Disclaimer- I do not own Harry Potter© or any of the concepts derived from the book series. The book series is the soul property of J.K. Rowling.

To Keep it Simple

Previous Chapter

"I'll close the window," he told her, causing her to sit back down just as she had moved her feet towards the edge of the bed. Draco moved toward the window pane but just as he reached to close the window, something black and wispy darted up and knocked him in the chin. His head jerked back and knocked itself against Hermione's armoire and he slumped down to the ground. His vision lost focus as Hermione launched herself from the bed to his aid. Before she could reach him, the worst that could've happened, happened. A string of darkness wrapped itself around Hermione's mouth and prevented her from screaming. It then dragged her into it's misty shadow and proceeded to pull her out the window. Draco lay helpless, his conscience fading and his limbs losing all feeling.

"Hermione," he managed to finally say as her body was pulled out the window.

Chapter 13- Out of Control

Hermione struggled to loosen the heavy burdens around her wrists and ankles. She pressed her eyelids together tightly, her long eyelashes brushing against her cheeks. She needed to focus her vision to be able to concentrate and perhaps find out exactly what had literally swept her away. Even though a strangely dire emergency had just occurred, she was slow to believe in it's seriousness and was not near the peak of fear that she should have been at. She squirmed amongst the clutter that she was forced against. Whatever she was lying upon, it moved back in return. Shivers suddenly awakened her senses and caused her skin to crawl with disgust.

"Awake?" a figure called from an armchair in the opposite corner. Hermione opened one eye, then the other, testing out the brilliance of the lighting of the room. A roaring fire set the room aflame but so many nooks and crannies were left in shadow that she was unsure of exactly where the voice was coming from. She tried to move herself out of the tight hold that kept her in place but her resistance was futile so she fell back into her lifeless stupor.

She heard footsteps approach and the rustling of cloth.

"Mm.. the effects of my umbramotum are definitely proving to be beneficial. But not to worry, you'll be alive long enough to suffer just as much as I have suffered."

Hermione suddenly lurched up from her laid down position but was jerked back by the cloud surrounding her.

"That's enough!" the voice shrieked in frustration, a burst of light suddenly emitting from the tip of the stranger's wand. It lit up the corner of the room long enough for Hermione to see the identity of her captor and see the mist around her shrivel in pain.

"Pansy?" she groggily asked.

Draco struggled into a sitting position as the realization of the recent brutal events drove into him with a force of a runaway bludger. He slammed the palm of his hand into his forehead, careless of the pain that it would cause because none would compare to the growing ache in the pit of his abdomen. Why hadn't he seen it coming?

"So, the git joins us back in reality," an all too familiar voice snarled from the doorway.

"Weasley!" he snapped in reply, leaning against Hermione's armoire to ease himself into a standing position. He held the back of his head and held in a breath of surprise. Malfoys did not feel pain. But then again, he wasn't the primest example of a Malfoy.

Ron flicked the lamp light on and bathed the room in light. Draco cursed as he realized what the sticky red substance that coated his hands was. He glanced around, unsure of what to wipe his hands off on—but then pushed that errand aside after catching sight of the open window.

"Glad to know that you've finally caught up with us," Ron said coldly, folding his arms across his chest. Harry walked in, breathless and hair amuck. Thick black pads wrapped around his legs and arms and on his hands were two gloves. His hand was clutched tightly to his treasured broomstick and as he gathered his breath, Draco took several wobbly steps forward.

"I've told Dumbledore—" he began, but stopped as Draco's expression turned from one of confusion to one of dire restraint.

"You told Dumbledore?" the Slytherin asked in a demanding tone. Harry let go of his broomstick and raised his hands offensively, feeling the bump of the broom against his side seconds later.

"It's for Hermione's sake," he said as his brow furrowed in distaste.

Several thoughts proceeded to scream into Draco's subconscious. Hermione had been assaulted and taken away by a creature of only evil's doings and Dumbledore was at that very moment, climbing to Gryffindor tower alongside Professor McGonagall. Draco could wait for things to lay themselves out before him and risk his chance of becoming head boy for the next year by being eliminated as an option for his reckless behavior—or take matters into his own hands and find Hermione himself. Being patient and waiting for wizard and witch elders was the wiser choice—but Malfoys were never known for making wise decisions. Draco's eyes darted to Harry's vulnerable broom as seconds passed and his patience began to dwindle. Although it would've seemed as though Draco cared about Hermione enough to carelessly go after her on his own—Draco was doing quite the opposite. He was worried about Hermione but he was more worried about what his family would think of the entire ordeal. Without giving love and logic a second chance, he lurched out and jerked Harry's broomstick from beneath the seeker's nose.

"What—What are you doing you—" Harry began as both he and Ron began to approach Draco.

"What's best," he sneered. Draco pulled the broom in front of him while raising it to lay it down horizontally in the air. He slammed it into Ron and Harry's guts as roughly as possible—enough to knock them to the ground and into fetal positions in a muddle of moans and groans. He tossed the two a wavering glare and rushed to the window ledge.

"Send Dumbledore my regards," he said with a sarcastic salute and sneer. Then, ignoring common sense and only focusing on his window of opportunity, he leapt from the sill and into the night.

Harry lifted himself off the ground, resting against the bed for support. He breathed in heavily and aided his companion into a standing position much like his. The two clutched their stomachs and stared at one another in distress.

"If that good for nothing prick doesn't bring Hermione back in one piece—" Ron began as he tried his best to ball his hands into fists. Harry placed a hand up to stop him.

"I have a feeling that he's the one who got her taken away in the first place," Harry said angrily.

"Always trying to be so clever—well he doesn't need a smart wife! He just need a wife who's dedicated to him and isn't just a filthy mudblood. Well your brain won't get you out of this one—but I'm sure my umbramotum here will enjoy crushing it into a pulp," Pansy said, every syllable dripping with spite. Hermione shook her head and focused on trying to remain awake. She reached for her wand but realized that she'd left it on her table after walking back into her room with Draco. Without any form of protection or defense, she suddenly felt very vulnerable and all the panic that should have risen before conveniently decided to drown her at that very moment. She gasped and tried to hold in the scream that was building in her throat.

"No questions? Good," Pansy said as she narrowed her eyes and stroked the wand in her hand. She stared at it as she held it up to the light, pure insanity dancing on her features. Hermione managed to regain control of her vocal cords but her body was still shaking of worry.

"Why—how—how did you do all of this?" Hermione suddenly asked, all her questions balled up into a gigantic one that she hoped Pansy would be stupid enough to spend time answering. She could try to stall and wait until somebody realized that only this room emitted diabolic laughter and ramblings about suffering. Then again—they were probably in the Slytherin house and she could have bet all the galleons she had saved up that this was common if not expected behavior.

Pansy glared at Hermione and rushed towards the trapped Gryffindor. She delivered a hefty kick into Hermione's side and caused Hermione to yell out in pain and curl onto her side. The shadowy mist about her winced as well but was obviously not feeling as much displeasure as Hermione.

"Don't ask useless questions," Pansy warned as she backed away. She returned to gazing into the fire as Hermione tried to lull her pain into a scratching numbness. She suddenly realized that the umbramotum had slightly loosened it's hold on her body and was no longer trying to constrict her and cut off her breathing.

"How did you conjure up an umbramotum?" Hermione finally asked after deliberating whether or not to for several minutes. Curiosity was getting the best of her and it was doing well to take away some of the pain. Pansy smirked in response to the question and pulled her hands up to her chest, folding them elegantly one atop the other.

"A question worth answering," she said proudly—but with a hint of hidden malice. "I knew about his powers before anybody else."

Hermione's heart nearly burst from her chest as Pansy acknowledged the coexistence of another evil in her coniving plan of insanity. Could it possibly be..? She blinked—but they had defeated him so many times and had been guaranteed his death with their last battle that it wasn't possible for him to still be alive. ..

"He was clueless—but that just makes me love him even more. Before he met you he was perfectly normal.. but then you came along and ruined everything for him—everything. Even though he didn't know, I was the one by his side—I was the one who knew about it—I was the one who researched it—not you—not you ever!" Pansy screeched, picking up a candle from the fireplace mantle and turning to throw it at Hermione. It hit the Gryffindor squarely in the shoulder and although it did not look the least bit dangerous, Hermione could feel the bruise appearing. She bit her tongue to keep herself from allowing any sounds of pain to escape from her lips and provoke Pansy into throwing more.

The Slytherin sniffed as she quickly fixed her hair and clothes and turned back to staring into the fire.

"I sat by his bed every night and I would watch him sleep. One day he would wake up after a nightmare—see me—and realize that we were meant for each other—and you were never supposed to be in the picture."

Once again, Pansy shifted her attention to Hermione, but this time did well to hide her rage. Hermione prepared for another blow but received none.

"But it was for his own good. He never loved you. He told me himself. You're just another prop to use so he can become successful and richer then his parents—then he'll buy us a house and we'll have pureblood children and we'll be happy forever. He's my Draco and you tried to take him away!" Pansy shrieked. She pointed a shaking and accusing finger at the Gryffindor squirming with pure panic on the floor.

Hermione heard the name "Draco" and felt the blood run cold to her fingers. She had joked about Pansy being obsessive—but to this level? Hermione's breathing grew faster but she managed to control herself and prevent any screams.

"But not to worry—not to worry. I'll set things right. I'll make sure Draco loves me and you'll never get in the way again."

Draco had flown around the premises of the school to check for any hints of a struggle between a dark creature and a witch. He had figured that he wouldn't find anything—but he had to give it a try. His mind was trying to run to two places at once and he couldn't control where his thoughts wandered anymore. As he floated in the air around Hogwarts, his conscience screamed and trashed inside of him, wrecking his focus and causing him to drift closer and closer to inanimate objects. Draco quickly pulled to the left just before he collided with a tower wall and tried to land somewhere safe where he couldn't hurt himself. He imagined that the warnings in his head were part of his ability to dream things at night. If Hermione was in trouble—it would make perfect sense if his unique ability suddenly kicked in.

Draco landed on the ground. The closer he drifted away from the top floor of the castle, the less the pain ebbed at his head. He took a staggering leap off the broom and collapsed onto the ground, the broom falling on top of him. As he moved to stand up, brief flashes of strange scenerios burst alight in his head. He crumpled to the ground and curled into a fetal position, clutching his temples as the brief glitches became worse and worse.

Something bright— fire—the flames were leaping back and forth but before he could focus it switched to another image. A dark corner—no, there was something moving in it. He tried to focus again but was rejected in a fashion likewise the previous glimpse. Another image—a bed—it was too dark to note specific details but before he could even bother to remember the image much less look at it—it disappeared. His eyes suddenly shot open as the images stopped. He quickly scrambled to stand up, sending Harry's broom into the air. He now knew one thing—the umbramotum hadn't taken Hermione far. There wasn't another sign of civilization for miles and it hadn't been that long since he'd been first knocked out. It must have taken Hermione somewhere else inside Hogwarts—where there was only enough room for one bed.

Harry and Ron watched as Dumbledore directed the other staff members in what to do as they all stood, crushed in Hermione's one bed room. As the teachers slowly departed—including a very disgruntled Snape—Harry and Ron were left alone with Dumbledore. He looked at his two Gryffindor students from over the rim of his spectacles and raised his white brows.

"I expect that the both of you would like to join in this literal witch hunt?" the wizard asked, throwing in a pun even in a situation so dire as this. Harry and Ron both nodded and followed Dumbledore as he left the room.

"Make sure that every Gryffindor is in their room and not wandering about," he told them as they reached the door to the common room. Harry and Ron groaned in protest at the simple-minded command.

"But sir—you know that both Ron and I are capable of doing so much more—this is Hermione we're talking about! She's our greatest friend and the least you could do is let us help look around for her," Harry pleaded. Dumbledore shook his head and turned to leave.

"This is an equally important errand. Hogwarts may have to close for the rest of the school year if there are any more disappearances. If Hermione is not found by tomorrow morning—her parents will be alerted and as will as the board members of the Ministry of Magic.."

Harry and Ron nodded in understanding but not in approval. Dumbledore nodded in regards in response and slowly made his way down the hall.

Ron turned towards Harry with a quirked brow.

"What year have I not heard Dumbledore say that Hogwarts might have to close?" he asked. Harry shrugged and patted his companion on the shoulder.

"We should get busy," he said with a sigh. "Got to make sure those first years are all tucked in."

Hermione stifled her remarks of insult for later and instead, focused all her rage into a mental beating of Pansy. The object of her mind's assault scoffed and casually meandered over to Hermione's defenseless form.

"The umbramotum was supposed to end your life for me and make myself seem less suspicious. But it can't even do that—the worthless piece of—" Pansy stopped to point her wand at the umbramotum and strike it once again with a stream of light. It squirmed convulsively in pain once again but quickly reformed itself. Its grip on Hermione loosened a little more.

"Well, now it has allowed me the pleasure to kill you myself and show you just how much pain I went through while you were whoreing your body to Draco. Oh, you'll experience much worse though because a mudblood who thinks she deserves a pureblood needs to be taught a thing or two."

Hermione couldn't stop herself from putting up a brief struggle in response to Pansy's thoughtless statement. The Slytherin witch cackled—as her title gave her the opportunity to do—and launched her foot into Hermione's ribs again. Hermione bit her tongue again to keep herself from screaming of pain. She tasted blood in her mouth but the taste was easily numbed out by the increasing pain in her side. The umbramotum had given her more room to writhe in pain though—and Hermione realized this. Pansy stepped away and began to slowly pace the bedroom.

"I bet you're wondering how I—Pansy Parkinson—had enough power to conjure up an umbramotum. I'm sure Draco's already told you all about it—the umbramotum that is. His father was rumored to have made one himself—but who am I to be telling you family secrets before your death. I have to admit, although I am very powerful, I'm not powerful enough to create such a creature… but a Malfoy is."

Hermione slowly caught onto Pansy's train of thought and beat Pansy to the finish, her eyes suddenly widening with a realization of the extent of Draco's power. He had gone on before about dreams—dreams that told about the future or about things that were sure to come—and she had read about it—but did Draco really possess such a power? She kept her jaw tightly jarred shut and waited for Pansy to finish her explanation.

"Draco Malfoy that is. I didn't sit around in his room every night and not learn anything from it. I wanted to touch him so badly—I wanted to show him that I cared and that I loved him more than you… so what better way to do that then get rid of you while getting in touch with him at the same time… Yes—Draco Malfoy—the Draco Malfoy that is part veela had enough power in him to conjure up an umbramotum. He doesn't know, of course, he's clueless and so is everyone else but me.. Thanks to a little help from Professor Snape, I learned how to drain a person of their power."

Hermione's brow furrowed in both disgust and confusion. Pansy sounded all too much like the aging villain of a cliché spy movie. She stifled her comments and tried to focus more on how to escape the grasp of the umbramotum.

"Every day at lunch—I mixed his drink with a potion that would release his powers at night. He probably knew about it because my Draco is a genius and why else would he waste his time talking to you like he cared… He pulled off quite a good act too—but I knew—I knew he was acting! What better way to look inconspicuous than to have the love of his life kill his tramp! He's a genius. He's my genius. He knew about this all the long and he wants you dead just as much as I do."

At the mention of Draco having been apart of the entire plot both frightened and crushed her—but after listening to another five minutes of Pansy's delirious ranting, her faith in Draco reblossomed and she returned her focus to an escape.

"When he fell asleep, I would unlock his door and sit by his side. Then, I'd wait for his powers to start leaving him. Without powers, he couldn't have dreams that would warn you about what I was doing—and he couldn't have dreams about you. He had a couple measly dreams about you and thought he loved you—but no, his dreams were confusing him. They were lying to him—they were trying to trick him."

Hermione suddenly felt the umbramotum loosen its hold on her after her continuous struggling. She was both surprised and relieved, but quickly took advantage of the situation and waited for Pansy to stop talking.

"Then I collected his power day by day—and I had enough to make an umbramotum by the end of the week. He barely showed signs of fatigue—because my Draco is strong and he knows that it's all for the best," Pansy finally concluded. Hermione had had enough of her psychotic lecture and pondered having ever feared Pansy beforehand.

"And now it's time to end it all and kill you so I can have my Draco.."

"You're crazy, you worthless twit," Hermione suddenly said, putting up a decent act of looking as though the umbramotum still her possession of her. Pansy's nostrils flared at the comment and her eyes narrowed. She began walking towards Hermione, her stride short and steady.

"He locked his door for a reason! So crazy psychotic.. insane.. mutts like you couldn't get in," Hermione blurted out, searching for comments nasty enough to provoke Pansy.

"He locked his door to keep you out! You're the one who wants to steal him!" she screeched, her hand slowly rising with wand in tow. Hermione dared to laugh at Pansy's antics.

"Draco loves me and rejected you in front of the entire school—I don't have to steal him, he comes to me whenever I want," Hermione said, pushing her mental boundaries to the limit. She laughed again—a short and hard laugh that irked Pansy like none other.

"You'll regret saying that!" Pansy threatened. "Relashio!"

Hermione quickly recognized the spell as one used to repel grindylows—one that sent out sparks.. of light. She blinked but without thinking twice, rolling to the side, leaving the umbramotum vulnerable and without any way to defend itself in such a short time. The shadow seemed to shriek and with a rippling effect, writhed into a complete nothing. Hermione could not tell for sure though because the sparks had only lasted for so long and the corner was bathed in darkness again.

"You little useless—" Pansy screamed as she tried to fire another spell at Hermione. The Gryffindor rolled to the side again, reaching out for anything convenient. She grabbed hold of something smooth and heavy. Grabbing it, she managed to throw it at Pansy before Pansy could attack again. As she toppled over from the sheer surprise of it all, Hermione stood up and ran towards the door.

She'd thrown a Quidditch practice glove. Draco's Quidditch practice glove.

Draco had checked Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw's prefects' rooms in what seemed like a matter of seconds. He was completely out of breath and it took all of his strength to rush along the hallways with Harry's broom in his hand. There were only two rooms left—Gryffindor and Slytherin and they were obviously not hiding in Hermione's room. Using the process of elimination, he concluded that Hermione had been taken to his room… but why?

He took the steps two at a time, praying that the stairs wouldn't suddenly move beneath him and stagger his process. As he arrived at the Slytherin house's hallway, he took several minutes to breathe and recollected his thoughts. He uttered the password, darted into the empty common room and directly to his room. He tried the door knob. It was locked. Taking a step back, he pulled his wand from his pocket and pointed it at the lock.

"Alohomora!" he said as he heard the gears work their magic inside the knob. He placed his palm on the brass handle and turned it, opening it just in time to receive a deadly blow from Pansy's wand.

"Look at what you've made me do!" Pansy shrieked uproariously. Hermione watched as Draco collapsed to the ground, stunned and have lost control of his body parts.

"You did it, you idiotic dolt!" Hermione yelled in response, quickly crawling forward to cradle Draco's head in her lap. She couldn't leave him alone with Pansy after having heard her plans for him—and the extent she was willing to go to ensure that her dreams came true. She searched for Draco's wand in the pocket of his slacks but it wasn't there. How had he unlocked the door then? Pansy walked closer, wand pointed at Hermione.

"Now you'll pay for everything you've done!" Pansy warned as Hermione searched desperately for any source of aid. Finding nothing but carpet and the silent response of sleeping students, she waited for her impending doom.

"Stupefy!" she heard Pansy say.

But nothing happened. When she turned her head up to look at Pansy, she was greeted with a statue still Pansy. The wand was frozen in her hand. It was pointed not at Hermione, but something behind her. Hermione slowly turned around and saw Draco standing very much alive and moving about as though he'd never been shocked. He turned to look at her but his eyes weren't their usual grey. It was more of.. a black. She blinked, still feeling the burden of something in her lap. When she looked down, Draco lay in her lap.

The umbramotum, she thought to herself. When she turned to look again, it was gone and Draco's wand lay alongside her hand. She blinked in confusion but said nothing and allowed fate to work it's magic once again. The common room was suddenly quiet and as Hermione glanced around, surrounded by people but feeling so alone at the same time, she let her reserves collapse and fainted.

The last day at Hogwarts left all students drained from final exams and full from a final meal in the dining hall. Hermione finished packing her things and set her trunk down alongside her cat's cage. She sat down on her prefect's bed one last time and sighed. Quite a lot had happened this year and now that she was leaving with an adventure and defeat of her own to remember, she realized that she had gotten off quite well.

As for Pansy—the Parkinsons had been alerted immediately and they had been forced to floo powder their way from the premises to the insane asylum—where Pansy was placed for the rest of her recovering years. She had made quite a tantrum on her way out, clawing at any available student and screeching out words that nobody could understand. Her parents had left with their cheeks flushed with embarassment and claiming that Pansy had grown up a unique child.

For once, Harry and Ron had not been commended for their efforts in solving a dire crisis. Instead, Hermione had received all the credit and all the attention as well. They were still a close knit package and the two refused to leave her side during recovery. All other problems were handled by Dumbledore as to what exactly did happen and who to tell the story to. Hermione still wondered about where the umbramotum had gone to. She had mentioned it—briefly—to those who asked but it played a minor role in her story, even though it had played a major role in her life.

Draco had recovered in the clinic where Harry and Ron managed to resolve their conflict with him. Although they were not near close to becoming good friends, at least they no longer yelled derrogatory terms while passing one another in the hall. Hermione had gained much attention- though she claimed that the only thing she was worried about was not having enough time to study for exams. In actuality, she had much to think about other then exams.

"May I come in?" Draco asked as he rapped gently on the door frame. "Potter and Weasley said I'd find you here."

Hermione nodded and scooted aside for Draco to sit down. He fell onto the mattress alongside her, bouncing up and down as if testing it for the first time.

"Ah—this bed holds quite a few unforgettable memories," he said with a devilish smirk. Hermione did not see the humor in his antics and turned towards him with a look of serious thought. His expression turned from witty to dire.

"We need to talk," she said.

Draco had taken his time walking down the hall to the Gryffindor common room. After hearing Hermione recount her experience with Pansy and then having had her bruises revealed by Madame Pomfrey since Hermione was too modest to reveal them herself, the staff was all too quick to send Pansy away. As for Professor Snape, he had pleaded innocent and not having had anything to do with the entire plan. Dumbledore trusted the potion teacher's word so Snape had happily left to linger around in his dungeon.

After all of this, Draco still managed to maintain the level of respect that he had had for Snape since day one—none. He met Harry and Ron at the entrance to the common room. Before the portrait of the Fat Lady could close, Harry mentioned that Hermione was still trudging about in her room. Draco nodded in response and shoved his hands into the pockets of his slacks.

"May I come in?" he asked. He'd never spoken politely to anyone in his entire life—including her parents. Never a 'please' or a 'May I'.. only with her.. "Potter and Weasley said I'd find you here."

He took a seat beside her. She seemed completely relaxed but so tense at the same time. He tried to keep his careless demeanor and bounced several times on the mattress.

"Ah—this bed holds quite a few unforgettable memories," and then he smirked.

She looked at him and she was deadly serious.

"We need to talk," she said. Draco, as if knowing what was about to come, grew speechless.

Hermione had taken the entire rest of the year to think over her decision. She didn't want to go through all the emotions and the clichés so she quickly tried to end it.

"Draco—it's not smart for us to stay together."

As bluntly as she could've been, she said it. She wanted to mentally slap herself and throw her body to the ground from regret—but she'd concluded that they weren't good for one another and it was best that they stayed as distanced as they had before. After all she'd said and all she'd done—not only was she a hypocrite but she was running away from all her problems instead of having to face them. It was the most convenient thing to do. She made Draco too vulnerable and it wasn't in his style to be that way. There would be problems with his family and problems with her family and soon enough there'd be problems everywhere and Hermione wasn't prepared to handle any thing at the moment. Even if she was proving Pansy's belief that she didn't Draco right—she loved him but she didn't love him enough. She didn't love him enough to sacrifice everything she had worked for. Hermione knew she sounded selfish but inside she felt that separating from Draco would be more for his benefit then hers. After so much suffering and convincing and giving and receiving..

Draco blinked in response to her statement and remained speechless. His shoulders rose as he took in a deep breath of air. Hermione hadn't expected Draco to react to her decision at all—much less care. She hadn't planned it to be so blunt but her feminine side raged out and demanded a reaction from Draco—in what ever way possible that Hermione could get it. There was an awkward silence that lasted ages before Draco finally nodded and stood up. He pushed his hands into his pockets and without even asking for an explanation, walked to the door to leave. He turned around to say something before departing but closed his mouth.

When Hermione looked up, he was gone. She stood up and walked to the door frame, placing one hand against it to give her some support. No trace of him. She glanced down at the carpet and tilted her head to see the splotch of liquid on the ground. Was Draco possibly..? She watched as another one formed and quickly stepped back, her eyes growing wide. Her hand touched her cheek and pulled away, her fingers frosted with tears.

Draco had no way to respond. He had been caught completely off guard—but then again, he knew that this would have to have happened sooner or later—and seeing as that he hadn't planned on breaking up with her any time soon, it only made sense that she would initiate the separation. He could only stare at her and mentally plead her to help him keep the walls from building around him again.

He had to admit. He had wrecked havoc on her life—he had nearly ruined it and brought it crumbling down. His obsessive Slytherin companion had planned a plot so intricate that Draco had to admit that it had been completely unheard of. Knowing that he had involuntarily been involved in Hermione's kidnapping was also a depressing surprise. However, after all they had managed to fight through together—he hadn't expected it to end so soon. Their adolescent lives were barely beginning and already Hermione had signaled that the game was over and she wanted out. He couldn't blame her. He wouldn't blame her. Without any questions or comments, he stood up, all of his self control focusing on that one action—the one action that would take him out her door and into the whatever else waited for him.

Draco stopped at the doorway. He wanted to say something, anything—maybe even a witty suggestion to lighten the mood, but he couldn't. He watched Hermione's eyes slowly film over with a layer of water and proceeded to make a hasty departure, not wanting to be lured into her essence again. As he walked down the hall he began to recount everything that had happened between them. He had admitted his love for her—him, Draco Malfoy—not a sensitive walks-on-the-beach loving stranger. Could his love had been real, though? Maybe he was so caught up in the moment and having experienced any feeling other then hate or spite, had welcomed it with wide arms. After all, he could have been dreaming of Hermione at night because she was to play a role in a very serious situation that was technically, life threatening. He rubbed the back of his neck with one hand while his other remained shoved deep into his pocket. Whatever it had been, he was going to forget about it. He had to focus on other things.

Hermione leaned her head against the window as the compartment rocked back and forth. Harry and Ron had dozed off after fulfilling their appetites with pounds of candy and refreshments. Hermione had passed on the offer, but now she wished she'd eaten something so that sleep would come easier. She regretted every second of the past several hours but what was in the past was in the past. The tears were all gone now and it felt like her eyes had dried up. She glanced out the window and watched as they approached a tunnel. With a sigh, she closed her eyes.

Something brushed past her knuckles.

She opened her eyes and met gray pools of steel.

And then the compartment grew dark as the engine drove into the tunnel.

Author's note: Yes, as of June 13, 2004, I did change the titles of the chapters and I did delete all the author's notes. I wanted it to look cleaner and more composed and was actually trying to avoid writing another chapter for the sequel. I SWEAR, I SWEAR, I will get to it. Plus, the lyrical titles were not only wrong, because I'm an idiot, but they were sort of lame. =( Yes, sorry to say, they were a little over used and I couldn't stand being one of those authors who abuses the lyrics so horribly. Well, anyways, enjoy the barely changed, but NEW, version and I hope you had as much fun reading it as I had writing it.