No, I'm not dead. No, this story has not been abandoned. I will not offer excuses only a nice long chapter as a peace offering...you guys still there?
I need her
I need this
The saddest songs can sing themselves, and just sing along
So if death's the answer, then the question is the trigger
And I'm just the firing pin.
Yeah I'm just a messenger
So if death's the answer, then the question is the trigger
And I'm just the firing pin.
And I'm just a messenger
Doomed to detonate on delivery-Boys Night Out
Draco hadn't thought he'd be able to sleep at all, but despite his mind's determination to keep him awake with details of his plan and a strong sense of anxiety, his body knew better. Within five minutes of stumbling into his bed he had entered a deep if restless sleep, which left him plagued with dreams of his mother wearing the cursed necklace he had planted and his father challenging him to a duel.
He awoke in what felt to him like no more than ten minutes, but in actuality was nearly three hours later. His first thought upon waking didn't go much further than to question the pounding in his head and wonder if he had indulged in a little too much contraband fire whiskey the night before. Noting briefly that Crabbe's characteristic snores were absent, Draco burrowed further under his silk sheets fighting to fall asleep again through what he imagined to be a fairly epic hangover.
He had just started to drift off again when realization hit him with such force that he imagined it was similar to wandering into the path of the Whomping Willow. All the pieces finally snapped together like a dismal puzzle. He wasn't tired and in pain due to fire whiskey but rather too much time spent in Granger's company and the pressing sense of anxiety that his current plan had brought on. Crabbe's snoring was absent because the rest of his friends were on their way to Hogsmeade, the same location that would play host to the event Draco himself had both brought about and dreaded.
And Draco was about to be late himself…not to join his housemates in Hogsmeade, but to a detention with McGonagall, a detention that Draco had secured purposefully in order to provide a foolproof alibi for himself. He had no doubt that suspicion would fall on him. Potter, Dumbledore, even most of his teachers were more than prepared to believe him capable of anything and it only irked him further that his indignant response to that prejudice was hampered by his subconscious knowledge that they were right.
Fighting down a rising sense of panic, Draco kicked off his sheets and placed his feet unwillingly on the dungeon floor that never seemed to warm regardless of the temperature outside Hogwarts' walls. Dressing quickly and doing his best to ignore the shaking of his hands, Draco made his way to McGonagall's office, grateful for once that the sub par transfiguration professor resided such a great distance from the Slytherin dormitories. The journey up several flights of twisting staircases and down portrait-lined hallways gave Draco time not only to think but also to calm his racing pulse. He noted with no small measure of disgust that he was actually sweating slightly, his nerves frayed far more than he was willing to admit even to himself.
Finally reaching his destination with no reasonable means of putting it off becoming immediately apparent to him, he forced his features into a semblance of his usual bored sneer and knocked firmly on McGonagall's door.
"Enter Mr. Malfoy," McGonagall's voice instructed immediately, which Draco did taking in his surroundings with no small measure of disgust.
It was not his first visit to McGonagall's office, his distaste for anything associated with Gryffindor and her incessant favoritism towards Potter and his little gang ensured that Draco ended up on her bad side often enough. But despite his repeated presence there, he never ceased to notice the relics of Gryffindor pride adorning the walls or the dusty tomes that covered nearly every available surface, open to random pages as though McGonagall constantly began research on a topic and then moved on to another without completing a single task. Even in his agitated state Draco felt an intense disdain for the professor perched on the edge of her desk eyeing him over the top of her spectacles as though he were the last person she wanted to see on a Saturday morning.
He had received near perfect marks in each of his Transfiguration classes, including an Exceeds Expectations O.W.L. He had been an ideal Transfiguration student excepting the recent unavoidable lapse in homework assignments, and yet McGonagall had never remotely warmed to him, insisting instead on looking down her nose at him as though he were somehow beneath her notice. The unbridled arrogance of such an idea stirred up anger strong enough to break through his nerves as he shut the door behind him with a little more force than was strictly necessary.
"Good morning, Mr. Malfoy," She greeted him, her tone as well as the pursing of her lips making it incredibly clear that she did not wish him a good morning at all. "I trust there is a suitable explanation for your tardiness."
Draco had to literally bite his tongue in order to silence the heated reply he wanted to make.
"Cat got your tongue, Mr. Malfoy?" McGonagall inquired dryly, clearly aware of the internal struggle he was currently embroiled in.
"Of course not, Professor," Draco answered as sweetly as he could manage, unable to resist making one further comment. "I don't see any cats here, Professor. Do you?"
To his surprise, McGonagall only gave a small chuckle and stood to circle around her desk and sit in the ornate and uncomfortably looking straight-backed chair that stood there.
"Since you have failed to turn in your Transfiguration homework twice in a row now, you must be falling behind in your understanding of the subject. You will take this book…"
At this point she levitated one of the biggest and most dust covered volumes from a nearby table into his hands, leaving him staggering slightly under the weight and wrinkling his nose at the dirt that was now beginning to drift onto his robes.
"…and copy the first chapter onto parchment, by hand, word for word. And do make sure you are retaining some of the information, Mr. Malfoy."
"But…" He sputtered, helplessly fighting down the urge to inform her exactly what he thought about her and her family for several generations back. "What do I do after that?"
She smiled her infuriating, tight-lipped smile once more, before dropping her eyes to the pile of parchment on her desk, clearly dismissing him.
"Why, then I would think a clever boy like you would realize you should begin on chapter two."
Draco merely gaped at the top of her head in disbelief for a few moments; in his mind already drafting the indignant letter he would send his father.
"Dear Father," He composed mentally, "It may concern you to know that students at Hogwarts, most notably your son, have been forced to transcribe ancient and most likely subversive texts. The purpose of this exercise is not only unclear but the manner in which the assignment of said task was given was belittling and insolent to myself and by extension the entire Malfoy name. I trust that you will look into a suitable punishment for this so called "professor". May I humbly suggest beheading?"
But no, his father was locked up in Azkaban and he could expect no further aid on that front. Besides, both the elder and younger Malfoy had far greater problems at the moment than undignified detentions. So swallowing his pride and his despair at how far his family had truly fallen, Draco hauled the book over to a desk set up in the corner with a stack of parchment and quills and began his mundane task.
The art of Transfiguration is one of the most unique and useful of the Wizarding arts. Often dismissed as merely an act of illusion creating, Transfiguration is actually far more powerful a skill than most of its' students realize. When an object, animal, or in cases of Animagi, a human subject, is transfigured it actually becomes something else rather than merely appearing to be something else. The distinction is important because although the subject of transfiguration can be returned to its original form, for the duration of its transfigured state it will have behave no differently than any other object or creature of that type.
Draco copied paragraph after paragraph, letting the words wash over him without taking any of them in, finding the chore surprisingly soothing as time went on. It was easy enough to lose himself in the monotonous task, concentrating on the scraping sound his quill made on the parchment for hours at a time gave him surprisingly little room in his head for thoughts of anything else, even thoughts of what might have been unfolding in Hogsmeade at that very moment.
"Maybe this is why Granger always has her head buried in a book," Draco thought absentmindedly as he took a moment to reach for a new sheet of parchment. "This is boring as hell but I can see the appeal of filling your head with something unlikely to lead to your death. So much less stressful…"
Objects that have been transfigured are not only impossible to definitively tell from true objects of that type, but such transfigurations are also only rarely breakable by a wizard or witch who did not cast the original spell, and so are prized as an excellent option for protecting objects. Rare exceptions to this rule are the extremely powerful and highly trained, usually limited to those reaching the Order of Merlin, and cases in which the original caster has died. Reports have been made mentioning cases of objects returning to their original form when put under intense and emotional scrutiny by someone closely connected to the caster of the original spell. These reports are unconfirmed, but at least one respected Wizard has theorized that this phenomenon is similar to the uncontrolled acts of magic performed by untrained and emotional wizards and witches before they have been properly trained. In part, his theory states, "Human beings are capable of the most magnificent and malevolent feats without any intention to accomplish either in advance. It is rather one of our most wonderful and dangerous traits."
Draco paused for a moment to re-read the section he had just copied, having been vaguely interested by the few sentences he had actually taken in.
No doubt noticing the silence left by Draco's momentarily stationary quill, McGonagall broke into his thoughts abruptly.
"Learning anything, Mr. Malfoy?" She inquired, her tone reproachful, probably imagining him to be idly staring at the book as opposed to showing an interest in the text itself.
"Oh, loads," He answered sarcastically, annoyed at her assumption that he couldn't possibly be interested in anything academic and still resenting the assignment itself.
She raised one eyebrow at his tone and met his stare squarely until he grudgingly lowered his gaze and resumed his task. He had only written a few words, however; when his curiosity overpowered his annoyance and he put down his quill again.
"Yes, Mr. Malfoy?" McGonagall inquired in an amused tone without looking up from her work.
"This says that transfigurations can be undone by people who are emotional about it and are concentrating on it intensely. Would they have to know the object was transfigured or could they just suspect?" He asked, unable to hide the interest in his voice.
"That particular line of questioning hasn't been definitively answered, Mr. Malfoy, as I'm sure you've read. However, as I recall the work that was done on that concept supposed that the person would not have to be aware the object was possibly transfigured at all. Rather than requiring intense concentration on changing the object, the party might only have to feel an intense emotional response triggered by the object and its relation to the original spell caster. But this is all unproven, Mr. Malfoy." She explained, briskly, preparing to return to her own task.
"But…" Draco paused, attempting to organize his thoughts. "How much would you have to hate someone to subconsciously want to undo all their work?"
McGonagall looked up quickly, her face an unmasked expression of surprise for a single moment. "Well, Mr. Malfoy, I wouldn't think hate would often be strong enough to be the root of such a powerful involuntary action."
"What emotion's stronger than hate?" Draco scoffed, meaning the question to be both bitter and rhetorical.
"I should think the answer to that would be obvious, Mr. Malfoy," McGonagall answered with a touch of sadness and even sympathy in her voice. "Love."
Draco was just about to offer up a retort along the lines of "That's what people like to think", when they were interrupted by a sudden panicked knocking on the door.
"Professor! Professor, come quick! Someone's been cursed!"
McGonagall's face was stricken as she rushed to the door and Draco could feel his own expression mirroring hers for entirely different reasons. It took all his practiced indifference to school his face into a neutral façade. If he gave McGonagall any reason at all to so much as suspect something was off about his reaction…
McGonagall wrenched open the door to reveal a 2nd year Hufflepuff girl that Draco vaguely remembered had once dared to ask him for directions after noticing his Prefect badge. Draco had thought the girl had found that encounter traumatizing, but that was nothing compared to the state she was in now. She was obviously out of breath due to her haste in delivering her message and her face was red and blotchy as though she had been crying as she ran.
So something had gone wrong then…the package had not made it to the old coot's office. Surely, if it was Dumbledore who had been cursed the girl would have said so. Draco at first felt only a strong sense of annoyance and failure until he refocused on the girl's expression. Someone's been cursed, she had said. If someone had touched that necklace…then they were dead. There was no alternative, he had made sure of that. Draco felt as though a two ton weight had suddenly settled in his stomach, only one word echoing through his mind over and over…who? Divulging as few details as possible, he had made Blaise swear under pain of death to keep Pansy as far away from the Three Broomsticks as possible. Blaise knew him well enough to know when he was serious, surely he would have kept her away…but he had to know.
"Return to your dormitory, Mr. Malfoy," McGonagall ordered absentmindedly as she practically sprinted out of the room, moving far faster than Draco would have imagined a woman her age could.
But Draco was already out of his seat, knocking over his pile of parchment in his haste. He paused only to consider which of the lesser-known routes would bring him to his destination without crossing paths with McGonagall before dashing down the hall in the opposite direction.
Who? Who? Who?
The question was like a mantra as he ran, keeping time with the thud of his feet and the racing of his heart. Twice he thought he might be sick, but he managed to keep himself from slowing. He had to know who he'd killed. He knew he should be obeying McGonagall's orders, staying as far away from the evidence of his treachery as he possibly could…but none of that mattered next to the pounding question in his head.
He reached the hospital wing in record time, skidding to a halt just around the corner from the infirmary's entrance, flattening himself against the wall and attempting to control his ragged breathing. Draco edged cautiously out into the open hallway, keeping an eye out for McGonagall or anyone else who might question his presence. Seeing no sign of anyone, he eased himself into the doorway, trying to brace himself for whatever awaited him. He wasn't prepared, however; to nearly be trampled by that oaf Hagrid who choose that exact moment to come barreling out of the Hospital Wing. Draco crushed himself against the wall in a panic, sure that this giant moron was about to drag him to Dumbledore demanding an explanation for his presence. His worries proved to be unfounded when Hagrid merely plowed by Draco muttering something about having a tea that might help.
Letting out a shaky breath, Draco slipped into the doorway once more. He saw no sign of McGonagall and guessed that she was questioning witnesses back in her office. What he did see was Madam Pomfrey frantically stirring a lavender concoction, her eyes welling up with tears as though she realized her efforts were in vain. An all too familiar sense of dread built in Draco's gut as he finally forced his gaze to the only hospital bed with an occupant. What he saw turned the blood in his veins to ice and only reminded him once more of the flaw in his make up that kept him from being immune to slight inklings of guilt. The girl's face was turned away from him, her limbs stiff and extended as though her arms and legs were tied to invisible poles, her curly brown hair spilling over the pillow and contrasting sharply with the pale, lifeless tone of her skin. It was not the shoulder length black hair he'd been half expecting, and he felt himself almost instantly freeze in a mixture of slight relief and intense shock.
Not Pansy. Not Pansy. Not Pansy.
His mind was screaming at him to pay attention to some crucial piece of information he wasn't picking up on, but he was having a hard time focusing on anything but his brain's exhausted chant of relief…
Not Pansy. Not Pansy. Not Pansy.
"Medical Consultation, St. Mungo's to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry," a booming voice announced from the direction of the fireplace, breaking the trance Draco had entered and causing him to back out of the room slightly as Madam Pomfrey raced towards the fireplace.
"Oh thank, Merlin!" She cried, as she addressed the face in the flames that was blocked from Draco's view. He didn't know why she was bothering. The girl was obviously already…dead…his mind shuddered away from the word, but he knew it to be true.
He was turning to leave when he heard something that stopped him in his tracks.
"You say it was a cursed artifact? And you have recovered the object?" The booming voice asked.
"Yes, a necklace." Pomfrey answered quickly, her voice trembling. "Some of her friends witnessed the attack. Harry Potter brought the necklace back wrapped in his scarf, but I've never seen this type of malicious enchantment before…"
Draco backed out of the room as though in a daze. He felt as though he had been punched repeatedly.
The girl was found with Harry Potter.
The girl was one of Potter's friends.
Brown hair spread out on the pillow…
"Keep your big, bushy head down, Granger," His mind's eye filled with an image of Granger's face in the light of his wand as his own voice echoed the words he had meant as a warning of sorts only a few short hours ago.
"I hate her," He reminded himself fiercely, stumbling off towards the dungeons. "I hate her."
And he did. But he had also killed her. And the two weren't nearly as compatible as he might have once thought.
It wasn't until he had pushed past the curious inquiries from Blaise and Pansy as well as the glares from Alex and his cronies, and fallen face first onto his bed, too exhausted to move, that Draco finally let the truth break through his carefully constructed mental safety net.
Not Pansy. Not Pansy. Not Pansy.