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Chapter 26- hurt and hunting
AN: Thanks so much for you support so far. I hope you like this chapter, I’m sorry that it took so long. I had finals to worry about. Enjoy!

Hermione had spent the past week or so spending all of her time with Harry and Ron, she even spent some time with Ginny. She was so ecstatic to have her friends back that she could hardly get enough.  

She went to Gryffindor’s quidditch practice and attempted to play chess with Ron and Harry every chance she got. Because they were taking the transition slowly the boys and Ginny still weren’t seeing all that much of Draco. In fact, not even Hermione had seen much of Draco since reconnecting with Harry and Ron. She’d been so busy getting to know them again that she had had hardly any time for her and Draco to be together. She knew that Draco was getting a bit annoyed, but she didn’t want to risk losing her newly rediscovered friends. She was marrying Draco, surely that meant that he knew she was with him forever. 

However, Hermione’s thoughts were far from the truth. Draco, while understanding his fiancée’s need to be with her friends just then, was feeling left out. Even when she was in their shared rooms, which was not often, she wasn’t really there. Her mind was always off somewhere else. He began to feel like she had forgotten him. She hardly remembered to even say hello in the corridors, and she was his fiancée. So, to keep himself occupied he began to hang out with his Slytherin friends more often. They hadn’t all realized that he was with a muggle-born, so they still respected him. He spent a lot more time with Pansy and Blaise over those few weeks. He had lost a bit of his prior closeness with them, since deciding to stick by Hermione, but they still tolerated him, and over those weeks they got closer again, if not as close as before. He we no longer friends with Crab and Goyle, they were to stupid, after spending so much time with Hermione they kind of annoyed him. However, Pansy and Blaise were perfectly intelligent. He didn’t know what to do to get Hermione to come back to him. He hoped she would come back soon. 

Yet another week passed and Hermione only saw Draco in class. He left before she got up and got back after she went to bed. He was avoiding her then. He was fed up with it. He knew she needed to reconnect with her friends, but she had clearly mentioned them having to get used to him in the process. How were they to get used to him if they never had to deal with him. He felt like Hermione had abandoned him for her old friends. 

On the other hand, he couldn’t help wondering if this was what she really wanted. Perhaps it had made her realize how much she was giving up in order to be with him and she had decided it wasn’t worth it. She seemed to be having so much fun with her friends again; maybe she didn’t want to do the work of getting them used to him. Maybe she just wanted to give up on him and move on to chose someone her friends would accept without a fight. 

It was these thoughts that haunted him at night. He had given up so much. He risked everything that he and his family stood for just to be with her. He had been brave enough to ask her to marry him. Why would she have said yes if she didn’t really mean it? He didn’t understand. He spent a lot of time that week out by the lake, just thinking, brooding mostly. 

Hermione finally began to take notice of Draco. She realized how little she saw him, saw how forlorn and sad he seemed, and noticed with whom he hung out. She was confused. Then she began to think about her actions over the past few weeks. She felt horrible. He stuck with her and even proposed to her and what did she do? She had ignored him in the weeks following his ultimate declaration of love. She couldn’t believe that she had been such a horrible person. She needed to do something to make it all up to him. She began making plans.  

A few days later was Saturday. Draco decided to let himself sleep in, even if it meant he might see Hermione when he got up. Hermione got up early. By the time Draco dragged himself out of bed everything was set up for the day. When he went to the bathroom to take his morning shower he found a note on the mirror. It read:

                      "Love is not love which alters when it alterations finds."
                         Follow the path of poem…the path of clues. 
                       There is a room which alters when you enter it, 
                                   There awaits your next clue.

Draco was curious. He didn’t know the poem, nor did he know who Shakespeare was, but he knew who did and he was eager to find where the path led. Obviously a room that alters would be a room that changed, indicating the Room of Requirements. Draco took his shower and made his way to that room to look for his next clue. He thought, I need to find a clue Hermione left, hoping that would work, and it did. He entered the room to find it looking relatively generic. There was a note on a table in the center of the room. Draco went to read it. 
                               Poems have an eternal nature, living on forever.
                          There is a room where books of poems can be found.
                                        There will you find your next clue.

Again Draco knew the answer right away. It clearly meant the library. He turned and nearly ran all the way there. He nearly ran over Pansy on his way, she asked what he was doing, but he didn’t even stop to answer her. When he entered he went to the section where poems could be found. It was a section he had never been in before. There was a note taped to the love poem section. He took it down and read it.  

                           Many people say that love makes you fly. 

                    There is a place where love is not the only thing that flies.

                         That which you pursue can be there found.

The Quidditch pitch was too far away from the library for Draco to run, it seemed pointless, but he figured he would make haste all the same. Walking at an expeditious pace he made his place to the pitch. He didn’t see anything on the field, so he decided to check the locker rooms. He checked the guys first. He didn’t see anything, but then he heard it. A whisper of wings. He knew that sound. He chased the snitch every day in practice. He searched the room, finally climbing on a bench to catch the darn thing. It opened at his touch, revealing the next clue. 

                         There is a romantic place, where calm waters can be seen.

                                  There will the next clue quench your curiosity.

On the trip from the Quidditch pitch to the lake, Draco thought about all the preparation that must have gone into the scavenger hunt. She had to think up the clues, look up the poems to match, and then place them without letting anyone else take them. He was really impressed, and he hoped that the final clue in the end would lead him to her. When he reached the lake he wandered to Hermione’s favorite studying tree. There he found the next clue, nailed to the tree. 

                              Love has been described as an unbearable craving. 
                                          There is a room, deep in the school, 
                                               Where cravings are satisfied. 
                             There will you find the next clue, devour it and move on.

This clue was the most difficult for Draco to figure out. Once he realized he needed to focus on the words “crave” and “devour”, rather than “tied” and “deep”, he knew that she meant the kitchens. He began to make his way inside again. This time he ran into Blaise and he was forced to pause his chase and talk to him. 

“Draco, Pansy says you’ve been running around the school and grounds like a maniac. What are you doing? She thought you might have lost something really valuable or you were looking for someone, she wasn’t really sure, but she was worried about you.” Draco sighed. 

“I’m on a scavenger hunt” He explained quickly, itching to resume searching. “Hermione left clues and I’m following them.” Blaise just stared at him.


“Because I want to know what they are leading too. Now I’m sorry, but I’ve got to go. See you later!” And with that he was off again, heading down to the kitchens. When he entered the elves asked him what they could get for him. He felt a bit awkward, but he answered.

“I’m looking for a note, a clue. I’m on a scavenger hunt of sorts. Did someone leave one for me?” One of the elves nodded and walked off. He came back with a plate. On it were some cookies and a note. 

“The misses thought you might be wanting some sustenance by this point. She asked us to remind you that food is necessary to life, and to say that the hunt would still be there when you finished.” 

Draco had no choice. He wanted to keep going, but he didn’t want to risk ruining the plan. So he sat, ate some cookies, drank some milk, and then finally got to the note. 

                                       Love is the ultimate freedom.
                                 There is a place, high in the castle, 
                                         Where freedom can be felt.
                     In that open air will you have the liberty to find your clue.

Draco thought for a few minutes, eating another cookie, before deciding that the Astronomy tower made the most sense. He slowly made his way there, slightly annoyed that Hermione would force him to eat and then climb tons of stairs so closely together. Finally, he reached the top. He went out and easily found his clue. It was stuck to the telescope that was on the top of the tower. He grabbed it and read it quickly.

                             Love is a fire than burns with much intensity.
                   When you have read this note, simply say the word “love”.
                           A ball of light will appear. It will guide your way.

Draco did as he was bid and said “love” aloud. A ball of glowing blue light appeared, just as the note had said it would. It moved slowly towards the door. He followed it. It led him down the stairs, through the castle, out the doors, across the grounds, and finally into the forbidden forest. He hesitated, but followed anyways. It led him deeper into the forest. After about ten full minutes of walking the light stopped, illuminating a particular stone. On that stone was a note. He picked it up. It was, by far, the longest yet.

                                       "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways."
                                                 ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning
                   If you wander but a few more feet ahead of you, you will find a clearing.
                        In this clearing you will find me, and I shall count the ways.    

                           There will you find me. The truths of the poems speak out,
                               For I love you freely and as far as my soul can reach. 
                                                     Come, the clues are done.

Draco suddenly felt nervous. He had been so engrossed in following the clues he hadn’t considered what he would do once he finally found the end. Finally having reached it he wasn’t sure what to expect. He wanted to go in feeling like everything was fine and this was just them expressing their love for each other. But he knew better. He was still hurt at her actions, even after the poems and obvious effort. He wasn’t sure what to think, but he couldn’t very well turn around, he didn’t know how to get out. So he went further, finding the clearing easily. He entered slowly.

Hermione sat on a blanket in the clearing, a basket off to her side. She was holding a piece of paper, identical to all the other clues. She was staring at her hands, looking sad and guilty. Draco briefly thought, well she should feel guilty, but he immediately felt bad and wished he could un-think it. 

“Hello Hermione”, he felt stupid saying it, but he was unsure of what he was supposed to do. She looked up at him startled, as if she’d been so absorbed in looking at her hands she had not heard him approach. 

“Hi” she said sheepishly.  

“Is that the final clue or something?” Draco asked for lack of anything else to say. Hermione looked down at the paper in her hands. 

“Sort of. I guess. It’s not really a clue any more, just a poem. I felt it kind of summed things up nicely.” She didn’t seem to have prepared what she was going to do once he got there either. 

“Can I read it?” She shook her head. "Why not?"

"I want to read it to you." She then read the poem Love But Know Not Why by: anonymous.

Draco thought about the poem for a while, trying to piece it all together. He was pretty sure this whole thing was an apology, so that must be communicated somehow. He translated the poem into what he thought Hermione meant:

                                          Don’t love me because I’m nice,
                                          Don’t love me because I’m pretty,
                                        Don’t love me for my steady affection,
                             Because I am human, and all of that could change.

                                       Instead, love me just because you do.
                              That way you never have a reason to doubt me.
                                   I love you and want to be with you forever.

At least that was what he thought she meant, but he wasn’t much of a poetry guy himself. 

“I think I understand.” She looked up at him hopefully, tears had formed in her eyes while he read and they were then cascading down her cheeks.

“You do?” She asked in a hoarse voice. He knelt down in front of her, setting the poem down next to them and taking her hands in his. 

“I never stopped loving you. I don’t love you because of superfluous reasons. I love you because you are you. I wasn’t going to let a bit of separation get in the way of that. I was just worried you were avoiding me because you had changed your mind and didn’t want to tell me.” She looked shocked, then sad again.

“I swear, I never meant to make you feel that way. I just got so caught up in having my old friends back and being able to just hang with them that I guess I kind of forgot that my life wasn’t back to normal, it was permanently changed for the better, thanks to you. I’m sooo sorry. I suddenly realized how little I had seen of you the past weeks and I felt so terrible. I will never change my mind, I want to be with you forever and ever.” She was rambling a bit, but he let her keep going, knowing she needed to get it all out. “I promise, I am going to make my friends get used to you. I already started.” Draco looked confused. “I told them my dilemma and they helped me to pull all of this off. They also stalked you without you noticing,” Draco was about to speak, but Hermione rushed on, “just to make sure you didn’t get the clues wrong and go in the wrong direction. They left once you reached the astronomy tower, trusting the ball of light.” Hermione finally shut up, took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. “I am sorry.” She repeated for good measure. It was Draco’s turn to talk again.

“I know you are. The notes were cute. And the snack was great, though it came right before climbing a bunch of stairs, so that was tough.” She laughed a little at that, he was happy to hear her laugh again. “I guess I just worried your friends would entice you away from me.” She rushed to assure him that that had never been the case. “As I said, I love you no matter what, you were never going to get away from me that easily. Besides, it gave me a chance to reconnect with Blaise and Pansy, which I might not have done otherwise. So I guess I should thank you.” Hermione laughed again, this time less shakily. 

Draco pulled her towards him, hugging her tightly. He kissed her on her forehead. Then he kissed her cheeks, and finally her lips. They sat like that for a while, enjoying being together again. Finally Draco realized he was starving and they began to enjoy the picnic Hermione had packed. They spent the rest of the day together, ignoring their friends and hiding out together in their rooms. They were both so happy to finally be back together, even if they never really broke up.  

AN: Thanks so much for the reviews, they really help, I swear. Sorry that it has been almost two months, but senior year really is hectic. Hope you liked this chapter, it caused me major writer’s block, and then it just came to me. Unfortunately the version that came to me was amazing, and violated HPFF rules. I used poems as the hints for Draco, but only 3 lines of quoted material is allowed per chapter. Sucks, I know. But that's life. This was the second attempt edited version. :D Hop you like it! Please review!

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