Amid the Encircling Gloom

~

September 13th, 2004 -- Monday

< >Hermione walked through the halls of her office building two days after Percy's speech to her, looking in on her employees, and pleasantly greeting them, commenting on their latest work in the office, or assigning them a new story for the following week.

< >Finally, she had spoken with everyone who had needed to speak with her, and she walked into her office, closing the door behind her. She turned around and swallowed a gasp. Her leather chair with the high back was faced to the wall when she walked in and there was someone sitting in it, a newspaper held open in front of them.

< >"May - may I help you, sir - ma'am?" Hermione stuttered, pressing her back against the door, an attentive hand on the doorknob.

< >The person in the chair swung around in the chair and lowered the newspaper.

< >Hermione's heart stopped beating for a second and her throat felt like it was collapsing.

< >"Hello, Hermione," said Draco Malfoy calmly, twirling a pen back and forth in his fingers. "It's nice to see you again."

~

< >Draco smiled at Hermione. Hermione just stared at him and he closed the newspaper, then read from the front page, "'Yes, I do still love Draco. He was my best friend, my love, until he left. To me, the man that I knew had a spirit and that spirit died when he left my life, and when we have people we know who have died, their spirit stays with us for all eternity.

< >"'That is what it is like with Draco. His spirit still lives within me and within all who knew him and I love that spirit. I love the spirit of Draco that I know, not the one I don't, and you should all understand that.'" He folded the paper and tossed it aside.

< >"Hello, Hermione," he said again, smiling just as confidently.

< >"H - how did you get in here?" Hermione demanded shakily.

< >Draco smiled. "Just as easy as walking through the door." Hermione's face paled and Draco nodded, still smiling. "Yes, just a bit of magic to change my hair color and eyes, and I'm a completely different person to your security guard; perhaps, a new, hot reporter, ready for my big break."

< >"What are you doing here?" Hermione demanded.

< >Draco jumped to his feet and recited loudly and angrily, "'To me, the man that I knew had a spirit and that spirit died'! Is that what you think of me? A man whose spirit died and was reincarnated into a self-serving felon, Hermione?" He slammed his fist down on the desk.

< >"I did not say that and you know what I meant!" Hermione shouted.

< >"No, I don't, and pray tell, enlighten me!"

< >"You're not the person I once knew! Now, you're just a damned monster!" Hermione cried. "It was the nicest way to say that! What else did you want me to say? 'Oh, he used to be such a nice boy!'?"

< >Draco looked away for a moment.

< >"Why are you here, Draco?" Hermione demanded hotly.

< >Draco narrowed his eyes at her. "Along with your wonderful article and my father pleading for my return, I thought I had to make an appearance!" His scowl turned into a mischievous smirk. "Really, Hermione, I thought you would understand."

< >Hermione glared at him. "Your father pleading your return?"

< >Draco threw back his head and laughed. "You really think my mother after six years would do something like that? Hardly! My father wrote that piece of crap as a publicity stunt. He wants people to know the Malfoys are still alive, though not for long!"

< >Hermione didn't answer.

< >"Cat got your tongue?" Draco asked cheerfully.

< >"Get out."

< >"Short and sweet, eh, Hermione?"

< >"If you have any self-respect or dignity or even just a slight bit of worry that you might get caught, you will leave," Hermione said coldly. "It is better for both of us that you just leave and disappear forever, out of my life. If you need help getting out of the country, fake identification - "

< >"You flatter me," Draco snarled, "that you would take this much time to care if I disappeared from society and if I have self-respect. Well, Hermione, I have lost every shred of dignity I've ever had days ago. I have none left and I refuse to do anything anyone wants me to!"

< >"Especially me, right?" Hermione snapped.

< >Draco grabbed the edge of the desk so tightly that his knuckles turned white.

< >"Didn't I ask you to leave?" Hermione glared darkly at Draco.

< >"Not politely." Draco smirked.

< >"Please leave, then."

< >"I don't feel like it," Draco replied, smiling thinly. "What about that?"

< >"LEAVE!" Hermione screamed.

< >"NO!" Draco yelled back.

< >"Hermione - ?" asked a voice from outside the door.

< >"Get out of here, Colin," Hermione snapped, locking the door.

< >"What's wrong? We can all hear you screaming and - "

< >"Tell everyone to go to lunch early," Hermione said curtly. "Now."

< >"All - all right, whatever you say, Hermione," Colin stuttered through the door. The two angry people in the office heard him hurry away, telling people sharply to take their breaks, as he went.

< >Hermione's eyes flashed darkly as Draco slowly came around the desk. "Are you going to leave, Draco?" she asked of him pointedly, scowling with fury. "Or must I make you leave myself, Draco?" Her tone was hard and cold.

< >Draco smiled. "Petty threats won't make me leave."

< >Hermione whipped out her wand from her jacket pocket and pressed the tip of it right square between Draco's eyes. "Then how about a curse to make you leave?" Hermione sneered, glaring at him. "You know that I'm serious."

< >Draco stiffened and stared at her in shock, gripping the front of the desk tightly. He swallowed nervously. "Yes," he whispered, "I do."

< >"Hand over your wand," Hermione snapped.

< >With a sigh, Draco relaxed, and looked at Hermione with an amused smile. "I do not have a wand."

< >"So, you're just a magician, now?" Hermione jeered.

< >Draco laughed. "I do not have a wand, nor do I use a wand, Hermione. It was snapped, don't you remember?" he asked of her, smiling. "On my third offense that I was caught for."

< >"That was the last time you let yourself be caught."

< >Draco's eyes flashed with something unrecognizable. "You remember . . ."

< >"Who could forget if reminded?" Hermione asked, moving her wand away.

< >Draco shook his head with a sigh. "I am unarmed, if you feel a whim to fight."

< >"It would be a slaughter."

< >"Don't be too sure," Draco replied darkly.

< >Hermione narrowed her eyes at him suspiciously. "Where have you been?"

< >Draco looked away. "In the forest . . . somewhere . . ."

< >"I looked for you."

< >"I know . . . you said so in your article . . ."

< >"I did not!"

< >Draco smiled wryly at her. "There were underlying things."

< >"You pretend to know people when you yourself are indignant to people knowing you," Hermione said coolly.

< >"Because they are wrong about me!" Draco protested.

< >"And how do you know that you're not wrong about me?" Hermione yelled.

< >Draco looked at her and didn't answer for a few moments. "I don't know."

< >"That's obvious," Hermione sneered.

< >Draco looked down at his feet, rubbing his hands together nervously. "If you suppose you know me, however, you may be wrong. I am not a monster or a total miscreant, but a monstrosity and a mooncalf." He fingered his ring nervously. "I am a freak and people believe that, especially, since I believe that."

< >Hermione regarded him with surprise. "A freak?"

< >The young man shook his head. "It's no use. I'm a full fledged freak of nature, a cruel one, too, who beats people up, steals their money, and murders a few of them, just for spite," Draco barked more to himself than Hermione.

< >"You brought it upon yourself," Hermione replied simply, finally pocketing her wand.

< >"Perhaps," Draco agreed.

< >He rubbed his eye and as he was lowering his hand, Hermione snatched it. "Why do you still where this?" she demanded angrily, holding up the hand so he could see the ring very clearly. "WHY?"

< >Draco jerked his hand away from her and hid it behind his back. He didn't reply.

< >"Are you going to answer me!" Hermione shouted.

< >"Why don't you wear yours?" Draco retorted.

< >Hermione was speechless.

< >Draco smiled through gritted teeth. "I wear the ring for the same reason you do not wear yours, Hermione. Everyone expresses their emotions in different ways. I am indifferent to the real significance of this ring, while you hide yours away," he said quietly.

< >"You lie. You are not indifferent."

< >Draco didn't answer.

< >"And I do not hide mine away, I just do not care to wear it."

< >That made Draco snort with incoherent laughter. "You do not just not care to wear it!" he taunted. "You are scared people will mark you even more with me! You do not wear the ring because you don't want to remember me, but it happens anyway! Now, who is the liar in this room, Hermione? Me, or you?"

< >Hermione slapped him across the face. Draco's head snapped to the side and he didn't move. A strand of hair fell over his eye, but he didn't brush it away. Draco was just as still and as silent as a board, and just as rigid.

< >"Percy Weasley can tell you that I am becoming a rather professional at doing that," Hermione told Draco coldly. "He is probably right."

< >Draco finally brushed away the lock of hair, but didn't turn his face back to Hermione, too ashamed. He rubbed his cheek vigorously. "He is right," Draco said softly. "And I deserved that, and probably a few more . . ."

< >Hermione looked at him with surprise. "You admit that?"

< >Draco snapped his head straight and glared at her. "For what I have done and not done, I do." Hermione merely stared at him and Draco finally demanded vehemently, "Do you still want me to leave, Hermione?"

< >Before she could even open her mouth to reply, Draco embraced her tightly, and kissed her deeply. She struggled to get away, but soon found herself kissing him back, wrapping her arms around him.

< >Draco kept his eyes closed as he pulled his lips away from Hermione's, then opened them slowly. Hermione looked into his eyes and choked out breathlessly, "Where did that come from, Draco?"

< >Tears welded up in Draco's eyes as he pulled himself away from Hermione and whispered, "I am sorry," then hurried out the office door, leaving Hermione behind to stare after him in shock.

~

< >Draco angrily brushed away a single tear as he stalked through the forest, looking for Lupin. He had Apparated back to their camp outside of the Prophet offices and found Lupin not there. Once he had waited at least an hour for him to return, Draco decided to go searching for him, just in case Lupin was hurt, or just screwing with him.

< >"Lupin!" Draco called angrily. "Where are you? Professor Lupin? Remus?"

< >"Draco," a hoarse voice whispered from under a bush next to Draco's foot.

< >Draco jumped backwards in surprise. "Professor Lupin?" he asked, crouching down, and pushing back the sharp brambles. He found Lupin lying on his side, looking feverish, and he automatically reached for Lupin.

< >"NO!" Lupin shouted. "Don't come any closer to me!"

< >Lupin's voice was so urgent, Draco recoiled, and took a step backward.

< >"Tonight . . . the moon . . ."

< >Draco stopped dead. "Is - is there anything I can do?" he asked timidly after a moment.

< >Lupin's eyes flashed with hostility. "No," he replied, "unless you want to be my food when night falls. I've been too busy to make my medication . . . If you leave me, you should be safe . . ."

< >"How can I be safe if you will be roaming the forest?" Draco asked.

< >Lupin smiled bleakly. "I'll make it to my small hut before nightfall." He groaned painfully, as if already feeling his transformation coming on. "Just leave now, Draco, for the better. Go!" he insisted when Draco hesitated.

< >Draco ran back to camp and collapsed against his tree, breathing in short breaths. He would have to deal, now, with the fact that Lupin would be confined for a few days in his hut he claimed to have, and that he was helpless in a dangerous forest, but somehow, it didn't seem to matter to Draco.

~

< >"Draco what?" Harry Potter asked again, looking at Hermione closely, to see if she was lying.

< >Hermione's eyes darkened. "He kissed me, Harry, is that not clear enough for you?" she demanded coldly.

< >"He came in your office?" Harry asked suspiciously, taking a long glance around the office. "Did you find anything missing, Hermione? Any valuables, money, paperwork, anything? Could you list them, possibly, and - "

< >Hermione slammed her fist down on her desk and Harry's attention snapped to her. "Haven't you been listening, Harry? I told you that he is in a forest! He would not lie about that, Harry! He is in the forest!"

< >"And what forest would that be, Hermione?" Harry snapped. "There are forests everywhere! He could be in the forest next door, he could be in the Yukon, or he could be in a South American jungle, for all we know!"

< >"You could look," Hermione sneered darkly. "There is no problem with that, is there? When I looked for Draco, which he knew, I did not look at night, but I will bet he is quite confident he can light a fire now without being bothered."

< >Harry peered at her over the rim of his glasses. "You are sure we might find him?" he asked cautiously.

< >"Oh, yes," Hermione replied, her eyes set fixedly on Harry's. "We will find him."

~

< >Later that day, during the early evening hours, just before dusk, Draco lit the nightly fire, feeding it carefully so it came to a roaring blur of orange and reds in the misty evening of the night. He put the kettle on the small, rusty grill that Lupin used, and began to heat up more tea, waiting for night to fall.

< >When nightfall did come, the fire was going down, and Draco needed more wood, so he trudged out into the forest, blindly picking up branches and pulling dead bark off tree trunks with his fingernails.

< >Draco tripped and stumbled slowly back to his camp when his arms were full of timber, but stopped when he heard voices. He was about five yards from the grove, concealed by thickness of the forest, and he carefully crept closer to the camp, not realizing he was still holding tightly onto his fire wood, looking like he was holding on for dear life.

< >He bent over to peer into the camp, hiding partially behind a bush. There were at least half a dozen or more people meandering around the camp, all talking at once, and Draco couldn't tell which one was saying what.

< >"It looks like two or three people were here . . . look at the footprints . . ."

< >"But he could have been here a while . . ."

< >"Look . . . a bag . . . a suitcase . . ."

< >"Don't disturb the evidence . . ."

< >"This just could be a honeymooner's camp . . ."

< >"I doubt it . . . this camp . . . it looks too . . . rugged . . ."

< >Draco recognized the last voice with a muffled gasp. He dropped the firewood as he slapped a hand over his mouth so he wouldn't scream. Harry!

< >"What was that?" someone yelled.

< >"Where did it come from?"

< >"Over there!"

< >"Look!"

< >Harry Potter whirled around, wielding a flashlight in one hand. He swished the light over the trees. Draco couldn't move. He was frozen, that is, until the light caught him. A split second after the light washed over him, he turned around, and ran. He ran faster than he ever had in his life deep into the forest.

< >"Stop!" shouted a voice close behind him.

< >"Halt! You are under arrest!" barked another.

< >Draco just ran harder and turned, vaulting over a thicket of brambles. He landed badly and rolled on the ground until he smacked into a tree trunk. Draco jumped to his feet like a cat, unfazed, listened carefully, and quickly spotted Muggle flashlights, lit wands, and torches dancing in the trees behind him. There weren't just six people there, Draco realized with some dread.

< >"Draco!" Harry called. "You're surrounded! Come out!"

< >"Fat chance," Draco muttered to himself, stooping low, but keeping his head up high enough to peer over the brambles in front of him. He saw bobbing lights and heads, illuminated by the light, scrambling frantically around in the trees and thick undergrowth, calling to each other, cursing as they ran into trees.

< >Suddenly, Draco was illuminated by light from behind. Draco whirled around on his hands and heels, holding an opened palm over his eyes to shield them from the bright light of the flashlight.

< >"I got him!" a woman's voice yelled. The figure moved in on him.

< >Draco launched himself away from the woman and pelted through the woods like a shot. He swore he felt the breath of his pursuers on the back of his neck and his head swirled as he heard angry shouts and dog barks as he ran.

< >Without warning, Draco flew through the air, right back into camp. He had done a complete circle, he knew, as he fell on his side, and slid across the camp in the loose dirt. Draco felt the cantankerous, sudden, angry pain of a twisted ankle as the bottom of his feet slammed and twisted into the large boulder on one side of the camp. He cried out and his whole body bucked in pain. He grabbed his stomach and curled into a protective ball, cowering and shaking in pain.

< >Dozens of lights filled the camp, surrounding the grove around him and him.

< >Fearfully, Draco clawed madly at the dirt, trying find a hold to pull himself up. He kicked out his legs, as if running on air, despite the agony filling his body from the twisted ankle. He was hysterical, thinking he just had to get off his side, then he could escape. . . .

< >A shadow loomed above the helpless Draco, holding a flashlight beam in his eyes, and Draco stopped flailing around to look up at the figure. Though the figure was dark due to the light, Draco knew who it was instantly, and scrambled maniacally to try to get to his feet. The figure let him.

< >Draco finally stumbled to his feet and closed his eyes, drawing in a deep breath. He reopened his eyes then and held out two, turned down fists to the figure. "I am done running," Draco told the figure solemnly, thrusting out his chin defiantly.

< >The figure moved out of the light, taking Draco's wrists, and handcuffing them securely, silently confident that Draco would not get himself out of them. "Yes," Harry told Draco in grim agreement, "you are."

~
Author's Note:

< >Okay, so I just ended up writing a little sequel to Across Enemy Lines, that ended up at exactly 77 pages, 30,780 words, 135,108 characters, 982 paragraphs, and 3,436 lines - all without the Author's Note and any HTML work. With the Author's Note, I don't know. If you want to know, I'd suggest just count. ::smirks::

< >Anyway, this story was going to be longer, but I cut off about twenty-two pages for yet another sequel (that I may or may not continue with for a while, since I'm doing a lot of things lately). I do think I screwed up a bit with this story, but that's just an opinion. I feel a bit better about than I did with Across Enemy Lines where I felt I was under way too much pressure to finish writing it.

< >The thing with some authors, like me, if you talk about it with anyone, and then try writing more on the story, it comes out really cliché , and you hate it. Power to anyone who doesn't have that problem!

< >Okay, I know I also didn't really explain the "problems" between the Weasleys and Hermione Granger, but that will be explained . . . someday. Whenever I get around to having ideas about the next sequel . . . I have ideas "The Enemy Series" will either be a trilogy or a trilogy with a prequel. Just don't bug me about writing them, or they'll never happen! :-)

< >This probably took me about twenty days or so, maybe a bit less, listening to music like Destiny's Child - "The Writing's on the Wall" (great CD; not really rap) - Savage Garden - "Affirmation" (wonderful album!) - *NSYNC (or however the heck you write that) - "*NSYNC" & "No Strings Attached" - Irish music I purchased for four dollars, Bread - "Anthology of Bread" (20 tracks of pure oldies! And now I can't exactly find the CD . . .), and probably some other stuff I can't remember. ::laughs::

< >I wrote quite a few pages of this story during my social studies class (sorry, Mr. K, I didn't like the movies) and during a few other classes that I was really bored in. Sorry to all my teachers, but the writing just hit me . . . At least they know enough that if I'm writing, I'm not writing a "letter" in pink, yellow, and blue ink to anyone . . . ::grins icily, thinking how her work might have been crumpled up::

< >The oddity I put into this story is also affected by 80 degree heat in March (for crying out loud, that's hot!) in sunny California with no rain (we're supposed to get some tomorrow . . .) or any cool breeze except for a fan in a room where my animals "like" to go "potty," but I guess that really isn't the point of anything, is it? ::frowns as people grimace::

< >Draco is my favorite character now. I never was very sure, but actually trying to make him live in my eyes in the way I wanted him to made me love him as a mysterious, outwardly cruel character, and I really hope Ms. Rowling doesn't keep him (or Snape, people!) angry and mean . . . I'd probably cry . . . ::sniffs::

< >And on a personal note, if you noticed all the dates in the year 2004, and remembered them, then looked on a calendar, you'd find that they were pretty much all correct, though I could have screwed up somewhere. Thanks to absentmindedness and a computer calendar.


< >Now, for thanks! (Oh, aren't you so excited! . . . ::is so excited::) Thanks to my parents for dealing with my nasal singing as I listened to music, to my Internet friends for being supportive of all my writing (and lying to me if they thought it was cruddy), to my school friends (who I frequently use in unfinished stories, but still demanded to see them), and to my language arts teachers (and all the others who might care) for supporting my writing.

< >Also, the songs "Yellow Submarine" and "They're Coming to Take Me Away" lip synched to by my friends Ryan, Jeff, Aileen, and Allison, and Lauren, Matt, and Thera (who have never seen my website and couldn't care less) affected my little dramatic moments, especially the "Dark Thing," since I do think I'm crazy and yellow submarines follow me around like pink elephants . . . Just kidding!

< >Also, to my cousin, Gypsy, and her husband, Shaddow, and Robin and Chuck who are being kind enough to let me come out to Texas in June, and to my thesaurus and spell check, who caught me writing like this: Le'ts al lgo to the amuseeeement park (well, not really, but I've done some baaaaaaad stuff) - when I typed REALLY to fast. Always remember this when people criticize any bad spelling on a computer: "I'm not illiterate. I just type fast!" Hehe, I can type 73 words a minutes, as Mavis Beacon tells me . . .

< >Okay, looks like I'm done now, a little bit into page 79. My disclaimers, signature, and final notes will probably run onto page 80 - ooh, look! They did, they did! - and I'm about finished rambling here as I listen to "Bye Bye Bye." The song seems so fitting right now, doesn't it? Bye, bye, bye!

~

Gypsy
Saturday, March 25, 2000 -- 6:44

P. S. --
< >Always remember to sing, "We all live in a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine," many, many times on a school bug going to a museum with another school. It's hilarious. I did it two days ago and the other school actually started singing it along with me. Hi, guys, at VJHS! I hope you remember the insanite on the bus!

< >And yes, Hermione is very accomplished for being such a powerful, smart witch, who is the editor of The Daily Prophet. I thought journalism would be a good thing for her to do.


Disclaimers to everyone who contributed to my story (though I doubt they even knew it):
< >Bernadette with her linked back pictures (since no one sent me any Draco pics!),
< >J. H. Newman for "Lead, kindly light" quote.
< >Sushma (my pen-pal in India) for the quote on a bookmark.
< >The LA Times for The Magic Times.

Draco Malfoy, Hermione Granger, Remus Lupin, Colin Creevey, Harry Potter, all the Weasleys, Cornelius Fudge, Tom the bartender, The Daily Prophet, and anything and everything in this story are copyright 1990 - 2000 J. K. Rowling, Scholastic, Bloomsbury, and Little Literary Agency.

That is, except for Helena, Olivia, Pena, Mikaela, and Peter, and Reginold Whitney, and Jeremy Pollack, Allan Greenspan, Alona, and any other characters I made up are mine, copyright February/March 2000.