A/N: Hello. :) I'm back! With, I think, the longest chapter I've ever posted to make it up to you. :_* Please forgive me my incredibly long leave of absence… Please? Lol.

Anyway, there's a semi-important author's note at the end, please read it. And if you have any questions, leave a review with your email address. Thanks. :)

Beta'd [sp] by Carolyn.

~NayNymic

Chapter Eight: Finally Waking Up

Pain. Aching, jaw-clenching pain, worse than he had experienced in quite a long while. It had first hit him when opened his eyes to the stale white walls and ceiling of the Hogwarts Infirmary…but not, he noticed, the main ward.

He could clearly see that it was a closeted room; not that it was particularly small, nor was there a variance in the general whiteness of the general Infirmary, but, well, Draco had been laid up in Madame Pomfrey's playground to recognize the difference. There were no windows, nor, as far as he could tell given his limited range of movement, doors. Well, no, there was one, but he had a feeling, and hoped, as he felt the light strain of his bladder, that that particular door led to the washroom, and was not in fact, an exit. There was a screen to his left, partitioning his bed from the rest of the room, though he could see no real purpose in that, unless there was another bed….

/Why am in here?/ he wondered, pushing away thoughts of possible roommates. After all, if he was to have one, he was bound to find out eventually. He could see no scars, though there were a moderate number of bandages where there had been unmarred skin previously, not all that many though—so a broomstick accident was probably out. Then again, apart from the bandages, he had plenty of bruises, mostly on his arms, and, he assumed, from the dull pain that came with movement, his legs, so perhaps.

Care of Magical Creatures? Could he have been caught by one of the gamekeepers' famous "cute" animals? He remembered, vaguely, a hound…

Draco dragged the bloody, unconscious form of Remus Lupin through the empty hallway, sweat rolling down his forehead from the effort. He had broken his leg while trying to get the DADA professor out of the small dungeon room, and the pain was impeding his speed. Draco grunted as Lupin once again slipped in his arms, a veritable dead weight. Whatever else he might have been, the werewolf was certainly not starving.

He had to hurry, he didn't have much, if any time, before the Death Eaters returned to the anti-chamber. When they did, it would be more than glaringly obvious that the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher was not where they had left him. He just hoped that that particular revelation would be postponed until he and Lupin were out of range, though he doubted it.

He couldn't afford to be caught—and if he could only get to the outer wall, he wouldn't be. If he were, there would be hell to pay, and not just for himself. It was true that the Dark Lord did not appreciate the defection of his precious followers, and Draco had no doubt that if he was apprehended, his death would be anything but sweat. He was prepared for that, he thought, as he pressed on towards the gardens. He had known what he was risking when he'd volunteered for this assignment. But he couldn't risk the other consequences of failure.

His greatest worry was Severus—the man had been his alibi for missing the meeting; if he and Lupin failed to reach the portkey in time, the Light would lose both of their eyes in Voldemorts camp, and with them, their already precarious advantage. There was, he reflected as he and his burden emerged into the night, no point in thinking on it, now, though. If he did, he would slow down, and he could not afford to lose even a second.

Trying desperately to ignore the burning sensation in his chest, Draco struggled on, Lupin growing more burdensome by the second. He had just reached the end of the third themed garden when he heard the howls.

"Oh, sweet Merlin," Draco breathed, his chest constricting with an almost tangible fear. There was naught but one creature upon the earth could make such a sound as that…The hounds of Hell.

Draco's jaw clenched with the remembrance. Ah, yes, he remembered now. The last bit of his…adventure, the moments where he'd reached the portkey and afterwards, were a bit blurry, but he assumed that, as he was very much alive, his cover had not been blown. Had he blacked out then? He only hoped that he'd been conscious enough to deliver Lupin and tell Dumbledore about the rings…

Reaching blindly for the bedside table, Draco felt around for the vial of numbing potion he knew would be there. Groping about until the small vial was secure in his clammy hand, he pulled violently at the rubber stopper and gulped it down as fast as his abused throat could handle it.

As fond as he was of potions, they were his hobby, after all, he wished, as he waited for the numbing potion to take effect, that Mme(1) Pomfrey had been there to cast a spell. If nothing else, they left no unpleasant after-taste. At long last, the pain was washed away with a cooling wave of magic, and Draco sagged in relief.

But now that the agony had ebbed, a different ache, one arising from his very core, was making itself known. It was an ache of need, if there could be such a thing—an almost desperate want just beneath the surface of his skin, burning him from the inside out. A ridiculous description, he told himself, but as he looked down to examine the pale skin on his arm, there was a light blush tone to it. It was so noticeable, it even lessened the contrast between his skin and his Mark.

Draco moaned as, with each passing moment the ache increased. It didn't make any sense—why was it getting stronger? Shouldn't, logically, it be doing the opposite, given that he'd just taken a rather disagreeable potion to make the pain stop?

For a moment, Draco waited; perhaps the need would go away on it's own…But, minutes passed, and it didn't, and Draco's discomfort increased almost exponentially. His skin broke out into a sweat and his hands began to itch, as though his fingers were yearning, if fingers could do things like that, for something outside of his field of vision.

There was a steadily growing pressure in his chest, and an answering ache just behind his eyes. It was becoming increasingly difficult to breathe, though Draco couldn't think of why this would be. The pain of it was almost unbearable—the ache a constant pulse in his blood.

Through his pain, Draco was aware of Madam Pomfrey speaking to him and a curtain being drawn back. Something cold and wet had been deposited on his forehead, and his mouth forced open to make way for another potion.

The Ache, Draco could practically hear the capitals in his head as he thought of it, finally receded, the dull pulse of his blood, the only reminder that it was sure to eventually return.

"What was that?" Draco asked shakily, wiping his palms on the crisp hospital blankets as the Nurse busied herself with checking his vitals. She didn't answer him.

"How much do you remember, Mr. Malfoy?"

/Nice way to dodge the question…/

"I was in Dumbledore's office, I think," he tried to recall, massaging his temples lightly. Gods, his throat was parched… "I think…I mean, did I faint?"

The Nurse nodded matter-of-factly, though Draco wasn't sure if she was answering his question or confirming her own suspicions. Her next comment only half answered his thoughts. "Yes, yes. Do you remember anything else?"

"I…." He hesitated. Should he mention the dreams? They were not, he was sure, especially relevant. But that presence…Shaking slightly, he accepted the glass of water the Nurse offered him. "No, nothing."

Madam Pomfrey opened her mouth, the pitying look upon her features almost a warning, though he had no idea of what, when she stopped. Draco was just going to ask her to continue, but she got up from her perch on the edge of his bed to attend to a mysterious moan from behind the other curtain that Draco had noticed earlier.

Whomever was behind the partitioned area seemed to be in quite a state. Madam Pomfrey sighed as she pulled back the curtain, revealing a boy with jet-black hair and a small, lightning bolt scar on his brow.

Draco watched, unable to tear his eyes away from the writhing form of Harry Potter. The Boy Who Lived was sweating profusely, his already tanned skin flushed with heat. His chest was bare, and the crisp white hospital sheets were tangled up around his hips, exposing just a patch of his blue flannel pajama bottoms.

Draco hands had begun that infernal itching again, when the boys form had first come into view. Unconsciously, those very hands had begun to stretch out, as though reaching for the Gryffindor boy.

Suddenly, Potter's back arched up, until only the Gryffindor's head and lower body remained on the bed. Madam Pomfrey, in an attempt to pacify her suddenly very mobile patient, placed her hands on his burning shoulders and pushed him down.

Draco's vision went momentarily read and a surge of adrenaline rushed through his body as he pictured that—that horrid woman putting her hands on Harry.

Wait….Harry?!

Harry's movements, as Draco watched, grew more frenzied and the Nurse could no longer control his behavior. Suddenly, the brilliant green eyes snapped open and Harry's hands reached out towards him. The Ache, which had never really gone away, returned full-force, and Draco reached back. Harry moaned slightly as their fingers brushed.

Madam Pomfrey, having a sudden slash of understanding, pushed the two beds together. Immediately, the boys grabbed onto eachother, their hands clasping and their arms around each other's waists.

/Oh bugger,/ Draco thought as the green eyed boys fingers brushed his.

"Tell me about it." Came the Gryffindor's reply.

Draco's eyes opened wide, and with a sudden shock, met Harry's equally startled ones. "Bugger," he said at last, aloud this time. Why was his life never simple?

It was a peculiar thing, Hermione thought, the manifestations of discomfort or fear or confusion that could write themselves out in human mannerism. She was sure that there was a thesis about it somewhere, and if there wasn't, it would be an interesting thing to look into writing about.

Little things—looking everywhere in the room but at her, rubbing his eyes, clasping and unclasping his hands. All of these were Albus Dumbledore's expressions of these emotions…she was amazed at the breadth and diversity of them, and that he was even capable of such mortal qualms at all.

"White, you say?" Dumbledore's wise eyes peered over rimless half-moon glasses. "Not…gray?"

"No."

He nodded. "….Yellow?"

She shook her head.

"Hmm, no….Perhaps a light green?"

Hermione sighed, exasperated with the normally astute Headmaster. "No, no. It was most definitely white."

"I assume," Dumbledore said, at last giving in. "That you are aware of the ramifications of that particular outcome?"

He helped himself to a cup of tea as Hermione watched.

The young Gryffindor nodded. "Of course."

The Headmaster gave her a slight smile and a chocolate biscuit for her trouble. The boys, he guessed, wouldn't be pleased by this revelation. But, he knew, they'd have to be told. Even if he did have the power, or was foolish enough to attempt to use it, to erase their bond, or try to simply deny its existence, he wouldn't. The boys would surely notice something was wrong, in any case.

And perhaps this wouldn't be all bad. Both of the children were….lonely, he supposed was the closest word. And Dumbledore could think of no one more deserving of love, unconditional or otherwise, than Harry Potter. And if young Malfoy was the one to give that love, then so be it.

Besides, it would be nearly impossible, now that the bond had been formed, to break it without potentially killing one or both of the boys. The charm was potent, the bond strong—if any of the elements required for a complete mesh had yet been achieved…well anything was possible.

Although, Dumbledore thought that that much was as of yet unlikely. It was almost preposterous that any progress on the completion of the bond would have been made…It should, conceivable, be at least a few weeks.

"Professor," Hermione interrupted, her normally confident voice soft. "What shall I tell Ron?"

Dumbledore thought on it a moment. The youngest Weasley son had been…absent from Harry's life of late. It was true that none of the parties involved had come to him with this information, not even, indeed for council, but, as Muggles were fond of saying, walls have ears. And this was truer nowhere more than Hogwarts, where every portrait was a confidant.

/It's probably nothing,/ the old man thought. Not all friendships last forever—people (especially the young) grow apart. But there was something…odd about the entire situation. Something wrong, but Dumbledore could not think of what that could be.

"For the time being, Miss Granger," the Headmaster replied, smiling benignly at her. "Nothing at all."

"What I don't understand," the Creature hissed angrily, red eyes glowing with suppressed rage. "Is how the werewolf managed to escape, given that he was unconscious at the time,"

"We believe," came the smooth voice of Lucius Malfoy, a strain of fear hidden beneath. "My Lord, that he was rescued by a member of the Old Fool's Army….Though how they got past the wards, when they were so excellently manned—" he shot a venomous glare at Pettigrew. "—is unknown."

Voldemort grimaced, his pinched and snake-like features tightening further, his scowl darkening. His grip on the chair's arms grew ruthless. "This cannot happen again…Severus and Draco must be set on their trail. Severus has told Draco of the…incident, I assume?" The last part was ground out, and Pettigrew cowered a little bit.

Lucius nodded. "So he has written me, My Lord. He was deeply sorry that he and Draco could not leave the school without arousing the mans suspicions. Draco was most disappointed at not having been able to help in the chase."

Voldemort grinned, a sickening split of an almost inhuman face. "Yes, your son has ever been a boon to me, Lucius. A fine Death Eater, much like his sire,"

Lucius bowed deeply at the praise.

"I need to find the source of this…problem," the Dark Lord spat out, his voice harsh. "And when it is found, Lucius, it must be….disposed of. Understood?"

Lucius nodded, the movement causing the torchlight to reflect off his silver-blonde hair, his eyes gleaming as Voldemort ran a skeletal finger across his cheek. "It shall be done, My Lord."

…TBC…

Hey, everyone! I'm ssooooooo sorry about the delay with this chapter. It just did NOT want to come out, you know? Anyway, I hope this chapter, which is about 2600 words long, will help to ease the pain. I'm alternating updates from now on, and the next thing I update will be "Malediction: The Forgiveness of Sinners."

::wink:: When this will be updated, exactly, I couldn't tell you though. Lol. I'm such a putz. :)

Anyway, yes, the mind link has been established, one step down….whether or not Harry and Draco will accept it….well, that's something else entirely, isn't it?

So, tell me what you think. More will be revealed in the next chapter. :)

REVIEW!

~NayNymic