Draco laid in bed in the penthouse suite of one of the nicer hotels in London, though he couldn’t even remember the name. Kingsley thought it would be best for Draco to hide out in the muggle area of London until his return to Hogwarts. The Ministry had put some of the most impenetrable, and strongest security measures in place so the newly escaped Death Eaters, in particular Lucius, wouldn’t be able to find Draco.
Hermione was there with him, snuggled up against his chest still asleep. He loved having her with him, but hated the idea of putting her in any sort of danger. But she insisted on spending the last few days with him before they went back to Hogwarts. Draco was convinced going back to Hogwarts would be a mistake. His father knew by now Draco had decided to finish his final year, going back would make him, and Hermione, an easy target. But Kingsley was adamant that Hogwarts would be significantly safer than Draco hiding out on his own. They'd be able to enforce the castle with not only its original protections, but a number of added spells as well. Draco still wasn't completely convinced, but he didn't exactly have his own plan to compete. Plus, he dreaded being away from Hermione.
Mainly due to Harry’s encouragement, Draco was trying to turn this dalliance with Hermione into something more real. They had gone on their first actual date the previous evening, to a small Italian restaurant of her choice, and as they walked through the snowy Hyde Park he came so close to telling her how he felt, but couldn’t work up the courage.
She started to stir, and he shifted so she’d be more comfortable. “What time is it?” she asked through sleepy eyes.
“Nearly eight, it’s still early.”
She yawned and snuggled deeper into his chest, “Too early, back to sleep.”
But Draco was feeling braver than usual, and didn’t want to lose the opportunity. He gently shook Hermione, “Hermione, don’t go back to sleep, I want to talk to you about something.”
With a moan of frustration, she pushed herself up on her elbows and looked down at Draco. “You’re messing with my beauty sleep.”
“You don’t need it,” he said, “you’re already beautiful.”
She smiled and leaned in to give him a kiss. “Alright flatterer, what did you want to talk to me about.”
Draco took a deep breath. "Us," he said, "I want to talk about us."
Hermione stiffened a bit, but didn't move away. "You don't have to, you know. I'm, I'm well aware of what we are."
"Really?" he asked, slightly confused, "And what may I ask are we?"
"Well," she said, sounding sheepish and a bit sad, "I've watched you for years. You don't exactly do relationships, I know that's not really your thing. Don't get me wrong, I know I'm not just another notch on your bed post, but what I mean to say is I knew not to expect much out of this, so you don't have to explain yourself."
Draco looked at her in utter disbelief and a bit of amusement. "I appreciate the sentiment, Hermione, but I have to say you've got it quite wrong. I want to be with you, not just physically. I want to have a real relationship with you. Not a secret shagging partner for when we’re alone in our dorm.”
Hermione just looked at him through slightly hooded eyes. She couldn’t believe what he was saying. Hermione had quickly but also terrifyingly realized the past few days just how deep her feelings for Draco were. She had gone from not knowing what on earth she felt, to barely being able to fathom being apart from him. And it had left her feeling more afraid and vulnerable than ever, since she was so sure he’d never feel the same way. But how wrong she was.
“Draco,” she said slowly, in barely a whisper. But he stopped her from uttering another word as he brought his lips up to hers.
Lucius sat in Lysander’s study, holding a glass of firewhiskey, and staring at the fire.
“I don’t understand, how could he sell the Manor?!” he asked Lysander.
“Lucius, you weren’t there at his trial. He completely denounced the Death Eaters, and your family. Plus they used Veritaserum to prove what he did wasn’t his choice.”
Lucius shook his head in disbelief. “I may have forced him, but Draco would never go against his family. I need to speak with him.”
“I tried to find him during the holidays, but he was off the grid. The Ministry must be protecting him since the news of the escape came out. Now he's most likely back in Hogwarts, and you know damn well we can't reach him there.”
“He knows I’m out,” started Lucius, “and that his mother is dead. Yet he doesn’t even try to find me.”
The door of the study opened and in walked Pansy. She looked angry, but wasn’t throwing a fit thankfully. Lysander eyed her suspiciously, “Pansy, what are you doing here? You’re supposed to be back in school, and this is a private conversation.”
“Sorry Father, but I need to have a word with Mr. Malfoy.” Both men looked at her surprised.
“Miss Parkinson,” began Lucius, “good to see you again. What can I do for you?”
“You can get your good for nothing son BACK in line. I arrived at Hogwarts this morning, ready to start the next semester, and would you like to know what I found?!”
They looked at her, waiting…
“YOUR son,” she said jabbing her finger at Lucius, “is dating that filthy, slutty, stupid mudblood; HERMIONE GRANGER! Oh I knew he was shagging her, I saw them snog on New Year's Eve, but it's not just a shag. They're together!”
Lysander coughed up his whiskey. He immediately turned to look at Lucius. His friend’s gaze was locked on his daughter. After a few moments, the glass in Lucius’ hand shattered and fell to the floor. Pansy shrunk back as the look of pure fury crossed Lucius' face. She quickly regretted her outburst, and stepped back even more.
"What" he said in a low, dangerous tone, "did you say?"
"D-Draco. He's romantically involved with Hermione Granger. When I saw her kiss him on New Year's Eve, I assumed he was having his way with her. He did that a lot, at school, with girls he didn't care much about," she frowned at the memories, "but it's different, Sir. They're really together now, even saw him having lunch with her and those other Gryffindors, including Harry Potter."
Lucius turned slowly and placed his hands on Lysander's desk. "This," he said, "will not do."
“Well,” said Hermione as she slumped onto the common room couch, “that could have gone worse, I think.”
Her and Draco finished their first week of classes after going public with their new relationship. Almost everyone stared and whispered whenever they saw the new couple, but no one really interacted with them other than close friends. Though Hermione couldn’t help but notice Pansy’s constant look of pure scorn.
“Much worse” agreed Draco. “And did you see Blaise and Harry talking in the library? I think we’ve rubbed off on them.”
“I just wish we’d rub off on Ron. He still hasn’t spoken to you?” she asked.
Draco shook his head no. “Honestly Hermione, I’m not that upset about it. I did get a letter from George Weasley though. He said he’d make sure puking pastilles would be in every one of my meals for the rest of my life if I hurt you, but said he was happy for us. So that’s something.”
Hermione giggled at George’s threat. “And he’s serious by the way, he can hold a grudge.”
They fell into a comfortable silence, and Hermione used it as her opportunity to bring up a topic that had been gnawing at her for days.
“Draco, you haven’t said a word regarding your mother. You can’t bottle everything up inside.”
He didn’t look at her, and kept his gaze towards the fire. “Because there’s nothing to talk about, I cut my ties with her when she was sentenced. I never intended to speak to or see her again.”
“But it’s different now Draco, she’s dead.”
“I’m well aware” he said, coldly, “but that doesn’t change my opinion of her, or my father.”
“She loved you, Draco. She confirmed Harry’s death when she knew he hadn’t died just so she could ask if you were safe!”
Draco grew angry and turned to face Hermione. The look he gave her sent chills down her spine. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. One good deed isn’t enough to erase years of neglect. She did nothing for me when I was a child! She always took my father’s side. She was never a mother to me, never protected me from him.”
He stood, and marched up the stairs to his bedroom. The minute he slammed the door, he felt guilty over how he spoke to Hermione. She didn’t deserve that, she was only trying to help out of her care for Draco. But this was something he didn’t need meddling in. After a few minutes pacing in his bedroom, he realized he had to go apologize to Hermione. Yelling at her like that left him feeling disgusted with himself. As he went back downstairs to speak with her, he sadly noticed she had left the common room. He went up to knock on her door, but there was no answer. Draco frowned, assuming she had gone to see her Gryffindor friends, probably to vent about how awful he was.
Hermione walked down to Hogsmeade, mad at herself for bringing Narcissa up to Draco. She should have let it go, rather than butting in like she always did. Knowing how she wanted nothing more than for people to not bring up her parents after they died, Hermione couldn't believe how insensitive she had been with Draco. Thinking of her parents brought a sharp pain to her heart, but it was getting easier day by day to handle. She attested that to the happiness she had found with Draco, and that he had made life worth living again.
She needed to clear her mind in the bookstore she loved at the edge of town, and try to brighten her mood. She always found the rows of books calming and relaxing.
Hermione exited the store, her mood significantly better having found a new novel to purchase, and decided she’d get Draco his favorite sweet from Honeydukes as an apology gift for earlier. It had grown dark, and cold on the January night, but Hermione was determined to reach the candy store.
As she walked down the deserted lane, she thought she heard footsteps behind her. Hermione turned quickly to see if anyone was there, but nothing. She kept walking, a bit more alert now, and heard it again.
“Hello?” she called out. “Is anyone there?”
No answer. Hermione felt the hair on her neck stand up, and started walking again, slower, with her hand on her wand. As she heard the noise again, she reached into her pocket. But before Hermione could take out her wand, she felt the familiar pang one feels when hit with a curse, and everything went black.
Draco shuffled his feet as he entered the Great Hall. It had been hours since his fight with Hermione, and she still hadn’t returned. As he looked up, he froze where he stood. There at the Gryffindor table sat Harry, Ron, Ginny, and Luna...but no Hermione. Where could she be? He checked the library, astronomy tower, her favorite courtyard, hell he even checked the stands in the Quidditch Pitch.
He walked over to them, growing concerned. “Do any of you know where Hermione is?”
Ron scoffed, and without even looking at Draco said, “She’s your girlfriend Malfoy, shouldn’t you know where she is?”
Draco rolled his eyes and turned to look at Harry. “We argued earlier, a bit, she brought up my mother and I didn’t react kindly. She left hours ago, and I searched everyone but couldn't find her, so I assumed she’d be with one of you.”
Harry shook his head, “I haven’t seen her since classes. Have any of you?”
Everyone shook their heads no.
A pit immediately grew in Draco’s stomach. Knowing his father was out free, he immediately thought the worst. He turned on his heal and sprinted out of the Great Hall, hearing the Gryffindors follow.
“Draco! Slow down!” yelled Ginny.
He turned to face them, nearly out of breath. “My father’s out, what if something happened to her?!”
“I’m sure she’s fine” said Ginny, “Hermione has always liked to be alone. I bet she went to the bookstore in Hogsmeade, she always said it was her favorite place to go when she was upset.”
The clerk at the bookstore confirmer Hermione had been there about three hours earlier, and purchased a book. Draco grew nervous again. Three hours?! Where could she be now? As the group exited the shop he looked around.
“Something’s wrong, I can feel it” he said.
“We know she was in Hogsmeade, let’s keep looking. Maybe she stopped to grab a bite or is in another store.”
They walked through town, searching every open establishment for Hermione. Everyone said they hadn’t seen her that day. Draco made a turn down a narrower road, knowing it would take him back to the center of town where the others were. As he walked, using his wand to illuminate the way, he saw something on the ground that made his heart stop.
There, dropped in the snow, was Hermione’s bag and the new book she must have purchased. Draco grabbed Hermione’s things, and took off in a sprint.
“He has her, I know he does” said Draco as they entered the castle. “I just don’t know where!”
“Draco calm down,” said Harry, “we’ll find her, we just need to think clearly. Whoever helped the Death Eaters escape, that must be who’s hiding them.”
“I don’t know!” said Draco, growing frustrated with himself. “No one has tried to contact me. I haven’t got a clue who could have helped them!”
“Are there any Death Eaters you know of that weren’t arrested?” asked Ginny, “Maybe one that wasn’t as involved?”
Just as Draco shook his head no, he caught sight of Pansy, walking into the Great Hall with her friends.
“Wait a minute…”said Draco in a softer tone.
He started walking towards the Great Hall, the others followed.
“What’s he doing?” asked Ron.
“No idea” answered Harry.
Draco reached the entrance and looked in, still staring at Pansy. It all pieced together. There’s no way Lucius would have been as good a friend as he was to Lysander if he wasn’t a Death Eater. And it would make sense to have at least one member in the clear, one who wouldn’t ever fall under suspicion, in case of an event like the entire group being sent to Azkaban.
Draco felt his blood start to boil. The anger grew inside him, stronger and stronger, until all he saw was red. He took out his wand, not caring if any professor saw him, and with a loud yell sent a curse through the hall. It make the entire room shake, like an earthquake, catching everyone’s attention. He saw Pansy turn to face him, and with another yell and a swish she flung out of her seat and was pinned against the wall.
Draco walked slowly, down the aisle, towards Pansy. He knew the spell wouldn’t cause her pain, but would keep her still. He silently altered it a bit so she could at least move her head and speak.
“Draco! What are you doing?!” she yelled in that high pitched voice he hated so much.
“What have you done, Pansy?” he asked, dangerously calm.
“W-what are you talking about?!”
“Hermione,” he said, “where is she?”
Pansy started to look around frantically, unfortunately there were no professors in the hall. “How should I know?!”
Draco walked closer to her until he was inches away, “Don’t lie to me Pansy. I want to know what’s going on!”
She looked around once more to see if anyone would come to her aid, but there weren’t many people who were willing to stand up to Draco. Finally, she decided begging would be her best bet.
“Please Draco! I didn’t mean for anything bad to happen. I asked him to talk to you! That’s all! How was I supposed to know he’d take her?!”
“WHO?!” bellowed Draco.
Pansy swallowed hard, “your father” she said, in barely over a whisper.
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