen to the story."


Draco turned on her, furious. "You know him!"


She arched an eyebrow. "Of course I do. Now, if you’ll just calm down, we can all go downstairs and I assure you that I can offer a sufficient explanation."


Diana arched an eyebrow, hesitating for a moment, then nodded her head in agreement. "All right," she agreed.


"Diana--!" Draco looked horrified. "He bit you! And he would have done it again if we hadn’t…"


"If Abby hadn’t," Diana corrected mildly, looking slightly amused. "I, for one, would like to hear what they have to say about it." She smiled, turned, and strode out of the room and down the hallway, pausing only to sling a light green housecoat over her nightgown.


Draco grumbled something inaudible, then sighed and gestured. "well, lets go then." He allowed Abby and Adrian to exit first, following behind them with a nasty scowl.


By the time they reached the atrium, Diana was seated in a chair, and a hoard of house elves were bearing several tea trays towards them. Abby glanced at the trays as they were placed on the table in front of them. There was tea, of course, in steaming silver tea pots and small delicate cups emblazoned with the Malfoy family crest in green, gold, and silver. There was also an array of pastries and tarts, including a tray of fresh meats and cheeses rimmed by croissants. She found herself suddenly very hungry, and resisted the urge to eat until she had explained Adrian.


Abby had just settled herself down in an armchair opposite Diana when the doorbell rang, loud and chiming against the sound of the rainstorm outside. For several moments Draco stood, bearing the look of someone faced with unexpected and not entirely welcomed company, but Diana sighed, slipping her feet to the floor and standing up. "That'll be Harry," she explained.


"Let the elves get it," Draco murmured, turning his eyes to Adrian with a wary look.


Diana shrugged, hesitating for a moment before dropping back down to the chair. A moment later, a tiny house elf escorted Harry into the room. He was sopping wet, a white fluffy towel thrown over one shoulder. "Good to see everyone's in one piece," he commented lightly, his eyes tracing the room. They stopped dead when they fell upon Adrian.


"Harry," Diana said lightly, "meet Adrian."


Abby rolled her eyes in annoyance. "Won't you sit down, Harry? I was just about to explain to Draco why he invited Adrian in for tea instead of killing him."


Draco was standing rigidly next to Diana, glaring at Adrian and Abby with a mixture of anger and confusion that tempted Abby to laugh. She kept a straight face, though, and cleared her throat. "All right, then." Draco folded his arms and tapped his foot.


He glared in annoyance as Harry took a cautious seat on a couch to Diana's left. "How do you know him?"


Abby hesitated, glancing at Adrian, who smiled and nodded his head slightly. "He’s an old friend of mine," Abby said. "Diana, Draco, Harry, meet Adrian. Adrian, meet the people who hired me to get rid of you."


"Pleasure," drawled Draco, his eyes still narrowed in anger.


"How ironic," commented Adrian lightly, then winced when Abby turned her eyes to him.


"And you," Abby said, folding her arms. "Why have you not been taking your potion?"


"What potion?" Draco and Harry both asked at the same time as Adrian started to respond.


"It got stolen," Adrian said, then glanced slightly at Draco. "Bloodroot potion," he said by way of an explanation.


"Blood what?" Draco asked, glaring more. "I’ve never heard of it."


Abby rolled her eyes, glancing at Adrian, then at Draco, then at Diana who was contentedly feeding on the croissants and meat. "Bloodroot potion, Malfoy. It’s a new experimental potion."


"What does it do?" Draco asked, unfolding his arms and listening. He sat gingerly on the edge of the chair Diana was sitting in.


"It’s a blood substitute," Abby said, tugging another vial from her vest. "It helps to control urges and keeps the vampires satiated."


Draco arched an eyebrow.


Harry pushed his glasses up his nose as he gazed at Adrian, looking disbelieving.


"Not completely satiated," grumbled Adrian. "It can’t compare with good fresh blood." His eyes wandered to Diana, who widened her eyes. Then he smiled a soft, gentle smile that made Diana’s shoulders relax. "I am just kidding, miss," he said. "I apologize for putting you through this, but without my potion, I would have died."


"Which brings me to my next question," Abby said, "Who stole your potion?" She folded her arms.


Adrian glanced at him, then crossed one leg over the other, leaning back in the chair. "I was in Italy," he said, spreading his hands out, "admiring the Mediterranean climate." Abby rolled her eyes as he continued. "you know, it really is quite beautiful there. Warm sea breezes–"


"Adrian, get to the point." She glared at him, irritated.


He shrugged. "I was approached by some hooded men. They wore black, masked. I could not see their faces. They blinded me with the solaris, and when I could see again, they were gone, and so were my potions."


Diana started, then stared at him, sitting up straight. "Hooded men?"


Draco narrowed his eyes in thought. "When was this?"


"A few days ago, maybe fewer," shrugged Adrian. "I do not remember clearly."


Diana glanced at Harry, eyes narrowing in thought. "Harry," she said quietly, "Why would Death Eaters want with bloodroot potion?"






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