Title: Dragons and Dungeons

Author: Amethyst

Author E-mail: AmethystJackson@hotmail.com

Category: Drama/Romance

Rating: PG-13

Keywords: Harry, Hermione, Draco, Dungeon, Fig Leaves... Oh my, that does sound bad.

Summary: Hermione tries to reach a distant and preoccupied Harry again; in doing so, she discovers something that will lead her close to death.

Disclaimer: I was too lazy to copy the standard disclaimer, so let's just say, I don't own any of this. This is just me, abusing artistic license with J.K. Rowling's wonderful characters. The title was also adapted for my own evil purposes. On that note…

Author's Note: This is the result of another Witch Weekly Challenge. This one's a bit different than the usual:

September Challenge for Witch Weekly

No required length. Must include the following, and make sense:

1. A rabbit tap-dancing.

2. Someone saying "I didn't even know they could get that big!"

3. A purple top hat.

4. A wedding dress.

5. Someone saying "I love peanut butter."

And so, I wrote this, using these. Scary, huh?

*****

Witch Weekly

Volume 592, Issue No. 1

Week of October 6, 2002

This week, our writers are uniting under a splendid metaphorical peace treaty to give us beautifully sculpted fanfiction using certain lines, and – what? I'm exaggerating? Oh, sorry. Anyway, we've got these lines, and we have to use them, or Rita Screecher will have another nervous breakdown. So this is the result of Evil Amethyst's lines, which is, as should be obvious, insanity as usual.

Dragons and Dungeons

By Amethyst Jackson

Harry stood outside Greenhouse Three, patiently waiting for class to start. Professor Sprout had some issues with overgrown puffapods, which had become so large that the class could no longer fit inside the greenhouse.

"I didn't even know they could get that big!" Hermione was saying, looking excitedly at the greenhouse. Hermione, of course, was taking it as a learning experience, just as she did everything. It was an admirable quality, if not mildly annoying at times.

Ron was tapping his foot impatiently, rolling his eyes at Hermione's gleeful ramblings about puffapods. All he and the rest of the school really wanted was to get class over with. This would be their last class of the day, signaling the start of the Easter Holidays. Harry wasn't much looking forward to them; it would only give him more time to think.

Eventually, Sprout came out, sweating, and declared that class was dismissed for the rest of the day because there was no way she could get the puffapods shrunken within at least three days. The students all headed to the castle, everyone but Hermione with a large grin on their faces. Hermione merely complained about not learning how they got so big to Harry and Ron, who just shook their heads in exasperation.

Ron, being Ron, suggested that they go straight to dinner. Hermione agreed, but Harry made his excuses. He had somewhere else to be, something far more necessary than food to do.

*****

Today was completely disappointing. First I was refused the chance to take a look at those puffapods, and then I agreed to go to dinner, even though I wasn't hungry, just because I thought Harry would go. I had to listen to the most awful conversation about Quidditch. Sure, Harry loves to talk about it, but at least he's considerate enough to bring up something else so that I'm involved in the conversation. I love this about Harry. He's always thinking about others.

I wonder where he went, anyway. He's always going off by himself, never telling Ron or I what he's doing or why. We don't ask, either. I've tried, unsuccessfully. He never wants to tell me anything. This scares me. It means he's hiding something from us. Perhaps he's just doing it because he's Harry, or maybe he's worried about how we'll react. In any case, I can feel him pulling away from us.

I decide to talk to him the next time we're alone together. I can't fret over it now. I have to study; we take the O.W.L.s this year, after all. Before I get back to my book, however, I hear footsteps coming from the boys' dormitory. They're nearly silent; had there been any other noise in the room, I wouldn't have heard. I know that Harry will appear at the foot of the stairs; he's the only person I know that can walk so quietly.

Just as I guessed, there he is, Invisibility Cloak clutched in his hand. His hair is more askew than normal, and he has on a wrinkled T-shirt and pajama bottoms. He must have been tossing and turning, I decide. I hope he isn't having nightmares again. Maybe he just couldn't get to sleep.

"What are you doing up?" he asks.

"Studying," I reply. Perhaps I'll test the waters and try to find out where he's going; I wonder if it's the place where he's always going on his own. "What are you doing up?"

"Going to the kitchens," he tells me. "I missed dinner, after all."

I nod. This is a perfectly good excuse, and maybe it's the truth. I don't know what to believe from Harry, however.

"Want to tag along?" he adds, taking me slightly by surprise. I suppose he really is going to the kitchens.

"Yes," I agree without hesitation. I'm willing to do anything to have some time with Harry, even if it means sneaking around the castle at one in the morning. I miss my best friend. It's awful, feeling as though the one person in the world I could always go to is out of my reach.

He throws the Cloak over us. It doesn't fit as well as it used to when we were many inches shorter, so we have to stand close together. It's fortunate that we are, in fact, invisible. I doubt I could live through the humiliation, were he to see the flush in my cheeks at standing so close to him.

We walk silently, unable to talk in the halls. It takes a while, but I still haven't recovered from the thrill of standing so close to Harry, being able to feel his warmth washing over me and his scent, something indescribable, flooding my senses. I'd love to taste his mouth…

I shake thoughts like this off immediately. I'm so foolish, acting like some silly young girl, giggling over her crush. I love him, but…that doesn't make me Lavender Brown. Anyway, I shouldn't be thinking like this. Nothing can ever happen between us; I know that. He's Harry, and I'm Hermione. We have, and always will be, best friends. And yet, there's still a small, undying hope within me. It's so hard to kill hope.

Harry pulls the Cloak off of us, and I hope he doesn't notice that I'm blushing. He isn't even looking at me. Part of me is disappointed.

"Dobby?" he calls into the kitchen. Most of the house-elves are out doing their evening work, cleaning classrooms and hallways. I don't expect Dobby to be here, but sure enough, he comes. Tonight, he's wearing a purple top hat in place of his tea cozy. I fight a laugh at this.

"Harry Potter, sir!" he squeaks with his usual enthusiasm. It's then that I notice something on my sleeve, something that looks suspiciously like…a fig leaf. Yes, that must be what it is. It's smaller than I would expect, but I don't know of any leaves that look similar to it. And it must have come off of Harry's cloak, because I haven't been around fig leaves, and it wasn't on my sleeve before. Holding back a hasty inquiry in Harry's direction, I pocket the leaf and turn my attention back to Dobby and Harry, vowing to ask about it later.

"Do you want anything, 'Mione?" Harry asks. I bite my lip.

"Peanut butter," I say. It always helps to calm my nerves. I ate an entire jar the night before I went to Hogwarts for the first time.

Dobby nods and runs off to get my peanut butter and whatever Harry asked for. He looks at me funny, but I don't say anything.

"Peanut butter?" he finally questions.

"I love peanut butter," I say rather stupidly.

"Funny. I don't remember you ever eating it."

"It's never really been offered," I say, mind still on the leaf that stuck so unfortunately to my sleeve.

He's still giving me a strange look, but he asks no more questions. Dobby returns with a tray holding a jar of peanut butter and a spoon in addition to Harry's order, which turned out to be fish and chips.

"What a nutritious meal," I say with a grin.

"Hey, it's no worse than peanut butter."

I smile and dip my spoon into the jar, lazily licking off the glob of peanut butter that I've extracted. After a few minutes of rather tense silence, I choose to bring up one of the touchier subjects when it comes to conversing with Harry.

"Harry…would you tell me – er – why, exactly, you won't tell Ron and I where you go without us all the time? I know you won't tell me where it is you go, but…"

"I don't want the two of you involved. It's…when I go off on my own, it's not to do something pleasant. I want to keep you out of it."

I look down, not knowing what to say. He surprised me with his direct answer, and I don't know what to make of his response. Nervously, I spoon out another large scoop of peanut butter.

"I know that's probably not what you wanted to hear," Harry says suddenly. I look up at him, spoon still in my mouth. "It's something I have to do, though. Don't worry – it's nothing that will have disastrous consequences. It's not quite…legal, though, so…I'd rather not say anything. Anyway, if you knew what it was, you would probably throw a fit," he adds, chuckling at his last sentence.

I scowl, feeling the need to address another issue. Sticking my spoon into the jar, I retrieve the leaf in my pocket.

"Harry," I ask, "Why was this fig leaf on your Cloak?"

"I don't know," he replies. "Maybe it was in the dormitory or –"

"I'm not stupid, Harry," I interrupt angrily. "I know what these are used for. There's no way any Hogwarts student would have fig leaves, or even have access to them. I also know that these are used for very complex Dark magic spells, most of which have to do with revenge. Now, I'll ask you again, why was this fig leaf on your Cloak?"

He stares at me in complete shock. Part of me is shocked at myself; I'm hardly ever like this, especially with Harry, but I know I'm doing what I must. I need to know what Harry's been up to so that I can protect him. Perhaps it's ridiculous of me; Harry is the Boy Who Lived, after all, and he can take care of himself. I still can't bear the thought of him in danger, however.

He sighs, giving in to my question. "Looks like you caught me. I've been working on a spell, Hermione – a revenge spell, like you said. I think it just might be enough to defeat Voldemort. I – well, I don't need to tell you why I've kept it a secret, do I?"

I look at him, frowning. It's hard to be angry with him, but I feel I must. "Harry, you – you should have told us. You've never kept anything from us before and…and there's no reason why we wouldn't understand. It's as if you don't trust us –"

"Hermione, that's not the case, and you know it. I was just trying to protect you; I didn't want you involved in this. It would only put you in more danger. You must understand –"

"That's not fair of you! We've always helped you, Harry – we want to. And we want to protect you – you think I could live with myself if anything ever happened to you and I hadn't known what it was and hadn't at least tried to do something about it? And what if –"

"Please, Hermione, don't make this so hard."

His tone shifts something inside me. I can't bear to be angry with him any longer. "I – I'm sorry. But…you do understand why I'm upset, don't you?"

"Yes," he says wearily. "Yes, I do."

"Come on, Harry," I say. I know I won't get anywhere further with him tonight, and I want to do some research on this spell of his, if I can pinpoint it. At least I know now, and Harry's not quite so distant. "Let's go back to bed."

Harry nods, but seems hesitant. I wonder what he's thinking.

We make it halfway to the common room before he speaks again. "Hermione, do you want me to show you where I go?"

I look toward him, even though we're both invisible. "You – you would show me?"

"Yes," he says. "I – I think you should know everything now."

I find his hand and give it a little squeeze as my answer. He clutches it and steers me toward the dungeons. I'm very nervous; who knows where we'll end up? I trust him, however, even though he's hidden things from me. He is Harry, after all, and he'll always protect me. That's what he does.

We end up just where we were headed – in the dungeons. He leads me into one of the Potions Labs that has been closed since the beginning of the year. It seems that I should have known why all along.

A cauldron is bubbling in the very center of the room in a round stone circle. Branching off from the center circle are images of the Four Elements, crucial signs in the advanced potions. In a far corner of the room was a simple mahogany table, though its contents are far from simple. Complicated magical objects litter the desktop among carefully guarded and preserved ingredients. I want to go over and examine them, identify each gadget and plant, find out what each and every thing was used for, but I know I'll most likely be charred for life if I touch anything.

"It's called Muerte Provocada. It's a very complex –"

"A Charm combined with a Transfiguration and a Potion…it leaves you with a talisman that will kill the target as soon as it touches him or her…I've heard of the spell," I say softly, glancing back at Harry. I can't believe he's using the spell. Any little mistake can cause it to backfire and have rather deadly effects on the performer of the spell. It's no wonder he didn't want us involved, but I can't help but notice that he lied when he said he was safe.

"How did you find out about it?" Harry asked curiously.

"Came across it in a book from the Restricted Section."

"Oh. How did you get the book to stop screaming?"

"Charm I picked up in a different book from the Restricted Section."

He shakes his head. "I knew I shouldn't have lent you the Cloak."

"Better off in my hands than yours," I reply with a half-hearted grin.

I begin to glance around the room again, wishing I could be a part of this. To study Dark magic in such a hands on manner, and to be closer to Harry –

"I know what you're thinking," Harry says, and I jump several feet out of my skin. "You can't help, Hermione."

I scowl at Harry, peeved that once again, he's just making these decisions for me.

"And why not?"

"It's too dangerous, Hermione."

"Damn you, Harry! That's my decision to make! What if I think it's worth the risk?"

"I don't care if you think it's worth it, Hermione! I won't let you take the risk."

"You won't let me? You can't control me, Harry!"

"I'll do whatever I have to! You're not getting mixed up in this!"

"Why, Harry? I can take care of myself, you know! I'm not incapab-"

"Goddamnit, Hermione, I don't think you're incapable! Can't you see that I just want you to be safe?"

"And I just want you to be safe!"

He sighs. "Hermione, please. If anything happened to you…"

"Harry, why can't you just let me –"

"Because I love you!"

My mouth falls open. I know I'm being silly, that he loves me only as a friend, and that me thinking he might actually be in love with me is completely ridiculous. But, what if…

"You were the one I really wanted to hide this from. I didn't want you involved. I knew the risks. And if anything were ever to happen to you, I don't think I could go on."

I'm frozen. My mind is screaming replies, but before I can force one out, the door flies open. It's difficult, but I tear my eyes away from Harry's and glance at the doorframe. Draco Malfoy stands there, staring at us.

"What are you doing here, Malfoy?" Harry snaps, obviously annoyed at being interrupted.

"I just had a feeling you'd show up tonight…but I must say, bringing Granger makes this the perfect opportunity."

The door slams shut, and somehow I know we won't be getting out of it.

"What are you talking about?"

"You always were so gullible, Potter, so very trusting. It'll be your downfall. Fairly soon, I should think. And what a fortunate thing that you finally brought your little Mudblood along! You know, the most exquisite form of torture is the mental variety. It's so difficult to recover from. And the best way to mentally torture someone is to torture the one he loves…wouldn't you agree, Potter?"

Harry's eyes are wide, and we both know what's happened.

"You don't want to know what I'll do to you if you touch her."

"Oh, I won't be the one touching her. My father probably will, though. He's rather fond of bondage –"

Harry's fist streaks through the air, connected perfectly with Malfoy's face. I look away. Harry's never been physically violent this way, and it's quite shocking, especially since he's reacting this way over me.

Malfoy staggers backward, wiping a drop of blood from his lip. "My, my, Potter. Wouldn't have expected that from you. Might want to cut it out, though. You're scaring your girlfriend."

Harry faces me, as I stand shocked. "Harry, I – look out!"

Before Harry can react, Malfoy shoves him into me. We steady each other, just as I realize what Malfoy has intended. Harry comprehends a moment later as Malfoy grabs his arm, and he attempts to push me away, but I grab his sleeve.

I'm pulled off my feet, as though with a Portkey, clinging to Harry as we travel…who knows where we're going.

We land on a hard floor, and I stumble into Harry, both of us falling to the ground. It doesn't really matter. We're already locked in a cell, and Malfoy's standing on the other side of the bars.

Quickly, I scramble off of Harry, blushing even though this isn't the time to act like a silly first-year.

"Enjoy yourselves," Malfoy sneers. "You don't have much time…though I doubt it would take long, knowing Potter."

"Sod off, Malfoy," Harry snaps. "Just because you can't hurt us –"

"Don't underestimate me, Potter. I know more torture curses than you could ever dream of, and I won't hesitate to use them."

"If you could, you already would have."

"Oh?" Malfoy says nonchalantly, "Is that so?"

As if in demonstration, he pulls an unidentifiable object from his pocket and transfigures it into a rabbit.

"Imperio," he mutters, pointing his wand at the rabbit. Instantly, it begins to tap-dance. "As I said," Malfoy continues, "Don't underestimate me."

Malfoy leaves the room toward the right, and Harry and I are alone again.

"Well," Harry mutters, leaning against the wall and letting his head fall back, "That was romantic."

I smile slightly, scooting toward Harry. "It didn't need to be romantic," I reply. "It was enough that you finally said it."

"Finally? You've been waiting for it?"

"I always have been. But…is this really the appropriate conversation to be having now?"

"If we're going to die tonight, I'd rather not waste it," he says, placing a hand over mine.

"How do you define 'wasting'? Because I don't think it would be a waste to come up with a plan and get out of this. Really, I don't fancy getting everything I want and only having it for one night."

Harry smiles slightly. "Everything you want?"

I blush. "Yes."

"Well, how do you suggest we get out of here?" he asks.

"Let's look at it logically," I begin as Harry surveys the cell, taking my suggestion literally. "We're – er –"

"In Malfoy Manor," Harry finishes for me.

"How do you figure?"

He gestures toward the opposite wall, which is adorned with a large 'M'.

"Oh. In that case, we're in Malfoy Manor, which means…well, this place is Unplottable, so who knows where in the country we are. We're in the dungeons, which means we're at the very bottom. We can't summon anything to help us, and we probably couldn't Apparate, even if one of us knew how. So, we've got to go up and sneak out from there –"

"If we can get out of this cell," Harry concludes, glancing my way again.

I sigh, staring straight ahead. "I don't have the imagination for this."

I find myself suddenly in Harry's embrace, and I'm grateful. The panic that had been invading my mind vanishes, leaving something empty and blank, but better than chaos.

"We'll think of something," Harry whispers, his cheek resting on the top of my head.

"Do you have your wand with you?"

"Yes," he says, reaching into his pocket. "It's right – cor!"

I look down to see Harry pulling his Invisibility Cloak out of his pocket.

"I thought I left it behind," Harry says, grinning at me. "This ought to be of some help."

Perhaps there is hope after all.

*****

I wonder, as I am waking up, how long I've been out, and if I'll be where I'd like to be, and more importantly, if he'll be here – and hopefully, if he's here, he's alive.

It must have been days. I'm terribly thirsty, not to mention starving, and I'd really like a shower about now. I'm completely coated in sweat, or at least that's how I feel.

My memory is cloudy. I remember Harry blasting open the cell, following him under the Cloak through the labyrinth that is Malfoy Manor, almost getting out. Then I remember getting caught. The Cloak just slipped right off of me, and Harry as well. I remember a nameless Death Eater grabbing my from behind and forcing some sort of poison in my mouth – for some reason, I'm sure it was poison. I remember Harry, standing in shock, and I remember losing consciousness. I remember seeing Harry attack someone, looking more furious than he had ever been in his life. Beyond that, there is nothingness.

I look around, taking in my surroundings. Damn. I'm still in the corridors of Malfoy Manor. A grimy stone floor is beneath me, I am covered in sweat, and I doubt I've been moved from the spot where I passed out. Did they leave me here to die? Probably so. Where is Harry? Is he alive? Wouldn't I know if he had died?

I sit up, feeling extremely dizzy as I do so, but I force my eyes to focus and look around.

Harry. He's lying on the ground about five feet away. Unconscious. He can't be dead, he really can't be dead. I don't know what I'll do if he is.

Throat constricting, I crawl weakly toward him – if I attempt to stand and walk, I'll most assuredly fall over. As far as I can see, he isn't moving.

"Harry," I whisper, voice cracking.

He stirs. Thank God, he's alive.

"Hermione? Is that you?"

"Oh God, Harry, yes – it's me – are you all right?" I frantically say, leaning over him.

"Don't worry about me. They gave you something. Are you –"

"I'm weak, but I'll live. We've just got to get out of here."

"He's gone, Hermione."

"Gone?" I repeat. "Who's gone, Harry?"

"Voldemort."

"Gone for good?"

"I killed the bastard."

"What?"

"I killed him. Without the potion, without any spells."

"You – you killed him with your bare hands?"

"It was the only way."

I nod. "I understand."

Harry sits up, squinting slightly, as though in pain.

"Harry – if you killed him, why were you unconscious?"

"Lucius Malfoy knocked me out," he says tonelessly as he stands. I attempt to get to my feet, but I promptly fall into Harry, who manages to catch me.

"I suppose I'll have to carry you," Harry says with a small smile.

"It seems that way."

A moment later, I've been lifted off the ground and I'm clutching Harry.

"Hey," Harry says suddenly, "We're alive."

"Who would have thought?"

*****

Three years later…

I stand in front of the mirror, surveying my appearance. There was a time when I believed I would never get the chance to put on this wedding dress. The day came, however, and I'm more than happy to be living it.

Beaming, I turn toward the door, where Ginny Weasley, my Maid of Honor, is coming in.

"We're ready to start," she says with a grin. I nod, my only wedding day jitters coming from the fact that there will be hundreds of people there. Nothing scares me about spending eternity with Harry. I'm not big on fate, but I do believe we're soulmates.

I walk out, following my bridesmaids down the isle. All of my nerves are forgotten as soon as I meet Harry's eyes. I walk the isle, say my vows, meaning every word but not really thinking about them, and finally, the words, "I do," are coming out of my mouth, and Harry is leaning forward to kiss me.

It's finally official. We belong to each other.

And to think. It all started in a dungeon.

The End