THANK YOU! We're getting close to that 1000 mark! :D As always, thank you, and I love you all. (Side note: I am desperately trying to figure out how to enter this story in the Dramione awards, but I have literally NO CLUE as to how to do that. If ANY of you can give me some helpful advice, I would greatly appreciate it!) Okay, I know many of you are making playlists of the music I mention—my dear reader Nicco pointed out an excellent song that is SO Draco—you must hear it. It's called "Boys Don't Cry" by Ulrik Munther. I can't stop listening to it. Anyway…enjoy the next chapter!

VVVVVVVVVV

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove:

O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wandering bark,

Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.

Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle's compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error, and upon me prov'd,

I never writ, nor no man ever lov'd.

-William Shakespeare

VVVVVVV

HERMIONE

Tears ran down my cheeks and I laughed ridiculously as I trotted down the stairs of the Headmaster's office, one arm slung around Harry's shoulders and the other around Ron's waist. My laugh pulled through my chest and shot me through with joy so strong it hurt. I turned to Harry and placed a kiss on his cheek, and then I pulled Ron down and kissed his cheek as well. They just chuckled, not minding my girly mushiness for once, as the three of us charged back toward the Great Hall where everyone was gathered, still cheering and hugging and crying.

Harry pulled back from me, and I turned to look at him.

"Hey, guys—I think I'm going to go to bed," he gave a weak smile, but he looked deadly pale. I swiped at my eyes.

"Okay, I suppose you're allowed," I chuckled. "Ron, why don't you walk him up and make sure he doesn't fall down the stairs? I want to go see Ginny."

"What, you don't think he can take care of himself?" Ron complained, but he turned, slapped Harry on the back and the two of them grinned at me, then headed off toward the Gryffindor rooms. I watched them go, my heart so full I couldn't even think of something clever or affectionate to shout after them.

It was over. Impossibly.

Our army had fallen, then rallied.

Harry had died, then resurrected.

And Voldemort had stretched his gamble too far, and lost.

And in a last, titanic duel between Harry and the Dark Lord, Voldemort's own spell had arced back and killed him—because Harry's wand—Draco's wand—had been the one to disarm the Elder. Voldemort's mistake had cost him his life.

And now we were free.

I skipped like a little girl back toward the raucous noise in the Great Hall, my hair bouncing, a grin on my face.

I turned, and the daylight streaming in through the ceiling made me blink, and delight rushed through me as I gazed at everyone, all my friends, holding each other, kissing and hugging and teasing and laughing—

My smile faded. Two figures moved in a manner unlike all the others—hurried, impatient, never lingering to talk or hold out their arms to anyone else. I blinked, then swallowed as they came near enough for me to see.

They both wore flowing black, and had long white-blonde hair that hung in disarray. They turned every which way, their eyes searching, searching…

It was Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy.

My breath caught.

And before I knew it, I started toward them.

I pushed through the crowd of my friends, weaving and dodging, for all of a sudden they were obstacles in my way. All the noise of the revelry faded into the background.

And then I found myself standing in front of Narcissa.

She almost walked into me, and then she caught sight of me and stopped. Tearstains lined her cheeks, and her eyes brimmed. Lucius, who stood just behind her, spotted me too. His eyes flashed, but his face looked colorless.

"You…" Narcissa started, reaching up to fiddle with the front of her robes. "Have you seen Draco Malfoy anywhere?"

Shock hit me. I opened my mouth—

"No use to ask her, Narcissa," Lucius gritted, glancing around. "She wouldn't pay him any mind."

"She knows who he is, Lucius!" Narcissa barked back at him, and I could hear how frayed her nerves were. She spun back to face me, her expression desperate. "Please, have you seen him?"

I shook my head, all my happiness slowly draining out of me.

"No," I whispered. "No, I haven't."

"The Potter boy could have been lying," Lucius growled, but he choked on the words, and looked away to hide how his brow twisted.

"Lying?" Narcissa gasped, turning to face him, her eyes going wide. "He…No, he couldn't be! He told me that Draco was alive, that he was in the castle! It's why I didn't betray him to the Dark Lord—because he told me Draco was—"

"Why wouldn't he?" Lucius answered. "He was trying to save himself—"

"No, no…No…" Narcissa's gaze darted wildly through the Great Hall. I was too stunned at what she'd said to speak.

"Narcissa, we can—Narcissa, we can search elsewhere—" Lucius tried, pulling on his wife's arm.

"No, no, no," Narcissa shook her head, more and more frantic, and resisted him.

"Narcissa, come—"

Her expression broke.

"Oh, Lucius!" she sobbed, reached up and wrapped her arms around her husband's neck and buried her face in his collar—and let out a heartbroken wail.

And Lucius—that cold, wicked man who had sneered down at me since second year—his face went blank, stiff—and then his frame cracked, and his arms enveloped his wife. And as I watched, shattered, his brow contracted, his eyes squeezed shut and he lowered his head down onto his wife's shoulder.

Everyone nearby stopped what they were doing—stopped in the middle of their sentences, and turned to stare at them. Silence fell throughout the crowd. Scorn flashed across many faces the instant they saw the source, but it didn't stay there long. One would have to be heartless not to be wrenched by the sound Narcissa was making.

I wrapped my arms tightly around myself, trying to keep my chest together, for I felt as if something inside me was breaking apart.

"Harry…" I croaked, and no one heard me. I swallowed hard, and fought to speak louder. "Harry wouldn't lie."

Lucius' eyes opened—eyes so like Draco's—

And twin tears spilled.

"What do you know of it, Miss Granger?" he demanded hoarsely, bitter and ashamed, but Narcissa had twisted in his arms to see me. I swallowed again, and braced myself.

"If Harry says he saw Draco, and that Draco is alive, then it's true," I said. "And this…this is a big castle. And the battle just finished. He…He could be anywhere inside here. We…We will help you look."

Murmurs rustled through the room like wind through the barley. Narcissa and Lucius glanced at each other. Narcissa's cheeks colored.

"We…We cannot ask anyone else to—" she murmured.

"Nonsense," I declared, trying to control my heart rate. "He didn't fight against us, which means he's one of Hogwarts' own." I turned around, meeting all eyes who would look at me. "I'm going to go look for Draco Malfoy. I would appreciate your assistance."

"I'll help you, Hermione," said a voice at my shoulder. I turned, to see Luna Lovegood's placidly pleasant face. "I'm usually good at finding things that have gotten lost."

Narcissa blinked, shocked.

And then Neville Longbottom stood up, gave me a look, then a grim nod.

"I'll come," he decided. "If nothing else but to prove Harry right."

And that did it.

Everyone who was able to stand got up, and began forming into groups and barking orders. The Great Hall erupted with activity, and groups of students and teachers began charging off into the corridors. The Malfoys stood gaping, and I saw Lucius gulp as his eyes landed on Professor McGonagall, Percy Weasley and Professor Flitwick urgently discussing which corridors they ought to send some of the Gryffindors through to search.

"Luna, shall we try upstairs?" I asked the blue-eyed girl beside me.

"That's all right with me," she said lightly.

"Okay, let's go," I said, setting my shoulders and turning toward the direction I had come, Luna beside me. Then, my feet slowed. I stopped, and glanced over my shoulder at the Malfoys.

They stood there, watching me, clinging to each other. They looked as if they were completely lost. I swallowed, an old, familiar feeling settling into me. Had I done this before…?

"Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy?" I said, quietly and respectfully. "Would you like to come with us?"

Both of them started. Lucius' lips parted, Narcissa glanced up at him, then took his hand in hers and pulled him forward. I felt Luna watching me, a cryptic smile on her face. I didn't return the glance—I started walking again, the three of them in tow, and headed toward the staircase.

VVVVVVV

HERMIONE

We searched through the entire castle—Lucius, Narcissa, Luna and I. We climbed down into the Slytherin common room, then trekked all the way to the astronomy tower. We called his name—his mother's voice full of desperate hope, his father's a desperate command, and Luna's like the coaxing coo of a dove. I shouted his name too—trying to keep my voice even, trying to smooth it, and not let it break. It didn't help that I felt cold all over, and my stomach was tight as a drum.

And then, as a result of all this school-wide organization, it was discovered that Remus Lupin was also missing.

The search efforts redoubled. All sorts of locating charms were cast, and students, teachers, ghosts and house elves scoured the halls, bedrooms, toilets, towers, classrooms, pantries, kitchens and closets.

But though we called until we were hoarse, and looked until our eyes hurt, we found no sign of either of them.

And as the day waned into evening, and the Malfoys' despair opened up to swallow me, I had to use all of my already spent courage to keep from shedding tears.

What was this victory worth if I had lost him?

VVVVVVV

Dum spiro, spero.

"While I breathe, I hope."

-Latin proverb

VVVVVVV

HERMIONE

Three days later…

I wandered through the mostly-empty halls of Hogwarts as evening fell. Many of the students had gone home to their parents and siblings—and to bury their dead. I didn't blame them. But Harry, all the Weasleys, the professors, Tonks and Teddy, and the Malfoys were all staying behind to help clean up the mess and talk to the newspaper reporters about the battle—and in the case of the latter, to look for clues to their son's disappearance—and so I opted to remain. I couldn't bear to be parted from Harry and Ron yet—and call me masochistic, but being in the same room as either of the Malfoy parents brought me such intoxicating pain that I wouldn't even entertain the thought of leaving them—even though they didn't go out of their way to speak to me. I watched them from afar, as I used to watch Draco. And the more I saw of them, the more I recognized certain gestures and expressions and inflections. And the more my heart just ached.

But everything was difficulty. In a rather hair-raising confrontation, Harry had insisted that he had seen Draco mere minutes after Professor Snape died, and that Draco had told him to tell his mum he was going up to the castle. Lucius, of course, had not believed him. But Narcissa was willing to entertain any evidence that indicated that her son was alive. So was I. Even though my confidence was failing.

I walked alone this evening, running my fingers along the cool stone wall of a corridor. I entered the messy Great Hall, stood in an aisle and gazed at the golden sun through the new, glittering glass of the giant window. Slowly, I sat down at the crooked Slytherin table, and watched as the light slowly, slowly deepened, faded, and darkened into purple, and the ceiling above washed through with pink, then deep blue.

The stars came out. I climbed up on the table and lay down on my back, pillowing my head in my hands. My eyes traced the brilliant, twinkling points of light.

"'Someday,'" I whispered. "'When I'm awfully low, when the world is cold, I will feel a glow just thinking of you, and the way you look tonight…'"

I blinked. Tears ran down my temples. I let them stay there for a moment, then got up, calmed my breathing, and swiped them away. I slid off the table, folded my arms, and began to meander down a different hall.

My head hung low—I didn't pay attention which way I was going. I could find my way back to the Gryffindor common room from any place in this castle, if I wished. And right now, I did not wish.

I hummed an unfamiliar song as I walked, even though the torches in this corridor had not been lit, and only filtered light from other passages guided me.

I slowed. I stopped. I lifted my head.

I remembered this hall.

This was the place where Crabbe and Goyle had sprawled my books, and Draco had broken his hand saving me from them. And Professor Snape…

"If you ever need assistance of that sort again," His words echoed in my memory. "Don't forget the portraits…"

A thought began to dawn inside my mind. Slowly, I reached into my pocket and pulled out my wand.

"Lumos," I breathed. My wand lit. I glanced around, and swallowed. The portraits nearest me were all empty, and I could not see up to the highest reaches of the walls. I'd noticed that a great many of the occupants of the portraits had retreated into the innermost part of the castle since the battle—I assumed that they were still afraid to come out.

I cleared my throat.

"Er…Hello?" I called. My voice echoed too loudly. I winced. "Um…Is anyone there? Anyone…at all?"

For a moment, only darkness and silence answered me.

Then, a strange little light started bobbing toward me.

A light in the wall.

"Hello?" a small, sturdy voice called. "What—who's there?"

I whirled to the left. Then, I leaped backward.

In a portrait right at my eye-level, a girl perhaps thirteen years old, holding a lit candlestick, stared back at me. She wore a frilly cream-colored dress, she had long brown hair, a pale, pretty freckled face and big blue eyes. And when she saw me, her face lit up with a broad smile.

"Oh! Hullo, Hermione!"

My mouth fell open.

"You…You know my name?" I stammered.

"Of course I do!" she laughed. "I've known you since the day you were sorted." She suddenly frowned fiercely. "I was quite vexed at that Hat. I was certain you should have been sorted into my mother's house—I still am!"

"Who are you?" I asked, still thrown.

"I'm Helena Ravenclaw!" she declared. She glanced past me, frowning again. "My ghost is around here someplace…I prefer not to see her—she's such a drip."

Instantly charmed, I stifled a smile.

"Helena?" came a deeper, more resonant voice, her words colored with an Irish lilt, from somewhere high above and to my left. "Who are you talking to? It's late at night!"

Helena rolled her eyes.

"I know what time it is—but curfew can hardly apply right now, can it?" She gestured with her candlestick. "Just look at the state the Great Hall is in."

I would have kept smiling—but it faded as a sudden realization struck me, and I filled with tingling wonder.

A wonder that increased to overpowering the next moment.

The tall form of a graceful witch descended through the frames until she stood with Helena in the same broad, golden frame. She had a pale, lovely face, red lips, deep brown eyes, long, black, wavy hair and blue, flowing velvet robes. A silver diadem sat on her head. She arched her right eyebrow at her daughter and slipped her arm around her shoulders. Helena, despite her sassiness, leaned her head over on her mother's shoulder. Then, Rowena Ravenclaw—Rowena Ravenclaw!—turned her face to me.

"Good evening, Miss Granger," she intoned. "I'm sorry if my daughter is disturbing you."

"Not…Not at all," I managed. "It's…It's an honor to speak with you. Why…" I glanced all around before returning my gaze to her deep, penetrating one. "Why have I not seen you before?"

"Oh, I usually hang about in the Transfiguration sections of the school, and the Ravenclaw room, and portions of the library—and of course, the headmaster's office. It's usually too crowded in this castle for me to move around much, and I'm so old—" She suddenly smiled. "But you have seen me before, dear. You just don't remember."

I had to admit that this was probably true—after my first year, I had paid little attention to the portraits—I was always so preoccupied with other things…

"I heard Hermione calling," Helena explained, tilting her face up toward her mother's, then glanced out. "I came to see if she needed something—all the other pictures seem to have gone somewhere…"

"I'm afraid they're not yet comfortable coming back to the halls," Rowena assumed.

"Ninnies," Helena declared. Rowena smirked, then looked back to me.

"What can we help you with, Miss Granger?"

"I wanted to speak with some of you," I confessed, trying not to wince in chagrin. "Ask you a few questions…?"

Rowena's gaze instantly sharpened—she clearly liked questions.

"Truly?" Her eyebrow flicked again. "You're asking us for help?" A delicate frown crossed her brow. "That doesn't happen very often."

"You're right—it doesn't, does it?" Helena observed.

"I can never understand it," Rowena shook her raven head. "Here we are, storehouses of the knowledge of the centuries," she swept her bejeweled hand upward, to encompass the other portraits. Then, she sighed. "And yet no one even glances up to ask the way to Potions class."

"Ah, Rowena, does that surprise you?"

That was a deep voice—much like that of Professor Snape's. And it came from behind me. I spun around, heart pounding.

There, floating down into a wide silver frame exactly opposite Rowena and Helena's, came a young man with shoulder-length, straw-blonde hair, a narrow face, stern brow, and the deepest, most piercing green eyes I had ever seen. And he was clad in deep emerald robes.

"Salazar!" Helena waved to him. "What are you doing in this section of the castle?"

Salazar Slytherin—the man himself—glanced at me a moment, then addressed Helena frankly.

"I came because I sensed your mother's tired astonishment rippling through the walls—it woke me up." Slytherin's bright eyes darted to Rowena's face. "I've told you before not to take it personally, Rowena. Our library contains the answers to every possible question a young wizard could ask, but do they search hard enough to find them? No, they are lazy and use the wrong incantation and blow off their noses."

"Oh, that library," A hearty voice crowed, several frames above and to the right of Salazar's. I held up my wand, straining to see—

A man the same age as Salazar, with curly golden hair, a mustache and short beard, a handsome face and brilliant scarlet robes smoking a pipe, and leaning his shoulder against the side of his frame, a sword gleaming at his belt.

Godric Gryffindor.

"I still say that life experience is the best teacher," Gryffindor decided, emphasizing his point with a wave of his pipe. "You remember a spell twice as readily if you use it rather than reading it out of a textbook."

"I don't like your tone," Slytherin said darkly up to him. "Rowena and I spent half our lives building that library, and I don't—"

"Really, how long has it been—and the two of you are still fighting about that library?"

This time, I looked straight up—

And another dark haired lady—her shorter tresses all in curls—whirling down from frame to frame, her golden robes trailing behind her, her floppy black hat flapping. She settled with a thump right next to Rowena and Helena's frame.

It was Helga Hufflepuff.

I slapped a hand to my head, trying to steady myself.

"We're not fighting—we're discussing," Gryffindor corrected.

"It sounds like fighting to me," Helga said. "And personally, I've had enough of that."

Rowena's face lost all amusement. Slytherin sighed.

"Besides which," Gryffindor turned his twinkling eyes to me. "We're forgetting this young lady here, who's asked for our help."

All the founders, and Helena, shifted and faced me.

"What would you like to know?" Slytherin asked. I stared at him, completely thrown by the open, polite expression on his face. Then I scolded myself. Three such discerning, brilliant and brave wizards such as Gryffindor, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw would not have even kept company with a monster, much less found a school with him. Salazar Slytherin had not always been evil…

"I…" I started, trying to gather my thoughts. "I was told that Draco Malfoy was in the castle during the battle. But no one can find him. I was wondering if…If any of you happened to see him?"

Slytherin's eyes flashed. But before he could speak, he was interrupted.

"Draco Malfoy? Is that what she said?" a fluty voice from high above floated out. And then a winsome young woman with long, fluttering white-blonde hair, porcelain skin, and a green gown, descended like a bird, and landed on the other side of Rowena and Helena. She turned large, silvery-blue eyes on me. She raised her dark eyebrows.

"Did you say Draco Malfoy?"

"That's rude, Eden," Slytherin admonished. He sighed again. "Miss Granger, this is my sister, Eden Malfoy, formerly Eden Slytherin."

"Nice to meet you," I fumbled breathlessly. She gave me a brief, but pleasant smile, then glanced at the others.

"Forgive me, I just thought I heard everyone talking about my greatest grandson."

"We were," Rowena said.

"What about him?" Eden pressed.

"I asked if he was in the castle during the battle," I repeated.

"I haven't seen him since he came a few months ago," Helga said. "But at that time he went straight to the Room of Requirement."

I turned and found her.

"The Room of Requirement?"

She nodded.

"Seemed very distressed about something. And a few minutes later, Severus Snape followed him in."

Deep, sudden silence descended. Helena laid her head on her mother's shoulder again, and Rowena saddened and wrapped her up in her arms. I struggled to take a breath.

"Severus Snape," Gryffindor mused, puffing on his pipe. "I would have put every last gold piece I had on the odds that he'd marry Lily Evans."

"What—you favored him over James Potter—the poster child for your house?" Slytherin scoffed.

"Yes," Gryffindor said shortly. "Knowing what I know…Severus was more a Gryffindor than anyone I've ever met."

"So you're saying Gryffindor has the monopoly on virtue and courage?" Slytherin objected. Gryffindor glanced down at him.

"Does everything have to be a fight, old friend?"

Slytherin blinked, and his brow smoothed.

"He possessed the best qualities of both of you," Helga said, dabbing at her eyes.

"But we are forgetting Draco," Rowena reminded them all.

"He's a good boy," Eden said.

"What's your definition of 'good'?" Helga cried. "Hexing first years in the hallways and breaking Harry Potter's nose?"

Eden tried to reply, but Helena jumped in.

"He had the good sense to fall in love with Hermione!" She waved her candlestick.

My face turned red hot. My eyes searched out Rowena.

"You…? All of you…?"

"Yes, we know," Rowena's eyes sparkled.

"How?" I demanded.

Rowena didn't answer—she just glanced past me at Slytherin, then Gryffindor. I spun around to glare at them, and the two of them looked politely away.

"We saw you outside the Headmaster's office," Eden murmured, blushing. Slytherin cleared his throat.

"Anyway…"

I wanted to fan my face—my eyes were watering.

"Anyway," Hufflepuff sighed, facing me. "We were discussing Draco and the Room of Requirement. We know he came in, looking upset. But we don't know what he and Snape were discussing."

"I do."

Rowena's voice startled me. It was low, and solemn. The others frowned.

"You do?" I pressed. She nodded.

"How do you know?" Gryffindor demanded. Rowena gave him an exasperated look.

"I designed that Room—a brilliant invention, if I do say so myself." And she gave me a very knowing glance.

"You can hear inside…?" I stammered.

"I can," Rowena nodded. I couldn't decide whether I wanted to blush again or turn white.

"Well, of all the…" Gryffindor huffed. "How many centuries in this castle, and you've been keeping that to yourself?"

"No one has ever asked me," Rowena defended herself. "But I do know what Draco and Snape were discussing, and it concerns this lady."

All attention turned to me. Rowena Ravenclaw met my eyes squarely, and spoke earnestly.

"Draco was very grieved that he had let you down in some way—that you were being hurt and he could do nothing to stop it."

I swallowed hard. My hand faltered on my wand. Rowena went on.

"Snape tried to soothe him, telling him that inaction had been the best action at the moment—that to attempt your rescue may have proven fatal to you. Draco understood, but he could not be appeased." Rowena canted her head at me, her brow furrowing. "He must love you very much."

I gasped, and swiped at my eyes. I felt a tremor pass through the portraits. And then—

"Enough, enough."

I glanced at Salazar Slytherin through the haze of tears. He was frowning hard, and gave Rowena an irritated glance.

"Don't torture her," he said—startling me—then gave me a sharp look. "Young woman, Draco was in the castle the night of the battle. He broke in through a window on the same level as the Room of Requirement."

"He did?" I cried, my heart jolting. "What happened to him?"

"He carried a man with him," Slytherin continued. "It looked like Remus Lupin."

"Remus!" the others chorused, and Gryffindor called him "Moony."

"Lupin was injured," Salazar told me. "Draco was dragging him out of the room and down the hall, presumably toward the hospital."

"I told you he's a good boy!" Eden exulted.

"What then?" I pressed.

"Draco carried him quite a distance, then staggered sideways and rested his back against a wall," Slytherin sighed. "However, it happened to be the door into the Room of Requirement."

"It…They…" I stammered, lost. Slytherin nodded.

"Yes—they fell through the doors, which closed behind them."

"The window would explain the reason Draco was covered in blood, like Harry said," I surmised, my mind racing. "But…But Harry saw him in the Shrieking Shack! How could he have gotten—"

"I am sure you know, Miss Granger," Rowena spoke up. "That the Room of Requirement connects with a passage to the Hog's Head."

Everything went still. I lowered my head.

"You mean…He got away."

"Very possible," Gryffindor said. "No one that I have spoken to or listened to has said they saw him die."

"What about Lupin?" I wondered.

No one answered. They all shook their heads and shrugged.

"I know what room you mean, Salazar," Helena realized. "The one with the broken window." She sat up, and waved with her candlestick again. "Come with us, Hermione—we'll show you!"

And they darted off, like the spirits they were, through the frames, down the corridor. I caught my breath, then took off after them.

We raced down corridors and up stairs, until we came to that very familiar passage—the one that passed near the Room of Requirement. I turned a few more corners, the portraits flitting all around me.

"There," Salazar said, and I slowed.

Ahead of me, in a large, carpeted room lined with suits of armor, stood a great stained-glass window of a knight on a white horse. Moonlight poured through it. A hole gaped in the lower center of it, the glass jagged as teeth. The carpet was littered with colorful shards—and it was also stained with dried blood—the blood of a heavy form that had clearly been dragged over the threshold and out into the hall.

It was a horrible picture—horrible, but quiet. And though my stomach turned at the sight of it, my heart rose.

Yes, there was blood.

But no body.

And for tonight, that would suffice.

The evening wind blew through the broken opening, and toyed with my hair.

"When are you going to tell them?"

I turned to see Gryffindor stride into a full-length frame that had clearly been abandoned by a knight, his cloak flowing. He watched me, waiting.

"Tell who?" I asked.

"Potter and Weasley," he clarified. I blushed again.

"Tell them what?"

"You know what."

I shrugged, and glanced down at my feet.

"He wonders why you haven't, you know," he said. "Dumbledore."

My head came up. I frowned at him. He just looked at me.

"Really?"

He nodded, then shrugged.

"Voldemort is dead, the world is safe," he raised his eyebrows. "And everyone is in an uncharacteristically-forgiving mood." He folded his arms. "You ought to take advantage of that. Besides," he canted his head. "Potter and Weasley might be able to help you figure out where he's gone."

My mouth closed tight. My insides trembled. But when the head of your house—and the one whose courage you claim—looks at you like that

"Fine," I whispered. "I suppose you're right."

"Good lass," Gryffindor winked at me. "We'll be right behind you."

Gritting my teeth, I turned around and started to the door.

And suddenly, I felt I was alone.

I shook my head, and kept going.

I chose to believe Gryffindor when he said they were all behind me—just silent now—as I made my way to the common room to tell my friends the truth about the day I had gone missing for an hour.

TO BE CONTINUED

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