Harry Potter had once spared Peter Pettigrew’s life, and from the second that happened a connection had spung to life between them. It was this inexplicable bond, this indebtment, that had ultimately led to Wormtail’s failure to kill the Boy Who Lived.
If Wormtail, who had been a weak and dispicable man, ultimately proved to have a conscience, Hermione had reasoned that Malfoy was bound to have one as well, and it was this notion that had led her to the courtroom in which she had gone on to sacrifice her pride in order to defend one of her least favorite people in the world.
True enough, she had saved his magical abilities, and not his life, but Hermione felt sure that Malfoy hardly knew the difference. Without his magic Malfoy would be condemned to a life amongst the Muggles he so despised; a life like the one Hermione was currently living and hating.
He owes me, Hermione thought smugly, feeling completely and utterly victorious as she strode down the dimly lit corridors leading away from the courtrooms. She had managed the impossible twice now, and all during the course of this extremely lengthy, though undeniably eventful, day. It was nearly incomprehensible to her that less than twelve hours had passed since Malfoy had walked into the bookstore and handed her a Galleon by mistake; that less than twelve hours ago, she had actually believed that the Wizarding world was nothing but a product of her own comatose imagination. He owes me.
She felt so elated, in fact, that she didn’t notice that Malfoy was still grasping her hand in a vice-like grip until they were nearing the elevators.
Hermione cracked a frown and cast a sideways glance at the blonde beside her. Malfoy looked tired; there was an inkling of thoughtful creases on his usually flawless forehead and his eyes were misty, like two silvery moons obscured by rolling clouds. He did not carry the same look of joy that Hermione was wearing, but rather the expression of someone lost on a winding trail of deep thoughts. Hermione wondered what could possibly put a damper on his spirits when he ought to be doing cartwheels down the corridors.
Hermione freed her hand from Malfoy’s rather forcibly; an act which seemed to wake him up from his reverie. He made rather a point of wiping his hand on his trousers, as though to cover up the mistake of holding hers for longer than what was strictly neccessary.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Are you even going to say ‘thank you’?", she snapped.
Malfoy arched an unperturbed eyebrow. "If it hadn’t been for you I wouldn’t have been in court in the first place."
Hermione felt a surge of annoyance go through her, momentarily clouding her rapture. She hadn’t forced him to stun her back in June, and she certainly hadn’t forced him to Apparate and Disapparate into Ron’s house that afternoon. Admittedly, she had taken the book, The Grimoire, but until he paid her the last two pounds it wasn’t technically his. Before she had time to enumerate this list of valid arguements, however, Malfoy had snatched her hand again.
A couple of wizards from Malfoy’s hearing walked by, smiling and nodding curtly as they passed.
Malfoy released Hermione’s hand as soon as the members of the Wizengamot were out of sight, but he refrained from wiping his hand on the leg of his jeans this time. Perhaps he forgot. "Thanks," he spat at her. "Happy? Can I go home now?"
Hermione, who in any case found this to be a completely inadequate thanks, merely surveyed him with great dislike. "No."
Malfoy laughed sardonically. "And what are you going to do about it, Muggle-girl?"
"What’s to stop me from going to the Wizengamot and tell them the truth?" said Hermione.
"You wouldn’t," Malfoy snorted, though he didn’t look one hundred per cent certain once he caught sight of the stony expression on Hermione’s face. "They’ll wipe your memory."
"Do you honestly think I would be sorry to forget that this day ever happened?" Hermione asked him coldly. She reflected on the truth of these words. Whilst it no doubt had been encouraging to discover that the Wizarding World was real, she could not help but wonder if her life wouldn’t have been easier if she hadn’t. To see Ron again had been nothing short of thrilling, but she was certain that the blank, unrecognizing look on his face when he had looked at her would haunt her nightmares until the day she died. What was more, Ron was married to another woman, one whom had seemingly stolen Hermione’s life, and together they looked like the epitome of a happy couple. It broke Hermione’s heart just thinking about it.
Malfoy looked a little unnerved for a moment, watching Hermione closely as though to decipher wether her threat had merely been a ploy. "What do you want, then?" he demanded finally. "Do you want me to confund the weasel so he falls in love with you instead?"
"No!" Hermione said, horrified. She wasn’t dismayed at the fact that he had suggested it, she did not consider Malfoy to be above doing so; but she was baffled to discover that a little part of her seemed to like the idea. Her heart, which had been shattered to pieces so many times that day, gave a hopeful jerk. "No, of course not," she said sharply. "I want you to tell me how I can get my magic back."
Malfoy was, and there was no doubt about it, inconveniently good at hiding his emotions. His face remained a cold, unfeeling mask as he looked at Hermione, but in his eyes, in the mirrors of his soul, Hermione thought she could see a flicker of something. "I lied," Malfoy admitted, and there was the faintest hint of mea culpa in his tone. "I don’t know."
Had Hermione been a witch her anger would no doubt have caused a magical explosion powerful enough to wreck the entire Ministry of Magic. Instead, she was a Muggle, and her hands curled into fists in order to inflict as much pain on Malfoy as humanly possible.
Malfoy noticed her reaction and glanced down at her shaking fists with a mildly amused expression. She knew she couldn’t seem like much of a threat; nearly a head shorter than him and frail-looking, still in the process of rebuilding her muscle tissue after spending half her life lying comatose in a bed, yet she felt certain that her fury could inflict at least a few bruises on his pale skin before her anger subsided into hopelessness once more.
She was in the middle of debating where to place the first blow, his snooty face seemed an ideal target, when Malfoy spoke again; "I do have a theory about what might have happened to you."
It was only with an effort that Hermione managed to keep her fists in check, her curiosity and hope peaking in spite of her better judgement. Hadn’t the man before her proven himself untrustworthy on so many occassions throughout this day, let alone their time together at Hogwarts, that she ought not to listen to a single word uttered by Draco Malfoy? And yet, Hermione found herself asking; "And what theory is that, exactly?"
They had reached the elevators now, though Hermione couldn’t remember walking for the past minute or so. Malfoy, who seemed utterly unfazed by their conversation, pushed the button and the silvery doors slid open. The pair entered into the confined space, Hermione’s heart beating fast as she eyed the man next to her with suspicion, dislike and badly repressed interest. His lips parted, Hermione felt an unbidden surge of excitement go through her, then another person climbed into the elevator just before the doors closed shut.
The elderly witch who had clutched at her heart during Malfoy’s hearing beamed when she noticed who they were. "Congratulations on your engagement!" she said brightly, and Hermione heard a soft hiss coming from Malfoy’s direction. "Have you two lovebirds set the date yet?"
"No, we haven’t," Malfoy said in a remarkably hearty voice that did not match his expression. "Astoria wants a winter wedding, but personally I think the sooner the better."
"No time like the present, now, is there?" the elderly woman chortled. She was clearly one of those old people whose friends and family had long since perished, leaving her alone with no one to talk to but strangers.
She smiled wistfully at the pair of them for a moment; Hermione and Malfoy smiling back rather stiffly. Then, the old witch opened her wrinkled mouth to pose another question: "Can I see the ring?"
"Er-" Hermione exchanged a quick glance with Malfoy, who looked as though he would like nothing better than to Apparate as far away from this conversation as possible. "Er. I didn’t bring it."
Malfoy rolled his eyes at her lousy excuse. Hermione shot him a glare that clearly said ‘Well, I didn’t hear you come up with anything better!’
Thankfully, the elevator reached its final destination at that moment and the uncomfortable conversation was cut short.
"Well," the ancient witch piped, still grinning broadly at the pair of them. "It is lovely to see that you’re not following in your parents’ footsteps, Mr. Malfoy. Best of luck to you both!", and with those words she departed and blended in with the bustling mass in the Atrium.
Malfoy made to follow her lead, but Hermione grabbed him by the arm to keep him from slipping out of the lift. "Don’t think you can just-" she began, but the rest of her sentence was drowned out by half a dozen witches and wizards climbing into the elevator and pressing the various buttons.
Malfoy dragged Hermione out of the elevator and said, through the corner of his mouth; "Do you honestly think this is the ideal location to chat?" before he began making his way through the crowded lobby.
Hermione had to jog to keep up with his brisk pace. "Maybe not," she said irritably, slightly breathless. "Where do you propose we go, then? Because you are going to tell me everything you know, you owe me."
Malfoy marched past the green fireplaces, without offering her neither glance nor an answer.
"Where are we going?"
"I am going to wand-checkpoint to get my book back," Malfoy replied grimly without looking at her, picking up the pace a notch as though hoping that doing so would shake off the incensed Muggle at his heels.
"The book isn’t there," Hermione said, successfully halting Malfoy’s stride.
"What do you mean?" he asked, disgruntled, his forehead creasing. "You told me they took the book when we went through security."
Hermione tried to look as smug as she could manage while clutching at the stitch in her side. "That’s right, Malfoy," she breathed. "You’re not the only one who can lie."
Malfoy was quite obviously fuming, having been outsmarted by the Muggle yet again. "Where is it?" he demanded in a sneer, glaring down at her.
Hermione hesitated. She knew exactly where the book was; squashed in between the cushions of a couch in Ron’s house; and she was sure Malfoy wasn’t going to appreciate it.
"It’s in Ron’s house," she murmured finally. The prospect of gatecrashing Starbeck Road 347 was not altogether alluring. Hermione had a strong feeling that doing so would make Ron dislike her even more than he appeared to do already.
Malfoy’s jaw was clenched and he looked angrier than Hermione could remember ever seeing him before, including the numerous times Harry had beat him in Quidditch. "Brilliant," he spat, before turning around and setting course back towards the fireplaces.
"Are you going to Ron’s house?" Hermione asked as she caught up with him again, glancing up at his vexed expression. For a second time that day she realized that she wasn’t afraid of him, not one little bit; watching his face contort in anger was merely amusing and she doubted that anything he could say or do to her could even begin to compare to the sight of Ron with Meredith, as far as pain went.
"No," Malfoy snapped. "I’m going home. I’m not stupid enough to take on four witches and wizards at once."
"I’m coming with you," Hermione said as she trotted alongside him. The look on Malfoy’s face suggested that he would like for her to come with him so he could lock her up in the dungeons of Malfoy Manor and torture her senselessly. Hermione couldn't care less. "I saved your magic, you owe me. If you don’t tell me everything you know I’ll go back to the Wizengamot and-»
"Fine!" Malfoy cut across her, accepting defeat with a snarl and an angry glower as they came to a halt in front of one of the emerald fireplaces. A triumphant expression spread across Hermione's face.
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