This is a work of fiction, based on the book series by J.K. Rowling. Neither do I claim ownership nor do I intend to.
Chapter Thirty-One – Catching Up with Old Friends
Warmth greeted her. Enveloped by softness, she was very tempted to stay lying and think of nothing, especially the peculiar numbness of her senses. A cloud seemed to have settled on her mind, dampening the feelings and left little but calmness and the sensation of shapeless cotton clouds. But it didn't last long. Someone else was there as well, moving about and close to her from the sound of rustling clothes. With that realization, she shifted slightly. Her back scraped over some fabric. Fire seemed to spread over her shoulder, even if it wasn't hot, just prickling. It was enough to make her gasp in shock. Her eyes shot open, yet the world stayed partly dark. The part that she did see was unfamiliar. A high ceiling stared back down at her. The walls were dark, musty.
"You shouldn't move," the other person in the room said, sounding concerned. "You're not fully healed yet."
She turned her head towards the dark part of the world around her. Over to the side was a small table with a dried up, preserved flower on it. And next to it stood one of the last people Daphne would have expected in such a dreary setting.
"Granger?" she asked and found her own voice smooth, yet it didn't feel as if it were her mouth that had spoken and more like someone next to her had.
"You shouldn't move," the other girl repeated. She looked concerned as well, and if it really was Granger and not a fever dream – which would of course raise the question as to why Daphne would dream about Granger in her room while she was in a bed – then it was likely an interesting story behind the sudden appearance of the Muggleborn. Or was it the other way around? It sounded more reasonable in any case – that Granger had been there before and Daphne had arrived later.
"Where am I?" she asked, keeping focused on the other occupant of the room.
"In a bed," Granger answered with a kind smile that made Daphne nervous, "and also about as safe as you could be at the moment. I'm sorry, but divulging any more about your location would not be wise right now. It's not my decision."
Daphne stared for a moment. The more she thought about it, the less she liked the answer. She felt weak, she was unarmed; as a consequence, she didn't like being in the presence of others, least of all lying in a bed with them looking down on her. Could she risk going for her wand? It was only then she noticed she no longer was in her uniform. Her wand would not be within her reach, most likely. In fact, the burning sensation from earlier hadn't been a shirt or maybe a nightdress but the sheets of the bed. She wore what appeared to be a low-cut nightgown. She chose to focus on the more important matters.
"My wand," Daphne asked.
"I don't think that would be wise," Granger replied, sending a cold shiver down Daphne's back as it brought back the memories of what had happened. So she was again at the mercy of another magical.
"My wand, please," Daphne repeated, noticing with ease the slight fear in her tone.
Granger seemed to have picked up on it as well as she frowned. Then she waved her wand at the door. Something silver shot from it, too fast for Daphne to recognize anything. But she also had more pressing concerns. She couldn't focus on spells that didn't even target her when she was unarmed and more or less helpless. She kept her eyes on the Muggleborn witch who pulled Daphne's wand from a pocket. Hesitating for just a second, Ganger handed it off uncertainly to its owner.
In an instant, Daphne felt considerably better. Her partner greeted her, the warmth shooting up her arm. More importantly, Daphne felt safer. True, she was still flat on her back in an unknown location and uncertain about how far she could actually run if she had to, but at least she was no longer completely helpless.
"But don't make me regret it," Granger said, sighing. "Now, I will cast a few diagnostic spells to see how far you are done, but..."
Just then, a door opened and a new person entered the room. Daphne might have cursed, had she not deemed such behaviour very unwise – do not let your opponents know what you think about a situation – and been keeping an eye on Granger. The sound of the steps approaching fast also told her whoever it was came closer without hesitation, which she considered a good sign. Whoever it was hadn't started cursing her upon entering, seemed to have some business there, and was either trusting her or confident enough that she would not be a problem.
Potter came into view. He was very different from how she remembered him, yet still very much like himself. Of course he still had that unruly hair and his startling green eyes. But she couldn't remember seeing him that tired. He also reeked of something Daphne really didn't want to think about – something awful.
"So she woke up," he commented, looking Daphne over. His eyes rested on the wand in her hand. "And you gave her wand back," he added with a frown of his own.
"I did." Granger nodded shortly, but didn't defend her action.
Potter stayed silent for a moment, unmoving, but finally shrugged. "It's coming along," he told his friend, not elaborating either.
"Of course. I've read the instructions carefully, you know? I know what to expect," Granger replied, also not explaining. Did they do it on purpose just to unnerve Daphne? "We should probably get it over with," Granger added.
Potter nodded. Turning to Daphne, he said, "You will have to make an oath. Not an unbreakable one yet, but we still have to take certain measures. An oath on your magic will suffice for the moment. You will not betray my trust. You will not tell people who you know wish me harm about my whereabouts or the location of those who are with me. You will not try to attack us. You will not try to leave."
"There's no way I'll agree to that," Daphne told him, trying to prop herself up. Granger placed a hand on her shoulder, which Daphne refused to acknowledge. "I will not be your prisoner."
Granger turned to her friend and whispered something to him Daphne couldn't make out. Potter on the other hand pursed his lips. Sniffing, he said, "Very well, for the next three days you will not betray my trust. For the next three days you will not tell people who you know wish me harm about my whereabouts or the location of those who are with me. For the next three days..."
"I get it, Potter." Daphne gripped her wand tighter. She had half a mind to send a hex at either Granger or him, but doubted the other one would let her get away with whatever she could do. "In exchange for an oath of your own," she added. "That you will personally vouch for my safety – that no harm whatsoever will befall me."
He raised an eyebrow, but she thought she saw a small smile from him. He lifted his hand, wand already there. Had she seriously missed it before? "I swear upon my magic that for the next seventy-two hours, no harm shall be inflicted upon Daphne Greengrass by myself or any of my allies that is not part of her treatment or in defence of either myself, my goals, my allies, my safety or my allies' safety." He sent her a nod. "That's the best you will get. Your turn."
She sent him a weak glare back. She hadn't allowed him to change the wording. But could she fight her way out of the house? "I swear," she began, "upon my magic to neither betray your trust, tell people who wish you harm about your or your friends' location, try to leave or attack unless in self-defence for the next seventy-two hours after which I will no longer be bound by this oath." She felt the oath take effect, felt its drain on her energies. Was she really that weak to actually feel it?
Potter smirked. "Very well, it'll have to suffice."
Granger cleared her throat. "If you don't mind, Harry, I was about to begin the diagnosis spells and check on her condition. Also, you should probably get back to your task, just to be on the safe side."
He smiled, but nodded curtly. "All right. But it's still simmering, I'm sure, and will do so for the next hour. You've read the instructions as well, Hermione, you reminded me of that only moments ago."
She raised an eyebrow, and he left, laughing slightly.
"You trust him with a potion?" Daphne asked, once she heard the door close.
"I don't have that much choice," Granger replied. "And without Professor Snape around, he's fairly good. He did manage to achieve his Exceeds Expectations in his O.W.L.s mostly on his own. Now then, as I was saying before I was interrupted, I'm going to cast a few diagnostic spells on you. Most you won't even notice, but one or two you might. Just don't curse me, all right?"
Daphne frowned. She really didn't want someone to point a wand at her, much less when she was weak enough that she probably wouldn't stand a chance at defending herself. But she also didn't have much of a choice. She nodded, but readied herself to fight back.
Granger waved her wand, muttering under her breath. Whatever she did, she didn't say, but it didn't seem like curses. After what seemed like an eternity, she smiled slightly.
"Well, that is good, I guess," Granger announced. "You should continue to rest, though. There isn't much you can do, anyway, so sleeping it off might be the least bothersome or boring to all involved."
"What happened?" Daphne asked. Without the other girl's wand pointed at her, she felt more confident.
Granger looked weary all of a sudden. "I don't think you should concern yourself with that. Rest, sleep and in a few hours..."
"How am I expected to rest without knowing what happened? I would feel considerably more calm and willing to follow your advice if I knew what happened. Or if you were to inform me about my condition," Daphne spoke, trying to sound convincing.
Granger groaned. "Not you too! Why do you have to be so much like him? You really..." She stopped and shook her head in defeat. "Well, the healing does seem to get along well enough for an overview, I guess. Let's see. You were attacked a bit more than a day ago..."
"It was Malfoy," Daphne interrupted, surprising herself.
"Yes, we know," Granger replied with a nod, causing Daphne to raise an eyebrow.
Granger pursed her lips to keep herself from grinning. "Oh, news about it spread like wildfire, one could say. Your followers in hot pursuit sparked a lot of gossip. Also, needless to say you rekindled the fire of hope in the hearts of everyone opposing the new order. Oh, and inspired people with your fiery temper and..."
"Are you done yet?" Daphne interrupted.
Granger blushed. "Sorry, but you have no idea how hard it is with only boys around, and for some reason, they didn't find..."
"Neither do I. What happened?"
"Well, fine. Sorry, it's just... Sorry. So, you were attacked a day ago. Davis and Bulstrode, coming out of the Great Hall to find out about the noise outside, got involved and slowed your pursuers down some..."
"What happened to them?" Daphne said quickly, ignoring the pain on her back and belly as she pushed herself up on her elbow. She hadn't seen either of them during her escape.
Granger looked at her strangely. "You care about them?"
Daphne scoffed. "So what if I do? Don't you have friends?"
"Yes, I do," Granger admitted. "Davis and Bulstrode saw you hurt and running away. Before they could talk to you, however, others came running after you, and they understood enough to get involved. Well, it bought you precious seconds, but with them outnumbered two to one right from the start, they barely stood a chance even before Alecto Carrow and Professor Snape arrived. Davis and Bulstrode are out of the hospital wing by now. They received harsh punishments from Professor Snape, but he and Parkinson were convinced Davis and Bulstrode merely misunderstood the situation and sided with the wrong person, which is why they aren't worse off. Your... friends are currently ostracised within their house, but liked among the others. They are somewhat safe, in other words, because they don't know what really happened, but have people watching their backs."
"You know an awful lot of what is happening at Hogwarts," Daphne noted.
"We have our ways," Granger replied with a smug smile. "Well, you escaped, apparated away. You splinched and lost two toes, but that was relatively easy to fix. Well, no, technically you are still missing them, but it stopped bleeding which is preferable to bleeding from the stumps. There's a potion you will have to take to regrow them, but it will take more time than we had until now. You'll have them back in no time. Once you were out of the wards of Hogwarts, Harry could find you by following that beacon."
"The... the beacon?" Daphne asked, just then remembering the small stick she had gotten to carry around with her.
"The one he gave you, yes. I gave him quite a lecture about it when I found out as it could have worked well to lure him into a trap, but – and don't you ever tell him that, you hear? – now I'm glad he did. The moment your signal came in, he left. But the wards of Hogwarts interfered at first, you know? Well, once you were out in the open, he could find you and bring you here. Just in time, I would say. I had a friend come help with your injuries. I... didn't feel that well letting one of the boys help, not after you were stabilized. It's... well..." Granger glanced around uncomfortably.
"Yet you had a friend come to help," Daphne pointed out.
"Yes, another girl. A woman, I should probably say. Her father is a healer, which means she can stomach quite a bit and knows what she's doing. She was of use, at least for most of the harm, the best we could find at such a short notice, and given the nature and location of some of the injuries, I considered it preferable to any boy. Which brings us to your situation, I guess." Granger squirmed slightly. "Well, the splinched toes were the easiest part, in a way. Fl... my friend had that under control within a minute. You were still in a very bad shape. Broken bones, also easy to fix, but not exactly pleasant, from what Harry told me. They're fixed by now. Serious neural damage from extended torture. Malfoy certainly wasn't holding back. It will heal over time. There was a heavily bleeding wound on your belly from a spell I don't know. It was dark, of that I am sure, and is still healing. There will likely be profuse scarring around the edges, but we managed to get those... gashes to close. Luckily, your internal organs weren't damaged, but it was very close. Then there's that injury on your back. Dark magic as well from what I can tell. It closed, but it too doesn't look all that promising. Expect heavy scarring." Sighing, Granger hesitated. "Whatever it was, something dark gave you a nasty cut." Granger mimed something on her right cheek. "You were lucky it missed the jugular, actually. Since that spell was somewhat darkish from what we can tell, it didn't heal properly. It might lessen over time, though, and there's always a chance of a solution one way or another. Which brings me to your... eye. Your left," she specified needlessly to buy herself time. "Harry found the counter-curse in one of the books around here. It stopped the ongoing effect, but the harm was already done, and it too was caused by a dark spell."
"Of course it was," Daphne groaned.
"It kind of... shrivelled up. Not a nice sight. For now, we have given you an eye patch to keep the wound protected while we work on a solution."
"A solution, Granger? To damage from dark magic?" Daphne felt like laughing or crying, but couldn't bring herself to do either.
"Well," the Muggleborn replied, "the magic itself was stopped, but the damage cannot simply be undone like that. It's very likely the same spell cost Alastor Moody his eye..."
"So you want to fit me with an eyesore like his?" Daphne interrupted.
Granger snorted despite the grave subject. "Well, not necessarily so, but we were not completely averse to the idea. It would work as the damage hadn't proceeded to the nerves. Reasonably speaking, it should be possible to fit you with a magical eye like Moody's..."
"Which is creepy and probably worse than an eye patch," Daphne added.
"It shouldn't be impossible to create one to look like your real one," Grange gave back. "Moody might have chosen his to have room for tinkering with its magic. Or perhaps he secretly likes scaring people. But for the time being, there is also another option we wanted to offer - one Moody might not have known about at the time, although I doubt he would have chosen it. He seems to be quite happy with his artificial eye. When looking for the counter-curse, Harry stumbled upon a potion that would solve the problem in a way."
"A potion. There is no way to regrow body parts that have been destroyed by dark magic, Granger."
"And the potion doesn't try to. It is a loophole abuse, but it might work. The damage in your case was a bit more severe than ideal, but we think it might be worth a try. The potion, the one Harry is keeping... the one he is... helping me brew, does not regrow the old eye but uses the surrounding body parts to form a new one. It apparently works only once as it alters the body in the process to a point that any attempts to do it with the other eye will simply not work.
"Well, it will transform part of the skin, of the bones and muscles, of the vessels that lead to the eye previously to form a magically resistant copy. We had hoped you would wake up before we were finished with the potion so we could ask your opinion."
Daphne forced herself not to laugh grimly. "My opinion? If the choice is between an eye patch and an untested potion that might give me a new eye? Do I look that stupid to you?"
"You look like a pale-faced, one-eyed, bed-ridden witch," Granger replied. "And the potion is not untested; it is merely that we haven't tried it yet. It's a counter designed specifically for that spell, in fact."
"Should I be worried someone did test it?" Daphne asked.
"Probably. I wish I'd skipped those parts, but I haven't, and that is why I'm fairly certain it'll work."
Daphne sighed. "Fine. Dump the stuff in me, then." She lay back on the bed. "Where am I, though?"
"In my bedroom," Granger told her. "Sorry, but I cannot risk telling you more than that at the moment. I do have to think about our safety."
"Your room?" Daphne asked with a chuckle. "How gracious of you to give up your private space for me. I hadn't expected your taste in interior design to be so..." She waved her hand around as if in indecision.
"It's the room I'm staying in at the moment. Interior design wasn't really high on our priority list. Neither was preparing for house guests, which is why we were a bit short on bedrooms. Mine was best suited for a make-shift infirmary. Now then, I have told you about the situation, will you please rest?" She left the room and Daphne to face her solitude.
Daphne awoke what Granger told her a few hours later to a bowl of rice and beef –the remainder of dinner, or so the Muggleborn had claimed. After eating the meagre portion, Granger placed two bottles on the bedside table.
"That one will regrow your toes," she said, indicating the larger bottle. "It took a while to get it, but there you go."
Daphne simply drank it, ignoring the taste as much as possible.
"The potion, Greengrass," Granger said, pointing to the other bottle. "We finished it. I have to warn you, though, it will not be pleasant."
After a quick look in a mirror to see the damage with her healthy eye, Daphne put the patch back on. Everything had to be better than the empty socket with its greyish, dead flesh. Then there was that cut on the right side of her face. It reached from below her jaw over her cheek and vanished somewhere in her hair. With the ragged edges, it looked about as bad as it had felt when she had gotten it. A cruel twist of fate fo sure, but the pain on her back distracted her too much to worry about an eye or a scar on her face.
Daphne downed the brew and found the Muggleborn's description an understatement. It tasted about as vile as anyone could expect it to be, burning all the way down the throat while the fumes rising into her nose sizzled and bubbled in it, causing an itch that couldn't be scratched. Even snorting didn't get rid of it. And almost immediately, there had been a strange feeling as if some pull were applied to the tissues around the gaping hole under the eye-patch.
Granger left again to take care of other business. Having slept more than enough, Daphne couldn't get more rest. Instead, she stared at the dark ceiling and imagined herself lying in her dorm in Hogwarts, surrounded by her friends. How were they doing? Did they think of her as well? Tracey had already enough to deal with. Did the escape get her into as much trouble as Daphne feared? Malfoy alone would have been bad enough, especially with his new power, but his mother would certainly never give up, would mostly likely want revenge for harming her son. Had he confided in her what he had done? Had he told his mother what she had done? If so, then Daphne really would have to start sleeping with an open eye. Narcissa Malfoy would never let such an attack go unpunished.
What about Millicent, Daphne wondered. While the girl looked like she could take a lot, just how much could she endure in reality? The worst she had had to suffer previously had been jibes about her looks or comments about her disappointment of a father. But getting ostracised by people she considered her friends for something she had done out of a desire to help would be very hard on her, especially after the debacle with the Inquisitorial Squad. And with Daphne gone, she had lost another pillar of support, however silent it had been.
The gaping hole in Daphne's head had begun pulsing, and she tried to focus on something else.
What about Pansy? Granger hadn't said anything about her, maybe to spare her feelings, but Daphne knew already. In that last glimpse, she had seen the pale, but hateful face of her friend in the crowd. She had joined the hunt, maybe even thrown the curse that had hit her before Daphne could escape. And lying in the darkness of the room, trying to block out the loneliness and anxiety, Daphne put the pieces together. She had overheard Pansy and Draco talking during the last school year. Malfoy had talked about his responsibilities to Pansy, yes, but Daphne hadn't made the obvious connection. Again she had ignored the evidence, maybe even the signs. If Malfoy was a Death Eater and had been recruiting the last year, then he might have tried with Pansy. And with her interest in him, he would have had an easy time as well. So that was why she had been distant for a time.
Another memory came to Daphne, something Draco had said to her a bit more than a day ago. That a She had thought something about Daphne. Had Pansy been that she? Had Pansy thought they had lost her, too? Lost her, Malfoy had said. Lost her. And he had been very interested in Potter. They had thought she had joined him, their enemy. Had Pansy really joined the Death Eaters? Daphne didn't want to believe it, but her heart was heavy with fear. If Pansy had indeed joined them, then Granger's earlier comment about her being convinced Tracey and Millicent hadn't willingly opposed the Dark Lord had been hinting at a possible misunderstanding.
Yet Pansy had apparently spoken up for them. Had she done it out of an obligation for her friends? Had she tried to help them? For Daphne couldn't really see Pansy doing something for anyone out of mere kindness or an urge for honesty. And if so, had Pansy realized her mistake?
Something clicked in her mind. How had she not seen it earlier? Pansy might have known about the attack on the wedding day beforehand – perhaps Malfoy had let something slip – and had access to the house in question. She might have slipped the note there; she might have helped them escape. That thought cheered Daphne up, if only slightly. Perhaps her friend had levelled the field for them.
And Astoria? She was her sister, whatever else they were to each other. Granger hadn't said anything about her and Daphne couldn't remember seeing her in the crowd of people. But she might be a target, might have to bear the brunt of hatred aimed at the traitorous sister. Or perhaps she had already joined the ranks as a potential candidate? Another awful thought, and another one she tried to push away, along with the memory of the talk with Astoria from the winter holidays.
Who else had Malfoy pulled to his side? Zabini? But they had seemed needlessly unfriendly to each other. Or had that been an attempt to plant a spy? By pushing Zabini away, they could have tried to give her a confidant she might trust enough to spill the beans to. Well, it hadn't worked, which explained why Malfoy had gotten himself involved. The more Daphne thought about it, the more obvious it really was. All those hushed talks in the common room all year, Draco's sudden interest in helping others – all part of the plan, all part of the one scheme to scout potential recruits. He had indeed grown up if that was the case, Daphne realized, as it would have given him ample opportunities to gather the necessary information and be a man in his own right.
Her thoughts became stuck on his words during their confrontation. He had thought they had lost her. So he had told others to avoid her in order to not tip her off. Not his wisest move, but she had been too foolish, too trusting to see the truth. But he had been mostly happy when he had thought she simply believed him to be a child. So that had been the small spot of hope, the helping hand of Fate extended to her. All she would have had to do would have been playing along with it, but she had blown that chance. She had been lulled in too much by Malfoy's happiness and her own relief to recognize the danger still lurking; she had blabbed about Potter's idiotic theory. Malfoy hadn't taken that well, yes. She had caused his fury.
Potter had gotten there as well, Malfoy had said. Potter had learned about it, even though no one knew. Potter had found out about the big secret Malfoy had been trying to hide; however, it hadn't been the secret Daphne's house-mates had talked about, their Death Eater ambitions, but the deaths of two students. She had talked about Malfoy killing them, about him being found out. It had been too late at that point to stop the rest of the events, of course, but lying in the dark room with nothing but shadows to keep her company, she knew it.
Potter had been right. Malfoy had killed two students; he had done it to keep them silent, but he had done so in a way that had left no traces on the bodies. How had he done it? Did she even want to know? She couldn't think of any spell, potion or creature that didn't leave at least some trace. Even the Killing Curse left the evidence of no discernible evidence. He had somehow managed to kill McLaggen, perhaps seconds before anyone came across them, and had gotten away with it. And he had murdered Brooks, one of his own house-mates, a girl he had talked to repeatedly. Had he tried to recruit her? Perhaps he had –she had lost her father as well, he might have foolishly tried that angle. Or maybe he had been too forceful. But when she had proven to be a risk –had that been it? Had the girl to die because of that? –he had dealt with it, had solved the problem she had become permanently. And he had joked about it afterwards. They had sat together, wondering about her demise, and Draco had laughed about it. He had murdered a girl, perhaps even in cold blood without getting caught and had laughed about it. The thought sent chills down Daphne's spine.
And he had done more than that. He had said he had gotten better at the Cruciatus curse, hadn't he? During his attacks on her, he had said so; he had asked her whether he had improved. And he had also said that she had never liked that spell. Something else clicked in her mind, another painful realization. He had done it before, had used that spell before, but not just on a faceless victim, but her. He had attacked her in February, even if Professor Snape hadn't found any evidence. Malfoy had gotten her, had been there. She knew it even if she couldn't remember it. Even without her memories of the event, it made sense. If he had suspected her of having joined Potter, then he would have tried to confirm it.
Had he done the same with Brooks and McLaggen? Daphne couldn't see him doing that. She guessed neither of them would have joined the light side. Should she feel special? Honoured? So he had gotten to her and had interrogated her. But she couldn't have given him the answers he had wanted. She hadn't joined Potter. Had she told Malfoy about the contract and the arrangement with Potter? Perhaps she had. Perhaps she had, but perhaps not. She was still alive, so she guessed it was the latter. But then, Malfoy had also said she had chosen Potter. Did he know? And he had to have known about the memory charm on her. If he had had a hand in her torture, surely he had done that spell as well, not trusting anyone else to hide the evidence.
He had mutilated her mind. He had manipulated her, had potentially destroyed part of her just to hide his crimes. And he had taunted her about it. Every day in school and whenever he had seen her, he had known what had happened. And during their confrontation, he had taunted her about it.
But how had he done it? How had he gotten her? Had he simply asked her to join him in a classroom? It had worked once, so why not earlier? But she had been more wary back then. Unless he had altered her personality, planted the suggestion to trust him in these matters or maybe a codeword to do just what he wanted, she would have never followed him in the first place. And she distinctly remembered her walk through the school. So how had he done it? Somehow, he would have needed to get her alone. Had he simply hid behind some armour? Stunned her and dragged her to a classroom? Possible, yes. But she would have fallen to the ground, not ideal if someone would have come by. And Stupefy wasn't exactly silent, either. He might have hit her, but with all the teachers and students running around, it would have been a big risk.
But it would have been easy for someone who didn't shy away from the Unforgivables. The Imperius curse, silent and without any signs, would have allowed him to order her into a room of his choosing. She would have walked into the trap with open eyes. That fit Malfoy, or the Malfoy she had recently gotten to know. Forcing the victim to walk to their doom would have pleased him. Hadn't he boasted to her about growing up? About doing what needed to be done? It made sense. Malfoy had been going on about proving one's worth, showing yourself capable. He had taken pride in growing up. Without her knowledge about his love life, she might have come to the conclusion that he had lost his virginity or innocence – in a way, he had. He had murdered, had proven his worth. He had established himself as a leader of sorts, not a follower.
The pounding in her head was still there, but either because she had gotten used to it or because she was distracted from it by her thoughts, she didn't take notice of it beyond acknowledging the pain's existence.
So Draco had established his position, had learned how to influence the world and the people in it. Make them mere puppets. And wasn't it convenient how little traces the Imperius left? Hadn't the impostor in fourth year said so? The Imperius left no outward sign apart from the misty eyes, an easy to overlook symptom if one wasn't expecting it. With it, Malfoy could have easily told Daphne to walk into any room he wished to, especially since despite her determination she had never really learned to shake it off at once. He could have made McLaggen jump over the railing, very easy to do, in fact. And with it, he could have made Brooks walk to the bathroom she had been found in – the Prefect's bathroom not many students were allowed to enter. Very easy indeed, since she wouldn't have been put under the curse during her second year. Unprepared like that, she would have followed the orders without much resistance. And then, once she had been there, he had her –the details sprang to her mind unasked –pick up a bottle of Firewhiskey, a good, a plausible cause of death if she had been found intoxicated. She had to have had some in her for the Aurors to believe the story, so Malfoy had forced her to drink it. Only – and she remembered one of the rumours going around at the time – Brooks had drowned. Someone had heard a painting talk about it.
The Firewhiskey would have made it look like an accident or suicide, like the girl, stricken with grief, had chosen death to be reunited with her father. It fit far too well, another matter Malfoy would have had control over. So he had her drown herself? Daphne thought about it and about the demonstration from her fourth year. The spider had done exactly what it had been told to do, but just how far would that control extend? What if the victim came to their senses before they died? That too would have needed to be controlled. After such a perfect murder, Malfoy wouldn't have left that up to chance. He would have had to make sure Brooks really did drown. He would have stayed. And the rumour about the Aurors handling clothes? Potter's clothes? Or Brooks? The girl had tried to go against Malfoy, against him who believed in his twisted views to be superior. She had chosen to be unworthy. The last piece of that puzzle fell into place, and she could picture the scene with dreadful clarity. Once he had her drink the Firewhiskey, enough to make it believable – or maybe before it? – he had her undress and get in the tub. Then he had to have ordered her to drown herself, and while she had done so, he had stood by, watching the naked girl die in the water because she had dared disagreeing with him.
A nausea rose in Daphne, whether because of the renewed pain in her eye socket or because of her theory she didn't know.
Granger came back early on the next morning. Whether due to a finely tuned sense of smell or keen observation, she did notice the dried pool of sick beside the bed. Daphne had tried to clean it, but magical cleaning spells of that sort had never been her forte, especially not weakened and with a shaky grasp on depth. She had removed some of it, but some had remained, soaked up by the old carpet when Daphne had felt too weak to continue her attempts.
Granger had little trouble with it. She didn't even look at it or comment, but merely waved her wand. It made Daphne fell both better and worse. With the Muggleborn not paying attention to it, she wouldn't have to endure the embarrassing talk, but at the same time, the ease with which she took care of it made Daphne feel more incompetent than she should have. Granger probably had more experience with household charms, coming from a Muggle household; perhaps it was just that simple. Without her parents taking care of it, she had probably spent every day since her seventeenth birthday spelling clean whatever she had laid her eyes on.
After another short flurry of diagnosis spells, the Muggleborn nodded happily.
"Well, most of the damage has healed reasonably well. The eye seems to be getting along fine, the toes are back again, and I think your scars are healed well enough to allow you to leave the bed if you want to." She pulled open a wardrobe and pulled out a shirt and a skirt. Placing them on a chair, she told Daphne, "Now then, since I give you permission to leave, you should talk to Harry before anything else to get the ground rules done. He was quite insistent about that, and I agree."
"I would like to leave the room," Daphne said, standing up tentatively.
"All right, then I will lead you to him." She waved her wand again, and another silver stream shot through the door just like it had done the previous day. "We can meet him in the kitchen, and you can have your breakfast that way."
Daphne blinked. "Fine. I'll be out when I'm done."
Granger thankfully got the admittedly strong hint and left. Daphne undressed carefully and looked at herself in the mirror on the wall, first by glancing over the hurt shoulder. From afar, it didn't look quite so bad, just slightly discoloured. But once she touched it experimentally, she could feel the uneven skin. If the whole wound was like that, then a large part of her right shoulder had been mutilated. With a sigh, she turned around and looked at her belly in the mirror. It looked gruesome, and she didn't even need to touch it to recognize the damage. Three pale patches of skin had grown, outlined by the sharp edges, the scars showing where the skin had been ripped apart, one barely below her ribcage and the lowest just above her hip. If she hadn't known any better, she would have thought a vicious, enormous beast had attacked her.
She couldn't look at it any longer and partly wished she hadn't seen it. But another part was glad that she had. Instead of looking further, she put the clothes on, only momentarily noticing the shirt being slightly too big and not her own. Granger had probably given her another one as most of the damage would have been to the top clothing, but the skirt was her own.
Once she was finished, she glared into the mirror challengingly. The eye patch made her look very worn. The potion had definitely done some work already, but she could still feel the pulling and stretching, mixed with the occasional stinging. She took the patch off cautiously and looked at her new face. Most of it she easily recognized. Her healthy eye was still blue with its brownish hue mixed in here and there. Her nose was still the same. The scar on the right side was disconcerting, but nowhere near as bad as Professor Moody had looked. Even the area around her left eyes looked not that unusual with only strange vessels running to the eye, slightly lighter than the rest of her skin. Yet the socket wasn't filled with anything resembling an eye or human for that matter, but a pulsing clump of flesh, vessels filled with what she hoped was blood throbbing under a semi-transparent surface. It was also too small to fill out the space, making the already mismatched eyes even different in size.
Daphne put the patch back on. She was glad she had seen it and yet, she was also disgusted by it. But there was still hope, she told herself. There was still hope it would turn out all right. Unwilling to linger any longer, she stepped outside and breathed the stale air of the hallway. Granger stood only a few feet away, glaring at a painting of a dissected, wailing house-elf. She tore her infuriatingly matching eyes off it.
"Good. Let's get going," she said with a sad smile as if she knew why Daphne had taken so long.
They descended down the stairs, and both floors she saw gave off the same expression of a dying animal. She could see and sense the house had once belonged to a wealthy and certainly pureblooded family, but it had fallen to disrepair. Some spots had been worked on, but a lot had been left to do. When they reached the ground floor, easily recognizable by the front door, Daphne had to resist the urge to run away as they passed a stretch of wall that looked recently renovated. Without the oath, she might have tried it. At least she had an idea of where they were. She knew of few old families' homes Potter and his friends would find themselves welcome at. The Potters might have had a house somewhere, but she doubted it would be like this one. The Longbottoms would not have let their home fall to such a dreadful state, and both families were far too light to consider the decorations around the house appropriate. Right in the entrance however hung a giant, dead snake, glinting at the girls maliciously with its lifeless, gleaming eyes.
"This way," Granger said, waving lazily as she walked past the snake.
Daphne followed, but she couldn't quite bring herself to ignore the feeling that the eyes where following her. They descended a last flight of stairs into the kitchen. Weasley sat in a corner, fingering his wand. A house-elf busied himself around a stove. And as expected, Potter sat at the table, looking expectantly at the newcomers.
"Nice to see you up and about. I should welcome you, I guess," he said with a small wave of his empty hands. His wand lay on the table in front of him in clear sight.
"So this is the house you mentioned, then," Daphne replied, trying to sound calm. In reality, she couldn't shake the thought that she was outnumbered three to one and bound by oath and honour. Potter was too, yes, but what if he no longer considered Weasley his ally? Or considered taking her out as part of her treatment?
"You are correct." He smiled at her, but it lacked the friendliness she might have expected. "This is the ancestral home of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black and by right of inheritance now mine. Part of it is also Kreacher, the house-elf." He pointed towards the elf who bowed jerkily before returning to his work.
"So this is where you have been, locked up in this house. No one has thought to come looking here?"
"They have come, but they can't enter. It is still protected by enchantments even they cannot breach, enchantments outside of the control of the Ministry, and that is one of the reasons I haven't mentioned the address," Potter said. "I'm guessing you are hungry, so please have a seat while I explain the rules I have set." He waved his hands at the meagre selection on the table. Apart from some bread, honey and cheese, it looked as if they had next to nothing of note or larger quantities.
"So you have decided the terms of my imprisonment," she concluded.
He chuckled. "Hardly. I merely have to think about the safety, both ours and yours. So, to business. Everything below second floor you may try to enter. These floors have been cleaned and maintained reasonably well. The second floor and everything above are out of bounds for you. The previous rules currently ensured by your oath naturally continue to hold true for safety reasons as well, but I don't think we will need an oath any longer."
Daphne glanced around carefully, watching for hidden traps or attackers, but she found none. Potter merely looked back. Weasley eyed her from time to time, but otherwise tried to appear as if hedidn't pay her any attention. He wasn't a good actor, though. Granger had picked up a book.
"Those are quite generous terms," Daphne replied evenly, sitting down in one of the chairs.
"They are, yes. But then, you are not a prisoner in this house, or at least no more than we are," he told her.
Weasley snorted. "That sounded awfully cheesy, you know that, right?"
"Spoil my fun, why don't you? I won't have many opportunities to give speeches..."
"You will have, Harry, until you are sick and tired of them," Granger spoke up, not even stopping in her reading. "And unless Ron and I aren't careful, we will have and be as well. Especially yours."
Daphne took a slice of bread as she watched them smile wistfully at each other, sharing a private joke she didn't understand.
"So how are you feeling?" Potter asked her.
Daphne was tempted to roll her eyes, but thought the gesture to be too melodramatic both with and without the eye-patch at that moment. Instead she merely told him, "Better, thank you for asking."
"That is good to hear," he said. "You might also like to hear we received news from Hogwarts. Davis and Bulstrode are finding their way back into their house's good graces – slowly, mind you, but steadily."
"You really do learn a lot about Hogwarts," she observed. "I would have thought the owls are being checked or something."
"You are very likely right," Potter agreed, but didn't elaborate.
She swallowed nervously, having an idea where the talk might lead to. "I know what you want," she told them. Weasley stopped his examination of his wand, but didn't look at her. "And it's not your business what happened at school."
"Oh, we already know quite a bit about that, actually." Potter sent her a genuine smile. "You have given the resistance new hope. I have to thank you for that. Also, setting Malfoy's pants on fire? Brilliant. I've gone toe to toe with him in the past, but was one sick burn."
"See?" Granger yelled, grinning, "It is funny!"
"He was released this morning, sadly, but I think he'll be back soon enough."
"It's still not your business," she repeated, not thinking about the serious injury she must have caused Malfoy and trying hard not to smile happily at the hopefully painful experience.
"And I didn't order you to tell us anything. But a lot of people within the school have heard about the important parts..." Granger stifled laughter, but he continued as if he hadn't noticed anything, "and they are smart enough to figure out the rest. You have more friends at school right now than you might think, and I have a lot of supporters. Now that they've seen Malfoy's not invincible, I'm expecting he will face a fair bit of opposition."
"I neither need nor want you or your friends to enact revenge on my part," she clarified. "So Tracey and Millicent are doing better?" she added, indicating the previous matter settled.
"It seems so, yes," Potter replied.
Daphne ate the last of her bread in silence while the other occupants returned to their previous actions or, in the case of Potter, looked around the room idly. Finally, she had finished breakfast and felt the time come for the other subject to be brought up.
"I know what you are thinking," she started again, the words forming in her mouth as she was still struggling with her resolve. "You think I should take a side – that I should decide to help you and stand against the Death Eaters in addition to Malfoy." She paused, but when no denial came, she continued. "You are probably right, I should do that after what you've done for me. Personally, I would prefer to stay out of your war – to stay neutral. Your struggle is not mine."
Weasley scoffed. "Unbelievable. She gets cursed, almost killed, we drag her here with her closer to death than life and yet she still takes the coward's way. A Slytherin through and through, no backbone of their own. Why did we even bother? What's up, Greengrass, preferring to lean back and let others do the work? Wait for both sides to kill each other so you can..."
"Silence, Ron," Granger interrupted, sending Daphne an odd and disturbingly calculating look. "Let her speak her mind. I want to hear what she has to say."
Potter watched Daphne with an impassive face, and she gulped. This was harder than she had thought it would be. "I would prefer to stay neutral, that much is true. I have a lot to lose – and I know you have as well, yet still risk it; maybe I don't have what it takes to sacrifice everything for a cause. I know you were right, Potter, your suspicions were entirely correct, I know that now, even if I don't want to accept it." She sent him a look, and he seemed to have understood her; he nodded slowly. She looked away again. "I hold no grudge against you, but associating with you would have been a very bad idea in the past, especially with the contract in the picture. And everyone knows your days are counted, so I had to think of my own safety first. I would have preferred to stay out of the war."
She took a shivering breath and as she did, she felt the sting in her belly from the scarred skin. "Malfoy made the decision in my stead. When he attacked me, when he forced my hand, he ensured that we would not end up on the same side. I hurt him and he will not stop until he has his revenge. I hurt her son, so Narcissa Malfoy will not stop until she has her revenge as well. Should both die through the hands of fate, Lucius Malfoy will carry their grudge, or maybe Bellatrix Lestrange. They made themselves my enemy. Out of fear, Draco Malfoy has made the decision in my stead – he decided I would join you. Well, here I am now, where he feared I might end up at. And I have a score to settle with him right now."
Weasley sat, staring dumbly. Potter on the other hand had a triumphant, yet oddly malicious smirk on his face. Granger nodded grimly, before telling Potter, "See? You don't need to prepare speeches to make a point, they happen on their own."
"Actually," Daphne replied with a small shrug, "I did kind of prepare for it. I had a bit of time to think."
Potter suddenly grinned at her. "Congratulations, you're now an enemy of the state. Not that you hadn't been before already with the Malfoys very likely demanding your head, but..."
"Wait," Weasley butted in. "Revenge? That's it? Just like that? You let her join us here because she wants to make Malfoy pay? We risk our lives for years, stick by you and our necks out through thick and thin and she just strolls in and wants to get back at him and –BAM!, she's in?"
Granger cleared her throat. "I don't particularly like it either. But we don't really have much of a choice, do we?"
"We can't send her out of the door, not with Wizarding Britain as it is now," Potter added. "I would have preferred if you had joined us - and I mean, really joined us as a fighter at our disposal, not in some shaky alliance - because the plight of the Muggleborns bothers you..."
"It's Malfoy I want," Daphne pointed out, "or something from him, at least."
"That's easy to say," Weasley told her, "but do you think you have what it takes to deal with him? He handled you quite skilfully from what we've heard and seen, who's to say the next time you cross paths..."
"He got the drop on me the last time," Daphne spat out. "He got the drop on me. I was stupid, trusting him more than my gut feeling, but I know now how he is. It will not happen again. Now I trust my gut feeling," she said as another sting of pain from her belly sht through her.
Weasley was about to respond, and Granger looked as if she had something to say as well, but Potter spoke up. "I have decided. I think revenge is a decent enough start for her. We can't allow us to turn her away either way. It's not safe for anyone of us outside, and I think she shouldn't leave the house until she has recovered at the least. And if she can be useful for us, even better. If she wants to deal with Malfoy, I'm all right with that."
"Well, I guess that makes us allies, then," Daphne spoke up. "But just so we understand each other, I won't take orders from you. I'm not one of your friends who do whatever you tell them to."
"Yes, I'm aware what an alliance is," Potter acknowledged. "But perhaps you could help me out with something; you see, I want to hear more about your confrontation with Malfoy. It might be important to get some insights into his mind, to know what we have left in school."
Daphne clenched her fist. "No, that continues to be none of your business. That's between him and me. Malfoy is mine. I'm taking care of him. You don't need to know more than that. Take it or leave it."
Potter stared at her. She felt herself reminded of what she had heard about Dumbledore who would stare at people until they broke and told him what he wanted to know. Had Potter learned that skill? Daphne doubted it, but still tried to hold his gaze defiantly. It was their first battle of wills, she realized. She needed to show she wouldn't budge on the matter, not to him and definitely not in front of his friends.
Finally, he nodded. "Fine, keep your secret for now." Both of his friends looked at him for a moment, and just like that, they dropped any comment.
Sometimes Daphne really didn't understand Gryffindors. But instead of thinking too much about it, she nodded curtly.
Harry and Daphne are finally on the same side. Kind of.