12. The Lion's Mane
In the morning, I woke up on my own and got dressed without hearing a single knock on my door. I wore my school issued uniform for the first time and tied my hair back with my tie rather than wearing it. I looked nothing like the noble lady my father had raised and everything like a normal student. Severus and I didn't talk on our way to breakfast and we didn't even sit together. I took my seat at the furthest end of the table next to Regulus Black who I hadn't spoken to since starting at Hogwarts. Even he seemed to ignore me and by the time my first class rolled around, I was feeling like more of an outcast than ever before.
It seemed like weeks of uncomfortable silence, though truthfully it was probably a few days. Severus and I stayed far away from each other. The Marauders spoke of nothing but their upcoming quidditch match. Lily was distant with me out of respect for Sev. It seemed to me that Desari Malfoy was going to be all alone, yet again. I'd be damned before I let myself fall back into that same quiet life again, though. This time I would stand out again. I kept up with my homework, but only well enough to continue to pass my classes while I worked on a surprize for the marauders.
The day my plan was to go off, a Hogsmeade Saturday that I had decided to skip again, I sat in the library perfecting my new spell. Instead of using a spell that was close, but not quite perfect, I had created one of my very own. I smiled to myself and hoped for the best. I hadn't wanted to test it in practice because I needed the element of surprize, but I was sure that it was perfect. I had been careful to create it in a way that it wouldn't be able to be broken and must be allowed to wear off on its own.
I sat at my favourite desk, the one closest to the restricted section and quietly whispered the words to make sure I had them perfect. The slightest mispronunciation or distraction and I could end up hurting someone or leaving them disfigured. It was some pretty challenging charm work I was doing. I wondered slightly if Professor Flitwick would be secretly proud of my work or if he'd be upset that I didn't put this kind of effort into school work.
Suddenly a flurry of black feathers and sharp talons crashed into me, distracting me from my thoughts. The owl was rather ugly if I told the truth. It was the kind of filthy creature that father would have skinned if it made its way into our house. Feathers were bent and broken in places, probably because it was clearly very clumsy and there were even bald spots and scars from fights it had been in. The package it was carrying was covered in several layers of thick brown paper, and even so, the box appeared to be damaged as though it had been dropped a few times.
I sighed and picked up the ugly creature, setting it on the desk and pulling a few stale treats from my bag to feed it. I always kept a few around in case my brother wrote me, though he rarely did. I patted the bird's head affectionately before removing the package. I unwrapped the paper and opened the rather small box. Inside was a neatly folded letter sealed with a family crest that I didn't recognize. It appeared to be two wolves fighting. The back of the letter had my name written in a tidy script. I gently peeled off the wax crest and unfolded the letter. A ring fell out and clattered on the table.
I carefully moved the ring to the side of the desk with my quill, being a Malfoy I knew that cursed rings were an effective assassination technique. I laid the letter out in front of me and bent my head to read.
I realize that a single letter written in haste will hardly make up for the way I abandoned you at the ball, but I do hope that you can find a way to forgive me. I feared that, like all good fairy tales, the magic that drew us together would falter at the stroke of midnight, and the time was quickly approaching. I realize now that no such thing has happened, on my end anyways. I find myself thinking of you far more than I should. Do you think of me as well?
Perhaps it is simply a lonely wolf's dream that a woman such as you could think of him as much as he thinks of you. If that is the case, then there is no need to reply to me, but the ring included in this letter is yours to keep regardless. It is a family heirloom that has been handed down from father to son in my family for generations. It's made of pure silver and is said to ward off werewolves. I speak from experience when I say that it does exactly that. I burned my hand rather severely trying to secure it in this letter. In the end, I decided that setting it on the page and sealing it inside would do the trick well enough. I do hope that you will do me the honour of keeping it close?
Anyways, I've spent a week writing and rewriting this letter to send to you. I'm still not satisfied with it in the slightest. It's rather short and formal for my taste. I just wanted to hear from you again. I feel that I am drawn to you in the strangest way. If you feel the same, you may write back to me, but I do not wish you to feel obligated to do so. This letter is written on charmed paper, when you are finished reading it, you may tap it with your wand and say the word "fin" and my words will disappear, leaving you a blank page to write on. Should you deign to write me back, you may use this same page. Just write your response and seal it with your own family crest and my half of this page will mirror yours. When I respond, and if you write me I surely will respond, this paper will again have my family crest rather than yours. It's simple, paper saving, and you won't have to worry about my borrowed owl bowling you over every time I wish to speak with you.
The page was written in the same tidy scrawl as my name on the back and somehow I felt my heart warm a bit. Even if Sev was being a jerk and the Marauders were a bit preoccupied, I still had my mystery man. He continues to insist that he's a werewolf, the ridiculous man, but in a way, that makes him sexier in a dangerous kind of way… not that I believe it.
I read the letter several more times, intent on memorizing not only the words, but also the beautiful handwriting before I erased it. Finally, when I was satisfied with my study of the letter I tapped the page with my wand and erased the words as he had insisted. I played with the silver ring that was shaped like a wolf curled around itself with its tail touching its nose. The ring was elegantly made, obviously with magic and had a single bright red ruby embedded between the wolf's jaws as if they were dripping blood. I wondered for the millionth time who this mystery boy must be to afford a ring such as this, even the Malfoys would be reluctant to buy something so obviously expensive.
After staring at my new ring for over an hour I slid it onto my finger and found that it fit perfectly. I smiled at how nice it looked on my hand and picked up my quill to write back to him. I had barely written "Dear Moony," when a sudden and horrible thought occurred to me. If (and this is a big if) Moony really was a werewolf (which I refused to believe), then the ring would surely "protect" me from him as well. I didn't really like the thought of that. While I was fairly certain that Moony was just a normal student like myself, I still didn't like to think of even the slightest possibility of him being pushed away from me by some stupid ring. I took the ring off and slid it into my pocket until I finished my letter to Moony.
I have thought of you often since the Ball on Halloween. I realize that we didn't talk much and we surely know relatively little about one another, but somehow you feel to me as if we are old friends meeting again after a long break. I've been hoping all week to hear from you again, so I was very pleased to receive your letter today. Though your owl may have left bruises when it crashed into me.
I love the ring, though I feel slightly loathe to keep it for myself. It is very beautiful and obviously expensive. Unfortunately, I have nothing to send to return the favour, other than my eternal gratitude. I've never been on the receiving end of such a lavish gift, so thank you for making my day.
On the other hand of this beautiful gift, I am slightly worried to wear it. You said yourself that it wards of werewolves, and I would hate for it to ward off a handsome wolf such as yourself. Please don't take it as an offence if you see my hand bare. I have no need of "protection" from you, Moony. I feel slightly offended that you thought I might feel wary of you.
Thank you also for this ingenious paper to communicate with you. I rather detest your ugly owl and would hate to be bowled over every time I hear from you. Regardless, I'm feeling rather anxious to get this letter "mailed" out, so I will cut myself off here and return to my studies until I hear from you again.
Eagerly awaiting your reply,
I smiled and sealed the letter with my crest as he had instructed before tucking it into the back of my potions textbook and glancing at the clock. The other students would be returning from Hogsmeade in a few hours and I wanted to be waiting in the common room so I knew when everyone had returned.
I settled into a dark corner where I could sit unnoticed and set to work on my History of Magic essay due on Monday morning. It was a long and tedious task and by the time I had finished I had counted every student to walk by. Only one Slytherin was still missing from the Slytherin dungeons. I recounted the last few hours and smirked as I realized that the missing student was Severus. Personally, I was hoping that he and Lily were off in some abandoned classroom snogging. We may be in the midst of a fight, but I would always be on his side because no matter how mad I am, Severus was my best friend.
It was well after curfew and several essays later when a sleepy Severus finally entered the common room, trying to be sneaky. I watched him from my corner as he slipped silently down into the boy's dorms to go to bed.
I closed my eyes and imagined the Slytherin table as it would be seen by an outsider. Severus and I were seated together, as far from Bella and her gang as possible. Regulus Black settled into his seat with the other fifth year boys. Travis Conner, a sly little first year sitting a few people down from Sev. I imagined the scene in as much detail as possible so that my glamour charm would be most effective. Then, one by one, I imagined the Slytherin's hair morphing into bright red and gold lion's manes. I didn't leave a single head its normal colour, not even my own. I did the motions of my favourite glamour charm, encompassing the whole of the common room as well as both dorms before whispering "gingiberi iubam". While most glamour were wordless charms, I had decided that adding words to mine would make it harder to break and hopefully, every Slytherin in the school would be sporting the mane of the Gryffindor lion for at least the next week until the match.
With my spell complete, I headed down to my private dorm to get some sleep. Massive spells like this one were exhausting and I had to make it look like I had been asleep just like the rest of my snake friends or else I would become a target. Perhaps tomorrow I would find a way to push the blame onto someone else. Tomorrow…
I fell asleep almost as soon as I had pulled the covers around myself and slept peacefully, long into the next day.