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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.

 

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