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Disclaimer: Yours, mine, and ours, basically... ours being referenced to the JKR genius who was brilliant enough to think up of Harry Potter and company, and therefore making this site exist in the first place, along with my HP-influenced ideas... mine meaning, well, mine, naturally... and the yours directed to you, dear readers, for this latest installment is yours for reading pleasure. I thank those who have returned once more for chapter three and I hope that you will enjoy the ride once more, possibly leaving a review at the end... thank you and have a nice flight. *seatbelts-on ding*

And A/N: Unfortunately, this is it. This is the last chapter I had previously written and completed which meant I would be able to send it in for validation rather quickly once chapter two came out. After this one appears in Truth's inventory, I will have nothing. Nothing, I tell you! Unless, that is, I get some more creativity towards chapter four. I have a vague idea of what's to be written, and I'll try my hardest to get something out while chapter three (this one) is going through limbo, but I'm just forewarning you all. The lot of you have been the best since I started posting this story here and I really don't want to let you down with legnthy periods of time passing inbetween installments. *hopeful grin, minding bad pun*

To finish this off, though, I do hope you enjoy. I really adored writing a) Draco's sarcasm and smartassedness and the fact that Hermione completely refrained from, you know, bitch smacking him, b) McGonagall's words to Hermione, mainly because, if you really think about it, the wise kook she is did make an interesting point and I was surprised beyond belief to find myself actually writing it, and c) the entire exchange between Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and especially Ron's phrase that concludes this chapter. Because, if you know me, like those traveling over to Quizilla to check this story out, you would know that I sit in a throne when writing my multiple fic stories and wear a pretty little crown on my head that declares, "Princess of Foreshadow." Bow down. And have a nice read and day! *grins*

EDIT! This is just an act of stupidity and forgetfulness from yours truly, but it seems that I've confused Hermione and Draco's ages. And Harry and Ron's ages, for that matter. Maybe it's just me, but nevertheless, I'm going to get technical here, because I'm very Ravenclaw like that. Seven years have passed, as I have already said, seven years starting from when Harry and Draco were sixteen, and Ron and Hermione were seventeen. However, if you did the math (in which I didn't, because I suck in math), seven years later would not make either Hermione or Draco or even Harry or Ron twenty-five. If my calculations are correct, it would actually make Ron and Hermione around... twenty-four, I believe, with Harry and Draco around twenty-three.

For the story's sake, though, let us pretend! Let us pretend that it has been seven years since Hermione has last seen the likes (or hates, really) of Draco Malfoy and upon reuniting those seven years later, they are both twenty-five... somehow. Okay? Okay. Ownards!







-----







*dark look*Badass







Hey, the way you knock me down,
I get up again
Oh, pain, a remedy that can reach a sting
I'll keep holding and I'll keep trying,
to feel this fight, and then slowly die,
and now, look, I feel painless

All these restless nights
have left me spinning out of control
Is there not a cure for sorrow
All these faded lights
have made me search for something more
Will there be a new tomorrow

-Painless, Mae




Seven Years and Strange Feelings - October Eighth




"Ah, Miss Granger. I was waiting for your return. Is everything... all right?"

Hermione Granger was pissed, to be perfectly honest, but she certainly wasn't going to tell her once-was Transfiguration teacher that. Hiding her face as she slipped off her trench coat and placed it on the coat rack near the Grimmauld 12 study door, Hermione nodded shortly, trying desperately to calm down the temper burning inside of her. "No problems whatsoever, McGonagall," she strained, leveling her breathing as she stared at the closed door briefly, her thoughts still recoiling over her conversation with Malfoy.

Or, more or less, argument.

"What the hell are you doing here, Granger?" Malfoy asked her after a short moment of silence, his tone patronizing. "Do you know that this is Azkaban Prison? Do you realize who you're in the room with at the moment? I hardly think Potter or Weasley would agree to this..." Malfoy paused again, watching Hermione for a moment as she felt her jaw clench, a smirk of satisfaction appearing back on his sickly-pale features. "Or are you not with them anymore? It's been... six years, has it not? Maybe the three of you had a...falling out?"

"Seven years," Hermione corrected sharply, and Malfoy let out a brisk chuckle.

"Keeping track?"

"Watch your tone, Malfoy," Hermione advised, sounding stoic and possibly bold as an authoritized attitude unexpectedly began shining through her personality. "For your information, I'm fully aware that this is Azkaban Prison and the fact that I'm now sitting in the same room with Draco Malfoy, and while I'm sure Harry and Ron, who are still my friends, yes, even after seven years, would not agree to me doing this, it is not up for them to decide."

Malfoy raised one eyebrow, his smirk fading just a few degrees, which Hermione took as indication to drop the bomb.

"I am here because I was appointed by Minister Scrimgeour to your case," Hermione explained flatly, and Malfoy began muttering under his breath as he returned his hands to the back of his head, leaning back in his chair. "I have been given the full right as an Auror to the UK Ministry to question you—"

"Oh, give me a break."

"—on the crime you have been accused of, anything tied to your case, and anything else I see fit to ask—"

"You must be kidding me."

"--for the one-month that you are to be staying in Azkaban Prison—"

"Since I've been longing to stay here for so long now. It's like my second home, you see. I'm thinking about adding curtains."

"—which means, until November seventh, you will be taken to this questioning vicinity daily to see me—"

"One month of Granger. Sounds delicious."

"—where you will be interrogated for however long it takes to get answers."

"And what if I choose not to give you an answer?!" Malfoy roared, suddenly smacking the palm of his hands onto the desk, a snarl on his face as he glowered at Hermione. "Do I have any say so in this matter whatsoever?!"

Hermione gave him a blank stare, the irony of his question having the potential to be comical. "No, you don't," she replied, still allowing her friend called logic mull over her mind. This wasn't personal. This was still and forever would be business.

"You have two options, Malfoy," Hermione elaborated, getting gritty with the situation at hand. "It's either you sit here with me until your trial date and answer my questions civilly—"

"Because we've always been such a civil pair, right?" Draco interrupted with a snap, scowling vehemently.

"—or you stay locked up in your cell until your trial date do nothing but wait."

Malfoy silenced at this, and Hermione embraced the dead air of the room. Irritation against the prisoner, nevertheless, was grinding against her insides. She had a temper, and she was very well aware of that, but over the years she had grown to have a firm handle on her temper. After the chaos and trauma of the Final Battle, she had learned how to keep a firm handle on all of her emotions, anger especially. Yet, even after seven years, Malfoy still had the ability to nudge the wrong spots at the wrong times.

The noise of chair legs scraping against the granite floor was what caused Hermione to jolt out of her thoughts, brown eyes refocusing and staring directly at Malfoy as she watched him stand up from his seat, roughly walking towards the closed door of the questioning room. Hermione, brows furrowed, stood up abruptly just as Malfoy knocked twice on the door. "What are you doing?"

"What does it look like I'm doing?" Malfoy spat, not looking at her as he knocked on the door again impatiently. "I'm done in here. You may have been given the right from this Minister and that Minister to dig your paws into business that isn't yours, but I have the right to not cooperate. Which is what I'm doing, Granger. Not cooperating."

"I gave you two options, Malfoy, just two," Hermione began, clearly getting riled up again. "And out of them, you're deciding to be an insubordinate, little pain the ass and go back to your cell, of all places? That's the decision that seems more inviting to you?"

"I'm done in here!" Malfoy shouted out, banging on the door once again, and finally, the sound of someone muttering an incantation was heard from the other side, the door slowly opening.

Hermione saw Gus the guard that had promised he'd be waiting outside peek his head in, giving back-and-forth glances between the prisoner and the interrogator and apparently agreeing that the two were done for the day as his face disappeared for a moment and called over some fellow guards to assist him in taking Malfoy back to his cell.

"I asked you a question, Malfoy," Hermione reminded with a sharp voice, trying to breathe as normally as possible with her nerves on the edge. Against her better judgment, a piece of her temper abruptly bit out, "I thought a Malfoy like you was too classy to even breathe in such a place as revolting as a prison cell."

Three guards appeared out in the hallway, waiting for their prisoner to step out of the questioning room with their wands already at the ready.

Before he exited, though, Hermione heard Malfoy snicker mockingly, turning back around to face her with a mix between a smirk and snarl on his face, his body still as ailing as ever and his blue eyes vacant as they stared at her. "And I thought Mudbloods like you were too stiff to ever say an obscenity such as 'ass', but... things change, I suppose, right, Granger?"


He had left after that, backing out of the questioning room with his eyes still on Hermione just to see her reaction in that sick-sadistic pleasurable way. Even as she continued to stare at the closed door of the study, she still could feel the brick wall that had rammed into her at the sound of that word leaving his mouth again.

On the contrary, Hermione was completely immune to such a word now, occasions where the name would drift out of someone's mouth, other than Malfoy, and land on her happening in the past and her being entirely indifferent towards it. But, even after seven years, Hermione was still sensitive towards the term when coming out of his mouth and the fact that it still bothered her the way it had done the day he had first called her a "Mudblood" pissed her off. It pissed her off royally that she had not only been affected by him calling her one but that he still actually had the gall to say it.

"Miss Granger?"

Startled, Hermione turned around, remembering that McGonagall was waiting for her report of her moments with Malfoy, even if it had been a shorter meeting than Hermione had planned. With an uncomfortable clear of her throat, she looked up from where her eyes had been down at the floor, and stared back at the woman who sat behind the study's desk.

"Do you have your report, Miss Granger?" McGonagall asked with authority and, stiffly, Hermione nodded, pulling out a folded piece of parchment from the inside pocket of her jacket, handing it to the aged woman. In a brief silence, Hermione watched as she read over it, feeling the burns of her temper from her meeting with Malfoy calm down and relax as each second passed where he wasn't in her presence.

Soon, McGonagall looked up from Hermione's report, her cat-like eyes formed into slits of curiosity. "What was your opinion of him, Miss Granger? Off the record... it's been seven years, has it not?"

"Well," Hermione began, her words clipped, "To be perfectly honest, the only thing that has changed is his appearance."

"Mhm," McGonagall muttered, folding up Hermione's report carefully as she nodded. "Disappointing, but I won't say I wasn't expecting it from him." The woman placed the report into a file that already sat on the desk before looking back up at Hermione, her glasses perched on the edge of her nose. "From the sour disposition you hold, Miss Granger, I can only assume it wasn't an enjoyed experience, seeing him again..."

Hermione nodded. "You assume correctly."

"...but, I rest assured in knowing you'll be meeting with him again tomorrow, correct?" she added easily, examining over Hermione's features for any change in reaction.

But, Hermione only nodded again, a quirk of her lip starting to bring in a grin. "You can sleep soundly tonight, McGonagall," she answered, "I'll be meeting Malfoy as many times as I can."

McGonagall seemed to be amused by this, letting out a chuckle. "Determined now, are you?" she asked, not expecting a response by the way her tone sounded. "I'm proud. Oh, and speaking of determination...

"Mister Potter and Mister Weasley came by earlier, asking where you were," McGonagall informed, and at the mention of her two best friends, Hermione gave her superior a curious look. "Mister Weasley told me to tell you, and I quote, 'Hey, Hermione, you missed a wicked good party last night and I say Malfoy should be arrested way more often,' in which Mister Potter added on, 'Here, here.' Why this message is of any importance to you, I have no idea, but I really don't want to know, and I'm merely a messenger when it comes down to it. It isn't in my job description to question."

Hermione let out a soft laugh. "Thank you, McGonagall," she said, before exhaling a sigh after a brief moment. "I have to tell them about this new mission tonight, I suppose," she recoiled, well aware that she couldn't keep the information from them.

Inevitably, they would question her whereabouts of that day, and the days to come, and McGonagall had given her permission to tell them. Hermione might as well get it over with.

But, the shaking of McGonagall's head in the corner of Hermione's eyes caused her to raise an eyebrow. "I already told them, Miss Granger, I hope you don't mind," she indulged, and automatically, Hermione shook her head no, more than happy that she had already told them. "They were a bit... startled at first by the news, but they left with open minds on the matter and I was told that they're waiting for you at your flat whenever you decide to return. I have the notion they want to hear every detail."

Hermione grinned. "They usually do," she stated, before beginning to back away from McGonagall's desk. "I suppose I should go see them, then, in order for me to get some sleep. I've got an eight o'clock meeting at Azkaban tomorrow."

McGonagall returned the facial expression faintly, pushing her spectacles further up the brim of her nose. "I'll expect a report the next Order meeting, Miss Granger."

Hermione nodded and made her way to the coat rack, tugging her jacket on her body once more so the cool, twilight weather of London wouldn't bother her on her way home. A question struck the female, however, just as her fingers touched the golden knob of the door that led out into the hallway, and it was a question that wouldn't go away just by Hermione brushing it off and Apparating back to her flat. It was something bothersome that had the potential to keep her up at night, just wondering, with the contents of McGonagall's letter to her drifting through her mind. And, how one solitary observation came from the elderly woman's words, concerning her implication towards Malfoy's case.

Hermione had to ask. After all, it was what she did best.

"McGonagall, if you don't mind me asking," she began, erasing the steps she had taken away by stepping back towards her. "What's... your opinion on his case? About the accusation against him?"

McGonagall looked up from her desk, an eyebrow raised. "What makes you think I have an opinion?"

Hermione refrained from a snicker. "You always have an opinion, McGonagall," she pointed out and the words earned herself a brief chuckle from the other woman.

"Forgive me. Let me rephrase my question," she began, clearing her throat. "What makes you think I care?"

The response hadn't been at all what Hermione had expected, especially from McGonagall, her brown eyes widening just a bit, something the other woman noticed respectfully.

"Let me explain..." she started, placing her clasped hands on top of the desk. "I don't really care as to if he's innocent or if he's guilty, Miss Granger. Those labels are merely technicalities," McGonagall elaborated. "All I truly care is learning the truth of the whole situation. All I care about is you finding out the truth, and if that means Mister Malfoy is guilty or if he's innocent, then more power to him, whatever it may be."

The elderly lady took a pause, giving the younger female a steady look through her spectacles. "If all you do is walk into that questioning room daily with the mindset that he's either guilty or innocent, then you're merely striving to prove him guilty or innocent. That's not the reason I appointed you as interrogator. I appointed you to interrogate Mister Malfoy for you to simply ask him questions and dig through the evidence you're given to seek out an unbiased reason. It's not fault or virtue you're looking for, my dear... its truth."

Hermione gave McGonagall a small smile, bowing her head ever so slightly.

"My thoughts exactly."


-----



Hermione caught a medium-sized ball in her hand, clutching the blue and white object in her lap with her back against the end of her bed. "He's lost a lot of weight, his hair is a mess, and he looks like hasn't been outside in days. What was he doing before Azkaban?" She threw the ball to the left before picking up a quill and writing the question she had just worded aloud into a notebook.

Ron grabbed the ball in mid air, leaning against the wall of Hermione's flat. "Before he killed Rayner and Besteria, you mean?" he questioned bitterly, though his tone provoked he didn't want any response towards his words. He tossed the ball to his right, adding, "Did he mention us?"

"Bet you a galleon he did," Harry responded before Hermione could, catching the ball, a slightly amused grin on his features from where he sat backwards in her desk chair. "Sure, seven years have passed, but I'm confident in thinking he'd still jump at any chance to insult us."

Hermione set her notebook back down onto the floor, looking up at Harry and motioning for the ball. "He mentioned you, yes, but didn't insult you guys, per se..." she replied to Ron's question, giving Harry a stern look just as she caught the ball from him. "All he said was that he wondered if the two of you would appreciate in knowing that I was standing in an Azkaban questioning with him," she elaborated, passing the round object back to Ron.

"Why would he wonder that?" Harry asked, hands ready to catch the ball as he glanced over at Ron.

Ron tossed it to him. "Because, she was in a room. Alone. With him. Draco Malfoy. Alone with him. A murderer. All alone with him. In Azkaban." The redhead watched while Harry passed the ball to Hermione. "That's why."

Hermione threw it back to Ron, looking back down at her notebook. "Okay," she began, overlooking the dialogue between her two guys friends. "I think the best approach when concerning Malfoy is to start off asking questions where he was after sixth year and then build up to questions about Rayner and Besteria's murders." She looked back up, catching the ball from Harry just in time before exchanging a look between them. "What do you think?"

"I think," Ron started, catching the ball from Hermione and throwing it back to Harry, "that I can already tell you what he was doing for seven years."

"Yeah," Harry followed, throwing the ball back to the redhead. "First, he was with Snape."

"Then," Ron continued, throwing it back to Harry, "he ran around with the Dark Lord and his group up until the Final Battle."

"Then, he took part in the Final Battle." Harry tossed it back to Ron.

"Where he had fun living up to his Death Eater potential." Ron returned the ball to Harry, both of their gazes glazing over for only a fleeting moment.

"However," Harry moved on, craning his arm back before tossing it back to Ron again, "upon hearing that Voldemort was killed, he fled."

"So, then, for five years, he stayed hidden." Ron gave the ball back to Harry, tossing it underhand. "Most likely somewhere in the States."

"He might've come back here when his mother got sick," Harry guessed, giving Hermione a look before tossing the ball back to Ron. "But, nonetheless, he was in hiding."

Hermione watched as the two males passed the ball back and forth a few more times in silence, her stare bland. "Well, if you two are so smart," she started, turning away from the monotony that was beginning to make her dizzy anyway, "then do explain his reason for murdering Rayner and Besteria. If he was so intent on staying hidden, then why would he ruin it by publicly murdering two Aurors?"

"Easy," Harry responded, hanging onto the round object for a moment. "He started to become careless, you see - started walking around in the streets, started chatting to people and mentioning his name, with the idea that since so many years had passed, he had been forgotten." He paused, throwing the ball back to Ron.

"But, then Rayner and Besteria, the two top Aurors in the British Ministry, get a lead on his whereabouts," he continued for Harry, catching the ball. "They find him, confront him, try to arrest him, but he fights back, a brawl takes place, and it ends with Malfoy killing them both. His secrecy is blown." Ron gave Harry a satisfied nod, which the spectacled-boy returned with just as much flourish, before the redhead looked down at the object in his hands. "Tell me," he began, surprising Hermione by passing it to her. "Why do we throw this ball again?"

Recklessly, Hermione caught it, giving Ron a brief, dark look, before giving it to Harry. "It helps us think better, Ronald," she answered. "I read it in Witch Weekly."

"Ohhh, Hermione read it in Witch Weekly," Ron dryly exclaimed, catching onto the ball from Harry. "Well, in that case, now I feel perfectly sane."

Hermione caught it briefly, passing it back to Harry, who had his entertained smile back on his face.

"Because, you were perfectly sane before?"

Indignantly, Ron rushed over to where Harry was and grabbed the ball away from him, stepping a few inches back before throwing it directly at his friend's head. The ball bounced off of Harry's head, altering his glasses the same time, and in quick response, Harry stood up from the seat and picked the ball up off the floor, tossing it in the direction of Ron's head. His target ducked though, the ball hitting the wall and bouncing off and onto the floor instead, which Ron dodged for and threw it back at Harry.

Hermione pulled herself up from where she had been sitting on the floor against her bed and ambled away from them, in order to stay out of the horseplay they had fallen into. She found herself residing by her flat's windows, where the blinds covered up the streets of London and how twilight had disappeared into nightfall, the time ticking towards midnight at least. Hermione let out a deep breath, some strands of her brown hair flying upwards while she untucked her notebook from her arm, opening it up to the front page.

"So, you think that's a good idea, then?" Hermione asked, her question directed at her two guy friends who were still playing around behind her. "Have the questions start from the beginning and lead up to the murders? Maybe it'll give me a faint reason as to why Rayner and Besteria are dead..."

In the background, one of the two fell to the ground, and by Ron's laughter following close behind, Hermione guessed it had been Harry. "Yeah, Hermione," she heard Harry respond, his tone slightly muffled by the fact his face was pressing into the carpet. "I think that's the best way to approach the predicament."

"Though, I still think you'll find his answers to your questions resembling our theory," Ron added on, laughing once more.

Hermione nodded to the blinds. "Okay... that's what I'll do," she said to herself, feeling a comforting feeling entering her gut just at the fact that she now had a set plan in mind.

But, something was off...

It wasn't anything too troublesome, just a thought, an inkling, that continued to roam around in the back of her mind, in the corner of her brain. It was just a strange feeling, one that had been noticeable ever since the news of Malfoy in Azkaban had hit the Prophet, and even moreso after her visit to see him. Just a strange feeling, that's all it was, but it was a feeling that continued to be fed by the events concerning Malfoy that continued to happen. It was another thing left unanswered, like so many other things were when it came to Malfoy and his case, but this was... something else...

Just a strange feeling all together.

Hermione glanced down at her notebook, skimming over her notes as though hoping there would be some answer screaming out to her in them, before residing her gaze back to the blind-covered window. "I've got a strange feeling about this..." she sighed to herself, speaking beneath her breath as her thoughts continued to mull over the facts of the case she knew thus far.

However, Harry had heard her words, his attention going to her with a curious gleam in his eyes. He looked over at her just as he threw the ball again, his aim short of Ron's hands and hitting the side of his head instead, causing the redhead to let out a muffled, "Oomph."

"What do you mean, Hermione?" Harry asked, oblivious to Ron as he made his way towards where Hermione stood by the window.

Hermione looked back at him as he came up to her side. "Hm?" she returned before shaking her head, carelessly tying her brown locks into a ponytail. "I don't know... I've got a strange feeling about this case, that's all."

From behind the two of them, Ron murmured, "Uh, oh. Hermione's got a strange feeling."

"Hermione's strange feelings are never good," Harry added, glancing over at Ron who had appeared on Hermione's other side. "She got a strange feeling about Quirrell, you remember that?"

Ron nodded. "And Snape."

"And the fake Moody back in fourth year."

"And Cedric before the third task."

"And Ginny's strange behavior when we were in second year."

"And even Malfoy's behavior during sixth year."

"Is there a point coming up anytime soon?" Hermione asked the two males, both eyebrows raised to the blinds.

"Well, let's just face it, Hermione," Harry began, moving his eyes away from Ron and back to her.

"Your strange feelings," Ron continued, resting his chin on her shoulder, "usually mean something isn't what it seems to be."


-----


A/N: *beams* Curious, no? Stay tuned for Hermione's second meeting with Malfoy, coming up in chapter four. Hope you enjoyed and leave a review if you wanna!

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