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I won't waste my time apologizing for the wait--here's Chapter 24!

Chapter 24: Devious Deeds

Maddi fluffed up her blonde hair and gazed at her reflection admiringly. Her skin was tanned and glowing, her blue eyes were sparkling, and her lips were freshly glossed in pink. The bachelor’s mother just had to approve of her. She would be the perfect daughter-in-law, the perfect woman for Narcissa Malfoy’s son. He just didn’t know it yet.

She gave her outfit—a casually cute white dress—one last inspection before turning to leave her room. She reached for the doorknob, but before she could open the door, the door flew inwards and smacked her in the face. She staggered back a few steps, clutching at her face in pain. Someone stepped into the room.

“Oh, sorry about that, Maddi,” a familiar voice said carelessly.

Maddi uttered a few choice swearwords as a greeting before removing her hand from her face. Her nose still hurt quite a lot. She hoped it wasn’t broken. Rushing to the mirror, she was relieved to see that her face appeared quite normal, albeit slightly red.

“Pansy Parkinson, what the hell are you doing here?” Maddi snapped, very irritably.

“I need to talk to you,” said Pansy evenly. Turning her head back toward the door, she called out in a stage whisper, “Lavender, you can come out now!”

A person Maddi did not know appeared in her room, looking a bit guilty to be there. “I presume that your name is Lavender,” said Maddi, still quite annoyed to have all these people invade her room right when she was about to go have tea with the bachelor’s mum.

“You presumed right,” said Lavender, looking at Pansy uncertainly. Pansy ignored her.

“How’d you get in?” Maddi demanded, turning to face Pansy once more.

“I have my ways,” said Pansy mysteriously.

“But how?” Maddi pressed.

Pansy sighed impatiently. “You forget that I’m a family friend of the Malfoys. I used to come around here to play when I was little. I still remember all the secret passageways, you know. Once I got in I simply bribed a house-elf to show me the way to your room. That’s a nice view, by the way,” she added, gesturing to the garden that was visible through Maddi's window.

Maddi was about to inquire about the secret passageways when Pansy cut her off.

“Anyway, none of that matters. We—Lavender and I—need your help.”

“My help,” Maddi repeated slowly. “What’s in it for me?”

“If you’d just listen, you’d see that there’s plenty in it for you. Now, Lavender here has a grudge against Granger. I have a grudge against Granger. I think it’s safe to assume that you do too. Am I correct?”

Maddi barely had time to shrug or nod when Pansy continued. Lavender was looking at the floor the entire time, playing with her hair.

“To make a long story short, Lavender caught Granger snogging her ex-boyfriend, and I plan on using this juicy piece of information to show Draco exactly why he shouldn’t be falling for her. Of course, I can’t just tell him what I heard. He’d never believe me. He doesn’t trust me anymore. Lavender has no reason to tell him herself—she’s not even supposed to know about this bloody Game of Love. So, I went to my handy potions cupboard and fetched a bottle of this.” She plunged a hand into her voluminous purse and pulled out a large bottle of a thick, glutinous potion. “Polyjuice Potion,” she announced with a devious grin.

Lavender was now staring at the bottle looking like she might be sick.

Maddi looked from Pansy to the bottle to Lavender and back to Pansy. “You’re going to impersonate Hermione,” she said slowly.

“Why, yes I am. Actually, Lavender and I shall both impersonate Granger. Now, I understand that you’re having tea with Cissa this afternoon,” said Pansy in a business-like fashion.

“If by Cissa you mean Draco’s mum, then yes. And I’m supposed to be there in less than ten minutes.”

“We can make this work. Lavender, disguised as Granger, will go to the tea party and tearfully spill her guts to everyone. Meanwhile, I shall go find Draco and tell him everything. He’ll believe me, because it’ll come from Granger’s own mouth. Well, it’s my mouth but you get the idea. I will tell him that Granger’s been cheating on him this whole time. He’ll get angry and immediately dismiss her from the Game of Love. The real Granger will find out by letter—she’ll be out of here without even knowing what happened. All I need is for you to somehow obtain several of Granger’s bushy hairs,” said Pansy all in one breath.

“I must admit, that’s a clever plan,” said Maddi, mulling it over. “But what’re you planning on doing with the real Granger while you do all this? Lock her up in a closet somewhere?”

“Precisely,” said Pansy without pausing to think. “Now, about the hairs. Can you get them?”

“Why can’t you get them?” Maddi challenged.

“She’s too smart of a witch,” said Pansy begrudgingly. “Short of Stunning her, I can’t get close enough to her to get them without her suspecting a thing.”

Maddi thought about it for a moment. “You still haven’t told me what’s in it for me,” she said.

Pansy sighed exasperatedly. “Don’t you see? Once Granger is out of the way, you’ll have a better chance at winning the Game of Love.”

“I thought you wanted Draco for yourself,” said Maddi suspiciously.

“Not anymore,” Pansy lied. “I just want him to see why Granger is all wrong for him.”

“Fine, I’ll do it,” said Maddi, beginning to feel the adrenaline rush that always came with participating in underhanded plots. “Just give me five minutes.” And with that, she headed out the door once more.

Wondering whether Pansy's plan would actually work, Maddi headed up the staircase to Hermione's room. She knew which door to knock on because once, out of pure curiosity, she had gone “exploring” to see which room Hermione got to stay in. Maddi had heard rumors that it was the most splendid of all the rooms in the manor, but when she peeked inside she was disappointed. It was a nice enough room, but there were way too many books for her taste.

Anyhow, she knocked on Hermione’s door and waited, but there was no answer. She pushed the unlocked door open and stepped inside. It took her no more than thirty seconds to locate a hairbrush and carefully pull out a few hairs from the bristles. She was itching to snoop around Hermione’s room a bit more, but in the end she decided that she’d better hurry back to Pansy before she was late to the afternoon tea.

“I’ve got them,” she announced victoriously as she barged into her room. “But you’re out of luck, I’m afraid. Hermione wasn’t in her room, so she’s probably already at the tea party.”

Pansy, who had conjured a miniature cauldron in the middle of the room and was heating up the Polyjuice Potion, swore under her breath, but Lavender, who was hovering near the broken window, said, “Look! She’s out there, in the garden!”

Pansy jumped to her feet. “Perfect! Lavender, do you think you can Stun her from here?”

Lavender looked taken aback. “I can't do that,” she said.

Maddi was annoyed. “If you’re just going to Stun her anyway, why’d you need me to get these stupid hairs?” She handed the strands of curly brown hair to Pansy, who dropped them into the cauldron. The potion bubbled and fizzled and turned a shimmering gold color.

“To answer your question, Maddi, I didn’t originally plan on Stunning her but now that the perfect opportunity has presented itself, then I say why not?” said Pansy, stirring the potion with her wand.

“I can’t Stun her,” said Lavender from the window.

Maddi turned away from the scene. "Whatever, I'm leaving," She slammed the door on her way out.

“Lavender, what’s the matter with you? Just Stun her before she goes back inside!” Pansy barked.

“You do it then!” Lavender snapped, backing away from the window and stowing her wand into her purse.

“Fine!” Pansy stomped over to the window, aimed her wand at Hermione, and shouted, “Stupefy!”

There was a shriek as Hermione was caught completely unawares and toppled into a bush.

Lavender gasped and clapped her hand over her mouth, looking as though she really didn’t want to be a part of this scheme anymore.

Pansy simply shrugged before going back to the cauldron, conjuring two goblets, and ladling a fair amount of potion into each one. She unceremoniously handed one to Lavender.

“Drink,” she said bossily.

Lavender sighed. She flashed back to what she had witnessed earlier that day and then gulped the potion down before she could change her mind again.

Anyone happening to look through the window at that particular moment would see something very bizarre indeed. Both girls were transforming, magically morphing into the same person. The sizes and shapes of their bodies adjusted accordingly; their hair either darkened or lightened to become a shade of brown. Before either girl knew it, it was all over.

“How do you feel?” gasped Pansy. Even though she expected it, she was still surprised to hear Hermione’s voice come out of her mouth.

Lavender was on her hands and knees. “Fine,” she managed to say in a strangled whisper.

“We have to hurry,” said Pansy, rummaging into her bag. “I brought a change of clothes for the two of us. I think they will work for the time being.”

Lavender didn’t say anything as she put on the outfit Pansy had handed her. She tried not to look in the mirror, knowing that she would see someone else.

“Remember, all you have to do is tell the other girls what you’ve done. Then just run out of there in tears, like you’re really upset. I’ll meet you back in here in less than half an hour. Got that?” said Pansy.

Lavender merely pressed her lips together in a thin line and gave a curt nod before heading out the door.

Pansy turned to the mirror and tried smiling. The reflection in the mirror, Hermione’s reflection, smiled back. “Hello Draco,” she tried saying. “I’ve got something to tell you. I’ve been cheating on you this whole time with none other than Ronald Weasley.”

It sounded false even to her own ears, but once she started something, she intended on finishing it. She would go find Draco, tell him Hermione’s story, and then watch as, for once, somebody else’s world started falling apart. 

Before she left the room, she sprayed on some of her favorite perfume for good luck, just in case.

Lavender tiptoed down the corridor, feeling like she was a burglar just waiting to get caught. She reached the end of the hallway and went down the spiral staircase, but then she realized she had no idea where she was going. Fortunately, she bumped into a little house-elf wearing a towel like a toga.

“Er,” said Lavender uncertainly. “I’m looking for—”

“Ah!” the house-elf squeaked. “Missus must be looking for the tea party!”

“Yeah,” said Lavender, feeling like a complete idiot. “Can you tell me where it is?”

“Right this way, missus!” Lavender followed the house-elf into a well-lit wing of the manor. Narcissa Malfoy was sitting on a velvet chaise in the middle of the room, sipping tea out of a china cup, looking very lady-like and very aristocratic. Maddi and three other girls were gathered around her. All of them seemed to be on their best behavior.

“Oh, hello!” said Narcissa as she approached. “You must be Miss Granger.”

Lavender stared at her for a moment, but then she recovered her wits. “Why, yes I am,” she said, stuttering a little. “It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Malfoy. Please call me Hermione.”

“Why don’t you have a seat, Hermione dear? And please, call me Narcissa.” Narcissa smiled and gestured toward an ottoman where Maddi was already perched upon. Lavender sat down as gracefully as she could, all the while marveling at how nice and friendly Narcissa Malfoy seemed.

Maddi offered a plate of pastries to Lavender without taking one of them herself. She plastered a brilliantly fake smile onto her face. “Narcissa, these crumpets are simply delightful.”

“Thank you, dear,” said Narcissa. “I made them myself.”

“Oh, do you bake?” said Lavender without thinking. “I absolutely love to bake. I used to make cookies for R—” She suddenly stopped short, catching herself just in time.

Narcissa didn’t seem to notice, although a few of the other girls did. “I just read about a recipe for double chocolate chip cookies in Witch Weekly the other day! It looks absolutely scrumptious. Perhaps you would like to test it out with me one of these days.”

“Ooh, I love baking!” said one of the blonde girls, jumping into the conversation eagerly. Lavender noticed that she had an American accent. “My mum taught me how.”

“Is that so?” said Narcissa, smiling at her.

Lavender bit into the pastry. She was beginning to enjoy herself very much, but suddenly she remembered what she was supposed to be doing. Rather than ruining Hermione Granger’s reputation, she was positively bolstering it. She opened her mouth, intending on telling everyone all about Ron, but then she realized she couldn’t bring herself to do it.

“A Gryffindor through and through,” Lavender mumbled to herself.

“What?” Maddi snapped.

“Nothing,” said Lavender very quickly, taking a gulp of tea. Now all she had to do was get herself out of this sticky situation as soon as possible.

Pansy snuck into the private wing of Malfoy Manor, knowing precisely where she was going. She had gone down this path many times before, mostly in her childhood days. She flashed back to when she and Draco had been best friends. They used to play together. They used to tell each other everything. What had happened to them?

Now she crept along the hallway, listening intently for sounds of approaching footsteps. She reached Draco’s room without any difficulty and paused, wondering if she should knock or just go inside.

Before she could come to a decision, the door flew open and Draco Malfoy stepped outside, immediately catching sight of someone who wasn’t supposed to be there.

“Hermione!” he exclaimed. His arms automatically reached out to hold her, but for some reason she shrank away from him.

Pansy was staggered, just a little. It had been so long since she had been so near him that her senses were overwhelmed. He looked slightly different though, and she realized he was wearing reading glasses and held a book in his hands.

“Hi,” she stammered.

Draco took off his glasses and raised an eyebrow at her. “What are you doing here, Hermione? Aren’t you supposed to be having tea with my mum?”

“Er, yes,” said Pansy, looking down at her feet. Why was she so nervous? She was supposed to be good at this. “But I have something to say to you…something important. Is there somewhere we can sit down?”

Now he was frowning slightly. “Of course,” he said, running a hand through his hair. “Why don’t you…come into my room?”

Pansy took this hesitant invitation and barged into the room, choosing to sit down on a green leather chaise. She folded her hands in her lap and tried to look guilty, which really wasn’t all too difficult.

“What’s wrong?” he said, sitting down on the chair across from her. He leaned forward in his seat, a look of concern etched on his handsome face.

Pansy took a deep breath and then blurted everything out. “I’ve been seeing Ron.”

An impassive look washed over his face as all emotion disappeared. “You’ve been seeing Ron,” he repeated evenly.

“Yes,” said Pansy, trying to look him in the eye.

“You mean to say that…” He seemed unable to process what she was saying, let alone process what he was thinking.

Pansy swallowed hard. She was disturbed by the dark shadow that had flickered over his eyes. Was he really hurt by this?

“You’ve been lying to me this whole time.” He had stood up by now and was pacing the length of the room.

“Yes,” she said, sounding less sure of herself now.

“And you’re not sorry,” he observed.

“I…” She had no idea what to say.

“Do you love him?” He spat the question out, showing anger for the first time.

“I…I do, Draco, I do,” said Pansy, trying to sound as sincere as possible.

Draco paused and looked her over, scrutinizing her. “Hermione Granger, you’re not telling the truth right now, are you?”

“What do you mean?” Pansy stammered.

“I know you too well,” he said. And then, more gently, he said, “Hermione, what’s gotten into you?”

“I don’t know!” Pansy cried, burying her face into her hands. She had underestimated the strength of Hermione and Draco’s relationship. Her plan was ruined.

“You’re not yourself at all,” he continued, slowly. He stopped pacing and came to a halt in front of her.

“What do you mean?” said Pansy again, swallowing hard.

“You seem different.”

“How so?” said Pansy, nervously.

“You…you smell different.” Draco stared her in the eye, daring her to reveal her lie.

Pansy was forced to look away. She was about to open her mouth to give a snappy retort, but then she realized her mistake.

“Hermione, why are wearing Pansy’s signature perfume?” Draco inquired, with mock curiosity.

“I’m sorry, Draco,” was all she could say. 

So, no Dramione but a lot of drama nonetheless. I'm sorry about the long wait time in between updates, but I've been really busy with school. It is spring break though, so hopefully I'll be able to write more (even though my teachers gave me homework over break *cries*). Please review and let me know what you thought of this chapter!
Yours till the Snorkack's horn crumples,
Queen Luna

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