I stared in the bathroom mirror, toweling my hair dry. The door of the bathroom hung open like a dead mouth, but I didn't move to close it. I just focused on the reflection that couldn't seem to smile.
I'd showered cold, and while the sensation had been very unpleasant (and unflattering), it was all quite necessary. I had needed to be shaken out of my daze.
I felt like a cat in a box full of broken glass. Nowhere to go, nothing to see, nothing to do except pussy-foot around in my hazardous little crate. Sev sat at the table in silence; I could see him from the corner of my eye. He was just rolling that damned pivotal phial between his dexterous fingers, again and again. He'd been at it for near an hour.
I combed my hair into its usual perfect array, and did a few rather solemn glamour poses in the mirror for good measure. They failed to cheer me up. My eyes were pitted from lack of sleep. I knew I should have been angry, blood pulsing with adrenaline, mind racing—but instead I was just deadened and scared.
I noticed Severus watching me. He had a neat stack of clean robes for me sitting on the table. I walked out in a stunning towel ensemble and collected them. They were mine. That was good.
"Get dressed," Sev said quietly, and I walked back into the bathroom. Not particularly caring if he saw me, I dropped my terrycloth guise and proceeded to get dressed more properly. It was inordinately chilly in that damned little room. I forced myself to suppress a shiver, but goose bumps still rose all over my body.
As I hurriedly pulled on a dark green shirt, Severus's voice echoed from the room outside.
"The plan is simple, really," he said. He spoke in just a murmur, but to my ears it was the loudest shout in the world. My fingers fumbled with the buttons as he went on.
"We're going to go in. I'm leaving it up to you to make up some sort of story we need her to help us with. You're the distraction."
I pulled on my outer robes.
"Marian always asks for a drink when you come to see her. Always. I'll go and get whatever she likes, obviously adding what I need to where it's due."
I fastened the silver clasps. I straightened my collar. I pulled on my boots.
"All you need to do is keep her eyes on you for about forty five seconds. It's not going to be hard at all."
I walked out of the bathroom. "And what happens next?"
"You'll see." He glanced down at his watch. "Lunch time."
"Severus…." I said testily, but he was not one to be bothered at this moment.
He strode briskly out of the room without me. I steeled myself, and followed after him.
As we walked through the identical halls of the hotel, side by side, stride for stride, I found myself thinking clearly for the first time in twelve hours. Everything was laid out in the simplest of terms now. Everything.
Such as the danger of the task at hand…and the danger of the alternative.
"You'd better send me flowers after this is all over," I muttered to Sev out of the side of my mouth.
Severus raised his eyebrows impassively. "I'll do nothing of the sort. You're not the one doing the dirty work."
I opened the door to the stairwell for him, a clever retort already in the works—and there stood my father.
Fuck fuckity fuck, fuck, fuck.
"Oh! Draco," he said smoothly. "I've been looking for you." His smile was like a razorblade, sharp and cool. "You know, you accidentally sent a house elf to the wrong room this morning."
I could feel Severus's horrified stare. I could also feel myself becoming mortally nauseous.
"Luckily, though, I was the one to intercept the message." Oh, lucky, lucky me. "Your mother wanted a little space, so I got a room of my own—what a coincidence."
I matched his smile to hide my pain. "What a coincidence," I echoed, my voice miraculously even. "Were you kind enough to pass it on?"
"Oh, of course," Lucius said. "Madame Lestrange is staying only one room away from me." Still, that bloody smile. "What on earth do the two of you need to speak to her about, anyway?"
"We've just got a little bet on," I said airily. "Nothing the least bit important." I'd like to thank the Academy….
My father nodded, appeased. "I'll see you both at dinner, then," he said, and with a calm nod to Severus, he stalked off down the hall.
Quietly, numbly, Sev and I walked through the door to the stairs, and waited until it had closed behind us.
"Good save," Severus said softly, and we headed up the stairs.
"That was only dress rehearsal…."
"We're going to be fine," Severus said dryly, sounding like he didn't half believe it. "Just do what you do. I think this is a good time to break out your arsenal of innocent expressions."
"Yeah," I whispered. "Great."
"Oh, and Draco?"
"From now on, if I tell you a number, could you please fucking write it down?"
The door flew open under my hand. Madame Marian was seated at a small table, reading a thick tome titled "Quest for the Seabreeze Lagoon." She smiled up at us. "Hello, dearies." She was pure saccharine.
"Hello, Madame," Severus said graciously as he closed the door behind us. "You look lovely today."
"Why thank you," she said, bitterly polite. Her lips tightened slightly at the sight of him. "Ah, Draco…" her eyes roved to me. "Is this a lengthy matter that you gentlemen want to discuss with me? Shall I order us lunch?"
"No, no," I said, walking to sit down at the table. Severus came to stand behind me, attempting to look benign rather miserably. "It's a small matter."
"Just drinks, then," Marian Lestrange said, and made as though to rise.
"I'll get them, Madame," Severus said. "What would you like?"
"Just sherry, thank you. Everything's out on the counter over there. Help yourself."
"I'll have a cup of water," I said, stalling. I was a ball of raw nerves…which was just fine, as long as I could keep it to myself. The plan, Draco. Stick to the plan. Be the distraction.
Severus abandoned me for the drinks.
"So, Draco," Marian said, leaning towards me with all the delicacy of a vulture. "What is the matter?"
"It's really quite…trivial." Think, Draco. Think. Think of something that will keep her attention.
And then, it all came out in a rush.
"Severus and I have made some mistakes, and we just wanted to know if you'd Seen any harm being done to us because of them."
Severus turned to glare at me.
"Mistakes?" Madame Marian pressed, penciled eyebrows raised high.
I was cool. I was fine. This was so completely under control. "Mistakes," I said, leaning in and giving her an intentionally nervous little smile.
"Oh!" Marian said omnisciently. "Those kinds of mistakes."
I forced a blush. "Yeah. Those. So…I just want to make sure no one's going to be finding out."
"Hm…" Marian leaned back in her seat, pretending to deeply contemplate my question. "Well, I haven't Seen much of either of you, lately. I did wonder what you were up to, though—as a pair, you carry a considerable aura of disturbance. Nice to have a little answer." I took her rather lecherous smile like a champ. "But aside from that, all appears to be going smoothly in your futures. Haven't seen a whit of turbulence for you or Severus."
I feigned relief. "Oh, thank goodness."
"Drinks," Severus intoned dully as he rejoined us, and set Marian's tiny glass of sherry before her.
We shared a look as the entire world came to a stop.
Marian lifted the elegant flute to her lips, and took a sip.
"Ah," she said with an appreciative nod. "I do love a good—"
She slumped sideways onto the floor, looking deader than a piranha in the Sahara. The woman was out cold.
With a triumphant smirk, Severus handed me my water. "A toast to your positively charming little story," he said. "Take a sip."
I took a kamikaze swig, and found the drink remarkably un-spiked. "Aw, shucks," I replied, only slightly scathing. I couldn't help but feel terribly relieved myself. "What do we do now?"
Severus daintily reclaimed the lonely sherry glass as well as my water, and headed over to the miniscule sink. "We do the dishes to eradicate our fingerprints," he said as though speaking to someone extremely stupid. "And get me a towel."
I decided not to question that one. I found a clean towel hanging on the bathroom door, and brought it out to him.
"Now burn it up some," Severus said smoothly as he scrubbed a glass clean.
"Sure…" I muttered. Either this was part of a brilliant plan, or he'd just lost it.
"Incendio! Nunquam Enflammare!" Even though it had only had momentary contact with the Fire Spell, the towel was admirably charred. "Done," I said.
Severus Summoned the towel out of my hands and used to non-destroyed parts to gingerly dry off the two glasses. Once finished, he deftly set them back in their former places. He then took the empty Draught phial out of his pocket, wrapped it loosely in the towel, and tossed the whole mess into the waste bin.
"You sure that's prudent?" I said, nodding my head to the towel.
"Perfectly safe," Severus said. "No one looks for the solution to a new disaster in the remnants of another. That towel won't get a second glance."
I sighed. "I'll trust you on this one."
Severus smiled wryly. "How kind of you. In any case, we should probably go now." We walked to the door, and strolled nonchalantly out into the hall.
"Thank you so much, Madame!" I called as I shut the door behind me. I was smiling incorrigibly.
Severus and I walked downstairs to lunch in victorious silence.