Characters: Hermione Granger, Lucius Malfoy, Draco Malfoy
Warnings: None, vague(ish) mentions of previous Character Death.
Summary: The war is over, the fallen farewelled, but not everything is buried.
A/N: For hp-summergen written before Deathly Hallows, so no spoilers whatsoever.Thanks to kazfeist for her wonderful help, and milynee. ♥
"It's outrageous! Stupid! How can they think he'll tell you, you, anything?!"
"I don't know," she said weakly.
He paid her no mind, continuing to walk in front of her. "There is nothing that bastard could say that would cause any good."
"Draco! Please?" She placed her head in her hands, "you are making me dizzy."
"Sorry love," he sat down next to her. "I understand they want to talk to him, but you? After everything they did to your family, it's just cruel to ask you to talk to him."
"Exactly," she said pulling her head out of her hands. "They're still angry I'm not in their pocket."
"Don't do it," he urged, taking her hands in his. "If even thinking about it upsets you, don't do it."
"I have to; I don't, and those bastards win, and everything he knows with not help us one bit. He knew things, things we couldn't possibly imagine," she swallowed. "If I don't do this, they'll sack me. They've wanted a reason for a long time, I can't let them do that."
He nodded, and pulled her over onto his lap, kissing her brow. "But the second, the second this gets too hard, promise me you'll stop."
She nodded, and burrowed further into his embrace, "of course."
Sitting in her supervisors' office, she tried valiantly not to fidget ---, they had been keeping her waiting for thirty minutes already. Frightfully important business of course. She tried not to be bitter, tried to think that they valued her time, her skills, her. But everything they said and did showed her otherwise:, she was just someone they could show to the rivals out of the office, 'Look who we've got'.
She imagined this was to do with her new assignment, their latest exercise to push her to her limits. To see how far they could go. She swore she could see a smile tweaking at the corners of his thin lips as he'd told her there was no one else to do this, she was the only one they trusted with this. It was more like she was the only one that would do it, however grudgingly she did.
A prisoner, days away from fulfilling his sentence and being executed, had some things to share. The war with Voldemort was long over. Wounds had healed, and the blood had washed away, but this man, this monster wanted to open the wounds one last time, to stick the knife in. What he had to offer she had no idea. She fervently hoped that someone like Voldemort would never rise again. If growing up in the Muggle world had taught her anything, it was that evil would always be there. There was nothing you could do to stamp it out completely.
She knew in that regard, that whatever he knew about the inner workings of the Dark Lord's followers would be a good thing. It might not happen in the present future, but they'd be naive to think it would never happen again.
So she would go, she would do her bit to help ensure that what had happened, the death, the destruction, would never happen again on that scale.
Hermione sat upright again when she heard the footsteps approaching, placing her folder on the desk in front of her.
"I apologise, Mrs. Malfoy, I didn't mean to keep you waiting so long," her supervisor said, the saccharine dripping with every word, "dreadfully important business, you understand."
"Of course, Sir," she smiled politely.
"Now," he said, opening a file, "you've given it some thought?"
"I have, Sir."
"Of course I understand your decision to turn it down," he said, smiling in what he must assume to be a fatherly way. "Family issues and other factors..."
He held up a hand, "I'm sure we can find someone to do it in your place, don't worry dear."
"I haven't turned it down, Sir," she said loudly. "I will do it."
"Well," he said quickly, the surprise flashing for an instant and then disappearing. "Very well Mrs. Malfoy, let me find you the file." He made quite a show of lifting various files, moving them to the side. "I saw it just before, excuse me for a moment," she watched him leave the office, and talk in whispers with his assistant. "She wants it, so get me the bloody file!"
Hermione pretended to be studying the framed photos lining the wall intently when he came back in.
"Seems my assistant thought it was meant to be archived," he sighed dramatically. "He's gone downstairs to get it, he won't be long."
"I'll give you an overview while we wait," he said sitting down. "He is currently being held under guard of the Aurors at Azkaban, and in eight days his sentence will be fulfilled and he will be executed. Now we are more than happy to let this event pass with little fanfare, but it seems he's decided now, after four years in prison, to let us in on his past deeds. That's where you come into it."
"May I ask, why me, Sir? I have no problem with sitting down and finding out what he wants to tell us, I just never thought he'd be interested in telling anything to me, of all people."
"He's not," her supervisor admitted. "That is to say, he doesn't know it is you who is coming to see him. He has no idea who it will be, but he is not in a position to dictate terms. On Monday you will go to Azkaban, there is a preset Portkey that will take you there from your office, and will return you precisely two hours later. It is set for the week. Questions?"
"Excellent, ah thank you, Smethley," he took the file. "This shall contain all pertinent information, I don't need to tell you what he has done in the past."
"Definitely not," she said. "I'm well aware of what he did."
"Alright then," he looked at his watch. "I have a meeting to attend now, if you have any questions my assistant will help you. I'll see you Monday afternoon to see how the first session goes, good luck Mrs. Malfoy."
"Thank you, Sir," she said, rising as he left the office. She picked the file up off the desk, running her fingers over the name in the corner. It felt heavy in her hand, which was ridiculous, as it wasn't very thick. She opened it a little, and was greeted by photographic proof of just what this man was capable of. Slamming it shut, Hermione rushed out of the office, down the corridor to her own. She threw the file on her desk, as she leaned against the closed door, breathing heavily.
She could do this; if not for her …then for Draco.
She would do it for him.
Hermione locked the door behind her with a few impenetrable charms, and sat down behind her desk. She looked at the file for several long minutes before opening it again, the brief glance she had had before told her what to expect, but she still wasn't ready. She was not naive by any stretch. She had seen a lot during the last few years. There was a difference, though, to how she saw it. In the heat of the battle you fell, and you didn't get back up. These file images were replaying themselves, repeatedly. In graphic detail, she could watch, if she wished, his victims die a most gruesome death, only to stand up and die all over again.
It was bad enough when they were just an unknown face, but she slammed the file shut again when she saw Seamus. His sweet, friendly face was never supposed to be seen like that. Shock in his eyes, then screwed up in the pain that only a Crucio could deliver, before the smile left his face forever.
It was too much to take.
Hermione lay awake the night before her scheduled visit, listening to Draco's even breaths next to her. Every time she closed her eyes, she saw those images; and when she didn't see them, she saw him. Smiling in the way that only he could, taunting her as he had so many times. She was steeling herself for seeing him again. It had been so long, and there was a lot that had changed since then. He had been captured before the end of the war, so hadn't seen the changes that that event had brought. The lines that used to exist in Wizarding society had been erased -, Muggleborns were no longer looked on with as much disdain as they had been in the past. His beliefs no longer had as much standing as they once did, her husband being the prime example.
Five years ago she never would have seen herself married, happily married, to Draco Malfoy. When the dust had settled, he had been there, he had understood. A friendship had developed slowly, and then it became what it was today. They fit together perfectly, balancing each other exactly.
Many had tried to stop them being together, her friends the most notable. It didn't work though. Six months running from something, and then another four trying to find his feet within the Order had steeled him. If there was something he wanted, he did everything he could to get it, and somehow his eye landed on her. It had taken her a good while till she realised there was more to Draco than she had seen before, and started looking at him differently.
It hadn't been easy, but they had made it through it. Now there was this, her job. Hermione didn't want to think that it would harm their relationship, but old wounds were going to be opened. Things they thought long buried, emotions, memories, were going to be laid bare again.
She rolled over onto her side to watch her husband sleep, thinking that maybe that would bring her some rest. Her friends might wonder why she married him, but they didn't see him like she did. The past was important, she would never forget what had happened, what they both had done. It formed the fabric of their relationship; they wouldn't be the people they were today if it hadn't happened. And though her 'friends' might question her more than was fair for why, it was these moments that justified her choice to her. These private moments when his guard was down… she was the only one who saw him like that.
"You should sleep," he mumbled, rolling over to face her as well.
"I can't," she said weakly. "I can't stop thinking, about him, about everything."
"It'll be fine," he soothed, pulling her into his arms. Speaking softly, "and you'll be safe. I doubt he's touched a wand in three years, whatever magic he has in him won't work wandlessly now."
"Use it or lose it," she smiled.
"Exactly," he chuckled. "Besides there are guards, within ten feet at all times. I spoke to Potter about it. There is also that other thing."
"He'd have to be absolutely barking to try something on with you," he said.
She leaned up and kissed him, "Thank you." She then rested her head on his chest, relaxing in his arms as he ran a hand over her back.
Hermione took comfort from his words; she knew that he couldn't physically hurt her anymore. She also knew that there was more than one way to hurt someone.
Just before one o'clock the next afternoon, she was sitting in her office, watching the Portkey, waiting for it to be time to go to Azkaban. She had all day to steel herself for it, but now that it was time to go, she wanted nothing more than to run out the door and not look back. Her Gryffindor bravado had left her, leaving a scared little girl in her chair.
She could hear the clocks start chiming in the hour in other parts of the Ministry, so she reached out, with one hand on her satchel, and took a hold of the ink well. It seemed somewhat appropriate that she was going by Portkey, it always made her stomach turn, and it fit exactly how she felt today. Her heart was racing, her stomach flipping constantly. The sooner that this was over with the better!
All too soon the rush of the Portkey overtook her, and she landed unsteadily on her feet in a large stone-walled room. A guard was standing over the door, and he came over to her as she regained her balance.
"Mrs. Malfoy?" He asked.
"Yes," she said, pushing her hair out of her face.
"If you'll follow me," he said, and was away before she had time to mentally process what he had said.
Hermione had to walk quickly to keep up with his large strides, watching where they were going, and trying to take in her surroundings. She could only assume there were cells on both sides of the corridor walls, though there were no windows on the doors. It was just a feeling that she got. It was eerily silent: no voices, no screams, and she imagined a silencing charm of some kind was the reason for that.
"The prisoner will be brought to the interrogation room when you are ready," he explained as they walked. "A guard will be standing on the outside of the door at all times - that will not change under any circumstances. The room will be watched, constantly. He cannot perform magic, but if needed, there is a panic button located on the underside of the table. I will show you where that is. You cannot take anything into the room but your person. Quills and parchment will not be needed, as the room is under constant surveillance. Your meetings will be recorded, and a scroll will be given to you as you leave. Any questions?"
"No, I don't think so," she said to his back as he powered ahead.
"Good," he said stiffly. Turning to the left and opening a door, he gestured… "This is where you will interview the prisoner; you will sit facing the door, and never turn your back on him." He moved to the other side, and she followed wordlessly, "The panic button is located here, and the recording devices are located in every corner, as well as vocal recorders situated in various points around the room."
He turned to her, "If at any moment you feel threatened, or in any danger, do not hesitate to press that button. We will be watching. He will be monitored closely... just remember that button is there for a reason, and you can use it."
She nodded, "I will."
"Code 156," came a garbled voice from his shoulder pad.
"He's coming," he said. "Everything set?"
"Yes," she said placing the strap of her bag in his outstretched hand.
"Good luck, Mrs. Malfoy," he said as he went to the door and passed her bag to another Auror.
"Thank you," she said quietly, seating herself at the table.
In no time at all, he was escorted in, his eyes widening momentarily as he saw who was sitting there, but he didn't say a word as he was pushed into the chair.
She waited till the door was shut before she spoke, "Mr. Malfoy."
He didn't speak, just watched her. His eyes were unflinching, seemingly lacking emotion. She had become so used to her husband's eyes which had become so familiar and so full of life. To look into identical grey eyes that were cold and full of hatred chilled her.
"I didn't expect you," he said slowly. "I should have, though, really, as they wouldn't send Potter. Him and Weasley would be too temperamental. Of course they would send the Mudblood."
She bit her bottom lip at his words, knowing he was just baiting her, trying to get her to respond. It was merely the first round though, and she couldn't let him get the points this soon.
"I can leave if you wish, Mr. Malfoy," she countered. "I'm here because you want to talk to someone, and they sent me. Believe me, there are better and more worthwhile things I could do with my time than talk to scum like you."
The corners of his lips twitched as he stared at her, "I never said I didn't want to talk to you, Miss Granger, I was just voicing my surprise."
He didn't know, she thought to herself, "I'm not Miss Granger anymore."
"Yes?" he said, arching a brow at her.
"I'm married," she said quickly, pushing some hair back behind her ear.
He was watching her carefully, "I assumed that much," he said. She saw his eyes flicker down to her hand resting on the table. Then, they flew up to hers, no longer blank. The fire was flashing through them, and his mouth screwed up. He pushed his chair back, and went to the door. "Let me out!" He yelled.
"Mr. Malfoy," she ventured. "I thought you knew."
"Knew what? That my son was married? That and to a Mudblood?!" He yelled at her. He turned back to the door and bellowed, "let me out!"
"Mr. Malfoy, please," she said again, placing her left hand behind her, the offending heirloom hidden from sight.
"Let me out now! Or I'll strangle Mrs. Malfoy with my hands right now!"
Her other hand was resting on the underside of the table, the button just there. She was just about to press it when the door was thrown open, and a guard bore down upon him, pressing him up against the wall.
"Are you alright Mrs. Malfoy?" The guard who met her asked.
"I'm fine," she said shakily, watching them take him out of the room. "I'd like to go now," she said quietly.
"I'm sorry Mrs. Malfoy, but you can't."
"What? Why?" She asked hysterically. "He's not going to talk to me today."
"It's not that, we wouldn't ask you to, he's too volatile now," he said. "I'm afraid the Portkey won't be active again for 100 minutes."
"Give me another one," she demanded, standing up.
"I'm not authorised to do that Ma'am, travel in and out of the prison is heavily controlled," he explained.
"What can I do?" She asked.
"I'm afraid all you can do is sit and wait," he said. "You'll have to stay in here, it's the safest room in Azkaban should anything happen. I'll come and collect you in ninety minutes."
Hermione closed her eyes, and nodded, sitting back down. "Fine," she said dejectedly. "Can I have my bag?"
"Of course, Mrs. Malfoy."
It was the longest ninety minutes of her life. She was never more happy to see the Auror return to take her to her Portkey. It only got more awkward as she tried to explain to her supervisor why he hadn't wanted to talk to her. She stopped at the Leaky Cauldron on her way home, and picked up something for dinner. Neither she nor Draco were the best cooks in the world, and tonight she just didn't feel like trying to make something passable.
The flat seemed empty when she walked in, so she placed her things on the table, dinner on top of the stove, and turned to see Draco walking out of the bathroom.
"How did it go?" He asked coming over to her.
She reached up and cupped a cheek, looking into his eyes. They were so similar to his fathers but there was an important difference: they were warm, containing feelings other than hate and disgust. She could see in them love, concern, and just 'Draco'.
She wrapped her arms around his shoulders, and just held on. His arms came up on reflex, holding her close to him.
"No," she shook her head. "Well almost, I just needed to do this."
"Do you want to sit down and talk about it?" He asked.
"Not yet," she answered. She took a deep breath, inhaling the scent that was uniquely Draco. "Okay, now."
He chuckled softly, and took them over to the sofa, sitting down, and pulling her onto his lap. "What happened?"
"Well I was led to the room, and an Auror explained everything to me," she said, resting her head on his shoulder.
"When I was ready in the room, they brought him in."
"How did he look?" He asked quietly.
"Much like he always has, even in prison garb he still managed to look haughty and rather pompous," she smiled. "He was just a little more scraggly, and emaciated than he used to be. He just sat down opposite me, and made some comment about me being the one to see him."
"What did he say?"
"It doesn't matter - I expected it and didn't rise to it," she said quickly. "It went downhill from there at a rapid speed."
"He didn't know," she whispered. "He had no clue that I was married to you."
"Oh bloody hell, doesn't he get the paper?! It was all over the blasted Prophet!"
"Obviously not," she said dryly.
"What did he do?"
"Nothing, really. He said some things, basically yelled for himself to be taken back to his cell, or he'd strangle "Mrs. Malfoy"."
The hand on her shoulder tightened. "And that was it?"
"That was it."
"I'm so sorry love," he said kissing her forehead. "I was so certain he knew, and that that's why they wanted you to go, to torment you and aggravate him more than it would have normally."
"Clearly, they didn't plan it so well," she looked down at her hand. "I don't think he liked seeing the ring on my finger, that's what did it. I'd left my hand on top of the table, and that's what set him off. Maybe if I'd just told him, and he hadn't seen it, it would have been fine to a degree."
"It wouldn't have mattered," he said. "The bloodline has been broken he'd probably reasoned to himself that his death would be a noble one, and I'd be a good pureblood son and have an heir to continue the line. That dream is now shattered, as the heir won't be what he wanted Half-and-Half is not nearly good enough for him."
"Even so, I don't think I'll wear it tomorrow."
"That may be for the best."
"I don't imagine you need to be told what to do again?"
"No, I remember it all."
"Excellent," he said. "I'll take your bag, as he'll be here in just a moment."
"Thank you," she handed over her bag.
Hermione sat down facing the door, and took off her wedding rings, placing them in her pocket. She could hear footsteps coming down the corridor, preparing herself for them. He walked in, and his face was unreadable as he sat down opposite her.
He waited till they were gone to say, "Don't hide them."
"The rings," he said. "Five generations of Black women wore them before you, so don't hide them like they are something to be ashamed of."
"I'm not embarrassed," she said hotly as she pulled them out and slipped them on. "I just didn't think you seeing me wearing them would be a good idea."
"The damage has been done."
"Fine," she placed her hand on the top of the table, the Black family ring standing out in the dim light.
"Nearly two years," she said simply.
"At the Manor."
He nodded. "What does he do?"
"He manages investments," she said. "He buys businesses, builds them up, and then sells them for a profit. He's very good at it."
"Of course he is," he snorted. "He could talk a House Elf into taking a sock if he put his mind to it."
"I suppose we should start," she said.
"In a minute," he said. "I want to know how."
"How my son turned away from his upbringing, everything he'd ever been taught, and sacrificed all of that for a Mudblood."
Hermione gritted her teeth. "Pro... Snape returned to the Order, about six months after Professor Dumbledore's death, with Draco in tow. He told us everything that he had been told to do, and Snape showed Harry, and a few others, proof of Professor Dumbledore's role in what happened. He then left Draco with the Order, and returned to Voldemort."
"He shouldn't have."
"No," she sighed. "We didn't know that he would be revealed to be a traitor to Voldemort, his body left on the Ministry steps three days later. It showed signs that he had been tortured continuously for a very long time, and then killed."
"How," Lucius swallowed thickly. "How was he killed?"
"He was stabbed in the stomach with what we believe was a poisoned dagger. Even if he had had the strength to heal himself once abandoned, there is no way he could have with the poison keeping the wound from healing. He bled to death."
"I imagine Draco did not take the news well."
"Too right. He blamed himself, and demanded that he be taken to Voldemort, or he would take himself. Naturally we didn't let him go, with the rest of the Wizarding World blaming him in part for the death of Dumbledore. The only safe place for him was with us. He came to agree with the reasoning after a week or two."
"No, he didn't." With a startlingly familiar smirk.
"No, he just led us to believe he did. Luckily, we found him before they did. I think it was what happened to Vincent Crabbe that made him finally see the truth. He was resistant to helping us up till that point; maybe he thought that Voldemort would believe him, that he could be trusted. Vincent's death proved how wrong he was in that regard. He was showing Draco just what would happen to him I think. First Snape, who after you, is the closest thing to a father that he had; and then one of his best friends. It made him realise he couldn't go to Voldemort, and created and strengthened his resolve to see Voldemort defeated."
"How did it happen? How did my son fall in love with a Mudblood."
"I didn't pursue him," she began. "I don't think either of us were looking at each other that way. What had happened to Draco changed him, he wasn't so close-minded to things, to people like me. But, don't misunderstand, he didn't become a fan of Muggles right away, it was a much slower awakening than that. Once he got past his issues with my parentage, we were able to be friends. There was a lot of history on both sides that still made it difficult. I think it was easier to be closer to me than Harry and Ron. I was more open to the possibility of forgiveness than they were."
"How touching," he snorted.
"Do you want to know or not?" Hermione snapped. "Or would you rather talk about your misdeeds?"
"Carry on," he said.
"There really isn't much more to it, as there was no grand moment of awareness. One day we were friends, and the next it was more than that."
"He fell in love with you because he needed a friend?"
"No, he needed someone who understood him," she retorted. "He needed someone who knew what had happened in the past, and could look past it all and see a good man. A man who was working hard to make up for his past mistakes, and doing everything he could to make sure that he never made them again."
He didn't reply to that but sat, looking down at the floor.
"Now it's your turn."
"What do you want to know?"
"Everything," she said. "How your family first started consorting with Dark wizards, and how deeply you were entrenched in Voldemort's inner circle."
"Where shall I start?"
"At the beginning," she said. "When did your father, or even your grandfather, start using Dark magic?"
"It is not a question of when you start using it, as it is something that is always present, surrounding you. My mother tried to shelter me from it as much as she could, but I was neither blind nor stupid. I knew what my father did. So to answer it, my father from my earliest memory indulged in the Dark Arts.
"When you say 'indulge', what do you mean?"
"He wasn't subjecting the House Elves to the Unforgivable Curses, like the Crucio, but his interest was large. Half of the things in Malfoy Manor were his: his instruments, his books, and it was he who fitted out the dungeon."
"And when did he introduce you to them, properly?"
"I was five years old."
"Excuse me, five years old?"
"Yes, although it wasn't intentional, not by any stretch of the imagination. I, like most young children, was curious about what my parents got up to, and wandered down into the dungeon when my attendant was distracted. There, I saw things I had never imagined. Naturally my disappearance was discovered, as was the open door. I was soon taken away, but the damage had been done. My father was left with little choice but to explain what I had seen."
"And what did you see?"
"I cannot remember what I saw then, you see, my memory of it is compromised by what I've seen in the years since. I can only tell you what I remember of my adult years."
"Your actions," she said quietly.
"There is no need to go into the details of those then, the Ministry confiscated and destroyed all items found in the Manor that were of a Darker nature."
"Everything was found?"
"Yes, Draco assisted them," she said, with a satisfied smile. "I think that topic is exhausted, since I know everything that was taken from the Manor, according to the Ministry's records and files. I suppose the next topic should be to discuss when did started indulging in your interest in the Dark Arts."
"It wasn't until a few years after I discovered my Father's collection, obviously. I was home from my first year at Hogwarts; my mother was holidaying in Europe with her sister, and my Father was away on business. I like most children, was rather industrious when I put my mind to it. I created a diversion of some kind and snuck downstairs into the dungeon.
The first year I went down there by myself I did nothing more than swing the daggers through the air, and dither around making useless potions. As I grew older though, I had more success, both with the blades and the potions. I ventured into the books and the spells that were inside. It wasn't too long after I had mastered a few of the simpler ones that my Father discovered my habits. Instead of turning me out, He must have seen some talent in me, because started teaching me.
Of course, my mother was furious. My Father was a force to be reckoned with though, and soon I was learning things that I didn't even know were possible. My Professors at Hogwarts were surprised at my talents, and perhaps, a little worried, I think. Father was a Governor at that stage, so their suspicions were never voiced."
"What year did you begin at Hogwarts?"
"The Summer of 1965," he said.
"Riddle had already left long before then, so how did you come to be in league with him?"
"My Father was obviously quite friendly with the Dark wizards of the time; as such he was quite well acquainted with Marvolo Gaunt. When his Gaunt's life started going downhill at breakneck speed, my Father started associating with his Grandson, Tom Riddle. When he became Voldemort, and his followers banded together behind him, my Father was one of the first by his side, and when I was old enough, I joined him. My Father was one of his most important followers. When he met his rather unfortunate demise, I stepped into his role. Draco was very young at the time, and probably remembers little, if anything."
Hermione was just about to ask him another question when there were two knocks on the door in rapid succession, and it was pushed open.
"Time's up Mrs. Malfoy," the Guard said.
"Okay," she nodded. "I'll be back tomorrow," she said to Lucius.
"Splendid. I'll prepare tea," he sneered as the Guards pushed him to the door.
There was a knock on the door frame, "Hungry?"
"Oh, Harry, you are a lifesaver, I really didn't think I'd have time to go get lunch," she said getting up and hugging him.
"What did you bring?"
"Just a roll from the shop on the corner," he said placing the paper bag on the table, and sitting in the chair opposite her desk.
Hermione took the rolls and napkins out of the bag, and got up to make herself a cup of tea. "Would you like one?"
"So, out with it, Harry," she smiled.
"I have no idea what you are talking about," he said, shaking his head.
"Come on, Harry, not that I don't appreciate lunch, and with you as well," she said, setting the cups on the desk. "You are, however, much too busy lately to be able to spare half an hour for lunch and a chat, ask me."
He pulled a roll over towards himself, "I just thought it had been too long since we had a chat, just us."
"Fine," she said.
When she had taken a bite, he continued, innocently, "So, how is it going anyway?"
She snorted down her mouthful. "Subtle, Harry."
"Not my strongest suit, I look better in black."
"Too true," she laughed. "It's fine, it was awkward, both the first time and yesterday. It's just hard, because I see Draco in him - the features, the voice. I look at him, and I think that it could have so easily been Draco in his place."
"You saved him."
"No I didn't," she said quickly. "Draco did all of that himself, I was just there when he did it."
"But he couldn't have done it without you," Harry said firmly. "I spoke to him earlier actually."
"Mm-hm," she mumbled, taking another bite.
"He told me that Lucius had no clue that you two were married, and that he didn't take it all that well."
"It's okay, Harry, I should have been prepared for it. Nothing happened, and, to be honest, I think it makes this process a little easier."
"You don't have to go if you don't want," he said, placing a hand over hers. "One word from me, and you won't have to go back, and we'll get you out of this dingy little office."
"But I like my dingy office," she said with a laugh in her voice.
"Hermione," he said slowly. "It's a broom cupboard practically; my room at Privet Drive was more expansive than this. Besides," he lowered his voice. "They don't deserve you; I can get you a better job within the hour."
"Harry, no," she said firmly. "I won't let you use your name and standing like that. Who knows, if I make it through the week with my sanity intact, maybe they'll look at me with a bit more respect. If not, then I will go. I just need to do this."
"Why though? He's scum, he's a Death Eater, and he's going to be executed. What he has to say doesn't matter anymore."
"It does, Harry," she cried. "I'm not doing it to help the Ministry! I have another reason, it is far more important than they are, I won't stop."
He just sighed, and leaned back in his chair. "I can't talk you out of anything, can I?"
"No," she said emphatically.
He looked down at his watch, exclaiming, "Shit, I have to go! Come see me on the weekend alright? We'll talk about your prospects."
"Absolutely," she smiled.
"Good luck," he got up and came around to her side of the desk.
"Thanks Harry," she said looking up at him. "For lunch, and everything."
"Anytime," he kissed her cheek, and left her.
She sat back down, and pushed the remains of her lunch away. The hunger had left her, and all that remained was a sense of foreboding. Twenty minutes to go.
"I cannot remember the exact date. I hadn't been married for very long. We had just moved into the Manor, Father having the West Wing, and Narcissa and myself the East."
"Where was it?"
"I can't remember the name of it, but it was a small village just on the edge of Warwickshire. It was nothing more than a test run, a chance to smooth out the wrinkles of how we worked. To work out the kinks in the chain."
"On innocent Muggles?"
"Oh, please! Do not act surprised - you know what we were, and how we went about our business."
"How many have you killed?"
"I could not begin to count them. In the heat of the fight, the killing curse spills from the tongue without much thought. How many times it hit a single target would be impossible to measure. All that mattered was that no one was left alive to tell the tale. The bodies on the floor were counted, but who did what could never be known."
"I can't understand how you can talk about it with such disinterest! These were innocent lives you took: mothers and fathers, children, husband and wives. You talk about them as though they were just unlucky bystanders. You hunted them. Took their lives without a second thought. Their lives had no meaning."
"They didn't. We had a purpose, to rid the world of Muggles, those of inferior blood. It was our driving force, the only thing we stood for. We stood by Voldemort, and carried out his wishes."
Hermione sighed, running her hands over her face. The last hour it had been like this. They would get into his history, and their individual beliefs would get in the way, and it would become a different discussion.
"You may not agree with it, you definitely don't like it, but it's what we believed. I may be one of many locked in here now, days away from it all being over. But I assure you, it's not over. There will always be people who believe in the purity of blood. Oh, they may not go to the levels that we did, or commit the acts that we did. On a smaller scale, though, there will always be bigotry, racism, elitism… they never go away. You were top of your year when you graduated, were you not?"
"Well, people will never forget that, even so, you are a Muggleborn. You, who stood by Harry Potter when he defeated the greatest Dark Lord in history, to date. Furthermore, not only did you help bring about his downfall, but you're bright, having beaten everyone of the Pureblood students of your class, my son included. Do you think the older Pureblood families like that?"
"The Weasleys have always welcomed me with open arms," she countered.
"Ah a small minority. I also believe they haven't always felt that way, have they?."
"What are you talking about?"
"In your fourth year if I recall correctly, there appeared an article in the Daily Prophet. Called you all kinds of nasty things, if I recall. The mother Weasley didn't stop to reason it out not to be true, did she? How quick she jumped to the conclusion that they were right, that you were nothing more than a conniving, manipulative Muggleborn."
"She would have reacted in the same way even if my parents hadn't been Muggles."
"Maybe so, maybe so. I doubt it, however. They may say they like you, may take you into their homes, and reap praise on the smart Muggleborn. But when it comes down to it, you will always be beneath them."
"Maybe with some families, but never with the Weasleys."
"So they are happy that you married my son?"
"Well, they weren't pleased. But, they did nothing to sabotage our relationship, or step in the way of our marriage. They respected my decision."
"I take it relations are good then?"
"They aren't as good as they used to be, but time has changed us all. There were losses that haven't yet healed, so it's going to take them some time to regroup."
"Because time heals all wounds. Have you ever thought that maybe the reason the wounds haven't healed regarding Draco and yourself and letting you into their lives again; is because they don't want to?"
Hermione took a deep breath, "I think we should get this conversation back on track, Mrs. Malfoy."
"As you wish, I certainly am not going anywhere."
"After this test run, when did things become serious?"
"They had always been serious, Madame Malfoy, this was never a game. It became more grave a few weeks after the Warwickshire pruning. Most of the Wizarding world was wondering what was happening. The Muggles had no clue how those people had died, but the Wizarding community wasn't as blind. It was common knowledge that the Killing Curse had been used, and since Voldemort had yet to make himself known to the community at large, it was a mystery as to who had killed all those poor innocent Muggles."
She ignored the last part, "Did your wife know what was happening?"
"Not completely, though she knew that I was doing something. She, however, knew her place in the marriage, and did not question me on it. Narcissa knew I would tell her when the time was right."
"Thank you. It was decided that it was time to take our testing to the next level. While it was all well and good to practice on Muggles, who were powerless to defend themselves, we needed a real test. There was a family of half bloods that lived on the outskirts of London, and they were reasonably well known. I think one of their children was going to play for the English Quidditch team. They were to be our target.
We attacked in the middle of the night, and were ruthless, swift and accurate, or so we thought. It turned out that the youngest child liked to play games, and when we struck he was hiding in the roof. He had decided to play a trick on his parents: hide and seek. They had all gone to bed, however, thinking that he was in bed. We thought nothing of the empty bed.
He told the Aurors that he had seen masked intruders, wearing long black robes, murder his family. From then on, we were feared. A search was mounted for these murderers, and we became legend. It didn't take too long before people started noticing a pattern in the killings: whole families killed; but no Purebloods. It was then that it became what it was to be."
"Even so. They tried to fight back, but they did not know their enemy. Voldemort kept himself hidden from it all. But, the time would come when he would stand up for his beliefs. At that time, it was too dangerous for him to come out, so we did it for him."
"Did you ever get tired of being used? Of letting him control you like that?"
"No, we were going to be the leaders, the creators of a new society. We would have done anything to help him."
"But did you not find it hypocritical, to some extent, to be helping this monster achieve his goal of eradicating all inferior bloodlines, when he himself was a half blood?"
"It was of no matter to us what he was, and, quite frankly, most of his followers weren't aware of this….weakness. It wasn't something that was freely discussed. We agreed with his doctrine, and were not going to question him. You, of course, know what the penalty would have been?"
"I can use my imagination," she said dryly.
She watched the light from the candle flicker, the gentle movements of the water in her bath showing in the shadows. Hermione had been so tense when she had returned home that evening, that as soon as dinner was finished, Draco had told her to go have a hot bath, and relax. It was easier said than done.
Part of her believed it when she told herself that he Lucius had said what he had purely to make her react like this. Then there was the other part of her that saw the truth in what he'd said. Much as she didn't want to, she was finding it hard not to see it.
Time after time at work, the better assignments hadn't gone to the most qualified, or the best suited, which, in most cases, was herself. Instead it had gone to another employee, one with pure blood. Hermione had always convinced herself that it just wasn't her time. When this assignment had come up, and was given to her, she thought her time had come. Finally, they were seeing her for what she was: an asset, the right one for the job. While that may have been true in some respects with regard to this case, there were other reasons involved. Less 'honorable' ones.
Then there were the Weasleys. She knew they liked her, at least some part of the family did. There were times, though, that she wasn't so sure.
She was still close to the ones she always had been. The ones she didn't speak to as much as she had in the past, they remained much the same. She wasn't surprised by some of the family's reaction to her relationship with Draco. The most important one had gotten over his ill feelings towards it. Ron may not like Draco all that much, if at all; but he knew she was happy, and he would do nothing to stop it. Mrs. Weasley still managed to surprise her. If she came face to face with her, she was friendly and open, as she always had been. If however, they were out and about, but Hermione was not right in front of her, she acted as though Hermione were invisible. For the first few instances Hermione imagined that she was mistaken, but now it was just the normal thing that happened. It hurt, but Mrs. Weasley had obviously never forgiven her being with Draco.
The door behind her opened, and she could hear Draco removing his clothes. She sat upright as he moved into the bath, and leaned back as he sat behind her.
"Are you relaxing?" He asked, wrapping his arms around her middle.
"Yes," she sighed. "It's lovely in here."
"But you are thinking, aren't you?" Draco asked. "What did he say to you?"
"It was nothing awful, though it's made me wonder about a few things."
"Just how welcome in the Wizarding world I really am, and that maybe people will always look at me as just a Muggleborn, despite what I've accomplished."
"Well if they do it's their own problem… they'd be stupid to underestimate you. I mean, me and my jaw are living proof."
She chuckled at that, sighing as he started running his fingers through her hair.
"A massage?" He asked, kissing her shoulder.
"Would be lovely."
"There were moments when it was harder than normal, but the family name helped. It reminded people that we had money, history. A man can be bought; one merely has to ascertain the appropriate price, and, once done, he is yours."
"How many men did you have in your pockets? Was Cornelius Fudge one of them?"
"I had several; and no, he was not. Many believed that he was, and of course I did not disabuse them of the notion. They didn't ask questions when they thought he was. Fudge, frankly was an idiot. He latched onto anyone who would help him, because he had no idea what he was doing. Because of my position in society, he knew that if it seemed like he and I were in cahoots, people would look to him with more respect. He acquiesced to my will a little, but I did not push him too far."
"You must have realised though, that people did not believe you when you said that Voldemort had you under the Imperius."
"I did, but it did not matter. Those that did believe it where the more important ones. I did not care what the other plebeians thought."
"Did you ever think about just coming out into the open? I mean, publicly picking a side. I imagine it would have been Voldemort's, but was there ever a moment when you just thought to hell with it all, and made it known where your loyalties lay?"
"There were times yes, when I couldn't be as active as the other followers. It was essential that I be seen at the times attacks occurred, since Voldemort wanted an ear inside the Ministry. He also knew that if I was publicly known as a Death Eater, I wouldn't be able to be in contact with my family. My communication with Draco was important, though not for the reason you might think. He thought he was just gossiping to me, complaining about things. His recountings of the goings on at Hogwarts were helpful, though. It gave us more insight into Potter."
"You used your own son to help him?"
"Don't be so naive, my Father would have done the same. It was all part of the process -- our one and only goal as a family was to assist the Dark Lord. As to your question of picking a side, or rather, a different side, that was never a possibility. My loyalties were and have always been tied to the Dark Lord. I would never surrender my place by his side. Ever."
"Did you have any inkling that he was about to return to human form?"
"There were signs, yes; we had always believed that he would return. It was only a matter of when."
"Is that why you put the diary into Ginny Weasleys cauldron that day? To bring him back? Or was there some other purpose?."
"When Voldemort gave me that diary it was for safekeeping, though he also said 'if ever a need should arise'. He never stipulated what a deserving need was, nor did he tell me just what the diary was truly capable of, or what it was at heart."
"Yes, if I had known, I would never have so stupidly placed it where I did. The side-effects were delightful. Arthur Weasley had been a thorn in my side for a long time, and anything to aggravate him was always worthwhile."
"Back to the other topic, you had no clue he was going to return that night?"
"There had been no direct signs, although there were always murmurings of odd things occurring throughout Europe. It had been an eventful Summer. The only direct sign was the pull of the Mark when he called us."
"Were you surprised?"
"Mrs. Malfoy, I'm so glad I caught you."
Hermione fixed a smile on her face as she turned and said, "Good afternoon, Sir."
"Do you have a moment? I'd love to have a chat and see how things are proceeding with Malfoy Senior"
"Not really, no, Sir. My Portkey is set for ten minutes, and I haven't eaten, or gone through my notes."
"It'll only take a moment, come, come," he said, motioning her inside his office.
Hermione sighed and followed him in, sitting opposite his desk.
"I understand this to be the last session?"
"That's correct," she nodded.
"Do you have anything planned?"
"I know the subjects on which I'm going to question him yes."
"And that is?"
"I'm sorry, Sir; I really don't have the time to go into it right now. I'm sure you are reading the scrolls with which I return from Azkaban?"
"Yes I am, Mrs. Malfoy, but I'd like to hear it from you."
"Please, Sir I'm going to be late," she said urgently.
"Oh, all right!" he acquiesced. "There is a meeting on Monday, are you aware? There are some changes that are going to be made… very important that you attend."
"Of course, Sir," she said. "Good day to you, Sir."
Hermione rushed out off the office as soon, as he stood. She made a mental note to owl Harry as soon as she could, as she did not like the sounds of these changes.
"What is to be the topic of the day? I'm just dying to know, as I do think we've covered mostly everything."
"We have, in many respects, but there is something about which I want to know more."
"Draco. We have brushed the surface in regards to him. There is so much more that I want to know."
"I don't see what more I can tell you."
"I just have a few queries, and then we are done."
"Oh, how wonderful."
Hermione took a deep breath, and began. "My parents had a scrapbook. They'd had it since I was a little girl, filled with photographs, little pieces of paper, hand written notes. It was their 'brag book'. My greatest moments, according to them."
"The point is that it reminds me that they loved me, with every bit of their being. I was their whole world, and even though they were taken from me, I still have that book. Whenever I need to be reminded of that, or to just remember it, I open it and I see proof.
Draco doesn't have such a book. He doesn't have a photo album. He just has memories, and they aren't all good. He doesn't remember being loved by you, and though he remembers his mothers love, all he remembers is your disdain. For him, for what he did, and for what he wasn't. I want you to give him that proof of your love. Through me."
"How will I do that?"
"By answering the questions I ask," she replied, looking him straight in the eye. "And, rest assured, they will be easy questions; I won't ask for what you won't or can't give me. Tomorrow, well, we know what will come tomorrow. Today, you have your chance. I cannot give you redemption, nor can I wash away all the wrong you did. This is all I can give you, the opportunity to show your son that you loved him, that you cared for him."
"As you wish," he said quietly. "Ask away."
"I'm surprised you quit."
"Really?" She asked, picking up a punnet of strawberries.
"Yeah, grab them. Well, not that you quit so much, I knew you were going to sooner or later. Just, now, why not at the beginning of the week? I would have done it Monday morning, instead of going through this week."
"I had to do this week, but I think I knew at the beginning of this week that it would be my last," she looked down at the list in her hand. "It was definitely the final straw. Is there anything you want?"
"I know we need tomatoes," he looked around the market. "Over this way," he said grabbing her hand. "Do you have a plan? I definitely can't see you quitting without a plan."
"I have a few ideas," she said as he selected tomatoes. "I actually thought I might come and work with you."
He looked up with a wide grin, "I'd love that."
"Are you sure? It might be weird; we'd see each other all the time..."
"Hermione," he placed a finger on her lips. "I'd love it. I think it would be wonderful to see you more. Besides the possibilities are endless," he ended with a grin.
"Really?" I suppose I have to tell you something, I've never shagged my boss before."
"Well, not to worry, I hear your boss is married to a delightful woman. She's the only one he shags."
Hermione laughed, and kissed him briefly. "Ready to go?"
"I think so," he said. "Shall we grab the paper?"
"Maybe not," she said slowly. "I think I know what the front page is going to be."
"What? Oh of course, midnight."
"Let's ignore it for a few days," she said, taking his hand. "It's full of rubbish anyway, now."
Later that morning Hermione was putting away the groceries, watching Draco. He sat down when they got home, and was staring off into the distance. There was nothing in which he was focused. It seemed his thoughts had taken him over. She could hazard just one guess as to what was their subject.
He had dealt with his issues about his father a long time ago, and now they were back. She had tried to keep as many of the details of the week from him, but he knew what his father was. It was pointless to dredge up all those bad memories. Hermione could however, give him some good ones. The kind of memories that one should have in regards to their parents, no matter who or what they were.
"Draco?" She said tentatively as she crossed the room towards him, "I have something to show you."
He took a moment, and then looked at her. "What is it?"
"It's in the office," she took his hand, and led the way to the small office. Once in the room, she pulled the Pensieve off the shelf. "Last night, while you were in the shower, I placed a memory of mine in here. It's from my last session with your father. You probably won't want to see most of the other memories I have, and you may not even want to see this one. I think you need to, though."
"Hermione, I don't really want to."
"I know, but at the moment, I think you really need to. You may not think it, but the grieving process has started all over again. It's nothing bad I promise. I would never give you something like that to watch. I really want you to look at this now, but if you don't, I won't force it. It is something you have to want to do."
"Will you come with me?"
"I can't," she said, coming around the desk to him. "I'll be here for you after, but you need to do this now by yourself."
He nodded, and walked over to the pensive.
"I'll be outside."
Hermione shut the door behind her, and went to the living area. She would wait for him, and let him come to her when he was ready.
It was a longer wait than she had been prepared for. She made herself a cup of tea, and then forgot to drink it. She tried to read a book, but couldn't concentrate. Hermione knew that she had done the right thing: Draco did need to see this and he needed to see it now. No matter what his feelings were on the matter.
She cast a warming charm on her tea, and was just about to take a sip, when the door opened, and an ashen-faced Draco exited.
Hermione went to him immediately. She ran her fingers over his wet cheeks, taking the moisture away, before wrapping her arms around his shoulders and holding him close to her. His shoulders shook a little as he returned her embrace.
"Draco," she whispered.
"Thank you," he said quietly.
Hermione just held on tighter. They didn't need to say any more than that. The time to talk would come later; right now she had given Draco what he needed, and that was all that mattered.