I've completely revamped this chapter. When I was reading over it, I realized how out of character they all were. Plus my writing has changed a lot since I originally wrote this, and there were some inconsistencies that needed to be addressed. I think it's a lot better now. Let me know what you think!
Disclaimer: Unfortunately all rights belong to JK Rowling, I wish I could've imagined something as brilliant as her. Plot is mine, but that's it.
Still Fighting It
A young woman sat at a mahogany desk in a small but comfortable office, staring unseeingly at the papers in front of her. She bit her nails in worry, a habit she picked up as a teenager. Her boss at The Daily Prophet sent her a memo earlier stating that they "needed to talk." These words rarely brought good news. Every few minutes she would glance at the clock, and then go back to biting her nails in anticipation, unable to concentrate on work. Suddenly a knock sounded.
"Come in." She said, trying to keep her voice from sounding too nervous.
"Hey Hermione." Harry Potter, her best friend, greeted as he walked in.
"Oh, Harry it's only you" She muttered dejectedly.
"Nice to see you too," he said sarcastically.
"I'm sorry, it's always nice to see you, but I was rather hoping you were my boss. She said she wanted to meet with me and I've been driving myself mad with worry," she explained. Hermione was always glad when her friends visited her at work, but the black haired man couldn't have picked a worse time.
"I'm sure it will be fine, if anything she's probably coming to tell you about another promotion you got," He stated, chuckling. "Anyway, I just stopped by to make sure you were still coming over for dinner tonight."
"Of course I am. Although if I get fired for some reason, you better make sure you have a lot of liquor. And, Harry, you could have just flooed you know?" She said, distractedly straightening the papers on her desk for the umpteenth time.
"They would be crazy to fire you. Besides, you've never failed at anything in your life, no reason to start worrying about it now. And I know I could have flooed, but I was on my lunch break, and I just wanted to speak to someone who wasn't so…emotional. You know I love Ginny, and I'm incredibly happy with her, but one minute she's laughing, the next she's crying, then she's yelling, and then back to laughing. I just can't keep up!" Harry exclaimed.
"Harry, she's pregnant! What do you expect?" Hermione reproached, raising an eyebrow.
He smiled sheepishly and said, "I know, and I'm thrilled, really I am. I just didn't think she would be so…angry all the time."
Hermione rolled her eyes at her best friend. "She's eight months pregnant! And besides if there's anyone to blame, it's you. I think you would react in much the same way if you puked your guts out every day, couldn't even see your feet anymore, your back hurt constantly, you could barely stand up, and on top of all that you have to worry about pushing this huge thing out of your—"
Hermione, with a face as red as a cherry, peered around Harry and to her horror, saw her boss: Lila Mahan
"H-hello Lila, how are you?" Hermione asked politely, struggling to keep her voice level. She prayed that her face wasn't as red as she thought and that Lila hadn't overheard the entire conversation.
"I'm fine Hermione, and yourself? I'm sorry if I came at a bad time." She said, glancing at Harry.
"Oh no, it's fine, Harry was just about to leave. Weren't you Harry?" She stated, daring him to say no.
"Oh, er yes, I was…I have to get back to work. See you later Mione. Er…nice to meet you" He mumbled, walking out the door.
"Yes, you too," Lila replied, as he walked by, shutting the door behind him, "Hermione I have some news."
"Yes?" She said, not bothering to keep the anxiety out of her voice.
"I trust you've heard about what happened to poor Emma. Such a shame, she was so young and such a talented writer." Lila said, genuine sadness coloring her voice.
Hermione nodded solemnly, thinking about the poor young girl. She was only a year younger than herself. Her body was found a couple of days ago, with the dark mark seared onto her arm. The work of Death Eaters of course, for although Voldemort was dead, they were stronger than ever and worse no one knew who the leader was. Hermione couldn't figure out why they would target Emma, but the whole office felt the loss.
"Did you know what column she wrote?"
"Er…gossip I believe." Hermione replied, wondering why that was relevant.
"Yes, but she also wrote another in secret." Lila said meaningfully.
"Are you saying that she was the one that uncovered all of the death eater stories?" Hermione asked, shocked. She never would have suspected.
"Unfortunately yes," Lila replied.
Hermione knew Emma was intelligent, and always thought she would have been better suited to something more serious than gossip, but she would have never guessed that she was the author of the Death Eater articles. Emma was such a sweet girl, Hermione shouldn't have found it surprising that she would put herself in danger like that to protect others. She must have uncovered something that they didn't want her to know. Her death suddenly made sense.
"So, that's why they killed her." Hermione said, thinking aloud.
"Yes, we can only guess that the Death Eaters discovered her involvement with the column. But that's not what I need to speak with you about. As you know, the reports of Death Eater activity are extremely important, and with Emma gone, we have to find a replacement. I have thought deeply about this and feel that you would be the best for the job. It's extremely dangerous, and you have every right to turn it down, but please think about it and let me know as soon as possible."
Hermione quickly weighed her options. She could say no and continue to write her political column without any extra danger, but how could she live with herself knowing that she wasn't doing everything she could to protect the world she fought so hard to save. When it came down to it, there was only one choice.
"I'll do it," she said determinedly, "This has to be stopped,"
"Hermione please don't rush into this." Lila reasoned.
"In what world did you expect me to say no?" She asked lightly, trying to lighten the mood.
Lila chuckled, and sat down.
"Then I suppose we should discuss the details," she said. "We are taking extra precautions with you. I've spoken with the Head Auror and after weighing the pros and cons we've decided to assign you with some extra protection, or in other words, a bodyguard. It may make you more transparent to the Death Eaters, but ultimately you will be safer. We will of course release false information as to why you've hired a bodyguard to throw them off track. Lastly, we will continue to use Emma's pseudonym, and you will need to continue your political column so as not to raise suspicion."
"Thank you for the extra precaution, but I don't feel that a bodyguard will be necessary, in fact I think they may get in the way," Hermione said courteously. She worked best on her own, and didn't want someone getting in the way of finding the truth.
"I'm afraid the bodyguard is non negotiable," Lila said firmly. Hermione looked at the resolute expression on her boss's face and decided not to argue. She had learned from her long friendship with Ron to pick her battles, and this didn't appear to be one she would win.
"Alright," she said placidly, "then I will agree to your terms."
Lila smiled, but there was a sadness behind it that could only come from knowing the magnitude of what she was asking.
"If I'm honest, I was fairly confident that you would accept the position, and have asked your bodyguard to be here today. Are you ready to meet him?" she asked, going to the door.
"They're here right now?" she asked, surprised.
"I wanted you to meet him right away." She said, motioning to someone outside. "Draco, you can come in now."
"Draco? Please don't tell me it's—Malfoy?!" she exclaimed, shock covering her face as the familiar blond man stepped into her office.
"Miss me Granger?" He asked, smirking that ever-present smirk. One look at him and all the hatred from their school days came rushing back.
"I see you're still as arrogant as ever." She said icily, glaring at him.
"And you still have a stick up your arse," He replied, glaring in return.
"Grow up Malfoy!"
"So, I see you two know each other already." Lila said, interrupting them before it could get any worse.
"Unfortunately. Er…Lila, could I have a word with you?" Hermione asked going over to a corner. There was no way she would work with him. Even though his name had been cleared after the war, in large part due to Harry's testimony, she didn't trust him as far as she could throw him. Did she think he was a death eater? No, but that didn't mean that she trusted him with her life. He had always been one for self-preservation.
After hearing "can't work with", "insufferable git", and "slimy ferret", Draco decided to interrupt.
"It's not as if I woke up today and thought 'Gee, it would be such a treat if I got to work with Granger', trust me, I was forced" He interrupted, rolling his eyes.
"I don't believe I was talking to you, Malfoy."
"Hermione, Draco is one of the best Aurors they have, if anyone can keep you safe, it's him." She stated. "I'm only trying to prevent what happened to Emma from happening to you, but if you really don't think you can work with him then I will be forced to find someone else to fill this position."
Hermione looked at her boss. This was why Lila was in charge, she could make the tough decisions and stick to them. She was guilting her into working with Malfoy, and worst of all, it was working. She would stop arguing for now, but that didn't mean that she would accept the situation.
"I'm sorry. You're right, Lila. My behavior was childish and immature, and I apologize. It's just…I'm wondering why Harry couldn't do it? He's the best Auror they have, and we're already together a lot, so it wouldn't seem out of the ordinary."
"We did consider that, but this is a full time job. You need someone who will be able to be with you around the clock, and Harry won't be able to do that, what with his family and all. It's quite apparent that you and Mr. Malfoy have some sort of…history, but he will be able to keep you safe, and that is what's most important." She replied, looking at Hermione pointedly, as if daring her to argue.
"I understand, you're right of course," Hermione said politely. Inside, she was screaming at the woman.
"I spoke with the Head Auror Shacklebolt and he said there were some precautionary measures we should take in keeping your flat secure. I'm assuming you know what I'm talking about Draco?"
"Yes maam." He replied politely.
"Good, I would like the two of you to go do that right now. And please, for Merlin's sake, try to get along." She said, leaving them alone.
"Well you heard what she said Granger, get going." He said, smirking.
Rolling her eyes and sighing exasperatedly she stomped out of the small office with Draco following closely behind. She didn't say a word to him until they were a block away from the office.
"I can't believe I have to trust you to keep me safe, you'll probably kill me the first chance you get and blame it on the death eaters." She muttered.
"Granger Granger Granger, why would I do that? If you died, that would make me look bad. Everyone would think I couldn't do my job properly." He said lightly, as if the thought of her death was funny.
"I don't see why I even need a 'bodyguard.' I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself. I did help bring down Voldemort you know."
"I was wondering how long it would take for you to bring that up," he said, rolling his eyes, "If you don't want my help, then fine, I won't feel one bit of guilt when you get killed,"
"You're such a…such a—ugh!" She exclaimed stomping off. Draco followed smirking, thinking how easy it was to provoke her.
"It's…quaint" Draco said, as he took in her flat. Hermione rolled her eyes and observed her living space. Bookcases lined the walls, filled with books of all genres. The walls were painted a light green. A couch, loveseat, and television filled the small living room. The kitchen was attached, with a small table. Down the hall was the bedroom, office, and bathroom. Hermione loved her flat. It may not be as fancy as Malfoy's mansion, but she was quite proud of it. It was something that was all her own.
"I'm sorry if it's not up to your usual standard of accommodations, but you'll just have to make do." Hermione stated defensively.
"This whole flat is about the size of my bedroom at the manor." He said flatly.
"Well we don't all live in mansions, Malfoy. Besides, I don't want you to be here. You can follow me around during the day all you want, but I don't need you here, in my home at all hours of the night. I made it through the war perfectly fine, and if anything does happen I am more than capable of handling myself. In fact, I would probably be safer by myself than with you here." She said.
He narrowed his eyes. He was starting to get tired of her quips about him killing her. He was an Auror for Merlin's sake; did she really think he would murder her in her sleep?
"Let's get one thing straight. I don't want to be here anymore than you want me here, but this is the situation we're in. I've been tasked with keeping you safe, and I'll be damned if something happens because I wasn't here. Personally, I don't care all that much, but my job depends on it. We both know that if anything were to happen to you, I would be sacked in a heartbeat." He explained heatedly.
They glared at each other. Hermione thought over what Malfoy said and begrudgingly admitted that he had a point. If anything happened to her, the blame would be put sorely on him, whether or not he actually had anything to do with it. She backed away. She would let him have this one. Just this once.
Sighing, she asked "So what exactly is it that you're supposed to be doing?"
"I was planning on putting up some protective wards, but it seems as if this place is already extremely heavily warded. You always were an over achiever," He said, rolling his eyes once more.
"Well then it looks like there's nothing for you to do. So I think it's time for you to go now. I have someplace to be, and you need to leave."
"In case you forgot Granger, I'm your bodyguard, and that means that I'm supposed to be guarding your body at all times. Tell me, how am I supposed to do that if I'm not with you?"
"Just sod off Malfoy, you and I both know that you don't want to be 'guarding my body' anymore than I want you to. Besides, I haven't even written anything yet, so I'm confident that I'll be safe for one night," She stated exasperatedly.
"Fine, but if you get killed tonight because I wasn't there, then just know it's your own fault."
"Fine!" she shouted, apparating to Harry's.
"Please tell me you have that liquor I asked for?" she asked hopefully, as soon as she appeared in Grimmauld Place.
"THEY SACKED YOU?!" Harry shouted, disbelief coloring his face. He summoned a bottle of wine and glasses.
"No, I wasn't sacked, but it's…worse." She said, taking the glass of wine he handed her and drinking it all in one go. She held out the glass for another. Harry and Ginny looked at her in shock, they rarely saw her drink.
"How could it possibly be wor—" Ginny started to say before she was interrupted.
"I have to work with Draco Malfoy." She blurted out, thinking it would be better this way.
"You're funny Mione, but what is it really?" Ginny said.
"I'm not joking, and it gets worse."
"Well…you know how I was nervous because my boss wanted to talk to me about something today? Ends up she offered me a promotion of sort, but it's very dangerous, so they assigned an Auror to basically be my bodyguard, which means he has to be with me at pretty much all times." She winced, waiting for the outburst, but it never came. Harry and Ginny stared at her, surprised. Harry knew how rare it was to assign an Auror as a bodyguard so he knew the level of danger she had been put in.
"You know, I work with him quite often, and he's really not as bad as he used to be." Harry said consolingly, "I'm not saying we're suddenly the best of friends, but he's a good Auror."
"I know he is Harry, but you're not the one who practically has to live with him," she exclaimed, sipping on her wine. She knew she was letting her irritation and memories of schoolyard bullying rule her emotions, but she couldn't seem to think clearly when it came to him.
"Have you told Ron yet?" the red head asked nervously. They knew he would never want any harm to come to Hermione, but he had a famously bad temper, especially when it came to Malfoy.
Hermione was dreading telling Ron. He had always hated Malfoy more than she or Harry did. With his temper she had no idea how he would react.
"No, I was hoping that maybe you two could tell him with me to soften the blow." She replied.
"Of course we will Mione. The sooner we tell him the better, you know how he hates being the last to know," Harry said.
"Yes, I was thinking we could go out to lunch tomorrow. Maybe if we're in public he won't make as big of a scene. Probably not, but it's worth a shot." Hermione suggested.
"We'll be there," Ginny promised.
"I just hope we catch the Death Eaters soon so I can escape that ferret," She said miserably, pouring her third glass of wine. She didn't drink often, but when she did, she meant business.
"Oh Hermione." Ginny said, hugging her. "Don't worry it'll be alright, Harry and I will come by as much as possible."
"Oh no Gin, I don't want you two going out of your way to help me, not with the baby and everything."
"We won't be going out of our way at all, you're our friend, and besides it'll be fun grossing Malfoy out with all of the baby talk. I can tell him about labor and everything!"
"You're vicious Gin, but thanks. Both of you, what would I do without such great friends?"
"Oh Mione, you would still have great friends, they would just be in the form of books," Harry teased.
"Thanks Harry that makes me feel loads better." She muttered sarcastically.
"Anything to help." He grinned.
They spent the rest of the night catching up, teasing each other, and avoiding any mention of Malfoy or work. Hermione thought it ended up being one of the best dinners they had in a while, but that could also be since she was quite trashed by the end of it. Harry helped her home, not relishing the hangover she would likely have in the morning.
She climbed in to bed and fell asleep quickly, momentarily forgetting all about Malfoy and Death Eaters, but it would soon come rushing back. -