I am so so sorry that it has taken me so long to update, I have been finishing up my Uni work and now that its all done for the time being I will be updating regularly. Hope you like this chapter, thanks so much for all the reviews and follows.
Draco could feel rather than see Pansy's suspicion, it pricked the back of this neck and made him lower his head guiltily when he once again found himself looking at Hermione. Whenever he thought of the previous night's events his chest would hurt and his eyes would chase her, snatching at everything and holding it in his mind; then he'd ruminate stupidly over whether any of it was because of him, if any of her thoughts were retracing every word, every breath, and touch from the night before. He hated and loved the way it made him feel.
He'd held her, Merlin he'd held her, and she'd clung to him in a desperate sort of way that had made him feel like some sort of hero. It was childish pride that made him flush all the way up to his blonde hair when he realised he'd never seen her hug any of the golden trio the same. True, he wasn't in the habit of recording all their actions, but he was pretty certain that Granger didn't fling herself at just anyone. Nope, she flung herself at him, him of all sodding people and it had been singularly the most petrifyingly beautiful things he'd ever experienced.
He'd mumbled what he'd seen, painting it in as much detail as he could because that's what she always wanted, a little frown on her face as she snapped out all her questions, hand impatiently on her hip when he didn't answer them well enough or fast enough. He knew it annoyed her that she couldn't actually see any of the memories, knew that she desperately wanted the other half of the story because in Granger's mind it would be just as important, if not more.
She'd shifted her head against his shirt till her eyes had flickered up to his face, skin all blotchy on her cheeks, puffy eyes with tiny drops of tears wobbling precariously on her eyelashes. The sight had made him clear his throat, attempting to shift his legs, a mission soon aborted when he'd realised Hermione's were in the way. He'd blinked rather stupidly at her feet sitting between his, the fact that he could feel her fingers on his shoulder. The warmth of them had been an unbearable heat that he swore he could still feel, burning against his skin as he sat staring at his breakfast. It was a heat he hadn't know he'd needed. He suppressed the urge to groan into his breakfast, balling his fist against his forehead. For the love of Merlin, he needed her out of his head, but he knew it was fruitless because her words from the previous night echoed in his mind and he was powerless to stop them.
"What are they like, Rhylan, Bear, and Taigen?" She'd sniffed the words, extracting herself from him and he' fought every instinct to draw her back to him, letting his arms fall off her waist as she settled by the side of him. The cold had come back for a bit, it had felt like stepping away from an open fire and finding that the world was all frost and icicles, and he was the dithering idiot who hadn't dressed for the weather.
"Like muggles." She'd whacked him, and he'd relished the contact and mentally shook his head at himself because now, on top of everything else, he enjoyed her physically abusing him. He had to see a healer.
He'd somehow managed to answer all her questions without doing anything royally idiotic and she'd slowly told him what she'd seen, scooting ever closer so their shoulders were pressed together, smatterings of the Sensieve's magic dancing along their skin. He'd gently, with about as much bravery as his house could ever realistically possess, let his fingers graze the back of her hand, dropping them between the gaps in hers, holding his breath for the inevitable fallout, that to his utter shock, never came. Everything combined had left him feeling somewhat light headed. The memory she recounted, on the other hand, had about the same effect as a hex to the face or a bucket of ice cold water being dumped over his head.
"I want to know what…. what he's doing and why." She'd chewed her bottom lip as she'd said it, shoulders slumping against the wall as she'd sighed in exasperation. He'd nodded, suggesting that there had to be more memories, more information, more anything. He could recall rattling on for quite a bit, filling the space with hot air and the hope that she wouldn't let go of his hand. He almost shook his head in disbelief, who would have thought that Draco Malfoy would have waxed lyrical all day long if it meant he could hold Granger's hand for just five more seconds, the idea of it was just baffling.
He'd walked her back to her common room, silence had been thick in the air and he'd snuck glances at her that left him none the wiser as to what was going on in her head. When they'd paused outside the portrait, the Fat Lady giving him a reproachful look before sniffing and turning her attention to a bowl of fruit at her side, he'd become almost certain that she'd go back to hating him, she did kind of have every right, a fact that he cringed to remind himself of constantly.
"Will I…?" He hadn't been able to stop the step he took forward, the grin that had stretched across his face almost painfully, the swell of hope in his chest that mirrored the hope in her eyes.
He tried to shake his head, taking a bite of scrambled egg to cover the grin that was forming on his face, he'd muttered a yes to her and watched her eyes glint with happiness. Yes; as if there was any other answer that he could give her as if there was any other answer that he wanted to give her. Yes, he would meet her again, yes, he wanted to, yes, he wanted to be with her, yes, he absolutely, unequivocally wanted her. He knew she didn't understand the weight of feelings and emotions attached to that world as it had dropped heavily between them, but she'd nodded, and he'd walked away, his steps feeling so light he wasn't even sure they touched the stone beneath him.
"Did you enjoy your walk?" Daphne's voice pulled him away from staring at Granger, her blonde hair nearly trailing in his food as she leant towards him, blue eyes smiling and curious. Draco blinked at her several times; she was pretty, no one could deny it, one of the most beautiful girls at Hogwarts and well-respected name to match. He wished all of that was enough, it would make everything a darn sight easier. But it wasn't enough because...because it just wasn't. Every possible feature of note, every wonderful thing he could pick out about the blonde witch was met with...'yeah but Granger'.
"Um, yeah." He mumbled, taking a long sip of his pumpkin juice and marvelling at just how articulate he was early in the morning, with thoughts of Granger bouncing around his head like pixies on a fresh batch of Pomfrey's Pick-me-up. He tried not to pay any attention to the glare Pansy was shooting him, her nails tapping out an annoyed rhythm on the wooden table.
"You went for a walk?" Pansy bit out, crumbling a piece of toast into dust in a display of violence that only Draco seemed to notice, and it made him gulp. He nodded, scooping up some scrambled egg and pretending that the sheer delicacy of the dish in front of him kept him from braving his friends stare, despite the fact it actually tasted something akin to ashy mush.
"And you didn't take Daphne with you?" The question seemed lighthearted, a curious friend commenting sweetly on his past time, but Draco could feel the venom of it as she snapped it at him. He lifted his head to defend himself to do something, anything to stop Pansy and her hooked nose butting into his business. She'd dig, he knew she would, hooking her Slytherin green claws around the truth, dragging it shamefaced and naked into the light of day. He shivered as a chill ran up his spine at the image his thoughts invoked.
"He could have wanted to go alone." Never in the history of Hogwarts had Draco ever thought that he would be compelled kiss Gregory Goyle, but he strangely found himself resisting the urge, the great oaf having all the glitteriness of an Auror coming to save him from an evil dark wizard. Pansy knew it too, her eyes brows doing a weird dance as she stuttered uncomfortably, Draco grinned and decided against swooning into Goyle's arms.
"I just think it would be nice to spend time with his, girlfriend." The emphasis on girlfriend made him jump a little, swallowing the large lump of fear that had risen into his throat. She knew she friggin knew, he wouldn't have been surprised if she'd hired some poor unfortunate first year to trail him, all shakiness and sweaty pits because 'Miss Parkinson said so'.
"What are you the relationship police." Blaise chuckled, making a meal out of buttering his toast evenly. Theo had once helpfully pointed out that there was a spell that could do that for him, though the jam he'd received to the face had been comical, it had also felt like a slight overreaction on Blaise's part.
"I just think it's important to spend time together." She ground out, trying to plant her foot into Blaise's leg, but he moved at the last minute, smirking when she nearly fell off her seat.
"What do you call this?" Theo gestured to all of them sat together with the end of his fork.
"It doesn't count, we're all here."
"Oh, it was fine, Theo kept me company." Daphne cut in joyfully and the boy in question nearly lost his drink all over Blaise's lap, a fact which Blaise looked none too impressed with.
"Well you know, I try." He mumbled, and Blaise scoffed earning a disapproving glare from Daphne.
"Don't be so modest," Daphne flicked her long hair over one shoulder, resting her chin in her palm delicately as she spoke, "I don't think I've laughed that much in... ever."
Draco completely missed the gleam in Daphne's eye as she said this, too busy utilising the distraction her words afforded him, looking over the rows of students till his eyes found Hermione's bushy nest. Her head was lowered as she read the daily prophet with the same attention she gave everything. He'd have shook his head if he hadn't found the sight unbelievably adorable, so much so that a small smile ghosted his lips.
"All I'm saying is, what could he possibly have to say that could keep you entertained all night?" Blaise scoffed again, looking towards Pansy for some sort of agreement, but finding her shrewd little eyes were flicking between Theo and Daphne as if she were figuring out some unfathomable riddle.
"You assume there's talking involved." Theo shot back, his smirk freezing on his face as horror began to dawn at the realisation of what he'd said and who he had said it to.
Blaise and Theo both turned to look at Draco, desperately trying to gauge his reaction and being thoroughly baffled by the soft smile curling the ends of his lips. Blaise cast a worried glance to his friend, eyes communicating the possibility that their friend may have truly lost it as he cleared his throat. Draco jumped a little, eyes widening and then narrowing when he noticed he had an audience. Schooling his features, he gave then an even grey stare, his usual 'I'm a Malfoy and I don't care'.
"Look, mate, I…" Theo began only to be interrupted by the high-pitched peal of Daphne's laughter, her hand pressed over her mouth as she leaned into the rather worried looking Theodore, their shoulders bumping as she shared in his joke, albeit rather slowly. He forced out his own nervous laugh that died into nothingness when Pansy sniffed in disapproval. There was nothing quite like Pansy's disapproval, though the boys laughed at her and wound her up, they would sink into little puddles of contrite Slytherins when Pansy finally reached her limit and made it clear that she did not like what was being said. It didn't happen very often, but when it did it was like the young witch had conjured a chill wind that froze everyone in place.
"You have the funniest friends." Daphne breathed, grinning lazily at Draco, who gave her a small nod.
"I know, a real hoot, aren't they?" Pansy attempted, giving the blonde a tight smile.
She was biting her lip again, Scarface beside her talking animatedly probably about his lifelong dream of stardom or how impossible it was to shatter his glasses. She quickly looked up at him and he sucked in a breath and for one exquisite moment, it was like he was deaf to the world, lost in a weird in-between where time moved too slow for sound and the few seconds that they looked at one another lasted for an achingly sweet eternity.
An eternity brought to an abrupt end by Crabbe's large clammy palm waving in his face, chunky digits blocking out his view of her doe brown eyes. He supposed he should have thanked his meaty friend, the places his thoughts were taking him were sickeningly sweet, teeth rotting sweet and he absolutely wasn't okay with it.
"Pansy wants you."
Draco sighed, turning his attention to Pansy and instantly wishing that he hadn't, her nostrils flaring violently, the sight something akin to the horntail Potter had somehow hoodwinked the year before. Draco rolled his eyes knowing exactly what the look, flickering dangerously in her eyes, meant. With great reluctance he got to his feet, moving towards the large doors at the end of the Great Hall, offering the pathetic excuse and him and Pansy needing to go through some work together. He didn't look back, but he knew she was following.
"Are you crazy?" Pansy rounded on him as soon as they'd left the Hall, making his steps falter.
"Ah yes, the usual Parkinson greeting makes me privileged to be your friend."
"I'm being serious."
"So am I. And what kind of question is that anyway, as if I would know if I'm crazy and if I did, why would I tell you, if you think about it, it doesn't really make sense." Draco pointed out casually, leaning his shoulder against the wall and watching rather amusedly as Pansy fumed at him, smoke practically shooting out her ears.
"I can't help you if you keep being a dick."
"Well, that's a bit harsh."
"You keep putting yourself right in the way of that know-it-all, in my book that falls right under, oh yes being a dick." Draco bit back a retort, defending Granger was in no way going to help his case. Pansy must have noticed something because she pointed a long nail at him.
"You went to defend her, then didn't you?"
"No, I didn't." He shrugged standing up straight, trying to dodge her accusations and failing epically.
"Yes, you did, you had the face."
"I do not have a... look Pans, I went for a walk. I didn't kill anyone, didn't sneak off to snog Granger," Wanted to though. He cringed when the thought popped unbidden into his head. The memories of the night before were flickering through his head so clearly that he thought he could feel Granger's hand in his, her tear-stained cheek pressed against his shoulder, he hoped Pansy couldn't read it in his eyes.
"Yes Mom, a walk, now if you've quite done tracking my every step, can I go?" Pansy shook her head, grabbing his arm when he tried to leave.
"You asked me to help, remember. You came to me and dumped all this crap, not the other way around."
"Merlin, I know, I know, jus…" He looked at her levelly letting his shoulders slump slightly. He hated Pansy sticking her nose in making it harder for him to see Granger, but she was right. He had asked for her help and he'd done it for one very dark and evil reason that was creeping ever closer. Being with Granger somehow made him forget all the other messy stuff surrounding him. It all seemed so easy with her as if the things keeping him from being with her were nothing but stupid fantasies concocted in his mind. He couldn't blame Pansy, she was doing what she had always done, being a good and loyal friend.
"I've got this okay? I just needed some time to myself." His words seemed to mollify whatever argument Pansy was waiting to throw at him, her mouth opening and closing several times before she scowled.
"Okay, but Granger isn't your only problem, I mean she's a big, big problem but…" Pansy looked down at her feet, forehead creasing.
"But what?" Draco asked, not entirely understanding Pansy's concern, the look on her face suggested another killer had escaped from Azkaban and he was first on their merry little kill list. That or the Dark Lord himself had asked her out for dinner and she didn't know how to let him down gently.
"Theo and...and Daphne." Draco continued to stare at her, when he realised no more information was forthcoming he raised his eyebrow.
"What about them?"
"Are you kidding me?"
"Pany as much as I find this thoroughly amusing, and you know I don't, could you please say something that makes a teeny tiny bit of sense? Just a smidge, is all I'm asking." Pansy scowled at him, shaking her head.
"I honestly can't believe you don't see it."
"You guys are all the same, something is right in front of you, practically doing star jumps and you can't see a bloodie thing."
"Okay, evil man-hater, you mind answering my question before I die from all this excitement?"
"Theo and Daphne…they were," Pansy cast a quick glance around as if imparting thoroughly confidential information, "flirting."
Draco drew back, eyes widening. He had not expected that. The sheer hilarity of it all was not lost on him and he began chuckling under his breath.
"It's not funny," Pansy stated seriously, which only served to make him laugh louder, till his guffaws were echoing off the stone walls.
"It's not funny." Pansy tried again, hoping that more emphasis on her words would somehow breakthrough Draco's amusement.
"Come on, it's a little funny."
"So it's fine that your girlfriend is giggling at everything Knott says like it's the best joke she's ever heard?"
Draco shrugged, "He's a funny guy."
"He's not that funny."
"Tell that to Greengrass." Draco cut in, making himself laugh a little more. Pansy pinned him with a look that told him she was not ever going to share in his enjoyment. Drawing up the last dregs of his strength he managed to sober himself, looking at least a little bit serious as he tried to calm her worries.
"Okay Pans, Theo is my mate, he wouldn't - he wouldn't do that to me." Although there as a part of him that kind of wished that he would. Greengrass would no longer be an issue and he could wander off to spend time with Granger with no fear of the Parkinson wrath. It didn't take an Arch-Wizard to realise just how flawed and full of holes his plan truly was, still, it was something he deluded himself with for a few seconds.
"You need to be there with her, you know, remind her who it is that she adores." Draco made a face and Pansy sighed waving her hand.
"I know, I know, yuk, bleigh, gross, all of the above. But girls like to feel like they're wanted and right now it looks like Theo wants your girlfriend more than you do."
"Don't say it, just don't. We're doing this for a reason."
"What was that reason again?" He asked sarcastically, grin dying on his face when Pansy didn't reciprocate
"I don't know, or even remotely understand how you feel about her, Drake, but I know…" She took a deep breath and met his gaze, "You're my friend and I don't want anything to happen to you."
Draco paused and nodded, there was a reason he'd asked Pansy to help him. Yes she was stubborn and nosey and yes, she would go to all weird and wonderful lengths to find out the truth, but she cared, cared deeply for those she considered worthy of it.
"Nothing's going to happen to me Pans." He assured her placing a comforting hand on her shoulder.
"Just say you'll try and spend some time with Daphne."
"I'll try…" When she continued to stare he cringed, "Not this week though."
"What?" Pansy's eyes practically bugged out of her head.
"I just need some time to myself, this thing isn't easy especially with Gran...especially with her being so close."
Pansy seemed to concede to this sighing heavily and smiling wearily at him.
"This wouldn't have anything to do with prefect duty would it?" She raised her eyebrow and Draco gazed down at her innocently.
"Now when have I ever done anything I'm supposed to." Pansy chuckled slightly shaking her head.
"One week, Malfoy, one week."
"Now who's angrily using second names?" He mocked, and Pansy swatted his arm.
"Just promise me that you'll be careful."
He followed her progress as she walked back into the Great Hall, though it felt like a phenomenal curse, he supposed it was a blessing to have friends that cared so much.
"Inquisitor?" The paper had been passed down the length of the table when Theo had expressed his utter boredom loudly, drowning out the debate that appeared to have erupted amongst the 7th years.
"Mom thought it only right to inspect how well we're being educated, apparently," Blaise stated, continuing to read as Theo turned to tell anyone that would listen, even some still quite severely butt hurt 7th years that told him to stick his old information rather painful places.
"Do you speak to your mother with that mouth." Theo gasped dramatically, chuckling when the 7th year stalked away, his friends trailing behind him casting unimpressed glances back towards the table.
"Honestly, seventh years these days, absolutely no backbone," Theo commented inspecting his nails.
"You're going to get hexed if you're not careful." Blaise warned, and Theo waved his hand at him leisurely, "and you do realise I am not going to help."
"I'm wounded Beeny Boy, the things with being through, the places we've been, the fantastic specimen of witch that we've seen, do they all count for nothing?"
"Call me Beeny Boy again and I'll be the one hexing your ass."
"Alright, alright, what else does it say." Theo nodded to the paper and Blaise once again dipped his head to read.
"Oh look, Malfoy's Daddy got himself in the paper again." Theo rolled his eyes.
"What's he got to say this time?" Pansy asked, sitting herself down next to Blaise, who gave her a quick glance before burying his head back in the paper.
"I feel much easier in my mind now that I know Dumbledore is being subjected to fair and objective evaluation. Many of us with our children's best interests at heart…"
"Well you can't take anything he says seriously, it's not like he had an invested interest in his son's future." Pansy scoffed.
"Unless of course, that future involves marrying a well-bred witch and popping out sophisticated in-bred…I mean well-bred babies and sitting upon his royally Malfoy throne."
"You sort out everything with Draco?" Blaise asked, brow furrowing slightly.
"Yeah, everything's sorted." She said airily, and his frown deepened. He'd known Pansy a long time and he'd never known her to give three words in explanation of anything. His gut knotted as he wondered what could have possibly made her so deliberately vague.
"Your family are the same." Pansy pointed at Theo, grinning when his smile dropped just a little.
"That means I am in the privileged position of being allowed to say it." He squared his shoulders somewhat defensively and Pansy snorted at him.
"What does inquisitor even mean?" Goyle leant over, reaching for another piece of toast.
"It means they don't think people at Hogwarts are doing their job properly," Blaise explained with a shrug, finally turning his attention away from the side of Pansy's face.
"And making sure we don't talk about You-Know-Who." Pansy shrugged, immediately freezing when she realised that both Theo and Blaise had turned to her, their eyes wide in shock.
"Are you planning on enlisting into the Golden Trio? Because that's all they seem to be banging on about these days. Scarface is practically obsessed with the dead dark wizard, it's a little unhealthy." Blaise questioned, leaning back as and eyeing her up suspiciously.
Pansy realised her error, while she and Draco were fully aware of the looming danger, like a constant dark cloud over all her conversations, her two friends were blissfully unaware. Her comment must have seemed unusually Gryffindor. She felt a little sickened by the thought of it, gulping heavily before trying to give a non-committal shrug.
"Just point out that you know…all the years this school has been open and only now they decide to 'investigate'. Just seems a little off to me…that's all." She took a sip of pumpkin juice, so she didn't have to look at any of them, hoping in Merlin's name they didn't suddenly decide they wanted to press her for more information.
"She has a point." Pansy breathed out a little at Blaise's words, she could always count on him to defend her, she realised, always.
"I don't know, I wouldn't be surprised if they came for Hagrid alone," Theo muttered noncommittally, glancing at Daphne who'd moved slightly down the table to sit next to her sister.
"Or Trewloony." Pansy offered, and the two boys nodded.
"Does it have to be her though, I mean of all the people." Blaise was pointing at the rather smug image of Umbridge as she was bestowed the great honour.
"I know right, her face gives me the creeps." Theo shivered for effect and blatantly turned to look at Daphne again and Pansy frowned deeply.
"She's not all that bad, she gives us treats when we tell her things." Crabbe gestured to him and his friend with a grin of pride. It wasn't very often that anyone relied on the great oafs, so Pansy could understand the puffing of their chests at the fact that they finally seemed to be taken seriously.
"What could you possibly have to tell her?" Blaise asked in disbelief and Pansy elbowed him.
"Ow…what?" He turned to Pansy looking slightly wounded that she had resorted to violence after asking something that he knew they'd all been thinking.
"I second that unless Umbridge has an unhealthy interest in how many chocolate frogs Goyle can consume in one minute…"
"Provided they don't run away." Blaise clarified for his friend.
"Ah yes, provided they don't run away," he corrected giving Pansy a meaningful look, "I'm not sure why she would bother."
Crabbe looked at his friend excitedly shifting in his seat with obvious want to tell them all about it, but Goyle shook his head.
"Vinny ole chap, why don't you regale us?" Theo encouraged. Crabbe glanced between Theo and Goyle for a few heartbeats before shrugging with some disappointment."
"Hmmm, how very mysterious." Blaise mocked.
"They've probably forgotten," Theo whispered just loud enough for both the boys in question to hear, but, as usual, they did nothing.
Pansy stared at them for some time, they're hunched shoulders, the silent communication that seemed to be flitting between the two of them feeling somewhat uneasy. It was a strange feeling, something she wasn't used to, especially with regards to the two idiots that often shadowed their group, but it was there. It niggled at the back of her head, what was it that Umbridge could possibly want to know and why in Merlin's name was she asking Crabbe and Goyle. Something seemed off and she was determined to find out what exactly it was. Perhaps she'd even find a way to keep Draco distracted from thoughts of the bushy-haired-know-it-all.