"You should get some sleep. It's likely we've got a long walk ahead of us tomorrow," he softly intoned. Without another word, he encircled my waist with one arm while reaching down and swinging my legs up. Standing there holding me against his chest, he looked at me and shook his head as if I was a puzzle to which he couldn't find all of the pieces.
He turned and delicately deposited me on the couch, then unfurled a blanket and covered me with the soft fabric. Satisfied that I wasn't in danger of injuring myself further, he crossed the room to take his seat by the window.
Propping myself up on one elbow, I studied him for a moment in silence as he searched for anything out of place outside our temporary safe haven. My mind was reeling, and I couldn't even begin to understand what had just transpired. Leaving this as an enigma for later, I lay back and began to drift off. Through the haze, teetering between sleep and wakefulness, I imagined that I heard Draco say something.
Across the room, he turned to look at her. The firelight glinted off the lengths of silky, black hair cascading off the pillow. His fingers twitched at the memory of how soft it had been. Her features relaxed in the comfort of sleep. She looked so small and vulnerable, nestled in the cushions of the oversized couch.
"Goodnight Kim," he whispered.
In the early hours of the morning, the sky only faintly lit with the promise of dawn, I woke up mildly confused about exactly where I was. Sitting up, I blearily rubbed the sleep from my eyes and looked around the cottage, remembering the events that had led us here. With a sudden jolt memories about what had happened after that, I quickly looked over to the chair near the window. There was Draco; his head leaned against the cushioned back, his cloak wrapped around himself with his arms folded across his chest.
Reaching for my wand, I charmed a spare blanket over to him. He barely shifted as it fell across him. Then I proceeded to levitate another log onto the dying fire.
"There's no point in waking him up this early to go back to the castle. Maybe someone will even find us and we won't have to make the trip alone. Besides, I doubt I'll get much peace and quiet for a while. No time like the present to figure out what the hell is going on around here. First, I need to decide how to deal with dear old mum and dad. I know one thing for certain; they're going to be less than happy to see me at Christmas. I'll make sure of that. This kind of betrayal cannot be ignored. Whatever lies they've told themselves to make this okay are going to be shattered. At least I'm not alone in my quest to end this madness. For once in all the time I've known him, I don't want to flay him alive and hang him out for the crows. What was that saying? 'The enemy of my enemy is my friend.' Although, I don't know that the term friend covers what occurred last night. Nothing really seems like it could cover whatever that was. This was just something I need to put out of my mind. It's not like he meant anything. It was just a kiss and nothing more. We were both just riding the adrenaline from nearly dying. Yes. That's it."
My internal dialogue drifted off as I fell back asleep. Meanwhile, outside the cottage, the search for us was in full swing. Most of the students had made it back to the castle's protective grounds, but a few of us had been trapped in Hogsmeade. McGonagall had swept into the village, accompanied by several other professors, and armed with patronuses, they had pushed back the onslaught of dementors. They quickly began to search for the missing students. In large part, this wasn't particularly difficult. Everyone but the two of us had taken refuge in the shops. When the other students had all been accounted for, they began to seek us out. Kat and Sara had desperately supplied our last known whereabouts, and all of the store owners in that area were questioned on whether or not they had seen us before the attack. Finally, they found our trail. We had left a path in the snow, and after losing it several times in the brush, McGonagall sent for Fang. The hound easily picked up our scent and led them to the once abandoned cottage. The task of rescuing and accounting for all of the students had taken all night. Now the early morning sunlight lit the world with its brilliance, making the smoke from the chimney easily visible. The anxious professors approached the house, hoping that all of their charges had managed to escape unscathed, but as they neared, a wailing scream echoed all around them.
Malfoy bolted up from the chair, the blanket falling to his feet, his wand gripped tightly in his hand. The Caterwaulding charm had been set off. Peering through the curtains he observed several professors cringing at the noise, their ears covered to muffle the dreadful sound. He relaxed and disarmed the charm with a wave of his wand. A glance at the couch told him that he wasn't the only one disturbed by their rescue party. Kim sat there, wand in hand, her sleep tousled locks falling in her eyes.
"It's just a horde of professors come to find us," he remarked. Turning back to the window, he proceeded to remove the rest of the protective charms from the perimeter. When he looked back he found that she had smoothed her hair and looked perfectly composed.
Professor Flitwick was closest to the door and the first to enter. He beamed at them and praised Draco's charm work; who mutely accepted the compliments with a smirk of superiority. It was oddly reassuring that some things never changed.
Clearing my throat, I interrupted the fluffing of his ego and drew Flitwick's attention to my splinted limb. "Would you mind fixing this, Professor? Healing charms aren't exactly my strong suit and I felt it better not to chance further mishap," I stated.
"Why yes, of course I can! Forgive me for delaying, Miss Daniels," exclaimed Professor Flitwick. He quickly repaired the damage with a flick of his wand.
Bending my foot, I hesitantly assured myself that it was back to normal. Seizing my shoe, I smiled at him, "Thank you! That feels so much better!"
"Alright, that's all very well, but we need to return to the castle immediately," insisted McGonagall. "I'm both pleased and impressed that you made it through this relatively unscathed, but I'd rather Madam Pomfrey gave you a clean bill of health as well."
She finished replacing her shoe and slid her feet down from the couch to the floor. While she had been sorting herself out, Malfoy had moved from his position near the window and was standing near Daniels' shoulder. When she made a move to get up, he shifted as if to steady and assist her, but quickly dropped his hands to his sides as if he'd thought better of it. "Well isn't that interesting," mused the Headmistress.
I was more than ready to leave this place. My stomach had been grumbling its displeasure since I had woken up the first time. Breakfast sounded heavenly. Crossing the room, I gathered my things and we exited the small house one by one. As she closed the door, McGonagall waved her wand and extinguished the last embers of the fire. When we made it to the village proper, there were two school carriages waiting to hasten our return. Silently we Malfoy and I climbed into one, accompanied by Professor Nightshade. The journey ended quickly and we were herded off to the hospital wing to be checked over by Madam Pomfrey.
Judging by the state of the infirmary, every student that had been left behind in the village had been sent here to be properly assessed. There were still a few ahead of us and we were escorted to two empty beds and told to wait. Still feeling quite tired, I shrugged and made myself comfortable.
Malfoy dropped gracefully onto the neighboring bed and huffed a sigh of frustration. "This is ridiculous. We're both perfectly fine."
Turning my head to the side, I regarded him through one half-lidded eye. "There's no sense in being peeved about it. Make a fuss if you want, but that's only going to drag out the process. As for me, wake me up when it's my turn. If I can't have a bath or breakfast, then I might as well have a nap," I retorted. Turning my back to him, I settled in for what ended up being the next two hours. Apparently there were a couple of unexpected, minor emergencies that resulted in our prolonged captivity in the infirmary.
When a light nudge finally woke me, it was nearly time for lunch. Madam Pomfrey insisted on examining Professor Flitwick's work. Much to her pleasure, everything was exactly as it should be. When she declared us officially unharmed, we both got up to leave.
"Oh, I'm afraid you can't go just yet," she remarked. "Professor McGonagall would like to have a word with you first," she added before turning to depart.
From the end of the hospital wing we could see her approach. She looked rather grim, but that wasn't uncommon these days. We stood waiting on her, hoping she wasn't planning on keeping us much longer.
"I know the two of you have had a long day, preceded by an even longer night, but I need you to tell me exactly what happened yesterday," she began without hesitation.
Before Malfoy could answer, I recounted our tale. "Well, we had gone into Madame D'Orsay's shop so I could pick up a gift. We were both preoccupied I suppose, and neither of us noticed that the streets were deserted until it was too late. By the time we realized what was happening, it was too late to do anything but run for it. We saw the cottage and were trying to make it inside when I twisted my ankle in a hole. Malfoy helped me inside and cast the protective charms and I was able to compose myself enough to cast a Patronus Charm. Neither of us is good enough with healing magic to risk mending the sprain, so I splinted it and we decided to wait until daylight to try and make it back on our own."
With a nod she answered, "You were both very lucky. Two members of the community weren't able to make it inside in time and both were found to be victims of the Kiss this morning. But I'm not here to impress your good fortune upon you. I came to tell you that you should gather your things and be ready to board the train this evening." She glanced from me to him, "Mr. Malfoy, your mother has expressed her displeasure at the danger you were in, and insists that you be allowed to return home early for the holidays. She also conveyed her wishes that Miss Daniels accompany you. As I understand it, the intention was for her to spend the holidays at Malfoy Manor prior to this incident." Turning her gaze back to me, she continued, "Your parents have already owled me to indicate that this is indeed accurate. I've already spoken with your professors, all of whom agree that considering everyone else will be leaving next week, there isn't anything of importance for you to miss. So, I suggest you both go and collect your things and let your friends know you'll be leaving."
I turned to give Malfoy a shocked stare, to which he made a nearly imperceptible shake of his head. Then, considering that I was mute with astonishment, he spoke for both of us. "Yes, we'll be ready to leave this evening."
With a curt nod, she turned and left as quickly as she had come. Without a word, I turned and hastily followed her. I could hear him, keeping pace a few steps behind me. Considering the time, I assumed that Kat and Sara would be in the Great Hall. On the way there, I was able to calm myself a bit. I thought about what they would say if I told them everything, but there just wasn't enough time left to do it properly. They would have questions, and some of them, I knew I wouldn't be able to bring myself to answer. If they were going to believe the lies that I was about to tell, I would have to get my emotions under control. I stopped just outside the doors and took a deep breath. Malfoy stood behind me, still maintaining his silence.