Hey, guys! I'm finally out of school and done with all of my pesky exams. Sorry it took so long, but I should be writing pretty regularly now! I won't bore you anymore with this, so without further rambling, I give you the next chapter. (It won't be very long, but I'm just posting right now to show I'm not dead. There will be more up tomorrow.)
Hermione didn't know what to say. She stared at the spot where Ron was just moments ago and felt her throat constrict. She felt the warmth and pressure of Draco's hand in hers, returning a reassuring squeeze.
"Sorry," Draco said, not looking very sorry at all. "I just get sick of seeing him tailing after you all the time – he acts like you're his property."
She turned to face him, a hint of anger in her eyes.
"What are you trying to say – that I'm your property?"
He pulled his hand away, his face flooding with a mixture of hurt and confusion. She instantly felt horrible. She sighed, slipping her hand back into his.
"I'm just a little -"
"Upset. I get it." He finished, walking ahead of her.
She had to assume a light jog in order to keep up with his stride.
"Draco – I'm sorry." She said, panting as they rounded a corner into an empty corridor.
She almost ran into him when he stopped in the middle of it. He turned to face her, stress registering on his face.
"You shouldn't be the one apologizing. I'm sorry. I'm sorry I let that Weasel – Weasley get the best of me." He corrected himself with one look at the expression on her face.
"It just… It just bothers me, alright?"
She raised her eyebrow skeptically.
"So, let me get this straight – THE Draco Malfoy is jealous of Ronald Weasley?" She kept her tone light, but was genuinely curious.
"Yes." He said solemnly, no hint of a smile playing at his lips.
"Yes, I'm jealous."
"Y-you're actually s-serious?"
"But… why?" She asked, quite at a loss for words.
"Because." He stated simply. "You're with him a lot of the time, he obviously has a large crush on you, and has the subtlety of a giant."
"Draco," she stated slowly, wondering if there was anything affecting his mind. "we've been over this…"
"I know you like me more than him – at least in the romantic sense. I just don't know when he's going to reach his breaking point and finally kiss you."
"B-" she began, only to be cut off by him holding up a pale, long hand.
"I know you don't like him. I'm very aware that you don't like him. I'm just telling you what I see happening within the next few weeks, if not days. A man can only take a certain amount of this before he finally snaps, and as much as I hate to say it, Weasley's just like the rest of us." He finished, shrugging.
"Draco, you have nothing to worry about – "
"Oh, I know. It's him that should be worried, actually…"
"Draco." She said warningly.
"Hermione." He shot back, mocking her tone.
It took all of her willpower to keep herself from stamping her foot, but she resisted, opting for a glare instead. He quickly changed the subject.
"You know, if you're still feeling upset, I think I saw an empty office a few doors back." He drawled, leaning closer to her.
She blushed, very aware that their noses were almost touching. He pressed each hand against the wall on either side of her, trapping her. She weakly shoved at his arms, a futile attempt to stop him before someone saw. It was when she felt his soft, warm lips on hers that she realized she didn't care. She felt every bit of her resolve crumbling before her eyes.
It was only a few moments later that she heard the light tread of footsteps growing louder and louder with each passing second. Just as she slid from underneath Draco's arms and smoothed her hair, Harry appeared a few feet away, his bespectacled eyes trained on a piece of paper he was carrying. He briefly looked up.
"Hermione – you're just the person I wanted to see. Kendrina wants to talk to you." He said, seeming a bit distracted.
She nodded, still flustered. Draco, however, was looking calm and collected. Just like always.
Harry only just seemed to recognize Draco's presence. His eyes narrowed, darting from Hermione's red face to Draco's serene one.
"Am I … interrupting something?" He asked suspiciously.
Hermione reached into her mind for an excuse, but it was Draco who answered him.
"No, Potter. Actually – the only thing you were interrupting was Granger's incessant fussing over paperwork we have to do."
This seemed to placate Harry, and he nodded.
"I suppose you're right – I think I have some on my desk, as well."
He frowned, running his hand through his jet black hair nervously.
"In fact, I'd better get started on that. Would you care to join me? Misery loves company, after all."
Hermione bit her lip, unsure if she wanted Draco and Harry in the same room.
"We'll catch up with you later – I'm not sure how long Kendrina will be. And let's face it – the idea of you and Draco in the same room doesn't seem all that appealing."
At the mention of Malfoy's first name, Harry's eyes narrowed again. He recovered quickly, replacing the suspicion on his face with a cold smile.
"You're right – probably not the best idea. Well, I'd better get going. My hand isn't going to cramp itself."
Harry pulled Hermione into his arms for a tight hug, his eyes never breaking Draco's gaze. Hermione awkwardly patted Harry's back, desperately wishing he'd let her go. She had to maintain her composure, especially in front of Harry. But, as Draco said - A person could only take so much before they snapped.
He finally relinquished his hold on her and walked away, not once looking back. When he disappeared around the corner, Draco grabbed her shoulders and spun her around.
"Now, where were we before we were so rudely interrupted?" He asked, smirking.
She laughed in spite of herself, glad that he wasn't making a big deal of Harry's little stunt.
"We were about at that place where we went to Kendrina."
He groaned in frustration. She smiled at his childish disappointment.
"Let's make it quick."
He leaned in once more, and kissed her. It was different – unlike a lot of the kisses they shared. It was sweet – a side of Draco that never made an appearance. He pulled away finally, his expression unreadable.
"No more than ten minutes." She agreed, much to Draco's pleasure.
"You wanted to see me?" Hermione asked, closing the door behind her as she entered Kendrina's office.
"Ah, yes, Granger." She said without looking up from the particularly lengthy memo she was reading. "Sit."
Doing as she was told, she plopped down in the nearest chair and waited patiently. Kendrina scanned the paper on her desk for a few moments, readjusted her glasses, and looked at Hermione.
"I take it you are aware of the LaReux case, am I correct?"
"And I take it you spoke with this woman?"
She nodded once again, a feeling of dread and anxiety knotting in the pit of her stomach. Kendrina merely sighed, straightening the already straight quills on her desk.
"I thought as much. The woman practically begged me to turn the case over to you, yesterday." She allowed herself an exhausted smile. "Or course, she was a bit put out with me when I explained that it wasn't your department handling all of this. Even so, you have a way with people, Granger."
"I don't understand – am I… in trouble for speaking to this woman?"
Kendrina actually smiled.
"Quite the contrary, as it is." She said, not elaborating on the subject.
Hermione waited, her hands wringing tightly together in her lap.
"Granger, when I told this woman that your department wasn't handling this case, I was quite mistaken. As you are fully aware of what's been going on, I think it's safe to venture a guess that it isn't just a coincidence."
Despite the fact that the question of her being in trouble had been erased, she still couldn't help but feel her heart sink. It wasn't for her well-being that she was scared. It was for the woman's. The woman that would lose her fiancée. The woman who would answer her door or a floo call in the middle of the night only to hear that the person she wanted to spend her life with was dead. It was terrible to think that way, but it was realistic.
When Hermione didn't reply, Kendrina continued.
"What with all of this recent activity, we aren't in a position to rule anything out. This woman's fiancée may very well be dead, for all we know."
Hermione flinched. It was not only what Kendrina was saying, but how she was saying it so calmly that bothered her.
"As it is, we believe the house you recently investigated was the place in which this woman's fiancée was being held. This just became a job for your department. The only problem is, Miss Granger, is that we can't be positive that this man isn't involved in the illicit activities."
"So you're saying… he's a suspect?"
"I'm saying that we have no record of any wrongdoing on this man's part, but at this point we aren't in a position to be lenient with our trust. The reason I called you in here today is to give you some advice, Miss Granger."
"Trust no one. One minute, a person may be perfectly friendly. The next you're found somewhere by our aurors, not a distinguishable piece left of you to bury. That is all." She said, clearly a dismissal.
"I'll take that into consideration." Hermione said numbly, her hand feeling like lead as she attempted to turn the doorknob.
It was as she'd feared.