Chapter: IX. Alibi
Fandom: Harry Potter
Pairing: Harry/Draco (intended); others.
Disclaimer: JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Chapter Rating: PG-13
Chapter Warnings: None.
Chapter Length: 3400 words
Chapter Summary: Narcissa reminisces, and Draco discovers that one can be stuck six ways from Sunday without knowing it.
Beta: None. Read at your own risk.
Note: This is a CYOA fic styled after the 乙女ゲーム/Otome game genre. There will be a poll at the end of each chapter, and readers' majority vote will decide the POV character's actions for the following chapter.
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.
[Previously, Harry decided to question Malfoy informally about Laura in exchange for another unspecified future favour.]
"Draco, have you got a minute?" Narcissa called as he headed outside for some air after Luce finally conceded her defeat in the battle for nap time.
He walked into the drawing room, expecting to find her bent over her embroidery, but Narcissa sat in her favourite chair -- the one that afforded her an easy view of both the grounds and the room. She sat poised and alert, as though expecting a visitor. Draco had a funny feeling he was that visitor.
"More than a minute," he said. "What's on your mind?"
"Have a seat."
Last time Draco had to "have a seat" in the drawing room had been before his mother's stern lecture concerning house-elves. Not having much of a choice, he sat down in the chair facing her. "What did I do now?"
"It's not what you did; it's what you're planning to do." Narcissa picked up her goblet from the coffee table and took a leisurely sip. "But before that, I've got a question for you."
Draco settled back a bit and looked at her steadily. "What question?"
"How fond are you of Blaise?"
"Mother?" Draco's heartbeat turned erratic; had she seen something--?
"Just answer me."
Draco shrugged. "I don't understand. He is a former classmate, and a friend, I suppose--"
"Come now, Draco; your mother was not raised by gnomes. I understand that sometimes things happen between Hogwarts boys that no one talks about; no more than anyone talks about what may happen between a boy and a girl." She smiled slightly. "Or between Hogwarts girls. So how fond are you of Blaise Zabini?"
"Not fond enough, Mother," Draco said. The back of his neck was unbearably hot, and he was so mortified he couldn't tell what his face was doing.
"Not fond enough for what?" Narcissa's smile was far too knowing for Draco's liking. He was beginning to feel that he should've pretended not to hear her call earlier.
He took a deep breath, willing his blood to find a less conspicuous gathering place. "I am not fond enough of Blaise to endanger the bloodline--"
Narcissa held up a hand. "None of that, please. If you must insist on that nonsense, first of all, your responsibility for the bloodline was cut in half with Luce's birth. Second of all, it is nonsense. The old ways are dying. Those who hold to them will not survive."
Draco's shame and confusion fled in an instant; this was a conversation he'd had with her -- in his head -- more often than she'd care to know. "How can you be so sure of that? So Potter and his cronies won the war, so what? That doesn't mean every pure-blood family will suddenly decide to interbreed with Mu--ggle-borns. Not from what I see and hear."
"It may not happen in this generation, but it will happen," Narcissa said, narrowing her eyes. "It has been happening here for decades -- it has already happened in other parts of the world; Russia, Canada, much of Africa, the States, Brazil, the list goes on! We shall not remain an island forever, Draco. Why must you cling to the losing side?"
"Father--" Draco began, but Narcissa shook her head, dismissive.
"Lucius was on the losing side, and he died, Draco. You'll do your father no favours by trying to follow in his wake."
"How can you say that so easily?" Draco demanded. "Father died for us; he died in our place--"
Narcissa's eyes went sharp and cold as ice. "Your father didn't die a hero, Draco. He died a prisoner. He became a prisoner because the wrong choices he'd made were far worse than the ones you and I had made, and I was only saved by one right choice that I'd made at the very end. That we're as free as we can be now is a vagary of fate, not your father's design. He didn't die for us, and he died alone."
She was right, of course, but that only annoyed Draco more. It was as though the more time passed after Father's death, the more Mother denied that he had died for something worth fighting for. He folded his arms and turned away, wishing Luce would wake and provide him with an excuse to leave the room without being completely rude.
When Narcissa spoke again, her voice was so low Draco had to lean closer to hear her. He tried not to, but he couldn't just not listen to his mother.
"There was a girl in Slytherin when I went to Hogwarts, you see. She was very fond of a Ravenclaw girl in her year; in fact, they were both so fond of each other that they were planning a life together -- despite all that stood in their way, even the Slytherin girl's very conservative family. In her seventh year at Hogwarts, it turned out that one of her two older sisters was barren, and the remaining sister betrayed the blood, so this girl was the only one left to carry on the bloodline. In the end, she broke two hearts and married a beautiful Slytherin boy of impeccable breeding."
Draco stared at her; Narcissa had a faraway look on her face, and a wistful smile just this side of sadness -- but not quite sad enough for him to jump to conclusions.
She turned to him sharply, as though sensing his thoughts and wishing to put an end to them. "I will allow no child of mine to share that girl's fate, do you understand? You mustn't deny your wishes for--"
"There's no denial," Draco said, quickly, glad that she'd dropped the matter of his father and at the same time irritated by her unspoken assumption. Had she forgotten that time she'd caught him and Pansy in fifth year...? "And besides, what if Luce turns out like that girl friend of yours?"
"Then I'll still have two happy children."
Yeah, Draco thought. Like Nymphadora Tonks was happy, happy to marry a werewolf and get herself killed for his sake, sticking Andromeda with their pup. But he wasn't about to say that out loud; of late Narcissa had become unwilling to listen to reason when it came to her sister. "You said you wanted me to marry," he said instead. "You've all but insisted on it; why else would you practically push me to hang around the Greengrass girl?"
"I suggested Astoria Greengrass for you because I don't approve of Pansy Parkinson; it was obvious you never cared for Pansy, and she deserves to marry someone who does. I thought you might like Astoria better. But all of this was before I saw how you are with the Zabini boy."
"How am I with him? I'm not in love with him, if that's what you're suggesting; that's ridiculous!"
"Whether it's ridiculous or not, I've never seen you look at any girl the way you look at him. I have watched over you for your entire life, Draco; I understand you far better than you're obviously willing to credit me for."
"Might you not be seeing something that isn't there, because of your, ah, old school friend?"
Narcissa sniffed and pursed her lips. It was as close as she was ever going to come to admitting he had a point; their understanding of each other was quite mutual.
"If you insist on sticking to antiquated ideals, I cannot stop you," Narcissa said. "I cannot force you to do as you please; that would be rather like Summoning my own left foot. But any self-sacrifice on your part is wholly for your own sake, not for mine. Do you understand?"
"Yes, Mother." And there it was: the trusty old standby that ended every row.
"Good. Now you will tell me about these mysterious designs of yours. I've been meaning to ask you what you've been up to, inventing this Laura Delamare woman, going to France so often, telling me not to talk to Harry Potter about anything but the weather, asking me about our North American connections -- what on earth are you up to?"
Draco told her; it didn't take long. After all, the plan, like all works of genius, was ridiculously simple and all but completed besides. All he had to do was find a way to install Laura into Ginny's vicinity -- far away in the States, where Potter couldn't reach either of them, not until it was too late.
"You like Ginny Weasley that much?"
"I like her enough," Draco said.
"As much as you like Blaise?"
She held up her hands in mock surrender. "If this is what you truly wish to do, I won't stop you. But if you're caught--"
"--I'm not doing anything illegal." Draco finished for her. "My actions have harmed no one."
"Except Harry Potter," Narcissa said. "If indirectly."
"If she hadn't broken up with him to go overseas, she would've broken up with him for a trip to the market, if you ask me. He's a bit unhinged." Draco hadn't mentioned last week's rendezvous with Potter; there was no need to worry his mother about Potter's sniffing around. But it was true: Potter was a bit pathetic about Ginny, and Draco didn't blame her for wanting to get away from him. Not even a little.
"He could make things difficult for you," Narcissa said.
Draco shook his head. "He'll find another girl soon enough. It's not like he's got a shortage of offers. And besides, Laura didn't break them up."
"I wonder about that," Narcissa said, letting her hands fall into her lap. "Still, it seems like an awful lot of trouble to court a woman who's unlikely to love you."
"She'll love me," Draco said. "She won't be able to help it, not with how pitiful I'll be."
"Love and pity are not the same thing," Narcissa said.
Draco shrugged. "Close enough." If his mother was so interested in having his future wife love him, she should have just let him marry Pansy.
Narcissa gazed out the window, which meant the audience was almost at an end. "I can't deny she's a very good choice," she said. "Politically wise, certainly, but more importantly, she strikes me as the sort of woman who could handle you quite nicely. But I'm not sure I would have involved Adalbert Coury, if I were you."
"Why not?" Draco was so surprised the idea of Ginny "handling him quite nicely" stopped stinging.
"It doesn't matter. If my suspicions are correct, you'll find out soon enough. And if they're not, then no harm done."
"You may leave for now."
Sighing, Draco did as he was told, and headed straight for his dressing room. He had felt a bit peckish before his mother had called his name, but now his appetite had vanished. He wanted to find a quiet, distant place to walk and think about what had just happened -- to digest it, even. He considered donning Laura's likeness briefly, but decided he wanted to be himself for this -- or as much himself as he could be in Muggle clothing, since he didn't dare go to wizarding places alone.
After changing into a nondescript grey suit, Draco Apparated to a vacant lot he knew near the Ministry and walked in the opposite direction, towards St. James's Park, whistling a little. Muggles didn't have big problems like wizards did, so it was not strange for them to walk around whistling and carefree. An old lady smiled as he passed her, making Draco feel very good about his ability to blend in with Muggles.
It was a beautiful summer's day. Sunshine bounced off the Park Lake with blinding force and the trees rustled in an unseen breeze. The birds on Duck Island were making a terrible racket, but to Draco, lost in his thoughts, it was no more than long-ago thunder.
He wanted to laugh, really. How many times had he thought about ending his life for fear of having shamed his family? Not that he would ever actually dare to lay hands on himself, not with his mother around. And there had been his mother earlier, earnestly telling him that she wanted him to be a disgrace if that was what he wished. Even if Draco told anyone about this conversation, no one would believe him, at least no one sane.
"What if Luce turns out like that girl friend of yours?"
"Then I'll still have two happy children."
Luce. What if Luce did end up like their mother's supposed friend? Would Draco think her a disgrace? Of course not. That was part of the reason he had to do what was proper, so that Luce could be free to do whatever she wanted. Her birth hadn't halved his responsibility; it had doubled it.
And he wanted to be a father. During the war, despite his most earnest wishes to protect his family, Draco had only felt powerless, and at every turn, everyone seemed to want to prove to him how weak and pathetic he was. Holding Luce made him feel like a protector; it made him feel strong. If fatherhood was anything like this fierce, unyielding love, he wanted to experience it.
Draco, who had inadvertently begun to have a daydream about Luce's first broomstick, looked up, startled. Potter sat on a bench a little further down the path, holding a half-eaten slice of pizza.
"What are you doing here?" Draco demanded. What the fuck were the chances-- oh, but he was near the Ministry. He shouldn't be surprised that Muggle-raised oafs like Potter would come out to mingle with their own kind.
"Eating lunch," Potter said, gesturing with the pizza. "What are you doing here?"
"That's none of your business, I should think," Draco said coldly and began to walk again. "Good day to you."
Draco stopped, hating himself for it but knowing he was a rehabilitated Death Eater near the Ministry. Potter had a right to ask him as many follow-up questions as he wanted. Draco just wished he didn't look like he was fucking enjoying it so much.
Potter folded the rest of his pizza into the miniature box on the bench beside him and rose, grabbing the box under his arm.
"I met with Laura last week," he said.
"So I hear," Draco said, fighting a flush. What had come over him that day? Potter wasn't too terrible to look at -- he did have these very bright green eyes that seemed to glow in this sun, the effect compounded by his extremely dark eyelashes -- but he was too thin, there was an ugly scar on his forehead, his hair looked like a giant's crotch, he had all the grace of a mountain gorilla, and he wore that smug look like it was never going to be out of fashion.
"I was wondering," Potter said. "If you could do me another small favour. In exchange for one, of course--"
"I'm not giving out her address," Draco said immediately. "I was expressly forbidden to do that."
The last thing he needed was for Potter to start sending Laura letters trying to wheedle information about Ginny out of her; Draco was not going to spend his very limited remaining out-days on Potter.
"Look, I--" Potter coughed and looked around. "I think I might fancy her a bit, all right?"
Draco laughed. He couldn't help himself -- he wasn't sure what was more absurd; Potter trying to pretend he fancied Laura when he was clearly still hung up on Ginny, Potter falling for Draco dressed as a woman, or the fanciful thought of going along with Potter's rather obvious lies and having him discover Laura's nether regions firsthand, so to speak. Now he had to cover up the reason for his laughter, for Potter's eyes began to narrow.
"Sorry," Draco said, and another snort escaped him unawares. "No really, I'm sorry, Potter; I don't mean to make light of your extremely noble feelings. I just didn't expect you to say that -- you see, Laura doesn't like what's between my legs very much, and she doesn't like what's between your legs very much, either. If you know what I mean. So it's funny now, but if you don't quit while you're ahead, it'll be sad. Besides, even if she weren't into women, she's completely out of your range."
"Horseshit," Potter said. "I saw her snogging Zabini."
Draco froze. The only time Laura had kissed Blaise where anyone could see had been in Hogsmeade, in front of Ginny. And Potter hadn't been there at that time. But he didn't say that Ginny had seen Laura kissing Blaise. Which meant--
Holy fucksticks. Potter had been in there, hiding under the Invisibility Cloak that day; he must have been. He wasn't interested in Laura's connection to Ginny -- that was just a convenient excuse that had come up later. Potter was interested in Laura's connection to Malfoy Manor.
"That," Draco said, narrowing his eyes and putting on an air of grandiose mystery. "Is a very long story, and one that is absolutely none of your business, Potter, as no illegalities of any sort are involved. Keep your nose out of our family affairs; they do not concern you. You will do me the small favour of forgetting about Laura Delamare and never bothering us about her again."
He darted behind a thick tree trunk and Disapparated before Potter could move.
Once home, Draco locked himself in his bedroom.
For a good half an hour, he kept jumping up at every house-noise, sure that Potter had found a way to make it illegal to have family secrets and was coming to arrest him and bring him in for a spirited round of Auror-style questioning. When nothing of the sort happened after a while, Draco lay back, spread-eagled across his bed, staring at the ceiling. He understood now that Potter being in the park at the same time had not been a coincidence; Potter must've been watching the Manor. He'd flagged someone leaving, then one of the many eyes that watched Whitehall probably picked Draco's presence up and alerted Potter, who followed Draco to the park and made it look like he was just having a spot of lunch. Potter had been far too quick to put that pizza away for someone who had worked hard all morning.
Basically, Draco could assume that every time he made a move out of the house, Potter would be watching him. And there wasn't a thing he could do about it except evade it.
It was outrageous -- Draco wasn't doing anything illegal -- but he knew all too well how the Ministry protected its own. After all, it had protected his father's Dark artefact collection for many years -- the amount of money Lucius Malfoy threw at Ministry bureaucrats surely qualified him as one of their own, at least in their eyes. He could complain to Potter's superiors, but nothing would happen. Potter would be slapped on the wrist and told not to do it again, but he'd go right back to spying on Draco's family. Because they were the Death Eaters and he was the Auror; that was never going to change. Why couldn't his mother see that?
Laura's cover was all but useless -- if Draco used it without first ensuring Laura was "in the country", Potter would notice. But if Draco made sure to get his mother's admirer to mark Laura's entry before appearing as Laura, Potter would not fail to miss Draco's letters to Lawrence Spiwak and Laura's appearances always coinciding. He would figure out that Laura was really a boy named Draco, and he would tell Ginny about it, ruining Draco's perfect plan. Just like he always did.
Draco stuck his head under his pillow and attempted to close it over his ears. This was just payback. He should never have been so confident during his conversation with his mother. He should have known Potter would get in his way somehow. But what in the blue hell was he doing to do now?
... make Laura disappear and think of a new strategy.
... create more disguises for himself to throw Potter off the scent.
... keep on going as he had been but take extra precautions and learn the art of posting letters from public places.
... find someone to act as his body double so Laura and "Draco" can appear in the same place at once.
... investigate the shrubbery.
[ VIII. Caper | ToC | X. Nascence ]