A HUGE update and another completely revised chapter (2.0) for you here: expanded information, more Theo-Hermione time, some Malfoy-Hermione time, some answers at last, and even more foreshadowing.
Thank you to the lovely "GUEST" reviewer (wish I knew who you were!) who pointed out a glaring error in this chapter that I have now corrected. THANK YOU, Mystery guest!
Please review, if you would!
Chapter 42: A Shaking Faith
Ministry of Magic, London, England
December 12-14, 1996 (Hermione Granger's sixth year)
The Department of Magical Law Enforcement's Administrative Registration Office was located on Level Two of the Ministry, through a set of large double doors just left of the access lift. Through those same doors could also be found the Wizengamot Administrative Services, the Hit Wizards, the Magical Law Enforcement Patrol, and the Witch Watchers. To their right and around the corner were the Auror Offices, the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office, the Department of Intoxicating Substances, the Office for the Detection and Confiscation of Counterfeit Defensive Spells and Protective Objects, and the Improper Use of Magic Office according to a sign on the wall.
"Which way?" Teddy asked her.
Hermione pointed left. "Wizengamot Administrative Services. They're responsible for the maintenance of court documents."
Her companion followed her without another word, taking it for granted that her information was correct. Which it was, as she'd read plenty on the Ministry and its various departments over the years. After all, it wouldn't do for the future Minister for Magic not to understand the innards of her own government, would it?
Grandiose plans aside, she headed for the office in question, Dumbledore's letter firmly in hand.
Half an hour later, she and Nott were led into the M.L.E.'s law library, where tomes on legal precedent and case files were kept. Their guide directed them to a particular set of file cabinets across the room. "These six," she said, indicating a row of three-drawer side filers. "All contain the transcripts from the Death Eater trials of the early 1980's."
With that, the aide left them to their research, closing the door behind her.
"Shit," Teddy swore. "We could be here for weeks pouring through that."
"If we did things the old-fashioned way, sure," Hermione replied, raising her wand. Having practically lived in Hogwarts' library for the past six years, she'd learned a spell or two for making information finding easier. Yes, it had taken her until last year to find it, but still… "Good thing we have magic on our side."
Her keyword-searching summoning spell produced twenty-one files worth of results from various drawers.
"Hope you know how to refile those properly when we're done," her friend said with a teasing grin. Then, rubbing his hands together he headed for a stack. "Now for the fun part!"
Hermione tried to share his optimism. Yes, she enjoyed researching new topics as much as the next fact-loving Philomath, but delving into the psychology of some deranged Death Eater… Psychosis was a disturbing mental illness in and of itself, but dark magically-induced psychosis was terrifying, as it had access to avenues of violence that the mundane could not match, everything from spontaneous disintegration to tearing a soul in half to raising an army of Inferi. If there were a thousand and one ways to die at the hands of a non-magical serial killer, there were twice as many opportunities at the whim of a mad wizard.
Four hours later, seated across from each other at one of the small reading tables, they'd gotten through half the stack. Hermione's fingers were stained with ink, her notes scattered everywhere, and her mind abuzz with nauseating facts about the 'hobbies' of Death Eaters. Honestly, she didn't know if she'd be sleeping tonight, despite her mental exhaustion.
Teddy, she noted, didn't jot down half as much as she had, but he'd flown through the material like a man obsessed.
"Listen to this," he said, drawing her attention to something he was reading. "A team of curse specialists from St. Mungo's had been called in to determine why the Dark Mark had changed colour from black to a 'vivid red' upon the forearms of Azkaban prisoners back in 1985. One of them, a doctor named Fitz Gibbon, had determined that the Dark Mark was a derivative of the black spell, Morsmordre, as well as being a type of Protean Charm."
"That makes sense," Hermione said, considering what she knew of the Mark. "Morsmorde is a summoning spell, and a Protean Charm creates a link between objects or symbols."
Teddy shook his head. "You miss my point. Sometime between his examination of the Marks and this last spring, Gibbon became a Death Eater, too. He visited my father more than once this last year, that's how I knew the name."
Hermione was surprised by that bizarre coincidence. "Well, that's...awfully ironic."
Her companion nodded. "Abso. Definitely not a fluke." He glanced at the paperwork in his hand. "I don't believe in coincidence."
"You think he was seduced by studying the Dark Mark up close and personal?" she said, reading between the lines.
He turned the page, but then turned back to where he'd left off. "The way he goes on about it here? Yeah, I do. He sounds almost fanatical, talking about the Mark as a work of 'genius proportions'." He glanced at her. "I think the dark magic got to him."
"You're implying the Dark Mark has an effect on those near it, not just those branded by it?" It was an interesting theory, and one she hadn't considered. "How? By leeching through Voldemort's tainted magic, since he's the origin?"
"Not sure, maybe," Teddy admitted. "But I've seen Draco trying to keep his left forearm from touching you. He's afraid of that possibility, too."
Yes, she'd noticed the same, and wondered if that had been due to Draco's paranoia or something he knew about the Mark itself. She'd have to remember to ask him the next time 'Malfoy' let Draco up from his prison.
They returned to their individual research, then. The sound of Hermione's quill scratching away was loud in the relative silence of the insulated law library-slash-records room. It was a phrase embedded in one of Bellatrix Lestrange's psych sessions with a mind healer that finally gave her pause once again just an hour later:
"My Master is the Heir, the Dark Lord of Lords…the only worthy King! He is the true Rex of our race!"
That phrase there at the end was too similar to the words in Draco's prophecy for Hermione's natural scepticism to ignore.
"What is it you said about coincidence?" she asked her silent companion.
"What? That I don't believe in it? I don't. I'm on the side of destiny."
She told him what she'd found out.
Teddy whistled. "Draco's aunt used the same exact phrase, you said? Yeah, that's definitely not accidental."
But how would she have heard such a phrase to repeat it? What was the connection, aside from the fact Bellatrix was one of Voldemort's most loyal guard dogs?
"It's starting to sound as if Bellatrix Lestrange may have been around when Draco's prophecy was first made," she said on a hunch. "How could she have known about that specific phrase, 'Rex of our race' if not? That's not something you hear every day, is it?"
The red ribbon tying her hair back tingled against the nape of her neck.
Are you telling me we're on the right track, she asked it.
It remained silent, but its warmth grew, and Hermione took that as a sign that her intuition had been right in this case.
"And now that I think on it, it is possible Draco's mother also knows about the prophecy." She glanced over at Teddy, who had set his research aside and given her his undivided attention. "He said his mother had demanded at his birth that her father's name also be given to her first born son, breaking the Malfoy naming tradition of honouring only the paternal side of the family. As a result, Draco has three middle names, rather than the traditional two that most pure-blood heirs bear," she stated. "Why would Narcissa do that unless she'd heard the prophecy for herself? 'You, star of Ladon, shall rise from the house of bad faith, and shall be known by your three names'."
"Definitely plausible," Teddy said. "Could be she even married ol' Lucius for the sake of the prophecy, too. 'The house of bad faith' can't be anyone other than the Malfoy family, and you said it yourself, that's what their name translates to in French."
"Also, the idea to name him 'Draco'…he'd said it had been his mother's, not his father's."
It was all starting to come together in her mind.
"Narcissa Black had to have known that a son born of the Malfoy family would fulfill the prophecy and become this 'Gancanagh', who is some sort of 'rex', which is Latin for 'king'. Maybe she engineered events so the prophecy would refer to her son."
"King of what, though?" Nott asked.
She glanced up at him, her mind already jumping ahead, looking for that exact answer.
"That's the million pound question, isn't it?"
Another hour passed, and then Teddy called it temp-quits and went upstairs to the trolley pushers in the lobby to get them something for lunch off the carts.
By the time he'd returned, Hermione had found what she'd needed to know about the Dark Mark. Her heart sank into her shoes as she'd related the information to him.
"After experimenting with the Mark on a Death Eater named Wilkes and another named Avery, the St. Mungo's panel of curse-breakers and healers determined there was no way to remove the Dark Mark, as the Protean Charm built into it had been cast using blood magic." She despaired at the thought, knowing how such dark, evil sorcery worked, specifically that only a greater sacrifice than one that had been made by the original spell-caster could break its power. "They determined the only way to permanently sever the connection is by draining the victim of all their blood. Removing every drop of Voldemort's magical taint from their system is the only guarantee of freedom from the dark magic." She waved at the file in front of her. "It's what they did to the elderly Avery when they were experimenting on him after he'd been tried and found guilty by the Wizengamot, but there was no way to replenish his blood fast enough, even with magical means. They killed him."
Slumping over her notes, hot tears ran in rivulets down her cheeks.
"It doesn't matter how strong Malfoy is. He and Draco will both die if we attempt to get rid of the Mark."
Teddy set their food trays down on the table and took a seat at her side, attempting to comfort her with a gentle hand on her shoulder.
"So, if we can't get rid of it, what about neutralizing it instead?" he asked.
The thought had Hermione pausing. "We'd have to get Draco to agree to let us experiment on him." The idea had merit, and the despair she'd felt a moment before began to fade, replaced by a small hope. Wiping the tears from her cheeks, she began turning over ideas quickly in her head. "Some kind of modified blood cleansing charm, perhaps. There must be some medical book on the subject somewhere, right?"
Teddy smiled at her. "There's my witch. Knocked back, but never down." Turning to the trays, he moved one in front of her, shoving her papers out of the way. "Now, eat, Miss Granger," he playfully lorded over her. "You have two mouths to feed and a brain equally as ravenous."
Nodding, she picked up the half of the sandwich he'd plonked in front of her. It was some sort of artfully layered concoction involving sliced turkey and tomatoes on wheat bread. Her stomach gave a ravenous rumble and she fell on it like a starving wolf.
By six o'clock, the M.L.E. library was closing for the day.
They'd gone through all of the files by then, and were re-reading Bellatrix's transcripts in particular, searching for any more clues. None were to be had, aside from what they'd already learned.
"I think we've found out all we're going to find here, anyway," Hermione declared as she closed the file and used magic to return them to their proper places within the cabinets. "Insofar as dealing with the Dark Mark, we're better off looking for medical books, and we're going to have to meet with Narcissa Malfoy to discuss what she knows of the prophecy."
Teddy concurred. "Where to tomorrow then? Department of Mysteries?"
She reached back over her shoulder and stroked against the red ribbon, seeking its comforting aura after her breakdown. Her spirits had been lowered, and she was in need of a little encouragement right then. As predicted, Draco's gift to her warmed against her fingers, instantly re-energizing her flagging energy and with it came a renewed sense of hope and purpose.
"No, Magical Creatures. It's time we found out what this 'Gancanagh' really is, and I want answers about the Kirin and anything else we can dig up on the Aes Sidhe, while we're at it."
Her companion nodded. "So…dinner at the Leaky?" he asked, rubbing his hands together in anticipation.
"Dinner at the Leaky," she agreed.
They turned out the lights and shut the door behind them.
They headed back through the Ministry Floos to the Leaky Cauldron.
From the raucous noise and stacks of bodies that took up every available floor space, it was clear it was Thursday quiz night. Groups of would-be contestants gathered around the bar, waiting for the fun to begin at the seven hour.
Hermione checked the magical clock on the wall. It was time to take her anti-nausea potion again. This morning's dose was going to wear off soon. "Be right back," she yelled into Teddy's ear. "I have to go up and grab something from the room."
His nod let her know he'd heard, and she quickly wove her way through the crowd towards the stairs while he headed into the throng of people to find an empty table for them.
By the time she came back down fifteen minutes later, Teddy had procured for them a table in a darkened corner of the room, away from the excitement, and he'd ordered stew and fresh bread with butter for them. It was magically delivered to their table moments after she'd parked her bum down in a rickety, uncomfortable wooden chair next to her friend, and as they tucked their napkins onto their laps, Hermione erected a sound-muffling barrier between them and the rest of the room.
Instantly, the level of noise was muted, and Hermione could hear herself think once more. She gave a sigh of relief, and dug in to the meal before her.
Under the table, Teddy's knee was nervously jiggling. "Tomorrow's Friday," he reminded her. "Do you really think he'll come?"
There was no question as to the subject of his question.
Hermione considered it. "Yes, I think 'Malfoy' will want to know what's going on with the pregnancy, at the very least."
"He'll stay the weekend, probably."
She nodded, her appetite suddenly shrinking at the thought.
"Do you want me to go?"
No, was her automatic response, but she didn't voice it. The reality was Teddy couldn't stay. If he did, 'Malfoy' would most likely attack him in a fit of jealousy. "I think it would be best," she said instead, stirring her stew round and round in the bowl, feeling that first and only bite churn in her stomach in the same manner. "We can meet in the Ministry's lobby on Monday morning at seven."
"Are you sure?"
No, she wasn't. Everything in her, in fact, was screaming at the thought of being alone with 'Malfoy' now that she knew she was carrying Draco's child. Yes, theirs was the same DNA, the same body, but it was two totally different people living in it, and they hated each other with a vengeance. Also, 'Malfoy' was utterly unpredictable and irrationally violent. Would he really harm her child simply because of the personality in control during its conception?
"M-Malfoy, we made a deal."
"You're right, princess, we did. And part of that arrangement was that you give yourself to me ineveryway." He stroked reverently over her belly. "Looks like this round is mine."
God, what would he do to her and the baby once he found out the truth?
"I'm sure," she told her friend, and reached for her water glass to wet her dry mouth. Her fingers shook as she picked it up…and she knew Teddy noticed.
The next day, they headed downstairs to the pub for a quite bite before heading off for the Ministry.
As they ate, Hermione could feel Tom the barkeep's eyes on her the whole time, measuring, weighing. He obviously knew why she was there, but she had to wonder if he wasn't keeping tabs on her for Dumbledore as well. He was probably wondering about Teddy, too. She'd bet her left foot the pub's proprietor thought her friend was the father of the baby and that they were together this week to decide what to do. Or maybe he thought Teddy was a second lover, come to encourage Hermione to run away with him. Whatever. So long as Tom didn't ask questions and didn't demand Teddy leave, she was fine with his silent contemplation of her situation, even if it draw some erroneous conclusions.
They hurried through the meal, as she was eager to get started on her research today. Any little bit she could learn would take them closer to, hopefully, saving Draco and getting rid of 'Malfoy' forever.
The spinning, twirling Floo ride after eating was definitely un-fun, despite having taken her anti-nausea potion earlier that morning, but by some miracle, Hermione managed to keep her breakfast down after taking several big gulps of air and having Teddy fanning her off with this morning's copy of The Daily Prophet.
They rode the lift down to level four to the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, and after asking for assistance from the receptionist at the Beast Division, and waving Dumbledore's letter around, they were shown to the department's resource library.
The library for Magical Creatures was barely bigger than Hermione's old bedroom at home, but it was crammed with filing cabinets that rose to the ceiling, a good twenty-feet above them. A single table with four rickety wooden chairs sat in the centre of the room. As in the MLE's law library, the lighting here was adequate for the task of reading without straining one's eyes.
Their first search was for the term, 'Gancanagh'.
To Hermione's surprise, there were only two references: the first in an old book on Irish folklore, and the second in a poem by William Butler Yates in the late 1800's. The former provided the best information of the two, but only enough for a chapter's worth of information.
"The Gancanagh, pronounced 'GAN-CANNA', translates in Irish Gaelic as 'love talker'," she read aloud. "It refers to an Irish and Scottish myth of a male fairy of the Seelie Court, one of the royal line."
Teddy seemed truly ignorant of the term, and Hermione remembered then that he hadn't taken Care of Magical Creatures class after fourth year, and so had missed Umbridge's 'approved' curriculum that Professor Grubbly-Plank was required to teach, specifically on the 'relatively harmless species of beasts' during their fifth year.
"According to the Ministry, fairies, pixies, and sprites are divided into two types, or 'courts': the Seelie Court and the Unseelie Court," she explained, recalling verbatim the texts she'd read on the subject for class and for her extracurricular research into Magical Law this year. "The Seelie Court, also called 'The Golden Ones of the Summer Court' or the 'Sun Court', are the groups of fairies, pixies, and sprites who signed a non-aggression pact with the four Hogwarts Founders in 993 A.D. to live in relative harmony with magical humans. They come in all shapes and sizes, from the humanoid Aes Sidhe, who are like their Veela cousins, all the way down to the flying meadow sprites that Professor Flitwick tricks with nectar treats to serve as living lights for our Christmas tree every year. In fact, many of our holidays derive from either their own celebrations or were invented by humans to worship them."
"Like?" Teddy prodded, genuinely interested.
"Well, like the springtide festival of Là Bealltainn, what we call 'Beltane' or 'May Day'," she told him. "That was a celebration by the Seelie Court that we humans adopted. Today, both wizarding folk and Muggle alike still make food and gift offerings to the Aes Sidhe during that celebration, asking to receive their blessings for fertility."
"Gotcha. So, the Seelie Court are friendly."
"Well," Hermione hedged, "they're not always benevolent, but they're not openly malevolent towards us, either. Basically, they're the fairies who don't try to eat us. Historically speaking, we've gotten on well with them. For instance, they did aid Helga Hufflepuff, Salazar Slytherin, Rowena Ravenclaw, and Godric Gryffindor in building the school, and they were also instrumental behind-the-scenes in ending the Goblin rebellions of the 16th and 17th centuries as well, serving as spies for the wizards against the various goblin factions."
Teddy whistled. "Bet that didn't make them very popular with other species."
"It hasn't," she confirmed, "especially with their cousins, the Unseelie Court, who are also called 'The Dark Ones of the Winter Court' or the 'Moon Court'."
"Let me guess," he said in a dry tone of voice, "they're the bad fairies."
She shrugged. "Not to be so black-and-white about it, but yes, they're the court of fairies, pixies, and sprites who consider humans their prey, the ones we hear all the frightening tales about as children and where the term 'making a deal with the devil' originates. They take on more forms than the Seelie Court, everything from the more predatory Aes Sidhe, who it's said resemble Vampires, to Dark Leprechauns like Rumpelstiltskin, to Imps and Incubi. They're treacherous, lustful, blood-thirsty creatures, according to Lima's book."
"If I didn't know better, I'd say you were describing Malfoy, too."
That gave her pause.
"Y-yes, I suppose that does sound like him."
It did, didn't it?
"So why don't the Seelie Court just wipe the floor with the Unseelie Court?" he asked.
That subject was one Edwardus Lima's book hadn't discussed. "No one knows why or how the two courts interact, only that they are each ruled by female Aes Sidhe—a Queen, who lives in deep underground kingdoms that are separated from each other by water. What is known is that sometime soon after the capture of the dark wizard, Gellert Grindewald, the Aes Sidhe of the Seelile Court withdrew from the International Confederation and refused the status of Magical Beings, the same as the Merpeople, Kirin, and the Centaurs. They never gave an official reason. They simply retreated to their kingdom underground and closed the borders. The Unseelie Court then did the same. To this day, no one knows why."
Teddy frowned at that. "Didn't some major Muggle war happen around that time, too? Maybe that's why they left. Maybe they'd had enough of humans."
Perhaps they had. Hermione wouldn't have blamed them if so, for 1945 saw the end of the second Great War in Europe—a war that had changed the face of the planet forever with the creation and use of atomic weapons. The earth had shuddered as Japan had paid a truly terrible price for its involvement back then, and no one since had been safe.
Whatever the real reason for the Sidhe's retreat from the world, it seemed no human would ever know…unless they could find a way into the magical hills where the High Fae of both courts now hid.
They broke for lunch, but there was a somber, unspoken agreement that they would make it fast so they could return to their studies as quickly as possible. It seemed both of them were feeling the weight of the clock ticking down towards the hour when Malfoy would reappear in their lives.
Once they'd returned to the library, Hermione picked right back up where she'd left off in the text she'd been studying. "Like many other fairy species of the Seelie Court, the Gancanagh is a good-natured Lothario," she read aloud, "a seeker of fun and a seducer of females, especially virgins. He is a trickster as well, but his aspect is not malicious. His flirtations are, in fact, part of his reproductive strategy, allowing him to narrow down the female population to find his one, true mate from among them."
"Wait, hold up," Teddy requested and glanced at her so intently that she could feel his musings down to her bones. "So, does that mean if Draco is the Gancanagh of the prophecy, that you are on his one, true mate? Is that why he's so obsessed with you?"
The idea surprised her. Was she?
"I'm not sure. That would be a logical conclusion, I suppose. But again, why me?" she wondered for the millionth time. "I just don't see the connection."
Reaching over the table, Teddy tapped the passage she'd just read. "A Gancanagh especially likes virgins."
He didn't mention that she'd been one until a month or so ago, and was respectful enough not to remind her that he knew exactly how she'd lost her virginity as well. He had, after all, been there the day she and Draco were discussing the event in that classroom in the dungeons, some weeks back. Despite that, Hermione flushed from head to toe at his implication.
Yes, it was embarrassing discussing such private, intimate things with Nott, despite how close they'd become over time, but more importantly, it was difficult to relive what had happened to her that afternoon in the Room of Erised at the beginning of November. She wasn't sure that the violence of her first sexual experience was ever something she'd fully 'get over', even if she did forgive Draco for his loss of control in the face of his darker side's influence. It was still a raw subject for her, and most likely, always would be.
"But there are plenty of other girls in school who have never had sex," she replied. "That can't be all there is to it."
He seemed to consider the issue. "Well, you're born in September, right? You and D talked about the ribbon he gave you the night of your birthday at the start of term." He nudged his chin at the item in question, which was currently twined among her curls, fastened in a high ponytail atop her head. "September's astrological sign is The Virgin. The Aes Sidhe would know that, since you said it yourself that they're practitioners of Divination. As for the 'sun ascendant' part, how much do you want to bet that the sun was rising on the eastern horizon at the moment of your birth."
Her jaw dropped open at such an insightful deduction.
"Y-yes, my mother said I took my first breath at 6:43 a.m., the exact time the sun rose on the nineteenth of September that year. I…I never considered‒" she admitted, turning his solution over and over in her brain and finding it distinctly probable. "It's a bit of a logic leap, but what if‒? You're saying my star sign makes me the girl in the prophecy, and that's the reason Draco wants me?"
The idea astounded her. Could it be that simple?
Teddy shrugged. "Firenze said the movement of the heavenly bodies within the cosmos was the orchestral conductor of every person's Fate, and that the art of Divination is nothing more than the scrying of those minute cosmic changes to determine people's destinies. Who knows, maybe on the day Draco was born, your virgin-self ascended over him and ignited Ladon's star." He smirked in a teasing fashion and waggled his eyebrows at her in suggestion. "Kinky!"
Hermione glared at him and proceeded to kick him under the table.
Laughing, Teddy rubbed his shin, but was clearly not apologetic. He seemed to take great delight in teasing her that same as he did Draco, in fact.
"Regardless, we can check both of your astrological charts in the Department of Mysteries, when we go there and see what it tells us," he offered. "That should end the debate over my theory one way or the other."
She readily agreed before turning back to the book she'd been reading on the Irish and Scot myth. "There's more the book has to say about the Gancanagh." She glanced at him, wondering if he cared to learn the rest.
Teddy waved her on. "Let's hear it, then."
Clearing her throat, Hermione read on: "It says that the Gancanagh's romantic strategy is filled with peril. 'If, at any time, the Gancanagh embraces the use of black magic, his aspect permanently changes into that of one of the Dark Fae. He becomes one of the Unseelie Court."
She sat up at that, paying particular attention to the next passage.
"Dark Gancanagh are malicious creatures who enjoy inflicting harm upon others and despoiling the innocent. Similar to their other cousin, the Incubus, Dark Gancanagh take pleasure from inciting lust and pushing their victims to embrace its need to the point of insanity. They encourage violence to achieve such ends. Often this leads to the victim's death or the deaths of others. Rather than 'love talkers', they become hawkers of hate.'" She glanced up at her companion. "Teddy, this is it! This is the cause for Draco's schism!"
He agreed, seemingly just as excited as she was by this revelation. "And the reason the other Death Eaters have gone mad, too!"
"Voldemort's a Dark Gancanagh!" they both said at the same time, reaching across the table and clasping hands as the elation passed from one to the other and back again in a zinging loop.
"When he gave his followers the Dark Mark, his opened a conduit between them all that could continually infect them with his Dark Gancanagh's madness," she concluded. "No wonder they're all bat crazy!"
Teddy's grip on her hands tightened. "And if Draco is part Aes Sidhe, like you've been insisting all along, then he's technically a Gancanagh, too…so, getting hexed with another Gancanagh's magical insanity could have had the effect of tugging him in two directions—one Seelie, the other Unseelie. That could explain why Draco's personality splintered into two distinct halves, and why they're such opposites!"
"So the theory about it being his Id and his Superego at war with each other wasn't that far-fetched, as the two courts are similarly split," she said in wonder.
Yes, it all made perfect sense!
Teddy released his hold on her and came around to her side of the table, leaning over her shoulder to look down upon the book. "Does it say how to defeat a 'Dark Gancanagh'?" he asked, nearly buzzing with excitement now that they'd finally gotten a break of some sort in this bizarre puzzle that was Draco's curse.
Hermione quickly read on in silence, but nowhere in the remaining passages was there any information about killing either a Gancanagh or its darker version. "No, nothing," she told her companion. "There's nothing here about subduing or destroying such creatures." Her mind raced with possibilities. "However, given that a Dark Gancanagh is a result of dark magic's taint, turning him from being a loving creature to a monster of hate, it serves that love must somehow also be a key to reversing the effects."
Just as the voice behind the ribbon had been nudging her all along.
"Also, if you'll recall Care of Magical Creatures class, all fairies are susceptible to cold iron. It's their one weakness. So, that might serve some purpose, too. Maybe."
"Was that fifth year as well?" he asked.
Again, she'd forgotten that Teddy hadn't pursued that subject after their fourth year. "Yes, it was one of Umbridge's 'approved' lessons for Professor Grubbly-Plank to teach us after Hagrid was put on probation. Fairies, Pixies, Bowtruckles, Mooncalves…you know, the 'relatively harmless' creatures."
Her partner gave a sinister chuckle. "Oh, if only Ms. 'Pink and Paunchy' had known 'Malfoy' then. She wouldn't find him so harmless."
"No, definitely not." Malfoy would probably have killed Dolores Umbridge on principle. "We'll have to try it on him—something made of cold iron. If it works…"
Then they'd know for certain that Draco was, due to cross-species interbreeding somewhere back in his lineage, a male Aes Sidhe. Or, at least, that he had some percentage of Fae in his genetics. And then there would be no doubt that the prophecy sphere she'd taken from Teddy's hand had referred to her lover, and that he was destined to be this Gancanagh, and a King of the Aes Sidhe race.
But of which court?
Perhaps that's what this whole battle between Draco and 'Malfoy' was deciding.
They returned to the Leaky Cauldron that evening, their research into the Aes Sidhe having grated them no further breakthroughs.
Agreeing to pick up the hunt again on Monday, when the Ministry libraries re-opened for normal business hours, they split up for the weekend. Teddy took the Floo back to the Hog's Head so he could return to Hogwarts and catch up on the classes he'd missed and get his homework done. Meanwhile, Hermione grabbed a quick bite in the pub, going over her notes again, before heading up to her room for the night.
The moment she shut the door to her private suite behind her, she felt another person's presence in the room.
"Lock and Silence it."
Malfoy was sitting on the sofa, where Teddy had slept, watching her like a shark considering prey.
The small fireplace in the suite had been lit while she'd been gone, and the room was too warm for comfort. After locking the door behind her, Hermione hung her satchel with all her notes on a coat peg by the door. Then, she removed her jacket and did the same, fanning herself with her hand in an attempt to cool down at the same time, feeling the cramping in her belly begin. The day's potions were wearing off.
"Did you enjoy your little holiday, princess?"
She sighed, in no mood for Malfoy's games right then. "I wouldn't call being shamefully secluded away from one's friends and family such a thing."
"No? How about 'honeymoon' then?" he asked, his tone taking on a dangerous edge. "Does that word better describe the fuck fest you've been enjoying here, behind my back with that little prick, Nott?"
Shaking her head, she made her way across the room towards the en suite. "We did nothing of the sort, Malfoy. I am not cheating on Draco with Teddy."
Her voice echoed around the small, tiled bathroom as she reached into the small mirrored cabinet hanging on the wall, where she'd stored her toiletries and personals, and withdrew a familiar green potion. As she shut the cabinet back up, Malfoy's reflection appeared behind her, at her shoulder, spooking her.
"But you are cheating on him with me."
He seemed smug about that, but underneath the façade, Hermione could sense his simmering rage.
She didn't deign to respond. Un-stoppering the bottle instead, she went to take a swig of the potion, but Malfoy's hand snaked out faster than she could see and he stopped her. It took Hermione a moment to decipher the snarling, enraged expression upon his face. When she did, she simply switched the potion over to the other hand, rather than fight him for her freedom, knowing it would be a futile effort.
"It's an anti-nausea potion," she explained, "not an abortifactant. Contrary to popular belief, 'morning sickness' is not simply relegated to the a.m."
"It won't harm my child?" he asked, and his fingers tightened on her wrist.
In her guts, she felt a spike of fear at his words.
My child, he'd said. Not Draco's.
He still thought the baby was his…and Hermione knew she and her fetus were only as safe as long as he believed that fact.
"No, it won't harm the baby," she told him, attempting to keep her expression as blank as possible and using a non-specific descriptor regarding paternity so she couldn't, technically, be considered lying to him. "It will, however, allow me to function for the next twelve hours without feeling the need to projectile vomit all over your shoes."
He took a moment longer to decide whether she was telling him the truth or not, clearly suspicious that she was holding something back from him. However, to her immense relief, he released her without any further dispute, and she tossed back approximately a spoon's worth of the potion in a single go. Then, she returned the bottle to its place in the cabinet.
"Now, if you don't mind, I've had quite a long day and I'd like nothing more than to take a hot bath and go to bed," she told him, attempting to shoo him out of the room and shut the bathroom door in his face.
Malfoy didn't budge an inch, however, despite her best shoving. His smirk went from pretentious to downright wicked in a heartbeat, though. "By all means, don't let me stop you with the former…but I wouldn't put too much stock in the latter just yet. Two days has been too long to go without."
She gaped at him. "I'm about ready to fall down on the job and you…you expect sex?"
"We made a deal, remember?" With a wandless spell, he had her red ribbon untangled from her hair and flicked across the other side of the room. Then, reaching for the hem of her jumper, he pulled it up and over her head in a single, hard yank. "Make it fast, I'm horny as fuck. Better yet…" He pulled away from her and began shucking his own clothes. "Naked and soapy sounds good to me, too."
Hermione stepped back, crossing her arms over her exposed middle. "No, absolutely not!"
Malfoy didn't let her refusal stop him, and when it became clear that she was not going to go along with his program, he continued the task of removing her clothing, too. She fought him, of course, side-stepping this way and that to prevent his reach, shoving against his arms to push him away. Relentless in his intentions, though, he completely ignored her wishes.
"Stop this!" she demanded, as he tugged her jeans and knickers to her knees. She pulled his hair as he knelt at her feet. "I told you no!"
With a vicious growl, Malfoy was on his feet and with a violent push and shove, he had her turned to face the wall. She got tangled up in her jeans, and so was unable to fight him as he slammed his upper body into hers and mashed her against the tile. Against the sway of her hind, she felt him pressing, already hard and ready to go.
His mouth at her ear breathed heavily, swamping her with unbearable heat. "Shut your mouth," he snarled at her, and kicked her legs apart. "All I want from you right now is this."
Grabbing her hard around the middle, he forced her into a position where she was somewhat bent at the waist, with her cheek pressed to the wall and her balance totally off. A moment later, he was pressing into her.
She wasn't wet enough, but Malfoy didn't seem to care. He coaxed enough of a response from her body to get it to act as it was meant to, to protect her from being torn apart, but that was it. Seated to the hilt within her in a single thrust, he paused there to enjoy the sensation of her tight walls surrounding him once more.
"Fuck, you feel so good."
Hermione knew it was pointless to beg him to stop; he wouldn't until he was finished using her. She hung on to her fury instead as he fucked her hard and deep. Tears burned twin trails down her cheeks, and she choked on angry sobs and whimpers as he brutalized her.
Grabbing her hair, he pulled her head back and pressed his mouth to her throat. "You are mine," he reminded her, grunting as he worked towards his climax. "Mine, princess. If that bastard Nott ever touches you again, I'll kill him. Understand?"
"He didn't…touch me! I'd never!"
Malfoy's other hand caressed her breast, teasing her nipple. "Swear it," he demanded of her, slowing his pace, moving now in a manner meant to entice, rather than punish. "Swear I'm the only one."
She turned her head as much as he would allow, glancing at him from her peripheral vision. "You know I can't do that. Draco‒"
"Is gone!" he growled, baring his teeth to her. "I'm all that's left in here, princess, so get used to it!"
She closed her eyes, the thought too painful to contemplate. "You lie. It can't be true!"
He pulled out to her and picked her up, dragging her back into the bedroom, where he threw her down on the bed. He rid her of her jeans and trainers with a quick series of pulls, and then he was back on top of her and inside her before she could scream.
"You'll give yourself to me, give in to my desire now, you stubborn wench."
"Never!" She scratched his arms up and bucked her hips, trying to dislodge him. "Get off, stop!"
He kissed her mouth, and when she went to bite him, he pulled her hair so hard, she cried.
"You're mine," he repeated as he pounded into her. The bed rocked with the force of his thrusts. "Mine to torture, mine to fuck, mine to make scream in pleasure and in pain! MINE!"
Hermione sobbed as he took her and filled her with his come over and over again for hours after that claim, seemingly inexhaustible and filled with a dark lust that would have been physically impossible to sustain except with magic.
Good lord, he really was a Dark Gancanagh, wasn't he? And it seemed Teddy was right: she was his mate, for why else would he be this sexually and emotionally obsessed with her?
Why else would he be begging her in her ear the whole time he raped her to just give in, to lose their bet, and to be his at long last?
By the time Malfoy was finally sated and had fallen unconscious beside her on the bed, it was well-past midnight. Yet, Hermione could not sleep. Her mind, in fact, was already far away from what had been done to her by her cursed lover, considering instead all she'd learned earlier that day about him and his heritage.
Dark Gancanagh, an Unseelie King—with a human Muggle-born witch for a mate. How would that upset the balance between the two courts, or more importantly, between the fairy and human realms? Also, did Draco's changed status completely invalidate their prophecy, or was that what it had meant by the comment 'Your path will be divided by hate. Saviour or slave your fate'?
Churning over the facts one-by-one until the whole ugly picture formed a soupy muddle of convoluted interconnectedness that left her feeling frustrated and helpless did little to end her insomnia. In short, her brain still refused to let any of it go by the time the three o'clock hour chimed from the small clock on the mantle. The puzzle that had twisted her up in knots for weeks kept her awake, even as her body desperately craved rest…
Gah, what could she, one small, insignificant girl do to fix any of this madness?
Absolutely nothing, that's what! She'd been a fool to think otherwise. There was no way to stop Malfoy short of killing him.
…And maybe that's what her part in the prophecy actually meant, anyway. 'Only a sacrifice of love from the Virgin'. What if the sacrifice was meant to be Draco's life? What if she—the one who loved him, the one destined to have been his mate under normal circumstances—was meant to be the one to kill him to save the fairy races from Malfoy's unholy influence?
That was the problem with prophecy, as she'd maintained all along. It was so vague, it could be taken any number of different ways, and not all of them ended well for the subject.
Her body ached as she sat up, but Hermione felt oddly detached from it. Maybe she was still in shock, or this temporary numbness was a coping mechanism, a way to keep her sane in an insane situation. Regardless, she'd had a purpose in attempting to get out of bed: across the room, a dull red glow was coming from the direction of the bathroom. It called to her without words, and so she slowly got to her feet and crossed to the loo one silent, bare feet.
On the floor by the shower was her ribbon, its shimmering beacon a glimmer of hope in the darkness, and bringing tears to her eyes.
Shutting and locking the door behind her, she hurried over to it, but before she picked it up, she turned the shower on to muffle the sobs that were working their way up her chest at long last. Then, she bent and picked up her beautiful, heart-felt gift, hurrying into the shower, to hide under the spray and to clean the scent of Malfoy off her skin.
Cradling the beautiful, magical gift to her cheek, she slumped against the wall, sliding down it until she was sitting on the floor. "I can't do this," she whispered to it, hoping the creature on the other side of the connection heard her. "I can't…it hurts too much! Please, help me. Do something to stop him!"
For once, the presence on the other end answered her. In that foreign language that she highly suspected was Japanese, her brain automatically interpreted the words, much as it had with the prophecy sphere's Gaelic:
Love ends all suffering. It is powerful magic.
"It's not enough," she argued, sobbing. "Don't you see? There's a baby now, and I…I'm not strong or brave enough to do this anymore!"
You cannot despair. You must save him! This, you are destined to do. Only you.
She felt the ribbon's warmth suffuse her, and took a deep shuddering breath, trying to let the calm wash through her, to reinforce her flagging courage. It took several minutes, but with the aid of calming and slowing her breathing, and recalling thoughts of that afternoon and evening at the Three Broomsticks with Draco, she was able to clear her overly-active mind and allow her head to empty of all fear and doubt.
"You're so sweet, Granger…in every way."
"Tell me you wanted this—that you won't regret it. Tell me you won't run from me this time."
"Hold onto me."
Her mysterious friend was right. Giving into her despair meant Hermione was failing the boy she loved, the one who existed underneath all that mess his heritage had created, the boy whose heart had been fashioned from the stars just for her. Draco was living in darkness right now, and just like she had earlier, he needed a little light to give him hope.
She would be that for him, no matter what.
"I don't know what brought us together, Draco," she murmured aloud, repeating the exact words she'd spoken to him just weeks ago in her dormitory room, when he'd snuck in to cheer her up. This was her promise to him, to them, and she reiterated it now. "It seems so strange to me that things have changed so quickly between us, especially given everything in our pasts. Yet, for some reason I can't explain, I know in my heart that this feels right. That's why I've decided that I want this. I want you. I do love you. And I want to stay with you always. No matter what it costs me, I don't want to be without you."
The shower door opened, and Malfoy stared down at her. His body, she noted, was hard again, ready for sex, but in his dark eyes, there was an odd softness she hadn't expected to ever see from him, especially after how they'd spent the last several hours, violently trapped by his jealousy.
"I'm yours, princess," he replied, recalling some of Draco's promises from that day as well. He held his hand out to her to take, palm up in silent supplication. "I'll want you with my last breath, too."
Hermione tightly gripped the ribbon in her fist.
Ai wa tsuneni shōri shimasu: Love will always win, the Kirin told her, very assured in its belief. It is the world's only hope.
Reaching up, she slipped her fingers into Malfoy's hand and trusted in their destiny.
TO BE CONTINUED…
愛は常に勝利しますAi wa tsuneni shōri shimasu = Love will always win
It is canon that the Dark Mark on Death Eaters turned "a vivid red" in the years after Voldemort's first defeat (after attempting to kill Harry) and his resurrection.
Also in canon, during Hermione's fifth year, Professor Hagrid was put on probation sometime between January-March 1996 by Dolores Umbridge, the High Inquisitor of Hogwarts that school year, and his job was taken over by Professor Grubbly-Plank. The HP Wikia states this happens at the beginning of May 1996, but that timeline doesn't work with the description of the seasons in the book, so it had to have happened earlier in the new year. For the sake of this fic, I am stating it happened in February 1996 or thereabouts.
Musical selections for this chapter:
"Gift of a Friend" by Demi Lovato (Hermione to Teddy)
"Fighters" by Kris Allen (Teddy to Hermione)
"The Climb" by Miley Cyrus (Hermione to herself)