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The Chemicals Between Us by Perfectcircle

Format: Novel
Chapters: 42
Word Count: 144,659
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Mild Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Mild Sexual Nature

Genres: General, Romance, Young Adult
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Narcissa, Voldemort, Fleur, Draco, Pansy, Blaise (M), OC
Pairings: Bill/Fleur, Remus/Tonks, Draco/Hermione, Harry/Hermione

First Published: 03/06/2007
Last Chapter: 11/06/2007
Last Updated: 02/21/2008

Summary:





Hermione swore she couldn't love anyone else after her fiancee' died, but what if someone came along? Enter Draco Malfoy, changed and living a life so ordinary that Hermione never thought she'd see him in a different way. Is it love or will it destroy them both? COMPLETE (But it's never too late to read!)


Chapter 1: MYone
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He was singing so wonderfully out of tune and Hermione couldn’t help but love it. Harry smiled warmly at her and continued to belt out the song.

They were inside Ron’s pad, along with the rest of his brothers and Ginny, and believe it or not, Harry was singing karaoke for her.

“ L is for the way you look at me, “ he sang in front of her as George and Fred laughed out loud. Ginny was shaking uncontrollably as she took pictures of Harry and his silly antics.

“ O is for the only one is see- “

Hermione buried her face in her hands, both embarrassed and flattered that Harry was willing to embarrass himself for her. It started out as a silly joke that turned into a dare. Harry was too embarrassed to sing for all of them, and Hermione joked that he didn’t love her enough to humiliate himself.

“V is very, very extraordinary, “ Harry belted out winking at her. Hermione laughed out loud and gazed at Harry who was wearing a dark green turtle neck that accentuated his eyes.

Harry laughed unable to finish. He was enjoying himself actually, despite knowing how hot his ears were from his act. He couldn’t carry a tune, but what the heck, Hermione was enjoying it.

It had been three years since they had graduated from Hogwarts, two years since Ron, Hermione and Harry joined the aurors, and a year since he had first asked Hermione out for a very serious date. They were getting married this coming spring.

There was a light shower of snow outside, and the Christmas lights near one of the windows twinkled like multicolored stars. It was Christmas Eve.

Hermione gave Harry a big hug just as the song ended. There were cheers from the rest.

“ Bloody good show mate! “ Fred said as he clapped his hand on Harry’s back.

“ Right on Fred! “ George said. “ We should’ve recorded this one with one of those muggle recording gadgets! “

“ It’s called a video camera! “ Ginny said with a grin.

“ Harry, I swear, if you ever sing like that again, “ Ron began. And he laughed.

“ I’m getting the bites, “ Ginny said heading towards the kitchen.

“ I’ll help, “ Hermione said standing up.

As soon as Hermione was out of an earshot, Harry nudged Ron and said something that Ron would never forget. “ Ron, that’s the girl I’m going to marry! “ he said with a serene smile on his face. “ That’s the girl, I love. “

Ron looked at Harry for a moment, surprised at his sudden overflowing display of affection for Hermione. He smiled.

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A few hundred miles away, a young man was lying on a hospital bed, his face thin, but otherwise still handsome. His blonde hair was a little messed up on his head and he was breathing shallowly and rapidly and sleeping quite peacefully.

A blonde woman and man were discussing something outside the room, with a large Christmas tree twinkling nearby with little angels and snowballs and boxes in delightful covers beneath it. The hallway was quiet, as expected at such an ungodly hour. It was almost three a.m.

“ You mean there’s no hope… “ the regal looking woman’s voice faltered and she almost sobbed.

“ Oh dear…”

“ No, no madam, he has hope… but in desperate need of a transplant. “

“ But- “

“Of course there’s a ‘but’, madam. We do not have that here, only in muggle medicine is it available-“

“ So you’re trying to say- “

“ Yes, we need help. I have half-muggle medi-witches and medi-wizards who may aid us in the muggle medicine world… unless you are not willing? “ his voice lowered. The old man bowed his head and straightened his glasses. It was a sad affair, a sad Christmas indeed

She stood still and stared at the door and the room’s number done in silver. Her gaze went to the Christmas tree. Then back to the medi-wizard. “ I-, yes- I need help- we need their help, “ her voice tightened. “ We need, he needs it, “ And she finally allowed herself to cry, thinking about herself, her husband, and especially her son.

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Harry glanced at Hermione once in awhile as he drove the car through the streets of London. There was a festive mood everywhere and so were they, despite the time being almost four in the morning.

“ That was fun, wasn’t it? “ Hermione said with a smile.

“ Well, of course it was. I was the reason for it, “ he said.

Hermione laughed. “ True. “

They lapsed into silence as Hermione stared outside. They passed by a large shopping mall, with its lights burning brighter than she had recalled.

“ You’re beautiful. “

Hermione looked at Harry. “ Hmm?”

“You’re beautiful, “ he said once more, seriously.

She laughed. “ Harry, you’re just sleepy. “

“ It’s true. I think you are. I know you are. “

“ The boy-who-lived thinks I’m pretty? “ She smiled.

“ The boy-who-lived loves you like hell, “ he replied.

He leaned over to kiss her on the cheek.

“ Mind the road! “ Hermione said loudly.

He laughed. A few minutes later, Harry’s car drove up to Hermione’s apartment building. It was a lovely building, three stories high, done in a pale orange with little terraces that made you think of the Mediterranean, despite being in a dreadfully cold London.

“ Your stop, Mione, “ he said resting his hands on the steering wheel.

“ Thanks, Harry, “ Hermione give him a long kiss on the cheek. “ Merry Christmas, I love you. “

Harry smiled and felt himself blush. “ You know, for some weird reason, I like it when you say that. “

“ Harry! “

“ Okay! I love it! Say it again? “

“ I l-ove you…” she said slowly with a grin.

Harry kissed her gently on the lips. “ I love you, MYone, “ he said in a soft voice, emphasizing the ‘my’ part. He placed a tiny box on her hand. It had a little red ribbon on the middle.

She laughed. “ MYone?”

“ I kinda liked the idea of making you sound like you’re mine. “ He laughed.

“ Don’t worry, “ she assured him. “ I am. “

Harry smiled and they kissed one last time.

“ Don’t open the gift I gave you until I’m out of your sight! “ she warned. He nodded, smiling at the red box she left on the passenger’s seat. She closed the door.

“ I love you, “ he said again with a silly but charming smile on his face. Harry’s eyes lingered into hers for awhile, as if he didn’t want to leave. He smiled one last time.

With a wave, Harry sped off into the night.

Hermione smiled. She quickly ran up to her pad, locked the door and flopped on her couch and opened the box.

It was a pair of dangling earrings, with a diamond on each earring. There was a little note inside.

“ I’d love to see you wear this with your wedding gown. I love you. Harry. “

Hermione laughed and knew she loved Harry even more now.

Harry sang along with a song playing on the stereo. “ Look at the stars… look how they shine for you- and everything you do, they’re all- yeah they were all yellow, “ he laughed to himself; finishing the line. Not only was he half a note lower, he was terrible with lyrics. Then he thought of Hermione once more.

He grinned as he looked at the box. He couldn’t resist what was inside. With one hand on the steering wheel, his other hand reached for it. The top came off easily. And he finally held what was inside.

He smiled again, unable to contain his bliss. It was a silver locket, circle in shape, the outside designed with Celtic art, swirls of red danced inside the tiny stone found in the middle. He opened it with little difficulty on one hand. Inside was a picture of him and Hermione, taken during their last year at Hogwarts. He was trying to kiss her nose as they stood side by side under their last Hogwarts winter. He laughed.

Without another thought he decided to wear it and he slipped it over his neck. “ I’ll adjust this later, “ he thought.

The snow kept falling on the streets of London, like the sky never ran out of supply.

“ Your skin, oh yeah your skin unfolds,- turning to something beautiful, you know, you know I love you so, you know I love you so, “ he sang under his breath as the wipers kept swishing off the falling snow from his windshield. He reached an intersection and drove straight through as there were no cars in sight.

A honk blared out into the night and Harry looked sideways to see a truck heading straight for his car. The lights blinded him and then he saw nothing else, no one else but…

“Hermione. “

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~Hermione’s heart fluttered as she walked down the aisle, wearing a simple gown with little beads at the hem and near her chest. It had a scooped neckline, showing off her lovely neck. Her hair was done simply, in a French twist and her make-up looked au naturelle. She had never looked more beautiful.

Harry was a few feet across her, with a smile on his face, waiting for her calmly as she walked down the rose petal strewed carpet. The whole Weasley family beamed at her with happiness and her other Gryffindor schoolmates were there too. She inched closer and closer as the music played softly in her ears. “This is it Hermione, “ she told herself.

Suddenly Harry’s eyes looked blank.

“ Is something the matter? “ she asked, pausing her walk. The music had stopped. The Weasleys had stopped smiling as well. Her friends suddenly had hostile looks on their faces.

“ Harry? “

His mouth opened. “ Hermione, I can’t marry you. “

Hermione’s heart stopped. “ What? I don’t…“

“ I’m not…I can’t- “

“ I don’t understand. If this is some sort of nuptial joke- “

“ I’m sorry, Hermione, “ he said. His eyes were not sorry at all.

Hermione shook her head and felt nauseated and cold and all the other horrible things one felt at a moment of humiliation and disbelief.

Someone screamed out loud, like a banshee…~

A shrill ringing woke her up from her nightmare. “ Damn it, “ she muttered. Hermione rolled over her bed and sat up and grabbed for the cordless phone. “ H’llo? “ she said groggily.

“ Hermione Granger? “

“ Yes? “ she said, annoyed at the late caller.

“ We have a 22 year old male here, his identification says his name is Harry Potter and your number was listed on- “

Suddenly Hermione was fully awake. Her hand gripped the phone tightly. “ What? Has something happened? “

“ General Hospital, he’s been in an accident, ma’am, “ the caller said in a mechanical voice.

Emotionless and unsympathetic. The bastard!

Hermione felt blood drain from her face, her entire body. Oh god…no…it was another nightmare, wasn’t it? Without another word, Hermione dropped the phone on the floor.

She ran into the emergency room, wearing her red flannel pajamas and a white wool coat over it. She was breathless as she stood at the desk.

“ I’m here for Harry, Harry Potter! “ she gasped.

The man looked at the computer and on a piece of paper. “He’s undergoing an emergency surgery, if you’d like to wait or call someone, we have a phone in the lounge, over there, “ he said pointing to a large, comfortable looking room.

Hermione nodded, unsure if she knew she had understood everything he had said. She walked down the short hallway and picked up the phone, and with trembling fingers, she dialed for Ron’s number. After a few rings, a voice came over the line.

“ Ron! “ she said in a tight voice.

“ Who… Hermione? Is something wrong?” he asked with a yawn.

“ I’m at General Hospital, Harry, he’s… please come, oh Ron! He’s been in an accident, Ron! “

“ What! “ Ron sounded fully awake now.

“ Ron! I don’t know what- “

“ Wait there! I’m coming! “ he said firmly. “ Just wait there! I’m coming! “

And she waited, for what seemed like hours, although it had only been fifteen minutes, and Ron had driven like a madman, with Ginny and his two older twin brothers in tow. He ran directly to the waiting room and saw her sitting on the couch, one hand near her mouth, as she stared quietly at the floor.

“ Hermione, “ he began.

She looked up. And she tried to smile. “ Ron, you made it-“

He sat beside her and drew her into an embrace. “ It’s alright, Harry’s tough. “ He knew it was an awful line, but it was true, Harry was tough. But was it the right thing to say to his fiancée? He didn’t know how bad it was, but he’d never seen Hermione look so down, so negative.

Ginny stood still watching them and she took a seat beside Hermione and hugged her after Ron let go. Fred sat across them, and George got out for some coffee. He returned and placed a paper cup gently into Hermione’s hands. She took it and held it without a word. She stared hard at the floor, willing herself to be optimistic.

Thoughts formed in her mind. The room disappeared, its white walls replaced by the Hogwarts gray and moss ridden walls. Hermione was once again in seventh year. She and Harry just had a fight….

“ He’s not right for you! That Jason Mulder was, is, not right for you! “ he said hotly as they stood in the middle of an empty common room.

“ Who are you to say that! “she snapped. “ Just because you think he is, it doesn’t mean you should ruin my date at Madam Rosmerta’s! “

“ He’s a bloody git with a dead toe! “

“ Just so happens that your beaters gave him that, you twit! “ she said.

“ Well he deserved it! “

“ What’s wrong with you! You never really cared whom I went out with! “

“ Well, can’t I care now; then? “

Hermione glared at Harry. She had never been this angry at him. So what if she dated someone from Hufflepuff? Dates were dates, it didn’t matter!

Harry glared at her. What did she see in him anyway! The guy was bad at Arithmancy and Charms! He was… he was stupid!

“ You self-absorbed bastard! Ron’s better than you are! At least he told it to me nicely, that he didn’t fancy that guy for me… and you! You of all people! You piss me off like you’re my father or something! I’m not stupid, Harry Potter! “

“Self-absorbed? Bastard? Well, this self absorbed bastard just spent the last year and a half loving you! “ Then he grew quiet and he felt his ears burn.

Hermione paused. She looked at Harry’s eyes…

“ Hermione! “ Ron’s voice snapped her out of her reverie.

Hermione looked at Ron’s face. She saw a man in a green gown standing at the doorway. She looked back at Ron.

“ How, how is he? “ Ron asked, standing up.

“ He’s lost a lot of blood, we’re doing the best we can. “

“ Well who’s inside, operating on him? “ Hermione’s voice became small.

“ Apparently he’s had brain hemorrhage, “ the doctor continued.

“ Who’s operating on him! “ Ron bellowed.

“ Doctor Radnor, I assure you, he’s highly competent, “ he said with a frown. Did it matter if she knew or not?

Hermione lapsed into silence once more as Ron apologized and asked the doctor if he could have a word with him outside the waiting room. Ginny sat beside her without saying a word.

Ron stood and breathed in deeply. “ Tell me, what’s the prognosis? “

The doctor breathed in deeply, as if to prepare himself for a long speech, enough to hurt and shock them all. “ Mr. – err- “

“ Ron, Ron Weasley. “

“ Mr. Weasley, I’m afraid I may have some bad news. We’ve done our best, still doing our best, I left the operating room to inform you of this as there were two other doctors. But I don’t have the heart to tell you, the young lady in red beside you… “

“ What is it? “ he said through gritted teeth.

Silence for a second.

“ He may not live, Mr. Weasley. “

Ron waited for the words to sink in. “ So it’s... “

“ It’s that bad, sir. Massive brain hemorrhage…” The doctor took another deep breath. “ Since you are Mr. Potter’s next of kin and since the lady is not in good condition, you are the next name listed in his… I would like to discuss with you about giving something away. You see, Mr. Potter had signed a donor card. “

He nodded, running a hand over his head. Oh god, Harry was going to die... how could… why now? Why this accident? They didn’t deserve it! Hermione didn’t. How was he going to tell it to her? It wasn’t right! Harry couldn’t die! Not now! His mind swirled with thoughts of Harry dead, and he tried to shake them off desperately, as fast as they had come. The doctor went through a lengthy explanation and Ron felt dumb, listening to it all.

A man went out of the operating room, wearing greens scrubs. And Ron felt his heart sink.

Inside the room, Hermione stood up and looked outside the window. Snow was falling softly, incessantly. Lights blinked all across the buildings. It was a lovely, modern hospital that had a comfortable atmosphere…

She heard the sound of shoes on the floor. She felt a hand on her shoulder. Hermione turned to face Ron and saw his eyes. There was no need for words.

She fell on the floor.

Chapter 2: He's gone, Ron
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~“ I love you Hermione, “ Harry said with a faint blush on his face…~

“ Hermione…” a voice whispered. “ Can you stand now? “

Her eyes were open, and everything looked fuzzy. Then her vision cleared. Ron was hovering over her, and so was Ginny, looking very worried.

She looked at Ron as he helped her sit up. “ He’s gone, “ she said flatly.

Ron nodded and tried not to let the tears fall down. Ginny had been sobbing since Hermione had fainted. Fred and George stood quietly, as the doctor who had spoken to Ron saw how she was.

“ Ma’am, I’m very sorry, “ he began.

Hermione stood up. “ I’d like to see him, “ she said quietly.

Ron’s eyes widened. He didn’t like the sound of her voice. The doctor looked at Ron. Ginny looked at Ron. Fred opened his mouth, as if wanting to say something. But he didn’t say anything at all. The room was filled with an awful silence that was so loud it was starting to annoy Ron.

“ Ma’am, I don’t think you should, “ the doctor began.

“ I want to see him, “ her voice was still flat, but louder this time.

He nodded. “ Very well, Mr. Weasley? “ He looked at Ron, searching for some physical sign of protest. There was none.

Ron motioned for Ron and Ginny and Fred and George followed mutely as he led them down a long corridor. He tried to stay strong, imagining how Hermione would react upon seeing Harry. He didn’t know how he would react either. Something in him was gone or bursting. He couldn’t understand what he felt. Was he sad? Hurt? Angry at someone? At Harry? Himself?

Hermione walked the wide, well lighted corridor. But it seemed too narrow, dark and unwelcoming to her. She walked slowly, as if she had aged 50 years overnight. Something in her was starting to hurt. Her heart, it seemed, had suddenly slowed down in accordance with her steps. She took small steps, child-like steps that didn’t seem to get her anywhere. She had no idea that Ginny was guiding her hand, she had no that Ron kept looking at her. She had no idea that Fred had gone down to the station along with George to call their family to inform them that the boy-who-lived, was now gone.

Fred looked at Ron’s, Ginny’s and Hermione’s back. He stared at Hermione most especially as he began dialing on the phone.

“ How do you think she’ll take it? “ George asked.

Fred shrugged. “ I don’t know. Hermione- I’ve never seen her like this, in a situation like this. “

They passed by a few doors, and inside, people were moaning and groaning and screaming. Did Harry die like this? Ron shuddered at the thought of it.

Ginny eyed Ron. Ron saw the fear in Ginny’s eyes. It screamed, ‘how do you think she’d react?’, and ‘I can’t stand this anymore!’ But still, she said nothing.

The doctor stopped in a room. Ron saw, to his horror, blood on the floor, splattered here and there. Hermione didn’t seem to have noticed it. Ginny noticed it and he saw her mouth open in shock. The doctor withdrew the white curtains.

Harry.

Hermione heard an intake of breath. It was Ginny. But she saw nothing else, no one else but Harry. He was lying there, sleeping peacefully and she stared at his face. And one couldn’t tell he had died from an accident.

She moved closer to him, as Ginny stayed stationary, trembling and crying softly. Ron was hugging Ginny as he stared at his best friend inching toward his other best friend. Ginny excused herself and ran for Fred and George who had just arrived at the door.

“Oh god, “ Ron murmured. How was she going to take it?

Hermione was blank for awhile as she stared at Harry’s face for a long time. A white sheet was placed until his shoulder area. His pale skin gleamed under the bright lights. Her eyes showed no sign of grief. Her lips trembled though.

Was this Harry?

Was he really dead?

He would never be warm again, she thought as her fingers involuntarily reached out to touch his face. His bright green eyes would never again open and look at her and she would never see him smile again, or hear his voice, or feel his masculine arms around her. The doctor was talking to her, but she couldn’t understand a word. She kept nodding and nodding until the doctor finally knew that she was in her own world now, that she had shut them off. She didn’t feel Ron’s hand touch her shoulder. Her hand strayed to his hair, his messy dark hair and when she withdrew it, it was slick with blood. Her eyes did not widen though. She still remained quiet as she took his cold hand and held it in her own two warm hands. The dead were not cold at all, she told herself. They’re just a little chilly…Was Harry cold? She knew he was naked under those sheets of white.

This wasn’t Harry. Harry was alive, and warm, somewhere. He was playing football somewhere, eating and munching on a sandwich somewhere, sipping butterbeer somewhere. But suddenly that somewhere seemed too remote to even imagine. There was no somewhere. Only here, only now, in this cold room with white tiled walls, strange equipment and annoying people who wore scrubs and gowns.

“ Harry, “ Hermione finally whispered.

“ Ma’am, it’s necessary to perform an autopsy, “ the doctor began. “ We have also taken the liberty to remove- “

“ If you touch him again, I’ll kill you, “ Hermione said softly and with a smile.

Ron couldn’t take the pressure. He broke down quietly.

Hermione looked at him. She frowned a little, out of concern. “ Oh, Ron. Don’t be sad, “ she began, as she touched his shoulder gently.

Ron shook his head as another tear fell down. “ Hermione, “ he choked.

She looked at Harry once more. Then her eyes reached his neck. She spun around, suddenly active and alive. “ He’s missing a few things! “ she gasped.

A nurse came forward and held a metal tray, with a white sheet on top. His glasses. She held them gently. The glasses were cracked; one side of the rim had broken apart. She shook and still held onto them. “ He, he can’t see well without this. “ She trembled.

Ron looked away. “ Hermione, please- “

Ginny sobbed louder as George held her tight. “ Fred, George! Do something! “

But the twins remained motionless. What were they to do? It was a strange situation, and all their humor and antics were gone. Hermione- they’d never seen her like this. It was...strange. She turned around, back again to Harry.

“ Miss, there’s still- “ the nurse didn’t continue.

Hermione spun around to face her and saw something at the corner of the tray. It was shiny and silver, with specks of blood on it. She had a sharp intake of breath. With a shaky hand, she reached for it, and held it in an even gentler manner than Harry’s glasses. Her gift to Harry.

“ Don’t open the gift I gave you until I’m out of your sight! “ she warned…

She opened it and saw the picture. They were moving. He was alive. He was kissing her. He was alive... She closed it and felt her body shudder uncontrollably. He was moving in there! And she faced Harry again and gently lifted his head to place the necklace on him. The white sheet slipped and she saw a dark line, an incision on his chest. Hermione gasped. She reeled back in horror and Ron caught her just in time. “ Oh god! “ she gasped again.

She trembled even more as she held Harry’s hand with Ron supporting her back. “ He’s gone, Ron, he’s gone…” she moaned as she held Harry’s face.

“ Shh…” Ron said trying to soothe her.

“ Harry! “ she said in a shaky voice. “ Please? Please! “

What was she begging for? For him to come back? For him to take her away with him? She didn’t know what she had been doing. But Harry was gone, she was sure of it. But then there was denial. Denial stung her, stuck to her like a giant leech, sucked out her vital humor, until she knew she felt no other feeling except pain.

And then she suddenly grew calm. “ He told me he loved me before he left. “

And she walked out of the operating room and down into the hallway, seeing the space wide enough only for her to walk on. Ron stood still watching her walk away. Ginny, with red rimmed eyes looked at her brothers.

“ Where is she going? “ she croaked. “ Ron! Fred! George! Stop her! “

Ron remained still as Fred and George bolted out of the room and ran after her.

“ Hermione! “ Fred yelled.

Hermione kept walking, like she had never heard him call out her name in the silence of the early morning hours.

“ Please! Stop! “ George said as he caught up with her. He touched her shoulder.

She turned to face him with a stare he couldn’t place and didn’t want to see.

“ Come with us, “ George began.

She shook her head and smiled genially. “No; thank you, “ she replied.

“ Please? “ Fred said.

“ No, thank you, “ she answered. “ I think I’ll go home now. “

“ Please Hermione, “ Fred extended his hand to touch her shoulder. Hermione slapped it away. Their eyes widened.

“ Leave me alone! “ she suddenly screamed. “You leave me alone! You leave me alone! “

Ron and Ginny ran out for them as soon as they had heard her scream.

“ Leave me alone! All of you! I said I wanted to go home! Not stay here! Never here! Not with you! Only with him! But he’s gone! And I’m not! “

“ Oh Hermione, “ Ginny cried out.

“ I don’t need you to cry for me!” Hermione snapped. “ So stop it! “

Ginny felt an arm around her, it was George’s. “ Hermione, “ she whimpered. “ It’s not… you don’t have to act this way, Harry’s- “

“ Alive? He’s okay! You tell me right now if he’s going to get up from that bloody surgery table and come running out to see all of us to greet us with a smile! You tell me he’s going to live, to kiss me, to hug you! To play football, and… Quidditch! “ she said. “ You tell me if I’ll ever get to marry him, you tell me that everything will be alright- “

Ron embraced her. “ I’m sorry Hermione! Harry’s gone! Gone, do you hear! He won’t be happy to know you’re this- “

She backed away from his embrace. “ He’s gone! I know! I know it! He’ll never see us cry for him! He’ll never know how painful it’s been to see him gone! He’ll never know! Never! “

Ron saw the doctor and a nurse come running behind her. Ron hugged Hermione again, this time, tighter. “ You still have us, Mione! You still have us! “

“ I still have you! But Harry! “ she cried.

“ It’s going to hurt for awhile Hermione, but I’m telling you- You’re going to be alright! “ Ron told her as the doctor reached them.

“ No! I’m never going to- “ and she felt something prick her skin but still she cried. “ Ron, I didn’t- how! Why! It’s never going to be the same, Ron! He’s gone! I can’t… He’s never coming home! He’s dead! He’s dead! “ And Hermione felt herself crumple on the floor, as Ron still held her.

She was lying in Ron’s arms, sobbing as the doctor and nurse were bent over on her.

“ It’s alright, you’re going to be okay…” Ron’s fading voice told her.

And as she faded into unconsciousness, she still felt the need to doubt what Ron had said.

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A/N: yes, two chapters on the death of Harry Potter. Sorry if it seemed too emotional...did it bring you to tears? i hope it did! haha. please do review, as i will see if this story actually deserves to be continued? all comments and flames and death threats are welcome. don't fail me, and i won't fail you. The next chapter proves to be very enjoyable.

Chapter 3: "...You insufferable gentleman!"
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“ G’day to yer, Miss Granger! “ the old, portly grocer greeted her as she breezed into the small store.

“ Morning Mr. Jenkins, “ she smiled. “ How’s your wife? “ She heard a shrill voice.

“ Martin Jenkins! Get your arse up here right now! “

Mr. Jenkins smiled sheepishly. “ Still alive, that woman, “ he replied as he left.

Hermione laughed and proceeded to the produce section. She saw a mother and child picking some oranges.

“ How about this mommy? “

“ You see that there? It’s got a bad bruise, pick another one. “ The mother caught Hermione’s gaze and smiled at her.

Hermione smiled back. And wondered what it would’ve been like to be a mother. Then she shook her head and busied herself picking on apples.

As soon as she had finished doing her groceries, she proceeded to her car and placed the groceries at the trunk. Hermione got into the driver’s seat and turned on the car. She had just bought a vintage red Volkswagen and was fiercely proud of it, as she had spent the last few months or so renovating it into a convertible.

It was a sunny, windy morning, and she decided to leave the top down as she drove for her flat. She lived at the second floor, a newly constructed building with seven rooms for rent. She was one of the first tenants. She had lived in this suburb, about twenty minutes traveling time from London, for more than a year now. She worked two jobs, keeping herself busy most of the time but still able to spend some time with Hogwarts friends, especially Ron and his siblings.

Ron was working full time as an Auror, Ginny as a Daily Prophet writer and the twins running their own successful novelty shop, and was a fierce competitor with Zonko’s in the wizarding world. Her purely wizard friends had successfully crossed over to the muggle world with her help (and Harry’s of course), a few months after they had graduated from Hogwarts. They could now use muggle artifacts without much trouble.

She remembered the first time Ron had seen a digital camera and was so amazed at it; he took images of himself the whole day.

As she drove away from the small shopping center, Hermione passed by a new quaint neighborhood with identical townhouses lined with trees done in bright Mexican-like colors.

She remembered someone again, and with a little frown she tried to shove the thought off. Her cellular phone rang. She reached for it inside her handbag. It was Ginny.

“ Ginny? Hi, “ she said cradling the phone on her shoulder. “ Where am I? I’m heading for home- If I got a gift? Oh! Blighty! Thanks for reminding me! I can’t believe I forgot that! “ She laughed.

“ You know, it never crossed my mind when I woke up this morning, but I did write her name on the calendar as a reminder- why yes, eight o’clock? Okay, I’ll see you! “

She sighed. “ I can’t believe I forgot to buy a gift! I’ll head for a mall later on…I wonder what Mrs. Weasley will like-I gave her a porcelain tea set for her last birthday-“ she mused.

Then she heard a tiny popping sound.

“ Oh no, “ she muttered, resting her head on the steering wheel as one hand reached for the key. One of her tires, most probably. She got out and inspected the tires one by one.

Yep, a flat tire, just as I thought, she said to herself. She sighed and frowned. “Why? Someone hates me up there! “ she muttered again. And she had not carried along a jack or a crowbar!

A silver colored Jaguar roadster stopped behind hers. The man wearing designer sunglasses looked ahead, seeing a seemingly pretty, wavy haired woman in heels, a black skirt and plain white long sleeves. She had her back turned and apparently had car problems.

He got down. “ Can I help you? Miss? “ he asked approaching her.

“ Well as a matter of a fact- “ she spun around and her eyes widened.

His eyes widened. “ Do I know- “ he began. The man had light blonde hair, wore a blue polo shirt with a few loose buttons and shiny leather shoes.

She stepped back and stared at him. “ M-Malfoy? “

He took of his sunglasses off and stared at her. “ Granger? “ he said in an awed voice.

There was a few seconds of awkward silence. He opened his mouth. “ As I was saying, need some help? “

She nodded, still unable to get over the fact that Malfoy was standing in front of her. She hadn’t seen the ‘ferret boy’ in years! And he was riding- no driving- a muggle car! Wearing non-wizard clothes! Standing in front of her!

He took out a jack from his car. “ Here, “ he said giving her the jack.

She held it with two hands. Confused, she looked up to him.

He looked at her. Didn’t she know? She was a muggle for Pete’s sake! He sighed. “Set the jack up under a solid part of the side of the car, “ he began. “Don’t raise the car off the ground yet- “

Hermione, with a bewildered look, complied like an idiot. “ Why the hell- “ she thought.

“ Okay, pry the hubcap off. Use the crowbar- Yep, that’s it- “ he said as he stood over her. “Now you can take off the lug nuts- Yes, that’s right- Keep your feet away from under the car- we don’t want those heeled female feet pinned in case of an accident- “

“ If you’re so demanding, why don’t you do it your- “

“ Do you want help or not? “ he said. “ Besides- I – “

“ What? I’m the one needing help- “

“ Then do as I say, “ he told her.

She was infuriated. This was not something to do for a woman in a skirt and heels! But she set to work, keeping her anger down.

“ Okay, jack the car up- jack it up just enough so that the tire is off the ground and you can slide it off- “ he said as Hermione pumped the jack. Okay now- Take the old tire off, put the new tire on, tighten the lug nuts a bit, then lower the tire and finish tightening the lug nuts until you can’t turn them anymore- “ he said.

After they were done; Hermione, with dirty hands, gave the jack and crowbar back to him.

“ Here,” she spat out. “ Thank you! “

“ You’re welcome, “ he said unaffected by her sarcasm.

She glared at him and opened her car’s door. Without so much of a word, she proceeded to get in, and then she dropped her keys and cursed. “ Merlin’s balls! “

He laughed and Hermione looked up to him. She had never seen him laugh before, in all her Hogwarts years. And it was; it seemed sincere laughter at that. Her eyes widened in surprise. He dropped down to get her keys.

“ Still haven’t forgotten about the good old wizarding days, Granger? “ he asked jangling her keys infront of her.

“ No! “ she spat out. “ I’m still committed to it and thank you, you insufferable gentleman! “

She drove away as Draco stood on the road, smiling until her car disappeared from his view.

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“Mum, “ he said. “ Well, I’m kind of settled down, I just bought a house, townhouse actually, of course I’ll visit- mum- “ he said over the phone. “ Please don’t get melodramatic on me- “

“ It’s quite strange really, me using this silly muggle contraption for communication when I could just apparate or use the fireplace or have a portkey- “Narcissa Malfoy began. “ So, how’s the house? “

He looked around and laughed. “ Bare- like me. “

“ Draco Malfoy! “

“ I’m serious mum, I’m wearing only a towel- you called in a most convenient time- “ he laughed.

“ And believe me; you phoning with this silly muggle contraption has worked wonders. “

“ I just don’t get why you had to get a job so close to those muggles- we do have a successful life back here- “

Successful was an understatement. Despite Lucius gone, Narcissa had survived the ordeals along with Draco, from losing large amounts of money, to gossip and to humiliation with the aristocratic wizarding society. She had pulled through. There was the Black blood within her that would never die despite being buried in Lucius’ shadow for a long time. She had used the last of her remaining galleons to open an antiques shop just near Diagon Alley (along with Draco’s help) selling off a few of the Malfoy heirlooms first and then some of the heirlooms from her family, the Blacks.

He knew that his mother was alone, except for a few servants, in their manor. But he had to get away from it all. He just had to.

“ You’ll still visit-? “ her voice sounded strained.

“ Of course, mum, “ he replied. “ I am after all a sort of mediator between this world and ours. “

After his mother had put down the phone, Draco sighed and proceeded to dress himself. It had been a fairly interesting day. He had just moved in the neighborhood, since he liked how quiet it was and homey, a new atmosphere to him, a contrast to the coldness and aloofness of his own home, a manor his mother would never leave.

The day had gotten far more interesting when he had a little reunion from Hermione Granger, the Hogwarts paradigm of virtue and brilliance. She and her boyfriend had been quite a pair. And now, he had seen her, after so many years. How long had it been? Five years? She had changed a lot. Perhaps the boy-who-lived transformed her into a rather dazzling young adult. Perhaps. But it had been a surprising moment, seeing her with a vintage car and in heels and a short skirt in the suburbs of London.

He glanced at his dresser and saw a long rectangular leather box on top. He placed a hand over it and felt warmth running through his fingertips. He hadn’t held his wand in months. He had sworn not to.” Not until-,” he sighed.

He had a lot of muggle work to do- like decorating his new house. Without magic. Without something he had been used to since he had been pooping in diapers. He had learned to drive an enchanted car, when he had been fourteen years old, using his wand. Driving it with his own bare hands was something he’d never have done, not until his father had gone.

As soon as he had dressed, he decided to take a drive to London, to get some new things for himself and for his mother. Her birthday was coming up in a few days. “What should I get her?” he thought as he combed his hair carelessly.

Draco went downstairs. “ What else should I get? “ he asked himself as he surveyed the almost empty living room.

“ I should get a life. “

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TBC...?

Disclaimer: I don’t own Volkswagen or Jaguar (although I wish I did!), nor do I own the Coldplay and Nat king Cole lyrics found in the previous chapter. I upload fast, don't I? Hope you liked this! I guess I was just daydreaming too much when I thought I would actually get more people to read this story, but at the moment, i don't mind at all.

Oh yeah, this is how I imagine Draco to be, so don't mind me referring to the flashiest things, after all, a rich wizard deserves only the best in the muggle world! haha!

Chapter 4: "...It's called Metrosexual"
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Hermione walked briskly into the mall past five o’clock in the afternoon. Plenty of time to choose a gift, she mused. She looked around and went directly into the women’s section.

A small, doe-eyed sales lady approached her. “ Help you, miss? “ she asked. “ Would you like anything? “

Hermione smiled. “ I’m trying to find a gift for an- aunt. “

“ What are her likes? “ she asked motioning for her to come along with her.

“ Well…she likes to knit… but! I’m not getting her any of that…perhaps some…jewelry or perfume?“ Hermione replied staring at her surroundings. The chandeliers shone brightly above, along with the decors hanging from the ceiling.

The sales lady laughed in a high pitched tone. “ Better make up your mind miss. “

Hermione spent the next half hour smelling all sorts of perfume until she felt her nose was getting stuffy. She had probably smelled more than twenty bottles already. “ I can’t make up my mind, “ she muttered.

“ Take it easy miss, you still have about a hundred more to choose from, “ the lady said with a smile.

Hermione groaned. “ I think I’m going to get a migraine. “

“ How about this? It’s a good old jolly scent straight from the United States. “

Hermione reluctantly took the paper sprayed with the scent. “ Well, this is good- but so are the ten others. “

Hermione felt the beginnings of a bad headache, and she was starting to regret why she had chosen to get Mrs. Weasley perfume instead of lingerie or something else. And then she heard a voice.

“ Yes, hi. I was wondering if you had anything new… well she’s rather classy. “

Hermione heard flirtatious laughter come from the counter behind her, and even the saleslady accommodating her seemed to gain interest, moving her head sideways to take a glance at the customer. Hermione spun around just as he turned to face her.

She froze. “ I- hello, “ she said lamely.

He smiled, wearing a white button down short sleeved polo and dark jeans. “ Granger, fancy meeting you here. “

“ Wh-what are you doing here? “ she asked. He walked up to her.

“ Isn’t it obvious? I’m getting a gift; why else would I be in the female perfumery? “

“ Perhaps, you’ve turned into a cross dresser or something? “ she suggested with a smile.

He smiled. “ You were always a woman of words, Granger. I’m just getting my special someone a gift. “

Hermione raised an eyebrow. “ Pansy, perhaps? “

“ No, didn’t you hear? Pansy’s getting married in a few weeks time. That- what’s-his-name… well, whatever. “

Hermione smiled. “ That’s nice to hear, that she’s finally over you. “

He laughed. “ Afraid not, she still fancies I’d save her from the arrangement she so smartly contrived herself. “

“ Miss? “ the saleslady interrupted.

Hermione spun around. “ Oh god, I still haven’t picked- “

“ Who are you planning to give it to? “ he asked.

“ Mrs. Weasley, “ she replied, waiting for him to throw some smarty-aleck reply.

“ Ah. “ he said nothing more. He picked up a bottle. “ How about this? “

Hermione shrugged. “ It’s in one of my top ten, I’ve been eliminating various scents for the past half hour. “

He laughed. “ Silly girl, you’re going to get colds or sinusitis if you smell everything. What are her likes? What scent does she remind you of? “

Hermione closed her eyes for a moment. “ Home-spun scent, like food.“ She laughed. “ Baked goods..”

He faced the saleslady. “ Something with vanilla or honeysuckle. “ The saleslady eagerly began taking out samples.

Hermione laughed. “ I don’t believe this… how do you- “

“ I believe there’s this muggle term…“ He dropped his voice lower. “ ...it’s called Metrosexual. “

Hermione laughed.

He picked up four triangle pieces of paper. “ Here, “ he began. “ Perhaps you could choose now? “

Hermione picked one. She sniffed. “ Nope. Not that. “

“ Three more to go, then, “ he said.

She sniffed all three one at a time. “ I like this, “ she finally said, picking up the sweet, vanilla like scent.

He smiled “Congratulations, you’ve finally chosen what to give. “

She read the bottle’s name. “ Vanilla Sky, “ she said. “ A perfect blend of vanilla with a splash of citrus for a unique scent that’s you. “ She laughed. “ Bloody, what a description- " She turned to face him. “ Thank-thanks. “

He smiled. “ I guess I’ll be on my way, then? See you around. “

She opened her mouth. But she sighed and proceeded to pay for the bottle as she glanced at him once in a while, sniffing samples. The salesladies were ogling over him silly and she bit her lower lip to keep herself from laughing. Something wasn’t right. Draco Malfoy had changed. Something in him was different. She hadn’t heard any spiteful, bitter comments. There was no more name-calling…

” Well, we’re adults now, of course, “ Hermione reminded herself.

There was no look of malice in his eyes. There was no reminiscing of the old days. He did not refer to the Weasleys as ‘weasels’. No more buck-toothed Granger or bushy haired Granger…no more Mudblood references.

She glanced at the counter again, and he wasn’t there anymore. She sighed. “What a day,” she told herself. “ I don’t know whether to hate it, or to hate it. “

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Hermione coughed as she stood inside the Weasley fireplace, carrying a little package complete with a ribbon.

“ Hermione’s here! “ Ginny said hugging her.

“ Hey, Ginny. Where’s- “

“ What took you so long? “ Ron came into view carrying a plateful of mashed potatoes.

Ron hugged Hermione and led her into the old house’s living room. It was still the same old house, still crooked looking with a few changes inside. Apparently Mr. and Mrs. Weasley liked their house, their home as it was.

“ Mrs. Weasley! “ Hermione said with a smile. “ Happy birthday! “ She held out the box.

She got a tight hug from Molly and a kiss on the cheek. “ Why thank you dear! “ she said happily as she got the package from Hermione’s hand. “ Come on now! Good lord knows what you’ve been eating! You’ve grown thin!”

“ I guess I’ve been too concentrated on my job, Mrs. Weasley, “ she replied with a laugh.

They had lovely dinner in the garden, with lanterns hanging over the trees and a soft breeze playing on their skins. They sang a ‘happy birthday’, and Mrs. Weasley blew out the candles on a large birthday cake that her children had painstakingly baked for her. Later that evening, they had a quiet coffee session, still in the garden as they sat on plush couches as they gazed at the stars.

“ ‘Ermione, would you like some biscuitz? “ Fleur asked offering her a plateful of home-baked cookies.

She shook her head. “ No thank you, Fleur, “ she replied. “ How many months? “ She eyed Fleur’s belly.

Fleur smiled a happy smile. “ Sixz months last week, “ she replied. Bill came over, carrying a mug of hot coffee. “ Excuze us, ‘Ermione. “

Fleur and Bill headed for an empty couch under another tent. Hermione looked at them and sighed. Fleur was snuggled comfortably in Bill’s chest as she stroked her abdomen. Bill whispered something in her ear. Fleur laughed and kissed his cheek. It would be their first child, as their careers were too busy to have a family back then. Fleur snuggled contently as Bill stroked her hair.....


~
“ Hermione? “ Harry began.

“ Hmm? “ she murmured as she lay on Harry’s lap.

“ You think I’ll make a great father? I mean, if we ever do have kids… “

Hermione smiled. “ Nah, you’ll make a wonderful father. “

“ Wonderful… sounds good…” And he laughed.....
~


“ Hey, “ a voice said. Hermione looked at Ron. “ You okay? “

Hermione nodded. “ Bill’s really excited. “

“ I can tell, “ Ron said. “ Even mum and dad are. First grandchild and all.“

She nodded and looked away and faced Mr. and Mrs. Weasley at another tent across them. Still loved each other after all these years…

Ron eyed her. “ Mione…let it go, “ he finally said.

She blinked. “ What do you mean? “

“ I know it’s hard to let him go, “ he said picking blades of grass with one hand.

She was silent. Let go? Who was he to say that? Harry was… she still loved Harry…

“ I… not now, Ron. Let’s not talk about this, please? “ she said with a tired voice.

“ I’m just saying…it’s been more than a year? You’ve been burying yourself with work. You’re successful in the wizarding world, and you still had to get a job in the muggle world too- you work almost sixteen hours everyday… Hermione, I’m not the only one that’s worried, we all are. Mum and dad are- “ he sighed.

“ Oh, Ron, “ Hermione murmured holding his hand.

“ Hermione- we love you like hell, we want you happy, I want you happy. Believe me, it wasn’t easy, Harry dying and all, but seeing you like this- a workaholic... “

“ I’m not. I just want to be busy. I like to work- “

“ This is the first time we’ve actually hung out in months, since Fleur first got news that she was pregnant. “

“ Ron, I promise you, I’m alright. Work...relaxes me, in some way, “ she answered hugging her knees.

Ron frowned a little. “ Quit your muggle job, your work as an Auror is fine as it is. Gets you to relax, with He-who-must-not- oh what the heck, with Voldemort gone. “

“ You guys already love the muggle world- why should I quit when I am one? “

“ We want you to take it easy, “ he replied. “ I want you to take it easy…”

Hermione’s thoughts swayed to Draco. She remembered his cool demeanor, his nonchalant attitude, and his- too unbelievable nice self. He had driven a muggle car, spoken to muggles without sarcasm and malice- he probably even used a phone like Ron and Ginny and the rest of their family learned to.

“Ron, “ she began. Ron looked at her way. “ Oh, nothing, “ she said. Telling Ron that she had met Draco would probably incense him.

Ron smiled at her. “ Harry would want you to be happy, “ he finally said.

Hermione nodded. Harry…and she closed her eyes and thought about him, but strangely, Draco was in the background.

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A/N: The Vanilla Sky perfume, I copied the name from a movie. I wasn’t so creative in naming the perfume. So...make me happy and please review? Every chapter promises to be better so be kind enough to leave me your comments?

Chapter 5: Aspirin?
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“ You know, MYone, there’s nothing more I hate than not being able to hug you at least once a day, well apart from smelly socks and not getting to see a Football championship game- what? It’s true; you know I’d do anything to get a hug from you! “
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Hermione sat on her bed, listening to the clock tick-tocking. The luminous green numbers showed that it was almost one in the morning. Harry’s voice was still in her head. She groaned. She had gone home at about eleven from Mrs. Weasley’s little birthday party very sober. The little party managed to lift up her spirit. Perhaps it was the twins’ crazy antics and fireworks, or Ron’s little jokes or Ginny’s bad taste in apple pie (the girl couldn’t bake pie to save her life), but at least she had gone home with a smile on her face.

And now, after less than an hour of sleep, she was thinking about Harry again, dreaming about Harry. Dreaming about him holding the locket as he drove… dreaming of him wearing it as he died. She massaged her temples and looked at her white curtains playing in the wind. The apartment was quiet. She wished she had gotten a kneazle. Crookshanks had died a few years back, way before she and Harry had gotten engaged.

No, she thought. I will not think of Harry. I won’t. And she saw the jewelry box that contained the single most thing precious to her. The earrings…

Hermione got off from her bed and headed for her tiny kitchen. There was the tinkling of china and spoons and jars. “ I’m making coffee. I wanted to go to sleep! “ she muttered to herself. She sat down on the stool and faced her kitchen.

She stared at the blank pale orange walls surrounding her. Oh god, what’s wrong with me?

A few minutes later, Hermione was heading for the parking lot, wearing jeans and a black top.


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Draco yawned as he drove past café after café and bar after bar. Night drives were almost like a routine for him. He liked the feel of solitude and the wind in his face. He liked being alone. It was as good as that. As he drove past a curve, he saw a familiar red Volkswagen pass by from the intersection. He braked and stared as the car stopped in front of a decent looking bar.

He smiled. “ Well, well, well…what have we here…”

She got out of her car, wearing a black blouse that wasn’t too tight, although it hugged her curves along with her dark jeans.

He waited for things to progress, but time slowly ticked into thirty minutes and still she wasn’t out. Had she gone for a solitary drink? Was she rounding up men? At a time like this? He brushed his hair up with one hand. Hermione Granger had always been an enigma. She was too smart for her time. Too witty for her time. Dumbledore had nothing but high praises for her.

She had her transformation when their sixth year had arrived. She had been pretty to look at, and many boys suddenly gained interest in her. Including him. Although he did not admit it, or show it. Hermione was an eye-catcher in her own, simple way. She had graduated the top of their class with some Ravenclaw receiving second honors.

Her boyfriend, Harry Potter had won the house cup for Gryffindor. Even Draco had to admit that he had played a good game. Harry was a tough seeker to beat. And the bastard even got Hermione as his girlfriend.

“Well, “ Draco thought back then. “They deserve each other. “ She’s a smarty-aleck Gryffindor nerd , he’s a Quidditch geek.

And now, seeing her like this, after so many years…It was an invigorating start. Perhaps they could now be friends. He looked at his silver and gold Rolex. She had been inside for almost an hour.

Perhaps it was time to get some wine and say hello to an ‘old friend’.


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Draco entered the pub. The place was a little packed, with decent looking people parading about in their designer wear and shoes. No leather clad men and dominatrix looking women. Just your average classy pub.

His grayish eyes searched for her. Lounge music was playing in the background. He walked up to the bar. “ Chardonnay please, “ he said. A woman in a skirt eyed him.

“ Hey there, “ she said inching towards him.

Draco nodded and gave a rueful smile. “ I’m sorry, but I’m taken, “ he told her.

The woman frowned. “ Hot, but snotty. “ And she left.

“ Waiting fer’ someone, lad? “ the mustached bartender asked as he served him his drink on a tall crystal glass.

He nodded. “ Actually, just looking for someone- a girl- with brown hair-wavy- “

The fifty-something bartender laughed. “ Look around you lad, lots of pretty girls here- wonder if you’ll spot your lady love? “

He shrugged and continued to drink his wine. He continued to look around. Then he saw someone alone, sitting across the bar, in another bar stool. Hermione… Drinking alone? He watched her as she sat, oblivious that he was looking at her.

She was busy playing with the ice inside her glass, twirling it around with one finger. She signaled for a waiter. A few seconds later, she had another drink in her hands. The waiter that had responded to Hermione came to the bar he was sitting near to.

“ Hey, Hank, how’s it going? “ the bartender asked.

Hank, in his late twenties, smiled. “ The girls are pretty sober tonight, Mike, except for that pretty one over there “ he said jerking his thumb to Hermione’s direction.

“ Ah, the pretty one, “ Mike, the fifty-something bartender leaned over to Draco. “ She’s been coming here every few weeks now, always alone. “

Draco looked at Hermione. “ How many has she had? “ he asked the waiter.

Hank ticked off his fingers. “ I’d say about ten glasses of vodka now…yep, ten. “

Draco continued to look at Hermione as she signaled for another glass of vodka. Hank came running. Draco paid for his drink and proceeded for them.

“ Miss, I think you should take it easy on the drinks, “ Hank began.

Hermione smiled at him. “ Don’t be silly, it’s just to get me some sleep later on. “

Hank shrugged and placed another glass in front of her.

Hermione took a gulp and sighed. She looked at the people laughing and talking in their booths and rolled her eyes. She still didn’t feel the effects of what she had drunk.

“ You know, you’ve probably drunk a whole bottle now, “ a voice said.

Hermione looked at him. She smiled and raised her glass to him. “ Here’s to you, “ she said.

“ I think you’ve had enough, “ Draco said mildly.

“ No, “ she replied. “ I don’t feel a thing. “

“ How’s about I get you home? “

“ I have a car, a red one, you know, the one that broke down and you were such a pompous git to help me, “ she laughed and stood up. She placed a bill on the table and signaled for the waiter.

Draco followed her as she went out of the bar.

“ What are you doing? “ she asked, seemingly annoyed. “ Leave me alo- alone! “

“ You’re not fit to drive a car.“

“ Leave me alone, or I’ll hex you! “ she said as the keys of her car fell on the sidewalk. She bent down to pick it.

He smiled. “ I don’t think you have your wand with you. “

“ Right! “ she breathed. “ I’m sho’ stupid! “

“ You mean, ‘so’ ? “

“ Ye-! “ she said irritated.

“ Was that a ‘yes’? “ Draco reached out as she stumbled.

She held out a hand. “ No need to help me, I can walk on my own, thank you very much-much. “

She fumbled for the key slot. “ Damn it! “ she said as it dropped on the ground again. With a frown, Hermione walked to a vending machine near a twenty-four hour convenience store.

“ Beer this time? “Draco laughed.

“ Whatsh so funny, now? “ she asked as she opened a bottle with difficulty. She drank half of it in one gulp.

“ Mixing beer with a few glasses of vodka isn’t such a good combination. “

“ Try me! “ she snapped walking back to her car. She stumbled on the pavement, her heel caught in a crack. “ Bloody hell! “

“ Are you alright? “

“ No! I most certainly am not alright! It’s never, ever alright! Since… since he’s dead! Since he died! I hate this! “ she said angrily as Draco knelt beside her on the sidewalk. “ I- I!”

“ Who’s dead? “ Draco asked gently as he held her hand.

“ Harry, “ she tearfully said looking into his eyes. “ He died you know.“

Draco was at a loss for words. He stared at her trembling lips. Funny, what alcohol does to a proper girl... He nodded and breathed in heavily. “ Come on, get up now. “

She looked at him. “ But you hate me! “ she blurted out. “ You hated us! “

“ Let’s just say, I’m trying to mend a few broken relationships, and that includes you and your redhead friend… I mean, Weasley. “

She shook her head and stood up with his help. Then she felt her knees give away. “ I think my knees are sick. “ And she sniffed and tried to concentrate once more on standing well.

Draco smiled. “ Yes, I told you Vodka and beer wasn’t a good combination. “

“ I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to… “ And she began to cry. Draco sighed and scooped up Hermione in his arms. She was surprisingly light, Draco thought.

“ I didn’t know he was… I shouldn’t have… my- the locket…That stupid locket…” she murmured softly, as Draco positioned her inside his car.

Draco turned on his engine as Hermione’s head lolled on the headrest. As he drove for his new townhouse, Hermione was fast asleep in the passenger’s seat. He glanced at her once in awhile. His mind was filled with many things. Things he didn’t understand and didn’t want to understand.

Things weren’t that dreadful when they had parted ways. He and the golden trio had spoken with some amount of respect in their last few months at school. Their graduation was rather emotional too, owing to the fact that Dumbledore was gone and that a lot of students in their batch had gone through a lot of pains. Harry had defeated Voldemort, almost costing him his life. The boy-who-lived only had to be killed by a muggle contraption, unbefitting to his legacy in the wizarding world.

But…Hermione was here, with him, drunk and asleep. Hermione was here. Of all the happenstances in the world! Hermione; here! Was it a sign? That he was… He shook his thoughts away as he pulled up to his garage.

A few minutes later, Hermione was in his newly bought bed, in plain white cotton sheets. He sighed and wondered if he should take off her clothing.

“What the heck, “ he finally thought. “ No malice. “

And he carefully took off her clothes, top first, all the while looking at her. His eyes trailed down to her breasts, not exactly large, but just…peachy. He almost laughed at the thought of his chosen description. Then he slowly took off her pants, a rather tedious task, as her pants were rather difficult to remove. But after removing them, he had reason to conclude she did have lovely legs that would have stood out in school if she had flaunted them.

He smiled. “ I can’t believe I missed this while at Hogwarts! “ he muttered, staring at her clad in black lingerie.

A sound escaped her lips. He leaned in closer.

“ I’m sorry…” she whispered. “ I’m sorry…”

Draco frowned. What was this now? A monologue from alcohol? Alcohol could actually bring out the poetic spirit in some people, and perhaps Granger was one of those...

“ I’m sorry…I didn’t want you to leave…” She gave a little frown that he found quite endearing. She curled up into a loose ball. “ I’m sorry… “

Draco sighed and began to stand up from the bed when he felt her fingers grasping at the covers. “ Please don’t… don’t… stay… “ He saw her fingers touch his hand and then her features relaxed as she held his fingers. “ I’m sorry…it was my fault…if I hadn’t given you the locket…you wouldn’t have died…it was my fault…” And in her sleep she began to cry.

Draco swallowed some saliva as he sat quietly on his bed, with a half naked Hermione lying beside him. A sudden pain seared through him and he clutched his chest with one hand.

“ Damn it, “ he murmured.

And without another thought, he held Hermione’s hand tighter than ever.

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She was in another place. She knew it, even if she had a pounding headache and her mouth felt dry and her body felt sore, like she had been knocked out clean by a Hungarian Horntail. She looked at her clothes laid out neatly at a couch across the room. She gasped. She was half-naked!

Her eyes searched for a robe, or pajamas to cover her self up. She walked into a stylish bathroom done in pale yellow and took a black bathrobe hanging from a hook. It had initials on it. D.M. Draco Malfoy.

She walked out of the room and stared at the surroundings for a few seconds. It was, by all means, a very, very nice house, with carpeted floors and a terrace to match. Hermione went downstairs and followed her nose.

She walked into a kitchen to see Draco Malfoy in cotton dark blue pajamas, buttering out some toast on a black ceramic plate.

He smiled at her. “ French toast? “

She groaned and her head dropped with a thud on his counter. She heard another soft thud beside her.

“ Aspirin? “ he offered, placing a glass of tap water beside the bottle.

Her head moved up and down on the wooden counter. “ It was awful, wasn’t it? Did I puke on you? “

Draco nodded looking slightly annoyed.

Hermione buried her head in her hands. “ Oh, god! Ugh! “ she moaned.

Draco laughed. “ Relax, you didn’t. You were lovely in bed though- “

Hermione’s eyes widened. “ You didn’t- “

“ We did- “

“ Slept together! “

“ If that’s what you call it, why; yes. “

Hermione shifted from her chair and found herself falling on the floor. Draco looked over the counter.

“ You okay? “

Hermione felt like bursting into tears, apart from the awful headache, now it had come to this-!

“ I was kidding again, Granger. “

He helped her up and she gratefully took her aspirin and three glasses of water. She watched as he placed a bowl of cereal in front of her. “ Would you like this with strawberries or bananas? “ he asked.....


~
“ How come this doesn’t have strawberries? “ Harry demanded as Hermione stood near the counter.

Hermione smiled. “ I almost forgot that. “

“ Don’t, “ Harry replied shortly. “ What’s a cereal without strawberries, or even a few slices of banana? “

He smiled when Hermione dumped a bowlful of it into his cereal.....
~


“ Granger? “ his voice rang out again.

“ Uh, bananas, “ she replied shaking her head.

He shrugged. “ Honestly, you prefer bananas? I like mine with strawberries. “

She smiled a small smile as Draco gave her a few banana slices on her cereal. They continued their breakfast in silence, with the occasional sound of silverware or sighs. Finally she looked up to him and opened her mouth.

“ Dr-Malfoy, do you hate me? “ she asked, and her insides groaned with humiliation. Stupid question. Stupid! Just plain…

“ It depends on how you define hate, “ he replied looking at her with his piercing eyes.

She blinked. “ Oh god, not now. Not with this headache. “

“ No, I don’t… hate you. “

She nodded and played with the spoon on her empty bowl. “ That’s- nice to hear…”

An eyebrow went up. “ Nice? “ he repeated.

She nodded. “ I always thought… well hoped, I could be friends with at least one person from Slytherin- “

“ You got your wish, “ he said. “ Except we graduated about five years back? “

“ Why have you changed? “ she asked.

He looked surprised. “ Why do you have to ask so many questions? “

“ Can’t you just answer them? “ she replied.

“ No, “ he replied blankly. “ I can’t. Let’s not talk about that. “

Hermione’s shoulders dropped. “ Harry always thought- “ she stopped in her tracks and looked outside a window.

“ He thought? “ Draco looked at her intently.

“ Nothing, “ she said in a small voice.

“ What? “ he asked with a frown.

“ Nothing. “

“ Don’t make me sound like a broken record here, what? “

“ I didn’t make you sound like one. Nothing, it was nothing. “

“ References to a deceased man always mean something, “ he said in a low voice. His eyes suddenly looked alert and full of- derision. His jaw tightened a little.

She felt her face heat up. “ Don’t you dare- “

“ He’s dead, why else should I mask it with words that? “ His words hit through her like some blunt axe. They were badly chosen! They sounded like that man who called to inform her of Harry's accident...bloody insensitive!

“ Stop it! “ she said in shaky voice.

“ He’s dead Granger. Nothing to it. You can say it. ‘Harry Potter, the man I loved, the boy-who-lived is dead, gone, done for-‘ He’s dead.-“

Hermione’s palms slapped against the counter, her eyes filling with tears. “ Stop it! “

Draco took a deep breath. He looked at her face and saw in her eyes defeat and fatigue. “ I’m sorry, please sit down. “

Hermione sat down with drooped shoulders. “ I can’t… I’m sorry, I went overboard, this isn’t even my house- “

“ Forget it, that was just-um…morning heat, “ he said with a smile.

Hermione smiled a tired smile. “ I’m sorry I had to use your bathrobe. I couldn’t very well rob you of more clothing, could I? “

He laughed. “ Actually, I’ve never seen a girl look that nice in a black bathrobe. “

“ Did you peek? When you undressed me? “

He shook his head. “ What do you think of me? A perv? “

Hermione raised a brow and a smile. “ Right…”

He laughed. “ Look, I just took off your top and pants… big deal, I’ve seen better. “

She folded her arms. “ I don’t believe this! “

He laughed.

He drove her back to her flat after an hour or so of talking in the kitchen.

“ We’ll get your car later, “ he told her.

She nodded.

“ I’ll call you, “ he began.

Hermione laughed.

“ What’s so funny? “

“ You- using a muggle phone! “

He smirked. “ Hey, you haven’t seen the rest of what I can do in this world. “

“ So… how can I make it up to you? “ she asked.

“ How about helping me out… shopping for new furniture and the like? “ And he knew Hermione was surprised, for even he was. The words just popped out of his mouth, although he did not feel regret.

“ You’re ‘metrosexual’, remember? “

“ Yeah, but I need a woman’s point of view on things too. “

She laughed and nodded. “ Alright. “

She grinned and waved a goodbye as she headed for the stairs.

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Hermione watched his car drive away from her window. It felt nice, yet strange to be with a Slytherin. Of course, she had to be mature. Draco was treating her like an adult and with respect, like nothing bad ever happened to them at Hogwarts. Like he had never called her ‘mudblood’ or didn’t give Harry and Ron names (Potty & Weasel). What happened to that snug faced brat, the spoiled & rich wizard’s son?

As she watched his blonde hair ruffle in the wind, Hermione thought about their breakfast conversation. Draco Malfoy had been NICE. Not something you see and experience everyday. She saw the picture placed on her study. Harry was in it. Ron was busy making snowballs beside Harry and dumping them on his head. Harry was laughing and hugging her while she was making her own snowballs.

If Draco had been nice enough back then, she thought. Would he have been in this picture?

And she recalled Harry again. She frowned. “ Stop it, “ she told herself.

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Draco looked at her retreating figure. It had been an interesting morning, again. And he frowned. What the hell was this now-? Some sign again? He was… he had been sure that when Hermione started talking about. He was afraid. That was it.

“ I can’t, “ he thought as he drove back to his house.

The sun shone on his face again, another positively brilliant day. But his thoughts seemed somewhat cloudy. Was this forgiveness? Or a punishment? What the hell was it?

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Disclaimer: Rolex isn’t mine (although, again, I wish it was!)

A/N: I hope you guys liked this chapter. Leave me your comments and reviews? You know how much i love 'em. They're like blood...i must suck on your reviews to get more inspiration...-does terrible Dracula impersonation-...haha. Okay, ever mind that blood thing. You'll love the next chapter, promise. But i think i'll only update when i get about 60 reviews in total for all these 5 chappies. Fair enough? Yeah, i know my threats won't do any good...so....RAWR!!!!

Chapter 6: Did you just say my name?
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Draco was true to his word. Hours later, they got her car, and she drove it back to her flat with him trailing behind. As soon as she had parked, they drove for London and into a swanky mall.

“ We’re shopping here? “ she said with raised eyebrows.

He smiled. “ Why not? “

She shrugged and looked around. “ You know, I only get to shop here once a year. “

He looked at her. “ I only got to see you yesterday, “ he said.

“ What does that mean? “

“ Nothing. “ He shook his head and surprisingly took her hand.

An arrogant looking saleslady was standing near the furniture section. She raised an eyebrow at Hermione and smiled genially at Draco. “ How may I help you, sir? “ she asked clasping her hands together. “ Shopping with your wife? “

Draco almost frowned at her tone. “ Why, yes. Darling, what would you prefer as a centerpiece in the living room? “

Hermione almost laughed, but she managed to keep a straight face. “ Hmm…how about that? “ she pointed to a crystal piece that looked like ice shaped into a woman.

Draco looked at it for awhile. “ I like that, “ he said. “ I’ll take it. “

He didn’t even look at the price. As the saleslady walked away to have it wrapped, Hermione grabbed his arm. “ Are you sure about that? It cost about a thousand-”

He grinned. “ Hey, we showed her. Besides, this is my money. Come on, get your arse moving. We still have lots more to buy. “

She laughed as they walked for the couches, beds and upholstery areas.

Draco had a hand to his chin. “ Hmm…okay, this is the hard part…I hate choosing couches and bed sheets. “

She walked over to a couch. “ Okay…to choose a couch... imagine who you’d be sitting it with. “

Draco laughed. “ What? Are you getting back at me for that perfume incident?”

“ Oh, shush! Just do as I say! “ she said. “ Now, imagine the two of you are seated snugly…does it look nice to you? Is there room for stretching?

He laughed again and closed his eyes. He pictured the first couch and imagined a…girl…” Um…about the ‘room for stretching part’, does this mean sexual- “

“ Hey! “ she said with a laugh. “ Just imagine it, without clothes flying off? “

He nodded. “ I feel silly. “ He opened one eye and saw her folding her arms. “ Alright already! “

He thought of a cold night in his new house. He was with same unnamed girl. He was sitting with her on the couch…he pictured the first couch again, he didn’t like it. He pictured the next couch…it still sucked. Then the next and then the next.

Finally he opened his eyes. “ Granger, I give up, “ he said with a frown.

She grinned and pointed to a couch. “ Look at that. “

It was a fluffy looking couch, done in a light and sandy color. He closed his eyes and saw himself and the girl…he opened his eyes. “ I like that, “ he began.

“ See? “ she said. " You've chosen your couch now. "

By this time, the saleslady was back. “ Anything else, sir? “ She sounded nicer this time.

Draco nodded. “ That one, I’ll take that too. “

The saleslady turned away and as soon as she was gone, they burst into laughter.

“ Showed her again! “ he said.

Hermione shook her head as the laughter died down. They spent the remaining hours of the morning shopping for a ‘few’ more pieces of furniture, and Draco ended up choosing light red and pale yellow bed sheets. It totaled to about ₤20,000. As soon as Draco signed for it to be delivered, he looked at his watch.

“ Well, just in time for lunch. Where would you like to eat? “ he asked her.

She shrugged. “ Don’t know. Where would you want to? “

“ I feel like eating Italian…” he began.

She smiled. “ Then Italian it is. “

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They arrived in front of a small looking café. Draco opened the door for her, again. She smiled.

It was a cozy, or rather intimate place. Draco was apparently well known, since the waiters knew him by his family name. They had seats beside a window.

“ They seem to know you, “ she commented as she held the menu.

He grinned. “ Apparently, mother liked this muggle restaurant so much. We used to come here every weekend. You should try their Scarpariella Chicken, it’s good. “

She blinked. Narcissa Malfoy liked muggle restaurants now?

“ I know what you’re thinking, “ he said as he signaled for a waiter.

“ What’s that? “

“ Why in the world would a witch like my mother learn to like muggle restaurants, “ he told her. The waiter arrived. “ I’ll have a Linguini with White Clam Sauce.”

“ For the lady, Sir Malfoy? “

“ Um… Scarpariella Chicken, “ she said.

The waiter gave a nod and left.

“ Where was I? Ah, my mother…well…let’s just say after the destruction of Voldemort, “ he said the name without care. “ And my father’s imprisonment and subsequent death, she opened her closed doors, with my help of course. “

“ Just what exactly do you do, Malfoy? “

He grinned. “ I sell cars. “

She laughed. “ As in car dealer? “

He nodded. “ If you call it that. “

“ Hot cars? On the black-market? “

He gave a mock horrified look on his face. “ Why never! I’d never! “

She laughed again. “ Are you being serious with me? “

“ I am, “ he replied with a grin.

“ I never took you for the fun type, you know, back in our Hogwarts days…”

“ Things change…it did immensely when we lost almost everything, my mother and I. When the war was over, I knew it was time to change. You know, it never was easy working for my father. I couldn’t say I hated it, it was the only life I knew. We went through rough times. We almost lost the manor, I fought to keep it. For the first time in my life, I worked. First was at the ministry. But a lot weren’t so keen about me working there. After 3 months, I decided to get a shot at the muggle world. I first applied at some accounting firm, magic worked wonders, since I faked my resume… “ he laughed.

“ I was like the boy-who-ran-errands for the bosses, “ he continued. “ About nine months later, I scraped off enough money and decided to work on my own. I had helped mother open her shop already, so I was pretty much focused on my own job. I got in the car business and invested and the rest is, as they say, history. “

She smiled. “ That’s some story…”

“ What about you? “ he began.

She shook her head. “ Look, the food is here. “ Hermione silently said a prayer of thanks for the arrival of the food.

Draco smiled. He watched Hermione’s eyes and he knew she was hiding something.

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The van from the swanky store arrived just as they did at his house. It had turned out to be a breezy sort of afternoon. Hermione liked the how the day had turned out.

“ Just in time, “ Draco said.

He looked at Hermione.

Hermione smiled and placed a hand on her hip. “ Oh no you don’t! “

“ Granger, I may be metrosexual, but I don’t know anything about arranging stuff. “


~

“ If we get a house, “ Harry began. “ You do all the arranging- “

“ Not fair, “ Hermione made a face.

“ MYone, I can choose stuff, but not arrange them. I will however, be, your manpower. How’s that? “

She laughed. “ Fair enough. “

~


She sighed, tried to stop Harry’s voice in her head and grinned. “ Fine, seeing that you need me that much. “

He laughed. But deep inside, something screamed that it was true. A few minutes later and with sweat forming at their foreheads, Hermione and Draco had begun arranging, first in the living room.

“ It should be there… don’t you think? “ Hermione said in a thoughtful voice.

Draco frowned. “ What! I just moved this. That’s four times already! “

“ Do you want a nice living room or not? “ She frowned a little, that impatient look that wrinkled her nose a little, a look he suddenly thought of as appealing.

“ I don’t believe this! “ But he lifted and moved the couch again to where she had pointed. “ You’re wicked, do you know that?”

She smiled. “ We’re not even halfway done. “

Draco groaned.

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They spent the remaining afternoon placing the finishing touches on the living room and just as the clock struck for six in the evening. Draco collapsed on the carpeted floor.

“ Damn it, maybe I should’ve arranged all this myself, without your expertise... “ He laughed.

She grinned as she lay beside him. “ Well, you needed me. “ And she laughed. “ And you didn’t even want to use magic. “

“ How’s about some Chinese? “ he asked. “ We could have it delivered. “

She smiled. “ Whatever, Draco. “

Draco was silent for awhile. He liked how it sounded from her lips. “ You said my name…” he murmured as he looked at her while she closed her eyes.

“ Hmm? “ Hermione began, opening her eyes.

“ Nothing, “ he replied. He stood up. “ I’m having chopsuey, you? “

Hermione sat up on the floor. “ Hmm…steamed rice is good. “

He nodded. “ I’ll be back. “

Hermione looked at Draco’s back as she sat on the floor. She had never seen him look so carefree…so simple. So human…

Draco placed down the phone. “ They’re coming in fifteen to twenty minutes. We’re getting it for free if it doesn’t get to us in thirty minutes. So keep your fingers crossed for free food. “

She laughed. He sat beside her. There were a few minutes of silence as Draco lay on the floor opposite to her. His eyes were focused on the blank ceiling.

“ You don’t mind if I take a bath do you? “ she asked. “ After dinner? I’m stinky… “

Draco grinned. “ Right. Go ahead. Just use the dryer and washing machine. It’s near the kitchen. And you’re not the only one that’s all grimy. “

They both smiled as they sat side by side on the carpeted floor.

“ It’s been a heck of a day, “ she mused.

He nodded. “ Tell me about it. “

“ I had fun. “ She stopped.

“ Don’t worry, I did too. “

She looked at him just as he looked at her.

“ Hermione,“ he began.

She looked at him. “ Did you just say my name, Draco? “

“ I-I- “ he inched closer to her face. “ I believe I did. “

She looked into his eyes and he looked into hers.

And he saw something he never saw before.

And she saw something she never saw before.

And his mind went blank and all he wanted to do was move closer and closer to her lips, hear her say his name….


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A/N:Sorry about the cliffhanger...i just couldn't help it! So...next author challenge for me is to...get at least fifty reviews before i upload the next chapter! weeeee! so...leave me your resentments, love, critiques and the like? Till next chapter! oh yeah, how do you make a banner? ADOBE? what's the size?

Chapter 7: I hope...we can do this again...
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And his mind went blank and all he wanted to do was move closer and closer to her lips, hear her say his name….

And her mind went blank and all she wanted to do was move closer and closer to his lips, hear him say her name…

The doorbell rang.

Draco closed his eyes. Perfect timing. He quickly got up without looking at her. He had to get some control. “ How could I let myself get carried away?” he scolded himself as he headed for the door.

Hermione closed her eyes and buried her face in one hand. “ How could I have been so stupid! “ she screamed to herself. “ What the hell was I thinking! “

A small-looking teenager smiled as Draco opened the door. “ Fat Ching’s China-in-a-box! “ he said in a very animated voice. “ We deliver in under thirty minutes! “

Draco smiled pleasantly; not knowing whether he should sent the boy away without a tip for the perfect timing or knock the daylights out of him and take the food without paying.

“ Thanks, “ Draco said paying the exact amount.

“ Enjoy the new taste of China-in-a-box, sir! “

Draco closed the door and breathed in, suppressing the humiliation of not being able to kiss her and because he had thought of kissing her.

Hermione was in the dining room, holding two glasses as Draco came in.

“ He was a relatively pleasant boy, “ Draco said with a small grin. He placed the red boxes on the table.

Hermione smiled, still feeling the fringes of embarrassment at her heels. She pretended she was alright and that it didn’t happen, although it was a little difficult. Damn it. It was very difficult.

They sat down together and Draco passed her a box that contained steamed rice. Their meal consisted of small talk and long silences and glances.

“ So… how’s the food? “ Draco asked lamely. Damn it. Elegiac. So…Shakespeare!

She smiled and nibbled on her chopsticks. “ Good, it’s okay. “ Ugh. What the hell did she say?!

Silence.

“ What was your job again, Granger? “ he asked suddenly.

“ Auror and…fashion columnist - “

He laughed. “ You? So that’s why…”

She raised an eyebrow. “ What? “

“ The way you dress, your style. “ He smiled. You’re hotter than ever- stop it, Malfoy, he told himself.

“ Which magazine? “ he asked.

“ British Vogue. “

He grinned. “ Mother loves that, although she hated the idea at first that none of the pictures moved. “ He laughed and so did she.

Then silence again.

“ I should never have, “ he thought. “ I shouldn’t have! I initiated that kiss! How could I have been so stupid! So careless! So…not me! “ He was picking his food with chopsticks but not eating at all.

Hermione didn’t notice. She was too occupied in her own thoughts. “ Why did I! I was so careless! It’s not right! It wasn’t…and yet! “ She was nibbling on her chopsticks without it having any morsel to bite on.

“ Is it me or is it too quiet in here? “ Draco’s voice said.

Hermione looked up. “ Huh? Oh, look at the time! “ It was nearly seven in the evening. “ I can’t believe I spent the whole Saturday-wasting your time! “ she blurted out.

Draco looked taken aback. “ No, you didn’t… “

Hermione stood up.

Draco stood up as well. “ I’ll take you home, “ he quickly offered.

“ No, just sit there and finish your meal, I’ll take a cab. “

“ I’m full, “ he protested.

She looked at his box. It was half full. “ You haven’t even eaten half of your chopsuey yet. “

“ Neither did you. “ He smiled. “ I’m full. “

She nodded and he got his car keys. Later on as he drove, he turned on some music. A popular alternative song was playing.

“ Hey, I like this band, what’s their name? “ Draco asked with a grin. He looked sideways. Hermione was quiet. She was looking at the scenery that blurred past her. Draco slowed down. Hermione looked at him.

“ Why’d you slow down? “ she asked.

“ So you could appreciate what’s passing by your eyes, “ he replied, not looking at her.


~

It had been a cold night and she and Harry were getting home from a late snack.

Harry slowed down. Hermione looked at him.

“ Why’d you slow down? “ she asked.

“ So that you’ll see what you’re passing by, “ he replied with a smile.

~



Harry’s voice in her head again…but she smiled. “ Thanks. “

“ Granger, I’m sorry…about the- that thing that happened. I didn’t mean to- “ he began.

She stared at the windshield. “ I- I’m sorry too. It was stupid of me. “

“ No, I was stupid. I started it. “

“ Whatever, “ she finally said.

He laughed. “ So…it’s been some day…” he began again. Lamely. And he wanted to kick himself if he could.

“ I didn’t even get to take a bath…” she said.

He laughed. “ Please, don’t remind me. I feel so unhygienic right now.”

They finally arrived in front of the flats.

“ Your stop, “ Draco said.


~

“ Your stop, Mione- “ Harry said resting his hands on the steering wheel.

~


Hermione shook her head and smiled. “ Thanks. “

“ Her- Granger, I had fun today…really, “ he said not looking at her.

Hermione stared at him as he fiddled with his keys.

“ Yeah, I did too, “ she said.

“ I hope we can do this again…” his voice trailed off. “ What the heck. “ He laughed and so did she.

“ Sure, “ she finally said.

“ I’ll… see you around, “ he said as he turned on his engine.

Draco started backing up on the driveway when Hermione ran up to him. She had to say it. For some reason, she had to.

“ What? “ he asked, a little bewildered at her sudden action.

“ Take care; Malfoy, “ she finally said, quietly.

He smiled and nodded. “ I will. “

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It had become a routine for them, seeing each other on weekends. It had been going on steadily for a month now. They were careful around each other. Yet they had fun. Today, they were walking around London’s fashion district. She was sipping some mocha and caramel frappe, and he, an espresso.

“ I knew it! “ she said. “ So it was you who placed egg yolks on Ron’s jacket!

He laughed. “ Guilty. “

“ Why’d you do it? “

“ I just wanted to annoy him, again,” he replied. “ Besides, he gave me a nasty bruise while we played a game, that redhead- “

One corner of her mouth twitched. He laughed.

“ And they thought Peeves had done it! “ she said.

She stopped infront of a bookstore. “ Can I-? “ she asked.

He shrugged. “ Bookworm. “

She made a face and he laughed, but still he followed her.

“ Hermione? “ a voice said.

She spun around to see…

“ Ron! “ she breathed.

“ What are you doing here? “

“ Charlie asked me to get a muggle book on- “ His eyes hardened upon seeing who was behind her. “ Is he bothering you? “ he asked eyeing Draco.

Hermione looked at Draco. His eyes showed a sudden glare of malice. “ Hello, Weasley. “

Ron’s jaw tightened.

“ No, “ Hermione said placating his growing annoyance. “ He’s with me. “

Ron’s face fell. “ Right…” he began. He took Hermione’s arm. “ Excuse us, Malfoy. “

Ron steered her to a corner. “ What the hell! “

“ Ron, he’s not as bad as you-“

“ Still! Mione, he’s a Malfoy! He almost got us killed back then while he cavorted with he-who-must- Voldemort! “ Ron hissed.

“ He helped me, my car broke down, that’s it. Now I’m trying to gain a friend- “

“ Or a new lover? “ Ron said coolly.

She frowned. “ I don’t believe you! You know I’d- “

“ Harry over him? I’d have his corpse any day! “ he said spitefully.

Hermione’s hands trembled. She so desperately wanted to slap him. “ Ronald Weasley! For once in your life, be mature about things like these! That was five- six years ago-! “ Her voice cracked. “ And don’t remind me about- “

“ Harry! Bloody hell I wont’! “

She looked away and he saw a tear escape from the corner of her eye.

Ron’s shoulders slumped. “ I- “

He saw Draco come their way.

“ Is everything alright?” he asked.

Ron looked at him. “ Yes, thanks to you. “

Hermione brushed against Ron roughly and left the shop in a hurry.

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TBC…

Disclaimer: Vogue, one again, isn’t mine!

oh yeah, great news for all of you faithful readers! The next chapter will be the turning point of the story! You won't regret! So...reviews away! Erm...expect the unexpected too! I haven't been getting great responses from the readers...and i hope they will respond- because i swear to Merlin, you won't regret this!!! ^_^

p.s: just in case you're an anonymous reviewer, please don't hesitate to leave your email add? i like personally thanking my reviewers and i can't thank you and stuff if you don't leave an email add.

Chapter 8: Do you mind?
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Draco glared at Ron and vice versa.

“ What do you think you’re doing? “ Ron began.

Draco raised his chin. “ What’s it to you? “

“ Don’t give me that look. You know very well… Hermione isn’t for you! “

He raised an eyebrow. “ We’re not a couple, we’re just friends. “

“ It’s everybody’s cliché! For everybody in denial! “ Ron hissed. He stood with his fists clenched at his sides and his jaw hardened as he stood still.

“ If you’re done with your speech, I’d like to go after her now, “ he said dryly. He started to move.

Ron looked away, with a frown. “ Malfoy, she’s been hurt already… “ his voice trailed off, not knowing what to say anymore. It was true, and Draco knew it.

Draco stopped in his tracks. “ It’s not like I’m hurting her or anything, “ he replied with a frown. “ Do you think I’m alive right now just to hurt people? “

“ I’m just saying you might, “ Ron said looking at Draco straight in the eye. Ron saw a faint glimmer of green in Draco’s grey eyes. Ron sighed, exasperated.

Draco’s jaw tightened. “ We’ll talk about this some other time, if you don’t mind, I’d like to go after Hermione before she does something drastic. “

“ You’re on a first name basis now? “ Ron’s eyes widened slightly.

Draco smiled smugly. “ Sorry, old chap, things just progressed. “

Draco quickly left, but Ron went after him. As he walked away, he heard Ron’s voice shout;

“ Don’t-! “

Draco looked at Ron as he walked backwards and raised two fingers to say he knew what he was talking about and he quickly walked for the next corner.

He suddenly felt odd and alone. Ron’s words hit him. “ That’s hitting below the belt, Weasley, “ he muttered. He had felt that this time, the bastard had gone too far. What? Ron didn’t think he was mature enough or something? “ It’s not like I hurt everyone who comes my way! “ he added as an afterthought.

A lot of people were walking in the streets now, since it was a Sunday, after all. Up ahead, he saw her walking alone in the crowd, hugging herself, as if everyone and everything suddenly seemed too cold for her to handle.

“ Granger! “ he called out.

She didn’t look back, instead she continued walking.

“ Hey! Granger! “

He frowned and tried to keep up with her pace. A lot of people bumped into him. “ Sorry, “ he said. “ Coming through! “

“ Granger! “

Was the girl deaf? His chest was starting to hurt. He saw her walk towards a quieter section of the district. She was walking towards a park. She walked past the trees and was now walking towards a bridge-

“ Hermione! “ he finally called out, exasperated.

She stopped in her tracks. His hand reached out for her shoulder. “ Please-? “ His hand spun her around and he saw the expression on her face. It looked tired and worn-out. And she was trying her best not to cry.

“ I, “ he started.

“ I believe you heard what Ron said back at the bookshop? “ she began.

He nodded. “ It doesn’t mean- “

“ It meant everything! “ she said in a tight voice. “ It was… it meant everything! “

Draco looked at her and bowed his head a little. “Granger, just because Weasley exchanged a few words with you, bitter words at that, it doesn’t mean like everything was meant to hurt you- “

“ He meant it, you know it! Everything about Harry, and me, just everything! “ she said with trembling hands. “ I’m so sorry he was so mean to you… that was an awful, awful thing to say! “

He sighed and gave a tiny smile. “ It’s true, Granger. I almost killed all of you and I can’t change that and Weasley told you that he’d have Potter any day over me for you, well that’s correct, I suppose. You loved Potter, maybe Weasley was just- “

“ Oh cut the crap, Malfoy! Can’t you just be your mean old self! Start hurting me, like what you did for seven years at school! “ she burst out angrily.

His shoulders dropped a little. “ Granger, like I told you, I’ve changed. And I’m not out to hurt anyone, not even you. I’ve retired from that area-perhaps Weasley was just defending Potter- “

Hermione looked at him. She leaned against the brick barrier as they stood on the bridge. “ I can’t…I’m sorry, I’m hurting you because of Ron. I didn’t mean to… it’s just that… I wanted a break from everything, I wanted to try something new- “

“ I’m your ticket, “ he interrupted. “ Smile will you? I’ve never seen you this low since that time you got intoxicated- “

She smiled a little.

“ That’s my girl, “ he said as he pinched her cheek like a man would do to an adorable five year old.

Thunder roared in the distance. And suddenly the rain poured on them, the size of pebbles. He took of his coat and stood over Hermione with it.

‘ Wanna go somewhere warm? “ he asked over the rain.

She nodded.

“ We’d better make a run for it! “

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They took refuge inside a quiet café and she shivered as she sat down a chair. He shook his coat off. A portly looking man approached them.

“ Something to drink? “ he asked holding a menu.

She grinned and sneezed. “ Hot cocoa, please. “ And she sneezed again.

Draco laughed. “ Bless you. I’ll have the same. “

" Bless you? " Hermione laughed. " You actually say that now? "

" What gives? It's just a muggle expression, right? "

Hermione looked at his face, and saw drips of water coming from his blonde, messed up hair. He had never looked that natural… and she thought it was pretty cute. His shirt clung to his chest…”Stop it, Hermione! “ she told herself. But her eyes kept falling back to his face…somehow, it looked so vulnerable. He looked so vulnerable.

Draco saw Hermione’s eyes looking outside of the window, where the rain had gone worse. Her long lashes looked very nice against her eyes and her wet hair. He had never noticed before that she had beautiful eyes…dark brown with specks of lighter brown in them. Her breathing came out like steam as she exhaled. Her cheeks were pink against the rest of her skin, and she had little freckles on her nose. He almost laughed. But he kept to himself.

“ The rain’s kinda nice,“ she began.

He nodded. “ Sure and I just had to get my Ferragamos wet. “

Hermione laughed. “ Oh, those are just leather shoes! “

“ Hey, “ Draco began. “ These are the first designer shoes I ever got as soon as I got successful in the muggle world! “ Draco wiggled his shoes under the table.

She smiled just as the cocoa was served. “ Finally! I’m freezing to the bone already! “ And seconds later. “ Ow! Hot! Hot! “ She was fanning her tongue with one hand to no avail.

He laughed and handed her a glass of water.

“ I think… I just burned my tongue, “ she said, teary eyed.

“ Yes, most likely. “ He smiled. “ Impatient, Granger. “ He blew over his cocoa and took a sip.

Outside, the rain pitter-pattered steadily, coupled with a few flashes of lighting and bolts of thunder. Time ticked by.

They listened to the rain dropping down on the roofs; they listened to the tires screeching outside, listened to shouts and laughter by children playing in the rain, they listened to each other’s breathing. Their hands touched accidentally, and it felt like there was an electric charge between them. They sat there and gazed at each other, locked in some invisible embrace. Only they could feel it.

Draco put his hand over hers. “ Do you mind? “ he asked breaking the silence.


~

Harry held her hand. It had been a few days after their fight. “ Do you mind, Hermione? I’d like to feel you, even for just awhile?”

~


She shook her head. “ No, not at all.“ Of course i don't mind. We're just friends, right? Oh god, what am I saying? This is crazy! He's holding my hand, and I said I didn't mind?

Something in his eyes changed. It grew softer. His face moved towards the light and Hermione saw flecks of green in his grey eyes. She bit her lower lip. “ Why… “ she thought. “ This is stupid! He’s gone! Let it go! “ But seeing the specks of green was a little bit too much.

“ Are you okay? “ he asked. His hand was lifted off of hers.

She nodded. Pretend it’s all fine, she told herself. Nothing's wrong. Just friends, just friends..this isn't someone you're dating...you're just friends and you know it. He knows it...

“ Hermione, “ Draco began.

She nodded.

------

Minutes later, they were walking down the street heading for Draco’s car. As Draco drove for his house, Hermione’s hand was on his hand as he held the gear. It seemed like it would take forever, but, they arrived, and it was still raining hard.Wind slapped against the windows like someone in rage, but it seemed far away to his ears, and to hers.

Draco held her hand as they walked up to his bedroom, still in their wet clothes. She stood in the center of the bedroom as Draco stood in front of her.

“ I, “ he started. His words were lost. His palms were beginning to sweat. What was wrong with him? It’s not like he’d never done it before! But...this was a whole new story…He kissed her forehead and she smelled like the rain and peaches.

Hermione said nothing. But her heart was pounding terribly. She did not remember being undressed by him, but she remembered his hands, and how they touched her softly, terribly, and she knew that she was caught up, and that it was too late to turn back.

To Draco, everything seemed to be in slow motion. She was some fragile person to him, in need of extreme, careful treatment. He no longer knew how they got on the bed, only that he was with her, and that was all that mattered.

As he kissed Hermione for the first time on her lips, Draco knew that his control had shattered, and that he was lost.

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TBC…*gasp!* a love scene in the making? Oh what will i think of next?!!! Love it? Hate it? See? I didn't fail you! Now you'll want more! evil laughter Leave a review? Also, thanks to all those who reviewed for the previous chapter. I uploaded fast didn't i? ^_^ oh yeah, Ron here is a bit overprotective (duh) to appeal to my story's plot. please tell your buddies about this story?

Disclaimer: Ferragamo ain’t mine!


Chapter 9: Forgot Something?
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

The rain had gradually died down, and Draco was listening to the constant drip-dropping of rain on his rooftop. Hermione was asleep. She was curled up loosely, her soft wavy hair surrounding her face. One of his arms was under her head.

He stared at her sideways, and he looked outside the window. It was probably past seven in the evening. His eyes wandered to her face again. Slowly, and carefully, he removed his arm from under her head, and he stood up and got another good look at her.

He could see the outline of her body as she lay there. He sat on a couch across her. And he stared at her face again. He couldn’t get enough of her. He wanted to touch her again, feel her skin in his hands again.

“ Damn it, “ he thought. “ Fight for control, you idiot! “

All this time, at Hogwarts…he had missed it. Perhaps befriending her while at Hogwarts would have done the trick, but…it was too late for that. He had done the unthinkable, done the unexpected. He had bedded a Gryffindor and a girlfriend of Harry Potter’s. What would it matter to him anyway? Potter was dead. He was alive. He was alive to feel Hermione. To kiss her. To hold her. And he had a flash of jealousy on how lucky Potter must have been.

The only lights came from outside, from some lamppost and from cars passing by. She was like a dream as she lay in bed. A very beautiful dream...

He had been afraid of rejection. He admitted to himself it was an instant attraction. And Granger had changed. Perhaps it was because of those rough times, or Harry’s death. He gave a silent prayer of thanks for the fateful day that he met her with her broke down car.

This wasn’t right…or was it? And he had given his word to Weasley, that he wouldn’t hurt her…well maybe just body language that told Weasley he wouldn’t hurt her. Who in his right mind would hurt her? She was too beautiful to be hurt. He couldn’t believe he had not seen what a wonderful person she could be.

And suddenly, Draco felt something he didn’t want to feel as he looked at her. It had only been a month. He frowned and buried his face in his hands. “ This can’t be happening, “ he muttered to himself.

She stirred. One eye opened and she smiled.

“ Hey, “ he said quietly.

She sat up on the bed and drew the sheets close to her body. “ I… overslept, “ she said looking around her. She stared at Draco’s chest. There was something there…or maybe she was just staring too hard?

Perhaps it was the light…she looked so…endearing. He laughed a little. “ You deserved to oversleep. “

“ Were you awake that long? “ she asked.

Yes. Long enough to see you sleep. Watch you sleep. “ No, “ he replied. “ About a few minutes ahead of you. “ He smiled. “ Are you hungry? “

She grinned.

“ I take that as a yes. “

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“ I forgot to do the groceries! “ he said as they sat in the kitchen making peanut butter sandwiches. “ This is so mortifying! “

She laughed and took a bite. “ It’s alright. I haven’t had this kind of dinner in the longest time. “

“ Seriously, “ he said. “ It completely escaped my mind. I even had the list today, in my pocket! Circumstances- “

She raised an eyebrow. “ Wait, are you suggesting it’s my fault? “

They both laughed.

“ I’m sorry about the dinner, really. “

She smiled. “ Hey, it’s okay. Maybe we’re in need of a diet. “

Draco grinned and took a bite off of his sandwich. “ Hey, tastes just like…peanut butter. “


~

“ Hey, this is peanut butter- “ Harry began. “ Don’t we have anything else? “

Hermione laughed. “ Stop complaining. You forgot to do the groceries, your fridge is almost empty! “

“ But… peanut butter! “ Harry said with a frown.

~


Hermione was silent, and then she laughed again. “ If you had been this nice back when we were in school, I would have probably been a friend of yours. “

“ Of course, “ he said. “ But then I’d have to steal you from all the guys that were out to capture your heart- “

“ What do you mean? “

“ You’ve probably never known, but Potter wasn’t the only one who was crazy about you, you had quite a legion of admirers. “

She laughed.

“ Well, of course, someone had to get to you. “

“ And that would be Harry? “

He nodded. And Draco knew that at the mention of his name, something would be different. She would at different; he would pretend he hadn’t said anything wrong. But something would always go wrong at the mere mention of his name.

They grew quiet.

“ Her- Granger, did you love him that much? I mean... it’s okay if you don’t answer it. “

“ Yes, I did. Very much. “ Her voice was quiet, and he sensed that her mood had changed. Hermione bit her lower lip and breathed in deeply.

He felt like kicking himself. He had been fairly stupid with his chosen words these past few days when he hung out with her. “ Forget I asked that, “ he said. “ Sorry. “

“ You don’t have to be it’s alright. Past is past. “

“ He’s still your present. “ The words spilled out as casually as it had been thought. Draco mentally imagined kicking himself this time.

She looked up to him. “ What do you mean about that Dra- Malfoy? “

“ Nothing, “ Draco said tiredly. Why did I even bother to say that? It’s always about him, this will always be about Harry…he’s haunting you and you don’t want to admit it….

Hermione’s eyes rested on his. What the hell was he trying to imply? That she, Hermione Granger, still fantasized about raising Harry from the dead or something close to that!

“ What I’m saying is…you still love him. “ Draco tried to act detached. Well now, isn’t that the truth? Well it has to be, right?

“ I… so what if I do? “ Hermione replied. “ It’s not like it means anything to you. “ Why would it mean something to you anyway? You never really had that much familiarity with Harry…

“ Yes it does, “ he said. He just had to say it. Why did he? It’s not like she meant a lot to him now…or Harry for that matter.

“ Why does it? “ she asked placing down a glass of water in front of her.

“ I- I don’t know-…it just does, “ he said irritably. “ What’s it to you! “ His eyes narrowed as he stared at the glass of water in front of him. He immediately took it and drank to avoid her gaze.

Hermione looked startled. “ I just… I had… I slept with you! “ She clutched her mug tightly with both hands.

“ It was just sex! “ Draco snapped, slamming down a mug full of water on the table. Some water splashed on the marble counter. Draco felt his cheeks flush.

“ You say it like it’s a dirty thing! “ Hermione’s voice was raised this time. She knew she was going to get annoyed, she knew she was going to snap.

“ Like you never did it with anyone else! Much less with that Potter! “

It was the last straw. A slap resounded in the room. Draco recoiled from it. He stood breathing hard and so did she. There was a red streak across his right jaw.

“ Don’t you ever…! “ she began shakily, pointing a finger at him. Tears were pooling in her eyes. She breathed in and mentally counted to ten. Then she felt calmer. Or did she feel calmer? Maybe she should count to twenty…?

“ You still love him... “ Draco’s voice faltered. His grey eyes hardened. Harry Potter’s still alive to you! You still bloody love him! You still love him!

“ Yes! “ And she grabbed her sweater on the chair and rushed for the door.

He stood in the middle of the kitchen, unable to run after her. His feet seemed glued to the kitchen floor. He was under some Imperius curse, controlled by his pride. A few seconds later, he punched the wall to his left. “ Bloody arse! “ he cursed. He quickly ran out of the house to see if he could still catch up with her.

The streets were empty.

Draco cursed again and walked back to his house, slamming the door.

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Hermione had just arrived at her house when her phone rang.

“ Hello. “

“ Hermione? “

“ Gin? This you? “

“ Yeah, I was wondering if we could hang out tonight, I haven’t seen you in weeks! “

“ I- “ she took a deep breath. “ Sure, where? “

She heard Ron’s voice in the background. “ I’ll meet you at the Lucie Café, 9 pm? ‘ her voice dropped lower. “ Ron’s in a bad mood, don’t know why… see you? “

“ Sure, see you, “ Hermione said. She placed the phone down.

Half an hour later, Ginny was hugging Hermione tightly. “ God, I missed you! “ Ginny stepped back and Hermione admired the way she held her muggle clothing with such stylishness.

Hermione smiled as they sat down. It was a quiet night, the café half full. “ Likewise, Gin. So how’s work? “

“ Oh, hectic! I just got a break! One week vacation, I’m going back to mum and dad at The Burrow. You? How’s work? “

“ Tiring…” she said with a laugh. “ We just had our anniversary issue printed. “ Of course it was tiring! She hadn’t slept in days and had only stale sandwiches and bitter coffee to keep herself rolling.

Ginny laughed. “ I read that! I loved the ‘attic treasures’ bit! You should have modeled though! “ Ginny eyed Hermione with a trained critic’s eye. Sure, Hermione was simple, but it was the minimalism that attracted people to her, particularly guys.

“ Stuff at the Ministry… still the same…we’ve been getting reports that some dark activity has been spotted in Wales. “

“ Ron told me that. Maybe that’s why he’s in such a bad mood. “

Hermione smiled. “ That’s typical of him. “ she paused, drinking her coffee.

“ Seeing anyone? “ Ginny asked.

Hermione shook her head. I’ve slept with someone, Ginny, how’s that…I’ve slept with someone named Draco Malfoy. I was wondering if you knew him. Oh he’s this arrogant git whom I can’t seem to stop thinking about- “ No one, “ she replied. “ You? “

Ginny laughed. “ Some and some- just people working at the publication. “

“ That’s nice. “ Hermione smiled.

“ Mione… “ Ginny held her hand. “ Please don’t get offended or anything. “ She knew it was strange to do this, or even mention something like this, but it had been bothering her for quite some time now.

Hermione shook her head.

“ Let go. “

“ Of what? “ Hermione’s voice grew small. She knew where this was leading. Even Ron had told her about this. She knew whom this was about.

“ Harry, “ Ginny said gently. “ Let it go. “

Hermione gave a hollow laugh. “ Ginny, that’s nothing. “ Of course it was nothing! It was just- it was just Harry….

“ Ron’s worried, I am too. You’ve been… different… a little, not that it’s a bad thing- but…you never call us voluntarily anymore, it’s always us calling you, wanting your company- “

“ Ginny, I just need time. It’s not easy- whatever. Let’s not talk about this! We’re here to talk fun! “

Ginny smiled; completely unaware. “ That’s nice to hear Hermione. It’s high time you let go and have fun!”

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Hermione drove past Draco’s neighborhood. She passed by Draco’s house, and on impulse, stopped her car. The house was dark. Perhaps he had gone out?

She wanted to apologize for her actions. The slap was too much. Something in her broke when he had mentioned Harry’s name. Harry…she still loved him. It was hurting her.

Maybe it was time to love someone else. She was hanging on to a man long gone.

She got out of her car and walked up to the door and raised her hand. Her hand paused in midair. What was she doing?

The door suddenly opened.

Draco was standing in front of her. “ Forgot something? “ he asked calmly. His eyes pierced into hers.

Let go.

She nodded and kissed Draco.

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A/N: OMG! They did it?! It was a shag, no longer a snog! heehee. the next chapter's going to be fun, i swear on my grandmother's grave...wait, not her, she's still alive...i swear on my...ack! whatever! but i promise you'll like it or hate me for not continuing! Please don't forget to review??? ^_^

what are your predictions for the next chapter?

Chapter 10: Don't say anything!!!
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Hermione placed a hand on her forehead. It was a cold day, fall had come. A stout woman came in carrying a few folders and placed the stack in front of her.

“ Here it is, darling. A written report on the Wales incident, “ she said, unceremoniously dumping a little stack of folders with parchments containing full details of everything that had occured in Wales.

Hermione smiled tightly. “ Great. Just Wonderful. “

Her office was an average sized room with a little fireplace with views of good old London. She sniffed as the woman left. She had been fairly busy since the reported activities of dark magic in Wales had been occurring. Busy was good though, busy was very good...although...she somehow now longed for a break once in a while. Strange enough.

There was a knock on the door.

She looked up. It was Ron.

“ Thank heavens, “ he said entering.

Hermione was quiet, still unable to forget the bookshop incident. They had not spoken in a few days already. She knew where this was leading to. Ron may have quite some pride and so did she but-

“ I came by from work to… apologize. “ He had interrupted her thoughts.

“ Ron- “ she began. She stood up and walked toward him.

“ Wait, let me finish. I wanted to apologize for my erratic behavior. Hermione… you mean a lot to me, you’re half of what remains of the golden trio. I just… I didn’t find it easy, to see him with you, I know it was childish of me, and I’m sorry. “

Hermione shrugged. “ Ron, you knew it hurt… It hurt me too much. I thought you wanted me to let go and then you remind me of him and all that bull- God, Ron, we're just really good friends-“ she almost choked on the words she chose. Good friends? Since when were Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger good friends?

“ It’s just that he’s Malfoy… it didn’t seem fair to Ha- “ Ron stopped. “ Forget it. “

Hermione smiled and hugged Ron. “ S’okay. It’s been a long time since we had a nice little fight. The last time we had it was when we couldn’t decide what to get Fleur for her birthday. “

He laughed. “ That was horrid, wasn’t it? Not speaking at the party? “

She nodded. “ Terribly. “

“ Well, now that that settles it, how’s work? “

“ Terrible, “ she immediately replied.

He grinned. “ You’re not the only one. I had to get up at two in the morning just to check if there was some disturbance in Ireland. They owled me, the Irish Ministry, saying they had signs of dark magic stirring in the west. Needed help from us, their manpower wasn’t enough. Wales was something uncalculated too. “

“ Before you know it, we’ll be out in action again, “ Hermione gave a smirk.

A face appeared in Hermione’s fire. “ Ronald Weasley, is he there? “ an old man said gruffly.

Ron grinned. “ I’ll be up in a minute, sir. “ He looked at Hermione. “ Well, that’s the end of our little chit-chat. See you, Mione. Don’t forget we’ve got a meet in Wales, I’ll owl- err… call you later to see what time it’ll be. “

She nodded as Ron left.

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It was past six o’clock and Hermione was tired. An overtime of three hours was the ticket to a good night’s sleep. Sure, it had been fun with Draco around though. He was…oddly attractive. Attractive? Okay...now she was displaying symptoms of overworking now..." Just what are the symptoms of overworking? " she thought. " One- you think about being in someplace else with someone and that someone is Draco- two, you think of someone in another place, you're still with Draco- " she shook her head violently. " What the bloody heck am I saying! "

She walked out of the old building, a gray looking one, with three stories in the muggle world, which had more than five stories underground. The night was cold and some cafes had just opened up at the sidewalks. She walked to where she had parked her car when she saw a man wearing a black coat standing beside the passenger door.

She laughed. “ What are you doing here? “

He smiled and handed her a single long stemmed white rose. “ I missed you. Did you have to ask? Like it wasn't obvious. Really, the top notcher of Hogwarts missing out on something so simple? "

Hermione was surprised. She smiled, feeling her cheeks burn. And she was glad that it was getting dark or else he would have seen her girlishly silly blush. She took the rose from his hand quickly to avoid his gaze.

“ Would you like to go somewhere? “ he asked.

“ You have a car, I have a car- “

“ I took the train, “ he said.

She grinned. “ Like a muggle. “

“ Just like a muggle. “ He held out his arm in gentlemanly fashion. She smiled and locked an arm around his." Quite a fun day today actually, as I got in the train. There was this old lady seated beside me, reading a magazine- Vogue. " He laughed and eyed her. She was smiling. " My eyes caught her reading your article. 'Hermione Granger' in bold font. And I peered in to see what the title was, unconsciously, i hope- and lo and behold- the old lady turns her back and tells me spitefully 'Get your own magazine you queer man!' "

Hermione laughed aloud. " Did you say anything back? Anything at all? "

Draco grinned. " Nothing, but I noticed the man seated on my other side slowly sliding away from me. "

“ You… you surprise me. “ She smiled again, thinking of how wonderful it was to see Draco Malfoy say nothing at all to an old muggle woman and just smiling through it all.

“ You sustain me, “ he grinned.

She laughed. “ What does that mean? “

He shook his head. “ Nothing. Got anything in mind? Where to eat? “

She bit her lower lip. “ Um...I’d like to eat…Japanese. “

He frowned, as if trying to remember something. “ Ah! Oishi! Let’s eat there. They serve fabulous California maki. “

“ You know a lot of places, don’t you? “

“ What can I say? I’m the man. “

“ How can you be the man? “ she asked laughing.

“ What do I have to do to prove it to you? Dance? Sing? “

She was laughing.

“L- is for the way you look at me, O- is for the only one I see- “ he sang loudly as they walked. People were smiling as they passed by. Surely they thought he was proclaiming his undying love, and embarrassingly at that.

Hermione stopped.


~

“V is very, very extraordinary, “ Harry belted out winking at her.

Harry laughed unable to finish. He was enjoying himself actually, despite knowing how hot his ears were from his act. He couldn’t carry a tune, but what the heck, Hermione was enjoying it.

~


“ Hermione? “ Draco asked. “ Is something wrong? “ Draco touched her shoulder gently, and it brought her back to her senses, it brought her back to her present.

She smiled and shook her head. “ Nothing… your singing… it’s horrid. “

They both laughed.

“ You’re as sensitive as a hippogriff, “ he began.

“ At least I didn’t bite you, nor did I send you to the hospital wing, moaning for your life. ‘I think I’m dying!’ “ she mimicked.

“ Hey! I was immature! “ he protested. " I didn't know what I was doing! And- it was painful! You saw that, right? " he asked defensively, crossing his arms in the process and raising his eyebrows as well.

Hermione laughed.

“ You look tired, “ he said.

She grinned. “ It’s just how I look when I’m hungry. “

“ Quit a job, you’ll feel more relaxed. “

“ No way! “

“ Yes way! You’re a workaholic. “

“ I most definitely am not! “

He kissed her forehead. “ Yes, you are. “

She could see herself melting in her mind’s eye.

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Ron stood frozen at the back alley as he held his unlit cigarette.

He watched them walk away, both of them unaware that he was staring at them as they walked towards another street. He frowned. Hermione had been to fairly comfortable with Draco Malfoy. He knew that there was some part of him that still remained immature. Some part of him that still wanted to kick Malfoy’s ass.

Harry had prevented him from doing that when they were in their final year. Draco had been a help in defeating Voldemort, so said Harry. But then Harry had died. And he had imagined once in awhile, as he reminisced about their Hogwarts days of how lovely it was to see Malfoy’s face in muck, all bruised and bloodied.

And the mother of all unexpected things just had to arrive. Draco Malfoy was once again untouchable. The circumstances were against Ron again, during Harry’s death. He could not deny Draco of the opportunity. Lady luck voted for Draco. Draco was a lucky son of a bitch.

And now Hermione!

It was almost too much! But he knew he had to keep himself even-tempered. He respected Hermione. He wanted her happy. Who didn’t? After what she had been through? But it just had to be Malfoy! He respected Malfoy to some degree…but for him to see Hermione, to actually enjoy Hermione’s company…Ron felt unsure of him. As far as he was concerned, Hermione was unsafe.

It was probably time to have a man to man talk with Draco Malfoy.

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Draco was busily leafing through some papers; it was another week, another Monday, past eleven in the evening. Hermione was at home, sleeping, tired from work. He was the only one left in his office building, aside from a sleepy looking security guard at the first floor. It was a two story modern edifice with glass walls and metal staircases. Only five cars were on display in the showroom. A few lights glowed from the showroom, boasting its bold designs.

A fire was crackling in the fireplace. Draco heard a tiny pop from behind him. Someone had just apparated. Now who would do that, and in his office? He gave a smirk as he eyed the man. “ Fantastic suit. “

The man who had arrived looked at him coolly. “ Nice office. “

“ Never been in this side of town? “

“ No, afraid not. “

“ Scotch or Chardonnay? “ Draco offered going to a stylish looking black cabinet. He opened the cabinet as his fingers skimmed over labeled bottles of alcohol. He finally selected a round bottle with fine gold engraving. Chardonnay it was then.

The man sat down. “ Chardonnay. You’d prefer that too. “

He grinned. “ Have a seat. “

“ Sure thing. “

“ Let’s discuss this quickly, “ Draco said looking at his desk. “ I still have a lot to do- “ He eyed his paper work, and he knew he was in for another long and sleepless night. He just had to be distracted by him!

“ We have a lot to talk about, “ the visitor corrected. He eyed his glass of wine against the fire and it almost glowed as Ron's hands moved up and down. He finally took a sip and felt the sweet and sour taste mingle in his tongue.

“ Heard that there was some activity going on in Wales and Ireland? “ Draco said drinking from his own glass.

“ Yes, somehow connected to you, “ the man replied shortly.

“ Oh come now, redhead, I mean Weasley, “ he gave a wily smile. “ I haven’t even been active with magic anymore- “

“ Your father, it seems that his memory was hard to suppress… “

Draco’s eyes narrowed. His facial expression instantly changed. He frowned. “ What- what’s that supposed to mean? “

“ Wales and Ireland, twice an unforgivable curse had been performed. I’m trying to clear things out. Apparently, in the scenes your father’s cane had been found in one, the other a part of your father’s torn glove… with the initials 'L.M'-“

Draco scoffed. “ Why’d you have to talk to my about this? I’m not related to the ministry. I haven’t held my wand in months… almost a year- ‘

“ I know. We’ve been keeping track on you. Someone wants your father’s memory to surface, let Voldemort surface. Some people just won’t let him die, they refuse to… but your name may be carried in this. “

Draco stood up and looked out of the window. “ Why the hell… Any idea? “

He shook his head. “ I’m sorry, none. “

“ Typical of them, “ Draco rolled his eyes. " Typical of the Aurors- " He eyed Ron and saw his eyes widen slightly. He just felt this intense need to actually make the man loose his temper. So much fun doing it-

Ron sighed, slightly irritated. “ We’re doing the best we can. “

“ Sure you are. Bloody hell you are. “

“ Just stop being a git will you? “ Ron snapped. “ It isn’t easy for me or for anyone who might know of you and Hermione- “ Ron felt his temper rise. Draco Malfoy was always good at doing that. He had this 'temper-curse' around him! Anyone who stayed for more than a minute with him was sure to feel annoyed, five minutes with him was sure enough for Ron to commit murderr-

“ I told you, we’re not a couple. “

“ Cut the bullshit. “

“ Okay, so we are. “ Draco grinned.

“ I’m worried for her- “

“ You always are. Ever since- “ he paused and looked at the fire.

“ That’s right. Ever since Harry’s death, “ Ron continued, staring at Malfoy’s back.

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Hermione smiled as she carried two cups of coffee. She had just greeted the sleepy security guard and he let her in, recognizing her instantly as “Mr. Malfoy’s beau “ of two months. She had thought of surprising him when she had awoken from sleep, at past ten in the evening. Perhaps they could catch a late night movie later on. She walked slowly and silently, eager to surprise him. Just as she reached the landing, there were voices, talking in masculine tone. She saw the shadows cast by the half open door and the lights to his office. She stopped abruptly in front of the door.

“ That’s right. Ever since Harry’s death, “ a man said.

Hermione blinked. Harry? Why was she hearing his name?

“ You’re going to hurt her, “ the same man said. “ Directly or indirectly. You’re going to! “

“ Damn it. What is it with you and that notion! “ Draco snapped.

She felt like a snoop, an eavesdropper. But she had never heard this kind of tone from Draco since they first hung out. It sounded like- the old Draco. The sarcastic and stubborn him.

“ I know you will. It runs in you. It’s in your blood- “

“ Not here! “ Draco had yelled. He was pointing to his chest. “ Not anymore! This, “ he pointed to his chest again, “ This isn’t even mine! Even if this were mine, I still wouldn’t! “

“ Just because I’ve no longer got justifications to kill you, it doesn’t mean I won’t, “ The man’s voice scorned.

“ Go ahead! “

“ Don’t pressure me you bastard, I had half the mind not to give it to you once I knew that it was. “

It was Ron’s voice. She was sure of it. What was he doing here?

“ Too late now? “ Draco smirked. “ And it’s not like he had much of a say right? He was dead when he gave it- “

“ Stop that! You son of a-“

“ Word games, Weasley? Challenge me. “

“ Get away from her, never ever let me see you with her, she’s not for you! Never for you! “

“ What are you? Her mother? You’re not! You’re just one-fourth of what once was the golden trio! If you plan to hex me just try. “

“ Grow up, Malfoy! “

“ I have! “ he said. There was a loud bang. Draco had just slammed his palms on his table. “ Ever since I knew that I had that debilitating malady! Would you think it was easy for me? To live like that? To stop using magic- incorporate with muggle medicine- To lose all my Malfoy pride…and to… to have Potter’s heart to survive! “

Hermione gasped.

Her hands began to shake. Dreadfully. Uncontrollably. Her breathing had gone shallow and fast. Oh god. She had never known. She had not bothered to even know. She had thought she had seen something when they spent that night at his place but it never occurred to her that… but… oh god! Harry…in Draco! Harry’s heart was in Draco!

The coffee cups dropped on the floor with a splatter. The cups rolled at her feet, back and forth.

Ron’s eyes suddenly darted to the door. So did Draco’s.

” Evanesco! “ Ron yelled.

The door disappeared in front of their eyes.

Draco’s eyes widened, seeing a blanched Hermione clad in pants and a black turtleneck, with her hands shaking uncontrollably, her lips paler than her face. “ Hermione, “ Draco began. He felt blood leave his face and hands. He felt like a little boy of three, caught in his first crime- how was he going to-

Ron’s heart dropped. She had heard all of it. He felt it. He knew it.

Draco took a step towards her.

“ Don’t you dare take one more step! “ she suddenly cried out. “ Stay away from me! “

Draco opened his mouth. “ Hermione, please let- “

“ I heard everything! “ her voice shook. Her vision started to blur. The damned tears were coming. The god damned tears were coming! “ Why didn’t you… Ron! “ She stared at Ron. “ Why didn’t you tell me! “

“ Hermione… We… I had to keep it. We weren’t sure you were to keen to know that Malfoy received Harry’s heart, “ Ron began. " We had to! Hermione- "

Suddenly she felt cold again. Like Harry had just died. Again.


~

The white sheet slipped and she saw a dark line, an incision on his chest. Hermione gasped.

She reeled back in horror and Ron caught her just in time. “ Oh god! “ she gasped again.

She trembled even more as she held Harry’s hand with Ron supporting her back.

“ He’s gone, Ron, he’s gone…”

~


She could see it in front of her. Harry’s corpse... The dark incision was still there. They had taken away his heart. Draco had taken his heart. She looked at Ron. “ You- you gave the approval right? Did you know it would be- him! “ she cried out.

Draco eyes flinched as she said the word ‘him’.

Ron shook his head. “ Only the day after that, “ he said in a low voice. “ You were still heavily sedated. I went to check the donor consignment, the doctor who was there, was someone I knew, he worked as a muggle doctor but had some experience with wizard healing. He told me that it was Malfoy who received it. I went to visit Malfoy that same day about a few hundred miles away-“

Draco brushed a hand up his hair. “ Hermione, “ Draco began tiredly. “ I- “

“ Don’t say anything! “ she said. “ I don’t want to hear anything from you! You’ve… It was Harry then! I thought I- “ One hand kept going up and down her temple. She didn’t finish. A millisecond later, she was running down the short flight of cold stainless steel stairs that were suddenly stinging her palms, out of the building, and away from two people…

One she had loved like a brother.

The other, she loved almost like she had loved Harry himself.

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TBC….i hope you enjoyed this chapter, because, personally, i enjoyed making it. hehe. What do you guys think?Please leave me your comments or thoughts.

Chapter 11: But I was afraid…
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Hermione tried to stop the bitter tears from coming. Not now! Never now! She had stopped crying the day Harry’s coffin went below the ground. There was some crushing pain inside her she couldn’t explain. And she felt that she needed to cry again, but she wouldn’t.

She felt betrayed. Was this some cruel joke! Harry was still alive; some part of him was still pulsating. Harry was alive in Draco. The enormity of it banged on her head like some thousand pound boulder. It echoed in her ears, over and over and over again.


~

“ To have Potter’s heart to survive! “

“ To have Potter’s heart to survive! “

~



Draco’s voice wouldn’t stop! She stumbled on the pavement, and tried to get up again. Her elbow was bleeding, but she didn’t care at all. She had to get away, get away from them! Get away from him! And to think- and to think she had felt like she had loved again….

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Draco started for the door.

“ Stop. “ Ron’s face had turned angry and upset.

“ What for? You saw her, if it wasn’t for you! “ Draco said accusingly.

“ If it wasn’t for me? I had never mentioned anything, and perhaps it was time she knew. We kept it from her, I kept it from her, you kept it from her. She’s hurt, let her hurt. “

“ I don’t want her hurt! “ Draco said angrily. “ I didn’t want her hurt! “

“ You still did. We both did. I told you you’d hurt her Malfoy, directly or indirectly, “ Ron said. There was something inside Ron’s eyes that made Draco stop from giving another biting remark.

“ Damn it, Weasley, “ Draco finally said.

Ron’s feet moved.

“ Where the hell are you going? “ Draco asked.

“ Work, “ Ron said simply. “ I’m needed at Wales. “

There was a pop and Ron was gone.

Draco stood in front of the fire, thinking of his next move. Would he heed Weasley’s warning? Would he go after Hermione? She was probably at home now? Or was she? He frowned and clenched a fist. His chest was hurting again. He hadn’t had a check up with a muggle doctor in months.

He recalled the look on Hermione’s face. It was a mixture of shock, disbelief and god knows what. He made up his mind. Grabbing his coat and keys, he left the office to find her.

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Ron massaged his temple with one finger. The night hadn’t gone great. It had been the first time he had seen Hermione that upset since...He didn’t mean to hurt her at all. He had warned Malfoy too. It was a double blow to her. She and him had just made up, and now this?

He had just arrived in Wales via apparition, a method of traveling he still found uncomfortable. The night was cold and he shivered. The rest of the aurors were there too. Hermione wasn’t of course. She was supposed to be.

A tall man approached him. “ Late, Weasley.“ he laughed.

“ Sorry, Dean old chap, got delayed by mum, “ he lied.

“ Everyone here? Where’s Hermione? “ another asked.

Ron shrugged. “ I don’t know. “

Well, at least that wasn’t a lie. He couldn’t lie to himself that he didn’t feel bad, upset, that Hermione was once more hurt. He didn’t like that. He didn’t want that. Perfect timing meant everything. How was he to know that she would surprise them at Draco’s office, anyway!

“ Alright, “ a voice was saying. “ We’ve gotten some reports, from our Irish counterparts. Seems that someone has been spotted- “

Ron tried to listen.

But his thoughts trailed back to Hermione.

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Draco drove into the night, hoping to catch some glimpse of her back or something. She had left her car near his building. His heart pounded terribly and hurt at the same time.

It was never easy, having Potter’s heart. He had let loose his pride, thankful that someone from Gryffindor (Potter at that), had died and given him a heart. Past was past, and he had hoped for a good present, and a brilliant future. He had gotten both, for a short time, he supposed.

Hermione had come to his life out of nowhere, he hadn’t seen her in years, and now, to feel for her that way…perhaps Potter was having his revenge from beyond the grave, having a good damn laugh at him for falling for a girl who was at the mercy of his memory forever.

He smirked as his car curved to another corner. His imaginations were running quite wild now.

He wouldn’t admit it to himself, of course. That he was feeling something more than physical love. It would hurt too much to imagine, that he, a Malfoy, would fall for a muggleborn witch, an ex-fiancée of Potter and a Gryffindor. But at the back of his mind, he knew he did. Knew he had.

A triple blow. He had warned himself first, never to fall badly for someone; Ron had warned him to stay away too. And finally, Hermione herself, with her constant recollections of Potter in silence, her eyes said it all.

He was stupid.

“ Damn it, where are you? “ he muttered, passing by the bar where he had helped Hermione and taken her home because of her drunkenness. The bar seemed empty. It was a Monday after all.

He felt the impulse that she wasn’t there.

“ Trust your wizarding instincts, Malfoy, “ he told himself. “ You’re still a wizard, no matter what. “

He had gone to her apartment, but saw that there were no lights in her window, and he himself felt she wasn’t there. Cursing, he drove back to his house. It was past three in the morning. He went straight to his bedroom and sat at the edge of the bed.

It was tempting him. He could feel it in his fingers. He wanted it in his fingers.

Without another word, he strode for the dresser and opened the box where he kept his most prized wizarding possession…his wand. He whispered to himself, “ Find Hermione…”

The tip of his wand glowed, a pale yellowish hue. He concentrated hard. He tried to picture her face, but all that registered was her shocked look inside his head.

“ Damn it, “ he growled. And suddenly it flooded into his mind. He felt that he knew where she was.

He stood up.

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He had apparated in front of a quaint place. He walked quietly, the leaves crunching beneath his feet. It was a well lit night, because apart from the lamps, there was a full moon. He wondered where she was, in the vastness of the park.

A few minutes into his walking, he saw a figure up ahead, crouched near a slab of marble.

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She had no idea how long she had been lying beside him. Him... Was it okay to call a chunk of marble him? This was after all, his grave. His final resting place.

Harry.

The thought of him hurt her. She did not know where else to go. This was her only refuge, then. His grave. She did not cry, she only felt the pain, still felt it as if it had only been seconds ago that she heard everything. She had apparated the moment she had gotten her wand from her car. Thank god she had brought it along!

But now, to feel the coldness of the white marble at her touch…it brought back memories of Harry. His body on that damned bed, the paleness of his face. Everything was still so fresh.

“ Harry, I don’t… why is this happening? I thought you wanted me happy! Oh Harry, I fell for…! I fell for Malfoy! Should I be sorry! I still love you, Harry! I still do! So much that it hurts! I wish I could stop! Stop loving you! Maybe then I would be happier-but I fell for him Harry-! “ Hermione screamed to herself.

She looked up.

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Draco stared at the finely done letterings on the tomb.

Harry James Potter. July 31, 1980

Harry’s grave. The man who gave him a chance to live, the man who gave him a heart. The man who showed him Hermione.

His heart pounded, or rather Harry’s heart pounded. It was the first time he had seen this. His first time to actually be in front of Harry’s grave. And to see Hermione like this, at the foot of his grave…was she crying? It was hard to tell. She was crouched low.

She looked up. Her eyes were brimming with tears. She said nothing. He walked quietly, arriving beside her and standing over the tomb.

Suddenly, Draco knelt beside her. “ Are you alright now? “

She barely nodded.

“ Harry- he- saved me…again…when he gave me his heart, “ Draco almost choked on the words he carefully chose.

She said nothing, but she stood up and her gaze lingered at Harry’s name. There was alight breeze playing in the night, and the moon shone brighter than ever. “ We were going to get married, “ she finally said it, and quietly.

Draco’s eyes considerably softened even more. “ I’m sorry. “

“ Past is past. “

“ Where have I heard that before? “ he asked with a small smile. To his relief she reciprocated. But then he noticed a tear slide down her cheek. He said nothing.

“ How does it feel? That you have… his-? “ her voice faltered.

He closed his eyes for a few seconds. “ It’s… I feel like it’s my own…although sometimes… maybe it’s just my imagination or something but… I feel like it beats not in accordance to- whatever. Nothing. “

She sniffed. “ Why did… Did you know it was his heart? “

He shook his head. “ I was dying, Hermione. My mother was desperate. She went through the lengths of asking for help from muggles, muggle doctors. It was after our graduation…you do remember that there was no news of me, despite my father being imprisoned? I was already suffering from it. It remained undiagnosed until a year later. We waited for a donor for years and suddenly on Christmas day, the best gift I’d ever received…I got a heart. I was thankful, Hermione. For the first time in my life, I wanted to reach out to those who helped me. And then I found out, when Weasley visited me, he informed me I had Potter’s heart. I couldn’t understand… I somehow abhorred the fact that I received the heart of a guy I had spent seven years trying to destroy. Weasley, he…scolded me- “ Draco gave a dry laugh.

“ He told me I should be thankful and that Potter’s girl was very much devastated, and that I was too fortunate. I never really took it seriously, all that Weasley said about you being devastated. I was too wrapped up in my insecurities, my happiness; I didn’t want to acknowledge the fact that I had Harry Potter’s heart. I had the heart of the boy-who-lived! But as the days wore on, I knew Weasley was right. Potter’s death was to my advantage, and that’s when I let my barriers down. “ Draco shifted his footing as he faced her.

“ I was speaking to Weasley in a more civilized manner, something I found unsettling to do back in school when Potter began talking to me after the Great Battle between him and Voldemort. He was thankful to me, for betraying my father and the Death Eaters and Voldemort himself. I felt that I had to make it up to him somehow- but I didn’t know just when…and then you, you came along Hermione…”

Hermione shook her head. Her hands shook.

Draco saw them, and he did nothing.

“ It was my fault, if I hadn’t… I wish I had never given him that necklace. I still have dreams, he was looking at it, he opened it while he was driving, he was wearing it when he died. I know it! “ her voice tensed once more.

Draco said nothing.

“ I actually thought I would marry him you know… after everything we’ve been through, after Voldemort and all. Sometimes at night, when I can’t sleep. I hear his voice, see his face in the mirror; even when I close my eyes! I feel like I’m waiting on a ghost! He’s trying to tell me something in my dreams! Draco, if you… I can’t believe I was even thinking about it. But I was afraid! Afraid I’d fallen for you... “

Draco looked up to her. “ Haven’t you? “ he asked quietly.

She looked at Harry’s grave and back into his eyes. She nodded and finally felt the tears flow freely on her cheeks.

“ I don’t know whether to be happy or upset, “ he began.

She looked up to him, puzzled. “ Why? “

“ I’m glad to hear that you actually find me bearable, but to see you cry, it won’t do my happiness justice. “ Without another thought, he brought a finger up against her eye to wipe a tear away.

“ Can we go home? “ she asked.

He nodded and took her hand.

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TBC?... i was happy that alot of you guys liked the previous chapter, i hope you liked this too. so...review away!

also, an anonymous review said "you stink". on the contrary, i bathe twice a day and im a clean freak- so no, i don't think i stink. ^_^

i've reached chapter 11 here, and i hope this story has been well received.

Chapter 12: Staying away from me doesn't mean it's the end...
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They arrived in Hermione’s flat past four in the morning. They were both quiet as they sat beside each other on a couch staring at the open doors to her tiny balcony. She had placed two mugs of coffee on a low table in front of them.

“ Sleepy? “ he asked all of a sudden.

She shook her head. “ No, “ she replied. Without another word, she leaned her head against his shoulder. “ Are you? “

He shook his head. “ After a whole night of looking for you, definitely not. “

“ Draco, “ she began.

“ Hmm? “

“ Nothing. “

“ You like ‘nothing’ a lot. “ Draco felt a light wind play on his face as it entered through the open portico.

“ Not all the time. “

He gave a short laugh.

“ You apparated, “ she suddenly said.

“ Had to, “ he replied.

“ Is it okay to? I mean with…? “ she began; looking at his eyes.

He nodded. “ Well, I guess it is. I’m alive and unhurt aren’t I? “

“ I hope it stays that way, “ she said.

“ It will, if you stay with me. “

She laughed and held his hand in hers gently.

“ Hermione, “ he began.

“ What? “

“ I think, “ He laughed and shook his head. “ Forget it. “

“ Really, what is it? “

“ I’ll tell you later, “ he finally said. “ Want to eat? “

“ I always eat when I’m with you. “

“ I’m eating a lot so that you’d eat a lot. You’ve got a nice figure and all, but I’m afraid your jobs will take their toll on you, “ he said.

She scrunched up her nose. “ Right, “ she said. “ It’s…what time is it? Four fifteen? “

He nodded. “ So? It’s not like there are no cafes for night owls like us. “

She smiled again and grew quiet again.

Draco liked the quiet moment for some reason. There was no sound, but he could hear his heart beat as she sat beside him, as she held his hand. He had never been happier.

Hermione felt Draco’s shoulders heave up and down each time he took a breath. How could something as simple, as plain as sitting beside him make her so happy?

There was a tiny pop in the living room and Draco quickly stood up and spun around, wand in hand. His eyes widened. Hermione stood up and sensed something awful as she stared at Draco’s face. Her eyes trailed to where Draco was staring at. She gasped as the man who had just apparated fell on the floor.

“ Ron! “ she cried out for him. She quickly cradled his head on her lap as she felt her heart beat erratically. “ Oh god! Ron! What happened! “

Ron opened one bloodied eye. “ Death- “ he mumbled. “ Couldn’t- caught us off guard- “ His face grimaced as Draco held his arm.

Deatheaters? Draco’s eyes widened even more. It couldn’t be! Harry… he and everyone else fought off to destroy them! They almost died doing it! Draco held up his wand.

“ Stop, “ came Hermione’s voice. “ I’ll do it. “

He grudgingly put his wand down as Hermione took his wand from him. She whispered a few spells and the superficial wounds on Ron’s body began to heal slowly.

“ I hope he doesn’t have internal injuries, “ she whispered as she put Ron to a sleep. “ I can’t… we’ll have to take him to St. Mungo’s. “

Draco nodded.

“ I’ll have to apparate, “ she began. “ Just hold my hand and hold Ron’s. I’ll get us there. “

“ I can do it. “

There was a look in Hermione’s eyes that made him stop. He nodded and held her hand. A second later, he felt his stomach lurch.

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Hermione slept beside Ron’s bed, her head near his arm. The healers had done their best, and had placed him in a deep sleep.

Draco stood outside the room at St. Mungo’s, waiting for the rest of the Weasleys to arrive. He sat on a chair with a cup of coffee staring at the walls. It was just as he had remembered them. The white walls, the hushed voices of healers. There were no P.A systems in St. Mungo’s. Here, true TLC existed. They treated you with magic, with their touches, not with cold stainless steel and uniformed surgical garb.

It was here, more than a year ago, that he had been dying. There was this indescribable pain; he felt his body scream every time he moved. His heart was giving up on him. He thought he was going to die in a hospital bed, without honors, without the grandeur of reclaiming his family’s glory days, without the chance of showing to the world how generous his little cold heart could be. But now- he was alive and well. He was here, with Hermione…and Ron Weasley.

But- the Deatheaters…were they truly back? He suddenly felt apprehensive. No one had heard of them in the longest time. They were bad memories to the wizarding world. They were bad memories to him. He had never wanted it. Only to please his father. His mother was stricken with grief at that time. He had thought that being a Deatheater would kill him. He was wrong. His own body had almost killed him.

He sighed and took another sip of his bitter coffee. There was the shuffling of shoes. He looked up and saw Molly and Arthur, along with Ginny. Molly stepped forward and enveloped Draco in a warm hug. Draco stood, a little surprised.

Molly and Ginny immediately went inside the room, as Draco found himself shaking hands with Arthur. Arthur greeted him cordially and went inside.

Hermione woke up, feeling a hand on hers. It was Molly. She smiled a strained smile. Ginny hugged Hermione and Hermione whispered a few words of comfort. She excused herself after a few minutes and slipped outside, to see Draco sitting on a chair, holding two cups of coffee in his hand.

She sighed softly and sat beside him. “ I- “

“ It’s not your fault, “ he said firmly.

“ I should’ve been there… we were supposed to go together- “

“ Circumstances led you to a different situation. “

“ I should have been there! And now…oh god…are they really-? “ she stopped and buried her face in her hands.

He was quiet. How would he assure her, when he had almost been one himself?

When Molly hugged him, he felt welcomed, and it was as if the bad memories, the bad side of him had never existed to the Weasleys at all. Felt ‘welcomed’…the word was strange to his head…a pure blooded family despised by his father, had greeted him with some respect, like he had given some all along.

He looked at Hermione and suddenly felt a faint tug of despair. Were they really back? His childish fears would resurface again. The bitter memories of betraying his own father, the Dark Lord, the hurt he gave his mother to please his unsatisfied ego…they were all coming back to haunt him. And Draco recalled the night wherein he had come face to face with the Dark Lord.


~

He felt cold, like the Dark Lord’s touch stole his warmth little by little. Like his touch was more fatal than that of a dementor’s. He felt like he was going to die. He had not even kissed his mother goodbye. The price for betraying the Dark Lord for his other human counterparts would be his own life.

He stood, despite the pain. How many curses had he received? Were his new ‘friends’ alright? Dumbledore was gone, he had almost killed the man, and he suddenly felt the urge to bring the old man back to life, to save him from it all. He was afraid. Only once in his life had he been truly afraid…when he had been tasked to kill Dumbledore. Perhaps this was a good second?

And he felt the Dark Lord’s breath; close to his skin, and his feet were dangling a few feet from the ground, a shocking strength from a not so recovered Lord Voldemort. This was it.

And then he heard a shout. There was a burst of light, and he fell to the ground, rendered unconscious until he felt a hand on his arm. Ron Weasley, all bruised and bloodied with Hermione Granger, knelt beside him, and he could scarcely make out the figures, but he knew it was Harry fighting Lord Voldemort…

~


He felt a hand on his hand and he looked sideways. Hermione smiled at him gently. It told him not to worry, that she was here. He smiled back, uncertain of how his smile seemed to her. And she clasped his hand tightly, to reciprocate his smile.

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“ He’s awake! “ Ginny shouted excitedly. Hermione bolted up and so did Draco. She ran in the room to see Ron both eyes open, and she quickly hugged him.

“ I was so worried! Ron! I am so sorry! “ Hermione’s voice cracked.

Ron scrunched his nose. “ Really, Mione. Stop it. I’m fine, fit as a fiddle- ow! Gin! You’re holding my hand too tightly! “

Hermione laughed and tried to stop the tears of joy. “ I’m so sorry! “

“ It’s okay, “ he said quietly. “ Might I have some time to talk with her please? Just the two of us? “ Ron eyed Draco, and Draco quickly left, followed by the rest of his family members.

There was an awkward silence. Ron cleared his throat as he began to sit straight. “ Hermione… I… I didn’t mean to hurt you back there, when you heard everything, although I’m telling you now…I never wanted you to know. “

Hermione hung her head and sat beside him and held his hand.

“ Thanks for being brutally honest, Ron. “

He smiled a little and turned serious again. “ Hermione… Harry, he- “ Ron cleared his throat and frowned, as if trying to recall everything. “ Before Harry died, do you know what he said to me? “

She shook her head slowly.

“ He said, ‘Ron, that’s the girl I’m going to marry! That’s the girl, I love’. And I’ve never heard Harry say such a thing, except for that night, when we had our party. I couldn’t forget that, Hermione. He loved you too much. Loved you so much, “ Ron said.

Hermione nodded and looked long and hard at the white sheets. Ron’s hand moved over hers.

“ Hermione, Harry wanted you happy. You do remember me saying that; right? “

She nodded. “ Ron, it’s- “

“ Perhaps Harry’s telling me now to let my own little grudges go. It’s his heart in Draco, after all. I want to see you happy, Hermione. And I’m sorry for being such a prized git…maybe I just can’t get the Hogwarts years out of my system yet- “

“ What’s the whole point of this talk, Ron? “ She was close to tears.

“ Don’t be afraid to be happy, “ he finally said. “ Even if I’m sometimes a prick when it comes to Malfoy, it won’t be easy for me, but I’ll try like hell for you. “

Hermione nodded and smiled as she felt a tear fall down her cheek. “ Thank you, Ron, “ she whispered holding his hand.

Ron smiled. “ Hermione, I don’t know where this is going to lead us, but I’m afraid that being with Malfoy may put you in danger. “

Hermione looked up to him. “ I know. “

“ I’m glad you know. Hermione, when they attacked us, I’m not even sure if they were indeed deatheaters… they were strong Hermione, like when we fought he-who- oh heck, Voldemort. They knew what they were doing. They knew spells we never anticipated. They were experienced. “

“ Ron, “ Hermione began. “ It’s not like I can’t protect myself, I’m an Auror too. “

“ It’s because you’re an Auror that you’re put in danger, an even greater danger is when you’re with Malfoy. “

“ Are you suggesting I stay away from him? “

“ Putting it mildly, yes. “

Hermione sighed and placed a hand on her forehead. “ I don’t get it. You just told me to- “

“ I know. But Hermione, understand this: You have to lay low for awhile. Stay away from him. Break contact, just for now. “

She shook her head as she listened to his words. Suddenly, it sounded better when he had insulted Draco. Suddenly it sounded better when they had fought.

“ Ron- “

“ I know it’s not easy Hermione… “

“ You have no idea! “ she suddenly said in a higher tone. “ Ron, I’ve never been more happier and now… hearing this… it contradicts everything that you said earlier… you want me- “

“ I want you happy! “ he said. “ More than anything else, but I can’t embrace the fact that you’d be in danger every time you’re with him! People know, the wizarding society knows- “

“ You make it so hard. “ Her voice cracked.

“ Look at me, Mione, “ he said. “ The healers told me I could have bled to death, were it not for your quick aid and have you heard about the others? They’re more than bruised, one of us almost went crazy with a Cruciatus- “

“ Stop it, “ she said, trembling.

Ron looked down on his bandaged hand. “ Mione, I know this is hurting you, hearing all this. But I just had to break it to you, even if it hurts. “

“ It hurts! “

“ I want you safe. Harry wanted you safe. He told me- when he had fought with Voldemort- that if he couldn’t make it, I had to risk my own limbs and life to see you alive and safe. “

“ I can help you fight. I’m going to the Ministry tonight. I’ll clear things out, find who started this whole thing- “ She stopped, looking at Ron’s face. “ I’ll be fine. “

“ You can’t go alone. Some of our mates are coming. Go with them. “

“ Ron, I can apparate fine, thank you very much. “

“ Hermione, “ his voice sounded strained. “ Even in apparition… they can intervene. “

Her eyes widened. “ How? It’s only the individual that can determine his or her… “

“ I don’t know yet. But I’ve proven it; you saw what happened to me yesterday… “

She was silent again. Did it mean that the wizarding world was unsafe again? Lord Voldemort’s memory was indeed hard to suppress. He was still trying to rid the world of blood traitors and muggleborns.

“ Hermione, promise me, promise it to me, while I’m bloody alive, promise it to Harry’s memory. “

She finally gave a resigned nod. She squeezed Ron’s hand and silently exited the room to tell Draco something she never wanted to say.

Draco looked straight into her eyes as she came out of the room. The Weasleys went back inside again, with Molly eyeing both of them as she entered last.

Hermione felt her lower lip tremble. How was she going to say it? Would she even say it to him? Could she? She took a deep breath. “ Draco- “

He looked at her, gave a smile sigh and said: “ It’s okay. I know. “

She nodded and tears began spilling out of her eyes. “ I’m so sorry…I wanted to… but with Ron like this and you and- “

He held her shoulders gently. “ It’s okay. You know I want you safe. “ He looked at her face and saw her nervousness, her perfectly shaped lips trembled when he had held her shoulders.

“ We can fight… I can fight this, nothing to it. “

“ Staying away from me doesn’t mean it’s the end. “

“ It sounds like it, “ she said taking another deep breath, trying to compose herself. The words were all silly now. Nothing could make it sound right.

He shrugged. “It just sounds like it, “ he said quietly. “ That’s not true; you know it’s not true. “

“ It might become the truth, “ she responded holding his hand.

“ No, it won’t, “ he said firmly.

“ Draco, “ she began. “ You should know…. I love- “ she stopped.

He smiled and looked sideways. “ It’s okay. You don’t have to force yourself. I’ll be alright with that. “ And he kissed her cheek lightly and turned around.

Hermione stood quietly as she watched Draco walk away. Her heart almost broke, and she almost cried, and she didn’t. But somewhere, in the silence of the hall, she could hear a heart dying.

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Author notes: since i uploaded fast, i expect some lovin'. haha. I find this chapter very soap-opera-ish. i hope this doesn't become one, as i have outlined my story already. but some things might change to cater to new ideas. i'm happy i've got positive responses from you, dear readers; as i've put my heart into this story.well, review away? also, i'm sorry if anonymous reviews haven't been getting the personal thanks from me, let's call it a case of laziness. hehe. ^_^

Chapter 13: You are happy, then?
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Draco walked away and clutched his wand tightly in his jacket. Something in him suddenly hurt. Someone was screaming inside, not to walk away. But the head ruled over the heart, and this was for her. Not for any other selfish reason. Hermione was everything to him.

Suddenly everything.

He loved her.

For the first time in his life, he loved someone truly.

He should have felt elated…but it was a bittersweet realization, and he had only to share it to himself. He imagined Hermione running after him in the empty hall, telling him she was going to stay with him despite the very unfavorable circumstance. “ Bloody romantic, “ he thought. Hermione was too practical to do that. But he had to admit, the fantasy of her running for him, enveloping him with kisses, proved too irresistible.

He veered his thoughts to something else. The signs. And he couldn’t help shake the cold feeling he got when he thought about his father resurrecting from the dead. Lord Voldemort alive again…all those other Deatheaters he had betrayed….it seemed like a long time ago, and his past was coming back to haunt him.

And he thought of his mother. And suddenly he wanted to be home, alone, or perhaps have tea with his mother at their old manor, which he knew would bring back bitter memories.

And he finally decided to visit his mother again. A few seconds later, he was gone.

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Hermione ran down the hallway, hoping to catch a glimpse of blonde hair. The feeling of telling him that left he empty. And she decided to be with him, no matter what. She wasn’t about to lose her chance of-

There was a tiny pop. And she knew he had just apparated. But where? Hermione stared at the empty space for a long time. Then there was a sound of shoes. And she knew someone was behind her.

“ Hermione, “ came the voice.

“ Ginny, “ she said quietly.

Ginny smiled. “ You make a great couple, “ she began. “ Oh bugger, what am I saying? I’m sorry, I can’t think of anything else. “

Hermione gave a small laugh, trying to quell her tears. “ You sure know how to brighten up the moment, “ she said.

“ Oh, Mione. “ And Ginny took another step and hugged her tightly. Hermione blinked, surprised yet comforted at the same time. Ginny had never been this emotional. The last time she had been like this was when…Harry died.

Ginny released her and wiped a tear away. “ It’s been fairly difficult, “ she said. “ Ron’s being stubborn, says he wants to get to the bottom of this, mum won’t hear of it. She said she didn’t want to lose any part of her son at all. Really, mum can be so…rigid. “

“ She should be, “ Hermione said. “ Ron can get really stubborn anyway. “

“ We didn’t want Fleur to hear of this, “ Ginny said. “ Mum said it wasn’t safe to tell her, she’s only about less than 2 months away. “

“ How is she? “ Hermione asked. She hadn’t seen Fleur in months.

“ Oh fine, “ Ginny huffed. “ She eats everything! “

Hermione laughed, not quite imagining a rather vain Fleur hoarding whatever food she could find. But then again, Fleur could get very passionate-

“ Would you like to get a cup of coffee with me? “ Ginny asked.

Hermione nodded. Perhaps she could now start her lame attempts at keeping herself form hurting.

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Draco arrived, rather tired looking. The room still looked the same, the furniture still the same. There was a roaring fire in the stone fireplace. A family portrait, with a six year old very serious Draco; hung above it, scrunching his nose often and raising his chin high. His mother was busy raising an eyebrow once in awhile, while his father seemed impatient, tapping his cane.

His father’s cane…Ron had said…he shook his head.

His mother looked up, holding a cup of tea in her elegant hand. She set the cup down and ran for him. “ Draco. “

And he felt a tight embrace, something his mother had never showed while his father was still alive. The formalities, the protocols were gone nowShe led him to a couch beside her and rang for an elf, using a tiny crystal bell.

“ Madam? “ it squeaked, popping up to her side all of a sudden.

“ Another cup of tea, “ she said warmly. The elf bowed and disappeared.

“ What brings you? “ his mother began. “ My son…who’s never visited me in weeks! “

Draco stared at his mother. Still a pretty picture, despite being past forty years old. He took a teacup from the elf’s hands and said thanks.

“ I suppose you’ve heard the news? “ he asked in a low voice.

His mother’s eyebrows rose. But she nodded. “ I have…it sent chills down my spine, darling. “

“ Ronald Weasley, “ he began.

“ I heard Arthur Weasley’s son had been attacked, “ she said, pursing her lips afterwards. “ I was glad to hear no one died. “

“ Someone might soon enough. “

“ You apparated. Are you well enough to do that? “

“ Mother, it’s been a long time now, “ he sighed. “ I’m well enough to bed eight women in a single day. “

“ Draco! “ But his mother smiled. “ Someone’s told me you’ve been seeing a girl. “

“ Mother, please… where’d you get that? “

“ Sources, dear, sources. “ And she laughed, placing her fine teacup down the redwood table.

“ Tell me…who is it? They say she’s quite a catch. “

He smiled and wondered how his mother would react. “ Hermione Granger. “

His mother frowned for a moment, as if trying to search her memory for this girl. Had she met her at some affair? Whose daughter was she? Granger…Granger…

“ The muggle? “ she finally said, incredulous.

She remembered the Graduation ceremonies. McGonagall had introduced Hermione Granger with such aplomb. A muggle witch receiving top honors- the highest since the Dark Lord himself! What did Hermione Granger look like again? Unruly hair? Was that it? Was she short, slightly overweight, and pimply? She laughed to herself. Draco knew how to get his girls without her helping him.

Draco didn’t say anything, he raised his teacup instead.

Narcissa was quiet for awhile. His son had fallen for a muggle. And suddenly she thought of how immature she was. This was a different time now. The old ways, the traditions and strict upbringing- she shook her head. But she wanted her son happy.

“ You are happy, then? “ she finally asked.

Draco merely smiled. And Narcissa knew her son was indeed happy. But there was something else in his eyes, something that told a mother that her son was hiding something.

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It was the start of something big, and Hermione knew it, the moment she saw the Minister of Magic himself, a plump and bearded wizard, who looked a lot like those Santa Clause commercials everywhere; Magnus Tingle.

“ Sir, “ Hermione breathed.

Magnus Tingle looked at her for a moment, and then he smiled. “ Why, Miss Granger! What brings you to St. Mungo’s? “

“ I was about to ask you that, “ Hermione began.

“ I’m here to check on our Aurors and hearing Arthur’s son here… I had to visit personally, “ he answered. Then Magnus’s eyes lit up. “ Arthur! “ he greeted in a booming voice. “ Excuse me, lass. “

Hermione promptly stepped back, as the men immediately drew to a quiet and serious conversation. Molly Weasley came up to Hermione.

“ Hello again, dear. “

Hermione smiled. “ Mrs. Weasley, how’s Ron? “

“ Wants to go home already, that boy. But I wouldn’t let him go back to his flat. I want him at home ‘home’. “

“ Mum wants to fatten me up, “ Ron said in a revolted voice. “ Honestly, mother… I don’t really need all that planned TLC- “

“ Oh shush! You’ve been through a lot! “ Molly eyed him while shaking a finger.

Ginny rolled her eyes as Ron practiced walking around in his room. “ Mum, please. “

“ And you! “ Mrs. Weasley pounced on her. “ I don’t want you writing about little controversial things…you know…the risen you-know- ah, that kind of rubbish! “

Hermione smiled and quietly exited the room. Now alone, she had things to think about again. Like an impending war, like a battle between Aurors and the ‘dark forces’, like survival…like Draco.

She wondered what he was doing now, and where he was, and how he was…

Draco.

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TBC? i don't know. i've been fairly frustrated at the last chapter. i was afraid nobody liked it at all. (; ;)waaahhh! make the self pity stop! hehehe. okay, i overeacted, please do review and make me happy so i'll make you happy too. the next chapter will delve deeper than you've read in the previous chapters!!! do review! ^_^

Chapter 14: Draco was the only one who was smart enough for me
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It was never over for them. The Dark Lord’s memory would never fade away. The mere fact that they had shown signals of dark activity all over Europe was a good start, a considerably good start. Wizardry and muggles never mixed.

Just like someone he knew. Once knew actually. It was all over the place. Or better yet, all over the wizard societal gossips. Little snippets of who was dating whom. Seen in muggle London, cuddling up to each other in muggle public. That sort of stuff. That sort of publicity that gave pureblooded wizards a bad name.

Fucking young Malfoy.

He was never really like his father. Fanatical to the point that he sold his own soul to actually prove that he was forever loyal to the Dark Lord. Now; that older Malfoy was some worthy stock, worthy blood, worth every drop of magical pure-blood that ran in his veins, the man thought as he twirled his aged-looking wand. It was barely a twenty something year old wand.

His son however, was a little bit on the tarnished side. Perhaps the exposure to Dumbledore and all those other nasty influences finally got to him. Why, the young Malfoy had actually fought alongside Harry Potter himself! The Great Harry Potter, who was now dead….thank heavens, or rather, thank hell for that!

And he sat down and watched the roaring flames dancing in the hearth, thinking and thinking of what was about to come, what was about to be done in order to get there, to resurface, to make it known that this was where the common wizarding and muggle populace were to step back, so that they could claim what was theirs. A glory to the memory of the Dark Lord.

He lived forever. The Dark Lord lived forever.

He felt the thrill of it, imagining what it was like to finally say those wonderful spells again, and those curses. Cruciatus. Imperio. Avada Kedavra. Wonderful. Just wonderful.

He sighed and sat comfortably now, holding a glass of strong elfin ale, the special kind brewed underground and left for a few hundred years by fairies in Ireland, harvesting it in the winter season. The last time he had drunk this kind of ale was when he had been at Hogwarts, they had a rip roaring time, illegally drinking it in the confines of their bedroom dorms.

Ah Hogwarts. Hoggity Hogwarts. It seemed such a long time ago, when he had gone there, together with his ‘best buddies’. They had the best of times there and the worst as well. And his thoughts came upon Draco Malfoy again. And he wondered how Draco was, and what he was up to now. The last thing he had heard about the brat was that he was dying of some illness his mother refused to announce. A family secret. Why, if Lucius had known, he would’ve killed Draco on the spot for being so weak, for being so un-Malfoy.

He was proud of being pureblooded, proud of saying that he hated foul blooded wizards and muggle-born wizards…and witches. He smirked at the thought of it.

There was a change in the fire. He frowned. Someone was coming. Damn it. What a good way to ruin a solitary night in his manor with a visitor. The fire flickered into a lighter shade and in a second a man stepped out of the fire and entered his opulent drawing room.

He shook some ashes off of his rich, black velvet robe and smiled at the seated owner of the manor. “ Greetings, old friend. “

The man seated narrowed his eyes but responded. “ Good eve. What brings you? Take a seat, please. “

“ Thank you, “ the stranger replied, sitting across him, feeling the softness of the bearskin rug covering an ample space of the chairs underneath them. “ Nice night; isn’t it? “

The lord of the house nodded. “ Yes, “ came his short reply.

“ I can see you’re impatient to know… “

“ Not impatient, just a little distracted. I was drinking the finest elfin ale and you come in here, you prance in here like it’s the Yule Ball all over again- “

The stranger laughed. “ Yule ball? A memories! You did look quite dashing back there didn’t you? Well- so were the rest of our cohorts- “ he laughed. “ Although we weren’t the best of- “ he laughed again.

“ Spit it out, Nott. “

“ Although we weren’t the best of friends, “ he finally said with a snigger.

He huffed, seeing Theodore Nott grin. The man still made him feel wary and uncomfortable. “ Of course, you preferred to work alone, or something like that. “

“ Draco was the only one who was smart enough for me. “

“ Slytherins were smart. “

“ Ah, cunning perhaps? But for intelligence on a higher level… he was a little different you know. “

“ Malfoy respected you, “ the lord of the house spat out. “ For reasons unknown.- “

“ That is so simple, he thought I was smart too, “ Theodore Nott said with another laugh.

“ What brings you here? “ he finally asked.

“ The activities you’ve been so keen to start, I’ve heard…come to offer my services once more, “ he replied.

“ Your father was bad at it, an awful lot bad at it, “ he snapped.

The newcomer frowned. “ Ah, but that was my father now. I am entirely different. “

“ That’s what annoys me. You weren’t exactly active you know, back in the Hogwarts days. You chose to keep away from your father’s shadow for the moment. “ The lord of the house looked at him intently, watching for any uncomfortable moves and signs of spying. There was none.

“ I thought it was the smart thing to do, and I was right. “

“ You work alone, right? Without us, you never, not once; tagged along with- “

“ With you chaps? Hell, I couldn’t do that. It’d look ugly. Besides, Draco Malfoy’s cronies were lumbering idiots, not that I’m also including you in the picture. “

“ Oh shut it, Nott. “

“ Take a breather. You’ve been too serious. Too ‘evil’. “ Another laugh.

“ So what about these recent little activities we’ve been staging, of what sudden interest is it to you? “

He shrugged. “ I figured it was time, although it may be difficult, I must admit. But the memory of the Dark Lord, is as always, difficult to kill. I figured it best to serve him now, in his memory. “

“ Smart and stupid, Nott. “

“ Thank you, old chap, “ he replied.

“ Don’t you think it’s a little bit too late to join in the circle? “ Blaise said sarcastically. “ I’ve used your services, I paid you well enough, right? Paid you to walk through a muggle place, in mire, just to find something useful- “

“ You don’t want me in it, “ he said.

“ No, of course I would. Subject to the council’s approval, of course. “

“ Ah…a council now? When did this start? The time when Potter- oh alright. So silly of me. “

“ You should know, you may be a little bit unwelcome. “

“ I expect them to hex me once I enter the meeting. “

“ Good. I may be one of them. “

“ Come now, what of unity in the name of the master? “

He was quiet as he gulped some of his supposedly fine elfin ale. The ale suddenly became foul in his mouth, like Theodore Nott had been the bitter elixir to his ale. The fire looked less bright now. And he thought about it. The dark lord.

He was still living in fear, at the mere memory of Voldemort. He knew Voldemort could resurface once more; for he was full of endless possibilities. And despite seeing it, seeing the master fall, die physically in the hands of Harry Potter, he couldn’t help but feel that he was still alive somewhere, watching his servants, watching them, watching him.

He breathed deeply.

“ Tomorrow. One in the morning. Meet us, here. “

Theodore Nott nodded and stood up. “ I best get going then, nice night to you. “ Nott took care in arranging his coat once more on his shoulders and eyed him for the last time.

He nodded and stood up and watched as Nott stepped onto the open fire and disappeared.

And Blaise Zabini gulped the last of his elfin ale in silence.

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Draco woke up with the sun shining on his face. He blinked once, and sat straight up. He had nearly forgotten that he wasn’t in his room, in his new house. He was back in his old room. The room he had slept in for twenty something years. He was back at the Malfoy manor, in Wiltshire.

His eyes narrowed at the sudden glare once he had faced the window. He sighed and remembered something. His father didn’t like the idea of sunshine through their large windows. He kept most of it away by thick, velvet curtains.

But now, now was different. Even the sun was allowed now. His mother smiled now. She laughed freely now.

There was a creak in the door and in came his mother. She was wearing a sundress, a burnt pink knee length dress, and Draco almost laughed at the thought of seeing his mother in a happy color. But she looked good in it, he had to admit. It gave her face a blooming look, gone was the pinched, perpetually snobbish look. Narcissa Malfoy looked more human now, looked more like a mother, his mother.

“ I was wondering when you’d get up, “ she said sitting at the edge of his bed. “ Breakfast is ready. There’s French toast and Italian coffee, and of course the usual English muffins. “

“ Thanks, mother. “

“ Eat, alright? I’ll be waiting in the east wing, “ she said. And she bent to kiss her son’s forehead. Something she never did when her husband had still been alive. He had something against showing affection for children, afraid it would spoil them, turn them into oversensitive brats or sissies. Narcissa then stood up and walked out, closing the door softly.

Draco heaved himself off of his bed and felt the plush carpet under his feet. His room’s interiors hadn’t changed much. There were still the usual tapestries of his deceased ancestors, a family portrait, his mother’s portrait in all her finery, a portrait of their manor (done in the 1600s), and a statue of some half naked Greek goddess. There was also a fine wooden bookcase, filled with hardbound books, some antique and handwritten. It had been his favorite books since childhood. Most of which were of course about his endless fascination of the Dark Arts.

He had taken a bath and chose to wear black pants and a plain gray shirt, one of his first real muggle clothing, bought from a store, not custom made.

He walked down the grand staircase, its banisters of gold gleaming in the bright sunshine. A great chandelier made of Russian crystals hung above, unused for quite some time. His mother had not hosted a party in months, he remembered. He walked to a hallway were most of the portraits were just beginning to wake up, yawning several times, and greeting him a good morning.

“ Young Malfoy, “ one greeted. It was a blonde woman in her late forties, fanning herself with a lace handkerchief. She had been a relative of theirs by marrying into the Black family, some distant cousin-in-law of his mother’s, but still pureblooded nonetheless.

He nodded. “ Good morning, Lady Rosier. “

He arrived at the east wing, a tea room his mother usually sat in during the late afternoons. She smiled as he entered.

“ I thought you wouldn’t come, “ she said.

He smiled. “ Really, mother. “ He took a seat to her left as a fine looking ivory cup filled itself with coffee. He took a sip and smiled. “ Very nice. “

She held up a newspaper. “ Read the newspaper dear? It says here that the Aurors have been caught in another fight again, this time in Cardiff- “

Draco looked up. “ Huh? Oh, I… “ And he thought about Hermione. Did she join them for this cause? He knew she could be very stubborn when it came to battles.

“ How is he by the way? Arthur Weasley’s son? “ she asked, taking a sip of her coffee.

Draco had nearly forgotten they were also related distantly to the Weasleys. His mother hadn’t really acknowledged it until now, and he himself hadn’t. The Weasleys had been labeled as blood traitors by the few remaining purebloods a few years back for being friendly to the muggles and the muggleborn magic folk.

“ Doing good, I suppose. He’s an intractable redhead. “ Draco spread some marmalade generously over his French toast.

“ Redhead…” His mother laughed. “ Do you notice darling? No one’s a redhead in our immediate family. “

Draco smiled, imagining himself as a redhead. He’d look ridiculous, he supposed. Red just wasn’t his color anyway.

“ Darling, “ his mother began.

Draco sensed a change in her voice and his eyes slid over to her hands warily. If he had not been mistaken, they were trembling slightly. “ Mother? “

“ Do you think…your father’s…? Perhaps it’s only… but- “

“ He’s dead, mother, “ he finally said. “ You know it- those little signs are bull, so what if someone got to steal father’s effects from the Aurors? It doesn’t mean he’s alive. “

“ That’s what frightens me dear, “ she said in a low voice. “ Your father was… how shall I put this… when your father died, I felt free for the first time in years but now that all of this, even the mere mention of a cane with his initials and our family crest, it bothers me. “

Draco leaned forward and put a hand over his mother’s well manicured hand. “ Mother, please- don’t worry, you know I’m here. “

‘’ You always were. Even when you were sick dear, you fought for me, “ she said stroking her son’s cheek lovingly.

Draco felt his cheeks burn, still a little uncomfortable with Narcissa’s emotional displays. He cleared his throat and smiled. “ Could you pass the orange juice, please? “

Narcissa handed it to him and smiled.

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Author notes: dun dun dun dun!!! Theodore Nott and Blaise?!
things are going to move faster now, so i hope you've had a good grasp of the story, this is going to be a rather long story too, so...who'll stick with me! hahaha, i'm making this sound like a battle now. thanks for reading this chapter. Looking forward for your comments.

Chapter 15: Mister Hotshot?
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She woke up groggily. The bright sun was shining through a half open curtain. She groaned and buried her head under a pillow. It was too early to be up, wasn’t it? It had been a week since Ron had been hospitalized, a week since she had said farewell to Draco.

She groaned again and swung herself on the edge of her bed and buried her face in both hands. She stood up with slight effort. It was not her day. She had probably slept only an hour, being up all night, being up all week. She couldn’t sleep again. She felt restless all the time, like something was missing from her everyday duties.

She knew what it was about. But she wanted to deny it. Everything was about denial nowadays. Even the ministry refused to entertain that there was a possible resurrection of Voldemort’s faction. They dismissed it as some silly pastime by wizards and witches who had nothing better to do but to create chaos in a now peaceful time.

Hermione poured herself coffee in her kitchen later on, after her bath, as she read the morning papers. It was a standard for her, to have one muggle paper and The Daily Prophet. Nothing else was new in the muggle world. A man had just been arrested for shoplifting in a female lingerie store. The Daily prophet however, proved to be quite entertaining.

Ron had phoned her to see how she was and every single day after that recent battle. She had been involved in that skirmish in Cardiff; there were five other Aurors with her, even the aging Mad Eye Moody. They had certainly put up a good fight, but the ‘deatheaters’ had managed to elude captivity. She had gotten a few bruises and a bloody lip, but apart from that, she had survived without any major injuries. They were luckier than Ron’s group, this time.

The smell of coffee floated inside her apartment as she busied herself making toast and waffles. She wouldn’t eat them all, probably have a few bites or so and she would be off to work, her muggle job, this time. She bit into her waffle as she continued to read the Daily Prophet. Some of the members of the ministry were facing an inquiry at work, with accusations of double-spying and the like.

She sighed and finished her waffle and she put the Daily Prophet down. It was time to dress up like a muggle fashion magazine columnist. She stood in front of her closet, in her lingerie as her eyes picked out what to wear. There was a ring at the door. Her doorbell chimed twice and she hurriedly placed on her bathrobe, hoping it was a delivery from American Vogue. A British correspondent was needed, or so her editors said.

There was a man with something behind him, she saw it through the peephole. It was a young delivery boy. Sensing no danger, she opened the door.

The young man stammered a good morning. “ I- I’m here to deliver something for a miss Granger? “ he asked holding out something for her to sign.

“ What is it? “ she asked.

The boy seemed to blush as he looked at her in a knee length red bathrobe. “ It’s… “ he stooped and turned around and held up a basket of roses. “ Flowers, 3 dozens“

Her eyes widened as she signed without regards to the line where she was supposed to sign.

“ Thank- thank you. “

Hermione closed the door and quickly brought it to her kitchen counter. She stared at it for awhile; every large, red blossom seemed perfect under the sunlight. There was a silver colored card attached to the corner of the rustic-looking basket. She reached out for it.

“ Hermione, if you can count all the petals… that’s how many times I’ve thought about you in a day. It’s been a week….- signed, D.M. “

Hermione felt a smile creep up her face. He hadn’t communicated with her at all, and now this? She felt joy surge inside her. Perhaps- there was some truth to his- She shook her head and allowed the moment to be hers alone, no sad thoughts, no doubts, just the fact that she had received 3 dozen roses…would she be silly enough to count them all? Each rose had a different number of petals…she laughed to herself. But…still…Draco…

And as silly as it looked, Hermione kissed the card.

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Draco woke up past 8 in the morning. He had decided to sleep in for awhile, and not be at the office at seven in the morning. He had gone home past twelve for overtime in his own company. He looked at his clock and rubbed his eyes.

A few minutes later, he had taken a bath and was heading for his kitchen. The orange colored tiles gleamed under the sunlight that was entering through a window near his sink.

He sighed and took out his coffee roaster and placed some bread in a toaster. He wondered if Hermione had gotten the flowers. He hadn’t seen her or heard from her in a week. She sure was good with her words at not seeing him anymore, but so was he. But then his mother just had to….

He had done it on impulse, when he had taken a coffee break earlier yesterday. He had passed by a flower shop with one of his assistants when a bunch of roses caught his eye. He went in and took a closer look at them and ordered 3 dozen, and personally selected the basket.

His assistant laughed at his actions, but assured him it was most romantic, a treat for feminine happiness. Draco laughed along, but wondering at the back of his mind how she was. It was the first time he had done that, sent roses with such a note, but at that moment, he didn’t care. It was true anyway, and he wondered if 3 dozen roses were still not enough. His assistant assured him it was more than enough. Even the shopkeeper marveled at his devotion.

“ She must be someone very special now, isn’t she? “ the seventy-something year old florist asked.

Draco merely smiled and paid for it.

He had only to keep it to himself.

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Hermione drummed her fingers on her desk. She was distracted somehow. She had been smiling an hour ago, but her mood suddenly shifted as soon as she got to the office. There was a knock on the door.

“ America’s wondering if you’d gotten that proposal? They’ll send it to you by email if you still don’t have it in an hour or so, “ her secretary said.

She nodded and smiled faintly. America. To mention their American magazine counterpart by the name America….she shook her head. She was being a silly British patriot now. As for Wizardry, they (the Aurors) were in good terms with the American Aurors Authority, or AAA for short. She had hoped, after Harry’s death, to be assigned to America, but Ron and the many others persuaded her to stay, or gave her reasons to.

She thought about the roses once more. And she wondered how Draco was. What he was doing. If he was seeing some other- she shook her head. Perhaps- she was letting her emotions run wild. She felt so restless; she wanted to get out- go wild- go- She heard hoots and whistles and shouts of laughter come form outside her office.

“ Miss Granger, “ a voice said.

She looked up. Her secretary.

“ Good news- our circulation peaked 5 million this month, thought you’d like to know! “

She laughed. “ That’s great news! Do they all know? “

“ You’re in fact, three minutes late.”

Hermione gave another laugh.

“ Get out of your office once in awhile Miss Granger. It’ll get too stuffy in here, “ her secretary laughed. “ Our editors will be throwing a party tomorrow night. “

“ Where? “ she asked.

“ The Savoy, “ her secretary winked. “ Guess what the theme is? “

Hermione wrinkled her brow. “ God, another party theme-? I hope it isn’t one of those 1800s themes again. “

Her secretary shook her head joyfully. “ It’s a formal affair, and since it’s autumn, they announced something about oranges and reds… god knows what. “ She laughed. “ Well, I have to start planning on what to wear! Excuse me miss. “

Hermione’s head sank down to her desk. Just what she needed, another great distraction. Another night of party, dresses, perfumed women, heels and jewelry, men and their expensive watches, flashy cars, chandeliers… she could’ve gone on and on.

But what about Draco?

She was suddenly missing him terribly. Something she hadn’t felt in the longest time. Missing someone.

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It was seven in the evening, the following day. The Savoy’s grand lobby was bustling with people, and Hermione knew that most of them were headed for the Grand Ballroom. Up ahead, she saw a large prompter that said: “ British Vogue: Autumn Revelry”

“ Wow…” Hermione thought. “ They sure had gotten everything in order quite fast. “

“ Dah-ling! “ a nasal voice resounded amidst the noise of people. Hermione spun around. “ What an incredible dress! “

Hermione smiled and thanked her editor-in-chief. There were others who praised her for her choice of wear, and somehow, it surprised her. It was nothing more than a simple silk halter in a burnt orange color to her.

Some jazz band was playing center stage, and Hermione saw the details given to the party. Hues of red and orange were everywhere. Laughter filled the air, along with the tinkling of champagne glasses and hissing bottles of freshly opened bottles of champagne. She took one from a passing waiter and finished it in a single gulp.

“Don’t get too drunk miss, “ her secretary said as she passed by.

Hermione smiled. “ I won’t. “ But she wanted to, all of a sudden. She suddenly felt alienated, even if half of the crowd were workers at British Vogue. There were actors and actresses, models and artists, and cameras kept flashing around her. It was blinding.

And she wanted to get out, get away from everything. And she stepped away from people posing for pictures, mumbled her excuses to her co-workers.

She half ran, mindful that she was still wearing heels and a dress. Wasn’t there a bathroom to the left? It was an empty wall. So she spun around and tried to find a graceful way out, and not through the main door of the ballroom.

“ Hermione, dah-ling! “ her editor called out, suddenly grabbing her arm with surprising strength. “ I want you to meet someone- “

“ Madam Ellen, I really have to- “

“ Oh pish-posh! This is a party, enjoy the night! “ she told her, pouting her wine red lips. “ I want you to meet someone, he seems like a very good match for you.“

“ I- I’m not so keen about that.“

“ Hermione, dah-ling, don’t hurt me, “ she crooned.

Hermione sighed, feeling the beginnings of a headache. She felt herself being led by Ellen towards an ice sculpture of a nude woman. A man was standing with his back turned to them, gazing at the ice sculpture, wearing some designer tuxedo, and holding a glass of wine.

“ Oh Mr. Hotshot, “ Ellen said in a sing-song voice.

Hermione cringed looking away. Mr. Hotshot? What kind of a name was that! Ellen had played a ridiculous matchmaker many times, and she found many of the men that Ellen paired up with her as dull.

Mr. Hotshot spun around calmly.

And that was when Hermione’s stomach churned.

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Draco’s eyes showed no reaction as he saw her standing in front of him. It was a dream. He thought it was…Her standing in front of him in some fairy-like shimmery orange dress with a loose bun on her forehead that sent a few tendrils cascading around her face, her eyes shone under the crystalline lights...he could faintly smell her skin despite standing a few inches from her….it was peaches and rain…it was…a dream.

And suddenly he felt a cold touch. It was Ellen’s bony and many-ringed hand, holding his hand.

“ Dah-ling, this is Draco Malfoy, Chairman of Automobile International- Mr. Malfoy, this is Hermione Granger, the jewel of our columns. “ And Ellen held Hermione’s hand and placed it over Draco’s hanging one, held by Ellen’s other hand.

“ Don’t be naughty now, “ Ellen said winking. Something else caught her attention and she hurried away to have her photograph taken with some socialite.

Hermione and Draco were silent as Draco’s hand remained over Hermione’s. And suddenly she recoiled from his touch, like she had just held a kettle of boiling water.

“ I- “

“ Funny how fate sees us, “ Draco said mildly.

Hermione smiled a little. “ Fate? “

“ Would you prefer magic then? It’s closer to us than fate, I suppose, “ he said.

Hermione laughed. “ What brought you here? “

“ You, “ he quickly replied. And then he smiled. “ They invited me, British Vogue, I mean- Ellen’s husband just bought a car from my gallery a few months ago, and she’s been referring me as Mr. Hotshot, which is getting truthfully aggravating. “

“ Hotshot doesn’t suit you at all.

“ Your dress does, “ he interrupted.

“ What? “

“ Your dress suits you, “ he said.

She felt herself redden, and she wanted to kick herself for acting so juvenile. “ This is old, “ she lamely said holding a bit of the fabric.

He laughed. “ Old or not, you unquestionably look spectacular. “

She blushed again. “ Stop it. “

“ Hermione Granger, conscious of what I say? “ Draco interjected.

“ More than you know, “ she snapped with a smile.

He lowered his voice. “ I missed you. “

Hermione felt surprised. To hear him say that. She had wanted him to say that to her. She actually imagined it. And now…he was here. But somehow, she didn’t know how to react to it. Should she kiss him? Hug him? Beam like she had just been promoted?

She gave a small smile instead, and controlled herself.

“ Would you like to get out of here? “ he asked. “ The crowd’s getting a bit distracting- “ and he gave a wink that she found irresistible.

She nodded and he quickly took her hand.

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A/N: i'm happy that many of you find my story appealing. This story will be about 40 something chapters long, it's almost like a novel, you see- and i hope you're not turned off by something that long. I'm sick and not just the usual sick. I have a chronic illness which leaves me with a lot of time since i got pulled out from school by my parents and doctors...but that's another story. do review? thanks!

Duncan McGonnagall: sorry if it seems like torture to you. i'm rather sadistic when it comes to storytelling. ^_^


Chapter 16: I'm a great dancer
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They were outside the Savoy’s garden café. It was quiet, almost intimate, except for an aging couple exchanging toasts at the bar. The swimming pool sparkled with its fountains and lights, as a soft jazz piece played in the background. They chose a place near the pool, under a red Japanese lantern, and Draco offered her a seat, and then he sat down opposite to her.

“ Draco- “

“ Hermione- “

“ You go first, “ she quickly said.

“ No, ladies first… excuse the chauvinism, “ he replied.

“ Nothing. It’s just that I… it was… to put it in simple terms…I missed you, “ she finally said. “ And now you’re here and… “

“ You still miss me? “ he teased.

She laughed. “ Could be. “

“ Hermione, I missed you. More than you know, “ he suddenly interrupted. “ Those flowers, I couldn’t think of anything else… it was a spur of the moment idea, and I knew I had to heed your word… well Ron Weasley’s actually, but my mother- it was probably because of her constant whining about how I should- “

“ The flowers were lovely, “ she said. “ Thank you very much. “

“ You think? “ he shook his head and laughed. “ You know, I’d always thought I’d feel comfortable with any woman. But you’re… you make me feel conscious of myself. “

She smiled. “ I’m a fashion journalist, you should be. “

He laughed and raised his hand. A waiter instantly appeared at his side. “ Scotch please, and for the lady a-? “ he looked at her.

“ Tequila rose, please,“ she said. Tequila rose would do well; although she gave it some thought that it did not match her orange dress at all…The waiter nodded and left.

“ I love the Savoy, “ Draco said.

“ Why? Because of the ambience? “

“ Because I met you here again, “ he replied. “ Nah, just kidding. Well- the Savoy’s nice and all- plus the service and food are excellent. “

She smiled. “ How are you? Your… health? “

“ I’m fine.- I just peaked my last year’s goal of sales, my mother’s planning to expand the shop to France, I just had a heart attack two days ago- “

“ A what! “ Hermione leaned for him.

“ Just kidding. I’m fine. You know I’m fine. “

She pouted. “ Funny. Very funny. And how should I know you’d be fine? I haven’t seen you in a week. “

“ Well, I’m alive and well in front of you now, aren’t I? “

She nodded. “ True. But you never know, you might be hiding stuff from me? “

“ Like what? “ his eyebrow cocked up. “ Like me seeing someone else? Taking gorgeous, magazine-worthy women to the swankiest places? “

Her eyes narrowed. “ Right. “

“ I was kidding, I was at my mother’s almost the whole week, “ he said mildly, placing his hand over hers. “ So, How are you? “

“ Fine. Do I look stressed to you? “

He shook his head. She did not look stressed. Women. They were always thinking about their figures and how they looked…but Hermione- didn’t she realize she was making him all lightheaded just by the sight of her? Just by the sound of her voice?

“ Well, since I don’t, I actually am. I won’t delve into the wizarding world, I’ve got enough on my hands already in this job and now, and I’m even wearing a dress for this. “

He laughed. Then they both grew quiet. The waiter came up with their drinks and set them neatly on the table. “ Anything else, sir? “ the waiter asked Draco. Draco shook his head and the waiter left again He looked up at the sky and the tress surrounding them. Stars hung up like a canopy over them and a cold breeze flipped through his hair once in awhile.

“ I was wondering when I’d see you, “ she said after a few moments.

He looked at the pool. “ Hermione- “

“ Hmm? “ She stared to where he was looking at. The fountain was playfully changing colors to the directions where it spurted jets of water.

“ I need to see you again, after this, “ he said.

Hermione looked at him for quite some time. “ You do realize what you’re saying? “

“I know I’m placing you in danger, but I swear I’ll be discreet, really. “

“ No, the one that’ s in danger is you, and not me. Do you think they’ll leave you alone just because you’re no longer an active figure in the wizarding world? We don’t know who they are Draco- and we’re trying to find out. I desperately want to know who’s behind all this, we have our suspects, but suspects are just suspects… “

“ I can take care of myself fine, “ he replied. “ I just need to see you once in awhile. Damn it, Hermione, even just a week, I felt so restless, like something was bothering me every fecking day. “

She looked at him, and his hand, that still rested on hers. “ You’re not the only one who feels that way, you know. “

“ You think? “

“ I feel, “ she replied with a laugh. “ Sorry… that was so cheesy. “

“ S’okay. I hope your drink’s not getting to you… I mean, it might be more difficult to get what you’re wearing off this time if you’re drunk. “ He laughed.

“ Shut up. “

“ Kiss me first. “

She leaned in to kiss his cheek mildly, catching the mild scent of his aftershave. He wore no perfumes at all; just plain aftershave and she loved catching the whiff of it.

“ I’m shutting up now, “ Draco said with a smile. “ There’s nothing left to say, now that you’ve just kissed me. “

“ Talk, Malfoy. “ She raised a brow and tried not to smile.

“ ‘Only until you kiss me again. “

She laughed once more and gaily kissed him.

“ Would you like to dance? “

“ What? “ her brows shot up a little.

“ I’m a great dancer, “ he said with a wink as he extended his hand for hers. The chorus of the song had just started. And she soon found herself in Draco’s arms.

“ You’re a great dancer, eh? “ she repeated with another laugh. He spun her around once and they began a slow waltz as Draco signaled the waiter with a nod. The lights began to change and they dimmed progressively, until Hermione’s eyes widened in surprise.

The pool was floating with gleaming candles. She gasped a little and looked up to him, seeing a smile on his face as he looked at her. “ You’re pleased with yourself, “ she said.

“ I should be, “ he told her as they moved from one corner of the area, to the next. “ Merlin knows what I’ll think of next, just to see you smile and laugh all the time. “

It was only hours later that they realized it was past four in the morning.

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Draco smiled to himself as he drove up his driveway. It was five in the morning, and he could feel the cold morning air envelop him as he got out of his car. Just as he took his house key out, he paused. Something wasn’t right.

Breathing in deeply, he swung open the door, and was on his guard. The living room wasn’t empty. Someone was standing in the center of the room, with a smile on his face. A face he hadn’t seen or thought of in years.

“ Ey mate, “ the unwanted visitor greeted.

Draco narrowed his eyes and said nothing. He clutched his wand inside his coat.

“ What’s this? No warm hello? And just when I thought you would be happy to see me again after five years… is it? “

Draco took a step forward. There was no one else. This was a clandestine visit. “ What are you doing here? “

“ Just though I’d drop by, say hi to my ‘bestest’ buddy, well, sort of… “ He gave a smile and stepped forward. His dark eyes burned under the dim lights. He twirled his wand in one hand.

“ Hello, “ Draco said frostily.

The visitor laughed. “ Damn you, Draco. Still cool as ever, aren’t you chap? Even if you did betray the Dark Master. “

“ So this is what it’s all about? “ Draco’s jaw clenched. “ What are you? The revenge committee or something? Dream on. “

“ Join us, “ he began.

Draco gave a wry laugh. “ Join you? And do what? Chant spells to bring back the dead? Bring Voldemort back? “

“ Such impertinence for our Master now, eh? “ he said glaring at Draco.

“ What the hell is this? You crash into my house and tell me to work for you? Work for a dead man? “

“ He’ll live again, Draco. “

There was something in his words that sent the hair down Draco’s nape stand up.

“ Right. Get out of here. “

He smiled bitterly. “ I remember you had such spirit in his service. I suppose that’s just like a good memory now, like your aunt Bellatrix’s… well of course, you might need more than a little persuasion? “ He smiled another sly smile. “ Have you forgotten Draco? Or you probably haven’t heard the news? We can intercept you anytime, anyone actually, who travels through apparition now… “

“ Get out, “ Draco’s voice became lower, dangerously lower.

He shrugged and gave a short laugh. “ As you wish, but don’t think I won’t keep coming to you to convince you. I’m sure my persuasion will work out fine, next time. “

“ Try me. “

“ I will. See you, Draco Malfoy. “ And with one pop, the man was gone.

Draco’s heart pounded loudly in the silence of the room. Had he just seen Blaise in his living room? How did he know… And… Draco sank to the nearest couch, feeling his legs go jelly on him. He placed a hand over his forehead, trying to regain himself from the sudden event.

Try me....

I will....

Somehow, that defense mechanism wasn’t right. The consequences would be what he would not expect, something he didn’t not bear to think. And he thought of his mother- Blaise’s mother and his were in civil terms…but what about-?

He groaned.

Hermione!

Did they know about her? Oh god! Please not! And his heart raced at the thought of her face, and he suddenly felt the need to take Blaise more seriously now. Draco took another deep breath and tried to place his thoughts in order. How would he make a move when now he knew that someone, that people from his past were keen on watching him? Keen on him joining for their cause again?

And Hermione was an Auror.

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Cool air was billowing through the thick velvet red curtains, and a woman slept soundly in the night.


~

She was dreaming of a little boy, running in the gardens, hair flying in the wind, running past colors of blurred red, yellow, pink, green, blue- There was a woman laughing gaily, her long hair billowing in the spring wind- A man came into view, and her eyes widened, in trepidation and in deference. He walked up to them, and the little boy came to a halt. His smile was gone, but his cheeks remained red and there was a line of sweat on his little forehead. The man sneered at the little boy, and she drew the little boy close to her arms……

~


It was past three in the morning. A man apparated inside the room and stared at the woman who had remained asleep; despite his intrusion…

He stared at her for awhile, wondering if he should follow orders or not. He would’ve loved to kill her, hex her in the most excruciating ways… but, orders were orders. And he had some respect for her anyway. She was after all, well known in the wizarding community.

He raised his wand….


~

The little boy began to sniffle, and the man sneered further, walking closer to them, as they sat on the grass. He smiled at her, and she wondered if that was a good sign, or if it wasn’t. The man beckoned the boy to come closer to him, and leave her arms, and she let go, because she knew she was powerless against him-

~


The woman’s eyes snapped open. She gasped. “ You! What are you doing-! " Her words were cut off by the sound of his voice, just as she had grabbed her wand.

“ Stupefy! “

A roar of light, a soft thump on the bed sheets, a tiny pop…and the room became deathly soundless once more, like no one ever came, like nothing had ever happened.

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author notes: don't own the savoy, and even if i did, it wouldn't make any difference, harry potter still isn't mine. (haha), also i thought of hermione's dress as orange...cause i own one the same as i had described it. ^_^ please don't forget to review? also, next chapter proves to be very...exciting!!! ^_^

Chapter 17: Hermione's missing
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Draco walked calmly into his office. It had been a bad morning. He slept badly, hell, he hardly slept at all. He had all the physical makings of a person who lacked sleep. Dry looking hair, tired looking eyes, but still, he tried to remain upbeat.

“ Good morning, Sir, “ his thirty year old; plump secretary greeted. “ Some coffee, sir? “

Draco frowned a little, and tried to smile. “ I- I don’t know- perhaps- a croissant would do. And make my coffee black today, if you could, Alice. “

“ Of course, “ she said as she stepped out.

“ What’s bugging the boss today? “ a young receptionist asked as Alice stepped out.

“ No sleep, I guess. Perhaps he had a little love spat with his pretty beau, “ she giggled. “ But they do look like a charming couple, really- “

“ I’ve seen her twice only, once was when I saw them shopping downtown, cute, actually. I’ve never seen him look so- carefree. I mean he does have a lot of girls, but she’s- ummm, how do I put this? “

“ Different? “

“ Yes, different would do, Mrs. Alice. “

“ Well it has to be. Mr. Malfoy only asks for black coffee in his nastiest days. If you ask me, that Hermione girl has hit him hard- “ She smiled and imagined them together, imagining him whispering sweet nothings in Hermione's ear.

The young receptionist giggled. “ Do you smell marriage in the air? “

“ No, “ a male voice came. “ But I do hope I smell my coffee. “ Draco stood in the doorway to his office, with an amused smile on his face.

“ Sir Malfoy, sir! “ she stood up, beet red. “ I was- talking about- “She looked flustered all of a sudden, smoothing some papers on her desk, piling up the folders as quick as she could.

“ Marriage? “ he said. Then he smiled. “ I was wondering if you could tone down on your gossip in the office? Working hours are working hours, after all. “

She nodded and resumed filing some folders on her desk.

Alice smiled and carried a silver tray with a buttered croissant. “ Where would you like this, Sir? “ she asked as she went inside his well-designed office.

“ Place that near the balcony, please? “ he said yawning.

There was the distinct sound of silver and china tinkering, the clatter of a moving chair, and Draco looked at the balcony, facing the fashionable district of London. He cleared his throat. “ Alice, “ he began, suddenly avoiding her gaze.

“ Yes, sir? “

“ How many years have you been married? “

“ Oh- ten years, five months and thirteen days, sir. I’ve got three kids too, “ she said with a little twinkle in her eye. " Two girls and one boy, ages seven, five and four years old respectively.

“ You women remember everything, don’t you? “ Draco said with a surprised and amused look in his eyes.

Alice chuckled. “ Of course, when it’s love, it’s love. “

“ You don’t have problems in your matrimonial life? “

“ I don’t think that can be avoided, Sir. Marriage has got a long way to go. Especially if you want it to last. My husband and I pull through, of course. He was after all, my college love, “ she replied, smiling wistfully." The bastard practically swept me off my feet with silly poems and flowers any woman would have killed to have, " she laughed.

“ Is it difficult? When you have children? “ He was smiling now.

“ I never saw it as that way, sir. I put it in as a challenge. You want kids, you got to raise them, and love them- give them the best, “ she replied. “ Would you like to know anything else, sir?”

He shook his head. “ Nothing, you may- you may go. “

Alice nodded and started for the door.

“ Um- Alice? “

“ Yes, sir? “

“ Do you think, I’d make a good- um- husband or something like that? “ He felt himself flush in the face, much to his annonyance and much to Mrs. Alice's secret enjoyment.

“ The ‘something like that’ would mean as a ‘father’? I’m sure you’d make very good at both, “ Alice replied with a smile. “ It’s not everyday a girl gets to have a young man by the name of Draco Malfoy- “

“ I’m- I’ve got no plans for that, I’m too young, “ he protested feebly, suddenly feeling vulnerable.

“ Right, Sir. Now if you’ll excuse me? “

Draco smiled a little as Alice left his office.

Alice passed by the trainee receptionist. She leaned in on the trainee’s counter. “ He’s going to get married soon, “ she said excitedly in a low voice.

“ Like how soon, ma’am? “

“ Six months- give or take, “ she replied tapping her chin with one finger.

“ I’d bet on a year- “ the receptionist said.

“ Is that a real bet, dear? “ Alice said as she placed the tray down a table.

“ Of course Mrs. Alice. A hundred pounds says he’s getting married after a year. He doesn’t seem like the committed type-“ her voice trailed off, she was looking thoughful.

“ Hundred pounds says he’ll get married in less than six, “ Alice said with a another twinkle in her eye. She was grinning now.

“ It’s a deal. “

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Ron was back in the job after a few days of rest. He had been joyous of being away from his mother’s grasp. Not that he was really complaining- well- aside from the good food, his mother clung to him like a house elf, constantly reprimanding him for lifting the lightest objects, like a chair or a stack of books.

“ Welcome back, Ron, “ Lee Jordan greeted him with a pat on the back. “ You’re a bit early to be back, aren’t you? “

“ Thanks, mate, “ he replied. “ Did I miss anything? “

Lee laughed. “ Hell yeah! “

“ Where’s Hermione? “

Lee shrugged. “ I don’t know… perhaps at home? She didn’t send an owl today; maybe she’s not feeling very well- time of the month? “ And Lee grinned.

Ron frowned. Hermione should’ve called in sick. And he felt a sudden alarm rise in him. He grabbed his coat. “ I’m going for awhile. “

“ But you just got here- “

“ Be back real soon, “ Ron said as he rushed out. He ran to the nearest phone both and dialed her landline number. It rang for 12 consecutive times- no answering machine either. He shook his head and tried to call her cellular phone number. Still the same outcome.

“ Hermione, “ Ron muttered as he got out. “ Where the hell are you… “ And he went to a secluded alley, and seeing no one was there, he apparated despite knowing the risks.

He arrived inside her living room, and he immediately began to call out her name as he walked for the kitchen. “ Hermione, “ he said. “ Hermione! “

No reply.

He walked into her bedroom, and saw the bed made up, like no one had ever slept there at all. His heart raced again and he felt panic rising inside him as he entered her bathroom, to see it empty and spotless.

“ Hermione! “ he yelled at the top of his lungs.

He searched for signs of intrusion, and found none.

“ Think, think Ron…where could she have gone? Where? She’s definitely not at her muggle job- It’s her day off at her muggle job- she’s supposed to be at the Ministry of Aurors- seven in the morning- but she wasn’t there, despite you arriving at eight- “ he muttered to himself.

Then he saw something at the corner of his eye...a wand… her wand- was on the floor, beside her bed…

Ron gave an inaudible gasp. Did Malfoy- ? Perhaps he knew! And in a second, Ron was gone.

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Draco’s mug of coffee stopped midway from his mouth when he saw Ron appear in front of him. He put his mug down and smirked.

“ There’s this contraption called a door, and a human action accompanying it, called knocking. “ Draco smirked at him again.

“Shut up, Malfoy.”

“ To what do I owe the pleasure, Weasley? “

Ron walked up to him. “ Hermione’s missing. “

Draco stood up. “ What? “

“ You bloody heard me right. “

Draco frowned. “ She’s probably- “

“ I checked her flat, she wasn’t there, her wand was on the floor, Hermione would never dash out without her wand, not now, not that there’s a red alert at the Ministry-I searched for signs of intrusion, there was none- “

Draco put his coffee mug down. “ You’re bloody overreacting- “

Ron took out Hermione’s wand. “ No, I’m not. Were you with her? “

He laughed. “ Weasley, she told me to stay away from her because you asked her to stay away from me, right? “

Ron felt his face go red. “ You- that’s besides the point. Did you see each other again? “

“ So what if I did? They held a party, Weasley. A muggle party at the Savoy. Their editor-in-chief asked me to go, so I did. And lo and behold… Hermione in an appealing dress, right before my eyes. “

Ron frowned and closed his eyes for two seconds. “ I get the picture. What time did you bring her home? “

“ Four in the morning, tops, “ Draco replied quickly.

“ Suppose she’s at- her mum’s…” Ron muttered. “ But- she couldn’t be- unless she apparated- but her wand- she knows it’s no longer safe- “

Draco frowned. “She should be at her muggle job then- “

“ No! “ Ron said tetchily. “ It’s her schedule today at the Ministry- she’d never- and I suppose she’s not sick- unless she went to a hospital- “

Draco opened a drawer in his desk. He had taken out his wand. “ Where do you suggest we go? The Ministry? “

Ron shook his head. “ There’ll be an uproar- trust me. “

“ Then I suggest we go back to her flat first. “

Ron nodded. “ Have you got Floo powder? “

“ What? “ Draco looked at him in bewilderment.

“ We’re using your fireplace- “

“ I can apparate and defend myself just fine- “

“ I’m not quite sure about that. To be safe- “

“ You’re not my doctor! “

“ Thank god! “ Ron snapped as he took out a tiny leather pouch. “ I’m almost out of stock- “ he sighed and offered the opened pouch to Draco who was frowning rather spectacularly. “ After you! “

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Draco coughed as he dusted off some soot off of his polo shirt. He shook his head and fine gray particles fell on the floor. Draco’s eyes fell on the veranda’s sliding door. “ Look, “ he said, pointing to the sliding door. He walked up to it. “ The bloody lock’s broken- “

“ What? “

“ You missed this ‘sign of intrusion’; Weasley. “

Ron felt his face burn, and he scowled to try to hide it. “ Right. I can’t believe I overlooked that. “

“ Believe it. “

Just then they heard the front door to her apartment click. Draco and Ron stood straight, wary, and with their wands aimed high in the air, straight, to any intruder that might come through the door with a weapon. The door opened…

Draco’s eyes widened, and so did Ron’s. A second later a clatter was heard on the floor.

“ You arse! “ Ron yelled running for Hermione.

Hermione stood, holding a little brown paper bag and felt Ron’s masculine arms around her petite frame.

“ Don’t you ever scare me again! “ Ron told her.

“ What’s going on? Draco? What are you guys doing here? Together? “

Draco smiled dryly. “ Weasley’s imaginations flew the coop this time. He thought you were in serious danger, seeing how you missed your Ministry work schedule- blah, blah, blah. “

Hermione laughed. “ Ron! “ And she hugged him and explained the whole thing. “ I went to buy some Midol. Guaranteed, I’ve got my time of the month, my stomach’s, bloody- excuse the pun, bloody cramped up on me, I did send a message though- “

Ron slapped a palm on his forehead. “ I’m bloody- I mean, I’m sorry, Hermione. “

She smiled. “ You shouldn’t be… wait a minute- aren’t you supposed to be resting? Why the hell are you here! You had a sick leave of two weeks! “ Her facial expression had changed. She looked irritated now.

“ I was bored to death on my mind. Mum was being- “

“ Get out of my flat! “ she said.

“ Hey, I was just, “ Ron explained.

“ Go home! Get your stubborn arse home! “ she said angrily. Hermione stomped her foot on the carpeted floor as Ron backed away from her.

“ Better do as she says, “ Draco warned.

Her attention snapped to Draco. “ And you! What the heck are you doing here too? Aren’t you supposed to be working? “

Draco backed away a little. “ Hey, I just accompanied your best friend here. “

Hermione was seething. “ Get out! I don’t need to be taken care of! Go back to your house and you- go back to your office! “ She pointed at each of them.

Ron stepped into Hermione’s fireplace. “ Damn it, Hermione. You should really do something about that female problem. “ Ron stopped as a jet of water flew from Hermione’s wand. “ Oy! What the-! “

Draco took a handful of Floo powder and prodded Ron to go. In a second and with a burst of smoke and green light, Ron was gone. Draco stood for a second, watching Hermione’s face.

“ What are you looking at? “ she asked, annoyed at his stare.

“ You just look beautiful when you’re angry, “ he began.

Hermione’s scowl disappeared as Draco said it. Then she raised an eyebrow. “ You’re testing what’s left of my patience. “ She raised her wand.

Draco frowned. “ Bloody menstrual cramps! “ he snapped as he vanished into a cloud of smoke.

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This was some sort of dungeon, she knew it. There were rooms like this, dungeons like this in her own house. She shuddered and tried to compose herself, suppressing the urge to sob, to shake, to call out for someone.

The air was damp and dead. She could feel particles in the space drawing into her nostrils. There was the sound of water dripping somewhere, bad plumbing, perhaps? A light, a very faint, greenish one was coming from the slit under the door. She thought she saw a tail pass by and she almost screamed… but all she did was whimper as she drew herself up to a cold wall, with moss and god-knows-what. It had to be a very large rat- or something else. She heard squeaking now, and little feet scurrying about. And she gasped and held onto nothing, but air and the walls behind her. The door opened, and light, a sickening light, flooded in. Still greenish. A man stood in the doorway, heavily cloaked.

She stood up. “ You! Who are you! “

He smiled underneath the hood. Such arrogance, such a command for respect- it only took those words to actually prove her birthright worthy. A true witch. A pureblood.

“ Why did you bring me here? I demand to know! “ she tossed her chin high, to quell the frightened soul inside her.

“ I am quite sorry for the- pathetic accommodations. My subordinate had not used his head, again. I told him you should remain in good condition. Apparently he didn’t get what that truly meant. I also meant your room, Madame. I shall see to it you get transferred immediately. “

She walked up to him. “ I demand to know who you are! Who’s behind all this! “

He smiled again. “ Why, of course. Where were my manners, Madame Malfoy? “

She shuddered, hearing the man say her husband’s name. He took of his hood. And she shook even more this time. “ Oh god…” she gasped.

“ Not a god, Madame Malfoy. Just… Lord Voldemort. “

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Author notes: A/N: I decided to inject a little light moment prior to the Narcissa and Blaise part, i'm happy i've reached past a hundred reviews. I'm warning/telling you guys ahead, the next chapters will be darker, the pace will pick up too.

So...please review after this?Thanks again to all those who reviewed, And to all those who keep reading, thank you for the continued patronage. ^_^


Chapter 18: You have Harry Potter's heart
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

A/N: It's been a great ride you know (both in the fanfic life and the real life), but here, in this story, i've reached the 18th chapter in this story. Now before you go on reading, i'd like to request one thing from you. And that is to read this chapter and feel it with all your heart.

i am a bit upset on the outcome of my story...i'm afraid it's not been received well enough here...but anyway, i still won't fail you! I've got nothing better to do but please you dear readers, anyway. So enjoy for me and enjoy for yourselves:) Oh yeah, i was inspired by Playground Love (Air) for the dark stuff in this chapter. They're geniuses.

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It was dark; dust was collecting on the top of the shelves, a myriad of cobwebs forming at the corners of the ceilings. Someone sniffed as he took out an old looking key, unlocking the door with a little grunt. He was alone for a moment, as his eyes adjusted to the dimness of the room.

He eyed the grandfather clock, its pendulum swinging endlessly. Five in the morning, so he had been early….what else was new? Staying at his flat was boring. He preferred the comfort here. The thin looking man with sandy brown hair stepped into the counter, his wand placed within reach as he took care in closing the counter entrance.

Nearby, a table glowed with an old crystal ball, its base was chipped. He stared at it for awhile, willing it to work, since no had bought it in years, well according to the now deceased owner of Borgin and Burkes. He had left a will, contested by many who aspired to own the store, but he had won it in the end, by lady luck and genetics.

His uncle, thrice removed from his mother’s side, yep, Mr. Borgin had proven useful indeed. His death, that was. So there he was, early in the morning and alone, when there was a knock on the door. He walked for the entrance and saw a hooded man outside.

“ Still closed, “ he mouthed.

The man rapped impatiently again, using a gloved hand. The store owner could see through the dusty glass that the glove he wore was made out of dragon-hide.

“ Closed, you bugger! “ he shouted at the man. “ Bloody hell! Can’t you read the sign at the front! It says C-L-O-S-E-! “ He stopped. “ Open! Welcome! Welcome to Borgin and Burkes! What can I do for you? Looking for someone to hex? Place a little something to guard your treasures? “ He gave a ready smile, a nervous one at that.

“ Why, how accommodating, “ the man sneered.

“ Of course, anything for a customer, “ the new owner replied. “ Now, what can I do for you, sir? Got anything precise in mind? “

“ Nothing, nothing in mind…just…just browsing. So what do you have to show off? Last I heard, this place was going to Gringott’s- “ the man began stroking his chin.

“ Gringott’s? No! There’ll be hell to pay! This establishment still lives to serve customers with the likes of you! “

“ Early customers? “

“ Especially early customers! “ he said in a most fervent voice.

“ Really now? “

And he spun around, careful to tuck his wand in the folds of his robe as he searched for objects that might catch his ‘early customer’s’ desires. He blew some dust off something and he blew some more dust as he gave a few coughs here and there. He had assembled a most intriguing array of instruments, ranging from a rolling eyeball inside some weird metal casing (that can find objects in hard to reach places, especially dark places!), to a large scabbard that held a rusty sword (authentic pirate’s sword that keeps in the ghosts of those you kill!), to a pair of earrings (your woman will never be the same after she wears this! A great way to get rid of her!) And to some thing that almost looked like your typical pen (but it actually writes in blood!).

The man eyed the instruments lain before him and he gave a hearty snicker. “ You expect me to purchase any of these childish contraptions? Good god, man! Gringott’s was better off at closing this boutique. “

“ Well, if the good lord may be specific so I may acquiesce- “

“ Just show me everything you have that you think may interest me, “ he said calmly.

“ Well, m’lord, “ he began.

“ What? “

“ Nothing, sir. “ And he shook his head, buried in thoughts of wanting to squish his first customer of the day into a pile of dragon dung, if only he could- the bloody man was as arrogant as arrogant got! He rummaged further into the old drawers, finding a boggart in one, and a few bats in one cabinet. They screeched and flew around the store’s premises before settling into some cabinet in the far corner of the store, away from his reach. He growled, wondering why the hell the man was making him nervous! It was only a customer- only…he frowned and took out some more trinkets that any dark wizard could have liked, but the man snubbed them all completely, and in silence. Was there no contentment to this bastard!

“ Will you be wanting something for your lady love, sir? “ he asked. “ Yes siree! Look at what I’ve got here! A lovely pair of shackles! Bind your lady love to yourself forever-! Well- until you’d want to, that is…No? Well…we’ve got more things here to your delight I’m fecking sure! Ah! Here! We have a- another pen! This time one that writes in the bile of your enemy! Well, you’d have to kill first, of course, but it never goes dry! Not that either, huh? “

He scratched his head, suddenly wondering if he had taken a bath properly; his head was itching a lot this morning. He heard the customer’s footing shift, and he knew the customer was now browsing through his items. He stopped in front of an old cabinet and pointed at something.

“ This one, “ he began. “ I like this. “

He frowned a little, and wanted to say ‘are you sure?’, but shut his mouth instead, still maintaining a quizzical look on his face; though. He opened the cabinet and reached for the item, a mere child’s toy to him!

“ Yes, “ the man murmured. “ I like that. “

“ Well, will you be wanting to have it wrapped sir? “ he asked in a hollow voice.

“ No, “ the customer replied. “ As a matter of a fact, I’ve got something else in mind. Another task- another object I’d like you to find for me, if you don’t mind? “

“ Of course I don’t mind, sir! A good store always caters to the needs of- “

“ Spare me the bullshit. "

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Draco closed the files on his table and turned off his laptop. It had been a long, long day. It was past ten in the evening and there was a knock on the door.

“ Sir? “

He looked up. “ Alice. I thought you went home an hour ago. “

“ Just finished a few files, sir. “ Alice stepped forward. “ Will you be staying late again, sir? “

Draco shrugged. “ I don’t really know. “

“ Coffee then? “

He nodded and sat on his swivel chair as Alice went out. A minute later, she came back in, carrying a mug of coffee.

“ Thank you Alice, you’re a life saver. “

She laughed gaily. “ Ah- is that so? Well being your life saver, I suggest you go home and get a good night’s sleep. “

He smiled.” Will do. Just have to finish a few things- did you plan out my schedule for tomorrow? I don’t have to fly out to Italy, do I? For tomorrow afternoon? “

She shook her head. “ You cancelled this meeting a few days ago. Our Italian investors are getting quite impatient. “

He sighed. “ Fine, is- “

“ Your ticket ready? Done. “

“ Thank you. “

“ Good night, sir. “

He smiled and bid her goodnight. As soon as she was gone, Draco heard the stillness of the room ringing in his ears. He shook his head and finally decided he had enough of reading the reports.

He took a big gulp of his coffee and looked out of the large windows of his office. The city lights glowed and he thought he could almost hear the entire city laughing, like it had some huge party going on.

He wondered what Hermione was doing. And then he heard a sudden roar of fire. He spun around, cursing himself for not bringing along his wand. He stared at the figure standing inside his fireplace.

“ Hello Draco. “

Draco felt his jaw clench. What the bloody hell-?

“ Not happy to see me again, are you? “

Draco didn’t say anything.

“ Well…your mother wasn’t so happy to see me, either. “

And that was when Draco reacted. “ You son-of-a- what the hell did you do to her? “

“ Invited her for a long vacation, of course. I could say she looked shocked when I told her she needed one. “

“ You- “

“ You know that asking me to let her go won’t work. “

“ What do you want? “

The man laughed. “ Damn it Draco. You’re so business-like now, aren’t you? The influences muggles can do- “

“ What do you want? “ His voice was raised this time, more authoritative.

“ You know very well what I want. I want you. “

Draco frowned and tried to keep calm. “ You want me? And in order to release my mother I have to work for you? “ His jaw clenched and so did his palms.

“ Not work for me or us, “ he corrected. “ Work with us. “

Draco said nothing. Instead he went to a cabinet and took out a decanter of burgundy. He poured it into two glasses and handed one to the ‘visitor’.

The man took a sip. “ Ah…France. This was a good year…but it still doesn’t beat elfin ale…the ones they make in- “ he stopped, seeing Draco’s stoic face. “ Come on man, liven up! “

Still Draco said nothing. Instead he took a sip from his own glass and stared at the man across him, seated comfortably and calmly.

“ Your mother’s quite the aggressive one, isn’t she? Her chin’s lifted up all the time- well it reminds me of the Hogwarts days…when your mother kept that perpetually snooty look…mother had said Narcissa Malfoy was not a woman to be messed around with, “ he laughed.

“ What are your terms? “ Draco finally interrupted.

“ We don’t kill your mother, if you work with us. “

Draco raised an eyebrow. “ So what if I work with you? “

“ Well, naturally, Narcissa goes unharmed. The terms are simple. And I’m sure it will be safe to tell you all this. You remember the horcruxes Dumbledore had sought out to find? To destroy? The seven were destroyed, but…we have the last remaining artifact; the last horcrux our Dark Lord had made hidden from those who thought they knew it all, before he suffered his physical death. Dumbledore may have destroyed the seven of them along with Harry, along with you and the rest of the motley crew…but one still exists. And we have it. I have it. The eighth horcrux. Do you know what it is? Well…who, perhaps… “ He looked at Draco’s eyes, and he knew that Draco was listening intently. He had all of Draco’s attention now.

“ Harry Potter. “

Draco felt the word rush into his ears. Harry Potter. Harry Potter. Harry Potter. The man was playing games with him! The bloody arse was twisting him around! The son of a-! Harry Potter was dead! It was the most wretched stratagem to resurrect a dead dark wizard, through some dead-

“ He’s dead, “ Draco snapped. “ What use are your threats when I could just- “

“ He’s in you. “

Draco froze. His eyes narrowed. “ What? I don’t know what you’re- “

“ You perfectly know what I’m talking about. You have the last thing that we want. The last thing that will make him live again. He lives in you now. You have Harry Potter’s heart; therefore, you… are the eighth horcrux. “

And Blaise Zabini smiled.

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Hermione snapped awake. It was past eleven in the evening, and she had gone to bed less than an hour ago. Her heart was pounding for some unknown reason. Did she have a dream? Or… some nightmare? Was it a premonition?

The trouble with having been reared in two different worlds, leading two different lives, was that there was a gap between both, affecting one’s reality perception. Sometimes she couldn’t differentiate fate from her own decisions. Practicality had to rule, but destiny was also a matter she couldn’t avoid. Mysticism entangled in the simplicity of a human belief that you made your own destiny. This was how she lived.

And she couldn’t differentiate her emotions now. Had she only had heightened emotions? Or did she have a dream that was screaming out to tell her something? And a sudden thought came into her head. Draco.

She stood up from her bed and looked at the clock. She shook her head. She couldn’t sleep easily again, she knew it. And by impulse, she reached for her cellular phone and dialed Draco’s cellular phone number.

It kept ringing, until she decided to put the phone down. And that was when a voice came on the other line.

“ Yes, “ Draco said harshly.

“ I- “

“ Hermione? What are you doing awake? Aren’t you supposed to be asleep by now? “ he asked suddenly, his voice changing into a softer tone.

“ I woke up- and- I don’t know. I guess I kind of missed you or something like that. “

She heard Draco breathe and then he gave a short laugh.

“ Hermione, get some rest. You need it. “

“ You’re not mad about that thing that happened earlier today? The whole PMS thing? “ she asked sucking in her breath.

He sighed. “ Hermione, that’s natural. I don’t really mind. “

“ Well…whatever. “ She could feel her face going red, despite the fact that she was alone and that Draco was miles away. She thought she could hear him suppress laughter.

“ Good night, Hermione. “

“ You’re busy? “ she asked.

“ A little, just- just paperwork. Listen, I’m flying out to Italy tomorrow, so….just sleep okay? “

She sucked her breath in. Italy? “ Will you be gone long? “ she asked. She wanted to slap herself for being so inquisitive. What the hell was wrong with her? Italy was kind of far away…wasn’t it? And it’s not like he wasn’t coming back…

“ No, I don’t think so. I’ll call you before I leave. Good night. “

“ Night, “ she finally said resignedly. And she heard a click on the other line and she knew Draco had ended the call. Somehow, it disturbed her.

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Draco placed his phone down and looked again at the person in front of him. The man smiled at him and tapped a finger on his elegant oak table.

“ Ah…the plot thickens. Not only do you have to ensure your mother’s safety… but that of your mudblood flame as well? “

Draco’s eyes flickered. “ She is not your concern. She works as a columnist for a fashion magazine for Merlin’s sake. “

“ But still…” Blaise looked at his eyes. Draco’s eyes showed nothing but arrogance and defiance.

“ Wasn’t…wasn’t this Granger…Harry Potter’s girlfriend, or something like that? “ He gave a morbid laugh. “ Damn, damn, damn. Not only do you have the eight horcrux because you have Potter’s heart, you also have his girl now? Bravo! “ And Blaise applauded him mockingly. “ Draco, Draco! You are by far, the most ambitious wizard to date! “

“ How- how did you know? “ Draco finally found himself asking.

Blaise stood up and paced around, thoughtfully stroking his chin. “ Hmm…let’s see…you and your mother had so tried to keep it a secret…you had a check-up at St. Mungo’s once. They told you it was impossible to do something about it. A field of the Wizard healing that was still imperfect. You and your mother were desperate…rumors circled around that someone from an affluent family was ill. Your last option was to work with muggles. Some hospital off- wherever that was. Harry Potter died in an accident the same day you were dying. Weasley tried to keep it a secret of course but secrets come out one way or another, Harry had become your benefactor. You needed a heart- and what better heart than that of the courageous Harry Potter! “

Draco didn’t utter a thing. Instead he took another sip of his wine. He held the wine glass in one hand and stared at the red liquid dancing inside the glass.

“ Ah…muggles…no wonder muggle doctors feel like they’re gods. They’ve given you a new life, with the help of some of the wizard blood traitors. The Ministry had kept our Dark Lord’s objects under heavy guard, all of it, all of the things he had placed parts of his soul in. But there was one thing the ministry overlooked, the Master had mentioned placing something special inside someone, for he knew death would look at him straight in the eye the night he tried to kill Harry and the night he murdered Harry’s parents. He had implicitly expressed it to Snape- the closest to him from all of his death eaters. Snape took mention of this in his journal- a journal we found when he had been killed in action a few years back, along with the Master, in his old, rickety muggle home. You are the eighth horcrux; you are the key to Lord Voldemort’s resurrection. “ Blaise looked at the very unruffled Draco seated across him. He raised an eyebrow, out of frustration. “ Bloody arse! Say something will you, you arrogant- “

“ Should I be flattered that you need me that much? “ Draco finally interjected.

Blaise raised an eyebrow. “ Well, you should be. This is your chance. Think of it as a form of penitence for betraying Lord Voldemort…and a way to save your mother…and prevent Hermione Granger’s premature demise. “

“ Leave them out of this. You didn’t have to snatch my mother- “

“ Well, we were quite sure you needed more persuasion, and what perfect use your mother is now…perhaps Hermione- “

“ Enough! “ Draco said standing up. “ Get out of my office. “

Blaise stood up and walked for the fireplace again. Before walking into it, he turned to face Draco again. “ I’ll see you maybe tomorrow. I’ll know your response then? Although I know where this is leading…” He took off his tall hat. “ Good evening again, Draco Malfoy. “

Draco had almost felt goose bumps crawl up his skin as Blaise had said his family name with such malice.

Draco stared as a green burst of flame and smoke engulfed Blaise. A few seconds later, the fireplace was empty once more. He sank into his chair again. Twice the offer had been made, twice he had rejected it. And he knew Blaise was right. All that Blaise needed to hear was the approval to actually come out from his mouth; all he needed was Draco’s word of honor. Would he really? Or should he…ask Ron and the rest of the Aurors for help? And Hermione…Damn it! Not her too! Draco knew that they wouldn’t kill his mother just yet, but to be sure…he shook his head. He couldn’t ask for help!

Suddenly his organized mind went all cluttered. He couldn’t think straight, his thoughts kept bouncing. Hermione. His mother. Him being the eight horcrux! Oh god! He was a walking horcrux! A fragment of Lord Voldemort’s soul in him! Harry had been a horcrux and he had no idea! No wonder Harry had suffered greatly after defeating Voldemort, he had been in coma for almost a month, and not a single one had any idea that there was an eighth horcrux! A covert one! Hadn’t he felt any sort of connection to this before? He had seen artifacts held by Lord Voldemort himself, items Voldemort had cherished long after his death, after he had received Harry’s heart, and he hadn’t felt a thing! He didn’t feel the hurt Harry had felt, little pains on his scar, little aches on his chest, nothing! Nothing at all!

Was it fate then? That he should receive Harry’s heart with a horcrux? He was dying back then- he didn’t have a choice! And now-! Now, he was going to suffer because of having it, because of being so desperate to live!

He buried his face in his hands as his elbows rested on his desk. This was it. He didn’t need Ron’s warning not to see Hermione anymore. He would never have to see her again. She had to be safe. Damn it! She had to be!

And Draco felt his chest ache slowly, until the ache was almost excruciating. He clutched his chest and tried to reach for the phone a few inches from his grasp.

He leaned forward and collapsed on the cold marble floor.

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A/N: The term "Horcrux" is used to refer to any "object" in which a person has concealed a part of his or her soul. This has been the turning point of this story. This will still be a long ride (well sort of), and i hope i get more reviews...*rubs hands in evil manner* You can suggest things or flame me constructively if you want. hehe.

and to all the readers out there who still take the time to read, thank you so much! Just a question, are there any males reading this story, or HP fiction for that matter?





Chapter 19: Stay away!!!
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

~

He was probably watching some bad movie. He knew it. It seemed like it. The man sitting across him was supposed to be dead. Wasn’t he supposed to be dead?

“ Hello Draco. “

His heart thudded and he gulped. “ You’re…alive. But you’re supposed to be dead… “

The man raised an eyebrow. “ And watch you take everything away from me? Take Hermione from me? I don’t think so. “

“ I have your heart,” Draco’s voice faltered. “ How could you be… “

Harry laughed. “ Damn…you’re right. “ And Harry unbuttoned his white shirt to reveal an open chest, and Draco could see everything bleeding, pulsating, and squirming within, except his heart. Harry’s eyes flashed. “ You just took it all from me…and now you’re the horcrux! You son of a bitch…you took the whole lot! Now it’s your turn to suffer! You were jealous of me when we were at Hogwarts right? Before you took a different turn, before you turned ‘good’! You did everything to bring me down! Well…who needs my heart now! You wouldn’t have lived without me you bastard! You wouldn’t have! “

And Harry lunged for Draco and Draco stared in horror as Harry held him by the collar, as Harry grabbed out his wand, pointing to his chest. “ Sectumsempra! “ Harry cried out.

Draco’s eyes widened even more. This was what Harry had used back at Hogwarts when he had bled profusely!

“ No! “ Draco shouted out. He watched as he began to bleed, he watched his chest slash open. He could feel the searing agony.

He saw Hermione stand beside Harry.

She smiled. “ Draco…I hope you die in misery… “

Draco kept shaking his head. “ No! No! No! “

~


“ Draco! “ someone cried out. He could feel hands holding him down as he fought against the unknown forces.

“ It’s me! “

He opened his eyes all of a sudden, and he saw a very pale Hermione standing over him. He squinted against the bright light coming from a window. He felt sore all over. He tried to focus on Hermione. “ Where am I? “ his voice croaked out. Even his throat hurt.

“ You’re at Richmond General, “ Hermione replied shakily.

Draco saw someone else in the room. Ronald Weasley. He shook his head weakly. “ Richmond General? Why- “ he stopped.

Hermione held his hand gently. “ Your security guard found you- you were on the floor, he thought you weren’t breathing, I only found out at about five in the morning, Alice called me…Oh Draco! “ she suddenly cried out, embracing him gently.

Draco was quiet as Hermione held him. Hermione was here again, she was all that he needed, and he wanted the embrace to be tighter…The night’s occurrences flooded back to him again. Blaise…his mother’s abduction…the eighth horcrux…he didn’t remember lapsing into unconsciousness…He shook his head. “ Get me out of here, “ he muttered.

Hermione shook her head. “ No- you can’t just yet. They ran tests on you earlier today. You need to stay for observation- “

“ How many hours? “ he interrupted, without looking at her.

“ Days, “ Hermione corrected. “ Days- Draco. “

“ No! “ he snapped. “ I don’t want to squander time here! “

“ It’s not about wasting time, “ Hermione said delicately. “ You have to wait till you’re well enough, wait for what the physicians say- “

“ Transfer me to St. Mungo’s then! They’ll give me some Pepperup potion and release me in an hour! “ Draco said.

“ You don’t have colds, “ Hermione replied. “ They fear you’re having more problems with- with your heart transplant, you haven’t been taking your medications regularly, have you? Draco- “

“ Fuck the medications! I have to get out of here! “ Draco said harshly.

Hermione stepped back, shocked at his response. She felt blood leave her face, and her lips trembled. A hand was on her shoulder. She knew it was Ron. She sucked her breath in, and she knew she was going to hyperventilate soon enough.

“ Get out, “ Draco said. This was it. The perfect time to make her leave. The perfect time to hurt her, just so he could save her. Hurt her! Hurt her with all your strength! Someone inside screamed, a primal instinct to stop the possibility of a dead future for Hermione…

Hermione shook her head. “ Stop it- “ she said in a shaky voice. “ You’re not well enough to- “

“ I said get out! “ he eyed her, trying to maintain a frosty glare. “ If you can’t take me out of here, get out! If you can’t take me to St. Mungo’s, both of you get out, now! “ It hurt him, every word, every glare, the tone he gave to her. It hurt him more than he realized it would.

“ Draco, “ Hermione began as she tried to reach for his hand. “ Please stop- “

“ Get out! I have to get out of here! Get away from here! “ Draco shouted.

He began ripping off his intravenous lines wildly; he took off the nasal cannula. He didn’t even feel the pain, all he felt was this urge to hurt Hermione and hurt her bad. Hermione and Ron looked in horror.

“ Stop it! “ she screamed. “ Stop it! “ And she stepped in and tried to hold his hands down, and he resisted to a great extent. “ Please stop! “ She began to cry as she saw blood flow freely from his open skin. “ Ron! Call- “

And Ron knew even before she said his name. A nurse and doctor came in and saw Draco and Hermione struggling. More people rushed in, this time orderlies helped hold Draco down. Draco clutched his chest as blood trailed down his hospital gown.

Suddenly he groaned. “ Damn it! “ The pain was beyond bearable. It was tightening around him now, his breathing came in gasps.

Hermione felt her knees buckle. “ Oh god…”

“ Stay away from me, “ he continued, looking at Hermione. “ Stay away! Don’t you ever let me see you again! “ He glared at the nurse who had just injected him with a sedative. He felt himself go weak, and he sank back onto the bed.

Hermione was steered out of the room by Ron, without her knowledge, or rather without her realizing it. She had been too…stunned. Oh god…what was happening! It was too fast! How could he have changed so fast! Maybe it was because of the medications? Or the fact that he didn’t want her pity and Ron’s?

Tears were coming out of her eyes faster than she could manage, faster than she could blink. She was shaking terribly now, and felt the oddest sense of being alone. She turned to face Ron, and she saw it in his eyes. It was as if they were telling her ‘I told you so’. Ron shook his head and embraced Hermione as she broke into a sob. He led her to a waiting lounge in the same floor.

“ I’ll get something for you to drink, okay? “ he said stroking her hair as she continued to cry.

Ron went out and searched for a vending machine, but he found himself, seconds later, heading for Draco’s room. He opened the door to find Draco with closed eyes, the intravenous lines replaced with new ones.

The doctor beckoned for him to come in. “ You are related to Mr. Malfoy? “

Ron found himself nodding. They were distant cousins anyway. “ What happened to him? Will he be alright? “

“ I don’t know Mr. Malfoy’s thorough history, but I have checked with his records, and seeing he had a heart transplant a year ago, from which he miraculously healed faster than any physician has seen- “

Ron almost laughed. Of course Draco would heal fast; he was a wizard after all. “ Is he rejecting the transplant? “ he asked.

The doctor shook his head. “ No, not in that kind of sense. Has Mr. Malfoy been under any stress? “

Sure. Stress fit Malfoy like a glove. His father was in Azkaban. They had enemies now, those who had supported Voldemort. A lot of the wizarding society spoke behind their backs, despite Narcissa’s amazing change of character, despite her store being a hit, despite Draco’s gradual activity as a wizard…

Ron shook his head. “ Not that I know of any. “

“ According to records, Mr. Malfoy had a form of heart failure a few years back due to a congenital anomaly, according to his previous physician’s papers- “

Ron’s face looked blank. This was crappy muggle medicine! He had no idea what this was!

“ Please, just- just tell it to me in English- please? “ He frowned.

“ Why, yes, of course. Mr. Malfoy’s heart- continues to beat, just not efficiently enough to keep the blood from becoming congested in certain areas of the body- that was why he needed a transplant a few years back- the physician stated that there had been a positive result for Mr. Malfoy having a coronary heart disease; or wherein the heart has too little blood flow to the heart muscle. “

“ So…” Ron’s face still looked blank.

“ This is why I need to know if he has been in any kind of stress lately? Physical or emotional? Although we can’t rule out a late rejection by Mr. Malfoy…”

“ I- I just don’t know. “

The physician sighed and patted Ron’s back. “ Rest assured, tests will be done in a few days time. He just needs to stay here. Rest here for awhile. “

Ron nodded. The doctor and nurse excused themselves. Now there was only him and Malfoy. Now it was Malfoy on a hospital bed.

Draco opened one eye slowly, and tried to open the other. He looked very lethargic and disorientated. “ What- damn it…”

Ron stepped forward. “ Shut up and get rest. “

He tried to move a hand but he only managed a twitch. “ Get me out- “

“ Stubborn, as usual, aren’t you? Congratulations, you just had an amazing mini heart attack- well whatever that doctor said it was. “

“ Hermione- “ he began weakly.

“ She’ll be fine. She’ll get over you fast. Whatever it is that got into your mind, I’m glad you thought of making her cry. “ Ron stood over him. “ Okay, what the hell was that about? “ he finally said. It disturbed him somehow, despite the fact that he did so would actually stop Hermione from seeing him.

Draco shook his head feebly, but it looked like it just lolled around. “ Can’t- “ Draco tried to find the strength, tried to find the words to tell Ron everything. Would they listen? Had they placed enchantments here in this room? How would he tell him? And he felt something steal through him, something heavy, and something tempting…

Ron approached him. “ What? “

“ Stay away. Keep her away…” And he finally slept.

Ron looked at Draco’s figure. This was just like before…when he had seen Draco more than a year ago…when he had seemed so frail; like he wouldn’t live to see another day, or cast another spell…it was past playing all over again, past taunting Draco again.

Ron frowned and wondered what it meant. Stay away…Keep her away…Ron shook his head and went out of the room, taking care to close the door slowly, although he knew Draco wouldn’t wake up even if he had been shot with a hex.

Ron tried to smile as he walked back into the waiting room with cups of latte in both hands. “ Sorry, I went down the second floor- the vending machine ran out of lattes. “ He just had to tell a white lie. Hermione didn’t say anything as Ron thrust a cup into her shaky hands.
“ Hold it well, “ he said as he sat beside her. “ Hermione- “

“ Ron- did you think…did he mean it? When he told me to stay away from him? We just had a wonderful night a few- “ she shook her head and tried to steady her hands.

Ron didn’t know what to say. He sighed and drank his latte, in tiny sips. He heard the sound of the P.A system and he was reminded of the day Harry died.


~

“ What is it? “ he said through gritted teeth.

Silence for a second.

“ He may not live, Mr. Weasley. “

~


He looked at Hermione. And the memories played again.


~

She reeled back in horror and Ron caught her just in time. “ Oh god! “ she gasped again.

She trembled even more as she held Harry’s hand with Ron supporting her back.

“ He’s gone, Ron, he’s gone…” she moaned as she held Harry’s face.

“ Shh…” Ron said trying to soothe her.

“ Harry! “ she said in a shaky voice. “ Please? Please! “

~


Ron snapped back into the present and glanced sideways at Hermione. Her hands were still trembling awfully. He placed his cup down and took away hers, and held her hands tightly in his.

“ Stop shaking. Stop it. “

She looked up to him, teary eyed once more. “ He’s- he’s…this is just like- “ she couldn’t continue.

“ Say it, “ Ron said in a low voice.

“ I’m afraid, Ron. “

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Narcissa sat on the edge of the king size bed, her eyes darting from the window to the door every few seconds. They had been nice enough to transfer her to a guest room in her ‘manor prison’. She was all alone in the dim lit room, dressed in a new gown, with a platter of fine Angus steak and mashed potatoes before her, and a glass of wine.

The door opened and she sucked her breath in.

“ You haven’t touched your food, I see. “ Blaise smirked. “ It isn’t poisoned, Madame Malfoy. I have no wish to kill the mother of a comrade. “

Narcissa strangled a choke. “ Comrade? What are you talking about? “

Blaise smiled, twirling his wand. “ Regarding that…oh…nothing. I just gave him a reason to be our comrade, and he accepted gladly. “

“ What did you do to him? “ Narcissa’s lips trembled. Her son! What did he do to her son! And her heart pounded appallingly-

“ He’s alive- and alright. Some muggle hospital, I’ve heard, “ Blaise interrupted. Blaise strode closer to her and sniffed the air. “ Ah…do you smell that? The house elf is filling up the drawing room with potpourri again. “

“ What did you do to my son…” she whimpered. “ Release me at once! I need to see my son….please? “ And she bit back bitter tears.

Blaise tried to smile sympathetically, and the smile only turned out to be that of someone enjoying the suffering he was seeing. “ Madame, I assure you, he’s fine. He had a little attack, so I heard- but he’s alive and well. You’ll be seeing him in a bit. Now I suggest you eat up.“

And Blaise exited the room, leaving Narcissa alone to feed on her fear and anxiety.

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It was night time when Draco woke up, he knew it. There was a little crack in the blinds, and he saw it as dark outside. He tried to move and felt pain shoot through his body.

“ Ah Mr. Malfoy. Glad you’re up, “ a nurse came bustling in, carrying a tray with different little tablets and a syringe and an ampoule.

“ What, “ he began in a croaked voice. “ What time is it? Can I go home? “

The nurse laughed robustly. “ Good gracious, no. And it’s past two in the morning, so get some sleep. “

“ What’s that? “ he asked, eyeing the tray’s contents.

“ Just a few vitamins and minerals. And a tiny shot of antibiotic of course- as prescribed by your physician. “

“ I don’t need that. I don’t have an infection. “

She shook her head. “ While you were asleep a few hours ago, you spiked up a little fever, doc’s not taking any chances, now that he’s got a thorough report on your condition. “

“ I don’t have any condition, “ he said through gritted teeth.

The nurse smiled as she injected the antibiotic into his intravenous line. “ Dear, denial’s not going to get you anywhere. Now be a good lad and get some sleep. “

“ I’m twenty-four years old, well, almost. “

She laughed as she gave Draco some pills to drink. “ Talkative aren’t you? “

“ I’m trying to charm you into letting me out, “ he replied. “ Although I don’t think it will help me at all. “

She gave another laugh. “ Oh you’ll be giving me a heart attack if you were my son. “

“ You don’t look a day over forty. “ He smiled as he finished that last of his pills.

“ I’m thirty nine, dear. “ She straightened his sheets and she also fluffed up the pillow supporting his back. “ Good night now. “

Draco nodded and was alone again. He listened to the silence. He listened to the voices in his head. The recollections were clearer now that he was alone. He recalled the day he learned had had received Harry’s heart. Ron had been in a very distressed mood, he saw it, and he knew it.


~

Draco woke up with the sun streaming down his face. He was in some muggle hospital, he remembered. And he saw an unexpected guest, aside from his mother. It was Ronald Weasley.

“ What are you- “ Draco stopped, seeing Ron’s pale face, eyes red-rimmed, hair messier than the usual redheaded mop he had.

“ How- how are you? “ Ron asked with some reluctance.

Draco frowned. What the hell was this now? Had the world gone mad that Ronald Weasley was visiting him in a muggle hospital- wait a minute…how did he know!

“ How’d you know I was here? “ Draco found himself asking.

Ron shrugged and dragged a chair near Draco’s bed. “ We have to talk. “

“ We are. “

Ron’s eyes narrowed. “ Don’t be a Slytherin ass on me again. Not today. “ Ron sighed and brushed a hand on his hair, as if to help look himself look neater.

“ How did you know? What the hell are you doing here? “ Draco tried to move, but he found it too painful. He had been in intensive care for a few hours, and was doing quite well, with a little secret help from a half-witch doctor who helped the healing process go faster.

“ Your heart- “ Ron began.

Draco nodded, suddenly serious. “ Yes, I have a new heart. All thanks to some unknown benefactor who was gracious enough to- “

“ It’s Harry’s, “ Ron finished.

Draco stopped and tried to let the words sink in. It did, slowly and painfully. Harry’s? Harry Potter’s? The Harry Potter? The- boy-who-lived? A part of the golden trio? A hero in the wizarding world? What the fu- How could it be! Harry was alive when he had seen him last! He had Harry’s heart! The redhead was wretched at jokes!

Draco shook his head. “ You’ve got to be kidding. “

Ron didn’t say anything, too consumed in his own grief and denial. He wished he were kidding. Harry just died a few hours ago! And now- now! His heart was in someone he never thought would actually need it! The bastard had his best friend’s heart! The goddamned Slytherin now had the heart of a Gryffindor! How would he start? How would he tell him? Should he replay the incident to Draco? About Harry fighting to live? About Harry dying? Hermione heavily sedated? Him; Ronald Weasley; agreeing to give away his best friend’s heart?

“ You’re not kidding…” Draco’s voice faltered. He felt his composure falter as well. Oh god…bloody Merlin’s arse…he had Harry Potter’s heart? He had the heart of the-boy-who-lived! How could- But he had no choice now, did he! He was dying! But Harry Potter was dead too? Everything seemed to pressure down on him. He had Harry’s heart! He was alive because of Harry! He was alive because Harry was dead!

“ I can’t have his heart…” Draco murmured, in defiance.

Ron’s self-possession snapped. “ You bastard! He’s dead! You have his heart! He’s in you! Aren’t you the least bit grateful! He left us! He’s dead! Hermione’s alone now! Devastated! And you-! You have the audacity to even deny that you have his heart! Harry’s dead, Malfoy! His heart is in you! He’s dead and you’re bloody alive! “

Draco caught his breath, struggling to actually breathe, even. The truth hit him like some bloody good hex. He had Harry Potter’s heart…

~


Draco buried his face in his hands. He had wanted to think positively after his transplant. He had thought of it as a fresh start. He was thankful, truly, that Harry had been his donor, his conduit to a new existence. But now…to know that he was the eighth horcrux…he wasn’t so sure if he still wanted to think positively. It was both a gift and a curse.

And he wondered what it would have been like, if he never did get Harry’s heart. He would’ve suffered only a few months, then he’d be dead- and Harry, Harry would fight Voldemort’s allies again, like what he did after graduating from Hogwarts. It would Harry who’d be suffering, it would be Harry who would face the new generation of Death Eaters, and it would be Harry who would…it would be Harry who would still love Hermione…

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A/N: oh the pain, the pain!!! what to do now? did you cry? did i annoy you with the events? did you want to stop reading or just continue? what do you think will happen next?

i studied as a nurse a year ago so i know a bit of medical stuff. i only stopped cause i got sick, really sick like cancer sick. sorry if there are errors in the medical explanations, i have tried my best.

Thanks for reading this chapter! And DON'T FORGET TO REVIEW^_^

Chapter 20: No one is enough for Draco Malfoy
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Ron knew it. Draco Malfoy was big trouble. Big and bloody trouble. And he had just received news that Draco’s mother had gone missing the day he had his heart attack. That was yesterday. What else could be bad news now? There would be more, he was sure of it. And he rubbed his forehead, where a stupid headache was growing.

He had been pondering for hours, what Draco had meant with all those words. Stay away…Keep her away…What the hell did it mean? Sure, Draco had changed significantly, he saw it himself, a change brought about by Hermione, a change brought about by having Harry’s heart. By being Harry’s second shot at life…Wait- This was Draco Malfoy…And he couldn’t understand what to feel for him at the moment, every time Ron saw Draco, he felt like looking at Harry, somewhere in his eyes, Harry was there. Despite the constant sarcasm, the never ending piercing silver eyes, something was screaming inside, Harry was inside, wanting to resurface, wanting to be alive again.

But here Draco was. He lived. Lived as Draco Malfoy and not for Harry Potter. Harry to him was dead; a corpse who had given away the one thing that had given him life. He was a donor, nothing more than that. They had the same blood type, Draco had not rejected Harry’s heart, and it was his destiny to actually have his once mortal enemy’s heart.

Ron had driven Hermione home after the hospital incident. He had been unsure how she was, but she had been smiling as he left. And he knew it was just another form of her denial, a denial of a pain she didn’t want to feel. And he was afraid that it might turn out like before, like the time Hermione had gone unresponsive and depressed, like the time that Harry had just died.

It had been difficult for him, and the rest of them who had wanted to cheer her up. For two months, Hermione had preferred loneliness, for two months she was alone, she didn’t come out from her parents’ house, no matter how much they persuaded her to. And when Ron had succeeded in coaxing her out for the first time, it had been during sunset and they drove to a quiet part of the capital, facing the River Thames, both were rather silent...


~

Ron held a cup of coffee in one hand as they stared at a ferry passing by slowly. It gave a few ‘toots’ as it chugged along, little light bulbs giving off a dreamy feel to the reflection it made in the river.

“ Aren’t you going to drink your coffee? “ Ron asked her.

Hermione had leaned her head on the headrest as she shook her head. She continued to remain silent as her cup of coffee sat untouched on the dashboard.

Ron sighed. How the hell would he make her talk? Everyone had tried. All she ever spoke were a few measly words every now and then, a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’, a sigh or a nod, an ‘I don’t know’ or ‘maybe’. He felt his persistence ebb at times, and he had to remind himself all the time that this was Hermione he was dealing with, his best friend, the other lingering part of the Golden Trio.

“ Would you like to go some place else? “

Hermione looked up at him with vacant eyes. And she shook her head and looked at the river once again, looked at the passing ferry once again. She had taken rides there with Harry…Harry was hugging her on the view deck….it had been a cold night…They had coffee on that boat…Harry told her he loved her…she had been on that ferry with Harry….

Ron covered his face in his hands, trying to think of what else to say. “ Damn it, Hermione! “ Ron snapped throwing away the cup of coffee outside, through his open door. “ Just please-! Please get back to your old self! “

Hermione blinked and the next thing Ron saw were tears in her eyes. The first he had seen since Harry had died at the hospital. Hermione had not even cried at his funeral. He looked surprised and held her shoulder.

“ I’m sorry…” Ron said unsteadily. “ Just- just cry. “

And Hermione cried.

~


And now…a year and something months later…would he see Hermione like that again? Would he see her cry and breakdown again? Cry for a man who had her fiancé’s heart? Hermione meant a lot to him, he didn’t want her hurt, and even Draco knew that. But did it have to happen? That his best friend should fall for the man who had caused them so much pain before? That she would love someone who had taken Harry’s heart for his own benefit?

Harry was dead, he had moved on. But somehow, seeing Draco, it brought back bittersweet memories. Little hurts were starting to recur. And he suddenly wanted Harry alive. For his own want and for Hermione’s benefit.

“ Come on, man! “ Ron told himself furiously. “ Harry’s gone! You’ve got problems to fix! “

But with Voldemort resurfacing, it was hard not to remember Harry at all.

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“ Perhaps…it was just Draco’s stressing out- “ Ginny said as she ate a muffin in her mother’s kitchen. “ Draco’s got this huge company to manage anyway.”

“ But still, “ Molly Weasley said as she whipped up a batter with her wand. “ That boy should’ve known not to put much pressure on himself. I may not know much about muggle medicine, but I know pressure kills. “

“ Perhaps Harry’s trying to kill him, “ Fred said munching on a hot muffin.

A second later, Ginny and his mother pounced on him. Ginny hit his head with a wooden ladle and Molly began scolding him.

“ How dare you say that Fred! “ Molly screamed.

“ Fred grow up! Don’t you ever say that! “ Ginny shouted.

At that moment George came in, carrying a bucket of strawberries. “ Oy, what’s the ruckus about? “

Ginny eyed him. “ Fred just said that Harry’s trying to kill Draco! “

George grinned. “ That’s just a figure of speech, mum, Ginny. “

A ladle hit George’s head. “ Ow! I wasn’t taking his side! Honest! “ George had dropped the strawberries on the floor, causing Molly’s mood to further heat up.

“ Look at what you did! You’ve gotten my strawberries filthy! “ Molly huffed and the strawberries all landed in some bowl with water. She whisked them quickly and they were clean again. She loudly set down the red bowl on the table.

“ Mum, it was a joke, “ Fred reasoned.

“ One I find completely unfunny! “ Ginny said angrily. “ You best be thankful Hermione’s not here! “ Ginny waved her wand and the wooden ladle flew for the dishwashing area.

“ I’m sure she’s quite happy with her love now, “ George reasoned.

“ George! “ Ginny said. “ This is a rather delicate matter! And you know for one Draco’s in a muggle hospital right now! “

“ Alright! It was a terrible joke! “ Fred said picking up another muffin. “ I’m sorry- well see you later? “ He grinned and kissed Molly’s cheek. “ Take it easy mum, stress kills. “

He and George exchanged smiles as Molly went ‘tsking’ about.

“ Honestly, “ Ginny said, still annoyed.

Molly suddenly put down her wand.

“ Mum? “ Ginny had a concerned look on her face now. “ Is something the matter? “

Molly sighed. “ It’s just that- dear…I feel so sympathetic for Hermione and Draco. Especially Draco right now. “

Ginny’s eyebrows raised a little. “ Mum…” And her voice trailed off as she looked at her mother. The maternal tug was at it again for her mother.

“ Well…Draco’s still got a mother, I know. And from your reports, Draco seems quite happy with her? And now, to suffer this malady…Oh dear….the poor lad…”

“ Mum, “ Ginny said. “ He’ll survive. I’ve known him for years, despite us not being great friends or something like that. That Slytherin bad boy can be very hard-headed. “

“ He has Harry’s heart now, “ Molly said as she held an egg beater. She sighed again and held another bowl in her hands, this time a blue colored one.

“ Of course he has, “ Ginny replied.

“ No, not in the literal sense, dear, “ Molly said. “ I mean, if you say Draco’s been a bad boy, he certainly isn’t now, is he? It’s as if Harry’s heart is actually making Draco act like him…”

Ginny was quiet for awhile. So she wasn’t the only one who had thought of it too? She was quite positive Ron did, but she didn’t expect her mother to actually think of that too. Sure, she had her doubts, she was quite anxious of how it would turn out and all, Hermione having experienced such heartache because of Harry’s death, and now in a relationship with Draco, Slytherin Golden Boy, one-time ferret and the holder of Harry’s heart. Perhaps Hermione only loved Draco because Draco somehow kept Harry alive?

“ Oh mum, “ Ginny sighed. “ Draco’s just Draco. “ It was all she could say to stop whatever her mother was thinking of now. Perhaps she could have a talk with Ron later on?

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Draco liked the feeling of freedom, especially freedom from a hospital. He had gone home against medical advice, with a few prescriptions and a good lecture from his doctor; he was now walking out of his two-day prison. There were words like ‘avoid’ and ‘stress’ and ‘rest’. And the many other words he caught and let by through his ears.

Draco took a cab and headed for his office building. He walked in calmly, without a brief case, much to the surprise of his staff.

“ Sir! “ the security guard jumped at seeing him. “ What are you- “

“ Work, “ he replied with a small smile. He walked up to his second floor office and saw Alice and the rest of his staff working busily in their cubicles.

“ Sir Malfoy! “ Alice breathed, causing the others to look his way.

“ Missed me? “ Draco asked grinning.

“ You’re not supposed to be here! “ Alice said. “ Your doctor told me you had to rest! For at least a few weeks! “

“ Well, who cares? I’m here now. “ Draco sniffed the air. “ Is that coffee brewing? “ he asked. His staff stared wide-eyed. “ What are you all looking at? It’s not like you’re looking at a ghost now, are you? “

There was the shuffling of feet and the mechanical murmur of fax machines and printers and fingers typing furiously over keyboards, the phones ringing off the hook…

Draco smiled and was happy he was back at work.

Draco walked into his office and was pleased to see everything neatly arranged, just the way he left it, well almost. “ Did I miss anything? Aside from the Italian meeting? How was that by the way? “

“ Mr. Blake flew for the meeting, using your reports. The investors were quite happy with your proposal and suggested they start within the next month. “

So his left hand man had been useful enough. Draco smiled. “ That’s nice to hear. I was wondering if- “

“ Sir, sorry to interrupt, but you got a call, from Miss Granger a few hours ago. “

Draco stopped in his tracks. His fake mood had disappeared instantly. He stared at his table for a few seconds and then at the floor where he fell two days ago. “ Really? Well…I’ve got no time for that. I had a meet with the Essex Automobile Association today, right? “

“ Sir, that’s been taken care of by Mr. John. “

“ What? Well you guys are actually doing a good enough job without me, eh? “ He faked a laugh. “ Suppose I could resign now. “

“ I suppose you could use some rest, “ Alice chimed in helpfully.

Draco was quiet. Perhaps this was the right moment to settle his debts and to delve into the bottom of this whole source of chaos. He could play a hero while on vacation and save his mother and the wizard populace and the bloody unknowing muggles who had no idea they could die in an instant-

“ Sir? “

Draco looked up and nodded. “ You- you’re right. I do need rest. “ He slowly looked around his office. “ Could you- you could handle everything? Well…with everyone else’s help? “ He handed her his Armani briefcase from his desk. “ Some of my reports are here, also some proposals- you can’t reach me while I’m away. I’ll be going to some far-flung place, I think. My cellular phone won’t work; I won’t be at my mugg- I mean my residence. I- “ he paused again, running a hand over his blonde mane. “ I hope you do well. Have a nice day Alice. “

And Draco began to walk out from his office.

“ Sir? “ Alice began. “ Do take care. “

Draco nodded, hoping he would heed her words.

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Draco arrived at his residence and stopped in his tracks after he got out of the cab. A red beetle was parked near his garage. Hermione. She was here! And he suppressed his happiness, knowing it would only kill her.

“ Draco, “ Hermione said standing at his front entrance.

“ You’re here, “ he said in a controlled voice. “ Why? “

“ Alice phoned me, after you’d left your office- “ she stopped, seeing his face. It was…too serious…like he wasn’t happy…she took a deep breath. “ Aren’t you supposed to still be at the hospital? “

He frowned and walked past her. “ It’s none of your business. “

She sucked her breath in. What was going on? Had she been stupid enough to come here, even if she had felt it would still turn out the same? He was rejecting her devastatingly. She took another deep breath. “ I don’t know what’s going on, but I need to hear it from you, now. “

Perhaps it was the tone of her voice, or it was because he missed her terribly, that he nodded once, signaling for her to go in his house. They stood in the living room. Silence for awhile, until Hermione opened her mouth again.

“ Tell me. “

“ I told you to stay away, right? “ Draco said.

Hermione looked out the half open blinds to see some children pass by in bikes, laughing gaily. “ I don’t understand what’s going on! “ Her voice sounded strained. Her voice sounded hurt.

“ You don’t have to! Don’t you get such an uncomplicated thing? I told you to stay away, so stay away! “ Draco spat out. He felt his ears go red. This was appalling! He was hurting her again! Just to save her!

Hermione’s hand found her mouth and she looked at him in shock again, feeling it all too illusory. “ Just tell me…” she whispered, afraid she would cry again.

“ I thought- I thought I could love you, maybe I did but along the way- “ he paused. ~That’s right, hurt her, but give her some credit, give her some pride....~ “ But I don’t… I couldn’t… I can’t. “

“ I wasn’t enough for you? “ she asked, trembling again.

“ No one is enough for Draco Malfoy. “ He emphasized the word no one, knowing how important it was to her. Knowing how it would damage her.

She gasped a little, feeling her knees go weak. The words kept echoing in her head. “ No…” she gasped. “ It’s- “

“ It’s true, “ he said calmly. “ I’m sorry. “

She saw his eyes, felt his aura and he wasn’t sorry at all! Was this some new brutal joke? Draco was reverting to his old, bastard self now! She felt like she couldn’t stand it. He was making it up! She felt his love! Even if he never said it, even if they never said it to each other! She had felt it! It was there! It was still here! Wasn’t it? Wasn’t it?

“ No you’re not, “ she replied, shaky. “ So everything you told me? All that ‘I’m a changed person’- that was just crap? That was just- just bullshit! “

He nodded, fearing he would run over to her and embrace her and tell her that everything was just a lie to save her from a terrible death. He gulped, thinking of the right words to say. “ I just thought I could love you, I’ve never loved anyone before and I thought you could change everything. But I was just fooling myself with it. There’s still the bloodline I have to preserve. You’re still someone of filthy blood- I’m a Malfoy. I have duties, I was dreaming too long- “

“ We were together for- “

“ What? Five months or something like that? It was all too fast- It doesn’t matter! What matters is that I end this dream right now. You were a dream Hermione, just a good distraction from it all- “

“ Stop it! “

“ I plan to, so get out of my house. “

“ I will, “ she replied, tears coursing along her cheeks now. “ But- kiss me first, kiss me first and I will. “

He smirked at her. “ Merlin’s dismembered balls…what the hell is this now? “

“ Just do it! “ she cried. And Hermione pulled Draco up to her and she kissed his lips fully, while holding the sides of his face with both of her hands, kissing him with all she had, just for him to feel how much he was hurting her, how much she loved him, despite her not saying it…

Draco’s eyes widened in shock as she kissed him with fervor…and it hurt him and he loved it, all at the same time. This was his goodbye kiss now, without her knowing it, and beyond his control, he was kissing her back and he held her face in his hands…and he stopped.

“ I can’t, “ he finally said breaking away from her. “I’m- I’m sorry, Hermione. I can’t love you. I don’t want to. “ It was shattering him to the very core. The Slytherin in Draco would never die. Find a way to get rid of her, and she’ll live and so will you mother.

“ You don’t want to? “ she repeated stupidly. Hermione had never felt more foolish in her entire life than this moment!

“ Yes! “ he snapped. “ Not you! Never you! You’re Potter’s possession, well good news, Potter’s dead! I only hold his heart! But I’m not Potter now, am I? I thought I could love you! Maybe it was just because I have his heart! So just get out of my life! “

“ I wasn’t looking for another Harry! I fell in love with Draco! Draco Malfoy! It’s Draco Malfoy! I fell in love with you! I love you! “ she cried.

Her face reddened and Draco knew it was the truth. Could the pain get any deeper for him? For her? She loved him! Those three beautiful words! She said them! For him! And here he was, about to throw it all away!

His heart pounded, trying to pull himself together. He had to hurt her! He had to make her hate him! And he opened his mouth, despite his heart protesting greatly, despite his spirit unwilling to do all of it!

“ I don’t feel the same way, “ he finally said.

And Hermione felt her heart plummet to the ends of the earth. And so it had ended, those six words that killed her, that shattered her heart, and she felt dead and cold and alone again. And she knew she had to get out, and get out fast.


~
He hated her! It was a lie! She had been too caught up in her grandiose delusions! That he loved her! That he felt the same way! Oh god!
~


Finally she nodded and her hands dropped to her sides. “ I- goodbye, Draco. “

He watched as blood drained from her face, and he fought the urge to take her in his arms and embrace her like he would never let go of her.


~
I’m doing this for you, Hermione! Don’t you see? I can’t- I can’t see you killed, Harry’s death had been too much, just think of me as that Slytherin bastard you once knew at Hogwarts! Oh god, Hermione! I love you! I love you! But I love you so much I have to hurt you!
~


He watched as Hermione walked out. He watched as she tried not to cry anymore, he watched as she tried to be strong. Hermione Granger was walking away from him, and she would hate him in a few minutes and cry terribly and get over him just like she had gotten over Harry Potter.

Hermione Granger was walking out of his life.

Hermione Granger was walking out of his heart.

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TBC?

Author Notes: Don't you just love moments like these? Emo moments that make you grit your teeth on why the author had to be so evil to make a character cry and hurt. Wee! I'm good (does 'shakira-hips-don't-lie- movements) hahaha! okay, i'm not a fan of her, it's just my younger sister sings it a lot. Once again, thanks to all you readers for reading. And please DO REVIEW. It's the only consolation i get for typing away this rather long story. Thanks! Till next chapter...?

Chapter 21: What's done is done
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Draco stood in the middle of the living room hearing the front door close. It was the loudest echo he had heard in his life. It hurt his heart more than his ears. She was safe then? Safe from the malicious intents of the Deatheaters? Safe from her death? The pain was a blunt ache, a sharp twinge- all at one time.

He had saved her! He had hurt her to save her! And for some reason, his brain screamed that he should be happy, but something in his chest hurt more than he could ever imagine. Hermione was gone. She was never coming back. And she told him those three words…that beautiful declaration he knew would haunt him, for the rest of his existence.

I love you.

Damn it! It was just a phrase that people said when their hormones were raging! Hermione had just said that to make him stay! Hermione needed the human company! Of what comparison was he to the boy who lived anyway! What! She just wanted him to stay!

And Draco felt something slither down his cheek. And he didn’t want to acknowledge it at all. He just didn’t want to. The gauntlet had been thrown, and he would rather hurt Hermione herself than see them do it, he would rather hurt her than see her die.

This was his choice.

This was his fate.

This was his private hell.

I love you, Hermione.

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Ginny was biting her lower lip as she hunched over a piece of empty parchment, wondering what to write. Her four hour deadline to write an article was nearing, and still her parchment remained spotless as ever. She frowned. What was there to say? This was something big, and as a feature writer, she had to choose her words carefully….besides, her mum had warned her…

She thought about Draco and Hermione. And she wondered if they were meant to weather through it all. She loved Hermione, and like Ron and the rest of them, had wanted her happy. Harry’s death had been fairly hard on Hermione’s emotions…and now…to hear this happen to Draco…she had actually thought that this was probably the new guy for Hermione, someone that wasn’t like Harry, someone who didn’t seem like Harry… she thought they would last…

She sighed and bit into her Caramel Quill, Fred and George’s answer to the Sugar Quill that Zonko’s- was it Zonko’s?- had. They came in four flavors as of the moment. Chocolate, Vanilla, Strawberry, being the other three, plus, her brothers added, “they bring out the writer in you!”.

Ginny frowned again, and found a ‘few’ sentences in her head to start.

*
“ A New Generation?”

Ginevra Molly Weasley

In the light of the recent events of ‘dark activity’ all across England, Scotland and Ireland, one has to consider what is behind this- or who?

Could it be some young wizards, plaguing the wizarding populace with their love of larking about; with antics that could hurt and even kill? Perhaps with nothing better left to do and with a lack of supreme unoriginality, they used the name of the Deatheaters- as the quickest way to notoriety?

Or could it be, what the wizarding population has feared to mention freely, could it be what we have all been talking about in whispers? Yes, the rumors spread like wildfire.

A new generation of Deatheaters.

Deatheaters.

The word stirs the beginnings of fear in the wizard populace, much like the mere mentioning of he-who-must-not-be-named. What had begun as a series of little attacks in far flung muggle villages with few wizard inhabitants has now escalated to something considered to be of a greater threat to not only the wizard society, but to the unknowing muggle population as well….
*

Ginny smiled. The Caramel Quill was working perfectly, just as Fred and George said it would.

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“….the resurgence of he-who-must-not-be-named through these so called new generation of Deatheaters is quite promising, and they leave it just as that. “

Blaise finished reading Ginny Weasley’s article and then he threw the Daily Prophet on the floor angrily. His jaw clenched tightly as he stared at the paper in loathing. How dare she say, or rather insinuate that they were copycats to the previous Deatheaters! Nothing was old and nothing was new! They still stuck to the Dark Lord like adhesives! How dare she say that!

That bratty red-headed columnist was in for it… only later. He still had many other things to think about. Like Draco. And he wondered when Draco would come. What had he told Draco back there? No bother. Draco knew where he lived.

And in his fireplace, he saw a flicker of green. A second later, in full color, Draco Malfoy was standing in the middle of his trophy room.

Draco was quiet for a moment, as if culture-shocked by the trophy room that housed the strangest animals. Stuffed heads of….a dragon, something that looked like that hippogriff that bit him…a ten foot in width spider….three muggle heads most likely. Although Draco had seen it all, it had been what? Six years since he had last visited this place? The last husband Blaise’s mother ever had, and the longest that had lived. Blaise’s eighth stepfather, pureblood of course and filthy rich. Old wizard and rich. He had lived comfortably throughout his life. Never had to work a day in his life.

“ Glad you could come, “ Blaise beckoned him to sit across him on a crimson silky chair. “ I was hoping you would…or rather expecting you would. “

“ I couldn’t miss this for the world, “ Draco replied deprecatingly.

Blaise gave a hearty laugh. “ Ah Draco, Draco, Draco. Such passion…all for the resurrection of the Dark- “

“ I’d like to see my mother, “ he interrupted.

Blaise raised an eyebrow. “ See her you shall, “ he said. He called for a house elf that came panting to him and gave the elf an order. A full minute later, Draco finally saw his mother.

Draco stood up as he heard his mother strangle a sob. He looked at her for a moment; searching for physical signs of abuse and neglect…she was well taken care of. Blaise had been true to his word.

Narcissa gasped and stared at her son and in less than a heartbeat, ran to him to embrace him tightly. “ Draco! Oh dear god, Draco! “ She never wanted to be apart from her son again! To see him alright…and she never cared if she died, only for Draco to be alive and alright!

Draco buried his face in his mother’s luxurious golden hair. He smelled a faint scent of lavender in her hair, a complete assurance that she had been taken care of. At that moment, he knew he had never been this eased, this happier. He stepped back form her embrace, holding her shoulders with both of his hands. He looked at her again, and saw distress in her eyes. He wanted it to go away. Certainly she had heard of the news? Of him pathetically collapsing and being whisked away to a different muggle hospital again?

“ Mum, “ he finally breathed out, glad he could say those words to her once more. “ How- how are you? “

She nodded, and Draco saw tears fall down her face. “ Can we- go home? “ she asked holding his hand tightly, wanting protection, wanting his assurance.

Draco nodded. “ We will. “ And Draco gave Blaise a hard stare.

The message was unmistakable in Draco’s eyes, and Blaise knew he would be back to fulfill his word to him and the rest of the Deatheaters. He had yet to meet them anyway. Let him wallow in his mother’s presence for now, you know he won’t go far. Hermione’s still within our reach…

Blaise lifted his chin up to signal a ‘yes’ to him. And he watched wordlessly as Draco stepped into the large fireplace, along with his mother, to return home.

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Narcissa shakily held a cup of strong tea (with a little bit of fire whisky) in her hands, and Draco saw and knew she was still afraid. Some dread had risen in her again, like his father was alive again, like Voldemort was after him again.

“ Mum, “ he held her hands kindly and placed the cup of tea on a table beside her as he half knelt

over her. “ Stop that, please. It’s okay now. You’re safe. “

Narcissa looked up to him and smiled, well tried to smile, courageously. “ Nothing, I’m just- trying to regain my nerves of steel again- nerves of a Black…” And she gave an unsteady laugh as Draco sighed. She eyed Draco as she looked at her blue eyes. His eyes were so painfully like his father’s! Only; warmth was in Draco’s eyes and not frostiness.

“ Mum, it’s okay, “ he said again.

She gulped. “ Did you- did you trade yourself to them to get me out of there? “ she finally asked, afraid her voice would shake too much, like her hands. “ He said you were sent to some muggle hospital? “

Draco sighed and stood up. “ Mum, that’s not really- “

“ Important? Needed? Draco Black Malfoy, you tell me what happened between you and Blaise Zabini right now! “

His mother had used his full name. She meant trouble and would never stop nipping at his heels unless he told her the truth. He sighed again and walked over to the fireplace, willing himself to tell the truth…well could he? Narcissa might….no- he can’t- but this was his mother…she had to be safe…did she have to know!

“ Mum, “ he took a deep breath. “ I wanted you safe. Blaise kept his word, now I have to keep my word to him- “

“ And what was that? “ she interrupted, fearing for the worst.

“ I’m going to work with them again, “ he chose his words cautiously. “ I don’t want them to do that to you again- “

“ Be like your father again? Be under the Dark Lord’s arm again! “ she looked terrified and had gone pale, and Draco was afraid she would faint at any moment. “ Oh Merlin! Draco- why! You didn’t have to! If I had only known- I would’ve- oh Draco! “

“ Mum, “ Draco said, placing a hand on her shoulder. “ Please, what’s done is done. You know I’d do anything to protect you. You’re the only one I have left. “ It’s true. I can’t forgive myself if anything happened to you. They’ll never do that again…and Hermione…if you only knew mum…I can’t see her harmed too…because of me…and the stupid horcrux…I have to find a way…without placing the others in jeopardy…

“ But still! Draco- he almost killed you before! I can’t bear to see that happen again! Why, Draco? Why! Oh, Draco! “ she cried as she stood up and hugged her son tightly, even tighter than when she had seen Draco at the Zabini manor less than an hour ago. “ You know I can’t lose you! Not anymore! Even though- even though your father wasn’t such a kind man- I still loved him Draco, and that even when I heard that he had died- I still cried, I was still hurt, because I loved your father still! And how much more you, Draco? “

Draco sighed and embraced his mother once more. “ Mum, it’ll be fine. You know it will be fine. We’ve gone through worse, you know that. And still you pulled through. Still, we pulled through. “

Narcissa sank into a couch behind her and shook her head tiredly. “ Draco, you were at the hospital, why? What happened there? “

Draco looked down the carpet and sat across her. “ Mum- I had chest pains, that’s all. They kept me at the hospital for observation for a few hours. The doctors said nothing was wrong with my EKG nor were there any other abnormalities or malfunctions with- with my heart. I knew I was tired, I hadn’t been sleeping well anyway, and it was just stress, mum. “

Narcissa shook her head. “ Stress? You’re not lying again, are you? “

“ No, mum. “ Draco sighed again, not looking at her eyes. “ I have been in a hospital. I’ve experienced chest pains. “

“ Was this girl- Hermione Granger, there with you? “

Draco looked at his mother slowly. “ What does she have to do with all this? “ He frowned and looked at the carpet again, and then the roaring fire.

Narcissa smiled a little, for the first time in what seemed like years. “ Maybe it was a heartache out of-? Tell me Draco, did anything happen between you and her that gave you those chest pains? “

Draco’s eyebrows shot up. “ Mum! Please…it’s not like it was a serious relationship or anything. It was because of work, that’s all, alright?“ Draco shifted one foot uncomfortably and cleared his throat. “ Hermione’s the past now, mum. It’s over. “

“ You ended it? “

“ I had to, mum. “

“ Why? “

“ Can we not talk about this, please? “ Draco sighed as he sipped the last of his fire whisky tea. There was the tinkering of china against silverware as he placed his cup down.

Narcissa nodded and said nothing. But there was a hint of some smile on her scarlet lips. Of course, she did not know the happenings between them, but she had never seen her son more enamored of any other girl besides this Hermione Granger…someone she might have seen, but had forgotten. After all, her son was a very private person…but she had to know someday.

“ Darling, “ Narcissa began after a lengthy silence.

“ Hmm? “ Draco looked up to her and gave a strained smile.

“ Don’t let love pass you by, “ she said with a wistful smile.

Draco felt his ears go red. “ Mum! Wait a minute…where have I heard that before? “

Finally, Narcissa eased up and laughed.

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It was past six in the evening.

Hermione wandered alone in the streets of London’s fashionable district, letting her mind float off to avoid the bad things that had happened earlier take the best of her. A good distraction was the best thing to have, a best defense against a painful incident. As she did her walking, Hermione suddenly stopped abruptly.

“ Miss Granger! “

Hermione’s eyebrows shot up in surprise and recognition. “ Alice! Mrs. Alice! “

Alice kissed Hermione’s cheek surprisingly. “ Dear, it’s so good to see you. Have you- have you seen Sir Malfoy lately? “

Hermione took a deep breath and shook her head. “ He- he said he wanted to be alone, Mrs. Alice. “

Alice ‘tsked’ and shook her head. “ He’s a rather stubborn boy. Why, he didn’t last two days in that hospital! He went straight back to work, and it was only because of my insistence that he had gone home today! “

Hermione nodded, the painful words Draco had let go suddenly flooded back to her like a dam that had broken forth. She gulped a little. She tried to find something to say. “ Well…I hope he’s fine now. “

“ Oh he will be. Give him a visit, eh? “ Alice nudged her elbow a little in the air.

Hermione gave a genial smile. “ We’ll see. I- I have to go Mrs. Alice. Excuse me. “

And she said her goodbyes and walked quickly away from the nice lady. Even the mere presence of Alice! Even just someone who worked for Draco! She shook her head and hugged her coat around her body tighter than ever. Ward off everything, the stupid things that had happened, the cold, just everything!

She couldn’t believe she had said those words to Draco. Three words she had only said to one other person before. Three words for Harry…now three words for Draco…. But he had rejected it. And agonizingly at that. And she knew it was true, and that she had been too honest for her own good. If she had only kept it. Then maybe the hurt wouldn’t be so bad…but to actually hear Draco reject her…

Hermione felt a tear escape the corner of her eye.

She had to work.

Work overtime.

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“ Ginevra Molly Weasley! “ Ron bellowed in their pad two days later.

“ What? “ Ginny looked up innocently, skimming through the television channels with a black remote control in one hand.

“ I was busy earlier, so I couldn’t have the pleasure to get a hold of your ears! What the hell is this? “ Ron held up an article from the Daily Prophet. Her article.

“ Oh? That? “ Ginny smiled. “ Fred and George’s Caramel Quill worked wonders! You should really try it you know- “

“ No! Stop playing innocent with me! Mum’s going to have a fit once she reads this!

“ Well, she hasn’t yet, so keep your bloody fingers crossed. “

“ Ginny! “

“ Ron, it’s not like it’s an all out war against them! I didn’t establish them as Deatheaters! It was just a probability! I’m a feature writer, I write to entertain and make people think! Those aren’t straight- laced facts you know. “

“ You should quit this job- your outspokenness will get the better of you soon, “ Ron growled as he tossed the paper on the couch beside Ginny. “ We’re adjusting marvelously well to the muggle life, get a job as a gossip columnist at Hermione’s magazine for crying out loud! “

Ginny grinned. “I have you guys to protect me! “

“ Ginny! “

“ Oh come on, Ron, give it a break! The Daily Prophet’s circulations go off the roof every time we write something about these sorts of unknown Deatheaters. And it’s not like I’m pointing fingers at anyone now, am I? I don’t see any name there like Zabini’s, or Goyle’s- or Malfoy’s!“ Ginny gave a laugh.

“ It’s just that- “ Ron stopped in his tracks. Something had just hit him like a lightning bolt. The possibility couldn’t be ignored now, could it? It was not entirely impossible! It wasn’t! Slim chances were still chances…

“ Ron? “ Ginny looked at him quizzically. “ Something the matter? “

Ron shook his head and gave a smile. “ Nothing. I’ll get back at you later. “

Ginny stared as her brother bolted for their living room.

“ Where’s the floo powder? “ he asked.

“ Aren’t you supposed to be off duty? “ Ginny asked with an incredulous look on her face now. “ I was kidding about the whole thing, you’re not mad are you? “

Ron shook his head distractedly, grabbing a handful of floo powder from a container near a side table. “ No- not at all…Gin…I’ll be gone for awhile- watch over the flat will you? “

“ Ron- “

Just as Ron stepped into the fireplace that had magically expanded, an owl came swooshing through a window from the living room.

Ginny took the letter and read it. Her eyes widened. “ Ron! “ she said in a shocked voice.

Ron’s heart pounded, fearing it was terrible news. “ What? “ he asked, his eyes widening as well. “ What is it? “

“ It’s from mum, “ Ginny’s voice faltered.

Ron stepped away from the fireplace and in two strides, reached Ginny. “ What’s wrong? “

Ginny squealed happily all of a sudden. “ Fleur! Fleur’s in labor! At St. Mungo’s! We have to go, now! “

Ron looked dumbfounded for a moment, and then he laughed and took the jar full of floo powder to Ginny. “ After you! “

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TBC?

A/N: I hope you guys liked this chapter. I thought it best to insert a light moment, Fleur's labor and all. It is quite hard to characterize a lot of characters, you know. I don't think i will be uploading the next chapters soon though, cause i'm a bit upset that no one likes this story much.

Chapter 22: You said Deatheaters...
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Hermione ran through the halls of St. Mungo’s, panting as she did. She finally reached the entire Weasley family, including a very distracted looking Bill, pacing back and forth in a narrow hallway.

“ Ron, “ she breathed.

Ron smiled. “ Glad you could make it. “

Hermione kissed Molly and Ginny and hugged Bill. “ Hey, Bill, “ she said with a broad smile.

“ How’s it going? “

Bill gave a nervous laugh. “ Hermione, I’ve broken all sorts of curses and hexes from various treasure fields and vaults and not once in my life have I ever felt afraid, but now, my record has just been broken. “

Hermione laughed as she took a seat beside Ginny.

“ If it’s a boy, no old school names like Ronald Billius, please! “ Fred said.

“ Hey! “ Ron was red in the face. “ I happen to like my name, thank you very much! “

They all laughed.

“ Have you thought of a name? “ Hermione asked Bill.

Bill shook his head. “ I- well…we have, but not everyone approved of it. Especially mum. “ He laughed. “ We wanted something with French roots if it’s to be a girl, an English name would do good for a boy…” He laughed again and continued pacing around.

“ Suppose…Virginia would do nice…if it were a girl…” Ginny said thoughtfully.

“ Virginia! “ Ron repeated. “ No way! “

Ginny stuck out her tongue.

Molly smiled as she sat beside Arthur, across Ginny, Ron and Hermione. “ Hmm…for a girl….French name, was that, Bill? I’d like it to be…Bernadette…or Dianne…”

The twins scrunched up their noses. “ It’s got to be a boy! “ They said together.

“ I’d like Aldrich! “Fred announced. “ I read that somewhere…meant ‘chief’ or something like that…”

“ Aldrich Weasley? “ George said. “ That sounds horrible! “

“ Oh yeah? “ Fred said.

“ Yeah! “ George snapped. “ I’d like it to be…George! George Weasley! “

Bill laughed. “ Definitely not that! “

And then a healer breezed through the door. Bill stopped his pacing and went quiet, waiting for the healer to say something.

Finally Molly stood up. “ Is it-? “

“ Congratulations Mr. Weasley, it’s a boy! “ the healer said with a happy smile.

Bill stood dumbfounded as he waited for the happy realization to sink in. He was a father now! He had a son! He was a daddy! He tried to find his voice. “ How- how is Fleur? “ he croaked, finally.

“ Doing beautifully, “ the healer replied.

“ Can I see them? “ Bill quickly asked.

The healer laughed. “ This way, daddy. “

Bill came out later on, his face glowing with delight, carrying a tiny bundle in his arms protectively. “ Mum, you’ve got to see him…he’s so tiny and…” He didn’t continue. Instead he showed the little bundle in his arms to them.

Ginny gasped, feeling tears at the corners of her eyes. “Oh my! I’m…an aunt! “

Molly cooed over the squirming bundle in Bill’s arms. “ I’ve got a grandson! “ she cried to Arthur.

“ We’ve got a grandson, Arthur! I’m a grandmum! “

“ He’s got red hair! “ Ron breathed with a laugh. Everyone else laughed, hearing his comment.

They saw Fleur shortly inside a pastel colored room, and she looked tired, but otherwise; she glowed from within. There was a huge smile on her lips, a display of her perfect teeth. She was holding her son in her arms now as Bill stood beside her bed.

“ Isn’t ‘e beauteeful? “ she gushed kissing his little forehead.

Bill nodded all the time. “ We’ve- we’ve chosen a name for him. “

“ What is it, Bill? “ Arthur asked.

“ Philip Weasley, “ Bill and Fleur said together.

Arthur laughed. “ By jove, I’m a granddaddy! “

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Hermione had taken the opportunity, as the entire Weasley family fawned over Philip, to get out and buy something as a present. The question now was what should she get? Hermione had, thankfully, brought along her car, parked safely near the old facade of St. Mungo’s. Should she get something from the muggle world? Or have a quick sprint through Diagon Alley?

Hermione found herself going into an upscale boutique in muggle London. She was going to get the baby some….baby clothes! Yes, that was it! A wizard baby needed muggle baby clothes! She almost laughed at her choice of gift. Wait a minute…she could buy a…wizard baby crib…she had seen one once, in Diagon Alley…it had all the makings of a normal square shaped crib, except the toys hanging from it actually moved without the baby touching them…

Hermione shook her head and got into a store, ordering a sailor suit; jumper style done in blue, with a matching blue little hat. Frowning and dissatisfied, Hermione decided to go to Diagon Alley to get that crib that had been nagging at the back of her mind since she had bought the muggle baby clothes.

She entered the eccentric looking store, filled with mothers and children. The place was a larger than the usual in Diagon Alley, opened more or less than five months ago, catering to homemakers and children. They even sold talking children’s fairytale books.

Hermione went to the end corner of the store.

“ Can I help you? “ a lady approached her wearing robes of brilliant red. “ We’ve got a special on the fantasy crib. From the Elfin woods. Had to have special permission from the Queen Fae, of course. The wood’s sturdy as it comes, the hanging toys come along the package too, we’ve got little stars that twinkle and change from blue to red to pink to yellow…the toys change frequently, actually. Breakfast’s got a little smiling sun that sings children’s rhymes, Lunch has got teddy bear that can change in size, Dinner’s got the stars of course, and the moon. Safety is guaranteed as the wood grows when the baby attempts to get out, but shrinks right back again when the baby’s not feeling mischievous. “

Hermione smiled. “ That’s just the thing I want to have. “ Hermione eyed the crib. It was uniquely designed, with intricate lattice work carved entirely from a huge block of hard wood, taken from some forest in Ireland, and since it was nearly nighttime, a little moon and some stars hung magically, without strings, twinkling in the dim light.

“ Will you be buying it now? “

Hermione nodded, shocked at her impulsiveness. “ Please deliver this tomorrow, address is The Burrow, Ottery St. Catchpole. “ Hermione eyed the magical quill writing an address on a piece pf square parchment.

“ Anything else? “

“ That’ll be all. “

“ Done. “ The woman smiled. “ You’re easy to deal with, thank heavens. Most mothers are so fickle minded, not like you- “

“ I’m not a mother, “ Hermione laughed. But at the back of her mind, she suddenly remembered Harry. She closed her eyes and forced herself not to.

“ Oh? You’d make a pretty one then. Shall I have this gift wrapped? “

“ Please, “ she replied. “ Preferably in baby blue? “

“ Done. This way to the cashier please. “

Hermione smiled. She was sure they were going to love this. This would’ve been a best seller in the muggle world too. If only she could have this featured in British Vogue….Hermione then proceeded back to the city, back to St. Mungo’s, actually with a bouquet of flowers in one hand. She walked into the room where Fleur was staying and where the other family members were.

“ ‘Ermione! Where ‘ave you been? “ Fleur asked.

“ Just around. “ Hermione gave the flowers to Bill and Bill showed them to Fleur. Fleur smiled thankfully.

Fleur laughed and felt tears forming at the corner of her eyes. “ Can you beleev it? I am a mother now! Isn’t Philip adorable? We’re all so beau-teeful together!“

No one could have agreed more than Bill himself.

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“ Hermione…you didn’t have to! “ Bill exclaimed as Fleur opened the huge parcel.

Everyone was gathered for a little party at The Burrow the following day and the gift had just been delivered. The dining table was heavily laden with all kinds of good food, from Molly’s famous pudding to Ginny’s half-burnt apple pie, and even the canary creams Fred and George made (with a promise to their mother that nothing else was inside the cream).

Hermione smiled. “ Oh shush. It’s the least I could give, you know. I didn’t know if the baby would look good in those muggle clothes so- “ she was cut off as Fleur gave her a very tight hug.

“ ‘Ermione! You are wonderful! You have to be a godmother to my Philip! Right, Bill? “ She looked up to her husband with her eyes glowing.

Bill nodded. “ Give us the honor, Hermione? “

Hermione said yes and Fleur hugged her again. By now, the package had been completely opened by a very excited Fleur.

Ginny’s eyes shot out in surprise. “ Oh my! “ Ginny said. “ That’s- I saw that! Witch Weekly’s most extravagant gift of the month- oh my! Hermione, that’s beautiful! “

Fleur eyes misted over as she held Philip in her arms, looking over the crib. It was nighttime, and the little toys that hung, as stated by the shop owner were indeed a full moon and a few dozen stars, moving around slowly, twinkling in the air.

“ Glad to see your maternal instincts are working, “ Ron teased, nudging her with his elbow.

“ Oh shut up! “ Hermione laughed. They passed around some good old ale and Ron drank with gusto, so did Fred and George. Only Percy remained stiff, drinking a few sips of the ale. He eyed Ginny who had drunk her glass in two gulps.

“ Take it easy, Gin. “

“ Percy, lighten up! “

There was a soft tap on a kitchen window, and Ron, still laughing, went to see what it was. It was an owl from the Ministry of Aurors. Turning his back, to hide the letter from his family, and not wanting to disrupt the happy moment, Ron read the letter outside of the house. Under the light of the moon and with a soft chill in the air, he opened the sealed envelope. The letter was done hurriedly, and Ron couldn’t almost interpret it.

“ Ron, need your help. Bad news. Two killed in Knockturn Alley, just 10 minutes ago. Meet us at the Ministry building, ASAP. Lee Jordan “

Ron felt himself go ashen.

An attack? Deaths! At Knockturn Alley? They wouldn’t…Knockturn Alley was a very public place-! And he knew who had done it, without Lee telling him anything. Those damned new generation of Deatheaters Ginny had been writing about! What the hell were they up to now? He quickly pocketed the letter, wondering how to tell his father and mother and everyone else that he needed to go someplace else at such a momentous occasion.

As he turned around, he saw Hermione standing at the kitchen door. “ Something wrong? “ she asked him.

Ron forced a smile. “ Nothing. Just a letter from the chaps, congratulating Bill and Fleur for a job well done! “

Hermione eyed him. “ You should’ve given it to Bill and Fleur. “

Ron faked a chuckle. “ You do know Lee Jordan’s handwriting right? He may be a good drawer, but his handwriting is impossible to read! “ He unconsciously clutched the crumpled letter in his pocket with one hand.

Hermione laughed. “ True. Come on in now, then. You might catch a cold, Uncle Ron. “

Ron went inside. “ Lee and the rest of the guys send their congratulations! “ he lied in a happy manner.

Bill smiled. “ Tell them thanks! “

Ron nodded. “ I will, right now. “

“ What? “ Arthur said.

“ I’m going to show off my nephew right now! “ Ron bellowed, hoping his little scheme would work.

“ Okay, he’s intoxicated! “ Charlie announced.

“ No, I’m not! “ Ron protested.

“ Off to bed with you! “ Molly said.

Ron nodded blearily and slowly walked up the stairs. All he needed was a few minutes for the party to end, or for the party to proceed outside of the house since he knew all too well that the little clock that determined where everyone was in the kitchen, still functioned perfectly.

He heard the voices and sounds of chairs and silverware clink in the distance as he stood in his room, watching them move out a table and some chairs that floated in the cool air. He waited till they were all settled outside the garden, laughing and singing songs in the night. Ron breathed in, hoping Hermione’s amazing instincts wouldn’t grab her tonight. Without another breath; he apparated. It was a risk worth taking for now.

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Dean Thomas paced impatiently in the nearly empty room, except for ten other Aurors, the room was rather sparse. The mood was heavy tonight. Two of the Aurors that had patrolled Knockturn Alley had been struck dead, by a curse they hadn’t seen in a long time...Avada Kedavra…The question was who did it? Surely young wizards wouldn’t go as far as using an unforgivable curse! And Lee then knew that these wizards weren’t ordinary troublemakers. These people were highly trained in the Dark Arts. Something the Aurors were good at as well.

Ron arrived through the front door and Dean nodded grimly.

“ I tried to come sooner, but I couldn’t very well spoil the happy night, “ Ron said, a little breathless. He dusted off his coat and proceeded to join the others. “ What happened? “

“ Two of our Aurors…Zachariah and Claremont- killed. By the Avada Kedavra, “ Dean Thomas told him quickly.

Ron’s eyes widened. “ What! “ These people had patrolled Wales with him only a few weeks ago! How could they be dead! Ron tired to find his voice after a few seconds of silence. “Couldn’t they have defended themselves? They were highly skilled- even you know that! Avada Kedavra? But- “

“ Ron, “ Dean said. “ It was Avada Kedavra, no mistaking it. Apparently they were caught off guard. I don’t know how those Deatheaters pulled it off, but they certainly did it. And did it well. “

“ You said ‘Deatheaters’. “

“ Aren’t they? “ Dean said. “ It’s what everyone calls them nowadays. They have to have a name. And that name proves them well. An Avada Kedavra pulled off on two highly trained Aurors proves that they deserve the title. “

“ That’s enough explaining, Dean, “ another voice said.

Ron looked sideways. “ Good evening, Sir. “

Lupin smiled blearily, looking more tired than ever. His thinning grey hair shone in the dimness of the room as the rest of the Aurors surrounded him. “ Where’s Hermione? “ he asked.

Ron cleared his throat. “ I didn’t let her come, on purpose. I thought it best if she were to stay with my family instead of me. Had to fake it to get here. “ He gave a small smile.

“ Ah, called in ‘sick’ by Ron Weasley. “

“ Sorry, sir. “

“ No matter. An absent Auror wouldn’t make a difference. To highlight tonight’s recent attack- “ Lupin paused and ran a hand over his grey hair. “ Some bystander reports say that there was only one man who was there, a single Deatheater that had cast two Avada Kedavra spells to kill Zachariah and Claremont. “

“ Who was the bystander? “ asked a female Auror. “ Or is it ‘were’ the ‘bystanders’? “

“ Some vendor at Knockturn Alley. Sold inexpensive amulets as a living. We’ve interrogated her, says that she was nodding off, since it was about ten in the evening near the old Borgin and Burkes store- heard some noises, like someone trying to get out of the way. Heard a few faint shouts, said she didn’t want to actually see it, so she just listened- the other one was at the Knockturn pub, the bartender, Mr. Coriander, said he heard shouts so he went out, just got in time to see the green flash all over the place, saw a man in a cloak slip away and alone, with two bodies in his wake. “

“ No one else was at the pub? “ Ron asked.

Lupin shook his head. “ Dean got there along with Jordan, about two minutes after. The pub was empty alright; Coriander was just cleaning the counter. “

“ Just two witnesses then…” Ron murmured.

“ Just two, but crucial. They’re under out protection now, indefinitely. Coriander seemed unenthusiastic, like he could live without our protection, the old vendor was quite frightened for her existence, even though she only heard and not saw. “

“ Typical. When it’s good old Voldie- “ as Ron said that, some flinched. “ When it’s good old you-know-who, everyone’s afraid now, “ Ron corrected. “ What’s the course of action? When are we going to bash their heads and stuff? “

Lupin tried to conceal his smile. Ron had always been a rather ardent one when it came to battles or assignments. The word ‘impulsive’ fit him like a glove. Harry had been the calming force of Ron…Lupin shook his head once. Harry was gone, and yet his memories were all over the place. The wizarding populace still venerated him as a hero; even some of the purebloods had bent their prejudices against Harry.

“ Really, Ron, you can always be so violent. “ Jordan laughed.

“ Okay then, let’s divide the group. There are only 12 of us now, Let’s split up into three groups then. Jordan, Dean, Ron, you come with me- we’ll be scouring Hangleton, in the faintest hopes of seeing that man again. You guys, “ he pointed to the others. “ Perhaps Scotland would do well. Hogsmeade’s safe so- the other group should be stationed in Cardiff again. That fine? “

There were nods of approvals and mumbles of ‘yes’.

“ Good, see you all in a bit then.”

The two groups headed out quietly to apparate outside of the ministry building. Dean and Lee began to head as, as did Ron.

“ Wait, “ Lupin called out to Ron. “ Ron, come here for a moment. “

Ron, looking quizzical, approached him once more. “ Something wrong, Sir? “

Lupin cleared his throat. “ Have you- have you seen Draco Malfoy lately? “

Ron nodded. “ A few days ago, sir. He had some ailment and was brought to the hospital. “

“ Did he mention anything to you? Anything strange? “

“ You think he’s connected with all of these? “ Ron asked, the comprehension dawning on him now. “ Well- he did- he did want all of us to stay away. Hardly made any sense, but perhaps his Slytherin bastardly self got the best of him again. “

Lupin nodded. “ What exactly did he say? “

“ Stay away. Keep her away, “ Ron repeated. “ He was trying to hurt Hermione…” His voice trailed off and his eyes narrowed. Draco was trying to hurt her on purpose! But for what reason?

Lupin nodded again, as if it didn’t make any sense to him either.

“ Sir, I have to go, just for awhile, “ Ron said.

“ Where? You should have company. They’re out for our heads, you know that Ronald Weasley. “ Lupin sighed, seeing the determined look in his eyes. “ Sure you don’t need company? Just- just give us a signal if anything happens. You know the drill. And- make sure- make sure you get to where we are in one piece, and alive. “

Ron nodded. “ Thank you, sir. “

Ron stepped into the empty furnace and threw the floo powder on the floor. “ Draco Malfoy’s home! “ he shouted clearly.

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A/N: after a few days of being down over various real-life situations....honestly, i'm very much excited to upload the next finished chapter. Is it alright to be excited with your own story?

The next chapter will be very nice (i'm being thick and all, but hey, promotion goes best here!), so don't forget to review and give me a lot of love so i can update faster! rah! rah! rah! go reviewers! hehehe

Chapter 23: And you tell me you're over him?
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Hermione had not bothered to even say goodbye to Ron, thinking he was now asleep and comfortably, in his bed. She had gone home past twelve midnight, feeling happier than she had been in days. She had not even thought about Draco now. She arrived in her flat with a smile on her face, glad how the day turned out. She was going to be a godmother soon. She laughed to herself at the idea. It was going to be her first time to be a godmother anyway. Hermione stopped and stared at the living room table.

The roses…they were dying. And a huge wave crashed into her heart all of a sudden. She had been desperately trying to forget! And the words pounding back into her head again…

“ No one is enough for Draco Malfoy. “

“ You were a dream Hermione, just a good distraction from it all- “

“ I thought I could love you! Maybe it was just because I have his heart! “

“ I don’t feel the same way…”

She sank on the floor and leaned her head against the edge of a couch, burying her face in her hands. Was it truly because of Harry’s heart that he had changed immensely? Had it all been a good dream? A false flicker of hope that there still was love even after Harry was gone? Sure she had seen some- no- the faintest color of green in Draco’s eyes…sure he had been too romantic at times- too nice to everyone, even muggles.

And she was desperately trying to remain level-headed, practical, just to alleviate the pain again. Would it always be like this? Would it always be hurt nipping at her heels?

So what if Draco had Harry’s heart? It wouldn’t make him Harry in the flesh again, now would it? So what if… what if she saw little specks of green in his predominantly grey eyes? It didn’t mean Harry was trying to resurface and haunt her, right? He wasn’t cursing her to love him until she herself died, right? She knew she had the right to love again, and this time she had loved Draco Malfoy. And as much as she hated to admit it, Draco had been hurting her, Ron was right. But she just wanted to deny it all. She loved him. Truly, she did. Despite the time that ran by so brusquely, she loved him! She loved Draco Malfoy!

Oh god, she thought as shook her head, her face still buried in her hands.

She loved him. She couldn’t- she couldn’t stop herself. And she wanted to fight for self-control. Perhaps…perhaps Draco was right? Some part also wanted to believe what Draco had said. It was all because he had Harry’s heart, now wasn’t it? It was possible, after all. She didn’t need Ron’s words in her head, she didn’t need to hear the forthright Ginny say it either, nor did she need the little jokes Fred and George made….somehow, they saw little bits of Harry in Draco now…in his eyes, in his smiles, even when he asked politely from waiters and salesladies….and she was guilty, guilty because Draco did things that reminded her so dreadfully of Harry….even when he kissed her…even when he embraced her, saying how much he missed her….

But she knew she was being a foolish girl. It was too good to be true. Nothing lasts beautifully forever…Harry didn’t last…why would it Draco make any different?

To her horror, she felt tears slide down her cheeks again. Only Draco could do this now. Only Draco…. Oh god…Draco. What motives would he have to do that to her? Lead her on and make her knees weak with- a kiss? With… flowers? With little conversations that always implied he cherished her? He didn’t say it. Not those three words….not like her. She had been stupid and impulsive. She just had to say it. No matter how painful it was to be rejected.

She wondered if he had laughed the moment she had stepped out of his house. He would have been probably smirking, wrinkling his fine nose in disgust with her words. But the words that struck her most of all plunged deep into her heart, in the deepest core.

“ I thought I could love you! Maybe it was just because I have his heart! “

Even he, even Draco, admitted to the fact that he might have only felt something for her because he had Harry’s heart! Did he know then, that it would happen? That actually having Harry’s heart would change how he saw her?

Was it all a game then? How come she had not read through him at all? He had said he was a changed man- and she had counted on it! Counted on it like a trusting three year old! Gullible! The brilliant Hermione that had graduated at the top of her year in Hogwarts was now the victim of a foolish amusement by a man she had once regarded as a git, a snake, a- a- Slytherin! And she wanted to hate him, hate him terribly for playing with her emotions.

But somehow, in the darkness, in the loneliness of her room….she couldn’t.

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Ron stood quietly, surveying Draco’s new home. There were dim lights in the corners of the ceilings, a soft orangey glow. The living room was fully carpeted in off-white, a pastel plush couch on each side, a side table with an expensive glass figure, a flat television screen right smack in the middle, a sound system, and all colored platinum. Draco had led a rather sophisticated muggle existence incontestably.

Someone cleared his throat. “ And what pray tell, are you doing in the middle of my living room, unsolicited and at this time of the night? “

“ We need to talk. “

“ Again? “ Draco raised a brow. “ We sure talk a lot don’t we? Didn’t I tell you to stay away from me? “

“ Just Hermione. You were much more stringent on Hermione, “ Ron spat out rather contemptuously. “ Sit down. I want to know a few things, also why your mother’s missing. “

“ If it’s a few, just ask, and I’ll answer quick, and you’ll be on your way, and so will I. “ Draco brushed something off his shoulder, but Ron didn’t see what it was. He faced Ron again, with a smug look on his features. “ And my mother’s not missing. She just visited some relatives in France. “

“ And just where the hell are you going? “ Ron asked.

“ Would it be your business? Some quality time with my mother, “ he replied scathingly. “ Why? Would you like to spend a boring night, drinking tea, talking about the latest wizarding scandals or fashions? “

Ron shook his head. “ Why did you do that? “

“ Do what? “ Draco snapped. And he knew what Ron was talking about. This was all leading to Hermione. It was always about Hermione! Ron was getting into private affairs- too much! Couldn’t the bastard just-

“ What are you hiding? “

Draco’s eyes snapped into Ron’s. “ Excuse me? “

“ What the hell are you hiding? I know something’s going on! “

“ Your fragile mind’s working now Weasley? Do be careful. It’s not everyday amazing ideas get into that thick red-headed lobe of yours now, does it? “

Ron’s eyes glowered. “ I don’t care if you plan to distract me with your little word plays, or how good you are at insulting my flaming hair. You tell me what’s going on. Why you had to do that? Why your father’s memorabilia’s popping all over the place? Are you hiding something from the Ministry? Are you doing something- “

“ Stop it! “ Draco said annoyed. “ Nothing! Nothing’s going on! I decided it was for the best that I leave Hermione to her peace. Didn’t you want to break us up, even before I got serious with her? Even before the whole wizarding community knew that I was dating someone I used to hate? “

Ron sighed and frowned. “ Damn it. That’s not the point! You were avoiding us, avoiding her, I’m sure it’s that important if you went through so many lengths to just to hurt her on purpose. You heard that? On purpose! You wanted that to happen! And you’d better bloody tell me why! “

“ On purpose? Of course! It was the best way to break up with her. I realized it was an error all along, me dreaming that I could get along with her. I won’t pretend I didn’t have fun with her, Hermione is indeed someone pleasant to be around with, but it had to stop. Purebloods and muggles don’t mix in relationships for me. It was a late realization- “

“ You changed! You know that! And don’t give me that mudblood or pureblood shit! “

“ I changed because of Harry Potter’s heart! I’m trying to regain myself! I probably only fell for Hermione because I had your dead best friend’s heart! Don’t you catch the drift Weasley? Even I am in awe of what Harry Potter’s heart can do! He made me like Hermione! “

Ron was quiet for awhile. The air was thick with pain, hatred, denial…so this was it then? So he had been right all along? So Harry was- so Draco just- and Hermione was the one hurting from it all!

“ Harry has nothing to do with this! “ Ron said indignantly. “ This is you! Your free will! Your blood’s coursing throughout your body because of his heart, but it’s you who decides- it’s you who decided to love Hermione! “

Draco glared at him, feeling his heart pound erratically. “ Who said I loved her? “

Ron glared back at him. “ You don’t need to say it. I’ve seen it. I saw it. “

Draco gave a hollow laugh. “ Please Ronald Weasley, stop your romantic tendencies- they worked best with Lavender Brown- “

“ Tell me, “ Ron breathed, looking at him squarely in the eye.

“ You just don’t quit, do you? “ Draco snapped.

“ Not until I know it’s the truth. “

“ I can lie under your freckled nose and you won’t even know it. “

“ Try me. “

“ Sit down. “

And Ron sat across Draco as Draco sat as well. Draco leaned forward, his bent knees supporting his hands as he clasped them in front of him. He sighed and took two deep breaths. “ Alright, Weasley. Just so that you’ll get your inquisitive arse out of my house…I did that on purpose, you were right. I had to hurt her. So you’d better play along and act like you don’t know a bloody thing. Those new Deatheaters…they’ve threatened my mother’s life- I had to- to make arrangements- “

“ On what? Working for them? “ Ron interrupted, not liking the idea of it.

“ No, believe me, I’m trying my best. I don’t want to be a part of them, but since my mother’s life is at stake- I couldn’t very well sacrifice her life now could I? The main reason I want you guys away from me- especially Hermione, is to protect her. I don’t know who these new Deatheaters are, they come in cloaks, their voices are strange, and new…I had no idea. Up to now, none at all…”

Ron nodded, breathing out heavily. Now, now he knew why. He stood up. “ Alright. I’ll play to your game. I’ll see to it Hermione’s kept away, and safe. How long will you keep up with this charade?”

“ For as long as it takes, just to guarantee their protection. Even for forever. As long as Hermione’s safe, “ came Draco’s quiet reply.

Ron nodded again. “ Thank you. “

Draco looked up at him. “ For what? “

“ For loving Hermione…and for telling me the truth. “ Ron walked into the fireplace as it magically increased to fit his height and width. “ If you need help, you know where to go. Do be wary. “ And with a poof of smoke, he was gone.

Draco stood up and ran a hand through his blonde mane. Applause sounded throughout the living room. Draco spun roughly, knowing who it was.

“ Bravo! Congratulations! An extraordinary routine by Draco Malfoy! “

Draco nodded. “ Hello, Blaise. “

“ You knew I was here all along? “

“ The scent of potpourri was overpowering, “ Draco replied.

Blaise gave a fake look of being upset. “ Come now, Draco. What gives? You should be happy, you actually fooled an Auror. Well…Ronald Weasley’s a stupid Auror anyway; I don’t know why they even allowed the flame-head to pass! “

“ Be happy for me, then. “

Blaise walked around purposefully in the living room as he twirled his wand with one hand. “ So- tell me…what do you plan to do next? Now that you’ve tricked Weasley, broken Granger’s delicate heart, saved you mother’s porcelain arse- “ Blaise laughed.

“ I don’t know, “ he replied through gritted teeth. “ Perhaps- we need to meet with the others. “

“ Well said! “ Blaise nodded approvingly. “ Just goes to show you really are keeping to your words! Do we- kill the aurors? Gather them in one place? Start a few modest bloody battles? Leave bodies lying on the ground- “

“ You’re being reckless. You just killed two Aurors in a public place- “

“ Come now, Knockturn Alley is a sinister place- even those poor men- bless their bloody souls, knew that! They’re going nuts, finding only two witnesses, one’s afraid for her arse, the other refuses their protection…apparently the owner of that pub- Mr. Coriander…might just take side with us. Isn’t it grand? I would like to keep the numbers going up, but- betrayal’s a too easy undertaking once the number’s no longer intimate… “

“ We move in a few days, “ Draco murmured.

“ What do you have in mind? “ Blaise’s eyes gleamed in the dim lights. Draco was back in the game. He liked it this way. He preferred Draco like this. The shrewdness, the brilliance in tactics, the harshness- oh this was perfect! The Dark Master would reward him greatly for bringing Draco back in! He only hoped it wasn’t another one of Draco’s facades that so had him confused on Draco’s character back in the Hogwarts days.

“ I’m the horcrux, right? “

Blaise nodded. “ You do know what’s going to happen. You either die or live, depending on how the ritual goes. But we need one more thing to do this and do this right. “

“ That would be? “

“ We steal into the Ministry’s protected Artifacts. Something they all failed to do before. Too many god damned enchantments. “

“ And we’re going to get what? “

“ The remaining half of the Dark Master’s wand. “

Draco almost laughed. That was impossible! All curses, all hexes were present, 24 hours of every single day! The room would be unreachable, unless someone of high authority the room recognized would actually get in…and Draco thought….

“ Is there a Horcrux in the Dark Master’s wand too? “

Blaise shook his head. “ It’s the last thing he held. The last spell he cast that destroyed him. According to- our- research, an imprint may be left in the fragments of that wand- even his fingerprints may render useful…”

Draco nodded. “ You would want to see me dead, wouldn’t you, Blaise? “

Blaise shook his head. “Of course not. “

“ Of course you would. You’ve always been afraid of me, but now you need me more than ever. Don’t you think I see right through you? You’ve been wary of me, as you’ve been wary of Nott. And now, you think you can use me anytime you want, because you threaten the people I’m fond of- because I have a bloody horcrux from Harry Potter’s heart. You’d rather see me die in the course of resurrecting the Dark Lord and acquire all the credit, now, wouldn’t you? “

Blaise gave a faux smile. “ Draco, I’ve always respected you, since the first day of our first year at Hogwarts, I remained loyal to you, even if everyone was taunting you and talking behind your back, your father being careless and all, bringing himself to Azkaban and dying a most wretched death, unbefitting a Malfoy, unbefitting a pureblood. “

“ Ah- now I see the deference all laid out on a silver platter. “

Blaise sighed and conjured a glass of ale. He held it in his left hand as he raised it to Draco. “ I want the Dark Master alive, I want you alive. That way- that way everything will be wonderful. “

“ Will it now? “ Draco’s grey eyes flickered with derision.

Blaise nodded, drinking his half of his ale in one gulp. “ Yes. Cheers to you. May that horcrux in Harry Potter’s heart, which is now yours, bring the Master back to life. “ And he finished the last of his ale, and threw the glass into the empty hearth.

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Theodore Nott was quiet as he read a book, sitting comfortably on a plump couch, his legs raised on a footstool. There was a whooshing sound. Someone had just arrived. Uninvited. Good god, where were everyone’s manners these days?

Theodore smiled at the arrival. “ Didn’t expect to see you here. “

“ You look just like a professor sitting there with your book. “

Nott laughed. “ Ah, compliments. How’s the conjugal life? “

The person’s expression changed. It turned quite sour. “ Not exactly my cup of tea, “ came the short response. The woman before him was dressed in rich green velvet with a white mink stole over her shoulders. She was carrying a tiny bejeweled purse.

“ Would you like to try my tea, then? “ Nott asked lightheartedly. “ I could add fire whisky or elfin spirits to- “

“ This isn’t funny! “ she snapped, flipping her light blonde hair over her shoulder. She looked at each well manicured nail, as if to distract herself from losing her temper.

“ Okay then, let’s be serious. “ Nott furrowed his brows and sat ramrod straight with one leg crossing over the other. “ What do you want to talk about? Kids? You’re still not pregnant after so long? Your husband’s impotence? “

“ He’s loyal to me, “ she huffed. She stared at Nott. The way he looked at people was just too- too uncomfortable. His blue eyes and dirty blonde hair made him look attractive, but it was his perpetual smirk that gave all that attractiveness away.

“ But you’re not to him? “ Nott queried with a little smile.

She raised a brow and pouted her scarlet painted lips a little. “ Oh, please. Don’t bother to ask. A few flings here and there wouldn’t matter. Besides, I married from good stock, a pureblood, like us, only he’s from Europe. Went to Durmstrang, a classmate of Viktor Krum’s- “

She had indeed made a good spectacle out of herself. The purebloods from Britain were proud of her for marrying someone of good stock from Bulgaria. She had succeeded in marrying a man who owned quite a number of estates, she was overflowing with money, and she could have everything.

“ I know. “ He looked at her. “ What’s this visit for? And how did you know- ? “

“ Blaise. I still keep contact with the man, ask questions about- “

“ Draco? Still not over him, are you? “

“ I am, “ she said in a most convincing voice.

“ You make me want to laugh. “

“ Don’t. My husband’s joined you, am I right? “ She raised her head high. “ I’ve had- well, he’s been pathetically trying to keep it from me, but I hear the conversations every now and then- I just don’t know who these people are, but once I heard that he-how-must-not-be-named…I know they’re asking for financial support, you bastards need my husband’s money. ”

Nott shrugged. “ Blaise knows better. I have yet to see the number of his amassed forces. All I know is a few of us from Hogwarts are- “

“ Is Draco-? “ her voice faltered.

“ Regrettably, he refuses to join. We wouldn’t force him, now would we? “ Nott told her. “ Draco’s got his own affairs. Something we won’t stick our noses into. The muggle world’s got him tied down. Why wouldn’t you have contacted me? Then I would’ve gone instead to your place- where are you located now, by the way? “

She nodded. “ Bulgaria. But we’ve got a home in Scotland. But- you’ve spoken to him? Lately? Haven’t you? “

He nodded. “ Why yes, and he’s quite happy with his life too, owing to that pretty- “ he paused, for dramatic effect, knowing what it would sound like to her ears. He saw her lips quiver and he couldn’t help but give off the tiniest smile.

“ Pretty what? Who is she? “ her voice was raised higher now. “ How pretty? Who is she? “ Her hands twisted on her little clutch bag, as if they hurt and itched all at the same time.

“ And you tell me you’re over him. “ Nott smirked.

“ Who is she! “ her voice shrieked, her once unimpeachable face had gone sour, almost comparable to a Veela’s…but not quite…

“ Hermione Granger, “ he replied simply. Nott enjoyed looking at the slow realization coming into her eyes. It was going to hit her like a tidal wave- no- a meteorite! He bit his tongue, but the little smirk forming again wouldn’t keep away.

Pansy screamed.

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Ron arrived with a little distracted look upon his face. He tightened his scarf around his neck as the biting cold pricked through his skin. He sneezed all of a sudden.

“ Bless you, “ Lupin said, sitting on a boulder. “ Glad to see you in one piece and glad you weren’t intercepted as you apparated. “

Jordan and Dean were seated not far from Lupin’s nook.

Ron nodded. “ Thank you, professor- I mean, sir. “ He looked up and saw a little metal sign swinging in the breeze. It said Little Hangleton. He shivered and tightened his wool sweater around him and his cloak swished as a breeze kept passing by them.

“ Cold night, isn’t it? “ Jordan sighed, trying to perform a flame charm. He managed to conjure four fire balls and they glowed off heat safely away from their skins. “ I hope this lasts for awhile. “

Dean nodded fervently. “ Hell, please. “

“ Seen anything? Felt anything? “ Ron asked, addressing the question to no one in particular.

Lupin shook his head. “ Been quiet. It’s a quiet night. “ Lupin looked at the skies, silently thankful it wasn’t a full moon, nor was a full moon looming. He felt rather unwell again though, probably a head cold, but he’d be cured by his wife’s pepper-up potion soon enough. “ What about you? Heard anything? From Malfoy? “

Dean and Jordan looked up immediately at the sound of his name.

Ron shook his head. “ He wasn’t- wasn’t at his muggle home. I couldn’t very well enter the Malfoy Manor…” Ron hated having to lie to his mentor. Lupin was, after all, the best Dark Arts teacher he had experienced yet.

Lupin nodded. “ Oh well. So we wait, tonight then… “ Lupin stared off at the old Riddle house, now in ruins, completely without light, no caretaker, at all. A bank had repossessed it, he heard. A muggle bank….or was it? Rumors had been flying around that Gringott’s wanted to possess it as well. Lupin sighed. Who would want to possess a very large house with such a bad history? He had specifically chosen to watch at Little Hangleton for the mere fact that the Riddle house still stood…a child would always come crawling back to his mother….perhaps these new Deatheaters would do the same? Surely the needed headquarters? Much like the Order of the Phoenix….ah the memories when Dumbledore was still alive- when Harry was- He shook his head. Harry….Harry just had to die now….

Then Lupin’s head moved and Ron’s followed. “ Look, “ Lupin said softly. He pointed a finger towards the great Riddle house.

Ron’s eyes narrowed. Was that- was that light? Moving? From room to- room? It couldn’t be- now could it? He knew the caretaker was dead- it had been years! Unless- unless Lupin’s instincts proved right?

“ Someone’s there, “ Dean murmured raising his wand. “ Sir, what do we do? “

Lupin smiled and sniffed the air. “ Oh, we wait. “

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A/N: hello dear readers. i won't be updating in say...a few days since i'll be heading off for some other country for a vacation. don't forget to review and thanks for reading.

p.s. don't you wonder what'll happen next chappie? ^_^

Chapter 24: All for Love...
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He entered the room, slightly shivering from the cold. It was nearing winter anyway, the temperature was dropping, and the fire wasn’t enough to keep him warm at all. He was wearing a coat, a black one, with a black turtleneck and black slacks. They were all inside, seated at their respective areas. There was only one seat left, and it was at the center. He was to sit in the middle, alone, while everyone else flanked at his sides. It was a cavernous room, a tea room that housed the strangest wares, collections of Blaise’s mother. A long hardwood table and gilded chairs done in red was found in the center of the room, over thick carpets.

He stood for a moment, one hand rested calmly on the chair’s elegant headrest. He stared at each of them, mentally counting how many there were. Just nine…just nine…But nine counted as the privileged, those who were the children of previous Deatheaters, those with connections to the Dark Arts...and that included him…

Blaise smiled. “ Won’t you sit down, Draco? “

He didn’t say anything. Instead, he slid down the black leather chair and made himself comfortable. It was difficult. Seeing all of them…after six years…these were Slytherins, damn it! Now why was he uncomfortable? It wasn’t like he didn’t lord over them back in their Hogwarts years- of course he did! He saw their fairly uncomfortable glances at him too. He decided he had the upper hand after all.

“ So, my friends, Draco Malfoy has so courteously decided to help us with our cause, “ Blaise began. “ Who would want to progress without him? True, he may have been a traitor-“ Blaise emphasized the word and kept an eye on Draco, who showed no reaction at all. Miffed, Blaise continued. “ But now- now he comes to us in our time of need. “

Draco eyed Theodore Nott. He was joining now! True, his father had failed terribly, suffered, but- why would he? For retribution? He never took Nott as the type to actually meddle, to actually join such an association- Nott smiled at him genially, his eyes betraying no emotion, and Draco felt at ease. Someone still made sagacity here, and that was Nott. The esteem he had for Nott was still there, and although he had not seen Nott’s full potentials, he knew Nott had capabilities even Blaise couldn’t handle.

“ We’ve been planning this, since the fall of the Dark Master. Six years of waiting had to be enough, contacts had to be done, things had to be set up, researched, and now- meeting here, all of us complete, this inner circle- we have amassed quite an army, those still willing to destroy mudbloods- “ Blaise eyed Draco again, who apparently only yawned. “ We’ve gained a following in Eastern Europe, and Marko Sarovic was generous to help as well. “

Draco frowned a little. Marko Sarovic? One of those- a Durmstrang graduate…Pansy’s husband… Someone of pure stock, filthy rich in Europe, a marriage Pansy had contrived to actually try and gain his attention, to no advantage. He almost smirked. Marko was a tall man, muscular from playing as a beater for Durmstrang. He had a faint dark mustache from what Draco recalled, seeing pictures of them on the Daily Prophet to announce their engagement, the man also had bad teeth. He smiled faintly. Pansy had always been so impulsive.

“ Unfortunately, Marko isn’t here right now, as he is attending to more private matters- “

“ Like his marriage, “ Nott huffed with a smirk.

Draco almost snorted as he eyed Theodore Nott. The man was actually making fun of her and her husband, not only them, but even Blaise as he spoke. Blaise eyed Nott who immediately turned serious again. Draco wanted to laugh by then, but he saw Blaise’s cold dark eyes trail to his direction. Draco merely nodded, as if listening intently.

He saw Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle, both had gotten away scot-free, cleared of everything, after naming in a few of the surviving members in exchange for their freedom. They had betrayed his father. Both of them, begging to be kept out of Azkaban, where Dementors were once again cooperative with the wizarding society…he hated them all of a sudden. Ferociously.

And there was Adrian Pucey- the former chaser a few years ahead of him… burly looking man with nervous, darting eyes…wasn’t the man slow or something? What the hell had gotten into him? The world had gone mad- he almost smirked again as he eyed Adrian. Surely Lord Voldemort would have considered him as paper waste.

He also eyed a woman, the only woman actually seated to his right, two seats away from him. Daphne Greengrass, a tall and rather nice-looking brunette, whose only look available on her face was a permanent scowl with her very red and pouty lips…she actually reminded her of someone he had seen once…And there was Colvin Warrington, another former chaser, who still retained his sloth-like appearance. He had last heard of Colvin as a chaser for a newly formed Quidditch team, playing for England.

Blaise Zabini, Theodore Nott, Vincent Crabbe, Gregory Goyle, Adrian Pucey, Daphne Greengrass, Colvin Warrington, Marko Sarovic- and him. Draco Malfoy. It was a horror reunion brought to life.

“ Draco’s got an amazing proposal- suggesting we break into the Artifacts Vault in a few weeks, instead of months, “ Blaise announced.

“ Isn’t that a bit impossible? “Daphne spat out, staring at Draco liked he had some weird skin disease or like he was growing scales or fur on his face. “ We just met months ago, and now, he thinks we should move fast and break in a highly- rather, heavily guarded- vault? “

Draco smiled at her genially. “ Time is of the essence. “

Blaise nodded. “ I’m afraid he’s right. “

“ Are you out of your mind? I’m not going back to that place! “ Goyle muttered loudly, his eyes squinting up and down Draco’s profile. “ I’m not going back there, never! “

Draco smiled toward Goyle’s direction. But he said nothing. His eyes had frosted over, staring at Goyle like he could se right through his soul. That’s right, you bastard, be afraid.

“ And just how do you bloody plan to do that? “ Daphne asked haughtily.

“ Walk in, “ Draco replied simply.

Daphne laughed throatily for a few seconds, so did the rest of the men in the room. It was probably the silliest proposal they’d heard. Walk in an overwhelmingly fortified hall, steal Lord Voldemort’s remaining splinters of his wand?

“ Living with those mudbloods, “ Adrian began. “ Has affected you mental capacities now, Draco? “

Blaise did not join their laughter; his eyes, however- did narrow. He eyed each of them and opened his mouth once more. “ Stop it. Draco’s right. “

The laughter died down and they all glared at Draco now.

“ Why the hell would he be right? Just because he was Lucius Malfoy’s son- “ Warrington said indignantly.

“ I’m right, because you’re wrong, “ Draco replied coolly. He looked at Nott who was trying desperately not to snicker aloud. Draco’s eyes scanned each of their faces, including Blaise’s. “ If you want me out, I can do that. “

Blaise’s eyes narrowed at Warrington’s. It was a warning glare. Blaise was angry. Why wouldn’t he be? Here he was, trying his best for the Dark Master, and his comrades just start doubting a man he knew would be of great use? The total imbecile! He decided to deal with him later. He cleared his throat. “ Draco’s right, “ he said again. “ If there’s anyone who can walk through that door, it’s him. “

“ What the hell is going on? “ Daphne demanded. “ Do you know something we don’t? Someone let you in a little secret? “ She looked at Nott who was seated calmly. “ He knows too, doesn’t he? Nott knows about something we don’t? “

“ I was going to save the exhilarating news later- “ Blaise began. “ But you seem quite intolerant, Daphne…” He paused for a moment.

Daphne’s eyes glittered maliciously. “ He’s been given a great dispensation to lord over this council over, hasn’t he? That’s why you seem to respect him this much, even though his father- “ she screamed pointing to Draco. “ Even though his father betrayed our master! “

“ We were too young to fight along side him! “ Blaise said. “ You know that! See why we had to wait for six years just to even the score for him? “

“ Resurrecting the Master won’t be easy, “ Daphne finally said, with a huff. “ You need a- some sort of- a horcrux- “

Blaise smiled and their eyes widened, particularly Daphne’s. Her mouth gave out a small gasp as she eyed Draco.

“ He knows where the horcrux is? “ Adrian pointed to Draco. “ I thought- how did you? “

Blaise smiled smugly. “ Professor Snape. “ He held up a little black notebook. “ He knew it would be a complicated undertaking, he felt that he would die- so he kept this little journal- a documentation of his failures, plans, the things he knew, he was personally trusted by the Master. This serves as our guide to the horcrux- “

“ Let me see it! “ Daphne said.

Blaise smiled. “ No. Not yet. You see, Severus Snape had been clever enough to conceal everything here, no matter what spell was used- to see this, you need to sacrifice a little blood- “

“ Blood? Meaning? “ Crabbe asked with a frown.

“ Literal blood. The blood of the innocent, and yours as well, “ Blaise said. “ Only to the one who sacrificed blood will it then show its contents, and mind you, it was not an easy task…” Blaise recalled the night he had killed two of England’s Aurors at Knockturn Alley. That had been fairly tiresome, but challenging and worth it. So he had done his part, and now they needed to do theirs. He had sacrificed three people all in all. The first, of course, was his stepfather. That had been weeks ago. It had been a perfect discovery.

“ This innocent part- how does it work? I don’t understand, “ Adrian said with a glower. “ Do we just choose them by random? Even muggles? Because I, personally, would like that- “

“ No! No dirty blood here! “ Blaise said, annoyed. “ Just pure bloods to be killed, even half-bloods will do fine, as long as they have wizard blood in them. “

“ How did you solve this? “ Daphne asked with incredulous eyes. “ It would be impossible to know right? “

Blaise nudged his chin toward Nott’s direction. Nott was sitting with his arms across his chest. He was smirking at Daphne.

“ He broke the hex? Or whatever was guarding it? “ she shrieked. She had never wanted Nott to be in the circle, never! He was a traitor! He didn’t have the spine to actually work to help the Master win!

“ He figured out the way, “ Blaise replied. “ That’s just it. “

Draco looked at Nott. He was impressed. So he had broken through Snape’s journal. But how did he do it? Did some enchantment guard it? Or was it just a simple riddle? He instinctively knew that the journal was found in Snape’s old muggle home, lying amongst the ruins of his house, hidden inside a leather bag. Nott had been clever enough. No, Nott was very clever. The once stringy Slytherin brat had some use for the Master, after all.

“ Tell us, “ Warrington said, his eyes suddenly looking alive.

Nott cleared his throat, as if enjoying the sudden attention; everyone was eyeing him now, even Daphne who had been such a bitch the entire time. “ I searched the house- Blaise had been thinking about it for quite some time- after Snape had died. Months ago, Blaise contacted me, needed my services, actually, my expertise in finding things- You do all remember Snape had been fairly secretive? But he always carried a little notebook, I’m sure you even caught a glimpse of that in Hogwarts? “

Daphne found herself nodding. Snape had inserted something in his pocket once, and she had accidentally come into the Potions room earlier than the expected time. He had glowered at her…

Draco recalled it as well, the night they had fled Hogwarts- the night Snape killed Dumbledore when he should’ve done it…he saw it twice, and each time Snape had been annoyed when he had been caught scribbling things on it. He had thought nothing of it, thought…it was just some little notebook with records of his potions, probably…until now….

“ So…I went to this dreadful muggle place and searched through the house. I found it, of course, and I knew it meant something. Why else would an empty notebook be wrapped up so much and placed inside a leather bag? Snape meant for us to find it. The Dark Lord had probably ordered him to do so; knowing Snape might meet his downfall. I tried all the spells I could; I took it back home, studied over it, and I must admit, Snape had been fairly good with sealing spells. I didn’t sleep for almost a month. Until one day, I accidentally cut myself, and as my blood dropped on the cover of the notebook, the notebook almost glowed before my eyes. So I cut an even deeper wound and spilled out quite a lot of blood, spilled it all over the cover just to be sure, but it didn’t work. It just gave a soft luminosity. But I knew then that blood had to be sacrificed. “

“ You killed someone then? Warrington asked.

Theodore Nott bobbed his head up and down. “ Definitely. Definitely. Some half-blood, I suppose, since I spilled his blood on the notebook and the words had come out faintly. The first entry was dated before we had our final year at Hogwarts. Snape had been working on this for quite some time, and this was an exceptional back-up plan. He wanted to make sure….so I killed someone, since I knew that we’re all for purity and we are Slytherins after all, but a half-blood was the first I could find, thus the faded looking words, but after I killed some pure-blood widow in Romania, the words came to life! Like they were freshly written! “ He was laughing now, sadistically. “ You have no idea how pleased I was! “

“ So it just needs plain blood? “ Daphne asked. “ Nothing more? It does not choose the reader at all? “ She eyed the book hungrily, eager to please the Master. “ It doesn’t matter what kind of blood is spilled as long as you’ve spilled yours as well? Not that- but Snape was a half- “

“ That I do not know, “ Nott replied. “ But so far, Blaise and I have read it. And I assure you, it would be worth all the killing and the blood. “

“ So when does the horcrux come in? “

“ Be patient, “ Adrian snapped at Daphne.

Daphne glared at him but she just pursed her lips together and looked at Nott once more.

“ Blaise and I read the book together- couldn’t live without me- the man, “ he said, looking at Blaise. Blaise frowned. “ We found it on the last entry, dated the night Harry Potter fought with Voldemort- “

“ Dated the night Draco betrayed him! “ Daphne said heatedly.

“ So, “ Nott continued, as if he hadn’t heard say anything at all. “ He mentioned something about a plan, some scheme to thwart the Master’s complete disappearance from the face of the earth. He had done it according to the Master’s bidding- and there was a reason then, that Harry Potter didn’t die. When the Avada Kedavra was cast on him, it rebounded to the Master. He hadn’t meant to create that horcrux, but it would be his last one as well- it seems as though his failed attempt to kill Harry shattered a part of his soul, a shard into Harry Potter’s heart. He had felt it, he knew it, but he was too shriveled up by then- “

“ All thanks to you! “ Daphne screamed accusingly at Draco. “ Where the hell is the eighth horcrux then? Where? Just where! “ Daphne had by then stood up and was pointing at Draco.

“ You’re pointing at him, “ Nott replied simply.

There was a collective gasp and Daphne slowly sank back into her chair, staring at Draco, her face as white as sheet. Her hands were trembling. She shook her head. “ He’s that important to the master? “ she asked tearfully. “ But he- he betrayed us- “

“ Then this is his atonement, “ Blaise said. “ That’s why I said Draco was right; he could walk into that room and snatch away the Master’s wand. He has a man’s heart- a heart recognized by the Vaults- someone pure, although I doubt he isn’t- “ he gave an uneasy laugh as Draco stared at him intensely. He felt uncomfortable and cleared his throat. “ He has Harry Potter’s heart. “

Daphne kept shaking her head. How? Why! She had no idea! Her parents never said anything about this! None at all! And they had been loyal, she had been loyal! And here he was, suddenly important, now more than ever!

“ How did that-? “ Warrington’s voice faltered.

“ Later, “ Draco said harshly. “ We talk about this later. First things first. A waltz would be too easy. We have to expect the worst, let’s not be brash. The Vaults recognize Harry, he’s been trusted, I however, still am Draco Malfoy, I only have his heart, and that may not be enough. Now Harry was an Auror, with access to the Vaults on specific days or tasks- I may have the possibility of cheating on the spells, using his heart- but that remains to be planned. “ He stopped and looked at Nott who had his hands clasped together. “ Nott? “

Nott looked at Draco’s eyes and nodded.

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A dark brown owl hooted above them, perched on a sinister-looking dead tree. Vines hung all over it, dead vines too, that looked ominous enough to any superstitious person- even for a witch or wizard.

“ I just heard, “ Dean said as they sat in the same place. It had been over an hour, and the shadowy movements in the windows had ceased. Ron looked at him. “ What? “

“ That Malfoy had a heart attack or something like that. “

“ Oh that, “ Ron said. He frowned. “ Just a mild one, I was there. word flies so fast, doesn’t it? Good old wizard communication. “

“ How’s Hermione? “ Lee asked, puffing a cigarette.

“ Fine, “ Ron replied quickly. “ And stop asking questions that isn’t my business or yours. “ He scowled.

His three comrades laughed.

“ Easy on the pressure now, “ Lupin patted his shoulder twice.

“ Just- just mind your own beeswax! “ Ron mumbled.

They laughed again. Lupin’s eyes drifted once more to the old Riddle house. There were strange shadows again…this time, they moved faster. “ Look, “ he said softly. He pointed to the house again. “ Did you see that? “

They all nodded. Dean stood up and dusted off his cloak as Lee took one last puff and squished the end with his dragon hide boot.

“ Shall we get going then, sir? “ Ron asked.

Lupin nodded. Whatever was in there, they were ready.

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They stepped inside the house as quiet as mice. Or rather, as quiet as cockroaches. It was dark, of course. The air was stale and it reeked of urine and decaying wood, probably some gang of kids broke the place up further since shards of glass were all over the floor.

“ Lumos, “ Lupin whispered. A tiny light emitted and he surveyed the room. They were standing in the middle of a living room. A chandelier hung overhead, missing a few pieces of crystal, the carpeted floor smelled of cats and moths. “ Keep your eyes open. “

Ron nodded, treading quietly. He looked up the fireplace and saw a fading portrait of what was once the great Riddle family of Little Hangleton. By all means, Tom Marvolo’s father was indeed a captivating man, who along with his father, the Senior Riddle, looked very dignified and haughty. Well, so was Mrs. Riddle. Her chin held high, with a string of white pearls around her neck. They sure were a nice family to look at….a nice family to wipe out entirely, all thanks to their grandson. Voldemort had done well on destroying the lineage.

“ And this is what Gringott’s wants to possess? Ugh, “ Lee whispered as he walked toward the kitchen. “ Bad property…”

“ Maybe there’s something here of value to them, ” Dean said. “ Like gold or something…or….something that belongs to he-who-must-not-be-named….”

“ Suppose there’s nothing here….” Ron said eyeing the kitchen. Half of the kitchen roof had fallen down. “ Maybe we should go upstairs? It’s almost always the upstairs. “ He rolled his eyes.

Lupin had gone ahead and was climbing the long staircase to the second floor. It creaked and groaned under his weight, and he knew it would crumble anytime soon. “ Be careful, “ he said to them as he began to ascend to the fourth step. All of a sudden, a shot of light burst forth from the landing of the second floor, hitting Lupin’s shoulder. Lupin fell and Ron rushed to him as Dean and Lee ran upstairs, wands in hand. Lupin groaned.

“ Did you see what that was? “ he asked as he stood up with Ron’s help.

“ No, too quick! “

“ Get going then! “

Ron ran up, his heart pounding. He always liked his missions. Gave him the feel of adrenalin. But somehow this mission gave him some ominous feel. He landed on the second floor and saw another flash of light.

“ Ron! Look out! “ Lee shouted.

Ron ducked just in time. The man was cloaked in black; his wand was brandished in the air. He cast another hex and Lee avoided it, and so did Dean. He was fast. Another hex missed Ron by a millimeter.

“Impedimenta!" someone shouted. Lupin had arrived, breathless as his hand stretched out for the hex. The man in the cloak froze immediately.

They rounded up on him, ready to expose the cloaked person. Lupin quickly pulled off the cloak, and it landed on the floor with a soft thud. Their eyes widened. This was not the usual cloaked man you captured during incursions!

“ Pansy Parkinson! “ Ron gasped and he wanted to laugh. But boy, she was a fast one when it came to hexes.

Pansy’s eyes moved slowly. She couldn’t move at all but her mouth turned ugly. “ Fuck it. “ Her voice was angry.

“ Is that all you can say? “ Dean asked stifling a laugh. Pansy glared at him and faced Ron Weasley, and her face turned sourer as she eyed him.

“ Mrs. Sarovic, “ Lupin began. Pleasure to meet you again. And what are you doing in the Riddle mansion at this time of the night? Does your husband know of your whereabouts? “

She held her chin high, her lush dark hair waving around her face and refused to answer. Ron took her wand away from her hand. She hissed. “ What would it matter to you Aurors? “ she spat out the ‘aurors’ quite sarcastically.

Ron laughed, finally. “ God, when you hissed back there, I would’ve mistook you for a snake. No wonder you’re in Slytherin! “

Lupin and the others laughed as well. She stubbornly held her head high, still bound by Lupin’s spell. “ What’s my affair is my affair. My husband will be looking for me, so I would demand that you release me, I’ve done nothing. “

“ We make it our affair when someone’s creeping about in the Riddle house, Mrs. Sarovic. “ Lupin smiled genially at her. “ And what’s with the defense mechanisms? We haven’t asked you anything, yet. “

“ What are you doing here, that’s a simple question. Now, if you would answer it, we’d be glad to release you, so you could go back to your husband, “ Lee said.

“ I wanted to see this place. I heard Gringott’s wanted to possess it, and I thought this would make a good addition to my husband’s estates. I plan to renovate the house if all goes well- “

“ In the middle of the night? “ Ron snickered. “ Please, Pansy, lie better for Slytherin’s sake. “

“ So what of the time? My husband’s busy, so I cater to my own affairs tonight. I wanted solitude, to get the feel of the house, to see if I really wanted it, “ she said with a raised brow. “ So far, I like it. “

Lupin shook his head. “ I don’t consider that a good excuse, Pansy. “

“ You let me go, or I will have my husband- “ she breathed out angrily but stopped.

“ Or you will have your husband what, Mrs. Sarovic? “ Lupin asked calmly.

“ I will have you burned and staked, I’ll make you suffer if you refuse to release me, “ she said indignantly. “ My husband will- “

“ I’m afraid he’s not here to do that yet, Mrs. Sarovic, “ was Lupin’s reply. Ron and the rest found themselves laughing. “ I suggest a simple explanation – the truth, would do you good. “

She took a deep breath, still hating the idea that she was still bound in Lupin’s spell. “ All right, I will tell you. “ She glared at them and took another deep breath before opening her mouth. “ I’m here because I wanted to help my husband. He is- “ she paused for awhile. “ He is a fan of he-who-must-not be-named- “

“ In other words, a supporter, “ Ron said sarcastically.

She raised a brow at him. “ No! Nothing like that! He collects- remnants of whatever is that of the deceased Riddle. He is quite a fanatic, having saved in even some of his clothing, placing it in some huge room. You could call it his museum for Tom Riddle and other things related to the history of being pure-blooded- “

“ Either your husband’s a fag, or he’s nuts, “ Ron muttered.

“ He is neither! “ she said angrily. “ I have done this on my own, for my husband. He does not know I am here. I had heard rumors once, years ago, that Tom Riddle used this place to recuperate for awhile, killing off a man, and the caretaker of this mansion. I had heard he had left a few precious things, like weapons, perhaps, even books that may contain his writings. “

“ All for love, “ Lee sighed mockingly. “ Isn’t that right, Pansy? “

She nodded once and brusquely. “ I have said it all. Release me. “

“ You will come with us, Mrs. Sarovic. We will escort you, personally to your husband, “ Lupin said calmly. “ He will be summoned of course, at the Ministry offices. “

Pansy blanched.

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Author notes:

So you guys read about the 'new deatheaters', a younger lot of them, and i must say i had fun creating the characters for this chappie. I have a soft spot for Slytherins too. I'd like to think of them as good looking and talented- not the way they're described in other stories. I think it's nice to be fair- give them a little edge too, instead of being described as stupid or arrogant, even ugly. This chapter is actually a definitive moment for this story, of course. hehehe. So the plot thickens for this chapter...will the next chapter be more exciting or will more cliffhangers be present? Will Draco have the courage to tell Hermione about everything?

Sorry if i updated late, as most of you know, i took a little vacation to thailand. and of course i had fun! thailand is like shopping heaven!

till next chapter? or not. ^_^

Chapter 25: " ...the cold sun lingers..."
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Hermione woke up with a headache. She shielded her eyes for a moment, as strong sunlight filtered through her window. She had forgotten to close the blinds. She groaned and buried her head under a pillow, determined to stay in bed, not work. It was a Saturday, after all.

But a minute later, she was standing in the shower, watching the water circle around the drain, sloppily applying shampoo and soap. She got out after thirty minutes, most of the time, she had done nothing, but stand under the heat of the water, her head strangely blank.

She poured her coffee monotonously, made some toast, but didn’t drink or eat at all. She stared at the table, not knowing she had been gazing so long at something she didn’t even realize she was gazing at. The doorbell rang and she snapped from her silent reverie.

She stood up and looked into the peep hole.

“ Miss Granger? “ the man began. “ I have a package for you from a certain Mr. Angus Tied. “

Hermione frowned. “ What? “ She opened the door. “ I don’t know anyone by that name. There must be some mistake. “

He shrugged, thrusting the package to her. “ If you’re Miss Granger, then this is definitely yours. Have a good day, miss, “ he added as she signed the form with a baffled look in her eyes.

She closed the door and wondered what was in the parcel. It was a tiny box, and she shook it, and her Auror instincts came rushing in. She quickly grabbed her wand from a nearby table and readied herself as she opened the parcel with the use of her wand. Nothing exploded. Instead, she looked into the tiny box and saw nothing but a piece of parchment, and she had a gut feeling it had something to do with the wizarding world.

She murmured a spell to see if there were any hexes, there was none. She put her wand down. Why would an envelope be delivered in a box? Couldn’t it have been delivered via plain mail? Dropped down her mail slot? Gingerly, she opened the letter. Something dropped on the floor. She stared at it for awhile, shocked at what she was seeing. With shaking hands she picked it up and placed it on the table, and grabbed the letter.

The handwriting was done with a quick quotes quill, as if to remain anonymous. She knew a quick quote quill when she saw one. She was an Auror, after all. Her eyes scanned the letter quickly. It was done in a prophecy-like style, much like the ones she had heard about and seen during her Hogwarts days from a professor she disliked immensely. Her heart pounded as she read it, without her knowing why.

" The future is dark, as the full sun grows cold, spills the blood of the innocent and the tainted. The eighth has been found, the pieces should be seized, but to enter the cathedral shall need the deceit of the innocent blood. Look into peers, as to who is tainted, whose concerns lie not for the safety of the masses, but for the safety of a new arrival. An equal shall be utilized, a fate that cannot be changed. It will either be death or renewal, as the cold sun lingers. The fate cannot be changed."

She thought her heart had stopped beating. What did it mean! She didn’t know who this man was! But the letter-! What did it mean! She felt lightheaded all of a sudden, nauseated, and she shakily sat down as she looked at the contents of the letter once more. Should she tell them? Her fellow Aurors? Or keep it to herself? It was sent only to her. To her! Why in Merlin’s dead balls would it be sent to her! Her hands shook, and she felt blood leave her face. This wasn’t good. This wasn’t good at all. She didn’t even know why she had this kind of reaction to a letter she had not even proven true!

Suddenly, the letter started burning at the corners and she gave a little cry as it quickly shot up in flames. The ashes fell on the floor and on her table. She stared at it as she stood and she stared at the object lying in the ashes, wondering why the hell in the world this was happening.

She was glad she had memorized it quickly. And now she was left to ponder it. Early in the morning, alone, and suddenly wanting Draco beside her to quash the fear that was creeping through.

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A tall man walked with his head high, dressed in a black coat with fur linings. His boots made heavy sounds as he walked the marble floors. Some people stopped to stare at the newcomer, to which he responded with by giving arrogant looks. The mustache gave him an even more arrogant look indeed. He entered a hall, without knocking. He looked at the people inside one by one. Ron, Lupin, Dean, Lee, and a few other aurors sat or stood near Pansy whose eyes kept darting back and forth.

And then she saw her husband. “ Marko, “ Pansy said standing up from her seat.

Marko looked at her and was pleased that she had not been physically harmed in any way. He stepped forward as she ran to him. He embraced her tightly and held her shoulders. “ They did not hurt you? “ he asked with a heavy accent.

“ They put a binding spell on me, “ she spat out.

Ron raised a brow. Like it had hurt! Manipulative wife, she sure was.

“ You had no right to mistreat my wife, “ he said in a low tone.

“ Circumstances lead to the binding, which I assure you did not even hurt. She had shot a hex first, naturally we retaliated, not knowing it was Pansy- your spouse, underneath that black hood, “ Lupin said.

“ But still! You will hear from me, a complaint would do good from the Ministry of Bulgaria for incompetent Aurors like you, “ he spat out as Pansy gave a little smile from behind.

Ron’s blood boiled hearing that. “ We are not incompetent! “

Lupin raised a hand to stop Ron from further seething. “ Mr. Sarovic, your wife was alone, at the Riddle mansion, at such an ungodly hour, naturally we had rights to suspect the happenings, and hearing her explanation, what she calls the ‘truth’ gave us further reason to speculate. “

“ Leave her to her business, she just likes to surprise me in many ways by acquiring things I am most fond of, “ he said, cracking his knuckles, glaring at Lupin like he wanted him dead.

“ Like Tom Riddle’s objects? “ Lupin asked.

Marko went quiet for awhile. “ Yes. “

“ The Ministry of Bulgaria knows this, then? That you are acquiring possessions of the former Tom Riddle? In a private museum as Pansy claims? “

“ I collect anything related to the history of Slytherin, I am pure-blooded, what would you expect? My little joys are when I find artifacts, little treasures that have belonged to history. Pansy, naturally knew this, and had gone out to find something more. The Ministry knows, of course, all items have been cleared of hexes or buried secrets. All items in my private museum have been documented accordingly. Even your Ministry knows, I would presume. “

“ But the Riddle house has been abandoned for years, “ Lupin spoke quietly. “ There is nothing there. We had done thorough searching in that mansion, and nothing reeked of the memory of Tom Riddle. “

“ I did not know she would be there, “ he said quickly. “ I was busy, attending a meeting- a convention in Bulgaria. I could not attend to my wife. And she has a manner of surprising me. “

Ron glared at Pansy. She had her husband by the throat! The man was willing to do anything to save Pansy from incarceration! Lucky bitch! He saw her smile once more, in triumph, and it irritated him further, and he just clenched his jaw to control his temper.

“ I told you I was innocent, “ she said in a loud voice, a throaty one, looking at her husband with batting eyelashes and a smile. Her husband tightened his hold around her shoulders, as if to protect her from the glares the Aurors present had sent her.

“ Then we were mistaken? “ Lupin said in a soft tone. His eyes bored into hers and she hated it immensely. She always saw the werewolf in him, no matter what. Even though his position had changed, now one of the leading Aurors- she still hated him.

“ Then we shall get going then, back to Bulgaria, “ Marko said indignantly. “ My wife has done nothing under your noses, but look for objects for my personal collections. I shall see to it that the Ministry of Bulgaria hears about this. “ He looked at Pansy and smiled, feeling like a knight in shining armor, a husband who had done his duty to protect his lovely wife. Pansy smiled back and snuggled closer to her husband’s chest.

Ron further boiled! They had no proof at all, but somehow they knew, everyone knew that Pansy was up to something, whether her husband knew or not! Why else would she be sneaking around? She had shot hexes, as if in defense! What was she searching for! He knew it, that somehow, something wasn’t right about her being there! How could Lupin acknowledge it was their mistake! He should have had Pansy in chains! Instead he was letting her go, go back to her obnoxious husband, a freedom she didn’t deserve! He eyed Lupin and saw his eyes. They glinted for a moment, and he thought he could see some wolf staring back at him. Lupin was up to something. He controlled his temper again. He trusted Lupin. Whatever it was he was thinking he wanted to know.

In a second, both husband and wife spun around to exit the Auror’s hall. Heads held high, arm and arm linked together, they walked, and Pansy sneaked one last glare at Ron and she smiled again, as if to keep repeating she had won, and not them. Her smiled screamed that they were incompetent. The bitch! There was nothing else he could think of! He wanted Marko in chains too!

Once they had gone, the doors magically closed and there was the sudden hush of whispers, murmurs, ramblings and displays of aggravation.

“ Who the hell does she think she is! “ Lee muttered, banging one fist on the table. Dean stared at the floor, brows furrowed.

“ Hiding at her husband’s back because Sarovic’s got connections! “ Susan Bones said with a pout. “ Her dress was ugly! “ she added as an afterthought. A few smiled at her comment.

“ Just wait! That Sarovic is going to pay! “ another spat out.

Lupin merely smiled and looked at Ron.

Ron walked towards Lupin with a rather cheeky look on his face. “ Sir? Would you care to explain what’s behind that smile? “

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“ Pansy, “ Marko cleared his throat as they rode in a carriage back to their manor in Bulgaria. Marko found the excuse of wanting to look at the scenery while going back instead of apparating immediately. He had reported of course, of the incompetence of the British Aurors to the Ministry once they had arrived by floo at the Ministry building.

“ Yes? “ she asked, raising a brow. She looked at her nails and saw one chipped. Must’ve been because of that blasted incident at the Riddle house! She frowned. “ What is it Marko? “

“ I was wondering, “ he began. He suddenly found it difficult.

“ What is it? “ Her blue eyes peered into his and all he saw was innocence and loyalty. “ Is something the matter, darling? “ The ‘darling’ hit home. Her husband’s eyes looked tired. She twirled a lock of her long dark hair.

“ Nothing, nothing at all. I was just glad they didn’t harm you in any way. “

“ Oh but they have, it was a horror to be under their clutches, “ she feigned a little distressed look, eyeing her husband at the same time. She enjoyed toying with his emotions.

“ I have reported this anyway, “ he said immediately. “ The Ministry of Great Britain should know by now, or tomorrow- the latest. I was truly vexed by that certain gray haired man, what was his name again, darling? “

“ Lupin, “ she said with clenched teeth. “ He was my professor at Hogwarts during my third year, if I recall correctly. Horrible teacher, awful lessons. “

“ I would assume, “ her husband said. “ He was rather irritating, wasn’t he? “

Pansy looked at her husband for a moment; she looked into his dark eyes, the little mustache playing above his mouth, a permanent look of proud stock. This was a man many pureblood women dreamed of marrying, and she had succeeded in getting herself into a highly celebrated marriage. And she hated it.

She had only wanted one man. And she could not get close to him. She contrived the marriage, quickly enamoring Marko to attempt and seize Draco’s attention, but Draco’s mind had drifted off to the wretched muggle world, and she had gotten married after a whirlwind courtship of three months, and yet had gone through the lengths of inviting Narcissa and of course Draco. But only Narcissa attended, Draco’s chair remained unfilled. Upset as she was, she knew she had to keep face; the Sarovics were a well respected family and had fine connections with many purebloods and ministries in Europe.


~

Marko was about three years older than she, and had happened to meet him by chance at a ball during the anniversary of the founding of the Ministry of Bulgaria. Her parents had both been invited by some distant relative working at the Bulgarian Ministry, and she knew it was her chance to flaunt out and probably get featured in Witch Weekly’s best dressed list, or even see Draco Malfoy, despite knowing how slim her chances were of seeing him there. So she went, carefully choosing her make-up and dress, a dress that showed off her curves, for she had worn a corset under the pink princess styled gown.

She was the centre of attention for the single men at the ball, and many asked her to dance, but she played demure and appeared disinterested. Marko had been eyeing her for quite some time. He asked a few people who she was and finally got to know her name as he stared a few feet away from her.

“ She’s from England, “ a friend confided. “ Graduated from Hogwarts. “

Marko made his move on her in a few minutes time. “ You’re Miss Pansy Parkinson?”

She raised an eyebrow at him as she toyed with her glass of elven champagne. “ Of what interest is it to you, if I am? “

“ You’re beautiful, “ he said quickly, holding out a red rose for her.

She looked at him. “ Looks can be deceiving. “

“ I like what I’m seeing now. “

She laughed flirtatiously and drank the last half of her remaining champagne. “ You’re quite bold aren’t you? To come up to me and not introduce yourself? “

“ Why should I? “ he responded. “ I’m sure you know me. “

“ I don’t, “ she replied tartly. “ Now if you’ll excuse me- “

“ If you take one more step, you’re missing something out on your life, “ he said calmly.

She spun around and looked at him. A smirk began to form at the corner of her painted lips. He was bold. Too bold. And she liked it. Reminded her of…Draco. She tried to hide the smirk but he saw it.

“ You’ve taken an interest in me then? “ he asked her, offering his arm.

“ No, you’ve taken an interest in me, “ Pansy took his arm as he led her though the grand ballroom. He wasn’t a bad dancer at all…and they had caught the attention of most of the people inside the ballroom, she saw women’s eyes narrow, he saw men’s eyes narrow. She held the rose in one hand.

Pleased, Pansy took it to further heights by pulling him closer to her as they danced a waltz. The women either gasped or turned away or began to whisper about. Marko saw in the corner of his eyes how the men Pansy had spurned awhile ago burned with envy. He was glad he had gotten to her first. Perhaps it was love at first sight for him.

“ I am Marko Sarovic, “ he finally said as they entered into their second dance. His arms were masculine, his build was tough, his jaw was quite strong as well, and perhaps he was an Auror? He wore black dress robes, lined with a little fur, and two badges were displayed at his left chest.

Pansy read the words on the badges. Reserve forces Captain and an honorary member of the Bulgarian Ministry…not so bad, she thought. Perhaps Draco would feel the competition when he gets to read the papers…” Nice to meet you, Marko Sarovic. “

“ I like how you say my name, “ he said.

“ Oh? “ She flirted unabashedly to the horror of the girls present, and to the delight of Pansy’s parents and even Marko Sarovic’s parents were enjoying the little spectacle.

“ Would you like to go out sometime? “ he asked.

Pansy bit her lower lip. Why Draco never asked that to her still never got away from her thoughts once in awhile. And he just had to remind her! The bastard! But she smiled sweetly at him. “ Perhaps…that would be nice…” she murmured.

“ I assure you, it will be, “ he said.

“ You’re so sure about yourself aren’t you? “ Pansy said with a laugh.

“ Of course. I am pureblooded and a Sarovic, we live up to our standards. Do you live up to yours? “ he asked her with his brooding eyes.

She smiled seductively. “ Of course…do you think I would be dancing with you right now if I did not? “ She saw him break into a satisfied smile. The man wasn’t so bad. He was ambitious, aggressive- she liked it.

And three months later, she got married.

~


“ Pansy? Are you alright? “ a voice broke her thoughts.

She looked at her husband and nodded. “ Yes, I am now. “

She held his hand, and his grasp tightened. She never loved him, it was a marriage of convenience for her, but she knew her husband adored her, perhaps even loved her. There wasn’t a week wherein she wouldn’t get a gift or gifts. It ranged from dresses made in Paris, chocolates from Belgium, jewelry, fur…it kept going on and on. She liked the lavish attention, but her husband bored her somehow. Draco never bored her. He was an enigma. The embodiment of a true Slytherin Prince. She sighed.

“ Would you like to throw a ball? “ her husband asked.

She looked at him. “ What for? “

“ Just for the kick of it, invite old friends- I suppose our manor’s boring without our relatives visiting, so I’m thinking about something else- a sort of reunion? If you could pull it off? I’d like to show that Bulgarians welcome Britons, despite that Auror incident. I’ll invite my old Durmstrang schoolmates as well. “

She smiled, hiding her annoyance. Invite them! But…perhaps…if she could get Draco to go, just to see him again- “ I’ll think about it, “ she finally replied. Her smile was genuine this time.

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Ron took the floo network for The Burrow. He arrived at seven-something in the morning, seeing his mother in the kitchen, baking a new batch of mince pies. “ Hello, Mum. “ He kissed her forehead as she smiled and dusted off flour from her apron. “ Can I eat those? “

“ No,“ she said quickly. “ Now be a nice uncle and tend to Philip. “

Ron walked into the living room to find Fleur cooing over her baby as did Bill. He smiled, seeing that they used Hermione’s gift. It was wonderful of course; quite extravagant of her, a wonderful godmother she was, alright.

Bill’s eyes lit up. “ Ah, just the brother I wanted to see. “

“ ‘Ello, Ron, “ she said with a little wave. Then she went back to cuddling her baby.

“ Don’t tell me- you want me to baby-sit? “ he asked stepping back a little.

“ Ginny won’t be home yet, “ Bill said. “ Come on. I want Uncle Ronald to baby-sit. Fleur and I will be off to Diagon Alley, buy a few stuff for Philip. “

“ Fine, “ Ron huffed. “ Great way to spend the morning. I would have loved to fall into bed and drool in my sleep. “

“ Let Philip drool on you instead for awhile, Mum’s a little busy, there’s this little witch’s pastries day in Hogsmeade. “ Bill smiled, a scar on his cheek shone in the daylight. Bill’s face had looked far better than years ago. All that remained of that terrible event was the fact that he liked his steaks rare, that his senses were much more alert, and he stared for the longest times during full moons.

Bill and Fleur kissed their baby goodbye as Ron sat down beside the crib. The baby gurgled and he couldn’t resist the urge to lift the baby up and into his arms.

“ Nice hair you’ve got there, “ he murmured as the baby stared at him, his little mouth moving once in awhile, forming little circles and Ron couldn’t help but laugh. “ Trying to talk eh? I hope you won’t grow up to be like Fred and George- frankly they’re funny, but they can get annoying. “

The baby’s attention seemed to focus on him now and Ron smiled, pleased at how he did not make the baby cry. “ You’re a quiet chap eh? “ The baby moved his fists up and down. “ Strong one too. You’re from good stock, that’s why. Grow up like me? “ He chuckled. “ Nice eyes you’ve got there too, got that from your mum, huh? Hope you don’t go all vain with your good looks though- “

He heard a muffled laugh. He looked up and saw Ginny in her pajamas, with a big smile on her face. “ What? “ he asked.

“ Uncle Ron seems to be adjusting well, “ she snickered. She was delighted in seeing her brother so- fatherly-like, so unguarded and he looked responsible and mature.

“ Oh shut up, “ he said.

“ Hey, no words like that around Philip! “ she said.

“ Oops, “ Ron said, eyeing the baby. “ Sorry, Phil. Your aunt Ginny can be so domineering at times, you’d better keep a watch out for her. “

Ginny laughed. “ Can’t wait to see you get married. “

“ No way, “ Ron said as he held Philip up. “ I’m not getting married in my prime! “

Suddenly Ginny looked serious. “ Could you place Philip back in his crib for awhile? “

“ Something the matter? “

“ I just want to ask you something, “ she replied.

Ron placed Philip back in his crib as Ginny sat beside him on the couch. “ If this is about what happened last night- “

“ Rumors fly around fast- “

“ You’re not writing this in any article, are you? “

“ No, “ she replied. “ That would be a bad topic. I heard that you arrested Pansy Park- I mean Pansy Sarovic? And that her husband went to the Ministry to personally take her out? “

“ It wasn’t exactly an arrest. More like detention. The woman was so manipulative! You should’ve seen her control her husband! He was practically her lapdog! “

“ So I heard, “ Ginny said. “ Do you think her husband’s one of them? “

“ One of what? Death Eaters? “ Ron frowned for a moment. “ Gin, speculate all you want. We’re still in the progression of analyzing what our next step will be. Whatever Marko Sarovic’s up to, we’ve kept our tabs on him, especially Pansy. She wanted to get something from that old Riddle mansion, we just couldn’t confirm it. “

“ Borgin and Burkes, “ Ginny said in a thoughtful voice. “ Check them; they’re under a new management, right? “

Ron’s brown eyes looked over his sister’s. Perhaps…he had overlooked that. He had forgotten to tell Lupin to check Borgin and Burkes the night two of their Aurors died. Under a new management…he smiled at Ginny, stood up, and kissed her forehead. “ Gin, thank you! “

“ Ron- “

“ Be a nice aunt for awhile! “ he said as he stepped into the fireplace. Within a second he was gone.

Ginny looked at a very awake Philip. Well, it never hurt to try….perhaps she might get married herself someday, whoever the lucky bastard was going to be. “ Hello, Philip, “ she cooed. “ It’s Aunty Ginny here- Merlin’s beard….you really do have flaming red hair, don’t you? “

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A/N: so i decided to update faster this time, out of necessary boredom and the urge to read your comments and "suggestions".hehehe. The ending, i decided it to be light, the first few parts had to be serious, and I featured Hermione in a rather tight situation- finally, eh?



Chapter 26: Couldn’t things get any more worse?
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“ Chilly night isn’t it? “ Nott commented as he sniffed the air.

“ Yeah…” Draco’s voice trailed off as he looked at the fire. “ So, where is it? “

Nott raised an eyebrow and grabbed something from his inner coat pocket. Draco looked at the journal on the table. Nott had so carelessly thrown it on the dusted and creaky redwood table as they sat in the stillness of the room. No one else was around, Nott had made sure, and Draco made it very sure.

“ This is it? “ Draco’s brows shot up a little. It was nothing more than an ordinary-looking notebook, something a child would scribble in; a teenager in love would disclose her secrets in, something a man like Snape would keep in secrecy with great lengths…

“ Well…yes, as a matter of a fact, that’s just about it…” Nott grinned. “ You were expecting something covered in Basilisk scales? “ he laughed. “ That’s just about it. Plain to the eye, like what Lord Voldemort would have wanted. “

“ Right. “ Draco’s eyes skimmed over the leather bound notebook once more. He took it with one hand and flipped the pages open. The pages were yellowish, it faintly stank of sewage and dust and excrement- rat excrement most likely. “ It’s empty. “

“ Like what Lord Voldemort would expect, “ he said with a nod. “ It was good of Snape to leave that lying around his old house- Blaise wouldn’t even dare set foot there. Naturally, to my advantage. “

“ You never liked him. “

“ Why, that is correct. But I like you well enough to meet with you like this, without their inquisitive ears and fervent eyes. It’s gotten quite annoying, all the displays of devotion by- who was that? Oh that ‘woman’. “

Draco gave a diminutive smile. So he wasn’t the only one. Thank Merlin’s balls for that. “ Which is why I should thank you, “ he replied.

“ Don’t thank me too soon, “ he said. “ You don’t even know what’s in there- you can’t see anything, am I correct? “

“ Yes. “

“ Well that’s because you haven’t shed a drop of ‘innocent blood’ yet, or any blood for that matter. Blaise has already done so, the poor sod was so proud of his usual supercilious self- but anyway, yes, he has spilled blood, the others will be eager to do the same. Before you know it, there’ll be murder screaming in the headlines of the pages of every wizard magazine known to man. “

“ Something the master wouldn’t dream of doing yet…”

“ You are right for that matter, “ Nott said. “ But everyone who’s been let on in the secret will kill for this. Even you will be forced to kill. You’ve never killed anyone in your life. “

“ You just had to remind me. “

“ Of course. Your reputation’s at stake here, and so is your life. Blaise has done a suicide undertaking on trusting you again, something I wouldn’t do if I were him- but…he respects you. So it’s providence on your part that you have such charisma to capture everyone’s confidence, even if you have had a terrible record on your services. “

“ Thanks for reminding me, again. “

“ Any time, “ Nott smiled as he stroked his chin. “ So…any amazing plans? I do recall you were brilliant with details back at Hogwarts…”

“ I was reckless, impudent, full of myself, “ Draco corrected with a small grin. “ So I had thought my plan was brilliant, but it had its flaws, something I should not have allowed…And there was something that prevented me from killing Dumbledore, something greater than fear. It came as a late realization that I respected the man- “

“ You do know resurrecting what remains of him might eradicate you, right? “

“ That is correct. I’ve got no fall back plan…I believe they want me dead. You? “

“ What? Want you dead? Perhaps…you would be of use to me. That’s how our camaraderie’s always been anyway, using each other…so I guess I wouldn’t want you dead. “

“ You guess. “

“ I believe, “ he corrected his previous statement. Nott conjured two glasses and they appeared on the table. “ Red wine? “

Draco nodded and a jug of red wine appeared and began pouring itself on the two goblets, filling each almost to the brim. He eyed his glass for quite some time. “ Perhaps Voldemort would want me dead, after all…”

“ Perhaps, “ Nott took a sip from his glass. “ Ah…good year, this one. You know, I’ve been drinking more wine than I have in all my years of under aged drinking. “

“ What do the first pages say? “ Draco asked placing the book back on the table.

Blaise leaned forward to grab it. He flipped for the first empty page. “ Snape’s a genius. Made his own spells and stuff…you sure you’re not seeing anything at all? “

“ None, I assure you. “ Draco eyed the notebook once more, seeing only a vacant, filthy and old looking piece. “ What do you see? On the first page? “

“ Just his title. Half-blood Prince…” Nott began. “ The first page already says a lot, although he had been careful enough to make sure it still won’t be easy for anyone who’s discovered this one. Still in codes, cryptic messages- ancient runes, actually. Something I’m not good at. Some of them are in old English and some are written in prose style…that’s just about it. “

“ Ancient runes you say? “

“ Yes. Ancient runes, and Merlin-knows-what these others are. That’s why I need your help. I can’t solve this on my own anymore, I’ve given up. Blaise is too mediocre for this, “ Nott said with a smile. “ And I wouldn’t want to show the contents of these to the others yet. “

“ Mediocre? Really, Nott. The terms you use…” Draco grinned. “ And I’m not exactly good in ancient runes…my understanding in runes is comparable to a muggle teen’s understanding on who Shakespeare is. “

“ At least you got to that level. I didn’t even take that class at all. My understanding’s comparable to that of a kindergartener’s, “ he laughed. Then he flipped a few more pages open. He stopped on one, and pointed to a page as empty as the others to Draco’s eyes. “ Merlin…all I’ve got are simple ‘riddles’….amazing how Snape used word play here. I’ve come to understand that there are some artifacts that we need, though. Here’s a passage that entails we need blood, sacrificial blood, half-blood- blimey, I don’t get it now…Half-blood? What does that mean? I can’t very well see the remaining pages….something’s wrong. I’ve done my part and sacrificed the ‘blood of the innocent’ and my own at that…but we can’t get to read the other pages…even Blaise. “

“ Perhaps the notebook needs the blood of someone who truly is half-blood, “ Draco mused as he leaned back to the head rest.

“ Perhaps…” Nott frowned a little, the first serious look Draco had seen for today, well in a long time, actually. Even when they met with the rest of the ‘new Deatheaters’, Nott still took the trouble to smirk genially, much to the chagrin of Blaise and the others, and to the utter amusement of Draco. He read the rest of the entry, “ Such sacrifice which indeed lies only in the hands of those who are willing to give what is due, blood which is blood, blood equals blood. “

Draco’s brows furrowed as well. Now that had to get someone thinking...Would he play a lack wit? Read between the lines? Or would he…just kill everyone he wanted to kill as a safe measure? A fall back plan to ensure his life? He had never given his life that much thought since this whole thing began….everything was about everyone else’s protection, everything was about Hermione’s protection…

“ Got anything in mind for this little riddle? “ Nott asked with a heavy sigh. “ Merlin, I knew I should have taken that entrance exam to teach English at Durmstrang. Mother was fecking right. “

Draco laughed shortly. “ Why would Snape need a journal? “ he wondered aloud. “ Why would he have one when he knew the War was going on? Lord Voldemort confided to him among everyone else…even though he died during the War…” Draco’s voice trailed off. “ And everything’s about blood. Hell, it seems like Snape had an undisclosed fixation for this sort of red…”

“ Perhaps he has his selfish reasons. Everyone wants to live one way or another, Malfoy, “ Nott told him as he examined a few more pages of the journal. “ Self-preservation, his self-preservation, to our advantage…”

“ To everyone who’s eager to please Lord Voldemort, “ Draco added. “ I don’t know what your basis is for even joining us, even though your father’s been killed and your mother’s faced an inquiry a few years back. “

“ You’re telling me you want to please Lord Voldemort now? “ Nott raised an eyebrow. “ Come now Draco, in the eyes of those who remain dedicated to him, you’re a fucking deserter. They’ll never trust you all too easily, but they can still trust me, no matter how small my chances are. “

“ You’re correct on that account…” Draco murmured. “ Which leads me to show how desperate I should be in front of you and everyone else- just to gain the favor of Lord Voldemort once more. Being the sacrificial lamb to have him alive and installed as the most feared dark wizard again would prove to be a daunting responsibility. Blaise will do anything to keep me alive, until Lord Voldemort himself gives the order that I should be killed. “

Nott was quiet as he looked at Draco. Draco looked as cool as an ice sculpture. The man was full of possibilities, even better than his father….wait…definitely better than his father. If the others viewed Draco’s demeanor as negative in Hogwarts, he saw this as a positive one. The unruffled effect was starting to rub on him now, and he was mindful that he now saw Draco in a slightly different way. Whereas he respected Draco’s subtle domineering ways before, but hated his overall appeal, he had come to a realization that Draco’s self-confidence would save more than his own skin. Draco gave a whole fresh look to the cool demeanor he displayed and Nott admired him from afar. The closest thing anyone got to Draco Malfoy, as the persistent rumors and jokes at Hogwarts had circulated, was underneath him if you were female and at the soles of his shoes if you were a male he disliked.

He used to wonder why Draco had such idiots for cronies. Crabbe and Goyle had repeated more than twice for a single Hogwarts school year alone, and that was probably when Draco and the rest of his batch mates at Hogwarts were still in grade school. Pansy and Blaise were other nuisances to Nott. Pansy, without a doubt was a pretty picture, a brilliant personification of money and looks and lineage- never mind the self-important personality or the controversies she got herself into most of the time. The shadowy haired beauty had made a good time seeing others in misery, and although still a Slytherin quality, Nott didn’t like it that much. Blaise was the quintessential ladies man, tall, rugged, dark and rich- filthy rich….also a crony of Draco’s; although Nott knew that Blaise would rather die a horrible death than admit this to Draco and to everyone else. Blaise had this ‘I’m my own boss’ attitude, but Nott knew Blaise looked up to Draco more than Draco realized.

“ Do you really think you’ll die? “ Nott found himself asking. Draco eyed him, his cool gray eyes suddenly grayer than ever. Were they sad now? Were they masking his fear? The eyes had always been Nott’s key to seeing how one thought or felt- and he felt disturbed he couldn’t read through Draco entirely. Damn it.

Draco finally gave a shrug. “ It’s not important. “

“ It is if Hermione knows, “ Nott said in a know-it-all voice. Draco’s expression softened; something Nott hardly ever got to see. So Hermione was-

“ She won’t know. I trust you’ll be discreet, “ Draco’s voice was that of a warning to him. Draco saw him nod twice and he smiled at Draco, a smile Draco couldn’t place as sarcasm or something like….sympathy. Now this was new. He had never seen Theodore Nott sympathetic in his life.

“ Of course I’ll be discreet, “ he said. “ Slytherin’s honor. “

“ Right. Slytherin’s trust on you. We’re all in this together, eh? “ Draco watched the fire burn the logs. The wood crackled in the furnace and ashes spewed forth from the large fire and onto the carpet.

“ We’re all in this together, “ Nott’s voice echoed once more. There was a different gleam in his eyes as Draco finished what remained of his wine. He gave a triumphant smile and finished his own glass. “ We’re all bloody in this together. “

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Ron walked down Knockturn Alley careful to mind his own business- well at least that was how he wanted to appear. Just another curious soul in Knockturn Alley, another wizard who fancied a few brushes with dark magic and the like…He saw the old Borgin and Burkes boutique up ahead and was surprised to read the sign said ‘closed’.

What the-? Ron frowned and proceeded to turn to another alley, one that would lead back to Diagon Alley. Closed? Why would it be closed? He eyed the dark windows and saw that there was no one inside, any sign of the new owner at all- there was none! Ginny couldn’t have gotten it wrong…she was practically part of a newspaper that never lied!

A new management…perhaps he could get information through the ministry? A visit to the ministry of wizarding establishments would do nice now…but- damn it! He grit his teeth in annoyance. Just when he wanted to play detective…

Just then he saw a man walk up to the store entrance. He quickly hid behind a stack of tall crates as he continued to stare at the newcomer. No one seemed to pay much attention to the newcomer. Apparently, this was the store owner. The new management…

“ Thank you Ginny! “ he said under his breath.

The man took out a key and as if he knew there was someone watching him, kept his eyes on both eyes constantly. His hands were doing all the work at the stubborn door and he shook the knob till it finally opened. With one last glance at his back, he entered the shop. Ron watched for a few seconds, wondering if he should go in or not. His instincts told him to stay behind his stack of trusty crates, so he hid.

A full two minutes later, the anxious looking man went out once more, carrying a little package wrapped in brown paper. He quickly shoved it into the folds of his robe as he locked the establishment once more. A second later, he was walking away. Ron stared at the thin looking man, his mind racing with thoughts.

That little parcel could be a saving grace.

Now if only he knew what it was…?

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~

Hermione was staring at him, her face was tear-streaked, and there was a line of blood on one side of her cheek. Was she in pain? She wasn’t saying anything. He reached out for her to touch her; to tell her everything would be alright, to ask her what was wrong. What was wrong?

“ Hermione? What’s wrong? “ he asked, almost trembling at the sight of her looking so fragile, so alone. “ Hermione, please tell me what’s wrong, who hurt you Hermione? “

She shook her head, her voice choked with her tears. She looked at him and shook her head again. “ You did, you hurt me Draco. You did this to me…” And she opened her blouse slowly and Draco reeled back in horror. He gasped. “ You did this to me- you…”

He shook his head, unable to take his eyes away from the gaping hole at the upper left corner of her chest. Her heart was gone! She was bleeding like hell! She took a step closer to him and he froze in place.

She was smiling now; Hermione was smiling at him, giving him little kisses that meant so much to him. “ Draco, I still love you. “ And her face changed to that of someone else’s.

His mother now. “ Your father- we’re prisoners forever, Draco. He’ll never let us go…” She was crying hard, her mascara was running down her cheeks, her mother’s lower lip was bloody. She was black and blue all over. “ He’ll live again Draco- he’ll live again in you…you’re becoming like you father…he’s alive in you…”

Ron Weasley was ferociously pointing a finger at him. “ You son of a bitch! You think you’re getting the paramount of both worlds now? Because you’ve got Hermione’s confidence and the confidence of your Deatheaters? They want you dead, you son of a bitch! They want you dead! “

Blaise. “ Why, my best buddy in the whole wide- wait a minute- aren’t you supposed to be dead? I planned to have you killed…oh well; I can always kill you again, with the help of everyone else who wants to see you in wretchedness. “

Pansy. “ If you had married me- I would’ve made you the happiest man in the whole world. But you just had to throw me away! And now look at you! A fucking horcrux, a joke to the purebloods! Only proves my husband’s a whole lot better than you! “

Nott. “ Malfoy, I wanted you dead the moment I first saw you. I didn’t really think you’d buy my ‘respect’ bullshit on you, but, you did! Fortunate me, after all... Not only do I get to see you suffer, I also get to see the one person you love the most, kill you! “

Hermione again. She was smiling as she held up a shiny dagger. It glinted above him, and he stared in horror, in slow motion as the dagger began its descent. The snake entwined on the dagger suddenly moved and hissed at him, its jeweled emerald eyes glaring at him, and he felt like he had been petrified, he couldn’t move!

“ This won’t hurt a bit, “ Hermione said delicately as she kissed his lips, a Judas kiss. “ I love you too much to even see you cry out in pain…I love you so much, I’d kill you just to prove it…”

~



Draco switched on the lamp on his bedside. He breathed in heavily, running shaky hands over his blonde hair. He was sweating profusely. The nightmares had always seemed so real. So real…Hermione’s voice was so real…I love you…three simple words that meant everything…three simple words that could destroy his concentration….all it takes is a nightmare to keep the blood flowing…keep the pain fresh…

He looked at the clock near him. The red digits screamed out that it was still two in the morning. And he knew he couldn’t sleep again. He wouldn’t dare. Even in sleep, he was taunted by the memory of Hermione’s voice telling him how much he meant to her…he loved her. He knew it. He had been trying to reject it, but he loved her. That feeling alone prevailed as he sat unaccompanied in his bed, wondering where all of this would lead. Wondering how he would solve his problems. Wondering if he would live through it and tell it straight to Hermione’s face that he felt more than just plain ‘like’ for her.

Was he carving out a destiny for himself? A destiny he didn’t want? And he felt trapped…who wouldn’t? Hermione meant everything now, but so did his mother’s life…He had been avoiding wizardry for more than a year, and here they were, here he was…a slave to the invisible chains of the memory of Lord Voldemort…Never- since the day Lord Voldemort spoke last- never did it cross his mind that he would actually see him alive again, but now, if things went well, he would live again because of him! He was a key to resurrecting the one man almost everyone in the wizarding world wanted to stay dead!

“ I should be happy, “ he thought bitterly as he sat in silence. “ Not everyone gets to be a horcrux, let alone be Voldemort’s horcrux. Aunt Bellatrix would have killed for this…”

And he recalled the night he had almost killed Dumbledore, recalled the night Snape saved his cowardly ass, and recalled the night he found out that his mother had been in a pact with Snape to keep him alive and protected. Bellatrix had been an unenthusiastic collaborator to the spell that his mother and Snape made- all for him, just for him…he couldn’t very well see his mother hurt again, not after what she had gone through…she was all he had left, what remained of the ‘perfect pureblood’ family.

But would he be prepared to actually shed innocent blood? Sure, he had killed, had used an unforgivable curse or two, but that was when he had switched to Harry Potter’s faction, the ‘good side’ and had used it against his former comrades, used it against the Deatheaters, against his father’s ideology. Now that he knew that Blaise was behind all that false evidence of his father being alive again, would he go through the lengths of betraying them just to clear the Malfoy name from this latest uprising? But his father would’ve been proud that Draco was in this if he was still alive, Draco thought.

Anything for the Dark Master, anything for Lord Voldemort, that was probably his father’s motto in living. Never mind the apprehension Narcissa felt for both of them before, never mind if Draco died, Lord Voldemort would reward them greatly with gifts beyond price if it was all done in his name and successfully. So his father had died, still with the belief that he would be greatly rewarded- rewarded where? The next world? It was a silly notion and Draco had been glad to have finally taken the right side….or was it the right side? Suddenly he began having his doubts…Suppose he had taken Lord Voldemort’s side all the way, would he still be alive right now? Harry Potter would have killed him without batting an eyelash, so would everyone else with him.

Survival was survival. Draco had done a suicide mission on joining Harry Potter’s cause and the rest of those who believed in him and were against the injustices of Lord Voldemort and his circle. And now- now, he was doing it again. Another suicide mission, this time not to kill Voldemort, but to resurrect him. He would die either way, if he joined Blaise or not, but his mother and Hermione came first, and he would never let anyone lay a finger on the two of them.

Snape had gone through actually keeping his guarantee to his mother, the Fidelius charm went to the grave, since Bellatrix had not even divulged this, she had not been given time by Lupin, as Lupin had killed her before hand. Snape had been killed a few moments after Bellatrix’s death, by none other than Lord Voldemort himself, branded as a disappointment- a deserter, despite Snape’s valiant efforts.

So no one knew, only he knew that Snape had taken additional lengths to keep him alive, for Snape had not even told Lord Voldemort of this…but he would be soon resurrecting the one man his father and the rest of the Deatheaters had so worshipped and everyone else had feared, even his mother had feared Lord Voldemort despite being pureblooded and married to a fanatical member.

Would Lord Voldemort know of Narcissa’s treachery to him when she had done that Fidelius charm with Snape and had made Bellatrix their secret keeper? He had his ways- he would find out, but as long as he wasn’t resurrected yet, his mother and Hermione were at their safest. Only then would he feel the dread for their lives when Voldemort would begin to doubt him- he weighed himself….perhaps he still had the upper hand against Blaise? It seemed that Blaise wanted to be the favorite, something Draco knew wouldn’t happen all too easily…

A dread in him rose higher than before, the fear of killing someone innocent, the fear of seeing Hermione as he had seen her in his dreams; heartless with the malicious intent of killing him herself, the fear of seeing his mother all beaten up, the fear of seeing Blaise and Nott rise against him, overpowering him despite his evident talent for dueling and hexes. He had never felt this alone in his entire life, even his own self-confidence was slowly ebbing away now. He was playing a martyr, a saint! A goddamned hypocrite to his own fears!

“ Couldn’t things get any more worse? “ he finally murmured in frustration, in desperation.

He had no idea.

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A/N: okay, i'm feeling chippy today. happy chippy. please do review? i promise the next chapter will be worth your time. so thank you for reading again, and please don't forget to leave your comments or sugesstions?

Chapter 27: What are you hiding from me?
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Hermione waited in line at the grocer’s. It was a Saturday, another bloody weekend. She had not seen Draco for more than two weeks, not after the unpleasant incident at his house. She never wanted to see him again. Not because she hated him, but because of the sheer humiliation she had experienced. He wanted her to stay away, so she knew she should keep it that way and never see him again. It hurt…the abruptness of it all hurt. Just because of that? All that pureblood-mudblood crap? She couldn’t believe she had been that trusting, she couldn’t believe he had been that shallow!


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“ I can’t love you. I don’t want to…”

“ Potter’s dead! I only hold his heart! But I’m not Potter now, am I? I thought I could love you! Maybe it was just because I have his heart! So just get out of my life! “

“ I don’t feel the same way.”
~



Well, did it have to be that way! No matter how much she tried to deny the hurt, it wouldn’t die! She wanted it to die! Die! Like…Harry?

“ Ma’am, will this be in cash or card? “ the lady cashier asked, breaking her ‘hurting moments’.

Hermione blinked and reached for her credit card. The cashier smiled a well practiced smile at her as she swiped the card and typed in some keys.

“ Here you are ma’am, “ she said. “ Thank you for shopping at Green Grocer’s. Do come again. “

Hermione nodded and gave a small smile as she picked up two bags worth of groceries. She stepped out of the mini-mart and stopped in her tracks. It was raining, or rather, it was drizzling. She sighed and decided to take a little ‘shower’. So she walked to her car, holding two bags of heavy groceries and stopped to fumble for her keys. She successfully opened the door to her Volkswagen after a few minutes of gritting her teeth and complicated balancing. With a grateful groan, she placed the two bags on the passenger seat and slipped behind the wheel. She sighed and sat in silence for a few seconds, wondering why in the hell it all had to happen. She held the steering wheel and banged her head against it softly.

“ Come on Hermione! Get a grip! “ she screamed to herself as she tightened her hold on the steering wheel. There came a tap on her window. She looked up. It was a young security guard, probably her age or a bit older. His face had a look of concern.

“ Ma’am, “ his muffled voice said. “ Are you alright? “

She nodded and rolled the window down. “ Yes, I’m alright. I’m just having a headache. It’s been a bad week…” her voice trailed off as she massaged her temple.

“ We all get that, “ he gave a grin. “ Have a nice day. “

She nodded and gave a smile to reciprocate for his concern. She gave a little wave and turned on the ignition.

“ Merlin, I can’t believe I’m wasting my brain energy on thinking about this! “ She muttered as she drove on the highway back to her flat. “ I’m going to come out like some complete nutcase! “

And suddenly she thought of the best thing she could do next. Get a transfer. Transfer to America. Request for it. Transfer to the Vogue head office in America, transfer to the American Aurors Association too. Get a start. A fresh start…Run away from the hurt like a coward, hoping it would die down quickly if she moved away. She nodded once, encouraging herself it wouldn’t be so bad to have no family or friends there.

“ It won’t be so bad…” she told herself. “ I’ll be away from all the bad memories…but I know they won’t go away- who am I kidding? Bad decision or good decision…at least I’ll be away from the places that remind me of them….of Harry….of- Draco…”

Did it have to be that way? She had been asking herself this more than a hundred times already, and that was just for today. What about the rest of the days before? The rest of the days to come? She unexpectedly violently wished she had died along with Harry, or died instead of him. And she suddenly missed him terribly, the sound of his voice, his embraces, his kisses, his temper, his glasses, the scar that had made him infamous or famous, the little romantic things he used to do just to see her smile, his hands, his touch- everything about him! But he was gone! But she wanted him alive! Now! Alive now! And Draco’s face came into her mind…and she knew she missed him too- she missed his satirical wit, she missed the side she never knew during their Hogwarts years- missed his kisses- she was missing them both!

She knew she was still torn, torn between Harry’s memory and Harry’s love, comparing them guiltily with Draco’s own actions for her, Draco’s own love- well was it love with him? She had been played with! And something in her still refused to accept that she had been a meager interruption to Draco, a plaything, a companion to his lonesome days, to his uninteresting days…the letter, the burned up letter, there was that indication, that object she kept close to her heart…the pressure caved in on her.

And suddenly, Hermione swerved to the side of the road and turned off her engine and wept.

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The Greengrass manor was a 300 year old manor in the periphery of a moor near Scotland. The Greengrass patriarch had first built a stone dwelling over the hundreds of acres of land that served as the family gathering place. The Greengrasses were previously well known in the wizarding community for being among the first Scots to venture into the dark arts, along with some lesser known pureblooded families. Proud of being the first Scots to do so, they wasted no time in establishing ties with the Briton dark arts enthusiasts and the Irish ones as well. Soon, they had formed a formidable dark arts group in Scotland, much to the unease of the other harmony loving wizards in Scotland. A scuffle broke out, in the process killing the Greengrass patriarch, a known Slytherin supporter who enjoyed torturing muggles in his now improved dwelling. They had made dungeons for the purpose of doing so.

But there was always a bad egg in every family as the adage goes, and unfortunately, they weren’t spared. A son of the Greengrass patriarch had had enough of seeing his family kill off muggles for pleasure, even long after their father had died. He reported this to the Wizarding Authorities, prompting a violent trial. His family had him killed, but their name in the Wizarding pureblooded world had also become unpleasant. And now, four hundred years later, Daphne’s father had died and still never got to redeem the family name, and she knew pureblooded extremist families still spoke of their disgrace in hushed tones. Her parents had done it all, to no avail. Her mother was off with her new lover, somewhere ‘warm’, or so she had heard of in her last owl. She was alone.

Daphne Greengrass was in the drawing room of her manor house, reading a book when her house elf appeared at the door. She looked up cantankerously, her mouth drawn into a thin line of displeasure. “ Didn’t I tell you not to disturb me at this time? “

“ Madam- he insists, he did. He is wanting to see you, he is! “ the elf murmured nervously as his back remained in a stooped position.

And the man who had so insisted to see her stood at the door. She looked up and saw him, her face even more annoyed now. “ What do you want? What are you doing here? “

“ That’s two questions at a single time. Take it easy. “

“ I hate being disturbed during my moments of solitude, “ she snapped placing her book down. “ What do you want? “

“ Just a little chit-chat, if you don’t mind- “

“ I mind, “ she said irately. “ If this is about that meeting we’ll be having again, can’t it wait? We’ve done too much discussion along with the rest of them. In addition, your face is annoying me. I wanted to take a break from seeing your face and everyone else’s. “

“ You’ve always been so charming Daphne. “

“ Thank you. Now get out. “

“ You’ll love to hear this. “

“ Fine. Spit it. Spit it quick. “

“ I don’t spit, sweetheart. I talk, “ he said. “ This is about Draco. “

She motioned for a chair. “ What about him? “

“ You hate him, right? “ he asked, raising an eyebrow with a sardonic smile playing at his mouth. “ Hate him enough to kill him? To want him dead? “

“ Yes, “ she replied slowly. “ I hate him like that. Yes…why? “

“ Well, Draco Malfoy may either die or live. “

“ I don’t get it. I thought he’d die. If the Master’s made him the horcrux, then he should die. It’s a death sentence to be a living horcrux, of course he’ll die! “

“ No, he may not. I’ve read it. From Snape’s journal. Something you haven’t read yet, because you haven’t killed anyone innocent yet, and you hadn’t spilled your own blood- “

“ Because you wouldn’t let me! If you had allowed me, I would have done that the moment we held that meeting with Draco and the rest of the Deatheaters! “

“ Patience, Daphne. Patience. All for the master, “ Blaise said.

“ What difference would it make if I got to read it? You and Nott hiding something from us now? Did Snape write anything concerned with Draco? Why won’t you just let me kill, damn it! “

“ All for the master, “ Blaise stubbornly repeated. “ Listen to me, will you? Stop interrupting. “

“ Why does Draco Malfoy have a chance to live? “ she asked, calmer this time, but Blaise thought he could see a vein ticking on her neck.

Blaise smiled. Good. She was listening now. Nothing was more horrifying than hearing a woman seethe or nag, and Daphne was exceptionally superior at both. “ The reason why I’m here is because of Draco Malfoy. No matter what he’s done, the rest of the Deatheaters still look up to him- they still idolize him, but they’d rather die before admitting that. I’m here because I know how passionate you are about wanting him dead. “

Daphne huffed. “ You dreamer. He’ll die. I sense that he will. “

“ It’s you who feels it. But does Lord Voldemort feel the same way? Draco will die an excruciating death in the progression of Lord Voldemort regaining his true form, his corporeal form- unless he chooses not to kill Draco- Lord Voldemort may want him breathing, installed as his right-hand- “

“ Enough! I don’t want to hear any of that anymore! “ she shrieked. She was livid. Draco Malfoy as his right hand! Never! Not until she was dead herself!

“ But you will never hear the end of it if we don’t plan Draco’s demise ahead! “ Blaise said heatedly. “ Draco has to die! Or I won’t hear the end of it either! If Draco’s this truly obsessive on regaining the Master’s favor, then we’ll never hear the end of how great he was, how loyal he was to bring him back to life by hosting a splinter of Lord Voldemort’s soul! “

Daphne looked at him with her eyes glowering. Then she resignedly nodded. “ Yes, you are...you are correct, “ she said through gritted teeth.

Blaise felt a sense of achievement by Daphne’s measly admission that he was correct. “ I’m glad you now agree with me. It was something we never got to do when we were still in Hogwarts. “

“ Please, “ Daphne said. But something in her eyes changed. Her composure changed and Blaise sensed it. “ Just- just go on with what you were saying. “

“ Right…” Blaise looked at an alabaster head of Daphne’s intimidating looking father. Her father had died when she was still a little girl, and had been solely reared by her dark arts infatuated mother ever since. Her mother was a distant relative of the Blacks, but Daphne didn’t consider them blood relatives. She was embarrassed; well that was how it looked like, embarrassed to be vaguely related to them one way or another. Daphne had inherited her fanatical disposition of pleasing the Dark Lord from her mother, Blaise saw that. Anything for the Dark Lord…She was like a teenager, eager to please, eager to get noticed by her idolized celebrity…

Blaise stroked his chin; he felt the stubble of hair and decided he would let it grow. It added to the villainous appeal, anyway. “ Now where was I? Ah yes, Now how to kill Draco Malfoy without him knowing or anyone else. “

“ Nott doesn’t know? “

“ Hell no. I wouldn’t want him to know we had a little chitchat. Nott is- how do I put this? I don’t trust him like Draco does. You’ve seen how Draco regards that Nott, right? “

“ If you didn’t trust him that much, why’d you allow him to join in the first place? His company annoys me, aggravates me one way or another. “

“ Because we need him. You haven’t seen how Nott performs. He may have been silent but he was smart, and I hate to acknowledge it, but he’s smarter than we are. “

“ Him? Smarter? “

“ He figured out how to get us nearer to the master, Daphne, “ his voice said unenthusiastically, and almost with a faint annoyance. “ I’d have to give him some recognition too, you know. You may hate that idea, but you have to learn who’s to turn to. Nott’s finding a way to redeem their name, for his father and for himself. He’s in for the glory of this, the fun and the glory. He knows he’s smart and he’s putting it to good use. He’s a bastard and I want him dead too, but he’s still smart, and I won’t see him dead until I’ve seen the master before my very eyes. “

“ But he’s Theodore Nott, “ she protested halfheartedly. “ If the master knows he’s been the key to his resurrection because he’s solving things for us, then we’ll never see him six feet below, that, along with Draco Malfoy. We still end up losing. “

“ Not if we play our cards right. “

“ I hate cards, “ Daphne said through gritted teeth. “ Go hassle someone else, Zabini. “

“ I have no one else! Everyone else is a pawn, but you’re not, and you know you’re far more superior than they are. If we can have enemies outside of our circle, then we can have enemies in it. Nott is one. Draco is one. “

“ I know that! “ she said. “ But still- I’ve been inclined to loyalty, and even if I hate them both, I still don’t want them betrayed by me! By us! We’ve built trust in this circle, this new circle of Deatheaters, it’s all about trust! Trust together and work together and bring the master back to life! “

“ Daphne, Daphne, “ Blaise said with a sigh. “ Always so passionate. I do love it when you do that. Brings out the blush to your cheeks- are you hiding something from me? “ his voice became lower. His eyes became dangerous. With one stride he was holding her arm savagely and breathing so close to her face, she could almost feel his anger bubble on her skin.

“ Let go of me! You’re hurting me, you bastard! “ she screamed.

He shook her roughly, holding both of her shoulders, staring into her dark eyes. “ What are you hiding from me! Don’t you lie to me, Daphne! Don’t you fucking lie to me! “

“ You’re hurting me! Nothing! What is wrong with you! Let go of me! Let go or I’ll kill you! You son-of-a-! “ She was thrown against a thick velvety couch and she could feel herself shaking slightly, still unable to swallow in what Blaise had done to her. Her eyes glared in rage. “ You sick bastard! Get out of my house! Get out! Now! “

He leaned closer to her and she tried to stop her hands from trembling. He saw her hands shaking and how she was trying to control them with all she had. She was afraid of him! He loved every minute of that short display of male supremacy. Now she knew who the superior one was in the group! He held one of her hands close to his face and with a manic glint in his eye, caressed it slowly over his smooth and cold cheek. He wanted to feel her body…was she as cold as he was inside? Did she display the same passion in bed?

She shuddered and gasped. “ You sick bastard! “ she shrieked, withdrawing her hand from his grasp. Her lips were trembling and she had gone a shade whiter than before. She slapped as hard as she could in defiance, her eyes looked like they could murder.

He laughed a hollow laugh that filled the cavernous room. “ You bitch! I know you’re hiding things from me, secrets you wish to tell no one else! “ his voice suddenly growled. “ And you will tell me what they are! You will tell them now! “

“ And what? Be under your strings! You can’t move without us you bastard! If I leave the group, that’ll be less of manpower for you, another pawn gone! You think you’re superior to us all! Well you’re not! Draco is far better than you! Far more superior! Nott is smarter than you! I have more money than you despite the bad history my family’s had and I will still find a way to- “

She fell on the floor from his slap to her face. She could feel the sting as she touched her cheek. No one had ever hit her before! No one! The fucking lowlife! He was going to see his own entrails-

“ Yes, darling. Be livid all you want, you know you’re still no better than I am, “ he said with a sinful leer. “ We could make arrangements you know. To avoid the death of that dream of yours to establish your family’s legacy once more…you could keep my bed warm for me- “

“ You disgust me! Never with you! “ she said with her chin raised up.

“ Still a bitch, eh? I thought that slap would bring some sense into you. You’re the first girl to have rejected my subtle ways; all of them didn’t even have to say their approval. They just gave themselves to me, readily stripped off their clothes- “

“ Because they were thick! “ she shouted, standing up now, holding on to the edge of a table for support. “ They didn’t see how sickening you were- and you still are! “

Blaise smiled at her as he stroked his chin again. “ Who do you want, Daphne? “ he asked, smirking. “ Who do you want in bed? “

She grabbed her wand from the table but Blaise was still smiling. She frowned and she was shocked at his smile. She was as good in hexing as he was, even better! He was enjoying this; she knew it, saw it in his eyes.

“ You don’t have the nerve to hurt me, “ he whispered slowly, taunting her.

She took a step forward, the tip of her wand glowing.

“ That’s right…” he stepped forward and she stepped away from him as he did. “ You can’t kill me, Daphne. You can’t hurt me. And you know why? Because you know I want you. I knew you’d see it my way Daphne. I’ll talk with you again soon, and this time we’ll get serious. We’ll play with the cards. “ And he stepped away from her and apparated.

The room was quiet once more, and her breathing was troubled, heavy. She felt nauseated. She collapsed on the floor and tried not to let the tears come, but slowly, painfully, they did. And she became wracked with sobs, wondering why she didn’t kill Blaise. Was she truly afraid? Nonsense, her father’s voice came to her. A Greengrass was never afraid. But suddenly, she felt she had failed that part. Her house elf appeared and timidly offered her a tissue. She looked up and saw the elf’s eyes in sadness. She sniffed and forced herself to stop.

“ Get out, “ she said in an unsteady voice. The house elf scurried away. She stood up and sat on a couch and made herself calm. “ I am a Greengrass, “ she murmured again and again. “ I am Daphne Greengrass. “

But her hands refused to stop trembling.

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“ Daphne Greengrass, “ Ron said in a thoughtful voice as he looked over their Hogwarts yearbook. He was thumbing through the Slytherin section; carefully choosing which ones he could assume was a present fanatic of the Black Arts. The image of a green clad Daphne showed her rolling her eyes and lifting her chin up in the air as she did. There was a short description below her image:


~
Daphne Greengrass will live up to her name once she leaves Hogwarts and work for either the ministry in the control of dangerous and rare plants or open up a successful greenery.

Affiliation: Herbology Club
~


Ron looked up at the ceiling as he sat alone in his room in muggle London. Yes, he had recalled the dark haired beauty as a genius in Herbology, and although Hermione still bested her, she was a risk taker when it came to poisonous plants and the like. He read through another name, this time it was Draco Malfoy.


~
Blonde and dangerous is what best describes Draco Malfoy. He will create a legacy far greater than those of his ancestors. A captain of the Slytherin Quidditch team and a potions expert, we’ll be hearing more great things from the Slytherin bad boy in the future.

Affiliations: Slytherin Quidditch Team (Captain), Advanced Potion Making League, Duelists Club
~


Ron sniggered. Blonde and dangerous? Good Merlin! Who wrote this crap! He hadn’t opened his yearbook in years, and had never skimmed through the Slytherin section, but now he was, to find clues, to figure out connections to things that were happening now. His eyes skimmed at Draco’s image. His face was calm, but his eyes had a strange glimmer in them and a thin smile was played on his lips. Next was Theodore Nott. Ron hadn’t given him much thought, since he was uncommonly quiet and a loner as a Slytherin. Nott’s face looked sour; he was painfully skinny in the picture.


~
Theodore Nott, quiet and smart. And although he didn’t socialize that much; Nott has shown to be brilliant in a foray unusual for a Slytherin, he was brilliant in Muggle Studies… Perhaps he may one day be an ambassador to the muggle world? A first for the Slytherins?

Affiliation: Arithmancy Guild
~


Why yes, that was strange for someone in Slytherin to have taken up that subject. He must’ve been a classmate of Hermione’s, since only seven students in the graduating class took that subject… Next was Pansy Parkinson, who was twirling a lock of her hair in the picture whilst rolling her eyes…she was after all, married to another pureblood…perhaps…?


~
Pansy Parkinson, a beauty in Slytherin and a well known enthusiast of Defense against the Dark Arts, this dark haired witch will go a long way whichever path she chooses.

Affiliation: Divination Club
~


The last was Blaise Zabini, whose heavy set face gave a scowl every now and then. Ron hated Blaise for many trifling reasons. One was that he had heard that Blaise fancied Ginny, but wasted no time in lambasting their family name, every chance he got.


~
Blaise Zabini. Tall, dark and handsome. What more could you ask for? Aside from a hefty bank account, Blaise is a certified ladies’ man, something male Slytherins purportedly take pride in.

Affiliation: Advanced Potions Making League
~


And that was that. He sighed and stared at the faces that he had thought of as suspects. There should be more….right? He had his suspects, and he wondered if Lupin thought the same as to who should be kept on watch for…Marko Sarovic was number one on their list, along with Pansy. He still regarded their defense as pathetic, and he was itching to get to the bottom of the Sarovic’s little game. What the hell were they up to?

And without thinking, Ron’s fingers found the Gryffindor pages. He looked at the different and many faces displayed. He saw Hermione’s face. Her eyes showed happiness, as the many award pins on her Hogwarts graduation robes (colored red and gold) glimmered as she moved.


~
Hermione Granger is without a doubt, the smartest witch to have come out from Hogwarts in fifty years. Her dedication to the subjects are never ending (well except for Divination, most likely) and so is her passion for reading. Hermione Granger holds the record for probably being the only one in her batch to have read all the books in the library….

Affiliations: Muggle Studies Club (President), Advanced Potions Making (President), Defense against the Dark Arts League, Duelists Club, Transfiguration Club (President), Runes Club (President), Arithmancy Guild, Astronomy Society (Vice-President), Charms Guild (President)
~


Ron laughed. That was Hermione all right. She lived up to her reputation. He saw Harry’s face. And suddenly he felt upset. Harry was smiling in the picture, a small grin that won the hearts of many girls, as he tried to arrange his ever messy hair.


~
Harry James Potter. Holds the record as the youngest Quidditch seeker to play in a hundred years and also has lived up to his family name as a brilliant Quidditch player. An aficionado for adventure, Harry Potter has sheer luck and wits right up his sleeve.

Affiliations: Gryffindor Quidditch Team (Captain), Advanced Potions Making, Defense against the Dark Arts League, Duelists Club (Vice-President)
~


He found his own face. He was holding his nape unconsciously, while he was giving off a cheeky grin every now and then. He read his own description.


~
Ronald Billius Weasley has always been considered as the whiz kid in Wizard’s Chess in his batch. Tall and a proficient Quidditch player, Ronald has shown great courage despite unfavorable circumstances.

Affiliations: Gryffindor Quidditch Team (Beater), Wizard’s Chess Club (President), Defense against the Dark Arts League, Duelists Club
~


“ I’m good, “ he thought with pride. So what if he hadn’t been that much of an achiever in academics? He had left a legacy in Hogwarts any Weasley would be proud to admit.

His fingers thumbed to the Graduation Ball pictures and he felt nostalgic once more. There was a nice picture of the three of them holding goblets filled with punch, toasting while laughing. He saw a picture of Draco Malfoy with a stoic face as he was surrounded by his cohorts, with Pansy lingering by his side, looking up to him with her eyes glittering because of the make-up and her extreme admiration for him. Another picture had Susan Bones smiling happily with a few classmates. He also saw Peeves cackling riotously after spilling some punch on Ernie MacMillan’s head along with an irritated Hannah Abbot. He grinned. Ah, the good old days. He missed them suddenly, terribly. Even the bad memories at Hogwarts seemed good now, and he suddenly wanted to pick a fight with Harry if he was still alive, as long as he stayed alive. He frowned and sighed again, wondering how Hermione was.

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Author Notes:
So, i've been to my doctor again. They're still trying to balance out the meds to fits my physical state. someone asked me before if i could share my illness. i have acute lymphocytic leukemia, but it's nothing that bad, it started last year but i'm doing fine now. just a few more sessions and they say i'm good to go. what better escape from this little problem than fanfiction? haha

You have just witnessed another Slytherin, Daphne Greengrass. I made up her life and stuff, but i leave what you think of my 'made up' character to you. I've said i have a soft spot for Slytherins, so i'm being fair. I mean if Gryffindors can look good, can't Slytherins too? They're still human and i like to practice what skills i have to make great characters out of what the great J.K Rowling hasn't been paying much attention to.

so...please don't forget to review? I mean, it's not that much, right? asking a little comment/critique/suggestion or two? i love reading reviews. who doesn't? hehe. i'm thankful that i've reached more than 200 reviews. ^_^

Chapter 28: Keep Draco safe?
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The last rays of the sun lingered outside as Narcissa Malfoy was busily leafing through the daily prophet when the house elf came in. She looked up. “ Yes? What is it? “

“ Madam, there is a man here to see you. He is saying his name is Remus Lupin, “ the elf said in a squeaky pitch.

Narcissa nodded, why all of a sudden, a former schoolmate and enemy of her husband’s would come to visit them. “ Show him in, and bring some tea and coffee. “

“ I’m glad that you’ve graciously accommodated me despite my intrusion to your reading, “ Lupin said as he stepped in the drawing room.

Narcissa nodded. “ Please, sit down. What brings you? “

“ I had hoped you would tell me if you have had any visits from any of your pureblooded relatives or family friends? “

She pursed her lips, recalling the night Blaise Zabini had told her Lord Voldemort was going to be resurrected. “ No, none at all. Not after it had been reported that there’s been a- how do you call this…a resurgence of a new generation of Deatheaters. Everyone’s guarded of going out these days, traveling through either Floo or apparition, even portkeys… “

“ You’ve read the Daily Prophet, I presume? “

“ Who doesn’t? “ she replied as the house elf came in carrying a tray.

Lupin said his thanks for the tea, preferring it over coffee that day.

“ I’m rather uncomfortable with the idea of him resurrecting, Professor Lupin. You knew how bad it was after the Great War, am I correct? Terrible for Draco and me…”

“ Yes, I was sorry to hear that. But madam, please, if you have any information regarding the deaths of two Aurors and the many nightfall attacks- please, don’t hesitate to contact me? “ Lupin sounded tired.

“ Professor Lupin, “ she began mildly. She had preferred using that title instead of just calling him by that name.

“ Yes, madam? “

“ I was hoping if- if you’d know who these people are…that you’d stop them? Keep us safe? Keep Draco safe? Deatheaters will be Deatheaters and I won’t deny the fact that Draco’s nearly been a full-pledged one…”

Lupin stared at her for a moment. Her eyes mirrored her concerns. She loved her son too much to see him go through that again. He nodded once.

“ I made a…I had done an Unbreakable vow with Snape before, that he won’t let Draco down and that he’ll carry on the tasks needed if Draco was to fail, that he’ll keep my son safe- just watch over him, “ her voice dropped into a barely audible whisper.

Lupin’s brows shot up. “ No one knows? “

“ No, you are the first…Bella had died and she was the secret-keeper, Snape had died…and now- Draco’s still alive because of Snape…and I’m telling you this so that you’ll know how important it is to keep Draco alive and well…I chose to tell you because I can trust you, no matter what my husband has said about you. I’d rather trust someone who turns into a werewolf- pardon the use of the word- than trust anyone else in my family at this moment.”

“ Madame, you do know what this means? “ Lupin said, trying to smother his astonishment. “ If the Deatheaters out there are truthfully those who have served he-who-must-not-be-named before, then they might do more than hurt him. Are you sure you haven’t told anyone else about this? “

Narcissa nodded. “ I have told no one, after all this time. You are the first to know. The Unbreakable vow died when Snape died. He took the promise to his grave. And I trust you will do the same…Keep Draco safe? I’m quite sure he isn’t getting into the same business his father had gotten into…had gotten killed for…” her voice shook, betraying her distress.

“ You can trust me, “ Lupin finally said, softly.

“ How- how is Nymphadora, my niece? “ Narcissa finally asked, in an effort to change the subject.

Lupin gave a smile. “ Doing well. You should come by our house, when the time is right. Our son’s the splitting image of Andromeda. “

Narcissa gave a little laugh, suddenly recalling the joyous moments of her childhood, when Andromeda, Bellatrix and her hadn’t given much thought about marrying into pureblood families strictly. Oh how she missed those days! When she and her sisters would mischievously play little tricks on their father, and how his loud voice would pretend to scold them, only to smother them with little kisses and embraces later on. But she was the only one alive now, Andromeda was gone, Bella was gone…

She sighed. “ Will do. Give my regards to them? “

He nodded and gave a little bow as he stood up. “ If there’s any problem whatsoever, don’t hesitate to contact me, if there’s any news, if there’s anything you know…”

She nodded, fearing she would suddenly spill out the truth about her kidnapping and Draco’s recent activities. She watched as he left the room, and upon hearing the door close, she breathed a sigh of relief. She may no longer be in the clutches of her uncompromising pureblooded husband, but that didn’t mean that her role as a mother to Draco had stopped. Her loyalties lay there, and she would rather see everyone else have a hard time than see her son go through pain all over again.

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Lupin opened the door to his quaint home, his mind still flying to the things Narcissa had told him. For some reason, he found it hard to believe that no one had visited her during the recent attacks. Narcissa was not a woman to be reckoned with, that was what his mother-in-law had told him months before her death. It was only at that time that Narcissa finally met up with Andromeda, all differences set aside. She had missed her sister truly.

“ Da! “ someone shouted with glee.

At that moment, all of Lupin’s thoughts and troubles disappeared, as he embraced his four year old son tightly. Nymphadora Tonks-Lupin came into view, a bowl filled with batter in her arms.

“ About time you got home, “ she said, kissing his cheek. He smelled cookie dough on her cheek and liked it. Her hair today was a mix of light brown and red.

“ Nice hair, darling, “ he said with a laugh as he lifted his son, affectionately named Sirius, after his fallen best friend. “ Do I smell cinnamon cookies?”

“ Oh shush, “ she said, going back into the kitchen. “ Will you handle Sirius for awhile? He’s been running around the house, and the first batch of my cookies got burnt today because I kept watching out for him. “

“ You haven’t been behaving, eh? “ he said, raising an eyebrow at his son. His son grinned cheekily.

“ Oh, but I have! “ he responded earnestly.

“ Have you got homework? “ Lupin asked.

The four year old nodded. “ Yes, the teacher gave us this coloring sheet. It’s got a deer on it, and I have to follow the lines and keep the colors in. “

“ That’s a stag, son. “

“ What’s a stag, daddy? “

Lupin laughed and explained this as he brought his son to their den, to spend a little quality time and help his son with his homework and explain more about the stag, thereby launching a story about his Hogwarts years and how he had a friend that could turn into a stag.

Tonks, as she still preferred her friends to call her, smiled as she looked at her husband and son quietly, still mixing some cookie batter as she did, just a little exercise despite knowing that she could make the cookies the easier way. A sort of training, she’d tell herself.

It had not been easy, marrying Lupin, but, according to her, true love prevailed. Lupin still transformed into a werewolf during the full moon, prompting Tonks and Lupin to tell their son that ‘daddy has got a monthly business trip’. They would tell him in due time about his father’s condition, but right now, everything fell into place. She saw that her husband had looked tired when he came home, and she felt anxiety grow inside. She was still working as an Auror, although only part-time, as she had a son to tend to, and Lupin was now an Auror, full-time, and strangely, she was proud that her husband was the only werewolf-man to have been accepted. She went back into the kitchen and poured some macaroni soup into a nice bowl, as she turned off the stove. Setting aside her cookie dough, she arranged the dining room table. After placing the last batch of cookie dough into the oven, she washed her hands and proceeded for the living room.

“ Dinner’s ready, “ she announced.

Lupin looked up at her and back at his son again. “ Well, Sirius, I’m hungry. How about you? “

Sirius grinned and nodded. “ I want to eat more cookie dough. “

“ Nonsense, that isn’t such a good dinner. You’ll get a tummy ache, “ Tonks said holding her son’s hand. “ I’ve made macaroni soup and vegetable salad. “

“ But that isn’t what Aurors eat! “

“ Who told you that? “ Tonks raised an eyebrow.

“ Uncle Ronald, “ he impishly replied.

Tonks raised an eyebrow at Lupin as he struggled to contain a smile. “ You’d better tell Uncle Ronald to eat his veggies then. He doesn’t look like much of a strongman to me. “

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Bill Weasley was busy working through some stacks of reports, inside his small but neat office at Gringotts.

“ Hey Weasley, “ a goblin came in growling as he carried a stack of more folders. “ Good news, you’ve got more vaults to break into. “

Bill grinned. “ Sure, I’m taking it one day at a time. Why the long face? “

“ I’ve been temporarily assigned to South America. The Amazon. I hate it there; the mosquitoes penetrate through my garb! “

Bill laughed, remembering that if there was a muggle-known mosquito, there was also a different kind in the magical world, one that could pierce through dragon hide suits and withdraw almost a quart of blood with a single bite. Bill liked all the goblins at Gringotts and in return, he was well-received. Bill treated the goblins no different than other wizards, prompting an increase in his salary and a promotion. He was now head of the Expeditions Area, wherein he was gone for days at a time from home to break the most difficult curses and open vaults and the like.

“ Anything new, then? “ Bill asked as the goblin took a seat near him to rest from a tiring walk.

“ New? Everything’s old with our job! “ the goblin said grouchily. “ Okay, you’ve got a vault to break into. Something they discovered in the Valley of the Kings. “

“ Egypt again? “ Bill said, exasperated.

“ Yep, Egypt again, Billy-boy. Here’s the catch, they say there’s a little problem with the tiger-scorpions there. The little buggers have bitten our entire expedition team and the poison’s good enough to leave one paralyzed for hours, but the hieroglyphics say that beyond the room they’re in lies the obsidian collection of one of the minor princes. You up for it? “

“ I’ll have to ask Fleur, “ he said tiredly. Normally, it excited him, but now with Philip around, nothing excited him more than being at home. He loved being a father, despite the sleepless nights he shared with Fleur.

“ Daddy’s being stubborn, “ the goblin said dryly.

“ You don’t know what it’s like to have a kid, “ Bill said with a smile. “ The gurgling, the burping, the changing of soiled diapers, testing milk on your skin, waking almost every hour at night- “

“ Thank the deepest recesses of the earth that I don’t have one! “ he grunted as he stood up. His pot belly formed under his ridiculous-looking brown suit.

“ You’re not even married, “ Bill said.

“ You have no idea how difficult it is to find a good-looking she-goblin, “ he said as he went out with a wave.

“ I think I do! “ Bill said with a laugh.

Then he resumed back to his reports. He rubbed his eyes tiredly, willing the time to go fast for him so he could race back home to Philip and Fleur again. He scanned through the reports. There was one expedition in Egypt, done by a three-man team, the one he was going to if he wanted to take the job, another one was something found near the ruins of a Balinese jungle, rumors had been heard that there was some large basin underneath some ruins, filled with molten silver and yet another expedition was on the excavation near the Incan mountains, purportedly for rough opals the size of ostrich eggs. Everything bored him. He decided not to take the job and just send one of his best protégé instead, a young lad two years fresh from Hogwarts.

Bill heard the sound of shoes on the floor. “ I’ve decided not to go to Egypt, I’d miss my family too much, “ he announced, not looking up.

“ Good, “ the voice replied.

Bill looked up, surprised that the voice wasn’t gruff. “ Ron? “

“ Good you’re not taking the job, “ Ron continued, and Bill saw his face was a little pale.

“ What’s wrong? “ Bill suddenly stood up, a feeling of apprehension rising quickly. “ Did something happen to- “

“ Dad’s been attacked, “ Ron said weakly. “ He was- “

“ What! “ Bill grabbed his robe and dashed for the door.

“ There’s more! “ Ron called out. He stopped at the door, holding the knob. “ Mum…”

“ Good god! What happened! “ Bill shouted, holding Ron’s shoulders tightly. “ They’ve hurt her too, but the healers at St. Mungo’s said- “

“ What about Fleur and Philip? Ginny? Percy? Charlie! “ he was near panic now.

“ They’re fine, they’re at St. Mungo’s- “

“ Well let’s go! “ he shouted and just as he opened the door, a goblin was there. “ I have to go- “

“ I heard, I wish your parents well, we all do. Now go. “

And Bill and Ron ran out and into the nearest fireplace, grabbed a handful of floo powder and reached St. Mungo’s in less than five seconds.

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“ And they told Dad that it was just going to be a little check-up at the border in Scotland, so he went, along with four more members at the Ministry of Misuse, “ Charlie explained in a low voice. “ So dad went, and mum tagged along, hoping to also visit a relative, Aunt Wilhelmina who was down with flu. They traveled via portkey, and that’s when they intercepted at the arrival point… “

Bill looked at his bandaged father and mother as they slept on. His parents were lucky. Only minor hexes had been cast, the injuries would heal fast enough. But what was awful about the whole thing was that it had all been a set-up. A deliberate attempt to hurt someone else again, someone from the Ministry, but they were pureblooded!

“ But we’re pureblooded! “ Ginny said with tears in her eyes.

“ We’ve been labeled as blood traitors for years by pureblood fanatics…” Ron’s voice echoed angrily.

Ginny looked up to him and finally felt the tears fall. She had been trying not to cry since she had seen her mother and father an hour ago. But now, now was a good time to cry. “ Oh Merlin…” she gasped.

Someone gasped. The Weasleys looked up. It was Hermione. Hermione saw the Weasley children’s faces, varying from stern, to anxious and tired.

“ Hermione, “ Ron began.

She stifled a sob and rushed for Molly’s bedside all the while glancing at Arthur. “ Ron who-? “ she began holding Mrs. Weasley’s hand gently with hers.

“ We don’t know who, but- Hermione, do you feel it’s them? “ Ron asked, dropping his voice lower, hearing Bill’s tones overlap Ginny’s high pitched ones once in awhile. Philip gave a cry and Fleur cooed over him and the cry turned softer until it died out.

Hermione looked into his brown eyes in shock. “ You think-? “

He nodded gravely. “ Come outside, let’s have a talk, “ his voice dropped lower, so as not to let his siblings hear. He turned to face them. “ Any of you want coffee? We’ll grab some. “

“ I would, “ Percy said. Ginny and Charlie nodded as well. Bill and Fleur shook their heads.

“ Coming up in a few, “ Ron said as he took Hermione’s hand.

As soon as they were out of earshot, Ron and Hermione picked up the pace as they walked for the exit of the hospital. They stepped out into the afternoon sun and proceeded for a small coffee shop across the abandoned looking front of St. Mungo’s. It was empty, except for a young man behind the counter.

“ Good afternoon, what would you like to drink? “

Hermione smiled quickly at him. “ Yeah, five mocha lattes to go, please? “

“ Coming right up, “ he said as he spun around to prepare the drinks.

Ron and Hermione sat at the farthest corner of the café, heads bent low and hands clasped.

“ Where was I? Oh yeah, Hermione, do you think it’s them? Suspects…” Ron’s voice whispered. “ I have a hunch Marko Sarovic’s in this one and Pansy too, they’ve been making too many blunders and covering them up with ridiculous alibis. “

“ I’ve read the intelligence reports, I have a hunch they’re either supporting the resurgence of these Deatheater wannabes or are behind the attacks too. “

“ Hermione, they might attack muggles before we can even say ‘bloody hell’! “

“ Keep your voice down, “ she hissed.

The barista looked up at them. “ Anything wrong, sir? “

“ Sorry, nothing. We were just debating, “ Ron flustered.

“ Did I just hear you say the word ‘muggle’? “

“ What? I’m sorry, this is a rather private conversation, “ Ron replied quickly.

The man stepped out from behind the bar and approached them. “ Sir, I have rather good hearing. And I think you just said muggle. Are you a wizard? “

“ Are you? “ Hermione asked with curious eyes. “ Who are you? “

He nodded and took a seat. “ Darren Watts. Sorry for the interruption. My mother’s a witch, her name’s Polly Watts, I attended Hogwarts for a year, but I preferred the muggle life to that. I’ve heard things, I still read the Daily Prophet with my mother. “

“ It’s okay. What do you know about the recent attacks? “ Ron asked in the same hushed tone.

“ I’ve got my suspicions...” he began. “ Although I’m not so active in the wizarding world anymore, a columnist at the Daily Prophet keeps me up to date. “

Ron rolled his eyes. Ginny, most likely…. “ Well, tell us if you know anything? “

“ As a matter of a fact, now that you mention it, My mother has seen something peculiar. My mother lives near Great Hangleton, the Riddle house she’s been eyeing in now, for a few months, stuff’s been happening at night. She thinks she’s the only one that notices it…”

“ What stuff? “ Ron asked. He had been there lately of course, that rather amusing night when they had caught Pansy and she and her husband had given such lame excuses.

“ My mother told me that she was washing the dishes when she saw lights blinking, more like wand light, she told me…”

“ When was this? “ Ron asked.

“ Two days ago, I think, “ he replied.

Could it be Pansy again? Could she be that stubborn to get back to the Riddle house after that humiliating arrest they had done? Or was it her husband? Or was it someone else? There was something at the Riddle house the Deatheaters wanted, but hadn’t found yet….but what? What was it? What was there that prompted so much nighttime searching?

After a few more minutes of chitchat, the two thanked Darren Watts and excused themselves to get back to St. Mungo’s. They had gotten information at least, and Ron decided to investigate the place again, this time, with Bill’s help, if Fleur allowed it, and if he wanted to. Ron had told Hermione he would take care of it, along with Lupin, but Hermione wouldn’t hear it. She wanted to go too, much to Ron’s disapproval. Hermione was too unrelenting that it got on his nerves, and he grudgingly said ‘yes’, with a feeling he would regret it later.

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A/N:To all the Lupin/Tonks lovers, i added up a light moment, with their son and all. This story's getting darker every chapter. hehehe. I had to add up a light moment. As for Narcissa's lying, well- i'm sure you can figure out why she had to do that? hehehe. I liked coffee alot, before i was banned by my doctor from drinking it, so that's why there's a little coffee segment too! I was inspired by this amazing song, Coldplay's " Spies" and suddenly, the whole thing just came to me. hahaha. Be inspired too? Nothing on Draco here, right? Don't worry, as a spoiler, the next chapter will be very exciting (hahaha! i always say that).

Please don't forget to review? I need your reviews. It's my life force in the fanfiction world.

Chapter 29: Avada Kedavra!
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“ So I was hoping you’d be up for it? If there’s something in that house, you’d have to know, you could help, “ Ron said, as they sat in their muggle flat. Ginny was still at St. Mungo’s, and the Weasley brothers, along with Hermione decided to have a little talk. Only Percy and Charlie weren’t there. Fred and George arrived there a short while after Hermione and Ron came back to St. Mungo’s.

Bill sighed and smoothed a hand over his already smooth long hair. “ Ron- look, it’s not that simple. I’m starting to get back logged with all of the expeditions already, and now- to plan this? And we have the baby, Ron. If mum and dad were attacked because it had been planned, then it isn’t safe for my family to be unprotected, “ Bill reasoned, as if torn with the choices.

“ I could get Gringotts to let go of you for awhile, “ Ron said. “ We’ll get a special permit, Come on, Bill, we need you and we need your wand. You know your wand’s got special stuff there, finding hidden vaults and stuff- “

Bill sighed again and looked at Hermione. “ You think I should go? Leave my family behind? “

“ We’ll have protection for mum and dad and Fleur, Philip and Ginny, they’ll have to stay here, “ Ron piped up.

Hermione shrugged. “ Your decision, Bill. But it’s only for one night. We’ll be with Lupin and Lee Jordan. Perhaps Tonks would come along too, if she can find the time…”

“ Sounds like you want me to go. Hermione, look, you can solve it- find it, if there’s anything there, if there’s any vault or secret room- “

“ The problem is, we don’t know where to look. The goblins came to that house, years ago, Bill, after Harry defeated he-who-must-, well him! “ Ron said. “ They found nothing, but somehow, I’ve got a hunch- well, we’ve got a hunch that there is something there. “

“ Fine, “ Bill resignedly said. “ But after we do find something there, I’m out, okay? I don’t want Fleur worrying. “

“ Who said you were going to tell her? “ Fred quipped.

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“ Fleur is going to kill me, “ Bill muttered as he rubbed his hands to ward off the cold. It was three days after the attack on their parents and he found himself at the edge of Great Hangleton at twelve-something in the morning.

“ Look, take it easy will ya? “ George sighed. “ We had to leave a good day of selling just to plan this whole affair, and you won’t leave until we’re certain nothing’s there. “

Hermione wrapped her sweater around her tighter than ever. It was a cold night; the end of October was coming. Fallen leaves were everywhere now. There were six of them, Fred, George, Ron, Bill, Lupin and her, who had come in the protection of the night to investigate once more. She wondered what was in store for them. It could be anyone’s guess tonight. She was sorry Tonks couldn’t come. She was the only female after all, but it didn’t really matter. Auror business was Auror business.

“ Feck it’s cold, “ Fred muttered, sniffing. “ I need a cup of mum’s hot cocoa. “

“ I need to be with Fleur and Philip, “ Bill snapped.

“ Shut up! “ Ron hissed. “ You agreed. “

“ By force! “ Bill hissed back.

“ Look, just- just do what you promised and you can go back home and change diapers all you want! “ Ron said.

The rest of them giggled.

“ Daddy’s being temperamental, “ Fred teased.

“ Shut up, Fred. “

“ Daddy’s being a bad example, “ George said.

“ Come on! Stop that, will you? “ Bill sighed.

“ Fine, daddy’s being a party pooper, “ George said, sticking out as tongue.

Giggles and laughter again as Bill frowned and threw his hands up in the air. They walked quietly, near the edge of the woods, away from the populated areas to avoid suspicion.

“ What do you reckon is there? “ Fred asked thoughtfully.

Lupin shrugged. “ Merlin knows. If there’ve been lights there almost every night, well at the wee hours of the morning, there’s got to be something useful there, right? “

“ Perhaps it’s something to do with Voldemort’s resurrection…” Hermione said in a quiet voice.

“ Perhaps…” Ron said.

They arrived a few minutes later, outside of Great Hangleton, into Little Hangleton, where there were lesser houses and lesser street lamps. The Riddle house loomed in the distance, its once stately grandeur now reduced into a sinister looking place.

“ Why wasn’t Gringott’s able to repossess it? “ Ron asked Bill.

“ The Riddles left a will and it couldn’t be contested. They were selfish, if you ask me, “ Bill replied. “ It stated there that the house and everything in it would be relinquished to the muggle British government within 50 years if no blood related heir is found. Fifty years has been an awfully long time and it’s going to end soon. They just found that this will existed at the muggle archives in Great Hangleton, and it’s also been stated that the discovery of the will- will start its fifty-year countdown, so Gringott’s has to wait and then make their move. “

“ If we find anything there, does that mean it’ll belong to Great Hangleton? “ Hermione asked.

Bill shrugged.

“ Perhaps- we should be on the illegal side for awhile…but for anything magical, it’s going to belong to the Wizarding society, and not to the muggles, “ Lupin said.

“ I agree, “ Fred said with a nod.

“ You agree with anything illegal, “ George quipped.

“ Like you don’t? “ Fred countered with a laugh.

They finally got to the back façade of the Riddle mansion, by way of the woods. Their steps were lighted faintly by the tips of their wands so as to avoid any notice.

“ Do you smell anything? “ Ron asked Lupin.

“ Don’t push it, “ Lupin told him with a grin. He sniffed the air twice. “ No, I don’t smell anything Deatheater-like. My nose goes highly alert when the full moon is days away, you know. I’d say it feels safe to go in. “

“ Will someone guard the exterior? The back door? “ Hermione asked. The twins volunteered readily as the rest of them entered the kitchen door which seemed more like a prop against the house. They stepped inside carefully, but no matter how careful they were, almost everything swayed and everything creaked, to their dismay.

“ Gringotts has searched the house for any magical artifacts, the goblins who ventured here found none. They even went underground. There was nothing here. So it stays on the muggle market, “ Bill whispered as they came into the living room.

Remnants of a large carpet were on the floor, gathering up more dust than they could breathe in. The chandelier on the ceiling creaked and swayed little by little as well, a few wires jutting out of its cable, the light bulbs broken and some were scattered on the floor. It seemed like it would fall down on them anytime now. Large scale portraits loomed all over them, especially a family portrait of the Riddles.

“ He’s quite handsome, you know, “ Hermione said hesitantly. “ Tom Marvolo Riddle’s father, that is. “

Ron jabbed her elbow. “ Hermione, we’re looking for something valuable, “ he told her grinning. “ Not someone dead for fifty years? “

“ I was just saying it, “ Hermione hissed. Then she stepped forward. “ Bill- did they check the portraits? “ she asked suddenly.

Bill shook his head and smiled. “ Well, we’re going to. “ He flicked his wand toward the family portrait and it was whisked into the air. The wall behind it was empty. He frowned. “ Nothing’s behind this wall, my wand’s not detecting anything. “

“ Crap, “ Ron muttered. “ Where’s Jordan and- “

“ I assigned them somewhere near where your parents were attacked, “ Lupin quickly butt in. “ Don’t worry, they’ll handle themselves fine. “ Lupin approached the fireplace, filled with ashes and dust and a wooden chair leg, broken twice. The windows were broken, obviously done by vandals and curiosity from kids in the town- heightened by the ‘massacre’ sensation that had taken place fifty years ago.

Ron gave a startled gasp as he found himself face to face with a very large spider’s web. “ Damn it! Bugger! “ He eyed it viciously as he stepped back, looking for any spider near him or in the web.

The rest of them laughed.

“ Still haven’t gotten over your fear for spiders, eh? “ Bill teased.

“ It’s been traumatizing, “ Ron snapped with red ears. “ If Fred and George hadn’t done that, I’d even sleep with spiders right now! “

Hermione bent down on the floor and rummaged through some pieces of wood using her wand to lift them one by one in the air. There was a large whole below the pile of stacked wood. “ I’m going upstairs, “ she announced.

“ I’m going with you, “ Bill said.

So they went up with Bill leading, and carefully, for the stairs still screeched and some areas missed a few steps. The banister only reached halfway, and now they had to do some balancing act so as to avoid a bad fall. They reached the landing and Bill looked around warily. Then he proceeded to enter a room, presumably, the room of Tom Riddle’s father for it had his portrait in the center wall. A large bed was in the corner of the room, a mattress still on it, and its feathers as stuffing, lying about on the floor.

“ Now if I were Lord Voldemort, “ Hermione said with a whisper. “ What would I need to do some evil deeds and where would I hide it? “

“ What are you doing? “ Bill asked with a frown.

“ I’m internalizing. “

“ Like that’s going to work, “ he said.

“ To catch Voldemort, you have to try and think like him, “ she responded.

“ No one can think like Voldemort, Hermione. “

“ I can always try, “ she replied, closing her eyes. Now if she was Lord Voldemort, where would she hide something that everybody who was obsessed with him, need? Would it be something hidden at the simplest places that would go unnoticed by the careless observer? Or would it be in a vault type of thing? Hidden away, making it hard to find or distinguish with Bill’s wand? Where would she hide it if she thought like Lord Voldemort? It had to have something to do with what Voldemort was obsessed with, right? Like being pureblooded? Power beyond control? If Pansy and Marko kept coming here, if someone kept coming here, there had to be something of value, right? Would Snape have known too? Where would Voldemort hide it? There had to be something here…

Hermione walked up to a desk, an old one, with missing drawers. One drawer had gone untouched. She held the handle and pulled. It wouldn’t budge. She turned to face Bill who was busy scouring the walls with his wand. “ Um, Bill could you-? “

Bill pointed his wand. “ Nothing there, “ he sighed. He spun around again to scour the walls.

Hermione continued to internalize. She had nothing to lose anyway. She had this deep inkling that Draco was hiding something from her, but she just didn’t know what it was. Perhaps…he had something to do with…? Hermione peered outside of the broken window. Her eyes narrowed. Did she just see something move down there?

“ Bill, “ she whispered. “ I think something’s down there…”

“ Hmm? What? “ he began.

All of a sudden they heard a shout. It sounded like Fred or George. “ Damn it! “ he hissed as they both ran for the first floor. They just saw Ron and Lupin leave through the back door. There was a shout, and the sound of a spell being cast. They finally arrived at the back garden and saw the rest of their comrades fighting against black hooded wizards.

“ Deatheaters! “ Bill gasped as he shot a counter spell. “ Ron watch out! “

Ron lay flat on the cold ground to avoid a hex. Ron grit his teeth. “ Oh no you don’t! “ he shouted as he saw one of them attempt to go into the house. “ Get back here! “

Lupin ducked to avoid a hex, hiding behind an old gardening tool shed for a few seconds to catch his breath. He raised his wand and successfully knocked out another hooded wizard with a good hex.

Ron scrambled up to chase after the wizard. There were seven of them, and Ron knew that it was anyone’s game right now. The damned hooded bastards weren’t going down without a fight! He saw a hooded wizard looking for another person to hex; the reflection was distorted against an old piece of tin. With one move he shot out a spell and knocked the feet off of the wizard.

Hermione raised her wand. “ Relashio! “ She had managed to knock out the wizard and she ran for Ron, seeing another wizard aiming at his back without him noticing. “ Ron! “ she screamed out, raising her wand.

Ron spun around to see the wand now aimed at Hermione. “ Hermione! “ he shouted out.

“ Avada Kedavra! “ the wizard screamed.

Hermione gasped seeing a green flame burst for her like an arrow from a wand, moving too fast, moving in to slaughter her.

“ No! “

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Draco’s glass dropped on the floor. His heart thudded painfully. He felt nauseated and he wanted to faint terribly all of a sudden. The room was swimming before him as his hands edged for a table as support for his frame.

“ Something wrong, old chap? “ Theodore Nott asked with a frown as he put his glass of brandy down on the elegant mahogany table. He looked at Draco Malfoy standing a few feet away from him. “ I just mention that and you let your drink get the best of you? “

He stared at the floor, the glass shards swimming against the little pool of brandy. It was thumping against his ribcage painfully, and he felt it would go on perpetually. “ I- I…”

“ Don’t tell me you can’t hold in your brandy? “ Nott smirked.

He shook his head slowly. “ No- I- “

“ I knew it. A Malfoy who can’t hold in his brandy. This should be a good laugh when I share it to the others, “ Nott said. He eyed Draco’s pale face. “ You okay, man? I was joking about that, you know…”

He shook his head again and slowly sat down, his breathing had gone shallow and he blanched further. Nott flicked his wand to repair the crystal glass.

“ Draco, “ Nott said, louder this time.

Draco looked up.

“ Is something wrong? Are you alright? “ Nott asked, his eyes tinged with concern.

He took a deep, shuddering breath and tried desperately to recollect himself. I’m okay. I’m okay. Nothing’s wrong. Nothing’s wrong. Oh god, what just happened? Something’s wrong, I feel it. I know it! Damn it! What the hell-

“ Draco! “

Draco looked at Nott with shocked eyes and a half open mouth. “ Wha-? What? “ he stammered. “ You were saying something? “

“ What’s wrong with you? “ Nott asked, frowning even more. “ You’re spacing out in front of me. “

“ Nothing, “ Draco replied. “ Nothing. “

“ You blanked out for a few minutes there…” Nott eyed him suspiciously.

“ I- must be- I’m tired. Stressed out, sorry Nott, “ Draco said lamely. He brushed a hand over his hair repeatedly as he stared at his restored crystal goblet. “ It must be all these sleepless nights. “ He gave a hollow laugh which caused further creases on Nott’s forehead.

“ Are you sure? I hate saying that, but you’re a pathetic liar, “ Nott said dryly.

“ Yes, I’m sure. It’s just the bloody things Blaise wants me to come up with. The man’s got no imagination. He moves like he’s truly evil, thinks he’s evil, but to call him evil? If there’s such a thing as an evil coward, he’s one, “ Draco said.

Nott burst out in laughter. “ Good god, man! You’re effing hilarious! I never thought of that you know…thank Merlin’s balls I’ve got a man of words like you. “

“ Yeah, you couldn’t really move without me, “ Draco retorted.

“ Au contraire, of course I can. The only problem is; I think it’s always better to have another head, well according to the silly muggle adage which happens to be correct in some ridiculous way. How does that go again? Two heads are better than one, “ Nott gave a little click in his tongue. He rubbed his chin.

Draco gave an amusing smile. “ Updating yourself with muggle proverbs? Still haven’t gotten over your fascination for them? “

He shook his head. “ I might end up marrying one, you know. “

Draco laughed. “ Highly unlikely. “

“ Well then, you could do it for the both of us. “

“ What? “

“ You’re going to marry Hermione, most likely. “

“ You’re behind. It’s ended. “

“ The relationship? “ Nott laughed. “ That may be true, but you still like her. And don’t you effing lie about that. “

Draco shook his head. “ Well, why don’t you marry her? You’re more interested of her than I am. “

“ True. I am interested with the muggle-witch character that is Hermione Granger. I still don’t understand why a woman like her from a purely muggle ancestry inherit such a brain for sorcery and wand work. It defies the laws of humanity! Well- wizard society, for that matter. She still took Muggle Studies because she wanted to see what it was like from a wizard’s point of examination! I’m afraid to acknowledge it, but she’s probably as smart as the Dark Master if she were in his time. “

Draco said nothing. He just nodded his head, satisfied with saying nothing at all. But he thought about a hundred things. Thought about Hermione again. Thought about her laughter, her smiles, her kisses, her conversations…Nott continued to seethe about how unfair it was that some Slytherins in their batch were as dense as rocks, well except for him and Draco and…

“ Draco, “ Nott’s voice said.

Draco looked up.

“ How does it feel- how does it feel that you house the eighth horcrux? “ he asked with a little bit of hesitation, almost as if he were troubled to even voice out the question.

Draco blinked, surprised. “ I- don’t know. Really, Nott. I don’t know…” And in silence, Draco pondered on why his chest still thudded rapidly against his ribcage.

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A/N:

Duncan McGonnagall: i wasn't aiming for that kind of suspense as you know the Deatheaters already. The suspense is aimed for later chapters. hope you can wait! ^_^

as for the rest of the readers, i'm still a bit far from the ending, but don't worry, it'll come, by the way, this chappie was short, huh?. till next chapter!

Chapter 30: We have to talk...
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Ron froze in place. It seemed the world suddenly came to a halt. His chest wasn’t heaving up and down. Was he still breathing? He stared at Hermione’s body as it lay eerily still on the cold ground. Her back wasn’t moving up and down. He felt blood leave his face, he suddenly felt numb and cold.

“ Ron! “ Lupin shouted, breaking Ron from his trance.

Ron snapped awake from his stillness and ran for Hermione’s body. “ Oh god! “ he gasped just as he knelt down quickly to avoid a hex, grazing his elbow in the process. But he didn’t care. He didn’t care how badly he was bleeding. Hermione- Hermione! “ Oh god! Hermione! “ he cried touching her back, afraid to turn her over. He had never felt this horrible since- he promised Harry! He promised he would protect Hermione if something happened to him! He was a bloody-

“ Is she alright! “ Fred cried out as he fended off another attack.

The heavily cloaked wizards began to retreat, the last one sending off a bright flash into the dark sky, resonating in their ears, hissing madly, like a basilisk on the hunt. But Ron wasn’t looking at the Dark Mark that had just formed in the skies. He was shaking madly, shaking as he touched Hermione’s hair.

“ Ron! Is she alright! “ Bill asked, looking pale as he ran from one end of the back garden.

Delicately, Ron turned her body to see her face. She looked pale…she looked…he shuddered and killed a cry from escaping his throat. Bill, Fred, George and Lupin hovered around anxiously, but Ron began hugging Hermione, rocking her back and forth.

Fred and George shook their heads. This wasn’t happening! This wasn’t- and Lupin turned away and Bill knelt beside Ron.

“ Let her go, Ron, “ Bill said softly. “ We have to take a look at her- “

“ No! “ Ron cried. “ You wake up! You wake up right now! Move! Breathe! Do something! You fucking wake up Hermione Granger! “ He was shaking her now, shaking her violently. “ Damn it! “

This wasn’t happening-! This was some bad dream! Some bad-

And then her eyes fluttered open. Ron gasped and felt a few tears escape his eyes. Tears of happiness, tears of relief…He let go of her as she looked around, her expression looked dazed, disoriented from what was happening…she looked at Ron and wondered why he was crying, looked at Fred and George, Bill and Lupin. Their eyes screamed relief…relief from what? What had happened? Her head was hurting. She touched it gingerly, and saw blood on her fingers. So she had hit something? That was what this was all about?

“ You- you arse! “ Ron shouted, suddenly embracing her like he hadn’t seen her in years. “ You gave us a fright! We thought- “ And he didn’t want to let go of her, afraid he would lose her, just like they had both lost Harry. He thought he was going to be alone, be the very last breathing memory of the Golden Trio…he thought Hermione was gone! Never- never again!

“ What- what happened? “ she asked.

Ron held her face sideways and gently at that. There was an ugly looking wound. He muttered a spell and it healed instantly.

“ You just- you just fell down, slipped your head on a rock, “ Ron replied quickly. God, if she knew what a jerk he’d been- how anxious he was of losing her….she’d probably laugh her arse out! “ You should be more careful! “ he suddenly snapped.

Fred and George were starting to laugh at him and he felt his ears smolder. Great! Two brothers out for a good tease! Even Bill was starting to snicker at him and- not Lupin too! He sighed and helped her up.

“ I’m sorry, “ Hermione began. “ They’re gone…” she said, looking around the area.

“ Well, we put up a good fight, “ Lupin told her. “ But they’ll be back. Now we know that they’re truly after something here. I only hope they haven’t gotten it, whatever it is. “

“ Why didn’t you guys go after them? “ she asked, unconsciously massaging her temple with one hand.

Ron frowned, wondering how to tell her.

“ Ron thought you were dead, “ George said in all seriousness. Then he and Fred began to laugh at him.

Ron rolled his eyes. “ Please. You two are so immature. “

“ You should have seen his face, Hermione! “ Fred teased.

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Blaise was busy talking with Crabbe, Warrington and Goyle when Draco burst in the room with Theodore Nott and Daphne and Adrian Pucey. His eyes glared at him. Blaise stood up, against the soft glow of the morning sun. He held a cup of coffee in one hand.

“ Ah, Draco, care for some coffee? “ he began graciously.

“ You son-of-a-bitch, “ Draco said through gritted teeth. “ How many goons did you take with you for a night out at Hangleton? “

Blaise gave a mock look of surprise. “ Oh, that. “

“ I thought we made it clear that we all move together and act together, “ Draco told him, coldly. “ And now I hear you do something like this with the others? “

Blaise lifted a hand up in the air, and gave a little wave. “ Pish-posh. It’s all for the show of it, man. You’ve got no bloody shock factor. I just thought of giving them a good scare. We were successful, if you must know. “

“ How gracious of you to tell me something like that. “

“ Of course. “

Theodore Nott felt the tension increasing between Draco and Blaise. It was like watching two tigers out for the kill, out for each others’ throats. He imagined Draco winning in his head though, no way was he taking Blaise’s side. Like Draco said, Blaise had no imagination.

“ I see Nott’s doing your bidding too, him waiting around like a butler- a house elf and all, “ Blaise sneered.

“ Nott can speak for himself, “ Draco said loudly.

Nott looked at Blaise’s eyes. “ So, is this the way it goes? We go our separate missions when we’ve just formed a circle? We shouldn’t forget that Blaise was the mastermind to our Dark Master’s downfall, just in case- “

“ You shut up, Nott! “ Blaise began. “ I had planned to tell you guys about it, but then- “

“ Well, you didn’t tell a lot of us, now did you? You sent off the dark mark. It burned our skins, you bastard, “ Draco hissed. “ It burned us like there was no tomorrow- “

Blaise scoffed at him. “ Like the Dark Master even gave you one. “

Draco’s eyes narrowed and he gave a chilling smile Blaise hadn’t seen before. Slowly, theatrically, Draco rolled up his right sleeve, exposing the underside of his right hand. A Dark Mark smiled menacingly at Blaise. Blaise’s eyes widened in shock. Draco failed the Dark Master! He failed everyone in the circle! The son-of-a-!

“ Care to say that again, Blaise? “ Draco said, the smile never leaving his lips. Even Theodore Nott stared in awe at the mark, it burned his eyes. Draco was enjoying the moment truly, to see Blaise at a loss for his words; this was a simply joyous moment.

“ How could you have that? “ Blaise said, in a lower tone this time.

“ How do you think I got it? He gave it to me, you slimy git, “ Draco replied, pulling down his sleeve again.

Blaise shook his head and suddenly felt that Draco wasn’t a man he could reckon with easily. He suddenly wanted to kill Draco for being so lucky- he should have died instead of getting that mark! He didn’t deserve it!

“ Why did you have to show off, Blaise? “ Draco asked, walking slowly towards him. He went closer to Crabbe and saw the stubborn gaze Crabbe gave, like he had never done anything at all. “ You allowed him to utilize you without the support of your other mates, Crabbe? “

Crabbe shook his head, suddenly pointing at Blaise. “ He said- he said you knew already, you and Nott and Daphne- “

Draco gave a little ‘tsk’. “ But we didn’t, now, did we? We never knew. There were how many of you last night? Who else was with you? I know Blaise was your ringleader, only he could have conjured the mark. Who else? “

“ G-Goyle and Warrington- and some…” Crabbe’s voice trailed off, fearing Draco might turn into some murderous rampaging freak. He inched away from Draco’s glare.

Draco approached Blaise. “ The next time you plan something that we don’t know, it’s the end of everything for you and for those who’re working under your pathetic influence. “

Blaise didn’t back down. “ You think you’re still the Slytherin Prince, Draco? You’re a has-been, a joke to the purebloods, if you weren’t the horcrux, do you think we would have invited you to join? Did you think we would need your support? You’re the one that’s pathetic, “ Blaise growled at him.

Nott gave a laugh and Blaise shot him an annoyed look. Adrian Pucey was still glowering at him, his mouth drawn in a straight line. Daphne wouldn’t look at him, but Blaise knew she treaded with awareness around him now.

Draco said nothing. Instead he turned to face his companions, the three of them. “ Would you like to see this circle divided? Daphne? “

She shook her head in boldness, willing herself not to show her apprehension around Blaise’s company. She had not forgotten the ache he had caused her when he last saw her. “ No, “ she spat out. “ The man doesn’t know what he’s doing; he’s only damaging our development. “

“ Daphne Greengrass knows better than you, Blaise, “ Draco said. “ And what has Pucey got to say? “

Adrian glared at Blaise as well, his thick eyebrows furrowing. “ Pull off a stunt like that again and you’ll wish you were back in your father’s balls. And that goes for that arse, Sarovic. Tell him that too. “

Draco and Nott laughed out loud, causing further irritation to Blaise. Daphne was quiet. She did not react. At least that was a consolation, Blaise had thought.

“ So you see, Blaise, “ Draco said, after the laughter had died down. “ So you see that we didn’t like what you did. And pull off another spectacular act like that, and I think you will be reduced to something tinier than your manhood. “

At that, everyone else laughed again, even Crabbe and Goyle and Warrington. Even Daphne!

Blaise scowled at them, and realizing he was at a loss and not Draco, he bowed his head to apologize. “ I have done wrong, Draco. “

“ You shouldn’t apologize just to me, you know, “ Draco said. “ You’ve just damaged the trust we have in this circle that’s out for regaining its glory. “

“ I assure you, none of it will happen again, all of you. I only did that to show what we could do, “ Blaise began. “ Start little, we were successful though. I think we killed off an Auror. I suppose the Auror was female, “ he finished with a little smile.

Draco’s pulse quickened. He didn’t like the sound of that at all. But he still managed to give off a smile. “ Well, that’s good news. You killed a woman and you’re pompous. Daphne, what do you think? “

“ Loser, “ she hissed. “ Even my house elf could do that. “ And she spun around and left the room.

Blaise’s smile quickly disappeared.

“ Straight from Daphne Greengrass, Blaise, “ Nott said with a snicker. “ I really did enjoy this visit. So when are we meeting again? A real meeting that includes the ten of us, sitting in one room, sipping wine and planning wicked exploits… “

Draco smiled. “ Well, we leave that to Blaise, since he aspires to be the master planner. “

Nott smirked at Blaise again before he exited the room, following Adrian and Daphne. Draco was last. He eyed Crabbe and Goyle again. And then Blaise. He smiled genially at Blaise, and his eyes flashed something for a second. Something that screamed ‘I’m watching you, you bastard’, and Blaise hated it…

Draco stepped out of the room and saw the three of them standing in the hallway. Adrian had his arms folded, Daphne had a scowl and Nott had his perpetual grin. He gave a grim smile and walked past them, mumbling: we meet tonight, twice, before finally leaving Blaise’s mansion.

Daphne stared as Draco walked away calmly and quietly. His blonde hair slightly bounced as he did, even if he walked slowly. Nott eyed Daphne and gave another smile.

“ What? “ she asked, raising an eyebrow.

“ Oh, nothing. “

Adrian frowned and started to leave. “ See you guys tonight. “ And Adrian lumbered away from them, still frowning over whatever it was he found bothersome.

“ Sure, “ Nott replied cheerfully.

Daphne rolled her eyes as she proceeded to walk out of Blaise’s house. Nott trailed behind, whistling some tune she couldn’t make out. She frowned in annoyance.

“ You hungry? “ he asked her as they started walking at the immaculate grounds of the Zabini mansion- well, his stepfather’s, actually.

“ No, “ she said with contempt.

“ Daphne, Daphne…why are you so short-tempered? You’re too nice-looking to be so touchy, you know, “ he told her as he continued his whistling, much to her displeasure. Nothing like annoying a female to make Nott’s day complete…

“ Oh, bugger off, “ she snapped.

“ Daphne, for once, can’t you be pleasant to me? You’re pleasant to Blaise- “

“ You know nothing about me! “ she hissed, pointing a finger at him. “ You men are all bloody the same, except, except- “

Nott raised an eyebrow and gave another smile. “ Except who, Daphne? “

“ Nothing! “ she said. “ No one! Go home to your mother! “

“ She’s dead, “ Nott said with a laugh.

She frowned and continued to walk, wanting some fresh air to replace the feeling of stuffiness she had inside Blaise’s residence.

“ I’m up for a meal of fish and chips, if you want, “ he chimed in.

She rolled her eyes.

“ We have to talk, “ his voice turned lower. Then he smiled genially and took out his wand. “ Well, I’m off. If you’re still in for fish and chips, you know where to meet me. “

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Blaise looked at Daphne and Nott as they both apparated at different moments. He hated Nott to the gut, and now he was thinking of hating Draco just the same. Crabbe and Goyle had left after awhile and thankfully. Now he was alone again, it was better off alone, than being with those two lumbering idiots. Blaise finally closed the curtain he was holding. Nott was just fooling around again. He always was, and Draco tolerated it. So Draco liked Nott better than him now. Big deal. Big fucking deal. He performed better than both of them combined. The Dark Master would see his efforts and reward him greatly and castigate Nott in the process.

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Nott was a good conniver. Blaise wasn’t even half of him, so he thought. He was busy munching fish and chips at a seedy pub near Knockturn Alley, when suddenly; a rather welcoming sight breezed through the door. Daphne Greengrass.

He smiled and she sauntered his way and sat across him in a dimly lit booth, placing her cloak beside her.

“ Want some? “ he asked, holding up a chip.

She shook her head, as if in revulsion. “ Merlin, no. “

“ You came, “ he said picking up another potato chip. “ You want something to drink? “ He signaled for a waiter to bring a bottle of butterbeer. “ Here’s something for the lady. “

“ No- no thanks, “ Daphne said, shaking her head. “ I’m quite full, really. “

“ What made you come? “ he asked.

Her eyes narrowed. The man was bloody impossible! Didn’t he just say he needed to speak to her and had to go through great lengths on not having Blaise around? She frowned and sighed in anger. “ Nott, spit it out. Whatever it is. “ She sat across him.

“ Did he hurt you? “ he asked, all of a sudden.

She looked blank. She felt stupid. Did he- did Theodore Nott just ask her that? She frowned, unable to shake off her blankness. “ Wh- What? “ she asked, controlling her voice.

He stood up and went near a dirty-looking sink and washed his hands for almost thirty seconds and went back to sit across her. He folded his hands and looked into her dark brown eyes. “ No, you spit it, “ he finally said.

“ I don’t understand- “

“ Don’t you play dumb with me, “ he said. “ Did he hurt you or not? “

“ What gave you that notion? That conclusion? “ she asked, her voice suddenly high-pitched. She looked at a wall, suddenly seeming interested in the faded-looking poster in front of her. She heard Nott’s footing shift below the oak table. She didn’t want to look at him.

“ He hurt you, “ he finally said.

She suddenly looked at him, and he had never seen her eyes look that distressed. She then looked away and kept playing with her fingers, to keep herself busy, to keep herself distracted. “ This isn’t- this isn’t what you wanted to talk to me about, was it? “ she began. “ This is a terrible topic. “

“ He hurt you, “ he persisted. “ Why didn’t you tell us ahead? Why didn’t you tell me ahead? “

“ How would you know? You think you’re so smart because you have your own conclusions of how Blaise treated me? “

“ You think I’m smart? Naturally. It’s because Blaise told you I was, right? And he hurt you, hurt you bad enough to make you seem afraid of him- “

“ I am not afraid of him! “ she said with a shaky voice.

“ But he hurt you, “ he repeated again, somehow staring at her forlornly with his cerulean eyes. His expression seemed more serious now, more kind, and he knew she would hate it if she sensed he was being kind to her and all.

“ He- he- did nothing of the sort, “ she said, lamely.

“ We’re on one side of the chess set, as long as we’re a circle, in one side, we have respect and not fear as a substitute for each other. If he harmed you, tell me, and we’ll deal with it the way it should be dealt. “

“ You’re a knight in shining beeswax now? “ she spat out, contented to keep lying to save her self-image and to- damn it. It was difficult…if he only knew….how Blaise had manipulated her into even thinking she could see Draco dead, want Draco dead…She shook her head violently and took her cloak and stood up and quickly left.

“ Da-! “ he stopped and frowned and buried his face in his hands for a few seconds. Making up his mind, and cursing himself for doing so, he got his own cloak and proceeded to dash after her. The night air was cold and the streets were almost empty, except for a few night peddlers and passersby. He jogged for one corner, and by sheer luck, saw Daphne’s figure up ahead. He was quiet, following her a few hundred feet behind, pausing every now and then.

And finally, Daphne was ready to apparate, and Nott, sensing it, leapt out from behind a stack of crates. She looked at him in shock. “ You were following me? “ she gasped.

He gave a smile. “ Just wanted to make sure you were safe. “ He saw her eyes were red rimmed, and he knew without second thought that she had shed quite a few tears. For what? For Blaise! For the fear of being hurt- how did he hurt her anyway?

“ My house, now, “ he said, holding his breath in. He held out his hand. And she surprisingly took it. And for some reason, he felt glad she did. He knew she would, but it just felt…nice….

They apparated and in a second, was inside a room in Nott’s home. It was a cozy sort of place that didn’t go to the extremes like Zabini’s manor or Draco’s. He only had twenty rooms, compared to Zabini’s fifty-five and Draco’s amazing ninety-seven. No wonder Draco wanted a house with lesser rooms. What was the use, anyway, of having that many rooms and there were only two people in it?

“ This is your house? “ Daphne began, looking around a bit. She saw a young Nott in one frame, squirming beside his mother. He was skinny as a child, skinny in Hogwarts, still skinny now. She wondered if he even ate or something.

“ My parents’ actually, but, they’re dead, just like every one else’s, I suppose. “

“ Your place is…cozy…”

He laughed. “ That’s a pleasant description from you. I’d have expected you to say it was tiny or something. That it didn’t fit your standards. “

“ I’m not that harsh. I do have a nice side too. “

“ In Slytherin, ‘nice’ means ‘lesser of the harshness, but still harsh’. “

She laughed for about two seconds. “ Damn. “

“ Coffee? “ he asked. She nodded. He conjured two mugs and they filled up instantly with a flick of his wand. “ Do you like Colombian coffee? “

She looked at him quizzically.

He laughed. “ I’m sorry. It’s a muggle thing, you’d be surprised how good muggle coffee is, you know. “

Her lips tightened. “ No muggle coffee. “

He shrugged. “ Your loss. It really is good. Wizarding coffee it is, then. “ He flicked his wand again, and the dark colored liquid was replaced with a lighter colored one.

“ You know, drinking muggle coffee is like saying you’re a fan of muggles. “

He smiled. “ That’s the problem with extremist wizards who’re all for pure bloodedness. You can’t open up to the simpler things muggles enjoy. You’d find them enjoyable too, you know. Muggles are geniuses in their own ways. You should have taken up Muggle Studies to get to know them better. “

“ I am not going to open up to mudbloods, “ Daphne said stoically. “ If you’re for our cause, then won’t you stop that yet? “

He grinned. “ If I recall correctly, the first order of business was to resurrect the Dark Master and not to avoid muggles or kill them all off. Besides, it’s just coffee. “

She shook her head in disapproval. Then she looked at Nott in a strange way. “ He- he hurt me…” and her voice faltered.

He was silent. He took a few sips and placed his mug down. Then he looked at her eyes. “ How did he hurt you? “ he asked, without looking at her.

She shuddered and took a breath. “ He just- he just shook me around, threatened me…”

“ Why? “ Nott asked.

Daphne looked at him, suddenly guarded. Would he tell Draco about what Nott did? Sure, Draco was a bastard at times, but he was fair and he listened- he’d probably talk to Blaise again, mock Blaise again…Why was Nott so curious?

“ Why? “ he asked again. His eyes bored into hers, and she found it strange and uncomfortable. Her legs shifted position. She looked away for a second.

“ He- he wanted to know if-“ she stopped. “ It’s none of your business! “

“ I thought you were getting comfy with me, “ he said with another smile. “ No need to be on your guard, Daphne. Blaise isn’t here. I know he isn’t. “

“ How- how would you know? “ she asked, weakly.

“ Oh, I just do, “ he replied offhandedly. “ Why’d he hurt you? “

“ Because- because he thought I was hiding something from him, “ she finally answered. “ He shook me around, held me by the shoulders…he was nauseating. “

“ I never knew Blaise had that effect on women, “ Nott commented. “ I always imagined them swooning and stuff, not get nauseated. Well, did you hide something from him? “

She shook her head. “ I don’t know. We hide things, we’re people. I can have my secrets. “

“ And Blaise is hurting you because of them? “

“ What’s the big idea? “ she snapped. “ I’ve had enough of this, I want to go home. “ She stood up from her seat.

“ Go ahead, “ Nott smiled at her.

“ You’re annoying as hell. “

“ I happen to like hell, “ he replied with a laugh.

She frowned and stomped one foot. “ Theodore Nott you are- you are-! “

“ At a loss for words, Daphne? “

“ Oh shut the hell up! “ she snapped.

And she left in a second. Nott stared at the empty seat across him. Daphne was a very interesting female. He liked her. For some reason, he liked her. And he finished the rest of his coffee with a smile on his lips.

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AN time! : so dear readers, i have updated once more! and Hermione, as you now know, is not dead! yeah, eat your heart out, you evil writer's block!

Chapter 31: Harry, why you, Harry?
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Draco’s heart pounded as he heard Crabbe’s voice say something he never thought he’d hear. He blinked. “ Say that again, “ his voice commanded. “ Say it! “

“ We think- we think Hermione Granger may have been killed, “ Crabbe said. “ I think- “

He felt his ears ringing, the words were echoing over and over again. Hermione was dead? No- Crabbe said ‘we think’, it didn’t mean anything! He had just asked Crabbe if there were any casualties during their little scuffle. Crabbe had come to the Malfoy Manor to formally apologize to him, without Blaise’s ever-watching eyes.

His mouth was drawn into a straight line. He said nothing. Crabbe was looking at him. Crabbe was thinking and he knew it. He was curious…was he getting any ideas into that thick skull of his? Then Crabbe opened his mouth.

“ What’s the matter Draco? Would it matter if someone was killed or not? Blaise had thought it best…does Hermione Granger have some use to us? “ he asked with a frown.

He looked outside and saw the gardens his mother had so lovingly tended. A heavy blossom from a rose fell on the ground. He slowly faced Crabbe again. “ No, nothing. I thought I heard wrong, that’s all. I mean she’s a formidable witch and all at fighting- and she was that easily killed? “

Crabbe smiled proudly. “ Blaise made sure to kill another one of them. The stinking mudblood’s now gone. I’m kind of sure he was happy, you know. They put up a tough fight. “

Draco nodded and gave a small smile and turned away, but his chest was feeling strange and he suddenly wanted to be alone. He suddenly wanted to kill Crabbe and Blaise, too. See them suffer; see them cry out in pain…He tried to pull himself together. He faced Crabbe once more, hiding a clenched fist. “ Don’t you ever do that again, you hear me? Don’t you ever go out without our knowledge, don’t you ever kill Aurors without us there. We’re a team; this is what this circle is all about. This isn’t about showing off, you hear me? We plan our moves and not just go out to have fun, “ he breathed.

Crabbe looked shaken at Draco’s words, but he managed a small nod. “ I’m really sorry, Draco. I had thought of telling you, but Blaise didn’t want me to- “

“ You trust him now? Better than you trust me? “ he glared.

“ No…” Crabbe replied meekly. “ I was- carried away. Blaise seemed so sure you guys wouldn’t mind and all. So…we went because Blaise thought it would be impressive on our record…but don’t get mad Draco, we did it all for the Dark Master and not just to annoy you or anything! “

Draco looked at him quietly for a few seconds. “ I’m not mad, “ he said, finally. He gave a small smile. “ What’s done is done. We have to look into the bright side. One Auror down. “ He almost choked at his words. He even wanted to strangle Crabbe with his bare hands. Anything to quell the overwhelming emotion he was feeling.

“ I’m glad, then, “ Crabbe said. “ I should get going. Thanks for listening to me Draco. I hope I have your trust again. “ And Crabbe vanished in a second.

Draco finally fell down on a couch, unexpectedly exhausted. Trust Crabbe again? Never. He felt drained of everything. Even his mind felt drained. Oh god…Hermione was dead? How could she be? It couldn’t be true! Hermione was too stubborn to be dead! Too beautiful to be dead!

The rage built up once more, and he wanted reparation. Blaise was in for it. The bastard was in for it. And something in him welled up, something he hadn’t felt earlier. And astonishingly, Draco felt a tear drop on his hand.

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“ No! I won’t do it! “ Hermione said heatedly as she faced Ron. A flush was creeping up her face. She was furious.

“ I can’t risk that to happen again! “ he snapped angrily.

The rest of the Aurors inside the hall looked on in silence. It was a standard unspoken rule never to interrupt a very crossed Hermione and a puffed up Ron. They had the nastiest fights when it came to performing their jobs, Ron always over concerned about her wellbeing and all. Thank goodness it only happened about twice in a year. But it was bad, because when they both got angry, they didn’t care about everyone else present.

“ I’m not staying behind a desk while you go prance around fighting in your silly teddy bear underwear! “ she said, stomping her foot down. “ I took a leave from my muggle job just to cater to this-! “

“ I do not have silly teddy bear underwear! “ Ron said. “ I’m doing this for your safety! “

“ You transferred me behind a desk, transferred me without my permission! I’m supposed to be on that mission! “

“ You almost got killed! “

“ It’s different from being dead! “ she screamed at him.

“ I won’t wait for that! “ he bellowed. “ Can’t you get that in your bushy head! I promised Harry, I almost let him down! “

“ I can fight for myself just fine! “

“ No! “ he said. “ You can get careless! They’ve pulled out all the females because of what had happened to you! “

“ I slipped! “

“ Yes! But what if you didn’t? “

“ I- “

“ Don’t you go all pigheaded on me, Hermione! “

“ You’re being the pighead! Not me! And I’m as qualified as you are! Isn’t that right, Professor Lupin? “ she turned to face him, with a glare in her eyes. Lupin merely nodded discreetly.

“ Professor! “ Ron said. “ You can’t just agree with her! You saw what happened! “ He faced Hermione again. “ Stop being such a- “

“ A what? “ she cut off.

“ A bloody- “

“ Bloody what? “

“ Will you let me finish! “

“ No, “ Hermione said. “ This conversation is finished! “

“ This is not a conversation! This is screaming and shouting and whining! “ Ron wanted to shake Hermione off her stubbornness. It was true though; she was more than qualified to be an Auror. He was just trying to protect her! It meant he would have fulfilled his promise to Harry that she would stay alive and remain unscratched!

Hermione desperately had the urge to slap Ron to his senses! She could take care of herself! He was being an overprotective, overreacting arse! So she had slipped- big deal! It wasn’t like she got killed or anything, she worked just fine! “ As far as I’m concerned, this screaming, shouting and whining is through! “

“ As far as you’re concerned? What about my concern? And Harry’s? “

She flinched. A look of hurt came into her eyes. He just had to remind her. Again. Ron started for her, seeing her eyes and her expression change. She stepped back, shaking a little. Oh how she wanted to say that Harry was gone- but she was choked on her own throat. To even acknowledge Harry was dead…it still brought back hurting memories…

“ Hermione, “ Ron began, despairingly.

“ No, “ she uttered weakly. She spun around and walked out, leaving Ron speechless and the others in an awkward silence.

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Draco’s dragon hide boots gave a soft thumping noise as he walked in the carpeted dark halls of Blaise Zabini’s mansion. Sinister looking armor suits stood every few feet away from each other on both sides. Draco eyed one, feeling as if Blaise, or one of the resident ghosts were staring at him from inside the armor. He arrived in front of a heavy looking door and without bothering to knock, he went inside. He was greeted with musty air and dismal faces and black robes. Theodore Nott was seated at a far corner at the long table. Nott gave a nod to Draco, as did the others. He was meeting Marko Sarovic for the first time as well.

“ Draco, “ Blaise began. “ I assume you have yet to meet Marko Sarovic? “ At that sentence, Marko stood up and extended his hand.

Draco gave a nod and shook his hand, all the while remembering that this was the bastard who went along with Blaise on his clandestine battle- he was also Pansy’s husband. Well, she had chosen good enough, with his shadowy looks and muscular jaw. He was what? Six foot-two most likely? And he was a bloody five-foot eleven.

Marko looked at the ‘tall’ and lean blonde before him, and he fought the urge to glower in repulsion. This was the man his wife had so cherished before? He was nothing more than a scrawny daddy’s boy who got off through his inheritance and good looks.

They both sat down as Blaise remained standing. The room was hushed, as if anticipating what Blaise was about to say. Daphne was looking hard at the silver goblet in front of her; she was not looking at Blaise at all. Crabbe, Goyle and Pucey looked bored to death. The others were holding their goblets, looking with little frowns at Blaise. Nott and Draco were the only ones who looked calm, Nott with his typical sneer and all.

“ We move tonight, “ Blaise said, without further adieu.

Daphne let out a small gasp and the rest seemed suddenly wide awake. They all looked at Blaise with wide eyes, even Theodore Nott and Marko Sarovic. Nott eyed Draco, but Draco’s face and eyes betrayed nothing.

“ What’s the meaning of this? “ Warrington’s face scowled. “ I thought we moved and thought as a team. What the fuck is this now? “

“ Take it easy, “ Blaise warned. “ You have yet to hear the explanation. “

“ Explanation? “ Daphne muttered. “ What explanation have you conjured now?”

“ Draco thought of it, “ Blaise said. He saw them all immediately grow quiet. Damn it. They respected Draco more than they respected him. He was going to change that soon enough. When he assured himself of Draco’s imminent death… “ Care to explain to them, Draco? “

Draco sighed a little and nodded. He stood up slowly. “ We move tonight because they’ll be transferring the archives tonight, they’ll move the evidence to some safer- security ridden place. We intercept them at this moment. We’ve got nothing left to lose. If we get access to those pieces that have made our Master great, then we’ll see him resurrected soon enough. “

“ Does that mean- “ Daphne took a deep breath. “ Does that mean you’re willing to die just for us to use the horcrux? “

Draco stared at Daphne for awhile. Then he nodded. “ Yes, all for the Master. “

Blaise smiled at him. “ Glad to know your loyalties lie with us, “ he said.

“ So…what if the vaults have been affected by the move and all? Will you still be able to get in as easy as Harry Potter could have? “ Warrington asked.

Draco shook his head. “ It has posed as a problem now. That’s why we move tonight. When they’re all vulnerable. “

“ Didn’t they keep this as top secret or something? “ Pucey questioned him.

Draco smiled. “ You doubt our sources? Believe me, this has been the best information I’ve received since I’ve begun to keep tabs on the Ministry. “

Warrington smiled at Draco. Sure, he had doubted the man’s capabilities, after hearing he was associating with muggles and veering away from sorcery, but now he seemed thoroughly convinced that Draco was back in the game.

Pucey nodded; amazed at Draco’s persistence in gaining information. So he had betrayed them once, betrayed his own blood kind, but it seemed he was doing everything to win everyone’s favor, something he had never thought Draco would achieve.

Marko Sarovic hated to admit it, but he was impressed at how Draco moved with such ease, how he gained such information. He was almost envious of the man. Pansy had good reason to fall hard for Draco in their Hogwarts years, and he had always wanted to belittle the man- but now…it was impossible not to admire Draco’s plans and moves.

“ Damn it, “ Daphne said with a sudden laugh. “ I believe you may be the best thing to come out after this plan of resurrecting the master. “

Draco smiled at her genially and she quickly drew her mouth into a thin line. Blaise was looking at her with a slight frown. “ Why, thank you, Daphne. I always knew you had a soft spot in your heart for me. “

Some of them laughed, but Blaise’s look never left his face. Daphne was smiling in amusement now, despite Blaise’s glare.

Blaise cleared his throat and the laughter died down. “ Let’s get on to business. “ He cleared his throat again. “ Draco has proposed something you all might like. “

Draco smiled grimly. “ First order of business is to intercept them while they move. Years ago, they were unsuccessful in breaking into the vaults and stealing a prophecy. The prophecy has been fulfilled and Harry Potter lived against the Master. Now that Harry Potter is gone, and Snape’s notebook has been found, we may have to steal another prophecy- if there is any. I had difficulty finding records of this prophecy about the Master rising once more; I assume everyone wanted him to stay dead. But tonight, we’re not out to steal a prophecy. We steal the remnants of his wand, a wand that has some connection with Harry Potter. “

“ A wand that has some connection with your heart, “ Nott said thoughtfully.

Draco nodded. “ Since Snape had mentioned it, we’ll take our chances. We’ve been racking our brains to understand how to bring out the horcrux, but we just can’t. Snape’s hiding something well enough so that even the Aurors won’t sniff our movements. “

“ We’ve kept watch on the goings of the Ministry keeping the artifacts, they’re under heavy guard. Marko’s got no relics that may have been connected to the Master. He has a few artifacts that have belonged to Tom Riddle, but that is all. They’ve been tested, Pucey and I have found nothing, “ Warrington said in his deep voice.

“ Crabbe? Goyle? “ Draco looked at them. “ How was the-? “

Crabbe nodded. “ Aurors- we think, plan to move in three places. Apparently, someone’s got a hunch in their team that Scotland and Hogwarts may bring a key role. The other place, we don’t know yet. Our source has found it difficult to gain access into the third group’s plans. “

“ How many Aurors are there? “ Draco asked. “ In total? “

“ Our last count was twenty-five, the other five remain inactive, a reserve Aurors group, “ Goyle replied.

Draco nodded. “ They’re attempting to think like us, “ he sighed. “ How sad that is. They were right however, of the Hogwarts thing. But so far…Daphne? “

Daphne shook her head. “ I’ve found nothing. Professor McGonagall was gracious enough to show me around, since I’ve posed as a benefactor to the Slytherin team. I could feel she was suspicious of me and all, but, as soon as I got the chance, I found nothing. I entered the Trophy room, looked around for Tom Riddle’s awards, I found a whole lot of them, but nothing reeked of anything the master used to put some spell on. I’ve got a hunch the Aurors have been alerted by McGonagall. “

“ Then it leaves us the Vaults, “ Draco murmured. “ I’m still sure that security will pose as a threat, but of course, we live for the kill. “

Nott laughed out loud, causing some stares from his mates. “ What? “ he asked with a smile. “ I just thought it was funny, that’s all. “

Daphne rolled her eyes and Draco smiled back at Nott. The man was always so untroubled. How he never lost his cool still amused Draco a lot and annoyed Blaise a lot.

“ So anyway, second order of business. How many should go with Draco? “ Blaise asked.

Nott raised a finger. “ I’ll go with Draco. “

Blaise nodded. “ So will I. “

Daphne slowly nodded. “ I’ll go too. “

“ So the rest will…? “ Blaise began. “ Crabbe, Goyle, Pucey, Warrington, Sarovic…we can’t distribute them further…the Aurors are too many. “

“ We don’t. We send our pawns, “ Nott replied. “ No matter how thick they are, they’re bound to fight it out. “

Draco nodded, but he secretly hated the idea. The poor sods…they didn’t know what they were getting into. Just a handful of real Deatheaters, while the others only thought they were. Should he have been glad that he had been given this much significance by those he had betrayed years before? He suddenly felt like saving the ‘pawns’ Blaise had hired…but still Nott made some sense into it. Blaise droned on about the plans, his plans actually. But he wasn’t hearing that much anymore. He was thinking about something else. He was thinking about Hermione.

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Hermione sat on the carpeted floor of her room, hugging her knees. It was a quiet night. She was glad it was. After that row with Ron, she wanted to kill herself. Something she had never thought of before. Well, it had to start some time. She had always fought to live, she had always wanted to live, but now- now was different. She just couldn’t let go of the hurt. Was it only because Draco was gone that she was missing Harry terribly and that she wanted herself dead too?

How many times had it happened in her life that she wanted Harry alive? Even when she was with Draco? How many times should she feel so much for someone long gone? They were both gone. Draco had chosen his path, and now she had to choose hers. But she wanted to die, and that was what mattered now. Perhaps it was her imagination that she was hearing Harry’s voice…but she was hearing it…



~

“ I love you, MYone…”

“ You know, MYone, there’s nothing more I hate than not being able to hug you at least once a day, well apart from smelly socks and not getting to see a Football championship game- what? It’s true; you know I’d do anything to get a hug from you! “

“ How come this doesn’t have strawberries? “

“ You think I’ll make a great father? I mean, if we ever do have kids… “

“L- is for the way you look at me, O- is for the only one I see- “

“ Peanut butter? Don’t we have anything else? “

“ So I decided to get you roses cause they screamed out your name when I passed by the flower shop. Red, Hermione. Red roses cause you’re everything… cheesy, but I’m trying! “

“ What’s the best name if we have a son? James Potter…I guess…Okay, that wasn’t so creative, was it? If it’s a girl…we could go for…damn, I don’t know, really! “

“ I think I’ll die if I see you walking down the aisle in your wedding gown. I’d die happy- oh sorry, that would be ugly cause I won’t get to kiss the woman I’m ready to die for! “

“ It sounds nice…doesn’t it? Hermione Potter? Okay…weird but- it’s nice all the same. “

~



“ Stop it! “ Hermione said through gritted teeth. She banged her fists against her head and sighed loudly. “ Harry, oh god…why? Why you, Harry? “

Images of Harry swam in her head, images she didn’t want to recall. Harry laughing, Harry getting mad, Harry embracing her…Harry…Harry…won’t your memory die? Why was it that remembering him was so painful? She didn’t want it to be painful! Perhaps Draco had brought this upon her, giving her false hope, false love- was it love when she had been lied to?

And now she was hearing Draco’s voice!



~

“ Aspirin? “

“ Honestly, you prefer bananas? I like mine with strawberries. “

“ Actually, I’ve never seen a girl look that nice in a black bathrobe. “

“ Granger, like I told you, I’ve changed. And I’m not out to hurt anyone, not even you. I’ve retired from that area-perhaps Weasley was just defending Potter- “

“ Do you mind? “

“ You sustain me… “

“ Harry- he- saved me…again…when he gave me his heart. “

“ I missed you. “

“ You know, I’d always thought I’d feel comfortable with any woman. But you’re… you make me feel conscious of myself. “

“ I need to see you again…”

~



She found her hands clutching the pendant that was so near her heart. And she wondered how she could use it- how she would…for she had studied it, tried to pry it…had read books…but nothing had its exact look. The closest to what she was wearing in one book was described as a ‘love charm’ to cloak one’s loved one in ‘blood’…

She wanted to regret, wanted to forget Draco! A good ‘obliviate’ would do! And she thought that she had to be strong, she had always been, but her strength was failing her, her determination was failing her. She was failing herself with memories of a love long dead, and of another love that had just died.

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A/N: do continue reading? the next installment, you won't regret. ^_^



Chapter 32: You have to live!
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Hermione slumped on her desk a few seconds after she arrived in the Aurors’ headquarters. It had just turned eight o’ clock. She hated the day, hated why Ron just had to bring the whole topic of the removal of all females. Chauvinist pigs! And they were off, gallivanting with the DeathEaters and good old Voldie.

“ Bad day, honey? “ someone asked.

Hermione looked up and saw Susan Bones wearing a dull colored yellow robe. “ Hell yeah. I’m supposed to be having my daily dose of action. “

She laughed. “ You’re not the only one, remember? We’re all assigned to boring desk jobs or minor security- like that moving of the artifacts from the Vaults, we’re needed later on, they plan to move them tonight though; to some place that has higher security. I don’t even know when they plan to lift the ‘no females in missions’ ban. “

“ Merlin, “ Hermione breathed. “ Why did Ron have to do that? Did he suggest this? “

Susan shook her head. “ Heavens, no. Some of the males Aurors might have, though Ron was only concerned about your safety and all. The others took it to extreme lengths. “

“ Ron was too over concerned, “ Hermione said through gritted teeth.

Susan smiled. “ I don’t know, Hermione. I’m thinking he’s also thinking about Harry too, you know…” she stopped, and her eyes widened. “ Oh dear! I’m so sorry, Hermione...I- didn’t mean to! “

Hermione nodded. “ It’s okay. “

Susan apologized again and excused herself. She shook her head as she walked out, she couldn’t believe she mentioned Harry to her. How tactless could she get? She had mentioned Harry! Everyone knew what it was like for Hermione! She recalled how they were like, when Harry was still alive, bittersweet memories of the boy-who-lived and his fiancée. Harry was always proud of Hermione, had always encouraged her to be at her best yet still maintaining her safety. Harry was always a safety freak when it came to Hermione or Ron. She was one of the many eager people who had wanted to see Hermione and Harry make it to the altar, exchange vows and have little Harrys and Hermiones. She recalled the day she heard that Harry had been killed, not in a wizarding battle, but in a muggle accident. It was ironic, that the world Harry and Hermione grew up in would be the one to kill Harry and not the more dangerous wizarding world. Susan sighed and walked behind her desk to concentrate on boring paperwork.

Hermione stared at the pictures on her table, moving pictures of course, of them, of the Golden Trio, of Ron; of Harry…she shook her head twice, willing herself to stop the reveries, the hurting reveries. Why Harry had to die so soon, why Harry had to die a muggle death- she still hated the thought of it.

Ron came in all of a sudden. “ Hermione- “ he breathed. “ I’m sorry…” he said lamely.

Hermione looked at him for awhile; saw the fatigue in his eyes. She opened her mouth. She was acting so immature. “ I’m sorry, too. “

“ We’ve been fighting for something so lame…”

She smiled. “ I know. I was being stubborn again. “

“ This scene sounds familiar, “ he gave a grin.

“ Too familiar. “

“ Damn it, Hermione, “ Ron sighed, brushing his hair with both hands. “ I’m so damn sorry about that- and we just had to fight in front of everyone. “

“ Hey, I think we do that every year? “ she laughed.

“ I’m sorry about the whole removal of the females thing. I never thought the guys would take it that way. They were worried about you too, you know. “

“ I still would have loved to see the look in your face, “ she said.

“ Oh bugger off! “ Ron said with a slight frown. “ You had no idea how terrified I was, really! “

She nodded. “ I think I do. “

Ron gave a smile. “ Well, I’m off. “

“ Where are you guys planning to go? “ she asked. “ Found anything? “

Ron shrugged. “ Just- just intuition and stuff. Remember Daphne Greengrass? “

“ The tall and pretty Slytherin? “ Hermione asked with a little frown.

“ That one, “ Ron said, pointing a finger at her. “ Yes, her. We’ve kept tabs on the good old batch mates of ours, too. “

“ How come I didn’t know? “ she demanded.

“ Oh, Hermione! “ Ron said exasperated.

“ I’ll let it slip by this time, “ she said with a grin.

Ron laughed. “ So, what kind of fun-filled mission will you be assigned to? “

Hermione cocked her head a little. “ My fun-filled mission will be… moving some artifacts to another vault, another vault that uses different magical security. Old things that stink, remnants of the golden teeth of criminals, splintered wands, delightful underwear and what not. “

Ron laughed again. “ You sure have an amazing way of highlighting a very interesting desk job. “

“ I sure do, “ she replied. “ This is denial. “

He approached her and leaned in to kiss her cheek. “ Hermione, be careful. Please. And let’s not fight anymore, okay? I know it can’t be avoided, but I’ll try to be less of an overprotective arse, and try to be not so stubborn anymore? “

She nodded and smiled, feeling overwhelmed by Ron’s care for her. Being an only child, Ron was the perfect brother she never had. Their fights and arguments proved it. And she was really happy.

“ Good, “ Ron sighed. “ Well, I’m off. “

“ Hope you find something there, “ she said.

He nodded and smiled before he left.

Hermione suddenly felt better. She began humming some song as she opened a few folders to begin her desk work.

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The night was cold and quiet. A breeze picked up and someone shivered a little. Someone else sniffed.

“ Merlin, this kind of weather gives me the sniffles, “ Nott muttered.

Draco didn’t smile. He was quiet tonight. He had a million things running in his mind. The first thing was Hermione and how he was going to kill Blaise later on. Hermione was gone…what else had he got to lose? The reason for loving life was because Hermione was once alive- but now…she was gone…. The next thing was how to survive this night without scratches. He was suddenly willing to kill himself for this mission, all for the Master. He felt afraid, in secret, that he was becoming like his father- that he was becoming obsessive about pure bloodedness and all that crap.

Daphne gave a laugh. “ Really, Nott. You can be so immature. “

“ Everyone’s immature. They just like to say they’re mature, “ Nott replied.

Blaise looked at them disdainfully. He too was lost in his own thoughts and hated to be interrupted by their little banter. He was wondering if Draco’s plan would work…what had he got to lose? Draco’s plan was good enough, but if it worked, everyone would praise Draco and Nott and not him. Draco would become the next Snape or something, and he hated the idea of Draco becoming the Master’s right hand man…

Draco smiled. Thank Merlin for Theodore Nott. “ Don’t forget your stations, “ he breathed out.

“ I won’t, “ Nott said with a bob. “ I’m good. “

Daphne snickered at him. “ How high and mighty you are. And don’t worry, Draco. I won’t forget either. “

Draco looked at the magnificent-looking old edifice that the Ministry had picked to house the most dangerous and weird artifacts from their conquests against the so called bad guys of the Wizarding world. He wondered if his father’s good old wand was there…his father’s cane had been used by Blaise, afterall, probably stolen from his own manor.

The place the ministry had picked to house the Vaults was a most auspicious one. It was seated at the edge of some cliff, with barbed wire surrounding it and signs that said ‘Private Property’ or ‘Danger’ or ‘Condemned’. It was an old lighthouse, or something that looked like it…a sort of manor with a lighthouse. Draco thought it was actually a nice place, far from the prying eyes of muggles- too bad they found out about this much kept secret. Down below, the cliffs were pummeled with the strength of the waves. He could hear the surf crashing over and over again against the craggy rocks. He actually liked the sound. He never got around near the sea a lot since his manor was near some forest. The sound however, seemed to annoy Blaise.

“ Avada my arse, “ he muttered. “ I hate places like these. The sea’s always so loud and- “

“ I like it, “ Draco interrupted. “ It’s loud and it’s always changing. “ He eyed Blaise and Blaise gave him a grim smile. “ Besides, it’s not everyday that the Ministry chooses to transfer artifacts from those convicted in Azkaban on such a gloomy and cold night. “

Nott laughed out loud and Daphne shushed him up, to which Nott responded with a wink, making Daphne snicker again. Blaise looked more annoyed now.

“ So…when do we move? “ Blaise asked Draco.

Draco smiled. “ You’ll know soon enough. “

“ Really, Draco. You’re always full of surprises, “ Blaise muttered.

“ Blaise, I know you want me dead, but you can’t move without me, right? So follow what I say and stop your arseness, “ Draco said with an all-knowing smile.

Blaise took a deep breath to control his rising displeasure. Damn you, Draco. Damn you to hell.

“ Look, “ Nott said in a quiet tone. He pointed to a boarded up window, near the right side of the large dilapidated lighthouse-manor. There was the tiniest glow of light, undetectable to the unobservant eye.

Draco looked on, and so did the others. He sighed. “ Well, that’s our signal. Let’s move. “

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Hermione sighed as she flicked her wand to move the various objects into tiny metal safes, the size of school desks. The vault was large, as large as the Great Hall of Hogwarts, where the metal safes were stacked neatly on top of each other with various codes to ensure their total protection. Susan Bones nudged her.

“ Fun night, isn’t it? “ Susan asked her with a smile.

Hermione grinned. “ Why, of course it is. I can feel the adrenalin rush already. “

There were a few males along with the three other females, which included Hermione and Susan already. In total, there were seven of them. Lee Jordan was there to help. Ron was on his way near Scotland along with the others.

“ Have you done the double sealing spell? “ Hermione asked Susan.

Susan shook her head wildly. “ Oh Merlin, I almost forgot! Bugger! “ She muttered the spell to seal the metal cases in her area. “ You know, this isn’t such a fun job at all. We have to seal each metal case so many times, and there are more than a thousand! “

“ That’s what we’re here for, “ an Auror told her with a wink.

“ Why they had to renovate everything- why they had to move all of this- “ Lee muttered. “ Bugger, this is so…so…something! “

Hermione and the others laughed.

“ Hey watch it! “ Susan snapped as a metal case that swooshed by, almost hit her head.

“ Sorry, “ another Auror said. “ My bad. “

All of a sudden, the entire hall went dark.

“ Damn it! Who turned off the lights? “ Lee snapped. He flicked his wand to turn on the lights, but the chandeliers refused to glow. His heart began to pound. Something was not right. “ On your guard! ” he yelled.

Hermione had known beforehand. She had her wand ready for battle, but her chest hammered appallingly, like it was telling her something she knew she didn’t want to realize. She strained her ears to hear something- hear anything. She could hear someone’s heavy breathing. Lee muttered something and Hermione inched back. No Auror attempted a Lumos spell. The few seconds of silence both thrilled her and frightened her. She had never fought in pitch black before…if there really were intruders…then this would be the first….A bolt of red shot through; whizzing past Hermione’s hair, and she jumped back, falling on her behind. She scrambled up, and in less than a second, chaos ensued.

Susan felt sweat break on her forehead as she groped and hid behind a metal crate to catch her breath. How could she fight in this condition? When Lee gave them orders to fight in darkness?

“ Expelliarmus! “ she screamed.

Something was hit and the figure tumbled towards another stack of metal, causing the metal cases to fall all over.

“ The boxes! “ Hermione shouted. The boxes were what they were after! Damn it! How come she didn’t think of it sooner!!! Voldemort’s box! She had to find it soon! She had to find it now! Hermione wondered how she could find it, and keep the lights off.

Susan gasped. How could she forget! Everything here was valuable in the eyes of Wizard Law! What the hell were they doing in the evidence room? Were these the so called ‘Deatheaters’!

Bursts of light from wands, booming sounds, tumbling boxes, screams, shouts….everything in pandemonium was present, even panic.

“ Damn it! “ Draco muttered as he stood on his guard. The Aurors were at a loss now, having planned nothing, having known nothing of their attack. All of his team present was wearing goggles that could detect everything in full color in the darkness of the room. He saw every Auror present…

“ Kill them! “ Blaise snapped as he saw Daphne on the floor, narrowly avoiding a spell cast by a temporarily blind Auror.

Daphne glared at him and stood up, clenching her jaw in anger. She was here for Draco and Lord Voldemort, not Blaise. Raising her wand, she cast a freezing charm, hitting one of the high stacks of metal cases.

“ You idiot! “ Blaise hissed at her. “ You might hit the box that contains it! “

Hermione’s heart pounded erratically as she hid behind a wooden crate, figuring- planning what to do next. She heard voices in low tones…and she almost felt sure that she had heard those voices before. She felt Susan Bones presence as the bedlam carried on. “ Susan? “ she whispered. Susan whimpered. And Hermione then knew she was hurt and hurt bad. She groped for Susan’s body and then felt her hand. “ Stay here- “ Hermione whispered. “ Don’t move at all. “

“ Find the box that says #063184…” Nott kept repeating in his head. “ 063184….063184…” He flicked his wand over a metal chest and saw the numbers in little engraving that read: 063182. “ Damn it, “ Nott told himself. He shot out a hex as another Auror stumbled around almost blindly near him. “ Take that, you bastard! “

Draco saw a part of some cloak, and he felt sure it was an Auror’s. He inched quietly toward the Auror, his wand raised high. As he poised himself to use the first unforgivable curse, the lights flickered open and he gritted his teeth, still wanting to cast his spell. “ Avada-! “ he paused.

Hermione…

Hermione started, gasping, feeling the air around her grow cold, feeling her lungs freeze up the millisecond she saw blonde hair. Draco? Oh god….Draco? Her wand was shaking in front of her. He was about to kill her. The Avada Kedavra on her- by him! He hated her that much! Her knees began to buckle; her Auror’s resolve was gone, her pain was coming back again, her love was coming back again…or was it?

Draco’s lips quivered a little. Should he feel joy that she was actually alive? Or should he kill her to save her now, instead? Merlin! Hermione was alive! And he felt the need to take her away, take her somewhere safe- take her somewhere and kiss her and embrace her and tell her it was all some bad and rash decision- Hermione was alive! And he knew he still loved her…and his hand shook and he tried to stop it from shaking…

The lights flickered on and off and they both kept seeing each other in full light every few milliseconds. He took off his goggles. Draco’s eyes widened, seeing the stack of boxes behind her. The box was right there, at the middle of the stack, #063184! He gulped and raised his hand once more and this time it stopped shaking. He flicked his wand for it and a nearly indistinguishable thread-like spell was cast, in translucent red, inching quickly for the metal box.

Hermione’s eyes darted from his wand to the box and seeing the fine red line- she quickly countered a spell and the box shot out from the stack and landed quickly into her arms.

Draco’s eyes widened again. “ Give me the box, “ he said in a treacherously low voice. His eyes narrowed a little, his gray eyes flashed with warning.

Hermione’s eyes widened too, unable to believe that this was Draco, giving her orders to give away the box- her mind quickly ran a memory check and she then remembered this was the box that contained Voldemort’s splintered wand.

“ No, “ she uttered, almost unsteadily. This was it. Draco was gone. The man standing before her was a Deatheater, an enemy, not the man she had loved so much- not the man she was willing to die for- not Draco…Draco was dead…

“ I’ll repeat it one last time….” he breathed, “ Give me the box, now, Granger. “

She shook her head weakly, still unable to believe that the man in front of her was Draco; except that he wanted her dead and that he only wanted the box she was clutching fiercely near her chest. “ Draco- “ she began.

He shook his head. “ You want yourself dead, “ he said in a low voice.

“ I loved you, “ she cried.

He paused. I loved you. The past tense sounded uglier than he expected it to sound. It sounded agonizing. He didn’t want it to turn out like this. He thought she’d be far away, in Daphne’s manor, where all the action was supposed to happen! The urge to take it all back grew, but he saw his comrades fighting to the death, saw Nott fall down and stand up again, saw Daphne’s arm bleeding, saw Blaise screaming as he fought, of how he was going to kill them all, and Draco knew that this was his fate, his decision, his responsibility. Hermione was just a faraway beautiful dream. A dream right in front of him, close enough for him to touch, close enough for him to kiss, close enough for him to scream he loved her and that he loved her still, close enough for him to kill.

Those few precious seconds of silence between them reverberated in their ears, and the past came back in a flash, to haunt them both, to hurt them both. Those few precious seconds of silence were spent staring at each other, both torn between duties and something else- that dream they had, that good dream they once shared everyday.

He raised his wand, poised, deciding to end it all, for his sake and Hermione’s and his mother’s.

Hermione’s eyes widened. He was going to kill her!

“ Hermione, “ he began, his voice ringing in her ears, despite the blare around them. “ I love you. “

I love you. The truth always hurt, but nothing hurt more than this. She would have gladly gone through a Crucio just to make him take it back. But…this was the present. The past was dead. Hermione clutched the metal case fiercely. Not without a fight! Never without a fight! A Deatheater was a Deatheater, Draco was one now. He was an enemy. She was an Auror. He loved her…

And then words started flooding into her mind…words that had burned in front of her…the pieces should be seized, but to enter the cathedral shall need the deceit of the innocent blood…Was this it… to enter the cathedral…was this Vault the cathedral? Was she the innocent blood? Were they the innocent blood? What did the eighth mean? There was a horcrux in Voldemort’s old wand?

~
The future is dark, as the full sun grows cold, spills the blood of the innocent and the tainted. The eighth has been found, the pieces should be seized, but to enter the cathedral shall need the deceit of the innocent blood. Look into peers, as to who is tainted, whose concerns lie not for the safety of the masses, but for the safety of a new arrival. An equal shall be utilized, a fate that cannot be changed. It will either be death or renewal, as the cold sun lingers. The fate cannot be changed...
~

Hermione held her breath, still unable to believe that Draco was willing to kill her just to get to the remnants of Voldemort’s wand. Was he the tainted one? “ Draco, why? “ she asked in a broken voice.

Draco paused and grabbed her arms suddenly, almost violently. The box dropped on the floor, but he didn’t give a damn. He shoved her into a corner, obscured by the metal crates. He stared into her hazel eyes, his gray ones were burning into hers. He saw the love, the hurt, the desperation….” Hermione- “ he choked. Then he kissed her, crushing her fragile lips with the force of his own. He pulled back quickly. “ I’m sorry- stay away. You have to live. This was my decision. You have to live! Do you hear me! “

Hermione felt tears slide down her eyes. She began to tremble all over. “ I don’t understand- why, Draco? Why? I could have helped- “

“ No, you don’t understand! “ he told her. “ You have to live! Too much is at stake- I’m trying to get out of this- but my decision- I’m- “ he paused and shook his head. “ I want you alive! “

And Hermione’s mind grew blank as she stared at his face, with lines of blood, sweat on his forehead and his eyes that were determined…did she see love? Hate?

He held her face almost strongly. . “ I love you, you hear me? I love you! “ And he pointed his wand to her chest. “ I love you… “

And Hermione saw his face vanishing right in front of her and she succumbed to the darkness that was calling out to her.

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A/N time: I hope I made you cry. Hahahaha. so normally, i don't demand for reviews, but right now, i demand them! haha. not being bossy or anything, but i just feel proud of this chapter since i found it a bit challenging to write and all, knowing how varied the reactions will be. Do review? I really get hyped up when people review since it gives me fuel to keep going for the next chapter. I'll see you guys on the reviews, kk? ^_^

Chapter 33: You saw him....
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Ron’s heart was pounding again as he arrived at the cliff-side Vault with Lupin and his other mates. The room was in disarray. His other fellow Aurors were either critically injured or too tired to move. His eyes darted around, looking for Hermione. The signal had been sent a few minutes after the battle had begun, sent by Lee’s wand.

“ Hermione! “ he grabbed an Auror in bandages. “ Where is she? “

The male Auror shook his head, his eyes clearly distracted. “ I don’t- I don’t know- “

Lupin was looking anxious. His wand kept flicking at the metal crates. The other Aurors at Hogwarts were called in to help, dispatching only a few to the other purported areas that the Deatheaters could gather in.

Ron headed for another bend filled with tumbled down metal boxes. Then he saw her, and his heart lightened up. “ Hermione, “ he said softly.

Hermione didn’t look up. She kept staring at her shoes as she sat in a tight ball, her hair in a mess, her lower lip bleeding, and her arms with scratches all over.

Ron sat down beside her. “ Hermione- what happened? “ he asked her, gently, suddenly afraid to even reach out his hand to touch her.

She looked into his eyes and Ron had never seen such sadder eyes than what he was seeing now. She was crying, crying quietly and she was trembling all over. “ Ron- “ she choked. And she shook her head and placed her head on her knees.

“ You saw him…” he finally said, still quiet. It wasn’t a question. He felt it. Knew it.

Hermione didn’t give any recognition to his comprehension. She was still haunted by his words, his touch, his kiss, the pain- of course she saw him…and some part of her wished she didn’t- but some part of her wanted to see him again, too.

“ Are you hurt? “ he asked her.

She shook her head slowly.

“ Well, your lower lip is bloody as hell. “

“ I’m fine. “

Ron held up her face and flicked his wand over her lip. It instantly healed. “ Well, that’s better. You look just like your old self, well except for the other bruises and cuts, “ he told her in a strangely optimistic voice.

“ Thank you, “ she replied quietly. She knew Ron was trying to cheer her up, but it didn’t sound right at all. Nothing sounded right.

Ron sighed and stood up. He reached out for her. “ Get up, “ he told her as his hand waited for her in midair. She took his hand, to which Ron breathed in with a silent thanks. “ Let’s get out of here. “

She nodded, almost blankly.

There was an angry cry- more like frustrated… and Ron took Hermione’s hand and ran for the voice. He saw Lupin’s face quite pale as the rest of the Aurors looked pale or aggravated too.

“ We’ve lost it, “ he murmured, placing his hands over his face. “#063184…Voldemort’s…”

Hermione bit her lower lip as Ron’s hand clutched hers tighter than ever. His face looked bothered. Ron didn’t know…she had held it before Draco took it…before Draco had said that hex…she had failed her mission, she had been defeated in battle…mixed feelings surfaced, feelings of helplessness, incompetence, anger, hurt…

“ We’ll get it back, “ Jordan Lee snapped, his left arm swelling. His eyes looked strangely red, like he had been crying…

Lupin eyed him. “ No, you rest. We’ll get it back. The rest of you have to rest, too. I want you all to go to St. Mungo’s and have yourselves checked. “

Susan Bones was crying still, as another female Auror comforted her, patting her back and muttering little spells to deal with her superficial wounds.

Hermione’s knees buckled as the full weight of what she had failed to do, fell on her. She had failed to protect the box! Voldemort’s box! Why! How could she have allowed that to happen! How stupid could she get! Draco-! Why! Should she tell Ron? Should she! Hermione sank to the floor.

Ron quickly held her as she paled further. “ Hermione-? Are you- What’s wrong, Hermione? “ he was asking her. It seemed like she was a million miles away. “ Hermione…” He felt worried, again.

She looked up to him and shook her head. Lupin looked at her and saw her face so pale, like she had seen death in the face, or Voldemort even.

“ Ron, “ Lupin began. “ Take her to St. Mungo’s. We’ll patch things up here. “

Hermione shook her head. “ No! I’m helping! “ She tried to stand but felt her knees cave in again. She almost fell, but Ron caught her for the second time.

“ You’ll help after we’re done at St. Mungo’s and when Lupin allows it, “ Ron told her. “ Also when your knees are stronger. “

“ I’m fine, “ she muttered.

Ron sighed. “ Hermione- not again. “

Finally, Hermione relented. “ Fine- I’ll go…” her voice trailed off and she gave a little frown. How could she explain it to them? That she had lost her willpower because Draco had been right in front of her?

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Draco was alone in his room, sitting on a bulky cushioned chair. He was staring out into the moors, a mist was drifting through, the air was bitter and the ambiance seemed dismal. He had not slept that night, still unable to get over the events, still unable to get over fate’s taunting- that he had to see Hermione in the one place he did not expect, that he had to battle with her, curse her…his hands were clasped in front of him, as his elbows rested on the armrests. He did not frown, but he felt vacant inside, despite thinking of so many things. Did he feel pain? Or was he impervious to it now?

A knock came on his door. His mother came in with a cheery face, her golden hair bouncing luxuriously against her dark blue dress, but he did not reciprocate her hearty ‘good morning’. She approached him and looked at his face.

Narcissa’s heart felt anxious, upset…Draco was hurting…all for what? “ Draco, “ she began gently. He did not respond. She wanted to touch her son, but he seemed inaccessible, like Lucius was before…

He finally opened his mouth, but still he did not look at her. “ I’d like to be alone for now, mother. “

Narcissa shuddered and held in her breath. She let out a tiny nod, unable to resist, she touched his shoulder gently, but he was unyielding. “ I- I’ll see you later then…”

He did not reply once more, not even a single nod.

Narcissa closed the door, her heart pounding as she leaned against Draco’s door. She suddenly wanted to cry, wanted to hit things, throw things- hex someone…Draco was fading away from her, fading into someone else, he was- and she choked, trying to refuse the thought away…he was starting to resemble his father…Narcissa shakily placed a hand over her red lips, trying to control herself from crying. Oh Merlin…he wasn’t really turning into Lucius now was he? Draco was different! Draco was not Lucius! But Narcissa couldn’t shake off the thought of it. She knew where this was heading, and had so desperately wanted to turn to Lupin for help, even to her niece, Nymphadora. It wasn’t going to be easy. If she moved, they could kill Draco, if Draco made a wrong decision; she knew her life was at stake- Blaise had made sure. They made sure. Her son’s so called Slytherin ‘friends’ were actually biding their time, to see either Draco or her dead. And she began to sob quietly, sinking to the cold manor floor.

Draco looked at the dark ten foot oak door for a second. “ I’m sorry, mother, “ he whispered to himself. He knew she was still at the door, hurting for him, crying for him. He held his wand. He looked at it, held the rough and smooth areas slowly with his fingers sliding down. This was his wand- his strength, the controller of his fate…the wand he had used to hurt Hermione because he had to. He wanted to forget the night, obliviate the night from his memory. But he could not stop thinking about what he had done, what he had said.



~

“ Draco, why? “ she asked in a broken voice.

Draco paused and grabbed her arms suddenly, almost violently. The box dropped on the floor, but he didn’t give a damn. He shoved her into a corner, obscured by the metal crates. He stared into her hazel eyes, his gray ones were burning into hers. He saw the love, the hurt, the desperation….” Hermione- “ he choked. Then he kissed her, crushing her fragile lips with the force of his own. He pulled back quickly. “ I’m sorry- stay away. You have to live. This was my decision. You have to live! Do you hear me! “

“ I don’t understand- why, Draco? Why? I could have helped- “

“ No, you don’t understand! “ he told her. “ You have to live! Too much is at stake- I’m trying to get out of this- but my decision- I’m- “ he paused and shook his head. “ I want you alive! “

He held her face almost roughly. . “ I love you, you hear me? I love you! “

~



Memories no matter how painful always stayed. Memories of his father surfaced. Had his father been loving? He had given him everything he wanted. Everything galleons could buy…at a price. For what Lucius demanded was unbending loyalty, that Draco inherit his obsession for their pure bloodedness, inherit his obsession to serve Lord Voldemort till the day he died. Did Lucius love him as his son? Or was he merely a plaything, a failed experiment to see how far he would go to follow the footsteps of his father? Did Lucius love Narcissa? He had thought so before and had seen only one picture- but he sufficed it was enough to be love a long time ago, when Narcissa was smiling beautifully in a long black dress and he was holding her arm in such a gentlemanly fashion. He had seen a hint of a smile, almost sincere, play on his father’s lips.

He had last seen this picture when he was seven years old and by accident. He was a curious boy, after having gone tired of reading the books his father had made him read in the library, he began to go a little adventurous. He knew there were a lot of things he had not yet discovered, secret passageways, secret rooms- and he stumbled into one. It was a different room, a very feminine room, with light pink and white interiors, although there were dark curtains concealing the sunlight. It was dusty, cobwebs were everywhere. But his attention was drawn to a little drawer near the bedside. The drawer was something he hadn’t seen yet, in his seven years. It was painted in white and had gold handles. He opened the first drawer, and saw a picture. A moving picture, of course; of his parents. And he smiled. He hadn’t seen his father look that pleasant. Sure, Lucius smiled, but young Draco had always felt it wasn’t enough. It was more of a sneer…but his father was smiling with his mother in this picture! And he felt happy, until he heard a voice.



~

“ Draco! “ someone called out.

Draco hastily wanted to close the drawer, but he wanted to keep the picture too. He was torn. He held the picture when someone breezed in. He froze in place, keeping the picture behind him.

Narcissa stood with pursed lips. “ I’ve been looking for you. You found this room, I see. “She looked a little sad upon looking around the room. She looked at his hands, strangely folded to his back. “ What are you hiding? “

Draco slowly showed her the picture. His eyes narrowed a little, a childish defiance taking over his eyes.

She took it from him and held it for a long time. Her eyes seemed to narrow and then they seemed to mist over. “ It’s- “ she began. She flicked the image behind her using one hand and held Draco’s hand tightly. “ Let’s go. Supper time. “

“ Can I keep it? “ he asked in a small voice.

Narcissa’s look softened. Then she hastily shook her head. “ No- you cannot. It’s…it’s not yours. “

“ But you’re my mummy…and that’s daddy…”

“ I know- but…oh Draco, how can I explain this to you? “ And she said no more as she bent down to hug him tight, something Draco had never experienced in his seven years of life on earth.

~




He eyed the door once more. His mother was still there. He knew his mother still missed Lucius once in awhile, when he would catch her in silence, sitting in a tea room or the library, reading some book or looking at some painting.

What if ‘daddy’ didn’t die during his incarceration in Azkaban? What if daddy still lived? Would he, Draco Malfoy, have loved Hermione, learned to live like a muggle or engage in dark magic earlier than he would have expected? Turn his back on a heart, Harry’s heart, which loved muggles? How could he save himself from the mess? Save his mother, save his friends, save Hermione….there was an easy way. He could kill himself…but it would be such a cowardly act. No Malfoy would take his own life, if it wasn’t for some noble reason…like for Lord Voldemort.

Was he really becoming like his father? He hadn’t been paying attention, but now- now that he was alone…they came to him, taunted his mind, memories of his father- should he still be proud of their pure bloodedness? Their legacy in the wizarding world? He had no use for his heritage in the muggle world, the muggle world accepted him, without asking much questions on his background, without delving into his true past. He had been living all right in the muggle world, because there was freedom in it, there was no need to be high and mighty because there was equality, despite the muggles’ many flaws. His father would have probably killed him for even using a muggle car or buying a muggle house, in a muggle suburb. But his father would have really killed him if he found out about his muggle love interest; something his father would likely think of as embarrassing, something more fatal than dragon pox or an Avada Kedavra.

Draco was hurting. He was hurting far more than when he had suffered his heart ailment. His mind felt troubled and messy, something he never liked… something he had prevented for years from happening- something he could not prevent now.

Hermione….

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Theodore Nott was alone, resting for the moment. The night had gone well, just what they all wanted. Just what Draco had wanted…? Voldemort would have been proud of them. Voldemort would have probably forgiven his father and him if he had seen that. Lord Voldemort’s wand was being reconstructed by none other than Daphne Greengrass.

He was grateful for the solitude, having had to endure a few nasty cuts and bruises and a pounding headache. He was sipping quietly a glass of wine, when he heard a tiny pop from behind him. He spun around and saw…

“ Daphne, what are you doing here? “ he asked her with a raised eyebrow.

Daphne looked tired and angry and…there was a distinct nasty mark of red across her right cheek. She shook her head and immediately sat down to the nearest chair.

“ Blaise, “ Nott said, through gritted teeth.

She shook her head and couldn’t believe tears were coming out of her eyes. “ It’s not- I- “ she stopped and shook her head again and stared hard at the gray floor.

“ Why? “ he asked, resisting the urge to approach her. He was holding his goblet tighter now, without him noticing it.

Daphne shook her head and shuddered. “ It’s not important...”

“ Tell me, “ his voice was dangerously low.

“ It was just- nothing…”

Nott sighed heavily and sat across her, still holding his goblet. His eyes narrowed on the floor. “ Did you say something to him that aggravated him? “

She shook her head. “ No, “ she began.

“ On what grounds would he hurt you, then? “ he questioned with a frown.

“ I don’t know, “ she said quietly.

“ Stop lying to me, “ Nott told her with another frown. “ Tell me what happened. Everything. “

“ You, “ she began again. “ You wouldn’t understand me…”

He gave a short laugh. “ Not understand you? Daphne, I understand you well enough. Your feminine wiles and all…what else do I not understand? “

She shook her head and shuddered for a second. “ Nott- what if someone told you she wanted you…as your slave…your plaything?”

“ Sounds kinky, “ he laughed quietly.

She shook her head. His jokes were not working this time. She felt too afraid. Too confused…too vulnerable. She felt…

“ What happened this time? “ he asked. “ Did you say something that might have angered him, Daphne? “ He took a breath and tried to control his frowns.

She shook her head. “ I didn’t say much- “ she twisted a part of her handkerchief.

“ Knowing you- “

“ I did not say anything to him! I did what he wanted- that was all…apparently- apparently it was not enough. “

Nott shrugged. “ What would you like to drink? “

She shook her head.

“ Why didn’t you go to Draco? “ he asked, his eyes narrowing.

She shook her head again. “ I could not. Draco is handling too much already- “

“ And you think I’m not? “

“ No! “ her voice raised. She bit her lower lip. She had to control herself. Oh, how she felt alone! How she wanted her father alive right now to save her from her feelings of helplessness…why was she here anyway? It’s not like Theodore Nott would-

“ You’ve taken into thoughtfulness that Draco is the horcrux…how kind of you, Daphne. I always knew you had a soft spot for Draco Malfoy…”

Her cheeks reddened, her ears burned. “ It’s not what you think…not for that kind of reason. “

“ What other reason can you give? I’m just your little breath of fresh air, then? Don’t you think that Blaise can come here anytime and hurt you again? Don’t you think he can do that? What do you think I can do? Fight him off till the death just to avoid another mark on your face? “

She was taken aback. She bit her lower lip again. Theodore Nott stood up and without warning; he held her face and looked at the slap mark Blaise had given her. It was slowly getting bruised already. She shook and Nott felt it in his hand. He looked into her eyes and saw the pain and the fear…and something else he could not place.

She pushed his hand away and began to weep. Weep like a young woman. Weep like a lady. Tears flowed freely and she could not stop them.

Theodore Nott just stared at her face, unable to do anything. How do you comfort a woman? How do you stop her from crying? And he resisted an urge that began to form in his mind as he handed her tissue from a flamboyant box beside her.

She took one without looking at him. “ Nott…how did we come to this? “

He shrugged and sighed. “ It just had to come to us, “ he replied simply. “ This was my chosen fate- if I had something else in store…where would I be now? The owner of a lonely house with twenty rooms all to my own? You- you as the owner of a manor without anyone else around to share it with? Or Blaise with his trophy room, surrounded by dead creatures and whisky? “

She nodded. “ Sometimes…I dream that…I was not born into this kind of world…but I’m pureblooded and I should be proud…my father drummed it into my head. Sometimes…I dream to escape from what I chose- I dream of the Master rewarding us with pain instead of life and riches beyond our magic…”

“ We can dream, but those dreams are still not our reality. “

“ I know, “ she said desolately.

“ Blaise- “ Nott began as he looked on the floor for a moment. “ He likes you. “

She looked up to him, with a little gasp, her eyes widened as well. “ How would you- “

“ The way I see it, “ Nott continued. “ The way he stares at you when you don’t notice, the way he’s angry when you look at Draco with praise or admiration- “

“ Draco? I would not- “

“ Just those little moments. “

She grew hushed. It was no use explaining. Theodore Nott was always ahead of her, despite her not wanting it.

“ Here’s some coffee, “ he said. A saucer floated in front of her with a cup of coffee on it. She stared at it for awhile. “ That didn’t come from Blaise’s stocks. Drink it up or I’ll be forced to call in the rest of them to make fun of you. “

She smiled as she grabbed the saucer. She took a sip and looked back at Nott again. “ I never knew you could be nice. “

“ Nice? “ he raised an eyebrow. “ Merlin…are there no nice Slytherins at all? Everybody’s shocked or surprised when a Slytherin is supposedly nice. Is that some sort of mantra for everyone who’s been in Slytherin? “

She shook her head with a smile. “ I suddenly feel totally humiliated at calling you nice. My bad. “

He laughed. “ At least you’re smiling now. Whether your bad or not. “ He flicked his wand at her direction and muttered a spell. The bruise slowly disappeared.

“ Nott- “ she began. But she stopped. Something made her stop. She had to stop herself.

“ What? “ he asked. “ The coffee’s too bitter? “

She shook her head. “ No…it’s….forget it. “

Nott smiled a little. “ Alright, I will. “

“ You’re so- too-! “ she couldn’t place the words, a sudden burst of annoyance and something else came to her like a meteorite.

“ You’re too easily aggravated, “ Nott said mildly. “ If I were you, I’d finish the coffee and get a bit of rest for our next soiree. “

She nodded and stood up, placing the cup and saucer carefully on a little table beside her. She took out her wand. And she paused in midair. “ Nott- can I….can I stay here for a moment? Just sleep here? “

If he was surprised, he showed no sign of it. He nodded calmly. “ Of course. Would you need anything else? A blanket or something? A little stuffed animal? “

She smiled and shook her head. “ No…the couch is fine. “

“ Then I’ll leave you for a little rest, “ he said as he gave a nod.

A second later, Nott was gone and Daphne slipped down to the couch and with a smile on her face and with a wonderful assurance of being safe, she slept.

Theodore Nott stood outside the door for a while, trying to prevent himself from going inside to look at her sleeping. He wanted to see how she slept. He could not resist the temptation, so he went in. She was sleeping peacefully, one hand at the right side of her cheek. She gave little frowns that made him smile.

She looked nice asleep. There was no sarcasm there, only a person dreaming of something, only a person at rest for a moment from the dog eat dog world. She wasn’t a threatening witch; she was a woman in respite. He hovered over her for a moment and he gave one last smile and left quietly as she dreamed on of someone she loved.

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Nott was alone in his library once more, content after watching Daphne sleep for a moment. All of a sudden, the fires in his grate turned brighter and bigger. And out of the fire, Pansy Parkinson stepped out, covered in expensive furs and jewelry.

“ Pansy? “ he said in surprise.

“ May I sit down? “ she asked.

He nodded. “ What brings you…” She looked pale and tired…like she had not slept well the night before.

“ I have something to ask of you, “ she began hesitantly.

“ If this is about Draco- “ he began. Nott’s mind rang alarm bells. Something big, perhaps?

“ No! “ her voice raised high. “ This is- this is not about him. It is about someone else. It is about my husband…”

“ Marko? “ Nott’s brows rose. “ Pansy Sarovic, what the bloody hell is this about? “

She lowered her head. She was twisting on her gloved hands now, biting her lip, looking at the fire. She took a deep breath. “ Nott…I am- we’re going to be parents. “

Nott smiled. “ Well, that’s good news, “ and he smirked. Big news indeed! Daddy Marko and Mummy Pansy...he would have loved to see the look on Marko's face if-

“ Is it? Not at this time…I know…I know that I’m not included in your plans…whatever they are…but please…just…” she tried to find her words. “ I can’t have a child in- Marko’s…I’ve come to the realization that this marriage…”

Nott held out a hand to stop her. “ I know. “

“ Will you? I want to have the child…but- “ she cried.

Nott stared. The first time in his life, he had seen Pansy cry not for herself, but for someone else, for the unborn child she was carrying…and she had not told her husband….

Would Nott understand? She would see no more of Draco. She knew it was fruitless. This was the way life worked; this was the way love worked.

“ I will, “ Nott promised. And he hoped he would keep it. He had been playing the ‘savior’ too many times now…and he hoped he would pull through with his promises and their requests.

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A/N: so how was that for chappie 33? Can you believe it! I'm almost done! Almost! To summarize this chappie, Draco didn't kill Hermione (duh), Nott realizes he actually loves Daphne now, Pansy's going to become a mum, Draco's decided his fate once and for all...etc. hehe. not so bad for you? i hope not!

Do wait for the next chapter. This story is almost at its end. Any suggestions or critique? Just press that review button below!

Chapter 34: Ready, Draco?
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~
She was happy. She saw him happy. It made her happy. His little legs were red, his brow was sweating, but he was laughing, childish laughter. She didn’t want it to end. But it had to end sometime. Didn’t it? Doesn’t it have to? She loved him; there was a son, a beautiful boy, for him- and for her. Draco was everything…but something in him, in Lucius, was cold, something in him wasn’t a father…

“ Mum! “ he cried out, holding a fistful of peonies in one pale hand. “ Look what I have for you! “

“ Why, Draco- peonies? You’re too sweet! “ she was laughing as she drew him close to her chest. “ I loved peonies when I was a little girl- “

“ You’re still a little girl, “ he said childishly.

She laughed. “ No- I’m your mum. “

Draco smiled and kissed her cheek. “ Then I’ll always be your little boy. “

The sound of boots came and they both stopped, she holding on to her son, and Draco holding on to her neck as she knelt on the green grass.

Lucius smiled and Narcissa didn’t know if it was a smile of amusement or sarcasm. “ So the two of you are here? “ he said.

Draco nodded, his hold slipping away from Narcissa’s. “ Is there something you need, father? “ he asked, bringing himself to his full height of four feet. Narcissa saw Draco’s eyes with a bit of fear in them, but she also saw defiance and a sudden forced maturity. Her little boy had grown up in a second.

Lucius held out a hand to Draco. “ Come Draco, I have something to show you. “

Draco’s grasp on his mother left entirely as he walked for his father. And Narcissa felt strangely alone now.
~




He was quiet as he entered the room. She was there, sleeping; a photo album was slowly slipping off her lap. There were pictures of youth, of gowns and smiles and many more serious captured moments. He stared at the album pages open. He shook his head. He leaned over and kissed her cheek.

She woke up with a startled look, and then she smiled. She slowly began to stand up, but he held out a hand.

“ No, “ he said.

She sank back into her chair. “ Is something the matter, Draco? “ Narcissa asked.

He shook his head and gave a strained smile. “ I just missed you, mother. Looking over at old images, are we? “ He took a seat on a footstool, across her.

She blushed. “ I just missed my little Draco, too. “

He smiled. “ Mother- little Draco was more than twenty years ago. “

She laughed. “ I know. But still- you remember the time when you were about four years old…and we were at your Aunt Wilhelmina’s tea party, you were running around naked because you spilled some pumpkin juice all over your outfit and you were too embarrassed to let me fix you up in public? “

He gave a laugh. “ Merlin, no. Thank heavens I don’t. What an awful memory that is, mother. “

She smiled, wistfully, suddenly seeming awake and active. “ There was also a time when I took you to your first designer wardrobe boutique. You were about five…and I wanted nice dress robes for the Malfoy family’s founding anniversary, “ she was giggling like a doe-eyed teenager. “ You hated the silk and stole the couturier’s wand and blasted off your outfit without guilt- my, my, was your father irate at that. “

He smiled, recalling the moment his father faced an inquiry at the ministry for his son’s reckless actions. His father had scolded fairly well; he had cowered in his room because of that.

“ I thought you were adorable…even if many people didn’t like your little trick, “ she sighed. “ Oh my silver-eyed Slytherin prince. “

He smiled, feeling his ears go red. “ Mother, please- “

“ Oh, shush. I’m just being an over-sentimental widow, “ she laughed. Then she stopped, seeing something else in her son’s eyes.“ What are you keeping from me? “

He lowered his head. “ Mother- I’m sorry- “ he raised his wand and that was all that Narcissa saw.

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Hermione sat down as the mediwitch checked up on her injuries. “ Well, miss Granger, you’re in tiptop condition. Though I would greatly suggest that you stay away from extreme action for awhile? “

She nodded blankly. Her mind was of course, far away from St. Mungo’s, far away from the mediwitch and far away from Ronald Weasley who was standing beside her.

“ Did you hear that Mione? “ Ron asked, raising a brow.

She nodded without looking at Ron.

Ron sighed. How would he lift up her flagging spirits when his were down too? It was hard because too many awful things were happening at once. Not everyone knew the extent of what had gone between Hermione and Draco…but he did, to some degree. Hermione was desperately trying to bury her feelings, but Draco just had to show his thick face in the most unexpected place. How could their intelligence have been so stupid! He hated that the Deatheaters had gotten the best of them, hated that so many were hurt- they knew that the Deatheaters had plans- they kept tabs on Daphne’s manor and even Blaise’s! But still-! They bested them! Pride was hurt, emotions were in turmoil- but he was concerned of Hermione. It was her hushed suffering. She didn’t want to share her pain- typical Hermione…

“ I’m serious, this time, Hermione Jane Granger. Pull off another stupid stunt- “

Hermione held up a palm to stop him. She turned to the mediwitch. “ Could we- could we have a private moment, please? “ she said in a soft voice. The mediwitch nodded and left.

“ Yes, where was I? Ah, pull- “

“ Ron- he was there! “ she said in a tight voice.

Ron’s eyes widened a little. “ Hermione- “

“ No! Listen to me! He knew what he was doing Ron! I thought you were scouting out Daphne and Blaise- why-? Why was he there, Ron? I didn’t expect to see him there! “

“ Hermione we didn’t even expect it! “ Ron said in an irate voice. “ It was too late! We were about to enter the Greengrass manor- and the signal from you guys went out. I thought you’d be safer there- “

“ Oh, so you assigned me there? That’s why? Cause you wanted me safe- “

“ It’s just not about you! “

“ What are you keeping from me? “ she narrowed her eyes and stood from her chair. Ron backed away a little. “ You’re keeping something from me, I know it, Ronald Weasley! “

He shook his head. “ You’ve seen all there is you have to know. “

“ No! “ she said. “ You tell me what’s going on! Did you- did you two meet by any chance? Did he talk to you, Ron? “

He shook his head, determined to lie to her. “ No, Hermione. You’ve seen all that is to know. “

“ But I have not heard all that I should know. “

Ron threw his hands up in the air, exasperated. “ Damn it! Stop being a bitch Hermione! You were never this stubborn when Harry- “ he stopped immediately, but the damage had been done. He had hurt Hermione again.

She backed away from Ron, determined not to cry again. “ Ron, “ she sounded tired. “ I- I fought with him- it wasn’t easy at all, Ron. Seeing him again- we spoke, Ron…” her voice trembled. “ We spoke and- it hurt, Ron…cause he chose Voldemort’s side, instead of ours- “

“ Instead of yours? “ Ron asked gently, eyeing her.

She nodded a little, looking at the empty ceiling. “ I- I don’t know Ron- “ she whispered. “ Can you- can you keep something for me? “

He nodded, not fully understanding what was going on now. What she wanted him to keep. She beckoned him to approach her, to come nearer, so he did. “ What’s wrong? “ he asked.

“ Ron- I’ve done something you might not like- “

Ron knelt down in front of her. His eyebrows furrowed in all seriousness. “ Tell me. I swear, I won’t tell anyone else. “

“ Ron, I- I was the last person who saw the box…Voldemort’s box…I was holding it, but Draco- he- he told me things and I put down my defenses- oh, Ron! I’m sorry! Now, it’s come to this! It was my fault, Ron! “ she whispered, tearfully.

Ron stared with his mouth open. He was more than shocked. Hermione- defeated in battle? And he felt anger simmer in him, the need to kill someone, Draco- yes, the need to kill Draco! He wanted to see those damned DeathEaters suffer, he wanted to- “ Hermione, “ he began, still in shock. “ What- “

“ Ron- he told me he loved me, that he wanted me to live, to be alive despite all this, “ she said, breaking down.

And Ron recalled that moment, that precious few minutes of talking with Malfoy at the hospital…



~
“ Hermione- “ he began weakly.

“ She’ll be fine. She’ll get over you fast. Whatever it is that got into your mind, I’m glad you thought of making her cry. “

“ Can’t- “

“ What? “

“ Stay away. Keep her away…”
~



He had meant something back there! He was telling him something! He looked at Hermione intently. He took a deep breath. “ There’s something I didn’t tell you. “

“ Draco? “ Hermione looked at him.

He nodded. “ I met with him, one day- because I wanted him to stay away from you, permanently. “ And he began to relay the facts, everything he could remember…



~
“ And what pray tell, are you doing in the middle of my living room, unsolicited and at this time of the night? “

“ We need to talk. “

“ Again? “ Draco raised a brow. “ We sure talk a lot don’t we? Didn’t I tell you to stay away from me? “

“ Just Hermione. You were much more stringent on Hermione, “ Ron spat out rather contemptuously. “ Sit down. I want to know a few things, also why your mother’s missing. “

“ If it’s a few, just ask, and I’ll answer quick, and you’ll be on your way, and so will I. And my mother’s not missing. She just visited some relatives in France. “

“ And just where the hell are you going? “ Ron asked.

“ Would it be your business? Some quality time with my mother, “ he replied scathingly. “ Why? Would you like to spend a boring night, drinking tea, talking about the latest wizarding scandals or fashions? “

“ Why did you do that? “

“ Do what? “

“ What are you hiding? “

“ Excuse me? “

“ What the hell are you hiding? I know something’s going on! “

“ Your fragile mind’s working now Weasley? Do be careful. It’s not everyday amazing ideas get into that thick red-headed lobe of yours now, does it? “

“ I don’t care if you plan to distract me with your little word plays, or how good you are at insulting my flaming hair. You tell me what’s going on. Why you had to do that? Why your father’s memorabilia’s popping all over the place? Are you hiding something from the Ministry? Are you doing something- “

“ Nothing! Nothing’s going on! I decided it was for the best that I leave Hermione to her peace. Didn’t you want to break us up, even before I got serious with her? Even before the whole wizarding community knew that I was dating someone I used to hate? “

“ Damn it. That’s not the point! You were avoiding us, avoiding her, I’m sure it’s that important if you went through so many lengths to just to hurt her on purpose. You heard that? On purpose! You wanted that to happen! And you’d better bloody tell me why! “

“ On purpose? Of course! It was the best way to break up with her. I realized it was an error all along, me dreaming that I could get along with her. I won’t pretend I didn’t have fun with her, Hermione is indeed someone pleasant to be around with, but it had to stop. Purebloods and muggles don’t mix in relationships for me. It was a late realization- “

“ You changed! You know that! And don’t give me that mudblood or pureblood shit! “

“ I changed because of Harry Potter’s heart! I’m trying to regain myself! I probably only fell for Hermione because I had your dead best friend’s heart! Don’t you catch the drift Weasley? Even I am in awe of what Harry Potter’s heart can do! He made me like Hermione! “

“ This is you! Your free will! Your blood’s coursing throughout your body because of his heart, but it’s you who decides- it’s you who decided to love Hermione! “

“ Who said I loved her? “

“ You don’t need to say it. I’ve seen it. I saw it. “

“ Alright, Weasley. Just so that you’ll get your inquisitive arse out of my house…I did that on purpose, you were right. I had to hurt her. So you’d better play along and act like you don’t know a bloody thing. Those new Deatheaters…they’ve threatened my mother’s life- I had to- to make arrangements- “

“ On what? Working for them? “ Ron interrupted.

“ No, believe me, I’m trying my best. I don’t want to be a part of them, but since my mother’s life is at stake- I couldn’t very well sacrifice her life now could I? The main reason I want you guys away from me- especially Hermione, is to protect her. I don’t know who these new Deatheaters are, they come in cloaks, their voices are strange, and new…I had no idea. Up to now, none at all…”
~



Hermione gulped as she quickly dried her tears out. So- so Ron and Draco- So Draco was….she shook her head, still unable to process everything as quick as she could. “ Ron…you should have told me…”

“ I swore to him, it was my mistake. That I trusted him because he said your name. “

She shook her head. “ He lied to you, then. He knew who he was working with all this time…he was playing with you Ron- “

“ Just like he was playing with you? “ Ron said quietly.

She couldn’t bring herself to a nod. But she knew it was true…one way or another, it was true…

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Blaise was waiting in a room, a library, actually. He was alone; he knew that the rest would arrive soon, once Draco was done with his task. He scanned the many hardbound books, most of them more than a hundred years old, and handwritten at that. Draco’s family certainly had a fine collection of hardbound; Dark Arts related books.

He sniffled, feeling dust in his nostrils and he sneezed once. He eyed a book and opened it. It was a chronology of the Malfoy family, where they had begun, when they had risen through the ranks. Pictures were there, and he saw images of a young Lucius Malfoy, in all his resplendent and vindictive character, together with his parents. His face looked cocky, if not sarcastic. Underneath was a brief description of Lucius Malfoy’s parents and himself. The Malfoys were full of themselves. Draco was so full of himself too. The damned Malfoy brat.

He had heard about his little waltz with Hermione Granger, the muggleborn witch, and he couldn’t help but shudder in disgust. Another disgrace to the purebloods. She was as bad as a mudblood could get. Why her? He could have had anyone prominent in the wizarding world, females were crazy for him. But he just had to like her- hell, love her even! His own mother never married for love, she married for security, lineage and money- and that was how Blaise’s mind ran too. It was not entirely his fault that he seemed so ambitious, so materialistic- now was it? Blaise had been both irked and pleased when he had heard of Draco and the mudblood together.

He had hatched up the plan to attack the Aurors and the Weasleys at the old Riddle Mansion just for kicks, and to kill Hermione Granger, personally. He had not succeeded…but Draco had done the job for him, finished the job actually. He saw Hermione and Draco fighting, and Draco’s eyes looked like a dragon in rage, unforgiving, on fire. And he knew Hermione had to be killed by Draco. Draco was now acting like his father without him realizing it. Blaise was happy with that.

Draco had been secretly branded as a Slytherin demigod by girls infatuated with him, Blaise was just another ladies’ charmer to everyone else. For some reason, it annoyed his male ego. It annoyed the side of him that wanted Daphne. He could not get to Daphne; he could not take her to bed. Daphne liked Draco for everything he was, the way Pansy Parkinson Sarovic adored Draco still. Marko had once confided to Blaise that he felt his insecurities rise up whenever there was mention of Draco’s name from Pansy’s lips. Well, Blaise thought, a little chagrined; Marko was just a wee bit jealous of Draco, then.

Blaise was annoyed in secret at Draco during their Hogwarts years also because Draco seemed to have everything. He secretly rejoiced when the Malfoy family’s name had been stained after Draco’s father had fallen. He smiled, recalling the glorious day…when Draco came in with a grim look on his face.

“ I trust the job is done? “ Blaise inquired.

Draco nodded blearily. His heart felt heavy. To put his mother to sleep just so she would not, in Blaise’s words; ‘get in the way of our plans’. It was all set. The plans were in full motion. Just a little bit more and success was on the way for all of them.

“ Are they here? “ Draco asked.

Blaise lifted his chin up. “ North wing. Your father’s study. “

“ Father’s study? “ Draco repeated, feeling bile rise up his throat. His father’s study had been the place where the first Deatheaters had joined together to pledge allegiance to Lord Voldemort. He could feel himself retracing his father’s footsteps more than twenty years ago with his own feet. He was becoming like his father…wasn’t he?

“ Why, yes, your father’s study, “ Blaise said loudly. “ Brings back good memories, Draco? “

“ Of course, “ Draco said with tight lips. “ My father’s study has always been a memorable place. “

“ More good memories to add to your existing ones, then, “ Blaise smirked as he walked out of the room first with Draco trailing behind quietly.

Blaise was feeling happy tonight, happier than he had been since the day he and the rest of them had found a way to resurrect Voldemort from his human death. If there’s a way, it’s a damn good way, he thought with a smile. He also liked the thought of seeing Draco’s face filled with emotion. An emotion of fear? Resentment? He liked it, whatever the emotion was.

“ You look extremely pleased with yourself. Did the good old kitten lick up all the cream? “ Draco asked walking past him.

Blaise froze in place for a second. He felt his anger bubble. He plastered on a smile. “ I’m just pleased with the outcome of all the hard work. “

Draco said nothing more as he held the doorknob to his father’s study and entered the very large room.

As large as two classrooms in Hogwarts, filled with bookcases and a large oak table, a family heirloom, about seven hundred years old along with thirteen chairs. A myriad of cobwebs hung all over the ceilings, dust on the tops and sides of books, white sheets thrown about carelessly, supposedly to cover up the bookcases. The floor still shone with all its brightness, done out of black marble. Heavy curtains that covered the large windows reeked of tons of dust and rat excrement. Marble busts of his greatest ancestors graced the pillars of the room at the four corners.

He felt oddly uncomfortable. He had not been to this room in years. His mother had locked it up the day his father had been arrested and sent to Azkaban. Even the house elf avoided it, on his mother’s strict orders.

He saw his fellow Slytherins, already seated at the table. He felt his hands and feet grow cold. He tried to shake it away, but it would not go away. He held the chair with one hand and smiled at them, the best smile he could give.

“ Ready, Draco? “ Adrian Pucey asked.

Draco smiled again, feeling at ease this time. He had to be at ease. Blaise was watching his every move, for the sadistic spirit in Blaise would never die- well, at least to Draco, it wouldn’t. He looked at everyone seated, looked at them slowly, suddenly savoring the moment…he finally took a seat and someone cleared his throat.

“ Well, good evening, “ Nott said breaking the silence. A few laughed at his ice breaker. Well, of course, Blaise did not.

“ Daphne? “ Blaise interrupted.

Daphne nodded, keeping her eyes on Draco. She flicked her wand, and before them, on the table, appeared a plain black, rectangular box. Blaise’s eyes and everyone else’s glittered with excitement. Draco felt apprehension in his heart. He was so near the wand that had made the horcrux. His days were numbered- his hours were numbered…

“ Open it, “ Theodore Nott murmured.

Daphne nodded and slowly opened the box. She lifted the cover and placed it at the center of the old table. Everyone’s eyes widened now, even Draco’s.

And there it was. A simple piece of wood, carved into the crude form of a wand, more than fifty years ago- reconstructed by Daphne Greengrass. Yew, Thirteen and a half inches long with the feather of a phoenix…

Voldemort’s reconstructed wand.

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A/N: HURRAH! Cheer for me! Almost there, almost there! I've come to a difficult point in this story, and you'll know why. Someone always has to die, right? I try my best to give life to even the non major roles in this story, i hope i have done well. Questions in your mind? Does Daphne like Draco? Will the Deatheaters be successful? Will Hermione see Draco once more? Who will die and who will survive? hahaha, okay, too many points to be taken!

So, dear readers and reviewers, make me happy and i'll make you happy! just press that review button! the next chapter will be worth your reading time...SPOILER WARNING (Next chapter deals with emotional turmoil..)


Chapter 35: How do you say goodbye to someone you love?
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Ron’s eyes widened. “ Why didn’t you- “

Lupin shook his head. He knew Ron too well, knew himself too well. “ It was not the right time. “

“ And you think this is the right time? “ Ron asked. “ She told you that, and yet you never told us. We kept tabs on him- cut them off from him…but he’s been in it all along! “

“ Narcissa was compelled to lie to save her son, “ Lupin replied simply. “ I would do that too. “ He remembered little Sirius, and how he was willing to risk everything for his child, risk even death.

“ You will not tell anyone else? “

“ No, “ Lupin shook his head tiredly. “ I have broken my promise to her by telling you. But only to you; Ron. You know what this would be like for the others. Many still want the Malfoy family destroyed. I promised Narcissa to keep her son safe. I will do it. Draco’s not the Draco we all thought of before. He has changed one way or another. “

“ Draco’s joined them! He’s one of them, whether he likes it or not! “

“ I don’t think he likes it at all, “ Lupin told Ron.

“ How would you know? “ Ron said hotly. “ This is Draco Malfoy we’re talking about! No matter how many people say he’s changed, he’s still a Malfoy, still a pureblood fanatic, he’s still going to end up like his father and serve he-who-must-not-be-named! “

“ Hermione didn’t see him that way. “

Ron froze for a second. “ Hermione’s…she’s been blinded by her love for him. But I don’t think she’ll be stupid enough to fall for another- “ he paused, remembering what Hermione told him. He had to keep his secret, that Hermione had held the box that contained Voldemort’s wand…

“ Hermione fell in love with Draco. You still don’t like the idea, “ Lupin replied. “ But that’s not the topic here. The whole point here is to stop Draco, to keep him safe. I must uphold my promise. “

“ They weren’t so keen of you in your younger days, “ Ron muttered. “ The whole pureblooded lot of them! “

Lupin nodded. “ I know. That’s the way things are. But I cannot help but feel that I must save Draco one way or another. “

“ Well, I don’t mind seeing him dead, “ Ron snapped. “ He’s been causing too much pain on us, we’ve had Aurors dead because of him and his lot, Hermione’s been hurt too much because of him, and he has Harry’s bloody heart! He doesn’t deserve to live-“

“ He’s caught between two sides, “ Lupin said. “ Did you not think of that? “

Ron sighed. “ I have, Sir. But he has to make a choice- “

“ That was his choice. This is his choice, “ Lupin said, pacing slowly around the room. “ He’s been torn between loyalty and tradition, love and power, heritage and peace. He has his inner demons too, you know. You should know. You’ve spoken to him more than I have in my entire life. “

Ron nodded slightly. It was true. But those times, Draco had been stubborn, sly and sarcastic! Oh how he would give anything at that moment to see Draco dead, to stop Hermione’s pain and his and everyone else’s!

“ We’ve sent out the others yesterday to Borgin and Burkes. The owner is now in custody. Your information was correct. He sold something to one of the Deatheaters and he refuses to tell us what it was, for fear that they might go after him and kill him. “

Ron looked at Lupin with seriousness in his eyes. “ Sir…I feel- strangely lost, “ he finally said quietly.

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Voldemort’s wand….

Draco could almost feel his presence in the room, his cold hands over his shoulders; he could almost feel his rattling, snake-like breathing on his nape. He felt Lord Voldemort alive…alive in that wand, alive in him…wanting him….waiting for him…

Blaise smiled, unable to control his excitement. This was it. The night for attack. The night for retribution...this was the moment he had dreamed of for so long…his rewards would be far greater than he’d imagine it would be…

Goyle and Crabbe felt a surge of hope…Lord Voldemort would reward them greatly for their efforts…he would forget about their betrayal…

Daphne stared hard at the wand she had painstakingly fixed…her family’s name would rise once more in the pure blood society…her father’s soul would give her some mental rest now…they would see her strength…the best that she was…

Theodore Nott’s heart pounded for some reason…was he afraid? Anxious? Excited? They were flirting with either ultimate power or rewards or flirting with death. There was no way out, was there? It was either work with them, or be alone and face their wrath…

Adrian Pucey and Warrington smiled to each other. A true Slytherin’s dream. To see the rise of Lord Voldemort again, after such a disastrous fall in the hands of Harry Potter…

Marko Sarovic was staring at Draco. He could see Draco’s uncomfortably. He liked it. There was almost a hundred percent possibility that Draco would die in the ritual they were about to perform. With Draco gone, Pansy’s concentration would shift to him and him alone…

The privileged nine…

“ Any news? “ Draco asked, breaking everyone’s trance on the wand.

Blaise nodded. “ So far…the Aurors have caught our scent. But they’re still far from us. Misleading them again to the Riddle Manor proved useful. The Greengrass Manor has been searched and mine was too. I believe they’ll be on their way here. Your mother was kind enough to have leaked a bit of news…even the old cave where Dumbledore was foolish enough to drink from the grail was searched. Those stupid Aurors. Always two steps behind…“

Draco’s brow raised. “ My mother’s asleep. When she wakes up, it will be a whole new world. “

“ Right…come now, Draco. I thought your mother was still loyal to our cause, “ Blaise said.

“ Times have changed, “ Draco quickly said.

Daphne looked at Draco and looked away quickly. She opened her mouth. “ They’ve kept tabs on me, on us, now. They are getting highly alert. I’m afraid they might interrupt our highly delicate ceremony. “

Warrington scoffed. “ No they will not. “

Adrian looked at the wand thoughtfully. “ But still- we should not take the risk…”

“ Adrian’s right, “ Marko Sarovic said. “ Do we perform here? Or in Bulgaria? “

“ No, “ Draco said through gritted teeth. “ The ritual must be done here, in English soil. We still need a back-up plan though. Bulgaria will be our last alternative. “

“ Bulgaria is the safest, “ Marko protested.

“ We act like the Master, “ Draco said in a low tone. “ Take the risk, make the risk. Face danger and fight it off. Walpurgis turned out that way. “

Some of them nodded, remembering the story of how the Knights of Walpurgis came to light, before becoming official DeathEaters, before doing the bidding of Lord Voldemort despite destroying their own lives and their families’.

“ You know what? “ Warrington began. “ You remind me of your father…”

Draco paused. The muscles of his jaw hardened. “ Really now, “ he said in a soft voice. It was difficult to keep face, when everyone saw him as Lucius number two, now. “ I’m better than him. “

It seemed that everyone liked his reply since they smiled or nodded, even Blaise let out a smile of praise. Everyone wanted to be better than their fallen or failed parents. Draco wanted to be better, even though he didn’t really want it- but the urge was great. He had to be better than his father. It was a test of endurance, a test of intellect, the temptation of pride was too great to resist, and all of them found reasons to be better than the others, be better than their parents and be better for Lord Voldemort.

Draco felt trapped. He was swimming in something he knew he couldn’t swim away from. It was like swimming in a tank, with his mother as shark bait on one side and Hermione and the rest of them as crocodile delicacy on the other side. But something good had come out of their attack at the New Vaults…Hermione was alive! She was breathing! He had kissed her, embraced her! He had said three words he had wanted to say for so long! Was it the right moment, even! But she was alive! It was what mattered. Hermione was alive…as long as she stayed alive, Draco was glad to die for her, glad to hurt for her just to see her breathing, just to know she was there, far away from his touch, but close enough in his mind…

“ Of course you’re better than your father, “ Blaise said. “ I have faith in you, even up to now. No matter how different we are at times. “

“ No matter how much you want me dead? “ Draco raised a brow.

“ I don’t want you dead, “ Blaise rebuffed. “ Well…I did before. But I’ve seen the error in that judgment. Now we work together with trust. All of us... “

Daphne wanted to strangle Blaise after hearing those words. She clenched her teeth, almost hearing them grind together. The damned hypocrite! How she wanted Blaise suffering before her! How she imagined Lord Voldemort punishing him for all his hypocrisies and pathetic efforts! He had done nothing! Nothing at all!

They began discussing in low voices, with occasional laughter, despite the seriousness prevailing.

“ I feel strangely compelled to call you my brothers-in-arms, “ Blaise said with a laugh. “ We have been through a lot of shit, after all. “

“ Yes, we have, “ Nott said good-naturedly. “ Good shit and bad shit. “

“ Bad shit is more I like it, “ Daphne thought, eyeing Blaise with a repulsed look. She bit her lower lip hard that she could almost taste blood. But there was good shit now, of course. Just a few more hours…she could feel the excitement rushing through her like a bad drink gone well inside her system. She could feel the honor, the rewards, and the touch of the Master once he was whole and human in form again, with god-like power…she would see once and for all the greatness that was Tom Marvolo Riddle…

“ Well…we’re done here. You all know where, right? “ Draco asked them. “ And say- send your goodbyes to the people that have meant something to you…” he finally said, with a slight hesitation.

They all nodded.

Lord Voldemort, Theodore Nott thought grimly, here we come…

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Pansy was busy leafing through Witch Weekly’s, wondering what perfect color would represent her in the ball she was planning. Marko had been quite busy lately, and she was dying to know why- but somehow, he remained detached on that matter. Marko entered the bedroom they shared together and she looked up. He was dressed all in black.

“ Where are you going? “ she asked with a raised brow.

“ Work, darling. “

“ At this time of the night? “ she queried, raising her brow even more.

He nodded. “ We’re having a row with the English Aurors. Apparently, they’ve been meddling into the Bulgarian Auror’s affairs. “

Her mouth pouted. “ Really now, “ she said licking her lower lip. “ What color do you think would be good as the dominant theme for the Halloween ball? “

He did not answer her. Instead he was busy adjusting his coat; it seemed he was busy NOT listening to her. Her mouth became ugly. She stood up from the love chair. “ You’re not even listening to me. “

He gave her a quick smile. “ Darling, I have a lot of things in my head, I’m really sorry. I know the ball will turn out great- you’ll turn out great, no matter what color you choose. “

She felt the threads of her patience go loose. Something was wrong. He was not telling her something. And she had so wanted to tell him something…something that could change the way she looked at life, something that could change how she saw Marko…change how she saw Draco…

“ Marko- “

“ I’ll be back, Pansy, “ he said as he kissed her on the lips. His lips remained on hers for awhile, and Pansy felt the hairs on her nape rise.

“ Will you be back soon? “ she asked, the pitch of her voice changing to a softer one.

His gaze at hers lingered for awhile. Then he nodded. “ Of course. “ Of course not. But he could not tell her, for he did not want her to worry, or get into a business not for her. He knew his wife didn’t love him the way he loved her. But he tried his best. Once or twice, he had heard Pansy murmur in her sleep ‘Draco’. And he felt crushed. But that was the way things were. He had been the best replacement for Draco. And still he loved Pansy.

And Pansy felt that somehow- he was lying to her. She had never felt that helpless and vulnerable in all her married life.

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Lupin was in the living room, placing on his dragon hide boots. His family was asleep, and he had not chosen to tell his wife that tonight was the night where the Deatheaters planned to have Voldemort resurrected. He heard a little noise.

He looked up and saw no one at the staircase. But he knew that someone was there. “ Sirius? What are you doing awake? “

His son slowly came out of his hiding place, his hair a flaming red tonight, as opposed to the bright blue earlier at dinner when he was making his parents laugh. “ Da? Where are you going? I couldn’t sleep…” his voice trailed off.

“ Work, “ he replied quickly. “ You should be in bed by now; you should have been asleep a long time ago. “

“ Da- “ Sirius began. “ Are you going away on a mission? “

Lupin reached out his hand. “ Come here, Sirius. “

Sirius slowly walked up to his father. “ Da- I don’t want you to go…”

Lupin smiled. It was painful- it was hard. Would he live to see his family again? Would he live to see his son grow up? Be an Auror? Be a wizard? Marry and have children? He had kissed his wife as she lay sleeping. He had not told her anything. She had not shown any sign that she had known during dinner time. She was happy chatting away, changing her hair color to make Sirius laugh.

“ I’ll be back soon, “ Lupin finally said. He hugged his little boy tightly. “ You do know Da loves you very much right? You do know Da would do anything to protect you and your mum right? “

“ You love mum too? You wouldn’t do anything to hurt her? “

Lupin shook his head. “ I love your mum very much. I wouldn’t want her to cry- I don’t want her hurt. It’s just that daddy has a lot of things to do. But I want you to be good while I’m gone, eat your veggies and don’t give your mum a hard time, like refusing to do your homework? “

Sirius shook his head earnestly. His young mind was trying to understand what his Da was saying. He felt that his Da was saying goodbye.

“ Da- “ he began. “ I got five stars today. The teacher said my stag was very good. “

Lupin kissed his son’s head. “ That’s good to know, Sirius. You’re always my little genius. “ And without meaning to, he felt a tear escape the corner of his eye.

From the upstairs, Tonks was listening to the entire hushed conversation. She was leaning against the banisters, hugging herself as she felt tears spill onto her cheeks.

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A chilly air lingered, as it always did. It was a few minutes before twelve midnight, and they were quiet, as quiet as the night. Who would have known? That in this night, in this seemingly ordinary night, would spark a new fear in the hearts of wizards everywhere? They were on high alert, the American Aurors, the other European Aurors; even the Asian Aurors were called in for alert. But only the English Aurors felt the deep peril that was slowly rising out of the heavy fog that was engulfing the area.

They had Aurors in Little Hangleton, had Aurors near the homes of the Malfoys, Zabini’s, Greengrass’s and even had a few Aurors in Europe closely guarding the activities of the Sarovic’s. Ron had kissed his parents that night and hugged his mother tightly. It had been at dinner time, and Hermione had joined them for dinner, she was playing with little Philip, getting pointers from an over enthusiastic Fleur, who was convinced she was going to be a good mother, despite her not finding Mr. Right yet. They had a barrel of laughs, from the Twins antics, to Philip’s burping…

And Ron somehow felt he would not see them again, be in this happy moment again- that he wouldn’t get to taste his mother’s minced meat pies, or scold Ginny for being too vocal of her opinions, or hear his father rave of how jolly good muggle inventions were…Ron knew that Hermione knew about the whole plan the Aurors had, despite her not being there during their meeting.

Ginny had spoken to him earlier, as they were helping out with dinner. She had approached him as he was picking out apples in the little orchard they had for their mother’s apple pie. Suddenly Ginny had hugged him tightly, with tears in her eyes.

“ Ron? Come back in one piece, okay? “ she had whispered.

Ron stood there, shocked and all, but he slowly nodded, hoping that his nod would turn out to be true. “ What makes you think I won’t-? “

She shrugged and sniffled. “ Knowing you…just- just come back alive. “

Hermione had eyed Ron as they were having coffee in the garden. The men of the family were discussing the events that had happened so far…the attacks and the rumored rising of the most feared wizard…Both of them felt that this was their last supper…

Hermione was thinking: I’ve never gone this far before…I thought the fight we had while Harry was still alive against Lord Voldemort topped it all off…how was I to know it would come to this? That I would lose Harry and find him in Draco? Was it right to love Draco, when I knew that Harry’s heart was in him? And now…now…we all feel…all of us Aurors think that the Deatheaters are taking advantage of Draco’s heart- no- Harry’s heart…wait…Draco’s heart…oh god, Draco! I still love him…I still love you! No matter how painful it is…I can’t keep denying you! You’re not Harry! You’re Draco! I’ve fallen for Draco, Draco Malfoy...

Ron was thinking: Damn it! How do I stop all this! Harry…what the hell…I wish you were alive right now…to ease my fear and Hermione’s pain and…and just help us stop all this! What would I have done if I were you? Would I wait? Follow Professor Lupin’s hunch? You were always so good at figuring things out, no matter how far flung they all seemed…It doesn’t seem like a fair fight….they know us…we don’t know them too well…they’ve been too good…they’ve learned from their mistakes- their predecessor’s mistakes…and now…Draco is the horcrux? How do you kill him without hurting Hermione? I didn’t tell Professor Lupin everything…I must be a fool…I’m keeping secrets from my own team leader…but Hermione…friends first…that’s what Harry would have done…who the hell am I kidding...

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Theodore Nott had never felt more serious in all his youthful life. Draco had said words he never thought would get to him. Yes…how do you say goodbye to someone you cared for? Loved? Did he even feel it? Never….not once…well….there was this one time…he shook his head and tried to collect his emotions. It was not love, was it? Could it have been love? Daphne was in love with Draco Malfoy, not Theodore Nott. He didn’t look as dashing as Draco, nor was he as charming as Blaise. His coffers were not over flowing with gold and jewels, either. He shook his head for the nth time that he was alone in his house.

How do you say goodbye to Daphne Greengrass? How do you tell her you love her, the first time you felt something like that in your entire life? Leave a letter? Address your entire will to her when she had more than what you could offer?

He had done something unthinkable before- he had given Hermione something he never thought he would. It was now up to Hermione if she would use it or not- if she would figure out what it was for…. It had been that day he had gone to Borgin and Burkes…bought something insignificant to the ordinary eye- but he knew what it was for…Draco had a chance to live- he had never done something for someone else before…but he had seen something in Draco’s love for Hermione that kindled a fire in his heart…he had not even told Draco that….he had not been entirely honest to his coven. He had read some areas of Snape’s journal without telling anyone else, not even Draco. He had wanted to have the upper hand against all of them…have more rewards from the Master than anyone else in his coven. He was selfish, in a way. Typical Slytherin trait. And it bothered him somehow.

He walked up to an old jewelry box and took out something with two of his fingers. It shone in the light of the candles. He kissed it and kept it quickly inside his robes.

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Blaise stood in his trophy room, holding a glass of fire whisky in one hand, as his eyes roamed around the strange room he had felt comfortable in since he was small, since his real father was still alive. Yes…how do you say goodbye to Daphne? He felt a strange sensation in his loins…the need to exercise his virility- the need to show to Daphne why he was far better than Draco Malfoy, in bed and out of it. He had thought of killing Daphne, so that no one could take her away from him…maybe he should ask for the Master’s assistance or advice on that matter…

His mother was another thing. She was like a dream that flitted in and out of his life, leaving Blaise, in his younger years alone with a house elf or with relatives Blaise liked to snub a lot. Blaise had learned to be independent very young and he had not regretted being alone most of his life. He had always thought that it was loneliness that made one stronger, and had always put into mind that the Master became strong through being alone.

It had been years since Hogwarts, but Blaise never forgot the girl that had stirred lust inside of him, and that was Daphne. There was an aura of power and determination around her, coupled with her sultry looks. And he hated the idea that she seemed to like Draco more than him. Blaise was confident that their ritual would go uninterrupted, and that power would be his in a few minutes time.

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Draco was alone for a moment, writing a letter to his mother as she lay sleeping in her own room. He had done enchantments to seal his mother in, for the seals would only be broken once he was done with his task. He was in his room. He paused for a moment to recollect the events prior to him coming to his room. How was he going to do this?

How do you say goodbye to someone you love?

He held the fine feathered quill, its hues changing from green to violet to a fiery red under the glow of the candles…he stared at the empty piece of parchment and frowned. Even in a letter. It was never easy…he dipped the quill into the golden bottle of black ink and began to write to his mother:



~

October 31, 2005

Mother,

When you awake, you will find me long gone and my task completed. I apologize for having had to put you to sleep- I had to mother, for I want you unharmed and alive. I have sensed that you have feared that I would become like the man you married, for I am his son, after all. Sadly mother, I have become somewhat like him…and I know I cannot turn back. If I had to turn back- I would have escaped this a long time ago and I would have not allowed it to go this far.

I hold an unbearable curse, mother, that of Harry’s heart- that of me being the horcrux and I know I should have told you about the latter, but I could not. It’s both pride and the need to see you safe. And yes, Hermione’s included in that need. For I love her mother, for the first time, I truly loved without fear, without regret, without father’s voice; screaming that I should not, for my bloodline’s sake.

I am caught mother; I am caged between this temptation of power and the need to live to see you safe for the moment. You’ve told Lupin of my activities, I know, no matter how much you hide it, and I cannot blame you. I am humbled by the love you have given me, your concern to keep me safe. Live for me, for I know I won’t. Love for me, for I feel I will no longer have the opportunity to do so. Thank you so much for everything…

Draco

~



Draco felt a sense of triumph and a sense of sadness with that finished letter. One down, one more to go…he melted candle wax over the envelope and placed his stamp over it. The Malfoy crest shone in the lights. Yes, one down, one more to go…

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A/N: yep! down with chappie 35! Basically this chappie dealt with emotions and goodbyes. I only used a few characters, basically those that have bigger backgrounds in HP canon. what's instore for the next chapter? even more exciting, i assure you! if you haven't noticed...there hasn't been much muggle interaction or muggle things (like Vogue, jaguar...)...will there be more soon? hehe

Oh yeah, i didn't upload for a long time, hoping more might discover this fic. i'm quite afraid that it isn't good enough for most of the fanfic readers. i hope i am proved wrong. it's just a bit frustrating to know you've tried your best and still it seems to lack.

Chapter 36: Heart of the enemy in the form of a servant...
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Lupin sniffed the air with his fine nose. He had caught the scent of wizards. Although he did not know just where, exactly... He had hoped his hunch would be right. No matter how many times they had checked the old Riddle manor before…the other Aurors had dismissed the place, but he had taken along some Aurors with him just in case. Almost everyone was sure that the Deatheaters would be captured whilst performing it in Zabini’s or Daphne’s mansion. So Lupin took only a handful of his team, including Hermione and Ron and good old Kingsley Shacklebolt (who was happy to be out of retirement momentarily).

It was a cold night, and he was glad it was far from the full moon.

He missed his family already. He had spent the last few minutes in his home, reading little Sirius a story. As soon as Sirius fell asleep, he sneaked into the bedroom he and Tonks shared and kissed her lightly, so as not to wake her. But Tonks was awake, and she closed her eyes tighter after she heard his footsteps fade away. This was the way it had to be. No more rash actions of love. Little Sirius needed her…

Someone coughed. Sirius looked at Ron. His eyes had been darting back and forth for quite some time. “ Nervous? “ he asked.

Ron grinned. “ Is it that obvious? “

There was muffled laughter.

“ Well, “ Kingsley began. He laughed, unable to continue. “ I’ve never seen Ronald Weasley apprehensive before. You were always so heated up and ready to go. “

“ I’m not! “ he retorted.

“ You think you’re controlled? “ Hermione’s brow rose.

“ Fine, “ he pouted. “ And it’s not like I do it all the time! “

Hermione shook her head, a sudden image of Draco flowing into her head. What was wrong with her? She was an Auror for Merlin’s sake! He was a Deatheater! An enemy to the wizarding populace! He had to be stopped! But there was no stopping his image in her head.

“ Hermione- “ Ron began, touching her shoulder.

She looked up and smiled tightly.

“ It’ll be okay, “ he said softly.

“ You think? “ she whispered.

Ron nodded. Saying ‘yes’ would mean overconfidence, saying ‘no’ would mean weakness. All he could do was nod, for he himself was nervous- he felt it would be more than a battle between the Aurors and Deatheaters, it would mean a battle of supremacy, of wits, of love (for Hermione, perhaps) and of life.

Hermione bit her lower lip, trying to assure herself that all would go well, that in the event that she would face Draco again, she would do her best- be at her best, to destroy the Deatheaters, and perhaps (even though her mind hated to entertain it) kill Draco in the process. His actions had caused many casualties and chaos in the wizarding community. In the end, this was her path and that was his. They were never meant to be together, because if they were meant to be together, then fate wouldn’t have acted too harshly on them. But fate was harsh, life was harsher, and Hermione dealing with the present was much like dealing with her past. Her past was dead, and now her present was fading. No matter how much she wanted him- needed him, Draco was still an adversary. He chose the side that would bring him to his fall.

“ Ron- if I see him- “ she began, after Lupin and Kingsley and the others talked as they faced the village of Hangleton. “ I- “

“ Just- just be strong. “

“ Strong? “ she said with a frown. “ I suppose I am. Only when he’s not there…I weaken- “

“ No, “ Ron said. “ Never use that idiom on yourself. You survived the ordeal years ago. You will survive this one too. “

“ Ron- I can’t stand to see another one killed- I can’t see Draco dead. That would mean that I’m the unluckiest girl in England- “ she gave a short, shaky laugh. A confirmation that she felt more than anxiety…

Ron gulped. This was hard. He knew it was hard. But- did they have a choice? Did she have a choice? Did Draco have a choice? “ Would you- in case…” his voice trailed off.

Hermione stared at him. “ I’ll- I’ll do it. “

“ You sure? “ Ron asked.

She nodded halfheartedly. Oh god, would she do it?

“ It’s taking long… “ Lupin murmured.

“ Maybe- “ Hermione began. “ Maybe it’s not here- “

“ Could be, “ Lupin said. “ I just checked with our coordinates awhile ago. The Malfoy manor’s quiet but the Greengrass and Zabini mansion have shown signs of activity. They had Aurors stationed at the graveyard too, just in case.

“ Look, “ Ron whispered, pointing for the Riddle mansion. A spark of red was seen from one broken window.

“ Let’s hope this is right, “ Lupin muttered. It had to be. They couldn’t be wrong. Could they?

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A few minutes before three in the morning.

Cold and foggy.

The perfect time to resurrect the one who would put an end to all this madness and create a new world for the wizards.

It was almost time, Nott mused as he sat on a grave stone. He looked below and read what he had sat on. It said: Thomas Deadman. He almost laughed out loud. It sure was befitting to his name. He sniffed the cold air and smelled fresh grass and the damp earth. He felt it was going to rain soon. But rain did not matter. Nothing else mattered except what they were about to do. He eyed Daphne and felt a surge of hope that there was a possibility he could love, after all.

Daphne’s eyes darted back and forth as they waited for the last of their group to arrive. Draco was running nearly late, she thought as she eyed the faintly glowing circle in front of her. On the ground, visible only to the observant eye, was a circle that glowed red, large enough to accommodate ten people around it. There was another circle inside of it, smaller, of course, that still glowed red- but strangely had hints of green as the full moon’s rays hit it once in awhile. She saw Blaise eyeing the circle and thought that once she was through with this, she could get away from him, without fear.

Blaise knew that this was the perfect moment to call on the Master. They had exercised the ritual many times in their heads, and Blaise had known by then, that they were invincible against the forces of the Aurors. They had successfully led the Aurors’ attention away from this vicinity to ensure that there would be no disturbance whatsoever to the highly delicate ceremony. His eyes came to Daphne for a second. After this, she would be his…he’d find a way…

Marko Sarovic had just arrived, his cloak rustling against the breeze. He greeted the hooded Deatheaters with a nod, and chose an area comfortable to him. He stood in silence, fiddling with his wand once in awhile, thinking about Pansy the whole time. With this assured ceremony, perhaps…Pansy would see him in a different light. Draco would be gone by then.

Draco arrived as quietly as the air. He nodded to the others. He had felt nauseous and weak all of a sudden as he stood in the graveyard, facing the rest of the Deatheaters. This was it. The dreaded night had finally come. He wished he could have kissed his mother goodbye- he didn’t have the heart to…he wished he could have told Hermione everything…he wished…everything was wishing. He shook his head. What mattered was here and now. Nothing else…

“ Were there interruptions? “ Draco asked.

Blaise nodded. “ No worry. Those aurors have been taken care of already. “ He smiled at the memory of casting a Cruciatus at one of the four Aurors assigned in the graveyard by the ministry.

“ Finished them off? “ Draco queried.

“ Left them for dead, “ Blaise said plainly.

Slowly and without further talk, the complete group of nine walked for their respective places in the circle. Draco flicked his wand and a large cauldron appeared before him, already filled with boiling water, a fire playing beneath it.

Blaise eyed Theodore Nott. “ Bring it forth, “ he said in a low voice.

Theodore Nott nodded and stepped near the cauldron and took off something from his robe. It was a black velvet bag and he pulled out the hilt of the large, shiny dagger, its handle gleaming with three silver snakes with emerald eyes, glowing near the fire.

Daphne stepped forward and laid out the box for Voldemort’s wand. It was resting inside, its power waiting to be unleashed once more by the hand everyone feared. She shivered a bit as she placed it down near the cauldron.

“ We begin, “ Draco said in a hollow voice, almost unlike his own. He suddenly felt that his father’s spirit was seeping into his own heart- his own body…

They all took out their wands and placed it in front of their chests, the tips of their wands in front of their faces.

Theodore Nott cleared his throat as he held the journal that had started it all with one hand. “ Tonight is the night, where the lord awakens from sleep- let the ritual be done with the sacrifices called for…” He nodded for Crabbe’s direction.

“ Ashes of the father- “ Nott whispered. “ Unknowingly given... you will renew your son. “

Crabbe took out a bottle filled with ashes and poured it slowly into the cauldron without much ceremony. The water in the cauldron glowed in strange gray. It hissed for awhile and they could hear some agonizing scream far away. Was it their imagination?

“ Flesh of the servant, willingly sacrificed- “ Nott said. “ You will revive your master. “

Blaise stood forward and took out a dagger from his own robes. He raised the dagger high and it glinted in the moonlight. “ So shall it be, “ he whispered, unflinching. He cut off a finger from his left hand with one swift motion, seemingly oblivious to the pain, only seeing the cauldron and nothing more.

“ Remnants of the wand, source of thy power, “ Nott said. “ You will help your master. “

Daphne stepped forward and dropped the entire wand of Lord Voldemort’s into the cauldron of boiling red and green. A sudden flame of green shot into the sky, forming into a snake and disappearing afterwards.

“ Heart of the enemy in the form of a servant, “ Theodore Nott paused as Draco walked for the cauldron…

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“ It’s not here! “ Kingsley said in shock as he fought off a dark hooded wizard. “ This isn’t them! “ He was referring to a group of more than ten, pawns of the Deatheaters, willing to sacrifice themselves for Lord Voldemort.

A blast of red hurled for Lupin and he narrowly missed it, firing a successful hex at another wizard.

“ Damn it! “ Ron shouted, hiding behind an old chest. His eyes searched for Hermione and he saw her behind an old couch, avoiding the shower of hexes. How could they have been so wrong! They were almost sure- damn it! They were outmaneuvered! “ Where the hell were they!

“ Professor! “ Ron yelled. “ We were- “

“ I know, Ron! “ Lupin yelled back, rolling on the floor and standing once more.

Hermione’s heart pounded. If it was not here- she recalled the night Harry had been transported from the Triwizard Tournament to the graveyard….the graveyard! The graveyard! Merlin’s blood! How could they have been so misled! “ Professor! “ she cried out, hurling a hex as she did. “ They’re in the graveyard! The graveyard! “

Lupin nodded, intending to finish this quick. But it was difficult. The pawns they had sent were trained to stop them at all costs, using unforgivable curses, one after another, hexes only dark magicians used-

“ Kingsley- “ Lupin yelled, catching his attention. They both leaned against an old table, fallen side ways. “ They’re in the graveyard! “

“ What’s the next thing- “

“ Can you hold this place for a bit? They should have contacted us! “ he said through the noise of things breaking and people screaming.

“ They’re down! “ Kingsley said as he shot another hex and faced Lupin again. “ I’ll hold down the fort for a bit. How many are down? “ A bruise was forming around one eye and his bald head was sweating and bleeding.

Lupin shook his head. “ I’ll leave two here, I’m taking Hermione and Ron with me. Can you handle that? “

“ You’re asking me that? “ Kingsley grinned as he stood up. “ Go! Go! “ He shot out hex after hex as Lupin nodded for Hermione and Ron’s direction and they nodded back. They disappeared after a few seconds.

Kingsley raised his wand, but his spell stopped in the roof of his mouth. Something was coming out of the darkness…something everyone had thought had been destroyed after the supposed fall of Voldemort…Dementors!

“ Dementors! “ an Auror gasped. “ Sir Kingsley! “

Kingsley felt his insides grow cold as more of them came out of the fog. They began gliding slowly, not minding the other pawns the Deatheaters used. They could smell…feel more life in those Aurors…one of the Aurors started shaking terribly.

“ Expecto Patronum! “ Kingsley’s voice boomed out. ‘ Pull yourself together, young Aurors! “

A burst of silver and blue shot out, strong enough to protect Kingsley and his Aurors. A vivid shape of his patronus took place, signifying the strength of his spell. He hoped it would pull them through…

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There was a soft pop, and they had arrived. The hundred something year old graveyard was eerily quiet. Could they really be here? Was the ritual here? The three of them hoped that this was the right place- that Hermione’s intuition was right…

Lupin and Ron went forward and heard the distinct noise of wood crackling in fire. They were here! Hermione followed closely…her heart was pounding in fear and the urge to stop it all. And then she saw Draco…and her heart stopped as he walked in the center of the circle.

“ Heart of the enemy in the form of a servant, “ Theodore Nott began. “ Blood of the enemy in the form of a servant…you will let your master live once more- “ And Blaise stepped forward and bent down to take the dagger inside of the black cloth that covered it.

Draco stood straight as a spear as Blaise lifted the bejeweled dagger. His eyes glinted as did the dagger. One more step before the ritual would be complete.

Hermione’s eyes widened. And suddenly, she ran out from where she hid and aiming her wand at Blaise, she screamed, “ Expelliarmus! “

“ Hermione! “ Ron screamed, too late to stop her.

A burst of energy shot forward, hitting Blaise’s back, causing him to drop the dagger to the ground. What ensued next was chaos and Hermione saw Draco’s eyes for a split second- a mixture of shock and anger….Blaise stood up with rage in his eyes, and he took out his wand and started shouting hexes out, as did the others.

“ Damn it, Hermione! “ Ron said through gritted teeth as the tombstone he was hiding near to blasted into smithereens. “ Impedimenta! “ Why Hermione! Why did you have to be so-!

Draco shook his head, still overcome with his shock. How many Aurors were there? Why was Hermione here! Only her stubbornness could be made culprit! His eyes darted around, searching for her figure amongst the smoke and fire and spells that were cast. “ Where are you! “ he said through gritted teeth. He wanted her alive! Alive! Not here! Safe and alive!

Blaise saw Draco alone and he ran for him and pushed him roughly into a mausoleum, his eyes ablaze with rage and everything else that came with it. Amidst the noise, Blaise was screaming at him and Draco tried to concentrate, but Hermione was the only thing in his mind now.

Blaise wanted to kill Draco. He pushed Draco roughly against cold marble. “ You son-of-a-bitch! “ he shouted, clutching his wand and placing the tip close to Draco’s heart. “ You betrayed the coven! You placed us on their alert! You son-of-a- “

“ I did not! “ Draco shouted back, his own wand fisted in one palm. “ What for! I will not gain anything out of it! “

“ Your whore is destroying the ritual! “ Blaise shook Draco’s shoulder’s roughly. “ She’s going to destroy everything we’ve planned-! “

“ She is of no concern to me! “ Draco pushed Blaise away from him angrily.

“ I heard that from your own lips. We finish this battle and I want to see you personally kill that bitch! “ Blaise was screaming now, as a rain of chunks of marble came down upon them.

“ Done! “ Draco said, his silvery eyes blazing with grit.

Blaise ran out first to join in the bedlam once more.

Draco stood inside the dark mausoleum for a few seconds, his heart pounding painfully. What had he done! He had sworn…Hermione…god! He wanted to slap her- shake her roughly on why she had been so stupid to come out to stop the ritual! Hermione…why! Clenching his fists, he ran out to greet the pain that was about to fall on them all.

He was greeted by a near hit- something that shone like blue. It struck a tombstone, turning it into dust. The dust lingered, adding to the thick fog that was already forming. He felt his lower lip tick with pain. He looked down at his shirt and saw blood and when he looked up, he saw Daphne, brandishing her wand at him. His eyes widened, torn with pain and loyalty. “ Daphne- why? “

“ Draco,” her voice choked. “ I have to hurt you! I have to set things right! You can’t kill Hermione, can you! Can you! “ she cried. And she turned her back as Draco stumbled to the moist grass, in physical and emotional agony. He felt his abdomen tearing him apart; his head was swimming from the pain. A double Sectumsempra…the spell that had hurt him back in Hogwarts…when Harry was casting it himself…

Daphne bit back her tears as she searched for Hermione in the fog that never seemed to lift. They were lost, in a sea of haze and spells and the scent of blood and burning skin heightened. She had thought it would be easy, to hurt someone she so looked up to. But Hermione had arrived, and Hermione and her crew were going to destroy everything! She still had a love to live for! Draco would never have the courage to kill Hermione! She would do it herself and end it all!

Hermione coughed as she stood up after successfully knocking Gregory Goyle out. How more were there! And it was painful to her ego- that they be defeated by Deatheaters their age, that there was only the three of them, against 8- most likely, if they had not yet been killed or injured badly by Lupin and Ron. She had last seen Ron limping as he fired hex after hex. She spun around and saw a body on the ground, the golden hair glistening in the faint light. Draco! She crawled for him, determined to reach him, determined to use the fog as her cover. She held his hand as soon as he was in her reach, and he did not give any recognition. She turned him over, her fears gripping her breathing. “ Draco, “ she whispered, cradling his upper body. “ Please- wake up? “

His eyes fluttered open and he saw a muddled image of the girl he loved so much…Hermione? He was alert now, and he sat down quickly, wincing in the pain of his fresh wounds. His eyes widened even more, seeing her beautiful face full of dirt and blood and pain.

She muttered a few spells and his wounds slowly closed up.

“ Hermione, “ he croaked. “ Get out of here! “ he shook her by the shoulders. “ They want you dead! Get out of here! I’ll hold them back! “

“ I can’t! “ she replied, embracing him tighter than she ever had. “ I can’t stand to be away from you- “ She slipped something over his neck, and it felt a bit heavy, but he did not seem to mind it.

“ Get it in your stubborn head! You have to get out of here! We’re all going to die here! Voldemort’s not taking chances- I can feel it! Blaise is out for your skin! So is- “

“ Daphne Greengrass, darling, “ a sultry voice interrupted.

They both looked up, and saw Daphne Greengrass, her hair and clothes in disarray, with a wand over their heads. “ How would you like her death, Draco? Painful or quick? “

Draco pushed Hermione behind him as he slowly stood up. “ Don’t include her in this- “

“ She stopped the ritual! The Master should have been alive by now! Why her, Draco! A mudblood! “ her mouth twisted into a cruel smile. “ I take it as painful then? Incendio! “ A burst of fire hit Draco squarely in the chest, causing Draco and Hermione to lose grip of their wands. Her wand turned to Hermione. “ Crucio! “

“ No! “ Draco yelled out. “ Daphne! “

Hermione fell to the ground, feeling the rapid buildup of fire inside her; the pain was suddenly becoming white-hot. She gave a scream that she did not realize was hers. It shot out everywhere, and it was sharp, blunt and stabbing all at the same time. She had never known that her body could experience such pain. She was dying. It was painful to die this way! “ Stop! “ she cried. “ Stop it! “ But it would not stop. No one could make it stop. And everything around her became blurred. She was too absorbed in the pain that was wracking her body.

Draco reached for his wand and just as he held the handle, a sharp spell hit his hand, causing him to recoil from it. He looked sideways, it was Blaise. “ You son-of-a- “

“ Bitch! “ Blaise shouted. “ You traitor! “ He eyed Daphne and gave a smug smile at Draco once more. “ Daphne…I told you that we should’ve gone ahead with that plan of seeing Draco dead- “

“ Shut up! “ she screamed, pointing her wand at Blaise now, as Blaise had his wand at Draco’s chest. “ Draco- believe me…I- I never intended to hurt you, Draco…but it just had to be this way! Don’t you see Draco? Our name has to be redeemed-“

“ Just shut up with the drama! “ Blaise snapped angrily. “ Kill her off! The coward can’t do it himself! He swore to earlier- “

“ Blaise- damn it! “ Draco’s voice was trembling now as he watched Hermione thrash in pain, on the grass, in the fog. She was crying, screaming incoherently. Her eyes kept rolling up and down- “ Stop it, Daphne! “ he cried out, begging.

Daphne shook her head shakily and then she collapsed all of a sudden, and out of the fog, Ron appeared, his wand now at Blaise’s throat. “ Don’t move, you bastard! “ he growled. “ You’re the only ones left! “

“ I’m not so sure about that, “ Blaise sneered as he kept staring at Ron’s glowing wand. Ron kept eyeing Hermione’s figure as he eyed Blaise like a hawk. “ Malfoy! Is she alright! “ he asked in a tight voice, seeing Hermione curled up in a ball.

Draco ran for her, his own wound opening up again- but he was oblivious to the pain. He rolled her over and saw her pale face, tear-streaked and blood streaked. She was breathing, thank Merlin! “ Hermione- “ he whispered, shaking slightly. She coughed up blood, to his horror, and he began to say every healing charm he could think of. He saw Hermione’s wand on the ground and without a second thought, he placed it inside Hermione’s robes.

“ It’s not over yet, “ Blaise hissed at Ron. “ Draco’s still in our strings- his mother is our insurance- he’s just been momentarily preoccupied- “

“ You shut the feck up! “

A spell shot out and Ron formed a shield quickly, blinded by the hex- stumbled to the ground. Blaise stood beside Nott. Theodore Nott was still strong enough to fight him off.

“ Took you long enough, “ Blaise spat out.

Nott didn’t say anything; his eyes were focused on Hermione and Draco. Draco…he nodded at Draco and pointed his wand to Ron. “ Sorry, old chap. I’ve never had much of a liking for redheads, you know, “ he said. “ Avada- “

Nott yelped as his wand was blasted off from his hand. His hand bled profusely, and he glared at the new comer. Professor Lupin! Blaise had his wand’s tip facing Lupin.

“ That’s right, Blaise, “ Lupin said calmly. “ Kill me if you must, but before you do kill me- I have something to show you- regarding how careless Nott may be at times…” And Lupin held up a little black notebook, and Nott gave out a gasp.

“ You arse! “ Blaise screamed at Nott.

Nott glared at Blaise, but that was all he could do.

“ Gentlemen, care for an exchange? “ Lupin began. “ I’m open for negotiations. This little black notebook that belonged to Snape, as I would presume- for Miss Granger and Mister Malfoy. “

Blaise gave a hollow laugh. “ Do you think we’re that thick? Hermione Granger is as good as dead; Draco is as good as dead. Did you not know? “

Lupin’s eyes narrowed. “ Know what? “

“ He does not know! “ Blaise said mockingly. “ The poor bastard doesn’t know shit! Draco fucking Malfoy is the horcrux! “ Blaise was laughing louder now, and Nott just kept staring at Draco, who was holding Hermione’s limp body in his arms.

Lupin’s heart pounded. So his speculations had been correct? Even Hermione did not know! What now! Ron looked at Lupin, panic starting to grow in his eyes. Still Lupin wanted to play calm. “ Come now, just because we do not know, does it make us less than you are? What if Draco won’t push through? He’s been betrayed enough by Miss Greengrass- “

Nott glared at Draco now. Daphne! What did she do to Draco! What did she get herself into! And Nott saw Blaise turn around, picking Daphne roughly up from the ground. “ Stop it! “ Nott yelled to Blaise.

Blaise shook Daphne with one hand. “ What did you do! Did you betray us! I wanted Draco to kill Hermione and not you! “

She was sobbing now, from the humiliation and pain. “ He couldn’t do it! I could have done it! Let go of me you- “

“ Let her go Blaise! “ Nott said.

“ I won’t! “ Blaise looked at Nott. “ So this is how it’s going to be? Months of planning- blood sacrifice? And we all just betray each other with personal issues! Draco- you’d better work with us- your mother’s life is in my hands! “

Draco started. “ What the hell did you- “

“ Simple. I rigged your entire house. Kill me and you’ll see your mum explode with the rest of the Malfoy manor! “ Blaise replied. “ Now let go of your mudblood whore and get this ritual going! WE were so close, Draco! So close to glory- to supremacy! Make him live Draco! We’ll find a way to keep you alive! “

“ Don’t ever hurt my mother, or anyone else. Let Hermione go free and unhurt. You have my word, “ Draco finally uttered.

Theodore Nott stared still, as his wand still pointed to Lupin’s face. He saw Draco’s face looking defeated- how was this going to be? Would Blaise just let her go? He ran for Daphne, who was shaking as she knelt beside Blaise.

Blaise nodded. “ Take her, “ he said to Ron, his wand at his side now, as Lupin stayed alert and on guard with his wand. “ We don’t need the notebook anyway. Nott’s taken care of everything, Professor Lupin,” he sneered.

And Ron carried Hermione from Draco’s hold, and Draco felt like he didn’t want to let go, because she looked so fragile…and it hurt him to let go of her- He saw Ron’s eyes, the empathy, and the upset…the desperation to save him too…

Ron whispered to him, “ We’ll do something…” And he stood up like he had never said anything, under Blaise’s watchful eyes. Lupin had his wand ready…

“ But then again- “ Blaise said. “ I change my mind! “ And Blaise blasted Ron and Lupin off with a hex and Hermione landed at his feet. He looked at Draco with a glare. “ Now, Draco…we proceed? “

Draco’s eyes widened in anger. “ You bastard! You said- “

“ I ‘said’. Past tense. I changed my mind. Now, with your mother and Hermione at my mercy, will you be willing to do it again? “

Draco said nothing. Instead he stepped forward and nodded, despite his mind not telling him to do it.

“ Now, Professor Lupin and Weasley, I’d like you to yield your wands, throw them at my feet. Daphne, be so kind as to stand up, and burn up their wands? “

Daphne stood up unsteadily, as she stared at Blaise with hate in her eyes. Ron and Lupin stared. Never give up your wand…that mantra was gone! Hermione was going to die anytime if they would not.

Hermione’s eyes opened and she groaned as she tried to stand, but Blaise had his heavy boot on her back and she thudded to the ground again. “ Don’t! “ she cried out weakly. “ Don’t you ever, Ron-! “

“ Crucio! “

And she screamed again, and Hermione felt she was being summoned to the fiery pits of hell itself. If this was indeed how hell felt like, she wanted out. Her eyes poured out tears and even the tears burned like hot wire against her skin as she writhed once more like a helpless animal at the mercy of a wolf- or a snake.

“ Stop it! “ Ron cried out. “ Stop it! “

“ Give up the wands-! “

“ Stop it! You bastard-! “

“ Give it up! “ Blaise’s voice thundered.

And Ron threw his wand to the ground, near Blaise’s foot and so did Lupin. Ron’s face was aghast as he saw Hermione shake her head on the wet ground. “ Why? “ she moaned. “ You shouldn’t have- Ron…” Blood was pouring out from a head wound and Ron knew it was terrible.

Draco stood still, unable to make a move, unable to voice out- Hermione…oh god, Blaise wasn’t joking…His heart was hurting more than ever. His breathing was getting difficult.

Daphne stood near the wands and pulled out hers. She raised her wand and muttered a spell that could destroy a wand in an instant. Daphne looked at Lupin and Ron, as if to say sorry. A strong blast echoed out and the area was engulfed with red smoke, causing a few of them to loose their footing.

“ Incarcerous! “ Theodore Nott raised his wand and ropes came out, binding Lupin and Ron separately. Ron and Lupin were knocked to the ground, against iron grills from a mausoleum. Ron’s lower lip bled from the impact. But he was still staring at Hermione. Was she-? No! She couldn’t be! Hermione was a fighter! Never Hermione!

And Lupin saw the remaining Deatheaters stand up, and out of the fog, Marko Sarovic came, limping, with his right shoulder torn open as well. Marko glared at the incapacitated Ron and Lupin and then he smiled. There was hope for Lord Voldemort’s resurrection, afterall.

Lupin’s eyes darted about, trying to figure out what could get them out of this mess. Ron was busy trying to budge his ropes. They were too tight. What would Hermione have done if she didn’t have her wand?

“ Think like a muggle, think like a muggle…” Ron screamed to himself. He inched slowly backwards, towards a fallen piece of iron from the ceiling of a mausoleum. “ Come on, come on! “ he told himself.

The fog had grown thicker. Draco stood near the cauldron, listening to Theodore Nott chant the ritual again, this time, only his words were used. “ Heart of the enemy in the form of a servant, Blood of the enemy in the form of a servant…you will let your master live once more. “

Blaise stepped forward and raised the bejeweled dagger high. “ And so rises the master! “ he said aloud.

Ron watched in horror, so did Lupin. Blood left their faces, and they all wondered why their comrades had taken so long. Where was reinforcement!

A swirl of fog rose higher than the rest, changing its pale color to a darker one, first it became a hazy red, and then it turned into a hazy green. It surrounded the immediate members of the Deatheaters, the remaining Deatheaters. A strong wind picked up, actually making it difficult for Lupin and Ron to sit straight. The robes of the death eaters waved in the night like banners of death as the green fog rose higher than ever, twirling around them as well, like snakes, caressing their faces with the promises of power once the Master rose.

Draco’s heart pounded as he saw the snakes on the dagger twitch. They were coming alive! Even Theodore Nott and the rest present were shocked. The snakes bit into the steel fold of the dagger and it burst into green flame for a second. Blaise could feel his hands trembling, and he fought to keep them steady as he lifted them to the skies.

Draco opened his eyes wide, seeing the blade glint in green, seeing the jeweled snakes hiss, their emerald eyes moving, stealing into his soul. And he felt cold, like his life was slowly draining away. And the dagger came down, as lightning flashed overhead.

There was a scream, a burst of energy so powerful; it knocked everybody off their feet once more. The green haze slowly cleared and Draco’s eyes remained open. He gasped, seeing the dagger’s tip directly on his chest. But he was not bleeding…he was-

“ What the bloody fuck- “ Blaise whispered in shock. He stared at Nott. “ What’s going on! “

Theodore Nott looked in panic. “ I don’t- I don’t know….”

Blaise held the dagger once more and tried to force it through his chest. Suddenly the snakes on the dagger came to life and instead of biting the blade, they lunged steel teeth into Blaise’s own hands. He yelped and let go of the dagger. “ What the hell is happening! “ he screamed.

Daphne picked up Snape’s notebook and started scanning through the pages, her fingers shaking terribly. “ Oh my…Merlin! Oh, god! Oh…where is it! Nott, where is it! Damn it! Where? Where! “

Theodore Nott grabbed the notebook from her as Blaise and Marko continued to force the dagger into Draco’s chest. Daphne and Nott looked up from the notebook. Blaise’s eyes widened. He knew something was terribly wrong.

Ron and Lupin began feverishly slicing off the thick ropes with the jutted iron grills behind them, cutting into their skins, but they worked faster than ever, seeing it as a chance. And just when Ron looked for Hermione, her body on the ground was gone. Quietly, they slipped away, hiding behind large tombstones for the Deatheaters were oblivious to it all, except for their new misfortune.

“ What’s going on! How do we continue! “

“ The pages! They’re no longer showing anything to us! “ Daphne cried out.

“ What the- what do you mean? “ Marko said indignantly. His hands were bleeding from the jeweled snakes’ bites. “ We sacrificed enough for it! What do you mean! “

“ It’s not showing anything! “ Daphne screamed to him in panic. Why! Why did it have to happen! It was perfect! They read it all! They had sacrificed lives for the book and now, they were getting nothing from it!

“ Nott, do something! “ Blaise snapped.

“ I don’t know! We’ve had enough- “

Blaise snatched the book away from his grasp. He forced his earlier cut to bleed again, and it did, but his blood just slipped from the pages of the notebook and onto the foggy ground. “ The bloody- “ Blaise stared at Nott. It was a bad dream…it was a bad dream…something was going on…something had disrupted it.

And Blaise ran for Draco, who was suspended inches from the ground. “ What charm are you playing with, Draco! “ he shook him. “ Tell me! “

He shook his head. “ You should bloody know! You’re the one doing it! “

Blaise spun around wildly, his eyes searching for a clue as to what had stopped it. “ The mudblood! “ he suddenly yelled. She was gone!

Draco’s heart pounded, hoping she had escaped along with Ron and Lupin. His eyes darted back and forth, searching through the fog, praying they wouldn’t be seen wherever they were.

“ Find them! “ Blaise roared. He glared at Draco and shook him again “ This remains to be finished! “ he said.

A few hundred feet away from the, Hermione was seen by Ron, crouched behind a tall tomb made out of black marble. His hands shook, afraid to see her face.

“ Ron, “ she whispered weakly, amidst the howl of the wind.

Ron slid beside her. “ He’s gone for help. Hopefully they won’t catch up with him…he slipped through the forest…How are you? “ he asked. “

“ Just dandy, “ she replied gasping for air. “ Take- take my w- wand…”

Ron’s eyes widened. “ Are you out of your knickers? I can’t- you’re as defenseless as a- Hermione, please… “

“ Use it, please? “ she said quietly. Her face had gone horribly pale. Her head slumped and Ron gasped, and started muttering every healing spell known in Wizardry. He was trembling all over. He could not lose her here- not here! Not like this!

He gingerly took the wand from her bloodied hand, embracing her tight. “ Hermione- god…how do we- I can’t see you like- I feel so- “

“ We’re going to fight this together, no matter what it takes- “ she said into his ear. She squeezed his arm tight, determined to live through it, or die with the Deatheaters in the process. “ You’re going to fight- you’ll use my wand and stop them- “

“ Together, “ he choked. The voices of the Deatheaters were coming nearer. He could hear his heart pounding so loud, he was tense that he would be caught in a second. It was just him and Hermione. Hermione and him. No Harry, no Lupin. He didn’t have a wand; Hermione was slowly losing consciousness, although he could see how terribly she was fighting back…

“ Seal us for a moment, “ Hermione whispered. “ Do it. “

“ Hermione- “ Ron bit his lower lip. He breathed in heavily. “ Corporis aeri…” And slowly, Ron felt cold air enveloping him and Hermione, and his hands slowly disappeared from view, until his entire body and Hermione’s did too. It would only seal them for a moment, fifteen minutes at most. And Ron prayed it would buy enough time for reinforcements to arrive.

The voices came closer and Ron saw Blaise appear in front of them, his face contorted with a mask of rage and the need to kill. “ Do you see them! “ he shouted to Nott, Marko and Daphne. “ Kill them off right away! “

Ron and Hermione held their breaths, feeling Blaise’s cloak brush against their own skins. Finally Blaise stepped back from them.

“ No! “ Nott replied, gritting his teeth. He had not expected it to go this way. But he prayed it would be over soon, and that she was alright. She had found out what it was for…

Draco struggled to get down. It was painful for him to reach for his wand. He had been bound, and he hoped a non-wand spell would work…he had not been so brilliant at non-wand spells in his past practices with it.

“ Come on, “ he told himself. “ Come on…” And there was a searing pain in every nerve as he moved. He grit his teeth hard and finally, he felt the invisible ropes break free and he collapsed to the ground, breathing hard. One of his hands clutched his chest and he saw what Hermione had placed earlier. It was a pendant, the size of a fist…And it heightened his resolve to finish it all, to stop what they had started, to stop what he had gotten himself into.

He took out his wand and ran for the voices; his number one target would be Blaise.

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A/N: A spell I made up myself “Corporis aeri” translated into “body air”. Sorry, I have terrible latin skills. Hehe.

How’d you find the chappie? I seriously would like to demand a review. it's not all the time i do. i just ask nicely (haha!). but now, please, please? review for me! I'm quite pleased with this chapter myself, it took me more than four days to formulate. So that means the next chapter will be even more amazing since the Great Battle has started.

Do you have any questions for this chappie? I'm sure you do. hehe. This chapter has dealt with pain and blood and screaming and cursing (sorry, for the vulgar words. i was just so into their characters!) I added a few things up, i'm sure most of you haven't read some spells in the real book, nor did it have a dagger, nor did Snape keep a journal- but hey, this is fanfiction, and every author is the King/Queen of his universe!

Oh yeah, i did this story a year ago, before the release of the last of the HP series, so i hope you understand why some things are as they are. ^_^

Chapter 37: You will let the master live!
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“ Stop right there, you bastard! “ Draco had his wand at Blaise’s back. Blaise slowly turned around with a look of surprise on his face.

“ You got free? “ Blaise spat out. He looked at Draco’s bloody arms. “ With pain, of course. We’ve just come to the end of an era, Draco. You just destroyed the chance Lord Voldemort was supposed to have. But you’re not getting away scot-free still. He’s not going to let you rest. Do you think you can keep living as a horcrux? With a horcrux? You haven’t read the rest of the notebook then…”

But Draco had, and he knew it would not be easy to be a living horcrux. Pains would haunt him for the rest of his life. It was going to be his downfall- the heart of Harry Potter…Voldemort would never let him rest unless a part of his soul was out to wreak its havoc…

“ I don’t care- as long as I see you dead, “ Draco finally said. “ I’d rather suffer this till I die than see you gloat with what you haven’t even worked for. “ Sectum- “

Marko Sarovic ran for Draco, brandishing his wand. “ Impedimenta! “

Draco glared at Marko, his hand slowly moving down, unable to rid himself of the sudden slow movements he had been exhibiting. “ You bastards- you should’ve killed me Blaise, when you had the chance…then you wouldn’t have gone through this- “

“ Like I could. No one was willing to make a move to kill you. We needed you alive. We needed to extract the horcrux from you alive. And now, we do it. Third time’s a charm Draco. “

“ Incarcerous, “ Marko said. And thick ropes appeared, binding Draco, and he collapsed knees first to the ground. Blaise kicked his chest and he stumbled to the ground again.

“ Marko, don’t do this- “ Draco said. Blaise approached Draco and kicked his cheek with a boot.

Marko stared at Draco, feeling a wide range of emotions. And Pansy came into his mind, of how she loved the silver-eyed arse, how she never saw him the way she saw Draco…” When you’re dead, Pansy will no longer- “ he stopped.

Draco’s eyes narrowed. So he was in it for Pansy then, Marko wanted him dead, without hurting him indirectly. Bastard…

Daphne was crying, a hand was over her mouth. She was looking at Draco and she choked on a sob again.

“ Let’s finish this now! “ Blaise yelled, shaking Draco by the shoulders. Something clinked…like the sound of a chain…And Blaise reached for Draco’s robes and saw the pendant…” What the bloody hell- “ Blaise violently pulled it off from his neck, causing another wound. He stared at it, holding it above him…a pendant stopped the dagger…the Granger bitch! Where the hell did she get this! And the pendant gave off a defiant pale yellow glow in Blaise’s eyes, the seals of the three remaining wizard and witches, when Salazar Slytherin had left…” Son of a b- “ he didn’t continue.

Nott stared at what was in Blaise’s hand. It was over for Draco…He had done his best, had sent Hermione a letter…and this was it…but wait…and he prayed Hermione was alright, prayed that she would come running to save Draco with what she had left…the pendant was no use now. Blaise had found out and had stepped on it with his boot, breaking a thousand something year old relic he had bought from the unsuspecting owner of Borgin and Burkes…

Daphne stared at him, her eyes growing into some realization…she opened her mouth, her eyes suddenly ablaze with anger. “ You-! “ she gasped.

Nott moved in smoothly. “ What? Blaise! Just- do it! “ he yelled.

Blaise nodded and they formed the circle once more, Draco’s bound body levitating within Blaise’s reach. “ Do it, Nott! “ He picked up the knife, the jeweled snakes slithering on the hilt, but no longer biting his hands.

Nott’s heart pounded as he chanted the lines once more. “ Heart of the enemy in the form of a servant, Blood of the enemy in the form of a servant…you will let your master live once more. “ And he eyed Blaise and tried to control himself from stopping Blaise.

And Draco’s pupils widened further as he saw the dagger descend from the skies. In a second, he felt the excruciating pain of the blade rip through his robes and into his skin. He looked in breathless horror, as the snakes from the dagger’s handle began their slithering descent towards his chest. He had grit his teeth, an animal cry resounding throughout the graveyard despite the howl of the wind and the shrieking of the forces around them. The jeweled snakes latched their tiny teeth into his chest, slowly and painfully punching hole after hole through his skin.

Blaise’s eyes widened, seeing the brilliancy of it all. How good it was of Snape to leave this all to them! They had inherited something everyone would talk about for years! His name would be whispered with fear! Like the Master’s name! He watched greedily as he left the dagger on Draco’s chest. The snakes on the handle had taken care of the rest. It was beautiful! It was glorious! It was the beginning of everything!

Nott’s eyes focused only on Draco’s chest. He wondered how much time he had bought for Hermione and Ron. His only prayer was that reinforcements would arrive on time, and that Draco would still be breathing, if not unconscious when it did. He saw Draco’s face, it showed off unbearable anguish, his jaw was clenched, his fists too. He kept shuddering with every bite the two jeweled snakes gave. And his heart wrenched in pain for Draco...he didn’t- he couldn’t-

Daphne was sobbing still, and she wanted to touch Draco, tell him everything would be alright. False hope for someone with such a bleak future...A living horcrux would never survive once it was extracted from the host…how would Draco survive? Draco had given her reason to join, Draco was the brother she never had…And she screamed and cried, kneeling on the ground as Blaise and the rest of them stood still, eyes on Draco and his intense suffering…she eyed Nott…hoping she could live to say something…just three- But Draco…he came first now…

Marko’s pupils shone green as he kept looking at Draco’s spastic movements. For a second, Draco eyed him, as if to scream at him that he need not do it for Pansy, that he could find ways for Pansy to love him…but it lasted only for a second, and Marko’s second’s worth of pity disappeared too. He wanted it to be over soon; he wanted to see what a horcrux was like…what the Master’s horcrux was like…

And it started. Draco’s chest was dripping with blood; his face became pale under the green hazy light that surrounded them all. He looked like a ghost, bound and levitating…The dagger dropped to the ground all of a sudden, the jeweled snakes became dormant once more…They had done their job. There was Draco’s heart, exposed and beating…a mass of red and purple and twisted veins and arteries…Draco gasped, feeling that he was drowning without water…why was he alive when it had been too much! He wanted to die…just die…sleep…but Hermione’s image came into view…hazy…weak…he forced himself…had to live….he had to…but sleep…closing one’s eyes…it seemed to easy…so welcoming…

“ We needed to extract the horcrux from you alive…” Blaise’s voice echoed for a second somewhere in his head.

“ It’s here! It’s coming! “ Blaise said triumphantly. “ Nott! Marko! Daphne! Look! It’s- “ he stopped, seeing Draco’s exposed heart start off with the tiniest glow…and it became bigger and brighter, like a star had fallen to his chest and was now struggling to get out…slowly moving out…

“ Draco! “ Daphne gasped, forcing her shaky knees to stand up. She wanted to stop it; she had never seen anything like it…but the family legacy…her family’s legacy…her legacy...it was all here…right in front of her! How could she think of Draco at a time like this!

And Theodore Nott saw Ronald Weasley standing behind Blaise, obscured by the fog. He said nothing and waited, hearing Draco’s strange gurgling…like he had water in his throat. Ron raised his wand, just as Marko’s eyes widened, seeing Ron.

“ Stupefy! “

“ Stupefy! “

Blaise dropped to the ground, the side of his head hitting a tombstone. Ron stood up and hid behind a tombstone as Marko began running after him. Marko turned back and saw Nott’s wand on him. He quickly fired out a curse.

“ Crucio! “

“ Expel- “

It hit Nott and he fell to the ground, shaking from the sudden pain, someone was tearing him apart…the spell…the pain! He shouted for Marko. “ Stop it! Marko-! “

Daphne looked in shock. “ Marko! “ she cried.

“ Later! Do this for your name! Later! He’s been betraying us! I knew it all along! “ Marko shouted. “ Find Ronald Weasley and if that Granger is still alive! Dispatch of her! “ Marko pointed to the skies and said, “ Mosmordre! “

And Marko knew that their reinforcements would come soon.

Daphne spun around, ready to look for Hermione. She stopped a few feet away and looked at Nott once more. And she ran back for him, raising her wand. “ Finite! “ she cried out.

Instantly, Nott stopped shaking violently. A thin line of blood was on his lips. He looked up at Daphne, as if staring at a dream. “ Daphne? “ he whispered. A bloody hand reached out to touch her face. “ I- love you…” he whispered, sinking into unconsciousness.

Daphne began to cry, unable to get over hearing him say that. She had heard it! From him! And she thought she was the only one feeling that way…She embraced Nott as he lay on the ground and took out her wand and pointed to his body, healing visible wounds- trembling as she heard something explode“Imperturbable! “

She stood up and found herself face to face with Blaise. “ Blaise! “ she gasped. Blaise had her by the throat.

“ You bitch! “ he said. “ So it’s Theodore Nott after all? And I had thought it was Draco! I loved you, you bitch! “ He shook her hard, slapped her face and she fell to the ground, beside Nott’s body which had been temporarily protected to give him time to rest. “ Imperio! “

“ Blaise, no-! “ And Daphne found herself light headed, as if she had never occurred any heartache or pain…And she heard a voice inside her head, someone hissing, commanding her to do something…Kill Theodore Nott, use the Avada Kedavra…Kill him…Avada Kedavra…

And Daphne numbingly nodded, feeling the simplicity of what her head was telling her…she should kill him…kill off Theodore Nott…Theodore Nott…who was he again? Just kill him…

Nott’s eyes widened as he saw Daphne’s blank eyes. Imperio! His heart pounded as he took out his wand, breaking the shield Daphne had created. “ Daphne! Stop! Daphne! “

Daphne raised her wand high. “ Avada Kedavra! “ And a burst of green shot out, and Nott ducked, hitting one of their comrades…it was Gregory Goyle! She had just killed Gregory Goyle!

“ Blaise you son-of-a-bitch! You just killed Goyle! You killed a comrade! A Deatheater! “ Nott shouted out as he ducked from another death spell.

“ Not my problem, old chap, “ Blaise replied, twirling his wand.

“ Daphne! “ Nott called out. “ It’s me! “

And Nott tripped backwards and he found himself facing Daphne as she stood, her wand hovering over his face. “ Daph- “

“ Avada-“ Just kill him…

“ Daphne! “ Nott screamed.

And Daphne didn’t continue. She was fighting it off! Her eyes were welling up with tears, her muscles wanted to move badly, her mouth wanted to mutter out words badly… Just kill him… Theodore Nott…

“ Fight it, Daphne! Fight it off! It’s Blaise, he’s controlling you! “ Nott slowly stood up. Daphne opened her mouth again…

“ Give it up, Nott- “

And Blaise was hit with a burst of flame, instantly breaking off the spell on Daphne. She looked at him, dazed.

Blaise stood up quickly. “ Stupefy! “

And Daphne was rendered unconscious. And suddenly, Blaise was surrounded by Crabbe and Warrington. “ I said give it up. “

Nott raised his wand high, willing to fight off. And suddenly more people appeared. Pucey appeared…all the other men they had conned on earlier appeared…everyone who still was in one piece appeared…There were more than ten of them, including Blaise and the three DeathEaters.

“ How do you plan to defeat us, now? “ Blaise asked him. “ I had so much high regard for you. I almost liked you. “

“ I didn’t like you one bit, “ Nott spat out.

“ Well, you always liked Draco. You probably thought I was too thick. But now, look at your brother-in-arms…he’s dying…while the Master will live, “ Blaise said. “ I always knew there was something that stank about you, you and Daphne, you and Draco…you and your silly presumptuous self! “

Nott eyed Draco quickly. Draco was fast fading into oblivion. His head was slumping back and forth in the air, his eyes fluttering all the time.

Meanwhile, Marko was hiding against a tall column, firing out hex after hex at Ron.

Ron was trying hard to beat Marko, but he seemed to be an expert with dueling- he seemed to know the Dark Arts better than he did. He would not allow it! He prayed that Hermione was still alright, that the spell he had cast worked on her for he had removed his own, to make hers last longer, he hoped…

And there was another burst of light, causing an entire mausoleum to crumble down, almost smashing him with the marble columns. He scrambled up and hit Marko back.

There was a loud bang. And the remaining Deatheaters and their pawns dropped or scrambled away from the noise and the lights. The Aurors were here! Reinforcements were finally here!

Ron saw Lupin heading his way and he gave a gasp of relief. He could finish Marko off now, without risking his back. He pounced on Marko, whose back was turned, and they wrestled on the wet ground, and Ron flung Marko’s wand away, and Ron had him by the throat. “ Prepare to die, you bastard-! “

“ No! Ron! “ Nott called out, flinging Ron away.

“ You son-of-a- “ Ron shouted. “ I had him! “

“ I can’t let you kill him! I promised someone- “ Nott shouted back.

And Marko glared at Nott, ready to kill him off, all his hate for Nott came to the tip of his wand, at the tip of his tongue. “ Avada- “

“ I promised Pansy! “ Nott finished.

Marko collected his breath in, instead of saying the spell completely. “ Pansy? “ he croaked. “ She- she asked you to protect me? “

Nott nodded, in relief that no one was killed at that moment. “ Yes, I promised your wife. She did not tell you, I assume? You’re going to be a father, Marko. “

Marko felt his wand drop to the ground; a shaky hand came on his head. Pansy was pregnant! He was going to be a father? Pansy asked Nott to protect him? She loved him! “ I don’t…” he began in a soft voice.

“ You heard me right, Sarovic. You’re going to be a father. I want you alive for I promised your wife you would be. “

Marko shook his head, the realization hitting him on the chest, in his head. Pansy loved him, Pansy loved him…not Draco…Pansy loved him now…no more Draco…he was going to be a father…Pansy asked Nott to protect him…Pansy…

“ Go back to Pansy, “ Nott said, wheezing.

“ We still have something to finish- “ Marko said, looking to Draco’s direction. Nott nodded.

“ Just go back to your wife when this is over, “ Nott said. “ And don’t do anything to the Aurors, no killing or unforgivable curses. “

Marko nodded and ran for Blaise’s direction. He had been duped. The promise of seeing Draco dead- there was no need for that anymore. Pansy loved him…he was going to be a father!

Hermione felt the spell breaking apart now and she knew she had nothing left to lose. She would try, make a run for it- save Draco…no matter what. And she did, despite the stabbing pains all over her body, her legs felt like jelly, she tasted blood in her mouth, but it did not compare to the pain of seeing Draco like that. So she ran and finally reached him, and something stung her figure. There was a barrier! She could not touch him! She could not get to him! She touched it again and felt the shock on her fingers, a burning sensation…she touched it again, determined to let her hands through, to make it stop…the pendant, now broken, was at her foot. She reached down to grab it and tried again. And the shock became more painful than ever, and she saw her hands materializing now…the spell was almost broken, her invisibility spell!

And she bit her lower lip as her hands, with the pendant, pushed through again. Her arms were slowly exposing themselves- “ Draco- “ she whispered tearfully. “ Draco! I’m getting you out of here! Alive, Draco! Alive! Don’t you dare die on me! Don’t you dare! I love you! “

His eyes focused for a second, as if hearing an angelic voice amidst his torture…He saw Hermione’s face in the haze of light…And Hermione saw something materializing out of the bright light in Draco’s chest. A hand burst out of the light, long elegant fingers- as pale as death, squirming, clenching…Hermione’s eyes widened. Lord Voldemort’s hand!

She was running out of options now…the pendant was broken…all she had left was the pendant…And finally Blaise saw her figure materialize entirely, and his eyes widened, leaving an Auror drenched in blood as he ran for her.

“ You bitch! “ he shouted out. “ Avada- “

“ Sectumsempra! “ Lupin cried out.

And Blaise felt a slash upon his chest, and blood poured out profusely, and he gasped, falling to the ground, trying to find where his wand was in the fog. He felt blood trailing up to his throat- the pain was almost like a Crucio…a Crucio gone kind! He screamed in agony, cursing Lupin. Marko stared at him. And in his eyes, Blaise knew he had just been betrayed…

“ Hermione! “ Lupin called out to her. He saw her tear-filled eyes and knew she was out of options. “ Just do something Hermione! “

Hermione wildly looked around and saw Snape’s notebook, glowing in the fog, near a dagger. “ Professor, buy me time, please! “ she begged.

Lupin nodded as Blaise stood up, his eyes in menacing rage.

“ I’ve always thought you were pathetic as a teacher! “ he spat out, as he spat out blood.

“ I’ve always thought you were pathetic as a student, “ Lupin growled back.

Hermione scanned the pages and saw nothing but blankness. A hand grabbed her leg and she cried out. It was Daphne. Her wand was out, facing her.

“ Blood- blood on the notebook…last pages- “ Daphne gasped before becoming unconscious once more.

Sacrifice blood! Hermione grabbed the dagger and held out her palm, exposing the last few pages. She looked away as she felt the dagger slice through her skin. Blood tipped out from the clean wound and her eyes widened, seeing the pages glow, and the words began appearing…ancient runes…these were ancient runes! She read them, with all of her memory, all of her strength, cryptic letters page after page…


~
To end the cycle, one must perish. Blood of the servant or the blood of the master, sacrificed blood… gained or lost. The heart that has been opened will be closed by the same entity. The living horcrux must be stabbed to where it lies. The heart… The dagger of serpents… the pendant of the triad of heirs…innocent blood and tainted blood, drip for the ground and into the cauldron- open fire for the notebook, to seal this secret- whoever you are, well done…you will either make the master live or make him expire...do what is right…follow the trail of blood…
~


Hermione trembled. Innocent? Tainted? How was she to tell? Whose blood should she sacrifice! She reached out for Draco once more, her body stinging against the shield. Her face contorted in pain and she finally entered what was inside. She gave out a cry, seeing Draco’s blood spill all over the ground-


~To end the cycle one must perish…

The heart that has been opened will be closed by the same entity…

The living horcrux must be stabbed where it lies…~


Hermione began to cry as she raised the snake dagger, the snakes hissing at the unwanted hands- the hands of a Gryffindor…. Suddenly she screamed, almost loosing her footing as the single hand became an arm…his arm was coming out! He was climbing out of Harry’s- Draco’s heart! And Draco looked at her, his eyes shining with tears and he nodded weakly, still suspended in the air…And she felt herself falter…no…Draco…one must perish…both of them will! This was the only heart Draco had! Draco was the only one she had left! She-

His eyes widened, and he gasped out as the arm stretched once more. He grit his teeth, shuddering violently. Hermione sobbed as she held the little black notebook in her hands. And she cut Draco’s hand and blood began to pour out of it, grabbing the broken triad pendant, she let his blood flow over it, hoping her crazy idea would work; only to see him alive and well…The pendant glowed, despite the many jewels missing now. Her eyes widened, and she stuck the pendant onto Draco’s open heart and the hand that was clenching began to sizzle- it was burning alive! The arm crept out faster now, feeling the terror of losing his chance to become whole. And suddenly a face materialized out of the green vapor…

Lord Voldemort!

She gasped, trembling more than ever. He was resisting the pendant! He hissed at her, his facial features like that of a shriveled serpent. He was becoming more human with each passing second.


~Innocent blood and tainted blood- drip for the ground…~


What did that mean! What in Merlin’s name did that mean? Hermione’s eyes looked around wildly, searching for the answer, feeling Draco’s life connected with her own. She felt lost, alone- brainless! Lupin was fighting Blaise off, and he was bleeding bad- Blaise never gave up…Ron eyed her as he fought off Warrington who was heading for her.

“ Hermione…” Draco gasped out with all he had. “ Do it, even if it!- “ He cried out as Voldemort’s face smoked up despite his rapid evolution, the pendant still on top of Draco’s chest.

Hermione shook her head, not knowing what to do. Tears escaped her eyes as her hands shook, wondering what else she could do- wondering what was needed to be done. Who was innocent? Who was tainted? Where to get the blood!


~…will be closed by the same entity…~


Was it the dagger? She shook her head, praying it would be right. And she stabbed through Voldemort’s face one, and stabbed through Draco’s heart. The snakes clamped on Draco’s skin.

“ Do it! “ Draco shouted, tears pouring out of his eyes, blood coming out of his mouth. Voldemort’s figure gave a scream as Draco did too.

Hermione cried harder than ever as she plunged the dagger deeper into Draco’s heart, feeling his pain, it was like killing two people at one time…Harry and Draco….and Voldemort’s fully formed hand reached out for her, grabbing her arm with surprising strength and it burned her skin as she struggled.

“ You son-of-a-! “ Hermione cried out, resisting the burn on her arm.

“ My serpents won’t see me die…” Voldemort whispered in a hollow hiss. Hermione saw the snakes letting go of Draco’s skin, slowly climbing up for her hand, the hand holding them.

And they bit her skin, and she screamed but didn’t let go. And she saw blood coming out from her pale hand…and she knew what those words tainted and innocent meant-!


~Innocent blood and tainted blood- drip for the ground…~


She took out the dagger raised it high in the air as Voldemort’s face began to take form…his nose took shape, his narrow eyes became wider…and she stabbed herself in her heart with the use of the same dagger. And the snakes on the hilt recoiled from her hand and dropped to the ground, becoming silver and emerald once more.

“ You fool- “ Voldemort’s snake-like tongue flicked out. “ A heart for a heart…? It will not work…!” His now wide eyes glowed red and green.

Hermione felt like collapsing, but she struggled to walk for Draco’s body as Voldemort’s hand reached out for her neck. He began choking her, like a python would do to its prey, and Hermione struggled to breathe…it was not done yet!


~Onto the ground…follow the trail…~


Hermione clasped Draco’s hand and felt her warm blood mixing with his. The blood dropped once by one. And she saw Voldemort’s face looking choked but still he held onto her throat. It was burning her! He was burning her throat! Her breathing became constricted more than ever as blood kept dripping to the ground. She stabbed Voldemort’s hand with the dagger and took away the pendant from Draco’s chest.

“ I am the last horcrux…” he hissed at her face. And his body slowly emerged out, and he dropped to the ground like a snake would. He stood, he looked more than emaciated. He was a walking corpse- his skin glistened like scales would and it was a bizarre position his body movement gave.

“ Stay that way! “ Hermione cried out, running for the cauldron, dagger, notebook and pendant clutched close to her chest. He grabbed her by the ankle and she fell, the pendant falling away from her. Voldemort slowly stood up again, with great difficulty as his ribs began to flesh out. The line of blood from her hand and Draco’s trailed forward…trailed for the-

Blaise saw the pendant fall from her grip and he ran for it. He had to get to it, no matter what! Lord Voldemort was almost coming to life! He saw his ghostly skeletal figure and he smiled in triumph…

“ Ron! “ Hermione cried; her eyes desperate for the pendant. Ron lunged at it the same time Blaise did. “ Throw it to the cauldron! “ She cried out.

And Ron did, but not until Blaise pushed him away. And the pendant flew into the air, and time froze for them, except for the suspended pendant…

It landed into the cauldron with a plop.

Their eyes widened…Blaise started for Hermione. “ You little-! “ He took out his wand.” Avada-! “

“ Expelliarmus! “ Lupin shouted out, having stood up from his dazed moment. Blaise shot all the way towards a tombstone, breaking it into bits.

Voldemort slowly stood up. He stared at Hermione with fanatical red eyes and an intimidating smile. “ It is too late mudblood…”

Hermione gasped, as she lay supported by her elbows on the ground. Then she remembered the dagger in her hand. She side-swiped the ghostly looking Voldemort and stumbled for the cauldron.

“ So spills the blood of the innocent and the tainted! “ she cried out. Voldemort’s eyes widened as his skeletal hand reached out for her heart. She dropped the dagger into the boiling cauldron along with the little black notebook.

Voldemort clutched her chest. His spindly fingers were reaching into her heart; she gasped and clutched at Voldemort’s cold hands as he smiled in victory. “ It is finished…” And the sharp fingers slowly entered her heart...and she could feel everything around her go cold…something was stealing her warmth…he was getting inside her…

A tear escaped from Hermione’s eye…it was over definitely…nothing happened…Draco would die…she would die…and she could feel her eyes closing on her…and behind Voldemort’s back she saw Draco…and it was a dream…that he was standing, walking for her…it was all a dream…and she felt welcomed by the sleep that was calling out to her…this was rest…rest was near…Draco…she wanted to reach out to him…Draco… she did not know which was the greater agony, her pain or his….her death or his….

Ron cried out as he tried to reach for Hermione but another barrier had been put up, by the regenerating Voldemort. “ Hermione! “ he yelled as tears came out from his eyes. “ Break! Damn it! Break! “ And he tried spell after spell to break the barrier and so did Lupin...

“ Hermione! “ someone called out. It sounded like Ron…but Ron was gone…was he? He left…she wondered if Harry was there...with Draco…a good dream…a dream she didn’t want to end…and she saw Harry…Harry….

Blaise’s eyes never left Lord Voldemort’s. He was here! In the flesh! He had succeeded! Only he had remained faithful! The power! The power! He was to be awarded- He saw Marko Sarovic, slowly stepping away, and his nostrils burned. Marko…you traitor! And he held out his wand and pointed to an unsuspecting Marko. “ Avada Kedavra! “

And Marko’s eyes widened as the green blaze headed straight for him and Nott’s eyes widened as he ran for Marko.

“ Marko! “ Nott shouted.

“ Pansy…” Marko thought.

And then Nott stopped, feeling his knees sinking to the ground. Marko lay still, his chest did not show signs of breathing. And he choked, trying to hold back a cry. Marko-! And Nott shook Marko’s body roughly, shouting at him to wake up. He had promised Pansy! He promised! He had failed! “ Blaise! “ Nott shouted amidst the howl of the forces. “ I’ll kill you-! I swear I will! “

Blaise glared at Nott. “ I’ll let you try. “

And Nott rose out his wand, but not before a flash of strong light blinded them all temporarily.

Nott’s eyes widened further as the flesh of Lord Voldemort became more prominent. He had Daphne in his arms as they knelt on the ground. It was over, Lord Voldemort was-

Lupin’s heart pounded as he felt that it was over. He bit back a cry, seeing Hermione’s body fall on the ground like a rag doll- he had just seen Hermione Granger- the brilliant Auror die…and Voldemort was taking the shape of-

And to the eyes of everyone else, Voldemort suddenly gave out a piercing, animal-like cry…a cry of a dying man…he had let go of Hermione’s body and was now on the ground, clutching his body all over…his head…his arms…his chest…

“ No! “ Voldemort cried out, raising his skeletal arms into the sky, as if calling out for some force to help him. His pale face began peeling off bit by bit, flying into the fog, flying into the wind. His fingers disintegrated like ash, his heart was slowly being exposed- and it glowed! And there was the horcrux…and suddenly the horcrux began to brittle down as well, its light slowly fading from its core…

The ashes of Voldemort hit Blaise’s face, and he shouted out in pain. The ashes were burning through his skin! He stared in horror as his skin began to peel off as well, fading like Voldemort’s. He screamed and tried to swat it away like a man would to a fly- to no use. And his arms burned from the contact…in his haste, he dropped his wand, and he seemed like a blind man, crawling all over the ground to find it and to protect his body. And the ashes burned through his eyes…

The ashes flew around Lupin and Ron, and they all scrambled to take cover, but still they were burned and they used the Imperturbable spell, as a last resort, and the ashes hit their temporary shields with brute force, slowly burning through them once more.

He stared hard at Blaise and the rest of them slowly, then to Hermione who was lying on the ground…he spun around with great effort and saw the body of Draco Malfoy- his living horcrux, now on the ground with blood all over him…his chest was in a tragic state…the light would never be his…he would never survive… He had laid dormant for so long…he had waited…his servants, they had betrayed him…but Lord Voldemort never fails completely…he only rests, he only bides his time…and with his mouth half open, the last of his face and his body scattered into the wind as he echoed, “ I am Lord Voldemort! “

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A/N: Well, HE WAS Lord Voldemort. Haha. Sorry, major cheesy joke. woah. that was an action packed chapter now, wasn't it? It's also the longest i've ever done yet!!! I seriously expect a review from you! i ain't updating unless i find my reviews quite plentiful! (evil laughter). i had a hard time with this chapter cause i had second thoughts about killing Lupin, Ron, Blaise, Nott and the others.I also had second thoughts of Actually making Lord Voldie live again. I guess my first thoughts prevailed, eh? hehe. i'm down to the last few chapter, so give me some loving. also, i'm not replying to the individual reviews cause i think this chappie's answered your questions.

anyway, i hope you enjoyed this chapter.

till the next installment! R.E.V.I.E.W please?

Chapter 38: He needs you...
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~Hours after the battle…

Pansy waited anxiously, any word from Nott. She wanted to see Marko, tell him how she had realized she loved him all along, that she was too stubborn to see through him because Draco was in her mind all the time they had been married.

There was a roar from the fire and Theodore Nott stepped out from it. There was dried blood and fresh blood all over him. His boots were dirty, his robes torn, his hair in disarray. His mouth was drawn in a straight line.

“ Nott? “ Pansy stood up, fear rising up her throat. She went up to him and fisted her palms. “ Where is-? “

“ Pansy- “ Nott began. His voice cracked. “ I tried to- Blaise, he- “ Nott said nothing more, suddenly feeling Pansy’s grief in his chest.

“ He’s gone? “ Pansy whispered. And the room suddenly spun around her, her chest was failing her, she felt cold and alone…abandoned…

“ I’m sorry, “ Nott said in a grave voice. “ Believe me Pansy…”

“ I- I know you are…” her voice trailed off. And she sank to a chair and felt cold fingers over her trembling lips, fingers that belonged to her. And she felt her heart sinking further and further. There was a flutter in her abdomen.

“ Pansy- “

“ He’s gone…” she uttered. “ Nott…how could…Blaise…he? Oh, god…he’s gone…how can he be gone? He’s- I love him…I wanted to tell him the special news…why? “ And she began to cry, an anguish resounding throughout the room.

Nott wanted to comfort her, but he felt responsible for her husband’s death somehow. “ Pansy- I- how do I say this, Pansy? I tried…it wasn’t enough, I know I should’ve- “

“ It’s- not your fault…” she whispered. And she squeezed her eyes shut, imagining Marko running up to her, embracing her, kissing her lips softly…and he would give her a gift, any gift that fancied his eyes, no matter how expensive, and she would welcome him and then tell him that they were going to have a child…a girl or a boy…it would not matter…as long as he would be there, to share her new found joy…

And Pansy was catapulted back into the last hours she had shared with Marko. How his lips lingered at her own, how she felt a shiver when he did, how she felt helpless and alone when he explained he would be off for work at the strangest hour.

And she felt regret swell in her, the pain that came crashing through, knowing she had ignored that shiver, knowing how she should have told Marko that she no longer thought of Draco and loved him the way she did to Marko now.

Marko was never coming back…

“ Nott, “ she began, looking up to him, tears streaming down her face. “ I loved him; you know…it was no longer Draco. I wanted to tell it to him, I was just too afraid to face what I felt…”

“ Tell that to your child, “ Nott said quietly. “ He would want to hear that. “

Nott had said he. It was a sign. A very good sign. There would be another Marko in her life. A boy she would love…she would shower him with all the love she had not shown to his father.

“ Thank you, “ she finally said.

Theodore Nott nodded once and stepped into the fire place once more, determined not to show his own pain.

And when Nott left, Pansy walked for the bedroom she and Marko shared and looked around. The room was just as he had left it. His favorite hat was hung on a rack, his coat carelessly thrown on a plush couch near the foot of the bed. She walked to his dresser and sprayed the air with his perfume. She inhaled a musky scent, memories of him flooding to her again.

And Pansy threw herself on their bed and cried once more.

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“ This way, madam…” a gruff voice said.

The extravagant looking woman walked down the dark hall, the stench of rats and dampness prevailing. She frowned, disgusted at the lack of cleanliness. True, Azkaban had been better off without the Dementors, punishments varied, depending on the severity of the cases, but the cleanliness had not improved at all. The halls were lighted with glowing balls of fire, dark cells with heavy bars- people screaming…

She shuddered and wrapped her fur around her tighter, the latest gift from her latest husband- who wasn’t dead yet. She wondered what made her come here, why she contemplated to come here, when she knew there was no more hope…

She had corresponded sporadically with him in the last few months, and she wrote quick letters and inserted pictures, and he replied with seven words at most; and she didn’t seem to mind at all. Not until they had called her.

And she reached to another heavy metal door and she walked through, the place now progressed to the stench of rotten eggs and cabbages. She tried not to breathe, tried placing her lace kerchief over her nose. It was overpowering.

“ Madam, “ the Auror said. He opened another door and she entered a low ceiling room, some glass looking barrier, separating her from the other side of the room.

She sat down a wooden chair and gasped, seeing him at the corner of the room. And she gripped her kerchief. She touched the barrier and there was a strong shock. She gasped.

“ I’m sorry, madam, “ the Auror said, not looking sorry at all.

She raised her chin high. “ Does he still recognize people? “ she queried in a self-aggrandizing way.

“ I think he does…but his sanity’s been- “

“ No more from you, thank you, “ she snapped. She turned to face the partition once more, a dim light shining across her. “ Blaise…” she called out.

He stood up from his ratty looking bed and frowned at her. His eyes glared widely, red rimmed- a sign that he did not sleep well at all. He approached the partition. “ Are you one of them? “ he hissed at her. His face had burn marks. Shiny looking pale ones against his dark skin and his lower lip was bloody.

“ What? “ his mother began.

“ You know…one of the Master’s servants…you’re going to get me out of here, right? “ he asked her, a smile plastered on his face now.

“ No, “ she uttered, her hand going over her mouth. “ I am not- “

“ Then go away, “ he muttered darkly. “ He’ll find a way to come back. I was loyal. I was the only one who did not betray him, i stayed strong, i took a potion, i stayed strong- “

“ Blaise- “

“ I did it, I gave it all I had…but they betrayed me. He won’t betray me. He’ll come for me. Just you want…bloody Aurors…they’ll pay. They’ll shudder in fear and piss in their pants once he comes for me. I’ll get out of this stinking hospital – they’ll never keep me in here…”

“ Blaise! “ she cried out, unable to stand seeing her son like that.

He quieted down and sat on his bed again, looking at her suspiciously. “ I think they’re poisoning my food. Who are you? “ he spat out.

“ You do not remember me? “

“ No…” he began. “ You just sound familiar…someone used to talk to me like that when I was younger…”

“ I’m- “ she choked, an overwhelming feeling of sadness suddenly coming over her chest. “ I’m your mother. “

His eyes narrowed. “ Mother? “ he scoffed. “ I was alone. For quite some time. I do not remember you coming into my life. Be careful here, “ he added with a whisper. “ They serve us poisoned food. I’d rather eat the rats. I’ve been doing it since yesterday. “ He pointed to a corner of the room where a dead rat was, its head bitten off.

She shuddered and gave a short cry. Her son, her Blaise…he was gone…he was in front of her, but he was gone…regrets always came last. And the regret she felt now gave her oceans of tears.

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He was lying down, under a large tree in his manor’s grounds. He was sleeping, dreaming of Daphne Greengrass and how wonderful it was that he had finally spoken words that he had never thought he’d say. I love you, he had said. And he did not mind at all.

Someone slowly crept up to him as he slept, her dark hair waving in the wind. She was wearing a simple dark blue dress, with lace at the collar and at the hem. She smiled as she gazed at him, lovingly. They would take things slow…and it was beautiful to know that she loved someone, loved someone she had not realized in all her years in Hogwarts.

She leaned over to kiss him and he woke up that instant and smiled. “ Hey you, “ he said lazily.

She smiled as he kissed the tip of her nose. “ Had a wonderful sleep? “ she asked him as she snuggled beside him.

He nodded. “ I had this wonderful dream that someone named Daphne Greengrass loved me. You just took away that wonderful dream. “

She laughed. “ I’m not as good a substitute as her? “

“ Beggars can’t be choosers, “ Theodore Nott said as he embraced her. She pouted and Nott laughed again and kissed her on the lips.

“ Want to eat? “ she asked him.

“ Again? “ Nott said. “ You know, I’m getting fatter in the two days of recovery I’ve been given. “

“ Haha, “ she said. “ It’s all part of the healing process. “

“ Do you think- “ he began. “ Do you think the trial will turn out alright? “

Daphne was quiet for awhile, as they listened to the wind rustling through the leaves. She thought about the upcoming trial, if they were going to be imprisoned or if they were going to get away scot-free. Perhaps they deserved a bit of punishment for what they had done. Daphne knew she couldn’t even blame herself. Seduced by power and the thought that she could clean up their family name…her mother did not give a care in the world. She had sent Daphne a letter of love, asking if she was alright, if she needed some assistance- and Daphne knew that loving her mother was just not meant to be for her. She had long searched for love, had once thought Blaise could have given it, but Blaise’s affection was more of obsession. Theodore Nott was different…she saw a love that was different.

Theodore Nott looked at Daphne’s figure as he held her close to him. He could almost hear her heart beat in accordance with his own. It had been a wrong perception, that Daphne had loved Draco romantically. Daphne had only thought that Draco was the older brother she never had. She had proven that the fateful night Nott told her he loved her, when he tried hard to protect her- when everything went wrong…but something had gone quite right that night. When he came through with what he felt, the feeling he had been trying to prevent since sixth year at Hogwarts. He had almost succeeded...and then circumstances made them meet once more, to form the new DeathEaters and he felt that old feeling come back once more. This time it was real, this time, he had Daphne Greengrass closer to him than he had expected.

“ I think it will, “ Daphne finally said. She stared at the ring Nott gave her and smiled.

He gave a nod, reassured that nothing would be as bad as having Daphne away from him.

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Lupin was sleeping when he felt a figure pounce on him. He laughed and embraced his son as he sat down on the chair.

“ How was school? “

“ Bloody- “

“ Don’t use that word, Sirius. “

“ Sorry, da. “

“ Alright, how was school? “

He grinned. “ It was fine, da. I got five stars today. “

“ Very good. “

“ Is that all you can say, da? “

“ Very good, Sirius. “

“ Da! “ he pouted and Lupin pounced on him and began to tickle him in various places. They were laughing out loud when Tonks came into view.

“ Boys, supper. “ She stood in the doorway, smiling at the two of them. Happy that everything was just the way it should be. Her hair this time was a dark green, that was opposite to Sirius’ blue.

Lupin smiled up at her as he stopped wrestling with his son. “ We’re coming. Smells wonderful, by the way. What are we having? “

“ Roast…” she said with a grin.

“ Race you to the dining table? “ Lupin asked his son.

Sirius nodded. “ Ready, set, go! “

And they both ran, with Tonks laughing behind and Lupin slowed down to let Sirius reach first. And Sirius jumped up and down before he sat in his chair.

“Did you see me run, mum? “ he bragged. “ Did you see how fast I was? “

Lupin held his hands up. “ I can’t believe I lost to you! “ He grinned and sat down his chair, across Sirius who was grinning wildly.

“ Mum was right, maybe Uncle Ron should eat his veggies. “

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Narcissa Malfoy awoke that fateful day when the resurrection ceremonies had gone wrong. She woke up disoriented and tired, wondering why on earth she had fallen asleep on a stiff couch. She massaged her temple, wondering why she felt cold as well. It had just turned 6 in the morning, but despite the headache, she wondered where Draco was…

There was a shuffle of feet, and she saw their house elf, at her feet, its eyes full of tears, its mouth trembling, and hands clasped tightly.

“ What is wrong? “ Narcissa asked, a sudden alarm rising through her.

The house elf handed a letter with a mournful look. “ It’s a letter, Madame, it is. “

Narcissa slowly reached for it, did not notice her fingers were shaking now. The letter was from Draco. And tears began spilling to her cheeks despite not having read the contents yet.



~

“ I have told no one, after all this time. You are the first to know. The Unbreakable vow died when Snape died. He took the promise to his grave. And I trust you will do the same…Keep Draco safe? I’m quite sure he isn’t getting into the same business his father had gotten into…had gotten killed for…” her voice shook, betraying her distress.

“ You can trust me, “ Lupin finally said, softly.

~



And once she read the contents, she sank to the carpet floor, rocking herself back and forth at how it turned out for her and her beloved son. Draco! Her Draco! What happened? What had she done! Did Lupin do his best! Draco was dead? He couldn’t be! Not Draco! Draco! Draco! Her son!

Images of Draco swam in her head….



~

“ Mum! “ he cried out, holding a fistful of peonies in one pale hand. “ Look what I have for you! “

Draco smiled and kissed her cheek. “ Then I’ll always be your little boy. “

“Mum, “ he said. “ Well, I’m kind of settled down, I just bought a house, townhouse actually, of course I’ll visit- mum- “ he said over the phone. “ Please don’t get melodramatic on me- “

He smiled and wondered how his mother would react. “ Hermione Granger. “

Draco leaned forward and put a hand over his mother’s well manicured hand. “ Mother, please- don’t worry, you know I’m here- “

~



“ Madame, another letter, there is…” the elf said. It was from St. Mungo’s. she read it quickly and the letter dropped on the floor.

She stood up shakily, aided by a chair and then she apparated for St. Mungo’s.


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In her head, Harry smiled at her and told her he loved her- he didn’t want to let go of her- and that he knew who he would spend his lifetime with. Hermione laughed and cried at the same time as she looked at the two-carat diamond ring inside of the small red box.

“ I was wondering if you’d be Mr. Harry Potter’s companion for life? “ he asked her, his eyes shining its glorious green.

And she nodded wildly, embracing Harry like she’d never let go…

And the scene changed and turned into some room of the Malfoy manor, and Draco was holding her hand, saying he never loved anyone as he had loved her. “ Be mine, Hermione? I’ll take care of you- just like what Harry would have wanted…”

And Harry was standing beside Draco, nodding at her, his eyes with maggots, a whole in his chest…” Hermione…do it…I’m loving you through him…”

And Hermione ran away from them, running through some dark hall, filled with vines and the hissing of snakes, and she saw Lord Voldemort at the end of the hall, his eyes blinking at her in a strange manner, and he smiled at her and held out his arms. “ A heart for a heart, darling…” he said using Draco’s voice.

She backed away and found herself falling through some deep pit, desperately trying to grab onto something, and she found a vine, but the vine turned into a snake, and she let go of it, and she continued to fall down, down, down…she cried out and landed into some pool of black colored water, and she could feel something slithering below her…

“ Help! “ she cried out. “ Please? Help me! “

And she saw Ron in front of her, his face pale, his eyes crying tears of blood.

“ Ron! “ she gasped, reaching out to touch him.

And Ron stumbled for her, his eyes suddenly swarmed with spiders…and they climbed out of his sockets and Hermione screamed and stumbled through the dark waters, and she found herself face to face with Ginny, who had a knife on her head. And she cried out as Ginny smiled and told her not to worry.

And the scene changed once more. And she was at some far away place, a grave. And she saw Harry’s grave, with flowers on them…and she saw another tombstone beside Harry’s, and it had her name on it…she reached out to touch it, and she felt its welcoming call…

“ We want you…we need you…Harry needs you…” it whispered again and again. “ We want you…we need you…Harry…Harry needs you…We want you... Draco needs you...Draco...Draco...He needs you...

Harry was gone.

Draco was gone.

And Hermione welcomed the darkness, that darkness that rang out with everlasting tranquility....


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A/N: How was that for a chapter ending? haha. The next chapter will prove to be very emotional, so you'd better gird your loins. Thank you for reading and reviewing! Till next chapter?

p.s few more chapters to go!!!!

Chapter 39: I've never seen Draco so enamored for someone...
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

“ Ron? “ Ginny walked up to Ron who was lying on the grass hours after he visited a very unconscious Hermione at St. Mungo’s. The stars were shining clearly tonight above their home, a wind played over the hills and forests surrounding them.

“ Hey, Gin, “ he said without opening his eyes.

“ I visited Hermione too, “ she said. “ Together with mum, dad and with Bill- Hermione looked…” she fumbled for words. “ At peace…”

“ They cast a spell on her, it should take two to three days they say, before her external wounds are healed. He-who- well, Voldemort’s ashes gave them a hard time. Those burns were nothing like they’d seen. “ He looked at his arms and saw shiny scars, which a mediwizard said should be gone in a week.

“ I’m glad you’re okay, “ she finally said.

Ron opened his eyes and smiled at his ravishing redhead of a sister. “ Thank you. “

“ I’m still worried though…about Hermione and Draco and everyone else that had been hurt real bad. What took them so long to respond, Ron? “

“ Dementors. They came, only half powerful as they had been before. I thought- we all thought they had been banished, forgotten. They’ve been resurrected; they’ve been used once more. Blaise and the rest- “ Ron’s voice choked, recalling Hermione suffering. “ We thought we wouldn’t make it. Hermione was dying in my arms, I could feel it…she entrusted me her wand, after mine had been destroyed…and Lupin had gone off, it was just the two of us. I had never been more afraid in my entire life. Draco had been then been hurt real bad. He couldn’t stand, he couldn’t move. I thought I was going to die. I had even thought Draco was dead by the time we got to him. Both Hermione and Draco were unconscious, Marko Sarovic was killed by Blaise- “

“ I heard Blaise lost his- “

“ He went crazy. I suppose he couldn’t take the failure. After we did what we could for Hermione and Draco, we found him, kneeling on the ground, his eyes wide open in shock, he kept mumbling things like: ‘master’, or ‘I’ve failed you’. “

“ The others? “

“ They were arrested soon enough. They were too battle worn and weak to move anyway. With Nott no longer fighting for them, with Blaise gone insane…there was no hope for another shot at that resurrection ritual. “

“ And the artifacts? “

“ Safe in the vault. They’ve been reconstructed. Voldemort’s wand was finally destroyed completely. Snape’s journal had to be kept, however, in case he hid something more from all of us. The pendant was reconstructed too, the dagger was kept. “

“ Draco and Hermione weren’t revived…” her voice trailed off. “ Why? “

He shuddered, recalling Voldemort’s face, his slithering, scaly looking hands tearing through Hermione’s chest. He shuddered again, recalling Voldemort’s emaciated greenish, putrid and rotten body coming out of Draco’s heart. “ They were hurt too bad… Voldemort- his fingers dug into Hermione’s flesh…I thought she was going to die…I thought I was going to die…”

“ You didn’t. You’re a Weasley. Weasleys never say die, “ she said quietly as she hugged her brother tightly. “ Don’t you ever scare us again, Ronald Billius Weasley! “ She conked his head and pouted. “ Mum nearly cried herself to death when she heard you were badly injured! Dad was shaking so bad, and Fred and George couldn’t stop pacing around to hear about you! Fleur was crying- I was crying! Don’t you ever-! “ and she began to cry again, relief flooding over her.

Ron smiled at her and hugged back. There was a very caring heart underneath all that red hair and passion for bringing out the news. “ Ginny, I want to get married. So why would I risk my handsome looks? “

Ginny punched his shoulder. “ You’d better! And some girl I’ll like, please? “

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“ I’ve been waiting for you to come around, “ the voice said quietly. Her eyes slowly opened and she saw sunlight streaming through the windows, the room filled with flowers and get well cards and other gifts of comfort.

Her throat hurt badly, she realized. She looked at the figure talking to her. He seemed vaguely familiar. Red hair with freckles, concerned dark brown eyes…gangly…a hand reached out to touch him.

“ Hermione, “ he said.

And she shook her head and held his face gently, as if holding on to some dream…and she knew that he was someone she had known for some time now…why was she in this white room? It was a very clean one…reminded her of a hospital…was she in one? She looked at her arms and saw bandages…why did she have bandages? Did an accident happen? Maybe she was dead…and what she was seeing was some other world… some world she had no idea of…

“ Hermione, “ the voice said louder this time.

She blinked and suddenly, the events of what had happened last night flooded into her head. And she began to cry, her lips were trembling and so were her hands. “ Oh Ron, “ her voice croaked as she buried her face in her hands. She looked up, her eyes darting wildly around the room. “ Draco- where’s Draco? “ she held his shoulders tightly, terror and apprehension flooding out.

“ Hermione- calm down…” Ron soothed her, as he stroked her back.

“ Where is he? “ she cried.

Ron held out her palm, the one without bandages. It was pale but Ron decided she had a good grip after being asleep for two days straight. And from his own hand, he slowly slipped something heavy into her palm. He said nothing and waited for her reaction.

Hermione felt the weight of the object, and she opened her palm wide. And she began to cry, a vacant cry, a cry that said everything was gone, someone was dead, someone was never coming back. And she clutched the object to her chest suddenly feeling the urge to throw things, break glass and kill herself.

“ Hermione, “ he held her face. “ He’s asleep. “

And she stopped and choked on another cry. Her eyes wet with tears, she looked at the object she was holding once more. It was the broken pendant. It saved them all…it saved her and Draco…

“ Can I- can I see him? “ she asked quietly.

Ron shrugged. “ I don’t know yet, Hermione. He’s still asleep. He hasn’t woken up. And I am glad to see you awake. “

“ But Draco- “ she began and then she felt dizzy and clutched her chest, her robes.

“ Lie down, “ Ron ordered. Hermione obeyed and he proceeded to explain once more. “ Hermione- the mediwizards and witches are doing everything they can. They’ve never seen such damage in their entire life, physically and psychologically- they told us the damage was too great, and that it was a wonder he survived. His heart was badly damaged. They gave Draco a day to survive. He’s lived two days already, Hermione- “

“ I need to see him- “ she began.

“ No, “ Ron said sharply. “ Hermione- “ his voice changed into a softer one. “ I almost lost you…we almost lost you; I felt that you were dead and at that moment I wanted to die too. I felt that if we both had lost Harry and that I had lost you, nothing was worth living for anymore. I wanted to save you, but there was a shield- and he-who-must- well, he was on your throat; intent on seeing you and Draco dead. He faded away Hermione. It worked. Your plan, what you kept from us, from me- it worked. When you’re better I want you to explain it to me, but right now...just rest.”

“ No! “ Hermione said in a louder voice. “ I want to see Draco! “

“ Hermione- “

“ He’s avoiding me, isn’t he? “

A mediwitch scurried in and saw Hermione wide awake, her eyes in tears. “ Miss Granger, “ she began. “ You still have to rest. “

“ No, “ she said stubbornly. “ I want to see Draco- “

“ Mister Malfoy is resting as well. Miss Granger, I must tell you, no one can visit him, under strict orders from the St. Mungo’s heads. Perhaps some other time when he has shown good prognosis. “

She sank back into her pillows and tried to collect her thoughts, her actions, herself. Her hands shook still and so did her lips. Good prognosis?! What did it mean?! He was dying, wasn’t he?

“ Miss Granger, please, don’t exert too much effort. You are still under observation- “ the mediwitch began.

Hermione touched her bandaged chest and felt a twinge of stabbing pain. It was still there. She nodded, finally relenting. And the mediwitch went out and she looked at Ron once more. Circles under his eyes, tousled hair. She saw that there was a coat over the old couch across the bed. He had slept here…” Please? “ she started. “ Tell me what happened? “

Ron sighed and looked at her eyes. “ Hermione…I don’t know…it’s been such a- Hermione…damn it. Why didn’t you tell me you had a way to save Draco? You shouldn’t have kept it- “

“ Someone told me to. A certain Angus Tied…” her voice faltered, not knowing if she should be defensive or completely ashamed of what she had kept from Ron and her other comrades. “ I’m sorry, Ron- “

“ Angus Tied? “ Ron shook his head in disbelief. “ Hermione…Alright. I’ll tell you what happened, and please, no violent reactions. I don’t want you dying in front of me or something like that. “ He took a deep breath and he started to narrate everything.

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Draco woke up, his head heavy, his eyes heavy. He flinched upon seeing light from a lamp. The light hurt. The darkness was more comfortable, more welcoming. His vision swayed as he tried to sit up. It was difficult. He felt like an invalid.

He heard a sound. He looked sideways and slowly. No one was there. Where was he? Why was he alone? The door creaked open and in came a blonde woman in her early forties.

“ Draco, “ she gasped softly. “ You’re-you’re awake. “ And she rushed to him and kissed his forehead as she brushed his messy blonde hair back.

“ Mother…” his voice trailed off. He slowly touched her cheek with the side of one finger, unable to distinguish if she was a dream or not. Well, was she? He felt half-dead…either he was a stranger in her dreams, or her…

“ Draco, my Draco, “ she was crying now and he felt her tears drop onto his own pale hands. They were cold…” Please, speak to me? Do you not recognize me? “

His mouth opened slowly, no voice came out. Instead he looked down at his heavily bandaged arms. He looked at her again. “ My chest….it hurts…”

And Narcissa Malfoy cried once more. The relief of seeing him talking was more than a reward.

“ How are you? “ he found himself asking.

“ Draco…” Narcissa began. “ do you know how many days you have been asleep? How many days you’ve hovered between life and death? Six days, Draco. Six days of unconsciousness…. And now- “

“ I’m alright, “ he said. “ Are you alright? “ he asked her with concern in his eyes.

She looked at her son, swathed in bandages; his chest was slowly healing, although they told her it would take some time and that he would never be free from pain. They could not believe he had lived through it. He was the first living horcrux they had come across. A Malfoy, a Deatheater, a pureblood.

His eyes darted back to his mother’s. “ Hermione! “ he suddenly gasped. “ Where is she?! “

“ Draco, she’s alive- “

“ I need to see her- “

“ You have to rest! “

“ No! Let me see her! Mother, please? “ And he suddenly gasped again and clutched his chest.

“ Draco! “ Narcissa cried, horrified. She ran out and in a second, a mediwizard trailed behind her.

“ Young man, “ the mediwizard said as he held his shoulders, trying to make him lie down on his bed once more, “ Please, don’t exert effort- “

“ Hermione! “ he said in gasps. “ I need to see her! “

“ Later, young Malfoy, “ the bespectacled mediwizard took out his wand to put Draco to sleep.

“ Don’t you dare put me to sleep, “ Draco said in a low tone.

“ If you want to stay alive, you will adhere to this, “ the doctor said gently. “ Miss Granger is well, she is resting. Both of you need it. You’ve gone through much- “

“ If you put me to sleep- “

“ You’ll what, Mr. Malfoy? “ the mediwizard began, straightening his spectacles.

He suddenly felt tired. “ Nothing, I- can’t I see her? Even for awhile? Just a few minutes? “ His eyes felt heavy.

The mediwizard shook his head. “ Perhaps another time, when you no longer have chest pains? “ he smiled at him. “ Sleep for now. “

Draco shook his head. “ You just- put- some spell on me, “ he muttered, his eyes dropping off. “ Hermione-

And he was asleep.

Narcissa looked at her sleeping son. It was hard to imagine that he had indeed survived that ritual. According to experts, no one can survive to be a living horcrux. Hermione…she had somehow figured out something, she had done something to make Draco live. She should be thankful…

And she walked out of the room and headed down the hall for Hermione Granger. She opened the door without knocking. The room was empty.

A mediwitch was cleaning up the room.

“ Hermione Granger? “ she began. “ Where is she? “

“ Checked out awhile ago, ma’am. “

Narcissa turned around and saw Lupin heading down her way. “ Lupin…Hermione Granger, where is she? “

“ Home, most likely. She’s stubborn. Didn’t want to stay here for another day, “ he replied. “ I was on my way to see Draco. How is he? “

“ Asleep. He threatened one of the mediwizards, he wanted to see Hermione Granger badly, “ she smiled. “ Where does this Hermione Granger live? “

“ A muggle place. Skye Apartments. Number 7, “ Lupin told her. “ You’re going to visit her? “ he smiled.

She nodded. “ I think I will. “

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She had apparated near the apartment. She saw a quaint, Mediterranean inspired building with mailboxes that said ‘SKYE Apartments’. She breathed in fresh air as some leaves fell around her. It was a nice place. She saw a mailbox that read ‘Hermione Granger #7’. She slowly walked up, wondering if she really was at home. She suddenly began to feel nervous…she was going to see Hermione Granger for the first time…

She walked up the gaily colored steps and walked up another flight of stairs. She saw a brass number 7 on a light brown colored door. She hesitated to knock on it at first. Then she did, twice. She heard a voice. The door flung open.

“ Ronald Weasley I told you no more flower- “ she stopped and stared at a fine looking blonde woman in a grey robes with a letter ‘M’ golden pin at the center. She bit her lower lip. “ I’m so sorry, “ she said flustered. “ I thought you were Ronald Weasley- I- Would you like to come in? “

“ Yes, thank you. “ She went in as Hermione closed the door.

Hermione began heading for the kitchen counter. “ I am so sorry- I haven’t had time for groceries- I just got out of- I- well, I only have Earl Gray- “

“ That’s fine, I’ll do it myself, “ she took out her wand as everything began to prepare itself. “ I don’t want you tired. Sit down with me. “

Hermione wanted to drown out of nervousness. She sat opposite to Narcissa, one arm still in bandages; a bandage was swathed around her chest too, as evident by a white patch against her black spaghetti strap top.

“ I suppose you know who I am? “ she began. There was a chink of china as the tea cups swirled in midair to land in front of them and on the low table Hermione got from a flea market.

Hermione could barely nod. “ I- yes…I think I do. “

“ Hermione- “ she began. “ I visited you, because, because I wanted to see you. I wanted to see the girl my son fell in love with. “

“ Madame Malfoy, “ she began.

“ Narcissa, call me Narcissa, “ she told her.

“ Narcissa, “ she took a deep breath. “ I- I’m sorry I couldn’t do better- I tried, I really did- “

“ I know you did, seeing you in front of me like that is evidence enough. For that, I am grateful. Hermione, never in my life did I expect that a muggle-born witch would save the only son I have. And I am glad it’s you. “

Hermione’s head was swimming. She was glad? Narcissa was not being prejudiced? How was this possible? “ Draco, “ she began. “ How is he? “

“ Asleep. He woke up just awhile ago, looking for you, “ she gave Hermione a soft smile. “ You’re pretty. I’m glad my son was right about you being pretty. And of course, they were all right about you being the smartest witch at Hogwarts in 50 years or so. “

Hermione smiled. “ I- I don’t know what to say- “

“ Let me do the compliments, dear, “ she said. “ I’d like to show you something. She took out something from her robes. It was a letter. “ I would like you to read it. “

Hermione reached for it and opened it.


~

October 31, 2005

Mother,

When you awake, you will find me long gone and my task completed. I apologize for having had to put you to sleep- I had to mother, for I want you unharmed and alive. I have sensed that you have feared that I would become like the man you married, for I am his son, after all. Sadly mother, I have become somewhat like him…and I know I cannot turn back. If I had to turn back- I would have escaped this a long time ago and I would have not allowed it to go this far.

I hold an unbearable curse, mother, that of Harry’s heart- that of me being the horcrux and I know I should have told you about the latter, but I could not. It’s both pride and the need to see you safe. And yes, Hermione’s included in that need. For I love her mother, for the first time, I truly loved without fear, without regret, without father’s voice; screaming that I should not, for my bloodline’s sake.

I am caught mother; I am caged between this temptation of power and the need to live to see you safe for the moment. You’ve told Lupin of my activities, I know, no matter how much you hide it, and I cannot blame you. I am humbled by the love you have given me, your concern to keep me safe. Live for me, for I know I won’t. Love for me, for I feel I will no longer have the opportunity to do so. Thank you so much for everything…

Draco

~



“ The letter was all about you, Hermione, “ Narcissa said as Hermione looked up at her after reading it. There were tears in Narcissa’s eyes. “ I read it, only after I had awakened, he put me to sleep. I read that letter first. After that came the letter from St. Mungo’s. I cried, Hermione. I thought my son was gone. But...you saved him. How did you do it? “

Hermione’s hands shook, suddenly recalling the events.



~

She was hurting, he was hurting. And she did not know which was the greater agony, her pain or his. Voldemort clutched her chest. His spindly fingers were reaching into her heart; she gasped and clutched at Voldemort’s cold hands as he smiled in victory. “ It is finished…”

~




“ Someone…someone gave me a pendant. I didn’t know what it was for. But that pendant did many things for all of us. Snape’s journal had been deciphered, Voldemort’s wand had been reconstructed- we thought there was no hope. Ancient runes were used. They had not deciphered everything. I did. I tried to. There was another prophecy. Some prophecy that had probably been stolen…. It was about someone’s downfall. I don’t know who made that prophecy…

To end the cycle, one must perish. Blood of the servant or the blood of the master, sacrificed blood… gained or lost. The heart that has been opened will be closed by the same entity. The living horcrux must be stabbed to where it lies. The heart… The dagger of serpents… the pendant of the triad of heirs…innocent blood and tainted blood, drip for the ground and into the cauldron- open fire for the notebook, to seal this secret- whoever you are, well done…you will either make the master live or make him expire...do what is right…follow the trail of blood…” she took another breath.

Narcissa looked on, absorbedly.

“ I’m sure it was made recently, it spoke of the horcrux….the dagger was from Marko Sarovic’s collection, “ she paused, remembering Ron say that he was dead. “ The triad of heirs meant the pendant of Hufflepuff, Gryffindor and Ravenclaw. I’d assume they made that after Slytherin left Hogwarts…the tainted blood and innocent blood…it’s still vague to me. But I understood it as my own blood and Draco’s. When our blood mixed, the pure blood of his became tainted…” she shuddered, recalling Voldemort’s burning hands on her skin and Draco’s gasping…



~

“ You fool- “ Voldemort’s snake-like tongue flicked out. “ A heart for a heart…? It will not work…!” His now wide eyes glowed red and green.

“ Hermione…” Draco gasped out with all he had. “ Do it, even if it!- “ He cried out as Voldemort’s face smoked up despite his rapid evolution, the pendant still on top of Draco’s chest.

“ Do it! “ Draco shouted, tears pouring out of his eyes, blood coming out of his mouth. Voldemort’s figure gave a scream as Draco did too...

~



“ Hermione? “ Narcissa began. “ Are you alright? “

She nodded, breaking free from her recollection. She still dreamed of Voldemort at night…still thought he would rise up from the ashes to kill her off, along with Draco. “ I- yes. “

“ Vague or not…you saved him. You saved us all, “ Narcissa said. And she reached out her hand for Hermione’s own. “ How would you like to see Draco later? “ she asked.

Hermione’s face lit up all of a sudden. “ I- I would like that very much. “

“ Will you tell me how you two met again? He never got to tell me the story of how you two met, “ she gave a wistful smile.

Hermione smiled as Narcissa reached for her tea. “ Well- you wouldn’t expect it- I didn’t. “



~

A silver colored Jaguar roadster stopped behind hers. The man wearing designer sunglasses looked ahead, seeing a seemingly pretty, wavy haired woman in heels, a black skirt and plain white long sleeves. She had her back turned and apparently had car problems.

He got down. “ Can I help you? Miss? “ he asked approaching her.

“ Well as a matter of a fact- “ she spun around and her eyes widened.

His eyes widened. “ Do I know- “ he began. The man had light blonde hair, wore a blue polo shirt with a few loose buttons and shiny leather shoes.

She stepped back and stared at him. “ M-Malfoy? “

He took of his sunglasses off and stared at her. “ Granger? “ he said in an awed voice….

~



Narcissa laughed. “ But I guess you figured it out after you knew that he had a heart transplant? “

She nodded. “ I did. I found out at a very inconvenient moment. “


~

“ Word games, Weasley? Challenge me- “

“ Get away from her- never ever let me see you with her- she’s not for you! Never for you! “

“ What are you? Her mother? You’re not! You’re just one-fourth of what once was the golden trio! If you plan to hex me- just try. “

“ Grow up, Malfoy! “

“ I have-! “ he said. There was a loud bang. He had just slammed his palms on his table. “ Ever since I knew that I had that debilitating disease! Would you think it was easy for me-!? To live like that? To stop using magic-To incorporate with muggle medicine- To lose all my Malfoy pride-And to- to have Potter’s heart to survive-?! “

~



“ Dear, Draco had a very hard time adjusting to the fact that he had gotten Harry’s heart. Even I could not believe it. But- I had to accept it. That Harry saved him once more. Draco cried when he knew. It hurt his ego, his Malfoy stubbornness, and then he fell for you. He felt that Harry’s heart was toying with him because he fell for you. “

“ I didn’t- I- “

“ Dear, I’ve never seen Draco so enamored for someone, “ Narcissa told her. “ I’ve never seen Draco so enamored of you. “

“ I- I don’t know if he still feels the same…” she whispered.

Narcissa looked at her eyes. “ You’ll know soon enough, Hermione. “

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A/N: Okay, i couldn't resist. I had to upload and for good reason...Hermione's alive! Draco's alive!!! Wee!!!! aren't you all happy?!! hahahaha!!! a lot commented on how i also showed the lives of the others- i had to, it was tempting to my writer's soul. Most of the questions were answered here. About the battle and all. As a writer, i try my best to explain things, so if i have any shortcomings, critique me so i will learn. i like to learn. ^_^

three more chapters to go, i think. PLEASE DON'T FORGET TO REVIEW! thank you all!!!

Chapter 40: Guilty
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Draco woke up, his head heavy once more. He blinked twice. He wasn’t- where was he? He was…he looked at the tapestries, the portraits, the cabinets, the lamps and the chandelier above him, the books- the hardbound books... he felt the sheets with his fingers...He was in his room...

He slowly sat up, feeling his surroundings swirl around.

“ Be careful, “ a soft voice said.

He looked sideways, and against the streaming light from a window was an angel, hovering over him. She was beautiful, her wavy hair shone like it had glitter all over it and her eyes were wide open and lovely…all she needed were wings…was he dead?

“ Who are you? “ he began, squinting his eyes.

She said nothing, instead the bright glow behind her softly diffused. The face became clearer now, he could see her lashes now, he could see her pink lips now…

“ Draco, “ she said gently.

His vision cleared. He had a sharp intake of breath. For a moment he could not talk. He wanted to stare at her. He wanted to love her at that short distance. He wanted to take in all of her. His hand reached out for her face and he felt her soft cheek slowly as she froze in her seat. He caressed it, felt the warmth, felt the love. He touched her eyelashes, her fine nose and her lips with his thumb. He held her hair gently from the middle part of them to the tips.

Was this the girl he had loved? Still loved until now? Or was it a ghost? Was he the ghost, then? She smelled of rain and peaches…



~

“ No! “ she spat out. “ I’m still committed to it and thank you, you insufferable gentleman! “

“ Vanilla Sky, “ she said. “ A perfect blend of vanilla with a splash of citrus for a unique scent that’s you. “ She laughed. “ Bloody-what a description- “

She held out a hand. “ No need to help me- I can walk on my own, thank you very much-much. “

“ No! I most certainly am not alright! It’s never, ever- alright! Since- since- he’s dead! Since he died! I hate this! “ she said angrily as Draco knelt beside her on the sidewalk. “ I- I!”

“ Take care; Malfoy, “ she finally said, quietly.

“ Oh cut the crap, Malfoy! Can’t you just be your mean old self?! Start hurting me, like what you did for seven years at school-?! “ she burst out angrily.

She smiled and shook her head. “ Nothing- your singing- it’s horrid. “

“ I actually thought I would marry him- you know- after everything we’ve been through, after Voldemort and all- sometimes at night, when I can’t sleep- I hear his voice, see his face in the mirror; even when I close my eyes! I feel like I’m waiting on a ghost-! He’s trying to tell me something in my dreams! Draco, if you- I can’t believe I was even thinking about it- but I was afraid! Afraid I’d fallen for you-! “

“ I wasn’t looking for another Harry! I fell in love with Draco! Draco Malfoy! It’s Draco Malfoy! I fell in love with you! I love you! “ she cried.

“ I loved you, “ she cried.

- “ Draco- “ she whispered tearfully. “ Draco! I’m getting you out of here! Alive, Draco! Alive! Don’t you dare die on me! Don’t you dare! I love you! “

~



“ Hermione, “ he croaked out, finally. “ It’s you. “

At that sentence he uttered out, she suddenly took his roaming hand into her own cold hands. She kissed Draco’s hand as Draco felt warm tears come out from her eyes, tears that trailed down to his hand. He said nothing, absorbed by the glistening tears that dripped down to his hand. He was alive…he could feel her concern, feel her pain, feel her love.

“ Hermione…I’m too scared to breathe…if I wake up…will you be gone? “ he began. “ Are you really here? Am I holding you? Are these tears really yours? “ His other hand went up to her cheek and he felt tears once more. “ I’m afraid I might do something wrong to destroy this moment, “ he murmured.

“ No, don’t let go, “ Hermione cried quietly. “ Please…I need to hold you…”

Draco was still for a moment, trying to hear his heartbeat- and hers. He was alive! Hermione was in front of him! Hermione…Hermione! And he suddenly held her face with both of his hands and kissed her lovingly, softly, slowly, feeling her…everything was her. He tasted her tears, felt her hands tenderly hanging on to his neck as he sat closer to her. “ Hermione, “ he was murmuring as he kissed her closed eyes, her nose and back to her lips again.

Hermione shuddered and took a deep breath.

Then Draco’s lips trailed up to her left ear. And there he said it. “ I love you, Hermione. “

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Narcissa Malfoy opened the door to her son’s room. Her eyes widened in joyful surprise. Draco was awake, with Hermione beside him!

“ Mum, “ his voice called out.

She smiled and walked for him and embraced him carefully. “ I’m glad to see you awake again. How did you like your gift when you woke up? “ she motioned for Hermione.

Draco laughed. “ The best you’ve ever given, mum. “

“ You woke up just in time, “ Narcissa said. “ You have visitors. “ And as she said that, Theodore Nott and Daphne Greengrass came in his room, their faces glowing with happiness and life.

“ Nott? Daphne? “ Draco was surprised.

“ Took you long enough to wake up, “ Nott said with a grin. “ We’ve been waiting for you to wake up. “

Hermione stood up. “ Perhaps you’d like some time together to talk, “ she said.

Draco’s hand shot out for her hand. “ No, stay. Whatever they have to say, you have to hear it too. Is that alright with you chaps? “ he faced Nott and Daphne.

They both nodded as they took their seats near Draco.

“ How are you? “ Daphne asked Draco.

“ I just woke up an hour ago, “ Draco replied with a smile. “ How can you ask me that? “

She laughed. “ I’m sorry, Draco. I was thinking of something nice to say. I guess that was the best I could come up with. “

“ Not certainly your best, “ Draco told her, laughing.

“ Draco, I’m sorry, “ Daphne suddenly blurted out, bursting into tears. What followed was complete silence, except Daphne who continued talking. “ I didn’t mean to hurt you back there. I was just so desperate to make the master- Lord Voldemort come alive, that I had wanted to kill Hermione myself to make your loyalties stay with us. It was betrayal on my part, I know, but I was desperate, I wanted Blaise killed when Lord Voldemort came back to life, to exact revenge on Blaise- cause he kept hurting me…”

“ Why didn’t you tell me? “ Draco asked the pretty brunette in front of her. “ I could have defended you from him. “

“ Pride, “ Nott replied for Daphne. Daphne smirked at him.

“ I thought I could handle it on my own, “ Daphne said. “ So I tried, to no avail. But at that moment when I hurt you, when I did that Sectumsempra on you, I felt so bad, like I had hurt a brother. “ She turned to Hermione. “ Hermione- I’m sorry, I wanted you dead that time, honestly I did. It was either a resurrection, or death for all of us. “

Hermione was quiet as she stared at Daphne’s eyes. They echoed out real apologies and empathy for what she had gone through.

“ I did not have the courage to see you both, to apologize, but- but Nott said it was high time I come clean with everything. I’m still a Slytherin, Hermione, and my views about pure bloodedness have changed little, but they have changed still, because of you. When I saw you, trying hard to protect Draco- I knew you were not just some annoying Gryffindor…you were something else. And for that, I have a newfound respect for you. “

“ I- “ Hermione began. “ You’re forgiven. “

Daphne smiled, her lower lip trembling a little, betraying what she felt, that she felt nervous on apologizing to a muggle born witch. “ Thank you. “

“ Nott, what happened? I know you did something back there, “ Draco began, looking at him.

“ Nothing, “ Nott replied quickly.

Hermione’s eyes widened all of a sudden and she gasped. “ You! “ she pointed at Nott. Draco and Daphne looked shocked.

“ What? “ Nott said.

“ Angus Tied- it’s you! Tied and Nott! It was you! You gave me the pendant anonymously, that pendant saved Draco! “ Hermione’s voice was triumphant.

Theodore Nott slowly smiled. “ You really are the smartest witch to come out of Hogwarts in fifty years. “

“ Kindly explain? “ Draco said, his brows creasing.

Nott took a deep breath. “ Draco, the reason why you’re still alive was because of a pendant, a pendant I bought from Borgin and Burkes. It was an insignificant pendant to the many, but I knew this was what could save you. “

“ You wanted to save me? “

“ I respect you- and don’t ask me why I chose to do something behind our coven. I felt like I had to. I didn’t love much- well before I realized Daphne was there; I figured I could repent through helping you. I knew you’d fallen hard for Hermione. The best thing I could think of next was my survival and yours. I still wanted Voldemort to rise though, but friendship had taken the best of me. Working with you has made me realize, has made me regret that I ever made a pact with Blaise and the rest of them. “

“ You betrayed them early on? “ Draco was incredulous.

“ No, not in the truest sense. I sent a letter to Hermione, along with a prophecy I had obtained from someone I killed afterwards- to see what was inside the notebook. I got it from Sibyl Trellawney. I killed her quickly, to show my gratitude. I must admit, I was kind of ruthless just to see what was inside. And so I saw what was inside, before Blaise did. And I hid the other texts from our coven’s eyes. I for one am glad that Hermione found out what the pendant was for, just in time, actually, to save you. “

“ What was your motive? “ Draco asked, his silver eyes blazing with intelligence. “ A Slytherin has to have a motive. “

“ You wouldn’t believe me, but I just felt that I had to mix things up, see which side would win- of course the temptation was great, seeing Voldemort rise would mean I would be in his favor once more, but friendship beckoned, brotherly ties grew strong. I found myself wanting to back out, but there’s this adage that goes that you can never back out once you do things for Voldemort. “

Draco nodded. He knew it was all too true. “ It was a win-win situation for you, wasn’t it? You either had Voldemort’s favor, or you could have given up to the Aurors and spilled the beans to save you from Azkaban…”

Theodore Nott nodded. “ Quite. That was until I- found out that I loved someone then. “

Draco looked at Daphne’s middle finger. There was a shiny little diamond entwined with golden snakes. He smiled at her.

“ It wasn’t easy, cause I first thought that Daphne fell for you and I began to have my doubts too, whenever she came to me, hurt because of Blaise. I had doubts of whether or not I should see myself working along with people I never really took as brothers-in-arms. It was only you I respected among the men in our coven, Draco. “

Draco nodded. “ Thank you, then. That I’m still alive because of Daphne. “

They laughed for a short while, then the laughter was once more replaced with seriousness, each to his and her nightmare, each to his and her own vivid account of the night that had brought them far away from their dreams of power and closer than ever to the people they loved. It was more than they could ask for. They escaped with their lives, some escaped without their heads and brains….

“ Hermione, “ Draco began. “ I was wondering if you could accompany mother at the west wing. Along with Daphne? “

She nodded- understanding the need for some even more private talk and both of the women stood up, with shy smiles on their faces, conveying a newfound respect for each other.

“ How’s Blaise? “ Draco asked, as soon as he heard the door close.

Nott shrugged. “ If you see him, you’ll know. “

“ His sanity’s gone? “

“ More than that. He’s not Blaise anymore. He doesn’t even recognize his mother. When he sees pictures of himself, or his face in a mirror, he hurts himself again and again, as if hating to be reminded that he was that person before. “

“ When did you last visit him? “

“ Today, earlier this day, “ Nott said. “ I asked him if he knew me, and he just kept mumbling ‘my time will come’. When I mentioned the name of Lord Voldemort to him, his eyes suddenly popped open and he began beating his head against the bars, calling out his name. Lord Voldemort is the only name he recognizes. His mother has begun an appeal to the court, that he be taken out of Azkaban and be kept in solitary confinement in their manor. “

“ What did the high wizards say? “

“ They flatly refused confinement in the Zabini manor, unless Blaise would be given a year long confinement in St. Mungo’s. His mother’s trying to appeal again. “

“ And you? Us? What will become of our trial? “

“ As soon as you’re better, we shall have the hearing. “

“ You think we’ll be in Azkaban in a few days? “

Nott shook his head, a grim smile on his lips. “ I don’t know. I hope not. I’ll defend you, I promise, even if you didn’t ask me to. “

Draco nodded. “ I’ll defend you too, no matter what it takes. I want you and Daphne to get married. “

Nott laughed. “ Highly unlikely with such evidence on our backs. “

“ What about the others? Warrington? Pucey, Crabbe and Goyle? Marko? “

There was a strained look on Nott’s face. He took a breath. “ They’ve been sentenced to Azkaban, on account of using the most of the Unforgivable curses. Goyle and Pucey got off light; they’ve been sentenced only for a year in Azkaban. Marko’s- Marko’s dead, Draco. Blaise killed him while you were near death. “

There was a sudden deep sense of sympathy for Pansy. “ And Pansy? “

Nott sighed and massaged his temple first. “ I- Pansy was pregnant already. Marko’s views quickly changed. I think he wanted you dead in that ritual too, so he could have Pansy’s attention all to him. But Pansy asked me to protect Marko; I think she loved him by then. I wasn’t able to protect Marko. “

“ Pansy’s pregnant, “ Draco murmured. “ Does she know he’s dead? “

“ I went to her right away, after that ritual. I’ve never seen her so helpless. “

Draco thought about the years Pansy had spent trying to catch his attention, her sudden marriage, her ball invitations- he refused them all. And now, the man she loved was dead. Her love came too late. Marko was gone. He suddenly felt tired and old…Draco brushed a hand over his hair.

“ What else have you hid from us? From me? Aside from that pendant- the texts we couldn’t read-? “

“ Nothing much. Just that and that… Hermione figured out the rest, because I vaguely understood what Snape was talking about in his journal. I had clues, I figured them out, but I couldn’t cut through the rest. You’ve got a smart wife there. “

“ She’s not my wife. “

“ She will be. “

Draco shook his head and gave a short laugh. “ I don’t think she’ll ever want to marry me. I have Harry’s heart, I caused some of her co-Aurors to die, I almost killed her- “

“ But she still loves you, didn’t you see it in her eyes? “

Draco shook his head. “ I- I don’t know, Nott. It’s hard- times- they’ve changed. Perhaps that incident brought us all in a whole new light. “

“ Whole new light indeed. Who thought- a Gryffindor and a Slytherin? How about some unsolicited advice? Don’t let go of her. I may not be over everything that’s got muggle in it, but I’d be happy to see you end up with her. “

“ Maybe. But I need to get through the hearing first. “

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The hearing started early that day. Hermione had awoken at five in the morning, despite the hearing being at seven. Draco was currently under the custody of the Aurors, so were Daphne and Nott. She was nervous, she was…afraid.

She shuffled into the trial room, its cavernous hall and glowing chandeliers frightened her well enough. The seats were almost filled. Ron saved a seat for her at the left side of the chamber. They were a few feet above the ground floor, where the people who were tried, stood.

There was a sudden hush when in came Draco first. Hermione’s heart pounded. She saw his eyes bore into hers, but his face remained stoic as ever. Nott trailed behind and then Daphne. They had no shackles on. Hermione stared hard at Draco’s face and saw circles below his eyes. He had had no sleep. He had been confined for a two days under the Aurors custody, along with Nott and Daphne. His face looked pale and drawn out. The judges came in, all seven of them. And the seats began to get filled, until Hermione found the air grew stifling now. Across her were some journalists, she saw Ginny and Ginny gave her a reassuring smile and Bill waved at her along with the twins and Percy. At the other end of the right side, she saw serious faces from some former Slytherins who had no involvement in the rituals. Narcissa was seated alone in the middle row, surrounded by serious and quiet wizards and witches of high regard in wizarding society.

Narcissa’s hands were clasped. Her lips were pinched. She had not felt this anxious since she heard her son had joined the Deatheaters many, many years ago. Her breathing became shallow as her eyes were fixed only on her son.

“ All rise, “ a man with a booming voice announced.

They all stood up, the shuffling of feet and robes filling the hall. Draco, Nott and Daphne stood still as they had their places in front of the Wizengamot- the high council of magical law

“ Daphne Greengrass, you have been accused for the murder of two Aurors, using the Cruciatus, The Killing Curse and the Imperio curse. You are also charged for armed robbery, resulting in damages to the Vaults, “ a man with a graying long beard read. “ How do you plead? “

“ Guilty, “ she whispered.

“ Theodore Nott, “ another man began, this time a younger looking man with a brown long beard. “ You have been accused for the murders of two Aurors, a muggle and Sibyl Trellawney- using the three unforgivable curses, armed robbery, tampering with evidence and for not surrendering dangerous artifacts to the Aurors Society. How do you plead? “

“ Guilty, “ he replied in a quiet voice.

There was a buzz of excitement as he said that and the judge rapped on his mallet. “ Order! Order in the courtroom! “ Once the crowd quieted down, the head of the Wizengamot cleared his throat. “ Draco Malfoy, you have been accused for drawing wands against the Aurors, for not surrendering dangerous artifacts to the Aurors, for armed robbery of the Vaults, casting dark spells against the Aurors and harboring the whereabouts of he-who-must-not-be-named. “

Hermione’s eyes widened. Draco was just a living horcrux! He had no idea that Voldemort existed in him! She hands clenched, and she felt a hand over her shoulder. Ron’s reassuring hand.

“ How do you plead? “

“ Guilty, “ his voice rang out clear.

Hermione looked down, hearing him say that word. Narcissa bit a part of her gloved hand. Lupin breathed in deeply.

“ Except for the accused, all be seated. “

Hermione almost couldn’t sit down, until Ron pulled her hand. She sat down, trembling.

“ Daphne Greengrass, you may speak. “

Daphne took a deep breath as she stood in front of the judges, stiff and pale. “ I speak not only for myself, but for Theodore Nott and Draco Black Malfoy. I was carried away, by the need to regain my family’s glory, I was talked into getting in the situation by Blaise Zabini- “

“ Who is now insane and cannot testify for himself, “ the leader of the Wizengamot said.

Daphne cleared her throat, willing herself to continue. “ I was coerced by my greed and by my coven to do the acts that I have done. I do not deny that I have killed; I spilled blood to see what was inside the journal that belonged to the now deceased Severus Snape. After I found out that Blaise meant to kill Draco, I decided that my loyalties should not lie with him. I suppose that was the start of my disloyalty withy everything we worked hard for, for I respected Draco better than I respected Blaise. The night we were about to summon Lord Voldemort, I knew it was time to make my move, but Blaise prevented me from stopping everything- using the Imperius curse on me- “

“ And this has been verified by the mediwizards at St. Mungo’s? “

A mediwizard stood forward and nodded. “ Daphne Greengrass has indeed been struck with the Imperius curse.”

“ There shall be a five minute recess to decide on Ms. Daphne Greengrass’s punishment. “

Daphne sank back into her seat; she couldn’t touch Nott for comfort, or talk to Draco. So she sat, listened to the whispers around her, the shuffling of feet, the noise, the little arguments of what her fate would be…and the five minutes disappeared quickly, for they had come back.

“ Daphne Greengrass, rise and come to the center of the court. “

“ Under the order of the Wizengamot, we find you guilty in the charges aforementioned, and we sentence you to no less than thirty days in the Azkaban and thirty days service to the Aurors to help them in the repair of the Vaults you have caused damage with. “

Daphne let out a cry of relief. Thirty days? Thirty days? She reached out for Nott and tried to embrace him but the Aurors immediately took her away.

Hermione’s heart pounded. She felt sure Nott was next. And he was.

“ Theodore Nott, you may speak. “

“ It was a simple rule, to gain Voldemort’s favor once more, I had to work for his resurrection. So I joined on- Blaise’s incessant talks about bringing glory back to my name, bringing glory to the Slytherin house…it all fit like a glove, and I thought it was a way to do so. But I found out about Draco Malfoy being the living horcrux- “

There was a collective gasp from the onlookers and Hermione bit her lower lip.

“ Yes, he was the horcrux. But he didn’t harbor him Voldemort with his complete knowledge. He only knew he had Harry Potter’s heart- “

There was another collective gasp, this time louder than ever. The Wizengamot had different reactions. Some expressed disbelief, the other wanted to believe it.

“ My loyalties for Blaise and the coven were gone by then. My loyalties lay in Draco, Hermione Granger and her Aurors. So I fought against Blaise and the rest of our coven. “

“ I would like to call on a witness to prove whether or not Theodore Nott tells the truth. Remus John Lupin, “ a Wizengamot said.

Lupin came forward; his face held high as Tonks looked from the seats at the left side.

“ You are under oath, Lupin. “

“ I know, your honor. What Nott is saying is the truth. When I had by then come back with reinforcements, I saw Nott fighting against Blaise Zabini; he tried to protect Draco as well. “

“ There shall be a five minute recess to decide upon the creditable punishment. “

Nott sat still in his seat, listening to people murmuring about him and Daphne. He wondered if he would ever get to share his life with Daphne. He thought of his father, and his mother- and Blaise. He wondered why he had allowed it to happen. It was greed for power and glory…And the five minutes were quickly over.

“ Theodore Nott, stand in the center of the court. “

And he stood, feeling the apprehension, wanting Daphne to be close to him-

“ Under the order of the Wizengamot, we find you guilty in the charges aforementioned, and we sentence you to no less than sixty days in Azkaban and sixty days service to the wizarding populace by repairing areas that you have damaged. “

At that moment, he felt hands on his shoulders and he was magically bound by invisible shackles as he walked out. “ Draco, keep your chin up, “ he told him before he was taken away.

Draco was quiet as he was called to the center of the court. His eyes searched for his mother first. He saw her, unable to contain her tears. He saw Hermione, who looked pale- and he wanted to reach out to her to tell her all would be well…

“ Draco Malfoy, you may speak. “

Draco stood straight and looked into each of the Wizengamot eyes. “ I stand here because I’ve been pronounced guilty, by the wizarding populace and by myself. I am guilty for drawing wands against the Aurors, for not surrendering dangerous artifacts to the Aurors, for armed robbery of the Vaults, casting dark spells against the Aurors. But I am not guilty of harboring Voldemort. Daphne Greengrass and Theodore Nott only acted upon the few choices they were presented with, as well. Years ago, I began to suffer from a malady. My heart was too weak. I sought help from muggles- muggle medicine. Incidentally, fatefully, the day Harry Potter died from a car accident, a muggle accident, I was given a heart. I have Harry Potter’s heart. I refused to be pulled into anything related to wizardry again, until Blaise called upon me one night, taking care to use my mother and Hermione Granger. And I knew I had to act. Whether my actions may have proved to rash, I do not regret them, because I saved my mother and I saved Hermione Granger, “ his voice echoed throughout the silent room.

“ Yet you allowed yourself to use dark magic, “ the leader of the Wizengamot said, his voice booming.

“ Yes, I had to. I was playing between sides. I wanted the people I cared for safe- so I had to show I was of some use. I am only a horcrux. I did not keep Voldemort hidden, “ Draco emphasized the last sentence.

“ The tests from St. Mungo’s, what do they show? “

A mediwizard who had treated Draco came into the center. “ It has been proven that Draco’s heart that was from Harry Potter was a horcrux. The young Malfoy has suffered greatly from being a living horcrux. As of yet, he is not yet fully capable of wielding a wand or casting a spell. It may take months for him to heal. “

“ How can he be still alive? Is there some spell cast by he-who-must-not-be-named? “

“ Just nothing short of a miracle, your honor, “ the mediwizard said, looking up to Hermione. The Wizengamot trailed his eyes to where the mediwizard was looking, and he saw a pale, fragile but pretty looking girl, whose eyes were fixed solely on Draco.

“ There shall be a five minute recess to decide on Draco Malfoy’s punishment. “

Draco looked up to Hermione and saw her eyes welling up with tears. His silver eyes bored into her hazel brown ones and he saw the tears drop one by one as Ron sat beside her, a hand on her shoulder.

He nodded at Ron and turned a bit to face his mother. Narcissa’s eyes widened, upon seeing her son with such a sad look on his face. She clutched the handrails in front of her, quietly crying. He faced the floor in front of him once more, oblivious to the whispers around him. Would there still be a future for him? The Wizengamot clearly blamed him for Voldemort’s short resurrection.

He heard feet moving about. The Wizengamot were back. He stared at them as they filed back into their respective seats. The people grew hushed, a flame went out in one flame holder and the room went colder…

“ Draco Malfoy, stand at the center. “

He walked for the center and breathed in calmly. Whatever it was, this was his fate...

“Under the order of the Wizengamot, we find you guilty in the charges aforementioned- “ the announcement echoed throughout the room, reverberating in everyone's ears.

Narcissa burrowed her face in her hands, unable to stand the sight of it all. Hermione was quiet, still, pale- without tears. Her eyes were solely concentrated on Draco. Ron eyed Hermione, fearing she would collapse at any moment…the whispers grew louder than ever.

“ However, evidence has proven that you have not participated in all the events willingly, and your physical condition is deemed as punishment enough for foraying into illegal grounds. We sentence you to 30 days of service to the Aurors and Wizarding populace and that you surrender your wand for 30 days after you have rendered your service. You are not allowed to get back into your muggle place for 60 days. An affidavit for muggle eyes will be sent to where you currently hold your profession. You shall stay at your manor with an Auror on guard. Visitors will not be allowed for 60 days, nor will letters be allowed. This trial has ended and shall be written into the archives. Good day to you all, “ the leader said, looking at Draco’s face and then to Hermione’s.

There was a break in the silence as people around him begin to chatter excitedly about.

Draco looked up at Hermione with a glow on his face. Hermione smiled tightly at Draco. It was better than Azkaban. She could live through 90 days without seeing him. Then he mouthed at her: ‘I love you. ‘

And two Aurors were holding Draco’s arms and they took him away. Hermione turned to Ron and looked at him for a second.

Then Ron smiled at her, reassuringly. “ It’ll be fine. “

She nodded, believing him completely.

Everything was going to be fine...

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A/N: I honestly had a difficult time conjuring this chapter since i've never forayed into an indepth portrayal of love and all that jazz. i hope i did well enough without causing fluff damage? hehe. and i also had a bit of a hard time with the Wizengamot part and all that, since i don't really know everything about the HP world, i just made up the punishments and words they used.

I suppose some of you will be wondering why the Wizengamot are less harsh than in JK's great books, but i just made them that way. In this story, a lot has changed, even the Wizard Court and Azkaban. I hope that fit you all well, of course. I just wanted to get a good flow in the story so the punishment turned out that way.

I'm ALMOST THERE at the finish!!!! It's not that i'm in a hurry to end this story...it's jsut that i know that it must end- that i must part with it.

Thanks for reading and don't forget to review!

Chapter 41: You're in for the ride of your life!
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

His punishment started out simple enough. Aurors were guarding his movements round the clock, from his sleeping, to him taking breakfast. He had awoken that day, his 55th day in house arrest. It was a gloomy sort of day that made on lazy to get out of bed. But he got out of it, took a shower and dressed into muggle clothes and walked for the east wing to partake of breakfast with his mother.

The Aurors didn’t bother to walk with him, placing a charm under him to detect his movements within the house, and Draco didn’t bother at all. He felt it was just, not even enough for the atrocities he had committed. He wondered if Daphne and Nott were doing well. He wondered if Hermione was doing well. He missed her terribly. Terribly was even an understatement. He thought about her all the time, despite trying to push the thought of her away, she always came.

So he spent his days reading, getting check-ups from designated mediwizards from St. Mungo’s and cleaning up the many rooms of their manor, manually. Narcissa tried to stop him, but he wouldn’t hear of it. He had to do something productive.

Today, he was in one of the many attics. He brushed off the dust with his sleeve and opened an old leather and silver chest. He smiled, looking at little clothes, ones he used to wear as a baby and as a toddler. He stumbled across another little box that contained letters. Letters his father had written to his mother during their courtship days. It was a bittersweet feeling, to know that his father once had a nice side to him, evident in the usage of words in his letters, like ‘I care for you’ and ‘I have grown quite fond of you’. There were little mementos- like little jewelry boxes, perfume bottles and old photographs.

There was a sound in the room. He looked up and found his mother standing at the doorway, bringing a tray filled with biscuits and tea. “ How about a bite? “

“ Came here to help? “

She laughed. “ Perhaps, although I’ve never done it the muggle way before. “ She set the tray down and knelt on the dusty carpeted floor and began looking at the things Draco had rummaged. “ You’ve read these? “

Draco laughed. “ That was private, mum? “

She pinched his cheek. “ Used to be. I don’t think it is now. What has your curiosity found here? “

“ Just stuff I wore as a baby, mementos of your courtship with father. What are all these perfume bottles for, by the way? “

She smiled wistfully. “ That was for every month he didn’t get to see me, busy with work and all that, after we graduated from Hogwarts. We saw each other every few months, when I still lived at the Black House. They have different scents; the bottles change colors for my moods. “

“ I never knew father was that romantic. “

“ I think he tried to prevent himself from being romantic. “

“ Was he happy when you gave birth to me? “

She nodded. “ He was pleased. He showed you off a lot during the first few days of your life. He wanted you to grow up fast, so that he could teach you the Malfoy ways and all that. “

“ He didn’t really love me still, did he? Even when I was small? “

She sighed and arranged some photos. “ I- Draco- your father was secretive. He rarely displayed what he felt…only in a few instances- but he cared for you- gave you everything you asked for and gave you everything you didn’t ask for. That was your father, Draco. “

“ He didn’t love me. “

“ I’m sure he did…in his own way. “

Draco sighed and clenched his jaw. “ When I have my son, I’ll make sure to give him everything I can, that includes love. “

“ You plan to get married? “

“ Mother- it was just a statement. “

“ I think it’s future planning, “ Narcissa said laughing.

“ It was a wrong statement, “ he protested.

“ You’ve just said it to the wrong person. “

“ Mother! “

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Hermione woke up groggily from her sleep. She stretched for a few seconds, sniffing cold autumn air. She blinked and went straight for her bathroom to brush her teeth first, bracing herself for another day’s work. It had been monotonous work, as she took a leave from the Aurors team to concentrate more on her muggle life and to try and forget about Draco for 90 days.

They visited her of course, the Weasley family, and she visited them too. Philip had by then gone even more active, much to his parents’ delight and during a day off, Hermione would baby-sit for them, as Fleur joined Bill once more at the Gringott’s bank. Ron had found a special someone now, a new brunette Auror- even Ginny liked her (Ginny was so picky on Ron’s girls, of course- but this one passed with flying colors). Hermione liked looking at them both for she had never seen Ron so captivated for a girl in all her life.

Her life at Vogue was as busy as ever, as calls were shuttled back and forth and pictures, layouts and articles had to be met before the deadlines. They had produced a new magazine lately, the November edition and much to Hermione’s laughter, they had gone on with one article dedicated solely to gothic fashion- with black capes and boots, one photo even had models with wands.

She did not count the days purposefully and kept herself busy at all times. She looked at the mirror and washed her face after brushing her teeth. She looked at the mirror once more. There she was, in all her sleepyhead glory, waves of brown hair cascading down her petite frame. She studied herself critically, as she wore shorts and a spaghetti top.

“ Ron’s right, “ she thought. “ I’m getting thin again. I should eat more of Mrs. Weasley’s minced meat pies. “ She sighed and walked out of her room wanting to drown herself in hot cocoa. As she stepped out of her room, she stopped a few inches at the doorway. Something was wrong….

Quietly, she began to inch for the cabinet behind her, slipping out her wand from a drawer. She had her wand brandished in front of her, when she heard a noise. It was coming from the kitchen…she inched from the living room for the kitchen. And she stopped.

There was a cup of cocoa at the dining table, a stack of pancakes and toast. She sighed and shook her head. “ Ronald Weasley, “ she called out. “ Come out from where you’re hiding. I can cook for myself still, you know. I’m well enough! “ she said.

There was no reply. Instead, there was another shuffling sound. Hermione spun around and gasped.

In front of her, holding a bouquet of lilies of the valley, wearing a white polo shirt, jeans and sneakers- was Draco.

One of her hands was on her lips as she blinked to make sure it really was Draco. She stood still as Draco smiled at her quietly, the sunshine glinting on his golden hair. His eyes shone almost to a silvery green as he stood in front of her porch’s doors. For a moment, she thought she saw Harry too…

“ Hey you, “ he began.

In a second, he found Hermione in his arms and he embraced her tightly as if never letting go of her again. Hermione looked up to him as he still embraced her.

“ Missed me? “ he asked.

“ Have you gone completely insane? Of course! “ she replied happily, not minding the tears that were running down her face.

“ Stop crying, “ he whispered to her.

“ Oh shut up, “ she laughed out.

He lifted her chin up with a finger. “You’re still beautiful. I see my being away has agreed with you. “

“ Not really, I lost weight, “ she grinned.

“ That’s why I made you some breakfast. “

“ Thanks. Care to join me? “ she asked him, taking his hand.

He shook his head and flung her gently to his chest. “ I think I’ll have my breakfast right here. “ He kissed her. “ So how’s about a dance? “

Hermione laughed. “ Dance? At this time of the morning? In my sleeping clothes? “

“ Those sleeping clothes definitely look better to dance in, “ he told her.

“ There’s no music, “ she protested.

He held her hand and waist. The disc player turned on and it played the first track. A classic jazzy song by some muggle band. “ There is now, “ he told her.

“ Draco, “ she began as they circled around the small living room.

“ Hmm? “

“ I love you, “ she breathed out.

He kissed her nose. “ Good to know that. “

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It was April. Pansy was cuddling her son when her house elf came in. He told her there was a visitor.

“ Show him in here, “ she replied.

And so he came. And she stood in shock as she held her son. “ Draco-? “ her voice cracked.

“ Hello, Pansy, “ he said calmly. He looked at her, wearing a green robe with silver trimming, reminding him of the Slytherin days, the days when he used to be so arrogant, so self-centered…

She looked at him in all his glory; he was still very handsome, although thinner now- but his hair still shone and his eyes commanded respect.

“ Your son? “ he began as he approached her. She nodded and showed him to Draco. Draco held him up as he cooed, his little eyes blinking as he looked at the man that was holding him. “ You must be little Marko…” he murmured. He was staring at a baby with dark hair, curling at the tips.

Pansy felt her heart break. Oh how long had she wanted to see Draco- but now that he was here, she missed Marko even more. “ Takes after him, “ she finally said.

“ I’ll say. “

“ Sit down, please, “ she said.

Draco continued to hold Marko as Marko gurgled and fisted his hands over Draco’s finger. Draco looked at Pansy. “ How are you? “

“ I’ve been- “ she began. “ I’ve been doing fine. “

“ Your in-laws are still supporting you? “ he asked.

She nodded. More than ever. After Marko’s death, Pansy had been the subject of her in-laws lives. They didn’t allow her to get stressed and provided her with everything she needed; especially when they found out they were going to be grandparents.

“ How, “ she began, taking a deep breath. “ How are you and Hermione Granger? “

“ Just fine, “ he replied.

“ You’re getting married? “

He laughed. “ I don’t know about that yet. “

“ Love her, “ she blurted out.

Draco stared at her in surprise.

“ I know- you’re shocked with me saying that. But love her. You’ll never know the worth of the person once he’s- she's gone. “

“ Personal experience? “ he queried softly as Pansy reached out to take little Marko from him.

She nodded. “ Yes. Draco, I loved you for a long time, I wanted to marry you, have your kids, tend to you day and night- and then you disappeared from view for awhile, and I felt lost and alone. Marko was just a distraction to me back then, I thought that if you came back, my engagement to him would make you think more of me, but I was wrong. So I ended up marrying him, still thinking you might see me…but then I heard you were with Hermione Granger, and I felt crestfallen, for I thought I had loved you better than anyone, better than her. I loved Marko; I just didn’t want to realize it because my obsession to have your attention overshadowed what I felt for him. I decided to save the news for Marko, that I was pregnant- and believe me, I was happy, for I realized I loved Marko all along. “

“ You have another Marko in your arms, “ Draco told her.

She nodded, her eyes welling up with tears. “ Yes, and I plan to show him- give him all the love I never got to show to his father. “

“ Pansy- “

“ Don’t apologize that you never loved me, “ she interrupted him as her son dropped off to sleep in her arms. “ I suppose it was meant to be that way. The only thing I regret was not telling Marko ahead- before you went on with your ritual- that he was going to be a father…”

“ I still respected you, you know- the Hogwarts days. “

“ Is that why you never fell for me? “ she asked with a little smile. “ Our parents were good friends- I thought we’d end up together. But- that’s the way things are. “ She placed her little boy inside the crib beside her seat.

Draco just nodded. “ Yes, that’s the way things are…” he repeated.

She sighed and looked out of the window, her eyes roamed throughout the room and landed on a large picture of their wedding day. She was looking beautiful, but her eyes seemed bored- but still she smiled- and Marko, Marko was smiling like the day was the best day in his life….her eyes landed at Draco once more. “ Draco…”

“ Yes, Pansy? “

“ I’m afraid. “

“ What for? The Pansy I knew was never afraid. She was ruthless, actually. “

She smiled and stopped, as her tears spilled down her cheeks. “ I’m afraid that I can’t move on. I feel the guilt, Draco. I never got to show it to him. It’s so painful…oh, Draco. What am I going to do? What if I can’t be the best mother for my son, because Marko is gone? “

Draco took a deep breath. “ Pansy, I believe you can do it. Despite our worlds being far now, despite you being a mother- and me, working in the muggle world- I know you can. Just make the Pansy I knew long ago- the Pansy who never gave up, make her live again. “

Pansy cried still and nodded. She leaned forward to kiss Draco’s cheek. “ Draco, “ she began as her lower lip trembled. “ Thank you. “

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Theodore Nott smiled as Daphne came in holding a tray filled with cookies. “ There’s the beautiful Daphne. “

“ I see marriage agrees with Mrs. Nott? “ Draco said with a laugh, sitting across them both. He was visiting Theodore Nott and a pregnant Daphne- on that drizzling, but otherwise beautiful day. The room was cozy; a low fire was built in the hearth.

“ We’ll hopefully have this chap on Spring, “ Daphne said picking up a cookie. “ Take a cookie. I tried making them myself. I think it turned out right because I’m not choking. “

Draco smiled. “ I’ll take your word for it. “

Daphne swallowed and looked at Draco. He had never looked this happy. His eyes were ablaze with life, his hair and skin healthier looking than ever. “ You haven’t visited in the longest time, what kept you? “

“ Work, “ he replied quickly. “ I was too backlogged on my reports- “

Theodore Nott laughed. “ Still can’t leave the muggle life? Won’t you come back to this kind of world? Where everything’s easier and all? “

“ I happen to like my muggle existence. It makes me forget of how pompous a bastard I was back at Hogwarts. “

They laughed; Nott was nodding all the way. “ True, true. But they all fell for it. They all liked it. Even Blaise! I tell you, if he wasn’t the man he was, he would have taken more than a liking to you! “

They laughed again, Draco frowning. “ Merlin, that would be just plain…gross….Wait, how is he? Did you visit him? “

Daphne looked at her husband and he looked back and sighed at him.

He cleared his throat. “ He tried to kill himself days ago, you know. He mentioned your name, Draco. He was looking for you a few hours before he attempted to end his life. He was screaming at the top of his lungs, blood all over his head from banging on the bars over and over again. He tried to break his bed apart, he slit his neck. “

Draco frowned a bit. Blaise? Kill himself? That would not happen at all…But of course, the Blaise he knew was gone…the last time he saw Blaise, Blaise’s eyes grew as wide as saucers- and he clawed at Draco as Draco tried to talk to him.



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“ Blaise-! “ Draco stammered out, as Blaise’s hand lunged in between the bars. “ It’s me! “

“ He doesn’t know anyone, Mister, “ an Auror told him. “ Just, don’t approach him. He goes ballistic. “

“ You! I know you! “ Blaise screamed. “ I’ve seen you before! You’ll help me won’t you?! You and the master! You! You come here! I promise I won’t hurt you…if you don’t come here, I’m going to get out of here- and I’ll break your neck like those rats! “

“ It’s me, Draco, “ he said, competing against Blaise’s screaming. Blaise glared at him and quieted down for a bit. “ You’re not eating much, “ Draco finally said.

“ I’ve been telling everyone! The food here is poison! Poison! They’re out to get me- and the Master too! “

Draco faced the Auror who was with him.

The Auror nodded. “ He’s been eating rats for weeks. The water, he spits it out first and spits it back into the mug-“

“ Your water! I know it’s poisoned! You should have known better, you bastards! I will have the last laugh! You hear me?! I’ll get out of here, and all will know His name! “

Draco stared at the ranting figure before him. He was now pacing around his cage, muttering to himself. It was his cue to leave. He felt helpless…but what was there to help with? Blaise- he did this to himself, didn’t he? He cleared his throat. “ Goodbye, Blaise Zabini. “

Blaise stopped in place and stared at Draco once more. Draco spun around, hearing Blaise scream again.

~



“ But it didn’t work, “ Daphne sighed, chewing on another cookie. “ Gosh, I should make more of this- “ she looked at the cookie she was chewing on. Nott smiled and kissed her hair.

“ Yeah, you should, Daph. “

Draco bit into the cookie, finally. “ Hey, not bad. “

Daphne made a face. “ Like you could make one. “

“ I could…” Draco smiled. “ If I had the time. “

“ How are things between you and Miss Granger? “ Daphne asked him.

“ You can call her Hermione, Daphne. “

“ Okay, how are you and Hermione? “

Draco’s lips broke into a smile. “ I thought you’d never ask. “

“ He’s in love, “ Nott laughed.

“ Quite, “ Draco replied. “ And do you mind? I’d like to feel what you two are feeling, now. “

“ What? Birthing jitters? “ Nott quipped. “ Not likely to feel that, Draco Malfoy! “

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It was late April, the snow was melting and spring was in the air. Hermione got out of her car and walked into Draco’s office building. The security guard greeted her and she smiled back. She stopped in place.

“ Where are all the people? “ she asked, seeing the empty cubicles and other paraphernalia unattended to. There was the sound of mechanical humming and the air conditioners on fan.

He shrugged and smiled. “ Beats me, Miss. “

She frowned. Draco had told her that he wasn’t exactly busy today and that she should stop by so that they could have lunch together at some swanky restaurant. He didn’t tell her that the rest of his employees weren’t busy too. She had worn a pretty little black dress and placed her hair in a ponytail to show off her unblemished skin. Perhaps there was some company excursion…she walked up the staircase, her heels giving off a little sound and headed for Draco’s office. She stopped again.

Even Alice wasn’t at her desk. Maybe Draco was busy…maybe…should she knock? She took a deep breath and knocked. There was a muffled voice that said ‘come in’.

She got in, and saw Draco’s entire staff of 100 inside his office. His vice-president, clad in a suit and tie, approached her.

“ Hermione Granger, these are for you, “ and he took out two long stemmed red roses with large petals.

She blinked, not knowing how to react. What was going on?

Alice stepped forward and gave her another long stemmed rose. And another one his staff gave her a rose, then another and another and another. Ron came out from hiding and gave her two more red roses- he winked at her too. Hermione was now holding a bouquet in her arm, thirteen red roses in all. Finally, Draco’s mother stepped out from the crowd and gave her a white long stemmed rose.

Her eyes widened as Narcissa handed her the only white rose. Narcissa smiled at her, a mischievous twinkle in her eye. There was a note attached to it and Hermione opened it with one hand. It read: ‘turn around’.

And she spun around, causing some of the petals and stems to fall on her feet.

Draco stood at the door, holding in one palm a little black box that had something shiny inside. It was a diamond ring with two tiny pink diamonds on the left and right sides. Her head was spinning; she couldn’t believe it was happening.

“ Hermione, are you willing to get stuck with me for life? “ he asked her, moving so close to her, he could almost kiss her.

She was too shocked to say anything. Someone shouted from behind her, ‘say yes, dearie!’. And she finally nodded and said, “ Yes. “

And there was a unified cheer from Draco’s staff, Ron and from his mother as he inserted the ring into her finger. It fit perfectly. She smiled at him. “ You’re in for the ride of your life, “ she whispered to him as she embraced him tightly.

To which he replied with a smile, “ Can’t wait. “

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A/N: 1 more chapter to go!!! I guess I'm just too lazy to respond to the reviews, but i want to give a big THANK YOU to all of you! You've made an author's dream, come true! Please do review and wait for the last installment of THE CHEMICALS BETWEEN US!

Till next last chapter!

Chapter 42: Hey you
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A/N: My dearest reader…the last chapter has arrived. And ‘finally’, I suppose you’d be thinking that. Finally. The word stands for ‘parting’ for me too. For months, I’ve churned my thoughts and time for this story. Hermione, Draco, Ron- even Theodore Nott- they’ve seemed like real people to me as I typed their characters away, and in a way, I feel sad that I have to part with them in this story.

It started off beautiful for me and I hope you find the ending beautiful too (despite cliches and predictability to some). It has been a heck of a few months, being diagnosed with some illness, being forced to quit med school and all that medication and therapy….but I am thankful to the higher being who still gave me the time and talent to write something as long as this. Yes, I mean…42 chapters must be long, right? I hope this story has made an impact on you guys, and I hope they are positive ones. This has been my dream project and I’ve realized it fully, now- mostly because of you.

Once you reach the ending, there won’t be anymore Author notes or personal replies to my reviewers. This will serve as my big THANK YOU to all who had the patience to read and review this story. For any of the flaws, I sincerely apologize. As a writer, I strive for the best but to get to the best you have to go through mistakes sometimes- I hope you can feel and see my efforts as you read. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR MAKING THIS DREAM COME TRUE.

So please sit back and grab a cup of chocolate and let me tell you the last chapter of ‘The Chemicals Between Us’. Feel it. Enjoy it.


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The Chemicals Between Us

(Hey you...)


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There are obstacles and paths in love, and love doesn’t come in easy all the time, often times one has to work to make the love survive. Love can come in bursts, love comes through the form of a smile that never leaves your face, love makes you cry and it dries your tears still. Love is in the twinkle in one’s eye. It’s in the glow of a woman’s face when she passes by. Love is when a man can’t stop whistling at work. Love is when you don’t want the other to get upset, but you still end up doing it, but he still loves you all the same. Love is when he waits for you, patiently, when you shop through your feminine endeavors. Love is when you prepare breakfast and coffee, never feeling tired, only to see him gobble it all up-and it’s all good.

It’s when he surprises you with flowers when you wake up in the morning, and he still tells you, you’re beautiful even when you’ve just awoken.

Draco Malfoy did just that.

He was looking at Hermione Granger Malfoy, asleep- the sheets pulled up only until her waist. Her creamy skin glowed despite the subdued lights early in the morning. A soft wind was blowing through the open windows of their townhouse. She looked stunning.

It had been a month ago that they had tied the knot, with their closest friends and family present, less than 80 people had attended. They had their reception at the Malfoy manor’s vast gardens, with lights twinkling overhead (courtesy of the sprites that lived within the Malfoy woodlands) and white tents to cover their heads with.



~

She wore a lovely muggle designed gown, a strapless knee-length satin dress with a black sash on her waist as accent. Her hair was done simple, in a braid, with loose curls framing her face. Around her neck was a gift from Narcissa, a necklace and pendant in the shape of two entwined hearts, set in diamonds and white gold (an heirloom that wonderfully shone brighter when the wearer became happy- and it glowed brightly that night, as if a star hung from her graceful neck). Draco almost forgot to breathe and Ron patted his back, as Hermione had requested him to be her bride’s man, with Theodore Nott as Draco’s best man. She walked down the aisle, surrounded by cascading lilies of the valley and autumn colored roses, subdued pinkish and white lights- and Draco knew he would love her until he’d die, as her eyes shone on his silver ones.

Hermione’s heart was pounding as she walked down the short aisle that seemed long enough to her eyes already. She saw Draco, his eyes solely concentrated on her alone, looking every bit an aristocrat- and a handsome one at that, in his black coat and silver tie, the Malfoy crest shone a bit of silver on his breast pocket as well. His hair was carefully combed up. Beside him, Ron was smiling at her as he wore a dark blue coat and tie, his unruly red hair looking neater this time. Theodore Nott had on a smile that said ‘you’ll love being married’ for her, as he wore the same coat and tie as Ron.

Every step Hermione took was how Draco breathed.

This was it…

And then it was over. And they were dancing in the middle of the area, her head on his shoulder- dancing to muggle soft music- and his mother didn’t even mind. From the corner of Draco’s eye, he saw Tonks dancing with her son, Ron dancing with his new flame- his mother was dancing with Lupin.

“ I remember this scene…” Hermione murmured.

“ Hmm?”

“ The Savoy…” she said.

He smiled. “ God, you were beautiful, but nothing beats today. “

“ Well, you’re not ugly yourself mister. “

He kissed her forehead. “ Are you sure you want to quit your muggle job? “ he asked her.

She nodded. “ I want to be a full-pledged Auror, that way, you won’t get yourself into bloody situations again. “

He laughed...

~



He slowly leaned on her and kissed her cheek.

“ You’re awake early, “ she murmured, still closing her eyes. “ what time’s it? “

“ I’m just going to get the newspaper, k? “ he told her in a soft voice. “ Go back to sleep beautiful, it’s not yet 6.30. “

“ K, “ she mumbled sleepily.

He started for the door when he stopped upon hearing her voice. “ Hmm? What is it? “

“ I love you, “ she said again before burying herself in the sheets once more.

He smiled and walked out of the door, determined to get her something to make her day brighter. He walked out of the house, walking for a kilometer to get to the lane that sold the best flowers in the suburb.

At exactly 6.30 he crept back upstairs, placing the flowers on the floor. Hermione woke up, hearing a noise. She blinked and yawned, hugging her knees because of the cool air. She blinked again, seeing something colorful on the floor. She bent down from her bed to pick it up. A single white lily?

She slowly sat down on the bed. And she saw another one. She walked for it and picked it up. And then she suddenly realized that the lily stems made a line that led out of their bedroom. She walked out of the room, picking up the lilies and she stopped at the balcony. There was an empty vase filled halfway with water and a smiling Draco holding up a plate full of toast. A table for two had been set up, with fresh orange juice and pancakes and bacon.

She walked up to him. “ What’s this for? “

“ Look behind you, “ he told her.

And she did. And she gasped and laughed and hugged Draco and kissed his neck. “ Oh my god! Draco! You didn’t have to! “

It yapped at her. “ He’s a darling! “ she said happily picking up the energetic bundle of white dog fur.

“ Like him? “

“ I’m in love! “ she declared, kissing the puppy’s head.

“ Bollocks, that puppy’s replacing me! “ he muttered jokingly.

She kissed him.

“ Happy first month to us, “ he said as he kissed her back. “ I figured you’d love him. I saw him at a pet shop yesterday. His eyes were begging for me to buy him for you. He’s a west highland terrier, perfect for you. “

Hermione kissed him on the lips again. “ And you, just you wait! “ she grinned wickedly.

“ You have something for me? “

“ Haha. I’m not telling you. “

“ My wife is keeping secrets from me, and I just gave her a westie. “

“ Oh shush! “ she kissed him again. “ I’m famished. “

“ Ha, so am I, “ he told her.

They had breakfast on the balcony, toasting with orange juice and laughing. Then Hermione looked up to him.

“ Something wrong? “ he asked her.

“ Nothing, “ she replied. “ You’re- you’re amazing. “

He laughed and scratched his chin. “ Am I, now? Of course I am, and so are you. People still talk about us, the magic folk, a first union between Slytherins and Gryffindors in years. “

Hermione laughed. “ A snake and a lion? You’ve always been such a charmer. “

“ You’ve always been my ‘mane’ love, “ he quipped.

Hermione laughed aloud. “ Did you just make a joke? “ The puppy behind her yelped. Hermione frowned a bit. “ What do we name the codger? “

Draco shrugged and smiled. “ Beats me, “ he said.

“ What’s the perfect name for you? “ Hermione asked the puppy, placing him on her lap. “ Sweetie, what do we name you? “

It barked- a tiny high pitched bark that made her laugh. “ Hmm…how’s about…Hero? “

Draco frowned. “ That’s is so common. Try…Westie? “

“ Now that’s too common! “

“ Anubis! “

“ Does this look like a dog of Death to you? “

“ I can train him to be one, “ Draco laughed.

“ Eros, “ she said.

Draco snorted. “ Puh-lease. A romantic name like that for a dog? Hermione be real. “

She threw a flower stem at him.

“ Hey, I was kidding! Sorry, “ he said with a smile.

She laughed. The puppy played with the folds of her robe. The puppy found the robe ties and bit onto it happily. “ He’s chewing on my robes! “ she was grinning. Draco cringed, remembering he brought those robes two days ago at quite a high price. Hermione looked up to him. “ I have a name. “

“ What? “

“ Chew. “

“ As in ah-choo? “

“ No, c-h-e-w, Chew. “

Draco laughed. “ Hear that boy’o? You’ve got a name! “ He leaned in to pet Chew’s head.

Hermione smiled at him. “ Know what? “

“ What? “

“ We were arguing over a dog’s name. What if this time, it’ll be for a real baby? “ And she smiled again, her eyes twinkling mischievously.

Draco’s eyes widened a bit. Then he smiled at her. He had handled Lord Voldemort, he had handled a rough time with Hermione- surely he could handle naming a baby…Merlin’s ass! Was he thinking about being a daddy? Hermione was going to be a mommy?! He cleared his throat and looked at her. He- he just wasn’t ready-! “ Hermione-? “

“ Hmm?”

“ Did you mention something about a baby? “

She shook her head and laughed. “ No. Not at all. “

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It was raining that day, many months later, when they walked hand in hand, with an umbrella, across the wet grass- the wet gravestones- and they stopped, and Hermione bent down and placed a bundle of roses on top of Harry’s grave.

Draco’s arm was wrapped around her waist as he held the umbrella. There were a few minutes of silence, each to their thoughts.

And Draco was thinking: Harry, thank you so much. First you gave me a heart, and now, I’m taking care of your other heart. Who would’ve known, that I would love her when you loved her too? I suppose this was the way things had to be. It was hard Harry, it was hard to keep up with it all, but it was easy to fall for Hermione, and you were lucky to have held her too. I’m now married to her; you can trust me you know. Hermione’s love is well returned. We have bickering and all, but I don’t mind, it’s all part of her and I love every part of her. How was it possible that I would get your heart and her? I feel like the luckiest bastard in the whole world- I am grateful, I will be till the day I die. Harry, you’re more than a legacy to me- my respect has known no bounds now for you.

Hermione was thinking: Harry, I’m married to him now, Harry. Someone we used to dislike- used to call ferret-boy, Harry. I’m now Mrs. Malfoy, it doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Harry, I miss you so much- the wedding was wonderful, we even had a seat reserved for you- we had your picture on a table too, your best picture, of course. Was this how things should really turn out Harry? I married someone we used to call enemy….I love him Harry, I do. I’m no longer hurting when I think of you; I just think that this is how you wanted things to turn out, for me to find a love I never knew could exist for me….

“ Shall we? “ Draco said, looking at Hermione’s face. She nodded. But then she stopped and reached out to touch Harry’s tombstone.

“ Harry, “ she began. “ We’re having a baby. We’re going to name him Alexander Harry Malfoy. “ And she smiled and bit back her tears. A cool breeze fluttered near them and Hermione looked up to see a flower falling from a tree at her feet. She smiled again, content at that simple sign.

Harry approved…

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Draco was skimming through reports that day; it was nearly lunch time when Alice walked in, with a smile.

“ Sir, “ Alice began.

“ Hmm?” he said, not looking up. “ What is it? If it’s about that meeting in Paris, send Jonathan instead. “

“ Sir, you’ve been- “

“ That’s it. Final, “ he looked up with a smile. Then he resumed looking at the reports. He had to finish them soon; he was going to have lunch at home with little Alex and Hermione. He couldn’t wait…

“ Paris isn’t such a bad idea, “ another voice said.

Draco looked up and laughed. “ What are you doing here? “ he asked Hermione, standing up and walking towards her. He kissed her forehead and took Alex in his arms. He kissed Alex’s black hair.

“ Figured we’d take daddy out for lunch, “ she said with a laugh. “ And maybe go to Paris…”

Draco laughed. “ That isn’t such a bad idea. Hermione- you need rest, you know- at least two months? “ he suggested, remembering the night Hermione began to have labor pains- and it took hours of pacing back and forth a small room at a muggle hospital with Ron and Hermione’s parents and Narcissa, of course. The moment the female doctor came in, his face lit up, knowing it was finally over and that he was now a daddy.

“ Two months? What do you think I am? Invalid? “ she pouted as she took Alex from his arms. “ Dray- it’ll be Alex’s first trip there, what do you say? And we won’t disturb you with your work, right sweetie? “ she told Alex, rubbing her nose against his. Alex burbled happily.

Draco threw his hands up in the air and laughed. “ You win. I can never win against you, “ he said.

Hermione kissed him. “ I know that. We’re cheaters, Alex and I. So how’s about lunch? Say…Italian’s good today. Oh, I invited Ron and Daphne and Nott. Hope that’s well with you. “

“ Italian it is, I haven’t tasted Italian in a long time, “ Draco said. “ Company isn’t so bad, too. “

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“ I swear, I thought I was up to my neck with her, bloody wizarding real estate, “ Nott told them, as they all laughed.

Hermione was holding Daphne’s little girl- with her fine brown hair and eyes that matched Theodore’s light ones , already a year old, as her own Alex slept in a stroller beside her.

“ Did I tell you that we were considering to put Daphne’s manor up for the market? “ Nott said, as he sipped some red wine.

Hermione’s eyes looked surprised. “ But that’s- that’s an heirloom, “ she looked at Daphne.

Daphne shrugged. “ What else do we have to do with a manor that’s too big for us? Theed’s house will do fine, “ she said, using her husband’s nickname. “ Too many bad memories there too, “ she added with a sigh.

Hermione reached out an empathetic hand and Daphne smiled.

“ Theed’s home is cozy for us, anyway. “

“ I’ll say, “ he said. “ Did I tell you little Allison’s showing signs of baby magic now? “ he grinned, a proud daddy. “ Daphne was changing her diapers, and Daphne’s wand was beside her little hand, and she picked it up and there were red sparks for a few seconds! “

“ Takes after Mrs. Nott, “ Ron said, chewing on his calzone.

She smiled. “ How about you, Weasley? “ she asked. “ Wedding bells in the air? “

He almost choked. “ Hello, no! I’m not ready to settle down yet! I’m at the prime of my life. Uncle Ron is fine for now, not Daddy. But you chaps seem to be adjusting well, “ he said, eyeing Nott and Draco.

Draco laughed. “ You have no idea. The diaper changing, the crying, the sleepless nights- it’s half of heaven and total toil. But- somehow, there’s a charm to it that I can’t resist. “

Theodore nodded. “ You’re right. Besides, I’m doing it as a favor for Daph- “ he looked at her as Daphne pouted at him. “ Did I tell you my wife’s beautiful? “

“ Really, Theed- “ Daphne rolled her eyes.

They laughed.

“ I haven’t had this much company since your wedding, “ Ron said, looking at Hermione. She was glowing with happiness and warmth. He eyed their little Alexander Harry Malfoy. The boy was going to grow up a charmer, he assumed, with his dark bluish-black hair and his silver eyes…he sighed.

“ Too concentrated with work? “ Nott asked him.

“ Quite, “ he replied. “ Did I tell you that Pansy donated a fourth of her husband’s estate to Durmstrang? “

Daphne’s brows picked up a bit. “ Really? I bet she didn’t know what to do with the money, like what we don’t know what to do with our house. Does the Ministry-? “

“ Nothing to panic about- Durmstrang is Durmstrang. It’s to benefit younger boys too; they’ll open a formation school for boys the ages of 4 to 9. “

“ Maybe that’s what Marko would have wanted, “ Nott said softly, recalling the night he couldn’t save Pansy’s husband. Daphne held his hand.

“ You did your best, how many times do I have to say that? “ she told him. The others nodded slowly.

“ It’s just that- Pansy was- well…she loved him and it makes me a bit guilty that I have you and Allison while she only has…”

“ She has a son, “ Hermione reminded him. “ A son that looks like a replica of Marko- the last time I saw her at a Ministry Ball. “

Nott finally nodded. “ I suppose. We’ve all been pricks to each other at Hogwarts, haven’t we? “

Ron laughed. “ Well, I didn’t notice you that much, I just knew you as Theodore Nott, a thin Slytherin who hated everyone else. “

Nott smiled. “ Ha. Good observation. Well, I was just cautious on who to trust, I tried to talk to Daphne once, she brushed me off…”

“ I did not! “ she said.

Draco laughed. “ Well, I respected you guys, you know that. And I was just bloody insecure of everyone else, that’s why I was such a prick. Everyone had a life, except me- and I was arrogant that I could handle things like my father and all- “

“ Pompous arse, “ Ron commented as the others laughed. “ But I was a hot tempered flare head too…”

“ I was a goody-two-shoes…” Hermione mused and then she laughed. “ I think I studied a bit too much. “

“ You studied well enough for every Hogwarts student- “ Nott told her.

“ I think I was a bit too….snobbish…” Daphne pondered.

Draco laughed. “ A bit? Merlin, you wouldn’t even look at Blaise when he spoke to you. “

“ I found him a tad too annoying for my taste, “ she quipped and smiled.

“ Allison’s birthday is coming up, she’ll be two years old, “ Nott announced. “ As usual, you’re all invited. “

Hermione grinned. “ Time flies fast. “

“ I feel old, “ Ron suddenly said. Then he laughed.

“ This Saturday, “ Nott said. “ Don’t forget. Dinner party, alright? “

Hermione nodded as she looked at Draco. “ You’ll be able to go, right? “

Draco nodded. “ Paris isn’t until next week, “ Draco told her.

“ Paris? “ Daphne smiled. “ Busy muggle daddy, eh? Theed, when are we going to Paris? “ she asked him.

“ Soon enough, “ Nott told her.

“ Ah, Paris, “ Ron said, “ Last time I was there, it was for a boring convention. “

“ We’re bringing Alex, “ Hermione said. “ We’re going to disturb daddy’s work, won’t we? “ she asked, playing with Alex’s hand. Alex gurgled.

Draco smiled. “ I can handle it. “

They talked until one o’clock, until it was time for everyone to get back to work. They all went their separate ways. Draco walked back into his office building just in time. Hermione followed behind and they walked up to the office with Alex in tow.

“ What important thing did you want to talk about earlier? “ she asked, placing Alex in his stroller.

Draco smiled and held her hand. “ Hermione, I was wondering if you wanted a new house? “

Hermione’s brows shot up. “ House? But our house if fine as it is…”

“ I found out about a new subdivision, you’ve got six months to decide. They’re located thirty minutes away from muggle London still…”

“ Your work? “

Draco grinned. “ I can handle it. “

“ You always think you can, “ she kissed his cheek. “ Don’t overwork, alright? I hate seeing you tired. “

“ I’m not, “ he told her. “ I think it’ll be a good gift for you, for Christmas and all…”

“ Draco- isn’t it too much-“

“ No, it’s not, “ he said. “ I was thinking about how Alex would love it there. Its two thousand square meters, with a front garden and back garden. Outside the subdivision’s a private muggle school, I’ve been there yesterday. It’s perfect for him. “

Hermione laughed. “ Draco…it’s your choice. “

“ No, it’s yours. It’s up to you- and Alex of course. “

“ You free for lunch tomorrow? We can see it together, “ she finally said.

“ Thank you for considering it, “ Draco told her.

She kissed his forehead and picked up a wide awake Alex from the stroller. “ Tell daddy we’ll see him later for dinner. “

Draco picked up Alex and he smiled and cooed as Draco held him up. “ He’s a looker, isn’t he? “ Alex placed an open palm on his father’s cheek and he fisted a bit of his father’s blonde hair.

“ Takes after daddy, “ Hermione said, taking Alex from him.

Draco laughed. “ See you later, “ he kissed Alex and Hermione.

“ Bye daddy, “ Hermione said before she closed the door. Draco walked up to a large window; he looked below and saw Hermione placing Alex in the backseat, in his safety seat. Hermione looked up, sensing his gaze. She blew a kiss for him and waved and got into the driver’s seat.

Draco smiled as the car sped away. Somehow, he loved it and it didn’t matter whether he lived as a muggle or a wizard, all that mattered was he loved his family, was at peace with other people, muggles and wizards alike- his health improving greatly... he thought about Harry once more, how thankful he was of the opportunity to have had Harry’s heart and not anyone else’s. He wished Harry would appear to him so that he could thank him, personally. But that wouldn’t happen, not in a lifetime...

He worked this time, but took breaks to glance at the many still pictures of Hermione and Alex. He found himself smiling alone as he picked up a picture of a month old dark haired Alex sleeping in his cot, another one had Alex holding his wand. He gazed at a picture of Hermione on their wedding day, of her holding flowers- her eyes sparkling with delight. He shook his head and stared at his laptop again, wishing to be home.

The hours ticked by and Draco found that it was nearly seven in the evening- he picked up his jacket and brief case and walked down the stairs. His staff said their ‘good nights’ as he walked out of the room. He took out the key to his car, a Volkswagen, Hermione’s old car, actually. He smiled, recalling that this was the car that caused them to meet.

He drove down the familiar streets, passing by restaurants he had taken Hermione to, he passed by the flower shop that he liked buying from. He reached the idyllic street he lived in and he parked the car on the driveway.

He went inside and saw Chew and Alex (sitting in his high chair, giggling) in the kitchen with Hermione, who was frosting a cake using her wand. She didn’t notice he was there already and he took the chance to gaze on his wife of nearly two years, dressed in white shorts and a sleeveless top. Funny how something that simple could make her look so outrageously sexy….Chew barked happily, noticing him.

Hermione spun around and smiled. “ Hey you, “ she said, her curls framing her delicate face, a smudge of white on one side of her cheek.

Draco smiled, feeling a sudden strong burst of love when he heard her voice. “ Hey you. “

Sometimes, things just turn out perfectly. Sometimes, you just find that perfect someone you want to spend the rest of your life with- whether you fight and make-up, have kids or not…sometimes, love just turns out to be a wonderful pain and a wonderful healing. Love comes in many shapes, colors- people. Love pops out unexpectedly, or starts slowly- sometimes it even dies, but when it lives- it lives only for the best.

It certainly did for Draco and Hermione.

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