Valebis

Seeing You So Tangible And So Close; How Do I Pay, With What Do I Pay?

(Draco)


I watch closely and keenly as slowly but surely her sleep turns into stasis. Shutting down some avenues of constant exchange of energies and keeping open some others. It is a meticulous process which takes patience, time and concentration. It is very similar to picking up a stick from the bottom of a pile without letting the ones above it move. It takes precision and accuracy.

'Gegirgen' means 'permeable' in Turkish and that is exactly what Gegirgen stasis is. It is a permeable stasis spell, which allows the caster to manipulate some aspects of a body under stasis without having to take off the stasis. The body is amenable to external influences but some aspects remain frozen in time.

I look around the room for the first time in more than an hour. My internal clock keeps time like always, accurately, as if it is constantly counting down towards some event.

I have done this so many times that I do not need to refer to my noted plan most of the time. But I still do it. Gegirgen works well only with instinct, that is true, but sometimes in a Healer's universe, instincts lie too. Blood does always have more impact than water, though, gathering in the wrong place they both can cause the same damage.

The apprentices stand just at the edge of the ritual circle, their eager expressions reflecting each other's faces.

I guess this kind of magic does seem quite extraordinary when it is being cast. The ritual circle glowing white, and the visible weaving of spell after spell, graphing the senses and responses of the patient at every moment, shielding, yielding, forming, unravelling, whispering and stationing. Yes, the look on their faces is just right. But what is most impressive…

I slowly lower myself onto the floor feeling acute lethargy in my ankles and back, and stare up at the globe of controlling energies suspended mid-air a few feet above her bed, just to centre my already fatigued senses. I am tiring sooner than usual, but then again, it is not a piece of cake, harnessing an imbalanced core of a sorceress, while half drugged on the Repressing Potion.

The magic Globe (or as Aali refers to as 'blob') looks somewhat like a full moon when it flickers as invisible clouds pass around it. Light Silver gold, an amalgamation of her golden magic wrapped in my silver, translucent and liquid at every alternate second. Yes, this is what would look the most impressive, until it becomes solid, and then it will look extraordinary. It is a reflection of her magic and a synthesizer, cum stabilizer at the same time. Every non-intrusive magic that has to be cast will be cast on this globe, so that everything is balanced when it starts affecting her physically.

And then there is the secret.

In case of my failure. Her magical core will be deteriorated to the level that she would not survive more than seven days out of stasis.

But I won't fail.

Even if for me it is a choice between my swift death and a longer, more painful death.

If all else fails, there is one last option.

I look at my last patient.

And I realize that there is no bitterness in me.

I am where I am supposed to be, doing what I am supposed to do.

And there could be no better death.

I wonder if this is what the whole lesson has been about.

How often have I prostrated in front of a silent God and asked for salvation?

Countless times.

Is this the answer then?

I think it is. Embracing death. Believing in its finality.

Recognizing the soul, that is the most precious asset of a true Healer.

Choosing the right time and way to die, that is when a warrior is at his most courageous.

It is a moment of enlightenment.

"Ustad?"

I bow my head down feeling the weightlessness of truth in my very bones. Feeling as if I would float away.

"Yes, it is done…" I answer even before he can ask.

It is done, Albus Severus Potter.

It is decided.

Pain it is.

Swift is the way of the coward.

And despite my genetic make-up and being Malfoy, I will not be a coward.

I am Beyazlamak. I will light up and blaze in the likeness of the sun in the end.

For now, I will exhaust all other possibilities. As is the code. I crave for martyrdom, not suicide.

I look up and across the bed at the modernistic marble clock.

Almost midnight.

I have stretched far too much today.

But also accomplished a lot more than I expected.

Diagnosis, decision, solution of a dilemma.

Over-all an extremely productive day.

Full of surprises too, as my mind shamelessly projects the image of a smile shared.

A long, arduous but priceless day.

And it is only the first of the last days of Draco Malfoy.

A warm shawl is placed upon my shoulder, startling me.

"You are shivering," says the deep voice, the heat of it brushing against my ear and I feel the deep ache in my core.

He is so close, and so caring, and not moving away.

The weight of his hand on my shoulder is the only thing I can make any sense of.

I want him to stop. I want him to never stop.

"Draco?"

Why are you calling me that? You never called me that before. I can't even say your name in my imagination for the fear that it will start showing on my skin, in my eyes, stamped black on my white skin, a cruel mosaic of relentless pain. Why are you saying the name I left behind so long ago? Why give me the curtsy of difference now? Malfoy, I was just Malfoy. Spat out of your mouth like a vile potion. Treated like the vile broken distasteful poisonous creature that I was.

'I will never see your ugly ferret-face again! If you know what is good for you, Malfoy, you will stay out of trouble and die a nameless death in an obscure part of the world, Malfoy! Do you understand?

Why now? Why here?

"Draco? Are you okay?"

'I ASKED IF YOU UNDERSTOOD, MALFOY?'

"Draco? Albus, give me a hand here."

'Now get lost and remain lost, Malfoy!'

Why find me now? Why so concerned now?

"I am fine!" It comes out with much more force than I inserted or intended

The hands holding my fore-arms loosen their purposeful grip. I am exhausted, not invalided.

The spell breaks now and I feel my body become alert again, struggling, but alert.

As I slowly gather myself and stand up, bent cautiously with hands on my knees just in case there is residual fatigue ready to trample me over.

"Make sure no spells are cast for the next eight hours, she needs to grow into the permeable structure and her magic as it is will make its own way and we have to wait until the Orb is solid and not translucent. If there is a problem, I will get an indication straight away, and it is free-range so I will get it even across seven oceans. Actually…" I turn around towards my audience.

"Auror Potter… You must know a number of generic containment and boundary wards?"

He nods solemnly looking like the spirit of English Christmas in a Dark Maroon jumper.

"Good! I need you to cast a containment boundary charm, the most generic one you know and I can cast a shielding one. That way there will be no mistakes or interference if someone uses any magic in here."

He traces the containment boundary from a distance as he slowly murmurs the incantation while I cast a simple magic repelling shield at the same time. It takes less than two minutes.

When I turn around again, it seems as if half the Weasley household is standing in the doorway to the hall, in various night dresses.

"Umm…"

"We have got the fort for the night Draco, I think you can rest easily."

Yes, Lily Luna Potter is not alone.

And there is nothing for me to do here now.

It is the night before Christmas… it is Christmas.

Time to be with the family.

And the pit inside me is open again.

I am dismissed.

A knot forms in my throat which will not be swallowed and smoothed down.

As I walk towards my exit, I clench down hard on the desire to look back and see 'him' surrounded by family. I will not look back, or my heart of ash that stands still will shatter with the feather touch of the tenderness and comfort not meant for it.

I wonder why does it still hurt? It should not. I should be desensitized by now, but I can hardly breathe, not until I am out of the glowing hall, the familial paradise, and at the stairs, making my way down, feeling the weight of 40 years of a life wasted in longing bearing down on my shoulders, my chest, where the traitor heart still beats furiously, and crowds my head with its hurt and constant beating.

Which is probably why I do not notice the other pair of steps descending with me in perfect synchrony.

It is on the turn at the first platform that I notice him right behind me.

Why? What now? Go back to the warmth of your family, don't give me the taste of something you can never give me; preference.

You don't owe me anything. Don't consider yourself obligated to me.

I want to say all these things, but I don't, for all I know, he might be going somewhere else. His room? Kitchen?

"Should I also ask the house-elves to stay out of the shield containment?" he asks.

Oh, so this is why he followed.

"Yes, I think that would be wise," I say in answer before resuming descending.

"I was wondering, if I could have a word after?"

There is no way to refuse. So I simply nod.

I find myself in front of the writing desk in my designated room.

Fingers tracing the carved edge.

R.A.B

The lost son.

Regulus Arcturus Black.

I hear the slight knock on the door behind me before it is opened without my prompt or permission. As if he knows his claim upon my space deep in his subconscious. He might as well. I am sure by every passing second that his claim on me has something serious to do with why his daughter suffers.

"Did they ever find what happened to him?"

"What happened to whom?" His voice is closer than I would like it to be.

"R.A.B… Regulus Arcturus Black, the other black son…"

"Oh…" There is a long pause. So long it is that I turn around to make sure I have not been dreaming 'his' presence and that he is really there. It won't be the first time I would be fooled by a mirage.

He is there.

The door closed behind him.

His eyes distant and face blank.

And then he inhales as if coming back from the forlorn suffocating memories.

"His story is even more dramatic than his brother's actually," he says, his green eyes focusing on me finally. And I feel my fingers twitch with the desire to reach out to him.

"He was a Death Eater in the first war, and he was a good one. Very clever, as in he got close enough to Voldemort that he fished out a dangerous secret out of Voldemort. By that time, like any sane and clever person he was having second thoughts about Voldemort and what his teachings meant. He was the one who discovered the secret of Horcruxes first and succeeded in acquiring one of them, though he lost his life in the process, but left the Horcrux he had discovered in Kreacher, the house-elf's care and replaced the real Horcrux with a fake one, complete with a note to the Dark Lord basically saying 'up yours' or something to that effect." The smile on his face is tired. He is troubled. I want to reach out and brush all the tiredness away, consume his worries and pain and comfort him with my whole being.

But he is not mine to comfort. He chose someone else for himself. I wonder how she comforts him? If she comforts him at all? If she values him or worships him the way he deserves to be worshipped and valued?

It does not seem that way. Not if the tense bubble of air between them is anything to go by.

Yet he chose her. Vowed his love to her and remains hers.

Not mine.

"One of the few things I remember my grandmother saying to me before she lost her mind was how much I would look like him if it was not for the… hair..." I remember clearly, her shrewd eyes narrowed at me as if seeing something she disliked, though in words she was always all praises.

"I… No, I don't think you resemble him much."

He looks a little nervous for some reason.

I notice the silence in the room, but it is not a peaceful one. I can feel the tether of the potion loosening further and further on me every passing moment.

"I need you to be honest with me, Draco. What are my daughter's chances of survival? I am not a Healer, but I can feel…I do feel that she is slipping away. I am a parent and I think I have a right to know, to be prepared…"

"One hundred percent…" I interrupt his pain as fast and as confidently as I can. This he asks of me. This I will give.

"What?"

"The chances of her survival are one hundred percent."

He gapes at me for a moment, before his eyes narrow.

There is the Potter I am most familiar with.

"And the consequence?"

"The consequence of your daughter's survival Potter? Well, nothing now, but give her a few years and then she'll add an idiot to your family, who will never be good enough for her in your opinion but you will have to endure nonetheless with a smile on your face. Is that not what daughters do?"

His sombre expression breaks a little, like the sun peeking out of the cracked edges of brooding clouds as a reluctant smile tries to sneak around that strange but luscious mouth which I would give my life's blood to touch. But it seems I would still give all my life's blood anyway without the promise of a touch, still, if divine entity was so straight forward in its working, and asked me to name a recompense for all my strife over the past twenty years, this is what I would ask for. To touch that mouth once with my own, the mouth that has been the deliverer of something worse than a death sentence for me, more than once.

What a strange life I have lived.

He nods slightly and smiles hesitantly, convinced and imagining already.

Now is as good a time as any I figure, to ask the questions I intend to ask regarding Lily's birth.

But before I can hardly utter something to that effect, he is swiftly closing the distance between us.

I don't know if I step back in alarm, all I know is that there is the barrier digging in my back making it impossible for me to make my escape from whatever is coming.

And then he is surrounding me, strong arms surrounding my shoulders, trapping me readily as my soul sings a new song. All I can smell and feel is the perfection of this moment. The scent of him sweet on my tongue and his warmth singing into my existence. The voices are all quiet, nothing to say, just drown. I can hear him say something over my shoulder as his warm, fragrant breath brushes across my ear and neck, but I cannot make sense of it. He smells of honey and toffee and butterbeer and perfection. He smells of everything I have dreamed of him smelling like and more.

I don't know how long we stand there, him embracing me and me falling deeper and deeper into the quicksand of instinct and want.

I only snap out of it when his arms loosen around me for some unfathomable reason.

Why would he want to let go now when this feels the way it does?

Why would he want to step away from me? He is mine.

But he wants to step away and I can't deny him what he wants.

"Merry Christmas, Draco," he says and steps away once, twice, and I want to reach out and grab him, but something stays my hand.

And he is reaching towards the door again, away from me and the sharp pain in my chest brings me to my senses again.

Oh my dear God! What just happened?

He embraced me and I… did I lose control?

He turns towards me once again his expression unreadable.

"The children are keeping watch so everything should hold up nicely until morning. So sleep now. You really need it."

He lingers for a few seconds his face turned towards the door. Before he finally sighs deeply and steps out of the door closing it behind him, his back turned towards me.

The wrenching hurt that washes over me is strong enough to bring me to my knees.

It is strange that there is no bleeding when my whole chest feels like it's filled with shards of broken glass.

I scramble for my wand and find it on the edge of the desk. Hastily casting the best silencing charm I can think of. Before letting the inhuman whine of despair escape my throat. Calling back to him, wailing and mourning the loss. I can feel my Veela breaking binds of my control. I need to take the potion now, but I am too weak. I have expended too much magic today. The only thing I can do at this point is fix myself to the floor I have demolished on, become intimate with every grain on the dark wood ancient and polished to an inch of its density until this bout passes over. Until the Veela folds itself back and shrinks away out of pain. It is a taxing process. So I let go a little, let the tears fall as I feel the pain in my chest like a bruise. Tears turn into sobs and hiccups and hiccups turn into a lament and all I can do in my conscious and detached mind is cling to the floor until the darkness finally and mercifully takes me.


The first thing I feel as I come back to myself is the ache.

As if there is a hollow gaping hole in the centre of my chest. It is sharper than the aftermath of usual bouts, but milder than how it is after the heat. Second is the stiffness in the rest of my muscles as I try to move them in an attempt to move and detach myself from the floor. Third is the grittiness in my eyes no doubt a result of crying in my sleep. Fourth is the strange lively warmth along my left side and the left side of my back.

I open my eyes with conscious effort into the gloomy twilight filtering in from the window.

I try to get up again but it feels a little too painful so I suffice with turning my neck to look at the strange source of warmth to find two sad and huge eyes staring back at me surrounded by luscious russet coloured fur.

Potter's dog.

But how did it get out of the confinement downstairs and open the door to my room and make it here? And why?

The Veela magic. A part of my slowly starting brain answers.

"Thank you." I whisper to the animal who perks its ears and wags its fluffy tail, looking like the epitome of obedience and innocence.

"And bad dog." I say finally gaining enough momentum in my arms to push myself up from the floor. The mutt hides its face under its paws and looks up at the same time as if to seem guilty and ashamed and hurt at the same time.

I can't help but smile at the mutt. As I make my way to the dresser in search of the potion.

After a warm shower and application of the soothing oil I dress in my warm pyjamas and the woven dressing robe which was a gift from Sarah last Christmas. Still exhausted, but in enough control.

I slowly make my way out of the room followed by the dog.

The situation in the transfigured ballroom reminds me sharply of the night we spent in the Great Hall in Hogwarts in our third year.

The plush portable mattresses are lined up by the far wall. It seems like a strange family tradition of some sort and were I the same wizard I was twenty years ago I would have found the strangeness of the situation distasteful.

I understand much better now.

Understand that despite all the etiquettes, mannerisms and prevention of social faux pas, in the end all you ever need is to be cared for and loved.

I look towards the couches by the fireplace where Mr and Mrs Weasley sit, reading and knitting respectively and across from them Albus and Mini Granger sit nodding off on each other's shoulders, books still opened in their laps. They never noticed my arrival.

There is no sign of Mr and Mrs Potter.

And the imagined reason for their absence feels like a sharp stone in my gut, cutting through my innards, refusing to defy gravity.

I shake myself out of the sludge that my feelings are becoming and move towards the little girl. The Orb suspended upon her is almost solid in its appearance with occasional dips and discolouration in spots, but it is more successful and responsive than I expected it to be at this point. It makes me wonder if I should try the potion I found in Severus' journal which has to do with imbalanced magical cores?

I need to revise the making procedure of course and I am sure that the only ingredient that is a bit obscure to find can be delivered from France via express owl and can be here within twelve hours.

I mean the name of Harry Potter should be able to move some strings along pretty quick.

I am scribbling a list of ingredients for Albus to find when there is some commotion outside the stair hall. It sounds like swift, heavy steps climbing up the stairs followed by some more.

Instincts on high alert, I take a defensive stance just outside the boundary of the containment shield putting myself between the bed of my patient, mattresses containing slumbering Weasleys and the doorway. My position is perfect for keeping an eye on the corridor outside but anyone coming up from the stairs will not be able to see me from their position.

It is hardly seconds later that a youth bolts up the stairs in my periphery and that is exactly where I guide my disarming spell, just three steps into the corridor, the spell hits timed perfectly and with an "oomph!" and a short yelp I can hear the wand clanking its way down the stairs hopefully without its master. In a few swift strides I am out of the hall and into the corridor to find Potter holding the collar of the youth harshly, pressing him into the wall, menace dripping from his face in a way that makes my life force shiver in my veins.

"Harry, let go of him!" comes a sharp rebuke from the first platform where stands Ginny Weasley. Her eyes ablaze, surprisingly at the husband, not the youth.

"Are you so selfish and self-centred that you would risk your sister's life for the sake of your anger and misplaced rage?"

Sister? So this must be the other Potter son. The Quidditch player. He looks like it.

"Are you so stupid and deranged that you would put the life and peace of your only daughter into the hands of Death Eater scum?" the youth spits at his father.

"If it wasn't for a Death Eater scum, you would not even exist, James Sirius Potter! I will not have you in my house bumbling around like a buffoon and endangering the treatment of your sister!"

"Dad? What's the racket? What's wrong?…Oh!.."

I turn around on my feet to see Albus standing behind me, pale but scowling. I turn back towards the stranger situation in front of me again.

The address turns the attention of the other three people towards Albus and essentially me.

There is a plead mixed with apology and anger in Potter's eyes. He should know, words spoken by anyone but him have no power of harming me. They are just words.

The youth, James' eyes flicker and then glow dangerously as he figures out who I actually am. At this point I am sure very few people who actually knew me would recognize me for myself.

For some reason most unimaginative he tries to make towards me in his rage while his father is pressing him against the wall.

In a second Albus jumps in front of me, wand out and in a protective stance to my surprise. Despite his graceful tall stature he hardly seems like the fighting or defending type, but in that moment, I see more of his father in him than at any other time.

This seems to enrage the older sibling still struggling in the clutches of his father even more and before there is any more howling or cursing, I flick my wand and silently "stupefy" him.

It all grows quiet very suddenly after that. As Potter holds his first born son up for a moment and leans his head against the unconscious youth's shoulder, as if in defeat.

Albus quickly steps forward and grabs his slightly bulkier brother around the waist before shooting me an apologetic look and they are descending the stairs.

Leaving me alone with a silently sobbing Mrs Potter who follows her husband with her eyes full of rage.

"Ginny! Ginny, dear? What is the matter?" I am thankful for Mr and Mrs Weasley's prompt arrival The later quickly ushers their desolate daughter and starts to lead her downstairs, as Mr Weasley throws an embarrassed smile my way for some reason.

But said desolate daughter does not fail to shoot a murderous look my way before finally stepping down from my line of sight.

"I am so sorry, Ustad, that you had to see that." I turn around to see mini-Granger standing in the doorway. Eyes looking tired and sad.

I shrug it off as carelessly as I can. Feeling somewhat numb. "Fathers and sons will always have issues."

"But I personally feel that issues between James and uncle Harry are usually tailored by aunt Ginny most of the time!"

The expression on her lost in thought, scowling face suddenly goes slack as she realizes her declaration.

"I am sorry, that was out of line."

"Do not worry, your opinions are safe with me… in fact they might help me in the next step of my treatment, these opinions and observations regarding Mr Potter's family dynamic."

"Oh? How so?"

"I think it would be better if I explained a theory that I have formed, with Albus present."

Curiosity shines in her eyes.

"I can always fill Albus in later…"

I give her my best winning smile before I lead her back into the room where my patient lies, and make way to the abandoned notebook where I have made a list of ingredients I would need for brewing Severus' potion. It seems that most Weasleys have slumbered right through the commotion.

She goes through the list and details twice before she asks me the obvious question.

"I do not know if Herlinatilly Extract will be available anywhere here."

"I know of an apothecary in Rouéville, Étienne, he sells it under the desk and to very selected clients for an exorbitant fee, if Potter sends a letter to this apothecary, I am sure he will make a special exception, even during Christmas Holidays."

"But…"

"I know what you are thinking, though it is allegedly used for…recreational purposes, it is so rare that it is not really illegal. Not here in Britain at least."

"And you think this potion could help? It does not look very complicated in its procedure, but I have never seen such ingredients in one potion!"

"I trust it, I have tried it before and it did work, even though the case was much milder. But the fact that Severus Snape invented this potion was enough for me to believe in its effectiveness before I even proved that it works."

She nods solemnly, suddenly looking much more respectfully at the list in her hand. Her blue eyes running through it again as if trying to memorize it.

"I keep forgetting that you are Professor Snape's god-son and one of his most impressive apprentices according to his own teaching journals."

I snort at the statement.

"And yet I know it was a common opinion that it was only favouritism because I was his god-son and a Slytherin and had nothing to do with my talent."

She snorts at the statement in a most uncharacteristic way, resembling her father for the first time.

"I don't think anyone who has ever been in the Potion's classrooms at Hogwarts will agree with the opinion that Severus Snape would never be kind in words or have favourites in any case other than exceptional talent, which we all think is impossible and in case we didn't, he hangs on the wall to tell us so at every available opportunity. Be it Slytherins, 'who are a disgrace to the name of Salazar and Hogwarts' and should replace the cleaning house-elfs. Ravenclaws ' who should have their brains clawed out and filled with Hippogriff dung for all they are worth'.Hufflepuffs 'who should have their hands transfigured into towel papers rolls for how much they cry and spill precious potion ingredients. Gyffindors? I can't even start to tell all the things that should be done to Gryffindors…"

I realize that I am staring at her while I imagine the insults pouring down in his deep baritone that was able to do more damage on one's nerves than a banshee's screams.

"And we thought that it was finally over when we graduated from Hogwarts, only to find him situated menacingly in the Potions lab at St Mungo's and we finally found out that there are actually seven portraits of Professor Snape, including the one in the Headmaster's office and one in uncle Harry's office. But that is not as bad as you would think because there is also a portrait of Professor Dumbledore in uncle Harry's office so that kind of keeps them busy. Then there is the one in the Order's headquarters and one in the Dumbledore Memorial hall at the ministry, which of course is used without fail for holding the Auror trainee's final exams. There is also one in uncle Harry's study at Godric's Hollow, but I think he intends to bring it here now that he lives here, but there is one more…"

It was at the Spinner's end and now hangs in the sitting room of my living quarters at the manor.

I had to leave it behind because I was supposed to be lost, impossible to be found and though I always knew that Severus would keep my secret as he had all these long years, I did not want him or even his memory to witness my excruciating pain.

"You should ask Albus to tell his father to send a prepaid express owl to Rouéville as soon as he can and we can start making this potion in no more than fifteen hours, because the potion itself takes twelve hours to make in fairly equipped, deep-seated laboratory."

"Albus is in the basement, and it is decently equipped since he has always been interested in diagnostics."

"I shall have a look as soon as…" I remember the commotion going downstairs.

"As soon as? " says Albus somewhere behind me.

"Ah! Has it been brushed under the rug yet?" Asks Mini-Granger her eyes fixed in a warning mixed with resignation on her best-friend and cousin.

"Grandma is talking to him now as you know mum is going to be…" he stops mid-sentence, not wanting to complete it in my presence I figure.

I know it will be awkward and embarrassing but I think it is time to ask the assistance of these two in the questioning I need to do regarding conception and birth of Lily Luna.

"This might seem a little intrusive of me on a personal level but it is a professional requirement. I need to ask your parents some really detailed questions regarding the circumstances of Lily's… birth and… more importantly her conception."

My audience flushes all at once as both of them understand exactly what I am talking about. But then Mini-Granger straightens herself through her still prominent flush.

"Of course, Ustad, I mean it would only be logical if you do so, seeing as this is the problem with her core so it might have been there since birth… I think I will ask uncle Harry and aunt Ginny to sit down with you as soon as possible to get it over with…"

She hands over the list still in her hand to Junior-Potter, conveniently bringing an end to their embarrassment.

"I would like to inspect your Potion's lab after breakfast today, so that if any equipment that I might need in brewing this potion is missing, we could get it by the time all the ingredients are gathered."

"I see, but… I am… Herlinatilly Extract?"

"Granger here will explain to you. The owling address is written right under the list…"

As I decide to retire for a few more hours feeling the aftermath still grating on my nerves, I see a small amused smile playing on both their lips.

I simply raise an eyebrow in query as it clearly looks like I am the source of their amusement.

"You called me Granger… I am actually Weasley."

Her face is rather beautiful when she smiles like that. Softer, easier and much more natural than amusement ever was on her mother's face in that age. No, Granger had just fought a battle against the darkest wizard known to mankind on the frontlines. Granger's smile was never that easy and natural the very few times I had been able to witness it.

"You are Granger to me as long as I am here, easier for me if I don't have to cringe every time I have to compliment you on your brilliance, which I will never be easy or generous with if I had to call you Weasley."

She flushes even more, trying to look offended though she is extremely flattered. I simply smile at her.

"I must retire and catch a few hours of shut-eye…"

I wonder for a second if I should ask junior Potter about the mutt who is now languishing in front of the fire place.

"Make sure your family issues remain on the ground floor for the duration of the morning. He won't be able to do much, but I do not take kindly to people who are stupid enough to try to interrupt my work."

Albus agrees stiffly. I am glad that he does not take offence and understands the importance of the situation.

"That will be no problem, Ustad. You can count on me."

No, Albus Potter, I can only count on me.

And perhaps the dog.

If the dog follows me, then I will not deny myself the comfort of its unconditional warmth and undemanding praise.

If I don't deserve that after the brutal embrace, I don't what I will do.

The dog does not follow.

In the end, it is only the cold bed and me.

Stupid dog.

Stupid Draco.

Imagining and still wanting comfort from a Potter.

Stupid Stupid Draco.


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