A/n: And here's chapter 3! It's even on the early side ;) Thanks to my beta Hunter's Heir!
3: It seems my Life is Going
I've owled to inquire as to whether or not you've reported the incident with Abigail yet. I know you're going to rant now about my prying, but I am curious about the matter. The entire thing was bizarre.
While I have your attention, I may as well bring this up. I'll be visiting the orphanage tomorrow, in hopes that I'll be able to brighten the poor girl's mood. She was quite upset when we returned her to that place, and I would be too, if the system guiding my life was in such shambles and the woman that cared for me was so unpleasant. I don't expect this to matter to you, much less for you to care, but I thought I'd bring it up.
Hoping to never run into you under such dreadful circumstances again~
He read the note twice, his interest peaking as he did so. So she was trying to go see the child again? He couldn't say he was quite surprised given that she seemed to enjoy the kid so much, but he found it interesting that she mentioned it in the letter at all. That meant that she wanted him to know that she was going to see her. But why?
Draco never ended up reporting the incident. He found the entire situation too bizarre-much like Hermione- and reasoned that it was silly to report something he couldn't even explain. What person in their right mind would listen to a grown man rattle on about the shadows attacking him?
"You're very interested in that letter," came a voice, drawing him out of his thoughts. Astoria sat perched on his sofa, a sheet thrown around her to hide whatever modesty she thought she had left. The woman wasn't particularly important to him when it came to relationships, but on lonely nights he liked to take her into his home, and his bed. She was someone he shared alongside his best mate Blaise Zabini, a woman who knew both men quite well. Sometimes he found it disturbing how much she knew about them, but he tried not to focus on it. Astoria was a friend as well, and he and Blaise almost always attempted to steer clear of the topic of Greengrass when they were together. It was a bit too surreal.
"It's nothing," he said quickly, knowing she was interested in the note. Folding it again, he placed it inside his cloak, making a note to observe it later when he was alone and consider just why Granger was bothering to get ahold of him. "Just business matters."
Astoria made a face, instantly refocusing all her attention on her toenails she was currently painting. That woman was obsessed with her looks. "Sounds boring."
"It is," he agreed, glancing towards his fireplace. "I have some matters to attend to, however, so I trust that you can show yourself out?"
She waved him off. "It's not as though that's something new to me," she muttered. "I'll be just fine getting out of your room all by myself Draco- and I won't even steal anything."
"Lovely," he replied, trying to sound interested in the topic. He couldn't muster up enough motion though, and let the topic slide. Ensuring that he had his wand and the note tucked firmly into his cloak, he left without a second thought to the woman on his couch. He was oh so casual around Astoria, it was almost scary.
Wandering through the street once he arrived at Diagon Alley, Draco felt a sense of deja vu. Glancing around as he wandered through the crowd, he got the feeling that he was being watched, but couldn't pinpoint anyone in particular that seemed suspicious. He shook his head, dismissing the feeling.
He hadn't felt the same since that night. Ever since his encounter with that child, since he was chased by an untraceable force, Draco found himself feeling more conscious than he had in ages. He very well knew he hadn't imagined the entire event, and refused to believe it was a trick of his mind. Something pursued him and the little girl that night, something with dark intentions.
He didn't trust the shadows anymore, even the ones in his own room.
Hermione could feel how unwanted she was from the moment she stepped into the orphanage. It took Hannah nearly thirty minutes after her arrival to bother making an entrance, and when she did the former Hufflepuff looked quite peeved at her return.
"Something I can do for you, Hermione?" she asked, pausing to lean against a table several feet away from the brunette. The woman sat upon a worn out chair, the seat hurting her bum the longer she sat there. As soon as she heard Hannah speaking, she got herself up and out of the uncomfortable contraption, silently reminding herself to not sit on any other piece of furniture in the place.
"I want to see Abigail," she said, giving the woman a forced smile. "I thought we could do a bit of chatting."
Hannah's eyes darkened. "Unless you plan on adopting the girl, I can't let random visitors into this establishment."
"Well, it's not much of an establishment," Hermione muttered, watching the woman's eyes flame. "Don't you think it's good for the children here to see other people outside of the orphans here? It's unhealthy to keep children confined to simply themselves. Do they even attend school?"
"Those who are of age mostly attend Hogwarts, unless they are sought out by Beauxbaton or Drumstrung."
"And nothing before that?" she asked curiously. "I know it's uncommon, but the systems for younger children to attend school at residential institutes are free and-"
"Did you come here to give me a lecture about what I could be doing with the children under my care?" she seethed, "Or are you here to try and negotiate a talk with Abigail out of me?"
The former Gryffindor shrugged, unmoved by Hannah's obvious irritation. "Perhaps a little bit of both. It wasn't originally my intention to question your methods."
"Yet here you are, doing exactly that," she muttered.
She shrugged again. "Yes, yes I am. How did you ever even happen upon this place? It's in shambles really, and I doubt you would accept the place if the former owner-"
"My uncle used to own this place," she said tightly, her hands gripping her arms tighter. "He was killed during the war. Since he never had any children of his own, he left this place in my care once I reached the legal age. Once the war ended, I took it upon myself to care for the children here. It may have seen better days than this, but the building is still intact and I do what I can to help the children here. It's a rough experience dealing with the system Hermione, one which I doubt you understand."
Pursing her lips at that, the brunette paused. She certainly didn't know anything about the wizarding worlds system for adoption, but from what she was seeing it was poor and not beneficial to the children stuck in the care of people like Hannah. If she thought this was a suitable living environment, then she had to be lying to herself. The place was a bloody nightmare.
"I don't know anything about it," she admitted, making a note to order in some books on orphans and adoption at her earliest convenience. "But that doesn't mean that this place should be in the condition it is in now. I know funds are limited in the Ministry all around, but there has to be a way to raise money or something for repairs-"
"Repairs are the least of my concern," she replied, rolling her eyes. "And I don't need your advice on the matter!"
Hermione held her hands up, giving in. This woman wasn't willing to discuss anything it seemed. "Fine, whatever you say. As I mentioned in the beginning, I didn't originally come here to question why you seem to run things the way you do. I only came to see Abigail."
"And I told you that no one gets to visit with the children here unless they are planning to adopt. And since I know from all the bloody articles printed on you that you happen to be single, I doubt adoption is in your mind's eye right now. Until you're here for the proper type of business Hermione, I'd appreciate if you and Malfoy-"
"Hermione!" The cry halted Hannah's words, and she whipped her head around instantly to peer up the staircase alongside the brunette at the pair there. Abigail was waving down at the war heroine, a smile as big as her face plastered across her features. A boy stood at her side, taller than she, and the woman suspected that he was a few years older than the girl as well.
"Abigail," Hannah hissed, the displeasure obvious in her voice as the child took the stairs two at a time, bounding down to visit the woman standing beside her house mother. The boy followed along behind her, his hands shoved into his pockets. "Liam, the both of you! Get back to your rooms at once! You should not be speaking to her!"
"That seems a bit harsh," the brunette commented, getting down on her knees as the children approached. Much to her surprise, instead of merely speaking to her, Abigail jumped up and hugged the woman, her arms clinging tightly to Hermione's form. Surprised, she gripped the child back.
"Relax, Hannah, they're just children." She let the girl go, standing again to address the boy behind her. "I'm Hermione; it's nice to meet you Liam."
He extended his hand, seeming a bit awkward as he did so. "Pleasure."
"Don't be so uptight," the Gryffindor said, winking at a red Hannah. "Let them talk to people; it can't do anything bad. Why don't you go back to your office, room, wherever it is that you came from I just wanted to stop by, and I had no intention of taking them away."
The woman looked positively livid. She glanced between the three, her eyes like daggers as she met each of their expressions head on. "Fine, but don't take long. If you need something more, I'm in my office." Turning away in a huff, she stomped away, Hermione observing the entire scene with a critical eye. She was pissed that children wanted to associate with other people!? Was she daft? Children all over liked meeting new people; that was the stereotypical expectation. And she couldn't believe this supposed caretaker was overreacting over something so minor.
Got something to hide, Hannah?
"I can't believe you came back!" the little girl said, clapping her hands together lightly. "I didn't think you'd ever come back!"
Hermione gave the child a soft smile. "Well, I thought you might miss me."
The little girl nodded, before peering right then left, suddenly cautious. "I'm glad you came back; the shadows are angry."
Here we go again. "Why are the shadows angry?" she asked, playing along with the child's game. Glancing up she expected to see an exasperated look on the elder boy's face- an eye roll, something- but he looked grave. She found that quite odd indeed. Didn't he believe she was just playing a game?
The girl gestured for her to lean forward, and Hermione did just that, noting that Liam did so as well. "They have been attacking my room every night since we met. I keep the lights on, but it makes my roommates angry. They don't like the light, because they don't see the shadows. But they are very angry Hermione; they don't like that Mr. Draco kept me away from them."
Perplexed, the woman sat down on her bum, surprised when the children followed suit. "How did Malfoy keep you away from them?"
"He saved me!" she replied, whispering loudly. "He kept me safe from the bad man, and in exchange they got angry. He wasn't supposed to help."
"I didn't think so," she agreed, the gears in her mind spinning. The child seemed to believe all of this nonsense about the shadows, as though something sinister really lurked there. But the brunette had to remind herself not to disregard the impossible, not where magic was involved. There were so many things about the magical world that she had yet to uncover, and demented shadows happened to be one of them. Considering that she stayed away from dark topics when she could, there was no way of knowing if the shadows that overtook the earth at night housed something demented or not. Perhaps she needed to look into it.
Or perhaps you're over-analyzing things Hermione! Shadow nonsense, really? Something's gotten into your head, and it certainly isn't sanity.
"How do you know the shadows are angry?" she asked, forcing herself to play along.
For the first time since introductions were listed, Liam spoke up. "They shake the bedframes, rattle the walls. The lights only provide safety where light can touch. It's dangerous to go out at night." He glared at Abigail at that.
Instantly she realized that the only person in this mess who might believe this was just as crazy as she was, was actually thinking against her! This boy seemed to believe in the shadows as well, and that didn't make her feel good about the topic choice. These children seemed convinced that something was terribly wrong with the shadows when the lights went out, but she couldn't fathom how the walls of that place could rattle and not draw attention from others- much less withstand any sort of change and not topple over in their awful state. She simply had a hard time believing it.
"And what do you think the shadows want?" she asked, glancing between the pair. They shared a glance, taking a moment before either one attempted to respond.
"Me," the little girl whispered, dropping her gaze. "They always want me."
"Now why would they want you?" Hermione asked, placing her hands on her hips. If something honestly was happening in that place, she doubted that anything would go after this child. She seemed too sweet.
"Because, they don't like my daddy," she said, tears welling in her eyes. The boy at her side placed a hand on her shoulder in a comforting gesture, whilst the woman watched the entire exchange.
"Was he a bad man?" she asked, tilting her head.
Abigail shrugged. "I don't know. I don't know who he is."
The woman frowned. "How do you know that they- the shadows, how do you know that the shadows don't like you because of your father then?"
"They told me," she whispered, glancing around. "A long time ago, right in the beginning. They told me I was bad because my father is. They don't like me because of him."
She blinked. "The shadowsâŚ talk?"
The girl nodded her head vigorously at that. "Yes! They never speak nicely." She looked around, before standing, pulling on Liam's arm to get him up as well. "But we can't talk about this anymore. They are listening."
"The shadows? Where?"
Cautiously, the child pointed upward, up above and behind Hermione's head. Peering around her back, she stared up into a shadows space, but didn't see anything remotely demented about the spot.
"They're hiding from you," she said, seemingly reading the adult's mind. "They don't want you to see."
Pursing her lips, she blinked twice before turning back. "I see. Do you think I could come back and visit sometime, Abigail? I know I haven't stayed too long, but I only meant to come by and say hello. How about I stop in again?"
"Miss Abbott won't like that," Liam said, once more joining the conversation. "She doesn't like guests here; we rarely see anyone. No one really ever comes to adopt us. We just wait until we turn eleven and can get away from this place for the better part of the following seven years."
Pocketing that information in the back of her head, Hermione nodded again. "Well, Miss Abbott is going to have to get used to my visits. I plan to stop in every now and then."
Abigail's face lit up. "You do!? Will you bring Mr. Draco along next time?"
The woman suppressed a smile at the way the girl said Malfoy's name, finding it adorable but misguided. She simply didn't know how big of a prat the man could be. Secretly, she thought the child had a crush on the rich bachelor, much like everyone else in Britain. They didn't have to like him after all to find him physically attractive. Hermione heard it from several friends and acquaintances more often than she liked to admit.
But the idea of speaking to Malfoy in person again felt surreal. They hadn't spoken in years, and then all of a sudden they were thrown together under the strangest of circumstances. Once in five years was bearable, and the note she sent him was strange but not completely out of place for the situation, but meeting up with him again? She predicted that he would think her batty if she brought that up, via note or otherwise! Oh, she could already hear the conversation in her head.
"Say Malfoy, do you want to stop by that rundown orphanage again that we visited together just once to say hello to that adorable child Abigail and her buddy Liam? Oh, and I think the girl has a crush on you!"
"Sounds splendid Granger! I can think of no better way to spend my time than to visit unfortunate children that aren't mine and that I don't know."
"Excellent! So tomorrow at four then?"
"I wouldn't miss it!"
Yeah, like that was going to happen. He was likelier to run around naked than to spend more time with her than he had to. They weren't exactly friends, or acquaintances really.
"I'll try to," she said, giving the children the warmest smile she could. When she returned next without the git, she'd just have to make up a passable excuse, one that wouldn't upset the child too badly. "But he does keep a busy schedule, dear."
What in Merlin's name do I know about Malfoy's schedule? Nothing! He probably spends hours on end sitting around, doing nothing, and staring at himself.
The girl nodded, not at all deterred by Hermione's uncertainty about whether or not the blonde would show. She supposed that was one of the joys of being a child; less worry.
"You'll come by soon again, right?"
"I'll try my best," she replied uneasily, giving her another warm smile. Merlin help her, why did she ever return to that orphanage? Maybe she would've been better off not coming back at all.
Or maybe you're just too interested in this place, and the perplexing little girl that fears the shadows in her room.
A/n: Keep up those comments lovelies! They help :)