AN: Like forever…these wonderful characters are not mine, but J.K. Rowling's.
This is it folks, the last chapter to this wonderful story. Thanks to all who supported this project. And now, on with the finale!
The young blond student waited for an answer to his request; instead there was a slight groan and the rubbing of eyes of one Severus Snape.
"Mr. Malfoy, what are you doing roaming the halls at this hour?"
"Professor, you told my mother that if I ever needed your assistance…you would be able to help"
"And what exactly did you get yourself into?"
"May I come in?"
Snape returned inside and left the door open for Draco to follow his lead. He did so and closed the door making sure no one saw him making his visit.
The room was very dark and full of vials, liquids, books and other potion materials. There was a small table and some chairs to sit. By the appearance of the room, the teacher had been busy. An aroma of pinecones was very subtle, like the light being fashioned from a fireplace close by. Draco took a seat across from his mentor.
"Have you convinced yourself, the task appointed to you is far greater than your abilities?"
"And I suppose you know how much I can accomplish?"
"I know you are a very stubborn child that is scared and trying to handle things in a rush. To achieve success one needs patience and a steady hand, but you are much too young to admit that"
Draco pressed his lips very tightly; he looked at Snape's stoic expression and pushed aside his retort just to get to the point.
"This isn't about Voldermort. I need you to help me clean a certain incident and erase my memory of it afterwards"
Snape moved closer to him and lowered his voice without losing the emphasis of each word.
"What have you done?"
"It's Hermione Granger…she saw me coming out of the Room of Requirement and followed me for a confrontation. There were some questions on her part which I barely answered; somehow it escalated into a duel and…"
"Is Granger harmed?"
"No, I just stunned her with a sleeping spell and erased her memory"
"And where is she now Draco?"
Some sweat beads began to form on his forehead; they were wiped off with a handkerchief he had in his pocket. He tried to avoid the very dark eyes that where studying him. Lying to Snape was no easy task but his anxiety, he hoped, could be associated with the fib that left his lips.
"She is in Professor Flitwick's records room, by the Ravenclaw Tower"
"Is Filtch or anyone else aware of this?"
A little smile he could not contain, for he remembered how promptly Hermione and him kept avoiding being caught while they went all over the place.
Snape sat back and kept his stare on him. He kept thinking that Malfoy was hiding something, and that a duel on school grounds wouldn't go unnoticed by anyone so late at night.
"This duel you speak about…how much damage is there?"
"None now sir, I made sure of leaving no evidence of it before coming here"
"How responsible of you Mr. Malfoy"
Draco lowered his head and clenched his fists on his lap. He felt the potions master get up from his seat and walk over to the door.
"Come along then"
As they walked to their destination, Snape kept facing forward as he asked more questions to Draco.
"Miss Granger was certainly very lucky you didn't hurt her seriously. I hear you are a very good duelist"
"Though Miss Granger is the type of student that practices constantly on her spells, making her a top student here. You are fortunate to have not a single scratch as well"
"…" Draco focused his attention on the row of armors to his right.
"I'll have to deduct points tomorrow from Gryffindor. She shouldn't have been out after curfew"
"There is no need for that"
"Are you advocating for a rival house Mr. Malfoy?"
"I just think that after erasing her memory, there would be nothing to back up her behavior"
"That is true; although something keeps bothering me: If there wasn't a major consequence to this...duel…why are asking me to erase your memory?"
By this time they had reached the awaited door. Snape turned briskly to face Draco very closely and the swishing sound of his ebony robes was enough to make the teenager cringe. He swallowed hard and chose the next words very cautiously.
"I don't want this on my conscience. Certain things are better to be dispose of before they cause damage in the long run"
"You never felt this unnerved after that duel with Parkinson last year and she suffered some injuries"
"That was different. She knew was she was getting into after I gave her a fair warning. The little brat started it and kept elevating it until one of her spells backfired and affected her"
"I didn't know Granger was a civilized duelist"
"Can we just get this over with?"
Hermione was still in the same position as before. She was breathing softly and had a serene expression on her face. Draco went over to her book, grabbed it and turned to face Snape.
"Is that hers?"
He just nodded. Snape carried Hermione in his arms all the way to the bottom of the staircase directing to the Gryffindor entrance.
"The book Mr. Malfoy, place it on top of her frame and wait for me here"
He did as he was told, and kept his hand above her very slightly for a second more than he had to. The elder took notice but said nothing.
The student watched as Hermione was being led away into safety. Once on top Severus stopped right in front of the portrait of the Fat Lady. The dame had dozed off long ago and had her back turned towards the teacher. He cleared his throat and received a groggy response from the lady.
"…Hello Professor. I see you have one of our students with you. My Goodness! Is she alright? Maybe the Hospital Wing would be the best place to take her!"
"Madame Pomfrey should fix her up, are you sure she is okay?"
His sinister eyes glared at her as he repeated the password.
"Alright, alright I was just trying to help"
The portrait swung open and the view of a cluttered common room was visible. Snape felt slightly disgusted at the sight of empty cups, streamers and teenagers lying around.
Once inside, the portrait closed and Draco felt a worried appearance on his features. His heart felt very heavy at what had happened. Thoughts about what needed to be done began to erupt, but his mind wasn't listening. He sat on a step with his head on his hands. He kept thinking about her smile, words and that kiss; the guilt was overcoming him.
"It's for the best. I had a job to do and she would be just in the way. I shouldn't have told her that…I SHOULDN'T HAVE SAID ANYTHING AT ALL!"
"Hey there! Kept it down, will you?"
Some portraits woke up and began to feel annoyed at him. He glared back and kept quiet after that. Before long, the sound of a door opening was heard and footsteps coming at him. Draco got up and waited for the professor to guide him. They returned to Snape's room and settled in for the next step.
"I placed her on a couch; she looked like some of the other students passed out in the room. Reckless teenagers"
Severus Snape looked at a pile of vials on a specific bookcase. He decided on one full of a bluish liquid that had grey swirling patterns. The instructor turned and gave it to the young Slytherin.
"Take that and all shall be forgotten"
The glass barely touched his lips when a firm hand stopped him from taking it. Snape watched his defiant stare but didn't let go.
"Not here. Take it to your dormitory and consume it when you are ready to go to sleep"
Draco put the cork back on the container and just held it as he waited for a dismissal.
"This will make you forget what has happened in the last 12 hours. I will talk to you about minor details you need to remember tomorrow."
"Thank you, Professor"
He took this as his cue to leave. As the door almost closed, the teenager heard his name being called by Snape with an uncharacteristic concerned tone.
"Sometimes life lets us crave what we can't have as a form of strength. Certain feelings can be bothersome in the long run, but if these are very powerful ones…they shall never go away no matter how much we want to forget. I only give you this potion because I made a vow to your mother"
"I'm glad you are standing by your word then"
And he left on his way back to the dungeons. Before long he had changed into his pajamas, they were a hazy shade of green bringing out more his eyes. He noticed how peaceful his comrades were sleeping and felt envious. Crabbe kept snoring, Goyle was holding on to several pillows.
Draco looked outside his windows wondering about her. Could she be dreaming of him? Would she ever glance in his direction leaving a spark between the two of them?
"Not in this lifetime I guess"
He sat on the edge of his bed and picked up the tiny bottle, uncorked and ready to dissolve all recollection of the day's events. Like a shot of fire whiskey it went down his throat as one sweet name was let out in a raspy voice.
The next day was a very foggy one. There were traces of the cloudy mass everywhere, making it difficult for the students to see their way around the school. Peeves was having a good time hiding around and scaring students, specially unsuspecting girls as he grabbed them by the ankles. Neville kept bumping into walls and even inadvertently ran straight into the arms of Professor Slughorn.
By lunchtime the fog began to fade away. After the previous day's excitement the Gryffindor table was still buzzing about with their quidditch victory and the latest gossip. Most of them had goofy grins and smirks to go along with dark circles and baggy eyes. The Slytherin table was irritated beyond consolation and tried to keep their composure.
"Still sulking about yesterday I suppose"
"Do you think so Ginny?" Hermione let out with a yawn
"Yes, I do. Where did you go last night? I fell asleep by one and your bed was still empty. Harry mentioned something about the library"
"Oh…right. I'm not sure. I remember deciding to go there but…"
As on cue Draco Malfoy walked into the Great Hall and moved over to his table very quietly. He only turned towards the rival table to gave a quick scoff to those looking at him, which was half of the lions.
"Better luck next time Malfoy"
"Shut it Weasel! You should tend to your food. You're not used to such feasts on your family's budget"
"Why I oughta—"
"Ron don't pay attention to him, money can't buy you class"
Harry finished his sentence and Draco sat down in his seat pouting. Hermione kept staring for a second longer and received a stare back from him. He opened his mouth but changed his mind and instead broke eye contact as Pansy yanked the sleeve of his robes.
The day went by as any normal day. The only tension was evident in a small circle of friends. Harry was obsessing with Draco's whereabouts and change of personality. Hermione kept avoiding Ron since Lavender would not let him wander off without her. Ginny and Dean began talking again with some strain.
Finally the sun was setting as the Gryffindor common room was busy with people doing their homework, chatting and playing the occasional game of chess or exploding snap.
Hermione instead was in her bedroom, sitting on her desk with piles of books and papers all around. The quill in her hand was scribbling away very rapidly; she kept mumbling something about centaurs.
"Having trouble with an assignment?"
The familiar voice snapped her out of it.
"Ginny! You startled me. Yes, it's a five foot essay for Snape. I got in trouble with him over my breaking of curfew and aside from 20 points taken off I have this due by tomorrow."
"I thought you didn't remember"
"He said he brought me back here after I refused to wake up, he mentioned something about finding me in some bench by the bridge"
"Well that seems…odd"
"I know but the Fat Lady confirmed his story"
"Oh, this? Madame Pince let me borrow it. I was able to extend my due date this afternoon. There is a chapter here that I think you will find interesting"
As she flipped the pages, she suddenly stopped. Gently folded between two yellowish papers was a small bouquet of flowers. Hermione blinked at them and grabbed them lightly.
"Forget-me-nots and edelweiss. You didn't tell me you had an admirer"
"What about Cormac McLaggen?"
"I doubt he is that clever"
She just gave her an obviously-not look.
"Right, sorry. Well whoever it is, they are very detailed"
"You see flowers can have special meanings. The forget-me-not symbolizes true love and memories. Edelweiss' meaning is daring, courage and noble purity. Aside from that they have a sort of glow to avoid their drying out"
Hermione studied them and felt her heart flutter. Maybe she was special to someone else…
With that hope in her heart she looked out a window and smiled.
Final note: I know! I know! They are not together, but aren't some of the best stories those where they are forced apart? Some ppl were very outraged at Draco's actions but take in mind he did the deed in order to avoid her getting hurt. He wasn't ready to man up to her but was satisfied for now with the knowledge that she might accept him.