"Dammit, Malfoy, you scared me half to death." Hermione reached down to pick up the book she dropped. "You shouldn't be lurking in the shadows like that."

"Maybe you shouldn't be down in the dungeons after curfew, Granger. Never know what type of danger is creeping about, might not be safe for a Mudblood." He stepped forward, forcing her closer to the wall.

Hermione rolled her eyes. There had hardly been any bite in his threat. "Using that disgusting word make you feel better? I'm not afraid of you, Malfoy." She tried hard to believe those words but, truthfully, she didn't feel completely safe around him.

He backed off slightly. "What are you doing down here?"

Fiddling with the edges of her book, she said, "I was working on my Transfiguration essay and then Ron and Lavender started…talking and, well, I remembered that Professor Slughorn said I could use the Potions classroom anytime I wanted to. There are some finer points of Amortentia I've been meaning to go over, for NEWTs." She stopped, realizing she was babbling.

What was wrong with her, going on and on like that? She needed to get out of here. There was something about the way Malfoy was looking at her that made her uncomfortable. Taking a deep breath she started to walk away.

He blocked her path. Her first thought was to hex him, the insufferable git, but something stopped her.

Malfoy laughed and leaned in to speak in her ear. "Must be easy for you, Granger. All you have to worry about is NEWTs and who Weasley's shagging." She ignored the feeling in her stomach that came as his hot breath stroked the shell of her ear. "You have no fucking clue about what's really going on here, do you? Every day it gets a little closer."

'Now!' her brain was screaming. Now would be a good time to hex him or push him away. "What are you talking about? What's getting closer?"


She took in a gulp of air. He was joking; just trying to scare her a bit. But something in his tone told her otherwise. Studying his face closely, she realized he looked like death itself. It was as if he was wasting away. Maybe Harry was right and Malfoy was up to something.

Suddenly looking defeated, he said, "Go on, Granger, get out of here." She didn't move. This was it. She should say something; do something to stop him. Damn, this was supposed to be Harry or Dumbledore, not her. Why was he talking to her? She didn't want this responsibility.

"Malfoy." She reached for his hand. Merlin, what was she doing! He'd probably kill her right in this hallway for touching him. Her brain was scrambling for the right words.

He looked down at their intertwined hands. "It doesn't matter. One way or the other, I'm already gone." He slipped his hand out of hers.

Hermione held her breath as she watched him walk away.