Chapter Thirteen: A Dose of Gryffindor Courage, Or Grabbing the Bull By the Horns
Draco sat in a plain stone room, decorated with a single table and the chair he was sitting in, reminding him rather uncomfortably of the interrogation rooms that his father had shown him when he was teaching his son about having an 'impartial eye when questioning someone close to you'... something that Draco now knew was a test to see if Draco would be able to torture his friends if need be, or if his father wanted some kind of sick enjoyment...
Trying not to let his unease show, Draco looked across the table at the triad that stood there; Ginny Weasely was at the center, her gaze unflinching on his, her twin brothers on either side of her, wearing matching sadistic grins. The 'Golden Trio' were leaning in various stages of rest along the wall behind them, chatting with Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood, acting as if there wasn't a interrogation going on just a few feet away from them. If anyone looked in this conveniently empty classroom, they would think it was some sort of club meeting and not something that was causing Draco to sweat profusely in his seat...
"So... Do you think that we should make some sort of oath to make sure the little snake doesn't try to weasel his way out of this?" One of the twins decided to break the silence around them-with an insult, no less-and Draco was not surprised that Hermione did not immediately jump to his defense, even though he could tell that most of them were, including the one who had spoken; he knew that she was letting him show them that his words at breakfast were true and that he really was trying to be a better man, even if it killed him...
With this group that might be more of a reality than one would originally think...Breaking the silence that had fallen at Hermione's non-action, which was rather amusing and he would probably laugh later when he was so uncomfortable, Draco spoke for himself, "If that will make you more inclined to trust me and what I have to say, I am more than willing to accept whatever oath you demand of me. However, may I make one stipulation on Hermione's behalf?"
That got him a few raised brows and some general muttering, while Hermione shot him a look over the Weasely's bowed heads that clearly was asking him what in the world he was thinking. He gave her one back that said he would explain in a few seconds before turning his gaze to the men beside her; Ron had already spoken for himself before this little meeting, reiterating that he would beat Draco to within an inch of his life with his bare hands if he so much as looked at Ron's 'sister' wrong and was now throwing glances at Harry whenever the boy's head was turned. It seemed to escape Ron's notice that the Boy-Who-Lived was doing the exact same thing, both boys trying to make sure Luna didn't say anything to give them away.
"Alright, Malfoy, just what is this 'stipulation' that's supposedly in Hermione's best interest?" Ginny was the one who asked, making Draco turn his gaze back to her. She was still staring at him like she was trying to drill a hole through his skull and he would have found the sight frustrating if he was dealing with anyone else; he had tormented all of the Weasely family, insulted the older Weaselys and he was pretty sure that it was his father's fault that Ginny ended up in the Chamber in Second Year. Draco was surprised that they had let him even near Hermione, no matter what he had said. It was a surprise to him even that the girl herself wanted anything to do with him, he had treated her the absolute worse; calling her Mudblood all those times and acting like her very existence was a personal insult... He was constantly grateful she never heard about what he said to Crabbe and Goyle Second Year...
"We're waiting, Malfoy." Ginny quipped, drawing him back the present and the problem he had to deal with in the here and now. I find out a way to apologize to Hermione later, maybe even make it up to her somehow... Resolving to treat the girl he had fallen in love with-It must be love if I'm willing to go this far for her!-like the angel he knew she was, Draco changed what he was going to say about not making him announce to the entire Slytherin House that he loved the girl and decided to just go with his heart this time instead of his head.
She must be rubbing off on me more than I originally thought; this is a rather Gryffindor thing to do, after all...
"Whatever you want me to do... make me swear it under a Wizard's Oath." He waited until the gasps of shock and cries of disbelief died down as he kept his gaze on the only person that mattered in the room, who was now looking at him as if she wasn't sure if he lost his mind or not. Giving her a reassuring smile that he hoped cared more faith in himself than he felt at the moment, Draco continued, "I have already made a Wizard's Oath with Harry and believe that any subsequent Oaths will only make that one even stronger. If I break my word, I will be more tormented than any of you will be clever enough to think up... Yes, even you two."
The last was directed at the twins before everyone's gaze went to Harry in a silent demand to see if Draco was telling the truth and he was not surprised by the action; if anything, it was almost reassuring that they were still suspicious of him, because he was inclined to agree with Hermione that he lost his mind: No doubt the twins will make him do something he would never be able to do and he would lose his magic, be unable to protect Hermione from his father, and then the only girl he would ever love would wind up dead... and it all would be his fault because he made that stupid agreement...
"He did make a Wizard's Oath, even though I'm pretty sure we both had no clue what he was doing at the time." Harry was saying, his voice coming from a long way away, but helping Draco focus his concentration on the conversation once again. It wouldn't do to lose this concession now, not when he was so close. Even if he did lose his magic, part of his Oath was that it would go to someone who could protect her... He could stand living as a Muggle as long as she was alive. "Last night, we had a talk about him and Hermione, that's why I'm not worried about any of this; he knows what will happen if he screws up."
Draco suppressed a shiver at Harry's tone and was once more faced with the boy that was going to defeat Voldemort as the two locked gazes; it might have sounded careless to the rest of the Weaselys, but Draco caught the undertone that said that Draco wouldn't have to worry about living as a Muggle, nor would there be anything left for Ron to 'take care of' should he mess up his chances with Hermione. It was the kind of voice were, if he wasn't already concerned with making Hermione happy, it would suddenly become the entire focal point of his world-if not his entire universe-and that not doing so would be very, very bad.
It seemed the twins got what Harry was saying and decided not to press matters, because they were now looking at Draco like he just might be on the level, giving him the kind of glance that fell between 'test subject' and 'honorary brother'. Draco wasn't sure if he should be happy or not about the change, but Ginny grabbed his attention before he could think about all the implication of being in the twin's sights even more than usual.
"If we do this, and make the Wizard's Oath, you will do whatever my brother's ask and answer any questions I may have?" The emphasis she put on 'whatever' and 'any' told Draco she was giving him a chance to back out of this, or that she was having second thoughts herself and was letting them all have a couple of minutes to really think about what they all were going to do. Apparently the twins weren't the only ones that were willing to give him a second chance, it seemed the youngest Weasely was rethinking what to make of him as well... It was that, more than anything else concerning the Weaselys, that solidified his decision to go through with what was agreed.
The entire room seemed to focus on him for a few seconds, including Neville and Luna who had been silent for the entirety of his conversation with the Weaselys, and Draco made sure to keep his gaze leveled with his spine straight to show that he wasn't as afraid as he felt he was. Father was at least good for something... The thought of the man that had sent him on his downward spiral made Draco even more determined to make sure that he earned the respect of the group sitting in front of him...
"Very well," With a wave of Ginny's wand, the table they were sitting at disappeared, leaving Draco the only one left sitting in a chair, now with nothing but air between him and the only Weaselys that had the power to scare him... not that he'd ever admit that out loud, of course; he did have a reputation to uphold after all, not to mention the fact that the twins would take every opportunity to make his life a living hell if they knew... "Fred, George, you guys go first, then Draco and I will have a little 'talk'... You two manage to get the Vertiserum?"
"Right here, boss!" The twins pulled out a small, clear vial that Draco recognized on sight and could tell just by glance that it was the real deal, having had enough experience with its effects before; there had been no secrets in the Malfoy household when he was younger, lies were quickly sniffed out by the contents of the potion in front of him. Over time, his father had grown bored of the method and instead used scare tactics to gain the truth, something that Draco still wasn't sure if he should be thankful for... On the one hand, he never had to be treated for potion poisoning again, but if his father ever found out about what was about to happen, then Draco would have a whole lot more to worry about than a simple Purging Potion...
The twins motioned for Draco to stand in front of them, wands at the ready and hands outstretched as if inviting him to play a game. Yet, he knew that this was no game and that his life was going to change drastically by the end of the hour, if not in the next few minutes. A stray doubt asked him if this was worth it, if all of this trouble was worth the love of one girl, but Draco pushed away the negative voice and instead joined his hand with the two in front of him as he caught the tearful gaze of the only girl that he would go through all this trouble for while trying to calm the frantic racing of his heart.
Despite the fact that his hand was sandwiched between Fred and George Weasley's, a pair of wands were aimed at his heart, and the fact that he was pretty sure that everyone in the room could see how bad that he was sweating now, Draco felt a strange sense of calm overcome him as he looked around the room, taking in the fact that no one there was looking at him in disgust now and that they all had various stages of curiosity on their faces instead. He was struck with the thought that, had things been different during their First Year, none of this would be happening and he probably would have been on a date with Hermione in place of being charged with a task that was sure to be impossible and then interrogated...
Mother did always say that my pride was my greatest strength, as well as my greatest weakness. "Do the two of you want to start this or should I?" Draco asked, eager to not only remove his hand from between what felt like two bands of steel, but to also make them lower their wands before they all decided to come to their senses and Curse him into some sort of slug or something as equally disgusting.
"Maybe he should go first with his Vow, after all; we haven't decided what we wanted him to do-"
"Having him as Harry's servant sounded like a good idea-"
"-but then we realized that they'd end up either killing each other or shagging-"
"Hey!" The exclamation came from both boys and was filled was equal parts disgust, but everyone was too busy laughing at what Fred and George said to comment on the fact that this was the first time Draco and Harry had ever agreed on something.
"Then I thought we agreed him going around starkers was a good idea-"
"No, we discussed that; too many girls wouldn't mind him being naked, Hermione included-"
"-very true, oh brother mine-"
"-so we decided that would be more of a reward than a punishment-"
Hermione was just opening her mouth, whether to defend him or herself Draco never found out, because Luna decided to use that moment to speak up for the first time since she entered the room, when she pointed out that the room was perfect because 'Hiliaslyphs had cleaned all the negative energy out': "I agree, Draco is very aesthetically pleasing, so I have found myself curious as to if he would be as nice to look at naked or not."
Silence; complete, all-encompassing silence greeted that statement as everyone looked at Luna in shock, Neville gaping like some sort of fish as he obviously tried to figure out something to say, his face a red that had nothing to do with embarrassment and everything to do with anger. It took Draco only about five seconds to figure out why; Luna had just admitted to thinking that he was a decent looking bloke, not to mention thinking about him naked and if what he had seen the other night at the Astronomy Tower was true, Neville didn't really like that news...
Yet, he was unable to articulate that problem before Ron made some sort of gurgling snort that could have been a laugh if his hand wasn't in the way that managed to make Luna focus on him instead. "You may laugh, Ronald, but I have seen you looking at Harry as well, especially when he is dressed in his Quidditch gear. Are you not also wondering what he looks like naked? Your expression at the times seemed to indicate that you are."
Harry's head had snapped over to Ron in the middle of Luna's speech so fast that Draco could hear it pop all the way over on the other side of the room, making him wince in sympathy, yet Harry only absentmindedly rubbed at his neck as he stared at his best friend like he wasn't sure if the shiny bauble that had been handed to him really was his to keep. Ron, however, had turned bright red and dropped his own gaze to the floor and the fact that his brothers were making various catcalls and whistles weren't helping things, despite Ginny's attempts to get them to shut up. After a few moments of tense silence, Ron muttered something that sounded suspiciously like 'Bloody Lovegood' before exiting the room in a dead run, Hermione and Harry on his heels as they called out for him to stop.
"Well, we should leave as well, Neville; I don't think Draco wants us to listen to all his secrets; it's going to be embarrassing enough with just Ginerva, Fredrick and George here watching him..." Luna gave Draco a smile that was suppose to be reassuring, and it was then that he realized that she had planned the whole thing, but then his mind became stuck on the phrase 'all his secrets' and refused to kick back into gear until Neville finally got his jaw unclenched.
"Luna, do you- Are you- Did you ever think about me naked?" It didn't seem to be the question that he wanted to say-or, for that matter, the first one that had come to mind-but it was the first one got out and after he said it, Neville didn't back down or stammer like he normally did; Draco could only summarize that Neville had finally found where his Gryffindor courage was hiding as Luna blushed for the very first time since he had met the slightly off Ravenclaw.
"As a matter of fact, various images of you have been appearing in my thoughts in the last couple of days and a few times you have been nude..." Luna's blush darkened, but with her light, almost translucent skin it just went from a very light pink to a slightly darker pink, yet it was nice to see that she could blush. It made her look almost... normal. "It has been rather distracting and I have to concentrate a bit harder than normal to study. I'm going to have to get a charm to ward off the Igurgees; they like to do that..."
"Oh..." Neville had not only caught onto the fact that Luna had used her previous comment about Ron finding Harry attractive as a way to clear out the room, not to mention trying to get the boys involved to admit that they actually did like each other, the smaller boy was also unable to keep the smile that her last comment caused from spreading across his face. His attempts at nonchalance were dismal at best and Draco had to nearly bite his lip in half to keep from grinning himself, but for a completely different reason... "That's alright, then."
The last he saw of the duo was Neville putting his arm around Luna's shoulders as if it where the most natural thing in the world, which made the blush disappear from Luna's face as it split into a huge grin... almost as if someone had found some evidence that the creatures that she kept prattling on about actually existed. Draco shook his head at the pair and chuckled before turning back to the twins, who were once more giving him a look he couldn't quite decipher...
"Well, I think we know what we want to make you do, Malfoy-"
"-Merlin's Beard, we're going to have to start calling him Draco now, aren't we?"
"Hmm, maybe we should rethink this whole thing..."
"What exactly is wrong with my name?" Draco demanded frostily, a little peeved at the reaction his birthright gave these people, thinking back to the first time he had met Ronald Weasely. If the redhead had been a little less vocal of his distaste, maybe Draco wouldn't have been as vocal about the Weaselys' general poverty... "Your brother had a similar reaction when we first met; it's a good, strong name... Why is it such a note of humor for you?"
"Well, it just that it seems to be a thing for your family, doesn't?" Fred or George grinned, shifting slightly so that he was leaning up against his mirror, yet keeping his wand and hand on Draco. "You all are either named after stars or constellations, what's the matter with some down to earth names? Or are you guys too lofty to be named after anything lower than the heavens? Please tell me you're not going to burden your kid with that kind of name as well?"
"Oh, so I should saddle him with some plain, everyday name like a certain Gryffindor I could mention?" Draco asked, grinning as he saw the smirks growing on the pairs faces; they had shown him, in their own Fred and George way, that they had finally accepted Draco at his word. It would've been much more reassuring if he knew that he could go free after this, but he still had a Vow to fulfill as well as facing Ginny Weasley when he was done...
"Alright, brother, it's perfectly clear what we need to do now-"
"-Yes, I think this particular Slytherin would be rather helpful on our side-"
"-Mmhmm, just think of all the inside jobs we could do!"
"Okay, then, Drac. We know what we want you to vow-"
"-We want you to make Hermione happy!"
"WHAT?" Draco had been expecting something drastic; a run around the lake in the middle of winter wearing nothing but a tee and shorts, pulling a prank on the entire Slytherin House and not add it to him as well so that they could tell that it was him, but just making Hermione happy? That would go out the window the first time they had their first fight! Draco mentioned this, as well as the fact that he was surprised that they hadn't asked him to do anything more... colorful.
"We know that you and Hermione are going to argue; the fact that she's a rather.. intense individual and you are... well, you. We mean an argument that dissolves your relationship in a way that hurts her, like claiming that your blood is too pure to sully with hers," The reminder of how he had treated to girl that had no reason to give him a second change made Draco flinch, but the twin was far from over, "If you guys eventually decided that you rather be friends, or something else comes up, the Oath will dissolve and you'll be free to live out your life."
The way 'or something else comes up' was stated reminded Draco that Hermione was Harry Potter's friend and that she was more than likely going to help him fight Voldemort, which also meant that her life expectancy was not a sure thing. This time it was Draco's hand that gripped the twin's that was under his, making him raise his eyebrows in surprise, but Draco was more focused on the thought of Hermione not making it through the battle with Voldemort... Hermione, usually so vibrant and annoyingly alive with all of her good nature nagging, laying cold and pale on some battlefield, with Harry and Weasel crying over her form... A cold, dark stone all that was left of a beautiful, determined woman who Draco was sure could be the first female Ministress of Magic if she wanted to...
Draco felt his jaw clenched so much he was certain a few of his teeth cracked in protest and the words he spoke were hissed past his lips as if he had acquired Potter's ability to speak Parseltongue. "Hermione. Is going. To live."
"We, Fredrick and George Weasley of the Weasley clan, are witness to Draco Malfoy making a Wizard Oath in application of Hermione Granger of the Granger clan and clan-friend, in addition to the Wizard Oath made with Harry Potter of the Potter clan." Draco's gaze snapped up to the twins, eyes wide as he realized that his statement had wiped all the mickey from their gazes and turned them completely serious, something that he had never seen before and something he hoped to never see again. "We Vow to make sure that no outside forces inflicted upon Draco Malfoy cause him to break his Vow and promise to beat the tar out of the ponce if he messes up on his own, if there is anything else left after our brother gets through with him, of course..."
"I, Draco Malfoy, Vow to keep Hermione Granger both safe and happy, as long as it is within my power to do so. If at any time I am unable to do so, I will forfeit my magic to the one who will be able to and live the rest of my days out as a Muggle." The looks of shock the twins gave him were well worth admitting to his Oath, he was sure that not may people could claim they had managed to surprise them before... "So mote it be!"
A flash of light, reddish-orange this time, enveloped Draco with a sudden ferocity before brightening so much that it turned to the blinding white that that had covered him when he had made his first Oath with Harry. Draco felt a slight tugging on his magic as the two Oaths fought for dominance before they settled into a sort of truce that left him breathing heavily and both Weasley twins looking a little out of breath themselves.
"Well, now that you've got that little problem out of the way," Ginny quipped, breaking through the tension and causing the group to jump in tandem, "Maybe we can get onto the questions that I need answered and we all can get back to our dorms before curfew? I don't know about you guys, but I'm not looking forward to being caught out-of-bounds by Filch, no matter what deep, dark secrets I learn from Malfoy!"
Despite the fact that he had just made his way through the most nerve-wrenching half hour in his entire life, hearing those words come out of Ginny's mouth made Draco realize that what was going to happen next was going to be the hardest thing he would ever have to go through; he was going to have answer any question that Ginny Weasely would ask without trying to fight the Vertiserum, without trying to hide part of himself from the probing that Ginny was sure to do. There was never a time in his life that he was ever completely open with someone...
And then he fell for Hermione Granger.
Sighing heavily, Draco watched as the twins left the room, teasing and warning Ginny about all the questions she had, telling her not to kill him if he said anything stupid and not to fall in love with him herself if he said anything sweet. He watched as she threatened them with bodily harm if they kept saying stupid things like that or if they repeated what they had said to anyone else, complete with brandishing her wand at vital parts of their anatomy. He watched as they hightailed it out of there as fast as they did chasing Bludgers in Quidditch, watched as Ginny turned to him and asked something, something that looked like 'are you ready?'
That was the question, wasn't it?
Was he ready?
A/N: Well, what do you guys think? Is it believable? Or should I have them be more suspicious of Draco? Let me know what you think; be it good, bad, or mediocre!