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I just want to thank everyone profusely for your wonderful patience and great responses. I have bad news though. I’ll be going away for a two-week holiday so obviously I won’t be updating till after I come back. SORRY! Anyway, I hope you like this chapter, there’s not long to go! AN/: If your wondering about my weird spells, they are all written in Latin so I didn’t REALLY make them up. I just stuck the words together. CHAPTER 7: Time comes when the weak must be strong, Let go, just follow the heart song Hope remains when there is no fear Find the calling and keep it near. Hermione paced back and forth, one hand touching her chin, the other crossed over her chest in a contemplative manner. Her brain seemed to be sizzling up with the extra load of information that had landed itself mercilessly upon her. She just had to sort it out correctly, and in order. So whatever did happen to Draco Malfoy after the downfall of Lord Voldemort? Hermione found it strange to be thinking of the boy that she had went to school and rivalled with for so many years. It had been a while since the last time she saw or heard news of him. It was just after the majority of Death Eaters had landed themselves in prison, when last she came across him. The year they had graduated from Hogwarts to be exact. Everyone knew that Draco Malfoy was destined to be a Death Eater too, to follow in his father’s footsteps. But he had been too young thankfully when Harry Potter finally vanquished the Dark Lord. So Malfoy had not taken part in the struggle. He was last seen at a memorial held by the Ministry of Magic, a remembrance day for the people who had died at the hands of He Who Must Not Be Named. Draco had unexpectedly turned up along with the rest of the wizarding community to partake in the sorrowful event. Perhaps he too had lost a loved one. Hermione, Harry and Ron had been too immersed in the situation, especially in comforting poor Harry, to take much notice of Draco’s brooding presence. After that day, Hermione had never seen him again. Her last memory being his departing back walking into the woods, never to return. However it was not the last she heard of him. Less than a year later the papers had began spreading rumours of another uprise of darkness. There had been a series of unfortunate events, such as muggles mysteriously dying and even witnesses who had claimed to have seen a man near the scene of the crimes, fitting Draco’s description. Unfortunately the crimes were never solved but suddenly stopped occurring. Then the Daily Prophet had discontinued writing about it and Draco was lost to the past. Life continued with renewed peace, and that was when Hermione moved in with her father. She remembered well during that time the Order of the Phoenix had attempted to track down the source of evil that terrorised innocent people but because she had never joined, the outcomes of their furtive work was unknown to her. But life had gone on. Now Hermione was forced to face the fact that she could easily be within the mysterious Malfoy Manor. I say mysterious because nobody had ever seen or known where to find the Manor, except for the Death Eaters of course. The question remaining was, was this wretched beast a slave or pet to the infamous Malfoy family or was he himself Draco Malfoy? It led to her previous notion that the beast might indeed be a human being. But the though was preposterous. How on earth would Draco Malfoy become a horrid beast if it were not for a potion of spell of his own backfiring on himself? This is what Hermione’s intelligence told her, yet in the back of her mind somewhere something nagged at her. It kept pressing that her first thought could, no matter how ridiculous it sounded, be the correct presumption. That’s how Hermione came to her next decision. She decided to find out the truth once and for all. She needed magic, and she needed it now. All it took was a little persuasion from her elf friend Lediny and a tiny bit of hypnotism, which she had learned from Divination books to get some good and proper answers. It seemed that all magic was stilled by the “horrible” curse laid upon the master and the castle. It was a matter of being inside the gates of the property and all magic was dispersed. Hermione did previously have an idea about the interconnection between the curse and her lack of powers but nevertheless, she couldn’t help but breathe a deep sigh of relief at the news that her wand wasn’t latent or that she had become a squib! The poor elf had stumbled out of her chamber in disarray, not knowing what she was doing there. Hermione hated having to use her like that but she had no other choice. Now don’t start thinking that Hermione was taking everything rather well because in the depths of her mind she was practically panicking. You would be too if you thought you were trapped with a wizard who had at one point been labelled “The Next Big One” after Voldemort. That was another reason why she was so eager to dismiss the idea of Draco being the beast. The beast was just too nice! Anyway, Hermione was used to finding herself in sticky situations, as she was the friend of Harry Potter so she knew not to lose herself in these circumstances. What she needed to do now was somehow get outside the gates. This was actually a lot easier than she had expected. With all her time alone, it was easy to sneak outside and over to the gate. Sure it was locked, but only by a twisted chain that was easily untangled. It was too easy! Yet she counted her lucky stars because if it were a heavily protected gate then the werewolves would have mauled her to death before she could call for help. Only briefly Hermione pondered on the ease of escape. She could easily run for it if she wanted to. But she couldn’t leave; just couldn’t. She was too deep in her investigations to throw it all away. But even so, it wasn’t as if she hated being there. She got along nicely with everyone including the sardonic master. It chilled her to think that he may be the very same person she used to despise. They were so completely different. It was now with wary eyes and ears that Hermione pulled out a few objects from a sack that had been carried down from the castle. She quickly tested her wand by saying quietly ‘Lumos’. Excellent, it worked. The rest of the sack’s contents included mixed herbal ingredients, a small mirror, a tiny cauldron that had been found in a storeroom and a small wooden spoon from the kitchen to do the mixing. It would have to do for now. This was not a potion that Hermione was familiar with so she was a bit anxious about getting it right. But if all did turn out well, then she would have all the clues she needed. Soon enough, the potion was bubbling away. It turned many colours in the course of it’s brewing. It went from green to orange to brown and finally to a clear tea colour. Satisfied with her effort, Hermione whispered an incantation over the cauldron. ‘Iustum subter supter Aperio exsto esse’ The potion fizzed with contentment and completion. This would definitely work. Her plan was not to be put into action until that night when she met the beast for a game of backgammon and a cosy cup of tea. This had become an every night activity before going to bed. It also gave Hermione the opportunity she needed. ‘It was a fine day today, was it not?’ The beast exclaimed much to Hermione’s surprise. ‘Well you’re in a good mood I see. Surely the sun did not cause this sudden change?’ Hermione joked light heartedly. Fortunately, the beast had become accustomed to her sense of humour and did not mind being teased. ‘Not at all. It is simply your presence that makes me joyous.’ The beast replied with a cheeky grin causing Hermione to blush. ‘Well, I am glad then. My day has been rather pleasant as well. I spent quite some time outside.’ ‘Ah yes I noticed. That is why you did not see me until now. My apologies, but I am yet to become accustomed to the overly fresh air and the too clear for it’s own good sky. Not to mention the overly bright and too warm I could die heat. Did I mention I don’t like going outside?’ Hermione giggled. It was more the way the beast tried to joke with her that made her laugh. He was very charming. Draco Malfoy was charming too, especially with the girls, Hermione thought. Not with her of course, because she was a Mudblood. This thought returned some of the forgotten bitterness to her face. ‘Are you alright?’ The beast asked curiously noticing the sudden change on her countenance. Hermione startled. ‘Oh sorry, I was daydreaming. Now, where were we.’ ‘I was just about to beat you at backgammon.’ The beast pointed. Hermione frowned. ‘Wait a minute…the pieces are all in different places. You’re cheating!’ ‘What? Me?’ The beast feigned innocence. ‘Yes you!’ She said with exasperation. ‘I declare a rematch. And this time I’m not going to waver my attention for one second. I’m watching you.’ She gave him a scrutinising stare. ‘Hey! I was only playing for you since you seemed too occupied in your own thoughts. And I was trying to make you win, I just, made a few mistakes.’ ‘By accident I’m sure.’ Hermione said sarcastically. The beast sighed with emphasis. ‘Fine, we’ll rematch. Just to make you happy.’ ‘Humph!’ Hermione enjoyed these common exchanges. It was what made her like the beast so much. He was just like Ron or Harry, cheeky but kind. Definitely not Malfoy. There was no way. None at all. She consciously patted the tiny bottle of potion, which was hidden underneath her robe. As soon as the elf came with the tea she would be able to use it. On the chair beside her lay a small oval mirror that she had brought unnoticed. She would need that as well in order for her plan to be successful. No sooner had she thought this, the elf emerged through the door carrying a silver plate with two identical cups of tea that steamed deliciously. ‘Here you are Madam, Sir.’ The elf placed the cups on a table beside the game of backgammon and departed just as quickly as it had come. The beast didn’t raise an eye. He was watching the game intently, scheming his victory. Let him scheme, Hermione thought. But how do I get the potion into his tea? ‘Oh!’ Hermione almost beamed at the sound of crashing plates outside the door. There truly was a god looking out for her. This was the perfect opportunity! ‘Excuse me.’ The beast stood grumpily to see what all the fuss was outside, for there was now a racket of noise. It sounded as though an argument was ensuing between a group of elves. Hermione hid a smile. The beast turned back to her suddenly and his gaze penetrated hers accusingly. ‘And don’t even think about cheating.’ ‘What? I am sorry, but I would NEVER stoop that low.’ Hermione said pompously, lifting her chin. The beast grinned. As soon as he was out of sight Hermione grabbed the potion and dropped most of it’s contents into the beast’s cup. It sizzled for a moment but instantly it was back to normal. She picked up the mirror, cast a wary gaze to the ajar door, and whispered, ‘Consulo veritas imago’ Although magic didn’t work in the castle, she knew this incantation would because she had charmed it to withstand the curse when she was outside earlier. Unfortunately, she had not been able to do the same to her wand, heaven knows why. ‘Silly house elves. Can’t do a thing without getting into a mess.’ Hermione almost jumped to the roof at the sound of the beast’s booming voice. ‘Oh, right!’ The beast cast her a swift suspicious glance and his eyes shot to the board. ‘What have you done?’ ‘Nothing!’ ‘Then why do you look so guilty?’ He said, smirking. Oh god, that smirk was so familiar. ‘It’s just your mind making you see things.’ Hermione said dismissively. The beast seemed to take her word for it as nothing on the board was amiss. Hermione almost fell off her seat with anticipation when the beast slowly but surely lifted the cup to his lips and took a sip. All seemed normal as he placed it back down. ‘Ouch, still a bit hot.’ Hermione almost laughed with relief as the beast evidently didn’t notice anything odd about his beverage. ‘Why do you keep looking at me funny?’ ‘I’m not!’ She snapped. ‘Yes you are.’ ‘Oh sure, how am I looking at you?’ She crossed her arms. The beast drooped his shoulders, leaned his chin to rest in one hand and gave a very goofy dreamy look. Hermione would have slapped him if he sat nearer. ‘I did not look at you like that!’ ‘Hey, I’m the one who can see your face so I would know.’ The beast replied. Hermione came back sharply. ‘It’s called wishful thinking.’ There was a silent pause. The beast was impressed. Hermione was a feisty one. Suddenly he yawned. ‘It must be getting late.’ Hermione snapped out of her trance. She had been staring at the beast for quite some time and she didn’t like it. ‘Yes it must. But I am content to stay here some time longer and read a book.’ The beast nodded dreamily, his eyes glazing over with sudden tiredness. ‘This is strange. I’m usually not this sleepy till a lot later. If I didn’t know better I would think you had drugged me.’ Hermione froze in fright. Had he caught her out? Did he know she had put potion in his drink? But she was able to relax when she realised that he was only playing with her. ‘Don’t be silly.’ She said in an almost shaky voice. She hadn’t anything to worry about for he was asleep almost instantly. Soft snores told her it was safe to put her plan into action. Hermione drew closer gripping the mirror tightly. The fire light in the hearth flickered uncannily and a stream of moonlight flowed gently through the window, casting shadows about the room. Hermione gulped and raised the mirror to face the beast. She didn’t look for a few moments, afraid of what she might see. But slowly she turned her gaze and witnessed what she had been dreading. There, in the mirror’s reflection was a sharp pointed and pale face. Atop that face was a mop of soft blond hair that reached down to caress a strong chin. Yes, Hermione knew this person. She would recognise Draco Malfoy’s face anywhere. Her heart almost sunk within her. This didn’t make any sense. How could the beast be Draco? Even more, how could Draco be a beast? At least it all explained his human-like mannerisms, his wealth and home, his populous of servants and his brooding nature. But still there was one big puzzle; how come he didn’t recognise her? Or if he did, why was he treating her so nicely? And how, for goodness sake, had he managed to become so companionable and decent? So maybe that was more than one puzzle. Hermione looked at his sleeping form. It was so innocent, so…beautiful. Those were the right words, even though she felt disgusted to refer to Draco as being beautiful. It dawned on Hermione finally. But of course, I keep asking myself all these questions when it is completely obvious. His transformation is the curse! That’s why he looks like a beast, because of some nasty curse! But that didn’t explain the other changes. Had he simply decided to become a better person after a lot of thinking in this place? Because he had obviously spent a lot of time there alone and what else had he been doing all this time? Hermione remembered something else. ‘But…there is only two petals left now. We is not knowing what time is left.’ That had been part of the conversation Hermione had spied on. And that meant that the “master” AKA. Draco only had a short time left until…something happened. But what? Before she could think any further however a startling noise nearly scared her out of her skin. ‘What are you doing?’ Sharp piercing grey eyes looked at her accusingly. ‘N-nothing.’ She stammered. The beast frowned. He had woken up suddenly to see Hermione standing over him looking troubled and holding a mirror. He had no idea what she was doing but he wanted to find out. He grabbed the mirror from her small delicate hands. ‘No!’ She protested. Why did she resist? He looked at her with confusion before looking into the mirror. Slowly, as the moonlight illuminated his reflection, it dawned on him. He felt anger rise from nowhere in particular. Throwing the mirror to the ground he jumped to his feet and stepped deadly close to Hermione. She whimpered. ‘So Hermione. ‘He spat. ‘You know.’ Hermione cowered under his gaze. ‘Yes but I can explain.-’ He growled so loudly it cut her off. ‘How dare you. Get out of my sight!’ ‘But’ He seemed to grow ten times larger before her and she backed away slowly. ‘Draco listen to me…’ His eyes glowered ferociously as she said his name. ‘Don’t you dare call me that you stupid Mudblood. Now get out before I make you, and I can promise you don’t want me to do that.’ His threat sent shivers of pure terror through Hermione’s body and before she knew it she fled; away from the beast and away from the cold black castle.

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