Author's Note: Yes, this took awhile. Again, I'm sorry. It takes me a while to feel right about what I'm writing. This fic is close to an end. Be forewarned.
"Where are you going, where do you go?
Are you looking for answers
to questions under the stars?
If along the way you are growing weary,
You can rest with me until a brighter day
I am no superman
I have no answers for you
I am no hero, oh that's for sure
But I do know one thing for sure
Is where you are, is where I belong
I do know, where you go
Is where I want to be."
~ 'Where Are You Going?' by Dave Mathews Band
"If you were Draco, where would you go?"
"I'll tell you where I wouldn't go. Anywhere near my father," Ron answered, punctuating his point with his index finger. Then he grabbed the bag of Bernie Bott's Every Flavor Bean in his lap and tipped it to his lips, dumping the contents into his mouth.
Hermione groaned, dropping her hand to the floor. She lay across one of the beds in the Knight Bus, with Ron and Ginny sitting a top the bed across from her, and Harry in front, thrown length wise across another, hanging his head over the edge upside down. It was sometime deep in the night, and none of them really had a clue where they were or where they were going.
The only other passengers on the bus were a pudgy old women who'd been there when they boarded, who was contently muttering to herself, and a mother and her two obnoxious children who wouldn't go to sleep. Instead, they ran up and down the aisle, giggling and screaming, much the annoyance of everyone, except the old women, who was off in her own world.
"God, I can't think with all this ruckus," Ginny said grumpily as the two children attempted to roll under the beds and got stuck under hers and Ron's. She bent over and put her head under the bed and proceeded to tell off the children, sending them scrambling back to their mother. Satisfied, she leaned back, smiling faintly.
"Would he stay in wizard villages or Muggle places, do you think?" Ron asked, examining a bean he'd dropped and then popping it in his mouth.
"Probably Muggle areas. It'd be harder for his father to find him," Harry said.
"True, but would he stay in England? He wouldn't leave the country, would he?" Hermione asked, sitting up and looking suddenly horrified.
"He might. But it'd be hard. He'd have to get a passport and he's not recorded in the Muggle records because he's a full blood wizard," Harry said.
"I say he wouldn't leave the country. That'd be a bit much, wouldn't it?" Ron said. Ginny nodded.
"But we can't be sure," Hermione insisted.
"Or can you?" said a voice.
They all snapped up and looked around, seeing only the old women, staring blankly ahead. Ron scooted towards the aisle and leaned toward her seat.
"Hey! You there! Did you say something?" he asked her.
Slowly, the women turned her head. She clasped her hands in her lap and cast sparkling violet eyes on Ron. "And what if I did?" she asked.
Ron looked flustered, so Harry spoke for him, "Well what did you mean by that?"
The old women took a deep breath, drawing herself and thrusting out her ample bosom. "I guess I meant exactly what I said," she answered.
"Well, exactly what was it that you said again?" Ron asked.
"I said what I said. You heard me the first time, I believe," said the old lady, clearly enjoying the confused look on Ron's face.
Ginny rolled her eyes, "What they are trying to ask is, could you explain why you implied that maybe we could be sure where our friend is."
A smile gathered on the women's made up lips and she winked at Ginny, "I like you, girl. That was very well said."
"Thank you!" Ginny said, beaming. Hermione cleared her throat.
"Oh, right. What I meant was that I may know where your 'friend' resides," the women said to Hermione. She looked Hermione over and added, "Not that I approve of your improper relationship with this boy." Then she shrugged, "But you look like a nice enough girl. Can't say I blame you. This boy is quite a looker, isn't he?"
"How do you know?" Hermione asked apprehensively.
"Sometimes we don't have to see things with our eyes," the women answered.
Hermione groaned, "Just what I need. Another Treelawnie."
"Now, now, girl! Don't go knocking the gift when you've experienced it yourself."
"I have not!" Hermione protested loudly.
"Ah, but you have. Back in that hallway, in a very large house. Your friend here can vouch for that," she said, gesturing to Ginny.
Ginny smiled and nodded, "She's right, 'Moine!"
"So, do you know where Malfoy is?" Ron asked eagerly. Hermione shot him a look.
The women lowered her heavy, creased eyelids and shrugged, "Maybe I do and maybe I don't."
"Please tell us!" Ginny begged excitedly.
Then women's face softened and another smile broke out, "You're a nice girl. A little wild maybe, but a nice girl. I'll tell you what, you have quite a year ahead you. You're going to have a romance with someone very unexpected. Oh, it gives me goose bumps, it's all very exciting!" she squealed.
Ginny was eating it right up, "Really? Wow! What else?"
"Well, I see you having a bit of trouble on your exams, but it'll turn out alright. That doesn't mean you shouldn't study, mind you. Destiny CAN be changed and you wouldn't want to make a mess for yourself up by thinking that it can't be."
"I hate to interrupt, but could you please tell us where Draco is?" Hermione interjected.
The women turned a cold eye on Hermione, "It would do you some good to listen to all this, young lady. This is stuff you'll need to know one day."
"Fine, ok. I'm listening."
"I can tell you where your boyfriend is, but you must listen to this warning. As much as you may think you know this boy inside and out, you don't. He's right when he says there are some things you don't understand. He's hurting inside and he needs someone to heal him, but to do that, you must listen to him and believe what he says. He has a good heart, although he sometimes doesn't show it. If you play your cards right, he'll be yours forever and you'll find in him your other half. Your soul mate. But if you're careless with him, he'll turn cold on you. And if that happens, well, that's bad for more than just you. That would have devastating effects on the entire wizarding world."
Hermione was silent, for once, staring into the women's purple eyes, which had stopped sparking and turning into deep orbs. She nodded once and the women continued.
"I trust that you'll do the right thing. Remember, your friends are always there to help you. You have very, very good friends. Don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it."
She paused, took a deep breath and closed her eyes. For a minute, the four friends held their breath. She reopened her eyes to a whoosh of air.
"Get off at the stop that is twelfth after…" she paused and the bus pulled to a stop. "This one," she finished. She turned and gathered her bag from under her bed, then slowly eased herself up, rubbing her back. She stepped into the aisle and then turned back, "Look for him in the place you'd least expect him to be. Don't pay attention to logic, listen only to your senses and you'll know what's right. And hurry. He needs you all."
With that, she smiled at each of them, wished them luck, and departed, climbing off the bus and disappearing promptly. In her place, three middle aged men and two women took seats at the front of the bus.
As it started up again, Hermione turned to her friends and shrugged casually, "Guess that's as good a plan as any. Start counting."
Draco felt lost. Quite literally, he was. But it was more than just that.
He was in a strange place, not just because he'd never been to this city. He felt strange in his own skin. Earlier he'd been so sure, so sure he had to leave. It was for the best, he told himself over and over. It was for the best.
But that was a lie. He saw that now. Shuffling down a dark street, with rain drizzling down, he felt a pain inside his chest. He felt bruised all over, maybe from beating himself up, he thought.
God, wasn't he just a fucking poet.
Anyway, metaphors aside, he really did feel terrible. Terrible for leaving her. For giving up so easily. Not that giving up had been easy. It had been the hardest thing he'd ever done.
Maybe he should juts go back. Back to the Burrow. Or maybe back to his apartment. He could write her from there, ask her to come back to him and forgive him for being a incomparable idiot.
He wouldn't know what to say to her. He didn't have the words for what he felt now and had felt in the hours he spent running away from her. He couldn't explain his motives. She wouldn't understand. He barely understood himself.
So, no. He couldn't go back. But what was he going to do now, without her? He felt stuck.
God, what a coward he was. If only he could do something. If he could get himself together, maybe he could change something.
A low rumble alerted him that the rain was about to get heavy. He looked up and noticed that the sky had grown very dark. Pitch dark. He darted under the overhanging of a restaurant as the rain suddenly flooded down.
He swallowed and leaned against the building. And he had an idea.
He'd made quite a few mistakes in his life, but maybe there was one thing he could set right. The idea was terrifying. He shivered at the thought. But maybe it was all he could do. Maybe…
He took a deep breath and couldn't seem to get enough air. Without giving it another thought, he dashed out into the storm, running towards the nearest taxi.
Hermione stared out the window of the bus.
"This can't be right," she muttered.
Ginny popped up next to her, smashing her face on the glass, "She said it would be the last place we'd expect."
Ron shook the bed as he leapt onto it, next to Harry who was looking out the window as well. Ron regarded what lay beyond skeptically.
"It's a field," he announced.
"We can see that, you bloody idiot," Ginny snapped.
Hermione turned away as the bus slowed. She struggled to appear calm as she said, "Well, get your stuff and lets get going."
Ron's mouth dropped, "You can't be serious. 'Mione, this has got to be some kind of mistake. It's a FIELD!"
Hermione shook her head, "This field is all we have. That women was our only clue. We don't have a choice."
"We do too have a bloody choice! We could turn around right now and go home!"
"Ron…" Harry said warily.
"No. Ron, is that what you want? Is that what all of you want? Be honest with me," Hermione implored, standing up before the bunch of them on the bed. "Do you want to go home?"
They were all silent for a moment, then Ginny shook her head.
Harry looked at her and back up at Hermione, "I'm going to stay with you. You stood by me when we were up against Voldie. Now it's my turn to stand by you."
Ginny nodded in agreement, "Malfoy had faith in us as friends. If he does, then we ought to have faith in ourselves, right?"
Ron looked down and groaned, the let out a string of curses, "Fucking hell, how do I always get myself into these things?"
They all laughed and smiled at each other, then gathered their bags. The bus pulled to a stop and after exchanging looks, they made their way off.
Outside, they indeed were in the middle of a field. Lush grass surrounded wide, muddy puddles and rain fell lightly from the dreary sky. It was growing dark, and it wasn't the clouds. It was getting late. And they were alone in the middle of no where. That became increasingly evident as the Knight Bus disappeared, leaving them in the silence of the surrounding environment.
Harry shivered, "This is weird. There are no bird. No anything really."
Ginny moved closer to him, and appeared relieved when Harry wrapped his arm around her shoulders and pulled her in. She laid her head on his chest and glanced around, "He's right. It is strange."
Hermione spun in slow circle, taking everything in, though their wasn't much. A few tree dotted the landscape but little else surrounded them. It was just land and sky. Except…
Hermione stopped spinning and stepped off into one direction.
"Where are you going?" Harry called.
She waved to them, "This way, come on."
They all ran up the slight incline in the land, following Hermione closely. At first they seemed to be going nowhere but soon they saw what Hermione had noticed.
She stopped as the hill they now saw that they were on dropped down steeply into a valley. Just beyond was a cluster of dark trees and brush that rose up to meet the clouding, steadily darkening sky.
"That looks familiar, doesn't it," Hermione said. Everyone nodded in agreement.
"But why?" Ginny asked, still snuggling onto Harry.
Hermione turned to face them and the wind suddenly gusted up from the valley, turning her hair into Medusa's snakes. Something in her eyes twinkled. She hadn't lost hope yet.
"Guess we're going to find out, aren't we?"
Draco stood very still. The taxi was long gone. The driver had looked confused when he's asked to be dropped off in what appeared to him to be an empty field. But he was a Muggle. He couldn't see the nightmare that lay before him. Not unless the spell was taken off.
The Malfoy mansion. It loomed intimidating just before Draco, surrounded by the iron fence and looking a bit out of it century, with it's stone exterior and the abundance of trees growing around it, darkening the lawn. Draco remembered when he was young, the house seemed scary to him. Outside and in. Home was never a comfortable place to be.
His home was never really a home. Just like his parents were never really parents.
He swallowed his anger, mentally preparing himself. He needed to be calm to do this. He needed to think rationally. He need to be on his toes, ready for anything. Anger would only blind him. A little passion would be ok, but he couldn't let his temper get out of control.
He started towards the house slowly, reaching the fence and hoisting himself up. At it's highest point, he grew still as his skin started to prickle. He raised his eyes and looked around at the surrounding woods.
There was a movement in the bushes, a flash of color. A dark figure was emerging.
The next thing he saw sent him tumbling over the fence into his yard.
Hermione jogged ahead of the group. They'd been in the woods for over and hour and it was completely dark. If not for the full moon, they would have been completely lost. Still, the eeriness of the woods urged Hermione faster. She had to get out of here. Her skin was cold. She didn't like this place. It seemed- stale. Old. Empty. Heartless.
Ahead of her, she saw something move. Her insides clenched up. She was half relived to see something else- anything - alive here. But it alarmed her as well. They hadn't seen anything thus far, so why now? It could be dangerous.
Not wanting to alarm her friends, and not entirely trusting her eyes, Hermione didn't call back, she simply sped up, tromping off alone. The trees started to break up and as suddenly as it had started, the forest ended.
She gasped at what she saw. The Malfoy mansion lay just ahead of her, towering up into the purplish sky. An arrow tipped iron fence surrounded it, glittering in the moonlight.
The last place she would expect him to be.
So this was it. This is what the women on the bus had meant. This truly was the last place she would ever have looked for him. In fact, even if she had suspect her were here, she would have been tempted to put off coming. She didn't like this place. Not at all. The feeling it gave her was dreadful. The whole place had an air of wickedness.
Something moving caught her attention again. It was just beyond the fence. Appeased by the fact that whatever it was, it probably couldn't get to her without giving her time to run off with a bit of a head start, she stepped forward.
"Hermione," a raspy voice said.
She froze as the hairs on her arms lifted. Her scalp tingled and a strange feeling ran up he spin.
"Hermione, come here."
Her eyes grew wide, staring into the darkness. A flash of white appeared. A lopsided smile. A familiar expression. Hands stretched out from the other side of the fence.
"Good god, is it you?" she asked huskily. Her body was already hot. She felt a waterfall rush between her thighs.
"That it is. Come here now. I need to touch you."
Hermione wasted no time in flinging herself forward, colliding with the fence. She slipped her arms through the fence and grabbed him. He wrapped his arms around her back and yanked her forward. They pressed their faces between the bars and their lips met. An electrical crackle surged through Hermione. She parted her lips and ran her hands under his shirt, up his chest and to his shoulders, feeling the scars there.
"Draco," she groaned.
Her ran his hands down her sides to her hips and tugged them forward. His own hips touched hers, the bars between them pressing into her thighs. She could feel his erection through his clothes.
His lips seared onto hers, then pulled away. In the dark, he looked like a ghost, smiling in an un-saintly way. His hair fell like a white river, shimmering. His skin was white as death. He leaned forward and licked the tip of her nose, then laughed low and menacing.
"I wish I had time to taste you all over," he said. She shivered.
His hands ran up to her breasts, touching her through the material. His face went hard and serious suddenly and he slipped his arms around her back and pulled her into a crushing hug.
"I'm so sorry I left you," he sobbed against her shoulder. She gasped and pulled away.
"Draco, it's ok. I understand," she said, eyes wide. She touched his face.
"How can you?" he asked, "How can you just forgive me like that?"
Hermione didn't pause before answering, "Because I love you."
Another tear slipped out of Draco's eyes. "Oh thank God! I love you too. I love you so much."
They came together for another kiss, this one soft and hot. Conveying the truth in their words. They clasped hands through the fence.
"Sorry to interrupt…" A voice said.
They both jumped and Hermione spun around. Harry and Ron stood with Ginny just behind. Ginny was blushing as if she'd walked in on more than just a little kissing. In a way, she had. The moment was far more intimate than just a little making out.
"What's he doing?" Ron demanded, eyeing Draco on the other side of the fence.
Draco looked at Hermione, "That's what I want to tell you. I've decided I have to stand up to my father."
Hermione didn't think before answering, "Don't be stupid, Draco. He'll kill you!"
Draco's face dropped and he pulled his hands away from her, taking a step back.
"No. I didn't mean it like that. It not that I don't think your capable. It's just that your father is…"
"Crazy?" Ron offered.
"Dangerous," Hermione finished, ignoring Ron. "Draco, you can't risk this. You can't. Not now."
He shook his head, "I have to."
"Because if I don't…If I don't I'll never have done anything to deserve you."
Hermione scowled, "We've talked about this. You don't have to do anything."
Draco glanced around, back at the wonder twins and the fireball, Ginny. Then he leaned close to Hermione, and spoke quietly.
"Yes, but I can't ever believe that. I won't ever feel right about this until...until I do something. Please, try to understand."
"It's unfair to ME, Draco. Don't make me worry like this!" Hermione said, her voice agitated with oncoming tears of distress. "Please, don't. Please."
Draco's eyes grew wide and he looked strangely young and innocent. He took Hermione's hands through the gate and held them firmly. "Hermione, I PROMISE you, nothing will happen to me. You and I will be together. Nothing will get between us. This is just something I have to do."
Draco silenced her with a kiss. She groaned sadly and squeezed is hands tightly as he broke away. He backed up, still holding onto her. They stared at each other for a minute in silence. Something grew between them. An energy. A force. Something.
"I'll be back," he said, and let go. He backed away.
Hermione's eyes brimmed with tears that stung, but she nodded.
"I'll be back," Draco repeated. Then he turned away, looking back once, and ran towards the mansion.
Lucius watched out the window at the figure spiriting towards his house. The boy who had once been his son was coming back home.
Well, Lucius had seen that little show by the fence. He'd seen his 'son' with that sickening little Mudblood.
That boy was no longer his son. He never had been. He'd never been what Lucius had wanted him to be. He was an utter, and complete disappointment, and he cared no more for the boy now than he cared for his house elves.
And he would have no trouble killing him. No trouble at all. After all, Draco was an embarrassment to the Malfoy name, and he couldn't have that…