Lonely Reign, Part 11
“—such an exciting event, a real live example of an extinct species, and to happen at Hogwarts! It’s absolutely—“ her words jangled to a stop at the sight of so many students gathered in the infirmary, and she ran the most gimlet of eyes over Draco in particular. “Every man jack of you’d better have an injury, or it’s detentions for the lot of you!” she declared.
(“Fine with me,” Blaise muttered. “Why are we here, anyway?”)
(“Hush,” Millicent ordered him gruffly, stepping hard on his foot for good measure. Wisely, he hushed.)
“Now, Poppy, I don’t think we should spoil such a happy occasion with threats of detention,” Dumbledore admonished gently, making his way through the throng toward the bed on which squatted the cheerfully-outfitted box and its occupant. “Have you thought of a name?” he asked Pansy as if it were a perfectly normal, everyday occurrence. Madam Pomfrey narrowed her eyes to slits behind his back and stomped away to her office.
“Depends on if it’s a boy or a girl,” she replied breathlessly, stroking her hand over the egg’s chalky surface as she reveled in being the focus of the headmaster’s attention. “For a girl, I was thinking of my grandmother’s name…”
“Quite, quite,” agreed Dumbledore, stroking his long beard thoughtfully. “And if it’s a boy? Gregory Junior, perhaps?”
The large boy stood, shoulders slumped pathetically and head hung low as he stared in dejection at the floor. “She doesn’t want to name it after me,” he said glumly. “Not after what I did to her.”
Pansy turned her stricken gaze first to Goyle and then to Laura, who squeezed her hand tightly. “Gregory,” Laura began carefully, “Pansy still isn’t… completely untroubled… by you, I’ll be honest, but she knows you didn’t mean to… er…”
“Shag her, birdy-style,” Crabbe added helpfully, then frowned in confusion when everyone either gasped (the girls) or laughed (the boys). Pansy did neither, just stared at him with wide eyes as fat tears rolled slowly down her face.
“Yes, thank you, Crabbe, that’s exactly the most appalling thing you could have said,” Draco snapped. “You may leave now.” He lifted an imperious finger and pointed to the door. Reluctantly, Crabbe shuffled out, looking back over his shoulder in pathetic but ultimately frustrated entreaty. “That goes for the rest of you lot, too,” he informed the smugly-smiling Zabini and the glowering Bulstrode. He scarcely spared their retreating figures a glance before turning an expectantly raised brow to Laura, who was steadfastly ignoring him but visibly nervous, the arm she had clasped around Pansy’s shoulders shaking a little.
“That means you, too,” he told her, trying to infuse his voice with a briskness he didn’t feel. He held out a hand to her and tried to ignore the wrench of his heart when she cringed back. Gaze flicking back toward Dumbledore, he found that inestimable gent watching them carefully.
“I don’t want to leave Pansy,” Laura whispered, never taking her eyes off the egg. Another crack appeared on its surface as she watched.
“I’ll be fine,” the other girl said suddenly, sniffling even as she lifted her chin. Goyle stared in the vicinity of her left earlobe, abashed. “It’s not just Gryffindors who can be courageous.”
“Indeed, indeed,” Dumbledore murmured, eyes appraising as he watched her untangle herself from Laura’s embrace and go to stand beside the box holding her egg. “Off with you two,” he commanded Draco and Laura gently, shooing them toward the door, and they left with reluctance. Goyle ambled closer to the egg until he stood looming over the far side of the bed, dull gaze fixed hopefully on his offspring.
The exiled Slytherins waited in the corridor, all looking up hopeful when the infirmary door opened. Interest turned to disappointment, however, when they saw it was just Laura and their liege.
“No news yet, then?” Blaise asked, lounging negligently against the stone wall.
“Not yet,” Draco replied, watching as Laura shivered. The corridor, was made of the same damp, chilly stone as the rest of Hogwarts and he could feel his body temperature dip as they stood there. “Here,” he said, very businesslike, as he shucked his robe and draped it across her trembling shoulders.
“Thank you,” she whispered, not meeting his eyes, and Draco found his patience thinning dangerously. The door opened before he could say anything stupid, however, to reveal a sobbing Pansy.
“What happened?” Laura demanded kindly, going to her immediately. “What did Gregory do?”
“I didn’t do anything!” the huge boy protested from behind Pansy.
“He didn’t do anything,” Pansy agreed tearfully. “Madam Pomfrey has contacted the Ministry, they’re sending someone over from the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures to take Leopold away!”
Draco lifted an elegant silvery brow. “Leopold?” he drawled. “You’re naming it Leopold?”
“Even if it’s a girl?” Laura piped up, looking baffled.
“Especially if it’s a girl,” Pansy snapped.
Draco wasn’t about to begin trying to fathom his housemate’s logic. “And,” he asked instead, “what’s the problem with that?”
“Then we won’t get to raise him!” Pansy wailed. “They’ll take him away and do experiments on him and, and, oh, Laura!” With that, she collapsed into the Hufflepuff’s arms, weeping noisily. Laura gazed entreatingly over Pansy’s head at Draco, who sighed.
“Right,” he said resignedly. “Zabini and Bulstrode, you stand by the front door and keep a watch for the Ministry people. As soon as you see them come up from the main gate, Zabini, you stall them while Bulstrode comes to tell us.” Nodding, those two dashed off to their posts.
Draco turned back to Pansy. “I’ll handle everything,” he assured her, squeezing her shoulder briefly. “Now go back in and see if you can’t chivvy your baby along. We don’t have much time; they’ll Apparate directly to the gates and I don’t know how long even Zabini can distract them.” Pansy scrubbed at the moisture on her face and dashed back into the room, shutting the door haphazardly behind her.
“What about me?” asked Crabbe. “I want to do something, too.”
Draco opened his mouth, but Laura spoke before he could say anything. “Vincent, why not go to the kitchens and see if you can’t get any milk for Robert. You know how babies like milk,” she added encouragingly, forcing a smile on her lips when she realized that sending Crabbe away meant she was alone with Draco.
Crabbe was gone almost before she was done speaking. Draco watched her with the predatory laziness for which he was famous, and leant against the wall. Ignoring the damp chill seeping through the thin fabric of his exquisitely tailored shirt, he crossed his arms over his chest and watched her.
Laura was a fidgeter. She paced a bit, then stopped and tapped her foot before deciding to pace some more. Not once did she meet Draco’s eyes.
He finally lost all semblance of patience. “So,” he began conversationally, “when are you going to forgive me?”
Her head snapped up, and she stared at him in incredulity. “Forgive you?” she gasped. “Forgive—“
She was prevented from further outraged demands by the appearance of a winded Millicent Bulstrode lurching around the corner toward them. “They’re here,” Millicent stated without preamble. “Zabini’s doing the best he can, but they’re very keen to see the dodo.”
Draco’s face lost its teasing, slightly patronizing mien. “Go back down and help Zabini,” he commanded. With a nod, she left. Then he pushed open the door to the infirmary, striding in with Laura close behind.
Pansy took one look at his stern visage and burst into tears once more. “They’re going to take our ba-a-a-by,” she yowled, taking everyone by surprise when she flung herself into Goyle’s arms and pressed her sticky face against his chest.
Pomfrey bustled forward, arms akimbo as she tried to herd the anxious parents away from the box with its still-unborn occupant. “Now, now,” she said in what she thought was a comforting way, “you can’t honestly expect to raise this bird yourselves, you’re just children! This is a major scientific occurrence, and—“ she continued to natter on as Goyle and Pansy backed away from her, his huge hand cupped protectively around her head.
The door banged open. “Draco, we can’t keep them any longer!” Millicent cried. “They’re coming up!”
Dumbledore stepped forward. He’d been so quiet they’d forgotten he was there. “Bloody hell,” Draco muttered, raising his chin as imperiously as he dared and preparing to take the brunt of responsibility for this mutiny.
Instead, Dumbledore reached for the box and lifted it from the bed, handing it to Laura. “Seventh floor,” he said cryptically, voice low. “Opposite the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy being clubbed by trolls. Walk past three times.”
She blinked stupidly at him, but Draco grabbed her hand and pelted out of the room. As they turned the corner at the far end of the corridor, they heard voices echo behind them:
“…such an amazing occasion! I thought the only way we’d be able to study a dodo was by dissecting the ones currently kept in the British Museum, and they’re understandably squeamish about cutting into them…”
“Yars, yars, having one of our own will greatly increase our knowledge base. And a live one, at that!”
Draco felt a twist of queasiness in his stomach at the mention of dissection, and snatched the box from Laura’s grasp so they could run faster. Skidding around a newel post, he dashed up the stairs, Laura trailing behind him and gasping for breath. At the top of the seventh flight, he allowed her a brief moment to recover before bolting down the corridor to the indicated tapestry.
“One,” he counted under his breath as he walked by. “Two,” he said on the second pass. “And, three.”
As they watched, the wall melted away and became a door. Draco pushed it open and ushered Laura inside before pulling the large brass ring on the door. It shut with a resounding clang, and silence fell between them as they realized they were, for all intents, trapped together.
Laura turned abruptly away to survey their surroundings. The room was small and cozy, lined with bookshelves and featuring a blazing fireplace along the far wall. Flanking the hearth were two squashy-looking armchairs with a round table between them, atop which was a pot of tea and two cups on saucers.
And before the fire was a low bench, the perfect size and height to keep the egg warm as it completed its final stages of hatching. Draco placed the box on the bench and stepped back, watching the firelight flicker over the chalky, mottled surface as warmth infused him. He realized suddenly that he was shivering.
A soft touch on his arm alerted him to his companion; Laura was holding out his robes to him. Still not meeting his eyes but keeping her own latched onto the egg, she murmured her thanks for the robe’s loan before moving to pour them each a cup of tea.
Draco sank into the chair and watched her. She was thinner, he saw, and her face was drawn and pale. There was a fine tremor in her hand as she gave him the brimming cup, but she still refused to meet his gaze. “Madley—“ he began.
“No,” she whispered, interrupting him. “Just… don’t.” She turned to watch as another fracture formed on the egg, the faint cracking sound teasing at their ears.
And for the first time in his life, Draco ignored his own desires to do what someone else wished, and kept silent.