Chapter 43

"Are you hungry?" asked Draco as he reached for the invisibility cloak. "I'm going to the kitchens and I could get something for you." He had tried to read Dumbledore's book with her, but she was a much faster reader than he and she kept forgetting that he was trying to read it, too. She kept turning the page before he was finished and as a result he would miss the last paragraph or so of each page. With a sigh he had stood, deciding that he would let her finish it then have his turn.

"Sure," she said waving a hand airily, her eyes never leaving the book and not really paying attention to what she was agreeing to.

"Right," he said with a roll of his eyes. He hesitated before opening the door. He knew she had a way telling where certain people were. It was some sort of map, he was sure. She tried to be sneaky about it whenever she was with him, but he had taken notice that she always managed to take hallways with the least amount of people. He glanced back to her, still completely engrossed in her reading. A plan crept into his mind, a plan that he used to use on his mother. When he was a child he would ask his mother for things while her mind was otherwise occupied or when she was half asleep. He could get anything he wanted when he asked during those times. He cleared his throat. There wasn't even a flicker of acknowledgment in Hermione. "Say, Hermione," he started carefully in the nonchalant tone he'd used with his mother.

"Hmm?" she answered, her nose still in the book.

"I've noticed you seem to know right where people are in the castle. Could you tell me how you do it?"

"The map," she said as though she were in a trance.

"Right," he said as though he'd known but had had a momentary lapse of memory. "And where is the map?" he asked, mentally crossing his fingers.

Hermione waved her hand airily, eyes still locked on the words she was reading. "It's on my bed," she said in an offhand tone.

Draco smiled inwardly and entered the red and gold room. In the middle of Hermione's bed lay an old piece of parchment and nothing else. He picked up the aged paper and unfolded it. It was blank. He sighed in disappointment. He knew it had been too easy. The map had to be spelled. He took it out into the main room. Hermione was still taking no notice of him. He decided to take the chance. "I've forgotten how to make it work. Could you help me?"

"Just point your wand and say, "I solemnly swear…"" she stopped, coming fully aware. She looked up at him in suspicion. "Draco, what are you doing?" She noticed then, the parchment he had in his hands. She stood abruptly, putting the book down on the coffee table as she did so. She strode purposefully towards Draco and snatched at the map. He raised it out of her reach.

"I already know it's a map, Hermione. I've suspected it for a while now," he said, grinning.

"Draco, give me the map," she said in faux calmness.

"I will," he replied in the same tone. "As soon as I'm back from the kitchens. Just tell me how it works."

Hermione again made a snatch for the map. "Give it to me!" she cried, dropping her nonchalant tone. Draco danced backwards, waving it above his head.

"I don't think I will," he teased, a conniving smirk on his face. "I think I'll take it to Snape right now... Unless..." he paused for effect. "You tell me how to work it and let me take it to the kitchens. If you do that, I'll give you my word I'll not say a thing about it to anyone... Ever."

Hermione stood back and studied the man she had loathed for nearly five years. A lot had changed in the past weeks, but she still wasn't convinced she could entirely trust him. She sighed wearily. "I can't," she admitted. "Harry would throttle me."

"He'll never know. I swear it!" Draco promised. Now it was his turn to sigh. "Look," he started. "I know I haven't given you any reason to trust me, but I promise you I'll give this back. I just want to see how it works and give it a try."

Hermione looked at him suspiciously. "You don't want it because you want to spy on Keely, do you?" she asked. "Because you know that isn't safe!" she lectured.

"No, I honestly just wanted to take it to the kitchens."

"Swear you'll give it back as soon as you return?"

"Cross my heart," he said, miming crossing his heart with his finger.

"Give it here," she said, relenting. Then in a stern voice she added, "But if you break this trust, Draco Malfoy, I will curse you into oblivion and you will regret the day you were conceived!" Draco smiled and handed her the map. She pointed her wand at it and said confidently, "I solemnly swear I am up to no good." Reluctantly she handed it back to him. She stiffened then added, "To turn it off you have to point your wand at it and say, 'Mischief managed'. That's very important, because if you don't do it, anyone can read it."

"I won't let you down, Hermione," he promised with a grin. 'No wonder Potter never gets caught doing anything wrong! With this map and his invisibility cloak, he could go anywhere and do anything he wanted!' Briefly he thought about not giving it back, the cloak and the map, but quickly disregarded the errant thought. If only for the reason that hurting any of Keely's friends like that would hurt Keely, too, even if that friend was the golden boy. He would return the items to Hermione for Keely's sake. "Thanks," he grinned, "I owe you one!" Throwing the cloak over his head he stepped out into the hall. He studied the map. He wasn't really looking for it, but Keely's name practically jumped out at him. She was alone, down by the lake. He watched it for a moment, debating with himself. He knew he shouldn't go to her, it would just make it all the more difficult to do what he needed to do and let her go. A scowl crossed his face as he saw Fred Weasley's dot join hers. His heart won the debate with his head and instead of going to the kitchens he started toward the entrance to the castle. He would kill Fred Weasley!

He slowed when he neared the lake and could see Keely and the weasel twin. He approached the two slowly, trying not to make a sound. They were joking around with each other. Fred leaned close and whispered something in Keely's ear. Draco cussed under his breath as Keely's laugh filled the air. He wondered bitterly why everyone insisted on whispering in Keely's ear, even though he already knew the answer. He, too, was fond of whispering in her ear, even when there was no one around to hear him. He did it for no other reason than to get as close to her as possible. He knew instinctively that it was Harry and Fred's reason as well.

Keely slapped playfully at Fred's shoulder as he poked at her sides. "Stop it!" Keely giggled as she attempted to sprint away from the lighthearted attack. Fred, laughing, grabbed her arm and spun her around to face him. Keely squealed at her capture and tried to wriggle away. In the struggle, Fred tripped over an exposed tree root and toppled backwards. The two of them fell to the ground in a giggling heap. Keely tried to stand but Fred held her tight then flipped the two of them over, his body pinning hers to the ground.

"I've got you now!" Fred cried in playful triumph. His laughter slowly died as he gazed into Keely's amethyst eyes. He swallowed hard, his breathing shallow. He lowered his head, licking his suddenly dry lips.

Right before his mouth could claim hers she turned her head and said quietly with a touch of sadness, "Fred, please. I can't do this."

He sighed heavily and rolled off of her. He brought himself to a sitting position. He lifted his knees to his chest and lightly wrapped his arms around them. Keely sat likewise and watched as the sun lowered itself into the Black Lake.

Draco let out the breath he didn't know he'd been holding and listened carefully.

"I'm so sorry, Fred," Keely said, her sincere apology evident on her face. "I wish I could feel the same for you as you feel for me, but I…" she swallowed the lump that was forming in her throat. A tear rolled down her cheek. "… But I…" Fred gently took hold of her chin and turned her face to him. He wiped the offensive drop from her cheek with his thumb. He cupped her face in one hand and she nuzzled her cheek against it as she looked into his intense blue eyes. "…But I…"

"Shh…" he interrupted. "Don't say it," he begged. A sly smile crossed his lips. "I'll wear you down eventually. You can't say no to me forever."

Keely looked quickly away from him. She had no idea what she could say to get him to understand that she not only could say no to him forever, but that she would. She loved Fred with all her heart, but she loved him in the same way she loved Hermione, the same way she would love a brother if she had one. She couldn't bring herself to tell him, but she had tried to change her feelings for him. She wanted to love him how he loved her, but her heart was already taken, it had been for a while. She knew it on a soul deep level. She didn't know yet who it belonged to, she did, however, know that it wasn't Fred.

Draco found himself looking into her eyes. She seemed to be looking straight at him and for an instant he felt himself staring into her soul, into the heart that was his alone. He held his breath. In that instant he knew Hermione was right. The poem was meant to give him hope. It was meant to tell him that he and Keely would still be together someday. But for now he needed to let her go and trust in her love for him. Their hearts had indeed been stirred. They had been stirred together so much so that they were now irrevocably intertwined. With a sad smile and one last longing look he let his little bird free. He straightened himself and walked slowly back to the castle to do the job he and Hermione were there to accomplish.

~-:|:-~

Draco entered the Room of Requirement with a basket of food and drinks from the kitchens. Hermione looked up from the book at the sound of his entry. "Oh, there you are. I was wondering what was taking so long." She placed the open book on the table and stood, stretching.

"You're still reading that?" he asked. He was sure she would have finished it long before. "Have you found anything that might help us?" He strode to the table, putting the basket of food on top of it. He sat and pulled the book towards him. Glad he could finally get a chance to read it for himself.

Hermione pulled a turkey sandwich and a bottle of pumpkin juice from the basket. She sat down beside Draco and placing the bottle of juice between her knees she pulled the book from his grip and onto her lap. "Yes, I did," she explained. She pointed at what she had found. "Dumbledore says here that we'll have until Keely's gift matured in our time to get back. That was the day of the Slytherin versus Gryffindor quidditch match. That's when everything began to fall apart. Yours and Keely's relationship may have been the catalyst for her parents showing up at the match which then led to her being taken and us rescuing her, then you..." she gave Draco a pointed look, "taking her off to your house without telling anyone where you were off to!" She sighed. "But, she may have very well gotten hit with that bludger anyways. And from what you've said, your father already knew Keely was an Empath, so who's to say she wouldn't be in the exact same position. The only difference is you..." She put her drink on the table and stood, pointing at a spot in the book as reference. She began pacing as she continued. "In this time now you may fancy Keely, but you aren't in love with her as you are in our time. So really, you being in love with her is what's going to save her. If you hadn't, you would just be another player in You-Know-Who's plot to own her. Yes, you would probably have fallen in love with her regardless, but it would have been too late by then. She would be your wife, but not in the way you'd like her to be now. She'd be a puppet who's strings were being controlled by You-Know-Who." She moved to his side and pointed to a spot in the book. "Here Dumbledore copied down a prophecy about you and Keely; Beware the violet eyed child. When she comes to know, the servant of the Dark Lord will stop at no end. The fate of the child as well as the world will rest on the son of the servant." She stood silent, waiting for Draco to absorb what the prophecy was telling him.

He stiffened, took in a deep breath, and let it out forcefully as he ran a hand through disheveled hair. He looked at Hermione, something akin to fear stamped on his expression. "Hermione... I... You mean I have to figure out a way to save her or else the entire world will be at risk?" He shook his head in denial. "How in Hell am I supposed to save the world?" He wanted to punch something. This was all getting out of control. Now if he didn't find a way to reverse the mess they were in the whole world would be destroyed. "Wasn't that supposed to be Potter's job?" he spat scathingly.

"No, that's not it," Hermione said in a tone that hinted that it should be obvious. "Haven't you been listening to what I've been saying? You've already saved her. You've already saved all of us. You did it by falling in love with You-Know-Who's weapon! You won't let her be used now or ever, and neither will your father. Because whatever happened at your house led to your father being touched by Keely. You, Draco, you. Because you truly love her you treated her so differently than any other girl you've had as your girlfriend, and that caused your father to truly look at her. And because of that he agreed to give you his time-turner, therefore, stopping at no end. Your father may be many things, but I don't think stupid is one of them. He knows very well that we may not succeed, and if we don't... Well... I'll put it this way, it won't only be you that You-Know-Who takes out his revenge on."

Draco studied Hermione carefully, taking in everything she was telling him. Not daring to believe that it could possibly be true. "You really believe that?" he asked hopefully.

Instead of answering right off, she expressed her feelings about prophecies. "You know... Prophecies are funny things. Mr. and Mrs. Chambers obviously thought that you would be the downfall of their daughter and the world. That's why they did everything in their power to keep Keely from finding out the truth of her gift. It never once crossed their minds that the son of the servant would actually be the reason Keely and the world will be saved." She looked at Draco then and answered his question. "Yes, I really, truly believe it."