You are viewing a story from harrypotterfanfiction.com


Familiar Taste of Poison by Shananigans

Format: Novel
Chapters: 12
Word Count: 59,389
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Contains profanity, Strong violence, Scenes of a sexual nature, Sensitive topic/issue/theme

Genres: Drama, Horror/Dark, Action/Adventure
Characters: Harry, Hermione, Draco
Pairings: Draco/Hermione

First Published: 07/25/2015
Last Chapter: 11/25/2015
Last Updated: 11/25/2015

Summary:
Hermione, bookstore owner know-it-all is approached by the extremely wealthy and highly desired Draco in hopes that she will aid him with his research. Danger, uncertainty and passion ensues as Hermione is targeted by an unknown person who is threatening her very existance. Will she make it out alive?
Dark!Harry

I do not own Harry Potter no matter how much I wish for it.


Chapter 1: Chapter One
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]




A/N- Just a few things to add that I couldn’t fit into the story summary, then you can get on with the reading!

This is a Dark!Harry fic that I have created for one of my good friends. She gave me a list of things she wanted to see in a story and I wrote it out for her, so I’m hoping everyone loves it as much as she does (so far, since it’s not finished).

Even though I chose angst and horror in the genres, it’s also pretty humourous. It actually doesn’t start getting dark until we are a few chapters in, but I thought everyone should be aware of that.

This is NOT a songfic- I had this story started (and at this point I’m over 50,000 words in) ages before the song of the same title came out, but it’s very, very fitting, to say the least.

I do not own Harry Potter and unfortunately make no money from borrowing the characters and making them do my bidding. I know... life sucks.

I’m done!

On with the reading!

 

Prologue

“Hello, Mrs. Catchery!”

Hermione beamed at the woman who just walked through the door, causing a bell to tinkle above her head while she smiled at the young lady.

“How’s your day going, dear?” The older woman asked, not just for the sake of making small talk. Mrs. Catchery actually wanted to know. Hermione had this effect on plenty of her regulars, which is why they were regulars in the first place.

“Just great, I got a large shipment in today. An assortment of Muggle novels, since they’ve been flying off of my shelves like they’ve been summoned. People can’t get enough of them.”

“Well, I know I certainly can’t,” the older woman, who was wearing a ridiculously large mink coat said, winking.

Hermione gazed at her outfit for a moments before looking back outside, where the sun was shining down with serious power, considering it was only April.

“I have your order prepared, actually,” Hermione said, emerging from behind the counter in her classic muggle attire, slightly tight jeans, and a t-shirt that read, ‘Push My Buttons,’ with a computer keyboard stretched across her chest. She rushed into the backroom, her flats jingling slightly from the zipper that adorned the back, and came out moments later hovering a large box in front of her.

Mrs. Catchery had a serious soft spot for the muggle writer John Sandford, and Hermione wasn’t going to deny her of it. Hermione exchanged the box for Galleons and she placed the gold in her till, waiting for Mrs. Catchery to say something about her attire; something the woman did every single time she came into the store.

‘Push My Buttons,’ the woman mouthed to herself, as though working out a puzzle in her mind, before glancing up at Hermione with an impish grin on her face.

“Muggles are so callous,” she stated, but not in a mean way. In fact, the woman’s cheeks went a little red, as though she was embarrassed from her words, “but they sure have style.”

Hermione laughed out loud as the woman gestured to her mink coat, before she picked up her new box of books and headed for the door with a nice, “See you in a couple of weeks, dear,” before the door snapped shut behind her.

Hermione was 26 now and loved her job more than pretty much anything else in her life, not that she had much outside of her career. She was busy because she owned and operated her own book store called Pleasure Bound, and she only had two part time employees working for her a few days each week, usually in the evenings.

The war had taken its toll on the wizarding world, and muggle attire, tradition, and even electronics, in a way, had made their way into the world of magic. Upper class citizens weren’t even against wearing muggle clothing, once they sunk their claws into designer labels, such as Chanel, Armani, and Versaci. She consistently saw the rich wearing high end clothing, always accompanied by Gucci, Jimmy Choo or Manolo Blahnik high heels; something that Hermione not only wished she could walk in, but also afford. She stuck with skinny jeans or leggings, witty t-shirts or tank tops, and flats or sandals, the latter only donning her feet after treating herself to a relaxing pedicure.

Hermione had spent her fair share of time fighting a war and being another one of ‘the guys’, rolling around in mud while trying to stay alive, not showering nearly often enough and always feeling less than attractive, so she went out of her way now to accentuate what was naturally hers, taming her hair, donning light makeup, and having fun with her style in general.

She took her job seriously, but she still had a good time doing it and she certainly wasn’t going to spend her time wearing something stuffy like a uniform; she wasn’t going to make her employees wear them either. So much could be portrayed by clothes, which was something she both loved and took advantage of, and she knew that it was probably a little bit insane to have one walk in closet, as well as a second bedroom, packed full of clothes and shoes and different accessories, but she couldn’t find it in her to care.

That was her life now.

Now that her, Harry and Ron were not best friends.

The war had changed that, too.

During ‘The Second Great War of the Wizarding World’, Hermione had been left behind by her friends, left to fight the ‘less dangerous’ battles, even though they always wound up with deceased Order members on their side, while Harry and Ron went on to be the heroes of the world, the ones that would always be remembered and spoken about. That hurt Hermione more than she could ever say. Not because she wasn’t being remembered by everyone in the world, but because she hadn’t even been remembered by her best friends, the friends that had been together since they were eleven years old. Hermione always thought it would be the three of them together in the end of it all, but somehow she got left behind in safe houses, surrounded by people who were virtually strangers to her at first.

Hermione accompanied the two boys on their search for the Horcruxes, but as soon as they realized they were out of their element, which took a surprisingly long time, they headed back to the Order for help. They had managed to collect, but not destroy, a locket that had been desecrated by Voldemort’s soul, but after many months of living in a tent and scrounging for food they had decided to call it quits and bring in reinforcements.

That’s when Hermione was left behind.

She was pretty bitter about the whole thing in the beginning, but as the three friends began drifting apart, she started to care a lot less about it all.

Harry was now withdrawn and lived the life of a recluse. The war had lasting effects on him and Hermione had slowly drifted away from him because of his attitude and the way that she felt around him after the war ended; she couldn’t find a way to help him and the guilt almost choked her sometimes.

Guilt because she honestly had thought she could help him heal and become whole again.

She couldn’t.

The war lasted from the time Hermione was sixteen, until she was twenty-one, and Harry and Ginny had started dating the final year of the war; after Harry finally realized his thoughts of protecting the younger Weasey were fruitless and Ginny nagged until he gave in. They had been together until a year after Ginny graduated. Hermione figured the press and fans were driving Ginny and Harry apart and no one had ever tried to dissuade this notion from her mind.

It wasn’t her business, apparently, and she quickly stopped asking questions about it.

Hermione tried to contact Harry about once a month for the last few years, and sometimes she got responses, while other times she didn’t. She hadn’t actually seen the ‘Saviour of the Wizarding World’ in almost two years, and the last time she had spent time with him they had fought. Harry wasn’t the same person that he was before tiring out from the war, and Hermione was trying to help him see the light; something he obviously didn’t want to do. She left him alone after that, but still tried to at least contact him and send him a letter every so often.

She wanted to see him, but something was stopping her, something in her heart and soul. She was worried about him, but she was afraid of him too. When they fought about his health when she had last seen him, he had very uncharacteristically raised a hand to her. She had flinched away from him and he hadn’t hit her, but he had been so angry and the rage on his face made her sure he was going to; she was scared to be around him, especially alone, since that day because he had seemed so unlike himself.

She had decided many times that she would put in more of an effort to see her old friend, scared or not, because he was probably even lonelier than she was, but never actually went through with it. She was sure that the argument they had was just a silly disagreement, and the rage in his soul had probably passed by now but for whatever reason she never made the effort.

She was busy with her own life.

Hermione heard from Ron just as little as she did from Harry, but Ron wasn’t living the life of a recluse. Ron had miraculously, some would say, got on with the Chudley Cannons once the war had finally come to a close, and he was seriously involved with one of the chasers on the team. He had toyed with the idea of becoming an Auror, but in the end he had decided that he had had enough of fighting and all of the stress they had lived in for most of their lives.

The Chudley Cannons were still one of the worst teams in history of the sport, but Hermione tried to give him plenty of support whenever she wrote to him. She hadn’t set eyes on him in the flesh in over a year, and the one time she had seen him had been at one of his games, so she barely got to say two words to her former best friend. Ron had spent the evening following the match that they had actually won surrounded by reporters, fans, and his family.

Ron’s girlfriend, whose name Hermione couldn’t remember for the life of her, even though it was on so many posters and she was sure she had seen it millions of times, was also around Ron all the time, and was somewhat wary about Hermione. She supposed that was fair, even though Hermione and Ron both knew that there weren’t any feelings between them, but girlfriends were allowed to be unsure about other females around their boyfriends.

It was sad, really, but Hermione supposed that that was what happened when people grew up and started their lives.

It didn’t make it any less lonely, knowing that.

Chapter One

Hermione threw herself into her shop when she had acquired it, and now she was toying with the idea of opening a little café in her store, allowing people to lounge and read books that they’ve purchased with a nice cuppa and some baking. The area beside hers was vacant and for sale, and she had actually done quite well with her own store, especially since Flourish and Blott’s didn’t reopen after the war. It would extend her store by a long shot and draw in new customers, and she really did think that people would enjoy it.

Hermione finished unpacking her order of muggle novels she had received that morning before deciding to take a small break. She checked the time and knew that Freya, one of her part time workers, would be to the store at four, which was in a couple hours. She took a seat behind her cash register and pulled out the Daily Prophet, which was now, thankfully, reporting nothing but the truth, since it was owned and operated by new staff.

She read it from cover to cover, stopping every so often to help a customer, and came across a few things that peaked her interest. One article made dread twist her stomach and caused her hands to shake slightly, while the other two were just… sad. The first article she came across was tiny and crammed into a two inch section of the paper, almost as though the editor didn’t really want people to read it; it had no flashy heading and very little information, but it still made her feel somewhat ill.

“The grave of the once extremely popular headmaster at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, was vandalised this weekend past. The current Headmistress was unavailable for comment, but it seems as though the perpetrator was unable to access the tomb; wards that were protecting it from dark magic were activated, which left the tomb unscathed.”

That was it.

Hermione’s reaction to reading this article was completely justified, since she knew for a fact that the Deathstick, as some had called it, was residing in that very tomb at the moment. Her hairs stood up on the back of her neck as she tried to figure out who else knew of its existence, outside of the obvious Not-So-Golden Trio.

The other two articles she read were in the obituary section of the paper. Two people she knew, or rather, knew of, were on the page, and she found herself unable to tear her eyes away. The first one was not someone she knew, was someone she would actually now, never get the chance to know, but she had went to school with the father of the child that the article was about.

It seemed that Blaise Zabini had married not long after the war, and judging by the small article all that Hermione could see was the woman’s name; pure-blood no doubt. Hermione realized that she had actually heard this last name before, although she didn’t know the witch in question: Astoria Greengrass. Pure-blood, for sure. They had a baby boy just two days prior, but unfortunately he had died of ‘natural causes’ not long after he was born.

Hermione’s heart went out to the family, even though she didn’t really know them. She hadn’t spoken one word to Blaise Zabini during school and honestly had never given him a second thought, and Hermione thought that maybe the Greengrass girl who was in her year was named Dora or something, but still, Hermione was the type of person to feel awful for anyone who had lost a child.

The second name that she knew on the paper in front of her was Narcissa Malfoy. Her husband had died four years ago from a heart attack when he was cleared as innocent by the Wizegamot (ironic or what?!), but the obituary was very vague and all that it stated was that she had died, again from ‘natural causes’, and was outlived by her son Draco Malfoy.

The following months for Hermione were a whirlwind of new and returning customers, working at her store on a very regular basis and making sure all of her shelves were kept full, soaking up all of the knowledge that she could while taking breaks, toying with the idea of buying the still-vacant shop next door and going home to her empty flat in the evenings and muggle London on weekends to spend time with her parents. She had finally decided to take the time to drop by Harry’s cottage, but he wasn’t there, and every time she decided to stop by after that was to an empty house. She was beginning to get frustrated by the fact that she just couldn’t seem to touch bases with him lately and left a note on his doorstep to come see her whenever he had a chance, pinned down beneath a rock. She hadn’t seen Ron at all, although she had received an owl that he had finally proposed to his chaser girlfriend, whose name was Bryony, incidentally.

That didn’t make Hermione feel any better about her lonely life, either.

She wished that Ginny were around to talk to, but they had never really been that close and she had been signed on with the Holyhead Harpies, another Quidditch team; Ginny basically had to live at the training grounds and was busier than Hermione, in a sense. She was single and would at least know how Hermione was feeling, but Ginny was almost two years younger than Hermione and would have had other things on her mind.

Hermione sighed and almost gave herself whiplash as an owl tapped on her window, startling her from her musings. She realized it was the Evening Prophet, and cursed the owl for almost making her snap her neck about news that she really didn’t care much about.

She took the paper from the owl anyway, pressing a knut into the pouch that was situated around the birds middle before it took off, and she went to make a cup of hot tea before she could get into the paper. She unfurled it after placing the mug of steaming tea onto her table and looked through the paper.

There was another small article that she noticed was lacking information about a break in at Borgin and Burke’s, but she really didn’t pay much attention to it because she honestly didn’t know much about what was happening in the darker spectrum of their world. She spent too much time focusing on her shop to be bothered by things that she knew little about.

She was surprised, however, to realize that Borgin and Burke’s was still even operating in Knockturn alley, which wasn’t that far from her store in Diagon Alley.

Nothing else caught her eye until she was at the obituaries, and she felt almost unsettled when she saw what was printed. Another baby of one of her pure-blooded schoolmates had passed, and the rumours she had heard in the past bubbled to the surface of her memory.

She had heard that pure-bloods were having serious problems procreating with other pure-bloods. Some people called it a curse, while other’s tried to press the Muggle term of genes, but no one in this world really understood what that meant. The Blaise Zabini incident could have been coincidental, as well as this one, but she had an odd feeling about it now and tried to remember if she had come across anything about it in her book store.

She hadn’t.

Not that she would have a problem ordering books that might help her figure it out.

Could there really be something out there causing pure-blooded babies to die? Was there anyone researching this? She felt a thrill shimmy up her spine as she realized that this could be something she could really try and figure out, something to help her fellow generation.

She studied the sad eyes of Parvati Patil and her husband, Barnaby Syndergaard, who was also a pure-blood. Hermione knew this because he had made sure to tell her at least seventeen times the one time she had met him, and she started to think that maybe there was something to the rumours, after all.

Hermione thought back to all of her schoolmates who were pure-blooded, and realized, with the exception of the Weasley’s, there weren’t many with more than one child. The Patil’s were twins, so therefore it was only one birth, but Blaise Zabini was an only child, as well as Draco Malfoy, Pansy Parkinson, Ernie Macmillan, Neville Longbottom, Lavender Brown, Luna Lovegood and Millicent Bulstrode, to name a few.

Could that be right? Was this all a coincidence?

It was right then and there that Hermione decided maybe there was something to this after all, because the more she thought of students who went to school with her, she realized that a high majority of them were single children, and now, after they married a different pureblood, their children were dying.

She shuddered at the thought of losing a child, and went to grab a Hogwarts class photo, trying to pick out everyone in the picture that she knew was pure-blooded; a feat harder than it sounded, since people were flitting in and out of the frame, moving around constantly.

She held her breath while she resolved that she would try and figure out more about this.

She jumped when there was a harsh knocking on her door, dropping her class picture onto the floor and staring at her entry way. She wasn’t expecting visitors but maybe Harry had finally decided to show himself.

Hermione moved to the door slowly, purposefully avoiding the floorboards that she knew were creaky before almost laughing at herself, feeling foolish. These weren’t Dark times anymore and she really didn’t have anything to fear. She patted her pocket for a moment to ensure that she still had her wand, and then opened the door quickly.

Her eyebrows knit in confusion when she saw who was standing there, someone she hadn’t even seen for at least seven years. He looked almost the same, except he was taller than she remembered and his face didn’t seem to possess quite the sharp angles that it used to. His hair was longer than she recalled and it wasn’t gelled back in the serious manner he had worn it for their seven years of school. He had seriously broad shoulders and was just huge in general, towering above her 5’5” frame. Hermione was shocked to see that he was wearing muggle attire, before she realized that he would be no exception to the latest fad, but she dropped her eyes to his jeans and shoes, surprised all the same. All of this flitted through Hermione’s mind in less than ten seconds.

“Draco Malfoy?”

He nodded, and Hermione was more confused by his actions. He had his hands jammed into his pockets and looked almost meek, a thought that almost made Hermione laugh because she knew he was anything but. He was almost reminding her of the way he and his family had looked after the fall of Voldemort, when they sat awkwardly at the mass funerals; not exactly fitting in, but trying to without drawing too much attention to themselves.

“Can I come in?”

His voice was gruff, and she automatically stepped back. Somewhere in the recesses of her brain she was glad that she had tidied up earlier that day, as well as mentally cataloguing her outfit, for some insane reason.

Skinny jeans? Check.

Cute wife-beater top that said “Muscles and Mascara”? Check.

Freshly pedicured bare feet? Check.

Long bauble necklace? Check.

Her hair was pulled into a high pony, wisps strategically falling around her face in a flattering manner.

For some reason, she was pleased about this, and she figured it was because he had always made fun of the way she had looked in school; she wanted to prove him wrong.

Even though she was over his appalling behaviour of their childhood.

She was.

“Please,” Hermione said politely, “Let me get your cloak! And your shoes can just go there,” she said, pointing to a rubber mat beside her door. Hermione took his cloak and hung it up and gestured toward her couch. “Can I get you something? Tea, perhaps?”

She had clearly not had guests in a while if she was going out of her way to make Draco Malfoy comfortable in her home. In all fairness, though, she hadn’t seen him in years and he really didn’t deserve to have the past thrown in his face, she was just as awful as he was when they were children and he had, after all, tried to defy Voldemort. Maybe he had been a coward about it, along with his parents, but Hermione couldn’t begrudge the fact that they had at least tried, in the end.

“Tea would be nice.”

Hermione got Draco a cup of tea and refilled her now cold cup as well before going into the living room to sit on the armchair that was near the couch, passing him his mug before pulling her legs up so she could probably rest her chin on her knee, if she wanted to. Draco took a delicate sip before placing his tea squarely on the coffee table and looking her directly in the eye.

“I know this must be strange for you, and before we begin this discussion, I just want to apologize to you for my past transgressions.”

Hermione waved her hand, as though sweeping his comments aside.

“I apologize as well, but it was years ago and we were quite young. Everything is forgiven.”

Draco looked relieved and continued watching her until she got nervous.

“So what can I do for you, Mr. Malfoy?”

He looked like he wanted to laugh, but he said, “You can call me Draco.”

Hermione nodded, feeling exceptionally awkward, before she said, “Okay, so what can I do for you, Draco?” The name rolled off of her tongue in a foreign way, but she liked it, and she was glad to see that he had noticed she wasn’t a beaver toothed, bushy haired know-it-all anymore, judging by the way he was looking at her.

Okay, well maybe she was still a know-it-all.

“I hear you own a bookstore now?”

Definitely a know-it-all.

Hermione nodded slowly, unsure where this conversation was heading and beginning to feel unnerved by the way Draco was watching her. She picked up her necklace and began running it through her lips, a habit she had picked up months ago and didn’t seem to be able to break. She realized what she was doing and saw Draco Malfoy staring at her mouth, so she dropped the beads quickly, wringing her hands together.

“Have you heard anything about Blaise Zabini?” he asked, somewhat evasively, but Hermione felt her heartbeat pick up a little bit. Was he here to talk about things that she had been musing about seconds before he knocked on her door?

“I heard about his loss, yes.”

“I was to be the Godfather to his son.”

Hermione was unsure what to say to that little tidbit of information. Draco was talking to her as though they were all great friends in Hogwarts, as though she should feel some sort of comradery with him and Blaise. She had completely forgotten about the dark-skinned man’s existence until she had read the article, and she found it strange that Draco was sitting here in her flat telling her these things. Instead of acknowledging his words she just informed him about what she had just read in the Evening Prophet, trying to get them to solid ground; just the facts, please.

“I saw that Parvati and Barnaby Syndergaard also lost a child, just this morning,” Hermione said sadly.

“Pure-bloods?” Draco asked, looking a little surprised at her words.

“Aren’t they all?” she asked, surprising Draco again.

“It sure seems that way.”

“Can I ask you something? It might be a little bit too personal, and if you don’t want to tell me then I completely understand, but I’m incredibly curious about this.”

Draco looked wary, his eyes taking on a guarded look and his jaw clenching slightly, but he nodded all the same.

“Did your parents intend to have only one child? How about most of your schoolmates? Was the one child per family thing set, or was there another reason?”

Draco’s eyes widened, “So you know why I’m here?”

Hermione was confused again, and Draco answered her question instead, “My mother carried three other children, one before my birth and two after, but unfortunately they were either stillborn or she miscarried late in her term.”

“And your classmates?”

“I know for a fact that Mrs. Parkinson and Mrs. Zabini both had other pregnancies that ended in heartbreak.”

“Why is that?” Hermione asked quietly, almost to herself, and she picked up her mug of tea and cradled it in both hands, blowing into the steam. Draco was hesitant to speak to her again, she seemed to be deep in thought, and so instead of breaking her concentration he picked up his own mug and sipped at it. He glanced around her tiny flat and noticed that she had actually acquired good taste, somewhere along the way, and he was glad to see that her house was clean, even though he knew there was no way she would have a house elf.

His eyes then fell onto the picture on her floor, and he reached down and picked it up, smiling softly at the memory of Hogwarts. He inspected the young faces of his friends and schoolmates, and realized it had been years since he had seen most of them. They would have graduated over nine years ago… where had the time gone?

“I was looking at that to determine how many of our classmates were only children, well the pure-blooded ones anyway,” Hermione said, obviously broken out of her reverie.

“Too many,” Draco said, “Which is what brings me here. I’ve heard rumours my entire life about how pure-bloods were cursed and unable to have more than one child, if any at all, but that’s ludicrous, someone wouldn’t be able to just put a curse on every pure-blooded witch or wizard in the entire world. Anyway-”

“-Is this occurrence happening all over the world or just England?”

Draco cocked his head to the side for a moment, and Hermione hoped he wasn’t about to yell at her for interrupting him. She thought he was finished speaking and she started to ask her question just as he was beginning to talk, but he didn’t seem mad, and just said, “You know, I’m actually not sure, but I assumed everywhere.”

“Hmmmm…”

“Anyway, now that our generation is having a hard time reproducing, I figured it would be something for someone with impeccable research skills to look into…”

“And you want that person to be me?” Hermione was beyond surprised, her left eyebrow ascending on her forehead.

“I may have acted like a complete imbecile in school, but I was always aware that you were, and are, incredibly smart. I didn’t need to hear Lupin call you the brightest witch of our age in order to figure that out. You have always been fact oriented and I’ve even heard that you planned a majority of the battles during the war, because you were the best researcher they had. I’m not arrogant enough to let this slip away and continue to be a rumour because I can’t pull my head out of my arse and put aside our differences.”

Hermione snorted at the word ‘differences’, and it didn’t slip by Draco’s knowledge. He narrowed his eyes at her, but seemed content to let it pass. He probably didn’t want to piss her off when he was here asking for her help, which is something the old Draco Malfoy never would have done; she did have to give him credit there.

“Well, I really think that with both of our brains working on this, we could figure it out. My library is more than extensive enough to help us with this.”

“Can I think about it?”

“Of course.”

Hermione felt an odd feeling of trepidation building up within her. She couldn’t explain it, because Draco was being perfectly nice, and she was extremely interested in whatever was going on with these deaths, but she wasn’t thrilled to be putting herself out there beside him. She realized that Draco was staring at her again.

“I’d have to see if my part time girls could pick up more hours,” she said evasively.

“I’ll pay you.”

“That’s not where I was going with that.”

“I’ll pay you anyway, probably more than your bookstore brings in.”

Hermione bristled.

“How could you possibly know how much I make from my store?”

She wouldn’t put it past him to somehow secure her records. He was the famous, handsome, rich bachelor, Draco Malfoy, after all. Hermione rolled her eyes inwardly at the words that always seemed to accompany his picture in those stupid Witch Weekly magazines her employees, Freya and Clementine, always seemed to be leaving around her shop.

Draco didn’t answer her question, but he was watching her closely again.

“So what do you do, now?” She asked him, hoping that it would distract him and cause him to look away. She knew her house was warm, because she was only wearing a wife beater, and she noticed that Draco’s long sleeve shirt was only rolled up on one arm, which was strange.

She was about to ask him why he was wearing his shirt like that, but his reply sent her thoughts flying.

“You’re supposed to be thinking.”

“I meant think for a few days, not think for two minutes. This is a huge deal and would change my life.”

“What life?! All you do it work and come sit at home by yourself. Hell, you haven’t even had a visitor in days.”

“How wou… how do you know that, Draco?” Hermione asked, eyes blazing. She could feel the hairs on her arms and the back of her neck standing up straight because what he said obviously meant he had been watching her, and that creeped her right out. This made her trepidation rise again.

“You have no one.” Draco stated baldly, staring right at her.

“Get out.” She said, her temper rising quickly. She didn’t need this pompous arse, who she had decided to forgive for his old behaviour which was obviously still under the surface, reminding her how badly her life sucked.

“I’m not leaving until we decide what to do!”

We.

We?!

Hermione wanted to scream at him that there ‘was no we’! She didn’t even know this man, and here he was sitting in her house, demanding things from her and being almost foreboding with his weird attitude and words.

“Why have you been watching me?” Hermione asked, seething, “and if a woman asks you to leave her house, you should, Malfoy. Unless you’re used to pushing your presence on people who don’t want your egotistical, irritating - “

“It’s not like I’m stalking you, Granger, I assure you, I -“

“- Pompous, self-absorbed, smug -“

“- I was simply trying to decide whether to talk to you here or at your sto -“

“- Conceited, vain, self-involved -“

“- And tonight I finally worked up the courage to get over myself and walk up to your door and knock!” Draco almost yelled, stopping Hermione’s diatribe in its tracks, her mouth open and eyes staring at the man who just admitted that he needed courage to walk up to her door.

“Close your mouth, Granger, before you catch a fly.”

Hermione snapped her jaws shut and glared at him for a moment.

“Can I let you know in a week? I have things to do this week.”

Draco looked agitated again before he sighed and finally agreed that a week would be fine.

“Why are you in such a hurry?”

“I just know that my parents had been curious about this for years and I feel like I need to do something, now that my best friends’ babies are dying.”

Hermione nodded and remembered that both of his parents were dead, and she thought maybe she would extend her condolences about his mum, but he wouldn’t want to hear that from her and it would probably just piss him off, so she kept her mouth shut.

Draco stood up, holding out his hand to her in a rare show of polite feelings toward her; she took it and let him pull her up, noticing that her hand folded into his until she could barely see it anymore. A flutter in her stomach accompanied this thought, but she brushed it off and walked him to the door, passing him his cloak from her rack while he shoved his feet into his shoes.

“A week,” he said, and was gone.

**

Hermione thought long and hard about what she could do, but she realized that Draco hadn’t really given her a choice. They didn’t know each other well, but he obviously knew that if he brought it to her attention, she would do everything she could to try and figure out what, if anything, was going on. She knew that it would be a lot of research and very time consuming, but if they could actually figure it out lives would be saved; that was all the validation she needed.

She could save lives, and she knew the moment she realized it, which was about three minutes after Draco Malfoy walked out of her door, that she would do it.

She didn’t need to tell him that right away though, let the pompous arse be on tenterhooks for the week. She didn’t want to start spending all of her time at Malfoy Manor before she needed to, anyway, so she wanted this week of peace before she was surrounded by Draco and all of his annoying ways, and stupid possessions in his ridiculous manor.

She called both Freya and Clementine to work early the next day for a staff meeting, and asked both girls if they would mind taking more hours for a while. Both were glad they were given the option, because apparently they both needed more of an income.

Freya was married, and apparently her husband had just got his hours cut. Clementine was engaged and was planning a fairly large wedding and she told Hermione that more of an income would be great for the time being so that she could put more money toward her upcoming nuptials.

Hermione purposely didn’t tell her employees that she would be working with Draco Malfoy.

They were slightly obsessed with him, and Hermione could do without all the shrieking that would accompany her statement.

The knock on her door yanked her out of her musings and she jumped up and rushed forward to open it. Draco was there, as she knew he would be, and she ushered him inside quickly before retreating back to her space on the couch while he shed his cloak and shoes.

Tonight Hermione was wearing black leggings with ruffles on the bottom, a dark green racerback tank top that said ‘I put the HOT in psychotic’, and her hair was loose around her shoulders in large curls; just to prove to Draco Malfoy that she wasn’t sporting an animal on her head.

Not that she cared what he thought.

She really didn’t.

But she did notice that his eyes strayed down her body slowly, and it looked to her as though he had to swallow a little harder than normal around his Adam’s apple, making an audible noise. She smiled inwardly, hoping she was proving herself to him.

And then she thought that maybe she had some sort of issues…

“Have you made a decision?” He asked her, settling himself on the armchair and reaching for the mug of tea that she had waiting on table for him.

“I have,” Hermione said, trying hard to hide the smile that was slowly overtaking her features.

Draco saw her fighting off a grin and he felt like his stomach had plummeted a couple feet, he couldn’t believe that she was willing to put everything between them behind her, everything in her life on the back burner so that she could help him.

“You’ll do it?”

“Yes, I will. I couldn’t just turn my back on this, it needs to be figured out.”

“Thank you,” Draco said, still somewhat stunned.

Hermione was momentarily surprised, but then she didn’t know why; he was probably used to saying thank you after he got his own way, which, she assumed, was more often than not.

Spoiled prat.

“So when would you like me to start?”

“I was thinking tomorrow, if that’s okay with you?”

“Sure! I’m so excited to start researching this, it’s all very interesting.”

“Hopefully we can figure it out.”

Hermione nodded and they both sat back to drink their tea for a moment before Draco said he would prefer to pay her by the day, instead of the hour, but he really only wanted her there from Monday to Friday and from 12-5.

“I know you still have to look over your own business,” he explained, when she asked him about the odd hours.

That shut up her inner thoughts for a moment.

“My two part time employees have agreed to take on more hours, so if you needed me earlier some days then I’m sure I can swing it.”

While talking to him, Hermione went into the kitchen and came back out to place biscuits on the table, homemade, she was proud to say, and she was glad when he reached forward and took one. He dunked it into his tea and then took a large bite, his eyes closing slightly as he chewed.

“Ginger Nuts? One of my favourites, this is really delicious, where did you buy them?”

“I made them.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

“They’re so good,” he said, reaching forward and picking up two more.

“So what do you do now, Draco?”

She thought she could at least get to know something about the prat if she was going to be stuck with him for a while.

“I work in the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes at the Ministry. I’m an Obliviator.”

“Really? So you have to work around muggles?”

That was an amusing thought.

“Well, I get to modify their memories, yes. It’s an interesting job, seeing all of the ways that wizards and witches make our presence known to unsuspecting muggles. It’s a job that I found to be easy, and it doesn’t take a lot of my time, which is good, because I actually have a lot of other things going on with Malfoy Family businesses and the like. Plus my manor takes a lot of my time.”

“Why does the manor take a lot of your time?”

Draco had stuffed another cookie into his mouth, and as far as Hermione could tell he had already eaten half a dozen. “Just upkeep.”

Hermione thought that was incredibly strange, since she knew that he had house elves, but she dropped the subject, because she honestly didn’t care what he did that took up all of his time. She had a moment of inner laughter, imaging Draco wearing a large visor type hat and flowery gloves, digging around in a garden and pulling weeds, his arse covered in a pair of shorts that resembled daisy dukes and a too-small, dirty wife beater that ended somewhere above his belly button.

If only.

She realized she was smiling like a maniac when Draco raised one of his eyebrows at her, and she wasn’t even going to bother trying to lie or explain her thoughts.

He wouldn’t even know what daisy dukes were, anyway. Hermione knew because she spent a lot of time alone in her apartment with her magically enhanced television set and movies, but she doubted Draco sat around watching movies and old muggle T.V. shows.

“I thought for sure you’d want to be an Auror,” she said, trying to come across as sane.

“I considered it, but… they’re all so terribly scarred,” he said seriously.

Hermione couldn’t stifle her laugh this time, she wasn’t surprised at all that the only reason he didn’t want to become an Auror, almost the elite, was because they were scarred.

Vanity at its finest.

“I happen to like the way I look,” he said haughtily, ostentatiously checking his fingernails. This caused Hermione to laugh even harder, imagining him with an eye like Moody, and lo and behold, Draco started grinning at her.

“I wasn’t surprised to hear that you had opened a bookstore,” he said once her laughter died down, “Your love for books is obviously still as obscene as always. I was surprised, however, that both Potter and Weasley didn’t become Aurors.”

That slapped the smile off of her face.

“Harry had… a very tough time after the war was over. I think the last thing on his mind was entering a job that would make him have to continue fighting. Ron… I don’t mean this in a bad way at all… but I don’t think Ron would have even passed Auror training.”

Draco snorted but tried to hide it with a cough, causing Hermione to send him another one of her famous glares.

“I’m serious, he was smart, he was brave, but I don’t think he had it in him to run out and face death every single day of his life.”

“How often do you see them?”

“I see them sometimes,” she said evasively, not really liking that question for some reason. She thought maybe it was because she was somewhat embarrassed about not having any friends now, not really, but she couldn’t be sure if that was why she felt defensive all of a sudden.

“When was the last time?”

Hermione’s eyes widened with realization as she thought about it, and her defensiveness faded in place of shock, she hadn’t actually sat down and consciously thought about the last time she had spent time with either of them. “Merlin, I haven’t seen Harry for almost two years, not for lack of trying, and Ron in… just over a year now.”

Draco was surprised. He thought the bloody golden trio would be together forever, and he noticed that any information about their time spent together was never really brought to light. He knew that Hermione hadn’t spent her time with the two during the war, but he thought that maybe she was off being heroic somewhere else, especially after he heard all the raging about her battle planning.

He felt somewhat sorry for her though, he had seen his best friend, someone he had been friends with since before school, two nights ago. He chose not to comment on this strange bit of information, especially since he had been hearing rumours that Harry Potter was now completely barkers.

“Well, I suppose I should go,” he said, dusting biscuit crumbs from his fingers and standing from his chair.

Hermione stood up as well, but as Draco made his way to the door she rushed into the kitchen. In an act of kindness toward someone that she really didn’t like, (really!), she came bustling back out with a paper bag in her hands. Once Draco had his cloak on she passed it to him; he looked at her curiously for a moment before peering into the bag and smiling widely.

Hermione was sending him home with a bag of biscuits.

“If this continues I’ll have to hit the gym even harder,” he commented, thinking about eating a biscuit at that very moment, and Hermione raised an eyebrow at his obvious statement, letting her know that he works out without being weird about it.

Even though it was weird.

She didn’t care if he worked out or not.

At all.

Even though she went to the gym daily and was about to hand over that information before she thought that he would think she was trying to make things a competition. And he wouldn’t care that she worked out, anyway, right?

“That didn’t really sound like a complaint,” Hermione stated seriously, instead of biting.

Although, she could obviously tell that he worked out regularly.

Not that she was looking.

“I think it would be worth it. I’ll come over to your store at noon tomorrow to side-along apparate you to the manor, since your only other option is to apparate outside the gates, and that’s about a twenty minute walk.”

“Okay,” she said, a little uncertain about side-along apparating anywhere with Draco Malfoy.

She didn’t have a death wish.

He quirked his eyebrow, almost like he knew exactly what she was thinking, and without even saying goodbye he opened the door and left.


Chapter 2: Chapter Two
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]




Chapter Two

A/N- I apologize for the wait time… my husband is on holidays and we’ve been out and about, finally at home for some down time and was able to sneak onto the computer for a while to update this story.

Also… I don’t own Harry Potter. At all…. Sucks, I know.

Hermione went to the gym early, no later than six AM every morning, and ran on the treadmill for at least 45 minutes before doing her weight work. She opened her shop at nine, so she had to be home by at least 7:30 AM in order to get ready, but sometimes she cut it close.

Hermione dressed extra carefully that morning, but she wasn’t about to ditch her sassy shirts for Draco Malfoy. If she could wear it to her store, then she could wear it to Malfoy Manor, and he would just have to deal with it.

Today she thought her shirt was extra appropriate, since she didn’t want to go out of her way to let Draco know that she worked out daily as well, but still wanted him to know. It was a black wife beater (she liked to show off her arms) that said ‘act like a lady, lift like a boss’ in a light dusty rose.

She laughed to herself, and paired her shirt with a grey pair of leggings that had black and dark grey stripes all over them, making them look like they couldn’t really decide what shade they wanted to be. She also decided to wear cute pink sandals that strapped around the toes and ankles, flowers crawling up her feet so the straps could meet; the colour of her sandals matched the words on her shirt perfectly.

Hermione applied make-up sparingly, because she never wanted to cover up her freckles too much. She stuck with mascara, eyeliner and lipstick more than anything else, just dusting a powder cover-up over her face to take away the shine, and she decided to put her hair into a sock bun, since it was easy and she had to open her store soon.

She worked, as well as received complements from many customers on her ‘cute’ outfit that day. It seemed as though everyone was always looking forward to her clothes, and she was so happy that the wizarding world opened itself up enough to allow muggle things. One of her favourite things to do on her days off was watch comedy movies in her flat. Whoever figured out how to get electricity to work in the wizarding world deserved a kiss on the lips.

She didn’t watch horror movies alone.

She had enough horror in her nightmares, thanks.

Freya showed up at ten minutes to noon and gushed over how gorgeous Hermione was, even going so far as to ask her who she was dressing up for.

“It’s not like I’m wearing a ball gown,” Hermione said, irritated, because she wasn’t dressed much differently than she usually was. She had added a new bright pink lipstick that morning, so maybe that’s why everyone thought she looked special.

At two minutes to twelve she groaned, realizing that Freya would see Draco when he came to get her, assume that Hermione had dressed up in order to impress him, (which she didn’t!) and probably be embarrassing about the fact that he was in their store.

At one minute to twelve, Hermione’s life got a little bit worse. Clementine came into the shop because she had forgot something the last evening she had worked, and Hermione cursed the fates for her rotten luck and Clementine’s even worse timing.

Hermione swung her purse over her shoulder at the exact same moment there was a loud ‘Crack’ behind one of the stacks, causing Freya and Clementine’s eyes to immediately lift; Hermione wanted to actually shake her fist at the sky.

“Oh. My. God!” Freya said loudly, adopting the muggle term, as Draco’s platinum head and black-clad body came out from behind a shelf.

“Draco. Effing. Malfoy.” Clementine said immediately after her, and both girls were suddenly squealing like three year olds at a birthday party.

Hermione thought they were being a little bit over the top, it wasn’t as though the Prince of Wales had just walked through the door.

Or maybe it was.

She wasn’t sure, anymore.

“Granger,” he said, making a beeline to her and trying to ignore the piercing sounds in the air.

“Do you know him?!”

“Can I please get your autograph?!”

Hermione was tempted to Avada herself on the spot.

“Did you have to apparate directly into the store?” she asked him, annoyed beyond belief.

“Yes,” he said, and left it at that.

Freya approached with a pen and a pad of paper and Hermione felt her cheeks heating up with embarrassment.

“Why?!”

“This is two witches, could you imagine if I had just apparated outside the door.”

Draco gestured to the windows and Hermione turned, noticing all of the people walking by.

She rolled her eyes at the poor misfortunes of Draco Malfoy, and he grinned at her, letting her know that he knew exactly what she was thinking.

“Annoying ponce,” she said audibly, and Clementine gasped and actually looked scandalized by her words.

“Know-it-all bitch,” he said in retaliation, still grinning while reaching out and plucking the pen from Freya’s hand.

“You’re a prat.”

“You’re a bint.”

“Manky tosser!”

“Bloody trollop!”

“Can we just go?”

“Are you dating?”

Freya looked to be at a complete loss by their words toward each other, but she noticed that none of their insults were said with much heat.

“No!” they both yelled at the same time, turning away from each other and toward Hermione’s employees, they were both looking at them a little bit too knowingly.

“Before we leave,” Draco started, and then stopped because Freya and Clementine were still watching them closely. “Don’t you have jobs to be doing?” he asked them snarkily, and Hermione was going to reprimand him for talking to her employees that way, but before a word could get out of her mouth he grabbed her by the arm and pulled her into a back room.

Like he owned the place, or something.

“Before we leave, I need to tell you to hold onto me as tightly as you can. There are extra wards around the manor so that visitors can’t really apparate in, but if one is apparating with me, it should be fine. But you need to ensure you’re holding on very tightly. It’s like this so that if someone was to grab me as I was apparating away they would be shook off before they had the chance to retighten their grip.”

All signs of joking had left Draco’s person, and Hermione knew that he was being dead serious about this and figured that something bad would probably happen if she didn’t listen.

“Why all the wards? All the secrecy?”

“Just because You-Know-Who was murdered doesn’t mean there’s no more evil in the world,” Draco said, and he said it so seriously that Hermione felt a small shiver pass through her body, goosebumps raising on her bare arms.

Draco moved forward and Hermione jumped a little when he suddenly had his arms around her.

“Hold me tight,” he said, and she tentatively reached out and held him around his waist. He turned with her in his arms and she felt the claustrophobic feeling of apparition overtake her, squeezing her through a tube. She thought it was over, and went to let go, but Draco squeezed her tighter and she felt jolted: almost like something was trying to rip her away from his body. She redoubled her grip and then suddenly it was over. She held onto Draco tightly for a few more moments, heaving for breath and trying to get her bearings.

“That was a little bit scary,” she stated, finally releasing him and backing up.

“It takes some getting used to,” Draco agreed, nodding.

“Well, I guess we should just get right down to it,” Hermione said, still a little bit shocked that Draco had willingly held her in his arms, and deciding to try and bypass any awkward moments.

Draco seemed flustered for a moment, but he composed himself quickly and started to lead Hermione to the library.

“Remember this route, you’ll be treading it often,” he commanded, annoying her immediately, “I’ll show you where everything else is today as well, and if you don’t remember it all right away, I’ll usually always be around.”

“Usually?”

“Well, if I get called out to work then I’ve got to go, but I should mostly be around.”

“I think we should start with trying to go back as far as we can in pure-blood family histories, or at least the ones we can get our hands on, and see how long this has been going on.”

“I have a few books that you may find to be useful.”

Hermione rubbed her hands together, trying with all her willpower to not clap them and jump up and down like a child getting a balloon for the first time.

Hermione loved research. She loved facts. Most of all, Hermione loved books.

Draco lifted an eyebrow and her somewhat childish act and continued to lead her through the manor.

They stepped through the doors and Hermione gasped in pleasure, looking around in awe with her eyes shining suspiciously.

“This is amazing,” she stated, looking around the cavernous library and eyeing the ladders on the balconies that led up to even more books. She owned a bookstore, and the library in Malfoy sodding Manor was enough to take her breath away.

Spoiled ponce.

“The books you will want today will be right over here,” Draco said, leading Hermione to the far wall to the left of the double doors they entered. Hermione rushed to the shelves as soon as they were near them and she reached out, running her fingers lovingly across the spines, almost as though she were caressing the cheek of a lover.

Draco laughed out loud while watching her and she almost felt as though she had been caught doing something dirty. She turned a deep shade of red before gathering books such as, “The Malfoy Family Line” and “The Pure-Blooded Families of Wizarding Britain” off of the shelves. She hurried to a desk and carefully placed the books upon it.

“There’re parchments and quills in the drawer,” Draco said, and he opened his mouth to say something else when he was cut off by a loud dinging. Hermione jumped and looked around curiously before following Draco back to the other end of the library, where there was a large fire crackling in the grate.

Draco waved his wand at the fire and said “Patitur” toward the flames.

A bearded head of an aging man popped into the fire, and Hermione realized that this was a work call for Draco. Losing interest immediately upon this realization she turned away and headed back toward her books, not seeing the man’s interest in her as she walked away and Draco’s look of curiosity.

“I’ve got to go,” Draco said, approaching Hermione after a few moments, causing her to look at him apprehensively.

“So I’m to stay here alone?”

“I trust that you won’t steal any of my things,” he said, smirking slightly as she rolled her eyes, “and I shouldn’t be too long. There was a problem in Borehamwood, apparently an underage wizard thought it would be funny to levitate a muggle in the middle of town, since he just learned that charm at school before the holidays. Kids, I tell you. We were not like this when we were younger. I guess at least ten people saw the act, so we’ve been called out to rectify the situation.”

Hermione nodded and took a deep breath, nervous about being in this large house alone.

“If you get thirsty or anything, just call Tippy, she’ll show you to the kitchens.”

“Okay,” Hermione said, trying to sound confident.

“I shouldn’t be long.”

Hermione nodded and Draco walked away, so she got immersed in her books again, scratching things haphazardly on her spare parchment whenever she came across something of interest.

She stopped paying as much attention to her research when she noticed how dry her mouth was, and she cast a quick spell to check the time. It was after four! She had been involved, and so much for Draco not being gone long. It had been hours.

Hermione was thirsty, desperately thirsty. She swallowed and it felt like she had been eating sand at some point.

She only had one more hour! She could make it.

She focused on writing again, but after checking the time another four times in half an hour, she wasn’t sure if she could. She didn’t really want to annoy a house-elf, even though she had come to terms with the fact that they enjoyed their lives years ago, but she needed something to drink.

“Tippy?” she said tentatively, her voice raspy.

“Yes missus?” The elf asked, appearing out of nowhere.

“Would it be at all possible to get a drink?” Hermione asked, eyeing the clean and very soft looking towel the elf was wearing, looking at the Malfoy Family Crest that was stamped on the front.

“What would missus like?”

“Water would be great,” Hermione said, and before the last word was out of her mouth the elf was gone. Moments later she was back, placing a goblet and large pitcher on the table near the fire, so Hermione started heading that way.

“Is that all?” Tippy asked, and Hermione just had to ask, because she was dying to know.

“Do you like Draco?”

“Oh yes!” the elf gushed, catching Hermione of guard, “Master Draco is the best Master we has ever had! He offered to pay us a galleon a month, but we is saying him no. We don’t want to be paid, and Flippy almost had a nervous breakdown just at the thought. We gets clean clothes from Master Draco and treated kindly.”

Well.

That was unexpected.

“Thank you, Tippy, I appreciate the water,” Hermione said, and the elf beamed at her before disappearing.

After four large goblets of water and tidying up her work space, Hermione was almost done for the day. Draco still hadn’t returned and Hermione wasn’t sure if it was okay for her to just leave when she was finished, but she figured it was since he wasn’t here.

She thought she knew the way to foyer since they had walked to the library from there earlier, so she decided to just leave and she would see Draco tomorrow at noon. She would just have to walk the twenty minute walk down the lane until she was off Malfoy property.

Hermione almost made it to the foyer perfectly fine, but she thought that maybe she had taken a wrong turn somewhere, because this part of the house really didn’t look familiar at all.

Damn Malfoy and his bloody confusing mansion!

There were hallways branching off from the area she was standing in all sorts of directions, and more doors than she could count. Taking a gamble, she went to the right. She walked down a few hallways, and was about to turn back or call for Tippy when she decided to try a door and see what was behind it.

She opened it slowly and her breath caught in her throat, hitched for just a moment, and she took a deep breath and looked around; this was a room she could remember very well. She moved in further, almost as though she was in a trance; running her fingers lightly over the wall; just barely touching it with her fingertips. She looked up and saw the very familiar chandelier and she reached up and touched the heavily covered scar on her neck. She could feel its rough edges beneath the makeup she used to hide it and ran her finger over it experimentally, it was a few inches long and wider than it should have been, but it was healed haphazardly at best. She honestly barely thought about it anymore.

Until now.

She could see herself laying on the floor in the center of the room, groups of people standing around her while she had a short but incredibly sharp knife held against her neck by a wild haired female, cutting into the tender flesh and drawing blood. She could vividly remember how the curses being cast on her tore through her body, causing her to shout out in unadulterated pain, pain she had never felt again since that day. The curses almost took herself out of her mind, and she tried with all of the power she possessed to keep her mind from breaking.

She would not let them break her.

She remembered being beaten the way that muggles fight, with fists and feet, magic being cast aside momentarily. Her body was being bruised and beaten, her bones were breaking beneath the assaults landing on her. Wizards descended on Hermione at this point, helping the wild haired witch attack her.

Somewhere in the depths of her brain, she thought about how she had been over these specific nightmares for almost two years, but now, she knew, they would come screaming back with a vengeance.

She remembered the blond haired boy, who was younger than her by a few months, standing above her and to the side. She knew that he was desperately trying to avoid looking at her, but failed, his eyes darting to her bloody and beaten form every few moments.

She figured, beneath the pain that she was enduring, that he was in his own kind of pain - his own kind of torture - but that didn’t stop her from resenting him and his family in that moment. His parents were also standing by while trying to pretend that this wasn’t happening in the middle of their dining room, an area where they convened as a family before these times to have meals and talk about their days.

 “Granger?!”

The blond boy was here now, she could hear his voice but it seemed as though it was coming from a significant distance, almost as though he was trying to shout at her through a window.

“Granger?! What…”

He was closer to her now, but he seemed hazy and she wanted to tell him that he was too late, the damage had already been done and he wouldn’t be able to save her now.

“Hermione, what the hell are you doing in here?”

She snapped to attention and looked at an older Draco Malfoy, the boy she had been seeing moments before was replaced by this man, and she was surprised to find him standing right in front of her. Tears were pouring down her face unchecked, and she hadn’t realized that until now, either. She touched her fingertips to her face, feeling the wetness there, before she reached out and dragged her now tear soaked fingers across the wall lightly.

“What are you doing?” Draco asked her, watching her run her fingers along the wall in his dining room, knowing full well that she was trapped in her memories of a darker time.

Draco reached out and grabbed Hermione by her strong, but delicate shoulders, trying to shake her out of her reverie.

“What are you doing?” he shouted, getting fed up.

“I- I didn’t mean to… I was j-just walking, trying to find the foyer…” Hermione’s eyes were wandering again and landed on the chandelier once more, fresh tears overtaking her as she remembered Dobby for the briefest of moments before the crystal monstrosity came careening down. She was thrown to the floor directly below it so that Draco’s aunt could get out of the way on time, effectively causing it to land on the broken, defenseless girl. It took days for her bones to heal from that little situation.

Draco took Hermione’s arm gently in his hand and began to lead her out of the room. He knew that she had been completely broken in there, probably the only time in her entire life that something had ruined her in the worst way possible. He took her to the kitchens instead of the foyer, knowing he would feel guilty about sending her home like this, which just so happened to be a little bit farther down the hall, and ordered Tippy to bring her a big steaming mug of tea and a sandwich. He sat her down in the breakfast nook and took a seat across from her.

Hermione had controlled her crying now, but she was touching the large scar on her neck, running her fingertips over the rough edges gently; stroking it almost. Draco could do nothing but stare at that scar, remembering how awful and helpless it felt to stand there and watch her receive it.

“I’ve never noticed that before,” he said, his voice rough.

Hermione dropped her hand quickly and added her preferred lump of sugar and small splash of cream to her tea before taking a delicate sip to try and distract her mind.

“It’s usually covered,” she admitted, “and I’ve broken the habit of touching it. Apparently I’ve rubbed off the makeup now, though.”

“You shouldn’t have gone in there,” Draco said quietly, having a hard time looking away from her neck.

“I didn’t know that’s where I would end up.”

Draco took a deep breath and looked away from her, and Hermione drank some more tea and took a tentative bite of her sandwich.

“I never apologized to you for that whole thing, and I do want you to know I’m sorry.”

“Its fine,” Hermione said shortly, really trying to avoid the topic. She didn’t want to bring it up and lose her temper, because truth be told, she resented Draco and his parents for a very long time for allowing that to happen to her in their home, while they stood by and watched.

“We’ll talk about it another time,” Draco said, understanding immediately that now was not a good time for such a discussion. He sighed and accepted the sandwich that Tippy brought over for him, eating it slowly, trying to avoid looking at the scar that adorned Hermione’s neck almost as desperately as he had tried to avoid watching her receive it.

“How did the research go?”

“Good, actually,” Hermione answered, perking up a bit, “I’ve decided to pick five families for now, I had to or I would have been just looking in the past for weeks. As far as I can tell, it all started in the generation before your parents’. I’ve decided to go with your family, since I’ll have even more information because of you, the DeMont family, the Longbottom family, the Nott family, and the Cunningham family. I’ve chosen these ones because they have such long lines, and other than yours they’ve had members who have branched off and married half-blood or even muggle-borns.”

“My aunt married a muggle-born!” Draco said vehemently, almost as though he’s daring her to disagree with him.

“On your mother’s side though, not your father’s.”

“Right,” he said, sounding annoyed by that fact.

“I’m still using your family for research, nothing to get upset about.”

He sneered.

She tried to sneer back, but she didn’t think it was effective since he almost smirked.

**

A week passed in a flurry of note taking and researching with Draco, every day he would pick Hermione up at noon and take her home in the evenings. Draco was called away to work a lot, but he was never gone as long as he was the first day and he always helped her research. Draco was just as thorough as Hermione, and she found herself appreciating all of the effort he put into it.

Even if he was an annoying git.

On the weekend Hermione was lazy and slow and did nothing, which was wonderful, but by Sunday morning she decided to drop by and see if Harry was home. She replied to the letter she had received from Ron the week before she started working with Draco, congratulating him on his engagement, and then got showered and dressed.

After perusing her large closet and packed full second bedroom she finally decided on mint green skinny jeans and a loose shirt that, of course, showed her arms, but it didn’t say anything. It was flowy and black and a little longer than was necessary, but she loved it. She threw on a pair of black leather flats to complete the outfit, the jeans standing out in an adorable way amidst all the dark tones.

Hermione apparated to the woods surrounding Harry’s small cottage and scrunched up her nose at the sight before her. There were no other houses around his, not even close; just woods and a small dirt road that led away from the house. She knew a person would have to walk quite a ways down the dirt lane before they came across any busier streets, and Hermione wondered about Harry’s seclusion every time she stepped foot on his property.

She took in the unkempt gardens and overgrown lawns, and for the first time in a long time felt a sudden pang of fear for her friend. It had been so long since she had heard from him, and she was suddenly afraid that she would find his body or figure out he was incredibly ill when she went inside; she wasn’t going to knock and leave today. If Harry didn’t answer the door then Hermione would be entering his house without an invitation.

She got to the door and was relieved to see that the note she had left under a rock the last time she was here was gone, so at least someone had been around.

“Harry?” she called, knocking on his door, “its Hermione.”

She heard shuffling in the house and breathed out a sigh of relief, stepping back so that the door could be opened to allow her entrance. When the door opened, Hermione held in a gasp of shock. The man before her was Harry, no doubt, but he looked… different somehow. He still looked the same but there was something about him that wasn’t quite right.

“Hermione,” he said blandly, his tone completely unsurprised to see her there, which was strange considering they hadn’t set eyes on one another in over two years.

Hermione instinctively hugged him, but he was stiff and did not lift his arms around her at all, causing her to drop hers and step away slowly.

“How have you been?” she asked, side stepping him and entering his house without waiting for him to ask her in.

“Fine,” he said, narrowing his emerald eyes at her behind his still-round spectacles.

“I’ve been trying to contact you for weeks! I was getting so worried, I’m relieved to see that you’re good.”

She thought that maybe using the word “good” was a little bit of a stretch. Harry looked thin and dirty, almost like he forgot how to cook and bathe, and his house was a disaster. She held in a shudder as she watched a rat dart out from beneath a dilapidated couch and run into the hearth of his fireplace.

“What do you want, Hermione?”

She looked at Harry and noticed his hands were balled into fists, his cheeks were sunken and his eyes were flashing warnings at her; she had no idea why he was suddenly so defensive.

“I just wanted to see you,” she answered slowly, getting a little uneasy at Harry’s blatant anger.

“You’ve seen me, so now you can leave.”

“What? Harry, I-“

“I’m busy,” he stated, cutting her off.

“Doing what?”

She could swear at that very moment his eyes flashed red.

“That’s none of your concern,” he spit harshly.

“Have you heard about Ron’s recent engagement?” she asked in a falsely cheerful voice, trying to get on level ground with the man she used to consider her brother.

“He sent me a note about it, not that I really care.”

“You don’t care?”

“No.”

“I thought you had been spending time with Ron…”

“No.”

“Oh. He made it sound like you guys still saw each other often.”

Harry moved quickly, and he was suddenly right in Hermione’s face, his eyes wide and his stance rigid. She backed up a step and realized too late that her back was directly against a wall, giving her nowhere to go to get away from the man that she no longer knew.

“Why are you here?” he asked again, anger bubbling below the surface of his entire being.

“I’ve already said, I just wanted to see you.”

His fist smashed the wall beside her face causing her eyes to widen in fear.

“Maybe I should go,” she said tentatively, waiting for him to back away from her so she could flee.

“Maybe you should.”

He didn’t move.

“Okay well… maybe I’ll see you soon then?”

She really didn’t want to resort to violence, unsure of his mental stability at this point. He had obviously spent too much time alone. He didn’t say a word, but lurched forward so his entire body was flush with hers, and Hermione started shaking and held in a whimper as Harry leaned forward so his face was in the crook of her neck, not touching her but he stopped less than an inch away from her skin.

He took a deep breath and held it in for a few moments before releasing it on a soft moan.

He was smelling her.

“Harry?” she asked, her voice an octave higher than usual.

“You smell so delicious,” he murmured, taking another deep breath, and Hermione jumped as his lips touched down on her collarbone.

“Well I should get going,” she said, trying to sound brave even though she was scared out of her wits. No one knew she was here and Harry was clearly not in the right state of mind for a visitor.

“Don’t leave,” he said suddenly, sounding almost like he was a young child being abandoned by someone he loved.

“Sorry, Harry, I have an appointment, I just wanted to drop by and make sure you were well.”

His lips were still moving along her collarbones, but she really didn’t want to shove him away. She gently touched his shoulder, trying to move him away from her in a non-threatening manner.

Harry stepped back, but not far enough for her to move. He stared at her hand for a few moments, looked around his dingy house for a few more, and suddenly yelled, “Don’t push me, Hermione!”

She jumped again, surprised at his sudden outburst since he was being so gentle minutes before, but he had stepped far enough away from her that she could slip out from between him and the wall. She backed toward the door slowly, not comfortable turning her back to him, and said, “I’ll come by another time, you said you were busy and I really do have somewhere I have to be.”

He followed her to the door in an almost gentlemanly fashion of showing her out, and she stood on his gravel walkway, looking at him for a moment.

He reminded her of someone, but she wasn’t able to place him. He looked emaciated and dirty, his cheeks hollowed out and his emerald eyes flashing dangerously in anger and… something else.

“Hermione?” he said in a quiet voice, just as she was going to turn into apparition.

“Yes?” she asked, stopping.

“You smell amazing.”

And then he grinned.

The look on his face was the most frightening thing yet, he looked almost manic and Hermione felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end before she turned into the compression of apparation and away from her completely terrifying ex-best friend.

**

Harry wasn’t overly surprised to see Hermione on his doorstep when he opened his door; she had left a letter beneath a rock, and he knew that if he didn’t go to her that she would come to him.

Eventually.

Harry had a more sinister side to his personality, and that side was forcing all rational thoughts and decisions out of his mind. It allowed Harry to remember Hermione in their school years and a little later, but somewhat dispassionately.

At least until her first letter had arrived, thoughts about her genuine smiles and fluttering eyelashes, the dimple that appeared in her left cheek when she was thinking hard about something; it all came screaming back to him.

He had loved her.

He had wanted to murder Ron Weasley when he saw him kiss Hermione for the first time. Instead of murdering his best mate, he started to date Ginny Weasley, nag queen extraordinaire, to pass the time until the inevitable time his two friends broke up and Harry could swoop in.

The other side of his personality didn’t allow that, unfortunately. It was too focused on other things, and dating muggle-born witches was not one of them.

Harry wanted her damn it, and she could help him rule the world. She could be his muggle-born… mistress. Okay, maybe that wouldn’t do, but he definitely wanted her at some point before he had to kill her.

And he would get her.

Harry wanted Hermione to know how he felt, but the dark side of his personality wouldn’t allow it, which resulted in his passion to come out in strange bursts.

Harry Potter was not a sane man.

His lip curled and his eyes brightened a bit when a plan came to mind, a plan to not let him out of Hermione’s thoughts anytime soon.

As some people say, ‘any attention is good attention’, and Harry fully believed that to be true. When he truly thought about it though, the sane side of him, he really didn’t think that Hermione would willingly be a part of his life. Not at this point, and that brought another idea to the surface of his mind.

He waited a few days until he knew she was at work again and slunk into her apartment building with a vial in his pocket and dastardly deeds in his mind, his cloak pulled tight around his body and his hood lowered over his face.

Harry laughed when he encountered Hermione’s wards, manically, some would say, and the old man who saw him in the hallway scurried away before being seen, the hair on his arms raising at the sound. They were… ridiculous, to say the least. Although, to be fair, Harry had a lot more knowledge about using his power than he had five years ago, so maybe they were actually strong, just weak in comparison to him.

Like most things in their world.

He entered her home and stood still for a few moments, taking in his surrounding and breathing in the smells that reminded him almost painfully of his witch. He took his time in her flat, checking out every room and pretending that he lived there as well.

He stripped down in her bathroom and jumped into her shower, lathering his body with her soap and using her shampoo three times, in hopes that the smell would last longer. He used her towel that was hanging on the back of the door and dried his body slowly, watching himself in her mirror. He wrapped the towel loosely around his waist and headed into her bedroom, throwing himself onto her bed and rolling around on her blankets and pillows, imagining sleeping with her in this bed every night. Those thoughts brought on an almost painful erection, and he had to relieve himself, exploding all over her comforter.

He cleaned up after himself and got dressed, and then found himself staring at her bedroom dresser. A pair of earrings were there, shaped like little golden snitches, and he imagined them adorning her perfect little ear lobes.

He put them in his pocket and his hand brushed the vial he brought along with him, reminding him of its presence.

Once he was totally acquainted with her house he stole a bunch of strands of hair from her hairbrush that was sitting on her bathroom sink, and they joined the earrings in his pocket. He ate some food out of her fridge and drank some milk right from the carton, revelling in the fact that she would drink that milk later and it had touched his lips. Harry laid on her couch for a while, breathing her scent that now marked his body in deeply.

He roamed around her house one last time before letting himself out and resetting the wards, making sure she wouldn’t know he had been there.

He planned on paying her flat a lot more attention in the future, hair stealing and small vials included, but at the moment he had a spell to cast in the privacy of his own home, using the strands of her hair.

Harry Potter was definitely not a sane man, and his obsession with Hermione Granger was just beginning to come to light, again, egged on by the crazier side of his personality.

That side of him believed that he was owed things from the world, the universe, and he would claim them all in due time.


Chapter 3: Chapter Three
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]




Chapter Three

Once Hermione got home from Harry’s secluded house she was shivering in fear and had to make herself a cup of tea to try and soothe her nerves. Hermione knew that she and Draco weren’t friends, but at least he didn’t make her feel threatened in a very personal way. She was ready to begin her research and be around him again.

Especially in his highly protected home.

She was going to keep what happened with Harry to herself, though, because she really didn’t have anyone to talk to about it and didn’t need Draco making her feel like an idiot about the whole thing. She did ask him something that may have alerted him to something being wrong, though, but she didn’t elaborate.

“Draco?”

He raised an eyebrow at her and she thought this must be his way of asking, “what, you annoying little bint?”

“If you don’t hear from me for a few days, please just apparate directly into my flat to make sure I’m alright.”

Draco put down the papers he was reading and gave Hermione a sharp look.

“Why?”

“Just do this one thing for me, okay? I’ll leave a note whenever I’m leaving, but if you don’t hear from me or I’m not around to come research, something has happened. You’ll have to go to my apartment to get the note that will always be on my kitchen table. I’ll change my wards to accept you.”

That’s how scared of Harry Hermione was; to ask Draco Malfoy to take it upon himself to enter her flat and make sure she was alive.

He was looking at her like she was insane, but she didn’t care.

“Who’s trying to hurt you, Granger?”

Hermione shook her head at him and threw herself back into her research, going over family trees from the families she had decided to track. They did this for another few days before she had finally had them all mapped out on a large piece of parchment, similarities from each tree pointed out with different coloured inks.

“I’ve noticed something,” Hermione started, carrying her large piece of parchment over to Draco, “Every family member that has branched out and married a half-blood, muggle-born, or even muggle, have had children with no problems. Look here, Harfang Longbottom’s son, Piers, married a muggle-born witch, and they have had four children without a single stillborn or miscarriage.”

Draco reached for the parchment with long fingers and studied it closely, inspecting all of the lines on five different family trees. “And it isn’t just with the Longbottom family either, so it seems as though our suspicions are right. Pure-bloods are being affected for some reason, but we just don’t know why.”

“It could be so many different factors, Draco. I don’t even know how we’re going to start narrowing them down.”

They got along so much better when they were researching.

Hermione looked defeated for a moment, but her vigour returned quickly and she grinned, almost startling Draco. “Luckily for us, I’m a fact person, so I’ll be able to narrow the factors down with time. Although I may need different books, and I know this is one of the biggest libraries in Britain, but I’ve noticed that there aren’t any new books here…”

“My father was the one who always made sure that the books were kept up to date, and with everything that I’ve been doing I just haven’t had the time.”

Hermione gave him a small smile, totally understanding. “I’m thinking about ordering in a few books. I have a few older ones on my shelves about Wizarding genetics, but I haven’t looked at them and I’ve been holding off so I could focus on the family trees. I was thinking I would check them out Saturday at the store sometime; I don’t want to take them because they’re the only ones I have and I only get orders in once every two weeks, so I’ll have to wait for the new ones.”

“Sounds good, if I’m not busy I’ll accompany you.”

Hermione had opened her mouth to answer when Tippy suddenly appeared in front of them, “Master Blaise is at the gates, Master Draco.”

“Thank you, Tippy, allow him entrance, please.”

Hermione watched Tippy disappear and turned startled eyes to Draco.

“Should I be here… when Zabini comes in?”

“Why not?”

“Well… I don’t know.”

“Granger, if you can spend time with me then I think you can handle Blaise. He was always indifferent to you, not brutal to you like I was.”

“I know I just… I didn’t know if he knew what we were doing.”

“He doesn’t, really. I don’t want to get his hopes up.”

“So isn’t he going to wonder why I’m standing here in your library?”

Draco pulled out his wand and did a complicated movement with it, causing all of the books they had been researching to fly back into their respective spots on the shelves. Hermione’s pieces of parchment all rolled themselves up and landed in the drawers of the desks, hiding them from view.

“We’ll just say that you’re here to hang out and we’re having dinner.”

Before Hermione could object, Blaise entered the library.

“Hey, mate, I was wondering what…”

His words died as soon as his eyes landed on Hermione, who was standing a little to Draco’s right.

“Granger?” He asked, incredulously.

“Good evening, Blaise,” Hermione said, trying to be casual but feeling somewhat anxious with this situation. Hermione and Draco weren’t friends.

They weren’t!

This would change that perspective to other people though, and she wasn’t sure how she felt about that. She never answered Freya and Clementine’s questions about what she was doing with Draco Malfoy every afternoon, but her two employees had seen their interactions enough to be able to figure out on their own that Hermione and Draco hated each other.

Didn’t have supressed sexual feelings toward one another, like Freya tried to convince her two days ago.

Definitely not.

Hermione totally understood why Draco didn’t want to inform Blaise of what they were doing, since he had recently lost a child it would be so incredibly easy to get his hopes up. Neither Draco nor Hermione wanted to be the person responsible for breaking his resolve if their research didn’t pan out.

Blaise looked as though he had just been punched hard in the face, he was standing still, gaping at Hermione without blinking.

“What was it you were going to say, Blaise?” Draco asked, catching his friend’s attention. He turned from Hermione and looked at Draco, stunned.

“What?”

“You were going to ask me something, I think.”

“Oh! Yes, I was just coming to see what you were doing for dinner tonight, because Astoria went over to visit her parents…”

“We were just talking about dinner, actually. What did you have in mind?”

Draco was treating the entire situation like it was totally natural; something that happened on an everyday occasion, and Hermione could tell that seeing her there had totally knocked Blaise out of his stride.

Draco was an amazing actor.

“I- well, whatever you think is best.”

Hermione was feeling increasingly awkward, but Draco’s fluidity and attitude to the entire situation was helping Hermione keep herself together.

“Sure, let’s go down to the kitchens and see what the elves have in mind.”

Blaise jerked his head in an awkward manner and turned around, when his back was to them Draco grinned at Hermione, obviously reveling in the awkward situation at hand.

“Should I just go?” Hermione asked quietly as they were walking down the flight of stairs. Blaise was already in the hallway leading to the kitchens.

“Don’t be absurd.”

“I’m not being absurd! This is awkward!”

“Life is awkward, Granger, get used to it.”

“Don’t tell me what to do,” Hermione said weakly, fiddling with the bottom of her tank top that read “Are you kitten me right now?” and had whiskers and a nose on it. She was concentrating on not tripping over her black heeled sandals that had a large flower at the toes.

Draco almost snorted, and looked at Hermione like she was an idiot who needed to come up with better comebacks, but she was way too nervous for that.

“He’s already seen you here, so if you just disappear that would seem strange. We’ll have dinner and then Blaise will go and I’ll escort you home.”

“Tippy made roast with all the fixings,” the house elf said as they entered the kitchen, gesturing toward the formal dining room, since there was an actual guest here. Draco had already instructed the elves that when Hermione was around they would just eat at the nook, but he hadn’t said anything about other friends.

“I think I should just leave,” she said quietly, her stomach rolling at the thought of eating a meal in that room.

“Go ahead, Blaise. We’ll be right in.” Draco waited until Blaise was out of the room before turning toward Hermione, “If you leave now, Blaise is going to be suspicious, since I just told him ten minutes ago that you were here for dinner. I know you aren’t daft, Granger, so try and work it out in your head next time.”

Hermione narrowed her eyes at him.

“I’m not a child, Malfoy, and I would appreciate it if you didn’t treat me like one.”

“Then stop acting like one,” He said, holding the door open for Hermione to pass through, which she did with her head held high.

So much for Draco understanding Hermione’s hesitation to be anywhere near the dining room.

Ponce.

The group of three made small talk as the elves served them and Hermione did everything in her power to keep herself focused on her meal; she didn’t want to look around this room at all and cause any memory flash backs or anxiety attacks.

Blaise still looked flustered and continued to give Hermione strange looks and she caught him staring at her shirt more than once. Maybe he didn’t understand humour on clothes, but he looked confused and was staring at the whiskers regularly.

“I’m sure this is a little unexpected,” Draco started suddenly, and Blaise made a noise, “but Hermione and I have been friends for a while now.”

Hermione snorted in a very unladylike manner and Draco shot her a sneer, which she again tried to imitate.

“How? I mean how did this happen, no offense, Granger, but I hadn’t thought about you in years, and Draco hadn’t said a word about you either.”

“We just ran into each other one day,” Hermione started, hoping that speaking would distract her mind from the room they were in, “after that we decided to try our hand at a friendship, and so far it’s been really great,” she hoped she was convincing Blaise because she really wasn’t convincing herself. What she would really like to do is smack Draco upside his perfectly coiffed head before storming out of the house, at the moment.

“So… you’re friends?”

“Yes, Blaise,” Draco said, “friends. We hang out, have dinner, talk.”

Hermione tried to imitate Draco’s look of acceptance and hoped she was doing a good job, and then she thought she should maybe stop trying to copy his facial expressions, because that could very well be something that she may unknowingly project on other people.

She supposed they were kind of friends, so it wasn’t really a lie, even though they bickered more than anything else; she spent more time with him than she did with anyone else, so that had to mean something. Even though she sometimes found herself fantasizing about leaning in to kiss him, just to shut him up.

Only because he argued with her about everything possible unless they were researching.

That was definitely the only reason.

“Okay,” Blaise said easily, before turning the conversation to the latest Quidditch match, where apparently one of the Beater’s on the French team wacked a Chaser across the face with his beaters bat on purpose, knocking the Chaser unconscious and causing him to fall fifty feet from his broom. He was in the hospital.

Hermione rolled her eyes the second Blaise brought the subject up. Why were men only able to talk about Quidditch? She focused on her meal again, trying to keep frightening things out of her mind. She looked up after a few minutes of staring at her plate without moving at all, to see that Draco and Blaise were both watching her closely, Blaise staring at the whiskers on her shirt again.

“Sorry?” she asked, figuring that someone was asking her a question.

“I asked how Potter and Weasley are doing,” Blaise said, finally looking up from her shirt.

“Oh- I- well- they’re probably doing alright, I guess,” Hermione answered, now trying to keep Harry’s blazing, irrationally angry, emerald eyes out of her mind.

“Are you okay?” Blaise asked, sitting forward, “You just went really pale.”

“Fine,” Hermione squeaked, trying with all of her might to avoid Draco’s eyes, because as far as she was concerned, he was the one at fault for making her enter the stupid dining room to have an uncomfortable dinner in the first place. She was about to drown in bad memories and scary thoughts about new situations, and there was no one to keep her above water.

“Granger?” Draco said, and Hermione’s eyes snapped up to cool grey ones, watching her closely. “Get it together,” he said, not unkindly, and Hermione nodded while using all of her willpower to keep tears out of her eyes.

Draco Malfoy and Blaise Zabini did not need to see her cry.

The two men continued to talk about things that Hermione had no interest in, and after she ate a few mouthfuls of potatoes she found that she just couldn’t not look around anymore.

She was fine until her eyes travelled upwards toward the chandelier, and she really didn’t understand why the damn thing had such a negative effect on her; in all reality the floor should have been her undoing.

Tears started pooling her eyes, but she didn’t notice them because all she could see was the chandelier crashing down onto her prone position on the floor. Hermione saw Bellatrix Lestrange in the corner, cackling madly, while Harry and Ron stampeded into the room like Hippogriffs with their arses on fire. A small fight broke out and Hermione wasn’t very aware of what was going on around her, but she felt gentle hands lift her up and pull her out of the wreckage from the giant crystal chandelier that had just crushed her.

She gasped in pain from being jostled around, even though the person was trying to be gentle with her, but her bones were broken and there was nothing they could do but get her to safety.

Hermione’s hand jumped to her neck where the nasty scar adorned it, and she looked down to see what the pressure on her leg was.

Draco’s hand, to her surprise, was squeezing her thigh gently. She shook her head to rid her mind of the images invading it, and she thought she may have been imagining Draco’s soft voice in her ear.

“Ignore it,” he said quietly, “just look at me, Hermione.”

She started to take deeper breaths and lifted her eyes to meet Draco’s gaze.

“That’s it, just look at me and breathe.”

Hermione closed her eyes for a moment, and while they were closed Draco gestured at Blaise, indicating that he wanted everyone to get out of the room.

Her trembling slowed down and tears abated, and she was beginning to feel embarrassed about the circumstances. If they just hadn’t eaten in that bloody room, nothing would have been a problem and Blaise wouldn’t have her pegged as a nutter now; as he surely had.

Draco dropped his hand from her thigh, and Hermione was a little bit chagrined at the loss of pressure and the heat it caused in her body.

Only because it was so comforting.

Yeah.

Hermione realized Blaise wasn’t in the room anymore and Draco was standing beside her chair, obviously waiting for her to stand up.  She did, and Draco placed his hand on her arm, causing goosebumps to break out on her bare skin.

Not something she was expecting at all.

They walked in silence out of the room and into the adjacent kitchens.

“Is miss okay?” squeaked Flippy, another house elf that was employed at the manor.

“Bring her a Chamomile tea please, one lump of sugar and a small splash of cream. It should help calm her down.”

“What’s happening?” Blaise asked, obviously more than just a little confused, and slightly annoyed that he was kicked out of the room before the other two came out. He didn’t want to miss the action of Draco Malfoy snogging Hermione Granger.

Gossip of the year, right there.

“I’m fine,” Hermione sighed, gingerly accepting the mug of tea from Flippy the house elf.

“It’s that damned room,” Draco snarled, “I knew we shouldn’t have even tried to eat in there.”

“Well I don’t know why you forced me in there then,” Hermione growled back, her sudden change of demeanor catching both men off guard.

“What happened in that room?” Blaise asked, suddenly looking wary.

“It doesn’t matter,” Draco said shortly, and Blaise did not appreciate being spoken to like that by his best friend.

“Obviously it does,” he countered, not willing to just drop the subject.

“I was captured during the war and brought to Malfoy Manor, Zabini. The only room I remember in this house is that one, and that’s where Bellatrix Lestrange… had her way with me, for lack of better wording.”

“You were tortured there?”

“Yes, and for whatever reason, Draco thought it would be fine for us to eat there, even though I tried to refuse.”

“I was trying to help you get over it!”

Blaise winced and Hermione’s face reddened with anger.

“Get over it?” she repeated in a murderously low tone, her eyes narrowing.

Draco stood up suddenly and stalked away, his hands jammed into his pockets and his shoulders slightly hunched. Hermione thought it was a damn good time for him to leave the room before she lost it and exploded. Blaise stood to the side a little bit, getting out of Hermione’s direct line of sight in case she wanted someone to yell at, now that Draco had fled.

He could see the raised scar on her neck perfectly from this angle and winced a little bit, knowing it had to have something to do with the situation. Especially since her hand kept jumping up to touch it.

Draco came slamming back into the kitchen and strode forward angrily until he was directly in front of Hermione, and Blaise moved forward just as Hermione flinched back when Draco grabbed her wrist and flung her arm away from her neck.

“Stop it,” he growled, and then looked ashamed when he realized that both Hermione and Blaise thought he was going to hit her.

He held his hands up in surrender, both palms facing forward while he backed off a little bit.

“I wouldn’t hit you,” he stated dumbly.

Hermione shrugged, she didn’t have the energy to argue with him right now.

“I’m sorry I made you go in there, okay? I just thought that since you have already been in there once since you started coming around that it wouldn’t have been as bad this time. I was obviously mistaken.”

“I told you I didn’t want to.”

“I know that,” Draco yelled, and then turned his head to the side and said, “I know that, and I apologize,” much quieter, as though his loud voice had started him as well as everyone else in the room.

“Apology accepted,” Hermione said, smiling brightly because she could not remember a time when Draco had ever apologized to anyone for anything, other than their first contact with each other. “Prat,” she added, and Blaise laughed.

“Scrubber,” Blaise’s laugh cut off immediately and he stifled a gasp.

“Plonker.”

“Shrew.”

“Nancy.”

“Is this normal for you two?” Blaise cut in before Draco could reply.

“Yes,” they said in unison, and then both laughed and the air was cleared, while Blaise stood by and shook his head slightly.

They all moved to the breakfast nook, and when Blaise brought up the subject, because apparently he just had to know, Hermione didn’t feel too awkward or awful about explaining it to him.

“When I was captured I was brought here, like I said before, and I had the misfortune to meet Bellatrix Lestrange. She tortured me, and I’m not going to go into details about it, but she did.”

“And that bloody chandelier,” Draco cut in, and Hermione glared at him so he shut his mouth for once.

She was almost tempted to kiss him, again, and was glad when he shut his mouth on his own accord so she didn’t have to do it for him.

“What about it?” Blaise asked, looking incredibly curious. He directed his question to Draco so Hermione sighed and sat back, letting him pick up the story.

“It fell from the ceiling and my lovely aunt threw Hermione to the floor right underneath its descent, causing it to land right on top of her. I honestly wasn’t sure, by the time she had escaped, if she was going to live.”

“I wasn’t either,” Hermione said, “But Fleur Delacour worked wonders on me, because that’s where we fled to, and after a few weeks of pain and weakness on my part, I was set straight.”

“Fleur the Veela? I didn’t realize you were friends.”

“Well… she married Bill Weasley, so I was around her all the time.”

Blaise laughed, “Fleur married a Weasley?”

“She did. The summer of our sixth year and it was the most beautiful wedding I have ever seen. Anyway, she healed me, kept me safe and away from St. Mungo’s. We have a kinship, of sorts. Or used to, anyway.”

“You don’t see her anymore either?” Draco asked, realizing just how alone Hermione had been for the last few years.

“I haven’t seen any of the Weasley’s, other than the occasional visit from Ron and Ginny, in about four years.”

“It’s strange that you’re here, Hermione,” Blaise started, tentatively, “I was just telling Astoria that we would have to go to my ten year class reunion sometime next year and it would be strange to see everyone grown up. She made a joke about how you, Potter and Weasley were probably still inseparable.”

“I honestly don’t remember an Astoria…”

“She’s a few years younger than us but her sister was in our year.”

“Dora?”

Blaise laughed and Draco smirked, “Daphne,” Draco corrected.

Hermione snapped her fingers, “I knew it was something that started with a ‘D’. And how is she doing, Blaise?”

“She’s okay, she married right after the war, some half-blood who was a few years older than us; Theodore Wickham.”

Hermione met Draco’s eyes at this statement, and he gave an almost imperceptible nod, knowing what her questioning look was about.

Yes, Daphne has children, he seemed to be saying.

Hermione yawned.

“I’ll get you home,” Draco said quickly, standing up and going to her side of the table. She smiled up at him then, and Blaise was almost dazzled by the look passing between the two. He didn’t think that either of them realized the pulses of emotion they were laying out for the other so obviously, but he wasn’t about to comment on his friends relationships. Especially since Draco clearly didn’t even want Blaise to know that he was dating Hermione, for whatever reason.

They looked great together.

Hermione stepped forward and wrapped her arms around Draco like it was the most natural thing in the world, and Draco reciprocated, holding her tightly to his body and resting his chin on top of her head in a rare show of comfort. Blaise thought they were just randomly embracing before he saw them turn on the spot and disappear.

Hermione had obviously been spending a lot of time in the manor with Draco, and Blaise definitely had questions for the blond haired man.

First on the list?

How long have they been sleeping together?


Chapter 4: Chapter Four
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]




Chapter Four

“I must be a masochist,” Hermione said to herself quietly moments before apparating to Harry’s cottage. This time she had left a note in her kitchen for Draco just as she said that she would because she really wasn’t sure what would happen around Harry, now.

Hermione was a worrier, and she was concerned about Harry’s attitude the last time she saw him. There was definitely something wrong with him and she wanted to do nothing more than help him. She had sent a vague letter to Ron, trying to wheedle facts out of him without sharing too much of her own information. In previous letters Ron had made it sound like him and Harry had been seeing each other often, but she really didn’t think Harry was lying about it when he told her that they hadn’t. Something weird was going on and she wanted to figure out what it was.

She almost felt guilty for not trying to contact him sooner.

She appeared in the same spot that she had a week before and the cottage and property was still in the same amount of disarray as it had been last time. The grass was all but dead; brown patches surrounded by weeds and crab grass with dirt showing through in most areas. She took a steadying breath before approaching the door and once she was in front of it she had to force her hand out to knock.

She waited.

And waited.

Harry wasn’t home. She knocked harder this time and announced her arrival, the same way she had done it last time, but she heard nothing inside the house and came to the quick conclusion that Harry was definitely not here.

She cupped her hands around her face and peeked into the window, deciding then and there that she didn’t feel comfortable barging into his house. Especially with his behaviour the last time she had visited. She couldn’t see much inside, other than the same grime and dilapidation she had witnessed before. She would try to stop by sometime this week, and if not, she would come back on Saturday instead of Sunday.

She didn’t see the figure watching her from the forest, lust-filled eyes watching her every move, thrilled that she had come to visit him again.

**

“I totally forgot to order those books,” Hermione stated, looking up at Draco from her book as her cheeks reddened.

Hermione did not forget things.

She was just distracted lately by thoughts of Harry, wondering why Ron and probably even Ginny had been lying to her about their former friend as well as the constant close proximity she always had with Draco.

Because she wanted to kill him most of the time.

That was all.

Hermione and Draco had already been researching for a month and a half, and Hermione had to admit that she was not making nearly as much progress as she had initially hoped. There were just so many things to sift through and consider, and now she was whining about needing even more books to have to go through.

Hermione had tried to contact Harry again, as well, but every time she dropped by his house it was empty.

She had received a reply from Ron the week after she had messaged him but he was just as vague as she had been, giving her almost no information. She did figure out, though, that he and Harry had gotten into a large fight a year previously and they hadn’t spoken a word to each other since. She had a new mission: figure out what their argument was about. She didn’t have a lot of spare time though, so she would have to be patient with herself.

Hermione and Draco were seated on a brown leather couch in his expansive library; Hermione had a large tome in her lap and her legs were straightened out across Draco’s lap, who was using a clipboard to take notes across her shins, a book on the armrest of his side of the seat.

So maybe they were a little comfortable with each other, now.

Still fought like immature five year olds over the last piece of chalk, but comfortable, all the same.

The fire was blazing away across from their seats and the sky outside was steadily darkening. It was way later than five, but both Hermione and Draco had come to terms with the fact that Hermione wouldn’t just give up researching for the day if she was on a good train of thought.

“What are you hoping to order, again?”

“I need to find an updated book about wizard genetics. It seems strange to me that this is a because of pure-bloods marrying pure-bloods. I mean, I understand that not every child would survive because of cousins marrying, but surely not every single one of our generations children would pass away. In the muggle world when close cousins marry it can show itself in the children as disfigurements, but very rarely death.”

“Okay. We should go out for lunch before-hand, then.”

Draco tried to make it sound casual, but Hermione knew better. He picked her up at noon every single day, why would tomorrow be any different? Her stomach flipped in excitement, but she didn’t want her feelings to be conspicuous.

“Really?” Hermione asked, skeptically.

“I know of a place that sells the most delicious canapés.”

Hermione’s mouth watered just at those words, appetizers were her favourite thing ever. “I’m in.”

They grinned at each other and Hermione moved the book she was reading onto her lap, sitting forward and stretching out her back.

“Enough for today, I think,” Draco said, taking her book and setting it on the table, along with his book and clipboard.

Hermione nodded and settled back into the couch, lazily staring into the fire, thinking about the food she was going to have for lunch tomorrow.

“Blaise thought we were sleeping together,” Draco stated suddenly, surprising her out of her musings.

Draco had never told her what all Blaise had said the night he showed up unannounced for dinner, but for some reason he wanted to see how she felt about this information.

Hermione turned red, but didn’t say anything at all. She continued to stare into the fire, but now her thoughts were very far from food.

“He said that we interact like a couple,” Draco continued, and Hermione was suddenly very aware that his hands were slowly rubbing up and down her shins, sometimes caressing her ankles and feet.

“Oh,” Hermione said, because she didn’t know what else to say to that. She started to feel a fluttering in her stomach and her heartbeat seemed louder in her ears than it did just moments ago.

She had a sudden vision of her and Draco rolling around in a large bed, his muscled body taking charge of the situation.

“A strange couple, but a couple nonetheless.”

“And what did you say to that?” She asked him, her voice a little throaty as she blinked to get rid of the vision of naked Draco.

“I told him I’d let him know,” he said casually, his hands still rubbing her legs.

“You wish,” Hermione said, sitting up but leaving her legs on his lap.

They stared at each other for a moment before Hermione realized that sitting up had put her upper body very close to Draco’s.

“And you’re trying to tell me that you have no interest in that whatsoever? What’s wrong, Granger? Still a frigid little virgin who-“

Hermione pounced. She had been fantasizing about it for weeks and she finally just let itself play out. She crashed her lips onto Draco’s and straddled his lap, shutting him up effectively.

Which was her plan.

Shutting him up.

What she didn’t plan on was the fact that her stomach was fluttering as their mouths battled for dominance. Hermione hadn’t had contact with a male for a very long time, even her last date with anyone was over a year ago, and the bloke was a moron and she couldn’t get away from him fast enough. She was a very lonely person over the last year and even her friends couldn’t take time out of their schedules to meet with her, no matter how many owls she sent. Harry had obviously taken a large fucking swan dive off the deep end, so being around Draco on a daily basis had made her attraction grow quickly.

Draco was definitely surprised when Hermione threw herself onto him and began to kiss him, but he was glad for it. He had been attracted to many witches in his life, but that attraction usually faded when they opened their mouths and he realized just how stupid they were. Sometimes he just couldn’t get the fire going for others, but with Hermione… it was different. He hadn’t known this was going to happen but he wasn’t going to complain about it; he had been feeling exceptionally lonely since his mother had passed away.

Hermione was also very attractive and wouldn’t look too bad on his arm either. Plus, her clothes were funny, and he liked someone with a good sense of humour, especially since being a half-blood or muggle-born wasn’t frowned upon anymore.

He broke the kiss slowly, both of them panting for breath, and he groaned a little bit because he really, really didn’t want to stop what he had started.

He opened his eyes to see Hermione staring at him, her eyes a little shinier than he was accustomed to, with lust, maybe. She didn’t want to stop either.

“I’m sorry,” Hermione said, her face flushed.

“Don’t be sorry,” Draco said seriously, “If you hadn’t done that now, I’m sure we would have come around to it soon.”

Hermione nodded, surprising him.

“Maybe I should go, though,” Hermione said, and Draco laughed and helped her stand up. She walked away from him slightly, which he was happy about, because he needed a moment to compose himself; he was trying to forget the feeling of her body against his, for the time being.

Once he was confident about his state he moved forward and they wrapped their arms around each other, apparating out of Malfoy Manor.

**

Hermione’s hands were tied tightly above her head, or maybe they were chained and padlocked?

She thrust her arms into the stone behind her and a clanking reverberated around the room, confirming her suspicion about being chained.

The bonds were digging into her skin painfully, her arms aching from being forced into this strange position for who knew how long?

She tried to gaze around the cold cell she was in, but darkness was pressing in on her vision. She was barely able to discern the doorway from a wall, but she could tell that it was a spot that was darker than the rest.

“Hello?” she called, her voice echoing back to her, causing goosebumps to break out on her arms immediately; they were so big from the cold and the fear that they were almost painful.

No one answered her and anxiety was bubbling in her stomach from having some of her senses taken away. Maybe if she could see her surroundings, she wouldn’t be quite as afraid.

“Is there anyone there?”

Beneath the echoing sounds of her voice she thought she could hear a faint hissing noise that was slowly getting louder, and she realized that whatever was making the sounds were coming closer to her.

“Who’s there?” she yelled, panic almost suffocating her. Her shoulders were beginning to hurt from her arms being tied above her head and she didn’t like being trapped. Where the hell was she?

The hissing and spitting noises were incredibly loud now, and she trained her eyes on the area where she knew the doorway was. She saw it darken for a moment and realized that someone had entered her cell.

Cell? Yes, that’s where she was, in a cell of some sort.

“Who’s there?” she asked again, much quieter this time; the fear obvious in her voice.

The cell was suddenly ablaze with a blinding light, causing Hermione to scream and slam her eyes shut, figuring that this would be the death of her. When she was still alive a moment later she slowly opened her eyes, letting them adjust to the light that was now flooding her cell.

The first thing she saw was the large snake on the floor, and the hissing made sense in that moment. The second thing she saw was the wand pointed directly at her, emerald eyes blazing behind it.

“Harry?!”

Hermione jerked upright in her bed and took a deep breath in the same moment, gasping for air as she wiped her forearm across her eyes.

“Oh, my God,” she whispered to herself, terrified, before laying back down. It took a while for her body to stop trembling and stop sweating the way it had been when she first woke up, just like it did every other time she had these nightmares. They’d been a common occurrence for almost a month now.

She was curled on her bed in the fetal position, her hands clutching her blankets tightly and her eyes wide in fear. She was scared to go back to sleep, and after a while she checked the time and decided that she may as well get up and start her day.

She needed to take this out on her muscles at the gym.

That thought brought the blonde hair and silver eyes to mind, causing her face to light up as memories from her recent nightmare slowly faded to the back of her thoughts.

Hermione was not a drastic person.

She wasn’t, right?

She had thought about kissing Draco many, many times before it happened. She liked the guy, damn it. It was weird for her to admit, but it was the truth. He was still a snarky arsehole, but it was almost different now.

Maybe they were both snarky arseholes, and that’s why she didn’t mind his attitudes anymore.

Sometimes your heart just knows what’s right.

Or whatever.

Draco had given her a small kiss last night before leaving her alone in her flat, she smiled and decided to dress extra carefully for the day ahead. They were going for lunch and she wanted to look damn good, just to remind him that she was there, and very, very available for him.

She dropped her sassy shirts for the day, and decided to wear a cute coral tank top that was covered in sequins beneath a white linen shirt and plain black leggings. She put her hair into a sock bun, but made it less severe with pieces of hair floating loose around her face.

“You look adorable today!” Clementine stated seriously as she entered the store to relieve Hermione of her shift.

“Thanks.”

“So tell me what, exactly, is going on between you and Draco Malfoy.”

Hermione’s cheeks reddened of their own accord and Clementine gasped dramatically.

“I knew it, you little hussy!”

“It’s not what you think,” Hermione started, but was totally cut off by Draco apparating into the store.

“Mmm hmmm,” Clementine said skeptically as Draco’s eyes roamed up and down Hermione’s body in a very obvious manner.

“Let’s go,” Hermione said quickly, fleeing Clementine’s gaze, which the girl switched to Draco immediately so she could appreciate his arse on their way out the door.

As soon as they were free in Diagon Alley, they were being eyed by passersby.

Hermione was the brunt of many glares from witches young and old, and she suddenly felt very self-conscious.

“Just ignore it,” Draco said, reaching down for her hand. She was surprised by his action, but didn’t say anything since he was effectively guiding her through the crowded streets. “It gets old, fast.”

“Is it always like this?” she asked Draco incredulously to distract her mind from the hateful looks she was receiving, just as a portly man with a smoking camera popped up in front of them and snapped a quick picture before waddling away proudly.

“Always. I am an incredibly handsome and rich bachelor, after all.”

Hermione gave a tiny laugh and rolled her eyes, but continued to follow the pressure of his hand to the restaurant for the promised canapés.

Hermione honestly didn’t think they were as good as Draco had played them out to be, so she mostly pushed them around on her plate but still managed to eat enough to not come across as rude.

Draco ate a ridiculous amount and she figured he spent hours in the gym to counter the way he ate.

“You don’t like it,” Draco said, and it wasn’t a question.

“Not as much as I thought I would,” Hermione answered honestly – she had never had to lie to him in the past and didn’t see why she should start now.

Draco just hummed and requested the bill.

They were strolling slowly down the sidewalk toward Pleasure Bound after their meal when a silvery form materialized in mid-air in front of them.

“Shit,” Draco said, and Hermione knew that this was a patronus and that he was being called away to work. “I’ll meet you at your store when I’m back, so just wait there for me.”

“Yes, sir,” Hermione said cheekily, giving him a mock salute.

He stared at her for a moment before he surprised her again and leaned into her space, kissing her quickly on the lips. He had apparated away before she could even make heads or tails of his actions.


Chapter 5: Chapter Five
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]




Chapter Five

Hermione sighed and continued toward her book store, trying to avoid touching her lips with her fingertips.

Draco was a confusing sort of person, but, then again, she figured she was too.

When she got to her store she was surprised to see that it was closed. There was a sign that said “Be back in twenty minutes,” in Clementine’s writing and the time that she had posted the sign on the bottom.

Not even five minutes ago.

Hermione used her key to get in, but left the sign in place before she made her way to the stacks. She knew she had a few books concerning wizarding genes, but she was giddy from the way Draco was treating her and was unsure of what exactly she needed to be looking for.

She pulled a book called “Wizarding Genealogy for Idiots” off of the shelf and started riffling through it haphazardly. Her heart really wasn’t in it right now, but she knew she needed to get her head in the game if she was going to accomplish anything.

She took the book and sat in a chair that wasn’t noticeable from the windows, turned her back to the door and ran her finger down the index.

She was about halfway through when her vision went and she was suddenly thrust into darkness.

She couldn’t immediately comprehend what was happening to her and she reached up and realized that someone had covered her head in such a fluid movement that she didn’t even hear or see anyone. She screamed and tried to remove it but it wouldn’t budge from her head, so instead she screamed louder in the hopes that someone would hear her.

All she could think about was the fact that someone was attacking her in her own store, and her own traitorous bell hadn’t tinkled to inform her of someone’s arrival.

She was going to smash that bell to smithereens at her first opportunity.

She was reminded of her terror as a large hand enclosed around her arm, and a rough voice said, “Shut up, bitch, or you’ll only make it worse for yourself.”

Hermione clamped her jaws shut as she was yanked from the chair and forced down a row of stacks before being taken into the back of her store. She was getting cold now, so she knew they were in the very rarely used office room and she was shoved unceremoniously through a doorway where she landed hard on her knees and one elbow, the stone scraping her skin roughly.

All she could think about was Harry, for a few moments.

“Crucio!” she heard before she was writhing in pain, and in some small part of her brain she couldn’t help but wonder why someone would be even using an Unforgivable Curse on her. The searing pain stopped and the bag was removed from her head, but that did nothing to alleviate her fear. Standing above her were three men, large men, and each one of them had their face obscured by a strange black mist, and they were all wearing thick travelling cloaks and gloves, even though it was a warm summer day.

She opened her mouth to scream but it came out as a painful moan as she was slapped hard in the face, causing something inside her cheek to break open, blood smearing across her teeth.

She was quickly descended on by all three of her attackers, each of them hitting her systematically in different parts of her body. The Cruciatus Curse long forgotten as the attackers used their obviously preferred method of inflicting pain like muggles, and she realized that if she was being beaten like a muggle on instinct, the men had to at least have been brought up in a muggle environment.

She was being beaten thoroughly, but not to the point where any bones were being broken. She was going to be bruised severely by the end of it, but she had definitely taken worse beatings in her day. The people had obviously been sent to scare her, and maybe harm her a little bit, but they weren’t doing any lasting damage, she thought.

“You need to stop your research,” a man with a deep, somewhat familiar voice growled at her, “stop it, before you come across something you’ll regret knowing anything about.”

Hermione whimpered in pain as the man squeezed her throat tightly, and she wasn’t sure how much longer she would be able to hold onto her consciousness.

“Do you understand?!” another man all but screamed at her, and Hermione agreed in a small voice, knowing that if she nodded it might be her undoing.

“Good,” the third said harshly, before spitting on her and apparating away. Two loud cracks followed and Hermione was sitting alone, broken and beaten in the semi-darkness of her own office.

Hermione remained sitting on the floor for a few minutes, breathing deeply and trying to figure out what in the name of all that is good just happened. Even though she had agreed with the men about stopping her research, she was more spurred on now. There was obviously a huge secret being covered up, and now, thanks to these three men, she knew just where to start looking.

This attack had nothing to do with Harry, but this thought wasn’t very reassuring as she thought through what had just occurred, laying on her back on the cold stone floor so she wouldn’t pass out.

Stupid of the Ministry to send someone she knew to threaten and attack her, really.

Hermione stood up on shaking legs and walked across the room, feeling weak and unstable. She made it to the main room of Pleasure Bound and noticed that all the lights had been extinguished.

Where the hell was Clementine?

Hermione started to make her way to the door, knowing she wasn’t in the right mind to apparate. Maybe if people saw her in such a state, she would be able to get someone to take pity on her and accompany her to St. Mungo’s. As she got closer and blinked to clear her vision, because for some reason all she could see was a hazy red for a moment, she saw, to her complete surprise, Draco. It looked like he had just walked up; he seemed to be reading the sign on the door.

She limped forward as Draco was trying the knob. She knew it would open because she hadn’t locked it behind her when she came in. He threw the door open, the bell still not making any noise, and strutted through with his usual gait, probably looking forward to the preferential treatment he received from Hermione’s part time employees, but he stopped dead in his tracks and stared at Hermione for a moment.

“Draco,” she choked out seconds before falling forward into his arms.

Draco swore loudly and gently picked her up, looking around the store incredulously. Seeing no one, he turned on the spot.

**

Hermione opened her eyes and was surprised to recognize her surroundings. She was in her own bedroom. She sat up and gasped as her head swam, she dropped it into her hands and clutched at it, moaning at the pain throbbing throughout her entire body.

She realized at that moment, as well, that Draco was beside her, curled up and sleeping restlessly and even in her pain she blushed when she realized that he wasn’t wearing a shirt. His eyes opened, as though he could feel her looking at him, and he sat up quickly when he saw that she was awake.

“What happened?!” he asked her immediately, obviously upset.

“How long have we been here?” she asked, instead of answering his question.

“Since yesterday. I brought us here because I couldn’t apparate you into my manor without you holding onto me tightly, and I didn’t want to take you to St. Mungo’s without knowing what exactly happened. You don’t have any broken bones anyway and I have some healing balm at the Manor for your bruises, so I didn’t think it was a big deal.”

“I slept that long?!”

“Yeah, restlessly, but yes. I didn’t want to leave you here alone” he said, looking almost uncomfortable, “sorry I slept in here too but your couch is ridiculously small and lumpy.”

“My couch is not lumpy.”

“Felt lumpy.”

“And you undressed me?” she asked, changing the subject from her ‘lumpy’ couch, because she knew for a fact that it was exceptionally comfortable, gesturing to her pink tank top and the boy shorts that she was wearing as knickers.

“You kept getting all twisted up in those weird pants you wear,” Draco said, avoiding eye contact.

“Thanks for that, I guess,” she answered.

Hermione was not body shy, despite what people thought about her.

“What happened?” he asked her quietly.

“I was attacked,” she said, stopping to take a sip of the water that was on her bedside table, “I was looking for a book and then the next thing I knew I was in my office with three men.”

“Who were they?” Draco growled, obviously angry.

“I can’t be sure, because they all had this strange black mist covering their faces, but I’m pretty sure I recognized one of their voices…”

Hermione trailed off and closed her eyes, trying to remember the details of what had happened to her the day before. The voice, she definitely knew the voice.

“I know who it was, well at least one of them.”

“Who?”

Hermione sighed, “I swear it was Dean Thomas.”

“Dean… Thomas?”

“We went to school with him, Draco, he was in our year and in Gryffindor. He was on the Quidditch team to cover for Alicia… oh you didn’t play that year,” she said, trying to cover the fact that they both knew it was his fault that Alicia was off the team for quite some time, “He dated Ginny Weasley for a while there…”

Draco shrugged. He had no idea who she was talking about.

Hermione stood from the bed and reached for her robe; Draco was having a difficult time thinking of anything when she was standing before him in her knickers. “You need that healing balm desperately,” he said, but she chose to ignore his words because she could feel the bruises on her body.

“I probably wouldn’t have recognized him by his voice at all if I hadn’t just talked to him about three months ago. He was in Pleasure Bound looking for a new collection of Muggle mystery books and I gave him a hand. I saw him almost every day for a week,” Hermione said, walking to the bathroom so she could look at herself in a mirror.

“Well, where does he work then? Maybe we can start there, since obviously wherever he works wants to put an end to our investigation.”

Draco had followed her out of the bedroom and was standing behind her, ignoring her gasps when she looked at herself. Then her eyes met his in the mirror and he could tell that he wasn’t going to like her answer at all.

“The Ministry of Magic.”

Draco felt as though he were falling for a moment.

“Where were you called to for work, Draco?” She asked casually, turning around and looking at her back in the mirror at all the bruises, before she got her face right close and ran a finger down a cut on her cheekbone.

“It was a mistake. I was called to Theydon Bois to help clear up a matter of a child who had gotten a hold of his father’s wand, but when I got there it had already been taken care of by an associate of mine… you don’t think it was a setup to get me away from you?”

“I do, and I think you do too.”

Draco said nothing, just stared at Hermione for a moment, totally caught off guard by this information. “Why would the ministry be killing babies of magic?”

“You know just as well as I do, Draco, but now I want to figure this out more than ever.”

“What does Thomas do at the Ministry?”

“He’s an Unspeakable.”

Draco groaned, this just got better and better.

“I think we should lay off for a couple weeks,” Draco said, “I don’t want another episode like that to happen.”

“I think it will be fine,” Hermione said before grabbing a pair of pajama pants off of the floor, that she had left there the morning before and heading to the kitchen.

Draco, still shirtless, followed behind her and took a seat at the kitchen table while Hermione made tea and toast.

“I don’t know, Hermione. If they attacked you like that, they had obviously been watching to know I was gone, they could do it again. Anywhere.”

She shrugged and started buttering toast and Draco saw a folded piece of parchment on the table with his name on the front.

“Tea or pumpkin juice?” she asked, moving to her refrigerator.

“Whatever,” he answered flippantly, picking up the parchment and unfolding it.

It was dated for a few days previously and let Draco know that she had left for Harry Potter’s house. Hermione had even gone as far as to put down the time she left her flat, what she was wearing, and exact coordinates to Harry’s property.

“What is this?” he asked, and his voice sounded much more accusing than he meant it to.

Hermione turned around sharply at his tone, saw the paper, and laughed.

Her laugh sounded extremely forced, in Draco’s opinion.

“I was just being paranoid before, don’t even worry about that.”

Draco stared hard at her for a moment, seeing the lie beneath the surface.

“Bullshit.”

“I told you I was going to leave you notes whenever I left, in case I didn’t turn up when you were expecting me. Everyone knows how detail oriented I am, so I obviously left all the information I could.”

“Why do you need to leave information at all?”

“Just in case.”

“Granger.”

“Malfoy,” Hermione mocked as she passed him his toast.

He rolled his eyes but dropped the subject for now.

“Shit!” Hermione said, the moment she had swallowed some toast, “I wasn’t there to open my store this morning!”

“Don’t worry,” Draco checked the time before saying, “My little fan club will be there in about half an hour to open up for you.”

“It’s already 11:30? I didn’t even work out this morning,” she groaned.

“Addict.”

**

Harry tore around his cottage flinging things from shelves and kicking at walls.

What the hell was Draco Malfoy doing in Hermione’s bed with her?! Something was wrong, terribly wrong.

Didn’t that blond idiot know that Hermione belonged to him?

The rational side of Harry’s mind reminded him that Hermione didn’t even know yet, but they would both figure it out, sooner or later.

He wanted to hex the man in his sleep the moment he realized what was happening, right on the spot, but he contained himself, if Malfoy was staying at Hermione’s house then he would get his comeuppance sooner or later; Harry’s sole purpose to visit her flat the night before had been completed at least. He loved his trusty little vial.

That almost didn’t stop Harry from hexing the fool though and he literally saw red when he peeked into her bedroom; people didn’t share a bed in their knickers for no reason.

He’d have to keep his eye on them.

Harry slapped his hands to his face and groaned, moments before he gripped his fists tightly into his black hair and started to pull.

His face the epitome of madness.

**

Draco apparated to his Manor and returned with healing balm for Hermione, who straight up refused to leave her flat until her bruises were erased and the cut on her face fixed.

“Vain much?” Draco asked.

“Like you’re one to talk,” she replied, but then added, “besides, the papers have a picture of you holding my hand yesterday, you wouldn’t want them to jump to the conclusion that you did this to me.”

Draco hurriedly and willingly helped her apply the balm to her back after that comment.

They left her flat once her bruises were faded and Hermione insisted on walking to her bookstore, which was about fifteen minutes down the lane. She had missed her morning workout and wanted to get in exercise whenever she could that day.

Three steps out of the lobby Hermione stopped in her tracks.

Harry was standing across the street watching her; he looked like he wanted nothing more than to lunge at her and rip her eyes out.

“What are you doing?” Draco asked, turning around to face her.

“Nothing,” she replied, and Draco grabbed her hand and pulled her down the street. Hermione twisted around slightly, but Harry was nowhere to be seen.

She shuddered.

Freya squealed when Hermione and Draco walked in, throwing a copy of Witch Weekly onto the counter and jumping up and down. Hermione sometimes felt like her employees were years younger than her, instead of only one.

“Is it true?”

“What?” Hermione asked, and Draco sniggered at the fact that she hadn’t put two and two together. He strutted forward and picked up the glossy magazine, smirking at the photos of them holding hands and walking companionably together, as well as him leaning down and placing a quick kiss on her lips. He didn’t even realize there was a photographer around, at that point.

“They don’t waste any time, do they?” Hermione asked, scowling at the magazine.

“Is it true?!” Freya asked again, even more excited.

Hermione and Draco shared a glance, but neither of them confirmed nor denied Freya.

“Have you two not talked about it yet?” Freya asked, eyeing them each in turn. “Am I making you feel awkward by asking these questions?” she had raised an eyebrow and was looking much too mischievous for Hermione’s liking, and Draco went back to casually reading the stupid magazine.

“We were just stopping by to make sure that you opened the place alright. Sorry I wasn’t here this morning to open up.”

“Where were you?” Freya asked, her eyes twinkling.

“At home. I slept in by mistake.”

Freya gave her a knowing look, and Hermione decided to stop talking because she was clearly just digging herself into a deeper hole.

“Clementine is probably freaking out right now! She’s got to be so excited, because we totally knew this was going to happen.”

“What was going to happen?” Draco asked, and Freya looked like she was ready to faint because he was speaking directly to her without being snarky.

“That you two were going to end up dating.”

Draco didn’t say a word, but he lifted an eyebrow at Hermione, who felt her face reddening.

“Let’s go,” Draco said, dropping the magazine on the desk and sauntering forward. He entered her personal space very quickly and wrapped his arms around her. She embraced him back out of habit and he ducked his head, his lips meeting hers as he tightened his arms around her and turned on the spot.

The last thing Hermione heard before the deafening feeling of apparation was Freya squealing like a school girl.

She swatted at him as soon as they were in his library, and he laughed, a gleeful laugh that she had never heard from him before while she pouted.

“What’d you do that for?”

“It’s hilarious.”

“She’s never going to stop, now.”

Draco shrugged.

“Let’s go for sushi tonight.”

“Okay,” she said easily, “I need to fill out an order for those books too, maybe tonight before we eat.”

Draco nodded.

Definitely comfortable with each other.

**

“People are staring,” Hermione said, trying her best to not let it bother her.

“I know, a lot of people have seen the article, it seems.”

Hermione sighed.

“It’s a lie.”

“Is it?”

“What?”

Draco didn’t say anything, opting to eat a piece of sushi instead.

He wanted Hermione to think about his words before they got into an argument about them, which he was sure was going to happen. At the moment, she seemed to be thinking.

“How is it not a lie? We aren’t dating.”

Draco shrugged casually, “We could be.”

Hermione looked shocked.

“You want to date me?”

“I’d like to see where it goes.”

“Are you taking the piss?” she asked seriously, nervous that he was trying to jerk her around.

He grinned and ate another roll, she quickly followed suit so she didn’t have to be the first one to say anything. Hermione schooled her features so she didn’t grimace; she wasn’t enjoying the taste of her dinner tonight, which was odd considering how much she usually loved sushi.

“I’m not,” he said finally, “I think it would be interesting to see what happens.”

“That sounds way too casual, for me,” she answered haughtily, dipping a piece of tuna tataki in the provided sauce.

Draco smiled widely for a moment, “You’ve never had a boyfriend before?”

She almost choked.

“Of course I’ve had a boyfriend,” she said, her eyes narrowing at him, “I dated Ron for a while,” Draco made a noise in his throat, but she chose to ignore it, “and I dated a few other men, but they were all… disappointing. I have a firm rule that when a man dates me, he dates no one else.”

“And you think I’ll have a problem with that?”

Hermione stopped and cocked her head to the side for a moment. Now that she thought about it, she hadn’t seen any other females around Draco, and she was around him a lot; she hadn’t heard him speak of any other girls, either.

“Maybe not…” she said, pursing her lips for a moment.

“I don’t.”

She shrugged slightly, wondering if they were going about this too casually, but then she thought that maybe nothing else ever worked out for her because she took it too seriously too quickly.

“Okay…”

“Okay.”

“Draco Malfoy, if you’re trying to ask me out, then go ahead and do it already.”

Draco picked up his large can of imported Japanese beer, taking a delicate sip just to waste some time and make her uncomfortable.

“Why would I ask you out when we’re already out?” he asked, gesturing to the restaurant around them.

Hermione wanted to hit him.

He knew it.

“Fine. We’ll see how it goes.”

Draco raised an eyebrow at her and she gave him a cheeky grin before shoving a sushi roll in her mouth in a very unladylike manner, she needed to eat enough so he didn’t think she was having an issue with this meal as well; she would feel beyond rude if that happened.

Draco rolled his eyes and they ate in a slightly uncomfortable silence for a few moments.

“I’m going to go see Harry tomorrow,” Hermione stated, since it was a Saturday.

“I hear he’s completely barkers now.”

“You’re such a prat.”

“You’re such a bint.”

“He’s… having a hard time, I think, and that’s why I want to go see him.”

“Where do you want to go for dinner tomorrow night?”

“What? I don’t care.”

“Great, I’ll choose.”

Hermione just stared at him.

“And if you aren’t back at your flat by the time I pick you up, there will be a letter on the table letting me know your exact outfit, coordinates, and hairstyle. I know the drill, although I still don’t know why you’re so worried.”

“That story is for another time.”

They sat silently together while finishing their meal, and once Draco paid for it they stood up. He took Hermione’s hand tenderly, earning her glares from every witch in the place, attached or not, and they exited.

Draco chuckled to himself lightly and Hermione looked up at him in question.

“Who would have ever guessed, Draco Malfoy dating Hermione Granger.”

“Prick,” she said under her breath, eliciting another laugh from the strange man.

 


Chapter 6: Chapter Six
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]




Chapter Six

Hermione landed in Harry’s overgrown yard and was wearing a bright purple, flowy halter top that read “Sun’s out, guns out!” She had black and white leggings on that had a funky design and cute ankle boots. Today she was also wearing a black snap back hat, with her hair in a messy bun through the hole in the back, effectively shielding her eyes from the bright sun.

She knocked on Harry’s old, cracked door, and stood there silently while staring at the worn wood. Once again, there was no answer.

“Where does he keep going?” she asked herself under her breath. Considering Harry was very withdrawn, he seemed to be away from his house more often than not.

She had been having nightmares about him for almost two months, almost every night, and they terrified her beyond all reasoning. They always contained Harry and there was always a snake. The snake scared her a lot, because as far as she could tell it looked exactly like Voldemort’s morbid pet, Nagini. Hermione knew that this was impossible because she had watched Neville Longbottom chop the head off of that detestable snake years ago.

Years.

So why was she in Hermione’s nightmares, accompanying Harry, no less?

Draco had no idea about any of the strange things that had been happening, but she almost felt like she had to tell him now that they were officially a couple.

It wasn’t fair to keep things like this from him.

It felt like betrayal.

Something snapped behind her and she jumped before whirling around, her hand clutched to her chest in fear.

“Harry!” she exclaimed, surprised.

“What are you doing here?” He didn’t sound happy to see her, not one bit.

Harry was still seething about seeing Hermione with Draco Malfoy.

“I just wanted to drop in and see how you’re doing.”

“I’m fine.”

He made no move to come closer, choosing to stand on the edge of the forest that surrounded his house and stare at her, his eyes glinting in the afternoon light where it crossed over his face.

He was standing in shadows, for the most part.

“What were you doing in the forest, Harry?” Hermione asked, mentally kicking herself for forgetting how completely unnerving it was to be around him now. She knew he wasn’t right but for some reason she forgot how he made her feel uncomfortable, almost like she was in severe danger; she took an unconscious step back.

Harry chose not to answer, and he moved completely out of the shadows of the forest and walked quickly into the clearing. Hermione shuddered involuntarily because she finally figured out why Harry looked totally different from the boy she used to know, but still somewhat familiar.

He looked exactly as Tom Riddle had when he was in his early twenties.

Harry was pale and thin, like he hadn’t been in the sunlight or eaten a decent meal in months. His cheeks were sunken and his cheek bones high and sharp on his face. His dark hair was almost complementing against his fair skin, and even though it was still incredibly unruly, it suited him. His eyes, Hermione was glad to note, were still the same green she had always known, and she found herself truly hoping that the Harry Potter that she had grown up with was still in there somewhere.

Hermione stared at Harry, unable to hide her shock. She had been exposed to the memories that Harry had studied in their sixth year, as well as memories that Severus Snape had left behind, and cringed to the likeness that Harry shared with Voldemort when he had worked for Borgin and Burke’s.

Harry was directly in front of her now and Hermione could clearly see the rage in his eyes. She wasn’t sure if it was because she had come to his property without invitation or if he felt like she was prying, but he was clearly angry.

“What I do in my own yard is really none of your business.”

“I was… just curious,” Hermione said, unconsciously stepping away from him. “What’s going on with you, Harry? You’re so different than I remember…”

Harry chose to not comment and instead took to staring at her again, making her extremely uncomfortable.

“Where the stone?” He asked her suddenly, his fists clenched at his sides.

“The stone?”

Hermione was utterly confused.

Harry looked away and was suddenly calm, walking away from her to the side of his house. Hermione watched him, completely baffled, as he took out a garden hose and turned it on, spraying his long dead grass with water.

Hermione knew she should leave but she felt as if she were rooted to the spot, stuck watching this man she no longer knew do delusional, menial tasks.

Harry dropped the hose on the ground suddenly and water began pooling onto his cracked walkway. He turned quickly and advanced on Hermione frantically, before he screamed, “The stone!”

She flinched away from him and turned to run but he gripped her wrist tightly and spun her back around to face him, his eyes murderous. Hermione could almost feel the bones in her wrist rubbing together because of the tight hold Harry had on her, and she desperately tried to wrench away from his grasp.

“Let me go, Harry!”

She was pulled forward forcefully until she collided with Harry’s thin chest. He didn’t ease his grip on her wrist while his other arm came around her body and held her to him. Hermione stood still, shaking slightly while trying to get her breathing and thinking under control before she heard Harry taking deep breaths.

Through his nose.

He was smelling her again!

“I need to find it, Hermione,” he said softly between breaths, and Hermione was wondering if he was trying, but failing, to sound seductive, “I need to.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Hermione said, and was glad that her voice came out sounding even, although she noticed that the fingers of her hand in Harry’s tight grasp were beginning to go numb.

“You will,” he said, and Hermione felt the hairs on the back of her neck rise again because of the eerie tone of voice he was using, “I promise, Hermione, you will.”

Harry took one more deep breath before shoving Hermione away from him, letting go of her wrist at the same time. She crashed to the ground, before scrambling away from him, her wrist sending shooting pains up her arm every time she put her weight on it.

“If you aren’t going to be of any help to me, then LEAVE!” he yelled at her, and Hermione was shocked to see that he now had his wand in his hand, red sparks shooting from the tip in his uncontrollable anger.

She jumped to her feet and turned on the spot, apparating away from the crazy scene before her.

**

Harry took a deep shuddering breath, allowing his snake to wend its way up his body and settle around his shoulders, trying to regain control of himself. He wanted Hermione and he figured she knew exactly where the stone was located; somewhere in the recesses of his brain he knew that he wasn’t conveying his wants and needs in a way that was coming across as sane.

He didn’t know how to be sane, anymore.

He hadn’t meant to hurt her, but he was angry with her for betraying him for Draco Malfoy. He was not amused in the least that she continued to come around and mess with his feelings. She had to know, deep down even, how he felt about her.

She was a cock tease and no one liked that.

He wasn’t lying, she would know what he was talking about. Once he found what he was looking for and was stronger than even Lord Voldemort had been, everyone would know what he meant.

They would all pay.

Especially Draco sodding Malfoy.

“They’ll see, Malum,” he crooned, stroking his snake’s head with one finger, “they’ll all see.”

**

Hermione landed in the middle of her living room in an ungraceful heap, tears blurring her vision and confusion prominent in her brain.

What the hell was wrong with that man?

She was scared and worried, and she could have sworn that before she turned into the compression of apparation she had seen a large snake wending its way through the deep grass toward Harry; that spooked her more than anything else.

She dropped her cloak and noticed that her wrist was already turning dark blue, a thumb print more than obvious on the underside of it.

She swore and went to her room to get ready for dinner that night, her wrist shooting jets of pain up her arm every time she moved it a specific way.

“Ready?” Draco asked, as she walked into her living room in a dark blue strapless dress. Hermione jumped, surprised to find him there but he didn’t look like he was about to explain why he was sitting in her living casually and she was too anxious to argue with him.

“I think we should have a drink before we leave,” she started tentatively, and Draco raised his eyebrow at her timid behaviour.

“Out with it,” he said, sitting on the couch and crossing an ankle over the opposite knee.

Hermione sighed, she knew he wouldn’t want to listen to her beat around the bush.

“I went to see Harry today.”

“I know.”

“Well… he’s different, Draco. I don’t know what’s wrong with him but he’s not the same person he used to be.”

“He’s barkers, I already told you that.”

Hermione nodded before sitting down slowly.

“He’s scary,” she said flatly.

“How so?” Draco asked, sitting forward, his eyes searching hers.

“He’s just… I think there’s something very wrong with him. He’s nothing like he used to be and he reminds me of Voldemort when he was young. I know that sounds crazy, I know, but it’s the truth.”

Draco sat back rigidly at those words, looking surprised.

She watched his eyes roam her body, seemingly looking for harm.

His eyes stopped at her wrist.

Well, shit.

“What’s that?”

“Harry got right in my face and was screaming at me “Where’s the stone?!” and was gripping my wrist really hard. He was livid, and completely nutters, you’re right about that.”

“Stone?” Draco said, abandoning the armchair for her couch and picking up her arm tenderly.

“I have no idea…” Hermione stopped and tried to focus her mind on what Harry wanted from her, but she didn’t have a stone that he would be interested in.

She was brought out of her musings by a sharp pain and she ripped her arm out of Draco’s grasp.

“Draco!”

“What did you remember?” He didn’t look sorry for getting her attention in such a rude way, and she wanted to hit him.

Or attack him with her body.

Or something.

“I didn’t remember anything, I was trying to figure out what it was he was talking about. I want to visit with Ron and Ginny Weasley and see what they know about Harry.”

“You aren’t going alone, this time.”

“They wouldn’t hurt me.”

“I don’t care.”

“Malfoy…”

“Granger,” Draco mocked, “seriously, you aren’t going alone. You didn’t think Potter would hurt you either, and judging by the things that I’ve heard you were lucky to escape with just a bruised wrist.”

“Fine. It probably won’t be for a while though, I want to figure out what’s going on with the babies as well.”

“I have a theory about that, actually.”

Hermione sat back and waited, sure it was going to be something absurd.

“I think that the Ministry has put a curse on all pure-blood wizards and witches so that they are unable to procreate with another pure-blood.”

“And why would the ministry do something like that?”

“Because the numbers in our world started to decline after the first war, and they couldn’t just have pure-bloods procreating with their cousins for the rest of eternity. They needed new blood brought into the world, and that’s why muggle things are so popular too; it opens up our eyes that muggle-borns and the like are no different than us, really. Muggles are, obviously, because of their lack of magic, but if even I can admit that they’re brilliant for the things they’ve invented to cope without it… then anyone can really.”

Hermione sat back for a moment.

“Why wouldn’t they have just invented a marriage law, or something? It would have ended in way less heartbreak.”

“Because then pure-bloods would resent their betrothed for being forced together, and muggle-borns too, for that matter. This way, it was done slowly and sneakily.”

“So any pure-blood that has already married another pure-blood won’t be able to have children? What about your parents’ generation though? Why were they having such problems?”

“Because I think they were cursed too, just not as badly. They were given one child in the hopes that relationships would strain and husbands and wives would cheat, or something. I don’t know, this is all theory, but the wizarding world took a fairly large hit during the first war too, nothing like the second though.”

“I don’t know Draco, that seems … strange. Wouldn’t they be happy that there was life being brought to the world, regardless of the parents’ blood-status?”

“No. Like I said, pure-bloods are all related already. Their children have a good chance of already have problems, and the squib rate is higher than anyone would like to admit.”

Hermione took a deep breath and released it slowly.

The Ministry, killing people?

Jesus.

“Dean Thomas, the unspeakable, was sent to stop our research when I wasn’t around, and that flew warning flags for me. The Ministry is clearly involved, Granger.”

“So what are we going to do about it?”

“I’m going to get my hands on the files, of course. We probably don’t even need the books you ordered last night.”

Hermione shrugged and sat still, trying to process everything Draco just said. If this was over and they could stop their research, even though Hermione still thought it was far-fetched, she could focus her attention on Harry’s insanity.

It was far-fetched, but it also kind of made sense.

People would seriously revolt if this was true. People Hermione knew on a personal level had lost children because of this, and if it was the Ministry’s fault, the Ministry’s plan… she would do everything in her power to expose them for that.

And Hermione thought Kingsley Shacklebolt would be different, be better.

She turned her head and Draco was staring at her wrist, which was still cradled in his hand; he was running his thumb lightly over the bruises and pushing a little harder on some areas of the bruise.

“If this is true, people are going to be screaming for blood.”

“I know,” he said softly, and Hermione knew that he would probably be right up there with Blaise Zabini, leading the pack.

“It isn’t up to the Ministry to decide who deserves to have healthy, happy children. That is so wrong on so many levels. Especially since those couples are already married, already in love.”

They sat in silence for a few moments before Hermione whispered, “We have to make them reverse it.”

“If it’s reversible,” Draco said darkly.

Hermione hummed, not liking those words.

“We’ve definitely missed our reservations,” Draco said eventually.

“I’ll cook! I have plenty of food.”

“How could I possibly say no to a home cooked meal made specifically for me by my girlfriend?”

Hermione stared at Draco for a few moments, not knowing what to make of that comment.

“Shut up,” she said, turning away from his grin and heading for the kitchen.

**

Hermione was on a cold stone floor, the jagged rocks behind her were digging into her bare back, and she was shivering violently because she was naked.

She stood up on shaky legs and held her hands out in front of her, barely able to see anything due to the darkness pressing in on her eyes.

“Hello?” she yelled weakly, the cold and fear making her voice tremble.

“- ello, -ello, -llo,” echoed back to her.

Her outstretched arms hit a wall as she was sweeping her body to the right and she leaned against it for a moment, feeling incredibly weak while trying to ignore the rough stone pressing into her ribs.

Hermione walked along the wall, her fingertips tracing her movements along it to guide her slightly. If the wall turned a corner she would follow it, she was walking blind in this place.

“Hello?” she called again, and suddenly her fingertips were no longer touching stone; something slimy to the touch had replaced it. She jumped backward and stepped on something hard, her body colliding with a different body.

An arm shot out of nowhere and clamped around her waist, holding her tightly against the body the arm belonged to.

“Hermione,” the body said before breathing in her scent deeply.

There was only one person she knew who did that.

“Harry,” she whispered, her body trembling harder now.

A faint light started glowing to her left and she saw what her hand had come into contact with mere moments before.

An enormous snake was coiled around an extinguished lantern bracket, its head poised at the same height as Hermione’s. The snakes tongue slithered out, tasting her scent on the air, and Harry tightened his hold around her waist even more, expelling the air she had in her body.

It came out in a blood curdling scream.

“Shhhh,” Harry whispered, his mouth almost touching her ear.

“Let me go, Harry,” Hermione pleaded, on the edge of hysteria.

The snake opened its mouth wider, slithering down the wall sinisterly until its entire body was at her feet.

Its head was poised to strike, now.

“Soon, Malum, soon,” Harry crooned, and the snake looked disappointed before backing off a little bit.

Harry forced Hermione to the floor slowly and walked around her so that he was in front of her. She watched as he unbuttoned his trousers and licked his lips nervously.

“I get her first,” he whispered to the snake, his face deranged, and Hermione backed away from him frantically until her back hit the sharp wall behind her.

She screamed again as Harry advanced and pulled his wand out, binding her tightly. He used the Cruciatus curse on her next, her body convulsing on the freezing cold floor, her screams echoing around for no one to hear.

Hermione opened her eyes and Harry was directly in front of her now, on all fours and naked.

She screamed and jolted awake.

Screaming into the night, safe in her bedroom.

She took a few shuddering breaths, and then stilled her movements completely. It sounded, for a moment, that there was breathing on the other side of the room. Breaths that were completely off time with the ones she was huffing.

Hermione sat up and dragged herself up the bed until her back touched the headboard. She pulled her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around them, wishing she could flee to Draco but knowing that would be completely ridiculous.

She sat like that until the sun rose, and even though she knew she had dozed off fitfully a few times, she was glad when the light flooded her bedroom and proved to her that she was completely alone.

**

Draco was walking down Diagon Alley alone to Hermione’s store. He would usually apparate inside, but now that witches knew he was unavailable he was left alone, for the most part. Witch Weekly had featured articles about his relationship with Hermione on the cover page for weeks now and he was sincerely hoping that they would be old news soon.

That particular gossip magazine was by far, the most annoying and persistent one he had ever had the displeasure of coming across.

They had sent an owl a day to his Manor to try and convince the couple to award them an interview for at least three weeks straight.

All of them went unanswered.

Luckily they had taken to eating at Hermione’s flat for most of their dinners now, so the reporters would have a harder time finding places to snap photos of them.

Draco had convinced Hermione to stop visiting Harry until they could talk to the Weasleys, and she finally agreed to leave him be. It would be a while until they could meet the siblings, separately, because of their Quidditch training practices.

At least he would find out about the Ministry’s actions shortly.

Draco was in somewhat of a hurry to get to Pleasure Bound, because he was meeting a friend there in the office to give him some much needed documents.

He was meeting his friend, Theodore Nott, who just so happened to work directly under the Minister.

“Draco,” he heard someone call and he looked around to see who was shouting his name; hoping beyond hope that it wasn’t a photographer or skank.

Who he saw had him nervous, in a sense, because he wasn’t sure if she had seen the recent articles.

“It’s been so long,” Pansy Parkinson said, offering a cheek for him to kiss, “I’ve only just got back to the country.”

“Where were you?” he asked, falling into step beside her while casually shaking her hand off his arm.

“Canada, actually.”

“Why?”

“Sight-seeing, getting out of the U.K for a while. I don’t know why everyone is always on about how cold it is there, it was blistering the last few weeks.”

Draco just nodded, because he really couldn’t care less about Pansy Parkinson’s escapades around the world and the men she had taken down in different countries.

He did note that she didn’t look tanned at all.

“What have you been up to?” she asked, acting like they had kept in contact over the last five years.

Which they hadn’t.

“Just keeping busy. Look, I’ve got somewhere I need to be.”

“Great, I’ll accompany you. I’ve missed you,” she said the last three words with a distinctive purr in her voice.

“Pansy, it’s been years.”

She stopped walking and looked at him curiously.

“You’ve found someone else?”

Draco almost laughed out loud right in her face.

“Someone else?” he said, “Of course. I haven’t even slept with you since before the war and I haven’t said a single word to you in years, what did you expect to happen?”

Pansy huffed, and Draco knew this wasn’t going to be pretty.

“Who is she then?”

“I’m surprised you haven’t seen it yet, it’s been all over Witch Weekly for almost two months.”

“I’ve told you, I only just got back.”

“I need to go,” Draco said rudely, stepping away from her.

“Draco?” He wouldn’t have stopped if it weren’t for the tone in her voice that he couldn’t place.

“Yes, Pansy?”

“Are you happy?”

“Very.”

“Good,” Pansy stepped forward and extended a hand, apparently willing to admit defeat, which was ludicrous because she never let anything keep her from what she wanted, before.

“Friends, then?”

Draco eyed her hand for a moment, wary about her sudden change, and then he realized that he hadn’t seen her in so long that she might have grown up a little bit.

“Friends,” he said, giving her hand a firm shake and a quick smile before turning away and sauntering up the street, all the females in his vicinity eyeing him appreciatively, but none making a move on him.

Pansy sighed before heading to the nearest magazine stand for a copy of Witch Weekly.

She didn’t recognize the gorgeous witch in Draco’s arms on the cover immediately, but the name popped out moments later and Pansy sighed even louder.

What she’d been told weeks ago hadn’t been a lie, then.

**

Draco walked into Pleasure Bound and was chagrined to see that Freya was already there.

This girl would be the death of him.

She squealed immediately, shooting down his hopes that her star-struck attitude would have relented by now. She had seen him every day for over two months straight.

Get a grip, lady.

“Draco,” Hermione called, knowing it was him by Freya’s reaction, “I’m in the back.”

Draco inwardly rolled his eyes at her obvious statement and walked into her office, where he was surprised to see a giant mound of letters in the corner.

“What the bloody hell is all that?” he asked, gesturing to the corner after he gave her a kiss.

“Letters,” she said.

“No shit. I’m not blind, but why do you have so many and why are they unopened?”

“Go ahead and open one,” Hermione said in a falsely sweet voice that immediately put him on his guard.  He lifted a red envelope gingerly by the corner and slowly opened the flap, drawing out a piece of paper that had letters glued to it. They were obviously cut out of a newspaper so the handwriting wouldn’t be recognized and Draco frowned while reading it.

“StAY awaY FrOM dRAco MalFOy mUDBlood. You dONT DeSErvE Him.”

He picked up another envelope, tearing it open and pulling out the note, which was ‘written’ in the same style as the last.

“DRacO malFOy could DO sO much beTTEr, LeaVE hiM bE and YoU wiLL bE saFE.”

Well, clearly the Ministry’s thoughts about bringing in muggle influences only mattered if a very eligible pure-blood bachelor wasn’t taken by a muggle-born.

He was reaching for another when Hermione grabbed his wrist lightly, stopping him.

“They’re all like that, Draco, there’s no sense in opening more.”

He stood there and stared at Hermione in a way that almost scared her, his emotions were extremely obvious on his face and she hadn’t seen that often. It was very rare that he would allow her to see what he was feeling, but when he did she paid attention to it.

He had obviously never realized what their relationship would mean to other people.

“I haven’t received anything like this at all,” he said slowly.

“No one would want to send hate mail to the Draco Malfoy,” Hermione said, grinning.

“I didn’t realize,” he said, pulling her to him tightly while she shrugged.

“It’s really not a big deal,” she stated, “I don’t care what people think of me. Never have.”

She really didn’t, except when it came to Draco.

She didn’t really care what he thought about her now, because she knew what he was thinking often enough. When they had first come into contact again though, she had definitely cared about what he thought of her.

Which she denied to herself vehemently, but was glad in the end of it all that she had cared, since she was happy with him.

Even if he was a git.

“I’m sorry,” he said, and actually sounded sincere.

Okay, he was a git most of the time.

Hermione shrugged again and stood on her tip-toes to kiss him. Their lips touched briefly before a loud ‘Crack!’ resounded in the room, making her jump about two feet in the air.

“Theo.”

“I’ve gotta make this quick, Dray, I’ve got the documents you wanted but of course if anyone asks, you definitely didn’t get them from me.”

“Of course,” Draco repeated, reaching forward for the large envelope.

“Seriously, mate, I could lose my job for this. Not that I exactly want to work for the Ministry after reading this,” he glanced at the envelope with a disgusted look on his face, holding it out to Draco as though he couldn’t get it out of his hands fast enough.

Hermione and Draco both felt a thrill of recognition.

Draco must have been right.

“I would never sell out a friend,” Draco stated in a hard voice, reaching out and plucking the large envelope from his friends’ hand. Nott nodded, like he knew it all along but just needed to hear it anyway.

“I’ve taken many precautionary measures to ensure that no one finds out about this until you bring the information in, and these are all just copies so there will be no way of tracing it back to me. There were no wards or anything around the office that held them so they won’t be able to figure it out from that either. Owl me next week, we can get together for dinner.”

And with that, Nott apparated away.

Hermione stared as Draco opened the envelope, almost wishing that they had thought wrong because she couldn’t even begin to understand how their Ministry could do something so atrocious.

Draco was flipping through the papers quickly, nodding as though he never expected it to be anything else and Hermione groaned inwardly.

“We need to make an appointment with our beloved Minister,” Draco said, handing Hermione the pile of papers.

She didn’t even want to look, but knew she had to.

It was almost as Draco had predicted, but apparently, around 1975; a time, Hermione assumed, that Draco’s parents would have been beginning to try to procreate, the Ministry had received intelligence that pure-blood families were going to try and have plenty of babies in order to have a generation of new pure-bloods; children who would be raised almost as an army.

The point was that they were going to press their pure-blood beliefs on everyone ‘inferior’ and destroy those who wouldn’t agree.

Much like Lord Voldemort.

A generation of Lord Voldemort’s.

Which was ridiculous, in itself.

As far as Hermione could tell, the Ministry in Britain had cursed pure-blood families to be able to bring only one child to term, unless they were declared ‘safe’ by the Minister himself.

Hermione figured that was how the Weasley’s had managed to have so many children. They were blood-traitors from the get go.

Somewhere along the way the curse had mutated, causing those now grown up babies’ attempts at procreation to be completely nullified, in one way or another. The minister had decided to leave it in place, hoping to force the pure-bloods away from each other to marry those of different blood status.

Hermione laughed out loud suddenly, and Draco was looking at her like she was mental.

“What?”

“I just realized that you really didn’t need my help at all, in the long run.”

“I’m glad I asked for it, though,” he said shrugging, and she felt her stomach flutter a little.

Draco’s simple words of happiness at being with her always caused her to feel that way.

Prat.

Reading further Hermione’s smile vanished and she got a sinking feeling in her stomach when she learned that the Ministry had, in fact, brought in outside muggle influences to make them seem more relatable to the pure-bloods of their world.

They had hoped that after the pure-bloods were unable to bring a child to term, that they would divorce, being bitter with each other, and realize all the females left to marry were either half-blood or muggle-born.

She thought back to how many customers of her store had requested muggle literature and she felt almost dirty, used.

She had unknowingly been a pawn in the Ministry’s plans.

Everyone had unknowingly been treated as a pawn by the Ministry, in one way or another.

“This is disgusting,” she spit out harshly, shoving the offending papers back into the envelope and throwing them at Draco, wanting them out of her hands as quickly as possible.


Chapter 7: Chapter Seven
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]




Chapter Seven

Hermione, once again, ditched her cheeky shirts in replacement for something more professional with their meeting with Kingsley Shacklebolt.

The Minister of Magic, himself.

Today she was wearing a coral long sleeved blouse with little ruffles on the front, tucked into a black high-waisted pencil skirt. She had low heeled pumps on and her hair pulled into a high ponytail.

Draco said she looked like a sexy secretary.

All she needed was a pair of thick framed plastic glasses and a pencil in her hair.

She swatted him on the arm and said, “You wish.”

“I do,” he replied, eyeing her hungrily.

Maybe she would take his thoughts into consideration on a different day.

It would have usually taken them weeks to get an appointment with the man, but they had demanded and cajoled to the point where he had finally just agreed to meet them, more to get it over with than anything else.

He knew what was coming.

Especially since he had taken it upon himself to have Hermione harassed in order to stop the research they were doing.

He had to of known that it was a fruitless attempt.

Hermione and Draco walked into the meeting ready to argue and fight, ready to make the man admit what had been done after hours of stand-offs. They were both tense and defensive, their arms crossed tight over their chests with expectations of a battle of some sort breaking out.

They weren’t expecting Shacklebolt to admit it straight out, while also managing to look contrite with his actions.

It took the wind out of their sails, somewhat, which was probably the point.

He was Minister for a reason, after all.

“If you don’t admit to this to the Wizarding community and if something isn’t done about it, we will take it upon ourselves to make the public aware of the despicable actions you’ve taken.”

“You do realize, don’t you Mister Malfoy that I could have you… taken care of?”

Hermione’s eyes narrowed at the callousness with which this was said. Shacklebolt was not the man that she remembered.

“You could, but then you should also realize that Hermione and I are not the only ones aware of this. You should also realize that I would have taken the necessary precautions to ensure that my findings will go public if something were to happen to me before it was brought to light.”

Kingsley bristled.

“The public will not be able to handle this information.”

“Maybe you should have thought about that before you allowed this to continue on, Minister,” Hermione said fairly, trying to ease the tension in the room even though she was completely disgusted with the words of the man. He should have been taking it upon himself to look out for the people, not doing things that would harm them.

Definitely not threatening to have someone assassinated.

“Reverse the curse.”

“I can’t do that. I cannot take it upon myself. It needs to be cleared by the Wizengamot.”

“Then get them to clear it and bring in the appropriate curse breakers. This is murder, you realize that, don’t you?”

“The public will revolt, Minister, if they realize what is going on. It didn’t take me and Draco long to put two and two together, and there are others out there who will be able to figure it out just as easily. They may not be quite as lenient as we’ve been, either. You were given this position after the war to keep the peace, to keep the magical community a fair place and allowing this curse to continue puts all of these children’s deaths on your head.”

Kingsley looked annoyed.

“It is not on my head, I wasn’t in office when the curse was placed.”

“Maybe not, but you knowingly allowed the continuation of it, and that’s just as awful in my books. The babies who have died recently have done so since you’ve been Minister and I don’t know how you can possibly hope to shift the blame.”

She was right, of course.

He was no better than Voldemort, in some ways.

Except he was killing pure-blooded children instead of muggle-born, which didn’t really make a difference in the long run. They were still innocent.

“You should have realized, Sir, that sending someone I knew to attack me in order to get me to stop my research was completely idiotic. It pointed the finger directly at you since I know for a fact that Dean Thomas is an unspeakable.”

“I don’t know how you can live with yourself,” Draco spat at the man, standing and pulling Hermione up with him, “You have one week.”

**

As predicted, the wizarding world was in a complete uproar the following week. Citizens were absolutely disgusted to hear about what had happened, and Hermione and Draco were reaching new levels of fame as their involvement came to light.

Hermione and Draco spent a while hiding out in his manor during the day and she would go back to her flat to sleep at night, avoiding people and reporters alike. The Minister had done as Draco suggested within the given week he had been graciously allowed to get everything in order.

At least he had seen the light, even though it was a bit late and everyone who had already lost children to the curse, in both generations, were beyond furious.

There was no getting their babies back, after all.

Kingsley Shacklebolt was holding onto his title by a thread and in the latest news article he was explaining that he had went against the Wizengamot’s wishes in order to get curse-breakers on it immediately, basically overthrowing the entire political line-up in order to do what was right.

That was probably why he hadn’t been kicked out of office yet by the people.

Hermione wanted to revel in their success, but thoughts of Harry’s psychosis were niggling at her brain. She had decided to take a few weeks off of work so that she could avoid the reporters and crowds and Clementine and Freya were more than happy to take the extra hours.

Draco had decided to take off a few months. Apparently he had used very few holidays in the last five years, so he had plenty available to him.

He was too disgusted with the Ministry at the moment to even consider stepping foot inside the building or doing any work for them without blowing up.

Pansy and Blaise each stopped by the day after the news about the curse broke, Blaise tearful, Pansy… decidedly odd.

Blaise began sobbing the moment he saw them and after getting himself together he had explained that Astoria was pregnant again, and had been for only a few weeks, when fear was overtaking her emotions. She was completely worried about losing another child, and even though Blaise was still in mourning for their loss many months before, he was also grateful that Draco and Hermione had figured it out. Grateful that his new baby would have a fair chance at living and not succumbing to a dreadful curse while still in the womb.

Pansy was pleasant enough to Hermione when Draco was present, but the moment he stepped out of earshot Pansy sent her contemplative glares and scathing remarks about anything and everything.

Hermione had learned in the past that anything Pansy had to say to her was inconsequential. She never cared about the witch and never would and she would be happy if she would just go live her life without coming back to visit ever again, but since her and Draco were friends Hermione just grit her teeth and dealt with the infuriating bint.

There was something different about the black-hired witch, anyway, as far as Hermione could tell. She had never known her well or anything, but she seemed peculiar.

Pansy was a strange duck. Even more so when she insisted on going to the kitchens to get her own tea. As far as Hermione was aware Pansy should have been more than comfortable having house elves serve her, but she didn’t make a comment. Pansy was reminding Hermione of Harry slightly with the way she was switching between demeanors and moods, but that was something Hermione really didn’t want to think about.

A week after the news about the curse broke Hermione and Draco braved the outdoors, and Hermione was glad that they were able to focus on the ‘Harry Situation’, because she had a feeling that something… dark was brewing.

They walked hand in hand toward the restaurant where they were meeting Ron. They had decided to have their meeting as soon as the excitement had died down a little bit and this was the first available day Ron had away from Quidditch training.

Dumbest sport ever, as far as Hermione was concerned. Ron was wasting away his life playing it professionally, but that wasn’t any of her business.

Witches young and old were glaring at Hermione as they ambled down the sidewalk even though they also seemed to be in awe of her. Like they couldn’t choose whether to love her or hate her; it was very strange to receive those looks from strangers.

It was interesting, to say the least, but the witches seemed to be glaring at her, for the most part.

She held her head high though and Draco covertly admired her body through her clothes. Today she was wearing a strappy little tank top that said “I run better than the Government,” and he couldn’t help but feel that it was extremely appropriate for the last few weeks they had endured. She was also wearing black stretchy pants that he thought were called “Yoga pants,” for whatever reason, and flip flop type shoes. Her hair was in a messy knot at the back of her head, but somehow the hairstyle looked great on her, complimenting her long neck and nice shoulders.

Women everywhere officially loved to hate his girlfriend.

Hermione stopped walking suddenly and Draco stopped as well. She had paled considerably since the last moment he was looking at her and she had dropped his hand while staring down an alleyway.

“What are you doing?” he asked, looking down the same spot.

“I swear I saw… never mind,” she said, placing her hand back in his and continuing away.

She thought she saw Harry standing in the shadows of the alleyway, another figure with a dark robe and large hood pulled over their head slinking up to him as he glared at Hermione in pure hate. Upon further inspection she saw that it was Knockturn Alley, somewhere people went mostly for Dark reasons.

She shuddered and Draco was looking at her with worry creasing his brow.

He grabbed her hand and pulled her away from the alley, looking down the empty space as they passed by.

They walked into the restaurant that they had decided would be a good spot to meet Ron, because this particular establishment allowed people to rent out back rooms for more private conversation, which was something they had pre-arranged.

“Mister Malfoy,” the blonde hostess tinkled, smiling at him in a way that Hermione thought must have been aiming toward seduction.

Hermione sent her a small glare that would have chilled a snowman.

“We have a reservation,” Draco said stiffly, taking Hermione’s hand in his and smiling sarcastically at the hostess.

I’m not interested, his demeanor basically screamed at the girl.

“Yes, sir, your party has already arrived,” she said stiffly, leading them to the back of the restaurant without a second glance at their entwined fingers.

Draco sneered and Hermione tried, once again, to duplicate it. The hostess gave them an incredulous look and Hermione figured she had finally been successful. She was somewhat proud of herself before realizing that maybe she was a little bit psychotic.

They entered the room and Ron, still as gangly as ever, stood up to greet them. Hermione was almost amused to see that Bryony had escorted him and wasn’t looking at Hermione very kindly at all.

Like Hermione was just waiting to jump across the table and snatch Ron away from her.

Hermione had already had the distinct displeasure of dating Ron and had no interest in going down that road again.

No thank you.

Bryony continued to stare at Hermione in a guarded way while Draco pulled out a chair for Hermione in a gentlemanly act he never showed her when they were alone, causing Bryony’s eyes to narrow slightly in jealousy; Draco was always sure to do things like that in public though, and something about his action made her glow a little bit, her insides warming up.

Even if it was weird.

She didn’t need to be treated that way when they were alone, it would probably drive her insane, but the fact that he outwardly showed his respect for her in public? That was an entirely different thing.

She figured that he would open her car door for her, if they drove.

Once everyone was settled Hermione’s gaze went to Ron, who was looking somewhat embarrassed by his choice of a wife, because truth be told, Bryony wasn’t anything spectacular to look at. Hermione’s partner, on the other hand, was undoubtedly gorgeous.

And ripped.

Let’s not forget that.

“I need to know what happened with you and Harry,” Hermione stated boldly, staring Ron in the eye while shutting out her inner monologue of her distractedly handsome boyfriend.

Bryony was still staring at Draco while trying to appear as though she wasn’t.

“Nothing really happened, Hermione, we just drifted apart.”

“Bullshit,” Draco snapped, causing Bryony to blink and tear her eyes away from him.

Oh yes, Draco was still a major arsehole to people he didn’t care about.

Hermione had almost forgotten about that.

“I read the letter you sent to Hermione over a month ago, you said that you and the agreeably insane Potter had a fight, so what was it about?”

Ron looked at Hermione in shock, “You let him read my letters?”

“Why wouldn’t I?” Hermione asked, somewhat confused by Ron’s accusatory stare.

It wasn’t like she had anything to hide and any reason to not allow Draco to see what was in them.

Bryony looked annoyed, and Hermione figured that Ron did not let her partake in any letter reading. Hermione almost smiled.

“What happened?” Draco asked harshly.

“Why are you even involved in this?” Ron asked.

Hermione rolled her eyes, not surprised in the least at this.

“He hurt my girlfriend, and that makes me far more than just slightly involved. I will not be a bystander in this situation, Weasley, so you better get used to me being around for these little chats and should probably just give me the information when I ask the first time.”

Hermione dropped her hand to his thigh.

Was it wrong that his rude qualities kind of turned her on?

Probably.

Ron’s eyes widened a little bit, but not for the reason Hermione thought. She thought he would be raging about what Draco had just said to him, but maybe only one of his proclamations made it through.

“He hurt you?” Ron asked Hermione, and his tone caused both Draco and Bryony to narrow their eyes.

Draco shifted his chair closer to Hermione’s and picked her hand up off of his thigh, holding it tightly and rubbing his thumb across the back.

“Tell us what happened with you guys, Ron.”

Ron sighed.

“He came over to the Burrow for dinner last year after my mom invited him numerous times. He was probably about to kill our owl out of sheer annoyance, that’s how many times she had sent him letters and invitations.”

Draco cleared his throat, thinking Ron was about to go off on some wild tangent about the odd eccentricities of his mother.

“Anyway, he came over to dinner and Ginny refused to be anywhere around, which we all thought was strange in itself. We all knew they had broken up and that it maybe wasn’t pretty, but we figured that since Ginny was in such a good place in her life that she wouldn’t mind seeing Harry. I mean, it was Harry! He was always a great bloke and an excellent friend, but Ginny flat out refused and actually went to stay in a hotel that evening.”

Hermione was nodding because she agreed with Ron on all accounts that Harry was her best friend, at one point. She was surprised by Ginny’s avoidance of Harry though because she had went years loving that man. How could she not even want to see him?

Well Hermione didn’t really want to set eyes on him either, since the last few times she had seen him, so maybe something like that had happened between the two.

“So he showed up for dinner that night and it was only my parents, me, Bryony, and George. He brought this uncomfortable aura with him -“

“- Dark,” Bryony interrupted.

“Yes, dark. He was sitting in our kitchen eating his favourite foods that my mum had made specifically for him and he suddenly started rambling about how Dumbledore didn’t always know what was best, how he could kind of understand that Voldemort wanted the power, although he took it too far with killing innocents and what not. It was strange and Bryony here decided to get smart, which isn’t unusual, and tell Harry that if he thought Voldemort was so admirable then maybe he shouldn’t have got half of the wizarding world killed while defeating him.”

Hermione looked at Bryony with wide eyes.

“If you had heard the way he was speaking you wouldn’t have sat by idly either, Hermione, you had to be there to fully understand. I couldn’t just sit there and let him go on and on about power and about how Albus Dumbledore was an old fool and didn’t know what was really important in the world. He sounded like a Death Eater with the things he was spouting off and it was odd and disrespectful; I didn’t want to hear it anymore.”

Draco shifted and clenched his left hand involuntarily. Bryony had obviously forgotten, or was somehow unaware about Draco’s past. No one said anything about it, though, which Hermione was incredibly grateful about.

Hermione thought that she deserved a medal for how well she had done at avoiding outlandishly staring at his Dark Mark when he wasn’t clothed. He had stopped being weird about it around her though, which was kind of nice considering he couldn’t always have a sleeve pulled over it whenever she was around.

“He hit her,” Ron stated, “Right there at my parent’s kitchen table. He just stood up, reached across the mashed potatoes, and hit her right in the face hard enough to knock her chair backwards. I couldn’t believe what had just happened, and he was so fast. It happened before I even acknowledged what he was going to do. He threw his chair and started around the table to go for her again so I grabbed his robes and hauled Harry out of the house, still in shock. We got into a screaming match in the front lawn, and I remember yelling things like “No wonder Ginny left you,” and he was screaming at me about how I was never good enough. It was just… madness. I couldn’t let the fact that he had just hit my girlfriend in the face slide.”

Hermione was sad to realize that she really wasn’t very surprised by this information.

“I honestly thought that he was going to pull out his wand and Avada me right there, but instead he said he never wanted to set eyes on me again and stormed out, apparating away as soon as he was beyond the gates. I haven’t seen him since.”

“You don’t want to,” Hermione said quietly.

“So why all the secrecy, then?” Draco asked, giving Ron a strange look.

“I really don’t want him coming back for me or Bryony. He’s intimidating and I’m happy with my life, I don’t need him hearing about how I’ve been talking about him and have him come back to me about it.”

Hermione nodded in understanding.

Harry was definitely terrifying.

“You’re worried about him coming back on you because he hit your girlfriend? That seems a little drastic, Weasley.”

Ron looked angry again, and Hermione looked at Draco and said, “I think you’d have to see him to understand, Draco, he’s totally different than you can even imagine. It would be like if Voldemort hit your mum and you went around telling everyone about it. He wouldn’t just let that slide. Harry is seriously scary now. And my dreams-“ and then Hermione shut her mouth, because in all this time she still hadn’t mentioned her dreams to Draco once.

Draco gave Hermione a sharp look, but didn’t say anything.

She knew, though, that she wouldn’t be getting out of this one.

“Well if that’s all?” Bryony said, making to stand up and leave the room.

Hermione shrugged, “I suppose so, but if anything else happens Ron, please let me know. I know we aren’t as close as we used to be but…”

“I know,” he said, reaching out as though he was going to touch Hermione’s hand, but he thought better of it and made an odd gesture before running his hand through his hair.

“Malfoy,” he said with a nod that Draco reciprocated and followed his fiancé through the door.

**

“Dreams?” Draco all but yelled once they were back at Hermione’s flat.

Hermione sat back and watched him for a moment, trying to decide how to diffuse the situation before it got out of hand.

She knew it would be a fight, though.

“It’s not a big deal.”

“So if it isn’t a big deal then you shouldn’t be worried about telling me about them.”

“They’re just dreams, Draco, well more like nightmares, but what does it matter?”

“It matters.”

“Why?”

“Because you’ve been keeping things from me, obviously, and that’s not okay. Tell me everything.”

The last three words were a command, and Draco was angrier than she expected him to be.

She sighed, pushing down her reaction to argue with him.

He meant business.

“I’ve just been having nightmares. The situations vary sometimes, but in each and every one Harry is there with this large snake,” Draco narrowed his eyes at her upon hearing this, “I wake up sometimes gasping for air and sweating. One time I was really scared when I woke up; not because of my dream but because it felt like there was someone in the room with me. I have one of these nightmares every night, and every time I wake up I can’t make myself go back to sleep.”

“What type of situations are you in, in these nightmares?”

Hermione took a deep breath, the dreams scared her more than she wanted to admit.

“I’m always in the dark, either chained up or wandering around trying to find an exit, and I’m always completely naked. Sometimes Harry will come in with the snake, sometimes the snake will be there first, but light always accompanies them into the room so I can see them and be appropriately scared. Sometimes Harry tortures me, sometimes he tries to attack me or give me to the snake, and sometimes he tries to… rape me.”

Draco was not amused.

“And you have been keeping this from me? When was the last time you’ve slept through the entire night?”

“I don’t even remember,” Hermione said quietly, ashamed.

She felt like a child who was scared of the boogey-man.

“How have I not woken up to this? We have plenty of adult sleepovers and I’ve never even noticed.”

“You sleep heavy,” Hermione said with a small shrug, “sometimes after I wake up I snuggle right into you and put your arm over me and you don’t even twitch.”

Draco looked pissed off at himself upon hearing that.

“What else?”

Apparently he could see there was more to the story.

“I feel like I keep seeing Harry everywhere, watching me. I swear he isn’t alone, either, it always seems like he has someone hanging around with him, but the person is always hooded and in shadows and I can’t see who it is.”

“And you’ve told me everything that has happened when you’ve been to his house?”

“Well you know about my wrist, but it’s more the way that he acts… it’s utterly terrifying. He doesn’t seem to be all there. I can’t explain it, you’d have to see it for yourself, but I feel like he really just wants to hurt me or something. He’s smelled me… more than once. He gets right in my face and sniffs my hair…”

They stared at each other for a few moments and Draco looked more than just disturbed about the latest information; he looked incredibly angry. Hermione finally said the words that she never thought she would say.

“I’m scared, Draco.”

“Why did you keep all of this from me?”

“I thought that maybe I was just… I don’t know, losing it or something. I swear I see him everywhere we go, but you don’t seem to see anything. Or I’ll see him and look back a moment later and he’s gone. What if it’s all in my mind?”

“Do you honestly think it’s all in your mind?”

“No.”

“Well there you go then. We don’t meet with Ginny for another week, but I’m going to be keeping my eye out for him from now on. I haven’t seen him since the day the war ended, well, other than in the papers, so I don’t fully understand what you and Weasley are talking about. In the meantime you’re coming to the manor.”

“Pardon?”

“The manor, you’ll stay there.”

“I don’t want to stay there!”

“I don’t want you to be alone.”

“Well I’m not going to your ridiculous manor. I know it’s safe and all that, but it’s too big. I get lost there and I don’t have good memories there, Draco.”

“Stop being ridiculous.”

“You’re the one who is being ridiculous. I’m not staying there, it’s probably terrifying at night in the manor anyway, with the darkness and creepy sounds, the big walls.”

Draco almost snorted, “Big walls?”

“They’re like, twelve feet high. Maybe more.”

“And that’s scary?”

He was giving her that look again, the one that made her feel like a crazy person.

“They’re just… big!”

“It’s not terrifying at night, it’s cozy.”

“I think you need to go and look up the definition for ‘cozy’ because as far as the world is concerned, twenty-seven bedrooms does not constitute something as ‘cozy’. My flat is cozy.”

“Fine. I’ll stay here then.”

“That’s… not where I was going with that. I’m a grown up, I can handle myself.”

“Clearly,” Draco said dryly, before getting up and apparating away without another word.

Hermione sighed before rushing to her bedroom, determined to tidy up before Draco came back.

**

“I feel like we’re hiding.”

“We aren’t hiding.”

“Let’s go for dinner or something. I need to get out of here! I think I’m going stir crazy.”

“It’s been two days, Draco,” Hermione said, rolling her eyes.

“I’m making a reservation,” he said, striding to the fireplace while Hermione wrote a letter to Ginny, begging her to meet with them earlier.

Hermione wanted a couple of days to think about everything Ron had told her, and to clean her house since Draco had managed to bring a ridiculous amount of possessions with him. He was only staying here for a while, for Merlin’s sake, and he literally brought new bedding with him.

Apparently if it wasn’t 100% 1000 thread count Egyptian cotton, he wouldn’t be sleeping on it.

Hermione pointed out that he had slept in her bed before, and he said, “It’s different if it’s one night every so often, but if I’m to be sleeping in that bed for a prolonged period of time I’ll be doing it in comfort.”

Spoiled arse.

She would never admit that sleeping in his sheets was like sleeping on a cloud.

Not that it kept her nightmares at bay.

Draco almost punched her in the face the first night he slept there when she woke up screaming. He told her now that he was aware of her sleeping habits that he was sleeping a lot lighter than he should be. It almost sounded like he was complaining about being informed, after all.

Ginny might hold the key she needed to access her mind and bring everything out into the light, since Hermione couldn’t get rid of the thought that she was missing something vital to the entire situation. Like when you know a word but for some reason can’t remember it and it drives you absolutely batty. That was how Hermione was feeling.

Hermione scrawled the finishing touches on her letter to Ginny, a letter begging the girl to meet with her and Draco earlier than planned before she rolled it up with a flourish and tied it to Draco’s eagle owl, sending it on its way.

Hermione really needed Ginny to answer her back quickly.

“Get dressed.”

“Stop commanding me around like I’m some slave, Draco.”

He rolled his eyes.

“Get dressed, please? I just want to get out of this house for a bit.”

“You’re such a whiner.”

“You’re such a bitch.”

Hermione turned to him and smiled slightly, catching him off guard for a moment but the look on her face caused his usually stormy eyes to darken even more with lust, recognizing the look he was receiving.

“In order to get dressed, I’ll have to get undressed first.”

She pulled off her shirt and slowly made her way to the bedroom, keeping eye contact her whole way down the hall before reaching behind herself to pop the tabs on her bra. She stepped into her bedroom at the same moment she was dropping her bra from her body, the door closing slowly behind her.

Draco tripped over a chair in his haste to make it to her.

Hermione had to admit, their mutual fondness of bickering definitely gave them a good sex life.

 


Chapter 8: Chapter Eight
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]




Chapter Eight

Hermione and Draco were out for dinner again two nights later, they were meeting with Ginny a little later in the evening than they had planned on, but that’s when her practice ended for the day so they agreed with her. As soon as they were done their meal they would be heading to the back room and awaiting the red headed witch to join them.

“Oh, God, Pansy Parkinson is headed this way,” Hermione groaned before taking another bite of her mediocre beef wellington.

“She’s annoying, but she could be worse. With your track record of friends going barmy, I don’t think you can say much about mine.”

“Prick,” Hermione whispered, taking a delicate sip of her wine and preparing herself for the pain she was about to endure.

“Draco! So wonderful to see you,” Pansy said, approaching their table.

Like Hermione didn’t exist and wasn’t sitting directly across from the man.

“Pansy,” Draco said as a greeting, setting down his fork and reaching for his water glass.

“I tried to drop by the manor last night, but no one was there.”

“I’ve been staying at Hermione’s,” he said, making eye contact with his witch and realizing she was seething silently.

The slight from Pansy obviously didn’t go unnoticed.

“Wonderful,” Pansy said, in a tone that clearly stated she didn’t think it was wonderful at all. “I was hoping we could get together, just like old times.”

Hermione breathed in a little heavier through her nose, and Draco cocked his head at the black-haired witch standing before him.

“Old times? You mean seven years ago when you would paw at me and I would try to deflect your advances in any way possible? No thank you, and you seem to be forgetting that I already have a girlfriend.”

“Having a girlfriend didn’t seem to mean anything to the Draco that I used to know,” Pansy said shortly, more than a little bit offended by the words he had used while Hermione tried to stifle her sniggers.

“Well, seeing as how you really don’t know me anymore I can’t say that I’m surprised by that.”

Pansy looked murderous and she turned to glare heavily at Hermione.

“You think it’s funny, do you? You don’t realize you’re just a conquest to him? So he can finally say that he had a mudblood in his bed? I’m sure he will dispose of you sooner or later, you clingy little bitch.”

Hermione saw Draco tense up the second the word ‘mudblood’ was spoken, but she managed to speak before he could say anything.

“I’m clingy?” Hermione almost laughed, “He’s my boyfriend and I think I’m allowed to have dinner with him. You seriously want to call me clingy when you’re still trying to bed him after not even seeing or speaking to him in five years? You need to get over yourself, Parkinson. By the way, green doesn’t look good on you.”

Pansy opened her mouth to say something, but Draco beat her to the punch.

“You know nothing about me, anymore, Pansy. I would appreciate it if you’d let me and my beautiful girlfriend continue our meal in peace.”

And with that, he turned away from her, picked up his glass of water and casually took another sip.

“What would you like to do after dinner, sweetheart?” Draco asked her, his voice dripping with love.

Hermione tried not to laugh at his obvious displays of affection and answered with, “I think our bed is waiting for us, darling.”

Draco’s eyes dimmed slightly with lust, but Hermione was trying to keep it together because of the offended look on Pansy Parkinson’s face before she turned and stormed away from their table.

Draco leaned forward and kissed her meaningfully and Hermione accepted it eagerly; ignoring a flash going off at their obvious public displays of affection.

“She’s gone,” Hermione said after they broke apart.

“I just wanted to kiss you.”

“What time is it?” she asked, stabbing a piece of her beef wellington viciously before transferring it to her mouth.

“You’re so uncouth.”

“You’re so pompous.”

“You’re so delicious,” Draco’s eyes were humorous.

“You’re so… what?”

He laughed.

She didn’t get to hear that nearly often enough, but she just figured he was one of those people who didn’t laugh at everyday situations like she did.

She probably witnessed his laughter more than anyone else on the planet.

She was honestly okay with that.

“We need to finish this to get to the back room.”

Hermione stabbed a large piece of her food ruthlessly, and staring straight at Draco, shoved it into her mouth.

She chewed and swallowed, smiling sarcastically, and said, “Done!”

He rolled his eyes and cut a tiny square off of his steak, eating it in the most pompous manner she had ever witnessed.

“I don’t know if this meal was worth the gold, to be honest,” Draco said while they were waiting for the bill.

“I agree with you, I could have made something so much tastier at home.”

They both looked at each other when the word “home” slipped from Hermione’s tongue, but neither commented on it, thank Merlin. Draco paid for their meal and took her hand, leading her to the room where they were meeting Ginny Weasley.

They only had to wait three minutes for her to turn up and she looked anxious and slightly afraid as she took her seat.

She looked old, Hermione realized; much older than her 24 years.

“What do you want to know, Hermione?” she asked wearily, not even bothering to say hello.

As far as Hermione and Draco could tell, she wanted to get this meeting over as quickly as possible.

“What happened between you and Harry?”

Ginny didn’t look surprised by the question and Hermione was willing to bet that Ron had told her about the meeting they had a few days prior.

“Well… we were dating when he won the war, as you remember, I’m sure.”

Hermione just nodded. How could she possibly forget that?

Draco just sat there staring at Ginny, waiting for her to get to the point.

“Well once we were both graduated, we moved into the cottage. He was so happy, in the beginning, to have me there. He was lonely growing up, as you know, and was proud to finally have his life on track. He owned his own chunk of land, had a girlfriend he loved who loved him in return, he was finally free from the curse that was attached to him since he was a baby.

“He didn’t need to answer to his aunt and uncle anymore and I think that was very important to him. He wasn’t being treated as a slave or a punching bag and he was finally able to be his own person and didn’t have to deal with the disappointment of being compared to his oaf of a cousin on a daily basis.”

Draco’s eyebrows went up. He hadn’t realized Potter was treated badly as a child. He had assumed he had lived a life of privilege, growing up as the Boy-Who-Lived. There were a few gossip magazine articles about Potter’s childhood while they were growing up, but Draco took them at face value; gossip. This was the first time he had actually heard someone close to Harry Potter talk about him being treated as a slave and used as a punching bag.

“I think they’re an important part of my story though, because he went to see them a month or so after he bought his place. I think he just wanted them to be proud of him, for once. He told me later that he thought they had all come to an understanding with one another when they left before he went searching for horcruxes, but of course he was disappointed by them again.

“I don’t know if that changed his view point on life, or what happened really, but he went into a downward spiral, and quickly. I tried to lift him out of it, but he would lash out at me every single time I tried to be there for him. He got extremely violent, Hermione. He wasn’t the man that I had fallen in love with, and that scared me. I tried, oh, I tried to keep it all together, delude myself that he was just going through a rough patch and everything would be fine.”

Ginny was speaking robotically, almost as though she had rehearsed everything she was going to say ahead of time in a mirror. Her face was decidedly blank and Hermione glanced at Draco, who was looking slightly uncomfortable.

Almost as if he knew what she was going to say next.

“He started to hit me and even then I was trying to brush it off and explain it away, thinking about how much he loved me in the beginning. He was getting worse instead of better though, but I didn’t exactly realize it at the time. He would call me all sorts of horrible things and would sometimes even force himself upon me."

“He broke me. I was unwell for months after I finally got enough courage to walk away, and I was afraid because I thought for sure that he would come for me. I was having nightmares and sometimes I felt like I wasn’t alone in my flat, even though I knew that I was. I was scared enough that I moved back in with my parents for a while, knowing that they would help protect me if anything was to happen. Once I moved in with them the nightmares stopped. I live with roommates now, because I’m too scared to live alone. The nightmares I was having were almost worse than being with him, he was cruel in real life, but he was downright evil in my nightmares.”

Draco was slightly paler than usual, and Hermione realized her hands were shaking.

“What were your nightmares about?” she asked Ginny gently.

“Harry. He was… insane and scary and did worse things to me than he ever would in real life. He was this menacing man who looked a little bit different than he does, but he still looked the same. I couldn’t figure it out, and he always had me in a dark cell; and Hermione I have to tell you this, sometimes you were in my nightmares too. You were usually beside me in the cell but sometimes you’d be in one off in the distance but I could hear your screams before Harry would come to me. Other times you were there trying to help me get out.”

“Why wouldn’t you have told me this?” Hermione asked, her voice unsteady.

“They were just dreams.”

Hermione chanced a glance at Draco and he looked almost sick.

“I thought I knew him, Hermione. Looking back on it I don’t think any of us knew him at all and I think I was lucky to get out when I did, he probably would have ended up killing me.”

Draco was looking at Hermione pointedly but she refused to meet his eyes at that moment.

She knew what he was thinking.

“What happened to him?”

“The Hallows, Hermione,” Ginny said quickly, leaning her body closer to the couple to try and get her urgency across. Hermione felt her stomach clench with those three words, fear filling her body with an unmistakeable dread, “A few weeks before I left for good, it was all he would talk about - trying to find the remaining Hallows. I don’t know if you know this but someone stole his cloak when we were still together. He thought it was me and I was punished severely, but once he realized it wasn’t he went into a rage. He disappeared for a few days in search of it and came back empty handed and blazing mad.

Hermione was staring at Ginny now, fear blatant on her face.

Harry was screaming at her about a stone.

The Resurrection Stone.

“Oh, God. What does he want them for, Ginny?”

“I think you know.”

“We can’t let him get them.”

“There’s no ‘we’, Hermione. I’m staying out of this completely. I walked away from him years ago and I have no desire to ever see him again.”

“So that’s why Dumbledore’s tomb was broken into. How am I such an idiot!? I should have figured this out ages ago.”

Draco was absolutely confused.

“From the looks of the latest papers you’ve been pretty busy trying to bring other things to light.”

“Yes, but still,” Hermione said, waving an impatient hand in the air, “all of the signs were there. I’m such an idiot.”

Ginny shrugged and Hermione was suddenly concerned about her mental state.

“You alright, Weasley?” Draco asked, watching the red head closely.

“I took a calming draught before meeting you, that’s all. I’ve told you what you wanted to know, so if I could leave now I’d appreciate it.

“Wait! Before you leave, do you know if he has any of them?”

“He didn’t when I left, but that was years ago so it’s hard to say. There was a break in at Borgin and Burke’s a few months ago and apparently an invisibility cloak went missing, but I highly doubt it was the cloak. I honestly don’t know, though.”

Ginny stood up and looked at the couple once more before turning and walking out the door. She stopped on the other side of the doorjamb and hesitated before turning back to them. “Good luck,” she said quickly before walking away for good.

Hermione let out a breath and looked at Draco, who still looked confused. They sat in silence for a few moments while Hermione digested everything she had just been told; the meeting Ginny was much more informative than their meeting with Ron.

“I know some things that you need to be made aware of,” she said after standing. Hermione clutched onto Draco's hand tightly as they slowly made their way out of the restaurant.

“I would say so, I haven’t the faintest idea what she was talking about.”

They were walking hand in hand and both stopped at the same time, staring at the sight in front of them.

Harry Potter was standing there gazing at them accusingly, his eyes narrowed in blatant anger.

Hermione shuddered as Harry approached and she unconsciously stepped closer to Draco.

“What the fuck,” Draco said under his breath; this was the first time he had seen Harry since the end of the war and the man looked the same, yet so different at the same time.

“Hermione, I need your help,” Harry said, stopping directly in front of the couple. He decided to just come right out and ask her instead of trying to beat around the bush; Draco raised an elegant eyebrow at the sound of Harry’s voice. It seemed colder than usual and, dare he say it? More high pitched.

“With what, Harry?” Hermione asked, clenching Draco’s hand tighter.

Harry looked at their entwined hands and his eyes narrowed to slits immediately.

Hermione was a little confused by his reaction; he had to of heard about them dating. Everyone in the Wizarding world knew by now, thanks to Witch Weekly.

Although, it was possible he wasn’t following the news.

Probable, more like.

Harry looked up and gave Draco a hard look, forgetting why he had even come to speak to Hermione in the first place and almost making the aristocratic man step back in surprise.

Draco was fairly sure that Harry’s eyes had glowed red for a moment.

Harry lost every ounce of normalcy he had possessed at that moment, rage taking over his features. He had seen them sleeping side by side for weeks, but there was something different about seeing them walking down a crowded street hand in hand.

“Get away from her,” he all but yelled at Draco, making the blond man start in astonishment.

Harry Potter was truly barmy.

“What?”

“Get the hell away from Hermione,” Harry said again, enunciating each word very clearly and loudly, causing passerby on the street to stop and look at them all.

“Harry, it’s okay. Draco and I have been dating for months.”

Instead of diffusing the situation like she was hoping to do, this seemed to spur Harry on even more.

“You’re Imperiused! You’ve got to be Imperiused to be with this Death Eater.”

Draco stiffened and Hermione’s eyes widened.

“Harry, what’re you – “

“Get away from her!” He screamed, causing Draco and Hermione to each take a step back in alarm.

Hermione let go of Draco’s hand for a moment and moved closer to Harry, “Harry, its fine. We’re dating now; he doesn’t need to stay away from me and you don’t need to protect me from him. He cares about me.”

Harry moved quickly.

Quicker than Draco had ever witnessed a human being, wizard or not, move in his entire life.

He grabbed Hermione by her wrist and tugged her away from Draco before gripping her throat and slamming her into the wall behind her hard, her head snapping back into the stone. They were suddenly on the opposite side of the street of Draco, causing him to stand still and blink for a moment at their rapid movement as gasps and shouts were heard all over the street from their audience. No one expected to see their Golden Boy, their hero, treat someone this way; a woman and his old friend, no less.

“Betrayal,” he hissed, tightening his hands around her throat. Hermione cringed at the snake-like sound coming from his mouth, thinking of her dreams. She tried to reach up and pry his hands from her neck despite the stars popping into her vision from how hard he had slammed her into the wall and his tight grip on her neck, but he was holding on too tightly.

Draco fought through the stock-still crowds and was on them moments later, wrenching Harry’s hands from Hermione’s throat which was deep red from the pressure he was putting on it; the chain from her necklace was indented into her neck. Hermione coughed a few times, gasping for air.

Draco pushed Harry away from them but the raven haired man hastily came at the couple again, growls issuing from his throat as his arms swung through the air urgently, trying to grab a hold of Hermione while Draco was almost completely disregarded. His eyes were blazing red and his face was pale under his shock of dark hair, his lips were pressed into a firm line; almost as though he were trying to keep words inside of his mouth even though the growling was still ripping from his throat. Hermione dodged his attempts a few times while Draco kept trying to push him away.

Harry’s attempts at grabbing onto Hermione were not lost on either her or Draco, and the blond found it incredibly strange that Potter hadn’t even tried to fight him in any sense of the word.

The looks he was receiving from the mad-man clearly stated that he wanted nothing but bad things to happen to him.

“Get out of here Hermione,” Draco yelled at her, but she was just as busy dodging Harry’s attempts to grab her as Draco was.

“She’s mine, Malfoy,” Harry screamed, looking murderous.

Hermione was surprised he hadn’t gone for his wand yet.

“I’m not, Harry! I’m not! I’ve been with Draco for months!”

“Get away from my girl, Potter, or I swear I will make you pay,” and with that, Draco whipped out his wand and pointed it directly at Harry Potter’s throat.

Hermione dimly registered the whispers around them, knowing that Harry was proving just how crazy he had been rumoured to be. This would be all over the magazines and newspapers tomorrow, and with that thought Hermione also noticed all of the photographers flocking around them.

Harry backed away for a moment, looking contemplative before he made to leave.

Draco turned back to Hermione and was about to check her neck when she let out a high squeal of fear and Harry was going for her neck again. He accidentally grabbed the necklace she was wearing when she attempted to dodge his latest attack and he turned on the spot, trying to apparate away with Hermione in tow, but Draco reached out his wand with quick instincts at the last moment and snapped the chain in two.

Harry was gone the next second with only a broken chain as a prize and Hermione started crying loudly, fear overwhelming her. Harry had just tried to essentially abduct her, right from underneath her boyfriend’s nose and on a street full of people.

Draco pulled her into his embrace and she was crying into his chest as photographers converged around them, taking pictures while their respective reporters screamed questions at the pair. Draco gave everyone a deep look of scathing and turned with Hermione in his arms; they were gone the next moment.

“What the hell just happened?” Draco asked, as soon as they were in Hermione’s living room. Her tears were subsiding now that she wasn’t in immediate danger, but Draco was furious.

“I have no idea. I don’t even know why he was saying those things, we have never, never, been together.”

“He’s completely mad.”

“He’s terrifying.”

“Are you okay?”

Hermione nodded and collapsed onto her couch, pulling a throw pillow into her lap and hugging it tightly.

“Stay away from him, Hermione. I’m not joking.”

She nodded again and Draco sat on the couch beside her, pulling her into his chest.

“If you even see him coming just apparate away immediately.”

“I will.”

“Why was he trying to take you?”

“I honestly have no idea. That was just… psychotic. Whenever I go to his house he tries to make me leave immediately, and now he’s hunting me down in Diagon Alley and trying to apparate away with me? It doesn’t make any sense.”

“What the bloody hell is a Hallow?” Draco asked suddenly.

Hermione sighed before she launched into the long story of the year she spent with Harry and Ron searching for Horcruxes, the Deathly Hallows, and what happened after the war with the Deathstick and the Resurrection Stone.

“So he wants to become the master of death?”

“It looks like it.”

“He could be worse than Voldemort was, in some ways. You know that, right?”

“We can’t let him get his hands on them, Draco.”

“I’m going to owl Hogwarts about the wand.”

“No!” Hermione yelled, startling him. “People can’t know about the wand, too many souls have been lost over that bloody thing and Harry is technically the master of it, as far as I understand.”

“We don’t have to use it, Hermione, just hide it.”

“We will need to attempt to get it ourselves. Harry has tried, judging by the newspaper article I saw months ago, but Dumbledore’s tomb is warded against dark magic.”

“So why wouldn’t he just use light magic to get it out?”

“Maybe it can sense if the person is trying to get into his tomb for sinister reasons. Voldemort broke into it during the war to get the Elder Wand, so maybe it was warded after the fact.”

“By who?”

Hermione didn’t have an answer to that.

“We just need to get it, Draco, and the stone.”

“What would he want with that?”

“I don’t even want to think about it.”

“Let’s go to bed.”

Draco pulled Hermione from the couch and they walked companionably to the bedroom.

“What a night,” Hermione whispered.

**

The night didn’t end there for Draco, however.

His mind was spinning with everything he had learned and he was stuck thinking about Harry’s psychosis.

He was intelligent enough to understand that if Potter got his hands on all three of the Deathly Hallows the world would be a completely different place, and judging by his complete mental break, it wouldn’t be a good thing.

He was just drifting off when Hermione made a spastic movement followed by a long groan, and he realized that she was beginning to have another nightmare. She had one every single night; the hair on Draco’s arms stood to attention as he thought of Ginny’s story. She had been having nightmares about the monster that was now Harry Potter as well.

Moonlight was shining into the windows and Draco could see, as well as feel, that Hermione was writhing around now, moaning and groaning. He wished he could make the nightmares stop because he had to admit to himself that he had fallen hard for the witch beside him, even though he was a grumpy arsehole most of the time. He really didn’t want her to be suffering the way that she was while she should have been peacefully slumbering. Hermione seemed to care for him as well, despite his shitty attitude, and that consequently made him care for her even more.

He hated seeing her like this.

Draco pulled her body close to his and rubbed her back lightly, trying to calm her down. He knew she wouldn’t wake up, he had tried that the first few nights that he had found out about the dreams and therefore awoke to her distressed sleeping patterns; anything he did she slept through. Apparently Hermione would only wake up when she was scared enough. Draco had come to the conclusion over the nights they had spent together that these weren’t any ordinary dreams; they seemed to be leaning more toward what he could recall about cursed dreams.

He’d have to look that up.

Hermione groaned louder and Draco gripped her body tighter to his, despite the disturbed twitching she was doing. He was watching her face and his heart thumped loudly at the fear that was being blatantly displayed by her. She started to move less, groan less, and Draco knew that she would most likely be waking at any moment; the calm before the storm, so to speak, and in the sudden quiet he heard a noise by the bedroom door, almost a soft creaking, and he looked up, startled.

Directly into Harry Potter’s eyes.

He screamed at the same time Hermione did as she jumped awake in his tight embrace, jarring him. He turned to look at her and took in the fear presented on her face that was most likely mirrored on his before he swung his head around to look at the doorway again.

Harry was gone.

Draco jumped from the bed and lit all the lights in the entire flat at once with his wand, his heart beating a frantic tattoo against his rib cage as he ran through all of the rooms, looking frantically for any sign of Potter.

He was gone.

Draco slammed back into the bedroom and Hermione was sitting awake in bed, eyes wide with confusion and still tinged with fear.

“What are you doing?” she asked, watching Draco wave his wand so that all of their belongings started packing themselves in trunks.

“Packing,” he snarled, walking to the bathroom to get their belongings in there to start packing themselves into their toiletry bags.

“What for?” Hermione asked, stepping from the bed and following him down the hall to the living room, where he repeated his actions.

“We’re leaving. Going to the Manor.”

“What? Why?”

Draco spun around on the spot and Hermione was shocked by the frightened look in his eyes, “Potter was here, just minutes ago.”

“What? Draco, that’s impossible.”

“I saw him, Hermione, and I’m not arguing about this. I’m betting that he's been coming here every single night, which doesn’t explain why he was surprised that we were dating, but he’s deranged, so who knows. We. Are. Leaving.”

Hermione was shocked. Harry? In her house?!

She nodded, “I’ll help!” and ran into the kitchen to start charming the food to stay fresh in their absence.

**

“Draco?” Hermione whispered from the depths of his bed, her body sunken into the mattress and the blankets piled high on her body.

“Hmm?”

“Are you awake?”

“Yes.”

“I can’t sleep.”

“Are all the big walls scaring you?” he asked, turning his body so they were facing each other.

“Oh, shush,” Hermione said, scooting closer to him.

He automatically put one arm under her pillow and she snuggled her body into him, her head resting on that arm. “I’m just scared and there’s so much that I don’t understand right now.”

“I don’t understand it all either.”

“Why would Harry have been in my house?”

“I think it has something to do with your dreams, to be completely honest,” Draco hadn’t wanted to voice his suspicions yet, in case he was totally off the mark, but Hermione needed to be pacified at the moment.

“Maybe,” she said, and then surprised him by leaning forward and placing chaste kisses along his collarbone.

He grinned.

This could help get her mind off things as well.


Chapter 9: Chapter Nine
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]




Chapter Nine

“We need to get to Hogwarts this week, sometime,” Draco said, moments before taking a bite from a croissant and pulling a face at the taste.

“Well, it shouldn’t be too hard since we’re both taking time from work right now. When did you want to go? And what’s with the face?”

“Nothing tastes good,” Draco said, and then looked contrite when Tippy hung his little head in shame.

“Everything’s great, Tippy, don’t let his grumbles get to you.”

The elf still looked put out as he left the nook and Hermione shot Draco a look.

“Well it doesn’t!”

“I know, but you don’t have to hurt their feelings.”

Draco resisted rolling his eyes while Hermione took a tentative sip from her tea, trying with all of her might not to grimace; she wasn’t eating any food, though, because she was worried she would be unable to keep it down.

“Feeling any better?” Draco asked casually, although he was still slightly appalled from seeing the girl letting go in his bathroom that morning. He had been gentlemanly enough to back out of the bathroom and shut the door hard, where he proceeded to wait on his bed until he could no longer hear her heaves.

She thought he could have at least held her hair or something, insufferable prat.

They were sitting at the kitchen nook, two mornings after their abrupt departure from Hermione’s flat. They had spent those two days otherwise entertained, except this morning, but were now getting serious about life again.

Draco was sitting in a pair of dark grey sweat pants, sockless and shirtless. Hermione loved seeing him this way. Draco had scars on his body, more scars than she would have expected him to have, and she enjoyed looking at them. They were a testament to what he had been through, the things that made him the man he was today. She also felt a little thrill whenever she noticed the dark smudge on his left arm with her peripherals, because to be honest, she wasn’t going to blatantly stare at it; not now that he was actually bearing it so freely around her. That fact made her feel infinitely trusted by him and she wouldn’t do anything to make him regret it.

She was glad that he didn’t feel the need to hide any part of himself from her, anymore.

Hermione was wearing knickers and one of Draco’s button down shirts. It was large on her, obviously, and she loved lounging around in them almost as much as Draco loved seeing her wearing them like this.

“Anyway, when would you like to go?” she asked again, setting her teacup down lightly.

“After lunch if you’re feeling better,” he answered after he swallowed another bite of the dreadful croissant. What the elves were doing when they made these was totally lost on Draco; they’d never made bad tasting food once before that he could remember.

“So soon?!”

Hermione was afraid to go. She understood what was on the line and what needed to be done but that didn’t stifle the fact that everything in her life was coming down around her ears. If it wasn’t for Draco’s constant presence she thought she might actually lose it in fear; she just wanted Harry to go back to normal, her friendship’s to have never gotten out of control as badly as they had.

She really wanted to try and pretend that Harry wasn’t acting the way that he was. Going to Hogwarts would almost cement the fact that he was losing it more firmly; ignoring the entire situation was easier than accepting everything for what it actually was.

And she had a really bad feeling about the entire situation.

“Were you planning on waiting until after Harry found the Hallows?” Draco asked her, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

Hermione rolled her eyes.

“Obviously not, I just didn’t realize that it was imperative to go today.”

“Why are you trying to put it off?”

“I’m not. After lunch is fine.”

Hermione swallowed thickly and Draco raised an eyebrow at her. She avoided his eyes and began buttering a piece of toast, deciding to brave it; Draco was chewing another bite of his croissant when they both heard, “Draco! You’re finally here!”

Draco looked up, surprised, and Hermione glanced to the door as well, but from her position she couldn’t see anyone. She would recognize that voice anywhere, though, and she was glad to see that Draco did not look happy.

“What are you doing here?” he asked, his eyes narrowing slightly.

He did not enjoy the way Pansy kept trying to undermine his relationship with Hermione. If Hermione decided, for some reason, that she didn’t want to be with him anymore because of Pansy’s behaviour, well, Draco wouldn’t be happy.

To say the least.

“I wanted to see when you would tire of staying at the mudbloods house.”

Pansy came into Hermione’s sight then and she hesitated for a moment, more than a little surprised to see the muggle-born witch sitting there. Her eyes widened and her lips formed an O, but she mastered her expression after a moment and stood back.

Like she knew Draco was going to erupt.

“If you use that word one more time in my presence you will regret it. How did you get in here?”

“The front door,” Pansy answered, her eyes lingering on Hermione’s obvious bedroom state.

“Elaborate.”

“I came to the door and Tippy answered, he was going to alert you of my presence but I told him it wasn’t a problem and I would find you myself.”

Draco clenched his jaw.

“Pansy, you have to stop this.”

“Stop what?” she asked, feigning innocence.

“Hermione, darling?”

Hermione started, she had been watching the way that Pansy was staring at Draco’s chest. She looked at Draco.

“Would you mind just giving Pansy and I a few moments alone? I need to speak with her.”

Doubt shadowed Hermione’s eyes for a few moments before she remembered that Draco hadn’t wanted anything to do with Pansy ever; it wouldn’t have changed in the last few months.

“Of course,” she answered, smiling, pushing those jealous feelings away as she stood from the nook. Pansy stared at Hermione’s long, bare legs, surprised at how slender they were; surprised by Hermione’s appearance in general.

Draco touched Hermione’s hand that was resting on the table as she stood up and she glanced at him before smiling and moving in for a kiss, his hand rubbing her thigh.

“I’ll send Tippy for you when we’re done.”

“I need to shower, anyway,” Hermione said, throwing him a saucy wink before walking from the room, completely ignoring Pansy and the incredulous looks she was receiving from her.

“Sit,” Draco commanded as soon as Hermione was out of the kitchen. Pansy obeyed instantly. “You need to stop whatever it is you’re trying to do, Pansy. We haven’t seen each other for years and I don’t know why you’re trying to ruin my life.”

“Ruin your life?” Pansy asked, skeptically, “I’m hardly trying to ruin your life.”

“I don’t know what you’re trying to do, then. I’m finally, finally, happy with the way things are going for me and I know you may not understand that because you had been gone for so many years, but it wasn’t easy after the war, Pansy. After my father died- no, just listen to me, Pansy, don’t interrupt. After my father died I was suddenly thrust into the role of the head of family. I had no choice but to take on the family business, all of the investments, run the house, keep my mother safe and happy, all while still trying to figure out who I was. Do you understand how hard that was for me? I was in my early twenties and was forced into taking on things I had no interest in.

“Before I met Hermione again, I was finally feeling like I was in my stride, but I wasn’t exactly happy. I had friends who were married, having children, some who disappeared,-“ he inclined his head to her, “-and what was I doing but taking care of my mother, who was depressed and didn’t want to live anymore, and taking care of a business I had to teach myself how to handle? Nothing. I hadn’t done one thing for myself, other than get a job at the Ministry, and the only reason I did that was so that I could get out of this house and away from my depressing life sometimes.

“Hermione and I crossed paths again, and we had a mutual interest in figuring out what was going on with the pure-blood curse, which we decided to figure out. Things progressed and I’m happy with her, Pansy! I know it’s hard to understand, after everything we were taught and exposed to when we were younger, but there it is. It has been so long since I could truthfully say that I’m happy, and now here you are, trying to ruin the happiness that I’ve finally found.”

Pansy was listening to Draco’s speech very closely, and she felt a sliver of remorse for the things she had done. He was completely right, she hadn’t known anything he had been doing for at least five years, and before that she had truthfully just wanted to bed the man to see if the rumours were true.

“I’m worried, though,” Draco suddenly confessed, and Pansy sat up straighter at the severe expression on his face, “something is going on with Potter and I have no idea what it is, but I need to keep Hermione out of danger. He wants to do something to her, I can tell, I just don’t know what he wants.”

And suddenly Pansy burst into tears. Not just slow tears leaking from her eyes, but chest heaving, shoulder shaking, and nose running sobs were tearing from her throat.

Draco was alarmed, to say the least, and was glad when Hermione came sauntering back into the kitchen. She hadn’t showered yet, but she had thrown on a pair of shorts and was carrying a bundle in her arms. She stopped and stared when she got closer and watched Pansy Parkinson bawl her eyes out at her boyfriend’s kitchen table, her makeup smearing and nose running.

“What’s that?” Draco asked, deciding to ignore the crying witch until she could calm down.

Hermione smiled and held out the bundle; Draco realized it was a shirt.

He pulled it on, Hermione wistfully watching his stomach muscles disappear as the cotton was pulled over it, and he grinned back.

“Like what you see?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.

Hermione just raised an eyebrow of her own in perfect imitation of Draco.

Pansy’s sobs had quietened down and Hermione was turning to leave them to their conversation, but Pansy stopped her when she said, “I think you two should sit down. We need to talk.”

Hermione narrowed her eyes in wonder, confused now that she had been suddenly invited into this conversation, and Draco sat, pulling Hermione down beside him and keeping his arm around her back; his hand at her waist.

“I have some things to tell you, and neither of you are going to like it. I understand if you don’t want anything to do with me after this, Draco, but you need to know.”

Draco tensed against Hermione’s side and she dropped her hand to his thigh, squeezing.

“I’ve been… working with Harry Potter.”

Hermione’s hand squeezed tighter, and Draco made a sound low in his throat, his arm tightening around her side.

“What do you mean, ‘working’?”

Pansy sighed.

“I lied to you, Draco. I had been back in the country quite a while before I approached you in Diagon Alley, and I knew about you and Hermione before it was even in the papers.”

Hermione glanced at Draco but he was staring at Pansy as though he had never seen her before.

“I wanted to contact you as soon as I returned, but I didn’t know how to go about it. After I left I felt like I had deserted you, in a way, and I expected you to be angry with me. I didn’t want that, because as you and everyone else know, I have carried a torch for you since we were teenagers. I needed to figure out a way to contact you and make you realize that as adults, we could pursue a relationship.

“Before I could put any plans into action, I was approached and informed of your relationship that was still unknown. I denied that you would do it, and was in a world of pain the first time I was shown the two of you together, but then jealously reared and I wanted to break you apart. It was in mutual interest to the person who had come to me, because he wanted the two of you apart as well.”

“Harry Potter?” Draco said more than asked, and an unreasonable fear stole up his chest. He knew that Pansy’s story would not be good.

“Harry Potter,” Pansy confirmed, with a small nod.

Hermione’s breaths were uneven, and Draco felt her hand shaking on his leg.

“He’s obsessed with you,” Pansy said, looking at Hermione, “obsessed to the worst degree. He feels that you belong to him, he thinks that you’re interested in him, and I don’t know what he will do to anyone who tries to stop him. I had agreed to spy on you both and tell Harry anything I noticed or what you had been doing when he couldn’t be around. I knew he was barmy, but it took me way longer than it should have to realize just how nutters he really is.

“He told me his plans, and I promised I would help him. I didn’t take a vow or anything, and he seemed happy enough to just take my word.”

Pansy looked like she was going to cry again, and Hermione suddenly felt bad for her. Had Harry done something to her?

“Why the sudden change of heart?” Draco asked cruelly.

“Your admissions to me, Draco. I could never make you as happy as you’ve been lately. I’m too selfish and I know that you could never love me the same way. You never had, and I’ve been around and available since we were fourteen. If you had wanted me, I’d have known long before now. I just hope you both can find it in your hearts to forgive me for everything I’ve done.”

“What have you done, then?” Hermione asked, voice shaking, unsure if she wanted to hear the answer.

“I spied on you both, approached you for no reason in order to try and start fights between the two of you… I helped Harry do so many shameful things. I’ve been to your house with him, even though being there felt wrong, I’ve- “

“Wait, you’ve been in my flat?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Harry goes there, a lot. A lot. He roams around, and I think he pretends he lives there with you. He steals little trinkets from your place, is always hovering around your fridge like he’s trying to decide what to make for dinner, and uses your things. I caught him rolling around in your bed one day… naked, and it seemed like something he had done many times before.” Pansy’s cheeks were red, and Draco thought there may have been things that she was leaving out, but didn’t press her because he wasn’t sure if he even wanted to know. “He steals hair from your brush Hermione, because he’s got you under the Maledicti Somno curse-“ Hermione gasped and Draco’s heart began thudding when he realized his suspicions about her nightmares were right,”- he saw you guys in your apartment a lot during the night. The first time, he was livid. He came back to his house and started to destroy things, kicked holes in his walls, fought with me. It was awful.”

“So you were staying with him?”

“For months, now.”

“Did he harm you?” Draco asked, and both Hermione and Pansy looked at him in surprise, the softness in his voice shocking them both.

“Of course.”

“Why did you stay?”

“I thought it would be worth it, in the end. Obviously I was completely wrong. I knew he was barkers before I involved myself with him, so I was expecting some semblance of violence, but as I said, I never realized quite how bad.”

“When he came back that night, I knew something had changed between the two of you. He started going to your flat every night, Hermione, and I accompanied him a few times. It was strange, the way he would stand in the shadows and watch you sleep, taking pleasure from the nightmares you were experiencing. Then Draco started staying with you every night, and he was frantic to get there once the sun had gone down; he was desperate to see what you guys were doing or how your relationship was progressing.”

Hermione felt dirty, she was aching for a shower now. She was shaking and couldn’t get her breathing in check.

“You watched us have sex?” Draco asked, reading between the lines of Pansy’s words.

She shrugged, “Sometimes.”

“Sometimes?! How many times?!”

Hermione was scandalized.

“I only saw it a couple times, but Harry goes to your flat every night. I knew you guys had to be here because you haven’t been there for a couple nights and Harry is freaking out.”

“How did you get into my flat?” Hermione asked, her hand still clamped on Draco’ thigh, who looked sickened.

“Harry is extremely powerful, now. It’s shocking.”

“I’m assuming he can’t get here?” Draco asked.

“No. He’s powerful but he can’t break the wards to get onto Malfoy property. He’s trying to figure it out, but it’s only been two days.”

“Blood wards,” Draco answered, silently thanking his father for the fierce protection of their home. “He won’t figure them out, thankfully. I knew we should have been staying here from the beginning.”

“Does he have horcruxes?” Hermione asked suddenly, sitting up straighter; her hand was almost painful on Draco’s leg now, but he didn’t do anything to ease it.

Hermione wanted questions answered, and she wanted them answered right now.

“Just one,” Pansy squeaked, and Hermione let out a breath.

Harry was officially a murderer.

“You need to tell us what it is,” Draco said forcefully.

“Harry found the Potter Family Ring in his vault, it was meant to be an engagement ring, but he has obviously put it to other uses.”

“Where is it?” Draco asked.

“On his dresser. He’s arrogant because of his power, at the moment. He doesn’t think any sort of harm will come to him.”

“Does he have any Hallows?”

Pansy paled a shade, surprised by Hermione’s knowledge.

“He found his cloak. He stole it from Borgin and Burke’s ages ago.”

“That’s all?”

“Yes. He can’t find the stone, even though he knows where it is, and he can’t get the Elder wand.”

“Good.”

“I’m really sorry, Draco… Hermione… I didn’t exactly realize what I was getting myself into.”

“I don’t really know if I can accept your apology, Pansy. I understand that in some strange way you thought you were going to get us to break up and have me to yourself, for whatever reason, but I don’t think I can forget about the fact that you broke into Hermione’s flat on numerous occasions and also watched us having sex. I don’t know if you actually feel bad about that, judging by the very casual way you told us. Why would you want to see that, Pansy?”

“I didn’t want to see it, Draco! I was already there with Harry when we realized what was happening and he was so angry, I couldn’t just leave.”

“You could have.”

“I couldn’t!”

“I think it’s time for you to go.”

“Hermione, you understand don’t you?”

“Not really. I really think you have to let go and move on…”

Pansy looked stricken for a few moments before she jumped to her feet and adjusted her cloak, smoothing it down. “I’m sorry,” she said one last time, but she sounded more angry than remorseful, and she turned away to see herself out of the house.

“Well… fuck,” Draco said, obviously unable to express himself in any other way.

**

Hermione and Draco apparated to Hogsmeade later that same day. Hermione was still reeling from the information that Pansy had given to them, and she knew then and there that she would have to visit Harry at some point so she would be able to get her hands on the Potter ring.

It needed to be destroyed, pronto.

“I feel like I should have dressed better,” Hermione said, glancing down at her blue t-shirt that read, “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your… oh!” with a picture of tyrannosaurus rex on the front, paired off with black yoga pants and black flats.

Draco rolled his eyes, “You look fine.”

“Fine?” Hermione asked, quirking a brow.

“Don’t fish for compliments, it’s unbecoming.”

“Don’t make me fish, then.”

“Fine, your hair looks so good today that you look like a stripper.”

“What?” Hermione almost shouted, trying to stifle her sniggers.

“You look so good, like a giant adorable penguin sliding down a rainbow of love and happiness before landing on a cloud of baby laughter.”

Hermione burst into giggles and laughing felt amazing.

“Just shut up, alright Draco?” she said, once she calmed down.

He smirked.

“That’s what happens when you fish for compliments.”

“I wasn’t fishing! I was actually concerned about wearing this super dinosaur shirt to talk to professor McGonagall.”

“I think it’s funny.”

**

Hermione went directly to the Headmistress’s office once they entered the grounds and Draco made his way to the opposite side of the Black Lake, where Dumbledore’s tomb was laying. Security at Hogwarts was incredibly lax since the downfall of the dark, which wasn’t exactly a good thing.

Hermione and Draco were on a mission to do good, though, so they weren’t exactly upset about it.

Hermione didn’t want to be there at all; too many bad memories.

Unfortunately, it was something that needed to be done as Draco continuously reminded her, not understanding her odd behaviour.

Draco watched her walk away and strolled with his one hand in a pocket, clutching his wand, and the other holding onto the handle of a briefcase tightly, noticing that nothing had changed since he had attended school there. As he walked he realized just how often he was around Hermione in school, even though it was unintentional.

He could see the spot in the quidditch pitch where he had first called her a mudblood, see the area where she had slapped him in the face. Draco still had a tough time coming to terms with his abhorrent behaviour in school. He thought of all the times he had been around her, but realized that he really hadn’t been as awful to her in their later years as he had somehow recalled.

He was much worse to Weasley and Potter, Hermione was mostly on the sidelines.

From third year on, he barely remembered even calling her a ‘mudblood’, he may have a few times but he wasn’t outlandishly mean to her.

Interesting, he thought to himself now.

He was brought out of his musings as he came upon the marble white tomb, hoping beyond hope he could get the wand. He didn’t want it, really, but Hermione had insisted that she would be able to distract McGonagall better than he would.

He just hoped he could keep it together when he was carrying the Deathstick.

Draco stood beside Dumbledore’s tomb, his wand in his slackened left hand, staring. There was a deep crack in the middle of the lid, but other than that it looked undisturbed. He put down his briefcase before finally raising his wand and muttering a long chanting spell that began to lift the lid, and Draco took this to mean that he was considered safe enough to be granted access to the tomb; the wand.

He could feel his energy dwindling from the strength of the spell, the lid dropped gently to the grass and Draco approached the tomb, seeing the almost sleeping form of the man who was the headmaster when he was a student.

‘There’s obviously a stasis charm on the tomb’, Draco thought to himself morbidly after seeing the still peaceful body laying before him. He let out a sigh of relief to see that the wand was still there before he bent down and gently pulled it from beneath his headmaster’s fingers, whispering an apology to the man who would never hear him. He made sure to inform Dumbledore that he was only taking the wand to ensure the world was kept safe, and that he was sure the old man would understand that.

He felt overcome with memories, remembering how he had almost been forced to kill the man before him, even though in the end of it all he was considering taking Dumbledore’s offer of protection.

Draco shook himself, ridding himself of the pointless thoughts. Nothing in his past could be changed, but he definitely felt as though he was heading in the right direction for his future.

“I’m sorry, Sir,” Draco said one last time before easily levitating the lid of the tomb and lowering it slowly to cover his old headmaster.

As soon as it clicked into place Draco felt a thrum of deep magic shoot through the air.

The protective spells had been put back into place.

Draco stooped and snapped open the briefcase he was carrying, tossing the powerful wand inside quickly before closing it and locking it with an audible click. He slowly made his way back toward the castle, feeling tired and somewhat restless. He hadn’t been able to shake an awful feeling he had obtained ever since Pansy’s story about just how insane Harry was. His thoughts stopped as he came upon the staircase to enter Hogwarts; Draco really didn’t want to enter the castle.

He hadn’t had a good time during his school years, and really didn’t have a lot of good memories of the place. In fact, the only good memory he had of the school was Voldemort’s murder, and that wasn’t a good enough reason for him to go inside.

Fortunately for him, just as he was about to take a seat on the stone stairs, Hermione came strolling out casual as could be.

He hovered awkwardly above the stair for a moment and then stood up quickly, automatically taking her hand and walking companionably with her to the gates.

“Mission accomplished?” she asked, still extremely casual.

“Yes. You?”

She smiled and nodded. “Yes.”

She opened her cloak and pulled out the sword that she had come to the school to obtain. Its blade glinted in the sunlight for a moment and Draco then took it from her hands and tossed it into the briefcase he was carrying. The case had an undetectable expansion charm casted on it.

“I can’t believe, after all of these years, that she would allow you to just borrow the bloody sword of Gryffindor.”

“I was her Golden Girl, remember?”

Draco snorted slightly and almost cracked a grin at her sarcastic smile.

“Was she aware that I accompanied you?”

“No. Well she may have been, but she didn’t mention it and I didn’t say anything, although she did comment on the Witch Weekly articles. ‘Well, Miss Granger, I can’t say I was surprised when I read about the relationship you’ve started with Mister Malfoy,” Hermione mocked in a falsely high-pitched voice that sounded nothing like their old professor.

“She wasn’t surprised?”

“I guess not.”

“That’s… strange.”

Draco craned around to get a look at the castle they were walking away from, and even though they were much too far away from the headmistresses office, he could have sworn he saw a figure move away from the window, drapes falling and covering it completely.

He was about to comment on it until he realized that Hermione was no longer holding his hand. He stopped and looked back to where she was standing to see that she was staring in the completely opposite direction that he had been.

He followed her gaze to the forbidden forest and the hairs on the back of his neck instantly called to attention, slight goosebumps breaking out on his skin.

“Let’s go,” Draco said urgently, taking Hermione’s hand and pulling her behind him. He had no interest in a confrontation with the psychopath known as Harry Potter.

They made it a few steps before Harry materialized directly in front of them on the stone path leading to Hogsmeade. Hermione and Draco exchanged stunned expressions; even though the security around the school had lessened, apparation was still dampened. No one should have been able to pull that off while on Hogwarts grounds.

Harry Potter seemed to be just as strong as Pansy had stated.

Draco cursed the ability of apparation sometimes.

Before anyone could utter a sound, Harry screamed, “Where’s the stone?” at Hermione, who was backing away as quickly as Harry was advancing.

“I don’t have the stone, Harry,” she said, and Draco was proud to notice that her voice was steady. “If I had it, I would give it to you, but I don’t. I don’t even have any idea where it could be.”

“Don’t lie to me!”

“Back off, Potter, she doesn’t have the bloody stone.”

Draco could easily see that whatever normalcy Harry had possessed was completely gone.

Harry was worked into a frenzy of rage and Draco finally found himself worried. He moved so that he was directly in front of Hermione, minimizing any chance that Harry had of reaching her.

“Why are you here?” Harry asked so quietly that Draco was even more concerned than he had been previously. Potter didn’t seem to be able to stick with a specific emotion, flashing between rage and quiet calm; it was decidedly eerie.

Neither Hermione nor Draco answered and that seemed to push Harry into another fit.

“Betrayer!” He screamed at Hermione, all abandon lost. Spittle was flying from his lips and he seemed incredibly deranged at this point. Draco turned and looked at Hermione, hating the fear he could recognize in her eyes.

“It’s been years, Potter. Years. She isn’t betraying you by being with me. We’ve all grown up, we’re adults now, and unfortunately that also means that Hermione’s allowed to make her own decisions about what she’s doing with her life.” For some reason, Draco had the mad idea that if he spoke normally to Potter, the man would calm down. Instead he seemed to be pissing him off even more, and Draco wasn’t even embarrassed to take a startled step back as Harry got right into his face.

“She’s mine Malfoy, and you have no right to stake any claim to her!”

“Stake my claim? She isn’t a piece of real estate.”

“Mine!” Harry screamed again, as though he hadn’t heard the blond man’s words.

Maybe he hadn’t.

He didn’t seem capable of being able to comprehend anything at this moment.

“Petrificis totalus!” Harry screamed, whipping his wand out and pointing it at Draco. The red spell soaked directly into his chest and he fell down in an undignified heap, his briefcase falling beneath his body, his wand still clenched in his hand.

Even though he was unable to move, he was still able to see whatever was directly in front of him, (the sky) and hear everything that was going on. He could only lay there and hope that his girlfriend was running for the gates so she could apparate outside of Malfoy Manor and get into the mansion before Harry could get to her. Tippy would allow her access.

He knew, though, that Harry’s ability to apparate inside the grounds was something that lessened Hermione’s chances of escaping.

Draco stared at the sky in the few seconds it took for those thoughts to cross his mind before the horrifying image of Harry Potter’s face entered his sight lines. The dark haired man was grinning, something that would have caused Draco’s arm hair, and those little hairs on the back of his neck to stand on end in a normal situation, and Draco distantly heard running footsteps pounding on the ground away from them.

Hermione was running, then.

“She’s mine now, Malfoy,” Harry crooned, his eyes alight with madness.

Harry’s face was gone from his sight a moment later and Draco heard an ear-splitting scream in the distance.

**

Draco wasn’t sure how he did it, but he was glad that he was at least petrified with his wand in his hand. He had never been a master, or even a novice at wordless magic, but after at least ten minutes of struggling he finally finished the spell keeping him in one place. He sat up quickly, blinking his eyes and shaking out his limbs in order to regain proper feeling in his extremities before he was able to stand and run from the property.

He appeared in Hermione’s flat seconds later and flung his briefcase aside, rushing for the kitchen.

He knew what he was looking for.

A scrap of paper.

He almost wanted to scream when he was unable to find it after mere minutes of looking, and he stopped to compose himself, breathing harshly in the almost stale air of her kitchen.

He looked around at the mess he had made, surprised to see the floor littered with scraps of paper and books.

Slow it down, he thought, look at each piece of paper thoroughly.

Hermione was a clean woman, but she had a little area in her kitchen where she managed to let papers and odds and ends build up until she went through them all and discarded what she didn’t need. She had admitted that she sometimes forgot to do it for months and Draco was thrilled about that little quirk, now. He lowered himself to one knee, reaching for a stack of papers he had shoved to the floor in his haste.

He rifled through them and his heart almost stopped beating. He had made fun of her for this note to him, but now he was ecstatic that she had been paranoid enough to write it.

He felt triumph course through his veins when he saw the coordinates of Harry’s house written on the paper that also stated the time she left her flat and the clothes she was wearing.

Draco clenched the paper in his hand tightly, rumpling it, before turning into apparation with a victorious gleam in his eye.


Chapter 10: Chapter Ten
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]




Chapter Ten

The victorious gleam in Draco’s eye faded the moment he entered Potter’s dilapidated cottage. It was clearly uninhabited at this point. He let himself inside and was repulsed by the state of the place; couches were worn down and broken, dirty plates were left out, and in a stint of morbid curiosity Draco opened the fridge, only to cringe back in disgust at the mouldy food inside.

He scoured the tiny house, looking for any hint or sign of where Hermione could have been taken, but found nothing. He was standing in the bedroom when his eyes landed on the glinting form of a ring.

The Potter family ring, to be exact.

Draco approached it slowly, his heart beating much faster in his chest than it had been mere moments before, and eyed it suspiciously. Deciding not to take any chances he went into the bathroom in search of a wash cloth or hand towel, but the state of both were disgusting enough for him to back away slowly. He saw a semi-clean roll of toilet paper on the counter and decided that was probably his best bet. He unravelled a bunch, wrapping it around his hand multiple times before approaching the ring. He picked it up carefully, trying not to touch it with any exposed skin. He didn’t think that it would affect him, but he wasn’t taking any chances after remembering Dumbledore’s hand in their sixth year of school.

He managed to pick up the ring with only toilet paper and he transferred it to his pocket, planning to destroy it the moment he got back to Hermione’s flat. He continued looking around Potter’s house for anything that could be a clue.

Anything at all.

There was nothing. There were no helpful documents in this abysmal house that would be of any use, so instead of spending anymore of his time in the probably disease infested area, he apparated away to deal with the ring.

/////

Hermione opened her eyes and let out a slight whimper, terrified beyond belief when she realized that she was being held in chains in a room that was pitch black. She had a moment of relief where she realized that she was clothed, but other than that she felt that every other aspect of her horrendous dreams were about to come true.

“Hermione,” she heard a low voice mumble, and jumped, her chains clanking on the stone wall behind her. “It’s about time you opened your pretty little eyes.”

The room flooded with light, and Hermione could see lanterns placed at strategic intervals all around the cell she was currently in.

“Let me go, Harry,” Hermione said in a commanding tone, “You don’t need anything from me, I have no information for you. It’s time for you to let me go, Harry.”

Hermione was desperately trying to take control and not allow Harry to know how frightened she was. She immediately regretted the tiny whimper she let escape when she opened her eyes, not knowing that Harry was standing off to her right, but she was trying to negate that now with her powerful tone.

“I don’t think I will,” he said, and Hermione watched him check his fingernails for dirt in a very ostentatious manner, almost as though he didn’t have a care in the world. At this point he seemed less crazy and more sociopathic, and she wasn’t sure what to think about the change in his demeanor.

“Draco will search for me, Harry.”

That seemed to be the wrong thing to say as Harry was immediately agitated, his collected demeanor dropping quickly to be replaced with rage.

“He won’t find you,” Harry said through a clenched jaw, “He will never find you Hermione, and you’re mine now.”

“I’m not yours,” Hermione said quietly, watching her old friend with barely suppressed fear.

Harry made the very sudden conclusion that Hermione would have to be completely broken before she would realize what he had known all belong: she was, ultimately, Harry Potter’s girl. She needed him almost as much as he needed her, because if he didn’t get to have her, he would kill her.

She just didn’t know that yet and he honestly really would prefer to not kill her; he had been having too many fantasies for too many years about the witch in front of him. He was determined to re-enact a few of them in case it came to the point where she had to be terminated.

But he wanted to fuck with her a little bit beforehand, almost the way a cat would to a mouse before going in for the kill.

“We’re going to play a little game, Hermione,” Harry said in a sinister way, standing before the girl with his wand held tightly in his hand, a look of concentration on his face.

Hermione shivered, the little hairs on her body calling to attention from the sound of his voice.

“I learned a neat little spell a few months ago.”

He wanted her to ask what it was, she just knew it, but she kept her mouth shut and glared at him. She wasn’t going to give in to his psychosis that easily.

Not happening.

“Fine,” he bit out harshly, his palm itching to slap the defiant look off of her face, “If you want to make this harder than it has to be, so be it!”

Hermione’s chin lifted with pride almost fractionally, very reminiscent of Draco Malfoy and Harry had to smother a growl.

In one swift movement he lifted his wand and pointed it directly at her face, “Pessimum somnum exterreri solebat” he grated out, and Hermione went limp against the chains holding her as a pale green light shot into her, her face a mask of fear even though she seemed to be unconscious for a fleeting moment.

/////

Draco was tired.

Not only physically, but mentally too.

He had been searching and pushing himself and his resources to the limit for two days, and with no sleep and barely any food he was hitting a mental wall. He was to meet with Pansy the next day for information, but she had already told him in her snippy response to his owl that she had no information he wanted.

He wanted to meet her anyway. She might know something that she wasn’t even aware of and he would try to get it out of her.

Draco burst into the Ministry frantically, mere moments after he had destroyed Harry’s Horcrux in Hermione’s living room. He stabbed the ring with the sword that was in his briefcase, ignoring the shockingly scary image of Harry that bloomed from the inside, assuring Draco that it was he Hermione loved and not the blond man.

He was in the middle of shouting at an Auror, and probably making no sense, when Molly and Arthur Weasley shoved their way into the room, Ron in tow.

Draco stopped his tirade immediately and took in the sobbing figure of Molly, confused. Had they heard about Hermione somehow, already?

“Why haven’t you found her yet?!” Molly screamed at the man behind the desk, and Draco was at a loss. How would they have found Hermione already when he was just reporting it now?

“I assure you, Mrs. Weasley, that we have been looking non-stop, but with the little information you have given us it will take some time to track her down.”

“I just want my baby back,” she said, succumbing to a fresh bout of tears. Her husband and youngest son patted her arm and back accordingly.

Draco turned his back on the family and continued barking at the man, screaming about how he wanted every available Auror on the case, searching for his beloved and the psychotic man known as Harry Potter.

“Hermione is missing?” Ron asked, stepping away from his family and closer to Draco, who cut off his yells and nodded to the red head.

“Ginny is as well. Actually, no one has seen her since her meeting with you.”

“With me?! That was days ago.”

“I know.”

Draco was speechless, he stared at the red haired family for a moment before realizing that he and Hermione had encountered Harry that evening.

“Oh, Merlin.”

“What?”

“Do you know anything at all?”

Ron’s parents were watching their exchange now, and Arthur shook his head, “As far as we can tell, she just vanished.”

“I think I have a pretty good idea where she is.”

He looked up into the hopeful eyes of the girl’s parents and felt his stomach clench, he didn’t think it was good news.

“I think she’s in the exact same place as Hermione. With Harry.”

Ron paled considerably and in unison he and Draco turned back to the Auror, determined to get Harry Potter found, which wasn’t going to be an easy task since no one really knew much about him, anymore.

Draco extracted himself from the Weasley’s and made his way to the Daily Prophet, where he bullied his way in to get a meeting with the editor. After fifteen minutes he was sitting in an office with the balding man and a fat reporter, who was taking notes in shorthand, never taking his beady eyes off of Draco.

They ensured Draco, after some gold changed fists, that they would have an article about the disappearances of both Hermione Granger and Ginny Weasley in the morning, afternoon, and evening editions of the Prophet by the next day. The article would also contain the news that Harry Potter had definitely abducted Hermione and was only suspected in the disappearance of Ginny, and Draco put out a fifty thousand galleon reward for information on Harry Potter’s whereabouts, as long as it resulted in finding either female.

Hermione was obviously his top priority, though, but he knew that she would want Ginny found as well.

Even though Draco was pretty sure that the witches were together, out there somewhere, probably being starved and tortured.

That mental image did nothing to make the tightness of his chest fade.

Draco sat alone in the kitchen nook of his manor, trying to force himself to eat some soup that his house elves had made. He was sure it tasted good, but to him it tasted like nothing. He rubbed his hands down his face and sighed loudly; he really didn’t want to be sitting alone doing nothing when his girlfriend had been abducted by a deranged psychopath, but he wasn’t sure what else he could do at the moment.

He was out of ideas.

He tapped his fingers on the tabletop a few times before giving up his attempts to eat and dragging himself to his bedroom, where he tossed and turned for an hour. He finally got sick of himself and apparated to Hermione’s flat, choosing to stay in her scent and surroundings until he had her back in his arms.

He pulled her blankets on her bed over his head, laying on his stomach with his face crammed into the pillow and breathed in her specific smell.

He slept like a baby.

He jerked awake after a few hours of rest because of the unusual dream he had been experiencing and left her bed quickly, watching it as though there was a monster beneath it.

And maybe there was.

Draco felt like a fool while on his hands and knees, looking beneath her bed while his heartbeat raced, but he let out a breath when it proved to be empty. He just had a bad feeling, an icky feeling that he was unable to place.

Then some of Pansy’s words about Harry floated back into his consciousness, “I caught him rolling around in your bed one day… naked, and it seemed like something he had done many times before.”

Draco had a sudden urge to shower in very hot water and scrub off as much skin as possible and he apparated to his manor to do just that, realizing that he had most probably just slept in Harry Potter’s sweat… and other unmentionables.

He was in the shower, his skin deep red from the heat of the water burning off his skin cells, when the fact that he may never get to see Hermione alive again hit him in the chest, like a sledgehammer to the ribs. He may not ever again see her smile, her sparkling eyes, and her head thrown back in passion while she writhed below him. He used every ounce of self-control that he possessed to keep himself from breaking down like some chick.

He needed to check the paper when he was out of the shower to make sure that the prophet had printed his advertisement.

He needed all the help he could get, at this point.

Draco just desperately wanted Hermione back.

He made sure that he was completely composed before heading for his meeting with Pansy; that insufferable twat didn’t need to see how torn up he was about everything. She would use it against him somehow, he just knew it.

“I found and destroyed the ring,” Draco told her, reaching out a somewhat trembling hand to pick up his cup of tea, his mouth twisting into a grimace at the taste.

Pansy nodded stiffly, but didn’t say anything.

“I need to know if Potter mentioned any dwellings that he owns. Other than his ridiculous cottage, that is.”

“I don’t know.”

“He didn’t mention anything about owning any other property?”

“No.”

Draco suppressed and irritated sigh. “Pansy, if you know anything I need to know. I really hope you aren’t withholding any information from me because you’re upset about my relationship with Hermione.”

“I’m not withholding anything, Draco, I just honestly don’t know. He never said anything about other properties, but it’s possible. I just don’t know.”

Draco growled in frustration, ducking his head into his hands.

“You’re very torn up about this,” Pansy commented dryly.

“I just need her back.”

“I’ve moved on,” Pansy said suddenly, changing the subject.

Draco nodded, at a loss of what to say, but then he came out with, “You move quickly.”

It had only been two days, after all.

“Marcus Flint,” Draco nodded, not overly caring about this tidbit of information, but glad that he didn’t need to worry about her being a problem in his life, and then Pansy said, “I saw your ad in the Prophet today, fifty thousand Galleons is a lot of gold, Draco, they are going to have all sorts of freaks coming out of the woodwork.”

Draco sighed again, “I didn’t know what else to do and if even one of those freaks leads us in her direction then I will be forever grateful and will gladly pay the gold.”

“You love her.”

Pansy sounded distinctly sad.

“I think I do,” he answered.

“I’m sorry I can’t be of more help. If I knew anything I honestly would tell you.”

The tone of her voice led Draco to believe otherwise. He didn’t think Pansy would help him anyway, but he was unsure that she had any helpful information. She was watching him throughout their entire meeting with a shrewd, knowing look on her face that was causing Draco to feel more than a little bit uncomfortable. He placed his vile tasting tea onto the table and stood to leave, watching her warily for a moment as she moved to stand as well.

“I need to go,” He said, walking away from the black haired witch without another word. He noticed on his way to the door that Pansy had three large suitcases in the foyer.

Taking a trip, he thought to himself as he walked away from her manor without looking back once.

/////

Draco went directly home from Pansy’s place, his face stinging with the realization that he was about to do something he hadn’t done since his mother passed.

Cry.

He almost felt ashamed about it but couldn’t bring himself to get there. He was an emotional mess, at this point, and the only way he knew how to fix it was to have his girl safe with him.

He composed himself as he dropped down at the kitchen table and his elves brought him all the fixings he needed to make himself a tea. He hadn’t been sitting there for more than two minutes when he heard knocking in the distance. He just sincerely hoped that Tippy had the foresight to turn any visitors away, he was obviously not in the right mindset to be entertaining.

He took another sip of his tea, grimacing at the fresh memory of the dreadful concoction Pansy had prepared for him when Blaise burst into the room.

“I just read the paper! Why didn’t you tell me beforehand?!”

Draco didn’t say anything. He would prefer not to point out how busy he had been the last few days.

“I haven’t had much time to make social calls,” Draco grated sarcastically when he realized that Blaise was indeed waiting for a serious answer.

He moved into the kitchen and joined Draco at the table, making himself a cup of tea as well, “I’m not going anywhere, now. Not until we find her.”

“We?”

“Yes. We. I’m not leaving you alone during this.”

“Go home to your wife, Zabini, I don’t need your pity.”

“I’m not here to give you pity, Draco, I’m here to help you find someone who’s very important to you. She went out of her way to help me, in a roundabout way, of course, with this curse business. It’s the least I could do to help you track her down. Now tell me everything you know.”

Draco stared at him.

“You want to help me?”

“Yes.”

“Then please go to Pleasure Bound in Diagon Alley and tell the employees working there what I’m about to tell you.”

“Hermione’s store? Maybe that’s something you should do…”

Draco was already shaking his head, “I won’t. Either you tell them or they stay out of the loop.”

Zabini sighed, staring at Draco. Then he realized that Draco’s eyes were reddened around the rims and that his voice had a distinctive catch to it and concluded that Draco had recently been crying. Maybe relaying the news would be too hard for him; Blaise knew that he wouldn’t want to break down in front of adoring female fans - that was for sure.

Blaise took a deep breath and nodded.

/////

Ginny Weasley was certain that Hermione had been captured by Harry as well, and as far as she could tell the poor girl was getting it worse than Ginny could ever have even imagined. She heard commotion a couple days prior, as much as she could ascertain in the continuous dark, and then everything was silent for a few minutes until she heard a girls voice yelling.

The yelling had quietened down, which Ginny was immensely grateful for at the time; until it turned into loud moans and sobs, which would then change to screaming and pleading.

She wished it was back to yelling.

Ginny had tried to call out to Hermione on numerous occasions, but the girl either couldn’t hear her or was totally out of it and unable to reply.

Harry had stopped coming to her cell and harming her since he had brought down his new captive and Ginny was grateful for that. Grateful other than the fact that it seemed as though Harry had completely forgotten she was there, and she hadn’t had a scrap of food or even a sip of water for a couple days. Her lips were dry and cracked and her throat was so dry that even breathing hurt, her stomach was passed the painful hunger now and was just dreadfully and achingly empty. Her eyes had long ago accustomed to the scant light and she was able to see even the smallest of movements throughout the dark, dank dungeons. She knew that even though it seemed like Harry had forgotten her, his snake continuously kept guard and sat near the door of her cell, watching her.

Ginny was weak and even trying to call to Hermione seemed to take too much energy.

She shivered, the only clothes that she had were her knickers, but after being down here for quite some time they weren’t very effective at all, anymore.

Fresh screams were suddenly overtaking the dungeons and Ginny cringed in horror when she first heard them. She became more horrified when she saw Harry slowly pass her cell without even a glance in her direction toward Hermione, looking as though he wanted to sneak up on the poor chestnut haired witch.

Like they weren’t going through enough terror as it was.

/////

Hermione gained full consciousness and was hanging from the manacles around her wrists; she had lost the energy to hold herself upright at least a day ago and her wrists were damaged and sore from the cold metal digging into them. After she had a specifically awful attack she would be able to feel blood dripping down her arms from her wrists chafing against the cold steel.

Hermione was tired. She hadn’t slept, except for some dozing on the edge of consciousness for a few blessed moments here and there, since she was forced into the dungeon she referred to as her own personal hell hole.

She was worried that she was going to lose her mind before she got out of there.

Hermione was so spent that she had to consciously use everything in her willpower to continue taking the next breath that she needed to survive, but she was going to get out of this because she was determined to see Draco again.

She needed to see Draco again, because she had to tell him something. She really didn’t think it would be fair on her part to give in to death before he had the pleasure of hearing her words.

Hermione stiffened marginally when she heard shuffling footsteps and her cell door creaking open, her entire body was weary and also so sore that she sometimes felt as though her skin was aflame. Despite the aching in her joints, she got her feet beneath herself properly and stood tall, almost like she was completely unfazed by the torture she had been subjected to for the last two days.

She would not let Harry see her fear in her lucid moments.

“Hermione,” he whispered, and she lifted her head marginally, trying to supress her fear and look him in the eye. Her cell was flooded with light again and she found herself wishing that it would just stay dark.

“What, Harry?” she asked, her voice weak and pitiful, scratchy from the screams and lack of water.

“Are you mine yet?”

She refused to answer this question; he posed it to her every single time he came into her cell. Instead she arranged her facial features into the most defiant look she could muster.

It was probably a sad sight to behold, considering the dried blood on her face.

“Want to tell me about your latest vision?”

She had enough energy in her to scoff and roll her eyes slightly.

“I’m pretty sure you already know what it was.”

“I don’t,” he said, staring at her in a way that was completely unnerving, “They’re based on your worst memories, fears, and nightmares. They take your memories and make them worse, take your fears and nightmares and play them out for you in the worst way possible, but I have no idea what they are.”

“And it will stay that way,” Hermione spit out, sneering at Harry. She wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of hearing the things he was putting her through and she had a tiny feeling that he wouldn’t be overly happy to hear that most of her visions featured Draco Malfoy being tortured, attacked or dismembered.

Harry was probably delusional enough to think that her worst fear or nightmare had something to do with his safety.

Hermione almost rolled her eyes again, just at the thought.

He took a step back at the sneer on her face and Hermione found herself oddly proud of the fact that she had learned to imitate Draco’s facial expressions. It was probably unnerving to see them displayed on her face in such a situation, and she knew from seeing the look aimed solely at her for a few years from her blond haired boyfriend when they were younger that the look was, indeed, demoralizing.

Anything that gave her even a sliver of feeling like she had the upper hand, at this point, made her proud. It was a sad reality that a mere look on her face could give her even the tiniest glimmer of power.

“You’ve spent too much time with him,” Harry said, glaring at her again. “I’ve had some time to do some thinking,” he began, and Hermione almost scoffed again. She didn’t think that Harry’s thinking was even nearly as sane as it should have been, “I’m thinking that you stole the stone after the war and have it on you at all times.”

“What?”

Had she heard him right?

“The stone!” he screamed, advancing on her while pulling a knife from his robes.

“I don’t have the bloody stone, Harry. It’s in the forest where you dropped it.”

“I’ve looked. It isn’t there.”

“So that means that I’ve stolen it?”

“Either after the war or at Hogwarts the other day. You still haven’t told me what you were doing there.”

“I’ve told you, I was visiting the Headmistress.”

“Liar!” he hollered, his voice ringing around the dank cell she was being kept in.

“If you tell me right now where it is, I won’t have to search you.”

“I don’t know where it is!”

As a testament to both of their muggle upbringings, Harry advanced slowly and began to cut her shirt off deliberately with the knife, bringing the point of it close to her body on too many occasions for her liking. She was whimpering before she realized that Draco would probably be disappointed if she showed Harry how afraid she was, so she immediately stifled any sounds from escaping her lips. Somewhere in the recesses of her brain she was upset that Harry was ruining her T-Rex shirt; it was one of her favourites, after all.

Her mind came back to the present when she felt the knife on her hipbone; she glared Harry in the eye from a foot away, but he wasn’t deterred in the slightest and cut her pants off slowly, leaving her in only her knickers, all the while mumbling about finding the stone beneath her skin.

Her eyes widened from his insane ramblings, but she stayed still since Harry was still holding the blade close to her.

“Now, where oh where would she hide it?” he asked himself in a sing-song voice. Hermione stared at him in surprise, his mind was obviously deteriorating with his isolation and fantasies, but to hear someone speak to themselves in such a way was incredibly daunting. Harry leaned forward without any other word or warning and sunk the tip of the blade into her forearm, twisting it around and removing a large piece of her flesh. She bit down a scream and as soon as the pain dulled fractionally she couldn’t help the words that spilled from her lips in contempt, even though she knew they would make Harry extremely angry.

Her own desperation disregarded the warning of pain that was about to come to her with what she said.

“I don’t have the stone, Harry, nor do I know where it is, but I think that you should know even if you did find the stone, you wouldn’t be the master.”

Well, that stopped him.

He removed the blade from her arm, causing blood to rush into her armpit and down the side of her body before pooling at her left foot. She hadn’t screamed and she found herself somewhat proud of her reaction to this situation.

She couldn’t wait to tell Draco about that feat.

“What do you mean?” he hissed.

She smiled, her dry lips cracking with the effort, and she was sure that she looked insane when it widened into a toothy grin.

“Draco has the Elder Wand.”

Harry snapped.

Hermione hadn’t anticipated the beating that she would receive from spouting off such words. Her nose was broken for sure and her jaw felt almost swollen. She had bitten her tongue at some point, and could taste the coppery tang in her mouth from that and her broken nose. Hermione was pretty sure that she felt a rib or two give beneath Harry’s fists, but in the rational area of her brain she knew her lungs were okay. She was still breathing, anyway, so they obviously weren’t punctured. Hermione felt numerous cuts join the bruises on her body, and she was on the cusp of consciousness when she heard Harry hiss the words that she had come to fear above all else. They did exactly what Harry had explained; took her memories, fears and nightmares and made them even worse than she could have ever imagined.

She had to watch them all play out in front of her and she desperately hoped that Draco made it to her before she completely broke and lost her mind. She finally told Harry about Draco having the Elder Wandin a fit of rage, but it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing because he would surely track the blond wizard down. Hermione knew as soon as she saw the look on Harry’s face when she mentioned the wand that the moment he left her, he would try to find Draco.

Harry had lost his mind and was completely different than he was when they were children, he was hot-headed now; he didn’t think about his actions before acting; Hermione had every intention of using that against him.

Hermione only hoped that Draco would have his wits about him and follow Harry back to her, somehow.

That thought was keeping her sane, and her eyes fluttered as Harry muttered, “Pessimum somnum exterreri solebat”, and every sane thought flew from her mind for the time being; it was too busy being tormented, now.


Chapter 11: Chapter Eleven
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]




 

Chapter Eleven

Draco burst into the Auror office of the Ministry, Blaise trailing behind him at a more leisurely pace, and was glad to see that there weren’t any extra Aurors lounging around. At least it seemed like they were taking him and his girlfriend’s abduction seriously.

Blaise had kept his word and stayed by Draco’s side since he spoke to him in the kitchen. He hadn’t been home or anything, he devoted his entire being to helping Draco figure things out and even though it was annoying, Draco was also strangely grateful to have his friend around.

Not that they had made any progress in finding Hermione.

Draco breezed into the back office without knocking and before he could even say a word, the desk jockey said, “Nothing of importance yet. We’ve had numerous owls and floo calls, but as of now none of the information seems to be leading us anywhere.”

Draco let out a breath in a huff and sat down quickly, Blaise taking a chair to his left. He was honestly hoping for good news.

“I have something to talk about.”

“What is it, Mr. Malfoy?”

“Hermione is brilliant and I’m thinking she’s going to try to get Harry to come to me. I’ve been thinking it through the last couple days and it seems like something she would do. I have something he wants.”

“And he’s going to come to you?”

“Well, I don’t know that for certain, but I think she’s going to try and get him to approach me. Although he won’t just approach me - I think he’ll attack me - but either way she’ll be trying to get him to come to me so I can follow him. I don’t know if it’s going to work though, since he’s completely lost it and will probably just attack me and leave without waiting for answers. If he does come for me… I hate to say this –“ Draco stopped speaking and dropped his head into his hands for a moment, his sadness palpable, but he took a steadying breath before continuing, “- if he comes for me, I think that will mean that she’s not doing so well. It means that she’ll be more than desperate to get me there.”

“Well it could just mean that she needs to get out of there. I mean, we have all come to terms with the fact that he didn’t abduct her to take her to his home for tea and crumpets.”

“You don’t know her like I do, she wouldn’t want to endanger me in any way unless she absolutely had to. She’s stubborn and ridiculous but she’s loyal to a fault; she wouldn’t do it unless it was her last resort.”

“Do you think it’s a likely possibility? For him to track to you down?”

“It’s been seven days, I think it’s more probable, at this point.”

“Well, let’s take the ordinary steps then, yes?”

/////

“Hermione?”

Hermione’s eyes snapped open when she heard her name because it was a completely different voice than she was used to hearing.

“Hello?” she asked faintly, her vocal cords rubbing on her dry throat.

“Hermione!”

The voice calling to her was echoing slightly around the damp cell and Hermione wasn’t sure exactly where it was coming from.

“Who’s there?” she asked, fighting to keep the tears from her eyes. She was sick with a deep, dreadful sounding cough, she was tired, and she was ashamed to admit that she just wanted this to end. Death or not, it needed to end soon. She was hanging onto her sanity by a thread and she was frustrated that Harry hadn’t gone to find Draco when she gave him the information about the Elder wand days ago. She didn’t understand why he hadn’t gone, and she was disappointed in herself for thinking that two days in was torture.

This, this was torture.

“It’s me, Ginny.”

“Ginny? Help me, please!”

“I can’t Hermione,” and Hermione could tell that the girl was crying now, “I’ve been here even longer than you have.”

“You’re chained up too?”

“Yes, I’m so sorry, I wish I could help you.”

“Where are we?”

“I don’t know,” and then Ginny burst into chest heaving sobs. Hermione felt tears prickle her own eyes at the sounds coming from the other girl’s cell, but she couldn’t summon the energy to sob like her friend.

Harry had finally given Hermione food and water on day three, four, five, and six, but she hadn’t seen him for a while now, and that was worrying.

“When was the last time you saw Harry?” Hermione asked after Ginny got her sobbing under control.

“It’s been a while. What is he doing to you?”

Hermione groaned, moving her shoulders. Harry had changed her position in her chains. She was now wearing manacles that gave her some movement, chained lower on the wall so she was able to sit or lay on the cold stone floor. She was currently curled into a ball on the damp floor but she had lost the protection from even her knickers the first time Harry had raped her. He had taken all of her clothes and never gave them back. She was freezing and sore, tired and mentally damaged as well as physically, and she just didn’t understand why Draco hadn’t found her yet.

“Probably the same things he’s doing to you.”

Ginny didn’t answer that for a while, because she really didn’t want to tell her old friend that Harry had only beaten her a few times when she had first got there and then seemed to forget about her for a few days. He had remembered her after a while and brought her food and water, as well as a warm blanket – which totally stumped the red headed girl - but he seemed to be unsure with what to do with her now. Ginny feared that he would kill her soon. He couldn’t just let her go, obviously, which meant that death was the only choice that made sense.

“Maybe,” she said non-committedly. Ginny had been able to hear many of the things Harry had inflicted upon Hermione, and she knew for a fact that he had raped the poor girl at least four times, judging by the noises she had been hearing.

“He’s been gone a while, Hermione, maybe he got captured or something.”

Hermione didn’t answer.

She didn’t want to say anything about the idea she had planted in his head in case he was lingering somewhere, listening.

“How long has he been gone?”

“I don’t know for sure. A while though.”

“Guesstimate.”

“Well I fell asleep a few times, but if I had to wager a guess I’d say at least a full day.”

“That’s kind of strange.”

“Yeah,” Ginny agreed quietly, wondering if they would both starve to death before Harry came back.

Just then, an echoing bang made both females jump, their chains clanking against the stone walls and floors.

“Hello?” a deep male voice called.

An unfamiliar deep male voice.

“We’re in here!” Ginny screamed.

Maybe their salvation had finally arrived.

/////

Draco hadn’t been wrong that Harry would seek him out. On day eight of Hermione’s abduction, Draco decided to take a leisurely stroll in a park. Although he hadn’t decided that on his own and it definitely wasn’t leisurely.

He was freaking out.

The Aurors wanted him out in the open so that he would be able to be found easily by anyone attempting to contact him, namely Potter, and there were Aurors placed at strategic intervals all around the area. He was always within sight of at least one armed lawman, but that didn’t stop the frantic beating of his heart or the slight tremors in his hands.

Draco had just sat on a stone bench and unfurled that days Daily Prophet while trying desperately to appear at ease. Like this was just an ordinary day, on an ordinary bench while surrounded by ordinary people.

Nothing to freak out about, nothing at all.

The first thing he saw was his plea for information adorning the front page, which reminded him – as if he needed it – that this was not even close to being a typical day. He randomly flipped to the middle of the newspaper and gave it a snap to straighten it out and tried to pretend that he was reading the ad for Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions. He wasn’t, of course. His brain was going a million miles a second while he tried to slow down the beating of his heart and covertly wipe the sweat that was gathering on his brow.

He just had a feeling that this was going to be it. He could tell that something was going to happen; he couldn’t say how he knew, he could just tell.

Despite that, he still jumped in surprise when an angry Harry Potter appeared directly in front of him, yanking the paper out of his hands harshly and causing loose pages to flutter around them in an instant.

“Give me the fucking wand,” Harry snarled, his wand pointing directly at Draco’s heart the instant the paper was tossed to the side. Draco stared into the face of his girlfriend’s kidnapper and had to use every ounce of self-control he possessed to not whip out his own wand and start hexing the tosser to death; never mind the temptations of starting a muggle fight.

Those thoughts rushed through his brain while staring at the man he literally detested in about three seconds - moments before Harry had been ruthlessly stunned from the side and back simultaneously. The double curse lifted the dark haired wizard a couple inches off the ground before slamming him down harshly.

Draco smiled at the loud cracking noise Potter’s head made as it made contact with the concrete.

Harry was apprehended and apparated away within moments and Draco found himself back in the Auror offices of the ministry less than five minutes after the stunning spell hit his enemy, Blaise looking at him in triumph. The dark skinned wizard hadn’t been allowed to accompany Draco to the park, for obvious reasons, but he was granted access to wait at the ministry.

Draco accompanied a few lawmakers behind a one-way wall while Blaise kept his position in the waiting area; he wasn’t allowed to view the actual interrogation. Draco took a seat in a hard wooden, straight backed chair and sat forward, resting his forearms on his thighs. He could see Harry and the team of Aurors who were interrogating him, but Harry could not see him.

Although, with the way the maniac kept glancing at the empty wall and cracking a small, knowing smile, Draco had the distinct impression that Potter knew he was watching.

“What have you done with Hermione Granger?” was the question being asked at that moment, and a deranged grin broke out on Harry’s face, although he didn’t answer the question.

He had adamantly avoided answering all questions asked of him for seven hours before the Aurors finally decided to use Veritaserum.

Apparently it was ‘barbaric’, but if Draco had a choice in the matter the mad man would have had it forced down his throat within two minutes of stepping into the interrogation room. He couldn’t believe the time that these ‘professionals’ were wasting while his witch was being detained somewhere, and he didn’t shy away from voicing his opinion on that fact numerous times throughout the day.

Everyone ignored him, of course.

It was when he growled at Reynolds, an Auror sitting with him behind ‘the wall’, that Harry could have known he was about to be captured and decided to do away with Hermione before he came for Draco, letting her die a slow and painful death while they fucked around. He made his point clear that this monster was being treated much better than his girlfriend was; once that was brought up they decided to go ahead with the use of Veritaserum.

Apparently the Auror department didn’t like the threat of being sued by one Draco Malfoy.

Draco was tired and antsy at this point, but now that the Aurors were breaking out the big guns he was going to be giving them their full attention.

While a lawman was running out to get the potion, Draco left to get a large cup of coffee; he needed to hear everything first hand, even if it would kill him.

When he arrived back behind the glass with a few other lawmakers, he took a seat and riveted his attention on Harry, who was having the potion poured down his throat while stunned.

“Ennervate,” an Auror, Evans, spat at the dark haired man, who immediately perked up.

“Your name?”

“Harry James Potter,”

“The shape of your patronus?”

“A stag,”

“Do you have Hermione Granger?”

“Yes.”

“Why have you taken her?”

“I love her.”

“You knew she didn’t want to go with you?”

“Yes, and her oaf of a boyfriend tried to stop me, but I got her in the end.”

The man was grinning, and Draco saw one of the Aurors, Collins, flinch away at the sight.

“What have you done to her?”

Harry laughed, the sound making Draco break out in a light sweat, his heart beating furiously against his rib cage.

“Everything.”

“We are unaware what you mean by that, Mr. Potter. What have you done to Hermione Granger?”

Harry took a deep breath and began rattling out all of the things he had subjected the girl to, his voice completely void of emotion. Draco tried to blink back the tears when he heard Harry say that he made Hermione live through her worst fears and memories, her worst nightmares, for almost four days straight. Harry laughed when he started to explain how afraid she was, and how often she would scream for Draco Malfoy to help her. Save her.

When Harry started talking about using the Cruciatus curse on Draco’s girlfriend he was momentarily blinded by white-hot rage, and he had the strongest urge to throw something, break something violently, or wrap his hands around the raven-haired prick’s neck. Sobs started forcing their way out of his throat when Harry boasted about raping her. Harry tried to make it clear that Hermione had wanted it, and he was only doing her a favour, even though she had tried to fight him off and cried and screamed the entire time.

“How many times did you force yourself on the girl, Mr. Potter?”

“Seven.”

“Over the entire span of time you had her?”

“Oh no, seven times in two days. I was trying to make her come to terms with the fact that she wanted me before I took her, but on the sixth day I realized I would just have to show her.”

That was when Draco excused himself from the viewing room and sat behind a random Aurors desk. He needed a break, and then he felt pathetic because he needed a break from hearing about what had been happening, but his poor girlfriend had been living through it for over a week.

Blaise had fallen asleep atop one of the desks but jerked awake when Draco threw himself into a chair. They didn’t speak, but Draco could feel his friend’s eyes boring into him as he studiously avoided eye contact.

He didn’t need to see pity etched there, staring at him, he was already drowning in it.

Before he could even think about his actions he leaned forward to a small garbage pail and vomited violently into it. He could feel a hand on his shoulder and knew that Blaise had approached him, but he couldn’t bring himself to look at him. Draco instead focused on getting his breathing under control as the nausea subsided, he wiped his eyes while his head was still bowed, but he knew that Blaise would never comment on it.

Before Draco was totally pulled together a handful of Aurors came barreling into the room, slamming the door open so hard it smashed into the wall behind it. They were pulling on safety gear while moving toward the exit, but one stopped in front of Draco and Blaise and shouted, “Meet us at St. Mungo’s, Mr. Malfoy. We’re going to get your girlfriend, as well as Ginny Weasley.”

Draco was glad that he was sitting, because had he been standing he was pretty sure his legs would have given way.

“Where are they?!”

“Harry Potter’s residence!”

“That can’t be! I was there already.”

“He lives on an acreage, Mr. Malfoy. Apparently he has underground dungeons built in the forest. We have the exact coordinates.”

Draco wanted to avada himself for not checking the property thoroughly and he glanced at Blaise, who looked shocked beyond all recognition.

Blaise had accompanied Draco to Potter’s property just two days ago, in search of some sort of evidence.

Draco could have ended this days ago if he had been paying more attention to his surroundings, but then again, the Aurors had been to Harry’s cottage on more than one occasion as well and they hadn’t found anything either. That thought made him feel a tad better about himself.

/////

“We’re in here!” Ginny screamed, and Hermione couldn’t stop the whimper from tearing from her throat as the entire area was flooded with light.

She shielded her eyes for a moment, trying to get them used to the sudden onslaught of light before looking to her left. Ginny was there, naked as Hermione, but Hermione noted that she didn’t look hurt at all and even had a blanket covering her form.

Ginny looked at Hermione at the same time and her eyes widened in shock to see how brutal the other girl looked. Hermione was covered in bruises and cuts, dried blood covered her body and Ginny was surprised that she could even see out of her bruised and swollen eyes; the red headed witch tore her gaze away when she noticed all of the dried blood between Hermione’s thighs and the bruising in the shapes of fingers all along her ribs, hips, and outer thighs.  

In a twisted way, Ginny felt ashamed at the treatment she had received compared to Hermione. Hermione looked like she was drug through hell and back by her hair while Ginny had a couple faint bruises and a blanket to keep her warm.

A man approached Hermione’s cell quickly and thrust the door open before stepping into her space, but he faltered as the brown haired witch started screaming at the top of her voice. Her throat felt like it was ripping open from the fast vibrations of her vocal cords, but she didn’t care. The man backed away slowly, his hands held up to chest height in a placating gesture.

He wasn’t here to harm her, his hands said.

She kept right on screaming.

Her screams quietened to whimpers and the man attempted to speak to her in a low, soft voice, inching closer. Hermione’s eyes widened by his movements and she started kicking and hitting at him, spitting with fear.

The man left and went to free Ginny instead even though it had been made clear many times by his boss, who was being run by Draco Malfoy, that Hermione was the utmost priority.

Ginny was silent as her chains were taken off, wrapping her blanket around herself more securely as she stood up without a flinch of pain and was lead from the cold dungeons, probably to the hospital; leaving Hermione alone in the hell hole without a second glance.

Hermione knew it was completely irrational of her but she did not want anyone coming near her at all. The man then tried to release her manacles using magic instead of the key in his hand, which he had found just inside the door where Harry Potter said it would be, but his magic wouldn’t work in here.

“Miss. Granger, I’m here to help you,” the man said, taking another step inside the cell.

“Stop!” she screamed, and the man obeyed, “Don’t come any closer to me.”

“I just want to get you out of here.”

“Just stay away.”

“Miss. Granger,” the man said in a pleading tone, “It’s my job to help you.”

Hermione started to cry in earnest now, shuddering gasps as she tried to shield her naked body from the strangers around her.

“Go get Mr. Malfoy,” someone muttered, but Hermione couldn’t hear it over the sobs tearing from her throat, rolled up into a ball on the cold, damp stone floor.

/////

Draco was pacing in the waiting room of the hospital while Blaise sat off to the side watching his restless movements, his elbows on his knees and chin planted into the palms of his hands.

Both wizards felt like it had been a while considering the lawmen knew exactly where to go.

What was taking them so long?!

So many questions were pouring through Draco’s head as he continued his relentless pacing; he couldn’t sit still until his witch was brought to safety. The Weasley family burst through the door of the waiting area, causing Draco and Blaise to both look up expectantly but quickly resuming their poses when they realized who it was. The family rushed forward, spouting off questions immediately, but Draco waved them off as he paced. He couldn’t answer their questions right now.

Arthur, Molly, a redhead with long hair pulled into a ponytail, the one who married the Veela, and the surviving twin all sat down immediately, fear apparent in their eyes. Ron took to pacing as well, following Draco’s impatient footsteps.

All was silent except the light squeak of shoe soles on the linoleum floor from the two men’s movements.

Ron and Draco stopped suddenly, apparently hearing the commotion first, and the door to the room opened slowly. Draco’s heart plummeted as he saw Ginny Weasley tentatively make her way inside, surrounded by medical personnel and wrapped in a dirty gray blanket.

Molly Weasley shrieked and was on her daughter within seconds, pulling her into a tight embrace seconds before the rest of her family piled on, hugging and sobbing openly.

They dispersed after a moment, the healers telling them that she needed her space and turning away to lead them all to a separate room. When Ginny’s eyes fell on Draco she immediately began to tear up, her lower lip trembling hard while she tried to supress her tears.

Draco didn’t take that as a good sign and his stomach dropped somewhere near his shoes, his pacing stopped as he stared hard at a wall. Questions burning through his mind.

Why would they bring Ginny in first when it had been made very clear that Hermione was of utmost importance? He knew it wasn’t fair to say that her life was more important, but he was the one paying all of these imbeciles, after all.

Fear.

He hadn’t ever felt fear as strong as he was feeling it at that moment and that was saying something, considering he had a homicidal maniac living in his house for years while he was a teenager.

The door to the waiting area burst open again and this time a single Auror rushed through.

It was Evans.

“Mr. Malfoy, sir! We need your assistance immediately.”

“My assistance? With what?” Draco snapped at the man, joining his side and accompanying him down the hallway with Blaise silently bringing up the rear. His friend hadn’t spoken much or pushed his way into any of the situations that arose, but having him around had certainly helped Draco keep his head clear and his feet grounded throughout the entire ordeal.

“Miss. Granger… she won’t let anyone approach her. We figured you’d be the best bet. I tried to unlock her chains a few times but before I would even get a step or two into her cell she would lose it. Even clocked me in the side of the face,” he said, pointing to a small cut.

Draco took a deep breath before glancing at Blaise, who nodded and gripped one of the man’s arms while Draco took the other, allowing the Auror to side-along apparate them to the precise location.

/////

“Hermione?”

That was a voice she knew, a voice she loved, and she allowed her eyes to snap open and look into the grey ones she had longed to see for many long days.

He was standing in the doorway of her cell but he hadn’t stepped any closer; the toe of his shoes were stopped precisely at the line of the bars.

“May I come in?” he asked her, as though he was standing at the door of her flat and not the cell where she had been through so much.

Too much.

“Draco?” she asked, unsure if this was actually happening or if this was just another way for Harry to torture her.

“Yes, Hermione. It’s me,” Draco answered, trying to avoid hearing the harsh grate of her voice.

“Is it really?”

She seemed unsure and Draco was trying to keep himself together. He swallowed hard over the lump in his throat and took a cautious step forward.

She didn’t scream, so that was a good thing.

He crouched in front of her, still a good distance away, but stared into her face, willing her to understand that this situation was real, was happening. He wouldn’t allow his eyes to travel anywhere else on her body, not yet.

The state of her face was almost too much to bear.

“Draco?” she asked again, staring into his eyes with unbridled fear.

She was scaring him that was for sure. He was listening to her raspy voice and could hear the rattling in her lungs when she would take a breath and almost on cue she started coughing. Her cough was deep and sounded awful, and Draco just knew that it wasn’t a good thing.

She was sick.

Very sick.

“Yes, darling. Can I unlock your chains?” he asked slowly but clearly, he really didn’t want to spook her and she timidly nodded her head, not taking her eyes off of him.

Draco moved forward slowly, trying to avoid taking in her appearance. He couldn’t afford to break down right now, but the sight of the blood on her inner thighs almost made him lose his composure.

Once he was close enough to her arms he gently lifted one at a time by the manacle itself, trying to avoid touching her skin because he didn’t want to set her off, and used the key that Evans gave him to unlock the manacles on her destroyed wrists.

Draco moved away slowly, using all of his self-control to not pull her into a crushing hug and never let her go.

“Would you like my cloak?” he asked her, but she suddenly seemed confused by the situation again. The Aurors had warned him that she wasn’t completely lucid and they were unsure when she would be. They also explained to him that the type of torture she had been subjected to would probably still be messing with her head.

Victims of abduction who had this curse cast on them, not that there were many since the curse was so old, had said that they had envisioned themselves being saved on many occasions, only to have that vision warp rapidly to their captor abusing them; completely destroying their hope.

It was just another way to break the abducted, make them more malleable to the abuse that still awaited them.

Draco could clearly see that Hermione wasn’t sure whether this was actually happening or not; she was obviously having trouble determining what was real and what wasn’t. No wonder Ginny had looked at Draco in such a sad way when he saw her at St. Mungos.

The things he wished he could do to Potter.

“Hermione? You’re very cold, do you want to wear my cloak to warm up?”

She tilted her head slightly to the right, watching him closely.

Then she finally nodded.

Draco removed his cloak carefully before approaching Hermione slowly, his arms outstretched with his cloak held open. He felt almost like he was trying to approach a wounded wild animal, no sudden movements and keep facing forward, thank you very much.

Draco knelt down and flung his cloak around Hermione’s back, securing it at the neck while she snuggled into the warmth. Before Draco could talk himself out of it, he reached forward and ran one of his long index fingers down her cheek in an odd display of endearment. He had missed everything about her and he needed some sort of contact with her while still trying to keep himself in check.

Her eyes widened at his touch and Draco withdrew his hand quickly, worried that he had crossed some unseen line. Hermione’s lip started quivering and her eyes were quickly welling up with tears but she reached forward and copied his gesture exactly, with a whispered, “Draco?”

“Yes, love, it’s me.”

And the dam broke when Hermione let out a loud sob and threw herself into his waiting arms. Draco clutched Hermione’s shaking form to his body carefully but determinedly, he never wanted to let her go but he didn’t want to injure her, either. Draco was still crouched and Hermione was all but sitting on his knees, clenching her arms around his neck tightly, her fingernails digging into the backs of his shoulders while she sobbed hysterically into his chest.

Draco was unable to hold back his own tears and he knew he was whispering words of encouragement about her safety to his witch. He honestly couldn’t even bring himself to be embarrassed by the Aurors and his best friend surrounding them.

He was just so damn relieved to have her back.

“We need to take you to the hospital, okay love?”

Hermione nodded, not breaking her hold in the slightest and Draco readjusted her in his arms, one around her back and one under her knees, before standing up and carrying her out of the damned cell that had seen her broken in so many ways.


Chapter 12: Chapter Twelve
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]




Chapter Twelve

Draco was pacing again, this time outside the room that held Hermione because he had been barred entry while she spoke about everything that had happened to a mind-healer. She was undergoing tests and being healed all while she had to repeat everything that had happened to her for over a week.

Draco was beyond angry that he wasn’t allowed in the room. This was his girlfriend, he had just got her back and brought her to the hospital for safety, scared to have her out of his sight for a moment and she was taken away and he was barred from the room.

It was all complete and utter bullshit.

Blaise was seated on a chair in silence, watching Draco’s progress up and down the hallway. He chose to keep quiet at the moment, which was probably wise considering the volatile mood of his friend.

The door to Hermione’s room opened and a Healer poked her head out, causing Draco’s movements to stop abruptly.

“She’s asking for you,” the woman said to Draco, who ruthlessly barged past her without a thought, still angry about being kept out.

He rushed to her bed and felt his heart pluck in his chest at the sight of her. She honestly didn’t look much better than she had when he had carried her from the cell, and he momentarily wondered if these morons had even done anything at all.

“She won’t let us approach her, really, and she hasn’t spoken a word to our mind-healer other than how she wanted you in here.”

“Do you have any idea what she’s just been through?” Draco all but screamed at the idiot male healer beside him, “of course she doesn’t want strangers flocking around her demanding things,” Draco yelled, feeling like he was getting on a roll, but before he could continue he registered a small sound behind him.

He cut off his tanget completely and went to Hermione’s side. She was looking up at him with sad, pained eyes, and he knew that it would be a long time before he saw the familiar fire behind them… if ever.

“They’re here to help you, love,” he said to her, annoyed by the fools around him but knowing that they really needed to be given access to her. But honestly, why would she want a male healer?

“Just stay with me,” she whispered, gripping his hand so tightly it hurt. He readily agreed and pulled the chair beside her bed into a better position for him to sit.

And there he sat for hours, listening to Hermione tell the mind-healer all about her plight while Healers and aides did their best to fix her body. He listened to her story attentively, knowing that he would be visiting Harry Potter in Azkaban, knowing that he would gladly allow gold to exchange fists in order to see the man alone from time to time.

Whether Hermione approved or not.

The mind-healer had left shortly after Hermione’s story. They had offered her an obliviation but she had declined, as Draco knew she would. She was too headstrong to rid herself of those memories, preferring to heal her mind the natural way.

She had finally fallen asleep on the hospital bed facing Draco, her hand limp in his now that she had given in to the slumber awaiting her. He was watching her face while she was peaceful, the scars that may never completely disappear marring her perfect lips, one across her eyebrow, and one on her cheekbone, making him angry all over again. There were more on her body that would most likely be there for the rest of their lives.

Draco was scared to sleep in case he woke up and she was gone, but he began to doze off when a Healer was suddenly standing beside him. He jerked awake and held onto Hermione’s hand tighter now that there was another presence in the room.

“We’ve come across something deeply unsettling, Mr. Malfoy,” the Healer started, looking wary.

Draco didn’t say a word, just waited for the man to continue.

“We’ve done numerous blood screenings on Miss. Granger and I have personally redone the test four times just to ensure it’s correct. She has poison in her system… more to the point, Mr. Malfoy, she has been being poisoned for months now.”

Draco reeled back in surprise, his stomach fluttering nervously.

“What kind of poison?”

“Arsenic, we have Muggle-born healers here and they say that this used to be a preferred method of murder because it was virtually undetectable unless it was being specifically looked for. In the muggle world, that is. In our world, it’s very obvious on the blood screening.”

Draco’s mouth was dry.

“I don’t understand,” he said, almost stuttering, “How can she have been being poisoned for months now? I’ve been dating her for months already.”

“I am suggesting that you allow us to take blood and hair samples from you as well, Mr. Malfoy.”

Draco nodded dumbly, shock and confusion overtaking his brain.

He sat still as the healer took his blood and pulled out a few strands of his and Hermione’s hair.

“I’ll be back shortly,” the healer said, leaving Draco with the news that his girlfriend, and probably him as well, had been poisoned but with no helpful information whatsoever.

He had no idea if they would be alright.

Were they dying at this exact moment? Was the poison eating away at their organs as Hermione slept and Draco sat watching her? How would Harry have been giving them poison consistently over the last few months? Draco knew that Harry was breaking into Hermione’s flat, so it was clear how their food was poisoned there, but when they were elsewhere? When they were at the manor?

Draco had a sudden flashback of Hermione vomiting in his bathroom toilet….

He slowly let go of Hermione’s hand and left the hospital room, glad beyond anything that Blaise, bless his soul, was still lounging on a chair outside.

“Blaise,” Draco said, and found that he had to clear his throat a few times before he could speak properly.

 The dark skinned man jumped slightly when Draco spoke his name, but he instantly schooled his features so that he looked alert.

“I need you to go in and stay with Hermione for a while.”

“Where are you going?”

“I need to find someone,” he said, noticing that his voice was coming out almost monotonous.

“What’s happened?” Blaise asked, standing up so that he was on the same level as Draco. His blond friend was giving off intense vibes, but Blaise didn’t know what they were about.

Draco was definitely scaring him.

“I’ll be back as soon as I can,” Draco said, already backing away from his friend.

He needed to find Pansy.

/////

He appeared outside of Parkinson Manor moments later, but the estate felt too quiet. There were no signs of life.

Draco approached the door anyway and beat on it with his fists so hard he was surprised that it hadn’t fallen in, but after a few minutes he had to concede that there was no one home. Pansy had left.

He knew she was acting weird the last time he saw her, stranger than usual, anyway, and her packed bags should have been a dead give-away that she was more involved than she was willing to let on.

Harry Potter couldn’t have been poisoning them. He didn’t have access to Malfoy Manor.

Draco felt the familiar rage bubbling in his gut as he realized just how betrayed he had been by someone that he had once considered a friend. There was no one else it could have been.

Before he got too carried away he remembered that he didn’t know for a fact yet if he had been poisoned as well, but remembered how lethargic he had been feeling, the way nothing tasted good but specific food… food that was prepared directly following Pansy’s visits. He recalled both his and Hermione’s recent vomiting episodes and wanted to smash something violently.

That fucking bitch, Draco thought angrily, grabbing the door handle tightly and shaking it roughly, trying to force his way into her house.

Not that it would have mattered.

She’d be long gone, by now.

Draco would find her.

One day.

/////

The door to the hospital room opened slowly and Blaise caught his breath as Draco stood still on the threshold, the shadows catching his face made him look almost skeletal and bloody dangerous.

“Has she been asleep the whole time?”

“Yes, and the healer was here not too long ago; he asked to see you as soon as you returned.”

Draco backed away slowly, the door closing shut in his wake.

Blaise shuddered.

Something was definitely not okay.

/////

“You mean to tell me that both Hermione and I have been ingesting poison for at least three months?”

“That’s what I’m telling you.”

“Why hasn’t it killed us, yet?”

“It’s been very low dosages, enough to make you sick without really questioning it or taking it too seriously. Either the person who was giving it to you was unaware exactly how long it takes to poison someone in this method, or they thought they had more time.”

Draco growled low in his throat, an ominous sound that made the healer take a cautious step away.

“Fortunately, after some good meals to deal with the anemia you both have, some frequent visits to our establishment and no more poisonous food, you will both recover fine.”

“And what of the person who poisoned us?” Draco asked, his shoulders loosening already, relieved that there would be no long term consequences for him or his witch.

“Harry Potter, I presume? We’ll just add a few other charges to his court hearing.”

“But… if it wasn’t Potter?”

The healer looked surprised, and then his features quickly darkened while he explained to Draco that if he had no proof of who he suspected it to be, it wouldn’t be taken seriously.

Draco nodded along, a small smile on his lips. He knew Potter was involved in the poisoning as well, and that it was probably the insane man’s idea… but that didn’t mean Pansy wasn’t involved at all. Plans were already forming in his mind, but he knew that he wouldn’t be gracious enough to make it a prolonged sickness.

Oh no. That definitely wouldn’t do.

“I’m sure it was Potter,” Draco told the somewhat confused Healer, “I don’t know who else it would be and with his open hostility for both myself and Miss. Granger… well it only makes sense.”

“Yes,” the healer said, nodding.

“I’m going to get back… if there’s nothing else?”

“I’ll be in tomorrow morning to start treatment on you both, you should probably get some rest, Mr. Malfoy. The entire hospital is being monitored for press, so you shouldn’t be bothered while you’re here.”

“Thank you,” Draco said, the small smile still gracing his lips, causing the healer to stop for a moment and think of the Malfoy family’s past before shaking his head. He gathered his things and continued getting ready to head home, the smile on Draco’s face leaving his mind the moment he stepped out of St. Mungos.

/////

Draco took the seat that Blaise vacated just moments before, his friend deciding to finally go home to his wife and get some proper rest. He picked up Hermione’s hand after thanking his friend profusely for all of the help he had given, for searching restlessly and giving up his own time to keep Draco somewhat sane.

“It’s over now,” he murmured quietly, his lips brushing across the knuckles of her hand lightly.

Relief was the deepest feeling he had at the moment, but he knew that at some point he would find Pansy Parkinson and make her pay for what she had done to the most important person in Draco’s life.

Oh yes. She would most definitely pay.

“Draco?”

Grey eyes snapped up and met the wide, somehow still innocent brown ones. The scars on her face were completely obvious in this lighting and he suddenly found that he loved those scars. He loved those scars because she was still here, she was alive and fighting, she was… everything.

He honestly wasn’t sure what he would have done if he never got her back. The last week seemed like a long drawn out nightmare, but thinking about what would have become of him if she wasn’t okay was killing him inside.

“Don’t cry,” Hermione said softly, tears shimmering in her own eyes; Draco was surprised by her words before he reached his free hand to his face and felt his wet cheeks with his cold fingertips.

Once the realization of his tears came to be he found his chest tightening uncomfortably, his throat burning like he’d never felt before and he stood up abruptly and crowded into Hermione’s bed with her. She clutched onto him tightly as her own tears started to fall, sobs ripping from her chest as Draco’s tears dripped onto her left ear, cheek and into her hair.

They stayed that way until they wept themselves to exhaustion, falling asleep on the small hospital bed clutching each other tightly, fearing to let go.

That was the beginning of healing for both of them.

/////

Hermione stood in front of a tall mirror, her stomach tight with nerves as she smoothed her hand over her white gown. She shared a small smile with herself, but she was also examining the scars that hadn’t diminished in the least over the last three years.

She didn’t hate them, anymore. They were hers.

Draco would sometimes run his fingers across them when they were relaxing; Hermione couldn’t help but notice that he did it more often after he had visited Harry in Azkaban. She tried to understand why he went there but she had only questioned him about it once before she came to the very real conclusion that she did not want to know what went on during their private meetings.

She reached up and ran her finger lightly down the scar on her eyebrow, remembering exactly how and when she received it, but she didn’t linger on the memory. She was passed it now, for the most part. Sometimes she still thought about it, and it took both herself and Draco ages to get by everything that had occurred, but they were stronger now because of it.

Their love was stronger now because of it.

Hermione allowed herself another small smile before she gently picked up a small bouquet of white roses and left the room in a swish of tulle.

Going to meet Draco for their important date.

/////

Draco was standing in a small ice cream store, waiting patiently for a scoop of gelato while his ears were trained on a conversation a few feet away.

“I’d much rather go to the theatre tonight,” a female voice with a slight whine was saying to her companion before taking a few bites of her own sugary treats.

The man let loose a deep sigh, obviously this had been discussed previously.

“I know that, but we’ve already agreed on attending this ball.”

“It’s for charity,” Pansy Flint whined at her husband, who just waved a general hand in her direction, batting her comment away.

They didn’t see the dark haired, pale skinned, blue eyed man standing a few feet away, watching their exchange closely. The man grinned as Pansy took the last few bites of her gelato, licking her spoon clean before placing the bowl onto their tiny little table.

“Well let’s go get ready for the ball then,” she said, standing up, but she immediately fell to the floor of the Italian shop in an undignified heap, catching herself on her hands and knees.

“Pansy!” her husband screamed, dropping down beside her quickly while she retched onto the floor. Her arms gave out and she was on her side moaning, holding her pained stomach tightly with her arms.

“What’s wrong?” Marcus Flint yelled, as Pansy started shuddering in agony, tears pouring out of her eyes as she continued throwing up on the previously gorgeous, immaculately clean tile. Patrons of the shop were running away quickly, leaving the store behind as employees tried to figure out what exactly to do since Marcus had refused an ambulance.

They didn’t need to go to a muggle hospital.

It was too late, anyway.

“Here’s your gelato, Sir,” a flustered employee said, passing Draco his treat in a Styrofoam take-away container. He was ready to get home to his pregnant wife; he was done with his business in Italy.

“Thank you,” he said pleasantly, turning away and smiling wider still as Pansy started vomiting blood.

Her eyes met his for a moment and he knew she recognized him as her pupils dilated in fear.

The last thing Pansy Flint, nee Parkinson, saw was a grinning, dark-haired, blue-eyed Draco Malfoy, licking a spoon and staring at her with a triumphant gleam in his eye.

End

 

A/N- Thanks to everyone who read this and reviewed... I just love this story! I really hope everyone enjoyed reading it! If you like my writing stiyle be sure to keep your eyes peeled for my next story, which is still unnamed at this point since I'm still writing it, but it's a doozy and my favourite so far!

xox Shananigans!


http://www.harrypotterfanfiction.com