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Who is Draco's missing wife? And what happened to her? A night of unexpected revelations at Malfoy Manor…

 

6. Though This Be Madness

Narcissa had clearly expected to have a drink with her son once he returned from Berlin, as signified by a crystal decanter of something dark and reddish and two small glasses, perched on a tray on the glass table in the centre of her darkened salon. The sole illumination was a faint glow emanating from the orange and yellow tongues of firelight flickering and crackling in the fireplace.

 

Narcissa herself was reclining on one of the vast white sofas, lightly snoring.

 

There was a sickly smell emanating from an ashtray, where a cheroot was still burning. Hermione instinctively flicked her fingers, extinguishing it by magic.

 

'I should go,' she whispered.

 

'Of course,' Draco said, 'unless… would you like a drink?'

 

'I'm not sure that's a good idea, Malfoy,' Hermione said in low tones, afraid to disturb Narcissa and ill at ease with the idea of spending even more time with Draco than was strictly necessary.

 

'No, it is. It's a very good idea,' Draco said firmly. 'I'm going to be working a lot with your husband. Starting with this trip to South America next week. It would make things easier if we got along.'

 

'I don't like you, Malfoy. That's not about to change, you know.'

 

'And I've never liked you. But I'm being sensible here. We might be seeing a lot more of each other than we would normally choose.'

'You? Sensible?' she scoffed.

 

Impatience flashed across his features. 'I am a perfectly rational being, Mrs Weasley. Despite your best attempts to paint me as some kind of manic Muggle-hating monster.'

 

'There can never be anything intellectually rational about a man who holds such mean-minded and elitist views as you do,' Hermione said disdainfully.

 

'Yes, yes, we know all that,' Draco said in bored tones. 'Do you want a drink or not?'

 

Hermione heaved a deep sigh. In truth, she was suddenly feeling a little light-headed, as a wave of fatigue washed over her. She wondered idly if the smoke from Narcissa's cheroot had been laced with some kind of narcotic. Slumping on one of these sofas suddenly seemed an excellent idea.

 

'Okay. In the spirit of cooperation,' which in her mind meant, for Ron's sake, 'I'll have a drink with you. But it doesn't mean we're friends,' Hermione stated plainly.

 

'Agreed,' Draco said, pouring them both a small glass of the thick, reddish liquid and joining her on the sofa. 'Here's to non-friendly toleration.'

Hermione took a long sip of the drink Draco had offered her. It was sweet and warming. Not unpleasant at all.

 

He silently sipped his drink, staring deeply into the fire, his face cast in half-shadow. Soft orange firelight flickered across his sharply sculpted cheeks, dappling his hair in fingery shadows.

 

'In retrospect,' Hermione added with an icy smile, suddenly and inexplicably seized with a desire to wound. 'You've always been more pathetic than menacing. Hating someone as trivial as you seems an awful lot of bother when I come to think of it.'

 

'Thanks for that,' he smirked sarcastically in return. He quickly drained his drink and gently placed it back on the tray. 'I'll get that box.'

 

Draco got up and left the room, returning moments later with a box of files and a metal attaché case. 'You can call it homework,' Draco said, dropping the box onto Hermione's lap. 'For Ron,' he added pointedly, in view of the thunderous expression on Hermione's face.

 

'You know I don't want any part of this,' Hermione stated firmly.

 

'I know,' Draco said with a nonchalant shrug. 'Just tell Ron these files contain documents dating back almost thirty years. All about Jeroboam. His work, businesses. Some research data. I've had a look myself, obviously. There's a lot of rubbish in there, but it's best to be comprehensive.'

 

'Who collated all this?' Hermione asked, brushing dust off the files, her curiosity sparked in spite of herself.

 

'Rivals,' Draco declared, flashing her a strange smile. 'Welcome to the murky world of industrial espionage.'

 

'And the case?'

 

Draco cringed a little. 'Can't be sure. We're kind of hoping Ron can find out. Or… maybe his brother. Is it Bill? The one who's particularly good at curse-breaking.'

 

'You can't get into it?'

 

'Not for lack of trying.'

 

'What do you think it is?'

 

Draco glanced furtively at his snoozing mother and then bent his head closer to Hermione's. 'You remember I said there was a break-in at one of Jeroboam's warehouses in Switzerland?'

 

Hermione nodded.

 

'This case was found there. We think it contains a prototype mobile scanner. To be used to trace Dark Flux.'

 

'Why would Jeroboam build a machine?' Hermione asked incredulously. 'Why not develop a diagnostic spell? Or a modified sneakoscope? It would be a lot simpler. And,' she picked up the metal case, feeling its weight, 'a lot less cumbersome.'

 

‘Our analysts believe this is kind of like a hybridic probity probe. One which Muggles can use, too.'

 

'Why would Muggles use it?'

 

'Well, like most globalised wizarding businesses, Jeroboam probably employs a fair few Muggles. It's almost unavoidable these days,' Draco said, almost a little too ruefully for Hermione's liking. 'Just give the case to Ron, will you? See what he can do. And tell him not to forget to bring it to Argentina on Monday. Is that clear?'

 

'I thought it was Bolivia?'

 

'Things change,' Draco said breezily. 'And remind him to make sure Bill goes easy on the case, because we don't yet know the effects too much magic might have on this type of technology. Apparition is to be avoided at all costs and probably travel by Portkey too.'

 

'Good grief, Malfoy, you don't expect me to lug this lot home on the back of a broomstick, do you?' Hermione protested.

 

Draco grinned. 'We reckon floo travel should be fine.' He cast a pitying look in Narcissa's direction. 'I guess I'd better call Dryden. He can sort poor mother out.'

 

Hermione couldn't help but shudder a little at how, in this dim light, the pupils in Draco's eyes were vast, all-consuming, rendering his eyes a dense, impenetrable black.

 

'Who's Dryden?' she said quickly.

 

'Mother's personal house-elf. Mother named him after her favourite poet. My mother lovesthe great Muggle poets… although Dryden happened to be a wizard, actually.'

 

'I've never read him,' Hermione said.

 

'Me neither. Although my parents made me read most of the established literary canon by the age of ten.'

 

'I find that hard to believe,' Hermione scoffed. He hated Muggles far too much.

 

'Why's that? And it's hardly myfault, by the way, that Mother has such piss-poor taste in poets. I prefer the exciting chaps, like Shelley or Byron.'

 

Hermione could barely keep a straight face. 'All that 'Passion and Pathos', Malfoy! I really wouldn't have thought that was your style.'

'Talking of passion and pathos,' Draco said abruptly, instantly changing the tenor of their conversation. 'You never met my wife, did you?'

 

XXX

 

'Come on, I want to show you something,' Draco said, leaping up from the sofa. Something in his manner made Hermione think he was acting on impulse rather than premeditation, which made it so much easier to simply follow suit. She quickly drained her drink, almost retching at the bittersweet undertone, and allowed him to lead her to the main staircase.

 

But that was as far as she was prepared to go without any further explanation.

 

'Are you coming?' Draco asked. 'I won't bite.'

 

'I don't trust you,' she said simply, but even as she spoke, she found she had one foot on the stairs, ready to ascend.

 

Draco turned his back on her and started walking upstairs.

 

Hermione was caught between her own burning curiosity and a powerful temptation to turn and run before it was too late… before she was pulled inexorably into Draco Malfoy's world. To her left was the fireplace, from which she could floo home, without any fuss or worries. To her right, was the staircase and Draco's gradually receding figure.

 

Draco paused at the landing. 'What's keeping you?'

 

She took a deep breath and followed; increasingly unnerved as the candles lining the wall became fewer and fainter the higher they climbed.

They paused momentarily at a darkened corridor, which wound its way into the west wing. This was the eerie, shadow-world where Lucius Malfoy reputedly lived in his splendid seclusion. Here, all candlelight seemed extinguished, bar one solitary candle, dipping and dancing to the tune of a light, chill breeze. Paintings lined the walls, but they had all been covered by black drapes. She wondered if this was to prevent the portraits gossiping to others about what they saw up here.

 

'I guess you already know the rumours,' Draco murmured. In the faltering candlelight, his face was cast in shadow, his cheeks hollowed and gaunt. He looked tired and wretched.

 

'A little – '

 

'But I get the feeling – I think you can keep a secret.'

 

'Yes,' she stammered. Her voice seemed to echo in her head, long after she had spoke.

 

'Good,' Draco said. He closed his eyes, as though taking a moment to collect himself.

 

'I don't know what the hell I'm doing here. This is madness,' he breathed. 'Maybe I'm all stirred up by the Beethoven?' he added with a sardonic smile.

 

'I didn't think you liked it,' Hermione said, laughing nervously.

 

'I said my mother wouldn't have. It's not the same thing.'

 

To her surprise, they passed the corridor where Lucius lived – for one moment, she had been certain that Draco's secret referred to his father – and Draco led her to a different part of the house altogether, which was noticeably better-lit and more hospitable.

 

He ushered her into a room, partly brightened by silvery moonlight streaming through a wide bay window. She watched him, her heart racing in sudden fear and anticipation, as he fumbled in the half-darkness for what turned out to be a box of matches. He struck a match and lit a large church candle, positioned, she now saw, on a desk in one corner of the room. He then lit two more candles, resting in crystal sconces, attached to the wall.

 

It would have been so much easier to use magic, Hermione thought, and was about to accuse him of becoming a Squib – if only to lighten the mood between them – when her attention was drawn instead to a large framed studio photograph, positioned prominently on top of a gleaming, highly polished piano.

 

This was her room, Hermione thought, recalling Sylvestra's acid tones when she had mentioned it the day when she had come here with Ron for tea. His wife's room.

 

It was a posed, family portrait. Draco was reclining on a plush cream rug. He was embracing a young boy, about Rose's age Hermione thought; their pale heads of hair almost melded into one. She guessed this must be Scorpius, Draco's son by his first wife, Astoria. They looked to be sharing a private joke, judging by the way Scorpius was giggling. Snoozing on the rug beside them was a superbly marked snow white tiger cub – a typically narcissistic touch, Hermione thought wryly.

 

'How did you get the tiger to stay asleep?'

 

'We are wizards, you know,' he said, in cutting tones.

 

She found herself studying the portrait more closely, as though drawn in by… by what exactly? There was something missing. An absence.

But of course. The picture was incomplete. The absence of the wife, the mother, could hardly have been starker.

 

'His mother left us while Scorpius was still a baby,' Draco informed her. 'Katya's been more of a mother to him than Astoria ever was. And, I guess Sylvestra's taken on that role since… well… you know.'

 

Hermione didn't know. She almost hated the fact that she found herself wanting to. 'When did you and… and Katya get married?' Hermione asked, strangely tentative about using Katya's name in this room, in Draco's presence.

 

'Three and a half years ago. We met in May and were married in June. On my birthday.' He smiled. 'I was actually dating her sister at the time.'

 

'Sylvestra.'

 

'The one and only.'

 

'That must have been awkward.'

 

'It wasn't so bad. Sylvestra and I were never serious,' Draco said. 'And then… and then,' he said, lowering his voice. 'Last year, the day before Beltane… Katya disappeared.'

 

'That's terrible. You've… you've looked for her?' Hermione said, genuinely pitying him. As much as she didn't like Draco Malfoy, she could see he felt this deeply. It would have been inhuman not to feel some compassion.

 

'High and low.' He exhaled wearily. 'Obviously we've tried to keep most of it under wraps. Away from the public eye. The Daily Prophet would have a field day if they knew the whole story. I imagine I'd be accused of all sorts.'

 

'I doubt anybody would think–'

 

'Yes, they would,' Draco said brusquely. 'I know exactly what they'd think. What they do think… too many things for my liking,' he added in dark tones.

 

'I'm sorry to hear that.'

 

And he was right, Hermione thought, bearing in mind it was Agatha Thrussington manning the gossip desk at the Daily Prophet.

 

'But she's not dead, you know. I have proof,' he said in a husky, almost inaudible whisper, forcing Hermione to come closer to the desk where he was busily unlocking a drawer with a small, silver key.

 

He unveiled a small, brightly painted box with a floral design, which Hermione suspected had belonged to his wife. Using the same silver key he had used to open the drawer, he now unlocked a padlock which secured the box, flipping it open and spilling its contents onto the desk.

 

‘Nobody else knows this, but since Katya left, she has been sending me these,' Draco said, his fingertips gently caressing a handful of small, silver rose charms, which glinted in the candlelight.

 

Hermione instantly recognised the charms as identical to the single rose charm he wore on a chain around his neck. Each rose, she noticed, was actually two halves of a blooming rosebud, fused together, each half facing away from the other.

 

'These were originally part of a necklace,' Draco explained. 'My wife received them as a gift about a year before her disappearance. The day she left, I found this box,' he stroked the floral painted lid affectionately, 'with a silver chain and a single rose charm inside. There was also a note. Never Forget.'

 

'Can you be sure it's your wife sending these?' Hermione kept her voice low and measured, matching his own.

 

'She left me this, didn't she?' He gestured to the chain around his neck. 'I then received a second rose on my birthday, just a month or so after she left… and since then, there has been another rose, every few months. Special days… New Years, Scorpius's birthday in March.'

She quickly counted the roses. 'Six so far.'

 

'No, seven.' Draco brandished the rose dangling from the chain around his neck. 'I received this one in September. I always wear the last one to be sent,' he said. 'The last one to be close to her… if that makes sense. I'm convinced she's trying to tell me something,' he whispered urgently. 'Telling me not to give up on her. To continue my search.'

 

Draco looked at Hermione intently, as if trying to read her expression. She felt he needed some kind of reassurance. Some kind of confirmation.

Although she wasn't sure how she should react at all. Dealing with Draco Malfoy, one could never be certain. She half-feared this was some kind of elaborate practical joke at her expense.

 

'You're certainly being told something,' she said.

 

'Can't quite work out what though,' he said, a crooked smile on his face. He scooped the roses into his palm, returning them to their box. He then locked the padlock with a harsh twist of the small, silver key, which he promptly pocketed.

 

'The weirdest thing though… she always sends me the roses by Muggle mail. Not here, but to Herb Healing's Muggle office in London,' Draco said pensively.

 

'What was she like?' Hermione asked, genuinely curious.

 

'Kind. Generous. Scorpius adored her.' Draco then gestured towards a framed photograph, hanging by the door. 'You can see what she looked like for yourself. This was taken the week before she left.'

 

Hermione edged towards the photograph, suddenly aware of Draco's eyes boring into her, watching her closely.

 

Hermione struggled to find the right words. 'She….'

 

'She was beautiful, yes,' Draco murmured. 'And you'll see that she's wearing the necklace,' he added earnestly. 'Look.' He pointed to the twinkling silver chain of roses around Katya's neck.

 

It was a highly romanticised image, Hermione thought. The perfect sweetly smiling wife. A little younger than Draco, but with an air of calm, refined maturity. She was sitting demurely, hands clasped tightly together in her lap. Her hair was soft and tousled, rippling gently in a light breeze.

 

She was also, quite clearly, pregnant.

 

Hermione had a sudden, urgent desire to escape the weighty sadness which permeated the room. She felt oddly suffocated.

 

'I - I really should be getting back,' she said politely, aware that her face was suddenly flushed and warm, her palms sweaty. 'Ron will be wondering where I've got to.'

 

'Of course,' Draco said coolly, in a brisk, businesslike manner. 'I'll owl Ron with details about our trip.'

 

He glared at her dismissively, almost as though he was already regretting his decision to share this secret, this room and all it contained, with her.

 

Just minutes later, Hermione had Flooed home, tightly clutching the metal attaché case with the box of files balanced precariously on top.

She had never been so glad to step out of her hearth into her familiar, friendly living room, currently strewn untidily with an abundance of her children's toys.

 

Hermione shook her head in disbelief, still panting slightly from her hasty exit.

 

What an odd end to her evening. Why had Draco told her all this? What did he want from her? It didn't make sense.

 

And then there was Katya. Poor Katya Malfoy and her child, which surely must be born by now.

 

Hermione chilled, recalling Katya's face, gazing out at her from the portrait. Knowing she was missing, possibly even dead, there was a peculiar poignancy about her soft, lilting smile, the distant look in her clear hazel-brown eyes.

 

She was nothing like her striking blond sister, Sylvestra, that was for sure. Nothing like the identi-kit girls Draco so famously favoured. If truth be told, she had more closely resembled herself, with her wavy, brown hair - though perhaps not quite as unruly as her own - and creamy, lightly freckled complexion. Though that was probably where all resemblance ended, as there was something altogether more sedate, more tamed in Katya's appearance. An air of quiet, poised sophistication.

 

Why would a young woman like that, and in her condition, leave her husband and home when she most needed it? Where had she gone, and where was she now? And what was the meaning of her secret communications with Draco? What was she trying to tell him?

 

XXX

CHAPTER TRACKS:

“MOONLIGHT SONATA” byBEETHOVEN

&

“DO YOU WANNA KNOW?” by THE ARCTIC MONKEYS

 

Disclaimer: I own nothing except my original characters.

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