Warning: This chapter has a very explicit scene of a sexual nature. Read at your own discretion.
With each passing moment, their chances worsened. Iadeth Travers may have had a vendetta against Theodore Nott, but as time went on, Harry Potter grew less and less confident in Nott's assumption that he would be visiting the estate that night. He was quite certain that Nott wasn't involved, yet there was something that the wizard and his wife refused to tell him. What it was, he did not know, but he had a sneaking suspicion that he knew someone that did.
"Melman!" Harry hissed, shaking the Auror awake. "Melman! Get up!"
Nelson Melman rolled onto his side and let out a resounding snore. Harry had never seen a sober man sleep so comfortably on a rug before, but as he looked at the clock, he understood how it could happen. The short hand was parked just a bit past the large "II".
"Melman!" he repeated, much louder this time. "C'mon, get up!"
"Wuzzit?" the man slurred, squinting. He blinked a few times. "Potter? Wuzzgoinon? Izzee here?"
"No, but I need you up anyway." Harry stood up straight and tucked his wand in his waistband. Mildly aware of Pansy Nott stirring in her sleep, he lowered his voice. "I'm going to see if I can figure out where else he might be going, and if I do, I'm going to try and head him off. He still might come here, though, and Nott's going to need some help if he does."
The urgency of the situation seemed to strike a nerve. "Nott? Will I at least have Humphries around in case things go south?"
Harry decided it was best not to tell him that Phoebe Humphries was far too drunk to stand up on her own, let alone duel. "No, but I sent a Patronus to Vox and ordered him to come here for backup. You're going to have to escort him through the wards."
Melman sat up and rubbed his eyes. "Vox'll do. How long you think before he gets here?"
"Not long. You need to keep things under control here until he shows. Think you can handle that?"
"Yeah. Yeah, I can handle it." The Auror didn't sound very confident.
"Good. I'm going to go sort a few things and then I'll be on my way." With a quick wave of his wand and a quiet utterance of "Incendio", Harry lit the fireplace. "Keep a bit of light in here. It'll keep you from dozing off."
Melman nodded from his spot on the floor. "If Travers shows up, I'll send a Patronus."
"Thanks." Harry sighed, fatigued from his long day that did not seem to be ending any time soon. "Alright, I'm going to go collect Humphries so we can go. Keep an eye out for my stag in case we get a good lead, yeah?"
Melman agreed and Harry began the trek to find Phoebe Humphries. He had gone through at least ten rooms, each one grander than the last, when he finally found her, asleep with an open bottle of wine discarded carelessly nearby. The elderly house-elf called Galdron was clicking his tongue, circling her like a vulture over a rotting carcass.
"My, my, we cannot hold our wine, can we?" Kreacher was the only other elf that Harry knew to speak with such disgust when it came to humans. "Breaking into the wine cellar without permission, stealing my Masters' oldest and most expensive Merlot!" He turned to Harry, his tiny, beady eyes glistening in the rays of moonlight. "I do hope you've come to take this one home. I have cleaned four spills of hers tonight. Four!"
"Galdron, don't blame one guest for another's misconduct," Nott said, coolly. "It's unbecoming."
Harry had not even seen the wizard standing in the frame of the open French doors. His black attire was swallowed by night, much like the innocence of his magnificent estate. In the dark, it resembled Malfoy Manor much more than Harry would have liked.
"Did I frighten you, Potter?" Nott asked, his shoes scuffling against the white marble floor. "Not much of an Auror if you didn't expect to see a man in his own home."
"Just didn't notice you there," Harry mumbled. He gestured Humphries. "How long has she been like this?"
"What? Passed out?" Nott crossed his arms, looking down at the inebriated woman. "Long enough, I suppose. One of my elves came to inform me of her state about thirty minutes ago. She was choking on her own vomit, but Remy was kind enough to tilt her head to the side. Fortunately for your friend here, she's a bit more forgiving than some of my other elves." He gestured Galdron, who scowled.
As Harry got a closer look, he saw the purple-colored sick dribbling down her chin and onto her robes. "I see that. Well, erm—I was going to relieve you of the burden, anyway. I think Travers may be headed somewhere else, so I'm going to get this one home and start figuring out just where he might attack."
Unreadable as he so often was, Nott asked, "I assume you've made arrangements for my wife's protection?"
"Melman is staying. Vox is on the way," Harry said, bending down to pick up the wine bottle. "Pansy is still sleeping."
Nott looked deep in thought, but all he said was, "Good."
Galdron snagged the wine bottle out of Harry's hand and waddled away, mumbling something about "conniving, entitled Aurors".
"If you need anything, have Melman or Vox send a Patronus my way, alright?"
"Yeah, sure," Nott muttered. There was something else he wanted, but he wasn't saying it. "Best of luck."
"Thanks." Harry bent down and took Humphries's clammy hand in his own, hoping quite seriously that she would be better after a potion or two. He had only ever seen his brother-in-law get so drunk, and his body was conditioned for such things.
Then, before he could Disapparate with the slumbering witch, Nott hurriedly interrupted him. "Wait! Potter—"
Harry turned. "Yes?"
Nott appeared to be having an internal battle with himself for a short moment. Finally, he quite firmly said, "Follow your gut."
How Phoebe Humphries ended up in the Auror Office, she did not know. Even more strangely, she was sitting at Nelson Melman's desk, a place she usually avoided as it was covered in careless coffee rings and filthy food stains. Candles were lit, but she was otherwise alone.
Her head was spinning, likely from all the wine she had drunk in the last place she remembered being, the Notts' cellar. Then, the day started to come back to her in pieces. Regina Prattle's report. The owl to Moretti. Potter's return. Granger's supposed innocence. The Nott estate.
Still, she was certain that Hermione Granger had a hand in something heinous. The woman acted far too guilty under questioning to be truly innocent. Perhaps, Lenore Thomas was Draco Malfoy under the influence of Polyjuice Potion. Perhaps, she was the real Lenore Thomas and she was involved with something else terrible that Granger had done. As she pondered the many possibilities, she noticed a piece of parchment written in Eldin Primpernelle's poor scrawl. She seized it and read it to herself.
I couldn't find you so I went home. Weasley is all sorted.
Ronald Weasley's arrest was another damper on her day. If she had not taken him in over the run-in with his brother, his property never would have been riddled with trackers and then, maybe, he would have taken care of the Hermione Granger problem himself. Now, even with Rita Skeeter's meddling, the woman would be a pity case. The public would decide the Minister had no choice but to run into the arms of another man, because Ronald Weasley is unhinged—a violent alcoholic with no regard for her safety.
"How's that Sobering Draught treating you?"
Humphries nearly jumped out of her skin. "Potter! You scared me!"
"Wasn't my intention," he muttered, hoisting himself onto a nearby desk—Durden's, to be exact. "Interesting day, it's been."
"Yes, quite interesting..." Being alone with Potter had never felt so foreboding before. Candlelight danced across his skin, pale from winter and sunken from sleeplessness. "Where's Melman?"
"At the Notts' still." He removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. "I sent Vox over to help."
"Travers never showed, then." She smirked. "Just like I said."
Clearly disliking her tone, Potter gave her a grave look. "Not yet."
"Where are we off to next, then? You have a lead?"
Suddenly, he was very interested in his feet. "Well, I do have a lead, but—erm—your behavior today—we need to—er—we need to address it."
"Oh, come on, Potter! I know for a fact Vox carries a flask around when his wife hasn't made him swear off the bottle," she said, folding her arms. "And Primpernelle, I don't know what kind of potions that one uses, but he's mental, always picking at his face—"
"The wine wasn't the only thing," Potter interjected, sternly. "Your little issue with the Minister—it's been going on for awhile, but I didn't think you'd do what you did today. She warned me, and I stood up for you. Now I see why she was so concerned."
Humphries paled. It was the conversation she had been dreading—the one she hoped he'd forgotten about during all of the panic. "W-well, I received a report from one of Thomas's team members that she hadn't been in for several days. Her secretary didn't have any type of vacation scheduled with her, and the Minister was the last person to meet with her. Naturally, it made sense to bring her in for qu-questioning."
"So you spoke to Thomas's family, then? Her loved ones? Before you brought Hermione in, I mean. You did that, right?"
Humphries gulped. "Well, no, but—"
"And you didn't even ask me before bringing in a Legilimens for the Minister for Magic? Don't you think I would've needed to know about something like that?"
Silence was her only friend. Any answer she gave him would be wrong, and they both knew it.
"And that wine you drank at the Notts—this wasn't a swig from a flask. This was passing out drunk while we were waiting for a dangerous Azkaban escapee! I mean, you have to know this wasn't one of your best days, Humphries. I'd be hard-pressed to call it anything less than a fireable offense, if it weren't for your position..."
Tears threatened to fall. Her plan had not only been foiled, but her worst fear was coming true at the same time. The career she loved more than anything was falling apart, and it was all because of Hermione Granger.
"I—um—I need you to take a leave of absence. Unpaid. I'll review your case after I've gotten more sleep and—er—well, we'll see if we can bring you back on, but I can't guarantee anything. If you were anyone else, I'd let you go right here, but I'm going to give it some time. You've done a lot for our department and, well...we'll see what happens."
Potter shook his head. "I'm sorry, Phoebe. I'll—I'll walk you down to the fireplaces, if you like."
"N-no," she stammered. Even a few more seconds with him seemed unbearable. "I—I think I'd prefer to go alone."
Harry never wanted to go to Cornwall again. He didn't think he would be thankful that his best friend was involved with Draco Malfoy, but if she weren't, he would have no excuse to go home, and at that moment, he wanted nothing more than to be home. The familiar scent of Ginny's favorite potpourri, the crackling of only one fireplace—he could not wait until it welcomed him with open arms.
As he should have expected, the house was quiet. The fireplace was dead, the furniture was undisturbed, and the only sign of life was the lingering scent of an instant dinner that Ginny bought at the Muggle market. Factory-made meatloaf had somehow become one of her go-to meals, which Harry never did quite understand, considering she could use her magic to make a much better homemade version in just a few moments. She always said, "It just tastes better, Harry. I don't know."
It was not the first time he returned home in the dead of night. Auror work led to a lot of late evenings, but rarely did it feel so good to simply feel the plush carpet between his toes after kicking off his loafers. With a sigh of relief, he collapsed onto the sofa and reeled the day's events. How Travers got away still shocked him, especially since he had a similar method of escape when he was just fourteen years old. Nott had been right. He should have seen it coming.
"No going back now," he murmured to himself. The thought that followed made him chuckle. Unless Nott makes me a Time-Turner.
He assumed that the second story was just as dead as the rest of the house. According to the clock in the sitting room, it was nearly a quarter to three. Still, he decided to check on his wife before he woke up Hermione for his terribly prying questions. He crept up the steps and walked past the guestroom to their master bedroom at the end of the corridor. To his surprise, a light trickled through the gap between the door and the carpet. Frowning, he knocked.
"Hermione, I told you—"
"It's not Hermione. It's me."
Within seconds, the door burst open and Ginny flung her arms around his neck, much like Pansy had done when she saw Theodore Nott. "Oh, Harry! I'm so glad you're home! At first, your stupid bird wouldn't stop with her bloody squawking and then Vurmhart stole my story and then there was the Hermione and Malfoy ordeal this morning and—"
"Slow down, slow down," Harry insisted, holding his hands up in surrender. "You can tell me everything soon, okay? I just wanted to see you before I—er—before I got back to the case."
She backed away from him, skepticism written in the lines of her face. "But I thought you already brought Bulstrode in? That's the rumor that's been going around... Loxwell got an interview with a guard at Azkaban... He's already started a story on it—or at least that's what he said when I called in through the Floo today..."
"Yeah, well, Bulstrode wasn't the only one we found," he said, grimly. "Iadeth Travers has been running with her and he got away. You can't tell anyone that, though, Gin. Especially not anyone at work."
"But—but he's in Azkaban, I thought," she whispered, dropping onto the edge of the bed. Arms crossed, she went on, "He—he's out there, then? You don't think..."
"The kids are safe at Hogwarts. There's no reason to worry, okay? I'm going to get him and I'm going to bring him in."
Ginny sniffled a little. "Harry, this is exactly why I worry. You think you're invincible so you keep dueling these dangerous witches and wizards and I just—I just wish you would push paper like every other department head would. That's all."
"And be miserable? Gin, you know I can't do that... They need me." He sighed and sat down beside her, his hands clasped together. "Besides, Travers is getting pretty old. I think my reflexes are a bit better."
She laughed a little and leaned against him. "You think you'll be done with this case soon, then? If he's so old, maybe he'll drop dead on his own."
Harry chuckled. "Yeah, maybe he will." He cleared his throat. "But seriously, I'll be back soon. I'm going to have a little chat with Hermione and then I think I'll be close to getting him back in Azkaban where he belongs."
Ginny stiffened. "What d'you need Hermione for? You shouldn't be talking to her after what she—oh, you probably didn't hear..."
"I did," Harry corrected her, "and I need her help. They had Theodore Nott held hostage and—well, I have reason to believe Malfoy might know something."
Ginny scowled. "I knew he was up to no good! I told her—"
"Gin, listen to me. This isn't about Hermione shagging Malfoy. It isn't about whether we agree with it or not. This is about getting the information I need to make sure Travers goes to Azkaban. Do you understand? I'm really sorry about what happened to Ron, but after what he did today, he's not so innocent either—"
"What he did today?" Ginny drew her brows together. "What are you talking about?"
It was then that Harry realized she probably hadn't heard the news yet. "Well, he—erm—he sort of tried to hold her prisoner. He's in Azkaban. I saw him myself."
"What?" she shrieked. "He didn't—he didn't hurt her, did he?"
"Well no, but I don't know how it's going to turn out for him, honestly. What he did—it's technically treason because of who she is."
"Treason?" she repeated, incredulously. "You have to be kidding me! He was just upset! He wasn't trying to do harm to the bloody country or anything! Harry, you have to do something! He didn't even hurt her—you said it yourself!"
After a sharp inhale, he said, "There's nothing I can do, Gin. I really wish things weren't this way, but right now I need to sort out this whole Travers case. I don't want Ron in there any more than you do, but—"
"But what?" she asked, crossing her arms. "But he deserved it? But he committed 'treason'? Don't you dare take their side on this, Harry. You know he was just upset and I mean, can you blame him? She's out there shining Malfoy's knob—"
"Ginny, I'm sorry, I know you're upset but I really have to wake up Hermione and get this sorted out." He stood up. "I'll come say goodbye after I'm done, okay?"
"You might as well say goodbye now then," she said, quietly, her arms crossed.
"She's not here. Hasn't been since this morning."
Harry frowned. "What d'you mean? Where is she? Out again?"
Ginny shook her head. "No, she's gone for good. Kicked her out after I saw the picture in the Prophet."
"You did what?"
"Well, she cheated on my brother, didn't she! She shouldn't be too hard to find, though. I'd put my bets she's with him." She said the word like it left a dirty taste in her mouth. "Probably at that terrible manor of his."
Harry groaned. What he hoped would be an easy lead had just become much more challenging.
Darkness brought discomfort. Death Eaters did their business by night, and since Iadeth Travers was wanted by Aurors, Draco Malfoy assumed he would be particularly prone to that rule. He combed his fingers through the sleeping witch's hair, bile rising into his throat and hands going clammy. Once again, she was in danger, and it was his fault.
His fingers hit a snarl in her hair and her eyes flickered open. With a small smile, she stretched and said, "Hey."
"Hey." He pulled his hand from her curls. "I didn't mean to wake you."
"It's okay." She sat up. "I needed to be up anyway. Wouldn't want to be sleeping if Travers shows."
Draco pressed his lips together. "Yes, I suppose not."
"Waiting to be attacked and this is still the best part of my day," she noted before planting a kiss on his cheek.
"Funny. Mine too."
"Mm," she hummed, and then, without warning, she crashed her lips into his. Naturally, he reciprocated, but as she bit down, nearly drawing blood, he realized her intentions might have been beyond his expectations.
Draco sighed as she latched onto his neck, well aware that, even after so many years, the woman knew how to drive him to madness. There was trepidation—not on her behalf, but on his. The disturbing events she experienced that day might have robbed her of her clarity, and he certainly did not want to do anything with her that she might regret.
"Hermione—" His breathing hitched as her hand cupped his manhood through the fabric of his trousers.
She knit her brows together and pulled away. "What's wrong?"
He cleared his throat, secretly missing the sensation of her palm. "Well, you're still married to Weasley, first of all. Secondly, I'm not so sure you actually want to do this. You've had quite a day and—"
"So you think I'm incapable of making decisions?" she asked, annoyed. "I'll have you know, I've had to make much harder decisions after much harder days. I chose you, Draco, married or not, and with Ron in Azkaban, I have no idea how long it'll take to sort out the paperwork. I'm not about to wait for him, and sorry to be crass, but you approached me when you knew I was still married to him. This whole vase thing might've been a good excuse, but we both know you had other intentions too. Is this—" She rubbed him through his clothes once more, and he though he tried to swallow it down, he let out a groan. "—not what those intentions were?"
She'd done it. She'd erased any fight he had in him.
"Such a Gryffindor you are," he growled, before covering her mouth with his.
Just as he remembered her doing when they were teenagers, she took the lead, tugging at his trousers until he unlatched the belt and kicked them off. How little she had to do to entice him. How long he had been waiting to do this again.
He helped her with her robes, stealing forceful, bruising kisses as he could. Finally, her soft breasts spilled out before him, and it was then that he realized just how much they had grown since they were teenagers. Motherhood and middle age had left them full and fleshy, not quite like he remembered them being, but it was certainly a welcome surprise.
"It's been awhile," he said, softly, running his hands up her cool middle. She shivered beneath his touch.
He leaned in and lapped at her nipple, smirking against it as it firmed at the press of his tongue. It felt like eons since he had felt her like that, writhing on top of him as she ached for him to enter her. A moan fell from her perfect, pink mouth. Slowly, he reached between her legs, coaxing the apex of her wet womanhood with tender strokes, preparing her for the ecstasy to come.
"Dr-Draco," she gasped, curling her fingers around one of the throw pillows. "Pl-please."
Each moan made him more and more ravenous, and he swirled his tongue around her erect nipple just to hear another. Aware of the tightness in his pants, he realized he wouldn't be able to bear their semi-abstinence much longer. He needed her, just as she needed him.
"Draco, stop being a tease."
Perhaps, he would have toyed with her more if it hadn't been so long, but now, he was just as hungry for her as she was for him. He unbuttoned his shirt and discarded it to the floor—the last piece of fabric separating their warm flesh. She grinned and lightly pushed on his chest before straddling him. Now she was the tease.
"Merlin, Hermione," he croaked as she lowered one hand to her hood. She rubbed herself slowly, sensually, and tossed her head back in pleasure, still smirking at him in between quiet, sinful groans. Her opening rubbed against him, only centimeters from taking him whole. He was so close to being inside of her, but for a long, tortuous moment, all she did was rub herself, creating friction between the two of them that she was too cruel to close.
Then, finally, she pulled herself up and plunged down upon him. Draco let out a forced gasp, holding her hips as she slowly moved up and down. One of her hands clutched hard onto his thigh while the other reached up and squeezed her own breast. Her eyes were closed and her mouth open, taking breathy sighs with each jerk of her pelvis. Only she could change his mind so quickly. Only she could rob him of all resolve with the hot press of her lips.
Then, her movements became more rapid. Her eyes opened and a smile was on her face as she leaned down, only to kiss him shyly, innocently. Astoria never looked him right in the eye like Hermione did. His late wife had been too focused on the unsightly scars staining his pale chest, frowning at them whenever she had the chance. Hermione, however, never cared about those. Nobody else saw him the way she did, and he wondered to himself if Weasley could ever see her the way he did.
Then, she arched her back against him, riding him harder and faster, emitting screams in sync with his throaty breaths. No, Weasley never could have seen her like that. This was for them and them alone.
His fingers bruised her hips as she brought her hand back down to touch herself, working vigorously. He watched each movement, thrusting into her from beneath, perspiration boiling at his brow. He licked his lips as they became jerkier and more awkward, well aware that he would not last much longer. Still, despite their haphazardness, she managed to keep rubbing herself, and while he watched her fingers sweep over her clitoris a few final times, she tightened around him. He couldn't take it anymore. With his final, messy release, he let out the same choking noise he'd made ever since they were teenagers.
Sweaty tendrils of hair clung to her face and neck as she collapsed on top of him, a small, knowing smirk on her face. She kissed him softly and settled into his neck.
"I've waited all too long for that," she admitted.
He laughed a little and planted his lips against her salty forehead. "We ought to get dressed."
"Mmm..." she hummed. "Maybe in a few minutes."
The Great Hall was still laced with the din of gossip. Rose Granger-Weasley was growing tired of the incessant commentary, but she knew it would never end—not entirely, anyway. Luckily, her own house had decided to stop hurling insults at her during mealtimes, so long as she sat next to her brother. Nobody wanted to be on the receiving end of one of his hexes.
While the affair kept everyone else busy giggling, Rose was thinking about something that Scorpius Malfoy had told her the day before, and the more she thought about it, the more decided she was. She had to talk to him again.
Rumors would spread like wildfire as soon as she went anywhere near him, but the subject was too important to let go. She stormed to the far end Slytherin table and leaned across the buttered toast and back bacon, earning several whispers and glances, just as she expected. Scorpius and Albus, after all, were still the pariahs of their house, and after the news, Scorpius was likely to be receiving the worst of it.
"What do you want?" Albus hissed. His knuckles had gone white from squeezing his fork.
"Scorpius, what we discussed last night—"
"You'll get him in trouble!" Albus scolded. Furious sparks flew from the end of his wand, which was on the table beside his scraped-clean plate, likely ready to hex his fellow Slytherins in case they got smart with him. "Now go away. Our house already hates us and you're not helping any."
"I don't care!" Rose exclaimed. "Scorpius, you have to tell McGonagall. No one is supposed to be flying in the Forbidden Forest, especially not a grown man."
Scorpius shifted, uncomfortably. His eyes kept darting to his right towards the rest of Slytherin House, most of whom seemed to be staring at the three of them. "And I'm not supposed to be in the Forbidden Forest at all. I don't want to get in trouble." A few snorts could be heard from the right. "Now please, go away!"
"You won't! You just have to tell her what you saw," Rose insisted. "Just tell her that you were taking a stroll and you're sorry you did, but you saw a man and—"
Before she could finish her thought, Romelia Goyle scooted towards them and chirped, "Should've known your father wasn't the only blood traitor round here, Malfoy. My father says he's a disgrace to the entire magical world. No surprise since he made you."
Shame in his pale features, Scorpius whispered, "I think you should go."
"What? Because of her?" Rose scoffed. She shot Romelia a nasty look. "She has no right talking about fathers, since she doesn't even know hers!"
Romelia growled. It was no secret that there was speculation about her parenthood. After all, her mother married Gregory Goyle while he was in Azkaban and basic mathematics proved that Romelia was somehow conceived sometime before that. Rose heard as much from her mother, and in their third year, she might have told the rest of the student body.
Albus sniggered, but Scorpius did not look as pleased.
"Please," Scorpius begged, glancing at a seething Romelia. "Just go."
Rose could not believe her friends were such cowards. After all that Slytherin House did to them, the two boys still cared what they thought. "Fine! But don't think we aren't talking about this later!"
Romelia smirked. "Oooh, someone's in trouble with his girlfriend! Bit gross, don't you think? Since she's basically like your sister now?"
Rose stormed away, entirely aware of the scowl Scorpius emitted.
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