"Tomorrow night, we can begin." Severus walked to the window, his shoes crunching bits of broken bottle into the boozed-out shag carpeting as he gazed at the rapidly lightening sky. "Right now, however, I think it is in our collective best interests to not speak on the matter at all."
Oh, yeah, right…forfeiting only my sanity. “Severus, we can't bloody well—"
"Much of life is easily seen," he said, sharply cutting off my protest with a verbatim quote from the first page of my Divination textbook.
"…But Seers' sight's better off in dreams," I finished, subdued. It was slowly becoming clear to me that all our plans would have to be devised and executed in the span of one night, due to the visions such a rush of preparation would generate in Madame Marian's dreams. Tonight, unfortunately, the hours grew too few too fast. Our dark world was already at the cusp of sunrise.
"Tomorrow," Severus said softly, "will be all the time we need. There's only one true menace in my immediate future, and right now she's about to lie down for her beauty rest." He sighed and smiling wanly at me. "I'd suggest you do the same."
I glared at him incredulously. "You expect me to sleep right now!? When we're planning…." My voice trailed off into silence.
"Yes," Severus said, quite pointedly.
Well, I wasn't one to cross a look like that. No sirree. Bedtime for Draco.
"You can stay here for the night," my mentor added, and that was that.
It was one in the afternoon.
I knew this because the light-up clock on the hotel's complementary wireless had just flashed red.
That was the seventh red light I'd seen so far.
Moments crawled by like snails in the sun—slimy, burning, vaguely horrifying. I felt like there was an invisible heel hovering above my trachea, just daring me to move. To flinch. To whisper a word to the darkness.
One oh one in the afternoon.
Severus slept beside me, his breathing soft and regular. I had absolutely no idea how he did it. I found myself watching him, dissecting his features and his mind to the point of paranoia.
Are we really going to kill her?
One oh two in the afternoon.
Had he killed before? I hardly doubted it. For all I knew he'd strangled a gaggle of Muggles with his bare hands. But had he killed for the Resistance…before this?
No! This isn't killing for the bloody foppish Resistance and their beloved St. Dumbledore. This is for Sev! This is for turning all back to the way it used to be.
One oh three in the afternoon.
I wonder what we'll do to her.
Would it be long and subtle, or quick and painless?
Perhaps the Killing Curse. I think I'd prefer that. I'd seen torture before, but I'd just known Madame Marian too damn long to wish it upon her. I didn't want to know what her screams sounded like, or how she looked with her face all bloody. I just wanted this to all be over with.
One oh four in the afternoon.
If we're caught….
The thought was too horrible to fully entertain.
I don't know when, but sleep finally came and claimed me, carrying me towards morning like a treacherous tropical breeze.
One oh five in the afternoon.
God bless darkness.
I watched my mentor over the rim of a wineglass—breakfast was half Revitalizing Potion, half red wine, and the only thing which could possibly save my jittery nerves. We'd barely spoken—he'd awakened me when he'd risen to shower, and I'd already been indulging in my little pre-flight cocktail by the time he'd returned.
"What are you making?" I asked softly, watching a silver razorblade fly methodically up and down, chopping a small white tablet into a fine powder.
"Just a fixing agent," he said. With a perfectionist's eye, he smoothed out the lumps, and arranged the powder into a neat little pile.
"Draught of the Living Death," he answered.
I stared at him. "We're giving her a sleeping potion?"
Severus nodded. "Well, at least until I can think of a more permanent solution."
I'd previously been waving my wand around, trying to create a tempest in my wineglass, and now I aimed it at a fly buzzing against the window. "Here's one for thought," I said. "Avada Kedavra!"
The fly continued buzzing, and Severus smirked. "Careful with that spell, Draco—you could give someone a nosebleed!"
"Yeah, yeah, go f—never mind. But seriously, a sleeping potion!? Isn't that like the worst possible thing you could give to a Seer?"
"Not if she isn't going to be waking up," Severus said calmly. He walked to the cupboards and started rooting through them.
"Severus," I said very seriously, "have you completely lost your mind? We're dealing with the fucking Dark Lord here. I'll bet He'll just say 'Enervate' and she'll be up dancing around again."
"Not possible," Sev insisted. He came back to the table with a phial labeled 'asphodel/wormwood infusion' in extremely small handwriting. "The potion binds to blood cells. No one short of the best wizarding surgeon on the planet could do anything about it but brew the antidote."
"The antidote," I said, nonplussed.
"Stop worrying. It takes eight days and nights to brew."
"Well light me a menorah and call me a Maccabee," I snapped.
Severus rolled his eyes as he sifted the powder into the infusion. "Have you been reading those trashy Muggle scriptures again? That's the basest of habits, Draco—what will you be reading next, their poetry?"
I chose to ignore his attempt at a subject change. "You're sure no one else will be luckily carrying around a vial of the antidote?"
"I don't think so," Severus chewed his lower lip as he concentrated on stirring the phial's contents without it spilling over. "Just over a gallon has to be ingested by the victim for a successful recovery, so unless someone just randomly tucked a keg of the stuff into their suitcase, we'll be alright."
I glared at him as he stoppered the phial, ripped off the label and stuck it into his robe pocket. "This whole idea is still far from foolproof," I muttered mutinously.
Severus sneered at me. "By all means, Master Malfoy, if you have a better idea, speak up."
I downed the last of my 'breakfast' and stared bitterly at him. Yes, Draco, best transfix him with a glare so he dies before he knows he's beaten you. Again.
Severus used a damp cloth to mop up the remaining white powder, which he quickly incinerated beyond recognition. He went into the cupboard, tore the label off of a very similar phial reading 'pig blood with vermilion root; saffron' and adhered the old label from the Draught's phial in its place. The other potion's label was incinerated as well, and left as ashes amongst the broken glass.
There was not a trace of evidence that we had even spoken of the potion.
Severus stalked across the room and rang the bellpull for a house elf.
"When the elf comes," he said, "you're going to ask it to arrange a private meeting between you, myself and Marian Lestrange during lunch. Her room is number 303."
"Why me?" I asked uneasily.
"Because she loathes me. She knows what I did before. And I know she has suspicions that I've done it again."
"Which you have."
I gnawed my lower lip for a moment. "Sev," I said quickly, "why the sudden…change of heart? To get out of this…mess?"
"You obviously still need someone to nursemaid you," he said coolly.
"I know that," I grumbled. "But, I mean, why weren't you going to do this before? You've got to be important—to the Resistance yokels, I mean."
He lowered his voice significantly. "There's another," he barely murmured. "I don't know who he is, but there's someone even closer in who's switched sides." He sighed. "I'm now officially expendable. Lovely, I know."
There was suddenly a sharp rap on the door. "Elf service!" a squeaky voice cried.
"Come in," I drawled, quelling the mysterious rush of stomach butterflies with my usual icy façade.
The elf entered, and quickly bowed to both of us. It was wearing a "uniform" of a very neatly kept hotel towel. "Good morning, sirs," the creature squeaked.
"I'd like you to take a message," I said smoothly, "from a Mr. Draco Malfoy to a Mme. Marian Lestrange, room 301…." My voice was steady even as my heart beat against my ribs like the wings of a caged bird.
It had begun.