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Her Decision by MajiKat

Format: Novel
Chapters: 24
Word Count: 65,685
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse

Genres: Drama, Romance, Action/Adventure
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Lupin, Seamus, Neville, Draco, Pansy, Ginny, Blaise (M)
Pairings: Draco/Hermione, Harry/Ginny

First Published: 01/15/2007
Last Chapter: 07/27/2007
Last Updated: 07/27/2007

Summary:
On the Ultimate Story List!



Draco Malfoy. Death Eater? The Devil incarnate? Or lost soul? Six years ago he disappeared without a trace. Now, he's back, and after a chance encounter, Hermione Granger's life takes a turn she was not expecting. 


Chapter 1: Memory
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DISCLAIMER: I own none of the characters in this story. They all belong to JK Rowling. I own the plot. That is all.

Author's Note: This is my first ever fanfic, so please be nice and R&R.




Hermione sighed and put down the copy of The Daily Prophet she was reading. Usually she was engrossed, reading every article from start to finish, taking in every detail about what was happening in the wizarding world. She scowled and shook her head as if clearing it of unwanted thoughts. Crossly, she picked up her paper again, shaking it a little, as if that too would help clear her head. Hermione opened the paper and started to read. The words swam through her head, making absolutely no sense at all.

‘What the hell is wrong with me?’ she asked herself, irritated. A name flashed into her tired brain.

Draco Malfoy.

If possible, Hermione’s scowl deepened, and her mind drifted back to her last day of Hogwarts – Graduation Day.

The ceremony was over and all the students were laughing and hugging one another, wishing each other luck for the future. Many of them, Hermione included, had jobs to go to. Only one student stood alone, outside this happy celebration. Hermione had seen Draco standing off to one side, an unreadable expression on his pale face. His blonde hair hung in his eyes and with a sigh, he pushed it away with long, slender fingers. His grey eyes were troubled, and at that moment he glanced up, as if he felt her gaze on him. He sneered at her, and she scowled.

‘Typcial Malfoy,’ she thought. ‘He cannot be civil, not even today.’

She had, for some unknown reason, continued to sneak glances at him. He in turn looked at her, almost challenging her to approach. Hermione thought about the rotten year Draco had had. His father killed in the battle against Voldemort and the Death Eaters, and his mother locked away in a cell in Azkaban. Hermione had heard they were going to give her the Dementors Kiss any day now.

Surprised at herself, Hermione realized she was feeling pity for the lonely blonde boy. Inwardly, she scolded herself. Malfoy deserved everything he got, and more. So what if he’d hardly said a word to anyone all year (not even his usual daily barrage of insults to Harry, Ron and herself)? So what is none of the Slytherin’s were speaking to him? So what if he sat alone, ate alone, walked alone? He deserved it. Didn’t he?

With a sigh, Hermione turned back towards Malfoy, but he had gone. Her eyes did a quick scan of the room, and she saw him disappear out the front doors to the Great Hall. She put on a determined face and made to follow him.

“Hermione! We’ve finished school!”

A very excited Ron Weasely grabbed her in a bear hug – the tenth in an hour. Smiling weakly, Hermione disentangled herself from her friends long and rather strong arms.

“Not now Ronald. I’ve got something to do. I’ll be back,” she said quickly, hurrying off in the direction Malfoy had gone. Ron’s voice floated through the air.

“Bloody mad! What’s she doing?”

and then louder,

“Harry! Oi! Harry!”

Hermione hurried down the stairs, her graduation gown flying behind her. At the base, she paused. Which way did he go? She thought, and shrugged, taking a few steps forwards, and then turning sharply on her heel, deciding to return to the Hall. She spun around and collided with something warm and hard. Strong hands grasped her arms, preventing her from toppling backwards.

“Granger, you should really watch where you’re going,” a voice said softly.

Hermione gave a small yelp and stepped away. She looked up. Draco Malfoy stood before her, grey eyes shining with amusement. He still had his hands wrapped around her forearms. She shook herself free, crossing her arms over her chest.

“You shouldn’t sneak up behind people Malfoy,” she replied, looking him in the eye.

He sneered. “What are you doing out here? I thought you’d be inside celebrating with Potty and the Weasel.”

Hermione rolled her eyes. He was so childish! “I was looking for you as a matter of fact,” she said.

“What for?” Malfoy seemed surprised.

“I just wanted to say…” Hermione began, but he cut her off.

“What? Congratulations? Good luck for the future? What Granger? What?” he asked, his voice rising.

“Well, yes, if you must know, that’s exactly what I was going to say, but I’m not sure I will now,” Hermione answered, her own voice rising.

“And what makes you think I’d want to hear anything you’d have to say anyway? You are nothing but a filthy little…” Draco ground out, stepping closer to her. A faint blush was creeping into his pale cheeks.

Hermione whipped out her wand, pointing it at his chest. “Don’t you dare say the word Malfoy! Don’t you dare!” Her eyes flashed daggers at him.

“How dare you draw your wand on me!” Draco spat, trying to swat her hand away. She dodged him, and he grabbed at her wrist, at the same time reaching for his own wand with his spare hand. Hermione’s free hand snaked out and went for his wand hand, clawing her fingers around his wrist at the same time he grabbed her.

They stood that way a moment, Hermione struggling and Draco holding her immobile, using his physical strength against her. They were so close, their faces only inches apart, both breathing heavily, fury in their eyes. A strange thought flashed into Hermione’s mind.

‘I really do pity him,’ she realized as she stared into his eyes, so full of hate and something else. Was it pain? Loneliness? Fear?

“It must be hard,” she said softly, not taking her eyes off his face. Malfoy frowned a little.

“What are you on about now Granger?” he snarled.

“I’m sorry Malfoy,” Hermione said quietly.

“What?” Malfoy spat, his frown deepening.

Hermione sighed. “I feel sorry for you,” she whispered. He stared at her, dropping her wrists like she was on fire. He took a shaky step backwards, never taking his eyes off her.

“Draco…” Hermione began, but he laughed.

“Don’t pity me Granger. Don’t feel sorry for me. Don’t talk to me and don’t ever some near me again,” he replied. She looked at him sadly and opened her mouth, but he turned and walked away into the night.


Hermione closed the paper. That night, six years ago, had been the last time she’d seen Draco Malfoy.

Until that morning.

Chapter 2: Surprise!
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On a coffee break from her job at the Ministry of Magic, Hermione had popped into Diagon Alley to pick up some new quills and grab a few books she had ordered. With her arms full of books, quills and coffee, she hurried up the street. Her break was almost over, and she still needed to pick up a present for Ginny’s birthday the following weekend.

Lost in her thoughts, she rounded a corner and collided with a very solid form. Hermione tumbled into a heap on the ground, her arms emptied of their contents. Miraculously, she still had her take-away coffee in her hand, not a drop spilt.

“Damn it,” she cursed under her breath, looking at the mess around her.

“Sorry. Let me help,” a deep masculine voice said close to her ear. There was something naggingly familiar about that voice, but she didn’t have time to think about it. Hermione gathered her belongings quickly and climbed to her feet.

“Here, you forgot this,” the voice said, and a pale hand with strong, slender fingers handed her one of her books.

“Thanks,” she smiled, lifting her head. Hermione froze, and found herself looking into two very surprised grey eyes. She let her eyes travel quickly over his face. High cheekbones; smooth, creamy skin; a thin, straight nose; slightly pointed chin; pale blonde hair and full lips. He was older, his hair longer and pulled back into a low ponytail, but the man standing before her was none other than Draco Malfoy. His eyes flashed as he recognized her.

“Granger,” he said, but without the trademark smirk she remembered.

“Malfoy,” she replied, her blood suddenly feeling like fire in her veins.

They stared at one another.

“Umm, well, I have to go…work, and all…” Hermione muttered, not looking at him. She felt like she’d been punched in the stomach.

‘God what’s the matter with me? This is Malfoy!” she thought.

Could be because you haven’t seen him in six years. Could be because he is even more handsome than you remembered, whispered a little voice in the back of her head.

‘Shut up’, she silently cursed herself.

Taking a deep breath, she forced a smile. “Well, good to see you Malfoy,” she said cheerily. “Bye.”

As she took off up the street, she could feel his eyes burning into her back, right up until the moment she Apparated back to the Ministry. She told no one she’d seen him.

***

Hermione was woken early the next morning by a constant tapping. Groggily, she sat up, blinking in surprise. One hand shot beneath her pillow and grasped her wand. She listened attentively.

Tap tap tap.

A beautiful silver owl was perched on her window ledge, tapping repeatedly on the glass. Hermione crawled out of bed and opened the window. The owl hooted softly, and held out its leg. Hermione unfastened the small roll of parchment, unrolling it and reading the tiny script:

Granger,

It was, well not great, but good to run into you yesterday. Meet me tonight outside The Leaky Cauldron, 7pm.

Malfoy


Hermione scrunched up the letter in shock. That arrogant jerk! What was he up to? Was he stupid? She snatched up some parchment and a quill from her bedside table and scrawled a response:

I don’t think so Malfoy.

Angrily, she tied her letter to the owl’s leg. Confused, she watched as it soared away into the pre-dawn sky.

Awake now, Hermione wandered downstairs to make herself some tea. Her little black cat, Imelda, rubbed against her leg in an affectionate but demanding manner. Hermione fed the cat and sat by the kitchen window waiting for the kettle to boil. Ron thought she was mad, but she prepared doing many things the Muggle way.

Crookshanks had died two winters ago, and Hermione had been devastated. Ginny and Harry had given her Imelda as a birthday gift, and she’d fallen in love straight away. She sighed. That same birthday Ron had proposed. Hermione had almost said yes, but no matter how much she loved Ron, there was this little doubt that said he wasn’t the one. So she’d refused. He’d been crushed, naturally, and they’d stayed together a further nine months or so, but had eventually, and mutually, broken it off. They both wanted different things. Ron wanted a wife and someone to have his children, and Hermione wanted her career and her freedom.

The last year had been hard, seeing Ron at Christmas, birthdays, and engagements. She was rather impressed by the way he’d handled it all – not once had he lost his temper or ranted like some jealous loon whenever a member of the opposite sex spoke to her or glanced her way.

Unwillingly, Draco’s face danced into her Hermione’s head, and, mortified, she pushed it away. The shrieking of the kettle drew her back down to earth, and she rose from her seat.

After making tea and toast, Hermione settled back into her seat near the window. The morning was warming up, so she opened the window wide. She screamed in sudden shock as an owl soared through the window, gracefully swooping around the kitchen before coming to land beside Hermione’s plate of toast. Beneath the table, Imelda hissed a warning. The owl was the same on that had brought Malfoy’s message. Hermione sighed. There was another roll of parchment attached to its leg:

Granger,

I’d like to see you. If you change your mind…7pm, The Leaky Cauldron.

Malfoy.


Hermione resisted the urge to write something scathing in return. She reminded herself that she was an adult now, so she simply wrote ‘I won’t’, and sent the bird on its way.

***

It was 6.30pm, and Hermione paced her living room. I won’t go, I can’t go, I shouldn’t go, she told herself over and over again. It’s just so wrong! At 6.50 Hermione stopped pacing. She closed her eyes for a long moment, trying to clear her head. She took a deep breath. At 6.55 she Apparated outside The Leaky Cauldron.

Malfoy was leaning casually against the wall near the main entrance. He raised his eyebrows at her.

“I thought you said…”

“I know what I said,” Hermione snapped. He simply shrugged and glanced at his watch.

“You’re early,” he said.

“So are you,” she retorted. They stood and stared at one another, studying each other in the dim light. He was as immaculate as she remembered, standing there dressed elegantly in head to toe black, not a blonde hair out of place. Hermione felt quite drab in comparison, but then again, Malfoy had always taken pains to remind her of how unattractive he thought she was. Eventually, after she could stand his eyes on her no longer, Hermione sighed.

“Why am I here Malfoy?” She asked.

He smirked. “You tell me Granger.”

She glared at him, her blood pressure rising. “Don’t play games with me you little prat. You invited me here, so tell me what you want, or get out of my sight,” she hissed, folding her arms securely across her chest. There was something about the way he was looking at her that set her on edge. It was not hatred, not even dislike – it was something else.

“My my, we haven’t changed a bit have we? Not to worry Granger – I always liked that about you; the way you’d yell at me, insult me, and call me horrible names. It’s not that I expected anything different,” he replied, his face impassive.

She suddenly felt like they were back in school, back at Hogwarts. Hot anger flowed through her; in memory of the torment and insults she and her friends had endured from Malfoy. How dare he stand there in his expensive black-whatever he was wearing, and complain about what she used to say to him! She could feel her anger simmering away under her skin, and she took a slow, steady breath, clamping down on it.

“I’m not in the mood for this Malfoy. I have other things I could be doing tonight. Now what do you want from me?” She said coolly, staring him in the eyes, daring him to look away. He said nothing, just stared back at her, his expression unreadable. “Fine,” Hermione snapped. “I’m going home.”

“Wait,” Malfoy plucked at her arm as she began turning away from him, and she immediately shoved him off, throwing an icy glance in his direction. “Please?” He added, and her eyes widened in surprise. A Malfoy said ‘please’? To her? She narrowed her eyes, instantly suspicious, but somewhat intrigued. What in Merlin’s name did he want?

“Why should I?”

He lowered his gaze. “I need someone …to talk to,” he mumbled, and she felt her heart stop beating. What was going on?

“Okay,” Hermione replied with a sigh. She would regret this; she knew it. She began walking towards the door of The Leaky Cauldron, but when Malfoy didn’t follow, she stopped. She looked at him questionably.

“Not in there. It’s too loud.”

“Well, where then?” Hermione asked. “No where dark or deserted Malfoy. I don’t exactly trust you.”

Malfoy only shrugged at her last comment. “I understand,” he said, looking around. “What about that place? It looks quiet,” he added, pointing to a small café down the street. Hermione shrugged. She had gone there with Ginny a couple of times – it was okay.

They walked in silence side by side down the street. It was chilly out, and Hermione wished she’d brought a coat. She hadn’t intended on staying. She meant to show up, tell Malfoy not to speak to her, and leave. But there was something in his eyes when he said ‘please’ that stopped her. Something she’d never seen there before. Goosebumps were starting to rise on her arms, and she shivered slightly.

“You want my coat?”

Hermione almost walked into a lamppost in shock. “What?”

“I said do-you-want-my-coat?” Malfoy repeated clearly and very slowly.

Hermione shook her head. “No, it’s okay. It’ll be warm inside.”

Once in the café, Hermione and Draco sat opposite one another at a small table near the window. They sat in silence while they waited for their drinks to arrive, Hermione in quiet shock. He was still rude and arrogant, but he had been polite, even bordering on pleasant, to her since she’d agreed to stay. This was not the same boy she’d known at school; this was a man, and she realized she knew nothing about him at all.

“Okay Malfoy, you’d better spill it. You’re acting very … mysterious,” Hermione said after their drinks had arrived. The tall blonde smiled, a genuine smile, as he sugared his coffee. Hermione laughed. He was making her nervous. “Who are you and what on earth have you done with Draco Malfoy?”

Malfoy was silent for a long time, and Hermione got a sinking feeling in her stomach that something was really wrong.

“I’m not sure he exists anymore,” Malfoy said quietly.

“What do you mean?” Hermione asked, slightly frightened. Did he mean literally or metaphorically?

Malfoy sighed and ran his fingers through his hair – a familiar gesture, and Hermione felt herself relax.

“I took off straight after graduation. You know what Granger? You were the last person I saw at Hogwarts.”

‘So he left after I said I felt sorry for him?’ Hermione thought sadly, and then shook herself. So what.

“I spent two years …away. Nowhere in particular. Just everywhere. Anyway, I didn’t feel like being in England. My father was dead, and my mother would soon be joining him. I had no one to go too, so I left,” Malfoy said simply.

“What did you do?” Hermione asked softly, her head spinning. She was sitting with her sworn enemy; drinking coffee and listening to him pour his heart out. It had to be a dream.

“Nothing much, I just traveled, I guess. I wasn’t even really thinking about anything,” Malfoy paused and sighed again. “I came back home here to the Manor. No one had been sure what to do with it – parent’s dead, son … missing. I inherited everything you know. So much of it was confiscated by the Ministry,” Malfoy said.

“I know,” Hermione replied. “The Dark … stuff. I knew they’d gone and got it all, but I had no idea you were there. No one said anything.”

“I asked Weasley not to. Not to anyone, and it seems he kept his word. Not bad for a Weasley,” Malfoy laughed with a hint of his old self.

Hermione sipped her coffee. “But what have you been doing for the last four years then?”

“Still want to know everything Granger,” Malfoy replied, but without malice. “I was looking for answers. Before the Ministry came, I read my parents letters, their journals, anything I could get my hands on that might help answer some questions. I threw out their clothes, I burnt the portraits, and I sold pretty much everything in that goddamned house. I brought new furniture. I got the house painted. I got a dog,” Malfoy laughed at this, and Hermione found herself laughing too.

***

Outside, a tall red-haired man was trudging down the street. He looked completely worn out. The light from a small café caught his eye and he glanced over. Through the window he could see a couple. He smiled sadly, and then began to frown. There was something very familiar about that woman. Stunned, he opened his mouth. Hermione, his Hermione, was sitting there having coffee with some bloke! And she was laughing; her head tilted back, her mouth open. Ron narrowed his eyes, trying to get a better look at this blonde bloke. Suddenly, he froze. That color, blonde so pale it could be white. That long, slender hand pushing his hair off his face.

Ron gulped. Hermione Granger was on a date with Draco Malfoy? Without pausing to think, Ron stomped away down the street, stopping to Apparate from a deserted corner. He needed to tell Harry!

***

They were on their second cup of coffee, and Hermione felt warm and a little drowsy. She was still stunned at what was happening. She and Draco Malfoy had managed to have a civilized conversation for more than an hour. No insults. No wands. No drama. She could hardly believe it.

Giggling a little to herself, Hermione glanced at her watch. She stood abruptly. “I’ve got to go, I’ve got an early start tomorrow,” she said, slinging her bag over her shoulder. Malfoy looked a little disappointed.

“Oh okay. Ummm, maybe we can do this another time?” He asked.

Hermione felt her eyes widen. Like a date? She thought. She smiled nervously. “Umm yeah, sure, why not?”

Malfoy walked with her to the corner of the street, where they would both Apparate home.

“Hey Granger. What department do you work in?”

“Oh. International Relations,” Hermione answered.

“Ever been to India?” Malfoy asked. She shook her head. “That’s too bad. I liked it there.”

“Well, I’ll see you, I suppose. Send me an owl if you want,” Hermoine said quietly. Malfoy nodded, disapparating away without another word. Hermione sighed and followed suit.



Chapter 3: Misconceptions, dinner and something more?
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A/N: Thanks for the reads and reviews people! I am posting as fast as I can, and I'll get a few more chapters up and then post my SongFic. Enjoy!

***

Harry Potter sat with his head in his hands. Ginny, sitting beside him with her long red hair in a messy bun, yawned widely. They were both dressed for bed.

“Ron, can this wait until the morning? I’m really tired,” Harry said, rubbing his temples. His black hair stuck up in all directions, messier than usual.

Ron was pacing around Harry and Ginny’s living room like a caged animal. “Hermione was on a date,” he managed to spit out between heaving breaths.

Ginny shook her head at her brother. “About time,” she muttered.
“Ron,” Harry said wearily, “what has this got to do with us? Isn’t that Hermione’s business?”

“Oh but you didn’t see her! You didn’t! I did! Sitting there laughing and … and … smiling and being … looking happy!” Ron ranted, tugging at the bottom of his shirt.

“So what?” Ginny asked loudly. “Honestly Ron, you guys broke up a year ago.”

“But how could she just … I mean … with him of all people!” Ron spluttered.

“Who?” Harry and Ginny chorused.

“Malfoy,” Ron replied.

Ginny gasped. “No!” she said, her hand over her mouth.

Harry frowned, “As in …”

“As in Draco scum-of-the-earth, the-amazing-bouncing-ferret, death-eater Malfoy?” Ron shouted. Harry nodded weakly.

Ron flopped on the couch. “I’ll kill him, I swear it, I will …”

Ginny sighed. “I think, before you run off to kill anybody” – two very angry men turned to look at her – “you should at least talk to Hermione first. Hear it from her. After all Ron, it’s been, what, six years? Are you positive it was Draco Malfoy and not someone else?”

“Yes,” Ron replied sullenly.

Ginny got up. “I’m going to bed. I suggest you go home and do the same thing. Harry, come on!” She grabbed Harry by the arm and began dragging him away. He shrugged at Ron.

“Talk to you later I guess.”

Ron nodded miserably and vanished with a loud *crack*.

***

“Okay, see you all tomorrow.”

“Bye Hermione!”

Work had been rather uneventful. Hermione had spent most of the day in communication with the French Ministry. They were having difficulties importing some carpet from Egypt. Since the British had managed to negotiate trading with the Egyptians, the French wanted to know how they did it.

Draco’s face had floated into Hermione’s mind periodically throughout the day. She’d see him, as he was at Hogwarts – that sneer, his cold eyes. Then his face would gradually change until he became the man with the soft eyes and sad smile she’d met last night. She wondered what on earth he’d been through to change him so much.

Hermione disapparated home, glad to be there. Her flat was not huge, but it was not small either. Two bedrooms – one used as a library and office – and a bathroom upstairs; kitchen, laundry and living room downstairs. The flat was light and airy, and the perfect size for Hermione and her cat.

She was just sitting down with a cup of raspberry tea and The Daily Prophet when she heard a voice yelling her name. Hurrying into the living room, she was not surprised to find a very grimy Ron stepping from her fireplace. What she was surprised at was the look on his face. He looked ready to throttle her.

Hermione froze. She knew that look. He was absolutely livid.

“Ron …” she began, but he cut her off.

“Have a nice night last night Hermione?”

She frowned. “What? Ron, I don’t understand what …”

“Tell me what you did,” Ron demanded.

“I … I stayed home,” she lied swiftly.

“So you didn’t go out, not even for a quick cup of coffee?” He asked loudly.

Hermione felt her heart beating faster. “Ron, what I do is none of your business,” she answered firmly, her own voice rising a little.

“So you did go out?”

“What? No.”

“Don’t lie to me Hermione! I saw you!” Ron yelled, his face red as flame. He was breathing heavily, his fists clenched by his sides.

“Why are you here Ron?” Hermione asked after a while.

“How could you? How could you do that to me?” Ron yelled again.

“I don’t need to explain myself to you Ron. We broke up, remember? We can have coffee with whoever we want,” Hermione yelled back, her temper rising.

Ron took a step closer to her. “You betrayed me! You betrayed all of us!” He hissed.

Hermione’s heart sank. “Ron …” she began.

“Draco Malfoy,” he spat, and she flinched. He was so incredibly angry. She’d never seen him so mad before. “I can’t believe you! It’s wrong!” Ron bellowed.

“Will you just shut up and let me explain!” Hermione bellowed back.

“What’s to explain? I saw the two of you, sitting there laughing and smiling. It looks perfectly clear to me. How long have you been seeing him Hermione?” Ron snarled.

Hermione was taken aback by his intense anger. “Yesterday was the first time I’d seen Draco Malfoy in six years Ron!”

Silence descended as Ron took in her statement.

“So what were you doing with him then?” He finally asked.

Hermione sighed, sinking down into the lounge. She felt sick and dizzy. “I ran into him yesterday morning. He sent me an invitation by owl to meet him later. I thought about it for a long time Ron, but I eventually decided to go and hear what he had to say,” she explained quietly.

“Why? It could have been a trap! He’s a Death Eater!”

Hermione snorted. “Don’t be an idiot. He’s not a Death Eater.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. He doesn’t have the Mark; I don’t think he’s ever had it. Anyway, we talked. I think he just wanted someone to talk to,” she replied.

“Why not Crabbe or Goyle, or any of his old cronies?” Ron asked, sitting down beside her on the lounge. “Why you? He hated you.”

“I don’t know,” Hermione replied honestly. “I tried to talk to him, at Graduation, but he took off. Did you know I was the last person her saw that night? He left England for two years. Maybe that’s why he choose me,” she said.

“I don’t like it Mione. Where has he been for the last four years then?” Ron asked.

She shrugged. “Looking for answers was what he said.”
“Answers to what?”

“I’m not sure. But Ron, the man I was talking to last night was not the same Malfoy we remember. He’s different,” Hermione said softly.

Ron snorted. “Once a Death Eater…”

“He’s not a bloody Death Eater Ron. He never was,” Hermione said firmly.

“Well, what does he want then?” Ron asked.

“I don’t know, but I’ve got the feeling he needs my help somehow,” she replied.

“I don’t want you to see him again,” Ron said suddenly.

Hermione frowned. “That’s not really your decision to make for me Ron.”

“You cannot be seriously thinking about seeing him again? I won’t let you!” His voice rose angrily. Hermione stood.

“It’s my choice Ron!” she snapped, and pointed at the fireplace. “Now go please. We can talk about this another time. I’m tired.”

“Mione …” Ron began, but she tossed her head.

“You don’t have the right to tell me what to do Ronald,” she said coldly.

“Fine! Be that way! Go hand out with your Death Eater buddy. See if I care!” Ron yelled. Hermione turned away from him.

“Just go.”

A moment later she head the whoosh of flames and when she looked around, Ron had gone. Sighing, Hermione sank into the lounge with her head in her hands.

***

Draco paced the halls of Malfoy Manor, his footsteps echoing through the empty rooms. He sighed, running his fingers through his hair.

“What the bloody hell is wrong with me? I had coffee, and a conversation, with Hermione Granger,” he asked the walls.

“You have been fraternizing with a Mudblood! Traitor! Traitor!” screeched the portrait on the wall beside him. It was his great-great-great something or another. He didn’t really care.

“Shut it!” Draco hissed at the man in the picture, stalking away down the hall to the kitchen. He poured himself a fire whiskey, knocking it back in one go. He shivered as he felt the liquid burn its way down his throat, settling with comforting warmth in his stomach. He had been home, if he could call it that, for four years. He’d barely been out, except to check up on a few old acquaintances. He’d spoken to no one else except the Ministry wizards who came to take his fathers things, and make sure he wasn’t following in daddy’s dark footsteps.

Hardly a word to another living soul for four years. Until now.

Why Granger? He asked himself. He already knew the answer. Because even after all this time, you still feel the need to make it up to her, to them. To all of them. It was luck that led him to Hermione yesterday. He nearly hadn’t recognized her. The long, bushy mane he’d remembered from school was cut short around her shoulders, and was sleek and shiny. She was taller, still slim, but she carried herself differently; with more confidence and self-assurance.

He also knew, deep down, that she wouldn’t just turn him away without first hearing him out. She had, after all, tried to speak with him on their Graduation night six long years ago. And, he realized with a shock, he was lonely. It had been so long since he laughed, since he opened up to someone. The last person he’d had a real conversation with was this witch he’d met in Egypt. While he was sitting there drinking coffee in that tiny café, he’d forgotten it was Mudblood Granger. She was just a person. For the first time in his miserable life he’d realized it really didn’t matter. Pure bloods? Mudbloods? Half-bloods? Who cared anymore?

Draco laughed, the sound bouncing off the walls around him. He had another couple of fire whiskeys. Would he ask her to see him again? The answer came quickly.

Yes.

She had told him to send an owl if he wanted to talk again. But, he thought to himself, was she just being polite, or did she really want to see him again? She’d seemed happy and relaxed, at least after their initial verbal sparring. She had been nervous and confused, like he was, at their meeting. Draco shrugged. Why not? Why not see her again? There was nobody telling him he couldn’t, nobody around to try and poison his ears, or his mind.

Draco looked at his watch. It was 9.30pm. She’d probably be asleep, he thought. Too late to send an owl tonight. He got up and turned off the kitchen light. It could wait until morning. He trudged through the silent and empty halls, his body and mind seeking rest.

***

Hermione woke the following morning with a pounding headache.

“Damn you Ronald Weasley,” she muttered, stumbling to the bathroom. A quick shower did nothing to alleviate the hammering in her temples. She wondered if she should go to work today. Hermione had not missed a single day of work since she started at the Ministry three years ago. Normally she frowned on tardiness, but she really did not feel like talking to anyone, and certainly did not feel like dealing with the French Ministry. With a sigh, Hermione walked downstairs in her robe, stamped on her guilt, and sent a quick message by the floo channel saying she was sick and wouldn’t be in.

Her headache increased in force, and she made herself a cup of chamomile tea, and took a couple of Muggle pain relievers. She fed Imelda and was deciding whether to call Ginny and tell her about the incredible events of the other night, when a silver owl landed on her window skill. Hermione’s heart skipped a beat. She untied the parchment from the owls leg and read:

Granger,

I had a good time the other night. Yeah I know, I’m rather surprised as well. It was nice to be able to talk. I appreciated it.


She stopped reading. Draco Malfoy had used the words ‘nice’ and ‘appreciated’ in reference to her?

If you were feeling up to it, I was wondering if you’d like to get together again? Send me your reply with the owl (his name is Tavi) and let me know what time suits you. That is, if you want to.

Malfoy.


Hermione sat down again, her head spinning faster than before. Draco Malfoy, being pleasant, not once, but twice? He really has changed, she thought. She sighed, unsure of what to do. The confrontation with Ron last night was not one she wanted to ever repeat, with Harry or Ginny either. They would react just like Ron. No doubt he had told them already.

Hermione found herself realizing she wanted to see Malfoy. If for nothing more than to sate her curiosity. Decided, she scribbled a response:

Malfoy,

I’m actually having the day off work – needed a bit of a break. I had a nice time the other night as well, so I’d like to talk to you again. If you like, you could come to my place – I don’t feel like going out. Just floo in – my address is 8B Botanical Drive, Surrey. See you soon (give me an hour – I just got up).

Hermione.


With shaking fingers, she tied the parchment to Tavi’s leg, and then ran upstairs to get dressed, both her headache and her tea forgotten.

An hour later, Hermione paced her living room. What am I doing? She thought in sudden panic. I’ve invited Draco Malfoy to my house! Maybe Ron is right. Maybe this is not a good idea. She quickly rushed into the kitchen, grabbed her wand, and stashed it in the back pocket of her jeans. She hoped she wouldn’t have to pull it out. She hoped to Merlin her judgment had been correct. She would find out any second.

Her fireplace chimed, and Hermione spun around to see Malfoy step out onto the hearth, brushing soot and floo powder off his shirt. He gave her a small smile, which she hesitantly returned.

“So, umm, would you like anything? Tea? Biscuits?” Hermione asked, remembering her manners.

Malfoy shook his head. “No thanks, I’m okay.”

“Well, sit down then,” Hermione gestured to the lounge. As graceful as a cat, Malfoy crossed the room, sinking into the lounge. His grey eyes were bright as he looked around the room, taking in every detail. Hermione tensed, waiting for him to say something insulting about her house.

“Nice place Granger,” he finally said, surprising her again.

“Hermione,” she automatically corrected. “If we are going to be friends, then call me by my name.”

He raised a perfect eyebrow. “Are we going to be friends?” He asked, looking at her.

“Maybe, I don’t know. Is that what you want?” She asked, sitting in the lounge opposite him.

He shrugged his shoulders. “I guess,” he said softly. He flashed her a dazzling smile. “Then I suppose you’d better call me Draco,” he said, and Hermione nodded. Imelda tiptoed into the room on velvet feet. Wandering over to Draco, she worked her way in figure eights around his ankles. He laughed.

“Cute cat. Whatever happened to that orange monstrosity you used to have?” He asked.

“Crookshanks? He died a couple of years ago. And he wasn’t a ‘monstrosity’; he was beautiful,” Hermione answered; surprised he remembered her old cat.

They sat in silence, looking at one another, neither knowing where to start or what to say. Imelda broke the tension by climbing onto Draco’s lap, butting his chest and purring loudly. He laughed, one hand reaching down to pet her.

“I think she likes me,” he said.

“She’s always been a good judge of character,” Hermione answered without thinking. Draco coughed nervously.

“She can probably smell my dog,” he said. Hermione flushed, embarrassed, but mention of the dog opened up the conversation again. Draco’s dog was a German Shepherd called Mellan, very large, but very quiet and playful.

“He’s been a good friend,” Draco said softly. Hermione opened her mouth the say the same thing about Imelda, but was cut short by someone calling her name from the kitchen.

“Oh no,” she whispered, standing up quickly, the blood draining from her face.

“What’s wrong?” Draco whispered back, standing up also. She noticed he had his hand on hip, resting on the wand sticking out of his trouser pocket.

“It’s Ginny!” Hermione replied.

Draco frowned. “The little Weaselette?”

“Don’t call her that,” Hermione snapped.

“Fine, but she won’t be too happy to see me here,” he said quickly.

“I know, you’d better …”

“Hermione? Are you okay? Harry said you didn’t go to work today …” Ginny rushed into the lounge room, red hair flying. “Oh! There you are! So what’s …” she stopped when she saw Draco, her hands flying to her mouth.

“No!” she said, eyes darting between the two of them. Hermione hadn’t realized, but she and Draco were standing in the middle of the lounge room, side-by-side, their shoulders lightly touching. Hermione started and jumped away.

“Ginny, it’s not …”

Ginny held up her hand, and sat down as if her legs couldn’t hold her. “So Ron was right,” she said simply, looking from one to the other again. Draco looked at Hermione, puzzled. She sighed.

“No, Ronald has the wrong idea Ginny, as usual,” Hermione replied. “He came in here last night, ranting and raving and accusing me of all sorts of things.”

“What sort …” Draco began, but Ginny cut him off.

“So what exactly are you doing here, Malfoy, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“Well actually Weasley, its none of your business,” he replied coolly, his face hardening.

Ginny frowned. “It’s not Weasley anymore. It’s Potter, Mrs Potter to you Malfoy,” she snapped.

Draco raised his eyebrows. “We didn’t see that one coming, did we?”

“Oh just shut up ferret!” Ginny snarled.

“Ginny! Please!” Hermione gasped. Ginny ignored her.

“So Malfoy, you’ve just been hiding for the last six years?”

Draco took a step closer to her. Ginny sprang up from the lounge, glaring at him. “Like I said before, it’s none of your business Potter!” he spat, sounding more and more like his old self.

Ginny stepped up to him, eyes blazing. He towered over her, but she was not intimidated. Hermione threw herself between them, glaring at them both. She laid her hand on Draco’s chest, pushing him back a little. He resisted, and she pushed harder.

“Please don’t,” she whispered to him. He looked at her intently. His face softened and he sighed.

“Fine. I think maybe I should go,” he said.

“Yes, go!” Ginny blazed.

“Ginny! Go to the kitchen, please. I’ll be there in a second. Please Gin,” Hermione begged. Ginny gave Draco one final death stare, and turned and stomped off towards the kitchen. Hermione turned to Draco.

“I’m … sorry,” she said quietly.

He shrugged. “I wasn’t really expecting anything less. I guess I can expect a visit from Potty and the Weasel.”

“No, they won’t. I’ll make sure of it,” Hermione said, putting a hand on his arm, sighing inwardly at his old endearments. “I’ll see you later Draco. I promise,” she said, looking into his eyes.

“Come to the Manor. Tonight. Dinner,” he whispered, surprising her.

She nodded quickly. “Okay. Okay. I’ll be there.”

Draco smiled warmly at her before stepping into the fireplace and disappearing. With a sigh, Hermione went to the kitchen.

Ginny jumped up. “Are you mad Mione? That’s Draco Malfoy!”

“Gee thanks Gin, I hadn’t realized,” Hermione snapped.

Ginny frowned. “What’s going on? Ron seems to think you and Malfoy are, well, you know.”

“Ron would think that wouldn’t he?” Hermione muttered darkly, before sighing and telling Ginny everything she had told Ron.

“So you believe him then, that that’s all he wants? A friend?” the red head asked.

Hermione nodded at Ginny.

“I hope you know what you’re doing.”

“Are you going to tell Harry and Ron he was here?” Hermione asked quietly.

Ginny shook her head. “No. That’s for you to do. When are you going to talk to them about this? Ron is going nuts – he won’t get out of our house; he keeps dropping in at all hours ranting and raving to Harry, who really hasn’t said much at all. I think he’s in shock,” Ginny replied.

“Me too,” Hermione reached over and squeezed her hand. “I’ll come by tomorrow night, I promise.”

Ginny nodded. “You’re going to see him tonight aren’t you?”

“He asked me to dinner. At his house,” Hermione answered.

“The Malfoy Manor? God Mione, you’d have to be the first Muggle-born to set foot in that place since, well, since ever!” Ginny said excitedly.

Hermione nodded sadly. It would be an interesting experience, being in his house. In his father’s house. Hermione gave a slight shudder in remembrance of Lucius Malfoy.

“He likes you,” Ginny said suddenly. Hermione jumped.

“What? No he doesn’t.”

“Yes, he does. I saw the way he was looking at you,” Ginny replied smugly.

Hermione rolled her eyes. “He’s just been lonely Gin, that’s all.”

“Whatever you say,” Ginny muttered. She stood. “Just be careful, okay? After all, it’s still Draco Malfoy. I’m off. See you tomorrow night then.” She vanished with a loud *crack*.

Hermione sighed heavily, before wandering upstairs to have a lie down. The whole scene with Ginny and Draco had brought her headache screaming back.



Chapter 4: Something's Burning!
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DISCLAIMER: All characters belong to the wonderfully talented JK Rowling. I own the plot. Nothing more.

*****


At 6pm, Hermione stood in front of her fireplace. She was dressed casually in jeans and a red blouse. She had left her hair loose around her shoulders. She threw a long cloak around her shoulders, to protect her clothes. She hated floo travel. With a trembling hand, she tossed some floo powder into the fire. Green flames shot up and Hermione stepped into the fire before she had a chance to change her mind, saying in a firm voice, “Malfoy Manor”.

***

Draco knocked back a fire whiskey to help calm his nerves. He laughed at himself. He was nervous about having diner with Hermione Granger! A lot had changed in six years, although even at school she always had the power to unnerve him. She was intelligent, brave and a powerful witch. Their little altercations and fights had always left him strangely shaken. When her temper was up, sometimes he actually felt afraid. He also knew that he liked getting her irritability going. There was something so satisfying in driving a person that mad, and so he had kept flinging insults, just to see how far he could push her, even if it did earn him a smack in the face.

Now, however, he felt bad for all the terrible things he had said to her, and loath as he was to want to bring up the past, he vowed to apologise. He had to start somewhere.

A chiming from the lounge room told him she was arriving. Draco looked around, cursing. Nothing was ready. With a flick of his wand he set the table, and with another flick he had the food in the kitchen preparing itself. Standing, he straightened his shirt and smoothed down his hair, trying desperately to subdue the butterflies in his stomach, before turning towards the lounge room.

Hermione was standing on the hearth, brushing floo dust from her hair. She pulled her cloak off.

“I’ll take that,” Draco said, striding fully into the room. She handed him her cloak, gazing around in awe. He chuckled slightly, thinking of her cosy little flat.

“This is amazing Draco,” she commented softly, her eyes taking in the lavish surroundings. He smiled.

“It’s okay. I’ve still got a lot of work to do,” he replied, flicking his wand. Her cloak floated to the wall and hung itself up on a peg. “It’s still rather empty,” he continued, looking around.

“I like it,” Hermione said. “It’s simplistic. Just because you have all this space doesn’t mean you have to fill it.”

Draco blushed slightly, and offered her a drink. He was rather surprised when she agreed to a fire whiskey. Perhaps she’s as nervous as I am, he pondered, getting their drinks, before joining her on the lounge.

“I’ll give you a tour later, if you want,” he offered, and she nodded. They sat and drank in silence. Draco wondered what his father would say if he saw the two of them sitting there. Lucius was famous for his hatred of Muggle-borns. Draco could almost say he hated them more than he hated Harry Potter and Dumbledore. He’d be extremely disappointed in Draco for at least not trying to kill Hermione yet. That was his mission, in their final year at Hogwarts – to kill as many Mudbloods as he could. Yet somehow, when it came down to it, he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t kill anybody. He was only seventeen – he didn’t want to be a murderer. He wanted to have friends, to have fun, to be young. Sometimes, late at night, Draco would scream at his father, saying all the things we never had the courage to say when he was still alive. If there was one thing Lucius hated more than Mudbloods, more than Harry Potter, it was failure in his own son.

Draco snuck a glance at Hermione, wondering what she was thinking. He hadn’t realized how strange it would be for her, being in his house, when he had asked her to dinner. Later, he was amazed that she’d said yes. Hermione’s cheeks were flushed, and her eyes were sparkling. He was suddenly aware of how attractive she was. It was as if he was truly looking at her for the first time in his life. Perhaps, in a way, he was.

“You know,” he said at last, “I never figured you for the silent type. At Hogwarts no one seemed to be able to get you to stop talking. Now I can’t seem to get you to start. Come on Granger, you always had plenty to say to me.”

“As I recall, you had a bit to say yourself,” she replied swiftly, turning to look at him. He shifted a little in his seat under the fierce look she gave him.

“About that. I want to apologise for the things I used to say to you,” he said softly, watching her eyes widen in surprise. Finally, she sighed.

“You don’t have to. I said some pretty nasty stuff to you as well,” she answered, and he shrugged.

“I want to. It’s all part of the new me, I guess. Trying to make up for the past.”

She smiled. “Well, in that case, apology accepted.”

He frowned. “Just like that?”

She nodded. “It’s in the past. It’s done. None of us can change what happened all those years ago, but we can try to move on. Plus, I can tell that you are sorry. You’re not the person you used to be anymore. You’re still a stuck-up, petulant, arrogant jerk; that at least has not changed. But you’re not …”

“My father,” he cut in.

“No,” she replied gently. “Is that what all this is about? Wanting to show that you’re not him?”

Draco ran his fingers through his hair. “Partly. I just lost myself, especially in those last few years of school, with Voldemort. My parents … “ he stopped and cleared his throat. “After my parents died, I had no idea who I was anymore. It was as if I didn’t have a place, a purpose. I was scared, and confused. So I left,” he said simply.

Hermione said nothing, only looked at him with those big brown eyes.

“I want to be able to start life afresh. Apologizing to you, and to Potter and Weasley, and others, is the first step. If I can do that, it’s one part of the past I have truly left behind,” he continued. “You know, I was almost jealous of you three back at school. The Golden Trio. I never really had friends. I was a Malfoy. We didn’t need friends. We needed servants, people to look up to us, to admire us, to do anything for us. But friends? I don’t think I ever tried to tell anyone how hard it was to be my father’s son,” Draco said bitterly.

“Now I understand why you got so mad when I said I felt sorry for you that night,” Hermione sighed. “I’m not sure how forgiving Ron and Harry are going to be.”

Draco shrugged. “I’m not asking them to forgive me. That’s not what I need. I just want the opportunity to be able to say it.”

“Are you asking for my help Draco?”

He looked at her swiftly. She had always been incredibly perceptive. “I guess I am. It’s hard for me to ask, especially to ask you, but yeah. I need your help with this.”

She smiled. “Then I’ll help. It won’t be easy though. They’re my best friends and I know them better than anyone. They are still so angry with you Draco, with your father, with Voldemort. Harry has lost so many people because of it all. He’s not going to forgive and forget. It’ll take time.”

“Time I have,” Draco replied, smiling sadly.

A loud ringing from the kitchen interrupted their conversation. “Dinner’s ready,” Draco said, standing. He offered Hermione his hand to help her up, and she took it without hesitation. Draco’s heart jumped into his mouth, almost suffocating him. Her skin so was soft, like silk, her fingers delicate but strong. A slow burning started in his palm and ran the length of his arm, settling in his throat. He looked at her. She was standing still with her eyes closed, breathing deeply while he held her hand. Suddenly she opened her eyes, looking up at him, and he dropped her hand, embarrassed.

“This way,” he said, ushering her towards the dining room. Dinner was magically served, and Draco and Hermione took their seats opposite one another at the long mahogany table. They ate in silence, sneaking shy glances at one another, before retiring to the lounge room again with a bottle of wine.

‘Don’t get drunk Draco. Whatever you do, don’t get drunk,’ he told himself as they sat down. He was already feeling slightly dizzy, from the fire whiskey earlier, from telling her so much and opening himself up, and from the food. Hermione sighed and patted her stomach appreciatively.

“That was great. You cooked that?”

“Surprised? I had some help,” he added, his hand slipping to caress the wand resting beside him on the lounge.

“Well, in any case, it was great, magic or not,” she said simply.

“I learnt a trick or two on my travels,” he replied, filling their glasses.

“Tell me where you went,” she demanded, sipping her wine.

“Everywhere,” he answered. “I traveled all through Europe and the Middle East. Down into Africa. Egypt was marvelous. I spent some time, a couple of months, in India. Beautiful country. They have some really interesting ideas there. I traveled through Asia next, and finally through Russia before coming home.”

“Wow. I’m jealous. Really. I’ve been around a few places in Europe – France, Spain, Germany and Switzerland, but never anywhere else. I’ve always wanted to go to South America though,” Hermione replied.

“Me too,” Draco answered, swallowing his wine.

“So why didn’t you, when you were traveling?” she asked.

He shrugged. “I felt like it was time to come back and start dealing with what I’d left behind.”

They were silent awhile, sitting in companionable quiet, until Draco suddenly laughed.

“You know, I traveled the Muggle way sometimes,” he said.

“What? Are you serious?” Hermione giggled.

He nodded. “Yep. I discovered one thing. I hate flying.”

At that, Hermione burst into uncontrollable laughter. “Draco Malfoy, Quidditch player extraordinaire, is afraid of flying?”

“Hey,” he said, holding up his hands in mock defense. “Brooms are fine. It’s just those, what do you call them, planes, that I don’t like.”

She laughed merrily, tipping her head back, exposing her slim white throat. Draco was suddenly struck dumb by how beautiful she was. Her eyes were sparkling; her mouth was open wide in a big smile. He simply sat and stared at her, drinking her in. She stopped laughing, bringing herself back to face him, brown eyes dancing. Without thinking, Draco leant forward and kissed her on the mouth, one hand sliding around to cup the back of her head, the other resting on her hip.

Hermione froze, the laughter caught in her throat. Draco brushed her lips gently with his own, before pulling away in shock. They sat, both hardly breathing, staring at each other with a mixture of fear, confusion and something else.

He found his voice. “Hermione, I’m so sorry. I …”

“Shut up,” she cut him off.

“I …”

“Shut up,” she said again.

They looked at each other, Draco feeling like he could drown in her eyes. He opened his mouth to speak, but she shocked him into silence, leaning forward and kissing him, hard, on the mouth, her arms going around his neck, pulling him closer to her. Draco wrapped his arms around her small waist, pressing his body as close to her as he could get.

The kiss was passionate, warm and giving. It was breathtakingly sweet, and in that kiss he felt promise, forgiveness, and hope. All the anger, all the hurt and terrible things they had done and said to one another in the past melted away in one moment.

Hermione broke away from him first, her face flushed, her eyes glazed over. He reached up and stroked her hair away from her face, tucking it behind her ear.

“I have to go,” she whispered against his mouth.

Draco shook his head. “No, you don’t.”

“I do. I really do,” she whispered, disentangling herself from his arms and getting up. He let her go with a pang of regret.

“Hermione …”

“I’ll, umm, see you later okay?” she mumbled, heading for the fireplace.

The last he saw of her was her raised hand before she disappeared in a whoosh green flame. Draco lay back on the lounge, his heart pounding in his ears and a constriction in his chest.

“What the hell just happened?” he said aloud.

***

Hermione tumbled out of her fireplace, shaking. Imelda looked up from her place on the lounge, and meowed at her.

“Not now sweetie,” Hermione managed to say. She walked in a daze to the kitchen, rummaging in the cupboards until she found a bottle of fire whiskey. Ron had left it when he’d picked up the last of his stuff.

With trembling fingers, Hermione unscrewed the lid, and drank straight from the bottle. She swallowed, choking, and put her head on the table, one hand wrapped around the bottle.

She had just kissed Draco Malfoy! He had just kissed her! Slowly, the realization set in – she had wanted it to happen, ever since she saw him that morning in Diagon Alley. She had wanted him to kiss her, to take away all the hurt and humiliation he had inflicted on her in her life. Hermione groaned. This was not good. It was wrong in so many ways. She sat up, taking another long drink of fire whiskey. It burnt her insides, only adding to the warmth brought on by the memory of Draco’s lips against hers, his body against hers, his smell, his touch, his …

Horrified, Hermione swallowed another couple of mouthfuls of fire whiskey, before passing out with her head on the kitchen table.

***

~ A/N: Hope you liked it guys! Please leave a review and let me know what you think! Cheers everyone! ~


Chapter 5: Malfoy Madness
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DISCLAIMER: I own none of the characters in the Harry Potter universe. They all belong to the talented JK Rowling. I own the plot, nothing more *sob*!

***********

Hermione woke the next morning with a screeching headache. Every muscle in her body ached, and she felt like she’d been trodden on by a Hippogriff. She gingerly put her fingers to her temples, massaging them gently. She glanced at the half-empty bottle of fire whiskey.

“Stupid Ron,” she muttered. Groaning, she peeled herself away from the table, crawling upstairs and under the shower, where she attempted to drown the memory of the previous night from her brain. It wouldn’t happen. Draco’s face remained firmly planted beneath her eyelids.

Cursing, Hermione climbed out. At least it was Saturday so she didn’t have to think about work. She brushed her teeth, grimacing in disgust at the taste in her mouth. She hated fire whiskey. She vowed never to touch it again. Hermione stood, scowling at her reflection. Her skin was milk pale, and she had large black bags under her eyes. She froze as she heard a voice, a very deep masculine voice, calling her name. She put her fingers to her lips, remembering. The voice called again.

“Shit!” she cursed, grabbing her robe and wrapping it around her dripping body. She went downstairs and couldn’t help but giggle at the sight in her lounge room.

Draco stood there, barefoot, in scruffy denim jeans and a white shirt, looking far from his distinguished self. He’d managed to miss several buttons, showing glimpses of a tight chest. She giggled again. His hair, usually so neat and sleek, was sticking up in all directions. He looked up at her and blushed, hastily smoothing down his hair.

“Morning,” he managed.

“Morning,” she replied, coming all the way down the stairs.

“Are you okay? You look …”

“Terrible?” she finished for him. “I feel terrible. I don’t know how you guys drink that blasted fire whiskey.”

Draco followed her into the kitchen. Imelda was on the table, mewing loudly. Hermione fed her, offering Draco a drink at the same time. She saw his raised eyebrow at the bottle on the table, and she grabbed it, stashing it away in the cupboard.

“It’s Ron’s,” she muttered by way of explanation.

“Oh.” An unreadable expression flickered across Draco’s face. “So he’s …”

“No, not anymore,” Hermione said quickly, glancing at him. “ Not for a while anyway. It ended a year ago.” She saw Draco visibly relax.

“So,” he said.

“So,” she replied nervously. She looked down at herself, realizing she was still wearing her bathrobe. “Oh my! I’ll just go and change,” she stuttered, jumping up.

“It’s fine, it’s early. I can go,” Draco stood, facing her.

They were standing so close. Hermione closed her eyes, breathing deeply. There was that smell again. His smell. She felt drunk.

“Draco, we really must talk about what we … about what happened,” she mumbled, looking anywhere but at him.

“I know,” he replied. “But do we have too?”

“What?”

“I mean, it’s happened, right? Don’t over analyse it. Does it need to be a bad thing?” he asked.

She was taken aback. “No…no, I guess not. But it’s so … strange.”

He laughed. “Strange is not the word for it Granger.”

“Oh so we’re back to that Malfoy?” she smirked. He smiled, reaching out and grabbing her around the waist, pulling her to him. Their eyes locked and they were frozen momentarily. He slowly bent his head and kissed her.

Hermione felt her body explode. She slid her arms around his neck and pressed herself into him, kissing him back. She felt his hands slide down her back until they rested on her hips. She broke off the kiss, aghast at herself. He frowned as she pulled away.

“Don’t ever do that again,” she whispered, angry and humiliated at herself for allowing it to happen.

“But I thought …”

“You thought wrong Malfoy!” Hermione yelled suddenly. He stepped back, the shock on his face slowly turning to anger.

“Fine Granger! It’s not like I want to be kissing a Mudblood anyway!” he yelled back.

She flinched at the term ‘Mudblood’. No one had called her that in years. She was surprised at how much the word affected her. Hot tears sprang to her eyes, and she blinked them away. There was no way in hell he was going to see her cry.

“Still the same Malfoy after all! A Pure-Blood elitist! Your father would be proud! Get out of my house! Don’t talk to me and don’t come near me again!” she screeched, unconsciously echoing his last words to her, six years ago on the steps of Hogwarts. Draco shook his head stubbornly, his grey eyes burning.

“No. You wanted to talk about our little … moment, so lets talk!” he said, taking a step closer to her, his arms folded across his chest.

“What’s to talk about? You hate me!”

“No I don’t! I don’t think I ever did! Sure, I hated the way you knew the answer to every god-damned question asked in every class; I hated the way you were such an insufferable know-it-all; I hated the way you and Potty and Weasel were such good bloody friends; I hated the way I loved to argue with you …” he paused, his face red, and took a deep breath, stepping closer to her as he did so. “But I don’t think I ever really hated you.”

“I don’t believe you! You took every opportunity you had to insult me; to insult my friends! You hated me as much as I hated you!” Hermione shouted. They stared at one another, both red in the face and breathing heavily, anger, pain and confusion written all over their stance. They were standing close again, their faces centimeters apart, so close Hermione could see ever miniscule detail of his face; every eyelash, every soft line and crease around his eyes and mouth.

“Fine! Well, I guess this was a mistake. I guess you do still hate me after all,” he yelled, the intensity in his eyes making her flinch a little. This was still Draco Malfoy. He was still strong, powerful and unnerving. Hermione sighed.

“I don’t hate you Malfoy,” she said quietly. “You just infuriate me! You always have!”

“And you drive me insane,” he replied, just as quietly, stepping even closer to her. Hermione could feel the heat coming off his body in waves, wrapping around her. He was so close; too close. Shuddering, she put her hands up against his chest, preparing to push him away, but he grabbed her wrists in one powerful hand, the other cupping her chin, forcing her eyes up to his.

“Don’t walk away from me, please,” he whispered, his breath hot against her skin, and she felt her knees go weak. He was so close to her it was becoming painful. Slowly, so very slowly she felt as if the earth had stopped turning, he bent his head, kissing her gently, and softly. Involuntarily, she closed her eyes, melting against his touch, and allowed him to kiss her.

Hermione eventually found her strength, and her voice. Gasping, she pulled away from him. “Draco, we can’t do this,” she said softly, and he shook his head gently.

“We can Hermione,” he said, trying to kiss her again, but she pulled her mouth out of his reach.

“No one will understand this. Hell, I’m not even sure I understand it. We don’t even know each other anymore,” she replied. He said nothing for a while, until he grinned.

“Nice robe,” he whispered, and she gasped, suddenly remembering she was naked beneath it. “Spend the day with me,” he whispered, pulling her closer.

“I don’t know. I mean, this is all so bizarre! The last thing you said to me six years ago was don’t ever come near me again, and now you want to spend an entire day with me?” She asked, looking into his eyes.

“We need to get to know each, right?” he winked. “I’ll make it worth your while.”

“You are so cocky Malfoy.”

He laughed. “I always thought that was my best feature. Say yes,” he grew serious, kissing her gently on the lips. She closed her eyes, savoring the feel of him. Slowly, she nodded.

“Okay Malfoy. Deal. I’ll spend the day with you,” she replied softly.

He let her go. “Good, now go get dressed and we’ll go.”

She raised an eyebrow. “ Where?”

“I don’t know. South America?”

“We can’t just go to South America for the day!”

Draco laughed again. “Why not? I’m a wizard; you’re a witch. We can go wherever we want. Now go get dressed.”

***

Hermione flopped into a chair, accepting a drink from Harry gratefully. They were sitting on Harry and Ginny’s back verandah, watching the sunset. Hermione sighed, her thoughts coalescing through her tired mind in a fiery turmoil.

“You look buggered Mione. What have you been up to?” Harry asked.

“Yeah, I tried to call today, but no one was there. Where were you?” Ron asked in a hard voice.

“South America,” Hermione answered quietly.

“What!” Harry said. “How did you …”

“I’m a witch remember? I can go wherever I want,” Hermione smiled, echoing Draco’s words.

“So you just went to South America for the day? Alone?” Ron asked, his eyes narrowing.

Hermione sighed, her smile vanishing. “No. Not alone. I went with Draco.”

“Mione! What the hell?” Ron yelled.

“What’s going on?” Harry asked.

“Well, we talked again last night and …” Hermione began.

“Oh date number two was it?” Ron spat, his face going red.

“Ronald, it was not a date! It was just dinner!” Hermione replied, her voice rising.

“Ooooo,” Ginny leant forward eagerly, her brown eyes dancing with curiosity. “What was the Manor like?”

“YOU WENT TO HIS BLOODY HOUSE??” Ron yelled.

“YOU KNEW ABOUT THIS??” Harry yelled at Ginny.

“It was not up to me to tell you,” Ginny fumed back at her husband. “It’s up to her, that’s why she’s here!”

“YOU WENT …”

“Oh shut up Ron or I’m going home!” Hermione snapped, and the redhead shut his mouth.

“So are you going to explain all this Hermione?” Harry asked through gritted teeth. He was just controlling his temper, kept in check by the occasional warning glance from his wife.

Hermione took a deep breath and told them the same story she’d told Ginny. She told them about dinner (leaving out the kissing part and that mornings events), about the Manor, and about Draco’s apology.

“He what?”

“He actually apologized? And you believed him?” Ron snarled, incredulous and angry.

“Yes Ron, I did. He wants to move on. He wants to forget about the past and get on with his life,” Hermione said.

“Can’t he go do it somewhere else?” Ron whined.

“Don’t be so childish,” Ginny snapped at her brother. Harry frowned at his wife, who sighed. “You know, maybe Malfoy is the only one speaking with any truth or common sense. It’s in the past guys! I know how much he tormented you, me, all of us, but perhaps he really has changed. You remember how stubborn and proud he was? Well, I bet if he hadn’t have had a change of heart, there is no way he’d have apologized to Hermione,” Ginny said.

Hermione felt like hugging her. She looked at Ron and Harry, who were looking at both Ginny and Hermione like they’d lost their minds.

“He wants to be given the opportunity to apologise to you guys too,” she said.

“No way!” Harry shook his head.

“Never! I don’t want that slimy git anywhere near me!” Ron shouted, his ears going red.

Hermione threw her hands in the air. “Fine. Whatever, you two. But you are both being utterly ridiculous.”

“Ridiculous? Hermione, it’s Draco Malfoy we are talking about,” Harry shouted, his temper getting the better of him.

“He’s the one being ridiculous,” Ron joined in.

“He’s not the one wanting to hold grudges! And you are calling him ridiculous!” Hermione shouted, slamming down her drink.

“Why on earth are you sticking up for the guy?” Harry asked suspiciously.

“Because Harry, I believe people deserve a second chance, the opportunity to prove they have changed. Obviously,” Hermione stood and grabbed her bag, “you don’t. I’m sorry Gin,” she turned to her friend. “I’ve got to go.”

Ginny nodded, standing to give Hermione a hug. She turned and glared at Ron and Harry, both sitting there looking angry and sullen. Ron was getting redder by the second, and Hermione knew he was biting back nasty words.

“See you, I suppose. Think about it, please?” she said to them, before walking with Ginny to the front door. Ron’s voice floated to her ears.

“Yeah go on! Get back to your boyfriend then!”

Ginny glared in the direction they’d come. “You did your best,” she told Hermione. “Who knows? Maybe they’ll change their minds? Malfoy just makes them angry, makes them remember things they’d rather forget.”

Hermione nodded. “I know Gin. Thanks for your support out there.”

“No worries,” Ginny smiled. “It is time to move on from school. Merlin’s beard, it’s been years!”

“Hard to believe sometimes,” Hermione mused. “I’ll call you, okay.” Hermione kissed Ginny’s cheek and made her way outside.

“Hey Mione,” Ginny called back from the open door. “Is he a good kisser?”

“Ginny Potter!” Hermione gasped, spinning around, but Ginny had shut the door and gone inside. Hermione just smiled, and walked away into the darkness.

***

Ron gulped down his drink. Harry was surprised he didn’t choke on it. Muttering to himself, Ron poured another, which he threw down, and another. Harry gently took the bottle from his friend’s hand.

“Trashing yourself is not going to fix this Ron,” he said softly.

“It might help though,” Ron replied, his cheeks burning. “I just don’t get it Harry! Why him?” he wailed, tossing back his third shot of fire whiskey in five minutes.

“Look mate, we don’t know for sure that there is anything going on between them,” Harry said. “I mean, there couldn’t be right? It makes no sense at all.”

“You saw her face! You saw how quickly she jumped to his defense,” Ron muttered. He sounded like he was in physical pain.

“You know how Hermione likes a cause? Maybe this is just one of those times,” Harry suggested. Ron shook his head.

“Nope. She’s with him, I know it.”

“Ron don’t jump to conclusions,” Ginny said, joining them outside. “And don’t get so drunk that you spew in my bathroom again.”

“Go away,” Ron muttered darkly at his sister. She sat down next to Harry, eyes flashing dangerously.

“No I will not! If Hermione wants to be friends with Malfoy than it is her decision and you need to respect that,” Ginny said firmly.

“No I don’t,” Ron mumbled stubbornly, reaching for the bottle. Harry held it away from him.

“Gin,” Harry said softly, turning to his wife. “Has she said anything to you about it?”

“No more than what she has told us tonight,” Ginny answered.

“But do you think that…you know…she likes him?” Harry pressed.

Ginny sighed. “I don’t know. Maybe. I think she feels sorry for him, and I think she wants to bury the past.”

“That’s what I don’t understand. Malfoy hurt her as much as the rest of us. How could she just forgive him that easily?” Harry asked, shaking his head.

“I don’t think it was that easy Harry. You know Hermione. She would have put a lot of thought into this. She’s not stupid,” Ginny replied, putting her arm around her husband.

“Could have fooled me,” Ron slurred.

“Will you quit it! Stop acting like some jealous little school boy!” Ginny snapped at her brother.

“I’m not jealous …” Ron began.

“Yes, you are. It really doesn’t matter that it’s Malfoy. It could be anyone, and you’d still be behaving like a prat Ron. You’re not ready to let her move on!” Ginny said, her voice rising.

“Ginny, he’s evil!” Ron spluttered.

“Hermione seems to think he’s okay, so why can’t you just trust her judgment?” Ginny spat.

Ron turned beet red. “But it’s Malfoy.”

Ginny opened her mouth, but Harry cut her off. “Ron, go home mate. Have a shower. Sleep on it. We can talk about it later, with Hermione.”

“She’ll never speak to me again,” Ron cried.

“Yes she will, but you know her Ron. You have to give her time to calm down,” Harry replied.

“It’s just so wrong,” Ron said softly.

********

A/N: Hey! Please leave a review if you like!



Chapter 6: Stay
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A/N: Hey guys! Thanks so much for all the reads and reviews! I really appreciate it. After taking on board some advice, I dedicate this chapter to DolphinDreamer20225! Enjoy the little remembrance of South America! BTW - I have never personally been to South America, so Hermione's reflection is a bit of my own dreams! Cheers!

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Hermione opened her front door and switched on the light. The walk home had been long, but had helped her clear her head. Ron’s words kept swirling back through her mind. ‘Get back to your boyfriend then.’ She sighed deeply, running a hand through her messy hair. Is that what Draco was becoming? Her boyfriend? Did she really want Draco Malfoy to be her boyrfriend? Is that what he wanted? He had certainly acted like it during the day, when they were alone on the other side of the world. Hermione smiled, remembering how much he had surprised her.

Draco had been caring and loving towards her, holding her hand and showering her with kisses as they walked through the crowded streets of Santiago. He had gone wherever she desired to go – The Centro Cultural Palacio de la Moneda, the Barrio Bellavista, and the Teatro Municipal to hear the Orquesta Filarmónica de Santiago. She thought the museum would bore him, but had remembered that, out of all the students in their grade at Hogwarts, Draco had been the one to come second to her in class. She had forgotten how intelligent he actually was, and had been delighted to discover they could talk about anything at all, none of their conversations coming anywhere near the topic of Quidditch. Hermione had been further surprised to learn he could speak Spanish, ordering their meals at the little restaurant they ate at. She found herself drifting off into a pleasant dream, thinking about what a dramatic contrast Draco was to Ron.

Hermione mentally slapped herself. Apart from a few kisses, no conversation had passed between her and Draco about the status of their new ‘relationship’. She could not deny it though. As confusing as the whole thing was, being with him was like being in some subliminal heaven, in a place Hermione had only ever dreamed about. She had loved Ron when they were together, but he was too casual and relaxed about everything, not really caring what she wanted, about the things in life that were important to her. Ron would never take her to a museum, at least, not without great complaint. The Ron that she had fallen in love with was the Ron from school, her friend. She had realized quickly that he was not the man she had imagined sharing her life with.

Hermione sighed again, feeling torn and traumatized. She was tired and just wanted to go to sleep. She’d deal with it all in the morning. Wandering into the kitchen, Hermione froze at the sight of a dozen red roses sitting on the table. Imelda was curled up next to them, purring. Hermione breathed in deeply, taking in their scent. There was a note with the roses, and she opened it with shaking fingers:

I just wanted to say thanks for today.
Draco


She smiled and rubbed the back of her neck. “Thank you too,” she whispered, remembering how easy it had been to forget everything when she was with him.

“You’re welcome,” replied a deep voice behind her. Hermione squealed as a pair of long, muscular arms went around her waist, and then giggled as lips brushed her neck.

“What are you doing here?” She asked, turning around.

“I just wanted to see how it went tonight,” Draco replied innocently.

“Liar. You could have asked me that tomorrow,” she said, feigning annoyance.

His eyes twinkled. “Well, I’m here now. It’s late. It’s cold. Are you going to kick me out?”

“Maybe,” Hermione answered with a smirk. She really did want him to stay, at least for the moment. She’d enjoyed their day, and had not wanted it to end. “I’m really tired though Draco. I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be awake.”

“That’s okay. I’ll let you sleep … eventually,” he replied with a grin. Her eyes widened as the implication of his words sunk in.

“Oh no mister. I don’t think so. It’s one thing to let you kiss me, but I’m not letting you in my bed.”

“Really? Are you sure?” He asked, grabbing her with his powerful hands and pulling her closer, his lips brushing her neck again. She shivered.

“You really need to go,” she managed to choke out in between his blissful kisses.

“But I just got here,” Draco murmured against her throat. She sighed and tipped her head back. It felt so good being in his arms, being touched by him, kissed by him, held by him. The past felt like a distant memory. She resisted the urge to just give in.

“I need to sleep Draco,” she said, pulling away from him with a sigh. “The night did not go as well as I had hoped. I knew they’d be mad, but …”

“They overreacted?”

“That’s putting it mildly. Ron…he’s so angry with me. I don’t think he is going to let this go,” she replied sadly.

“And Potter?” Draco asked softly, his fingers in her hair.

“He didn’t say much, but I know he’s confused and upset. I don’t want to think about it right now. I just want to sleep,” Hermione sighed, rubbing her head.

“It’s okay. I understand. I’ll go,” he said softly, stroking her hair back from her face gently.

“It’s just been such a long time since…you know…Ron, and … I haven’t …” she murmured, suddenly feeling very shy.

Draco leant forward and kissed her softly. “It’s fine. Really, I’m not upset. If you need me to go, I’ll go.”

Hermione nodded, touched by his consideration. This is defiantly one changed man, she thought. I wish the others could see this side of him. It was hard to believe he was ever so inherently malicious.

“Draco, stay,” she said suddenly. He froze in the act of putting on his jacket, looking at her with an unreadable expression. “Just sleep though,” she added quickly.

He smiled and nodded. “As you wish.”

Hermione took him by the hand, leading him upstairs. What the bloody hell are you doing? This is not right! You’ve had two, maybe three, dates. This is Draco Malfoy! Are you bloody mad woman? Screamed a little voice at the back of her head.

Shut up shut up shut up! Hermione told it. She turned and smiled at Draco, and he smiled back. He’s so handsome when he smiles, she thought, realizing that in the whole seven years of school she had never seen a genuine smile cross his face; not that he had much to smile about. Knowing she was helping make him happy just made her smile all the more.

Hermione left him in her bedroom while she changed in the bathroom. When she came out, Draco had removed his shirt and jeans, and was perched on the edge of her bed in his boxers. She sucked in a breath at the sight of him. He was so perfectly sculpted he looked like a marble statue. He was lean, with taunt muscles, a broad back and shoulders, tapering down to a gently indented waist. She gulped.

Just sleeping Hermione, that’s all, she told herself ruthlessly before sliding under the covers. Moments later, he’d joined her, and she turned off the light, suddenly feeling very apprehensive. Draco Malfoy was in her bed! He wrapped her in his strong arms, kissed her on the lips and whispered goodnight.

He was true to his word. He let her sleep.

***

Hermione woke smiling and well rested, before realizing she was alone. Startled, she jumped out of bed, throwing on her robe and heading downstairs, a twisting sensation beginning to build in her stomach. Where was he? Why would he leave? Had he changed his mind? I should never have let him stay, Hermione chastised herself as she walked down the stairs, angry and close to tears. Instead of finding Draco, she found Ron. He was sitting on her lounge, holding something black in his hands. Hermione couldn’t see what it was, but she had the sickening feeling that it was the body of her cat.

A meow from the kitchen relaxed her, and she let out a deep sigh. Ron looked up; not having seen or heard her enter before. He looked terrible. His eyes were bloodshot and glassy, his face drawn and pale, and his hands were shaking. Hermione felt her heart leap into her throat.

“What is it?” she whispered, fearing his response. “Harry? Ginny? Your family?”

“Fine. They’re fine,” Ron replied, his voice barely audible.

“Merlin Ron, you scared me. What’s going on?” She asked, her senses straining for any indication of Draco’s presence in the house.

“You tell me,” Ron said darkly, holding up the black object. He tossed it to her. It was Draco’s jacket. The twisting feeling in her stomach increased, and she felt she might vomit.

“Ron …”she began.

“Now I know I have no right to tell you how to live your life Hermione, but I’m just looking out for you, and I know that’s not my jacket,” he said, his voice flat. He sounded depressed and worn out.

“Ron …”

“Is it his? Is he here? Is Malfoy here with you?” Ron asked, his voice rising and breaking at the same time.

“No,” Hermione said truthfully. “He’s not here.”

“But he was though, right?” Ron asked quietly, and she nodded, guilt and shame threatening to engulf her.

“Just tell me why,” he said, a world of pain in his voice. “Why him?”

“I don’t know,” she replied softly, tears swimming in her eyes. “I don’t want to hurt you Ron, really I don’t, but I don’t know what else to say. We understand one another now. We both know what it is like to feel lost, lonely and afraid, ridiculed and outcast.”

Ron wiped his eyes on the back of his sleeve. “So, are you going to tell me what’s going on between you or not?” He asked, his voice choked with emotion.

Hermione sighed. “I’m not sure what to say. I’m not sure what’s happening. It’s so bizarre and strange, and as much as it feels so terribly wrong, it feels, well, right.”

“I don’t know how you can say it feels right with him, when that’s exactly what you said about me. So were you just lying to me then? Or is that something you say to all the men you sleep with? ” Ron replied scathingly.

Hermione felt like he’d slapped her. “That’s not fair Ron! Not fair at all,” she said weakly, her voice shaking. She took a step back. “How can you say that to me Ronald Weasley? You know me! You know I’m not … I don’t …”

Ron stood up and moved towards her, a look of extreme guilt crossing his face. “Hermione, I’m so sorry. I just … ahhhh!”

He jumped back in shock as Draco materialized between them with a gentle ‘pop’. His blonde hair was ruffled from sleep and he was wearing nothing but a pair of faded denium jeans, the morning light showing every inch of his perfect chest. He leaned over and kissed Hermione tenderly on the lips, stroking her hair back from her face.

“Sorry I took off like that, but I didn’t want to disturb you. You looked so peaceful lying there, but I remembered I had to go feed the dog,” he smiled, continuing to play with her hair. “Have you got any food? I thought I’d make breakfast. I know you like my cooking.”

Hermione groaned, giving Draco a weak smile. She looked past him to where Ron, face aflame, stood in the background, a look of deep shock written on his features. Hermione wanted the earth to open up and swallow her; to save her from what she knew was going to be a very ugly scene. Draco frowned and turned, following her gaze.

“Weasley,” he said quietly, his whole body tensing.

“Malfoy,” Ron spat, his voice filled with bitter hatred. Hermione noticed his hands were trembling.

“Ron…” she began walking towards him in entreaty. Ron, however, backed away from her quickly, shaking with fury, his eyes taking in Hermione’s messy hair, her robe and Draco, tall, lean and shirtless.

“You … he … you said he wasn’t … oh my god Hermione! I cannot believe this!”

“Ron, please, I can explain,” she begged, tears in her eyes.

“No. No explanation necessary. I see exactly what is going on here. You spend all this time last night trying to convince us that all poor little Draco wants is a friend, and then, here you are! Being really friendly Hermione! Just look at the pair of you! It’s pretty obvious what you meant by ‘friends’. I can’t believe this!” Ron shouted.

“Nothing happened Weasley. You’ve got it wrong,” Draco cut in.

Ron drew his wand in a swift motion and pointed it at Draco. “Don’t speak to me Malfoy!”

“Ron!” Hermione gasped. “Don’t! You’re a Ministry wizard! Please!” She stepped in front of Ron. Draco reached out to stop her, but she was too quick.

“Don’t you dare move Malfoy, or I swear I’ll do what should have been done years ago,” Ron said with a voice like ice. “Get out of the way Hermione!” He shouted, his eyes locked on Draco.

She shook her head. “I won’t let you Ron. I won’t let you hurt anyone. Lower your wand. This is stupid.”

“She’s right there Weasley,” Draco drawled. Ron scowled murderously and tightened his grip.

“You’re not helping,” Hermione said over her shoulder, and Draco shrugged. Hermione stepped closer to Ron. “Lower your wand and go home. This isn’t necessary,” she whispered.

Ron looked at her, frowning, his eyes glistening with hatred, disgust and rage. Finally, whatever he saw in her face caused him to drop his wand, sliding it back into his pocket. “Fine, “ he snarled at her. “Fine”. He strode to the front door, flung it open and left without another glance at Hermione or Draco.

Hermione let out a shaky sob and felt Draco’s arms around her in an instant, holding her up before she sank to the floor. “I’m sorry,” she choked.

He kissed the top of her head. “You don’t need to apologise Hermione. Weasley needs to get over you.”

“Please Draco, don’t. This is really hard for him, for all my friends,” she whispered.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered back, squeezing her tight. “So what do we do now? Go and talk to them?”

Hermione laughed bitterly. “Are you nuts? Do you have a death wish? Go and talk to two Ministry Aurors about why you were at my house at the crack of dawn with no shirt? I thought you were smarter than that.”

“He’ll be back, won’t he?”

“Probably with Harry in tow. I knew he’d react badly because of our history and, well, you, but I never thought …” she replied. Draco said nothing, just held her to him. “Get me out of here please,” she whispered into his chest. “Just take me somewhere. I know I should talk to them, but I cannot face them right now.”

Draco nodded, and kissed her forehead. “I can do that.”

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A/N: Hey! Leave a review if you like! Thanks guys! Next chapter coming soon!

MajiKat

Chapter 7: The Truth of it
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A/N: I dedicate this chapter to coffee and cigarettes - an insomniacs best friend!

There are a couple of flashback scenes in this chappie - I hope they're not confusing. Enjoy and thanks for the reads and reviews!

~o0o~

Hermione skipped work again on Monday. She was so exhausted she could barely get out of bed. Her emotions were running out of control, and she found herself floating in a confused, dark space, somewhere between tears and seething rage. The whole incident with Ron had disturbed her more than she cared to admit, the horrible scene with him and Draco replaying itself repeatedly through her mind. It pained her to see Ron so angry and confused, hurting so badly. The look in his eyes had haunted her since that morning, and she didn’t know if things would ever be okay between them again. Hermione knew it was partly because of her, because he still loved her; but she knew it was mainly because of Draco.

After Ron’s explosion, Draco had taken her to the Manor. He’d picked her up in his arms like she was a small child and carried her upstairs, putting her down in his bed. He’d lay there with her, letting her sob her heart out on his chest. He’d kissed her softly, brought her anything she asked for, and let her sleep her misery away.

Hermione hadn’t been able to face going home, so she’d stayed the night at the Manor. She’d called Ginny after dinner, asking her to feed Imelda, and to pick her up a change of clothes and bring them to her. Hermione lay back and closed her eyes, thinking back to Ginny’s visit.

The door to the bedroom flew open, and a wild-eyed Ginny came running in, her long hair flying behind her. Ginny took one look at Hermione’s tear-stained face and flung herself down on the massive bed, wrapping her arms around Hermion’s shoulders, letting her blubber away on her shoulder. In a choked voice, Hermione told her friend about Draco staying the night at her flat, about Ron’s immense anger, and about her own misery and confusion.

“I can’t believe Ron did that,” Ginny fumed after Hermione explained everything. “He really is a prat! He could loose his job.”

“Have you seen him?” Hermione sniffled.

Ginny shook her head. “No, but Harry is out with him now, trying to calm him down. If anyone can talk any sense into my brother’s thick-head, it’s Harry.”

“I can’t believe how angry he was. I’ve never seen him like that Ginny; well, I’ve never seen him that angry with me before,” Hermione said weakley, feeling close to tears again. No matter what they had been through, she really valued Ron’s friendship, and did not want to lose him.

“Don’t worry about it Mione. It’ll be fine; you’ll see,” Ginny replied consolingly, stroking Hermione’s hair back from her damp forehead.

The two friends sat in silence for a while, Ginny occasionally commenting on the Manor. Hermione was impressed. Ginny had not said one bad word about Draco since she arrived.

“Where’s Malfoy?” Ginny asked, and Hermione shrugged.
“I’m not sure,” she said softly, her stomach suddenly twisting. She had almost forgotten where they were.

“Well, he wouldn’t be too far away with you here,” Ginny said pointedly.

“He’s just being nice.”

“Bullshit Hermione. He’s falling for you.” Ginny replied matter-of-factly.

“No, he isn’t, he’s …”

“He is sweetie,” Ginny said softly, then she sighed. “Look, I cannot tell you what to do, or how to feel about this. All I can do is tell you what I think. Firstly, I believe that he’s changed. I didn’t want to admit it before, because hating Draco Malfoy seems much easier and more natural than not hating him, but that tall and incredibly handsome man who met me downstairs is not the Malfoy we all know and love. He was kind; he cares about you, which is obvious. I’ve never seen him look so worried about anything before. Secondly,” Ginny continued before Hermione could get a word in, “there isn’t that much distance between love and hate. They are both such strong emotions. Look at Harry and me. How many times have we practically broken up? We fight all the time, to the point where I can hardly stand the sight of him, but I still love him.”

Hermione snorted. “That’s different Ginny...”

Ginny raised her eyebrows, and Hermione fell silent as she continued. “Maybe that is what has happened here, with you and Malfoy. You fought so much at school, you hated each other so intently, that now it’s all over, Voldemort is gone, his father is gone, all that energy has to go somewhere.”

“Ginny, please don’t confuse me any more than I already am about this,” Hermione begged, knowing in her heart that Ginny was right. If she couldn’t hate Draco, what was there to do? Love him? The thought almost made Hermione giggle. It seemed so absurd.

Ginny laughed. “Okay, but Mione, I can tell you for sure that that man is falling for you.”


After Ginny had gone, Hermione slept, a deep, dreamless sleep, and when she had woken it was a bright and sunny Monday morning. Hermione rolled over, stretching luxuriously in the grand bed, enjoying the sensation of silk against her legs. She glanced around the room, realizing she had not paid attention to her surroundings at all the previous night. Draco’s room was almost as large as the entire first floor of her flat, with a large walk-in wardrobe and an ensuite. The walls were painted a deep green, making the room seem dark, even during the day. Small lamps were interspaced along the walls just above head height, and a large and comfortable looking bleack leather armchair sat in the one corner, a reading lamp suspended above it. Draco had no pictures on the walls, or on either bedside table, and Hermione felt a stab of pity for him.

With a sigh, Hermione pulled herself out of bed, ignoring the regret that rose in her stomach. She wanted nothing more than to lie around all day, pretending the world outside the room did not exist. Hermione pulled on a black robe she found lying at the foot of the bed. It was several sizes too big for her, and she felt a little shiver of delight run through her body as she wrapped the silky fabric around herself, breathing Draco’s scent deep into her chest. She checked the bathroom, and several rooms further along the hallway, but could not find Draco anywhere. After a moment’s hesitation, Hermione wandered downstairs, trying not to think too much about the whole situation. She could barely believe she had stayed the night at the Malfoy Manor, in Draco’s luxurious bed, wrapped in his arms for the second night in a row. A small smile crept onto her face, and Hermione could not help but feel content and happy, despite her fight with Ron.

The Manor’s kitchen was enormous, with marble tiles, stark white walls and gleaming dark granite benchtops. Hermione let out a small sigh of appreciation. Although she was an average cook, she still enjoyed the process of preparing a meal, and ventured into a little daydream about what it would be like to cook in Draco’s kitchen. A crisp, white piece of parchment lay on the bench, and Hermione snatched it up, quickly reading the neat script:

I’ve just had to go and take care of something. I’ll be back soon. Don’t worry. Just get some rest. Draco.

Hermione smiled and made herself some tea, abandoning her usual Muggle ways when she failed to find a kettle.

***

Ron sat at his desk. He had no idea why he’d let Harry talk him into going to work, when all he wanted to do was go and find Malfoy and beat him into a bloody pulp. He definitely did not want to see Hermione, and when he got to work that morning, Harry told him she hadn’t shown up.

Ron immediately felt guilty, knowing he’d said some really nasty things to her the day before. He shook his head, chastising himself. No, he wouldn’t feel guilty for saying those things; she was sleeping with the enemy. Malfoy was the villain; it was so obvious to everybody except Hermione. She was probably off with him right now. He scowled, not wanting to think about what they might be doing.

Ron let out a defeated sigh, settling back in his chair, his eyes closed. The door to his office opened and he heard heavy footsteps. He didn’t even bother to open his eyes.

“Did you get me any coffee, Harry?”

“We need to talk, Weasley.”

Ron’s eyes flew open and he almost fell off his chair. Draco Malfoy, in long black robes with his blonde hair swept back off his face, was standing on the other side of his desk. A very tall, very strong and very angry Draco Malfoy. His pale face was like stone, his grey eyes cold and hard, and he had his wand out.

“How did you get in here?” Ron squeaked, trembling slightly. He was secretly very afraid of Malfoy, knowing deep down, that he was a smarter and better wizard than Ron was. Malfoy’s mere presence was enough to make him break out in a cold sweat. Ron knew how powerful and how dangerous Malfoy could be. His bravado yesterday had been borne of rage.

Draco smiled, the corners of his lips barely moving. “The Minister and I …we have an arrangement.”

Ron paled, his hand sliding towards the wand concealed in his Ministry robes. “What have you done to Percy?”

“You really are slow, Weasley. I’ve done nothing to your brother.”

Ron frowned. “You …what?”

Draco sighed. “As a person who has certain … connections … I have been rather useful.”

“I knew it! You’re a Death Eater spy!” Ron said triumphantly.

Draco rolled his eyes. “How you ever got a job here Weasley, I will never know. I’m not a Death Eater you fool, but I am a spy. For you,” he added pointedly. “Where do you think most of your information comes from? Who fills those files for you?”

“You’re lying Malfoy,” Ron snarled through clenched teeth.

“I’m not. Go and ask your beloved brother about my position,” Draco replied bitterly. “You did know you had a spy, didn’t you, or did the Minister just forget to tell you that?”

“But, how come no one knows it’s you?” Ron asked. He was in shock, and he was still suspicious.

“The whole point of a spy Weasley … oh never mind,” Draco snapped.

“I still don’t believe you,” Ron said stubbornly. “Where have you really been for the last four years, Malfoy?”

“Spying! How many arrests have you made in that time huh? How many former Death Eaters have you managed to capture? Avery, MacNair, my dear old aunt Bellatrix. You really are an idiot. I have no idea what a smart woman like Hermione ever saw in you.”

Ron reddened. “Leave her out of this, Malfoy!”

“Actually, that’s why I’m here,” Draco said, sitting down opposite Ron. Ron noticed in surprise that he’d put his wand away. “You never gave Hermione or myself the chance to explain ourselves yesterday morning.”

“Looked obvious,” Ron snarled, his temper rising. The image of Malfoy, shirtless, kissing Hermione in her robe was seared into the back of his eyelids. He didn’t think he would ever be free of it.

Draco sighed. “There you go again! I tried to tell you yesterday, but you very rudely pointed your wand at me,” he leant forward over the desk, looking directly into Ron’s eyes, pinning him with his strong gaze. “I didn’t touch her, Weasley. Not in the way you think. She didn’t want it, so I respected her decision. She did, however, ask me to stay with her. Do you know why? Because you and Potter had upset her with your accusations and narrow little minds. She asked me to stay, so I did.”

Draco sat back in his chair, watching Ron closely.

“Don’t pretend you care about her Malfoy,” Ron said venomously.

“I’m not pretending.”

“But, you hated her!”

“I did. But I don’t anymore. You don’t get it do you? You and Potter. Why I want to forget the past. You don’t even try to understand. Hermione does. She listens without judgment, without prejudice, and without jumping to conclusions. That’s why I care about her,” Draco replied evenly.

Ron stared at him suspiciously, his head spinning, his thoughts flying. Draco Malfoy was a spy? He worked for the Ministry? For the good guys? And he was in love with Hermione. He hadn’t said so, but Ron could see it in his eyes. Even when he was angry, his eyes softened when he spoke of her.

“I’m listening, Malfoy,” Ron said, suddenly weary of the whole thing – him, Hermione, everything. He had barely eaten or slept in days, not since he’d seen the two of them having coffee in that small café. “You have something to say don’t you? So now’s your chance. Say it.”

Draco looked shocked. “You’re willing to listen, to talk to me?” he asked.

Ron smiled slightly. “Not very quick are you? I don’t know what Percy was thinking when he hired you.”

Draco gave a short laugh. “Okay, but I want to talk to you and Potter together. And I want Hermione there for moral support,” he said quickly.

“Fine. Whatever,” Ron sighed. He just wanted him to go. He really didn’t like Malfoy using the words ‘want’ and ‘Hermione’ in the same sentence.

“Two nights from now. Somewhere public maybe? I’ll let you know,” Draco replied.

He left in a swish of black robes. Ron put his head on his desk, his eyes burning. Ginny was right. He was jealous, and for that he hadn’t listened to Hermione. He hadn’t trusted her at all. One thought kept circling through Ron’s head:

Malfoy is in love with her.

***

Draco came home to the Manor and found Hermione outside by the pool. Sitting in a puddle of afternoon sunlight, she looked relaxed, calm and well slept. He decided to wait to tell her about going to see Weasley. He didn’t want to ruin her happy mood, knowing how upset she’d been by the Weasel King and his ridiculousness. Draco sighed, wondering if he’d made a mistake letting the temperamental red head know what he did for the Ministry.

Draco stood inside, watching Hermione through the glass. He still had no idea how it had all happened. He pinched himself, making sure he was truly awake and this wasn’t some blissful dream. He would never have thought it possible, him and Hermione Granger. At school, if anyone had of told him he’d end up falling for the Muggle-born Gryffindor, best friend of the boy-who-lived, he would have punched them, or worse. But here they were, and Draco knew he was quickly falling for his old enemy. In seven years, he had never actually had a conversation with Hermione. The only words they had shared back then were dripping with hate and disgust, and as hard as he tried, he could never deny her intelligence and wit. Draco gave a short laugh, realizing that the very things that repulsed him so long ago now drew him towards her. He sighed and turned away from the window. It was not as if they had been in a position to be friends back at Hogwarts. Draco ran his fingers through his hair, pulling at it irritably. As he’d been speaking to Weasley, he realized he’d inadvertently lied to Hermione about the past four years. It had been for her protection though.

Not many people knew about what he did for the Ministry –Percy Weasley, a few top officials, and now Ron. Percy and Draco had decided between them that it would be best if his position within the Ministry remained a tightly guarded secret. They both knew how many people at the Ministry would react if they knew Draco Malfoy, son of the notorious Lucius, the man responsible for the deaths of many of their loved ones, was working on their side.

Draco took his mind back four years ago, when he’d returned from overseas. A flood of mail had awaited him – all from the Ministry. Each letter was the same – “we demand that your father’s possessions be turned over to us, and for you to report to the Ministry at once.” Draco had put it off for months, but more letters came and eventually he replied.

Percy had come, along with his brother Bill and two Aurors, to meet with him. Draco let them take whatever they wanted. He smiled a little at the memory. He knew they’d been expecting resistance.

“Mr Malfoy, you understand why we are here?” The Minister for Magic asked him.

Draco smiled. “Sure. Take the lot. I don’t want it. I don’t even want to look at it.”

Percy raised his eyebrows.

“Surprised?” Draco asked.

“Well, yes actually, I am,” Percy replied.

“Why?” Draco asked, already knowing the answer, but wanting to hear them say it anyway.

“You’re your father’s son,” Bill said, his fingers curled tightly around his wand.

Draco laughed. “Not really. At least, not anymore.”

Curious, the Minister for Magic asked him to explain. Once he had finished his story, Percy asked Draco,“So you’ve had no contact with any Death Eaters since your last year at Hogwarts?”

“That’s correct,” Draco said.

“Forgive my skepticism, but I find that hard to believe,” Percy said.

“Give him a truth serum,” Bill suggested. “That way we’ll know if he’s being honest.”

Draco acquiesced. When they had finished questioning him, Percy was quite taken aback.

“So the others, they don’t know you feel this way?”

Draco shook his head. “No.”

Percy fingered his chin thoughtfully. “Malfoy, I may have a job for you. There are certain Dark Wizards who have proved rather difficult to apprehend…”

“You want me to spy?” Draco interjected bluntly, remembering the position his old potions master had been in.

Percy sighed. “Yes. At least, I want you to consider it. It’s a highly dangerous position, as you could imagine, and you are under no obligation to take this offer. I’d like your assistance from time to time, if you will give it.”

“And if I refuse this illustrious offer, what then? Azkaban?” Draco asked bitterly.

“There are many people who believe you deserve to be there Malfoy, myself included. You are known to have been involved in Death Eater activity. However, I also realize that in your current situation, that would be a waste.”

“So what you’re really offering me is an ultimatum? Work for you, or go to prison?”

“If you want to look at it that way.”

Draco sighed. There weren’t many other options available to him. He could always go into hiding, but after two years running away from himself, he’d had enough. He didn’t want to run from the past anymore, and if helping the Ministry put a few Dark Wizards behind bars would ease his conscience, then he may as well do it.

“Okay,” he said softly. “Okay Weasley, I’ll do it. Sign me up.”


And so it began. Draco had very reluctantly taken an Unbreakable Vow, and gradually made contact with a few people and worked his way back into the fold. It wasn’t difficult. Who would believe the son of Lucius Malfoy had turned? Sometimes Draco thought he was going insane. Living, at least in his mind, a double life was not as easy as he had thought.

After two years he told Percy he couldn’t actively spy any more, but that he’d keep his ear to the ground, and feed the Ministry whatever pieces of information he picked up. Percy had agreed, though reluctantly. Draco knew he thought him a flight risk, so he agreed to weekly check-ins with the Ministry, weekly doses of Veritaserum, and weekly inspections of his house.

Another year passed, and Percy released him, but the Vow still held. Draco didn’t care. He knew he was never going to return to being a Dark Wizard. He still passed on information to the Ministry when he had it. His former colleagues believed he had simply been under investigation, as they all were or had been, so they left him alone. For that he was thankful. No one had tried to contact him in months.

A touch on his arm brought him back to the present, and he looked down into Hermione’s eyes.

“Hi,” he said, and bent his head, kissing her cheek. “You look better.”

She smiled. “I feel better, thank you.”

“You staying for dinner?” Draco asked, sliding an arm around her, pulling her close. He felt her shake her head.

“I should get home. I’m going back to work tomorrow, and I have a few things I need to get organized. I’ve missed two days of work now and no doubt the whole Department is in a total mess,” she replied, frustrated. He remembered how she used to be at school, and laughed.

“Well, do you want me to come over later then?”

“I think I need to be alone tonight, Draco. I’m sorry. I need some more time to think about what is going on … between us,” she replied softly.

He tilted her head up to look at him. “What do you want, Hermione?” he asked gently, looking into her eyes. They stared at one another for a long while, not moving or speaking.

“I don’t really know,” she whispered. “I know I want to be loved, for who I am, and I want happiness and a future but…”

“You’re not sure you want it with me?” he answered softly.

“I’m sorry,” Hermione said.

“It’s alright, really,” Draco said, ignoring the tight feeling in his chest. He realized he had never wanted anything more in his life than he wanted her. “I know this is strange, for us both. But just know that the last week I have spent with you has been the most comfortable and peaceful time in my life.”

“Peaceful?”

“Darling, compared to what I have experienced in the past, that was peace,” Draco laughed, kissing her. They lost themselves in kisses, enjoying the feeling of being together. “Wednesday night I have a favor to ask,” he said, breaking away. “I’m going to meet with Weasley and Potter and I want you to be there.”

“What? When did this …”

He smiled. “I told you I had something to take care of today. Will you come?”

She nodded.

“Go home and rest. I’ll see you then,” Draco said, kissing her cheek.

~o0o~

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Chapter 8: Malfoy Uncovered
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A/N: Hey guys! I hope you enjoy this chapter!

~o0o~

The following day at work passed in a blur. Hermione delegated tasks, rather than attend to them herself, something she usually didn’t do. She liked to be right amongst everything that was happening in her Department, but her head was so filled with thoughts of Draco that she found it hard to concentrate on anything.

She’d seen Ron and Harry on coffee break that morning. Ron would not meet her eyes, and Harry gave her a weak smile, before turning his attention elsewhere. Hermione felt tears blurring her vision, and she spent her break locked in her office, crying quietly. She wanted desperately to explain everything to them. She knew when she agreed to see Draco that she would be pushing the boundaries of their friendship. She also knew that when she took her strange little relationship further she would be really testing her friendships.

At lunchtime, she Apparated to Diagon Alley to meet Ginny for lunch. They went to the same café her and Draco had gone to. Hermione sighed. That meeting, the beginning of all of her recent troubles, seemed thousands of years ago. The time when she could laugh and tell Ron and Harry anything seemed even further away. She wondered sadly if it would ever get back to normal.

“Mione, you’ve got to give them some more time,” Ginny said, reading her thoughts. “And eat your lunch – you haven’t touched a thing.”

“Food is not really that appealing right now, Gin,” Hermione replied quietly, pushing her lettuce around her plate.

“You need to eat. You’re too thin as it is. Has Malfoy been feeding you?” Ginny asked, wiping her mouth on a napkin.

“Yes.”

“Good. I need to know he is going to look after you,” Ginny replied.

Hermione frowned. “How come you are taking this so well, Gin? I can hardly believe it myself, but here you are talking and acting like it’s the most normal thing in the whole world.”

Ginny sighed. “It’s not easy for me either Hermione, but unlike two certain men we know, I think you are quite capable of making your own decisions. Have you forgotten what I said to you the other day? If Malfoy makes you happy, then so be it.”

Hermione felt her eyes well up with tears. “Thank you,” she whispered.

Ginny reached over and squeezed Hermione’s hand. “I love you and I know you. You’re not a fool. You’re one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, and one of the kindest. That would be why he choose you.”

“Who?”

“Malfoy. You said he needed someone to talk to, right? In the beginning? Well, he’s not a fool either. He would have known you’d hear him out; that you’d listen to him. That’s why he came to you, and not anyone else,” Ginny said gently. “I know I would, in his position.”

“I just want to be happy, Gin. But I don’t want to continue hurting anyone, especially Ron. He’s so mad at me – he won’t even look at me! I don’t want to spend the rest of my life not being able to talk to him. I don’t know if …”

Ginny held up her hand. “Don’t say it. Don’t give up your chance of being happy with someone because poor little Ronnikins cannot get used to the idea. Do you think he’d be behaving that differently if it were someone else? Come on Mione. You know him. You know what he’s like. He’ll pout and sulk over it for a while, but then he’ll have to get over it. Either that or go the rest of his life not speaking to you. Which I know he would never do.”

Hermione sat looking at her plate of food, unspeaking. Ginny sighed.

“What do you want, Hermione? Right now? What do you want?”

Hermione looked up, straight into her friends’ eyes. She took a deep breath. “Draco. I want him.”

Ginny smiled. “There you go then.”

Hermione smiled hesitantly. Now that she had said it, she was sure of it. She wanted to be with him. “I’ve got to go,” she said in a rush, standing and grabbing her things.

Ginny laughed, her eyes twinkling knowingly. “Don’t end up so busy you forget my birthday on Saturday.”

Hermione blushed and gave Ginny a quick kiss on the cheek. “I won’t. I promise I’ll be there.”

With a smile that stretched ear to ear, Hermione hurried back to the office, where she wrote Draco a short note:

Be home tonight. We need to talk. I’ll see you then,

Hermione


She watched her owl fly away, happier than she had felt in weeks.

***

“Draco! Hello! You here?” Hermione called. The Manor was eerily still, the shadows seeming to rise like a sinister force from the walls, engulfing her body. Hermione shivered with premonition, icy fingers scuttling along her spine, creeping into her blood, and settling in her skull. Something was not right. The silence, the darkness, and the cold energy radiating through the house – it was viciously malevolent. Hermione let her hand brush against the thin length of wood concealed in her coat, taking a deep breath. She tiptoed cautiously through one empty room after another, trying to stamp down on her rising fear, pausing when she heard Draco’s voice floating from the living room. She walked quietly to the door, every sense in her body screaming.

“We know the Ministry has been on your back, Malfoy, but this cannot wait any longer.”

“I realize that, but this is not a good time for me,” answered Draco, his voice tight and strained.

Hermione snuck a quick glance into the room. Draco sat on the lounge with his blonde head in his hands, and his shoulders slumped dejectedly. The other man was tall and slender, and was leaning casually against the mantle, relaxed and complacent. He was wearing a black robe, with a hood over his head, so she couldn’t make out his features. His hands were large and muscular, the skin smooth and creamy. He lifted his arm, gesturing, his robe sleeve slipping down to expose his forearm. Hermione stifled a gasp, her hands flying to her mouth, crashing painfully over her lips. He had the faintest traces of the Dark Mark. Even in the dim light, she could see it, the skull and the serpent.

She sank back against the wall, her heart pounding, tears springing to her eyes. They were speaking again, and she turned her attention back to the voices, ignoring the desire to be sick.

“You know what you have to do, Malfoy, so just do it,” the other said in his deep, rich voice.

She heard Draco sigh. “I’ll see what I can do, but I’m not making any promises alright? It’s hard for me to move about freely. My house is watched. I cannot just go parading around doing whatever I want anymore.”

Hermione frowned. What was he talking about?

“We are losing patience, Malfoy.”

“Is that a threat, Blaise?”

Hermione’s heart caught in her throat. Blaise Zabini! The Ministry had been after him for years, and here he was in Draco’s house. She clenched her fists.

Blasie laughed hollowly. “Consider it a friendly warning.” He disapparated with a loud ‘crack’.

Hermoine slowly sunk to the floor, her head in her hands. Inside the living room, she heard Draco sigh deeply. His footsteps echoed sharply across the polished floor, and Hermione panicked. She stood quickly, not sure where to go. She was just about to make a run for it, when Draco stepped into the hall. He stopped dead when he saw her, his eyes widening in shock.

“Hermione, what …”

“Just when were you going to tell me the truth!” she yelled, suddenly unafraid.

Draco paled. “How long have you been standing there? What did you hear?” he asked, his voice low and urgent.

“Enough to know I have been a complete idiot!” she screamed at him. He reached for her, a look of pain on his face, and she pushed him away roughly. Fury coursed through her body, as hot and powerful as fire, and she reached into her coat pocket, pulling out her wand. Draco’s silver eyes widened further, and he held up his hands, making no move to draw his own wand.

“Let me explain, please. Hermione, this is not what you think it is,” he said quickly.

Hermione wiped the tears off her face, pointing her wand directly at his face. “You have five seconds to tell me what in Merlin’s sake that … that… Death Eater was doing here, or I’ll curse you into oblivion. I swear I will,” she said coldly.

“Okay, okay, I’ll tell you everything. Just please, put the wand down,” Draco replied gently, never taking his eyes off her face.

She shook her head. “I don’t think so. Start talking.”

He said nothing, just stared at her pleadingly. He took a step towards her.

“I said start talking!” Hermione shouted, leaning forward until the tip of her wand pressed against his throat. Draco blanched, and he involuntarily tilted his head back. “Please!” she whispered, tears rolling down her cheeks. “Please don’t make me.”

Draco closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. When he opened them, Hermione was shocked to see tears glistening.

“I lied to you. I’m sorry, but it was for your own protection. This is not what you think, Hermione. I work for the Ministry. I’m a spy,” he said softly.

She frowned. “You’re a what?”

“A spy, Hermione. I spy in the very heart of the Death Eater organization for the Ministry of Magic. Percy recruited me when I came home, four years ago. I’m not lying to you, I swear it. I cannot ever return to the Dark Arts. They made me take an Unbreakable Vow. I promised myself long ago that no one was ever going to control me like my father did, but then I placed my life in the hands of Percy Weasley,” Draco replied bitterly.

“But…I don’t understand. How could this have happened?” she asked.

“They gave me an ultimatum. Help them, or be thrown in Azkaban. I did not want to go anywhere near that place, not after what happened with my mother. I did not wish to be involved with the very thing that landed my parents their death sentence. So I switched teams. Long before, in my heart, I’d already done it, but this made it final,” Draco said quietly.

Hermione’s head was spinning. Draco was a spy? For the Ministry of Magic? She shook herself slightly, still not lowering her wand. “So all this time …all these years, you’ve been …”

“Yes. Letting the Death Eaters think I was one of them. But I’m not, Hermione. I’m not. I never was!” he cried, stepping closer to her, the tip of her wand pressing down with dangerous force against his jugular. “You have to believe me.”

“I don’t know what to believe, Draco. How do I know you are telling the truth?”

“Ask Percy. Ask Bill Weasley – he was there too. Find me a vial of Veritaserum and I’ll prove it to you!” Draco said. “Look into my eyes and tell me I’m lying, Hermione, and I’ll let you take me in.”

Hermione said nothing, just continued to stare at the tip of her wand, pressed so tight against the delicate line of his throat. She heard him swallow nervously; saw his throat working. She slowly shook her head.

“No, no! You haven’t changed at all! You’re as evil as you ever were,” she yelled.

“Look into my eyes, Hermione,” he said, pain in his voice.

She continued to shake her head, her wand steady against his throat, muttering ‘no’.

“Look at me or kill me, Granger!” he roared fiercely, and with a strangled cry, Hermione raised her tear-stained face, staring with defiance into his eyes.

They were pale grey and wide open. She stared at them for a long time. She saw all his fears, his longing, his pain, and hope. She saw the naked vulnerability at the very core of him. She saw her own reflection in the depths of his eyes. She saw truth there. Slowly, she lowered her wand.

Draco let out a huge sigh. “Thank you.” He looked at her again.

“I have to sit down,” she said weakly, feeling her knees suddenly turn to water, and he nodded, taking her hand and leading her to a seat in the living room. Draco sat down beside her, but did not try and touch her. He just looked at her.

Hermione swallowed. “Why didn’t you tell me all this before?” she asked softly.

“You know why, Hermione. It’s not safe for people to know,” he replied.

She nodded. She knew Ministry protocol probably better than the wizard who wrote it. “But what about Blaise? And the Death Eaters?”

“I haven’t spoken to Zabini in months. I have tried to pull away from the group, but it’s hard, especially for me. My father’s memory has reached godly status, and they want me to carry on the legacy. I’ve tried everything to get them to change their plans,” Draco sighed, running his fingers through his hair. He looked so tired and worn out. Hermione had the urge to hold him.

“I don’t know how I could have gotten so careless,” he suddenly said, jumping up to pace the room. He turned to look at her. “I’ve put you in danger. My god, Hermione, if they ever found out … I want to protect you from this! From them! They’d have no hesitation in killing you. And I’d be next.”

Hermione shivered, chilled by his words. “So what now?” she asked him softly.

Draco came to sit beside her again, taking her hands. “You get the hell out of here and don’t come back, that’s what.”

She shook her head. “No. I won’t.”

“You have to! I don’t want you to go, but this is way too dangerous now. If you’d walked in on us before Zabini would have killed you in an instant. I don’t want to risk that happening again. Please, Hermione. Go and be safe,” he whispered.

Hermione stubbornly shook her head again. “No. Draco, no. I came here tonight to tell you I wanted to be with you, and I’m not going to walk away, especially not now,” she said.

“You want to be with me?” he said softly, and she nodded. Draco stared at her in silent shock. “Seriously? You seriously want to be with me?”

“Yes you idiot!” Hermione cried, throwing her arms around his neck. His arms went about her, tightly holding her to him. A slight tremor went through his body.

“Hermione,” he whispered into her hair. She turned her head and found his lips, kissing him tenderly.

“We should get you out of here. I’ll contact the Ministry. They can send you to a Safe House,” she murmured against his lips. “Go pack. You won’t be coming back here for a while. I’ll get the dog. You can stay with me tonight.”


***


Hermione and Draco arrived at the Ministry the next morning bleary eyed and cranky. Neither of them had slept a wink. Every sound sent them both reaching for their wands. They were on edge, irritable and tense. Imelda had instantly let Mellan know who was boss, swatting the huge dog on the nose the minute he’d been brought inside. Draco had locked him in the laundry all night, and cast a silencing spell on the door so they didn’t have to listen to him howling.

“Listen, Hermione, I don’t need this,” Draco said once they were in her office. She tossed him a look.

“Yes, you do. It’s not safe at the Manor, not until the Aurors can catch up with Blaise.”

He sighed. “I’m so tired of all this. Four years of hiding who I was, who I am.”

“I can’t believe Percy put you up to this!” Hermione fumed, stomping around. “What was he thinking?”

Draco laughed. “Darling, would you have done any different?”

She said nothing, flopping into a chair, rubbing at her head. They sat in silence, Hermione fighting off sleep, until her assistant stuck her head around the door.

“The Minister will see you now, Miss Granger, Mr Malfoy,” she said, and Hermione waved her away with a thank you.

“Come on,” she said, standing and grabbing Draco’s hand. “We’re going to get this sorted.”

“Hermione … bloody interfering Gryffindors,” Draco cursed in an undertone. Hermione flashed him a dangerously toxic look.

“Come on!” she said firmly, pulling him to his feet with what little energy she had left. Hermione dragged him through the halls, glaring at anyone who got in their way. Ignoring the Ministers Secretary, she barged into Percy’s office, Draco in tow.

“Hermione, how are you?” Percy asked pleasantly, and she scowled at him.

“What are you going to do to fix this?” she raved, leaning across his desk. Percy shrank back from the fury in her hard, brown eyes.

“Well…” he began, sitting up straighter in his chair and adjusting his tie.

“I told you I don’t need this,” Draco hissed.

“Be quiet!” she snapped, turning back to Percy. “Well?” she asked, her hands on her hips.

Percy rubbed his temples. “We’re sending him to a safe house, with a couple of Aurors for protection.”

“I don’t need any extra protection, Weasley,” Draco snapped.
“As a Ministry employee you’ll need what I say,” Percy replied coldly. “Now, ah, hello gentlemen, please come in.”

He motioned towards the door, and Hermione and Draco turned to see Harry and Ron, dressed in casual Muggle attire, walk in. Harry raised his eyebrows questioningly at the scene before him, and Ron scowled deeply, muttering under his breath.

“Your protection, Mister Malfoy,” Percy said rather smugly.

Draco sank into a chair. “Oh this is just wonderful,” he said darkly, glaring at the Minister.

Percy flushed slightly, but ignored him. “Harry, Ron. You’ll be escorting Mister Malfoy and Hermione …”

“What?” Hermione and Ron said together.

Percy’s color deepened. “You are going too. Your, erm, relationship with Malfoy has put you in direct danger, so for your own protection, you are also being sent to the safe house, until we can get this sorted out,” Percy said, looking rather pleased with himself.

Hermione glowered at Percy, and Draco laughed. She spun to face him.

“I told you this was unnecessary,” was all he said, and she sighed, sitting down beside him on the lounge, reaching for his hand. Draco intertwined his fingers with hers gratefully. Although he would rather die than admit it, he was terrified.

“How long?” Ron asked Percy, who shrugged.

“Right then,” Harry said, turning to Hermione and Draco, “let’s get on with it.”

“Harry, wait,” Hermione said. “I need Ginny to do me a favor. I need her to take the animals while we’re gone.”

“Animals?”

“Imelda and Mellan, Draco’s dog. They’re both at my place,” she said softly. Ron would not meet her gaze, and she sighed regretfully.

“Yeah, not a problem. Lets go,” Harry replied tensely, leading them out of the room.

~o0o~

A/N: Please leave a review! I love reviews...


Chapter 9: Hide Away
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A/N: Thanks so much to all my reviewers! You guys rock!

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The four of them had taken a Portkey to the safe house, Hermione and Draco both blindfolded until they were inside. Ron would not talk to either of them, except to tell them they were not to leave under any circumstances. Hermione cringed at the hurt in his eyes when he spoke to them.

Harry was more forthcoming, and Hermione had the feeling that he was enjoying every minute of his role as ‘protector’. Draco was furious.

“This is ridiculous, Hermione! It’s humiliating! I’m being baby-sat by Potty and the Weasel King!” he raged when they were alone.

“No, you’re being baby-sat by two very good Aurors, Draco,” she shot back, annoyed.

He sighed. “Well, at least we get to spend some time together.”

She scowled at him. “With my ex-boyfriend out there? I don’t think so.”

“You heard Weasel. We’re not to leave this house. We have all the time in the world,” he said lightly, coming to put his arms around her.

Hermione snorted. “You’ve certainly changed your tune.”

“This could be a situation that I can work to my advantage,” Draco replied, bending to kiss her. Hermione sighed at his comment, and gave in to the kiss, sliding her arms around his neck and pressing her body against him. He responded by kissing her deeper, causing her to groan with pleasure.

The door flew open, and the next thing Hermione knew, Harry was struggling with Ron in the doorway.

“Get your hands off her, Malfoy!” Ron raged, breaking free from Harry and flying across the room. Harry made a dive for his ankles and brought him down, inches from Draco and Hermione. She stared down at Ron in shock. He met her gaze with angry eyes, and she turned away.

Harry picked Ron up off the floor, throwing him unceremoniously into the hall outside. He stepped in and closed the door behind him, turning to face Hermione and Draco.

“Okay, I’m not overly thrilled about this situation either guys, both of them,” he added pointedly. Draco had his arm wrapped around Hermione in a protective measure, drawing her slightly behind his body.

“Understood, Potter,” Draco replied softly, meeting Harry’s eyes.

“But if you two are going to be together, and it looks like you are, you need to be a bit more considerate of Ron. I have never seen him this mad before, and I’m worried that if he is exposed to too much of, well, you two, it’s going to prevent him from doing his job properly,” Harry said firmly.

“Harry, I’m sorry,” Hermione said. “When Percy said Draco would get Auror protection, I had no idea he was going to send you and Ron.”

“Yeah, well, maybe it’s Percy’s idea of a little get-back or something,” Harry laughed. He looked at Draco. “You know, I never thought I’d see the day, Malfoy. You actually doing something to help other people. You caring about other people.”

“All things have to change at some stage, Potter,” Draco replied seriously, and Harry nodded. Hermione held her breath, her body tense in anticipation. The two men stared at one another for a long time, but without the old hatred. Hermione realized suddenly that Harry had come around. She smiled.

“Thank you,” she mouthed, and he smiled at her, before leaving them alone.

***

Ron slammed his mug down, glaring towards the staircase. Harry followed his gaze, and sighed.

“Ron…” he began.

“I don’t even want to think about the two of them up there, gazing into each other’s eyes …”

“Ron!”

“…Whispering in each other’s ears…”

“Ron!”

“…Touching each other …”

“RON!”

“WHAT?”

Harry rubbed his head. “You’re giving me a headache, mate. Just shut up about it for a while.”

“Harry, you can’t seriously think that this is alright? That it’s alright that Hermione is upstairs locked in a bedroom with Draco Malfoy?” Ron asked incredulous.

“Yes, Ron, I do,” Harry replied quietly.

Ron opened and closed his mouth several times before answering. “I cannot believe you just said that, Harry! It’s Hermione, my, our Hermione up there with that evil git. How can that be alright?” Ron blazed, his face as red as his hair.

“Because,” Harry replied, “it’s her decision. She cares about him, and he cares about her. Ginny’s seen it, and now I have too, just before. Look, Ron, whoever that man is up there, it’s not the Malfoy that we remember.”

Ron said nothing, just looked at Harry as if he’d gone mad. Harry sighed again and continued.

“I think Ginny was right. We need to let go of the past. Let go of the resentment. I realized for the first time today that Malfoy and I are not all that different anymore. The only difference is, I know my parents loved me.”

“Harry, you cannot be thinking of forgiving that jerk?” Ron asked, looking his friend in the eye. Harry gave him stare for stare.

“I am, and I think maybe you should think about doing the same, if for nothing else, than that it will make Hermione happy,” Harry replied. “Good night, Ron.”

Harry went upstairs and left Ron sitting alone, lost in his thoughts.


***

The next few days passed quickly. Ron avoided Hermione and Draco like the plague, spending all his time making sure the protective spells surrounding the house still held. When he did have to speak to them, it was to bark out curt orders. Hermione noticed Ron was avoiding Harry as well.

“He’ll come around,” was all Harry said when she questioned him about it.

“What happened, Harry?” Hermione asked him quietly when they were sitting together in the kitchen of the small house. “How did it all end up like this?”

Harry raised his eyebrows. “Are you talking about me and Ron, or you and Ron?”

She sighed. “Both. I don’t want to come between the two of you – you’ve been friends for so long, been through so much together. I don’t want to ruin that.”

“Nothing is ruined, Mione. Ron and I are just butting heads about this,” Harry answered softly, sitting back in his chair. He looked wrecked, and Hermione knew he’d much rather be home with Ginny than out here in the middle of nowhere looking after Draco. “I told him I approved.”

Hermone nodded. “I thought as much. Oh Harry, thank you! It means a lot to me, really it does.”

“I know,” he replied. “You care about him. You really do. I can see that, Hermione, and I think Ron can too. That’s why this is so hard for him. It’s not so much that it’s Malfoy, although that doesn’t help matters; it’s that he realizes you and him are definately through. I think he always hoped you’d end up back together.”

“I never wanted to hurt him, Harry,” Hermione whispered, tears in her eyes. Harry reached over and squeezed her hand.

“It’s still very weird for me too, Hermione. Not just you and Draco, but finding out he is our spy. We knew someone was spying for the Ministry; we just had no idea who it was. Knowing it’s been him helping us this whole time, it’s hard to digest.”

“I still can’t believe Percy,” Hermione said sullenly.

Harry laughed. “I can’t believe Malfoy. I think I’m dreaming sometimes. I mean, Draco Malfoy on the side of good and right?”

Hermione laughed at the look on her friends face. Draco wandered into the kitchen, looking tired and stressed. He took a seat beside Hermione, giving her a weak smile.

“How much longer?” he asked Harry wearily.

Harry raised his eyebrows. “Not enjoying my company, Malfoy?”

“Oh no, Potter, I’m having a fantastic time being locked in a house with you,” Draco replied sarcastically. “I mean, this is a dream come true, or a nightmare become reality, or something like that. When will this be over?” he asked again, putting his head on the table. Hermione laid her hand on his shoulder, sensing how tense he was. She knew how he was feeling. She wanted nothing more than to be out of there and home, sleeping in her own bed, or his.

Changing the subject, Hermione asked Harry if he was going home for Ginny’s birthday, and he nodded.

“Yeah. Neville will be coming to relieve me for a day. Once he gets here tomorrow, I’ll take a Portkey home,” he replied.

Draco’s head shot up. “Neville? As in Longbottom?”

Hermione nodded. “Neville is an Auror with the Ministry.”

Draco laughed scornfully. “Oh this just keeps getting better and better. As if being baby-sat by Potter and Weasley wasn’t bad enough, now Longbottom?”

Harry burst out laughing at the look of Draco’s face. The blonde man looked like he was in pain. Draco glared at him, and put his head back on the table.

Ron came in and flopped into a chair opposite Hermione and Draco. “All the spells still hold, Harry,” he reported. “The whole house is covered and secure. Nothing is getting in here.”

Draco lifted his head, looking at Ron with bloodshot eyes. “You’re doing a bang-up job, Weasley,” he said. Ron only scowled at him and looked away. Draco sighed.

“You guys are enjoying this aren’t you?” he asked loudly, sitting up straight. “Potter and Weasley, always in the middle of the all the action. This is making me feel useless! I’m not incapable of helping you know.”

“We don’t need your help, Malfoy. We have this under control,” Ron replied through gritted teeth.

“Yeah well,” Draco drawled, sitting back in his chair. “You might change your tune if my old buddies find out where we are. I tell you, if Zabini and his crew show up here, you are going to need all the help you can get.”

At this, Harry sat forward. “So you think they will defiantly come looking for you?”

Draco nodded. “I’m well and truly on their hit list now, Potter. You don’t join the Dark side, even in pretence, and then sit around and do nothing for four years. They want to know why I haven’t joined in on any of their little games. If they were suspicious before, they’ll be well and truly curious as to where I’ve disappeared to.”

“So they no longer believe the Ministry-on-your-tail story I take it?” Harry asked.

Draco pushed his hair out of his eyes. “I don’t think they have believed that for a long time, which is why I’ve been so careful. Up until now,” he added, glancing at Hermione. She smiled at him and squeezed his hand. This conversation was frightening, and she wished someone would change the subject. She’d almost rather have Ron ranting and raving at her than be sitting around talking about Death Eaters.

“But what are they after? Voldemort’s gone,” Ron said, still not looking at Draco.

“Revenge for his death. Revenge for the Death Eaters still in Azkaban. Revenge for the whole thing going side-ways. They haven’t forgotten anything. They haven’t forgotten about the-boy-who-lived,” the blonde man replied, looking at Harry. “That’s why you’ll need my help, Potter. If they come here, if they breach the walls, then not only will they find me, but they’ll find Hermione, Weasley, and you. It’ll be like a smorgasbord.”

Hermione saw a shadow cross Ron’s face, as if he realized for the first time what they were truly doing hiding out there. No one spoke. They sat there in silence, letting the reality of Draco’s words sink in. They were all in terrible danger.

***

Draco found Ron in the attic, checking the protection spells for the hundredth time that day. Ron saw him come in, and turned away.

“What do you want, Malfoy? Coming to check if I’m still doing a ‘bang-up job’?”

“I want to talk to you about Hermione,” Draco said, taking a step closer.

Ron scowled. “If you’re asking for my blessing, forget it,” he spat.

“Don’t be a prat, Weasley. This is serious. You heard what I said down there today. If they come, this place will turn into a slaughterhouse.”

Ron looked at him in the dim light, his face pale. “I know.”

“You have to promise me you’ll get her out. Do whatever you have to do, just don’t let her get hurt,” Draco said softly.

“But my job is to protect both of you,” Ron argued, turning to face him.

“Don’t fight with me, Weasley. I think Potter and I can handle them long enough for you to get her to safety,” Draco said, sitting down on an up-turned box. He was so tired he just wanted the whole thing to be over. They were coming; he knew it. He felt it in the pit of his stomach.

“You’re sure they going to come?” Ron asked, drawing nearer.

Draco nodded. “I’m certain of it. You really think they’d let the son of Lucius Malfoy just slip through their fingers? They want me badly, Zabini made that clear enough the other night.”

Ron sighed, sitting down beside Draco. “What will they do to you if they catch you?”

Draco looked at him in surprise. “Are you saying you care?”

Ron rolled his eyes, and Draco laughed.

“You don’t want to know. If the worst they do is put me under the Cruciatus Curse, then I’ll be lucky,” he replied. “I know what they are capable of, what they are willing to do to a traitor. They’d never let me be free again.”

Ron nodded, understanding. They sat in tense silence for a while, listening to the sounds of the night outside. Draco stood to leave.

“Tell me honestly, Malfoy,” Ron said, and Draco turned back to him. “Have you slept with her?”

Draco eyed the other man curiously. “Do you really want me to answer that?”

Ron sighed, before nodding. “Then no, I haven’t,” Draco replied gently, sitting back down.

Ron frowned. “Is there something wrong with you, Malfoy?” he asked, and Draco laughed softly.

“Not in that Department, Weasley,” he said with a smile.

“But you’ve been sharing her bed. How can you not have?” Ron asked.

Draco sighed, running his fingers through his hair. “Do you think I haven’t wanted to? Trust me, I have.”

“Then, why not?”

Draco looked at the red head in surprise. “Are we actually having this conversation?” When Ron didn’t answer, Draco shook his head. “God, do you know anything about women at all? She hasn’t wanted it yet, so I haven’t pushed it. It’s called respect.”

Ron was silent, and Draco knew he was lost in thought. He sighed again and stood to go. He was almost at the door when Ron’s voice floated back to him.

“Just don’t hurt her, Malfoy, that’s all I ask of you. I’m not happy about it, not by a long shot, but I don’t want to see her hurt.”

“You have my word,” Draco replied without turning around. He left Ron in the attic and went to find Hermione.

She was already in bed, asleep. He looked down at her. Her eyes were closed, her mouth open slightly, and her cheeks rosy. Quietly, he changed his clothes and slipped in beside her. She mumbled something and turned into his arms, resting her head on his shoulder. Draco dropped a light kiss on her forehead and she sighed, holding him tight, pressing her small body close to him. Draco was amazed at how well they fit together. Their bodies molded against one another perfectly, as if they had been made for that purpose. He kissed her again, and she opened her eyes.

“Where have you been?” she whispered sleepily.

“Nowhere. Just thinking. Go back to sleep,” he whispered back, stroking her hair. She nodded and closed her eyes, drifting off.

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A/N: Thanks for reading. I hope that chapter wasn't too boring, but I'm just setting the scene. Please leave a review!

Maji
xx



Chapter 10: Right Time, Wrong Place
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A/N: Thanks for the reads and reviews guys! I really appreciate it! Enjoy this chapter!

~o0o~

Neville arrived early the following morning. Hermione flung her arms around him, hugging him tight.

“It’s so good to see you, Neville,” she said, fixing a smile onto her face.

“You too, Hermione, though I wish it were under different circumstances,” he replied gravely.

Hermione let him go, making them all a cup of tea. Ron had come into the kitchen, bleary-eyed but alert, followed by Harry and Draco, still dressed only in his pajama pants. Neville nodded at him curtly, and Draco inclined his head in return, sitting down at the table.

“Well, I’m off then guys. I’ll see you all tonight,” Harry said. “Thanks for this, Neville,” he shook the other man’s hand.

“Not a problem, Harry. Say hi to Ginny for me,” Neville replied. He stood half a foot taller than Harry did, and was solid and broad shouldered, with dark hair and deep brown eyes. His face was serious and purposeful.

“Oh, Harry! Tell Ginny I’m so sorry I’m missing her birthday,” Hermione said, giving him a hug.

“It’s okay, Mione. She understands,” he replied.

After Harry had left, the four of them sat down together in the lounge. Ron drank his tea so quickly Hermione was surprised he didn’t scald himself, before leaving them to go and re-check the protection spells.

“The man loves his work,” Draco commented, watching him go. Hermione rolled her eyes at him, before turning back to Neville.

“So, how are Luna and the baby doing?” she asked.

“Wait,” Draco sat forward, looking at Neville. “You married Luna Lovegood? And had a kid?”

Neville frowned. “Do you have a problem with that, Malfoy?”

“No, no. Congratulations, Longbottom. You must be thrilled,” Draco drawled, smirking. Hermione hit him on the arm, shaking her head.

“Ignore him, Neville. He’s a bit grumpy today,” she said, and Draco sighed.

“Grumpy? Hermione, this is driving me insane!” he wailed, leaning forward and resting his head on the back of her shoulder, his arms sliding around her waist. Hermione saw Neville raise his eyebrows. “When are we going to get out of here?” Draco mumbled into her shirt.

“We have Aurors chasing Zabini at the moment. They think they have picked up his trail,” Neville said in response to Draco’s question.

Draco lifted his head. “I’m going for a walk,” he stated, loosening his arms and standing up.

“You can’t go outside, Malfoy,” Neville reminded him. Draco threw his hands in the air.

“Can I go to the bathroom then mother? Have a shower? Is that permitted?” he suddenly yelled.

“Draco! Come on! That’s not fair on Neville,” Hermione said firmly, standing and taking his hand.

“I know. Sorry, Longbottom,” he said. “It’s just, I’m itching all over. I know they are coming. I cannot stand this sitting around and waiting! I’m going to go and drown myself,” Draco said to Hermione, leaning down to kiss her cheek. She nodded, watching him stomp away up the stairs, slamming the bathroom door. Hermione sighed, sinking back into the lounge. Neville looked at her curiously.

“Did I just see what I think I saw? You and Malfoy?” he asked quietly.

She giggled. “Harry didn’t warn you then?”

“No,” he replied faintly. “So you two are …?”

“Yes,” Hermione nodded. “You know, sometimes I cannot believe it myself. It all happened so fast, but I’m glad. I’m happy with him, Neville.”

“If you say so,” Neville said, laughing. “Is he always so paranoid?”

Hermione rubbed her head. “This is so hard for him. He’s so used to acting, not waiting. He is so certain they are going to find him. He’s becoming as bad as Ron, wandering around the house, peering out the windows, checking under the pot plants.” She giggled. “Sorry. I know this is serious. I guess I’m getting a bit of cabin fever myself.”

Neville nodded, and stood, saying he was going to go and find Ron. After ten minutes, Hermione went upstairs looking for Draco.

The bathroom door was still shut, and Hermione couldn’t hear the shower running. Steam poured out from under the door. She knocked and called out. There was no reply. She knocked again, louder and more insistent than before. With a sickening feeling in her stomach, she pulled out her wand and unlocked the door.

Draco was sitting on the edge of the bathtub, a towel wrapped around his middle. He looked up, his eyes red-rimmed, blinking at her through the steam.

“Thank Merlin you’re alright! When you didn’t answer, I thought something was wrong,” Hermione said, putting her wand away. Draco rolled his eyes.

“What could possibly happen to me in a bathroom?” he replied sarcastically. Then he stood and opened his arms, beckoning to her. “Come here, please. I need you. I need to feel something real.”

Hermione smiled sadly and went into his arms. He was still wet from the shower, and the water soaked through her thin shirt and onto her skin. She shivered, and he pulled her closer, his hands resting against her hips. She had the sudden realization that he was naked under the towel, and swallowed, her mouth drying up. An overwhelming desire to see his body, to touch him and run her fingers over his skin, rose in her chest.

She closed her eyes, tilting her head back so he could kiss her neck, smiling when his lips moved down to her collarbone. Draco lifted his hand and gently pushed her shirt off her shoulder, kissing her bare skin. Goosebumps broke out on her arms and chest, and she shivered again, pulling him closer. His arms went around her, one hand resting behind her head, the other in the small of her back. He kissed his way up her neck, until he reached her lips.

Hermione groaned when he brushed her lips with his, standing on tiptoe, pushing her body even closer to his. He kissed her passionately; devouring her mouth, his strong hands holding her immobile against his long, lean body, pulling her hips into his. Hermione ran her hands down his back, digging her fingernails in a little, and he hissed into her mouth, kissing her harder and deeper, assaulting her senses. She moved her hands lower, until they were resting on the edge of the towel. She slipped her hands underneath it, touching the hard muscle of his hips, digging her fingers into his smooth skin. Draco growled deep in his throat, breaking off their kiss.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” he whispered, looking down at her with glazed eyes. She smiled up at him innocently, feeling wicked and naughty.

“Oh, why not?”

“Because if you do that again I will have to carry you to bed and not let you ever leave,” he warned huskily, pulling her close again. She leant her head into his chest, smiling, hearing his heart beat strongly in her ears.

“That may not be a bad thing,” she whispered, kissing the broad muscle of his chest. She kissed along the line of his body, until she reached the spot below his ear, sinking her teeth into his neck, her hand sliding down the sculpted plains of his chest.

“Hermione,” he choked, grabbing her hand as it reached his abdomen. “Now?” he asked in surprise.

She looked up at him and sighed. “No. Not now. Right time, wrong place.”

“Another reason why I want to get out of here,” he said hoarsely, kissing her gently on the mouth. She sighed and buried her head into his chest, her body rushed with screaming fire.

***

Harry returned after dinner, and Neville bid them all goodbye before taking a Portkey back home to Luna and his baby. Harry sank into a chair, looking tired and worn out.

“Ginny says hi,” he said to them all, then looked at Draco. “She said to tell you that if you get me killed, she’s going to hex you like you’ve never been hexed before.”

Draco smiled, remembering his time at Hogwarts, and the very impressive bat-bogey hex he’d received from Ginny. “I’d believe that,” was all he said. He was pleased to notice Ron speaking a bit more to Hermione. Since their conversation that night in the attic, Ron had been a bit nicer to him. Draco knew how much he cared about Hermione, and how much he didn’t want to see her hurt. He prayed that, if it came down to it, Ron would do what he asked and get her to safety. They all retired to bed early, drained and impatient. The waiting was beginning to affect everyone. Draco slipped into bed beside Hermione with a sigh. She gave him a questioning look.

“They’re coming, Hermione. They’re coming tonight,” he said softly. Her eyes widened. “I’ve told Harry and Ron. They’re prepared.”

“But how do you know?” she asked, stroking his chest. He kissed her forehead.

“I just do. Try and get some sleep. You’ll need it. They won’t be here until near morning,” he said.

“I don’t understand how you know,” she pressed.

“Just trust me, please? It’s like a feeling. I can always sense them, you know,” he added softly.

“How do you get rid of this …feeling?” Hermione asked quietly.

“I’m not sure. Get rid of them maybe? I’ll worry about that later, but for now, just sleep,” he said, and she nodded. Her arms went about him, holding him tight.

“You have the Dark Mark, don’t you?” she asked quietly.

Draco felt his heart stop. “Hermione…please.”

“Answer the question, Draco,” she said, her voice low and forceful.

Draco sighed. “Yes, I have the Mark. It was given to me when we were still at Hogwarts. I was surprised. I’d failed in my missions, and I thought the Dark Lord was going to kill me. He rarely ever gave second chances. Father got in his ear about it somehow, before the end, and I was allowed to keep my life, as it was. It’s practically invisible now, with the Dark Lord gone. Sometimes I forget it is there, it’s so hard to see,” he replied softly, his body tensing, waiting for her to get out of bed and walk out of his life. She didn’t move, and he felt something stir deep in his chest.

“Draco,” she whispered after a while.

“Hmmm,” he whispered back. He felt her hand slid down his chest. She stopped at the waistband of his pants, the tips of her fingers dancing lightly over his abdomen. His breath caught in his throat as she leant over and kissed his chest, the delicate sensation sending shock waves through his body.

“Hermione, what are you doing?” he whispered, pulling her face up so he could see her.

She sighed. “What if you die tonight, Draco? What if I die tonight? What if we both die, without ever getting to … without ever getting to…” she said softly, her breath catching in her throat. He could barely make out her face in the darkness, but he knew she was looking at him. He lay there, feeling the weight of her pressed into his side. He could feel the heat of the skin on her legs where they rested against his own. He could smell the perfume of her hair; feel the tension in her body. His breathing quickened, and his heart began to race, as her words echoed in his ears.

Without another thought, he reached for her, lifting her up and bringing her crashing down on top of him, crushing the breath from his lungs. He kissed her hungrily, devouring the taste of her, and she kissed him back, her hands holding the sides of his face. He slid his hands down her sides, his fingers tracing the soft willowy waist and firm hips, reaching the bottom of her shirt. She arched her back a little and he quickly pulled it over her head, tossing it away into the darkness. Hermione groaned into his mouth, the sound enflaming his body even more as he ran his hands up her back, feeling the bones and soft, sinewy muscles beneath her skin.

Draco kissed her harder; feeling like he was drowning, as if he could die tonight and it would be okay. He sat up, bringing her with him, her legs falling either side of his, his whole body burning against hers, the heat of her skin pressed against his chest branding him with delicious agony. He stopped and looked at her face for a moment, enjoying the sight of her flushed cheeks, swollen lips and messy hair. She grinned at him, a mischievious glint in her eye, and with a swift movement, he flipped them around until he was lying on top of her, balancing on his elbows to keep from crushing her tiny body.

“Hermione,” he whispered in between their kisses. “Thank you.”

She giggled, her hands at the waistband of his pants, tugging at them playfully. “I haven’t done anything yet.”

Draco stopped kissing her, looking down into her eyes. “You have done more for me than you will ever know.”

She let out a strange little sob, and pulled him down to her, crushing his lips with her own, wrapping her arms tightly around his neck.

***

Hermione woke with a start, her heartbeat strong and loud in her ears. The darkness surrounding her was almost frightening. She flung out her hand, seeking Draco’s hard, warm body. When her hand found nothing, she sat up, cold fear racing through her veins.

“Draco,” she whispered, eyes darting around in the darkness.

“I’m here,” his voice answered, reaching out from the blackness. Hermione felt the mattress move as he shifted his weight, and she realized he was sitting on the end of the bed. She pulled back the covers and crawled to him, shivering slightly as the cold night air touched her naked skin. She slid her arms around his waist, linking her hands over his solid chest, resting her head on his back. He reached down, taking one of her hands in his. Draco bent his head and gently kissed her fingertips, sending a shiver down her spine. The gesture was so sweet her heart caught in her chest.

“Are you alright?” she asked him softly, kissing his back. He squeezed her hand, and turned to face her, lifting her arms and resting them on his shoulders. He leant forward and kissed her lips softly. His arms went around her, and he crushed her to him, his head tucked into the curve between her shoulder and her neck. There was fierceness in his embrace that Hermione had never felt before, and a desperate longing to hold onto him forever clawed its way into her chest.

Draco pulled away from her gently, trembling slightly. “They’re here,” he whispered, and Hermione felt her heart drop into her feet, the world spinning away into the darkness.

~o0o~

A/N: Please leave a review!! Thanks. xx


Chapter 11: They're Here
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

~o0o~

Hermione almost rushed out the door wearing nothing more than the day she was born, until Draco grabbed her, pulling her back into the room, telling her not to start panicking yet. They could hear Ron and Harry moving around the house, checking the spells and wards. Forcing the contents of her stomach back to where they belonged, Hermione followed Draco downstairs.

“I hate to say it, Malfoy, but you were right,” Harry said grimly. He had his wand out, and was gripping it tightly. His skin was pale, but his eyes were focused and alert, his lips pursed together in determination.

“Where’s Ron?” Hermione asked, pulling her hair into a low ponytail.

“Here,” Ron said, coming into the room. His wand was out and he held it in front of his chest, as a soldier might hold a rifle. His eyes darted around the room, stopping to rest on Draco and Hermione. He met Draco’s eyes, and Hermione had the distinct feeling that something passed between them in that look. Instead of lightening her heart, it only added to her already heightened sense of fear.

“What now?” she asked softly. The four of them looked around at each other slowly. Hermione had an unexpected and slightly unnerving thought that it would be strangely peaceful to die with the people she loved.

Harry opened his mouth to speak, but closed it again, cocking his head to the side. “Do you hear that?” he asked.

Hermione gave a faint shake of her head, and Ron did the same. Draco, however, nodded.

“Oh I hear them alright. I hear them here,” he touched his head lightly. Ron was looking at him like he’d gone mad, but Hermione just squeezed Draco’s hand, flashing him a quick, reassuring smile. Then they all heard it. A voice Hermione recognized. Blaise Zabini was outside the house.

“Come on out little Malfoy! It’s time to play,” Blaise taunted from outside.

“How many?” Harry asked Draco swiftly.

“Five, maybe six,” Draco replied. “I need my wand, Potter. Now!”

Hermione was confused, until she remembered that Harry had taken Draco’s wand on their arrival, to try and stop him turning some ordinary object into a Portkey and leaving. They had all known how much he didn’t want to be there.

Harry nodded, reaching into his robes and pulling out Draco’s wand. Without a word, he handed it to him. Draco let it rest in his palm a while, before taking it in a firm grip.

He looked at Hermione, and gave her a sweet smile. “What will be will be darling.”

She nodded, feeling tears blur her eyes. Draco stepped forward and enveloped her in his arms, whispering comfort in her ear. Hermione buried her head in his chest, trying hard not to cry.

“Awww look at that! Little Malfoy’s afraid of us? I don’t know why. Come on, Malfoy, I thought we were pals. What would your father say if he knew you were hiding in there with Potter, Weasley and a Mudblood?” Blaise called again from outside.

Draco stiffened at the mention of his father. He gently set Hermione away from him, his face like stone, his eyes dark and enraged. She swallowed nervously, watching him clench and unclench his fists, his wand held tightly.

“What are you trying to prove, Malfoy? We know what you’ve been up to, Draco, you Blood traitor! It’s time to come out and face us,” called another voice.

The house shook as the Death Eaters bombarded it with spells. Calls and laughter could be heard outside.

“I hope those little spells of yours hold, Weasley,” Draco called over the noise. His face was extremely pale. “I have no desire to be put under the Imperious Curse! That is, if they don’t just kill me instead!”

A crash came from the back of the house, and Draco paled further.

“They’ve breached the door!” Ron cried.

Hermione pointed her wand at the lounge room door, crying, “Colloportus!” The door swung shut, cutting them off from the Death Eater coming in the back. Hermione raised her wand again, and the large, heavy lounge chair slid in front of the closed door. “It won’t hold for long!” she said. Already they could hear muttering from the other side of the door.

“We’ve got to get out of here. We’re outnumbered,” Ron said. “Harry! Malfoy! Come on!”

Draco spun to look at him. “No, Weasley. You’ve got to get out of here!”

Hermione frowned, confused, her eyes darting from one to the other. Harry was focused on the front door, his wand held high. The front of the house shuddered as it was blasted with spells. Ron shook his head.

“Now, Weasley,” Draco growled. He grabbed a cushion from the lounge, touching it with his wand and muttering, “Portus.” He held the cushion in front of him, and turned to look at Hermione.

Their eyes locked, and at that moment comprehension dawned. She took a step towards him, as the walls began shaking violently. “No…”

Draco smiled, leaning forward to kiss her softly. He looked at her, his face grave and sad. “I love you,” he whispered, before shoving her, hard, into Ron’s arms, at the same time tossing Ron the pillow. Hermione struggled, tears falling from her eyes, screaming out Draco’s name, but Ron held her tight. He grabbed her hand, slamming it on the cushion with his own.

Before the world lurched, Hermione’s last sight was of Draco looking back at her, a look of anguish on his face, before he turned to Harry’s side as the front door exploded.

***

“So what now, Potter?” Draco asked. He and Harry were crouched behind the short stone fence at the back of the house. Blaise and four other Death Eaters had come tearing through the front door, to be met with a barrage of stunning spells from Harry and Draco. They’d fled outside, taking refuge in the darkness.

“I don’t know, Malfoy. Play it by ear?” Harry replied.

Draco laughed softly. “Is that how you got the better of them last time? How in Merlin’s name did you manage to defeat the Dark Lord? I’m surprised you’re still alive.”

“And I intend to stay that way. I want to get home to my wife and baby,” Harry replied.

“Didn’t know you had a kid, Potter,” Draco said.

“Not yet, but I will,” Harry answered swiftly, ducking as a bolt of blue light shot over their heads.

“Well in that case,” Draco said, grinning. “I’d better make sure you get to meet him or her.”

“Can you see anything?” Harry asked, peering into the darkness.

Draco shook his head. “Not really, but I think they’ve split up. Come on. Lets move. I feel like a sitting duck here.” Draco stood slowly.

“Well well,” said a voice behind him. He spun around. A Death Eater was standing behind him, his features concealed by his mask, his wand raised, pointed straight at Draco. “It’ll be a pleasure,” he said, smirking. “Cruc- ”

“Sectumsempra!” Harry cried, springing to his feet. The Death Eater fell to the ground, blood pouring from his the invisible wounds on his chest. Draco and Harry stared down at the dying Death Eater at their feet. Shock was written on the other man’s face, his eyes open as he writhed and twisted in agony on the ground.

“Good thing you remembered that one, Potter,” Draco said quietly, the memory of Harry using the same spell on him in sixth year rising like it happened yesterday. He summoned ropes and bound the Death Eater tightly as Harry healed the gaping wounds, keeping him alive.

Harry smiled weakly, his face pale in the darkness, before suddenly being tossed into the air, hanging upside down as if dangling by his ankles. Draco turned and saw a Death Eater running towards them. Draco raised his wand, shouting, “impedimenta,” and the other man was frozen in place. Quickly, Draco turned to Harry, reversing the non-verbal spell. Harry tumbled to the ground.

“Thanks,” he muttered, jumping to his feet.

The spell holding the Death Eater broke, and he raised his wand, crying, “stupefy” at the same time Harry yelled “expelliarmus”. The Death Eater’s wand flew from his hand, landing a short distance from Draco. Harry was flung backwards onto the ground, stunned. Draco dashed forward and picked up the wand, snapping it like a twig. With a scowl, the Death Eater disappeared.

Suddenly, Draco was hit with a pain beyond all imagining. He fell to the ground, his hands over his head, arching his back. His blood felt like it was on fire, his insides being ripped from his body. He clawed at his skin in desperation, his screams echoing in his own ears. As if looking through a fog, Draco saw Blaise, his mask lowered, step into his field of vision. The other man had a look of triumph on his face. Draco dimly realized Harry was beside him on the ground, screaming as he was. He had been hit with the Cruciatus Curse as well.

Blasie raised his wand again, smiling. “Two for the price of one. Potter I will kill. You, Malfoy, I’m not sure what I will do to you. Ahh. If only my Lord and Master were alive to see this.”

“Show him this instead,” a voice called from behind Blaise. He spun around.

Ron shouted, “Stupefy!”

Blaise fell to the ground, stunned, and Ron quickly muttered, “incarcerous”, binding him tight with magical rope. Just for the hell of it, Ron stunned him again, making sure he was out cold, and then rushed over to Harry and Draco, mumbling a quick healing spell.

Draco sat up with a groan, rubbing his head, and panting. He looked at Ron. “Never have I been so glad to see you, Weasley.”

“Thanks, Ron,” Harry said weakly, sitting up also.

“Neville and Seamus are on their way,” Ron said. “How are you two holding up?”

Draco scowled. “Never been under the Cruciatus Curse have you? I feel like I have been ripped apart.”

“How’s Ginny?” Harry gasped as Ron helped him to his feet. The remaining Death Eaters were nowhere to be seen.

“She says she’ll kill both me and Malfoy if anything happens to you, if we’re not already dead,” he added gloomily, looking around into the darkness.

Draco dragged himself to his feet. “Hermione?”

Ron looked guilty. “I had to tie her up. She was going bloody mental. Ginny is with her, to stop her coming after you. I think she’s going to kill us both too.”

Draco gave a short laugh, and ducked as a blast of light came at them from the darkness. “She’ll have to get in line.”

Neville and Seamus came running up to them, panting.

“Another one down around the side,” Neville reported, clutching his ribs. Seamus nodded at them, blood trickling down the side of his face.

“Looks like he put up a fight,” Harry commented.

Seamus laughed. “Nothing we couldn’t handle,” he said. “Malfoy. Harry. Not looking too good there boys.”

“Shut up, Finnigan. We were handling it,” Draco growled, leaning against a tree for support.

“Now that’s more like it. This one here,” Seamus motioned to Ron, “ said you’d gone soft.”

Draco scowled at Ron, who blushed to the roots of his hair, muttering under his breath.

“You two stay here,” Neville ordered Harry and Draco. “We’ll finish them off. Come on, Ron.”

Harry and Draco looked at each other. “No way!” they replied in unison.

“It’s me that want, and I’m going to make sure they never get the opportunity to have me again,” Draco said, standing up straight. He took a deep breath, holding his wand at the ready. He noticed Harry did the same.

“Come on then,” Seamus said with relish. “I’m sure we can handle two lousy Death Eaters between the five of us.”

~o0o~

A/N: okay, so I'm not totally pleased with the second half of this chapter - I don't write action well, so any suggestions on how it could be improved will be greatly appreciated! Sorry its a short chapter!

Maji
xx




Chapter 12: Aftermath
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

~o0o~

“Come on, Hermione. It’s going to be okay,” Ginny said softly, laying her hand on her friends shoulder. Hermione was lying facedown on Ginny’s lounge. Ron had tied her with common Muggle rope that Harry had lying around, and the remains of the rope were hanging off her wrists and ankles. Ginny had let her loose after she promised to stay where she was. Besides, Hermione knew Ginny had an incredible amount of talent when it came to hexes.

“No it’s not, Ginny! It’s not going to be okay! I can’t believe Draco! How dare he do this to me! How dare Ron help him!” she bellowed into the lounge for the tenth time in an hour. Ginny said nothing, just rubbed Hermione’s back in a comforting gesture. Hermione slowly sat up, turning to look at Ginny with red and puffy eyes.

“How do you do it? How do you just sit here, knowing that Harry is out there risking his life?” she asked, wiping her eyes.

Ginny smiled sadly. “You just have to trust him, Hermione. Trust in his talents, his intelligence, his strength, and his love for you. He’ll come back,” she promised, putting her arm around Hermione, who sniffled.

“What if I never get the chance to tell him I love him? What if he dies not knowing?” she wailed, tears spilling down her cheeks again.

“He knows sweetie,” Ginny replied softly. “Come on. Dry your eyes and be strong.”

Hermione smiled at her friend. “You’re going to be a great mother, Ginny. Harry must be thrilled.”

Ginny’s hand slid down to caress her stomach. “He is. Now sit there and don’t move. I’ll get you some chamomile tea.”

Hermione gave a shaky laugh. “Got anything stronger? I don’t think chamomile tea is going to calm these nerves.”

“Fire whiskey?”

“Err, okay. But don’t let me drink too much,” Hermione shuddered at the memory of her last hangover. Ginny smiled and went to fetch her a drink, coming back with a glass and a bottle. She handed them both to Hermione.

“Knock yourself out,” she laughed.

Hermione was on her third shot of whiskey when a loud thump sounded from the kitchen. She looked at Ginny, and the two of them jumped to their feet, wands at the ready. Thinking of her friends unborn baby, Hermione pulled Ginny behind her, her wand lifted to shoulder height.

“Ginny!”

“It’s Harry! He’s okay,” Ginny collapsed on the floor in a pool of tears, relief on every inch of her face.

Harry came running into the room. He was a mess. His arm hung limply by his side, and his face was littered with cuts and scratches. His shirt was torn, and his shoulder gashed. He rushed past Hermione, dropping to the floor and gathering his wife in his arms. Ginny sobbed her heart out on his shoulder.

Neville and Seamus came through the door, supporting a badly injured Ron between them. His left eye was swollen shut, and he had a fat lip. His cheek was slashed, and a thin trail of blood ran from his forehead to his chin. He was clutching his ribs and moaning. Hermione gave a gasp, running to help Neville and Seamus lower him onto the floor. Neville had a nasty bruise on his cheek, but he looked otherwise unhurt. Seamus smiled at her, his lip bloody and one side of his face was cut.

“We got ‘em,” he said simply. “They’ve been taken to Azkaban.”

“Draco?” Hermione whispered. She held her breath until she felt faint, blood rushing in her ears. Seamus nodded towards the doorway.

“Hey darling. I told you it’d be okay.”

Hermione spun on her heel, running across the room to launch herself into his arms, sobbing and yelling at him at the same time. He held her gently, wincing a little as she squeezed him. She pulled away to look at him. He had a black eye and a bloody nose. His shirt was torn and deep scratches were embedded in his chest. Draco smiled, bending his head to kiss her, but she moved her face away.

“Oh don’t you dare! You arrogant, pig-headed, self-righteous jerk! How dare you send me away when you needed me! You …”

He cut her off, gathering her in his arms, kissing her hard. She batted at his arms, but he held her against him, ignoring her assault. In the background, Seamus was doing nothing to control his laughter, and Ginny was giggling.

Hermione broke free. “ …Selfish Slytherin, you obnoxious prat, you …”

“I’m glad you care,” Draco said, “but it was time for the boys to play,” he added smugly, and she glared at him. He reached out his arms. “I need to sit down.”

Hermione slid under his arm, guiding him to the lounge, and sitting beside him, never taking her eyes off his face. He smiled weakly at her, kissing her softly on the cheek. He suddenly coughed violently, and Hermione was horrified to see a trickle of blood seep from the corner of his mouth.

“Ginny,” she called to her friend. Ginny had composed herself and was kneeling on the ground, examining her brother’s beaten face. She looked up, worried.

“He needs to go to St. Mungo’s. Right now,” she added, her eyes finding Neville and Seamus.

“Is he going to be okay?” Hermione whispered, suddenly very afraid. She watched as Neville and Seamus took Ron’s limp body between them, Neville taking out his wand and floating Ron through the air towards the kitchen. His arms hung lifeless from his sides, and Hermione covered her mouth, her eyes tearing up.

“He’s lost a lot of blood, and right now he is unconscious. He needs more help than what I can give him,” Ginny answered, coming to stand before Draco. “Now, what about you? What did they do to you?”

“Cruciatus Curse, among other things,” Draco said softly, and Hermione gasped. “Me and Harry. If Ron hadn’t shown up, we’d be dead men.”

Hermione watched in silence as Ginny examined Draco, telling him he needed to rest for a week, maybe more. She gave him a potion to hasten the healing of his wounds, but warned that he was not to engage in physical activity of any kind until he felt better, looking pointedly at Hermione when she said this. Hermione blushed.

“Now get out of my house you two. I want some time alone with my husband. We’ll go to the hospital to check on Ron in a few hours,” Ginny said, putting her hands on her hips.

Hermione helped Draco to his feet. “Can you apparate?”

He nodded. “I think I can manage that.” He turned to Ginny, thanking her for cleaning him up.

“Draco,” Ginny said as they turned to leave. It was the first time she’d actually said his name, and Hermione saw her blush a little. “Thank you for bringing him home,” she motioned to Harry, who was sitting on the lounge with his eyes closed, breathing heavily.

Draco nodded. “Anytime, Mrs Potter.”


***

Hermione stayed with Draco at The Manor for an entire week. Percy had told her to take all the time she needed away from work, but after a week she was starting to go a little stir-crazy. Ginny had informed Draco that it would most likely be two to three weeks before he was fully recovered, and for the first week he was to rest and take it easy. Hermione had been surprised it would take so long, and when she said so to Ginny, her friend had shrugged, saying it was strange, but for some reason Draco’s had body reacted extremely strongly to the curse. Hermione had thought that a week alone with a sick and delirious Draco would be a breeze, and she had looked forward to helping him recover. He, however, was not planning on letting it be a breeze.

“Hermione!”

She sighed and rolled her eyes. What now? Dropping the book she was reading, Hermione pulled herself up off the lounge and went upstairs. Draco was sitting up in the large, luxurious bed, his back supported by pillows. The sheet had fallen from his chest, exposing the nasty red wounds. He rubbed at them in irritation.

“They’re itchy,” he moaned.

She sat on the bed beside him, taking his hands away from his chest. “Don’t scratch, you’ll scar,” she warned gently, kissing his fingertips. He let out a deep sigh of frustration.

“I’m so bloody bored!”

Hermione giggled, and he scowled darkly at her.

“It’s not funny, Hermione. This is worse than being stuck in that house with Potter and Weasely, waiting to die,” he said mournfully.

“You’re such a drama queen,” she said playfully, running her fingers along his bare arm. “I know you’re bored, Draco, but you need to stay in here, at least for the moment. A few more days, and then you can get up.”

He smirked at her. “You’re enjoying this aren’t you? Why don’t you come closer and alleviate my boredom.” He grabbed at her, the quick movement making him wince and clutch his ribs. Draco sucked in a painful breath, and Hermione raised her eyebrows.

“That’s why. You’re still hurt, Draco. If you want to heal properly, you need to …”

“Rest, I know, I know. But, Hermione, what the hell am I supposed to do up here all day,” he whined.

She sighed. “I don’t know. Read a book?”

“But that’s boring too!”

Hermione stood up suddenly. “Stop being so bloody childish, Draco Malfoy!” she snapped, angry. “I have things to do, so I’m going to go. I want to go and see Ginny, and then go and see how Ron is doing.” Ron had been unconscious for two days after the battle with the Death Eaters, and had only woken up the day before.

Draco said nothing. He just sat staring at the wall, his head turned slightly away from her. With a cry of frustration, Hermione threw up her hands and stalked out of the room. This was driving her insane; he was driving her insane! He’d already exhausted every magical possibility to keep himself entertained, and he was acting like a spoilt child who was sick of all his toys.

Well, she thought as she grabbed her coat and bag, he’d just have to deal with it.

Hermione was still in a huff when she arrived at Harry and Ginny’s. Slamming her bag down on the table, she collapsed into a chair with a frustrated sigh. Harry raised his eyebrows questioningly. He was sitting at the table, shirtless, his shoulder heavily bandaged, the wounds on his face beginning to fade. He’d recovered from the effects of the Cruciatus Curse faster than Draco. Hermione threw him a look.

“Draco,” Harry said, interpreting her dark look, “is not the best patient, huh?”

Hermione rolled her eyes. “That is an understatement. He’s driving me mad with his constant complaining and whining and childish behavior! I don’t know what to do!” she wailed, pulling her fingers through her hair roughly.

Ginny just laughed. “Now that sounds more like the Malfoy we know and love. Come on, Hermione, think about how you’d feel in his situation. You’d hate it, and we all know Malfoy is just as pig-headed and stubborn as you are.”

Hermione sighed and put her head in her hands. “I have no idea what to do for him,” she muttered into the tablecloth. “He’s so bored.”

Harry rubbed his chin thoughtfully, leaning the elbow of his good arm on the table. “Give him something...”

Hermione felt her head shoot up, and she snorted crudely. “Harry Potter, are you … he’s not well enough for that.”

Harry laughed. “Hermione Granger, you have a dirty mind. Think about it! You’re a Muggle-born. Give him something he’s never had before.”

Ginny started laughing at the look on Hermione’s face. Harry’s words slowly sunk in, and she began to smile.


***

After lunch, Hermione went to St.Mungo’s to visit Ron, finding him sitting up in bed, eating. She nodded pointedly at his bulging cheeks.

“I take it you are feeling better then,” she commented. Nothing, perhaps save death and dismemberment, could keep Ron away from food. He only sighed in appreciation, swallowing.

“I never thought hospital food could taste so bloody fantastic! This is excellent, Hermione. Here, have some,” he said, licking his lips, offering her his plate. She shook her head slightly, but smiled.

“I’m so glad you’re better, Ron! I was so worried. When Neville and Seamus brought you in, and then you lost consciousness, I …” she stopped, realizing she was beginning to tear up. No matter what her and Ron had been through in the past, she still cared deeply for him, and seeing him in that much physical pain had been heartbreaking. She took a deep breath. Ron was watching her closely, his food momentarily forgotten.

“I would never have forgiven myself if you … if you’d died. If it wasn’t for …”

Ron covered her shaking hand with his own, looking in to her eyes. “It’s not your fault, Hermione. It’s the nature of my job. I knew that when I decided to become an Auror. I know I’m bound to end up in this position again, at some stage of my life, so don’t feel guilty,” he said gently, giving her hand a little squeeze.

Hermione managed to smile through her tears, nodding slightly. “So, when will you be getting out?”

Ron shrugged. “Soon I think. Most of my wounds were superficial – cuts, bruises, a few broken bones. Nothing that couldn’t be easily repaired. They just want to keep me a bit longer, because of my concussion,” he replied. They sat and talked a little about small things; when they’d be back at work, Harry and Ginny becoming parents, Ron’s family. Hermione was happy he didn’t blame her.

“How’s Malfoy?” Ron asked, surprising her.

“Getting better,” Hermione replied softly. “He’s not taking being ill very well,” she added.

“I don’t blame him for that. My injuries are nothing compared to what he went through. The Cruciatus Curse. Zabini is going to rot in Azkaban for that one. You know he got Harry too?” Ron stated, and Hermione nodded.

“Draco told me what you did, Ron. You saved him. Thank you,” she said gently.

Ron blushed. “I couldn’t just let him be tortured, no matter how I feel about you and him. It wouldn’t have been right,” he muttered, looking anywhere but at Hermione. He suddenly lifted his head, a small amount of fear in his eyes. “You don’t still want to kill me, do you?”

Hermione laughed. “No, Ron, but I am still mad at you! What were you thinking? I could have stayed and helped you.”

“It was Malfoy’s idea. He came and talked to me about it the previous night. He didn’t give me any chance to argue, not that I really wanted to. He still scares me a little,” Ron admitted in a small voice. “But not as much now as he did before. Now that I know he’s on our side, well, it’s a bit easier to relax.”

Hermione knew she had to bring it up. “Ron…”

He cut her off. “It’s alright, Hermione. I’m not mad anymore. I can see how much he has changed, and I can see how much he loves you, so I’m not mad anymore. I’m still not thrilled about it, not by a long shot, but I’m okay,” he said in a quiet voice. “I will kill him if he hurts you, though. You can count on that.”

Hermione felt herself crying. She jumped up and threw her arms around Ron, whispering her thanks. She felt him holding her at a distance, as if erecting a barrier between them, but she understood. She knew how hard it had been for him to tell her he was okay about Draco.

She stayed with Ron for another fifteen minutes, before the nurses came to change his bandages. Hermione disapparated from St.Mungos and into Muggle London. She had decided to do as Harry suggested, and give Draco something he’d never had before.

***

Draco woke to soft kisses on his forehead. He smiled, rolling over onto his side, sliding his arms around Hermione’s waist.

“You’re not mad anymore?” he asked, pulling her closer so he could rest his head in her lap. He heard her sigh as her fingers dropped automatically to play with his hair.

“You’ve been driving me crazy, Draco, you know that. I thought I’d left the whining, simpering Draco Malfoy back at Hogwarts,” she said with a touch of annoyance in her voice. He held her tighter, running his hand up her back. Slowly she pulled away from him, getting up from the bed.

“Don’t. Come back,” he pleaded, before adding with his trademark smirk, “you can’t resist me.”

She snorted. “You need a shower, Draco.”

“Do I smell?”

“Yes,” she replied simply.

His smirk grew wider. “You’ll have to help me; you know I’m not allowed to exert myself.”

“You can have a bath then,” Hermione said, walking towards the adjourning bathroom. “And you can wash your own back,” she called over her shoulder. Draco sighed, hearing her turn on the taps, water flowing steadily into the tub. Not being able to do any more than kiss her and hold her gently for almost a week had been driving him mad. His mind kept flying back to the night they’d spent together at the safe house, before the Death Eaters came. It had been wonderful, magical and amazing, but he couldn’t help but wonder if she regretted it.

Hermione came back, pulling the sheets off his naked body. He heard her suck in a breath, and smirked again. It must be sheer torment for her too, not being able to touch me, he thought, with a dash of his old arrogance. He knew how good he looked; had always known it. She helped him to his feet, and into the bathroom, where he slid into the tub with a groan. The water was warm, caressing his tired and battered body. He gasped as it penetrated the cuts on his flesh. He was finding it hard to shake the effects of the Cruciatus Curse. Hermione gave him a quick kiss on the lips, and left him to bathe.

Draco lay back in the water, dozing slightly. His eyes flew open when he heard a loud crash from the bedroom, and he sat up quickly, panicking. He didn’t even have his wand!

“Hermione?” he called, concern filling his insides like molten rock. He relaxed when he heard her respond that she was fine. Draco lay about in the water a while longer, before climbing out awkwardly, wrapping a towel around his hips. He walked slowly on sore but refreshed legs back into the bedroom.

Hermione was sitting on the floor on the far side of the room, a large black box in front of her. He raised his eyebrows. He had seen boxes like that before, when he was traveling, but had no idea what they were or what they did. She turned around and grinned at his perplexed look.

“What is that thing?” he finally asked, lowering himself onto the bed once more. She was right. He still needed rest; the walk from the bathroom had almost exhausted him.

“You said you were bored, so I thought I’d get you a present. It’s called a television,” she replied, coming over to sit with him. She had a small black rectangular object in her hands, covered with many colored buttons. He watched curiously as she pushed one of the buttons. Draco nearly jumped off the bed when a voice suddenly echoed through the room. His eyes were drawn to the ‘television’ and he was amazed to see pictures moving there, like the photographs in his album. He crawled a little closer to her, his eyes glued to the screen. Hermione burst into laughter at the expression on his face, and he sat back crossly, folding his arms over his chest.

“It’s not that great,” he said unconvincingly. Was this a Muggle thing then? He glared at her, and she ceased her laughter, going on to explain what the television was and how it worked. He had seen one in her tiny flat, but had not given the curious object a second thought. She said they ran off electricity, but not having any in the Manor, she had bewitched it. Hermione showed him how to work it; the different channels, how to change them and how to turn the volume up and down. He sat there and played with the remote control, like a little boy with a new toy.

Hermione laughed again, and kissed his neck. “This should keep you entertained for hours my darling. Muggles use televisions all the time to keep their children amused.”

Draco scowled at her, but couldn’t keep his eyes off the television. He was practically enchanted. He laid back on the bed, drawing her with him, his arm sliding around her shoulders as she rested her head on his chest.

~o0o~

A/N: I know, I know - corny, right? But it just came into my head, so I had to use it. It's another way Hermione is changing him. Anyways, as always, thanks for reading and please leave a review!

Chapter 13: Panic and Magical Marks
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~o0o~

Draco’s wounds had healed completely by the end of the next week. Hermione had gone back to work a few days after getting him the television, once it was clear he could move around unassisted and not do himself further injury. She’d come back to The Manor every night, and Draco was surprised at how much he missed her presence when she was gone during the day. It really had been lonely in his exquisite home for the last couple of years. Just being able to hear her moving around in the next room, or the sound of her laughter, or the knowledge that she was simply there was comforting.

After Hermione left for work one morning, Draco made a decision. It was time to go out. He still had not properly thanked Harry and Ron for saving his life, and as hard as it was going to be to say thank you to Potty and Weasel, he knew he needed to do it. It would be a good time to get that other apology out of the way too.

Standing up quickly, Draco suppressed a small groan of pain. Ever since that night at the safe house, his left arm, particularly his forearm, had been troubling him. It felt like there were insects crawling under his skin, and at times he had to fight the urge to scratch the flesh from his bones in an attempt to relieve the sensation. At first, he had thought it the after effects of some curse or jinx, but after two weeks, he knew what it really was. The Mark was beginning to show again.

Fearing what it could mean, Draco kept it hidden from Hermione. It was not an easy thing to do; she was practically living in his house, sleeping in his bed every night. Hiding a magically tattooed forearm was a hard task, but so far, he had been successful. He bit down on the pain that threatened to engulf him every night, to prevent himself from crying out and waking the sleeping woman beside him. Nothing he did, no spells he cast on himself, would stop it. The Dark Mark was reappearing slowly and distinctly.

For the moment, Draco pushed all thoughts of the Mark, Death Eaters and the Dark Lord from his mind, clearing his head before he Apparated to Harry and Ginny’s place. There was no way he would forget where it was after that night, so he was not concerned about being splinched.

Harry was sitting with Ron on the back verandah when he arrived. Neither of them had been back to the Ministry since the battle with the Death Eaters; both deserving a well-earned break. Harry looked up as Draco stepped onto the small verandah, giving him a quick smile and a nod. Ron merely looked at him, though without seeming to want to kill him. That was good enough for Draco, and he sat down, taking in the view.

The verandah looked out over a small lake bordered by tall trees. The midday sun glinted off the water, casting sparkling diamonds of light into the air. A soft breeze tickled the back of his neck, and Draco sighed appreciatively, thinking how pleasant it might be to buy a house in the country.

“Anything wrong, Malfoy?” Harry asked, sliding Draco a drink. He picked it up and sniffed it, and Harry laughed. “It’s not poisoned you big git.”

Draco merely shrugged, and tossed back the drink in one go, the fire whiskey creeping down his throat and settling into his stomach with a familiar burn. He motioned towards the lake. “This is nice, Potter,” he said quietly. “I could live here.”

Ron snickered. “What, and give up the luxury and grandeur of Malfoy Manor?”

Draco’s smile fell. “Yes. In a heartbeat. That place, that house, is only full of ghosts and bad memories. I don’t think I want it anymore. It’s way too big for starters – you could fit five families the size of yours in there, Weasley, and still have room left over. It’s really quite ridiculous. I have no idea what my parents were thinking, other than having the largest and grandest estate in the wizarding world.”

“Somehow, I don’t think you came here to talk about real estate, Malfoy,” Harry said after a while, and Draco sighed, running his fingers through his hair.

“Actually, Potter …what?”

Harry was staring at him, his brows drawn together. Ron looked bewildered at the abrupt change in mood. Harry leant towards Draco, and he pulled away, confused.

“You want to give me a kiss, Potter? I’m flattered, but I don’t swing that way” he replied, laughing. Inside, his heart was beating a million miles a minute. He knew what Harry had seen; Draco had lifted his left arm to brush his blonde hair out of his eyes, and he realized from the look on Harry’s face that the sleeve of his robe had slipped down.

“I want to see your arm, Malfoy,” Harry said bluntly. Draco pulled his arm closer to himself in a protective measure, sneaking a glance at Ron. The red head still looked confused, but sat and watched the interaction carefully.

“Why Potter; it’s just an arm,” Draco drawled, trying to be casual. Harry suddenly leant forward and seized Draco’s wrist, pulling his arm towards him with surprising strength. Draco instinctively fought back, but he was still tired and weak. With a defeated sigh, he gave up, letting Harry stretch his arm out across the small table between them and pull the sleeve of his robe up over his elbow.

No one spoke, the three of them staring at Draco’s pale forearm, the Dark Mark more visible than before. Ron sat back with a hiss of shock, and Harry glanced up, questions burning in his eyes.

“I don’t know what it means,” Draco said simply. “I don’t know why it is there, only that it hurts like hell.”

“Voldemort’s gone though,” Ron said softly.

Draco rolled his eyes, snatching his arm back from Harry and pulling the sleeve of his robe down, covering the evil black marks. “I’m aware of that, Weasley,” he snapped, before turning to Harry. “What do you think?”

Harry frowned, looking slightly uncomfortable. “Has no one told you yet?”

“Told me what? As you know, I don’t get out much these days,” he quipped sarcastically, before hearing words that sucked the bottom out of his stomach.

“Zabini escaped Azkaban.”

Draco sat forward and put his head in his hands, his heart beating wildly. For a moment, he thought he was going to vomit; for a moment, he’d thought he was finally safe, his life free. He took a deep breath.

“When?”

Ron shifted in his seat before answering. “A week ago. Without the Dementors … No one knows where he is; probably off with his tail between his legs licking his wounds.”

“What the bloody hell is the matter with you two? ‘Licking his wounds’! God Weasley, you’re an idiot! Death Eaters do not go and ‘lick their wounds’! I’m in danger. Merlin, Hermione’s in danger. She’d been staying at my house! The place isn’t protected anymore,” Draco spat, glaring at Harry and Ron.

“Malfoy, we thought …” Harry began.

Draco stood up suddenly. “When were you two going to let me in on this little secret?” he shouted, banging his fist on the table. “Don’t you fucking get it? They want me dead!”

“And just when were you going to let us in on your little secret, Malfoy?” Harry shouted back, standing also. “How long has it been there? How long since it started to come back?”

“Two weeks, since the fight with Zabini,” Draco yelled, frustration in every line of his body. “Do you think I want this? Do you really think I want this horrible thing on my skin? I never wanted it in the first place you idiots! My father forced me into Voldemort’s service! Every time I look at it I am reminded of what I used to be!”

“So you were a Death Eater then?” Ron asked coldly.

Draco turned on Ron, rage coursing through him. “You’d love that wouldn’t you, Weasley? You’d love to have your little suspicions confirmed. ‘I always knew it’, you’d be able to say when they finally came and dragged my sorry arse off to Azkaban. Well I was never a Death Eater. Yes, my father was one, and yes, he had been grooming me my entire life to be just like him, but I never got to that stage, thank Merlin. I never wanted to be a bloody Death Eater. It was all an act; everything I ever did at school, all an act! Do you have any idea what my father would have done to me if he ever suspected I did not truly support the Dark Lord? Do you? I’d have been extremely lucky if he’d have killed me, but then again, Lucius Malfoy was never known for his compassion and mercy! You were there, Potter,” Draco yelled, turning his anger on Harry, who sat impassively, letting Draco’s fury wash over him. “You were there at the moment I failed him. But it was also the moment I knew for sure who and what I was. I just wish you two could fucking understand that.”

Draco felt exhausted after his fervent speech. Neither Harry nor Ron had said a word, and he sank down into his chair, tired, cranky and extremely apprehensive. Harry reached over and made to lay a hand on his shoulder, and Draco shoved him away forcefully.

“Don’t touch me, Potter!” he snarled. Draco was already wound up, feeling like a rubber band that had been stretched too far, so when Harry touched him, he snapped. Standing, he drew his wand swiftly, pointing it at Harry, who had his own wand out. It was pointing at Draco’s heart. He was impressed. He hadn’t even seen Harry move. Ron was standing also, his wand held high, pointed at the same target as Harry’s. Draco heard himself laugh.

“Well, boys, now it looks like you have what you always wanted – Draco Malfoy, outnumbered. You know neither of you would take me in a fair fight?” he sneered, and then shook his head. He had no idea why he was saying these things to the men who had saved his life. He only knew something was terribly wrong, and he had no idea what to do about it. Ron only tightened his grip on his wand, his face twisted into an angry scowl, and Harry let out a sigh.

“Malfoy …” he began, but was cut off.

“What the hell is going on out here!” Ginny’s voice yelled from behind Draco. He turned his head a fraction, and saw Hermione standing beside her, mouth open in shock. The look on her face shattered his world, bringing it tumbling down around him, and with a deep sigh, Draco turned to Harry and Ron, and lowered his wand. The other two, however, did not.

“Don’t make me ask again! Harry! Ron! Someone please fill us in,” Ginny said loudly, coming onto the verandah.

Draco felt Hermione’s hand on his shoulder, and he turned to look at her devastated face.

“Stay away, Hermione,” Ron said sharply, “he has the Dark Mark.”

Hermione sighed, throwing the redhead an irritated look. “I know, Ron.”

“You know?”

“Yes. Now, please, someone explain? Draco?” she demanded, her hands on her hips.

Instead of answering her, Draco turned and rolled up the sleeve of his robe. He heard Ginny gasp in the background. Hermione looked at him, puzzled.

“Why?” she asked, and he shrugged, at the same time thinking how amazing she was. She didn’t jump to any conclusions about him, she didn’t run away, she just accepted and tried to make sense of the situation.

“I think we should test him,” Ron blurted out, his eyes never leaving Draco’s face.

Hermione frowned. “Is that absolutely necessary, Ron?”

Harry answered. “I’m sorry, Hermione, but I think he’s right.” He turned his green eyes on Draco. “Will you do it of your own volition, or will you make me force you?”

Draco only laughed. He walked inside, pulled a seat from the dining table, and sat down casually in the center of the room, his long legs folded and his hands linked behind his head. “Come on, Potter, what are you waiting for? It’s not like this is an unusual experience for me. I know the way your Department operates,” he spat.

The others had come inside, all wearing very different expressions; Ron looked ready to murder Draco on the spot; Harry was looking sympathetic; Ginny confused and a little scared; and Hermione, absolutely livid. She strode across the room, grabbing Harry’s arm, and muttering to him in a low angry tone.

“It’s okay darling. Don’t worry. I don’t think Potter will let me die,” Draco called to Hermione, who simply glared at Harry, Ron and Draco in turn like they were total idiots. Harry walked towards Draco, holding a vial of clear liquid. Draco shuddered, sitting up straight.

“I hate that stuff, Potter; it’s vile,” he said softly. Harry looked at him closely.

“How often?” he asked.

“Once, or sometimes twice, a week,” Draco replied, knowing exactly what he meant. He heard both women gasp. “Only a few drops at a time; although I don’t think they cared if I was dead or alive by the end, or that I’d helped them get their hands on elusive Death Eaters, just as long as I was behaving myself.”

Harry took a few hesitant steps closer, his wand out. Draco smirked at him, tilted his head back a fraction and opened his mouth. He felt Harry tip the Veritaserum onto his tongue, and he swallowed. His head fell forward, and he closed his eyes as he waited for the potion to have effect. It came quickly; it had been a while since he’d had a dose. Slowly, Draco raised his head, his eyes coming to rest on Harry.

“What is your name?”

“Draco Lucius Malfoy.”

“Who am I?”

“Harry Potter, Boy Wonder,” Draco sneered, unable to help the old resentment rising up.

“Where are you right now?” Harry asked, ignoring the insult.

“I’m in your house you great big prat,” Draco growled.

“Are you a Death Eater?”

Draco sighed. “I thought we’d gone through this, Potter. No, I am not a Death Eater.”

“Why has the Dark Mark reappeared?”

“I don’t know,” Draco said shakily. He was feeling sick and dizzy, and had begun to sweat. He hated Veritaserum!

“Where is Blaise Zabini?” That question came from Ron, and Draco turned to look at him with glassy eyes.

“How the hell should I know, Weasley,” Draco snarled. “I thought he was in Azkaban, until you guys informed me otherwise.” He felt his head fall forward again, the blood rushing in his temples, his body on fire. Slowly, he lifted his head. A trickle of blood ran from his nose, and he wiped it away. He heard Hermione and Ginny gasp; vaguely saw Ginny get up from the lounge and walk in his direction; he saw Ron’s lips move. He heard nothing but the pounding in his ears. Draco’s eyes found Harry’s.

“What the hell did you give me, Potter?” he managed to ask, before falling from the chair, the world going black.


~o0o~

A/N: Hey guys! Thanks for all the wonderful reviews on previous chapters! I hope you liked this one! Sorry about the cliffy :)...


Chapter 14: Tension
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“Bloody hell!” Ron exclaimed, as Harry and Hermione rushed to Draco’s side. Hermione felt like her heart was going to burst, and she momentarily forgot to breathe.

“This has never happened before, Hermione. I’m so sorry,” Harry said, grabbing Draco’s wrist and feeling for a pulse. Hermione watched him with baited breath, afraid to move. Harry nodded, and she collapsed onto the ground, her legs not able to hold her in a crouching position anymore.

Ginny pushed past them, kneeling beside Draco with her wand at the ready. She lightly touched his head, muttering, “rennevate”. Ron came over, his face worried, grabbing at Harry’s arm.

“Harry, what the hell happened?” he asked softly, and Harry shook his head.

“I don’t know, Ron. Maybe it has something to do with…”

“Maybe,” Hermione yelled suddenly, “it has something to do with the fact that you two jerks didn’t believe him! He’s still sick and weak, and you give him a powerful truth serum?” She was so incredibly angry with her two friends she could barely think straight. Draco stirred beside her, and she spun around, taking his face in her hands.

He groaned at her touch, his eyes opening slowly. His pupils were huge, the silver-grey of his eyes a deeper shade, almost black. He smiled weakly at her, and coughed. Harry helped Hermione sit him up. Draco’s face was grey and ashen, his skin colder than ice, and he was trembling all over, and could not sit up without assistance. Ginny brought him a restorative drink, and Hermione held the cup to his white lips, supporting his head as he drank.

Harry climbed to his feet and began pacing the room, his face clearly troubled.

“I’m sorry, Malfoy, I had no idea that was going to happen. Why though? Has it ever happened before?”

Draco scowled. “Do you think I would have willingly let you pour that shit down my throat if it’d happened before, Potter?”

Ginny’s tonic had done its job, but Draco still looked exhausted. Hermione slipped her arm around his back, helping him stand. She looked at Harry quickly.

“I hope you got all your answers, because I’m taking him home,” she said firmly. Ron stepped forwards.

“Hermione …”

“Don’t speak to me, Ronald!” she snapped, her eyes flashing. Ron said nothing, only walked forward, sliding under Draco’s other shoulder, helping Hermione hold him up. Their eyes met, and she nodded as they apparated to The Manor.

No one spoke as Hermione and Ron lay Draco down on the bed. He groaned as Hermione lifted his head, forcing a cup of water between his lips. His eyes opened, dark and full of confusion, and he swallowed. With a sigh, she pulled the sheet up around him, stroking back his hair, sitting beside him and taking his hand. Draco closed his eyes again with a soft moan, falling back onto the pillows. Hermione turned her head, looking for Ron. He was standing at the foot of the bed, his eyes fixed on Draco, his face riddled with guilt. Hermione released Draco’s hand and gently lay it down across his chest.

“It’s not your fault, Ron,” Hermione said softly, coming to stand beside him.

“It was my idea to give him the Veritaserum, Mione. I did this,” he said.

She shook her head. “No, Ron. Percy and his Aurors did this. Weekly doses. What the hell were they thinking?”

“You can’t blame Percy, Hermione,” Ron said softly, quickly jumping to his elder brother’s defense. “Malfoy was a suspected Death Eater who’d vanished for two years. His father was one of Voldemorts most-trusted servants. The Ministry didn’t trust him.”

“He took an Unbreakable Vow, Ron! Surely, that would have been enough? If you break an Unbreakable Vow, you die. You know that, I know that, so why didn’t Percy think it was enough?” Hermione asked quietly.

Ron shrugged. “Malfoy knows more about the Dark Arts than most Aurors. Maybe they thought he’d be able to get out of it somehow.”

Hermione snorted. “I don’t think even Voldemort himself could ‘get out of’ an Unbreakable Vow.” She looked at Ron quickly, pushing her frustration and worry away. “Come on, let’s go downstairs. He needs to sleep.”

Ron nodded, and followed her out of the room and down the hall towards the living room. Hermione could see the almost wistful look on his face as they walked through the lavish house. Watching Ron eyeing everything around him with an almost hungry expression, Hermione giggled.

“I wonder what dear old Lucius would say if he could see this? A Mudblood and a Blood Traitor strolling casually through his house?”

“All we need now is Harry to be here, and he’d have a complete mental,” Ron laughed, gently running his fingers over the marble top of an ornate hallstand. Hermione glanced at Ron, and suddenly burst into uncontrollable laughter. Ron joined her, and they sagged against the walls snorting and chuckling, the sound of their laughter bouncing through the house.

Hermione put her fingers to her lips. “Shhhh. Let’s go,” she grabbed his hand and dragged him down the hall and into the living room. There was a moment’s silence as Ron looked around the room, turning slowly on the spot, his eyes drinking up deep green walls, black leather lounges, mahogany coffee table, and the extremely large fireplace with its silver-grey marbled mantle and hearth. Hermione suppressed a giggle.

“Bloody hell!” Ron exclaimed, his mouth hanging open slightly. “This is bloody brilliant! And he wants to get rid of it?”

“What?” Hermione asked in surprise, sitting down, motioning Ron to sit beside her.

“Oh, before the whole Dark Mark thing, Malf …I mean Draco, said he didn’t want this house anymore. Too full of ghosts, he said,” Ron explained, falling into the lounge beside Hermione. She nodded sadly.

“I can see why he feels that way,” she said softly. “He has no physical reminders of his parents; no photographs, no portraits. He burnt them all, but I guess being here reminds him of what it was like when they were alive.”

“I had no idea. Really. I don’t think any of us did. Sure, he was a jerk at school, a bloody big annoying jerk, but I never gave his actual life a second thought,” Ron answered sadly.

“Didn’t know you cared about me so much, Weasley.”

Hermione looked up in fright. Draco, very pale and sickly looking, was leaning against the doorway. She gave a little gasp and rushed to his side, holding him up before he collapsed. She glared at him, and he grinned, kissing her cheek.

“What the hell do you think you are doing, Draco Malfoy? You should be in bed!” she scolded.

“You should be resting,” Ron added sagely from his place on the lounge.

“Yeah, well, I’ve spent enough time in that bloody bed over the last few weeks, and none of it enjoyable, so I don’t want to be in there anymore,” Draco drawled as Hermione helped him to sit down, blushing slightly at his insinuation. “Besides,” he added, “you two could have woken the dead with all your racket. What was so funny?”

Hermione and Ron glanced at one another quickly and giggled again.

“Nothing,” they both said, and Draco scowled.

“Whatever; I don’t care. Have we got any food?” he asked Hermione, rubbing his stomach. “I’m kind of hungry.”

She nodded, giving her wand a quick flick, and in a few short moments, the leftover chicken from the previous nights dinner had landed in Draco’s lap.

He looked at her, raising an eyebrow. “Fork?”

Hermione sighed. “Eat with your fingers, dear. We won’t think any less of you.”

As Draco ate, Hermione got her and Ron a drink of fire whiskey. She gave Draco water. He opened his mouth to protest, but Hermione silenced him with an irritated look. Draco mumbled away under his breath, glancing at Ron. The redhead shook his head in warning, rolling his eyes towards Hermione. Draco nodded at Ron, a small smile on his lips, and drank his water sullenly. The three of them sat in an awkward silence, until Ron stood.

“I’m going to go. Get back and see Harry. See if we can sort any of this out,” he added. Draco nodded, rubbing absentmindedly at his left forearm.

“Does it hurt?” Hermione asked, following the motion with her eyes, and he nodded slowly.

“It burns. The only other time it ever felt like this was not long after I received it; the first time Voldemort summoned me. It felt like my whole arm was on fire. I tried to ignore the summons, but the more I did, the more it hurt,” Draco answered quietly.

“I’ll tell Harry. We’ll send you an owl if we come up with anything,” Ron said, before Disapparating with a small wave.



***



Draco let Hermione help him into bed. Once more, he longed to be able to touch her, to have her as close to him as he could get her, but once more, she insisted he was too weak. He knew she was right, but it infuriated him all the same. Sighing, he lay back and felt her crawl under his arm, snuggled against his chest, her slender body pressed against him. Draco suffered her touch until he could stand it no longer. With a great huff, he rolled away.

He felt her shock; felt her tense, and he knew he should explain himself, but he didn’t. Eventually, he heard her sigh, and when she slipped out of bed, he still did not say anything. He just laid there, his breathing heavy, a tight feeling in his chest. The Mark on his arm was driving him insane; it felt like he was on fire. His arm varied between being scorching hot and freezing cold, but the incredible tingling itch under his skin never ceased. Draco still had a mild headache from the Veritaserum, and this only increased his frustration. He rolled over.

“Hermione,” he said into the darkness. “Where are you?”

There was no answer. Angry with himself, he pulled the sheets back, preparing to climb out of bed and go and look for her.

“I’m here. Don’t get up,” she said, her voice lifting out of the blackness in the corner of the room.

“What are you doing?” he asked softly. “Come back to bed.”

She didn’t respond, so Draco hunted around on the bedside table for his wand, muttering, “lumos.” He glanced around the room and saw Hermione, in her robe, curled into the large black armchair in the far corner of his room. Even in the darkness he could see the tracks tears had left on her face. He hadn’t heard her crying; he didn’t realize it was possible for a person to cry that silently.

“Oh darling, I’m sorry,” he said, feeling incredibly guilty and selfish. “Come here, Hermione, please.”

Hermione flashed him a dirty look, before slowly climbing to her feet and coming to sit beside him. She did not look impressed, and he gulped. He was in trouble.

“I’m not coping too well,” he said quietly, and saw pity flash briefly in her eyes. She said nothing, waiting for him to continue. “It’s not so much my physical injuries, although they don’t help; it’s not the fact that I passed out from a mere few drops of Veritaserum. That scared me out, don’t worry. It’s the fact that every night I have you in my bed, and you won’t let me touch you, get close to you. I know I’m still weak and I know I need to rest, but I need you to love me, Hermione. This whole thing with the Mark is terrifying. I’m trying to understand what it could mean, and I’m scared by the conclusions I come too.”

Draco reached over and brushed her hair out her eyes, looking at her intently. “ I love you, Hermione, you know I do. But what I need to know is do you feel the same way? Do you still want this? Do you still want me?”

For a brief moment, Draco thought she would say no, and he felt his heart stop beating and a knot twist in his stomach. Hermione closed her eyes, but not fast enough to hide the tears. Draco gathered her in his arms, pulling her close and sliding her onto his lap, and she rested her head against his shoulder, crying gently. He closed his own eyes, feeling like he was suffocating, having no idea what he would do if she got up and left.

“I want to be with you,” he heard her whisper against his shoulder. He lifted her, moving her around in his arms like she weighed nothing at all, so he could see her face.

“Do you love me?” he asked her again, and she nodded.

“Yes, yes I do. I love you,” she whispered, grabbing his face and smothering him in kisses. Draco’s hands moved to the front of her robe, and he undid the thick fluffy tie, before gently sliding it from her shoulders. He leant forward and kissed the creamy skin of her neck, her collarbone, and her shoulders.

“Then love me,” he whispered against her skin, and he felt her shiver, before he lay down, pulling her gently with him.

~o0o~

A/N: Sorry its a bit short and a bit skinny on action, but the next few make up for that! Please remember to review!!


Chapter 15: Dumbledore's Army
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A/N: Hey everyone! I know its been a long time between chapters, and I'm sorry for the wait, but I really hope you enjoy this one and thank you for all your reviews and for sticking with this fic. I want to say a massive thank you to the incredible HPFF staff, especially sauerkraut_poet, for their help and advice. I really appreciate it guys.

Okay, here we go!




The following morning, Draco and Hermione sat with Ron, Harry and Ginny in the Manor’s living room. Ginny had been unable to discover why Draco’s body reacted so strongly to the Veritaserum, saying simply that it could have just been a freak coincidence, words that offered Draco no comfort whatsoever.

“You have no idea?” he asked crossly, folding his arms over his chest and glaring at the redhead. Ginny sighed, playing with a strand of her long hair.

“No. And before you get all testy, I asked around at work. None of the senior healers at St Mungo’s could tell me anything. There have been reported cases, but each one is different. I’m guessing that your body reacted the way it did because of the amount of the potion you have been exposed to in the past. It does not necessarily have to be a bad thing.”

Draco raised his eyebrows. “Really? So I should just forget about it then,” he snapped, and Harry frowned.

“Lay off, okay, Malfoy? She did her best,” he said firmly, his arm sliding around his wife’s shoulders. Draco scowled.

“This is all your fault, Potter. You and Weasley. Why couldn’t you just believe me?”

Ron blushed, with embarrassment or anger Draco could not tell. “Yeah, that was an option.”

“Enough, okay,” Hermione said loudly as Draco opened his mouth to retort. She lay a hand on his arm and he felt his body relax, responding to her touch. He gave her a weak smile, leaning over to kiss her cheek softly, muttering a terse ‘sorry’ in her ear. Ron was sitting glaring at them with his arms folded over his chest, and Harry simply looked weary and stressed out. Draco sighed, turning back to the people he had come to regard as tentative friends. He needed them, taking a deep breath before speaking, feeling terribly nervous about what they would say.

“So, anything on this Mark of mine, Potter? Weasley?” Draco asked bluntly, taking a sip of his drink. Harry shook his head.

“Nothing. We’ve searched the archives, going over all the records, all the statements from the Death Eaters captured over the years. We’ve looked into the magic used to create the Dark Mark, but we cannot find anything to explain why this is happening now Voldemort is dead,” he explained.

“So I just have to put up with this bloody painful thing on my arm for the rest of my life?” Draco asked bitterly, scratching absentmindedly at his forearm.

Ron sat forward. “There is another possibility. Zabini.”

Hermione frowned. “What do you mean, Ron?”

Draco only laughed. “Zabini wants to be the next Dark Lord.”

Ron nodded. “It’s a stretch, but the only thing we can think of. I’m sorry, Malfoy. I know that’s the last thing you want to hear; the last thing any of us want to hear.”

“What do you know?” Harry asked Draco, watching him closely. Draco knew Harry was thinking he knew more than he had said, choosing, as Harry had done himself many times throughout his life, to keep certain information hidden.

“Not much,” Draco sighed, leaning forward and resting his empty class on the table. “Only that he is hungry for power. I don’t know the inner workings of his plans; unfortunately, I was not a good enough psychopath to be let in on the secret. What I do know is that even though Voldemort is physically gone, his power is still out there. His knowledge and skill. His magical ability. Zabini wants it badly.”

“You’ll just have to make sure you capture him before it can happen then, won’t you,” Ginny said in a quiet voice, her eyes shifting between Ron and Harry. “As much as I hate the idea of you being out there chasing Dark Wizards, Harry, you and Ron are the best Aurors the Ministry has.”

“What does Percy have to say about this?” Hermione asked quietly.

“He has called a meeting for tomorrow morning, to discuss the plan of attack. I’ve been thinking though, Hermione. If we’re going to go after Zabini, we will need more help,” Harry said, looking intently into her eyes. She nodded.

“I’ll send out Owls tonight,” she replied, her face determined.

“You won’t find him. He’ll have moved his whole operation again. It’s what they do, when they feel threatened. He could be anywhere,” Draco said in a harsh voice.

“That’s why we need help,” Hermione answered with a smile.


***


“Why are we here?” Draco asked irritably, looking around in confusion. He was standing in a dirty, deserted Muggle street somewhere in the bowels of London, with Hermione at his side. She squeezed his hand, smiling at him. Refuse littered the side of the road, and the buildings opposite them were coated in layers of grime. The decaying scent of garbage floated through the air, and Draco wrinkled his nose delicately. Hermione laughed softly, and he frowned at her.

“I know the meeting this morning was not helpful,” she said gently, and Draco snorted.

“Weasley is an idiot. The Ministry are idiots.”

Hermione smiled. “We know. That’s why we are here. Memorise this,” she said, thrusting a piece of parchment at Draco. He took it, read it, and handed it back to her, not asking any questions. It started to rain, the light drizzle quickly soaking into their plain Muggle clothes, and Draco had an overwhelming desire to be somewhere sunny, like the Caribbean, or Fiji.

A dull groaning sound echoed through his ears, and Draco looked up, watching with interest as the houses in front of them slowly thinned out, another dirtier two storey Muggle building springing up between them. The windows facing the street were all blacked out, and a thin trendril of white smoke leaked from the chimney and into the atmosphere. He let out a short, admirable laugh.

“Fidelius Charm. Clever,” he said softly.

Hermione looked at him in surprise. “You know where we are?”

“I can guess. The Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix? My father used to spend a lot of time ranting about this place. They could never find it, and it drove him mad. I always liked Sirius Black for that,” he mused with a smile.

“It belongs to Harry; it has since the end of fifth year at Hogwarts, but he lets the Order use it,” Hermione replied. “I haven’t been here in years,” she said with a sad sigh. “There’s been no need.”

“Maybe this isn’t such a good idea,” Draco muttered, but she ignored him, pulling on his hand, dragging him towards the door of 12 Grimmauld Place. She knocked loudly, once, and the door swung open to emit a small, thin man. His sandy hair was graying around the temples, and his skin was pale and drawn, but otherwise Remus Lupin looked no different to when he was a Professor at Hogwarts. His robes were still torn and disheveled, and he looked slightly ill. He smiled at Hermione warmly, before throwing Draco a quick nod, ushering them inside.

“Remus, how are you?” Hermione asked softly, giving the werewolf a gentle hug. Lupin patted her back affectionately, his eyes meeting Draco’s over Hermione’s chestnut head. Draco shifted uncomfortably under the intense stare Lupin gave him.

“Fine, Hermione, just fine. Come on, everyone else is already here,” Lupin replied, pulling out of her arms and leading them down the dark hallway. Draco followed Hermione, a sense of dread starting to coil deep within his stomach. He felt sick. This was not going to be pretty. He could already imagine the reactions.

Lupin paused before a closed door, his hand resting lightly on the handle. He nodded to Draco.

“I hope you’re ready for this, Draco Malfoy. There are a lot of people in there who never wanted to see your face again,” Lupin said softly.

Draco took a deep breath, feeling Hermione squeeze his arm. “Let’s get it over with then,” he mumbled, fiddling with the buttons on his shirt. Lupin nodded, and opened the door, quickly stepping into the room. Draco could hear a buzz of talk, and he turned to Hermione, nervous and apprehensive.

“I can’t go in there,” he said quickly, watching her face crease into a frown.

“You have to, Draco,” she replied.

Draco shook his head. “No. I can’t.”

Hermione sighed. “I never figured you were a coward, my love.”

“I’m not,” Draco said indignantly, then he sighed. “I just don’t know what to say to them all.”

“Harry will have told them most of it already. Today, we just want to focus on how to find Zabini, and we need your help for that. The Order knows that you can help, Draco. They may still resent you, but they will be fair,” Hermione replied softly, leaning over and kissing him gently on the lips. With her encouragement, although he doubted her words about fairness, Draco took a deep breath, and stepped into the room.

Heat blazed from the fireplace, engulfing him, but it was nothing compared to the force of the hatred that rose from the assembled group. Draco swallowed nervously, his eyes scanning the room, settling on faces he knew and recognized, faces he had not seen for six years, and longer in some cases. No one spoke. Draco ran his fingers through his hair, and wished he were invisible, wished that he were somewhere other than where he was, faced so blatantly with his past.

“You look more like your father than you ever did before boy,” a voice growled, and Draco turned, his eyes settling on the twisted face of Mad-Eye Moody. Moody was smirking, his gnarled fingers curled around his wand, a mischievous glint in his good eye. Draco shuddered in remembrance and humiliation. “Finally grew a spine did you?”

Draco said nothing. He heard Harry telling Moody to be quiet, but it didn’t matter. The old man’s words were true. He was the very image of Lucius, a fact Draco had to deal with everyday when he looked in the mirror. Lucius had bestowed his eyes, his pointed chin, his strong cheekbones and his nose on his son. His mouth came from his mother, and his hair, from both his parents. On occasions, Draco despised his appearance. Just that morning, he had spent a considerable amount of time staring at his reflection in the bathroom mirror, seriously considering shaving his head. The only thing that stopped him was his hair reminded him more of his mother than his father. Narcissa had always loved her son’s pale, silky hair. Draco wondered, not for the first time, how Hermione could stand to look at his face, to kiss him and hold him, make love to him, when he resembled Lucius so strongly, at least physically.

Draco looked around again, finally putting names to the faces he saw before him. Besides Moody and Lupin, his old transfiguration teacher and head of his rival House, Professor McGonagall, was sitting straight-backed close to the fire, wrapped in a green tartan cloak. Her bright eyes snapped to Draco’s face, and she gave him a very slight smile and a nod. There were, Draco noticed with a jolt of fear, five Weasley’s sitting around the table. Ron, Fred and George sat together on one side of the long wooden table, while two other men with red hair sat opposite them. Draco guessed the shorter stockier one was Charlie, while Bill was unmistakable. Draco swallowed as Bill’s eyes found his. The other man’s face was terribly deformed and scared; a result of an attack at Hogwarts by the werewolf Fenrir Greyback. The last time Draco had seen Bill was when he’d finally given in to the Ministry’s summons after he returned home, but at that time he had not given the other man a second thought. Bill fixed Draco with a hard glare, and Draco lowered his eyes, knowing he was responsible for Bill’s condition. He had, after all, let Greyback into the castle.

“You’re looking better than the last time we met, Malfoy. How’d you pull up?” Seamus Finnigan asked, uncorking a bottle of whiskey. He poured Draco a glass, sliding it down the length of the table towards him. Draco took it with thanks, allowing his body to slip down into a chair.

“It took a while, but I’m fully recovered now,” Draco replied, and Seamus grinned.

“Pity,” a voice snapped.

“George, please,” Hermione said wearily, sitting beside Draco. She turned to him. “You remember everyone?” she asked, and Draco nodded. Sitting beside George was Katie Bell. With her were Angelina Johnson, Alicia Spinnet, Lee Jordon and Ernie Macmillan. Neville sat with Luna, who looked dreamily into the fire, a small child, with a head of golden hair and bright brown eyes, on her lap, gurgling contentedly. Draco wondered if Luna even knew where she was. Next to her were Harry and Ginny, and Lavender Brown. Lupin stood off to one side, observing the interactions closely, while Moody’s magical eye rolled around like crazy, making Draco feel sick.

Draco smiled, raising his glass. “Dumbledore’s Army,” he said, not thinking, impressed they had all come through the War unscathed. Immediately, a choir of angry voices rose, flung in his direction.

“Don’t you dare mention Dumbledore, Malfoy!” Lee Jordan yelled, his face twisted in hate. Draco sighed, setting his drink down and sitting back in his chair, letting the insults and accusations roll over him like water.

“Shut up!” Harry yelled suddenly, banging his fist on the table. Draco raised his eyebrows in surprise. “He didn’t kill Dumbledore alright. How many times do I have to say it? It was Snape!”

The noise immediately quelled, although many murderous glances were thrown in Draco’s direction. He turned to Hermione, who was looking angrily at everyone in turn.

“I told you this was not a good idea,” he whispered, and Hermione shook her head.

“Still a coward, Malfoy?” Katie Bell asked in a quiet voice, overhearing him. “Are you planning on running away again, or will you actually stay and help us?”

Draco sighed, feeling terribly depressed. It was all too much. He wished he could have dealt with Harry and Ron, and no one else. At least they didn’t want to kill him anymore. He didn’t know how much more of it he could take. The Order hated him with a passion, and he found himself wondering did they always hate him this much, or had it evolved since Dumbledore’s death. He could only imagine what they were all thinking. They had stayed and fought, while he had run. He felt like a lamb to the slaughter, and had an inkling of what the Order had planned for him. Draco put his head in his hands, feeling like a sacrificial victim. His only solace was that there was no way Hermione would let them use him callously.

“Well,” Charlie Weasley snapped. “What’s it to be, Malfoy?”

“He’s staying, and he’s going to help,” Harry said firmly from the other end of the table. “Right, Draco?”

Draco lifted his head, meeting Harry’s intense green gaze. There was a challenge in his eyes, and Draco smiled wryly. “Right, Harry,” he said with emphasis, feeling Hermione squeeze his leg under the table. He flashed her a quick smile, noticing that their subtle interactions had not gone undetected, and he wondered exactly what Harry had told them all. Draco and Hermione had agreed between them not to make their relationship so obvious, at least, not yet. He could see Ernie and Lavender looking curious, their eyes shifting between him and Hermione, occasionally flickering to Ron, who sat staring frowning at the table, clearly uncomfortable.

“So,” Draco began, addressing his audience. “You want to find Blaise Zabini? I can tell you now, it will not be easy, and trust me when I say I will not let anyone use me as bait,” he said in a hard voice. A few people shifted uncomfortably in their seats, and Draco knew he had been right to be suspicious.

“How are we going to find him then?” Ginny asked, and a few people nodded, their eyes fixed on Draco.

“I don’t know,” he answered simply.

“What do you mean you ‘don’t know’? Isn’t that why you are here?” Fred Weasley asked in a loud voice.

“How the hell should I know where he is exactly, Weasley?” Draco asked irritably, and Fred scowled. “I’m not a Death Eater. In fact, if Zabini came bursting through that door right now, I’d be the first person he’d kill.”

“Do you have any idea where he might be then?” Lee asked, his voice tight, glaring at Draco as if he wanted to leap across the table and strangle him. Draco shook his head.

“He could be anywhere. Look, whenever he wanted to talk to me, he’d just show up, or send me messages telling me where to meet him. He didn’t exactly trust me. I have no idea where he operates from,” Draco replied, addressing the whole group.

“We need to get to him somehow,” Ron mused, spinning his empty glass in his hand. “What about any of your old mates, Malfoy?”

“Crabbe and Goyle are both dead,” Draco said indifferently. He never really cared about those two idiots anyway. “As for the rest … I haven’t really called everyone together for a House reunion since I’ve been back.”

“Well,” Lavender Brown began, twirling a lock of golden hair around her finger. “I saw Pansy Parkinson the other day, in Hogsmeade.”

Ginny rolled her eyes. “Are you sure, Lavender?”

“Yes, I’m positive it was her,” Lavender replied indignantly, looking at Draco. “You could always…”

“No bloody way!” Draco cursed, not liking the eager look in Lavender’s eyes. “I’m not going anywhere near that psycho witch. Forget it. Anyway, Pansy was never a Death Eater. She was just an idiot.”

Seamus laughed. “Come on, Malfoy. All you’d have to do is bat your eyelashes at her and she’d spill her guts. She was all over you at school, if I remember correctly.”

“Don’t remind me,” Draco grumbled, sneaking a side-ways glance at Hermione. Her lips were pursed together in annoyance, and he felt rather pleased at her sudden flash of jealousy.

“But I heard she married Zabini,” Lavender grumbled as all eyes swung to her.

“Are you sure?” Ron asked, and Lavender scowled.

“Why do people keep asking me that? Yes, I’m sure. I heard it from Parvati, who heard if from her cousin. She’d seen an announcement somewhere.”

“I’ll look into it,” Angelina said with a laugh at the look on Lavender’s face. “I know a few people who work at the Prophet and at Witch Weekly.”

“I’m not talking to Parkinson,” Draco snarled, folding his arms.

“You may not have a choice, Mr Malfoy,” McGonagall cut in, and Draco scowled. “However much you despise the idea, it may be the only way to find out where Blaise Zabini is.”

Lupin cleared his throat as Draco opened his mouth to retort. “There may be another way. Severus,” he said softly. There was an immediate uproar, and Draco saw Harry’s face twist in extreme hatred.

“No,” Harry said flatly. “No way.”

Lupin smiled. “We don’t have to find him Harry, just use his likeness.”

“Polyjuice Potion,” Moody growled with a grin.

“Alright, but where are we going to find anything of his?” Hermione asked, leaning forwards.

“Hogwarts,” McGonagall replied, standing up. “He never returned for any of his things. I have them all locked away. I will go and have a look, and send anything that may be useful back here as soon as possible.” McGonagall strode briskly from the room, bidding them all a good day.

“So I don’t have to talk to Pansy?” Draco asked hopefully, knowing he sounded childish.

Seamus laughed. “Sorry, Malfoy, but you know how long it takes to brew Polyjuice Potion.”

Draco sighed and slid an arm around Hermione’s shoulders, pulling her close, forgetting their agreement. He saw Fred and George throw him poisonous looks, but he only tightened his hold on her possessively, feeling he needed to keep his guard up around the Weasley twins. Angelina, Alicia, Katie and Lee stood, saying they had to get back to work, Angelina promising to find out where Pansy was and let them all know.

“Even if she didn’t marry Zabini,” Angelina said, “she may still know something.”

They left, Lee giving Draco a hard stare. Not long after, the others left too, Fred and George warning Draco in low voice that they would be watching every move he made. Draco nodded, knowing the Weasley twins meant it. Moody stomped out after them, telling them all to keep their heads down, and stay on their guard. Harry, Ginny, Ron, Hermione, Draco and Lupin were left alone in the large kitchen.

“You think using Snape will work?” Ron asked Lupin, who nodded and sat down wearily.

“He did kill Dumbledore after all. If that act didn’t prove where his loyalties lay, then I don’t know what would. We tried to find him, Moody, Hagrid and myself, but it was as if he vanished into thin air. Do you have any idea where he might be?” Lupin asked, turning to Draco, who shook his head.

“After he did my … after he killed … he got me away from Hogwarts, and then, he left. I have no idea where he went,” Draco answered, hearing Ron sigh. Harry was staring into the flames, his face tight, and his eyes distant.

“The question is,” Lupin said softly, sitting back with a frown. “Who will do it? Who will play Snape? They need to know every little thing about him, about how he spoke, acted, moved, thought…”

“I’ll do it,” Draco said quickly, forgetting his desire not to be a sacrifical lamb. He felt Hermione stiffen beside him. “I know his type better than I know myself.”




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Chapter 16: Revelations and a Woman Scorned
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Hermione sank down in the bath, the warm soapy water closing over her head. She lay underwater, her head spinning. It had been a week since the meeting with the Order, and in that time, Professor McGonagall had sent a pack containing old things of Severus Snape’s to Grimmauld Place. Ron had taken to spending a lot of his time there, and he and Lupin were busy brewing the Polyjuice Potion. Hermione had gone to check on them, to see if they needed anything, but they were fine. In fact, Ron seemed better than fine, considering Lavender Brown was hanging from his arm, giggling and fussing over him.

Angelina had sent an Owl two days ago, saying she had found Pansy. Although not married to Zabini, the two had had a brief relationship several years ago, but had apparently stayed close. Angelina’s source said Pansy was living alone in her parent’s country house in Wales, and had rarely been seen since she left Hogwarts. Apparently, some boy had run off and broken her heart.

Hermione sat up, wiping soapsuds from her face, her hair streaming down her neck. She frowned, not liking what Draco was going to do. She wasn’t sure what bothered her the most – him willingly taking Polyjuice Potion and transforming into Snape, or him having to try and coax some answers from Pansy. Hermione scowled, her mind dredging up memories of Pansy Parkinson from school. Hermione had never had a problem with Pansy personally; she was a typical Slytherin, full of arrogance, cowardice and false security. Hermione liked to think she had not changed. It was easier to despise the other woman that way. But, she thought, a person can change dramatically, given the right circumstances. Draco was living proof of that. Perhaps Pansy would be willing to help.

The bathroom door opened and Hermione looked up to see Draco enter. His face was troubled, but he gave a smile when he noticed her looking at him.

“I thought you’d drowned,” he quipped, kneeling beside the bath. Hermione closed her eyes as he reached over and ran his fingers through her wet hair, enjoying his touch on her scalp. “Are you okay?”

She nodded. “Just thinking, that’s all. What about you?”

Draco sighed, his hand sliding down the back of her head, resting on her neck. “Yeah, I’m alright. So much for the quiet life.” Draco stood up, sliding his shirt over his head. Hermione raised an eyebrow, watching as he quickly undressed.

“Move up,” he commanded, and she did as she was told, feeling Draco slip into the water behind her, his legs either side of her body. Hermione smiled and laid back, her head on his chest. Draco wrapped his arms around her body, resting his head against hers.

Hermione twisted her head so she could see his face. “We will have it one day, Draco. This will all be over soon, and then, well, we can just concentrate on living,” she said softly, taking his hand and squeezing it. She knew how much he wanted to get on with his life, to finally bury the past deep where it belonged.

He kissed her gently on the forehead. “About that. Hermione, I want to ask you something,” Draco whispered, his voice low and husky.

Hermione felt her heart stop. Oh god, she thought, her insides turning to lead. Oh god oh god oh god! She turned her face away and closed her eyes, her breath coming fast and shallow. What’s he thinking? It’s way too soon. I can’t! She yelled to herself. Panic began to bubble up inside her, heat flooded her body, and she felt faint.

“When this whole operation is over, when we catch Zabini and lock him up, I was wondering if you would …it’s okay if you don’t want to. We haven’t really been together for that long …” Draco paused, and Hermione felt him tense. She concentrated on her breathing, forcing herself to stay in bath when she felt she might fly out of it. Swallowing her fear, Hermione sat up, turning easily in the large tub so she was facing Draco. She wanted to see his face. He was pale, a small frown on his forehead, his eyes dark and brooding.

“If I would what, Draco?” Hermione asked him, her voice a mere whisper, her heart beating solidly in her ears. This was different from when Ron asked her. This felt right, complete, and it didn’t matter one bit that they were naked and sitting in a bathtub. Hermione felt all her fear wash away, a calmness settling in her chest. Draco was not Ron. He would never expect the things Ron did. Hermione felt herself begin to smile, drifting off into a romantic fantasyland.

Draco swallowed, taking her hands, and Hermione started picturing her dress. “I was wondering if you would consider moving in with me.”

Hermione blinked. “What did you say?”

“Not here. God, I don’t want this house. I want to sell it. Somewhere else. We’ll buy a place, wherever you want. Are you alright?” Draco asked, frowning. Hermione realized she was grinning like an idiot. She shook her head, laughing, the spell well and truly broken.

“I’m sorry. I thought you were going to ask …” she giggled again at the look of confusion on Draco’s face.

“Oh,” he said finally, blushing a little. “You thought ... I don’t want to marry you,” he laughed, and then clapped a hand over his mouth, his eyes wide. Hermione frowned and slapped him on the arm, feeling annoyed despite her relief. As tempting as the idea of marrying him was, the rational, logical part of her brain knew she was not, they were not, ready for that yet.

“I didn’t mean it like that, darling. I meant, well, I didn’t think you wanted to …” Draco muttered, his face bright red. He gave her a strange look. “If you do, then I suppose …”

Hermione shook her head, feeling herself turn as red as Draco. “No, at least, not right now,” she giggled again, leaning forward and kissing his neck. “But I will move in with you. We’re already basically living together,” she said.

“Do you want to think about it a bit?” he asked, and she shook her head. Draco wrapped his arms around her, kissing her deeply and tenderly. Hermione pressed herself closer to him, her legs sliding behind his back. She shivered as Draco’s lips brushed her shoulder lightly.

“The water has gone cold,” he murmured against her skin, and she nodded, moving out of his arms. Draco stood up, pulling her with him. He stepped from the tub and she followed. Smirking, Draco swept her into his arms, and Hermione clung to him, giggling as he carried her, both of them wet and dripping, into the bedroom.


***


Draco stood in front of the mirror, scowling at his reflection. He pulled his shirt over his head, tossing it on the bed, where it lay in a heap with at least another ten shirts. Hermione sighed, flopping onto the bed. She reached for the nearest shirt and began to fold it up.

“Draco, stop,” she said firmly. Draco had his head buried in the large walk-in wardrobe, throwing shirts onto the floor. He looked up, frustrated.

“I can’t find my black shirt,” he grumbled. Hermione raised an eyebrow.

“Which one, dear? You have dozens of black shirts,” she replied, continuing to fold. Draco scowled.

“You know, the … black one. Hermione, this is stupid. I don’t want to go. I don’t want to see Pansy,” he sulked, sitting on the floor amidst a pile of clothing.

“I don’t particularly want you to go and see Pansy either, Draco, but you have to. She wouldn’t even consider talking to anyone else,” Hermione said in a small voice. Draco knew she had argued for hours with Harry and Remus about this mission, but they had worn her down. She had then turned her anger on him, yelling about how stupid it was to want to sacrifice himself, and that no one in the Order would think any less of him if he chose to back out. He was rather surprised at how opposed she was to the whole idea. He wondered whether she was truly jealous. Draco climbed to his feet, going to sit beside Hermione on the bed.

“I’m going to be fine,” he said softly, and she rolled her eyes at him.

“I know. I don’t think Pansy is going to hurt you,” Hermione replied.

Draco laughed. “She might try. I did kind of run away from her. What is that saying? ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned?’”

Hermione snorted, and Draco sighed, pulling her hands away from folding his clothes. “Hermione, this is silly. I love you, you know that. Pansy is … the past. A memory, nothing more. I’m only seeing her today to help the Order. Nothing is going to happen.”

“I’m not jealous, Draco,” Hermione snapped. “I’m just concerned. What if Angelina’s source got it wrong? What if Pansy is still in regular contact with Zabini?”

Draco slid his arm around her shoulder, pulling her close to him. Hermione’s arms went around his waist, and she held him tightly. Draco kissed the top of her head, before gently loosening her grip. “I should get going, sweetie,” he murmured, standing up. He grabbed a shirt from the pile on the bed, not really caring which one it was, and pulled it over his head.

“Be careful. If you’re not back by dark, I’m coming to find you,” Hermione said seriously. Draco smiled, knowing she meant it. He leant down and kissed her gently on the lips, before apparating to Wales.


***


Pansy’s house was on the outskirts of a small village. A Muggle village. Was Pansy living as a Muggle? He shook his head, scarcely believing it. Draco looked around the streets with interest, taking in the faded cobblestones and quaint shop-fronts, noticing a place called ‘Fran’s Flowers’. Draco snorted. Who was Fran and why the hell would she want to sell flowers in the middle of nowhere? The little shop looked busy enough though, and with a shrug, Draco ducked inside, buying a bunch of roses for Pansy; a thorny peace offering. Back outside in the street, he asked a matronly woman in a faded blue dress for directions. All Angelina had been able to give him was an address. The woman pointed towards the eastern hills, and Draco sighed inwardly, thanking her, fobbing off her curious questions as she looked pointedly at the roses in his hand.

An hour later, Draco was hot, sweaty and thirsty, the roses looking as though they felt the same way. He peeled off his jacket and pushed his hair out of his eyes. Damn Pansy, he thought, living in the middle of nowhere like a hermit. A large house stood in front of him, and he paused, looking around. It was the only house he could see for miles, standing desolate and alone surrounded by sweeping green hills, and with a sigh, Draco pushed open the small front gate, stepping into the overgrown yard. Weeds poked through the cobbled path, stretching towards the sun. Paint was peeling from the walls and windowsills of the house, coating the building in a blend of cream and washed beige. A small water tank stood to one side, supported by an old, rickety stand, the tap jutting out from the base of the tank rusty and brown. Draco raised his eyebrows. The house was so un-Pansy-ish.

The front door of the house opened, and Draco squinted against the morning sun. A tall, slim woman with long black hair and an amused expression stood in the open doorway.

“I was wondering how long it would take you to find me,” she said, and Draco forced a smile onto his face.

“Hello, Pansy,” he said, walking slowly down the path towards her. “You look good,” he added out of politeness, although he had to admit she did look good. Her hair was glossy and straight, falling to her waist, a fringe cut bluntly across her forehead, brushing her eyebrows. Her skin was pale, and her blue eyes were bright and alert.

Pansy flashed him a cold smile, and Draco hesitated, his hand drifting to his wand, concealed in his pocket. He saw her follow the motion with her eyes, and she laughed.

“You’d have to be quicker than that, Draco. If I wanted to hurt you, I’d have done it already,” she said.

“You wouldn’t hurt me, Pansy,” Draco smirked. “I know you.”

She snorted, but stepped aside and motioned for him to come in. Taking a deep breath, Draco walked past her and into the house. He was not two feet inside when Pansy grabbed his arm, flinging him around and shoving him against the wall with more strength than he would have believed she had. Eyes flashing with fury, Pansy drew back her hand and slapped him across the face.

Draco swore loudly, and pushed her away roughly, the flowers dropping from his hand to the floor, his peace offering forgotten. “What the hell, Parkinson?” he yelled, rubbing his cheek. His face stung like crazy. Pansy screeched like a mad woman, throwing herself at him, nails raking at his skin. Draco pressed himself into the wall in shock, before reaching out and grabbing her arms, holding her away from him as she kicked and swore. He picked her up, carrying her through the hall and into the lounge room, tossing her roughly on the lounge. She glared daggers at him, and he sighed, crossing to the other side of the room, putting as much distance between them as possible.

“You bastard!” she yelled at him, crossing her arms over her chest, her face red and blotchy. “How dare you show up here, out of the blue, after six bloody years!”

Draco sighed, running his fingers through his hair. “Get over it, Pansy,” he spat, sitting down in a soft armchair.

Pansy glared at him. “So what do you want?”

Draco ignored her. He looked around the room. It was small and dark, and everything looked like it was covered with a fine layer of dust. “Bloody hell, Parkinson. How long have you been here? You think you’d have cleaned up a bit.”

“Get stuffed, Malfoy,” she snarled, and Draco felt his eyes widen. Since when did Pansy call him ‘Malfoy’? He glanced at her. She was throwing him the dirtiest look she could muster, and Draco swallowed. He would have to change tactics, or she would never tell him anything.

“I missed you,” he said softly, trying not to vomit. He watched Pansy’s face closely. Eventually, her features softened, and she let out a deep sigh. “Come here and give me a kiss,” Draco demanded, silently apologizing to Hermione. Pansy didn’t move, and Draco opened his arms, smiling at her. With a roll of her eyes, she got to her feet, crossing the room and sinking into his arms. Draco swallowed his disgust as she kissed him gently on the lips. She tasted wrong.

“I missed you too,” she whispered, and he nodded and stroked her back. “How could you just leave me?”

He sighed. “I had to, Pansy darling. It was not safe for me to stay.”

“So where have you been?” she asked softly, her face buried in his neck.

“Hiding out, same as you,” Draco replied, hoping to draw her into revealing something to him. Pansy pulled away and looked at him.

“I wasn’t hiding,” she said, and he snorted.

“No? So how come no one knew where you were?” Draco asked, batting her hand away from his hair. Pansy pouted.

“Plenty of people knew where I was,” she replied, running her fingers down his face. Draco stamped down on his nausea, playing along, pretending he was enjoying every second of her attention.

“So I heard. You and Blaise were together,” he said coldly, forcing himself to sound upset.

Pansy sighed. “What did you expect me to do, Draco? No one knew where you were. No one knew if you were even alive. I was lonely and upset. You broke my heart,” she said, tears in her eyes.

“How long were you with him?” Draco asked quietly, not really caring.

“Not long. About a year, after school finished,” she answered, climbing off his lap.

“And now? Do you still see him?” Draco asked coolly, watching her face carefully. Pansy folded her arms over her chest, stalking across the room.

“No, I don’t. I don’t know where he is or what he is doing. He left me, just like you did,” she whimpered, sinking down onto the lounge, her head in her hands. Draco sighed, listening to her cry. He stood up. This had been a waste of time.

“Goodbye, Pansy,” he said softly, before walking from the room and out the front door.



A/N: Thanks for reading guys. Please make sure you leave a review! Thanks - MajiKat xx

Chapter 17: No Point Crying...
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A/N: Hey everyone. Thank you so much for all your reviews. Please keep them coming! I love to know what you all think of my fic. On that note, if you read, please leave a review. It's not hard, and I would really appreciate it. Enjoy!



“She doesn’t know anything, Potter,” Draco said in a tired voice, his hand wrapped loosely around a glass of whiskey. Draco, Harry, Ron and Hermione were seated around the kitchen of 12 Grimmauld Place. A fire blazed in the grate, the flames illuminating the small room, throwing strange shadows over the walls. It was stiflingly hot, and Hermione tugged at the collar of her shirt, trying to relieve herself from the heat.

“You’re sure?” Harry asked, and Draco nodded. “She could have been lying to you.”

“Pansy would never lie to me, Potter,” Draco said simply, taking a long sip of his drink.

Harry sighed. “Well, I guess we have to rely on the Polyjuice Potion for answers then.”

“It won’t be ready for another couple days though,” Ron reminded them, and Draco sighed, setting his glass aside and stretching his arms out in front of him, laying his head flat on the kitchen table. His shirtsleeve was rolled up, and Hermione stared hard at the Dark Mark, more visible than ever, shining in inky grandeur against the whiteness of his arm. She shivered. She tried not to look at it, not to let her eyes be drawn to the blatant reminder of her lovers past, or her mind be drawn to what the reappearance of the Mark meant for them all now. Draco stood up suddenly, pushing his chair back so quickly it hit the floor. Without a word, he stalked from the room, slamming the door behind him as he left, a plume of dust rising gently from the doorframe. Sighing, Hermione climbed to her feet, pulling her coat from the back of her chair and slinging it around her shoulders.

“He’s …moodier than usual,” Harry commented softly, and Hermione glared at him.

“He said going to see Pansy would be a waste of time,” she snapped, frustrated, before relenting and giving Harry an apologetic smile. She knew losing her temper at her friends was not a solution to their problems. They were all tired, tense, and had been working hard. Hermione glanced at Ron, finding him staring at her, a strange expression on his face.

“What?” she said harshly, feeling stretched and worn out.

“Nothing,” the redhead mumbled, turning back to the fire. Hermione gave Harry’s shoulder a quick squeeze, smiling at him.

“See you then,” she whispered, turning to leave. At the door, she paused, looking back. “Harry, Ron, thank you for your help.”

Without waiting for a reply, Hermione joined Draco in the hall. The tall blonde was leaning casually against the wall, a frown on his face. Hermione sighed, thinking that he was always frowning these days. Draco had a faraway look in his eye, so when Hermione touched his arm, he jumped.

“Draco,” she began, but he shook his head, reaching out and pulling her to him, crushing her against his chest. Hermione blinked, feeling useless tears prick her eyelids. She wanted so badly to take him away from all this, from the worry and the pain.

“Let’s go home darling,” Draco whispered against her hair, a slight shudder passing through his body, and Hermione nodded.

Rather than apparating directly from Grimmauld Place, Hermione and Draco walked several blocks, hand in hand, looking like any other regular couple. It was chilly out, and despite her coat, Hermione was cold. Winter was approaching, the days shortening, the few brief hours of sunlight barely warming the ground before storms and miserable rain plagued the country. Hermione shivered, feeling Draco slide his arm around her shoulders, drawing her closer to his solid warmth. He bent and pressed his lips to her cheek, pulling away almost immediately.

“You’re freezing, Hermione. Come on, let’s get out of this ridiculous weather,” he murmured, rubbing her arms.

“I’m not that cold, Draco, it’s okay,” she replied with a smile, snuggling closer to him. He tipped her head back, his hand gently cupping her chin, staring into her eyes.

“I love you,” he whispered, before bending his head and kissing her sweetly, bringing tears to her eyes again. Hermione wrapped her arms around him, kissing him back with a frustrated longing for peace and normalacy.

“Do you remember that little coffee shop we went to, in Diagon Alley?” she asked him when they broke apart and resumed walking. Draco nodded. “Let’s go there, now, and have coffee,” she suggested, surprising herself. She had not intended to ask him that, wanting desperately to find out everything that happened with Pansy. They had not had a chance to talk about Draco’s trip to Wales yet, and not knowing was eating away at Hermione’s head.

“Why now?” Draco asked, stopping to look at her face. Hermione shrugged.

“I want to get away from all this for a while, I guess. Forget, just for a few hours, that we are once again about to put our lives on the line and save the world,” she said softly. “I just want to feel normal, Draco, like we talked about.”

He nodded in understanding, bending to kiss her lips lightly.


***


Hermione sighed, fixing her and Draco a coffee. They had apparated to Diagon Alley to find their little shop closed for the night. Even though it had not been his idea, Hermione could tell Draco was disappointed, wanting just as much as she did to escape their lives for a moment of peace. Hermione felt tears fill her eyes for the millionth time that day, and she let out a small scream of frustration. It was so unfair! She and Draco were in the beginning stage of their relationship. They should have been spending their evenings simply being together, loving one another, instead of sitting around trying to figure out how to stop the latest evil that threatened their lives. Hermione bit her lip, trying to stop the tears. She should be house hunting with Draco, they should be …

She stamped her foot in vexation, the carton of milk slipping from her numb fingers, exploding off the bench top and landing on the marble tiles at her feet. Milk cascaded down the side of the cupboard, spreading over the bench, and pooling on the floor. Feeling totally useless and destroyed, Hermione sank to the ground, icy cold milk seeping through her jeans. She put her head in her hands, and screamed.

Heavy footsteps broke into her mind, and Hermione lifted her head, quickly brushing her eyes, containing her tears. Draco came running into the kitchen, his eyes wide and fearful, his wand clenched in his hand and her name bursting from his lips. He looked around the kitchen quickly with wide, pale eyes, before spotting her on the floor looking up at him sheepishly. He fell to the floor beside her, pulling her into his arms, holding her tightly. He ran his hands over her quickly, checking she was unhurt and she smiled wryly, batting his hands away gently. He smiled in return, his hand brushing her hair back from her face, tucking the loose strands behind her ears like he usually did.

“Oh darling, its okay,” he murmured gently, kissing her forehead, “its just milk.”

Hermione sniffed, a hysterical giggle escaping her lips. “It’s not that, Draco. I just want this all to be over. I want to live my life with you, I just want us to be able to love one another without all this crap in the way,” she fumed, suddenly angry. “I am sick of evil bastards like Zabini ruining my life. I just want to live and be happy. I just want you, Draco!”

Draco pulled her to him again, kissing the top of her head. “You’ve got me darling, don’t worry about that.”

Hermione sighed, lying contentedly in his arms, feeling incredibly tired and stressed. Her mind would not stop screaming at her, her head filled with images of the past- screams of the dying, screams of pain, rivers of blood flowing over the ground. She shivered, pushing the visions away. She felt that she had just reached a stage in her life where the War was a distant memory. She scowled through her tears, hating Blaise Zabini with every fibre of her being, hating what Draco was going to do for them. This last thought brought with it another, and Hermione felt her brain seize.

“Tell me what happened with Pansy,” she hiccupped, her insides feeling heavy. She heard Draco sigh, and fear clenched in her stomach, twisting around her heart with an icy grip. He had already told them all what Pansy had told him, and he gave Hermione a quick look, nodding, knowing what she was asking.

“Okay, I’ll tell you,” Draco replied softly. “She was pissed at me. So pissed she slapped me, and Pansy never, no matter what I said or did to her at school, raised a hand to me. She was always like a lost little puppy, following me around everywhere, hoping I’d toss her a bone. So in order to get any information from her, I had to pretend I still cared about her. I kissed her. I’m sorry, darling; I hated having to do it. She’s a vile creature.”

Hermione froze, her breath caught in her throat. He kissed her! He bloody kissed her! The irrational, jealous part of her mind screamed, but she ignored it, pushing the whining little voice to the back of her skull. It wasn’t like he cheated on me, she reasoned. He was just doing what we asked him to do. She reached up and touched his face, bringing his eyes to her, and smiled.

“Thank you for telling me,” she said softly, watching him smile in return, relief in his eyes. Hermione sighed, glancing around at the milk still dripping off the bench top. “I should clean this up,” she said with a groan, moving out of Draco’s arms. He pulled her back, scooping her slight body off the floor, settling her in his lap, finding her lips and kissing her passionately and deeply. Hermione groaned with pleasure as his tongue slipped into her mouth. All the tensions, all the frustrations and misgivings of the last few weeks disappeared in an instant, dissolving away into nothing. She returned his kiss with everything she had, loving him so completely she almost forgot who she was. She was so caught up in the kiss, she did not feel Draco’s arm leave her waist.

Icy cold liquid crashed over her head, and Hermione squealed, breaking the kiss in shock. Milk flowed through her hair, down her neck, running in tiny streams under the fabric of her shirt. She stared at Draco, stunned.

“Whoops,” he smirked, “sorry Granger; I must have slipped.”

Hermione scowled. “You are going to pay for that, Malfoy.” She made a grab for his hand and the milk carton, but he tipped it upside down, showing her it was empty. He grinned at her, a challenge in his eyes. Draco tossed the empty carton over his head, reaching down and tickling her with ruthless determination, his fingers working mercilessly against her ribs. She jumped, howling with laugher, sliding from his lap, and rolling on the floor. Draco held her down with one powerful hand, continuing his assault on her ribs with the other.

“Oh, don’t, stop. Draco! The milk!” Hermione managed to scream, her sides aching. Milk was in her hair, on her cheeks, soaked through her shirt and jeans. Draco released her, and she smiled at him, feeling more alive than she had in ages. Hermione giggled joyfully, and he swooped down and kissed her, catching her lips in his own, his mouth working on hers with a hungry need. She wrapped her arms around his waist, pulling him closer, her hands sliding under his shirt, wanting to tear it from his body. He groaned against her mouth, pressing his body against hers, covering her with the weight of his desire. His hands moved down the sides of her body, along the gentle indent of her waist, his fingers slipping under the top of her jeans. Hermione gasped, her body on fire, her hands moving over as much of him as she could reach. Draco kissed his way down her throat, and she tipped her head back, her fingers fumbling at the buttons on his pants.

“I’ll take my punishment now,” Draco whispered in her ear, his hot breath sending shock waves of desire through her body, before sinking his teeth into the delicate skin of her throat. For once, Hermione did not care if he left marks on her skin. She lay back, totally at peace, and let him peel the sodden clothes from her body.


Chapter 18: Come Back
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A/N: Hey all. Well, you know what, I just realised this fic is nearly over. We are up to chapter 18, and I have only umm, about 5 to go, maybe more, maybe less. Thanks for all your reviews and support! I'm so happy people have been enjoying this! xx



Draco leant back against the bench, cradling his coffee in his hand. He surveyed the kitchen with interest, a small smile playing on his lips. Milk splattered everywhere, coating the benchtop, and spread across the floor. Draco’s smile widened when he noticed his pants were dangling from the kitchen sink, still right where Hermione had tossed them the night before. His eyes roved around, passing over assorted pieces of clothing strewn over the floor, before coming to rest on her bra, hanging daintily from the pantry door handle. Draco grinned, remembering how he had practically torn the black lacy garment from her body with his teeth. He sighed contentedly, enjoying the warm feeling spreading through his hand, radiating from the ceramic cup. Last night had been exactly what both he and Hermoine needed – a night of play and total abandonment. He had woken that morning to a blissfully happy woman, and he felt more focused and alert than he had in days. Being able to feel love and happiness in the middle of their current nightmare was a blessing Draco was grateful for every day.

Hermione wandered into the kitchen, Harry on her heels. Her hair was loose around her shoulders, and she was wearing a shabby pair of jeans and a green jumper, her face bright and happy. Draco had never seen her looking more beautiful. She shot him an annoyed glare, her eyes taking in the state of the kitchen. He shrugged. She had asked him to clean up, but he hadn’t gotten around to it yet. Draco noticed Harry looking around with curiosity, his eyebrows raised knowingly, his emerald eyes dancing.

“What the hell happened in here, Malfoy?” Harry asked playfully, a boyish grin on his face.

Draco smirked and sipped his coffee. “None of your business, Potter.”

“Draco,” Hermione hissed through her teeth, clearly mortified and blushing to the roots of her hair. “Why didn’t you clean up? Oh my god I am so embarrassed.”

Draco smiled at her, ignoring her comment, turning to Harry. “Any news?”

“Actually, yes,” Harry said, his eyes instantly losing their mirth, resting with a hint of worry on Draco’s face. “The Polyjuice is ready, and Zabini has named the meeting place.”

Hermione frowned, taking out her wand and cleaning the kitchen.

“Hey darling, I could have done that,” Draco smirked, enjoying the irritation that flickered over her face. “So, you sent the letter then? Jordan would want to have done a good job. I don’t want Zabini to be the slightest bit suspicious.”

“Relax Malfoy, the man’s a master. He has spent the last couple of weeks studying the handwriting McGonagall sent over, perfecting an exact forgorary. You don’t have to worry about that. We sent an owl out this morning, and received a reply almost instantly,” Harry replied, leaning against a now clean bench.

“So quickly?” Draco muttered, his suspicions running high. “So what did he say?”

“To meet him tonight, midnight tonight, in Knockturn Alley,” Harry replied grimly.

Draco felt an icy sense of dread settle over him, his strange little world crashing down around his feet like glass. “Tonight. Potter,” he said softly, “I don’t think I can do this.”

Hermione slid her arm behind Draco’s back, pulling him to her. “Yes, you can,” she said gently, and he looked at her in surprise. She had been vehemently opposed to his being involved in this. “You have to,” she continued, reading his face. “A normal life Draco, remember? That’s what we want, what we all want,” she said, her voice louder and stronger. Draco looked at Harry, who nodded, his face pale. Potter had a wife and a baby on the way, he had a life to lead, and Draco could see how much this latest attempt to instate a Dark Lord was weighing on his shoulders. He studied Harry closely, noticing the strong line of his chin, the way he held his head high, and stood with his back straight. In that moment, Draco was glad he had never been Harry Potter, the boy-who-lived, the prophetised saviour of the wizarding world. Harry had accepted his fate with poise and determination. If he hadn’t of, Draco realized, the extraordinary little life he was now leading would never of existed.

Hermione left them, going to pack a change of clothes for both her and Draco, saying there was no way they could know how long they would be gone for.

“I don’t envy you, Potter,” Draco said when she had gone. “I don’t know how you ever dealt with this hero stuff.”

Harry laughed, running his fingers through his already messy hair. “It was never easy Malfoy, but, even though you’ll never be as good at it as me, I believe you can do it. You’re intelligent, strong, a real git sometimes, filled with animal instinct …”

“Are you trying to butter me up for something, Potter? Got another crazy plan for me have you?” Draco grinned, enjoying the way he and Harry slipped easily into playful banter.

“ …Plus, there is the advantage of, you know, …” Harry continued, looking slightly uncomfortable.

“Inside knowledge?” Draco finished for him, not feeling the slightest bit insulted. Harry was right. Draco had practically been a Death Eater, although unwillingly. His father had been one of Voldemorts most trusted minions. Draco had been privy to Death Eater meetings and knew more than anyone in the Order about the organization. He also understood people like Zabini, driven by a lust for power, for domination, something people like Harry and Hermione would never be able to truly appreciate. For that, Draco envied them.

Hermione returned, a backpack slung over her shoulder, and the three of them apparated to a vacant parking lot a few blocks over from Headquarters, walking the short distance quickly and in silence. Lupin let them in with a small smile, his face paler than usual, his eyes dull and lifeless, his body frail and thinner than before. The moon had finished its cycle, and Draco nodded at the werewolf, understanding and sympathy flashing in his eyes. Lupin raised his eyebrows in surprise, inclinging his head in return.

Giggling exploded from the kitchen, and when they entered, it was to find Ron and Lavender, wrapped tightly around each other, lips pressed together. Draco snuck a glance at Hermione, wanting to see her face. Her expression gave no indication that she had just caught her former lover in the arms of another woman, and Draco smiled, feeling incredibly happy all of a sudden. Ron and Lavender had sprung apart as if burnt when the door flew open, and they now stood on opposite sides of the room, Ron’s face crimson.

“What are you grinning at, Malfoy?” he snapped, and Draco laughed, sinking into a chair.

“Nothing at all Weasley, nothing at all,” he snickered. A large cauldron sat on the table, perched solidly on top of a metal brazier. The Polyjuice Potion bubbled away merrily. Draco raised his eyebrows. “You better not have stuffed this up, Weasley. If I remember correctly, Potions was never your strength. In fact, I was wondering, just what is your strength exactly? Hermione’s the brains, and Potter’s the brawn, so where do you fit in? You’re certainly not the beauty.” Draco heard Harry snort, and saw Hermione roll her eyes.

Ron scowled at him, clenching his fists. “Shut up, Malfoy.”

Harry had picked up a piece of parchment from the table, his eyes running over the paper absently.

“Is that Zabini’s reply?” Draco asked, and Harry nodded, handing him the paper. Draco read it quietly, Hermione leaning over his shoulder, her hand a comforting pressure on the back of his neck.

“What do you think?” she asked him. “Is it his writing?”

Draco nodded. He would know Zabini’s handwriting anywhere; he had been the closest thing Draco had to a friend at Hogwarts, and he used to think of him as a brother. With a great sigh, Draco folded the parchment, tossing it back to Harry, before leaning forward and putting his head on the table. Hermione stroked the back of his head gently, her touch soothing.

“What time is it?” Draco asked the table.

“Ten in the morning,” Lavender replied, checking her watch.

Draco sat up, blinking. “So I have, what, twelve, fourteen hours before I can do this thing? Just great,” he snarled. Hermione suggested he go and get some rest, but he shook his head, turning and pulling her into his lap, burying his head against her chest, ignoring the daggers he knew Weasley was shooting in his direction.

“You won’t be going alone, Malfoy. I’m coming with you,” Harry said softly, sitting down.

“Not a good idea, Potter,” Draco snapped, his voice muffled by Hermione’s shirt.

“They won’t see me you idiot,” Harry replied, sounding annoyed.

“Are you going to use your cloak then?” Draco asked sarcastically, remembering how envious he used to be of Harry’s Invisibility Cloak at school.

“No. A Disillusionment Charm. It should last as long as the Polyjuice does,” Harry said, stretching and standing up again. “I should get home to my wife. I said I’d be back thirty minutes ago.”

Draco laughed. “Under the thumb, Potter?” he quipped, and Hermione slapped him on the head. He looked up at her, feigning hurt, and she frowned at him.

“Never upset a pregnant woman, Malfoy,” Harry grimanced. “Especially if that woman happens to be my wife. I’ll be back around nine. Get some rest guys.”


***


Hermione laid back on the bed, breathing heavily, a lazy smile on her lips, enjoying the feeling of Draco’s weight pushing against her, flattening her into the mattress. He had his arm wrapped around her waist, his leg entwined with hers, their bodies moulded together, slicked with sweat, the sheets damp beneath them. Draco’s breathing was ragged, his lips moving gently against her neck, and Hermione giggled, running her fingers through his damp hair.

“Not tired are you?” she asked playfully, tickling the back of his neck.

“What are you trying to do to me, woman?” he growled against her throat, sliding his hand up her body, finding her hair, twisting it around his fingers and tugging gently. Draco propped himself up on his elbow, looking down at her, his eyes soft and misty. He bent his head and kissed her, tenderly and deeply. Hermione ignored the stab of pain shooting from her bruised lips, kissing him back. This kiss was gentle and warm, filled with patience, love and understanding, unlike the kisses they had shared over the last few hours.

After Harry had left, Hermione had felt an overwhelming desire to be alone with Draco, and had practically dragged him away from the kitchen by his shirt, leaving Ron with Lavender, taking him upstairs to her old room. The room she used to share with Ginny was dark and musty, and Hermione had raced to hastily throw open a window, letting in the faintest traces of sunlight. Draco had stood by the door, his hands clenched into fists by his side, his eyes watching her every move. Without words, Hermione had told him what she needed. When she had kissed him, it was with a ferocious hunger, the raw need to have him close to her beating all her other senses into submission. She wanted to remember everything about him, from the way he smelt and tasted, the luxurious softness of his hair, and the color of his eyes, to the way the muscles worked in his arms. Draco had responded with just as much desperate desire, bruising her mouth with his hard, rough kisses. He had torn the clothes from her body, his hands raking over her skin, tracing every inch of her, before tossing her onto the bed, covering her with his strong body; both of them craving each other’s touch. For the rest of the day they had locked themselves away, not needing anything but each other, shutting out the world and all the horrors it brought with it, existing only in the moment.

Draco broke their kiss, moving his lips down to nuzzle her neck, leaving Hermione breathless and trembling. She sighed regretfully.

“We should get up. Harry will be back soon.”

“I’m not leaving this bed; I’m not leaving you,” Draco mumbled against her throat, and Hermione felt periously close to tears again. She had not imagined it was possible to love someone as much as she loved him, and for a brief moment, she saw herself wandering through life, numb and grief stricken. The vision forced its way into her skull, and she blinked, tears building behind closed lids, threatening to spill down her cheeks. She could not loose him, not for anything.

“Draco,” she whispered, her voice thick and choked with tears. He raised his head, his eyes searching her face. Her chest tight, Hermione rolled over, tucking herself against his body, and he immediately wrapped his arms around her, holding her securely against him. Hermione could hear his heart beating in her ears, and she forced away an image of Draco’s body, lying battered and broken on the ground. She drew in a deep breath, her body shaking with the effort, teetering on the edge of hysteria.

“Oh darling, it’ll be alright,” Draco whispered into her hair, pulling her closer.

“Don’t you dare die, Draco Malfoy,” Hermione whispered through her sobs. “I love you to darn much.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” he whispered back, reaching down to cup her chin, lifting her face so he could look into her eyes. “I have way too much to live for now.”

Hermione flung her arms around his neck, pressing herself against him, crying her heart out on his strong shoulder. She felt a shiver run through Draco’s body, and held him tighter, feeling like she was drowning. Draco gently pulled away, his eyes dark and moist, and he rubbed his hand across his face, moving to stroke her cheek, brushing away her tears. He kissed her softly, his lips lingering on her mouth, before rolling away with a sigh. Hermione watched him stand up, his pale frame glowing in the murky light slanting in from the window. Draco pulled on his clothes, returning to sit beside her on the bed. Hermione reached for his hand, squeezing it tightly, forcing a reassuring smile onto her face. Draco looked at her, his eyes wide and fearful, filled with doubt and promise.

“I’ll come back darling, don’t worry,” he whispered, and Hermione nodded, knowing she would remember this moment forever.



A/N: I know, a bit on the short side, but tis very sweet, I thought...The action happens later!! Please review!

Chapter 19: Becoming Snape
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Draco held the vial up to his eyes, grimancing in disgust. “I’m not drinking this,” he stated, shaking the vial slightly, watching as the thick, murky liquid sloshed around. Ron rolled his eyes. He was sitting by the fire, Lavender standing behind him with her hand resting lightly on his shoulder.

“It’s fine, Malfoy,” the redhead replied wearily, rubbing at his head.

“I’m not drinking this,” Draco repeated, throwing Ron a thoroughly disgusted look.

“Malfoy, don’t be such a baby. It’s perfectly fine. Right, Hermione?” Ron asked.

Hermione was peering into the cauldron on the table, examining the contents with a small frown on her face, her eyes occasionally flying to a Potions textbook open at her elbow. At Ron’s words, she lifted her head and sighed. “Yes Ron, it’s fine. You did a good job, although I think we are all lucky Lavender was here to help,” she added, and Ron scowled at the insult to his potion making skills, muttering something under his breath that Draco was sure sounded like, “stupid Malfoy.”

“You ready then?” Harry asked, coming to stand beside Draco, who shook his head.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be ready for this,” the blonde muttered, trying desperately to clamp down on his nerves. Within half an hour, he would be disguised as Snape, meeting a dangerous Death Eater in a dark, deserted alley. He would rather be home in bed, watching television, Hermione curled beside him, trying to sleep and complaining that the television was too loud. Draco watched warily as Harry picked up a small glass jar from the table, holding it up to his eyes. Inside the jar was a single hair, long, black and greasy looking, and Draco swallowed. Harry raised his eyebrows, opening the jar and lifting out the hair gently.

“Glad it’s you and not me, Malfoy,” he said with a grin, turning to Draco.

“Very comforting, Potter. Can we get on with it?” Draco snapped irritably, holding out the vial. Harry very carefully dropped the hair into the potion, which hissed and instantly turned a lurid grey, the colour of dirty dishwater. Lavender gave a weak, girly scream as the potion spat and bubbled, and Draco saw Hermione roll her eyes as Ron put his arm around the other woman, pulling her close in comfort. Draco eyed the potion suspiciously, resiting the urge to vomit. The smell pouring from the vial was the most putrid thing he had ever smelt, and by the looks on the faces of those around him, he could tell they felt the same. A slight shudder went through his body at the thought of drinking the horrid liquid. Draco pressed his lips together tightly. There was no way he was going to swallow that stuff; no way in hell.

“Malfoy, come on. We’re running out of time,” Harry hissed at him, and Draco sighed. He glanced across the room to find Hermione looking at him, a sad and rather desperate expression on her face. Draco shoved the vial at Harry, who almost dropped it in surprise, before crossing the room to gather Hermione in his arms, pulling her body as close to his as he could. He kissed her deeply and passionately, not caring that they had an audience, only releasing her when Harry hit him across the back of the head, telling him to hurry up. With a sigh, Draco held out his hand, tipped his head back and swallowed the contents of the vial in one go. If anything, the taste was worse than the smell, and Draco silently cursed Ron, swearing under his breath that the redhead must have put something exceptionally foul in there just out of spite. Draco stood still, waiting. Nothing seemed to be happening yet, and he rolled his eyes.

“You appear to have stuffed things up again, Weasley,” he drawled, and then froze in shock, realizing that the voice escaping his lips was not his own pleasant tenor but the droll, flat monotone of Severus Snape. Without warning, Draco was hit with an incredible burning sensation. He doubled over with the force of the pain, feeling flames race through his blood. He itched terribly, as if a thousand ants had made his body their home. His very bones seemed to break apart, before fusing back together; his skin seemed stretched and then shrunken; his vision blurred and his head felt like it was about to split open. He closed his eyes, falling to his knees, and preyed it would end soon.

Almost as soon as it began, the burning stopped. Draco opened his eyes; his first thought was that he had gone blind, before he realized he was looking at the world through a curtain of greasy black hair. Draco reached up, brushing his nose as he pushed the hair out of his eyes. As his fingers came away slightly oily, he swallowed in disgust, realizing at the same time that his nose was no longer perfect and straight, but rather large and hooked. With a shudder, Draco pulled himself to his feet, using the edge of the table for support. Lavender screamed, and Draco spun to face her, startled. Ron was staring at him with a look of horror. Lupin, seated in the shadows on the other side of the room merely smiled in satisfaction, giving Draco a slight nod. Supressing a sigh, Draco turned to Hermione, who took a small step away from him in shock, blinking rapidly. He narrowed his eyes at her, watching her sink weakly into a chair.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, staring at him. “It’s just been such a long time since …” She attempted a smile, and failed, turning her gaze instead to the table. Draco switched his irritation to Ron, who was still standing staring at him as if he had grown another head, his mouth slightly open, and his face pale.

“Shut your mouth, Weasley,” Draco snapped, and Ron shook his head.

“Bloody hell!” he whispered. “That’s just so wrong.”

“Malfoy,” Harry said quickly, laying a restraining hand on Draco’s arm. Draco had taken a step towards Ron, his face murderous, wanting desperately to unleash his frustration and fear on somebody. He turned to Harry, noticing his pale face and angry eyes. Harry was only just keeping his hatred for Snape beneath the surface, and Draco had no wish to be on the receiving end of his anger.

“So what now, Potter?” Draco snapped, feeling incredibly irritated. McGonagall had sent some of Snape’s old clothes over, and Draco had changed earlier, before taking the potion. He tugged at the high collar of his stiff shirt. No wonder Snape was always annoyed, Draco thought, feeling very uncomfortable in the tight shirt.

“We’ll apparate directly to Knockturn Alley. Yes Malfoy, I’m still coming with you,” Harry added sternly as Draco opened his mouth. Ron came forward, his wand out, and Draco watched with interest as the redhead tapped Harry gently on the top of his head. Slowly, Harry’s form dissolved, until Draco could not see him at all. He nodded, impressed, realizing Harry’s body had taken on the colour and texture of everything around him.

“Alright, Potter, you can come,” he said, feeling slightly foolish talking to someone he could not see clearly. Lupin gave a small cough, standing up, his face sickly and pale in the firelight.

“You have less than an hour. Remember, Draco, don’t do anything if you feel you are in danger. This is not about you playing the hero. Harry will be there to back you up if something does go wrong, and Fred and Angelina will be stationed nearby just in case you need them. Good luck,” Lupin said softly, before sitting down again, folding his robes around his thin body. Lavender gave Draco a hesitant smile, which he returned with a scowl. Feeling Hermione at his side, Draco turned to face her. She gave him a weak smile.

“I’d kiss you, but …” she mumbled, and he shrugged.

“Let’s go, Malfoy,” Harry spoke from somewhere behind him, and Draco jumped as a hand descended on his shoulder. Draco nodded, his heart dropping into his stomach as nerves gripped his insides. He took a deep breath, before allowing Harry to drag him through the suffocating darkness to Knockturn Alley.

***

Draco looked around nervously, trying desperately to see into every dark pocket of Knockturn Alley. It was bitterly cold, and he shivered, watching with dread as mist swirled ominously over the wintry, black ground. Knockturn Alley was swathed in darkness, and Draco felt eyes boring into his body. He knew members of the Order were nearby, but this felt different. He tugged at his robes, pulling them closer to his body, feeling extremely vulnerable.

“I don’t like this,” he whispered to Harry, who he assumed was standing somewhere close by.

“Shut up. You’ll blow our cover,” Harry hissed from the darkness behind Draco’s shoulder, his voice low and angry. Draco felt a hand in the small of his back, and he scowled as Harry pushed him deeper into the Alley. Draco bit back an angry retort, freezing as he heard slow, hesitant footsteps echoing from the blackness around him. He stood up straight, adjusting his robes and taking a deep breath, focusing his thoughts, preying silently that Blaise did not know Legilimency. He did not feel strong enough to be able to repel any attacks on his mind.

Blaise Zabini stepped from the shadows, suprising Draco with his nearness. He was wearing a long black cloak, the hood pulled up, concealing his features. Seeing Draco, Zabini reached up and slowly removed his hood, dipping his head slightly in a respectful greeting.

“Severus,” Zabini said meekly, his voice whispered.

“Don’t use my name you fool,” he snapped, enjoying watching the blood drain from Zabini’s face. Blaise narrowed his eyes, recovering quickly.

“You contacted me,” he replied pointedly, and Draco scowled. He reached forward and grabbed hold of Zabini’s arm, dragging him deeper into the Alley, his nrvousness evaporating now that the mission had begun.

“It’s not wise to speak so blatantly Zabini, or did my Master never tell you that?” Draco replied in a low voice, letting his lip curl in what he hoped was a perfect imitation of Snape.

“You dare refer to the Dark Lord as Master? Where have you been Snape? Where were you when the Dark Lord fell, murdered by that pathetic Potter and his Mudblood girlfriend?” Blaise retorted angrily. Draco was momentarily stunned. He had no idea Hermione had been there when Harry killed Voldemort. Blaise made it sound like she had even helped. Draco felt a strong surge of pride run through his veins. How could he have not known she was there? He had never thought to ask her what happened during the war, assuming she would not want to talk about it. Blaise was looking at him with narrowed eyes, and Draco quickly pulled himself together, slipping effortlessly back into character.

“The Dark Lord never questioned where my loyalties lay, Zabini. He knew I was his true servant, even through all those years of playing Dumbledore’s pet,” Draco hissed in reply. “I proved that, as you know.”

Zabini laughed with relish, his eyes twinkling. “Oh yes, I remember, Snape. You had to clean up the Malfoy brat’s mess. I always knew he was too cowardly to do it. The Dark Lord should have picked me instead.”

Draco felt anger fly through his body, but he controlled his expression, shifting his face into a sneer. “Malfoy’s failing was…unfortunate, but not of our concern anymore. He’s gone.”

“He returned, Snape. Several years ago. He came back to us, claiming, as he did before, that he was a loyal servant of the Dark Lord. But he lied! When things got too tough for him, he ran to Potter and his little mates,” Blaise hissed with hatred, before narrowing his eyes at Draco. “How do I know it’s really you?”

Draco felt his heart drop into his shoes, and his mouth dried up at the look in his former friends eyes. He reisted the urge to swallow. “Do you think I would be stupid enough to leave anything of mine just lying around where someone could get their hands on it?” he improvised. Blaise suddenly drew his wand, pointing it at Draco’s heart. His blood ran cold as he stared in terror at the wand tip, hovering not two inches from his chest, and he preyed Potter would live up to his reputation if needed. He glared at Blaise.

“Show me,” Zabini demanded, motioning towards his arm, and Draco sighed in relief, instantly rolling the sleeve of his robe up, exposing the Dark Mark. Blaise gripped Draco’s forearm tightly, running his fingers over the Mark, examining it. Draco repressed a shudder at the touch of Blaise’s skin on his. He jerked his arm away, pushing his sleeve back down. He reached up and roughly pushed Zabini’s wand away from his body, sneering at him. Blaise nodded, satisfied, sliding his wand back into his pocket.

“So,” Draco said flatly, “you want to know why I contacted you?” Blaise nodded, his eyes eager and alert. “You have been careless,” Draco continued smoothly, “word has reached my ears that the Death Eaters are active again. I am assuming you have a plan, Zabini, and this is not just an opportunity to engage in a little pointless activity to indulge your lust for bloodshed.”

Blaise nodded again. “I have found a spell. One that will allow me to attain the powers of the Dark Lord, drawing them from beyond the grave. I will become the vessel for this power. Nothing will be able to stop me, not even Potter. I will succeed. It is my destiny,” he cried, his voice rising slightly in both volume and pitch. He was looking at Draco expectantly, and Draco got the unsettling feeling that Snape was meant to know about the properties of this spell. Draco, however, had no idea what Zabini was talking about.

He rolled his eyes. Stupid little zealot, he thought, vowing to be there when the Order took Zabini down. “Naturally,” he drawled sarcastically. “You were one of my top students, but just what makes you think you have the expertise to work this spell?”

Blaise opened his mouth to reply, but was prevented from answering. A light female voice cut through the darkness.

“Blaise? Are you there?”

Blaise’s face contorted in anger, and he spun to face the newcomer. The woman was tall and slim, her body wrapped in a dark cloak, the hood pulled over her head. She was standing in the shadows behind Blaise. Draco studied her, feeling a tingle run along his spine. There was something familiar about her. He had no idea where she had come from. He could only guess she must have apparated soundlessly further along the alley.

“I didn’t realize we would have company, Zabini,” Draco intoned coolly, watching the woman closely.

“What are you doing here? You shouldn’t have come,” Blaise snapped at her, and Draco noticed she took a slight step away from the force of his anger. Draco saw her lips curve into a pout, and he felt his heart speed up. He had seen that look before, and recently.

“Malfoy came to my house,” the woman answered bluntly, and Draco felt his breath catch in his throat. He hissed into the darkness, a small sound escaping his lips, and she lifted her eyes to his face. “Professor, how are you?”

“Take that hood off your head, Parkinson; you look ridiculous,” Draco managed to ground out, his brain feeling like it was floating outside his body. Pansy smiled and blushed, lifting her hands to pull the heavy woolen hood away from her face. Draco felt his blood run cold at the sight of her pale face. Her eyes were glowing with sickening triumph. He swallowed, realizing he had sorely underestimated the extent of her hatred.

“So Malfoy came to visit you? What did he say?” Blaise asked Pansy, drawing her closer to his body, his arm sliding around her waist. Pansy smiled up at him with the same adoring look she used to bestow on Draco, who instantly felt extremely ill. Fire began to race through his veins, and his shirt suddenly became more constricted around his chest. His skin itched, and his scalp began to tingle. With horror, he realized his time was up.

“As interesting as this is,” Draco drawled, “I cannot stand around here all night. Don’t contact me, Zabini – wait for me to contact you.”

Blaise nodded, and Draco turned and slipped gratefully into the darkness, hurrying back to where Harry was waiting, his head spinning with the force of a hurricane.



A/N: Well, what did you think? Comments? Suggestions? Did it live up to what you thought it would be? Thanks guys!!

Chapter 20: Disaster...
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Hermione laid her cheek against the railing of the old staircase of 12 Grimmauld Place. Anxiously, she checked her watch, biting down on the flash of concern that clawed its way into her mind. She had expected Draco and Harry back before now. Lupin had retired to his bed not long after they had left, grudgingly accepting a glass of restorative potion Hermione had pushed into his hands. She was worried about the werewolf, and made up her mind to concoct a large supply of Wolfsbane potion for him as soon as possible. Since losing Tonks in the war, Lupin had drifted into a deep melancholy, and Hermione knew he was not taking proper care of himself. The kitchen door opened, and Ron and Lavender emerged, hand in hand. They stopped when they saw Hermione sitting on the bottom stair, pressed against the railing. Ron’s face creased into a frown, and he sighed.

“Hermione, go and get some rest. You can’t sit here all night,” he said gently, and she shook her head. “We would have been alerted if something went wrong,” Ron added, dropping Lavender’s hand and stepping closer to Hermione. “Please, Mione. Go to bed.”

“I’m fine, Ron,” Hermoine said wearily, rubbing at her temples. “I’m going to wait.”

“At least come into the living room with us then,” Lavender offered gently. “It’s freezing out here.”

Hermione gave the blonde woman a slight smile. “No, it’s okay, Lavender. Really. You two go ahead,” she said firmly, closing her eyes with finality. She heard Ron sigh again, before he and Lavender moved off down the hall. Hermione heard the click of the living room door opening, followed by the soft sound of it closing, and she opened her eyes, fixing them firmly on the front door. Hermione chewed her bottom lip, resisting the urge to look at her watch again. The Polyjuice Potion would have worn off half an hour ago, as well as Harry’s Disillusionment Charm, and yet they were still not back. Hermione sat back with a sigh, settling down to wait. She knew she should probably do as Ron suggested and go to bed, but she would not sleep until Draco was back and she could hold him in her arms again. Hermione closed her eyes and shivered. Lavender was right. The hall was freezing. Hermione pulled her coat closer to her body, trying to shut out the cold, but it stole through her clothes, sinking into her bones. Shivering, she climbed to her feet, rubbing her arms, and, scowling darkly, slunk off towards the living room.

Lavender was curled into an armchair by the roaring fire, Ron sitting on the floor at her feet, his head resting against her legs. She looked up when Hermione entered, giving her a tentative smile. Ever since Draco and Harry left, Hermione had sensed Lavender wanting to talk to her, probably about Ron, but Hermione had ignored the other woman. She did so again, sinking into a chair and pointedly closing her eyes. She did not want to talk to Lavender about Ron, not now. Not because she was jealous or upset; on the contrary. Perhaps now Ron would truly relax about her relationship with Draco. Hermione knew, regardless of what the redhead told her, he was still uncomfortable seeing them together.

A touch on her cheek startled Hermione, and her eyes flew open, her hand automatically plunging into her coat pocket, withdrawing her wand at lightening speed. A strong hand grabbed her wrist gently, lowering her hand and her wand, and Hermione sighed in relief as long fingers found their way into her hair. She smiled.

“I told you I’d be fine,” Draco whispered, smiling at her, although Hermione thought his smile rather forced. His skin was milk pale and icy cold, and his eyes dark and troubled. She flashed him a questioning look, and he shook his head, sighing deeply. Draco bent down and scooped her into his arms, lifting her out of the chair. He sat down in her seat, drawing her with him, and she settled into his lap, tucking her head against his neck. Draco’s arms went around her body, and he hugged her tightly, trembling slightly. Hermione placed a gentle kiss on the soft skin of his neck.

“Where’s Harry?” she whispered.

“Getting us a drink,” Draco replied, his voice tight and strained.

“What happened, Malfoy?” Ron asked softly, shifting away from Lavender’s legs, a small frown on his face. Draco sighed and rubbed at his temples, his face creased with worry.

“I’ll wait for Potter,” he said firmly, bending his head to catch Hermione’s lips with his own, kissing her softly and lovingly. Hermione sighed against his mouth, feeling her body melt into his. She could feel Ron’s eyes on her back, watching them and irritated, she broke away from Draco’s kiss, turning to throw her ex-lover a dirty look. Understanding, Ron muttered something under his breath and looked away into the fire. The living room door swung open to admit Harry, looking pale and ruffled, follwed closely by Ginny. Hermione gave a little gasp, disentangling herself from Draco and rushing to enfold her friend in a warm hug. She looked at Ginny questioningly.

“I hate waiting,” Ginny shrugged, and Hermione nodded, knowing exactly how she felt. Harry sank into a chair by the fire, Ginny moving to his side, running her fingers through his tangled hair before sitting beside him, her face worried. Ron sat up, batting Lavender’s hand away from his head, his eyes moving between Harry and Draco. Hermione fell back into Draco’s lap, his strong arms circling her body immediately. Harry tossed the blonde a pointed look, and Hermione felt dread clamp in her stomach.

“So?” Ron asked, trying to keep the irritation out of his tone. He had been peeved that Harry would not let him be in on the mission, and had ranted and scowled for a good twenty minutes after Harry and Draco had left, until Hermione and Lavender had both told him to shut up.

“I met with Zabini, as arranged,” Draco began, his voice tight. “He told me he had found a spell, some Dark magic that would allow him to access Voldemort’s powers, even though the Dark Lord is dead. I don’t know what this spell is, and he didn’t tell me. I couldn’t exactly ask, Weasley,” he snapped, interpreting Ron’s dark look as criticism, which Hermione guessed it probably was. “If I did, I’d have blown it. Snape obviously knows about this spell. Anyway, he didn’t give me much more than that, just the usual tripe about being a loyal follower of the Dark Lord; pretty standard Death Eater philosophy really.”

Silence reigned in the room as everyone took in Draco’s words.

“What could this spell be?” Lavender wondered, and Harry shook his head.

“I have no idea. Someone will need to go to Hogwarts, check the library, ask around, whatever needs to be done. I’ll ask Moody tomorrow, if I can find him. Lupin mentioned he’s moved again,” Harry sighed, pulling at his hair. He looked across at Draco, his expression intense. “Tell them everything, Malfoy.”

Draco scowled, throwing Harry a dark, brooding look. “Pansy showed up,” he said simply, his comment met with a gasp of horror from Lavender and Hermione. Ginny had her hands over her mouth, and Ron was frowning.

“I thought you said …”

“I know what I said, Weasley. I fucked up, didn’t I?” Draco snapped. “She showed up in the alley, relating my visit to her house to Zabini, who looked like Christmas had come early. I had no idea she hated me so much. If I suspected anything, I would have …”

“What, Malfoy? Killed her? That’s what Death Eaters do, isn’t it?”

“Ron!” Hermione and Ginny both yelled, and Ron had the grace to look slightly ashamed of himself. Draco shook his head sadly, his eyes dark and cold. He fixed Ron in an icy stare that made Hermione shiver.

“I would have brought her in,” Draco said calmly, although his face was like stone. “By force if I had to, but she would not have been able to run to Zabini. I am well and truly screwed now.”

“No, you’re not,” Harry replied softly. “She didn’t say anything about the Order knowing their plans, because how could she know. You’re still safe with us, Malfoy.”

“It will not take Blaise long to work it out though. He knows Draco is with us,” Hermione muttered, and Draco nodded in agreement, pulling her closer to him. She turned and buried her head against his neck, breathing in the delicious scent of him. “Can we go home now?” she asked, and felt him nod and plant a kiss on the side of her head.

“There is nothing I want more at the moment,” he whispered in her ear, squeezing her tightly. “Well, perhaps there is something I want more …”

Hermione giggled and pinched his arm playfully, her mind and body screaming out in agreement. Draco stood up, the sudden movement taking her by surprise and she squealed, throwing her arms around his neck tightly. He held her firmly against him, cradled in his arms.

“Potter, thanks for tonight,” Draco said softly. “Now, if you don’t mind, we’re going home.”

“I don’t advise that, Malfoy,” Harry said quickly. “You should stay here. The Manor won’t be safe, now that Pansy …”

“Well, we’ll go to Hermione’s flat, then,” Draco huffed, annoyed.

Harry sighed. “I don’t think …”

“We’ll be fine, Harry. Don’t worry, please. I’ll put security jinxes all over the house,” Hermione said gently, turning to look at her friend. “I just want to go home.”

Harry ran a hand through his hair, his face clearly troubled. “I don’t like it, Mione. I’ll call Fred and Angelina. They can be stationed outside, just in case.”

“Oh for Merlin’s sake, Potter!” Draco snapped, letting Hermione down gently, glowering at Harry. “I’m sick of being baby-sat by you lot.”

“Actually, Malfoy, it’s Hermione I’m concerned about. I couldn’t give a toss about you at the moment,” Harry fumed, standing up, his face slowly going red. Ginny reached up and laid a hand on his arm, but he shoved her off. “If you’d only done your job properly with Pansy then none of this would be happening right now!”

“Oh, so it’s my fault Zabini is running around playing dress-up in the Dark Lord’s robes, is it?” Draco yelled, stepping closer to Harry, his face twisted in anger. Ron jumped to his feet, his fingers brushing the wand in his pocket, his face hard and determined. Hermione put her head in her hands, feeling close to tears again. Ginny was yelling at Harry to shut up, and Harry was yelling at Draco. Hermione heard Laveneder pleading with Ron to sit down, and she knew it was only a matter of seconds before the men started throwing their fists around, or hexed one another. Stamping her foot in frustration, Hermione pulled out her wand, screaming “Silencio”. The room fell silent instantly, Harry, Ron and Draco’s mouths still opening, yelling soundlessly at one another. One by one, they turned to look at Hermione.

“That’s better,” she said serenly, walking into the center of the room. “I know we are all tense and on edge, but seriously boys, this is ridiculous! There is so much testosterone in the room at the moment I’m surprised I haven’t grown a beard. Stop acting so stupid! Harry,” she turned angry eyes on Harry, who met her glare for glare. “Stop accusing Draco of stuffing up. It was not his fault. Ron … just stop,” she pleaded, looking into his eyes. Ron gave a great huff and turned away, putting his back to Hermione. She took Draco’s hand. “And you. They just want to keep me safe, that’s all. This is not about who can protect me better, you or them. Honestly, at the moment, I’d probably be better off without any of you around me.”

Draco glared at her for a minute, before she saw his face and body relax, his shoulders dropping a little, his spine easing its tension. He nodded, and she smiled. “Good boys.” Hermione waved her wand, and the spell lifted. Draco reached out and pulled her to him, growling deep in his throat.

“You’re right,” he admitted. “Sorry, Potter,” he said harshly and Hermione sighed and rolled her eyes as Harry muttered a ‘sorry, Malfoy’ back. Ron would not speak to anyone. Lavender was hissing in his ear, but he ignored her.

“Can we go now?” Draco snapped at no one in particular, before grabbing Hermione’s hand and dragging her from the room.


***


“You really didn’t need to do that, Hermione,” Draco grumbled as they stood outside the front door of her flat. “Potter was out of line.”

She sighed, searching through her pockets for the key. “Please, Draco, don’t start,” she begged, her voice tired and strained. Draco crossed his arms over his chest, feeling insulted. He was angrier than he had been in long time. Potter and Weasely, especially Potter, had made him mad enough to want to curse them with Dark spells he had not thought about using in years. He knew how wrongly he had misjudged Pansy; he knew it the moment she appeared in Knockturn Alley with a smile of sickening triumph on her red lips. Yet, when he was at her forelorn little house in Wales, she gave the impression that her anger at him arose simply from rejection. He had no idea she was still closely connected to Zabini. If anything, he thought, feeling affronted, Potter should be screeching at Angelina. It was her source that told them Pansy and Zabini had not seen each other for years.

He looked back to Hermione. She was still fumbling through her pockets, muttering to herself.

“I can’t find it,” she cursed, stamping her foot, and Draco raised his eyebrows.

“Not meaning to sound condescending my love, but aren’t you a witch? Use your wand,” he said in a bored tone. She turned angry eyes on him and he smirked, feeling in the mood for a fight. He didn’t want to fight with her, he loved her, but Potter had severely ticked him off. The whole night had ticked him off. Draco felt his skin was crawling from his body he was so restless. Pansy’s appearance had thrown him way off course, and he knew he had wasted valuable time being shocked when he could have been dragging more information out of Zabini.

Hermione took out her wand, throwing Draco a furious glance as she did so, unlocking the door instantly. He felt immediately guilty for stirring her up. He didn’t want to make her mad, well, not so mad that wouldn’t sleep with him. He mumbled a contrite, “sorry”, before tugging playfully on a piece of her hair. She batted his hand away with an irritated sigh.

“Draco,” she began, turning around, her face flushed. She was keeping her temper under control, and he knew beneath the surface she was probably fuming at him. “I’m not in the mood for games.”

“What a pity, Mudblood, because I am.”

Draco felt his blood turn to ice, a cold voice echoing in his ears. He heard Hermione gasp in shock, looking over his shoulder. Slowly, he turned, finding a wand tip pressed into his face. Zabini, in his full Death Eater glory, was standing directly behind Draco. His lips curled into a smile as several soft ‘pops’ reverberated in the air around them, no less than six Death Eaters dropping to the ground at Zabini’s rear. They stood, their wands raised, pointed at Draco and Hermione. Damn Potter, Draco thought in annoyance, always has to be right.

Zabini’s smile widened as Draco took an involuntary step backwards. His first thought was to push Hermione inside, but his heart sank as she stepped out beside him, her own wand raised, her face pale and determined. Inwardly, he sighed. Once a Gryffindor …

“Good to see you again, Draco,” Pansy’s voice rang out, and he watched with silent terror as she lifted her hood, pulling it back from her face. Her hands moved to take down the mask she wore, but Zabini barked out a curt order, forestalling her action.

“You can reminisce later, Parkinson. Right now, though, you,” he said coldly, turning his eyes on Hermione, “and I need to have a little chat, Mudblood.”

“Leave her alone, Blaise,” Draco cut in warningly, his grip on his wand tightening. “Whatever you want, I’ll do it, but leave her out of this.”

“No,” Hermione gasped. “Draco, don’t.”

The Death Eaters laughed, and Draco shivered as their mocking laughter danced along his spine.

“No, Malfoy. You don’t interest us anymore,” Zabini said, raising his wand. “Avada …”

“No!” Hermione cried, shooting a Stunner straight at Blaise’s heart. It hit him square in the chest and he crumbled like a deck of cards, falling to the ground in a heap of flesh and black robes. Pansy screeched and a torrent of spells shot from the end of her wand. Draco pushed Hermione to the ground, before throwing himself sideways. He turned to look for her, watching with horror as two Death Eaters advanced on her. She Stunned one and jinxed another, before a third joined them, lifting his fist menacingly and smashing it into her skull. Draco gave a howl of rage and flew to his feet, his own wand forgotten, tearing across the short expanse of well-kept lawn, and slamming his body into the Death Eater, bringing them both tumbling to the ground. He narrowly avoided a curse flung at his head by Pansy, flipping over onto his back and using the Death Eater as a shield. The man fell on top of him, crushing the breath from his body. Draco threw him off with a snarl.

Winded, he lay clutching his ribs, panting heavily. Dimly, he saw Hermione sit up groggily, and his heart lept to see she was not seriously hurt. A trickle of blood ran slowly down her cheek, and she held her wrist against her chest, a pained expressin on her face. Hermione’s wand shot from her hand, and she looked up in surprise to see Pansy bearing down on her, her wand raised with determination, pointed at Hermione’s heart.

“Don’t you dare, Pansy!” Draco yelled, sitting up and searching frantically for his own wand. Pansy laughed shrilly, sounding like a maniac, and Draco cringed. What the hell had happened to her? He wondered briefly whether Zabini had her under the Imperius Curse. Pansy shouted over her shoulder for the others to leave before the Order showed up, and they disapparated quickly, grabbing Blaise and there Stunned collegues as they went. Pansy lifted her wand, Stunning Hermione, who fell back onto the grass looking like she was merely asleep.

“Pansy, why are you doing this?” Draco asked, his voice a whispered plea. His heart beat a million miles in his chest. He struggled to his feet, wanting to get to Hermione’s side. Pansy turned to look at him regretfully, her face pale and her eyes sad.

“I’m sorry it has to be this way, Draco,” she said in a low voice, before pointing her wand at him.

I’m dead, Draco thought. As the world exploded, he saw Pansy grasp Hermione’s arm, before shooting a spell straight at his heart. She vanished into the darkness, dragging Hermione with her. With a groan, Draco let his head fall back, Hermione’s name escaping from his lips, Pansy’s laughter ringing in his ears.



A/N: Hee hee. Sorry!! Hope you liked it and please remember, if you read, review!!

xxoo Maji



Chapter 21: Accused
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A/N: Okay, I apologise for the cliffhanger in the last chapter. It was rather mean of me *wink*. Hope you like this one - there are only three chapters to go after this one, so we are nearly at the end. Thanks so much to everyone who has been reviewing this fic. Your support means a lot. Okay, enough of my rambling.



Draco opened his eyes groggily and looked around. Hermione’s quaint little living room gradually swam into focus. A framed picture of him and Hermione, laughing and smiling into the camera, rested beside a lamp on a small table on the other side of the room. His eyes widened in surprise – he didn’t even remember the picture being taken, nor did he know she had it. In the background were the crowded streets of Santiago, and Draco watched with a twist of his heart as his photographic self grabbed Hermione around the waist, planting kisses on her cheek while she giggled and slapped him away, a huge smile on her face. With a groan of anguish, he sat up. He was lying on the lounge, a blanket draped over his body. Snarling, he pushed it off, swinging his legs around, preparing to stand up. A small hand descended on his shoulder and he raised his face, annoyed and feeling ready to murder someone. Ginny was glaring at him, her long red hair hanging loosely around her face, her skin drained of colour.

“Sit, Draco. You may have a concussion,” she said gently, forcing him back down with more strength than he knew she had in her tiny body.

“Hermione,” he croaked, feeling tears well up. He closed his eyes again, sinking back into the lounge. “They got her.”

“We know,” Ginny replied softly, pressing a cold cloth to his forehead. Draco growled at her and snatched it away, tossing the cloth across the room where it hit the lamp, knocking it to the ground. The photograph wobbled dangerously, but did not fall.

“Then why aren’t we looking for her?” he asked, anger building inside him with the force of a volcano. He wanted to kill someone. Draco turned his burning eyes on Ginny and she backed away a little, her face twisting into an expression of fear. He sighed. “I’m not going to lose it, Ginny, even though right now I want to grab Pansy by her scrawny little neck and squeeze the life out of her.”

Ginny opened her mouth to reply, but was cut short by the fireplace chiming. Green flames shot up in the grate, and Ron’s head appeared, rotating wildly before coming to a halt.

“What, Weasley?” Draco snapped, climbing to his feet and following Ginny to the fireplace.

“Harry says to come back to Headquarters,” Ron said quickly, refusing to meet Draco’s eyes. “We caught Pansy.”

Draco felt his chest tighten, anger bubbling through his blood, burning his insides. “Then get out of the way you idiot. I can’t apparate at the moment,” he snarled. Ron flashed him a look of pure and uncensored loathing before vanishing. Draco gave Ginny a quick look, before stepping into the green flames, Ginny close behind him. Draco suffered the annoying ride through the flames and soot until he tumbled out of the fireplace in the kitchen of 12 Grimmauld Place, dirty, dusty and incredibly angry. Ginny fell out behind him, looking pale and sickly, and he offered her a hand, pulling her to her feet. They looked at each other quickly, before stalking from the kitchen in search of the others.

Ginny led the way through the house, taking them past rooms Draco did not even know existed, before pausing at the top of a flight of stairs. He turned and raised his eyebrows questioningly, and she nodded, pushing him onto the first step, following after him.

“Where are we going?” Draco asked to the darkness. Ginny’s sharp footsteps echoed on the cold stone steps behind him, and he stumbled, letting fly with a string of curse words that would make his mother turn in her grave.

“Interrogation chamber,” Ginny answered matter-of-factly, reaching out and helping Draco steady himself. He turned to look at her, feeling the blood rush from his face. Interrogation Chamber? Here? What the hell? A shiver passed through his body.

“Damn. I had no idea…”

Ginny scoffed. “What, did you really think Harry sat his prisoners down at the kitchen table and offered them tea and biscuits?”

“Yes, actually,” Draco replied blankly, still stunned. Potter had Interrogation Chambers? Ginny only sighed at him and shook her head, pushing past him and continuing down into the darkness. Draco took out his wand and muttered, “lumos”, feeling instantly more relaxed as soft light flooded the cold blackness. He saw Ginny’s head disappear around a corner, and he quickened his pace, catching up to her easily. For a pregnant woman, she sures moves fast, Draco thought, his eyes dropping unconsciously to the redhead’s swelling abdomen. A sudden flash of Hermione with a rounded stomach, smiling up at him, entered his head and he blinked in surprise, shaking his head a little, the vision dissolving. He had never considered having children before; the idea of being as cold and ruthless as his own father was terrifying. Ginny paused before a heavy wooden door, flashing Draco a quick glance, before pushing it open and stepping inside.

The Interrogation Chamber was nothing like the one buried beneath the earth of the Malfoy Manor. The room was white washed and clean, a small table and several chairs sitting in the center. There were no windows, but the white walls gave an overall impression of light and cheeriness. Draco snorted. Potter may as well have offered his prisoners a cuppa and a cushion to sit their traitorous hides on. He could not imagine a hardened Death Eater cracking under the pressure in here. Draco looked around, seeing the room was empty.

“Where are they?” he asked Ginny, striding into the center of the room, running his hand lightly over the polished tabletop. His fingers came away smudged in dust. No one had been down here for a long time. Ginny shrugged, walking away to sit in a hard, straight-backed chair resting against the far wall. Draco made to follow her lead when a small door opposite him creaked open loudly, the room filled with the harsh scrapping of wood on stone. He looked up, his face twisting with rage, his heart increasing its rhythm, to see Pansy being dragged, her hands tied, to the small table, Harry and Ron on either side of her. Neville followed them out, looking pale and sweaty. Draco snorted again. He didn’t think Longbottom would have the guts for interrogation, and he flexed his fingers. He would make Potter let him question Pansy if it was the last thing he did that night.

Harry forced Pansy into a seat, and she snarled at him, turning her face away. Her eyes found Draco and she smiled, a slow curling of her lips, her eyes glinting in vindictive pleasure. He scowled and stepped towards her, but Harry shook his head. Ron was staring at Draco with open displeasure, suspicion written on every line of his face. Harry left Ron with Pansy and walked over to Draco, his face hard. He grabbed Draco’s arm, propelling him towards the room they had brought Pansy from, Draco pulling against him all the way. He didn’t want to talk to Potter. He wanted to crush Pansy into a million pieces.

Harry pushed him inside the room, shutting the door behind them. Turning to face Draco, he pulled his fingers through his dark hair, his brilliant green eyes troubled. “I don’t think you should be part of this, Malfoy.”

“I don’t care what you think, Potter. I’m staying,” Draco snapped, leaning against the wall, his arms folded over his chest. Harry sighed deeply, asking Draco to tell him what had happened at Hermione’s place. With a sickening lurch of his heart, Draco relayed the story, pausing towards the end.

“We’ve got to hurry, Potter. They’ll kill her,” he said swiftly, pushing himself off the wall. Draco saw Harry clench and unclench his fists slowly and with control. “Listen, they know the Order is involved now. Let me interrogate Pansy. I’ll get the truth out of her or …”

“I can’t risk it, Draco,” Harry said softly, and Draco’s head shot up, surprised at the gentleness and understanding in the other man’s voice.

“I won’t kill her, at least, not yet,” Draco growled, feeling murderous thoughts creep into his head. He would tear the skin from Pansy’s body if they hurt Hermione. He let out a growl like a wounded animal, and Harry flashed him a sympathetic smile.

“No,” he said, “let Ron and I handle it.”

Defeated, Draco nodded, feeling his heart sink further into the pit of his stomach. They were wasting time. With a sigh, he followed Harry out of the tiny room and into the main chamber. Pansy was sitting straight and proud in the chair, Ron watching her closely, his wand trained on her face. Ginny sat with Neville, who had his wand resting on his knee, on the far side of the room, talking in low, whispered voices. The prisoner flashed Draco a look of intense antipathy, before turning to look at Harry.

“Potter, do you think you can untie me? These ropes are hurting my skin,” she said in a voice dripping with syrup. Harry shook his head resolutely, sitting down opposite her. He retrieved a small vial from his pocket, sitting in the middle of the table, right before Pansy’s eyes. Draco recognized the potion instantly – Veritaserum. He gave a shudder, watching Pansy’s face closely. Her skin was pale and he could see tiny beads of sweat forming on her face. Veritaserum was an anathema to a Death Eater. One drop and every secret that had been closely guarded for years would fall from your lips like water from the sky.

“I won’t use it unless I have to, Pansy,” Harry began, his voice calm and gentle. “Not if you tell me where Hermione Granger is.”

Pansy laughed and Draco rolled his eyes as Harry began his interrogation. He had more chance of teaching a mouse to attack an angry cat. Halfway through, Harry took a break, coming to stand against the wall beside Draco.

“Usual Ministry line not working, then?” Draco asked smugly, and Harry scowled at him. “Use the potion,” Draco suggested. Harry sighed and rubbed at his face irritably.

“I would, but I’m not sure I’m asking her the right questions. She isn’t giving anything away.”

“Or maybe,” Draco began, turning to look at Harry, “you’re going about it the wrong way. She’s a Death Eater, Potter. Treat her like one.”

“She’s a scared woman, Malfoy,” Harry retorted, and Draco rolled his eyes. “She could be under the Imperius Curse.”

“Most probably,” Draco agreed, “but maybe not. Potter, I swear I won’t murder her. Let me do it.” Draco looked at him imploringly, silently begging. He needed answers. He needed to know where they had taken Hermione, what they planned to do with her. He closed his eyes at that last thought, pushing the answer away. He knew what they were capable of. It was time to let go, to unleash that part of him he had kept hidden for so long. He looked at Harry again, his eyes pleading. “I want her back. I need her back. I don’t know what I’ll do if…”

Slowly, Harry nodded, and Draco felt relief flood his body. He took a deep breath, standing up straight. Harry grabbed his sleeve.

“I’m only letting you do this because we are running out of time. I will step in if I think you are going to far,” he warned, his deep green eyes serious. Draco nodded. Harry motioned for Ron to leave Pansy, and Draco watched confusion flicker across the redhead’s face, before his eyes settled on Draco. He scowled, but stood and pushed his chair back, his wand trained on Pansy the whole time. Feeling shaky, Draco walked forward, letting his body sink slowly into the chair Ron had vacated. The Dark Mark had begun to burn again, and a terrible itching filled his blood. He lifted his eyes. Pansy met his gaze with defiance, and for a long time he said nothing, just sat and stared at her, at the woman he once thought he loved. The silence lengthened, until she shifted in her seat. Draco laughed humourlessly.

“Hello, Pansy,” he drawled, pulling out his wand and twirling it around in his long fingers. He was pleased to see her pale a little further, and chuckled, shaking his head. “Quite a situation you have gotten yourself into, isn’t it?”

“Fuck off, Malfoy!” she snarled at him, and Draco lent across the table and tapped her cheek with the tip of his wand. He heard someone hiss in the background, but kept his concentration on Pansy, watching her closely. The blow was not hard enough to be painful. He didn’t want to hurt her; just get his message across.

“I’m not here to play games,” he said coldly, and she tossed her head, her eyes shining. She bit her lip, shaking her head. Draco sighed, leaning back in his chair, stroking his wand. He forced a glimmer of sadistic pleasure into his eyes, knowing it had worked when she shifted in her seat again. He knew Pansy had always had a secret fear of him, and he decided to play on this mercilessly.

“Let me make this easy for you, Pansy, darling. You tell me what I want to know, and I promise I will not get nasty,” Draco cooed, leaning forward over the table. Pansy pulled away from him as if he were a snake ready to strike.

“I’m not telling you anything,” she snapped, tossing her head, the light catching in her midnight hair.

“I think you will, Pansy. No one is coming to rescue you, you know that, don’t you? Blaise … he doesn’t care, so why bother to protect him?” Draco asked softly, watching her face pale and her eyes fill with tears. She blinked, pushing back her despair.

“You’re a traitor!” she hissed at him, holding her head high. “You didn’t have the guts to stand up and fight with us so you choose to hide behind your girlfriend and her little playmates. I won’t tell you anything!”

Rage flashed through Draco’s body at her words, and he raised a hand to slap her, watching as her eyes widened, a small scream escaping her lips. He heard Harry hiss at him, and he slowly lowered his hand. He was mortified with himself. He had never hit a woman before, or even considered it. The only way to save Hermione was to do as he told Potter and treat Pansy like a Death Eater. Draco took a deep breath, thinking fast, trying to work out what to do. He watched Pansy struggle to contain her tears, her eyes showing shock and horror at his actions. Draco sighed, sitting back casually.

“Of course,” he said, “I could always make you talk.”

Pansy sneered, sniffing back her tears. “The Veritaserum won’t last long enough; I’ll fight it.”

“I wasn’t talking about Veritaserum. There are other ways to make you talk, as you would be well aware of. Do I have to resort to such cruel measures, Pansy?” Draco replied with a malicious smile. Pansy blanched, knowing exactly what he was referring to. Draco heard someone shift uncomfortably in the background, but he ignored it, keeping his eyes locked on Pansy. Her blue eyes flashed at him, and he sighed, lifting his wand, watching her squirm. He raised his eyebrows at her, lifting his wand higher, and she paled further.

“It’s your choice, Pansy,” he said silkily.

“Malfoy,” Harry’s warning tone cut across the room, but Draco disregarded it, staring at the woman sitting opposite him. She had begun to shake slightly, her skin milk pale. Draco smiled, a menacing curving of his lips, and pointed his wand directly at her face. Power as he had not felt in a long time rose like a great black snake in his belly, and he felt a surge of strength run through his body, filling every blood vessel, every nerve ending, every ounce of him. A bolt of electricity ran through his arm and into his fingertips, his wand twitching in his hand. “Well?” he asked Pansy, his insides quivering with delight. How he had missed this feeling!

“Where is Hermione Granger?” Draco asked softly, looking into her eyes. Pansy shook her head stubbornly, and he sighed. “Cru- “

“Okay! Okay!” she screamed, terror suddenly flooding her face. “Just please don’t do it. Please don’t do it! Please! I can’t take it.” Sobbing uncontrollably, Pansy continued to plead with him. Draco rolled his eyes, althought inside he was screaming every curse he could remember at Zabini. As much as he disliked Pansy, he did not like the idea of her being continually tortured.

“Pansy, shhh. Just tell me where she is, and this will all be over,” he whispered caressingly. Pansy hiccupped, and let out a final choked sob, before raising her tear-stained face to look into his eyes.

“A warehouse. Near the river.”

“Which warehouse? Can you be a little more specific?” Draco asked her sweetly. She shook her head, her bottom lip trembling. “Pansy, don’t make me. You know I’ll do it.”

“I don’t know alright!” she screamed at him, her face twisting with rage. “I don’t know!”

“Are you sure? I could always try again. Cruci-“

“No!” Pansy screamed, tears running down her face again. Draco sat back, watching her sob with a tight feeling in his chest. He had almost gotten the curse out that time. He would have to be careful. Not only would Potter murder him, the Unbreakable Vow he had taken with Percy Weasley still held. If he uttered an Unforgivable Curse he would be dead in a second. He took a deep breath, calming himself, fixing Hermione’s face in his mind.

“Tell me where she is,” he demanded, and Pansy nodded, giving him clear and unobjected directions to the warehouse. Draco turned in his seat, giving Harry a glance. He stood up, feeling nothing but pity for the weeping woman sitting with her head hanging low before him. The Pansy he knew had vanished, and again, he cursed Zabini for that. Ron and Neville came forward, lifting Pansy out of her seat. She struggled, twisting back towards Draco.

“Why do you care so much about a Mudblood, Draco? I don’t understand,” she whimpered, looking wretchedly at him. He smiled.

“Because I love her,” he answered simply, watching as Pansy was dragged away, sobbing. Draco looked around. Ginny was white but calm, her face set in determined lines. He sighed, running his fingers through his hair, firmly pushing the Dark beast in his chest down into the depths of him, hoping it would never want to rise again. He had come so close to giving in to it, to becoming what he had always detested – his father. He was appalled at how easy the darkness came to him, at how thin the line between his past and his present was. An ugly little voice inside him whispered that power was always great, no matter what you had to do to get it. Draco scowled, stamping the voice out of existence with difficulty.

“That was … interesting, Malfoy,” Harry said softly, coming over to stand by Draco’s side. His green eyes were troubled, and Draco knew exactly what he was thinking. He laughed delicately.

“Don’t look so worried, Potter. We got what we wanted. We know where Hermione is, and no one is dead. Besides,” he said, his voice dropping to a whisper, “you have to mean an Unforgivable Curse, and no matter what you think, I did not want to torture anyone.”

“Yet, part of you did. I know this, because part of me wanted you to do it as well,” Harry replied quietly, meeting Draco’s shocked eyes. “We’ll get her back, no matter what,” he promised, and Draco nodded, knowing what was to come would not be pleasant.



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Chapter 22: Imprisoned
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A/N: We're nearly done peoples!! Hope you like this chapter and I hope it all flows smoothly. As I have said before, I don't think action is my thing...but i had fun writing this. anyways, here it is!



The cold was never ending, the chill incesent in its assault on her body. Shivering, Hermione clutched at her shirt, pulling the thin fabric closer to her freezing body. Her tears fell frozen on her cheeks, the warm salt water crystallizing instantly in the icy air. A sob escaped her battered body and she pressed herself closer to the wall, the cold stone biting into her back. The door to her tiny roofless cell opened, and Hermione lifted her face to the darkening sky, her body trembling. She had only been there a few hours, and she was not sure how much more of their treatment she could take.

The tip of a wand preceeded its owner through the open door, and Hermione shrank back with a small whine of fear as Blaise Zabini stepped fully into the room, his face and head hidden by his cloak, the long black folds of fabric shifting around his legs as he walked. He smiled at her, a flash of teeth in the shadows of his face, and she closed her eyes, a tear sliding from beneath her lids. Zabini chuckled softly, and closed the door.

“What do you want with me?” Hermione asked in whispered tones, her voice choked with fear. They had taken her wand, they had beaten her, threatened her, and cursed her over and over again. There was not much more they could do, save taking her life. She pressed her eyes closed tighter, and preyed for the others to hurry. She knew the Order had captured Pansy – she’d heard the Death Eaters raging about it a few hours ago, not long after she had been brought to her cold little prision.

Hermione opened her eyes as the sound of movement alerted her, and she braced herself for the blow. None came. Blaise had drawn up a chair with his wand and sat staring at her, his eyes moving over every inch of her body, slowly and deliberately, as if he were trying to commit her features to memory.

“I think I am beginning to understand what Malfoy turned his back on us for,” he leered, and Hermione shivered at the hungry look in his eyes. “I’ve always wondered what it would be like to screw a Mudblood,” he mused, and Hermione felt the blood leave her face.

“Don’t touch me,” she hissed, pulling her shirt even closer around her freezing body. Blaise threw back his head and laughed.

“That courageous spirit will just make breaking you all the more enjoyable,” he said softly. “Tell me, where is the Order of the Phoenix? Where is Harry Potter and your blood traitor boyfriend?”

“I don’t know,” Hermione spat, closing her eyes. Draco. Was he even still alive, or had Pansy killed him before the Order took her? How soon after the fight had they arrived? She screamed inwardly, knowing how much they would be worried about her, preying they did not do something rash in their determination to find her.

Zabini sighed. “I’m getting impatient, Granger, so why don’t you just tell me the truth.”

“I can’t tell you. I’m not their secret keeper,” she said coldly, wishing they had not taken her wand. She would murder the lot of them if they had killed Draco. Blaise stood up and approached her, his wand held high, and Hermione took a deep breath, knowing it would do nothing to stop the pain. He smiled and flicked his wand, a malicious “crucio” escaping his lips.

Hermione screamed, the sound echoing in her own ears repeatedly until she felt she had lost her mind. She curled her body into a ball, pain rippling through her in waves, her head feeling like it was being crushed in a vice. Every muscle, every bone and blood vessel in her body was on fire. A sea of blackness descended on her, and just when she felt like it would be best to give in to the unending pain, it stopped, and she was left panting and gasping for air on the cold stone floor, tears streaming down her face. She whimpered and pulled her knees closer to her chest, hugging herself. Her head sung and her body screeched in protest to her every move. Even breathing was painful.

Fingers caressed her cheek, and her eyes flew open. Blaise was leaning over her, his wand held high, vicious pleasure dancing in his eyes. “Just tell me, Hermione,” he whispered, stroking her hair so that she shied away from his touch. He grabbed a handful of her hair and hauled her to her feet suddenly, and she screamed as she felt hair being ripped from her scalp. Blaise pushed his face into hers and she could feel his breath on her cheek. Screwing her face up in disgust, Hermione turned her head as far out of his reach as she could, feeling like she would vomit. He laughed and released her, and she fell to the floor in a shuddering heap, crying. Hermione heard Draco’s name leave her lips, and Blaise laughed harder, mocking her.

“Oh he can’t help you now, my beauty,” he sneered, raising his wand, before casting the Cruciatus Curse on her again. Hermione succumbed to the blackness of unconsciousness with her screams in her ears.


***

Draco stood with his head resting against the wall, his eyes fixed firmly on the crushed figure in front of him. She sat with her back against the wall, her head turned away from him, her knees pulled up to her chest. Long dark hair fell across her brow, and her pale skin shone brightly in the shadowed cell. Draco let his eyes move around the small room – it was clean, the walls and floor scrubbed harshly, the mattress and pillow on the narrow trundle bed soft and fluffy, the blanket thick and warm. He suppressed a snort of irritation. Potter’s cell’s were more comfortable than some of the rooms he’d stayed in while traveling overseas. Draco shifted his weight from one foot to the other, the heel of his boot scraping over the floor, the sound echoing in the tense silence. Pansy turned her head, glancing at him quickly, before moving her body further away from him. Draco sighed wearily, opening his mouth to snap at her, annoyed at her silence.

The main door opened, and Draco twisted his neck, his eyes narrowing as Harry stepped into the hallway, closing the door quietly behind him. Draco watched the brunette walk the several metres towards him, passing a row of empty cells. Pansy was the Order’s only prisoner, and he had to admit that he was pleased she was being treated so well. There had been no more interrogations, no threats; nothing that would cause her any harm. She was warm and well-fed. Harry carried a tray in his hands, and Draco breathed in the intoxicating scent of fresh bread and soup. His stomach rumbled, and he realized with a start he had not eaten since before Hermione disappeared. As Harry came closer, nausea replaced appetite and he scowled, reaching out to take the tray from Harry, who simply raised his eyebrows.

“What are you doing down here, Malfoy?”

Draco shrugged. “I’m not entirely sure. I guess I just wanted to talk to her, to try and get her to explain why she did it…why she became one of them. It was never Pansy’s thing. Sure, she was a bitch at school, but she was never malicious and directly cruel. That was more my thing,” he replied, giving a soft, hollow laugh. Harry smiled sympathetically, his arms rising to fold over his chest. He indicated Pansy with a nod of his head.

“You really want to talk to her? Just promise me you won’t hurt her and I’ll let you in. You can give her that,” Harry said softly, motioning towards the tray. Draco nodded, and Harry took out his wand, moving to unlock the cell door.

“How did you catch her anyway?” Draco asked suddenly, and Harry turned to look at him sharply, before sighing.

“I’m not sure,” he began, scowling under Draco’s amused glance. “It was all easy – too easy. It was almost like she wanted to be caught.”

“What do you mean?” Draco asked softly, his eyes floating to the back of Pansy’s head. He could sense that she was listening to them; her back was rigid and her shoulders straight, the silence surrounding her body morphed into interest instead of animosity.

Harry turned to look at Pansy briefly, his eyes swinging back to Draco. “Angelina and Fred intercepted her. She was alone, not far from Hermione’s place. She had obviously taken Hermione to Zabini, and come back. I have no idea why,” he said, his voice rising. Draco knew what he was doing – trying to goad Pansy into speaking. When she did not reply, Harry shrugged, continuing his story. “She was easily apprehended. Did not put up any sort of fight. She may as well have turned her wand over willingly.”

Draco stood in silence as Harry unlocked the cell, pushing the door open. Draco took a deep breath, sliding cautiously into the room, the tray of food balanced in his hands. He set it down on a small table against the wall, taking a seat in a hard, straight-backed chair opposite the prisoner, never taking his eyes from her. Harry swung the door closed, and Draco waited until the other man’s footsteps had receeded down the hall before he spoke.

“Why Pansy? Why did you do it? Why turn yourself in like that? Why join Zabini in the first place?”

Pansy lifted her head, her eyes finding his face, and Draco swallowed, amazed at the depth of pain in the lines of her face. “He threatened to kill me if I refused to help,” she whispered, slowly swinging her body around so she was sitting facing Draco, her knees still tucked up, her head resting on her chin. Her long raven hair fell around her face messily, but she did not seem to care. “We have a daughter, you know,” she said suddenly, and Draco felt his eyes widen. “Blaise and I. She’s eighteen months old.”

“Where is she?” Draco asked gently. Pansy’s eyes filled with tears.

“With my family, in hiding. I didn’t want him anywhere near her, and he agreed to stay away as long as I did what he wanted. What choice did I have, Draco?” she asked softly, although he knew she did not expect him to answer her question. He nodded slowly in understanding, feeling his heart break for Pansy.

“Why give yourself up though? You could have disappeared and found your kid,” Draco said, sitting forward slightly. Pansy shrugged.
“I knew that once the Order was involved, I would be safer as a prisoner than a Death Eater. Potter won’t kill me, but Blaise would have,” she replied simply, closing her eyes.

“What are they going to do to her?” Draco asked, and Pansy looked at him quickly, understanding he was talking about Hermione.

“You should know, Draco. Why bother asking me that,” she said quietly, a faint trace of sympathy in her voice. “You really do love her?”

“I do,” Draco whispered, a lump rising to sit painfully in his throat. Pansy nodded, a slight smile on her lips.

“Then I hope you get her back,” she replied.

Draco sighed, pulling his fingers through his hair. “Me too, although, we all know how much of an expert Potter is at this rescue stuff…I’ll see what I can do for you, Pansy. I can tell Potter is not one to keep prisoners of war for long. If you can convince him you acted out of fear, then perhaps he will let you go. I can’t promise you anything though, but I will try.”

Pansy nodded. “Thank you.”


***

Draco danced on the spot, his nerves twitching. If they’d hurt her … He cursed Zabini and the whole useless lot of them under his breath, his thoughts fixed on death. Someone was tugging on his sleeve, and he spun around and looked into Harry’s eyes.

“We go in nice and easy, Malfoy,” he reminded Draco, who scowled and felt like a thunderstorm was about to erupt in his skull. He took a deep breath, trying to calm the rage in his blood. Harry knew what he was doing. Draco was lucky they’d let him come along at all. After his interrogation of Pansy, Ron had been all for leaving him at Headquarters, afraid his temper would get them all killed. Harry had said they better bring him, before his temper got them killed. Besides, Draco knew how much both men wanted to find Hermione, not to mention the other members of the Order crowded in the shadows behind him. His face was not the only one contorted with fury.

“Nice and easy, slow and smooth, cautiously … ahh screw it, Potter. I’m going to slaughter them!” he raged, pulling out his wand and striding towards the warehouse they were stationed outside, Hermione’s face in his thoughts. Ron and George grabbed him, pulling him roughly back into the shadows, George hissing angrily in his ear to do what they told him, or he’d be Stunned, tied up and left behind for the Death Eaters to find. Draco glowered at them, but fell back, his arms folded over his chest, his hands balled into fists. Everyone gave him a wide berth after his outburst, keen to stay away from his temper, and he was secretly pleased. Let the Order do what they wanted – once they got inside he was going to find Hermione, and anyone who stood in his way would get a one way ticket to hell, Unbreakable Vow be damned.

They waited until night had truly fallen, blackness engulfing the world around them in deep shadow, before making their way carefully towards the warehouse. A chilly breeze blew about their faces, rising from the river and tugging at their hair. Draco scowled. He hated everything with a dangerous passion at that moment. As they approached what they believed to be the main entrance, Harry signaled for them to split up and find different points of entry, not only for themselves, but to prevent any Death Eaters escaping in the middle of fighting. Fred, George and Lee silently cast an anti-disapparation jinx on as much of the building as they could cover without alerting the Death Eaters inside. Neville, Seamus and Ernie headed around the left side of the run-down building; Fred, George and Lee took the right. Draco made to follow Neville, but Harry tugged him back.

“You stay with me, Malfoy,” he whispered sternly, and Draco shrugged.

“Whatever. Let’s just get on with it,” he snarled back, glaring at Ron. The redhead had made no secret of the fact he thought Hermione’s capture was Draco’s fault. Twice already, they had almost come to blows over it, pulled apart by Seamus and Neville, snarling like a pair of warring tomcats. Ron glared back, his face twisted and Draco rasied his eyebrows, as if daring Weasley to do something with his hate. Harry wrapped his hand around Draco’s forearm, and he winced.

“Sorry, Malfoy, I forgot,” Harry said simply, gesturing pointedly at Draco’s pale arm. He had rolled his sleeves up as if preparing for a fistfight, and the Dark Mark stood out strongly against his pale skin in the dusty moonlight reflecting off the river. Draco shrugged, not really bothered. It still hurt, but he would think about it later. All his energy was on finding Hermione alive and in one piece. Harry marched up to the front door, pushing gently on the rusted metal. The door swung inwards slowly, a faint hiss echoing in the darkness around them. Draco sucked in his breath and stepped aside, his wand raised, ready for anything.

Cool air rushed out to meet them, and Draco let out his breath slowly, his body tense and on fire. Hermione was in there. He could practically sense it. With a low growl, he pushed past Harry and stepped inside the building, immediately surrounded in blackness. He blinked, waiting for his eyes to adjust, his wand held steady, his blood screaming, his muscles aching with the effort of restraining himself from tearing through the building like a madman. He felt Harry and Ron come up behind him.

“We split up,” Draco whispered, alarmed at how far his low voice carried in the empty room. Harry shook his head, a furious look on his face. Draco rolled his eyes. “Fine. You and Weaselbee go that way,” he gestured to the right, “and I’ll go this way.”

Without waiting for a response, Draco walked off into the darkness, ignoring Harry’s angry plea to come back. Bloody Potter, Draco thought contemptuously, frustrated with the dark-haired man he had come to consider a friend. He knew how much Harry cared about Hermione, and he had been trying extremely hard to toe the line, to do things Potter’s way, but when it came down to it, Draco preferred to operate alone. It was, after all, the Slytherin way. Towards the corner of the large room they had entered, soft light glowed from beneath a closed door. Expelling a great breath of air, Draco closed his eyes for a moment, concentrating, forcing his brain to remember every curse, every jinx and every hex he had ever learnt. They would not hesitate to hit him with everything they had.

Moving swiftly, Draco approached the door. He had no idea where Harry and Ron had gone, or where any of the others were, but at that moment he didn’t care. Something told him that through that door he would find Hermione. Pausing only briefly to make sure he had a firm grip on his wand, Draco squashed the butterflies in his stomach and pushed open the door. Inside was a sitting room of some sort, but it was empty. Relief flooded his veins and he glanced around quickly, making sure to stay alert. A set of rusty stairs snaked along the far wall, disappearing into the darkness. Draco squinted, noticing the door at the top of the stairs was closed.

Not wanting to linger, he ran lightly across the room and took the stairs two at a time, staying on tip-toe as much as possible, trying to muffle the sound of his footfall on the shaky metal steps. A voice raised in anger floated through the closed door, followed by a crash and a scream, and he grinned, thinking the Order were finally doing something useful. Draco flung the door open, ducking immediately as a bolt of red light flew over his head, shooting away into the dimly lit room below him. Neville and Seamus were dueling with three Death Eaters in the far corner of the room, Neville’s wand moving so fast it blurred. Seamus fell, hit by a Stunner, and Draco lifted his own wand, firing a Stunning spell across the room at the Death Eater about to take down Neville. Neville quickly disposed of the smaller of the two remaining Death Eaters, and the other one made a run for a second set of stairs reaching further into the heights of the building.

The door at the top of the stairs flew open, and the Death Eater fell under a barrage of spells from the Weasley twins. They grinned at the scene below them, giving Draco and Neville a quick nod, before disappearing again into the darkness behind them. Draco could hear more shouts and see a colorful display of lights bouncing off the walls of the room above them. He left Neville with Seasmus, and ran to join the others, his heart pounding with an exhilarating rhythm in his chest. He had not felt so alive since, well, as long as he could remember. This fighting the bad guys stuff is actually not too bad, he mused thoughfully as he ran through the open door. A burst of light flashed past his face, cutting his cheek deeply, and Draco swore loudly, looking around for his attacker.

George Weasley was sitting on top of a Death Eater while Lee bound his hands with Muggle rope charmed with anti-disapparation spells, something Harry insisted they carry on them. Draco had tossed his away outside. Fred grinned from across the room, his wand raised to shoulder height.

“Sorry, Malfoy, thought you were a Death Eater,” he laughed, lowering his wand and crossing the room. Draco scowled and rubbed at his cheek, his hand coming away red and dripping with blood.

“Hermione?” he asked, and Fred shook his head, a dark expression crossing his usually pleasant face.

“No idea mate. We haven’t seen head nor tail of Zabini either, the great bit git. Never did like him much, did we, George?” he asked his brother, who nodded. “Want me to fix your face, Malfoy?”

“Ummm no, thanks, Weasley,” Draco muttered, rubbing at his cheek again. “Is there another level to this warehouse?”

Lee nodded, jumping to his feet. “Yeah. They’ve blocked the door though; we couldn’t get through. I think there may be a basement level too.”

“Okay,” Draco sighed, fingering his chin thoughtfully. “I’m going to go up a level, see if I can get through this door. You guys go down. Hermione has to be in here somewhere.”

“One of us should go with you,” Fred argued, coming over to stand with his brother. “Just in case. We have no idea how many more of them there are.”

“I’m sure I’ll find Potter and Weasley up there somewhere; if there’s trouble, those two are bound to be right in the middle of it,” Draco replied, heading towards the next set of stairs. Draco heard a door open and close, and when he turned around, he was alone, save the bound and stunned Death Eater on the floor. He turned and rested his hand against the cold metal railing, trepidation tightening his stomach. Draco took a deep breath, gripped his wand, and climbed the stairs.



Well, what did you think?? please remember, if you read, review!!
Maji xx



Chapter 23: Deliverance
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Hey guys!! This is the second last chapter of this fic - I hope you like it and thank you again to all those people who have taken the time to read and leave me wonderful reviews! I'm so happy you have enjoyed this!!




Hermione stood, pressing her body against the wall, her insides quivering with fear. She could hear screams of anguish and angry yelling. The wind whistled through the barred windows, battering her body with ice, and she shivered, inching as close to the door as she dared. Footsteps sounded on the stairs outside and she drew back to her corner, her body tense, her mind screaming. Her eyes darted around in the gloom, looking once again for anything she could use as a weapon. The door flew open with a crash, and the noise from the fight below floated in, several decibels higher. Through the open door, Hermione saw a flash of blue light, and heard a terrible scream. She shuddered as Zabini entered the room, wild-eyed and in a rage. He slammed the door behind him and turned slowly towards her. He had his wand out, and Hermione gulped, certain he had come to kill her.

“Well, Mudblood. That must be some spell you have Malfoy under. Do you know how many of my Death Eaters are down there lying in a pool of their own blood?” he snarled, and Hermione swallowed, her mouth suddenly dry. Zabini’s eyes were alight with fanatical rage, and he stepped closer to her.

“It’s no spell,” Hermione said fiercely, trying to keep him talking for as long as she could. If she could keep him occupied, perhaps she could give Draco and the Order time to find her before her body was as cold and lifeless as the stones she rested upon. “What do you hope to achieve with all this, Blaise? Did you really think we would just stand by and let you pick up where Voldemort left off?” she asked quickly.

Zabini laughed callously, walking briskly towards her and she cowered back, dropping into a crouch, hiding her face against the wall. Hermione choked back a sob, feeling incredibly weak and useless. If only she had her wand …

“Your Order may not have much of a choice,” he said coldly, fingering his wand. Hermione lifted her face, expecting to see him looming over her, but he had retreated and leant casually against the far wall. “You see, I’m willing to make a deal.”

“What sort of deal?” Hermione asked, struggling to her feet, wiping her face. “What about the spell?”

Zabini smiled, twirling his wand in his long fingers, a smile on his thin lips. “They let me go, and they get you back, perhaps not in one piece, but by the time they find us, Malfoy, Potter, and the rest of them, will not be in a position to argue. Oh, and since you asked so nicely, there is no spell. There never was. You lot tried to set me up, but it looks like you failed.”

“What do you mean?” Hermione asked weakly, feeling her heart sink. Blaise grinned and stoked his wand.

“Severus Snape is dead. I saw him die, Mudblood, so that night in Knockturn Alley, I knew it could not have been him. I would never have thought it was Malfoy though – I always figured he was too much of a coward to do anything that would risk his Pure Blood skin. It was Pansy who filled in the blanks for me,” he laughed, shaking his head as if enjoying a good joke. “So you see, I tricked your Order, and you are nothing but the bait. You will bring Potter to me.”

“Harry will never do it! Draco will never do it!” she hissed, feeling totally drained of blood and energy, knowing her words were false even as she said them.

“Oh but they will. Your boyfriend would rather die than see you in my hands. I’m sure he’s the cause of the trouble down there. They would never have found me if not for my old friend,” Blaise replied, his eyes glinting with malice. Hermione swallowed.

“How do you know? Harry…”

“Malfoy’s the only one who would have been able to get Pansy to talk.”

“Veritaserum …”

Zabini laughed. “No, my little Mudblood, Malfoy would have pulled a few tricks of his own. You never forget how to be a Death Eater, Granger. Never. It will always be a part of him.”

Hermione shook her head resolutely, glaring at the man in front of her defiantly. He laughed coldly at the look on her face, striding towards her again, his wand held high. He grabbed her roughly, holding her close to his body, his eyes raking over her skin.

“Now,” Zabini hissed in her ear, his breath hot and sticky on her skin, “it’s time to start the bargaining.” Hermione cried out as he grabbed the back of her neck in a vice-like hold, propelling her towards the door. She was feeling sick with anxiety, blood roaring in her temples. With a flick of his wand, Zabini flung the door wide. Instantly the sound of battle assaulted their ears, and he laughed at the terrifying sound of people screaming. He pushed Hermione through the door, and she struggled in his grip, trying desperately to tear herself free as Blaise forced her down a small, tight set of stone stairs, taking them closer to the fighting. Hermione fought him in earnest, scrapping at his flesh with her nails, kicking and attempting to sink her teeth into any part of him she could reach. He shook her violently, causing her thoughts to rattle in her brain. Gasping, she hung limp against his strong body, feeling defeated.

They paused on a small landing, Zabini dragging Hermione to the edge, practically dangling her over the flimsy guardrail like a ragdoll. She screeched and clung to his arm, terrified he would drop her and she would smash to the ground below, as fragile as a china plate. He pulled her back against him, wrapping an arm around her waist. Hermione wept at the scene of devestation at her feet. Bodies lay strewn around like discarded toy soldiers. Blood was splattered over a wall, sprayed in an arch of death. From up high, she could not tell whom they belonged to, but she was certain the majority were Death Eaters. The yelling and screaming was growing louder, and she shut her eyes, hoping to shut out the pain and the terrifying reality of her situation. She was going to die. Zabini shook her again, snapping her out of her depression. Hermione twisted her neck so she could see his face. His eyes and lips shone with laviscious pleasure, and she cringed.

“Music to my ears, Mudblood. This is only the beginning,” he shouted, his deep voice ringing with triumph.

“Actually, it’s the end,” a smooth voice Hermione recognized spoke from the stairwell at their back, and Zabini turned quickly, spinning around so fast Hermione felt dizzy. His eyes widened as the tip of a wand pressed into his face, and she winced as his death grip on her neck tightened, his strong fingers bruising her skin. “Let her go.”

“Draco,” Hermione breathed, relief coursing through her body. Draco stood before them, his wand held high, the end digging into Zabini’s cheek. His face was like stone, his eyes as dark and dangerous as a rolling thunderstorm. A long gash ran the length of his cheek, blood trailing down his jaw and disappearing under the collar of his shirt.

“Hey darling,” he said, his eyes never leaving Zabini’s face, his hand held steady. Hermione felt a wild sob rise in her chest, but she beat it down, thinking fast. Zabini was holding her in front of him like a shield. He laughed, pulling her back tighter against him.

“Well, Malfoy, what are you going to do now? I know you would not kill your precious little Mudblood whore and as you can see …” He shook Hermione again as if to further illustrate his point. Draco’s eyes shifted briefly to Hermione’s face, and she shook her head.

“Draco …”

Zabini laughed again, and Hermione felt an intense splash of anger flood her body. She dropped her eyes. His wand was dangling from his hand, his fingers curled tightly around it. She bit her lip, thinking hard. Whatever she did, she would have to be quick. The pressure on the back of her neck was increasing, and she had the distinct impression that Zabini could easily snap her spinal cord with his bare hands. Draco was talking, his voice low and urgent, but Hermione listened with only half an ear. She moved her foot experimentally, trying to gauge Zabini’s reaction, but he was so focused on Draco he didn’t seem to notice. Slowly, she moved her arm, her fingers stretching towards the Death Eater’s wand.

Hermione heard Draco curse, and Zabini suddenly threw back his head and laughed. Out of the corner of her eye, she watched Draco lower his wand. Dragged slightly off balance by her captors agitated movement, Hermione stumbled, her hand clawing around Zabini’s wrist. He tensed immediately, but she held on, reaching across her body, ignoring the incredible tension in her neck. With her other hand, Hermione ripped his wand from his fingers, tossing it to Draco, who caught it so quickly she did not see his hand move. Zabini roared in anger, dropping Hermione and lunging at Draco, his face fixed with rage. Draco raised both wands, pointing them directly at the other man’s face. Zabini halted, and Hermione quickly crawled out of the way, avoiding a kick aimed at her head.

Panting, she rubbed the back of her neck, sitting on the ground at Draco’s feet. Her eyes burnt with unshed tears, and she felt faint, her mouth dry with fear. Zabini glared at her murderously, before switching his gaze to Draco. He laughed again.

“Right where a Mudblood should be, Malfoy. At your feet. You’re a Pureblood. Start acting like one.”

Draco snarled, and Hermione climbed to her feet, standing up tall. Her whole body ached, but she stood and faced her tormentor with as much dignity as she could muster.

“I am going to kill you, Blaise,” Draco said, his voice as hard and flat. “And I am going to enjoy it.” Hermione gasped, shaking her head.

“Draco, the Vow. You can’t,” she whispered. If he uttered an Unforgivable Curse, he’d be dead in an instant. A scowl crossed his features, and he tightened his grip on both wands. Hermione looked at Zabini, at the man who had attempted to ruin her life, and the lives of everyone she loved in the world. At the man who had taunted her, hurt her, wanted to destroy her all because she was something he was not. At the man who wanted to bring chaos and destruction to the world once again. He would never repent. He would never willingly change the course of his life. No prision would hold him. She gritted her teeth. Taking a deep breath, she turned to Draco, reaching up and wrapping her fingers around Zabini’s wand, drawing it into her own hand, forcing him to let go. She had done it before, and she could do it again.

“But I can,” Hermione lifted the wand, and pointed it at Zabini. His dark eyes shifted to her face, full of a mixture of triumph and defiance. She heard Draco gasp, felt him turn towards her. Zabini smiled. Hermione gripped the wand tighter, lifting it a little higher. She hardened her heart. He was not human. She looked him in the eye.

“Avada Kedavra”.


***


The world spun in the darkness, pressure increasing with tremendous force. Hermione felt a scream descend on her lips. The bubble of pain broke, and she opened her eyes, panting and gasping for air. She heard voices and someone moving across the room. A hand squeezed her own, and automatically she squeezed back. Someone sobbed. A stark white room swam slowly into focus before her aching eyes. Faces pressed against the corners of her mind, dark and looming menacingly above her. Scared, she shrunk back into the pillow, her head twisting to one side. Fingers touched her cheek, moving gently into her hair. Her breathing slowed, and her eyes focused on the face of a man with pale blonde hair and sad grey eyes.

“Draco,” she whispered, her throat dry as paper. His fingers traced the line of her face and jaw, coming to rest on her lips. She smiled and kissed them, watching his stormy silver eyes cloud with tears, before he lent over and planted a loving kiss on her mouth.

“Hey darling,” he whispered back. “Thank Merlin, Hermione. I thought …” he gave a strangled sob, his head falling to rest against her chest, his body shaking. She stared at him for a long time, feeling like something inside her was about to burst. She lifted a weak arm and stretched across her body, bringing her hand to his hair, tangling her fingers in his silky locks. A tear slipped from her eye as he lifted his head, his face wet, staring at her intently. She smiled through her tears, and he lent over and swept her up in his arms, holding her against him, letting her sob her heart out on his chest, feeling his body tremble.

Hermione cried until she felt emptied, sitting back with a sniff. Draco kissed her again, smiling. “How long have I been here?” she asked, rubbing at her wet face.

“Two weeks, Hermione,” he replied softly, kissing her hand.

“Two weeks?” she whispered, shocked, and he nodded. “The others…”

“Are all fine. No lasting injuries. They were here, Harry, Ginny and Ron, just before. They’d still be out in the hall somewhere. Do you want me too …”

She shook her head. “No. Not yet. I just want to be with you,” she replied softly. “Draco, about Blaise…”

“Shhh. Don’t worry about it right now, okay? We can talk about it later,” he answered, his voice strained.

“I killed your friend, Draco,” she said sadly, dropping her eyes. “Maybe there was another way. I was just so incredibly angry, and I did not know what else to do. I did not want to die, and I did not want you to die, or Harry, Ron, anyone else. I’m so sorry,” Hermione said quickly, her words pouring out before she could stop them, tears filling her eyes as she watched a shadow float across Draco’s face. He shook his head.

“My friend died a long time ago, Hermione. You did the right thing,” he said firmly, looking into her eyes intently, until she nodded.

“The Ministry will want to talk to me no doubt,” she said in a quiet voice. Draco smirked slyly.

“The Ministry doesn’t know all of the details. As I was the only witness, I kind of … left a few things out,” he whispered secretively. Hermione gaped at him, and he sighed, correctly interpreting the look in her eyes. “In my opinion you deserve a medal, not a prision sentence. Forget the Ministry, Hermione. Harry agrees with what I did,” he replied.

“You told Harry? Oh God,” she cried, burying her face in her hands.

“Yes. He arrived not long after you … you’d fainted, Zabini was dead, his wand was still in your hand, I’m certain Harry knows about the Vow, so if I was still alive … he’s not stupid,” Draco replied matter-of-factly, sounding like that small admission of Harry’s intelligence was hard for him to say. Hermione shook her head, dazed. Draco grinned mischievously, kissing her passionately, taking advantage of her weakened and confused state.

“Draco,” Hermione groaned, pulling away from him. She sat and stared at him, her eyes traveling over every inch of his face. She had been certain she would never see him again. He shifted, looking uncomfortable under her scrutiny.

“What?” he asked gently, and she smiled, shaking her head slightly.

“Nothing. Just admiring. Do you know when I can leave? We have a house to find. A normal life, remember?”

He pulled back, looking at her so absorbedly Hermione suddenly felt nervous, her mouth drying up as fear and apprehension raced through her body. She swallowed. “You do still want to live with me, don’t you?” she asked in a small voice.

“That’s not enough anymore. I’ve changed my mind,” he replied, taking her hand, his face grave and sorrowful. Hermione frowned, her stomach in knots, her chest constricting. Draco lifted her hand, bringing it to his lips, kissing it gently, his mouth warm and comforting against her skin.

“I want to marry you.”




Only an epilogue to go!! Hope you liked this chapter and sorry if it seemed a little short.

Maji
xx



Chapter 24: Epilogue
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A/N: This is it, the final chapter!! thank you so much to all those who have stuck with this fic. Your support and encouragement really means alot! It's kind of a bittersweet feeling, knowing this is the end of my very first fanfic. I hope you enjoy this and there is a sequel in the works.

Beautiful chapter image made by the lovely Hushabye Mountain!!







Epilogue

Draco sat back, his body sinking gratefully into the lounge, relaxed and feeling incredibly at peace with both the world and himself. As he was want to do these days, he lifted the sleeve of his shirt, his fingers running over the spot where the Dark Mark had burnt not all that long ago. After Zabini’s death, it had faded swiftly, vanishing as if it had never been there in the first place. He had managed to convince Harry and the Order to release Pansy. They put her through a long and ardurous trial, before agreeing that she was not a threat. With a smile of thanks to Draco, Pansy had left, and Draco knew she had gone to find her daughter. Blaise’s death had freed her.

The six months since Hermione’s kidnapping had flown past with tremendous speed. She had recovered from her physical ailments quickly, but suffered a serious bout of depression over Blaise. Nights would find her curled against Draco’s chest, sobbing, her body racked with guilt, or simply sitting staring at the wall, her face pale and her eyes blank. No matter how much he reassured her she only did what she needed to do, Hermione was still traumatized by her actions. Draco had gone to Harry, desperate and willing to do almost anything to help her, and Harry had told him all he could do was let her grieve, let her come to terms with it in her own time. Draco suspected part of Hermione’s grief arose from Ron. Weasley had run off to France, or somewhere, with Lavender after the battle. She had been transferred for work, and he decided to go with her. Draco supposed Hermione missed the big git.

They had still not managed to find a house they both agreed on; Draco, despite what he had told Harry and Ron, wanted something large and grand, and Hermione wanted small and cosy. She had called him a snob when he turned his nose up at the sixth house she liked, and he’d shrugged, saying that, after all, he was a Malfoy, a comment that earned him a rather disdainful sigh and a shake of her chestnut hair. They ended up compromising, meeting somewhere in the middle after weeks of arguing with themselves and real estate agents. It seemed everyone wanted to sell Draco a house, no matter where it was or how shabby it was. Draco and Hermione spent most mornings pouring over advertisements in The Daily Prophet, Hermione graffiting the paper in bright red ink, her coffee and breakfast lying forgotten at her elbow.

Hermione sold her flat and moved into the Manor in the meantime, quickly changing the house to suit herself, and her cat, something Draco did not object to. The Manor was now filled with life and color, the walls adorned with pictures and portraits, the kitchen cupboards filled with food. If the Manor did not still remind Draco so much of his past, he would insist they simply stay there. It had everything they needed, plus many things they did not, but Hermione was set on finding something they could call their own; somewhere without a history.

Hermione had removed the television from the bedroom with a roll of her eyes at his protest, setting it up in the living room where, as she claimed, “normal people put them.” Draco disagreed, saying that if that is what normal people did, many of them must sleep on the lounge – most of his favourite programs seemed to be on in the middle of the night. Hermione had given him a look that suggested he would be sleeping on the lounge if he argued with her, so he had said a sad goodbye to the television. She had introduced more of her Muggle things to Draco’s house; something called a kettle, which she used to boil water, a feat Draco saw as time consuming and pointless when you could do it instantly with a wand, and another thing she called a hairdryer. Draco roared with laughter when he discovered Hermione in the bathroom with her head upside down, drying her hair with it. She had shrieked at him and slammed the bathroom door in his face.

The thing he liked the most, however, was the CD player. It was almost as good as the television, and he was secretly in love with it, although he’d never tell Potter. Harry would torment him for weeks on end. Hermione had agreed not to tell him either once Draco threatened to stop dancing with her in the evening after dinner. He smiled, sinking into a pleasant reminiscence of Hermione laughing, her head tipped back, as he spun her around in his arms. Dancing was something the CD player had brought into their lives, and he could not imagine how he had lived without it before. Every night after their meal, they would dance together in the large dining room, spinning gracefully around the mahogany table to the smooth sounds of some Muggle music Hermione called ‘jazz’. Draco found he quite liked jazz, letting the melancholy rhythm and the seductive, sorrowful sound take over his body.

Harry and Ginny had their baby, a boy they named James, after Harry’s father. Draco and Hermione had been woken in the middle of the night by an anxious, stressed and pale-faced Ron, and rushed to the hospital, only to be told the birth would likely take another couple of hours. James was born in the early hours of the morning, and although Draco thought the newborn was rather odd looking, all wrinkled and red, his parents seemed to like him. Hermione delighted in the child almost as much as Harry and Ginny did, spending ridiculous amounts of money on the boy and spoiling him rotten. James had his father’s eyes and his mother’s brilliant auburn hair, with warm skin, already splattered in the typical Weasely freckles.

Draco had to admit, after a while, that the kid wasn’t that bad – Potter was busy and that made Draco’s life easier. Harry had been harassing him for months to take a position with the Ministry. Percy had offered Draco an auror position, once he went through the training, which Draco had flatly refused. Harry needed a new partner, but Draco had had enough of fighting and scheming and hunting. It was time to relax and enjoy the second chance at life he had been granted. Hermione, surprisingly, agreed with his decision, taking liberal times off work herself. Draco grinned. He’d brought out the worst in her. Gone was the overachieving, pedantic witch he’d known at school, and in her place was a calm, smiling and blissfully happy woman who didn’t seem to care what the world thought of her.

They’d been married two months after Hermione was discharged from St Mungo’s, in a small ceremony in the garden at the Manor. All the members of the Order were present, plus some of Hermione’s friends from work, all quietly shocked to discover she was getting married, let alone to the infamous Draco Malfoy. Meeting Hermione’s parents had been a terrifying experience, but somehow he managed to come out of it unscathed. The day had gone off without a single hitch, although the whole time Draco had secretly kept his fingers close to his wand, not quiet trusting the magnetic pull Potter and Weasley seemed to have when it came to attracting danger. He was half expecting a bunch of Death Eaters to show up and ruin the festivities.

Draco stood from the lounge, walking across the room to pick up a photograph of him and Hermione on their wedding day. He smiled, remembering how incredible it felt when they were officially declared husband and wife. They had no attendants, preferring to keep the ceremony simple and without stress. Draco was just setting the photograph back in its place when the door opened. Hermione wandered in, looking peaceful and more beautiful than he had ever seen her in a flowing skirt that brushed her calves, and simple cotton shirt. She smiled at him lovingly, crossing the room to plant a kiss on his lips, and he breathed deeply, filling his lungs with the intoxicating smell of her perfume. Harry, looking harassed, followed her in, James in his arms, screaming his little lungs out, Ginny on his heels, barking suggestions to Harry about what could be wrong with the baby. Harry flashed Draco a tired grin, collapsing on the lounge, James promptly throwing up all over his shoulder. Draco grimaced, and Hermione laughed, dropping her hands to caress her own growing stomach. Draco slipped an arm around her and pulled her close, kissing her neck, marveling at his luck. Sometimes he woke in the night just to pinch himself, checking repeatedly that the life he was leading was a reality. In a few short months he’d be a father, and on the night Hermione told him she was pregnant, he vowed to never let his child want for anything in life, especially love.

“Did you have to bring them here? I felt like having you all to myself this afternoon,” Draco murmured in her ear, and she giggled softly, pulling out of his arms to smile up at him, her eyes glowing.

“They’re just stopping for a bit. I wanted to show Ginny the ad I found in The Prophet,” Hermione whispered. Draco frowned, and she sighed. “The house, Draco. Remember, I showed you the ad last night?”

“No, you didn’t. I’d remember,” he insisted.

A scowl settled over Hermione’s features, the happy glow in her eyes quickly replaced with a smoldering fire. “After dinner, when we were sitting in here, on that lounge,” she pointed across the room, her voice rising so Harry and Ginny turned to look at them, James continuing to scream loudly, “watching television! Or were you so engrossed in the TV you didn’t hear me?”

Draco sighed, running his fingers through his hair as her expression became stonier. “I’m sorry, but Hermione, you didn’t show me any …”

“Get your coat, it’s starting to rain, I’ve already called the agent, we’re going to this showing, and that’s final,” she hissed, poking him in the chest with her finger, before turning and stomping from the room. Draco let out a breath, sneaking a look at Harry. Ginny laughed softly, scooped the baby into her arms and followed Hermione, giving Draco a sympathetic smile. Harry raised his eyebrows, a smug smirk tugging at his mouth. He stretched luxuriously, smothering a yawn. Draco thought he looked too pleased with himself for a man covered in baby sick.

“Never upset a pregnant woman, Malfoy,” Harry chuckled, and Draco sighed deeply, tugging at his hair.

“No, Potter,” he agreed, striding across the room and grabbing his coat from the wall peg. “Especially if that woman happens to be my wife.”

The End


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