The Witness and the Wife-Chapter 1-Reunion
By Marmalade Fever
Disclaimer: I do not own nor claim Harry Potter and any/all related insignia, which is the property of J.K. Rowling. No profit is being made.
Hermione didn't know what possessed her to go into that pub on that particular night. It was most definitely five times as foul-looking as the Hog's Head, and she certainly didn't approve of that particular establishment. As it was, she was cold, a bit lost, and in no hurry to apparate while it was raining so torrentially. So she entered. The place was dark and musty, but there was no lack of customers, despite the late hour. No one seemed to pay her any heed as she took a few tentative steps toward the bar. A large, brutish woman jostled by her, sloshing a fair amount of ale down Hermione's front.
"Pardon," the woman grunted. Before Hermione could reply, the woman left. Now slightly dampened and smelling of ale, Hermione continued to squeeze through the crowd and onto a barstool.
"Butterbeer," she told the bartender, trying her best to blend in. The man gave her an appraising look, but slid her a bottle.
"I know that voice." Hermione jumped as the man on the stool next to hers clutched at her arm. He had extremely greasy, unkempt blond hair, but there was no mistaking his identity, despite the red that encircled the gray of his eyes. Hermione began to reach for her wand, but Malfoy let go and sort of shrugged in means of a white flag. "S'okay Granger," he slurred.
"I'm afraid it isn't okay, Malfoy," she replied curtly, though she allowed her wand hand to rest at her side. "You're a very wanted man."
"Wanted?" he asked, looking blearily at her. "By whom?"
Hermione stared at him in minor disbelief. "The law," she said, as succinctly as possible.
"Oh, good. For a second there I thought ya meant you." He teetered in his seat before downing his drink, which the bartender refilled.
"Are you… entirely well, Malfoy?" she asked, as he took a swig and missed his mouth, causing drink to slide down his chin.
He paused to think while his drink continued to drip from his chin onto his blood-stained and tattered designer shirt. "Do you mean physically, mentally or emotionally?" he asked. He allowed his head to slide down and rest on his crossed arms.
"All three," Hermione replied, having forgotten all about her butterbeer.
Malfoy shifted toward her. "I believe the answers 'ould be no, no and no," he said. His eyelids drifted closed for a moment. "I'm tired, Granger. So tired." He expelled a large, shuddering breath.
Hermione had a feeling that she was going to come to regret what she was about to say, but she couldn't suppress the sympathy that was rising up in her. "Come with me," she said, offering him her hand. His right eye studied it while his left stayed closed lazily.
"I always liked you, Granger." A moment later his arms were around her in a sloppy, almost child-like embrace.
"Yes, well…" Hermione said awkwardly, pushing him away and patting his shoulder reassuringly. "Why don't you, er, pay your tab, then? And then we'll get going, shall we?"
Malfoy nodded and pushed a handful of coins toward the bartender. It was quite obviously too much, but Hermione didn't feel a need to mention it. He then stood on wobbly legs. "Floo?" he asked the bartender, who pointed him toward the back. Hermione paid for her own drink and followed Malfoy to the fireplace. "Where to?" he asked, eyes only half open and leaning heavily on her.
Hermione hesitated for a moment. That was a very good question. Her flat came to mind, but that might raise awkward questions later. "12 Grimmauld Place," she said, finally. She sincerely hoped that Harry would not only be up, but in a… benevolent mood.
Malfoy, without even slight hesitation, took up some floo powder and left, for once not slurring his words. Hermione followed quickly.
"This yer house?" he asked, still acting in a way that could only be termed as slobbering drunk.
"Well, no," she admitted.
"Bit… black, ain't it?" he asked, finding a couch and crashing down on it.
"You have no idea…" Hermione muttered, knowing full-well that this was, in fact, the House of Black. But her companion was already snoring away. She wondered how he would react in the morning, once he'd figured out that he'd been led like a puppy into enemy territory. She quickly tip-toed up the stairs to Harry's room and knocked, shivering slightly because of her still-damp shirt.
There was a rustle of bed clothes and Harry Potter answered the door, blinking bleary-eyed at her. "What? Is it time? Is it…" he paused, apparently to make sure his scar wasn't prickling. "Great Merlin, Hermione, you reek!" He pinched his nose.
"Yes, well… someone spilled ale on me," she said, frowning.
"Oh, is that it?" Harry said, waving away the vapors. "How was your mission?"
Hermione sighed. "Complete failure. Contact didn't show up."
"Blast," Harry said, scowling. "Why'd you wake me, then?" he asked, as an afterthought.
"Well… that, er… for that, Harry, you're going to have to come downstairs and see." She led him, her heart hammering against her chest for some unknown reason, and stopped in front of the Draco-Malfoy-occupied couch.
"What the?" Harry began, feeling little need to finish his sentence. "Malfoy? Draco Malfoy? The boy who would be murderer? Hermione, what on Earth is going on in that labyrinth you call a brain?" His tone had changed from sleep-deprived to utterly peeved in two seconds flat.
"Well," she said, speaking quietly as to not wake the brute, "you'd have done the same thing in my position."
"Really?" Harry asked, voice dripping with sarcasm.
"I ran into him at this pub," she started, ignoring Harry's obstinate stance, "and he was completely inebriated." Harry snorted. "Anyway, he was acting so oddly… I, er… felt sort of sorry for him and I asked him if he was okay, which he said no to… and…"
"And what?" Harry barked, giving her his signature death-glare.
"And he said he was tired," she said, gesturing broadly.
"Tired?" Harry repeated.
"Tired," she replied. "I don't think he just meant physically either. I think he wants out."
Harry snorted. "Of course he does. The Great Slytherin Prince doesn't want to do his civic duty. Then what happened, eh?"
Hermione hesitated. "Well, then I asked him to leave with me. You know… sort of like giving him a way 'out.' Then he… er…"
"What?" Harry asked, scowling.
"He said he'd always liked me and he gave me a hug?" It hadn't been meant as a question, but it had confounded her so that she felt a need to reaffirm it.
Harry shook his head, a slight smirk creeping onto his features. "What sort of like and what sort of hug are we talking about here?" he asked, making Hermione squirm under his sardonic-look of accusation.
"The… er, chummy kind," she said, not liking Harry's double meaning at all.
Harry's smile finally managed to smooth into a straight, firm line. "So what are we going to do with him, then?" he asked, staring at a long strand of spittle that was hanging from Malfoy's lip.
Hermione smiled and reached into her purse, drawing out a pamphlet. In big, bold lettering were the words, "Ex-death Eater and Witness Protection Program." Then, just below, was a second caption. "Targeted? Keep seeing that big skull in the sky? We can help." Harry stared at the pamphlet for a good thirty seconds before staring at her, and then back at the pamphlet.
"You're really mental, aren't you?" he asked. "You know as well as I do that this piece of scum here belongs in Azkaban. Not," he flipped through the pamphlet and pointed to a picture of a cottage with a white picket fence, "living it up undercover."
"Harry," Hermione said, crossing her arms and giving him a scathing look, "have a heart!" Malfoy rolled over in his sleep and snorted loudly.
"He is asleep, isn't he?" Harry asked uneasily. "He's not just pretending?"
"With the amount of alcohol in his system?" Hermione shook her head. "Trust me, he's asleep all right."
"Well, take his wand off him, will you? Just to be sure."
"Me?" Hermione squeaked.
Harry shook his head. "You brought him here; he's your responsibility."
Hermione groaned. "Well, thank you, Harry. That's just so gentlemanly of you." She very carefully reached toward the blond and felt around his robe pockets for any sign of a wand. As her hand grazed his chest, she could have sworn she'd heard him giggle. Hermione removed her hand quickly as if it had been burned. "Accio wand," she said, feeling foolish for not thinking of it sooner. Suddenly, Malfoy was awake.
"What?" he half-shouted, sitting up and looking about frantically. His eyes rested on the two of them and he slowly calmed. Hermione, and perhaps Harry too, noted the faint glisten of tears in his eyes. "I…" he began, still trying to get his bearings.
"Well, that answers that question," Harry muttered. "He was definitely asleep."
"I…" Malfoy continued, a crop of sweat on his brow, "really need to vomit," he finished. He stood and ran quickly in the direction he'd assumed to be the lavatory, but was in reality the kitchen.
Harry frowned in disgust. "Sick."
"He'll be dehydrated," Hermione muttered knowingly, conjuring a glass of water and hurrying off in Malfoy's direction. She found him huddled over the sink, shaking. "Here," she said. "Drink this." She handed him the water and he looked at it warily. "It's not poisoned, you know."
Very slowly, Malfoy drank all his water. "Granger," he said. "I… we were at the pub…" He made a sudden search of his robes.
"I've got it," Hermione said, brandishing his wand, which Malfoy watched with trepidation. Although he was in fight of flight mode, she could tell that he was having difficulty keeping his eyelids from drooping.
"Is Potter going to kill me then? Or am I to go to Azkaban?" he asked.
Hermione gave him a small smile—the type she might give a frightened child. "Don't worry, Draco." His name came unnaturally from her tongue. Instead of soothing him, he tensed further. "I'll make sure Harry doesn't do anything he'd regret."
"And Azkaban?" he asked.
She shook her head. "Not if I can help it. Look, I'll set you up in the spare room and we can talk more in the morning. Would you like that?"
Slowly, he nodded. He took two steps forward and stopped as his eyes rolled into the back of his head and fainted in a heap on the floor.
A.N. Please vote for your favorite of the following. Winner will be the title of this fanfic. January 31, 2006: Voting has ended, sorry.
A) Death-Eater Indigestion
B) The Witness and the Wife
C) Then There was You
D) Playing House with You
E) Our House
F) Mugglish Façade