Disclaimer: All rights to Harry Potter belong to J.K. Rowling
Author's Notes: This is again a ONE-SHOT which means there will be no additional chapters. Please don't ask for one n.n; And it's NOT HBP compatible! (But it is Dramione!)
This piece was actually written in the memory of Tiffany Urso, Katherine Merkel, Matthew Frank, Jessica Nutoni, James McGee, and Matt Dennis. The first five of them were in a horrific car accident in my town on 2/11/07. I didn't know any of them except Tiffany, who was on my badminton team last year, but the loss of their departure has been heartfelt and felt by everyone. Matt Dennis committed suicide on 4/10/07 for reasons unknown. He was a drummer in my band, very friendly and very kind. All of them are missed greatly and as a community we're doing our best to cope. This is a tribute to all of you guys. Rest in peace.
Warnings: Character Death
Never thought this day
Would come so soon
We had no time to say goodbye
How can the world just carry on?
I feel so lost when you are not by my side
But there's nothing but silence now
Around the one I loved
Is this our farewell?
So sorry your world is tumbling down
I will watch you through these nights
Rest your head and go to sleep
Because my child, this not our farewell.
This is not our farewell.
--Our Farewell; Within Temptation
It all started as a normal day. I woke up bright and early at six, an ungodly hour I know for Harry and Ron, and got ready for the glorious and joyful Monday, the fresh, new day of learning after the weekend. I knew all of my books were in order and all my papers had been filed neatly away so the only thing I had to remember on my way out the door was to grab my quill from my nightstand.
My hair was still damp from my shower but I rather liked how it wasn't nearly so frizzy like this so I didn't bother to use a drying charm. I intended to get a quick bite of breakfast and then head down to the dungeons to get a jump-start on the new potion Professor Snape said we'd be starting this week. He informed me that he had several books I might be interested in reading (albeit he said it rather haughtily but I appreciated it all the same) up on for the potion and its history and I was more than eager to.
When I reached the Great Hall I was relieved to see there was hardly anyone there. Not that I don't mind company, but if I wanted to get to the books and have some quality time with them before classes started at eight I'd have to eat rather fast. I'd bring breakfast down with me but I know how dangerous it is to have unnecessary supplies in a Potions Lab.
I was pleased to discover that there was apricot jam on the tablet (lately there has only been grape) and I lathered it onto a piece of toast and grabbed a muffin from the center tray. After filling my glass with a nice serving of orange juice I ate at a moderate pace, not wanting to choke nor wanting to lose the flavor of the food the House Elves labored so hard to make that so many students took for granted.
As I headed for the dungeons I could already feel a draft rising up and I was thankful I'd packed my sweater in my bag. It appeared I'd be using it. My feet clapped hollowly down the steps and I entered the classroom, confused to find it deserted. Setting my bag down on the table I removed my sweater and went over to the bookcase by Professor Snape's office door, glaring at a rat that was sniffing around the desk, most likely looking for a crumb of food. Seeing me though it squeaked and ducked into a hole in the wall where the rest of its brethren probably were.
Just as I was reaching for a large volume on the middle shelf I heard voices emitting from the office, hushed undertones that immediately sparked interest as well as suspicion. What could be being discussed so early and secretly in the morning? I knew it was wrong to eavesdrop, but I couldn't help it. Harry and Ron had rubbed off too much. And so I strained to listen, picking my bag up and getting ready to look as if I'd just walked in.
That's where all the problems started.
"-you need to listen to me," hissed the first voice, which I recognized instantly as Snape. "He knows something is amiss and if we keep up this charade any longer we'll both end up dead."
The response was muttered and I couldn't depict who had spoken, but my heart was racing faster. Was Snape speaking of going against Dumbledore? Against Voldemort? No… it couldn't be. Who else in the school would be deceiving the Dark Lord?
"Stop it," Snape ordered. "You don't understand what you've gotten into, Draco. I've been in over my head since last year and even I find it hard to face the consequences of what will happen if he ever finds out. Please," Snape said, a hint of desperation tugging at his voice, "don't leave the castle, no matter what. At least here Dumbledore can protect you. If he asks of your presence I'll make up an excuse but I do not want you leaving, not even for Hogsmeade. Is that understood?"
"I'm not going to let you be punished without me," Malfoy said hotly. "We're both traitors, we'll both go down together. Professor, you can't sacrifice yourself like that!"
Snape laughed, a cold, mirthless laugh. But yet it was tinged with sadness that even I couldn't comprehend. "You haven't even begun to live your life yet, Draco. The captain goes down with the ship while the crew leaves. In this case, I'm the captain since I began this whole mess and you'll do as you're told."
"But if it wasn't for me then neither of us would be in this problem! I just had to go and stick my nose into things like some nosy brat," he said, voice dwindling at the end. "But I'm not letting you do this alone!"
"It's my decision and you will listen! I value your life even if you don't. If you won't do it for Professor Snape than at least do it for me as your Godfather. Please, Draco. I don't want you to throw your life away. Please… promise me you won't do anything rash. You won't leave the castle and you won't follow me if I'm called away."
There was a few second's pause and then Malfoy's voice, resigned and quiet said, "I promise. But Professor… Uncle Severus… if anything goes wrong, really wrong, will you at least try to come back to Hogwarts?"
"I promise. It's not my intention to leave this world quite yet, but if it comes that it will. In any case, we have a few weeks before anything drastic will happen. At least that was what was implied at last night's meeting." There was an affirmative pause before Professor Snape spoke again. "Just so you know, Draco, Miss Granger will be coming down here probably very soon. I don't know if you wish to be here when she arrives."
"Granger? Here? Why?" he said, an air of whining to his voice. I was quite pleased though to hear that he didn't use that horrible 'm' word. It was probably just because there was a Professor in the room though.
"I offered to let her look at my Potions books on the Cantail Potion we're starting today. You're welcome to stay if you'd like though."
I decided now would be the best time to make my entrance although I wasn't actually wanting to read anymore. I wanted to grab a huge piece of blank parchment from my bag and record down everything I'd just heard, analyze it, cross-reference it… and then maybe do some investigating to tie up the loose ends.
Backtracking to the door, I pushed it open, smiling as it squeaked loudly. "Professor?" I called, walking across the floor towards his office where the bookcase stood. "It's Hermione Granger."
Professor Snape walked out of the office, his face as impassive as always. "Ah yes, Miss Granger. Here to read the books?"
"Yes, Sir. I hope I'm not too early… I just couldn't wait to start." Well, that had been true up until five minutes ago.
He gave me a rare smile and shook his head. It was times like these that I remembered that despite the fact I was a Gryffindor and technically supposed to be on sore footing with him (which I still was most of the time) he did care as a teacher and wanted to see me succeed. If only he could feel like that all the time towards the Gryffindors. "You're right on time. I'd suggest starting with this one," he said, reaching for the book I'd been about to grab earlier, "and then starting on the one by Henrikson. Do take your time though, it isn't even six-thirty yet."
"Thank you, Professor." I took the offered book and headed for the bench I normally shared with Ron and Harry and opened it. Already, just by the opening introduction I could tell this book would be fascinating. But before I forgot even the slightest detail of the conversation I'd overheard I knew it would have to wait while I wrote down what I'd learned.
It was strange though. Malfoy must be hiding in Professor Snape's office since he obviously didn't come out to join me. Although I doubted he would. And it wasn't like I gave him a chance to slip out. Oops.
I concocted a quick but detailed list of what I'd overheard and then glanced at the ancient clock on the wall. Seven-thirty! How had the time flown so quickly? I hadn't even started reading! Stuffing the list into my bag I pulled the book forward and began reading.
Class must have been about to start because I felt someone poke me in the shoulder in what seemed like a minute later only to realize that it was nearly eight and Ron was trying to seat himself amidst all of my belongings.
"Oh! Sorry, Ron," I apologized, moving my bag under my feet.
"It amazes me how you can be so cheerful on a bloody Monday morning," he muttered, cradling his head in his arms once he'd sat down. "I'm exhausted."
"Not to nag, Ron, but perhaps you shouldn't stay up till almost midnight playing Exploding Snap with Harry and Seamus then. Try going to bed at a decent hour after reading a chapter of a nice book instead."
"That's okay," he mumbled. "Exploding Snap is way more fun. Just wake me up when class is over."
"Ron…" I turned to Harry, on my other side, to see he looked just as tired as Ron. "Are you going to stay awake?" I asked him. "It'll be your own fault if you fail at this unit. I'm not letting either of you see my notes."
It was like I'd shocked them. Ron's head came off his arms with a snap and Harry shook his head to sweep away the cobwebs. "That's better," I said happily. "Hurry up and take out your quills, it looks like we're about to start!"
Start we did. Professor Snape handed back our lab results from the last potion, myself and Malfoy getting the only two Outstandings in the class. We then went on to learning of some of the more basic background information surrounding the Cantail Potion where Professor Snape assured us there would be a quiz on it tomorrow to see what we could remember. I recall Neville squeaking at some point during that.
"That was fun," I said as we left the class and I sadly placed the book I'd borrowed back on the shelf although Professor Snape had told me I was welcome to come down early for the rest of the week if I desired. "Such an intriguing potion, don't you think? The ability to breathe underwater and maintaining a normal human appearance! Much less painful sounding then Gillyweed, huh Harry?"
"Yeah…" he muttered, eyes glazed over. "When's our next class?"
"Now," I said promptly. "Herbology and then after that we have a two hour break for lunch and studying and then we have Transfiguration. Then after dinner we have Astronomy tonight."
"Don't we ever have a break?" Ron groaned. "I need sleep!"
I rolled my eyes and again wondered how we'd all been put into the same course schedule since this year had been determined by our O.W.L.S. "Just grin and bear it, Ron. Don't forget you and Harry have Quidditch practice tonight too. Unless it rains," I said, glancing outside at the overcast sky.
"Or snows," Harry volunteered. "It may be April but it's certainly cold enough outside."
The rest of the day passed easily by for me and I nearly forgot about what had occurred that morning until I pulled the parchment out of my bag when I was sitting in the Common Room after Astronomy to do my homework. I tucked it away again and did my Astronomy charts first and then excused myself to go to bed where I could look at it in private.
Next to the facts I had written from the conversation I drew two more columns, the first being labeled as how Malfoy had been acting this year and the other as how he'd acted from first to fifth. I can't believe I hadn't realized it before.
From first to fifth year the column was filled with threats, bullying, swearing, and all other horrible deeds he'd done. But this current year… I'd caught him mouthing off a few times to some of the younger students but it wasn't anything as harsh as years prior… more of just a 'move it'. He hadn't been taunting myself nor Harry and Ron either. He hadn't even been picking on Neville, who has also made it into our Potions class. He'd been almost completely withdrawn this year… come to think of it I hadn't even noticed him slip from Professor Snape's office to his desk. He was like a shadow.
And another thing I had discovered. He was a Death Eater. I had suspected it for quite some time but hearing it voiced, not quite exactly but implied, made my head reel although it was the opposite of what I'd expected. He called himself a traitor…a traitor to Voldemort. So did that make him good? Was he a spy like Professor Snape?
Regardless, something had definitely changed in Malfoy and he wasn't the same person I could recall from years prior. But what did it all mean? How did he get involved with the Death Eaters if he hadn't willingly joined? It almost sounded like an accident. Although how does anyone accidentally become a Death Eater?
It was something that would take some investigating.
When I woke up the next morning, again bright and early, I hurried through breakfast and headed straight for Potions, eager to read up some more and possibly look for clues concerning Malfoy.
The clues were much easier to come by. Namely because the one named Draco Malfoy was sitting in the classroom with the book I had been reading. He must have heard me enter because he looked up and smirked. "What brings you down here so early, Granger? Trying to earn the title of Teacher's Pet for all of the professors?"
"No, actually," I said, determined not to be baited. "Professor Snape offered to let me read up on the Cantail Potion with some of his books. May I ask what you're doing here?"
"Not that it's any of your business, but I'm doing a little background reading as well. Can't have a muggleborn pass me in my best class," he said smugly.
I blinked. Not for the fact he said he was better than me when I knew we were just about even, who was ahead even I couldn't tell, but that he said muggleborn instead of the other 'm' word. And he didn't even seem phased by it."
"Well, I hate to disturb you… wait, actually, I don't mind," I said, slipping easily back into the role of haughty insults we'd been using since the start of our encounters. It wasn't that I really want to use them, but I couldn't let him know I knew something was up and I could possibly get something out of him if I got him angry enough. "But you're using my book."
He raised an eyebrow. "You're book? I don't think so, Granger. Last I checked it was Snape's and he wouldn't want you touching it anyway."
"I didn't know you were going blind," I said sweetly. "I was using it all class yesterday, but I guess with your failing eyesight you missed that. Have you started picking out glasses? I think a pair like Harry's would look nice, don't you think?"
"Like I'd want to wear anything Potter considers fashionable," he said with a shudder. "It'd be me saying I want your rat's nest of hair."
"It's only because you're jealous that I don't need a bottle of gel on mine everyday to keep it tamed."
"You call that tame? It's a bloody jungle! And I don't use gel, haven't you noticed? Honestly, I thought you were observant. Sure you don't need glasses? I'm sure a pair like Rita Skeeter's would do wonders for you, they're so ugly they might make you look halfway decent."
That hurt. I admit that I've been teased about my looks before. But after I got rid of my huge front teeth and I'd calmed my hair for one night at the Yule Ball most of the hurtful comments had faded away. I know I'm not like Lavender, but it's not like I'm Umbridge.
"Do you always try to be so hurtful?" I asked softly, refusing to look at him. "Is that what makes you feel powerful and superior? I'm glad my misery has caused you joy, Malfoy, I truly am. It shows just what a twisted person you are. Keep the bloody book. It's not like I need it to be better than you anyways."
I turned to leave, tears pricking at my eyes. Normally I wouldn't have been fazed this much but seeing as it was the first real confrontation I'd had with Malfoy all year it cut rather deep. I was nearly out the door when his voice stopped me.
"Granger… wait." Pausing, I didn't leave but nor did I turn around. I wasn't going to let him see the tears trickling down my cheeks.
"What?" I asked, horrified to hear my voice was choked. "Forgot to say something else? Best to get it all off your chest now, Malfoy. I wouldn't want to ruin your day any."
"Look… I'm…" he paused and my breath caught. Was he going to apologize? Did Malfoys apologize? Finally he said, "You can use it if you want. I don't need it."
"No… go ahead," I said, disbelief coloring my voice. "You got here first, you can read it."
"You'll need it more if you're going to keep up with me."
"I'm sure I'll be fine without you. You could use the additional help though."
"I really insist you read it. Ladies first."
"Then you really must mean yourself."
We caught each others eye, and I burst into laughter while he cracked a small smile. "How did we get from insulting each other to arguing to let the other read the book first?" I asked, mirth bubbling through my lips.
"Stranger things have happened," he said with a shrug.
As I stood there, still laughing softly, I realized, finally realized, that Draco Malfoy was certainly changed. And it was for the better. One of us should have been hexed by now or have stormed out already and yet here we were laughing.
"Well, you're still welcome to read it," I said. "I may as well let you catch up to where I was."
"Fine then," he said, sitting down and pulling the book to him. "Have it your way."
And for the first time the silence of the two of us alone in the classroom was comfortable…like two friends who were just busy doing different activities. Not that I considered him a friend. Not quite an enemy anymore either though. I'd have to tell Harry and Ron. Otherwise something was bound to arise in the form of trouble.
At nearly eight I stood up to leave for my first class, Charms, and was surprised when Malfoy also stood and set the book back on the shelf. It then occurred to me that neither of us had Potions today so of course neither of us would be staying here.
Without even meaning to I asked, "So, what class do you have now?" I don't know how or why I asked. It just came out, like I was trying to make conversation.
"Herbology," he said, his expression as confused as I felt. "You?" he asked.
"Charms," I said.
We walked up the stairway in silence after that, Malfoy a few feet behind me. When we hit the top I turned to him and again, completely beyond my reasoning, said, "See you later."
"Bye," he replied, turning in the opposite direction and walking away. As it was, I was nearly late for Charms because of just staring after him for a good minute in complete and utter puzzlement.
"For getting up so early you'd think you would be on time for class," Ron said as I slid breathlessly into my seat as the bell rang. "What happened?"
"I'll tell you later," I said, pulling my book out of my bag. "It's really important and I don't want to rush it." Both Harry and Ron looked perplexed but let it go for the moment. After class though they nearly dragged me away to the library, the last place I ever had to be dragged to, so we could talk in a quiet corner.
"What is it?" Harry asked, face worried. "Did something happen?"
"Sort of," I said slowly. "Promise me you won't overreact until I explain everything?" They both gave me a nod. "It's Malfoy."
"I knew it!" Ron shouted, slamming his fist into his palm. "What happened, Mione? We'll go kick his ass!"
"Shh," I said, seeing Madam Pince glaring at us from across the library. "It's nothing like that. Sit down, Ron. You're going to cause a scene." Once he was quiet but looking just as bloodthirsty I continued. "Haven't either of you noticed how he's been acting this year? He's barely been causing any trouble and he hasn't even picked a fight with us yet."
"It's probably because Lucius was thrown in prison," Harry said. "Without him to get Malfoy out of trouble he can't act like he did last year."
"That's not it," I said, shaking my head. "Yesterday, when I went down to read those books Professor Snape promised me I overheard him and Malfoy talking. Professor Snape was telling Malfoy that no matter what he was supposed to stay at Hogwarts and not leave since," I dropped my voice, "Voldemort was on to them. Malfoy kept saying how he wouldn't let Professor Snape sacrifice himself, as it was his fault it had all happened. Don't you get it? Malfoy is a traitor for Voldemort too!"
"He's a Death Eater?" Ron asked. "Wicked, we can get him arrested!"
I swatted his hand across the table. "Aren't you listening? They're both in trouble! Malfoy obviously had a change of heart down the line and now Voldemort is on to both him and Professor Snape. Professor Snape did say they had a few weeks before anything should happen so shouldn't we try to figure out what's going on?"
"If something were terribly wrong Snape could just go talk to Dumbledore," Harry said. "And if something were going to happen to Malfoy and Snape didn't want it he could probably stop it. You said he told Malfoy he had to stay at Hogwarts so…"
"It's not just that," I huffed. "I know we all just see Malfoy as a bully but he is another person! Just like us. And he's probably scared…if one of us somehow got mixed up in this wouldn't you want a shoulder to lean on?"
"I get the strangest feeling Malfoy doesn't want any help from us," Ron scoffed. "Come on, Mione. He'd never admit he's scared."
"Harry, you have to see my reasoning on this," I said, rounding on my slightly more sensible best friend. "We should be there in case he needs help."
"I think until you have more proof, Mione, there really isn't anything you can do. Unless Malfoy comes and tells you all his secrets I don't think we should interfere. Dumbledore probably knows all about it and if Malfoy needs any assistance I'm sure he'd go to him or Snape."
I shook my head, exasperated. I knew there was nothing we could do at the moment. But weren't they at all curious of how this came about? Why did Malfoy switch sides? How did he get mixed up in the first place? What event in a few weeks?
"Fine," I snapped, rising to my feet. "I'll get you proof and then maybe you'll believe me."
Storming away I felt kind of ashamed for my behavior. I couldn't expect them to understand this when even I didn't. I wasn't even sure of why I cared this much. It's not like Malfoy and I were friends or anything. I'd had one decent conversation with him in my entire life and even that had started as an argument.
Was it because he was a puzzle, a mystery I could solve? Did I enjoy the challenge of trying to figure out Draco Malfoy? Was it even my business? It never used to be. But I made it my own.
The next day I went down to the Potions Classroom again and Malfoy was there waiting. The book, however, was placed on my bench.
"I figured you could read it today," he said, a different book in hand.
"What page did you get up to?" I asked, flipping it open to where I had left off; thirty-five. Normally I'd be farther but I got lost in thought writing out my list the day I had the book.
"Forty-six," he said. "Why?"
My plan was in order to figure out what was going on I'd need him to open up. And he wasn't going to do that just as we are now. If I could just make it so things were more comfortable between us… The idea of befriending him excited and scared me at the same time. After all the years of being tormented by him it was hard to just say 'let's be friends' and yet at the same time he was so different it made me want to accept him. So for now I'd start with just being friendly with nothing too overboard and see how it went from there.
"If you wait for a little bit, I can catch up to you and then we could read it together, if you want."
"I'm ahead of you?" he asked, smirking. "I feel so honored to be able to read faster than you, Granger. Or should I say Hogwarts' Bookworm?"
"I was busy doing other things," I said, "so I didn't read as fast. Don't think that you are or you'll make your already inflated head so big it won't fit out the door."
I enjoyed this… this playful teasing. It wasn't hurtful or intimidating… it would be something I'd enjoy doing with Harry and Ron if they didn't take everything so seriously and if they would be able to fire back a retort quick enough without mulling over the previous statement. Something Malfoy seemed to do rather well.
"Keep talking like that Granger and you'll be able to eat the school. But, sure. Only if you can keep up to my pace though. And you have to sit on this bench. I'm not sitting anywhere Potter does."
I rolled my eyes but accepted the terms. I read through the pages quickly and almost passed where he had left off, enthralled as I was. He seemed to have forgotten our agreement as well for when I sat down next to him, a strange feeling in itself, he gave a little jump and nearly dropped the book he'd been reading. "We have about half an hour left," I said. "When you finish both pages just tap the book with your finger, or I will, and whoever finishes last will turn the page. Deal?"
"You're quite bossy," he said, shaking his head. Taking that as a yes I went back to reading and was pleased to find I tapped the tome first. So I was faster. But as we continued on I noticed we switched of who read faster than the other.
The entire time though I made sure to keep my legs tucked firmly under my chair and not to remove my arm nearest to him from the table in fear I might bump him. Sitting next to Malfoy was more than enough for a first encounter and I wasn't willing to see if he still was worried about a muggleborn possibly infecting his pureblood space.
After we'd both finished page sixty-three, the end of the chapter, I closed the book even though there were a few minutes left. "I doubt you want to be seen sitting next to me." When he didn't comment with a snide remark I turned to look at him, surprised to see his face pensive. "Malfoy?"
"Nothing," he said quickly. "You'd better get back to your seat."
I smiled and moved back just as a few students trickled in. Did the fact that he didn't particularly care if I was sitting next to him make me that happy?
The next day was much the same except that after we read we walked up the stairs together for our different second classes. "See you tomorrow," I said as we parted and he echoed my words softly. Walking towards the greenhouses I suddenly found myself with hands covering my mouth and a pair of arms dragging me backwards.
Trying to scream I dug my feet into the ground and reached for my wand in my robe pocket. "Relax, Mione. It's just us," came a very familiar voice.
"What are you doing?" I shrieked, whirling on Harry and Ron, my temper blazing. "I thought I was being attacked!"
"What were you doing, being so chummy with Malfoy?" Ron demanded, his face a dark red.
"W-what? What do you mean?"
"We saw you two walking up from the dungeons together," Ron accused. "And then you said 'see you tomorrow' when we don't have any classes with the Slytherins tomorrow! And there's the fact you spoke to him and it wasn't yelling. What in the bloody hell is going on?"
"Calm down," I snapped. "For one, is it wrong to be nice to a fellow classmate? We've been reading a book in Potions together since Professor Snape only has one copy. Is that a crime?"
Ron sputtered and attempted to piece a sentence together while Harry seemed to catch on quicker. "Is this part of your plan to figure out what he's hiding?"
"Sort of," I admitted. "I figured that not being openly hostile would help me to get answers so I opted for friendly. And I know what he's been like in the past," I said, holding up a hand to stop Ron from interrupting, "but he's different right now."
"You're alone in the dungeons!" Ron nearly shouted. "He could kill you right there and no one would hear you! Is Snape even around?"
I had to admit that Snape hadn't been there… I actually don't know where he's been. "But I don't think Malfoy would harm me," I said. "And if he tried I always have my wand on me. It's fine."
"It is not fine! It's-"
"Ron!" I said sharply. "It's okay."
"If Hermione says it's okay then it's fine," Harry said. "She can take care of herself. But… if you ever feel in danger you leave right away, got it?"
I smiled at Harry, thankful one of my friends understood. "I know. Thanks, Harry."
The rest of the week passed in normal routine after that. Malfoy and I finished the first book and started on the second on Friday. Snape made a surprise appearance and remarked that if we wanted to we could come next week as well. But the third week the dungeon would be unavailable as we'd be brewing the potions and the classroom times might be changed around to accommodate the potion.
Saturday dawned with the weather absolutely perfect. It was nearing seventy and a Quidditch Match of Gryffindor vs. Ravenclaw had been scheduled for the afternoon so all of Gryffindor was in high spirits for the morning.
At about two I left the Tower to head for the stands when I saw Malfoy. He was walking as well towards the stands with a slightly pained look on his face and surprisingly no bodyguards. As I watched him, he veered away from the stadium at last second and headed for the Forbidden Forest. Mystified, I followed.
As soon as he thought he was out of sight of everyone his right hand moved automatically to his left shoulder and he let out a low hiss and sank to the ground. I hid myself behind a large bush and wished I had Harry's invisibility cloak.
I could feel myself wince in sympathy as his Dark Mark burned. Or that was what I thought was happening. It appeared I was correct though when he shrugged off his cloak, which was odd to be wearing in the current weather, and his arm was shown for he was only wearing a tee shirt. The black skull seemed to leer at me before his hand went back over it and he whimpered softly.
Snape appeared a moment later, his face too bearing pain although it was more hidden from years of the torment. "Draco?" he said softly, kneeling down next to him. "You're not coming with me. Stay here."
"What?" Malfoy asked. "I'm coming with you!"
"This is unexpected and that never leads to anything good," Snape said. "I didn't have a chance to tell Dumbledore so as soon as I leave go to him and say I was called away. For what, even I have no idea. I'll tell the bastard that you were at the Quidditch game and there was no way you could leave under the eye of Dumbledore. Do not follow me. I mean it, Draco."
"But what if you… you…"
Snape then did the most shocking thing. He pulled Malfoy into a hug, the younger Slytherin letting out a soft sob. "If I don't come back… I need you to stay strong. When the time for battle comes I need you to reveal yourself to Potter and let him know of your true loyalties. Stay by Dumbledore and keep safe. The only time, and I mean it, the only time you are allowed to put yourself in any way of harm is if you're fighting to protect someone that you care about. Otherwise, stay out of the battle. I don't know how the Death Eaters will respond to your presence and it most likely won't be good."
"Uncle Sev, you can't," he whispered, clinging desperately to Snape's cloak. "Don't leave…please…"
Snape dislodged Malfoy's hands… no… Draco's hands. Malfoy is a name for a person with no heart and with no feelings. This person before me… this wasn't a Malfoy. He wasn't as cold as ice or unfeeling as stone. He was a person.
"Take care," he whispered, before ducking into the Forbidden Forest and heading towards Hogsmeade so he could apparate to wherever Voldemort was summoning him.
Draco stayed hunched over, clutching his arm and crying softly. There was no one to wipe away his tears. No one to comfort him. No one to tell him it would be all right. I wonder if there ever was anyone like that in his life.
I was torn. Did I go to Draco or should I stay out of it? He might be mad that I'd followed him, but on the other hand he might need someone right now. Or he'd be embarrassed that I found him crying and he'd react harshly.
About a minute later the pain seemed to cease for him as he stood up and pulled his robe back on to hide the hideous tattoo. And then he was spurred into action and racing for the Quidditch Stadium to seek out Dumbledore. I followed after giving him a head start and paused at the entrance of the field. Draco was already making his way to the top box where Dumbledore and the scorekeepers sat. The headmaster seemed to sense that Draco was coming for he looked down, saw him and then excused himself and made his way down.
I mingled in with the other Gryffindors and watched as the two of them made their way back to the castle, although Draco walked quite a few feet in front of Dumbledore so it appeared they were both just heading up on their own and not together. I knew I couldn't tail them; Dumbledore would easily spot me.
I spent the remainder of the Quidditch game clutching my wand, anxious for Harry and Ron to hurry and land so I could tell them what I had just witnessed.
Gryffindor won; one hundred-and-ninety to sixty. So there was of course a huge celebration at the end, but before Harry and Ron could be caught up in the festivities I grabbed them both as they exited the locker room.
"We won!" Ron exclaimed, clearly not noticing how worried I was. "Did you see that save of mine at the end? It was awesome! And Harry, your dive after the snitch! That was wicked!"
Harry, however, was able to pick up on my mood and simply asked, "What's wrong?" Ron's cheering died down as he glanced at the somber looks Harry and I both shared.
I looked over my shoulders, and seeing no one, explained what I'd seen. "Now don't try and tell me that that isn't proof enough," I said. "Professor Snape might be dead! There could be an invasion at any minute!"
"Calm down," Harry said gently, placing a hand on my shoulder. "You said Malfoy went to see Dumbledore, right? I'm sure he's taking care of it. There's nothing we can do right now, anyways. Just make sure we're on guard, okay?"
I sniffled and nodded. "I'm scared, Harry. Draco might do something rash and I don't want him to get hurt."
Ron's eyebrows went into his hair. "Draco? What happened to Malfoy?"
"Malfoy is a bad name," I said, my reasons confusing even myself. "Draco just sounds better."
The rest of the afternoon passed with nothing out of the ordinary occurring. When we all sat down to dinner in the Great Hall I was just as tense though. What better time would it be for a Death Eater attack when everyone was sitting at tables?
Draco looked miserable over at the Slytherin table, his silvery eyes haunted and vacant. Even from across the room I could see that his skin seemed to be several shades paler and his hands were white knuckled as he gripped his wand. Blaise Zabini was sitting next to him and after several minutes of talking to an unresponsive Draco he turned his attention back to his food.
I let my eyes wander up to the Head Table, concern mounting as Snape's seat was empty. He still hadn't returned? It had been nearly four hours. Dumbledore looked unusually grave and he too kept throwing sidelong glances from Draco to the doors of the Great Hall, closed for what seemed like the first time in ages.
As I was serving myself a small scoop of broccoli from the center platter an owl made its way into the Great Hall from one of the upper windows and headed for Dumbledore. I saw Draco's eyes widen as though he recognized the owl and he hastily left the table.
Dumbledore too seemed to identify the owl and after he quickly scanned the note that had been attached he leaned over and whispered something to McGonagall, her whole face sagging in relief before also leaving.
I turned to tell Ron and Harry but it appeared they also had seen the exchange and we all quietly slipped off the benches and out of the hall, wands drawn. "Follow them," Harry said softly, green eyes nearly glowing. "That was Snape's owl." Seeing my glance he said, "I've seen him with it a few times at the Owlry."
I saw Draco's shadow on the wall up ahead and took off in that direction, removing my shoes so I wouldn't make as much noise on the stone. Behind me, Ron and Harry did the same. It occurred to us a minute later that Draco was heading for Dumbledore's office.
"We can't follow him up there," I whispered, "we'll be spotted."
"Not if you're prepared," Harry said softly, digging into his bag and pulling out his Invisibility Cloak. "After you told us I went up to the Tower and got it. If there is going to be an attack I wanted to have it."
We all slipped underneath it, slightly more awkward than recent years given our growth and we headed for Dumbledore's office, just in time to hear Draco say the password, 'Honeydukes' fudge' before entering the spiral staircase. Waiting a moment we then followed.
What greeted our eyes as we entered the office made my mouth drop. Draco was hugging Snape, sobs wracking his shoulders as Snape had his arms gently around him. He was, however, obviously in a great deal of pain. His robes were slashed and blood flowed freely down his arms and face, dripping to the carpet below. His Dark Mark had been uncovered and was stained red with a deep wound above it while shudders shook his body, most likely effects of the Crutacius Curse.
I turned to look at Harry and Ron, their faces mirroring my own. We moved aside into the room, just in time as Dumbledore came up behind us and walked in.
With guiding hands he pulled Draco away and shoved him gently into a waiting armchair while he moved Snape to another one and placed a cup of tea in his hands, a bitter smell wafting from it. "Drink up," he said as he went to a far cabinet and pulled out a roll of bandages.
Snape did so, making a face at the tea although when the shudders stopped he appeared more grateful for it. "Thanks," he said, his voice unnaturally hoarse. He took the bandages and proceeded to wrap them around his head and arms, after pulling off what was left of his robe.
"What happened?" Dumbledore asked, handing a cup of tea to Draco as well.
"I think Lucius tipped them off," Snape said vehemently. "When I arrived he was waiting and asked where Draco was. I informed him he was at the Quidditch match and couldn't escape unseen. Lucius had somehow employed a spy at Hogwarts because he told me that he knew Draco hadn't reached the stands yet."
I looked at Harry and Ron in horror. There was someone at the school trying to help Voldemort? And this person was spying on Draco?
"Then Voldemort," he spat the name in disgust, "asked me why I was lying and for how long. I assured him that I was not lying; that I had honestly thought Draco was at the match. He then proceeded to tell me of all of the meetings I had held with Draco, the visits to you, my comings and goings from Hogwarts that weren't related to school or his business- all that he had gathered via his spies. He declared me a traitor and I was going to be killed out right, but you know how Bellatrix and Lucius are.
"I managed to get the portkey out that you gave me for emergences, Albus, and transported to the States where I've been waiting for at least an hour before I came back to Hogsmeade and then here where I sent Dyktig to you from the Owlry.
"Draco, you are not allowed to leave the castle grounds at all. You too have been branded as a traitor and if they catch sight of you you will be killed. But there is the matter of what student could possibly be following and tailing both of us. I'd have noticed someone sneaking around."
"This does pose a problem," Dumbledore sighed heavily. "From your reports before we know that Voldemort and his supporters plan on attacking Hogwarts in either late April or early May but without any inside information we now have nothing. It would be best to send the students home so they aren't caught in the conflict."
Snape agreed but Draco rose up in protest. "I'm not leaving! I'll stay here and fight. It's not like I have anywhere to go anyway," he said softly.
"If you wish to fight Draco, you may," Dumbledore said. "That will go for all sixth and seventh year students if they so choose to remain. That goes for you three as well," he said, turning to the corner where we were hiding. "You can come out now."
The three of us exchanged glances, both sheepish and full of shock that we had been found. Harry pulled the cloak off and we were revealed to the two people not aware of our presence.
"How did you know?" I asked, my face heating up as I stared at the floor.
"When I saw Draco leave and then the three of you I had to assume you would follow him," Dumbledore said. "Why you would follow in the first place though is quite beyond me."
Draco was staring at all of us with something akin to anger mixed with puzzlement on his face.
"I…" I said softly. "When I first came down to read a book Professor Snape offered me I heard him and Draco talking." Draco's eyes widened as I used his first name. He obviously didn't hear much of it, it seemed. "I…I know I shouldn't have listened, but… And then I saw Draco walking towards the forest today and I followed. I'm sorry…"
"Draco, Severus, do you have anything you'd like to say?"
Snape, contrary to what I thought was about to be a tongue-lashing said, "Did you see anyone at either time? Someone who could be a spy?"
I bit my lip and shook my head. "There was no one else at the forest today except me, unless they were under an Invisibility Cloak. And when I was at the classroom there was no one there except for me and a little rat," I said, trailing off as my face became pale.
As soon as I said it everyone else seemed to realize it at the same time. "Pettigrew," Snape hissed, eyes darkening.
Harry spoke tentatively. "If you promise not to confiscate it, I'll go get my map and see if he's in the school."
Dumbledore nodded. "Please, Harry. Take Ron with you. I don't want anyone in the halls by themselves anymore."
Once they were gone I asked, "Sir? Should I go get Madam Pomfrey?"
Snape answered for Dumbledore. "I'm fine, Miss Granger. It looks worse than it is." I didn't believe him in the slightest, but it wasn't my place to question him.
"You followed me?" Draco asked softly, staring right at me. "Why?"
"I… was concerned," I said. "After I overhead you and Professor Snape I put together a list comparing you from this year to previous and I realized there were a lot of differences. And then after you sort of apologized to me over the book incident I realized something was really off so I started watching you more. And then when you didn't go to the Quidditch game I just had to follow to see what was going on.
"There is something I don't get though," I said, wringing my hands. "You said before that if it wasn't for you neither you nor Professor Snape would be in this predicament. How? Didn't your father-"
"Don't mention him to me," Draco said harshly. "He's no father of mine." I was stunned. I had thought Draco worshiped his father; at least that's what his actions had shown. It was the opposite? Softer, he said, "I saw Professor Snape leave one day and I was suspicious since Lucius had told me to watch him. So I followed and ended up at a Death Eater meeting. It was either be initiated or have both myself and him be killed since I came without an invitation. I was excited at first until I saw how angry my uncle was with me and I found out after a while that he was a spy for Dumbledore. I'd been a Death Eater by then for about a month and I was already disgusted with what they did so I decided to switch sides too. Lucius, I think, got suspicious when I started talking with Professor Snape more than him and he must have alerted V…Voldemort. And then when I started being nosy and going through the manor for old records it was a big clue. I'm surprised Pettigrew didn't just kill us while he had the chance," he said bitterly. "It would have saved a lot of trouble."
"Don't say that," I admonished. "Even if you don't think so, your life is precious. You only get one so you better not waste it."
The doors burst open and Harry and Ron tumbled in, map in hand. "He's here!" Harry gasped, pointing to a spot where the dungeons were located. "He's down there!"
"Let me at him," Draco snarled, rising out of the chair, his expression livid.
"Patience, Draco," Dumbledore said, holding a hand up. "I will go capture him. Then we'll figure out what to do."
"He's moving, Professor!" Harry said, nose touching the parchment. "He's… outside? How did he get outside? He's heading for the forest… he's…. gone," Harry said a moment later, shoulders slumping.
"He must be reporting back to Voldemort," Snape said, face dark. "I didn't go down to the dungeons though so he shouldn't know I'm here. Let's try to keep it that way."
"You won't be able to teach for a while, Severus," Dumbledore said. "If there are loyal followers of his here then it would be very problematic. Draco, you can't go back to normal classes either for the same reasons. Severus, I want you to go to Order headquarters and stay there. Draco, I'm going to have you remain here."
"Why?" Snape asked. "I want him coming with me, Albus. It's too dangerous to keep him here."
"It's the only place he can stay," Dumbledore said. "Remember how he was fitted with a tracking charm? If he were to go to the Order it would be inviting Voldemort nearly to our doorstep. He'll have to stay here."
"Tracking charm?" I asked, highly curious.
"Voldemort cast it on Draco earlier in the year," Dumbledore said. "It will show a general area in which he is located at any given time if Voldemort chooses to activate it. It's always put on the newest recruits, as I'm told, so Voldemort can keep an eye on them so they can't desert." To Draco he said, "I'm going to have you move into the Room of Requirement for the time being. It's probably the safest place in the building. Someone will have to accompany you though; I'm not leaving you on your own."
"I'll go," I heard myself volunteer. Harry and Ron's chorus of 'Mione!' fell on deaf ears as I gave a shaky smile to Draco. I felt that if anyone would stay I would since I was caught up on everything and if all else failed we could read Potions books together.
"That's settled then," Dumbledore said cheerfully. "Miss Granger, make sure to get your things as soon as you can and you'll stay there tonight. Mr. Malfoy, I'll bring some of your things up later and bring you to the room now. Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley, I trust you not to say anything to anyone?"
"What do we do if people ask about Mione's absence on Monday?" Harry asked.
"I'm sure no one will take much notice," Dumbledore said sadly. "I'll be announcing at breakfast on Monday for all the students to evacuate and go home unless they wish to stay and fight. Everyone will be leaving. It will be the end of this Hogwarts year."
I went back to the Tower with Harry and Ron, all of us quiet and contemplative. I put together a satchel of clothes, grabbed my favorite books and found Crookshanks. After giving them both huge hugs I headed for the Room of Requirement to find Dumbledore outside it.
"Ah, there you are Miss Granger. I thank you for offering to stay with Draco. I doubt he'll say it, but he is also grateful it is you."
"Really?" I asked. "Why?"
"He didn't really say, but I sense that he feels comfortable around you. Mayhap it has something to do with your book reading sessions in the morning?" I blushed and gave a shrug. "Well, enough talking. In you go," he said, yanking on the handle of a door that had appeared.
I entered the room and watched as the doorway sealed itself up. The room had outdone itself again. On each side of the wall there was a bed, one red and one green. A huge crackling fireplace was on the far wall with a huge bookcase stuffed full of volumes next to it. A patterned green couch sat in front of the fireplace with a large rug spread out before it. A table rested in the corner with identical chairs and a bathroom was situated through a door on the right.
Draco was curled up in his bed, wearing a pair of flannel pajama pants and a black tee shirt, his head buried in the pillow while his right arm clenched his left shoulder.
"Are you okay?" I asked, dropping my bag and setting Crookshanks down on the floor. As I neared closer to him I saw that the skull beneath his fingers was nearly glowing black and I realized he was being summoned.
"Fine," he rasped, although he certainly didn't look it.
"Does ice help?" I asked, getting ready to conjure a pack.
"Nothing helps," he whispered, blood now trickling slowly down his arm from his self-inflicted cuts. "Not until he stops summoning."
I sat down on the bed next to him and hesitantly placed my hand on his right shoulder; afraid he'd shrug it off and mutter something about Mudblood filth. But he did no such thing. I began to rub small circles onto his back; something my mum had always done when I felt sick.
A few minutes later his body seemed to slacken and he raised his head out of the pillow. "Thanks," he said softly, refusing to catch my eye.
"Don't mention it," I said. "Just a friend helping a friend." I'd never seen him look so shocked before. "We are friends, right?" I asked, giving what I hoped was a comforting smile while my heart was doing double time.
"Y-yeah," he said and I laughed. Draco Malfoy stuttering? "Hey," he said, giving me a playful shove. "Don't laugh. You just surprised me, that's all."
When I didn't stop laughing he stared and then a smile slowly began to tug at his lips before he too joined me in my chortling. I had never heard his laugh before, unless you counted the scornful kind. I liked this… it was very bright and reminded me of silver bells.
After we both regained control of ourselves we went into the one thing we were comfortable with, reading. He'd had Dumbledore bring up our book and we went back to reading it just as we always had before, save one difference. Since we were both sitting on a bed it was a little harder to get a firm seat so I was leaning into him with his arm sort of wrapped around my back to keep me on the bed. It wasn't strange though…it was more of something I'd been missing and hadn't been aware.
For the next day and that night we read, I told him all about different muggle items since he was fascinated after I described a roller coaster, played chess (he tried to teach me some strategies but it was just something I couldn't wrap my head around), he teased Crookshanks, shared stories about ourselves (mostly me doing the talking there), and enjoyed each others company.
It was entirely different from spending time with Harry and Ron. Draco always had a remark or retort for something I'd say and he was much more fun to debate with, especially when there were no insults added in. It was… nice.
So when Dumbledore came in late on Monday and said we could come out and go down to the Great Hall it was almost disappointing. Draco and I went together, he looking nervous and unsure of what exactly Dumbledore had planned. When we got there most of the sixth and seventh years remained, houses mixed within each other. Dumbledore stood at the front of the room, McGonagall by his side.
"As you have been told," he said, voice calm, "Voldemort will be attacking here soon. He wishes to take over Hogwarts to show how supreme his power is. Again, I am giving you the chance to leave if you don't wish to fight. I am not expecting you to risk your lives at such an early age and no one will hold it against you if you choose to go."
No one moved from his or her spots and I scanned the faces of who was left. Harry and Ron were, sitting with Neville, Seamus, and Dean. Zabini and Parkinson were both still present. Justin was in the audience with Hannah Abbot and Susan Bones while countless others dotted the room.
"We will be preparing for battle from here on out," he said. "The Order of the Phoenix, a group created to fight Voldemort, as well as many aurors from the ministry will be coming to assist us in the battle. I will be blunt. Not all of us will live. But remember as you fight to give it all you have and let them be seen that light will always triumph over dark!"
The next few days passed in a blur. Draco ended up teaching many of us several advanced spells to help aid as well as alerting us of attacks they may be using and the effects. At first he was embarrassed to be in front of everyone and teaching what he had learned from the wrong hands, but gradually he realized it was necessary and went forth with a bravery that only Gryffindors were known to posses.
After preparations every day, I would seek him out and we would spend time together, never leaving the castle but enjoying the sunset from the Astronomy tower. We also enjoyed our first kiss. It had been unexpected. We'd both been sitting on the ledge, his hand gently holding mine and sending tingles though my body.
I don't know how it happened, but I turned to look at him and he at me and our eyes met. Brown and silver. And in that instant we both realized what we were missing. What we had been missing for many, many years. Our lips had met hesitantly, and after a moment his hand came up to caress my cheek and the hesitation turned to a fiery passion.
No words were needed. We could feel what each other thought and that was all that was necessary.
I was sound asleep, curled up on the floor of the Great Hall in my sleeping bag where we were all required to sleep when a jolt seemed to shake the entire castle. I was wide-awake in an instant just as Professor Sprout and Hagrid rounded the corner- they were the sentries for the front of the castle.
"They're here!" Hagrid bellowed, pink umbrella in hand.
We all took action. Sleeping bags were shoved away, wands were grabbed and shoes were slipped on (we all slept in our clothes). Draco caught my hand as I moved to join rank with Harry and Ron. "Be careful," he whispered.
"You too," I said, giving him a quick kiss on the cheek. "Stay safe."
Our forms were orderly with the teachers in the front, and the students in rows behind them with Professor Flitwick on the side to direct groups out. Harry was right behind Dumbledore, as was Draco.
Hagrid pushed the doors open and we gazed out as a sea of black met our eyes. And it began.
My wave was first out and I rushed headlong into battle, Ron at my side. We went back to back for the most part so a cheap shot wouldn't kill us. Aurors started popping into the midst of the skirmish as the anti-apparting wards were taken down. I saw Snape appear with the Order, his expression grim and eyes full of hate.
Draco and Harry were hanging back until Harry would get a shot at Voldemort while Draco was following true to Snape's words and not getting himself involved. But as I watched, several spells came their way and he had no chance but to dive off the steps and into the battle to avoid them.
Ron and I, despite our best efforts, got separated, as when I whirled around he was no longer behind me. I could feel myself beginning to panic and I did my best to squash down the feeling to run as I shot off a binding spell at a Death Eater rapidly approaching.
I caught a glimpse of Draco as I turned in another direction, his hair shining like a beacon. I moved towards him and he towards me as he caught my eye. "Are you all right?" he asked, nearly yelling to be heard over the noise.
"Fine," I said, although I was quaking. "You'd better get back to Dumbledore."
"I don't think so," drawled a voice I was quite familiar with. Both Draco and I turned to see Lucius Malfoy staring at the two of us. "So, here you are Draco. I've been looking for you. The Dark Lord asked me to eliminate you from our group and I only too happily volunteered."
"You just try," Draco hissed, stepping in front of me with his wand raised. "You bastard." Draco was the first to shoot off a spell and Lucius dodged, just barely escaping. But instead of firing his own wand at his son, he turned to me, a maniacal glint in his eyes.
"Poeado letum," he hissed, bright red light heading for me. My eyes widened in horror as I remembered this was one of the curses Draco had taught us about. It was another killing curse, but unlike the Avada, it didn't kill instantly. It imploded in your chest and you had a few painful moments before you would die.
I tried to dodge but knew it was no good- it was coming too fast. Just as it was about to impact a dark blur raced in front of me and the spell hit. Lucius' eyes shone of triumph as Draco crumpled at my feet, his face a mask of pain. With a smirk, Lucius melted back into the battle and I fell to my knees next to Draco, the sound of the battle fading until it was only us.
"N-No," I whispered, grabbing one of his hands. "D-Draco… y-you… can't…"
He tried to smile up at me, blood dribbling down his chin and spreading out underneath his robes. "Are you…okay?" he gasped, tears trickling out of his eyes.
"Draco!" I wailed, tears of my own raining down on his face. "Don't die!"
"D-don't…cry," he whispered, reaching up with his hand to wipe away my tears. "It's…it's okay…"
"No it's not! Draco, please!"
"I…I wanted to… to protect you… I…love you, H-Hermione," he said, grabbing my hand in his own. "A-and I won't l-let you die in f-front of m-me."
I could only cry harder, whispering, "I love you too," in between my sobs.
"This isn't… it isn't good bye," he said, closing his brilliant silver eyes. "We'll s-see each other…again."
"I love you," I whispered, pressing my head against his chest. "Please Draco… don't leave me."
A moment later his hand slackened in mine and the hitching of his chest stopped moving all together. I cried, my tears splashing down like a waterfall onto him.
Around me the triumphant cry of my side sounded as Harry defeated Voldemort. It didn't matter though. Draco was dead. He was gone. He would never smile again, never laugh. Never hold my hand or kiss me. Never make a witty comeback, never read another book with me. Never hold me. Never again.
I placed a kiss on his lips, already cold and stared at his face, a small smile showing despite the pain he had been in. "We'll see each other again," I promised, sobbing and clutching his hand. "We'll always be together. I'll be with you and you'll be with me. I'll find you, Draco. I'll never leave you. I promise"
This is not our farewell.