The Girl in the Tower Chap 29

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Chapter Twenty-nine

Much Ado about Malfoy

The world swam for an instant and Snape suddenly remembered to breathe. The scene unfolding before his eyes was impossible, surreal, and there was a part of him that refused to accept it. It simply could not be.

St. Mungo's was a noisy blur behind him, but his full attention was fixed on the hospital bed nearest the wall. Sara was pale. As pale as could be, and her eyes were dark and sunken as she slept. In a chair by her side was Potter, her hand held in both of his. Harry bowed his head to hide his eyes.

On Sara's other side stood Hermione, smoothing Sara's hair back from her face and crying silently. Weasley paced before the windows, glancing up at the bed with every pass, his slow footfalls were the only sound inside the room. The Headmaster sat slumped in a chair by the foot, stroking his beard in contemplation. He looked positively ill and the light had gone from his eyes. He watched the scene as Snape did, with utter disbelief.

No one greeted him at first as he stood in the doorway. No one spoke or even looked up. Finally, Minerva appeared at his side.

"Severus, it's the worst of the Unforgivable Curses." She said in a hush, pulling him back into the hall. "They've only just come back with the tests and the news is grave, I'm sorry to say."

"What?" He asked as his heart thundered in his chest. "What did they say?"

"The curse was incomplete. A number of things could have happened, but it didn't kill her. However, it still did the intended damage."

"Damage?"

"She'll die if we don't find the person responsible and convince him to reverse the curse."

"How long?"

"It's not known exactly. All we do know is that her condition continues to worsen. They're saying she won't live through the night." McGonagall paused to study the floor and Snape turned away, trying to absorb his horror. He couldn't imagine the world without Sara. A tentative hand touched his arm. "I know what a shock this is." She told him, "Especially for you, Severus."

He nodded his thanks with downcast eyes and followed her back into the room.

Hermione was studying Sara's bejeweled hand and her puzzlement was evident. Severus expected her to address the room at any moment and he wasn't kept waiting long.

"It had to be someone she trusted." Hermione said, "She's wearing the Orb of Arassel on her finger. She wasn't frightened at all."

Ron nodded slowly. "Exactly."

"I know who it was." Harry said, turning. His eyes were distant and his voice was quiet and shattered. "It was Draco Malfoy."

Snape sneered at Harry's back. "How do you know it was Draco?"

"I went to Malfoy Manor." He said, "Sara looked in the Orb and saw him drink poison." Harry stopped and took a deep breath. "When I arrived he told me that Voldemort had given him an order that he would rather die than carry out. He said that if I didn't kill him I'd be sorry." Harry lowered his eyes to Sara's listless form. "He was right."

Everyone looked at each other at once. Ron spoke and their eyes turned to him.

"Malfoy!? You've got to be kidding! Is there nothing sacred?" Ron shouted, and then paced a few steps as he considered it, "It makes perfect sense. Anyone who could manage to surprise Sara had to be someone she didn't suspect and Malfoy fits that bill. That's what I say."

Harry sat with her hand in his, his face painted with indescribable agony, his eyes never left her face. He waited for her to flutter an eyelid, something, anything. There was no movement except the slow rise and fall of her chest. He felt sick.

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