Chapter Nineteen: Books
The next four days passed in what seemed like no time at all. I asked everyone not to tell me too much about their upcoming plans, in the event that my mind was read by the Dark Lord. Because of that, I spent some of my time babysitting Fred while his parents helped with the plotting (Angelina was ecstatic). It was strange, not being in the middle of things, but I was going to be too close to Voldemort to be taking chances.
I also continued practicing my occlumency. Draco had been right when he said the Dark Lord could have broken down my walls in a second—I was just lucky he didn't find the need to. Ginny had been teaching herself occlumency over the past seven years, and though she couldn't use legilimency to help me practice, she taught me some tricks and techniques that boosted my confidence.
I sighed to myself as I tucked Fred into bed on my last night. Even though I was progressing, I still had a long way to go if I really wanted to keep my mind safe. Again, I had to grudgingly admit that Draco had been right to keep me partially in the dark.
But that didn't mean it was right for him to simply kill whoever threatened him.
I was not looking forward to seeing him tomorrow.
"Aunt Hermy?" Fred muttered, interrupting my train of thought.
"Will you read me a bedtime story?"
I smiled and sat at the foot of his bed. "Sure. Do you have a book?"
"Yep! Mummy keeps it under her bed!"
I felt under Angelina and George's bed until I felt something. When I pulled the book out from the darkness, I froze.
"'The Tales of Beedle the Bard,'" I whispered to myself.
"Read the one about the three brothers!" said Fred eagerly.
I knew exactly what he was talking about, and immediately opened it up to the first page of the Deathly Hallows story. The symbol of the Hallows was at the top of the page, just like I remembered it.
This was the same book Dumbledore left me.
My mind was miles away as I read Fred the story. This book, and so many others, had been in my bag, the one I left in the great hall when Voldemort announced Harry was dead.
When the story was over, I kissed Fred goodnight, left the book on George and Angelina's bed, and hurried out of the room. The door to Ron's bedroom was still closed, so I assumed they were still meeting, but I walked in anyway.
"What happened to my bag?"
Everyone jumped and stared at me.
"Your bag?" Ginny asked, baffled.
"Yes, my beaded handbag, the one with the extension charm."
"Oh! I forgot that was yours!" said Luna. "Do you want it back?"
"No, you can keep it. But there's a book in there I could use, or at least there was—Advanced Concealment and Cloaking Charms."
She hopped off the bed and smiled. "Oh, yes. That one's been particularly useful. I'll get it for you. Do you mind me asking what you're planning to do with it?"
I followed her out of Ron's room to the one she was sharing with Ginny. "Well, Dra—Malfoy had this secret room in his gardens that was undetectable. It was the only place we could speak freely while at the manor, but I had to tell the Emperor about it to gain his trust. I was hoping I could make another place like it, but I haven't been finding what I need in the manor's library—it's all mostly books on dark magic."
Luna's smile widened. "In that case, I think I have another book that would interest you as well."
She retrieved the handbag from under her pillow, opened it, and started rummaging through. After a minute, she produced the book I'd asked for, and then another one. I picked up the second book and read the cover.
"Theories on Multi-Dimensional Travel." I looked up, stunned. "Where did you get this? I've never seen it before."
"I took a few things from the library before leaving Hogwarts," she said matter-of-factly. "Just whatever was laying out. I think this book explains how to do exactly what you just described."
I wrapped her in a tight hug. She seemed surprised, but hugged me back all the same.
When Ginny, George, Angelina, Seamus, and Ron finally emerged from Ron's room, I was already buried in the books pages. They all laughed, and I looked up.
"It's nice to see Hermione Granger back in her natural habitat," Seamus said with a wink.
Ginny shook her head, smiling. "If I wasn't already convinced it was you, I would be now."
I rolled my eyes at them. They only laughed more.
Ron sat next to me and read over my shoulder. He raised his eyebrows.
"You think you can actually do this?"
"Not with Astoria's wand—it hates me—but maybe with Draco's."
"Since when do you call him Draco?"
I hesitated. "Just—practicing. For when I'm Astoria."
Ron was quiet for a moment. "Do you really have to pretend to be engaged to him?"
"If you don't want me to get killed, yes."
"You could just stay here, you know."
I shut the book. "Ron, we've been through this. The Emperor already suspects Draco of being a traitor. If I—if Astoria went missing, he'd suspect him even more. And if something happens to Draco—"
"We could lose Harry, I know." Ron sighed. "I just don't like the idea of seeing you—with him. I mean, I know it would never really happen, but still."
I sent him a weak smile and reopened my book, suddenly uncomfortable. I hadn't told Ron that I kissed Draco, and I didn't intend to. It happened when I was feeling incredibly emotionally vulnerable—I'd been alone in Azkaban for seven years, I'd just seen Harry, and I'd been struggling with the fact that most of the people I loved the most were dead, including Ron. What happened was perfectly understandable, but I was worried Ron wouldn't see it that way.
And that didn't stop me from feeling guilty.
It was hard to leave the next morning. I didn't want to go, but I knew it was our best chance at actually winning this. Fred wouldn't let go of my legs for the longest time—his father had to pry him off me.
George handed Fred to Angelina before facing me. "I know you said you want fireworks at your real funeral, but I don't plan on attending it until we're all much, much older. Be safe."
"Fair enough," I said with a smirk before hugging him. "I will."
Seamus playfully punched me in arm instead of hugging me. "Hopefully next time we see you, you look a little less like a Slytherin," he said with a grin.
I laughed. "Hopefully."
Luna ran up and embraced me without saying a word. She didn't have to—her smile said it all.
Ginny was the last to say goodbye. She sent me a sideways smile as she approached.
"I hope you can forgive me," she said.
I raised an eyebrow playfully. "Forgive you? For being cautious and suspecting me? I'd expect nothing less." My expression grew serious. "It's because of you everyone in this cave has stayed alive so long. Harry will be so proud when he hears everything you've done."
Her smile faltered. "If."
I pulled her into a tight embrace. "When," I whispered.
Ron patted my shoulder. "Time to head out, Miss Greengrass."
I reluctantly released Ginny. I thought I saw tears forming in her eyes, but they were gone as soon as I noticed them. She pulled out her coin.
"Don't forget—if you ever get in trouble—"
"Same to you." I hugged her again before picking up my suitcase and walking out with Ron.
"All right, Boy," I said when we were far enough away from the cave to apparate, "time to put your new collar on."
Ron laughed. "Okay, I just need to do one thing first."
He smirked, pulled me close, and kissed me. I laughed when he pulled away. He was smiling, but he looked surprisingly serious.
"I love you," he said quietly.
My heart leapt. "I love you too."
He took a deep breath, gave me one last short kiss, and transformed. I reached into the top pocket of my suitcase and found the collar Luna got for us. When I saw it, I burst into laughter. Ron whined.
"Maroon! How appropriate!"
I continued laughing as I put it on. Ron scratched at it and barked. I rolled my eyes.
"Oh, get over it. Astoria wouldn't let her dog run around without a collar."
I reached down and scratched behind his ear. He closed his eyes, wagged his tail, and let out a sound that resembled a sigh.
Chuckling to myself, I wrapped an arm around him and apparated. We appeared right in front of the manor gates. They opened as I approached.
"Come on, Boy!" I said in my best dog-voice. I thought I saw Ron shake his head.
I walked through the front door without a second thought and ran straight into Lord and Lady Greengrass.
Lord Greengrass took a step back, eyeing Ron with disgust. "What is that thing doing in this house?"
"What are you doing in this house?" I said with a frown. "I thought you'd have gone home by now."
"We're leaving tomorrow, Dear," Lady Greengrass said. She too was staring at Ron.
"This thing is my new dog," I said in response to Lord Greengrass, patting Ron's head. "I got him this morning."
"Draco didn't mention that you got a dog."
"Oh, he's back already? Is he upstairs?" I tried to walk past them.
Lady Greengrass cleared her throat. "Astoria, Dear, what your father means to say is why did you get a dog?"
I shrugged. "We were walking down the street, we saw an animal shelter, and Draco told me I could get a dog if I wanted before he went to finish running errands. Apparently his errands were quicker than I thought."
I sighed. "It was Draco's idea, I went along with it to make him happy, okay? Besides, I kind of like him."
Lord Greengrass raised his eyebrows. "Draco?"
"The dog." I rolled my eyes. "Honestly, Dad."
"Well, what's his name?" Lady Greengrass said tentatively.
I hid a smirk. "Billy." Short for Bilius.
Ron's ears drooped.
"Am I done being interrogated now? I should really get upstairs in case he's trying to hide something."
"Fine," Lord Greengrass said in his gruff voice. "Go."
"Come on, Billy! Follow me!" I said as I turned and ran. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Ron's ears droop even lower. I resisted the urge to laugh.
I was surprised by how easy it was for me to find the bedroom. I opened the door, and Ron went in first. Something clattered to the ground.
Draco was standing halfway between the bed, where his suitcase lay open, and the closet, holding a pair of pants. Ron had stopped right in front of him and was growling. I sighed inwardly and walked over to him.
"No! Bad dog! Sit!"
Ron reluctantly stopped growling and sat, but didn't take his eyes off Malfoy.
Draco took a breath. "Darling, what is this?"
"It was your idea, remember? When we passed that shelter this morning, you told me I could go in and get a dog if I found one I liked. His name is Billy."
"I must have forgot," Draco muttered.
I put on a pout. "You're not going to make me get rid of him, are you?"
He hesitated. "No—of course not."
I smiled. "Good."
I half-skipped over to him and kissed him on the cheek. Ron growled again.
"Oh, shush, you!"
"I don't think he likes me very much," Draco said as he cautiously continued to move toward the closet.
"He'll behave. Won't you, Boy?" I narrowed my eyes at Ron. I could have sworn I saw him roll his.
"Your parents are still here," said Draco as he opened the closet and stepped inside.
"I know, I saw them," I said, acting exasperated. "I'm sorry. They're so—over-protective."
"Daphne's still here too. I told her she could stay a few more days. She wanted to talk to you about maid of honor stuff. I hope that's all right."
"That's perfect, actually," I said after a moment. With everything that had happened in the past week, I'd forgotten that I actually asked Daphne to be the maid of honor. Suddenly, I felt guilty. I still wanted to help her, to be a good sister to her while I could, but I was more determined than ever to get back to my old self as soon as possible.
Draco came out of the closet and grabbed more clothes from his suitcase, all the while watching Ron out of the corner of his eye. "The Emperor's sending over a wedding planner for lunch."
"Wonderful! I can't wait."
Draco stopped on his third trip between the suitcase and the closet. "What happened to his face?"
I turned around and looked at Ron. I hadn't noticed before, but the there were faint vertical scars on his face, just like the dragon scars he had.
I shrugged and turned back to my suitcase. "He must have gotten in a fight."
Draco shook his head. "I just can't believe you'd choose that dog out of all of them."
Ron barred his teeth. I sighed and stepped in between them.
"Do I really have to play referee between you two?" I said. "Both of you, just calm down!"
They both reluctantly obeyed. Draco returned to the closet. I glared at Ron.
"Don't make me send you out on the street."
He put his tail between his legs and hung his head.
"I'm not really mad at you," I sighed, kneeling on the ground next to him and scratching under his chin. "You just need to be nice to him, okay?"
He licked my hand in response. I smiled.
Draco stared at me from the closet door. "You do realize he's a dog, right? He can't understand you."
"You'd be surprised what dogs can and can't understand," I said with a chuckle.
We didn't quite finish unpacking before the wedding planner arrived. She as dressed in fine robes and had with her the largest collection of binders I'd ever seen. We sat down in the study to look over some of them, Draco and I on the couch and the wedding planner in the chair across the coffee table. Draco made a move to hold my hand, but Ron jumped on my lap and snapped at him.
"Stori!" yelled Draco.
The wedding planner raised her eyebrows. "Your dog doesn't like your fiancé, Miss Greengrass?"
"He's new," I sighed, this time really angry. I glared at Ron as I set him on the ground.
"One more false move, and you're going outside, understand?"
Ron whined, but laid on the ground at my feet. I could feel him twitch when Malfoy put his arm around me, but he didn't try to bite his hand off this time.
I wasn't listening to what the wedding planner was saying. All I was thinking about was how this was a huge mistake.
A/N: Draco's back! And more fun (and drama) to come in the next chapter. Keep reading and reviewing!