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Chapter 7: Threats and the Date From Hell
Chapter 7 - Threats and The Date From Hell
Monday started off as what had come to be an ordinary day. Hermione forced herself out of bed early as usual and quickly got showered and dressed. Walking down the hall she saw that Malfoy was still asleep on the couch. She took a few seconds to study him, and found it surprising how sweet and peaceful he looked in his sleep. If she didn’t know any better she might actually think he was a normal human being instead of the prat that she knew him to be. Walking into the kitchen she made two cups of coffee. As she mentally made her to do list for the day, she spied the bundle of letters she had taken home with her. Deciding she might as well make a start on the stack, she picked up the first letter. Before opening each letter, she scanned them for any kind of tampering. Most of the letters were from concerned readers who had questions or wished to offer condolences. One of them was a conspiracy theory about the Ministry using supposed ‘deatheaters’ to control the masses. Hermione suspected this was the same person who thought Harry was behind the attacks. As she reached for the seventh letter, Malfoy walked into the kitchen.
“Good morning,” Hermione said civilly. She got a grunt in return as Malfoy poured himself a cup of coffee. Over the past few days Hermione had learned a lot about Malfoy. Number one being that he lost all communication skills until he had his morning cup of coffee.
Giving him time to properly wake up she went back to the letter she was in the midst of opening when he walked in. She pulled the letter out, but there was still something weighing down the envelope. As she flipped it over, a necklace spilled out. It was made of gold with a heart locket attached to it. Hermione immediately recognized it as Emma’s. She remembered Emma going around for a week showing it off, as it was a present from her boyfriend. Quickly unfolding the letter, Hermione gasped when she saw that it was written in what surely must be blood:
It was oh so lovely to read yet another article from you. It was especially surprising as it appears to have been written from the grave. Although, we both know Miss Winters was behind the original articles, and seeing as she is dead, this must be someone new entirely. Allow me to introduce myself. I am the one that will torture and kill you, unless you stop writing immediately. I would hate for us to end on such bad terms.
P.S. I thought you might like the locket.
Hermione dropped the letter, and Draco immediately came over asking her what was wrong. She gestured to the letter on the ground. As he picked it up, she opened the locket. Instead of the pictures of Emma and her boyfriend Michael, she found two pictures of Emma’s body. To say she was disturbed was an understatement, but she couldn’t say she hadn’t been expecting something like this. She was just hoping it wouldn’t be so soon after her first article.
“Come on, we’re going to the Auror Office,” Draco stated, after reading the death threat.
“No, no I think we should talk to Lila first. Maybe she’ll have some idea where it came from.”
“I think that’s unnecessary, but fine.” He gave in, because he knew arguing would just waste time. He disappeared for a few minutes, and before Hermione knew it, he came back, dressed and ready to go. One would never know that 10 minutes ago he’d been sound asleep.
After apparating into the Daily Prophet headquarters, they quickly made their way to Lila’s office. Clutching the threatening letter tightly, Hermione gave two quick knocks, and then entered as Lila said “Come in.”
“Ah, Hermione, Draco, is there something I can help you with? You two didn’t get into another fight did you?” She asked, giving them a reproachful look.
“No, but I need to talk to you about the letters from my most recent article. Do you remember seeing this one?” She asked, handing her the envelope with the letter and locket enclosed. “Maybe you can remember the owl who delivered it?”
Looking it over, Lila appeared puzzled, but then a look of recognition graced her features. “Yes, I remember this one, because of the weight. I remember wondering what was inside, and I tested it for curses before I gave it to you. I can’t help you with the owl though.”
“You don’t remember when it came?” Draco asked.
“No, I do, but it didn’t come from an owl. Evan gave it to me. He had a stack that had accidentally gone to his office instead.”
Draco and Hermione glanced at each other, both thinking the same thing: Could Evan be behind all this?
“How many other letters did he have with him?”
“Just a couple. I assume they were delivered to his office by mistake. Our mail gets mixed up all the time.”
“Was he acting oddly?” Draco inquired.
“No, he was his usual self. He just came in, told me he had those letters by accident, put them on my desk, and left.”
“Alright, thanks for your help, Lila. We’re going to go to the Auror office and see if they can find anything out for us.”
“Stay safe, and don’t worry about coming in for the rest of the day.”
“I’ll let you know if we find anything out.” She said as they walked out. They barely made it out of the room before discussing what they learnt. Draco wanted to know more about Evan. He knew that it could have been an honest mistake, but there was always the chance that it wasn’t, and Draco didn’t want to take the risk.
“He was snooping around your office the other day. Probably trying to find out who Lila gave the letters to. What do you know about him?”
“Not much. He’s extremely charming and a womanizer, and he doesn’t like to hear no. He asked me out on a date once, and after I said no he became extremely cold to me, but it seemed to be more than just the coldness of rejection. I haven’t interacted with him much since then.”
“Do you think he could be involved? Possibly even the leader?
“There’s definitely something off about him, but I can’t say that I suspect him, without knowing more about him. However, I do think we should try to find out more.”
“I agree. You may just have to go on that date with him after all.” Draco stated, somewhat seriously, yet somewhat mischievous.
“Let’s hope not. Let’s just go to the Auror department and see what they say.”
Stepping outside, they apparated to the Auror office. Hermione immediately looked for Harry, while Draco went to get Kingsley. Harry knew something was wrong as soon as he saw Hermione’s face.
“Mione, what’s wrong? Did something happen? Did Malfoy do something?”
“No, Malfoy’s fine. I got a letter from the death eaters this morning. They don’t know that I’m the one behind the articles, but they threatened to kill me once they found out. We went and talked to Lila and she remembered Evan giving her that letter.”
“Evan gave her the letter to give to you?”
“No, it was with all the other letters that were from my article about the attack on Andromeda. He didn’t know the letters were going to me.”
“I see. Where’s Malfoy?”
“He went to get Kingsley, they should be here any moment.” As coincidence would have it, they were walking over just as she finished her sentence.
“Hermione,” Kingsley greeted, “Draco has filled me in on the situation, but I would like to hear your account.”
Hermione started to describe her morning, with a few interruptions from Malfoy.
“Before you opened it, you checked for curses, I assume?” Kingsley asked.
“Yes, of course. It came up clean, so I thought nothing of it. After we both read it, we went to talk to my boss Lila.” She continued to tell him about their suspicions on Evan and also about her own suspicions on the Lestranges.
“The Lestranges are on our suspect list. I don’t know anything about this Evan Stark, but I will look into it. Keep an eye on him, and try to talk to him more, if he is involved, he might let something slip. And Hermione, don’t worry. We won’t let anything happen to you.”
“I have a meeting I must get to, but if you need anything else, feel free to ask. I will let you know if I find anything out about Evan Stark.”
“I have to go to this meeting too, but I will see you later.” Harry said, giving her a hug. “Are you going back to work today? Would you like me to see if Ginny and Teddy could come over?”
“That would be great Harry.”
“Potter,” Malfoy gave a curt nod as goodbye, and walked out with Hermione.
Hermione and Draco arrived back at the flat, and a few minutes later an owl arrived from Ginny saying that she would be there soon. Hermione wasn’t as unnerved now that she had talked to Harry and Kingsley. She was starting to go into her planning mode. She was thinking she might have to take Malfoy’s advice and go on a date with Evan. It would probably be the best way to gather information about him. She snapped herself out of it before she got too deep in thought.
“I’m starving. I’m going to make a sandwich, would you like one?” Hermione asked, deciding to be polite. After all, Malfoy hadn’t been so bad today.
“Looks like you finally learned some manners. Yes, I would like a sandwich.”
Maybe she had been wrong. She opened her mouth to reply, but Teddy came whirling through the floo, with Ginny right behind him.
“Hi Aunt Mione,” he said, running up and giving her a hug.
“Hi Teddy,” She smiled, returning the hug.
“Hey Gin. Wow, you look ready to pop.”
“I feel like it too.”
“I was just about to make some sandwiches, would you like one?”
“Sure, I’ll help.” She said, heading to the kitchen. They both ignored the slight look of alarm on Draco’s face as he was left alone with Teddy. As they prepared lunch, Hermione filled Ginny on what happened and what she was thinking she’d have to do. Ginny agreed with her. As they walked back to the living room they had to suppress laughter as they saw that Teddy was showing Malfoy all the toys he brought with him and explaining in detail what they did and why he liked it. Malfoy looked bored. The girls found it odd how kids seemed to like him so much.
“Sandwiches” Ginny said, setting the platter down on the coffee table. They all grabbed one, and listened as Teddy continued to prattle on about his toys. After a few intensely awkward minutes Draco escaped to the office, claiming he had work to do. Once he left, Teddy started playing quietly with his Quidditch figures on the floor.
“So what’s it like living with Malfoy?”
“It’s not as terrible as I expected. We mostly ignore each other. However, I did almost kill him the first couple days, but then I got a coffee maker and he became much more bearable. He’s even worse in the morning than I am, and if he doesn’t have his coffee he’s a right terror to be around.”
“I noticed you aren’t fighting as much.”
“I realized some things just weren’t worth fighting over, especially when I can’t escape him. This flat’s small, there’s only so many places I can go.”
“Ah, I see. Ok, I only have one more question. Have you seen him naked?” Ginny asked with a mischievous smile.
“Gin! No, of course not!”
“You mean you haven’t “accidentally” walked in on him in the shower?”
“Don’t you want to know if the rumours are true?”
“Oh Ginny,” she said, laughing, “no I do not particularly care, but if I do happen to find out I’ll let you know.” She winked.
“You better” She admonished.
They spent the rest of the afternoon chatting and laughing like old times. Draco stayed hidden away and did not surface until Ginny and Teddy left. They ate dinner together, and Hermione told him of her plan to go on a date with Evan. Draco, of course, wouldn’t let her go alone, so he demanded that he be at the restaurant too, at the next table over. Hermione thought this was ridiculous, but it turned out to be one of those things she didn’t feel like arguing over. She would ask Evan out for Friday. She really hoped he wouldn’t see through her, but tried not to worry about it.
Hermione was a bundle of nerves. Tonight was her “date” with Evan Stark. She wasn’t that fond of dates to begin with, but she was absolutely dreading this one. For one thing, she didn’t particularly like Evan, plus she had to try to figure out how to wheedle information out of him without him getting suspicious, and on top of all that she had to deal with Malfoy being within ear shot at all times. Luckily, that included extendable ears. As she was getting ready she thought about what she would say to him. She got him to agree to go out with her under the guise of an apology for when Malfoy knocked him out in her office the other day. Some flirting helped too, but mainly she relied on his ego. She figured a guy like him couldn’t resist seeing the one and only woman to turn him down come crawling back. Even Malfoy agreed with her on this, that was why they decided to move so quickly. Once Hermione started flirting Evan warmed right back up and she knew she had him. Now she just had to figure out what to do with him. Obviously she couldn’t just ask him outright if he was involved with the death eaters, but it was going to be tricky working it into the conversation.
She continued to get ready as she thought about conversation starters. She was going all out tonight. She quickly dried her hair with her wand and applied some Sleakeasy’s hair potion to calm down any frizz. Using her wand she curled her hair into long, sexy, waves. She applied a smoky eye look that Ginny showed her, and put on a pinkish red lipstick. Next, she picked out a black dress from her closet. It was a halter top that showed just a hint of cleavage. It had black beading along the top, and the skirt ended just above her knees. She put her black strappy heels on and looked at herself in the mirror. Pleased with her reflection she headed out to the living room.
Draco wouldn’t admit it, but he was slightly nervous for tonight as well. He took his job very seriously and didn’t want to risk anything that wasn’t necessary. What had started out as simply protecting Granger if harm came her way had turned into a full fledged investigation where he was the one putting her into dangerous situations. Something about this Evan character troubled him. There was a look in his eyes that threw Draco off. It was a look he had seen many times before in his Father’s eyes. The look of superiority, as if he knew he were better than everyone and would do whatever he needed to do to show that. However, he was confident in his abilities to keep Granger safe, and he’d already made it clear that she was to stay within sight. He just hoped she listened. If only she wasn’t so hardheaded. As much as he didn’t like the woman, it didn’t mean he wanted her harmed. Maybe a contingency plan would be in order, just in case. For the next half hour he sat there trying to think of any scenario that could possibly happen. Suddenly a voice jarred him out of his thoughts.
“Can you zip me up?” Hermione asked tentatively.
Draco looked up and he did a double take. Granger looked gorgeous. He always thought she was pretty (not that he would admit it), even though he teased her about her bushy hair and big teeth, but tonight she looked beautiful. It was like the Yule ball all over again. Draco slowly walked up to her. She turned around. He never noticed how nice her shoulders were before. Tanned and small, but strong, just like the rest of her. He let his hands linger on the zipper for a second, before he finally realized what he was doing and who he was looking at.
“Thanks,” she said, turning to face him. “Well, do I look alright?”
“You look…acceptable.” He said, refraining from saying what he actually thought.
Her face fell a little before she replaced it with a smile, she should’ve known that was the best she would get from him. Not that I care what he thinks. “I guess that will have to do. Shall we go? I’m supposed to meet him at the restaurant at 8:00, but we should get there a little early just to get things sorted.” She said as she gathered her purse and put on a jacket.
20 minutes later she was greeting Evan as he reached their table. She let him give her a light hug and she discreetly looked at Malfoy, who was a few tables over, out of Evans sight. Despite the fact that it was Malfoy, his presence was actually somewhat comforting. She knew that if things were to get out of hand she would have back up, and it was nice to know someone was on her side.
“I see you gave Malfoy the slip. How did you manage that?” Evan asked.
“It was quite easy actually. He really only escorts me around during the day, and then checks my flat when I get home to make sure it’s safe. I have the evenings to myself. He’s mostly around to make it look like I have protection, so that whoever attempted to break into my flat would think it wasn’t worth the risk of attacking again. It was the only way I would agree to this bodyguard nonsense.” She lied, hoping she could start gaining his trust by making him believe she trusted him.
“He seemed pretty serious in your office the other day.”
“Yes, and I still feel awful about that. I’m so glad you accepted this dinner as my way of apology.”
“Yes well, I knew I’d get you out on a date sometime. I mean ‘apology dinner’.” He said, using finger quotes. Outwardly, Hermione smiled and gave him a flirtatious look, inwardly she groaned. Was he really this full of himself? Glancing over, she saw Malfoy suppressing sniggers. At that moment, the waiter came over to take their order. As she opened her mouth to order, Evan interrupted and ordered for her. She couldn’t believe him! And he ordered her salmon, she hated fish. She wanted to give him a piece of her mind so badly, but she knew she couldn’t or else she might have to go on a second date with him, and that just might be the worst thing that could possibly happen. After the waiter left they got to talking, but every time she tried to steer the conversation he would bring it right back to her, or talk about some accomplishment of his that had absolutely nothing to do with the conversation.
Hermione could feel her control over the night and her temper slowly slipping away. She needed to get Evan to talk, and fast. She was thinking that she may to turn to her last resort; the chattiness potion. Developed by accident once when trying to brew veritaserum, it was similar to the truth potion in that it allowed the drinker to open up and discuss things they may normally avoid. However, it did not force the drinker to tell the truth. It could be likened to having too much to drink, and lowering inhibitions. On one hand, Hermione didn’t want to listen to Evan talk on end, but it would get her out of there faster. I just want to get out of these damn heels, go home, watch some TV with Malfoy and go to bed. It’s time for drastic measures. So lost in thought was she that she didn’t even realize she had just thought about voluntarily spending time with Malfoy.
Reaching forward to grab the bottle of wine that Evan had insisted on ordering, Hermione “accidentally” knocked over his glass.
“Oh, goodness! I’m sorry, I’m just so clumsy. Here, let me pour you another glass.” As she poured, she stealthily poured a couple drops of the potion in.
Draco watched all of this from a few tables over. He was having a hard time controlling his laughter. He knew exactly what Granger was trying to do, and had to applaud her on her efforts. He was surprised by just how sneaky she could be. The thing that had him laughing was Evan’s reaction. As Hermione cleaned the mess up, he made some remark about how she was a lightweight and then offered her another glass. Draco could tell that he was hoping to get her drunk and take her home tonight. If only he knew.
Draco was glad they had thought of the chattiness potion as a backup plan. He wanted to use veritaserum, but unfortunately it cannot be given without the suspects’ knowledge. He was willing to overlook that rule, but Granger would not. Simply, because she wasn’t sure Evan was guilty of being a death eater or if he was just a git. Sometimes morals just got in the way. As amusing as he was finding this, he really just wanted to go back to Grangers flat, and pass some time in front of the television. He found this muggle invention fascinating.
Hermione had made the mistake of asking Evan why he decided to become a reporter. Mostly, he just rambled on about how he liked to know everyone’s business, and that it let him go to a lot of events and meet girls.
“I like working there, but seriously, everyone needs to cheer up.”
“They’re just sad about Emma,” Hermione said.
“Everyone’s so sad about Emma’s death, but really she was a bitch. If you ask me, she got what was coming to her. Going around, acting like she was above everyone. Even if she wasn’t writing the death eater articles, they probably would have killed her anyway. You know, I asked her out once and she had the audacity to say no. As if she wasn’t good enough to date me.”
Hermione listened to his diatribe against Emma and reacted at all the right parts, but inside she was fuming. How dare he talk about Emma that way?! She was a sweetheart, and most definitely did not deserve her fate. At least she got him to admit that he knew about Emma’s secret identity. She was happy to hear that Emma didn’t fall for his charm either.
“I think everyone’s just pretending to be sad for appearance’s sake. I doubt anyone actually liked her. Enough about her. What about you? Why did you decide to become a reporter?”
Hermione gave a brief answer and then tried to steer the conversation back toward Emma, but it was not to be. He simply wouldn’t talk about her anymore, or about anything else death eater related. After another hour or so, and multiple attempts of Evan trying to get her to go back to his place, she finally escaped. All in all, she would say it was successful. Even though she didn’t learn as much as she would have liked, she at least found out how Evan felt about Emma. It was enough to make her suspicious of him.
“So what did you think?” A voice said behind her. She jumped and turned around, just to see Malfoy.
“You startled me!” She exclaimed, “Let’s go home first, then we’ll talk.”
They quickly apparated back to Hermione’s apartment. Hermione immediately slipped out of her heels. Draco found this act oddly alluring. I must be losing it he thought, looking away.
“To answer your question, I thought tonight was successful. We found out that he hated Emma and that he knew she was writing the articles. It even would have been easy for him to kill her, she knew him, and she would have let him into her flat if he said he was there for work.”
“That’s true” He replied, “But I think if he actually did it, he would be more discreet about his feelings for her. That’s not to say he’s not involved with the death eaters. How would he have known about the articles? Do you think Emma let something slip?”
“No, definitely not. She was very careful.”
“Either way, we should definitely be careful around him. You’ll have to continue to act like you like him, or else he may get suspicious. Especially if he’s involved in all this.”
“Yes, I’d already thought of that. Just please don’t make me go on a date with him again.”
“We’ll avoid that at all costs, I don’t want to have to sit through that again either,” he shuddered.
“I thought you had a big head, but you’re downright humble compared to him,” Hermione joked.
“Gee, thanks Granger,” He said rolling his eyes.
Laughing, she said “I’m going to get out of this dress, and then watch some telly. You can join me if you’d like.”
“Join you in what? Watching tv, or getting you out of that dress?”
“Television, Malfoy” She said, deadpanned.
“Hey, it was a legitimate question. After all, you did need help getting into the dress, it’s only logical you would need help getting out of it,” He said, smirking.
She responded by rolling her eyes and walking into her room. Draco shook his head and then went into his own room to get changed. Earlier in the week they had converted the office into a bedroom for him, seeing as this arrangement was looking more and more long-term. They moved the desk into the living room. He quickly changed into sweats and a green t-shirt, and went back to the living room where he found Granger sitting on the couch. He could hear a faint popping, and realized she was making popcorn. He grabbed the bowl of popcorn and joined her on the couch. They spent the night making fun of cheesy movies. Neither of them wanted to admit it, but every day they were getting closer and closer to becoming friends.