A/N: Here you go, the very last chapter of my beloved story! I'm so happy to be completing my SECOND fanfic. Wow. Please let me know what you think of it, now that it is done!
Early the next morning, Minerva McGonagall and Severus Snape crept into the dormitories where Hermione and Draco slept. While the Head of Gryffindor merely did her duty and then hurried out before any of the sleeping girls could awaken and spot her, Snape tarried over the task. Hovering over the Slytherin king’s bed, he watched the boy’s sleeping form with an expression almost like tenderness.
Snape knew what it was like to be conflicted. The boy had only begun to experience the torturous process of decision between what was right, and what was easy.
When Snape had been a student at Hogwarts, he was altogether much more of a power-hungry person than the boy who lay before him. In fact, he would’ve become as much of a monster as the Dark Lord, had not his undying love for Lily Evans curbed his blood-lust.
Now Snape regarded the young Slytherin’s situation with sympathy. He had been his charge at Hogwarts, but at this point in time the choices Draco would make were his alone. Snape could not save him from the wrath of Lucius Malfoy and his Lord.
Shaking his head, Snape grimaced. The only place for Draco to run was the Order…and even then, his cowardly ways would not be accepted. Draco would likely die in the oncoming war, unless he went completely one way or the other. To win the graces of the Dark Lord was out of the question. The boy had already demonstrated that he was unfit for that allegiance.
But to belong to the Order, he needed the friendship of another amongst their ranks…
Just as Snape drew his wand out of his robes, Draco turned over in his sleep to lie flat on his back. Snape, startled, peered closely at his face to see if he had awoken on his own. The man blanched. Was that…was that a grin on Draco’s lips? What was he so happy about?
He waved his hand in front of the boy’s face, with no response. Sighing, he pointed his wand at him and said, “Ennervate.”
Then, quickly, he exited the dormitory and made his way upstairs to see Dumbledore. Unfortunately, Snape found that the Headmaster’s office was already occupied. He could hear Minerva McGonagall’s irate voice from all the way at the bottom of the staircase.
“This cannot go on any longer, Albus! I know you have something to do with this!”
Snape hesitated only a moment before banging on the door. He had a sneaking suspicion that Minnie was here to talk to the Headmaster about the same thing that he was. Hopefully, she wouldn’t mind a little support from him.
The door swung open to reveal a red-faced McGonagall and an amused-looking Albus Dumbledore. “Yes?” the Headmaster asked serenely.
“Severus, can’t you hear that we’re in the middle of something?” McGonagall cried. “Come back later!”
“I would, Minnie, but unfortunately there is something of immediate importance that I must discuss with the Headmaster,” Snape said with exaggerated patience. “It concerns the peculiar behavior surrounding Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger of late.”
McGonagall quieted her protests immediately and looked to the Headmaster with a triumphant glare.
Dumbledore made an effort to suppress an oncoming smile. “Don’t tell me they made another public performance, Severus,” he said, looking aghast. “And here I thought one would be sufficient to send the whole school talking.”
Snape frowned. “My concern extends far beyond petty rumors, Albus. I am referring to the unknown spell that the two seem to be under. The well-being of Mr. Malfoy and Ms. Granger is at stake. I’m sure you know that they cannot be woken except by the Ennervate spell. Minnie and I have had to perform this spell on them for three consecutive mornings in order to revive them from their sleep.”
Dumbledore raised his eyebrows. “And why does that call for your concern, Severus?” he asked. “I was under the impression that I myself ordered you two to awaken them.”
McGonagall furrowed her eyebrows. “Yes, but you never said exactly how—”
“Never mind that, Minnie,” Snape interrupted. “Albus is right. He did know exactly where they were when we thought they had gone missing.” He turned to the Headmaster. “But why are you doing this?”
“I knew you had something to do with this!” McGonagall blurted out. “I suggest you fix them immediately, Albus!”
Now Dumbledore walked over to his desk and opened a drawer. “Why am I doing this, you ask?” He pulled out a bright yellow bag and looked up at the two teachers, who were watching him intently. “Lemon drop?” he offered.
Minerva McGonagall looked about ready to scream. Snape’s face grew darker as he stared at the bag of lemon yellow candies.
Dumbledore chuckled, his laugh chiming through the large room and slicing the tension like a knife through smoke. “Minerva, Severus, do not worry. All will be clearly explained in just a moment.”
As he fumbled through the drawer, there was loud pounding on the door once more. McGonagall whirled around in a huff to open it without even asking permission of the Headmaster. In popped Professor Flitwick, looking and sounding once again completely out of sorts.
“Albus,” he squeaked. “You must come downstairs immediately! There is a…a commotion near the Great Hall.”
Dumbledore looked up at the tiny teacher through his half-moon spectacles. “Oh. Breakfast has started already?” He looked at the grandfather clock that was perched near the door next to the cabinet that held his Pensieve. “Time begins to pass too quickly as one ages,” he sighed.
McGonagall clenched her fists, visibly aggravated. “You cannot go until you tell us how you will resolve our problem,” she asserted, gesturing to herself and Snape.
“But one of your number is not yet here,” Dumbledore said with a small smile. He looked at Flitwick questioningly. “Where is Horace?”
At that moment, Professor Slughorn appeared, huffing and puffing up the stairs, behind Flitwick, Snape, and McGonagall. He alone of the four teachers seemed to be even a tad amused at the situation.
“Never—never in my whole career…have I seen…such a spectacle,” he said between breaths, his eyes sparkling with excitement.
Snape exhaled and looked back to Dumbledore. “I know that you must be having a great laugh by keeping us waiting,” he drawled, “but I do think that if you don’t enlighten us soon, Minnie will have a heart attack and you will be short a Transfiguration teacher.”
Indeed, McGonagall had flushed almost as deep a red as Slughorn, who had not taken the climb up the staircase well. “What crazy ploys are you making now, Albus?” she snapped.
“Patience, dear Minerva,” Dumbledore sighed as he pulled a roll of parchment out from his desk drawer. “Ah, here we are.”
He unrolled the parchment out on his desk, and all four teachers gathered in close to see. They read the words inscribed at the top, and looked to Dumbledore for explanation with varying degrees of patience.
“The Artful Fabrication of Draco and Hermione?” Flitwick asked. “What is that, a book you’re writing?”
Dumbledore chuckled again and tapped the parchment with his wand. “Oh, no, Filius. It is exactly what it says. It is an artfully fabricated plan.” As he spoke, lines of ink began to flower across the paper from the point where his wand had touched its surface. Snape inhaled sharply, remembering something similar from the recent past.
“Is—is this the map? Did you get it back from the Potter boy?” Snape asked, his voice strained.
Dumbledore raised an eyebrow at his Defense teacher. “I’m sorry Severus, but I have no idea what you’re talking about. I know of no such map in Harry Potter’s possession.” He gave him an innocent half-smile.
Snape, grumbling to himself, turned his attention back to the parchment in front of them. It was indeed a map, though not the same one that he would have recognized. The center of the parchment was dominated by a large, irregularly shaped circle shaded in different colors, mainly yellow and green. In the corner a map legend told him that the yellow shading was beach, and the green tropical forest. The small grey spots scattered about in the middle were small cliffs and rock formations. Thin lines of blue, usually running near or on top of the grey spots, represented water sources. A final touch lay in a spattering of bright pink dots, which the legend informed him were banana trees.
“Albus…what is this?” McGonagall asked softly, sounding more perplexed than angry. “Does this—this place—exist?”
“Theoretically, yes, but physically, no. It took a series of very complicated spells to create not only the image of this island, but the illusion of its physical being, down to the very last bush.”
“I don’t understand,” Flitwick said in his squeaky voice. “There is no such charm that can make people physically feel that they are somewhere they are not.”
“Well, I modeled the spells after the brain’s natural dream-like state,” Dumbledore said. “After that it was much easier to weave it all into an Artificial Sleep spell. The only side effect I could not manage to get rid of was oversleeping. They would not wake unless woken by somebody else.” He nodded to McGonagall and Snape.
“How did the illusion of an island make Draco and Hermione…erm, like each other?” Slughorn asked, tugging at the collar of his robes.
“Much like a dream, the island stripped away many of the inhibitions and restrictions that plague our students by day. Mr. Malfoy and Ms. Granger could interact with one another at night as if there was nobody else in the world. Nobody to judge their actions, nobody to condemn them.”
With this, the Headmaster threw a sharp look at Snape, who shrugged. He had his own personal reasons for disliking Potter, and Granger was just plain annoying.
“So in this way, it was my hope that they would eventually come to see that their similarities and compatibilities greatly overpower their differences and conflicting interests,” Dumbledore concluded. “This concept can be extended to encompass all Gryffindors and Slytherins.”
McGonagall sighed, leaning over the desk to look more closely at the map. “This will not work for every student,” she warned.
“Well, I’d have to say that its success rate so far is fairly high—” Slughorn began with a slight smirk, before Flitwick elbowed him in his voluptuous gut.
“In fact, we don’t even know if it has worked at all,” McGonagall continued matter-of-factly.
“Oh, I daresay we do,” Slughorn said with a grin.
Dumbledore chuckled as Flitwick buried his face in his hands, his flyaway white hair standing nearly on end. “Well, gentlemen and lady, shall we go downstairs and take a look?”
He led the way through the open door and down the staircase, headed for the Great Hall where the students were now breaking their fast.
Draco had met Hermione at the foot of the main staircase, just like they had arranged. She had been so preoccupied in not noticing him that when she finally lifted her eyes from the floor to avoid crashing into other students as she crossed the Entrance Hall, she was sincerely startled to see him standing in front of her. She drew a small intake of breath, sharp enough to elicit an audible sound, as their eyes locked. She had all but convinced herself on the way down that he would not be there.
Draco smirked at her, but not unkindly. “Why so surprised?” he asked, sounding amused. “I am quite a dependable person.”
“Well, I—” she began to retort, but was cut off by a swift kiss. Caught off-guard once again, she gasped into his mouth. Around them, the passing students began to stare, slack-jawed and scrubbing at their eyes with disbelief.
When he drew away, he was chuckling. Ignoring the indignant expression on her face, he laced his fingers through hers and pulled her towards the Great Hall. They stopped just outside the doors, where he leaned her against the wall and stood before her.
“You used a charm on your hair today,” Draco observed calmly, fingering a brown lock near her shoulder.
She nodded, suddenly feeling shy.
“You knew I would be there,” he added unnecessarily.
“I suppose so.” Hermione glanced nervously at the doors beside them. “Well, I guess this is it,” she muttered.
“It’ll be quite a shock for them,” Draco replied, his eyes shining with mirth. “But this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. We need to make an entrance.” He swooped in to place a kiss on her jaw-line before murmuring in a quieter voice near her ear, “What’ll it be, love? A Granger entrance…or a Malfoy entrance?”
Hermione laughed, tucking her head under his chin to avoid answering the question. Meanwhile, not-so-discreet whispers began to elicit from the students that flocked by them into the Great Hall. In fact, because there were so many who were whispering all at once, the softly spoken words had all merged into one accusing clamor. Fighting their way through the crowd, Professors Flitwick and Slughorn struggled to see what was causing the commotion. But Draco had his back to his audience, and Hermione’s view of the Entrance Hall was blocked by his great height. Neither of them could spare the attention for the incredulous crowd that was gathering near them. Soon, the students hushed to try and listen in.
“What’s a Granger entrance?” she asked, squirming as he lightly kissed her neck.
“We walk in, we sit down, and we promptly bury our noses into the Daily Prophet,” Draco replied, smirking.
Hermione raised her eyebrows before grinning. “So then what’s a Malfoy entrance?” she asked curiously.
“Like this.” To the sheer delight and horror of the scandalized—and still unnoticed—crowd, Draco took Hermione into a tight embrace and leaned down to kiss her again full on the mouth. As his tongue prodded against her lips, she felt a shiver run down her spine toward the hand that Draco now placed on the small of her back. Kissing Draco within the safety of the island had been an experience, to be sure. But doing it at Hogwarts, where they could be seen at any moment, by anyone…it was beyond exhilarating.
Hermione’s lips parted easily and granted him entrance. Malfoy entrance, she thought giddily, and smiled against the kiss.
From the very center of the crowd, nearly buried in students, Professor Slughorn began to don a small smirk. Next to him, Flitwick grew increasingly agitated. “How can you smile at a time like this, Horace?” he asked, mortified. “This inappropriate display is causing a ruckus!”
“I’m not smiling at that, Filius,” Slughorn said serenely. “I think I’ve just figured out what happened with those two. Come on,” he said, turning around abruptly and nearly smacking Flitwick with his large stomach, “I believe we owe the dear Headmaster a visit.”
“The Headmaster…?” Flitwick trailed off as he was dragged back through the crowd of children and up the stairs.
The stunned group gasped as Draco released an audible growl. Several of the younger girls tittered and sighed, while the older ones snorted with exaggerated nonchalance, even as their own cheeks flushed.
It was a while before it became apparent to the other students that the two had no intention of breaking apart any time soon. Most of them began to feel intrusive and started to drift into the Great Hall. There, the clamor about it started up again unabashedly.
Finally, Draco released her. “We should go in now,” he said regretfully, tucking a smooth strand of hair behind her ear. “We’ve got to eat sometime, you know.”
They could hear the normal dull roar of the students through the double doors as they settled down for a meal. Today it sounded louder, more raucous and frantic…even startled into chaos. But after what they had just engaged in, the difference could’ve easily been attributed to the awareness of their heightened senses.
He tipped his head towards the door. “So how shall we go about this?”
“Hmm…” Hermione hesitated only a fraction of a second before a mischievous impulse overtook her. She grinned up at Draco. “The Granger entrance is getting a little old for me. I think maybe I’d like to try the Malfoy entrance today.”
Draco laughed aloud before grabbing her hand and pulling her with him through the heavy double doors towards the roar of the Great Hall. The doors slammed loudly behind them, and Hermione looked up, her heart pounding in anticipation as they made their Malfoy entrance…
And was met with complete and utter silence. Nearly every head had turned their way, and hundreds of eyes had focused on them before they had even completely entered the room. So much for a Malfoy entrance.
Hermione’s nails dug painfully into Draco’s palm as they stood there, frozen in the impending silence and squirming under the scrutiny of their classmates. A heavy and awkward pause began to form in the natural flow of the normal breakfast routine as the prolonged silence grew. Draco and Hermione looked desperately around the room for a place to sit, and together, get out from underneath the uncomfortable spotlight.
“Slytherin?” Hermione asked softly from the corner of her mouth. Still, the students who were seated nearest the doors could hear her. They turned away momentarily, scandalized, to observe the green and silver Slytherin table.
Draco frowned. “Are you crazy?!” he murmured just as quietly. Draco’s old friends were looking towards them with mutinous expressions. Crabbe and Goyle were scratching their heads, apparently confused with the change in their Slytherin king. Blaise Zabini had turned away from them, but his hands, clenched in fists on the tabletop, were shaking in anger. Even meek little Theo Nott had a slight malice radiating from his dark eyes.
“Okay, maybe not,” Hermione squeaked, going a bit pale with fear. Her own hands trembled, and Draco squeezed her fingers. "How does everyone already know?"
Draco shrugged. “Beats me. What about Gryffindor?” he asked with little hope.
They both shifted their attention to the table in red and gold. Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnegan were both simultaneously pinching each other on the arm. From the wincing responses, they definitely were not dreaming. Harry looked to be struggling silently, which alarmed Hermione, until she realized that he had choked on his pumpkin juice and was wheezing. Neville was worriedly clapping him on the back. With an ominous feeling, Hermione looked toward the redheads. Ginny Weasley was stroking her brother Ronald on the back soothingly, her face turned away from the spectacle as if she could not bear to watch. Only Ron looked towards her directly, his eyes burning and his face a furious Weasley red.
“Oh, no,” Draco whispered in her ear. “I didn’t know you and the Weasel had a thing.” He sounded uncharacteristically concerned.
Hermione rewarded him with a small, tense smile. “Not to worry, we didn’t,” she said shortly. Sighing, she wrenched her eyes away from Ron and looked up at Draco. “Ravenclaw?”
“Are you kidding me?” Draco exclaimed loudly. His voice echoed awkwardly through the silent room and bounced around, repeating itself in a distorted manner. Everyone continued to stare at them.
“Okay, okay,” Hermione ceded, eyebrows raised. With that reaction from Draco, she didn’t even bother appraising the bronze and blue table in front of her. Anyway, she was pretty sure that all she’d get from them were condescending glances and disapproving clucks of tongue.
“So…” Draco trailed off, looking uneasy.
Hermione laughed out loud. "So," she replied, elbowing him in the side. "It all comes down to this, then." She and Draco walked hand-in-hand towards the Hufflepuff table just as McGonagall, Snape, Flitwick, and Slughorn thundered urgently into the dead silent Great Hall, led by a chuckling Albus Dumbledore.
A/N: *squee* It's done! Thanks to those who've read, reviewed, favorited, and enjoyed/not enjoyed this story. I love you all!
I lost lots of delightful reviews, so I appreciate any full-story feedback 10-fold. Please leave a teensy something in that box down there.. =]
Well, I'm wrapping up my "1st generation" of fics from a year ago, so here comes the 2nd: There's Two Shots in the Dark, a political satire in which the Ministry must fight Voldemort in the Second War without Harry's help. It's already UP! I also just put up Ch 1 of a Rabastan/OC novel, Saviour , and am working on a Founders romance, which is NOT up. And my Marauder story, They Couldn't Stop the Voices, is not nearly finished. Please pop in if you're interested!
Thanks to everyone again for reading!