Her feet made the only noises she could hear in the corridor as she left the library. She wasn’t surprised the halls were empty, as the library had been too. Though the homework had been rather heavily assigned for the first week of the new semester, she was sure her fellow sixth years weren’t ready to sequester themselves in the library just yet. Most evenings, the common room was humming with students late into the night, catching up with one another after the holiday and sharing bits of gossip that had circled through the halls that first week. She was sure it would be a week or so still before they turned to the library for the quiet focus they needed for their upcoming final exams.
Elizabeth had sought out the library for reasons other than homework. She had successfully transferred the poisoned mead to Rosmerta and given her instructions for the next phase of their plans earlier that week, and she was thinking already of other contingency plans that they could orchestrate. She carried a few texts, which she had taken from the restricted section after casting the Confundus Charm on Madame Pince, and was debating whether or not to show them to Draco. He had yet to talk to her outright, though he had started acknowledging her again—typically at meals, while waiting for a class to begin, or when Hera provoked him into conversation. In other words, he was speaking to her whenever it was too difficult for him to ignore her.
As she drew closer to the first floor bathroom, the sound of voices rose to meet her. Ellie immediately began to tread lighter in the hopes of avoiding a professor who might recognize the texts she carried and question how she had gotten them from the library. She realized the voices were coming from the bathroom as she neared the door, and relaxed slightly—until she noticed that one of the voices was familiar to her. One of the voices on the other side was distinctly Draco’s voice. Surprised, she lingered near the door.
“I don’t understand why it hasn’t worked. It should be fixed by now, I should have been successful by now.” His voice was strained and whiny, and Elizabeth leaned closer to the door to hear more clearly. “I feel overwhelmed.”
“Tell me what it is you’re trying to fix, Draco. I can be helpful!” The voice was high and girlish, and Elizabeth didn’t recognize it.
“I can’t tell you. You can’t help,” He sighed, and she could imagine him racking his hand through his hair the way he always did when he was frustrated. “I’ve told you before—no one can help me.”
“What about that other girl?” The voice turned bitter.
He scoffed loud enough to be heard through the door. “I can’t go to her, not now. Not yet.”
“But, you were so hopeful before the holiday—remember, before the holiday?”
“That feels like years ago, Myrtle.”
“I can’t tell you—“
“Yes you can,” The voice softened, “You can tell me.”
“She rejected me. I told her how I felt, and she refused me. She was callus, horrible—she—”
Elizabeth couldn’t help herself. She threw open the door, and her eyes were immediately met by Draco’s, who blanched under her glare.
She started, but regained her composure quickly and let out a chuckle as she dropped a hand to her hip. “You’ve got to be kidding me, Malfoy.” He was not confiding in a fellow student, as she had assumed, but a ghost, who glared moodily at her from behind a pair of thick black glasses. He stared at her in speechless disbelief, his pale skin flaming red at his cheekbones.
“Who are you?” The ghost shrieked, growing angry and sliding between Elizabeth and Draco.
“Elizabeth—the horrible girl who rejected the great Draco Malfoy. If you believed that bit.” She shifted the books she was carrying to her hip, and moved her hand to her side in case she needed to draw her wand. She hadn’t much experience dealing with ghosts, and felt that this one seemed particularly petulant.
The ghost’s eyes were drawn into large circles behind her frames, and her mouth puckered in a sour way. Her arms crossed and she sunk down to Draco’s side. “Of course I would believe Draco. He always tells me how he feels.”
“Oh does he?” Elizabeth’s eyes shifted to Draco, who had moved his eyes to the floor while Elizabeth had been talking with the ghost. To his credit, he seemed somewhat embarrassed and she felt certain that he actually was. Outside of these walls, he was a cocky and flippant stud that girls eyed wildly between classes. Inside, he was a wilting flower. Standing there, avoiding her gaze, he looked fragile—and she wondered what would happen if anyone knew, if Bella knew, if He knew.
“Yes,” the ghost huffed, allowing her voice to soften as she cast an affectionate look at Draco. “He is very sensitive.”
“That I know well.” Elizabeth muttered, briefly noting the blasé expression on her own face in the mirrors that surrounded her.
The ghost did not take this reaction well, as she must have expected some sympathy from Elizabeth. She moved upward again, and Elizabeth realized that this movement was the ghost’s attempt to be intimidating. (If she hadn’t looked so utterly pubescent, perhaps she would have been successful.) Instead, she seemed more like an angst-filled teenager as she shouted, “You don’t know anything! GET OUT! Get out of my bathroom, and leave us be. You don’t belong here!”
Elizabeth rolled her eyes, and the half dozen reflections of her rolled theirs too. “You’ve got it all wrong, sweetie. It’s Draco that doesn’t belong here. He needs to be working, planning—he needs to be getting over himself. This behavior is absurd. And, frankly, it’s unacceptable” She growled out the last three sentence, turning her eyes again to Draco. He was still looking at the floor, but she could see the red blush creeping down from his cheeks and across the back of his neck.
“He does enough!” The ghost sputtered.
“Let’s go, Draco.” Elizabeth said simply, ignoring the ghost’s growing rage.
Draco lifted his eyes from the tiles for the first time, and looked briefly as if he might object to her command. But, when his eyes met hers, a downcast look came over him and the blush on his neck and cheeks deepened. He looked defeated then, standing in the girls’ bathroom with a ghost huffing over him, deranged and hostile. She could barely stand the sight, and felt anger and disgust wrestling in the pit of her stomach. She forced herself to look away, unable to stand it any longer, and made to leave, empowered by the sound of Draco’s footsteps after her own.
She didn’t look behind her at all as she walked, feeling stronger than Orpheusas she moved past the Entrance Hall and towards the dungeons. She could hear Draco trailing her, and with every step she grew angrier. Instead of turning towards the common room, she turned down a side hall in the dungeons that looked forgotten. There was only one door off of the hall, and the room was dark. She muttered, “Homenum Revelio,” then turned on Draco, who had followed her like a shadow.
“What were you thinking?” She tried to keep her tone even, but her voice flared up a little as her eyes met his. His gaze was sheltered and cool, and his whole posture was pathetic. “Anyone could have overheard you. Anyone. Do you understand—”
“Stop,” he whispered, but she barely heard him over her own tangent.
“—That you not only endangered yourself, but me. You endangered me.”
“Stop,” he said it a little louder then, but she ignored him and allowed her voice to rise over his.
“I won’t have it, Draco. You ignore me, belittle me, dismiss me—and now you risk everything we’ve been working to build for what?”
His eyes were flashing, and he grew a few inches as he tried to shed some of his sadness. Since her rejection of him, he had seemed pitiable. In the beginning, she had wanted to comfort him, but his treatment of her over the last weeks of break had worn away her patience and by the time they had returned to Hogwarts, she was disgusted with him. He was a sore loser, incapable of seeing the big picture. Worse still, she could see through his playboy reputation and his pride now. The task was unhinging him, and his confessions to a ghost seemed only to affirm it. She had idly wondered what a task like his would do to a human’s psyche, especially when everything that had transpired since it had been assigned had seemed to only work against him—and now she knew. Each failure had only further unmoored him. He was depressed, frustrated, and shaken, and all of those emotions flashed in his eyes behind something else. Something bigger.
“To vent some of your spleen? To allow a ghost to tell you that you’re big and strong? Is that how I’ve disappointed you, Draco—haven’t stroked your ego enough, haven’t stroked you enough. That’s such bull—”
“I said stop.” His voice was louder, and he had risen to his full height though his posture was still quiet. He took a step closer, looking wild as he leaned into her and placed his hands on her shoulders. It was the first time he had touched her since their meeting in her bedroom after the hunt at Malfoy Manor. He continued, “I know exactly what I’m doing. Every move. I have thought through every step: the plans, the parts, the people. Don’t stand there and lecture me. You weren’t here when this began. You don’t know. You don’t know anything, Elizabeth.”
She placed her own hands on his hands, and yanked them from her shoulders. Something seemed to have snapped in place as she scolded him. His tone had been measured, and as he spoke the sadness seemed to lift away. She decided to push him a bit.
“I don’t know? I don’t know! That’s a lie, Draco, and you know better than to lie to me. I’ve been here, beside you, listening and working and offering all that I can. You take advantage of nothing. You leave me in the dark. You force my hand.”
“Your hand! Forced!” He allowed a chuckle to escape his lips, his confidence returning. “Now who’s daring, Ellie? Now who’s absurd? That’s a lie, and we both know it—and I’m done with the lies.”
“You’re a fool to act like you’re alone in this.” She hissed, her tone steady and cold. He was so close to her that she could feel his cloak rustle against her own as he shook with anger.
“Don’t call me a fool.”
“You know that I have pull, you know that I’m resourceful. And you’ve spent a full month pretending I don’t exist because I won’t get on my knees for you.”
Draco looked gobsmacked, his mouth falling open a bit. “That is—that’s—”
“That is exactly right. We’re done lying, aren’t we?” Her tone was arch, and she crossed her arms over her chest. They were almost nose-to-nose, and her arms brushed against his chest, a spark of static electricity prickling her skin. “It’ll make this easier.”
He scoffed, trying to pull himself back into composure. When he spoke, his voice was low and gritting. “Enough, Elizabeth. I’m beyond it. I only care about the work we have to do.”
“Right,” she said, eying him skeptically. She could feel his breath on her face, “We. We have work to do. You and me. Leave the ghost out of it.”
She didn’t wait for his reply, choosing instead to step to the side and move past him towards the common room. She liked having the last word.
Author's Note: A short one, but one of my favorites. Writing Elizabeth and Draco might be one of my guilty pleasures...! I hope you've enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it, and I encourage you to drop a review if you did (or didn't—I like constructive criticism, too). I also want to again thank my lovely reviewers: LiLuLo12, EmmyBacon, pink bunny, and Sarah_Bee. I recently had cause to reread some of my chapters to ensure I was crafting some future scenes correctly, and this brought me back to your kind words. If you're still out there, I hope you know how much I appreciate you!
Credits: The myth of Orpheusas has many Ancient Greek authors, all of whom deserve credit. The title is an allusion to a famous magic trick planned and performed by Harry Houdini. The trick is known as the "milk can escape."
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