Author: enchanted nightingale
Beta Reader: pussycatadamah
Disclaimer: The characters belong to J.K. Rowling. I merely use them in my plot for fun.
Chapter 45 – Epiphany
She was most certainly not looking, snooping or searching for more clues on Harry's love life. In fact, Hermione was honestly done trying to snoop. The Gryffindor witch had just completed her prefect rounds, and maybe sneaked out a bit to send a letter to Viktor because she could not wait until next morning. It was then that she saw him. Tall, broad shoulders, impressive wizard robes in navy blue, long blond hair caught in a low ponytail, cane in hands. She stilled and took a step back, hiding behind a pillar. It was a nervous reaction. Had it been broad daylight with plenty of people around Hermione would have no trouble facing Lucius Malfoy but now she would not dare. The witch shivered, recalling her second year, when because of that accursed Diary she ended up petrified. She still had nightmares over the pair of inky irises she had seen through the reflection of a compact mirror, long serpentine body coming from around the corner. Hermione clutched her wand, trying to keep her wits about her as she peeked again, curiosity sparking now.
Why was Lucius Malfoy here? She knew the detestable man was back on the Board of Governors, still held plenty of power in the government and his involvement with Voldemort's defeat had earned him plenty of supporters. Hermione though always thought it was too easy, how Professor Dumbledore accepted that man's explanations, how no one thought to accuse Malfoy of being the Dark Lord's follower when he called Madam Bones to the site of the dying wizard. She hated that just because he had money and power he could do anything he wanted and now she was suspicious as to what he was doing so late on school grounds. Visiting Snape? He could do that via Firecalling, no need to enter the castle so late. No good reason to loiter. And he was looking so damn smug…
Hermione nearly made a sound as her Potions Professor appeared. He was coming from another corridor, looking relaxed and at the same time furious.
"I want my living quarters back and you out of the school. It's ten already. You should not even be here, Lucius," the dark haired wizard stated with no small amount of irritation. "I don't like you using my rooms for your little love trysts."
"Severus, stop nagging at me. You know the situation, you agreed in the first place."
"Lucius, you only said twice a month and we're up to once a week since New Years!"
"Would you keep your voice down?" the blond wizard said.
"All the brats are in their dormitories but there are portraits and ghosts around and those I can silence."
Hermione swallowed hard at this and tried not to move or breathe too loudly. She knew that if she were caught then detention would be the least of her worries.
"Yes, yes, we did not touch anything or soil the surfaces of your rooms."
"We didn't have sex," was the blunt reply.
Hermione's eyes went round at that. Were they talking about what she thought they were talking?
"I don't need the details," Snape was saying.
"I'm not offering any, just reassuring you that we kept within the guidelines."
"Hn, and the brat?"
The Gryffindor witch heard Malfoy senior sigh.
"Must you always be so hostile towards him?"
"At this point its habit," the Head of Slytherin said. "Potter is back in his dorm then?"
Hermione did not hear the rest of the conversation. Her hand went to her mouth and she bit down on her palm to stifle the shocked sound that nearly escaped her. Her eyes went round and her knees were about to give away but she leaned against the pillar she was hiding behind and tried to stay still. She stayed there, rooted at that same spot, long after the two adult wizards cleared the hallway and only then she allowed herself to slide down to the ground.
"Harry… and him?!" she whispered to herself. "No! He wouldn't!" Harry would not approach that man! Lucius Malfoy was dangerous! He nearly killed Ginny and Hermione and so many other students when he placed that cursed diary of Riddle's in the red-haired witch's things. Hagrid was taken to Azkaban and Headmaster Dumbledore sent away and…
Hermione's brain conjured up an image of Draco Malfoy and Blaise Zabini spending time with the green eyed wizard and Neville. The rumours that those four had met up in Diagon Alley and sat together. The camaraderie that had replaced the animosity and violence that existed between Malfoy and Harry. Her mind forced her to see what she did not want to: Harry was involved with Lucius Malfoy, a suspected Death Eater and Dark Wizard. His son knew. Neville knew. And if Neville knew then Bill Weasley was aware of the relationship as well.
She was equal parts worried and furious about it. She stood on shaky legs and ran away from the spot, not towards the dorms as she should do, but towards the nearest empty classroom she could find where she locked herself in and let her mind try to wrap around the shocking discovery she had made.
The next morning found Hermione Granger tired (she had barely gotten four hours of sleep the previous night), moody and not a bit in the mood to face the general population and more specifically Harry and Neville. But she knew avoidance was not the answer. So she acted as usual, trying to emulate what she usually did even if she could not bare to look in her green eyed friend's eyes.
"... and it just bloomed!" Neville gushed. "Gran was surprised and I was just so pleased... We nearly lost the whole greenhouse just because our Herbologist was a damn idiot."
"But your business won't have trouble, right?" Harry asked. "I know that you sell herbs for potions."
"Like I said, we were lucky," Neville said. "That greenhouse has around fifty thousand galleons worth of merchandise."
Harry's eyes went wide and even Hermione focused a bit more.
"That was a close call then," the witch said.
"I heard that the same infection to sandy loam ruined a few fields in south France. The Malfoy family had trouble with their wine production and the Delacour Winery only brought a third of their usual production to the markets."
"Hm," Hermione was derisive the moment she heard Malfoy's name. Honestly, she would not care if that family was brought to ruin but she knew it was realistically impossible. "Malfoy won't care."
Neville and Harry both shared a look she did not miss and now that she knew what her green eyed friend had been hiding from her she knew the best way to decipher the obvious signs of discomfort they were both showing. Apparently they both cared what happened to that man and it hurt her.
"I need to go to the library," she said, leaving her untouched breakfast plate alone and standing. She would not blow her temper in the middle of breakfast in the Great Hall, it would embarrass both she and Harry.
The Gryffindor witch did go to the library, hiding behind a corridor that was less frequented by the general student population, even those who thought to use the library stacks to snog.
"I need to talk to someone," she muttered to herself. For hours the previous night she tried to explain why Harry would start anything with Lucius Malfoy. It could be Imperius or a Love Potion or plain old blackmail; those were the only options she could consider. The age gap was just too big (Malfoy had a son in Harry's age!), the man was a Death Eater and Harry was the Dark Lord's enemy.
If it had been anyone else... Hermione could have even accepted Draco Malfoy, really, that was much more plausible. There was tension between those two that could be attributed to attraction. Yet even that relationship was just a bit alien. She could not comprehend how from enemies with every sense of the word they could become more. Her relationship with Viktor was purely friendly and based on intellect. Of course there was attraction, Hermione was not blind to Viktor's charms and looks, but it developed more after they spent time talking and getting to know each other. Harry and Lucius Malfoy... She shook her head. There was no way their relationship was that deep. And in the off chance that it was how on earth she had missed it? How on earth had Dumbledore and Sirius and Remus missed it? The Gryffindor witch knew that if Sirius knew he would not let this go on, there was no way he would let it. Should she tell him? She shook her head and sighed.
"It's not my place," she told herself, recalling her talk with Neville a few months ago. She would not be a tattle-tale but she wanted to do right by Harry as his friend. In the end, Hermione sighed. All her thoughts and worries kept circling around in her head and she was not getting anywhere. She could wait and when there was time, she would ask her questions. And she knew just who to ask.
The end of Harry's fifth year was stress free and that was a relief to the green eyed teen. What came as more of a surprise for the Boy-Who-Lived was the results of his quiet year. OWL exams were something that he had been dreading ever since he found out about their existence and he had let Hermione more or less terrify him at some point until he spoke with Draco and the blond managed to calm him down somewhat, explaining the outline of the exams and the difficulty levels in their year. After that he spends his time a bit calmer and not frantically cramming like Hermione. He and Neville had studied together with the Slytherin's, letting Hermione to do her thing, offering to help when she let them.
They were seated around the Black Lake, watching as some of the students were playing with the Giant Squid that was close to the shore. Harry was on his back, under a tree. Neville had invited Luna along and the Blonde witch from Ravenclaw had suggested a picnic. In turn Harry had invited some of the Slytherin's he knew though only Blaise and Draco showed up, resulting in an odd group gathering, spread out on blankets under the trees, lounging and eating. Hermione had been invited as well but the witch had replied that she had some questions about OWLs that she wanted to ask McGonagall about. Harry had sighed and let her.
"So, Potter, any plans for summer?" Blaise asked.
"Hm, just plans to make plans, nothing concrete yet," the green eyed Gryffindor replied. "I want to make the most out of this summer. Neville here invited me to India. His family owns greenhouses there and I could tag along for a week or so. After that Sirius and Remus said something about visiting the house near the beach where we spent last year's summer and my boyfriend mentioned a European Tour."
Draco snorted. "Mentioned? Try wore Snape's ears down. I heard them over Easter break. He wants to dazzle you and will do anything to make it memorable."
"Sweden is nice during summer," Luna remarked. "Daddy and I visited the lakes and the mountains. Everything was so green and sparkly."
"I've toured France, Spain, Italy and Greece," Blaise offered, "Mother likes the Mediterranean sea and the men. The food was good…" he trailed off. "The last few years we favour Tunisia. My father was from there and Grandfather likes having me around. Mother only comes for a week or so and then she leaves."
"And I'm going with Blaise this year," Draco stated. "Father gets me the first week of the holidays and mother requested the second, so I know I will be in France for a while and then I'm off to Tunisia as well until August twenty."
"Gran wants us to stay in India," Neville revealed reluctantly. He had been excited about this fact. They never really left for summers, the shy teen had told Harry. The fact that the Longbottom matriarch was willing to do this was a sign that she trusted Neville more nowadays if she was willing to let him get more involved in the family business.
"I'd like to visit India," Luna remarked and the Longbottom heir grinned.
Unseen by those two, Draco and Blaise both rolled their eyes. Harry caught them at it and snickered.
"What?" Neville asked.
"Nothing," the green eyed wizard quickly told him. "Maybe you should give Luna a tour of the greenhouses as well. I bet she likes Herbology just as much as you do."
Luna gave Harry a knowing look and smiled. "That's a nice suggestion."
"I'll make the arrangements then," Neville said, sounding excited. "I bet Gran won't mind if your father doesn't. And he's welcome to come as well. He seems to like exploring."
"Well, good deed of the day over and done with, I'm feeling peckish again," Blaise said. "Are there more sandwiches left? The small pork and yellow cheese ones?"
"Glutton," Draco scoffed but he reached for a sandwich for himself after he gave his fellow Slytherin the one he requested. "These are great. How come the house elves like you so damn much?" he complained to Harry.
"I'm actually nice to them?" the green eyed wizard asked.
Draco scoffed and kept munching.
"You know, people are gawking right now," Blaise said while cleaning his hands from crumbs.
"Some are even pointing and whispering," Luna added.
"Ignore them," Neville told her. "Little blueberry pie?" he offered and she happily accepted.
"No," The witch said "We should have done this sooner," Harry said. "It's nice and warm here."
"We can do this again," Draco said.
"Yes, you will see each other during August," Blaise muttered.
"And you are welcome to join as well, no one will mind," Harry replied.
Blaise smirked. "Not even Draco's dad?"
"I bet he will want you around when it's time for them to sneak off and do their… stuff."
Harry snorted. "Stuff?"
He got a glare and a small pie thrown at him. He ignored the glare and munched on the pie, shooting Draco a grin.
He sat with Hermione and Neville on the ride back to London and the witch was unusually quiet. She was petting Crookshanks and looking out the window. After a while Harry was a bit worried and he asked what was on her mind.
"I got a letter from Viktor, before the OWLs started," Hermione admitted and Harry was more attentive, recalling how the girl and the Quidditch Seeker kept writing to each other since last year.
"And how is he? There was something in 'Quidditch Monthly' about an arm injury?" the green eyed wizard asked.
Hermione nodded. "That was three months ago and he got better after a week. Potions can still amaze me you know."
He agreed readily. "So… What's the problem?"
"Want me to step out?" Neville suggested. "Leave you two to talk?"
"No," the witch told Neville, "You can stay. It's about summer… Well, Viktor asked me to travel with him. He said there will be four more people, two couples, he knew from Durmstrang."
"Oh," Harry muttered, eyes sparkling. "Your first holiday as a couple!"
Hermione turned to him. "You think he thinks we're a couple?"
"Hermione," Neville tried, "Even I think you two are a couple."
She flushed. "Really? Despite the fact that we have not seen since summer?"
"Distance makes no difference if he loves you and thinks of you," Harry told her. "What's the problem? The fact you haven't seen him in a year? Do your parent's protest?"
Hermione shrugged. "He said that we wouldn't get a room together, that we could share girls and boys style and just travel but…"
"Ah," Harry was nodding sagely. "You want to stay together with him but you aren't sure if you want to sleep together with him, meaning have sex-not share a bed, just to be sure what I mean. Am I right?"
"Disturbingly so, yes," the witch replied.
"My opinion, go for it," Harry told her. "Share a room. I doubt he'll pressure you into anything you don't want. He just doesn't seem like that type of guy. How long did he suggest? A week? More?"
"Three weeks," Hermione replied. "We're touring the Greeks islands and crossing over to Turkey."
"Oh, nice!" Neville said. "You should go, if only for the vacation experience. What's your alternative?"
"Two weeks wine tasting with the parents," the witch sighed. "I don't want that for this year. I want…"
"To let your hair down, explore and have fun?" Harry asked and she glared at him.
"Harry," she muttered.
"Just saying, I understand you. Go for it," he told her. "Now, if you'll excuse me," he rose. "I'll track down the cart lady. I'm feeling like something salty. You guys want anything? No? I'll bring something anyway."
And he was gone with a smile and a wave, leaving Neville and Hermione alone.
"So…" Neville started but he was cut off.
"Do you really think what they're doing is right?" the witch asked in a rush.
The Longbottom heir blinked. "Pardon me?"
"Harry and Lucius Malfoy," the Muggleborn said, making the pureblood choke on air. "Do you think what they're doing…"
"Hermione!" Neville said. "The walls have ears!" he frantically looked around. "Don't say his name. And how do you even know?"
"He came by the school a bit after we returned from spring holiday break and I was leaving the potions labs where I was preparing for OWLs practical when I saw them both leaving Snape's office. They did not look like mere acquaintances. The looks they exchanged… I'm not stupid Neville. I knew he was seeing someone with Slytherin ties and someone who had to be older and a graduate but the age difference alone!"
"Don't say anything!" Neville told her frantically.
"You know!" she hissed. "And you've done nothing?"
"Done? What do you want me to do?" the wizard asked.
"Say something, warn somebody!"
"Hermione… People know," Neville told her. "Bill knows. Snape knows. Draco knows. Sirius and Remus… They know. And…" he sighed. "Dumbledore knows as well."
Hermione was left staring aghast at her fellow Gryffindor, like she could not believe her ears. "All these people know? And they won't do anything?"
Neville shrugged. "Why would they? It's not like he's taking advantage of Harry? They love each other and he protected Harry last year."
The witch swallowed. "Neville… How long has this been going on?"
"I have some idea but I'm not telling. And you should not ask. Or tell Harry that you know while you're this upset still."
"I have to tell him what I think of this!"
"No, you don't!" Neville stressed. "Harry and the blond guy… It's not something of a fancy. It's for life. They're still going to be together ten, twenty years from now. Don't push Harry away by trying to do something you think is right. He won't thank you and frankly, you would be in the wrong. There is a lot of byplay, things you have no idea about."
"Yes, I'm beginning to see that."
"Are you angry with Harry?"
"What? No!" the witch cried. "I'm worried about him! His health! Whether he's being played for a fool!"
Neville smiled. "He's happy and safe with that man. Don't ruin it."
The witch stared, mouth dropping open in shock. "Neville! How can you be so…"
Hermione sighed. "That's one word for it."
"Because I've seen them interact," Neville said. "In privacy, all masks drop and they are different people. Harry is a lot more mature and that man," Neville shook his head. "He is what people say he is, ruthless, sneaky and cunning. But for family? He's willing to die and Harry is on par with his son for things he will sacrifice his life over. Let it go before you do something you'll regret."
"You can worry from afar and silently and be there if things go south," Neville said. "But don't actively try to ruin them."
She sighed. "When did you get all serious and mature like this?"
The Longbottom heir shrugged even though he knew that it had happened sometime last year when Harry had let him on what was happening with the Triwizard Tournament and Crouch Junior. It had changed a lot things for him, that fourth year and the fact that Harry trusted Neville, the guy even fellow Gryffindor's jeered at, to have his back. Harry had not been the only one to change that year. Neville had grown up a lot as well and the changes were apparently met with approval from his grandmother.
"Just, observe silently," Neville told her. "That's what I'm doing. If I see something I don't like, I'll go to Bill and he will act accordingly. The blond guy likes him enough and will actually listen to him."
Hermione huffed. Their conversation ended abruptly when Harry opened the door, returning and in tow, he had brought Luna along and Neville perked up and the conversation turned to summer holiday plans and Luna informed Neville that her father had agreed with his invitation and that they would be joining Neville in India.
"Merlin how much you've grown!" Sirius crowed with delight as he twirled Harry around, much to the green eyed teen's mortification. The platform 9¾ was busy as ever and the Black Lord and his werewolf friend had had difficulty tracking their boy down.
"Sirius!" Harry complained and his godfather squeezed him one more time before placing him down on his own two feet. Then Remus took his turn, hugging the teen once, warmly, and releasing him to grab the trunk and shrink it, giving it to Harry who promptly put it in his pocket.
"We're leaving for London," Sirius said. "We're leaving tomorrow, via Portkey and for a week, you're all ours!"
Harry stepped away from his godfather and waved his finger at the man. "Don't you dare pick me up again!"
Sirius grinned unrepentantly. "You know you love me!"
"Don't know why, but I do," Harry sighed.
"See you around Potter!" Blaise called out to him, from a few feet away. Harry turned and smiled at the Slytherin, who was standing with his mother and grinning. The green eyed teen waved and watched as Blaise left with the strikingly beautiful witch.
Sirius whistled behind his godson.
"Down Padfoot," Harry warned the ex convict. "That was Madam Zabini."
Sirius choked. "What?"
"I'm friends, of a sort, with her son Blaise," Harry explained. "Draco introduced us."
Remus coughed. "I bet you have a lot to tell us. Come on then. Sirius was complaining about being hungry before you arrived Harry."
"I was not!" Sirius refuted.
"You were singing it off key," the werewolf snorted.
"That I can believe," Harry said and followed them to the Apparation point.