"Could you please slow down?" Hermione grumbled once more, her lips cracking in the cold air with a slight sting. She dragged her feet even faster against the ground to attempt at catching up with the quick-paced Malfoy. At the sight of his hunched shoulder, defending himself against the cold for his own sake, Hermione could see he had no intention of slowing down. It had crossed her mind several times that afternoon that he had been acting irrationally strange. "Malfoy, are you even listening to me? Why couldn't we have just used to Floo? Or Apparated?" She had half a mind to do so herself, but found herself weighing the consequences of that choice. Surely Malfoy would hand it to her if she went against every little thing he instructed. In that case, she would have been ready to fire with everything she had, putting him right back in his bitter place. However, the fighting was becoming tired, and she knew there were plenty more fights to come.
Draco counted slowly in his head, praying she would drop the topic of whatever she had been saying like all the other previous times he ignored her. He kept watch of his feet gliding across the pavement, his chin tucked warmly in his large — yet scratchy — scarf. Becoming aware he hadn't checked recently for any signs of Blaise's home, he lifted his head. His silver orbs flickered anywhere but Hermione and landed on Blaise's front door only a few feet away.
Hermione noticed his stop and questioned, "Malfoy?"
He groaned, "Come on, Granger, and stop complaining."
"Complaining?" She exclaimed, highly irritated. "I was only asking for a plausible answer to this hiking in the freezing cold weather, Malfoy!"
"Just because you ask, does not require me to answer." Draco said curtly, continuing on with his walk.
Hermione gritted her teeth and walked ahead to take the lead. She stomped her way past the former Slytherin and spun around with a fierce glare. Her hand came in direct contact with his broad chest and she was silent, her eyes not only sending a message — but searching for one as well. "I think it's time you explain the reasoning for your attitude, Malfoy."
Draco looked down at her with a conflicted expression, his resistance to the truth almost engulfing him. He would not bow down to Granger; he would not simply comply to whatever she wished. "If I'm not mistaken, it was your idea to take this little walk in the beautiful weather." He defended with a sneer tone.
Baffled, Hermione stood her ground. "Excuse me?" She almost flinched at his action of removing her small hand from his chest. "I suggested we get some fresh air after breakfast that I so happily cooked. You were the one that demanded we walk!"
Draco silently he agreed that he had said that. However, it wasn't for any stupid reason. He needed time to think over things, he needed some cold air and close warmth. He wasn't used to someone — especially Hermione Granger — at his side more than his mother was. When the dreams came, he had the rest of the day to confide in his inner thoughts and dissolve away the issue slowly. With Hermione constantly at his side, the empty feeling he craved was gone — the feeling of having no one around but yourself to worry about. Draco felt as if there was no time to confront the problem because it was filled with the constant bickering he engaged in with Hermione. Or, of course, taking care of the bigger problem they faced together.
Although the main threat was headed towards the Mudbloods, and Draco had grown into a family that resented such people, he now felt nothing certain for them. Sure, they were wizards and witches just like any other Pureblood, but that didn't mean he had to give every one of them a nice pat on the back. He had come to terms with their existence, and had come to the conclusion to not acknowledge the label all together.
Then there was the cause to why Hermione was in the cold with him, as well. Draco found himself in a guilt tied chain to the Gryffindor. She was a Mudblood, and she was a target to the very well-known Snatcher. He refused to let her Apparate or Floo anywhere without him by her side. Though he might not had been successful in the past — and he really had desperately tried to — he was determined to try his hardest the second time around. He was never a Saint Potter, but despite the fact he had never said the words aloud — they were in it together now. Something told him he would never forgive himself if he let something terrible happen to Hermione. It was something he found utterly insane, but even Malfoys have a conscience.
"What was your dream about, Malfoy?" Hermione asked suddenly when she noticed his stare had gone blank and absent, her voice soft in the light breeze.
"Nothing . . ." Draco cleared his throat and moved past her, careful not to allow his shoulder to brush hers. "Come on, we're almost there."
Hermione hurried to follow while inwardly cursing his long legs. "You're going to have to tell me sooner or later, you know."
Draco stopped abruptly and turned halfway towards the woman. "Have you ever considered not being bossy for a day, Granger? I'm a grown man and I can guarantee I can make my own decisions now."
"Just because you can does not mean you'll always make the right ones, Malfoy." Hermione snapped, her eyes narrowing. "Also, I'm not being bossy. I'm trying to explain that every bit of information is critical. What if your dream had some sort of significance? What if it meant something we haven't considered yet?"
Draco bit his tongue and shook his head, going on with his walk to the Zabini home. A part of him wished to laugh at what she was saying, though she made sense. If he had his way, she would never discover anything that happened in that damned dream.
The unlikely pair ended up on Blaise's door step soon enough and attempted at a knock. The door remained shut and Hermione glanced up at Draco, "Are you sure he's even home?"
Draco's lips curled in his usual way, finding Hermione's attitude fueling the fire. "Yes, I'm sure, Granger. He has nowhere else to be, he isn't working for the time being seeing as he has a new baby he insists he should stay home to help take care of. Plus, Parvati would surely be home regardless, seeing as she isn't exactly cut out to be a high class working woman in the society Blaise practically runs."
Hermione rolled her eyes and pulled out her wand, mouthing something Draco couldn't hear — or cared to hear. With a click and creek, the door moved open slowly and Hermione cast an invisibility charm before she made her way inside. Draco glanced both directions and followed with a sigh. "Breaking and entering," Draco commented in a whisper, "How Un-Hermione of you."
"Oh, shut up, Malfoy." Hermione glared and summoned a lumos. Blaise's house was dark, the only available light showering through the light colored curtains. The living room and kitchen all appeared untouched, layered in an eerie silence Hermione noticed almost instantly. There was a small thud from the floor above and both head looked to the ceiling. "Upstairs," Hermione said in a small breath and began her way up the stairs.
"Granger, wait." Draco scurried after her, his heart beginning to race.
Hermione came to the top of the stairs and saw that everything appeared normal. It was still dark, almost darker than the floor below. The guest room door was open, as was the master bedroom door. She looked forward and saw the bathroom door was shut unlike the others. Her wand held tight, Hermione walked forward and felt the cool metal of the door handle within her palm moments later.
"Check there, I'll get the master." Draco said and ventured off with his wand ready.
Hermione watched him disappear into the large room. She felt a slight pang of worry before it was replaced with an alert tension as her eyes fell on the bathroom door once again. Quickly, she turned the knob and let the door swing open with her wand outstretched. To her luck, the bathroom was empty with darkness. Hermione placed a revealing spell to be sure and yet again, there was nothing.
Within the room to her left, anther noise sounded abruptly. Hermione felt skin crawl and turned, finding herself face to face with the baby's bedroom door. Her lips parted, the worst of thoughts dawning. "Blaise . . ." Hermione tried, but the name came out in the faintest of whispers. So far, no one had shown their face in the house. Hermione knew even Ron in the midst of a beastly hunger could tell that wasn't a good sign.
Hermione kept her lumos lit as she kept her bravery steady. With a slight push the door opened to reveal a man — a man curled against the wall with quiet sobs.
"Blaise?" Hermione focused her light more to the figure.
"Who's there?!" Blaise began to panic, his chest heaving for air as he struggled back closer to the crib. "Who's there? Go away! Leave now!" He shouted, his hands patting the wooden floor in search for his wand.
Hermione let the charm fade from her body and switched on the lights. Blaise shielded his eyes and looked away, pulling his knees closer to his naked chest. "Draco!" Hermione called, moving closer towards Blaise.
In the room across the hall, Draco heard Hermione's voice and stopped what he was doing. "Draco!" She called again and he hurried to its uneven tone.
"What? What's wrong?" He asked, bolting into the room with unsteady footing. Draco caught himself before his face hit the floor and looked at Hermione with a questioning look. She returned the look and pointed her wand at Blaise, sobbing quietly.
Draco's breath caught within his throat, "Blaise . . . mate," He grew closer slowly and cautiously, "Mate, what happened?"
Blaise's sobbing ceased and he turned to set his eyes on the blonde, "Leave." He said and then louder, "Leave! You've done enough!"
Draco appeared taken back, "What are you talking about, Blaise? What's happened?"
"They took them!" Blaise barked, his eyes mad with rage. Hermione felt herself take a step back, her heart leaping beneath her rib cage with a horrible feeling in the pit of her stomach. Parvati and their daughter? They had been taken? Taken where?
"Blaise," Draco inched forward and reached out his hand. "Come on, mate, we'll go downstairs and talk about this—"
Blaise ignored the inviting hand and stood, wand pointed directly at Draco's hard-expression face. "You." He snarled, "You've taken everything away from me. Everything! Do you have any idea what you've caused me? What you've done?" The man drew closer to his former friend. Blaise twisted his wand slightly, only centimeters from Draco's nose, the blonde dead still. "You filthy, arrogant son of a—"
And his body fell to the floor.
Draco twirled around, startled, "Granger!"
Hermione had her wand positioned up as she averted her brown orbs towards Draco. "He was going to kill you."
"Oh, and suddenly you're an expert at everyone's motives under stress." Draco grumbled, raking his hair back through his long digits.
Hermione was aware of the tone he was using, the one he used when he was scared but covered the fear with something on the lines of being a complete prat — the only defense mechanism Draco Malfoy knew. Still, she replied, "That look in his eyes only meant one thing, Malfoy. You would have been dead in a matter of seconds if I hadn't knocked him out."
Draco curled his lip but remained silent, turning to look at the body lying unconscious on the floor. "And what do you intend to do now? At least if I were dead, we would have some sort of information to go on. Maybe he would have told you more; considering you weren't the one he seemed to give a damn about while contemplating my life in his hands."
Without answering, Hermione brushed by and knelt down beside Blaise. Gingerly, she placed the tip of her wand to his temple where she summoned the last of his memories. "Check his wand; find out the last few spells he used." She instructed Draco, focusing diligently on her own task.
Draco did as he was told, restraining from any more snooty comments.
Hermione, her brows squaring in concentration, steadied her breathing to take in what she might come across. "Legilimens." She whispered, closing her eyes. A small force was ejected through her veins, rushing through her body quicker than she anticipated. Moments later and the scenes in which Blaise had implied came flashing across her closed lids.
There was darkness, and then men in long, dark cloaks. They wore masks, the faces distorted in a gruesome way. Sparks appeared — flashes of lights and a jolt of compression across her chest. Hermione unknowingly began to hold her breath, the sight of someone gaining in. She couldn't make out his face, the shadows deceiving her vision. There was an echoing laugh and a scream, one of a woman's and one of a baby's. "Blaise!" A voice cried out, sharp and loud but fading quickly. Everything fell dark.
And then there was Charlie.
Hermione fell back on her bottom, a gush of air flowing down into her lungs. Her eyes shot open and she licked her lips, dry and quivering.
"Granger?" Draco had been facing the other way, observing the room with his wand and Blaise's in both palms. He heard the sudden movements and turned, both wands dropping to the floor. "Granger!" He was swift to his knees next to her, his hands moving to cup her face in attempt to get her to look at him. "Granger, are you alright? What did you see?"
Hermione swallowed and shut her eyes tight, the vision of Charlie's solemn expression fresh in her mind. "Draco."
Draco brushed a few stray strands of curls away from her forehead. "What did you see?"
"They have Charlie."