Draco looked at the girl in front of him and didn't know what to say. Pansy had crossed her arms over her chest and watched him with narrowed eyes.
"What's that supposed to mean?" he finally said, rolling his eyes like he'd have done when he was 16.
"I don't know what's going on here, but I'm not stupid. I feel as if you're a completely different person, and at the same time you're definitely Draco. I don't really know how to describe it, it's just… strange. I want to know the truth." she finished determined, her dark eyes set on his face.
Draco smirked and this simple gesture made Pansy frown.
"You think you can handle the truth?" he whispered and Pansy's eyes widened.
She opened her mouth to say something, but she didn't seem to know what.
"Let me tell you that you're better off not knowing. If you really love me that much, can't you just trust me?" he asked pleading.
Pansy sighed devoted, her eyes gleaming.
"As if I could not trust you." she murmured before taking his hand. "Let's go. It's now or never."
Draco was the one frowning now.
"Can't you just leave? Can't you just please forget about me and lead a happy and safe life?"
Pansy didn't let go of his hand.
"If Granger told you to leave, would you?"
Draco sighed and Pansy nodded.
"See? My love isn't less strong than yours. The only difference is that you don't love me back. I'm sorry Dray. I'm doing this more for my own sake than for yours. I can't just pretend not to love you and not to care about you. I'm sorry."
Draco sighed and they both went towards the huge wooden door.
"So let's go to hell together then." he whispered and got just a warm squeeze from her hand in response.
The huge door opened and they entered together. Draco didn't hear the murmurs and didn't pay attention to the expensive robes and decoration. The only thing he saw were the coal black eyes of Severus Snape.
Hermione was lying next to Draco in her room. They were just holding hands without talking. His simple presence in her bed made her heart beat faster, but this wasn't the way it was supposed to be. Not with her parents next door. So they were only lying there, enjoying the closeness.
The room was dark and Hermione couldn't stop thinking about all the things future Draco had told her. It was silent and peaceful and the imagination of death and sorrow just didn't fit. But she couldn't stop those thoughts.
"If there was a possibility to kill Voldemort, would you try?" she finally whispered and regretted it immediately.
Draco had tensed and stopped to fondle her hand.
"I don't know. The most powerful wizards already tried to kill him and didn't succeed. Why should someone like me be able to do it?"
"You mean, you wouldn't even try?"
"I'd think twice before playing the hero and die for nothing."
"Well, I guess that's the Slytherin part of you."
Draco chuckled to her surprise.
"That sounds kind of offending." he teased and Hermione rolled her eyes. He couldn't see that of course.
"Well, it's not very heroic, right? And people from Slytherin tend to be cowa…, well…, not that courageous." Hermione said blushing.
Draco laughed again to her relief.
"Only Gryffindors say that Slytherins are cowards. Try to see it from another point of view: isn't it just stupid to let yourself get killed just to be a hero? Wouldn't it be more heroic to fight the enemy in secret and to finish him off with his own weapons? Slytherins are just too clever to die for nothing. That's the difference."
Hermione snorted again, but had to smile.
"No wonder you and Harry don't get along." she said amused.
Draco was the one snorting now.
"Potter never understood that honour and gallantry have always been out of place in a war. What counts is the result, not the way you achieved it."
Hermione bit her lip, pondering about his words.
"You really think so?"
She could nearly feel his smirk.
"Yes, I used to."
"And you still do?" she asked curious.
"Honey, like I said, I won't play the hero. That's just not my style. If I'm going to bite the dust, then I'll do everything to let it not be in vain."
Hermione took a deep breath.
"You don't think Voldemort can be killed, right?"
Draco started fondling her hand again.
"I don't know if he has enough humanity in him to make him mortal."
"That's exactly the point…" Hermione whispered and Draco turned around to face her.
She could only make out his bright eyes and the strange gleam in them before she cursed herself for being that stupid. What the hell was she doing?
Draco looked into her amber eyes and noticed a sudden fear in them.
"This isn't hypothetical anymore, right?" he finally asked and could nearly hear Hermiones silent curse.
"I was just talking nonsense…" she said in a voice that sounded a bit too cheerful to be believable.
"I don't think you were." he said frowning.
And then a memory suddenly hit him offhand and Draco's frown got even deeper.
"You want to know what will happen when your plan works out?" she whispered seriously.
He looked at her interrogative.
"I will die."
Draco turned pale and frowned. He was searching for a sign that she was only joking, but he didn't find it. She was serious and he could see her honesty in her eyes and it made him shiver.
Hermione nodded, a little smile on her face.
"If you kill Dumbledore, you'll kill me, Draco."
If possible he turned even paler.
"Why should I care?" he asked husky.
"Ask yourself." she repeated his words from earlier.
Draco put his hand on her cheek and forced her to look at him. Hermiones eyes were widened in something similar to panic.
"All those things you knew back then. I always wondered where you got your information from. You knew about my plans concerning Dumbledore and you seemed to know what would happen if this plan worked out. Where the hell did you know that from?" he asked intensively, his grey eyes set on her amber ones.
Hermione shivered in his arms. A little diamond-like tear suddenly appeared in the corner of her eye.
"I can't tell." she eventually croaked, her eyes watery, her lips quivering.
Draco let go of her and took a deep breath. He closed his eyes and pondered about all those situations when he'd thought she knew far more than even possible.
He watched her intensively.
"Where do you get your information from?"
"You think I'm stupid enough to reveal my informant?"
Draco stood up and started walking around. Hermione didn't move, she just looked at him queasy.
"Someone told you all these things, right? It's impossible for you to know that much without help. Who is it? And why does he know all those things?"
Draco could nearly feel Hermiones despair.
"Draco, don't be silly, you're on the completely wrong track…"
"Stop lying!" he suddenly shouted.
Hermione cringed and got even more panicky when they heard a noise from her parents bedroom.
"Draco, please!" she begged in a low voice.
He nodded but didn't approach her.
"We'll talk tomorrow. Good night." he said distant and left her room as silent as possible.
Draco could hear her sob when he closed the door and it cut into his heart like a knife. But he couldn't help it. He just needed to know.
Draco and Pansy entered the ballroom together, hand in hand. They both bowed in front of the Dark Lords thrown and then sat down next to each other. The atmosphere was a strange mixture between excitement and the well known fear that resulted every time from Voldemorts simple presence.
Lucius welcomed everybody and held a short speech about how promising the union of two of the most important pureblood families was and how happy he was that Draco had found so early the right woman to support him.
Voldemort didn't say anything, he was just obviously very satisfied and Draco even thought he'd seen something similar to a smile on those pale features.
Snape was sitting next to the Dark Lord and wore his usual expression of indifference. Bellatrix send mortal glances in his direction, but Snape didn't seem to care. Draco noticed a strange exchange of glances between his mother and Snape, though. Draco got more and more nervous. This was just too easy. He had the strange feeling something terrible would happen.
"Before all of you leave, I want to give the happy couple my engagement gift. Draco, over here." Voldemort said in that cold voice of his.
Draco stood up immediately and approached the thrown slowly. He felt Pansy's worried gaze in his back, as well as his mother's and he could sense the perverted excitement in the crowd. One gaze at the clock told him that it was nearly ten o'clock.
He finally stood in front of Voldemort and bowed.
"Do you want to know what present I got for you?" Voldemort asked amused, his white long fingers fondling his ugly snake Nagini.
"I can't wait to know, Master. I am very grateful for everything you might give me."
Draco's voice was the perfect mixture of devotion and self-consciousness.
Voldemort's eyes narrowed.
"I see you learned your lessons in behaviour. Well, even better then. As a sign of your obedience and loyalty towards me, you will be accorded the honour of wearing the Dark Mark from now on."
Draco could hardly hide the panic that started to flood his body.
"I am so grateful Master. But you said I would get it only when I fulfilled my mission. As a sign of my honesty and my abilities, I want to really deserve this honour. Please let me first prove that I'm worthy of the Dark Mark. I shall wear it with the greatest honour then."
Voldemort tried to see right through him, but Draco didn't let him enter his mind.
"Oh, I'm sure you really do deserve it." Voldemort said pleased, his voice sending a shiver through Draco's body. "And now give me your left arm, Draco."
Draco could hardly breathe but he stood up obedient. He forced his body to move forward and could only think of Hermiones words.
"If you ever wear his mark, then I'll never talk to you again."
Those were the words she'd said when they had started to cooperate against Voldemort. That was before they'd been fallen in love. Draco had sworn that he'd never accept that mark on his skin. He started trembling but didn't stop.
The burning sensation on his skin didn't even hurt that much. What hurt much more was the feeling of betraying his one and only love.
Draco suddenly woke up from something that felt like a very real dream. He looked around and met the pitch black eyes of his godfather. Pansy touched his arm careful.
"You ok?" she asked worried.
Draco just nodded and tried a smile. He looked at the clock. It was half past nine. He gazed back at Snape and nodded. Legilimency was sometimes a really great invention. Draco had half an hour time to prevent that scene from happening. The problem was just that he didn't know how.
Draco looked around searching for some idea how to escape that horror scenario Snape had shown him, but no matter how hard he tried, he just didn't know what to do. The clock hand was moving way too fast and he felt the same terrible panic spreading in his whole body. Relax. You'll be fine. he said to himself, but it didn't really work.
"Dray?" Pansy asked once again frowning. "What's wrong?"
Draco didn't know what to answer, so he just decided to tell the truth.
"I have to leave this room before ten, or I'm finished."
Pansy's dark eyes widened in surprise, but she didn't seem to doubt his words.
"Why don't you just go? Excuse yourself and go to your room."
"He'd simply call me back and ask me to wait… I need a reason to leave, a reason why I can't wait…" he murmured more to himself.
Pansy didn't stop frowning.
"Fine. I'll give you the chance to leave. But not without me."
Before Draco could even say something, she'd already stood up, suddenly pretty pale.
"Sweetheart? What's wrong?" her mother suddenly asked worried.
And then Pansy Parkinson put on an incredible act that Draco would never forget.
Her dark eyes were gleaming fevered and she was white as a sheet.
"I am very sorry. I just don't feel well. Could you please excuse me?" She started faltering and Draco stood up and let her lean on him. "Sorry, Dray. Could you please bring me to my room?"
Draco was too surprised to do more than nod.
"Would you please excuse us?" he asked with a bow towards the Dark Lord.
Voldemorts eyes were narrowed.
"I actually wanted to give you a special engagement gift, but I'm sure we'll have enough time later. Take care of your fiancé now. I want her to be by your side when you receive my present."
Draco shivered, but didn't look away. He just nodded respectful and left the room with Pansy. He could feel his godfather's gaze in his back. And he could feel the warm and slender body of his "fiancé" in his arms.
Hermione had finally stopped crying and had fallen asleep. She was dreaming and there was fire everywhere, huge, red-orange flames and she felt a burning sensation on her skin and could smell the terrible scent of burning flesh… And there was this cold and familiar laughter that got under her skin…
Hermione woke up in panic and started rubbing her left arm. Everything was silent and peaceful around, but her heart was pounding and she couldn't forget that awful dream. She remembered her conversation with Draco and sighed desperate. One gaze at the clock told her that it was only 4 o'clock in the morning.
She sat up and started massaging her temples because she had a terrible headache. What should she tell Draco? How should she ever explain? Hermione was mad at herself. She'd been so stupid! Why couldn't she just shut up? She sighed again. Hermione actually knew exactly why. One part of her had wanted Draco to find out the truth. She needed someone to talk about everything and she really wanted Draco's advice and his understanding. She wanted him to know all her fears and to share them.
Her room was dark and she felt much colder than earlier. Hermione wanted to feel Draco's warmth next to her. She wanted to apologize and to tell him everything and then she wanted him to kiss her and to smile that wonderful smile of his. Even a smirk would be fine or maybe a raised eyebrow. She just really needed to see him.
Hermione stood up and noticed her quick heartbeat and her uneasiness and she suddenly knew that something wasn't alright. She didn't feel like this just because she'd fought with Draco. There was some other reason that was bothering her and that made her shiver.
Hermione was afraid. She noticed with great surprise that she was scared to death. Her heart pounded even harder and she felt dizzy. What was wrong with her? What happened? And then she suddenly saw two very familiar grey eyes in front of her inner eye. But those weren't the eyes of her boyfriend lying in her parent's guestroom. Those were the eyes of her future self's husband. And he was in big trouble…
Draco and Pansy left the ballroom without looking back. They went straight to Pansy's room, just in case someone would follow. Draco closed the door behind them and breathed out relieved. One gaze at Pansy made him tense again, though.
"Thanks." he said lame and Pansy kept staring at him with her hands on her hips.
"I've had enough Dray. Either you tell me what's going on here, or I'll go right back and show everyone that I'm completely fine."
Draco couldn't help thinking that such a threat didn't really suit her.
"You wouldn't do that." he said arrogant, crossing his arms over his chest.
"Don't underestimate me, Draco Malfoy. I'm a Slytherin after all." she said coolly, her dark eyes staring him down.
He smirked which made her narrow her eyes.
"Fine. Go ahead then. Tell them you're ok and everything was just faked. You think the Dark Lord would reward you for lying to him?"
Pansy turned pale and Draco cursed silently.
"Sorry, I didn't want to scare you." he whispered honestly and ran his fingers through his hair. "But you have to understand that this isn't a game, Pansy! You can't just change your mind whenever you want. That's why I wanted you to leave this world as long as you can. If you're once caught in his intrigues then you won't be able to leave unless you're dead."
Pansy shivered, but didn't move.
"I know. You might not believe me, but I'm very well aware of the consequences. And now stop pretending and tell me why you had to leave all of a sudden."
Draco closed his eyes for a moment and decided that there was no chance this stubborn girl would ever give up. He asked himself if Pansy even knew how much she actually resembled Hermione.
"He wants to give me the Dark Mark." he finally said exhausted.
Pansy's eyes widened.
"You're not allowed to take it!" she suddenly shouted terrified.
Draco frowned surprised.
"Well, I don't want to, but…"
"No, Dray! If you wear his mark, then you won't ever be able to leave."
Draco's frown got even deeper.
"What are you talking about?" he asked confused and Pansy took a deep breath.
"My parents were asked to become Death Eaters, but they refused. My father told my mother that wearing the Dark Mark would give the Dark Lord power over him that nobody could imagine. If you wear the mark, then he can't only call you by his side. He'll also know where you are all the time. It's like a magical connection. You won't be able to hide anymore. That's why no Death Eater ever managed to escape the Dark Lord."
Draco shook his head to clear his mind. He'd known that the Dark Mark was a powerful sign, but he hadn't known that it worked like a GPS. Well this explained a lot…
"You believe me, don't you?" Pansy asked worried and Draco managed a little smile.
"Of course I do."
Her relieved expression made him feel guilty. Draco just wanted to say something, when a knock at the door interrupted him. Pansy hid under her blanket and tried to look sick while Draco stood up to open the door.
Snape was standing in front of the door, his expression as motionless as ever. Draco couldn't avoid a relieved sigh.
"You shouldn't be so eased. I'm here to tell you that you have to leave tonight – both of you." Snape said slowly after entering the little room.
He gazed at Pansy and Draco thought for one very short moment that there was something similar to sympathy in those black eyes.
"How will you explain?" he asked worried and Snape gave him a long and intensive gaze.
"You'll write a short notice. Tell your mother that Pansy and you needed some time alone. Tell them you'll be back at Hogwarts when school starts."
Pansy stood up frowning.
"Won't he be very angry?" she asked kind of scared and Snape gave her a short glance.
"I'll take care of the Dark Lord for the time being. He'll think I'm searching for the two of you. Draco, you'll prepare everything to find them. I don't know if we'll get another chance. And don't forget to involve Potter. We unfortunately need him. I'll contact Dumbledore. I'm counting on you. Go to bed now. I'm sure her mother will look after Pansy as soon as she can. It would be best if you leave early in the morning. I'll make sure nobody will follow."
"Thanks. For everything." he said honestly and Snape nodded motionless.
He turned around, ready to leave.
"We'll meet the day after tomorrow. Make sure to come with Potter. And Draco, tell him just the things he needs to know. You know that he has to find out himself. And take care of Miss Parkinson. I entrust her to your care."
Draco nodded and glanced at his confused "fiancé". This would be a very long night.
Draco had left Pansy's room after telling her he'd pick her up at 4 o'clock in the morning. He had packed some things, had written the short notice for his mother and had then waited for time to pass. He couldn't even think of sleeping.
They would finally start searching the Horcruxes and he couldn't wait to destroy one after another. That was the reason why he was here after all. He'd help to kill Dumbledore and then he'd be finally able to return. Draco closed his eyes and thought of Hermione.
Hours had passed slowly and Draco and Pansy were now finally on their way through the secret passage. Draco didn't know what to tell Pansy when she'd start asking questions, but he reasoned that it would be best to simply tell her the truth. She'd fortunately changed into blue jeans, a green sweater and a white winter coat and her hair was tied into a long ponytail.
After ten minutes of walking through the darkness, they finally reached the exit of the stone tunnel.
Pansy couldn't avoid a relieved sigh. Draco just took her hand and went towards the dark shadow that was already waiting for them.
Snape nearly melted into the darkness and they could only make out his pale face and his gleaming eyes.
"The day after tomorrow in the forest of the Quidditch World Cup." he just said while taking their message for Narcissa.
"We'll be there."
"Good luck." Snape said slowly and glanced at Pansy. Then he turned around and disappeared into the darkness.
Draco took a deep breath and looked back at the manor one last time. He didn't know if he'd ever see this house again. Probably not.
He took Pansy's hand.
"Close your eyes." he said softly before disapparating into the darkness.
They appeared in a big, snowy garden. Pansy was pale as a sheet – and this time she didn't only act. She was trembling and her eyes were widened.
"You can apparate?" she croaked stunned and Draco nodded.
She started shaking her head.
"What the hell's going on here?" she whispered exhausted and Draco felt really sorry for the little girl next to him.
Pansy looked vulnerable and confused and he felt a strong need to protect her.
"Do you trust me enough to believe me when I say that I'll explain everything to you as soon as I can?" he asked and got a nod in response.
"Where are we?" she nevertheless had to ask and Draco smiled.
"We're in Winchester."
"What's so special about Winchester?"
Draco glanced at her.
"The person who's living here."
His gaze and the way he'd said those words was enough information for Pansy.
"You didn't honestly bring me to Granger's house, did you?"
"I'm sorry. I promise to explain everything, but now's not the moment."
Pansy looked at him disbelieving but didn't complain. He was grateful that she didn't.
Hermione tried to calm down and closed her eyes for a moment. She just wanted to go drink something, when she suddenly heard a strange noise.
A sudden knock and a dark shadow in front of her balcony door made her heart skip a beat and Hermione started trembling. She took her wand and approached the door slowly, ready to hex everyone who might want to harm her.
She put the curtain aside and looked into those very familiar, silvery eyes. But this time it wasn't only her fantasy but reality. He was fine, he wasn't injured or even dead! Hermione sighed relieved and opened the door.
Draco wasn't alone. Behind him was none other than Pansy Parkinson who looked at her motionless. Only her clenched fists gave information on her true feelings. Draco on the other hand smiled at her as if he'd seen the sun. It made her feel dizzy.
"What are you doing here?" she eventually asked surprised and worried. Draco and Pansy exchanged a glance.
"Can we first come in, please?" he asked velvet and Hermione just nodded and let them both enter her room.
Hermione still wore her silky top and shorts and felt kind of naked in front of her two unexpected visitors. Draco's gaze made her body tingle while Pansy's eyes were as cold as ice and made her shiver.
Hermione put on a fluffy bathrobe.
"Why are the two of you here in the middle of the night?" she finally asked curious.
Draco and Pansy exchanged another glance which made Hermione frown.
"We have to leave to the Burrow together. Now." he said slowly as if he didn't know how she'd react.
"You must be kidding." Hermione eventually answered confused.
Draco shook his head. He told her in a few sentences what had happened in Malfoy Manor and why they had to leave.
"This could be our only chance to find them. We need Potter." Draco finished meaningful and Hermione started biting her lip.
She thought about everything she'd just heard.
"Does she know?" Hermione asked pointing at Pansy.
Draco shook his head.
"I promised to tell her later."
"We just arrived yesterday… What should I tell my parents?"
"I could make them forget that you've been here. They would think you never came."
Hermiones eyes widened.
"But you can't use magic here, or they'll notice."
Draco shook his head smiling.
"My wand is protected. It's undetectable."
Hermione and Pansy were both astonished.
"Your spells are untraceable? I didn't know that was possible." Hermione said shocked about the circumstance that she didn't know something like that.
"It is possible – in the future." Draco explained and Hermione nodded understanding while Pansy was still confused and a bit angry. She didn't like this strange conversation at all.
And then she suddenly remembered what Hermione had said before.
"You said: we arrived yesterday… Who's here with you?" she asked confused.
Draco and Hermione exchanged a long gaze.
"It's better if you see it yourself. You wouldn't believe me anyway." Hermione answered matter-of-factly.
"I'll change and pack some things. Make yourself comfortable for the time being." she said before disappearing quietly.
Pansy looked at Draco.
"What the hell's going on here?" she repeated her question from earlier but didn't get an answer. Draco just looked at her pitiful.
"I promised to explain and I always keep my word."
Pansy was no longer sure if she really wanted to know.
Granger returned soon. She was dressed in dark blue jeans, a red sweater and her hair was plaited. She started packing some things and put her red-golden Gryffindor scarf on.
"I guess he's still sleeping. We have to be quiet." she eventually whispered.
Dray nodded and Pansy tried to hide her surprise. So Granger's guest was actually a guy. Pansy glanced at Draco, but he didn't seem to be jealous at all. She frowned and followed them downstairs. Dray performed a spell to prevent Granger's parents from waking up and they eventually stood in front of a closed door in the first floor.
Granger knocked gentle and opened the door slowly.
"Draco? I'm sorry, but we have to leave…" she whispered into the room and Pansy was sure she'd misheard.
The three of them entered the room and suddenly stood in front of a sleepy Draco, who looked up at them confused.
He wore black boxers and sat on the bed while looking from Granger to Pansy and then to himself. Silvery eyes met silvery eyes and Pansy nearly forgot to breathe.
She glanced from Draco to Draco and shook her head disbelieving.
"I'm not sure if I really want to know." she said stunned before she finally fainted.
So this is finally chapter 28 and I really hope you all like it. I know it's a bit confusing that they hardly find a place and then they already have to leave again, but this is just important for my story, so I hope you'll forgive me my constant change of scene. :-)
Thank you very much for your numerous reviews! I can't say how much I love all of them! And thanks a lot for answering my question. I'll definitely consider your answers when writing that special scene…
The next chapter will be interesting and I'm looking forward to writing it. There will be strange pairings, action, humour and of course love and I hope you'll really love it. I want to finish this story within the next two or three chapters, so I hope you'll like the finale and keep reading and reviewing!
Love you all!
Kisses and regards,