Chapter 24: Gone
Draco slipped into the Infirmary, worrying at Harry's sudden venture into Pomfrey's territory.
"Harry?" he called, eyes darting around the occupied beds.
Someone bolted up, then groaned.
Draco hurried over.
"What are you doing here?"
"What are you doing here?"
"Oh, um," she stammered. "Ron pushed me into a tree, and I broke my arm."
"He did what," Draco growled, clenching his fists, though he didn't understand the sudden, hot anger than flashed through him.
Hermione blushed beet-red, realising how she'd made it sound.
"I mean, he pushed me out of the way of," she lowered her voice. "You Know Who."
"The Weasel still pushed–"
Draco's eyes widened.
"What do you mean, You Know Who?"
"I think they're all wrong, Draco," Hermione said, frazzled. "He's still – I saw him."
Draco fell into a chair, feeling as if he'd been hit by a wall.
"The Dark Lord isn't dead? How... what?"
"You know they never found a body?"
"But that, no, that doesn't mean… someone could've been there before the Aurors. And no one survives Avada; it's called the Killing Curse for a reason, Hermione."
Hermione gave him a look.
"That's not – it's not the same thing."
"If Harry survived it, couldn't You Know Who?"
Draco shook his head, a denial on the tip of his tongue. He saw Hermione's logic, and it made sense, of course it did, but – no.
"Draco, listen. I know it sounds insane, but I've been stuck here and I've had a lot of time to think. We know that someone's after the Philosopher's Stone, a stone that offers the possessor immortality. And we know that someone's been slaying unicorns in the Forest–"
"Someone's slaying unicorns in the Forest?"
"I had detention there," Hermione answered, waving the question away. "It's a long story."
Draco mirrored Harry's earlier reaction, his jaw agape.
"You had detention–"
Hermione glared, and Draco shut up.
"As I said, we know that someone's been slaying unicorns in the Forest, and I saw… I saw it drink the blood and it was awful and then it came at me and Ron saw it too –"
Hermione cut herself off.
"Sorry, I'm rambling."
Draco was speechless.
Why would anyone drink unicorn blood?
"Right, well, the blood of a unicorn will keep you alive, but–"
"You're cursed, from the moment it touches your lips. I know, I've read Advanced Potion Making too."
Hermione raised an eyebrow.
"What? You're not the only one who reads, Granger," Draco scowled, defensive.
"So, what are you saying?"
"I'm saying, who would want immortality so badly, and who also has nothing left to lose, that they'd choose to drink the blood of a unicorn to stay alive long enough to steal the Stone," she prompted, serious once more.
After he processed the sentence, Draco froze.
It couldn't be – Father had said the Dark Lord was dead.
But he had to admit, it all made sense.
"You Know Who is after the Stone, then?"
"They're the same person. I can feel it."
"You're sure it wasn't a dementor?"
"I know what a dementor does, Draco. I wasn't sad at all, just… scared. Really scared."
"Have you told Harry?"
"No, Pomfrey kicked him out before I could," she frowned, glancing at the Mediwitch's office door. "I'm surprised she hasn't kicked you out too."
"It's simple. Potter's luck is extraordinary, and mine isn't," Draco smirked. "Where'd he go, anyway?"
"Your Common Room, I suppose. He left ten minutes ago."
"Hmm, well, I must've missed him then," he paused. "Unless the seventh years got him."
"The points, remember."
"No, I mean, what do you mean 'got him'?"
Draco shifted uncomfortably, knowing full well what certain older Slytherins were capable of.
"Draco! They're not cursing him, are they?"
"Probably not," Draco shrugged. "No one's awake this early."
And they won't do anything in the open, he added silently.
Hermione eyed Draco anxiously, as if she'd heard his passing thought.
"Alright, alright. I'll look for him," he sighed, standing up.
"Thanks for believing me."
"I'll makes sure the Weasel stays away," Draco replied in his own form of welcome, smiling one of his rare smiles, unaware that that would be the least of his worries.
"Uh, Professor Quirrell?" Harry queried hesitantly. "Shouldn't we have turned left?"
"N-no, no, P-p-potter. Th-there's s-something we h-have to d-do f-f-first."
Harry shrugged, rubbing his scar for the fifth time in five minutes. Trying to ignore the voice in his ears telling him that it was Quirrell and not Snape, that it wasn't safe, that he should get a teacher, Harry didn't quite register where they were heading.
He wouldn't need me to get the Stone, he shot back at the voice – which sounded suspiciously like Draco's. And anyway –
Harry jerked, clutching his head, stifling a scream at the agony flaring in his skull.
"I've had the whole year to kill you, so why wait till now?"
Harry squinted through the tears to find a wand pointed right at him, the face of his Defence professor suddenly twisted and unfamiliar. His mouth moved to form a question, but the words wouldn't come.
"Who am I? As it happens, Potter, we'll have ample time to get acquainted."
The wand dug into the base of his neck and Harry snarled.
"My, my, you do have some fight in you."
A flick of Quirrell's wand and Harry's flew into his outstretched hand.
"No matter how incompetent this school's teachers are, we can't have you causing any trouble, now."
Quirrell smirked and stepped aside.
"Get in, boy."
Harry's eyes widened.
Harry glanced around, panicked, ready to shout for help.
"Ah, I could give you a detention for disobedience."
More scared than he'd ever been before, Harry reluctantly edged into the corridor, and the moment he did, Fluffy lunged. Harry never saw it coming, and apparently, neither did Quirrell.
Ripper never went for the legs, Harry thought, having the irrational urge to laugh.
"Idiot beast," he heard Quirrell spit, voice laced with fury.
The last thing Harry saw was a flash of green light, then a red, headed his way.
Draco didn't know where Harry was, and neither did the Slytherins – and he didn't think they were lying.
"Are you sure–" he began for the third time.
"We aren't his bloody keepers," Montague snapped. "You are."
"Get out of our hair, Malfoy," Du Car hissed. "Before I decide to kill your owl."
Draco heard someone snort, but he scurried. He'd grown rather attached to Regal and he wasn't going to risk the chances.
His heart pounded in his ears as he made the run back to the infirmary, his worry growing with every step.
"Hermione!" he yelled as he burst in. "Harry's not- I don't - I can't find him."
Draco winced, belatedly noticing the presence of the matron and the entire ward's stares.
"What is the meaning of this?"
"I need to speak to Hermione, madam."
"No. I will not have my patients disturbed again, before visiting hours."
Draco rolled his eyes. Couldn't she see it was urgent?
"My father will hear about this," he said, in desperation.
"If it keeps you out, Mr Malfoy, you can tell your father all you like."
Draco clenched his fists. He hated this.
"Draco," Hermione cut in, from across the ward. "Tell Professor Dumbledore. Tell him everything."
"He'll know how to find Harry."
Pomfrey glanced between the two students, lost in the conversation.
"Now, see here, Miss Granger–"
"Okay, I'll find him. I promise."
Hermione waved at him to go, and he did, only to realise that he had no idea how exactly he could speak with the Headmaster, if he even cared to listen. He could only hope –
Recognisable black robes billowed around the corner.
Whatever Harry thought, Draco was sure they could trust Snape.
The man stopped, arching his usual brow.
"Do I have to take more points for running in the castle?"
Draco shook his head frantically, though really, he didn't much care whether Snape did so right now. He had more pressing things on his mind, like –
I know I promised it wouldn't be long. Sorry, it looks like I lied.
There's only a couple more chapters before the end, I reckon - what a journey it's been.
Anyway, I hope you did enjoy this chapter. Thanks once again for sticking around, and please follow, favourite and leave your reviews - all of it means so much to me.
Until next time.