A/N: Chapter written by me! Sorry for the wait on this chapter, but hope it was worth it! Please don't think that this fic will be abandoned, as it won't (we've even got a sequel planned...). Remember to check out avdubs who's uploading on her ao3 page, and also check out our tumblr blog for this fic, .com . Thanks for all your comments and favourites, they mean a lot. Enjoy!
Half an hour after Draco had come back from talking to Pansy, everyone had slowly drifted off to their bedrooms for the night, including Draco who'd asked Hermione to come along too. Despite the fact that she now felt more awake than she had before, she was also feeling rather dejected that he felt he couldn't tell her what Pansy had let him know. She had thought that surely he could trust her not to go telling the other girl's story to everyone, and that she only wanted to hear it so it was some weight lifted off of his shoulders.
Hermione didn't voice or show her anger, and instead agreed to accompany him back to bed. His head had barely hit the pillow before he was asleep, softly snoring, without so much as a 'goodnight' to her. She lay on her back, staring up at the ceiling, not feeling an ounce of tiredness hit her. She was incredibly frustrated that no-one but Draco could be privy to why Pansy had left Hogwarts, and was even more so shocked that Remus had so readily accepted her under the Order's protection.
The minutes ticked by and Hermione found it near impossible to get to sleep. She forced her eyes shut on many occasions, only to realise minutes later she had them open again and was back on a whirlwind train of thought. Normally, the quiet sounds of Draco's snores, or snuggling into his side was enough to relax her enough to sleep, but it wasn't happening. She could feel her patience wearing thin, so she gently pushed the covers back and slipped out of bed, tucking her wand into her pyjama pants' pocket.
She pushed open the door of the bedroom and closed it behind her when she was out in the hallway. It was dimly lit, as it always was during the night, and she made her way to the kitchen, where the light was also on. She didn't think anything suspicious of it - having lights on during the night kept a lot of their nerves at ease -, but she was surprised to walk in and find Remus sitting at the table with a mug in his hold.
"Hermione!" he said, just as surprised as she was. "I didn't expect anyone to be awake still."
She glanced at the clock on the wall and noted that it was one a.m. She had been trying to fall asleep in bed since just before twelve; it certainly hadn't felt like that long. "I can't sleep," she told the wizard, and moved around the kitchen preparing a hot chocolate for herself.
"I know the feeling," he agreed. She didn't respond, and started to pour the warm milk into a mug that she'd put some chocolate powder into the bottom of. "How do you feel about what happened earlier?" he broke the silence just as she turned to come to the table.
Hermione sighed as she took a seat, and wrapped her hands around the mug, warming her fingers. "I don't know…" she said honestly. "I want to trust her, and I know I should be trusting Draco's judgement one hundred percent, but it's so hard…" she grimaced, feeling extremely guilty for saying it out loud.
"I know what you mean," Remus said, with a hint of a smile on his face. "Back at the start of the first war, when Dumbledore told us all that Snape would be joining our ranks, none of us trusted him. We trusted Dumbledore; his speech, his judgement, everything...but never Severus himself. It's a confusing feeling."
Hermione felt a pang of pity that Remus had experienced so much war in his life. She took a sip of her drink before speaking again. "I know that she's not a Death Eater. And Harry never mentioned hearing the name Parkinson when he faced off You-Know-Who in the graveyard. I know that they're not a good family, but I also know they're not directly involved with him - unless that's changed very recently…"
"It hasn't," Remus assured her. "Her family has no direct ties. They were...sympathisers, we can say. I don't think Pansy ever held any of those ideals or carried the same hatred that the Death Eaters do. I think she was merely a spoilt, jealous little girl who grew up being fed from a silver spoon, and liked to bully others to feel important. It's no excuse, none at all, but her family's lack of dedication to You-Know-Who is why she's here in the first place."
Hermione furrowed her brows and gave him a curious look. "How-?" she started, but didn't know what question to ask first.
"When I went to tell her that we would be keeping her under our protection, she offered me the same opportunity she did Draco - a glimpse into her mind through Legilimency. What she showed me was brief, but enough for me to now know completely, and trust fully, that she needs our protection."
"She...She showed you?" Hermione asked, and her fingers curled tighter around the mug. "But-"
"She understands my ranking in the Order. I can only assume that if she let's me know what exactly happened, there won't be an opportunity for doubt to grow enough that we would throw her out," he explained.
"And you do? Trust her?"
"I do, Hermione," Remus nodded. "And she will be staying with us. She may not become an official member of the Order, but she will be under our protection. If we pushed her away and left her in this time of need, we would be no better than the side she ran from."
Hermione had steadily been working on the communication coins since the day after she had presented the idea to the majority of the Order. For the first few days, she had mainly focused on making fake Galleons, of which there were many, as each member would have their own. Knowing that this was much more serious as they were up against Death Eaters and Voldemort rather than Umbridge, Filch and the Inquisitorial Squad, Hermione spent a lot of time on each coin, ensuring that each looked identical and practically indistinguishable from the real coin it was based off.
So far, she had a small pile of around fifteen Galleons that were ready to have the Protean charm applied to them, but with everything that had been happening since she'd started concentrating on them, like Ron sneaking off on missions, continuing her research on Horcruxes, reading The Tales of Beedle the Bard, and now having the issue of Pansy in the cabin, she hadn't been able to devote as much time as she would have liked. Ron had offered to help her, but after the three coins he produced all looked completely different to each other and a real Galleon, she had politely told him that maybe he'd be better helping Harry out rather than her.
It was now the day after her late night chat with Remus, and she was beginning to get increasingly frustrated when she continued to make silly mistakes on the coins she was trying to make. She hadn't gotten to sleep until around three in the morning, and then she'd been woken up at seven by Draco. They hadn't spoken much apart from a brief conversation over the breakfast table, and that was also adding to her grouchy mood.
Almost as if it wanted to remind her, the locket which hung around her neck felt colder where it rested on her chest, and she sighed. It wasn't helping her irritability in the slightest, but it was her turn to wear it and was only fair. She'd tried reasoning with Harry that now they were in the cabin, it would be safe to leave the locket in her bag, but he had shut down her suggestion quickly and insisted they all continue to take turns looking after it. She reached into her top and pulled the locket out, and her brow furrowed as she looked at it. She'd never hated an inanimate object so much… Well, really, it wasn't an inanimate object at all. The thought made her sick to her stomach.
There was a soft knock at the door which made Hermione jump and hurry to conceal the locket under her shirt again, and once she had, she cleared her throat. "Come in," she said, not wanting to be rude and deny whoever it was even though she really wasn't in the mood to talk to anyone. Her eyebrows shot up in surprise before she composed her features again, after seeing who opened the door to come in. "Mrs Malfoy… Come in, please," she said awkwardly.
Hermione could count on one hand the amount of times she and Draco's mother had been in the same room alone together, and the amount of times they'd had a one-on-one conversation was even less. The regal witch still intimidated her, though she would never admit it.
"You know you can call me Narcissa," she said as she walked in and took a seat on the chair across the table from Hermione. "You've been in here quite a while."
"I've been trying to get the coins done as quickly as possible," Hermione said, not bothering to contain her sigh. "I'm not performing as well as I normally do, I have to say," she admitted.
"You can't work at one hundred and ten percent all the time," Narcissa said with a small smile and she picked up one of the coins, running the tip of her perfectly trimmed and shaped nail across the embossed numbers and patterns on the gold. "I wouldn't know how to tell the difference between this and the real thing."
"That's what I'm aiming for… Although I can't get it right with these ones," Hermione gestured to the small pile of coins that she had messed up. "I feel like my eyes are playing tricks on me."
Narcissa picked one of them up and looked at both sides. "There's only very tiny differences," she said, "I wouldn't have noticed if you hadn't told me." Hermione shrugged a shoulder and looked at the table, tracing a grain in the wood with her finger. There was a minute or so of silence until Narcissa spoke again, "I can help you with them, if you'd like."
Hermione looked up from the table with slightly widened eyes. "Would you?" she asked, surprised at the offer.
"Of course," she nodded. "I don't have much else to do around here and I rather dislike having nothing to do." She took her wand from her robes and picked up a coin before pausing, "That is, if you trust me to make them just as you have?"
It was an unneeded question, really. Draco had told her so much about his mother's magical talents that even included Occlumency, and had frequently mentioned how he felt rather bad that his mum didn't get to do anything with her talents as she'd been a stay-at-home wife and mother ever since marrying Lucius. "I do trust you," Hermione nodded. "Do you need me to show you the charm?" she asked.
"No, I know it well," she said with a small smile. "I used to have to do the same with countless necklaces and bracelets when Draco was a toddler - he'd constantly break them. Priceless pieces of jewelry, but I could never get angry over it," she continued, her smile growing.
Hermione laughed at the thought of a tiny Draco breaking jewels that Narcissa so easily replaced to fool everyone else. "He did that a lot as a baby?" she asked, deciding to lean back in her chair and relax a bit while Narcissa started working on the coin she was holding.
"All the time," Narcissa nodded and let out a laugh of her own. "I can't even remember how many crystal glasses and vases he smashed when he got out of my view."
"You'll have to tell me more about his childhood," Hermione smiled. "I need more information to pull out and embarrass him at any point," she joked.
Narcissa laughed delicately at that. "I'm sure I can provide many stories," she assured.
"The coins only respond to those that know how to use them," Hermione explained as she stood in front of a small group of Order members. There weren't as many as there had been when she and Harry had first told them about the coins in the first place, and the fact that she knew everyone she was speaking too well, meant she was a lot calmer. She offered the small bag of coins to Remus first and he took one and passed it along to Tonks who continued passing it along until everyone held a fake Galleon in their hands; Mister and Mrs Weasley, Narcissa, Andromeda and Ted, the twins, Draco, and then Harry and Ron who didn't need to be taught how the coins were used, but were there for moral support.
"They look incredibly real," Mister Weasley said as he turned the coin over in his hands, marvelling at each side.
"I can't take all the credit," Hermione added. "Mrs Malfoy did help me quite a bit with these." She looked over to Narcissa who gave her a warm smile. She was very thankful for the Malfoy matriarch's help making the coins, and the time she'd spent with her had provided her with a lot of comfort. They didn't always talk, but when they did it wasn't as awkward as it had been the first time, and Narcissa had always been very interested in hearing what Hermione had to say about the topics she was passionate about. It had taken them two more days of pretty consistent working to make sure the coins were as good as they possibly could be, and Hermione couldn't be more grateful for the help.
"How do we use them exactly?" Tonks asked, resting her hand on the small bump of her belly that was becoming more visible every week.
"Everyone's coin has the Protean charm applied to it so we can change the fake serial numbers on the edge of the coin to show whatever message you want, as long as it's not too long," Hermione explained. "Everyone's coins will heat up to alert that a message has been sent between them. If the message is one of distress, say, someone needs to be apparated away from somewhere or needs backup, then we need to be efficient… Whoever responds to the call needs to send a message through the coins so not every single Order member arrives at the same place."
"Possibly into a trap…" Remus added, and Hermione agreed.
"I've made a separate coin to stay here, probably in the kitchen, and it will also double as a Portkey if anyone ever needs it."
"Blimey, you've thought of everything," Fred grinned, flipping his coin up in the air with his thumb.
"Please take care of them. Don't let them out of your sight...or your pockets. We can't afford to have them end up in the wrong hands," Hermione said, and both the twins saluted whilst everyone else murmured in agreement.
The lapse of instruction meant everyone started talking between themselves, and Remus stood up to come and talk to Hermione. While he spoke to her, she glanced behind him and caught sight of Draco who gave her a thumbs up and a grin. It made her smile too, and when she finished speaking to Remus she walked over to him. "I'm proud of you," Draco murmured and pulled her in for a hug. She was surprised at his display of affection in front of everyone else, but she didn't question it and wrapped her arms around his middle and hugged back tightly - she wasn't going to pass up on this.
She had been in an extremely deep sleep, and it was very much needed too. She had stayed awake long past midnight with Harry trying to think of places the other Horcruxes would be, and the only progress they had made (if it could be called that), was that Harry was even more set on the fact one would be hidden at the Orphanage Voldemort had grown up in.
Hermione had gone to bed irritated with Harry's narrow mindedness on the situation, but thankfully Draco had been more than happy to pull her close and hold her until they both fell asleep. She'd known that they had nothing urgent happening in the morning so she had the chance to sleep in, but that plan flew out the window rather quickly…
It was Draco's fingers dipping into the waistband of her pyjama pants that first made her stir in her sleep. She let out a soft sigh - more of a groan really - from having her sleep cut short, and almost turned on her side, but stopped when she felt his lips press against her neck, just below her jaw. He pushed her pyjamas down her thighs and the movement made her slowly open her eyes, and at the same time she lifted her hips up to allow the pyjamas to go past her bum. Draco had only ever woken her up this way twice before; the first time had been quite the shock, but now? She was going to take what he was giving, because Merlin, she thought she needed it.
He kissed her neck again softly as he pushed her knickers down to join her pyjama pants just below her knees, and she parted her legs for him. "Morning," he murmured to her, his voice deep and raspy from how early it was, and he continued to kiss her neck, focusing on one particular spot which always made her feel weak.
She hummed softly in acknowledgment, not wanting to speak, and she let her eyes close again. His fingers were soft as they roved down her stomach, tracing below her belly button for several seconds before continuing on to her thighs. He rubbed her inner thighs gently, and she smiled, letting her legs part even more. She didn't know how long he spent touching her thighs and her stomach gently, avoiding where she really wanted his fingers to go, but at that point, she didn't really mind. It was a lazy morning after all, and she knew he'd make his way there eventually.
And eventually he did, and Hermione's legs jumped slightly when he ran two fingers between her folds, focusing only on her clit. With her eyes still closed, she pushed her head back firmly into her pillow and reached down to grab Draco's forearm. She could feel his lips curl into a smirk against her neck, and felt his hardness against the side of her thigh. She grit her teeth tightly when he kept his pace consistent, rubbing gentle circles around her clit, not going too fast or too slow, but she let out a small moan when he moved his hand away from her completely to push the blankets off of them. She didn't mind the cold air that hit her mostly bare legs, as he was back to touching her again in the exact same way he had before.
Now she was very aware of how much time was passing, and she pushed her heels into the bed as she rocked her hips forward, wanting more than he was giving her. He chuckled quietly against her neck, and quickened his circular movements with his fingers until her grip tightened on his arm and she kept lifting her hips off the bed. She whispered his name and told him to go faster which he happily did. The pressure built and built before she tensed her legs and grabbed his arm with both hands when she came, and after several seconds she relaxed and lay there feeling limp with a silly smile on her face.
Her legs jerked every few moments as Draco was still touching her, though slower than before. "Feeling better?" he murmured against her neck after a few minutes had passed, and he moved his hand down to pull back up her knickers and pyjamas.
She turned her head to look at him and their noses brushed against each other. "Very much," she told him and then pressed her lips to his. When she pulled back, she closed her eyes. "Need more sleep," she mumbled, and pulled his arm around her middle. "Too tired…" His quiet laugh against her cheek was the last thing she really remembered before falling asleep.
When Hermione woke next, it was from a knock that sounded at the bedroom door. She lifted her head from her pillow, and held her blankets tighter to her chest while Draco moved around to get out the bed. "Hold on," he called as he pulled on some pants before going to the door and opening it a fraction so whoever was there couldn't see Hermione still in bed.
"I know it's early," the voice from the hallway said, and Hermione realised it was Andromeda. Knowing she couldn't be seen, she got out of bed quickly and started to take off her pyjamas then dress in the clothes she'd worn the day before, still listening to Draco and his aunt's conversation as she did. "I just thought you'd like to know before everyone else: I think Pansy's healed."
"Completely?" Draco asked, and Hermione paused from where she was pulling her jeans up.
"Yes, I believe so," Andromeda said. "I was going to help her to the bathroom like I usually do, but she said she could do it herself - she walked fine, and has lost the tremors she's been having when she moves."
"So… There's no lasting effects?"
"Not that I can see," she answered. "Physically, at least… I know what the girl went through, and I can tell that she endured the Cruciatus curse a lot longer than I had to; I only had tremors for around half a day, nothing like what she's suffered through. I'm sure there are lasting mental effects for her, but nothing completely detrimental. A familiar face and a helping hand is probably all she needs - wants - right now."
"Can you tell her I'll come see her as soon as I'm dressed?" Draco asked, and Hermione finished pulling her jeans up and put her shirt on too, watching Draco shift his weight from foot to foot as he stood at the door.
"Of course I can, take your time, Draco," Andromeda said and then her footsteps faded as she walked away and Draco closed the door and turned to Hermione with a smile.
"It's good news," he said, and Hermione smiled back.
"It is," she agreed. "I'm glad she's better," she told him, and she really was. She wouldn't wish such harm on anyone, regardless of what had happened in the past.
"I know I'm meant to have the locket this morning…" Draco said after a brief pause, and he rubbed the back of his neck. "But…"
"I'll take it," she said, though not willingly.
"I just don't want to be an arse if something happens. She's just gotten better after all, I'm the only one she really knows besides mum," he said, confirming what she'd suspected was his reason of not wanting the locket.
"I know," she assured him with a terse nod, and pretended to look around for her socks so he wouldn't see the look on her face. She knew that he'd now forgotten that the both of them had planned to spend the day outside reading up on various different things they had to focus on, but how could she blame him? She shouldn't blame him… She had to remind herself that she would act the same if the situation was reversed.
She glanced at him when he didn't respond, and found him quickly dressing, wearing the same clothes as he did the day before - just like her. When he finished, he walked up to her and put his hand on her waist. "I'll go see Pansy now," he smiled and leant in to give Hermione a chaste kiss on the lips.
He didn't notice her forced smile, and turned to leave the room in a rush. She stood in the middle of the bedroom and grit her teeth tightly and had to stop herself from curling her fingers into her palms. 'Stop it, Hermione!' she scolded herself roughly in her head, and brushed her hair back from her face. There was nothing to be angry or jealous over. They could trust Pansy, and she needed a friend, Hermione reminded herself. She let out a sigh and then left the bedroom to head up to Harry and Ron's bedroom to collect the locket from the latter, and then spend the rest of the day outside reading. At least the weather was nice…
Draco took the stairs two at a time, saying a quick hello to Harry who was walking down just then. He reached the top and walked to the room that Pansy was staying in, and knocked on the door.
He pushed the door open when he heard her, and saw her sitting at the end of the bed wearing clothes that looked two sizes too big for her. "Hi," he said, giving her a small smile. "How are you feeling?"
She didn't look happy, and from the dark circles beneath her eyes he could tell that she hadn't been sleeping well. With a sigh, she stood up and curled her fingers around the cuffs of her jumper, as the sleeves hung past her hands. "How do you think I'm feeling?" she asked rather snappishly. "I'm tired, I'm sick of people looking at me like you're looking at me, and I'm wearing the Weaselette's clothes. I might as well be wearing a hessian bag."
It took a lot of willpower to keep from smiling at that. She definitely was the same Pansy he knew, just a rather worn-out one. "Do you want me to shrink the size of them?" he asked. Pansy was tall - taller than Hermione at least -, but not as much as Ginny Weasley was. It made him wonder if Mrs Weasley had left the clothes specifically for Pansy or if there was another unexplained reason.
"Yes," Pansy nodded. "They took my wand. Apparently I'm not allowed it back because I'm safe enough here that I shouldn't need it."
That made Draco furrow his brows and he made a mental note to ask Remus if that really was a good idea. He took his wand from his pocket and shrunk Pansy's clothes down enough that they weren't hanging off of her. "Shall we go down to have breakfast?" he suggested.
She nodded again, and he offered his arm out to her to hold. She stared at it in disgust, as if his offering to help disgusted her, and she walked out of the room first, albeit rather slowly and with a slight limp. "Weasley's been bringing me breakfast," she said as they reached the stairs, and she hesitated long enough for Draco to extend his arm to her again.
This time she took it.
"He has?" Draco asked in surprise. "I knew he feels pretty guilty about the whole thing, but acting like your butler too?" he smirked. "You must be loving it," he joked.
"I hate it. I don't want to be waited on like some...like some…" She searched for a word.
"Like someone who definitely needs help from other people who are willing to give it?" Draco drawled and earned a sharp glare from her. They reached the bottom of the stairs and surprisingly, she didn't unhook her arm from his. She was holding his forearm rather tightly, and he could have lost blood supply to his hand from what happened next…
They walked into the kitchen and seated at the table was Harry, Ron and Hermione, all talking amongst themselves, laughing. When Draco and Pansy walked in, Harry was the first to speak. He kept a smile on his face as he spoke, "Morning. There's still some scrambled eggs if you guys want some."
Draco nodded, and looked at Hermione. The small smile she'd had on her face when she'd been talking to Harry and Ron had disappeared and she was looking down at her empty plate; he could just see the chain of the locket peeking from her top's neckline. "I'm going outside," she said as she stood up, and the legs of her chair scraped against the floor. Draco caught her eye as she walked past, but she didn't say anything else, and left to go to the backdoor.
"Might as well keep her company," Ron mumbled as he got up too and put his hands in his pockets as he walked the same way Hermione had. Harry didn't make an excuse, but stood up and gathered the dirty plates on the table and took them to the sink and with a flick of his wand, had them being cleaned up, and then he was on his way too, leaving Draco and Pansy alone.
"They're not subtle," she said and slipped her arm from around his and took a seat at the table. Although she feigned ignorance and so obviously was pretending their reaction didn't affect her, Draco caught the hint of sadness on her features when she thought he wasn't looking.
This is going to be difficult, he thought, and turned to the counter to start plating up breakfast.