CI by the oh-so-talented visenya. @ TDA!






Rule Breaker

Chapter 15- Camping

 
Hermione leapt to her feet, a roaring sound flooding into her ears. “Has anyone told him?” she asked, already heading for the door, her mind racing.

Not Draco. They can’t have him! They can’t do this! she thought desperately.

Professor McGonagall’s voice called her back. “Please, Miss Granger. We have more to discuss before you leave,” the headmistress explained calmly. “I understand your concern for your...friend, and you may tell him of our suspicions soon, I promise. However, first we have to consider the circumstances of these assumptions.”

Hermione blinked, her hand still on the doorknob. She turned to face Professor McGonagall. “Yes,” she said reluctantly, stepping away from the door and returning to her seat, “of course, you’re right. I’m sorry, ma’am. We should talk about what’s going on before I rush out of here.”

Professor McGonagall smiled fondly at Hermione. “Thank you, Miss Granger.”

Hermione nodded.

“Now…these suspicions come from my own deductions and those of several members of the Order who have been informed of the goings-on in Hogwarts this year. We believe that Mister Malfoy did begin some of the trouble that we’ve experienced this year…but none of the dangerous sort. It is our belief that Draco returned to school this year with the idea to cause small bits of disorder to gain attention and, perhaps, to regain some of his notoriety after the fiasco last year…with Professor Dumbledore,” the headmistress took a shaky breath.

“Now, I think that after a while and not much effect, Draco gave up his attempts for attention and simply went back to living in the shadows, where he had decided to take up residence from the beginning of the year. Many of his former friends and allies no longer associate themselves with him, knowing that he failed Lord Voldemort, so he did not have many people with which to surround himself. However, I believe that at this time, the other Death Eaters in Hogwarts took this opportunity to begin causing trouble of their own, knowing that Draco would be blamed for it. They wanted to discredit him even more, so that when they chose to strike and assassinate him, no one would be the wiser to their existence, and few would regret his demise.”

Hermione nodded. “So you really do believe that there is at least one other Death Eater in Hogwarts who is trying to kill Draco?” A part of Hermione was secretly wishing that her favorite teacher was wrong, but she knew how unlikely that was.

Professor McGonagall sighed. “Yes, that theory seems to answer the questions that have arisen this year. It is a complicated situation, but hopefully we can protect Mister Malfoy until we can apprehend the other Death Eaters before they truly hurt someone.”

Hermione bit her lip. “They’ve already tried, haven’t they?” she asked. “By leaving the potentially riot-inducing pool of blood in the entrance hall a few months ago? And by poisoning the food at the Gryffindor table recently?”

The headmistress nodded again. “This is why we have to catch them soon, Miss Granger,” she agreed. “For your part, you can just keep an eye out for anyone suspicious for now. Do not limit your focus to Slytherins, either. Death Eaters have come from different Houses before…we don’t want to get tunnel vision when trying to apprehend them.”

Hermione understood a dismissal and stood smoothly. “I’ll do my best to learn more about this, Professor,” she assured the headmistress. “Thank you for keeping me informed.”
 
Professor McGonagall smiled and nodded. “Thank you for offering to help, Hermione,” she said as the Head Girl exited her office.
 






Hermione hurried through the corridors, hoping that Draco was still in the Heads’ Dorms. She needed to tell him what Professor McGonagall suspected; she needed him to be prepared if there were people out to kill him.

Her thoughts were still whirling when she reached Sam’s portrait and spoke the password to enter her common room. Draco was sitting on the couch, still shirtless, reading another book. Hermione breathed a sigh of relief that he was still there and hurried to tell him the news.

“Hey,” Draco greeted happily, turning when Hermione entered the room, “I got your note. How was the meeting with McGonagall?”

Sitting beside him, Hermione fought to decide how to begin. “It was…” she paused, looking up into his gray eyes which were now showing the concern he felt for the way she was behaving.

“Are you okay, Hermione?” Draco asked, setting aside his book and cautiously taking her hands in his to try to offer some sort of comfort. Hermione’s eyes filled with tears—his simple gesture reminded her of how worried she was for him. Suddenly, she was telling him everything, trying not to cry as she explained what Professor McGonagall had said.

“There are Death Eaters in the school,” she choked out, “and they’re here to kill you. Professor McGonagall thinks they’ve been trying to frame you for things all year to discredit you…She thinks they’re going to keep causing trouble, and that it’s all leading up to their attempt to…to…murder you,” her eyes were filling with tears. “Draco, I’m scared.”

Draco’s face had hardened while Hermione explained what was happening, but now he smiled at her and gathered her into his arms, pulling her close. “Oh, Hermione,” he murmured affectionately, “please don’t worry about me.” It touched him that someone cared about him for the first time in a very long time. He felt a surge of affection for the Head Girl, trying to grasp that she could care so much about him. It was an unfamiliar feeling to him.

Hermione cried against his bare chest, wrapping her arms around him, terrified for her friend. “If anything happens to you…” she said thickly. “If they hurt you…”

Draco shook his head, clutching Hermione tighter to comfort her and hopefully ease her fears. “Nothing is going to happen to me, Hermione,” he said calmly, not betraying his own racing thoughts at the prospect of people plotting his murder. “I’ve got enough tricks up my sleeve to keep myself out of trouble, I promise.”

Hermione couldn’t form coherent sentences anymore, so she just held onto Draco and cried, letting out all the emotions that she had bottled up while talking to the headmistress. Draco held her and let her cry, rocking her back and forth and trying to calm her down, waiting until she grasped hold of her emotions. It took a while, but finally, Hermione’s tears stopped, and she pulled out of Draco’s arms.

“I’ll do anything it takes to keep you safe,” she promised quietly, wiping her eyes with the heels of her hands.

Draco smiled at her fondly. “I know you will, Hermione,” he replied, leaning towards her to kiss her forehead as she had done to him the night before. “I know you will.” 







For the next three days, Hermione worried silently about Draco and the people who were undoubtedly plotting his death. She couldn’t think of a way to expose the Death Eaters as who they were, and she was having trouble even thinking of a way to narrow down the suspect pool. Not to mention, she had begun to worry that Draco wasn't their only target; after all, Harry lived in the castle as well, and it was well-known that Voldemort would do just about anything to see him dead.

The day before Christmas Eve, Hermione was sitting at a table in her common room in the late evening, thinking about Draco’s dilemma again, when an owl pecked on the window closest to her, a tightly wrapped scroll and a small package attached to its leg. Opening the window to admit the bird, Hermione shivered against the cold. It was snowing again. Taking the scroll and box from the owl and letting it back outside, Hermione sat down at her table once more to read the message. Unrolling it, she found that it was from Theo.
 
My dear Hermione,

I hope your holiday is going well and that you aren’t too lonely in the castle without me, Harry, and Ron. I know things have been difficult for you, especially with the constant worry of all the trouble going on in Hogwarts. I’m sorry that I haven’t been able to do more to help. I just wanted you to know that I miss you, and I can’t wait to be with you again.

Being home is difficult sometimes, especially with my father…you know that situation. Things here have been just as stressful as they were at school, so I really can’t wait to return to Hogwarts. Christmas is in the air, though, and things are very festive. Mother won't let a war dampen her flair for decoration. The box I’ve attached is your Christmas present. Please don’t worry about getting me anything—as cliché as it sounds, your presence in my life is more than enough.

I miss you and I’ll see you as soon as possible. Have a wonderful Christmas, Ace.

Sincerely,
Theo



Hermione smiled as she finished reading, glad to know he was thinking of her, but her face fell as she scanned his note a second time.

“Being home is difficult sometimes, especially with my father…you know that situation.”

She bit her lip, hoping that Theo was still holding out against becoming a Death Eater. With so many things going on in the castle, she really didn’t want to have to think about that on top of it all.

Hold out, Theo, please…she thought desperately, putting the letter down and turning to the small box. She was very tempted to open it, but knew that Theo would want her to be surprised on Christmas morning, so she set it aside and smiled again.

I should’ve gotten him something…she thought guiltily. I couldn’t think of what he would like, and I put it off too long…and now Christmas is in two days.

She put the thought from her mind and stood up, wanting to see Draco before curfew. They had spent part of the day together, finally going their separate ways just after lunch. Draco said he wanted to work on some homework, and Hermione knew she had work of her own to do.

Leaving her common room, Hermione hurried through the hallways, knowing it was closing in on the time that she was supposed to be back in her own dormitory, not wandering around the school. Reaching the seventh floor, she walked past the stretch of wall that concealed the place Draco stayed, thinking hard about finding him, knowing that he wouldn’t have put up wards to keep himself hidden from her. The door appeared, and Hermione quickly slipped inside, shutting the door behind her. She turned and gasped quietly.

Instead of the normal living room-style apparition that normally formed when she went to see Draco, it was as if she had walked into the forest. There were trees all around her, and when she turned back to the door, it looked very out of place, standing freely beside a bush.

“Draco?” she called quietly, looking around.

“I’m here!” Draco called from somewhere in the forest in front of her. Hermione tottered farther into the trees, glancing around in the near-darkness that Draco seemed to have requested for this particular setting.

At least it’s not winter in here, Hermione thought, trying to be optimistic in the strange situation she had stumbled into. Passing between a couple of closely-growing trees, Hermione found Draco at last, sprawled on the ground beside a crackling fire.

“Hey you,” he greeted, glancing up at her and grinning.

“Hey,” Hermione replied, “what’s all this?”

“I was looking for a change of scenery,” Draco explained, motioning for Hermione to take a seat beside the fire with him, “and I was thinking that we could have a sort of…camping excursion.”

Hermione’s face twisted as she tried not to laugh. It was so predictable of Draco to do something this eccentric just for the sake of changing things up a bit. “Well, I think that’s a great idea,” Hermione finally replied, kicking off her shoes and flexing her toes in the soft grass where they were sitting.

“I’m glad you think so,” Draco said, smiling. “Marshmallow?” He held out a plain paper bag, and Hermione raised her eyebrows. As he’d said, though, the bag was full of the squishy Muggle food, and Hermione found herself smiling as she took one and speared it on a skewer that she was sure had only just appeared.

“As of when do you eat Muggle food?” Hermione asked Draco, holding her marshmallow over the fire and toasting it calmly.

“Since the Room of Requirement suggested it,” Draco replied, spearing his own marshmallow and laughing. “It didn’t look like food to me at first, but I’m quite fond of them now. I’ve been eating them for hours.”

Hermione smiled back. “So you’ve just been sitting in here roasting marshmallows and ‘camping out,’ per say?”

“Yep,” Draco replied, popping his toasted snack in his mouth and cringing slightly at how hot it was.

“You never cease to amaze me,” Hermione said, shaking her head.

“I hope I never do,” Draco shot back cheekily.

Hermione never checked how long they sat there in the magical woods talking and roasting marshmallows side-by-side. She didn’t care how long it’d been. She felt like Draco had given her a bit of innocence back, and she was happy to blissfully lose herself in that feeling, rather than worrying about Death Eaters and the war for once. Eventually, Hermione tentatively laid her head on Draco’s lap, looking up at the stars that the Room had created for them.

“Draco?” she asked quietly.

“Hmm?”

“This was really nice.”

Draco smiled. “I’m glad you enjoyed it, Hermione,” he said sincerely.

“Thank you,” she murmured, drifting to sleep as Draco ran his fingers through her hair. He glanced down at his sleeping friend and sighed happily. He had to agree: this was very nice. 







Author's Note: Well, there's chapter fifteen! How are you liking the story? How are you feeling about Hermione and Draco's evolving friendship? Any thoughts? Please leave a quick review!


Also: If you have additional questions that you would like answered, please feel free to go to my "Meet the Author" page on the forums. There's a link on my author's page!

(Edited as of 8-2-14)

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