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 Considering Harry was very withdrawn, he seemed to be away from his house more often than not.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.
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.”
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.
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.”
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.”
“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?
“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.
“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.
“Are you happy?”
“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.
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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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