Author's Note: Thank you for all of the reviews! Aha! Finally another chapter done! This chapter was fun to write; actually I had the first 10 paragraphs written right after the previous chapter. Unfortunately, due to school stuff and innumerable problems I had to face (no need to elaborate on that one. All I can say is, thank God it's over!), I couldn't continue.
Then there was the problem of not being able to write at all.
But anyway, the chapter is here! And it's spiked with what I like to refer to as 'romantic glitches'. Aha! And so we move to the actual romance part! These are my absolute favorite chapters to write because they simply write themselves. All I need is a little music and it's up, up and away! Yippee!
Draco paced the hallway leading to the room which Hermione was situated in. It was off to the East wing of the Malfoy Manor, facing the house's expansive lawns and gardens. It should only be a couple of minutes' walk from his room and adjoining study which was on the West wing of the Manor, but somehow, it took him precisely twelve minutes to get from there to here. And he wasn't even at her door.
For the first time in his life, he was feeling a bit uncertain about the course of his actions. Not that he'd ever admit it to anyone (least of all to Hermione Granger!) but Draco was the type of person who never shied away from truth. And the truth was he was scared.
He stopped pacing long enough to read what the Daily Prophet had to say and almost threw the paper in disgust. He didn't realize what his initial plan would amount to. He worked out every detail to make the execution of the plan flawless... but the consequences? He was too caught up with the events to think about those.
Of course, fire would alert the fire brigade.
Of course, Aurors would be sent in to investigate if there had been foul play by the Legion.
Of course, Potter was a damned Auror!
Of course, Granger and Potter were engaged!
Of course, he would immediately want to know where she was!
Why couldn't he have thought of all that!
Unfortunately, now was not the time to ponder. She had been sleeping for almost two days now. If he didn't speak to her now and explain everything, the situation would escalate to unfathomable proportions. After all, with Hermione Granger about, no one was safe; even from their own minds. By Merlin, the woman was exasperating even while she slept.
It was enough to be subjected to her thoughts about him and his actions while she was awake; but asleep? Draco rubbed his forehead with the back of his hand in an effort to alleviate the headache that was now forming. The witch had kept him awake for the past two nights. Not directly, of course. He was terrified that she would wake in the middle of the night and start screaming, demanding that she be released or they'll be forced to suffer her wrath... such as it is.
But no. She did not wake for the past two days. Draco had made it his business to know everything about her condition, even going as far as to check on her at one-hour intervals the past day. He sent his personal physician (a Muggle, mind you) to see to her, but his doctor merely stated that she was just tired. Draco erased the past few minutes of his doctor's mind to remove any doubts that the good doctor had on him. After all, the less people knew about his little... captive, the less suspicion there would be over him.
He paused at her door, rereading the newspaper he held tight in his hands; making sure that he had read right. How could you possibly show someone the paper proclaiming that you were missing, and quite possibly, dead?
Dead. The whole of Wizarding London thought that Hermione Granger was dead.
The first day after her disappearance and the destruction of the lab, they thought her missing. A team of Aurors was quickly assembled, with the intention of finding out her whereabouts and investigating where she could be.
The fire in the lab was an accident, according to the Aurors. They found no trace of foul play, nothing to link the fire and her disappearance to the Legion. They had no known lead. No eyewitnesses. And who exactly was spearheading the investigation?
Potter, no less.
He talked to the reporters without any emotion, as his professional life could not interfere with his personal one. It was well known that they were a couple, even more that they were engaged after five years of dating. But reporters gave him a bit of respect, only asking for the facts, never for Harry's opinion. Never for his feelings on the matter.
The last thing they wanted to see was the Boy Who Lived in a state of grief, determined not to break down and cry.
The paper continued on its story, stating that the Aurors were checking all the possible leads. Questioning people who knew her best and who might have seen her the night of her disappearance. Speculations about her came up in the tabloids; stories Draco did not care read but he was unable to shut them out completely.
One of the speculations was that Hermione had fled the country because of an unknown reason. Hypotheses about those reasons came in by the hundreds. She was terminally ill and didn't want anyone to find out so she left, instigating the fire as a cover-up. Or that she ran off with a man from the Legion. Or that she was taken hostage by a member of the Legion as a ploy to get to Harry.
Another of the speculations was that she committed suicide. A flurry of other reasons went after that. That she was unhappy with her work. That she was with-child. That she had gone completely insane.
However, two days had gone by. No body was found. Aurors tried plotting her location but with limited resources and man-power (as most had given up), they were unable to do so. And even if they had the capabilities, they still wouldn't find her. They wouldn't even dare to question Draco Malfoy and his empire.
It wasn't too long ago when Draco Malfoy formed an alliance with the top Aurors. These top Aurors were the captains of the different squads, ranking highest of them all. They were not really known; they preferred anonymity. It was much better for them, especially during the investigations. During the trials of criminals, they would give their expert opinion on the matter but never in the public eye.
Unbeknownst to the rest of society and even to most of the Aurors of the different squads, members of the Legion were being identified. This was possible because of Draco Malfoy. He knew the members of the Legion, the former Death Eaters. He had the Dark Mark to prove it. It was a pretty easy bargain, actually. Draco would allow the Aurors to ask their questions of the Legion's possible whereabouts, common crimes and tactics and he would answer them. This was, of course, in exchange of a price.
And that price was that his name be cleared of anything and everything that had to do with Voldemort's rise to power. He also asked that his manor be unplottable, so as to deter any unwanted guests that may have his death on their minds. Finally, he asked that he be allowed to continue his... business with Flint, Crabbe and Goyle (clearing their names as well) as undesirable as their business might be.
It was a most powerful Mafia, should it be viewed as such. At this point, no one could touch him and no one dared would. Even if Harry Potter was part of the Auror squadron, he knew that to disobey the strict order of his superiors would mean the inevitable disgraceful exit. And so it goes...
Draco stopped reading. He stopped speculating what might have, should have and could have happened in the situation. To use a Time-Turner would deem failure; and he couldn't change the facts otherwise. And so, with a little prayer to his mother asking for help, Draco unlocked the door to Hermione's room and opened it.
He expected Hermione to be in bed, just as she had been the past two days. It would be easier for him to wake her up, thrust the paper in her hands and run for dear life. By God, he did not want to hear the inevitable scream and holler at him, berating him and telling him to get back to her and explain everything.
But the Fates weren't in his favor... because the woman in focus was not only awake and dressed, she was standing right in front of him, tapping her foot impatiently.
She was waiting for him.
Draco swallowed the lump that suddenly formed in his throat. It was not from fear or anything like that. He had simply been rendered speechless... and he was unable to do anything except stare at her.
Hermione was wearing dark blue slacks with a white, form-fitting t-shirt and white sneakers. The day after her "abduction", Draco had called his secretary and ordered her to buy clothes and other things for Hermione. It seemed like his secretary chose well because the clothes fit perfectly. Her damp hair was unbound and the water made the waves more pronounced. She had not an ounce of make-up on and she looked absolutely gorgeous.
She'd look more beautiful without the frown, of course. Draco thought then quickly came to himself and wondered what in the world provoked that kind of response in him.
"Finally. I thought you'd never get here." Hermione stated, crossing her arms over her chest. She really didn't mean to sound so drawling, (she never wanted to be the reason for a bad day for anyone) but the man in front of her evoked that kind of rudeness in her!
Save of course, for the reason that he was looking particularly... delicious. Hermione groaned inwardly at what she had just thought and hoped that he hadn't noticed her state. Draco looked every bit the smart businessman with his white long-sleeved shirt and red tie, black pants and polished black leather shoes. He wasn't wearing any glasses but his hair was neatly combed back and tied at the nape of his neck.
If Lavender were here, she'd be all over him right this minute... I'm frightfully tempted to do the same myself. Hermione thought then chided herself. For God's sake, Hermione! He's holding you prisoner in his own home!
Amazingly enough, the thought of Harry never entered her mind.
"You've been up all this time, waiting for me? Granger, I'm flattered." Draco replied, smirking.
Hermione's eyes narrowed at him before retorting, "Enough of this small talk, Malfoy. I know why you're here and the answer is still a resounding no!"
"That's not why I'm here. Although, I don't really see the point of your argument with me... You're staying here under lock and key until I get my potion."
Hermione breathed deeply, almost cursing herself for doing so. The man was not two feet away from her and yet she could breathe in the scent of his cologne. Needless to say, it made her want to swoon. Malfoy, the arrogant little prick, or not.
Hermione was a sucker for a man who smelled good. Masculine, invigorating, powerful. Malfoy was currently the embodiment of all three.
She snapped herself out of these ridiculous thoughts about Malfoy and tried to say something that wasn't along the lines she was thinking of.
"Pray, what would be your reason for gracing me with your presence this early in the morning?" Hermione asked sarcastically, giving him a look of nonchalance, waiting for him to reply.
Draco clutched the newspaper that he held tightly in his hand, trying to dredge up some sort of courage to help him through this. The last thing he needed was a screaming Hermione, telling him to go to whither and die before she could get her hands on him and kill him herself.
Therefore, without much ado, he thrust the paper towards her, not saying a word.
"You're giving me the newspaper?" Hermione remarked, giving a small laugh. "Thanks, but no."
"Read it." Draco said, trying to keep calm and keep his voice even. "It's on the front page."
Hermione looked at him, nonplussed. She was trying to figure out if this were a joke, that he had a catch or something to that nature up his sleeve. When there was none, she took the paper from him and looked at him once again before unfolding it.
Now it was Draco's turn to inhale deeply. He counted, anticipating her reaction. Now, the more appropriate action would be to cover his ears and close his eyes until all hell broke loose. Alas, he had a reputation to uphold and found that he could not do either. All he could do was stare her as she read.
There were no signs of emotion of any sort as Hermione read. Draco didn't know whether to feel more relieved or more afraid. From what he could gather, she was ticking time bomb, ready to blow at any time.
She lowered the paper, letting it fall to the floor with a rustle. Her eyes were downcast so he couldn't determine her feelings at that point.
"Get out." She interrupted him with a small voice. She cleared her throat and repeated her statement. She couldn't look at him.
"Look, I didn't—"
"I said, get out, Malfoy." Hermione said, waving him off. She turned away from him and put her hand over her mouth, willing herself not to cry.
When he didn't make a move to get out, she grew angry. "What's the matter with you? I said get out. Are you deaf all of a sudden?"
She took a deep breath before continuing. "Look, I'll stay here. I won't try to escape. I... I just need time to think. Draco, just... leave me alone. Please."
Draco muttered a silent affirmative before picking up the fallen newspaper and folding it. Before he stepped out of her room, he told her that the House Elves would bring her food in a little while.
He stole another glance at her before closing the door. She was curled up on her bed, her body trembling as she cried silently.
For the first time in his life, Draco walked away very much the victor to the battle but felt that he had somehow lost more than he had gained.