It seems life gets away from me more than I expect. I apologize for the long delay; I hope you all enjoy the chapter! Much love! -Lillie

Chapter Eighteen

Waking up to Ginny Weasley was not an occurrence Draco had ever hoped to experience, nor was it one he wished to repeat. Even in his sleep, he could feel her brown eyes staring at him attempting to burn more wounds into his skin. She was severe in that moment, scared and frightened. Her freckled skin was paler than normal, a green undertone had spread across the pallor; Ginny's brown eyes were shadowed in purple exhaustion and concern. At once Draco knew her visit was not personal but involving Luna, specifically in a bad way; Ginny confirmed his suspicions immediately.

"How can I help?" Draco said quickly.

"Do you remember any disturbances from last night?" Ginny asked.

"No," Draco replied with furrowed brows. "Should I?"

"The Sleeping Drought is rather effective. After you fell asleep, Myrtle arrived and began screaming at Luna for seeing you. Her screeching alerted the Carrows."

"What did they do to her?" Draco said with wide eyes. He began to kick the blankets off of his body ignoring the cool morning air and the stinging in his leg. "Where is she?"

"I'm getting there, Malfoy. Would you sit down? You're not going to do any good in your silken pajamas," Ginny huffed. "Right, well, the perimeter spell we used stunned Amycus, but Luna did run into Alecto, literally. Luna didn't notice at the time, but the bitch cut her arm with either her wand or a blade of sorts. We think what ever she used was dipped with poison."

"You said the cut was caused by Alecto?" Draco asked as he felt the blood drain from his face.

"Yes. Are you familiar with her use of such?" Ginny asked leaning closer.

"Possibly," Draco replied hoping the poison the Carrow sister used on Luna wasn't the same as the one she used on a captured blood traitor in the Manor. "What symptoms did Luna show? Anything specific?" Draco peered at Ginny with desperate silver eyes, but the redhead dropped her eyes to the floor; he barely made out her lip quivering.

"It was awful," Ginny whispered wringing her hands together. "She was bleeding; she didn't notice, so I took her to a room and checked her arm. The gash was huge, pouring blood. I tried to heal it with several healing spells and charms, but nothing happened. I've healed wounds as bad before, but it just continued to bleed. I went to find Neville and Dean to see if they could help. When I came back, Luna—she—" Ginny's voice broke as she buried her face in her hands.

Draco was beyond uncomfortable. Ginny was never emotional, at least not in the crying way. He had seen her skin flash as red as her hair in anger before, he'd seen her lash out at Ron and the twins, he'd seen her temper flare during quidditch, but he had never seen her cry. He knew not what to do, so he reached over and patted her knee awkwardly. The gesture caused Draco's cheeks to blush red and Ginny to jerk her head up in shock. With a shaky breath, Ginny wiped her face on her long sleeve.

"She had a piece of cloth around her neck; it was tied so tightly her skin was turning blue, her eyes were red. Luna was just holding the ends and pulling tighter and tighter. I don't know how long she was like that, but she had no idea what was happening. She thought she was making a tourniquet around her arm. She could have died."
"Ginny, where is Luna now?" Draco said severely. "Is she being watched?"

"Yes, yes," Ginny nodded fiercely. "We put her in a Bewitched Sleep and a complete body bind. Neville, Dean, and I took shifts sleeping last night."

"After you found her, what else happened?"

"She wasn't bleeding anymore, but this black goo was oozing from the wound and smoke billowed from it. The wound is cursed, we know that, but we just don't know what caused it or how to fix it. Have you ever encountered this before?"

"Yes," Draco said solemnly. "Only once before. Alecto used it on a prisoner that was brought to the Manor."

"What happened?" Ginny asked despite knowing what his answer would be.

"He died," Draco said in a small voice.

Draco looked at Ginny in her hysterical state and knew that he could not tell her the truth of what happened to the man. For three days, he tried killing himself. He would pound his head onto stones. He gouged his eyes out, bit chunks of flesh out of his arms and legs, anything he could reach really. He ripped his hair out, his fingernails and toenails. The man wouldn't scream until after his attempts at death had been stopped; he had no idea what he was doing the entire time. He wouldn't bleed; only black tar would slowly secrete from his veins.

"What does the poison do?" Ginny asked.

"Ginny, you don't want to know; it's better if—"

"I want to know, Malfoy," she said with a fierceness that Draco could not deny.

"It makes the victim hallucinate so vividly they aren't aware that they are trying to kill themselves. They actively rip themselves apart piece by piece. Alecto uses this particular poison because she likes to watch."

"Luna, she—she can't do that—we have to do something," Ginny said shakily. "Is there a cure?"

"I don't know," Draco said honestly. "But I'll do everything in my power to make this right. I promise. I'll make them pay for it; they can't do this to her and get away with it," he shouted as he slammed his fist onto his bedside table. Ginny didn't even flinch.

"You really care about her," Ginny said staring at Draco. He only stared back at her with heavily guarded eyes.

"So do you," he replied calmly. "So does Neville, Dean, Potter… The list goes on really," Draco said with his usual mask of indifference.

"I suppose it does," Ginny nodded.

"Madam Pomfrey will be waking soon," Draco said looking away from the Weasley daughter. "You'd better go."

Understanding Draco's unsubtle hint to leave, Ginny quickly stood up and gave him a curt nod. She turned to walk towards the large wooden doors; however, halfway there, she turned around to look at the Slytherin student who had tormented her and her friends for over six years. Peering at him, she noted how tense his jaw was with anger, his fists balled tightly by his sides. He was beyond angry, furious; it wasn't the first time she'd witnessed such a reaction. Every time Harry caught the snitch, Gryffindor won the House Cup, or his family's status was questioned, Draco would react in the same way. However, he'd grown up; his reasons for anger were no longer trivial but rather a threat to someone he cared for deeply. Ginny never thought it possibly for Draco Malfoy to show such emotion over another person. With a sigh, Ginny dug into her pocket and walked back to Draco's bedside. She thrust a coin into his hand.

"Tap it to send a message; I'll do the same if I need you," she said before turning to walk out of the Hospital Wing. "Heal up, Malfoy. We need you," she said before slipping out of the heavy wooden doors.

Draco stared at the door until his eyes began to burn; with a few heavy blinks, he peered down at the unassuming galleon Ginny have him. Flipping it through his fingers, he noticed that it was not extraordinary in anyway. Rolling his eyes, Draco slipped it into the chest pocket on his emerald silk shirt. What did Ginny want him to do with a Galleon? Buy something useful? Though it was very early morning, far earlier than Draco desired to be awake, he no longer desired sleep; he wanted to get out of the hospital wing, he wanted to help. Weasley was right; he wasn't going any good in his silken pajamas. With a frustrated sigh, Draco slammed the back of his head into the wall behind him; the blow was softened only slightly by one of his pillows.

Why can nothing ever go right? he asked himself.

Opening his eyes once more, Draco began to think about what could be in such a potion and what ingredients could counteract them. A medley of ingredients could cause each of the symptoms, but what combination could enact off of them without counteracting or eliminating the other. Potions and poisons were a delicate balance; one wrong ingredient would make a new elixir all together. Placing the heels of his hands into his eyelids, Draco pushed until his vision erupted in stars; with a frustrated groan, he opened his eyes and began to analyze his options.

Draco knew the quickest solution would be to inquire about the poison from Alecto Carrow, but he was concerned his sudden interest would spark suspicion. If he asked her, she could possibly alert Snape, his father, or Bellatrix. Professor Snape was the second option, but Draco remembered the curious way he had been acting lately, as if he knew something Draco did not. Professor Slughorn's chubby face flashed through Draco's mind, and he knew the new potions professor would be his first to implore. He had no one to report to other than the other professors not tainted by the Dark Mark; based on reputation alone, they would not be surprised by his questions should Slughorn know of the poison. With somewhat of a plan in mind, Draco allowed his shoulders to relax slightly as he forced himself to take deep breaths; she would be okay, she had to be okay. Time ticked on and the sun slowly revealed itself through the murky winter clouds. It was snowing outside, and the castle developed a bit of a chill as it normally did this time of year. Rustling noises alerted Draco to Madam Pomfrey's waking, and he sent a silent thank you to anyone who happened to be listening.

Finally, he thought to himself, I need to get out of here.

Staring at the stonewall before him, Draco willed the doors entering Madam Pomfrey's bedchambers to open; he would beg her to release him today if she did not deem him fit to do so. He knew he would do whatever it took to get out of the hospital no matter how much he dreaded returning to the Slytherin dungeon. After what seemed like a millennia, the tall wooden doors opened revealing the motherly nursed dressed in her typical outfit. She carried her wand in the pocket of her white apron as healing supplies floated behind her.

"Good morning, Mr. Malfoy," she greeted unsurprised to see him awake at such an early hour. "Sleep well?"

"Yes," he replied curtly. "As well as to be expected."

"Are you experiencing pain during the night?" she asked with a curious look.

"No, this bed is rubbish compared to my own," he responded being sure to add a tone of haughtiness to his words. "I find it hard to relax on such."

"I see," Madam Pomfrey grumbled.

"You've told me time and time again how important rest is to recovery," Draco smarted. "Perhaps you'll release me from these confines so I can actually progress in my healing."

"Clearly your eager to be released from the hospital wing, Mr. Malfoy," Madam Pomfrey stated. "However, I would not be doing my job properly should I allow you to return to the rest of the castle before you are well enough to do so."

"Am I not healed yet?" Draco inquired with a snarky bite. "Surely if you were doing your job properly I would be by now. It's been days."

"I am not going to entertain such accusations," Madam Pomfrey clipped. "Now hold still, Mr. Malfoy, I need to change your wrappings, and check your healing progress."

Draco did not respond, but rather he turned his eyes to the ceiling hoping that he had healed enough to be discharged today. Yesterday, his skin was still raw and inflamed, deep scabs and repairing nerve endings, but the rotten flesh had been cleared away, his layers of skin restored to existence. Surely with yesterday's layer of dittany and healing charms and potions he would be permitted to leave. He could feel Madam Pomfrey prodding his freshly rejuvenated skin; it felt disorienting as if such spots were disconnected from his person. When her cold fingers touched a particularly fresh patch of skin, Draco held back a threatening flinch of pain worried that if he showed pain or discomfort, he would reside in the wing another day.

"Your skin is healing quite nicely," Madam Pomfrey approved. "However, there are quite a few scabs that are rather large."

"I've had worse from quidditch practice," Draco scoffed not daring to look at his leg.

"I doubt that," the matronly nurse smarted. Raising her hand, a bottle flew into her grasp and she uncorked the top. "This will speed the process even more so than dittany."

"Why have you not used this before?" Draco glared.

"It must be applied to skin, Mr. Malfoy," Madam Pomfrey responded not glancing up at the young man. "You had none remaining before now; it would have eaten through your muscles and tendons leaving far more damage than before. No need to thank me," she said. An invasive prickling sensation ran up Draco's leg causing him to shudder in discomfort, but he dared not voice his pain.

"It will feel like that for a little while," Madam Pomfrey addressed his hidden distress. "Best to just deal with it, as it is very effective. I can give you a bit of beewort tea to calm your anxiety."

"I'm not anxious," Draco lied; Madam Pomfrey only shrugged in response.

"Very well, Mr. Malfoy," she nodded. "It needs to seep in the new skin for an hour or so. I'm sure you're breakfast will be delivered shortly."

Draco nodded, his teeth clenched painfully together. The school's nurse responded with her own terse nod before leaving the young Slytherin to his own devices. How she thought he could eat with such a sensation claiming his body left Draco perplexed and a bit annoyed. Willing his body to ignore the pain, Draco closed his eyes and began to count the seconds. Just as he surpassed 900 seconds, a soft, tentative voice called his name.

Opening his grey eyes, Draco peered at Pansy Parkinson standing before him with a silver breakfast trey in her hands; it looked rather out of place with an emerald bracelet wrapped delicately around her wrist and genuine silk ribbon tied through her hair. Pansy had never carried a trey or served anyone in her life; seeing her with such would have made Draco laugh aloud had the grating pinprick sensation not been present.

"I saw an elf carrying this up here; I think I'd lose my appetite should one of those grotesque creatures ever served my breakfast. I thought you'd rather wake to my pretty face," Pansy smirked. Draco resisted the urge to roll his eyes at her complimenting herself.

"They do serve your breakfast, Pansy," Draco smarted through his pain. "Or do the Parkinson's no longer possess House Elves?"

"Why of course we do," Pansy narrowed her eyes. "I just prefer not to see their faces before I eat. They're rather ugly, don't you think?"

"Extremely," Draco nodded.

"Well," Pansy said awkwardly placing the tray on his bedside table. "Here you are."

"Thank you, Pans," Draco replied, remembering the manners his mother taught him while forcing his trademark smirk onto his face.

"Of course, Draco," she said sincerely, olive eyes melting slightly. "Are you feeling any better? Pain free?"

"Nearly," Draco shrugged; he didn't think she noticed his slight flinching when the serum's effects hit a rather sensitive nerve.

"You must be terribly bored in here," she said looking around he bare wing; rarely anyone reported injuries anymore preferring to heal within the confines and security of their dormitories.

"You have no idea," he huffed.

"It's been rather quiet without you; Crabbe and Goyle are much like lost puppies," Pansy smirked. "I've been rather bored myself."

"Have you?" Draco asked with a raised eyebrow ignoring her implication.

"Very much so," she nodded smoothing a lock of her straight dark hair behind her ear. "Everyone bores me."

"Everyone, you say?" Draco asked amused with a raise eyebrow, his pain momentarily forgotten.

"Be serious, Draco," Pansy glared. "I'm trying to talk to you."

"There's nothing to talk about," Draco shrugged; seeing Pansy's pained face caused him to flinch more so than the bodily pain he felt. "I didn't mean it like that," he said quickly glancing toward her stone eyes. "I can't right now."

"Your mission is over, Draco," Pansy reasoned. "You said—"

"I know what I said," Draco interrupted. "Things change, Pansy."

People change, his brain added.

"I understand," she nodded, the hurt nearly erased from her delicate features. "Just know I'm always here for you should you need me."

"I know," Draco nodded.

"Right, well, I should be going to breakfast," she said with a sigh. "I do hope you are released soon. It's odd not having you around."

"I hope so too, Pans," Draco waved halfheartedly.

Once her petite form was on the other side of the large doors, Draco released a shaky breath he'd withheld; part of him wanted to believe it was merely caused by the suppressed pain, another knew it was partially provoked by the conversation he'd just had with Pansy. He knew it had to happen sooner or later, and the easiness of it all surprised him slightly. She didn't fight him on his decision; although this could be reduced down to an act of self-preservation, Draco had a feeling that Pansy was not as emotionally invested in their romantic relationship as he previously thought. Maybe she missed the familiarity of it, but in some way, he knew she noticed that something was different, he was different. Either way, it was a relief. Romance or not, Pansy had always been one of his closest friends; he wasn't ready to let that go. Not yet.

Not bothering to look at the contents of the breakfast tray, Draco closed his grey eyes again and began to count once more. Several times his brain forgot the numbers as his brain drifted to his conversation with Ginny Weasley. We need you, she said with such conviction and certainty it shocked him. Like Luna, she thought he would fight with them; he wished he was as certain as they were. Part of him hoped they were right. After counting past 500 three times only to forget his place, Draco gave up counting and opened his eyes as Madam Pomfrey's shoes clacked against the stone floor.

"It's been an hour now, Mr. Malfoy," she stated. "Has the pain dulled down to a slight ache at this point?"

Focusing on his body, Draco was surprised that his pain had all but disappeared; he was still a bit uncomfortable with the sensation, but it was bearable. Responding that it had, Madam Pomfrey gave him a curt not before applying another serum that left his leg feeling slightly chilled and blissfully painless. He resisted sighing in relief. After wrapping his leg once more, Madam Pomfrey stood back and looked at him with a determined gaze.

"I would like to keep you another night to be sure of your progress, " she began; Draco's face fell. "I'm sorry, Mr. Malfoy, but as the school nurse, I am obligated to keep you here until you are physically well enough to be discharged. Another day and night will not kill you."

No, it won't kill me, Draco thought bitterly. The same can't be said for others.

"Madam Pomfrey," Draco pleaded. "Please, I'll come back tomorrow for a check up, but please, I—"

"My answer is final, Mr. Malfoy," Madam Pomfrey interrupted.

"There's nothing I can say then?" Draco spat with steel grey eyes, dark and unflinching.

"I'm afraid not," Madam Pomfrey clipped. "As I said, that is my final answer."

"Very well then," Draco gritted out. He wasn't staying another second; he couldn't.

"You'll be in your own bed sooner than you think," Madam Pomfrey stated with a nod before cleaning up the area around him and returning to her chambers.

With out a moment of hesitation, Draco made his move. Swinging his legs off of the bed, Draco delicately placed his feet on the cool stone floor before easing himself up. His leg was weak and sore, but it felt good to be standing. Taking a hesitant step, Draco felt his leg muscles protest slightly, but he pushed more. Madam Pomfrey insisted he stay another day and night, but he didn't have a choice; he had places to be, and his leg wasn't going to stop him. Gathering his things, Draco shrunk his bedding and pillows down to portable size before placing them within his breast pocket. Transfiguring his emerald silk pajamas into a black slacks and a dark grey button up, Draco slipped on his dragon hide shoes that had not been destroyed in the fire and left the sallow hospital wing. His lack of socks caused the hard material to dig into his feet uncomfortably, but he didn't care, he couldn't.

Slipping through the tall wooden doors, Draco released a sigh of relief at the familiar smell of the castle. The hospital wing had it's own distinct smell, that of medicinal herbs and iron, but the castle was different. It was a combination of home and fresh air, parchment and aging stone, bitter chills and failed potions. It was something unique and unable to be reproduced outside of the castle. However, Draco knew he would have to revel in the freshness later; Madam Pomfrey would realize he was missing soon enough. He knew he would get into trouble later for leaving the hospital wing, but he had no other choice. Luna needed him.

With a newfound sense of determination, Draco made his way towards the potion room hoping to catch Professor Slughorn before his first morning class. His leg ached with the new movement and strain, but Draco merely gritted his teeth against the pain and continued on. Nothing could deter him now. As soon as the potions room came into view, after climbing multiple sets of stairs, Draco upped his pace and slipped into the room. As he had hoped, Professor Slughorn was preparing brewing stations for the first class of the day. He was too busy mumbling to himself to notice Draco's presence.

"That goes there," the potions professor whispered. "And this here, and, oh where did I put that? Merlin's beard, I swear I—"

"Professor," Draco drawled languidly; despite his calm tone, the chubby professor jumped in fright.

"Oh! Draco, um, Mr. Malfoy, you gave me a nasty shock there," he wheezed out as his face flushed red. "You're all well now, eh? Ready to get back into potions?"

"Yes sir," Draco nodded being sure to amp up the manners his mother instilled into him at a young age. "Actually, that's what I came to ask you about."

"Your work as always been impeccable, nearly perfect even," Professor Slughorn professed, small beads of preservations appeared at his temple. Draco knew at once that his presence made the professor nervous. "Surely your not worried your absence will effect your exam results?"

"No sir," Draco assured him. "I'm merely curious about a potion and wondered if perhaps you could tell me something about it."

"Potions are my forte," Slughorn chuckled anxiously. "To what potion are you referring to then?"

"I'm not sure actually," Draco confessed. "But I know its effects."

"Alright then," Slughorn nodded encouraging Draco to continue.

"Well, Professor, it, um—" Draco struggled to find the right words to assuage the potion professor's nerves; Draco feared Slughorn would think he wanted to make the potion. "It causes hallucinations of sorts, numbness. That sort of response."

"Well, Mr. Malfoy, there are a number of potions that cause hallucinations, as I'm sure you're aware," Slughorn sighed as he lifted a cup of tea to his lips; Draco wondered if there was more than just tea in the cup. "I'm afraid I won't be able to tell you about a single potion with just that description."

"Right, well, these hallucinations are rather specific, for they make one unaware of self-harm," Draco continued looking down. "The person who comes into contact with this potion more-or-less self-destructs."

"What you're talking about is a cursed poison," Slughorn bellowed as the teacup and saucer rattled in his shaking hands. "As I've told your friends throughout the year, I will not be teaching such brews. Not only is it against school policy, but it is unethical!" he stammered. "I-I think it's best if you go, Mr. Malfoy. I'll see you in our lessons. Out you go," he shooed the Slytherin toward the door with a red face.

"I want to know how to counteract it," Draco blurted as Slughorn touched the door handle; his plump hand stilled.

"Counteract?" Slughorn questioned in a whisper as he stared at the door not daring to look at the student beside him. "If you wish to do so, that must mean the poison is already in use," he reasoned to himself. "It is, Mr. Malfoy? Is this poison being used within the castle?" he asked in a quivering voice.

"It is, Professor," Draco confessed.

"Merlin's beard," Slughorn whispered. "Who? I need to know who is using it. They must be dealt with immediately."

"There's nothing that can be done," Draco replied with meaningful gaze. "I just need to know how to counteract it. Please, Professor. It's vital."

"It's been used on a student then," Slughorn rasped. "How long ago?"

"Last night."

"There's still time," Slughorn nodded going over to his cabinet. "Bring the student to me at once or I can go to the Slytherin dorms myself."

"The student isn't in Slytherin, sir," Draco responded quietly.

"Who is the afflicted?"

"I can't tell you that," Draco confessed looking away.

"Mr. Malfoy, you must—"

"I can't, Professor. I would if I could, but I can't. Trust me on this."

"Very well," he sighed with apprehension. Picking up a piece of parchment, Draco watched as the professor scribbled messily with a trembling hand. "Here are the basic ingredients used for the brew. Unfortunately, there are many variations of the cursed poison; it's called the Caecusium Deleo, or, rather, the—"

"Blind Death," Draco winced clutching the parchment tightly within his grasp.

"Correct," Slughorn nodded somberly. "Blind Death."

"So, if it varies, how do you know which ingredients to use in order to counteract the potion?" Draco asked with furrowed brows. He felt like he was wasting time; Luna needed the cure, the counter-potion before it was too late.

"Therein lies the problem," Slughorn sighed. "You don't. You have to discover the exact ingredients used to make the poison before it can be reversed or cured."

"What if the exact in ingredients can't be found out?" Draco asked urgently.

"I-I don't know," Slughorn exasperated reaching his plump hands up to scrub his face.

"It's not an option," Draco said resolutely. "I'll find them out. One way or another."

"Be safe, Mr. Malfoy," Slughorn murmured lowly, as if he knew his words were empty.

"It's too late for that," Draco responded. "Thank you for this," he added lifting the parchment slightly.

"Should you need any ingredients, you know where my chambers reside."

"Thank you, Professor," Draco nodded. "I hate to ask, Professor, but could you keep this between just you and me?"

"I—well, okay," Slughorn nodded hesitantly. "Be on your way now."

Without a word in response, Draco ducked out of the potions room glancing around the corridor for any sign of Madam Pomfrey; he was sure she was aware of his escape by now. Perhaps she didn't care; Draco knew he didn't. As he took another step, Draco felt a burning sensation against his chest. Ignoring it, he continued to walk, but the heat only intensified leaving a horrid scalding in its wake. Digging into his breast pocket, Draco pulled out the galleon Ginny Weasley gave him; he nearly dropped it as the surface sizzled against his fingers.

Anything yet? it read.

As Draco read the words, the coin cooled to a reasonable temperature; this is what Ginny meant by touching it. Shaking his head at the cleverness of it all, Draco scanned the corridor quickly before pulling out his own wand as he thought of a response to send. There was only a limited amount of space on the coin, and he struggled to think of message that was both clear and concise.

Called the Blind Death. Going to find out ingredients now.

After only half a minute, the coin warmed in his hand.

Ingredients? Ginny responded.

Need ingredients to counteract them. Must be exact.

Alecto is the only one that will know, Weasley sent back.

I know. Keep her safe. Draco said; he hesitated in adding the second part, but he knew it's what he wanted to say, needed to say.

We will.

Shoving the coin back into his pocket, Draco made his way down to the Slytherin dorms in order to change into something other than transfigured pajamas. He also worried that his belongings would tumble from the breast pocket at anytime; he couldn't deal with anything else at the moment. He needed to focus. Luckily, the first class of the day had just begun and the dormitory was blissfully empty. Draco quickly slipped into his shared room before rummaging through his wardrobe for suitable clothing. Throwing on a white button down, black slacks, and his robes, Draco felt more in control as a wave of confidence overtook him. He could do this; he had to do this. Looking in his mirror with resolution etched into his face, Draco gave himself a curt not before leaving the dormitory. The charmed galleon was situated snugly in his robe pocket.

Once more, he trekked through the stone corridors with a determined expression as he made his way to the Muggle Studies classroom. Though his face was like stone, Draco could feel the clamminess of his palms, the increasing rate of his heart, and the panicked dread situated in his stomach. This encounter determined everything, and it was one that could end very badly at any moment. He made it to the room five minutes before class was to be dismissed, so he stood outside the door listening to the lessons. However, everything Alecto Carrow was teaching to the class was something he'd heard before at his home.

"Muggles are perhaps the lowest of the low," Alecto Carrow's voice sounded within the classroom. "They are idiots incapable of anything; they're too stupid to notice the magic around them. They are barbarians, animals…" she droned on, but Draco stopped listening. After all, he'd heard it all before.

However, he did find it curious that the class was rather silent; no one asked a question, no one dared to contradict Alecto Carrow, and there was really no teaching at all. Running his hands through his hair, Draco released a deep sigh. She had no proof, he realized; her entire lesson, if it could be called such, was based entirely on her own opinion, her own bigotry. He wondered how he'd never noticed such before. As far as Draco knew, he'd never met a muggle, but he knew wizards raised by muggles. They seemed to disagree wholly with the teachings of his childhood; perhaps they were right to do so. After all, they were the ones who had firsthand experience with muggles.

Too much right now, Draco thought to himself. I have to focus.

When the students were dismissed, Draco found himself watching as less than twenty students exited the room; most were Slytherins. However, he was quick to hide his shock, for as the last student, a mousy Ravenclaw with watery eyes, exited the room with his head bowed low, Draco slipped through the door. Standing at the front of the room was Alecto Carrow, a plump woman with slumped shoulders and red hair; her face twisted into a cruel smirk when she saw Draco Malfoy stroll into her classroom.

"Malfoy," she gave a curt nod of greeting.

"Professor Carrow," Draco responded forcing himself not to grit out her name.

"Come for a Muggle Studies lesson?" she asked with a raised eyebrow.

"No, unlike others in this school, I was taught properly since birth; thank Merlin they finally appointed someone who can actually teach this forsaken course," Draco huffed with feign annoyance. "I've actually come for some advice."

"Advice?" Alecto asked with an interested gleam in her normally dull eyes.

"Yes, advice or rather just a bit of knowledge. I remembered this summer how a prisoner of yours was afflicted with this fantastic magic. He ripped his nails off, gauged his eyes out, and banged his head on the stonewall all day. I am wondering what influenced him to do so."

"Ah yes," Professor Carrow said with a sadistic smile. "I know exactly the man, if you can call him that, of which you speak. Muggle sympathizer," she spat. "I'll tell you, Draco, it's a potion, some would say poison, that causes hallucinations to where they attack themselves unknowingly. It's incredible to watch them come to reality after an episode where their fingers are chopped off, their teeth have been ripped out, or eyeballs are rolling around on the ground," she explained with a wheezing laugh.

"What kind of potion is this?" Draco inquired as he added a spark of excitement into his grey eyes while forcing down the bile that rose in his throat. "That sounds like the kind of effects I'm interested in."

"Someone in mind?" Alecto asked, the sides of her mouth quirked up in elation.

"I have a few," Draco shrugged nonchalantly. "Could you help me, Professor?"

"It's known as the Blind Death," Alecto told him; he nodded along as if he'd never heard of such. "It's a unique potion because it has base ingredients but others can be added to amplify or add other side effects."

"I see," Draco said. "What do you add to yours?"

"What makes you think I add anything to mine?" she smirked.

"I don't foresee a basic potion being good enough for you," Draco replied in false flattery. "Not when there is the opportunity for greater effects that show off not only a knowledge of potions but the creativity associated with such."

"So much like your father," Alecto chuckled. "However, you are right. I have my own secret ingredients to add within the potion base."

"Which are?" Draco prompted; however, he detected a slight edge of desperation in his own voice. Judging by Alecto's narrowed eyes, she did too.

"My own, Malfoy," she said.

"Sorry, Professor," Draco responded with a nod. "I didn't mean to pry. I just found the effects to be outstanding."

"Yes, they are," Alecto nodded. "What has you so interested in this potion all of a sudden?"

"I find that there are people within the castle that need a reminder of who they're dealing with. I'm sure you've heard of my stay in the hospital wing?" Draco inquired.

"I did, yes," Professor Carrow nodded. "I do wonder how you planned on retaliating against who ever attacked you; last I heard you had no idea who the person was."

"I have my suspicious. Whether I subject the guilty person or a friend of theirs is of no consequence to me. The message remains," Draco responded with an air of nonchalance.

As soon as the words left his mouth, Draco saw Alecto's face light up; he could tell she wanted to say something because she pinched the corners of her mouth together tightly. Her hands remained clasped behind her back, but he could tell she was twiddling her fingers out of his sight. She was like a child with a secret, bursting to tell at any moment. Instead, her mouth remained pursed and she flicked her wand to tidy up the papers on her desk; Draco's eyes followed her every movement. Finally, she looked at him, and her pinched smile grew wide.

"You'll be happy then to hear about the newest inflicted," Alecto said with a vicious grin. "The girl who was kept in the cellar, the Lovegood girl, I ran into her last night and snagged her arm with my wand. She didn't realize it at the time, but I'm sure she's off somewhere now pulling out that straggly hair," Alecto laughed wheezily.

Draco stared at the squat woman before him; he could feel his anger rising in his stomach. His chest felt tight, his skin hot. Alecto was proud of what she'd done to Luna, found it funny. Draco's finger's tensed in attempt to restrain himself from grabbing his wand. He wanted nothing more than to curse the vile woman, leave her blubbering and incoherent for her brother to find. After all, Amycus was the only one who would care.

"Maybe she'll pull one of those big eyes out! Oh, wherever they are hiding, I'm sure her friends are having a grand time with her!" she laughed harder, her breath coming out in small pants. "Oh, Draco, don't look so sullen. You couldn't keep to yourself forever."

"No, I couldn't," Draco said through grit teeth.

"She's better left dead anyway," Alecto shrugged. "This world has no room for people of her kind. Ignorant, stupid idiots, all of them! Like I said, better dead than alive. Although, I'm sure Greyback would love to have another go at her. He wanted to tear her limb from limb. Perhaps we should find and hand her over."

"No," Draco spat before his mind could stop him.

Alecto's dark eyes met his quickly. He knew what she was seeing. Draco Malfoy, red faced and obviously bothered at the mention of a blood traitor's death. He was seething. He felt every inch of his body burning with hatred for the woman; she stood there with defiant eyes and a sarcastic smirk. It only made his blood boil hotter.

"No?" she challenged. "What has you so bothered, Little Malfoy?" she taunted.

"You attacked a student," Draco stated, his grey eyes nearly black. "Doesn't that go against your position as a professor?"

"People like her shouldn't be at Hogwarts," Alecto seethed. "Salazar Slytherin fought for it to be so, but the other three weak imbeciles allowed anyone who could cause a leaf to flutter within the castle! They don't deserve magic!"

"She's a pureblood," Draco blurted out; his hand grasped the wand in his robe pocket so tightly he thought it nearly broke in half.

"Her? A pureblood? I doubt it," Alecto chuckled. "Liars, the lot of them! Don't tell me you've grown soft towards the girl? Was it her big blue eyes? Her plump lips? Did she do whatever you asked of her? Whatever you forced her to do with that wand of yours?" she teased him with a smirk full of accusation.

"What did you put in the poison, Alecto?" Draco glared.

"You will never find out," Alecto spat. "You don't have the guts for it, Little Malfoy. You never have, and you never will. Put your wand away before I show you how to use one."

"What is in the poison? What did you add?" Draco repeated. "Tell me!"

"Weak little boy trying to play with the grownups still?" Alecto Carrow teased. "Give it up, Draco; I'll make your suffering dull in comparison to the stupid girl's."

"I won't ask again," Draco warned. "I'll force it out of you if I must."

"You don't have the guts," Alecto smirked. "You'll never truly be one of us."

As she continued to taunt him, Draco felt every disappointment he'd ever caused. He could feel his father's steel grey eyes on his back, the heavy burden of being the only Malfoy heir, the son of Lucius Malfoy. Draco knew he'd yet to live up to his father's expectations, and he wondered if he ever could, if he even wanted to. As Alecto Carrow, the woman who wanted to kill Luna Lovegood, stood before him mocking him and the severity of the situation, he knew she was right. He didn't have the guts for it. He didn't have what it takes to kill innocent people, he didn't have the ability to torture people for fun, to watch people die over and over again. He didn't have what it takes to worship a man who wanted nothing more than power and control over people, to kill those who opposed him. Draco wanted none of it; he couldn't do it. However, there was something he could do: He could save Luna.

"You're right," Draco agreed. "I won't be one of you."

Without hesitation, Draco pulled his wand from his robe pocket and aimed it directly at Alecto Carrow. He shouted the disarming spell as she aimed her own wand at him; she may be more experienced, but he was faster. Without a means to protect herself, Alecto Carrow scrambled for her wand, but once again, Draco was faster.

"Incarcerous!" Draco cast before watching ropes shoot from the end of his wand to wrap around Aleco Carrow's squat frame. Struggling against her confines, she glared at the young man before her with so much hatred and fury, he could feel the heat of her stare. "Tell me what you added, Alecto," he asked once more.

"I'm going to enjoy killing you," she fumed.

"Very well," Draco said with a nod. With a deep sigh, he knew he only had one option left; it had to be done. "Imperio."

As the spell left his lips, Professor Carrow's face, previously contorted with resentment, relaxed and adopted a tranquil sereneness Draco was sure had never before been on her face. However, he could see her eyes resisting the Unforgiveable Curse, so he pushed his magic deeper into the wand. Her eyes glazed over at once. He knew it was wrong, unforgivable most would say, to take control of another human in this way, but there was no other option. He had to save Luna.

"Now," Draco said severely, "tell me what you added to the potion."

"Coca leaves and poppy petals," Alecto said sweetly; Draco was taken aback at the softness of her voice. "They are both used to make muggle potions called drugs. I thought it would be ironic."

"Did you do anything else to the potion? Alter it in any way?" he asked tightening his grip on the wand his mother loaned him.

"No, I just dipped my wand into it and stabbed that girl. Such an odd thing, she is. Don't you think? I hate her; I hate all of these children," she sighed wistfully.

"The feeling is mutual," Draco gruffed. "Remember none of this; you never saw me today," he commanded before lowering his wand and releasing her from his hold. As he walked towards the door, he flicked his wand over his shoulder making the ropes wrapped around her disappear.

Closing the door behind him, Draco let out a huge gust of air trapped in his lungs. His hands were clammy once more; he wiped the nervous perspiration on his black trousers before raking a hand through his hair. He did it; he knew the additions to the potion. Now all he had to do what counteract the original and get it to Luna as quickly as possible. With no time to waste, he grabbed the galleon from his pocket and tapped it with his wand.

Got the ingredients. Going to make the counter potion now, he sent to Ginny; he response was immediate.

Hurry, Malfoy, was all she replied back; it was enough for him to know that something was going wrong. The poison, even in Luna's Bewitched Sleep, was progressing; he had to act quickly. Shoving the coin back into his pocket, Draco ducked his head and made his way to the potions classroom eager to get the brew going so that he could save her, so he could see her. His leg protested the entire way, but he ignored it with ease. It was nothing compared to the pain he'd feel should anything happen to Luna Lovegood; he knew this.

I'm coming Luna, he thought to himself. Just hold on a little longer.

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