I knew where it was. And I paced in front of that spot all night. My lips were moving in silence. I looked like a crazy man mouthing words to myself.
I won't go in. I won't go in. I won't go in.
Who was I kidding? I had to go in. The door was right there. It had been there for the past 2 hours. All I had to do was open it, and I would find Sid and Neville, training away. That was supposed to be me. I was supposed to train Sid.
That story she told McGonnogal. I almost believed it myself. McGonnogal wanted to, but I knew she didn't fully buy it. Hence the reason Neville was in there rather than me. Neville's my mate, and if any other male were giving her private lessons, I'd go mad. As it was, I was still going slightly mad.
Merlin was I an arse. Sid didn't even want me. What was I still doing dogging after her like this? I really screwed things up when I acted like such a bloke about her being bait. Well, I was right to, wasn't I? She heard his voice in her head. He almost killed every last one of us. How could he be so strong? The Magical Espionage Corporation was the best we had. Perhaps he'd been bluffing.
That had to be it. No matter how powerful he is, there's no possible way he could have known all of that, or that he could take down an entire network of professionally hidden and protected wizards single-handed. It was all a bluff. The Dark Lord himself could not have accomplished such a feat.
I barged through the Room of Requirement in time to see Sid and Neville sitting in arm chairs, knee-to-knee, heads bent toward each in deep conversation. I repressed my jealousy. It was Neville, blimey.
Sid stood up. "This is a private lesson, Professor."
Neville stood, too, scratching the back of his head.
"I know, but I've got to tell somebody. The man. Sid, you said he talked to you in your head? Threatened to kill everyone? What else did he say? Exactly?" I knew I was bombarding, but I didn't care. This was important.
She swallowed, losing her composure for a moment. "I told you everything. He said he knew what was going on, that he was stupid."
I would get whatever secret she was keeping out of her later. That girl had to learn to stop playing the hero. It would be the death of her . . . and me.
"Draco, what's going on, mate?" Neville asked. He looked weary and uncomfortable.
"It had to have been a bluff," I said, not hiding my smirk very well. I couldn't help but feel a tad arrogant at my discovery.
Sid shrugged. "What makes you say that?"
I closed my eyes for a moment. She clearly was not aware that her cold indifference only made me want her more.
"Think about it. There's no possible way that one wizard would have the power to wipe out all of us in one swoop. We had spells protecting us that the Dark Lord could never have dreamed of. I'm betting he was pretty certain that you and Neville weren't alone at there, but the rest of us were undetectable. MEC is good at what they do, Sid. The problem is, the fact that we all ran, made our ploy pretty easy to spot. My question is, how did he make you hear him? I mean, I was there, that night at Hogwarts, when Voldemort made himself heard all over the grounds. But that's much different. It's much easier to project your voice magically to a large area than to make it so that only one person can hear you. Especially if you're not in proximity to said person."
"Look, Professor Malfoy," Sid said. "I know you think you're all high and mighty for thinking of a new possibility, but this can't help us now. Claps for you, but I think your little revelation could have waited. Or you could have brought it to McGonnogal. Or MEC itself. Neville and I are strategizing."
That did it. She called him Neville? But couldn't be bothered to drop the formalities with me.
"Sid, it's alright," Neville said. "The lesson was supposed to end a few minutes ago anyway. I'll - erm - I'll leave you two be. See you tomorrow evening, Sid. Same time."
Then, he walked out, leaving she and I alone.
To my surprise, she sat down rather than walking off.
I remained standing. "What are you keeping from me?"
"Plenty," she responded. I growled.
"Sid, you're being a child. I care about you, and I need you to confide in me, if you want to tackle this thing together."
"That's the thing," she said. "Compared to you, I am a child. And the other thing, we can't tackle this thing together, Draco. It's got to be me. Just me."
Now I went to occupy Neville's former seat across from her. I reached for her hands, and she didn't pull away.
"No, it doesn't. I'll be with you every step of the way."
"You won't!" she yelled. "In the end, it can only be he and I. That's the only way. That's what he said to me, and that's where the problems began. I can't drag you into this. He killed my parents. It's up to me to fight him. I know I'm not ready yet. But I will be. And I'll take him down myself. You keep trying to keep me out of things and keep me safe. But it's got to be the other way around here. I can't let you get anywhere near that final duel, when the time comes. He's going to destroy everything and everyone I've ever cared about. He's already done a pretty damn good job."
I started to protest, but she wouldn't let me. "No, listen to me, Draco. My parents are dead. Murdered. There's nothing any of us can do to change that. I understand that stopping this man will not bring my parents back. But the hope of seeing him dead is the only thing that motivates me to get up in the morning. I don't have a home to go back to in America when this term is over. This fight is all I have left that's keeping me from becoming a zombie."
She bit her lips as she tried to keep the tears from falling, but they streamed down her face without mercy.
"Baby," I whispered. As soon as I imagined it, we were no longer separated by two chairs, but rather sitting together on a sofa. I wrapped by arms around her and brought her to my chest. I kissed her head. "Everything's going to be okay."
Sid was shaking, and I felt helpless. "You promise?" she said.
I had no way of knowing what the future had in store for us. But I would do everything to make sure that she was safe. For me, that meant that everything would be okay.
After a while, she stood up and suggested we go. It was quite late, but tomorrow was Saturday. No classes.
When Sid tried pushing the door open, it didn't move. She pushed harder. Still nothing. She looked at me.
I shrugged and approached it myself. Pushing with all my might, it started to budge. With Sid's help, we managed to fling it open and go crashing to the floor on the other side.
"What the -" a voice that belonged to neither she nor I said.
I looked up from the ground to see that boy Sid was always with. However, he was tangled up with a different red head. I think her name was Lucy.
"Lily?" Sid said. Oh, never mind. Her name was Lily.
The boy, Rafe, stood there with his arms still around Lily, and his mouth hanging wide open.
"Sid? What are you doing with Professor Malfoy? Oh, hello, sir." Lily said.
I stood up, and refrained from offering a hand to Sid.
"Remedial Defense Against the Dark Arts lessons," I explained. Running a bit late, as are the pair of you, I see. Lily, I believe you should return to your own common room, and Mr. Tyson you may escort Miss Greyson back to Slytherin, if you please. I'll give you two a pass. However, Mr. Tyson, this is strike two. After the, ah, midnight tour incident. Good evening."
After that I had no choice but to leave the scene. It was a bit of a relief to catch that boy in the arms of another. Hopefully keep him preoccupied and leave Sid alone. I had work to do
"That is an interesting theory, Draco," Minerva said. "We ought to take this to headquarters immediately. You may go. I don't wish to leave the school unattended at a time like this. Before you go, however, have you spoken with Professor Longbottom about his lesson with Miss Greyson?"
I nodded my head. "We passed each other along the way, and he said it went well. Even a little overtime, I believe. She seems to be showing promise."
Minerva smiled. "Very well. One more thing?"
"Yes, Professor?" I said, feeling like a student once again, the way she looked at me. The woman would always have a way of making me feel inferior. And I guess I always would be. I owed a lot to her.
"Speaking off the record of course," she paused. "You love her, don't you?"
"Minerva," I began. "If you had any real doubt, I don't think you would have asked. But I can't lie to you. I think it's safe to leave the question unanswered. "
"Be careful with her, Draco."
I had never felt so much respect for the woman in my life. I flooed out of her office feeling light as a feather.