Blood & History
A deep frown had carved itself into Narcissa's face as she waved her wand across the board, examining the spell work written there. She was muttering to herself under her breath, shaking her head every few seconds.
Draco stood a few meters back, beside Hermione. His grey eyes were wide and his porcelain cheeks had gone ashen. He didn't seem to want to take his eyes from the faded chalk lines.
Hermione couldn't help biting her lip as she observed how drawn and tight his features were. She leaned toward him, whispering, "You look like you've seen a ghost."
He gulped, visibly, and nodded. "That's because I feel like I'm looking at one."
Narcissa whirled on her heel to face them, giving them both a start. "Miss Granger, would you—no, no. Draco, please, fetch Professor McGonagall, she'll want to see this."
The two students exchanged a glance. "Why Draco instead of me?"
Draco lowered his gaze, once more swallowing hard as he turned and walked to the exit. He didn't look up again as he stepped through the door. Frowning, Hermione met Narcissa's eyes. Draco's reaction unsettled her, but then again, he could simply be revisiting his old, cowardly attitude and not want to dwell this corridor alone.
Not that she could blame him.
"We do not yet know what the other classrooms in this corridor may hold, nor do we know who put this here. I'm equally concerned about that entity this first year you spoke of mentioned. There is the chance it was here, in this portion of the school all along, and something that child did triggered its release."
The girl offered a lifeless nod. She'd not thought of that. In her discussion with Harry, it hadn't occurred to her that the dame blanche might have been an entity somehow trapped here. But that still didn't explain what a creature like that was doing in Hogwarts in the first place, then.
"And, what we are reluctant to tell you . . . ." Narcissa sighed heavily as she stepped around the room in random, waffling directions. She twisted her wand in her fingers, her gaze upon the polished wood. "If there are more entities trapped in these rooms, and if they are related to what's on this board, then it could be extremely dangerous for you to traverse this portion of the castle without a pure-blood escorting you."
The Slytherin witch's explanation sent a chill up Hermione's spine, but she pushed it aside. "All right, but why?"
Narcissa turned her gaze on Hermione, once more. A smile lifted one corner of her mouth, and crinkled the fair, delicate skin beneath her eyes. "You are a force to be reckoned with, aren't you? All right, Miss Granger. I will tell you, because with as bright as you've proved yourself, it should be no great feat for you to handle such information."
Well, Hermione didn't like the sound of that at all—though she did delight in the hint of admiration she believed she heard in Narcissa Malfoy's voice. Nodding, she braced herself for whatever she might hear.
"As you know, pure-blood supremacy was not a new concept when the Dark Lord rose to power. It was an old idea, and an old way of life, he was trying to bring back. The darkest days of sanguimancy occurred during the height of pure-blood rule. For a very long time, we'd been made to believe it did not exist, that the tales of what it was used for mere fantasy."
Narcissa paused, then, She drew a long breath and let it out slow as she waved her wand over the teacher's desk, gently blowing away the dust. The surface clear, she settled back, sitting on the desk and crossing her legs at the ankles; the proper, ladylike way, Hermione noticed.
"Now, as I see evidence that sanguimancy actually existed, I must believe that those tales could be quite factual."
Understanding crashed through Hermione's mind, suddenly, like a gust of chilled air. "If the darkest days of blood magic were during the height of pure-blood supremacy, then that means—"
"Yes," Narcissa said, swallowing hard and fixing her gaze on the far wall. She couldn't look at the girl's face as she confirmed such a ghastly idea. Not when she still recalled those terrible screams, nor the look on her face as Bellatrix tormented her.
Not when she wondered would've become of the young woman, had her sister known how to wield such a terrible magic.
"One of the things for which sanguimancy was most commonly used was controlling Muggle-borns."
"Oh," Hermione said, simply, nodding again as she resisted the urge to just let her legs give out and land her, sitting, on the filthy floor. She'd know what Narcissa was going to say, yet she was still unprepared to hear it.
"And realizing the power of blood lead to terrible things," Narcissa continued, her voice hollow and distant. "We . . . we were told, in these stories, that some wizards found themselves fancying Muggle-born witches. Though, their hands were tied because they could not act without sullying their family lines and bringing disgrace upon their houses."
Narcissa opened her mouth to speak further, but closed it again, just as quickly. "I don't think I should say any more."
Hermione's lips were moving, words falling from between them, despite that she was certain she didn't want to hear any more. "No, no. Go on."
The elder witch chanced a hurried glance at the door, before she said, "All right, quickly then, before Professor McGonagall arrives. I fear this is not knowledge she wishes upon any student's mind. You mustn't tell her I've shared this with you."
Nodding, Hermione stepped close so that Narcissa could lower her voice. "I promise."
"The term Mudblood was taken quite literally at that time. And so . . . these wizards who wanted Muggle-born witches, but could not have them because of their blood status began experimenting. Crude transfusions, designed to purge them of their Muggle blood, and replace it with so-called pure wizarding blood. Transfusions were a Muggle convention, of course, but even the Wizarding world knew that they could go horribly wrong. They attempted to use the magic to make the blood work in the new body."
Hermione clamped her hand over her mouth as her stomach roiled. Wizards tried to fashion the witches they desired into pure-bloods?
The door creaked open behind them then, and Hermione shuddered before she could turn to face the back of the room.
There, Draco stood with Professor McGonagall. His gaze darted from Hermione's face to his mother's, and back. Giving a confused scowl as he shook his head, he was to Hermione's side in a blink.
He leaned down, bringing himself eye-level with her as he watched her face. "Granger, what's wrong?"
"I, um . . . ." Her stomach twisted again and she swallowed hard. She didn't even glance in Narcissa's direction, afraid the action would be telling. "I'm just not feeling very well."
Professor McGonagall's expression was grim, her eyes wide as she took in the blackboard's contents. "Seems I'm not feeling so well, myself. Mr. Malfoy, would you please escort Miss Granger to the hospital wing?"
Hermione frowned, though she was in no fit state to shake off Draco's hand as he slid his fingers around her elbow. "But Professor," she said weakly, her curiosity getting the better of her. "I don't want to go. I want to know what's in those other rooms, too."
"Miss Granger, given your history, I doubt I would have much luck keeping you and Mr. Potter out of this corridor. Therefore, I will save myself the trouble now and tell you that I will allow your involvement in our research of this corridor. But you will only do so as an assistant to myself, or Professor Malfoy. You are not to come here without one of us accompanying you. Do I make myself clear?"
Hermione swallowed again. Her stomach was still flipping and rolling— Narcissa Malfoy's revelations must've unsettled her more than she'd realized. At least she understood why the pure-bloods in the room had their hackles raised at the mere sight of that damned board.
"Perfectly, Professor," Hermione said, softly.
The Headmistress gave a sharp nod and then locked her unforgiving gaze on Draco's. "Now, Mr. Malfoy, if you would?"
"Right, of course. Sorry, Professor." Draco's fingers tightened ever so slightly—his hold firm, but gentle—around Hermione's elbow and he tugged her from the room.
Hermione didn't argue. She might've if she felt any better by the time they'd reached Madam Pomfrey's desk, but she hadn't. If anything, she thought perhaps she actually felt worse. Maybe she breathed in something down there.
Or maybe a corner of her mind kept imagining the sickening scenario of being kidnapped by some brutish, lovesick wizard and forced to endure experimental blood magic procedures.
After Hermione was settled in a bed, and Madam Pomfrey bustled away, she confided to Draco what his mother had said. For his part, the young man looked a bit sick himself, after she was finished.
"I knew the stories about controlling the Muggle-borns, but I didn't . . . I didn't know about the experiments."
"I bet they stopped telling those stories before our generation was even born," Hermione whispered. Grimacing, she choked down the medicinal concoction before her.
"Phew," she whispered, relieved at the instant settling of her stomach. "This stuff is fast acting."
"Yeah, that's not why she made you take one of the beds. It's for the side effect of severe dizziness that will hit if you so much as take a step."
Looking over the edge of the bed at the floor she winced, her head swimming for a moment.
He watched her cautiously, his hands out, as though prepared to catch her.
Forcing a gulp down her throat, she sat back, staring at him. "Are you . . . are you actually worried about me?"
Draco blinked rapidly and shrugged. "I dunno. Maybe."
Her eyebrows shot up her forehead.
She bit her lip and shifted against the pillow at her back. "It's just . . . bizarre. Never imagined you would show concern for me."
"Well, seeing as I never imagined showing concern for you, I'd say we're on even ground."
For a long, silent moment, she only held his gaze. And then she remembered she'd kissed him. Feeling a bit of warmth flare in her cheeks, she dropped her gaze into her lap.
She could tell he knew what she was thinking about, thanks to the sound of him awkwardly clearing his throat. Though Hermione didn't lift her eyes, she could see him step closer in her periphery.
"Granger? I know this may not be the best time to ask, but . . . why did you kiss me?"
Shrugging, she clasped her hands in her lap, twisting her fingers. "I don't know, really. I just . . . I just wanted to. It . . . I think it simply felt like one of those moments."
"One of those moments?" He echoed, his voice low.
Was he leaning closer? Nodding, she looked up—yes, he certainly was a bit closer, though from his demeanor, Hermione wasn't entirely sure he realized it. "Yeah. One of those moments that's just sort of perfect, and it feels right. No other way to explain it, really."
His eyebrows lifted, slipping beneath the fringe of his pale hair. "So if a moment like that happened again?"
Her breath shuddered out of her as she held his gaze, her cheeks warming all over again. "Then . . . I suppose I might kiss you, again."
Draco didn't know what came over him—but then, perhaps he did, and he simply didn't want to admit it. He leaned nearer, his gaze falling to her lips.
Her eyes drifted closed, yet snapped open immediately, her hand against his chest to still him. "Wait, I just drank that ghastly medicine!"
He chuckled. "Granger, if there's anyone accustomed to the pitfalls of hiding out in the hospital wing—like knowing what nearly every ghastly medicine in here tastes like—it's me."
"Reall? Is that to say you've developed a taste for such horrid concoctions?"
Draco tipped his head to one side, his gaze searching hers, and their faces still so very close to one another. "Certainly not. It just means I know what I'm willing to suffer through for a bit of something good."
Hermione leaned up, closing the distance to press her lips to his. After a moment of soft, gentle pressure, she fell back against her pillow, looking up at him, wide-eyed.
Opening his eyes to meet her gaze, he laughed. "Still worried about the taste?"
She couldn't help an embarrassed grin as she nodded.
"Fine," he said, scowling—yet, she recognized it as a feigned expression. "But this isn't over."
She and Draco looked up, startled. Honestly, she thought it a feat that he didn't jump away from her bedside the way he started.
"Harry, why are you yelling?"
As he reached her, he schooled his features, his gaze darting from Draco to Hermione. "Oh, no, sorry. Didn't . . . didn't realize. They said you're sick?"
"Some stomach thing," she said, forcing a smile. "I'll be fine. You two can go. If I need anyone fussing over me, Madam Pomfrey is right there."
Recognizing this as his cue to leave—she might not have intended it as such, but he was going to take it, anyway, before Potter could read anything into their interactions that would cause any trouble. With a wave and a curt nod, he turned on his heel and started away.
"Um, thank you for your help, Malfoy."
Draco gave a half-glance over his shoulder in acknowledgment of her words and kept walking.
"Draco Malfoy being helpful," Harry said, his face pinched in thought. "That may be the most troubling thing I've witnessed in a long time."
Hermione giggled as she pulled the thin blanket over herself. She kept her movements simple and delicate. After the dizzy spell from simply looking at the floor, she didn't want to risk a single harsh motion.
She was starting to feel sleepy. Forcing out a yawn, she hurriedly and quietly relayed to Harry what she'd learned about the history of sanguimancy. She also secured from him the promise that he wouldn't tell anyone—the same as she'd done with Draco.
At some point after, while he was still trying to figure out his own reaction to the information she'd revealed, Hermione had drifted off.
During the night, she awoke once, twice. Both times, she found Harry asleep in a chair pulled up to her bedside, both of his hands clasped around one of hers.