Draco’s eyes widened, realizing what had just happened. He quickly knelt down just as Nott did and held Hermione by the shoulders.
“Hermione,” Draco said, trembling, ”I didn’t mean to, I’m so sorry- I-“
Hermione sat on the floor, one hand to her cheek. Tears were pouring down her face, falling onto a bruise that was forming. She gasped and stood up unsteadily and Draco held her elbows. She wanted to run, run far away from them, but her knees were wobbly now.
Nott took a step back, watching the scene. Why wasn’t he the one holding her? He didn’t hit her at all, even if it wasn’t on purpose. She was pale again, like how he wanted it. It was so beautiful to look at her, so fragile and lost. Couldn’t it last this way, at least just for him and him alone?
Draco was looking at her eyes and he saw the tears fall down one by one, he saw the cheek that had been hit, it was swelling, forming into an ugly reminder of how careless he was. He held her face and was about to embrace her but she recoiled with a small cry, a cry of fear.
“Hermione,” Draco began once more. “Please, let me look at that-“
But Hermione had left the room just as he finished saying so. Draco stood in the near empty room, with Theodore Nott behind him. The air had become heavy, like a thousand boulders were pushing on the ceiling to rob them of oxygen. Draco turned to face Nott, whose looks had by then gone sour, the first time he had seen it happen in many years.
“Don’t think for one second you’re innocent. You started all this,” Nott breathed out.
“You made me hurt her.”
“You did that yourself, without my help. It started in the library, remember?”
Draco’s eyes widened, sensing a change deep inside of Nott. He gave a mocking laugh all of a sudden. Draco laughed and laughed as if he had found something rather funny with Nott’s appearance.
“What are you laughing at?” Nott said, taking a step.
“You!” Draco sputtered.
“Me? The hell I’m as funny as-“
Draco’s demeanor changed. His eyes darkened and his mouth curled upwards, as if he discovered something far greater than the chest of Salazar Slytherin.
“You like her,” Draco said simply.
Without warning, Nott launched a fist to Draco’s cheek. Draco stumbled and then hit Nott’s jaw, sending Nott reeling to the floor, hitting a few chairs in the process. Nott stood up, determined to have a good fight, feeling the rage course through his veins- suddenly felt good to his ego. He landed a punch on Draco’s shoulder and Draco fell back but retaliated with an upper cut to the chin. Nott fell to the floor, groaning, blood trailing out of his mouth. He lay there, looking at Draco’s figure cast over him. Draco was shaking his right hand, sore from the unexpected brawl.
It took a full two minutes for him to regain feeling on his legs and hands and then he slowly stood up and sat on a table, wiping the blood off of his mouth with his sleeve. He sighed and his head bent down and he folded his arms, not looking at Draco.
“Should I be hanged?” Nott finally said.
Draco sat opposite to Nott, observing his face. He took a breath and shook his head. Draco sighed. Why had it come to this? He had planned a few things out but had never thought this would happen. His closest ally actually liking the same woman… wasn’t that a one in a million chance? And they both liked someone of Muggleborn descent, for Merlin’s sake!
“Why?” Draco finally asked.
Nott huffed. “Why. Yes, that’s a pretty good question. I’ve been asking myself the same thing.”
“But you hate her…” Draco said lamely.
“Things are different now,” Draco said.
“As are things for me,” Nott muttered. “It’s not easy, Draco. How did you manage this repulsive sentiment?”
“It just happened,” Draco shrugged.
“Well, you’ve certainly marked your territory with a bit of bloodshed,” Nott said with a bleeding smile.
Draco breathed in evenly. “What next?”
“What do you mean what next?”
“What do I do next?” Draco asked him.
“You’re the one with the plans. I just follow you. And here I thought you were going to challenge me into another duel to see who wins her heart.”
“I hope you aren’t mimicking this liking for Hermione.”
“That’s an original emotion there, Draco,” Nott told him, checking to see if his inner lip was still bleeding by pressing a finger on it. “I liked her on my terms.”
“I don’t know what to do next,” Draco said changing the topic.
“Maybe I can help.”
“Maybe,” Draco exhaled.
“Try me,” Nott said, flicking his wand to shut the door. “I’ve forgotten what it was like to actually have a duel with someone by hand and you just reawakened that part for me.”
Draco chortled. “You had it coming.”
“But really, what will you do now?”
“Help me figure a few things out.”
It took Draco most of the early morning to explain what had occurred in that room in the turret; he showed Nott the book of Runes, the faded drawing of the chest, telling Nott he had hidden the object in the same room, leaving out that tiny detail of Hermione actually giving him the key as a present. He also added some ghost appeared, that the ghost probably had a connection to either the book or the chest. He saved the last part, what was inside of the coffer and the power it held. By the time he had more or less finished, it had just struck three-thirty in the morning.
Nott sat; his eyes wide with the immense undertaking that was to be done, forgetting the final examinations. “Bloody hell…how are you going to manage that?”
Draco shrugged. “That remains to be answered.”
“The thirteenth of February.”
“The ball?” Nott gasped, almost laughing.
“The full moon reaches its height at midnight.”
“Damn and damn and damn,” Nott breathed, running a nervous hand through his hair.
“Damn right you are,” Draco said morosely, looking at the strange shadows cast all over the wall of the classroom. One strangely looked like Hermione’s back turned. It was a sign, a dreadful sign.
Draco was glad that Hermione had a different schedule that last day of exams. He couldn’t bear the thought of seeing her face, he had imagined if she was in pain when she slept that night, imagined if she had cried further after he had hit her unintentionally, wondered if the bruise on her face had gone worse.
He stumbled into the Great Hall for lunch after a bloody exam on Herbology. The bandage on his hand was new; he had changed it right after the tests were through. He had survived through a two hundred item exam and an actual exam concerning human sized plants and extracting their venom to make some draught to cure Dragon ailments (in case they had pet dragons in the near future). Four hours of Herbology, four hours of plant torture and four hours of constant worry over Hermione.
“You look tired,” Blaise said wryly as Draco sat beside him.
“Tell me about it.”
“I’m telling you, you should get back with Pansy. She might cure your common hormonal ailment.”
Draco frowned and huffed. He saw Pansy wave at him as she entered the Great Hall with their other Slytherin classmates. He rolled his eyes and looked at Nott, who also hadn’t had enough sleep. Nott was seated far from Draco and today Draco wanted to be away from everyone. He noticed Hermione wasn’t at the Gryffindor table. The redhead was there, the pothead was there, but she wasn’t. Nott gazed at the Gryffindor table and stood up after having only soup for lunch. Draco followed suit.
Harry saw Draco stand up and he excused himself, saying he wanted to go to the lavatory. He followed Draco, hiding in every corner. Draco stopped once in awhile, looking over his shoulder, feeling someone following him. Hiding in one corner, Harry left the pillar, wondering where Draco had gone.
Draco quickly brandished his wand and popped out of the corner, surprising Harry. “To what do I owe the pleasure of you following me, Potter?” he seethed.
Harry held his hands up to his chest, as if he had surrendered. “I need-“ he mustered his courage to say the foul words. ”I need to talk to you.”
“Need?” Draco echoed. “You could always fight back. Now’s the perfect moment to kill me.” Unexpectedly, he pocketed his wand inside his robes and urged Harry to hit him.
Harry looked incredulous.
“That’s right. Remember when you almost killed me? I was glad for that. So here’s your second chance. Do it right this time. Snape won’t be here to-”
“I dreamt of your aunt and Voldemort- together,” Harry interrupted, his teeth gritting. His eyes spied on a small book of something that curiously looked like ancient scribbles. He faced Draco’s eyes again after that split second distraction.
Draco stopped halfway. He blinked. Did Harry fucking Potter just say that he had dreamt of his aunt and the Dark Lord? He held his chin high and his jaw clenched. He could not afford to be careless. What if this was just some extremely lucky prediction of a dream that Potter had?
“And?” he breathed, still tense from Potter’s revelation.
“And I think you should watch out for something.”
Draco laughed hollowly. “And you’re the one to help? Has the world gone bonkers? You, Harry Potter, helping the son of an assumed Death Eater-“
“I know your father is one, so don’t give me this denial bull crap. I know what I dreamt of. If I didn’t know you any better, I’d say you’d better watch out for your Aunt-“
“You don’t know me at all!” Draco burst out. “You don’t know my Aunt-“
Harry flinched. “Don’t make the mistake of thinking I’d forgotten what your Aunt did to my godfather. If I could have my way, I’d leave you to die.“
“All the better then!“ Draco said. “This madness should cease to exist for me if you should.”
“I saw your eyes, when you tried to kill Dumbledore-“
“Enough! I don’t want to hear you say anything pertaining to that old man who was foolish enough to believe in Snape, and I for one am glad of the stories circulating that Snape’s dead!”
Harry scowled, forgetting he was standing in front of Draco to help him, to save him from an uncertain event and a certain death. “Your aunt will kill you and your family if you fail,” Harry said in a low tone, pocketing his wand. “Good luck with that.”
Draco took a breath in, a deep and long one. “You know nothing, Potter.”
Harry tried to smile; it came out as a cross between revulsion and pain. “I do know one thing; you don’t have the guts to kill anyone, let alone kill me.”
Harry turned his back on Draco.
“Potter,” Draco began.
Harry slowly turned around. He saw Draco looking more tired than ever, his pallor was that of the dying, his eyes looked bruised and his one hand had a bandage wrapped around it. He stopped and tried to calm himself. He could not solve the dream, if it were real or not, without Draco’s help or at least the slightest hint. Harry was about to open his mouth when a voice broke in the conversation.
“Harry, I think Hermione-“ Ron stopped, seeing the head behind Harry. He frowned. “Is the-amazing-bouncing-ferret bothering you?”
Draco felt his mouth curl upwards, forming into a rather ugly sneer. “You have it the other way around.”
“Oy, what’s this Harry?” Ron asked.
Harry shook his head. “Nothing, Ron. I was about to ask the-amazing-bouncing-ferret about a few details, but I can see having a civilized conversation isn’t his thing. Excuse me,” Harry brusquely said, turning his back against Draco. Ron shot him a glower and left with Harry.
Draco overheard Ron asking what had just happened. Harry mumbled something and Ron laughed boisterously down the hallway. He stood there, his heart nearly beating too fast. He tried to control his breathing. Potter was ahead of his game. He knew- wait, did he? Potter had some inkling…but his aunt could never kill him. Would she? But there were so many things he didn’t know about his aunt as well…was Potter on the right ‘dreaming’ track? He shuddered to think of what Harry had dreamt of, knowing all too well the pain the Potter brat also experienced (he had heard of accounts from various witnesses during train rides, where Harry Potter was an all too vulnerable victim from Dementors to dreams). He had declined an offer, some strange form of extended help from someone he had always known as his enemy. Potter had once declined his offer of friendship during their Sorting night seven years ago, wasn’t it his right to decline Potter’s delusions now?
But there was something in Potter that made him want to believe everything he had said. He saw the determination to survive, the fighting spirit that he didn’t have. Draco merely followed and what fighting spirit that remained was to see Hermione and his family safe from whatever diabolical plan the Dark Lord had in store. He had wanted to know where Hermione had gotten that gift for him…well, not like Potter would know, but perhaps he could coax Potter into asking without divulging too much of his plans…
He was almost tempted to run after Potter and speak to him once more, but he shook the thought away, disgusted with those intentions. Draco Malfoy didn’t ask for help from anyone, especially the arch nemesis of the man he was serving. But a lingering thought remained…Draco cursed into the cold afternoon air and walked for the Slytherin dormitory, controlling every inch of muscle that wanted a word with The-Boy-Who-Lived to end his secret turmoil.
A/N: give me some review lovin'?^__^ manny thanks and much fanfiction love!.