A Strange Engagement

A Temporary Safety

As Hermione made her way back to the Manor, the beautiful weather did nothing to calm her anxious thoughts. The people at the Burrow would probably want another letter soon, but she couldn't write now; if she did, it was doubtless that this was what she would write about, and she knew that Ron and Harry wouldn't care less, and would probably congratulate her for getting Malfoy in such trouble.

As the broom flew over the countryside, she tried to think about what to do before Lucius and Narcissa got back, so she would at least have something to suggest to them. She grimly bit her lip as she tried not to picture their expressions in her mind. Were they worried? Of course they were. Well, she wasn't quite sure about Lucius, but Narcissa must have some maternal feelings for her son.

Looking into the warm breeze as it caressed her face, it occurred to her that once she got back to the Manor, the two of them would probably be waiting for her. The warm weather was making her a bit drowsy and causing her to dawdle. Mentally slapping herself, she sat up on her broom and directed it in a more direct route to her destination.

Narcissa had been to the ministry before of course, but it was usually for some beyond boring company dinner or something that required a smile, a few little white lies and a handshake. But this time she was here on a mission, and she felt her heart race with every passing minute. She was nervous as hell about this, and she was a bit ticked off about that because the drink she'd had back at the house had been to calm her nerves and it wasn't doing its job.

Co-workers of Lucius's walked by her in the hallways and greeted her cordially, but she couldn't spare them any attention. Finally, she found Lucius's area of expertise and the first person she saw wasn't him, but his impish-looking read-headed secretary named Nixie.

She cleared her throat and Nixie quickly looked up from filing her nails and gazed into Narcissa's eyes with the look of a scared rabbit.

"Can I help you?" she squeaked.

Narcissa nodded. "Of course you can, or else I wouldn't be standing here talking to you. Tell me where my husband is. As his secretary, I assume you know?" Narcissa was pleased that although she was so anxious, it didn't show in her voice.

Nixie nodded and began rifling around in a drawer that was full of used Droobles best blowing gum wrappers and random sickles and Knuts among other things.

Finally, she pulled out a pile of papers with torn corners and began shuffling through them.

She picked one out, grabbed her wand and tapped it. Then she looked up at Narcissa.

"What time is it, then?"

Narcissa growled. "A bit after one."

"Oh." She went back to the schedule. "I'm sorry, but he can't see you right now. He and the Minister are in a meeting. The Minister is thinking about getting your husband another promotion. I would ask you to see the Minister's secretary, but she's been off her head for days now. He's saying that we should just hire a replacement."

A thought suddenly crossed Narcissa's mind. She nodded Nixie, and left her. With a teeny bit of a jaunt in her step, she walked to the part of the ministry where the Minister himself went about his business. Nixie wasn't lying when she said that his secretary was off her head. Narcissa spent a good fifteen minutes trying to get an answer out of the woman, but she was no use. Finally, Narcissa just hit her over the head with a large rock she found under the leg of a wobbly chair that was being used to hold it up, and watched as the woman fell out of her chair, unconscious.

Quickly, she shoved her under the desk and matter-of-factly began to undress her, leaving the woman in her slip. Then she carried the clothes to the nearest bathroom, which was close by, and dressed in them.

After she got the robes on, she quickly put a lock charm on the door so that no one could come in and disturb her. Then she turned the faucet on for one of the sinks and stuck her head under. Once her hair was wet but not dripping, she grabbed a hair coloring potion from her purse, and rubbed it in her hair like shampoo. It worked, and immediately her hair went from its blonde to a deep red like Nixie's. Checking herself in the mirror and feeling satisfied, she quickly left the bathroom.

She then walked around until she found the Minister's door and knocked, not timidly, but not rudely either. When the voice of the Minister told her to enter, she did so.

"Who are you?" the Minister asked rather gruffly. "I've never seen you before, and as you can see, I'm in a very important conference, so whatever you have to tell me will have to wait."

Narcissa shook her head. "I'm sorry sir, I'm afraid it can't. I'm your new secretary. I just started a few days ago. A Mrs. Malfoy has just come to me and told me that she needs to see her husband on a very urgent manner. She's waiting for him in the vestibule if it's all right to postpone the talk for a little bit."

Lucius nodded and stood up quickly. The two of them left the room and as soon as the Minister was no longer in sight, he frowned at her.

"Narcissa, what is this about, and why is your hair red?"

"I know I don't usually do this, and it might seem kind of strange, but Draco's rescue mission has gone horribly wrong. Hermione's all right, but Fallon mistook Draco for a member of his vampire fan club, and has taken Draco with him to the Clan to see Gammried. And the worst part of it is that the girl Fallon mistook Draco for is already there."

Lucius put up a hand and Narcissa immediately stopped talking. "Slow down and tell me that again."

Meanwhile, Fallon and Draco were driving in Fallon's car and Draco kept having to swat at gnats who were trying to bite at his neck, while listening to Fallon drone on and on about all the cool new changes at the Clan hideout.

"They put in a mall, can you believe it? And there's this place that has advance copies of the latest broom models! And the chocolate shop! Don't get me started on the chocolate shop…"

At that point, Draco felt himself falling asleep. He had dreams about what the Clan was like. Maybe after the visit, he could tell his father about what was going on there and then his father could report it to the Dark Lord. That would be fun.

After what seemed like a mere five minutes, Fallon was tapping him on the shoulder.

"Veronica, wake up, we're here!"

Draco woke up slowly, but at the sight of the awe-inspiring structure in front of him, all remaining traces of sleep disappeared and he shot upright on the seat.

"Is that it?" Draco asked, awestruck.

Fallon nodded, smiling. "Beautiful, isn't it?"

Beautiful wasn't the word in Draco's mind. To him, the structure was menacing, or at least imposing, and he highly doubted there was a chocolate shop in it.

It was a very large, dark stone castle on a high mountain top, with yellow lights in the windows. Despite the fact that it was sunny everywhere else, the sky around the castle was full of swirling blood red clouds.

Draco started as Fallon took his hand and led him across a rickety bridge with wooden planks. As soon as they were across, the thunder and lighting started.

"What's with the weird weather?" Draco asked curiously.

"It's just a spell," Fallon said evasively. "It keeps the muggles away. The only reason why you can see it is because you haven't been here in so long."

A few minutes later, they were finally inside the castle and strangely dry.

"What do you want to do first?" Fallon asked.

"The chocolate shop," Draco said immediately.

Fallon smiled. "I thought you'd say that."

He then led Draco into the most colorful room he'd ever been in. It was as if a rainbow had exploded. There was every sort of chocolate in there, in every color you could imagine.

"I'm going to get a box of mint crèmes," Fallon told Draco. "Look around and see what you want."

Draco perused the aisles. He was sorting through sweets on a bottom shelf when someone bumped into him.

He quickly stood up and looked into eyes that were deep blue, like how his eyes looked in the disguise. The girl was tall, blond and slim, and just now bending over to pick up the box of chocolate covered caramels he'd been looking at.

"Sorry I'm so clumsy," she said, her voice was light, and for some reason he recognized it.

"I'm Veronica Regis," she said, handing him the box. "What's your name?"

As he stood there stuttering, she suddenly snapped her fingers. "You're Draco Malfoy, aren't you?"

Draco felt his eyes go wide, and he dropped the box of caramels again.

"Would you be quiet?" he requested as soon as he got his bearings. "I came with Fallon, who thinks I'm you by the way, and if he finds out that I'm me, he'll hand me over to Gammried, and Gammried will have me killed!"

Veronica just smiled mysteriously. "No he won't, because Gammried needs you. Let's go find something to undo that metamorphosis potion, and then I'll explain the situation to you and Fallon."

Draco nodded, but he had one more question. "Why do a bunch of vampires need a chocolate shop in their hideout anyway?"

Once Narcissa had told Lucius Draco's plight, the two of them left the Ministry and were relieved to find Hermione back at the Manor waiting for them. It seemed like she'd had lots of time to think.

"Do you have a plan?" Narcissa asked.

And Hermione nodded, looking grim. "Yes, I think I have a plan."

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