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Malfoy and the Mudblood by emmieB

Format: Novel
Chapters: 35
Word Count: 182,010
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong violence, Scenes of a sexual nature

Genres: Humor, Mystery, Romance
Characters: Harry, Ron, Snape, Lucius, Blaise (M), Draco, Fred, Luna, Neville, OC
Pairings: Harry/Luna, Draco/OC

First Published: 03/24/2005
Last Chapter: 04/04/2016
Last Updated: 04/24/2016

Summary:
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Emily Carlisle hated Draco Malfoy. That was a fact. So when she was told that Draco was coming to stay, she thought things couldn't possibly get worse. Oh, how wrong she was!


Chapter 1: Who's That Knocking at My Door?
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Who's That Knocking at My Door?






Chapter One


Emily woke up to face a grey day. The sun had given up trying to pierce through the dark clouds, and had decided to go in hiding. Perfect, just perfect! she thought to herself. The perfect weather for a day like today! and Oh my, she was dreading today. Emily cast her mind back to a few months before.

  

 






A few months back, just before Halloween in fact; a nervous looking Hermione Granger had approached her desk.

"Emily," she had said. "We have your first assignment." Emily had snapped her attention away from the amusing sight of Neville, who was trying and failing miserably, to remove a reappearing ink spot from his crumpled, white shirt. Her eyes had flicked, excitedly up to Hermione's and eager anticipation bubbled up inside her.

She had waited so long for this moment. Emily had thought her job at the ministry, would be filled with excitement. She had dreamed of chasing, and catching, wanted Deatheaters. She had imagined herself running down dark, dank alleyways; the thrill of pursuit pulsating through her veins, and all she had got was boring deskwork and lots of filing. While Harry, Ron and their dream team ran about England pursuing the enemy, Emily was stuck here behind a desk, with Hermione as her boss. "Life sucks" was her motto and she was frequently overheard muttering it.

So with big hazel eyes filled with hope, she had turned to answer Hermione.

"What is it?" she had asked her, her voice barely concealing her excitement. "Malfoy," Hermione had answered Emily flatly. Emily's eyes had widened even more and she had gasped out in confusion. "But he is dead, Hermione...he died during the last battle."

"Not Lucius Malfoy, we are talking about Draco here, they have decided on the appropriate punishment for him, finally... and we have decided that you are the perfect person to handle this case," she had told Emily while nibbling nervously at the corner of her lip. Emily had eyed her suspiciously, smelling a rat. Draco Malfoy! She had thought to herself, remembering with a shudder, all the misery he had put her through whilst at school. He should have been given the kiss months ago! she had mused vehemently. There was no one on this earth, who Emily hated more than, Draco Malfoy; and everybody knew this!

"Hermione?" She had asked sweetly, her voice miraculously under control. "What on earth could bring anyone to that conclusion, I hate him....unless his punishment is to be death by a thousand knifes, I don’t think you have the right person for the job," she had added with a Malfoyish smirk. Hermione had let out an exasperated sigh and she had ran her fingers through her hair distractedly.

Poor Hermione! Emily had suddenly thought to herself. The thought had popped into her head from seemingly nowhere.

Hermione constantly looked harried and distracted. Since running the department of Law Enforcement and Public Safety, L.E.A.P.S to be exact, she always seemed to be over worked. She had a hard job of keeping everyone happy and in this department there was quite a few egos'. Officials and Pure blooded families constantly tried to bribe her. And then there was the problem of keeping all the Aurors under control as well.

"We feel you are the right person, Emily...because of your background, because you are a Muggle-born," her voice had cut Emily from her thoughts.

"What the hell has that got to do with anything?" Emily had questioned, feeling frustrated. "You’re a muggle-born too, what the hell is his punishment anyway?"

Folding her arms resolutely across her chest, Hermione had eyed her carefully. "His punishment is to live as a muggle for a year. No magic, no wands! He is to live as muggles do and he has to have a mentor. Someone to report his progress to us. Someone who has a good knowledge of the muggle world, someone who has to..."

A horror filled comprehension had suddenly dawned upon her.

"No fucking way!" Emily had shrieked at the top of her voice, causing poor Neville to drop his small, scalding hot espresso down the front of his trousers. Both girls had ignored Neville as he had hopped about the office, wailing out in pain, bemoaning his private area. Hermione's eyes had filled with a dangerous determination and a curious despondency had filled Emily's bones.

"You will take this assignment, it is part of your training and if you fail to complete it... you will not get to be an Auror," she had informed her.

"But!"

"No buts!"

"It's so unfair!"

"Being an Auror involves doing things, which you may find objectionable!"

"Damn it, Hermione! Do you have an answer for everything?"

"Yes!" she had answered wryly with a self satisfied smile.

"But, I hate him!" Emily had wailed, wondering what the hell she had done to deserve this. Why god why? she had, and still thought. I must have been a terrible person in a previous life! No one deserves this torture!

Hermione had patted Emily reassuringly on her shoulder and Emily had shot Hermione her best death glare. Trying her best to prevent herself from rolling her eyes, Hermione had led Emily into her homely office, where for the next few hours she had briefed her on her new duties.

Emily had emerged from her office two hours later looking weary and more then a little pissed off.

"Bloody Hell!"

She had heard Dean whisper too loudly at Seamus.

"Emmy, looks like she has lost a million and found a penny!" he had exclaimed with a big grin plastered over his face.

To weary to think of a good response, Emily had thought about giving them the finger, but in the end she had decided they weren't worth it. And to the sound of the boy's sniggers, she had stalked out of the office with as much dignity as she could muster.


 






Stepping out of the shower, feeling fresh and sparkly clean, Emily made her way over to the mirror. A pair of wide Hazel eyes stared back at her. Eyes that looked almost too big for such a delicate face. Mmm... not too bad, she thought as she surveyed her features. The mirror showed a petite, slim girl, who looked younger than her 19 years of age. It showed a girl with messy, dark hair cropped short. Quite a boyish cut really, but it suited her elfin features. But her pretty face was now marred by a frown, as she thought about the up coming day.

Damn you, Malfoy! I won't let you ruin my life, she vowed to herself as she hurriedly dressed. Then, stomping her way down stairs, she headed into her pokey, shoe-box sized kitchen.

When she got inside her small kitchen, she noisily began to get her breakfast ready. Slamming things down, with a lot of cursing and bewailing, Emily finally emerged from the kitchen with toast, an apple and a giant cup of coffee. Gulping greedily from her piping hot mug, Emily made her way over to the couch and slumped herself down into its comfy contours. Life stinks! Emily thought mournfully, as her mind wondered backwards to her painful memories of Hogwarts and Draco

Emily hated Draco Malfoy! She really did, but she also held a secret. A secret she had never told anyone. Emily had a secret crush on Draco Malfoy. A horrible, disgusting crush and she had done for several years.

I hate you, Draco Malfoy! Emily tried to tell herself with a small sigh, but the image of his ever so sexy smirk kept popping into her mind. Biting into her apple angrily, Emily shook herself to rid her mind of those mental images, placed her coffee cup on the table and laid back on the sofa and let her mind drift back to six-years-before.


 






Emily had been walking down towards the great hall, daydreaming about Malfoy as she tripped along. Although he taunted Emily constantly with cruel words (mudblood never being far from his lips), she had still harboured secret hidden feelings for him.

On this day, far back in time, she had caught sight of him stood by the Great Hall entrance with Pansy and their cronies. Emily had passed by them, her head held down shyly to hide her blushes, when out of the corner of her eye, she had seen Draco point his wand at her while muttering some strange incantation. All of a sudden, to Emily's horror, she had felt her skirt lift up to reveal her knickers to the whole school. The entire school population had seemed to erupt with laughter and she had even glimpsed Professor Snape looking at her with an amused smirk on his face. As Emily's cheeks had flamed, tears had burning behind her eyes, she had heard Pansy Parkinson shriek out.

"Carlisle has got granny knickers on!"

Emily had wanted the ground to open up and swallow her whole. As she had fled the hall for the sanctuary of her own dorms, she had seen Malfoy, out of the corner of her eye, doubled up with malicious laughter and gasping for breath. It was then that she had really started hating him. Emily had cried herself to sleep that night and the hatred inside her had grown. She'd  found herself crying till sleep came many times during that term and it had left a permanent scar on her life.

A mark that still hadn't been erased.


 






Coming back to the here and now, Emily let out a heavy sigh and shook her head.

"I will not let this get to me. I will be mature and responsible. I will handle this assignment professionally. I will..."

But she was cut off from her musings by the doorbell chiming shrilly.

Oh my God, I can't do this... I will run away. They can't make me do this, can they? She thought erratically, feeling very unwilling to answer the door. Her feet betrayed her, though, and she found herself heading through her tiny hallway and towards her front door.

I can't have him in my house. Smirking at me, smirking at my things! He can't live with me, I can't live with him. It'll never work.

StupidMalfoyandthatdamnsexysmirkofhis, ran through her mind, as she found herself propelling the door open to see a grinning Fred Weasley accompanied by a scowling Draco Malfoy.

"Here's your post," said Fred cheerfully, thrusting the post at her before continuing. "And this came by special delivery."

Fred chuckled wickedly, winked at Emily, and nudged Draco forward.

Draco shot Fred a venomous look before turning his eyes to Emily's. Looking at her lazily, he let his eyes roam rather obnoxiously up and down her body.

Emily felt her blood begin to boil and her cheeks flushed with anger. She was about to open her mouth to give him a piece of her mind when his eyes met with hers.

Her words just faltered and  failed.

Then, with a sexy smirk on his face he finally spoke.

"Hello, Mudblood," he drawled. "Do you still wear your granny knickers?"

Emily just stood there frozen for a moment, her mouth open wide with shock, before slamming the door in his face.

I'll never let him into my house. He will never get through my front door! she thought murderously, as she heard him sniggering on the otherside of the door.  

Fred thumped noisily on her front door, interrupting her thoughts.

"You have to let him in, Emily," Fred called out, "or you'll never get to be an Auror!"

Emily just stood behind the door, shaking with anger, and wishing she was anywhere else but here.


Chapter 2: Fun and Games!
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Fun and Games!




Chaper Two


"Emily!" shouted Fred through the letterbox. "Open this door now! Malfoy is sorry."

Emily just stood there, refusing to be budged.Fred hadn't given up, though, and she soon heard him hiss loudly behind the door.

"Apologise to her for god's sake, Malfoy, or I'll see that your sorry arse is put back in Azkaban!"

"Azkaban couldn't be much worse than living with a muggle born for a whole year!" Came Draco's sneering reply.

An image of him leaning lazily against the doorframe, popped unwontedly into her mind. Emily was almost certain that he had that sexy scowl on his face, and that his lips were pulled into a succulent little pout.

No, get out of my mind, demon thoughts... I hate him, remember!

Emily mentally scolded herself.

A suspicious silence fell from beyond the door, and Emily could almost imagine that she could hear Fred's brain ticking away as he tried to come up with a solution.

Suddenly, the letter box flew open and a pair of beseeching, blue eyes could be seen blinking up at her.

"Please, Emily, let him in," Fred begged of her, while fluttering his eyelashes. "Please, Em, I'm on my knees here. I'm begging you... For the love of Merlin, take him off my hands! Please...before, I'm tempted to kill him."

"And what makes you think he's safer with me?" Emily shot back at him, not believing his audacity.

"Have a heart, Emily," he pleaded. "I've had to put up with him all weekend, and I think he has actually drained my will to live! That’s it. If you don’t open the door... I will kill myself!"

Hearing his last dramatic flourish, Emily snorted. Then, unable to control herself, a traitoroous giggle escaped her lips.

Damn him! she giggled to herself. He always manages to make me see how stupid I'm being. And, with that thought in mind, Emily fumbled to open the door.

The door swung open to reveal a grinning Fred, still on his knees, and a disdainful looking Draco.

"You may enter." She told them haughtily. Then, throwing a glare in Draco's direction, she turned and made her way into the living room. The boys followed her in, Fred pulling a reluctant Draco along.

Emily entered into the comfy room and perched herself on the arm of her favourite armchair, and the boys emerged behind her from the narrow hallway.

"Nice place you have here," said Fred, entering the room and taking a good look around. Draco snorted out loud as he entered from behind him. Shooting Malfoy a look etched in stone, she got up from her seat and made her way towards him. Her eyes narrowed dangerously.

"For your information... Malfoy."  Emily hissed at him.  "And I will only tell you this once. This is my home, and I would like you to treat it with a little respect!"

Watching him, in disbelief, Emily saw an amused smirk travel over his face.

Eyeing her maliciously, Draco opened his mouth to speak.

"You call this dump a home," he drawled out, goading her with his eyes.

Emily took a deep breath and tried to calm herself.

That’s what he wants. He wants you to flare up. He wants you to throw him out! Think clearly girl. He doesn't want to be here. He's hoping that the ministry will give him another punishment.

If you stay calm, don’t lose your temper and find a way to live with him, you will drive him crazy! Think about it. It’s the perfect revenge. And maybe he will even electrocute himself with the toaster before the year is through. A wicked grin popped on to her face. Seeing Draco's eyes flicker with uncertainty, as he took in the evil look she was giving him, Emily took a menacing step forward.

Draco's familiar smirk fell promptly back in place.

Plus I get to spend a year with Mr Hotness, and maybe I'll even catch him naked in the shower?  Unbidden, this thought popped into her mind, causing a flush to appear on her cheeks.

Draco's keen eyes quickly noticed this and his even keener mind came rapidly to the right conclusion.

"Why, Miss Carlisle - I do believe you are blushing. Are we having dirty thoughts, by any chance?" he drawled out, arching one of his fine eyebrows. Then, seeing Emily's blush deepen, he chuckled and leaned in closer to her. "So tell me, are you having dirty thoughts about me?"

Draco leaned closer in, and his warm breath gently tickled her cheek.

Emily let out a surprised gasp, and stumbled a little backwards. She struggled to find the appropriate words, but none came. At a loss, she did the first thing that leapt into her mind. She slapped him across the face.

In the stunned silence that followed; Draco tentively touched his stinging cheek. Then, through narrowed eyes, he looked at her with his glare filled with hatred.

"I will make you wish you had never touched me, filthy mudblood!" he spat out, his voice filled with venom.

"Hey! Shut your mouth, Malfoy!" Fred yelled out, disgusted.

Emily waved Fred away, letting him know that she didn’t need his intervention. Eyeing the red hand print that she had left on Malfoy's cheek, she inched a little closer to him. 

"I am not that shy little girl, who you used to terrorise at school, anymore. You can't intimidate me, Malfoy." She told him firmly, hoping her words would sink into his ferrety brain. "This is my house. I'm in charge here, Ferret, so you better get used to it!" 

Malfoy, still gently rubbing his cheek, peered up at her from under veiled lashes. An amused smirk played on his lips, and his eyes glinted malevolently.

"Let the fun and games begin then," he stated obscurely, bringing up his eyes to lock determinedly with hers.

His odd attitude bewildered her a little. It had thrown her off course. Emily searched for the hidden meanings in his words. What on earth am I getting myself into? she wondered as Draco's eyes bored into her.

"I have to go now," interrupted Fred, his voice cutting through her thoughts.

Shaking her head, to clear her mind, Emily nodded at him.

"Will you be seeing, Harry?" she asked him distractingly.

"Yeah, I will. Shall I give him a message?" asked Fred.

"Just tell him hello," Emily answered, chewing on her lip nervously.

"I will," said Fred softly, watching her with worried eyes. "Are you sure you'll be okay, Emily?"

"Yes. Don’t worry about me," she smiled weakly back, trying to reassure him.

"Aww... did poor, ickle Emily get dumped by the boy who lived?" Draco interrupted the touching scene before him with a malicious grin.

Ignoring Draco completely, Emily passed him by and headed for her front door.

Draco sniggered contemptuously behind her. Emily reached the door and waited for Fred to follow her.

"If you step over the line, Draco... you will get Azkaban again. I'm warning you," she overheard Fred say as she waited.

Fred then emerged from the living room, looking uncharacteristically harried and Draco could still be heard sniggering insolently from behind him.

Fred reached her and rolled his eyes.

"I'm sorry, Em," he told her with a grimace. "I wouldn't wish him on my worst enemy."

"Don’t worry, Fred. I can handle the situation," Emily answered him, smiling grimly. Then, lighting up her mood, she stood up on her tip toes, and gave him a peck on his cheek.

"Go now, Fred," she reassured him yet again. "I'll be alright. I promise."

Then,opening the door, she shooed Fred swirtly outside.

A few protestations and reassurances later, she found herself making her way back to the living room.

Draco was there, laying, languidly, across her sofa with a malignant smirk stretched over his face. As she entered the room, he placed his hands, lazily, behind his head and smirked all the more.

Emily could see defiance radiating in his eyes.

Damn him! Why does he have to be so bloody sexy?

Giving herself a mental shake, to rid herself of any more erotic thoughts, she turned her eyes to his and eyed him defiantly.

"Alright then, Draco," she stated. "Let the fun and games begin!"

And, as Draco watched her warily, a wicked smirk of her own slowly crept onto her face...


Chapter 3: Give Me Back My Wand!
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Give Me Back My Wand!




Chapter Three


"Alright then Draco, Let the fun and games begin!" Emily stated, a wicked smirk of her own creeping slowly onto her face. Pausing for dramatic effect and letting her hands rest lightly on her hips, she hoped that her pose would create an intimidating effect on him.

Draco eyed her unhurriedly, took his arms from behind his head, and folded them boldly across his chest. With his eyes fixed insolently on hers, he drawled out with his eyebrows raised questionably, "Do you really think that you’re my equal, Emily? Do you not realise, how much hell I'm going to put you through?"

Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, to calm herself, Emily slowly counted to three. Calm your self, Emily. It won't look good if you hex him on your first day, let him know who the boss is around here. Organise your thoughts, now slowly does it. One... two...

But, before she could finish counting, her anger erupted.

"I am more than your equal, Malfoy! Y-Y-You are a worthless human being, a poor excuse of a wizard, a horrible little ferret, and I HATE YOU!"

Seeing Malfoy glower at her, at the mention the ferret, Emily felt compelled to continue.

"You are in my home now, and you will behave yourself. I won't tolerate gittish behaviour and if you don’t behave, I will make sure that you're taken to Azkaban, and are given the kiss.. twice!" 

Draco, who had been watching her through narrowed eyes, all the way through her little outburst, suddenly began to smile a very crafty smile and, with spiteful amusement in his eyes, he drawled out lazily.

"I don’t believe you can receive the kiss twice, Emily." He paused to cross his feet before continuing. "But, lets do this your way, I will be a good little boy for you, Emily. Heaven forbid it! I really don’t want to obtain the kiss twice."

He stopped to snigger smugly for a while before going on.

"So tell me, Emily, please.... what are my instructions?"

Emily stared at him wide eyed, temporarily taken aback by his change of tactic.

"Has the cat got your tounge, Emily?" Draco asked her snidely with a pleased smirk plastered over his face.

Blinking a couple of times, she gathered her thoughts back together. Turning her back on Draco, she walked over to the side table nearby. Taking her time, she picked up a cheery, bright yellow folder, which contained all of Draco's orders. Emily then slowly turned around, clutched the folder close to her chest and pondered her forthcoming words carefully.

Draco sat opposite her, examining his nails in a bored manner - waiting for her to speak.

"Your instructions are in this folder," she told him deliberately, while making her way back over to him. "I would read them carefully, if I were you. Basically, the documents state that you are no longer, in any circumstances allowed to use magic, that you must follow your mentor's guidance in all matters and lastly, but by no means least, you must integrate yourself in muggle society, learning to love and appreciate all things muggle..."

Breaking off with a scowl, Emily glared at Draco as he issued forth a snort of derisive laughter.

"And what exactly is so funny, Malfoy?" She asked stiffly, as he continued to chortle.

"Love and appreciate all things muggle," he choked out, while wiping away a genuine tear of amusement.

"I don’t think so, Em, do you?" He asked, his last remark being more of a statement than a question.

Sighing wearily, Emily raked her hands through her hair, ruffling up her elfin crop as she did so.

"Draco," she asked despairingly. "What do you hope to gain from this?"

"Nothing," he replied. "Nothing at all, except for - maybe -"

A most Malfoy-ish smirk appeared on his face as he broke off, and his eyes travelled deliberately up and down her body.

"You're impossible, Malfoy!" Emily cried out infuriated, throwing the folder forcibly at him. It landed with a loud thwack on Malfoy's stomach.

"Ouch!" Draco yelped out, his smirk disappearing rapidly from his face. Glaring intently at her, his eyes narrowed and a malicious flicker appeared in them.

"Oh, Carlisle. You will pay for that," he warned her. "You'll be so very, very sorry..."

The telephone startled both of them out of the moment with its loud ring.

Brrring! Brrring! Brrring! Brrring!

It rang out shrilly, it's piercing cry echoing through the room.

"Merlin! What the bloody hell is that?" Draco squeaked, feeling startled and jumping on to his feet, his eyes bulging with confusion.

Emily shot him an amused smirk, not bothering to smother her delight at his obvious discomfort.

"It's only the telephone, Malfoy," she teased, as she made her way over to the still ringing phone. Picking up the receiver, she answered coolly, "Hello?"

"Hello, is that you, Em?" Ginny's disembodied voice echoed down the line.

"Of course it's me, Ginny. Who else would it be?"

"Is he there yet?" Ginny asked eagerly.

"Oh, yes, he is here," Emily answered her, rolling her eyes.

"Are you rolling your eyes at me, Em?" Ginny giggled.

"Yes! He's already driving me crazy."

Ginny continued to giggle uncontrollably on the other end of the line.

"This is so funny," she snorted.

"Do you actually want something, Ginny, or did you just call to laugh at me?" Emily asked her, drolly.

Trying to control her laughter, Ginny answered shakily. "I'm sorry, Ems. But it's just so funny."

"Well, I'm glad someone thinks so," Emily replied with a sigh. "Look, I've got to go now, Ginny, I'll talk to you later, bye-bye."

Without waiting for Ginny's response, Emily put the phone down quickly.

"So your still friends with the little weasel?" Draco's voice questioned, disdainfully, from behind her.

Emily spun around promptly, only to find herself almost nose to nose with him. Being so close to him took her breath away. Too mesmerised to move, she took in his fine, aristocratic features. Her eyes moved, inch by inch, over his face, lingering over his every attribute, to finally rest on his enticingly, fine lips.

"Like what you see?" Draco drawled out obnoxiously, startling Emily out of her trance.

Coming swiftly to her senses, Emily took a step backwards, until her backside struck the edge of the table. Breathlessly, she looked blatantly into his cold eyes.

"What the hell do you think your playing at - sneaking up on me like that?" she stammered out, feeling slightly disorientated.

"I wasn’t sneaking or skulking, I simply wanted to know what that confounding object is," he explained nonchalantly, whilst motioning towards the telephone.

"It’s a telephone," she told him, indifferently.

"And what, pray tell, is a telephone?" he continued, looking incensed with his eyebrows raised high.

"It’s a muggle invention," she told him smugly, "A device we can use to talk to people all over the world, without getting dirty from floo powder!"

Draco's eyebrows seemed to rise even higher, as he took the information in.

Emily couldn't help but laugh at his growing incredulous expression.

"But that’s impossible! They must use magic, or something," Draco stuttered out incoherently.

"No, Draco, its called science!" Emily snorted complacently, still extremely amused by his bemused expression. "Don't you know anything?"

Draco glared at Emily balefully, as she continued to snigger. He did not like to be made look like a fool, and this showed plainly on his face. Stepping closer to her, with his eyes the colour of storm clouds, he leaned in close to whisper harshly in her ear.

"Don’t mess with me, Emily. Or, I'll assure you, you will regret it."

Feeling shivers tremor down her spine and goosebumps prickle over her arms, Emily shuddered. Not sure why she was responding this way and feeling very out of her depth, she pushed rudely past him.

Making her way to the kitchen, her thoughts ran wild.

Merlin! What have I got my self into? One minute I feel like strangling him, the next I want to kiss him! What's happening to me? How will I ever survive? Maybe we will actually kill each other!

Shaking away these unwanted  thoughts, Emily entered her kitchen and considered over just what she needed. A drink, she decided on as she threw open cupboards, looking for some liquid stimulation. And, as she searched, she heard footsteps approaching the doorway.

"So what do you call this then?" Malfoy's voice intoned, making her cringe inside.

Finding the Fire Whiskey, she turned to see, Draco leaning, indolently, against the door fame.

"Its called a kitchen," she snapped back at him as she found an old cracked mug.

Pouring the whiskey into the mug, Emily decided to ignore him, as she sensed him approach her again.

"Have I driven you to drink already then?" he chuckled spitefully, from behind her.

"Why don’t you find a hole to crawl down ,Malfoy, or, better yet, just leave," she snarled out, not bothering to turn and face him.

"I don’t want to leave now, Emily, I'm just starting to have fun," he drawled out disdainfully, leaning on the counter beside her.

Taking a big gulp of whiskey from the chipped mug, Emily turned to face him, amid coughs and splutters - whiskey didn't really suit her much and she was never that much of a drinker. After a few coughs and splutters later, Emily managed to splutter out.

"Fine then. Have it your way, but don’t expect me to help you!"  

Emily stormed out of the room, rushed up the stairs and into her bedroom. Upon reaching her door, she slammed the door loudly behind her.

Scrambling through her chest of drawers, she searched for her wand. I must find a better hiding place for it now, she contemplated as she laid her hand upon it. Aiming it towards the door, Emily cast a locking spell. Try and make your way past that, Malfoy, she thought smugly to herself. Flinging herself down upon the bed, Emily stared at the ceiling. Willing herself not to think so much, before it drove her insane, she picked up a book and started to read.

Lost in the world of Kathy and Heathcliffe, she read on captivated with only the odd bang and curse, interrupting her from down below. Hasn't he left yet? She mused distractively, as she continued to read.

Languorously, the sunlight outside faded and the night inched forward.

Straining her eyes in the dim light, she switched on the bedside lamp. Rubbing her tired and book strained, sore eyes, she suppressed a yawn and closed her book. Suddenly, she realised that she hadn't heard a disturbance from down below for hours. Has he actually left? Emily speculated as she rose from the bed.

Making her way from the bed to the door, Emily strained her ears for the slightest of sounds. But she heard nothing. Tapping her wand against the door, she softly mumbled a whispered Alohomora, and the door inaudibly swung open.

The hallway, in front of her, was dark with only the softest moonlight shining up from the windows below.

Emily stepped cautiously out of the room and the door swung shut with an ominous click behind her, making her jump slightly.

Don’t be stupid, Emily, she mentally scolded herself as she tip-toed along.This is my home, there is no reason to be scared, she tried to convince herself. Reaching the end of her hallway, her hand felt along the wall, searching for the light switch.

On finding the switch, she pressed it down lightly, but no light came.

Damnation! Emily cursed silently, clicking the switch backwards and forwards, in hope that the light would switch on. Emily wasn't used to this stifling silence, as she normally had the television on, or the radio blasting, and, normally, every light in the flat was switched on, leaving not a single dark corner.

I am not afraid of the dark. Emily tried again to convince herself,  as she was about to make her way downstairs in the darkening gloom. And , anyway, where the bloody hell is Malfoy?

Taking the first step downwards into the impending doom and pondering hard on this question, Emily suddenly felt a hand grip down firmly on her shoulder.

With her arms flung outwards, she tried to steady herself as she let out a shriek. Feeling herself begin to pitch forward, her arms clutching out at the emptiness before her - she felt a pair of strong arms hauling her roughly backwards.

She fell backwards, landing with a soft thud, against a strong male torso.

Hearing, the said, someone let out an disgruntled oouf, she exhaled loudly and felt the strong grip on her arms loosen. As the fingers loosened pressure, she fell ungraciously to the floor - in a heap!

Looking up from glazed eyes, she saw Draco smirking down at her.

So he didn't leave, Emily deducted, feeling extremely disorientated.

"So, Carlisle," Draco said with a smirk. "Do you really think suicide is the answer?"

Snorting in amusement, he stared smugly down at her.

"It was you that tried to kill me!" Emily yelled back up at him, while trying to gather her senses.

Draco just smirked all the more and an almost wistful look seemed to appear in his eyes. Emily watched him, entranced. Then, abruptly breaking her stare, he lunged forward, making Emily scuttle backwards, unsure of what he would do, or even what he was capable of doing.

Closing her eyes tight, certain of her impending death at his hands, Emily waited for something drastic to happen - but nothing happened.

"Ah, I came up here in search of a bedroom and instead I find this beauty," Draco whispered softly.

Wondering what on earth he was talking about, Emily opened her eyes to peer up at him.

What she saw left her speechless.

Draco was stood above her with a triumphant smirk on his full, sensuous lips. And, with his eyes full of unsuppressed glee, he tapped away, mockingly, at the corner of his mouth with her wand.

Unbelieving eyes opened wide, Emily quickly realised that it was her wand that he held firmly in his hand, and she let out a small, disbelieving gasp.

Draco chuckled softly, obviously pleased with himself - before saying dangerously, in a forbidding tone.

"Are you missing something, Emily?"


Chapter 4: Turbulent, Draco Filled Dreams
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Turbulent, Draco Filled Dreams!





Chapter Four


Draco chuckled softly to himself before saying, dangerously.

"Are you missing something, Emily?"

She blinked up at him rapidly, trying to wrap her head around the situation. My wand?He has my wand... MY WAND!

DAMN YOU, MALFOY, GIVE IT BACK!

Thundering through her mind, these thoughts left her reeling; unable to find the words she wanted to say, Emily held her hand forward in a candid, childlike gesture.

The corner of Malfoy's mouth quirked up in amusement.

"Do you want something, Carlisle?" he goaded her. "You wouldn't be wanting your wand back now, would you?"

Watching her with a derisive cock of the eyebrow, he tucked her wand firmly under his arm, and stepped towards her with one fluid motion. Then crouching down, so his eyes were level with hers, he looked at her and smirked.

"Can you think of one good reason why I should give it back to you?"

"Because it's mine!" she managed to shoot back, reaching out for her wand.

Pulling a little away from her, his smirk still firmly in place, he recommenced with is teasing.

"Do you know, how long it has been since I held a wand, Carlisle?"

Emily shook her head no at him, wondering at the strange expression which flickered within his eyes. They seemed to hold a strange wistfulness and was that hurt she saw held within them. Sighing softly, she waited for him to continue.

"It's been a year since I've held a wand, a whole bloody year! Locked away, Incarcerated! For a whole bloody year.  And all for something I did not do..."

"Yes, you did!" Emily couldn't help but shout back at him.

"Did I?" he asked her with resolute eyes. "Are you certain?"

"You're a Death Eater." Emily whispered with quiet conviction, "It's been proven..."

Draco inhaled his breath sharply, closed his eyes in consternation and through gritted teeth, spat out.

"Have you never heard of the word stooge, Carlisle? That’s what I am. I'm the Ministry's sacrificial lamb. I'm just a scapegoat!"

Pausing for breath, his eyes assessed her face, intent on her reaction. Then, as if he had read her bemused eyes, he leaned in closer to her, placed his right arm against the wall and cupped her cheek firmly with his other hand.

His intimidating stance caused a intense feeling of claustrophobia within Emily, and she struggled to fight back blind panic. Lifting her eyes to fix on his unflinching face, she mumbled out.

"I don’t know about that, Malfoy... Draco...."

She paused for thought. Feeling her head whirl with all the implications of his words, Emily decided to answer him truthfully.

"I honestly don’t know what you're talking about, Draco. The ministry keeps many things secret and close to their chests. So if there has been an injustice done to you, believe me, I wouldn't know!"

"Oh come now, wouldn't your precious Harry tell you everything?" rebuked Draco, his eyes scornful.

"He is not my precious, Harry!" Emily interjected childishly.

"Didn’t you think living one year as a muggle was a little too lenient a punishment for an alleged murderer?" Draco continued doggedly.

"It was self-defence, they told us it was self-defence," Emily gabbled out idiotically, her mind suddenly full of unwanted questions.

Draco snorted out derisively at this and pushed his face closer to hers. The tips of their noses almost touched, merely centimetres apart. Unwaveringly, Draco asked her.

"And do you believe that, Emily? I though you had brains, aren't Ravenclaws supposed to have brains? So, I ask you again Emily. Do you believe it?"

"No..." Emily's incisive brain quickly determined. "No, I don’t believe it. Not anymore!"

Draco's eyes scanned her face rapidly, searching for some truth held within her eyes. Finding what he sought within them, he withdrew a little away from her. Silently, and with expressionless eyes, he presented Emily with her wand.

Stretching her hand forth, she received it wordlessly.

Watching each other intently, they were both aware that a barrier had collapsed. What hindrance, they do not know, but they felt that a wall had been broken down. That some form of essential trust had been found between them.

"Draco," Emily murmured softly, in attempt to reach out to him. "Draco, I..."

"No!" Draco abruptly cut her off. "I don’t need your sympathy, not now, not ever."

Standing up brusquely, he turned away from her.

Emily watched him unwaveringly, as he turned away from her, composed himself and headed towards the nearest door.

Then with veiled eyes and a blank expression, he asked her glibly.

"And just where am I supposed to be sleeping?"

Emily groaned inwardly, knowing that there were more problems ahead.

Will this day never end, she silently screamed, rolling her eyes heaven ward, as she pleaded to the good angles from above. But, as always, they didn’t seem to hear her. So, giving up on heavenly intervention, she hauled herself up from the carpet and, on unsteady legs, she mooched off down the hallway. Stopping before the door on her right, Emily motioned for Draco to join her.

Draco sauntered languidly towards her, eyeing her insolently.

Unable to meet his eyes, Emily opened the door, switched the light on and waited for his imminent explosion. Screwing her eyes up tight, against the impending blast, she waited nervously. Nothing happened, though. Opening one eye, Emily peered cautiously up into his face.

His face had taken on the appearance of a storm cloud; with eyes shooting daggers at her, he started to speak.

"And. Just. What. Is. This. Meant. To. Be." He asked, biting off each word ferociously.

Backing away from the vehemence in his voice, Emily stammered out meekly, hardly daring to meet his eyes.

"Y-Y-Your bedroom?"

"My. Bedroom. You. Call. This. Box. A. Bedroom?" He seethed at her, obviously livid.

"Well, the Estate Agent called it a second bedroom, but I would call it a box room. You really can't trust those Estate Agents. I normally use it as my office. It's just the right size for an office, but as you were coming to live here I had to change it to a bedroom and... um, well, it's not as small as it looks...um...well..." Her babble trailed off as she felt Draco's eyes bore holes through her.

"It's not as bad as it seems," she told him untruthfully, her eyes roaming over the room and its contents. Its only two contents.

The room consisted of a battered sofa bed that she had picked up second hand and a rickety, old chest of drawers. The overhead light hung down, bereft of a shade, and the only outside light came from a small, cell like window. The sofa bed couldn't even open out all the way properly. Its tatty mattress was pushed tightly up against the drawers. The floor was covered with a threadbare rug, which left most of the splintering floorboards exposed.

Closing her eyes again, she could feel the beginnings of shame wash over her. Even though she still hated Draco with a vengeance, Emily had to admit to herself, that even a drug addled student would find this accommodation unacceptable. Still feeling Draco's eyes burning through the back of her head, Emily meekly raised her eyes to his.

Leaning against the doorframe with arms folded, purposely, in front of him, he watched her accusingly.

I...um, I," Emily muttered out, with her thoughts running askew.

I hate him! I am not going to apologise. I may have been a little childish, maybe even gone overboard. But there is no way in hell I'm going to apologise to a Malfoy. Never. Never Ever!

But, another voice in her head intoned, You should be ashamed of yourself, young lady. You've always prided yourself on your sense of justice and your lenient views. Where are they now, huh? Come on, would you like to be treated this way?


But this is a MALFOY! Do you think he would give a damn if the situation was reversed? Of course not! You would probably be holed up in the famous Malfoy Dungeons, chained to a wall.

That doesn't mean you have to act as he would, though. You must rise above it all! Could you really live with a troubled conscience?

"ARRGH! Stop! Just stop arguing, please!" Emily cried out, bringing all internal voices to an abrupt halt.


Clutching both of her hands to her head, Emily tried to hold her thoughts together.

Looking up, Emily glanced furtively at Draco, only to notice an amused quirk on his lips and a wry cock to his eyebrows.

"Not having a breakdown, are we, Carlisle?" he asked her caustically.

Smoothing down her hair, she gathered her wits together as Draco watched on scornfully.

His soft mouth curled up into a sneer and he drawled out snarkily,.

"I hope you realise that I'm not going to sleep here."

"Well... where are you going to sleep tonight?" Emily snapped back, irritated.

"Your room," he smirked back, infuriatingly.

"Oh no, you're not! There's no way I'm sleeping in here," she retorted, feeling extremely irked.

Draco raised his fine eyebrows at her, gave Emily that self satisfied smirk of his, turned, and made his way out of the bedroom. Ambling slowly across the hallway, he sauntered his way over to her door.

"Malfoy," Emily called after him, incensed. "Don’t you dare, get your arse back here...NOW!"

But her words fell on deaf ears as she watched him turn the handle, open the door and enter her bedroom, letting the door slam shut behind him.

Heaving out an exasperated sigh, she stalked across the hallway. Trying the handle, Emily found it locked.

"Malfoy! Open this door...NOW! You can't get away with this you know...Malfoy!" Emily yelled, whilst hammering against the door. From the inside, she imagined she could hear a soft snigger. Biting on her bottom lip in frustration, Emily considered incanting Alohomora, but almost instantly decided against it. Letting herself fall silent, Emily made her way back to the box room in deep thought.

Well with a little magic, this situation can be rectified, she mused. A little touch here and there and the room will be gorgeous, like a palace in fact. Still not my own comfy room, but a room Malfoy would love to sleep in. A room worthy of the Malfoy Mansion.

Emily chuckled callously, as her new plan formed in her head. On reaching the room, she whipped out her wand, muttering out the incantation she needed.

"Adornicus! " she chanted and, before her very eyes, the room quadrupled.

The dirty, smoke stained walls elongated and turned into a soft white hue. A deep, plush white carpet covered the floorboards. A tall four poster bed appeared in the middle of the room, adorned with ornate hangings and silky bed sheets. A tall elegant, cherry wood wardrobe appeared along with other ornate furnishings. The small, cell like window, stretched and widened, turning into a beautiful bay window.

Letting her gaze fall across the room, a self satisfied smile curled upon Emily's lips.

"A room fit for a King," she murmured. "Or even a Malfoy."

Amused laughter escaped her lips as she imagined Draco's consternation when he comprehended what she had done. Smiling smugly, Emily entered the room.


Entering the room, Emily strode purposely over to the bed. Sitting down on it, she let her thoughts flow freely. So much had happened in just one day, too many things for her to begin to comprehend properly. Firstly, she had to make sense of the situation - of her feelings. Propping her elbows on her knees and resting her chin in her hands, she ran through the days events.

Quite obviously, she still had those feeling for Draco. He could still make her heart skip a beat! He could still hold her in thrall of him. In fact, all those feelings that she had held as a young adolescent had come flooding back to her.

"Damn him," Emily whispered softly. "Why does he still awaken these feelings within me?"

Shaking her head roughly, to rid herself of unwanted thoughts and then running her fingers through her already messed up hair, Emily let her musings linger on what had been said earlier that night in the hallway.

Draco had told her that he was innocent. That he had no part in Snape's murder, and Emily had believed him. Emily had no idea why she had believed him, just a lingering unyielding belief. Her natural instincts had been awakened. Trusted instincts, which never proved her wrong so far. Instincts of which, Emily was very proud. And, if she trusted her instincts, which Emily did, then that meant the Ministry was lying. It also meant that Harry had been lying to her as well. Quite strangely, this came as no surprise to Emily. The ministry held its secrets close to its chest, only permitting select people, into its inner sanctum. These chosen few, being mostly members of The Order of the Phoenix.

Breathing out a sigh, Emily brought her useless musings to an end. She still had a lot of questions in her mind, concerning the Ministry and its goings ons, but now was not the time to ponder on them. Emily was just too bewildered. There were just too many questions, which needed answering and not enough answers to those questions.

Her poor, tired head was much too bemused to think about anything with clarity. Stifling a yawn, she glanced up at the marble clock, which stood upon the newly, magically formed mantelpiece. The pointing hands told her that it was 9.15 pm. Yawning again, Emily stood up sluggishly and, deciding it was time for some well earned sleep, she made her way to the bathroom.

  
Padding softly down the miniscule hallway, Emily passed by her bedroom door.

Pausing for a moment, she wondered, uncertainly, if she should demand access to her room. After all, all her night-clothes were still in there and Emily needed them.

I will handle Draco in the morning, Emily swiftly decided, after a split second of thought. I'm in no mood to deal with him now. She then proceeded, promptly, to the bathroom at the end of th hall.

Entering the bathroom, she turned on the taps, letting the wash basin fill. As the room started to steam up slightly, Emily pulled off her trainers and stepped out of her jeans. Clad only in a close fitting tee-shirt and skimpy knickers, Emily began to wash her face.

After washing, brushing her teeth vigorously and applying her nightly moisturiser, she turned to grab her bathrobe. Only to see Draco stood behind her, smirking smugly. Letting out a startled gasp, Emily stood stock still, her body frozen with shock.

"Well, well, well, Emily," Draco drawled out leeringly, his eyes openly ogling her body.

"I see you've lost your old granny knickers," he snorted out, his words bringing Emily out of her trance.

Trembling with anger and, some other emotion she dared not admit to herself, she shot him her best death glare. Then turning, hastily, away from him, she struggled into her bathrobe. Her fingers, in their hurriedness, tried to tie the front of her robe quickly, but only managed to go all the more slowly.

Fumbling with butter fingers, Emily resisted the urge to scream.

"Urg!" she muttered out in frustration, the hairs standing up on the back of her neck, as she felt Draco approach her from behind her.

Stepping up close behind her, his warm breath tickled along the back of her neck, making Emily shudder. Bringing his head down to hers and pressing his sensuous lips to her ear, he whispered huskily.

"I think things might not be so bad after all."

His warm hands slid underneath her robe and he nipped playfully at her earlobe.

Suppressing a debauched moan, she closed her eyes tight and tried to struggle from his firm grasp.

"Am I so hard to resist?" he murmured carelessly, planting hungry, brutal kisses against her collarbone.

"Draco - no!" Emily gasped out, as her body trembled treacherously.

Chuckling lustfully into her neck, Draco let his hands travel languidly up and down her body. Then they came to rest, sensuously, along the top of her thighs.

Summoning all the strength she had left in her now quivering body, Emily grabbed at his hands and tried to push them away from her.

"Stop this now, Draco," she warned breathlessly. "Or I'll make you regret it... I - I promise you I will."

"Oh, will you now," he responded dismissively and, with a small snort of laughter, he grabbed a hold of her thighs aggressively.

Taking a deep breath and, once again, suppressing her desire, she twisted from his grasp and turned to face him; his eyes had turned a smoky grey and desire flickered within them. Smirking crudely down at her, he pulled her close to him, uttering suggestively.

"Like what you see, Emily?"

"Your just so predictable, Draco," Emily murmured. Widening her eyes, she smiled sweetly back up at him.

Grinning down wolfishly at her, Draco suddenly brought his lips crashing down on hers - hurting her with his intensity.

Struggling against his brutal kiss, Emily instinctively brought her knee up and slammed it into his highly sensitive, groin area.

Draco dropped to the floor, whimpering and doubled over, in pain.

Emily bent down and crouched at his side. Looking into his pained face, Emily bought her lips to his ear.

"Don't mess with me, Malfoy," she warned with a malicious whisper and, with one last scornful look, she quickly departed from the bathroom.

  
Rushing quickly to her room, Emily slammed the door behind her and charmed it locked. Flinging herself on the bed, she pulled the covers over her head and stuffed her head into the pillow. Stifling a moan of frustration, she berated herself for the desire that Draco had roused within her.

"Damn him!" she groaned out, in exasperation, as she waited for him to come banging on her door.

The minutes ticked slowly by, Emily knew, as she counted them herself, slowly.

He never comes.

The fact that he never arrived, his eyes with burning retribution, worried her.

He must be plotting his revenge right now, I must be extra careful in the morning, she mused drowsily, as sleep started to fog her mind. And, with blessed sleep, an image of Draco arrived.

A vision of his lips locked with hers.

I will not dream of him, I will not dream of him, I will not dream of Draco, were Emily's last coherent thoughts as she tumbled into sleep - lost in turbulent, Draco, filled dreams.


Chapter 5: Let Mummy Kiss It Better
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Let Mummy Kiss it Better
 

Chapter Five

 

I will not dream of him, I will not dream of him, I will not dream of Draco, were Emily's last coherent thoughts as she tumbled to sleep, lost in turbulent, Draco filled dreams.

***

A pair of soft lips touch hers, in a tender kiss. Moaning slightly, Emily reached out her arms to pull the phantom kisser closer. "Draco," she murmured softly, capturing those subtle lips in hers.

"Carlisle," a sardonic voice invaded her sleep. "Are you dreaming about me?"

Emily's eyes fluttered open, in shock, and she found herself staring up into Draco's quietly mocking eyes.

"Nice dreams then, Emily?" he asked her smugly.

With her mind in a whirl, she struggled to sit up.

Sat on the edge of Emily's bed was Draco, watching her with inscrutable eyes. He cocked an eyebrow knowingly at her and folded his arms across his chest. A small smile played on his lips as he watched her intently, while languidly stroking his chin, which gave him the air of a theatrical villain. That small smile of his, soon turned into a more familiar smirk.

Running her fingers wildly through her hair, Emily stared in bemusement at him, her eyes keenly taking in his appearance.

Dressed in a crisp, white shirt with its buttons deliberately left undone and loose black-linen trousers, he looked extremely sexy and the smirk on his face showed that he knew it.

Trying to keep her eyes from his messy, bed-head hair, Emily tried to gather her sleep filled thoughts.

"Dra - Draco?" she stammered out uselessly. Then, with her voice gaining resolution, she asked firmly. "How the hell did you get in here?"

Draco answered with a short, sharp sneer. Raising one eyebrow skywards with eyes that gleamed maliciously, he asked Emily smoothly.

"Shouldn't you be more concerned about the little matter of the good morning kiss?"

"A morning kiss?" Emily questioned, furrowing her brow as a feeling of dread began to roll in her stomach.

Smirking self assuredly, Draco drawled out.

"Yes, the Good Morning kiss that you just planted on me..."

"No!" Emily cried out stunned, cutting off his words. "No, it can't be...it-it...was just a dr-dr-dream."

"So you were dreaming about me then," he smirked triumphantly. "Whatever would Harry think?"

"Leave Harry out of this," she snapped back, trying to gain control over the situation. "Once again, I repeat, how the hell did you get into my bedroom?"

"Did you enjoy the kiss, Emily? I must admit I found it quite enjoyable...seeing as it came from a Mudblood."

"You weren't saying that last night, Malfoy," she hissed at him, cutting off his callous words; blushing, once again, she let his words distract her. "In fact, last night you didn't seem to care about my - heritage."

With a small, tight smile on his lips and a vindictive gleam in his eyes, he whispered quietly back.

"It's all part of the game, Emily." Then, advancing on her, with a predatory movement, he brought his face close to hers. Only inches apart, their noses nearly touching and with his granite eyes burning intently into hers, he whispered harshly. "You do know how to play the game? Don’t you, Emily?"

His closeness left Emily breathless and his words set a fire within her. Feeling her emotions twist violently inside, she stared back expressionlessly at him.

His emotionless eyes left her reeling and she inhaled deeply. Emily wrestled rigorously with her senses.

This is much too early in the morning to think coherently, she mused. Oh Merlin! What is he doing to me...a spell perhaps, or maybe a charm? That’s it, a charm. He has me under his spell! I really don’t want to kiss him...its magic.

Wandless magic! it has to be. The evil git is using wandless magic, that’s how he got into my bed... .

Her train of thoughts came to a sudden and, abrupt halt as Draco raised his thumb and trailed it, sensuously, along her lower lip. Gasping out raggedly and, ceding to a sudden urge, Emily closed her eyes and bit down hard onto his thumb.

That should teach him, she contemplated gleefully. Raising her eyes to meet with his, she saw that his intent expression was unchanged. His eyes remained fastened to hers not showing the slightest flinch. Feeling extremely uncomfortable under his unflinching eyes, she moved her head slightly away from him, hoping to escape from his unyielding attention.

As soon as she moved, his hand clasped her face in a grip of iron.

Unable to stir, Emily focused her eyes on his.

"What do you want, Malfoy?" she managed to croak out. "Is this your warped idea of revenge?"

A small, insolent, twitch of the mouth is her only answer. Kiss me, a relentless voice pushed through her thoughts, invading her mind. This foreign voice mesmerised her, bending her to its will; Emily found herself inching, closer and closer, to her sexy and mesmerising nemesis.

Malfoy, she mentally sighed. What are you doing in my head?

Just be quiet and kiss me, his voice persisted relentlessly and, unable to withstand anymore, she kissed him.












  

Emily's eyes fluttered close as she softly touched her lips to his. Draco remained motionless, however. His lips remained still, not responding to hers.

Emily felt a smirk crawl onto his lips. Damn him, she fumed silently, feeling fury gathering inside her. Grabbing hold of his head and, digging her fingers roughly into his hair, she thrust him against her.  Then, with angry kisses, she parted his lips, forcing her unbridled mouth over his. Kissing him with abandon, she waited for his response.

Sooner than expected, his lips caught a hold of hers, his tongue darting eagerly in.

Basking in the sensation, Emily relished every nip, lick and touch.

His warm hands started to tug at her tee-shirt, rumpling it up her slender body. His fingers, slowly, inched their way up towards her breasts and, as they gently brushed against her, Emily moaned out his name.

"Draco," she purred deliberately into his ear, waiting for his reaction.

He let out a low moan and Emily felt him stiffen against her.

Right where I want him, she contemplated smugly. I can play these sexual power games just as well as him.

As he grinded himself against her, she braced her palms against his chest and, gathering all of her strength, she pushed him, roughly, away from her.

Reeling from the impact, he fell away from her, missing the edge of the bed completely. Landing with a soft ouff on the floor, he glared vindictively back up at her.

"Did you really think that I don’t know how to play the game, Malfoy?" Emily smirked down at him, triumphantly, as she got up off from the bed. "Are you really that stupid?"

And, with that, she stalked smugly past him, grinning wolfishly. On reaching the door, she turned to face him again.

Draco hauled himself off the carpet and regained his composure quickly. Smoothing out his shirt, he eyed her balefully.

"You think that you're so clever, don’t you, mudblood!" He spat out.

"Well, I keep getting the better of you, Malfoy," Emily shot back at him from the doorway.

Draco held her gaze with cold eyes, not saying a word.

A strange feeling of regret passed over Emily. Looking into his cold, expressionless eyes filled her with an uncanny feeling of foreboding. Shrugging it off as quickly as it came, she hid her discomfort with words.

"If you persist in acting like this, Malfoy, I'll see you in Azkaban...Innocent or guilty!"

And, with that, Emily left the room, slamming the door behind her.

Taking a few deep breaths to steady herself, she rested her back against the closed door. Emily couldn't deny that the kiss had disorientated her thoroughly, leaving her breathless and wanting more.

"Damn you, Malfoy," she hissed out softly, tracing a finger along her lips wistfully. "How the bloody hell am I going to get through this still sane?"

Emily kept on questioning herself all the way down her small hallway.

On reaching the bathroom; she slid the lock on the door, locking it, not wishing for a repeat of the previous night's performance. Stepping quickly out of her night-attire and into the shower, she let her thoughts roam freely as the stinging water refreshed her.

Somewhere in the back of her mind, Emily felt that she had missed something important, something crucial. Her mind poured over every word she had exchanged, but nothing conspicuous leapt to her mind.

I've overlooked something, she mused, feeling at a complete loss. Stepping out of the shower and towelling herself off, Emily thought about the day ahead.

I can't spend all day holed up here with him...I will have to get him out of the house, she pondered as she made her way to her bedroom.

On reaching the door, she silently prayed that he wasn't still there and, on pushing the door open, Emily let out a sigh of relief as she saw that he had gone. Quickly dressing herself in jeans and a clean tee-shirt and, raking some wax through her messy crop, she felt ready to face the day. Remembering to fetch her wand from the nightstand first, she left the room hastily. Bounding down the stairs, two at a time, she ended up outside her kitchen.

Inside stood a very, baffled, looking Draco.

 











 

Stepping quietly into the room, Emily brushed briskly past Draco and went to put the kettle on.

On seeing Emily enter, Draco whined out sulkily.

"I'm hungry."

Rolling her eyes in exasperation - she decided to ignore him. Snatching the bread from the breadbin and grabbing a few apples, Emily set about making breakfast.

Draco hovered behind her, annoying her immensely.

Without turning to face him, she snappily instructed him through the breakfast preperations.

"The big, white thing in the corner is the fridge, in the fridge is a carton, and in the carton is some milk. Bring it over to me and stop bloody hovering."

She heard Malfoy stalk his way over to the fridge, open the fridge door, muttering all the time, before stalking back over to her.

"How do you expect me to learn, if I can't hover," he whinged from behind her, his disgruntled voice suddenly at her ear.

Emily shuddered as his warm breath tickled behind her ear. Ignoring the sudden warmth that arose inside her, Emily pointed to the toaster, waving him away.

"Put the bread in that appliance over there. Four slices into the sections provided, then switch that switch on the wall downwards, and push the tab on the side of the toaster down," she instructed him, feeling distracted.

Emily watched him out the corner of her eye with a small, amused smile tugging at the corner of her lips. Draco swiftly picked up on the instructions she had given him.

Hmmn... So he's not so useless after all, she mused, as he quickly had the toast toasting.

Finishing his first task quickly, Draco grabbed an apple, out of the fruit bowl, and started to poke and prod at Emily's various kitchen appliances.

"So what is this for?" Draco asked her, his voice full of curiosity.

Raising her eyes to answer him, Emily saw him poking about at a live socket.

"Draco, no, don’t touch that!" She warned, but it was too late. With a loud crackle and a flash of light, Emily watched on, wide eyed, as Draco received his first electric shock.

Draco's body jolted wildly and he jumped backwards with a loud shriek.

"What the bloody hell was that?" He yelled furiously at her, while nursing his sore hand.

Barely suppressing her laughter, Emily made her way over to him.

"That, Draco, was an electric shock," she told him, her voice muffled with giggles.

"It's not funny," he pouted, childishly, looking at Emily with reproachful eyes.

"I'm sorry," she giggled, not sounding one iota sorry. "Here, let me take a look..."

Draco eyed her warily, not trusting her at all.

Finally, suppressing her giggles once and for all; she tugged gently on his hand.

"Come on, Draco," she coaxed, "let me see to it."

Slowly uncurling his hand, Draco let Emily take it. On the top of his long, index finger, Emily saw a small, red burn-mark, the size of a pin prick.

"It's only a minor injury," she told him gently, raising her eyes to his.

His eyes looked down at her mournfully, making him look like a lost little boy.

Looking much too appealing for words, Emily quenched another giggle.

"Do you want mummy to kiss it better?" 

And, then, watching his face screw up in a boyish scowl, she bent her head down and playfully kissed the tip of his finger.


Chapter 6: Saved by Longbottom
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Saved by Longbottom



Chapter Six





"Do you want mummy to kiss it better?" she asked him playfully and, watching his face screw up in a boyish scowl, she bent down and kissed the tip of his finger...

 

***


What the hell did I do that for, she wondered a spilt instant after it was done. Unnerved by her unpredictable actions, she lifted her eyes, apprehensively, up to his face. The boyish scowl was gone and in its place was that oh so familiar smirk of his.

Narrowing her eyes and, promptly, dropping his hand, Emily waited for his predictable riposte.

Raising one fine eyebrow he rejoined glibly.

"Really, Emily. You're so unrefined, anyone would think that you were brought up by barbarians ... or perhaps something worse." Then tapping his finger lightly against his cheek, in mock contemplation, he resumed. "Oh, yes... I forgot, you were dragged up by.... muggles! Weren't you?"

Glaring up at his gloating expression, Emily felt her fingers itching to slap him.

Miraculously restraining herself from physical violence and, with her hands clenched into tight little fists at her sides, she spilled out.

"Actually, Malfoy, I was brought up by loving, caring parents, who both loved me very much and took good care of me. If that’s what you call barbaric, then I'm proud to be a barbarian ... I believe a good upbringing, by warm, good hearted parents is much preferable than being reared by cold hearted purebloods, who only breed for the sake of their family name! "

"Tell me, Malfoy, did you have an enjoyable childhood? I can't even begin to imagine being brought up by a cruel, emotionless mother and a Death Eater of a father! Did you spend most of your childhood practising unforgivables on your house-elves? Did they even love you? Seeing the cold, unemotional poor excuse of a human being that you are, I can only imagine that I'm ri...."

She was cut off from her diatribe by a stinging slap to her face.

Gasping, she brought her fingers to her cheek and touched it tentivly, while her other hand automatically rose to strike back. Her wrist was caught in a grip of iron and she looked up into Draco's piercing gaze.

Squeezing her wrist forcefully, he sent a jolt of pain surging up through her arm. A small lost whimper escaped her lips. Looking at her through narrowed eyes, he hissed out vehemently.

"Don't you ever presume that you know anything about me or my family. You know nothing! You insignificant, filthy, little Mudblood! How dare you?"

Emily cut him off with a swift kick to the shin. Seeing his eyes flinch with pain, she felt some small satisfaction wash over her.

"Let go of me, Malfoy!" Emily demanded of him fervently, staring him coldly in the eye.

A snarl formed on his handsome face, viciously, twisting his fine features.

"Why? Am I hurting you, Emily?" he taunted cruelly.

"Yes, you are, Malfoy," Emily bit out.

"Good." Draco stated, not letting go.

"I really hate you, Malfoy," she spat back at him. "You are a truly despicable person."

"Why, thank you," he responded caustically, "I can assure you that the feeling is mutual!"

Staring at each other in a momentous deadlock, Emily took a few deep breaths to calm herself.

I will not let him get to me! I will not descend to his level, I will swallow my anger and shall rise above it all, ran rapidly through her thoughts. I will be the better person and stop this now.

Unfortunately, Draco choose that moment to smirk triumphantly at her and, feeling her shackles rise, Emily shrieked out, loosing any remnants of self control.

"What the hell are you smirking for, you horrible little albino ferret?"

The famous Malfoy smirk disappeared to be replaced by scowl.

Emily watched him cautiously as his eyes thinned in concentration.

He furrowed his brows, deep in thought, as he pondered on his acerbic retort. Slowly, recollection crept onto his face and a triumphant smile twitched at the corner of his mouth. With his pale, grey eyes gleaming maliciously at her, he leaned in close to whisper.

"So Emily, do you remember how it felt, with your skirt around your ears and your ... 'snort' ... knickers on display for everyone to see. It's rumoured that Professor Binns was never the same after that spectacle ... Pansy was most proud, she...."

Whatever he was going to say was halted mid flow as Emily flew at him with her arms flailing widely.

Painful memories came crushing down upon her as she broke free of his grasp, thrashing ferociously, against his chest.

"I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU!" Emily screeched wildly at him, between punches, losing all her self control.

Still smirking, Draco grabbed for her lashing hands, snatching them in his. Pinning them down securely at her sides, Emily felt his fingers dig into them painfully.

Smirking, smugly, down at her, his eyes filled with contemptuous mirth, he cocked his eyebrows questioningly, drawling out.

"Do you have some secret you're not telling me, Emily?"

Her heart seemed to stop beating. In fact she could feel it lurch around inside her.

No! Emily thought frantically to herself, He can't find out, he must never know. That would make my life unbearable. Emily tried desperately to think of some smart response, but failed miserably. All she could manage to muster was another.

"I hate you!"

"You hate me, Emily?" Draco asked her smugly before continuing, "I'm sorry ... you must excuse me, but I got the complete opposite impression."

Squirming under his interrogating look, Emily mumbled out the same old reply.

"I really do hate you, Malfoy!"

Chuckling at her response, he continued smoothly with a self-satisfied expression.

"Really, Emily. Do try and be original, you're boring me now."

Emily stared up balefully at him as he dropped her hands and put on an overtly dramatic performance of yawning.

Bringing his hand to cover his mouth, he pretended to stifle another yawn and, leaning languidly against the worktop, he drawled out smugly.

"You see, Emily, hate is a strong word. In fact ... hate is a very intense emotion. So you see, if you hate me, it must mean you have strong feelings for me. Whereas my feelings for you would be called indifference, seeing as I have little or no feelings towards you ... except for, maybe, some mild irritation."

"Whereas you, Emily, seem to be nursing some very strong emotions. Which can only lead me to believe, that you must have some remnants of that old crush, which you used to have on me at school...."

"I never had a crush on you, Malfoy," she shouted back, cutting him off. "You must be insane. Whatever gave you that idea? Y-Y-Your disillusioned!"

Draco just grinned wolfishly down at her, revelling in her obvious discomfort.

"Oh, I don’t think I am, Emily. I must admit that quite a few things, here and there, have alerted me to it! Plus there's the fact that the whole of Hogwarts student population knew about it...."

"No! You're lying! No one knew about it ... you’re a liar! You contemptuous git of a Slytherin. You sneaky, little...." Emily cried out, cutting him off, before stumbling to a halt at the sudden victorious gleam in his eyes.

Oh, no. What did I say? Emily thought frantically, rerunning her words through her mind. No! He is lying. No one knew about it. He's a liar, he must be lying. Just no!

"No," she whispered out, softly, as the horror of the situation dawned upon her.

Dropping her eyes from his scornful gaze, she covered her face with her hands.

No, this can't be happening to me, she mused, distraught, as her worst nightmare unfurled before her. Wanting to run, but finding herself glued to the spot, Emily felt hot tears spring to her eyes. As her burning tears spilt onto her cheeks, her shoulders began to hitch violently and, stifling a shuddering sob, Emily turned to flee the room - only to be stopped by a pair of determined hands.

His hands clutched hold of her shoulders in a firm grasp and he pulled her roughly against him. Letting one arm drop, he glided it around her waist and held onto her tightly.

Emily struggled hard to free herself from his hold, yet she struggled in vain, as her arms were pinned firmly to her sides once again. She felt Draco's hot breath tickle against her ear as he lowered his head to hers.

And, with his lips only mere centimetres away from hers, he whispered softly.

"I always win, Emily."

Choking back yet another sob, Emily struggled against him.

Kicking out at his shins and stabbing with him with her elbows, she tried to escape, but his hold was too strong. Whipping her head around jerkily, she desperately tried to bite into his arm but was stopped by his hand clasping, firmly, a hold of her chin.

She struggled against him, as he forced her face up to his, but she was soon overpowered by his brutal strength. Closing her eyes against his onslaught, Emily let herself be led.

"That’s a good girl, Emily. Don’t fight it. You know I always win...." Draco murmured into her neck before he pressed his cool lips onto hers.

His kiss overwhelmed Emily, causing loss of all her sense and reason. As his kiss deepened, becoming rougher, more brutal, Emily felt herself responding. Parting her lips eagerly, she kissed him with abandon, waiting longingly, for his tounge to plunder her mouth... .

When a loud pop resounded around the kitchen, startling them both out of their embrace.

 

W - W - What's going on h - h - here then?" stammered out a nervous Neville Longbottom.

"Bloody Hell!" rasped out Draco, quickly letting go of Emily before he spat out derisively. "What on earth are you doing here, Longbottom?"

A little off balance from the kiss, Emily staggered over towards the doorframe to steady herself against it.

"I should be asking you the same thing, M-M-Malfoy!" Neville stammered out confused, with his old childhood fear standing out on his face, much to Draco's much amusement.

"I am meant to be here, Longbottom. You, on the other hand, to my knowledge are not. Explain your actions immediately," demanded Draco, enjoying himself immensely at poor Neville's discomfort.

"I-I-I don’t have to do anything for you, M-M-Malfoy! I'm not s-scared of you anymore," stammered Neville, sounding very scared.

"Well you should be, Longbottom. I am, after all, a wanted felon...." Draco mocked, wickedly.

"Stop it. The both of you," Emily sighed wearily, breaking her way into the conversation. "Malfoy! Stop teasing Neville. Neville - why the hell did you Apparate in my kitchen? Haven't you heard of knocking at the door?"

"S-Sorry, Emily," blushed Neville looking ashamed. "I meant to Apparate outside, b-b-but it went a little wrong... ."

Ignoring Draco's derisive snort of laughter, Emily walked over to Neville to pat him, reassuringly, on the shoulder. "That’s alright Neville," she told him kindly before asking, "but why are you here?"

A smug smile crept on to Neville's face and sat rather oddly on his lips.

Smirking and Neville had never been a winning combination.

Puffing his chest out proudly, Neville continued, obviously delighted.

"I'm here on ministry business. I am to tell you that, most unfortunately, most of Malfoy's belongings have been lost. They all disappeared when we tried to Apparate them here. Absolutely nothing can be found, although we did try our best. The ministry sends its deepest apologies and ... EEK!" Neville broke off with a nervous scream as Draco took a menacing step towards him.

"This is down to you, isn't it, Longbottom?" Draco demanded as he towered, menacingly, over the small boy. "This is down YOU and your INABILITY to do the simplest of spells ... YOU LOST MY ALL MY BELONGINGS!"

Stepping swiftly in between them, Emily tried her best to protect Neville from Draco's wrath. Using her body as a shield, she danced, to and fro, trying to prevent Draco from slipping past her. Turning to face Draco and, pushing him lightly back, she pleaded.

"Stop it, Draco! Calm down please, I'm sure things will get sorted out soon...."

"I'll kill him!" Draco growled out, trying to push his way past her.

"Come now, Draco. You don’t want to go back to Azkaban .... Do you?" Emily probed in frustration.

"The ministry would like to inform you that if you put a compensation claim in by the end of the month, you will be fully compensated," chimed in Neville nervously, sounding like he was on autopilot.

Fully enraged at this Draco suddenly lunged at helpless Neville, sending both himself and Emily flying forward. Flinging herself on Draco, using the entire weight of her body to hold him back, Emily frantically urged Neville to leave.

"Just leave now, Neville! I'll handle this situation, please just go - NOW!"

Neville stood there, stock still, trying to take in the strange situation which was unfurling around him. Gaping, open mouthed at Emily - he finally perceived the pleading in her eyes.

He then turned his gawp onto Draco and, seeing the fury which burned in Draco's eyes, Neville's mind was made up in a hurry. Without even the quickest goodbyes, he stumbled clumsily down the hallway towards the front door. As he let the door slam noisily behind him, Emily heard the familiar, loud crack of Disapparation.

 

*


Alone with Draco again, Emily found herself left in an unnerving silence. Breathing out a heavy sigh of relief, she felt Draco's lips move against her ear.

And in a irritated tone, he mumbled out.

"You can remove yourself from me now, Emily."

Realising she was still clinging tightly onto him, Emily hurriedly detangled herself from him. Eyeing him carefully, she noted a dull sheen covered his eyes.

Standing stock still, his whole visage seems to radiate despondency.

Feeling an odd surge of pity, Emily reached out to touch his face.

"No!" his voice rang out, seeming to chill the air before them.

His icy tone drew Emily's eyes, unwillingly, to his face. As he swatted her hand away from him, Emily could see a cold fury burning in his eyes.

"Don’t you touch me," he hissed at her with his customary sneer falling back onto his lips.

Taking a step away from him, Emily raked her fingers, abstractedly, through her hair.

"So what are we going to do now?" his voice penetrated through her thoughts, shaking Emily from her deliberations.

Bringing her head straight up, Emily's eyes unclouded and she came to a snap decision.

"Shopping." She told him decisively.

"Shopping?" Draco snorted, raising one eyebrow derisively at her. "Do you really thing you can meet the expense to replace my things?"

"No, but you can."

"I can?" he asked, perplexed.

"Oh, yes. Didn't I tell you? I have complete control over your inheritance." She told him, greatly amused at his flabbergasted expression.


Chapter 7: What Are You Doing Here, Harry?
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What Are You Doing Here, Harry?




Chapter Seven








"Oh, yes! Didn't I tell you? I have complete control over your inheritance." Emily told him greatly amused at his flabbergasted expression.

 

*


"You-You have complete control of my inheritance?" Draco uncharacteristically stammered back at her, then regaining some control over his voice. "You control my fortune!"

Smirking, triumphantly, back at him, Emily simply nodded.

"My entire fortune! Everything?"

"Yes."

"All of the Malfoy wealth?" he asked with a hint of desperation.

"All of it!" She gladly answered him.

After opening his mouth once or twice to speak - Draco decided against it. Instead he folded his lips into a tight thin line and resumed his familiar glare. His eyes glistened maliciously at her, boring into her, making Emily extremely uncomfortable.

Withstanding the urge to squirm beneath his gaze, Emily blurted out, rather doubtfully.

"You don't scare me, Malfoy."

His baleful expression was relentless.

Get a grip, Em. Let's regain some control here, after all you do have the upper hand, don't let him get to you again, Emily scolded herself, feeling unnerved. Don't let him win again.

Finally reaching a resolution, she regained control over the situation.

"Well, you can stand there glaring at me all day, if you want to, and walk around naked for the rest of the year or...you can stop acting like a prat and come shopping," she snapped, moved past him and entered the living room.

Grabbing up her belongings hastily with her cheeks glowing red, Emily tried not to think about unbidden thoughts of Draco, walking around naked.

Handbag, CHECK!

Purse, CHECK!

Keys, CHECK!

Wand, searching frantically around the room she spied it under the sofa, picked it up and pocketed it, CHECK!

And turning to leave, she bumped straight into Malfoy's firm chest. Raising her eyes slowly from, she had to admit it, his finely toned torso, Emily looked him, squarely, in the face.

He glared down at her.

Rolling her eyes, heavenward, Emily brushed past him, huffing out.

"Stop following me, ferret."

Grabbing her by the elbow, Draco stopped her in her tracks and turned her round to face him.

"All of it? Every single sickle?" he questioned.

"Right down to your last Knutt. And stop repeating yourself. It's getting boring and when I'm bored I like to shop! Especially with other people's money." Emily replied, conveniently omitting to mention the fact that, although she had control over his money, she couldn't actually touch a single Knut. It was all still legally his.

All Emily's power amounted to was that he had to ask Emily first for his funds and, that she received one gold galleon a month for expenses. But he doesn't need to know that yet, she thought evilly to herself. Glancing over at Malfoy's face Emily could have, almost, felt sorry for him. Almost!

He was just stood looking at her; with the most mournful expression showing in his eyes.

No, don't feel sorry for the git. Just remember that not even an hour ago, he was torturing you in the kitchen. He doesn't deserve your pity, she reprimanded herself, with a shake, before she turned to leave the room.

Seeing no sign of concession in her demeanour, Draco's expression changed in a flash and his familiar scowl returned. Stalking out after her, he could be heard mumbling underneath his breath.

"By Merlin, I'll be damned if I'll let her spend my money, stupid Mudblood!"

Snatching up her coat, Emily turned to face him.

"Stop you're grumbling, Malfoy. And Hurry Up! We're going to get the tube," she told him impatiently.

"The Tube?" he questioned, raising his eyebrows doubtfully, "What on earth is the tube?"

"The Tube. The London Underground. Do you no nothing, Malfoy? It's a train system that goes underground. Underneath the city." Emily answered, amused at his baffled expression.

His eyes flickered, unpleasantly, at her for a moment and then trying to save face, he snapped back.

"I know what the Underground is, I just haven't heard of that particular expression." And then he added quickly, as an afterthought, "Aren't they full of muggles?"

Opening the front door, Emily grinned, wolfishly, at him.

"Oh yes, absolutely full of muggles..." she told him, giggling happily at his appalled expression.

 

*


Stood, holding on tightly on to a pole for dear life and being jolted backwards and forwards by the motion of the train - Emily came to regret her decision. The claustrophobic atmosphere left her feeling nauseous, tired and light-headed. She glared at Draco, who was stood in front of her with a huge smirk plastered all over his face.

A smirk that made Emily want to slap him.

How do I get myself into these situations? Why do things always go wrong for me? Emily pondered to herself distractedly. She had always hated the London Underground - finding it claustrophobic and daunting. As the suited business man, who was stood next to Emily, jabbed her sharply with his elbow for the 1001 time, without any attempt at an apology, Emily found her mind drifting back over the previous 45 minutes.

 

*


She had arrived at the station dragging an extremely reluctant Draco along behind her.

It had amused her, greatly, to watch Draco's swagger through the station as if he owned it. With his sneer held firmly in place, he had barged through the swarming muggles, spitting out insults and glaring at anyone who accidentally knocked into him.

But Emily had thought that she could see a flicker of uncertainty in his pale, grey eyes.

Typical of Malfoy," Emily had thought, trust him to cover his apprehension with such hostility.

Draco had jolted Emily out of her ponderings, by grabbing a hold of her arm and dragging her down the descending escalator.

"I'll get you back for this," he had hissed, ominously, in her ear as they had stumbled off at the bottom.

Turning her 'widened eyes' to him, Emily had given him her most innocent expression. That one never fails me, she thought to herself, confidently. Too confidently.

"You don’t fool me with that angelic look of yours, Carlisle," Draco hissed at her, eyeing Emily balefully, before dragging her off down the platform.

"Stupid fool of a muggle!" he had muttered again - leaving Emily unsure if he had meant her or the extremely, fat business man who had bumped into him.

Shrugging his hand off of her arm, Emily had shot him a look. The most unfriendly look that she could muster.

Unfazed, Draco had just smirked, knowingly, back at her.

Emily had opened her mouth to give him a piece of her mind, when the train had pulled in. Rolling her eyes at him instead, she had darted towards the train with Draco swaggering up behind her.

Stepping onto the jam packed train, Emily had pushed her way towards the middle, looking for a seat, but none were available. Finding herself squashed between a very bony lady and a disgruntled Draco, she had quickly come to bemoan her decision.

"You are dead, Carlisle!"

She had heard Draco hiss in her ear and she had decided to ignore the comment, as well as the tremor that had travelled down her spine. Emily had let her eyes travel around the compartment, and she had let them fall on a sexy young man, sitting a little way from her. Seeing him look at her, she had fluttered her eyelashes at him. He had ignored her completely. 

Damn it! Emily had fumed, "I was sure he would have given up his seat for me."

"What on earth do you think you are doing?" Draco had hissed, nastily at her.

"Just trying to get myself a seat, Malfoy. Why? What's your problem?" Emily had snapped back, not bothering to turn at look at him and had continued. "Anyway, it's none of your damn business."

"It's my business if I want it to be," he had snarled back at her and then, after a slight pause, he had snorted out, sounding amused. "Any way, you didn't succeed!"

Feeling extremely indignant, Emily had turned her head to face him and she had taken in his smug, amused expression.

"So, do you think you could have done any better?" She had baited.

"But, of course I could," he had replied smugly, his eyes searching for a victim. His eyes had fallen on an extremely pretty blonde woman with legs that went on forever.

Trust him to go for her," Emily had thought without the slightest twinge of jealousy...or so she had told herself.

She had watched on, intently, as Draco pushed his way over to the pretty blonde. He had bent his head down and he had begun to whisper secret words into her ear, which, to Emily's dismay, she had been unable to hear. Emily's eyes had widened in amazement, as the woman had giggled like a schoolgirl and had wantonly fluttered her eyelashes back at him.

"Slut!" had unintentionally slipped from Emily's lips. I am not jealous, she had told herself again.

The woman had shifted in her seat, making enough room for Draco to sit down next to her. Draco had, eagerly, slid down beside her, while whispering something in her ear. Then Draco had raised his eyes to Emily, and a knowing smirk had played upon his lips.

Emily had twisted her head away, quickly, as she had blinked away unwelcome tears.

"I hate him," she had whispered underneath her breath and she had felt something knot tightly inside of her.

As Draco had continued to flirt, Emily had leant her head against the cool, metal pole that she had been holding onto and she had closed her eyes. She'd spent the minutes that had followed  fighting back nausea and ignoring the feeling of eyes burning holes straight into her back. After what had seemed like forever, Emily had finally opened her eyes - only to see Draco stood in front of her, smirking. She had scowled nastily at him and he had continued to smirk back.

And here they both stood, still battling one another without words - until finally, tearing her eyes away from him, Emily let out a soft sigh.

 

*


The train, suddenly, came to a juddering halt, throwing all of its passengers off balance. Staggering, Emily landed against Draco with an ouff. Feeling, rather, undignified, she felt Draco griping, firmly, onto her arm.

"This is our stop. Come on, Carlisle," he hissed at her, dragging Emily off of the train.

Stumbling on to the platform, just mere seconds before the automatic doors closed, Emily turned to glare up at him.

"What the hell do you think you are you doing? This isn't our stop!" she yelled at him, prising his fingers off of her arm.

"I believe this is the closest station to Diagon Alley," he smirked at her.

"Diagon Alley? We are not going to get the things you need from Diagon Alley," Emily yelled back.

"That may be," he told her through narrowed eyes, "But after a horrendous hour that you made me spend on that bloody train! I feel I deserve a trip to Diagon Alley."

"You certainly didn't look like you minded, Malfoy. In fact I would say the exact opposite..."

"Really, Carlisle? I wouldn't of put you down as the jealous type..."

"I was not jealous, I was merely stating a fact."

"I don't believe you," he smirked, folding his arms in front of him, arrogantly.

"Why are you trying to make my life hell?" Emily yelled back at him, choking back her sobs. "What on earth have I ever done to you? I've done nothing that wasn't in self defence. It's always you being a slimy arse and ruining things. You bastard!

"You wanker! - Well - I've had it. I've had enough! Fuck you! Go to bloody Diagon Alley. Go to hell! Just get bloody away from me! I - I - I..."

Unable to finish her rant and with tears of rage stealing her voice, Emily turned and ran.

Pushing her way through the streaming crowds, Emily's head was lost in confusion: feelings of anger, shame, hate; fear, pride and passion jousted together inside of her. Each one fighting the other for supremacy. Emily hated him like never before. She hated the way he roused the feelings inside of her - and most of all, she hated herself for feeling that way.

Suddenly she felt a hand clutch at her arm, pulling her towards them. Flailing out at the unknown harasser, Emily endeavoured to push them away. Struggling in vain, she felt herself being drawn, closer and closer. Opening her mouth to scream; she heard a familiar voice whispering into her ear.

"Don't, Emily. Don't go...I need you. Please..."

"Leave me alone. Get away from me! I- I- I'll call for the police. Just let me be..." she pleaded, continuing to struggle.

"Please, Emily. I- I- I'm s- s - sor... Please listen."

Emily, suddenly, stopped struggling - stunned into momentary silence. Taking deep breaths, she tried to comprehend what had just happened.

"D - Did you just apologise to me, Malfoy?" she stuttered out, feeling bemused. Then, turning slowly to face him, she stared up into his face, with tear stained eyes, and watched him as strong emotions battled within his eyes.

Pride and arrogance seemed to be battling with new, foreign emotions, all showing clearly on his face. Was that regret? she wondered in amazement., Is he actually capable of humanity?

Emily watched on as his eyes unclouded and resolution formed in them...

Slowly lowering his head to hers, he cupped her cheek gently. His forehead rested lightly against hers and his lips hovered over her lips - till they were almost touching. His closeness took Emily's breath away, as did the intensity in his eyes.

Emily trembled uncontrollably.

His eyes locked with hers, and he whispered softly.

"Emily I..." When he was hauled, roughly, away from her... .

 

*


"Get your bloody hands off of her, Malfoy! Before I do something I'll regret."

Emily turned her head quickly only to see Harry standing there. His eyes filled with suppressed rage.

"Ha-Ha-Harry?" Emily gasped out in shock.

Harry's eyes turned to Emily's with his hand still gripping tightly on Draco's collar. As he looked at her, Harry's eyes seemed to fill with sadness and he asked her softly.

"Are you ok, Emily? Did he hurt you?"

"N - No..." Emily whispered, still reeling.

"Well as touching as this all is," Draco intoned, sneeringly, "would you mind taking you're hands off me, Potter?"

Both Emily and Harry snapped their heads round to stare at Malfoy, who was standing there sneering maliciously at his old rival. Harry slowly let go of Malfoy's collar and stared over at him coolly. Emily could see Harry's palms clutch into fists at his sides.

"Well, well, Potter," Malfoy sniped. "Isn't this nice and cosy..."

"Shut it, Malfoy!" Emily shot out at the same time as Harry.

Malfoy just continued to smirk irritatingly.

Shooting Draco a pleading look, Emily silently implored him to stop.

Catching her look, Draco stopped smirking, rolled his eyes, and began to stare off into the distance.

Breathing out a sigh of relief Emily turned to Harry, asking him quietly.

"What are you doing here, Harry?"


Chapter 8: Feeling, Surprisingly, Wonderfully Happy
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Feeling, Surprisingly, Wonderfully Happy





Chapter Eight








Catching her look, Draco stopped smirking, rolled his eyes and turned to stare off into the distance.

Breathing out a sigh of relief Emily turned to Harry, asking him quietl.

"What are you doing here, Harry?"

 

*


Harry, paying no attention to Emily's words, decided instead to shoot Draco his best death glare. Rolling her eyes in frustration, Emily reached out and flicked him smartly in the middle of his forehead. Harry let out a surprised yelp, his eyes snapping back to hers. From behind her, Emily thought she could hear Draco sniggering out nastily.

"Scarhead!"

Looking over her shoulder, Emily shot Draco a warning frown. Draco quickly disguised his snigger with a cough and Harry, unable to conceal his hurt expression, blurted out irritably.

"What did you do that for, Emily?"

Smothering a snort of laughter at his, indignant, expression, Emily planted her hands on her hips and cast him her most intimidating glare.

"That was for ignoring me, Harry," she told him huffily. "Now could you please tell me why you’re here?"

Harry glanced down at his scuffed trainers and put his hands, ever so casually, into his battered, jean pockets.

Emily knew, instinctively, that he was about to lie to her. After being Harry's girlfriend for nearly a year, last year; she had learnt all about Harry and his little habits and ways. So Emily knew that he couldn't lie properly to save his life. His eyes always betrayed him.

Some things never change, she mused, thoughtfully to herself.

"So, are you gong to tell us why you interrupted our little moment, Pothead?" Draco drawled out provokingly, snapping Emily out of her thoughts and dragging her attention back to the ongoing situation.

"Shut up Malfoy," she snapped back at him and Harry, looking up from his sneakers, sent him a venomous look.

"Watch your mouth, Malfoy, you really don't want to provoke me," Harry stated calmly, but with a dangerous undertone.

Oh, now I'm scared, Potter! What just exactly are you going to do to me?" Draco taunted back.

"I can put your sorry arse back in Azkaban, Malfoy!" retorted Harry and then hissed out quietly under his breath. "Where it belongs..."

Draco shot Harry an penetrating look and Harry blinked rapidly, looking unnerved, before turning his head away from him. Catching a brief glimpse of Harry's eyes as he turned, Emily let out a stifled gasp. Was that guilt she saw in them? No, it couldn't be.

Why would Harry look guilty? What on earth was going on here? Too many bloody secrets, she deliberated slowly, letting her eyes flicker between both boys. They were both so different in many ways.

Harry, with his dark ruffled looking hair and scruffy muggle clothing, looked like a little, lost boy. An air of goodness still hung around him, but, sadly, he nearly always wore a closed expression nowadays; only his expressive, green eyes could give him away.

He still wasn't able to master the trick of cloaking them. Although his general air was one of youth, if you looked closely, his eyes looked haggard and much older than his tender years. Harry still looked uncomfortable in himself, still looking awkward and shy in his gait and pose. But this was all very appealing to the opposite sex, though Harry still remained unaware of it.

Draco, on the other hand, was the total opposite. Always poised. Always knowing exactly what to do or say to manipulate any given situation, Draco emanated self-assurance.

He was extremely self-possessed, extremely sexy, and he knew it.

But his cockiness suited him and he drew women to him in droves. With a snarl or sneer always on the curve of his lips and pale, grey eyes which were always inscrutable, he demanded attention.

At this very moment in time, he was nonchalantly leaning against a nearby pillar with his arms folded, coolly, in front of him and he was still glaring at Harry through narrowed eyes. On catching Emily's sly glance at him, his lips curved into his familiar smirk and he quirked his eyebrows at her cockily.

Shaking her head ruefully, to clear her thoughts, Emily emitted a soft sigh.

Let's regain some control over this situation, she mentally scolded herself and, raking her fingers distractively through her hair, she began to speak in her most haughty tone.

"I don't know what is going on here, and I'm quite sure not one of you is going to tell me, but could you both stop with your schoolboy feud and try acting like adults."

Emily saw Harry's shoulders tighten at her words, but Draco seemed unperturbed. He grinned wolfishly at her, looking completely unabashed. Flicking Draco a warning look, Emily moved over to Harry and touched his arm lightly.

"Are you going to tell me why you're here or what's going on?" she asked him simply, feeling tired of it all.

Turning towards her and, shaking his head no, he looked up at her with miserable eyes.

"I can't, Emily," he told her, almost pleadingly. "It's ministry business..."

Sucking the air, sharply, between her teeth, Emily inwardly seethed. It was always the same with Harry. Everything was a secret with him; he would never tell her anything.

He had absolutely no trust in her.

Even as his girlfriend, he would never show trust in her and that was one of the reasons why she had broken it off. As her old resentments towards him rose up, Emily struggled to keep the anger from her voice. Trying to sound as dismissive as possible, she drawled out nonchalantly.

"Alright then, Harry, that’s fine. I don't think we have much more to say to each other - So I guess I'll be on my way ... Bye-bye!"

And, with that, she moved swiftly past him; brushing against his shoulder as she went and made her way towards the exit sign. Glancing promptly over her shoulder at a very smug looking Draco, Emily called out to him.

"Are you coming, Ferret?"

Draco's smug expression faltered for an instant and then throwing Harry a triumphant smirk, he moved indolently after her.

Upon reaching the exit, Emily felt a hand land, softly, on her shoulder and turned to see Harry.

"What is it, Harry?" she asked him irritably, trying to shrug his hand off.

"Be careful, Emily," Harry told her with concern showing in his eyes. "Don't trust him, he is bad news. Please Em, be careful. I worry about you..."

However, before she could even open her mouth to answer, Emily felt Draco's firm grip land on her elbow as he tried to pull her away from Harry. Turning to glower her distaste to Draco, she saw him glaring intently back at Harry, pure hatred burning in his eyes.

"Don't worry about your precious Emily, Potter," Draco spat out venomously at him. "She is quite safe with me. So, don't worry your ugly head about her. And if we're talking about trust, I believe that if anyone, it is you who is the untrustworthy one here..."

And, with one last venomous look, Draco proceeded in dragging Emily away.

Emily let herself be led. Turning her head to look back at Harry, she could see he had turned pale with rage.

Hands clenched into fists at his sides, he shot a strange look after them. It seems to be a mixture of hatred, guilt and sadness.

Giving Harry a small wave and, a half-hearted 'I'm sorry' look, Emily followed behind Draco.

What in Merlin's name is Harry feeling guilty about? Emily puzzled as she emerged, once again, into the glaring daylight. Blinking against the harsh sunlight she turned to Draco, saying without thinking.

"What the hell was that all about?"

 

*


Letting go of Emily's elbow, Draco gave her an derisive smirk and giving her no answer stalked off down the street.

Temporally, taken aback by his audacity, she stared at his back as he walked away into the throngs of people. He walked as though he owned the street and the muggles that surrounded him, instantly, parted as if they sensed his superiority.

Sighing out petulantly, annoyed at her fellow mankind, Emily rushed into the crowd after him. There was no parting of the crowd for Emily, so she had to barge and push her way through, elbowing people out of the way, as she went. Eventually Emily caught up with him.

"Damn you, Malfoy!" she hissed into his ear, "Why won't you tell me anything?"

Draco just continued to smirk ahead, annoyingly.

Emily tried a new tactic.

"Draco, what were you going to tell me before?"

"Nothing," he replied, still smirking.

Sighing in exasperation she tried again.

"Did you mean it when you apologised?"

"Malfoy's don't apologise," he smirked, with a hint of amusement in his eyes, still not looking at her.

"Oh, why do I even bother with you?" Emily exclaimed loudly, clutching her hands to her head dramatically.

"You're making a spectacle of your self, Emily," he informed her with a disdainful look.

Fighting down the urge to scream at him and throw herself in front of his path, Emily hissed out in exasperation.

Draco stopped and eyed her superciliously. Raising one fine eyebrow disdainfully, he drawled out in a bored tone.

"Yes. What is it you want, Emily?"

Biting her bottom lip nervously, Emily suddenly blurted out.

"Were you going to kiss me?"

"Well, I wasn't planning to right at this moment. What on earth would all these muggles think?" he drawled out with a wicked gleam in his eye, motioning with his hand to the people passing by.

Blushing, quite fetchingly, and clenching her fists in anger, Emily launched herself against him.

"You bloody well know what I mean, you arrogant bastard!" Emily screamed at him between punches. "You skunk of a ferret! You egotistical wanker! You-You poor excuse of humanity, I hate you! You bloody heartless git... I'll curse you till your bleed..."

Emily was cut off by Draco propelling her off her feet and dragging her into a nearby shadowy alleyway.

 

*


Finding herself in a dark alleyway with a very displeased Draco, Emily slowly began to regret her actions. She soon realised that it was not her smartest move. Chewing tentatively on her lower lip, Emily tensed herself for the onslaught to come.

Draco seemed to tower over her, his eyes glinting with fury.

Instinctively, Emily inched away from him, until her back hit against the brick wall behind her.

Draco took an menacing step towards her and putting his palms flat against the wall, at either side of her face, he loomed ominously over her.

"What the hell do you think you were doing?" he hissed vehemently into her face.

"I...um...I wanted to wipe that smug smirk off your face," she yelled back at him.

"Did you really think that was a wise move?" he questioned smoothly with that familiar smirk creeping on to his mouth again.

Not knowing quite how to answer him, she mumbled out.

"It made me feel better."

"I mean really, Emily, did you not think I might be just a little annoyed at being attacked by you in front of the entire muggle population?"

"It was hardly the entire muggle population," Emily answered back defiantly. "And don't you think you're being a tad over dramatic, Draco?"

Draco hissed the air through his teeth. Suddenly, pouncing on her, he brought his head down, his face barely inches away from hers. As she felt his fingers dig, painfully, into her upper arms, Emily let out the smallest of whimpers and closed her eyes against his baleful stare.

"So what do you think your punishment should be, Emily?" she heard him whisper insinuatingly.

Emily gulped apprehensively as his warm breath tickled her face, awaking delicious tingles in her abdomen. Opening her eyes to look at him, Emily saw him gazing at her intently. Emily felt her knees begin to buckle under the intensity of his stare. Licking her lips nervously, she struggled for some smart retort.

"Cat got your tounge, Emily?" Draco taunted her provocatively.

Feeling suddenly brazen, Emily informed him boldly.

"A kiss would be nice...."

A triumphant smirk flickered on his lips and he brought them crashing down, crushing them on to hers.

Eager with need, she returned the kiss with equal passion and his fervent kisses assaulted her lips, freeing her of all inhibitions.

Nipping and sucking on them furiously, Emily swiped her tounge across Draco's lips, as if asking for permission. Without hesitation, his mouth opened and their tongues began to explore one another.

Wrapping her arms, tightly, around his neck, she pushed herself closer into him, loving the sensation of his body being so close to hers.

His hands trailed, sensuously, down her back and stopping at the top of her thighs, he lifted Emily up against him. Entwining her legs around him, she kissed him deeply, losing herself in his taste.

After, seemingly, an endless moment of hot, feverish kisses and eager faltering, caresses, the kiss ended - robbing Emily of his lips. Sighing discontentedly, she rested her head on his shoulder as he lowered her back to the ground. Murmuring softly into his neck, she told him dreamily.

"You're so difficult to work out, Draco. I just can't wrap my head around you."

Draco chuckled deeply at her confused words.

"Good," he whispered huskily. "And, believe me, you're not that easy to understand either, Carlisle..."

Mulling over his words, Emily could hear the truth held in them. She let out a girlish giggle and, removing her head from his shoulder, looked up at him. His eyes glinted down at her with genuine amusement, making Emily feel all hot and flustered. Feeling oddly timid, she turned her glowing cheeks away from him.

"So where are we then?" she asked him idiotically.

Chuckling again at Emily's obvious discomfort, he answered her teasingly.

"Do you mean where are we, as in where is our odd relationship going? Or do you mean where are we, as in what borough of London are we currently located in?"

Blushing even harder, Emily managed to throw him a sidelong glare.

"I mean where are we? What small dark alleyway did you manage to pull me into?"

Smiling smugly, obviously pleased with the effect he had on her, Draco captured her hand in his. Pulling Emily along after him, he told her glibly.

"This way, Emily, is the way to the Leaky Cauldron. I'll let you buy me a well deserved Fire Whiskey. And, then, maybe after that we can talk about a few things."

Pondering over what he had to tell her and looking forward to a drop of Fire Whiskey herself, Emily followed after him feeling, surprisingly, wonderfully happy.


Chapter 9: What on Earth Is Ron up To?
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What On Earth Is Ron Up To?


 

Chapter Nine





"This way Emily is the way to the Leaky Cauldron, I'll let you buy me a well deserved Fire Whiskey! And then maybe after that we can talk about a few things.

"Pondering over what he had to tell her and looking forward to a drop of Fire Whiskey, she followed after him feeling, surprisingly, wonderfully happy.
 

*



As she was being pulled along, her euphoric feelings slowly began to fade. Don't get too carried away now, she mentally scolded herself as she tried to figure out her thoughts and feelings. Just because Draco may be the best kisser you've ever known, you know you still can't trust him.

Think about Emily, you know next to nothing about him. Just because his behaviour has changed in the last couple of hours, it doesn't mean that he has. All of this might still be part of his game-plan. He hasn't done anything to prove himself trustworthy, yet. Remember he is still a Malfoy! A Malfoy with a dubious past as well.

Listen to what he has to say first and then do some serious thinking about things. Get your mind out of your knickers and start to behave like an Auror. Or, at least, an Auror in training. Try and keep things on a professional basis.

But he is so damn sexy, breaks in another inner voice, that wont be sated. And that kiss...sigh.

No!" Emily reprimanded herself, Enough of this! Just concentrate on what's ahead. I must be mentally alert and on my toes, if I want to decipher what the hell is going on.

Then shaking her head, roughly, to rid herself of the conflicting inner voices, Emily began to take in her surroundings with a secret smile still lingering on her lips.

The narrow, red bricked alleyway started to taper to the left and, with her hand still entwined with Draco's, Emily followed him down its slight curve. Still walking slightly ahead of her, Draco turns his head to look at Emily. A patronizing smile played on his lips.

"Enjoying holding my hand then, Emily?" he asked her smugly with a goading look in his eye.

Shooting him her very best death glare, all those fuzzy, warm feelings inside of her instantly disappeared. Dropping his hand, as if it burned her, Emily quickened her pace and moved on past him. From behind her, she could hear him sniggering, smugly, to himself and her lips thinned in anger. Resisting the urge to turn and punch him, Emily stalked angrily away.

Dear Merlin! Emily thought harshly to herself, The bloody git is incorrigible. Thank Circe, I manage to keep my wits. As the end of the alleyway approached, Emily felt his hand firmly cupping her elbow. Not bothering to spare him a glance, she tried to shake his hand off.

Seeing Emily's irritated expression, a wolfish grin appeared on Draco's face. Moving himself closer behind her, he whispered mischievously in Emily's ear.

"I always know how to press your buttons, Emily. You're just so easy to tease..."

And seeing her tense, Draco allowed himself a broad smirk.

Snapping her eyes back to his face, Emily let out an exasperated sigh. "

You are the most irritating little ferret, aren't you?" Emily snapped out at him, folding her arms across her chest.

Standing, silently, opposite her, Draco just continued to smirk at her with one eyebrow artfully arched. His eyes sparked with amusement and, sensing Emily's ire, they seemed to issue her a challenge.

Emily stared back at him, accepting the challenge, through narrowed eyes. Their eyes locked and the staring contest began - and seemed to last forever with the both of them unwilling to be the first to look away. Feeling extremely irked that he had managed to pull her into his childish games, Emily began to tap her foot impatiently and, impishly, she decided to poke her tounge out at him.

He poked his tounge out back at her.

Taken aback by this very un-Malfoy like behaviour, Emily blinked in surprise.

A triumphant smile slowly stretched over his lips and lit his eyes.

Damn it! I lost, Emily thought angrily to herself and, feeling very exasperated, she gave him a swift, childish and sharp kick to the ankle. On hearing his small yelp and seeing his smirk rapidly disappear, Emily gave him a victorious, wide grin of her own and with a gleeful toss of the head, she walked away feeling very pleased with herself...

*




As she approached the familiar sight of The Leaky Cauldron, Emily sensed Draco catch up behind her. Throwing him a brief glance, Emily saw that he is still scowling and chuckling softly to herself, Emily approached the inn's entrance. As she approached the doorway, Emily felt Draco's hand rest lightly on the small of her back.

Looking up at him questioningly, with suspicious eyes, Emily gave him a warning glare.

Draco, ignoring her scepticism, smiled politely at her as he pushed the heavy, oak door open. Then, with the most refined tone of voice (and the slightest hint of sarcasm) he ushered Emily through the door.

"Ladies first," he declared silkily.

Bewildered at his sudden change of tactic, Emily watched him through narrowed eyes. Wondering what on earth he was up to, she asked him warily.

"What are you up to, Ferret?"

Seeing his eyes flicker coldly, Emily felt his hand brace against her back and with a hard, short shove, he pushed her through the doorway.

Stumbling over the raised front step, Emily tumbled head first into the inn with her arms flailing wildly around. Landing on her knees and, painfully scraping one of them, Emily looked up to see all eyes on her. Lowering her eyes to the floor, her cheeks flushing in embarrassment, Emily thought to herself with the faintest hint of humour.

Well ...  that was quite an entrance!

Feeling rather uncomfortable under the heavy, weight, of people's stares, Emily got unsteadily back on to her feet. From behind her, she could hear Draco pronounce with some satisfaction.

 

"Clumsy ... aren't you, Emily?"

Spinning around to face him, Emily shot him a wrathful look.

"Why you - you - you evil piece of slime! You dirty, rotten bastard! You bloody well pushed me," she yelled at him furiously, not caring that she was causing a scene.

Draco's eyes narrowed into slits and hissing in the air through his teeth in anger, he opened his mouth to answer her. With his voice low and full of spite, he spat out at her.

"Do you know who you're talking too? Don't you ever speak to me I'll..."

But he was cut off by a loud voice ringing out, heatedly.

"Yes, I do know who you are, Malfoy."

Turning her head towards the bar, Emily saw Ron Weasley stalking over towards them. Oh no! Not Weasley, Emily inwardly groaned. Hot-headed Ron was not going to help the situation at all.

As Ron headed over in their direction, Emily quickly tried to find a way to diffuse the upcoming state of affairs. Glancing over at Draco, she saw that his eyes were filled with contempt and that his cheeks were burning in anger.

Two livid blotches stained his cheeks, standing out noticeably on his normally pale face. If there was anyone Draco hated more than Harry, then this Weasley was the one.

Giving Draco an almost pleading look, Emily tried to convey her thoughts to him.

"Please," she whispered softly, close to his ear, "Please don't wind Ron up..."

Draco answered her with a sneer.

"What? Miss out on a chance to play with the Weasel! Think of all the fun we could have..."

Throwing him one last desperate look, Emily turned to face the approaching Ron.

"Hello, Ron," she greeted him weakly.

"Hello, Emily," he replied distractedly, his eyes fixed steadily on Draco. "Is Malfoy bothering you?"

"Really, Ron, its nothing I can't deal with...I'm fine," Emily told him; slightly exasperated at the way he was overlooking her.

Although Ron was a nice, friendly bloke, his disposition always had annoyed Emily.

She found him too quick to anger and the black and white way he looked at things had always irritated her. Everything with Ron was either good or bad, there was just no middle ground with Ron and this made it difficult for Emily to converse with him. But saying this, she noted to herself, she had always had the feeling that Ron felt exactly the same way about her. It wasn't that they hated each other; it was just that they - weren’t companionable.

"Are you quite sure, Emily?" Ron asked Emily again, still giving Draco the evil eye.

Before she had the chance to answer, Draco cut her short.

"Are you deaf, Weasley? She said she was fine..."

Ron's face reddened and he shouted back, "I wasn't talking to you, ferret boy!"

"Well, your eyes never left my face, weasel boy. So I assumed you were spoiling for a fight with me - or, maybe I'm wrong, maybe you just fancy me? Is that it Weasel? Are you secretly in love with me?" Draco drawled smoothly out, his eyes glistening with malice.

As quick as a bolt of lightening, Ron launched himself on Draco. With fists flying, they both tumbled to the floor. On hearing the crunch of fists against bone, Emily flinched and closed her eyes tightly. She deplored violence and swallowing down the thought that Draco deserved a punch or two, Emily reached for her wand. Opening one eye cautiously, she pointed her wand in the direction of the sparring boys and, with an incantation ready on her lips, she noticed Draco wasn't fighting back. In fact, he seemed to be whispering something into Ron's ear. Stepping a little closer, she tried to discern his words.

"That’s it, Ronald. Just a few more punches and you'll no longer be an Auror," she managed to overhear.

On hearing these words, Ron stiffened and, with fists still clenched, started to pull away. With his face red with anger, Ron pulled himself off of Draco and pulled himself up. Glaring down into Draco's smirking face, Ron mumbled out stiffly.

"Next time, Malfoy. Next time." And with them few words, he stalked off towards the rickety, old stairs.

"Ron," Emily called after him, wanting to say something to appease him. But he ignored her, sending Emily the briefest glare, as he went. Sighing out loudly, Emily turned her attention to Draco, who was pushing himself up from the wooden floor.

"Why do you always have to aggravate people, Draco?" Emily asked him wearily feeling suddenly, bone-tired.

Looking up at her with unfathomable eyes, Draco told her so softly, it was almost inaudible.

"Because that is what people expect."

Confused by his strange words, Emily let her eyes linger on him. Blood dripped slowly from the corner of his mouth and the beginnings of a tender looking bruise were appearing on his left cheekbone.

Looking intently at him, Emily suddenly saw how lost and vulnerable he looked.

Feeling the first stirrings of pity spring up inside of her, Emily reached into her pocket and fumbled for a tissue. She found an old scrunched up one.

Draco got unsteadily to his feet and, standing in front of her, he concentrated hard on putting his appearance back together. As he straightened out his collar, Emily reached up and, cupping his cheek tenderly, began to dab delicately at his cut lip. Hissing slightly in pain, Draco's hand faltered on his collar and, with a strange stillness, he lowered his eyes to hers. His eyes seeming oddly gentle.

An unexpected sensation of coming together exuded between them, naturally pulling her closer to him. Feeling faintly unsettled, by this new awareness, Emily gave him a small, pensive smile.

A disconcerted smile of his own flickered momentarily on his lips. His eyes appeared faraway, as if he is looking through her. Suddenly, his eyes snapped back to hers.

Peering intently at her and, nibbling tentivly on his bottom lip, he seemed to search her eyes for something. After a few long minutes, Draco straightened up with a decisive expression showing on his face.

Stepping back away from her, his familiar mask fell back into place and that renowned sneer jerked back onto his lips. Somewhere deep inside of her, Emily felt something sink. With his voice emotionless, he told Emily flatly.

"I think, I need that drink now," he stated firmly, and, quickly regaining his poise, he meandered up to the bar. Emily followed him apprehensively, feeling queerly disappointed.

*




Following Draco despondently, Emily let her eyes drop to the floor. Bumping into the back of him as he stopped at the bar, she quickly stepped away from him listlessly. Slumped against the bar, Emily waited for Tom, the toothless proprietor, to come and serve them.

Draco, now impatient, drawled out loudly and obnoxiously.

"Where is the toothless wonder? Hurry up, damn it! I'm in need of liquid stimulation."

Peering out into the shadows, Emily saw Tom appear from a shadowy doorway. He scuttled over towards them with a closed look on his face. Eyeing Draco with extreme dislike and, perhaps a little fear, he gulped and told Draco quietly.

"We don't serve your sort in ere, anymore..."

Draco, raising an eyebrow in surprise, questioned him quietly with an undertone of menace.

"What do you mean our sort? Is a Malfoy's money no longer good enough for you?"

A disdainful, yet dignified, sneer graced his face.

"Death Eaters!" Tom said more confidently, his voice getting louder. "We don't sever Death Eaters and I don't want your filthy money...."

Gasping at Tom's unpleasant tone and words, Emily shifted a glance to Draco. He was just standing there with a blank expression on his face, unable, for once, to think of a smart retort. Emily saw his knuckles turn ghastly white as he gripped hard onto the bar, as if he was trying to support himself.

Letting her eyes wander over his face, Emily tried to discern what extreme emotion he was hiding. Was it anger, humiliation or some other emotion? Emily simply could not tell.

"So, could yer please leave my establishment now," Tom spat out nastily, looking pleased at the turn of events.

Draco just stood frozen ... with no emotion whatsoever showing in his pale eyes.

Suddenly aware of the weight of many stares, burning intently into her back, Emily turned to face the inhabitants of the tavern.

Looking over the many disdainful and unpleasant, if not a little fearful faces, Emily felt the first wave of anger overtake her.

Ignorant wizards! she thought heatedly to herself. She hated ignorant, uneducated people, who believed in every rumour they saw printed in The Quibbler. She had heard the rumours of Draco being a Death Eater, a murderer and much more. But even with her position in the L.E.A.P.S. department, Emily did not know the entire truth - as so did not many others in her department.

The people in this inn were merely being led by pure speculation and tittle-tattle and this irked Emily extremely.

As her eyes roamed over the room, she could feel hostility radiate from them in waves.

Her eyes flicked over a young witch, sitting in the corner, who seemed to be the only inhabitant, who held sympathetic eyes. She gave Emily a small, friendly smile and Emily smiled tightly back at her, recognition popping up somewhere in the back of her mind.

She seems familiar, Emily mused distractedly to herself, wondering if she had gone to Hogwarts or not - when Draco's voice hissed harshly into her ear.

"Let's go - now!"

"NO," Emily barked out, louder than intended. "I want a whiskey - and I'm not leaving until I get a whiskey!"

And turning back towards the bar, her voice rang out clearly.

"Two Fire Whiskeys, please, Tom."

Tom just stared back at her with boggling eyes. "But I just told yer, missy, I don't serve Death Eat..."

"Well, Tom," she answered him sweetly, too sweetly! "I can appreciate that you wouldn't want Death Eaters in your fine establishment, but seeing as Mr. Malfoy has not been officially proclaimed a Death Eater and I, being an official from the ministry, should know that. So, I recommend you should stop getting your false information from the gossip mongers and serve me and my companion with a couple of Fire Whiskeys, please..."

Tom looked at Emily abashed, angry and bewildered. "B-B-But," he stammered out, with an ugly frown wrinkling his forehead.

"Leave it, Emily," Draco whispered roughly at her. "Please, let's just go."

Looking ruefully up at him, Emily shook her head negatively, hoping that he could understand why she had to win this battle. The battle of reason over rumour. Emily noticed that Draco's eyes looked almost desperate and not wanting to see him looking that way, she turned her attention back to the man behind the bar and continued.

"Or, I could always have a quiet word with my good friends Fred and George, who I believe frequent this establishment often. I believe they bring quite a lot of custom your way, don't they, Tom?"

Emily saw Tom blanche at her veiled threat. Fred and George were indeed regular customers at the inn, who often brought a group of merry revellers with them. Emily knew Tom would not want to loose their custom or indeed the revenue they bought him.

Without another word, Tom reached for two tumblers and slammed them down in front of her. Angrily grabbing the nearest bottle of whiskey, he poured the whiskey sloppily into the glasses and, indignantly pushing the tumblers towards them, he turned and scuttled away to the other end of the bar.

Emily picked up her glass, downed the whiskey quickly and tried her best to resist the urge to splutter - for that would just spoil her victory. Blinking back burning tears that stung at her eyes, Emily turned to face Draco. He stared back at her intently, not touching his drink.

"Can we go now, Emily?" he asked her coldly. "Are you quite satisfied now?"

Nodding her assent, Emily turned back to the bar and, downing his whiskey, too, she asked no one in particular.

"Should I pay now?"

From the other end of the bar, Tom waved them impatiently away. Moving away from the bar, Emily began to make her way towards the door.

Oh, well, she thought to herself, feeling quite light-headed and giggly. At least I got a free drink out of all this.

Emily could sense Draco walking up beside her and she soon felt his hand resting lightly on the small of her back. Propelling Emily to the door, he pushed it open and waited for her to pass through.

As she passed through; Emily sensed a pair of watchful eyes boring into her back. Glancing back around, she saw Ron, stood in the shadows, watching them both with devious eyes.

What on earth is he up to? Emily mused, as she stepped outside of the inn with Draco following close behind her.

*



Standing outside in the fading winters sunshine, Emily turned to face Draco. He was deliberately ignoring her and stood a little away from her with a closed expression masking his face. Sighing softly, she whispered a quiet sorry to him.

He waved her apology away with a dismissive flick of his hand.

Sighing out loudly again, Emily fumbled in her pocket for her house portkey. She found that she couldn't quite face the thought of tackling the London Underground at this very moment. Finding the portkey in her top pocket, she took it out and un-knotted its pouch. Still feeling slightly tipsy, she thrust the key towards Draco.

"Here, we can get home this way," she told him, holding out the portkey in front of him.

Eyeing it cautiously, he took hold of it and that familiar pulling sensation took over the both of them. As the memorable disorientation overwhelmed them both, Emily couldn't help but wonder distractedly - what on earth Ron was up to? And, with that thought held firmly in mind, she tumbled ungracefully onto the floor of her flat.


Chapter 10: Screams in the Night
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Screams In The Night



Chapter Ten



"Here, we can get home this way," she said, holding out the portkey in front of him.

Eyeing it cautiously, he took hold of it and that familiar pulling sensation started to take over. As the memorable disorientation overwhelmed her, she couldn't help but wonder what on earth Ron was up to. And with that thought in mind, she tumbled ungracefully onto the floor of her flat.

***



Landing with an ungainly thump, she instantly regretted downing that second whiskey. Yep - I'm most undeniably tipsy, she mused remorsefully, as she tried to focus on the pair of long-limbed legs standing right in front of her. Slowly regaining her senses, it suddenly dawned on Emily that she was staring right at Malfoy's groin area. Her cheeks burned hotly, aflame with colour. Stifling a giggle, Emily bit hard down on to her bottom lip, hoping the small pain would distract her.

Oh no! I must sober up, she scolded herself, but the inebriated part of her just wouldn't listen. Letting out a despairing groan, she unwillingly lifted her eyes to look at him warily.

Draco loomed above her, wearing his most disdainful smirk, and a hint of humour glinted in his slate, grey eyes. "Really Emily," he murmured teasingly. "Do you have no control over your actions?"

Screwing her face into a petulant frown, Emily pouted up at him, completely unaware of the pretty picture she made. Muttering, under her breath, something about 'pureblood fools' and ignoring his outstretched hand, she got up unsteadily to her feet and held onto the wall for balance.

Steadying herself, she closed her eyes against the whirling sensation in her head and wondered, briefly, if the ground was actually lurching beneath her or if that was just another side-effect of the alcohol. Praying for the slightest bit of sobriety and with a 'pull yourself together' running like a mantra through her mind, Emily opened her eyes, blinked, and hoped to god she could pull this off.

Then, with her best superior tone, she looked him in the eyes and asked him haughtily (pretending there was no hazy smile on her face and that wasn't a giggle that had just escaped her lips.)

"S-so, a-are you g-going to tell me w-what that was all a-about?" She also pretended that she hadn't heard herself stuttering her words out.

Draco was leaning casually against the wall and Emily saw his mouth tighten into a thin line. Although, he was terribly amused at Emily's state of intoxication, he thought it best if she did not know that. Why did she have to be such a pretty, little mudblood? he thought, momentarily distracted. It's not as if I don't have enough things to bloody worry about without her adding to it!

But he knew that he couldn't deny his growing attraction to her. Merlin's beard! Father would be rolling in his grave or should I say mausoleum, mausoleum is certainly more appropriate when thinking of father. But really, a mudblood? It just isn't acceptable or appropriate.

Draco had changed in a lot of ways over the last few years, but little to no one actually knew about this change. During the war and as time passed, one by one, his beliefs and ideals had been broken and shattered. He had been disillusioned. Draco was no longer the same boy of five-years-ago. He had changed drastically.

When the war had broken out, five years before, reality had crashed down hard on Draco, annihilating all his ideals of Voldemort, his father and their lust for power.

Although Draco did have dreams of power and position for himself, he saw no need for the death, destruction and torture that surrounded him.

He had no liking for muggles, certainly, but he felt no desire to join in the murder and torture them. Instead, he was quite willing to live along side them and as long as they didn't bother him, he really didn't care.

He had also discovered that his father wasn't the man he though he was. Blinded by lust for power, Lucius was just Voldemort's puppet, not the strong prevailing man he'd been brought up to believe in. His illusions finally shattered and seeing clearly for the first time in his young life, Draco had turned from the Deatheaters and their abhorrent lies.

Draco now had very little of his previous life left. Both his parents were gone - Were they ever really there for me in the first place? he often wondered. The Manor was in the hands of the ministry and his friends were either dead or disappeared.

All Draco had left in the world was his cunning brain, quite a few grudges and the famous Malfoy pride.

At least they'll never take that away from me, he thought smugly to himself, letting out a snigger.

Draco shuddered suddenly and pulled himself quickly back to the present. Only meagre seconds had passed by as he had stood there reminiscing. He wanted to be alone he realised, alone to think about today's events, alone to put things in order in his mind. Coming to an instant decision he put on his most disdainful sneer and turned his gaze on Emily. She was still looking at him with that bemused expression and her nose had crinkled charmingly. He couldn't help but think how inviting she looked.

You could confide in her, she would help you, a traitorous voice pushed it's way into his mind, but he pushed it firmly away as soon as it came.

Letting out a sigh, Draco pushed himself from the wall. Holding her eyes to his, making sure he had all her attention, he said simply, "I'm going to my room."

And then he turned away from her and made his way to the bottom of the stairs. As he rested his hand on the banister, random thoughts ran through his mind.

She needed to put down new carpet. Really, the old tread worn, flowery pattern looked terrible and must have been at least twenty-years-old, and the supposedly pale blue was definitely turning into a dirge grey.

Finding himself suddenly, unexplainably, angry - he snapped out acidly, not turning to face her.

"After your actions today Emily, I don't believe that I could ever trust you with my secrets. So I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for answers, if I were you."

Then, with a deft, angry kick at the stair and a scowl on his handsome face, he stalked off upstairs.

Down below, Emily watched him disappear into his room and childishly stuck out her tounge at his back. Even in her inebriated state he could still irritate her.

Damnable little ferret, she thought viciously as she turned towards the kitchen to get some coffee. Why is he so hateful?

*


Sitting on her sofa, fifteen minutes later, with a steaming, second cup of black coffee held in her hands, Emily let her head rest against the soft padding and let her mind wander over the day's events.

The coffee had helped sober her up a little and she now needed to sort her thoughts out. Well, mainly her thoughts concerning Draco. He was so infuriating, one minute he seemed to hold hidden depths, the next he was being the same old nasty git she had known from school. However, either way, Emily had to admit to herself that he was affecting her strangely - extremely strangely!

Sitting up slightly and taking a gulp of scolding coffee, Emily thought about their brief moment together earlier that day. Something unexplainable had happened there. It hadn't been about lustful feelings or her schoolgirl crush. It had been different. It had felt if they had connected somehow. As if, they had shared some wonderful bond.

Emily didn't believe in love at first site or soul mates, she was far too sensible for that, believing instead in hormones and mutual attraction. But their interaction that afternoon had shook her, had made her believe they could have something wonderful between them, but as usual he had changed again and as quick as lightening the mask was back in place. Which had thrown her thoughts awry and placed disappointment in her heart?

She wished she could trust in him, truly trust in him. But every time she gave him a piece of her trust, he threw it right back at her, making her feel fragile and breakable, putting her back on her defences.

Sighing loudly, she finished her coffee in one quick gulp, twisting the cup distractedly in her hands as she remembered. Earlier on in the day, before Harry had showed up, he had acted different again. She had even heard an apology pass his lips, something she would have never thought in a million years from a Malfoy.

Or, did she? She was so bewildered right now; she couldn't properly distinguish reality from her own imaginings. Emily, in all of her life, had never been so confused and at this very moment, she hated the boy who had caused it.

Suddenly angry, she slammed her coffee cup back down on the table in temper; muttering a curse underneath her breath, if at herself or Draco, she was at that point unsure, but she was definitely certain of one thing. Emily stood up, looking determined..

She had had enough! One way or another, she was going to sort this out and she was going to do it now. Filled with an unyielding determination and fuelled by a little alcohol-induced courage, Emily found herself charging upstairs, intent on bringing proceedings to a conclusion.

Finding herself, sooner than expected, outside his room - she lifted a clenched fist to bang noisily on his bedroom door. The sound of a soft whimper from behind the door froze her, though, leaving her fist hovering in the air. She stood stock still as another pained whimper issued out from behind the door and gnawing painfully on her knuckles in aguish, she pondered anxiously whether or not she should enter the room.

A bloodcurdling scream suddenly tore through the night, shocking her from her deliberations. Goosebumps popped up all over her flesh and, wand held firmly in hand, she hurtled headfirst into the room.

Stumbling forward, eyes alert, Emily took in the sight before her and let out a small gasp. There before her, writhing uncontrollably between tangled sheets was Draco.

And, by the twisted expression on his face and the light sheen of sweat on his forehead, Emily could only conclude that he must be having the worst nightmare of his entire life. Another violent moan escaped his lips, which sent Emily flying to his side and crouching down beside his bed; she reached out to touch his glistening brow.

*


Kneeling down beside him, Emily continued to stroke his clammy brow, unsure of what to do. She desperately wanted to wake him, but was afraid to. She was not sure if awakening him was for the best in this situation. Although, she had seen people having nightmares before, she had never seen one of this intensity. It was said that it was for the best not to awaken sleepwalkers when they were walking and Emily, somewhere in the back of her mind, instinctively thought that this would apply in this situation too.

Continuing to stoke his brow softly, Emily listened to his strangled whimpers and plaintive moans. Every now and again, a terrified scream would escape his lips and Emily could catch the odd whispered word that tumbled out from his mouth.

"Father," he whimpered. "Azkaban!" "Cold, so cold," and while he struggled in vain, lost in some terrible vision or memory, Emily continued to soothe him, whispering soft platitudes in his ear, as one does to a child. Assuring him with soft words and telling him that "Everything was alright" and that "I'm here for you," Emily tried her hardest to sedate his dreams as the fear and sweat emanated off his body.

Time passed slowly by: Emily continued with her tender administrations and, as she caressed his brow tenderly, her eyes wandered freely over his distraught form.

Outside, through the widow, the moon was now raised high in the sky. It's soft beams radiated around the room and lit it with it's silvery light.

Underneath its soft beams, Draco's skin glistened softly; the moon's gentle light covered him, making him all the more breathtakingly beautiful to Emily. Staring down at him,  she soon became entranced at the fine lines of his handsome face: his pale, alabaster skin seemed to be almost transparent, bringing his fine bone structure to the fore. His long eyelashes fluttered gently over his dreaming eyes and his pale, pink lips were slightly parted - as if they were inviting her for a kiss.

Emily shuddered a little and let her eyes trail downwards towards his chest. 

His shirt was open and unbuttoned, and had twisted up his body to reveal the fine, taut alabaster skin of his bare chest. Emily watched it rise and fall with every jarring breath he took. The small hollow at the base of his throat also tempted her and she found herself reaching out with her hand to touch him lightly. As her fingers ghosted nimbly over his skin, she felt his hand suddenly clasp over hers.

Startled, Emily gasped and quickly brought her eyes back up to his face. She found his eyes looking straight at her; the colour of storm clouds, they seemed to hold no rancour or disdain, but merely stared back at her.

Emily gulped and her show of nervousness brought a weary smirk to his lips.

"Trying to seduce me in my sleep now, Emily?" he uttered tonelessly, but his voice held none of its usual spite and he sounded strangely defeated.

Oddly, Emily found this disturbing. "No, I was only trying to help you..."

However, her words were cut off as he reached up and, cupping her face, pulled her gently down towards him. With her face only mere inches from his, he whispered to her softly.

"Are you my guardian angel then, Emily?" he spoke with none of his usual animosity showing in his voice.

"I was just trying to calm you; you were having nightmares, I..." Emily stuttered out, bemused from his lack of confrontation.

Draco reached up and quietened her nervous twittering by placing a finger to her lips.

Then, removing his finger, his fingers curled under her chin again and he pulled her in closer, closing the slight distance between them. His alluring lips met hers, welcoming her softness and tender kisses followed.

With their lips barely parted they kissed each other lingeringly, almost timidly, both enjoying the languid pace - both taking time to revel in each new sensation that overtook them. Their tongues brushed lightly against each other, tasting one another, running lightly, sensuously, over lips, grazing against teeth, falling naturally into their own special rhythm.

Emily reached up to stroke his face gently, loving the fine angles of his jaw, as Draco ran his fingers unhurriedly up and down her spine. Soft sighs escaped needy lips as they lost themselves in each other.

Time ticked slowly by, allowing them to take pleasure in each other, until Draco slowly tilted his, head and broke off their kiss. Caressing and entwining his fingers through her hair, he whispered into her ear, "Stay with me, Emily."

Then predicting her reply, before she could answer, continued, "We can talk later I promise, just stay with me, please?"

*


Emily, feeling weary and weak, made no answer and, ignoring her rumbling stomach, clambered onto the bed next to him.

Snuggling into his arms, she tucked her head underneath his chin and closed her eyes. What would happen later, she did not know? However, right now, all she wanted was to enjoy his closeness and to be in his arms. She would deal with any repercussions there could be later.

Right now, though, she wanted his closeness; she wanted to be with this soft loving side of Draco. More than likely, by morning this Draco would be gone. Only to be replaced by the normal Draco, who would be full of sneers and snide remarks.

By Merlin, after a day like today, she deserved some comfort and she was going to take it while she could. Cuddling closer into him, she brought one hand up to cup his face and snaked the other round his middle. Then planting a soft kiss on his collar bone, she wished him  a soft Goodnight and, lulled by the beating of his heart underneath her, promptly fell asleep.

As she slept, Draco was left wide-awake. He held her tightly in his arms, comforted by her fragrant smell and her soft body. Too many though were racing through his mind tonight. Thoughts of his recent nightmare, thoughts of his uncertain future and thoughts of the pretty girl lying in his arms kept him wide-awake.

Eventually, though, in the small hours of the morning, his unblinking eyes finally closed, bringing him a (thankfully) dreamless sleep to ease his exhausted mind.


Chapter 11: A Surprise Visitor
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A Surprise Visitor



Chapter Eleven






Cuddling closer into him, she brought one hand up to cup his face and snaked the other round his middle. Planting a soft kiss on his collarbone Emily wished him "Goodnight" and lulled by the beating of his heart, she promptly fell asleep.


As she slept, Draco was left wide-awake. He held her tightly in his arms, comforted by her fragrant smell and her soft body. Too many thoughts were racing through his mind tonight. Thoughts of his recent nightmare, thoughts of his uncertain future and thoughts of the pretty girl lying in his arms kept him wide-awake. Eventually, in the small hours of the morning his unblinking eyes finally closed, bringing him, thankfully, dreamless sleep to ease his exhausted mind.


***




The bleak winter's sun shone, forlornly, through the window, barely lighting the room with its feeble rays. The day had begun; a day of gloominess and storm clouds and the morning was well underway. The fragile sunlight flickered softly over the two young, sleepers' forms, lighting their faces delicately, from the shadowed half-light. A soft snore resonated quietly around the room and the birds twittered dolefully outside and, from her dreamless sleep, Emily awoke.


A warm heartbeat pulsed underneath her and, as her eyelids fluttered open, she was momentarily disorientated. Sleep-befuddled and with a rumbling tummy, her foggy-head wondered 'where on earth she was,' and 'what to have for breakfast.'
She knew she wasn't in her own sweet bed and the firm chest beating rapidly, beneath her left ear, told her she hadn't gone to bed alone. She briefly wondered if the mystery person was Harry. Don't be silly, Emily, she scolded herself, trying to clear her sleep-befuddled mind. You haven't been with Harry for over a year.
Lifting her head from the inviting chest, a massive yawn escaped her lips and, stretching her arms over her head, she slowly sat herself up...and froze. There laying before her with one arm splayed over his head and the other still resting on the small of her back, was Draco Malfoy. A strangely innocent looking Draco Malfoy. Asleep, Draco looked almost angelic - very young and very sweet. His sleep-rumpled hair helped along the impression of boyishness and his fine, delicate features, marred by no frown or sneer, looked peaceful in sleep. His finely, moulded lips were slightly parted as if begging for a kiss.


No, Emily, she told herself, not allowing those distracting thoughts to distract her. Stop it now! He'll probably wake up a monster--and you don't need to add complications! Emily let out a soft sigh and let her mind wander over the previous night - and the prior nights events slowly came back to her. Kneading at the tense spot in the back of her neck, Emily pondered lazily over the several scenarios' running through her mind. Would he be nice when he woke up? - would he be a monster? Would he actually tell her anything, like he promised! Or, would she be left in the dark still, as she frequently was!


Sighing aloud again, rather loudly and dramatically, Emily decided that she didn't want to be here when he awoke. She would shower, dress and appease her still grumbling stomach before she had to face him. Several cups of hot, black, coffee would not go amiss either, she decided resolutely. Giving Draco one last, longing glance, Emily moved as if to go. But, she was stilled by a soft sigh that had escaped from Draco's mouth. Her attention snapped back to him. Her eyes wandered down to his sensuous lips and the temptation to kiss them, once again, arose within her. She yielded to the temptation. Nibbling nervously at the corner of her mouth, she dipped her head down to his and pressed her lips gently against his in a firm, yet quick, kiss. Then pushing herself, determinedly off the bed, she turned to leave the room - not looking back once. If she had turned to look, she would've seen Draco's eyes fly open and a hazy smile appear on his lips.


Draco had been awake for several minutes. Through veiled eyelashes, he had watched Emily as her face had gone through many emotions. He had known what she was thinking about and he knew that she would be requiring answers sooner or later - and Draco had preferred later. So, he had pretended to sleep while covertly watching her. Her pretty face had distracted him from his own dismal thoughts - thoughts of his past, thoughts of his future and thoughts of the girl herself. What have I got myself in to? Draco had been musing quietly, when from out of the blue, Emily had kissed him. It was a quick, chaste kiss, but it had awoken strange butterflies in his stomach. This girl had somehow managed to get under his skin. Unable to stop the soft smile from forming on his face, Draco had been very glad that Emily hadn't turned to see him.


Now, laying awake and staring at the ceiling, Draco was deciding on how he was to get through the day. After a lot of deliberation, he decided on honesty. Well, to a certain degree! He would be as honest as he could be - as honest as he could allow himself to be. After all, there were important matters at stake here. Concerns about his safety and, now, about Emily's too. He would try to be nice to her today or at least, he would try not to agonise her on purpose - she deserved that much. She was involved in all of this now anyway - the ministry had made sure of that. So, the least he could do was warn her. Tell her a little about things. Tell her about what she needed to know!


As he heard Emily's footsteps patter downstairs, Draco sighed heavily, pushed himself up and off the bed and made his way to the bathroom. Rubbing at the tense knots in the back of his neck, as he walked, Draco planned what he would tell her...


*



Emily had gone to her room, grabbed some clean clothes, showered and dressed quickly and padded down to her kitchen with her stomach grumbling all the way.


Now, with her belly appeased, after a breakfast of cereal, toast, an apple and lots of strong, black coffee, Emily sat back on the sofa - feeling almost human again. The soothing strains of Coldplay could be heard from the radio, switched on, in the kitchen and Emily was humming along to it. Emily reached for the nearby, remote control and switched on the television - in the mood to be distracted. Emily flicked from channel to channel before finally deciding on the news. Just what I need, she decided promptly. Lets see what's going on in the big, wide, muggle, world! and picking up her coffee cup and taking a large gulp, Emily settled back to watch the news, thankful for the distraction. However, as she watched she found herself distracted; her ears strained for Draco's approach and her thoughts kept wondering over past mysteries.


She pondered over Draco's strange statements and attitude, Ron and Harry's odd behaviour and on how her life had been turned upside-down. I wonder if these things are all related, she questioned thoughtfully, quite sure in her own mind that they were. She also had a very, strong feeling that the ministry was involved in all this somehow. The ministry was full of secrets and she was quite sure that she had stumbled head first into a new one. Emily longed for answers, her inquisitive soul yearned for them and it was Draco who had all the answers that she sought. Suddenly impatient, Emily thought about running upstairs and shaking him awake - when a shadow appeared by the door. Looking up sharply, Emily turned her head towards the doorway and saw Draco standing there, watching her intently. Swallowing down sudden nerves, Emily forced her in lips into a smile. "Good morning," she offered tentatively, unsure of him and his mood.


Draco gave her a small, tight smile. "Good morning," he offered her back politely, and made his way over to the overstuffed armchair opposite her. Sitting himself down on the chair gingerly a disdainful sneer appeared on his face as he took in its dilapidated state, but quickly disappeared again as if he had thought the better of it. His face smoothed out, devoid of expression, and leaning back into the chair, elbow propped up on the armchairs arm, and he chewed on his knuckles distractively. He stared at Emily blankly, feeling uncertain of how he was to proceed.


Emily, aware of the brewing tension, nibbled anxiously on the inside of her mouth. Not sure, of what to say or do - and wanting to ask questions, but not quite daring to yet, she simply stared back at him. After a few minutes of just staring, Emily decided to be the perfect host. "Would you like some breakfast?" she asked him simply. Draco shook his head 'no' in an irritated manner as if her words had annoyed him. Then frowning a little, he remembered his manners, saying quickly, "No thank you - but do you havesomecoffeeplease?


"In the kitchen," Emily replied promptly, getting up to fetch him a cup.
Draco motioned her to sit back down, mumbled out "I'll get it," and moved quickly towards the kitchen.


Emily stared after his retreating back. She was surprised by his new and improved attitude, yet she found his attempts at politeness vaguely disquieting. I think I prefer the old Draco, she mused to herself broodingly, at least I know how to handle him when he's being a nasty git! This new Draco, definitely put her strangely ill at ease. Leaning forward and taking another sip of coffee, she waited for him to return.


He returned with the coffee peculator and a chipped, china cup in hand. Once again, he made his way to his seat, perched himself down on the edge and, without a word, poured himself a cup of coffee. Wrapping his hands tightly, around the cup, as if trying to warm them, he brought it up to his lips and took a deep swallow, deliberately ignoring her the whole time.


Emily watched him, her curiosity burning up inside...


Setting his coffee cup back on the table, he then turned his attention back to her. "So, I'm guessing that you want some explanations - right?"


Emily nodded eagerly in reply.


Draco leant back in the chair, closed his eyes and let out a defeated sigh.
Emily waited...


Having finally come to a decision, he opened his eyes and stared up at the ceiling. Then addressed her wearily, "I suppose you want to know about the nightmare? Yes, the nightmare--I might as well start from there..."


*




Emily stayed silent, not daring to say a word. She didn't want to ruin the moment with inappropriate words.


Draco continued. "What did you hear? Last night, what did you hear me say?" Draco demanded, his eyes boring holes in her.


Emily fought the urge to say 'I thought you were supposed to be answering the questions,' but knowing this would just antagonise him and wanting answers desperately, she decided to answer him. "You mentioned your father, Azkaban and that you were cold, very cold. You were mumbling about darkness, bleakness and wrong choices." Emily promptly summoned up.


Well that’s pretty self-explanatory," Draco mumbled out, some-what sarcastically.


"Not to me it isn't!" Emily couldn't help blurting out.

Draco looked at her sharply and sighed out in exasperation. Rubbing at an imaginary spot on his shirt, he continued, not looking at her. "Well, my father wasn't the pleasantest man in the world; nightmares about him are a common occurrence, I assure you...."


"Did you see Lucius in Azkaban before...?" She couldn't help but rush out.


Draco's eyes flickered over to hers, hiding some deep emotion.


Was it anger or something else? Was it fear, or could it be -Hatred! Emily wondered distractedly, instinctively leaning forward to catch his answer.


"No, I never saw Lucius in Azkaban!" Draco hissed out harshly. "I wasn't allowed to see him, the ministry saw to that! Not that I really had the urge to - go and visit him. No, the Azkaban memories are my own!"


Emily mentally kicked herself. Of course, she remembered, casting her mind backwards. Draco had been held in Azkaban for three months while awaiting his trail. Well that explains the bleakness and coldness, she thought to herself with some amusement, but what about the 'wrong choices?' Forcing her curiosity back down, Emily glanced over to Draco again.


He looked pensive and anxious.


Wondering at how 'dreadful' Azkaban must be, Emily offered to him sympathetically, "I'm sorry Draco, it must have been horrible for you."


Draco, shuddering at her understatement, looked at her through narrowed eyes. "Oh yes," he sniped at her sarcastically. "It was dreadful! Those damn Dementor's are horrible to be around in the mornings. Not nice at all! And I must say I'm overwhelmed by your sympathy."


Emily felt abashed and suddenly very young. Bowing her head in shame, she whispered genuinely. "I'm sorry. Truly I am!"


Draco sighed despondently. He had been unfair, he knew it. Emily had no idea of the true horrors of Azkaban - in fact, not many people did. He had been unfair to her once again. Knowing that recriminations would get them nowhere, he stood suddenly and made his way over to her. Sitting down beside her, he touched her shoulder tentivly. "I know you are, Emily," he told her awkwardly. "I'm sorry too!"


Emily just nodded, acknowledging his apology, and they sat for a while in a self-conscious silence. Time passed slowly. Looking at her hands, which twisted worriedly in her lap, Emily found the courage to ask him the question that burned inside of her. "What did you mean by 'wrong choices?' she asked him timidly, dying to know the answer.


"That can be answered another day," he answered abruptly.


"B-But," she interrupted.


"No," he continued firmly. "I don't wish to talk about that yet!"


"Were you a Death Eater?" Emily blurted out stubbornly, daring to face his anger.

However, Draco just remained silent and leaning, slightly forward he just stared balefully out in front of him with ominous memories running through his mind.
Emily knew she had pushed him too far.
"Will you tell me about it one day," Emily asked him softly and, wanting to make amends, she cautiously touched his shoulder.
Draco seemed to shudder at her touch and with his mouth twisting into a grimace, he mumbled out, "Maybe..."


A reflective silence fell again.


Emily bravely leant forward and rested her chin on his shoulder. "What about Ron and Harry?" she asked persistently, needing some more answers.


Draco snorted derisively at the mention of their names. "What about them?" he asked dismissively and the first smirk of the day appeared on his lips.


"How are they involved?" she continued.


Draco let out a harsh laugh and turned to face her, dislodging her chin from his shoulder as he did so. Eyeing her carefully, he weighed up his words. "They know that I didn't kill Snape," he told her flatly, his eyes glinting angrily. "Potter doesn't like it and feels guilty, even though it's not his fault exactly. Bloody Potter and his famous Gryffindor guilt ... and Ron was just being a weasel as usual!"


"Harry wouldn't let you go to Azkaban if you weren't guilty!" Emily exclaimed defiantly, knowing Harry couldn't do something so dishonest.


"Some things are even out of Potter's control Emily," Draco persisted. "After all, even Harry is just a puppet under the control of others. Harry couldn't stop this, but I 'm guessing it may be down to him that I'm not longer under the guards of Azkaban and am staying here with you instead."


Emily gaped at him in wonder. Draco's explanation actually made sense to her. It explained Harry's strange anger and guilty reactions. It explained his anxious concern for her. Obviously, Harry still didn't trust Draco, but knowing him innocent of a crime; Harry had intervened and had sent Draco to her. Oh Harry, Emily thought, what on earth are you up to? Then breaking off from her train of thoughts, she asked Draco fervently. "How do they know you're innocent? Do they know who really murdered Snape?"


"That I can't tell you," Draco replied.

Emily looked at him from under her eyelashes and pouted her lips prettily. It was a trick she knew most males could not resist. "But - please," she simpered, widening her pretty eyes and hoping it would work on him.


Draco's face broke out into a grin upon seeing her flirtatious expression. A real grin that lightened his eyes and brightened his demeanour. Emily felt her heart leap in her chest, on seeing him smile. She had never seen him smile like that and it suited him. It made him look impish and oddly, the smile warmed his normally cold features. Emily felt her pulse begin to race.


Draco decided that he liked Emily openly flirting with him. It made a pleasant change from their constant bickering and power games and it made him feel, questionably, light-hearted. Letting his grin widen wolfishly, he leaned down towards her. "That won't wash with me, Carlisle," he teased her lightly. "Don't you know that your girlish charms won't work on me?"

Feeling overwhelmingly intoxicated by his closeness, Emily couldn't think of a suitable response. So, instead, she poked her tounge out at him cheekily.


Draco, closing in the gap between them, took hold of her chin delicately and, tilting it upwards, bought his lips down onto hers in a sweet kiss.


Emily, willingly, let herself be kissed - taking great pleasure in the sweet sensations that his expert lips elicited in her. His lips lingered teasingly on hers as he kissed and nibbled gently on them. Emily, needing more, ran her fingers through his hair and, then clasping the back of his head firmly, pulled him down closer to her - her lips demanding more. Kissing him urgently, the kiss intensified in passion as their lips pressed together, over and over, unrelentingly.


Draco, entwining his arms around her narrow back, gently lowered her down on to the couch. Lowering himself gently on top of her, he felt her body instinctively adjust to his. Her legs parted naturally, allowing him to mould to her contours and, as he pressed himself against her, she ran her fingers fervently along his back. His hot kisses persisted, pinning her helplessly under him, and Emily felt his left hand running lightly down her side, his fingers tickling her softly as they moved.


Emily shuddered violently underneath him causing him to press himself, shamelessly, against her. His hand wondered from her side and made her way over to her breast. Softly, but firmly, he began to stoke her over the thin material of her tee shirt, eliciting a soft moan from her mouth and into his. Between his slow, burning, kisses, she somehow managed to breath out, "Draco, I - I think we should stop now."

Draco ignored her protest, thoroughly lost in heat of the kiss.

Desperately, fighting against her own lustful feelings, Emily tried again. "Please Draco," she breathed out unsteadily, repressing a moan as his lips found her ear and began nibbling on it seductively.


"Don't worry, Emily," Draco whispered to her huskily, "Just let everything go and enjoy yourself..."


At these words, Emily knew she was lost and she yielded to his ardour, loosing herself in delirious passion...when the doorbell rang!


*



Saved by the bell, Emily thought feverishly, giggling a little insanely to herself. Pushing Draco away from her and ignoring his sullen protests, Emily sat up and promptly straightened herself out. Feeling his warm breath, suddenly, on her neck, she shuddered beneath it.


Draco, sensing her sudden vulnerability, wrapped his arms tightly around her middle and whispered seductively and hopefully, in her ear, "You don't have to answer it, Emily."

Emily unwrapped his arms from around her and, with real regret in her voice, told him truthfully, "You know I have to answer it Draco, it could be someone from the ministry." And, as if it had heard her words, the doorbell chimed noisily again. Letting out a soft sigh, Emily turned her neck and kissed Draco chastely on the cheek.


Dropping his hands from hers, she got up and made her way to the door - ignoring the soft curses he uttered as she went. At the door, she turned to see him watching her sullenly. He looks like a little boy who has lost his favourite toy, she thought to herself and let out a little giggle, before saying aloud, "I'll try and get rid of them as quickly as possible."


Draco just rolled his eyes exasperatedly at her, clasped his hands behind head, leaned back on the sofa and then crossing and putting his feet on the table, he began to whistle an annoying, little tune.


Emily stared at him in annoyance for a little while longer. Then when the doorbell chimed demandingly, once again, she spun around and scuttled to the front door. Mumbling out an irritated, "Hold on, I'm coming!" Emily opened the door.


The door swung open, revealing the impatient person behind it and to Emily's shock and horror, there stood Professor Snape.

Emily stood, frozen to the spot.

"Well, Miss Carlisle, aren't you going to invite me in? I believe you have young Mr Malfoy staying with you and I need to speak with him urgently," Snape drawled out with that smug tone she remembered so well.


Swaying a little on unsteady feet, Emily blinked stupidly up at him. "So, you're not dead after all," she managed to say idiotically, before swaying erratically on her feet and dropping in a heap to the floor - in a dead faint.
Snape looked at the fainted girl, rolled his eyes in exasperation and, calling for Draco, stepped over the threshold...



Chapter 12: A Goodbye Kiss
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A Goodbye Kiss



Chapter Twelve






"Well, Miss. Carlisle aren't you going to invite me in? I believe you have young Mr. Malfoy staying with you and I need to speak with him urgently!" Snape drawled out with that smug tone she remembered so well.
Swaying a little on unsteady feet, Emily blinked stupidly, up at him. "So, you're not dead after all!" Emily managed to say idiotically, before swaying, erratically, on her feet and dropping in a heap to the floor...in a dead faint.


Snape looked at the fainted girl, rolled his eyes in exasperation and calling for Draco, stepped over the threshold...


***



Emily's eyelids fluttered. She stirred restlessly on the sofa and the slightest of moans, escaped her lips. Muttering the words snakes alive, Emily's eyes flew open.
"Snakes alive?" A cold voice queried.


"I think it was actually, Snape's alive...Severus," an amused voice intoned. "I think our little Emily is coming back around."


Emily recognised that voice, the smug undertone was unmistakable. Blinking once or twice, she struggled up into sitting position, and said. "I am not yours Malfoy! Since when did you own me?" Turning her eyes to the two notorious Slytherin's, Emily glared and the Slytherin's smirked back at her, greatly amused.


Snape sat in her tatty armchair looking extremely irritated, with his hooked nose turned up; he blatantly showed his dislike of his surroundings. His black eyes darted quickly around the room and his spidery fingers tapped absently on the arm of the chair. These two combined factors, in his otherwise faultless demeanour, gave away the fact that the man was most horribly vexed.


Draco, however, was kneeling by her side. Holding a small purple vial in one hand and an old, grey, tinged hankie in the other, Draco grinned wickedly down at her. His eyebrows were raised dramatically, which gave him the impression of murderous intent! Seeing Emily's eyes widen suspiciously, as she took in his expression, Draco chuckled ominously. "What on earth is the matter with you Emily?" he queried, looking extremely pleased with himself. "You are acting strange! First of all fainting, and now looking at me as if I have just grown horns - Did you take a blow to the head when you fell?"


Emily, for the moment, could do nothing but splutter incoherently. Pointing to the purple vial, she garbled out nonsensically, "Bottle...poison...murder...trying...killing...me!"


"Now why would I try to kill you Emily? Honestly, what would be the point if that?" Draco drawled out, enjoying Emily's predicament.


Trying to pull her poor overused senses together, Emily clamped her hands to her head and bit out, "In the vial...what is in the vial?"


"Do you mean this vial?" Draco teased, holding it out towards her, "Is this the vial you mean?"


On the other side of the room, Snape's patience suddenly snapped. "Stop teasing the girl Draco! Now is not the time ... And Miss Carlisle, if you would only use that Ravenclaw intelligence you were born with, you might very well come to the conclusion that the vial merely holds smelling salts..." Snape's brow furrowed and his mouth drew into a tight line, his expression showing that the subject was closed.


Emily felt her cheeks begin to burn and embarrassed with her behaviour, she stood. Trying to regain her composure, she took a deep breath. Stop being so silly Emily, she thought to herself, but Snape's untimely arrival had shaken her, the happenings of the last few days had shaken her. Emily no longer felt like herself. She no longer acted, or even thought, as she used to. Draco had thrown her off course and the mystery of Snape had thrown her over the edge. Draco had been hinting about conspiracies, and now a humongous conspiracy had just turned up at her door. She had fainted! By Merlin, she had never fainted before in her life. The intensity of living with Draco had obviously unhinged her mind. But now, she was going to have to pull herself together, she was going to bring the true Emily Carlisle back. After all, this was her flat, her home, her life and these Slytherin's were invading it. She was going to get some answers and get some answers now! Straightening her shoulders and shooting Draco a withering look, Emily spoke firmly, "So now the fun and games are over, is anybody going to inform me on what is going on?"


Out of the corner of her eye, Emily caught Draco shooting Snape an anxious look. Snape pressed the palms of hands together and brought them up to his mouth, in a meditative gesture. He sat silent for a moment, thinking, until he reached a decision. He remembered this young lady from Hogwarts.


She had indeed a bright student, very good at potions, which sat well in his eyes. A quiet girl, who, at first had been a timid student, a little bit of a mouse. However, as the years had rolled by, she had seemed to of overcome her shyness--apart from fainting fits of course. Yes, she had been rather a clever girl, a happy well-balanced girl. A girl who seemed to value intelligence and fairness, except when it came to Draco of course. Snape stifled a chuckle at this thought. But, the question was could she be trusted? He thought she could. Nevertheless, in certain situations, dangerous situations, trust was not enough. He had brought danger to her doorstep and wished to cause her no more. A little knowledge, she deserved to know, it would keep her safe, but too much would endanger her. I will tell her only what she needs to know, Snape concluded. Removing his palms from his face and clasping them under his chin, he spoke slowly, "So tell me, Miss Carlisle... What is it you wish to know?"


"So you will tell me?" Emily answered eagerly.


"I will tell you what you need to know."


Emily chewed nervously on her nails and turning, shot an enquiring look Draco's way.


Draco was still sat on the sofa and was watching the unfurling scene with a strangely, serious look on his face. On seeing Emily turn towards him, Draco's expression changed and softened. Patting at the space on the sofa next to him, he motioned Emily over. What pretty eyes she has, popped unbidden into his thoughts as she made her way over.


Accepting Draco's invitation, Emily made her way over to him. Sitting down beside him, she felt oddly comforted by his closeness. He seems so at ease with this situation, she thought to herself as she rubbed, fretfully, at her own tense shoulders. Sensing Emily's tenseness, Draco laid his hand firmly between her hunched shoulders, and finding her tense spot, proceeded to knead the back of her neck.
Emily felt her knots slowly unwind and found herself beginning to relax a little. Feeling oddly reassured, Emily asked her first question. "So, you're not dead?" She stated rather obviously.


Draco let out an amused snort and Snape rolled his eyes, before answering dryly. "Well obviously Miss Carlisle, the answer to that is no!" Snape began to doubt his previous estimation of her intelligence. Closing his eyes and drawing in a deep exasperated sigh, he continued. "Please proceed with your questioning Miss Carlisle, and do try a more original approach this time."


Emily lifted her chin determinedly and glowered over at Snape. "I suppose my next question is," she spoke composedly, ignoring Snape's jibe. "Why are you alive?"


Snape's eyebrows rose alarmingly at this question.


Hearing Draco snigger quietly, and seeing Snape's incensed expression, Emily quickly continued. "Or should I say why does everybody think you're dead? Was there a big mistake? Did you want to disappear? Is it something to do with the ministry, or Dumbledore?


"That information I'm not obliged to tell you," Snape offered unhelpfully.


Undaunted, Emily continued and shot out, "Why did you come to my flat - why are you here?


"To speak with Mr. Malfoy, is the obvious answer."


"Why? What do you want with him? Why are you here?


"That information is for Mr. Malfoy only."


Sighing out an irritated sigh, Emily snapped out petulantly, "You're not telling me anything and I have a right to know! The moment that you arrived on my doorstep, you involved me in this and as an employee of the ministry, I am..."


"Miss Carlisle, please do not assume you can threaten me with your meagre position in the ministry. Very, precarious, incidents have been occurring, incident's that could be dangerous to you! The information I am able to give is little - not only for reasons of secrecy, but also for your own protection. I did not wish to take this precarious path, but I find this is the only way forward..."


Then pausing for breath, Snape's eyes bored into hers, penetrating the importance of his words deep into her and after a brief, pregnant silence he continued, "Suffice to say, I can tell you only this. I am involved with very important matters, matters of life and death. I have come here for Draco with imperative information, which he needs to know directly. I will converse in private with Mr. Malfoy, and he will have to reach a critical decision. If you contact the ministry, they will be of no help to you and only hamper matters of great magnitude. If you are indeed an intelligent girl, you will ask me no more and let me continue with my task..."


But, I need t-to..." Emily blurted out, needing to be heard. However, the intensity of Snape's glare caused her to falter over her words. I will be heard, Emily thought decisively to herself and carried on wilfully. "Don't I, at least, have the right to know, who is apparently endangering my life!"


Snape watched her carefully, scrutinising every inch of her face. How much could he tell her - would she be able cope with the magnitude of his words? Snape quickly came to a decision and told her quietly, "You are threatened by a new Dark Lord."


"Who?" was Emily's automated answer.


Snape's face became more pinched, his expression closed. "That is unanswerable!" he stated, his expression saying much more than his words.


Emily sat stunned. A new Dark Lord! A new threat! Did the ministry know about this? Did Dumbledore know about this? Did Harry know about this? Merlin's beard, did Draco know anything about this? Emily felt suddenly betrayed. Turning slowly to face him, she shot Draco an accusing look, her eyes condemning him.


Draco stared back at her blankly, his eyes giving nothing away. The seconds' ticked pass as their eyes battled each other silently. Finally Draco spoke. "I knew nothing of this Emily, honestly," he told her, his tone flat and emotionless.


Emily eyed him steadily, wanting to find the truth in his words. However, she couldn't find any. She wanted to believe him and she almost thought she could. But, Emily had been lied to by too many people, to trust so simply now. Especially if what Snape had just said was true, Emily had to be very vigilant now. It was time for her to regain her wits and start acting like a competent young witch that she was, rather than a love struck, young schoolgirl. Shaking her head at Draco and whispering out "Sorry," Emily stood, and moved away from the sofa.


Folding her arms and cupping her elbows, Emily rubbed distractedly at them as she moved across the room. Coming to her untidy desk, she pulled out a drawer and fumbled around. Finally finding what she was looking for, she pulled out an old, battered packet of cigarettes. It was an old packet kept for only emergencies, and it still held eight cigarettes out of a packet of ten. In fact, the pack wasn't even hers, but a pack left behind by one of her smoker friends. Emily had given up smoking over a year ago when she had woken up to the fact that smoking was not cool. However, unfortunately, this occasion called for a smoke. Damn him, she thought to herself, he has driven to drink and now cigarettes!"


Watching Draco evenly, as she lit up, she saw him wrinkle his nose disdainfully - in obvious dislike. Emily tried her best condescending smirk as she inhaled, but instead ended up doubled over in a coughing fit. That was definitely not my best idea, she thought as her face reddened between coughs. Clamping her hand over her mouth, her coughing finally coming under control, she glanced over at Draco, to see that he was laughing smugly at her with his shoulders hitching in delight. "And what is so funny Malfoy?" Emily yelled, feeling extremely stupid and strangely upset at making a fool of herself again. Unwanted tears welled up in her eyes and she turned her back on him not wanting him or even Snape to see.


Over on the sofa, Draco was still chuckling away, unable to hold in his mirth. Really, she does the most foolish things, he thought to himself, recalling the expression on her face as she choked. Maybe that’s why you like her, a voice popped up, unbidden, into his mind - bringing his laughter to a sudden halt. His brow furrowed into a scowl, and he pushed the unwanted thought out of his mind. I don't like her, not at all, he told himself. No, not at all! He didn't think she looked adorable, as the look of surprise had crossed her face when the coughing fit had begun - and he definitely did not think she had the prettiest eyes he had ever seen. And, he also did not feel the least twinge of guilt, when he had glimpsed those tears well up in her eyes. No, not him - he must remember who he was and what he stood for. However, for all his thoughts, a strange feeling of unease had settled in his stomach and Draco did not like it.


Suddenly, Snape's voice cut through the both of their thoughts. With a loud "ahem," Snape brought them both back to attention. "Now Draco," he asked with authority, "Shall we go to your room to discuss matters...."


The telephone rudely interrupted him, making all of them jump in surprise.


brring brring!
brring brring!


Emily, being close to the desk, quickly picked up the receiver. "Hello," she enquired breathlessly.


"Emily, it's me...Harry,


"Harry!" Emily exclaimed loudly, feeling surprise. "What do you want?" The two other inhabitants of the room looked at each, suddenly alert. Dislike showed plainly on Snape's face as his mouth curved into a sneer.


"Emily," Harry spoke hurriedly, "I'm coming over!"


"What for Harry?" Emily almost shrieked. "You can't come over now, it's not convenient!"


At these words, Snape lurched into action. "Come with me Draco, we have to leave...now!" Snape rushed out, cupping Draco's elbow to move him along.


"NO!" Emily yelled after them and down into the receiver. "You can't leave!"


"What's going on Emily?" Harry's voice sounded, into her ear. "I'm coming over straight away!"

"No, Harry!" Emily yelled back, watching helplessly, as Snape picked up her wand and propelled Draco out of the room. "Don't come, everything is fine! Just stay where you are!"


"I'll be there as soon I possibly can," Harry told her firmly, abruptly slamming down the phone.


Emily, stood there frozen, the receiver still pressed against her ear, wondering how things had changed so abruptly.... Then, quickly coming to her senses, she bounded after the abducting Slytherin's.


Running into the hallway, she saw them at the front door. "No! Stop! You can't do this, you can't leave!" Emily shouted breathlessly as she ran towards the door.


"Miss Carlisle, I'm sure you can appreciate that under the circumstances, we really must take your leave. My apologies for any inconvenience's." Snape said smoothly, opening the door. "Come Draco, we must leave now."


"No! One minute please, Severus." Draco stated with some authority, turning to face Emily as she finally reached the door.


Snape was about to answer sharply, but on seeing Draco's face and hearing his commanding tone, he decided against it. Rolling his eyes, he tutted loudly instead. "I will give you a minute, foolish boy! But no more than one minute!" and with that he slipped out of the door, leaving Draco and Emily alone.


"You can't go," Emily whispered, hanging her head. "Y -Y -You just cant! I'll get into trouble with my..."

"Emily," he interrupted her. "I'll be fine. Don't worry about me."


"But you can't go - not now. I'll..."


"Shush Carlisle," Draco scolded her quietly, and then leaning forward and cupping her cheeks gently in his hands, he kissed her chastely.


Emily's eyelids fluttered close.


It was a sweet kiss, a brief kiss. A kiss that tasted of sadness ... and all too soon it was over. "Don't go Draco," Emily whispered again, softly.


Draco, in answer, brushed his lips gently against her ear and whispered, "Au revior, Emily."


Emily slowly opened her eyes to see Draco disappear behind the door and with one final look; he cocked his eyebrows wickedly at her, gave her one final smirk and was gone.


*



Sitting, now on her sofa, with no idea of how she had got there, Emily felt sadness descend on her. Her breathing hitched and the floodgates opened. Sobbing uncontrollably, she hid her face in her hands, ignoring the small pop behind her. She heard soft footsteps approach her from behind the sofa and felt a hand touch her gently on the shoulder.


"Don't cry Emily," Harry's soft voice spoke as his arm slipped around her shoulder. "Don't worry Emily, things will be alright. What happened here?"


And, through her sobs, all that Emily could choke out was, "It's your fault entirely, Harry!"

Chapter 13: Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow
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Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow



Chapter Thirteen






"Don't cry Emily," Harry's soft voice spoke, as his arm slipped around her shoulder. "Don't worry Emily, things will be alright. What happened here?"

And through her sobs, all that Emily could choke out was, "It's your fault entirely Harry!"

***



Harry flinched on hearing Emily's words, his eyes blinking madly behind his glasses. All he had ever done was try his best to protect her, yet Emily always seemed offended by his actions...angry even. Harry pondered over what he had done to deserve this most recent admonishment as he patted her shoulder abstractedly.

Emily's shoulders heaved under his touch and a sigh rattled out of her throat. "Harry," she spoke wearily. "Why did you come?"

Harry blinked again, her words startling him out of his thoughts, and waited awhile before he answered her persistent question. Maybe it was time to change his tactics, try a new strategy, because his former conduct never seemed to work with Emily. Maybe it was time to tell the truth. Harry cleared his throat nervously before speaking. "Um...I'm here because I was worried about you Emily," he told her, pushing the glasses up his nose awkwardly.

Emily looked up him and watched him through blank eyes. This old schoolboy habit of his told her that Harry was most definitely nervous. She remembered, how at first, she had found this habit of his sweet and endearing. But now...it only served to annoy her. "Harry," she spoke finally, biting off her words. "Why were you worried about me?"

Within herself, Emily wondered abstractedly, if being around Draco had affected her. Yes, Harry had annoyed her in the past, but this extreme irritation she was now feeling at Harry, had a distinctive Malfoyish quality about it. Emily closed her eyes and breathed out another heavy sigh. When she opened them again, Harry was blinking down at her owlishly. "Stop blinking!" Emily snapped up at him, waspishly.

Oh, yes, I've most definitely picked up some elements of Malfoy, Emily thought as she looked up into Harry's taken aback face.

"It's almost like Malfoy's in the room," Harry shot back sarcastically with a look of suspicion on his face, voicing Emily's thoughts back to her perfectly. "So," he asked her after a brief pause, "where is the bloody, little ferret anyway?"

At these words Emily hitched out another sob. "I have no idea," she told him shakily.

"What do you mean by no idea?" Harry asked, his voice rising. "Where the bloody hell is he?"

"They've gone you idiot," Emily fumed back at him, surprised by the heat of her anger, "and it's your fault entirely!"

"They - what do you mean they?" Harry yelled back, looking extremely confounded.

"I don't know Harry," Emily spat straight back out at him. "Why don't you tell me? Oh, I remember now, silly me! How could I have of forgotten? It was the caped crusader and his faithful sidekick, the boy wonder!" Emily's voice sounded thick with acidic sarcasm.

Harry goggled at her, taken back by her vehemence. "What on earth are you going on about? Please start talking sense Emily. We have an escaped felon here...and you're talking nonsense!"

Emily just glared at him, waiting for him to fall into her trap. "Go on please - Harry," she goaded him with a wide, smug smile appearing on her face. "I'm sure you have more to say." Emily then leaned back against the sofa and folded her arms, defiantly, across her chest.

Emily's new and definitely Malfoyish attitude caused Harry to explode. With his temple throbbing in rage, he let loose his normally well restrained temper. "For the love of Merlin, Emily! Stop pretending to be Malfoy and start talking sense...." Harry stopped suddenly, a look of horror dawning on his face, before rasping out, "What on earth has he done to you Emily?"

Emily remained quiet.

Harry stared, trying to comprehend the oddness of the situation and the minutes ticked by.... Finally Harry asked her wearily, "Please Emily, tell me what happened. I need to know why you hate me."

Emily faltered a little at the sadness in his voice. Harry, after all, wasn't a bad person. Yes, his good attentions were often misplaced, but Harry mostly meant well by his foolish actions. But, Emily had had an extremely bad day. To be truthful, she had had an extremely bad week! And not to forget, she had been lied to by many people, Harry included. No, Emily was not going to let this pass. "Would you call it nonsense Harry, if I told you that less than half an hour ago, Draco left my flat accompanied by a recently resurrected Snape?" Emily asked him smoothly.

Harry's jaw fell open. "Snape was here?" he asked, his face turning white.

"Oh, yes, Snape was indeed here Harry," she told him tiredly, her eyes suddenly dulling.

Harry gulped, his eyes widening at the connotation in her voice.

Emily continued with a sigh. "I think someone has been lying to me Harry, don't you?"

Harry just blinked several times, unable to come up with an answer. Time ticked by slowly as the two former lovers stared at each other blankly.... One lost in confusion, the other lost in her own morose thoughts - neither willing to speak out first.



Eventually, Harry sat down beside Emily. Dragging his hand through his hair absent-mindedly, he spoke. "I think it's time to tell you the truth Emily," he said in quiet tones.

"It's about time," Emily muttered under her breath, sulkily.

Harry ignored her childish jibe and continued. "Snape is alive Emily, he didn't die."

Rolling her eyes in exasperation, Emily shot back sarcastically, "Goodness me Harry! Really? So it really was him at my door and not a figment of my overactive imagination!"

"Look Emily, you're not making this easy for me, you know.... I'm trying to explain."

Emily covered her face in her hands and rubbed her tired eyes. He is just trying to explain things to you Emily dear. Give it up child, give the handsome young man a break, you know, you could find out some thing important here, nagged a moralistic voice in the back of Emily's head; who sounded disturbingly like her dear, slightly batty, old aunt Nancy. You should listen to Aunty Nancy, Emily! Sweetheart, you know she always makes sense, chimed in a voice that was definitely her mothers. No, no more voices please, pleaded Emily's own internal voice and digging her fingers deep into her temple, she wondered if she was going mad. Externally, she remained composed, merely stating calmly. "Please do go on Harry," in what she hoped was a steady voice.

Harry sat head down, studying his hands. An air of despondency surrounded him. Suddenly, he straightened his shoulders and sat up straight to look solemn eyed at Emily. He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out.

Emily sighed. This is going to be a long day, she thought morosely to herself.



*



Meanwhile, somewhere in the north, Draco sat with Snape in some old wood-beamed country tavern. The Witches Brew Tavern proclaimed its self 'The Finest Hostilery in the north' and Draco found himself disagreeing with the proclamation unequivocally.



On leaving Emily's flat, Snape has Apparated them to somewhere in the north of England. Snape had been close-lipped and silent as he had led Draco over a lonely, bleak, cold and barren landscape. The British countryside in the winter was no pleasant place to be and no matter how much Draco had tried to pry information out of him, Snape had resisted him, saying only, "I will tell you when we reach safety." Draco had been irked, was still piqued, but he had trudged after Snape resolutely. If he was to find out about the secrets that Snape held he had to follow, not matter how much it went against the Malfoy grain...and Draco did so much want to know! So Draco had gathered his Malfoy dignity held his head up high and followed...and Snape had led him here.


"We can rest easy here for the night," Snape had told him, motioning him inside the decrepit old inn. The door had creaked open and Draco had entered with Snape following quickly after him. Snape had then led him to a rickety table in the tavern's most darkest corner and told him to sit. I am not a dog, Draco had rebelled within, but out loud he had voiced nothing and only stared straight ahead of him with his brow moulded into a perfect scowl.


Snape had caught the proprietor's eye, purchased two Butterbeers and a bottle of Fire Whiskey and sat himself opposite Draco. The beverages had come quickly, and the two men had sipped silently at their beer. Draco had sat frozen and sullen, for the inn's wooden beams held in little warmth, and his mind had begun to cogitate....



And here he still sat, thinking, and waiting for Snape to speak.



Honestly, he thought to himself, what on earth am I doing here when I could be cosy and warm, in Emily's flat, and maybe even snuggling up close to her! On hearing his thoughts, Draco's eyes widened slightly. What on earth was he doing thinking of Carlisle! For goodness sake, he should be glad to be rid of her and her silly muggle ways.... But no! The pretty little Mudblood kept pushing herself into his mind. She has cursed me, he thought desperately, pushing all thoughts of her from his mind and bringing back his attention to fall on Snape, who was sitting opposite with a sour look on his face. Something tells me that he is definitely not the harbinger of good news, Draco thought mirthlessly to himself.


Snape cleared his throat and began to speak...and Draco listened.



A couple of hours later, Draco's mood had still not improved!


Snape, he considered, did not bring with him, good news! Draco thought hard on this and then decided to get drunk...very drunk! There was an extremely, pretty barmaid working here and he attended to get to know her better. Thoughts of Emily didn't enter his mind - or so he liked to think. The barmaid is mine, he contemplated to himself, and looking into her eyes, such a pretty little thing, he tried to forget Emily's big warm hazel eyes, which kept popping into his head.


He wanted to forget Snape's words and he wanted to forget Emily's touch. I must be drunk, he thought as the pretty barmaid sashayed past him. Yes, definitely, she can occupy my mind, for now, he deliberated as the barmaid's hips swung past him.


On seeing the ashen blonde stranger, Izzy the barmaid, stomach flipped. I must have him, she thought to herself as she sashayed her hips past him.


Draco smiled seductively at her and banished Emily from his thoughts.


*



Emily sat and listened to all Harry had to tell her. Most of his words came as no surprise to her. Well, except for the fact that Snape was actually one of the order - that bit had surprised her!
Harry had told how Snape was one of them, and how that for the last couple of years he had been working undercover amongst the various Death Eaters who were still in hiding.


"As a matter of fact Emily," Harry told her seriously. "If it wasn't for Snape, we wouldn't have caught as many absconding Death Eaters as we have!"


Emily looked at him with disbelieving eyes. "But why did the ministry fake his death?" she enquired.


"Because Dumbledore thought it was safer that way!"


"But why did he frame Draco?" Emily blurted out loudly, disgusted at the injustice of it all.


"Because Draco made a deal with him." Harry told her.


Emily stared at Harry wide-eyed. "A d - d - deal," she stammered out. "What sort of deal?"


"Draco agreed to a years imprisonment, and then to be placed under the ministry's protection!"


"B - B - But why?" questioned Emily, dumbfounded.


"Because Draco felt his life was an endangered, and went running to Dumbledore for help!"


"And is his life in danger Harry?" Emily prodded earnestly.


"I don’t know Em!" Harry told her truthfully.

Personally, Harry thought Draco was a dirty little turncoat, who had runaway like the coward he was at the first sign of the war not turning to Voldemort's advantage. Harry had wanted Draco locked up and the key thrown away, but Dumbledore had assured him of Draco's intentions and he had told Harry that Draco had held no part in the Death Eater's atrocities. Harry could still not trust Draco, as far as he could throw him, but he could do nothing but accept Dumbledore's assertion.


Emily sat watching him, gnawing on her nails in deliberation.


She had watched Harry as he had told her everything, leaving no stone unturned. At first Harry's frankness had confused her, as she had wondered about his sudden change of heart. But as time had sped on and Harry had talked and talked, Emily had come to see the truthfulness of his words and the sincerity in his eyes. Emily had decided she liked Harry this way. It was a change for the better. She liked Harry's new openness, it reminded her of the old Harry she used to know. Finally, Emily reached a decision. She would tell him. She would tell all that had happened.


"Well Snape seemed to think he was in danger," she began.


*



Draco sat with the buxom blonde barmaid on his lap. He felt tired, cold and lonely and very inebriated indeed. Even as the lovely Izzy kept nibbling at his ear, his thoughts turned to despondency. Gently pushing her away from him, he motioned for her to go.


The lovely Izzy, very much disgruntled by his casual dismissal, stormed off in a huff. "Poncey Pureblood," she muttered angrily as she left.


Draco breathed a sigh of relief and, leaning forward onto the table, he rested his head on his arms. Cradling himself in a very un-malfoyish manner. I think I must be very, very drunk, he thought hazily, remembering the bottle of whiskey he had recently polished off. Very, very drunk indeed!


Letting out a groan, his thoughts turned to what Snape had told him. Bloody Hell! He was wanted by a madman, a man who wanted to be the next Dark Lord! The only man in the world who he was scared of! Groaning out loud again, he banished these thoughts. It was really too much for him to comprehend! Feeling desperate, drunk and lonely, his thoughts turned automatically to Emily.


He missed her, he realised and trying to pretend that he didn't had come to an end. He wanted to be with her, he needed the warmth of her personality. Funny, he thought longingly. How such a cold person as I could want such a warm person such as her! Merlin, even that buxom barmaid couldn't help him get Emily out of his mind. Dear lord, he was in trouble! What on earth would his father of said! It would have probably of been along the lines of 'You’re a disgrace to your name and your blood!' Yes, that would have been exactly what his father would have said!


Sighing again, he lifted his head and came to a decision. If he wanted Emily, he would have Emily! He was after all a Malfoy, and Malfoys got what they wanted! It was time to act like a Malfoy again. Father would approve, well maybe not! Then standing up, he looked furtively around the room for Snape. He saw no sign of him.


"Good," he muttered to himself, sober enough to know that Snape would never approve of his plan. Emily would be here soon, he thought drunkenly to himself as he made his way, surprisingly steadily, to the bar.


"I demand use of your owl!" He demanded, rather too loudly, of the proprietor. "I intend to send a letter..."


*



Harry had listened quietly to all Emily had to tell him. He hadn't liked it - he hadn't liked it all! And, he sensed that Emily had omitted some information. He was highly suspicious of Emily's feelings towards Draco, but he decided now was not time to push the point forward.


"So what do we do now?" Emily's voice asked, breaking through his thoughts.


Harry considered her anxious face for a little while, before answering. "I'm not really sure Emily, but I feel it's for the best that we should tell Dumbledore."


Emily reacted how he expected. "No Harry!" She cried. "Please not Dumbledore!"


"But why not Emily, he is our best chance! He'll know what to do...."


"No, please.... Not Dumbledore, he would manipulate things, and besides I would feel like I betrayed Dra...."


"What is going on with you and that bloody ferret?" shouted Harry, infuriated at Emily's new found loyalty to him.


"Nothing is going on! Nothing at all Harry!" Emily lied, chewing on her bottom lip. "Please Harry let it go, isn't there somebody else we could tell, maybe Remus?"


As Harry considered this, a Tawny owl flew to Emily's window and started pecking impatiently against the glass. Startled, Emily went towards the window and opened it. The owl flew in, dropping a piece of parchment on the table. Then perching herself, cheekily, on the back of Emily's armchair, she hooted demandingly. Emily quickly hurried to her desk and brought forth an old forgotten pack of biscuits.


"Here you go sweetie," she cooed, as she offered the plump little owl a biscuit. The owl hooted thankfully and pecked on Emily's finger, contentedly. Emily, forgetting the letter, continued to pet the companionable little bird.


"The letter is from Draco!" Harry's strained voice interrupted her petting.


Emily dashed to the table, soon forgetting the displeased bird. "Draco! Oh Merlin, what does it say?" she cried, snatching the letter from his hand.


"It says that he is currently residing at the Witches Brew Tavern."


Emily, scanning the letter quickly, saw this was true. "Lets go and find him now Harry," she tumbled out in a rush, "just me and you!"


Harry, looking into her pleading eyes, shook his head. "Well I don't know Emily..."


"Please Harry...or I'll go by myself!"


A subdued hush fell on the room, and Harry thought hard.


The Seconds ticking by seemed to last forever, as Emily watched and waited.


Finally, Harry spoke. "Do you really mean you would follow him on your own?"


Emily nodded her head vigorously.


"Then I'll go with you!" Harry sighed.


Chapter 14: Mirror, Mirror On The Wall
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Mirror, Mirror On The Wall



Chapter Fourteen






Emily, scanning the letter quickly, saw this was true. "Lets go and find him now Harry," she tumbled out in a rush, "just me and you!"


Harry, looking into her pleading eyes, shook his head. "Well I don't know Emily..."


"Please Harry...or I'll go by myself!"


A subdued hush fell on the room, and Harry thought hard.


The Seconds ticking by seemed to last forever, as Emily watched and waited.


Finally, Harry spoke. "Do you really mean you would follow him on your own?"


Emily nodded her head vigorously.


"Then I'll go with you!" Harry sighed.


***


Throwing her arms around Harry, Emily breathed her 'Thank yous' into the crook of his neck. "Oh, thank you Harry! Thank you so much.... We should leave right away...this minute!" She mumbled away happily.


An unbidden flush sprung onto Harry's cheeks.


"Um.... Emily," Harry muttered uncomfortably, feeling quite overwhelmed by her attentions. "I don't think we should leave right now.... Why not wait until morning?"


"But Harry!" wailed Emily, finally letting go of him. "If we wait till then, he could be gone!"


"I really don't think so Em.... Wherever they are, I don't think they'll be leaving tonight. Anyway, there are things to sort out, things to consider.... Emily, have you not thought it may be a trap?"


At these words, Emily started. She had not thought of that at all. The notion had simply not occurred to her. Draco wouldn't do anything to harm me, I'm sure, ran through her suddenly troubled mind. However, instinctively, she knew that she could not be certain. Despite of a deep-seated conviction, Emily knew that she held little knowledge on Malfoy, in fact, in reality, she knew nothing at all! He wouldn't hurt me, would he? she questioned herself again.


Harry stood watching Emily closely as she pondered over his words and Harry felt a strange despondency descend on him. Emily, quite obviously to him, definitely had feelings for Draco. She might deny it with her words, but her eyes gave her away. He sighed discontentedly and pushed his feelings away. This was not the time to give in to his feelings, his new and disturbing feelings. No, now was the time to guide Emily in the right direction. Pushing his glasses back up his nose, Harry cleared his throat nervously and spoke again. "I think we need to talk things over," he told her calmly, sitting himself back down on the sofa.


Emily, still bewildered by the new thoughts that Harry had brought to her already distressed mind, followed his lead and sat down beside him. Looking at him with hurt filled eyes, she waited for him to continue.


Harry blinked rapidly three times and opened his mouth to speak.


*



A million miles away, in the Witches Brew Tavern, Draco Malfoy sat squirming, uncomfortably, under the heat of Snape's baleful glare.


I am not squirming.... Malfoys do not squirm! Draco just about managed to convince himself, squaring himself up against the intensity of Snape's murderous gaze. Severus and hangovers definitely do not mix, he thought distractedly to himself, trying to ignore the painful throbbing in his temple.


"You did what?" Snape's incredulous voice thundered through his musings.


"I owled Emily Carlisle last night! Really Severus, I have told you two times already, do you really need me to tell you again?" Draco stated for the third time that morning, the exasperation rising in his tone.


Severus ignored his tone and contemplated. The fact that Emily Carlisle had not turned up last night with a hundred Aurors in tow deeply troubled him and made him nervous. "It simply makes no sense," he muttered aloud to nobody but himself.


Draco, on hearing Severus' proclamation, secretly agreed. It made no sense at all!


When he had been shaken awake, earlier that morning, he had been sure that Dumbledore's Army of Aurors were there. Imagining Emily's sweet face before him, he had opened his eyes to see a furious Snape...glowering at him. Stifling a groan, he had quickly closed his eyes again, hoping against hope that the fuming form would disappear. However, he had no such luck! Snape had continued to glower over him until he could endure it no more. He had sat up and, in his fragile state of health, he had allowed Snape to question him thoroughly!. So unfitting for a Malfoy, he had bemoaned to himself, secretly wondering if the Malfoy name was indeed in decline.


After what had seemed like hours of interrogation, but in reality, had been a mere ten minutes or so.... Draco had learnt that Izzy, the traitorous barmaid, had seen him sending for the owl and that with a soul filled full with spite, she had betrayed him. However, voicing this opinion to Snape had only earned him a curl of the lip and a roll of the eyes.


Gone were the days when his Potion Master would treat him with his due respect.... With Lucius no longer a figure of significance, of no more importance in the wizarding world, Draco had been forced to receive his admonishment like any ordinary young wizard. He soon found he did not like it and recollecting himself back to the present, Draco sighed. Severus seemed still deep in thought, he noted and with another sigh and he moved to go.


Snape's eyes snapped straight back to him. "And just where do you think you are going?" Snape enquired with his eyebrows raised questioningly.


"I was going to perform my toilette, if that is permitted...sir!" Draco replied, his tone sullen.


Ignoring the sullenness of his voice, Snape motioned him on. "Be quick Draco," he urged, "we will leave as soon as you have finished with your ablutions!" Then standing up quickly, Snape moved himself forwards the proprietors rooms.


Watching Snape's retreating back Draco opened his mouth to sigh dramatically, but stopped himself...with no one else in the room, his dramatics seemed unnecessary. Moving over to the cracked and grime stained washstand, he looked in to the mirror placed above. What he saw made him grimace. His normally immaculate visage was ruined. His red-rimmed eyes looked back at him blearily. His hair was a tousled mess and his normally pale pallor had taken on a sickly hue. "Merlin's beard!" he exclaimed loudly, mortified by his reflection. There and then, Draco made a solemn vow to himself never to touch alcohol again.


Massaging his bloodless face, Draco wondered not for the first time, how on earth he had ended up like this. He was tired of his life and held no hope for the future. The secrets that Snape had told him yesterday had chilled him to his very core. If what Severus had said was true, Draco was in big trouble - with his life balancing precariously. With a sudden burst of temper, Draco slapped his hands to his head and dug his fingers, hard, into his temple.


Why had Emily not come...why? He had been so sure that she would. Last night he had sat in his rooms waiting, certain she would be with him soon. He had needed her last night, needed her comfort and warmth. Although he tried to constantly, convince himself that she meant little to him; his thoughts and deeds betrayed him. Berating himself severely, Draco closed his heart once more, to the notions of love, hope and trust. He had been a fool! He had been blind! His father had been right to teach him his harsh values. Trust was for fools, hope was false security and love was for the weak! Schooling his heart and mind, Draco looked back into the mirror. The perfect depiction of coldness stared back at him.


"This is me - this is who I am," he whispered quietly back to his reflection. In answer, his mirror image curled his top lip into a snarl. Draco smirked back and raised his eyebrows menacingly. "I am a Malfoy and will prevail!" And, with one final sneer, he finished his toilette quickly and made his way down to Snape.


Snape was downstairs, looking anxious. He had made all the arrangements and bribed the proprietors well. That they would keep their silence, Snape was certain. Satisfied with his mornings work, he waited anxiously for Draco to descend. When his young charge finally did come down the stairs to meet him, he failed to notice the subtle change in him. Too eager to be quickly on their way, Snape missed this important change. Touching Draco's shoulder lightly, he led him quickly out of the dingy hostilery and into the crisp, fresh, wintry air.


The day was bright, with a golden sun shining in a pale blue sky. Soft white clouds floated above them, hastened along by a biting winters wind. The dew on the grass had hardened into pure crystal, which glittered like diamonds under the suns strong beams. The trees along the roadside glistened brightly, their branches covered with winter's frost. It was a stark scene, a beautiful scene...yet both proud Slytherin's failed to notice.


"Come now Draco," Snape spoke quickly, his warm breath dancing on the cold wintry air. "We proceed to Scotland!"


Draco, mesmerised by his own thoughts, started at the sound of his voice. "Is he in Scotland?" he queried, his expression blank.


Snape simply nodded.


"Then to Scotland we go!" Draco drawled nonchalantly, his silver eyes glittering maliciously.


The winter suits him well, Snape suddenly thought, looking into his charges youthful face. An aristocratic face made of fine lines and sharp features. Yes, indeed, the winter suited him well! After all, he was the son of a man made by winters chill... and then hastily, pushing aside disturbing thoughts, Snape turned his attention to the here and now. "Come we must go quickly, we shall enter the tree's and Apparate! there where it's less open," Snape, instructed hurrying forward.


Draco watched Snape go through narrowed eyes. His mind was a whirl with suppressed emotion and sinister thoughts. Dark desires tingled in his bones. Draco now had a secret of his own...a deadly secret! A secret he would share with no one. He felt half out of his mind and blinded by deadly ambition. He was no saint riding forth to save the hapless virgin from the dragon. Oh no, not he...however, he now had a mission and he would see himself to the end of it with every sneaky, conniving bone in his body. Then pushing his thoughts aside, and putting them away safely in a little box in the back of his mind, he set out after Snape.


The two dark figures of the Slytherin's soon disappeared into the trees and where they had stood just moments before the distinct sound of two pops could be heard.


*



Emily and Harry both Apparated! suddenly in front of the Witches Brew Tavern, mere seconds after the two sought after Slytherin's had disappeared into nearby woodland.


"We better not of missed them Harry," Emily's voice scolded as she threw him one of her looks.


"Don't worry Em, it's still before seven, they wont be gone yet." Harry's weary voice replied.


Emily shot him a distrustful look and without another word set off towards the tavern. Harry, shaking his head tiredly, followed on behind her.


Both of them were tired and uncertain of what they would find both of them wished for different outcomes to their search.


On reaching the tavern, Emily pushed open the heavy door ushering Harry in before her. Harry stepped in and Emily followed, the both of them entering the unknown.




A/N I'm so sorry this took so long and I apologise for the shortness of this chapter. There was meant to be more, but I didn't think it fitted here. To make up for it chapter 15 will be extra long! Thank you for reading.


Chapter 15: Lies, Spies And Revelations
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Lies, Spies And Revelations



Chapter Fifteen






"We better not of missed them Harry," Emily's voice scolded as she threw him one of her looks.


"Don't worry Em, it's still before seven, they wont of gone yet." Harry's weary voice replied.


Emily shot him a distrustful look and without another word set off towards the tavern. Harry, shaking his head tiredly, followed on behind her.


Both of them were tired and uncertain of what they would find. Both of them wished for different outcomes to their search.


On reaching the tavern, Emily pushed open the heavy door ushering Harry in before her. Harry stepped
in and Emily followed, the both of them entering the unknown.


***


Stepping over the threshold, Emily eyes scanned the ramshackle little tavern, which stood more or less empty. Only one or two people were sat at their breakfast however and neither resembled Snape nor Draco, much to Emily's disappointment. Emily's eyes flickered over towards the bar area and she caught sight of the doddery proprietor. Turning her head and nodding at Harry, Emily motioned him over towards the bar.


Harry dully followed.


On reaching the bar, Emily cleared her throat loudly. Suddenly unsure of what to say, she eyed Harry beseechingly. Instantly recognising Emily's hesitation, Harry took control of the situation. His Auror training kicked straight in and clearing his throat with an air of authority, he spoke.


"Excuse me sir, I'm here on urgent ministry business and would appreciate your help in certain matters."


The old proprietor merely stared back at him with his brow furrowed and mouth agape.


Harry tried again.


"Sir, I need to know vital information about some of your patrons; it is of the up most important that you aid us in our enquiries!"


"Um...er...now what exactly would ye be wanting to know? I can't be letting out confidential information out to just any bugger that walks in here ye know! I has to be keeping my patrons confidentiality."


"Please sir, if you would show us to a more private room we can proceed with these matters more discreetly. Now I promise everything you tell us will be kept confidential and only be heard by official ears, but if you really do insist on being quite so unhelpful I can assure you the ministry will not look kindly on this!"


"Are you threatening me laddy? I don't be appreciating your tone...are you accusing me of things? I'm just an honest man trying to earn me self an honest living..."


Emily drowned out the proprietors whining voice and her eyes narrowed as she watched the old boy speak. Something about him, about his words didn't quite ring true to her ears. She watched the old man closely as his eyes darted nervously from side to side and his yellowed tounge rasped constantly over his old dry cracked lips. Why is this man so nervous, she thought to herself shrewdly, as she studied the old boys face. Is he just a naturally nervy man or does he have something specific to hide? Emily rather believed the later was the real reason for the man's inappropriate jumpiness.


A hand touching gently on her shoulder broke Emily from her train of thoughts. Glancing up, she finally noticed the proprietor was walking away from them, making his way to a door on their left.


"Come on Em," Harry whispered into her ear. "Let's follow the old coot, see what he has to tell us."


Emily shrugged Harry's hand gently from her shoulder and nodded curtly at him. "I don't trust him though Harry," she whispered to him, as they both followed the wrinkled old man. "I don't trust him at all!"


Harry nodded back at her with solemn eyes, answering her quietly. "I think you may be right Em!"


*



Draco Malfoy was extremely irked. A light drizzle of rain had turned the crisp snow underfoot in to slush and the overhanging tree's let little light in from between their spindly branches. He was cold, he was miserable and he wanted the world to know. Trudging miserably through the greying sludge, Draco kicked out, angrily and uncharacteristically, at a passing field mouse. The poor mouse squeaked indignantly, as the wet mush landed on its fur and scurried away into the undergrowth. Draco watched the little mouse scurry away, eyeing it balefully as it went.


"Come now Draco," Snape voice penetrated through his gloomy thoughts. "We have no time for such childish acts!"


Draco turned his baleful glare upon Snape. It was all his fault, he thought spitefully, if not a little childishly. Why on earth they were trudging through snowdrifts in the woods instead of Apparating! to a nice warm inn, he could not imagine and Snape's explanation of a need to be cautious did not satisfy him! Feeling thoroughly miserable and hard done by, he questioned Snape for the umpteenth time, "So tell me Severus, why we are travelling by foot through this treacherous woodland instead of Apparating! ourselves to somewhere more...inviting."


On hearing this query one time to many, Snape's cool façade fell. Inhaling deeply and resolutely resisting the urge to use 'Silencio' on him, Snape snapped out, "For the love of Merlin, Malfoy! Stop this unholy whinging! I have told you several times already that I sense things are...not to be what they seem. We must tread cautiously for I fear what lies ahead!"


"But, Severus that's all very well and all," responded Draco, not bothering to hide his annoyance. "But, it's also extremely...vague?"


Snape turned to face Draco, his eyes suddenly deadly serious. "Do not question my motives Draco," Snape uttered sharply and placed a forbidding hand on his shoulder. "I have been in many perilous situations over the last few years and as time passes one instinctively knows when misfortune is ahead..."


"Yes, but Severus..."


"No Draco, enough of these questions! They get us nowhere! We must now proceed with up most caution..." Snape stopped with his admonishment, when he took in the young Malfoy's expression. Draco looked little more than a child and, although his sulky expression made one want to strangle the brat, Snape felt a strange pity for the boy stir within him. Loosening the grip on his shoulder, Snape considered his next words carefully. "Draco, I know your current situation lays on you heavily..."

At these words, Draco snorted out contemptuously, cutting Snape off from his stream of words. "That is quite an understatement Severus."


"Please Draco," Snape attempted again, "bear with me. When the time comes, we will talk, we can find some answers, we can make out plans. But until we reach Hogwarts, let us move swiftly and..."


"Hogwarts! Did you mention Hogwarts?" Draco bellowed out unable to control his spiralling emotions.


Snape's face blanched at his slip of words. His tired and weary mind had let a fact of the up most import slip his normally tightly closed lips...


"You are definitely not getting me anywhere near that infernal place!" Draco continued to speak, completely unaware of his former potions master consternation. "In fact you might have just as well left me at Emily's place...instead of dragging me half way across the country..."


"With Potter's imminent arrival, it was impossible to leave you at Miss Carlisle's home..."


"What in Merlin's name has this to do with Potter?"


"My instructions are that Potter must not know of..."


"Whose instructions? Dumbledore's or the new Dark Lord's?"


"Dumbledore wishes Potter to remain unaware of certain facts for the time being..."


"Then as usual this mess is all down to Bloody-Saint-Potter?" Draco spat out, now fully infuriated!


Snape simply nodded. "Yes, that infernal boy always had bad timing."


Draco felt his blood begin to boil and his ire built its way to the surface. Saint Bloody Potter! It always came down to Bloody Git Head Potter! Not only content with making his school days thoroughly miserable, Potter had helped put him in Azkaban, and now...now he had the audacity to drive him away from Emily! If it weren't for Potter, he would still be back in London making the most of Emily's charms! At that moment in time, he, Draco Malfoy, would gladly have throttled Harry Potter! The next time I see him, if I ever get to see him, Potter is dead! Dead as a doornail!

Severus Snape watched his charge, as old hatred consumed the young man's face. Draco's normally pale cheeks now burned furiously and his pale eyes glinted maliciously. Silver sparks of fury seemed to flicker within them, as the young man lost himself in thoughts of vengeance and reprisal.


Snape sighed wearily as he saw old hatred return to Draco's face. Searching deep inside himself for some form of assurance, he waited for some words of wisdom to spring forth, but none came. How could he, a man still battling against his own fears and prejudices, even begin to instruct his confused young man? And, as he stood and meditated, a twig snapped behind him.


Spinning around, as quick as a cat, he turned to see nothing amiss, but old instincts were suddenly alert and screaming at him. Grabbing Malfoy rather forcibly by the collar, he dragged him to the nearby undergrowth and pushing Draco before him, onto his hands and knees, he urged him forward and then fell to his own hands and knees and scrambled in after him.


Draco scrambled hurriedly through the tangled undergrowth; urged on by Snape who was right behind him. They both crawled swiftly and silently until Snape placed a restraining hand on Draco's back. Draco stopped instantly. Glancing backwards at Snape, he followed the man's eyes, which flickered to the side of them. Pressing his finger to his lips in an shushing gesture, Snape motioned with his head for Draco to move off to the side. Draco did as instructed and moved off to the right and after a few more minutes of crawling, he saw a small clearing appear up ahead. Twisting his head around, he looked questioningly back at Snape, silently asking him if this was the way forward. A quick affirmative nod from Snape sent him back on his way and he soon reached the clearing.


Scrambling into the clearing, Draco straightened himself back up. Mopping the drips of exertion from his brow, Draco took a moment to glance at his attire. It was filthy! A look of horror formed in his eyes and he visibly trembled in abhorrence. Just look at me, he thought disgustedly to himself, Just bloody look! and as he bemoaned the state of his clothes, Snape scrambled back into view.


"Would you just bloody look me," Draco exclaimed, just a little to loudly, as he saw Snape emerge from the undergrowth and then lowering his voice just a touch, "I hope there was a good reason for this little...fiasco!"


Snape frowned at the loudness of Draco's voice, shot him a warning look and moving further into the clearing, turned to address Draco. "Insufferable brat," he muttered mutedly and straightening out his robes with a quick flick of the wrist, continued. "If you could just turn your attention from the state of your attire for one moment, you might learn that I neither enjoy scrambling through bushes like a field mouse, but certain situations call for speedy reactions!"


Draco eyed him circumspectly, while franticly dusting down his clothes. "Did you actually see anyone Severus? For I neither saw nor heard nothing!" he enquired haughtily, hoping that his underlying breathlessness would not betray the fear, which had arisen in his rapidly beating heart.


"I saw no one Draco," Snape replied and, before the young man could deliver his inevitably sarcastic response, he promptly continued in solemn tones. "However, I have learnt, in often the most unfortunate of manners, that eyes and ears are not enough in treacherous times! For many a long year now, I have found myself walking many perilous paths and from sheer former folly and extreme foolhardiness, I have moved onto greater understanding! In war Draco and in precarious times, one must rely on ones instincts and higher intellect! So although I saw no one Draco, although I heard not a single breath, I decided that it was for the best not to risk the chance of me being wrong, as I have done, to much sorrow and grief, in the past..."


Draco lowered his eyes, suitably chastised by Snape's heartfelt words. His former Professor was a man who talked little of his feelings, or of his own personal experiences, and this little outpouring of his had visibly shaken Draco. Careful not to upset this enigma of a man, Draco cast aside his petty grievances, asking him calmly, "So Severus, what do we do now?"


Severus opened his closed meditating eyes and removed his folded hands from his face. Looking into Draco's now earnest face, he inhaled deeply. Pausing for a moment before replying, he rubbed at his aching temples.


Draco waited respectfully for his reply...


"Next Draco, I will go back there and check for any clue or sign of an intruder, you will stay here. I shall be no more than twenty minutes, so please stay put and try to keep yourself occupied!" Snape replied, finally deciding on a course of action. Scrutinizing his young ward intently, he searched his face for any sign of rebellion, but saw none. Draco was finally showing the sense and self-preservation his father had installed in him. On seeing he would get no protestations, Snape readied himself. "Now Draco, keep your head low for Merlin's sake and at any sign of trouble send up a spark with your wand."


Draco stroked Emily's wand almost tenderly and silently nodded his assent. Things were rapidly spiralling out of control in his life, Draco acknowledged, so now it was best for all that he complied and let Snape take control of this situation. Motioning Snape away with a dismissive flick of the wrist, Draco leant his back against a nearby tree trunk, sat, and waited.


Snape, on seeing the boy offered no resistance, set off on his way. His heart held little hope for the future and a part of him wondered if this whole mission was of no worth. Nevertheless, pushing all his doubt's aside, he set off once more into the unknown. He had no need for hope anyway, only the need for some form of redemption and clemency kept pushing him forward.


Draco watched Snape depart through thinly veiled eyes. At last, he thought to himself. Sometime to myself, sometime to think, and taking advantage of the quietness that surrounded him, he let his mind wonder. Wrapping his arms around his knees, he leaned forward and rested his head on his knees. Weariness overtook his body and his mind wandered backwards, to days past. His thoughts took him back to his childhood, his father and on to Hogwarts before finally settling on Emily. Really, that girl would just not leave his thoughts alone! he mused as her pretty face filled his mind.


Lost in his musings, he barely heard the simple pop! of someone Apparating! close by...


...and, suddenly alert, he reached for his wand, pointing it towards the cloaked figure that now stood mere inches away from him. The cloaked person started on seeing him sat there and with a hex ready on his lips, Draco readied himself to yell out his curse.


The hooded person sized up the situation quickly and throwing back their hood, whispered back at him anxiously. "Stop Draco! It's me... I mean no harm! Don't hurt me! Don't you remember your old best friend?"


On hearing an old familiar voice, Draco hesitated and, still pointing his wand directly at the unknown person, looked straight into the eyes of an old, familiar friend.


"Well, well, well," Draco finally drawled out slowly, after studying the person who stood in front of him intently. Not lowering his wand for an instant, he continued in a mocking tone, "So, what brings you to this part of the woods... Zabini?"


*



Emily stood looking at Harry with frustrated eyes. "Well that didn't go too well, did it Harry!" Emily stated simply.


Sitting down across from her, Harry nodded his head distractedly. "No, not really Em," Harry responded, stating the obvious. "But we really can't do much without official ministry backing."


"But he was here," wailed Emily, totally frustrated with their lack of progress. "I know he was! Why won't the old codger tell us?"


"Probably because they bribed him," Harry muttered under his breath, steeling himself for Emily's reaction to his words. In Harry's honest opinion, Emily had become extremely volatile of late. It seemed that every small problem they tumbled across, she would lay it at Harry's feet.


Emily felt her anger kindle at Harry's last words, but before she let her temper fly at him for the umpteenth time that day, she inhaled deeply and pulled herself back together. After all, the man's unhelpfulness was not Harry's fault and Harry's words, though unpleasant, were most likely true. So, instead of flying off the handle for what seemed like the millionth time, Emily simply pulled up a chair. She would not let him forget that missing the two Slytherins was his fault entirely; no, she would no do that! However, she saw no point in letting her anger get the better of her. Now they had to talk, had to discuss how they were to proceed. "So Harry," she spoke with a sigh, leaning forward on her elbows and resting her chin on her hands. "What do we do next?"


Harry looked at her and blinked nervously. "Um...eat breakfast?" Harry suggested quickly, bracing himself for the impending explosion.


Emily's temper hit the roof!


"Eat breakfast! Eat bloody breakfast Harry!" Emily ranted, letting her emotions free. "Is that all you can think about? Your bloody stomach! For the sake of everything good and holy, Harry! What are we going to do?"


Harry leant forward and tried to grasp Emily's failing hands. "Please Emily, please calm down," Harry spoke softly as he tried to pacify her. "We need to eat, if we are to run around the country side in search of one sneaky git and one former snarky Potions Master, believe me Emily we will need sustenance! All the sustenance we can get!"


Emily stopped her hands from flailing and, taking several deep calming breaths, lowered herself back into her chair. Still glaring daggers at Harry, Emily had to concede that Harry had a valid point, but Merlin! She hated Harry for being right! Suddenly feeling the urgent need for fresh air to clear her now aching head, Emily stood quickly and accidentally sent her chair flying backwards across the stone floor. As it slid along it emitted a horrid screeching sound, which drew all eyes in the room towards the fighting pair. Completely unaware of all eyes upon her from the now burgeoning clientele, Emily bit out at Harry through gritted teeth, "I'm going outside now Harry, I need to clear my head," and with that Emily strode purposely across the inn and out of the door.


Harry, left alone with the weight of all curious eyes upon, shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Even after all these years of celebrity, Harry did not care for and still deeply disliked having people stare at him. Letting his eyes drop and squirming uncomfortably in his chair once again, Harry's eyes spotted yesterdays edition of The Quibbler laying on the opposite side of the table. Quickly reaching for it, Harry sighed an inaudible sigh of relief, glad of an excuse to hide himself from prying eyes. Picking up the paper, the headline suddenly caught Harry's undivided attention.

The Key of Loth is Missing!

Ministry insiders say that this strange turn of events is nothing to worry about, but we here atThe Quibbler say that a Key that is said to release the fiery Demons from Hell Itself, is indeed something to worry about! An expert on ancient artefacts today told us of the Key's Horrific History! It is said that whomever holds the key, he told us in a hushed whisper, has the power to control all ofDemon kind! At these words our




Intrigued and suddenly alert, Harry eyes quickly scanned the article. Something about this article had awoken his suspicion. Firstly, ordering his breakfast from the proprietor, who had suddenly appeared by his side, Harry then spread out the newspaper out in front of him. Immersing himself once again in the composition, Harry soon found himself engrossed.


Emily stood outside and let the biting wind chill her. The stinging wind whipped through her hair, sending it rippling out onto the brisk breeze. Emily stood stock-still, buffeted by the wind, and with hands thrust deeply into pockets, she breathed in the crisp sharp air. How breathtaking it is to be alone with the wind blustering around you, she thought to herself as she closed her eyes and lost herself in the sensation. How liberating this made one feel! What a wondrous sensation of freedom it awoke!


Absorbed in her own thoughts, Emily failed to notice as a buxom, blonde girl quickly rounded the corner of the inn and hurried on over towards her.


*



Izzy's inquisitiveness had awakened when she saw the strange bickering couple appear in the early hours of the morning. Overhearing the dark haired boy vague words about ministry business and dimly the boy's subtle threats, Izzy's curiosity had been piqued. When the odd twosome had disappeared behind the door with old man Nobby, her boss, Izzy had felt no qualms in pressing her to the door. Thank heavens for the highly-strung brown haired girl, she had thought as the girl beyond the door voice had raised and had informed Izzy of the duo's mission. So the aristocratic twerp and his vampiric companion were in trouble was they...and old Nobby was protecting them! Merlin they must of paid old Nobby well for his silence!"


Izzy did not considered herself a vindictive girl by any means; but the way the silver haired young gentleman had pushed her away so dismissively, the night before, had hurt her deeply. After a few hours of titillating fun, he had just pushed her away and looked at her if she was nothing! Looked down on her from that snooty nose of his and Izzy was still licking her wounds. "I'll tell them," Izzy muttered away to herself as she started her daily tasks. "I'll tell them what I saw...I'll tell them that the snob and his companion had disappeared into the woods just minutes before they arrived. That'll get them into trouble; I'll make sure the snooty git gets what's coming to him!"


...and with that thought still in mind, Izzy waited patiently for her opportunity to arrive. An hour and a half later, Izzy's opportunity came. On seeing the brown-haired girl get up and quickly leave the inn, Izzy scampered around to the kitchens and exited through the back door. Here's my chance, she thought to herself as she swiftly rounded the corner and saw Emily stood close by. Izzy scurried over to her and cleared her throat noisily. "Miss," she spoke politely, remembering her manners. "Sorry if I'm being a nuisance miss, but I heard that you are looking for someone...and I have some information for you"


*



Startled out of her thoughts, Emily spun round, wide-eyed, and faced the red-cheeked girl. "Pardon," Emily questioned excitedly. "Did you say you had information on Draco...?"


Yes, that was the toff's name...I remember now, Izzy thought spitefully, and nodded her head empathically towards Emily.


"Do you know where he is? Where he went? Oh, please do tell me," cried Emily eagerly and with her eyes gleaming happily, she stepped closer towards the blonde girl, eager to hear what she had to say.


*



Draco eyed Zabini warily, never once taking his eyes or wand off him.


Zabini stared back at him, wide-eyed and speechless. Seeing Draco Malfoy, sitting there in front of him had come to quite a shock to his already fragile nerves. Licking his lips nervously, he gently cleared his bone-dry throat. "M - M - Malfoy," he stammered rather uncharacteristically. "W - Why aren't you in London?"


"I believe that I asked of your whereabouts' first Zabini! Now why not just tell me what you're doing here?"


Blaise's face seemed to blanche. "I can't do that Malfoy," Blaise rushed out and Draco noticed Blaise's hands twisting his robes into knots. Extremely nervous...nervous and afraid, Draco thought to himself, his acute brain springing into action. Now why on earth would Zabini be scared of me? Then swiftly changing his tactics he threw another question at him, "What are you so afraid of Zabini? Surely, it isn't of me! Why would you, a former friend, be afraid of me? Now I repeat myself Zabini...who are you afraid..."


"I'm not afraid of you Malfoy, I'm afraid for you! I think you should head back to London, it's not safe here, not safe in the north!"


"And why's that Zabini? Why is it not safe? What do you know? Are you threatening me or..."


"No, it's not a threat Draco; it's a warning! You don't need to be here, you would be safer back in London, under that Carlisle girl's charge!"


Draco's brow furrowed at Blaise's last words and he studied him thoughtfully. So, Blaise knew about his supposedly current whereabouts in London, did he? Now that indeed gave him something to think on! A warning, Zabini had told him...now why would Zabini be warning him. Things definitely didn't add up and he was eager to find out more.

Back in Hogwarts, he and Zabini had been friendly...never the greatest of friends, but friendly. There had never been any animosity between them and no struggles for power. Blaise had seemed happy just to go on living in the shadows, never voicing any strong opinion on what or even who, he believed it. Blaise's political leanings had never been found out, and the boy himself had seemed content with watching on from the sidelines as Draco plotted, schemed and planned many a people's downfall. Of course these were only boyish pranks for the most part, tricks that he played to gain his standing in Slytherin. However, whereas most of his fellow students had often shown signs of jealousy and spite, Zabini had never shown the slightest sign of revolt, seemingly content with his lot. Which was an odd quality indeed, in the mainly ambitious house of Slytherin?


And now here Zabini stood in front of him again, apparently deeply concerned for his welfare!



Still sceptical of Blaise's motives, Draco decided to question him more closely. Blaise was obviously scared or something, or someone and Draco wanted to find out who. Moulding his features into an indecipherable mask, Draco began his questioning. "So Zabini," he enquired casually, "Who do your current alliances lie with?"


Blaise started at Draco's question, as if he had been jolted from his thoughts. Raising his hand to his collar and twisting it nervously, Blaise answered him quietly with a question of his own. "How much do you know Draco?"


Draco's mouth turned up into dismissive sneer and then pulling his lips into a knowing smirk, he decided to play along with Zabini. A short and simple answer would not harm the situation, he thought to himself, his cunning mind quickly realising that his answer would most definitely bring out a telling reaction in Zabini. Then masking his face in misleading, benign smile, Draco answered in his best deceitful drawl, "What do you know of the new Dark Lord Blaise, what do you know of my fa..." However, his words were cut off as the snapping of a twig nearby caused him a moment's hesitation.


That was all the time that Zabini needed and, within a single skip of a heartbeat, Zabini was gone, leaving Draco with only the resonance of a distinct pop, ringing in his ears. Shooting to his feet, Draco was up within a split second. Muttering curses and obscenities at the newly vacated patch of air in front of him, Draco was incensed beyond belief. Another twig snapped behind him and Draco spun on his heels, wand held aloft, to see Snape re-enter the clearing.


Snape held a harried expression on his normally taut face and a pulse twitched nervously at the corner of his mouth. As he entered the clearing, Snape's eyes darted anxiously from side to side before finally coming to rest on Draco. With his jaw held tightly, he stalked purposely towards Draco, demanding as he approached. "Who was here? Whom were you talking to? What in Merlin's name has happened?"


Moreover, as a murderous looking Snape come within reach of him, all that Draco could do was throw his head back and let out an eerie, hollow laugh! "Oh, Severus," an unabashed Draco finally managed to choke out derisively. "You've just missed all the fun!"

*



An excitable Emily, heaved open the door of The Witches Inn Tavern and speeding her way over towards Harry, breathlessly threw herself into the chair beside him. "Oh Harry," Emily gushed out at him animatedly, as a bemused Harry raised his bright green eyes from the paper in front of him and into her happily sparkling eyes. "He's been spotted, he was here! We are on the right track Harry, we'll find him soon, of that I'm sure!" Then throwing her arms around his neck, Emily hugged him tightly, almost cutting off his air supply.


Unable to suppress an indulgent smile, Harry untangled her arms from around his neck and smiled back at her. Emily was such a contradiction of emotions, Harry thought to himself as he looked into her happy face. One minute she could be in an unfathomable rage, and in the next she would be blissfully happy! Undoubtedly, this made her great fun to be around, but it could also be very tiring. Unhappy with the fact that the reason for Emily's current state of bliss was Malfoy, Harry felt a spiteful urge to deflate her mood. Harry was by no means a cruel person, but the thought of Emily being close to Malfoy that inflamed his blood! Not quite sure as to why he had this violent reaction, Harry put his irrational feelings down to old schoolboy rivalries, if it indeed that was it.


"Isn't it just fantastic Harry, we're on the right track." Emily's still buoyant voice broke through his thoughts and echoing in his ears, pulled him back to the present. Harry nodded unenthusiastically back at her with a small smile on his lips. Then taking hold of one of her hands, his face turned serious. "Emily," he told her hesitantly, motioning towards the paper laid in front of him. "I think you should take a look at this!"


Emily took in his now solemn expression and, leaning over to look at the paper, glanced up at Harry, asking, "What is it Harry?"


"Just read it please Emily," Harry spoke in a hushed tone. "I think it might be of importance."


Emily glanced up again at his vivid green eyes and, on seeing their pleading expression, nodded at him. "Ok then Harry, I'll read," she answered him and, without another word, she began to read.





A/N As promised this chapter is extra long and I hope you all like it! Chapter 16 will be following very soon and will bring things together nicely. Once again, I have to apologise for the long wait, but half way through the chapter I had to stop writing and concentrate on family matters. That said chapter 16 has been half way written and will be posted tomorrow night. Thank you all for reading and sorry for the unforgivable, long wait!




Chapter 16: Encounters At The Lamb And Slaughter
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Encounters At The Lamb And Slaughter



Chapter Sixteen






Isn't it just fantastic Harry, we're on the right track." Emily's still buoyant voice broke through his thoughts and, echoing in his ears, pulled him back to the present. Harry nodded unenthusiastically back at her with a small smile on his lips. Then taking hold of one of her hands, his face turned serious. "Emily," he told her hesitantly, motioning towards the paper laid in front of him. "I think you should take a look at this!"


Emily took in his now solemn expression and, leaning over to look at the paper, glanced up at Harry, asking, "What is it Harry?"


"Just read it please Emily," Harry spoke in a hushed tone. "I think it might be of importance."


Emily glanced up again at his vivid green eyes and, on seeing their pleading expression, nodded at him. "Ok then Harry, I'll read," she answered him and, without another word, she began to read.


*



Emily perused the paper quickly, her eyes widening as she read. Finally, after reading the last line, she lifted her eyes to Harry. "And you think this may be important because..."


Harry shook his head at Emily, "I don't know Em!" he exclaimed. "I just don't know, but something tells me that this is important! Who would want to steal that artefact?"


"Maybe it's just a common thief, who took a chance on stealing it," interrupted Emily eagerly, then lowering her voice and her eyes narrowing in concentration, continued more quietly, "or maybe someone with more sinister reasons?"


"That's just it Emily," Harry whispered back, leaning in closer to her so no one could overhear their conversation. He then pushed his sliding glasses back up his nose and shielding the side of his face with his hand, he continued in a speculative whisper. "What sort of person would want such an item? I mean The Key is considered a dangerous artefact; it was heavily warded! I just can't see an ordinary sneak thief breaking into get it...I think whoever wanted it, wanted it for a - purpose and - probably for an ominous purpose!"


Emily listened carefully to Harry's words, her quick mind soon jumping to an inevitable conclusion and voicing her newly formed opinion aloud, she spoke out contemplatively. "You mean someone like the new Dark Lord -- don't you Harry?"


Harry simply nodded his head in reply, his bright green eyes glowing intently at her from behind his black rimmed glasses.


"We should contact Luna!" Emily suddenly exclaimed loudly, from out of the blue. "Yes, that's it - we'll floo Luna. She will help us!"


Harry blinked back at Emily bemusedly. Luna, Harry thought to himself, perplexed. Why on earth would they need to talk to Luna? How could Luna help them? What was going through Emily's brain? Harry sometimes wondered about Emily. The way her mind worked constantly baffled him and he sometimes got the distinct feeling Emily often confused even herself. Emily was a bright girl, true! Nevertheless, her ever-changing moods and bizarre thought process made her an - taxing person to be around at times. Once, when Emily and Harry had still been together, Emily had told him that her mother had called it, being a bit of a drama queen. However, Emily had told him she preferred to call it, being spontaneous. Harry thought that really, the best word to some up Emily was - guileless, for despite her intelligence and really, she held more than enough common sense in that animated brain of hers, Emily often came over as childlike. Not so much as she was innocent or naive, but that she was terribly open and honest with her feelings and opinions.


Emily's voice calling him brought him abruptly back from of his thoughts. His eyes unglazed and pulling himself back to the present, he began to focus on Emily's words.


"I know what you're thinking Harry," Emily was saying. "But think about it please, it really does make sense! Luna's father is the owner of The Quibbler and Luna would probably have some inside information on things. Plus Luna is terribly clever and just has a really unusual way of looking at things - and I just know, let's just say I have a feeling, that she would be a great help to us and..."


Emily's voice trailed off as she looked at Harry's blank eyed face. "Are you listening to me Harry?" she asked him rather sharply, wondering if he had heard a single word she had said.


Harry nodded to show that he had understood her, hesitated and then slowly opened his mouth to speak. Harry knew that Emily wouldn't like what he had to say, so he silently steeled himself for her reaction. "Emily," he finally said, keeping his voice low. "I think we should contact the ministry."


Emily just stared at him, her forehead wrinkled into a frown and Harry hurried on to avoid the disappointment in her eyes. "Really Emily, think about it," He continued. "We have nothing much to go on here and the Ministry would help us...or we at least could owl Hermione."


By the end of his little speech, Emily's frown had lessened, but the disappointment still showed in her eyes. "Why Harry," she asked him softly. "Why bring the ministry in just yet? We have no real concrete evidence and as soon as they were involved they would take me from the case, even possibly resulting in me losing my job - why Harry?"


Harry ploughed on, avoiding her unhappy eyes. "Because Emily, I simply can't think of how we are going to proceed. We have little to no evidence on where the gruesome twosome are heading to...and the only solid thing we have to go on is The Key and, well - the ministry knows plenty about that and could help us..."


"Help you," Emily interceded sharply. "Help you Harry, not me! You are their golden boy, not me. Oh no, I'm one hundred percent certain that as soon as they find out about my involvement their mouths will remain firmly shut!"


"But Em, Hermione would help, she's clever! She would be a great help to us..."


"As much as I love Hermione, Harry, I know for certain as soon as she found out about Snape and Malfoy's involvement, she would inform higher ministry members."


Harry thought on this for a moment, concluding that Emily was right on this point. However, Harry desperately wanted to contact Hermione. Hermione had been one of his best friends for years now and when sticky situations arose around Harry, her intelligence and support had become invaluable. Harry had definitely, over the passing years, come to depend heavily on Hermione's good advices. He needed to speak with her badly, but what Emily had said was only too true. When Hermione heard about the missing Slytherins, she would most definitely inform the higher authorities. Harry let out a heavy sigh, uncertain of how to proceed.


Emily, sensing his hesitation, decided to press forward her point. "Anyway Harry, would it really hurt to talk with Luna first? You never know, we may find out something invaluable - something more solid. We may even get a clue about their whereabouts; a little more time here may change things completely! Think on it Harry, one morning is hardly anytime at all, if you think about it. Let's give it an extra day or so and, I promise, if we find nothing at all in a couple of day's time - I will come back willingly to the ministry with you..."


Emily broke off to watch Harry's compteplative expression and, sensing imminent victory, pressed on some more. "It would mean so much to me to find Malfoy, for many reasons Harry. Firstly, the ministry laid this at my door, literarily! - and I feel a certain reasonability to find him. Plus Harry, this is the first adventure I have ever been involved in..."


"Adventure isn't all it's made out to be Emily," Harry interjected a little sourly. "People get hurt, die even, it's not all fun and games Emily."


"I know that Harry," Emily almost wailed back at him. "I'm not stupid, I'm not being foolhardy! However, can't you see, I just want to be involved somehow. I'm sick and tired of being ignored and overlooked! Can't a girl have a little adventure and mystery in her life?"


"A mystery called Malfoy," Harry grumbled under his breath, throwing Emily a guarded look. "Is that what you mean Em?"


Emily rolled her eyes and sighed heavily in exasperation. Harry would just not let this go, she thought wearily to herself. However, she was not going to let Harry know her true feelings on Malfoy, no, not just yet. Emily still had a lot of working out to do on that front herself. Sighing shakily again, Emily decided to go on with caution. "Harry," she told him firmly. "I know you hate Malfoy and I know that, for some reason, you think I have some feelings for him; but I assure you Harry, that as soon as I know my own feelings for the bloody ferret, I will tell you immediately. Right now though, I must confess, my feelings are mostly ones of murder and other very villainous things!"


Emily finished her words with an impish grin, which managed to pull a genuine smile to Harry's lips. Typical, thought Emily, somewhat amused. Mention Malfoy and murder in the same sentence and Harry was suddenly cheerful again! Hiding a very amused smile, Emily widened her eyes into her most irresistible look (or so Emily thought!) and asked Harry very sweetly, "So Harry, what do you say?"


Harry blinked, sighed and silently conceded on seeing Emily's pleading eyes. Although he thought the best plan was to seek out Hermione, Harry knew that a day or two more would hurt no one and he also knew that conceding to Emily would make life a little easier for him - at least for the moment. Silently forming his own plans, he nodded his assent to Emily. "Ok then Emily," he finally agreed. "We'll give it a few more days..."


Emily's eyes lit up and, squealing with joy, she threw her arms once again around Harry's neck. "Oh thank you Harry! Thank you so much," she breathed happily into his neck, making the hairs on his nape prickle and stand up.


"That's alright Emily," Harry replied rather self-effacingly, feeling suddenly abashed as butterflies unexpectedly awoke in his stomach.


Completely unaware of Harry's newly awoken feelings, Emily pulled away from him and gave him a chaste kiss on the tip of his nose. Harry trembled inside. Then pulling him into a tight, little hug again Emily breathed out yet another, "Thank you!" Harry savoured the moment and, patting Emily's back awkwardly, enjoyed Emily's sweet scent and delicious touch.


Then all too soon, Emily was gone, leaving Harry with a strangely empty feeling. Rubbing at his newly throbbing temple, Harry watched as Emily almost skipped her way to the bar. On reaching the bar, Emily called over old Nobby to her, asking him non-to discreetly, if she could use his floo system for it was a matter of the uppermost urgency! Harry watched on as old Nobby nodded his agreement and led Emily away to the room they had been in just an hour before and as Emily disappeared into the back room, Harry began to plot devices of his own.


*



"Who was here? Whom were you talking to? What in Merlin's name has happened?" Snape snapped out sharply as he moved purposely over towards Draco, only to be cut off by Draco's chilling laughter.


"Oh, Severus," his shameless charge mocked him derisively. "You've just missed all the fun!"


Snape's face turned thunderous and anger sparked in his narrowed eyes. "Do not dare to mock me boy," he warned in low, dangerous tones. "Now, tell me what has occurred, you impudent boy!"

Draco was unused to being scolded by Severus in such a manner; in fact, as Draco remembered well; it was the manner he used to use on Potter and Draco was greatly incensed by this fact. Hiding his anger behind an impeccable Malfoy façade, Draco drawled out quietly, "I was merely stating Severus, that you seem to have missed the fun again! Tell me please, does your protection towards your charges always go this well? I must say, I do believe that even that ditz of a girl Carlisle, could have done a better job of it..." Draco abruptly broke off his words on seeing Snape's face change drastically.


His eyes narrowed into the smallest of slits and his face turned pale. His lips pulled tight and almost disappeared into a thin line. Two pinpricks of colour burned high on his cheeks and, on seeing his taut expression, Draco knew he had overstepped the mark - and by a few thousand miles by the look of things!

Draco somehow knew that he had just managed to injure Snape in some terrible way. His words had been stupid and harmful and he had somehow managed to change something vital in their tentative relationship, of that he was sure. Draco thought that maybe he had lost Severus' respect and this for some unknown reason, smarted him terribly.


Draco held little respect, within himself, for anyone - and apart from the former respect, he had held for his then faultless father, Severus was the only significant other who had earned it. Draco knew he had to rectify the situation quickly, before the damage became un-repairable. Pushing aside his famous Malfoy pride and, taking comfort from the fact that his father would abhor what he was going to do, Draco apologised. "Sorry Severus," he stated simply, hoping his sincerity would shine through.


His apology was a simple, short sorry and it touched Severus, who caught the authenticity of his words. He suddenly realised, just how much that Draco had really changed. A year or so ago, wild horses could not of dragged such honest words from the boys lips and Snape secretly wondered if the Carlisle girl had something to do with this? In many ways Draco was still so very like his father; selfish, conniving and gave little thought to others and their feelings. However, Draco had now visibly softened and showed signs of a newly found maturity - and with maturity came a more astute side of him. His father would very well delight in the newly found prudence his son now showed, but Snape very much doubted that Lucius would applaud the newly found humanity that came with it. Then, clearing his head of such useless musings, Snape snapped back to life.


"Apology accepted Draco," he told the boy dryly with a small, yet sincere smile on his lips. "Now come, please tell me what has occurred?"


Draco, pleased that the damage seemed to be intercepted, proceeded to tell him all without pause.


"And you're quite sure it was Zabini?" Snape questioned for what seemed the hundredth time.


"Yes Severus," Draco answered wearily again, wondering when the questions would stop. "I'm quite sure. Azkaban did not addle my ability to recognise old friends." Draco found, that now weary from too many questions, he could not keep the mockery from his voice.


Snape ignored the boys tone and continued. "And you said he gave you warning. - Do you trust him?"


"Yes and no," Draco rejoined shortly, answering the two questions at once.


Snape stopped and meditated, while Draco couldn't resist rolling his tired eyes.


"Then to Knarlesdale we must go at once!" Snape concluded abruptly.


"Knarlesdale?" Draco questioned dubiously, narrowing his eyes. "Isn't that near Scotland?"


"Yes," Snape retorted promptly, "and we must Apparate! there at once..."


"No!" Draco snapped back sullenly, finally reaching the Malfoy limit. "No way! I'm not going..."


"Malfoy," warned Snape cautiously.


"I'm not going Severus and you can't make me," Draco continued and not caring if he sounded like a spoilt child, continued with his infantile rant. "I've been dragged away from a perfectly nice dwelling place, been told the new Dark Lord is after me, forced to spend the night in the worst inn in England, fell asleep in a chair, only to wake up with the pounding head from hell! Yes Severus, I know that bit is my own fault!" Draco admitted on seeing Snape's eyebrow raise sardonically at him, but carried on with his rant anyway, needing to be heard.


"However, you can't blame for that, any normal person would have done the same thing! Also, not content with the abject misery I already had to put up with, you then proceed to take me away from the worse inn in Britain, which was at least some form of shelter, and drag me through the worse marsh land imaginable, on the coldest, wettest day of the year, before the bloody cock had time to crow! I've had to crawl though brambles, cope with a Death Eater attack! My clothes are absolutely ruined!" (This thought made Draco want to kick the nearest someone - hard!) "Moreover, I'm sick and tired of it all! I want a bed! I want some clean clothes and most of all I want..." However, Draco didn't finish this and left his final requirement unspoken, needing this essential need of his to remain his alone.


Snape stood and watched his young charge rant away with his eyebrows raised sceptically. However, as the rant went on, he felt pity for the boy stir within him. Heeding an instinctive feeling in his bones, that any immediate danger had passed, Snape swiftly decided to let the boy have his way on this point. So, when Draco's tantrum had come to an abrupt halt, Snape's decision was already made.

Nodding his compliance to a momentarily stunned Draco, Snape agreed promptly, if not a little caustically. "I will concede to your wishes on this matter Draco, for I see no immediate danger ahead. There is a homely inn in a near by town that I'm quite sure will meet to your high standards! It is a few hours walk away, so if you are willing to concur with these arrangements, I suggest we move on swiftly."


Draco, uncharacteristically lost for words, simply nodded his acquiescence.


"Then let us be on our way," requested Snape and turned to leave without a moment's hesitation...


...and thanking his lucky stars, an almost satisfied Draco followed.


*



At first, Emily and Harry had walked to the nearby town of Otley, quite contented. The sun had shone brightly overhead, spreading its golden beams over a perfect winter's day. They had chattered away, eagerly, about their forthcoming plans and their hopes for the immediate future; discussing everything that had happened on that very eventful morning. Well Emily had chatted and Harry had listened.


However, the day had turned to drizzle and the sun decided to hide behind the stormy grey clouds, leaving Harry and Emily to walk along in a dark and dismal twilight. The day was dull, the sky glowered gloomily and storm clouds above threatened them ominously with an imminent down pouring of rain.


The night seemed to have crept slowly upon them and it was not yet even three thirty in the afternoon. England's short wintry days, showed no love for the weary travellers and, instinctively, the pair huddled closer together for warmth and for companionship - and as they trudged on tiredly and silently, they both naturally turned to their own thoughts. Emily's thoughts turned instinctively to Draco, as Harry started to review the happenings of that day's eventful morning.


Harry recalled how Emily had hastened out of the back room, all bright eyed and excited. She had told him that Luna was indeed coming and that she had promised them ample new information. She said that she knew hidden secrets that would turn our hair white; Emily had told him while giggling into the crook of his neck. The truth of the matter was that Emily was an extremely tactile person when happy, which normally wouldn't have bothered Harry in the slightest. However, in the light of certain new revelations, Emily's little touches had left Harry - uncomfortable!



Moreover, as Emily had chattered on about the arrangements that she and Luna had come to, Harry felt the first stirrings of guilt flutter around in his stomach. Harry now had a secret! A secret he knew would displease Emily tremendously - or could even cause her pain. Harry hated keeping secrets. Hated having to be sneaking, but unfortunately, he had felt that the current situation had called for secrecy.


So, as Emily had given him the details on how they were to meet Luna in The Lamb and Slaughter, at the nearby town of Otley. Harry had begun to feel the guilt nibble constantly at his insides. Then, when Emily finally had arisen to ask the old proprietor for the directions, Harry had begun to question exactly what he had done.


On the face of it, owling Hermione didn't really seem to be the biggest crime in the world, but underneath it all, Harry knew that this was the last thing Emily would want him to do. But, honestly, he thought to himself. Hermione would know exactly what to do. In fact, Hermione excelled in these situations and he could not ignore the fact that he wanted Hermione involved in this. She was his friend after all! A friend who had seen him through many a bad time, a friend who he had every right to get in touch with, a friend who would be very helpful right now and Harry was going to defend his decision, even if it did mean upsetting Emily. After all, the only reason why Emily did not want Hermione involved was Malfoy! and with that thought Harry's blood had begun to boil!


The question that burning inside of him was - was Emily falling for Malfoy? Whenever the subject was broached, Emily would avoid answering in any concise form or manner. However, no matter how she twisted, turned and changed the subject, Harry knew this - he knew that Emily was chasing after Malfoy. Her eyes told him so! However, the other question that haunted Harry was - why?


Harry had never made any bones about hating Malfoy! In fact, it sometimes almost seemed as if he had been born to hate him. Form the moment Harry had first met him in Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions, it had been hatred at first sight! From the very beginning, Malfoy's attitude and demeanour had irritated him madly and as their years through Hogwarts had progressed, so had their mutual hatred.


Harry could sum up Malfoy in five words exactly - and often did! He was a bullying, arrogant, smirking, bloody ferret, whose ability to annoy the hell out of Harry had never once lessened and now it seemed that Emily - that his Emily wanted him - and Harry was none too pleased!


Therefore, it now fell down to him, to get Emily out of danger, back to London and as far away from Draco as possible. The closer to Draco they got, the nearer he came to losing Emily for good!
Harry halted mid-thought, startled by the intensity of his ponderings. How on earth had his feelings for Emily gotten so intense, so quickly? Even when they had been together, Harry had not felt this way about her. Yes, he had liked her very much, finding her a fun person to be with. However, when Emily had broken it off, Harry had accepted it meekly, feeling little to no resentment and he had felt that Emily's reasons for the break-up had been more than reasonable. In short, Harry acknowledged his secrecy and lack of trust had damaged the relationship and, to tell the truth, he had been nowhere near to heartbroken. He had liked her, yes! Yet, when it had come down to the crunch, he had known that he had felt no true love for her - until now - that is!


Harry had no idea why these new emotions had come over him and neither did he care. All Harry wanted to do was relish in his feelings and get Emily far away from Malfoy as soon as possible! The time for questions would come later. Harry hoped, with all his heart, that Hermione would send Hedwig back with a message soon. Hermione would know what to do, would know how to get Emily back to London and as soon as they had met up with Luna, Harry could get Emily safely back to London. And then I can have Emily all to myself, Harry thought slyly, letting his Slytherin side shine through.


Abruptly, Emily speaking his name shook him from his thoughts. "Harry," Emily cried. "Look, I think we're almost there, I think that's The Lamb and Slaughter."

Harry looked ahead of him and saw dim, glowing golden lights, shining softly ahead of him. Yes indeed, Emily was right. They were undeniably nearly there. Harry then came to an abrupt decision; he would tell Emily how he felt. In addition, taking hold of her arm gently, he turned her to face him.


"What is it Harry? What's wrong?" Emily asked him with a look of concern in her eyes.


"I need to speak with you Emily," Harry answered softly; "There is something you need to know..."


Emily looked into his now solemn, green eyes, nodded and spoke to him quietly. "Go on then Harry, tell me," she urged gently, her curiosity was now awakened and she wondered what it was that Harry needed so urgently to tell her.


Harry looked down at Emily, cleared his dry throat and began to speak.


*



Emerging form the murky woods, Snape and Draco now walked along a cumbersome, cobblestone path. Neither said a word as they both trudged on, footsore and weary. Snape's voice suddenly broke the silence. "We are close now Draco," he stated motioning the path which wound ahead of them, "Just a little further." Draco glanced in front of him and saw golden, welcoming lights, shining a little up ahead. To his sleep-deprived mind, the lights seemed to invite him and unable to stop himself, he let out a deep, thankful sigh.


As they continued to walk along cautiously, Snape eyed the path ahead intently, looking for any odd occurrence or the slightest of movements. All of a sudden, Snape came to a complete standstill Halting Draco, by placing his hand in front of him, Snape held a finger to his mouth to hush the boy from any loud exclamations. Then with a swipe of the hand, he motioned for Draco to look ahead. Draco did as he was told, only to see two shadowy figures standing a little ahead of them, who seemed to be talking quietly.


Draco's hand immediately went for his wand - Emily's wand and following Snape cautiously, crept up noiselessly upon the tête-à-tête pair.


Speaking swiftly, afraid that hesitation would cost him his nerve, Harry rushed his words out, "I still want you Emily, and I think I might lo..."


"Harry," Emily, gasped at him gob smacked, cutting off his words. Harry wanted her! The thought was to strange to contemplate!


"No, don't stop me Em, I need to tell you now, I need to tell you before I loose my nerve, I..." continued Harry not daring to stop.


"Harry," Emily gasped again, her eyes widening in fear. "Look Harry, behind you!"


Harry stood, puzzled for a moment, unable to grasp hold of her words. It didn't make sense! She didn't make sense - what on earth was she saying? Harry thought, when the meaning of her words abruptly kicked in. Suddenly alert, Harry grabbed for his wand and spun around, a hex ready on his lips.


Draco crept up behind Snape, his wand at the ready, when he heard a fearful familiar voice whisper urgently through the darkness, "Look Harry, behind you!" Draco knew that voice; it was a voice that was firmly etched into his conscience. His heart skipped a beat and a burgeoning sensation of pure delight bubbled up inside of him. She was here! Dear Merlin, she was really here, he thought, resisting the urge to pinch himself. A delighted smirk inched its way onto his lips and opening his mouth, he drawled out wickedly, "Why if it isn't Saint Potter and his Mudblood girlfriend!"


His words were like a red rag to a bull...


Emily instantaneously froze to the spot on hearing his voice echo through the dark, her heart leapt into her mouth and her knees threatened to buckle. He was here. Draco was truly here. She had found him at last! A thousand thoughts danced through her mind and her heart skipped merrily inside of her as she stood there momentarily breathless!


As Draco's words sunk into her, little by little, Emily's untamed joy turned slowly into familiar irritation. Oh, the horrible, little ferret, Emily though as red rage re-kindled inside her. She had worried about him! She had fought with Harry over him! She would have even followed him to the ends of the earth - and he had rewarded her by calling her a Mudblood - A MUDBLOOD! Something in side Emily snapped and ignoring Harry's restraining hand, Emily pounced.



Emily flew at him, all flailing fists and barefaced emotion. Her words spilled out of her mouth, tripping over each other as they came. "You utter pig! Y - Y- You bloody wanker! I hate you, you selfish excuse of a wizard!" Emily yelled, pummelling at him full force - and the impact of her vicious contact sent then both flying!


Landing on top of him with a huff, a breathless Emily found herself looking straight into his mesmerising, grey eyes. Emily's breath hitched at their sudden closeness and her head began to whirl. Their noses lightly, grazed against each other and their lips were close enough to touch.



Merlin! Emily thought to herself, almost desperately, gulping down surging sensations. He's so close - too damn close, she considered absently, as she slowly drowned into his eyes.



Draco, more than pleased with this turn of events, smirked back up her. His eyes glittered up at her playfully, as he took in her disorientated expression and unable to resist teasing her, he asked her wickedly, "So Carlisle, are you pleased to see me?"


"No!"


"Are you quite certain on that Carlisle?"


"Yes," Emily gulped untruthfully.


"Then why are you blushing Carlisle?" Draco still teased.


"Because I..." Emily couldn't finish her words as she suddenly became aware of Draco's hands resting lightly on her back. Shuddering under his touch, Emily was painfully aware that the flush on her cheeks had deepened.


Draco began to caress the small of Emily's back, wonderfully aware of the effect it was having on her. Looking up into her rapt face, he took in her expression, half-lidded eyes and the way she nibbled gently on her bottom lip. Perfect, he though to himself, unhurriedly. "She is just undeniably, bloody perfect!



As if she had overheard his thoughts, Emily's eyes flew open and she was suddenly gazing back into his eyes. "Hello there," Draco whispered softly up to her with a tender smile sitting oddly on his face.



"Hello back," Emily murmured back to him, as she took in the softness of his expression.



Her lips were so tantalisingly close to his and tilting his mouth up towards her, he touched his lips to hers.


"Would it be too much to ask, if you could stop your canoodling and wait until we are safely inside?" Snape's voice suddenly echoed through the night, instantaneously shattering their moment.


Draco and Emily froze, instantly aware again of the presence of others. Emily quickly scrambled up and casting one final look at Draco's smirking face; she blushed, turned away and began to walk away from him. As she walked onwards, she heard him swiftly scramble up on to his feet and follow on behind her - and as she kept on walking, Emily smiled herself a secret little smile.






A/N As promised here is Chapter 16 and it's another long one! I hope you all enjoy it and I promise you that Chapter 17 will follow very soon. Oh, and Chapter 17 will be a very intense one, as it will be the one when Emily and Draco finally, *ahem!*


Chapter 17: A Romantic Interlude...
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A Romantic Interlude...



Chapter Seventeen


"Hello there," Draco whispered softly up to her with a tender smile sitting oddly on his face.

"Hello back," Emily murmured back to him, as she took in the softness of his expression.

Her lips were so tantalisingly close to his and, tilting his mouth up towards her, he touched his lips to hers.

"Would it be too much to ask, if you could stop your canoodling and wait until we are safely inside?" Snape's voice suddenly echoed through the night, instantaneously shattering their moment.

Draco and Emily froze, instantly aware again of the presence of others. Emily quickly scrambled up and casting one final look at Draco's smirking face; she blushed, turned away and began to walk away from him. As she walked onwards, she heard him swiftly scramble up, on to his feet, and follow on behind her and as she kept on walking, Emily smiled herself a secret little smile.


*


"Come now, Potter," Snape's sarcastic voice echoed out once again. "We have much to do, seeing as you've poked that infernal nose of yours into business you have no right to know once more, I suggest we go into the warmth and discuss - matters..."



Emily droned out Snape's voice, her smile faltering as she finally remembered Harry's presence. Did he see the kiss? she wondered, the thought popping suddenly into her mind. She raised her eyes quickly from the gravel-lined ground before her, and cast an anxious glance Harry's way...



... and Harry's eyes looked back at her accusingly.



His normally vibrant, green eyes now gleamed somewhat dully, which sent a pang of guilt through Emily, making her stomach churn fretfully. It's not your fault Emily, she told herself sternly. You didn't ask him to fall back in love with you, you didn't ask for any of this to happen! However, the guilt still nibbled inside of her, as she knew that she had not been truthful with him over her feelings for Draco. But, how could I have been truthful with him when I wasn't even being truthful to myself, she questioned herself, desperate to push her guilty feelings aside.



Harry's sad eyes lingered on her thoughtfully for a moment more - before he, with a shrug, turned his head away and traipsed on after Snape. He was unsure of his feelings, of whether he felt mostly sadness or anger at the foregone events. He felt betrayed somehow -if not a little exasperated too.



Why did we have to find them now? Just when I was about to tell Emily my feelings, Harry though and shook his head roughly, angry with himself. It was no good thinking about these things now, no good at all! He would talk to Emily later, after he had thought things through -and maybe ask her about that kiss, about what she had meant by kissing that ferret Malfoy!



Gritting his teeth in frustration, he fell into step beside Snape, letting Snape's hushed, acerbic conversation distract him. He had other things to worry about tonight, clarification and answers were what he needed. He would talk with Snape, get his explanations and Emily could wait until later. He would talk to her later on tonight - and with that thought in mind, he passed through the door and into the Lamb and Slaughter.



Emily watched on, as Harry averted his eyes, turned away from her and made his way after Snape. His expression of sadness mingled with anger, made her feelings of guilt intensify and, letting out a small, shuddering sigh, she followed on behind them...



The inn seemed to beckon Emily onwards, with its door now stood open; it emitted a warm, welcoming glow. Eager to be inside and out of the cold, Emily hurried toward the welcoming sight, her shoulders hunched against the biting wind, which had just begun to blow, brusquely again. On reaching the inn's open door, she stepped over the threshold - keen to be amid the warmth - when she felt a hand graze lightly against her back.



Emily froze mid step and whipped her head round - to see Draco smirking down at her. Memories of what had happened last time they had stepped into an inn together came swiftly back to mind and narrowing her eyes, Emily shot him a warning look and by the mischievous glint showing in Draco's eye, it seemed Draco remembered too.



Smirking wickedly at her, he leaned forward and with his lips brushing up against her ear, he whispered teasingly, "Watch your step Emily, you don't want to fall now - do you?"



"Don't even think about it Malfoy," she sparked back at him warningly, jutting her chin out and giving him her most threatening look. However, this failed to stop his slight touch from turning into a small push and quickly; Emily braced herself against the doorframe to avoid tripping up.




Draco snorted out a short laugh from behind her; causing Emily to rankle.



"Damn you, Malfoy," she hissed out at him through gritted teeth and, eager for retribution, pushed back against him as hard as she could. This proved to be another one of Emily's unwise moves. Instead of toppling backwards as Emily had hoped, Draco had instead, clasped his arms round her and pushed back against her most suggestively.



Caught off guard, Emily let out a breathless gasp as an old, familiar warmth tingled throughout her body; beginning at her abdomen, it worked its way up enticingly to her now flushing cheeks. Flustered and embarrassed, Emily started to try to pull away Malfoy's hands. Slapping at his knuckles and trying to prise his fingers off her, Emily hissed out heatedly, "Get your bloody hands off of me you bloody idiot - Right this minute!"



Draco stayed right where he was, completely non-pulsed by her battering hands. Chuckling into her ear, which an extremely ticklish Emily shiver, he pulled her even closer, whispering, "You know you like it Carlisle - Why bother with the charade, it's not for Potter's benefit - is it?"



Emily was just about to respond to him with her most scathing answer, when Snape's voice suddenly barked out again caustically, "Will you two children please desist with whatever bizarre mating ritual you're meant to be performing and kindly make your way over here." His face showed clearly that he was a man near the end of his tether; so with one final, sharp kick aimed directly at Draco's shin, Emily threw Draco's arms off her and made her way over to where Snape was standing.



Draco, muttering indecipherable curse words, rubbed gingerly at his shinbone as he scowled calculatingly at Emily's retreating back. Then, on seeing Snape's glare still lingering severely on him, he straightened himself up, regained the famous Malfoy posture and with a slight sneer held firmly in place, he made his way to the others - who were now all huddled around the bar. And, as Snape set about purchasing three rooms for all four of them, he kept himself amused by giving Emily little, sly pinches along her mid-drift.



Sniggering heartily at her enraged expression and feeble jabs back (which he easily avoided,) Draco was completely unaware of the murderous glances that Harry kept sending his way, he was enjoying himself much too much to take any notice of Harry. So, Emily and Draco continued with their little battle of jabs, slaps and pinches until Snape turned his wrathful glare on them again.



Both stopped immediately, as naughty, little children caught in the act do, and decided to glare at each other instead until Snape, done with his transactions, beckoned the mismatched group forward and led them all to a small table hidden in a shady alcove.


*




They all sat themselves down; Snape sat himself swiftly, stroking his chin thoughtfully, with a preoccupied look to his eyes, Harry sat next, scowling darkly as he cast dark glances Draco's way. Next to sit was Emily - who looked extremely irritated as she pulled a chair out nosily and plonked herself down on it, frowning angrily at the floor; followed lastly by a languorous Draco, whose eyes sparked mischievously as he lowered himself gracefully onto his chair.



The squat, moustached proprietor appeared suddenly at their table and quickly took their orders from them. Each of them ordered promptly, as hunger now nibbled at their famished stomachs. The food and drink came quickly; three plates of shepherds pie and potatoes, four Butterbeers and one dish of game, and they all tucked in heartily. They ate quickly and in silence, knifes and forks clattering nosily on their plates, until every plate was scraped clean and then sat back to enjoy their drinks, as the efficient proprietor cleared the plates promptly away.



Each sat, sipping their drinks and lost in their own thoughts until Snape, eyeing them all intently, broke the easy silence by uttering quietly, "And now I think the time for discussion has come..."


*




Emily sat, staring blankly ahead, as the heated discussion rolled on. The hushed conversation and urgent whispers, broken only by the odd, exasperated exclamation or derisive snort still continued. Emily's presence was not needed nor wanted; Emily knew that. Although no one had as yet told her so, the fact that no one had asked for her opinion or glanced her way since Snape had asked her to relate her conversation with Luna, confirmed her suspicions. Bored and indignant, Emily stared ahead at a peeling piece of wallpaper hanging limply from the wall.



Harry had started the conversation off, telling them all that had happened to them so far. Harry had related the matter of the Key of Loth to the cynical Slytherin's, which had caused Snape's eyebrows to rise sceptically. Then, with a thoughtful sheen in his eye, Snape and the boys had fallen into deep conversation, theorising what it all could mean, while, after relating her conversation with Luna, Emily had sat forgotten.



As time had passed, Emily had felt her anger rise, as every time she had tried to give her opinion, to enter the conversation, they ignored her or sent irritated, little glances her way, as if she were a non-entity. I might as well be invisible, Emily had thought edgily, upset at being left out of the conversation. I'm part of this too, yet they treat me as if I'm some sort of nuisance they want out of the way!



The conversation had gone on, eventually turning to thoughts on Zabini (a Slytherin boy Emily had barely knew) and then to the Dark Lord, when Emily had suddenly felt the weight of six pair of eyes boring into her. Tearing her eyes from a piece of peeling wallpaper that had held her attention for the past five minutes, Emily turned to see all three men looking at her intently. Narrowing her eyes at them, wondering at their intentions, she folded her arms protectively round herself, leant back in her chair and glared. A silence ensued...



"Miss Carlisle," Snape ventured after a few minutes had elapsed.



"What?" Emily snapped back petulantly, knowing instinctively, which question was coming.



"We just wondered if you would..." Harry coaxed, looking rather uncomfortable as he caught Emily's eye.



"Yes Emily," Draco interrupted with a delighted smirk. "Harry was wondering if you would kindly disappear for an hour or two..."



"Shut it ferret..." Harry had snapped back, throwing daggers back at Malfoy.



"Really Potter, I was only voicing aloud your thoughts..."



"What do you know of my thoughts...?" Harry shot back, but was interrupted by a loud screeching noise, as Emily kicked her back her chair.



Emily, with cheeks flushing dangerously and her teeth clenched, rose from her chair. Looking as though she was going to explode at any moment, her determined eyes flickered dangerously over them, darting from face to face.


Harry flinched under her heated glare, Draco's smirk faltered slightly, while Snape merely took it in his stride. Closing his eyes, his forefingers tapping against his chin, Snape issued an exasperated sigh. He opened his mouth to speak, but was cut off by Emily's next words.



"Fine," Emily hissed out through gritted teeth, surprising the people sat around the table. No one expected her to comply so swiftly and all expected there was more to come. Harry shifted uncomfortably in his seat and waited for the expected explosion. However, Emily surprised them all again, by not uttering another word and, biting down hard on her lip (as if she was holding back angry words,) she simply left the table.



"Em," Harry called after her apologetically, feeling a sudden stab of guilt, as she strode away. Nevertheless, Emily just ignored him, wanting only to escape the suddenly, stifling atmosphere of the inn, to escape the heat of her mounting ire.



"Bloody idiots," Emily muttered angrily to herself, as she strode towards the door. "Let them talk about the Dark Lord, I don't care, I'm not upset - I'll just Apparate home!" Yet, as she left the warmth of the inn, Emily knew she was fooling herself - she cared very much, very much indeed. Sinking down on a near by bench, not caring if the covering snow sank into her skin, she buried her face in her hands, swallowed down a sob, and started to think.


*




Sometime later, a hand landing firmly on her shoulder startled Emily from her morbid thoughts. Not bothering to find out who it was, Emily kept her head buried in her hands.



"Crying are we, Emily?" a cool voice questioned mockingly, causing Emily to stiffen under his touch. "Doesn't poor, ickle emmy-wemmy like being left out?"



"Oh, just sod off Malfoy," Emily mumbled from behind her hands. "Just leave me alone!"



Draco watched Emily thoughtfully and removing his hand from her shoulder, he walked around the bench and perched himself beside her. Resting his elbows on his knees, he leaned forward and turning his head towards her, asked softly, "Come back inside Emily."



"Why should I?" Emily exclaimed loudly, finally lifting her head from her hands, then continuing in a more subdued tone. "Why do you care anyway?"



"Oh, I care Emily," Draco answered quietly and, brushing his fingers gently against her cheek, he leaned forward and kissed her.



His soft lips met with hers in a feather light touch, which caused Emily to shiver and as he deepened the kiss, his lips parting hers, Emily felt herself yield. Melting into the kiss, Emily lifted her hands to his face, pulling him closer - when a thought hit her. Abruptly breaking away from the embrace, Emily wrapped her arms round herself, defending herself from his now sullen stare and voiced her thoughts. "Why is it always like this," she asked him. "Why don't you ever talk to me?"



"Do you want to talk then Emily," Draco asked, looking at her oddly. "If you want to talk, we can talk."



"Humph," was all that Emily could rejoin, watching him distrustfully, as she bit down on her lower lip.



"If you have something to tell me Emily..."



"It's not that," interrupted Emily exasperated. "It's just - it would be nice to talk. All we ever do is kiss and fight - one minute you're the nastiest git in the world, the next you're all over me! It would just be - nice to talk..."



As Emily's words trailed off, Draco took her hand in his and suddenly stood - pulling Emily up with him. Searching her eyes intently, he seemed to be considering the situation carefully. "Cone on then Emily," he spoke finally, "Let's go inside and talk."



Emily had no time to protest as, with her hand caught up in his, she felt herself being tugged along. "Where are we going," she asked him rather breathlessly.



"Your room," he answered shortly.



"Why my room?" Emily squeaked out in protest, trying to pull free of him.



Draco stopped and turned towards her, his eyebrows lifted in frustration. "Because Emily," he bit out, as if talking to a child. "You don't want to pour your little heart out to me with your favourite professor listening in, do you?"



Emily saw sense in this, but still did not want to be beaten. "We don't have to go to your room either," she explained. "We can sit down stairs in the bar..." Emily found her voice trailing off, as Draco looked at her, rolling his eyes in disbelief.



"What's the matter with you, don't you trust me Emily?" Draco asked, obviously irritated with her protests.



"No, I bloody don't trust you Malfoy," Emily retorted quickly, secretly thinking she didn't trust herself with him either. "Why on earth should I trust you? What have you ever done to earn my trust?"



Draco stood glaring at Emily for a moment and then turned and walked to the inn's door. Remaining there, he leant nonchalantly against the doorframe and waited for Emily to follow- and to his secret delight, Emily trotted after him - just as he had planned.



He quickly hid his smirk as Emily approached him tentivly. Her eyes were watching him cautiously; he noted as she came up and stood beside him. Draco waited for her to speak.



Tilting her head up to look into his impassive face, Emily asked him quietly, "Are you angry with me Draco?"



Draco shook his head and remained silent, hoping his silence would force her words.



Emily huffed out an exasperated sigh and poked him hard in the chest. "Are you going to talk to me Draco," she asked again, adding. "Or are you going to sulk all night?"



Draco, smirking triumphantly, caught hold of her jabbing finger with his hand and, curling his fingers around hers, yanked her forward, causing her to fall against his chest. His arm encircled round her, holding her tightly against him and, trailing his fingers through her hair, he smirked and whispered seductively. "Well, that all depends on you Emily."




"mmmyoubsmelllikewoobandcoffeeb," Emily mumbled indecipherably into his chest, not moving an inch.



"What was that Emily, I didn't quite catch it?"



Emily moved her head slightly from its comfortable resting place and spoke again, this time more audibly. "I said - you smell like wood and coffee," she rushed out quickly, glad that the dark night covered her blushes.



Draco snorted out a short burst of laughter at her words and, feeling very amused and somewhat pleased with himself, continued to torment her mercilessly. "Well Thank you Emily," he teased. "I'll take that as a compliment, but it didn't really answer my question." Draco snorted with laughter again and continued to chuckle happily to himself.



Emily, finally, pulled away from him and glared heatedly back at him. "Just what is wrong with you Dra - Malfoy!" she almost yelled. "Is it impossible for you to be nice - Is it against some strange Malfoy law or something?"



Draco continued to laugh and Emily was sure she heard him mumble words - such as, 'wood and coffee' between splutters. Draco finally calmed down somewhat, under Emily's baleful glare, and smirked mischievously at her. "Oh Emily," he jibed, still clearly amused. "I never knew you had such a sweet tounge - you have such a way with words!"



Emily stood and stared at him for a moment, feeling torn between slapping him and running away to hide. So, I'm no poet, she thought to herself, feeling incredibly embarrassed. But, he just had to go and rub it in! As things stood, Emily decided. Her best option was to run away - and with that decision, she turned and fled - with a still sniggering Draco following at her heels.


*




Emily ran up the rickety stairs, two at a time, with Draco right behind her, she could almost feel his hot breath tickling at the back of her neck. She reached the narrow hallway and hurtled all the way down to the other end of the corridor. Trust my room to be right at the far end, she thought abstractedly to herself, as she fumbled with the key. Open, open, OPEN - DAMN IT! she pleaded silently, as the key turned uselessly in the keyhole and, craning her neck round, she saw that Draco was rapidly gaining on her. Slamming her fists against the door in extreme frustration, Emily was overjoyed when the door suddenly flew open. Must get in, must get in, must get in before he reaches me, ran through her mind like a mantra and, throwing herself through the doorway, she slammed the door shut - but it was too late! Draco had managed to slip in after her.



Flinging herself against the door, Emily pushed with all her might, hoping against hope, that she could push him out - but alas! It was all in vain - Draco was firmly wedged in between the door and doorframe. She gave one final heave, but with neither Draco nor the door yielding, she finally gave in. Turning to face his triumphant smirk, she decided to throw herself against him instead.



"I hate you, I hate you, I hate you," she cried, flailing at him with her hands and fists, which were caught quickly and much too easily - and swiftly pinned to her sides. She struggled against his vice like grip, twisting and turning, but to no avail. Finally, giving in to him yet again, she rested her throbbing head against his chest. "Why does it always have to be like this?" she whispered to him, feeling defeated and a small sob hitched in her throat.



A moments silence passed slowly and, feeling the rise and fall of his chest against her cheek, Emily was lulled into dreamlike trance. "I'm sorry Emily," Draco whispered soothingly, while gently stoking her hair. "I'm sorry for being a bastard."



"You're like Jekyll and Hyde," she told him wearily with no trace of rancour. "One minute your being your normal, nasty self - and the next you're a different person - an almost nice person!"



"Almost nice?" Draco murmured.



"Yes - almost nice," Emily confirmed.



Loosening his grip on her wrists, Draco let go of them and slipped his arm round her waist - holding her lightly, yet firmly. His other hand reached for her chin and, tilting her face towards him, he brought his lips down on hers.



It was the lightest of kisses, but it awakened a yearning inside of Emily.


Draco brought his lips down again and, between teasing, butterfly kisses - brief kisses that traced languidly along her jaw line; he spoke to her softly - punctuating his words with kisses'

"I -" kiss

"can -" kiss

"be -" kiss

"nice -" kiss

"Emily. -" kiss

"Let -" kiss

"me -" kiss

"show -" nip

"how -" kiss

"nice -" kiss

"I -" nip

"can -" lick

"be." Then capturing Emily's lips with his, he moved her towards the bed. He gripped her head in his hands and, massaging her scalp with his fingers, he pulled her in closer, whilst deepening the kiss. The kiss was filled with passion, was filled with unbridled hunger - and into her willing mouth, Draco slipped his tounge, eliciting a rapturous moan from Emily's throat.



Emily's hands travelled up to his head, tracing frantically over his hair, his brow, his cheekbones, his jaw line - enjoying every sweet contour of his face. Breaking away from his lips, she trailed her mouth over his jaw, to his earlobe and down his neck to his collarbone - nipping, kissing and sucking all the way down.


Stopping at his fastened collar, Emily grappled at his buttons with fumbling fingers - almost ripping them off in her haste and as one by one they came undone, Emily trailed hot kisses along his well-defined chest.



Draco's breathing hitched and shuddered and, with his hand still tangled in her ruffled hair, he pulled her back up to see her face. Her eyes were half-lidded and sparked with desire, her cheeks were flushed with a pinkish hue, and her lips were parted and reddened, clearly inviting him for another kiss. Taking his hand form her hair, he cupped her cheek, while the other lingered lightly round her waist. Looking down at her intently, his eyes hungrily drinking in every feature, he spoke quietly and truthfully. "Emily," he whispered hoarsely, "If we go much further, I won't be able to stop."




Emily ignored him, choosing instead to nuzzle her head into his hand, while making some oddly, enticing purring sound.



Draco swallowed and tried again. "E -E - Emily," he stammered breathlessly. "Did you hear me?"



Removing her head from his hand, Emily now began kissing and sucking his at fingers and answered between kisses. "Yes, I heard you Draco..."



He issued another shuddering sigh. "...and?"



Emily finally withdrew her attention from his fingers and looked up into his face. "And I don't care!" she told him boldly, scraping her teeth provocatively along her lower lip.



Draco trying desperately to ignore her alluring stance, decided to give her one more chance to say no. "But I thought you wanted to talk to..."



"We can talk later," she purred silkily.



"Aren't you being a bit i -impulsive?" he inquired, licking his lips in anticipation. That was her last bloody chance, he decided lustfully, his mind pushed to the brink. She would be his tonight and that was that! No one teased a Malfoy and got away with it - no one... Emily's voice suddenly broke through his thoughts, drawing his attention back to her.



"No, I wouldn't call that impulsive," she was saying with a wicked gleam in her eye, then without blinking an eyelid, she yanked her tee shirt over her head. Stood there in a pure, white bra, with her hand paused on the top button of her jeans and nibbling most (seemingly) artlessly on her thumbnail, she looked the picture of innocence. "But, would you call this impulsive?" she teased.



On hearing, the low, deliberate growl emitting from the back of his throat and seeing the determined look on his face, Emily let out a little, alarmed squeak and bounded, giggling, on to the bed - and with a wicked smirk curling on to his lips, Draco pounced after her.



Landing on the bed with a terrific bounce, he grabbed tightly hold of her and pulled her down underneath him. Both toppled over at full force, landing on the soft, white sheets with a crack - as the foreheads met.


"Ouch!" Emily screamed, holding on to her head tightly and giggling uncontrollably. "You're meant to be seducing me, not killing me!"



Draco, sat above her, rubbed at his poor head. "I could always change my mind," he growled, eyeing her menacingly, but there was not real threat behind his words.



Emily removed her hands from her face to stare up at him and, on seeing his hair all ruffled up and falling into his eyes and the petulant expression underneath all that floppy hair, she burst into near hysterical giggles.



"Do you find this funny," he growled again as he glared down at her, but, the sight of her giggling away, underneath him, made him smile in spite of himself.



"Dear Merlin!" Emily exclaimed between giggles and continued to tease him. "Is that a genuine smile I see? Whatever is the world coming too? I mean, a Malfoy smiling - who would've thought it!"



Draco stared down at her, his attractive smile turning in to a knowing smirk. He leaned down over her, bringing his lips closer to hers and Emily closed her eyes, held her breath and waited in anticipation...



Draco lips came within inches of hers - and Emily could feel his warm breath tickling her chin, but, at the last moment, Draco missed her mouth deliberately and sunk his teeth into the soft, flesh of her neck.



Emily's eyes flew open and she let out a little squeal. Feeling more surprised than hurt, she gasped out. "Dear Merlin! You didn't tell me about your vampiric hereditary!"


Draco smirked against her skin and, saying nothing, he bit softly into her again, a little further along the neck.



Emily let out another little giggle and began to run her fingers through his hair.



Draco moved further down, planting little nips and kisses along the way and, on reaching her shoulder, he took her bra strap between his teeth and pulled it down.



"Oh," Emily gasped out breathlessly and, gripping his head in her hands, she pulled him up to face her.



Draco looked down into her shining eyes and tenderly stroked a misplaced lock of hair from her brow. Tracing a finger along her jaw line gently and with a wicked glint in his eye, he told her mockingly, "I always knew you were beneath me Emily."



"I'm not beneath you Malfoy," Emily retorted, pulling a disgusted face. "I just happen to be underneath you at the moment!"



Draco smirked even more and, leaning down, kissed the tip of her nose. Moving his lips to the side of her face, he whispered huskily into her ear. "And I'm so very, glad that you're underneath me Emily."



Emily blushed at his words and, turning her head towards him, planted a kiss on the tip of his ear.



Her small, tender gesture brought another smile to Draco's lips and, as previously unknown tender feelings coursed through him - warming him from head to toe, his lips found hers in a gentle kiss.



In time, the kiss deepened - becoming more passionate and taking leave of her lips, his mouth sought other parts of her body. He kissed and suckled down her body, somehow, managing to remove her bra in the process and, entranced by her small, rounded breasts, he decided to focus his attention there.



Urged on, by her little moans and gasps, Draco lingered there a while, with his little nips and kisses sending her to heaven. Emily held on to him tightly, never knowing someone to give her so much pleasure. Yes, at the age of 19, she was no longer a virgin, but no other boyfriend had given her so much pleasure, no other boyfriend had taken so much time to please her.



Emily writhed underneath him, holding him close, never wanting to let him go. However, underneath all the mounting pleasure, a little voice nagged at her. You're moving too fast, it told her. You're getting in to deep! Next, you'll be telling him you love him... Emily pushed the voice to the back of her mind, to far gone to care.



Draco, suddenly, broke from his heated caresses and, as if he had heard her thoughts, he moved up to face her. "Do you want to stop now Emily," he asked his eyes intent on hers. Never had she looked so beautiful to him, never had he wanted her more, yet as much as he wanted her - needed her, he wanted her to be sure. Draco, You're loosing your mind! What in Merlin's name are you thinking, a voice that sounded terribly like his father had invaded his mind. Draco batted the voice away and concentrated on Emily. She was looking at him with those wide eyes of hers and, involuntary, his member pulsed against her- and she gasped.



Looking into his beautiful, grey eyes, Emily gasped when he throbbed against her. Her feelings jumbled together inside her mind and the warmth that began in her abdomen tingled its way up her spine. Yielding herself to the sweet sensation, Emily whispered wantonly up to him, "No, please don't stop Draco."



Draco caught her lips in answer and, moving slowly, his hands trailed down to her hips. Massaging them gently, his finger slipped under her panty line - Emily let out a shuddering groan. In between fervent kisses, Draco murmured suggestively into her ear. "I can send you to nirvana Emily, would you like that?"



Feeling unable to breathe, let alone speak, Emily simply nodded, her hooded eyes closed.



At her words, Draco's hands gently tugged at her knickers and, moving a little away from her, his head descended downwards...when the door was suddenly thrown open!



"Emily," a familiar voice called. "I think we should talk now... "




On recognising the voice, Emily gasped aloud - throwing Draco off her and murder glinted in Draco's eyes, as he turned to face the untimely intruder.



"Get your filthy hands off her Malfoy," Harry shouted furiously making a step towards the bed.



Emily grappled with the sheets to cover herself, while trying to placate Harry. "Please Harry," she pleaded. "It's not what you're thinking!"



"Then what the hell is it?" Harry exploded - with a pulse throbbing wildly in his temple.



"Please Harry, just go - I'll come and explain things to you later, I ..."



However, Harry was undeterred and carried on advancing on Draco. "How dare you lay your hands on her..."



Draco seemed to be the only one not ruffled. Placing his arms behind his head, he answered Harry unhurriedly. "Well, she asked me to," he mocked.



Harry, at these words, exploded and, with the vein in his head throbbing furiously, he advanced on Draco. However, before he could reach him, Emily had flung herself over Draco protectively.



"Just go Harry!" she screeched, her eyes seeming to condemn him. "Just leave Harry; I'll come to you later."



"But - but ..." Harry stammered.



"Go Harry," she yelled again. "You don't need to protect me - just go! I'll explain things later..."



Harry was unsure what to do, but on seeing Emily's accusing eyes - he stepped back.



"I'll leave now Emily," he spoke quietly. "But, you have to promise, you'll come and explain things later..."



"I promise," Emily told him quietly and, trusting her word, Harry spun on his heels (with a million thoughts running through his mind) and left the room, leaving Emily and Draco alone again.



Emily sat on the bed and curled herself in to a protective ball, thinking about all that had happened. She hated her life now; she hated what she had done.



Draco's hand lay gently on her shoulder and he spoke to her gently. "Emily," he inquired. "Are you feeling...?"



Emily shook his hand off her shoulder and urged him to go. "I'm not in the mood for sex now Malfoy, so you might as well go," she told him bitterly.



"I don't want sex now," he told her truthfully. "I just want to stay with you for a little while; I want to be certain you're alright."



Emily lifted her eyes to his and, seeing no malice, no ulterior motive - just seeing, what seemed like genuine concern, she moved closer to him. "If you want to stay a while, just hold me - please," Emily sobbed, suddenly feeling choked and desperate...



... and in answer to her silent plea, Draco wrapped in his arms and pulled her down on top of him. "Just sleep a while Emily," he spoke to her soothingly. "Just sleep for a while and dream sweet dreams..."



Emily allowed herself to be pulled to his chest and, feeling oddly safe and secure in his arms, was lulled in to a peaceful slumber. Just before her heavy lids and overwrought mind closed, she found herself whispering. "I think I love you," and before her overused brain could spring into action, her exhausted mind fell promptly asleep - and dreaming sweet dreams, she slept peacefully in Draco's arms.


Chapter 18: The Morning After
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The Morning After



Chapter Eighteen






Emily allowed herself to be pulled to his chest and, feeling oddly safe and secure in his arms, was lulled in to a peaceful slumber. Just before her heavy lids and overwrought mind closed, she found herself whispering. "I think I love you," and before her overused brain could spring into action, her exhausted mind fell promptly asleep - and dreaming sweet dreams, she slept peacefully in Draco's arms.


***



Emily awoke. Her eyes fluttered slowly open to a vague impression of unease. She couldn't yet put her finger on what was upsetting her, but she was quite certain it involved Draco - and maybe Harry too. Squeezing her eyes tightly shut with her brow furrowed deep in thought, Emily tried to piece the events of last night together. Unsettling images popped into her head, coming together bit by bit, until Emily suddenly remembered all. A picture of Harry walking in on her and Draco (a very lucid image indeed) replayed itself repeatedly in her mind and, covering her face with her hands and rubbing at her eyes, she let out a deep groan.



Sweet Merlin! It didn't happen! No, it never happened! It's just all a terrible dream! A very, very, very terrible dream! Please let it be just a dream!



Thoughts thundered through her mind like a runaway train and Emily found herself groaning again. Her eyes flew open and she felt her stomach knot with tension. The early morning sun outside shone brilliantly in the pale, blue sky. Its rays poured in through the window, brightening up the jaded bedroom. However, not even the morning's cheerful sunshine could lighten Emily's mood.


The piercing sunlight dazzled her eyes and, blinking against it, she threw her arm over her eyes, turned on her side and snuggled herself back under the covers. The best way to deal with today, she promptly decided. Is to ignore it! and with that thought in mind, she groaned again for good measure.



"Oh, do stop that infernal racket..." an ill-tempered voice snapped out. "Anyone would think you were dying!"



Emily stiffened when she heard his voice. She had somehow forgotten about him, merely assuming that he had left in the early hours of the morning - but apparently, he hadn't. Stifling another groan, she lifted her head from the pillow, opened one eye and looked up at him.



He was sat on the edge of the bed, shirtless, and buttoning up the fly of his trousers. His early morning bed-head hair flopped untidily into his eyes and his countenance was extremely disgruntled. Emily let her eyes trail slowly down his upper body and she found her eyes lingering over his finely, toned chest. His chest was smooth, well defined and hairless, wider at the shoulders; it tapered off into a narrow waist. His navel dipped inwards and Emily noted the line of fine silver-blond hair, which descended from just below his navel and disappeared down into the waistline of his trousers. Emily stifled yet another groan, yet this time it was fraught with desire.



Thrusting aside her cravings, Emily abruptly sat up. Gathering a sheet around her, to protect her modesty, she decided it was time for her to speak. "Are you always so bad-tempered in the mornings?" she queried with a sniff as she picked imaginary lint off the sheet that covered her.



Draco turned to face her, scowling. "Oh, and I bet you're quite the angel in the mornings, aren't you?" he sniped back at her, then giving her his most disdainful glare; he dropped his eyes to the floor and began scanning it for his other discarded garments.



"Grumpy, aren't you?" Emily jibed at him, childishly poking her tounge out at his back. "Is waking up with you always such a wonderful experience?"



Turning towards her once again with his eyebrows raised knowingly, he smirked back at her. "Well, I've never had any complaints so far..."



Emily snorted out derisively. "Oh, really?" she drawled out slowly, wearing her most scornful expression. "Did you have to cast Silencio! on them or something?"



Draco lifted his head, his eyes narrowing into slits and he spat back at her, "Stupid mudblood!"



"Inbred pureblood!"



"Uneducated muggle!"



"Stupid, bloody wanker!"



"Poor excuse for a witch!"



"Sycophantic ferret!"



"Brainless Ravenclaw!" He retorted with a flinch.



"Sneaky, bloody Slytherin!"



"Why, thank you," he said smoothly with a self-satisfied smile.



"Rot in hell, Malfoy!"



"I'd rather not..."



"Just get out of my room," she demanded, near the end of her tether.



"Willingly, as soon as I've found my..."



"Just go!"



"This conversation is boring me..."



"NOW!" She yelled, finally losing control.



"Did no one teach you manners?"



"I'm warning you..."



"Should I be afraid?" He questioned his eyebrows quirked in amusement.



"You're such a bastard!"



"Hmmn, I do try my best to be..."



"Just leave, please," she pleaded, dragging her fingers through her hair in desperation.



"Did anyone ever tell you that you're grumpy in the morning...?"



"Arrh!" She finally snapped and, grabbing the pillow next to her, she flung straight into his face.



Draco flinched backwards, but Emily was undeterred and with the pillow still held firmly within her grasp, she began to thump him with it.


"I" thwack!



"HATE" thwack!



"YOU!" thwack!



The pillow was suddenly wrenched from her hands - and Draco soon caught her wrists in an iron, tight grip. "Oh Emily," he almost purred. "Why on earth did you want to do that?"



Emily tried to wriggle from his firm grasp and as she did so the sheet that covered her wrinkled and slid down her body, revealing her nakedness underneath it. Emily let out a small gasp as the sheets slid downwards and her cheeks began to burn. Flushing prettily and feeling somewhat awkward and shy, she timorously lifted her eyes to Draco.



He smirked back down at her, his eyes shining with amusement. Really, he thought. I have never known anybody quite like her. He found her annoying, exasperating, childish, illogical and irritating! Truly, she was the most distracting girl he had ever met. Nevertheless, for all her irritating, little ways, he found himself more and more attracted to her.



She was unlike the other girls he had been with. The other young ladies had been only so eager to please him, pandering to his every want and need. Whereas Emily seemed to like antagonising him as if she was enjoying seeing how far she could push him. He found this exhilarating, liberating even and she still never failed to amuse him. She was intelligent too, although sometimes she kept his well hidden and adding her prettiness and down right sexiness into the picture, Draco found himself realising that she was probably the right type of girl for him. He needed someone who challenged him, provoked him, someone who caused him to think about his words, actions and beliefs. In fact, he needed someone just like her.



The only problem, as he saw it, was the small matter of blood! Her blood. She was after all a Mudbl - Muggleborn and although Draco knew this shouldn't matter, it still did. The years that had passed since the war had changed his views somewhat and he had long ago stopped believing in his father's every word and fascist beliefs. However, some facts still remained the same - he was still a Malfoy after all, and some believes were just too deeply ingrained within him.



Purebloods and Mudbloods just did not mix. Certainly, he no longer believed in the complete and utter annihilation of Muggles and Muggleborn wizards as he now saw that they really offered no threat to him. However, whereas he believed it acceptable to tolerate the Muggleborns and saw no real problem in letting them mix in wizarding society - starting a friendship with one, let alone some sort of romantic relationship, was another matter entirely.



Draco sneered mirthlessly at his own troubled thoughts and then suddenly loosening his tight grip on Emily's wrists, he batted his worries aside. Raking a hand through his already mussed hair, he could feel the weight of her eyes on him and he let out a discontented grunt.



With her hands now free, Emily quickly gathered the sheets back around her and continued to watch him. For the last few minutes, she had seen an array of emotion flicker across his normally emotionless facade. She wondered about what he was thinking, what he was feeling, what it was that made him look so - lost? Nibbling down on her bottom lip as she continued to watch him, she decided that if she really wanted to know - her best option was to ask him.



"What's the matter?" She asked him softly.


He did not answer, choosing instead to stare at the far wall in silence.



Emily sighed. Here we go again, she mused to herself, now accustomed to his odd mood swings. She was just about to move from the bed and start getting ready, when his voice broke through the quiet. Startled she looked up.



"It would never work, you know - I mean you and me, it could never happen..."



She stifled a gasp. What did he mean? - Could he read her thoughts...? Oh no, he wasn't referring to what she had let slip out last night was he? Emily cringed as she remembered her whispered words. Had he heard her? - Did he think she loved him? - Damn her cursed mouth and foolish, romantic declaration! Hiding her confusion and fighting down something that distinctively felt like panic, Emily covered her alarm with spiteful words. "What on earth made you think I would even want something to happen?" she drawled out.



On hearing these words, Draco slowly turned his head and looked at her. His face was devoid of all expression, yet with one quick quirk of the eyebrow - he derided her words.



And as his eyes quietly mocked her, Emily felt her will to keep up the fight slowly drain away. No longer able to meet the derision in his eyes, Emily turned her head. She pulled her knees to her chest and, wrapping her arms around them, she buried her head. His superiority always managed to make her feel so small, insignificant and stupid - and she hated it. Sick and tired of the games he played and knowing she would probably loose anyway, Emily decided to ignore him with the vague hope that he'd leave her alone and go away.



Once again, another leaden silence fell and the seconds ticked slowly past...



Immersed in feelings of solitude, her head still bowed in thought, Emily was slightly startled to feel his fingers gently brush against her cheek. She glanced up at him to gouge his expression, but his head was turned away from her. She was just about to drop her eyes and swipe his hand away when he began to speak again.



"After all," he said tonelessly, continuing with the subject. "It's not only a matter of heritage, there are other things to take into consideration too. Firstly, there's the fact that later today we will most probably going our separate ways - I shall be expected to go back to Hogwarts like a good, little boy and you, no doubt, will be bundled safely back to London. Oh, and let's not forget the fact that I shall most probably be dead in a couple of days at the most, seeing as I apparently have the new Dark Lord looking for me. No doubt, he will find me soon..."



"Don't say that," Emily spoke sharply, not wanting to think about his words.



"And why not?" he questioned, turning to face her. "It's the truth after all!"



"Because Snape and others won't let that happen."



"Hmmn, well it's true that Severus has always taken my welfare seriously - but I very much doubt that's enough. After all the new Dark Lord is said to be very determined..."



"Stop it Draco, don't say those things!" Emily almost pleaded.



"Why Emily - why do you care?"



"Because - because I just do," she whispered softly, falling quiet as the truth of his words sank in.



"Do you care about me Emily," he asked her quietly, looking intently at her as he traced his thumb gently along her jaw line.



Closing her eyes against his intensity, she let out a shuddering sigh. "Yes," she told him simply, deciding it was time for some honesty. "Yes I do - I wish I didn't, but I do..."



As soon as the words had left her mouth, she instantly regretted them and feeling stupid, scared and vulnerable, she tried to twist herself away from him. However, he easily caught her face in his hands and, despite her resistance; he soon had her close to him.



He kissed her softly, again and again, until he felt her resistance melt and then with one last, lingering kiss - he broke away. His eyes searched her face intently, lingering over every delicate feature, from her small, determined chin to the fine arc of her eyebrows that framed her pretty, closed eyes.



"Is that your way of saying you're sorry," she asked him softly, startling him slightly.



"No," he replied, almost inaudibly. "It's my way of saying I care."



At these words, Emily's eyes flew open and she found herself staring straight up into his face. "You ca - care for me?" she stammered, blinking, very uncertain of if she had heard him right.



Draco continued to stare at her, frowning slightly. He felt very uncomfortable and was just a little surprised that she had somehow tricked this confession out of him. How she had done it, he did not know - so he put it down to being overwrought and tired. However, the fact that he cared for her really didn't change anything - not anything at all. The facts still stood exactly as they did before, leaving Draco filled with an odd sense of brooding. Their relationship over before it had a chance to begin, the dark days looming ahead and the fact he probably wouldn't see Emily again after today all left him in a darkened mood. Desperation pressed down on him and, responding to his natural urges, he clutched hold of Emily and buried his head in the crook of her neck.



Sensing his black mood, Emily lifted a hand and started to stoke the back of his head soothingly. Her other hand snaked around his waist and she held him close to her, trying to soothe his fears away. She closed her eyes, rested her head against his and tried to think of some comforting words - but none came. For in truth, what could she say or do to ease his obvious pain. An old saying, from her Aunt Nancy, suddenly popped into her head. 'Seize today child,' she could remember her saying. 'For who knows what tomorrow will bring?' Emily grasped onto these words and found herself whispering them into Draco's ear.




Draco heard her whispered words and let them soothe him. Then lifting his head to face her, he cupped her cheeks in his hands and, tilting her head, brought her lips to his. His kiss was soft and unhurried and taking his time, he slowly built up the passion. Emily untwined her arm from his waist and, pushing herself onto her knees, brought her hand to his head and clasping it tightly, let her fingers run wild.



The sheet, yet again, slid down her body and she felt his cool skin next to hers. His hands dropped from her face and he trailed them down her sides until they finally rested at the top of her hips. Then tightening his grasp and deepening his kiss, he slowly lowered her down onto the bed.



Emily did not even try to resist him and, instead, just let him dip her lower and lower...


*



Harry sat at the table directly opposite the stairwell and stared. Emily hadn't come to him last night, like she had promised and this distressed him. He rubbed absently at his scar, looked down at his now stone, cold coffee and, at the sound of approaching footsteps, glanced up at the stairwell again. No, it wasn't her - yet again, another person had descended the stairs and it still wasn't bloody her. The wait was driving Harry insane. He glanced at his watch, which told him it was just a little after nine and let out an exasperated sigh. Honestly, he thought irritably to himself. Where was she? What was she doing? Please don't let her not be with that slimy, little ferret!



Since the horrifying events of last night, he had not slept a wink. As he had lain on the bed, the completely torrid scenario had replayed itself, again and again, in his head. He had felt like he was going insane. He had waited all night to hear her tap on the door, but as the day had dawned he had given up hope - and instead, had tortured himself with extremely, vivid thoughts on what she and Draco could be doing. However, these thoughts had proven too horrific for him. So instead, he had fantasised about bursting into her room and sending Draco to a slow and extremely, painful death. Time had seemed to slow to a standstill - and he had passed his time by inventing more and more painful ways in which Draco could die! He had looked at his watch for the millionth time and it had told him it was now quarter to seven, so Harry had decided to get up.



As he had left his room, he had found his feet padding slowly to her door and, pushing aside pangs of guilt, he had pressed his ear to the door and listened. This had proved quite unhelpful for he had heard nothing. He had stood there a little while longer, wrestling with his conscience until Good Harry had taken control and realising that his ears dropping was fruitless, he had scuttled off down the hall and descended the stairs.



The room downstairs was completely empty and Harry had sat down at the table directly opposite the stairwell and had begun waiting. He had waited as the first signs of life broke the eerie silence, he had waited as the proprietor's wife had dusted, cleaned and polished the tables around him and he had waited as the inn's clientele had slowly awakened and with their hungry stomachs rumbling had descended into the room one by one - and here he waited still.



Another pair of footsteps echoed down the stairs and, once again, Harry looked up - only to be disappointed, yet again, as Snape's dark figure approached him.



"Potter," Snape greeted him and pulling out a chair, he sat himself down.



Harry gave him a slight nod of greeting and the pair of them sat in silence. Glad of his old professor's unsociable ways, Harry fell back into thought.



Snape proceeded to pour himself scalding, hot coffee from the pot and he pulled the full rack of toast towards him. He began to eat his inadequate breakfast slowly and fell into his own meditations. As he ate, he silently watched the insufferable brat sat opposite and pondered over his disconcerted demeanour. Foolish boy, he smirked to himself as the reason for the boy's obvious unease popped suddenly into his mind. The stupid boy was lovesick! How amusing? A rather cruel smile crept onto his face and he murmured under his breath, "Amor caecus est!"



Surprisingly, Harry overheard him. "What did you say?" he asked sharply, tearing his eyes away from the stairs.



"Nothing of matter," Snape replied smoothly. Then finishing his last bite of toast, he looked directly at the boy. "Now, let us speak of our plans for today, we have much to discuss," he instructed, his tone leaving no room for argument.



Harry, on seeing there was no room for disagreement, nodded his assent dully. Snape began to speak and Harry leaned closer to listen - pushing all thoughts of Emily aside for the time being.


*



Draco's mouth left her breast and descended, once more, hungrily onto lips. She kissed him back with passion, nibbling at his lips and pulled at them with her teeth. Her naked body pressed against him as a pleasant pressure began to build within her. His fingers stroked against her skin, pleasuring her and with a shuddering moan, she arched her neck backwards. His lips departed from hers and planted a scorching kiss on the hollow of her throat.



His lips left her throat and trailed over her collarbone, her shoulders, leaving languorous kisses as they brushed against her skin. His head moved downwards and she his felt hot kisses work their way down her body, past the crease between breasts and all the way to her navel. His hand stopped its stroking and, pushing himself upwards, he placed his hand firmly on the top of her thigh. He looked at her intently, his eyes asking her for permission and, breathing erratically, she silently nodded her assent.



A deep, shuddering sigh escaped her lips as he entered her and watching her beautiful face contort with passion, he started to move against her. As they rocked together slowly, just enjoying the sensations of their movements, Draco lowered his head and pressed his lips against her throat. And, as he resumed the burning kisses that she loved so well, Emily let her fingers trail languidly over his back. Slowly the pleasure within her began to increase and she soon felt herself close release.



He kissed her deeply, passionately, eager for her lips. He could not get enough of kissing her, touching her, of feeling her wrapped around him. She seemed to have been made just for him only, her body moulding itself perfectly to his. His body tingled as he felt himself coming closer and, pushing away from her, he knew was close. "Look at me Emily," he asked her, his voice sounding guttural in his throat - and Emily opened her eyes.



Emily opened her eyes, looked into his smouldering eyes and tipped over the edge at the sound of his voice. A crushing kiss found her lips and with her body shuddered violently; a desperate moan escaped her lips. Loosing herself in the intense rapture, she then found herself moaning his name again and again and again. "Draco, Draco, Draco, Draco, she cried, over and over, as the ecstasy took her over her.




They lay together, spent - as the pleasurable sensations slowly faded away. Holding each tightly, they both knew that sex had never been this way for them. Never had they felt such intensity, never had they felt such completeness. Draco was the first to loosen his hold and lifting his weight from her, he laid by her side. He reached his hand forth and gently turning her face to his, he caught her lips in a most tender kiss. His kiss told Emily much more than his words could and happy with the knowledge that he actually cared for her - truly cared for her, she snuggled herself against him. His arms wrapped around her and holding her tightly against him, he drank her essence in. So perfect, so very pure, he thought to himself and both lost in the aftermath of their passion, they both drifted away, enrapt in each other.


*



Harry sat, staring blanking ahead of him. However, appearances being deceiving as he was actually staring at the ancient cuckoo clock hung on the far wall. He watched the hands as they slowly ticked by and on reaching the hour of ten; the clock gave a loud clunk, followed by half-hearted chime. Glancing down at his watch and seeing it proclaimed the time ten past ten, he finally reached a decision. Schooling his face into calm indifference, he turned his face to Snape, stating. "It's ten past ten now, I'll just go upstairs and knock them up..."




"Let them be," Snape answered him, his tone crisp and cool. "Let them sleep awhile longer, no doubt they need their sleep, so let's hope they wake in better humour!"



Harry frowned at his words. It was obvious his words were directed towards Draco and Harry bristled at his blatant favouritism. As he glared at Snape, he heard footsteps descending the stairs and with hope now all gone, he glanced listlessly up at the stairs...



...and tripping down them came Emily. Harry's heart pounded quickly in anticipation as he watched her descend the stairs and his forehead furrowed into a frown as he saw Draco descending behind her. As she approached the table, Harry noted the hazy smile on her face. What had she been doing? he wondered to himself. What on earth had caused that beatific smile to linger on her face He watched her closely as she drew nearer and his eyes looked on jealously as he saw Draco's hand rest protectively on the small of her back.



Coming to the table, Emily offered him a bleak smile and sitting herself down, her eyes dropped. Draco sat himself down beside her, he noted, and smirked in his direction. The bloody git, he thought as Draco smirked across the table at him. I could bloody strangle him! Harry fought down his feelings of anger as their breakfast was served to them. He noted how Emily wolfed down her food, hardly looking up as she ate, yet whenever she did; her eyes strayed to over to Draco. Draco himself, ate his food slowly, chatting amiably with Snape as he did so - making Harry's anger rise all the more



Time passed quickly. Snape and Draco continued with their companionable conversation and as Emily kept blushing down at her sausages, Harry quickly came to another decision. Standing up abruptly and pushing his chair back over the stone tile, Harry walked over to her. Stopping by her shoulder, he asked her simply and quietly. "Can we talk now Emily?"



Emily looked up at him, wide-eyed and apprehensive and gave him a quick nod. Her eyes flickered over towards Draco, who was shooting Harry his best death glare and Harry saw her hand pat Draco reassuringly on the top of his thigh. Harry had to bite his anger back down. She leant slightly to Draco, whispered quietly into his ear and after Draco gave her a small nod of permission, she stood, gave his thigh a small, reassuring squeeze and moved over to Harry.



Harry led her to a small alcove beside the bar and, glancing over his shoulder, he was delighted to see Draco scowling furiously at his back. He smiled smugly to himself, but the smirk soon disappeared as he found himself looking into Emily's expressive eyes. Biting on her bottom lip nervously, she swallowed then started to speak. "Harry," she mumbled her eyes anxious. "I know I owe you an explanation..."



"You don't need to explain," he cut her off, lying. "What I saw was pretty self-explanatory - This isn't about that, this is about you - about you and what you're doing..."




"Harry," she interrupted, trying to change the course of the conversation. "Harry, let's not talk about..."



However, Harry continued with his lecture as if he had not heard her. "Tell me Emily," he asked her firmly. "How long have you known Draco?"



Emily, surprised by the turn of the conversation, promptly answered him. "Probably seven or eight years, give or take - but Harry, wh - what has this got to do with anything..."



Harry shook his head sharply at her. "No Emily," he said quickly, clearly irritated with her answer. "How long have you really known him? Two or maybe three days?"



Emily opened her mouth to respond, but no words came out. As Harry's words sank in, she realised the truth behind them. Exactly how long had she known Draco? How long had it been - since he had stepped into her flat? - Not even three days... she thought, answering her own query and stark cold reality washed over her.



She stood looking at Harry, horrified. How could she have let things move so fast? How had her feelings spiralled out of control, so quickly? How could three mere days feel like three years? She felt hot tears spring to her eyes and confused and angry with herself, she stepped away from Harry.



Moving towards the stairs, she felt Harry's hand touch her shoulder gently and not turning to face him, she shook it off. "Please Emily," she heard him plead. "Don't go, I didn't mean to upset you..." However, she just ignored him and continued her way up the stairs. How could I be so stupid, she thought angrily to herself, blinking back scalding tears, as she ran up the stairs. Does my stupidity never end? Then, disappearing from public view, she fled down the hallway to her room, slammed the door shut and charmed the lock.




Downstairs, Harry watched her receding back. Her sad eyes stood out in his mind and he already regretted his words. He watched her disappear around the corner and he stood, gazing at the empty stairwell, blinking. Suddenly, a strong grip spun him around and Harry found himself looking into Draco's furious face.



"What did you say to her Potter," he hissed out, his eyes glinting dangerously.



"N - Nothing," Harry stuttered back, momentarily surprised by his ferocity. He shrugged his arm roughly off his shoulder and feeling his old, familiar anger rekindle in his stomach, he spat back through gritted teeth. "What is it to you, anyway?"



Draco's eyes narrowed dangerously and he took a threatening step forward. "I'm warning you Potter, if you've done anything to hurt her, I'll..."



Harry squared up to him, eager for the fight - when Snape's cold voice rang out, "Stop this foolishness now!" Harry glared at his command, but seeing his eyes glitter darkly at him - he stepped back and withdrew.



"Really Potter," Snape snapped, annoyed at the foolish boy. "Is there no end to your stupidity?"



However, Harry decided to ignore his former potion master and not letting his words anger him, he moved past him and made his way to the door. Bloody git, he thought angrily as he stalked through the door. I bet the evil bastard would still take house points if he could...



"Insufferable boy," Snape muttered after his back, still disbelieving his utter stupidity. Then, with a dismissive sneer, he turned his attention back to Draco and spoke again. "Come now Draco," he demanded of the scowling boy. "There are still things for us to discuss - follow me!" Then, without waiting for an answer, he stalked off to a discreet table and motioned for Draco to follow.



Draco frowned after Harry's retreating back and he wanted so very much to punch him. However, Snape's voice interrupted his homicidal thoughts, distracting him from his murderous purpose. His hate radiated off him, surrounding him in a deadly glow until finally - and very reluctantly, he dragged his eyes away. Then pulling his features into an expressionless mask, he turned to follow Snape and as he walked towards the table, his final thoughts were: I'll get you Potter!


*



Upstairs in her room, Emily sat and sobbed quietly. Her first torrent of tears had slowly dwindled, now hitching off in tiny sobs. Tired and weary, she felt a cheerless numbness unfold over her. She welcomed this numbness eagerly, wanting the nothingness it brought. She didn't want to think no more, thinking just made her head hurt and she was sick and tired of constantly hurting. One last tear slowly trickled down her cheek and wiping it roughly away, she threw herself down on the bed and stared up at blindly at the ceiling. Her eyes closed and wrapping her arms around herself, she turned on to her side - and alone and impassive, she waited for emptiness to come.





A/N: Amor caucus est - Love is blind! Oh, and before anybody asks, Emily is a sensible girl and takes a contraception potion every month - so she won't be getting pregnant!

Chapter 19: A Parting of the Ways
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A Parting of the Ways




Chapter Nineteen








Upstairs in her room, Emily sat and sobbed quietly. Her first torrent of tears had slowly dwindled, now hitching off in tiny sobs. Tired and weary, she felt a cheerless numbness unfold over her. She welcomed this numbness eagerly, wanting the nothingness it brought. She didn't want to think no more, thinking just made her head hurt and she was sick and tired of constantly hurting. One last tear slowly trickled down her cheek and wiping it roughly away, she threw herself down on the bed and stared up at blindly at the ceiling. Her eyes closed and wrapping her arms around herself, she turned on to her side - and alone and impassive, she waited for emptiness to come.


***



Tap tap, tap...



Tap, tap, tap...




Emily opened her eyes to a soft tapping. I must have fallen asleep, she thought groggily, rubbing hard at her eyes with the palms of hands. Her head thumped mercilessly, as she sat up, turned, and placed her feet on the floor. She sat still for a moment, trying desperately to remember what had caused the wretched feelings that still lingered inside her - and slowly, the memories came trickling back. She groaned out loud, wishing she were still asleep, and as she remembered Harry's words - her head began to pound all the more. "Damn it," she whispered out, asking no one in particular. "Why do I have to remember? - Why, can't I just forget?"



And, as Emily thought over things, a dreamy voice joined in with the still insistent tapping. "Emily," the voice called softly. "If you want to ignore me that's fine - I'll go away! Just tap back once for yes, and I'll go - and tap twice for no, and I'll stay..."



Emily, recognising the voice, couldn't help but let out a small laugh at the absurdness of the words. "Come on in, Luna," she called out, just loud enough to be heard.



"You have to tap once..."



"Luna, don't be silly, I said come in!" Emily turned her face to the door, waiting for Luna to enter, but as the seconds ticked by with no turn of the doorknob, she admitted defeat. Stretching across the bed, and emitting a disgruntled sigh, she rapped on the bedstead, loud and hard; the door immediately swung open and in walked Luna.



Luna, Emily noted - hadn't changed much from when she had last seen her, back at Hogwarts; she still held that air of distinct dottiness about her. Her wide, blue eyes still held that dreamy, faraway look and she still, Emily saw, wore her old Butterbeer-cork necklace. Thankfully, though, Emily thought - the old, radish earrings were gone, only to be replaced with dangling pinecones. The only drastic change in Luna was her hair. Whereas, before it had been long and a dirty blonde colour, now it was half long - one side being cut close to head and the other still flowing down her back in long waves. The dirty blonde colour could still be seen, but now a wash of the colour pink could be seen running through it. No doubt, Luna thought this to be the highest of bohemian fashion, and this caused a genuine smile to flicker on Emily's lips.



"So, Em," she asked dreamily, sitting down beside her. "Why are Harry and that Malfoy boy fighting over you? I suppose they're both in love with you...." Her voice trailed off and she turned to face Emily, all questioning eyed and with a sincere smile.



Emily, disconcerted by Luna's words, could only blink and stare back at her. "F - Fighting over me?" was all that Emily could manage to stammer out; the thought of Draco and Harry fighting over her depressed her.



"Oh, yes," Luna replied simply. "Tempers were getting frayed down there - I thought Harry was going to punch that Malfoy boy at one point...."



"Punch him!" Emily exclaimed loudly, as she wondered what on earth was happening downstairs. "Punch him - over me? Why?" However, she cut her words short - as she knew exactly why they were fighting. Emily, found herself suddenly blushing. "And, Draco?" She probed, dropping her eyes.



"Oh, the Malfoy boy looked ready to do the Cruciatus Curse," Luna answered her brightly. "He looked ever so mad..."



Emily felt a strange warmth flow through her at these words, and a bewildering sense of joy took over her.



Luna continued, adding on in her own uniquely, accurate way. "Do you like that Malfoy boy? Harry always hated him. I couldn't say if I liked him or not - not really knowing him that is! I always felt he might have had a sad home life or something - for he was quite the bully wasn't he, and bullies are normally quite insecure about things underneath it all, are they not? Hmmn, I guess I feel a little sorry for him..." Luna trailed off again and stared expectantly at Emily.



Emily stared back at her, gob smacked by her rush of words. She opened her mouth once or twice, similar to a goldfish swimming in a bowl, and struggled to find an answer. Really, she thought, bemusedly. Luna was just the most - confounding person! Every word she had just said was spot on - embarrassingly so! Finally, Emily opened her mouth to say the only thing she could think of. "Don't let Draco hear you feeling sorry him, he wouldn't appreciate it!"



"No, I suppose he wouldn't," Luna said cheerfully. "So, are you going to come downstairs now?"



Emily, just stared back at her - feeling oddly displaced and an uncomfortable silence fell.



*




Meanwhile, downstairs in the lounge, a conflict - of monstrous proportions was brewing. Green eyes met with pale grey from across the table; both eyes were narrowed with intent, both eyes watched the other warily. The hawk nosed, greasy haired man sat watching the two boys, with a look of weary contempt.



"I am not going there with him - I'd rather face the new Dark Lord with an army of werewolves behind him - than go anywhere with him! -"



"Do not underestimate the power of the new Dark Lord, Draco - you are in danger and must take the appropriate measures -"



"Oh, believe me Severus; I'm not underestimating the man. After all, I, if anyone, know just how dangerous he is - but I'd rather face him than have Potter accompany me to Hogwarts! And, in case this hasn't been noted before, I'd rather not go back to bloody Hogwarts at all!" Draco's rant came to an abrupt halt and, through narrowed eyes; he glared across the table at Harry. Harry glared back.



Across the table, Harry sat with his arms folded, defiantly, across his chest; he also hated the direction this conversation was going in, and opening his mouth, he added his two pennies worth of impartial wisdom with a very un-Harry like smirk. "What the hell makes you thing I want to go any where with you, ferret boy! Personally, I would rather face a thousand Dementors, waiting to give me a good night kiss, than go anywhere with you."



"Very amusing, Potty - I can't breathe for laughing! Oh, and don't try to be a Slytherin - it really doesn't work for you -"



"I wouldn't want to be a sneaky Slytherin, Malfoy," Harry snarked back, his anger starting to rise. "Who would actually want to be a Slytherin except for a prat like you? I even told the Sorting Hat so..."



"I'm warning you, Potter," exclaimed Draco, rising from his seat, and then pausing. "What do you mean about the Sorting Hat? You would never have made a Slytherin, you prissy Gryffindor!"



"TAKE THAT BACK!" Harry shouted, also rising from his seat and reaching for his wand....



"ENOUGH," Snape bellowed, also rising. "Enough of this nonsense! I will not have you acting in this manner - you will desist immediately, do you understand, IMMEDIATELY!" Snape's hand slammed down hard on to the table, making their mugs of mead jump and spill.



Both boys stood, shaking with anger, and glowering at each other. "Sit," Snape demanded, his eyes burning with determination. "Sit, and desist now!" Draco's eyes flicked to his former professor, and seeing his look of fixed resolve, he sat immediately. Remembering his former years at Hogwarts, Draco knew better than to push him further. Snape was not a man to be crossed; so instead, Draco sat with his jaw clamped tightly, holding back his emotions and drummed his fingers distractedly (and annoyingly) on the table.



Harry, on the other hand, remained standing - and continued to glare at Snape. Snape kept his gaze steady, as if daring the boy to say another word. Their eyes remained locked for a minute or so, and Draco sat watching them with curiosity, wondering who would yield first. Their glares remained unflinching for a few moments more, until Harry suddenly shuddered and looked away. Draco let out an amused snort at Harry's defeat and Harry turned his heated glare on him. He looked as if he was going to say something and he opened his mouth to do so, but after a moment, he shut his mouth, as if he had thought the better of it, and sat down.



"Well, now we have done with your adolescent tantrums, I suggest we get on with the situation at hand," Snape swept his gaze over both boys, and seeing no defiance, carried on. "Now, Miss Lovegood told us of The Key and its powers, and has promised us that she will search for this particular article, which, of course, would be quite helpful. It seems the new Dark Lord has an interest in The Key, maybe even has The Key in his possession, so the more information the better -" Snape broke off to look up the dark stairwell, tapping his finger against his cheek impatiently. "Now, when the girls come down, we can discuss this further - However, in the meantime, let us discuss the events of the -"



"I can go and fetch the girls down, I don't mind," Harry interrupted, already half way out of his chair.


Draco snorted at him, ready with a retort, but before he could say anything Snape cut him off. "Now, Potter -I'm sure the ladies will delight us with their presence soon. Let us discuss things further - The Dark Lord is -"



"Dangerous, highly dangerous, and has it in for me, and we can defeat him by constant talking," interrupted Draco, in an insolent drawl. Snape shot him a venomous look, and Draco dully rolled his eyes and shut up. Both boys shut out Snape's repeated words and fell into their own revelries.



Draco sat, sneering, trying his best not to think about anything, anything at all, especially not about Emily and their earlier confessions. Harry sat quietly; his arms, once again, folded across his chest.; thinking about Emily, and thinking about if he would ever get the chance to apologise to her. Both boys let out involuntary sighs and Snape carried on making plans.



*




The silence was long and drawn out and Emily squirmed uncomfortably inside. She had no idea of what to say; she didn't want to go downstairs, she didn't feel she could handle the pressure of that, just yet. But, she didn't really want to talk about what had happened to Luna either. It wasn't that she didn't trust Luna, it was just she didn't want to talk about it at all - to anyone!



Luna sat beside her, gazing abstractedly around the room. "So," she asked suddenly, breaking the strained silence. "Which one do you love? The Malfoy boy or Harry?"



"I - I don't love either of them," Emily spluttered out, flushing.



"Really," said Luna, getting off the bed and walking towards the wardrobe. "I just thought it was the Malfoy boy, seeing as you keep blushing whenever I mention him." Then she started tapping on the wardrobe with precise little taps.



Emily stared at her back, exasperated! "What, just exactly, are you doing, Luna?" she snapped out irritably, annoyed at Luna's ability to see through her. "Don’t tell me you're trying to communicate with a boggart!"



"Well, yes, I am," replied Luna, matter of factly. "There was an article written by Jonas. T. Gibbleton. Who has spent the last fifty-years learning to communicate with boggarts. Basically, over the years, he has set up a complex form of communication, through precise tapping that allows us to get in touch with boggarts - they are really misunderstood, you know -"



Emily's mind boggled. Really, just the thought of it was mind-boggling! However, she felt she had to address one problem. "But, Luna," she asked, honestly baffled. "There isn't any boggart in there!"



"I know," Luna answered with a smile. "I'm just practicing!"



Emily goggled at her, then covered her face with her hands and shook her head. However, she couldn't help the amused smile that twitched at her lips.



"You're not annoyed with me, are you Emily?" Luna asked, moving back towards the bed. "I know that I annoy people sometimes, I really don't mean to..."



Emily felt a little ashamed. She had been rather annoyed with her; she'd been taking her frustration at others and aiming it at her. She sighed. "I'm sorry, Luna," she smiled weekly. "I'm not really annoyed at you - I'm just, annoyed at everything!"



Luna nodded. "That's ok, Emily," she smiled back. "I understand. Are you sure you don't want to talk about it?"



And, out of the blue, Emily realised that she did want to talk about it. "It's just all so confusing," she wailed, clutching at her head. "I just don't know what to do anymore!"'



Luna nodded sympathetically. "Yes, all this lovey-dovey stuff does tend to get confusing; maybe you should talk with the Malfoy boy -"



"That just makes things worse," Emily wailed out again. "Every time we talk, things just get more complicated!"



"Well, the Malfoy boy does seem like a complicated person - maybe you should be with Harry instead."



"But, I don't want to be with Harry, he just makes things worse!"



"Yes, I suppose Harry can be pig-headed at times," Luna said earnestly. "Does the Malfoy boy feel the same way about you? - Well, he must do - seeing as he was fighting over you downstairs ... So, what exactly is the problem?"



Emily just stared at her incredulously, not believing what she was hearing. "What's the problem," she parroted. "You're asking me what the problem is."



"Well, yes, I am," she replied, not seeming to notice the disbelieve in Emily's eyes. "You obviously love him, and he seems to care about you - so, I was just wondering...."



Emily cut her off. "Well, there's the problem of the Dark Lord being after him, not forgetting the problem of him being a bigoted git! Oh, and did I mention the fact, that we can't be together 5 seconds with out fighting? And, of course, as Harry very nicely pointed out - we have only known each other for 3 days! Now, does that seem like a worthwhile relationship to you, Luna?"



Luna took a while before answering and she seemed to be thinking deeply, which made her eyes seem all the more dreamy. "Well," she finally answered, sounding very far away. "I wouldn't take much notice of Harry, he's probably just jealous and as for it being only a short time, what does that matter? Love can't be measured by time, nor can we help who we fall in love with, love just happens and only you, Emily, can decide if its worth it ... Do you think he is worth it?"



Emily just stared blankly at Luna, pondering over her words. Did she think he was worth it? Was any of this horrible confusion and pain worth it? Truthfully, the answer was, she did not know. Sighing wearily, she ran her fingers through her hair. "I just don't know that yet, Luna," she told her.



Luna simply looked at her, her eyes seeming rounder than ever. "I think you do," she told Emily quietly, searching her face. Emily flushed, and turned her head. She honestly didn't know how she felt. If Luna thought she knew, well that was fine; Luna often saw things others could not, but for now - Emily knew she couldn't cope with the intensity of her feelings. She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. Finally, looking up at Luna, she decided to move things on. She reached over and gave Luna a quick hug. Luna's eyes widened slightly, but she beamed happily back at Emily.



"That was nice, Emily," she told her, smiling brightly. "I don't often get hugs."



Emily couldn't help, but let a little giggle. Luna just looked so very pleased and happy and Emily found it was contagious. She gave her head a little shake and stood up. She turned to Luna, who was staring happily back up at her, and grabbed her hand, pulling her up. "C'mon," she said, with a new resolve in her voice. "Let's go and see if they've killed each other yet?"



"Oh, I doubt Mr Snape would let that happen," Luna told her, matter of factly, following Emily to the door. "I suspect Professor Dumbledore would be very upset with him, if he let that happen." Emily snorted out a burst of laughter at these words and, smiling happily at Luna, they both passed through the door.



*




Draco was sat, slumped uncharacteristically on the table, his head resting in his arms, when he heard feminine footsteps descend the stairs. He lifted his head slightly to see who was coming down, and sure enough, just as he had suspected, he saw it was Emily and Luna making their way down. He pulled himself up from his slouched position, straightened his shoulders and put on his most blasé expression. He need not have bothered though, he noted and feeling rather annoyed as well, as Emily simply ignored him, keeping her eyes firmly glued on Snape. Well, at least she's avoiding Potter's glance too, he gloated to himself, as he watched her taking a seat, trying her best to avoid Potter's pleading eyes.



"Ah, ladies," Snape's voice rang out from across the table. "I'm so glad you finally joined us; now, finally, we may be able to make some progress."



Emily ignored Snape's sarcasm and drew a seat up to the table. She placed her chair a little out of the way of the others, sat, and asked smoothly. "So, what have I missed?"



Snape remained silent, deciding instead to watch Luna - as she picked up the most heaviest looking chair, staggered with it across the floor, placed it beside Emily's, sat down and then beamed across the table at him. Emily noted, with some small pleasure, how taken aback Snape seemed by Luna's behaviour and she couldn't resist a small smirk at his expense. Snape, at that very moment, turned his head in her direction and happened to notice her amusement at his detriment. His lips stretched into thin, cruel smile and he pounced. "And, now that Miss Carlisle has finally graced us with her much eagerly, anticipated presence, shall we begin?" Snape, on seeing a flush creep over Emily's cheeks, smiled smugly to himself, knowing that his jibe had hit his intended mark.



Emily felt her cheeks flame at his words. Angered, she scowled back at him. But, the triumph that gleamed in his eyes cowered her. Giving him one last look of contempt, she averted her eyes and pretended to be immersed in the horribly, patterned tablecloth. From the corner of her eye, she could see Harry sitting across from her and she noted, with some small pleasure, that he looked as uncomfortable as she did. She briefly wondered if Draco looked ill at ease too. However, as her back was turned on him, she couldn't take a sneaky peek at him without being noticed. So, instead, she decided to keep her eyes fixed on the tablecloth, wondering if the eyes she could feel boring into her back of her neck were his.



The table had now fallen into an apprehensive silence. Each and every one of them all lost in their own thoughts with only Luna seeming at ease with the situation.



"Miss Lovegood," enquired Snape, breaking the silence and getting straight to the point. "Would you now like to explain, in greater depth, just what you hinted at earlier?" Emily lifted her eyes to look at Luna and saw she was still beaming happily at Snape.



"Yes, of course I will Mr Snape," answered Luna. "Would, you like me start at the beginning?"



Snape closed his eyes and inhaled sharply, apparently appalled at the notion of being called Mr Snape and, for once, finding himself at a loss for words, he merely nodded his head for her to continue.



Luna, at his cue, started her story, staring disconcertingly at Snape's right ear, all the way through her tale. "Well, you see," she began, "it really started three years ago when dad found out that the ministry were keeping the truth about hinkypunks from us -"



"Miss Lovegood," Snape interrupted her through gritted teeth. "Would you kindly keep to the matter at hand?"



Luna diverted her gaze from Snape's right ear and started addressing his greasy forelock instead. "But, hinkypunks are important Mr Snape..."



"But, they do not concern us now, Miss Lovegood," Snape retorted sharply - and Emily could see his jaw tighten and his knuckles turn white as he rested his chin on top of his clenched fist. Clamping her lips together tightly, she resisted the laughter that threatened to spill from her mouth.



Luna, realising that persisting with the plight of the hinkypunks was not appreciated, shifted her gaze to Snape's left ear and began again. "Well, as I was saying, when dad was searching up the mistreatment of the hinkypunks, he came across this old article about the Key of Loth. I remember it well because dad was so excited about it when he told me." Luna stopped, suddenly, mid flow and all four heads turned to her, expectantly.



"Why have you stopped?" Draco snapped out, waspishly. "What on earth is wrong with you?"



Luna turned her head to stare at his nose. "I stopped in case anyone had any questions," she told him simply, before continuing and making Emily flush to her ears. "I see what you mean Emily; he has got a rather complicated attitude, although he does have fine cheekbones...."



Emily blanked out the rest of Luna's words, feeling utterly mortified. Her cheeks burnt horribly, and all she could do was wish that a werewolf would waltz right in and swallow her. Luna was still babbling on in the background, but all Emily could hear was a strange buzzing in her ear. So, this is what extreme mortification feels like, she pondered, as the feeling of eyes burning into the back of her neck intensified. She knew that he was staring at her, but she couldn't find the courage to turn and face him. Suddenly, something hit her hard on the back of her head. Instantly angry, she whipped her head round and glared at him; he was smirking back at her.



'You think I have fine cheekbones,' he mouthed at her, smirking, raising his eyebrows high. Emily scowled back at him and stuck up her finger in a rude gesture. This didn't seem to offend Draco though, only serving to make him smirk even more. He raised his eyebrows again, gestured to Luna with his hand and pointed his finger to his head, making circular movements that suggested at Luna's mental health. 'Loopy Luna,' he mouthed to her again, clearly making fun of her friend. Emily felt her anger rise and, wanting to wipe the smirk off his face; she stretched out her leg and gave him a swift kick to the ankle. She heard him give a muffled yelp and, without another glance at him, she deliberately turned her back on him, knowing he hated to be ignored. She felt another flying object hit her, only this time on her shoulder, but she continued to ignore him, choosing instead to listen to what Luna, her friend, had to say.



"... and so, whoever holds The Key of Loth - has complete control over all demon kind. All demons will follow their orders; they are bound to The Key. It is a very lethal weapon and difficult to destroy, only the acid of a basilisk poison will destroy it; it's a shame you killed the basilisk back in Hogwarts Harry that would have been quite useful! Well, anyway Mr Snape, that's about it and I really don't mind going down to London for you. I'm sure my dad still has that article somewhere, it's probably in the archives somewhere." Luna came to a stop, took her eyes from Snape's chin and smiled pleasantly at the people around the table.



"Thank you, Miss Lovegood," said Snape with a curt nod of the head. "You have been extremely helpful, indeed. Now, I think it's time to refine our plans - has anyone any questions?"



Before Emily could stop, she found herself voicing the question that still nagged at her constantly. "Who is the new Dark Lord?" she blurted out. Everyone froze, and a nervous tension seemed to descend on the table. Emily glanced from face to face, noticing how uncomfortable Draco and Harry seemed to have become, so she rested her eyes on Snape. "Why wont you tell me?" she asked him forcibly and hating not knowing. "Why are they allowed to know, but not me?"



"I have already told you the reasons -" Snape began, but Emily cut him off.



"Why, Harry? It's understandable that Draco should know, but why does Harry get to be told...."



"Harry is an Auror," Snape snapped, as if that explained everything.



"I'm part of the ministry; I'm training to be an Auror! Why -"



"You," Snape cut her off. "Miss Carlisle - have proved to be nothing but a proverbial thorn in the side! I will not discuss this any further; now, if that's everything, let us continue with our plans...."



At this obvious dismissal, Emily felt hot tears prick at her eyes and, turning her back to the table, she struggled to hold back the tears, while Snape, oblivious to her unhappiness, continued to talk.



"So, it has been decided. Let us put our plans in motion. Harry will accompany Draco to Knarlesdale -"



"No, I will not!"



"I'm not going with Potter, I told you -"



"- and Miss Lovegood has offered to go to London, leaving Miss Carlisle, who will of course go home...."


"I'm not going home, why do I have to go home?"



"You will go home, Miss Carlisle because it's the safest place for you -"



"Why can't you accompany me, Severus? Why do you have to?"



"For the millionth time, Draco! I have told you I cannot disperse that information!"



"I'm not going home, you can't make me!"



"Believe me Miss Carlisle, I can, and I will -"



"I'm not got anywhere with Pothead, Severus. I can assure you of th -"



"If, you make me go with him Snape, I tell you I will kill him!"



"In your dreams Potter, you're a dead man -"



"I insist you stop this ungodly bickering now - I will not tolerate this!"



I'm telling you, I'M NOT GOING WITH HIM!"



A silence followed Harry's final outburst, and all that could be heard was Emily's muffled sobs. Suddenly, Luna's placid voice broke though the silence. "Why can't Emily go with Draco?"



"NO!" Harry shouted.



"And why not, Potter?" Draco shot right back at him.



"B- Because she just can't - she isn't trained enough. Plus, you still have her wand!"



"Enough of this," Snape hissed vehemently, and stood to make his presence felt. "You will desist immediately!"



Both boys closed their mouths, but continued to glare at each other, while Snape seemed in deep thought. "Yes, his wand - we need to get his wand. An oversight, yes! However, it is one that can be rectified."



Emily, with red-rimmed eyes, looked over at Snape, wondering what on earth he was muttering about. She didn't understand his words, but for some unknown reason, her heart skipped a beat.



Snape, suddenly, snapped out of his reverie and began to speak quickly. "There has been a change of plans," he told them, his voice leaving no room for debate. "Potter, you will accompany Miss Lovegood to London and retrieve Draco's wand from the ministry, and you Miss Carlisle will accompany Draco to Knarelsdale -"



"But, she doesn't have a wand," cried out Harry frustrated. "She can't - it's too dangerous!"



"I never thought I'd agree with Potty, Severus. But, I agree, it will be too dangerous for her without a wand -"



"That is why," said Snape, without missing a beat. "Potter, will loan Miss Carlisle use of his wand..."



"I will do no such thing, my wand is -"



"I will loan Emily my wand," offered Luna, reaching across and handing Emily her wand. "I won't miss it for a day or two!"


"Thank you, Miss Lovegood," said Snape, smiling genuinely at her. "Then it is all settled. Harry will accompany you to London, retrieve Draco's wand and we will meet up again in two days time, at the Wiccan's Wand Inn in Knarlesdale -"



"No," protested Harry. "Dumbledore will..."



"Dumbledore will understand our need for new measures," interrupted Snape, cutting off his last feasible protest. "Then it is settled; Emily and Draco will proceed to Knarlesdale, Harry and Luna to London - and in two nights time we shall meet up at the Wiccan's Wand. And, remember, if I do not appear in Knarlesdale within the two days timeframe, you will proceed directly to Hogwarts without me. Is all that clear?" Snape then swept his eyes across their faces, and seeing no defiance on them, continued. "Then we will proceed immediately, please prepare for departure," and with that, he left the table and made his way to the proprietors office.



As Snape strode away, Emily was left reeling. The sudden turn of events had shocked her and Emily couldn't quite get her head around them yet. She stared in front of her, all her tears dried up, wondering what all this would entail. She would be alone with Draco again; could she handle that? And, in all honesty, she didn't think she could. She let her gaze slide over to Draco, hoping to get some answers from his expression, but Draco just stared ahead, his face an expressionless mask. No answers there then, she thought humourlessly, and then turned her gaze to Harry.



Harry, she noted, looked gob smacked - as if he couldn't believe the turn of events and Emily found out that she felt little pity for him. She supposed that the reasonable explanation for his dismissal of her was that he cared for her. However, she found that this did not make a blind bit of difference! Frankly, Emily decided she didn't care! All she knew for sure was that at that very moment, she really didn't want to be in the same room as him. Feeling the sudden need to get out of the room and to get some fresh air, Emily stood up abruptly. "I'm going for some fresh air," she said rather pointlessly, to no one in particular, turned, and fled from the room.



*




As soon as the fresh air hit her, Emily breathed a sigh of relief. She walked down a little way down the lane, kicking angrily at pebbles as she went, making them fly off in all directions. Just ahead of her lay an ancient fallen tree trunk, so she headed towards it, deciding it was the perfect place to sit and think. She plonked herself down on it and exhaled a heavy sigh. She glanced back at the inn and saw she was still quite close, still within sight. "Stupid, it's just all bloody stupid!" she mumbled out under her breath, lowering her head to her knees. "What on earth is going to happen now?"



Well; one thing is certain, she thought, answering her own question. You'll be spending the next day or two alone with Draco!



"And just how are you going to deal with that?" She asked herself aloud again.



I don't know, she answered, feeling hopeless with herself and the situation.



Luna had said, she remembered, it was for her to decide, that she thought Emily already had the answers. But, Emily was uncertain if she could find among this mass of confusion that writhed inside her. How could Luna have sounded so sure, when Emily was so undecided! Only, there was one thing she knew she was certain of - and that was her feelings for Malfoy. No, not for Malfoy - for Draco! Somehow, along the way, she had stopped thinking of him as Malfoy and somewhere inside of her very confused head; he had become Draco to her. Suddenly, a twig snapping behind made her jump to her feet and spin around.



Looking into the trees, she saw a figure with a crop of bright, red hair vanish. Ron, she thought to herself, absurdly. Ron Weasley? No, it couldn't be! And, as she stood pondering whether she was loosing her mind or not - she failed to hear the soft footfalls that approached her from behind; a hand touched her lightly on the shoulder. Emily jumped for the second time, with her heart beating wildly, and twirled around to see who had touched her - it was Harry.




"Emily," he said quietly with an almost pleading look in his eyes. "Can we talk? I need to tell you that I'm sorry -"



Without a word, Emily turned her back on him and started to walk away, back towards the inn. She could hear Harry running up behind and all too soon he was at her shoulder.



"Please, Em," he pleaded. "Please listen to me, don't ignore me! I really am so sorry - please Emily, speak to me..."



Emily just kept walking.



"Please, Emily - please! Just say something, even if it's that you hate me - just please don't ignore me..."



"I have nothing to say to you Harry - just leave me alone," she told him quietly, still not turning to face him. There was so much she did want to say to him, to yell at him - but Emily knew if she got started that she wouldn't be able to stop. They were close to the tavern door again - when Emily, finally, turned to face him. She took in his pleading eyes and hardened her heart. "Just leave me be for a while Harry. Maybe in a couple of days I'll be able to talk to you, but at the moment, I can't stand you being near me! So, just leave me alone!"



Harry looked crestfallen at her words and Emily couldn't help feel a twinge of pity for him. However, before she could say or act on her pity, the taverns door swung open and out came Draco and Luna.



"So, you see, it just proves that the ministry are hiding the truth about hinkypinks - don't you agree?" asked Luna, who stared expectantly at Draco's eyebrows and waited for him to answer her. Draco, looking extremely exasperated, just glared at her and, not bothering with an answer, stepped over the doorstep, saw Emily - and directed his glare at her. He also noticed, with some mild vexation, that Harry stood next to her.



"Enjoying yourself with Potter, Emily?" Draco sneered, throwing her a disdainful look. "I must say, I think your standards are slipping..."



These words ignited Harry like a torch. "SHUT UP, MALFOY - OR I'LL HURT YOU, BELIEVE ME!"



"Oh, I'm shaking in my boots, Potter! I'm so scared-"



"You should be, ferret boy - Just one more word...."



"And you'll what, Potter? Hex me to death? - After all, you've had plenty of practice at that haven't you Potter?"



"I'm warning you, Malfoy -"



"Oh, stop it! Do you think I'm worried about a stupid Gryffindork like you - when I have the new Dark Lord after me?"



"I'll do his job for him, if you don't shut up ferret face! Just don’t push it..."



As the fight continued, Emily felt Luna sidle up beside her. "They're quite amusing, aren't they?" Luna stated, as she watched the sparring pair. "In fact, I find it really funny," and with that Luna burst into uncontrollable giggles. Emily just stared at her, slightly taken aback, but soon found her laughter was contagious and covering her mouth, Emily started to giggle too.



Her giggles soon broke off though, as Snape strode purposely through the door. "Come," he commanded, striding forward, with a sweep of the hand. "Let us now depart."



And, the gaggle of unlikely allies quickly followed his imposing figure, as he disappeared around the side of the inn. Rounding the inn, they all headed towards the old, overgrown path where Snape now stood. "Potter, Miss Lovegood," Snape addressed them, beckoning them over. "If you would like to Disapparate now, then we can all be on our way. Oh, and Potter - remember if I am not there within two days, you must go ahead without me - is that understood?"



Harry, looking slightly disconcerted at the speed in which events were proceeding, simply nodded his understanding.



"Then why are you still here, Potter?" Snape snapped sharply, urging him on.



Harry shot Snape a hot glare then turned his eyes to Emily; his eyes still held a plea in them - but Emily turned away from him. Seeing that he would get no response from Emily, he let out a disgruntled sigh, turned to Luna, took her hand and with a nod of acknowledgement, they both Disapparated with a pop!



After she heard the familiar pop, Emily turned back around to face Snape, who was already striding ahead along the path. "Come now," he called over his shoulder to them. "We must hurry!"



Emily shot a quick glance at Draco, who, when he saw she was looking, snorted derisively at her. Then, with a quick quirk of the eyebrow, he set off after Snape. Emily remained where she stood for a moment, glaring at his receding back. However, seeing that both figures were nearly out of sight, she quickly scurried after them, not wanting to be left behind.



She soon caught up with the two Slytherin's and quickly fell into step behind them. Following on behind Snape's billowing cloak, she found herself being led down the twisting and turning path, which soon led them into woodland. The trees overhead soon became thicker, letting very little daylight through, and amid the gloom, Emily found it very hard going. The ground underneath her feet was uneven and still brittle with frost, as the warm sunshine seldom reached the inner depths of this forest.



She kept on stumbling forwards, tripping over roots and knocking low branches out of her way. Thick brambles scratched at her arms and legs, with some even managing to cut through the thick material of her jeans. Emily felt miserable, scratched and sore. She hated this, hated ploughing through this untamed woodland. She was she had to admit, afraid. The dark shadows, cast by the trees, made her feel extremely apprehensive and the odd sounds of animals snuffling about in the undergrowth, did nothing to make her feel better. Suddenly, something small and furry streaked out in front of her; she let out a shrill scream, faltered, and felt herself falling forwards. Just before she hit the ground, she felt a hand wrap tightly around her upper arm and yank her upwards.



Emily looked up at her saviour and, from the bolt of electricity that had just shot through her arm, wasn't surprised to see Draco smirking down at her. She shrugged his hand roughly off her arm, glared at him, pushed in front of him, and somehow managed to trip over her feet again. She could hear Draco chuckle behind her back, as she struggled to steady herself, and she felt her anger rekindle again. She was about to turn around and give him a piece of her mind, when Snape's voice whispered harshly through the gloom. "Come," he whispered harshly. "The clearing is just ahead...."


Forgetting her anger for the moment, Emily went quickly after Snape. She saw him disappear into some thick bramble and, grimacing, she followed. She ducked down, scrambled through, trying desperately to ignore the thorns that scratched her and soon found herself crawling into a clearing. Snape stood a little way off, waiting - and Emily got quickly to her feet and made her way over to him.



Draco soon followed, looking harried and dishevelled. He came out of the undergrowth, got to his feet, and approached them, flicking fine needles off his clothes as he came. "Really, Severus," he drawled, as he looked disdainfully down at the state of his clothing. "Can't you find a civil way of travelling?"



However, Snape was in no mood for Draco's harping on. "Hush, Draco," he hissed, giving Draco a look of irritation. Then motioning them forward with his hand, he continued. "Come now, come closer, it is here that I must leave you. However, before I go I have things of import to tell you...."



"Where must you go, Severus," Draco questioned him again.



"I have already told you Draco - I cannot disclose that information to you - However, I do have things of great importance to tell you..." Snape stopped, eyeing Draco intently, to see if the impertinent boy would interrupt him again and on seeing the boy look properly abashed, he continued. "Firstly," he said, watching them both closely. "Try and not to use any magic unless you are in the up most danger, do you understand? The enemy now knows how to trace magic - so it is imperative that you understand this - so I ask once again, do you understand?" Snape paused, waiting for their reaction.



Emily looked down at Luna's wand in her hand and felt rather odd. Draco, stood next to her, nodded to Snape, showing that he understood.



Snape, obviously satisfied with their reaction, nodded. "Good," he stated simply, and he then delved his hand into his cloak. He soon brought out, what looked like to Emily, a map and a compass. "These," he said, beckoning Draco forward and dropping them in his hands. "Are called a map and compass, they will help you to get to Knarlesdale..."



"Are they magic," Draco enquired dubiously, eyeing the strange objects in his hands and Emily couldn't help but giggle.



"No, they are not magic, Draco," Snape continued, shooting a glare at the still giggling Emily. "They are a Muggle invention - I'm sure Miss Carlisle will know how to use them..."



"Muggle," Draco spat out, sneering down at the objects that he held in his hands in disgust. "I will not handle Muggle things! - Here," he said, thrusting them towards Emily, who stepped forward to take them. She snatched them off of Draco and gave him a glare. You didn't mind touching Muggle things last night, she thought to herself, as she folded the map into her back pocket and tried to work out the compass.



"Remember that we are to meet in two days time and that if I do not make it in time Draco, you and Potter must make your own way to Hogwarts. Do not wait for me - it would be highly dangerous! And, you Miss Carlisle, after Harry has reached you, must proceed back to the safety of your own home..."



"But -"



"I'm not going anywhere with Potter...."



However, both Emily and Draco's protests were cut off as, with a swish of his cloak, Snape disappeared into the undergrowth and Disapparated!



*




With Snape's sudden departure, Emily and Draco found themselves alone and Emily couldn't help but shiver. Whether from fear, the cold, or from Draco's presence - she did not know! All did know, was that she had the most horrible feeling of foreboding. As she stared blankly at the compass, deep in thought, she felt Draco step up behind her. He rested his hand lightly on her back and in a slightly, mocking tone, spoke to her. "So, Emily," he whispered, winding his arm around her waist, and placing his chin on her shoulder. "Are you going to do your best to protect me? Do you think I need protection?"



Emily slowly turned her face to his, and looking into his pale, grey eyes, shuddered again. "I'll do my best to," she answered him truthfully. "If you need my protection that is..."



Draco wrapped his arms even tighter around her and dropped a small kiss on the curve of her neck. "Good," he whispered softly, sending small tingles all the way down her spine. "Because I have a feeling I'm going to need it."








A/N: I'm so sorry that this chapter took so long, but I'm sure most of you know that the last couple of moths have been troublesome for me, to say the least, lol! But, now that most of my problems have been sorted out, I will be posting on a more regular basis. Hopefully every two to three weeks. A big thank you to everybody who has stuck with me, I love you all for your unbelievable patience.



Emmie xxx xxx xxx



Chapter 20: By The Pricking Of My Thumbs, Something Wicked This Way Comes
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By The Pricking Of My Thumbs, Something Wicked This Way Comes






Chapter Twenty








The sun was setting overhead, a deep orange glow fading into the darkness of the oncoming night. Down below, in the heart of the forest, under tall and ancient trees, there stood a young man and a young lady. They did not know that the day had slowly faded into night, nor did they notice a half starved that scuttled across their paths. They had thoughts only for each other, for the future, for hidden dangers still to come. A map and compass lay abandoned, forgotten, on the hard, frost bitten ground, as the couple remained lost in each other, engrossed in their own thoughts.



The young man stood behind her, holding onto her tightly, breathing in her sweet essence that always seemed to calm him so; the young woman, who he held, leaned against him, her eyes closed and her cheek pressed to his, content to be in his presence, happy to be held so close. The future ahead of them looked ominous, both could almost taste the perils yet to come, but for the moment, they were comforted by the refuge of each other's arms....


*



A shuddering sigh of discontent escaped the young man's lips; leaving its mark on the darkening night, and as the world faded into dusk around them, he reluctantly released his hold on the young woman's waist.
"Time to move now, Emily," he spoke quietly, unwilling to let the words out; Emily let out a sigh almost as heavy as his own.
"Do we have to," Emily mumbled out, more to herself than him, missing his touch already. No reply came, just the crackling of dry, brittle leaves underfoot as he moved away from her. Wrapping her arms around herself, against the cold night air, she took a small step forward. Bending down, she picked up the abandoned compass and map, the ones she had let fall so easily from her fingers earlier, and began to study them; Draco approached her from the side.



"Emily," he asked, his voice somewhat strained. "Do you actually know how to work those things? He pointed an accusing finger to the compass held in her hands.
She glanced up at him and saw him looking dubiously down at her. She blushed. "Well, um...er...."
"Emily..." he warned, his voice now a thin line.
"I think South is this way," she said, pointing with her finger, and turned away quickly from his accusing eyes, not wanting him to see her flushed countenance. "So, therefore, North should be this way...." Her voice trailed off uncertainly.




"You have no idea how to use them, do you?" he accused flatly, catching the indecision in her voice, and then rolling his eyes towards heaven as if addressing the Gods, he continued. "Dear Merlin, help me! I'm stuck alone in the woods with a Muggle - and a Muggle who doesn't even know how to use bloody Muggle things, at that!"



Emily instantly bridled at these words, and her anger ignited. "Just because I've been Muggle-raised... it does not mean I know everything about Muggle things," she snapped out through gritted teeth. "Infact," she continued, turning to face him, her voice raised. "I've only been camping once - and that was when I was seven, and my dad took care of the orienteering side of things! So," she paused for breath, placed her hands on her hips, and gave him her best intimidating stare. "I would appreciate it, very much, if you would stop bloody presuming things, ferret!" (Her last words being whispered under her breath, as she swung away from him and headed towards the trees.)



From behind her, she could hear him chuckling.
"Well, at least I can say that this journey will be entertaining," he chortled, watching her as she turned a circle with the compass held out in her hand. "But," he continued, feeling smug, "you'll probably be the death of me - Carlisle, what exactly are you supposed to be doing?"
He watched her bemusedly as she swung backwards and forwards, turning the compass repeatedly in her hand.



Emily ignored him deliberately, choosing instead to continue with her strange pacing. Moving back and forth for a few minutes more, she kept up her strange behaviour until, at last, a disgruntled 'ugh' escaped her mouth.
"What is it, Emily," Draco asked, moving up beside her, "What on earth is wrong with you?"
And Emily, clearly exasperated, let it all out.
"Whatever way I turn, not matter what direction," she wailed out to him, her eyes filled with desperation. "The bloody thing just keeps pointing in the same direction - I can't work it at all!"



Sensing that Emily was clearly near the end of her tether, Draco took control of the quickly deteriorating situation. Placing his arm around her shoulders, he pulled her to him, and held her close. Then prising the compass out of her fingers, he studied it.
"Stop worrying about it, Em," he spoke softly, as he felt her tremble against him. "It's not your fault that the damnable Muggle invention doesn't work - I was only teasing..."
"But," Emily broke in, her voice sounding raw. "I'm meant to b - be protecting you..."
Her voice trailed off into what sounded like a sob. Her shoulders hitched.
"Your right," she told him, mournfully. "I'm hopeless!"



Draco began to regret his earlier teasing. To tell the truth, he hadn't expected her to react this way; Emily, until now, had shown that she was more than a match for him. In fact, Draco recalled, it usually took a lot more than this to bring her to this point of emotional breakdown.
Sighing wearily, he cursed his earlier actions. Obviously, he could now see, she was much more upset and worried about things than she had let on - they all were! However, the fact that she was actually, genuinely, concerned about his welfare - about him, made him feel tremendously guilty.



Stupid, treacherous, fool! The voice in his head that was his father's spoke up. The girl is not worthy of your feelings... Malfoys do not feel guilt!
Draco shook his head ferociously, not wanting to listen to this vindictive diatribe. His father's words, always callous, had been proven wrong several years ago... So, why on earth, he was still listening to them now - he did not know! Somehow, he knew, that now was the time to stop listening to these viscous, old lessons - that now was the time to step forth and be his own man! Finally reaching a milestone in his life - something vital inside him changed.



"C'mon, Emily," he whispered down to the girl he held, still trembling in his arms. "Honestly, Em - is it worth your tears?"
Emily stilled, and hiccoughed back a startled sob. Then wiping her hand across her reddened eyes, she mumbled into his chest.
"I just feel so useless..."
"Don't we all," he replied, unable to keep back his weary sigh, he then bowing his head to kiss her hair. "But, Em - tears won't help us now..."
Lifting her head sharply, somehow sensing a change in him, Emily stared.
"Sorry," she whispered up to him, detangling herself from his arms. "I don't know why - I'm sorry - I'm not myself..." She continued in strained tones.
Rolling his eyes, and grabbing her to him again, he wrapped her tightly in his arms.
"Don't be silly, Emily," he told her, breathing in her scent. "I don't want your apologies - I was just stating a fact..."
"But, you sounded so cold," she protested into his chest again. "I just don't know how to cope anymore - it's all too much for me..." Another strangled sob hitched in her throat.



Sighing again, but this time more softly, Draco took hold of her chin and forced her eyes up to meet with his.
"Emily," he said gently, hoping to soften his words to come. "You should be used to this by now - this is just the way I am; you know this - and if we're ever to survive the next couple of days - you have to accept it..."
Then, feeling her tense, he added on more softly, "It's just me - I don't mean to hurt you, Emily..."
A familiar smirk then worked its way onto his lips, and he continued with a wicked gleam in his eye.
"I'll try to be a good boy, I promise...."



Emily eyes narrowed, as she watched him closely. Even though his lips were pulled in that old, familiar smirk, Emily sensed that something had changed about him. He seemed different - more determined, more accomplished, as if though something fundamental about him had changed. Although, his previous words had stung her somehow, running then through her mind, she could now see the sense in them - a newfound maturity in them. Whereas before, his words had held endless gripes, moans and (of course) riddles, there now seemed to be a sense of purpose behind them. They no longer felt like jibes and jests at Emily's expense, but more like a statement of truth - and Emily could actually see the sense behind them; standing around crying and moping would do them no good!



Searching his eyes for some sort of answer to her newfound questions, Emily asked him quietly, if not a little obscurely, "What's happened?"
Draco raised his eyebrows high. "What ever do you mean? Is your memory really that bad - do you need a recap? As I recall, it started when..."
She cut him off, ""You know what I mean ... You're different, acting different - what's happened?"
Draco's face was impenetrably smooth; a small smirk still tugged at the corner of his lips.
"Really, Carlisle," he drawled, sounding more like the old Draco she knew and loved. "I'm beginning to worry about you ... I think somewhere along the line - your brains have addled..."
"Stop it," she snapped, slipping easily back into their old routine. "You know full well what I'm talking about..."
"Oh, Em," he grinned, his arm tightening around her, pulling her in closer and changing the subject. "You're such a pretty, little Mudblood..."



Despite his use of that offensive name, and the fact he was obviously steering her thoughts away from the subject; Emily flushed prettily.
"You shouldn't use that word," she admonished him lightly, but her words held no force in them. "I - It's not nice..." Her words stuttered off as she caught that certain gleam, shining in his clear, grey eyes; his eyes looked hungry.
"Oh," she gasped lightly, recognising the look and its meaning. Then as his head bowed, lips parted in a knowing smile; precise eyes challenging hers, Emily's eyes fluttered close; her lips parted and she waited.



All too soon, his mouth found hers; moulding them together perfectly. The kiss was soft, gentle and tender, his lips moving languidly against hers. His hand un-cupped her chin, moved gently across her cheek until, finally, it ended up in her hair; entwining her locks in between his fingers.
Emily, enjoying the sweet sensations and odd tenderness of the kiss, trailed her fingers up his chest and encircled them around his neck; pushing close against him, her head automatically dipped to the side, positioning itself for the perfect fit.



Lips against lips, open and parted, moving slowly, intensely, against each other; tongues darting in, licking, tasting, brushing against teeth - moving in perfect motion, moving in a perfect kiss. The kiss was not about passion, was not about lust, but about need and belonging, and the joy of being close; Emily, somewhere in the back of her mind as the languorous kiss continued, gradually came to realise - that something in their relationship had shifted.




Eventually, feeling soothed and calmed, Emily pulled away slowly, breaking the kiss. Laying her head down, resting it there on his shoulder, Emily let herself be held; for now, she just wanted to enjoy the sensations of being held close. Time ticked by slowly and quietly, the sky above darkened all the more, and Emily remained in his arms, smiling contentedly. However, all too soon for her liking, Draco's voice blundered its way into her contentment.
"Um, Em - as much as I'm enjoying this interlude - we really must get going. Haven't you noticed how dark it's getting?"



Sighing out loudly, she lifted her head, ready to give him her most dissatisfied look - when she noticed just how dark it was. Her forehead, instead, pulled into a puzzled frown and, with perplexed eyes, she asked him quietly, "What time is it, Draco?"
"A quarter to three..."
"But, it shouldn't be this dark this early," she rushed out, suddenly alert. "What on earth...."
"Well, I suspect," he interrupted her sharply, but not unkindly. "...that the Dark Lord may have something to do with this..."
Emily looked at him sharply.
"It's been dark for ages now - how long have we been stood here? An hour, maybe 45 minutes - it's much too early! That means it must have begun getting dark at around 1.45..." Her words trailed off, as she became thoughtful.
"That's why I suggest we should move on now," Draco said smoothly, gently detangling her from his arms. "This obviously isn't natural - and I have a bad feeling about it..."
"But, we don't know which way is North," Emily wailed out, feeling a sudden fear descend on her. "Which way should we go..."
"That way," answered Draco, pointing over her shoulder towards a narrow path amongst the trees. "We go that way..."
"But, how do we know it's the right way..." she argued, her fear of the dark making her anxious.
"We don't, for sure," he answered quickly, taking her hand and pulling her to his side. "But, if I remember rightly from old Astronomy class - that star on the left is meant to represent the North - and, quite frankly, Emily - we have to keep moving..."



Swallowing down her fear, and clutching tightly onto his hand, Emily nodded.
"You're right," she answered him quickly, "we must keep going - I'll follow you..."
Draco snorted disdainfully.
"Of course you'll follow me, Emily," he teased, amusement glinting in his eyes. "You have no other option! What with you being afraid of the dark and all..."
She glared back up at him, telling him untruthfully, "I'm not afraid of the dark, Malfoy..."
"Of course you're not," Draco answered gleefully, "not at all, Carlisle! You just look like a scared rabbit because..."
"I am not scared, Malfoy!"
"...a scared yet very adorable rabbit at th..."
She kicked him swiftly on the ankle, smirking when she saw him wince and glare down at her.
"Really, Carlisle - do you always resort to physical violence..."
"Only with you, Malfoy," she retorted smugly.
"I was giving you a compliment, Carlisle..."
"I do not in any shape or form look like a rabbit..."
"I just told you that you're adorable - you should be falling at my feet..."
"The only time I fall at your feet, Malfoy - is when you bloody push me..."
"You're still holding my hand, Carlisle..."
Emily was momentarily silenced, and she was glad the darkness hid the burn on her cheeks; Draco, taking advantage of her embarrassment, took the opportunity to carry on teasing her, "So, do you like holding my hand, Emily?"




Declining to answer him verbally, Emily just walked on quietly beside him; deciding to answer him instead - by still holding tightly onto his hand. Somehow, she knew that this was his way of helping her take her mind off things, and although she did not like the blushes - she appreciated his intervention, even though it was at her expense.
"So, what about me kissing you - do you like my kisses, Em?"
"I've had better..."
"Oh, I seriously doubt it..."
"You're so arrogant..."
"Do you like arrogant men?"
"No!"
"Just me then..."
"I don't like you, Malfoy - I may lust after you for some unknown reason, but I really don..."
"Did you like the way I made love to..."
"Stop it, Malfoy!"
"Are you blushing, Emily?"
"No!" she lied, bushing furiously.



And, bickering away contently, still hand in hand, Emily and Draco disappeared into the forage, losing themselves amongst the trees.


*


After leaving Luna at the top of Charring Cross Road, Harry made his way down to Covent Garden. He didn't fancy entering The Ministry of Magic the way most employees did, so instead he decided to go by foot. He loved walking down Muggle streets unknown, as it gave him a feeling of total anonymity; he could be anybody walking down these streets, no one bothered him and no one stared, and that was just the way he liked it! These were the only times he truly felt free and unburdened of all responsibilities. Walking these streets, he was not The-Boy-Who-Lived, nor was he The Saviour of the Wizarding World - he was simply Harry, a normal 20 year-old young man who could roam anonymously along the bustling streets without a care in the world!



Covent Garden also happened to be one of the streets he liked to wander down the most. He loved the vibrant atmosphere, the hustle and bustle of be-suited office workers scurrying their way back from lunch. He loved the jostle of the tourists, their happy banter ringing out in nearly every language imaginable. He loved the street performers too: the living statues, the established buskers, clowns, magicians and street artists. Everything about this place felt alive, everything the place somehow soothed him. Unlike Emily, he suddenly thought to himself, recalling Emily's fear of overcrowded spaces.



But, he didn't want to think of her right now - he had other things to think of. Like getting hold of the bloody ferret's wand, and getting to talk to Hermione before he had to meet (and report in to) Luna in a couple of hours time. He had told no one about his plans of contacting Hermione, not even Snape, for he knew his plans would go down like a lead balloon with them. He was truly sick of being with the Slytherin's, even Emily to a certain degree, and he longed for the company of his friends. Even though The Sorting Hat had almost sorted him into Slytherin, being stuck with two of the worst ones grated on him and addled his nerves. For all his earlier protesting, he was glad to be going to the Ministry, and he was glad he would soon be seeing Hermione.



Suddenly, realising that time was slipping away from him; Harry began to quicken his pace. Pushing his way (with many an excuse me and sorry) through the crowd that littered Covent Gardens Antique Market, Harry made his way forward, regretting the fact he didn't have the time to look amongst the strange little curios scattered here and there. His battle through the crowd was a hard one, but, finally, Harry found himself outside the familiar, old, red telephone box he had entered all those years ago with Arthur Wesley.



Dialling 62442 quickly, a female dissembled voice filled the air and asked him his name and business; a mischievous grin spread over Harry's face. Stating his name, Harry Potter, his business as - saving the Wearing World, Harry felt proud of himself. He only wished Ron could be there to chortle over his joke with him. A Silver badge soon popped out and when Harry saw his name and business sparkle back up at him in magical lettering, he could not help but snigger. The telephone box then plummeted, Harry's stomach plummeted with it, and in no time at all - Harry was at The Atrium level.



Hurrying a long across the hall, he passed the Fountain of Magical Brethren quickly, and was soon at the Golden Gates. Eric Munch, who still handled security, jaw dropped open as he saw Harry approach.
"Name and business, show me your badge," he shot out on autopilot, as Harry rolled his eyes at him. "We'll have to check you're wan..."
"Eric, it's me, Harry," Harry snapped irritably, "just let me through..."
"But, I have to - you used the visitors..."
"But, you know me, Eric - just let..."
"Then why did you use the Vies...."
"Because I felt like it, okay! Now, just let me through," said Harry, his voice raising. Eric visibly flinched at Harry's tone and turning away from him with a scowl, he waved Harry dismissively on. More than a little annoyed at Eric, and glad to be on his way, Harry made his way down to the lifts. A lift on his right instantly opened, as he passed, and Harry scuttled quickly in.




The lift, thankfully, was not too full, Harry noticed. A witch, a Goblin and a distracted, old wizard (who was tugging fretfully on his beard) were the only other occupants. The witch, who was quite young, kept blushing and giving Harry furtive looks, while the Goblin and wizard ignored him, and Harry was thankful that was all he had to endure. The lift started to descend; past Level One, the floor he wanted to be on, and down to Level Two, to the floor that he was heading. The doors slid open and Harry slunk out, feeling grateful that he had escaped too much unwanted attention.



He quickly set off down the corridor, and feeling glad that it was deserted, he soon came to the door that he wanted. Pushing it open, it suddenly dawned on him that he had not yet made a plan. However, with a shrug of the shoulders, he decided he would bluff it, as bluffing had always worked well for him before, and he boldly steeped into the room. At the desk opposite, Cho Chang sat and Harry thanked his lucky stars.



Cho looked up inquiringly, her eyes widening when she saw Harry stood there.
"H - Harry," she stuttered out. "How nice it is to see you..."
Her voice trailed off, and Harry noted that she looked extremely uncomfortable, extremely uncomfortable indeed - and he decided to use it to his advantage. Smiling nervously, he stepped towards her and let a small frown furrow his brow.
"Nice to see you too, Cho," he smiled sweetly, "but, I wish it were under better circumstances..."
"Oh, what do you mean, Harry," she cried, sounding anxious and guilty at the same time. "What's happened?"



Ever since they had dated unsuccessfully in Harry's Fifth Year, Cho had always acted strangely around him, as if though she still blamed herself for past events and, to tell the truth, Harry still felt awkward around her too. However, the strange upside to all this was that he and Cho could not remain in each other's company for more than five minutes and Harry took advantage of this.
"Do you know what, Cho," Harry said, making his voice really faint. "I don't feel well, could you get me..."
"A glass of water, of course I can Harry!" Cho jumped up instantly, and sped through a door in the room.




As quick as lightening, Harry bolted round the desk and pointed his wand at the cabinet standing there.
"Alohomora!" he whispered, and the cabinet doors flew open. Quickly scanning the shelves, he looked for the one marked with an M; in next to no time, he found it, and searching along it frantically - his hand soon clamped over the wand tagged with Draco Malfoy's name. Pleased, that his notorious luck still held true, Harry pocketed the wand, without delay, spelled the cabinet shut and was on his feet and heading to the door.



He was out the door in a flash, happily speeding towards the lifts. Pressing hard down on the up button, he was glad that Cho would not find his disappearance strange, as they often found themselves in odd situations such as this, and running away between them not being an uncommon thing. He rubbed hard over the ridge of his nose as he waited, impatiently, for the lift to come - and yet again, Harry's luck stayed with him, as the lift came up almost immediately. He jumped into the lift, which was thankfully empty, and was soon brought to Level One.



He was soon outside Hermione's department, hanging back inconspicuously, not wanting to be seen. He, wholeheartedly, wished he had thought to stop off for his invisibility cloak, as that would of helped would have helped his current mission perfectly. He hung back furtively, kicking himself for not having made any forward thinking plans, and waited for a trustworthy person to pass by; Neville ambling towards him soon rewarded his short wait.



Emerging from the shadows, he reached out and grabbed Neville's arm; Neville stumbled backwards with a squeak.
"It's only me, Neville," Harry whispered, patting Neville's arm awkwardly. "I don't want to be seen, but I need to see Hermione..."
However, before Harry could finish, Neville squeaked out eagerly, "I'll get her for you, Harry."
Pleased at this turn of events, Harry smiled tightly, closed his eyes and nodded.
"Thanks, Neville," he said, feeling stretched and at the end of his tether - then remembering his manners he opened his eyes and added, "I really appreciate it."
Neville, still looking eager and apprehensive, nodded back to him. "I'll go get her, Harry" he nodded eagerly, "I think she's been expecting you - she'll be pleased to see you..."
Harry closed his eyes and nodded again, and with a "Thanks, Neville," he sighed wearily.
Neville, watching Harry's expression carefully, soon decided it was for the best to fetch Hermione now, and he quickly darted into the room.



Hermione was there in an instant!
"Harry," she cried, overwhelmed by emotion, and throwing herself at him. "I'm so happy you're here - I've been so worried since your letter... I did not know what to do! I have been so busy and overworked - this department is a mess! What is happening, Harry? You are letter - is Emily safe? I've tried to find our more about the key - but I've been so busy!"
She then lowered her voice, speaking very quietly.
"What about Snape," she hissed softly, "is it true - is he back..." Her words trailed off as she looked intently into Harry's blank face, waiting for an answer.
Harry blinked a couple of times, surprised by her onslaught, before answering.
"I can't tell you everything here, Hermione," Harry answered her, "but, in a few days I hope to be back at Hogwarts, and after a chat with Dumbledore I'll be able to answer a few more things..."
"But, Harry," she interrupted, "I need to go to the top with this information - I can't withhold it no more, it's killing me! There are just so many implications..."
Harry cut her off.
"No, you can't Hermione - not yet.... This situation needs time, The Order is involved - you can't speak out till I've spoken with Dumbledore..."
"But, Harry," Hermione almost wailed, "it's killing me - I just don't know what to do..."
"Just keep some Aurors on standby - I've a feeling we will need them - when I've spoken to Dumbledore..."
"But, Harry - all our trained Aurors are out! Oh, what am I going to do," she trailed off, clutching at her head as if it hurt.
"Don't worry, Hermione," Harry said, stroking her arm abstractedly. "I know you; you'll work something out..."
"I'll try to, Harry," she broke in, rubbing distractingly at her temple. "Bur, can't you tell me some more..."
"I can Hermione, but maybe somewhere more private-" His voice broke off suddenly, as the feeling that someone was watching them took over him.




A silence fell...



...and Neville seemed to appear out of nowhere.



"I - I - I'm sorry," he stuttered, "I didn't mean to interrupt, only you're needed Hermione..." His voice trailed off uncertainly, as Harry and Hermione took in deep breaths.
"What did you hear then, Neville," Hermione shot out, "did you hear everything..."
"I heard some," Neville, answered truthfully, "I promise I won't tell..."
"Oh, shut up," Hermione snapped, biting down on her lip in concentration. Then her eyes began to sparkle as an idea came to her.
"Actually, Neville," she said calmly, with an air of determination. "I think you can head this investigation."
Neville gaped, and Harry rubbed at his sore head.
"Yes," she continued, "Dean and Seams can work with you, and I can call in a few standbys..." Then falling into silence, Hermione began to formulate her plans.



Harry, on seeing he was not needed now, began to feel restless. He could see that Hermione was now formulating her own schemes and plans, and he felt unwanted. Neville was looking at Hermione eagerly, and Hermione was ruminating over her own thoughts, so Harry decided it was time to leave.
Glancing down at his watch, he saw he had an hour or so until he met Luna. Enough time to clear things in my own head, he thought, and knowing that it was time to leave, he stepped closer to Hermione.



"I'm off now, Hermione," he told her, "I have to meet with someone soon..."
His words snapped Hermione out of her trance.
"Oh, don't go, Harry," she begged, eyes wide and pleading. "There's still so much to know..."
"No, Hermione," Harry replied, softening his words with a gentle smile. "I really have to go now..."
Sensing his seriousness, Hermione wrapped her arms around him and kissed his cheek; Harry blushed.
"If you must, Harry," she told him, softly. "But, please keep in contact - I need to..."
Harry cut her off.
"I'll be in contact," he told her, truthfully, and turned to go. "Expect to hear from me in three days..."




Hermione turned to protest, but on seeing the set of his shoulders, desisted. Watching him leave, she then let out a disgruntled sigh, and then turning to Neville, she ushered him over.
"Right then, Neville," she instructed, focusing her attention on him. "This is what will do...."
In addition, somehow understanding Harry's needs, she let him go without a word.


*



Smiling hazily, Luna ambled happily into The Quibbler's main building, and smiling at everyone and no one in particular, she meandered her way to her father's office. Busy wizards and witches hustled and bustled past her, sometimes stopping to offer a bright 'hello' before continuing with their work, and Luna smiled dreamily back at them, glad to be amongst the bustle of her father's offices.
Dim candles flickered overhead, lighting the big circular office with its warm, golden light; recalling Luna back to her happy childhood. Coalescing scents assaulted her nostrils; scents of pen, ink and paper; Butterbeer and Firewhiskey all mingled together to take her back in time and as Luna drifted towards her fathers office door, she felt as if she was truly home.



As she passed through his door, a slightly older girl passed out. The girl had bright blue hair, and her eyes had a strange violet tinge. Luna instantly recognised her as Nymphadora Tonks.
"Wotcha, Luna," she greeted her cheerfully, as she breezed past. "How's it going?"
Smiling dreamily at Tonk's purple eyebrows, Luna replied, "Fine, thank you, Nymph Dora - how are you and Remus?"
"Oh, we're both fine," said Tonks with a wink. "But, sorry, must dash - I've places to go and people to see," she laughed happily, and with another wink and a wave for Luna, Tonks dashed hurriedly off.
Luna stared absently after Tonks retreating back for a minute or two, wondering if she should change her eyebrow colour too - and then entered the office.



"Hallo, Daddy," she greeted him, and going up to him she gave the blond haired man with a dropping, blond moustache a peck on the cheek. "How are you today? I need to go into the archive room today, Daddy - I'm helping friends out, so could I please have the key?"
Mr. Lovegood beamed proudly down at his daughter, chortling out loudly, "Of course you can, sweetheart - in fact, you're the second young lady to ask today!"
"Is that why Nymphadora Tonks was here," she enquired absently, making her way to the enormous flowerpot in the corner and pulling out the key.
Her father chuckled.
"Exactly, Luna - Exactly!" he exclaimed, rubbing his hands together. "She wanted information on The Key of Loth..."
"Oh, really," Luna interrupted, looking enquiringly at her father, her interest piqued. "Did she want to know about The New Dark Lord too...?"
"Ha Ha!" her father laughed jovially, although his had narrowed into thoughtful slits. "Hmmn, The New Dark Lord, huh? Well, rumour has it that a certain wiza..." But, whatever he was going to say was rudely interrupted by the entrance of a rather tired looking vampire.
"Ah, Vincent," he cried, clapping his hands together. "Very good to see you - very good to see you indeed! You're right on time, my boy - right on time! Step right in and take a seat..."
Seeing that her father was now distracted, and there was nothing else to be learnt from him at the moment, Luna slipped out of his office unnoticed and unhurriedly made her way down to the Archive room.



On her knees, with a dusty old box opened before her, Luna began her search through the box labelled, L - All Articles Dated From: 1st of June 1999 to 31st of December 1999.
She riffled through slowly, lingering over the odd headlines that often caught her eye.

WORLD EXCLUSIVE! FEMALE MUGGLE WEDS TROLL! MY LIFE WITH LUMPY! MISS AMANDA DURKE TELLS ALL!

Creul people would call my Lumpy ugly and stupid, but to me he is my Prince Charming...

THE HOUSE-ELVES ARE REVOLTING! WE'VE HAD ENOUGH AND WE WON'T PUT UP WITH IT! DINKY SAYS, THE TRUTH WILL BE TOLD! A TALE OF SMELLY SOCKS AND OVEN BURNS! NOT FOR THE FAINT-HEARTED!

Dinky, House-elf to...

LUCIUS MALFOY, ALIVE AND KICKING IN BLACKPOOL! EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT!

A true account of how Madeline Warbunkle spotted the notorious Death Eater alive and well in Blackpool. 'It was him I tell you, it was him,' stated Miss Warbunkle to our reporter. 'He was walking down the pier, large as live, with a red wig and a cowboy hat on...

The Key of Loth - How It Works and How It Could Kill You....





Coming to the Article she wanted, Luna carefully took it out, along with some other articles, which had caught her attention. Folding the papers neatly, she slid them under her robe and, after closing the box and putting it back on the shelf, she quietly left the room; deep in thought.




When she reached her father's office, she saw at once that it was empty. She walked right in, past the wide-open door and dropped the key back in the flowerpot; she stopped suddenly, trying to recall something important, and it slowly came back to her. Scuttling over to her father's desk, she picked up a quill, found a spare scrap of paper and began to scribble.
Daddy, she wrote.
I'm very sorry, Daddy. But, I forget to tell you that I won't be home for a couple of days. Please don't worry, I'll be safe with Harry - we're off to find The New Dark Lord.
Love you, Daddy,
Your loving daughter, Luna

Then putting the quill aside and placing the note on top of his cigar case, Luna left the room. She made her way through the building, waving her goodbyes to the staff she knew and was soon out on the pavement.



An unusual expression came over her face, making her look more absent minded than usual. However, the fact was that Luna was deep in thought; she had seen something that had intrigued her, something that had stood out and, thinking on it, she had a feeling that that something might have something to do with....
Harry, she thought. I must have a chat with Harry! Then, realising she had no idea what time it actually was, Luna started to amble down the street towards The Leaky Cauldron, lunch and Harry.


*



Severus Snape was thinking; thinking about his past, thinking about his present, and most of all, he was thinking about his future. Which all combined, left him in a very dour mood - a very dour mood indeed? The bleak and insipid landscape that surrounded him - did not conspire to lighten his mood either. So, all in all, it must be said, Snape was not in the best of moods.
A blackened, storm cloud hung over his head, a scowl etched a deep line across his brow, and his lips twitched into the tightest of lines until his lips almost disappeared altogether.
He had recently concluded that he had spent the latter (and therefore biggest) part of his life in the company of lunatics, lunatics who wanted power and were capable of doing anything to get it! He had also come to the conclusion, that although they often spoke to him of words of the future glory ahead for him - that he was merely nothing more to them than a glorified lap-dog.
These thoughts, to say the least, were none too pleasing to Severus.




Discovering that one has spent the most of one's life at the disposal of others was a sore point with Severus, a point that had him gritting his teeth in anger as he seethed internally. Although others thought him of one the highest in ranking, the truth of it was, he held little power underneath them, and the little power he did hold could easily be yanked away from him in a heartbeat.
He wasn't foolish enough to believe that a quick 'Avada Kedavra!' wouldn't be cast his way if any one of his Master's had suspected him of gaining too much power, no, not he. He was well aware that both his Master's, as soon as they attained their goal, would have him out of the way in an instant!
Both men, who he had to call Master, were skilled and accomplished Wizards, especially his former Lord and Master , who was indeed a Wizard of Great Skill and Cunning! Neither men (nor being) that he had worked under had trusted him, both of them knowing of his great skills as an Occlumens and a Legilimens, both of them knowing him all too well!




Voldemort, his first Lord and Master, had been aware of his double-dealings nearing the end of the war - and Snape had known that his time on earth was nearly up. However, just when things were looking particularly bleak for him, that brat of a boy Potter had well and truly taken care of Voldemort; leaving the Wizarding World free of fear at last!
He had been free; free of all the wearying lies and deceptions, free to choose a path of his own - when Dumbledore had called him to him. In addition, after Dumbledore had reminded him of all his past sins, he had found himself back on a very perilous road indeed; his only consolation being he now found himself safeguarding Draco - a boy far more worthy of his protection than Potter in his humble opinion.



Snape let out a weary sigh. He had been regressing, thinking over things that neither mattered nor did one well to dwell upon. The past was past, the future was what mattered and he, Severus Snape, had better things to be mulling over; such as what he could tell and what he could not tell his new Master!
Master, he thought, his lips twisting into a snarl. Oh, how it galled him calling that man, Master! That he, Severus Snape, one of the most talented and skilled Wizards left in the world today - was made to bow and scrape at the feet of his one time friend! That he, the most feared Professor in Hogwarts, was forced to grovel to a man with lesser power than he did! At least, under Voldemort he'd known he was serving a greater wizar...
His musings came to an abrupt halt - as he heard a twig snap behind him.



In the skip of a heartbeat, Snape had his wand pointed at his unknown assailant, and with an incantation already formed on his lips he stood poised to strike. The boy who had surprised him stood frozen, not daring to move an inch, for he knew very well what an encounter with this dangerous man would do to him. Not wanting to end up dead - or worse the boy waited a moment or two before speaking.
"It's me, Profess..."
"I can see who you are boy," snapped out Snape, angrily. "What in Merlin's name were you thinking of sneaking up on me like that?" He shot the boy a penetrating glare.
"I didn't mean to sneak, sir," said the boy with a hint of sullenness. "I was sent - for my instructions..."
"Well, your instructions are to follow them, keep them in sight, to try and ensure they're s..."
"I know that already, sir," said the boy, somewhat heatedly. "Not meaning to be rude, sir - but I meant about the key..."
A brief silence fell as both contemplated in silence for a while until, with a flicker of distaste crossing his face, Snape made up his mind.
"For the moment, The Key is not your concern - just follow your orders boy and don't bother me unless you bring fresh news - is that clear?" Snape sent the boy a piercing glare.
"Perfectly clear," answered the boy, his face turning red. Then with mouth twisting in aversion, he continued, "I know my orders, sir!"
"Then be gone," said Snape, with a dismissive flick of the hand. "I have no need for you here..." Then, turning his back, Severus began to walk away. From behind him, he heard the angry pop of the boy's apparent Disapparation and, after waiting a few moments more, Snape Disapparated too.


*



Emily was tired and her legs felt weary, so she decided to tell Draco.
"I'm so tired, Draco," she muttered into the crook of his neck where her head was resting. "Can't we have a rest now..."
"No," snapped back Draco, his arm still wrapped snugly round her waist. "Oh, do stop moaning, Emily!"
"You can talk," she muttered back tiredly, swatting his chest with her hand. "You've done nothing but moan!"
"That's not moaning, it's called stating facts, Em..."
"It sounded like moaning to m..."
"This is just a plot to get me to carry you, isn't it?"
Emily giggled into his neck and whispered, "My hero..."
"Stop it, that tickles," he grumbled, rolling his eyes at her.
"Moan, moan, moan, moan, moan," giggled Emily again, tickling him even more.



Draco suddenly let go of her waist, and stepped out in front of her.
"Just admit it, Carlisle," he drawled, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively, as he towered over her. "You want me to carry you..."
"Draco, if I walk another step my legs will fall off," she cried, staring defiantly back up at him.
"I'll hex your legs off soon - I'm warning you, Emily..."
"Oh, what a big, scary, Death-Eater you are," giggled Emily again, deciding she must be delirious from fatigue.
That was the final straw, Draco suddenly flipped!



One minute she had her legs firmly on the ground, the next she was heaved, ungracefully, over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. Giggling madly, Emily half heartily flailed her legs in the air, as he carried her away and, trying her best to sound forceful, she wailed her protestations out loudly.
"Stop it - put me down this instant," she scolded, beginning to feel nauseous from his jerky motions, and just as soon as the words escaped her lips, she found herself being, unceremoniously, dumped to the ground.



"Ouch," she yelped, glaring up at a triumphantly grinning Draco. "You didn't have to throw me on my head..."
"From where I was standing," cut in Draco, smirking down at her. "It wasn't your head that you landed on - although that might of knocked some sense into you..."
"Now, not only am I tired," she stated, deciding more moaning was the best way to get back at him. "My arse hurts as well!"
"Don't be crude, Emily," he scolded her, looking smugger than ever.
Emily scowled up at him and she closed her eyes tight as she tried to think up the best insult she could throw at him. A few seconds later her eyelids flew open and Draco could see her pretty eyes sparkle up at him gleefully. He waited; arms crossed and smirk in place, for the barrage to come.
"I bet my Muggle arse could beat your Pureblood arse - any day," she shot out, smirking all over her face. "In fact, I bet my Muggle..."
However, she did not have a chance to finish her sentence, as Draco pounced immediately.




She was hauled to her feet, and slung against the nearest tree within seconds.
"What did you say, Carlisle?" she heard Draco growl huskily down at her, as she tentatively opened her eyes and looked up at him.
"I said," she answered with another giggle, as she saw his eyes glint dangerously down at her. "That my arse..."
However, once again, she didn't get the chance to finish, as Draco chose that moment to grind himself suggestively against her.
"Oh," she gasped rather breathlessly, automatically winding her arms around his neck and smirking up at him. "And are you going to punish me, Malfoy?"
Draco's strong hands clamped firmly on her hips and squeezed, and Draco brought his head down to meet hers. Then, almost nose to nose, and with that ever so sexy smirk, Draco leant forward and caught her lip between his teeth.
"Your arse is mine now, Emily," he smouldered, and before Emily could even catch her breath, his lips crashed down possessively on to hers.



Her legs wrapped around him, as he pressed he back firmly against the tree, so she could feel every knot and gnarl press painfully against her back. She gasped out into his mouth, halfway between pain and pleasure, and sensing her obvious discomfort - Draco loosened his grip on her slightly.
His mouth still devoured her, his tongue plundering greedily into her mouth, and Emily found herself responding with an unbridled passion. She kissed him back hungrily, her mouth hard against his, and as she felt him jerk her tee shirt upwards with his warm, strong hands, she dug her fingers hard into his shoulders to urge him on.
His hands soon covered her breasts, massaging them demandingly, and as her first moan of desire left her lips, Emily was more than glad that there was no one to interrupt this time....



It was almost as if she had spoken too soon. A loud cough echoed out from behind and Emily's eyes flew open to see a cloaked and hooded figure stood behind them.
"I don't mean to intrude," a cool, sniggering voice then spoke out. "But, may I have a word with Malfoy..."
For the second time that day, Emily found herself dropping to the ground - as Draco loosened his grip, pushed her behind him, and withdrew his wand as quick as lightening.
"Who the hell are you," Draco barked out, his wand aimed at the intruders heart.
"Just a friend - just a friend, Malfoy," the intruder chuckled smugly, as he began to lower his hood.


*



As Snape descended the dark and gloomy, spiralling stairwell, he shrouded his thoughts one by one. Putting all thoughts of Draco and his whereabouts into the furthest corner of his mind, he mentally prepared himself for the interrogation that would come. All too soon, he had reached the bottom step of the stairwell and, turning a corner, he saw that the door of the forbidden room now stood open; it was an ominous sight. Hesitating a moment, he hung back, eyes intent on the cloaked figure who stood, marvellously posed, by the slanted window. The window let little light into the gloomy room, but it let in enough so that Severus could see the silver serpent cane-head gleaming in the person's hand.



"Why do you stand, hovering," the man's coolly, amused voice rang out, shattering the darkness.
Come now, Severus," the man continued smoothly, his back still to him. "Step forward and enter - for I am eager to hear the news that you bring..."
The man then slowly lowered his hood, so that his silver hair, which gleamed in the filtered moonlight, could be seen. Then, unhurriedly, turning round to face him - the man's arrogant and handsome, chiselled, pale features came into view.
"Pray, tell me, Severus," Lucius Malfoy enquired dangerously, a ghost of a smirk haunting his lips. "Have you news of my wayward son?"





A/N : Once again I'm so sorry that this chapter took so long to get out. But, I'm sure most of you know that I have been kept busy because I'll be moving soon. I'm afraid that you may have an even longer wait for Chapter Twenty-One, but I promise you as soon as everything has been sorted out. Oh, and if you don't hear from me for more than a month or two, it's not that I've deserted you, it's only I won't have access to a computer for a while.


Chapter 21: Discord and Disharmony
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Discord and Disharmony






Chapter Twenty One








For the second time that day, Emily found herself dropping to the ground - as Draco loosened his grip, pushed her behind him, and withdrew his wand as quick as lightening.

"Who the hell are you," Draco barked out, his wand aimed at the intruders heart.

"Just a friend - just a friend, Malfoy," the intruder chuckled smugly, as he began to lower his hood.


***



The hood slinked downwards to show Blaise Zabini's fine and handsome, aristocratic features.

"Zabini," Draco breathed in through his nose, unable to restrain his irritation. "To what do I owe this unexpected pleasure?"

Blaise smoothed his robes down rather theatrically. Taking his time, he picked at imaginary lint, as he tried to hide the anxiety in his eyes. This had to go right, he had to execute his plans very carefully.

"I come with a warning ... to aid you," he addressed them slowly, his voice an impenetrable drawl. "It has started - events are in motion..."

"What things?" Emily interrupted him, eager for information. Blaise eyed her insolently and quirked a disdainful eyebrow at Malfoy.

"Really, Malfoy," he drawled contemptuously, "can't you control your pet Mudblood-"

"Watch you words, Zabini," Draco scowled back, threateningly, "After all, she is, as you've just implied, my Mudblood..." And he let his voice trail off into a hostile silence.




On hearing his words, Emily didn't know whether to feel insulted or flattered. The fact that he had laid emphasis on the my had seemed quite possessive and she took this as a good sign; however, the fact he still thought of (and called) her a Mudblood was not - and it exasperated her greatly. Really, even though the word did not hurt her. After all, his words were only words. Still, Emily had to admit to herself that she didn't like the connotation behind them. How could any relationship survive or blossom - if one of them thought themselves more significant than the other. Knowing that now was not the time nor the place for such thoughts, Emily ruffled her hair angrily and struck out with another question.

"Are you here to insult me?" she snapped, irritated that this boy, who knew nothing of her, could so easily get to her with just a few well chosen words. Because really, was she so easy to see through? "Or do you," she continued, slowly, "actually have a bona fide reason to be here?"




Blaise reluctantly withdrew his eyes from Draco's to fix her with a penetrating stare. Quickly taking in her appearance: her glinting eyes, her determined chin. He, not by any means being a foolish person, instantly concluded that she was no fool either and was by no means someone to play his Slytherin games with. His eyes darted back to a scowling Draco, who still had his wand aimed at his heart, and he quickly came to a conclusion. It was now time for some straight answers, or as much straight answers as he was permitted to divulge.

"Don't head southwards, the South holds danger for you, he is waiting for you there..."

"Please, Zabini," drawled Draco, dryly. "Why can't you tell me something new for a change - your information is growing old-"

"There's more," interrupted Blaise sharply, hastening out his words. "He has sent people out after you - he knows you stayed at the inn..."

"And I wonder who told him?" sneered Draco, stepping forward with menace in his eyes. "You’re the only one who seems to be dogging my footsteps lately."



A pregnant silence fell as Blaise frantically tried to think of the right answer. He had to tell them enough, but not too much. Otherwise, this would all be for nothing.

"I promise you, it was not me," he whispered heavily, not realising that his fingers were clawing at his throat in anxiety. "He has me in his power, yes. But, I am truly working alone on this-"

"Oh, please," snorted Draco, his lip curling. "Spare me, I'm not that gullible, Zabini. I'm a Slytherin, remember? Tell me something believable, why don't you? You're just wasting my time here..." And, letting his words trail off significantly, Draco flicked his wand sharply to emphasise his point.

Blaise eyed the tip of Draco's wand warily. This tactic isn't working, he considered hastily, immediately changing his strategy. Draco was simply to cunning to be fooled by mere words. It was time to divulge his last piece of intelligence and flee. He straightened his shoulders, regaining his composure, and took a step closer to address them.

"There's a spy," he told them softly, keeping his voice low as he leaned in. "A spy amongst you - a spy in the Ministry. I cannot tell you who they are, for as yet I do not know myself. But, I warn you - be vigilant. Do not trust anyone, even those you think you know well. He wants you, Draco. Do not underestimate him..."

"Oh, believe me, I've never underestimated him - I learnt that from a very young age," countered Draco, watching Zabini thoughtfully. "But, the question is - have I underestimated you..." Blaise opened his mouth to answer, but turned his head on hearing a long, exasperated sigh. Both boys looked at Emily expectantly.

"Who is it?" she murmured quietly, more to herself than the two young men. "Who the hell is it - and why won't anyone see fit to tell me?" Emily had listened to everything quietly and carefully, taking it all in, and now wanted a answer to the question no one would answer.

"You haven't told her," questioned Blaise, with his normally veiled eyes widening in surprise. "You actually haven't told her - she's meant to be helping you - and she doesn't even know what she's up against-"

"See," intoned Emily, laying her accusing eyes on Draco. "I'm not the only one who thinks so, not telling me is stupid - it's not protecting me at all!-"

"Just shut-up, Carlisle," growled Draco, taking his eyes off Blaise to glare at her. "I'll tell you when I'm good and ready, if ever-"

"Stop being so pompous and stubborn," interjected Emily, her glare as hot as his. "Your wrong, why not admit it? I could help more if I knew - I could help protect-"

"Protect me, Carlisle," he snorted. "You couldn't protect a rabbit..."

"Then why am I here, Malfoy?"

"For my entertainment, obviously...."



Blaise's anxious eyes flickered between the bickering pair, making sure the couple were sufficiently distracted. His little underhand diversion had worked, as he had predicted, and now was the opportune time to escape. Very slowly, he stepped out of their eye line and his hand held tightly on to the wand under his cloak. He knew his well placed words would distract them, he also knew how quick they were to bicker. Honestly, although he had only been following the both of them for a few hours, he had never known a couple to bicker so much: the girl was to quick to anger - and Draco too ready with his umbrage. However, Blaise was just thankful to know - that the girl was able to distract Draco. Not many people could do this mighty task; in fact, Potter was probably the only other one, and Blaise was also well aware that this was a very useful thing to know. But, time was moving fast - and if he didn't move soon he'd miss his chance. So, pushing his new found observances aside for a later date, he turned, concentrated, and Disapparated with a soft pop.



Although the pop was soft, it seemed amplified on the cool night air. The arguing couple abruptly halted, startled by the sound, and snapped their heads forward to stare at the empty space where Blaise had just stood. Wide eyed and disbelieving, they stood momentarily stunned by his disappearance. How on earth had they allowed him to get away? How had they managed to let themselves get ensnared in yet another spat? Draco turned on Emily, his eyes burning with fury.

"This," he bit out slowly, eyes narrowed as he advanced on her. "Is. All. Your. Fault."

"No, no you don't! Don't you dare lay the blame on me," Emily spoke quietly, struggling to keep her voice calm. "If anyone is to blame - it's the both of us. We shouldn't have allowed ourselves to be so easily distracted..."

"But, that's just it, Em," Draco blurted out, unable to keep his voice from rising. "When you're around - these things happen-"

"No, that's not fair!" she shouted back, challenging him with her eyes, and not bothering to keep her voice down anymore. "What makes you think it would be different if I weren't her - what makes you think that you could do better..." Letting her voice trail off, she fell instantly into deep thought. The accusation he'd slung at her burned her, as did his willingness to so quickly believe it. Did he honestly think her incapable? Could he not see what had really happened - or was he just simply too single-minded to care? Did he really think her so unlucky - or was it just another mindless barb? Unable to answer her own questions, Emily was forced to admit that she just did not know. Not that that surprised her. After all, she did not know many things when it came to deciphering Draco. And, realising just how clueless she was, Emily vented a sigh.



Draco watched her, eyes still narrowed, his mouth stretched into a thin, pale line. He was trying hard not to throw fresh accusations at her, he was trying to be fair. But, the problem was, the more he tried to suppress his anger, the more it seemed to grow. He knew he was being irrational, and he knew that the anger he was feeling was anger targeted at himself. After all, if anyone was more to blame, it was definitely him. He should have never allowed himself to get distracted, he should have known better; but instead, he had acted like a Gryffindor and allowed the enemy to get the upper hand.

Really, his father would be most disappointed in him. Well, maybe not in this instance, true! But, on the whole, Draco knew that his father would be most upset that all his strict schooling (on the conduct of being a Malfoy ) had seemingly gone to waste. Malfoy Rule No 1: A Malfoy is never to blame. Even when faced with supported evidence, point your finger at someone else, and bribe the judge and jury. Side note: if this does not work, you can always blame the House-elves.

Honestly, he thought, remembering. Would he ever be able to rid himself of his past? These rules and strict adherences of his youth were so ingrained him that he very much doubted it. Then a ponderous sigh floated out beside him, disturbing him from his own miserable thoughts. Draco, instantly, refocused his baleful gaze back on Emily.

"We should go now," she intoned flatly, and he saw that she now had her arms defensively across her chest and her bottom lip stuck out in a sulky expression. "And, to be on the safe side, I think we should Apparate."

Nodding his head, Draco silently agreed. Then he took a tentative step forward and reached out for her, opening his mouth to speak. "I'm..."

"No, don't," Emily warned sharply, cutting him off and swatting at his hand. "I just don't want to hear it - let's just go..."

"But, I..."

"Save it for someone who cares, Malfoy. I've had enough for today, let's just get to Knarlesdale..."

Draco scowled at her. So she wanted to play games, did she? Well, he could play games too. After all, he wasn't a Slytherin for nothing. Nobody, absolutely nobody, brushed him aside and got away with it. She would regret using that tactic with him, he would make sure of that. Had she so easily forgotten, how easily he could get the best of her. His eyes narrowed at her again and he fixed her with his best icy stare. "I suppose your right, Em," he told her smoothly, his lips curving into a wide, evil smirk. "We must depart right away..."And, striding away from her purposely, he stalked past the tree and Disapparated. Leaving Emily to stare disbelievingly at his back.

"Bloody, irritating, little ferret," she whispered fervently, glaring at the place he had just disappeared from. "Who in Merlin's name does he think he is? Just wait till I get my bloody hands on him." And, with vengeance firmly in mind, she hastily hurried after him and Disapparated from the very same spot.


*



Lucius watched him closely through pale narrowed eyes. His face was expressionless, but Snape knew that this was Lucius at his most dangerous.

"So have you found my erstwhile son," Lucius drawled. His tone painted with faint mockery.

Severus paused, but a moment, knowing the slightest hesitation could provoke imminent danger. "I've found him, yes..." He answered with pause, waiting for Lucius to say more; waiting for Lucius to give something away. In letting Lucius lead, he could manipulate his response - therefore, soothing the situation and protecting his unenviable position. Lucius thought himself impenetrable, but Severus could read the slightest of ticks, which had aided him well through numerous dangerous discussions. He knew Lucius well, could read him easily. However, the only problem was: Lucius knew this too and it angered him. Oh, yes, he, Sererus Snape, would have to tread carefully. Very carefully indeed.

Lucius watched Severus hold his silence and knew the game had begun. Then, letting his lips draw into the thinnest of smiles, he began to play in earnest.

"Found him, you say?" he asked dangerously, raising a questioning eyebrow. "So, where is he now, Severus? I don't suppose you have him hiding in them voluminous robes of yours...."

Severus allowed himself a small smile at Lucius's barbed jibe.

"I'm afraid not, Lucius," he continued in false regret. "Your son is nowhere upon my person. However, I have news of hi-"

"Nevertheless, Severus! You have been seen with him - you and my son have been spotted together, my sources have told me so ... However, the important question is: where is he now, why have you not brought him to me? I can tell you now, Severus ... this information concerns me greatly...."

Snape did not make the slightest of movement. The threat had been expected and he had he answer ready. "Potter is now involved," he said flatly, moving further into the room to drum his fingers impatiently on an old and dusty oak desk. "Potter is involved and that changes everything...."

He let his voice trail off into a purposeful silence and stared determinedly across the room. Lucius's silver eyes connected with his and he too strode across the room. His hand landed, flaty, on the desk with a resounding slap, which sent circles of dust billowing upwards.

"Yes, that does change things," he bit out slowly, malice dripping off of every word as he hand tightened around his cane. "That changes things greatly ... So, pray tell me, Severus, of how you intend to rectify matters..."

But, Snape, was prepared for this question too, it did not throw him. Nodding his head slightly and sharply, to imply that he understood Lucius's connotations, he braced his hands on the desk and leant forward. His eyes met directly with Lucius's and, when he was sure of the impression he was creating, he pressed on rapidly, authority drenching his words.

"Potter is a bothersome set back, true. However, for all the trouble he brings in his wake, he also brings with him an advantage - an advantage to us. He is a confounding nuisance, yes; however, having pitted myself against him many times before, I know his weak points. He is very easily manipulated, as to are his friends. With proper handling and care, these children will play directly into our, your, hands. Already, I have that Lovegood girl on to the key; in the matter of a day or two, the instructions to working the key will be mine ... With invisible manipulation, and clever deception, our plans can be executed by the end of the week...."

Lucius digested this information quickly, his eyes thoughtful and shining silver. Severus's plans made sense, and Severus was the master of deception; however, he had to be sure that he was not the one being deceived. The inquisition began.

"By the end of the week is too long - I wish us to be in Salisbury by tomorrow at the latest - you must hurry up your plans, Severus. You speak of the key, have you learned more?-"

"I have, indeed, confirmed what we've already guessed at-"

"But, nothing new...."

"As I have told you - the Lovegood girl will bring what we need soon-"

"But, not soon enough, Severus! We do not have the days to spare - you must..."

"I have an unlikely ally, who will help with your haste. He should be within in their camp by tonight..."

"Which ally is this, Severus? Pray do tell..."

"At the moment, I am unable to divulge - but, I can tell you he is an most astonishing find..." Snape smiled a knowing smile, making sure his words found their mark.

"I do not like secrets, Severus. I immensely distrust people who are unwilling to share..."

"By the time we leave for Salisbury Plain, you will know who the spy is, and, I trust, you will be delighted...."

Lucius pondered these words. He did not trust Severus entirely; however, Severus's words had soothed him somewhat, and he did have other questions to pursue. Lucius decided to let it go, for the moment.

"And what of the Muggle-born girl? Will she be, um, should I say, compliant?" He awaited Severus's answer eagerly, for he had great plans for the Mudblood bitch.

"The girl offers no threat to you or your plans, Lucius," Snape answered, matter-of-factly. "She will be easy to overpower ... She will not cause a problem...." Lucius looked pleased to hear these words, and Snape saw his eyes glitter manically.

"Good, good," Lucius drawled deliberately. "That is indeed good to hear ... But, now, please do tell, Severus, of my boy, and his willingness to see me...."His eyes flinted like ice, and his expectant stare seemed to burn through Severus. Only a veteran wizard, such as himself, would be able to withstand the heat of that glare. Snape choose his next words carefully.

"He is petulant and angry, My Lord," Snape spoke smoothly, hoping that the use of the title would calm him. "Angry and defiant, but, I'm sure he will be easily persuaded ... I feel if you brought his mother into...."
"Yes, the ungrateful brat was always fond of his mother," Lucius interrupted. "Maybe she could be of use...."

"My feelings, exactly. There is much leverage...."

"But, come now, Severus," interrupted Lucius, deceptively lightly, only the thoughtful frown on his forehead giving him away as he pulled out an extremely dusty hardback chair. "Let us sit and discuss our plans for Salisbury, and enjoy a sip of Ogden's finest as old friends should do...."

Snape pulled out the chair (which Lucius had indicated to ) and sat himself down with a flourish of his robes. Then, reaching for the full tumbler that had just magically appeared before him, he took a sip; that old familiar burn fired up in his throat and coursed its way down to his stomach, relaxing him slightly. And, enjoying the spreading warmth, he began to speak. His plans and ruminations could wait for later.
"The up and coming weekend promises to be the most magical days, the Sabbath particularly - and if not the Sabbath, the day after bodes well enough. However, any time during this period will be sufficient to our cause..."

Lucius nodded for him to continue, his eyes now calm and thoughtful as he also sipped slowly at his drink. Snape, took his cue and commenced again.

"Evan Evertrue agrees, and I have seen much evidence to back this up. Unless we wait for the summer equinox at The Henge, Quarter-moon on the Plain is the next most powerful time. We should aim for Salisbury by the weekend...." And, as the darkness amassed and true night came, the two men continued their plotting and planning till the onset of the dawn.


*



Emily appeared on, what appeared to be, the outskirts of another ancient wood. Oh, this is just bloody typical, she thought, feeling extremely irritated. Just, how many woods would she have to traipse through before this was all over? Draco was nowhere in sight. She turned her head first left then right, peering into the long shadows that fell behind the tall trees, but she could not see him. The first prickle of fear sparked to life, despite her feelings of anger and frustration, and she shivered uncontrollably. She really should call out for him, she concluded to herself, but she prevented herself from doing so. After all, she was still much too angry to do that. So, after scanning the horizon for a few minutes, she wrapped her arms around herself for warmth and set off in (what she thought was) a northern direction. And, even more importantly, a direction that did not include the woods. She had only took a few, small steps forward - when she heard a familiar, drawling voice call after her.

"Hey, Carlisle! If you want to end up in Wales, please do carry on the way you are going - but, if you want to get to Knarlesdale, you'd better accompany me..."

Emily halted mid-step and tensed her shoulders. Oh, he was still there, was he? Hiding from her, making her think that he'd gone. So it was just another game of his, was it? The utter nerve of him! Did he think she'd panic like a headless chicken? Did he actually believe she wouldn't go on with out him? Was he that conceited? Or, could it be, that he actually want to go on without her? Now, that could really give her food for thought! So, keeping that single thought in mind, she turned slowly and answered him coolly.

"I thought we were already in Knarlesdale," she countered, as she watched lean casually against a towering nearby tree. No wonder she hadn't seen him lurking behind there, she thought, noting its sprawling branches.

"We are, technically, on the outskirts of Knarlesdale," Draco resumed while pretending to examine his immaculate fingernails. "If we follow the rim of these woods, we should be at the back of the Wiccan's Wand in a few hours..."

Ignoring the we for the moment, Emily decided to voice a question that had been bothering her for the last couple of days.

"Do all wizarding inns have their backs to the woods? I mean, every Inn we've approached, we've approached via that route..." As her voice trailed off, Draco let loose a honest laugh.

"Oh, Em," he spluttered, gulping down a guffaw. "You don't know anything, do you? Yes, all Wizarding Inns have their backs to the woods - that's how most wizards approach them..." Ignoring his mocking tone, she threw back another question.

"Why?" she asked, simply.

"Because that way is the least noticeable."

"Well, that makes sense - I suppose," she muttered, feeling, yet again, rather foolish. After all, put that way, it did seem rather obvious. Then trying to keep face, she added, nonchalantly, "I thought that might be it - I just wondered because it seems all I do is traipse through bloody woods lately..."

"Scared of the big, nasty woods, are you?" Draco sniggered, trying to get a rise out of her as he eyed her devilishly.

"Yes, I am - a little," she told him shortly, refusing to get caught up again in his Slytherin games.

The amused sparkle from Draco's eyes was gone in an instant, as he realised she was still in that funny mood. Clearly, this time, he realised, she was not going to let herself get sidetracked.

"So," she interrupted him from his musings. "Do you actually know which way to go - or were you just making fun of me?"

"I know where to go," Draco retorted at once, quickly adopting his 'I'm in charge' attitude, but choosing to ignore her question. "I looked at the map and compass before you showed up - it's definitely that way - and if we stick to following the edge of the woods, we'll be there in a couple of hours or less..."

"Okay, let's get going then," she rejoined, abruptly. Then, without further a do, she took off in the direction he had pointed to. Behind her, with a rather displeased expression on his face, Draco watched as she strode off. He did not like this side of Emily; it left him with a rather odd, disconcerting sort of twisting feeling in his stomach and he did not like it. Actually, he had a strong suspicion that the strange, twisty-turning feeling was an emotion Malfoys were not allowed to feel. However, he also saw that wondering (what in Merlin's name) was happening to him would not help matters much at this very moment. So, pushing his thoughts temporally aside, he schooled his fine features into a scowl and took off to catch up with Emily.



Walking, side by side, both of them wrapped in their own secret thoughts; Emily and Draco walked along in uncomfortable silence, not knowing how to break it. Draco had tried first, but failed abysmally.

"If I offended you earlier - that was not my intention...." He began, but was cut off by Emily's curt reply.

"Yes it was, Malfoy," Emily had interrupted. "Don't lie to yourself - and anyway, I told you before, I don't want to hear it!" That conversation had ended abruptly, leaving Emily feeling only a little guilty when she had glanced up and seen his hurt expression: his bottom lip had pulled up into a churlish pout and Emily couldn't help but think about how adorable and boyish he looked.

However, time had moved on, and, as it had ticked by, she had felt her anger dwindle and diminish until it was almost gone entirely. Thinking hard for something, for anything, to say - Emily blurted out the first thing that popped into her head.

"I think Weasley is a spy," she heard herself say, before she could stop herself.

"Really," he drawled, walking beside her, eyebrows raised in disbelieve. Hastily continuing, she then spilled out the supporting evidence in her defence.

"It really isn't as stupid as it sounds," she blurted out, her wide eyes pleading with him. "I mean what was he doing at The Leaky Cauldron, why was he there..."

"He was there before us," Draco interrupted. "He must be a bloody good spy, if he knew we would going to go there before we did-"Emily ignored his interruption and carried on excitedly.

"...and, outside The Lamb and Slaughter, just before we were about to leave - I saw a flash of red hair amid the trees! I'm certain it was Ron Weasley..."

"And I'm certain you're delusional!" Draco grinned, interrupting again, thoroughly entertained by the oddness of Emily's thought process. "Really, do you think your evidence would stand up in a court of law?"

"But, I just know it! I can feel it in my bones..."

"Still not convinced, Em," he rejoined, laughing. "As much as I would like it to be true, I'm still not sure. Try again, Em. C'mon, hit me with your amazing logic!"

Emily glared at him as he walked along chortling at her. Honestly, she thought to herself, it wasn't that funny! Why did she even bother? However, battered ego pushed aside, she had to admit that walking along bickering and laughing was a whole lot better than that awful, never-ending silence.

"I'll have you know, my intuition is highly thought of," she began again, protesting. But, was instantly and rudely interrupted.

"Please, stop, let me guess," he laughed, "it wasn't Trelawney, was it? Don't tell me, were you her star student?"

"Oh, just go ahead and laugh at me! You'll soon change your mind when I'm proved right..."

"The day you're proved right - will be the day Potter and I become best friends..."

"Oh, you never know ... What with Ron deflecting to the other side - it might happen-"

"Oh, that would be the day I'd snog Hagrid, because I'd rather that than befriend Potter-"

"Yeah, well I think you'd snog Potter - before telling me anything about the new Dark Lord...." As soon as the words were out, the atmosphere changed abruptly. The air turned cold, thick and tense - almost as intense as the stiffness of Draco's shoulders.

"Shut up," he hissed immediately. "Just stop harping on about it! If you mention it one more time, I'll leave you - and I mean it..." Stopping in his tracks, his hand clamped down onto her arm and his fingers dug painfully into her flesh. Not flinching, she stared back into his stony eyes and found that she didn't much like what she saw there: it was a look that reminded her of his father.

Not too sure of what to say or do and feeling just a little frightened, she dropped her eyes from his glare. Never seeing this side of him before, Emily felt suddenly insecure; the look in his eyes seemed (to her) almost murderous, a look that she had never seen on his face, a look she had never seen during even their most cruellest of fights. Oh, yes, she had to admit, that look scared her very much. Then, as if he'd heard her thoughts, his hold on her arm slackened.

"I didn't mean to hurt you, Emily," she heard him say, his voice sounding as though it was far away.

"But, please, will you just stop asking that..."

Still unable to look him in the eye, Emily just nodded. No, she wouldn't ask him that again; in fact, she felt even her urge to know evaporate. All she wanted to do right now was move on and try to forget about today. Draco, apparently, agreed with her sentiment.

"Let's just go, shall we?" he asked, his tone issuing a statement rather than a question. "It's been a long day, we've both said things we shouldn't have ... Let's just get to the Inn...."

Emily nodded in agreement again. Yes, she silently agreed, that was definitely for the best. The sooner she reached the Inn, the better. Then, shrugging off his hand from her arm, which still held her albeit gently, she pushed on her way again, trying to leave this day behind her. Another silence fell again, but this time it was a silence that spoke of safety; a silence neither of them wished to break.



The Day Before




Really, Izzy thought contently, as she played with her new, pretty necklace. Today had most definitely been her lucky day. She held the necklace to her neck again and laughed out loud to see it glint so prettily in the mirror. Yes, it would be nice if she had a speaking mirror, she thought lazily. But, after all, beggars can't be choosers, and it was such a pretty necklace. When she had told that brown haired girl what she knew, she had expected just a little reward. But, when her only reward had been the girls thanks, she couldn't help but be a little offended. The girl had showed she had no class, she was probably one of those stupid Muggle-borns anyway! No, the girl had not shown any class at all, unlike that wealthy Pure-blood she was chasing.

She supposed, rightly or wrongly, the fact she was helping them catch that pompous arse should have been more than enough payment - but, no! Old habbits died hard with Izzy - and the little rewards gained from her old profession always came back to haunt her. She had to face facts, she was just a girl who liked presents! So, she found, that she was really, very grateful that the other boy had come with his questions.

A couple of hours after the girl and the boy with the messy hair had left, he had entered. Although, extremely hooded, she could tell this one had class by the way his eyes had instantly sought her out. He knew she was a clever one at once, he knew he would get his moneys worth with her. The boy had paid Old Nobby at the bar and she had led him up to her room, already eager to please him. After all, his silk-lined cloak just spoke of Galleons.

However, to her surprise, the boy didn't want the usual. He was yet another one who wanted to know about the Toff! So, Izzy had told him, and she told him about the other couple too when he asked. The boy had seemed pleased and had offered her a present for another favour. Izzy had caught a glimpse of something she didn't like in his eyes, but she had put it down to an empty stomach and got down onto her knees.

After she had finished, she had caught that creepy glint in his eyes again. But, the boy didn't fleece her or worse, beat her; in fact, he had given her the necklace like he promised. Which just went to prove, you couldn't trust any thoughts that were thought on an empty stomach. Then sometime later, after a nip or two of cheap Muggle whiskey, she had thought of her mother. Why she had thought of her, she could not work out. But, as she twisted the pretty necklace in her hands, she could clearly hear her old, fool of a mother whisper that old adage of hers, again and again.

"Be careful, Isobel," it had warned. "One day you'll have to pay the price, we all have to pay our dues in the end." Thankfully though, after finishing the rest of the bottle, the voice had faded into the back of mind: thick and hazy, the alcohol consumed had driven almost all coherent thought from her mind. The only thoughts that remained were thoughts for her new, pretty necklace. Suddenly, it occurred to her, she should actually put it on.

Although, the voice that urged her felt somewhat foreign in her head, and she could hear her mother screaming at her from the back of her skull, Izzy still put the necklace on. She clasped the necklace drunkenly, and turned to face the mirror.

"Oh, look how prettily it shines," she gasped out loud, watching the necklace glint enticingly in the mirror. Suddenly, the gasp turned into a choke, as the necklace started to tighten its deadly links around her throat. Izzy did try her best, but even if she were not in such a drunken state, her fumbling fingers would have never loosened the clasp.

Izzy's very last thought, as her fingers clawed at her throat, as her very last breath choked and spluttered out, as her world faded to a grim grey, her very last thought was: 'You were right, mum. We all have to pay the price...'



*



Draco was at a loss, he simply didn't know how to proceed. Yes, he had been at this particular crossroads several times before in his live, but this time it felt more...personal. He hadn't meant to scare Emily, in fact, that was the last thing he wanted to do. Oh, certainly, at one time in his life, causing fear and horror had been his only aim, but that was what he believed before he saw what real terror was. However, the fact of the matter was: he had indeed scared her, and she had seen a part of him he had never wanted her to see. He heaved a silent sigh; how could he rectify this, how could he ease her mind without letting her know the horrifying truth? As always, as of late, the answers simply wouldn't come.

He walked along side her quietly, wanting to reach out and touch her hand, but not yet daring to do so. He had never been so hesitant with a girl in his life, and the fact that this girl could cause these unwanted emotions frankly irritated him. But, he had to face the truth, he had never been with a girl before who made him feel this way, and it was terribly disconcerting.

So, he continued walking quietly along, trying to think of a solution, thinking of a way to show her (in a Malfoy way of course) that he cared. The main road had gotten a little busy and Emily had informed him that this was rush hour. Whatever that meant, he did not know. But, in silent consent, they had ducked a little deeper into the woods. These woods reminded him of the Forbidden Forrest; dense and silent, and, as he walked along, he remembered his first time in that Godforsaken forest. Harry, of course, had been the hero, whereas he had run for his life. And, of course, it didn't matter that his reaction was the normal reaction of any twelve year-old boy. No, of course it didn't! Harry had been confirmed the hero, whereas he had become the laughing stock. Oh, Merlin! How he still hated Potter! The boy had been his nemesis ever since he first laid eyes on him, and Pansy had been wrong, was still wrong, with her sly hinting that he was jealous (even envious) of Potter. But, thinking of poor dead Pansy still hurt too much. Even though she was one of the first to fall, the pain could still cut through him like a knife. Draco gritted his teeth, kept his stride, and forced himself to think on happier times; his thoughts fell almost instantly on Longbottom. Oh, how he had screamed that time in the forest, really, it was one of the funniest things he had ever seen. Suddenly, an idea came to him. Yes, this would lighten the mood, this would have Emily jumping back into arms; silently, he fell backwards and darted behind the trees.

Emily had continued walking for a good few minutes before she realised he was no longer by her side. Her eyes darted anxiously around the shadows that surrounded her. Where was he? Where had he gone? Was he trying to frighten her, or had simply needed to go to relieve himself or something? And, if that was the reason wouldn't he have informed her first? Despite herself, Emily felt fear for him nibble at her stomach. Where was he, should she call? Spinning helplessly around, looking in every shadow, she decided calling was her only solution.

Very softly, she called his name. No one answered. Fear spread from her stomach and clawed its way to her throat. She tried again, louder. But, still no reply. By now, the fear was all consuming.

"Draco," she cried, her voice resounding through the deliberating trees. "Where are you, answer me, please...." Still nothing, and Emily felt the bottom lurch out of her world; he was gone, they had got him. Shivering uncontrollably, she felt hot tears spill down her face; she would have to be calm, she had to gather herself and relate her information; Snape or Harry would know how to proceed from here, she must go onwards. From out of the long shadows, a figure jumped forward, a maniacal glint shining within its eyes. Emily screamed, letting her fear tear from her throat as she fell to the ground, and it was only ten thousand seconds later that she realised the attacker looking down at her was Draco; unable of coherent word, she simply stared.

"Oh, Em," he laughed, delighted. "You should of seen your face..." Anger, and something that felt like disappointment crescendo'd inside her and, within seconds, she was on her feet, her arms flailing against him.

"You bastard," she cried, "how could you? How could you do it!"

"Only a joke, Em," he smirked. "It's nice to see how much you care..."

"A joke? A joke!" she cried, fists still drumming at his chest. "I thought you were gone, I thought they had got you! I thought you were as good as dead, and you call it a joke..."

"Oh, c'mon, Em," he countered, snorting. "Try to see the funny side-"

"The funny side," she questioned, drawing away from him and staring at him as if he was some unknown species. "The funny side of what? Making me think you were dead - or worse. Or the funny side of the funny side of seeing me of seeing scared stiff?"

"Just seeing you all cute and scared," he smirked, trying to pull her into his arms. "So funny, and so sweet..."

Thrusting his arms away, Emily broke from his embrace immediately.

"And you think you think a few sugar-coated words will make it alright..."

"Em," he grinned, reaching out to touch her face. "You still care for me..."

"Is that what you really believe? Because after that stunt, I don't fucking care..."

"I don't believe that...."

"How could you be so immature, you played with my feelings and made them a mockery..."

Draco, then, seemed to realise just what he'd done; his face contorted in disgust.

"Oh, Em," he rushed out, hoping that the damage was repairable. "It was meant in fun, in having a laugh, I didn't mean to offend you...."

"You didn't offend me, Draco ... You just made me doubt everything about you...."

Draco fell silent, as more time slipped passed, and stared at her from disillusioned eyes.

"Emily," he pleaded, almost desperately. "Please, don't give up on me..."

Emily could not answer, being pushed beyond her natural limits. Then, seeing the familiar lights of a warm and cosy Inn shining in the distance, she knew that her only way was onwards. Whatever what she was feeling, no matter how mad she felt, the only way was to move onwards, onwards to an uncertain future. No matter what Draco said or did, she was drawn to protect him whatever the cost. Draco watched her carefully, gently tracing abstract patterns against her cheek. Emily felt the need to speak.

"I think we need to rectify a few things...."

And, despite her formal tone, Draco understood. "We need time to think things over, we need time to be..."

Emily listened, enrapt in his words, willing him to say the things she needed to hear. But, before he could say more, before she could wrap her arms around him, two familiar pops of Apparation echoed before them. Luna and Harry appeared, looking disconcerted, and before they had chance to lay their eyes on them, Draco snatched a meaningful kiss from the corner of Emily's mouth; knowing that her lips had more to share. The night sky seemed to dim, somewhat, and Harry's eyes turned and settled on them; his cold gaze seemed to issued a challenge.


*



Luna, waltzed into The Leaky Cauldron, about ten minutes later. She saw Harry sitting leadingly at a table and hurried her way forward.

"I've got the article," she admitted, as a way of a greeting, but Harry just smiled unconvincingly. But, this was of no matter to Luna as she could see deeper than most people could see. And, what she could see at the moment, was that Harry was getting very drunk; she needed to something to sober him up, and Luna thought she had the answer.

"I know that Lucius is the new Dark Lord," she told him, matter of factly, as she sat down beside him. "I saw it in an old article, someone saw him walking down a pier."

Harry stared at her goggled eyed, not believing hoe she could talk so much nonsense and so much sense at the same time.

"I - It's just rumour," Harry tried to convince her, but from the disapproving look in the eye (she gave him) he knew that he'd failed. Luna knew and that was all there was to it. And, knowing Luna, she probably knew more than he did! Harry, suddenly, wanted to get very drunk, that way he could believe that all this wasn't happening to him. Luna soon divested him from that happy thought.

"So," she said, happily. "Did you manage to retrieve Malfoy's wand?"

Not wanting to admit the affirmative answer, Harry just nodded instead.

"Oh, good," Luna beamed, merrily. "That means we catch up with them tonight."

"That's if we want to," Harry added, snidely. Luna looked at him and wondered just where his discord lay.

"Are you mad at Draco because he wants something you once had..."

"No," snapped back Harry, "I couldn't care less about him..."

"Or are you," Luna continued, seemingly oblivious. "Just put out because Emily doesn't want you?"

"Me and Emily broke up yonks ago, I don't care if she doesn't want me - but Malfoy!"

Luna cut him off again, with her astute observation. "Or maybe it's that 'I just want what I can't have' syndrome, maybe it's you saw her in different circumstances, and knowing she's unavailable, she seemed like the perfect woman for you..."

Harry simply could not answer, knowing in some strange way she'd hit the mark. The next few hours passed uncomfortably for Harry, as Luna questioned his motives and came up with astoundingly accurate answers. However, no matter what the direction of the conversation, he would not admit to (seeing as it was a false accusation) that the only reason he was attracted to Emily again - was that he was envious of Malfoy. Luna's suggestion, that he could not touch the spot that Draco had touched in her was simply ludicrous! No, he, Harry, had simply realised he was in love with her too late, although that excuse began to feel tired in his own poor drunken ears. He loved Emily, and that was all there was to it. Luna, and her disconcerting eyes, could find someone else to theorise about. Harry had had enough, he wanted to leave now.

Surprisingly enough, he felt sober again now, and was longing to get back to Emily. Maybe, when he gave the ferret back his wand, she would start to speak to him again. But, on hearing his own thoughts, Harry knew he was delusional. He would Apparate to Malfoy, give him back his wand, and make sure that Emily got back home safely. Draco could get annihilated for as much as he cared, as long as Emily was safe - that was all that mattered. He stood up abruptly and stumbled his way outside.

Outside The Leaky Cauldron, Harry tried his best to avoid Luna eyes. Her eyes always managed to throw him, as they saw things that he, Harry, refused to see; to put it bluntly, Luna had the power to disorientate him. But, now was not the time to think of such things, now was the time to Apparate to Knarlesdale, to Apparate back to Draco and Emily. Not looking forward to his task, his closed his eyes tightly and concentrated, his hand clasped firmly around Draco's wand.

A few seconds later, Harry Apparated in Knarlesdale, just in time to catch Draco place a sweet kiss on Emily's lips. Ignoring, Luna's slight tug on his arm, Harry turned to face the enemy.

A tense silence fell. Draco's cold eyes met Harry's, and two similar smirks crawled across their taunt lips. Draco spoke first, ignoring Emily's suddenly pleading eyes.

"So, Potter," he drawled, laconically. "Have you got my wand?"

Harry's eyes glittered hard in the moonlight, as he adopted Malfoy's mocking tone.

"Yes, I do ferret boy, he answered, slowly. "But, the question is: is how badly do you want it?" And, withdrawing Malfoy's wand from his robe, Harry stabbed it forward as if issuing a challenge.





A/N: Big, big apologies for this chapter taking so long, the reason being is a combination of two things. Firstly, I had to move home, and the stress and everything mad impossible to write. Secondly, when I did eventually get online again, I had an impossible case of writers block. But, I promise you, the next ones won't take nearly as long. Once again, thank you all, for your unbelievable patience - and I hope you all enjoy it.

xxx-xxx-xxx

emmie


Chapter 22: Fight and Flight
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Fight and Flight




Chapter Twenty Two






"So, Potter," he drawled, laconically. "Have you got my wand?"

Harry's eyes glittered hard in the moonlight, as he adopted Malfoy's mocking tone.

"Yes, I do ferret boy, he answered, slowly. "But, the question is: how badly do you want it?" And, withdrawing Malfoy's wand from his robe, Harry stabbed it forward as if issuing a challenge.



***




"Just give me back my wand, Potter," Draco hissed, his eyes narrowed in warning. "Or I'll..."

"Or you'll what, Malfoy?" Harry butted in. "Sneer at me some more or something ... Ha, that's a laugh! ... Do I looked scared to you?"

Harry's shoulders were squared and his eyes blazed with scorn.

"You should be, Potter ... You should be...." Draco responded quickly, his gaze just as heated as Harry's. "I've just about had enough of you and your int...."

"Oh, so you admit it. The great Harry Potter has got under your skin...."

"More like a thorn in my side, Pothead! In fact, I think the only reason you were dragged up in this world was to be a bloody thorn in my side..."

"You can't take it, can you, ferret-boy? You can't stand the fact that you could never live up to my reputation, that everyone knows that you're just Death Eater scum! You can't stand the fact that the Malfoy name stands for nothing .... except, maybe apart from Murderer...."

"Harry," a female voice pealed out, which surprisingly wasn't Emily's. Harry's eyes shifted uneasily towards Luna, who's light-blue eyes watched him reproachfully. She looks as though, Harry thought. She looks as if she's disappointed in me. And this thought disturbed him slightly, even though he didn't know why. Luna's slightly protuberant eyes stayed on him, making his discomfort rise, and she continued to reprimand him in a sing-song voice, "Really, Harry ... Now, you know that wasn't fair..."

Harry opened his mouth to say his piece, to defend his actions, but he found that no words would come out. Being told off by Luna, in that gentle way of hers, was just too disorientating for words and it had stumped him. So, instead, of defending himself, he found himself giving her a half-hearted shrug of the shoulders and a small rueful smile. However, oblivious to the strange interaction between her friends, Emily eyes were fixed on Draco: his face had paled to the colour of parchment; his lips had drawn into a cruel thin line and as his eyes had narrowed in hatred, his fingers had balled into fists and his body had begun to tremble. She took a tentative step to approach him, but something in his eyes stopped her, pure fury seemed to animate off him and she stopped in her tracks. Instead, she half raised her hand towards him, as if in a silent plea.

Draco, for once, unmindful of Emily, continued to glower in Harry's direction. His nerves jumped to life with a jumble of emotions: anger, pride, grief, shame and guilt amongst them and he knew he had to make Harry pay for his words. No one got away with that! No one, with the exception of Emily, was allowed to touch him on such a sensitive spot. Potter must pay for this, Potter must die! He raised Emily's wand, in his still trembling hands, and surprised himself by his self control; his voice didn't tremor once!

"Give me back my wand, Potter," he hissed, his voice calm yet full of suppressed violence. "Let's finish this once and for all...."

His voice trailed off into a critical silence and Harry's bright-green eyes turned to meet his; bright-green eyes that flickered with eager anticipation. Despite herself, as she watched the two boys, Emily found herself emitting a gasp. This is it, she suddenly knew. This would not be pretty, it would not end with a handshake; this was the culmination of hatred and vitriol accumulated over the years! She could not stop this, would not stop this, if she tried. This battle was predestined, and nothing on this earth could prevent the fight to come. So she stood still, hardly daring to breathe, and watched the battle unfold.

Harry made the first move.

"Here's your wand, Malfoy," he gritted out, through clenched teeth, and hurled Draco's wand with considerable force. The wand flew high through the air, propelled by the force of Harry's throw, arced then landed, twisting and turning as it fell, just a few yards from Draco's feet. Not even glancing down at it, Draco kept his eyes and Emily's wand trained on Harry.

"Did you think I'd fall for that, Potter?" he asked, almost conversationally. Do you honestly think I'm that stupid ... Cruc--"

Before Emily could gasp, Harry had blocked it and returned a hex of his own.

"Levicorpus--"

This time the gasp did escape, but she needn't have bothered as Draco blocked it with ease.

"Facio Crudus!"

A spell to make you bleed. Draco's curse flew forward; Harry dived to his left, but the curse caught the side of his face and his right ear began to bleed profusely. Ignoring the blood as it dripped down his face, he shot back a curse of his own.

"Cupio Carnifico!"

Draco ducked it, just in time, and Emily's mind raced. Cupio Carnifico, she pondered hard, trying to remember what exactly that curse meant. Didn't it mean to be-head? Surely not! Harry wouldn't, would he? For the love of Merlin - had Harry had just tried to decapitate him?

"Petrificus Totalus..."

Harry avoided it easily.

"Serpensor-"

Before Harry could finish his snake summoning incantation, a nasty stinging hex flew his way and, leaping to the side, he only just avoided it. A sigh escaped Emily's lips and she shuddered in relief. A giant snake on the loose was not something she needed to contend with right now, and she was glad that Draco had managed to block it. Stepping forward again (she did not realise that she'd taken a few hasty steps backwards), she held out her wand, ready to aim. The duel was becoming too intense, was getting out of hand! What with snake summoning charms and beheading curses, Emily knew she may have to intervene. Then Draco's voice rang out, cutting her off from her thoughts.

"Using my old spells against me now, are we?" Draco drawled out a little breathlessly, his voice dripping heavy with scorn. "Have we run out of hexes already, Potter?"

Harry glowered at him. He wasn't going to waste his breath on a retort ... and, without hesitation, he silently and determinedly cast Sectumsempra: a whoosh of air rushed forward out of his wand.

The whistling sound of the rushing wind warned Draco in time. He lunged to the side, avoiding the full impact of the curse. However, unfortunately, the curse grazed past his cheek; a zigzag gash opened and the blood began to pour; a silent curse formed on his lips. He aimed his wand and the magic sped forward in a rush of warm air.

Harry ducked, and Emily saw him mouth a blasting curse.

"Protego!" Draco blocked it.

"Stupefy!"

"Expelliarnus!"

Shouted at the same time, both spells missed their targets as both boys easily avoided them. And, hearing the desperation beginning to creep in as both boys fell back, Emily decided that now was the time to intervene. She stepped forward, wand at the ready.

"Don't you think -" she began hesitantly, but was soon cut off.

"Shut up, Emily! I'm going to kil-"

"Don't you tell her to shut up, ferret!" Harry shouted in her defence and aimed another curse.

"Incendio!"

"Impedimenta..."

Once again, both spells missed their intended targets; Harry's setting alight a nearby tree.

"Oh, dear, sweet, Merlin!" Emily found herself whispering, as she ran forward to douse the now fully blazing tree as the flames licked higher. "What on earth next?" Just how am I going to calm things down before someone gets themselves killed...or worse!

A few minutes later, she had managed to put the rapidly growing flames out. The poor old tree stood twisted and blackened, and the sickening stench of burnt, damp wood assaulted her nostrils. Aguamenti, may have managed to beat back the flames, she thought, wistfully. But, no amount of magic in the world, could heal its blackened and burnt trunk! She sighed. Then leaning forward and patting its still smouldering trunk, her wand still held purposely in her hand, she turned to face the duellers....

....and blinked in surprise.

What had started as a (semi) dignified duel - had now disintegrated into a playground brawl, a dangerous brawl with wands. Both boys were still throwing hex after hex at each other, only now they had resorted to schoolyard jinxes. Harry had just a hurled a Jelly-Leg curse Draco's way - and Draco had cast a Trip jinx in response: it was almost like being back amongst one of their famed duels at Hogwarts, only this time - the hatred in their eyes burned more intensely. And, to top the strange sight of two fully grown men hexing each other like schoolboys off, was the strange sight of Luna weaving and ducking in-between them. What on earth Luna was up to, she did not know. However, stepping forward and moving down towards them, Emily had an idea she would soon find out.

"Langlock!"

"Locomotor Mortis!"

"Missed again, Potter! Just how did you defeat Voldemort - it's just I'm beginning to wonder..."

"Silencio!"

"It'll take more than that to shut me up, Potter! Do you want to show me some fancy footwork, Scarhead? ... Tarantallegra!"

Harry only just avoided it; he just managed to twist to his right with a little unbalanced hop and aimed again.

"Rictusempra!"

Really, a tickling charm, Emily thought in disgust as she just barely managed to avoid being hit by it. Whatever next? This really had to stop....

"A tickling charm, Potter?" Draco drawled out again, making sure his tone was at its most scornful. "Really, Potter ... what are you trying to do ... tickle me to death!"

"Just shut it, Malfoy," spat back Harry, clearly beginning to look tired. "Just because all you know is the Dark Arts..."

"No, not just the Dark Arts, Potty. I know that you're a pathetic waste of space as well..."

"Just bloody shut your mouth, Git-face! Or I'll do it for you...."

"I hear, from reliable sources -- that you're useless in bed too!" A sly smirk lit up Draco's face and his eyes gleamed maliciously.

"Bloody lying bastard ... I'll kill you..." Harry made to leap forward, but a restraining hand from Luna stopped him.

"Please ... just stop now, Harry. You've both managed to hurt each other, why not end it now...." Her voice trailed off slowly and she looked searchingly up into Harry's face. However, Emily could tell, by the fire in his eyes, that Harry was having none of it! He wasn't going to let Luna swing things this time.

"Because," he finally retorted, biting each word off angrily. "Because Luna - I bloody enjoy it!"

In addition, from where she stood, Emily saw a feral grin of agreement spread slowly across Draco's face.

"Well, at least we agree on something, Pothead!" he snarled out, eyes gleaming wickedly. "Because I'm going to bloody enjoy watching you shrivel and die..."

Something inside Emily snapped. She'd had enough! She was sick of watching them hurt each other, she was sick of them acting like children.

"That's enough!" She yelled, the loudness of her voice surprising everyone; even making Harry's head jolt towards her in shock. "That's it! I've had enough of this idiocy! Just stop it! ... And, if you really feel the need to continue to hex each other to death ... go somewhere else and do it! Because I don't want to hear it! I don't want to hear it, see it, or be any part of it! Bloody well kill each other if you like, but you can just go and find somewhere else to do it! Because I've had E.N.O.U.G.H!"

Red-faced and breathing heavily, hand curled tight around her wand, Emily turned her hot glare on them: Harry was looking at her wide-eyed, his mouth slightly open in shock as, with a placating hand, Luna tried to lead him away.

"Em," he faltered, his voice barely perceptible; his green eyes huge behind his round-freamed glasses. "Em, I'm so sor..."

But, Emily ignored him. She did not want his apologies or heartfelt pleas - she just wanted this current madness to stop before she fell over the edge into insanity. Really, it was amazing, she thought to herself, distractedly. How each brand new day - just seemed to make things worse! She really, really, didn't need any of this anymore! So, screwing up her face and shaking her head irritably at him, she turned to face Draco - who was grinning smugly down at her. Her blood began to boil.

"It's ... it's not funny, Mal-"

Her voice failed her, as he leant forward and pinched her cheek.

"OW!"

"You really are cute when you're angry, Em. You just need to work on the scary bit..."

She slapped his hand away.

"This is not a joke, Malfoy! I - I mean it!"

"I'm sure you do, Em. But, it just needs some working on ... But do not worry, if you are good, I will teach you some tricks out of the Malfoy Rule book - which is a high honour indeed for a Mudbl - I mean Muggleborn, such as yourself. Now, be a good girl, and fetch me my wand...."

Emily glared at him in amazement. Of all the nerve! However, before she could deliver her full wrath on him, Harry's voice rang out.

"Don't do it, Emily! Don't let him talk to you like that!"

"Keep out of this, Potter!"

"Harry, I can handle him myself..."

"Yes, you heard her, Potter. Emily, knows just the right way to handle me..." A knowing smirk crawled on his lips as he raised his eyebrows suggestively at Harry.

This was too much for Harry. Draco, as always, had hit the right target. Just this subtle innuendo had memories of finding Em and Draco together came flooding back. Something inside him exploded and he went for the jugular.

"Are you so desperate," he hissed through gritted teeth, his eyes never leaving Draco's. "Are you actually so desperate to be me, Malfoy ? ... That any cast-off of mine will do?"

Draco's shoulders stiffened and a hurt gasp came tumbling out of Emily's lips; she just couldn't believe that Harry could say something so hurtful with her still stood there. How could he? Where was the kind Harry, she used to know? She couldn't let him get away with that, could she? However, before she even got the chance to retaliate, a cold-eyed Draco did so for her.

"Leave her out of it, or I'll..." Draco's eyes gleamed with hatred and his wand shook, a little unsteadily, in his hand.

"Or you'll what, Malfoy?"

"Or I'll have to teach you some manners..."

"That's rich coming from you, Malfoy! What do you know of manners? Who taught them you? Your homicidal father, or your lunatic mother? By the way, how is St Mungo's nowadays? I heard she hasn't tried to kill herself for over a week...."

Harry broke off and grinned smugly as he watched his old schoolboy enemy turn a deathly pale: his face draining of all colour, his lips thinning into a thin line, and his narrowing into furious slits. Happy, that he had finally got the best of Draco Malfoy, Harry then turned his back on him, moved past a stricken Luna and beckoned for her to follow.

Emily saw Draco raise her wand and take aim, but she couldn't find a valid reason to stop him. Then everything seemed to happen all at once.

"Crucio-"

A quite pop ... that somehow seemed to resound through the air.

"Accio wand!"

The wand flew out of Draco's hand, and began flying towards the person who had just Apparated behind him; he spun round quickly, to face this intruder with a savage snarl.

"See, Em," Harry's voice seemed to float towards a rather disorientated Emily . "He was going to curse me with my back turned...."

Emily opened her mouth to answer him, to tell him exactly what she thought - when the new voice, that had just joined them, rang out again.

"Don't even try it, Malfoy! You have two wands trained on you now..."

Oh, no, that voice sounded very familiar, Emily thought nervously, and her fears were soon confirmed when Draco's voice drawled out.

"Just give me back that wand, Weasel! What's the matter - can't you afford one of your own?"

Dragging her reluctant eyes from Draco's back, Emily looked over his shoulder to see Ron Weasley standing there and her thought process went into overdrive. What the hell was he doing here? Just what on earth was going on? She had no solid answers for her questions, but all her old suspicions suddenly leapt back to life; she wanted to get to the bottom of this. So, steeling herself, she began to walk towards the weasel.

"Stay out of this, Em. Me and Ron will sort this out - you don't have to get involved." Harry's voice called after her, but she took no notice and carried on walking determinedly ahead.

"What are you doing here, Ronald," she heard herself ask coldly, as she approached him. Ron just stared back at her, unsettled by her tone.

"She asked you a question, Weasley," Draco intoned nastily, as he still glared daggers at the youngest Weasley boy. "Aren't you going to answer her?"

After a few moments of staring like a moron and nervously licking his teeth, Ron finally answered the pair of them, his wand never leaving Draco.

"Hermione sent me..."

"Hermione sent you?" Emily questioned, puzzled. But, as her brow crinkled in thought, it had already begun to dawn on her ... Harry! She turned, this time to have it out with him, when yet another commotion broke out.

Draco had dove to his right, diving to the ground, his hand darting forward like lightening. Emily couldn't quite comprehend just what he was doing - but then she saw his real wand laying in the grass, almost hidden by its frosted blades, not a few feet away from her, mere inches away from Luna's boot-clad feet ... and she darted forward too.

"Accio wand!" She heard Ron shout again, followed by an urgent to plea to Luna.

"Luna, his wand!" Harry yelled out from behind her. "Pick it up, Luna ... Don't let him get it!"

And, before she could even raise her eyes to plead with her friend, Luna reached down, picked it up, and slid it inside her robes without hesitation.

"Luna, please," Emily gasped out, somewhat breathlessly, as she neared her. "Give it to me, please..."

But, Emily was cut off, and almost knocked off her feet, by an extremely furious Draco marching right past her. He reached Luna in three purposeful strides.

"Give it back, Lovegood," he demanded, trying to keep his voice free from the anger that threatened to consume him. "Give it back to me - you know what's going on here, you've seen what's just happened! Now, just give me back my wand and I wont have to hurt you...."

Luna stared at his outstretched hand and seemed to consider. She raised her eyes to his and began to speak softly, "If you promise not to...."

"Don't you dare give it to him, Luna," a breathless Harry shouted, also making his way over with his hand thrust forward. "Don't be so stupid, hand it over..."

Luna blinked at him, disconcertingly. And, again, began to speak softly.

"Don't call me stupid, Harry - I'm not stupid..."

Harry had the grace to look uncomfortable as he gave her a rueful smile, his hand still held out before him. "I knew you're not, Luna - it's just-"

"Oh, bloody hell, Lovegood!" Ron's voice came booming over. "Just give Harry the bloody wand!"

Luna ignored Ron, and continued to address Harry.

"You're supposed to be my friend Harry, but you spoke to me like those other people back at school..."

"I know, Luna. I'm sorry, I wasn't myself. But, please give me the wand..."

"Oh, please, spare us," Draco had to drawl out, impatient with the slowness of everything. "Give me my wand, Lovegood. It's mine, it's Snape's orders that I should have it!"

"Snape, what's Snape got to do with it?" Ron's voice echoed out, sounding very confused. "Look, I'm here officially from the ministry, hand it over to me! What's all this about the snake?"

Luna's stared vaguely at each face of each boy in turn, from Draco's practiced scowl to Ron's usual look of bemusement. She then turned her gaze on Harry, who smiled at her beatifically and made her mind up. Wrapping her robes tightly around her, she gazed at the spot just between Draco's and Emily's shoulders and addressed them all quietly, but firmly.

"I think," she said, with a soft smile. "That I shall keep hold of the wand until you boys learn some manners..." And, ignoring the boys astounded looks and loud protests, she walked off to a nearby tree stump, innocent smile still in place. Draco turned his disbelieving eyes to Harry.

"This is all your fault, Potter!"

Rolling his eyes, Harry answered with out hesitation. "How do you make that one out, ferret boy!"

"Because its always your fault, Potter!"

"Your so bloody stupid, Malfoy. Did you inherit it from your father's or mother's side? Wait, of course, it's the insanity you got from your mother's side..."

Draco snarled and took a step forward, but stopped when Emily placed a placating hand on his arm.

"Don't, Draco," she whispered to him, bringing her lips close to his ear. "Can't you see what he's doing? He wants you to hit him! He's just using your normal tactics against you..."

Draco let Emily's closeness and words soothe him a little, but the desire to hurt someone would not abate and go away. Stepping in closer to her, he let his hand wander slowly up and down her arm.

"But, Emily," he whispered back, resting his chin lightly on top of her head. "I really, I mean really, really, want to hit him hard! Would it be so bad - if I broke his nose again?"

Emily bit back a smile. While she was certainly mad at Harry, at the things that he'd said, at the things he had done ... and, to be quite honest with herself, she thought he deserved a good punch! But, she also knew, that right now at this moment, she just needed some peace and quiet to work events through in her overtaxed mind. Reaching up, to stroke the nape of his neck, she was about to tell him so - when her arm was grabbed and she was wrenched away from him.

"Don't touch her! Get your bloody hands off of her, Malfoy! I don't know what spell you've got her under, but I'll kill you, I swear, if you lay one more hand on her...."

"Harry, what's the matter with you?" Emily exclaimed, as she began slapping his hand and trying to prise his fingers from her. "Take your fucking hands off of me!" And, twisting away from his grip, Emily failed to see the dangerous gleam that darkened Draco's eyes. She didn't, however, fail to hear the sickening crunch of fist on bone. Harry's grip on her loosened and she turned to see him fall to his knees, his hands clamped protectively over his blood-dripping nose. Deciding to ignore his muffled curses and baleful stare, she turned her eyes up to Draco instead.

He was standing above Harry, eyes dark with triumph, clearly enjoying the sight before him. Emily knew that she should reprimand him, shout at him or something, that she should do something other than just stare. But, as she looked up into his cold-grey eyes, she knew she couldn't. Harry deserved it! The things he had said and done today were, well ... they were unforgivable in her eyes. So she just continued to stare blankly ahead, as she tried to reach a decision, as she tried to form a new plan.

"Harry, are you all right, mate," Ron's voice called out loudly, making it hard for Emily to process her thoughts. He came around the side of her and placed a concerned hand on Harry's shoulder. "That was one heck of a punch you took, who'd of thought the ferret had it in him..."

"I'd thinkd he'd brokd my node," was Harry's muffled reply, as he raised his eyes to stare at Emily, while uselessly trying to mop the blood from his nose. However, Emily didn't feel his eyes on her as she continued to stare at Draco, who still stood smirking rather blankly, his eyes still fixed on Harry. He looks so alone, she couldn't help but think to herself. His countenance looks so cold, his eyes so dark and empty....

Then, suddenly, those empty eyes turned to hers and, scaring her a little with their sudden new intensity, they seemed to ask her question. Silently, with her expressive eyes opened wide, she tried to answer him. Staring at each other in silence, they communicated without words, and Emily could only hope that those seemingly soulless eyes understood what she was trying to say. But, yet again, she was rudely interrupted before she could attain the answers that she wanted. This time, the interrupter was Ron.

"You're in big trouble now, Malfoy," he said with a scowl, holding a blood soaked hankie as he tried his best to mop up his best friends nose. "Just wait till the ministry hears about this..."

The spell between Emily and Draco instantly broke, leaving Emily feeling rather empty, and Draco turned to Ron with a sneer.

"Fuck the ministry, Weasley and fuck you too!" he hissed out sharply and, with those final words, he turned and stalked off towards the trees without giving Emily so much as a final glance.

"Bloody hell, are we just going to let him walk away - he could Disapparate or anything!" Ron asked his best friend. But, with solemn eyes still glued to Emily, Harry just shook his head, no.

"Judt leabe it, Won," he managed to say, through his still bleeding nose. "He wonb geb too far - heb habn't got ab wand..."

Emily stared after Draco, watching him disappear into the shadowy trees, before turning her gaze back to Harry. She looked at him through impenetrable eyes, while his pained green eyes stared back into hers.

"Dob you habe me, Emibly," he asked her quietly, hating to see her look at him that way. "I'b sowwy aboudt Herbione, Emb - Ib kno..."

Irritated by his incoherence, Emily turned away from him to Ron.

"Do you think I could have my wand back now please, Ronald?" she asked him as coldly as possible. Ron's voice instantly went up two decibels.

"Your wand, what do you mean your wand? I haven't touched your wand, Carlisle!"

"Oh, yes, you have," Emily retorted smartly, "it's the wand you Accio'd off of Draco ... I want it back!"

Ron turned his confused eyes to Harry, who merely nodded his answer.

"Then if this is your wand," Ron pondered hard, as he pulled her wand from his robes, scratched his head, and pointed to the wand in Emily's hand. "Then whose wand is that?"

"It's Luna's," Emily replied promptly. "And, as soon as you give my wand back to me, I'm going to give it back to her. So come on, Weasley ... Hand it over!"

Ron's eyes flew questioningly to Harry's again, who promptly nodded his consent. Then, muttering something indecipherable under his breath, he reluctantly handed over to Emily.

Emily almost snatched it from him in her eagerness to have her own wand back. Really, it had been too long since she last held it! Not having your own wand was a little bit like missing a little piece of yourself. Her wand finally back in her own hands, she cradled it softly and thought of Draco: he hadn't held his own wand in years, three years to be exact! If she, Emily, felt so strange without her wand for just a few days, how on earth did Draco feel about not having his for three years? Emily knew that she could not know for sure how he felt, even if she asked him. But, somewhere, deep inside herself, she began to hold a glimmer of understanding of what it must be like to be Draco Malfoy. And, despite herself, she shuddered.

"Areb youb albright, Emb?" Harry asked quietly, noticing how the colour had suddenly drained from her face. "Dob youb...."

But, looking up at him suddenly, Emily didn't let him finish off his words. Instead, she lifted her wand and pointed it directly at him. Harry looked suitably nervous, she thought as she held her wand out. A small hex wouldn't hurt would it? But, Emily knew she didn't have the will to hex him right then, even though, in her mind, he deserved it! So, she whispered out a healing charm instead.

"Episkey," she stated clearly, and Harry's nose began to knot and mend. Then, pocketing her own wand and holding Luna's in her hand, she turned to leave.

"Thanks, Emily," Harry called after her, his voice stopping her in her tracks. "I'm really grateful, and I'm so sorry too, Em..."

She swung back round to face him.

"You better follow that up with a siphoning charm, Harry. You still have blood all over your face," she told him coolly, her cool tone covering her growing anger. "But, I don't want your apologies, Harry! After today, I don't want anything from you ever again! And, believe me, if I didn't believe that that's actually Firewhiskey I can still smell on your breath, well, put it this way - I wouldn't even be bothering to speak to you now...."

"But, Em. If this is about Hermione, I'm truly sorry," Harry responded quickly, as Ron began sniffing at him comically, trying to sniff out the alcoholic fumes.

"This is not about you telling Hermione, Harry. That was something I actually suspected from you, I know how you are with your friends ... No, Harry, that's not it - I saw something in you today, what I'd never thought I'd see in you-"

"Bloody hell, Harry," Ron suddenly exploded, interrupting Emily's tirade. "You have been drinking! You smell like a brewery! Just how many have you had?"

Angry at his friends interruption, Harry nudged him roughly with his elbow and shot him a hot glare.

"Look, Emily," he began quickly, withdrawing his glare from Ron to look remorsefully up at her. "I know I've been out of order, manhandling you and everything.... But, honest to god, Emily, I'm so very sorry...."

It wasn't that she didn't believe him. In fact, his tone convinced of how sorry he was. It was just that a few heartfelt sorries were unable to fix this rift. Well that, and the fact he had no idea of what exactly he had done! That, he had not a clue about what was making her so angry! She wanted so much just to walk over to him and give him a stinging slap across the face, she wanted so much just to lash out at him. But, that would get her nowhere and she had her plan to execute now. So, giving a little shake of her head, she turned away from Harry. If he couldn't understand how his cruel words had cut so deep, or how turning his back on an already highly volatile Draco had not upset her, then he did not deserve anymore of her time. If he ever truly understood, just exactly what he had done, only then could she consider being his friend again. But, until then, they were left with this.

So, turning her back on him, she walked away without accepting his apology. She was going to give Luna her wand back and then go and find Draco.



Ron stared after Emily's retreating back. He would have to be very careful, he thought, as he brooded on the near future. He had nearly slipped up twice this evening. That Carlisle girl was awfully acute sometimes, and if she kept on asking her close to the mark questions, he might very well slip up soon.

And, then there was Harry. He was proving to be another problem. Yes, he'd turned up to late to see the crux of the problem here. But, it didn't take much brain power to work out something was wrong with Harry, he was acting very strange, so very much unlike himself!

Ron's head began to hurt. Really, it was much too hard on him, pretending to be so stupid all the time. He had to clear the wool that threatened to muffle his head, he had to get Luna to give Malfoy back his wand, and he had to get everybody organised and headed towards Hogwarts. Normally, he could rely on Harry to help him. But, casting a sly look sideways at him, Ron could see that Harry would not be too much help in his current state of mind. Actually, he mulled, he didn't think he'd ever saw Harry with such a self-pitying look on his face. What was wrong with him? What was all that business with Malfoy? Ron didn't know, did not have a clue! But, he would bet his last Sickle - that that Carlisle girl was behind it all.

So, pushing his thoughts aside for the moment, for there was not much he could achieve right now, Ron sat back and watched Emily (who was as clumsy as ever) stumble and clutch hold of Luna's robes. Honestly, Ronald, he could almost hear his mother say. There's no need to worry about that young lady, she can hardly find her feet in the dark! Ron listened to his mothers phantom laugh and gave into chuckle. Emily and Luna were stumbling over each other in the dark, looking anything but their supposed Ravenclaw archetype. Were these girls really supposed to be cool, clearheaded Ravenclaws? Somehow, Ron didn't think so. In fact, from Cho right down to Emily, he didn't think much of Ravenclaw girls ... But, he reminded himself, he mustn't get to complacent, he must not forget that shrewd look in Emily's eyes. Then, suddenly, tired of thinking, Ron turned to Harry and tried a stab at rekindling their old easy banter.



Emily missed her footing and fell on top of Luna. The fact that she could feel two pairs of eyes boring into her didn't help matters. Even in the dark, she could feel her cheeks burning bright red. And, clutching on to Luna's robes, she pulled herself into sitting position.

"Sorry, Luna," she mumbled quietly. "I didn't mean to fall all over you, I just wanted to give back your wand."

"That's alright, Emily," Luna answered in a low whisper, taking the wand Emily held out to her. "I don't mind, it's not like you meant to fall over me."

Emily let out a low chuckle and leaned in to give Luna a quick hug.

"I'm sorry, Luna," she laughed, giving into a sudden onset of giggles. "You really are the nicest person that I've ever known."

Emily saw Luna turn around to smile at her, and her pearly white teeth seemed to glow in the night. This caused Emily to giggle all the more.

"You really have nice teeth too, Luna," Emily choked out between giggles.

Luna, used to Emily's queer mood swings, chose to say nothing. Emily was a strange girl, she thought to herself. In her own way, she was almost as odd as people expected her to be! But, Emily was nice, nice and very clever, and she did not care for people who held false pretensions. In fact, Emily was one of the very few people she respected the most. And, if she had the chance to help Emily, whether with the loan of her wand or something more, Luna trusted her and took pride in her trust. There was more to Emily, than people gave her credit for, so much more in fact! Luna smiled a secret smile, sure in her trust of Emily. Both girls sat on the fallen trunk, Emily's giggles forgotten as each girl became lost in their own thoughts. Then, as time slowly ticked past, and somehow sensing Emily's urge to be somewhere else, Luna nudged her gently and lowered her voice even more.

"Go to him now, Emily," she whispered, in a consprisal tone. "I know you want to be with him..."

"I will," said Emily, getting off the tree stump and standing up, almost tripping over her own feet as she did so. "I mean, I am, I'm going now...." Then, leaning down towards Luna, she gave her an impulsive kiss on the cheek.

"Thanks so much, Luna," she whispered softly. "You've always been the best sort of friend."

Luna beamed up at her happily, letting her smile be her answer. The two girls smiled happily at each other, untold secrets passing between them, until Emily could wait no more. Then, with a genuine smile and a small giggle, she waved goodbye to Luna and made her way to the spot (engraved in her memory) where Draco had departed. As she left, she was aware of Harry's eyes upon her. However, having made her decision, she ignored them and carried on making her way forward. And then, Emily too, was soon swallowed up by the ever looming trees.


Harry watched her go and felt something sink inside of him. He felt as though something essential had passed, but something new was about to begin; he just didn't know why or what! So, ignoring Ron's, somewhat, inane chatter, Harry began to reflect of the recent events just passed.

Why he had acted that way, he had no idea. Emily was right, he hadn't acted like himself ... he had acted like a low life. In fact, he had acted like a Malfoy! Actually, he had been much worse than a Malfoy, Malfoy's were supposed to act that way, it was inbred into them form an early age. But, Harry was no Malfoy, he was supposed to be one of the good people and that's what made his behaviour so much worse! Harry blinked rapidly as he felt that familiar sense of shame descend on him.

He had goaded Malfoy, he had slung the lowest form of insults at him. Insults that must have stung him badly, especially those aimed at his mother. He had even turned his back on him deliberately, knowing Malfoy, knowing he wouldn't be able to resist the temptation to curse him; hoping that Emily would see Malfoy for the scum he was! But, now, he even questioned that motive: did he really want Emily so bad - or was he just trying to disprove Luna's crazy theory? And, if, proving himself to be right to Luna was his motive, if he was so determined to prove his point that he was even willing to turn himself into Draco bloody Malfoy! Then, then ... the question was - what was he so desperate to hide from himself? Was it the fact that Luna was right? Was he not in love with Emily, was he just pooling his affections into something impossible - was he just running away from the fact that he was afraid of truly loving someone? Was that it, was it Luna, with her impossible knack of finding out the truth - or was it something more? Was it something that he never wanted to admit to himself, was it something so shameful that to even admit to himself meant not being able to face his reflection in the mirror each morning? Was he, could it possibly that he was jeal...? No, it couldn't be that - it wasn't that, he was sure! But, then if that was true ... why on earth, did he feel so little loss at the thought of losing Emily?

Yes, he was upset that he'd hurt her, afraid that he had lost her friendship. But, that was just it - he felt shame at the thought of losing her friendship, her respect, that he had hurt her ... yet there was just no ache there! He didn't feel that void, he had felt with Cho, nor the all consuming sadness when he had broke it off with Ginny. In fact, it felt like he had just stabbed his best friend in the back - it felt like it would have felt if he had hurt Hermione and Ron! And, although he did love both his friends - it was definitely not a romantic kind of love in any shape or form. But, if that were true, if he was not in love with Emily, if Luna was right; then it would mean that the other was true - that he, Harry Potter, was indeed a pretty messed up individual! Oh, Merlin! His head had started to pound, and he needed to get away, he needed to talk with Luna. So, with his eyes flicking over to her and seeing her still sitting over there, her serene smile still visible in the dark, Harry made up his mind.

Standing up, without a word to his friend sat down next to him, Harry made his way forward in the darkness; he made his way forward to Luna ... and Ron watched him go. Yes, Ron had to admit it, had to admit that he was very surprised by his friend's strange behaviour ... But, to tell the truth, Ron could do with some thinking time right now, he needed this time to plan ahead. So, ignoring the fact his best friend had more or less ignored him since he came, and making a mental note to talk to him about it at a later date, Ron let him go and began to put his plans in order instead.

Harry sat down next to Luna and gave her a wry smile. Luna smiled back at him.

"Hello, Harry," she greeted him simply. "Is your nose all better now?"

Harry inclined his head and got straight to the point.

"Do you hate me too, Luna?"

"Well, you haven't been behaving as you normally do, Harry. But, no, I don't hate you - I have a feeling Emily's not to fond of you though ... You really were quite cruel..."

"He deserved it," Harry intoned quickly, not wanting to hear Luna's insightful opinions on that. "But, I don't want to talk about all that, Luna. I want to talk about what you said before - I - I think you were right..."

"Oh, I normally am, Harry" Luna replied, without a trace of arrogance. "So you're not in love with Emily then?"

"I don't think so, Luna ... I think it might actually be something worse...." Harry let his voice trail off purposely, and waited to see what Luna would say. Watching him with her slightly protuberant blue eyes, Luna studied him a little before answering.

"Do you want me to tell you what I think," she questioned quietly, still watching him carefully. Harry nodded.

"Well, I think maybe you feel jealous, maybe you feel like your nose has been put out of joint..."

Trust Luna to put it so bluntly, Harry thought wryly, slightly tuning out her words. Trust her to get straight to the point.

"...I think you're jealous of Draco Malfoy."

To hear it said so bluntly, pushed Harry over the edge.

"I AM NOT JEALOUS OF DR..." Harry somehow managed to gain some control and lowered his voice before continuing. "I am not jealous of him, Luna ... I - I, well, it's just not bloody fair! I'm Harry Potter, dealing with Dark Lords is my thing - not his! I had to defeat Voldemort, I lost most of my childhood because of him. I lost friends and family, I even lost my girlfriend! And, now, apparently, we have a New Dark Lord, and no one saw fit to tell me until the last bloody minute! It's like I'm not wanted! It's like this is not your problem, Harry! It doesn't matter that you have the most experience, it doesn't matter you have a bone or two to pick with Lucius Malfoy yourself! It's just - it's not your problem Harry, just be a good boy and let us deal with it!"

Harry broke off, finally running out of steam and Luna's voice wafted over to him.

"Oh, so I was right about it being Lucius," she pondered out loud, not noticing the exasperated glare Harry sent her way. "But, you do know their right, Harry - don't you? It really isn't your battle, and it's not as if your fond of the Malfoy boy...."

"No, I'm not bloody fond of him," Harry snapped back, feeling very irritated. Luna was meant to understand him, not talk circles around him. "But, I tackled a real Dark Lord, and rid the wizarding world of a very real danger. His bloody Dark Lord is just some sort of family feud..."

"Oh, Harry, that's not fair ... I'm sure Lucius is a real danger..."

Harry continued, not even bothering to listen.

"...and not only that. He's just faced with an angry father, not even a Horcrux in sight, and he's got Snape jumping through hoops, Emily would follow him to the ends of the earth, and it's - it's - well it's just not fair! I'm meant to be The Dark Lord Fighting Person, not him! He's an evil ferret, and - and - it just feels like he's taking what's mine away from me!"

Running out of steam, running out of hatred and feeling very silly, Harry came to a full stop and dropped his head in his hands. Beside him, Luna's hand landed gently on his knee and she began to pat his leg soothingly.

"It's alright, Harry," she told him, gently. "I can understand, the war has left a lot of people mixed up. It really is understandable that you would feel that way..."

Harry lifted his head to look into her eyes; he needed to see if she was being truthful.

"Really, Luna," he asked her, stilling her hand with his. "Do you really understand?"

Luna smiled up into his shining -green eyes and nodded.

"Yes, Harry," she assured him softly. "And if you told Emily so, she would too."

A moments silence followed. Harry lost in thoughts of just how stupid he had been, Luna lost amid thoughts that belonged to her alone. Harry was the first to break the comfortable reprieve. Turning to Luna with an abashed grin and smiling eyes, he started up the conversation again.

"I guess, I have some bridges to rebuild, huh?"

Luna nodded, still smiling secretly.

"And, I suppose I should start by...." He didn't have the chance to finish as Ron's voice suddenly burst out into the premature night.

"Yeah, your right, Harry. I think we should get moving now ... Find Emily and the ferret, and start heading for Hogwarts...."

Harry shot his friend an exasperated glare; Ron shrugged his shoulders back at him and impatiently rolled his eyes. "Well, Harry - are we going to make a move or not?"

Ignoring him, Harry turned to Luna and resumed what he was about to say.

"As, I was saying, Luna. Maybe I should start by giving the ferret back his wand ... after all, I don't want Snape on my back about it! So, please, Luna ... May I have Malfoy's wand?"

Luna positively beamed at him.

"That was lovely, Harry," she smiled up at him happily. "Very, very, polite - but, I'm afraid I can't do that...."

"Oh, stop, messing us about, Luna," Ron rudely interrupted again. "Just give us the ferret's wand back, and we can get on our way-"

"But, I told you already, I can't..."

Understanding Luna better than Ron, Harry schooled his face to stay calm and turned two serious eyes on her.

"Why, Luna," he asked softly, thinking to himself that he was unsure if he actually wanted to hear her reply; a few steps away from them - Ron, red-faced, looked ready to explode. "Why can't you give it us?"

Luna smiled happily up at the two young men, seemingly, unaware of the tension now brewing.

"Well, because I don't have it of course ... Emily already took it!"

Following this statement, the only sound heard for miles around, was the sound of two jaws dropping simultaneously to the ground.


---



She didn't have to go far to find him. In fact, he was skulking behind one of the first trees that she had passed. His had arm darted out from the shadows and, in no time, she found herself pinned between him and the tree. Now, looking up at him and staring into those determined eyes, Emily felt rather breathless as she always did when he was just so close. There was just no turning back now, and nothing nor nobody could persuade her from the path she was about to follow. So, continuing to gaze up at him, she reached up to cup his face.

"You're leaving, aren't you?" she asked him simply, letting her fingers trace lazy circles along his jaw. "You're going to leave me!"

His eyes seemed to flinch at this abrupt statement, but he jaw soon reset in determination.

"I have to, Em," he replied gently, not wanting to hurt her. "I can't stay here with them ... I have to go my own way now..."

For a moment, she didn't reply, and just continued to scrutinise his expressionless face. Searching for any sign or hint of how she should proceed, for he was always difficult to read in this mood, she looked deep into seemingly bottomless grey eyes.

"But, you can't leave without a wand, Draco," she told him softly, now standing on tiptoes, her lips brushing against the lobe of his ear. "...and you really didn't think I'd let you go so easily, did you?"

"I need your wand, Emily," he shot back straight away, as he entwined his fingers with hers and pulled her hand away from his cheek. "Don't play games now, Em ... This is no time for games...."

Dropping her eyes from his, she looked at their clasped hands. If this was going to work, she had to be sure him - had to be sure of his feelings for her.

"Would you take me with you, if you could?" she plunged in headfirst with her question, mentally holding her breath.

"I can't take you with me, Em," came his swift pained reply. "I don't want to lead you into danger and I need your wand if I'm to stand a chance of survival. Emily, please give me your wand...."

Head still held down, she shook it, giving him her negative response. Then, glancing up, to gauge his reaction, she caught a hint of desperation flicker in his otherwise empty eyes.

"Please, Emily," he pleaded gently, as he caught a hold of her chin and forced her to look into his determined eyes. "Don't do this to me, please give me your wand, please give me a chance...."

"I'll give you a wand, if you let me come with you...."

"I can't let you come along defenceless, Em ... I can barely look after myself-"

"Then I'll protect you...."

"Emily, please don't do this ... It's already hard enough!" He dropped his hand from her face.

"Well, just answer me this then ... Do you want me to come with you, if it wasn't for the danger and all those other excuses - would you want me to be there?"

"I can't answer that, Em...."

She planted a kiss on the corner of his mouth and caught back his hand in hers.

"Please stop..."

"Just answer me, and I'll stop..." Her eyes never leaving his face, her eyes not letting him look away from her.

"Emily..."

"I love you..." Another chaste kiss on the lips.

"Don't..."

"I don't care that you're an evil ferret ... you're my evil ferret!" She dropped hold of both his hands and, resting her head on his shoulder, she entwined her arms around his neck.

This time he couldn't speak, he just uttered a guttural moan and Emily began to just let her lips trail lazily down to the hollow of his throat.

"Merlin, Emily!"

"Just tell me, Draco..." She lifted her head and nibbled gently on the lobe of his ear.

Draco shuddered and finally caved. Then gathering her close, he whispered savagely into her ear, "Of course I bloody want you with me, idiot! But, it's just too dangerous...."

Emily kissed his lips gently, cutting off the rest of his words.

"Then it's a good job that I managed to get a hold of this," she told him, her lips still brushing against his. Then, pulling away from him, her hand delved into her robes and pulled out a wand - his wand to be exact! Draco stared down at it disbelievingly, not quite sure of what he was seeing.

"Is that what I think it is, Em?" he questioned her quietly, his eyes finally leaving his wand and settling on her face.

"Well, if you think it's your wand - you'd be barking up the right tree," she answered with a laugh, triumph sparkling in her eyes. "So, does that change things then, Draco?"

He didn't answer her at first, he just found he simply couldn't. All he could do was take his wand gently from her hand and place into his own. He couldn't believe it - he was finally holding his own wand again, finally reconnecting to the power he thought he lost forever ... a wicked grin began to creep over his face. Then whooshing the wand in front of him like a five-year old wizard who had just received his first wand, he swooped down and pulled Emily close.

"Oh, Carlisle - this certainly does change things," he told her with a wicked gleam in his eye.

Feeling a little nervous, Emily laughingly asked him, "why?"

"Because, Emily, Dearest," he answered her, waggling his eyebrows wickedly and holding her to him tightly. "This means I'm going to be even more insufferable now!"

Then grabbing the back of her head gently, he pulled her in for a breathtaking kiss that sent Emily's senses spinning. Then, locked in a passionate embrace, he spun her around in his arms, and the two young lovers silently Dissapparated.



AN: Not too much to say, other than to sincerely apologise for once again taking so long. I really am sorry, but I just seem to get busier and busier. L But, I would like to wish all my readers A Very Merry Christmas and I hope you all have a great new year as well. Oh, and I'm hoping to get a couple of quiet days over Christmas, so I can Chapter 23 out in time for the new year. But, as always, I can't make any promises for exactly when. So, all that's left to say, is that I hope you all enjoy this Chapter and I thank you all for sticking with me. HO, HO, HO, MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY! *GRIN*



Chapter 23: A Very Eventful Day: Part One - What the Dawn Brings...
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A Very Eventful Day



Chapter Twenty Three



Part One: What the Dawn Brings....






===


Then grabbing the back of her head gently, he pulled her in for a breathtaking kiss that sent Emily's senses spinning. Then, locked in a passionate embrace, he spun her around in his arms, and the two young lovers silently Dissapparated.

===



Saturday, very early morning, 4:21 am: Lucius stood behind the moth-bitten red curtain, watching. Watching the greasy-haired former Hogwarts professor as he flicked through a proverbial mountain of books, which scattered the worm riddled table in front of him that now served as his worktop. The lank haired man sat behind the ramshackle desk with his features screwed into a thoughtful frown. However, Lucius was not fooled into thinking that this erudite wizard did not know he was there. For, despite his mask of well-worn concentration, Lucius was well aware, that this man probably knew that he was currently being watched. That he knew that Lucius currently stood, thoughtfully, behind the red-velvet hanging drapery, watching this enigmatic man.

No neither man in this room was a fool. Both knew the dangers of the current game that they were playing. And, still hidden, a mere shadow lost behind the heavy folds, Lucius narrowed his eyes in thought: he was thinking about this inscrutable wizard, he was thinking of questions of trust. Did he trust this man? No. Could he afford to keep this old friend close to his council? Again no, yet at this very moment in time he had little other choice. For now, Severus would have to remain close to him.

After all, it was a very wise man who came up with the adage, keep your friends close, but your enemies even closer. Yes, indeed, he would be wise to follow these words of wisdom. At least, until, Severus confirmed his suspicions and proved himself a traitor. And, if that was indeed the case, then he, Lucius Malfoy, was well prepared. Having had his suspicions for quite some time now, Lucius had every foreseeable outcome planned. If Severus Snape were to prove himself false, then Severus Snape would die swiftly.

Yes, it would pain him greatly to kill his old friend. However, one had to remember, that this man (old friend or not) was not of his class and breeding. That he was, indeed, a mere half-blood - clearly unworthy of someone of his heritage. In fact, it was the old ties of friendship that spared Severus from a more painful and prolonged death. After all, he could be a merciful man, he was not entirely heartless, he would spare his fellow Slytherin from the throws of mortal agony. He would gift to him a merciful and quick death when the time came; he would honour the ancient bonds of old friendships.

Oh, but - he was getting ahead of himself. One would almost think that he was relishing the thought of his old friend's death! No, he mustn't rush things, he must stay calm and follow his plans to precision: Snape was by his side now, was under his cautious eye, and had little to no chance of performing any treachery. Yes, under his watchful eye, Severus's time would be taken up with trying to open the key by two nights hence. He would have no time for thoughts of treachery, for his time had been so artfully taken for him. Halting this train of thought for a moment, to imagine his friend's ire, hidden so well under that polished mask of his, Lucius laughed to himself silently. Oh, yes, indeed - Severus probably knew his perilous position all too well. But, regrettably for him, he knew he could do little, if indeed nothing about it. Poor, poor, Severus, Lucius thought to himself with a sly, merciless smile. He had been well and truly ensnared! And, how hard it must be for him, for his embittered soul, to endure it!

Lucius lips pulled back into a feral grin, his teeth bared viciously in the dark, his mind filled with the darkest of thoughts, before swiftly moving on to the next matter that needed his undivided attention. He was done with his plans for Severus for now - he, after all, was not going anywhere. No, enough of Severus, he had now to turn his thoughts towards the boy ... to the unlikeliest of defectors.

The boy had surprised him greatly when he had come to him, with a dark glint in his eye and a mouth only too eager to spill the ministry's closest secrets. Oh, yes, he had been most surprised. However, instead of yielding to his first urge of killing on the spot, something had stilled his hand that eventful day, something deep within had whispered to him to not be hasty, to watch and listen. So, he had watched him closely that day, on that very fortunate day they had happened to meet in the darkest of corners in Knockturn Alley. He had indeed watched him closely and listened.

And, to his immense pleasure, he had soon learned he had found the best of allies in this most disenchanted of deserters. The boy would make the best sort of spy: disillusioned and greedy, he could prove himself the most welcome of traitors. Angry and embittered, he could become ... well, maybe not the most reliable. But, definitely, the most productive of his spies. And, hardly ever being proved wrong, he soon found himself once again rewarded for his astute insight. The boy had proved himself the most efficient of his followers.

However, as was always the case, the boy also brought with him some questionable qualities! But, it was not, in this case, the boys loyalty that he questioned. Indeed, it was almost too delicious to see how far one of Potter's precious inner circle had fallen into depravity. No, the boy's loyalty was not in question here. However, his hold on sanity was. Ever since he had come back from eliminating some wretched wench, who he'd extracted some very desirable information from. Well, since that day, a very unsavoury gleam had appeared in his eye. A gleam that Lucius did not much care for!

As good as he was, Lucius then decided. The boy, if proved too volatile, too unpredictable in time to come. Then, the boy would become expendable. He had no time for madmen, particularly, not when his ascent to ultimate power was so close. But, first, he would wait and see. See what the young man came to him with on the morrow. He would be with them soon, he would bring fresh news of his son. Yes, he would wait, he would wait until their next meeting. And, after hearing of his son's whereabouts, he would then decide this boy's fate.

Then, smiling cruelly, his mind finally at ease, Lucius turned and stepped away from the heavy curtain.

Snape's head was still buried in a mountain of books, his forehead wrinkled with a worn frown, as the silver-headed man made his way stealthily up the steps. He listened carefully to them as they disappeared into the quietness of the early morn. And, when they, at last, evaporated into nothingness, he allowed a suppressed shudder to come.

He knew he was trapped, he knew he was cornered, and his only hope lay with that infernal boy. May Merlin help him, if he failed to appear tomorrow!

And, so, as the new day dawned; deep black turning to grey, as a hint of pale pink appeared on the distant horizon, Severus Snape sat and watched. He watched as only condemned men do, he watched and gave himself over to the whims of hope. All rested on another's shoulders now and all he could do was hope that the boy could bear the burden.

---

In the woods, south of Otley: 6:00 am: Awakened by the twittering birds, Emily shifted her head uncomfortably. Still half asleep and not quite awake yet, she twisted and turned, trying to get more comfortable. Where she was, she had no idea yet, as her sleep-addled brain was not yet functioning properly. Yet, as she snuggled in closer, a vague memory of falling asleep on someone's masculine chest slowly returned to her.

Hmmn, she mused lazily, as her hand brushed against someone's shoulder as she turned once again. Just where am I? No answer came to her though - as her memory remained stubborn and, refusing to be woken up at such an early hour, remained a fuzzy void. Shifting again, she struggled to regain her thought process, but needn't have bothered as a cool and clearly irritated voice soon had her memory flooding back to her.

"Oh, do stop that infernal twisting, Carlisle?" it snapped out, as she opened one eye dubiously to look up at the extremely blurred form of a scowling, yet strangely angelic looking Draco Malfoy.

Oh, My! Does he have to look so good first thing in the morning, she thought, rather bemusedly, as she stared up fuzzily at him. Because, if so, it just wasn't fair - he always had her at a disadvantage! He had no right looking so good at this ungodly hour of the morning. Especially, she suspected, as she must look a real fright herself. No, it was not fair at all! But, as he continued to glower down at her upturned face, she decided that, angelic appearance or not, she wouldn't let him get away with being quite that grumpy first thing in the morning. He had no reason, what so ever, to be glowering quite as grumpily at her as that; she was only trying to get comfortable, after all!

So, still rather sleepily and without as much rancour as she would have liked, she managed to mutter up to him, "But, I was only trying to get comfortable..."

His sharp retort came immediately.

"Oh, were you uncomfortable, Carlisle?"

Sensing that she was in for a piece of his mind, she squeezed her eyes tightly closed and nodded her affirmative reply.

Her nod of affirmation was just what he was waiting for and his lips parted in a triumphant smirk.

"Oh, poor, little Emily had a bad night's sleep, did she?" he questioned smoothly and paused, grinning wickedly down at her as he saw her open one eye and peek warily up at him. "Because, if poor, little Emily doesn't like sleeping against my chest all through the night, she could always try sleeping with her back against a bloody tree instead - like I bloody well had to..."

She opened her mouth to leap to her own defence, but instantly knew she hadn't a leg to stand on. So, instead, she smiled sweetly up at him. It was time to rely on her girly charm.

"Did I say uncomfortable? Silly me! I didn't mean - well, put it this way, I meant that I was just trying to get more comfortable." She then demonstrated just exactly what she meant. Snuggling up close to him, she wound her hands round his waist and mumbled into his chest. "See what I mean, not uncomfortable ... just more comfortable."

His chest began to hitch under her, he was laughing. Her girly tactics had worked. And, even though she knew it wasn't nice to gloat, she couldn't help smirking smugly as she snuggled closer into his chest.

A hand brushed her hair lightly.

"Really, Em - do you honestly think that you can escape my punishment by just snuggling up to me?"

Emily said nothing and just cuddled in closer to him. The hand dropped from her hair and rested against her side. "Well, Carlisle - do you have nothing to say for yourself?"

Still silent, she unwound her arm from his waist and rested her hand on the top of his thigh, just letting it lay lightly there. Her fingers inched teasingly forward.

"No, I have nothing more to say - are you really going to punish me then, Draco?" She arched her neck upwards, watching him coyly, as her fingers found their target. And, the moment she touched him, she felt him stiffen, his body reacting naturally to her caress: his stomach constricted; the hand laying lazily at her side clutched at her tightly as a sharp hiss of breath escaped his lips and his pupils dilated, making his light-grey turn almost storm-cloud black. Interesting, she mused, not the slightest bit smugly, as she continued to stare up at his slightly disconcerted face, I think I may have found a way to finally shut him up! But, alas, she had thought too soon. The moment this thought had popped into her head, Draco's frown of slight indecision had turned into unnerving feral grin. He arched a knowing eyebrow at her.

"What in Merlin's name do you think you're doing, Carlisle?" He smirked smugly down at her, his eyes glinting with amusement as his hand slapped smartly down on top of hers, trapping her roaming fingers in his. "Honestly, Emily - you know you should always ask before touching, it's just not polite! Not appropriate behaviour at all - and there was I, thinking that you were a nice girl...."

Snorting out a contemptuous snort of laughter, Emily freed her trapped hand and poked him, hard, in the middle of his stomach. Really, he was just too much! "Oh, and I suppose Parkinson was a nice girl too...."

"Yes, very nice - much nicer than you..."

"There goes any chance you had of a good morning snog!"

"Oh, really, now - and there was I thinking that you had more on your mind..." he smirked, waggling his eyes eyebrows suggestively at her. She stared back up into his amused eyes, wondering just why, exactly, she liked him so much: was it the sexy smirk that excited her - or could it be, well, could it be his air of self-assurance? Or maybe it was that chiselled and aristocratic jaw line of his, or even his.... But, no, she was going to end this current line of thought - it only did strange things to her insides, making her stomach do extraordinary flips. Besides, that was exactly the reaction he wanted from her anyway. So, instead, she muttered upwards, "Insufferable git!"

"Well, I did warn you, Em..." He was laughing at her!

"Evil, Slytherin toe-rag!"

"Really, now, Emily - you flatter me too much..."

She gritted her teeth. "It was not meant as a compliment Malfoy!"

"Well, you do surprise me..." His quirked eyebrow said so much more than his sarcastic words and, maturely, she stuck out her tongue in response.

His expression suddenly changed, becoming more intense, more serious. Bringing his head down, closer to hers, he touched her cheek gently, running his thumb unhurriedly over her cheekbone.

"So, is there no chance of a snog then, Emily?" he asked quietly, his eyes, merely inches from hers, staring down at her intently.

She gulped. "Erm ... No - none what so ever!"

"Not even a little kiss...."

She shook her head, empathically. "It's my new new year's resolution - no more kissing intolerable gits!"

His eyes were still boring down at her, as he bit back a genuine smile from his lips.

"Resolutions are for Muggles," he snorted, in attempt to provoke her. "Plus, you do know that you won't last five minutes, don’t you? - You'll crumble, you know that you can't resist me...."

Emily bit down an amused smile of her own. "Make that certain arrogant, intolerable gits!"

"Face it, Carlisle - the weasel has more Galleons than you have willpower-"

"Oh, you - you..." She stuttered off, temporary unable to think of a satisfactory comeback. Draco, smirking at her apparent lack of brainpower, decided to help her out.

"How about sycophantic ferret, I haven't heard that one in a while..."

"Stop it!" She swatted him across the arm.

"Or, maybe, I do like this one, I think it sums me up quite well. How about ... you despicably evil, yet strangely sexy and handsome Slytherin, you..."

She laughed out loud. "Draco - I've never called you that-"

"Ah, but you've thought it though, haven't you?"

A sudden blush came to her cheeks as she recognised the truth to his words. "NO! Never, I've never thought that! Never, ever, ever - you're completely wrong - that thought has never crossed my mind!"

Her blush had betrayed her, though. On seeing her cheeks redden, Draco smirked and moved in for the kill. "I think the lady protests too much...."

"Oh..." Whether her exclamation was from frustration or the fact that he was moving much too close, she did not know. But, on seeing the look of intent that lighted his face, she pressed her lips tightly together, just too be sure. There would be no kissing, not today - no, none at all! She would prevail! He was behaving terribly - and, anyway, she still had to get him back for that little bit of harmless fun that he had pulled last night.

Honestly, she'd given him his wand back and how had he thanked her? He'd thanked her by giving her a pair of twitching rabbit ears, that’s how! Apparently, he always wanted to see how she would look with a pair of fluffy white ears on her head. And, apparently, he had also told her, he'd thought that she had looked quite fetching. However, Emily had seen fit to disagree. So, after he had told her (between bursts of laughter) that she was such a pwetty little bunny-wabbit one time too many, she had resorted to underhand tactics.

Threatening to hex vital (and most beloved) body parts off him and asking him, if being a ferret had given him a penchant for fluffy white creatures, had finally done the trick. Transfiguring her ears back to normal, he had muttered something about her being such a spoilsport. And this, added to the fact that he had smirked and chuckled about for the rest of the night, had given her an inkling that he was not at all remorseful about his terrible attack on her.

So, no, she would not let him kiss her now. She would remain strong and not let him kiss her until - well, at least, not till lunch time. The fact that he was now biting on his bottom lip in that particularly sexy way, would not distract her at all! And, neither would the fact, that he was now much too close, or that his mouth looked much too inviting. No, she would not give in, she would not yield to him this time....

Her train of thought then abruptly stumbled to a halt; his lips, now hovering directly above hers, caused her entire thought process to turn to mush, to a very useless pile of mush, at that.

"Just one kiss, Emily..." His voice was silky, his eyes were still locked with hers.

"No..." She opened her mouth to answer him, but it was too late. He had tricked her! As soon as her lips had parted, he had caught them in his own, delighting her with a soft kiss. The kiss, sweet and tender, captivated her at once: filled with such gentleness and affection, it awoke an unfamiliar yearning inside of her. Pushing herself deeper into the kiss, Emily tried to taste, to find the reason, behind her new strange longing. But, all too soon, the kiss was broken, leaving her staring up into Draco's amused grey eyes. And, with her eyes locked with his, she waited for the teasing to come.

But, astoundingly, it never came.

Instead, he brushed his fingers against her cheek tenderly and planted a soft kiss on top of her head.

"I think it's time to move on now, Emily, " he mumbled into her soft hair. "Time to get a move on - time to head south..."

Dear Merlin, this boy confused her, she mused distractedly, while trying to get herself and her thoughts, neat and tidily, back together. He was just such a challenge! He either did the predictable, and did exactly what was expected of him - or he either surprised her totally, by doing (or saying) the most unexpected things. He was just such a mixed bag of complexities! Detangling herself from his arms, she sighed and pushed herself gently away from him. Then getting to her feet, she turned to face him.

She studied him closely, still trying to work him out. Though, this was proving hard, as he had returned to smirking at her. Honestly, would she ever be able to understand him! But, still - time spread before them, and she had a feeling they would be spending a great deal of time together over the up and coming days. She still had plenty of time ahead to try and work out the ins and outs of his complex mind and, coming to think of it, she still had lots of spare time to plot revenge for the bunny ears too.

So, with a slight shrug of the shoulders, she pushed all thoughts temporally aside, and moved to his side.

"So, which way is South then," she asked briskly, searching through her pockets for the useless compass.

Draco eyed her thoughtfully for a moment, before deciding to follow her lead. "That way," he answered, pointing in the exact opposite direction of the compass, which she now held in her hands.

"Are you sure, Draco? The compass states otherwise...."

Rolling his eyes heavenwards, he withdrew his wand from within his cloak, muttering the words, 'bloody Muggle contraption', as he did so.

Ignoring the grumbles, she queried, genuinely wanting to know, "What are you going to do Draco?"

"A spell," was his short and sharp answer. A smart retort came to her almost at once.

"Ooh, can you do magic then?" she teased him, her eyes sparkling with fun.

"Shut it, Carlisle," he snapped back, trying his best to hide an amused grin. "Just stop the inane questions and watch a master of magic at work..."

"Do pretty sparks fly out of the stick thing?"

"Emily," he warned her irritably, but she caught him having to snort a chuckle back. So she carried on.

"Is it true that witches and wizards can fly on brooms?"

He rolled his eyes. "Not funny, Carlisle!"

"Can you fly on a broomstick, Draco?"

"Why - would you like to see my broom?" A knowing smile snuck onto his lips.

A blush popped to her cheeks, once again. Honestly, would she ever be able to stop these embarrassing flushes, she asked herself, feeling embarrassed. It really was quite absurd! She should be able to control them by now. But, thankfully, she recovered quickly enough to throw another distracting question at him.

"Can you bottle fame, brew glory - or even put a stopper in death?"

"Emily!" This time he choked on his laughter. "J - Just stop it, will you - I can't bloody concentrate!"

Ha! Finally, she was getting sweet revenge. "Can you-"

"Stop!"

"I haven't finished my question yet..."

"No more!" His eyes narrowed, as he tried his best to throw her his most intimidating stare, but the corners of his mouth kept twitching upwards, which rather spoiled the menacing effect.

"Do you have a scar and have a big, scary Dark Lord after you..."

"That's enough!" She had gone too far. His eyes darkened and his jaw clenched. Dear Merlin! How stupid could she be? - She hadn't meant - she had only been having some fun - and now, well, quite simply, she had put a very large foot in it.

"I'm sorry, Draco-"

"Forget it!" He turned from her, his shoulders tense.

"Honestly, I didn't mean anything..."

"I said forget it."

"I was stupid - I'm sorry..."

This time he choose not to answer her, deciding it best to concentrate on the spell instead. Walking up behind him, she watched him as he placed his wand on the palm of his hand and readied himself for the direction charm. His eyes glittered with a hard edge, his mouth was pinched tight, and Emily could see her words had bothered him. But, in for a penny, in for a pound, there was one more question to ask him, and it might as well be asked now. She composed herself.

"It's your father, isn't it, Draco?"

He froze.

"That's why you didn't want to tell me, isn't it..."

"Or it could be that I was just trying to protect you-" He spoke through painfully gritted teeth.

"No, that's not it - I'm not stupid, you know. And, really, who else could it be? I've thought about it - no one else fits - it has to be your father, just has to. And that's why you don't want to talk abo..."

He spun abruptly to face her. "You don't know what you're talking about - it could be anyone! Crabbe, Le-Strange, Nott - you're just an interfering Mud-"

She ignored the spiteful insult. He was upset, he didn't mean it, she was sure. "But, it's not any of them is it, Draco? You wouldn't be so upset, if it was. It's your dad, why wont you tell me about it? I - It could help, I mean talking - it might help to talk about it, to get it off your chest...."

He stood staring, eyes wide, shoulders trembling with suppressed emotion. His fingers bit deep into his palms as if trying to contain un-bottled fury. She moved closer to him, and laid a calm hand on his shoulder. "Just tell me, Draco. I want to know - I want to know how you feel, I want to understand you better; I just, well, I just want to help you, be there for you...."

His eyes penetrated into hers and something inside crumpled. His shoulders relaxed and the tension was gone. And, with his eyes back to their normal light grey, free of storm, he touched her calming hand gently and entangled his fingers with hers.

"Come, let's go..." Holding her hand, he led her to a small clearing amid the trees. He placed his wand on the palm of his hand again.

"Will you tell me?" Emily asked shyly, keeping her voice small.

"Yes, later. But, first, we need to get on our way." And, still clutching tightly to her hand, he spun his wand and muttered, "Point me!"

---

Hogsmede: 7:01am: Harry. Harry was feeling irritated, extremely irritated. Irritated at himself! Not even the familiar sight of Hogsmede seemed to lighten his mood. How could he, top Auror at the ministry, how could he have been so easily fooled? Why hadn't he suspected something? How could have Luna, Emily and the bloody ferret all got the better of him? Had they been plotting against him since the inn, or was he starting to get paranoid? But, bloody, useless questions aside, one fact remained - he'd let them escape and it was all his fault!

Passing Honeydukes, Harry shot a suspicious glance at Ron. His gangly friend, keeping a quick pace, walked a few strides ahead of him and Luna. Last night, after he'd got over the initial shock, Ron had used language that had turned the air blue. Mrs. Weasley certainly wouldn't have improved! Sweating and red faced, Ron had ranted on, about stupid bloody Ravenclaws, dead ferrets and how much trouble that they were in, that he was in.

After an, insisted on, quick search of the area, Ron had finally settled down and had allowed Luna to talk him into staying put for the night. A promise of a quick Apparation in the morning and the suggestion that one, or both of the escapee's, might very well return, had convinced him to stay. However, the night had been an uncomfortable one, spent with a angry and tense Ron, and spent with his own bleak thoughts and suspicions: suspicions that also included his best friend Ron.

Ron was acting different, strangely. Oh, yes, on the surface he seemed the same. But, his urgency to keep moving, and his growing anger, all seemed to be, just a little, misplaced. Add to the mix, Ron's odd certainty, that he was in deep, deep trouble - well, put it this way, it just didn't seem quite right.

Who on earth could Ron be in trouble with? Not Hermione, for sure. He and Hermione had had many spats, true. But, Ron had never got in this state over them. And, it couldn't be Dumbledore; Dumbledore may be disappointed, but the old wizard was no one to be afraid of. Well, put it this way. Ron had no reason to fear Dumbldore, did he? Dumbledore was fair, he would just get on with it and come up with a new plan. So, just who was Ron afraid of?

Harry tripped over a loose cobblestone, interrupting the flow of his thoughts. Luna held out a hand to steady him, giving him a benignant smile. He flashed her a tight smile back, before dropping his eyes to the ground again. So, where was he? Ah, yes - why did Ron seem afraid, why did he feel that he was in such trouble? Of course, in the morning, Ron had glossed over it all. Saying that he'd just had a bloody bad day, and saying that he didn't really fancy facing a sanctimonious Hermione. But, Harry knew Ron, and he knew there was more to it. It couldn't be that he was fearful of Snape - could it?

"Five more minutes, Harry. We can see the gates from here!"

Ron's voice snapped him out of his thoughts. Kicking another loose stone out of the way, he looked up. Hogwarts, there it still stood. The only place he had ever called home. A warm feeling of content rose in his stomach. He could always depend on Hogwarts to raise his spirits. Hogwarts, which had held strong when that last, ugly battle had raged in her grounds. Hogwarts that showed, not one single battle scar. Hogwarts that would always be his, and many others, true home.

With all thoughts of Ron, conveniently forgotten, a genuine smile tugged at the corners of Harry's lips. He was coming home, he would soon be ensconced in the hallowed halls of Hogwarts. So, with a new vigour in his heart and stride, Harry gladly made his way forward to the gates that loomed a short distance ahead.

---

Heading Southwards: Emily and Draco: 7:15 am: The wand had proved both the compass and Draco's previous assertion wrong, by pointing in a totally different direction. Nevertheless, this did not deter them and, hand in hand, they had took off down the path that the wand had showed them. The day held a strange silence, with not a single songbird's trill. Emily glanced up at Draco, who kept his thoughtful eyes on the path ahead.

"Draco," she asked quietly.

He turned his head, his serious eyes now upon her. "Yes, Emily."

"Well..."

"Well, what, Emily?"

She hesitated. "About your father-"

"Well, he didn't chain me up in the dungeons and practice Crucio on me, if that's what your thinking!"

"No - I don't think that - I just want to know what - well, what it was like for you, your childhood, I mean...."

He took his eyes from her and faced forward again, staring off towards the trees in the distance. "It was ... difficult, I suppose..."

She gave his hand a reassuring squeeze, wanting him to continue. He began again, hesitantly. "Well, I guess you could say that he was cold..."

She said nothing to distract, just keeping her concerned eyes on him, silently urging him to continue.

"And ... I guess you could say that I was lonely..." Her heart lurched in sympathy. "Father was never much at home and when he was ... well, let's just say, that he didn't have much time for me ... Unless, of course, it was to quiz me on my schooling or to tell me what a disappointment I was to him..."

Completely lost in the cheerless picture that he was painting for her, Emily clumsily tripped over a branch in their path. Draco paused for a moment, watching her with slightly amused eyes, until she regained her posture. Then he began again, while still leading them forward, deeper into the woods.

"When I was four, I was taken to his study, and he told me Malfoy males do not cry, ever. He told me that I was too old for tears now and that nightmares were no excuse. I had had a nightmare the night before, you see. Then he took a big, dusty tome down from the big bookshelf that towered over the room and me, and placed it down on the table. That was how I was introduced to the Malfoy Book of Rules. After that, I had my first lesson..."

He paused, and Emily let out a shuddering sigh. He had painted the picture well for her, too well. She could just see him, this four-year-old, pale-haired, little boy, stood in a room of things and possibilities that dwarfed him. It was just too unfair, too unkind, to put such heavy burdens on the shoulders of one so young ... it was just such a cruel and heartless thing to do. Despite herself, Emily felt tears well in her eyes. It was just so unfair! Draco's hand tightened around hers. He was still staring off into the distance, into his past. But, even lost in memory, he could still feel her distress. He began again, trying to keep his tone light, to keep it nonchalant.

"My schooling began in earnest then, from that day on I was to learn how to become a proper young wizard and a Malfoy. When father wasn't there, which was a lot, mother sometimes taught me. But, as I grew older private tutors were called in. I was no longer allowed to play with the House-Elves, Dinky being my favourite, and the only pleasure that I was allowed was Quidditch. You see, father wanted me to do well at that. But, the real problem was, no matter how hard I tried, I was never good enough for father.

It didn't matter, if by the age of six, that I could almost recite all of the Malfoy Book of Rules, father had done better. It didn't matter that I felt lonely, because Malfoys have no need for friends, who needs friends when sycophants will do? However, mother did intervene on that and, at the tender age of eight and a half, I was introduced to the wonderful and talented Crabbe and Goyle. They were better than nothing, I suppose - they kept me entertained. I loved throwing things at them to see if they would duck, they never did!

On the bright side of things - well, I became excellent at Quidditch, I loved it and it was my one true pleasure. The only down point there was that I wanted to be a chaser - but, of course, father saw things different and wanted me to be a seeker. The Seeker always wins the match son, be quite sure of that.

Then at the age of eleven, the delightful Miss Parkinson was introduced to me. After, one of those, talks in the study with father, I was informed about the type of young lady that I was supposed to marry. Pansy was allowed to be my friend then, seeing as she fell into the category. Pure-blooded and rich, I was informed that one day we would be engaged. But, Pansy was better than Crabbe and Goyle. She was intelligent enough, we could talk about books and things, and no one could ever butter up to me, quite like Pansy did.

When I went to Hogwarts, things became better and, at the same time, worse. The best things included making new friends and just being away from the pressures of home. However, on the other side of things, there were new things to worry about, like making friends with Potter. Don't ask me why, I suppose father wanted special information one The-Boy-Who-Bloody-Well-Lived. But, needless to say, father was extremely disappointed in me when I failed. Failure and disgrace are the words that most remind me of my childhood.

I could never get the best marks, second place was a dirty word at home. The fact that a Mudblood constantly beat me in most subjects was another thorn in my side. Father would just never let that go, it was the stick he used to beat me with most often. However, I had a life at Hogwarts and, well, quite frankly, I was used to it - it was all that I knew, after all. I enjoyed taunting Potter and Pansy wasn't so bad, and he was my father after all. I loved and respected him. I wanted to please him, to be him, to make him proud. Then Voldemort came back ... and everything that I thought I knew changed."

The silence that followed his abrupt ending, sent Emily reeling. It was just too much for her to take in. She had just heard most of his life story condensed into one long monologue and she had no idea of where to begin. What should she say, how could she respond to that - it was too much information given much too quickly. One question promptly jumped to her lips, though. "What happened when he came back?" she asked, breathlessly.

No answer came, though. For just after she had spoken, the loud sound of twigs snapping echoed out in front of them. Draco was in front of her in an instant, and she found herself being flung into the undergrowth. Scrambling into a crouching position, she fumbled for her wand. But, just as she pulled it out and had it pointed in readiness, she saw a fox scuttle by. A fox, it was just a fox! No need to be alarmed, it was just a silly old fox, after all. Closing her eyes tight, she let out a shuddering sigh of relief, and let herself fall into a sitting position. Thank Merlin, it was only a fox! Who knows what would of happened, if it had been something (or someone) else?

Then breathing, in and out, slowly, she tried to abate her frazzled nerves. Draco dropped down beside her. "Enough excitement there for you, Em?" he asked, smirking slightly at her.

"More than enough," she answered, still breathless. She'd had more than her fill of excitement for the day.

Inching towards her, Draco's arm wrapped around her waist, pulling her close. And, still feeling more than a little flustered, Emily welcomed it, letting her head rest on his comforting shoulder. She laughed a little into the crook of his neck. "Well," she giggled, uncertainly. "At least, it was only a fox..."

"Don't be too sure, Emily," Draco responded, watching her with serious eyes. "It could be someone in transfiguration form."

Her head shot up immediately and she drew away from him. "Oh ... I didn't think of that. Oh!"

"But, it was probably only a fox..." His voice sounded tight and tired, as he pulled her back close to him again and pressed her tightly against his chest. Then, closing his eyes, he began to stroke her hair gently, taking comfort from having her so near. He had no idea why this girl calmed him so, didn't know why she made him feel so complete. Slowly, an answer began to form in his mind, take form and spread its roots. And, though, it scared him greatly; made him want to get up and run away as fast as he could, he stayed just where he was and pondered over exactly what was meant by the word love.

---

Hogwarts: 8:05am: Luna. Luna hurried after Harry, finding it hard to keep up with his longer strides. Being stopped and delayed by a beaming Hagrid, had left him impatient. Although, Luna had to admit, he had tried his hardest to hide it from his half-giant friend. Having nearly lost his friend to the war, Luna could see that Harry didn't want to hurt his gigantic friend's feelings for the world. So, when Hagrid had pulled him into a big and tearful hug just as soon as they had passed through the gates, Harry hadn't the heart to refuse the half-giant's offer of tea and rock cakes at his hut, despite of the irritated looks Ron kept shooting him.

But, eventually, after about forty minutes of reminiscing over the good old days, Harry had very tactfully engineered their escape. Promising Hagrid that he would meet him at The Hogs Head later, for a mug or three of beer, a happily tearful Hagrid had finally let them go on their way. Luna had then found herself hurrying along after Harry at an almost breakneck pace.

She thought she had a vague idea of what was spurring Harry on. Having watched him quietly, over the last few days, Luna was now fairly certain that she knew almost everything about Harry Potter and the way his mind worked. She believed that, somehow or another, being back inside Hogwarts had lifted his spirits. That the special magic within her grounds and walls had revitalised something that had been missing in Harry ever since the end of the war. Harry, she believed, had found his wonder of magic again. Which made her enormously happy, as Harry had not been truly himself for such a long time now.

Seeing him again, after such a long time, had really confused Luna. He had been so different, so at a loss, it had seemed to her like he had lost all sense of direction. And, unlike her, Harry was definitely the sort of person who needed to know his path in life. Before, fighting and defeating Voldemort, had been main aim in life. But, now, with Voldemort truly gone, Harry's goals had disappeared too. Which seemed to have left him aimless and wandering, unsure of what he now wanted from life.

Puzzling over him for the last few days had made Luna very certain of all this and she had tried her very best to help him along, in that own special way of hers. She didn't know the reason why she wanted to help him so much, other than she generally liked to help people. But, something about Harry had captured her imagination and she had found herself captivated by him. Harry, she suddenly realised, had always been an important someone in her life. She paused suddenly, stopping in her tracks, as she pondered hard on what exactly all this could mean.

"Sherbet Lemon."

"Gobstoppers!"

"Liquorice Twists!"

"Chocolate Limes!"

"Cherry Drops!"

"Cough Candy Twists!"

Distracted out from her own thoughts by all the shouting going on, Luna stepped up to the Gargoyle to shout out her own. It did seem like it could be rather fun.

"Cocoanut Mushrooms!" she shouted out at the top of her voice and the Gargoyle slid open, the wall split in two, revealing a spiralling staircase behind it.

"Bloody Hell, Luna - Well done, mate!" Ron beamed at her happily. "I'd of never thought of that one!" Then moving ahead, he took off up the winding stairs, two at a time.

"Yeah, Luna - well done," Harry parroted, grinning at her broadly. Then grabbing hold of her hand and still grinning happily at her, he pulled through the doorway after him. Bounding up the steps, being pulled along by an enthusiastic Harry, Luna barely managed to conceal her happy, secret smile. For, as soon as Harry had took her hand, she had immediately understood why Harry was so important to her, the tingles had given her the answer.

But, before she could think more of it, they were suddenly outside the Headmaster's door. The happy atmosphere that surrounded them evaporated into a feeling of edginess and Luna found herself suddenly wanting to go back. A look passed between the three of them.

"Well, er," Ron stuttered out, feeling rather scared for some reason. "I guess we should knock, er?"

No one replied, but Harry gave him an encouraging nod. Then, with a gulp, Ron raised his fist and banged hard on the door. The Heavy oak door began to slowly swing open.

---

In the undergrowth: Emily and Draco: 8.20am: "What about your mother, Draco?" Emily's voice disturbed the comfortable silence, pulling Draco out of his thoughts.

"Well, what about her, Em?" His brow furrowed into a slight frown, her interruption was unwanted.

Emily proceeded cautiously. "Would you tell me more about her?" she asked him softly.

He sighed a heavy sigh. "What do you want to know, Emily?"

"Do you miss her?"

His whole body stiffened, his words were spat out. "Of course I miss her - what a bloody stupid question!"

Undaunted, Emily carried on. "Sorry," she mumbled, "I didn't mean it like that! I know how upset you must be - I mean, what with the curse, her lack of memory and everything ... But, I, well, I just wondered, was just wondering, if you wanted to talk about her too...."

"Has anyone ever told you that you're nosey, Carlisle?"

She jumped immediately to her defence. "No, not nosey - I just want to know more about you - to understand you..."

She let her words trail off into a meaningful silence, hoping that he would understand her reasons, hoping that he would tell her more. He let out another exasperated sigh.

"So what exactly do you want me to tell you then, Emily?"

He was calling her by her first name, that was a good sign. His voice sounded weary, though, so she proceeded with caution. "Well, before, you mentioned that she intervened, sometimes. I was just wondering what she was like, I suppose. You know, I was wondering how she treated you, things like that..."

Draco paused before answering and, frowning in concentration, he nibbled thoughtfully on his bottom lip. "Well, I suppose most people would call her cold, but she loved me. She tried her best to protect me; she would intervene at times, when father went too far..."

Emily couldn't help jumping in. "Did she support Voldemort, like your father did?"

"Yes, and no," he replied, without hesitation. "She supported him at first, she agreed with his, and father's, ideals ... But, when he returned, I suppose - well, I think she had a change of heart. I think she didn't want me being involved. For the most part, mother agreed with father's ideals and decisions, but when in came down to my well-being and things like that, well, I always came first..."

A soft smile crossed Emily's face. "She must have loved you, very much..."

"Yes, she did - although I didn't always appreciate it."

Emily could hear the sudden bleakness in his tone, she decided to lift the mood. "So was it your mum who sent you all those cakes and sweets then?"

He nodded his head.

"And is she the one to blame for spoiling you rotten?"

"Yes, Carlisle - you can blame her." A ghost of a smirk flickered on his face.

Hmmn, maybe some flattery was needed. "And do your fine cheekbones come from her, Draco?"

The smirk turned into a grin. "No, Emily - they come from my father..."

She giggled. "What about your fine chiselled jaw?"

He snorted out a burst of laughter. "Father too!"

"The pointy chin..."

"It's not pointy - it's nicely elongated. But, yes, that's from mother's side..."

"The fine, silky hair?"

"Both of them."

"The eyes are from your father, I know. Hmmn, let me see," she studied him closely. "The smirk?"

"Father."

"The haughty look?"

"You can blame both of them, if you want to...."

"The eyebrow thing you do?"

"Learnt it from Father."

"The nice smile that you let slip from time to time..."

"Must be mother," he cocked an inquiring eyebrow. "And what do you mean nice smile, Malfoys don't smile nicely, the Malfoy Book of Rules says so. It's rule 1768..."

She grinned up at him. "Have you really remembered every rule?"

"Yes, although I do get rule 3402 mixed up at times," his face was poker straight, but his eyes glittered with mischief. "And I seem to keep forgetting rule one hundred and sixty-six..."

She raised an eyebrow, "and, which rule is that?"

"Thou shall not kiss Mud - Muggleborns !"

"Is that really a rule?" she asked laughingly, as she blushed a little.

"Oh, yes. In fact, it's a Malfoy cardinal sin!"

"So - does that make you a sinner?"

He grinned wolfishly down at her. "I suppose it does - why do you ask? Do you want to redeem me?"

She grinned back. "No, no I don't! I think I like you a little bit sinful..."

"Oh, yes..." He quirked an eyebrow knowingly at her. She had the grace to blush.

"I didn't mean it that way, although I'll admit to sinful thoughts of you shirtless and tied up with that Slytherin tie of yours..."

His eyebrows rose alarming, as he pondered on her words. And , he had to admit, he rather liked the sound of that. He licked at the corner of his lips.

"But, no," she continued, "what I meant was - I like you as you are. I like that your sarcastic and witty, I like the way you smirk and snarl. Don't get me wrong, there are still a lot of things that could be improved about you, don't get too big headed now! But, I suppose, what I'm trying to say is, I like you for all your good and bad points. I just like you being you, most of the time..."

She broke off with a shy smile, looking at him through half-veiled eyes. He leant down and kissed her softly, on the lips. "Thank you," he whispered.

"W - What for," she stammered, surprised by his words.

"For letting me just be me..."

"Oh," This was unexpected! "You're welcome..."

They shared an intent look, both of them wordless, just letting this new feeling of understanding flow between them. Somehow, during the course of the morning, their volatile relationship has evolved.

They had grown closer, they had found a deeper understanding, there was no going back from this special place for them now. It was their special place, made only for them, a special place free of the constraints of time. He kissed her, she kissed him back; together, they soared.

---

Outside Dumbledore's Door: 8:21: Harry. The heavy door swung slowly open to reveal the people in side. Harry, though, barely noticed the others. His eyes flickered quickly over a tight-lipped Hermione, it took him a second or two to recognise an excited and grinning Neville, but Harry had no interest in these faces, the face he was looking for was Dumbledore's.

And, there he was, sat behind his old oak desk, twinkling eyes fixed firmly on Harry. Harry felt that old, familiar stab of anger rise. This was the man who had let him believe he was dead, the ultimate betrayal! Well, to Harry's mind it was anyway. His anger threatened to consume him, but was suddenly abated by a small, soft squeeze on his hand. His eyes flickered downwards and found Luna's, who's eyes seemed to tell him, that all would be well. This gave him the confidence that he needed to continue, he gave her a thankful smile. Then, lifting his eyes, he fixed his eyes on his old mentor, and began to speak.

"So, Sir," he began, awkwardly. "What do I have to do now?"


A/N: Thanks so much for reading, I hope you all enjoyed it. Hope it was worth the long wait. I just want to tell you a few things about this and upcoming chapters. At the end of this chapter, I wrote that Harry was angry at Dumbledore for lying about his death.

The reason for this is because I started this story a long time before HBP, and not knowing what was to come, I put Dumbldore in it. So, to keep my story to as close to events that have happened in cannon as I can. For the purpose of this story, I've subscribed to the Dumbledore faked his death theory. Now, that's not what I believe, but for my story - it fits, lol! The other news is that the next couple of chapters will be considerably shorter. Not very short, but nothing over 6000 words, lol! There basically going to be setting things up, before the big explosion, hehe. I'm not too far from the ending now, only about 7 more to go and an epilogue.

Hope you all had a great start to the new year, thanks again for reading.

Hugs for all.

xxx


Chapter 24: A Very Eventful Day: Part Two - In the Clear Light of Morning....
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A Very Eventful Day




Chapter Twenty Four




Part Two: In the Clear Light of Morning....






===


"So, Sir," he began, awkwardly. "What do I have to do now?"

===



Dumbledore's Office: 8:25am: Harry and company.

"We must conduct a new plan, Harry," Dumbledore smiled warmly, "we must conduct a new plan..."

Dumbledore's words trailed off into an expectant silence, his sharp yet kindly blue eyes penetrated deep into Harry's own. Harry blinked. He had not seen his former headmaster and mentor for up to three years now and he had forgotten just how disconcerting he could be. Harry blinked again. Was he reading him like an open book? Probably! Actually, it was more than likely, as he could never truly hide any of his thoughts from Dumbledore anyway -- Dumbledore seemed to be saying something...

"... and what are your thoughts on the matter, Harry?"

Harry stared rather incomprehensively at his old headmaster for a moment or two. He hadn't heard a word he'd said. What on earth had he been talking about? Had he asked him if it would rain on Thursday - or had he asked him where he thought Emily and Draco had got to? Harry decided, then and there, that honesty seemed to be the best policy. "I'm sorry, sir ... I wasn't listening," he tried his best to look extremely sorry, "erm ... could you please repeat what you just said..."

"Wool gathering, Harry?" Dumbledore questioned, twinkling back at him, not at all put out at Harry's lack of attention. "Well, no matter, Harry - I was merely rambling to myself about the wonders of sweets." Here he stopped to muse a while and his eyes closed in meditation. "Mmm, I just cannot decide between sherbet lemons or chocolate limes..." His eyes popped opened again and he continued to twinkle at Harry. "I was simply enquiring of your opinion on the matter...."

Although Harry knew that the old wizard was only trying to diffuse some tension, he couldn't help but feel another stab of anger. Did he still think of him as twelve-year-old boy? Did the old codger have not an idea of how much this irritated him? His recently rekindled anger grew. He felt another soft squeeze on his hand. Glancing to his side, Luna caught his eye: shaking her head slightly, her wide eyes seemed to show him how irrational he was being. Harry sighed. These irrational thoughts were getting him absolutely nowhere - Dumbledore was only being Dumbledore after all. So, smiling Luna a small thankful smile, he gathered his thoughts together. However, he did not get to speak -- Hermione got there before him.

"Please, Sir," Her words were polite, but her tone was stretched and sharp. "Can't we get down to the business at hand? The L.E.A.P.S department is so hectic at the moment - I really have to get back--"

Dumbledore nodded sagely and his shrewd eyes met hers. "Yes, Miss Granger - I am well aware of the problems you face ... And, I'm afraid to say, " here he smiled at her apologetically, "that in all probability, after the morning is done, you'll have more responsibility to shoulder...."

"Oh, we don't mind..." A rather excited Neville squeaked out, cutting Dumbledore off. "We don't mind at all! - We want to help -- oh, this is so exciting...."

Sighing an short exasperated sigh, Hermione pursed her lips. "Neville," she reprimanded tersely, " I don't think..."

"Exciting, maybe, Mr Longbottom. However, we must remember ... excitement leads us down very dangerous paths..."

Neville looked suitably abashed by Dumbledore's words; Ron, however, silent till now, decided to enter the conversation. "Shouldn't we be getting on with things," he asked abruptly, his eyes darting over at Harry.

"Ah, yes, Mr Weasley, we should indeed be getting on with things. However, we will come to that later... Firstly, though, I would be forever grateful, if Miss Granger would kindly continue with her fascinating explanation of how things now stand at the ministry ... I believe we were talking about an unfortunate shortage of Aurors before our good friends came in upon us...." Dumbledore, letting his words trail off, inclined his head to Hermione. His eyes, however, were still fixed firmly on Ron.

Harry wondered at his former headmaster's unwavering stare. Was he suspicious of Ron too - or was he just imagining the shrewd look that glinted in his eyes? Unfortunately, Harry didn't have enough time to linger on these questions as Hermione had begun to talk.

"Well, sir, it's like I said before," she began, keeping her voice efficient and crisp as she nibbled down anxiously on her bottom lip. "We just don't have enough fully trained Aurors ready -- all our fully trained ones are already out on other extremely important duties. All I have to spare is Neville, Seamus and Dean, plus a few others who are also under-trained...."

"We have Harry," Luna interrupted, smiling up at Harry before adding on as an afterthought, "and we have Ron...."

However, Hermione took no notice of her and continued on regardless. "If only you would explain more, or give me something to report back to the ministry. After all, all I have learned so far is from Harry's vague letters... Maybe then, I would have something to bargain with th..."

"No!" Harry shouted, finally entering the conversation. He had been content just to listen until now, but the mention of notifying higher members of the ministry had awakened something in him. "No, we must keep the ministry out of it! They wouldn't understand, they would ask too many questions -- things would take too long--"

"But, Harry," Hermione interrupted, "I need to tell them something, how else will I get the resources that you need?"

"For now," came Dumbledore's calm and soothing voice, "...for now, I have all that Harry needs. Nevertheless, Miss Granger, I do understand your need for more information. What I would suggest is for us to now all sit down and have a little breakfast..."

"But, sir -- we don't have time..."

"I am rather hungry," Luna wondered aloud.

"I need something to tell the ministry..."

"Bloody hell, will we never get going--"

"Eeeeeee," exclaimed Neville, much too exited to get any words out.

Dumbledore held up a calming hand to restore disorder and all protestations fell away at once. Even now, after all these years, he could still achieve extraordinary outcomes with the slightest of gestures. "Enough," he stated, serenely but firmly. "Enough of this pandemonium - we shall never proceed anywhere if we all speak at once. I simply propose that I call upon a House-elf to bring us some tea and toast and, while we provide ourselves with some much needed sustenance, we can all tell of our journeys up to this point..."

Dumbledore let his eyes sweep over them again; no one protested at this, although Hermione's tightly pursed lips twitched at the mention of House-elves. Dumbledore smiled at them all benignly. "Good," he beamed at them over the top of his half-moon spectacles. "Very good, indeed -- I'm glad we all agree! Now let us all get more comfortable...."

He then waved his hand and performed wandless magic: five chairs flew from various corners of the room and settled themselves neatly around Dumbledore's desk. And, seeing that this was an invitation for them to come forward and place themselves at the table, they all approached the assembled chairs and sat themselves down upon them without a word of protest. Then, when they were all finally seated, Dumbldore beamed happily at them again, clapped his hands twice and (with a pop) a cheerful, smiling House-elf appeared before them and bowed.

---

Still in the undergrowth: Emily and Draco: 8: 35am: With her head rested against his shoulder, Emily snuggled closer and (interrupting the comfortable silence) voiced another question. "So, where exactly are we heading to then, Draco?"

"South." Draco, sat with his eyes closed and his back pressed against the prickly undergrowth, decided to keep his answer short and simple. Would she ever stop asking these silly questions?

"Where, South?"

For the love of Circe! Would she never let him have five minutes peace? He smirked slyly. "Can't you form proper sentences, Carlisle? That made no sense, whatsoever..."

Emily swatted his arm playfully. "Oh, you know what I mean, Draco. Where exactly are we heading to? London? Cornwall? Kent? Somerset, or maybe Oxford?"

His smirk widened. "Think more South-Westerly..."

Emily's forehead creased into a frown, she was absolutely hopeless at geography. "Draco, you've seen me with a compass -- can't you be more specific?"

"No, I can't..."

Her frown turned into a glare. And, looking up at him, she pouted. "Draco," she questioned, "why can't you just tell me?"

"Because I think you need to use that brain of yours ... it seems to be going a bit rusty--"

"Oh, you..." Letting out a exclamation, she choked out a snort of laughter. "That's so unfair! Just tell me where we're going, or I'll..."

Looking amused, Draco cocked an mocking eyebrow at her. "Or you'll what, Emily?"

Pushing away from him, Emily scrambled to her knees, placed her hands on her hips, and tried her best to look intimidating. Nevertheless, from the sardonic look that he still gave her, she didn't think it was quite working: he still sat there lazily; leaning against the hedge-growth, he smirked slyly up at her. She decided to change her strategy. "Draco," she purred, leaning closer to stroke a finger enticingly down his thigh. "If you tell me, then I'll make it worth your while..."

Biting down softly on his bottom lip, Draco considered her proposition very carefully; after all, he thought more than a little immodestly to himself, it was a very, very tempting proposal indeed. And, musing just where her fingers would go next, he soon came to a decision: just this once, he would let her win. Then, propping himself up with the palms of his hands, he brought his head closer to hers, which brought them almost to the same eye level, and whispered a seductive little whisper in her ear. "And just how do you promise to make it worth my while, Emily?"

Emily, very wisely, choosing to say nothing, fixed him an extremely smug look instead. Very soon, she knew she would have him exactly where she wanted him; the corner of her mouth turned up into an alluring smile. Then, catching her bottom lip in between her teeth, she let her finger trace faint circles around the top button of his fly. Draco caught his breath. Emily's smile turned into a predatory grin. Oh, yes, she had him exactly where she wanted him! Emily ghosted her lips over his, then nipped lightly at the lobe of his ear. "Do you really need to ask, Draco?"

Draco decided he didn't. Strangely, his need for questions seemed to have passed. For right now, this minute, he found himself consumed by a very new and very urgent need, a need that throbbed mercilessly, a need that needed releasing immediately, a need that needed to be touched. Draco's blood began to race through his veins. Then, clasping his hands tightly around her small waist, he pulled her closer, pressed his need against her and claimed her lips in a hard kiss.

Struggling against him, Emily pulled her lips away from his. "Draco," she half laughed, half gasped as she waggled a warning finger at him. "No, not yet, Draco! You have to tell me where we're going first..."

"Wiltshire," he mumbled out quickly, before reclaiming her mouth with his eager kisses. "I'm going to Wiltshire..."

Emily broke away from his ardent kisses again. Something about what he had just said disturbed her, but she didn't know exactly why. Wiltshire, there was something she needed to remember about Wiltshire - and what exactly did he mean by using the word I? Was the sneaky ferret planning on leaving her behind? Emily voiced her doubts. "No, not I, Draco - it's we! We are going to Wiltshire ... And I hope you're not secretly planning to leave me behin... Oh!" It suddenly came to her. Wiltshire was Draco's home county, it was where Malfoy Manor stood; Draco was planning on going home.

Shaken, Emily stared at him in disbelieve. Why was he going home, Lucius was bound to find him there? But, of course, full illumination finally came to her, that was exactly why he was heading towards the manor - he was going home to find his father. He was going to step right into a trap; he was going to fall headfirst into a bloody snake pit! Emily began to feel faint.

"What on Earth is the matter with you, Em?" Realising that there was something amiss with Emily, Draco scrutinised her face carefully, finally noticing how she was just staring back at him sightlessly, all waxen and wide-eyed. And, to tell the truth, it was beginning to scare him; he didn't like this, he didn't like this at all, so he gave her a sharp shake to try to snap her out of it.

The shake seemed to have done the trick. Coming slowly out of her trance, Emily's eyes began to refocus on his and her thoughts began to gather themselves together again. "You're going home, aren't you, Draco?" she whispered shakily, her voice just above a whisper, barely audible to him. "You're going home to confront your father..."

Even though he knew that it was inevitable, actually hearing her say the words shocked him - it made everything suddenly frighteningly real. He wasn't really surprised that she had guessed, though. After all, with her guessing that his father was the Dark Lord this new revelation was bound to follow, he just wasn't expecting it quite so soon. Merlin, just how was he supposed to answer her? His hands fell from her shoulders.

"Draco?"

Only one word, but it pressed him. She was desperate for an answer; the urgency in her voice told him so. But, the question was, should he confirm or refute her suspicions? Then, looking at the fearful expression in her eyes, he decided on honesty. Because, how could he be anything but honest? When he knew that, the cold fear glinting in her eyes was only for him. He kept his answer short and simple. "Yes," he told her quietly.

Emily paled even more when she heard his answer. "Are you bloody crazy?" she asked him, her voice more than a little hysterical, "you'll be walking right into a trap! Merlin, Draco - why? Why on earth would you want to go home? You'll be giving your head to your father on a silver platter!"

"Shut up! You don't under--"

"No, Draco - I wont shut up! I know you - you think it's kill or be killed! But, it doesn't have to be like that--"

"Yes, it does, Emily." This time it was Draco's turn to look pale and waxen. Suppressed rage flickered in his eyes. "It does have to be that way - my father saw to that years ago..."

"No!" But, even as she protested loudly, she knew she was fighting a losing battle. The look on his face, the cold flicker in his eyes, the dullness of his tone, the tightness of his shoulders, his hands opening and closing tightly in to fists. All these observations told her that he was adamant, that he had made his mind up long before now; that she couldn't win this fight. Her shoulders began to shake uncontrollably.

Seeing just how deeply this was effecting her, Draco tried to comfort her the only way he knew how: reaching out and grabbing for her arm, he pulled her off balance so she toppled into him. Then, winding his fingers through her hair, he clasped the back of her head, pulled her close, and held onto her so tight that she couldn't move, let alone protest. His hot breath tickled against her ear, he was going to make her understand -- he had to make her understand.

"Em - Emily," he began, his voice sounding more strained than he wanted it to. "You have to understand me -- this is the only way, please believe me. I can't run away, I can't keep on letting others protect me--"

Tearing his hands away, she broke away from his hold. "Why - why can't you? You always used to hide behind others - why can't you now?"

"Because this is inevitable - even if I tried to hide, I can't escape this..."

His words came crashing down on her; she remembered another boy, fighting another war. "Bu -but, I..." Frantically, she groped her mind for excuses, but none came. "I'm afraid for you..."

"You don't have to come with me, Em..."

So he was planning to leave her behind, was he? "No," she exclaimed loudly, her mind going into overdrive. She may be scared for him and scared for herself. But, whatever he decided, whatever danger he led her to, she would never desert him. She had invested too much of herself in all this now, she had invested too much of herself in him. She struggled out of his hold.

"So you were planning on leaving me behind then," she accused him, "I was right! You never intended to take me with you--"

"No, Em, it's not like that -- I have it all planned -- you can come as far as Wiltshire--"

Emily cut him off; her voice was full of disappointed sarcasm. "And then you expect me to run off home like a good little girl--"

Letting his derision off the leash, he had his answer ready. "No - then I expect you to run off to the ministry or Dumbledore like the good little girl you are..."

"What?" His words had thrown her, she hadn't seen them coming in the least, it was the last thing she'd expected him to say -- was he making fun of her? "What are you trying to tell me - what on Earth do you mean?"

Draco sighed and ran a distracted hand through his hair; that had come out completely wrong, he hadn't meant to sound like he was mocking her; in fact, he had been completely serious, that was exactly what he expected her to do when they finally reached the manor. He began again, this time without sarcasm.

"I'm totally serious, Em," he tried to explain, "when we reach Wiltshire that's exactly what I want you to do - I want you to go for help..."

"Oh," Emily tried to let this sink in but something nagged at her, something didn't seem quite right; then it came to her. "Why did we leave Harry and the others behind?" she asked thoughtfully, "why did we go on without them?"

"Because, Emily," he sneered, considering her questions with disdain. "I didn't want Potter and the Weasel telling me what to do and where to go..."

"But, if you wanted help, why not--"

He ignored her interruption. "If it were down to them, I'd been imprisoned in Hogwarts right now, just like they'd planned. I didn't want that to happen, I want to be in control of my own destiny for once - I don't need half-witted Gryffindors in control of my future..." He paused for breath; a small smirk flickered at the corner of his lips. "But, saying that," he continued, "if it comes down to needing their help in the end, I'll gladly let them lend a hand, only it will be on my terms...."

"Oh," it was slowly beginning to sink into her tired and sorely overtaxed brain, "so you had this all planned?"

Draco nodded.

"You weren't planning on leaving me behind or packing me off home then..."

"No, Emily - I wasn't--"

Her eyes narrowed. "And when were you planning on telling me all this--"

"When you got round to asking me--"

"Oh, you," glaring at him, she angrily swatted his arm, "you sly little ferret! Why don't you just tell me these things - it would make life so much easier..."

"Because I--"

She didn't let him finish; although, she understood his motives now, she was still afraid for him, for them, and more than a little angry; why did he always have to go and complicate things? Did he have anything else to hide? Emily didn't know, but she was going to find out right away. Folding her arms across her chest, she gave him her best stern look. "Are you hiding anything else from me?"

"No, Em - no more secrets--"

She raised a sceptical eyebrow. "What about what happened after Voldemort came back -- are you going to tell me about that?"

Draco looked pained. Why was she bringing that up again? He'd told her enough of his secrets for one day and he found it terribly draining, he wanted to keep those memories to himself for just a little while longer. He'd told her he would tell her later -- why did she never let these things go? He gritted his teeth. "I'll tell you later--"

"Why not now, Draco?"
She's like a dog with a bone, he thought, would she never give up? "Because I'm tired of talking about me ... I know, let's talk about you for a while -- you can tell me about your family..."

"Me?" She looked surprised. Did he really want to know about her or was he just trying to change the subject. She strongly suspected it was the later. Her eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Why on Earth do you want to know about my family, Draco?" she asked him. "Don't tell me you're interested muggles..."

"No, not all muggles -- just your family, Em..."

"B - But, why?" He was really confusing her now, he actually sounded like he meant it.

"Because I want to know all about you, Emily," he answered, a slow smirk appearing on his face. "After all, you know nearly everything about me -- it's only fair that I should get to know some more about you...."

Hmmn, that was fair enough, she supposed. But did he really want to know more about her? She questioned him again. "Are you sure, Draco? You're not just trying to get out of telling me about other things, are you?"

Instead of answering her directly, Draco got to his feet and out his hand. "C'mon, Em, it's time for us to get a move on -- you can tell me all about your family on the way..."

Emily stubbornly stayed where she was, kneeling on the cold ground. "But..."

"But nothing, Em -- C'mon, let's go -- I'll tell you later..."

She grudgingly took hold of his hand. "Do you promise?"

His troubled grey eyes stared blankly down at her, he hauled her back to her feet; she stumbled against him. "Yes, I promise..."

Steadying herself on her feet, she smiled at him. "Well, if your certain..."

"I'm quite certain, Em," he answered with emphasis. "C'mon, let's walk this way -- it'll lead us in the right direction..."

Then, not letting go of her hand, he led her out of the undergrowth and onto the overgrown path again; Emily, now used to the feel of his palm in hers, happily let him guide her and squeezed his palm tightly "So," she said as they walked along. "What do you want to know?"

"Oh, I don't know -- tell me about your mother or whatever..."

His words were flippant, dismissive, but she could sense the need behind them. "Well," she began, "my dad works for a bank and mum was an artist--"

"A bank," Draco interrupted, looking quite interested all of a sudden. "Is he, I mean -- are you rich?"

Emily giggled and rolled her eyes; trust Draco to ask that. "No, not rich," she answered, "but we're not exactly poor either...."

"Oh..." Draco felt just a tad disappointed.

"So it's my money you're after, is it?" Emily teased, seeing his discontented frown, "and I thought you it was my brains you were interested in..."

His frown turned into a smirk. "Your brains, Emily -- if you had brains, you'd be dangerous--"

"I'm going to take that as a compliment--"

"It wasn't meant as one..."

She gave him a sharp kick to the ankle.

"Ouch!"
"Did that hurt?"
"Yes, Carlisle, it did--"
"Good -- now do you want to hear about my family or what?"
"I suppose so...." He gave her a devilish grin.
"If you don't want to talk about my family," she smiled slyly, giving him a sideways look, "we could talk about what happened to you after Voldemort came back inst--"

"No," his face turned suddenly sober, "I'm sorry, Em -- I'll be good, I promise...."

A soft smile settled on her lips. "Good," she said again, giving his fingers an amiable squeeze. "Now what was I saying?"

"Something about lacking brains," he smirked, eyes glinting with defiance, "or was it money? I can't quite remember which..."

"Draco!"

He dropped her hand and encircled his arm around her waist, pulling her close to him. "Oh, Em," he sniggered, "you walked right into that one -- I couldn't resist it..."

"I think I'll just ignore you...."

"You can't ignore me -- it's impossible..."

"I can try--"

"Tell me about your childhood instead, that'll be much more entertaining..."

"Well ... I have one story..."

"Go on," he urged, looking hopeful. "Let's hear it."

She smirked up at him. "Well, I once knew this unbearable idiot, who thought he was better than everybody else and loved to bully people and make them miserable--"

"I think I know where this is going," Draco interrupted with a smirk.

Emily ignored him and carried on. "Well, one day, I was walking to lunch, just minding my own business, when this bloody prat decided to play a very nasty trick on me in front of the whole school--"

Draco sniggered loudly. "If this is about the granny knickers incident, don't blame me -- it was Pansy--"

"Oh, don't give me that -- it was your idea and you bloody know it!"

"I've never seen something so funny, you should of seen your face at the time..."

"It wasn't bloody funny, Draco!" Emily fumed at him. "I was mortified, and I can't believe you still haven't apologised--"

"What for? I told you, it wasn't me -- it was Pansy--."

"Are you going to apologise then?"

"Maybe later...."

"Oh, your impossible!"

"I know," he smirked. "Tell me about your mum--"

She narrowed her eyes at him. "What about my mum? Don't change the subject."

"Did you inherit your granny knickers from her?"

"Oh, you," she spluttered, unable to contain her laughter. "What have I done to deserve this torture?"

Draco laughed. "Oh, that's an easy one to answer," he replied, "you decided to fall in love with me..."

---

Dumbledore's Office: Harry and co; 9.00 am. The toast had been eaten, the steaming tea had been sipped, quickly and carefully, warming his insides as he took each scalding sip. And, as Harry had drunk his tea and nibbled at his toast, he had listened intently to all that Dumbledore (and the others) had to say. Tales had been told, each saying their piece, with the exception of Harry, who chosen to remain quiet. And, now that everyone had had their say, and that a new plan had begun to form, Harry once again found Dumbledore's piercing blue eyes twinkling at him over his half-moon glasses.

"Well, Harry," asked his former headmaster, with a benignant smile and another twinkle. "Do you approve of our plans so far?"

"Yes," interrupted Hermione. "You've been awfully quiet, Harry. Is there something wrong?"

Something wrong, now that was the understatement of the year, trust Hermione to come out with something like that! Harry couldn't help a small grin. But, resisting the urge to tease Hermione, he chose to answer Dumbledore instead.

"It all sounds alright to me," he responded as truthfully as he could. He wasn't over the moon that Hermione had insisted on Neville accompanying him and Luna, nor was he happy that Ron was now officially on this mission, as Ron's weird behaviour last night still brought up some doubts. However, as it seemed the only option for them was to follow, and as Ron was as highly trained an Auror as he, and still his best friend to boot (he had to remind himself), Harry didn't see much point in complaining. After all, if his suspicions of Ron were valid, it was best to keep him close, where he could keep an eye on him. No, as it was, Harry could only see one real problem with the plan so far -- How on earth were they supposed to find Draco and Emily? Then wiping a few stray toast crumbs from the corner of his mouth, Harry voiced his concern. " But, Sir -- how are we going to find them?"

"Omnis Vultus, Harry," replied Dumbldore.

Harry was mystified. "Omnis, What?"

"An Omnis-perlusto Globe," snapped Hermione, in that old familiar know-it-all tone that annoyed Harry so much. "Really, Harry, don't tell me you don't kno--"

Not in the mood for one of her lectures, Harry turned to Ron. If he couldn't be spared the sermon, he didn't mind sharing the full force of it with Ron. Ron could always be relied upon to back him up when it came down to an overbearing Hermione. "Do you know what she's going on about?" he asked, certain that Ron would be more clueless than him. But, unfortunately, this time, it looked like it was only him that didn't know.

"Er, she's on about an Omni glass, mate--"

"An Omni glass?"

"It's an 'all seeing' glass, Harry," explained Luna in a sing-song voice, "it will lead the way to them ... But, they are awfully rare..."

Harry began to understand. This magical object would lead them to Emily and Draco. He turned back towards Dumbledore. "Do you have one, Sir?"

Dumbledore smiled at him. "I do, Harry. Indeed, I do." Then, producing his wand from his flowing robes, he uttered a summoning charm, "Accio globe!"

Instantly, through the accompanying whoosh of air, a glass orb rushed towards them, whistling past Harry's ear, before dropping gently into Dumbledore's outstretched hand. Curiously, Harry eyed the globe -- made of clear glass that darkened in the middle; at the heart of globe's centre, sparked lighting forks of the blackest ice. Sharply, Harry sucked the air between his teeth in surprise. For at the centre of the globe, he saw that an unblinking eye was steadily watching him -- it was an effect greatly unnerved him.

"It is quite an troubling effect, isn't it Harry? " Dumbledore's eyes were lowered as, he too, looked into the unflinching eye. "But, as disturbing and upsetting as it may be, Harry -- the globe is now your friend ... look after it well..."

Harry nodded along, agreeing with Dumbledore's every word, before interrupting eagerly. "H-How does it work, Sir?"

Dumbledore lifted his eyes to Harry's. "I'll come to that soon, Harry. However, first and foremostly, let us now see if we are all agreed..." His solemn eyes slowly roamed around the clustered room, which was full to the brim with magical books and objects, looking directly into the eyes of each of the five young occupants. "Are you all prepared to do what has to be done? Do you all agree?"

With thoughtful faces, one by one, all five of them slowly nodded their agreement.

"Excellent!" Dumbledore's eyes shone brightly, his voice was filled with new vigour. "Splendid, splendid! Then we can soon all be on our way, but before we do," here he paused for a second or two, "...may I have a quiet word with Harry alone?"

The others looked slightly startled at being addressed this way by their former headmaster, but Ron was the first to shake himself out of it. "Erm, well, of course, professor ... I, er, I need to do something first any way--"

Dumbledore's eyes turned sharp.

"Yes," Neville piped up, "and I need the loo..."

Hermione decided to take charge. "Come on then, everyone -- let's go..." Putting her chair back, she walked up beside Luna and began shooing the boys out of the room. "Luna - could I have a look at the article on the key, I'd really love to see it...." Then, following Neville and Ron out of the room, the two girls left, heads lowered in discussion, leaving Harry and Dumbledore alone.

The heavy oak door swung to and Dumbledore's shrewd eyes met Harry's.

---

9.43am: Further in the woods: Emily and Draco.

"I'm sorry, Emily--"

"What for? It was a long time ago anyway -- I've gotten used to it now..."

"You must miss her, though." His normally cold eyes looked down on her kindly, but with her eyes fixed straight ahead, Emily didn't notice.

"Yes, of course I still miss her," she replied, more to herself than to him. "But, with time ... well ... almost everything heals with time."

Draco nodded, his eyes thoughtful.

"Six years is a long time," Emily continued, "and, besides, I still have dad...."

Her voice trailed off shakily, and Draco tightened his hold on her hand. "I know, Em -- but, still ... well ... it still must hurt to think of her..."

Emily smiled a sad smile. "Yes, it does ... sometimes. But, I still have a lot of good memories of her too," Emily shook her head roughly, as if to shake all her sad thoughts away. "But, anyway, let's talk about something different now -- you must be bored to death by my family by now. Let's talk about something happier....Oh, I know, let's talk about how we're going to catch breakfast -- Merlin! I'm starving, Draco."

Draco knew that she was sidetracking him, but he let her anyway. It wasn't that he wasn't interested in her family, actually, he had enjoyed hearing about her upbringing and learning more about her background, more about her -- it was just.... Well, it was just all this talk of her mother reminded him of his own mum, and the less he thought of her, the better. It was unbearable to think of her locked up in St Mungoes -- it was just unbearable to think of her at all! And, although he didn't know it, the sadness he saw shining in Emily's eyes, reflected in his own.

He let a small, defeated sigh. This lingering sadness was getting to him, he would try to lighten the mood. His stomach rumbled quietly. Bloody hell, he was going to strangle her -- she just had to go and remind that he hadn't eaten for days, or for what seemed like days. Merlin, he was hungry! What on earth were they going to do about food?

"I suppose we should go and find an inn..."

He glared down at her. "We can't just waltz up to any old inn--"

"Why not?" Emily looked up at him puzzled, why was he glaring at her like that? What had she done?

"Because," he gritted out, "we're meant to be going incognito--"

"Why are you glaring at me, Draco?" she asked, cutting him off, as she rolled her eyes in exasperation. "What am I supposed to have done now?"

"You reminded me that I was hungry."

"Oh."

"Is that all you can say, Carlisle?" Stopping in his tracks, he glared at her more.

Walking back to where he had stopped, she gave a slight shrug of the shoulders. "I think I have a half eaten chocolate frog in here somewhere -- you could have that, if you want it?" She started fishing around in the pockets of her jeans.

"Oh, yes, Carlisle!" Draco turned his sarcasm on full force. "That sounds so appetising.... Wait a minute! I know, you wait here while I go and kill a rabbit -- then you can skin it, and we'll have the chocolate frog for dessert!"

Emily dug out the half-eaten and very melted chocolate frog from her tight back pocket, and held it out in front of his disdainful nose. Then she smirked. "How about the frog for appetiser and me for dessert?"

Merlin, now that sounded very appealing! He took a step towards her, cocking his eyebrow in that way, he knew, she just couldn't resist. "We could always skip the appetiser..." His voice trailed off deliberately, his words hinted at hidden meaning.

Smouldering back at him, Emily trailed the melted chocolate across her full, parted lips. "Are you quite sure, Draco? Wouldn't you like just to try a little bite..."

She bit down, hard, and pulled the remainder of the chocolate frog lazily away from her chocolate stained lips. Then, licking a small stray smear from the corner of her sultry mouth, she smirked up at him. "Mmmn, so delicious -- are you still sure, Draco? Can't I change your mind -- I wont offer again...."

Dear Merlin! How did she do it? How could anyone make a half melted lump of chocolate look sexy? With one deliberate step forward he had her in his arms, his lips inched their way forward -- he could almost taste her.

Her hand covered his lips as he was just a breath away. Her eyes still smouldered up at him --she was teasing him!

"Tut-tut, Draco," she scolded him, her lips quivering with a laugh. "You can't have dessert before dinner...."

"Dinner?" he managed to grit out from behind her hand.

"Yes, dinner, Draco." She took a step back from him and studied him closely for a moment or two. "How about a nice talk about the return of Voldemort for the perfect main course?"

Draco's glare returned. "Emily," he warned, "why must you go on and on about that?"

"Because I want to know," she answered simply. "And, when we've got everything, and I mean absolutely everything out in the open.... Well, then, when we know all the important things about each other ... well, then, we can have dessert -- I promise."

"You promise?"

She stepped a step closer, her hand brushed his cheek. "I promise -- I want to, Draco. I want you! ... It's just I think we should know--"

His face paled. So it had finally come to this, had it? Before their relationship could travel any further, she needed total honesty, did she? Well, that was that, then -- what they had together was, from this point onwards, over -- over before it had truly a chance to begin. Because, when she had finished listening to what he was going to tell her, she would never want to be with him again.

His mind turned to ash and dust. "When Voldemort came back," he began, as the light diminished from his eyes. "When Voldemort returned, I was given the task, to do or die -- my first task was to kill Albus Dumbledore."

---

9.47am: The boy in the Owlery: A lone figure stood in the Owlery. Blank as the parchment in front of him, the young man's face had the look of intense concentration; hunched over his letter, he deliberated hard over every word. Then the light ignited in his eyes and a smile, which hinted at dark secrets, slowly stretched his lips. He quickly began to scrawl.

I am with the party.
Don't worry, they
Trust me completely.
They head south, I
will lead them to you.
I will come when I ca
n. I hope to bring with
me an object of great
interest. Till then, I
Eagerly serve you!


Quickly scanning the note, the young man then rolled it up neatly, and approached the nearest bird. A proud looking tawny blinked lazily at him and, smiling a peculiar smile, the boy attached the rolled parchment to the owl's leg. "Go quick now, my feathery friend," the boy mocked in a cruel tone. "Fly quick for me to Wiltshire -- you'll get your reward there."

The bird hopped twice and took to the grey cloudy sky; it swooped over the high towers of Hogwarts; soon becoming a dot in the distance, it flew over the flat lustre of the gloomy lake below and was soon out of sight. And, watching the small dot disappearing in the distance, the boy threw his head back and laughed -- it was the laughter of a madman.

---

Half an hour with Harry and Dumbledore: Harry scratched absently at his head. Over the last few years, he had dreamed of a moment such as this one, but now one had actually arrived, he couldn't think of a word to say.

"Harry," Dumbledore spoke but softly, distracting Harry from his thoughts.

"Yes, sir."

"I apologise, Harry," he continued , and Harry thought that he'd never seen his former headmaster's eyes so sober. "I once apologised before, Harry. But, it was at a time of great stress and grief ... and I don't think you heard me properly, Harry. So I would like, once again, to apologise properly to you, Harry.... Harry, I'm truly sorry for what I had to do--"

"I heard you clear enough the first time, sir!" Harry couldn't help the anger and petulance that came from him. "But, it doesn't change a thing--"

"Did you, Harry?" Dumbledore's tone was sad, but his words worked their way through Harry's skin. The sadness within them ignited him.

"You lied to me, sir!" he yelled, unable to control himself. "You lied to me and you had just promised that you would never do it again!"

"Harry ... Harry," Dumbldore watched him with a plea in his eyes. "If there was any other way, any other path -- do you not think that I would have took it? Harry, I did what I had to--"

"YOU DIDN'T TRUST ME!"

"I have always had faith in you, Harry -- it was others I could not trust--"

"I THOUGHT YOU WERE DEAD, SIR!" An explosion of grief shoot through him. "I thought you were ... I believed you'd ... gone...."

"I'm truly sorry, Harry..."

Dumbledore's words trailed off into silence, and Harry noticed just how old and wizened the older wizard looked. Then, the grudge that had festered so long inside of him, suddenly faded, faltered and died. Finally, he could let it go freely; finally the hurt inside of him died, and, with its absent, came understanding. Harry had finally found peace within himself.

However, he thought, with a flicker of his old humour -- he still had many questions to be answered. He opened his mouth to speak. "I have a lot of things to--"

"You have questions, Harry, of course you do...." Dumbledore smiled benignly at him and that familiar twinkle in his eyes sprang back to life. "And, at long last, Harry -- I'm at liberty to talk freely with you ... and may I begin, by saying, how proud I am of you on your handling of the Malfoy case -- you have shown true justice by--"

Flushing, Harry cut him off -- he really couldn't accept this praise after his awful behaviour over the last few days. "Sir, honestly, I was nothing -- I just managed to cut his sentence in half. Knowing that Snape was still alive, I couldn't even see him in there -- knowing he was innocent. That's when me and Hermione came up with the Emily plan..."

"And, yet, despite your apparent dislike for this young man, you still wanted to see justice done. I don't think you understand what an admirable quality that is, Harry."

Harry hung his head, looking sheepish. "Um, it was nothing, sir..."

"You are a truly remarkable young man, Harry--"

Now it was just getting embarrassing, Harry had to get him to stop -- he never had gotten used to compliments! "Erm, sir," he asked, hoping this tactic would work. "Can I ask a question?"

"Yes, of course, Harry."

His tactics had worked, Harry rushed on with his question. "Well, did you know then, sir? Did you know about Draco's father -- about Lucius? Is that why you had Snape fake his death -- did he go to spy on Malfoy? Did you know all this back then?"

With his eyes closed, Dumbledore nodded to himself slowly, as he mulled over Harry's questions. Yes, he would tell Harry now -- Harry was now capable of true understanding. His keen blue eyes slowly opened and he fixed Harry with his keen stare. "Just before the battle of Hogwarts, Draco came to me, through Severus, for protection. He told me everything, we left no stone unturned. He told me of his life within Voldemort's clutches, he told me of every evil that he had done. He asked me not for my forgiveness, he made no excuses for what he had done. Yet, when I looked into his eyes, I saw a changed and terrified young man -- and when he pleaded for sanctuary, I granted it him freely. Then, he told me about his father, and his father's degeneration into madness...."

---

9.52am. Wiltshire. Severus Snape: As the boy Apparated amid the shadows of the gnarled and spider like trees, Severus Snape rushed forward. "Have you what I need, boy? Have you the article -- have you with you the poison?"

The boy dodged a spindly branch, which had bowed down to ensnare him, and made his way quickly out of the accursed forest that surrounded him. Really, he was beginning to understand that Carlisle girl's aversion to trees. He stepped forward to meet the lank haired man. "No, I haven't been able to get a hold of them yet, but Dumbledore assures you the poison is on its way -- someone will be assigned to it immediately--"

For one rare instant, Snape's composure crumbled, and a grimace of frustration washed over his face. "I need them tomorrow, you must bring them to by the morning at the latest--"

"Sir, I can't promise that--"

Snape sliced through his words like a knife. "You will not fail me, or else all work done here will unravel. Tomorrow, late afternoon, at the latest -- otherwise disaster looms..."

"I'll do my best -- I think I can have the article to you by then--"

Snape seemed slightly appeased by this. "Then, that'll have to suffice -- but, pray, tell me -- are you now ensconced in the party?" His words came out in a rush.

Trying to keep up with his sense of urgency, the boy answered immediately. "I am with the party, I will do my best to veer them to the North..."

"Good," Snape answered quickly. Then, glancing over his shoulder slyly, as if watching for unseen foe, Snape again dashed out his words. "Tell Dumbledore that there is a traitor amongst you -- Lucius has been careless with his thoughts. Tell him the situation is urgent, tell him that the time races forward too quickly, tell him that events will come to a head much sooner than we'd expected. We only have a day, maybe two, at the most--"

"I-I will, sir -- I'll g-go at once--"

The boy turned to go without ceremony, but the cold touch of Severus' hand on his collar stopped him in his tracks. The boy slowly turned to face him; Snape's mouth was at his ear, his breath blew jagged against his neck. "Keep them safe," the desperate man warned, "keep them all safe, but especially Draco...."

And, with his face turning pale, the boy wondered if he had the nerve to tell him about Emily and Draco.

9:53am: Emily and Draco: Emily had been staring at him for what seemed like hours, waiting for him to continue, feeling the magnitude of his confession weigh down on her, preparing herself for the story he'd yet to tell. She knew that she'd asked for this, but now that it was upon her, she wondered if she could cope with the confessions to come. And, involuntary, she shivered.

Draco sensed her hesitation. He gave her a last chance. "Are you quite certain, are you ready for this?"

Dumbly, Emily regained possession of herself, and nodded. She'd not come this far for nothing.

And, now knowing that there was no turning back for him, Draco closed his eyes and remembered.

---

10.00am, At Hogwarts Gates; Harry and Co. The globe hovered lightly over Harry's outstretched palm, skimming the surface of his skin, the orb vibrated softly, sending strange tingles of electricity shooting up the veins in his arm. It was an all together unpleasant feeling either, Harry had to concede. However, instead of loosing himself in the pleasantness of the sensation, Harry forced himself to listen to what Dumbledore had to say.

"The incantation is simple enough, Harry -- just tap your wand upon it and say, 'show me.'"

"Show me?"

"Yes, Harry -- and then the glass will do its job..."

"Are sure it will work -- is that all there is to it?"

Dumbledore chuckled. "Yes, Harry -- it really is that simple." Then his eyes seemed to take on a slightly more solemn turn. "But, now, I must urge you all onwards -- we have lost much needed time ... I will say my goodbyes to you now, and I bid you all to take care and be swift of foot..."

Swift of foot? Harry struggled hard to snort back his laughter.

Neville piped in. "I will do all that I can , sir -- and, Hermione, I will report back as often as I can--"

Hermione smiled tightly at Neville and nodded. "Yes, report back as soon as you can, Neville. But, really, I must be on my way now -- I'm already late for an important meeting--"

Hermione's face took on a harried look; Dumbledore turned to her and offered her his arm. "Come now, Miss Granger -- let us take our leave. We will say our goodbyes now, and we can complete certain arrangements on our way...."

Hermione considered this and quickly nodded. "Yes, alright, sir - we can get that done now..."

Then, slipping away from his arm, Hermione darted over and gave Harry a quick hug. "Be careful, Harry. -- Look after him, Ron. Remember what I said Luna, and I expect to hear from you soon, Neville..."

After a quick hug and tired smile for everybody, Hermione was back at Dumbledore's side. And, with a final wave goodbye, she and Dumbledore had passed on through Howarts Gates, quickly becoming nothing more than small specks in the distance. The search party were finally left alone.

Ron's voice broke through the remaining silence. "So, er, urm, Harry -- shall we try it then?"

Harry looked at him blankly. "Well, I suppose so..."

"Go on then, Harry..."

Luna slipped up beside him and patted his arm. "We'll find them soon, Harry."

Neville hovered close by, looking excited.

Harry glanced round at them all and gave a wry shrug. "Well, ok then -- here goes nothing..." Then pulling out his wand from his cloak, he smiled rather doubtfully and gingerly tapped the globe. "Show me..."

The orb began spin madly.



A/N: This is really just to apologise for the unforgivable long wait. I never meant for it to be this long, but I'm sure most of you know that I couldn't really avoid -- because I moved and was offline for a long time. But, I am truly sorry. *flutters eyelashes* Forgive me? lol!

Oh, and from now on, I'm going to try my best to update weekly/two weekly. The story is nearly done now, and I'm just anxious to get it out there, lol. To everybody who reads, and to everybody who's dropped me a review, emmie still loves ya and thanks you for providing her with the support to continue with this story.
(hugs)
emmie


Chapter 25: A Very Eventful Day: Part Three - The Day Darkens...
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A Very Eventful Day




Chapter Twenty Five




Part Three: The Day Darkens....






10:03am: Outside Hogwarts Gates, Harry and Co:

---

The orb began to spin madly.

---


Just above the palm of Harry's hand, the globe turned faster and faster, becoming a blur as it spun; silver and black merged into a resplendent grey, the lightning forks flickered erratically; slowly, the Omni's eye closed, and, through the swirling mist, a snapshot began to emerge.

Eyes glued to the stilling orb, Harry watched on in surprise as an image of Emily and Draco flickered before him. They're in the woods somewhere, he noted, as he took in the tall trees stood behind them within the glass. Yes, they're still in the woods and they both look pretty tense. Harry leaned down to study them closer.

As if he were willing it, their faces became clearer, Emily (he could see) was fretfully gnawing down on her bottom lip. The spindly trees in the background began to fade; their faces became larger, into focus; Harry could see the nervous tic twitching away along Draco's jaw. This is just like one of those old back and white films aunt Petunia used to watch, Harry thought to himself, feeling astonished. This is just amazing! The vibrating orb suddenly whizzed away.

"What?" Harry exclaimed loudly, as it sped away and headed to the trees. "What on Earth?"

"It's showing us the way, Harry," Luna murmured at his shoulder. "It wants us to follow."

Harry watched the orb as it hovered by the trees. "They were in the woods, I saw them. They looked upset, troubled..."

"Could you tell exactly where they were?"

Harry was instantly irritated. "For heavens sake," Harry snapped, and turned to face his friend. "It was a wood, Ron! All trees look the bloody same to me - what do you exp-"

"Well, what's the use of bloody that, then," Ron exploded, cutting him off. "If we can't tell exactly where they are - how are we supposed to catch up with them?"

"We follow the globe," all eyes turned to Luna, "we follow the globe and search it for clues..."

"How do you mean, Luna?" Harry asked her, politely.

"Well, we just have to study the image it shows ... Maybe they'll go to an inn, or maybe pass through somewhere we know? If it shows us somewhere we recognise, then we can just Apparate there."

"Oh," Harry nodded his head, "oh, yes, I see now. Thanks Luna." Harry turned to her, giving her a smile. "But, it does seem like it might be slow going, though." His smile turned into a frown.

"Too right, it does!" grumbled Ron from beside him, "we'll never bloody catch them up."

"Oh, we might get lucky, Ron," Luna smiled at no one in particular, "after all, our luck has to change sometime..."

"Yeah," piped up Neville, nodding eagerly. "And, at least, we know to go South. That's where it's pointing to..."

Harry glanced at the globe again. Yes, it had darted in a southerly direction, he had to admit. Neville was right - and it did make sense for them to head that way.... Harry quickly came to a decision. "C'mon then," he said lightly, sliding comfortably back into his leadership position. "Let's get going! All we can do for now is follow."

Then, walking away, his hands casually in his jean pockets, Harry walked over to the still spinning globe. The others shared a quick glance and followed.

---

10.05am: In the woods with Emily and Draco. The memories came flooding back. Closing his eyes, letting reminiscence consume him, Draco continued. "When I..."

"I know you didn't kill him, Draco ... I know th-"

Draco's eyes snapped open, he cut her off with a glare.

"Sorry," she whispered softly, she should have known better than to interrupt him. Not now, not when she could see that he barely knew how to begin. Emily lowered her contrite eyes.

"As I was saying," Draco tinged his voice with a hint of superiority, "before you so rudely interrupted." He shot her another one of his looks. "When I failed to kill Albus Dumbledore, Voldemort was not, to say the least, very happy..."

He paused a while, to give her the chance to have her say, waiting for her next interruption. No words came from her, though, as she only stood there watching him with those big, brown, solemn eyes of hers. Taking a shuddering breath, he pressed on. "Well, as I was saying, Voldemort wasn't to happy with me, quite the opposite in fact. He thought me a failure, ineffectual - he saw my inability to kill Dumbledore as a weakness - he said he had no use for cowards like me amid his ranks. I thought I was for it then. I though I was going to die then and there. I thought-"

"It must have been awful, so terrifying..."

"To say the least, Emily," Draco eyed her intensely, "it was horrifying, worse than you, than anyone, could ever imagine..." He paused for a minute, thinking. "Well, with the exemption of Potter, I would defy anyone to be in that situation and not be afraid-"

"I would have been absolutely terrified," Emily admitted, stepping closer to take his hand. Her warm brown eyes searched his. "How did you do it then, Draco?" Her hand squeezed his tightly. "How did you escape his anger?"

"I didn't," Draco replied simply. "It wasn't part of his plans to kill me. You see, he didn't actually want me dead...back then. No, I was too important a tool to kill off at that moment in time: he knew how I cared for mother, how I would do anything for father - he-he gave me another task-"

Draco broke off, unable to continue for a while, unable to control his shaking voice. A bead of sweat trickled from his brow; he brushed it roughly away, struggling for composure. Then, regaining a little of it back, he went shakily on. "He told me that I deserved a few rounds of Crucio, that I was lucky to still be alive..." His eyes burned. Silently, he begged for her to understand. "And, his voice was so high-pitched and cold, Emily - and I was so scared - I would have done anything he asked me to .... D-Do you understand, Em - do you understand what I'm saying?"

Emily nodded empathetically. She could almost taste his terror; and she could see (in her minds eye) that dark room, full of ashes and dust, where Draco must have stood trembling. Her next words tumbled out haphazardly. "I-I understand, Draco ... ju-just tell me. I'll - I will - I can understand that, Draco..."

Draco stared at her expressionlessly, for a moment or two, before seemingly coming back to life. "C'mon, Em," he urged, suddenly grabbing her hand tightly. "Let's move on - let's find somewhere we can sit and talk."

Then, tripping and stumbling, Emily found herself being hauled after him. "Draco ... Stop ... Slow down," she panted, "you-you're hurting my hand."

Striding purposely onwards, Draco took no notice of her pleas, but the tight grip on her hand lessened as he pulled her along. He just wanted to find somewhere quickly; somewhere, where they could sit down comfortably, somewhere more secluded - where he could finish his gruesome tale. He spotted a small alcove of stunted trees ahead. It was the perfect place - he pulled hard on her hand again. "C'mon Em, there's a place just ahead," he pointed to the recess of trees ahead. "We'll go and sit there ... then, I, I-I'll tell you the rest, ok?"

Following his pointed finger with her eyes, Emily saw that it wasn't too far ahead. She nodded. "Ok, then - but Drac-"

His urgent hand cut her off, though. He wasn't listening to her; he pulled her swiftly along.

And, stumbling forward in a half-walk, half-run, Emily soon found herself amid the semi-circle of blackened, stumped and gnarled trees. She turned her exasperated eyes to Draco. "So what now, Dr-"

Ignoring her fractious tone, Draco threw himself to the dirty ground, leaning his back against a particularly deformed stump. "Now," he began, closing his eyes to sunlight, recollecting his memories. "Now, I'll tell you about my second task," he opened his eyes, staring keenly at Emily, "but, remember, Me - remember what you just said - this part isn't nice ... remember what you said about understanding..."

Emily's heart lurched.

---

10.43am. In the Ministry with Hermione. Seamus's eyes flickered over to Dean's. Eyebrows raised high, they held a humorous light. "So, who's she got in there," he conspired with a grin, "I wouldn't like to be them - did you see the look on her face?"

Dean shook his head and shrugged. "Don't know," he answered; then his face broke into a grin too. "But, you're right - I wouldn't fancy being in their shoes." He frowned a little. "I wonder what it's all about, though," he wondered aloud, looking at Seams through narrowed eyes. "It all seems so top secret-"

"Yeah," Seamus enthused back at him a little too loudly. Then, as several heads swivelled to stare, he quickly lowered his voice and ducked down his head. "It does, doesn't it? Something's going on all right ... I'd say, we might be in for some excitement soon... And I wonder where Neville's got to? Him just disappearing like that! Something's definitely going on..."

*

Hermione tore her eyes away from the chattering boys sat outside her office window. She could just imagine what her former fellow classmates were saying; they were obviously gossiping about her, probably talking about the new air of expectancy that had taken over the department as she had flooed in ten minutes earlier. They probably had something to say about Neville's disappearance too, if she knew them like she thought she did. Hermione sighed softly and stifled a yawn.

She felt so tired, so weary. Things had become so hectic, much too quickly, there was just too much to do ... to arrange. How on earth was she going to get everything done on time? She sighed again. This wasn't going to get her anywhere at all, though, she decided. She must stop thinking and worrying about it ... fretting over the situation at hand would be of no help to no one. Instead, she must pull herself together, and start putting the plans in motion. Letting the blind drop at the window, she turned to face the person who was currently waiting for her to speak again.

"How long will you need, Tonks?"

Tonks' normally friendly eyes were screwed up in concentration. "Dunno, Hermione," Tonks scratched the top of her head absentmindedly, "one day, perhaps? Two at the most, it all depends on... Well, I really can't be more precise than that-"

"Is it - will it? Will be particularly hard to find?"

"It's a very rare poison, Hermione. Exactly how soon does Dumbledore need it?"

"As soon as possible," Hermione sighed. "By yesterday would be best!" Smiling ruefully at her work colleague and friend, Hermione shrugged her shoulders at the hopelessness of it all; it just all felt so implausible, impossible to achieve.

Pushing herself off the edge of Hermione's desk, where she had plonked her bum when she first entered, Tonks made her way over to the fireplace and scooped up a handful of floo-powder from the large pouch that hung by the mantelpiece. "Don't worry, Hermione," she said, looking over to meet Hermione's eyes. "I'll get onto it straight away ... my other assignment can be put on hold. I," her forehead furrowed in concentration again, "well, I'll be in touch soon. Just owl me with anything new, any extra info you think I'll need. I'll be off now, Hermione - just keep in touch, eh. Let me be in the know."

From the other side of her office, Hermione nodded.

"See ya later, Moine," Tonks tipped her a familiar a wink and turned back to the fire. "Remember I'll be in touch soon..." She threw the floo into the dancing, green flames and stepped in. "Knockturn Alley!"

Hermione stood watching the flames return to their normal burnt orange hue, watching the empty grate from which Tonks had just departed. She stood, stock still, with a vacant expression on her face. Then, with a little shake of the head, she re-gathered her thoughts, approached her desk and, riffling through the clutter, began to search for the papers she needed. She sighed yet again. It was definitely going to be a long day!

---

Following the Omni Globe: Harry and Co: 11.45: Harry stepped forward to the globe, and put it in his pocket. The image hadn't changed, though, so he didn't bother with much of a look: it still showed the same old picture of Emily and Draco, sat amid the trees, with taut looks on their faces. Draco was still talking, though, Harry noted. And Emily's expression became bleaker and bleaker with each new furtive peek. One thing had changed, though ... a while back they'd changed their location. They now sat amongst a ring of stunted, blackened tree stumps and Harry was certain he'd recognise the place, if he ever happened to stumble across it.

"Any change, Harry?"

"Nope, still the same, Luna." Harry didn't bother looking over his shoulder as he answered. "They're still in the same place, but I think I'd recognise it, if I we pass it, though." Hary risked a glance backwards, she was still in deep conversation with Ron. A strange feeling of bitterness passed through him. "What do you think, Ron?"

Ron's eyes rounded on his. "Er, what's that? Oh, I, um, yeah, that's good, I suppose. Let's hope they stay there all day, eh? We'll catch them up eventually, if they stay stationary." Ron flicked him a strained smile, before bending his head back down to Luna's again. They began whispering.

Humph! Harry thought, indignantly. Just why were they getting so cosy, huh? What on earth was Ron up to? He'd never been Luna's biggest fan ... so why was he smooching up to her now? Just what was he after, hmmn? Harry's suspicions went into overdrive.

He should have told his suspicions to Dumbledore, he supposed. But, with everything else going on, he'd just forgotten. Not that Dumbledore would have confirmed or disproved anything, though. Most probably, if he had told him, the older wizard would have just mumbled something about Harry following his instincts, or some sort of mumbo-jumbo. Harry huffed out an irritated sigh. If only he had something more than this indistinct feeling of something not being right, if only he had something more...solid! He had to think hard, he had to remember, to search his memory for the smallest clue...

Something was missing he could feel it. Something to do with Dumbledore's keen eyes, Dumbledore peering suspiciously over half-moon glasses.... WAIT! Just wait a minute! Something was coming back to him: he could clearly see Dumbledore's office, something, or someone, not quite right...something of great importance... Clarity was just inches away....

"Where do you think Neville is?," Luna's voice floated out, dragging him away from burgeoning comprehension. "Do you think he's lost?"

NO! No, Luna, no .... not now ... not when he was this close! He could feel the memory slipping through his fingers ... he was so close ... if he concentrated, if no one else said a word, he could still reel it in ... he could almost touch it with his fingertips. Harry screwed up his eyes, tightly, and concentrated hard.

"Dunno, Luna..." Unaware of Harry's dilemma, Ron answered Luna loudly, looking around for Neville's bumbling form as he answered her. "I can't see him," he looked over his shoulder, searching the trees behind. "He's not back there... Do you think I should go and look for him, Harry?"

He'd lost it - he'd bloody well lost it! The memory slipped elusively away. He mustn't lose his temper, though. It wasn't Ron's fault ... he didn't know ... mustn't lose control. One ... Two ... Three ... Harry exploded! "You've got a bloody big mouth, Ron - did you know that?"

Ron's head snapped back round. "W-What do you mean?" his forehead scrunched into a frown. "What am I supposed to have done?"

"Sod it, Ron! I was so bloody close!"

"Close to what?" Face screwed up in confusion, Ron turned his questioning eyes to Luna. "What the bloody hell are you going on about, Harry?"

"Like I'd tell you!"

"What? What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nevermind!" Harry knew that he'd gone to far. He'd given too much away.

"No - fuck nevermind! What did you mean by that - is there something you need to tell me, Harry?"

"No, just forget it!" Harry had himself under control again, he turned his back on Ron. "Just find something useful to do! Why don't you sod off and go and find Nev-"

Ron's face paled. "What the hell's got into you-"

Harry spun back round to him, eyes fuming. "I not stupid, you know, Ron!"

Ron glared at him, his cheeks flushed red. "You may not be stupid, Harry. But, you're not making any bloody sense-"

"Why don't you just piss off?"

Ron gawped at him in disbelief. What the hell was going on? His hands balled into fists of anger. Harry couldn't have guessed, could he? Maybe it was time to....

"Why are you still here, Ron?"

Ron snapped. Just who does he think he is? "Fuck off! You've no right to talk to me like-"

Harry gritted his teeth and forced his words out. "As head Auror, I'm telling you to go and find Longbottom..."

Ron opened his mouth to protest, but changed his mind almost instantly. Instead, he stared back blankly at Harry, and tried hard to scrutinise his closed expression. Harry wasn't about to give any secrets, anytime soon, though, Ron could see that straight away. It was pure determination he saw glinting in Harry's resolute green eyes. Ron changed tactics.

If Harry wanted to play it like that, then so be it. He had other things to worry about, more important things, and he just didn't need the hassle of this added (and unwanted) aggravation. He spun on his heels. He didn't have to put up with Harry's stupidity, he didn't have to put up with any of this rubbish at all! Sod it - if Harry wanted him gone, then he would bloody well go. He didn't need this shit, he was out of there! And, with fingers clenched into furious fists at his sides, Ron stalked off into the trees, fuming.


*

Luna peeled her eyes from Ron's retreating back and turned to Harry. "Harry," she asked him, looking vaguely troubled. "Are we going to wait for him to come back?"

Eyes still fixed on the back of his retreating friend, Harry could only shrug.

---

1.00pm: Amongst the Tree Stumps, Emily and Draco:

"Is that everything?" Staring down at her toes, Emily voiced her question apprehensively. All that she had heard, had left her reeling. "Is that all there is to tell, Draco?"

"Yes." He kept his answer sharp and short. His eyes still stung.

"T-Then," her voice trembled, she was only too aware of the implications of her next words. "I think I can understand ... I understand you, Draco..."

"How can you say that?" Draco hissed sharply, not believing what she was telling him. Hadn't she listened to a word he'd said? How could she understand all that he'd told her, how could she believed that she understood him? Uncontrollable anger rushed through him. "Have you not listened to a bloody word I've said, Carlisle?" he exploded.

Emily didn't bat an eyelash, she had expected this reaction. She reached out her hand and found his shaking fingers; her fingers entwined with his. "Draco," she whispered gently, lifting her eyes to search his troubled face. "Draco I," she faltered, as she dug deep for the right words. "I do understand, I listened to every, single horrific word. But, I can understand you, Draco," her voice raised in pitch, "I can understand why ... I know why you did what you did. It's not as though, well, it's not like you had much choice..."

Battling down revulsion, Draco spat his next words out. "What do you know about choice, Carlisle?"

"I may not have been through what you've been through, Draco," Emily shot back at once. "But, I understand... You were in a hard place, you had no choice - you were forced into your decisions! He held your love for your mum against you, he baited you. He promised you a golden egg. You wanted your father free at the time, how could you not do what you did? You had no other choice!"

"How can you say that?" Draco shot back. "How can you say it, when you know how I felt? I told you, I felt relieved, that I thought I would enjoy-"

"But you didn't, Draco - did you? When Bellatrix led you down there you were sick to you stomach, you hated it! You didn't have it in you..."

Beads of sweat broke out on his brow. "But, that's not the point, is it?" he barked out harshly. "The fact of the matter is, I did it. I wanted to do it. I mean, I'd have rather done that than be tortured myself. No matter what the outcome was later, at that time, that was my choice. It shows you what sort of person I really am..."

NO!" It came out as an explosion. "No, it doesn't," she yelled at the top of her voice. "It doesn't show that at all! It shows who you were then, not who you are now. What happened back then has changed you, as your later choices show! You can't judge yourself on what happened then Draco - life just doesn't work that way! Yes, you were a nasty bully! Yes, you naturally wanted to save your own skin - I mean - who wouldn't? But, you obviously regret past deci-"

"Potter wouldn't have!"

"POTTER, Harry?" She stared at him in disbelieve. "How can you compare the two of you? Your both so totally different ... your situations were just so totally different! Harry had the order around him, he had the help of his friends - he was surrounded by people he could trust! You , on the other hand, had no such thing...."

"He still wouldn't have done it!" Draco blurted out, sounding very much like a sulky child. "He would have died before letting that happ-"

"Then, Thank Merlin, it didn't happen to him!" Emily cut him off, "because if that'd happened, we'd all be ruled by Voldemort now! And I'd probably be de-"

"No, Harry wouldn't have died," Draco spat out with venom. "He'd have conjured up some spectacular magic of some sort, nothing would have happened to him..."

Why wouldn't he listen to her? How ever, would she get through to him? Emily clutched her head in frustration. "Draco," she finally said carefully, not wanting to inflame him. "Harry is special - it was Voldemort who made him special, in fact. He had special magic in him, still does. When his mum died for him, she gave him this magic. Dumbledore understood and helped him to understand this magic. Harry holds within him something most others do not..."

She broke off to see if he was listening and when she saw that he was, she carried on. "But, Draco - even with all his special abilities - it still doesn't mean that he would have survived. You just can't say what he would have or wouldn't have done ... it just doesn't work that way. He might have died, and Voldemort might have won; he might have conjured up some wondrous magic, but he also might have done exactly what you did, giving him the chance to save himself..."

Trailing off, she eyed Draco intently. Had anything she'd just said gotten through to him? Had he took in a single word she'd said? She watched him quietly as he contemplated over her words. Then he started to speak.

"Maybe," he whispered, "maybe you're right... But, it doesn't change some things...."

"What things, Draco?"

"On, nothing...."

"Just tell me. Draco," Emily urged, "you promised you'd tell me everything."

"I have..."

He was lying, she could tell. He was still keeping secrets from her. Why else wouldn't he believe her when she told him she understood him? Emily tried again. "Is it something to do with Snape, or your mother?"

"No - I mean..." Draco sighed heavily, dragging his hands through his hair. He'd had enough of this interrogation, he could feel it draining him. "It's nothing, Em ... Just let it be-"

Emily changed tactics. "Why didn't you trust him, Draco? Especially after your mother told you that he could be trusted-"

"I've already told you that," Draco snapped back, exhausted. "I believed my aunt. She believed him to be too dangerous , and I trusted her judgement. I didn't have anyone to talk to ... only father, and he was becoming more deranged by the minute. By the end of it, he actually made aunt Bella look sane! Father didn't trust Severus either, he believed him Voldemort's most loyal supporter, and he didn't want him interfering with his nefarious schemes.... But, anyway, none of that matters now - it couldn't have made any difference - mother never had the chance to tell me until after Pansy...."

"Pansy?" Emily asked, with her brow furrowed. This was new! He hadn't spoken of Pansy before. How was that little cow involved? She was intrigued. She just had to ask. "What happened to Pansy, Draco?"

Draco paled. "Nothing happened, just shut up about her!"

Emily suddenly remembered that Pansy was dead. And it didn't take her long to put two and two together. Pansy was dead. Pansy, even though Emily hated her, had been Draco's friend. Had Draco seen her die? Merlin, no! Had she put her foot in it again? Emily inched forward to comfort him. "I'm so sorry, Draco," she whispered, while touching his cheek. "I know she was a friend. W-Was it the same as Crabbe's, did it happen on a raid? D-Did you see it, Dra--"

Draco jerked his head back as if she had burnt him. "Shut up! Just stop harping on about it! I don't want to--"

Her eyes widened, she seemed to have opened a real can of worms here. Emily had never seen him so upset. Merlin, how he was trembling! Inching forward again, she tried her best to make it better. "I'm sorry, Draco - I didn't mean to bring up hurtful memories. It must have been horrible time, I mean, the raids and everything. No one should witness their friends dying ... I mean, it must have been bad enough just coping with the fear and trying to stay alive..."

Her words lingered heavy on the air. Beside her, Draco sat shaking uncontrollably. She had touched something taboo. Feeling afraid herself, she lightly touched his arm. "Draco?" she asked apprehensively, "d-did you..."

"Did I what, Emily?" he barked back, his eyes shining with a strange gleam. "What are you asking, what is it you think I've done?"

Emily swallowed hard. There was no going back now. "D-Did you k-kill P-Pansy?"

His face blanched of all colour, his eyes stared off into the distance. His words seemed to be coming from faraway. "I-Its more complicated than that."

Emily shivered, although she wasn't cold. "D- Did Voldemort make you?"

Draco buried his head in his hands, dropping it to his knees. His voice came out muffled; Emily could barely decipher it. "He'd found out the Parkinson's were switching alliances, you see..."

Emily said nothing. Too astounded for words, she just waited for the rest to spill out of him. She didn't have to wait long. Once he had begun, or so it seemed to her, the words just tumbled out, one after another, as if they hungered for sweet release.

"He wanted to punish the Parkinson's," Draco, poured out as he shivered, "and he knew that I was her friend at school ... Plus, word had got to him about father's questionable loyalties, and I suppose he wanted to make an example of me. To make things worse, Nott had seen me at the last raid; he had noticed how I had hung back, how I'd avoided most of the action. He told Voldemort, of course ... so I knew that when he asked for me, there was going to be punishment involved. Wrongly, though, I presumed that it would be several rounds of Crucio, or even Avada Kedavra ... things were getting dangerous, I knew that I'd become nothing but a thorn in his side lately, he really had no use for me at all in those last few weeks."

"I wasn't prepared for what he asked, though," here Draco paused, nervously licking his lips, "when he first asked me, I couldn't quite comprehend it - it all seemed too innocent, too simple. As the son of one of his most loyal of Death Eaters, he said that he regretted overlooking me, that he was sure I was as worthy to his cause as my father. I wasn't daft enough to believe him, though. I knew it for what it was, veiled threats and hypocrisy."

"Then he asked me if there were any friends I'd like to see again, if there was anybody special. Of course, though, not knowing exactly what he up to, I just stood there and stammered like some damnable Hufflepuff! Then he mentioned Pansy, said that he'd heard (along with the rest of the world) that we were together at school, that he understood that we found much pleasure in each other. He told me of how he understood the certain urges of one of my age, that he could be (in certain circumstances) just as kind, as he was harsh, ha! Then, he suggested that I should write to Pansy with an invite..."

Draco paused, licking his lips nervously. He swallowed. "So I wrote Pansy a letter...and that's it, more or less..." Looking up from the ground, he eyed Emily intently, almost defiantly.

Emily stared back at him wide-eyed, unbelieving. "What do you mean, Draco? You can't end it like that, you just can't! Heavens, Draco, what did you do next? What did he make you do next? Did he ask you to kill her, or watch, or..."

"No, Emily," Draco sighed, "weren't you listening? I told you, I wrote the letter, her death warrant really, and there really is nothing more to it..."

"But," Emily persisted, she would not accept this for an explanation. "But, what happened next, Draco? How did you get from there - to being under the protection of the order? Something more must have happened ... tell me! Tell me what happened next, I need to understand..."

Draco closed his eyes, tight, in exasperation. "What more is there to tell, Emily? You know the rest-"

"No I don't, Draco. Not really..."

He opened his eyes and looked at her. Defeat dulled his eyes. "Alright then, Emily ... If you insist, I'll give you the rest of it in a nutshell." He lowered his eyes to the ground again, his free hand raked through the dry, brittle leaves scattered around them. He spoke again, his voice was a pale monotone. "As I told you before, Em - soon after he left me, I sat down to write the invite ... by this time, I knew exactly what I was writing. I knew that I was, more or less, writing her death warrant - nevertheless, I sat down and wrote it anyway."

"I did think of warning her, yes. But, I knew that it would be useless, I knew the letter would be checked before it was sent. By the time I finished writing that letter, I knew I had just sent my only friend to an early grave..."

"Draco, don’t," Emily interrupted, "don't do this to yourself..."

Ignoring her interruption, Draco ploughed on. "...Soon after that, I went to my mother ... not much was said, she didn't need words to understand me. She gave me what little comfort she could afford to give; she pressed me to put my trust in Snipe..." A ghost of a smirk flickered on his lips. "This time, I listened to her, like a good boy, I finally put my faith in him, he was my only hope...."

Draco wiped a trembling hand across his perspiring brow. "I went to him soon after. Mother warned me of Voldemort's intentions for me and kissed me lightly on the cheek, before sending me off to him ... that was the last I ever saw of mother."

"Later that night, I found him. It was a brief encounter, we had not much to say to each other, we did not have enough time. Thankfully, this meant that there was not enough time for many reproofs; he called me a damnable fool of a boy, asked why I hadn't come to him sooner, and pressed a portkey to Dumbledore in my hands. Then, putting my last vestiges of trust in him, I took the portkey from it's coverings, and took it in my hand: the world blurred, I felt that old familiar pulling in my stomach, and found myself falling..."

Emily couldn't help it, she just had to blurt it out. "Oh, but, Draco," she gasped, "how did you it would take you to Dumbledore? How could you put your trust in him so quickly?"

"I didn't," Draco lifted his eyes from the ground to look at her sombrely. "I didn't really trust him at all! But, at that moment in time, I couldn't have cared less if it had took me to Voldemort and his awaiting army..."

"Oh, Draco..." She squeezed his clammy hand in hers. "It must have, I mean--"

Draco shook his head sharply at her, but his hand remained clasped in hers. Tired and as upset as he was, he still wanted her touch - but her pity he could live without. "Don't Emily - I don't need your kindness, just let me finish the tale."

Under his baleful eyes, Emily stopped immediately. She wanted to hear every last detail.

"Well, he began, "you, more or less, know the rest, Em. I told Dumbledore everything, everything I'd ever done, everything I knew about Voldemort, everything I knew about my father. Moreover, thankfully, Dumbldedore believed me; he offered me protection, and I anxiously took it. I agreed readily to his terms, to be jailed in Azkaban, to everything. The war ended soon after, I offered myself as scapegoat, lived in Azkaban for a year, was freed by interfering Potter, then I came to spend the next year of my life with you..." Draco took a much needed breath. "And that, Emily, is absolutely everything there is to know about me."

"Draco, I," Emily brushed up close to him, her hand cupped his cheek. "I understand. Thank you for tell-"

He jerked his head away, livid eyes met hers. "No, you still don't understand, Emily..."

"But, I do, Draco - I really do--"

"No, you don't, Carlisle! If you did , you wouldn't want to touch me..."

Emily felt distraught. "But, I want to touch you - Draco, it wasn't your fault, you had no choice...."

"I killed my only friend - I killed her, Emily! I put myself first, I saved my own--"

"No, Draco - you had no other options. If you had refused, he would have threatened you mother, or your father..."

"Why do you refuse to understand, Emily?" Yanking his hand from hers, he massaged his pounding head. "I had other options, I just chose not to pick them. I was afraid, I chose myself, my own needs, over others..."

"What other options, Draco?" Touching his arm lightly, Emily tried to get a glimpse of his eyes. "I mean, who could honestly choose between their mother and a friend--"

Cradling his head in his hands, he answered her with taut words. "I could have approached Snape--"

"You didn't trust him, though!" Emily exploded.

Draco's shoulders stiffened. "Nevertheless, Emily - I could have gone to him. I could have took the chance. But, I was too scared, too afraid of what would happen if I was wrong. I was too scared to take the risk, I let a friend die before I went to him..."

"But, it wasn't just you that you had to think about, he had your family too!"

Draco pressed on as if she had said nothing. "...or, I could have gone to the order, asked for protection, risked the possibility of Azkaban. The order may have been able to help..."

"But, you did do that, Draco!"

"Only after I let a friend die! O-Only after I k-killed her..." His voice became strangled, his shoulders began to hitch. "I l-let her d-die, Emily."

"No," Emily's tone was determined; she caught his distraught face in her hands, forcing his eyes up to look at her. "It's not that simple, it's never as cut and dried as that, Draco! Things were different then, you were different then, not forgetting you were alone and friendless. You say you were afraid for yourself, that's understandable, Draco. But, don't forget, there was always your fear for your mother's safety to contend with too."

"And you've changed since then, Draco - everything that happened to you back then has had an impact on who you are now. You're a different person! Your past has made you question yourself, your motives. Voldemort tried to make you a puppet, but he failed. No matter what he did, you never became like him - you never embraced his ideals. When you found out what he really stood for, you were running scared. You turned your back on him, on what you previously believed. Draco, you can't stay hiding behind your past forever...."

At these words, Draco seemed to sag. His head dropped to her shoulder. "But, I'm a bad person, Em," he choked out, his voice but a muffled sob. "I must be, to do what I've done..."

Emily'd hands raked through his hair, she could feel a hot tear trickle down her neck. "Don't say that," she whispered hotly, dropping her lips upon his silky, blond hair. "You're not a bad person, Draco. A misguided one, yes. Bad, a truly bad person - never... You may have done less than perfect deeds, I grant you that. You were a bully at school, and you've obviously made a few bad choices along your way. Your arrogant, still quite self-absorbed, your sarcastic and can be a bloody royal pain in the behind! But, you're not a bad person, Draco .. do you really think you'd feel quite as distraught as you do now, if you were?"

"But, how can you trust me, Emily," his hot breath ghosted over her neck, "after what I've done? How can you be so certain?" He lifted he tousled head and looked deep into her eyes. "How can you be certain, if it came to it - how can you be so sure that I wouldn't do the same thing to you? After all that I've told you, how can you still believe in me?"

Dropping her hands from his head, she gently cupped his face. "I just do, Draco ... I just do..."

"But?"

"I trust you, Draco," she leaned her forehead on his, "you wouldn't hurt me, or let anyone harm me - I just know it. When Zabini showed up, you pushed me out of the way - you tried to protect me. The past doesn't matter to me, I have you here in the here and now. And the Draco that I have with me now... well ... I believe in him...."

"How can you believe in me," he asked her wearily, trailing his fingers against her cheek, "when I can hardly believe in myself? How can you do that, Em?"

"I just do, Draco," she whispered back, pressing her lips gently against his. "I just do ... I have enough belief in me for the both of us..."

He captured her lips, stealing a taste of the sweetest honey. "I don't deserve this, Emily," he whispered between nectar kisses, while slowly stroking her hair, "I don't deserve yo--"

"Shush," she softly admonished, "Don't say that..." Releasing his face, she let her fingers trail unhurriedly down his chest. "Maybe it's our time for some happiness ... maybe it's time to enjoy being us..."

Catching his breath, Draco hesitated; his heart pounded in his chest. "Are you certain you want to do this, Emily?" he questioned hesitantly, capturing her roaming hands in his. "Is this really what you want?"

Slipping her hands from under his, she reached for his cloak and unclasped it; it slipped slowly from his shoulders, revealing the crumpled white shirt underneath; her fingers fumbled eagerly at the top button. Then she looked up into his darkening grey eyes. "Yes," she answered, her voice dangerously low and husky, "I'm certain, Draco," her eyes dropped to his lips, "very, very certain. I want you - I'm ready for my desert now..."

Lifting her eyes to his again, she smirked seductively at him, watching as his grey eyes darkened to charcoal. The poor little lamb, she thought rather wickedly to herself, he hasn't got a clue what he's in for? Then she pounced. Crashing her lips ardently down on his, she pushed him forcefully to the ground.

---

1:45pm An Audience with Lucius. The boy's hesitant steps echoed on the stone floor behind him; slowly they approached, stopping within safe distance of his chair. Lucius remained still, and waited for the boy to speak.

There was but a pause. The boy kept his voice low and insignificant. "My Lord," he addressed him, with an appropriate bow. "My Lord, I bring news..."

Feeling no design still to turn, Lucius kept his back turned on him. "News," he drawled, enjoying stretching the moment. "What news is this? I received your letter, boy ... I hope, for your own sake, have much to tell me..."

The boy answered eagerly. "Much news, My Lord," he breathed heavily with excitement, "I bring you much news - I also bring with me a gift!"

"A gift?" Lucius's raised one fine eyebrow, and at last he turned to face the boy. "A gift you say? Is this the gift that you wrote of?"

The boy nodded keenly. "Yes, My Lord," he fumbled clumsily in one of the pockets of his robe. "The very same ... I think you'll be very pleased with it."

Lucius watched him with a sceptical brow, watched him as he fumbled with his robes. Whatever his give, he thought dismissively to himself, he doubted its ability to please him. The boy pulled a glass globe out of his pocket, suddenly, Lucius's eyes gleaned with interest. He leaned forward. "Is that what I think it is, boy?"

The boy nodded enthusiastically and stepped forward, holding the fragile looking orb carefully in both hands. "It's an Omni Glass, My Lord! I managed to take it, I was very clever, I snatched it from under his nose. I..."

"Enough!" Lucius held up his hand, and the boy instantly ceased to speak. "Bring it to me boy, and please desist with your boasting." The boy reached Lucius, placing it in his hands. "Ah, indeed, it is an Omni Globe - they are extremely rare - pray tell me, from whom did you obtain it?"

The boy let forth a nervous chuckle. "It's Dumbledore's, My Lord. But, I managed to nab it from Harry Potter!"

"Harry Potter?" Lucius raised a quizzical eyebrow, "please, do tell more..."

"I managed to switch it, My Lord," the boy rushed out, feeling very pleased to be allowed to show his cleverness. "I charmed a stone, it looks exactly the same as the glass, an exact replica! I charmed it so it looks like Emily and Draco haven't moved, the fools probably think they're still sat in the same spot - I've been very clever, My Lord!"

"Hmmn," replied Lucius, as he had already lost interest in the boy, it was the rare orb held in his hands that captured his imagination now. He pulled forth his wand, waving it slowly above the globe; after muttering a strange incantation, the orb began to spin, an image began to merge, his erstwhile son appeared before his very eyes. Lucius lips curled into a unpleasant smirk.

The boy stepped forward to peer over his shoulder, Lucius turned on him swiftly. "Have you no manners, did no one teach you it'd not polite to pry," he snarled, putting the globe behind him. "Now finish off your news, boy... Tell me this, are you still with the party? Is Draco still accompanied by Potter?"

Taking a step backwards, the boy rushed out his answer. "I am still with the party - there is no sign of any suspicion," he paused for breath, "Draco and Emily have parted with Harry, but I have already plans in place. I plan now to lead Harry in the wrong direction, leaving Draco and Emily vulnerable. I apologise for not informing you of my decision sooner, but I thought it for the best to change the plans, my lord-"

Lucius eyes seemed to look through him. "Yes," he drawled thoughtfully, "Now I have the globe, I will have them in my hands very soon..." He came out of his deep thoughts and his cold eyes pierced through the boy. "You have done well, carry on with your current plan of action, delay Potter and lead him astray; I do not need to deal with him interfering with my plans," his concentration seemed to flicker for a moment, his eyes darted back to the globe.

The boy took advantage of his distraction. "I was wondering..."

Lucius's eyes snapped back to his. "You will get your reward, insolent boy! If this proves not to be a ruse, I will, indeed, reward you well. Now go, whelp! Depart! Go and rejoin the party--"

The boy drew on his hidden courage. "Can I have the girl, Emily--"

"Begone," Lucius voice sliced through the air like ice. "Go now, I will not discuss rewards with you now. If you prove true, arrangements can be arranged, but now enough of this insolence, get out of my sight! I told you to go, why are you still here, boy?"

The boy didn't need to be told no more, turning quickly, he soon Apparated out of sight. Luicius paid no heed, though, for he had heard familiar footsteps passing close by. He knew that footfall, Severus was close, an ugly smile crawled on his lips. He called out to his former friend. "Severus," he called smoothly, "do come here, Severus! I have some pleasing news for you."

---

2:15am: Waiting with Harry and Luna.

"I think we should move on now, Luna," looking back over his shoulder at her, Harry motioned to the sky. "It's getting dark early again, and I don't like it ... I think we'd better move..."

"I think you're right, Harry," Luna agreed, turning one last time to scan the trees. "I don't really like leaving them behind, but I'm sure they'll find us somehow. We really do need to get going soon."

Then she spotted a figure out the corner of her eye; another joined the solitary figure, her hand floated down to her wand, a glimpse of flaming hair. It was Ron, joined by Neville. They were her, they had made it back. "There here now, Harry," she called, as she waved to the approaching boys. "It's alright now, we can all leave together."

Turning at the sound of her voice, Harry spotted the errant pair. He frowned. Approaching quickly, Ron wore a frown like a thunderstorm; two paces behind him came Neville, looking flushed and very out of breath. Ron stalked right up to Harry.

"Found about five miles back, he said he'd got lost. Nothing much else to report on it, Harry!"

Harry winced at Ron's sarcastic tone. "There's no need to be like that, Ron! I only asked you to find--"

"No, you didn't, Harry," Ron fumed back, "you ordered me to do it! You were taking the piss--"

"Yeah, I needed the loo," chimed in Neville, hoping his light tone would diffuse the situation. "Went to have a, well you know, and then I got lost!"

"What?" Ron and Harry exclaimed together, both wearing the same confused look on their faces.

"Just telling you how I got lost," Neville explained with an embarrassed shrug

"Oh - erm - right!"

"I didn't really need to know that much, Nev," Harry grinned.

"You do need to use the toilet an awful lot," chimed in Luna, seemingly unaware of Neville's embarrassment. "That's the sixth time you've been today.

Neville shuffled his feet and Harry took pity. "Look let's get a move on, shall we," he glanced quickly around at everyone. "It's still getting dark eerily early, we still have Emily and the ferret to find. Why not just make a move?"

Harry saw nods all round, so he turned to Neville. "C'mon Neville, walk with me, we haven't had a proper chat for ages."

"What about the globe?"

Harry sighed at Ron's question, the picture in the globe still hadn't changed. "No difference there," Harry answered without turning, " they haven't changed location for ages. Still sat in the same old place, they must having a right humdinger of a talk..."

"Well, can't I have a look for myself?" Ron persisted.

"What for?" Harry snapped back, he could feel his heckles rising. "I last looked five minutes ago, I doubt that anything has changed!"

"Wouldn't hurt to look!"

"Why?"

"Because they might have moved , you prat!"

"Don't call me a prat, Ron - you're the one being a git--"

"Leave Harry alone, Ron," piped in Neville, "he knows what he's doing."

"Actually, I think Ron's right, Harry. There's no harm in looking, and it would only take a minute. You never know, they may have moved on."

Harry glared at Luna, since when did she stick up for Ron? The more sensible side of him answered his own question, though, telling him - maybe ever since he'd actually started talking sense. Conceding defeat, Harry took the orb out of his robes pocket; the others quickly gathered around him.

"See," Harry almost yelled with a self-satisfied smirk, "I told you - they haven't moved! They're there for the night!"

"Well they might have done!" A red-faced Ron yelled back.

"Yeah, but they didn't--"

"Yeah - well it didn't hurt to bloody check--"

"I think there's something wrong with this globe..."

Both yelling boys turned their heads; Neville sidled up beside Luna and peeked.

"What do you mean, Luna?" asked Harry, moving in to have a closer look. Ron, following his lead, peeked over her shoulder.

"Well, even though, everything looks fine on surface - if you look more closely at the shadows, you can tell that they're not quite right... "

"How do you mean?"

"Well, they don't fit - they should fall longer, or maybe shorter, I'm not quite sure which..."

Ron snorted loudly. Harry shot him a glare, before turning his attention back to Luna. "And you think it's a problem because..."

Luna turned dreamy eyes to his. "I think the Omni Glass could be faulty, Harry," she told him matter-of-factly. "I mean - it does seem a long time for them to have stayed in the same place..."

"But, how are we supposed to find out if it's faulty or not?" asked Neville, looking bemused. "Is there anyway of knowing?"

Luna nodded. "Yes, " she replied, looking very certain. "My father taught me an old charm..."

Then, taking her wand from the folds of her robe, Luna whispered a strange incantation and tapped the Omni Globe three times: the orb immediately stopped spinning, blurred, and dropped heavily into her outstretched hands.

Everyone crowded closer to see what was in her open palms; Neville gasped, Ron gawped and Harry groaned. The Omni Glass lay no longer in her hands, instead, in her hands, laid a large, granite stone.

---

3.45pm: An Audience with Lucius, Part II: Lucius swept his hand towards the object on the table: eyeing the three other occupants of the chamber very carefully, he took care in choosing his opening words. "Do you know what this is? " he asked them, finally. "Are you aware of what this object can do?"

One of the young men idly raised his hand.

"Then pray do tell me, Mr Zabini"

"It's an Omni Glass, Luc - My Lord!"

"Very good, Zabini, but do you know how it works?"

"It's an all-seeing eye, I don't know its magical structure, but I know it can find people, show you things..."

"Excellent! And could you take a guess as to whom I saw in this very useful globe earlier?"

A slight hesitation. "Was it Draco, My Lord?"

"Well done, Mr Zabini! Spot on again! I have one last question for you, though, Zabini. Can you guess what he was doing?"

Blaise shook his head.

"No," queried Lucius with one blond eyebrow raised mockingly. "Not at all? Not even a stab in the dark?"

Blaise shook his head again.

Lucius pounced. "So if I told you that I saw him rutting with his Mudblood whore not two hours hence from here, would you be at all surprised?"

Blaise could do nothing but stare.

"Do speak up, Mr Zabini - I'd love to hear your opinion. The last I heard from one of your little scouting trips, you told me that they didn't seem close..."

Blaise thought quick on his feet. "I'm sorry, Lu -My Lord! I did not get the impression that they were close, they fought awfully last time I saw them..."

Lucius's cold eyes studied him closely. "Nevertheless, Zabini, if I find you have been nothing but loyal to me, you will rue the day you were born..."

"I am truly loyal, My Lord!"

"Ah, we will see Mr Zabini, we will see... "

"Is that all, My Lord?" A slight bow of the head.

"Oh, no, not yet, I need one thing more of you...."

"I'm honoured, My Lord!"

"Yes, indeed, it is as it should be! I wish you to go forth now," he swept his hand towards the other two young men in the room; "Goyle and Nott shall accompany you. You will go forth this instant, and bring my son and his filthy, Mudblood whore back home to me..."

---

4:00pm: The Day Darkens: Emily and Draco:

"Emily?"

"Yes, Draco."

"I suppose we should be..."

"Oh, why must you always say that, Draco?" cutting him off, Emily snuggled closer to him.

"Because one of us has to, Em," Draco brushed his lips against the top of her head. "Look, it's dark now, and it's getting cold, we really should be moving on..."

Emily groaned from the confines of his chest. "But, where are we going to move on to?" she pouted, "I'm sick and tired of trees and woods!"

Draco chuckled contently as he stroked her hair gently. "Well, maybe, we could find an inn, just this once mind..."

Emily shot to her knees in an instant. Had she really heard him say that? Her eyes widened in disbelief! "Do you really mean it, Draco?"

Draco smirked. "Yes, Em - just this once, though. I think we could both do with a proper bath," he glanced down at his filthy attire in disgust, "a nice warm meal, and a cosy, warm bed for the night."

Emily closed her eyes, imagining the luxury of it all. To her ears, it sounded like heaven. "We could share a room," she sighed out loud, "and be warm and cosy together..."

"That's the general idea, Carlisle," Draco took in her dreamlike expression and smirked. "So what's your decision - are we going to stay here all night, or are we going to get a move on and find that cosy, little inn?"

Emily didn't need to be told twice, she was on her feet in an instant. "Cosy inn, here we come," she smiled happily to herself as she searched the shadowy ground for several scattered belongings. "You know, Draco - I can't decide what sounds best," she drew slightly away from him as she recognised her belt laying by a stump a little further to their left, "...a hot bath or sharing a cosy bed with you. Oh, I know," her eyes suddenly widened in delight, "we can share a hot, steamy bath to- mmmph!"

From out of nowhere, a pair of hands shot out, clamping tightly down over her mouth. And, as she staggered around blindly in the dark, trying to tear those thick hands from her mouth, she felt another pair of massive arms encircle her, pinning down her struggling arms to her side. Then the night was filled with the distinct pop of an Apparation. Eyes wide fear, Emily struggled against her unknown foe all the more.

Draco was on his feet in an instant; twirling, his wand was aimed at the heart of this unknown assailant in a trice.

"Drop your wand, Malfoy," lowering his hood, Blaise stepped forward, his wand also ready to do battle. "Drop the wand and no one needs to get hurt..."

"I should have known it was you, Zabini," Draco spat in disgust, not lowering his wand an iota. "Don't move an another inch - what does my father want with me this time?"

The sound of muffled struggles sounded out in the night that surrounded them. And, seeing Draco's eyes flicker with sudden concern, Blaise took advantage of the situation. "I'd drop the wand if I were you, Draco - you don't want to see your little Mudblood hurt, would you?"

Draco's lips curled into a snarl. "And what makes you think that I give a fuck about her, Zabini?"

Blaise laughed hollowly. "You're bluffing, Malfoy," of this, Blaise was certain, "lower your wand! Goyle and Nott have got her ... you make one false move and they'll hurt her, or worse... If you hex me, they'll disappear in an instant! Lower your wand, Draco - don't make this harder than it has to be!"

Draco's face was pale and furious. "Fuck you, Zabini!"

"Just lower your wand, Draco..."

Silence. Eyes bulging, Emily glanced over to where they stood in deadlock, and saw him lower his wand the merest inch. Struggling even more, her teeth suddenly found contact with her assailant's meaty hand, and she bit down hard. He wouldn't do it, he mustn't do it; she opened her mouth to scream. "No, Draco, don't do it!" she screeched, her voice suddenly filling the night. "Don't be bloody stupid, don't do it - don't..."

He hesitated. A clenched fist whistled through the night, connecting with her fragile jaw; febrile pain flooded through her veins, her world became an indistinct blur, she slowly sank into the bleakest nadir of unconsciousness. Yet as she sunk into dreamless depths, one memory claimed her; she remembered that he had hesitated.


Chapter 26: In the Snake Pit
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In the Snake Pit



Chapter Twenty Six





===



"Emily!"

The voice was but a whisper, stretched; the strong hand on her shoulder tightened.

"Good grief, Carlisle - why won't you wake up?"

She could hear his irritation, could sense the underlying anxiety of his tone. From afar, battling against the darkness that still threatened to consume her, Emily found herself struggling forward towards the light. The smallest moan escaped her dry lips.

"Em -Emily," leaning in closer, his breath ghosted against her cheeks. "Em, it's me. Wake up, it's me Emily - I-I have water..." A hand gently cupped her cheek. "C'mon, Em - come back to me ... it-it's over now...."

She parted her parched lips, yet her eyes remained resolutely closed. Internally, she clambered for memory. "Dra-Draco," she rasped out croakily, as she touched her fingers to her tender jaw. "Dr-Draco, what happened?" Her eyelids fluttered open to see him intently watching her with eyes full of concern. Something in her mind shifted, she began to remember and another slight moan escaped her tight, arid throat. "Oh, Draco, you didn't, did you?"

She saw his eyes harden; glinting silver in the dark, they pierced through the grey mist that swirled around her, which still threatened to pull her back into unconsciousness; battling against the overwhelming blur, she blinked and swallowed dryly. Draco, sensing her vulnerability, softened his expression and let his fingers graze against her cheek gently. "What else could I do, Emily?" he finally answered, still feeling slightly angered by her question. "Did you expect me to Apparate and leave you there, or did you want me to let them take you away? Just what did you expect me to do, Em? I-I had no choice--"

Emily groaned and covered her eyes with her clammy hand. Heavens Above! He hadn't, had he? He hadn't done it - he hadn't been that stupid... Please, could someone please tell her that he hadn't done something as foolish as that? The words spilled out of her unsteadily. "Yo-you did-didn't lower - please, please don't tell me - you didn't drop your wand, did you? Please, Draco - please tell me that yo-you didn't?"

"I did what I thought was for the best..." His words were stiff, defiant.

Emily uncovered her eyes to peek up at him for her answer and soon saw that her worst fears confirmed: the gloomy grey shadows that surrounded them had receded; from above, patches of pale moonlight seeped through oppressive iron bars, lightening the cloying murk and lengthening the ominous shadows that clung to the walls. Emily closed her eyes and softly groaned, she really didn't want to see much more, she had seen more than enough already. The cold, grey granite walls encircling her, had told her all she needed to know - she was trapped - they were trapped. They had been caught, ensnared -- they had been captured, they were now in the snake-pit. A lonely, pale-blue spark of fear ignited and flamed within her.

"Emily?"

She didn't answer him - couldn't answer him - her mind was too busy racing ahead. What would she do? What could she do? How on earth were they supposed to get out of this infernal mess?

"Please answer me, Emily - even if it just to mo--"

Words suddenly came to her, all her anxiety and fears spilled out. "Wh-Why, Draco? Why did you do it? You could have Apparated and gotten help ... or-or you could have disarmed Zabini somehow--"

His words came out sharp, hissing through the cold air, they sliced through her like a knife. "And if I had done that, Emily, then you would be lying here all alone now..."

"I-I ... I, I don't..." But, no words came to her defence. Lying here alone, trapped inside these grey and grimy walls by herself - just the thought of it made her shudder. Yet, still... She groped for the right words. "Dr-Draco, if you had captured Zabini, you could have made him tell you where I was - you could have brought help..." She paused, licking her dry lips nervously. "I-I wouldn't have liked being here alone, I'll admit it... But, Draco, I would have known you'd be coming for me soon ... I would have known you wouldn't have left me..." Her next words spilled out in a haphazard rush. "Merlin, Draco - you shouldn't have done it - you really shouldn't have! Auror training states: you have to allow for hostage situations, you have to think clearly..."

"Oh, aren't we the perfect Auror in training, Carlisle," he spat out, interrupting her, his voice full of venom, "but, if you think you could have done better..." Drawing away from her, Draco slid towards the adjacent wall. Resting his back against it, his eyes sparkled with menace in the dark. Then folding his arms around his drawn up knees, he addressed her again, his voice still full of sarcasm. "So, Carlisle," he drawled, "we've heard what you would have done, perfect Auror in training that you are... But, please do tell me, do you have any more words of infinite wisdom? Are you now going to hatch the perfect Auror in training escape plan?"

"Draco, please..." Emily some how managed to push herself to her knees, despite her still pounding head. "I didn't mean to sound--"

"Oh, and just how did you mean to sound, Carlisle? Condescending, perhaps? Or were you trying for superiority? Or, maybe, I just happened to miss the grateful--"

"Draco, I," she spluttered, "that's not fair, I..."

Ignoring her, Draco continued his tirade, his face pulling into a mock expression of gratitude. "Oh, thank you, Draco - thank you so much - thank you for cari--"

Emily clamped her hands to her throbbing head. "Draco, I'm sor - I didn't mean it like that..."

Not even bothering to answer her, Draco scowled at her one last time before tilting his head upwards to stare moodily at the endless granite ceiling. He let out a disgruntled huff. Honestly, he thought, as his eyes took in the small nooks and crags above. It's not like I don't have a plan - it's not like I had no idea of where we were heading to. It's not.... Emily's soft sigh drifted into his thoughts, disturbing them.; letting his eyes drop, he watched her silently, not allowing any expression whatsoever to form in his glacial eyes, he watched her silently as she began to wipe her hands nervously against her filthily denim clad knees.

Taking her shaking hands from her cold, clammy bow, Emily decided she did not possess enough energy to clamber onto her unsteady feet. So, wiping her hands first, rather fretfully, against the rough fabric of her jeans, she began to clumsily make her way towards him, on her hands and knees; and, even as she faltered her way through the gloom and darkness, she could see a smirk turning the corners of his mouth. Familiar feelings of frustration and anger loomed ominously.

"There's no need for you to crawl to me, Carlisle," he mocked lightly, not bothering to hide his delight at the sight of Emily crawling towards him. "A simple sorry would suffice, although..." Here he paused, his smirk turning into a sinful grin. "...although, I must admit, I certainly do welcome such submissiveness - it's not really necessary - seeing as I already know just how superior I am to--"

"I AM NOT!" Emily burst out, making herself wince as her head seemed to explode. Then, pausing for a moment, she forced herself to be calm - more for her pounding head's sake than his. "I am not crawling to you, Malfoy - I'm..."

"Then what actually are you doing?" he asked, quirking an amused eyebrow in her direction.

"I'm trying to make my way across the room without my head splitting in two and without my knees giving away from under me..."

Draco's expression changed in an instant. "Merlin, Emily!" he exclaimed, his irritated tone barely disguising his concern, "why on earth didn't you say something?"

"Because I..." Emily began to grit out - she did not get to finish answering him, though, for within a matter of moments he was beside her, gathering her into his arms.

"You bloody fool," he muttered into her ear, pulling her towards him, as he scrambled back to rest against the wall again. "Why didn't you say something, idiot? You should have let me know."

Fully ensconced in his arms again, though, all Emily could do was mutter something incomprehensible into his comforting chest. "Ithoughtitwasratherobvious..."

"What was that, Em?"

Lifting her head a little, she answered him again. "I said, I thought it was rather obvious - can't you tell when someone is in pain?" Her voice held no rancour, though, and she soon rested her aching head against him again. Above her, she could hear Draco sigh.

"I'm sorry, I should have realised..."

"metoo-"

"You're mumbling again, Emily - but if that was an apology, it's accepted...."

Feeling her fear abate somewhat, now that she was back in his arms, Emily decided that a proper apology was due. After all, she hadn't meant to sound superior, she really hadn't meant for her words to come across so...haughty? She had just been scared and babbling, and it was about time she told him so, she decided. She lifted her heavy head once more, making sure this time, to look straight into his eyes. "I'm truly sorry, Draco - I - it's just - well, I was just babbling, scared and bab--"

He hushed her, by bringing his fingers to her lips. "I know that, Emily," he told her gently, "I feel the same way too... I-I'm sorry, I didn't mean it either."

Even though he had just reminded her of their perilous position, Emily couldn't help a small smile. "So you were babbling too - I don't think I've ever heard a Malfoy babble before - isn't there something about that in The Malfoy Book of Rules?"

Not missing a beat, he answered immediately. "That one is rule 5631," he deadpanned.

Emily found out that, even though she was more scared than she had ever been in her entire life, she was still capable of laughter, even if it did hold a slightly hysterical note. "Haven't you burnt that stupid book yet?" she snorted out as she clasped a hand to her still aching head. "If I were you, I would have tossed it on the bonfire years ago..."

Prying her hand gently from her brow, Draco began massaging her fingers gently. He could hear the hysteria behind her hitched laughter, but he knew this was down to fear. She was afraid, he was afraid too, only this was her way of letting it all out.

A little laughter won't hurt here, he thought to himself, knowing full well that soon he'd have to turn his mind to more serious matters. Soon, he would be called to a eventful meeting with his father; very soon, he would be face to face with a stranger, who he had once called dad. He had all ready gone over his plans, of course, whilst Emily had been unconscious, he'd had plenty of time to go over his schemes.

Because of this forethought, though, he now could afford to spare some precious time to calm Emily, to soothe her burgeoning hysteria and fears. Hoping his finger massage would sedate her frazzled nerves, he leant his head on top of hers, and began to play along. "A Ravenclaw, burning books? Isn't that close to sacrilege?"

Emily let out another strained giggle. "Normally, it would be considered that," she gasped out heavily, trying her best to subdue this strange laughter. "But, in this case, I'm making an exception..."

He pressed his tight lips into her hair. "Emily," he murmured softly, "I have made plans, you know - I know how to handle my father - you don't have to be so scared..."

Her laughter dried up at once. Un-tucking her head from under his, Emily looked up to stare at him wide-eyed. "Wh-What plans, Dr-Draco?"

Smirking slightly, he looked into her upturned face. "Isn't this where you're supposed to protest, while telling me what a big, brave Auror you are?"

"I'm scared, Draco," Emily told him honestly, "very scared, so I won't pretend that I'm not... But, do you really have plans, Draco? You're not just saying it to make me feel better, are you?"

Draco's expression changed. The smirk disappeared as quickly as it came; he looked at her with unsmiling eyes. "I have plans, Emily," he swallowed dryly, "believe me, I've been planning for this moment for a long, long time... I know how to handle my father..."

He didn't have time to finish telling her, though, as the heavy iron door in front of them, suddenly crashed open. In to their dank cell, stepped two heavily cloaked figures: the first to enter, although tall, had a slighter frame than the one who followed behind. Emily thought she knew who the first was - she recognised his cat-like pace. The first one to enter spoke first.

Pulling down his cowl, Blaise spoke first; his eyes fixed resolutely on Draco. "You're father wishes to see you, Malfoy..."

Draco instantly stiffened. "Well, you can tell him, from me, that he can bloody piss off and leave me alone!"

Then the second figure stepped towards them, lowering his hood as he spoke. "You're coming with me, whether you like it or not, Malfoy."

Nott? Draco's eyes widened in disbelieve. Was Theodore Nott following his father's orders now? Draco let his tongue drip with derision. "Hello, Nott - have you finally decided to join the party? Do come in, pull up a chair," Draco waved his hand dismissively around the room, "please do tell me, Nott, what have you been up to lately? Oh, don’t bother answering that one, I can probably guess what you've been up to - and it probably consisted of kissing the hem of my father's best robes, I suppose...?"

Nott growled ominously, but Blaise was the one to speak. "Malfoy, don't make this harder than it has to be--"

"I can make it as hard as I bloody well want to!"

Nott advanced. "You're father permitted me to use all necessary force if I had to..."

"...and when I'm back in my father's good books, I'll remember that, Nott."

This seemed to falter Nott's step. Beside Draco, Emily shuddered. "Draco," she whispered, her voice barely audible, as she pulled slightly away from him. "Don't, just don't antagonise things, please... Just go to your father..."

Nott's uncertainty ended. "Yeah," he sneered, "listen to your Mudblood whore, why don't you, Malfoy? - she actually seems to have some sense in that small, filthy muggle brain of hers! Don't make it hard for yourself, Malfoy - you don't want things to turn nasty, do you?"

Draco's face paled, his eyes narrowed into furious slits; his lips thinned; he opened his mouth to speak...

"Draco, just go with Nott," Blaise rushed out before Draco had the chance to speak, "nothing will happen to the Carlisle girl, I promise you... Go to your dad," here Blaise's eyes seemed to bore through Draco's, "delaying things won't help matters. Go to your father - why not find out exactly what he wants from you...." Blaise broke off, his voice faltering under the heat of Draco's glare. But, undeterred, Blaise still held on to Draco's furious gaze - he wasn't going to back down, not a chance.

Emily watched the silent exchange going on between them with trepidation and fear. Draco and Blaise seemed to be locked in a battle of wills; eyes fixed resolutely on each other, they seemed to be sharing their thoughts silently: Draco's eyes were narrowed and astute, Blaise's seemed to be holding a urgent plea. Emily had not idea of what silent words they were saying to each other, or to what they were thinking, but the impression rivalry turning, changing into some other from of...

Draco suddenly stood, dissolving her thought process in an instant; she watched closely as he took a purposeful step forward, her teeth bit down into the soft flesh of her lip. Emily was worried, very worried - what on earth was he going to do now?

Draco took another pace towards Zabini. "I'll go to my father, Zabini," he began... Nott strode over, before he could finish, grabbing hold of Draco's shoulder in a painful grip. Draco twirled. Throwing off his hand, he glared furiously at him. "Get your bloody paws off me, Nott!" he hissed, spitting out venom. "You will not touch me," he demanded, with cold authority, "you will not lay one fucking finger on me! I will go to my father of my own free will, pea brain! I am still a Malfoy, you pathetic, boot-licking fool ... and I suggest you never forget it..."

He turned his back on him, turning to face Zabini. Leaning in close, face pale with rage, he hissed venomously in the other boy's ear. "Zabini," he breathed out harshly, his voice too low for the others to hear. "I'll trust you this time, but if I find out you've double crossed me..." He let his voice trail off, he really didn't need to finish off that sentence, by the look on Zabini's face, he could tell his words had had the desired effect. Nodding to himself, feeling satisfied with matters, he then turned to face Emily. A small smirk snuck onto his lips.

"Carlisle," he spoke quietly, his tone changing, sounding softer, as his eyes travelled to her apprehensive face. Seeing her wide worried eyes, his heart suddenly skipped a beat. Merlin, she was so worried about him - he was so worried about her - how could he have allowed things to come to this?

How could he have allowed himself to get so involved - how could he have let her fall for him? He was a bloody fool, and a bloody dangerous fool at that! How could he allowed her to get pulled into such danger? Doubt began to niggle at him - would he be able to wiggle out of danger this time? Suddenly, he was not so certain of his plans...

Draco let out a soft sigh. This would not do, hr thought, this uncertainty would not help him - he must go and face his father, he must try to take better care of Emily's fears. With this thought in mind, Draco turned back to Emily, and crouched down in front of her. Emily blinked at this sudden change of events. Then, leaning forward, Draco racked his brains for something to say, to reassure her. But, for once in his life, eloquence failed him, he had nothing at all to say. Instead, he kissed her softly, chastely. On the lips. The right words finally came to him.

"Don't worry about me, Em," he whispered softly, lifting his lips from her mouth to rest lightly on her brow. "I'm not worth worrying about..."

Then, rising swiftly, and ignoring Emily's suddenly stricken face, he made his way resolutely to the iron door with a strange look of determination on his face. Pausing in the doorway, chin held high, the right and only proper Malfoy smirk back in place, his cold eyes did a quick sweep of the gloomy cell, finally landing on Nott. A derisive eyebrow rose. "Are you going to stand there all day, Notty," he drawled mockingly, with just the slightest hint of dark humour, "because, believe me, father won't be pleased - he simply hates being kept waiting..." His smirk widened. And, looking every ounce the Malfoy, he gracefully passed through the door, leaving his words lingering behind him.

...

Moments later, after the cell door banged swung shut with an ominous clang as a worried Nott rushed after Draco, almost tripping over his feet in his haste, Emily was left alone in the darkening gloom with Blaise. Fear mingled with anger. Blaise stepped towards her, looming ominously in the dimness that surrounded them.

"So, Emily," his low-pitched voice whispered out. "There's been a change of plans..."

Emily's eyes darted to his, suddenly alive and alert.

---

Harry stared at the stone sightlessly.

"Wh-What is that?"

It's a bloody stone, Ron, Harry thought viciously, what on earth do you think it is, are you blind? Mentally, Harry rolled his eyes, but he was still far too gob smacked to voice his opinion.

"It's a st-stone...."

Neville sounded almost as shocked as he did, Harry noted, rubbing his nose absentmindedly as he weighed the stone in his hand. But, never mind Neville, he thought, Neville's reaction was not important now. The important thing to do right now was think - think about the stone - to think about who could have substituted it....

"I know it's a bloody stone, Longbottom," Ron's voice was raised in anger, "I can see, I'm not blind, you know? But, honestly, I can't believe -- how did it bloody get there?"

Anger bubbled up inside of him, Harry opened his mouth to....

"Well, it does rather look like one of us must have switched it, doesn't it?" Luna chimed in before he could speak, sounding very matter-of-fact and calm in the face of Ron's burgeoning anger. Then, taking her eyes off Ron, she turned and addressed Harry with sincere solemnity, "it wasn't me, Harry, I promise you, but I'll understand if you wish to interrogate me...."

Trust Luna to get straight to the point, Harry thought with a hint of dark humour, because, really, that was the crux of the problem -- who had switched it? Who here was not what they seemed, who here was dallying with the enemy, who...?

"But, what will we do now?" Neville voice had never been squeakier; he watched Harry with clearly worried eyes. "I suppose we'll go back to Hogwarts, Harry, won't we? I mean ... Dumbledore should know...."

"Neville's right, someone should go back -- not all of us need go, but Dumbledore should be informed. Maybe, Neville and I should go...." Ron's forehead creased into a frown as he continued to muse aloud. "But we need to find them too, maybe Dumbledore could help us--"

"Yeah, Ron - I bet you really want them found, don't you?" The words burst out of Harry before he could stop them -- he just couldn't help it! Ron was being--

"...what you getting at, Harry?" Ron's cheeks were already reddening. "C'mon mate, spit it out.... You've obviously been wanting to tell me something for ages, so why not just say it?" Ron took a step forward, but, not backing down, Harry stood his ground.

"You're acting strange, Ron - since you turned up, things have been going wr--"

Ron shook his head in disbelieve. "I've been acting strange," he almost shouted, almost nose-to-nose with Harry by now. "Isn't that the pot calling the kettle black?" He broke off to stab a finger at Harry's chest. "What about you, Harry? You’re the one who's been acting strange, if you ask me--"

"Well, I didn't ask you," Harry shot straight back, swatting Ron's finger away, "you're the one acting strange.... Turning up when you're not wanted, disappearing when things--"

"Disappearing, me?" Ron's eyes narrowed, and his voice became unnaturally calm. "If anyone has been disappearing, it's Neville and his amazingly weak bladder-- Just what are trying to get at Harry?"

Something in Harry suddenly snapped. He'd had enough - it was time to lay his cards on the table. "I don't trust you Ron - I think you're spying for the--"

"Harry, don't...." Neville interrupted, sounding upset and anxious. "Please, let's just...."

"Harry, really, do you think...."

But, Ron brushed both Luna's and Neville's protestations aside with a dismissive wave of the hand. "It doesn't matter," he told them quickly, keeping his eyes locked with Harry's. "At least I know just exactly where I stand now, but Harry...."

"Stop this, please just stop it - I don't like figh--"

"Shut up, Neville!" Harry's voice was sharper than he had intended, he knew that, but he needed to hear what Ron had to say - he needed to have his suspicions confirmed. "Go on, Ron - carry on. Say what you have to say...."

Ron seemed to flinch at this, but he retained his unnatural calm. He knew what he had to do now, he knew that he needed to act fast - that he had to move swiftly. A mask slid over his face, as his Auror training kicked in.

"I'm going to Dumbledore, Harry," he told him simply, "I'm going to tell him what's happened, and I'm going to go now - you're not going to stop me! But, Harry, I'll tell you now ... you're making a big mistake - a mistake that could lose lives...."

Looking like he was going to say more, Ron then shook his head, changing his mind. There was not enough time for this argument, his time was needed elsewhere now - Harry would realise his mistake soon enough. Ron turned his back and began walking away.

Watching his best friend walking away, Harry found he was unable to stop him from going. He knew he should stop him, apprehend him or something, but he couldn't do it - despite his position of head Auror. It was something about the way he'd acted, the words he had spoke - something had sown the seeds of doubt in his mind. Had he, Harry, got it totally wrong? Was it possible? He hadn't been wrong for a long time, true. But, that didn't mean he was infallible.

So, with his full of new questions needing to be answered, Harry watched as his friend walked over to a near by copse of trees and Disapparated.

---

"Father?"

"Draco..."

His father's was low, a dangerous purr. Yet still it managed to resound through the lofty room, filling the high-walled chamber with ominous foreboding. The Riddle House was mostly decrepitated, in ruins, Draco had noted as Nott had led him through room after room. But, strangely enough, this room, the room where he stood now, the same room in which he had been marked. This very room still stood intact.

Draco waited, not saying a word; he waited for his father to speak again. He would say no more, he would not be led; he would stay calm, serene even, it would not do to let his father gain the upper-hand so early in this dreaded reunion, it would not do to loose control now. And, even though there was not one single clock in the room, Draco could hear the slow, chill tick-tock of time passing. Draco stilled a shiver.

"Son, why do you not speak?"

Should he answer him, or be quiet? This self questioning was obsolete, though, as words spilled out of his mouth without Draco realising it. "Be-Because, I don't know quite what to say to you, father... I--"

"Such honesty is unbecoming in a Malfoy, Draco..." Lucius finally stepped out of the shadow, emerging from the dark recess in which he had just stood; his long, untied hair shining silver in the candlelight, gave him a ghostly air and his eyes glittered like those of a madman. "Well, son have you nothing more to say for yourself?"

In full view now, Lucius made a graceful sweep of hand for emphasis as he placed himself beside the fireplace that stuttered and sparked with dying embers. His eyes bored into his son's, the physiological games had begun.

"Draco," he spoke again, his voice soft, barely audible. "Have you lost your tongue, have you nothing to say to me? Have you, Merlin forbid, forgotten all of your upbringing?"

Struggling against the unbidden and unwanted childhood memories that threatened to consume him, Draco spoke with a sudden chill calmness he did not know he even possessed.

"I have not forgotten my upbringing, father," he said clearly, without a tremor "...I simply am at a loss of words ... it's not everyday that one is ambushed and kidnapped by my own father ... I don't believe, you ever instructed me on that scenario father, I..."

Lucius slammed his hand down, hard, on the mantelpiece, causing dust to fly. Draco schooled himself not to flinch, but the slight twitch in his jaw gave him away, giving Lucius the information that he needed to continue.

"Insolent Brat! How dare you? Your mother and I didn't bring you up to act in this disloyal way...."

"Don't you dare speak of mother!" Draco exploded, he could not stand to hear him speak of her in that way, "...just shut up! This, all this unholy mess, has nothing to do with her..."

"Do you miss your mother, Draco?"

What on Earth -- what was he up to? Which twisted path would this lead down? "Miss her, father? Yes, I suppose I do ... I fail to see the significance, though--"

"She would be disappointed, Draco, as am I...."

Mother, disappointed? The last he had heard about her was that she was regressing, that her hold on sanity had slipped another notch lower, that she talked in nothing but riddles now. Did father honestly think that he, Draco Malfoy, now nineteen years of age ... did he really think that his petty reproof would hurt him? Could his father's grip on sanity, actually be worse than his mother's?
Another illusion shattered. Draco answered his father steadily, feeling oddly sure of himself again; he knew how to play this underhand game, he was still a Malfoy, he had been born to play it.

"Father," he replied, keeping his eyes contrite, "I am truly sorry, if I've failed mother in any way ... that was never my intention. However, I must protest--"

"Why do you defy me, Draco?" His father spoke, cutting him off. "Why must you insist on denying your father, your birthright...."

"Maybe, I have no, or very little, inclination to rule over wizarding kind--"

With his eyes gleaming with silver lightening, his father stalked towards him with two long, purposeful strides: he looked like a snake coiled to strike, his wand jabbed against the hollow of Draco's throat; Draco's hands groped inside his robe for a wand he knew was no longer there, his father smirked with unbearable triumph.

"Are you afraid of me, Draco?" Lucius drawled with cruel humour. "Are you afraid of your own father?" The wand jabbed sharply against his throat again. "Are you afraid of what I will do to you, son? Do your fingers itch for your wand?"

Lucius paused for breath, his eyes glittered with spite, his hand reached up to grip Draco's chin, just as he used to do when Draco was a little boy, his mouth coiled into a sneer, "Answer me, son. Do you still insist in this defiance?"

Incapable of speech, Draco could only nod, his eyes still held onto his father's, though: filled with contempt and fear, they continued to defy. Lucius, lips pale with rage, took a purposeful pace backwards, his wand pointed towards his son's heart. Stood stock-still, unflinching, defying the fear that threatened to consume him, Draco continued to deny his father. Lucius eyes blazed.

"So, has it come to this then, Draco?" The hand holding the wand trembled a little, then stilled. "Have you finally forced my hand ... forced me to use my wand on my only son? Cru....

---

Thunder rumbled ominously outside the window, from afar.

Severus sighed. How on earth was he to work all this out with only a few scattered snippets and half-baked rumours to work on? Sighing again, he held up a scrap of yellowed parchment up to the dim light and squinted at the barely indistinguishable writing.

Thrice turn me,
Lay me down on hall
Lamb will burn, then
-kind shall return.


What did this mean, how could it help him - how could he begin to unlock the key, if he could not even make sense of one single word? Well, that was not entirely true - he had a vague idea of what the first couple of lines alluded to, however....

He shook his head roughly in a manner, which was unfamiliar to him. This would simply not do! He, Severus Snape, did not loose reign on his formidable control, he did not linger on desperate thoughts, he acted not as a man trapped in a snare. However, despite his crude self-schooling, Snape knew that he was a desperate man, more desperate than he'd ever been.

And, as unwilling as ever, his thoughts once more turned to that fool of a boy, his only hope, his only link to Dumbledore. Could the boy defy what nature had intended for him, could he actually bring the aid that was needed? Snape doubted it, doubted it very much, but .... he was his only hope, he was all that Severus had left.

With, Emily and Draco, locked in the depths of the cellars below, all he really had left was hope now. Hope tainted with the bitter taste of desperation. So, rubbing his temples to ease his aching head, Severus raised the scrap of parchment for the tenth time and began endeavouring to find the slightest clue yet again.

The first soft pitter-pat of rain fell silently against the window.

---

Draco braced himself for the first familiar sting of unbearable pain, but none came. Opening his eyes, which he had shut instinctively, his eyes beheld the sight of his father lowering his wand. With baited breath, he waited for the psychosomatic torment to come, and watched as his father played with his wand idly. Suddenly, his father's eyes found his again.

"Draco," he said softly, his tone abnormally devoid of any from of drawl. "Draco, you are my son, my only son -- it doesn't have to be this way...."

This was unexpected, he almost sounds sincere.... Draco thought, keeping silent, as he waited for his father to speak again. He didn't have to wait long, though, as Lucius clearly had much more to say to him: tucking his wand within the folds of his robes, Lucius seemed to have finally made his mind up on something. Then, walking briskly to the desk that dominated the room, he pulled open a rattling drawer and withdrew a wand, his own wand to be precise. Draco recognized it immediately. Lucius took his eyes from the wand and watched Draco closely.

"Eleven and a half inches, Willow Wood, dragon heartstring," Lucius paused, as he ran a finger gently along the length of his son's wand. "Do you remember when you received this wand, Draco? Do you remember how proud of you I was? Do you remember how your mother clapped her hands and exclaimed, what an apt wand had chosen her little dragon? Do you remember...."

Draco shut his eyes tight again, against the sudden sting of hot tears that sprang into his eyes. Yes, he remembered, he could remember that long-ago day very well, too well. He had been proud. His normally emotionless mother had clapped her hands with joy, his father had approved, and Draco had been elated. He had vowed to himself, then and there, that he would always endeavour to make his parents proud. How had things changed so irreversibly?

"Draco," his father continued, breaking through his thoughts. "Draco, you never have to be bereft of your wand again. Stand by me, come to my side, come reap the rewards that are rightfully yours. Draco, my son," Lucius's eyes gleamed with fervour, "obey me, as your father, I promise you the greatest we deserve. The world will soon be mine, Draco ... yours and mine! We could--"

"I'll stand with you, father...."

Lucius ceased his fanatical rant. His eyes, once more shrewd, raked over his son thoughtfully. He smelled a rat, his son's submission had been entirely to easy. Much too easy! Tapping his son's wand against his cheek, he raised his eyebrows sceptically.

"So soon, son," he queried, his voice now a suspicious drawl. "I expected more fight from you, after all, you have done your up most to avoid me over years past... Pray, tell me your reasoning behind this sudden change of heart, I am all ears - I am waiting here with baited breath, I--"

"I know my duty father, I will stand by you...."

"Do not lie to me, Draco!"

"I am not lying, father - I have thought long and hard - I will not fight you! The only safe option for me is to join you...."

Lucius turned his back on his son, striding, with two swift, steps back to the desk. "And for this new found devotion, I suppose you want me to spare your Mudblood who--"

Do as you wish with her, father - she was no more than a passable plaything, she helped me idle away the time...."

Draco's voice held no emotion and his words made his father turn again to face him. Lucius studied his son carefully. Was he bluffing, or did his son finally understand what it meant to be a Malfoy? Not looking at his son, Lucius choose his next words carefully.

"And if I were to tell you that tomorrow we are to leave for the manor, where your plaything will be dully sacrificed -- what would you say then?"

"I would say, it would be a pity," Draco's face was as expressionless as his words, "she was, after all, a very pretty plaything, but.... I suppose, if she must be sacrificed, then she must. Can I have my wand back now, father?"

At these words, his father eyed him thoughtfully, scrutinising him for the tiniest of tics, or the slightest display of emotion. Finding none, however, his father made up his mind. Walking back to the desk, he shoved his son's wand back in the drawer, locking it with it's original muggle-made key.

"Tomorrow, when we reach the manor, I will return your wand to you then." Here he paused to smirk at the grimace, which had just quickly flickered on his son's face. Ah, he was right - his son was hiding something from him. Whether he was just schooling disappointment at not receiving his wand, or if it was something more, Lucius did not know. However, he was glad that it seemed like he had reached the right decision. Lucius made a dismissive motion with his hand.

"Nevertheless, for now, Draco, I'm afraid, I have to ask you to return to your cell. Nott will accompany you back, you will receive enough to eat and drink - I will ensure that no harm will come to you. I'm sorry to inconvenience you son, but troubled times call for harsh measures...."

"Father, I..."

"Yes, Draco?" Lucius's eyes glinted dangerously, "what is it?"

"I will go back to the cell, father, but I protest at being man--"

"Nott will not lay one finger on you." Lucius hard eyes left Draco is for a moment to scrutinise Nott's, then came back to Draco's again. "No, Draco, Nott will do nothing, he is obedient, if not too clever. But, now, I ask you to take leave of me son...." He paused to acknowledge his son's stilted nod with a nod of his own, Draco turned to leave. A callous smirk snuck up onto his cruel, thin lips.

"Oh, and Draco," he called after his son's retreating back deceptively soothingly. Draco turned his eyes, eyes that mirrored his own, coldest grey, expressionless, back to look warily into his. "I suggest that you don't try anything stupid, I will very displeased if you do!"

"Why not enjoy your Mudblood friend tonight, for you do seem somewhat susceptible to her feminine charms..." Yet again, his son's jaw twitched as his remark struck home. Lucius let his voice become cold; he turned his back on his son for the last time. "That is all Draco," he drawled dismissively, "you may go now...."

Draco gave his father's back one last impenetrable look, dropped his eyes to the draw in the desk, turned, and left the room as an obedient son should.



TBC


AN: Not much to say here really. But. I just wanted to tell you that there will be a few more chapters to go than expected. Even though I've planned ahead, I've found that certain chapters weren't as well planned out as I thought them to be. What I thought were two whole chapters, have actually become four. So the upshot of this is, you have two extra chapters to enjoy. *grins*

Oh, and I'm also letting you know chapter twenty seven will probably be a little shorter than others, and will also be posted very soon. Well, that's it, I hope you enjoyed the chapter. I still love you all, you must be the most patient readers in the world. *glomps*


Chapter 27: A Flicker in the Dark
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A Flicker in the Dark





Chapter Twenty Seven



===




Emily's eyes narrowed. Watching him closely as he drew nearer, she tried to keep her voice light, devoid of the fear that soared at his approach. Emily, unconsciously, took a timid step backwards.

"A change of plans?" her voice came across with more confidence than she felt, her tone was slightly mocking. "What ever do you mean, Zabini? What on earth are you talking about - of which change of plans, do you speak?"

"I can get you out of here, you and Draco...."

Emily simply stared at him. He could get them out of there, Zabini was going to help? No, this had to be a trap of some kind. Why would he want to help her...them? It just didn't make sense. It had to be a trick, or maybe a cruel joke, or maybe he wanted something from her? Emily took another small step backwards.

"Wh-What do y-you want from me, Zabini?" she stammered out nervously.

What do I want?" Zabini looked puzzled. Stopping in his tracks, he paused for a moment, watching her closely as he tried to work out just what was going through her mind. Then it suddenly hit him, the Carlisle girl thought he wanted that from her, his upper lip curled up into a very familiar Slytherin smirk.

"Don't worry, Emily," he drawled out, clearly amused. "I'm not after your virgin maidenhead, Ravenclaw virtue, or any such thing. I simply want to help, I want to get you both out of this mess--"

"Why?" Emily shot straight back, thinking it best just to ignore his caustic remarks. "But, why would you want to help us, I don't understand, what's in this for you?"

A look of annoyance flickered over Zabini's face. He knew it would be difficult to convince her of his motives, after all, only a fool would let themselves be convinced of his sincerity so easily, but.... Well, he had been rather hoping that he wouldn't have to delve into past secrets to convince her. Blaise tired again.

"Look, Emily," he answered, hoping the Mudblood girl would understand. "I have a, well, it's a long story - I have a long story to tell you.... And I hope by the end of it, well, I hope I can convince you of my sincerity--"

"And, you're prepared to tell me your story, Zabini?" Emily asked warily, feeling doubtful. Why would he want to spill his secrets so easily, he was a Slytherin, wasn't he? Not the type to go spreading his life story around just like that. Emily smelled a rat. Auror training kicked in. "Why would you want to tell me, a mere muggle-born, your story - what's in this for you?"

"Nothing!" Zabini shot back, sounding almost desperate. "There's nothing in this for me! For Merlin's sake, Carlisle - just listen to what I have to say, will you?"

"Not until you tell me what's in this for you," Emily shot back, not missing a beat. "You're a Slytherin, aren't you? I don't believe you, a Slytherin, don't have a hidden agenda...."

Silence fell suddenly, filling the darkening cell with a dangerous tension that he could almost taste. The Carlisle girl was not stupid, no, not by a long shot - she would need something solid before she could begin to trust him. She might act like a ditz sometimes, granted. But, she was not as foolish as she seemed. After all, even though he could still smell her fear, he knew that she had more brains than most people, that she stronger than she looked. He wouldn't be able to wear her down that easily.

Blaise decided it was time for the truth. He would tell her all, he would place his trust in her as Draco seemed to have done. Draco was no fool - Draco tired of fools easily. Therefore, he, Blaise Zabini, would follow in Draco's footsteps, he would take this chance, because this might be the only chance he had left - he would take the risk.

"I want out," Blaise suddenly decided, his mind made up. "I want out of this madness, I want to save my own skin..." He paused but a moment to pick his next words carefully, he could see Emily scrutinising him with unreadable eyes. "It's not what I thought it would be... I didn't expect it to be like this - I didn't..."

Interested, despite herself, Emily took a step forward. This could be an enormous bluff, true, she acknowledged. But, something in Zabini's eyes (was it desperation?) convinced her that he was telling the truth; she hoped, for her and Draco's sake, that, this time, her instincts would not prove her wrong.

"Go on, Zabini, tell me more," Folding her arms across her chest, Emily hoped she looked calmer, more in control, than she actually felt. Even though she actually thought she believed him, it would not do to tell him so just yet. Emily schooled her features into indifference. "Tell me your story, I'll listen...."

A shadow passed over the moon, plunging the cold walls of the cell in a even deeper gloom; Blaise shuddered as a strange feeling of foreboding filled him. With a sharp jerk of the head, though, he shrugged this brooding feeling off his shoulders, letting his deceptively warm, brown eyes linger thoughtfully on Emily's. The, opening his mouth, he began to spill his darkest secrets.

"It began, just after Voldemort's defeat, when my mother came to see me...."

---

"Harry?"

Harry stared off into to the distance, taking no notice of the others. He had to think now, he had to re-plan, think things out. He had to work out what they should do next, then he could let his thoughts turn to Ron later - he had to find someway of catching up with Draco and Emily.

"Oh, Harry," It was Luna, this time. "I really don't think you should of done that...."

Harry suddenly snapped back to attention. "What's done is done, Luna," he retorted, matter-of-factly. "I cant change that," he felt a twinge of regret? "but I have, we have, should I say ... we have other things, more important things to think about now--"

"What are we going to do, Harry?" Neville moved up beside him, so his low whisper could be heard. "Are we going to go back to Hogwarts, Harry? Are we going to warn them?"

"Warn them about what?" Also stepping up beside Harry, Luna's voice was just as sing-songy as ever, but her eyes actually seemed in the here and now for a change. "How do you mean, Neville," she continued, watching Neville solemnly, "you don't think Ron is a spy, do you?"

"I...erm...er, I don't know," Neville stammered out, "but the stone was switched Luna, someone had to have done it.!"

"Doesn't mean it was Ron, though," Luna responded thoughtfully, her petulant eyes some where faraway again. "It could have been you Neville, or me even...or..."

"Me?" Neville's voice squeaked out nervously. "It wasn't me, I swear... Harry," he turned his apprehensive back to Harry's, "it wasn't me, h-h-honest! I would n-never--" Luna's voice drifted over his protests.

"...it might even have been Harry, himself, we really don't know...."

Harry snorted out a bark of laughter. Really, that was just too ridiculous, Luna did say the oddest things at times, as if he had switched the stone. Honestly, this conversation was just getting too absurd now, he had to get them all back on track. He pushed his glasses, which kept sliding down, back up his the bridge of his nose.

"Luna, I can tell you now that it wasn't me, I didn't switch it. But," Harry broke off to look each of them in the eyes, "as I was saying before, we should be thinking of carrying onwar--"

"But, Harry, we don't know you didn't switch it, we shouldn't just assume..."

Harry finally got her point. Once again, in her own absurd way, Luna had hit the nail on the head, she had got to the bottom of what was niggling him. He had assumed. He had based his judgement on a feeling, not fact. And, although, Auror's did sometimes act on instincts, they nearly always had to back up their instincts with fact. Harry had just committed an Auror's second deadly sin, he had been led by an assumption - he had messed up. Sighing heavily, Harry ran a hand through the messy hair on his head, ruffling it all the more.

"I'll admit it, I was wrong to do that," Harry admitted out loud, though, more to himself than the others. "I've screwed things up. But, it's no good us keep going on, over and over again, about it. Ron's gone, he's said he's going to Dumbledore..." Harry paused to shrug. "Whether he is or not, I don't know! But, what I do know is that standing here just talking about it won't help us. We have to think ahead, we have to keep moving, we - I - we can think about those things later...."

Luna watched him thoughtfully, while twisting her hair round her finger. She nodded. "Yes," she mused aloud, "yes, Harry, I can see the importance of that. But, isn't it important to find out who the traitor might be too?"

"Of course it is, Luna," Harry answered, trying to keep the exasperation out of his voice. "But, at this moment in time, it's an impossibility - it's a waste of time! I shouldn't have done what I done, I should've kept Ron close, but I didn't. I can't Apparate off after him now, my instructions are to find Emily and Draco. I can't prove what I think Ron is up to. I can't prove anything right now. All I can do is think over it as we move onwards, as we move closer to our targets...."

But, how are we supposed to find them, Harry?" Neville was the one to interrupt him this time. "Isn't it best for us to go back to Hogwarts, to check on Ron? To make sure we're safe. That way we could prove who was--"

"And how long would that take, Neville?" Harry shot back, "What if Ron denied it? What if he lay the blame on you? How long would it take to prove? There would have to be a trail, an interrogation, the ministry would have to be told. It could take days, weeks, months even! It's time we can't afford to loose. Snape told us time was short - we have to keep moving - that's our first priority...."

"But, how, Harry? It will be impossible to find them now! Let's go back to Hogwarts, I really think we should go back to Hogwarts...."

Rubbing his nose vigorously, Harry tried his best to block out Neville's understandable, but irritating, whining pleas. He understood why Neville wanted to go back to Hogwarts: he was obviously unsure of how to proceed now, a little frightened even. But, Neville didn't have the experience that Harry had, neither did he realise that sometimes the rule book had to be thrown away. They had to keep moving, to find the missing pair, they had to....

Sudden inspiration hit him. They were backtracking! They were heading back southwards. They had to be! Draco hadn't wanted to go North, had he? He had only agreed to go to Hogwarts under Snape's duress. But, why hadn't he? Surely Draco had known Hogwarts brought him safety, hadn't he? Why hadn't the sneaky ferret wanted to go to Hogwarts? Malfoy had always been one to put himself first, to save his own skin - why hadn't the stupid prat taken sanctuary when it was offered? Why?

The answer snuck up on him and tapped him on the shoulder. Because the slimy bastard was going to join his father, he was going to betray them - he had.... Merlin, NO! Fuck! The bastard was going back to join his father with Emily in tow. Harry's face paled, he wiped his clammy palms distractedly against his jeans, he opened his mouth to tell the others....

"Harry, what's wrong?" Luna looked at him with concern, noticing the sudden change in him. "Are you quite alright? Have you thought of something?"

"We're going to backtrack," Harry told her, his voice sounding calmer than he felt. "Draco's going southwards, he going to find his father ... we're going to retrace our tracks, we have to find them - he has Emily!"

"Is-Is that sa-safe?" Neville stuttered out, "shouldn't we get backup? Shouldn't we...?"

"No!" Harry snapped out, cutting Neville off. "No - we don't have time - we have to get going right away!"

"But, where to, Harry? Where will we go first?" Luna's eyes looked worried, but they shone brightly, eagerly even. She was eager to be on her way. "We were last in..."

"Otley," Harry nodded his head firmly. "We go to Otley, I say they should be there by now - we start with Otley..."

"Otley?" Luna questioned, nodding her head as if confirming something to herself. "Yes, Otley - I think you're right, Harry."

Harry nodded back at her, watching both Luna and Neville closely. He opened his mouth to....

"Are you sure, Harry? Don't you think...?"

"I'm sure," Harry shot back, snipping Neville's question off at the bud before it could bloom. There was no more time for questions now, he was moving onwards, with or without them. His eyes rested on Neville's. "Go back to Hogwarts if you want to, Neville..."

"No, I-I'll come..."

"Good," Harry responded shortly, he didn't have the patience left for this. "Have either of you anymore questions?"

"No, Harry, I'm coming along."

Neville just shook his head, rather dejectedly.

"Good," Harry repeated, nodding his head reassuringly to himself. "Then it's off to Otley, we go...."

---

Barely conceal his indignation and anger, Ron's cheeks flamed all the more. "...he more or less told me so," he exclaimed loudly, finally letting his anger free. "He thinks I'm a spy, Hermione!"

"Well, he is right in a way, you are spying Ron..."

Ron looked at his girlfriend in disbelief. "But, not for them," he burst out, glowering at her. "I'm spying for us, I was assigned to this!"

"Well, I know, Ron, but remember Harry doesn't know that - if you had told him, though, things might not of come to this...."

"But, you told me not tell anyone!" Ron burst out again, knocking over his chair as he got to his feet. "I don't believe you, Hermione, how can you sit there calmly and say that to me....?"

"Ron," Hermione's brown eyes softened, as did her tone - she really hadn't meant to upset her boyfriend. "I'm sorry, but we have to face facts now - we have to get things in order if we're to proceed...."

Ron stared back at her, torn between indignation and relief: indignation at his girlfriend for trying to lay the blame at his feet, and relief that he had actually, finally, had a chance to talk to her after so long. He opened his mouth to continue their argument, but a gentle cough deterred him. Both heads turned to quickly to look at their former headmaster.

"So, Mr Weasley," Dumbledore enquired, his eyes devoid of that familiar twinkle on his now very serious face. "You were saying the Omni Globe was switched, stolen?"

"Yes, sir - it was -"

"Switched for a stone," Dumbledore nodded to himself, as if he were coming to a conclusion over something. "This I know, but it's not really that important to us now, is it? The important thing now is to find out who purloined the stone, is it not? Do you have any idea Mr Weasley, the slightest clue, perhaps?"

Dumbledore's eyes bored through his, causing Ron to stammer his answer, "I - it - I think - erm - I suppose Neville would be the most obvious choice, but I really couldn't ... it's either Neville or Luna, has to be, but I don't think it's Lovegood .... I tried to get them to come back with me, sir, but...."

Dumbledore raised a hand, bringing Ron's ramblings to a full stop. "Harry would not have come, he is on the trail, as he should be," Dumbledore began, "however, it has come apparent, has it not? That something now needs to be done. Have you any ideas, Mr Weasley?"

Ron forgot his nervousness, he was back on familiar ground - he could now put forth his thoughts on the matter in hand. "I think we should raid the Riddle Ruins," he rushed out. Dumbledore's eyes widened a fraction as he watched Ron thoughtfully. He nodded his head slowly and leant forward as if to speak -

"No -" Hermione burst out, rejoining the conversation. "We, you, well, you can't! I don't have the resources - the Aurors to spare - what if it's a wild goose chase?"

"Please, Miss Granger," Dumbledore's words were polite, but they held a soft reproof. "Please let us continue - we can cross the noughts and crosses when we have all the cards laid down on the table. Now, Mr Weasley, could you please tell me, why the Riddle House? I presume that is where you believe Severus to be, hmmn... am I right?"

Ron nodded vigorously. "Yes, Sir, I do!" he rushed out quickly, "I need to get to him quick, he was very adamant when I last saw him, desperate even. I need to get -"

"All in good time, all in good time..." Dumbledore interrupted, "we'll come to that soon. Firstly, though, can you tell me why you think Severus is at the Riddle Ruins?"

Hermione watched silently, as Ron drew a deep breathe and considered. Her quick mind was alert and waiting, finally, maybe, she would get some answers to her own questions, too. With her keen eyes alive, she waited for Ron to speak.

"Whenever we meet," Ron finally answered, "we always meet within a five mile radius of the Riddle House ... I could be wrong, Sir, but I think it is worth the risk -"

"...and do you think Lucius resides there, too?"

Ron nodded empathically. "Yes, I do, Sir!" he rushed out. "Last time I meet up with him, he seemed restless, anxious, desperate even - he seemed like someone trapped. I think Lucius has him trapped there, I think that something is brewing, sir ... I think we need to -"

Hermione butted in. "But," she asked quickly, "wouldn't that be warning them? If we rushed in guns blazing, wouldn't it quicken the speed of events up?"

"Yes," Ron turned to face Hermione and addressed her adamantly. "Yes, maybe it would, but from what I heard from Snape last, things are already well underway. I need to get some things to him urgently, and the only way I can get to him now is by leading a raid. The wheels are in motion now, and if we, Snape ... if we all have to deal with the upcoming events, we should all be properly equipped. I need to get that article to him. Plus, the plan has benefits - who knows who we could apprehend?"

"Wouldn't it be heavily warded, though?"

"Of course!" Ron answered quickly. "But, we could get through - I suppose the majority would escape, they definitely have a backup plan., Severus hinted as much! But, if I can get to him, who knows what he could tell? We have to get to him, otherwise we're all floundering in the dark! He is our only link now -"

"Oh, but! -" Hermione tried to interrupt again, but Dumbledore raised a quieting hand. Looking down his half-moon spectacles, he nodded to Ron solemnly.

"I agree," he spoke softly, yet firmly, his blue eyes gleaming, "the rewards outweigh the risks. You are right, Mr Weasley, it is most important we contact Severus ... and this may be our last chance to do so.... Hmmn, now let me think, who do you have to spare, Miss Granger?"

Hermione blinked. The question had caught her off guard, she soon had her wits back together again, though. "I can only spare Dean and Seamus Finnegan! There is no one else! Sir, this is madness - we don't have enough -"

"I'm sure we can gather more," Dumbledore said, tapping his finger thoughtfully against his temple. "There are others willing to help, others who helped in the last war ... I'm sure your brothers," here Dumbledore turned to look at Ron, "both Fred and George would be willing to help, and then there's Harry...."

"Harry?"

Dumbledore nodded. "Yes, Harry, an Owl could be sent to him...."

"But, he's still tracking Emily and Draco, he wouldn't -"

"That may be, Mr Weasley," Dumbledore gently overrode Ron, "that does not mean, though, that he wouldn't want to be informed. He may even be of help...."

Ron, biting his bottom lip, mused over this quietly for a moment or two before coming to his decision. He doubted Harry would make the detour, he was truly adamant in his pursuit of Emily and Draco, Ron knew that. But, all things being said and done, Dumbledore was right, Harry would want to know, to be kept informed, updated. Sending him an Owl would not hurt anybodies plans. Finally, Ron slowly nodded, giving Dumbledore his blessing.

"Yes," he replied, his voice still thoughtful, "Owl Harry, he should be kept informed...."

Dumbledore gave his head a swift nod. "Good," he said, clearly happy at the turn of events. "Very good indeed, now we just need to get you both back to London...." Then he paused, to pop a sweet in his mouth, before asking with his eyes twinkling, "Sherbet Lime, anyone?"

---

The rain dripped off the overhead branches, falling to the earth, its soft pitter-patter would have soaked them through to the skin, if it were not for the swift Impervius! charm, which Luna had cast earlier. The dry, brittle earth had quickly turned to mud, making their overgrown, dark path more treacherous, making it more easier for them to trip or fall. Luna didn't mind, though: in fact, she rather liked it. Luna had always loved the rain. So, as she tripped happily along, checking the undergrowth for clues as she passed by, Luna's mind held positive thoughts.

Harry had dismissed the Chocolate Frog wrapper that they had found ten minutes ago, true. But, Luna had taken this as a positive sign - she was absolutely certain that they were on the right track, that they would find something more concrete soon. Emily had always adored Chocolate Frogs, and nearly always could be found carrying one or two of them about her person, either in her pockets or in that battered old shoulder-bag that she always carried. Luna knew, with unshaken belief, that Emily and Draco had passed this way not so long ago.

Just ahead of her, Luna saw the gloomy outline of Harry disappearing into what only could be called some sort of woodland alcove. So, stepping carefully forward as the ground was becoming more muddier than ever, Luna made her way cautiously forward. A sudden shout froze her to the spot.

"Luna, Neville, come here! I've found something, something important!"

Not waiting for Harry to finish, Luna rushed forward, now totally unmindful of the slippery footing underneath her feet. Dashing forward quickly, she entered the alcove a few seconds later to see Harry standing there, puzzling over what looked like a watch in his hands. Emily's watch? Luna stepped closer to take a good look. Yes, it was Emily's watch, she recognised the muggle cartoon mouse that adorned it. More clumsy footsteps approached from behind.

"What, what is it - what have you found?" Neville burst forth, panting and gasping. "What did you find, Harry?"

"Emily's watch," Harry replied flatly, then made a sweep of his hand. "...and this, too..."

Luna's eyes followed the direction of Harry's sweeping hand, and fell on the spot to which he pointed: leaves scattered everywhere, snapped twigs, the sodden imprint of footprints. There had been a struggle here, a big struggle. Luna's eyes turned back to Harry's.

"Harry, I," she began, but Harry didn't let her finish.

"He's taken her, there's been a fight - he's taken her to his father -"

"Harry, no, you don't know that for sure," Luna interrupted Harry's monotonous words, her eyes scanning the ground for any new clue. "Look, Harry, it looks like there was more than one person here, three people at the least ... I think they might have been...."

"So, he got his old friends to help him," Harry cut in, his voice sounding oddly empty. "They've taken her...."

Lumos! Neville moved nearer to the spot, scrutinising the mushy leaves and sodden twigs more closely. Then he looked up at Harry with eyes full of anxiety. "Harry," he urged quietly, trying his best to keep his voice steady. "Harry, I think we need to go back to Hogwarts, or the ministry now - I think we need to report this...."

"NO!" Harry exploded. "No, this is all the more reason to carry onwards!"

"But, Harry," Neville almost wheedled, "this is important. We need to get more help, we need -"

"No," Harry protested again, but this time more softly, his eyes now thoughtful. "No, I don't need help -I can work this riddle out on my own -"

"But, Harry," this time it was Luna's time to interrupt, "where will we go? Where could he have taken her? Where do you think they're heading?" Luna looked expectantly over at Harry, patiently waiting for his answer. Harry screwed his eyes up in concentration, rubbing roughly at his temple as if it were pounding. Suddenly, his eyes opened again, looking alive and alert.

"He's going to meet his father," Harry finally responded, his voice sounding soft but dangerous. "He's going to to his father, and we're going to follow him..."

"But, where to, Harry?" Neville piped up. "Where are we going to follow him too?"

Harry's eyes lit with a dangerous gleam and his mouth twisted into a ugly smirk. Then he turned his head southwards, staring sightlessly into the distance. Time seemed to stand still until he finally turned his head back towards them and answered Neville's question.

"South," he answered, his voice flatter than ever. "I'm going South, to Wiltshire ... I'm going to Malfoy Manor...."

---

Sat on the cold, stone floor with his back rested against the granite wall, Blaise finally tore his eyes away from the small, barred window, which showed one of the blackest, darkest of nights and looked at Emily. He had told her everything, spilled his darkest secrets, had left no stone unturned. But, now he was finally silent once more, spent. He watched her and waited, waited for her to speak.

"I suppose, I believe you," said Emily thoughtfully, after what (to Blaise) seemed like hours. "Though, I don't approve, I can certainly understand - I believe your motives - I - I've heard a story similar to yours..."

"Who?" Blaise blurted out, watching her intently for her answer. "Was it, did it, do you mean Draco?"

"Yes," Emily answered with a nod. "I mean Draco, you two are not so dissimilar..."

Blaise shot forth another question. "Do you know what happened to him - I mean - what happened back then?"

"Yes, I do," Emily told him quickly, "but I shan't tell you about it, Zabini. If you want to know, you'll have to ask him yourself - I won't tell you his secrets...."

Fair enough, he supposed. To be honest, Blaise was quite glad to hear it. If she kept Draco's secrets so close to her chest, then maybe she would keep his safe as well. He was curious, though, he had to admit to himself: he would love to know what had happened over all those years he'd been away, what had happened before the downfall of Voldemort. She was right, though, he supposed. If he wanted to know Draco's secrets, it would be better to ask him himself. Licking his dry lips, he also supposed that an apology was required or an explanation, at least. He had forgot his manners and an apology was needed.

"Sorry," he blurted out stiffly. "I shouldn't have pried - it's just curiosity - I missed so much when I was abroad, when mother sent me away..."

"Count yourself lucky," Emily quickly countered, "you were safe, weren't you? You lived through that war unscathed - you should be glad that your mum loved you enough to send you away - many of us didn't even have that option...."

Looking into her darkening eyes, Blaise knew he had messed up, and he quickly tried to rectify his mistake.

"I didn't mean it to sound like that," he rushed out, "well, at the time - I did want to come back - to be in the thick of things. But...well...now I know better...."

Dropping her tired eyes, Emily sighed heavily. Going over and over things wasn't helping anyone, she had heard his story, accepted his explanations, but now it was time to move on. They were trapped, all of them, including Zabini. Instead of going over old ground, they had to begin looking to their future, their bleak and extremely ominous future. Zabini had mentioned plans, a change of plans to be precise. And, that's what they had to do now, they had to start hatching new schemes. Emily lifted her eyes to Zabini again.

"Before, when you first came in," she began," you mentioned a change of plans, Zabini. What exactly did you mean by that?"

Oh, so she was prepared to overlook his mistake, was she? Good, Blaise thought, feeling a little relieved, that meant she trusted him enough. The plan. She wanted to hear his plan, she wanted his help - she was prepared to listen now. Even better. Going over the plan quickly in his head first, Blaise double checked every little detail, making sure there was nothing he had overlooked or missed. Then, finding nothing to fault, he proceeded to tell her his plan.

"There's a door," he began, "a door on the far left of the building that isn't warded, I can take you there, you and Draco, first thing in the morning, before preparations to move start -"

"A door?" Emily exclaimed, musing over this snippet of information. "It isn't warded, not at all? How do you know this, Zabini? Why isn't it warded - how could something like that be overlooked?" she paused for breath before adding, "and where are you going off to tomorrow?"

Unable to stop himself, Blaise couldn't help but smirk at her barrage of questions. Seeing her scowl furiously at him, though, he pushed a sarcastic thought (that had come just to him) aside, deciding that answering her queries promptly was probably the best option.

"Snape," he began quickly, "I've seen Snape come and go through it! The rest of the house is warded, Lucius likes to keep up with our comings and goings, but Snape can get through there undetected. I - I saw him, by accident, one day - I was just having a sneaky smoke and I saw him pass. I've never said anything about it to anyone, though, because I thought it might come in handy," here he paused to smirk triumphantly, "and it looks as though I was right! But, I believe -"

"How can you be sure that nobody else knows, though," Emily interrupted with her eyes shining eagerly, "how can you be so certain?"

"Because," Blaise answered in an instant, "if anyone else knew, then Lucius would know. Lucius keeps tight reign here, he knows all our secrets -"

"Then how do you manage to ke -"

Knowing the answer to her question before she'd even finished, Blaise interrupted her with the answer, "Occulmency!"

"Oh?" remarked Emily, rather thoughtfully. And, seeing that she was busy processing this information, Blaise continued to rush out the rest of his plans.

"Nott and I are to guard you," he rushed out eagerly, "but I have a sleeping potion on me, I'll put it in his mead tonight, I -"

"Sleeping potion?"

"Yes, sleeping potion," Blaise snapped back, feeling irritated at being interrupted in mid-flow. "I'll lace his mead tonight, then about, well let's say about five or six o'clock in the morning...."

"Then you'll sneak us out?" piped up Emily, finishing off the sentence for him. "Is that the whole plan?"

"Yes," Blaise nodded, looking satisfied. "I'll sneak you both out while Nott is snoring," he paused, making sure her eyes were on him, "so what do you think of it, Emily? Do you think it could work?"

Emily leant forward to answer him, her eyes gleaming with what looked like excitement, when the cell door swung open with a resounding crash! Startled, both Emily and Blaise looked up to see a rather disgruntled Draco enter. Emily was up on her feet in an instant!

....


"Draco!" she cried, rushing over to him. "Draco, are you all right? What did he do to you? Did he hurt you? Did your plan work?" Flinging her arms round his neck and clinging on tight, Emily had him in a strangle hold. "Oh, Draco," she hitched out again, "I've been so worried, I...." Emily didn't actually get to finish her words, though; too overcome with emotion, she decided to bury her face in the crook of his neck instead.

Tightening his arms around her, Draco placed a chaste kiss on the top of her head. Then, with a softness that his eyes didn't hold, he very gently and calming began to answer her fervent questions. Over her shoulder, his eyes locked with Zabini's.

"Yes, I'm all right," he told her, watching Zabini all the time. "No, he didn't hurt me too much -well - not physically anyway...." Here he paused to kiss her hair again, as Emily emitted a shuddering, deep sigh. "Shush, Em," he scolded her gently, before continuing his speech again. "Don't worry, it'll be all right...."

"Bu-But," Emily stammered into the side of his neck. "Your plan, di-did it w-work?"

"No, Em," he sighed, pulling her even closer to him. "It didn't go as I'd hoped, but that just means that it's time for plan B..."

Emily pulled away from him and looked into his turbulent eyes. Plan B? He had a plan B? She hadn't even known what plan A was, and now he was telling her about a plan B! Worrying her bottom lip, she tried to school her voice into calmness - would he ever let her in to all his secrets?

"Draco," she asked quietly, pushing other morbid thoughts aside. "What is plan B?"

Pulling her back against him, Draco turned her around so she was facing Zabini and rested his chin on top of her head. "Well," he began, still watching Zabini intently. "I rather thought you could tell me - if I'm not mistaken, I believe you two have been hatching plans while I've been away, am I correct?"

Twisting around in his arms, Emily turned her head to stare up at him in amazement. "Ho-How do you know that, Draco?" she stammered up at him. "How could you have known?"

"Because, Emily," he drawled, smirking down at her with that oh so familiar smirk. "Like all good Slytherin's should be - both Blaise and I are accomplished Legilimens...."



TBC


Chapter 28: Fleeing the Vipers Nest....
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Fleeing the Vipers nest....





Chapter Twenty Eight








"What's that, Harry?" Neville squeaked and pointed skyward at the small, tawny creature swooping down towards them. "I-Is it an Owl?"

Squinting up into the bright morning son, Harry felt his jaw unclench for the first time since the events last night. Recognising the familiar markings on the Owl, as it drew closer, Harry realised (even from this distance) that it was Hedwig flying towards him and his heart began to beat more rapidly with anticipation.

Why was she here, what had happened? What new information would be tied to her leg?

Scratching his head absentmindedly, Harry automatically held out his arm for her to land on, while still peering upwards into the blinding sun. What news did she bring? he mused, momentarily distracted from his mission. Would it be good news? Bad? Or would whatever new information she brought with her be helpful to his plans?

"It's Hedwig, Neville," Harry finally uttered, rather obviously by now, as his faithful Owl flew down towards his outstretched arm, perched, and looked at him rather expectantly. "She's come with news; Hermione must have sent her..."

Petting Hedwig distractedly, Harry fumbled in his pockets for some sort of treat, found an old crumbling biscuit, gave it to the patiently waiting Owl, and began to untie the faded parchment tied to her leg with eager fingers.

"Has it come from the ministry, then?" inquired Luna, moving a little closer to Harry. "What do you think it'll say, Harry - do you think it has anything to do with our mission?"

Harry ignored her questions, though, choosing instead to unravel the rolled parchment as quickly as he possibly could, while, unhappy at being jostled on his arm, Hedwig watched him accusingly with her huge unblinking eyes. Seeing that Harry's attention had wandered far from her, though, Hedwig decided to give him a reproachful peck or two on his arm before flying off, feathers ruffled, to perch contentedly on top of a rather nervous Neville's head. From this lofty viewpoint, she watched on, not blinking, as Harry finally unrolled and flattened out the previously attached scroll.

Harry perused the note quickly with eyes eager for new tidings.

Harry, the note read.

Riddle ruins. Attack at 6.15 am. Reason to believe our target is there.

AD~


Harry quickly scanned the note again. What did this mean? Did Dumbledore want him to turn up? Was he merely keeping him informed - how would this affect his plans? Harry thought hard and quick. The Riddle Ruins was not far - it wouldn't take much time to Apparate there, to see what was going on. No, a couple of hours would not hurt too much - they could even find out information to work to their advantage. The question was, though, did Harry think that they could afford to loose a couple of hours of his search? Harry let his mind travel back to a few hours before.

....

After the discovery of Emily's watch and Harry's sudden conviction that they were to head straight for Malfoy Manor, they had all trooped onwards dejectedly. Walking in a gloomy silence the three old friends had trundled along, each lost in their own thoughts, with only Neville's voice piping up every now and then to mutter and complain about the direction their plans were taking. Harry had taken no notice of him and had welcomed the quiet, glum as it was. It had given him a chance to begin forming a workable plan, to work things through in his currently overtaxed mind: he knew penetrating Malfoy Manor was a near to impossible task, yet he did not let this fact deter him. So, as they retraced their steps and the night seemed to stretch endlessly ahead, Harry trudged on tirelessly, pondering over this dilemma, his eyes still searching for any sign or clue.

"Oh, it's gone!" suddenly exclaimed a perplexed sounding Luna. "The article is gone - it's missing!"

Harry had stopped in his tracks, turned, gracing Luna with a piercing gaze.

"Gone?" he had inquired, deceptively mildly. "Have you lost it, misplaced it? How could it just disappear?"

Rummaging around her numerous pockets, Luna appeared not to have heard him. Instead, she had carried on with her odd search, even taking off a shoe and peering into it hopefully. Something inside of Harry snapped.

"Oh, for heavens sake, Luna -"

"But, Harry - it's best to do a thorough ser -"

Harry's hands had curled into impatient fists at his sides. "Luna, stop!" he had demanded, exasperatedly, "I doubt it will show up in your bloody shoe!" Pausing, he'd then taken a deep breath to calm himself. "Now try and think clearly, Luna - where did you last see it? When did you last take it out?" Another pause. "Did you show it to Ron...?"

Luna's hand had clamped to her mouth. "He did. Oh but, Harry - that doesn't mean anything...."

Harry's lips had clamped together, tightly. Ignoring her prostrations, he had stalked off ahead, resetting the pace. An adamant glare had been sent Neville's way, as well, defying the open-mouthed boy to speak. Harry had had enough of Neville's continuous attempts to corner him in conversation, tedious conversation that drained him, and was intended to culminate in getting Harry to change his mind and see it from Neville's point of view, at that.

At that moment in time, he was tired of the both of them. Luna's bizarre ways were getting on his nerves, and Neville's harping had brought him to the end of his tether. And now this news, he had thought. It was obvious enough; it didn't take Albert Einstein brains to work out that Ron had somehow nicked the article. But, the question was: how had he taken it and why?

Harry had his suspicions as to why, and had spent the rest of the night pondering over them. Really, it came down to two conclusions: One, Ron, bloody traitor that he was, had been working for Lucius all along and had stolen the article to pass it on to him. Harry's blood had turned cold at the thought. A horrid image of Ron stood at Lucius side had invaded his mind and caught him unawares. Ron, smiling smugly and triumphantly down at the article that would see him held high amongst Lucius' ranks. He had shuddered. Just the thought of his childhood best friend turning traitor, made him want to empty the contents of his coiled stomach. However, the other possibility had continued to nag at him, too.

The problem with the other possibility was that this it would put Harry in the wrong, and Harry hadn't wanted to think for too long over it. Yes, Ron could be working on their side, true. But, then, why all the secrecy? Thinking round in circles had just made his brain ache in the end, so Harry had pushed these thoughts to the back of his mind and had concentrated solely on the search for clues instead. Then, Hedwig had flown into view....

....

"Harry, what does it say?"

Neville's voice snapped Harry back to the here and now. Blinking once or twice, Harry finally tore his eyes from the note. Raising his eyes to Neville's, he motioned dismissively with his hand. "It's from Dumbledore; they're going to attack the Riddle ruins...."

"Oh," chimed in Luna, "...do they want us to join them?"

Harry shook his head. "I don't know, it doesn't really say -"

"Well, we'll have to go back to headquarters now, Harry, don’t we? I mean, we have to find out -"

"NO!" Harry sounded adamant. All of a sudden, the pieces of the puzzle slotted together, illuminating Harry, leaving him very sure of what he was going to do next. "No," he murmured again, this time a little more softly. "We're not going back to L.E.A.Ps; we're going to Apparate to the Riddle ruins."

Bracing his shoulders, Harry reached out and patted Hedwig absentmindedly. Then, closing his eyes, he called up his last vestiges of patience and waited for the new barrage of questions he knew would soon come.

----

Nott was snoring loudly. Clamping a hand over her mouth, as they tiptoed out of the cell, Emily found herself having to stifle an absurd little giggle that threatened to escape her lips. It wasn't that the situation was particularly funny, she mused, still choking back her laughter as she nearly tripped over Nott's left foot, which stuck out at an odd angle. No, not at all! In fact, she realised only too well that the further away they wandered from their former prison, the closer they came to stepping out into treacherous ground. Instantly sobered by this thought, her nervous laughter died in her throat.

Would they succeed?

Stepping carefully over Nott's out flung hand, Emily scooted back close to the wall, mingling into the shadows. She could see Zabini a few paces ahead, creeping along silently and stealthily, and Emily took a moment or two to wonder over his natural feline grace. But, she mused to herself, as she followed silently on behind him, would they succeed? Would Zabini's threadbare scheme work? Would they make it - there was no doubt in Emily's mind that the odds were stacked against them - could it be accomplished, or were they battling hopelessly against the imposable?

Chewing her bottom lip as she edged cautiously along, Emily began to doubt it. The plan relied too much on blind luck. Too much could go wrong at any given minute - they could be seen at any moment -Lucius could have an army of ex Death Eaters hidden around the very next corner. Too much hinged on sheer chance, their futures depended entirely on the whims of fickle providence; so much could go badly wrong. As these fears and qualms began to resurface to the forefront of her mind, Emily began to yearn for that illogical laughter to rise again because, as strange as it must sound to any one else's ears, Emily truly believed that this laughter kept her sane, that it slowed her slippery descent into fear tinged madness. A low, strangled sob whined out of her throat, and Emily found herself practically clinging to the wall as the first wave of a panic attack hit her.

Draco was soon at her side, holding her. "Em," he hissed, lowly in her ear. "Em? Emily, what's wrong?"

Still holding on to the wall and to her anger at him, Emily tried to shake off his protective arm, which had wound around her waist. Her mind flew back, fleetingly, to the late hours of last night, or she supposed she could call them the early hours of this morning. She recalled Draco's smug proclamation, which had eased so effortlessly from his lips. What had he said exactly? Oh, yes how well she remembered his self-assured voice.

'Both Blaise and I are accomplished Legilimens....'

Emily felt her ire rise again as she remembered his words. Moreover, as her self-righteous anger rose, she could feel the waves of panic inside her begin to slowly ebb away. She turned her angry eyes to him.

"I'm alright," she snapped, just a little too loudly as she slapped his arm away. "I just lost my balance - I'm fine -"

But, Draco jumped straight in, not letting her finish her words. "Is this about the Legiimency?" he hissed, letting his cold eyes bore through her. "Is this why you were sulking through most of the night?" His hand squeezed her elbow, tightly, as he tilted his lips closer to her ear. "I told you last night, I didn't use it on you! You said that you believed me, that it didn't matter! So why are you -?"

"Forget it!" Emily interrupted, dislodging his hand from her funny bone. "Just forget about it! It's not about that," she lied with a sigh. "It's just ... Oh, I don't know!"

It was just - how could she tell him? How could she explain, when she really didn't know herself?

She bit back another sigh, and started creeping forward again. It wouldn't do to keep thinking over it, not right here and now. They, she, well, all that mattered now was getting out of this damn place. Emily felt his hand touch her elbow again.

"Emily?"

"What?" she exclaimed in a loud exasperated whisper, allowing herself to stop and finally face him properly. "What is it? Can't it wait - it's really not the most appropriate timing, is it?"

Draco eyed her coolly, trying to get a proper sense of her mood. "Just," he hesitated a little, "please don't be mad. I told you, I didn't tell you because I didn't think it was important. I wasn't keeping things from you, or trying to sneak into your innermost thoughts, I was -"

Emily felt suddenly tired and wilted, and she didn't want to go through this all again. Truth be told, her anger had abated. Not gone entirely, true, as she still sensed that he was lying to her. His Legilimency explained away so many previous unexplained experiences - he just had to be lying! Like that weird sensation she'd experienced in The Leaky Cauldron for instance, or that time he'd appeared in her bedroom and had invaded her mind. Legilimency was the only answer!

Nevertheless, she supposed with a small sigh, letting herself lean against him. She wouldn't let it matter that much - now was just not the time or place. Resting her head on his shoulder for a moment or two, Emily allowed herself a minute to breathe in his scent, to calm herself.

"Draco," she finally sighed, after a few laden seconds had passed, and lifted her head to peer up at him. "I'm not mad, honest. Well, maybe just a bit, I suppose--I just wish you wouldn't lie to me!" Emily let her fingers entwine with his. "But, let's not go over this now, let's just concentrate on getting out of here--yes, I'm still a bit mad! But, oh I don't know! But, it's just - well - it's not that much of a big deal--it hasn't changed how I, well, my feelings for you."

Emily watched Draco's face thoughtfully. His eyes narrowed slightly, as he fell into thought and began to process this information. His brow furrowed slightly and a small scowl creased his forehead momentarily, but soon disappeared when he gave her a sharp nod of the head. His eyes seemed to clear somewhat, and he reached out to absently stroke a stray lock of Emily's hair from her face.

"You're right, Em," Draco finally responded, "it's not the right time or place, it's just...." He slipped his arm back round her waist, stepped closer to her side, and gently ushered her forward. A worried, almost guilty look appeared from nowhere and gleamed in his eyes. Chewing anxiously at the inside of his cheek, he turned his quicksilver eyes to Emily and locked them with hers.

"Em," he began, looking extremely serious. "Emily, I'm going to go and get our--"

A harsh whisper echoed down the dank corridor, not allowing him to finish what he was going to say and Emily heard herself hiss in exasperated agitation.

Malfoy! C'mon -what the fuck are you doing? Hurry up! Merlin, this is no time for another one of your bloody arguments!

Emily let Blaise's admonition sweep over her. What in Merlin's name had Draco been about to say? A thought abruptly hit her as Draco, with his arm still guiding her, led her hurriedly up to the forked passage where Zabini stood impatiently, tapping his foot as he waited for them. NO! he wasn't, was he? That wasn't part of the plan! Emily gave him a sidelong look, glancing anxiously at his face through narrowed suspicious eyes.

"Draco," she hissed at him, only just remembering to keep her voice low despite her new burgeoning fear. "You're not - I mean - you can't..." They reached the spot where Zabini stood, and Emily put a hand to Draco's chest to stop him. Then gripping his jaw firmly in her hand, she turned his eyes to hers, forcing him to take the full onslaught of her warning glare. "Draco," she spat out angrily, her fear and frustration rising. "I forbid you to go and look for our wands!"

"What?" Zabini gasped out, pinning a displeased scowl on Draco. "Malfoy, are you bloody mad? Forget the wands, you need to get the fuck out of here!"

Draco ignored them both. Pushing past them both, he headed to the right-hand fork without a glance backward. "I'm going for the wands - I'll meet you by the door in twenty minutes...."

"But, you can't! Draco!"

"Merlin, Malfoy! Are you mad? You don't even know where the bloody door is - you can't just walk off like that!"

Draco turned his head, and pinned Zabini with his determined gaze. "Don't worry, Zabini - I'll find it. Just take care of Emily and keep her safe--"

"B-But," Emily dashed forward, adamant that she would have her say. "But, Draco, you can't! What if you get lost? We need to stick together! This is madness, we need to--"

"We need our wands, Emily," Draco said firmly, as he grabbed her elbow and propelled her back along to Zabini. "Without them, we don't stand a chance - we're done for!"

"But-"

"No, Emily," Draco gave her a gentle push forward, as Emily decided to dig her heels in and not let herself be budged. "Go with Zabini! I'll join you soon...."

"We could all go together!"

Draco gave Emily one final push. "Now that is the most stupidest thing that I've ever heard you say, Carlisle...and, believe me, I've heard you say a fair share of stupid things...."

Emily half stumbled against Blaise, who lifted his hand to steady her while silently agreeing with Draco on that point. "He's right about that, Carlisle," he conceded, not bothering to hide a smirk. "If we all go, we're done for! In fact," he broke off to challenge Draco with his eyes, "if you ask me, I'd say the whole bloody wand finding scheme is hair-brained! But, if Mr 'I'm-A-Malfoy-And-So-I-Will-Do-As-I-Bloody-Well-Wish,'" he continued, scathingly, "...wants to run off and jeopardise our only chance of escaping, so be it!"

Gripping Emily's upper arm, he began to lead her to the adjacent fork. If Draco wanted to run off and find the wands, what could he do about it? He couldn't stop Draco - all that Blaise could do was to keep to the plan, and make sure that he and Emily, both, got to un-warded door safely. Blaise let his eyes meet Malfoy's again.

"I'll make sure she gets to the door safely, Malfoy," Zabini said seriously, "But, if you're not there within twenty minutes, I'm off..."

"Good idea, and take Emily with you," Draco rejoined with a smirk. Then he frowned slightly, and his countenance became more serious. "If I'm not there by then, I'll have probably run into trouble, so it's for the best if you go." His eyes found Emily's. "Go to Dumbledore, Em. If I'm not there, you'll need to go and fetch help..."

"I hate you!"

Draco found himself smirking again. Moving with three quick strides, he was in front of Emily within seconds. He smirked snugly down at her petulant face, but forced his smirk into a thin smile when he saw the fear and anxiety that lay just beneath the surface of her sulky expression. He leaned forward, giving her the briefest of kisses.

"Don't worry, Emily," he placated, breaking the kiss and taking a step away. "Things will turn out fine, I promise." His eyes darted from Emily's to Blaise's. "Just go now, we need to get moving. Time is running short, I...."

Emily was forced to watch as he disappeared without another word. Turning quickly, Draco ducked into the right-hand fork and was soon swallowed up by the brooding shadows, which seemed to stretch forth their shadowy, skeletal fingers and claim him. Emily sighed heavily. A feeling of appending doom descended weightily on to her shoulders. Something dreadful was going to happen, of that she was suddenly certain. His fixation on the wands would undo them somehow - Why did he insist on running off and leaving them? Stupid bloody wands!

"Ready to go, Carlisle?"

Blaise's voice snapped her out of her dismal revelries. Was she ready to go? Well, she was as ready as she would ever be, she supposed. Wearily, Emily gave Blaise a brief nod. Blaise nodded back.

"Let's go then," he urged, tugging adamantly on her arm. "We don't want to waste time. C'mon, it's this way...."

And, letting herself fall into step beside, Emily dutifully followed.

----

Harry squinted up at the blackened ruins that stood atop of the hill. The brightness of the morning sun made his eyes water, which caused the ruins to haze in and out in front of Harry's eyes. Harry didn't mind, though. If he closed his eyes, he could still remember the Riddle Ruins clearly; he could still remember a dark night that seemed so long ago: A night that had changed his -no - the entire wizarding worlds future. A stormy, black night. A night when he had danced with ghosts of the past and his own haunted memories. The night he had killed Nagimi. Oh, yes, Harry could still remember it all very well. He didn't need to have his opened to see, the memory of Riddle House still stood out clearly in his mind - it had never left him, really.

Harry breathed deeply, and peered up at the blackened ruins again.

Could Draco and Emily be here? Were they both up there? Was Emily being held a prisoner? He had been certain that Draco had taken Emily to Malfoy Manor, but ever since receiving Dumbledore's correspondence this new possibility had invaded his mind. Harry felt his hands clench into fists. Why was he reminiscing over things he should have forgotten a long time ago - what use were these memories to him now? There was only one thing he needed to remember, and that was the location of a certain room. Once he remembered that, he would be on his way. Harry dug his nails deep into his hands and fell into recollection.

A room. Dark, ominous - an ornate desk in the middle of the room. Nagami slithering purposefully towards him....

Harry's eyes gleamed. He remembered. Once he landed in that room, he could easily navigate the rest of the hou -ruins - house. He was going in, he was going to find the bloody ferret and Emily. Harry took an unconscious step forward.

"Harry, shouldn't we wait?"

Harry ground his teeth. "No!" he all but spat out. "I'm going in there now, Neville - you can stay out here with Luna, though, if you want...."

"No, I'll come!"

But, Harry barely heard Neville's reply. He took another step forward, concentrated on a certain room, and quietly Apparated.

----

Draco moved quickly and stealthily. With his shoulders flat against the crumbling wall, he edged his way cautiously forward. He didn't have much further to go now - the Riddle study was lay ahead, just around the next corner. Soon he'd be near, very soon he's be able to get his itching hands on their wands and make his way back to Zabini and Emily. He came to the next corner.

Peering around it cautiously, Draco eyes did a quick scan of the lengthy, narrow hallway and held his breath. No one, he could see no one. Not one sign of life. The corridor was empty! Despite himself, Draco let out a small, shaky sigh of relief before pressing onwards again. The door that he wanted to reach stood a few paces or so away from him. Draco's breathing became shallower, as he skirted a chasm in the splintered wooden floor and hurried towards the slightly ajar door, like a moth drawn to a flame.

I'll be there soon, I'll have my hands on them in no time....

He pushed at the door lightly, momentarily forgetting caution; with a slight creak the door swung open, revealing the (thankfully empty) room inside. Draco stood, paused, for a moment, letting his eyes dart around every shadowy corner of the room. Finally convinced that he was assuredly alone, he quickly stepped into the room, swung the door back to, and made his way eagerly forward to the ornate desk situated in the middle of the room.

"Second drawer on the left-hand side," he muttered absently, the memory of it as clear as day, as he walked hastily to the desk and rounded it. "Now I just need to find the key ... Please, Merlin, don't let father have the key!" His hands searched thoroughly over the desk, scattering parchments and unsettling the dust. The key was not to be found.

Where was the bloody key, where the hell had his father put it? - It had to be here, just had to!

Draco dragged a rather shaky hand roughly across his clammy forehead. Time was slipping away from him, he could feel it. He had to go now, he had to be on his way. Frustrated and desperate now, he grabbed hold of the drawers handle and shook it roughly, wincing as the stack of books at the edge of the desk slipped and fell with a resounding bang.

Merlin! He was done for - he had to get out of here quick!

"Is this what you're looking for...?"

Draco froze. He could recognise that voice anywhere. Potter? What the fuck was Potter doing here? Draco raised his eyes to see Potter standing directly opposite, pointing his own wand - his own fucking wand - purposely at him.

"Where's Emily, Ferret?"

Anger ignited within him, sending lightning sheets of rage soaring straight through him. He lurched forward, snarling, and snatched for his wand. "Give me back my bloody wand, Potter!"

"Not on your life, Malfoy," Harry shot back, whipping Draco's wand out of Draco's reach. "Where's Emily?"

"Give me back my wand, and I'll show you - I'll take you to her-"

"Yeah, of course you will, Ferret," Harry retorted scathingly, taking a step backwards as Draco lunged for his wand again. "But, how about this for an idea, huh? Why don't we try it this way? You take me to Emily first, and then we'll have this little discussion about wands..."

"Forget it, Scarhead! I don't have time for this, I...." Draco suddenly came to a halt and held himself very still. The wheels in his mind began to rotate in motion. Harry wanted him to take him to Emily, did he? Probably wanting to know if she was safe and sound. Well, Draco could do that! Yes, he confirmed to himself, he could definitely do that. Even though it cost him some of his Malfoy pride to concede to this temporary defeat, Draco had to admit that taking Harry to Emily was much less time consuming than standing here fruitlessly arguing and (in all probability) ending up getting hexed.

Draco, grudgingly, held out the proverbial olive branch. "Alright then, Potter - I'll take you to her. But you better follow on quickly...."

"Malfoy, do you expect me to believe that? For all I know, you'll be leading me straight to your father, and I don't care too much for the company of snakes!"

Draco snarled. "Potter, I'm warning you - this is your last chan--"

"Well, well, well," a much-dreaded voice cut him off. "Mr Potter, how very nice it is to see you. I must admit, though, this is a much-unexpected visit. I see you have already reacquainted yourself with my son...." Locus entered the room, with his wand withdrawn at aimed at Potter's heart. "I must thank you, Mr Potter, for tripping my wards; otherwise I would have not been alerted to your most unwelcome presence..." Lucuis paused and pulled his lips back in a very unpleasant mockery of a smile. "What brings you to my humble home, Mr Potter?"

Draco felt his skin crawl. Edging his way back to the desk, he looked between his father and Potter: Harry had his wand drawn and pointed directly at his father, while his father advanced further into the room, eyeing Potter like an Eagle eyes its prey. Draco began to hedge his bets. Who should he turn to? Who was his best ticket out of here? His expressionless grey eyes turned to his father.

"Potter has my wand, father!"

Lucius merely raised an eyebrow, not allowing his attention to be taken off Potter. "Indeed, Draco," he replied lazily, allowing only the slightest hint of irritation to underline his tone. "How very interesting! Almost as interesting as to why you are out of your room, is it not? However, please so tell me, Mr Potter - why have you my son's wand? Has this anything to do with your rude invasion of my home, perchance?"

Draco watched on as his father allowed the silence to stretch. Potter wasn't answering - what did Potter have up his sleeve? Did he know something? Merlin, was backup on it's way? Draco's eyes flew to Potter's, and he searched Potter's face thoroughly, eagerly searching for any sign of an answer.

"Mr Potter, have you forgotten the noble art of speech?" Draco could tell his father's patience was now wearing thin. "Answer me, Harry, or I'll end this right now...."

"Just tell me where Emily is, Lucius," Harry suddenly burst out. "Tell me where she is, and I'll take it easy on you-"

"Easy on me?" His father tilted his chin up and laughed . "Easy on me, indeed? Such Impertinence! I doubt very much that you know who you are dealing with, boy. But, enough! Enough of these games, it's time to teach you...."

"No, I've had enough, Mr Malfoy! Lucius Malfoy, I'm arresting you for the abduction of Emily Carlisle and for plotting against the minis--"

What else Potter was arresting his father for, Draco never learnt, though, as the sound of wards cracking could be suddenly heard, followed swiftly by several loud shouts of surprise and the bangs of stray curses hitting and resounding off the walls.

Gathering his wits quickly, after his initial surprise, Draco quickly dived behind the desk - only just in time, too. His father's startled expression had soon turned to one of cunning. After getting over his initial shock, just as quickly as his son, his father has already raised his wand to the precarious ceiling above and issued forth a blasting spell. The effect was instantaneous. And, as Draco had just slipped under the desk to relative safety, the ceiling came crashing down around them.

Through the mortar chunks and lung-choking dust that fell down like a torrent of rain, Draco saw his father slip through the door, escaping. Covering his nose and mouth with his robe, Draco waited until the last chuck of mortar fell with a resounding bang before attempting to make his own attempt at freedom. His thoughts briefly turned to Harry and his wand, as he stumbled his way along over plaster and mortar slabs with the lower half of his face still covered. But, as he narrowly avoided tripping over yet another hunk of plaster, Draco considered that his best option now was to just get the hell out of there as quickly as he could.

His thoughts turned to Blaise and Emily. We're they still there, we're they still waiting for him, or had they gone like he had instructed? Draco coughed out a lungful of plaster dust, and sincerely hoped that they had. He knew he had to check, though, because he wouldn't put it past Emily to defy him and hang around, waiting for him. This thought urged him forward.

Quickening his stumbling pace, Draco rushed out the door, almost tripping over his own feet. She was still there; he knew this for a fact! His certainty of this became embedded in his bones, as did the sudden omen of impending disaster. He had to get to her quick - he had to find that bloody door! Draco darted down the dim and narrow hallway in haste, his mind now set on only one thing: finding Emily.

Too caught up in his own thoughts, however, he failed to see, or hear, the stifled chokes of Harry as he stumbled out the room soon after him. Draco also missed the determined glint that lit Harry's shining green eyes as he, choking back another dust filled cough, took after him in hot pursuit.

----

"That's it, Carlisle - it's time for us to go!"

Emily purposefully ignored Zabini, and peered down the shadowy passageway for what must have been the hundredth time. Twenty minutes hadn't passed yet, she was quite sure of that, and she was almost as sure that Draco would come pounding down the passageway very soon despite her feelings of ill ease. Zabini tugged at her arm.

"Carlisle, come on!" he nagged at her, clearly showing his exasperation. "The twenty minutes was up five minutes ago, we have to go now!"

"Just ten more minutes, Zabini," Emily pouted, turning her almost desperate eyes to his. "That's all I ask, just ten more minutes. And if he's not hear by then, I'll go with you , I promise...."

Zabini shook his head, at a loss at what to do. Draco had told them to go. Well, not exactly told, more like ordered, and Blaise had sense in this: if he was not here by now, there was no doubt in his mind, that something had gone extremely wrong. But, then again, there was Emily to contend with.

"Please, Zabini! Just ten more minutes...."

Blaise only just refrained from rolling his eyes. "I want out of here, Carlisle," he snapped out, clearly irritated. "All we have to do is step outside, Apparate to get help, and generally be on our merry way out of danger--"

"I thought he was your friend?" Emily shot back, scowling at him. "What harm could ten more minutes do, he could be making his way back to us right now?"

"Draco said...."

"I don't care what Draco said, twenty minutes was barely enough time! Can you imagine how angry he would be if he missed us by a few min--"

"Fine!" Driven to defeat, Blaise snapped out in good grace. "But, if he's not here in ten minutes, I'm off with or without you!"

"Thank you, Zabini..." Emily patted Blaise's arm gratefully. "I promise, I'll come meekly when the time is up."

Ignoring her playful words, Blaise turned away and stepped outside again onto the frozen, muddy path. He desperately wanted to go, get as far away from here as he could, but he supposed that ten mere minutes more could hurt too much. So resting his back on the blackened brick wall, he resumed watching Emily, as she began her distracted pacing of the dank, dim passageway again.

Blaise wondered how a mere ten minutes could seem to stretch for eternity. Emily paced, hoping against hope, straining her ears for the slightest echo of rapid footsteps coming their way. Neither of them noticed the young man stood far back in the shadows, though.

As soon as he had seen them huddled together at the end of the passageway, he knew he'd struck gold yet again, and he'd thanked the lucky star that had been following him around lately. He'd Apparated about two, or three minutes ago, anxious to go and warn his master. What he hadn't expected, though, was that he'd stumble across the traitor and that Carlisle girl right in the middle of executing an escape plan. Neville grinned an excited grin.

Merlin, Lucius would be pleased with him! But what was he doing still standing here? The Carlisle had been granted ten more minutes, and ten minutes might prove not to be enough time. He needed to be on his way, instead of still lurking amid the shadows. Lucius would be most displeased with him, if he left it too late. He would have time to stand and gloat later!

So, as Emily paced and Zabini brooded, Neville edged himself down the passageway and further out of sight. Today had taken a definite turn for the better, he thought to himself, as he turned a corner and wandered deeper into the Riddle Ruins. He had no doubt that he would find Lucius soon, this he knew for certain. He suddenly squeaked out an excited, little giggle. Luck was with him, he could tell, he could feel it prickle at the ends of his fingertips. And, with that thought in mind, a delighted Neville continued creeping his way through the dark hallways, drawing closer and closer to Lucius with every new step.

----

Ron had left the others behind. Everything had gone swimmingly, or so it had seemed. Seamus and Dean had covered him, Fred had gone in on the defensive, and George had led the attack. It was a good strategy, which was often used by Aurors and old Order members. George had gone in blasting, and had even took one of Lucius' men down by the looks of things. But, even as Ron had yelled to Seamus to cover him, he could tell that cover wasn't needed. One by one, Lucius' followers had disapparated, just as Snape had told him they would, leaving a huddle of Aurors at a loss at what to do next. Ron had quickly switched to plan B.
They were to search the ruins thoroughly. They were to alert him at once if they found any sign Lucius or Snape, they must conduct the search in pairs, and any prisoners taken must be vigilantly guarded. Ron had kept his orders brief and to the point. And ,as the others had left, each pair heading in a different direction, Ron had begun his own frantic search for his ex professor.

Hoping against hope, he had searched behind every door, and was beginning to doubt that he would ever find him. Eventually, though, he had entered a room with a ceiling that had looked as though it had been blasted to smithereens. Dust had covered every inch of this room: the furniture, the floor, the tattered curtains hung at the window, the ornate desk that stood regally in the middle of the room. Not seeing such devastation in a long, long time, Ron had instantly decided to make a more thorough search of the room. He had stepped right in, and was making his way to the middle of the room, eyeing some books that had fallen to the floor with interest, when a hand had clutched at the shoulder of his Aurors robes. Ron had spun around quickly, only to find himself looking into the irate glare of the one and only Severus Snape.

----

"So are you telling me...that you let them escape?" Lucius drawled silkily, jabbing his wand against Theodore Nott's throat. The groggy Nott could only swallow and nod in response, as his Adam's Apple bobbed nervously up and down in his throat. Lucius's eyes gleamed dangerously and he jabbed his wand forward again.

"Well then, am I to believe that not only did you let escape, but you fell asleep on guard duty as well?"

"I think my mead was poisoned," Nott managed to gulp out. "I was drugged, my Lord, I swear to you that I wouldn't willingly neglect my duty--"

"...and does that excuse you actions, in your opinion?" Lucius continued, with his voice more silky than ever and his eyes glinted as sharp as flints. "Do you think the fact you were drugged, that you lowered guard, means that you should be allowed to escape your punishment?"

Nott shook his head, incapable of speech.

"Then, please do tell me, Nott ... Just what do you think your punishment should be?"

Nott's eyes widened fearfully. "I d-don't know, m-my Lord...."

"A little Crucio, perhaps?"

Gulping, Nott barely managed to whisper his answer, "As you wish, my Lord--"

Lucius smirked maliciously. However, before he could continue with this torture, a loud cough interrupted him. Lucius whipped his head around at the sound, only to see Neville step out of the shadows.

"My Lord," Neville began, "I bring you news of most import - I know where the escapees are hiding, I can take you to them."

Lucius let this news slowly sink in. He knew where they were? He was able to lead him to them? The air whistled through Lucius teeth, sharply. "Merlin help you, if you are deceiving me..."

"I swear to you that I am not. Have I failed you yet, my Lord?"

He spoke the truth. He was indeed the most successful of his followers.

"But, we must hurry, my Lord - our time is limited. We must reach them quickly."

Lucius fingered the pouched portkey that was pinned securely within his robes, and came swiftly to his decision. He turned his narrowed eyes back on Nott. "You will Apparate back to the Manor immediately, where you will await your punishment accordingly, is that clear?"

Recognising there was no room for disagreement, Nott nodded quickly, and did exactly as he was told. He Disapparated straight away, eager to be away from Lucius eagle eye. Lucius turned back round to Neville.

"My Lord, I fear time is running out. Please, will you follow?"

Lucius gave a polite nod of the head, and motioned Neville onwards with a graceful sweep of the hand. Then, keeping his wand trained squarely at the middle of the boy's back, he did as what was asked of him, and followed.

----

"Why are you here, foolish boy?" Snape instantly spat out. "What purpose, if any, has this failed mission of yours accomplished?"

Ron could only gawp for a moment, as Snape's gaunt visage seemed to loom over him. "I-I-I managed to bring you the article," he finally managed to stammer out. "The one you said you needed urgently, the one about the key! D-Do you remember?"

On hearing this news, Snape's eyes flickered with an emotion that Ron could not quite work out. Was it relieve, Ron wondered to himself, or had he mistaken the emotion all together? Ron tugged the article out from under his robes, and promptly shoved towards Snape.

"Of course, I remember, impertinent child..." Stretching forth his spider like fingers, Snape removed the article out of Ron's outstretched hand. "And what of the poison, do you have that for me, too?"

Ron shook his head. "I'm sorry, Sir-Severus, I'm afraid I don't, not yet." Ron felt his cheeks flush red, despite himself. "But, Dumbledore assures me that'll it will be with you as soon as it possibly can--"

"Can it be with me by midnight, tonight?"

Ron looked startled. "Tonight, Sir?"

"Yes, tonight!" Snape snapped back and scowled. "Tonight is the night, Lucius has chosen. Tonight all his followers will be called to the Henge...."

"The Henge?"

"Good grief, are you deaf, boy?" Snape was clearly irritated now; his lips thinned into a compressed line. "Have you never heard of the Henge?"

"Do you mean Stone Henge?" Ron asked slowly, with a puzzled look on his face. "And why has he chosen tonight?"

"Yes, I do mean Stone Henge, foolish boy!" Snape could hardly contain his irritation, as he answered Ron's questions. "And tonight is a most favoured night amongst the stars...."

"Oh, I see...."

Snape very much doubted if the boy did indeed see. But, instead of pressing the point, he choose to continue with his questioning. "Are you planning to return to headquarters, today?" he queried sharply, piercing Ron with his unnerving stare.

"Yes," Ron answered promptly, nodding his vigorously in answer to this question. "Yes, I am! I plan report back just as soon as the raid is over and done with." An idea suddenly hit him. "Sir, you should come back with me, you don't have to stay here now. You can come back and report to them yourself!"

"I'm afraid, I can't do that...."

Snape's reply felt like being dowsed with a bucket of cold water. Ron just could not believe that Snape had refused to come back. "But, why?" he asked, feeling incredibly baffled. "Why can't you come back to us?"

"Because Lucius has Draco now," Snape answered quickly, "Besides, I am needed here - if I remain here, I can still manage to use what little influence I have left to our best advantage."

"They have Draco?" Ron questioned, warily. "What do you mean by that?"

"They have Draco and Emily, both," Snape rejoined quickly, overriding him. "That's why it's of up most importance that I remain with Lucius. Also, when you return, you must request for backup at the Henge tonight. We need fifteen people at the least, and they have to be there long before the first chime of midnight. The matter of poison must not be neglected, either! All this is urgently needed, if we are to stand the slightest chance--"

"Can't we attempt the Manor first?"

"The Manor is too heavily warded, by the time the team broke through, Lucius and his followers would be gone...."

"I will do my best--"

"No, you must do better than that!"

Startled by Snape's shout, Ron took a good look at his old professor's face: paler than ever and taut with underlying anxiety, Ron saw all that he needed to see. This was deadly serious now; he needed to do more than his best, he needed to get the job done! Renewed determination coursed through him, and he raised his eyes met with Snape's. The minutes ticked slowly past. Snape searched every closed corner of his mind until he'd seen all that he needed to see. Then, when he had finished, he laid a firm hand down on Ron's shoulder.

"If you fail, I won't regret my trust in you...."

"I won't fail, believe me!"

Snape smiled faintly, and both men, young and middle-aged, shared a strange look of single-minded determination.

---

"I'm going now, Emily. We've been here long enough!"

Emily winced at these words, even though she was expecting them. How had the ten minutes gone so quickly? "Maybe, we should give it just five more minutes?"

"No, Carlisle! We're going, or, at least, am I!"

"Zabini, wait! Just hear me out...."

"No, not a chance! We have to go now, we've left it much too long--" Zabini came to a sudden halt, and Emily heard the sound of a dull thud, as if someone had fallen. She spun round immediately, just in time to see the vivid red of a stunning spell.

NO! She thought frantically, as she saw a smirking Lucius Malfoy step out of the shadows. No, this could not be happening - she must act quick! Emily saw Blaise's wand laying a few inches from his side - it was her only chance - she dived for it, flinging her whole body forward. However, it was already too late! The full force of a Petrifus Totalus spell hit her; her arms snapped to her sides and her body froze. She toppled forward, hitting head on the cold concrete floor, and her world turned black.

....

Lucius stood over the two lifeless forms in front of him. His eyes glittered with a strange gleam, and his upper lip curled into cruel smirk as he gloated over them. Neville scuttled close to his side.

"Did I do well, my Lord?"

Lucius' cruel smirk stretched and widened, turning his cold handsome countenance ugly. He turned his gleaming eyes on Neville. "Yes, you did well, boy. Very well indeed - I am most pleased with you, and I will reward you well...."

Neville's anxious expression turned to one of extreme pleasure, and Lucius could almost feel the boy's overfed pride radiate over him. The boy gave an excited half-skip, as if he were about to begin a merry dance. Lucius smirk at once turned to absurd laughter. Honestly, the Longbottom boy was as mad as a hatter, and crazier than bunch of March Hares! Lucius held out a hand to pat the boy's shoulder fondly, when he heard the first pound of running footsteps approach. He acted immediately.

Crouching down between Blaise and Emily's bodies, he fingered his pouched portkey gingerly, unpinning it from his robes and clutching it tightly in his hands. His other hand held his wand aloft in grim determination. And, as Neville slipped into his place amongst the shadows once more, Lucius waited alertly as the running footsteps became louder with each and every resounding pound.

"Father?"

Lucius smirked triumphantly, as his breathless son ran into view. He would ensnare them all, now!

"Father, what are you doing? " Draco glanced down; his eyes widening upon seeing Blaise and Emily's lifeless forms.... "What have you done?!"

Lucius took his chance, and pounced. "Come freely with me Draco and I'll leave the girl behind, if you wish it...."

Draco, being his father's son, sized up the situation quickly. He espied Zabini's wand, laying just inches away, and took a hesitant step towards his father. "You will do her no harm?" he questioned, buying more time as he came within lunging distance of the wand.

"I promise, Draco. Come take hold of this portkey, and we can be gone in an instance. The girl can be left behind...."

Draco took another step forward, then lunged.. But, before his fingers could even close around the wand, he found himself flying through the air as his father raised his wand and blasted him backwards.

"Foolish boy, disobedient son! Did you think you could deceive me?"

Clutching the back of his throbbing head, Draco managed to struggle into sitting position just in time to see his father unclothe the portkey from it's pouch. His father's eyes, gleaming with pure triumph, looked into his.

"I suppose," his father drawled, lifting first Zabini's hand and then doing the same to Emily's. "I suppose, we shall meet again soon. After all, son, you never did like me taking your favourite playthings away from you. Goodbye, Son!"

Clasping both Emily's and Zabini's in his own, Lucius wrapped all their fingers tightly around the portkey. Draco lurched into action, but, within the blink of an eyelid, they were gone, leaving an empty passageway behind them. Draco could do nothing more than stare, feeling nothing but a strange numbness.

....

A minute later, more running footfalls could be heard, and Harry rounded the corner before skidding to a halt. Harry could sense the static whisper of magic on the air and he halted briefly for a moment to drink it all in. Finally, he turned his eyes to the kneeling Draco.

"Where's Emily, Ferret?"

TBC

Chapter 29: Alliance and Accusation
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Alliance and Accusations






Chapter Twenty Nine








"Where's Emily, Ferret?"

...

Slowly turning his head, Draco stared at Potter in disbelieve. Still recovering from the aftershock, he felt numb. Potter stood above him, scrutinising him carefully through narrowed, accusing eyes, with his wand pointed determinedly at him. Draco's throat tightened; his jaw clenched and twitched, betraying the first stabs of self-righteous anger, which sliced ruthlessly through his fog hazed head. Ripping and tearing through his consciousness, the anger filled him to the brim, replacing all feelings of loss and emptiness. Unconsciously, the hands dangling limply at his side, clenched into two fists of white knuckled hatred--the anger overflowed and flooded out of him.

"Potter, you sanctimonious scar head, this is all your fault--!"

Potter seemed unaffected. In fact, he even had the nerve to roll his eyes dismissively at Draco's formidable tone causing Draco to rile even more. How dare he? How dare he stand there and roll his eyes at him? - the git - the bastard! He had no idea, not even a clue...

"Malfoy? Emily - where is she? What did you do?"

Potter took a deliberate step forward and raked a hand through his hair, making it stand on end - which gave him the air of a deranged asylum escapee, or so Draco thought angrily anyway. The gesture, like everything else about Potter, irritated Draco greatly. Here was Potter again, acting the head honcho, thrusting his big, brave Auror act down his throat, trying to bloody well intimidate him, while looking like a demented Hippogriff and not having a fucking clue in that thick-headed skull of his. Draco suddenly felt something snap inside. Springing back to his feet, he stepped towards Potter, lifting his indignant, grey eyes to meet with Potter's widening green ones.

"Potter!" Draco managed to spit out from between clenched teeth, only just restraining himself from jabbing Potter forcefully in the chest. "Potter, you do realise that all this confounding mess is down to you, every last bit of it! You're a bloody blind idiot, who can't see the facts in front of his face, even if they removed all of their clothing and danced naked...."

But, Potter chose to ignore Draco's scathing wit; cutting him off, he continued to press forward his point. "Emily, where is she, what have you done with her? Tell me ferret, or I'll..."

"Or you'll what, Potter?!" Giving up all attempts at the right and proper Malfoy restraint, Draco finally exploded. "...just what are you going to do? Hex me? Sling me back in Azkaban, perhaps? Or are just going to ignore everything I say, and continue to refuse to see--"

"I know you brought her here, Malfoy!" Harry slung right back, refusing to get sidetracked. "I know you're involved in this - I always knew you'd run back to your father ... You're up to your old tricks, Malfoy, I just kno--"

"Oh, for the love of Merlin, you know bloody nothing. Nothing, Potter - not a jot!" Draco paused for breath, and to regain back some of his dignity. "Father took her, her and Zabini, and, if it weren't for you, I'd of been back on time - I'd have preven--"

Potter suddenly shoved him sharply.

Draco was sent flying backwards. Landing flat on his back from the force of the push, Draco felt his ire reach boiling point: pain jolted all the way down his arms from the impact of his landing, and he could tell from the small trickle of blood that his right elbow had been badly scraped, too. Right there and then, Draco was beyond mad.

"Potter, you will pay for that - I'm going to bloody kill you--"

Scrambling up from his knees, Draco barely registered the sound of pounding footfalls racing closer, neither did he note the way Potter stood, alert and wired, as he stared down the dark corridor with his wand raised, ready for whatever new danger approached. No, all Draco could see was red. He lunged at Potter, grappling for the wand held tightly in his hand.

"Malfoy, gerroff!!" Potter grunted, obviously taken by surprise. Grabbing a hold of Draco's sleeve, Potter tried to pull him off balance. Draco was having none of this, though. Grappling with Potter's wrist, he tried to twist the wand out of his hand.

"Bloody hate you, Pothead! When I get my wand back, I'll make you wish you had never been born a wizard!"

With another harsh shove, Potter pushed him fiercely again.

"Merlin, Malfoy, if you don't stop - I'll ... Just gerroff, I need my wand - someone's coming! Get off me!"

The footsteps pounded loudly, coming closer with every second that passed. Draco didn't give a stuff about that, though - his mind was made up, he just wanted his wand back, and to do permanent damage Harry Potter's sorry arse!

"Gimme it, Potty! Give me my wand back, you pathetic moron!" Draco's fingernails clawed at Potter's wrist, his restraint long gone. "Just do something right for a chan--!"

Potter was punching his arm repeatedly, making it throb with dull pain. But, he could not match the strength of Draco's fury - Potter was failing. Draco could feel his grip on the wand lessen and he dug his nails in harder.

"Does that hurt, Potter," he grunted out, exerting all his strength, as his mouth curled into a sneer. "Because I hope it bloody well does," he gave Potter's wrist another wrench, "...just give me the fucking wand, you bloody prat! Give it to me now --"

"Get off me, Malfoy," Potter gritted out, delivering a misplaced knee to the groin, which ended up connecting to his thigh with a dull thud. "I swear, I'm going to make you hurt so much ... Lay off it, I'm warning you Mal--"

The footsteps came even closer.

"Harry, are you alright mate - do you need a hand?" panted a vaguely familiar voice, as it rounded the corner. Draco, briefly distracted, glanced up to see a carrot-topped head running full pelt towards them, wand ready to aim. Just behind him, Draco noted, came another familiar looking ginger git, grinning wildly all over his freckled face. Weasleys! Bloody Weasleys! Draco's thought maliciously, his face twisted in derision -- could things get any worse? Apparently, they could.

"Stupefy!"

The hex hit him directly in the middle of the chest, and Draco found himself being flung backwards from the force of it. Apparently, Draco thought as he hit the floor once again, things most certainly could get worse. So worse, in fact, that he could almost laugh at the irony of it all. However, instead of laughing, he found himself forced to watch on helplessly as the gruesome twosome made their way over to their hero, Potter.

"Looks like we got here just in time, Harry," Fred grinned, walking up to an almost doubled up Harry and giving him a comradely pat on the shoulder. "Was the little ferret annoying you?"

George wasn't far behind. Offering Harry a steadying hand, he still had his wand aimed pointedly at Draco. "Alright there, mate?" he asked lightly enough as, between them, he and his brother helped the rather winded Harry into an upright position. "Need a hand exterminating this vermin, do you?"

With a wry grimace, Harry shrugged them off, struggling to retain his composure. "Thanks - I'm fine! There's no need..." Harry finally seemed to regain something resemblance to ruffled indignity. "...really, I'm alright. I'm in control -- I can handle this, I--"

"Fuck you, Potter!" Spitting the words out spitefully, Draco fixed all three of them with a baleful glare.
The effects of the Stupefy were beginning to wear off, and Draco found himself able too push himself groggily from the ground. Inching himself slowly up into a sitting position, he eyed the trigger happy Weasleys carefully, uncertain if they were about to hex him again. Hating them all so much right now, Draco couldn't help the spite that fell from his lips, though, despite the fact he knew that enraging them was not the best of ideas.

"Fuck you, I hate all of you!" he continued viciously, unable to refrain himself from ranting. "Fucking, meddling Gryffindor do-gooders! Rushing ahead without thinking, always getting it fucking wrong! Pigheaded asses, who don't even have half a brain cell to share between yourselves -- I despise you all!"

Draco broke of spluttering, pausing to regain his breath and his vitriol. But, before he could salvage his momentum, Harry was already talking over him. With a hot glare of his own, Harry was glowering over him and looked ready to pitch a fit.

"Shut it, Malfoy -- just shut it! We don't want to hear your obnoxious drivel, just shove a sock in it, why don't you? If you know what's good for you, just shut up and keep quiet while we work out what to do with you, and then...."

Incensed, Draco yelled over him, drowning Potter's words out.

"I will not shut it. I won't let you bloody get away with this, Potter, I swear I won't! You've messed it up royally this time, Potter, truly you have ... If it wasn't for you, we'd all be away safely - if you'd given me the wands, we'd be long gone --"

"Yeah, I bet you would have..." Harry returned scathingly, not quite believing what his ears told him. Was the ferret actually trying to defend his inexcusable actions - did he actually think he could just wriggle himself out of this one? Did he truly believe that Harry would let him and his father skip merrily away from justice, hand in hand? Did the Malfoys honestly believe themselves above the law and it limitations? Harry had heard enough. If the ferret thought that, well then....

"I suspect you and father would be safely at the manor by now, wouldn't you?" Harry continued tightly, exasperation and angry disbelief mingling. "You'd be plotting and scheming, going over your tactics to take over the world. I bet you were both so disappointed when I showed up, I bet I've really spoiled your plans. But, I'm warning you, if you don't tell me how to get to Emil --"

"For the last time, Potter!" Draco exploded, eyes icy and looking ready to spring at him. "How many times do I have to tell you that I'm not in cohorts with my father? What will it take to get this through to that thick skull of yours? If you hadn't have taken my wand, if you'd just taken my word for once. If, for once in your life, you'd not been so bloody stubborn--Merlin, Potter, you couldn't have made things any worse, really you couldn't...."

Draco let his words trail off into silence, but continued to glare icily and defiantly at Harry. Matching Draco in his animosity, Harry glared just as hatefully back, and with both boys unwilling to break the concentrated gaze, they became embroiled in a heated deadlock.

----

Get away, must get away. Have to be swift and clever, must keep on running. Not much further now, just a little more. Can't go back there...there only meant torture and pain. Must move more quickly...

Nott's legs felt leaden, his breath came out in short, sharp pants. Running faster than he'd ever done in his life, Nott was making a final bid for freedom.

Not far now...just a few more strides. Come on now, you can do it. Don't falter now...

The copse that he'd spotted from afar was now mere metres away, only five more long strides and he'd be there, hidden amongst the trees. Away from prying eyes, where he could Apparate quickly and securely. Just a few more paces, and he'd be safe.

One, two...three...almost there! I've made it, I'm safe. Just behind that tree - yeah, I'll duck behind there and Apparate...

Mentally and physically exhausted, Nott disappeared behind the wizened, old oak to his right and crouched down. Wiping away beads of ice cold perspiration with the back of his hand, he took a brief moment to pull himself together. His hands were shaking badly, and the blood was pounding through his veins erratically. But he was safe, at least he was safe. Closing his eyes tightly shut, he took a deep calming breath.

A few minutes, all I need is a few minutes more...

He just needed some time to calm down, to collect himself together. Then he would Apparate himself back home and be free of this lunacy that he had somehow got himself into. A moment or two longer was all that he desired, no one would find him here - he was safe. Nott braced his weight against the old oak, and dragged himself gradually to his feet.

Yes, home is the best bet -- father will see that I'm safe. He'll know what to do, dad will help. I'll be fine once I get home again...

Pulling himself away from the tree, Theodore Nott took one last steadying breath and prepared himself to Apparate himself back to his family. The unmistakable image of his boyhood bedroom sprang into his mind. As clear as day, Theo could picture the mid-morning sun shining through the window that overlooked the East side of the garden, it's strong rays showing up the tiniest particles of dust scattered over his most treasured books and wizarding comics - the sturdy bookshelf over his comfortable and luxurious bed - the boyish Quidditch posters that lined his walls. Theo concentrated harder.

Home, I just want to go home...

A hand clamped down tightly on his shoulder; fingers pinched in painfully, showing no intention of ever letting go.

"Where do you think you're going to, Nott?"

Nott's eyes flew open to see Longbottom standing by his shoulder. Longbottom - LONGBOTTOM? What on earth? Theodore tried to prise off Longbottom's grip.

"Get off me, Longbottom! Who do you think you are, interfering with other peoples business?"

Trying his best to sound in control and sufficiently haughty, Nott took another stab at shaking Longbottom off. Neville just tightened his surprisingly strong grip.

I think Lucius would find it his business...."

Nott froze. Uneasiness turned to fear as he chanced a sidelong look at Longbottom's countenance: the blank eyes that glittered vacantly, the nasty curl of his lip. Nott's stomach coiled into a tight knot, and his bravado turned to red-cheeked bluster.

"Get your hands off me, you have no right --!"

"Do you think our master would see it that way?"

Feeling beyond desperate now, Nott couldn't help the fear that crept into his voice. He was so close to escaping - he had to get away - if he could just manage to trick him some how. Jumbled thoughts tumbled through his head as he tried to think up of a way to get out of this.

Think, Nott, think! Call yourself a Slytherin? Are you going to let this crazy, blank-eyed Gryffindor get the better of you? Think...use that brain of yours, for Merlins sake! You just wanted to see your father - pop home for a minute or two - tell him that, he'll fall for that.

"I-I was just going to go home ... Sorry, I mean, I have something important to tell my father. I wasn't deflecting. Really," here Nott managed to regain some former audacity, "aren't you being rather too suspicious, Longb--?"

Longbottom's answer was a knowing smile and a dismissive shake of the head. His fingers dug more painfully into the upper flesh of Nott's arm, as his eyes glittered maliciously. Neville brought his mouth close to Nott's ear.

"I never even mentioned deflecting," he whispered menacingly. "Got something to hide, Nott? I think the master needs to know about this...."

"NO!" Loosing all composure, Nott was struggling against him now, desperately trying to tear and claw his unyielding hand away. Just where did all that strength come form? Others had hinted that he was mad, was that really the case - a madman's strength? "Get off me, don't..."

His world seemed to blur. Before he could blurt out another word, Theodore Nott found himself being Disapparated. Neville was taking him back to the Vipers nest.

----

The twins shared a look with each other. To say you cut the atmosphere with a knife would be an understatement, and the look they shared said that and much more. Shrugging his shoulders, George shot his brother a look that said more than words. For his part, Fred threw George back an exaggerated grimace, which echoed his twin's thoughts. A silent agreement was sealed between them, and George cleared his throat loudly, knowing that his brother stood firmly behind him. They both wanted more answers.

"So, um, the ferret is in cohorts with his dad, eh?"

"No, I am fucking not! Does no one listen to me?" George's statement had broken Draco from his battle of wills with Harry, and his stony grey eyes flicked towards him, bestowing George with his most indignant glare. "Do you think I'd be left behind here - in this stinking tunnel - if I were working for my father? Don't you think, I'd be far away by now - safely back at the manor? Call yourselves Aurors? -you're pathetic - the lot of you! If you don't hand me back my wand, then you wi--"

"Stop whinging, ferret-boy! We were asking Harry, not you..." Fred's eyes were narrowed and his wand was pointed at Draco again. Although the ferret's whining could be very entertaining at times, he just wanted to get the facts straight for now - he did, however, think the little git had just made a partially valid point. Fred shared another look with his twin, and George took his cue.

"Erm, the ferret does have a point there, Ha..."

"NO, HE DOESN'T!" Harry exploded. "He took Emily - in the wand room - he was all over his father...he's just trying to wiggle--"

"Another point!" Draco's smirk was triumphant. Maybe the Weasleys weren't as stupid as they looked - maybe, with some good old Slytherin cunning - maybe he could get them on his side... "Just some food for thought for you, dimwit!" His words were spat out at Harry in a snide snarl. "Did you not even stop to think - that if I were indeed in so called 'cohorts' with my father - then why would I have been searching for my wand in the first place? Tell me Harry, does it honestly make sense to you--?"

"I said shut-up!" Fred gave his wand a warning jab.

"You're not wriggling out of this one, Malfoy! I'm taking you back to the ministry after I find out where you've taken Em--"

"I haven't taken her anywhere, father did..."

"Shut up before I hex you!" Fred jabbed again.

"WHERE IS SHE?"

"In my pocket, Potter. My father and I shrunk her in our terrible joint plot to take over what's left of your brain..."

Someone snorted back a laugh.

"That's not funny, Malfoy! Tell me, or I'll..."

"Actually, that was pretty funny - you have to admit it, Harry."

Harry glared balefully at Fred. "This is serious, Fred - we don't have time for this--"

"Aw, did I offend you, Potter? Can't you take a joke no more...?" Draco sniped back.

"Okay, that's enough! No more Mr Nice Weasley - shut your gob before I shut it for you!"

"Will you both just shut up for a minute, I need to get on with the interrogation..."

"Interrogation, my arse! I'd like to see the day you interrogate me!"

"Maybe we should all go outside and cool down for a minute? Get some fresh air, take a breather?"

George had been watching the entire situation disintegrate into bedlam for the past few minutes. Amusing as it had been at first, though, he had decided that it was high time they took some time out to cool down their hot heads. This petty arguing was getting them nowhere. Sidling up to Harry, he caught the crook of his elbow.

"C'mon, Harry, let's catch a breath air. Fred can bring along the ferret," George gently propelled Harry along as he spoke, "and once we've cooled down, we can go about things properly..."

Harry let himself be guided away. George was right, he had let his temper get out of control - he could do with some fresh air right now. Letting George chatter away, he glanced briefly over his shoulder to see Fred jabbing an extremely irate looking Draco along with the tip of his wand and couldn't suppress a vindictive grin at the sight.

Serves him right, he thought nastily, as they walked out of the dark tunnel into the weak mid-morning sun. If he doesn't tell me where his father and Emily are soon, he'll have to deal with a lot more than a few pokes of a wand. I'm not the one in the wrong here - I protect my friends, that's what I do - he's just trying to worm his way out of a tight hole. So what if he had a point about the wands - there's a logical explanation for it - I just have to find it. Malfoy's just trying to confuse things, to set me off the trail, he's....

"So can I see the wand?"

"Er, wand?" Harry grunted out. Distracted by George's question, Harry (gratefully) pushed the first seeds of self doubt to the back of his mind. Could he be wrong? No, of course not, don't let his lies get to....

"Yeah, the wand, Harry. I want to see the wand that did Snape in!"

"Okay, alright..." Distracted again, Harry fumbled absently around inside his jacket, found it, and thrust Draco's wand towards George. "Here you go, George - you don't believe Malfoy, do you?"

Scrutinising the wand in his hand, George answered Harry without looking up.

"Can't believe the ferret had it in him, can you? I mean offing Snape, I would never had believed he had the guts..." Then, frowning slightly over Harry's question, George absently slipped the wand in his pocket and turned to face him. His normally jovial face looked solemn as he pondered seriously over his answer. "I don't know, Harry, to be honest with you. Even though I don't trust the git, I do think he brought up a point worth looking into..."

"But, we don't have time for that," Harry rushed out, looking genuinely worried and apprehensive. "Honestly, George, time is running out, we have to do something quick. This is all escalating so fast, something has to be done very soon. We don't have time for looking into finer details...."

George bit down on his lip thoughtfully and nodded, acknowledging that he understood Harry's dilemma. But he couldn't help feeling that he was being left outside the loop, somewhat - that some vital piece of information was missing. When he and Fred had been called on to this assignment, they'd been told very little: the only information they'd been given was a list of names of who to apprehend - Emily and Draco hadn't even been named.

As Ron had briefed them, he'd suspected that his brother was holding back on some of the facts. He was used to this, though, as not being actually being part of the Auror force - rather, he and twin were ex-phoenix members who were sometime called in to help when Auror numbers were low - it really didn't bother him that much.

But, now, with Harry twittering on about Emily, abductions and nefarious plots - and Malfoy ranting about stolen wands and false accusations - well, he was pretty certain he'd become involved into something much bigger than he'd previously thought, into something extremely dangerous.

If Emily was somehow concerned in all this, he as sure as hell wanted to find just what exactly was going on. If this was as big as he suspected, he didn't like being left in the dark, especially when it concerned friends of his. George was now determined to find out the facts from both of them.

And, as Fred jabbed the still extremely disgruntled Draco towards him and Harry, George was going to his best to dig the truth out.

"So," he asked glibly, as Fred pushed a sneering Draco down on to the ground next to them. "Who's going to tell us what's really going on here?"

Brushing down his clothes and flicking off dirt from his rumpled clothes, Draco shot Fred a vengeful glare before turning to spout his vitriol on George. "Are you sure you want to know, I mean can your pea-sized brains actually take in the truth?"

Fred looked ready to give Draco a good pounding, but George subtly shook his head at his brother. "Yes, Malfoy, we can handle the truth. We just need to make sure you're on the level, though...."

Harry snorted. "When has Malfoy ever been on the level," he scoffed, scooping up some gravel and tossing it from hand to hand. "Do you really think you can trust him?"

"Talking of trust, I think me and you need a little talk about that ourselves, Harry." Walking leisurely out of the tunnel, hands stuffed in his pockets, Ron appeared with an excited looking Seamus and Dean following behind him. Nodding towards his brothers, Ron ambled over towards them. "I really think it's time we had a long and involved talk, don't you?"

Ron looked pointedly at Harry, and Harry stifled a groan. Taking off his glasses and rubbing the balls of his hands over his eyes, Harry suddenly felt extremely tired. Things were most definitely coming to a head now, and he wondered if he still had the strength within himself to deal with the conversation that was about to take place.

Harry removed his hands from his face, replaced his glasses and took a deep, calming breath. He was not put in Gryffindor for no reason, he could deal with this. So, smiling weakly at a grinning Dean, who was trundling over towards him, he squared his shoulders for the onslaught. He was not afraid, he could defend his actions with pride.

"So...what did I miss then?" asked Seamus jovially, as he reached Harry and slapped his hand playfully down on his shoulder. "Have we missed the fun?"

"Oh, no..." Draco smirked and cocked a knowing eyebrow, his eyes glinting maliciously at Harry as he prepared himself for full snark mode. "...the fun has only just begun!"

----

"Crucio! What, no more screams from you?" Lucius smirked down at Blaise's whimpering form; curled into a tight protective ball, the Zabini boy was wracked in pain and quietly sobbing. "Will I have to become more inventive?" Lucius paused, pretending to think. "...what will it take to make you scream for me again, boy?"

With her hands clamped to her ears and her eyes closed tight, Emily could hardly refrain from whimpering herself. Having been forced to witness as Lucius tortured Blaise into a wretched mess on the floor until it had become too much for her to bear, Emily was now truly horrified.

The effects of the Cruciatus curse had been severe and instantaneous; cruel and merciless, she'd been unable to tear her eyes away at first. Morbidly fascinated by the way the curse could reduce such a strong young man into a helpless heap within seconds, Emily had been disgusted at herself as she had sat there and just watched.

Knelt in the middle of a clearly affluent room that screamed of wealth and luxury: highly polished marble floor, covered by the plushest Persian rugs; whitewashed walls adorned with fine water-coloured paintings, drawn by the most expert of hands. Images of magical landscapes; a Phoenix in flight, a snake coiled round a sword. Crystal vases, sweet smelling hyacinths, an ornate silver mirror hung over the finely carved mantel. Knelt in the middle of this room, Emily had finally acknowledged the macabre and the bizarre.

How could such a barbaric act of such cruelty take place in such a refined room? Torture such as this, did not belong here. Emily pictured the fine furnishings taking offence and walking out: the chaise lounge dancing away with the footstool, the mirror jumping off the wall and stalking out in a huff - Emily could picture it all vividly in her mind...

Emily squeezed her hands more tightly against her head; digging her fingers tightly into her crown, she wondered if she could squeeze tightly enough to make her brain explode. Insanity had snuck up quietly, surprising her. Creeping in through her ear, it had bolted the door and barred the windows, made itself comfortable and accustomed itself to the inner workings of her mind -- if this was the effect of merely watching Crucio preformed, then what in Merlin's name was Zabini going through?

This had to end soon - this must end now - before she was driven out of mind.

"STOP IT! Please just stop..." It took Emily a moment or two to realise that the protesting voice was actually her own. The words seemed to have a calming effect, though, as soon as she had shouted them out, she instantaneously felt amongst the sane again, well, almost. Then, finally unscrewing her eyes, she turned her head to look at the man who so looked like his son. The resemblance was disconcerting to say the least; the man's eyes had narrowed and were now gleaming maliciously in her direction, a sneer turned the corners of his mouth. Lucius took a step towards her with nothing but unrestrained glee in his eyes.

"Oh, the Mudblood speaks, does she?" His voice was soft as a caress, be it a highly malign one. "Tell me, girl...do you think yourself in such a position to address me thus? Has time spent with my son given you a false opinion of your status...?"

"Draco has..." Emily faltered - it hurt too much to even say his name - she couldn't even afford to let herself think of Draco right now. Merlin, how was she even supposed to answer that question? "I didn't mean to offend, I just...I mean...I-I just wanted it to end, Draco had nothing to do--"

How dare you call my son by his first name? Do you believe yourself that important? You and your tainted blood..."

"My blood has nothing to do with this, I..."

"You are nothing child...a mere toy to be played with is all you are!"

"I can't see how..."

"No...?" Suddenly his hand was under her chin; holding it in his firm grip, he bared Emily's neck and jabbed his wand in the hollow of her throat. "I don't think you see at all, Miss Carlisle. You are not important, you are merely bait...just an annoying little fly buzzing around - floundering - way out of your depth. Do not flatter yourself that you mean anything more...to me...or to my son."

He paused but a moment to make sure her eyes were focused on his, to make certain she understood the full meaning of his words.

"You should have stayed at home, miss Carlisle. Instead of chasing after the impossible, you should have stayed where you were safe - where there was no danger of you being made a pawn. You fancied yourself in love with my son...you had the audacity to believe yourself worthy of him...and now, soon, very soon...you will pay the price. It's extremely foolish to rush blindly into things you can't even begin to comprehend the meaning of, it often leads to unfortunate ends...."

Now the threat was out in the open, Emily felt strangely calm and serene. As she stared into eyes greyer than the storm clouds that loomed outside, Emily endeavoured to decipher the ruminations of the brain that worked behind them.

He had threatened her finally, that was only to be expected. He was also clearly threatened by her relationship with Drac...with his son. Not that she didn't think his threat was an idle one, oh no - not at all. She was sure that she was in danger, she'd been certain of that ever since she'd seen Snape's wearied countenance pass by the door over an hour go, or was that an eon ago? Time held no meaning for Emily since she'd been locked away in this torture chamber disguised as a fine lady's parlour. It simply ticked pass, merging reason and the illogical into a incessant blur.

Lucius had issued his warnings, though, and this had given her something to latch onto. Something real and solid, her safety had been threatened and that she could understand. Rather than fading in and out of her lucid daydreams - revelries - of soft, sweet lips pressed firmly against hers, Emily grasped onto the threat and focused. Friends and others were out there, she was not alone: Harry, Dumbledore, Hermione...Draco...Snape...they were all working towards the same goal. As long as there was still people out there who cared about her, she couldn't afford to lose her hope and sanity amongst the tortured screams and carefully placed copies of Wizards Elite.

She would get a hold of herself, and live to fight for another day. And, gulping down the last of her fears, Emily lifted her hand and pushed Lucius' wand politely away from her throat.

"I won't pretend that you don't frighten me, but I..."

The wand was back at her neck in an instant, Lucius' eyes glittered maliciously, his lips curled into a disbelieving snarl.

"You dare to displease me? You are more foolish than I thought girl-"

"I was only trying to..."

Emily forgot her words. Eyes wide, she stared in disbelieve as Neville stumbled into the room, clutching on to a frightened looking Nott. Her previous words died in her throat, and she took half a step forward.

"N-Neville, are you alright?"

Neville ignored her completely, choosing instead to fling the terrified looking Nott in front of Lucius.

"My Lord, I caught this one trying to deflect..."

What-?! What was this...? Horror descended on her, as comprehension began to dawn. Neville, working for Lucius?

His attention deflected from Emily, Lucius arched an sceptic eyebrow and looked down his nose at the protesting and babbling deflector.

"Ah, Nott," he breathed, as an eager leer pulled at his lips. "I was wondering where you had got to? But, now that you've finally decided to show your face, I believe we were last discussing a suitable punishment for you..."

The room fell quiet instantly, and all that could be heard was Neville's raspy, gleeful little chuckles.

----

"Snape is alive?" Seamus's eyes nearly bulged out of his head. "Really and truly alive? Get way with yer, you're having me on!"

"Yeah, he's alive and kicking, but that's not all...we have to-"

"But, if he's alive, doesn't that mean Draco didn't kill him?"

"I was framed, Potter had me locked away because he was envious of my superiority and flair..."

"Just shut it, Malfoy! You really aren't helping!"

"But, alive...alive? After all this time?" Seamus shook his head in disbelieve.

"Yeah - that's not all, though - he's also become a blood-sucking vampire...."

"Ferret," Fred shot Draco a glare, "if you don't stop soon, I'll have to turn all that sleek hair of yours curly..."

"Will you all just stop, there's more to tell - Snape has given instructions - we have to--"

"We have to tell him that scarhead messed it up again...."

"Malfoy, one more word - I'm warning you!"

"Oh, I'm so scared," Draco deadpanned glaring, folding his arms resolutely across his chest. "What you going to do then, apart from warn me some more?"

"I'm thinking Silencio is a valid option, maybe followed by a...."

"Why should I believe any of this, Ron?" Although Harry's voice was low, his question brought all other conversations to a halt. "How do we know you're telling the truth?"

"Hey! Of course he's telling the truth, Harry!" Fred injected, looking a little bemused at the implied accusation. "Ron wouldn't lie, well, not about this sort of thing anyway."

"I'm not working for Lucius, Harry..."

"Of course you're bloody not!" This time it was George's turn to sound miffed. "Where did you get that idea from, Harry? What's been going on here?"

"Your brother has been..." Harry began.

"I've been working on a secret mission for the Order. I've been passing information through Sna--"

"So that's why you've been skulking around and are hardly ever at L.E.A.P.S! anymore" Dean exclaimed, cutting Ron off in his excitement. Then his face deflated a little. "Man, I wish I had exciting secret missions, it's not fair!"

"Too right, mate!" Seamus agreed. "It's about time they realised we're made of sterner stuff, and give us some of the action...."

Ignoring this exchange, though, Harry and Ron focused on each other: Harry now wanted some answers to the questions that had been driving him crazy since Ron had stalked off the day before, and Ron was now calm enough to answer them all without resorting to anger. Even though he'd been hurt by the accusations, Ron knew that this breach of trust between them had to be fixed quickly and soon, before time ran out and they were faced with imminent danger.

Ron spoke first, reiterating what' he'd said before.

"I'm not working for Lucius, Harry - I've been working for the Order."

"Then why wasn't I told about it?" Harry retaliated back, wary of where this was going. "Why didn't I know?"

"Why didn't I know about your mission on those renegade werewolves, Harry?" Ron answered straight away, eager to relay his point. "It was because it was your job, and you were told to keep quiet about it - that's your reason for you - it's what we do! Sometimes we're just not allowed to impart information, you should know that by now, Harry!"

"Yeah, he's right about that, Harry."

Harry ignored Seamus' last titbit of wisdom and rallied again with more ammunition.

"What about the article, what about the globe?"

"I've already admitted I gave the article to Snape," Ron exclaimed, feeling his exasperation rise. "I've explained all that and I told you before - I didn't steal that bloody globe!"

"Yes, but..." Harry was like a dog with a bone. "Why should I believe you? What proof do you have? I mean, you told us you met Snape back there - that you're working for the Order - but there's no proof of this. And, as for the globe, if it wasn't you - who did take it?!"

"Hold your Hippogriffs, Harry!" Fred burst out indignantly. "This is my brother -your friend - that you're talking about...."

"I know, Fred," Harry countered, looking over at Fred earnestly, "but you haven't seen what I have, you don't know what's been going on--"

"I did it, it was me! It was part of mine and father's nefarious plans...."

"Honestly, Malfoy - this is not the time or place!"

Draco snorted in disgust. As entertaining as this difference of opinions had been at first, he was now beginning to tire of it...the mere volume of their voices was already frazzling his stretched nerves. Accusations and denials aside, this charade of a dispute was getting them exactly no where. On edge, disgruntled, and no longer amused, Draco sneered around at the gathered company. They were not going to find Emily this way....

"If I may be allowed to speak," he began in his usual droll manner. But, just then, Luna appeared on the horizon: just in front of his eye-line, running lightly towards them, the gravel crunching and flying up from under her feet, Draco noted that her face was red from exertion and that her eyes seemed wider than ever before.

I think we're in for another revelation of sorts, he thought, as he continued to watch her approach through narrowed and thoughtful eyes.

.Also alerted by the crunch and spray of gravel, all the other pairs of sixeyes turned towards her and watched expectantly as Luna approached.

"Is that, Lovegood?"

"It's Luna!"

Harry jumped to his feet, straight away.

"Luna, are you alright - where's Neville?" Harry pounded his way over to her. "What's going on? You look--"

"It's Neville, Harry," Luna panted out, quite obviously out of breath. "He's...he's..."

"He's what - has he been captured?" Holding Luna's arm gently, he propelled her over to where all the others now stood, probing her gently with questions while she laboured to catch her breath. "Is he alright, injured? What's happened, exactly?"

"No, Harry...not...c-captured, he..."

"He tripped over his own shoelaces, perhaps?" Draco sniggered.

Fred didn't bother to warn Malfoy this time, choosing this time to just clonk him around the head.

"OW!" Draco glared at venomously at Fred. "What do you think you're--!?"

"...he went with Nott!"

"Nott has him?!"

"Poor bastard," exclaimed Dean. "We really need to..."

"Nott?"

"Luna," Harry's grip tightened on her arm slightly, as he waited for her to continue anxiously. "What did Nott do to Neville?"

Taking a final deep, steadying breath and closing her eyes, Luna looked to the others as though she were meditating..

"No, you have it wrong..." She eventually said. "Neville took Nott, behind the trees - I saw him - he said he was going to take him back to Lucius Malfoy..."

"WHAT?"

"That's just got to be wrong, Lovegood!"

"A-Are you certain, Luna?" Harry looked more than perplexed, he looked Bulldozed! "Th-that ca-can't be right...."

"I'm quite certain, Harry. Unless the Heebie-Jeebies have entered my mind, making me see things, then that's definitely what happened."

"But, it can't be," Harry still protested, "It just can't. Unless..."

"Unless," Draco continued for Harry with more than a certain amount of disbelieve. "Unless, Longbottom is the...spy?"

"N-No, it can't..." Shaking his head, Harry looked flabbergasted, as if he were being forced to rethink things through. "I mean it couldn't be him, could it...?"

Looking around at the others, Harry was met with blank stares and the incredulous shrugging of shoulders. No one, it seemed, could quite believe it either. Finally, though, Seamus piped up quietly.

"Well, there was that incident in the war, remember? The tort..."

The beat-beating of fluttering wings interrupted him. All eyes looked skywards, as a large barn owl swooped down and circled above them twice before coming to land on Ron's shoulder. The owl hooted twice.

"That's a ministry owl, that is," Dean remarked almost conversationally, "I wonder what it's all about?"

"It's from Hermione," said Ron, who already had the scroll untied and unrolled. Scanning it quickly, he then proceeded to brief them on its contents. "It's says we're to meet with a member of the Order at the 'Hedge and Hemlock' hostelry at just past noon today..."

Ron's voice trailed off uncertainly. Overcome by the sudden deluge of information, no one could think of a word in return to say to this; still trying to come to terms with the news about Neville's deflection to the other side, everyone was still visibly shaken to some degree. Until, that is, Luna's faraway drifted over the silence.

"Well, we better be on our way then...."

----

The door swung silently to behind Lucius, and his hinted threat still lingered heavily in the air.

Longbottom is here to aid you, Severus. You remember the boy, don't you? Yes...good. I'm sure the boy will be diligent...do not fear...I'm certain, that together, you can save your own necks.....

Save our own necks, be damned!

Glaring at the Longbottom boy, Snape could barely choke back his revulsion.

"So, I am now being spied on by the insane offspring of lunatics, is that it?" Snape snarled, his upper lip twisting in distaste. The boy's reaction was instantaneous.

"Don't you dare say that? How dare y-you say th-that to me!?"

Ignoring the spittle and bluster that spewed from the boy, Snape returned to the article laid out before him. Now that he had in front of him, he could soon work out the key's and its mysteries in time...Lucius' worries were needless. And if the boy was here to spy, so be it. For now, he could work on the article...later, though, this poor excuse of humanity could easily got rid of. It wouldn't be too hard, just a few more well placed jibes like his previous and the boy would soon be sent scurrying to his master.

However, for now, it was best to ignore him and get on with unravelling the mystery of the key. Snape gently flicked a speck of dust off of the yellowing paper.

"I will not be ignored! You must answer me!"

Ignoring the Longbottom boy as he huffed and puffed indignantly at his shoulder, Snape drowned out his professions of being ignored and looked at the first line again.

Thrice turn me windershins to defy the rising sun...

Well, that was easy enough - the key must be turned three times ant-clockwise.

"Answer me, or I'll go and tell Lucius!" Longbottom was almost hopping from foot to foot. "You're not allowed to ignore me - I'm amongst his favourites now...."

"Is that so?" Snape didn't bother looking up, but his coal-black eyes gleamed coldly and he continued in a voice as smooth as silk. "Then why don't you go and tell him so, Longbottom? Tell him that I'm ignoring you, please do...I'm sure Lucius will be delighted to hear what a hindrance you are being to my progress Meanwhile, I shall ignore your insane twittering and will continue on with my work here...so, if you don't mind...."

The air surrounding him turned static...pregnant with expectation...the boy seemed ready to act, then nothing. Having the sense to accept defeat, he presumed correctly, Snape heard Longbottom vacate the spot behind him and scuttle over to the bookshelves. A smirk of triumph crept onto his lips. But, alas, time pressed on him, he could not afford himself the leisure time to dwell on his victory. Instead, his eyes began scanning the article before him again.

...

Thrice turn me windershins to defy the rising sun,
They lay me down on hallowed stone...hence night shall overcome,
Wield me, metal to flesh...the slaughtered lamb will burn,
Thenceforth, to their one true master...
All daemon kind will return.

----
Take me to hallowed stone, which stands bathed under waxen moon,
Stake one of pure heart to cold ground, and dark eternal will returneth soon.
----

Place me over the heart of innocence true...to deny the rising sun.

Turn me thrice to the dark of might...true night shall overrun.

----
Meld me, stone to bone, stand back and watch the sacrificial lamb burn.
Feast your eyes upon terror, true,
As Lord of Daemons to untainted Earth doth return.
----


TBC


Chapter 30: Meetings and Greetings
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Meetings and Greetings

Chapter Thirty





Draco was bored. Very bored. Bored and disdainful, even. Bored, disdainful and anxious to get going. Bored, disdainful, anxious to keep moving, and resentful of the imposed company of Gryffindors he was forced to keep. Bored, disdainful, eager to be gone and... Merlin on a broomstick! This had gone far enough! He had to get out of here before he was driven completely insane!

Nursing a warm bottle of Butterbeer, Draco sneered a contemptuous sneer, and let his vicious glare travel down the long table till they rested malignantly on Potter. Potter! Precious bloody, Potter! This was all his fault!

He was the reason he was stuck in this dump of an inn, under the watchful eye of suspicious dumb-witted Gryffindors. He was the reason why he had to endure that oaf of a Weasley twin glaring at him and jabbing his wand in his direction as if he did as much as open his mouth and let out a supercilious yawn - not that the Weasley was looking at him now, though. No, right now, he was whispering in comprisal tones with his moronic brother and the Irish git Finnigan - not that that kept Draco from overhearing their half-cooked conversation.

"You have to be kidding?"

"I'm not - a mixture of a Disillusionment charm and maybe an Unplottable should do it."

"I still say a couple of Muggle-Repelling charms would come in handy, too."

"But, would it work - I mean on a Muggle automobile...?"

"We grew up with our dad enchanting Muggle thingamajig's, it would be a straightforward job!"

"Yeah,' intoned Dean, enthusiastically, "I remember - he enchanted that car back in second year, didn't he? This will work, and I'm sure I know where we can get hold of a van..."

"It'd be perfect for a look-out."

"Yeah, and Seamus could drop by the ministry and pick up some Omnioculars!"

"Oh, yes, we can't forget those, can we?" Draco found he couldn't refrain himself from butting in, derisive smirk held firmly in place. "But, you forgot the kitchen sink, Weasley, or couldn't your ambitionless father ever afford one? Tell me, does the Weasley hole even have plumbing?"

As sure as Hippogriffs were huge, useless bloody chickens the results were instantaneous, if not a tad predictable: the lumbering ginger-haired lummox was up on his feet, while his oafish brother jabbed his wand furiously in front of his face.

"Take that back, Malfoy!" Ron bellowed, red cheeked, as he regressed to a Hogwarts schoolboy. "Just take it back, or I'll Hex you into a Flobberworm!"

"Oh, I'm doomed, woe is me! The Weaseball is going to turn me into slime," Draco sneered in retort, mindless of the wand nearly jabbing up his nose. "Tell me, Weasley, has your miniscule mind matured at all in these past few years? Really, are all our top ministry Aurors simpletons who have to share one mere brain cell...?"

Ron's mouth shuttered open and closed as he attempted to (and failed miserably) save face. "Just shut it and keep your nose out, Malfoy, this is not for your ferrety ears - we're talking about highly classified stuff here..."

"Oh, highly classified, is it? Sounded more like a lot of nonsense to me. And if this involves apprehending my father, don't you think I should be included-"

"You're not hear to think, ferret!"

"Take that wand out of my nose, you ginger buffoon! I've heard of the Bat-Bogey-Hex, but this is ridiculous!"

Glaring at the one brother while flapping the other one's wand away with his hand, Draco scraped his chair back across the sawdust strewn floor with force and propelled himself half-way out of his seat, hovering midway between sitting and standing as Potter stood and fixed his eyes balefully on him.

"Sit!" Potter commanded; his wand clenched tightly in his fist, "sit down and shut up! We have important things to discuss here and if you don't fucking stop with your pretentious waffle, I'll transfer you back to Azkaban myself - I'm not putting up with anymore of your rubbish!"

Draco licked his lips, contemplating Potter as he hovered. Bloody Potter! The threat was an empty one, of course, but Draco didn't like the determined way that his eyes glinted. It was very doubtful that Potter would haul his arse back to Azkaban as he'd threatened to; however, he wouldn't put it past the prat to get him out of the way somehow.

Reluctant and glowering, Draco lowered himself back down onto his seat. This was not conceding to the Gryffindor - this was sitting it out until he had a chance to strike out on his own - the Slytherin way of things - this was about biding his time and waiting. Let the idiot think he'd won this time round - Draco knew better - things would be coming to ahead soon, and Draco didn't want to miss out.

Potter seemed mollified by Draco's compliant response. Visibly relaxing slightly, the tight grip on his wand slackened and his eyes lost the fierce glare they held, only to be replaced with a sudden look of tiredness. Rubbing his eyes wearily, Harry sunk back down into his chair.

"Good," he whispered dully, the lethargy cracking his voice, "...good, that's just great You just sit down like a good boy, Malfoy, and let the rest of us get on with it. Ron..." He closed his eyes eyes, rubbing his temples as if trying to erase a headache of massive proportions. "Ron, why don't you send Seamus and Dean - the twins, too - ahead? I'm sure you have a lot to be getting on with, and they really don't need to be hanging around here waiting for whoever's going to come. We're just time wasting, I'm sure you need to get things sorted with the ministry and-"

"I'm not leaving, Harry, I need to see - to talk with - it's most important that I meet with whomever has been..."

"I know that, Ron, but can't you send the others-"

"Although we have the basics covered, I really need to know more before I can send anyone anywhere with authority. I could send Seamus and Dean ahead, I suppose, but Fred and George will have to stay - then I can send them on after and hopefully get to the ministry before..."

Draco blocked the rest of the monotonous, mind-numbing waffle out. Having already heard all that he really needed and indeed wanted to know - that Ron planned to set up an Auror stronghold close to Stonehenge - he'd decided already that a course of Slytherin scheming was well over due and fell to that instead, only letting the odd, interesting to know tit-bits of conversation pierce through his nefarious thoughts of escape and of what to do next.

From the heated words exchanged so far, several things had come to light. Even though Potter and the Weasel had come to an uneasy truce of sorts, it was still painfully apparent that the respite was a shaky one to say the least. Potter still showed several signs of his poorly (in Draco's opinion) concealed distrust and it had become fairly clear that both parties had very different ideas on how to proceed from this point onwards.

Potter, fuelled by distrust and an old, deeply entrenched dislike of his former professor, still wanted to forge ahead to the manor, where he was still convinced that this was the actual location where Lucius intended to press onwards with his dastardly plans. Ron, on the other hand, was still of the opinion that this was little more than a waste of time: the Manor's wards were impenetrable for a start (Draco had to agree with the Weasel on this), and hanging around would do no more than eat away at their time and resources, which were needed elsewhere...at Stonehenge.

Totally convinced that his father and his disciples (for lack of a better word) planned on converging to the Henge tonight, Weasley was adamant on setting a small team up in Stonehenge's vicinity. This was what Snape had instructed and this is what he intended to do, the Weasel had proved unbudgeable on this point. Now, with this knowledge in mind and dully processed, it was down to Draco to do what he did best...play them both to his advantage.

Which version of events did he believe, though? Who did he believe was on the right track? Father had mentioned going to the manor, of course, and that would make Potter right. But, something about the Weasel's unshakeable believe in Snape had struck a nerve in Draco, and assembling down at Stonehenge did seem rather like something his father would do.

Which one of them was right? Whom should he side with?

An elbow struck his shoulder, jolting him out of his thoughts. "Stupid, clumsy fools!" he muttered lowly, eyeing Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnigan with his patented Malfoy glare as they brushed past him on their way to the fireplace.

Must be on their way to obliviate a car, or something, or whatever... Mentally, he shrugged. It didn't really matter to him. Obiviously, their idiotic scheme was underway, and they were off to put the world to rights, or something down that Gryffindor line of thought. He couldn't care less. Only, he wished they could've been a bit less sharp-elbowed about it.

Now, where was he? Oh, yes... he'd been pondering solemnly over which Gryffindor to corrupt. The ginger one with the unnerving new fascination for all things Snape was currently in the lead by two points, but the two-eyed king of dorkdom pearls of wisdom did match what he knew so far.

He watched the dispensable duo become engulfed by chokes, soot and smoke as they flooed out.

Cunning was obliviously called for, with a side dish of intelligence, of course. Should he go with logic and reason , or give himself over to Weasley and instinct. The thought of giving himself over to any Weasley, of any sort, made his pound - it just felt unholy and unclean. Very, very unclean.

But Potter was hardly any better, and time was running short, and ... Good grief!

Draco's eyes widened enormously, as he watched a frightful, pink-headed and sooty sight stumble out of the fireplace and lollop towards them, wearing a grin of epic proportions. Casting a glance to each side of him, he hoped against hope that this was a case of mistaken idenity, but, to his dismay, Potter's and the Weasel's returned cheesy grins told him this was not so. Covering his face in his hands and shifting suspiciously in his chair, Draco let out a dramatically low moan which he felt was entirely befitting to the current situation he found himself in. Could his day get any worse?

Harry turned and glared. Then poked him with vigour. "Say hello to your cousin," he demanded with another vicious poke, "it's not polite to greet people with a moan..."

"Well, that does depend on several things, Potter. I have been known to cause lustful frenzies with my..." Draco broke off to gloat in virgin Potter's beetroot face, but felt his jaw drop instead when he realised the ominous meaning behind the spectacled git's words. "Wait! Did you say cousin?!"

It was the pink-haired, soot covered, grinning monstrosity who confirmed Potter's words, though, as Potter was too busy choking in indignation to reply. Tipping the wink to the Weasel, she put a friendly hand forward.

"Wotcha," she greeted, with a tone that (Draco thought) bordered on sly. "Nice to meet up with you finally, cuz... I've heard so much about you, all of it good, of course..." Here she gave another devious wink. "Tell me, is it true Alastor turned you into a ferret?"

Draco opened his mouth, then shut it. Glared. Then opened and shut his mouth again. Doomed! This day was well and truly doomed! Black and depressing, this day belonged to the deepest abyss of despair...

Teeth gritted, he stood up and reached forward; whether to strangle her till she pleaded mercy, or to take her hand and squeeze hard till she was defeated by his manly grip, he did not know. He knew only one thing: no one mentioned the ferret incident and got away with it.

This meant war.


Chapter 31: And so, We shall Dance into Darkest Night
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And so, We shall Dance into Darkest Night


Chapter Thirty-One



Teeth gritted, he stood up and reached forward: whether to strangle her until she pleaded mercy, or to take her hand and squeeze hard until she was defeated by his manly grip, he did not know. He knew only one thing: no one mentioned the ferret incident and got away with it.

This meant war.

---

He grabbed hold of her hand and squeezed tightly, very tightly. So tightly in fact, that he could feel his veins pop up from the strain. Revenge would be sweet; he would squash her hand until it turned blue, until she begged for that all illusive Malfoy mercy, until...

Well, it would've worked; revenge could have been his - how was he to know that the pink-headed menace was skilled in the ancient art of hand crushing? Bearing down on his hand with a grip of steel, the candy-flossed haired one of mutant strength was doing a fine job of nearly bringing him to his knees.

By Circe, it hurt! And she was laughing -- how dare she? And, and--Ouch!

Relaxing his grip, Draco snatched his hand away and fell to nursing his sore feelings and fingers: his little finger had gone numb, which lead him to believe it would never work again, and his manly ego had taken a pummelling.

Lifting his nose to the air, Draco bestowed the wild-haired nuisance with a look of disdain: cousin she may be, but no one beat a Malfoy at the noble art of hand politics. Though his hand was injured and his pride was hurt, Draco felt the best way forward was to treat the situation with an air of Slytherin scorn and a good dose of denial.

Besides, blue veins popping out were not exactly attractive...

The pink-haired wonder wrinkled her nose and laughed. "Oh, it's too funny..." She paused to regain her breath and reign in her giggles. "You, y-your h-hand shake -- I..."

"I really can't see what it is that you find so humorous about--"

Choking back her mirth, Tonks managed to school her face into a serious expression, although her twitching mouth betrayed her underlying glee.

"I-it's just," she chortled out, "the handshake, the Black handshake... Even though mum taught it me, no one's ever tried it on me before... I just, oh..." Another gust of girlish laughter pealed out.

"Are you?" Draco peered at her through narrowed eyes, taking in the curve of her pointed chin: aristocratic in its tilt, it reminded him of his mother's. "Are you a Black then...?"

"Yeah, my mum is your mum's sis--I mean; Narcissa is my aunt, yes. We're related. Now," pausing, she took a step towards him, "how about a proper handshake, eh?"

Ignoring the bright eyes that now held a serious gleam, Draco allowed himself to be pulled back into a certain recollection that suddenly reared its head and nagged at him. He recognised that face and it was a quite recent memory, he was sure of it. And it wasn't so much her features that provoked the memory, but the way her eyes glinted, the way she held herself, the generosity of her smile.

Taking his silence as a positive, rather than negative reaction to her proposal, Tonks closed the remaining distance between them and began to pump the ponderous young man's arm up and down in a friendly manner.

"Well, then, "she said cheerily as she shook his hand with increased vigour, "Let's begin again, shall we? Only this time on the right foot.... I'm Nymphadora Tonks, your cousin, and I'm very pleased to meet you properly at last. Sorry about mentioning the ferret incident, but I--"

Draco's jaw suddenly dropped in a very un-Malfoyish manner; he'd finally placed her face in his memories. Pulling his hand from her tight grasp, he pointed an accusing finger.

"You're the witch in the tavern--the Leaky Cauldron! That day, when Emily insisted on staying... You smiled at her, at us. You were..." Draco's brow furrowed as he tried to link up all the dots, as he tried to make sense of things and search for a connection. "We met Harry at the station that day, then Ron later on at the Leaky--we fought."

"Then you were there, smiling at us, and, and..." Draco's eyes widened with sudden realisation. "Merlin save us! You were trailing us, weren't you? All of you! You bloody, rotten pillocks! You didn't even trust Emily enough to do her job, let alone--"

"It wasn't Emily I didn't trust, Malfoy, it was you!"

"Thanks for those words of wisdom, Potter; I'm sure that would go down well with Emily. I can't believe you halfwits had me, us, followed..."

"I wasn't tracking you! I was there on the job!"

"Oh, I'm sure you were, Weasley," Draco sneered with derision and a crude cock of the eyebrow, "was she good? Did you do the job well? Did she come back for more of Weasley seconds...?"

A firm hand landing on his shoulder stopped him mid rant; Draco twisted his neck round and observed Tonks coolly through narrowed eyes.

"He was meeting with me, actually, cuz; it had nothing to do with trailing you. Now, can we just calm things down, huh?"

Draco was not to be appeased, though. Ignoring Ron's red-faced glare, the twins gleeful side-glances at each other; Tonks pleading eyes, Harry's stubborn stance, and Luna's owlish stare, he continued undaunted: this was not going to be swept under the carpet, he would not allow this to go unpunished; he had standards, after all, and no Malfoy should be subjected to this new form of humiliation...

"NO! I won't bloody calm down! I stubbornly refuse to be mollycoddled with your hapless words! I want answers, and I want them now! I can't believe - the sheer nerve of all of you! Followed like a common criminal - I want recompense! I'll have your stringy Gryffindor necks for this ... I'll--"

"Well, you are a common criminal!"

"Shut up, Potter! I'll have you know that Malfoys are never common at anything. And if I were a criminal, then I'd be a master one!"

"Thinks a lot of himself, doesn't he?"

"Yup!" Intoned Fred and George cheerfully, enjoying the scene playing out before them immensely. "And not only that," Fred tacked on with a wicked grin, "he's a complete and utter prat, too!"

"I resent that! Slandering my good name ... I'll have you know that--"

"Just stop it right there, Malfoy!" Having had enough, Ron was determined to bring this to a halt and bring things back to the more important matters at hand, such as Tonks delivering over her package to him. Auror training kicked aside past grievances, and he ploughed straight ahead.

"You had just been released from Azkaban!" He punctuated each point the made with a poking finger. "You are a former Death Eater or, at least, sympathiser! You had been held in high security for a year! You are a bloody criminal! A criminal on a year's probation at that! Of course, the bloody Auror office had you on tracking orders! Otherwise, we wouldn't be doing our bloody jobs properly!"

An awkward silence followed the outburst; everybody looked slightly stunned. Then a surprisingly small, emotion-filled voice rasped out, "I was innocent; I was there for supposed protection... I was--"

"Yeah, well so what? Am I supposed to feel guilty about that? You cut the deal. You wanted protection from your dear old dad's friends. You were framed, certainly, but at your own request; it was you who wanted safety behind high-security bars, where no one could get to you...."

Harry stopped to gather his breath and to rub at his temples tiredly; he was tired of keeping this torrid secret to himself after all this years, and he was tired of the guilt that came with it. Even though his imprisonment had been a sham, that did not mean that Malfoy was not guilty. In fact, Harry was sure that Malfoy could be held accountable for many crimes during the war; only the sad truth was that no one, including himself, could prove it.

But that's why it had become so important to prove that he was still working with his father, that he was responsible for Emily's abduction, that Malfoy hadn't changed. Because if Malfoy had had a change of heart, then that meant that Harry would have to re-evaluate a whole lot things about Malfoy as well as about himself...and Harry didn't feel as if he had the capacity to do that right now.

Especially considering that he just knew the ferret was up to no good.

Taking his fingers from his brow, Harry pressed on in a tired voice that was intense with purpose - he could not afford the slightest tinge of sympathy towards the ferret now.

"Your prison sentence may not have been a real one, Malfoy, but that does not make you an innocent. I have not doubt you are guilty of many things..."

If he had expected an indignant outburst from Malfoy, he certainly didn't get one. Nor did he get the usual burst of icy rage aimed at him either: Malfoy stood still, as if frozen to the spot, seemingly lost in some nightmarish memory if his glazed eyes were anything to go by.

The awkward silence surrounding them became more indomitable than Harry thought possible. Pushing his slipping glasses further up his nose, Harry glanced around at his friends, willing them to say something, to say anything. Anything but this dreadful silence.

It was Tonks, who took matters in her own hands.

"Right, now that we've got all that angst and stuff off our chests - what do you say to getting down to the business at hand, eh?"

Putting a guiding hand on Draco's shoulder, she led him over to a nearby chair and gently pushed him down on it. She didn't know her cousin very well, certainly; in fact, what very little she did know about him came from second-hand sources, most of which were not at all favourable.

But Tonks had seen the look in his eye, knew that her young cousin was hurting, and also possibly reliving some trauma. She had seen this many times since the war had ended: traumatised folks that couldn't get past the old atrocities of the war, and her cousin was no different from the rest.

On their side or not, Draco was still a person, who still had to live through his own personal nightmares of the war. Tonks could see this, and her huge, generous heart held plenty of sympathy for her estranged cousin. In fact, her generous heart often got her into trouble on the job.

People told her that she was too soft, that she gave too much of her thought and time to people who didn't deserve it. But, Tonks knew better, no matter what they thought, she knew that she wasn't stupid, or a soft touch.

It was just...

She was fair, and could see more than the black and white of things. No, she would never lament the lost of that bastard, Fenrir, who'd been evil and a true monster to boot. But neither would she see all people that did bad things as truly evil; she knew that people could be blackmailed, or coerced, and she also knew people could change, repent, or even redeem themselves.

Plonking herself down next to her cousin, she smiled a sad smile, remembering that this was one of the things that Remus had loved about her. Her thoughts turned to a murky grey, and the tips of her bright-pink hair turned her natural mousy-brown.

"Tonks? You alright there?"

"Yeah, er, 'm fine..." This wasn't on. Now was not the time for her blue thoughts to be interrupting things, now was the time for getting on with it. Wrinkling her nose in disgust at herself, she gave her cousin a friendly pat on the arm, and concentrated on happy, bright-pink thoughts.

"So, what's first on the agenda then, boys?" Then noticing Luna, she tipped a wink. "Er, and girls, of course."

Ron jumped straight in. "Do you have that package for me?"

"Yeah, hold your Hippogriffs. Just a sec..." Tonks rummaged through several of pockets before producing a small vial covered in cloth. "There you go, five drops of Basilisk Potion for you - that should be more than enough--"

Ron snatched it from her excitedly, exhaling with relief.

"Bloody hell! At last!" Ron held the vial aloft, looking at it with what could be only called total awe. "You don't know how much this means to me--thanks, mate!"

Fred turned to George, watching his younger brother with disbelief. "Easily pleased, isn't he?"

"I'd say so, but does this mean all the drama is over?"

"So, who's going to tell me about what's been happening? I'm a bit out of the loop here."

"No, brother, I don't think it does." Barely suppressing a grin at Tonks question, Fred guessed, quite rightly, that there was more drama to come. "Just look at Harry's face - I'd say we're in for another round."

"So, who's going to fill me in then?" Tonks persisted, flashing her own particular brand of Cheshire-cat grin at the sniggering twosome. "Have I missed a lot? What's all this about a new dark Lord?

Several voices rushed to answer at once.

"Well, you see..."

"It's like this--"

"You wouldn't believe the half of it!"

"I've been tracking down Emily..."

Even though the voices clambered louder, each wanting to be heard, Draco's quiet tone somehow caught everyone's attention.

"Does it honestly matter? Like any one of you knows the whole truth, or cares about what I have to say anyway..."

The total and utter dullness of his tone startled Tonks, as did the lack of any malice. Turning to face her cousin again, she gave his arm a gentle squeeze of encouragement.

"I want to hear it, cuz - why don't you tell me?"

Draco snorted derisively, but didn't look up, choosing to keep his downcast eyes on the mustard stain on the far corner of the table instead.

"Go on, cuz - tell me! I'm all ears. Let me hear your side of things..."

Draco finally looked up and directly into her eyes. A slight flicker of a smirk touched the corner of his mouth.

"Are you quite sure about that - do you think you can handle the truth?"

Ignoring the sudden loud vocal protests at his words, Tonks met his gaze and matched his smirk with a spectacular one of her own.

"Spit it out, cuz - I can handle anything you throw at me. I've heard tales that would turn that would turn your silky locks curly!"

"Well, despite what those dimwits would tell you..." Waving an airy hand and finally pulling himself out of his morose thoughts, Draco let his smirk widen into one of Malfoy legend. "It all started when some idiot from the higher echelons of the ministry decided to palm me off with Carlisle for a year..."

***

Emily stroked the dark-haired boy's hair absently. The head nestled in her lap gave yet another hiss of pain, followed by a long, shuddering moan, which finally drew Emily's attention away from the staring contest she was having with a portrait (of some unknown Malfoy) that hung on the wall.

"It's ok - it'll be alright Sssha..."

Whispering the same mantra of words to comfort the pain-riddled boy, Emily resumed petting his sweaty, tangled mop with renewed gentleness and care, and doubled her efforts to concentrate on the soothing action of her hands.

Zabini was a wreck, Emily noted dully. The viciousness of Lucius' Crucio had left him so very physically weak; his nervous system was ruined, having taken mote than its fair share of brutal, punishing pain; his body still twitched with constant spikes of agony and, even though a few hours had now passed since the torture had ended, time had lessened his pain very little.

"It'll get better soon, I promise. Here, hold my hand - just squeeze it tight if you need to," Emily covered her free hand over his and held it, "just hold on there, yeah. Don't give in to the pain - it'll get better; it'll be alright..."

The sing-song chant of her soothing words lulled Emily back into a state of lucid unreality, which she found herself slipping into with alarming regularity ever since she had been held here.

The edges of her perception blurred and shimmered into nothingness, as if winking out of existence; some colours seemed sharper, almost too intense; absurd images formed out of thin air, lodging themselves deeply in her mind: laughing gleefully and jabbing mocking fingers, these abstract creations ridiculed her every thought and warned her of the insanity that lurked ominously ahead.

With death, or worse, waiting around the corner, Emily's train of thought ebbed and flowed like an oncoming tide: one minute she'd be feeling fairly sane and able to make sense of the world around her, but then the unwanted daydreams would invade again, leaving Emily with a sudden bizarre vision of epic proportions.

Lucius' hair ribbon unravelled itself from its master white-blond head, slinking down to his neck, where it coiled itself round and round, tighter and tighter, before preparing to strike...

"Miss Carlisle! What in Merlin's name, are you giggling about this time? Have you heard a word that I've said?"

Giggling? Had she been giggling again?

Gathering herself back together again and putting all thoughts of homicidal hair ribbons aside, Emily turned her face to look at the man who'd been sent to watch over them, thus preventing any attempt at escape.

"Why aren't you helping us?" Emily asked bluntly, suddenly alert and back in her normal frame of mind. "You're supposed to be on our side ... you should have a plan--"

"If you had been listening, Miss Carlisle, you would have heard my reasons - I cannot--"

Uncharacteristically pacing up and down the room, Severus placed his fingertips to his temple and dug them in hard. The confounded chit of a girl wasn't helping matters at all! She was in shock, obviously - Snape chided himself mentally for such a mundane thought - however, it did not excuse...

Snape halted his train of thought. He was not, at best, the world's most patient man and his patience was now wearing extremely thin; in fact, he mused, he had travelled far beyond his normal breaking point. The girl required aid that he could not give--her eyes demanded that he should just wave his wand and Apparate them all to safety, where she could then be free of this nightmare...

She wanted the promise of escape and assurance, when all he could give her was information and small hope.

He could not help her flee; Lucius would be on him as soon as he would so as much as tried. Neither could he give her the reassurance she needed: hope was fading with each new second that ticked past, and all he could really do was inform her of the necessary information that may be of some small aid... Now, if she would only listen!

He needed her to be aware of position; he needed her to know what she faced this coming night, of what lay ahead....

"Ah, fuck! It hurts - why doesn't it stop? Merlin it's never-ending... ahhhh!" Hissing through gritted teeth, Blaise gripped Emily's hand tightly as he tried to struggle up into a sitting position: the pain seared through him as his muscles screamed in protest and, instead of upright, he found himself leaning against Emily in an ungainly slump.

Unaware of what thoughts he's interrupted, he blinked rapidly to gain focus and found himself staring up at Snape's scowling face. Blinking up at him again, Blaise was able to discern some flicker of emotion glitter in his unreadable black eyes.

"Ah! You are coherent now - this is a positive sign - you're discomfort will begin to abate now, slowly, of course. However..." Snape swooped down on him and preformed a series of complicated swishes with his wand. "Hmm, I see no irreversible damage - you will heal, albeit slowly - Lucius obviously still has some use for you. Now, if you just--"

"Why can't you help him? Can't you do some healing with that wand swishing of yours?"

The sarcastic tone of Emily's words caused Snape to raise his eyes.

"I have informed you already, Miss Carlisle," Snape concealed his wand back into the folds of his robes and pulled himself back to full height. "I cannot perform any healing spells on Mr Zabini, it would not do for him to be seen healing quicker than expected. If Lucius suspected my aid, then I would be unable to offer what little help I can--"

"And what help is that?" Emily sniped. "You've done nothing so far! All you do is talk in riddles about me becoming a key, and poisons, and hallowed nights, and things that make no sense--"

"Oh, so you have been listening, have you? I had begun to think that your mind was lost to all sensibility, but it seems I was mistaken..."

Emily ignored the disdainful curl of his lip, and decided to greet his derisive statement with the silence it deserved. Tempers had frayed as time moved on, this Emily could understand. She could also understand the reason behind his sarcasm, but she loathed to admit that his words had stung her.

It wasn't that she'd been purposely ignoring him; it was just ... just ... that his words had frightened her greatly. Talk of her becoming the key, of wielding flesh to stone, of becoming a doorway to daemon-kind, of all things! Well, it was terrifying! And more than a little laughable, if she was being honest with herself.

It was as if Snape had recited a couple of leafs out of some second-rate fantasy tome, and had expected her to believe the rubbish between the pages.

And if he truly expected her to believe all that he'd said, then that was more than horrifying, and more insane that her shock-addled mind.

Was that really what Lucius had planned for her?

Was she really destined for that?

Blaise coughed a hacking cough, breaking the silence and her disturbing thoughts; Emily's hand flew automatically back to soothing.

"So, I take it she knows about the upcoming ritual?" Blaise asked hoarsely, directing his question to Snape, hoping to diffuse the intense silence.

"Apparently so..."

"It all just seems awfully like a badly plotted stage drama, though. You know: like a pantomime or something equally as silly. It's unbelievable almost! Like you expect me to believe something so utterly ridiculous!"

"Thank you for sharing that observation with us, Miss Carlisle," Snape sniped drolly, "however, what you believe hardly matters - what is most imperative, though, is your understanding. Tonight, this pantomime, as you so adeptly put it, will take place. Lucius plans to make you the key. Nonetheless..."

Here Severus paused. He had little hope to give, however... while they were still all alive and with full command of their senses, that little spark of hope refused to cease and die. Snape ploughed on.

"I have on my person a small vial, an antidote. It will combat the effect of the Basilisk poison..."

"Oh, is that the poison you intend to shove down my throat? That is, if it even turns up!"

"I can assure you, Miss Carlisle, people are doing the best they can--"

"Hmm, that will make me feel better when I'm strapped down to the ground and have legions of daemons pouring out of me, ha!"

Flinching slightly at her forced laughter, Severus made another attempt, "Miss Carlisle, if you let me speak without interruption--"

"Sev-everus!" Blaise coughed out, "Emily's fears are understandable - it doesn't seem like m-much, I m-m-mean--"

"Yet!" Snape boomed out, obliviously reaching his limit as he slapped his hand down hard on the table he stood next to. "Yet, it is the only chance we have!"

At this show of temper, they each fell into silence, only to hear the door of the drawing room slowly creak open: Emily's head snapped round immediately, and she watched Neville shuffle in through thinly veiled disgust and narrowed eyes.

Keeping his eyes fixed on Snape, Neville ignored the glares he could feel heating his back. Lucius had given him his orders, and he was sticking to them. The prisoners could glare all they liked, if they so wished - it didn't effect him in the slightest - he was used to such things.

No, they could have their vicious stares, and he would have the last laugh. Neville scooted over to Snape, just stopping within an inch of his disdainful snarl.

"To what do I owe this pleasure?"

Unperturbed by his sarcastic demeanour, Neville kept his eyes fixed on Snape's hooked nose and continued with his duty.

"Your master wishes you to bring the girl; it is time to prepare her. Leave the traitor behind. Your master wishes me to check that he has not been healed...."

"My master?" Raising a questioning eyebrow, Snape's words were slick with oil. "My master? Is he not yours, also? I'm sure Lucius would love to hear about your form of address ... it gives much away."

Neville, who was inching past the table where Snape stood and towards the slumped Blaise, suddenly stopped in his tracks. Snape could always get to him, no matter what! The bastard still had that hold over him, even now, after all this years. Sometimes it was as if time had rewound and he was back in the dank, dark Potions classroom, back in the time before.

Shaking himself out of his recollections, Neville turned towards the door, letting his small eyes take a quick glance at all three faces before he showing them his back. Then he scuttled out quickly, calling orders over his shoulder as he went.

"Bring the girl! I shall wait outside - if you do not appear in five minutes, my Lord shall know..."

"Bloody coward! Bloody hypocrite!"

Snape had also noted this about the unappealing boy, but had no intention to voice his agreement. Instead, he strode over to Emily and Blaise, and took hold of Emily's arm. Easing her away from Zabini, he motioned her towards the doorway with a shooing motion.

"Go! Lucius will no be best pleased to be kept waiting! Go, and keep your thoughts to yourself."

Emily hesitated. Although she was sure this new callous attitude was just for show, she found herself hovering, uncertain. "Aren't you coming, too?" she couldn't help blurting out.

"Of course, I am, stupid girl! Do you not think I rush to his side, when my master calls? Go to Longbottom, and stop annoying me with impertinent questions."

His words were cold, but his actions told another story.

Emily stood for a moment, deep in thought, collating what she had just seen, then did what she'd been ordered to do. Walking to the door with new determination, she mused over what would come of Snape passing Zabini back his wand and if it would benefit future events in anyway.

And, as she stepped out of the room and into the cold awaiting hallway, she finally felt that elusive flicker of hope.

***

"Jeasus, you scared the shite out of me!"

Fred and George grinned in unison. "Told you he'd scream, didn't I?"

"I didn't scream!"

"Yes, you did, old chap! Jumped a mile high, too--"

"Well--youverynearlygavemeaheartattack! What do you think you were doing, Apparating in like that?"

Fred threw himself down on a Transfigured sofa, which still looked terribly like a car seat, folding his arms behind his head, as he got comfortable. "Well, you see," he began, "George and I had a small bet, one which I won by the way, so hand the winnings over, skinflint!"

Dean turned his head and rubbed his neck, feeling extremely happy to have a small break from being the lookout. When Fred and George turned up, things always looked a lot brighter, and Dean was glad they'd finally put an appearance in.

Leaning against the window, he watched all the fun with a wide grin in place.

"Hey! Wait a minute! What was the bet about then?"

Fred pretended to ponder. "Well, I bet that you'd scream like a Banshee, and George bet on you passing out!"

"I did not!" George took a friendly swipe at his brother before settling down next to Seamus on what could only be described as a badly transfigured worktable. "I put my Galleons on Finnigan running like a girl..."

"Oy!"

George laughed, and didn't even stop when Seamus's shove sent him flying onto the van's floor. "Well, actually," he propped up onto his elbow, schooling his face into seriousness, "we were betting on whether you'd ward this, er, place or not."

"What's the point?" Seamus shrugged. "It's not like anyone's going to turn up."

"We did!"

"Oh, you don't matter - you know what I mean - I meant the bad guys!"

"Oooooooooh, not the bad guys! Whatever will we do?"

"Shut up! Don't be twisting me words, eediot!"

"But, honesty, Finnegan, where did you learn to be so articulate?"

"Oh, ha ha!"

Ignoring the light-hearted banter around him, George's mind, and eyes, turned to other things, like the state of the van they were using for the stakeout.

In all honesty, he'd never seen anything quite like it. What had once been an old transit van now looked like ... well ... a severely disfigured transit van. The seats up front had been ripped out and transfigured into oddly shaped necessities, such as comfortable seating and a small workstation.

That wasn't the worst of it, though.

Someone, probably Finnigan, had tried to make the stark interior of the van a bit more homely, but the end result had ended up looking just...odd: flimsy curtains, made of who knew what, hung limply at the windows, and a China tea set stood next to an old, copper kettle that had been placed on the floor.

The white walls of the van were covered in Quidditch posters; battered old cushions were scattered randomly across the floor --and, to top it all off, someone had hung a knackered chandelier type of thingy, so that it dangled garishly from the top of the van.

George shuddered out a groan--was he really expected to stay holed up in here all night?

Dean's questioning voice snapped him out of his wandering thoughts.

"So what happened when we left? What did we miss?"

And that brought George's thoughts back to a question of his own. "Why do you think no one is going turn up, then? Do you think it's a wild-goose chase? Don't you trust Ron? You believe Harry then, yeah? Am I right?"

"Well," Seamus's voice was hesitant, "Harry normally turns out to be right, doesn't he?"

"He accused my brother, so I suppose you think he was right about that too, eh?"

"I didn't say that! I don't think Ron is a spy!"

"Yeah, well that's what you were implying."

"I didn't mean it like that, it's just..."

"Just what?"

"It's just that Harry is normally right, that's all! I'm not saying anything against Ron!"

Hearing Seamus's indignant tone and seeing the twins darkening expressions, Dean decided it was high time for him to jump in. Shooting Seamus a warning look, he said reproachfully, "Seamus, I remember a time when you didn't always think Harry was right, do you remember? Why don't you try thinking before speaking, yeah?"

Then he aimed an apologetic look at the twins.

"Look, I'm really sure Seamus doesn't think Ron is a spy - you know Seamus - his mouth just runs away with him. And you have to admit - things are just getting weirder and weirder as the day passes. Harry thinking Ron is a spy, Luna saying that stuff about Neville--Malfoy sounding almost truthful. Give him a break, yeah? With everything going on, it's no wonder things are getting a bit confused. Seamus may trust Harry, but that doesn't mean he thinks any less of your brother..."

Fred shifted in his seat, looking a bit uncomfortable as he shot his brother a contrite glance. George picked up on his silent message, and answered for him.

"Yeah, okay. Let's forget it!" He glanced over at Seamus. "Sorry. We didn't mean to gang up on you like that, but, you know, just be careful what you say about our family, right?"

"Okay," Seamus nodded, "and I'm sorry, too. You're right. Let's just forget it."

A silence fell then, leaving them with uncomfortable thoughts and nothing much to say: Fred refolded his arms behind his head and began to study the roof of the van intently; George pushed himself off the floor, ambled over to the window and, leaning his cheek against the cold glass, stared out up at the darkening sky. Seamus remained sat where he was, looking sheepish and dangling his legs, which left Dean to make the first move.

"So what did happen after we left?" he asked, hoping a new subject would clear the intensity from the air.

"Not a lot," George replied, not tearing his eyes from the storm clouds gathering outside the window. "It was pretty boring mostly; we just went over the same things as before. Trying to work out some stuff, you know. Just like before."

"I wouldn't say that, brother," Fred chipped in, sounding a bit more like his normal chirpy self. "You missed quite a good show actually: the ferret was whining, Harry was shouting, and dear old Ronniekins made quite a show of himself, too."

Dean could not suppress his grin. The atmosphere lightened considerably, and the questions began to flow. "Did you work anything out about Malfoy?" He asked.

"Yeah," Seamus had clearly finished brooding, "and what about that Omni glass? Did you work out who took it - was it Nev?

"Who said we worked anything out," Fred grinned. "We left them as confused as they were before: Harry was still harping on about the manor, and how he couldn't believe Neville was the spy; Ronniekins was still going on about finding Snape, and Tonks and Luna were debating over the ferret's eyebrows for some reason...."

"But, didn't you come up with any more plans?" Dean pressed, while snorting back an amused laugh. "Surely they must have come up with something new."

"Well, Ron and Tonks were going off to the ministry, to get backup and things--"

"What about, Harry?" Seamus interrupted. "What did he decide on?"

"Oh, he's still off to the manor, but he's dragging the ferret with him. You should have seen his face, it was priceless!"

"I think he had a valid point, though..."

All heads turned to George, who was still gazing out the window at the first drops of rain that fell from the darkening sky. Fred looked suddenly serious, and the expression sat oddly on his normally carefree face.

"You don't trust Malfoy, do you?" he asked his brother, sharply.

George shrugged noncommittally.

"Do you?"

"Well, if you actually listened to his points, he made a lot of sense. Well," he gave another shrug, "more sense than anything else we've heard today."

"But, it's Malfoy!"

"He's a slimy git! A Slytherin! You can't trust him! Who in their right minds would trust that snake?"

"And who in their right mind would believe our brother was a spy? Or that Neville had turned traitor?" George snapped back, instantly defensive. "Are you telling me you'd believe all that rubbish first, before believing Malfoy?"

"I suppose not, but Malfoy? The ferret!" Fred shook his head in disbelieve. "I just can't believe you'd even think of trusting him."

"I never said that, I just mentioned that he's brought up some valid points. Points worth thinking about." George shifted around to face them, and leaned back against the window, hugging his knees towards him. "I just think he's being overlooked, and that could be a big mistake on all our parts."

"Well, I suppose..." Fred looked uncertain. When George told it straight like that, he couldn't really argue - it all seemed to make sense. But, Malfoy? What it came down to, he supposed, was that he just couldn't get over the prat he'd been at school. Things like that were hard to get over, and even harder to forget, but... could that be Harry's mistake, too?

Maybe they all needed to do some serious rethinking, and now, in this rapidly darkening Disillusioned van, was probably the best time to do it. He could not start with Malfoy, though; he simply didn't want to think about that pillock. No, he would start somewhere else, and with something far more important in his opinion.

"Do you think all that torture he went through, twisted Neville's mind?"

Fred started. Trust his twin to be thinking along the same lines as him.

"Well, he was in St. Mungo's for a long time, and the rumours back then harped on him being dangerously deranged. I remember it well: do you remember how Harry stormed Rita Skeeter's offices in an attempt to put a stop to it?--"

"Yeah, the rumours did stop rather suddenly."

"But, that's all they were, yeah? Rumours. I mean, St. Mungo's wouldn't have released him if it were true, would they?"

"Apparently, they would."

Seamus jumped up startled, "SHITE! I wish people would stop doing that! Me poor heart!"

Hand against his heart, he sank back down and looked accusingly at Ron, who had just Apparated noiselessly in. He was not the only one staring, though, as everyone else gaped at him openly as his words began to sink in.

"Wh-what do you mean?" Dean was the first to gain his senses. "What do you know? What did you find out?"

Taking off his soaked cloak and wringing it, Ron's mouth twisted grimly. "I've just come back from the ministry, and found out an interesting little tip-bit... Apparently, Neville's dear old Grandma brought them off with enough money, and a 'he's given so much up for this war already' plea."

Nobody could quite believe it, and all they could do was stare helplessly as Ron flung his cloak in the corner and stomped over to the window to peer out.

"Any sign of activity yet?" he asked, either ignoring their combined stupor, or just completely unaware of it.

"N-no, nothing, but..."

"What? Did something happen?"

"No, nothing happened," Dean answered, but pressed on with the question they all wanted to know. "But, what exactly does this mean; does it mean what I think it does?"

"Well, if you're thinking that Neville and the ministry may have been keeping secrets," Ron flashed them all a grim grin, "then you'd probably be right. It looks like we've found our traitor."

***

"OW! The bloody thing cut me!"

"Well, of course, it did, Potter!" Draco drawled disdainfully, "how else is it supposed to work out the purity of your blood? We can't be letting any old Mudblood in, you know..." Trailing off deliberately, Draco flashed Harry one of his most evil smirks and snickered. "Did it hurt, Potter? Do you want me to kiss it better?"

Harry glared at Draco, infuriated at his use of that derogatory phrase, while sucking on his throbbing thumb. Honestly, where had his brain been hiding when he insisted that the ferret had to tag along with him? Still nursing his sore thumb, Harry jabbed accusingly at Malfoy's chest with a digit that was still relatively pain free.

"Not funny, Malfoy!" Harry muttered over a mouth full of thumb. "You could've at least warned me."

"And spoil all my hard earned fun?" Malfoy opened his eyes comically wide, and Harry could see he was he was about to go for a killer punch line. "What do you take me for, a Hufflepuff?"

"Is that the best you can do, Malfoy?" Harry rolled his eyes, and finally took his wounded thumb out of his mouth--he was a Gryffindor, and he was brave, and nursing his war wounds was something to be kept from enemy (make that Slytherin) eyes. Harry squared his shoulders, moving in for the kill.

"You know, Malfoy," if he could purr his words, he would have, "this is all stacking up against you: your attitude, your obstinacy--your total failure to help in anyway..."

That seemed to have done the trick; Draco instantly nettled.

"Fuck you, Potter!" Draco fumed, "I've given all the help you lot need. It's not my fault that you choose to ignore it!" And, with that, he turned his back on Harry, and stormed off.

Harry watched Draco turn his back on him, and walk over to a point in the looming hedge that seemed a slightly darker than the rest of the monstrous growth: tall, ominous, but neatly clipped, the hedge-of-bloody-doom (well, that's what chose to Harry call it) was typical of a Malfoy.

Many people may have been amused to learn that the infamous Malfoy Manor was warded by mere greenery, but having been attacked by said shrubbery, Harry had to disagree--the tall, elegant and stately hedge, with its sneaky, bloodthirsty thorns, emanated Malfoy sneakiness from its roots to its uppermost twig.

Put it this way, Harry had learnt a sore-thumbed lesson: don't be fooled by the innocuous, because you never know when it might turn around and bite you, and bite you hard.

Harry sighed: the day had been long, and the weariness that he'd carried around all day had finally seeped into his bones, making even the slightest move he made lethargic. Removing his glasses and then sliding them on again, Harry refocused his sight and energy.

Luna, he saw, was at Draco's side, questioning him with wide-eyes and utmost attention.

"Why is this patch here darker than the rest?" Harry listened intently as her dulcet tone echoed in the night. "Is there any particular reason for it, or has it always grown that way?"

"You can see it?" Draco demanded, his forehead furrowing into a frown. "It's not meant to be noticeable - only true Malfoy's are meant to see - how can you?"

"It's really obvious, though - is it meant to be secret?"

"Stop! Wait!"

Sensing Draco's internal aggravation, Harry stepped forward, between Draco and Luna, and laid a warning hand on his shoulder.

"I can see it, too," he told him flatly, "what's the problem? Why shouldn't we be seeing it? Is it down to bloodline thing? Because Luna is as pure as you are, Malfoy - so it really shouldn't be a problem."

"No! It has nothing to do with that," Harry watched Malfoy clench his hands to his head in what could be only called distress. "You shouldn't be able to see, only I should be able to tell it apart, unless...."

"Unless what, Malfoy?"

"Unless the wards have come down..."

"Oh!" Harry wracked his brains for more. "Does that mean?--"

"If you can see the entrance to the secret path," Draco retorted dryly, "it means that my father, the master of the wards, has taken his leave of the manor."

"Oh!" Harry realised he sounded quite daft, but could not help himself. "And why does that enable us to see it?"

"Because," said Luna, almost wistfully. "Because, with Mr. Malfoy away, the house recognises Draco as the true master, and because he sees us as welcome guests, we can see the where the opening of the secret passage begins..."

"Oh," Harry said again, unwilling to break the pattern he'd set up

Rolling his eyes, Draco shot him his most withering look. "Are you going to stand there all day, Potter? Or are you going to follow me?"

"I'm not your follower, Malfoy," Harry quipped back at once, only to regret it when he saw Malfoy disappear into greenery with Luna tagging along after him. And, not wanting to be left behind, Harry dived in head first, forgetting to worry about the thorns that surrounded him.

He needn't have worried, though--the thorns drew back, making his journey forward a fairly pleasant one, and Harry followed Luna and Draco with hardly a word. Content to peek through random gaps at the manor and its grounds as he passed, Harry walked on with a strange sense of serenity.

Walking quietly down the secret path, Harry found a strange zone of contentment: it was as if he did not belong to the here and now, and as if the path that he straggled along did not know tomorrow. But, all too soon for his liking, Harry found himself coming to an untimely halt.

"The hedge ends here," Draco told them, his tone sounding haughty but also slightly nervous. "From now on, we'll have to cross some open spaces: the trees and shadows will cover us for awhile, but, as
we draw closer, we'll face a greater risk of being seen."

"That really shouldn't matter, though," Draco continued to inform them, "as I'm quite certain my father and his latchkeys aren't at home at the moment. But, it's best not to take unnecessary risks. Follow me and keep to the shadows--I'll try and veer us to the south door, where we should pass unnoticed."

"From there we can proceed to father's study," here Draco swallowed, finding it hard to conceal his nervousness to the others. "And if, indeed, my father is gone, then we should be able to find some sort of documentation to his plans and whereabouts, but if this is some elaborate trick of his..."

Neither Luna nor Harry needed him to continue; both of them understood the perils that this path could lead down. Giving Draco the go-ahead nod, Harry wondered where his sudden trust of all things ferret had sprung from--but, not having the time to linger long with his thoughts, he soon found himself following his former schoolyard enemy blindly down shadowy paths.

---

"Are we safe now?" Harry asked, struggling to regain his breath, as he allowed himself a moment to rest against the ornate marble wall. Remembering the mad dash across the endless grounds, Harry just felt thankful to be out of sight of the hundreds of windows that had glittered menacingly down on him, and to be finally safely inside away from the disabling cold.

"Safe?" Draco laughed harshly, "we're we ever?"

Harry narrowed his eyes in a baleful glare: if Malfoy wanted to play cat and mouse with him, then Harry was more than ready. Piercing him with his best glare, Harry prepared himself for the mind games that he knew were about to begin.

"Shut it, Malfoy, and just lead on. Don't tell me you're frightened - does your daddy scare you?"

Draco's brow furrowed into a scowl instantly. How dare he? Trust Potter to think that this was all game! Honestly, did the prat really have no idea at all? Before Draco could voice his thoughts aloud, though, a low moan echoed from the room adjacent from them.

"What was that?" Potter all but yelped, his eyes darting towards the direction of the sound. Then he lowered his voice to vibrating hiss. "Malfoy, you'd batter not be..."

But Harry never got to finish his sentence. Distracted by Draco suddenly darting ahead towards the source of the groans, Harry found himself somewhat disorientated and out of place. Luna pushing past him, wide-eyed and looking eager, soon snapped him out of it, though.

Racing forward, Harry caught up with her just as she reached the doorway.

"Luna, wait! Be careful, don't - stay back!"

Grabbing a hold of her arm, he whirled her behind him, and out of harms way. Then stepping forward, with his wand at the ready, he entered the room first.

---

Zabini froze on hearing the voices outside. Was it over already - had he calculated time wrong? No, surely, enough time had not passed; the ritual could not be over so soon. But, why then, was he hearing voices in the hall? Why had someone returned so early? And, even more importantly, what did it mean for him?

Blaise decided it was for the best to scuttle behind the couch and hide. This proved to be his downfall, though. Even the wand in his hand could not prevent the low, agonising moan that escaped him as his muscles screamed in protest at being forced to move so quickly.

Knowing he was as good as found, Blaise decided it was best to face what unknown foe lay beyond the door and gripped his wand more tightly in his hand. Then Draco had appeared, closely followed by Harry Potter, and then Blaise had felt his grip on reality slip before passing out.

---

Zabini came around to a gentle buzzing sensation that seemed draw all the pain and weariness from his body, and Harry Potter looking down on him with intense concentration. Blinking, he wondered about how absurd his dreams had become before passing out again.

The next time Zabini came round, he came round to Draco arguing loudly with Harry Potter about how much he hated him. Then he had smiled, thanking Merlin to be back where he'd belonged, and had somehow managed to stay conscious.

---

"So, you're saying that he's taken Emily to Stonehenge?"

"Yes," Blaise answered for what felt like the millionth time. Really, he was more than thankful for the healing that Harry had given him, but if Harry asked him that question again, he might very well explode. And Draco keeping on saying that he 'told him so,' wasn't exactly helping matters either. Zabini was seriously considering passing out again.

---

"So, what do we do now?"

"We go to Stonehenge, of course!"

"Then I'm coming with you..."

Draco snorted derisively, but his face looked concerned. "You can't, Zabini," he told him matter-of-factly, "you're still too weak! You've only just come round again - you'll get yourself killed if you come with us!"

Zabini watched Harry closely.

---

Harry chose to ignore the conversation between Luna and Draco, deciding to concentrate on other things instead, such as the things that Zabini had confirmed for him. Zabini, who sat there quietly, with eyes that never left him.

Did he know? Harry thought that he probably did. Zabini looked like he knew a lot of things, and Harry had the feeling he probably knew too much.

But, did he know how much he hated to be wrong? And did he know that he felt like he'd been delivered a disabling punch to guts?

Harry hated to be wrong, certainly. But, he also knew how to roll with the punches and get on with things--it was an integral part of him that kept him glued together, when he should be falling to pieces instead.

He was wrong and everybody else was right, Harry accepted that with out hesitation. But, instead of dwelling on just how wrong he'd been this time, it was time for him to put his wrongs to right.

He apologised stiffly to Draco, and refused point blank to see the self-satisfied smirk that crawled over his face after he did so. Then his thoughts drifted to Ron, who had been right. More right than him, anyway. That was another wrong for him to right, and that meant he had to keep going.

Harry made a sudden movement, and pretended not to see how Zabini's watching eyes had widened in anticipation, or how Luna's lips had worked quickly to form the question that now danced there.

"What is it, Potter?"

Unsurprisingly, it was Draco who asked the question that needed to be asked first. This caused Harry no surprise whatsoever, as he could see the determined glint that lit up his cold, grey eyes. Ordinarily, this might of caused Harry some small concern but as he still had to put his wrongs to right, Harry simply decided to ignore it--he had other things to be getting on with for now.

"What is it?" Draco repeated impatiently, "what the hell is wrong, Potter?

This time, though, Harry chose to answer the question.

"We're wasting time here," he answered simply, "and I think it's time for us to go."

***

"Where's Tonks then? Shouldn't the backup be here, by now?"

Ron ignored the question, choosing to stare into the rain sodden night instead. The same question had been asked of him many times and in many ways as the day had passed slowly through late afternoon, into early evening, and then to darkest night.

Not wanting be rude, Ron had answered the question dutifully each time it had been asked, giving the same old, trusted answer every time: I don't know!

But now the question was starting to wear on him.

The truth of the matter was this: he had no bloody idea where Tonks and backup was right now! And if things had gone as planned, well, they should have Apparated in hours ago. He had no idea what was going on, and the fact that he didn't grated on his already frazzled nerves.

So much could wrong tonight; too much depended on him and what he decided to do next. And, at times like these, he sometimes wondered why he'd ever really wanted this much responsibility. Why on Earth had he wanted to become an Auror? What had made him choose the path that had led to this?

Finally tearing his gaze from the dark, eerily silent world that lay outside, Ron rubbed viciously at his tired, dark circled eyes. Self-questioning wouldn't help him now; he really needed to get past this... But, despite his mental self-scolding, Ron couldn't help the sinister feeling that swept over him, an ominous feeling that seemed to promise a night filled with doom.

Would he be able to get the poison to Snape in time?
Could he lead a team of only five through this night safely?
Would he be able to get Emily out to safety?
Would Tonks arrive anytime soon with back up?
Had he got it all wrong?
Was he doomed to fail?

His thoughts turned briefly to Harry at the manor...

Would Harry turn up?
And, if he did, what would he bring with him?
Was Harry the missing ingredient in this fucked up mixture?
Was Harry the one, who could turn the night's fortunes around?

The door of the van slid open and a breathless Seamus fell in, bringing the cold, icy chill of the night air in with him. "A small group just Apparated in!" he rasped out. "They--"

"Look!" Dean interrupted, dropping his Omnioculars with a clutter. "Over there! There's even more arriving!"

Ron stared into the night, watching carefully as the dark, indistinguishable figures Apparated into the hallowed circle of stones; one by one, they appeared, all hooded, and heavily cloaked. And as soon as their feet touched this holy ground, Ron watched them as they scurried off to their appointed places, where they stood like silent sentinels waiting patiently in the night.

The ritual was about to begin...

***

Dressed in a robe of virgin white, Emily stepped forward into a living nightmare and promptly stumbled.

Lucius held his arm out to Emily in a most courteous manner, and Emily felt her unwilling hand stretch out to take his arm in hers.

This is nothing but a dream!
A night terror!
She would awaken from this bewildering haze at any moment...


"Come, Emily," he spoke her name almost as softly as a loving caress, "come, it is time. Your final moment has come. Step forward, girl; come, follow me... Come; let us partake in the 'Turning of the key.'"

TBC...

Chapter 32: The Turning of the Key
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The Turning of the Key


 

Chapter Thirty-Two
 



Emily sighed. The world, as she knew it, was about to come to an end and all she could was exhale softly: the time had come, only doom lurked around the corner, and she could only bow her head, eyes fixed to the ground and pretend that this was some freaky fantasy; another random page turned in a book, that she was someplace, somewhere - that she was in the middle of somewhere she really didn’t belong… .

“No!” whispering out the word defiantly, harshly even, Emily shook her head sharply and came to a stuttering halt. No, she wouldn’t let this happen; she just couldn’t let herself be led meekly into this nightmare without any form of resistance - she must fight this - she would enter this fiasco on her own terms, she would enter this demented circus ring with her head held high and with her spirit unbroken.

Adamantly, she stood stock still, refusing to take a single step further.

Lucius’s cold hand shot out and clasped her wrist tightly, twisting it until the pain sharpened to what felt like her breaking point.

“You will come, “ he whispered, viciously. “You’ll follow me… .”

I will come…” she answered quietly, swallowing a lump of fear that had wedged firmly in her throat.

Stumbling along behind him, her wrist still caught in his iron grip, she tripped her way through the grit and pebbles that littered their path, which caused her steps to become jagged and clumsy.

“But I’ll not believe in it,” she stated, shaking her head negatively. Then, almost to herself, she added musingly. “This is all nonsense, just plain stupidity…”

The stars above gathered and amassed, twinkling their unspoken promises in the night kissed air and Emily knew that her time in the spotlight had finally arrived.

One, two, three… .

She was but a lamb to the slaughter.



*



The light pitter-patter of rain tapped against the window; quiet yet persistent. It’s chill penetrated every gap of the van, whistled through buckled iron, and seeped slowly through each inhabitant stood peering out the freshly splashed windows.



“Blimey,” said Ron, as a shatter of lightening pierced through the gloom of the formidable landscape. “I reckon it’s about time to get going… .”

The thunder rolled and boomed, spluttering it’s deep, ancient chords amongst the stones, it’s resounding deep tone echoing through the night.

“Yeah, blimey, “ Ron repeated, a little nervously. “It’s time. Let’s go, boys.”

“On it,"  muttered Seamus, bending over to tie his one of shoe-laces with fumbling fingers. “Yo-you heard the man, let’s get going-”

Dean held his wand at the ready, and the others followed suit: the van doors richoted open, clanging loudly apart, and they all stumbled out, one after the other, claiming the name of Merlin as they tripped over each other in their eagerness to be out of the van and into the freshness of the night air.

The rain slashed down. The thunder still rolled. Lightning flashed across the inky black sky, revealing the cowled figures that still stood in the shadows, chanting indefinable words.

The ritual had begun.



*



Pop! Pop! Pop!

Behind one of the ancient and lofty stones, shadowy figures suddenly appeared, quietly Apparating in, one after the other: the first quickly ducked down and quickly made his way along the width of the huge boulder. As the person peered cautiously around the stone’s edge, another figure appeared and, after glancing briefly over at his companion, he speedily made his way to the other end in a low crouch.

In unison, they both silently withdrew their wands from their robes as two more of their company Apparated in together, arm in arm.

On landing, one of the last to appear staggered and almost fell, only managing to stay upright because of the tight hold his friend had on his arm. The rain still fell.

“I’ve got you, Blaise,” Luna whispered softly, gripping his arm firmly with one hand as she swiped rain drenched fringe from her forehead with the other. “It’s all right. I won‘t let you fall.”

Grimacing in pain, Blaise nodded a curt thank you Luna’s way as he managed to regain his footing and, when his equilibrium was finally found, he looked furtively around at the strange view before him: inside the ancient ring of stones a gathering of maybe twenty or so hooded figures stood in a circle reciting tonelessly. No, not a circle, no… it was more of a semi circle - a horseshoe - an inverse horseshoe which curled inwards to reveal a standing stone so huge that it domineered and shadowed the scene before him. And within it’s looming shadow sagged a smaller shape, a human form, an outline of a young girl seemingly joined to the massive rock. Emily. Blaise took in a sharp gasp of breath.

Sssh, Zabini, get down now!”

Blaise quickly crouched down at Harry’s admonishment and scuttled as quickly as he could over to him. Wincing as pain once more racked his torture abused body, he licked his lips trying to bring much needed moisture to them.

“Can you see her?” he rasped out. “It’s Emily, isn’t it-”

“Yeah, I think so…” Harry replied.

“Are we going in then?” Blaise asked, anxiously. Then trying to regain recollect himself and trying to regain some of his Slytherin senses. “I mean, what’s your plan? What do we do now?”

“Now, we -”

Fuck!” hissed Draco.

Blaise’s head snapped in Draco’s direction, missing the sight of two more heavily cloaked people stepping into the ring of followers.

“It’s father… .”

Blaise’s head snapped back again. Sure enough, although heavily hooded, Blaise recognised the sight of Lucius Malfoy’s rain slicked shoulders. Beside him strode Snape, his bat like countenance unmistakable even through the murky shadows of the night.

Thunder rolled heavily once again, and lightning streaked across the indigo sky. The rain beat even harder against the wind that whistled and gusted around them. The two men approached Emily and stood just before her, one to each side. Then, as Lucius’ began to speak in his cold and crisp voice, the tormented weather seemed to lull and quieten and his clipped and concise tones echoed through the night.

“Thrice turn me, then wield me, stone to flesh and flesh to stone….”

Snape stepped forward, momentarily blocking Emily from view, and all Blaise could see was the incandescent tip of Snape’s wand etching an intricate pattern over her slumped form: like some mad muggle priest, the tip of his wand appeared to be anointing her with the sign of a reverse cross, as muggles used to do in the Dark Ages when tales of witches, wizards and daemons ran wild.

Blaise thoughts turned to Professor Binns and he remembered his dreary, tonal voice explaining to a half asleep class room of bored young witches and wizards of the ludicrous things muggles believed in in those days.

This is total, fucking madness, he thought blearily as old recollections returned. Stupid. Ridiculous! What in the name of Merlin was Lucius doing? What the fuck was he thinking about? Why the hell was pure blood Lucius resorting to muggle means?

“Thrice turn me, then wield me, stone to flesh and flesh to stone…”
“Thrice turn me, then wield me, stone to flesh and flesh to stone…”
“Thrice turn me, then wield me, stone to flesh and flesh to stone…”


Lucius’ continued to chant, lulling Blaise into a hazy reverie of half remembered memories, pulling him down into a abstracted slumber. Leading him down a long and dark winding road to…

“No!”

Blaise jerked awake, as someone close by roared out, their voice full of pure fury.

“No! Fuck you, Father! Stop this. I’ll make you stop this!”

Suddenly wakeful, Blaise’s head swivelled in time to see Draco charging straight through the amassed acolytes as he tried to reach his father. Determined and not caring, Draco bulldozed through them all with no forethought and no wand.

“Fuck!” echoed Potter. “Fucking hell! The stupid pri-”

“Harry, what next? What do’we do?” Luna tripped her way towards them. “Is it time for plan B?”

Blaise stared at Harry intently. “Your orders, Potter?”

Harry hardly missed a beat. Moving forward, wand aloft and ready for the fight, he issued his instructions already on his way into the fray.

“Stay behind. Get to Emily’s stone. Help her. I’ll deal with this idiot… .”

Blaise turned to Luna. Luna looked at Blaise; with a quick nod of agreement, they withdrew their wands and, as quickly and stealthily as they could, they began to make their way towards Emily.



 *



Emily hung in the in-between. Neither in the here or there, she stared out into the night, seeing nothing and everything around her at the same time. Her wrists hurt from the magical ties that bound her, and her body slumped slightly forward as her wrists could not take the strain of keeping of keeping herself upright. She was so, so tired, and she was in pain: invisible as the tight knots were, they still burned into her flesh, causing Emily to writhe and contort in discomfort as she swayed there.

This is madness. This is beyond crazy. This is… actually happening? To me? Who were these people? These people who could watch on and not… well, not do anything and just let this happen. Were they sane? Am I still sane? And - just what the fuck was Snape doing?

His wand gymnastics weren’t impressing her much.

Emily tried her hardest to focus hard: putting the various fragments of her mind back together, she concentrated on Snape.

Snape. Snape. Snape. What did he want her to do again? Oh, yes… he just wanted her to swallow a little Basilisk poison. Insert eye roll here. To save mankind from various Daemons and, of course, Lucius Malfoy; all she had to do was take a little sip.

Apparently, he had a soupcon of antidote in his pocket, and, Emily was quite pleased to hear that to be honest. After all, she didn’t fancy dying by daemon invasion or big snake poisoning… But the problem was - no big, scary snake potion or antidote were within her reach yet, and, in the meantime, Emily’s body was about to host the becoming of daemon kind. A bit of a bummer, huh?

Emily shook her head, trying to get rid of her random thoughts.

Where’s Draco?

Underneath all the fear, all the bravado, Emily yearned for him. Just to see him would be enough. To touch him one more time. If she were going to die very soon, she wanted to go remembering their memories together; she wanted to see his well defined face, his sneer and snarl, his rare (but beautiful) smile, all of his complex and wonderful emotions just once more. She just wanted to see him again, one more time.

Was this love?

Love?

Did I ever truly tell him that I loved him?

A voice reverberated through her head: Stop thinking of him and start thinking of yourself. Death is not romantic notion. It’s real, you’re gone. No more fancy-smancy rubbish! Put your head on right, and stop delving into self pity.



“But,” Emily cried out. “ What can I do?” For she had recognised the phantom voice of her aunt Nancy’s voice again. “I’m helpless….”



“Fight it!” said her aunt Nancy.

“Fight!” said her dad.

“Fight!” Harry told her.

“Fight it,” intoned Hermione.

“Do what you can do,” whispered Luna.

Love you, love you, love you,” Emily heard her mum whispering to her and tears sprang into her eyes.

“Hold on, I’m coming for you,” Draco said, his voice unravelling her once more. “I won’t let them hurt you-”

His voice exploded in her head and, suddenly, she was aware again. Things were happening. Lifting her head slightly and peering into the dark, Emily looked up to see Draco darting his way towards her, his slick blond hair plastered down by the driving rain.

“Draco,” she rasped out in warning, “be careful…”

Her warning fell on deaf ears, though, as pandemonium broke loose. For another figure ran into the night, wand held straight in front of him and round spectacles glinting furiously. Harry! Emily saw Harry enter the fray, spells zapping out in front of him, paving his way towards her. Her Harry. Coming to protect her.

And then more. More people appeared on the horizon. Various shapes and forms that seemed vaguely similar to her. A familiar red-headed, long limbed person, who darted between Lucius’ followers, ducking under hexes and spells. Rushing forward as the other newcomers covered him.

Help had come, or so it seemed, and Emily felt the tingle of exhilaration fill her. Exhilaration and… pain. A surge of searing pain fired through her body; white hot heat, beginning from the tips of her toes it raced fervently upwards, finally reaching her brain where it boiled and turmoil with ferocity. Emily opened her mouth to scream, and the raging flames of hell streamed out.



*



Snape blinked rapidly against the intense heat that now surrounded the Carlisle girl. Hardly believing his eyes, he lowered his wand and took an unsteady step back. Dear Merlin, he thought as the ground beneath his feet began to tremble violently. What on earth is happening now?

Taking another two speedy steps backwards and only just aware of the commotion behind him, Snape looked on in dawning horror as the earth beneath Emily’s feet began to crumble, it’s soil and sodden leafs swirling into a newly set in motion vortex. The rhythm of the eddy slowly twirled and disintegrated, and a hole began to emerge and gradually spread. Immense darkness pulsed from within and, glancing downwards, Severus saw the twisted forms of grotesque and misshapen shadows dance down below.

Is this is truly happening? Did that damnable article actually work? What infernal mess had Lucius got him into now?

Snape came to a quick decision, he must act now, otherwise the Carlisle child would be unreachable, and, Merlin only knew, what would happen when those deformed things crawled forth. Something must be done. Soon. Now where was that wretched Weasley boy when he needed him the most?

A red laser of light streaked past his head, glistening prettily it flew into the night: he spun quickly around, ducking slightly, wand firmly in his determined hand, and finally saw the tumult going on behind him.


*


Draco rushed in heedlessly, not caring about anything but reaching his bastard Father. He’d promised him. Promised. He’d told him that he wouldn’t harm Emily. The fucking liar! He should’ve known, though, as his father was never a man to be trusted… and, by Merlin, how he hated him now. Loathed him! He would kill him with his own bare hands…


Ducking down and avoiding a nasty blasting curse, he dodged a blundering Crabbe Senior and continued his way forward. A Diffindo streaked past and he jerked to the left, then ducking the lethal green flash of an Avada Kedavra, Draco found himself within reach of his father. Hatred filled his every pore. He came to a halt a few paces behind him and his hands clenched in fury. This is it, he thought, he would stop all of this now… he would finally have it all out with him!

“You lied to me!” he snarled furiously, swiping his drenched hair from his eyes. “You bloody lied to me, father!”

Lucius stilled at the sound of his son‘s voice. Then flinging a careless stunning spell at someone, who looked suspiciously like a Weasley, he turned to face his erstwhile son.

“Ah, Draco,” he drawled with a sardonic smile hovering on his lips. “Have you finally come to kill me… son?


*


Narrowly avoiding the flash of red flying in his direction, Ron doggedly made his way towards his former potions master; stood before the ominously looming stone, his old professor aimed well directed spells at anyone who got to near him and the ground surrounding Emily.

Ron drew in his breath. Ground. What ground? Ducking another jet of jagged spell-light, he dropped, and made his way along in a crab-like crouch. The earth surrounding Emily was gone. Bloody gone! Disappearing before his eyes. Bloody hell, he thought, as he had to swerve hastily to the left. The whole ground was trembling.

Stumbling slightly as a fresh tremor rocked the soil beneath him, Ron finally found himself at Snape’s side.

“Sir,” he rushed out. “I’m here, I have it.”

Still defending the boundary around Emily and the embryonic chasm beneath her, Snape issued Ron with his most acerbic stare.

“You have the Basilisk poison?”

“Yes, sir!”

Snape deflected another stray hex as Ron fumbled in his pocket searching for the vial. Finally, he found the illusive buggering bottle and took it out; balancing in the palm of his hand, the acidic emerald green liquid within gleamed hideously.

“I have it here…” Ron couldn’t resist a shudder. “What should I do now?”

“Give it to me,” Snape hissed urgently. “And defend the circle while I manage the rest.”

Ron immediately threw the potion to him; Severus caught it deftly. Admiring the catch for a moment, Ron paused briefly, before turning around and beginning to fling defensive spells into the medley in front of him.

“Keep an eye on Lucius! Don‘t let him near…”

Acknowledging this with a curt nod, Ron snapped his eyes to Lucius, who, at that very moment, seemed to be having a serious chat with his son, the ferret. Really, was now the time or place? Ron snorted and narrowed his to concentrate on his aim. Just one well directed curse would do it.

“Incarcerous!” Ron missed his target and had to duck aside as a hex flew past him. So Lucius’ hench men were guarding him, hmn. Ron’s next incantation deflected an oncoming spell. Maybe it would be better just to defend for now. Lifting his wand arm, he focused fully and conjured up a staunch Protego charm. That should hold them off for a while, he thought. The charm was strong and it’s reach wide. It would protect them for a few minutes or so.

Ron turned his head to check on Snape. His eyes widened at the sight before him. Bloody hell! Although the cavity beneath Emily had advanced only a little, a new and much more ominous turn of events was underway. Through the still slashing rain, he saw images that belonged in nightmares: twisted shadows and crooked beings, deformed creatures that clawed their way into the torrential night. Ron held his breath.

“Severus,” he wheezed out, “what in the name of-”

Unstoppering the poison vial with deft hands, Snape muttered to himself, ignoring Ron‘s question.

“Sir!”

“What?” Snape snapped, exasperated. Then, glancing at the newly arising smoky column of ghoulish apparitions, he muttered back. “Daemons…”

Ron just continued to stare, slack jawed. Shit, this thing is actually working? Bloody hell! “Demons?”

“Yes, Daemons, Weasley, “ Snape confirmed, again. “Now, if you would be so good as to keep your mind on our defences, instead of gawping like a fish and looking foolish, I have important things to attend to.”

With this admonition, Ron swiftly snapped back to attention. Although his protection charm was still going strong, it was best to keep your eye on the ball, or, in this case, your eye on the former Death Eaters. Because, while curses and hexes were unable to get through the protection charm, people with knifes and other weapons surely could. Scanning the fighting before him, Ron assured himself that there was no immediate danger. To be on the safe side, though, he kept on the alert.

“All under control,” he reported, glancing quickly back at Snape. “I’m on it, the charm will hold for a while yet-”

Ron broke off, suddenly. He watched as Snape levitated the bottle of poison towards Emily, tipping it’s lethal contents into her gaping mouth. He blanched. This wasn’t on. This was being an accessory to murder, what in Merlin‘s name was Snape doing?

“What the bloody hell are you doing,” he yelled, furiously. “You’re going to kill her, you nutter! Stop! Don‘t, you‘ll hurt her!”

“I’m only doing what is necessary, boy,” Snape told him, continuing to pour. “Do not worry about Miss Carlisle, I have thought of everything, I have the antidote close at hand…”

Antidote. Right. The git had antidote on him. All right then. Reassured, Ron turned back around and continued his guard.

Behind him, Severus steadily trickled the last drop of the deadly venom into Emily’s parted jaws, then took a step back to study his work. All became still for a moment, then the world around them changed yet again.

Bursting into life, soulless screams shrieked and wailed, blending seamlessly in with the cries pouring forth from Emily‘s mouth; flames flickered and flared within the chasm underneath her feet before shooting forth into the stormy night sky.

Within the shadow column, tormented figures writhed and moaned in distress. The ground underfoot shook and heaved. The rain lashed down. Thunder rolled across the tumultuous sky, and streaks of lightning charred the night. If everything was pandemonium before, well, then this was Agamemnon.

Watching everything transpire, Snape swallowed back a small unbidden yelp, and schooled his momentary distressed expression into his familiar gloomy scowl. Then, without further a do, he began to finish the task he had advertently set in motion.

Underneath Emily’s feet, the cavernous chasm began to gradually close, taking it’s howling daemons with it.



*



Into this scene, a fugitive figure crept. Too much was happening, at the same time, for anyone to really notice him, but, as everything cascaded into chaos, Luna was aware of him, as was Zabini at her side.


Carefully, they followed, in the dimness, just out of sight. Sticking to the shadows, Luna tiptoed forward, eyes fixed firmly on her feet to avoid the horrible sights around her. Aware of every step she took, she tried to keep the more troubling thoughts and ideas from popping into her mind. Keeping to Harry’s instructions instead, she moved forward, trailing the person who was creeping stealthily ahead of them.

Just what was Neville up to this time?

Harry had told her to protect Emily, but she knew she had so much more to do: she had to follow her old school friend, she had to try and stop the horrid things that were about to take place. And Luna had a peculiar foreboding that some very bad events were about happen, things that were even more worse than the terrible activities taking place now. Approaching the looming stone, Luna was aware that something huge was about to happen. She drew out her wand and waited.

“Lovegood,” Blaise asked quietly, hovering by her shoulder. “What are we going to do?”

“Nothing. Just watch,” she replied. “We’ll know when we’re needed.”

“And is there any particular reason for us following Longbottom?” Blaise asked, his voice close to her ear. “Cause we’re meant to be helping Emily. Following him might be a deviation, you know, I think we should get to Emily first.”

Luna shook her head and, putting her finger to her lips, shushed him: he wasn’t to be distracted, though.

“I really think we need to get to her, Lovegood,” he continued. “I mean, just look, everything’s going to hell here, we need to…”

Placing her hand gently over his mouth, Luna muffled the rest of his words; it wasn’t that she wanted avoid them, she did understand Blaise’s objections, but a strange surety had her within it‘s grip. Following Neville was important, she was very certain of this, and keeping him in sight was just, well, necessary. And, besides, Luna saw that Mr Snape had things in hand so far, sort of. She wasn’t quite sure what he was doing exactly, but he seemed to have things in control. Distracted, she watched him for a moment or two, as he finished tipping some sort of potion into Emily’s parted lips, and then proceeded to feel around in the folds of his voluminous robes.

Unexpectedly, Blaise gave her a sharp nudge with his shoulder. Luna slowly turned to face him, focussing hard at his aquiline nose. Seeing that her eyes were finally fixed on him, well, on his nose anyway, he nodded in the direction where he wanted her to look. Luna glanced over and watched as Neville slyly skulked up on Snape. Then everything seemed to happen all at once.

Finally finding the small vial of antidote, her old potions teacher pulled it out of his pocket triumphantly, then raised his wand and began to pour the clear liquid into Emily‘s open mouth, drop by tiny drop. As he did so, though, he was totally unaware of Neville creeping slowly up behind him.

Something awful was going to take place, Luna just knew it, but what could she do to prevent things?

Unsure of what to do next, Luna steadied her wand. How could she warn Mr Snape without warning Neville that they were behind them too? She didn’t have to worry for too long, as events were quickly taken out of her hands.

“Sir!” Ron shouted out excitedly, which momentarily diverted Luna’s attention. “Sir, the backup’s here! They’ve just come in. I’d say about four or so…”

“Avada Kedavra!”

“Oh fuck, oh shit…”

“Sir?”

Luna scrambled forward as Snape’s body fell. Stumbling on in a daze, the events revolved in her mind: Snape falling backwards with his arms splayed wide; the wand falling from his hand onto sodden grass before unhurriedly rolling away; that wicked green streak of light striking his chest with direct and deadly precision. His body down, sprawled, white faced and waxy, blank expression of shock fixed, forever frozen in surprise.

Just thinking about it became unbearable, so Luna ran on blindly until she reached his side.


*


“You should have come to me freely, son,” his father addressed him, eyeing him coolly, “if you had, Draco, then maybe it wouldn’t have come to all this…”

“And, what, exactly, do you mean by all this?” Draco snapped back, ire and heat rising within him. His father remained silent, though, and did not even attempt to answer, forcing Draco to spit out more vitriolic words. “Father, at least fucking give me enough decency to answer my question?”

“Decency?” Lucius echoed, quietly mocking him. “Did you just say decency? And did you, my son, have the decency to come to my side? To join me in my endeavours? To stand by me, your father, and fight for my cause…”

“Fuck your fucking cause, Father!” Draco cried, uncaring and unable to check his words. “And, dad, what do you mean exactly by cause? To be exact, why in Merlin’s name are you doing this? Haven’t you had enough of fucking Dark Lords by now?”

Draco paused, caught his breath and wiped the sweat from his brow, before continuing his diatribe.

“And,” his fists clenched tightly. “Just who the hell do you think you are? A second hand Voldemort, perhaps? The last of the bloody Pure-Bloods mascots?”

Draco uncurled his fists and waved his hand to emphasize his point, as Lucius’ eyes narrowed in warning.

Son…

“Or, maybe, you’re just an egotistical piece of shit, who has never thought about anything or anyone but himself.” Undeterred, Draco was unable to stop. “Or, now this is good, Father. Or, maybe, you’re just a coward, who failed to protect his own family. So insignificant, not clever enough, not strong enough, you couldn’t even stop you’re own kith and kin from being obliterated from history.”

“You failed us both, mother and I,” Draco suddenly wailed. “You failed her, and you failed me!”

“Crucio!”

Falling to the ground, Draco writhed in agony, as unadulterated pain soared through the very essence of him, effecting every single particle that he was made of. Convulsing and contorted in pain, he knew that this torture was beyond his wildest and most terrifying dreams.

Torture bestowed on him freely, by his own flesh and blood, by his father. Draco whimpered as a fresh bout of agony wrecked his bones again.

Looking down on him dispassionately; without the merest glimpse of remorse showing on his face, Lucius stepped forward.

“This grieves me, son,” he said simply. “That you should say these things to me, that you would deny me like this, that you would refute your destiny, and, forget what it is to be a Malfoy. Son, I disown you…”

Lucius stepped forward and looked down on his son.

“I regret this.” A flicker of what looked like regret flickered on his face, it’s visage just a passing illusion. “However, you are no longer a son of mine.”

Draco winced at his words, which hurt him more than they should of, and curled into himself, waiting for his father would do next.

“I don’t care, “ he managed to get out, as his body still twitched and jolted. “Just get it over and done with, father.”

Lucius looked down at him, carefully considering his son’s words. Then, with a flick of irritation, he shook his head brusquely, as if to get rid of unwanted thoughts, and looked down at his son, letting his gaze linger for a moment or two over his face… that face so familiar to his own, that still effected him despite all that had happened.

“I’m sorry for this, son.”

Without missing a heartbeat, Lucius stomped down, hard, on his son’s face, breaking his nose as he laid submissively on the ground, not even trying to defend himself.

Splintered and bleeding, all Draco could do was to look up reproachfully at his dad.

“Sorry, father,” he muttered, his words hardly comprehendible. “Sorry to have failed you…”

Then, groaning in pain, Draco tried to pull himself up.

“Draco,” Lucius said again, looking almost contrite, and lowering his hand to his son. “Son, I…”

“Snape! Snape’s gone down,” a hoarse voice cried out, interrupting Lucius, and bringing Draco back to his senses. “Gawd, Longbottom’s only gone and killed him!”

Draco watched as his father scowled at being interrupted: his face became a blank canvas, and, with his thoughts no longer registering him, Lucius turned to question the man who dared to break up his little family reunion.

“”Gibbon,” Draco heard him say, “this had better be good. What are you going on about?”

“Snape’s dead, my lord. Longbottom’s got him!”

Severus, dead? Draco heaved himself up, with all his strength, and looked around. Finally, he saw Snape fallen, deadly still, collapsed on the ground.

“Severus,” he croaked out, feeling utterly desolated. “Sir, get up.”

But… his old mentor did not move, not an inch. The only thing that moved was his father, who had speedily dashed away to get a better look at what’d happened, and to calculate what he’d have intended to do next .

Knowing that his protestations were worthless, that Severus was already dead, dead and gone, Draco pushed himself up a little more, trying to get a better look at what was going on.

“Here, grab a hold!” A hand darted down towards him and hauled him, unceremoniously, up. “Where’s you’re dad off to then?”

A little disorientated, Draco looked up into the face of a Weasley. A Weasley twin. George Weasley, if he wasn’t mistaken. A very bloody George Weasley, who was bleeding proficiently, and seemed to be missing an ear.

Draco, for once in his life, struggled for words.

“Your ear‘s gone.” He managed to get out. Then, he added on, somewhat tactfully. “Are you all ri-right?”

“Good as I’m gonna be,” George replied. “What about you, you look pretty done for, what happened?”

Draco just couldn’t find the right words. Instead, he looked hopelessly up at his saviour, who was, after all, a bloody Weasley.

“He’s gone,” was what he managed to finally say.

“Yeah, I kinda saw him scarper,” George said, ducking a flash of red light. “And I also saw him having a go at you.”

“Yes, well…”

More colours collided and crashed above his head, and Draco was once again aware of the battle going on all around him.

Snape dead. Emily taken, tied up, helpless, facing eternal torture. His father departing, on his way to more deadly schemes, and probably on his way to do Emily more harm.

Fury built inside him and Draco could feel his self shake uncontrollably, only this time, his joints were tremulous with anger. He gritted his teeth and let his new found rage fill him with brand new determination.

“I’m going to destroy him.” Draco stated with deadly intent. “This time it’s him or me…”

George watched him warily, weighing everything he‘d seen so far and taking everything he‘d felt into consideration. Then looking at his findings, and chalking up every subtle nascence, he finally came to a decision.

“Malfoy,” he said, eyeing him intently. “I have something for you. Do me proud, yeah.”

“Yes, okay then.” Distracted by the full on battle going on around him, Draco politely held out his hand to receive what the one half of the Weasley twins had to give him. Sparks flew above his head and all around, spells and hexes zapped out; Snape was dead, and his father had disappeared… and, Emily, Dear Merlin, Emily, needed him more than ever... .

The nicer Weasley twin placed something in his hand, and it’s weight felt vaguely familiar to him. Merlin and Mordred, he had his wand back: the cleverer Weasley twin had only gone and given him his wand back … his brilliant, perfectly balanced wand. Feeling ecstatic, Draco experimentally swished his wand back and forth.

Then, concentrating hard, he aimed it with determined precision. It was retribution time now, it was time for the final confrontation with his father.

Draco smirked his trademark smirk and raised his wand with intent. And, feeling surprisingly reassured, he set out in pursuit of his father. This time someone was going to pay, he thought, this time he was going to be victorious.


*


 Seeing the Aurors appear on the scene, Harry couldn’t help but feel happy at the arriving backup. Their coming also had the added of bonus of giving him a much needed mental boost; after all, these were not only his work colleagues but his friends as well. Besides, seeing Tonks, Katie, Michael Corner and newest addition to the Auror corps, Dennis Creevey, did him the world of good. Blimey, even seeing Bulstrode arrive with them, lifted his spirits.


Harry felt a rush of exhilaration course through him; with the keen energy pumping through his veins, he ducked an oncoming curse, spun round, threw a hex of his own, and continued his way into the melee with fresh vigour.

His sudden euphoria soon evaporated, though, at the scene he saw unfurling before him: through the flying hexes, curses and iridescent lights, Harry frantically swiped his rain smudged glasses, trying to get a better view of things. And, as events came more into focus, he almost wished he hadn’t.

The vista slowly clearing before him showed him his worse fears: Snape down and most defiantly dead. Luna crouched beside him, maternally wiping his waxy brow. Lucius and two of his loyal faction, approached the scene swiftly. And Harry saw that his wand was aimed directly at a gob smacked and slack jawed Ron. A Ron who was completely unaware. His best friend, Ronald Weasley, who looked like he’d taken a deliberating punch to the gut.

His Ron. His first proper friend.

His best mate. Who wasn’t a traitor. His best friend, who looked like he definitely needed his help. Soon.

His brain suddenly on autopilot, with Auror training button switched on, Harry sprang into action.

It was time to make amends; it was time he kicked some major Malfoy arse. No one hexed his friends and got away with it. Doing what he’d been born to do, Harry raced ahead with fierce determination.

Slinging a perfectly aimed Reducto at Goyle Senior, blasting him out of the way, Harry then ducked an ill aimed Crucio that flew over his hand. Panting hard, he threw another curse at a someone who looked like the former Death Eater, Rookwood.

Lucius, he noticed, lowered his wand and started to back cautiously away, like the bloody cowardly bastard he was.

Harry took note, he’d get him later. But, now, his was concentrating on protecting Ron, who still hadn’t snapped out of his open-mouthed trance.

“Ron!” he yelled, as he aimed a curse at a growling Goyle Junior, who was approaching from the side. “Ron, look out!”

As he kicked out at a hesitating Nott, who promptly fell to the ground, groaning loudly and clutching his stomach in pain, Harry saw Ron spark back to life. Spinning at the sound of his best mate’s voice, Ron snapped out of it and trained Auror mode kicked in.

Reaching him in just a few of his long legged strides, ducking a horrid murky brown curse that seemed to spread then disintegrate into ashes, Ron was finally at Harry’s side.

“Bloody hell,” Ron exclaimed. “Nott took a good one, Harry.”

Harry lunged to the side, barely missing a lethal Diffindo travelling his way and gave his friend a delighted grin. It was good to be fighting side-by-side with him again.

“Did’ya see the brilliant blasting spell I threw. Goyle went flying…”

“Yeah, that was epic. Truly outstanding.”

“And I cast a bloody wonderful hex at Stebbins…” Harry broke off, as he ducked, rolled, and managed to throw a blinding hex at Mcnair. “It was a work of beauty! Pure genius on my part.”

“Did you see it, Harry? Did you see what Nev did?”

Seeing Seamus tripping over a partially hidden jugged rock and clutching his ankle hard, as his hex aimed at Avery missed him and flew out, zigzagging its way into the now faintly orange tinged sky, Harry missed the subtle implication in Ron’s voice.

“He killed him. Just, like, A-Kayed him.”

“Wha-?”

“Akayed him?”

“Yeah, Nev did it…”

Harry shook his head as he tried to rid himself of the images that Ron’s words had placed firmly in his mind.

“Neville?”

He still couldn’t believe it: how could’ve kind and thoughtful Neville turned out like this?

“Yeah…”

Harry paused to think, as Ron threw a vicious stinging hex at a floundering Crabbe, who had is wand pointed straight at Harry.

“Do’ya think?”

Harry briefly turned to Ron; making eye contact, and he tried to covey what he was feeling. Ron shook his head. Not the right time, not the right place. Harry could see that he had things to tell him, but now was not the right point in time.

Harry swerved to his right, just avoiding the streak of purple that zoomed straight towards his head. Time to shut up now, he thought, taking a last glance at Ron. Now’s the time for action, I‘ll can deal with Ron later. And, sensing that the action was about to hot up, Harry the himself right into the middle of it.


*


Lucius beheld the stuttering boy stood before him. Cool and dispassionate, his face showed no inkling of the rage that kindled inside. Quirking an suspicious eyebrow, Lucius motioned for the Longbottom boy to continue. Blast the interfering brat, he thought, while eyeing the confusion erupting in front of him from the shadows where he currently hid. Damn him! Blast his sheer assumption. Whatever did this foolish boy think he was doing, messing up his finely tuned plans in this manner? It was just unsupportable, it really was.

“I, er, “ Neville stuttered out. “Well, you see Snape was a traitor-”

“As you said before,” said Lucius, cutting the dratted boy off. “However, my question was: what on earth gave you the sheer audacity to kill him?”

Giving him his full attention, Lucius concentrated on emitting his unbound vicious fury at the poor quavering boy.

“I k-k-killed him because…”

“Without my permission?”

“He was a traitor! He was helping the Carlisle girl!”

Lucius flinched at the vehemence that spilled out of the Longbottom boy. Schooling his face back into normal mask of indifference, he stilled the frustrated tic that twitched the corner of thin-lipped mouth.

Really this would not do. Longbottom was becoming a liability. Something had to be done. This was entirely unsuitable behaviour. Lucius finally took a moment to properly survey the angry youngster: stood with fists clenched to his side and trembling with outraged indignation, Longbottom’s face shone with perspiration.

Wide, slightly wild eyes watched him, scrutinizing him apprehensively.

His sly look made Lucius suddenly doubtful. Something was, indeed, very wrong with this boy. He looked quite the madman; he looked, for all appearances, totally insane.

“I killed Snape, I killed Snape, I killed Snape.”

Lucius looked on as the Longbottom boy muttered this mad refrain, over and over, to himself and, observing this repetitive confession, he considered what to do next. Yes, it was quite obvious, he could see that clearly now that something had to be done. The boy was becoming a dangerous problem, and he would have to be… gotten rid of.

Suddenly, tears sprang to Neville’s eyes: streaming down his face, they splashed onto his cheeks, leaving them damp and curiously shrunken. His face seemed to crumple and the corners of his mouth began to droop. Lucius surveyed the boy cautiously, as he brought up his clenched hands and tried, frantically, to scrub the offending tracks of his tears away.

“I killed him?” Now the boy sounded quite delirious… and curiously deflated and sad. “I rea-really di-did? Me?”

Lucius had no time for all this, however. This was no time for belated remorse. He had things to do, and he would have to deal with the Longbottom boy later. On the other hand, a little punishment wouldn’t be amiss in the meantime, would it? And he still needed to extract more information from the boy.

“My na-nan will be really disappointed in me…”

“Longbottom. Stop blithering.” Lucius interrupted. “This is not the time to be worrying about what your grandmother would or would n