***Woo-hoo! Another chapter! And kudos to every one who saw this coming, not that I try to be overtly sneaky in my plots or anything. Now when I said that there were two chapters left last time I posted…that was an optimistic goal. I just keep hoping that this fic will eventually end sometime in my lifetime. So we still have at least two chapters to go. AT LEAST.
The low stone ceiling really did lose its interest after an hour or so of close study. Draco groaned; this was stupid, he knew that it was. A Malfoy didn't mope about like some lovesick puppy. Malfoy's took what they wanted when they wanted it and they would broach no argument. And yet, even knowing how a proper Malfoy should deal with the problem at hand, Draco had yet to pull himself away from the large granite slabs that were above his bed.
He knew that he should find her, apologize, make up some lovely bit of nonsense that Lucius always used to make his mother happy. Maybe tell her a few promises that he didn't intend to keep. But then what if he did intend to keep them? That was, of course, the most worrying aspect of this matter. He felt truly bad for letting Pansy kiss him. He had felt guilty for not pushing her away immediately. Draco couldn't remember the last time he had felt guilty over anything.
Now the only thing left to be done was to find the girl. Find Hermione and make her understand that he was sorry. Tell her that he was miserable when she hated him. Tell her that he missed her. But Draco would rather tell Potter that he envied his Quidditch skills before he would tell Hermione any of that romantic dribble, even if it were true. No, the only way to handle this was to tell her that Pansy had thrown herself at him, and that, as Hermione had said, he didn't owe her anything. Then he should probably try to incorporate their project into the conversation, talking about Arithmancy almost always put her in a good mood. And then, if he was charming enough, he could probably even kiss her. He had a plan now and that was good. It wasn't even eight yet; he could probably still find her in the library.
Draco pushed off the bed and strolled leisurely down the hall to the common room. He was in no hurry; he could easily picture Hermione sitting in their room working, part of her waiting for him. The thought brought a self-satisfied smirk to his face and he sped up a little, always happy to oblige.
The door to their room was slightly ajar and Draco smiled triumphantly as he pushed it open, knowing that she was there. But she wasn't, someone else was.
The Slytherin girl spun around a guilty expression on her face. She shoved something deep into her robes and stepped backwards, nearly tripping over a stack of books.
"Draco…" she murmured, sending nervous glances at the door behind him.
"What are you doing here, where's Hermione?" Draco's voice was firm but dangerous, there was something about the mutinous gleam in her eyes that he didn't like. There was something akin to triumphant on her face.
"Maybe she went for a walk?" Pansy's voice was steady but Draco could hear the apprehension underneath.
"What was that you were putting in your pocket?" Draco thought that perhaps she was stealing some of their work.
"Nothing," Pansy replied as pushed her hand into her pocket and tightened her grip.
Draco stepped forward quickly and grabbed her arm, Pansy struggled, but Draco who was larger and stronger, easily wrestled her to the table where he forced her against it, his hands trying to gain access to her pockets.
"This brings back memories, doesn't it Draco?" As if needing to emphasize her point, Pansy pressed back against him.
But Draco's hand had closed on a scrap of parchment and he pulled it out and pushed her away, "shut up Pansy," he muttered as he unfolded the note.
Pansy stayed where she was and watched as he began to read the letter. He knew that it was most definitely from Lucius, but he didn't understand, he had never made plans to meet Lucius in Hogsmeade. Draco read the letter again in confusion. He turned towards Pansy and she stepped back, stumbling this time over a book bag that had been left haphazardly in the way. Draco looked at it for a moment, his mind taking a while to put the pieces together and realize what this all meant.
Pansy began to inch towards the door but Draco grabbed her again and jerked her away from it, he shoved her hard against the wall and she whimpered in pain.
"Where is she?" He hissed, his face only a few inches from Pansy's.
"I don't know," Pansy replied bravely.
"You tricked her, you've been helping him all along, spying. My mother isn't even sick, is she?" Draco shoved her back again even harder and Pansy's bravery dwindled.
"No, your mother isn't sick," she yelped as he pushed her again. "But your father didn't know what else to do. You had completely written off your family, turned your back on them, he was desperate."
"Where is she?" Draco felt his patience crack as a wave of fear spread through him.
"In…in Hogsmeade, Lucius wanted to talk to her, convince her to stay away from you." Pansy trembled.
"You stupid little chit," Draco let go of her; his hands were beginning to shake. "He'll kill her."
Draco left Pansy there; he had no time to worry about her. He could only focus on one thing, hoping that he could get to Hermione before Lucius did. He had to hurry.
Draco had just reached the entrance doors that would lead him outside into the dimming light when a voice cried after him. But he didn't stop as he jerked the door open and started to plunge out into the dusk. He was halted, however, when a heavy hand came down on his shoulder. He was jerked backwards through the doors and stumbled to the floor. Filch was glaring at him darkly and Professor McGonagall was hurrying to meet them.
"Mr. Malfoy, just where do you think you were going?" The Professor's voice was sharp.
"Professor, Hermione Granger is in Hogsmeade"
"Nonsense," the stern woman interrupted, "Hermione Granger is a model student who is probably upstairs in her dorm room studying as we speak."
"No you don't understand! She's there and she's in…" He had been about to say danger when he found himself suddenly unable to say anything.
Professor McGonagall lowered her wand and glowered at Draco. "Not another word Mr. Malfoy! You have spent your entire existence at this school trying to make trouble for Hermione Granger and her friends."
Draco stared at the professor in shock and tried again to say something, but it felt as if a great weight had been placed over his tongue. He made a sudden lunge towards the door but Filch had anticipated this and knocked him back to the floor.
"Mr. Malfoy," McGonagall sighed, "the charm will wear off in a few minutes, and you shall return to your dorm. Well, go on!"
Draco glared hatefully at his teacher before turning and walking to the stairs that would lead to the dungeon. He had no intention of going to his room however. He needed to find someway to get to Hogsmeade.
He began to walk down the stairs, deeply in thought. There had to be something. He had to think. Draco stopped short. "Potter," he whispered out loud and then turned and dashed back up the stairs. Professor McGonagall was still standing in the foyer of the Great Hall talking to Filch and she called after Draco as he started up the next flight of stairs.
"Mr. Malfoy! Where on earth do you think you're going now?"
Draco didn't stop running though, not until he had gone up several flights of stairs and down two long corridors. He didn't stop until he reached the portrait that he had watched Hermione escape through on more than one occasion.
"Let me in," he commanded to the portrait.
"Password!" The woman cried out gleefully, almost as if she knew already that he didn't have one.
"I don't have a password! But I need to get in! Let me in!" He yelled at the portrait.
The woman in the pink dress frowned at him, "I can't let you in without a password."
"I don't care about your password!" Draco slammed his fists against the portrait, "let me in!"
There was an intake of breath from behind him and Draco spun to see Neville Longbottom standing at the end of the short hall that led to the portrait. His face was pale and he took a shaky step backwards.
Draco lunged forward and caught Longbottom before he could escape. "Open it!" He ordered.
"N…no…" Longbottom whimpered as Draco twisted his arm back behind his back.
"I don't have time for this Longbottom. Open the damn door!" Draco barked trying hard not to picture Hermione in Hogsmeade, Hermione with Lucius.
"Butterscotch buttons," Longbottom cried out as Draco twisted his arm even farther back.
The portrait swung back to reveal the Gryffindor Common room, Draco didn't even pause to purvey this new place that he had never once in his life imagined that he would be. He walked in and stood in the center of the circular room. People were springing up in surprise and an angry roar was beginning to escalate.
"Where's Potter?" He hissed, his low voice somehow undercutting the noise. "Where is Harry Potter?" He yelled when no one answered him.
"You've got some nerve Malfoy."
Draco spun and looked up; there upon an archway that overlooked the central room was Potter and Weasley.
"How did you get to Hogsmeade?" Draco asked quickly walking towards them.
"Did you think that you could just parade in here?" Potter growled.
"Look Potter, I don't have time for this, tell me how you got to Hogsmeade in our third year!" Draco shouted up at him, although this wasn't necessary since the common room had gone deathly still.
Potter looked taken aback, "What are you going on about?"
"Potter, I swear that I will beat you to death if you don't tell me how you snuck into Hogsmeade!"
Potter glanced at his red haired friend and then back down at Draco, he didn't understand what was happening.
"Potter!" Draco roared, "I don't have time for this, she doesn't have time for this!"
Potter and Weasley both paled at these words and they disappeared at one end of the walkway only to reappear across from Draco at the foot of a flight of stairs. They rushed up to Draco, grabbed his shoulders and roughly dragged him back through the portrait hole. As soon as the picture swung shut behind them, blocking the interested faces of the other Gryffindors, Potter shoved Draco against the wall.
"What do you mean, she?" Potter said quietly.
Draco glared at Potter, not wanting to admit anything to him.
"Where's Hermione?" Weasley asked him coldly.
"In Hogsmeade, Pansy and my father tricked her," Draco found that he had to tell them, for her sake.
"Oh right, of course she is," Weasley said sounding somewhat relieved, as if what Draco was suggesting was impossible. "Like that little idiot Slytherin could trick Hermione. And even if she could, Hermione would never sneak off campus…" Weasley's voice trailed off and he looked at Potter. The two exchanged meaningful glances.
"And I thought Slytherin was the house for rule breakers," Draco muttered.
"Stay here with this git, I'll be right back." Potter told Weasley.
"Hey!" Draco snapped at him, "you could at least think up some new names to call me."
"Right, sorry, Ron, you stay here with this wanker and I'll be right back."
Draco glared at them both. Potter went back through the portrait hole leaving Ron and Draco, who began to pace impatiently. Potter was gone only a moment or two when he popped back out from behind the portrait, clasped in his hand was an old scroll of parchment.
"He's right, Hermione isn't anywhere in the school." Potter looked hard at Ron before continuing, "but she left the," he looked meaningfully at his friend again, "well you know what she left."
"Oh bloody hell Potter! I know about the invisibility cloak." Potter and Weasley looked at him in astonishment. "What I need to know is how you snuck into Hogsmeade."
"Like we would tell you!" Weasley snapped.
"I need to save her." Draco said, trying to speak calmly.
"Don't worry about it." Potter said coolly, "We'll go get her."
Draco laughed harshly, "You don't even know where she would be."
"Well we certainly aren't going to depend on you to save her." Potter told him mulishly.
"I'm sorry Potter, I hadn't realized that you were so skilled at saving people. Funny, but I don't think Cedric Diggory would agree with you." It was a low blow; even Draco had to admit it.
Potter's face turned several different shades of gray before settling upon a deep ashen color. Draco didn't even see his fist coming until Potter punched him squarely in the jaw with it. Draco stumbled backwards and fell down hard, the metallic taste of blood in his mouth. Potter looked rather stunned at his own actions.
"Right then," Draco said, rubbing his quickly swelling cheek, "now that we've got the pissing contest out of the way, can we go?"
Potter and Weasley glanced at each other and then Potter stepped towards Draco and extended his hand. Draco looked at it in something between disgust and awe. He finally accepted the peace offering and got to his feet. Potter then glanced at the piece of parchment that he had and nodded at Weasley who started down the hall. Draco peered interestedly over Potter's shoulder and for a moment saw something that looked like a map of the school, with tiny moving dots.
"What is that?" He asked but Potter folded it back up quickly and glared at Draco.
"Nothing that you need to know about Malfoy." Weasley grumbled.
Potter pulled his invisibility cloak out of his bag and unfurled it. Draco had to admit that it truly was a thing of beauty. Weasley joined Potter underneath it and they both disappeared, there was a heated exchange that was done in whispers and then a hand tightened on Draco's shoulder and he was pulled down and under the invisibility cloak. He huddled together with Potter and Weasley; they were painfully close.
"Let's agree," Weasley muttered, his face scarlet, "to never speak of this again."
'Agreed," Draco and Potter said simultaneously.
"You know," Draco whispered as they paused to let a few students meander by them in a narrow hallway, "we don't really need the cloak since it's before curfew."
"You're right, because we wouldn't look at all strange strolling the corridor with you," Potter replied sarcastically.
They came to a sudden halt in front of a statue of a one-eyed witch. Draco eyed it suspiciously. Potter glared at him and Draco knew what it must have been costing them to give up so many secrets.
"Watch the map," Potter said and Draco watched as Weasley studied the old faded parchment.
Potter slipped out form under the cloak and removed his wand, he prodded the one-eyed witch, glanced back to where Draco was watching unseen and then leaned close to the statue and whispered to it. There was a scraping sound as the statue moved, revealing a dark hole.
Weasley folded the map up and tucked it into his pocket. Draco pulled the cloak off of them and handed it to Potter.
"We'd better hurry," Potter said softly and the three boys squeezed into the tunnel, the witch closed behind them.
They had been walking for what seemed to be hours but Draco knew was really only about fifteen minutes. He glanced at his watch; it was almost eight, almost time for her to be there. He had let himself hope that maybe she wouldn't know where to go. But Hermione was very smart and Draco had finally dismissed this notion, she would figure it out somehow.
Potter walked ahead of him, the tip of his wand glowing brightly. Weasley followed behind him taking up the rear. The redhead was almost bent double, the ceiling of the tunnel curved so low over their heads.
"What does Lucius want with Hermione anyway?" Weasley huffed angrily.
"Let me think, she's one of Potter's best friends, she's helped foil several of the Dark Lords plots, she's a muggle-born, and, oh yes, his only son and heir is involved with her. You're right, no reasons to hurt her there. Don't know what Lucius is thinking." Draco replied scathingly, he didn't know how Hermione managed to put with friends as dense as these.
"If something happens to her…" Potter's voice trailed off, not wanting to voice his fears.
"I know," Draco's voice was soft, the bite of his earlier words gone from his mouth, "I know."
And he did know. It was his fault that she was there. She must have gone to stop him, to save him. Why did she have to be so virtuous, couldn't she have just let him go off and get himself killed if he wanted to? Couldn't she mind her own business? Draco felt nauseous. It was all his fault.
"We're nearly there," Potter called over his shoulder.
"Do you really know where to go?" Weasley asked him, a note of distrust in his voice.
Draco decided that he wouldn't even deign the question with a response. If Weasley actually believed that Draco intended harm towards Hermione, he figured that the two Gryffindors would have left him in a broken heap by now and continued on without him.
Draco ducked to avoid knocking his head into a particularly low outcropping; there was a muttered curse behind him as Weasley was obviously not as observant. Draco was beginning to marvel at the tenacity of these Gryffindors. They really were brave. Foolish, yes, but the bravery was astonishing. Hermione had rushed off into apparent danger believing that she had to save him and now her two best friends were willing to follow one of their most hated enemies into the fray to retrieve her. Draco found that he couldn't send them in unprepared.
"There's a spell that you both need to know."
Weasley snorted. But Potter paused to look back at Draco.
"We found it, Hermione and I, in the books we've been studying for our Arithmancy project." Draco hated telling them this. He hated sharing anything about his time with Hermione with them. He hated sharing it with anyone.
"Well it's comforting to know that you two have actually been doing some work." Weasley muttered darkly.
"What type of wizard do you think I am anyway Weasley?" Draco snapped back at him.
Weasley opened his mouth to tell him just what he thought of the Slytherin when Potter cut him off.
"What type of spell Malfoy?"
"Hopefully the type that will keep us alive long enough to rescue Hermione."
**There will be another chapter. Please Read and Review!