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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."

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