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Chapter 21 : Chapter twenty one
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Sighing, she got off her bed and made her way into the kitchen to prepare herself a cup of coffee and a few pieces of toast. An owl flew in through the open window and dropped a copy of the day’s Daily Prophet on the table. Hermione paid it a Knut and watched as it soared off into the distance. Taking her coffee, toast and paper into the living room, she fell down on the sofa and opened the paper. News seemed to be scarce nowadays, surprisingly, now that everyone knew Voldemort was back. He didn’t seem to be making any moves for world domination yet and was keeping very quiet and secretive.
Throwing the paper to the side, she stared at the sofa and smiled slyly. He had come to her apartment and they had spent all of last evening on the sofa, kissing feverishly. She was aware that they really should be ignoring each other’s presence and trying to get back to their tried and true relationship of open hostility, but hate had become boring. If this continued, they would soon be found out and in a dilemma with pretty much everyone…specifically Draco’s aunt and her friends.
An owl fluttered through the window and dropped an emerald envelope on her lap before fluttering onto the coffee table. Curiously, she set her coffee down and picked up the envelope. It was sealed with a familiar silver crest. This was from Draco.
Delicately, she opened it and an elaborate cream invitation slid out. She read:
The Malfoys are happy to invite you to their annual fundraising Ball for St Mungo’s.
It gave the time and details and everything and Hermione was dumbfounded. Had Narcissa Malfoy really invited her to Malfoy Manor?
A letter slipped out of the envelope and she recognized Draco’s script.
Ignore the stupid Invitation. I will personally invite you now. Will you do me the honour of coming to the fundraising ball at the Manor? I have answered for you and the answer is yes.
She couldn’t help but chuckle at his tomfoolery and continued to read.
I know I can’t see you this weekend because you won’t allow me -a terrible decision on your behalf- but I expect to see you at the Manor on Sunday evening. Ask one of the waiters to guide you to the library and meet me there. I am already going crazy without you, you know that? If only you hadn’t prohibited me to come see you… do you forgive rule breaking?
Hermione rushed to get a piece of parchment and some ink before writing in her neat lettering.
I do forgive rule breaking, but not in this case. I’ll take away fifty points from Slytherin if you do break my rules. I miss you too and I’ll see you at the Manor I suppose. Take care.
She attached the parchment to the owl’s leg and watched it fly out of the window. The sudden ringing of the phone made her jump in fright. With a frustrated snarl, she picked up the phone and said in a more aggravated tone than she’d intended.
“Hermione, it’s Ginny. I was wondering if maybe you’d like to go out shopping with me?”
Hermione contemplated the options. Go out, have fun, pick a dress, forget about Draco for a few hours or sit here and do nothing? Her mind agreed.
“Sure Ginny, I’ll see you at the burrow in half an hour, then.”
“Great! Bye!” Ginny hung up and Hermione put the phone down. When on earth did I start agreeing to shopping trips? She thought in bewilderment as she made her way to her room to get ready.
Hermione stared at her reflection, contemplating herself. Would this be all right? Her chiffon emerald dress fell just at her knees, showed an amount of cleavage that would make Draco happy and cinched her waist sumptuously. Her hair fell about her shoulders in loose curls, perfectly tame. Her face looked pretty with a little amount of makeup, and her lips were untouched but for a delicate sweep of clear lip-gloss.
I don’t look bad, she thought to herself and smiled before grabbing her bag and invitation and apparating to the manor. She had only been to the manor once before and that had been a brief visit to see an ill Narcissa Malfoy. But as she had handed her invitation to the guard at the Manor gates, she looked up and saw the Manor in all its splendour. Several live fairies were flying around it, glowing golden and it looked wonderful. She passed through the doors and was shown to the main hall by a waiter.
She looked round and gasped at the hall. It was stunning; everything was decorated in gold and it was immensely large. There were hundreds of formally dressed people, talking or waltzing or sipping on champagne. She recognized many familiar faces from the hospital and from the Ministry and at the very end of the hall stood Narcissa herself, talking with an unknown person looking magnificent in a long red dress. Draco was nowhere to be seen, as expected.
A soft tap on her shoulder made her turn around and she saw a young man with his hand held out to her. “Care to dance, Miss?” he asked chivalrously.
“Um…” she was supposed to meet Draco at the library but it was rude to turn down such a polite offer. “A quick dance then,”
She began to rotate around the floor with this young man, who had introduced himself as Andrew Fuller and his father was the leader of some society Hermione could not be bothered to remember. When the dance ended, she breathed a sigh of relief and quickly left Fuller, not wanting to spend any more time with him.
“Excuse me, do you know where the library is?” she asked a passing waiter. He stared at her suspiciously.
“The library is off limits, Miss,” he said.
Hermione groaned in frustration and turned back to the waiter. “Well, isn’t Mr Malfoy in there now?”
The waiter looked surprised that she would know this and pointed her in the direction of the library. “Be careful not to get caught,” he added in an urgent whisper and walked away to serve the remainder of his platter. Hermione quickly made her way out of the hall and followed the waiter’s directions, hiding in little niches in the walls at times to avoid being caught before rushing up the magnificent staircase and quickly making her way to the library. She slipped in and closed the door behind her with a quiet snap, breathing a sigh of relief.
The library was dark and the only source of light was the moonlight flooding through the high windows. She looked around and saw the looming shadows of the bookcases.
“I thought you’d never show up,” an amused voice sounded and she looked round, searching for any sign of Draco and found him coming out of the shadows of one bookcase. She slowly walked to him, smiling, before she wrapped her arms around him. He was looking appealing in a tuxedo again.
“Someone requested a dance,” she explained, burying her face in his neck, inhaling his expensive cologne deeply.
“May I request a dance?”
Draco let go of her and bowed, his hand held out to her. She was reminded of the ball in Cannes and smiled. “May I have this dance, Miss Granger?” those were the exact same word he’d used in France.
“It would be my pleasure, Mister Malfoy,” she replied and set her hand in his before he pulled her closer and gently pulled her along with him. The faint sound of a melody could be heard gliding up the stairs and she smiled. This was nice.
“You know, you do look so delectable in the Slytherin colours.” He breathed.
“Thank you. I await to see how you will look in Gryffindor colours.” She replied playfully.
“Don’t even think on it.”
They continued to sway and Hermione looked over his shoulder at the many bookcases. “How big is this library?”
“Two times the size of the one is Paris. Similar to the Hogwarts library, almost.”
“So, why did you ask me here?”
“Seriously, Hermione. You’re supposed to be smart. We could hardly go waltzing down in the hall downstairs without five hundred pairs of eyes on us. And besides, I want you all to myself. I want to be the only one drooling after you.”
“That’s very selfish of you, Draco Malfoy.”
“When did you ever get the impression that I was generous, Hermione?”
They swayed, listening to the song.
“What’s this song?” she asked.
“I think it’s a classical piece by Bach, but I’m not sure.”
“You listen to classical Muggle music?” Hermione asked disbelievingly.
“Is that such a surprise?”
“Isabel would always play Piano to me as a child and she knew lots of classical Muggle music, so I guess it’s all down to her. When I can’t sleep, I enchant the piano to play some Mozart or Beethoven or stuff like that…”
“Right…you know, this is almost like ‘Our song’”
He could practically hear the quotation marks and sniggered. “Yes, while most people would have something like Celestina Warbeck or The Weird Sisters as ‘their song’, we have a classical Muggle piece.”
“That’s because we’re unique and sophisticated enough to dance to Bach and not Celestina Warbeck,” she countered with a grin.
“Touché,” he mumbled against her hair.
The song ended and he pulled her to the window, staring out at the sky. “Won’t your mother wonder where you are?” Hermione asked curiously.
“She knows. She knows about us.”
“You told her?”
“She would’ve gotten it out of me one way or another. Don’t worry, she’s not that bitter her only son’s fallen for a Muggleborn girl.”
“I see,” an amazed Hermione muttered. “You know, I’m surprised you haven’t kissed me once yet. You can hardly control yourself at St Mungo’s.”
“Do you want me to kiss you?” he remarked slyly, his voice velvety soft and inviting.
“My pleasure,” he growled and bent his head down to attack her lips. She had been anticipating this for two days now and with it came a burst of relief and ecstasy. She hungrily kissed him back, her hand snaking around his neck to pull him closer. Draco ran his tongue along Hermione’s bottom lip asking for entrance, which she granted immediately. Hermione used her tongue to explore his mouth, her tongue clashing with Draco’s in a battle for dominance, she was skilled but he was better and easily won, but she was not letting it slide and bit his lip playfully as a sign that she would win next time.
“Mmm… getting rough are we?” Draco smirked against Hermione’s lips.
“I know how you like it,” Hermione purred back, her hands, as they always did, stole underneath his jacket and began to furiously work at his shirt’s buttons. When she had finally undone some, she slipped her hands underneath and trailed them across his warm chest. All the time, Draco had been leeched at her neck, kissing her below the ear, wanting to hear her breathe his name in that voice that made him insane. He pulled back for a bit and raised a hand to gently stroke her cheek. As he rubbed his thumb over her bottom lip, she kissed it tenderly.
She was making him breathless with the simplest of kisses; he imagined he would pass out if things went any further. As if reading his mind, daring to put his hypothesis to the test, she leaned in and kissed him again, this time more fervently and hungrier than before, eliciting a deep moan from Draco. Her mouth left his to delicately kiss his neck and jaw and his hands ran wildly through her curls, reveling in the smoothness of her hair. Her fingers ran across his smooth, taut chest before reaching up to pull him closer by the shoulders.
“Hermione…” he gasped as her tongue flickered out of her mouth to tease his neck. She did not respond and continued to tease him, until he could take no more and bought his lips to the base of her throat and tasted her greedily, the faint traces of her perfume bitter on his tongue.
A soft knock at the door made them jump apart and freeze. “Hide!” he muttered urgently to her as he buttoned his shirt and straightened his hair. She obeyed and went to hide in the shadows of a bookcase down a long aisle. She could hear Draco going to open the door.
“Mr. Malfoy, sir. There are a few people who wish to speak to you downstairs. They are in the courtyard.” A soft, informative voice sounded.
“Thank you, Brendan. Tell them, I’ll be down in a minute,” Draco replied and the door snapped shut. Hermione quickly went back to Draco and began to run her hands through her hair in an attempt to smooth it down.
“You go ahead. I’ll be right there.”
Hermione nodded before quickly righting her appearance and left, returning back down the stairs but instead of heading to the hall, she made her way out to the courtyard, curious to see whom the people were. She was shocked to find Ron and a few other members -mostly aurors- of the Magical Law Enforcement department there. A small crowd had gathered around.
“Ron?” she was surprised and it showed it in her voice and expression.
“Hermione? What are you doing here?” Ron asked, almost in disgust.
“I was invited here. What are you doing here?” she returned the question.
“I’m here to do my job.”
“Wha-” she began but caught herself as Draco came out. His eyes hardened as he caught sight of Ron.
“Ah, Weasley. To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“You’re under arrest, Malfoy. The Magical Law Enforcement Department has found you guilty of the murder of Francesco Parechi, the Italian Minister of Magic,” Ron stated reading from a parchment, his voice filled with pleasure.
Hermione felt like a bucket of ice-cold water had just been thrown down her back. Her mind was blank and she was staring at Ron incredulously. She was half expecting someone to shout ‘April Fools’ and when no one did, the cold extended to her heart.
“What? This is ridiculous!” Draco spat vehemently.
“He was in bad health and you were his healer, Malfoy. A post-mortem shows that he was poisoned. He drank the poison along with the medicine you had given him. We have a witness that claims you were unsupportive of the Minister and his views. In conclusion, all the evidence points towards you, Malfoy.”
Hermione finally knew what Draco’s job in Italy had been, but she did not believe he had killed the Minister. His father may have been a murder but Draco definitely was not one. Only her shock at the words spilling from Ron’s mouth kept her rooted to the spot.
“The Department has reached a verdict to send you to Azkaban without a trial. Your sentence is 15 years.” Ron was relishing the words on his lips. Draco looked stunned, but the shock wore off and he fiercely yelled at Ron, “I did not murder him!”
A bright flash of light from somewhere made everyone turn and Hermione was incensed to see Rita Skeeter with her quick quotes quill and her photographer, her expression greedy, almost sadistic. Everyone’s attentions returned to Draco and Ron.
“I worked for the Minister for four years, since the age of 18. I got along just fine with him and I had no intentions of killing him. So, what’s all this nonsense about?” Draco hissed.
“You were still working for him when he was murdered. The only people present at the time of the murder were you, the Minister’s daughter, his nephew, his wife and a few servants. Once again, all the evidence points towards you. Now, hand me your wand.”
“Don’t even dream of it,” Draco snarled, but one of the aurors behind Ron had raised his wand and stunned Draco before he fell onto his back onto the graveled path. Hermione uttered a soft scream and forced herself not to rush to his side. Ron carefully walked over him and pulled his wand out of his jacket before waving his own wand and muttering, “Enervate”
Draco slowly stirred but he jumped to his feet on catching sight of Ron leaning over him, leering at him. His eyes caught sight of his wand in Ron’s hand and he made to lunge for it but Ron threw it to one of the aurors behind him.
“Don’t do anything that’ll increase your sentence.” Ron warned.
“Fuck off, Weasley. This is a conspiracy!”
Ron laughed viciously. “Keep telling yourself that, Malfoy. Maybe it’ll keep you sane in Azkaban.” He nodded at the aurors and they stepped forward to Draco, manacles magically appearing in one of their hands before they were cuffed around Draco’s wrists. A violent stream of profanities could be heard flowing seamlessly from Draco’s mouth.
Hermione couldn’t stop the tears and they fell thick and fast onto her cheeks. She rushed forward, her heels clicking on the ground and Draco turned to look at her, his eyes wide and pained. Everyone had hushed to watch the pair and Ron was gazing thunderstruck at them. Tentatively, Hermione reached her fingers to stroke his hands in the manacles.
“I don’t believe you did it.” She muttered through her tears. “I will do everything in my power to prove your innocence.” Her eyes were at their feet and she could feel his fingers grip her hands tightly.
“Hermione,” he breathed. “I love you.” The last three words were muttered so quietly, so that he intended only for her to hear. “Look at me.”
She raised her eyes to meet his and he smiled ruefully before leaning forwards her for a long, goodbye kiss. An audible gasp fluttered in the warm air, rippling around the crowd like a ribbon. Rita Skeeter was almost jumping with joy at the succulence of the story and her quick quotes quill was furiously moving across her notebook as her photographer took another picture. Hermione responded, her tears falling onto their lips before he pulled away.
“Come back to me. I love you.” She whispered and watched through tearful eyes as they dragged him away from her. They were about to turn to and disapparate with him when a distraught cry caught everyone’s attention.
“Liars! Liars!” Narcissa screamed, pointing her finger at Ron, her face tear-stained, her expression wild. “My son is not a murder. LIARS!”
Hermione ran to support Narcissa and the older woman began to cry on her shoulder as they watched Draco look at them despondently before they disapparated with him.
“Liars…liars,” Narcissa sobbed, releasing a shaky, ragged breath.
“It’s okay. He’s going to be all right. We’ll prove his innocence.” Hermione said soothingly to Narcissa, leading her back inside. She turned to the eagerly watching crowd, her tempter flaring suddenly.
“The party’s over, leave us in peace now!” she yelled and helped Narcissa up the steps, dragging her into the lounge and forcing a large glass of Firewhiskey into her shaking hands. “Drink, you’ll feel better.”
Narcissa threw it down in one go and gasped jaggedly. “Okay, get some rest now. I’m going to go to the Ministry and see what I can do,” Hermione explained.
“No, I want to go too.” Narcissa said quickly.
“No.” Hermione said firmly. “Stay here and rest. I’ll come back when I can.” She stood up and turned on the spot, apparating with a tiny ‘pop’, her thoughts dangerously murderous.
A/N: Still on holiday :)
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