This is it! The final chapter! It's taken awhile but we are finally here. Now, without further ado...
The snow fell silently outside the Auror Office, going unnoticed by the three wizards working feverishly inside. There had been no leads regarding the missing death eaters for at least two months, so when Brice had received a tip-off on one Dalton Rosier they wasted no time gathering intel in order to bring them in. The young man ran back and forth between his superiors, doing whatever it was they needed him to do, whether it was retrieving coffee or contacting the other Auror's so they'd be ready when the time came to move. Last few weeks they'd been focusing all of their time and energy in finding the culprits behind the muggle killings. Brice welcomed this change in pace. He felt like they were actually getting somewhere now.
"Do you think Rosier will lead us to Nott?" Nathan asked from behind a pile of papers. "If anyone was going to cause problems it would most likely be him."
The older man shrugged his shoulders as he turned around in his chair. "Who knows? If I were them I'd make sure no one knew of my location. The fewer people that are aware, the less likely they are to get caught. If they aren't hiding together, that is. We can't cross off that possibility." He scratched at the scruff of his three-day unshaven face. "I'd rather go in overprepared than under."
"You'd think," Nathan muttered, rubbing his forehead with his fingers. "But I have a feeling they're in contact with somebody. Maybe not other members, but family perhaps?"
"We questioned all their associates when they disappeared. Their assets were frozen and their families were under surveillance for the first couple of months. If they are in contact with them, it would have had to happen recently."
"Well, maybe that's why were are just now getting intel on some of their whereabouts. They may be getting comfortable. Comfortable enough to make mistakes."
"You're probably right." He hissed in annoyance. "Damnit. There's too much going on. We don't have the manpower to do anything about it right now."
"You're here to lessen the load but even with your expertise and gumption, you are still only one man."
"That is the sweetest thing I think you've ever said to me." He replied with a grin. "And here I thought I was here for my pretty face."
"Shut up, Nathan. We leave within the hour." He said and then addressed Brice. "Make sure you're both ready."
His boss just sat back in his chair, sighing loudly as he cracked his neck and gazed across the room flashing a charming smile. "Yessir!"
The mocking was obvious but it went ignored as they all finished their individual tasks. As they worked he wondered if they would ever truly get along. Auror Scott emitted an authoritative vibe but he had a slight softness about him at times that made him a bit more approachable. Detective Dearborn was a bit of a hard ass for trainees and co-workers alike, speaking sternly and getting straight to the point, so most people were put off by his bluntness, but he was charismatic when he needed to be. Oh, was he charismatic. He shook his head. The two of them together created quite the atmosphere. He'd never complain about the work, but he did think it would be a bit of a relief when the new recruits joined them.
Friday, December 25, 1998, Christmas Day
Draco awoke to the sound of his mother's gentle rapping on his door. "Are you going to sleep all day, darling?"
He groaned and shoved his head under his pillow. He was in no mood to leave his bed. He'd waited up until the sky changed from the dark purple of night into the soft red hue of dawn in hopes he'd feel something, anything from the ring on his finger. Blaise, that all knowing git, had been right. She hadn't put it on. He groaned again. Salazar, he'd be insufferable now.
"Draco?" Again she called to him, a little louder that time. The door creaked open and she stepped into the room.
"Do I have to, Mother? Can't I sleep another ten minutes?" He asked, cringing a bit when he realized how childish he sounded.
A light chuckle sounded close to his bed. "I suppose I could come back, but I have a feeling you'd just kick me out again."
He gave up and tore the pillow off of his head. "I wouldn't."
"Where you up all night again?" She looked serious as she stared at him. "Drinking?"
"No," he brushed off her worried words. "Nothing like that. I've just had a lot on my mind." Like infuriating pretty brown haired girls that lived to distract him.
She nodded her head in understanding and stepped away from him. "Just come down to breakfast as soon as you can. Your father is expecting you.
At the burrow, Harry kissed Ginny gently before sitting up in bed. "Ready to face the day?" He asked her quietly.
She sighed and looked up at him. "No, not really. I know everyone is going to be putting on brave faces but…."
She nodded and sat up. "He's supposed to be here. He's supposed to be getting scolded by mum for pulling yet another Christmas prank with George. He's supposed to be giving Hermione a hard time about her baby's father, because you know he would have. He's supposed to here." Harry could hear the sobs she was suppressing, but she swallowed them down. "Fake smiles, Harry. That's all today is going to be."
"Sometimes that's all we can give, Gin." He replied, hugging her to his chest. "This Christmas will be hard for everyone. We just have to remember that we have each other."
"No need to thank me." He smiled sadly. "But we do need to get ready before your mother gives us a scolding."
"We wouldn't want that would we?"
"No," He agreed, "No, we wouldn't.
The morning had started out a bit on the somber side but that was to be expected. George was quiet as they lit a candle for Fred and recalled their fondest memories of him. Molly didn't make it through hers and had disappeared into her bedroom for an hour before she had emerged. But once she did, the atmosphere had changed and everyone put on their best smiles.
So while the morning had been rough, the early afternoon was looking up. Brunch with the Weasley's was a wild affair of food, chaos and gift exchanges. Hermione had wanted to be away from the chaos the night before, but she was finding herself happy and content to be in the middle of the sea of red hair and holiday spirit. Luna had arrived just as everyone was digging in and Hermione noticed a slight blush on her face when their eyes met.
Interesting, she thought. Very interesting. Luna greeted her and the rest of the clan before immediately sitting down next to George, striking up a conversation about some creature Hermione had never heard of. She thought George would be slightly annoyed but when she watched his face for a reaction, she was surprised to see relief. Perhaps a chat about whimsical creatures was exactly what he needed.
She sipped her tea and ate her food quietly, watching from her spot in the corner. Harry had joined her as a fellow outsider who still wasn't used to the hustle and bustle of life at the burrow. But as the day wore on she found her mind drifting to thoughts of Draco and the gift he'd given her that was now stashed in her nightstand. He really knew how to ruin a mood.
Happy Christmas indeed.
Sunday, December 27, 1998
After the holidays Draco found that he could no longer ignore his father. The anger in his chest had ebbed to a small smolder and he seemed to be clearer headed when they spoke. It had to be now before he let that anger and uncertainty back in. He needed to agree to Bastien's terms and to do that he had to be civil with Lucius. His father seemed fairly pleased with himself when his son had informed him that he'd been spending his days mauling over his decision and had decided that he was open to the idea of joining the cause, whatever that may be.
He just hoped that stepping into the dragon's den wouldn't end up with him burnt too bad.
Monday, 28, 1998
"Brilliant!" Exclaimed Hermione suddenly. They were both sitting in the blonde's kitchen drinking tea, waiting for Blaise to arrive to take them to the opera when the idea struck her. "I know how I'm going to tell everyone."
Luna set the teacup down and cocked her head to the side. "What are you thinking?"
She bit her lip but then met her friend's eyes. "This may sound a bit crazy, and maybe a tad counterproductive with the whole laying low thing, but I feel like it needs to be me. This pregnancy is going be revealed to the public no matter what, so I'm going to make sure it comes out on my terms."
"How will you accomplish that? Are you planning on doing an interview with a journalist?"
"No," She replied with a smirk. "I'm going to meet you at the Starling Café for lunch and if it just so happens to be at the same time that Rita Skeeter meets with one of her lunch dates then….."
"She'll write a gossip column in the Prophet about it." Luna's eyes brightened. "Then everyone will know before we get back to Hogwarts, people won't be suspicious, and if she makes up a good enough lie you won't even have to answer many questions. That is honestly brilliant, Hermione."
"It seems I haven't lost my touch after all."
They heard the telltale signs of Blaise's arrival and rose from the table and met him in the living room. After sizing them up and whistling he grinned, "Looks like I'm one lucky man tonight."
"And why is that?" Hermione asked with a smile.
"Because I have the pleasure of escorting two of the most beautiful ladies I've ever seen to the show."
Luna gave him a peck on the cheek and Hermione laughed. "Yes, well as lovely as one can be while looking like they swallowed a small cauldron, anyway."
Blaise sided up next to her and offered her his arm. "Haven't you ever heard of that illustrious pregnancy glow?"
"Can't say that I have, but I'll take your word for it." She said, but she felt a happiness stir in her chest that she hadn't felt in a long time as they arrived at their destination. Being with Blaise and Luna seemed put Hermione at ease. There was no intense history weighing their friendship down. It was new, fresh, and at first, it had been odd spending so much time with Draco's best friend, but he never brought him up and always kept the mood light. He may have been doing it for her benefit, knowing how hard it was for her to think of him, but she had a feeling this was just how Blaise acted. He was laid back and flirtatious, charming in that Slytherin way of his, but she couldn't deny the way he looked when he spoke to Luna. The closest thing she could think of to describe the look in his eyes was amazement. She knew there were feelings here, between the two of them.
Blaise walked forward, each elbow interlocked with the witches. His chest shook with laughter as he spoke and his smiles were genuine. The night played out like a commercial but it was the most real she'd felt in awhile. When she returned to her bed at the burrow that night she knew she'd finally accepted his presence in her life.
Blaise Zabini got the stamp of approval.
Wednesday, December 30, 1998
Hermione was restless. So far she had kept herself busy. If she wasn't with Luna, she was with Harry and Ginny. They'd taken a few trips to muggle London and shopped around. Ginny had squealed in delight when they came upon a shop the day before that sold baby accessories. Hermione had tried to talk her out of buying the baby anything but it was useless. Harry just shrugged in defeat as his girlfriend gathered a few onesies and a pair of gender neutral booties. It was honestly one of the first things they'd done together where they'd actually addressed the fact that someday soon their group would be expanding by one. The baby was becoming more real, and less abstract as the days went on. It was surreal in a way but she found that she enjoyed making these memories with them.
There was also the day that she'd put her parent's house up for sale. Harry was the only one that went with her. It wasn't that she didn't trust Ginny, or Luna, or Ron, but her friendship with Harry was different than her friendship with all of them. Those months on the run and the years of fear and the desire to protect him had cemented their bond. Honestly, it was why she'd been so hurt by his initial rejection when he'd found out about her and Malfoy. There was nothing romantic, it wasn't that, but it was a closeness she couldn't really explain.
When her father had died he'd been the one she'd turned to most. He knew her parents. He knew how much they meant to her. So he went with her as she auctioned off all the furniture she'd grown up sitting on, all the dishes she'd eaten off of, all the clothes that Jean and Alexander Granger would never wear again. She felt like she cried more as she packed up boxes of her mother's trinkets than she had when she'd found out her father had passed and her mother was gone. Harry was quiet when he knew she needed the silence and was ready to hug her when she needed the physical contact. He told her to take her time and they did. They'd stayed two days in fact before they returned to the Burrow. And when she stepped into the familiar doorway, red faced and teary eyed, she'd been greeted with hugs and encouragement from everyone.
She knew how lucky she was that she had these people to fall back on, but knowing it and feeling it were two different things. Going through her house had poked at the wound in her chest and now she felt the hollowness she'd been trying so hard to fill. Nothing matter, and everything mattered.
Her thoughts drifted to Draco and she felt something stir. Without thinking, she ripped open the drawer at her bedside and grabbed the tiny box she hadn't looked at since she put it there. She opened it before she had time to register what it was she was doing. She stared at the pendant where it lay, tucked into the maroon handkerchief. It was too pretty to be hidden away in a box in the bottom of a drawer. She should just wear it. It wouldn't have to mean anything. It didn't matter. It wouldn't mean that he'd won. It wouldn't mean she was still in love with him. It wasn't a declaration of any kind. Luna was right. It was just a necklace.
With shaky hands, she picked it up and held it in front of her. It really was beautiful. She turned and looked into the mirror, fastening it around her neck. It laid heavy on her chest and the moment it touched her skin she felt a warm sense of peace she hadn't felt in a long time. It felt right, wearing the pendant. It looked like it just belonged there like it was meant to be worn on her person, and the emptiness she'd felt since leaving her childhood home had filled ever so slightly.
Draco was reading in bed when he felt it, his ring warming slightly on his finger. He sat up and stared at the ornament as a smile broke across his face.
She was wearing the necklace.
Thursday, December 31, 1998, New Year's Eve
Hermione's plan of outing her pregnancy went off without a hitch. She'd gone into the café wearing the tightest shirt she owned and made a show of it, exaggerating her movements as she took off her heavy coat and draped it across her chair. She glanced towards the back and saw a pair of beady, yet bright eyes staring intently at her. Rita.
She'd pretended not to notice and when Luna arrived she'd hugged the witch tightly and let her feel the ever growing bump. They'd had a delightful lunch and made sure the journalist was a witness to it all. By the time the two girls had locked arms and headed back out into the cold the woman in the back had undoubtedly finished her first draft. She felt a bit anxious as it all started to sink in but there was no going back.
Quite possibly tomorrow the whole of Wizarding Britain would know Hermione Granger, war hero, was about to become a mother.
Fireworks were lighting up the sky outside of the burrow. Arthur had wanted to use muggle ones so Harry and Hermione had gone with him to Muggle London earlier in the day to purchase some. George and Ron had insisted that they take over after their father had set one off too close to his face, taking his hat clean off of his head and leaving his red hair singed.
Hermione sat at the window of her room watching the blue and white sparkle in front of her. In just a few minutes the new year would be starting. She wondered what it would have in store for her. The baby kicked her roughly then as if reminding her exactly what she had in store, "Yes, yes. I didn't forget you." She said, and patted her stomach lovingly. "I couldn't even if I tried, with all the kicking and rolling around you do."
She heard a cough behind her and she turned to see Ginny entering the room. "Can you believe the year is almost over?"
"Honestly, no. So much has happened." She returned her gaze to the window. "But I am glad to put it behind us. It's been….a difficult one."
Ginny leaned against the dresser. "How are you doing really, Hermione?" She asked, her voice soft enough that Hermione had to turn again to hear her better.
The redhead was looking at her with concern and a bit of understanding. She sighed. "It depends on which issue you are talking about. How am I doing with the baby? Honestly better than I ever expected. I find myself becoming more and more excited about its arrival." Ginny smiled and she continued. "But if you are talking about….my parents, I don't know how I feel. It hits me like a brick to the gut some days, and I hardly feel its others. It is hard because I feel guilty for feeling good, feeling normal when my father is dead and my mother is Merlin knows where."
"They wouldn't want you to feel guilty. They'd want you to be happy."
"I know. That's why I try so hard to think about the positive things. The memories, the times we had. I try to look to the future that I have. But I don't want to forget that pain completely because I don't want to forget them."
"You'll never forget them." Ginny insisted, coming to wrap an arm around her. "They are always with you. Remember that."
"I'm trying, Gin." She said with a small smile.
Both girls were quite for a moment, watching the fireworks exploding outside, but then Ginny spoke again, though she could hear the hesitation in her voice. "What about...Malfoy?"
Her heart lurched but she frowned. "He's the one I should be trying to forget."
"But you can't, can you?"
Hermione looked into her friend's eyes and noted the seriousness in them. It had been awhile since they'd spoken like this. This raw, open, knowing friendship. She could say what she felt. She didn't need to be guarded. "No," She answered finally, casting her eyes down to the necklace on her chest. "I know I should, and I've tried fighting it, but I am struggling. I need to let him go, for his sake and mine, but it is so hard. Especially when I know that no matter what happens in the future, we will always have a physical connection. I just…it's going to take time."
The other witch nodded but before she could come up with a response they heard Harry thump up the stairs and call out to them. "If you two don't hurry up you'll miss it."
"I am fairly certain the new year will still come whether or not we're outside to witness it, Harry," Hermione replied with a smile.
"Just…come on!" He sighed and grabbed hold of their hands, leading them out of the room, down the stairs, and out into the back yard.
She noted that it was warm despite the snow that was falling. The white flakes stopped outside of the invisible dome of magic that surrounded the burrow for this occasion. Everyone was laughing, dancing and drinking and the merriment was infectious. She couldn't stop looking around in wonder. It was absolutely beautiful, almost as if they were inside one of the snow globes she had on her shelf as a child.
She'd been so enthralled by the sight that she'd almost missed Harry's excited yell from across the yard. The countdown had begun and she found herself joining in. .
"Five!" Goerge grabbed Angelina to his side.
"Four!" Harry spun Ginny around in a circle.
"Three!" Arthur hollered from the back stoop.
'Two!" Ron nodded in her direction and she smiled back.
"One!" Cheers broke out around her and she found herself fingering the pendant on her neck as she looked skyward. "Happy New Year." She whispered into the night.
It was cold in the small house when he entered and he started a fire in the hearth with a wave of his wand. He sunk down onto the couch in front of it without even taking off his coat or his shoes, too weary from the amount of magic he'd been dispensing lately to remain standing one more moment. It was taxing but it would all be worth it in the end, he'd decided. Things weren't going as smoothly as he'd hoped but he was sure things would start moving in his favor soon. In a few days' time, his target would be within his reach.
Slippery bastard. Lucius had assured him that his son was willing to meet but he'd believe it when he saw it. So far, he'd managed to evade Bastien at every turn when he'd been at Hogwarts. But now? Even if he didn't come speak with him, it didn't matter. He'd be right in his lap soon enough. He was honestly surprised and a bit put off with the reluctance the boy had shown at first. He would have thought being a Malfoy he would have been born with the desire for power. Lucius certainly had been, but Lucius was reckless with it. He wasn't patient enough to wait for the results. He wanted them now. Now. Now. Draco, he knew, would be different. He just hadn't thought he would straight up refuse his offer. It wasn't as if it would be the same as when the Dark Lord had tried to take over. This would be painless. Or as painless as it could be. There were always lives lost for the greater good. So, yes, blood would be spilled, but not for the sake of blood being spilled.
That was one place where the Dark Lord fucked up. He'd let his followers do whatever their little black hearts desired. Torture, maim, rape, kill, it hadn't mattered to him. But cruelty and madness couldn't keep him in power long. Depravity would have spread like fyndfire and he would have seen his most loyal subjects ready to stab him in the back for another taste of it. His vision, his plans for the new order of Wizarding Britain hadn't been a bad one in the beginning. But coming back from the dead distorted everything. He'd come back as a shadow and an arrogant one. The politics were thrown out the window and replaced with the desire to cause pain, to cause chaos.
Bastien had thought it immature or at the very least insane. There was so much more they could have done had they taken their time and done so properly. They hadn't needed to soak the ground in the blood of so many wizards and witches. Some strategic murders here and there were all they'd needed. Sure, give some of the dogs a bone every once in a while, but there was no reason for the buffet the Dark Lord offered them. Had he himself taken a part of some of the brutality? Sure. But he hadn't done it out of bloodlust. He'd done it to get into his master's good graces. It was all a part of the game, a part of his strategy. Then he'd had to start over from square one. Though it wasn't necessarily a bad thing. At least this way he didn't have to be the one to stab Voldemort in the back. It would have taken him years to slowly gain the trust and the opportunity to destroy all the dark artifacts keeping him alive. Now he could do things his way, the right way, the way that would leave the least amount of bodies in his wake.
The body count was up too high as it was. Greyback was becoming an issue and the sooner Draco agreed to become his accomplice, the sooner he could get rid of the problematic werewolf. He'd started going out and doing the dirty work himself, to stop the collateral damage and to throw the Auror Office off their trail. The werewolf had become too sloppy and he'd worried that Detective Lee was starting to suspect something, but that would all change soon.
There was a tremble in the wards surrounding the house and he found himself opening his eyes and sitting up. Greyback couldn't disassemble them, so this was someone else. The possibilities of who it was left him pleasantly surprised. He didn't bother rising from the couch yet, but he did twist his body towards the door as it swung open. Dark gloves dusted the snow off of the gray cloak that took up the doorway. His brow raised in surprise as the man stepped into the room, shutting the door soundly behind him. Bastien did move to stand then, taking a few strides towards his visitor. "I see you've finally decided to grace me with your presence. I was starting to wonder if I'd have to go after you myself."
The man tilted his head slightly and when he spoke his voice was calm and collected. "My apologies." He said. "I've been a bit tied up."
Bastien gestured for him to come further into the house and he felt his lips twitch into a smirk. "Indeed."
Thus ends The Pitfall.
Let me know what you think.
The sequel The Unraveling is up and updated.