Chapter Fourteen: Letter
Ron was all too eager to get into the hidden room the minute Draco and I returned. Once in there, he transformed.
"Well?" he said.
"I feel like I could soak in the tub all night and still not be clean," I said, cringing, "but I got it. 10:00AM, day after tomorrow, level 10, room 183." I tossed Ron the coin.
As he sent the message, I glanced at Draco. "I told him I thought you were involved in the break-in and wanted to question Seamus about it."
"Good cover," said Draco with a nod. "Think he'll tell anyone else?"
"He better not," I said with another cringe. "At least not until afterwards." I turned to Ron. "In order for this to work, and me to still keep my cover, you're going to have to knock me unconscious."
"Wait—what?" both boys said simultaneously.
"I'll get the door open, but it's your job," I gestured to Ron, "to get him out. It can't look like I had anything to do with his escape, so you'll have to stun me or something." I turned to Draco. "You can't be there at all."
"And what am I supposed to do?" he said, folding his arms.
"Stay here and act like you have no idea what's going on! And if anything goes wrong—if I'm found out somehow—get yourself, and Harry, to safety."
Draco did not look happy about that plan.
"Okay, how am I supposed to get him out?" Ron said with a frown. "It's not like I can just waltz up there with you, as a human or a dog."
"There's a fireplace just down the hall on level 10. It's usually closed to the floo network, but Blaise said he would have it temporarily opened for travel to and from Malfoy Manor. If you disillusion yourself, you could go through with me and use it to get back."
"No good," he said, shaking his head. "All the fireplaces have enchantments on them—I wouldn't make it past the hearth without being completely visible again."
"Then we need something better than I spell." I turned back to Draco. "Please tell me you know what your parents did with Harry's cloak."
Ron's jaw dropped. "They've had the cloak all this time?"
"Do you?" I said earnestly.
Draco sighed. "Yes. It's in our vault in Gringgotts."
"Well, it's time to get it out."
"First thing in the morning," he muttered, then left the room.
I watched him go, a slight frown on my face. Ron didn't notice.
"So, I follow you in with the cloak...?"
"And get him out," I said simply. "Put him under the cloak with you, give him Polyjuice potion, whatever. I don't want to know exactly how you do it just in case."
"Fair enough," he said, then pulled me into his arms. "But nothing's going to happen to you."
I let him hold me for a moment before pulling away. "You should find Ginny, tell her about the plan—"
"She knows what to do," he said, kissing my forehead. "We talked about this in detail when planning to get you out. She and a few others will create a distraction in the atrium, pulling the guards away from Seamus and giving us more time."
I hesitated. "You should still go talk to her in person."
"Because I don't want there to be any chance we could screw this up," I said with a sigh.
After a minute, he nodded. "All right. I'll leave tonight."
"Be back by noon tomorrow."
"I'll be back way before then," he said.
He leaned down and kissed me sweetly before transforming. We walked out into the bedroom. Draco was already dressed for bed. He eyed us curiously as we approached the bedroom door.
"Where are you going?"
"Billy's restless—I'm going to let him outside for the night."
Draco nodded, understanding. "All right, I'll see you when you get back."
There was something in his expression—restlessness? Frustration? I wasn't sure what to call it.
Ron barked, snapping me out of my thoughts. I opened the door for him and we went downstairs. Before I opened the front door, I knelt down next to him and scratched behind his ears.
"You be a good boy," I said quietly. He licked my face.
He knew what I meant—be safe.
I let him out, then headed back upstairs. Draco had climbed into the bed, but wasn't sleeping. Even after I changed into pajamas, he was still wide-awake. I turned out the lights and lied down next to him.
"What wrong?" I said after a minute.
He sighed. "Nothing. I just—wish I could always be there for you."
I turned on my side to look at him. He was staring at the ceiling, purposely avoiding my gaze. I frowned. I knew he wanted to help, but I didn't know that by asking him to stay behind I would make him feel—feel what, useless? Unappreciated? He was most definitely not useless, and that was why he had to stay behind.
But if it looked like he was there for the trial...
"How would you like to join me at Finnigan's trial on Friday?" I said quietly.
He slowly turned to look at me. "Is that what you were talking to Blaise for so long about?"
I nodded. "I thought I would surprise you."
A small smile grazed his lips. "I would love that."
"I thought you might," I said, returning his smile.
He tucked a strand of hair behind my ear and kissed my forehead. I closed my eyes and rolled back onto my other side. After a minute, he tentatively reached out and touched me. I scooted towards him, letting him put his arms around me. Again, I was surprised, and a little unnerved, by the fact that I was not uncomfortable, but I soon fell asleep in his embrace.
I felt like I was twiddling my thumbs the entire next day. Draco was up before me, headed to Gringgotts. When I went downstairs, Ron was already back, pawing at the door to get inside. He jumped on me and licked my face when he did, which I took as a good sign.
I sent Blaise an owl, requesting seats at the trial, and he responded saying he'd already reserved them for me. Everything was falling into place—now we just had to hope it all went according to plan.
When Draco returned just before lunch, I was in the bedroom, reading. Ron was respecting Draco's request for him to stay off the bed, but he was seated on the ground next to me and I reached down and scratched his head. Draco forced a smile and set down his briefcase when he entered.
"Where were you this morning?" I said, not taking my eyes off the book.
"I went to Gringgotts to make a withdrawal. This wedding is getting more and more expensive."
"That's what you asked for when you decided to marry me," I said playfully. "A letter came for you while you were out, by the way. I put it on your nightstand."
As I returned my full attention to my book, he crossed to the nightstand and picked up the letter. I was hardly paying attention as he opened it. He was silent for a few minutes, reading it. Eventually, he cleared his throat.
"Dear, come with me into the closet, will you? I have a surprise I think you're going to like very much."
I reluctantly set aside my book and hopped off the bed. "Accessory or clothing?"
"You'll see." He picked up the suitcase and walked to the closet door. Ron and I both followed him inside. The minute it was shut, he turned to face us, a huge smile on his face.
"Read this," he said eagerly, handing the letter to me.
I unfolded it curiously. Ron transformed and read it over my shoulder.
Dear Mr. Malfoy,
As always, your generosity is greatly appreciated. We are pleased to inform you that because of your contributions, thousands of patients in the western United States will receive the care they need. Additionally, we have enough funds left over to invest in groundbreaking research that could potentially eradicate this disease once and for all.
Kindness is a rare virtue these days, and we would like to show our gratitude for your kindness by offering you a trip to sunny California to see first-hand the good your donations are doing. Expenses would be paid, of course, and lodging would be provided.
Looking forward to hearing from you soon,
The Evan James Foundation
"What is the Evan James Foundation?" Ron said, frowning.
"This has something to do with Harry, doesn't it?" I said, glancing up at Draco.
He nodded, grinning. "Read the first letter of each sentence."
I did, and my heart just about stopped. They formed one short, wonderful word:
"He's awake?" I breathed.
Ron let out a joyous laugh, picked me up, and spun me around.
"This is great!" he exclaimed, setting me down and pulling a shocked Draco into a hug. "When do we leave? Now? Tonight?"
I put a calming hand on his shoulder. "Ron, we still have to get Seamus."
Ron released Draco, forcing himself to calm down. "Right, of course. Sorry, I just—got excited."
"I'm excited too," I said, smiling. "I wonder what finally pulled him out of it."
"Who cares?" Ron said, his eyes shining. He picked me up in another hug, and I let myself laugh with him as he spun me around again. Draco smiled as he watched us and folded his arms.
"Okay, one thing at a time," I said as he set me down again. "Draco, did you get the cloak?"
He nodded, opened his briefcase, and tossed it at Ron. Ron's grin widened, and he and I exchanged a look. In all the excitement about Harry, we couldn't help but think of all the adventures we had with this cloak.
And after this next one, the three of us would be reunited.
"I'm gonna go tell Ginny the good news," said Ron. He kissed my cheek. "I'll be back by dinner."
Before either Draco or I could respond, he'd thrown the cloak over himself and walked out the door.
I chuckled, but my mood turned serious as I faced Draco again.
"I think that maybe you—"
"Should go to Harry, I know," he said with a sideways smile. "So if anything goes wrong and the Emperor reads your mind, I can move him immediately."
"That doesn't make you feel pushed aside?"
"Pushed aside?" He shook his head. "Not at all. Actually, the fact that you're trusting me to go to him without you there is kind of amazing."
I returned his smile. "I do trust you, Draco."
He grinned, and there was something in his expression I couldn't quite place. "You have no idea how wonderful it is to hear you say that. I was worried I was never going to, because of what happened in California."
"I may not approve of your methods," I said, "but you've earned my trust regardless."
I turned to leave. Draco caught my arm before I reached the door.
"About that," he said softly, "you were right. I had other choices I could have made, with both Astoria and that nurse. I still think what I did was the most secure option," he sighed, "but I'm trying to see it your way, I really am. And I hope you understand that I only ever did what I thought was best, and what I thought was necessary. I didn't enjoy killing them."
"If I thought you did, I wouldn't be here right now," I said, surprised to hear the gentleness in my voice.
We stared at each other for a moment. Draco hesitated before placing a hand on my cheek. He leaned in closer.
"Draco, stop," I whispered just before our lips touched.
He stopped, but didn't back away. "Why?" he whispered back.
"I'm in love with Ron."
He remained frozen for a moment, then placed his hands on my waist and pulled me towards him, closing the gap. He kissed me, and I found myself involuntarily kissing him back. He ended the kiss and rested his forehead against mine.
"It seems like your mind's not entirely made up," he breathed. "So I'm not giving up."
Slowly, he released me, and left the room. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes.
When Ron returned (he tapped me on the shoulder, letting me know he was back) we all met in the closet again. Ron didn't seem to notice me blush when Draco walked in. I wasn't sure exactly what I was feeling—confusion? Frustration? Guilt?
Guilt. Definitely guilt.
We told Ron our plan of Draco going to Harry, and he agreed that it was safest, though he didn't seem thrilled about the fact that Harry was going to Malfoy before he saw either of us. I decided to give Draco my coin, much to Ron's displeasure, and we showed him how to use it. He in turn described to us the many enchantments guarding Harry—what the passwords were, how to open the last passageway at the dead end. The plan was for us to join him there as soon as we were all safe.
"And where exactly is the hospital?" said Ron.
"Hermione's been there. She can apparate back without knowing exactly where it is."
Ron narrowed his eyes. "Is this some kind of trick?"
"No, it's smart," I said, putting a gentle hand on his arm. "Once we're in California, I can apparate there without knowing exactly where it is because I've been there before. But if I know exactly where it is—if any of us do—the Emperor could get it out of us and find him himself. This way, even if I am found out, the only way for him to reach Harry without searching every hospital in northern California is by using me, which we all know would never happen."
"Fine," Ron said with a pout. "But you'll contact us if something goes wrong, right?"
"Of course," said Draco. "But your coin system doesn't have a number set for meeting in California."
"We'll make it seven. Where exactly should we plan to meet in that case?"
"The Redwoods Visitors Centre. The one in Orick."
"We'll pass the word along," said Ron. He reached out his hand. "You take good care of Harry till we get there."
"I will." Draco shook his hand. As he turned to leave, he caught my gaze and held it for a moment. I looked at the ground, uncomfortable. He left without another word.
Ron sighed once he was gone. "You're sure we can trust him?"
I glanced at the door and thought for a minute. Was I sure?
Yes, I was.
I nodded. "Positive."
"All right then," Ron said, not sounding so sure himself. He left the invisibility cloak in the room when we walked out into the bedroom, him as a dog again of course. Draco was already gone. I changed and climbed into bed and Ron hopped up next to me. I didn't object, despite Draco's rule.
He seemed to fall asleep quickly, but I couldn't. My mind was racing with everything that was happening—Harry waking up, Seamus in Azkaban—
Merlin's beard, Hermione, get a hold of yourself!
I shouldn't be focusing on that right now. In fact, I shouldn't even be focusing on Harry right now. Our most immediate concern was pulling off Seamus's escape.
I eventually drifted into a restless sleep, but I was up hours before Ron. To occupy myself, I headed to the library and looked for a book that would mention comas. I wasn't very lucky—I still couldn't figure out how this library was organized, and everything seemed to be about dark magic or trivial magical history. Sighing in defeat, I returned upstairs just as Ron awoke. We still had about an hour and a half to kill, so we went downstairs for breakfast. It was odd, being alone in the dining room of Malfoy Manor. With every passing moment, I felt more and more that I didn't belong here.
At 9:45, we entered the closet. Ron transformed back into himself and picked up the invisibility cloak.
"Remember," I said, "you have to knock me unconscious. You can't go easy on me. It has to look like I was an obstacle to getting Seamus out, not the other way around."
"I know," he said, cupping my chin in his hands and kissing me. If he noticed that I wasn't as accepting as usual, he didn't say anything. He threw the cloak over himself, and we walked together to the nearest fireplace. I waited until just before 10:00 to step inside, and when Ron pulled my sleeve I threw the floo powder at my feet.
Instead of traveling through grate after grate as usual, we jumped straight from Malfoy Manor to level 10 of the old Ministry. I stepped out and turned left, following the Zabini's directions. We passed a group of guards heading the other direction just before reaching room 183. One of the two remaining men stepped in front of the door as I approached.
"No one is to speak to the prisoner," he said.
I pulled out the pass Zabini gave me and handed it to him without a word. He looked surprised, but reluctantly stepped aside. His companion opened the door.
"Thank you," I said as I paused in the doorway, giving Ron a minute to get past. "I'll be out in five minutes."
I walked the rest of the way in, and the door shut behind me. I turned. Seamus was standing in the middle of the room, his hands tied together. He let out a sigh of relief.
"Merlin, am I glad—"
"I have some questions for you," I said quickly, sending him a warning look. They could be listening in.
He seemed to get the message and wiped the smile off his face. "And what makes you think I'll answer them, Lass?"
"I think you want to," I said, pulling out my wand. "To set yourself free, avoid the messy trial you're about to go through. If you tell me what I want to know now, I can get you out of it."
That was our signal. Any minute now, Ron was going to knock me unconscious. I closed my eyes, sending out a silent prayer that whatever he had planned would work.
Seamus laughed, playing along. "You have that kind of authority?"
"Yes, I do." Hit me already! "And I'm your best chance at getting out of here ali—"
Suddenly, everything went black.***
A/N: Can't wait to hear your reviews! :D