The eyes continued to watch for a few minutes. He approached very carefully and quietly placed a small parchment on the table between the coffee cups. He then retreated to a safe distance before apparating away.
Hermione woke with a start about thirty minutes later. She glanced at Draco who slept on. She decided to make some fresh coffee. As she picked up the cups she noticed a folded parchment on the small garden table. ‘Where did that come from?’ she wondered. Picking it up she unfolded it and something slipped out and fell onto the table. It was a photograph of a baby squirming and giggling happily in a cot. The message on the parchment simply said,
“As you can see Grace is well and happy. Do not put her at risk by messing with the NPM.”
She poked Draco’s shoulder, “Draco wake up, look at this.” Draco snapped into wakefulness.
“What… what is it Hermione?” she gave him the parchment. He read it quickly and held his hand out for the photo. He looked at it in silence for what seemed to Hermione to be forever. Her heart broke as he started to cry, looking at his daughter. He stood up and through his sobs he said “oh God, she is so beautiful.” Without thinking about it Hermione held him tightly in her arms.
“Yes she is Draco, very beautiful. We will find her. I really believe that and you should too.”
“I know that Hermione and as for the NPM they will wish they had never messed with me.” How it happened they did not know but suddenly they were kissing frantically. Clothes were shed and there on the lawn the passion poured from them. As their clothes fell away she remembered and murmured the contraceptive charm. The lovemaking was equally frantic and consequentially short but successful for both of them. They lay naked and sweating in the warm summer sun. “So much for not repeating that exercise then, Draco.”
“Yeah, Hermione what happened to that rule?”
“I don’t know, and before you ask I did the charm.”
“It’s a good job that you don’t have neighbours nearby, they would have had quite a show.” Hermione stood up and still naked gathered up her clothes.
“I’m going to take a shower. Won’t be long.” She walked unselfconsciously across the lawn towards the house feeling his eyes following her every step.
He was also conscious of his eyes following her walk. There was no doubt but that she was a very attractive woman. Suddenly Amanda’s voice was in his head again ‘Remember what I told you Draco, go for it. She’s good for you.”
Harry meanwhile was poring over the letter, his concentration hindered by continually wondering what Ron had to do with all this and particularly why he would have hidden this letter. He started again at the beginning.
Simeon, my friend,
As you know we have a common aim to ensure Pureblood superiority. I know very many like-minded people, including Phineas Malfoy. I am aware that you dislike him and consider him an upstart and a fool and I agree with you but we cannot just push him aside. We may have need of his wealth later.
As for the artefact I have it safely secured in the Box of Carcano which only you and I know how to open. The artefact lays upon the bearer the guaranteed leadership of the Pureblood faction now and in the future. It will pass to you after my death.
I propose the formation of a Pureblood Court of Justice to oversee the administration of wizards and witches. It would consist of the heads of five Pureblood families. Montague, Black, Malfoy (unfortunate, but necessary) Prewett and one other. What would you think of Dumbledore for the last member? To give the court some gravitas and authority the members should be styled as Lords.
We must succeed in our aim, Simeon, or future generations will curse us. I know I can rely on you my friend.
Harry picked up the box from his desk. It seemed to be a solid block with no seams or openings anywhere. He gave it a gentle shake and heard a solid clunk. Whatever was in there was heavy, metal almost certainly. But how to open it? He wondered if Bill Weasley would be able to open it. He had nothing to lose by asking.
Hermione luxuriated under the hot water watching the soap suds slide down her body and over her feet before swirling down the plughole. There were even a few small blades of grass that had washed off her back which made her smile, thinking about how they got there.
Standing just outside the bathroom door a nervous Draco was trying to decide if it would be alright for him to go in. He grasped the nettle, dropped his clothes and knocked on the door. He laughed quietly when Hermione called out “Who is it?” His reply was semi-automatic,
“Severus Snape, Miss Granger, may I come in? I need to get some grass stains off my knees."
“Oh Sev, I wasn’t expecting you. Come in.”
Draco chuckled and entered and without any preamble walked into the shower, took Hermione in his arms and kissed her passionately. She responded for a few seconds and then pushed him away to arms-length. “Draco, I think we need to have a serious talk.” She left the shower and picked up a large fluffy white towel and began to dry herself. She much preferred the towel to a wave of her wand. Draco came out of the shower and Hermione pointed at the airing cupboard,
“There’s another towel in there if you want it” she said rubbing vigorously to dry her legs.
“Thank you,” he replied, “Your legs…”
“What about my legs?”
“I’ve just noticed that they go all the way up to your bum.”
“Oh ha, ha. You are weird, you know that?”
“Not at all, you have a very nice bum.”
“This isn’t the conversation I had in mind.” She replied as she dressed. “I’ll make some fresh coffee.” She left the bathroom and fled to the kitchen where he joined her soon after.
“Now then Draco, we have got to stop this before it gets out of hand. We can’t keep shagging at the drop of a hat. It will only complicate things at a time when we should be concentrating on finding Grace.”
“You are probably right, but I comforted you when you were stressed out and you did the same for me. It worked both times and we, or at least I, enjoyed it.”
“I enjoyed it too Draco but my point still stands. We should stop. After we find Grace… well let’s jump that fence when we get to it.” He sighed,
“OK I agree, reluctantly, but I agree. We’ll stop. Or I’ll wait for you to initiate things. In case you change your mind.”
Without knocking Bill Weasley breezed into Harry’s office and slumped into an old armchair in the corner. “Hi Harry, what is it you want me to look at?”
“Come in, Bill.” Said Harry sardonically. Make yourself at home, why don’t you?”. He gave the box to Bill.
“I want you to see if you can open this for me. I can’t find a way in.”
Turning the box in his hand, Bill replied, “Mmm Interesting. Might take some time Harry, and I might have to involve a Goblin or two, is that OK?”
“Keep it to as few people as possible please Bill; it concerns a sensitive ongoing investigation. So time is a factor.”
“OK Harry I’ll get right on it.” He departed as abruptly as he had arrived.
Ron Weasley was in a kitchen somewhere. He had no idea where. He was holding Grace Malfoy in his arms. “Where are we, Sylva? What is this place?”
“It’s the home of Sixsmith. We won’t be here long; it’s just a short term bolt hole. It’s our go to emergency hideaway.”
“Yes, but where is it?”
“I’ll let Montague decide if you need to know that. I’ll take her now, time for her nap.” She took Grace and left the kitchen. Ron got a beer from the cold-box, and sat with his feet up on the kitchen table. He thought about his situation. He had been ‘missing’ for almost a month now and still wasn’t sure about what he was doing. As far as he could see he didn’t have many options. He could grab Grace and apparate to Auror HQ. He would be received as a hero for rescuing the child and Malfoy would be forever in his debt. Not an unattractive proposition. That would give weight to a request that Malfoy stay the fuck away from Hermione. Ron still had ambitions in that direction. Or he could stay a bit longer and absorb more of the NPM propaganda. They were a non-violent organisation but their ultimate aim was the same as Voldemort’s.
The prospect of being a high official in a NPM government was also appealing. Mercado and Sixsmith could be very persuasive, and Ron was open to persuasion.
Harry, Hermione and Draco stood in a small group together. They had just attended Mike’s funeral and the small wake was in progress. His widow was circulating among the many Aurors. Out of the blue Harry asked “So what is the situation with you two, Are you still living together?”
Hermione blushed a little, “Harry we are not ‘living together’ in the sense that I think you’re referring to. Draco is staying with me for the time being, that’s all.”
“Sorry Hermione, no offence intended. I was just curious.” Draco smiled
“Anyway Harry would it be a problem if there was anything more? We are both healthy single adults after all.”
“Not a problem for me if you two are in a relationship Draco. As long as it doesn’t interfere with the job.”
Hermione looked at Draco, he was looking much better now that his nose had healed. He was drinking less, his eyes were bright. The search for Grace was hardly moving despite daily appeals in the media. She felt a pleasant churning in her tummy and thought back to their afternoon in her garden. She was convinced that she was right to stop the physical side of things. Now she just had to stop imagining it so often. The desire was still there.
Draco was looking at Hermione too. The desire was still there for him too. But he had kept to his word and behaved himself. She was looking attractive; the wild hair that he remembered from school was long gone. Her face was a little fuller and looking all the better for that. No lipstick today just full pink lips. He stopped that train of thought before it led him where he didn’t want to go. Their eyes met and they smiled at each other. Harry excused himself to chat with Julia.
“You have a lovely smile Hermione; I don’t see enough of it.”
“Shut up flatterer. Draco, how can you help Julia and Alex?”
“Well, I’m going to Gringotts this afternoon and I’ll set up a trust fund for Alexander and a monthly stipend for life for Julia. She won’t have financial problems if I can help it.”
Harry and Julia joined them and introductions were made. Physically Julia resembled Luna Lovegood, being of slight build with dark blonde hair. “Hello Julia,” Draco said as he shook her hand, “I’m so sorry about Mike and with your permission I would like to make you an offer of help.”
“Help?” Julia queried.
“Yes, I know the ministry are hopeless at this sort of thing. So I want to offer financial assistance. I want to set up a trust fund for Alexander and a pension for you.”
“Oh Mr. Malfoy I….I don’t know what to say. That’s incredibly generous of you. Why would you do that?”
“Think nothing of it, Julia. I just wish it wasn’t necessary. I’ll let you know the details as soon as I can. I want to do it because I was there.”
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