Chapter Sixteen :: The Drumroll is the Worst Part
I didn't talk to Pansy as the pair of us slowly made our way back to the hotel. She didn't talk to me, either. She just walked on, eyes lowered, knowing full well that she was in the dog house for this one. I somehow didn't even want to yell at her.
"What time is it?" I finally asked as we neared the Inn.
She scrambled for her watch, as though this would make amends. "Quarter after ten."
I nodded. "Great. Can you do something for me?"
She nodded readily. "Okay."
"At ten forty-five, send an owl to Crabbe and Goyle telling them to bring the girl to the bottom of the dirt road to the beach. Send another owl to Lord Voldemort, telling him she is ready to be picked up."
"Got it. Where will you be?"
I looked at her. "I have other things to do. I suggest that you go to the room and freshen up for the Revel. Suitable attire, alright?"
A little bit of her usual humor bled back into her tone. "What, no shiny orange miniskirt?"
I smiled wryly. "Scram, you," I said, stopping just outside the Inn. She nodded, and trotted up the steps.
"See you there!" she called back, somewhere between apprehensive and cheerful.
Pansy disappeared into the lobby and around the corner.
I waited patiently outside in the shadows for about five minutes, and then entered after her. I had decided it was about time I stopped being seen. Head low, face emotionless, I made little to no disturbance in the quiet activities of the lobby. I boarded the lift, and made my way to Severus's room.
I could smell the acrid stench halfway down the hall, and I wrinkled my nose. I knocked thrice on his door, very loudly, and waited. About a minute passed before Severus threw it open.
"You sure you want in?" he choked.
I pressed in past him in answer, and he shut the door. The stench made my eyes water.
"Open some windows!" he commanded, and I hurried to do so. The subsequent rush of fresh air that flowed into the hotel room was the relief of the century. The place still stank, but at least I could breathe again.
Sev collapsed into a chair next to his now-hyperactive potions table, obviously very glad for the breathable air as well. He looked the way I knew he really like himself best: his hair was pulled back, two pairs of bug-eyed goggles hung from his neck, his shirt was unbuttoned, and his cuffs were rolled up to his elbows. All the prominent signs of Psycho-Potionsmaster Syndrome were present. He used a hotel bath towel to wipe some of the sweat from his smoke-stained face.
"Glass of water?" I queried gingerly, unsure of his mood.
"Yes. Great. Thank you."
I rose to find a clean vessel and fill it. "You…um, holding it together okay?"
"Okay," he said, gratefully accepting the large test tube full of water I offered. "But no better. The Dark Lord has been in here twice already, trying to hassle me into working faster. Not the most comfortable environment, hm?"
"Could be helpful, though," I said. "When he comes in next, have him excuse you from the Revel so you can 'finish brewing the antidote.'"
Severus wrinkled his nose distastefully, and rose to minister to the antidote in some way. "I already tried. He wouldn't hear of it. Apparently, this Revel is the biggest public relations feat that the association has ever pulled in the western hemisphere. It's a key political event." He sighed heavily, sprinkling red powder generously into the mix.
My stomach dropped a meter.
"So I'll have to do it, then," I muttered.
Severus nodded gravely. "It's the only way. You still have my present on you?"
"Do you understand the procedure?"
I smiled nervously. "Walk me through, would you?"
Severus turned to me, managing to look both manic and serious at the same time. "At some point during the Revel—any point, I don't care which—you need to exit quietly. Make sure you are seen beforehand by someone important, and make sure no one sees you leave. Marian is in her room. I would suggest entering via the balcony—you brought your broomstick, correct?—good. Once you're inside, get it over with as soon as possible and get back the Revel. Try not to get any blood on yourself."
I felt myself go even paler at the word 'blood.' "So I just stab her in the neck?" I asked.
Severus rolled his eyes. "No," he said patiently, "you slit her throat. As in, you start the knife at one side, and drag it across to the other. Blood will go everywhere. It'll be fun."
"Fine, fine," I said, running my fingers through my hair. "I fly in, I do the throat…thing, and I head back up to the Revel. Good show."
Severus nodded calmly, and turned back to his table. "You might want to get a move on your preparations," he suggested. "The party starts at midnight."
"Right," I said, and made ready to go. "Oh! One more thing."
"What time do you think they'll do the sacrifice?"
Severus mulled it over for a moment. "They usually do it at the beginning, to get the crowd all worked up. Why?"
I smiled. "Ah, good. Because that's the part I really want to see, that's all."
My mentor shook his head. "You're an odd little man, Draco."
A nervous laugh. "Damn straight."