Chapter Twelve: Reading
I glared at Astoria's wand in my hand. "You are useless," I muttered.
For the past two hours, I'd been trying to get started on making our secret room, but Astoria's wand wouldn't hear of it. Every spell I tried to cast was feeble, not near strong enough to do what we needed. Laying on my stomach on the bed, I turned the pages of the book in front of me, looking for something else that might work. If I had my own wand, I'd probably be finished by now.
Ron barked and licked the hand that was hanging off the side of the bed. I smiled at him.
"I'm not giving up. Just—frustrated."
The doorknob turned. I didn't pay much attention—I assumed it would be Draco. Only when Ron barked did I look up, and I jumped slightly.
"Daph!" I shut the book and sat up on the bed. "How are you?"
"I'm all right." She looked curiously at Ron. "How was Italy?"
"Marvelous, of course," I said with a smile. "We should go together some time, just you and me."
Now her curious gaze was directed towards me. "What kind of game are you playing, Stori? You'd rather die than go on a trip with me."
"You have every reason to think that," I sighed, "but lately I've been taking a look at my priorities. I'm trying to change, Daph."
"I see that." She looked at Ron again. "Since when are you a dog person?"
"I'm not," I laughed. "Always a cat person. But this guy stole my heart."
I scratched behind his ear. He wagged his tail.
Daphne crossed the room and sat next to me on the bed. She looked like she was going to ask another question about Ron, but paused when she saw the book.
"What is this?" she said, grabbing it.
I tried to take it back, but my reflexes were too slow.
"Advanced Concealment and Cloaking Charms?" She snorted as she flipped through the pages. "What are you doing with a book with the word 'advanced' in the title?"
I put on a pout. "You know, I may still be your little sister, but I am twenty-three now."
She laughed. "Okay, what are you trying to do? Maybe I can help."
What am I trying to do? I glanced around the room. My eyes landed on Ron, and I found my answer.
"I'm trying to cover up his horrible scars," I said, gesturing to Ron. "So I thought, a concealment charm—"
Daphne shook her head and set the book down. "No, I know exactly the spell you want. Remember when I had all that horrible acne? Still do. I just cover it up."
"I don't know if that spell will work on a dog."
"It should." She pulled out her wand and pointed it at Ron. He backed up slightly. A white light shot out of it and hit him in the face. He whined and shook his head, but nothing had changed—the scars were still there.
She frowned. "That should have worked."
I didn't say anything. I knew exactly why it didn't work. That spell was meant to cover up scars, yes, but the marks on Ron's face as a dog weren't scars—they were the distinguishing markings of his animagus.
"Well, thanks for trying," I said with a half-smile.
She stood. "I'll go to the library and see if I find anything useful. I'll just take this back with me—"
I put my hand on the book. "Actually, I rented it from a bookshop," I blurted out, "so I'll just hold on to it for now."
She stared at me a minute, then laughed. "You went into a bookshop? Merlin, you really are trying to change."
I let out a sigh of relief as she walked out, but couldn't help but smile a little as well. Ron whined and pawed at his face. I laughed.
"You know I love you with or without your scars," I said sweetly. He stood on his hind legs, put his paws on the bed, and licked my face. I laughed again.
After a few more minutes of trying (and failing) to make headway with Astoria's wand, I set the book on my nightstand and left the room. As I came down the stairs, Draco came out of the study, followed by Blaise Zabini. He grinned at me. I smiled back, trying not to look annoyed.
"You're just in time for dinner," said Draco.
"Actually, I was going to take Billy for a quick walk around the gardens. I'll eat when I get back."
"Perfect, then you can walk me out," said Zabini. His grin sent a shiver down my spine.
"I'll be back in a few minutes," I said to Draco and kissed his cheek. Ron didn't look pleased, but he didn't growl this time.
Zabini and I walked out the front door together. I turned right to head toward the gardens, and was surprised (and a bit alarmed) when he turned right as well.
"I thought you were leaving," I said, trying not to sound too eager.
He smirked. "And skip the opportunity to be alone with you? Not a chance."
Suddenly, he pushed me up against the wall and began snogging me. Before I even had a chance to react, it ended—Ron growled and jumped on him, and he fell to the ground.
"He probably thought you were attacking me," I said, catching my breath. "He's very protective."
Zabini scowled at him and drew his wand. "I'll teach this dog to behave."
"No!" I knelt on the ground and put my arm around Ron. Slowly he started to calm down. "He's just a dog, he doesn't know any better. Besides, it's probably a good thing—what if someone had seen us?"
Zabini groaned as he stood. "I'm tired of waiting. I want you to ditch Draco already and come back to me."
"Believe me, I want that more than anything," I said, hoping I sounded convincing. "Is there any news? Anything I can use to dig up some dirt?"
He shrugged, obviously resisting the urge to curse Ron. "The Emperor finally took my advice and put spells around the Weasley's old excuse for a house. An alarm was triggered about a week ago, and we sent Carrow to patrol. The next day, another alarm was triggered and we found him with his memory wiped. We must have missed them by seconds."
I put on a frown. "How is Carrow?"
"He can't even remember his name! If I hadn't been at the funeral myself, I would've sworn it was Granger."
I looked genuinely surprised. I'd only meant to wipe a day from his memory, not his whole life. I guess I forgot how powerful that spell was—and what it was like to use a wand that obeyed me.
"Sounds like someone tipped them off about the patrol," I said, shaking it off. "How else would they have gotten out of there so quickly?"
Zabini shrugged. "Carrow can be careless."
"But he's a competent wizard." I stood. "I can't imagine they would have gotten to him unless he was taken off-guard, and I can't see that happening without the rebels knowing beforehand he was going to be there."
Or him seeing someone he didn't expect, I thought.
Zabini eyed me thoughtfully. "I'll look into it. You should look into Draco's alibi as well. Did you ever get separated in Italy?"
"Never for more than a couple minutes. I stuck to him like a permanent sticking charm."
"Well, look into it anyway. Maybe he sent some kind of note while you had your back turned."
I folded my arms. "I resent the implication."
Zabini smirked. "Oh, don't be that way, sweetheart. You know I think you're the most brilliant witch who ever lived."
I felt like I was going to barf.
He kissed me cheek, eyeing Ron as he did so, and left. I sighed and knelt down next to Ron again.
"Thanks for that," I whispered in his ear. He barked and wagged his tail.
We did a quick loop around the gardens before returning to the house. Draco, Daphne, and Lord and Lady Greengrass were all already sitting down for dinner. Draco stood as I entered.
"Darling, I love you, but your dog isn't allowed in the dining room."
Ron whined. I sighed.
"I'll take him upstairs and be right back," I muttered.
When we reached the bedroom, I folded my arms and looked at Ron. "Don't get into any trouble while I'm gone, understand?"
He barked and jumped on me, licking my face. I laughed as I stumbled backward. My hand hit the concealment charm book and it fell open on the ground. I gently pushed Ron aside and bent to retrieve it, pausing just before I closed it. I read the spell described on the page, my heart beating faster. It was perfect!
I opened the drawer in my nightstand and pulled out the other book Luna had given me, flipping through the pages till I found the one I'd marked. These two spells together—if I could just get Malfoy to let me use his wand—
I grabbed Ron's face and kissed his nose. "I love you," I whispered. He barked and licked me again, wagging his tail.
"You never came down to eat."
I jumped. Draco was standing in the doorway, his arms folded. I'd been so focused on figuring out exactly how to cast the spell that I hadn't even heard him come in. I sat up a little straighter on the bed.
"I got distracted," I said, unable to think of a better excuse.
"For three hours?"
"I don't have to explain myself to you, Draco."
He glanced at Ron next to me, and his eyes narrowed. "What is he doing on the bed?"
I put a hand on Ron's back. "You're not allergic or anything, are you?"
He frowned, but didn't say anything. He closed the door behind him and took off his shirt as he headed to the closet. I immediately returned my attention to my book. Why did that still make me uncomfortable? It was even more awkward with Ron in the room.
"Where is he going to sleep?" Draco called.
"Billy is going to sleep in here. I made up a bed for him at the foot of our bed."
Draco stuck his head out of the closet. "Absolutely not!"
"Draco, getting a dog was your idea!"
"I didn't think I'd be sharing a room with him, let alone a fiancée! He hasn't even been here a day, and he's already taken my place!"
"If you're jealous of a dog you're even less confident in this relationship than I thought."
He sighed in defeat and disappeared back into the closet. I set the books on my lap aside as he reemerged, dressed for bed.
"Why don't you change and come to bed?" he said, his tone strained.
"What if I'm not tired?"
"Then—I don't know! You obviously don't care what I have to say anyway."
I sighed. We may not actually be engaged, but this was still no fun. I glanced at Ron—he seemed to be enjoying it.
"Fine," I said, and stood. I picked Ron up and set him on the ground. "Time for you to go to bed, too."
Ron obediently went to the foot of the bed, though he didn't seem particularly happy about it. I went into the closet to change. When I came out, Draco was already lying in bed. I turned off the lights and joined him. After a minute, he rolled over and put his arms around me.
"I'm sorry," he said quietly. "Not just for today, for everything."
Before I could think of a way to respond, Ron jumped on the bed. Draco yelled and jumped back.
"You need to get that dog under control!"
I sighed and looked at Ron. Part of me wanted to laugh, part of me wanted to scream at him.
"Off the bed, Billy," I said. "Bad dog."
He whined and didn't move. After a minute, I finally sat up and pushed him off.
"You can't come up here," I said sternly. "Listen to me."
Very reluctantly, Ron returned to the foot of the bed. Draco tried to put his arms around me again, but I scooted away from him.
"Goodnight, Draco," I muttered.
He sighed. "Goodnight."
I waited until I heard him snoring, then climbed out of bed again. Ron perked up, but stayed where he was. I walked around the bed to Draco's side and opened his nightstand drawer, pulling his wand out of it. I then returned to my side, retrieved my books, and set them on the floor in front of me.
"Lumos," I whispered.
The tip of Draco's wand lit up. I turned to the pages I needed in both books and took a breath.
Let's hope this works.
Draco slowly opened his eyes. He jumped when he saw me leaning over him.
"Merlin, Astoria, what—?"
"Good, you're awake!" I grabbed his hand and practically pulled him off the bed. "I need you to help me pick out my outfit for the day."
I led him toward the closet. We were almost there when he pulled his hand away.
"Let me wake up! What is going on?"
"Like I said, I want your opinion on what I'm going to wear."
"Since I decided to show you that you're opinions are important to me. Come on!"
I grabbed his hand again, opened the closet door, and pushed him inside. Ron followed us in. Draco groaned.
"Does he go everywhere with you now? What is he, your guard dog?"
I closed the door. Ron transformed into himself, folding his arms and glaring at Malfoy.
"That's exactly what I am."
Draco blinked and looked around. It took him a minute to realize we weren't in the closet, and another minute to fully comprehend who was standing in front of him.
"What is going on?"
"While you were busy doing who-knows-what in the States, I ran into some old friends."
Draco stared at Ron. "I saw you die."
"And the whole world saw Hermione's body burned to a crisp. Looks can be deceiving."
He shook his head. "You bringing 'Billy' home makes a lot more sense now. I was right when I said he was stealing my fiancée."
Ron narrowed his eyes. "Fake fiancée."
"Seriously?" I said, exasperated. "If you two can't get your act together—especially you, Ron—we're going to have a big problem on our hands." I folded my arms. "Ron, outside of this room you're going to make it seem like you've warmed up to Malfoy. And Draco, you're going to start treating 'Billy' like man's best friend. Got it?"
"I'll behave if he does," Draco muttered.
"As long as you keep your hands off my girlfriend," said Ron.
"Yeah, like that wouldn't be suspicious," Malfoy scoffed.
"Malfoy's right, Ron," I said. "I love you, but you need to get a hold of yourself or you're going to have to leave."
When he didn't immediately respond, I put my hand on his cheek and forced him to look at me. "Hey. You trust me, right?"
Ron sighed. "Fine."
"Good." I kissed him. I thought I saw Draco frown.
He cleared his throat after a minute. "Where's my closet?"
"Where it's always been." I said, a smug smile on my face. "Just turn the knob left instead of right, and push in instead of pull out, and you're here."
"And you did this when?"
"While you slept. It took me almost all night—would have been so much faster if I'd had my own wand and hadn't had to use yours."
Draco let out a surprised sound. "You used my wand? Why not Astoria's?"
"Because it hates me! It doesn't do anything I want it to!"
He frowned. "You should have asked me first."
"Back off, Malfoy," Ron said, stepping in front of me. "You're the one who asked her to do this in the first place."
Malfoy put up his hands semi-mockingly. I sighed.
"Ron, that wasn't necessary," I muttered.
"Can we have the room?" said Draco after a minute. "Hermione and I have some things to discuss that don't concern you, Weasley."
Ron growled—it sounded almost just like his growl as a dog. "I'm not leaving."
"Actually, you are," I said.
Ron turned and looked at me, confused. "Hermione, you've already told me everything. There's no reason for me to leave."
Draco laughed. "Really? You told him everything? I find that hard to believe."
"Just wait outside," I said to Ron, ignoring Draco. "He won't talk with you in here."
Ron hesitated. He glanced back at Malfoy, a scowl on his face.
"Do you trust me or not?" I demanded.
Finally, he sighed again and transformed back into a dog. I opened the door, and he walked out.
"Well, this certainly makes things more interesting, doesn't it?" Draco said when I closed the door. "A week ago, you were snogging me in a hotel room, and the minute he shows up again—"
"You know very well that Ron being alive changed nothing," I spat as I whirled around. "What happened in California was a huge mistake, and would have been whether or not you murderedthat nurse—that's why I left, remember?"
"I will never understand you!" he groaned. "You say you're wiling to do whatever it takes to keep Harry safe, but when desperate measures are called for—"
"Unbreakable vow! Memory charms! Bribing!" I was fuming. "There are a million other ways to keep someone from spilling a secret!"
"I'm sorry," he said, not sounding sincere. "I'm sorry I disgust you, I'm sorry that night ended the way it did—I really am. But I'm not sorry for protecting Potter."
I shook my head. "You just better watch what you do from now on, because Ron won't be as kind as I'm being."
"You call the way you're treating me kind?"
"I haven't turned on you—not yet, anyway! The moment Ron sees you go to far, he will. So don't go to far again!"
I turned to leave. I heard Draco sigh behind me.
"I'm hungry. We'll discuss our plans later. As for this conversation," I turned halfway around, "nothing ever happened between you and me, and nothing ever will. Understood?"
He just pursed his lips. I took a deep breath and walked through the door. Ron barked when he saw me, sensing my anger. I sighed.
"It's all right," I said, patting his head. "I took care of it."
I just hoped Malfoy heeded my warning.
A/N: More plot, less love-triangle coming up in the next chapter. Looking forward to your reviews!