Chapter Seven: Reverberations
Harry meant to leave. Indeed, her only thought, as shaken as she felt, was Get away!
And that, apparently, was a problem when one had the ability to transport oneself through time and space.
In her distress, Harry's unfocused will delivered her off of the Terrace and onto the ballroom floor adjacent to the main dining room on the first floor of the Gryphon's Foote.
Merlin bless a lady's desire to make an entrance, Morgan Malkin exulted as Ree Potter appeared in the center of the dancing couples. He was very careful not to betray his surprise as he rushed the bandstand and wrested the charmed microphone from Benita Watlings, his star performer.
"Ladies and gentlemen," his voice rang out over the spreading silence and to every corner of his establishment, the Gryphon's Foote is proud to welcome our most honored guest, the greatest hero of our age, Ree Potter, the Girl Who Lived!"
The applause was cacophonous to Harry's ears; it rooted her firmly to the spot. She attempted to look gracious as the patrons jumped to their feet and lauded her.
Oh, there's going to be such splendid film! Malkin congratulated himself, as several wizards began edging toward the little circle of dancers that had closed around the witch.
"Now, now, gentlemen, one at a time. Miss Potter can only dance with one of you at a time, you know!"
"And this is my dance, I believe," a firm, masculine voice rose over the excited murmurs of the crowd.
Good boy, Narcissa Malfoy thought in approbation.
Draco walked through the parting throng and offered Harry his only hand. "Smile, Potter," he whispered through pearlescent teeth.
Harry did so, unable to think what else to do, and the two of them began a careful waltz around the emptying floor. No one wanted to miss the show. But Malkin quickly exhorted his guests not to be shy, and soon the strains of the orchestra and the rising voices of the other dancers afforded the unlikely couple something akin to privacy.
"Blaise was just telling me the most amusing story, Ree," Draco informed Harry.
"I can't imagine what that might be, Mr. Lézard," she pointedly replied, though she did not know why she called Draco by that name.
The memory holding the reason was hovering just out of reach in her mind, bleeding slowly into her consciousness.
"Forgive me for that, but when we last met, I knew that you were not yourself."
"Why weren't you yourself?"
A look of puzzlement crossed the young wizard's face, but almost immediately, it changed to amusement. "You're teasing me, of course."
"What else would I be doing?" Harry said in an attempt to cover her confusion regarding not having thought of Draco in such a long time. What is it about you that I'm missing?
"I believe our mutual . . . friend has also been trying to cultivate a bit of mischief."
"Mr. Zabini is under the impression that you are being courted by our old Potions master."
Harry stiffened. "Blaise is sadly misinformed."
Draco's eyes flicked over his partner's shoulder to the staircase leading to the terrace, the same staircase on which a glowering Severus Snape had just appeared. "And does the wizard in question know that, Harry?" he asked, indicating the man and acknowledging his entrance with one slight bow of his head.
Merlin, let me die, the witch thought, turning Draco further into the press of dancers. He won't make a scene. He won't! she prayed.
Snape came down the stairs and across the floor in several easy strides and tapped Draco smartly on the shoulder. "May I cut in, Mr. Malfoy."
It was not a question.
The wizard's arm tightened around Harry's waist as he looked at her, ignoring the other man. "May he?" he enquired of her pleasantly.
"Ah, too bad, Sir. Lady's choice, I'm afraid," Draco drawled, spinning Harry a bit to bestow a genteel smirk on his rival.
Narcissa Malfoy was by Snape's side before he could raise his wand. "Severus, darling! I'm so pleased to find you here! And yes, I'd love to dance with you," she said, guiding the man swiftly away from both her son and the shrill eyes of Trillare Snape, who was glaring at the scene from a raised table just off the dance floor. "Don't, Severus," she ordered as he attempted to disengage himself from her surprisingly strong grasp. "Ree won't thank you for it."
He relented, and Narcissa noted with distaste that a reporter had begun to dance entirely too closely to them. She slid Severus' wand from his jacket pocket, and, holding it low, cast a Jelly Legs jinx on the witch before the man could prevent her from doing so.
"I've always despised that Skeeter woman," she said, smiling sweetly directly into her partner's eyes.
Heels, Severus thought, explaining the thing easily away and asking, "What is he doing here?"
"I would have thought that was obvious, old friend."
"Do not play games with me, Narcissa. You are not as adept at it as was Lucius."
The witch laughed, but her eyes glinted dangerously as she asked, "Well, you would know that better than most, wouldn't you?"
"His death is not on my hands."
"If you say so," Narcissa said roughly, almost forgetting that her purpose in dancing with Severus had been to prevent a scene.
Unsure of what else to do, Colin took pictures of everyone, adjusting his lense to capture any hint of flaring magic. His eyes had keenly fixed upon his former professor's wand, and he thought that there might be hexing to capture. He had missed the casting of the jinx Rita had caught when he had looked away to adjust the dials on his camera, but he did not think the Potions master would have bothered with that ridiculous harpy. No, I think he'd rather curse Draco Malfoy, the photographer thought. Why is Harry dancing with him? She hated him in school!
Across the floor, the thoughts of the witch in question were taking a similar turn. "Why aren't you afraid?" she asked Draco, who seemed completely at his ease. "I thought that you were forbidden to associate with me."
"Oh, Potter," Draco said, almost laughing the words. "I have missed you. Why not relax and enjoy yourself, or has your lovers' spat wound you more tightly than usual?"
Harry flinched. "Shut up, Malfoy."
"How can I answer your questions if you bid me be silent?" he mocked her.
"You've clearly taken something. Euphoria isn't a natural state for you."
"Perhaps. But I find that freedom agrees with me far too much to brood tonight."
"Freedom? From that . . . facility you've been living in?" she asked, remembering a bit more of what it was that she had forgotten.
Draco scowled a bit, but then suppressed the expression with a tight little smile that was pure Lucius Malfoy. Harry faltered.
"There now, I've got you. Yes, Mother was all concern for my welfare after Father's death, but, as usual, she over-estimated my need to . . . recover. I rather believe the woman felt her own reputation would suffer if I remained in the country. . . . Malfoys don't appreciate being examined.
"What do you want, Draco?"
"For a start, to know what is troubling you."
His concern almost looks genuine. "Nothing a little privacy wouldn't cure."
"Then why did you elect to make such a dramatic entrance?"
The witch did not reply.
"Ah, it appears that Blaise wasn't in error. You are with Severus, and your fight must have truly confused you."
Feeling completely exposed and insecure, Harry closed her eyes and leaned into Draco a little more.
The wizard allowed it. "Do you know," he whispered gently into her hair, "that for once, I find myself in complete agreement with Mother?"
Disconsolately, Harry murmured, "About what?"
"You need someone to look after you."
The witch stiffened, but did not offer further resistance as Draco led her deftly off the dance floor to where Morgan Malkin proudly stood surveying the fruit of his labor. Malkin was regretting his impulsive decision to send waiters around to chase off the journalists, but Colin had not been the only person to witness Snape draw his wand. The restauranteur did not desire any real violence, only scandal.
"Malkin, do be good enough to evict whatever peasants are occupying the private dining room on the second floor. Miss Potter and I wish to be private."
"Without delay, young man!" the proprietor agreed with alacrity.
If every eye in the house had not been on them, Harry would have protested, but she was overwhelmed by the day's events. She desperately wanted to be alone, even if it meant being alone with a Malfoy.
She found herself being made comfortable by Milkie, the resident house elf. "Don't I know you?" she asked the wide-eyed being.
"Yes, Mistress does! Milkie is one of Dobby's free elves, Mistress! Milkie is working here."
Hermione's efforts to liberate the Hogwarts elves had not, it seemed, proved entirely unsuccessful.
"They pay you?" Draco asked in evident disgust.
"Shut up, Malfoy. That's very nice for you, Milkie. Congratulations, and please tell Dobby that . . . that I'm glad he's had such a . . . happy influence on your life."
Restraining her desire to stick her tongue out at Sir, Milkie smiled at Miss and bowed before popping out of the room. She further resolved to follow Harry Potter's orders immediately, as she did not trust the wizard the witch was with. Dobby says that we should always be helping our people as our first duty, Milkie thought, winking into Hogwarts' kitchen. And Milkie is too quick to miss.
"Really, Harry, the creatures with whom you deign to associate--I'm amazed."
The witch sipped the cup of spiced coffee that Draco had ordered for her, and glared at the wizard over her rim. "Don't push me, Malfoy. It's been a bad day, and the last time you and I were . . . together . . . ," she finished, unable to continue.
A look of sorrow replaced Draco's expression of irritation. "I . . . I don't know what to say to you, Harry. It was . . . I was . . . it's just that . . . ."
"You're at a loss for words? That's not like you."
"Then you won't believe this," Draco responded, taking a deep breath. "I'm sorry for how I treated you that night, Harry. I wasn't . . . myself."
It was a stunning thing to hear the prat apologize for anything without being threatened, but there had been too many shocks that day for Harry to credit its significance. "I would have said that you were quite yourself."
"I never meant to scare you," the wizard said, clearly trying to quell his anger.
"You hurt me, Draco. I agreed to drink that shit so that you could have me as a man, not as a boy."
Genuine shame graced Draco's features. "I hurt you," he acknowledged, "but it wasn't my intention to do so. . . . I shouldn't have drunk Blaise's calming draught before you arrived."
Bells sounded in Harry's mind--warning bells--and the peals shook loose several of her memories at once. The witch fell forward and spilled her drink across the table, which caused a waitress, as no doubt there were charms to alert the staff when a clean-up was needed, to open the door.
"Get out," Draco ordered quietly, his wand raised.
The waitress fled.
"Where is it?" Harry asked, staring at the place Draco's right arm should occupy. "How did you manage to survive?"
A little worried now, the wizard did not lower his wand, but set a hasty looking spell on the door.
"Why aren't you dead, Draco?" Harry asked, clutching the table with both hands as she tried to steady the whirlwind of her mind.
"It would seem that Blaise really has been playing unfairly with others. He told me that you knew, Harry."
"That I knew what?"
But she never heard his answer, for as he was about to speak, several things occurred at once.
The strident tone of Severus Snape's voice shouting, "Alohamora!" was heard just outside the door, and the concerned faces of Dobby and Milkie materialized before the rest of their bodies on top of the table. Dobby took one look from Harry to Draco to the door and back to Harry, said, "No, no! This is all very bad, Harry Potter!" and then, just as the door flew open, Harry and her favorite house elf disappeared.
Severus, however, only saw Milkie and Draco as he rushed into the room. "Protego!" he yelled, deflecting the spell the younger wizard had cast upon seeing his former professor, which rebounded and flung Draco into the wall. The blow knocked the boy unconscious.
It took three waiters and one strong restraining spell cast by Narcissa Malfoy to pry the Potions master's fingers from around Draco's throat.
Colin Creevey--who had avoided the brush off received by the other journalists by hiding in the Little Wizard's Room--captured the entire scene on film.
"Release. Me. At. Once," Severus ordered from behind clenched teeth.
"Why? So that you can murder my son?" Narcissa asked.
Zoroastrid, who had followed her lover's progress as Cissa had left the dance floor, noted that Mrs. Malfoy looked rather pleased by the entire situation. Efficiently, she pushed everyone but herself, Narcissa, Draco, and Severus from the room, chanted a repairing charm on the door, and locked it rather more firmly than it had ever been before.
Narcissa forewent her customary amused detachment to attend to her son as he attempted to rise and recover his wand.
"An excellent instinct, boy," Severus spat, "but it won't save you!"
"Accio Severus' wand!" Zoroastrid ordered. It rose from the place it had landed and came to her at once. She tucked it away. Turning to Severus she said, "Only think, won't you, of the damage that has already been done. It would be wise to allow ourselves a moment of peace before continuing to function as free entertainment for the eyes of the vulgar."
Smoothing pale blond hair away from her flustered--and slightly fearful--son's face, Narcissa said, "You should listen to our old school chum, Severus. She's never wrong."
The two witches smiled at each other.
"Release me," Severus insisted again, but in a much calmer tone this time.
Helping her son to a chair, Narcissa pointed her wand at the other wizard and favored him with a wicked grin.
"Cissa," Zoroastrid said reprovingly.
"Oh, very well. How like you to spoil my fun, dearest. . . . Finite Incantatum!"
Severus immediately held out an arm toward Zoroastrid. "My wand, if you please."
"I do not please, not yet."
Zoroastrid laughed mildly. "Now this is awkward," she said, taking one of two additional chairs that she had just conjured, "but surely among the four of us we can manage a solution to tonight's . . . misunderstanding?"
When neither Narcissa nor Severus sat as well, Zoroastrid pressed, "Come now, you two. We're all Slytherins here. You there," she said, indicating Milkie with a flick of her own wand, "bring us something to soothe the tempers of old rivals."
Harry found herself in the school's kitchen, once again the center of attention. She was besieged by a bevy of concerned house elves. Dobby, chief among them, demanded to know what could be done to see to her welfare.
"Get out of my way!" ordered the familiar voice of Poppy Pomfrey. She had not put a hand on Harry before she was pulling back her arm in horrified rage. "Albus!" she spat in a dark tone before simply disappearing from the kitchen.
Harry sunk to the floor, wondering if she had imagined seeing the old nurse, and was promptly prodded by Dobby as he looked for any injuries she might have incurred.
"You is in a bad state," he said.
"Dobby has brought Harry Potter home. His Milkie came to say that you was in trouble."
Another elf suddenly yelled, "'His' Milkie! Winky knew it!"
A burble of rapidly exclaiming house elves subdued the distraught female elf and retreated in a series of pops.
"Winky is thinking bad things," explained Dobby to a confused Harry. "But then, Winky is like that when she is sober enough to do the thinking. . . . You must have tea, Harry Potter. At the table," he urged, levitating the witch until she was standing.
As Harry took a seat at one of the large tables that mirrored those found above in the Great Hall, Dobby continued, "Sometimes Dobby is thinking that he likes his Winky better when she is drinking."
And then the elf pressed Harry to take a steaming mug of something foamy, pink, and sweet.
"You is very good to drink it, Harry Potter. Dobby is glad you is home now."
It was eight-fifteen in London when Morgan Malkin's fame as the most exciting host of the wizarding world was assured for the next hundred years at least.
Narcissa Malfoy, co-mistress of the Assembly's Courtship Committee, had just made an historic announcement--and in my place of business, too! That her news appeared to have disturbed her partner in the duty of overseeing the rites made it all the more fantastic.
The unheard of had occurred: A Malfoy was setting a Claim of Courtship on someone, someone of Muggle descent.
Draco Malfoy was going to attempt to woo Ree Potter to be his wife.
Watching the wine and the congratulations flow, Malkin reflected that perhaps young Zabini's sour expression might have something to do a smatter of truth being in those old rumors surrounding his courtship of the Girl Who Lived. It certainly would explain his excessive civility to young Malfoy--and his sulky expression.
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