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Chapter 24 – A Time to Remember:

The trio of Lord Malfoy, Miss Granger and Remus Lupin, were close to the great home, so they ran toward the entryway and entered the front doors. Theo Nott was already there, informing Lord Potter of their inquest. When Harry saw Hermione he said, “Cousin, go to the conservatory with Miss Weasley, please.”

“Forgive me, Harry, but I shall not. I need to know what happened to this young girl,” Hermione maintained.

Harry showed everyone to the back sitting room, and Remus, who was the last to enter, shut the doors behind him. They all stood around as Theo said, “As you are all aware, the day Miss Granger disappeared she had a visitor, and we are still in the dark as to his or her identity. However, we know from the butler that a downstairs maid led the visitor into the house, because the butler was indisposed. This same maid served them lunch in the small dining room, and according to the kitchen staff, she did inform the cook and staff that Miss Hermione’s guest for lunch was Mr. Malfoy. We know the butler saw him leave before lunch. Consequently, that much is a lie.”

“Shortly after, it was brought to Mr. Lupin’s attention that the staff could not find Miss Granger,” Theo continued.

Remus looked at Hermione and said, “Miss, I suffer from Lycanthropy, and I was done in, and resting in my rooms that day. That is why I was not aware of your plight.” The man looked anguished. Hermione had already surmised his condition, although she was not sure why. 

“Do not worry yourself, Sir. I do not hold you responsible, so neither should you.” She turned to Theo Nott and said, “Sir, what connection do you believe the young girl has with my abductor? Also, how and when was she found?”

“Her sister reported her missing to the militia several days after you came back, although the housekeeper here at Potter’s Hall had already reported her missing as well,” Theo said.

Harry interrupted and said, “As to how she was found, I would prefer not to discuss this in front of Miss Granger.” He turned to his cousin and said, “I demand you join Miss Weasley.”

“Who are you to demand anything of me, Lord Potter?” she asked. Her tone shocked all in the room. “This concerns me, so I shall stay.”

Harry was incensed! Not at her outburst, but because he felt she was being influenced to act as such. He turned to Lord Malfoy, and then back to his cousin and said, “Perhaps the company you have been keeping has not been good for you, for you are beginning to pick up some of Lord Malfoy’s more ungracious qualities.”

Draco was about to defend his honour, when Hermione said, “And perhaps you should look at the company you keep, cousin! And by that I mean one who spouts lies and innuendos, causing others undue concern, and I refer to your intended.”

Harry seemed confused by her statement, and she had no wish to explain at that point, so she turned back to Mr. Nott and said, “Please Sir, continue.”

“We will leave it at the statement that she did not die a natural death,” Theo said. “Her sister, a Mrs. Smith, found her just this day, dead, and we do not feel it was a coincidence. Her sister told us that the day before she went missing, she gave her family one hundred galleons, which is a small fortune, and there is no way such a girl could have earned that type of money. It must have been a pay off for her help in your abduction. As to why she was killed, we do not know, perhaps she had remorse, and threatened to tell the authorities.”

Draco knew who Mrs. Smith was. She was Marcus Flint’s mistress, which meant Marcus may have known more than he admitted to Malfoy, or he knew more now. Theo bowed to leave and said, “When I find out more, I will inform you, until that time, I think it wise to keep a closer watch over Miss Granger. Do not let anyone unknown to her near her.” Theo bowed once more, and left the room.

Draco finally spoke. “I would go one step further and say that it may have been an acquaintance of hers who shared lunch with her that day. I think that only the parties in this room should know of this discussion, and only the parties in this room should watch over her. I even think she might be safer elsewhere.”

Hermione turned to him, as did the others, and said, “Sir, you know my circumstances. I cannot leave here, as I have no other home as of now.”

“I think you should come to Malfoy Manor where I dare say you would be safer. Of course, an appropriate chaperone should accompany you,” Draco explained.

Harry did not like the idea, but he was resigned that Lord Malfoy may be correct, so he suggested, “Miss Weasley could go as her chaperone.”

Hermione and Draco both said, “NO” at the same time. Hermione explained, “Cousin, she is the one to whom I referred when I said you should watch the company you keep. She has been filling my head with lies, or else, you yourself have lied to me, or Lord Malfoy has lied, but I prefer to believe she is lying.”

“What are you saying?” Harry asked.

She explained most of what occurred. She left out the part about Draco kissing her. When she was finished, Harry looked dumbstruck. He said, “How could I let myself be deceived again? I, who knew she had lied before, allowed her back into my confidence. I can only say that love blinds a fool.” Harry sat on the couch, and hung his head.

Remus said, “Perhaps I could go with the young Miss Granger to the Manor. I also believe it wise for us not to question Miss Weasley’s intentions at this moment, for we are apt to find out more from her, and if she is privy to more, if she does not suspect we know she lied to Hermione.”

“How can I pretend when my heart is utterly breaking?” Harry asked. Hermione felt bad for her cousin.

She sat beside him and held his hand. “Cousin, we have all been deceived by her, and I know that your heart is in pain, but know this, you are one of the most honourable, loving, gracious men I have ever met, and you will rebound from this. I feel it is my entire fault, so please forgive me.”

Harry brought her clasped hand to his mouth, kissed the top, and said, “Cousin, you merely helped me locate a cancer, which had continued to fester unnoticed, and one which I must now extract from my life, so instead of seeking forgiveness, I must thank you instead. However, I will not lie to the young woman. I will not tell her we know the truth, but I will break my engagement again, and not grace her with my company. I cannot live with lies.”

“Stop being holier than thou,” Draco said crassly. “I know that you’re hurting, man, but Mr. Lupin is right - we need to keep Miss Weasley in the confines of our company to obtain her secrets. She might know who abducted Miss Granger!”

“Harry, my boy,” Remus began, “Lord Malfoy is also correct. We must act cautiously. I feel there is so much more here than just a young girl’s lies to protect her possible future. I am confident that she is aware of the plot against Miss Granger. Let us act accordingly. We will say that Hermione and I are going to the Manor, to step up her education so that she may find employment at Hogwarts in order to have a place after your marriage. That will be our story.”

Hermione, who still had Harry’s hand, said, “Do not lie for me, if it will cause your heart too much distress. I would rather really leave this place, than cause you unwarranted hurt.”

“No, I vowed a long time ago to protect you and I will,” Harry vowed.

“What do you mean?” Hermione asked. “How long ago did you make this vow, and to whom?”

Harry knew he had said too much by the look on Remus Lupin’s face. Harry said, “I just meant I made a promise to myself, after your mother died.”

Hermione thought there was more to his statement, but she would not pursue it at this time.

Draco, too, thought it was an odd comment. He saw the strange looks exchanged between Remus to Harry. There were more secrets abound than he previously thought. He would try to uncover those secrets later, but for now he had more pressing things in which to attend. Addressing Mr. Lupin, Draco said, “I shall go ready the Manor for your arrival. I will send my men for your belongings, and change my wards so you may Apparate directly there.”

He turned to Hermione and said, “Until then.”

She said, “I do not know how to Apparate, but I am sure Mr. Lupin will let me side-along.”

Draco smiled and said, “Must I remind you? You do know how to Apparate, for I taught you the day you disappeared, but for the time being, it is a prudent choice to side-along with Mr. Lupin.” Even with Harry and Lupin still in the room, he felt compelled to reach out for her hand. He squeezed her hand, for encouragement, and then dropped it just as quickly.

He left Potter’s Hall, and once on the grounds, he Disapparated. As he entered his house, he thought back to the day he taught her Apparition. It was both the best and the worst day of his life, at least since he had met the young woman. It was the best because of how proud she was to learn to Apparate, and at her zeal at showing her appreciation. Likewise, for the intimate moment they shared in the gazebo.

It was one of the worst due to her abduction, torture, and the modification of her memory. He still had a suspicion as to who was responsible, but he must tread lightly. It would be a terrible thing to accuse a person who was innocent.

Draco told his staff to prepare the largest guestroom in the east wing for Miss Granger, a smaller room in the same wing for Mr. Lupin, and to make something grand for dinner. His bedchamber was in the west wing, so there could be no lack of decorum, or innuendo that would lead to gossip or ruin of her character. He would keep her reputation in tact. He was almost giddy with the expectancy that she would soon share his roof, no matter for the duration or the reason. He felt having her with him in his home was as it should be. He hoped that one day she might call Malfoy Manor her home. Was that too much to wish? It might be, given their present situations, but a man could still wish.

He continued to run around the house, barking orders… “Yellow roses in her bedchamber,” and, “Not the mutton, the roast beef!” In fact, he was so busy giving out commands, that he had not heard his butler approach.

“Lord Malfoy, your godfather, Master Snape, is waiting for you in the library. He requests an interview.”

SNAPE! The man Draco did not want to see. He hated the fact that he held suspicions about the man, but very few wizards had the talent to Obliviate a memory, and leave the mind in tact. Usually recipients of that particular curse went mad if the curse was not performed correctly. He also knew that usually the person lost more than a few months; they usually lost years and years worth of memories unless correctly done. Snape was also a powerful Occlumens and Legilimens. He would be able to tell immediately if Draco suspected him. Did he seriously suspect Snape of her abduction? Did he really think his godfather guilty of using an unforgivable on her?

Yes, he did.

He would hate to think that Snape would kidnap a young girl, torture her, and leave her in the woods. But Snape had done much worse things in his life, although not without provocation. What would prompt him to harm Miss Granger? Surely not just a broken engagement to a ward he had not seen in four years. No, if Snape was responsible, there had to be a larger plan, but what it could be, Draco knew not.

He would have to block his mind, the best he could, and find out what the man wanted. He walked into the library to find his godfather roaming around the room, his long black cloak billowing around him. Draco thought he resembled a bat. “What may I do for you today, Godfather?”

“Before I state my business, please tell me that the information I just obtained from one of your servants is a lie! Tell me that Miss Granger and Remus Lupin are not to stay here! It’s inconceivable! Tell me it is complete and utter folly.”

“It is complete and utter folly,” Draco said with a straight face. “Except it is not.”

“What kind of madness plagues your mind, Draco?” the elder man asked, pointing his finger at Draco’s forehead. Draco moved to the other side of the room.

“No madness, Godfather,” Draco said. “Mr. Lupin and I have decided to step up her education, in case she decides she would still like to teach at Hogwarts someday. She will have access to more books here, and she will be out from underfoot, as her cousin plans his wedding to Miss Weasley.” Draco waited to see if he convinced the man.

Snape stared at him for several long seconds and then said, “You lie to me, my boy! Do you fancy yourself an educator now?”

“I may not be an educator, but I do know many things, you can be assured of that,” Draco said knowingly. Let the man surmise what he would of that statement. He sat down on a large settee and said, “Have you heard of the young lady’s misfortune as of late? Her abduction, the use of the Crucio on her, and her memory being modified? Most unfortunate, do you not agree?”

“I agree, and I had heard,” Snape snapped.

“She had a mysterious visitor that day, one only a single maid was aware of, and this maid is now dead. Dreadful, do you not agree to that as well?”

Snape’s eyes narrowed and he said, “Quite.” He walked over to the settee, and stared in Draco’s eyes. Draco immediately put a block on his mind. Snape was trying to read him, the rake!

Snape knew Draco was blocking his attempts to read his mind, so he settled down in a chair opposite the Lord, to state his business. “Let me tell you why I came, and then if you want to make accusations, you may. I am here to implore you to reconsider, one last time, your engagement to Miss Clearwater.”

Draco stood up and said, “That conversation is over! I need not reconsider a thing, since I was not engaged to her in the first place.”

“Then as her acting proxy, I must inform you of her intention of seeking damages. She feels she had a promise made to her, and that you reneged on such promise. If she does not get a financial restitution, she will seek justice in the courts,” Snape informed him.

Draco smiled, and then laughed out right. “Gads, Godfather! No promise was made to the witch! A marriage contract between my parents and hers is invalid with their deaths and invalid yet again since I am of age! I shall not pay her even one knut and you can tell the little chit that for me!” Draco laughed again and said, “Honestly, take me to court, will she? I never once made a formal proclamation to the woman. Find her another suitable match! Why would she desire me, when I know her fortune is great, and she herself titled.”

Snape stood and said, “So that is what you wish for me to tell her?”

“No, I wish for you to tell her to go to Hades, but since that is unlikely, unless she makes haste and dies soon, then tell her whatever you deem fit! Now, if there is nothing else, I must ask you to leave. I have company on the way, as you already ascertained.”

“About that, boy,” Snape said, “I do believe you were on the verge of accusing me of something, were you not?” He walked up to Draco, and though his godson was taller, he knew he was still imposing.

Draco said, “The only thing I have to tell you is this, if one strand of Miss Granger’s hair is put out of place, if one jot of harm befalls her, I would find the person who injured her, and I would not stop until I killed them, Sir. I know the Unforgivable curses, too.”

Snape sneered and said, “Of course you do, you are your father’s son.”

“Yes, I am, and my wrath at the rogue who hurt the one I love would be swift, but very painful,” Draco said with a small smile.

“The one you love?” Snape asked, truly shocked by that admission. “No, you do not love her, you cannot! You don’t know what you are saying!”

“I do know, and I do proclaim it as so, Sir,” Draco announced.

Snape growled slightly, said, “I will deliver your message to my ward. I am sure you will hear from her soon. I will forget your bad manners to me, my boy, since I think so highly of you.” Snape strode quickly out of the room, walked outside, and Disapparated away. He had to go find Remus Lupin, before Lord Malfoy declared his feelings to the young woman.

Little did he know, the sentiment was already declared and reciprocated. Draco immediately changed all his wards so that Snape could never again enter at his leisure. He would take no chances with Hermione.

His guests arrived two hours before dinner. Lord Malfoy had a lady’s maid assigned to Miss Granger, and had the housekeeper show her to her room. He wanted nothing to seem improper. He wanted to visit her room, but he would not.

There was still time before dinner, so Hermione started out the great doors for a walk. Draco stood on the large, spiral staircase and said, “Running away already, Miss? Is the house not to your liking?”

“You know I love this house,” she said plainly. Her simple words brought a smile to his face.

“Then, may I inquire where you are going? Dinner will be served in two hours,” he said.

“I have two hours for a walk, then,” she conciliated.

He sighed, and came down the remaining stairs. He said, “Why should we all work hard to protect your pretty little head, if you are going to walk directly to the gallows yourself.”

Hermione frowned and said, “That is not a pleasant thought, hanging at the gallows. However, I assure you, I want only for a walk.”

“You must not go without a protector,” Draco warned. He really did fear for her safety, and if she were far away from him, he could not look after her.

“I need not a protector, but if you would like to walk with me as a friend, I would abide the company,” she said with a smile.

“A friend,” was all he said as he returned her smile. My, she looked so lovely today. She had a pale yellow muslin dress on, that was quite fashionable with the high waist and the low neckline. Capped sleeves showed off her elegant, slender arms. She was brown from the sun, but Draco admired that about her. She was beauty personified. He said, “You still have the piece of lace I gave you, do you not?” He reached up and touched the lace ribbon, which adored her upswept hair.

“You gave me this lace?” she asked.

“Yes, I did,” he confirmed. Her hand went up to the piece of lace, just as his went back to it. She was quicker, and his hand came to touch hers. Instead of either drawing away, they both brought their hands down slowly, his still on top of hers. Not holding it, but merely resting on it, in mid air. Their hands parted, fingertips skimming fingertips, and Hermione felt a familiar jolt in her stomach, which resembled butterflies. Maybe she did love him? She could not help but to smile again.

He smiled as well and said, “Get your hat, pelisse and gloves. A storm is brewing outside.” Inside as well.

“I told you that day of our walk in the woods, I am a country girl, used to walking around without such finery. I need no hat, no coat, and since I am not among company, no gloves.”

Her statement made his heart stop. Not because she had no qualms about the proper attire of young women, but because of her statement - she remembered. “You told me what?” he asked.

“That day we took a walk, in the woods, and you condemned me for not wearing a hat or a jacket. You even asked Harry how I could….” She stopped. She remembered. She started to breath hard. She closed her eyes.

How did she remember that? She did not remember anything else, did she? He approached her so suddenly, and grabbed her arms without foresight,that when she reopened her eyes, she screamed.

“Pardon, my lady, I did not mean to cause alarm, but do you remember?” he asked.

“I do not know. I recall that specific conversation as if it occurred this morning. I remember tripping in the mud, I remember the walking stick you made me, and I remember getting lost! Lord Malfoy, I remember!” she said, excited.

He swallowed hard, afraid to think if this was a momentary thing, or a sign of good things to come. He said, “Do you remember anything else?”

“When I was lost that day, I ran into your godfather, a Mr. Snape,” she said. She suddenly began to shake. He put his hands on her arms again, and she pressed against his chest with her hands. “Let me go, Sir!” she cried.

“What is wrong, pray, tell me!” he shouted.

She turned to step away from him, and ran as far as the stairs, where she fell to the ground, sitting upright, by the stairs, with a fresh wave of tears racking her body.

Draco looked around for a servant, or someone who might give him reprieve. He did not know what to do with a hysterical woman. What happened? What did she remember? He knelt beside her, and touched her back. She got up on her knees, threw her arms around him, and said, “I remember who came to visit me that day! I remember little else, but remembering the walk in the woods and meeting your godfather, made me remember another occasion with the gentleman.”

“Please, tell me,” Draco urged. He sat on the stairs, and drew her up to sit beside him. However, she stood suddenly and backed away from him, her hand out in front of her, the same as she held them the day she walked into the church. It was as if she was trying to ward off evil.

He stood and said, “I command you to tell me who was your visitor!”

“Mr. Snape!” she said quickly, walking backwards toward the wall. Just as the words left her mouth, she recalled something else. “I know who came to me in the cave, when I was abducted! It was not the same man, or voice of the man who blindfolded me, kidnapped me, and cursed me, nor was it my visitor that day,” she said through her tears. She was back against the wall, with nowhere else to go. She was still shaking, her arms still out, to ward off some unknown evil.

Who hurt her?

Draco approached her very slowly, his hand also up, to show that he meant her no harm. He finally approached her, and placed his hand on her shoulder, bringing her toward him, and away from the wall. He rubbed his hand in small circles on her back. Did her memory mean there was more than one man after her? Why? He said, “Do you know who that man was?”

She merely nodded. She tried to stop crying, her tears now subtle hitches in her throat. He led her to the closest room, which was the drawing room. He shut the pocket doors, and said a silencing spell. He sat her on the sofa, and sat directly beside her. He grasped her hand and brought it to his lips. He kissed it gently and then said, “You are safe to tell me now. No one else will hear if you do not wish it to be so. Tell me, who caused your memory loss?”

She looked into his cold grey eyes, which she found warm and inviting, and said, “It was Mr. Lupin.”

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