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IV. Prelude




All day staring at the ceiling
Making friends with shadows on my wall
All night hearing voices telling me that
I should get some sleep
Because tomorrow might be good
For something
Hold on feeling like I'm heading for a
Break down and I dunno why



“Over My Head (Cable Car)”-The Fray


The small figure beside you stirred as you took your arm away from her. The night sky was a solid black, no moon or stars to break the perfect pitch. You stared up at the expensive, drooping layers of dark green silk around you, thinking of all that was going on. What was it with that wench? She always stepped in just when your life was reaching a high. Just when you had it all going for you, she felt it was her incumbent responsibility to shake things up. You rolled to your other side and tried to go back to sleep.

All right, what did Raine tell you? Something about deep breathing . . . You searched your mind for that silly conversation you had about one of her classes. She had mentioned a piece about taking breaths with your diaphragm to help you relax. Lying still, you inhaled for five beats, held your breath, and slowly exhaled. Why weren’t you asleep yet?

Oh fuck it. The pale cream sheets rippled as you pushed them aside slowly, careful not to wake Raine. Irritably, you grabbed the silk robe off of the hook in the closet. A pair of slippers that were of constant vexation stood guard near your feet. A soft chuckle resonated through the silent room. God, those furry little creatures. Why did Raine insist on keeping those ridiculously bourgeois and decidedly Muggle rabbits? It was so against everything else that went along with her. The easy grace, the smooth confidence, the aristocratic air, the unsettling feeling she usually gave off, they all added to the incongruence of the situation. Raine’s overly-large terrycloth footwear was her little secret, and what the Volderian Herald didn’t know couldn’t hurt them, or your reputation. However, the soft pink droopy ears had been your longtime friends. They were your personal secret as much as hers. Raine would gloat for days if she ever found out. Smiling slightly, you slipped your feet into them. They fit perfectly.

Really, when push came to shove, the soft, comforting slippers were quite practical. They protected your feet against the cold stone floors of Cypress Lodge, and they padded your footsteps so you would disturb no one. Certainly, the satin slippers that Raine bought you from Paris last month would have done the job, but even the illustrious Draco Malfoy had to have his quirks, right? A cynical snicker fled from your soft, pink lips. You truly were going insane; now you had begun referring to yourself in third person. Damn her. You knew why you were wandering the corridors of Cypress Lodge so late at night. Subconsciously, you knew that your silent figure was headed toward the servant’s quarters, up to the 3rd floor corridor, then back down to the kitchens. After that a midnight snack, that was your regular route. Tonight you had reached the kitchens without bothering to head up and going straight past the kitchen, receiving timid glances from even more timid house-elves. Despite all rational protests that had been running through the foreground of your brain, knowing that this little nighttime trip would only complicate your already far too fucked-up life, you ended up in front of the door to the room that the terrible bitch rested in. And she’s resting in a bed provided by you.

You raised a strong hand to rap on the door. The wrist pulled back, and then came forward, slowly, slowly. Suddenly, it stopped. You dropped your arm back to your side. Abruptly, it went back up. You repeated the same process in vain; you dropped your arm again. What were you doing? She was just Granger; she could never do anything to you even when she was the Gryffindor geek. Ah, old childhood prejudices died hard, but you had to keep your mind on the seemingly minuscule task at hand. Honestly, how could she hurt you? Reason and intuition clashed in a battle of wills. You stood there, your arm alternating between raised and dropped for what must have been at least five minutes.

“Goddamnit!” you shouted, and stormed in, shoving the door open extremely violently, shaking the desk in the small room.

Granger, who sat on the rug in front of the hearth, lifted a dreadfully fearful gaze toward you and took a sharp intake of breath. She stared at you like a squib faced with a master dueler.

Realizing what a sight you must have looked like, raging in, you opened your mouth to explain, and promptly shut it again. After exhaling slowly, you started again, “Right, uh, well, uh, you see, I meant to knock...” The clumsy sentence trailed off into an awkward silence.

She lifted doe eyes at you, saying nothing, simply unsettling you until you felt obliged to say something. What was she doing to you? You never filled the silence. Some obsequious upstart was always tripping over themselves to say something to you. You thrived in silence, yet this one was no longer comfortable. It was making you squirm as if worms of foreboding were crawling all over your body. What were you supposed to tell this old nemesis from your childhood?

Your eyes darted around the room, looking for some insipid thing to comment on. They landed on an untouched bowl of chicken soup and 3 slices of uneaten bread. That was odd. One would think that if one had been starving for ages that one would want to eat, but apparently logic and reason had left your life long, long, ago.

“Aren’t you hungry?” you asked without looking at her.

“Surely, Malfoy, you realize that it is usually best not to take any sort of food from someone you have long learned to distrust?” Granger replied softly.

The sheer ridiculousness of that statement made you chortle softly. Obviously, someone was still hung up on her adolescence. Did she actually think you poisoned it? Then, suddenly, you stopped. The statement wasn’t ridiculous at all, you realized. Probably more than one attempt on her life had been made through those means. More than one attempt on your own life had been made through the exact same way.

“You’re right. But I assure you, I didn’t poison it.” You mentally slapped yourself. Since when did you admit that others were right? Well, Raine excepted, as you learned long ago to just say “Yes, Dear” to her.

Walking over to the table, you took a sip of the cold soup and ate a slice of bread to prove your point. Ugh, cold soup. Taking out your wand, you warmed it back up, so small ringlets of steam spiraled out charmingly. You gestured toward the food and then pulled out the chair. Just as quickly, you drew back into a solitary corner.

Tentatively, after several moments, she stood up and sat down on the chair. She took the handle of the spoon, shaking. Granger dipped it into the warm broth and slowly raised it. Her hand shook so much that eighty percent of the soup must have splashed out by the time it reached her mouth. She turned toward you and gave you a grateful half-smile.

It was painful to watch, you couldn’t deny it. Somehow the vindictive element of your personality had faded away with maturity. Her shaking form was tugging, if not at your heartstrings, or what remained of them, at your sense of chivalry, or perhaps it was chauvinism. The lines between the two often became blurred.

“Calm down, Granger. I’m not out to get you right now. I have to bring you back alive, remember?” You sneered, annoyed at the way you were itching to help her. Stupid chivalry your mother drilled into you. “When I don’t, that’s when you should be worried.”

She turned back to her food, but not before you caught a trace of a smile. Insolent bitch. She took two more sips and ate half of the bread, then stopped.

“What’s wrong?” you asked in an irritated voice.

“I’m full.”

“How can you be full? You barely had anything.”

“It’s practically a feast, Malfoy. You have no idea how much food this can seem like.” She looked at you as if you were a small child.

“Stop it. I’m housing and feeding you, ungrateful wench.” You snapped.

“I’m- I’m sorry. W-what did I do?” Granger’s voice turned to fearful. What was wrong with her? This would be the portion where she would continue to act like a condescending brat.

“Nevermind, nothing.” You stepped out of your corner, and sat on the desk after vanishing her food. She looked at you, and then looked back at her rough, callused hands. The silence was a cacophony in your ears. So much was unsaid, but neither of you were willing to say it.

“Malfoy?”

“Yes?”

“Why are you doing this?” Granger’s eyes lifted toward you imploringly. They were a lovely chocolate brown, but far too over-pronounced by the gauntness of her features.

The sigh that came out of your lips was deep and weary. So this was the beginning of the end. You knew you couldn’t play dumb, so you chose to try to answer her question to the best of your meager ability.

“I don’t know. Really, I have no fucking idea. You think I wanted this? Whenever things are going all right, you show up! Year seven, remember that? It’s never left me. Do you have any idea how many sleepless nights I’ve spent second-guessing myself, Granger? No, you don’t. Whatever heavenly power there may be obviously holds a grudge against me. If you haven’t noticed, my life is finally going along the path it was destined to. I’m one of the Dark Lord’s Most Trusted, I have a lovely wife, and I’m now the head of the Malfoy family. And yet you came along. Although you’ve done nothing wrong yet, aside from showing up, nothing that’s any good ever comes from these types of situations.” You let out a deep breath, placated that you had finally figured everything out and all your tribulations were caused by her. Stupid Mudblood. She sat there thinking for awhile before responding.

“Malfoy, do you honestly listen to yourself when you speak? You’re still obsessing over something that happened ten years ago when we were eighteen! I don’t even remember what happened. I think it had something to do with the Imperius curse. Draco, look at me,” she commanded incredulously. You turned your head back toward her. “No, really look. Do you see me? What power do you think I possibly have over you now? You know there are far worse horrors in the world than a little loss of ego. There are much worse losses in this world, much worse.” Her voice dropped to a whisper at the end of her statement. Granger had obviously lost more than you did. Something about her, it showed. Sorrow and grief were there, even if she didn’t go around openly lamenting. You had to admire her for her resilience. More than admire, maybe.

“Yeah, there are probably are,” you conceded. “Can I ask you a question? It might be kind of, uh, personal.”

“I’m no longer the girl you knew me as Draco, I’m quite sure I can handle whatever you can deal me,” she smiled, but it held no joy.

“Why? Why are you still here? I mean, Potter, Weasley, they’re gone. But why-why were you spared?” You breathed heavily. The question had been hanging on your mind like a lethal plague all night.

“To tell you the truth, I don’t know. He killed Harry straight away, obviously,” she bit her lip, hard, “and they left Ron and I to rot in the dungeons. We were no longer a threat. Still, I think it gave Voldemort a sort of vindication to see us like that. He did so many terrible things, things that no human could do. Ron killed himself, not eating, not talking to me, not drinking, within the first month. He told me had nothing to live for. When it comes down to it, neither did I. Not after they were both gone. All of my family and friends, d-d-dead. But I had to keep on living, just in case things finally got better. And maybe-maybe they did.” She broke into sobs, shaking harder than you could have imagined.

You bit your own lip down. It sounded melodramatic to you, but you had spent enough time with the Dark Lord to know it was true. Her gasping sobs marked a floodgate bursting open. You were similar that way. If you didn’t want to think about it, you just locked it away somewhere. The problem was that the walls always tumbled down. You had no idea how this had tore away in her, but she had been living for the moment and for the moment only, never looking back.

With close scrutiny, you noticed that Granger’s sobs were intermingled with gasps of pain. Her hands were pressed to her protruding ribs. You hopped lightly off the table, and came up behind her. Gently, you lifted her hands off them, and replaced them with your own gently prodding fingers. She stifled a scream of pain, as you pressed down.

“Shhhh, shhh. You’re gonna be okay, all right? What happened?” You lifted her, like a feather, off the chair and laid her down on the bed.

“Nothing, nothing, I’m okay, it’s really nothing, commonplace,” Granger hastily responded in gasps. She was obviously anything but. Her hands went back to her ribs.

“Granger, for once, I’m not trying to hurt you. I serve the Dark Lord, but I am not him. And I have to bring you back in decent shape, just let me take a look, okay?” Your voice took on the tone you used to talk to Raine’s young nieces when they had fallen and scraped their knee. They brought out an odd gentleness in you. You had done the same thing several times when you were a child, but someone had always told you that you were being a big baby and you needed to hush.

“O-okay,” she responded, gingerly removing her hands.

With trained fingers, you lifted the grimy cloth of some sort of top up softly. The area around her ribs was badly bruised, the black and blue patch had some bruises fading and others looked fresh. With two fingers you gently prodded her rib bones. In your field of occupation, you had picked up a bit of experience in healing, and it was about to become rather useful.

“Granger, I think they’re broken, I’ll be right back, I’m going to get you a potion and some bandages, okay? Just lay still.” She nodded.

You came back after heading up to the second-floor potions room, careful to select the appropriate one. She occupied the same spot as before.

“Hey, drink this, all right? Then just lay still for a minute.” Supporting the back of her head with you hand, you inserted the silver spoon between her lips as she swallowed the bitter potion. Approximately a minute later, she smiled gratefully.

“Thank you. I wouldn’t have expected it out of a Malfoy, but thank you.” She smiled, and you chose to brush off the remark about Malfoy’s.

“Can you sit up for me?” You asked. After she nodded, you held her shoulders and helped her struggle up with visible effort. After giving them an encouraging squeeze, you told her to hold the bottom of her shirt up as you wrapped the white bandage around her emaciated ribs, causing her to tense but say nothing. You smoothed down the bandage with your experienced fingers, and pulled down her top.

“The bruising should go away in a week or so,” you concluded. “And don’t even think about thanking me, I’m going to write this little incident off as sleep deprivation.”

“All right, you nasty bastard.” She retorted. You smirked.

“By the way, you should get some sleep too; you’re meeting the queen of Cypress Lodge tomorrow.” You cautioned, knowing what a dragging day it would be.

“All right, one last thing though, Malfoy.” Granger spread the blanket over her legs.

“Yes?”

“Do you know that you’re wearing bunny slippers?”

“Shut up.” You stalked off into the moonless corridor, vexed immensely. Stupid sleep deprivation.




The aroma of frying bacon filtered to your ‘sensitive’ nostrils as you gradually blinked your eyes. After lighting a candle, you glanced at the expensive golden watch at your bedside. A grand total of three hours of rest and reprieve. You were tempted to simply go back to sleep and deal with your life another day, but after a few moments of deliberation, you decided that the longer you waited, the more angry Raine would become.

After a quick shower, the droplets of hot water dripped down your face from the trademark platinum blonde locks. Taking the plush green towel from the rack, you dried it quickly, shaking off droplets of water. Seeing as it was not doing a very sufficient job, you took your wand from the vanity and applied a quick drying charm.

“Good morning, Mrs. Malfoy,” you greeted your wife with your pet name for her.

“Mrs. Malfoy is it now? Either you’ve been very good or very, very naughty, Mr. Malfoy,” she smirked, and came over to give you a quick peck on the cheek. You followed her to the breakfast nook. The two of you ate in a charged silence for a few moments.

Putting down her fork and taking a delicate sip of her pumpkin juice, Raine snuggled into your lap. “Is something wrong, Mr. Malfoy?”

“Erm, Raine, do you want to head to the parlour?” you whispered in her ear, stroking her soft brown hair. Best make her comfortable before you dropped the bomb, right?

She raised a perfect eyebrow sharply. Now you had done it. Normally, you were relatively cold in the mornings, unless you had done something wrong or it was a special occasion. Her birthday was several months away, you had just celebrated your anniversary two weeks ago, and Valentine’s Day wasn’t until February. She tensed, but allowed herself to be led to the parlor, where she sat down on your lap on the pristine black leather sofa.

“Yes, Draco?” she asked, annoyed that you wouldn’t speak first.

“I went to see the Dark Lord yesterday,” you answered blandly.

“Quite obviously.” Raine arched her eyebrows warningly.

“And, well, he brought some things back from my past. Things that I thought were long gone. Hogwarts stuff, child’s play, really,” you tried to breeze over the situation.

“Child’s play doesn’t wake you up in the middle of the night, Draco,” Raine drawled. Somehow, she had acquired knowledge of your nightly wanderings and was no longer flattering your ego at your own stealth.

“Okay, dammit, so it was really unexpected. There was an incident that I never want to relive. Ever. And once you see her, I mean it, you’ll be unsettled too. So much has changed. So much that I don’t even know what I’m going to do.” You massaged your temples, faced with the task of trying to describe your dilemma.

“Wait, this a ‘she’?” Raine had leapt off your lap, and she stood facing you, arms crossed. To level the playing filed a bit you stood up as well and put your arms around her.

“Well, technically, she’s an ‘it’, a mudblood,” you responded quietly.

“WHAT?! We have a mudblood inside our home? One that you used to fraternize with?” Raine screeched loudly, making you wince.

“Raine, Raine, I didn’t fraternize, we hexed each other. A lot. And there was just this one little incident that actually matters, but really, it’s no big deal.” You were on the retreat, and quickly. “You know what? Let me bring her. I’m sure you’ll understand better.”

“Fine.”

You took your time going to the servant’s quarters, giving Raine time to fume and defenestrate things. Maybe even some time to try to figure out a spell that hurt worse than the Cruciatus to use on you and your ‘deceiving self’.




You opened the door to the small room where Granger was presently residing in. She was lying on the bed, where you had seen her last, eyes closed. Walking over, you tapped her. Granger jumped up, eyes wide.

“I’m so sorry!” she automatically yelped.

“Relax. I was just coming to get you. It’s time to meet the beast.” You chuckled.

“The beast?” she queried worriedly, slowly standing up with the support of the bed.

“My wife, dimwit.” You clarified, irritated that your placid home life was being shaken up.

“Oh,” she had finally risen to her feet and was starting toward the door you held open. By the time you reached a few metres into the corridor, she was already breathing laboriously.

“Dear Merlin, if we go at this rate, Raine will send out a search party.” you snapped, annoyed.

“I’m-I’m so sorry, it hurts, I’m sorry! I can’t go faster,” she pleaded with you, a desperate look coming to her eye. It took you aback, all your best insults and worst hexes used to bounce straight off of her, and now, even the slightest tone of irritation in your voice brought her pleas and self-deprecating apologies.

“Wingardium leviosa,” you cast the spell on her, to relieve her of the burden of walking the sprawling Cypress Lodge.

Granger screeched horrendously, the terrible sound reverberating in your eardrums. It was almost banshee-like, but with a tone of fear.

“What the bloody hell?” you shouted loudly, “the entire damn house can hear you, Granger!”

“P-P-Please put me down.” she whimpered, quiet as a mouse, paralyzed in fear. You complied, rather confounded.

“Please, I don’t like being up in the air.” She breathed heavily, nearly collapsing on the wall. You stood there for several minutes, giving her time to calm down. Without comment, you walked over, picked her up, and continued to walk.

She looked at you, slightly bewildered. “W-what?”

“We’ve got to get there somehow.” You answered simply, barely feeling the burden of her minimal weight. Her lank brown hair hung over your shoulder and she shivered every so often. So, so thin...

Finally, you arrived back at the parlor, and pushed open the door, to find a very annoyed Raine Malfoy standing, tapping her foot. You put Granger down on the sofa, and faced your wife. Her expression was pure shock. Looking back at Granger, she was wearing the same open-mouthed, incredulous look.

“Merlin’s beard,” Raine gasped, sitting down and pinching the bridge of her nose.

{A/N: Oh dear god. This is late beyond belief. Volleyball and high school caught up to me and I just couldn’t find the time to sit down and write. I can’t write every day for a little bit, I have to write when I’m in the mood in large chunks, so you all know my terrible updating. I’m SO sorry! Beyond words. I solemnly swear that I will always update at least once a month unless a vacation, a boyfriend, or a death of an immediate family member surfaces. :)

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this long overdue chapter. I just HAD to include bunny slippers, even if this story isn’t really humor at all. The next few chapters may be a bit lighter than the first ones, but then the story will take a darker turn. And I can’t give away more than that. :) My non-existent PR rep said so. I know Draco is kind of Out of Character for this portion, but he was sleep-deprived, okay? ;) If you feel I have gone too far though, please don’t hesitate to let me know. I’m not trying to create a Draco-suddenly-good-and-wonderful type thing here. We saw a bit more of Raine again, and I’m hoping you’re enjoying her. Anyway, thanks for reading, and PLEASE leave a review.

I’d especially like to thank my loyal reviewers, and would greatly appreciate if you continued to review! And anyone that has been reading and hasn’t left a review yet, reviews help me make the story better, so I would love to here from you!

And eternal gratitude always goes to the invaluable services of my beta, padme_alejandra!

Lots of love,
Jean

P.S. Standard message still applies, if you wish to be notified when every new chapter comes out, leave me your email address in a review. :) Thanks! Also, don’t hesitate to ask me a question in my “Meet the Author” thread at the HPFF forums.}

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