Hey all! Okay, so maybe I over-estimated my time management skills, but it's only a week late, right?! Anyway, I hope this chapter will appease you for a while, I'm not sure when I'll be able to get the next chapter out, but I am hopeful that it won't be TOO long. This chapter didn't go in the direction I had intended, (meaning it didn't follow my outline at all... grr) but I swear, it's not my fault! Hermione just DIDN'T want to leave the Manor! Anyway, Hermione's stubbornness aside, I will try to force the plot into the direction I want for the next update.
NOTE TO DRACO LOVERS
I know many of you are wondering why this is a Hermione/Draco story. To be honest, I did not realize the story would be so long, or that 4th year and the summer following it would take so long. I PROMISE that Draco will become an active member of the story once 5th year starts. It's basically impossible for him to play a part in the story at this point since there is no way for them to interact at all. I hope you can be patient with me for a while longer, I am sorry to those who are disappointed though, I admit, I wish Draco were involved in the plot more as well.
Anyway, I will not keep you any longer, enjoy!
Discalimer: I own nothing but the plot and the Snape brothers.
Chapter 22 - Quidditch and Politics
I awoke the next morning with the distinct feeling of being watched. Figuring I was just being paranoid, I snuggled further into the comforters wanting to sleep for a few more minutes. Feeling the bed dip, I wiggled and twisted so I could face whoever was occupying the side of my bed. I pulled the covers away from my face sleepily.
"Hmm... wha-what time is it?" I murmured tiredly.
"It's nine am, sweetheart," my father said softly, gently stroking the hair away from my face. "Think you want to get up soon? It's your last day here."
"Mmm I know... I suppose I should be getting up," I said with a sigh.
"Yes, yes, you should, even the boys are awake, if not actually up."
"Well, in that case..." I said mockingly with a laugh.
"Indeed. Come down when you're ready, I'll have the table set."
Stretching luxuriously I lay back content. I had quickly gotten used to the life of luxury that Snape manor provided. I was by no mean spoiled; my mother's home – in many ways, my real home – was quite simple. We lived in a normal, middle-to-high class family home; nothing particularly special. In comparison, Snape manor is a castle fit for royalty. I wished I could stay here for the rest of the summer. I didn't want to leave my family, but at the same time, I want to see Harry and Ron. Sighing, I reluctantly dragged myself out of bed and trudged over to the washroom. In thirty minutes I was fresh, awake, and ready for the day. I wandered leisurely into the kitchen and was surprised to see all three boys sitting neatly at the table waiting for me.
"What's all this?" I asked with a laugh, looking to my father for an explanation.
"It's your last morning here, I thought we should all have breakfast together," he replied with a slight smile.
It never failed to amaze me that the professor whom we all thought was evil and horrible could be so kind, could even smile and express his love and affection for his family. It was still so strange to think he was not always the stern and forbidding man I had spent three years avoiding.
"Thanks, dad, breakfast together would be great," I said warmly.
"Great, so, what's the plan for today?" Aleks asked as I sat down to join them.
"Dunno, what do you guys wanna do?" Blaise replied.
"I guess we could play a round of Quidditch," Malik suggested.
"Hey dad, you should play!" I added. "You can play two-on-two, and I'll watch. We all know I'm bullocks at Quidditch, and I've never seen dad play."
"Yeah, good idea," the boys agreed.
We all turned to look at him pleadingly.
"Please, daddy?" I asked sweetly, putting forth my best puppy-dog look.
"I suppose, I could play a round or two," he drawled in mock exasperation.
"Awesome!" we exclaimed grinning.
So we finished our breakfast and the boys trooped off to get their gear. I took my time and helped my father clear the kitchen.
"So did you play Quidditch when you were in Hogwarts?" I asked curiously.
"No; I could have, but the selections for the Slytherin Quidditch team was not based on merit... it was a political issue,"
"What do you mean, political?" I asked confused. I could see nothing political about Quidditch, it was just a sport!
"Of course, a Gryffindor wouldn't see anything political about it," he said mockingly.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It isn't an insult, Mia, it is just a statement of fact," he said kindly. Sitting down, he indicated that I too should take a seat.
"Okay, then what do you mean by that?" I asked.
"In Slytherin, everything is politics. Who you sit with, what you do, how you do it. Everything. It all comes down to who you are."
"So like Malfoy, then? " I asked, trying to sort out the idea in my head.
"Yes, like Malfoy. It isn't about popularity, in Slytherin; it's about power, and who has the most of it," father said seriously. "Everything down to the Quidditch team list is decided based on both internal house politics and real-world politics. Actual talent, rarely factors in."
"Well that seems terribly unfair... isn't it regulated somehow?"
"It is unfair. And it should be regulated by the head of house, but in the case of Slytherin, and my case in particular, the issue was solved with bribery and threats. I went to school with some children from very powerful families, Mia."
"Oh, I had no idea... does this mean that even now, as head of Slytherin, you have to play the same political game from the other end?"
"Yes, although it is less complicated for me since they don't need to threaten me, nor should they, considering my perceived loyalties."
"I always thought you were well respected in your house during your Hogwarts years... at least that's how it always seems," I said, confused by the conflicting information.
"Yes, I was respected, but not because of my lineage. I earned that respect... albeit in the all the wrong ways, but in Slytherin, I made a name for myself due to my intelligence and ruthlessness... Slytherin house is not kind to those who are weak, or perceived to be weak. I gained respect, but I am not proud of my methods, and I would not wish for you or the boys to carry on in my footsteps," he said seriously.
"I never knew things were so difficult in Slytherin, I almost feel bad for them now – almost – I still think Slytherins are all a bunch of nasty buggers."
He barked out a laugh before saying, "I admit, many of them are, nasty buggers, as you so eloquently put it, but I think you can see now that they are not all so horrible."
"True, I mean Blaise isn't so bad, and you were a Slytherin and I like you just fine," I said giving him a cheeky grin.
"I am pleased to see you and Blaise getting along, you are family now."
"I know, and I think as long as we avoid certain topics or people, Blaise and I will get along just fine."
"Good, but don't forget, when you go back to Hogwarts you cannot be lenient towards him, nor he towards you."
"I know," I said with a sigh. I hated pretending to despise my family, I only hope that it won't strain my relationship with Blaise now that we have finally found common ground.
"All right, I'm going to get my gear and I'll meet you and the boys outside," father said as he put away the last plate.
Three hours later three muddy, sweaty, exhausted boys slumped into the house followed by father who was also tired, but considerably less grimy. I followed them in and went to wait in the sitting room while they all showered and changed. It had been a long and somewhat vicious match. Father teamed up with Aleks while Malik and Blaise played on the other team. It was necessary to split the boys up so that the game would be fair in terms of communication. If Aleks and Malik were on the same team they could coordinate their movements with their mental connection and the other team wouldn't know a thing. This division put both teams on fairly even playing ground. Malik and Blaise lost the match, but it was unfortunate because they were the ones that caught the snitch but father and Aleks still had more points so they won. Suffice it to say that Malik and Blaise were feeling a bit sore about the loss. I really shouldn't have been surprised; boys really do take Quidditch too seriously and for the life of me I cannot understand why. Blaise and Malik were even more peeved because they lost even with the handicap!
I followed the boys upstairs and jumped up onto Malik's bed, laying back and relaxed as Malik went to grab some clean clothes. Aleks and Blaise each went to their respective rooms to shower and change but would meet back here. Sighing, I closed my eyes. I wish I didn't have to leave today.
*Same here, love,* Malik thought back.
*Sorry, didn't mean to broadcast... I guess I'm still not used to this thing,* I apologized.
*That's all right, you caught on more quickly than I would've expected,* Aleks chimed in, *and I'm with Malik on this one; I wish you didn't have to leave either.*
*I know, boys, I know. But I suppose it's for the best.*
*How do you mean?* Aleks asked.
*Well, after everything that happened last year, I figure Harry could really use the support and things are getting more tense so I really think it's important I be with them right now.*
*I guess that makes sense... I don't think I like you being in the middle of all that though,* Malik said with a note of frustration.
*You don't have to like it, but you sure have to live with it. I have no intention of abandoning Harry, least of all when he needs me most," I said haughtily
*All right, all right, don't get into a huff about it, I was just saying that I wish you weren't such a big target,* Malik reasoned.
*We just want to look out for you, Kyla,* Aleks said.
*I know you do, but I am fully capable of taking care of myself.*
*Maybe so, but we get to worry about you, love,* Aleks said reasonably.
"Exactly," Malik agreed as he stepped out of the washroom.
"All right, I know you worry, I've already gotten that lecture from dad," I said in exasperation. I know they love me, but I am hardly a child! Deciding it was better to change the subject, I asked what the plan was for the rest of the day.
"Dunno, how 'bout we grab a snack and play some cards by the lake?" Blaise suggested as he and Aleks joined us in Malik's room.
"Sounds good to me, I'll go grab us some picnic blankets and food while you boys get ready," I said jumping off the bed.
I stood by the front door with two large baskets and a small pile of blankets.
"Geez, Kyla, what'd you do? Pack up the whole kitchen?" Aleks asked quirking his brow in a very Snape-like fashion.
"Heh, funny, but no," I said sarcastically, rolling my eyes for added effect. "You three are likely to eat twice as much as normal since you've been playing Quidditch all morning, and none of us have had lunch yet, so I think this should be enough... you'll thank me when you've gone through both baskets."
"Fair enough," he conceded.
"Okay, everyone grab something, and let's go!" I chirped happily
We spent the remainder of the afternoon lounging around, playing cards, and generally enjoying each other's company. Around five, we packed up and started back toward the house. I linked my arm through Malik's as we meandered away from the lake.
"What's up, Kyla?" Malik asked, nudging me slightly.
"Nothing... just enjoying being with you guys... I'm really going to miss you when I leave," I replied quietly, resting my head against his shoulder.
"Yeah," he sighed.
Entering the house, we deposited all our things and went off in search of father. We found him in the library, hidden away in one of the obscure corners of the room. This was certainly the one room I would miss the most. The ambiance was reminiscent of the Hogwarts library, but felt much cosier.
"What've you been up to dad?" I asked, joining him on the couch.
"Just some light research, nothing particularly interesting; how was your afternoon?" he asked, directing the question to the group of us.
"Pretty good, I guess we were just enjoying our last day with Hermione," Aleks replied.
"Very good," father said with a nod. "Come, we should all have an early dinner tonight, Hermione needs to leave in a few hours."
"I'm not sure I want to leave anymore," I said sadly.
Smiling slightly, father put his arm around me. "You may feel that way now, but I am certain you will be happy to see your friends when you arrive."
"Yes, I suppose I will," I said noncommittally as I looked up at him.
After a pleasant meal with the whole family, I was ready to leave. Father had sent my bags along ahead of time, so I didn't have much to take with me. I stood arm-in-arm with both Malik and Aleks while we waited for father to join us in the foyer. I knew that this would be the last time I would see them until the summer since I would be expected to go to the Burrow for Christmas. I would at least get to see Blaise and father during the school year.
"All right, Mia, are you ready to go?" father asked as he came down the stairs.
"I suppose so, yes," I answered quietly.
"Well, I guess I'll start the goodbyes," Blaise said, breaking the awkward silence. "I had fun this summer; I think I'm actually going to miss you, cuz!"
"Haha, I think I'll miss you too, Blaise... you're not half bad, you know," I said giving him a hug.
Turning from him, I gave each of my brothers a long hug.
*I'm really going to miss you boys,* I thought, trying to suppress my sudden urge to cry.
*I know, we're really going to miss you too sis,* Malik said with a sigh.
*Be safe, okay? We want you back in one piece next summer,* Aleks added, throwing in the last part to lighten the mood.
*I will,* I promised.
*All right then, off with you,* Malik said.
"Well, I will see you boys next summer," I said out loud. "Have a good term and do try not to cause too much havoc."
"Always a worthy goal, not one often fulfilled, however," Aleks said with a laugh.
"I know, the two of you are hopeless... much like another set of twins I know," I smirked, shooting a knowing glance toward my father.
"Very well then, we should be leaving," father said with finality.
"Bye, everyone!" I called out, as I walked out the front door. I could help but sigh sadly when the door shut.
"Now, Mia, there's no need to mope, you can speak to the boys whenever you like," father said, breaking the dull silence.
"I know...." I muttered, still feeling downcast. "But I won't get to see them until next summer!"
"Unfortunately, that is the reality of the situation. I'm sure once you settle into your routine, it won't seem so bad."
We reached the apparition spot at the end of the path. I turned back to look upon the Manor once more, trying to take in the view of what had come be my home. I would miss this place.
"Hermione?" my father called.
"Yes, dad?" I responded, pulling my gaze away from the Manor and turning my attention back to him.
"I know that you do not need the reminder, but I will say it anyway, be careful not to let slip anything about the family," he said seriously, placing both hands on my shoulders.
"Yes, father, I promise I will be careful," I said confidently, looking him straight in the eyes.
"Good, I expect no less from you. I will miss you though, Mia."
"I'll miss you too, dad," I said with a smile. "Can we still meet for tea like we did last year?"
"Of course, I see no reason why we couldn't."
"Great!" I said beaming up at him. I could feel my spirits lifting at the assurance that I would not be completely alone over the next year.
"Very well, I'll put the Glamour back on and then we should leave; Professor McGonagall will be waiting at the Leaky Cauldron for you."
"All right, I suppose if you must."
I closed my eyes as the familiar tingling sensation washed over me, followed by the stinging burn in my eyes as the eerie violet morphed back into an ordinary brown. I blinked furiously for a moment before reaching up and patting my hair with one hand. Frizzy brown again, I thought with a sigh. Shaking my frivolous thoughts from my head I stepped into my father's embrace as he prepared to apparate us to Diagon Alley.
We arrived smoothly in a dark, back alleyway. Well, father arrived smoothly, I, however, was clearly lacking in the grace department and stumbled as I tried to regain my footing. The only thing keeping me from crumbling to the ground in a heap was the firm grip of my father's arms around me.
"Don't say it," I grumbled, not needing to look up to know there was an arrogant smirk plastered to his face.
"Say what, sweetheart?" he asked innocently.
I didn't deem his inquiry worthy of a verbal response, so I chose to give him a withering glare instead. This only served to amuse him, as he let out a low chuckle before kissing me lightly on the forehead.
"Enjoy the rest of your summer and have a good term, Mia," he said gently.
"Thanks, dad," I said, while thinking, who knew that the dread professor Snape could sound so fatherly!
The Leaky Cauldron
A cloaked figure watched silently from across the bar as Snape marched into the pub trailed by the Granger girl. And where might you be going, my little Mudblood? the observer wondered idly as he continued to watch as the pair approached McGonagall.
"Minerva," Snape greeted curtly.
"Good evening, Severus, Hermione,"
"I have more important things to do than chauffeuring children around, Minerva. I trust you are capable of taking it from here?" he sneered derisively.
"Yes, quite." McGonagall replied primly, disapproval clear in her tone. "Come along, Miss Granger, the Weasleys are waiting for you," she said turning her attention to the girl.
The professors bid each other a terse farewell before McGonagall gathered the girl and left the pub. The observer was torn between following the girl and staying to watch Snape. Choosing to stay, the observer ordered another glass of firewhisky. Snape approached the bar and ordered a drink, while continuing to watch the girl leave. His expression was guarded and nonchalant, but the observer knew there was more to it. He had been told specifically by his employer to observe the potions Master's interactions with the girl. He didn't know why, but then again, he wasn't paid to ask questions. There appeared to be nothing unusual in Snape's behaviour, but just to be sure, the observer waited until the man left before following him out of the pub. Just as he stepped out, Snape disappeared around the corner and the observer heard the distinct pop of a person apparating out. Turning the corner to double check, he glanced around before he too apparated away to report to his mistress.
They had been watched. He was sure of it. Severus Snape was not a master spy for nothing, he could tell when he was being followed. That distinct tingle of another person's gaze was detectable to him even in a room as crowded as the bustling pub. The real question, however, was who was watching them, and why. Or rather, which of the three of them, was being watched. Either way, he would have to be careful, exposing his daughter was not an option. Sighing tiredly, he entered the house and returned to the library hoping to get some work done.
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