Disclaimers and warnings in chapter one.

Notes: A million, million thanks to Kimagure for the beta, she absolutely rocks. And hey, it's almost done.

**

The most absurd and the most rash hopes have sometimes been the cause of extraordinary success. - Marquis de Vauvenargues

**

The kitchen table was strewn with photographs of all different sizes when Ron sat down across from Draco, rubbing one of his eyes sleepily. Draco and Colin were pouring over the books that Hermione had loaned them, and each was taking notes as they read.

"Morning," Draco said, a soft smile on his thin lips. "Sleep well?"

Rom simply nodded and pulled a book over. He opened it up and stumbled his way through a random paragraph, registering almost none of the words before shutting the heavy volume with a sigh. "D'you have any coffee, Malfoy?"

"Yes." Draco pointed to a corner, and Ron could see a coffee pot under a row of cabinets. "Cups are above it; it might be a little cold though. Help yourself."

A few minutes later he returned to the table with his cup, already feeling a little more awake. "What've you guys got so far?" he asked curiously, looking at the photographs. Colin looked up at him with a sigh.

"A whole lot of nothing, that's what. I mean, really, who even knows what sort of things to look for?" He adopted a ferocious pout and then turned back to his book, perusing it very seriously.

"Much as I hate to agree with Creevey, he's right for the most part." Draco sighed and shoved a pile of photographs toward Ron. "We have maps of Greece, which I suppose makes sense, since we're supposing this has something to do with that myth. Beyond that..." Draco trailed off and motioned to the cluttered table.

Ron nodded and pulled a pile of books and pictures towards him. He hadn't ever been really good at this research stuff, but then again, he'd never thought that it would be terribly useful in the real world. ~Oh well,~ he thought. ~Better get used to it sometime.~

**

"Wait." Draco's voice broke through Ron's concentration an hour later, and he glared up at him. It was more out of habit than irritation, and he quickly shook the look away, waiting for Draco to continue with whatever epiphany had entered his mind. "Well! What if we're going about this wrong? I mean, they've got Neville, right? So that must mean they need a special plant of some kind, and plants are often used in potions...I think it'd be a good idea to narrow our search to potions or spells having to do with that.

All that seemed to make sense to Ron, and he said so as he pulled a new book over. He figured that it'd at least give him something new to think about.

Two and a half hours later, he wasn't convinced. He'd been looking through an encyclopedia of spells and potions, but had yet to find anything at all even remotely helpful. ~One more page, and then I'm giving this book to Colin.~ He decided just to skim this page, too; it looked just like all the rest of them had. As he ran his eyes down the paper, a parenthetical reference caught his attention. He read the entry above it, and his heart skipped a beat.

"Guys." Draco and Colin both looked up at him, looking rather relieved for the break. "Listen to this: 'Captus Esperus is a mythical potion, said to have been created by the demigod Strife. When ingested on a specific day, it makes a person an alternative receptacle for hope. It is said that, when mixed with several complicated enchantments, a
person with the Captus Esperus potion would be able to control hope after receiving it. No one has ever found or created a recipe for Captus Esperus.'" He paused, and then continued on his own. "So...technically, whoever has this potion thing will be a human version of Pandora's Box, and will be able to...take hope away? Or give certain people hope?" He looked up to see their reactions.

"Weasley..." Draco grinned. "I think you've found it!" Ron grinned back and Colin was bouncing in his chair. "I just wish that there were a way to be more certain."

They all sat thoughtfully for a while. Colin picked up a stack of photographs and started to flip through them slowly, while Draco and Ron just sat thinking. After a moment, Colin thunked a picture down in the center of the table, grinning triumphantly.

At first glance, it looked like nonsense, but when Ron looked more closely, he could see a mostly covered sheet of parchment, with the letters "perus" showing near the top, and what looked like the ends of potion ingredients disappearing behind the edge of a map.

The three of them just sat grinning together for a long time after that.

**

Later that afternoon, Draco pulled Ron aside. "Weasley, you need to talk to Creevey and get him back to the school. There's no way he's coming with us on this one, and you'd be the best one to tell him."

After Ron left to talk to Colin, Draco started to go through his sparse belongings, having no idea what sort of things they would need on this little outing. He decided to be on the safe side and started filling a large bag with weapons that he'd stolen from his father before going to the Ministry. Everything that he'd taken had been enchanted somehow,
but it was amazing what the Ministry was willing to do for a guy as soon as he'd sold his soul to them.

He decided, as he pulled two 9mm semi-automatics from his drawer, that he'd certainly been underestimating Muggles in the past. They might not have magical abilities, but they'd developed effective enough means of destroying each other that they deserved at least a little of his respect. He wondered briefly if Ron would need much practice and decided with a smirk that he'd proven himself quite able to use one the night before. With a grin he sat the guns aside and finished packing up the bag.

Draco was just setting the bag on the couch when Ron and a very glum looking Colin walked in. He tried his best to smile reassuringly at the young man. "Sorry, Creevey. It's not that we don't think you could handle yourself, you know." Colin seemed to perk up a bit at that. "We just don't want to worry Dumbledore or anything like that. Besides, we
may need a man on the inside of Hogwarts, if things get bad. You understand."

Colin grinned and threw his arms around Draco in a tight hug. "Thanks! Good luck with everything, and owl me posts, will you? I need to be kept up to speed if I'm to be of any use to you, you know! And make sure you take care of Neville, will you?"

Draco just blinked and patted Colin's back gingerly. "Right," he said." Now let go." He brushed off the front of his shirt as Colin backed away. "D'you want us to take you to a floo entrance?"

"Nope." Colin shook his head and slipped his camera around his neck. "I know where one is. But thanks!" He nearly bounded over to the door, and Draco felt Ron step up next to him. "Let me know as soon as something happens!" Without waiting for a response, Colin disappeared through the door.

"How can anyone have that much energy?" Draco asked, staring at the closed door. He glanced over at Ron and was rather surprised to see the redhead blush and look away quickly.

"I dunno..." Ron mumbled, and as he started to turn away, Draco grabbed his arm. The look on Ron's face was perfect, he thought. Confused and curious and just the slightest bit excited... The epitome of innocence. He grinned and against his better judgment, he leaned forward and pressed his lips against Ron's.

Ron's eyes went wide at the contact, and he gasped lightly but didn't pull away. Draco wondered briefly why that was and then decided he didn't give a shit. He turned and snaked his other arm around Ron's neck, pulling the slightly taller body closer, and was delighted when Ron suddenly started hungrily kissing him back.

Draco let go of Ron's arm and reached up to tangle his fingers through the soft, red hair. He made a small sound in the back of his throat when Ron wrapped his arms around his body, his hands resting on the small of his back.

They stood there, kissing, for what felt like an eternity to Draco, and no matter how many conclusions he attempted to reach, he couldn't find a single bad thing about it.