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..."
"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.
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.
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