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Chapter 26: Chapter 26
Hermione woke early.
The previous night, she ate dinner alone, read a few chapters in her new novel and went to bed alone. She had no idea when Draco returned. Or if he even had.
Her curiosity was satiated when she arrived in the dining room for breakfast. The food on the table was still steaming and warm but his seat was ajar and empty. A note sat on top of her plate with her name scrawled neatly across it.
She snatched it up, already assuming what message it held, and felt her anger begin to rise.
Urgent business call. Will be back late, don’t wait up.
She bawled the piece of parchment up and tossed it at the empty fireplace.
Was she supposed to sit here alone all day, on her honeymoon, and knit? Oh, the audacity of such a man, to leave his new bride alone. By all rights they should be shagging night and day, unable to keep their hands off of each other. She rolled her eyes at the thought. As if she wanted that.
Maybe she was lying to herself, it wouldn’t be so terrible, she conceded.
She picked two pieces of fruit off the table and stepped out onto the patio. The scene was an unusual sight. The waves ripped and tore towards the beach, crashing loudly. Dark ominous clouds loomed above the sea. Yet, just above the shore the sky was as blue as the Mediterranean. Despite the cool breeze pulling at her silk robe, the sun beat down warmth that seemed to awaken her skin. She stood on the veranda, her curls flying madly behind her, her robe billowing away from her body exposing her bare legs, and watched the squall roll in.
What to do, what to do? She wondered as she munched on her apple.
She wandered back inside as the wind became cooler and more violent.
She looked longingly at the large TV in the living room. It wouldn’t work, she knew, because of the magical wards the Malfoys had placed on the house.
In vain, she pushed the power button and waited hopefully as nothing happened.
“Bugger,” she muttered.
She checked the clock, it was only eight. She settled into the large chair by the picture window and started reading her book. With any luck, she’d finish it by the afternoon.
Her stomach groaned loudly as the day darkened. She had skipped lunch and was several hours past dinner. She sat her book down and stretched. She was still in her robe and felt dirty from sitting all day without a shower.
She wondered absently where Draco was. What was he doing?
Hermione rose from her seat and went to remedy her situation.
After her long, hot shower and a bite to eat, she sat down at the table and looked around wistfully.
She picked up a sheet of parchment and began hastily writing a letter to Harry.
Before the depression she felt creeping upon her could take hold, she sealed the letter, sent it off with the owl, and went to bed.
She woke with a start.
Another loud crash sounded from the front room and she sat up, grasping her wand instantly.
She heard muttering and banging as she crept into the hall with her wand ready. The living room was dark, but she felt a cool draft from the open French doors and could hear the light rain as it landed on the palm trees.
She steeled her nerves.
“Who’s there?” she demanded of the shadows. “I know you’re in here, answer me.”
She spun around in the darkness, listening for a sound that would give the intruder away. She couldn’t hear him but she could smell him. She felt her fear being quickly replaced by anger.
The lamp by the sofa lit up.
“Hello, dear,” Draco said in a low growl.
Hermione set her jaw and breathed through her nose, trying to calm herself.
“Malfoy,” she said barely containing her rage, “It’s three am. Where have you been?”
He stood slowly and wavered as he reached his full height. He was still wearing his suit trousers but he’d tossed his jacket and tie on the way in. They littered the floor along with his sleek black loafers. He had rolled his sleeves up over his elbows and unbuttoned the first three buttons of his pale blue shirt.
Hermione examined him from her distance and noticed a stain on the cuff of his right sleeve.
“What is that?” She asked taking a step closer. “Did you hurt yourself? Let me see your arm.”
He frowned and glanced down at his arm.
He caught her hands just as she reached for his sleeve to pull it down.
“Stop,” he hissed at her and pulled her flush against him. “Won’t you give me a kiss and be happy I’m home?”
“What?” She asked. She studied his face in confusion. “Are you drunk?”
He thought a moment and looked away from her, “No, not yet.”
“Then let go of me,” she said pulling against his hold.
He tightened his grip and pulled her closer and spoke in a husky whisper, “Shut up.”
Before she could refuse him, he kissed her.
She pushed against him and struggled to get free.
When he finally freed her lips, she snarled at him and renewed her struggles. “Let me go!”
He grasped her shoulders and kissed her again, harder and with more passion. She felt the fire in her start to burn and as her thoughts fogged, her struggles lessened.
He pulled away and looked at her with hazy eyes.
“Where were you?” she whispered. “What happened to you?”
“Stop talking, Granger,” he said as he lifted her off her feet and hoisted her over his shoulder. “Just stop talking.”
“Malfoy!” she yelled at him. She pounded the hard muscles of his back in vain. “Put me down! Where are you taking me? Malfoy!”
She reached up and pulled her hair aside as she saw her door passing them. She heard the click of a knob and smelled his room as they entered, it was warm and masculine. His foot shut the door behind them and the darkness of the room enveloped them.
A groan stirred Hermione from her sleep.
The sun peeked in through the heavy gold drapes and she shifted in the soft sheets feeling the coolness of them wherever they touched her naked skin.
Another moan sounded and her eyes flew open.
She looked around the room frantically and pulled the sheets tighter to her body.
“Mmmnnm,” the man beside her groaned.
She slid her legs over the edge of the bed, careful to keep herself covered. She spotted her cream robe halfway across the room. She pulled on the sheet some more and as she did Draco stirred.
She bit her lip angrily and looked at her robe again. She’d have to run for it. Gently, she lowered her body from the bed to the floor. The heavy carpets silenced her footfalls. She turned and looked at the bed again before she dropped the sheet and tiptoed to her garment. She lifted the silky slip of fabric and started working out the sleeves to put it on as quickly as possible.
She breathed a sigh of relief as she tied the belt around her waist. She looked again at the slumbering man and began crossing the room as quickly and quietly as possible. She was almost to the door when he snored loudly. The sound nearly brought her out of her skin and she skirted sideways at the initial shock of it.
Her hip slammed into the dresser, in turn banging the heavy wooden chest into the wall and rattling the bottles on its surface.
“Leaving so soon?” he whispered as he stretched.
She closed her eyes and turned to face the bed.
“And here I thought you couldn’t live without me, sneaking into my bed in the middle of the night,” he muttered as he rolled over and pulled Hermione’s pillow tightly to his chest.
“I did not sneak into your room, you buffoon,” she spat.
She heard him snort at her and his long legs began to kick the blankets free of his body.
“You said you weren’t drunk last night, do you not remember hauling me off like Tarzan?” she demanded.
His movements stilled and he was quiet a moment. “Like who?”
“Tarzan, the wild jungle-man. You can’t just throw a woman over your shoulder and do as you please with her,” she explained.
He lifted his pale body from the bed and landed on the floor with a thud. He crossed the short distance to her relatively quickly.
“Malfoy,” she whispered and took a step away from him, “you’re naked.”
“Did I throw you over my shoulder?” he asked, leaning in and twining a curl around his long finger.
“Ye-yes,” she stuttered.
“Did you love it?”
“What? No, get away from me.”
“You stayed, so you mustn’t have thought it that bad.” He leaned in close again, his mouth inches from her turned cheek.
“You really don’t remember doing that? Coming in at three am and scaring the hell out of me?” she asked trying to steer his thoughts in a different direction as she pushed against his chest.
“No, not at all,” he said, drifting his lips over her neck. His fingers tickled her leg as he played with the hem of her robe. She felt the fabric raising and her eyes widened.
“Stop, Draco,” she shoved with all her strength against his chest and as he fought for his balance she flung the door open and vanished into the hall.
Hermione took her time in the shower, trying hard to wash away his smell and the feel of his hands and lips on her body.
The worst was that he had been right, she had loved it. It had been phenomenal. A night unlike anything she’d ever experienced, save the once before. She wondered if every time with him would be so electric. Must she lose control every time he kissed her? Was she really that… deprived? She felt herself blushing from her hair to her toes. She really had to keep her distance from him. He was dangerous for her sanity and her focus.
She froze in the shower and the hot water continued flowing over her.
The stain she’d seen on his shirt. He’d distracted her so perfectly she had completely forgotten about it.
She quickly turned off the shower and stood still for a moment. She flung the curtain away and snatched her towel from the counter were it sat. She wrung her hair and wrapped the cloth tightly around her body.
She knew she was being impetuous and should dress first. She should take her time and let him leave, but she couldn’t wait. She had to know now.
She stuck her head out in the hall and heard Draco talking to someone in the main room in a low voice. She slipped silently into the hall and hurried to his door. She opened it noiselessly and shut it quietly behind her. Inside the dark room, she let her eyes flitter across his things as she searched for the discarded shirt.
She flung the comforter and sheets away hastily to find nothing. She spun around and saw his pants tossed on the sitting chair in the corner. She lifted them to rummage through the pockets.
Empty. No… wait, she felt a piece of thick parchment and pulled it out of the deep front pocket. It was a torn business card.
She tossed the pants back, trying to make them look as they had before.
“Where there hell is it,” she muttered.
Her eyes travelled the room again. She kept coming back to the bed and trying to remember what had happened. The night was a lust filled haze, a flurry of arms and legs and clothes in the darkness.
“Damn it,” she hissed.
She rubbed her forehead and sighed. As she opened her eyes, she saw a sliver of fabric peeking out from under the large bed.
She dropped to her knees so quickly pain shot through her body. She peered under the dark frame and fished out a sock.
“Damn, damn, damn,” she said as she forced herself further under the bed reaching for another piece of fabric.
She froze as she heard the sound of the knob turning and the door groaned as it swung open.
Her eyes widened and she realized the picture she painted, legs and bum sticking out from under his bed, barely covered in a towel.
“Yaaah!” She squealed when he grasped her hips and pulled her forcefully out from under the bed. In a swift motion he lifted her to her feet and spun her to face him.
“What are you doing?” he asked in a soft, dangerous voice.
“I…I… lost… a…,” she swallowed and looked at his face. The lie poured from her lips, “An earring. I thought maybe it fell out last night... in here.”
She felt like he didn’t believe a word she’d said as his eyes studied her figure and state of undress. She adjusted and tightened the towel while trying to avoid his gaze.
“Tempting,” he whispered as his eyes followed her movements, “but I have work to do, you little minx. I’ll tell the elves to look for your earring. Stay off the floors.”
He reached up and for a moment she thought he would kiss her but he lightly pushed a wet curl off her shoulder and stepped away. He opened the door and held it wide, signaling for her to exit first.
She reached her door and heard him following behind her. She opened the door and stepped in. He stopped at the threshold and looked like he would say something.
He had said he didn’t remember the previous night, but did he remember the shirt? Did he remember she had seen the blood?
Could she even be sure it was blood?
It was dark and the shirt was blue, it could have been anything really. But she felt so strongly that it was blood. She remembered the way he’d stopped her from examining it. He’d caught her arm before she could touch him. And now, the shirt was missing. His pants were still there but…
“I’ll be home early. I was planning on taking you to dinner tonight, so be ready when I get in.”
“When will that be?” She fidgeted slightly, feeling exposed.
“Around seven.” He started to move away but stopped and smirked devilishly at her. “A goodbye kiss for your dear husband?”
“I don’t think you need one,” she said and started to shut the door.
His large hand stopped its movement and he stepped into her room.
“It wasn’t a request,” he said and waited.
“Get out,” she replied. She couldn’t believe the nerve of him.
“I’ll take it if you won’t give it.”
She knew he would. She stepped toward him and rose up on her tiptoes. She leaned in to kiss his cheek but he turned and stole it with his lips instead.
Don’t let him get to you. Keep your head, Hermione told herself until he pulled away from her.
“Seven,” he reminded her and then he left her alone.
She didn’t move until she heard the Floo flare and the house become silent.
Once she knew she was alone, she fished the torn card from under her arm where she’d wedged it between her skin and the towel.
It was an expensive cream parchment. Only half of the establishment’s name remained. All she could make out was ‘Negre’ and below it ‘Nice’.
Perhaps the card had been in his pants from some previous trip?
No, she thought, surely the elves would have emptied the pockets when they collected the laundry. It had to be from the previous night.
What the hell was he doing in France?
"On our honeymoon, no less," she muttered to the room as jealousy crept up on her.
Hermione checked the clock. It was still early at not yet nine. She dressed and ran to the Floo. She tossed in the powder, shouted the destination and stuck her head into the green flames.
“I’ll need that on my desk by this afternoon, no later.”
“Harry,” she said.
“Right, but it’s really imperative you get this taken care of...”
“Hermione? Is that you?” The dark haired man stepped back into his office and looked at the Floo while adjusting his glasses.
“Yes, Harry, get over here.”
He crossed the office in two strides and hit the floor before the fireplace.
“What’s up? Are you alright?” he asked quickly.
“Fine, I’m fine. I need you to send me some things. It’s really important. I need old Prophet clippings of everyone the Malfoys have been associating with recently,” she explained. “Including photos of the Malfoys.”
“Did you find something?” Harry asked. His tone carried his excitement.
“Maybe. I’m not sure yet. There’s a lot going on here. I’ll have to fill you in another time.”
“Alright. How soon do you need it?”
“Now,” she said hopefully.
“How do you want me to get it to you? You don’t want him to know about it right?”
“Of course not. He’s probably tracing the Floo calls, which means he’ll know I called you, and the owls will take too long.” She fell silent as she thought.
“Where are you?” Harry asked.
“Alright, give me two hours and then meet me at… hold on…” he jumped away from the Floo and ran to his desk. She heard several desk drawers being slammed and papers shuffled. As he started to approach the fireplace, he spoke, “Ok, grab something to write with.”
Hermione disappeared from the flames and quickly grabbed her parchment and quill.
“Got it,” she said as she got back into position.
“It’s uh… West Twenty-Seventh Street. Miami Plumbing Supply. It’s a big, uh…” he turned the pages around in his hands. “A big empty building, it looks like. I’ll get a Portkey setup. Meet you there?”
“Yep, I’ll be there. Thanks, Harry,” she said.
“No problem, love,” he answered.
They closed the connection and Hermione ripped the parchment away from the pad that held it. She took the parchment and the torn card and shoved them both in her purse as she walked out the door.
She had an hour until her meeting with Harry and she was in her favorite place: a library. To her disappointment, she didn’t have time to browse the multitude of shelves. She had one destination in mind.
She found an empty computer and sat down. After twenty minutes and quite a bit of frustration she thought she had what she needed.
Hotel Negresco in Nice, France, and it looked like just the type of place the Malfoys would stay.
She was down to forty minutes to meet Harry. She scribbled the hotel name and address on the back of the torn card and stuck it in her deep satchel before leaving the library.
She took a cab to the address Harry had given her and slipped out of the cab tentatively. It was what he had said, a large abandoned building. Weeds had sprung up from the cracks in the pavement and there wasn’t another car in sight.
“You’re sure you got the right place, lady?” the cab driver asked.
“Yes, I’m sure. I’m meeting my uh… my... realtor,” she lied.
“You want me to wait?”
“Oh, no, I’m fine. Thank you.” She paid and began to approach the building.
The large panel door on the side of the building slid open and Harry stuck his head out.
“Harry,” she breathed and smiled widely. She reached the door and flung her arms around his neck, hugging him tightly.
They stepped into the darkness of the building and Harry handed her a large manila envelope.
“Thank you so much, Harry,” she said as she opened the envelope and pulled out a piece of paper with moving pictures on it.
“What have you found, Hermione?” he asked. It was obvious he wanted information and he was going to press her until she gave him something.
She sighed. “I found this,” she said as she fished the card out of her bag and stuffed the envelope in.
Harry turned it over twice, looking first at the remaining embossed letters and then at the notes Hermione had jotted on the back.
“And?” he asked.
“Well, last night he left early at about eight and didn’t come in until three a.m. He wouldn’t tell me where he went or what he was doing. He was loud when he came in and woke me up. I went out to see what was going on. He was pretty drunk. And I saw something on his shirt, it was a dark stain. On the right cuff and forearm.”
Harry listened intently. “Blood?”
“I don’t know. The shirt was blue and the stain was dark so I guess it could have been something else. But he wouldn’t let me look at it so that made me suspicious. I went looking for the shirt this morning and found that in his pants pocket.”
Harry nodded. “I’ll send someone to the hotel to do some digging.”
“No!” Hermione shouted and snatched the card from Harry’s hand. “No, I’m going. That’s why I wanted the photos.”
“I don’t think so, Hermione.”
“Harry, I’m not asking. I’ve been through hell to get this. You aren’t taking it from me,” she said as she put the card in her purse.
“I’m not comfortable with you going. What if this is their meeting place or something?”
“I’ll use glamour charms. They won’t even know I’m there. But I am going.”
“I’ll send someone with you then. Just to be safe.”
“Harry, it will be more memorable and suspicious for a group of people to be looking for one man. I already have a cover story. It’ll be easy. In and out.”
Harry sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “I have a bad feeling about this.”
Hermione couldn’t suppress the laughter that bubbled out of her lips.
AN: I sincerely apologize for basically abandoning this project. In my defense, a lot has changed in my world. I had a baby! My days are pretty hectic now and it seems like I have little 'free' time. Not to mention the chores that pile up around me and the million-and-one sewing/crafts projects I need to work on and finish. And worste of all, my laptop that had all my notes and files on it crashed on me. So all my outlines and notes are gone. I have to operate off memory for now and try to rebuild them all. I do want to finish this. It may be a while for an update until I get my plate cleared off some. But it is still on my list. Thank you all for the sweet reviews. I promise to get something up soon. Love, TSP