Chapter Fifteen: The Ugly Truth
Dennis fumed, his hunters were all on their knees in front of him, heads bowed, waiting for him to mete out punishment.
“Who gave you the bloody authority to take my prisoners off the train for a work detail?” He yelled at Finnegan. Fear churned in his stomach over the possibility that Redcar officials would demand more people or find some more children to experiment on.
Dennis looked around at the hunters and focused on Seamus and Dean. They stood still as statues waiting for him to lose it. Didn’t they understand that he was just trying to keep the Muggleborn children safe?
“Well?!” Dennis demanded.
“Hermione Granger needed some workers to do the jobs that paid employees didn’t want to do. This is the deal we made.” Seamus slowly explained to Dennis.
“And Hermione just went along with this? Did she say something like, ‘Oh Seamus, I could really use a chain gang in my factory. I can’t imagine they would complain too much.’ Like Hell!”
“She has a bleeding heart. It made her happy to ‘save’ them. What do you think Granger would do if she truly entered into this war? How do you think that would end for us? There would be a lot of casualties on both sides.”
“If she could do so much for the war effort, why isn’t she on the front lines?”
“You will have to ask her that.”
“I intend to.” Dennis left the room without looking back. It was time to have a chat with Hermione Granger.
Dennis walked through the empty halls of the ministry, heading for the apparition point. His long legs eating up the floor quickly, lips quirked as he thought of Hermione. She was so tiny, she would no doubt have to run to keep up with him. He started to chuckle to himself. He would slow down for her and thread his fingers around hers. He could imagine the grateful look on her face.
His mind went back to the staged bedroom and his lips thinned. What was she up to? He remembered the tiny knickers left in her drawer and blushed. He wanted to find out if they were truly hers or if they were part of the staging too. The moment he stepped on the apparition point he twisted mid-step, landing at the gates of Malfoy Manor.
Hermione walked out of the Manor and into the garden. Her mind whirled with the memories she had just seen. Blaise was a mess, physically and mentally. Narcissa was rug sweeping and Teddy kept asking for Nana Dromeda. Narcissa kept them all confined to the family rooms with the other children. Even there in the safety of the Manor, their play was stilted and fearful. They dared not play outdoors or even outside of the suite of rooms they used. All it would take is one lost employee that isn’t strictly on their side and everyone would be in jeopardy.
She wandered through the enchanted paths, lightly caressing the hedges as she passed. The magical world needed to come together. Unity, despite blood disparity, was the only way that the wizarding world would come out of this alive.
Hermione nearly jumped out of her skin when she felt warm fingers slide into her left hand and twine with her own freezing appendages. Her brown eyes flew up, startled, to meet the warm gaze of Draco Malfoy.
“Want to talk about it?” He asked, looking away from her and at the topiary around them. The corners of his mouth tilted up as he began to stroll down the pathway, tugging Hermione back into her lazy gait.
“I was thinking about Teddy and all the kids that are being deprived of a normal childhood because of our inability to protect them and everyone else.” Hermione murmured. Draco nodded and gave her hand a light squeeze. “I’m not sure how we are going to get out of this one. How did the Wizengamot enact the statute of secrecy when they first put it in place?”
“You do know that you own one of the most comprehensive libraries in Britain at your disposal, right?” He smirked slightly. He was proud and a touch arrogant. Hermione wasn’t the kind of girl that could be won over with impressive displays of wealth or privilege. The only thing that he had that would make her scream with excitement was the library. It was the cumulation of the last several generations of Malfoy book collectors. There were books in there that were so rare, the only copies were protected behind extensive layers of preservation spells.
“I don’t know why I always forget that I have access. It’s funny but I was always running to the library while in Hogwarts, knowing that whatever answer I needed was somewhere in one of those books. Now, I just feel as if it wouldn’t matter whether I found the right book or not, I wouldn’t be able to implement it anyway. How do you hide magic after the world has already heard of its existence? They even have proof, the inmates of Redcar.” Hermione shook her head worriedly.
“I don’t know. How did I go from being a pureblooded fanatic to the impressive man you see before you today?” His eyes glittered with repressed mirth. Hermione’s eyes shot to his with amusement. It was obvious that he was trying to lighten her mood, get her out of the slight depression that was weighing her down. She couldn’t give up, would never give up. Neither would he.
“You do have your moments.” She smiled, appreciating his effort to cheer her up.
“Ah… I can die a happy man. A compliment from Miss Hermione Gryffindor Granger herself.” Draco brought their twined hands to his mouth and kissed the back of hers.
“Don’t get used to it.” She smirked.
“You are so Slytherin it hurts.” Draco put their hands over his heart as if he had been stabbed. Hermione rolled her eyes and continued to walk along the path. Towing him into motion this time, a stupid smile on his face.
“I was going to go into the ministry and fight for a better world for all of us.” She said.
“You still can.”
“The ministry is dead. We have no government. Not anymore.”
“I disagree. Aren’t we doing what they would do, if they could? You are a much better Minister, and way more beautiful in my opinion.”
“I hope you think I’m prettier than Thicknesse because that would really be awkward.” She flippantly replied. Draco laughed, deep and unrestrained, for the first time in Merlin knew how long. She looked at him, mesmerized. He was truly a handsome man. “I like you like this, uninhibited. You never looked this happy in school.”
“Watching me, were you?” he raised a single golden brow with a look of teasing askance on his face.
“Well, Harry was quite obsessed with you at one point. It was all Malfoy this and Malfoy is up to something, that.” Hermione said. Draco flinched as if she had just slapped him, guilt turning his face dark. His eyes hardened and his smile fell away. He stared at the gravel path as they walked. Hermione went on, wishing she hadn’t brought it up. She didn’t mean to hurt him. She decided to press on and finish her thought hoping that it would soften her words. “We were all watching you. I noticed how sick, stressed, and afraid you were sixth year. You and Harry were the same. Both of you were out of control, dealing with situations that kids our age should never have been involved in. Had I thought It would have made a difference, I would have approached you and tried to help you despite our volatile past.”
“I was horrible to you and yet, you would have approached me to help?”
“Yes.” She simply said.
“Why?” His voice was broken and raw, his eyes burned into her. They had stopped moving and Draco had stepped in front of her, bringing them face to face. His gaze was intense as he searched her face. She wasn’t sure what he was looking for but knew that he found whatever answer he required. It was disconcerting, the caution. He was always a self-assured and confident person, not this careful and apprehensive man she saw now. It took Hermione aback and her stomach fluttered with nervous adrenalin. She already knew he liked her. Hell, it was hard not to notice when they shared a room but until that moment, they had kept things strictly platonic. Only holding and touching each other when the nightmares plagued them. She took a moment to consider carefully what she would say.
“Even though you knew exactly what buttons to push to infuriate me, by sixth year, I could see the toll of whatever you were going through. I pitied you.” Hermione stopped and looked down at her shoes before taking a deep breath and pushed on. “You have changed since then. You sought me out and not just because you had no other choice but because you believed I could save you, that I could change things. You have such amazing faith in me.” She trailed off.
“You are everything that I was taught a muggle-born couldn’t be. You are the reason my views changed. It was your stubborn will and intelligence and loyalty. I was jealous you know,” he moved the rocks with the tip of his shoe, avoiding her gaze. “of Potter. He was the golden boy, Dumbledore’s undisputed favorite, seeker, famous and on top of all that he had you as his loyal best friend. After the Yule Ball, I watched you when they made you cry. I wanted,” He paused and looked down at her. “I wanted to hold you, kiss away your tears, and tell you that they were being stupid. So, stupid. I was so bloody confused. I think that if the Dark Lord not been resurrected that year, I would have approached you by fifth.”
“I noticed that you stopped calling me a Mudblood around then.”
“I regretted it afterwards. I told my father that summer after second year of what I had said to you and that I was ashamed. I regretted that too.” He said with a self-derisive twist of his lips. “That was the last time I shared my feelings with him. I knew I wasn’t allowed to talk about you at home unless it was derogatory after that and I was too immature to just stop. It was expected of me. It became necessary to keep everything I thought about you to myself once I realized that I had feelings for you, especially once Aunt Bella was back. It would have put you in even more danger. Aunt Bella would have never allowed even the thought to go without punishment, for you and me. I had a role to play in order to keep you safe from them. Well, as safe as a muggle-born could be.” He qualified.
“Things would have been so different between us without the blood issue. Had you not been a bastard in our first year, we could have been friends, you know. I admired you at first. You were so smart and handsome and then you opened your mouth.”
“You think I am handsome?” Draco smiled, slow and wolfish.
“And you think I’m prettier than Thicknesse.” Hermione met his amused gaze with her own. He inched closer, his eyes darkening and his intent clear. He paused inches away, his eyes glued to her lips.
“Definitely prettier than Thicknesse.” He murmured leaning ever closer. Hermione was dizzy with excitement. Her heart began to pound. His scent wrapped around her, pulling her closer as if they were both magnets. She could feel the warmth radiating off of his body. She tipped her head just right, watching him close the distance between them.
His lips covered hers and her heart raced. He was solid against her, slowly drawing her closer into his embrace. Gliding his hands up her arms, he slowly wrapped his fingers around them. His grip tightened as Hermione deepened the kiss. He captured her bottom lip and lightly sucked. She melted into his arms. It wasn’t enough. Taking a deep breath as he pulled back a little, she leaned in and licked his bottom lip. A low moan rumbled out of him. Smiling in feminine satisfaction, she lifted her hands to bury her fingers in the blond hair at the nape of his neck.
“Hermione, are you out here?” Narcissa’s clear voice rang out. Both Draco and Hermione jumped apart. Disappointment clouded his face. They stepped away from each other quickly and awkwardly shifted as Narcissa came into view. Narcissa looked between the two with a positively gleeful look and a mischievous twinkle in her eye. “The hunter Creevey is here. He just passed the gate.”
“Thank you Narcissa. I’ll take him to the library that I’ve recently been reminded of. That way he can’t watch our people and he can have some privacy while I yell at him.”
“Blaise and I will be there if you need any help.” Draco murmured as he slid his hand onto Hermione’s lower back. His thumb traced circles absently, distracting Hermione from her thoughts. Everywhere his hands touched burned exquisitely.
“Don’t forget the polyjuice. Merlin knows we don’t need him spotting you.” She murmured breathlessly.
“Of course.” He whispered as he pulled her under his arm. Both followed his mother back to the house. As they stepped up to the door, Draco pulled away and reached into his pocket and extracted a small vial already infused with Riddle’s dry and brittle hair. Draco grimaced, opting to down the dose in one gulp, throwing it to the back of his throat in one shot, hoping to minimize the taste. Tom Riddle tasted disgusting.
Draco changed in front of her eyes and she shuddered. She really hated his disguise and couldn’t wait for the moment it would wear off. Hermione nodded at Narcissa and left the both of them standing outside. She wanted to confront Dennis as soon as possible, intending to put the fear of Merlin into one, Dennis Creevey.
By the time Dennis made it to the foyer, Hermione was already waiting by the stairs and looking in his direction. He smirked, studying her lovely form.
“Dennis, to what do we owe the pleasure?” He could never tell if it was genuine or sarcasm when she asked him that.
“Lovely as ever, Hermione, I have a few questions about your prisoner list. Do you have somewhere quiet we can talk?”
“Follow me.” She said before turning away. A large man who was vaguely familiar was openly watching him, distrust plain on his face.
“Who is that dark guy? He looks dangerous.” Dennis gestured to a man across the hall. The man had begun to move, his eyes focused on Dennis.
Hermione looked around and saw Antonin Dolohov zero in on Dennis and smirked. She caught his eye and shook her head minutely. Dolohov stopped dead in his tracks, his brown eyes following the pair with an unnerving intensity.
“Gustave? Nah. He’s a good guy, you just have to understand that he is very shy. Also, he makes the most amazing fruit tarts.”
“Fruit tarts, huh?”
“Yup.” She said over her shoulder before stopping in front of a large set of double doors. She opened one of them and walked into the famous Malfoy library.
“Wow!” Dennis said looking around.
“I know, right?!” Hermione said agreeably. She looked around and noticed Draco in his Tom Riddle disguise sitting at a table with Blaise in the back.
She chose a table that would hide their observers from their guest and indicated for him to take a seat.
“You wanted to talk to me about the lists? Is something wrong?”
“I don’t believe for a moment that you are using them as slaves. I think I know you better than that.” Dennis accused. Hermione watched Draco clench his fist out of the corner of her eye.
“You are right.”
“I am?” He was flabbergasted. He never expected her to own up to it, let alone without a fight.
“What if that was Colin on one of those trains. How could you sleep at night knowing that someone you love is being contained by muggles that are experimenting on our people?”
“Those that are being sent, are pureblooded. Besides If I stopped sending them, the muggles would hunt the muggle-born children again. I think this is by far the better option.”
“How dare you! Ginny Weasley is a pureblood and she fought side by side with Colin, as did Luna Lovegood, Neville Longbottom, and many others! Mrs. Weasley who was taken to Redcar at the same time as Ginny even killed Bellatrix Lestrange! They are heroes and this is how you repay them?” Hermione yelled. Dennis winced. “Did it ever occur to you that we could and would find a better way to protect the muggle-borns. Did you think that I wouldn’t consider it important?”
“I wasn’t around when the Weasley’s were taken. By the time I got there, they were already at Redcar and the Muggles wouldn’t release them. That was not my fault! And I didn’t see anyone else step up to save the few small children I pulled from Redcar in the beginning. I gathered men and made a deal with the muggles, as deplorable as it was to save them, even if I damned my own soul in the process.”
“Oh well, you did everything you could, I am sure. You were not the only person who saved them.”
“Listen to me Dennis, you need to think long and hard about what kind of person you are becoming. You need to help me free the magical population from the muggles. Snape has been rescuing the kids that appear on the magical register and it would be much easier if you were helping instead of hindering. We don’t have to sacrifice anyone.”
“The Death Eaters deserve to be in that camp.”
“Are you sure about that? Do you even know what it is like in one of those camps, the conditions they suffer? I would venture to say that no one deserves that. I know you were not happy with the Death Eater trials. Do you think that Harry, Ron, and I would let off the people who tried to kill us for years with no reason? Don’t kid yourself. You may have been at the final battle but you were not privy to all the information. Harry, Ron, and I are the only reason the Malfoys were released. Testimony was given, not just of our words but our memories as well. Those trials were fair. You need to be man enough to realize your mistake.”
“You make it sound so simple.”
They stared at each other, both stubborn and unyielding.
“Keep your bloody list, Hermione, for now.” He stood and left the library, leaving Hermione slack jawed with surprise.
“Did I win?” She asked turning to Draco and Blaise.
“I think you did.” Blaise said, looking at Hermione as if he had never seen her before. “Were you always this beautiful, mio caro?”
“Blaise!” Draco warned.
“Don’t worry, Draco, I just want to admire that look for a moment longer.”
Hermione rolled her eyes.
“We need to talk.” Draco said to Hermione. “Tonight.”
“Then I will see you in bed after dinner.” She smiled at him and chuckled as she caught sight of Blaise. He looked dumbfounded. Blaise turned to Draco.
“You’re sleeping with Granger?”
“Shut up.” Draco muttered.
“That’s a no then.” Blaise laughed as Hermione left the room.
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