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Hermione had not bothered to even say goodbye to Ron, thinking he was now asleep and comfortably, in his bed. She had gone home past twelve midnight, feeling happier than she had been in days. She had not even thought about Draco now. She arrived in her flat with a smile on her face, glad how the day turned out. She was going to be a godmother soon. She laughed to herself at the idea. It was going to be her first time to be a godmother anyway. Hermione stopped and stared at the living room table.

The roses…they were dying. And a huge wave crashed into her heart all of a sudden. She had been desperately trying to forget! And the words pounding back into her head again…

“ No one is enough for Draco Malfoy. “

“ You were a dream Hermione, just a good distraction from it all- “

“ I thought I could love you! Maybe it was just because I have his heart! “

“ I don’t feel the same way…”

She sank on the floor and leaned her head against the edge of a couch, burying her face in her hands. Was it truly because of Harry’s heart that he had changed immensely? Had it all been a good dream? A false flicker of hope that there still was love even after Harry was gone? Sure she had seen some- no- the faintest color of green in Draco’s eyes…sure he had been too romantic at times- too nice to everyone, even muggles.

And she was desperately trying to remain level-headed, practical, just to alleviate the pain again. Would it always be like this? Would it always be hurt nipping at her heels?

So what if Draco had Harry’s heart? It wouldn’t make him Harry in the flesh again, now would it? So what if… what if she saw little specks of green in his predominantly grey eyes? It didn’t mean Harry was trying to resurface and haunt her, right? He wasn’t cursing her to love him until she herself died, right? She knew she had the right to love again, and this time she had loved Draco Malfoy. And as much as she hated to admit it, Draco had been hurting her, Ron was right. But she just wanted to deny it all. She loved him. Truly, she did. Despite the time that ran by so brusquely, she loved him! She loved Draco Malfoy!

Oh god, she thought as shook her head, her face still buried in her hands.

She loved him. She couldn’t- she couldn’t stop herself. And she wanted to fight for self-control. Perhaps…perhaps Draco was right? Some part also wanted to believe what Draco had said. It was all because he had Harry’s heart, now wasn’t it? It was possible, after all. She didn’t need Ron’s words in her head, she didn’t need to hear the forthright Ginny say it either, nor did she need the little jokes Fred and George made….somehow, they saw little bits of Harry in Draco now…in his eyes, in his smiles, even when he asked politely from waiters and salesladies….and she was guilty, guilty because Draco did things that reminded her so dreadfully of Harry….even when he kissed her…even when he embraced her, saying how much he missed her….

But she knew she was being a foolish girl. It was too good to be true. Nothing lasts beautifully forever…Harry didn’t last…why would it Draco make any different?

To her horror, she felt tears slide down her cheeks again. Only Draco could do this now. Only Draco…. Oh god…Draco. What motives would he have to do that to her? Lead her on and make her knees weak with- a kiss? With… flowers? With little conversations that always implied he cherished her? He didn’t say it. Not those three words….not like her. She had been stupid and impulsive. She just had to say it. No matter how painful it was to be rejected.

She wondered if he had laughed the moment she had stepped out of his house. He would have been probably smirking, wrinkling his fine nose in disgust with her words. But the words that struck her most of all plunged deep into her heart, in the deepest core.

“ I thought I could love you! Maybe it was just because I have his heart! “

Even he, even Draco, admitted to the fact that he might have only felt something for her because he had Harry’s heart! Did he know then, that it would happen? That actually having Harry’s heart would change how he saw her?

Was it all a game then? How come she had not read through him at all? He had said he was a changed man- and she had counted on it! Counted on it like a trusting three year old! Gullible! The brilliant Hermione that had graduated at the top of her year in Hogwarts was now the victim of a foolish amusement by a man she had once regarded as a git, a snake, a- a- Slytherin! And she wanted to hate him, hate him terribly for playing with her emotions.

But somehow, in the darkness, in the loneliness of her room….she couldn’t.

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Ron stood quietly, surveying Draco’s new home. There were dim lights in the corners of the ceilings, a soft orangey glow. The living room was fully carpeted in off-white, a pastel plush couch on each side, a side table with an expensive glass figure, a flat television screen right smack in the middle, a sound system, and all colored platinum. Draco had led a rather sophisticated muggle existence incontestably.

Someone cleared his throat. “ And what pray tell, are you doing in the middle of my living room, unsolicited and at this time of the night? “

“ We need to talk. “

“ Again? “ Draco raised a brow. “ We sure talk a lot don’t we? Didn’t I tell you to stay away from me? “

“ Just Hermione. You were much more stringent on Hermione, “ Ron spat out rather contemptuously. “ Sit down. I want to know a few things, also why your mother’s missing. “

“ If it’s a few, just ask, and I’ll answer quick, and you’ll be on your way, and so will I. “ Draco brushed something off his shoulder, but Ron didn’t see what it was. He faced Ron again, with a smug look on his features. “ And my mother’s not missing. She just visited some relatives in France. “

“ And just where the hell are you going? “ Ron asked.

“ Would it be your business? Some quality time with my mother, “ he replied scathingly. “ Why? Would you like to spend a boring night, drinking tea, talking about the latest wizarding scandals or fashions? “

Ron shook his head. “ Why did you do that? “

“ Do what? “ Draco snapped. And he knew what Ron was talking about. This was all leading to Hermione. It was always about Hermione! Ron was getting into private affairs- too much! Couldn’t the bastard just-

“ What are you hiding? “

Draco’s eyes snapped into Ron’s. “ Excuse me? “

“ What the hell are you hiding? I know something’s going on! “

“ Your fragile mind’s working now Weasley? Do be careful. It’s not everyday amazing ideas get into that thick red-headed lobe of yours now, does it? “

Ron’s eyes glowered. “ I don’t care if you plan to distract me with your little word plays, or how good you are at insulting my flaming hair. You tell me what’s going on. Why you had to do that? Why your father’s memorabilia’s popping all over the place? Are you hiding something from the Ministry? Are you doing something- “

“ Stop it! “ Draco said annoyed. “ Nothing! Nothing’s going on! I decided it was for the best that I leave Hermione to her peace. Didn’t you want to break us up, even before I got serious with her? Even before the whole wizarding community knew that I was dating someone I used to hate? “

Ron sighed and frowned. “ Damn it. That’s not the point! You were avoiding us, avoiding her, I’m sure it’s that important if you went through so many lengths to just to hurt her on purpose. You heard that? On purpose! You wanted that to happen! And you’d better bloody tell me why! “

“ On purpose? Of course! It was the best way to break up with her. I realized it was an error all along, me dreaming that I could get along with her. I won’t pretend I didn’t have fun with her, Hermione is indeed someone pleasant to be around with, but it had to stop. Purebloods and muggles don’t mix in relationships for me. It was a late realization- “

“ You changed! You know that! And don’t give me that mudblood or pureblood shit! “

“ I changed because of Harry Potter’s heart! I’m trying to regain myself! I probably only fell for Hermione because I had your dead best friend’s heart! Don’t you catch the drift Weasley? Even I am in awe of what Harry Potter’s heart can do! He made me like Hermione! “

Ron was quiet for awhile. The air was thick with pain, hatred, denial…so this was it then? So he had been right all along? So Harry was- so Draco just- and Hermione was the one hurting from it all!

“ Harry has nothing to do with this! “ Ron said indignantly. “ This is you! Your free will! Your blood’s coursing throughout your body because of his heart, but it’s you who decides- it’s you who decided to love Hermione! “

Draco glared at him, feeling his heart pound erratically. “ Who said I loved her? “

Ron glared back at him. “ You don’t need to say it. I’ve seen it. I saw it. “

Draco gave a hollow laugh. “ Please Ronald Weasley, stop your romantic tendencies- they worked best with Lavender Brown- “

“ Tell me, “ Ron breathed, looking at him squarely in the eye.

“ You just don’t quit, do you? “ Draco snapped.

“ Not until I know it’s the truth. “

“ I can lie under your freckled nose and you won’t even know it. “

“ Try me. “

“ Sit down. “

And Ron sat across Draco as Draco sat as well. Draco leaned forward, his bent knees supporting his hands as he clasped them in front of him. He sighed and took two deep breaths. “ Alright, Weasley. Just so that you’ll get your inquisitive arse out of my house…I did that on purpose, you were right. I had to hurt her. So you’d better play along and act like you don’t know a bloody thing. Those new Deatheaters…they’ve threatened my mother’s life- I had to- to make arrangements- “

“ On what? Working for them? “ Ron interrupted, not liking the idea of it.

“ No, believe me, I’m trying my best. I don’t want to be a part of them, but since my mother’s life is at stake- I couldn’t very well sacrifice her life now could I? The main reason I want you guys away from me- especially Hermione, is to protect her. I don’t know who these new Deatheaters are, they come in cloaks, their voices are strange, and new…I had no idea. Up to now, none at all…”

Ron nodded, breathing out heavily. Now, now he knew why. He stood up. “ Alright. I’ll play to your game. I’ll see to it Hermione’s kept away, and safe. How long will you keep up with this charade?”

“ For as long as it takes, just to guarantee their protection. Even for forever. As long as Hermione’s safe, “ came Draco’s quiet reply.

Ron nodded again. “ Thank you. “

Draco looked up at him. “ For what? “

“ For loving Hermione…and for telling me the truth. “ Ron walked into the fireplace as it magically increased to fit his height and width. “ If you need help, you know where to go. Do be wary. “ And with a poof of smoke, he was gone.

Draco stood up and ran a hand through his blonde mane. Applause sounded throughout the living room. Draco spun roughly, knowing who it was.

“ Bravo! Congratulations! An extraordinary routine by Draco Malfoy! “

Draco nodded. “ Hello, Blaise. “

“ You knew I was here all along? “

“ The scent of potpourri was overpowering, “ Draco replied.

Blaise gave a fake look of being upset. “ Come now, Draco. What gives? You should be happy, you actually fooled an Auror. Well…Ronald Weasley’s a stupid Auror anyway; I don’t know why they even allowed the flame-head to pass! “

“ Be happy for me, then. “

Blaise walked around purposefully in the living room as he twirled his wand with one hand. “ So- tell me…what do you plan to do next? Now that you’ve tricked Weasley, broken Granger’s delicate heart, saved you mother’s porcelain arse- “ Blaise laughed.

“ I don’t know, “ he replied through gritted teeth. “ Perhaps- we need to meet with the others. “

“ Well said! “ Blaise nodded approvingly. “ Just goes to show you really are keeping to your words! Do we- kill the aurors? Gather them in one place? Start a few modest bloody battles? Leave bodies lying on the ground- “

“ You’re being reckless. You just killed two Aurors in a public place- “

“ Come now, Knockturn Alley is a sinister place- even those poor men- bless their bloody souls, knew that! They’re going nuts, finding only two witnesses, one’s afraid for her arse, the other refuses their protection…apparently the owner of that pub- Mr. Coriander…might just take side with us. Isn’t it grand? I would like to keep the numbers going up, but- betrayal’s a too easy undertaking once the number’s no longer intimate… “

“ We move in a few days, “ Draco murmured.

“ What do you have in mind? “ Blaise’s eyes gleamed in the dim lights. Draco was back in the game. He liked it this way. He preferred Draco like this. The shrewdness, the brilliance in tactics, the harshness- oh this was perfect! The Dark Master would reward him greatly for bringing Draco back in! He only hoped it wasn’t another one of Draco’s facades that so had him confused on Draco’s character back in the Hogwarts days.

“ I’m the horcrux, right? “

Blaise nodded. “ You do know what’s going to happen. You either die or live, depending on how the ritual goes. But we need one more thing to do this and do this right. “

“ That would be? “

“ We steal into the Ministry’s protected Artifacts. Something they all failed to do before. Too many god damned enchantments. “

“ And we’re going to get what? “

“ The remaining half of the Dark Master’s wand. “

Draco almost laughed. That was impossible! All curses, all hexes were present, 24 hours of every single day! The room would be unreachable, unless someone of high authority the room recognized would actually get in…and Draco thought….

“ Is there a Horcrux in the Dark Master’s wand too? “

Blaise shook his head. “ It’s the last thing he held. The last spell he cast that destroyed him. According to- our- research, an imprint may be left in the fragments of that wand- even his fingerprints may render useful…”

Draco nodded. “ You would want to see me dead, wouldn’t you, Blaise? “

Blaise shook his head. “Of course not. “

“ Of course you would. You’ve always been afraid of me, but now you need me more than ever. Don’t you think I see right through you? You’ve been wary of me, as you’ve been wary of Nott. And now, you think you can use me anytime you want, because you threaten the people I’m fond of- because I have a bloody horcrux from Harry Potter’s heart. You’d rather see me die in the course of resurrecting the Dark Lord and acquire all the credit, now, wouldn’t you? “

Blaise gave a faux smile. “ Draco, I’ve always respected you, since the first day of our first year at Hogwarts, I remained loyal to you, even if everyone was taunting you and talking behind your back, your father being careless and all, bringing himself to Azkaban and dying a most wretched death, unbefitting a Malfoy, unbefitting a pureblood. “

“ Ah- now I see the deference all laid out on a silver platter. “

Blaise sighed and conjured a glass of ale. He held it in his left hand as he raised it to Draco. “ I want the Dark Master alive, I want you alive. That way- that way everything will be wonderful. “

“ Will it now? “ Draco’s grey eyes flickered with derision.

Blaise nodded, drinking his half of his ale in one gulp. “ Yes. Cheers to you. May that horcrux in Harry Potter’s heart, which is now yours, bring the Master back to life. “ And he finished the last of his ale, and threw the glass into the empty hearth.

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Theodore Nott was quiet as he read a book, sitting comfortably on a plump couch, his legs raised on a footstool. There was a whooshing sound. Someone had just arrived. Uninvited. Good god, where were everyone’s manners these days?

Theodore smiled at the arrival. “ Didn’t expect to see you here. “

“ You look just like a professor sitting there with your book. “

Nott laughed. “ Ah, compliments. How’s the conjugal life? “

The person’s expression changed. It turned quite sour. “ Not exactly my cup of tea, “ came the short response. The woman before him was dressed in rich green velvet with a white mink stole over her shoulders. She was carrying a tiny bejeweled purse.

“ Would you like to try my tea, then? “ Nott asked lightheartedly. “ I could add fire whisky or elfin spirits to- “

“ This isn’t funny! “ she snapped, flipping her light blonde hair over her shoulder. She looked at each well manicured nail, as if to distract herself from losing her temper.

“ Okay then, let’s be serious. “ Nott furrowed his brows and sat ramrod straight with one leg crossing over the other. “ What do you want to talk about? Kids? You’re still not pregnant after so long? Your husband’s impotence? “

“ He’s loyal to me, “ she huffed. She stared at Nott. The way he looked at people was just too- too uncomfortable. His blue eyes and dirty blonde hair made him look attractive, but it was his perpetual smirk that gave all that attractiveness away.

“ But you’re not to him? “ Nott queried with a little smile.

She raised a brow and pouted her scarlet painted lips a little. “ Oh, please. Don’t bother to ask. A few flings here and there wouldn’t matter. Besides, I married from good stock, a pureblood, like us, only he’s from Europe. Went to Durmstrang, a classmate of Viktor Krum’s- “

She had indeed made a good spectacle out of herself. The purebloods from Britain were proud of her for marrying someone of good stock from Bulgaria. She had succeeded in marrying a man who owned quite a number of estates, she was overflowing with money, and she could have everything.

“ I know. “ He looked at her. “ What’s this visit for? And how did you know- ? “

“ Blaise. I still keep contact with the man, ask questions about- “

“ Draco? Still not over him, are you? “

“ I am, “ she said in a most convincing voice.

“ You make me want to laugh. “

“ Don’t. My husband’s joined you, am I right? “ She raised her head high. “ I’ve had- well, he’s been pathetically trying to keep it from me, but I hear the conversations every now and then- I just don’t know who these people are, but once I heard that he-how-must-not-be-named…I know they’re asking for financial support, you bastards need my husband’s money. ”

Nott shrugged. “ Blaise knows better. I have yet to see the number of his amassed forces. All I know is a few of us from Hogwarts are- “

“ Is Draco-? “ her voice faltered.

“ Regrettably, he refuses to join. We wouldn’t force him, now would we? “ Nott told her. “ Draco’s got his own affairs. Something we won’t stick our noses into. The muggle world’s got him tied down. Why wouldn’t you have contacted me? Then I would’ve gone instead to your place- where are you located now, by the way? “

She nodded. “ Bulgaria. But we’ve got a home in Scotland. But- you’ve spoken to him? Lately? Haven’t you? “

He nodded. “ Why yes, and he’s quite happy with his life too, owing to that pretty- “ he paused, for dramatic effect, knowing what it would sound like to her ears. He saw her lips quiver and he couldn’t help but give off the tiniest smile.

“ Pretty what? Who is she? “ her voice was raised higher now. “ How pretty? Who is she? “ Her hands twisted on her little clutch bag, as if they hurt and itched all at the same time.

“ And you tell me you’re over him. “ Nott smirked.

“ Who is she! “ her voice shrieked, her once unimpeachable face had gone sour, almost comparable to a Veela’s…but not quite…

“ Hermione Granger, “ he replied simply. Nott enjoyed looking at the slow realization coming into her eyes. It was going to hit her like a tidal wave- no- a meteorite! He bit his tongue, but the little smirk forming again wouldn’t keep away.

Pansy screamed.

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Ron arrived with a little distracted look upon his face. He tightened his scarf around his neck as the biting cold pricked through his skin. He sneezed all of a sudden.

“ Bless you, “ Lupin said, sitting on a boulder. “ Glad to see you in one piece and glad you weren’t intercepted as you apparated. “

Jordan and Dean were seated not far from Lupin’s nook.

Ron nodded. “ Thank you, professor- I mean, sir. “ He looked up and saw a little metal sign swinging in the breeze. It said Little Hangleton. He shivered and tightened his wool sweater around him and his cloak swished as a breeze kept passing by them.

“ Cold night, isn’t it? “ Jordan sighed, trying to perform a flame charm. He managed to conjure four fire balls and they glowed off heat safely away from their skins. “ I hope this lasts for awhile. “

Dean nodded fervently. “ Hell, please. “

“ Seen anything? Felt anything? “ Ron asked, addressing the question to no one in particular.

Lupin shook his head. “ Been quiet. It’s a quiet night. “ Lupin looked at the skies, silently thankful it wasn’t a full moon, nor was a full moon looming. He felt rather unwell again though, probably a head cold, but he’d be cured by his wife’s pepper-up potion soon enough. “ What about you? Heard anything? From Malfoy? “

Dean and Jordan looked up immediately at the sound of his name.

Ron shook his head. “ He wasn’t- wasn’t at his muggle home. I couldn’t very well enter the Malfoy Manor…” Ron hated having to lie to his mentor. Lupin was, after all, the best Dark Arts teacher he had experienced yet.

Lupin nodded. “ Oh well. So we wait, tonight then… “ Lupin stared off at the old Riddle house, now in ruins, completely without light, no caretaker, at all. A bank had repossessed it, he heard. A muggle bank….or was it? Rumors had been flying around that Gringott’s wanted to possess it as well. Lupin sighed. Who would want to possess a very large house with such a bad history? He had specifically chosen to watch at Little Hangleton for the mere fact that the Riddle house still stood…a child would always come crawling back to his mother….perhaps these new Deatheaters would do the same? Surely the needed headquarters? Much like the Order of the Phoenix….ah the memories when Dumbledore was still alive- when Harry was- He shook his head. Harry….Harry just had to die now….

Then Lupin’s head moved and Ron’s followed. “ Look, “ Lupin said softly. He pointed a finger towards the great Riddle house.

Ron’s eyes narrowed. Was that- was that light? Moving? From room to- room? It couldn’t be- now could it? He knew the caretaker was dead- it had been years! Unless- unless Lupin’s instincts proved right?

“ Someone’s there, “ Dean murmured raising his wand. “ Sir, what do we do? “

Lupin smiled and sniffed the air. “ Oh, we wait. “

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A/N: hello dear readers. i won't be updating in say...a few days since i'll be heading off for some other country for a vacation. don't forget to review and thanks for reading.

p.s. don't you wonder what'll happen next chappie? ^_^

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