I had some problems trying to email you, I think I got one through but I'm not sure. If not, I'll try again later.

Ri: Oh mi gosh, I love these long reviews. Anyway, I actually struggled with the "kids using magic" issue a great deal. What I finally decided upon is based on Ootp. The twins are allowed to apparate at 16 or 17 (I wasn't exactly sure how old they were but I figured it didn't matter since everyone who used magic in that chapter of my story was at least 17) and the twins were also considered "of age". Since apparation is wand magic, I figured being of age allowed them to do all wand magic. Maybe I'm wrong. I really haven't seen enough evidence to be certain either way (or I just missed it).

But I did actually have a version of chapter 4 where Blaise used a stolen wand to cast the spells. If I did that, then I was faced with the issue of whether or not the Ministry would still be able to tell that a student was doing magic. I didn't think so because in Chamber of Secrets Dobby's magic gets Harry in trouble. So how do they detect underage magic anyway? Is it focused on the wizard, the wand or the area itself?

It was way too much trouble to sit around and figure it out, and I liked my Ootp interpretation, so I went with it.

Morsmodre is from Goblet of Fire. I probably should have mentioned that before. It’s the spell that calls up the Dark Mark, the symbol of Voldemort, but Lestrange wasn't casting a spell. You are free to interpret Lestrange's motives however you like.

And yes, the very last two sentences of chapter seven are still from Draco's pov.

Disclaimer: Stiiimpy, cliiimb insiiiide. FUN AWAITS YOU, if you cliiiimb insiiiiiiiiiide….. (Jerry the BellyButton Elf)

A/N: You know what, screw the damn "next time" blurb. We'll get there when we get there.

Okay so I lied (Unless you count midterms as a natural disaster which I'm sort of inclined to). Didn't mean to lie, but from here on out I guess I can't make exact promises on how often I'll update (school work comes first *sigh*). On the upside, I got an A on all my midterms…..and, more importantly, this chapter is even longer than the last one.

Chapter 9: Two Eyes from the East

We're off to the witch
We may never never never come home
But the magic that we'll feel
Is worth a lifetime

Two eyes from the east
It's the angel or the beast
And the answer lies between
The good and bad

We search for the truth
We could die upon the tooth
But the thrill of just the chase
Is worth the pain

We'll know for the first time
If we're evil or divine
We're the last in line
We're the last in line
~excerpts from Dio's "Last in Line"

He dreamed.

Maybe it was the full moon in the sky, or maybe he slept under the bows of an ancient sickle elm, maybe it was the hour in which he slept, or the influence of some beast or specter that happened by. It could have been so many things. He dreamed so many things.

He wouldn't remember any of it when he woke.

He relived the entire day. But not as himself. He watched instead. He watched from the greedy eyes of an alien mind, as the two children tramped through the forest like Hansel and Gretel.

He was back at Hogwarts, seated at his desk in a classroom full of Slytherins. Snape stood at the front. The scene was curiously frozen, like he was seeing a moment captured in time. Paradoxically, he could sense the movement and hear the sounds of shuffling papers around him.

" How many kinds of curses are there?" Snape asked, his voice echoing oddly in the empty stillness.

" Hexes?" asked someone.

Draco rose dreamily and walked towards the door, footsteps echoing on the stone floor. Granger wasn't in the classroom.

Where was she?

He followed the two children, spending time with both of them, getting to know them, still unable to reach them but eager to watch in any case. He watched Granger hike along by herself. He saw Draco alone among the trees.

Snape stood before a roaring hearth with an old photograph in his hands, "My graduating class. He tore us apart..."

Sky looked up at Draco, sobbing brokenly, " I want my dad."

Serge Lestrange stood beside Granger in the dark forest, "Here, I'll help you."

He touched the compass and the needle spun wildly. Granger's eyes remained fixed on the needle as she glided in a slow-motion walk into the darkness where the wild things danced and howled, her robes billowing around her, her hair blowing about her face in some unnatural wind. The unicorns screamed, flailed wildly and died, falling to the ground in bloody heaps.

Harry Potter turned around, his expression livid with hate, "Stay away from her."

His own voice, rich with laughter, " I don’t think she wants me to."

He was walking through the halls of Hogwarts. Where was Granger?

Snape's voice again, "It has happened before. People vanish and no one ever discovers what became of them…"

He turned towards the sound of the voice only to see a boy he didn't know standing in the corridor.

A boy with empty black holes where his eyes should be.

" Where are we going?" he asked Granger as the castle drifted away from them, drifted further away the further they walked.

She looked up at him, face solemn," The only way back is forward."

He watched Draco pounce the young girl and twist her arm and he laughed in soundless amusement.

He stood before a silver gilt mirror, staring at the boy behind the glass. His reflection screamed at him in silent fury and slammed his fists into the mirror until it shattered. The pieces of glass exploded outward then slowed until they twisted and turned in the air and he could count every glittering, jagged piece. They cut him to ribbons.

In the sunlit forest, two boys about his own age beckoned to Granger. They urged her on, herded her forward. She ran with them and one of them took her arm to lead her on.

" Come see the God. He's our God. He'll be your God too." They chanted.

The dial of the compass spun wildly and the creature that was Draco watching Draco and Granger laughed and Draco shoved Granger into the alley and darkness fell but the moon would never rise again and the two boys rotted like carrion under the sun and somewhere far away in that darkness Granger wept softly. But she wasn't the only one.

Silence. Darkness.

" They've crossed over." Dumbledore whispered.


Draco jerked upright, screaming, as gallons of icy, blood-chilling water drenched his head, like someone had just dunked him under a waterfall.

" Rise and shine, sleeping beauty." A girl's voice drawled.

He knew that voice.

" FUUUUUUUUUUCK! Granger I'm gonna kill you!" he screamed hoarsely, shivering violently as he wiped water from his eyes, spat it from his mouth and tried to drain what felt like gallons that had gone up his nose, "What the fuck is your problem, you psycho!"

He opened his eyes to find her standing over him, her expression stony, his cauldron tucked under her arm.

" You stupid cunt!" he spat.

Her eyebrows went up, she lifted the cauldron and he barely had time to lurch out of the way with a startled yelp as she let it drop right where his head had been. It hit the ground with a heavy 'thunk'.

" Get up!" she barked, "Eat something and lets go. We should have left hours ago. I've been sitting here waiting for you to get your lazy butt up since dawn. I want to go home right now and if you're not ready in five minutes, so help me, I'm leaving without you!"

" Damn, Muddy, what the hell crawled up your ass and died?" he yelled back, wavering somewhere between towering rage and utter amazement.

" Four minutes, thirty seconds, you snotty little dickwad."

His jaw dropped, completely thrown by her aggressive and agitated behavior, " Shit, Granger, what the fuck is wrong with you? You gotta be on the rag or something."

Her shoulders stiffened just the tiniest bit.

Draco's eyes bulged, " That's it, isn't it. I'm right."

A second later he'd collapsed on the ground howling with laughter until he was clutching his stomach as tears streamed down his face.

" Shut up! Shut up you idiot!" her voice was shrill with anger.

Draco peeked at her and saw her face was beet red. That set him off again.

She gave a wordless cry of frustration and he scrambled to his feet to avoid being smashed over the head with his own cauldron.

" Okay! Okay!" he giggled, holding a placating hand out in front of him and making a very conscious effort to calm himself, "Okay, I'll stop." He choked and bit his lip to keep in the snorts of laughter that wanted to break out, "I'll eat and we'll get going. Just calm down, Hormone-y."

She shrieked and chased him into the woods.

He didn't return for a good forty-five minutes. He could easily have stretched it out to an hour and a half but the sun was fairly high in the sky. Granger hadn't been kidding when she said he'd slept in late.

Considering her mood, he expected her to scream at him for wasting time when he finally returned to their campsite, clean and damp and shivering from his morning preening, but she sat staring down at her feet and didn't even look up at him, seemingly lost in her own dark thoughts.

" Hey! Hey! Do we have any food?"

She pointed wordlessly to her bag where she'd left some food sitting out on her folded robe. He flopped down to eat, glancing at her furtively every once in awhile. He still couldn't believe she'd had the balls to wake him up by trying to drown him. He didn't care how bad she was PMSing, that had been damn near suicidal on her part. He wasn't exactly a friendly person in the morning.

" What was up with that shit you pulled this morning, kiddo?" He asked, tone holding a hint of warning, "You act like you want me to kick your ass."

She raised her eyes slowly to give him a long, cold stare, "We're at war, remember. I'm not going to sit around and wait for you to attack. I figured I might as well take the first shot."

Stunned, he gave a short surprised laugh, "Didn't know you had it in you."

Well, well, Granger wanted to lock horns with him. This was interesting. He grinned at her.

She gave him a very odd look just as he bit into a thick, waxy leaf-like thing. The juices hit his tongue and he wretched, spitting and cursing and scrambling over to the stream to wash his mouth out.

" Don’t eat that, it’s the bug repellent." Granger said coolly from behind him.

" You nasty little mud-sucking freak…" he coughed in amazement, "What the fuck has gotten into you?"

" Would you have stopped me from eating it?" she asked airily.

Hell no…

" Yes!" he said adamantly as if it was obvious and he was outraged that she would think otherwise.

" Is this lying about everything deal a Slytherin thing, a Malfoy thing or just a you thing?" Her tone was flat and calm with something cold and biting just beneath the surface.

He turned to face her and she returned his look witheringly, her eyes hard and focused and predatory in a way that hadn't ever been before. This sudden behavioral about-face was unexpected and he considered her with an edge of caution. They both knew that she'd be better off if she just took what he dished out and didn't retaliate. Instead she was courting his wrath, big time.

It wasn't like her, or at least what he knew of her. He could count on one hand the number of times she'd retaliated against him back at Hogwarts. She always maintained that she wouldn't 'sink to his level' or some shit like that. She'd always insisted, no matter what he said or did, that her and her friends should just ignore him.

This wasn't PMS. She was pissed, really pissed, about something. Most likely about what he'd said last night.

Well fuck it, if she couldn’t handle the truth that was her problem.

He answered seriously," Its something I do just for you." And that was the truth. Really, there were a lot of things he did just for her. Granger was special. He'd go to greater lengths to terrorize her than anyone else he knew…even Potter.

The thought made him grin.

The hardness in her eyes wavered with unease at his, very likely disturbing, expression and she retreated, snagging her backpack and trotting off into the woods without another word.

That was more like it. She might play tough, but the act wouldn't last long.

" Shit." He muttered, jumping up to grab his cauldron and stumbling slightly before jogging after her.

That first entire day of hiking passed nearly without incident. The difficulty of the terrain had increased slightly and they were both too preoccupied to worry about private skirmishes. The trek hadn’t been too arduous as of yet, but neither of them knew that. They had little to compare the terrain to except the flat town roads they walked along back home. They weren't nearly as grateful for the easy going as they should have been. Draco wasn’t grateful at all.

No, pretty damn miserable was more like it.

Half the day was spent going uphill until his calves were screaming in pain and his lower back ached. He hadn't been sore when he woke up that morning, which had been a nice change since he'd been sore and stiff every morning before then, but he was betting he was going to be sore again tomorrow.

They had to detour at one point when their path got too steep and they were faced with finding a way around a sheer cliff that went straight up in front and straight down on the other side. That had chaffed. They wasted over an hour looking for the best route down and around, having to double back several times when they met dead-ends or drop-offs.

They went through areas of underbrush so thick that Draco had to take the lead and hack them a way through with his dagger. Afterwards he 'd walked around with the dagger unsheathed, just running his fingers over the hilt and up and down the blade until he finally realized what he was doing and that Granger was staring at him and he quickly stuffed the knife away.

Several times during their trip Granger suddenly, for seemingly no reason at all, made them both duck behind a tree or scuttle into some underbrush and hold still. They never actually saw anything and Draco almost decided she was doing it just to jerk him around but the fear on her face was real enough to keep him quiet.

As the day progressed, the land around them seemed to get drier, hotter and rockier. The density of trees thinned out and the foliage under their feet crackled and kicked up dust instead of squishing damply. It wasn't even noon when the heat forced them to take off their robes, stuff them away and roll up their sleeves. The air was thick with heat and alive with humming insects and the sap from the bug repellent they wore heated with their skin and the smell gave them both headaches.

After awhile Draco regretted wearing the bug repellent at all. A few bug bites was a small price to pay compared to the overwhelming stench of the hot repellent.

No matter how bad he felt though, he could always take comfort in the fact that Granger was even worse off than him. She seemed to have a harder time in general. He wasn’t surprised. Strenuous physical activity wasn’t exactly her strong point. Her idea of exercise was carrying her books from class to class. Yesterday had been her first real day of hiking, she had probably been sore this morning and it was going to be worse tomorrow. Still, she kept going without so much as a peep of complaint and some part of him very deep down that he would never acknowledge could almost respect that.

Almost, but not quite.

She was giving him the silent treatment.

“ Once this is over I’m personally going to come back here and torch this place. A nice big Fuck You to mother nature. Then I’m going to cut down all the trees in my yard, build a bonfire, strip down, smear myself with war-paint, hunt down all my neighbor’s House-Elves and pets, roast the carcasses and give ‘em to hungry muggles. Aw, I’m such a nice guy.”

The frizz-haired girl striding along in front of him didn’t so much as twitch. Granger hadn't responded to a thing he said since they left the campsite, speaking only when her internal encyclopedia chimed in.

Draco scowled at the back of her bedraggled, yet still fluffy, head.

Her shoulders were rigid, her chin up, eyes staring fixedly forward. All she needed was a shirt with the words ‘I’m ignoring you, Draco Malfoy’ across the back. The bitch of it was that she wasn't trying to keep the peace, which he would have found kind of funny. Oh no. All her good-natured patience and long-suffering helpfulness had vanished long before the sun rose. This was deliberate provocation on her part. In keeping with the mood she'd set this morning, she was asking for a fight.

He stalked along quietly behind her, keeping out of her peripheral vision, just staring at the back of her head until she grew so nervous that she darted ahead.

He enjoyed her discomfort but it pissed him off that she wasn’t talking to him. He had decided she was right about him sticking around with her while they hiked. He had agreed to put up with her presence for the entire day and he expected some sort of compensation for his suffering, like when he decided to say something, she should say something back, when he decided to call her names, she should cry and yell at him. That was the way of things. But she wasn't cooperating.

Draco Malfoy was a social creature by nature. He enjoyed the company of, and interaction with, other human beings. To a certain extent he even craved it. It was extremely unfortunate for him that the only sentient being around that might actually listen to and comprehend what he was saying was Granger. And talking to her was like talking to a brick wall…a brick wall whose main contribution to a conversation was occasionally spouting passages from textbooks.

“ So, Granger, how many people do you think are glad you’re gone? Want me to list them?" he cleared his throat and began in his lecturing voice, " First of all, I think Potty and Weasel will be happy you're gone. Now they can both come out of the closet and express their eternal love for each other in a disgusting physical fashion…GAH!”

A brick wall that also periodically threw rocks at him.

“ If that thing had hit me, you’d be in so much trouble right now!”

She continued on, nose in the air haughtily, leaving him standing there in mid-threat.

At least he’d gotten some sort of reaction from her this time. Honestly, if she didn’t want to play these games with him, she shouldn’t start them.

He kept up a steady complaining monologue throughout the day centered around everything that bothered him: her, the forest, her friends, her parents, her hair, how angry his father was going to be, her hair, how she owed him for this, how she should be grateful he graced her with his presence, her hair, the general state of the wizard economy and how mudbloods and muggles were responsible for last year's decline in living standards etc. etc.

She suffered it all in silence though he was almost certain a couple times that she was on the verge of snapping and attacking him. That was his current goal: Make Granger snap.

She didn't snap, apparently she retained a bit of fortitude that hadn't as of yet been drained away by hunger or exhaustion so the brawl that was on the verge of happening all day, never happened and the only real incident was the frog.

The talking frog.

It sounded funny, like a charms experiment gone bad. Like the time someone (someone whose name started with D and ended with Raco) made that pathetic oaf Longbottom's toad swallow a packet of Screaming Mimi's. The toad had screamed insults at everyone that it saw for weeks, the highlight being when it told McGonagall to 'shave the beard you old scag'. It had been a riot.

This wasn't like that. This hadn't been funny at all.

Granger had called him over, grudgingly breaking her silence at last in early afternoon when she found running water. They always stopped to drink when they found water and if they didn’t find water by late afternoon, they went looking for it. The stream was slightly to the east of them and ran its course at the bottom of a sloping hill. The edges were thick with tulle and cattails.

Draco had been digging sphagnum moss out of Granger’s pack when the girl spoke.

“ Hey…something smells kind of funny.” She leaned over the stream, nose crinkling,“ I think it might be the water…” she sounded mystified.

He dropped her bag and wandered over to investigate. The smell had been light at first, a sort of dank, bitter decay smell.

“ It smells like old pond, like stagnant water, but this water’s moving, it should be fresh.”

“ Maybe it comes from an old pond.” Draco shrugged. It was an unspoken agreement forged sometime when he hadn't been paying attention that anything at all even slightly out of the ordinary was immediate cause for regrouping.

“ Yeah…” she seemed uneasy, “Maybe we should keep moving.”

He opened his mouth to protest when something broke the surface of the water at the edge of the stream with a slurping gurgle and filthy, rotting, black liquid spewed up along with something large and slimy that thrashed against the oily mud of the shore, making a terrible squealing sound. The smell increased ten fold.

Granger screamed and stumbled back, staring in horror. Draco found himself unable to move.

The squealing thing flopped onto the muddy bank and began wiping itself with rubbery front legs. The frog was big, its body about the length of his palm, but it was bony, ridges along its back and ribs nearly bursting through taught slimy flesh. The frog turned huge yellow eyes on Draco, eyes that wept some viscous yellow fluid. It looked right at him.

He couldn’t breath. He felt sick.

He'd been wrong, it wasn’t a frog. There was no way in hell that thing was a frog. Some part of him knew it. Some part, deep down, knew in a way that wasn’t logic and couldn’t be explained that this thing wasn’t a frog, had never been a frog and wasn’t even distantly related to a frog, magic or otherwise.

The hair on the back of his neck was standing on end.

The frog’s squealing mouth opened wider, “ Re’loiuth Eedai Mevnox. Re’loiuth Eedai Mevnox.”

Its voice was a croaking burble but the words were clear and precise and burned through his mind like poison.

“ It…its talking.” Granger whimpered, she sounded close to tears.

There was something in its words. Something terrible in its words.

“ What’s it saying?” he choked out.

“ I don’t know! I don’t want to know!” her voice rose in horror, “Malfoy, get away from it! Lets get out of here!”

Draco was still frozen, staring down at it as the thing convulsed with unnaturally fast jerks, almost like he was seeing life on fast forward.

“Re’loiuth Eedai Mevnox.” Then it started squalling again, long wailing squeals.

“ RUN!” Granger screamed and whatever held him captive broke.

He jerked back in panic and confusion, every instinct screaming for him to flee. He half turned in Granger’s direction but then whirled back in sudden hot rage and slammed his foot down on the monster. Monster. It was a monster.

It burst with a horrible crunch that he felt all the way to the top of his spine, squirting and spraying red, yellow and green slime on his boots and onto the hem of his robes. The smell was nearly overwhelming, making him yell and cover his mouth, his eyes watered and his vision spun.

Hands were grabbing him, Granger was wrenching him back and the two of them were running like hell, not daring to look back.

They found another stream further down and Draco spent a time trying to get the guts off his boot without actually touching the horrible stuff. The thing's blood had burned through the hem of his pants and left red welts on his legs. It took them both a bit to recover from the encounter. He thought Granger cried silently for a bit but he wasn’t sure. He didn't say anything about it. Neither one of them brought it up again.

Later the whole thing would seem stupid, incredibly stupid and only half real. But all he had to do was picture those weeping, puss-filled eyes, remember that smell or that screaming squeal and he felt cold all over, icy fingers clenching around his heart.

He knew he was going to have nightmares about that frog.

The encounter seemed to put an end to the day's rivalry and they went on in brooding silence.

In late afternoon, before the sun set they found a place to camp. It had been a bad day for finding food and what small tidbits Granger had managed to garner from the land were hot and bruised. They ate them anyway and were still hungry afterwards. The girl cast a circle about them as she had the night before and he suffered through a lecture on how it worked. She set up a campfire and boiled water in his cauldron for washing. The steaming water was much more effective for washing than icy river water.

A little later as the evening cooled, Draco left without explanation to go hunting. He managed to catch two rabbits and cooked and ate them both with relish. He returned to camp with a full belly as the sun was setting and found Granger crashed out next to the fire, already asleep.

The next day was pretty much a repeat of the last, so much so that Draco wondered if he wasn't reliving the same fucking day all over again in stereo, only worse. Hotter, drier, sweatier, and even less food. He felt worse too. Sore, as he had predicted, hungry, and exhausted.

By the third day, the trees thinned out till they came to the edge of a dry, rocky, golden grassland that spread out to the east as far as they could see. There was a fair patch straight ahead of them but only for a quarter of a mile or so and then the forest thickened again dramatically.

Draco glanced back to see the Mudblood picking her way through some rocks a ways back, her knees skinned and raw.

“ Hurry your slow ass up, Granger, you’re falling behind!”

“ Malfoy, lets stop for a minute.”

“ We just stopped a little while ago.”

“ Well, lets stop again.”

“ We’re never going to get anywhere if you keep this up.”

His words were strong but he was already trudging all too willingly back towards the tree line and collapsing to the ground in the shade of a large tree, relief flooding through his aching feet. Granger found a log and sat down, hauling her backpack off and setting it down between her legs to fish through it.

That’s right. She had that huge thing on her back.

He couldn’t help but smirk, congratulating himself on the lasting torment he’d inflicted.

“ I’m thirsty, get out that water-stick thing.” Draco commanded imperiously with a wave of his hand, leaning back against his tree.

Granger rolled her eyes, “Its hazel. I’ve only told you about a hundred times.”

“ I don’t give a rat’s ass what it is. Just find us some damn water, you damn Muggle. I’m so fucking thirsty I could..” he paused and sat up, narrow eyes turning on her.

“ What?” she shifted uncomfortably under his intense gaze.

“ Just thinking that if I get too thirsty I could always cut your throat and drink your blood.”

“ Stop it, Malfoy!” she yowled and jerked to her feet, storming away.

Draco snickered. Cor, she was too easy.

She returned from her foraging rather quickly, her expression grim.

“ Where’s my water, Fuzzball?”

She ignored the name-calling, “ We’ve got a problem.”

Her eyes flicked down to his hands almost absently and Draco followed her gaze down and realized with a start that he was holding his dagger. He didn't even remember pulling it out. With a prickle of unease he wondered how long he’d been playing with it.

He started to sheath it and hesitated. He wanted to hold it….


He tucked it quickly away, disturbed.

Granger’s eyes followed his movements.

“ Stop that! I told you, you can’t use it.” he snarled at her, getting to his feet and stumbling slightly in a wave of vertigo.

She gave him a blank look, “Whatever, Malfoy.”

“ Shut up. What’s the problem?”

To his surprise, she didn’t lead him back into the trees, she turned to their original path and pointed out across the stretch of grassland straight ahead of them to the trees on the other side.

" See those trees?"

“ Yeah, so?”

“ We’re going to have to go around them.”

“ What?” his jaw dropped, as his eyes followed the line of trees to the horizon in the east, “ Why the fuck would we want to do that?”

“ This would go a lot faster if you would just trust me.”

He gave her a long level stare.

“ Fine," she sighed, " over here.” and she marched back the way she came.

Several minutes walk to the west, further into the trees the forest quite suddenly became dark and thick around them. A thick line of trees rose up in front of them like a living wall. Granger stopped well away from them and Draco saw that the trees had long tangled vines hanging down that swayed lazily in a nonexistent wind.

“ I saw trees like these before.” he frowned.

“ You went around them.” She made it a statement.

“ Yeah.”

Granger nodded, still looking at the vine trees, “That was intelligent of you. These are Tangle Trees. If you had walked in there those vines would have wrapped around your arms and legs and ripped you apart. If we went closer, we could probably see bones at the base of the trunks. These are the same trees out there past the grassland. We have to go around them.”

Draco swallowed, remembering how he’d almost gone through the Tangle Trees when he first saw them.

“ Why rip people apart?”

“ Not just people, animals too. They’re flesh eaters. Flesh-eating trees. They’re said to grow in places where cursed items are buried. The deaths fuel the curse, make it stronger. I read about it in an advanced Herbology book.”

Draco gave her a withering look, “ I don’t understand why you were so pissed that I made you leave your textbooks behind. You have the damn things memorized…HEY!”

A rock flew past his head. This one had actually been aimed at him instead of just thrown in his general direction like the others. He’d apparently hit a sore spot.

“ Why you little bitch.” He grinned darkly,“ Just for that you’re going to take a closer look at your precious trees, Granger.”

Her eyes went huge as she caught his meaning, “You wouldn’t.”

“ You shouldn’t be throwing rocks.”

He took one step towards her and she hurled another rock at him and bolted, apparently not willing to call his bluff. He flung himself out of the way of her projectile and took off after her. He was surprised she could run like this after hiking all morning but she didn’t get far, he was too fast.

He snagged her from behind, lifting her off her feet and she screamed.

Torture and entertainment, it certainly livened things up. He didn’t remember that just a few days earlier he would have been disgusted by the mere thought of touching a Mudblood. It never occurred to him, before or after, that part of him wanted to touch her. Just to see what she’d feel like.

“ Malfoy what are you doing?” she squealed in alarm as he locked his arms around her, trapping her arms against her sides and began dragging her towards the forest.

“ You have to prove that they really do eat meat.” He laughed evilly.

She was instantly thrashing in his grip, her voice high with panic, “Let me go right now! Get your disgusting hands off me!”

Her back was pressed to his chest and her hair was blocking most of his field of vision and tickling his face. Puffing slightly at the effort of holding her in place, he grinned wickedly, enjoying her terror and her high, piercing shrieked demands to be let go and the light scent of her hair and skin.

She jabbed her elbow into his side painfully and he grunted and tried to pin her arms but she was squirming too badly for him to get a good hold. She shrieked, kicking her feet and trying to punch him.

“ They’re just trees, Granger, right?”

“ Lemmegolemmegolemmegolemmego!!”

“ Okay, I’ll let you go. I’ll just toss you in there. I don’t want to get too close after all.”

They were nearly to the edge of the vine forest and Draco could see the swaying vines twitching, the ones near the edge lifting, already starting to reach for them.

Shit, he didn’t want to get too much closer.

“ Look at them move.” He purred.

Granger wailed and suddenly stopped trying to hit him and grabbed onto him instead, twisting to bury her face against his neck.

“ If I go down, I’m taking you with me!” she cried, muffled against him.

He froze in surprise, feeling her hot breath panting against his throat, feeling her fingers clenching at his robes.

Suddenly the game wasn’t fun anymore.

“ Get off me.” He yelled and shoved her away as if burned, letting her slam into the ground with a pained cry.

He retreated on the double, leaving her to sit there staring at the trees and breathing hard. He half expected her to throw another rock at him and he sort of wanted her to, it would give him an excuse to punch her. Damn her. Damn filthy muggle.

He was back at the resting spot, leaning against a tree, seething, when Granger showed up. Angry and embarrassed, he refused to look at her. He couldn’t wait to get back home where he didn’t have to look at Granger’s ugly face ever again.

Granger eyed him for several long moments then made an exasperated sound and headed back towards the grassland without a word, snagging her backpack as she went. When he didn’t immediately follow, she turned neutral eyes on him.

“ Lets go. We don’t have time to sit around. We can still make it home in time for school.”

She was offering to forget what had just happened. She wouldn't bring it up if he didn't. That was fine with him.

“ There’s no way we're going to make it in time. We’ve got a long way to go, Mudblood.” He squinted as they stepped out from the canopy into the bright grassland.

“ We’ve been walking for days, we have to be close to something.”

“ Use that oversized cranium of yours! No one would live near those fucking killer trees. I think we’re still out in the middle of nowhere. Probably further out in the middle of nowhere then before. Are you sure that compass works?”

“ Shut up, Malfoy. You’re just trying to start a fight again.”

“ If that compass doesn’t work, I’m going to kick your ass.”

“ You keep saying that.”

In a burst of rage, he shoved her, sending her flying face-first into the dirt. Sneering, he sauntered past her as she pushed up on her hands, spitting dirt. He should have been ready for retaliation and wasn’t. A rock cracked into his shoulder blade with a jolt of white agony.

“ FUCK!” he screamed, grabbing at his back and whirling around, “You fucking…” she was staring up into the sky, her face white as a sheet.

“ MALFOY LOOK OUT!” she was stumbling back, diving for the trees.

A shadow fell over him and a sudden wind whipped his hair. His head snapped up to see the biggest fucking bird he had ever seen in his life. It looked like a crow only a thousand times bigger and it was bearing down on them like an owl that had spotted a couple of field mice. For half a second he was frozen and then he was moving without thinking. The dagger was suddenly in his hand, burning against his fingers, and he slashed upwards with everything he had.

And the dagger responded.

He felt the magic leave it, leave him. More, he saw the blade flash with wild light. He wasn’t sure the blade ever touched the bird, in fact he was fairly certain the steel didn't get anywhere near the monster, but the power did and the bird screamed as its belly opened and blood splashed down on him in a hot, frothy wash.

The bird screeched and its wings pounded the air as it tried to escape. One of the wings hit him and sent him flying. Then the bird was airborne, retreating. The whole attack had lasted less than ten seconds.

Draco stared up into the sky in shock and watched until the bird was a tiny dot in the sky. He couldn’t move his body. He felt weak. So weak. The world was fading away, growing gray and fuzzy and distant.

“ Malfoy! Malfoy!”

A sharp stinging pain in his cheek told him Granger had just slapped the hell out of him. He rolled his head to the side to find her kneeling beside him. She slapped him again. He doubted that second slap was entirely necessary but he was in little condition to do anything about it.

“ You stupid, idiotic jerk. You dumb blond. You’re so lucky, do you hear me? You’re..”

“ What the hell was that thing?” he croaked.

“ A roc.”

“ That wasn’t no rock, girly-girl, that was a fucking big-ass birdy.”

“ R. O. C.” she spelled, “They’re called rocs. Get up. We have to get back under the trees before it comes back.”

He tried to move and couldn't. " Can't get up." Everything was spinning.

She hauled him up and he leaned on her shakily until he realized what he was doing and then he tried to push her away but ended up nearly falling which only resulted in her holding him closer, almost flush up against her body. Mmm.

They made their way back and collapsed back into the shade and sat in silence for a long time, letting their frantic hearts slow, letting the world slowly come back into focus.

“ You didn’t tell me your knife was magic.”

He shrugged, and then frowned at the inquisitive stare she was giving the bloody blade. Protectively, he tucked the knife to his side, hiding it from view. He didn’t want to sheath it until it was clean.

“ This is going to be harder than I thought.” Granger mused, seemingly forgetting the knife once it was out of sight, “ There’s no cover in the grassland, no place to hide from big predators. No trees to anchor a circle of protection. We can’t stay the night out there.”

“ I think we can make it to the other side before dark.” He was feeling better now, a bit stronger.

“ Are you up for it?”

“ Hell yeah. I want to wash up and get something to drink.”

She gave him an odd look.

“ What?”

“ Is it hydrating?”

“ Huh?”

She touched her face pointedly. He brought his hands to his face and came away with blood.

“ Ew. Try it.”

He made like he was going to stick his bloody finger in his mouth.

“ EEEAGH!” she squealed, scrambling away from him and covering her eyes, “That’s disgusting!”

“ Mmm, tasty. Want some?”

“ You’re sick!”

They did make it to the other side of the grasslands before dark and without being attacked by any more giant birds. The grove of trees they took cover under wasn’t so much an outcropping of the forest as an oasis. A wide, wild river cut through the earth and the otherwise dry hills were covered with birch, willow and oak.

Granger yipped in delight when they reached the river and jumped right in, entirely clothed, while stuffing sphagnum in her mouth. Draco followed suit, wanting to wash the stains and rank smell of blood and sweat from his clothes. The water was freezing. It shocked him to the core but he welcomed it and gulped it down greedily, laughing his head off when Granger surfaced a few meters away coughing and sputtering, apparently having almost swallowed her sphagnum.

His laughter cut off in a choke when he got a good look at her, her hair plastered around her face in dark waves streaming with river water, her soaked white shirt clinging to her body. He could see right through it. She caught him looking at her and grinned innocently before diving back into the water.

Shit. If she were anyone else, he’d say she was doing it on purpose.

He turned his attention forcefully to washing his knife and glared at the dagger. It was warm in his hand again. Hotter than before. Or maybe the water was just colder. He washed it off and felt rather pleased as he thought of the bird. The blade had saved his life again, he supposed it had earned the right to do whatever the hell it wanted. Within reason.

He wanted to tuck it away soon. He didn't like the way Granger had developed a habit of staring at it like a cat watching a string dangling tantalizingly in front of her face. He frowned. What was up with that? He'd thought at first she was scared of it or, more accurately, of him but she wasn't. More likely it was the scientist in her or maybe she just wanted it because he wouldn't let her touch it.

Or maybe she was just easily distracted by shiny objects.

Cor, sometimes that girl acted like a freaking maniac.

Draco pulled himself from the water, shivering and found a place to sit in the sun to dry off. Granger soon got tired of playing and found a place across from him to sit. He tried to keep his appreciative glances furtive, but she was making it hard to keep from downright staring by leaning back on her hands and tilting her head towards the sky.

“ Do we have anything to eat?” He realized he was starving, absolutely shaking with hunger.

“ Hmm?” she raised her head, squinting at him, “ I dunno.”

She fished through her bag and came up with a pitiful amount of food: one fruit and a meager handful of wilting berries. She smiled at him weakly and tossed him the fruit, the bigger share. She always did that, handed him the bigger portion without thought or hesitation.

Cor, he could hate her for that.

“ I’m beginning to wonder if we really are in danger of starving to death.” She said quietly.

“ Could there be anything to eat around here?” he asked, taking a bite of the fruit, relishing the sweet juice that burst in his mouth.

“ I doubt it, but I’m going to look anyway.”

Granger's foraging provided less than a handful of food and he waited until she set up camp and was settled in for the evening before skulking off on his own to go hunting. He managed to catch a single scrawny rabbit but he was still so hungry afterwards that he actually lowered himself to hunting squirrels.

She was right, food was becoming a big problem, if only because nothing good to eat grew in the grasslands. This could be extremely bad for them if the grasslands happened to extend for another two days walk. If they were very lucky they'd be back in the heart of the forest by tomorrow evening and be able to find some serious grub.

The sun was down when he returned to camp. The sound of Granger's voice froze him at the edge of the circle of flickering orange light cast by the fire. The girl was over on the other of the campsite cooing over two unicorns that had wandered down towards the river to drink. She was kneeling on the ground, trying to coax them into letting her pet them and the two silvery creatures were eyeing her with wary interest and pawing the ground nervously.

Draco rolled his eyes and stayed back in the shadows. He doubted the beasties would let him anywhere near them. He honestly could not understand why girls went so crazy over them. Even Millicent got all starry-eyed and mushy when it came to unicorns.

The bigger unicorn stretched out its neck, ears perked forward and Granger's fingers brushed its muzzle.

Softer than velvet or goose down, Draco thought, struck by a vivid sense memory.

The girl's fingers had barely touched that silk fur when the unicorn recoiled violently. The two beasts reared back and dashed away into the trees. The girl rose slowly, looking enormously disappointed and strangely wistful as she stared after the creatures.

Oh this was too much.

A slow, cruel smile curved Draco's lips.

" So…" he began conversationally and Granger jerked around with a gasp, "Someone lost her ability to touch a unicorn." He sing-songed. " I wouldn’t have believed it if he hadn't seen it. We're not as innocent as people think, are we Miss Granger?" he clicked his tongue at her and winked.

She bristled, "Grow up, you walking abscess."

He leaned against a tree with a Cheshire grin, eyeing her speculatively, "So…who was it?"

" What?"

" Who was it who took your…ability to touch a unicorn? Who got in your pants, Granger? Who got to stick his…"

" Don't you dare finish that sentence you sick, perverted little…" she hissed.

" Oh come on, Granger, we're all friends here." He chuckled at her disgusted expression, "You can tell me. I promise I'll keep it secret."

He wasn't sure what he was feeling. A bit of excitement at the general idea of Granger having sex, of her naked and slippery and moaning. A bit of jealousy that someone besides himself had seen her naked, it was supposed to be his little joke, his secret. And quite a bit of that anger, that new kind that didn't have a name. The kind only she could coax from him.

" You're disgusting…"

" Or maybe you didn't let him get all the way." Draco ignored her, looking thoughtful, "You actually did touch the unicorn but only for a second. So maybe he only got his hands on you. Maybe you got cornered in some hallway by one of your little Gryffindor boys, maybe someone who didn't want Potter and Weasley to know what he was up to? Did he put his hands up your blouse? Feel you up a bit? Or maybe he got under that skirt, slipped his fingers in your panties…" he smiled sweetly, "Do you know what a clitoris is, Granger?"

She'd been staring at him in horrified fascination but the crude question shocked her from her stupor. She seemed to swell with rage, a thousand vile curses rose up, poised on her lips…and then very suddenly she went still. Something, some strange epiphany flashed behind her eyes and her face shifted to neutral by slow degrees. She stared at him hard for a minute more and then shook her head, sighing outward heavily, the anger and tension draining from her body.

His wicked smile faded in surprise and disappointment.

" You don't understand anything." She said flatly and her anger seemed to have completely vanished, "You're a sick little monkey who wants attention and you do not understand what you just saw."

Feeling the situation slipping from his grasp he tried to salvage the conversation, " So you're saying, what, that you are a virgin?" he mocked.

She smiled tightly, "I'm not saying anything. If I say I'm a virgin, then you laugh and tell me how I'm so ugly that nobody will ever want me. If I say, yes, I've had sex, then you laugh and tell me I'm a slut and probably have some disease or better yet, " she snorted, "That I only get good grades because I sleep with the teachers."

He was speechless. She was taking all of the fun out of what had promised to be an extremely entertaining conversation. She'd cut him off at the pass, seeing right to the heart of where he was going and getting there before him. Damn it! She was winning and they both knew it.

" Then explain it." he snapped, " What was it I just saw, if it wasn't your loss of innocence?"

For a moment she looked wistful again, " It was loss of innocence, just not the totally clichéd way you're thinking. There are a thousand ways to lose a piece of your innocence, Malfoy."

He sneered at her, "That's cryptic bullshit."

" No, its reality." She bit back, " None of us are as innocent as we were a year ago, two years ago and it has nothing at all to do with sex. I've almost completely lost my ability to touch a unicorn, but it wasn't through any fault of my own."

His eyes narrowed as he sifted through her words and swiftly changed his plan of attack, " So you are saying you’re a virgin." He began lightly and strolled casually over to face her. She eyed him warily but stood her ground, " I suppose that's good. I can give you some advice."

" I don't want any advice from…"

" Shh. You want this advice, trust me." He sucked his teeth thoughtfully as he regarded her, " I'd say you're one of those girls who is waiting for true love and marriage…but you're not. I know what you're waiting for. Weasley right? Or Potter? Waiting for one of them to notice you?"

He knew for a fact that Granger was pining after Potter. It was so obvious as to be vomit inducing. Most people assumed she was already dating him, the two boys kept her close and Potter practically kept her on a leash. But the Golden Trio was still as platonic as it had always been, if only because the two boys didn't dare risk their friendship by making a play for her.

" Well, here's my advice: don't waste yourself on them. They're deviants, the both of them. Weasley is clumsy, rough and does not know what the clitoris is…"

" MALFOY!" she yelled in outrage and started to shove him but he caught her arms and calmly pushed her away, at the same time taking a serene step backwards so as to be out of striking distance.

"Just listen, I'm dead serious about this. I've talked to about ten girls he's fucked and not only is he about as gentle as a troll but he can't seem to make any of them enjoy it." He watched her expression carefully and grinned inwardly with wild glee when shock flashed across her features. He knew which part had gotten her, ten girls he'd said. That's right, kiddo, ten's a big number huh.

" He goes like a slobbering minatour in heat for about two minutes then its all over and he falls asleep. So don't go to him for your first time, you'll just get mangled. Don't get me wrong though, Potter's even worse."

Her eyes narrowed and she made a disgusted, disbelieving sound but she continued to listen.

He's your weakness, isn't he? You used to be so sure of him. He was your knight in shining armor. He could do no wrong. But now he runs hot and cold and you don't know what to think.

" Potter's just a damn selfish-fuck." He continued, " He knows what he's doing but he doesn't care if the girl gets off as long as he does. He acts all sweet, gets them in bed, has himself a little bit of fun and then drop kicks them out the door. He doesn't care who they are or what they look like. He even fucked a good half dozen Slytherin girls before I found out and told him to stay the fuck away. And it’s the same story with all of them. I don't know how many girls I've talked to who were crying over Potter and how he never spoke to them again after he fucked them. I mean, I'm no gentleman but I serve my ladies, he just makes them into whores."

Several emotions flowed through those big pretty eyes, disbelief, doubt, an ashen sort of realization. She didn't believe what he said about Potter and Weasley being rough or unkind, not yet anyway, but there was plausibility in the idea that they might have very active sex lives that she didn't know about. Granger knew they dated lots of girls, but in her blissfully ignorant female naiveté, it had never crossed her mind that her boys were fucking them or, even worse, that they were fucking them and not telling her about it. And she was seeing that now. The scientist in her, the skeptic, the realist, embraced the idea.

" Harry and Ron aren't like that." She snapped.

" No? They're male, they're human and they're very popular. The girls flock to them, don't they? Why should they resist? Don't you ever wonder where they go off to with those girls? There aren't many places to go on 'dates' unless it’s a Hogsmead weekend. But there are plenty of places you can go for a quick shag and not get caught." His voice was low and reasonable and just a little wicked," And what about you? If your boys are so sweet and considerate how come they drop you, their dearest little best friend, like a bad habit every time there's a nice piece of ass around? When those girls are around suddenly they don't have time for you, most of the time they ditch you all together. I've seen them do it. When other girls are around, you don't even exist. "

Hurt. Hurt filled her eyes. She looked stricken. He'd hit the nail on the head with that one. Oh boy.

Jealous are we, Granger, jealous of all those girls? There are lots of them, aren't there. Lots of girls admiring your boys. And they've been fucking them, oh yes, every single one of them.

She was trembling now, "Its not like that. I don't care what you say, Harry and Ron wouldn't treat people like that." She was denying his accusations of maltreatment but not of their supposed promiscuity or that they ignored her for other girls.

" What do you know? They've never had you in the sack." He said casually, " They won't either. They're very careful with you. Potter especially. If he fucked you and dropped you, you'd never do his homework ever again."

" Shut up." She choked, the color coming back to her cheeks in a crimson flush.

He feigned surprise at her tone and then let his face soften in pity, " Look, I didn't mean to upset you."

She was backing away from him now, "Just shut up right now, Malfoy."

" Hey, I'm only trying to help. Its better that you know the truth. You helped me out with the antlion so I should help you out with this. Forget about Potter. He's rotten. He'll just fuck you and dump you. He's waiting to do it. He acts all sweet, gives you the puppy dog eyes every time you're angry at him for ditching you. But if he really cared about you as much as he says he does, why doesn't he ditch the other girls and go out with you? Face it, he's got you hooked, pining after him, little lovesick schoolgirl. Its pathetic and you know it. Its so pathetic you can't even acknowledge it. You disgust yourself."

" Its not like that." Her breath hitched, "You're just trying to twist things around."

The fake sympathy vanished and his lip curled in a dark, nefarious little smile. He gave a small shrug, "You don’t have to believe me, Granger. Believe the girls. Believe Cho and Briskin and Haley and Viradori and Micha and Shayn, Kimmy, Sandra and Shikea..."

" That's… they…" Her breath shuddered out.

Draco closed the distance between them, eyes narrow and whispered, " Potter hugged you and called you his only girl, right? And then Iona walked by. She's taller than you, got that long silky black hair, not frizzy or dull brown like yours." His fingers brushed over her hair, over her cheek, " She's got those big blue eyes and those massive tits. He didn't even glance back, did he? He was gone for two hours. Came back smelling like perfume…like sex and perfume."

Granger's eye went wide, she stared at him in shock.

I know what you're thinking, little girl. How does he know?

Her lips trembled like she was going to speak but in the end she didn't say another word, she just about-faced and tottered away like a little lamb, her shoulders shaking.

Merlin, sometimes she was so cute.

" The best things, kiddo, the very best, "he called after her as she fled, " are the ones I don't have to make up."

He sighed happily into the growing darkness.

So much for unicorns.


Hermione huddled on the ground, far from the warmth of the fire, trying to stifle her gulping sobs into her sleeves. It was dark and quiet, the only sounds the crackling of the fire and the occasional rustle of some animal or flying rodent. She wasn't sure how long she'd lain there crying.

She was being ridiculous. Malfoy was lying again, that was all. It was what he did. He was a master at it, lying, exaggerating, twisting words around, bending the truth, seeking out weak points with the lightest touch, like a blind man reading brail and then stabbing his fangs through and pumping the wound full of noxious poison. She knew better. She really knew better. She was so stupid for listening to him.

How dare she believe, even for a second any part of the lies he spewed!

She wiped her eyes and sighed. She was just tired, was all. That's why she'd freaked out. Normally she would have bashed him in the face and called him a stupid wanker for talking about the boys like that. It was the combination of fatigue and hunger and all the tension and fights and the shock of his words, the shock of him zeroing in with diamond precision on something she hadn't told anyone, that had just sort of pushed her over the edge.

He was so sick. It was unnerving how he'd managed to pick up on those little insecurities, pick at them like loose threads and pull them till he unraveled her. How had he known that she was sometimes (all the time) jealous of the attention Ron and Harry gave other girls? How had he known that once in awhile (every single time) she felt lonely when they both had dates, felt like they'd gone off and left her even though they'd be back in a couple hours to laugh and hug her and make her feel treasured.

How had he known how awful she'd felt when Harry walked off with Iona?

(How could he! How could he say something so sweet to her, tell her she was his girl, and then leave her like that!)

…got that long silky black hair…

She sobbed.

She didn't believe what Malfoy had said. She didn't believe that the boys were mean. But, damn him, he'd managed to put the idea there, the wiggling little doubt.

Hadn't she seen Jemma Miles crying over Harry, crying like her heart was broken, even though they'd only seen each other once or twice? What could he have done to make her… Продолжение »
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