Harry woke up dreading the day. He hadn't really wanted to talk to the Bloody Baron, but what other choice did he have?
Draco met him at King's Cross. They figured meeting in a Muggle spot would diffuse any problems that could come up, in case Voldemort was somehow tracking them.
There weren't that many Muggles around, aside from the guards. Harry had a feeling some of them knew about the hidden platform there, and that possibly there were squibs or Muggle parents working there occasionally, especially on Hogwarts days. Nobody ever seemed to question the strange assortment of creatures students carried on those days. Sometimes, they would even make friendly conversation with the students and other wizards.
After a good night's rest, the group decided to do a bit of sightseeing. It was Patty who got them up early, saying they had to make the best of Erin's birthday vacation. Holtzman and Abby, as always, had insisted on everyone bringing their gear. Erin, however, hadn't liked the idea of bringing it on the underground. But whatever Holtzman wanted in terms of the gear, the others did.
Of course, then there was the issue of currency. None of them had ever seen British pounds before. They would have liked to think they knew what they were doing, but they all failed horribly.
"We should just rent a car," Abby complained. "You used to work in a subway, Patty, you should know how this works!"
Erin was trying to ignore them and actually figure out the money, but she had the strange feeling she was being watched.
"You look lost." Erin jumped.
"Harry, what did you even expect to achieve by saying that? Don't scare the poor girl, she'll think we're some creepy bums who hang out at the underground. Sorry, ma'am."
"Can you show us how to use this?" Erin muttered embarrassedly. "We're…." she trailed off, realizing the young man who had scolded his friend was the same guy from the previous night at the restaurant."
"American?" The man flashed her a dazzling and sincere smile.
"How did you know?" Erin stammered.
"I overheard the four of you last night. Sorry."
The black-haired boy was looking suspiciously from Erin to his friend. "What's this about?" He mouthed. The Chinese restaurant boy just shook his head. Not for the first time, she wondered who they were, and whether everyone around here was speaking in tongues.
Patty came up behind Erin and gasped. "I saw you last night."
Abby and Holtzman were still trying to figure out the money, but they stopped when they heard Patty. Erin rolled her eyes.
"We can help you," the Chinese restaurant boy said quickly. I wondered if he thought this was as awkward as I did. He quickly explained the money, his friend nodding and saying nothing.
Erin and her friends thanked them. "No problem," said the Chinese diner man with a shrug. "I'm Draco, by the way. Draco Malfoy."
What an interesting name. "I'm Erin. Uh….thanks. See you around, I guess."
"Er, yeah," Draco muttered.
"Since when do you help Muggle foreigners?" Harry said once he was sure the girls were out of earshot. "I'm impressed, Malfoy. You really have changed."
"If you mention this to anyone, Potter, I'll have to obliviate them and kill you. My father especially cannot hear about this."
"I'm impressed," Harry said again. "Where are we meeting the Baron, again?"
"The edge of the forest, near the lake. Come on."
The Bloody Baron stared, and Harry felt a strange sense, like a hole through his body. He had never been the subject of a ghost's stare before, especially from someone as icy as the Baron. But Draco seemed to be used to it.
"So, Harry Potter. You are sure that He Who Must Not Be Named is back, in the same form as us at Hogwarts?"
"I can't be positive," Harry muttered. "But I had a dream…." He launched into an explanation about what had happened that night at the Burrow.
"I shall alert the other spirits, Mister Potter, but your story has many flaws. The ghosts have been around forever, and to us, He Who Must Not Be Named is merely a blip on the horizon. For now, you must go."
"Go, and heed this: if you live a hundred thousand years, as I have, you will never stop being haunted by him. I've never stopped thinking about Helena, or about what happened after. His ghost, Mister Potter, will always haunt you, whether real or fake."
Harry and Draco exchanged a look. "Baron," Draco pleaded. "Teddy Lupin, the Head Boy from Hufflepuff, he says the ghosts have been agitated recently."
"It is not your concern." The Baron started to fade away into the forest. Harry and Draco had agreed not to bring up the Hallows, but now Draco thought it might make a difference.
"Will you alert the centaurs as well? They'll need to be on the lookout for….for anything suspicious in the forest. Any….strange rocks."
"Draco Malfoy, there is nothing strange about these woods. Students are kept out of it, and unlike in your day, Minerva actually enforces those rules now. Nothing could get in or out without her wanting it too. The centaurs have enough to worry about besides, anyway."
"The centaurs?" Draco asked. He suspected the Baron had dropped an important message without necessarily meaning to. "Something in their stargazing?"
"I cannot tell you that information, Malfoy. Forget I said anything." Then, the Baron faded away before Harry or Draco could ask any more questions.
Draco looked at Harry, wide-eyed. "If McGonagall's truly blocked off the forest, then there must be something really wrong. Technically, it's not even our property. We've got to get in there, Potter."
"What, to talk to the centaurs?"
"Something doesn't add up. It's clear that McGonagall thinks there's someone or something in there that shouldn't be."
"You think he's there?"
"Not him, but….some presence that shouldn't be."
Harry nodded, saying nothing. It was all a little too much to process.
They apparated back to their respective homes, and Draco was shocked by what he saw. "Erin?" The four girls were walking across the street from his apartment. "You're staying there?" What were the chances that they would be staying at the hotel on his block?
Erin's eyes narrowed. "Draco Malfoy. Are you stalking me?" She yelled across the street. Abby elbowed her.
"You don't just yell that," Holtzman hissed at her. "Anyone could hear. You have to saunter up to him. Like this."
Before Erin could stop Holtzman, she was across the street. "Hey, Dragon Money or whatever your name is. My friend Erin here doesn't like how you're always around. Why do you run into us so much?"
"Fate?" He mumbled. "Look, I know just as much as you."
The other girls crossed over. "Excuse Holtzman," Erin said. "She doesn't like people, especially men. You really live in one of these apartments?"
Draco indicated his building. "Hey, you ladies seemed lost this morning. Everything work out okay?"
"We didn't get to much, just some ice cream shops and things."
Draco was feeling way too confident. "Want me to show you four around tomorrow?" There were small wizard places everywhere, and a lot of good, independent stores, run by both wizards and muggles. They could also do some of the bigger things London has to offer, if the girls had enough money.
"That would actually be really great," Abby muttered, not looking at Draco. "I'm Abby, by the way. This is Holtzman-" she gestured to the blonde girl with crazy green streaks in her hair- "and this is Patty-." She indicated the taller African American woman who looked slightly older than the rest. "It appears you've already met Erin. We're from New York city, and yes, we've become a little lost. Thank you for your offer"
"My pleasure," Draco said, his gaze drifting from one girl to the next. "Tomorrow morning at, say, ten?"
"Thank you," Erin whispered.
A/N: Well, I think maybe I'm making Draco too out of character. Any thoughts on how I can make this better? He's too nice and not Slytherin-y enough.
Also, am I spending too much time with Draco and Erin right now and not enough on the actual story? Please let me know if you feel this way.
Please review! Thank you!