A/N: Cliffy, resolved! No cliffy at the end of this chapter, either. Thought I'd give ya'll a break. Strange scenes between our greasy bodyguard and Hermione, I don't think I characterize him all that well, but there you go. Blatant stupidity, as usual. Draco finds out why his mother did what she did, and everybody has a drink. Speaking of which… there's a lot of drinking going on here, but I don't endorse it at all. Heh. Read and review, people!
Snape didn't look half as greasy as he had remembered. He wasn't smirking, which was odd. It was something halfway between a smirk and a... smile?
"Draco Malfoy," he said. Even though Draco was now at least a half foot taller than he was at 17, Snape was still taller.
"Professor Snape," Draco said.
Snape shook his head. "You're no longer a student. No need to call me professor. Thank you for the courtesy, though. So, yes or no?"
Everything clicked. "Ah, I see," Draco said. "You're the bodyguard. I'm sure Hermione'll appreciate this."
"I forbear to comment," Snape said. "It had nothing to do with the irony, though admittedly Dumbledore was amused by it. No, I know Lucius best--next to Narcissa and you, of course--and since I've caught him once, Albus is certain I can catch him again."
"Are you going to kill him?"
"Not unless you want me to. I have the distinct feeling that you'd prefer if I didn't. But it's your decision." Snape gestured towards the door. "Shall we go?"
"Why not," Draco said. He slipped on his coat. "You know, things were a lot less complicated when the war was on."
"The resolution's always harder than the solution. Now let's get going. I'm starving."
"You're kidding." Ginny stared at Hermione. "That boy has one messed up life."
"You're telling me. Turns out he was playing double-agent for five years straight. He'd get the information from his father, and he'd pass it straight to Dumbledore." Hermione sighed. He's a lot smarter than we've given him credit for. For one, he did all that and is still alive."
"However long he'll stay alive is the question," Ron said. "His dad's really bad. He burned the Mark twice. If someone like that is looking for Draco, in the state of depression and dreaminess he's been in, Draco'll be killed within five minutes."
"I'd give him more credit than that." Hermione frowned at Ron. "Besides, I think Dumbledore said something about a bodyguard when he gave me the letter from Snape for Draco. I can only hope it's someone good."
"Anyone else hungry?" Ron said.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Ron, you're always hungry."
"Actually, I'm hungry too," Ginny said.
"Come on, 'Mione, let's grab something to eat. We've got plenty of time." Ron pulled at her sleeve.
"Yeah, don't leave me alone with him," Ginny said. "Might be a bad influence on me."
Hermione laughed. "I guess I could deal with a small garden salad."
"All right then, it's settled. To the Leaky Cauldron!"
Hermione groaned. "Pub food? Ron..."
"'S food for the soul. Come on, be a sport." Ron grabbed Hermione's hand and pulled her to her feet. "It'll be good for you."
"All right," Hermione said cheerily. She grinned at Ginny. "But Ron--you're paying."
At quarter to one, Draco Malfoy and Severus Snape arrived at Hermione's mansion.
"Extravagant for the girl," Snape said offhand. "You do know how to take down the shields, don't you?"
"Yes. Well, she is an Unspeakable." Draco pulled out his wand hesitantly.
"It won't burn the Mark," Snape said. "It's reversal magic. Go ahead."
Draco nodded and poked the wand through two of the Muggle dispelling shields and said plainly, "Toaster." They shimmered away and slid back up after Draco and Snape passed by. He poked his wand through a keyhole shape in the shield of fire and the tsunami shield and said, "Mercedes-Benz." They slid away and another that looked like red glass slid up ahead of them.
"That's a Crucian shield." Snape sounded amazed. "How could she control a thing like that?"
"What do you mean?"
Snape just stared at the shielding. "A Crucian shield puts anyone who crosses it without permission into the Cruciatus Curse."
"Well, she's an Unspeakable," Draco said again, and shrugged. "She left these down yesterday. She... found out about Harry, and forgot. Anyone could have gotten in."
"Careless," Snape said.
"Yes, I suppose." Draco carefully made sure not to touch the shield while putting his wand into it. "Ballpoint." The shield collapsed down and they stepped onto the porch.
"This is a lot like your manor, Draco," Snape said.
"The manor wasn't mine," Draco said. He opened the door. "It was Lucius's." Snape followed and shut the door.
"It's yours now. Lucius obviously doesn't own it anymore. Your mother could own it, but technically it's yours. So says the contract, as far as Lucius told me."
What did they do to him, Draco wondered. They had found out that Snape was a spy, then what? What would they have done to me?
"What was my father like when he was in school?" he said.
"Where's the kitchen?" Snape glanced down a hallway. "This place is rather large."
"I'll show you." Draco led him through the living room and into the kitchen. "Now about my father..."
"Chauvinistic, abusive and raving mad. Just how you might have turned out had Potter not intervened." Snape, in this short span of time, managed to find bread, cheese and some mayonnaise. "He doesn't deserve Narcissa. Never has. I don't know if any man really deserves your mother." He fixed himself a sandwich and took a bite.
"Then why did she stay with him?" Draco sat on a stool and look on.
"It's not my business to tell you that. Your mother should tell you that."
"Does it have to do with this?" Draco stuck his hand in his pocket and flourished the vial on its chain.
Snape froze as he saw it dangling on Draco's fingers. "Did your mother give you that?"
Draco nodded. "She told me to test it. Is it a blood potion?"
Snape took a bite of his sandwich, chewed, swallowed. "I know, but I can't tell. I'm sorry."
"Look, my mum said you know and said to ask you. So I'm going to ask you: Why did my mum stay with Lucius?"
Snape sighed. "Look, bring that vial over here and I'll show you something." Draco went over and Snape took a bottle from his pocket. "Open the vial."
Draco pulled at the top of the vial. "It's stuck." He picked at it with his fingernails. "Hell."
"It's too important to be opened easily. Push down, pull it up and twist. At the same time." He did so and popped the top of the vial. Snape opened the bottle in his hand--it had a top like a eyedropper. "Get a cup," Snape said.
"You carry this stuff around with you?" Draco grabbed a cup from a cupboard after looking in a few different ones. Snape seized it and put a drop of whatever liquid was in the bottle in the cup. The liquid was light blue.
"You'll never know when you'll need it." Snape beckoned for the vial and Draco handed it to him. He took another eyedropper from his pocket, took one drop of the potion out of the vial, and dropped it in the cup along with the other potion.
"What's the blue potion?" Draco said.
"It measures the potency of the potion to be tested. The darker it turns, the more powerful the effect of the potion."
Draco sighed. "Why can't you just tell me?"
"I'm proving a point." There was an edge on Snape's voice that hadn't been there before. "Watch." Snape swirled the cup. The red potion and the blue potion hit one another, fizzled and turned black.
Draco stared. "That's rather potent stuff."
"It's the second most powerful kind of potion ever known. You know what that is."
Draco was completely speechless, but he knew. He had read most of his father's potion and poison books. It took him three times to speak. "A love potion?"
Snape nodded. "It was Lucius's proudest work. Five batches in all, over a period of 40 years. Lucius would take just enough of the potion for it to take effect every day, and if Narcissa tried to leave, he would tell the Ministry that Narcissa forcefed him the potion."
Draco still stared at the tiny black drop in the cup. "My mum, she did all that because Lucius was doing this?"
"He kept the most current vial around his neck. I've seen him do it. She must have taken it off of him after she stabbed him, although I'm surprised Lucius let his guard down that long."
"Well, he was going to Azkaban anyway. He could afford it. I think he wanted me to find out, like a final parting shot." Draco sighed. "Damn, my mum's a good actress."
"Always has been." There was a knock at the door. Snape started. "Oh, good, that must be my things."
Draco raised an eyebrow. "How long are you planning on staying here?"
Snape gave Draco a slightly condescending look. "Until this crisis is resolved." Draco made haste to open the door before Snape got there, in case Hermione was at the door.
Narcissa Malfoy was there, eyes half-closed in weariness and soaked with sweat. She was clutching a suitcase that looked rather heavy. "The girl is behind me," she said. "She transported me here in that Muggle contraption of hers. This is yours, Severus." She dropped the suitcase, which fell with a thunk. Snape picked it up quickly.
Narcissa continued. "She's putting up the wards again; double strength at least. Lucius will be three times as willing to get in here if he knows the three of us are in here." Her eyelids fluttered and she tripped over the threshold. Draco caught her.
"Forget the wards," he said. "Hermione shouldn't have had you carry that. Let's get you someplace comfortable." Draco helped her up the stairs while Snape watched. Snape shook his head and started to follow when the sound of footsteps behind him started and died.
There stood Hermione Granger on the doorstep, staring up at him. "You," she said.
"You," Snape said. He did his own particular version of a smile and said, "You must feel awfully secure to allow three known Death Eaters trained well in the Unforgivable Curses into your home."
"I am an Unspeakable." Unspeakables, she thought, didn't live in their houses, anyway. They lived at work.
"That's what Draco said. Very impressive, Ms. Granger."
She gave him a dazzling smile, if weary. "Cheers." She brushed past him and headed up the stairs. "I need a drink."
"That, Hermione Granger, may be the first thing we've ever agreed on." Snape headed into the living room and there was the sound of him opening a small cabinet. "Ogden's?"
"You have good taste, Ms. Granger."
Narcissa had passed out soon after Draco had helped her up the stairs. He hauled her to his bedroom and laid her on the bed. He folded into a chair, exhausted, panting and sweaty. He'd probably never done this much physical work in his life.
Lucius was going to pay dearly for that. Not only was he a complete bastard, but he had made normal life a living hell for him, a Pureblood who had practically never raised a finger to work, except to use his wand.
Narcissa wasn't bleeding anymore, and that was good. He lifted the sleeve of her left arm and saw the Mark livid there. He touched it and sighed in relief. The mediwizards must have heeded his wishes not to use magic on her, because her Mark was no more engorged than his.
Speaking of the Mark... he tossed off his jacket, shoved up his sleeve and unwrapped the gauze that covered the Dark Mark. The death's head glared back at him as he tossed the gauze away.
"I appreciate you telling me about our bodyguard," Hermione said, and Draco turned. He laughed.
"I found out around an hour ago, when I left the funeral."
"You hate this no-magic thing, don't you?" Hermione grinned.
Draco sighed. "I've never done so much physical activity in one day. I was one spoiled brat."
"That you were." Hermione put on a fake pout. "Life without a wand is hell, isn't it?"
"Yes." He sighed. "Where's Snape?"
"Getting some Ogden's. It's been a rough day." She looked at the Mark on his arm and sighed. "If you had told me last week that I'd be harboring three Death Eaters in my home today, of my own volition..."
"I'd get a swift kick in the arse and more than a few harsh words."
"Speaking of a swift kick in the arse..." Snape was in the doorway with a bottle and three glasses. "Fire Whiskey, anyone?"
They sat at the table after gathering a few chairs. Snape poured the whiskey and slid a glass over to Hermione and Draco.
Hermione lifted her glass almost immediately. "To Harry," she said.
Snape appeared to hesitate momentarily, but followed suit. "To Potter," he said.
Draco blinked and raised his glass. "To Harry."
The three clinked their glasses together. "To Harry Potter!" Hermione declared, and they each downed their alcohol.
Draco grabbed the bottle next.
It isn't quite as intoxicating as Harry, Draco thought blearily after the third round, but it's the closest I'll ever come to him again.