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Chapter 36 – Pauper to Princess:

Even though it was not yet noon the sky was dark. Large, ominous clouds hung low in the sky, towering over Hermione and Theo as they walked. They had walked a fair distance from Potter’s Hall, in fact, Hermione was not even certain they were still on Harry’s property.

Theo said, “So tell me, Miss Granger, or should I now say, Lady Black, how does it feel to go from pauper to princess?” He pulled a flask from his coat pocket and took a drink.

“Truthfully, I would trade away all my newfound wealth to have everyone happy and alive again,” she said.

“That is always how it is... those you need it do not have it and those who have it do not need it,” he said cryptically.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“I mean nothing. Would you like a drink? It is only water.” He held the flask out to her.

She was hot and the air was humid. She accepted his offer, since she was parched. She took the flask and took a large drink while Theo said, “You are now heiress to the Black fortune, I hear. In addition, if you and Malfoy marry, his fortune will revert to you. You are soon to be the richest witch in all of Godric’s Hollow, if not in all of England.”

Handing him back his flask, she spat, “I sincerely do not care, nor do I want anyone’s money, title, or lands.” She was somewhat put off by the fact that he would not let the subject rest. “Things would have been simpler I had never found out about my parentage.”

“Things would have been simpler if you had never come here,” he ended.

She walked away from him, pretending she had not heard his rude comment, and said, “We should start back. Harry and Draco must be worried, and there is a storm coming.”

He ignored her request to head back and continued walking, taking her elbow in his hand. “I do feel bad for you,” he said. “You did not ask for any of this. You did not ask for Lord Malfoy’s attention. You did not ask for Remus Lupin’s lies and deception. If only you and Malfoy had just married without trouble, if only he loved you enough to give up his estate at the start, then you would be together today. Poorer perhaps, but alive and together.”

She turned and said, “He loves me, and we are alive, and we will soon be together.” She was growing more upset with him by the second and she was not sure why.

“But he loves his fortune more and that has been a problem from the beginning,” he replied. “Even though Harry meant for you to have a very large dowry, Malfoy would not have been content. He had to stir the pot, and inquiries had to be made into your background. Remus Lupin had to get involved. Furthermore, if only Zabini and Clearwater had not come into the picture, well, you see, things could have been simpler.”

She no longer understood what he was talking about, nor did she care. She walked away from him, took out her wand, and was about to Disapparate back to Potter's Hall, when instead, she got a lacerating pain in her chest. She walked over to a nearby tree, placed her hand on the bark, and bent over in pain, dropping her wand to the ground.

He said, “I was beginning to wonder when the poison would take affect.” He walked over to her and as she started to collapse. Placing his hand on her back, he revealed, “You see, I only pretended to drink, but you took a large drink, did you not?” 

She reached up to him and scratched his face and neck. He hissed in pain. He guided her gently to the ground. He then put his hand to his neck, looked at the blood on his fingertips and said, “You drew blood. Ironic, since blood is the cause of all of the ills of our world, and the source of all of our present problems.” He removed her hat and brushed back her hair. “Your hair looks so pretty today, with the ribbons and flowers.”

He sat on the ground next to her body as she began to shake. He leaned toward her and said, “Try not to be afraid. This poison will not cause any pain besides the pain you felt in the beginning. It will be over soon. I am so sorry you must die. I never meant for you to die. Malfoy may now live, so that should give you some comfort. In the beginning, I would have been content if you two had just gotten married. I would have gotten his estate, but now, I shall be content being the only heir to the Black fortune, seeing that I am Andromeda's lost child. Oh, had I revealed that to you yet? So anyway, you see, it will work out in the end.”

“When Remus Lupin told Marcus Flint who your father was, I saw my original plan would no longer work, for you would be the heir to the Malfoy fortune over me, because you were older, if only by a few hours. Before then, I thought that only Draco had to die, along with Remus, because I thought I would inherit Malfoy’s estate, and no one would be the wiser as to your true parentage, since only Remus, Marcus and I knew of it. But damn, Remus had to tell Draco and Harry who your father was. That complicated things.”

“Zabini, Snape and Clearwater had their own agendas, but we took care of them. I later found out Flint had his own agenda all along as well. He will be sorry for betraying me.

“You see, I'll let everyone believe that he's the one that killed you. It might be a hard thing to prove that Marcus Flint would kill you, but that will still be my story. I will say that Marcus Flint wanted you dead because he was under the false allusion that he was the son of Andromeda, believing something a fortuneteller once told us, though of course, he does not really believe that. He knew the fortuneteller meant that I was the heir, but no one need know that, not yet. Once everyone is out of the way, I will prove that he was delusional, and then I will prove my parentage.

“I will then kill Flint as well, in retaliation for killing my best friend’s true love, meaning you, and then I will reveal that I was truly the heir all along. The fortuneteller told us that a letter testifying to that fact exists; written the night I was born by Malfoy’s own mother, my mother’s sister, and hidden at Malfoy Manor. This was never revealed to my adoptive parents, who were good people, purebloods, but terribly poor. It was only revealed to me by this fortuneteller, who attended my birth. She, Marcus and I, are the only ones who know of its existence. Soon, only I will know. Marcus will be dead, and the fortuneteller will meet with the same outcome.

“By a lucky turn of fate, I will inherit the Black estate. See, it still works out for me this way. If you had never known of your parentage, you and Malfoy might have just married, and I would have gotten the Malfoy estate. The Black inheritance is not as large, but I will manage, and my childhood friend, Lord Malfoy, shall keep his life. Of course, he might find that he is beside himself with grief with your passing. If he should kill himself in his depression, I would inherit twice as much.” He looked down at her quickly and said, “I will try not to hope for too much, however.”

The whole time he spoke, he looked out into the woods. He did not look down at her until that last sentence. She, however, stared up at him the entire time. She was unable to move, but a tear started falling down her face. He finally looked back down at her, and he wiped the tear off her face as it made its trek to her ear.

He said, “Please do not cry. You might make me feel guilty. I have had enough guilt. I tried it without killing people. Flint tried to convince me that we could do this without killing anyone. He worked as hard as I did in the beginning, so you might marry. He even lied to Ginny Weasley, and said he was the son of Andromeda, to try to get her to do the dirty work. Her greed, along with damn Zabini and Clearwater spoiled that.

“If only Lupin had Obliviated your mind completely the first time, after Zabini took you, we would not be where we are today. The second time you were taken, that time by Flint, he was convinced that Lupin would protect the secret he had kept all his life, but which Flint found out about one night when Lupin was sick with fever and pain from his condition. You see, Flint shares the same condition, and they have been each other’s confidants these many years. If Lupin had Obliviated you that time, Flint was convinced you could go off and live with Lupin unharmed. He told me that I could then concentrate on the Black fortune, since Lupin revealed your father to be Sirius Black. He said Malfoy could keep his, I could have the Black fortune, and no one else would have to die. He was wrong.

“Self righteous and wrong. Flint tried to be a friend to us all, and in the end, it will cost him his life. I cannot leave a living witness to my deeds; also, I need to blame someone.”

He reached over and placed her hands on her stomach. Another tear escaped her eye, and he wiped it again, and then closed her eyes with the tips of his fingers. She tried hard to maintain a steady breath, but was finding the feat harder to accomplish. The poison ran through her body and caused her terrible pain. He was wrong when he said it would not cause her discomfort, for she was in a great deal of pain. It was then that she realized that the poison must have been in the flask, and when he said he only pretended to drink, he meant the poison. She was so stupid to leave the house today. Poor Harry and Draco, they had both lost so much, and now she was leaving them, too. She wanted to stop him, but she lay dying, so what could she do?

She felt totally debilitated. He stood back up and said, “I really am sorry. I wish you could have lived. We are cousins, after all, and we are not so unalike, you and I. We were both robbed of our rightful names. If only things had been different.” He soon walked away and left her alone, as thunder finally sounded overhead, and the first raindrop fell on her face.

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Harry and Draco recruited most of the Weasleys and some of the other town members to help find Theo and Hermione. Draco told only Harry of his suspicions about Theo. Harry was beside himself with grief. He never suspected the man. He was the one who asked him to stand guard over her today. If she died as well, he knew he could not continue to live. Losing Ginny and Remus was hard enough, but losing his only sister, just a week after finding her, would leave his life without meaning.

Draco decided to alert his staff to the missing couple. He Disapparated to Malfoy Manor and told the staff to help locate them, but to be careful if they found them. He was about to go join the search when the devil himself showed up at Malfoy’s door.

Theo rushed in the grand reception area of Malfoy Manor just as Draco was running down the stairs. Draco’s first instinct was to draw his wand, but he did not yet want to cause mistrust. He rushed up to his oldest friend and said, “Where is Miss Granger? We are all worried for her.”

Theo said, “Marcus Flint surprised us on our outing. He stunned me and then he disappeared with her. I have no idea where they are. I will set out for the Militia and we will find her, Malfoy. Rest assured we will find her.”

Draco wanted to kill the man as he spoke, but instead he said, “Why would Flint want to hurt her?”

“He is under the misguided notion that he is the heir to the Black estate, and your own. He thinks he is Andromeda’s son,” Theo said.

Suddenly, Draco had a spark of hope. Perhaps Theo was innocent. He said, “Why would he think that?”

“Many years ago, we went to a Muggle fortuneteller, the same one Hermione saw that day of the carnival. I am convinced she was a witch. She told us that one of us, either Marcus or I, was the son of Andromeda. She said she was the midwife who helped deliver the woman’s child. She said that your own mother took the child away, to be raised by purebloods, to protect it from your father and the Dark Lord. Marcus was convinced that child was he.”

“Is he?” Draco asked, ever hopeful. “Is he her son?”

“I am not sure I know. The old woman claimed there was a letter, written in your own mother’s hand, which gives her son’s name, but I myself have never seen such a letter,” Theo said. “He is crazed. We must find him, and kill him.”

“Why are you bleeding?” Draco suddenly asked. Theo reached up for his neck.

He said, “I must have cut my neck when I fell. I feel responsible, Malfoy. I should have protected Miss Granger.” He took off his neckcloth, and dabbed at his wound with the same cloth.

That was when Malfoy saw it: a birthmark on his neck, shaped like a rose - just as the old witch had warned him.

His mouth was suddenly dry. He said, “You claim that Marcus Flint knows of a letter naming him as Andromeda’s son?”

“Yes, the old fortuneteller claims the letter was hidden here in this home, behind the portrait of your mother and her sisters when they were young. It will prove or disprove his claims. I tell you Malfoy, he is a mad man,” Theo said. He continued to dab at the blood on his neck.

Draco ran to the portrait in question. It was in his mother’s old bedroom. He took the portrait from the wall, and on the back, was a yellowed-piece of parchment, with a wax seal. He took the letter and placed it in the inside pocket of his coat. He returned to leave the room when Marcus Flint stunned him, and he fell to the floor.

Marcus walked up to Draco’s unconscious body and said, “It is for your own protection, Malfoy.” Then he disappeared as quickly as he came.

                                                                                 XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Hermione had no idea how long she was on the uncomfortable, hard ground. A steady, warm, and humid rain was falling, and even under the canopy of leaves from the tree above, she was soaked to the bone. The water splashed all around her. Her eyes were once again open. She wondered why she was not yet dead. She was still immobilized, but very alive. Her tears continued to fall silently, since she could barely move. They mixed with the rain on her face.

She was suddenly aware of an animal of some sort lying next to her. She felt its fur on her bare arm. The animal stood and walked over to her face. It was a doe. It was small, and mist like, but real, not a phantom. It lay back down, this time by her head.

She was then aware of another animal. This time she was afraid. A large black dog nudged her arm with its cold, wet nose, before it too lay down by her feet. It placed its legs and head across her legs. She found comfort in the fact that though she must die, she would not die alone.

The doe and the dog remained with her, the dog whimpering occasionally, as it would stand to walk around her in a circle. The doe remained by her head. Twice it put its face next to her face. The dog picked up her wand and tried to place it in her hand. She felt the cold wood by her fingers, but she could not grasp it. If only she could send out her patronus she could summon help, but she could not even hold her own wand. She was dying, she was alone, and she was scared.

She would never get to read her real mother’s letter, she would never see Harry again, and more importantly, she would never again feel Draco Malfoy’s arms around her, feel his lips upon hers, and see the love in his eyes.

The dog and the doe both ran off suddenly. NO! Stay! She did not want to face death alone. She felt a pair of hands reach under her body, one under her neck and one under her legs. The man said, “I hope it is not too late. The poison may be beyond your ability to stop it.”

“Not if you replaced the Rosemary leaf extract like I told you to do. If you did, then Theo would have still believed the poison was deadly. However, the antidote I have with me should work,” the other man said.

The two men Disapparated with her to an unfamiliar bedroom. The man that was holding her placed her on a bed. He leaned down and for the first time she saw him clearly. It was Marcus Flint. “I am sorry, Hermione. Draco is alive and well. Theo, however, will soon die, believe me.” He ran out of the room.

She was next aware of someone placing some sort of liquid between her lips. It tasted horrible, and it was warm and tickled her throat. The face of Severus Snape leaned forward. He said, “You will not die. I cannot have my godson live a life without the woman he loves. I know that is a fate worse than death, from my own personal experience. I loved Lily Potter very much. I only wish I had been in a position where she could have trusted me with her secret, a secret I have just come to know. Everything might have been different. Perhaps I would have raised you as my own child. We will never know.” He put her wand on the table beside the bed, along with her hat. He touched her hand lightly and said, “All you must do now is sleep, and dream happy thoughts, and when you awake, this will all be over.”

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Draco woke up with Theo standing over him. Theo asked, “What happened to you? I came up here, and you were on the floor, stunned.”

Marcus Flint stood in the doorway and said, “Good question, but I have a better one for you, my friend Theo, and that would be, what happened to you?”

Draco was confused. He also had a headache from being stunned. He was just beginning to think that Theo might be the culprit, when Marcus Flint caught him off guard, hexed him to the ground, and now stood with his wand pointed at his supposed good friend. Draco sat up against the wall, as his hand went to his pocket, to withdraw his own wand.

Theo smiled at Marcus. “Marcus, my friend, so we meet again. I have been busy you know, cleaning up your mess.”

“That is where you are wrong. I am the one that has been busy cleaning up your mess,” Marcus countered.

Theo looked at Draco and smiled. “Draco, old man, did you know that I killed your beloved this afternoon. As we speak, she is dead on the floor of the forest, and only the rain and the trees were her comfort during her last moments on earth.”

Draco wanted to scream. The man had to be lying. He struggled to stand. Marcus offered his hand, his wand still on Theo.

“I shall get up myself. You are the rogue that cursed me,” Draco said as he stood. He looked back at Theo and said, “And if you killed Miss Granger, a thousand deaths will be too good for you.”

“She is alive, but barely,” Marcus said. “Snape and I found her and he is administering the antidote to the poison he gave her as we speak.”

Theo growled and kicked a chair. Then he turned back to the other man and said, “It matters not. It will be too late! There is no antidote for the poison I made!”

“Who helped you make it, friend? Was it not I? Are you certain I gave you the right ingredients?” Marcus said with a sneer. “The time has come for this to end. Your madness must stop. I entertained it as folly at first. I understood your pain. I tried to help you, where no one would get hurt, but you took it too far.”

“You are the one who killed Zabini!” Theo shouted.

“And I would kill him again!” Marcus said. “You killed the Weasley girl.”

“You are the one who took her to Potter’s Hall with you that night!” Theo shouted.

At that moment, Harry walked up the stairs, and stood outside the bedchamber where all three men were, unnoticed by all, and listened closely outside the door.

“Yes, I did, but I did not kill her. You must have done something, for there was no way she would not have escaped that fire. She was right behind me and Hermione, and you killed Lupin, too!” Marcus shouted.

“The old man deserved to die! He could have told me of my parentage from early on, but he did not. He kept too many secrets for too long! He kept your secret! Do you want me to tell Lord Malfoy your secret?” Theo sneered.

“I no longer care. I will not be blackmailed any longer by the likes of you,” Marcus said. He turned to Draco, who stood against the wall, his wand pointed at the floor, since he still did not know who was friend and who was foe, as Marcus said, “I suffer from the same affliction as Lupin. Your godfather introduced me to him when I was first afflicted. He was a friend to me all these years. I made our Wolfsbane potion, and one night, when he was especially ill with his ailment, he confided things to me, which I regret I later confided to my then best friend, Theo. Little did I know, my supposed best friend would blackmail me, and use the information I gave him, although I have only ever tried to help him.”

“Stop being so self righteous! Remus Lupin was a blight on society and deserved to die! End of story! I was raised without means or a title, when I deserved more! Malfoy looks down on people like you and I, Marcus! The fact that we have pureblood means little when we have to toil for a living!” Theo shouted.

“I never looked down on you!” Draco contested.

“If I had come to you, and called you cousin, would you have accepted me, shown me kindness? Shared your wealth? Look at Lord Potter! Look at what he did for a woman he barely knew! He thought she was his kin, so he took her in, gave her lessons, and gave her a dowry. He was prepared to give up his engagement to keep her safe! He meant to give her a home all of her life!”

“You know you would not have done the same for me and the reason is because you think you are better than me! You are the worst sort of arrogant person, Malfoy, because nothing can sway you from your precious beliefs!”

Draco rushed up to the Theo and knocked his wand arm away. He backed handed him, and watched as he fell to the floor. He said, “That is where you are wrong! I could not love Hermione, a love that is true and pure, if that was the truth! You do not know me! You call me arrogant, but that is where you are ignorant! You are the more arrogant of us two, for you are over-confident and supercilious. You believe in your own lies and folly. You think you know what is in another man’s heart, but you know nothing, Nott!” Draco took the letter from the portrait out of his pocket and threw it on the man as he lay on the floor. “There! There is your proof as to your parentage! What will you do with it when you rot in hell?”

Draco turned to leave; Nott raised his wand, pointed it at Malfoy’s back, aiming to kill. Marcus Flint shot the death curse at his best friend and Theo Nott fell dead on the floor.

Harry ran in the room, Draco turned around, and Marcus Flint fell on his knees on the floor and said, “It is done.”

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She felt lips on hers, vivid, yet like a dream. She felt his warm embrace as he scooped her into his arms. His scent enveloped her. She heard his footsteps softly on the floor as he took her from the lion’s den and heard him say, “You are finally safe. I am taking you home.” She used every ounce of energy she had to open her eyes, to make sure this man was real, to make sure this moment was real, and to make sure this was not another mirage. She placed her hand on his face. She felt her own heart pounding out of her chest.

He was real.

The next time Hermione awoke, she found herself in her own bed. She struggled to sit, but felt too tired. It was night, she knew that much. There was barely any light in the room. Her throat felt dry. She moved her head back and forth, searching for someone, anyone, who could tell her that the nightmare was finally over.

In the briefest of moments, he was by her side. She knew not where he came from, only rejoiced that he was there. He leaned on her bed, and again, she felt his lips touch hers. This time, he did not hold back. His tongue traced her upper lip, flesh on flesh, his mouth moist, and hers on fire.

Her mouth was liquid sweetness, moist desire, tempting want. He opened his mouth slightly over hers, and felt her tongue with his. What madness was this? Her fingers clenched at his shirtsleeves, as the tip of her tongue met his. Hermione felt as if she were slowly dying from this one kiss. Eyes closed, they both were lost to the touch and feel of their desire and love. She kissed him back, so he opened his mouth wider, as their lips and tongues danced, sending an aching pleasure throughout both their bodies.

He had to stop, or he would not be able to stop. He lifted his body away from her, and she met his eyes and said, “Draco.”

“Did you think someone else would kiss you like that?” he said with a smile. “Let us make one thing clear, my love, no man will ever kiss you like that, but me. Do we have an understanding?”

She placed her right hand in his hair and her left hand went down the front of his waistcoat. He was without his coat, and he looked as if he had not slept for days. She said, “Is it over?”

“Theo was Andromeda’s son. If you had not left Lupin’s letter on your bed, and if you had not scratched his neck, we may never have found out. You saved the day, my dear girl,” he said. He leaned over, and placed his head on her chest. She stroked his head.

She felt a bump and said, “Are you injured?”

“Slightly, but since you are in no condition to nurse me back to health, I will muddle through the best I can,” he said with a smile.

“You are always so dramatic,” she said. “I tried to cast my patronus, to tell you where I was, but I was under the influence of a poison. I could not move. Theo wanted to kill me for the Black inheritance. At that point, I no longer cared if it meant he would not kill you. Where is he?”

“He is dead. Killed by Marcus Flint. I am still not sure of Flint's role in all of this, although I rather think he was like Remus - too caught up trying to save everyone that he almost lost himself,” Draco finished.

“Draco, when I was in the woods, and I was alone and afraid, the strangest thing occurred. A doe and a black dog came to me and stayed with me until Mr. Snape and Marcus rescued me,” she said.

Draco gave her a funny look and said, “The affects of the poison, I would assume, made you imagine things.”

Harry walked in and said, “Or it was divine intervention. Our mother’s patronus was a doe, and Sirius Black’s animagus form was a black dog. Perhaps since your parents could not help you while you were alive, they at least wanted to help you while you lay dying.” He had their mother’s letter in his hand. He was going to read it to her, as he had just read it, but he decided to wait. He placed it back in his coat pocket. It was only then that he noticed Draco leaning against her bed. He gave him a strange look and said, “You should not be so familiar with my sister, Sir, unless you want to duel me. Such familiarity and I might force you to marry her.”

“Then you might as well know I kissed her, too,” Draco said, standing up and straightening his waistcoat.

Hermione said, “Actually, that was our third kiss, I believe.”

“You are not helping matters here, Miss,” Draco said as he leaned toward the bed. “I am in a weakened state, and your cousin's skills at dueling, I hate to admit, surpass mine. Do you want me dead before you have the chance to call me husband?”

“I am a wealthy woman, I am sure I would have plenty of other suitors,” she said seriously.

Harry laughed and said, “She has a point, Lord Malfoy. What do you intend to do now?”

“Gads, man!” Draco said. “I shall be force to marry her, I suppose. This weekend, as planned.” He sat on the bed, took her hand, and kissed her fingertips, one by one. “Is that acceptable? There is no longer a threat, so we do not have to rush the wedding now, if you would rather wait.”

“I cannot wait,” she responded. “I yearn to be your wife.” He stroked her cheek, leaned down, looked over his shoulder at Harry, and said, “Turn your back, Potter, I plan to kiss her again, and I do not want the threat of a duel over my head.”

“One kiss, and then I insist that she rest,” Harry remained in the room, but turned his back.

“Blast it man, leave the room!” Draco said.

“Kiss her and make it quick,” Harry said with his back still to him.

Draco frowned and said to Harry, “After your sister and I are married, there will be no such thing as quick kiss.” He turned back to Hermione and she was asleep. Draco smiled at her and kissed her forehead. Harry turned back around. “You ruined it for me, Potter. She is sleeping.”

“You have a lifetime to kiss her,” Harry said. “Do see that you treat her well, will you not?”

“I shall,” he said. He stood up and walked over to the chair. He pulled the chair next to her bed and sat down. He took her hand, brought it to his mouth once more, kiss the top, and repeated, “I shall love her all the days of my life.”

Harry smiled and walked out of the room.



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