A/N: A slight change in canon in this chapter. Voldemort’s use of Horcruxes has remained a secret in an attempt to keep knowledge about (and, Merlin forbid, use of) them hidden. Although Voldemort’s dead body was proof enough for most, Draco still occasionally wonders if the Dark Lord could make another return. A thought that haunts him….
The morning came soon and, in the cold light of day, Hermione’s doubts resurfaced. Whatever had Lucius meant? Draco said his father was just messing with her head, but if he had he a secret, he would tell her, wouldn’t he?
“Sleep well?” his drawling voice called her out of her musings.
“Yes, far better than I expected… No bad dreams…”
“Good, very good,” he mumbled in return. “Perhaps the manor will grow on you in time…”
“Perhaps,” she laughed lightly, “but it could do with some… lighter and brighter colors…” Hermione said, looking around his bedroom.
“More like your place…” he nodded, “but without all the lions…” A smirk appeared on his face.
Hermione looked curiously at him. “I’d expected to see less serpent imagery what with Nagini and all…” she wondered.
“Pictures of snakes are quite something different…. Besides their skin looks good, but you’re right, I do prefer them dead…”
“Very useful in potions too…” Hermione agreed. “No Parselmouths in your family then?” she asked offhand.
“Not for a few hundred years, no… Didn’t you read that in the book yesterday?”
“I’m only half way through…”
“It would have come in handy, I suppose,” Draco continued on the subject, “we might have actually understood the Dark Lord’s orders to his slithering pet…”
“Your father called him Tom Riddle in the end…?” Hermione wondered, “but you never do so…”
Draco’s face fell. His eyes suddenly looked haunted. “I’m still… I know, he’s supposedly dead… but he did return last time…”
“He won’t, I promise..” Hermione said.
“How can you, though?” Draco was still unsure about what had really happened to Voldemort. “He was gone for years and suddenly, out of the blue, he appeared again… Never truly dead after all…. It worries me sometimes, so just in case…”
“You still give him the proper respect…” Hermione sighed.
She couldn’t believe it! Hermione knew it must have been horrible living so close to him, seeing him murder people all the time… but to still be afraid so many years later… It was completely irrational.
Not to mention, since Draco had defied Voldemorts’s orders before, using his preferred name would hardly provide bonus points. Neither would being in a relationship with a Muggle-born… Draco seemed really superstitious on this issue.
“I… I do know for sure…” she began. “He.. Voldemort assumed that he had cheated death, and for a while he actually had… That’s why he could come back, but he lost his advantage and became mortal again…”
“But no-one is to know how…” Draco sulked. “It is a very big secret that only a handful of people know…” He peered at her. “You being one of them…”
Hermione shivered. She involuntary wondered for a brief moment if this was the true reason for Draco’s interest in her. If Lucius was right about his son not having truly changed…
“It’s a safety measure,” she explained as calmly as she could. “The less people know about it, the less chance of them becoming inclined to do the same…”
“And you don’t trust me with the information…?” he asked, with a slow rising temper.
“I vowed not to tell anyone… so I won’t.” Hermione stated firmly. “There are members of the Order who don’t know either, and it really isn’t relevant at all…”
“It would help me believe he is truly gone forever…” Draco said with begging eyes.
“I promise you that he is truly gone forever… I can even swear it…” she said. “He won’t return Draco, never…. You are safe.”
Draco shrugged his shoulders. “If you say so,” he mumbled, seemingly indifferent, but nowhere near convinced.
Hermione tried to convince him with the argument that he was killed by his own Killing Curse: the one that had been aimed at Harry. However, Draco argued that Voldemort wasn’t killed, when he tried to kill Potter as a child, which was also a rebounded Killing Curse.
She used the counterargument that there hadn’t been a body then. Riddle had gone missing, but didn’t leave his body behind. But whatever she said, Draco continued to sulk. Whereas she occasionally had nightmares featuring Bellatrix, he suffered from ones with Voldemort. They seemed so real sometimes…. Real enough to be true? They certainly planted doubts in his mind.
Their little spat had somewhat ruined their breakfast together and Draco’s mother noticed. When Hermione had left for work, Narcissa asked Draco about the slightly chilly atmosphere.
“She continues to distrust me…” he grumbled. “It’s like one step forwards… two steps back…”
“Perhaps Lucius got under her skin…” his mother’s eyes darkened. “I’m not saying I’m pleased with your association with her, but she is… I’m slowly beginning to accept it…” she confided hesitantly in her son. “Your father, however, seems ever more determined to break the two of you apart…”
Draco nodded his head solemnly. “What can I do? How, if ever, will I be able to change his mind?”
“I’m afraid you won’t..” his mother replied. “All you can do is follow your own path, like he has himself. Like Andromeda has…”
“I will succeed,” Draco gritted his teeth. “I will not let father ruin this for me…”
“That doesn’t mean you can’t ruin it yourself…” his mother warned him as her eyes narrowed.
“What do you mean?” He asked affronted.
“Your father has let it…. Er… slip… that you may have secrets… That you’re not being completely honest to her…”
“What?!” Draco spat.
“You do realize it is true?” Narcissa raised an eyebrow. “You have not told her everything, have you?”
“She has secrets too,” he mumbled. “She won’t tell me what she knows about Voldemort’s demise…”
“Perhaps I can get that out of my sister. She can be talkative and is eager to connect.” His mother’s reply was cool and sly. “Let me worry about that…”
“I just need to know…” Draco didn’t mind if he sounded like a whining child. He did need to know. To absolutely know for sure would ease his mind considerably.
“Why do you insist on thwarting my plans?” An angry Lucius demanded of his wife. “Why would you tell Draco what I said to the Mudblood..?”
“The house-elves spying for you..?” Narcissa asked a question in return. “I’m not pleased with their relationship either,” she explained, “but they do deserve a fair chance…. If…” She faltered and began to sob silently.
“Cissy?” His voice was worried now. Being dead had so many disadvantages… One of them not being able to comfort his wife when she needed him the most.
“If the spell…. If it cannot be undone… At least, she already has a child….”
“I won’t have him father that child!” Lucius didn’t understand this need to become a grandparent. Not if the child was born of blood traitors!
“Don’t you understand?!” Narcissa said. “She may not leave him for it! All the other pure-bloods we know are just as obsessed as we are with blood-lines and offspring…. Draco may never find a partner with them in the first place! Do you even realize that?”
Lucius swallowed hard. He hadn’t considered that particular problem. “But.. but… perhaps it can be reversed. It has to be! And then our line will be defiled…”
“Harry Potter has let them escape… He’d almost caught her sons, but they defeated him… The great Auror, indeed…” Narcissa’s voice was full of bitterness.
“Maybe he does not really mean to catch them…” Lucius agreed. “He doesn’t mind our lot being ruined one bit…”
In the Malfoy household, the name of Potter would never carry the reverence it did in the rest of the Wizarding world. For them, he would always be the nasty itch under their skin. Unable to be removed, forever in their way….