A/N – Thanks so much for all the support! I love reading your reviews!
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Chapter 21 – A Little Chat Overheard
Draco stared at his drawn bed curtains, feeling rather numb. It had been nearly twenty-four hours since Pansy finally managed to corner him, but the conversation still resonated in his mind, a harbinger of his doom. At least, that’s what it felt like. Pansy wanted him to take his Dark Mark at long last, and she wanted him to do it over the Christmas holiday.
“It’ll be such a brilliant surprise!” she’d enthused, eyes shining with anticipation. “We won’t tell anyone, and then when we get home, we’ll just shock them all with the news! Oh, it’ll be the best Christmas present to your parents ever, Draco!”
And what could he say? His mind had scrambled frantically but couldn’t conjure up any plausible excuse to refute the logic of her suggestion. After all, if he were really devoted, he would be eager to take the Mark as soon as possible, and what better opportunity than the hols? Draco felt an entirely all too familiar sensation, one that he had hoped to have escaped for good. He felt trapped.
He had to do something. He couldn’t take the Mark. After that, any sort of freedom would cease to exist, and his life would be forfeit to the whims of a lunatic. Avoiding this disaster was his one hope, but how? He had no reason to stay at the castle, and no reason to go anywhere else…not that he had anywhere else to go.
Panic would have claimed him at this point if only he hadn’t been through it all in his mind a hundred times before. He needed a door out, but he couldn’t even find a window to jump through.
His dark thoughts were interrupted by an insistent knock at the dormitory door. He’d locked it with a particularly strong charm when everyone else had gone off to lunch, lacking an appetite himself and wanting some solitude to think. Whoever it was, the git could wait.
The knock came again, and then again, and finally, an exasperated Draco called out, “Sod off!”
A pause, and then a timid, “Draco?”
He closed his eyes at that voice. Ginny. Damn. He couldn’t face her right now, he just couldn’t. How could he tell her? She would blame herself, of course, and he would have to assure her, and he just didn’t have the energy. He needed to reassure himself before he could even think about anyone else.
“Draco, let me in. I really need to talk to you.”
He sighed and slid back the bed curtains, rolling out of the bed to trudge to the door. He opened it to reveal a wide-eyed Ginny Weasley, hands twisting in her robes and cheeks flushed. She immediately pushed past him and moved promptly to his bed where she sat and clutched at the mattress edge as if holding on for dear life.
“How the hell did you get in here?” he asked as he shut and re-locked the door.
She blushed. “When you whispered the password yesterday…I have good hearing.”
He shook his head. “And you didn’t see fit to tell me you knew it?”
She blushed all the more. “I thought it might come in useful.”
He snorted. “I really have corrupted you.” He looked around awkwardly for a moment, unsure of what to do with himself. There were no chairs, and sharing the bed with Ginny didn’t seem entirely appropriate, so he finally just leaned back against the door.
“What’s wrong?” she suddenly demanded of him, releasing her death grip on the mattress and scooting forward in concern. “You look terrible. And I haven’t seen you since yesterday.”
He cursed her perceptiveness and ran a hand through his admittedly unkempt hair. “Didn’t you say you had to talk? I assume you didn’t sneak down here just to check up on me.”
She bit her lip in that maddening way that he loved and loathed in equal measure, then spilled out, “Look, I’m really sorry, but I figured no one would be here during lunch, and since you weren’t in the Great Hall I just assumed…and I know I have no right to be pestering you with this or anything, but it’s just getting to me and I wanted to talk to someone about it and, well, you’re pretty much the only one I do talk to anymore, so — ”
“Ginny,” he held up a hand, “if you don’t slow down soon, steam’s going to start coming out your ears.” She blushed, and he continued, “Now, why don’t you take a deep breath, and tell me, slowly, what you’re talking about.”
She did as he said and sucked in a great breath, releasing it slowly. “It’s Nott.”
Draco narrowed his eyes. “What about him?”
“Lately he’s been kind of…I don’t know. Creepy.”
“Creepy. Ginny, you’re going to have to be a bit more specific than that.”
Her hands were back to clutching the mattress edge. “It’s just he’s been talking to me a lot lately. Warning me to stay away from you, hinting that he’s…well, as he put it, ‘fond’ of me. And then today he asked me whether or not my relationship with you was genuine. I said of course it was, and then he said he’d be…watching me.” Ginny gave a little shiver and started fiddling with her necklace. He glanced at it and felt a flush of triumph when he saw it was his necklace and not her usual locket. “Usually I’m not such a baby,” she went on, “but something about Nott…he’s just unnerving.”
Draco felt a slow, hot rage at Nott kindle through him. “How long has this been going on?” he demanded.
“I don’t know…I guess it started right before I tried to stop seeing you.” She hung her head. “That’s actually kind of the reason why I tried to stop seeing you.”
Draco straightened from the door. “Why the hell didn’t you say anything sooner?”
She leveled a fierce stare on him. “I didn’t want to give you another thing to worry about because of me! I thought I could handle it, but I’m just getting too freaked out now!”
He cursed, rubbing at his eyes. “You should have told me right when it started, you idiotic girl. I could have handled it.”
“Well excuse me for caring about you!” she snapped, tears springing to her eyes. “But I hate seeing you so constantly stressed out like you are, and I know it’s because of me, and I just…just…” she broke off in a strangled sob.
“Oh, hell…” Draco took an awkward step forward, then stopped, rubbing a hand at the back of his head. “It’s not worth crying over.”
She sniffed. “I know. God, I’m so embarrassed. I swear I’m not usually like this. I’m not that emotional. I’m just tired, and dealing with Nott earlier, and now you’re mad, and I should have never come, and — ”
Draco shifted uncomfortably on his feet, and after a moment’s longer hesitation thought, Oh bugger it all, and walked over to sit down next to her. Awkwardly, he put an arm around her shoulder and pulled her against his chest. She immediately burrowed her head beneath his chin like they’d rehearsed it a hundred times, and Draco closed his eyes, wondering angrily why it had to be so easy.
“Ginny, I’m not mad at you,” he tried quietly. “I’m mad at Nott, and I just wish you would stop feeling so bloody guilty all the time. You need to tell me when things like this go on. I want to know.”
“I’m sorry,” she whispered against his shirt. “I don’t mean to be so difficult.”
He sighed, rubbing his thumb absently over her shoulder. “I know you don’t. It just comes naturally to you.”
She pulled away and gave him a solid punch to the gut, which succeeded in doubling him over but not in wiping the smirk off his face.
“You’re a prat,” she sniffed, nearly all traces of her earlier tears vanished, for which Draco was immensely relieved. He had absolutely no inkling of how to deal with crying women.
“Yes, well, that’s just what comes naturally to me.” He abruptly turned serious, rising and disappearing into the bathroom.
“What are you doing?” he heard her call after him.
“Getting decent,” he answered. “I’m going to have myself a chat with Nott.”
She appeared in the doorway, wearing a worried line between her eyebrows as she watched him comb out his hair and splash water over his face. “Do you really think that’s a good idea?”
“I think it’s a fantastic idea.”
“But…what if he does…something?”
“I don’t know!” she exclaimed, planting her hands on her hips. “I just don’t want anything happening, or for you to get in trouble or something.”
He dried his face on a towel and gave her a grim smile. “Thanks, but I’ve dealt with his sort my whole life. Trust me, I know what I’m doing. Right?”
She pouted but still grumbled, “Right.”
His smile grew a little, and he had to fight the insane urge to bend down and give her a quick kiss. Instead, he suggested, “You better leave too. Lunch will be over soon and you probably don’t want people seeing you down here.”
“Yeah. Just…at least be careful, okay?”
She nodded, seeming somewhat appeased by that. “All right.”
He stepped forward and placed a hand on the small of her back, gently steering her to the door. He slipped ahead to make sure the common room remained deserted, and finding it safe, waved her on. When they stood outside in the halls, Draco said, “Best get ready for class.”
She looked startled. “Oh…right. What about you?”
“I’ve got this period free. Now go on.”
She nodded and started to turn away but stopped, seeming to debate something. Finally she turned up her face to him. “Draco? Thank you. For everything. I never would have imagined…” she shook her head. “Well, anyway, thank you.”
She rose on her toes and, balancing a hand on his shoulder, softly brushed her lips against his cheek, letting the touch linger for just a second. “I mean it,” she murmured, still close to him. Then backing away with a bright flush splashed across her cheeks, she turned and fled.
Draco watched her go with his heart thudding against his chest, the memory of her soft lips seared into his brain forever. Did she even have a clue? Taking a deep breath, he shoved it all to the back of his mind and started out of the dungeons.
He didn’t pretend to know Theodore Nott that well, nor did he particularly care to, but Draco knew how to observe and had often noticed the boy hanging about that tree with such a massive canopy of leaves that the branches seemed to be reaching for either end of the grounds; a person could almost hear them groan with the effort. Draco decided it was as good a place as any to look.
The sunshine blinded him even as the biting chill froze him, Mother Nature’s favorite trick, and he hunched his shoulders to pull his cloak closer. He scowled at nothing in particular, angry with the cold, furious with Nott, hopeless in the face of Pansy’s stupid idea.
He finally approached the tree, and sure enough, Nott leaned against its broad trunk, scribbling away at a piece of parchment. Draco walked right up next to the other boy and leaned against the trunk, arms folded across his chest.
“Hullo there, Nott. Homework?”
Nott’s hand froze, and he slowly lifted his head up to Draco. An obviously false smile found its way across the boy’s lips. “Malfoy, what a surprise.” He glanced down at his parchment. “Yes, actually. Transfiguration.” He set it aside and unfolded his legs, rising up so that he and Draco were of equal height. “What can I do for you?”
Draco pushed off the tree, straightening his back but relaxing his shoulders in a show of boredom. “Just thought we could have a little chat.”
Nott assumed Draco’s earlier position against the tree. “You honor me. I don’t believe I remember the last time you initiated one of our heart-to-hearts.”
Draco thought that was probably because he never had. Aloud, he said, “Mmm. Shame.” He hated the way Nott just stared, a faintly amused twitch to his lips, totally calm and unblinking…waiting, patient. Ginny was right — it was unnerving. “It’s about Ginny.”
Nott’s face gave the impression that he harbored some secret joke, and Draco had to check his annoyance. He was beginning to think Nott was more dangerous than he’d first judged, and until he could figure out the other boy’s game, he needed to stay sharp on his guard. “I figured,” Nott responded coolly.
That irked Draco, but he suspected that was why he said it. Oh, he was a clever one, no doubt about it. But so was Draco. “You were right, you know.”
“Well, of course. Pray tell, which instance are you referring to?”
Damn arrogant git. “When you guessed that I actually cared about Ginny. You were right.” Draco took great enjoyment in the brief glimpse of surprise on Nott’s face before he hid it behind his accustomed mask.
“Yes, well, it didn’t take incredible intelligence to figure that one out,” a recovered Nott said in a bored tone.
Draco wanted to laugh at Nott’s feigned disinterest. They both knew curiosity raged in him. Draco shrugged. “Nevertheless.”
Nott held his silence an admirable minute or so before finally breaking down. “Honored as I am that you felt the need to inform me, any particular reason you decided to come and state the obvious?”
And with that, Draco had him. The second he asked the question, it became Nott who wanted information, no longer Draco, and that gave Draco the power. “I’ve just been hearing some interesting things. Things that suggest perhaps you’ve got an unwise interest in my lovely redhead.”
“Have you now? I’m assuming these things come directly from said lovely redhead.”
“Who else? We have a very open relationship, you see.”
“Ah, of course.” Nott slowly took his weight off the tree, standing to his full height but staying loose, relaxed. Draco wondered how much of it was a front, and guessed a lot. “And you’ve come to warn me off, is that it?”
Draco shrugged and slid his back down the tree, stretching his legs out in front of him and folding his hands behind his head. He closed his eyes to the sunshine. “Right in one, mate.” He settled his shoulders more comfortably against the knotted tree bark. “I guess you’ve got some sense after all.”
Draco didn’t open his eyes, but he could hear the amusement in the other boy’s voice when he replied, “Well, well, well. Look who’s turned into a sentimental sod.”
Draco didn’t let the jibe get to him, but kept his face a mask of serene calm, by all appearances simply enjoying the chill sunshine. “Terrible, isn’t it?” He knew better than to fight the accusation — that would only color him weak — but he could surely twist it to his advantage. “Oh, I know we could never be married, but she’ll make a charming mistress some day. Quite the entertaining plaything, and, you see, I just get very defensive of my property.” He opened his eyes and gave Nott a pointed look. “Must be an only-child complex. I don’t share well.”
Then Nott burst out laughing. It turned the tables so fast it left Draco stunned for several seconds; he didn’t even think he’d heard Nott really laugh before. Maybe a chuckle or a guffaw, but nothing like this. “Hell, Malfoy,” he gasped, “so sorry to ruin the fun, but I can’t play along anymore. It’s just too damned funny!” He sank to the ground, holding his middle in mirth.
Draco was on his feet, eyes narrowed down on Nott. “If you think this is some bloody joke…”
Nott shook his head, wiping away a tear. “Your mistress?” Nott had to choke down another wave of laughter. “Bloody hell, Malfoy, I’ve barely spoken to the girl and I know better. If you’re still going to try and play at being a cold-hearted bastard like your father, at least take the time to come up with something believable.”
Draco could feel the anger clouding over his face, but he let it. “Future aside, she is mine now,” he gritted, furious at how easily Nott had checkmated him. “I told you once I didn’t want you bothering her. I thought you understood, but perhaps you need a better explanation.” He slipped his wand free.
Nott raised his eyebrow at the wand, smiled like an adult humoring a small child, and stretched out with his back against the tree. “Calm down, I don’t want your girl. She’s attractive and all, but I like my women a tad more submissive than our darling Weasley.”
“Then why the hell have you been stalking her?”
“Stalking? Oh, I think that’s a bit of an exaggeration. What’s got you so paranoid?” A sly, knowing smile slipped over his mouth. “Ah, Pansy did finally have her talk with you, didn’t she? I can understand, then. I’d be a little on edge too.”
Draco’s eyes narrowed. “What’s that got to do with it?”
“Well, you’re pretty much stuck committing a life-changing act you really, really don’t want to, and there doesn’t seem to be any way out, does there?”
Draco felt his stomach drop to somewhere around his feet as he fought not to give anything away. Nott might only be guessing. “Do you hear yourself? Why wouldn’t I want my initiation?”
“Oh, I don’t know, perhaps because you renounced the Dark Lord, your father, and all the rights to the Malfoy name just to avoid it last summer. Seems a bit far-fetched to go reconsidering after all that bother.”
“I told you I changed my mind,” Draco ground out.
“So you did. You also lie. Regularly.” Nott held up a hand to stop Draco’s arguments. “Spare me the excuses. I’m sure you have plenty of reasons, all highly convincing, but the fact is, I won’t believe them. I’m rather stubborn once I’ve come to a conclusion.”
Draco aimed his wand at Nott’s head and growled, “I refuse to have anyone questioning my loyalties. Take it back, or be ready to regret it.”
Nott rolled his eyes and pushed away the wand. “Put that damned thing away, would you? Your secret’s safe with me. No worries. Both your secrets.”
Draco didn’t trust Nott as far as an ant could throw him, but a curious weariness stole over the other Slytherin that gave Draco pause. Nott was winning. Why should he look so defeated? “You still don’t have a clue what you’re talking about,” Draco snapped, “but even if it was true, why in Merlin’s name would I ever be thick enough to trust you to keep quiet?”
“You wouldn’t,” he answered simply. “But you should.” Nott’s smile was so brittle Draco expected it to break. “Not everything’s what it seems, mate.” He climbed laboriously to his feet, looking more exhausted than ever. “Maybe you’ve been pointing that wand in the wrong direction.” Then without even deigning to give a farewell, Nott bent down for his homework and started off.
Draco watched him, mind racing at break-neck speeds trying to figure out what exactly just occurred. Then he remembered something. “Nott!” The boy stopped and turned back expectantly. “You said both secrets. What’s the other one?”
Nott smirked. “Why, that you’re hopelessly in love with Weasley, of course.”
Draco could only gape, stunned into silence by the bluntness of it. He’d thought it before, but he’d never spoken it aloud, and hearing Nott say it so casually shocked him so badly that by the time he thought to deny it, Nott was already gone.
Draco collapsed down against the tree, drained. That had been a disaster, an utter train wreck of a conversation. Nott had claimed the upper hand the entire time, but that wasn’t even the worst part of it. Dropping his head into his hands, he muttered, “The bastard’s right.”
And that was the worst part.
- - - - -
The man across the room tipped back his shaggy head and inhaled the contents of his tankard in one decisive swallow, slamming it back down again with a loud belch. Pierce wrinkled his nose and turned away from the sight. The establishment wasn’t as inviting as The Three Broomsticks, but he wanted to be away from Hogsmeade completely, take Naomi out of her comfort zone for this conversation. This place was conveniently located in a tiny, obscure Wizarding village about thirty minutes north by broom.
He wished Naomi would hurry up. The little pub and restaurant was packed from wall to wall with people looking either to get drunk or just have a good time, in most cases both. He’d sent Naomi an owl asking her to meet him here for lunch, but he was beginning to wonder if the bird had gotten lost.
“Oh goodness, I’m so sorry Jon.” Just then a breathless Naomi appeared through the crowd, skin pale and dark circles showing under her eyes. “I was up late last night and slept in.”
“It’s all right. I waited to order.”
She nodded wearily and collapsed across from him, offering a weak smile. He returned it, but not as enthusiastically as he probably should have. He couldn’t bring himself to believe Snape’s ridiculous accusations against the woman…but something more instinctual in him couldn’t entirely discount them either. Naomi was stained by suspicion now, and a desperate Pierce was here to wash her clean of it.
A middle-aged waitress wandered over and sat down glasses of water before taking their orders, scratching it all down in a worn-looking notepad before drifting off again.
Naomi circled the rim of her glass with a fingertip, leaning her weight on her elbow. “So, why did you want to meet here?” Her eyes did a quick sweep of the room. “It doesn’t seem much to your taste.”
Pierce downed a large swallow of water, wishing it was something stronger. “I wanted to talk, and I didn’t want anyone around we might know.” It was a perfectly conceivable lie, he knew.
“We could have just met in my rooms.”
He allowed a wry smile to sneak onto his face. “Yes, well, I couldn’t help but notice that every time we’re alone in your rooms, not much gets accomplished.”
She laughed softly, that warm intriguing sound of hers. Pierce felt a tightening in his chest at the thought that she might not be what she claimed. “I see your point. What’s so important that it had to be discussed, and in private even?”
The bored-looking waitress saved him from having to answer immediately by trudging over and dropping a plate in front of each of them. “Anything else?” she asked in a tone that suggested she would be less than happy to oblige further requests.
“No, everything looks wonderful,” Naomi assured her with an assuring smile.
Pierce glanced skeptically at the substance on his plate that was supposed to be roast beef and steamed vegetables, thinking he wouldn’t go so far as to say that, but the waitress took it at face value and promptly left them.
Pierce took a bite of his lunch, finding with relief that it at least tasted better than it appeared, and avoided Naomi’s searching gaze. Finally she urged, “Well? You’re driving me mad making me wait like this.”
He swallowed the bite in his mouth and, reluctantly, set down his fork. “Naomi…why did you come back?”
She looked a little surprised. “What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean. Why did you come to Hogsmeade and send me that owl? And why did you start things up between us again? Generally, two people who haven’t seen each other in years start with being friends again first…”
She gave him a look that told him she was analyzing and took a bite of her chicken, which Pierce interpreted as a stalling gesture. Finally, she admitted, “I’m trying to decide whether or not you just called me a slag.”
Pierce shook his head with a faint smile. “You know that’s not what I meant. It just seems a little off, is all. How eager you were to pick up the pieces again.”
She took another bite, chewing slowly. “What exactly are you insinuating, Jon?”
He gave a frustrated sigh and tipped back more water. “I just want to know. You said it yourself in that owl you sent me: I have to know everything. It’s been bothering me.”
“Then why didn’t you bring it up earlier?”
Pierce wished she would stop side-stepping all of his questions. The woman would have gone far in Slytherin, a thought not entirely comforting considering his purpose for being here. Well, he could dodge a few of her queries too. “Is it really such a terrible reason that you don’t want to answer this badly?”
She blinked and shook her head. “No, I just feel a little accused, and I can’t figure out for the life of me what my crime is.”
He decided a softer approach was in order. He took her hands, rubbing his thumbs over them, and looked directly into her eyes. He said as softly as he could and still be heard over the other patrons, “That’s what you think? Naomi, I would never accuse you of anything.” He gave her his most charming smile. “You’re my Ravenclaw sweetheart, what would you be guilty of?” He lifted one of her hands to his lips. “I just truly am curious. I guess I don’t…I don’t feel worthy of you. I need to understand what on earth would posses such a perfect woman to want me.”
Her expression softened, her hands relaxing in his grip. “Oh, Jon, don’t be ridiculous.”
Seeing that had gotten him somewhere, he gave her hands a tender squeeze and continued, “I’ve just been trying and trying to reason it out for myself, but I can’t find any explanation. You’re so good and sweet and fun and I’m…well…”
She pulled his hands closer to her, dropping her eyes to their entwined fingers. She said so softly he had to strain to hear, “I think you’re giving me too much credit. Maybe I’m the one who doesn’t deserve you.”
That gave him a moment’s pause, making him wonder if she was implying something, but he shook it off. “You’re mad if you think so. I broke your heart the last time. That’s why I can’t understand why you would possibly want to try again.”
She slid her hands free of his hold. “I thought we’d been over this. I missed you.”
“But you’re smart, Naomi. You know when something’s not good for you, and you’re strong enough to stay away.”
She smiled dryly. “Trying to convince me to leave? If you want me gone that badly, you can just say so. You didn’t have any trouble last time.”
Pierce sat back and rubbed at his temples. “Naomi…”
She watched him a moment, wearing a slight frown, then with a sigh she pushed aside their plates and laid her palms face up between them. “Give me your hands again,” she told him.
Raising an eyebrow, he slowly placed his hands in hers. She closed her fingers around his. Her eyes found his and held on firm. “Now I’m only going to say this once, Jonathon Pierce, so I want you to listen and listen good. Got it?”
Lips quirking at her tone, he nodded dutifully.
“Right. You want to know why I came back? Well, at Hogwarts I fell in love with this utter git, a Slytherin of all things, but Merlin I couldn’t resist him. It was the first time I was ever really in love…and it was the last, too. I never found anyone close. Then years later I found out I could see him again if I just took that first step, and I had a choice.” She paused, making sure she still had his attention. “I could forget about it and move on, not have to worry about being hurt again…or I could give it a try and maybe, just maybe, this time it would work. Maybe this time we would find our happy ending.”
She dropped her eyes to their joined hands and gave a squeeze. “I agonized over it a long time, but, well, I’ve always been an optimist.” Her eyes rose back up to his, shining with unshed tears. “And maybe I’m making a fool of myself, maybe it was always a one-sided thing, but…the love I had with you all those years ago, it’s an amazing thing, and so rare, Jon. I didn’t want to risk my heart again…but I knew I would never forgive myself for risking love.” She gave a watery laugh. “And I’m sure I’ve just overloaded your Slytherin tolerance for fluffy mush, but you asked for it. There’s my answer. Satisfied?”
Pierce leaned over the table and caught her lips in a slow, tender kiss, still holding their hands between them. He pulled away so he was just a breath away and murmured, “Very.”
- - - - -
Pierce apparated just outside Hogwarts with a crack and a silly grin. He slipped his hands into his pockets and strolled up the path towards the castle, whistling softly under his breath. Snape could harp about his paranoid suspicions all he wanted; Pierce knew Naomi, and after their conversation just now, no doubt as to her loyalties remained. She was true, and the very idea that he ever questioned that made him want to laugh.
Pretty much everything made him want to laugh at the moment. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt so light. For years and years all he could see in the bluest of skies were the clouds, and the only thing he had to look forward to was the day it would all end one way or the other. He’d just been biding his time, trying to stay above water. But now…but now.
A sudden shout made him freeze, then immediately relax again when he realized it was a call for that boy, Nott. He cocked his head, though, upon recognizing the voice as Draco’s. Snape’s warning to take his mission more seriously echoed in his mind, and with a sigh, he decided he would go see what was going on.
He was about to walk up in plain sight, but he could see the two boys seemed tense, and curiosity sparking, Pierce stepped behind the tree next to him. He was too far away to pick up anything, but a simple hearing enhancement spell, ironically an adaptation from the Weasley twins’ Extendable Ears (or so he was told), solved that problem.
“You said both secrets. What’s the other one?” Draco was demanding of the other boy.
Nott answered as if it should have been obvious. “Why, that you’re hopelessly in love with Weasley, of course.”
Silence fell, but Pierce hardly noticed over the sudden roaring in his ears. In love? Pierce had suspected that the time was near, but had it really already arrived? He ran a hand through his sandy hair, trying to force his heart to slow down so he could think. Now was the time to act, before Draco could reconsider. Young love was too fickle to take chances with. God, he should be thrilled! All his work and planning had finally come to fruit.
But oddly enough, he wasn’t. He felt a vague nausea twisting low in his stomach, and he realized he didn’t want to act. Something held him back, and when he closed his eyes, Naomi’s face swam behind his closed lids. What would she think if she knew? It’s not that he loved her. He wanted her surely, cared for her even, but he was far beyond an emotion so pure as love. But still…
All of it sped through Pierce’s mind in a second, and he forced himself to slow down. He didn’t even know if it was true. Nott was probably just goading Draco on or something. He had no proof, and couldn’t consider making a move until then.
All of that logic scattered on the wind a half a beat later when, through the aid of the hearing enhancement he still maintained, Pierce heard Draco mumble, “The bastard’s right.”
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