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"She's still not awake?" Ginny asked Harry, as she slipped into Hermione's hospital room.

"No, they're keeping her asleep. The healers want her to be more stable before she has to deal with this, emotionally." Harry said, hugging Ginny. "McGonagall let you leave?"

"She said it's basically a family emergency." Ginny said with a sad smile. "She looks so small."

"Yeah, Ron's having a tough time with it. He's back at the office doing the paperwork. Kingsley's not much better; blames himself." Harry explained.

"Oh Hermione'll love that when she wakes up." Ginny laughed, "She likes pity as much as you."

"Yeah." Harry said sadly. "She shouldn't have even been helping. This should have been an Auror operation."

"Well, I wouldn't want to be in the room if you tried to tell her that." Ginny argued. "You needed the help from the Order. I know there's not enough Aurors. You're still a first year trainee, you shouldn't have even been there, but this is the world we live in right now. It's precariously peaceful, and it's going to take everyone to keep it that way."

"I know." Harry sighed.

Just then a healer came in and checked on Hermione.

"Any change?" Harry asked.

"No Auror Potter, that gash in her side was deep. I want to keep her asleep until it's completely healed. Probably the end of the week." She said, checking Hermione's bandages before leaving.

"Why are her wrists bandaged?" Ginny asked.

"Apparently she had some blisters and cuts from the ropes they used to tie her up." Harry said, shaking his head.

They sat in silence for a few minutes.

"Hey, where's Draco?" Ginny asked suddenly.

"Bloody Dawlish took him into custody for using dark magic when we were getting into the manor." Harry explained. "Now Kingsley's got a load of parchment to get him released."

"Isn't he technically still the Minister?" Ginny asked. "Can't he just pardon him?"

"Well, he's trying to get the Ministry to hold an election to replace him in the position, so he's trying not to throw his weight around." Harry explained. "Plus, Draco did technically violate the terms of his probation, which means he's supposed to face a trial. Kingsley is trying to get around it by claiming Malfoy was deputized by the DMLE, but it's a lot of paperwork."

"Hmmm. Well where are they keeping him, is he in Azkaban?" Ginny asked.

"No, he's in the lockup at the ministry." Harry explained. "Kingsley didn't transfer him to Azkaban because he was helping us when he did the spells."

"Well, that's something I guess." Ginny mumbled. "Has anyone told him about Hermione's condition?"

"I don't know." Harry admitted. "I doubt it."

“Ok, if I send a patronus will it make it to where he is?” Ginny asked.

“It should.” Harry said, curiously. “The lockup is just in the back of the Auror Offices.”

Ginny sent her Mare patronus off to let Draco know what was happening. “We owe him that much.”

“I suppose you’re right.” Harry said.

Sitting on a hard chair in the ministry lockup, Draco was having a round robin of emotion. No one had spoken to him since they tossed him in here, but he was relieved that no one seemed to be preparing to take him to Azkaban. He was worried about Hermione, and when a Magical Law Enforcement officer passed the cell, he asked if anyone had heard anything about her.

The officer just fixed Draco with a cold glare, and kept moving.

Draco slumped down in his chair, and was startled when a Mare patronus pranced into the cell. Then it began speaking in Ginny’s voice, “‘Mione is stable, expected to make a full recovery, Healers are keeping her asleep for the time being.”

Draco let out a sigh of relief. Hermione was ok. He silently thanked Ginny for her kindness of letting him know she was alright.

After a few moments, the Mare disappeared, and Draco resumed staring at the bars. He wasn’t sure how long he had been there, when Ron appeared in front of the bars.

“Malfoy.” Ron said, unlocking the cell.

“Weasley.” Draco responded in kind.

“Come with me, Kingsley has some parchments you need to sign.” Ron said, stepping back from the door and indicating that Draco should walk with him. “We’re working on getting you out of here. Hermione owes you her life, and for that I thank you.”

Draco was surprised, Ron had only ever shown him distain in the best of times. “Oh. Well, of course I helped. I don’t want to think about what the Lestrange’s would have done if we hadn’t gotten her out.”

“Yes, well..." Ron said awkwardly. "Anyway. This way."

Draco followed Ron to an office at the other end of the Auror department. When they went inside, Kingsley motioned for Draco to sit across from him. Ron also pulled out a chair.

"Weasley, sign your testimony sheet and then get to class." Kingsley said. "And I want Potter back here by lunch."

Ron nodded. "Yes sir." He quickly signed several parchments, and then pushed them across the desk to Kingsley, and stood waiting.

"Dismissed." Kingsley said, and Ron hurried out of the room.

"I don't think I've ever seen Weasley stand up that straight." Draco laughed.

"Discipline is important." Kingsley shrugged. "Ron knows what is expected of him."

"You just didn't seem that formal yesterday." Draco pointed out.

"Well that was in the field," Kingsley explained. "The chain of command is more fluid. Which is why it's important for the trainees to respect the chain of command here."

"That must be challenging with Weasley and Potter." Draco chuckled.

"I thought it might be, but it's actually quite the opposite." Kingsley said with a smile, "They are both very hard workers, and I'm tougher on them than the rest of the trainees."

"Go figure." Draco shrugged. "So, what happens to me?"

"Well, we're going to complete paperwork to retroactively deputize you into the Department of Magical Law Enforcement." Kingsley explained. "Then I can file the necessary forms stating that you performed dark magic at the request of the department, in a life or death situation."

"That seems... complicated." Draco said, nervously.

"It is, but it's technically the truth." Kingsley pointed out. "And despite your reputation, and your parents reputation, I must say I'm impressed with how you have performed on your probation. I know it hasn't been easy, being in Slytherin after defecting."

"Thanks." Draco said coldly.

"Are you ok Mr. Malfoy?" Kingsley said, a touch of concern in his voice. "I've been an Auror for a long time. I know more about Dark Magic than most. I know what long term exposure can do. It's like a drug addiction, and you'd been clean for a long time before last night."

"I'm fine." Draco snapped. "I can handle it."

"Well please reach out if you find yourself backsliding." Kingsley said. "Lets get this paperwork sorted."

Just then there was a knock on the door. "Come in." Kingsley called.

It was Harry. "You wanted me to report in, sir?"

"Yes, Potter... I have some things for you to sign, and then I want you back in class. You and Weasley have missed enough already." Kingsley said.

"Yes, sir." Harry said, and sat down next to Draco. He quickly signed the parchment, and then stood.

"Dismissed Potter." Kingsley said.

"Sir, if I may?" Harry asked.

"I just wanted to thank Mr. Malfoy." Harry said.

Kingsley nodded, and Harry put his hand out towards Draco. "Hermione is alive because of you. I owe you one."

Draco looked at Harry somewhat skeptically, but then shook his hand.

The next morning, Kingsley got word from the Wizangamot that they had approved Draco's use of dark magic on behalf of the DMLE, and he released Draco.

"Ok Mr. Malfoy, you're free to go." Kingsley said. "Your probation is still in effect, but you are officially a Stage 2, so you can leave Hogwarts when appropriate."

Draco nodded, as Kingsley handed him a parchment detailing his new restrictions.

"Professor McGonagall has requested that you report to St. Mungos and have them give you a once over before you return to Hogwarts."

"Ok." Draco nodded, and headed for the lifts. He noticed a classroom as he passed by, Harry and the other trainees were working on dueling. The trainees who weren't participating were standing at attention around the room. It was odd, he recognized most of them from Hogwarts. A few months of Auror training had taken a group of mostly pranky Gryffindors and had them looking like an army.

"Weird." Draco muttered to himself, shaking his head at their change in demeanor.

He hurried outside, ignoring the stares of the witches and wizards bustling around the ministry, and apperated to St. Mungos.

Despite McGonagall saying he needed to get checked out by a healer, he went immediately to the witch working the greeter podium and asked for Hermione's room.

"Are you family?" She asked, giving Draco a skeptical look. "I'm afraid her room is restricted access."

"No, not exactly." Draco said, frustrated. "I'm a friend, I'm the one who brought her here."

"Well, I'm sorry, but with high profile patients, we can't release room information." She stuck her nose in the air. "I'm sure you understand."

Draco was trying to decide if he should just make a run for it, when he heard Ginny call his name.

"Draco!" She came jogging down the hall to his right. "This way."

"Thanks for your help." Draco said to the greeter, with a smirk before turning to Ginny. “How’d you know I’d be here?”

“I didn’t, I was going to the tea room.” Ginny said, and then lowered her voice. “So they got you out ok? Harry said they didn’t send you to Azkaban.”

“No, they kept me at the Auror office.” Draco replied, surprised by Ginny’s interest. “Your brother told me that they weren’t meant to arrest me at all, it was a mistake.”

Ginny nodded. “Ron wasn’t mean to you, was he?”

“No.” Draco said, as he followed Ginny around a corner. “Actually, he was very polite. He even thanked me, so did Harry. It was weird actually. Have you ever visited the Auror department?”

Ginny nodded. “Sure, loads of times. You forget, my dad works in the Misuse office.”

“Right. I forgot.” Draco said. “It just… it was weird. Seeing Potter all ‘yes sir, no sir’ and standing at attention.”

Ginny laughed, “Yeah, Harry says it’s like being in the Muggle Special Forces; he takes it really seriously. Ron not as much.”

“Ron seemed just as serious when I was there.” Draco pointed out.

“Oh he does his job well, I’m just not sure if it’s really his calling.” Ginny explained. “Harry lives for it. Ron… tolerates it. Honestly, I think he secretly just wants to go joke around with George.”

She stopped outside Hermione’s room, just as a healer was leaving. “Hi Healer Murphy.”

“Oh, hello Ginny, I wondered where you’d gone.” The healer replied, eyeing Draco. “Aren’t you the young man you brought her in?”

Draco nodded, suddenly nervous.

“Well, you saved her life.” She put out her hand. “Stacey Murphy.”

“Draco Malfoy.” He said, shaking her hand.

“No kidding?” She said, shaking her head. “Well, I wouldn’t have predicted that. Guess you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. Or, rather, a person by their name.”

“Is she going to be alright?” Draco asked, sounding worried. “She was unconscious when I found her, I don’t know how long she had been like that.”

“She’s not out of the woods yet,” Healer Murphy admitted. “Did Ginny fill you in?”

“No, we hadn’t gotten that far.” Ginny explained.

“She had lost a lot of blood.” Healer Murphy elaborated. “And that wound in her side was deep, she has damage to several organs. Not to mention the fact that she has clearly been tortured, and she is extremely high risk for Cruciatis Poisoning.”

“She doesn’t have symptoms of Poisoning does she?” Draco cried, horrified.

“Not that I can tell, but we won’t know for sure until I wake her up.” Healer Murphy explained. “Which will possibly be tomorrow.”

“Possibly?” Draco asked.

“Yes, I want her blood pressure to come down first.” Healer Murphy said. “I’ll be back in a bit. Nice to have met you Draco.”

Draco stared at the door, terrified. “Do we… go in?”

“I know it’s scary.” Ginny said, taking Draco’s arm. “But she needs you.”

Draco nodded, took a deep breath, and then let Ginny lead him into the room.

Hermione was tucked into the hospital bed, the drab hospital gown doing nothing to help her pale complexion. Draco's heart broke for her when he saw her bandaged wrists, a clear sign that she had struggled for a long time.

"Did... Did the healer say if they..." Draco felt himself begin to break down, and he scrubbed his eyes with his fists.

"You got there in time Draco." Ginny said gently.

Relief flooded Draco's system. "She doesn't look like herself."

"No, I thought that too." Ginny agreed. "Hermione was never one to wait around for things to happen. I think that's why they're keeping her asleep. It would be hard to get her to be still and rest any other way."

Draco nodded, sitting beside Hermione's bed. He wasn't sure what to do with himself.

"Just hold her hand, be there for her." Ginny said softly. "I know how useless you feel right now, but you have to let the healers do their work."

Draco was surprised that Ginny seemed to know what he was feeling, and then he took a second look at the redhead. It was easy to forget that Ginny had been a part of the battle and the war as much as the rest of them, she was as good at masking her emotions as he was. But she had watched her brother die, thought her beloved was killed only to have him come back to life before her eyes. He knew they'd all spent time in St. Mungos after the battle.

"I've never had to do this before." Draco admitted.

"Wait in the hospital?" Ginny asked, taking a chair across from Draco.

Draco shook his head. "No. Riddle killed our wounded."

Ginny didn't know how to respond to that, so she simply continued, "Well, I've spent a good bit of time waiting around in hospitals."

Draco nodded. “You were in hospital after the battle, weren't you?"

Ginny looked at Draco, as though evaluating him, and then responded, “Yes, we all were, for a bit. I had some injuries from the battle. And I had some scars from the Carrows that they tried to treat. They didn’t keep any of us for very long; too many wounded. They kept Harry the longest, to be honest, I don’t think they knew what to do with him.”

“Was it like this?” Draco asked? “Was it this…”

“Difficult?” Ginny finished. “No. Even though people were hurt, dead, there was this great sense of relief. I can’t explain it.”

“I think I understand.” Draco said. “I felt that way too, when my dark mark stopped moving.”

“Really?” Ginny asked, honestly curious. “I didn’t know they did that.”

Draco nodded. “Yes, when he died… we all felt it.”

“That’s a bit creepy.” Ginny said. “I knew he could call you all, but I didn’t know how they worked. I’ve never seen one up close.”

“A Death Eater?” Draco teased.

“No, stupid.” Ginny said, rolling her eyes. “A Dark Mark.”

“Most people would say that’s a good thing.” Draco pointed out.

“I suppose.” Ginny agreed. “I was underage for most of the war, so my parents kept me as far from most of it as they could. I didn’t really get involved until Snape took over Hogwarts, and even then my parents yanked me out as soon as they figured out how bad things had gotten.”

“Well, count your blessings Ginny.” Draco said, wringing his hands. “Some of us were far too close.”

“I know.” Ginny said, watching Draco watch Hermione. “Draco, can I ask you something?”

“Sure.” Draco said, “Ask me anything.”

“Hermione seems convinced that you just got caught up on the wrong side of things; that you didn’t want to be a Death Eater.” Ginny said. “Is that true?”

“I know Hermione thinks that.” Draco sighed. “She tends to see the best in people.”

“So, is she right?” Ginny pressed.

“Well, she’s not completely wrong.” Draco said, “I don’t know what I would have done if I’d grown up in a different family. I don’t think I believe the same things as the other Death Eaters.”

Ginny didn’t say anything, just waited for him to continue.

“I know Hermione thinks the best of me, but she gives me too much credit. I’m certainly not a good person.” Draco tried to explain. “While I may not believe in the finer details, I still willingly took the mark, carried out Riddle’s tasks.”

“She said you keep telling her that you’re not a good influence, that she should stay away from you.” Ginny questioned.

“I did do that.” Draco nodded. “I tried to push her away. I avoided her. You saw it.”

“But Hermione is stubborn.” Ginny smiled. “And you really do seem to make her happy. She deserves to be happy.”

“I’ll make her has happy as I possibly can.” Draco said seriously. “And when the time comes for her to be happy with someone else, I’ll let her go.”

“You’re in love with her.” Ginny said, it wasn’t a question.

“Yes.” Draco agreed. “I have been ever since she first spoke to me in the library. I’d had a crush on her when I was younger. She was pretty, and forbidden, the perfect combination to a rebellious young teen."

"But that night in the library… I had a split lip, from a fight with one of my housemates. They were none too thrilled with my defection at the end of the war, so I'd been hiding out from them. Hermione just healed my lip, as though I were anyone. She treated me like a person, not like a Death Eater or a Traitor. She saw pain that she could fix, so she fixed it... no questions asked." Draco sighed. "I struggled with that for a while. I couldn't understand why she would help me, when I'd watched her get tortured in my own home and did nothing."

"That's just Hermione." Ginny nodded. "She can't stand to see anyone suffer."

"Yes, I realize that now." Draco said.

"You know, I think this is the longest conversation we've ever had." Ginny chuckled. "Hermione is right though, you're surprisingly easy to talk to."

"She said that?" Draco asked, surprised.

"Mmm hmm." Ginny said. "I think you've really helped her get past some of her issues about the war. She was kind of struggling at the beginning of the year."

"I'd say we all were. Are." Draco said.

"You're not wrong." Ginny said, and then after a pause asked, "Draco... I have a question. You can say no if you want."

"What?" Draco asked, curious.

"Can... can I see your Dark Mark?" Ginny asked.

"Oh, is that all?" Draco laughed. "I thought you were going to ask something outrageous of me." He rolled up his sleeve and turned his arm over for Ginny to inspect.

"I guess it's not all that scary close up." Ginny said.

"Ha. Easy for you to say!" Draco said, rolling his sleeve back down. "I've never been as scared in my life as I was when I took that mark."

"Really?" Ginny said, curiously.

"Really. It was terrifying." Draco said seriously.

"I guess I never thought a Death Eater would be afraid of Riddle." Ginny said. "Huh."

"Ginny, how did you think he got so many followers?" Draco asked. "Most of us were terrified of him. There were just a few fanatics, like Bellatrix and my father."

"This is depressing." Ginny said. "Let's talk about something else."

"Like what?" Draco asked.

"What are you going for Easter Break, now that you're allowed out?" Ginny asked.

"I hadn't really thought about it." Draco said honestly. "I don't particularly want to go to the manor. I'll probably just stay at Hogwarts."

"You don't want to go home?" Ginny asked, surprised.

"Not really. I mean, it'll just be me in an empty manor with a couple of house elves." Draco shrugged. "Unless I decide to go on a holiday or something ridiculous like that."

"You should!" Ginny squealed! "Take Hermione somewhere!"

"What?" Draco was surprised at Ginny's suggestion.

"Yeah! You should totally take her someplace fabulous!" Ginny pressed. "She's going to need to get away after this. I usually invite her to come home with me, because her parents make her crazy, but honestly I think my mum would be a bit over the top after all this."

"Do her parents know she's here?" Draco asked suddenly. "I mean, do they know she's in hospital... and, everything else?"

"I doubt it." Ginny said. "She's of age, so the school wouldn't have notified them."

"You're kidding!" Draco cried. "Her parents don't know she's here?"

"Well, they're muggles Draco," Ginny pointed out. "How would they even get here?"

"They should be here." Draco insisted. "Do you know where they live?"

"Yeah, why?" Ginny asked.

"Because I'm going to go get them, that's why!" Draco snapped.

"I don't know that Hermione would want that... she doesn't exactly give her parents all the details of... well... everything." Ginny said, lamely.

"Ok, but if it were you lying in that bed, would your parents want to know?" Draco insisted.

"Well, yes... but." Ginny started, before Draco cut her off.

"Ok, then we need to tell them." Draco said. "They deserve to know. Come on."

"Ugh, ok." Ginny said, "You're probably right."

They hurried out of Hermione's room, and outside to apperate.

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