Chapter 22 : Twenty-two
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“I’m sorry, Miss, but Mr. Weasley requested no visitors. Would you like to wait for him outside?”
Hermione had every intention of telling the secretary to piss off, but controlled her antagonism and went to wait in her office. There were two other people there: A dark haired, plain young man of about twenty-four and a beautiful brunette with olive skin and large brown eyes sat on the leather armchairs. Hermione took one opposite them and surveyed them curiously, her foot bobbing up and down impatiently.
The young man looked pleased with himself, smirking smugly whilst the beautiful brunette looked dejected, almost regretful. They looked similar, like they were related. After an excruciatingly long wait, Ron finally arrived, running a hand through his flaming hair. He looked exhausted but exceedingly pleased with himself.
“Lauren, please hold any messages for me, I have an important talk with…” he halted on catching sight of Hermione sat there, her expression furious and her arms crossed across her chest.
“Hermione, what are you doing here?” he asked coldly. Clearly, he had not forgotten her kiss with Draco.
“I’m here to prove Draco’s innocence,” she spat, drawing herself to her full height. “He is not a murder and this is all a conspiracy.” The brunette and the man looked up curiously at the mention of Draco’s name.
“Well, I’m sorry to break it to you, but your boyfriend is a murder. All evidence points towards him,” Ron hissed acerbically before turning to the other two. “Paolo, Carmella, is there anything else you wish me to assist you with?”
“No, we just wanted to thank you for catching my uncle’s murderer. We are very grateful.” Paolo replied, a thick Italian accent heavy on his tongue. Carmella grimaced and looked away, tears sparkling in her eyes. Paolo shot her a very filthy look. Hermione watched on curiously. Surely these had to be the daughter and nephew of the late Minister.
“I should be the one thanking you. You helped us solve the riddle of the case.” Ron gratified, shaking hands with Paolo.
“Not at all. I was only helping in abiding by the law. Thank you once again and good night.” He turned to leave, pulling Carmella behind him and she quickly turned to stare at Hermione intensely, like she was trying to send Hermione a message through the power of telekinesis. Hermione simply stared on, until they were no longer in her sight and she turned to Ron, her expression livid once more.
“You’ve got it wrong,” she hissed.
“Oh, have I?” Ron spat sardonically storming into his office and Hermione followed.
“Yes you have! Draco wouldn’t do anything like that. His father may’ve been a murder, but he most certainly isn’t.”
“And just how do you know? Malfoy is a cold-blooded bastard and you were kissing him!” His face had turned as red as his hair, the way it always did when he was angry.
“It is none of your business whom I kiss and that is neither here nor there. I demand that you let me go see him!” she was all but yelling now.
“No one but prisoners, Dementors and officials are allowed in Azkaban. Sorry to disappoint you, Hermione, but I don’t think you’ll be seeing much of Malfoy from now on.”
They were yelling at each other from opposite ends of the office and Hermione was restraining herself from picking up the plotted plant beside her and throwing it at Ron’s head. She controlled her breathing and stared at Ron as he fell into the leather chair behind his desk.
“When did this relationship with Malfoy start?” he asked coldly.
“That really is none of your business.”
“France, then,” Ron said lightly, shaking his head.
“This has nothing to do with the situation in hand!”
“Of course it does! You’re his girlfriend, you obviously want to prove his innocence so he can get out and you can tiptoe through the tulips again!” He snarled.
Hermione pulled her wand out. “I’m warning you, Ronald. One more word about my relationship with Draco and I will curse you,” she threatened dangerously, her voice lethal and quiet.
“Go ahead. If you do, we’ll throw you into a cell with your murderer of a boyfriend,” he sneered.
Hermione crossed the room and stuck her wand into his left shoulder. Sparks ignited, burning a hold through his official navy robes like a cigarette butt. “You go too far,” she hissed and stalked out of the office, disapparating in the secretary’s study. She was back at her apartment and she threw her bag into a corner of the room before collapsing onto the sofa and crying.
Draco had gone. And she did not know how long it would be till she saw him. Ron had threatened to send her to Azkaban. Her best friend had threatened to send her to a place where even the lowliest of hell itself feared to enter. So much for 11 years of friendship. She needed to tell someone.
Controlling her tears, she went to her room and pulled a piece of parchment out of her drawer and began to scribble.
I don’t know how to begin such a letter but here goes. Draco has been arrested for the murder of the Italian Minister and he is now in Azkaban. I do not know what to do, Gabriella. Help me. I’m already starting to go insane, and the fact that’s he in Azkaban makes it that much worse. I can only talk to you about it. Please try and come as soon as you can.
She disapparated to the post office in Diagon Alley and quickly sent the letter before returning to the Manor. Narcissa had fallen asleep crying on the couch in the lounge. Hermione instructed the servants to clean the house before she scribbled a note to Narcissa explaining all she had done and disapparating back to her apartment. She changed out of her dress and into a nightgown and fell into her bed, crying, her thoughts straying to Draco.
Gabriella breathed a sigh of relief as her shift ended and she furiously rushed to the staff room to grab her coat and bag. Hermione’s letter had arrived almost a month ago and the hospital had only allowed her to go when she finished her work for the year before the holidays. She had the whole weekend to see Hermione.
“Why are you in such a hurry?” Jasper asked curiously, appearing at her side and taking in her furious scrambling to get her coat on. She was having difficulty getting her hand through a twisted sleeve and he held the coat for her and helped her into it.
“Thanks. I desperately need to go see Hermione. Draco’s been found guilty of murder and she sounded really upset in the letter she sent me.” Gabriella explained in a rush.
“What?” Jasper asked sharply, his mind processing that information. “I’m coming too.”
“Oh no, you don’t. You stay put and come when I need you to come.” She said firmly.
“Gabby,” Jasper began a little dangerously.
“Jasper, listen to me. Hermione needs a girl to talk to, not you. Besides, this will help you stop craving for her.” And she kissed his cheek goodbye before disapparating leaving Jasper scowling. Luckily, Hermione had attached her address, so she knew where to apparate to.
Upon opening her eyes, she found herself in a perfectly clean living room, the sun streaming through the window.
“Hermione?” she called.
“I’m in my bedroom,” came Hermione’s muffled reply and Gabriella wandered, trying to find the bedroom. She finally found Hermione sat at a desk, staring down at a picture in her hands, her eyes red.
“What on earth, have you been doing these past few days?” she asked suspiciously.
“I’ve been going to work. It’s awfully dull without him, now.” Her reply came in a hollow voice.
“And you’ve been crying. Obviously.”
Hermione shrugged and raised her gaze to meet Gabriella’s, her eyes wide and shining. She looked thinner and much more drained than Gabriella had ever seen her. Her expression showed nothing but bitter reminiscence and gloom. Her skin was sallow and her eyes gaunt. She was sure to lightly scare the children she looked after.
Gabriella sat on the edge of the table and peeked a glance at the picture in Hermione’s hands. It was a candid picture of Draco reading a book in the chateau’s drawing room before he looked up in surprise at them. Gently, she put a hand on Hermione’s shoulder. “Tell me everything.”
She did. Starting from what had happened after the Bon Voyage ball up to the night when they had come to drag Draco away. Hermione’s grip on the picture by the end of her explanation was tense.
“We need to prove Draco’s innocence, but how? This is a difficult challenge, Hermione.” Gabriella admitted.
“We have to Gabriella. He’s innocent,” Hermione said urgently, her voice soft and desperate.
“Well, firstly, I think you should remain in contact with Draco. Get your friend, the head of the department to let you send letters to Draco. That’ll help him keep his mind at least.”
“I am not going to see Ron,” Hermione spat. “He made his thoughts about me very clearly and said he would rather throw me in a cell with Draco than let our relationship continue.”
“Yes, but for the sake of Draco.”
Hermione scowled, clearly displeased but stood up. “I’ll go get changed.”
“I still can’t believe you talked me into this,” Hermione hissed as they stood in front of the burrow, the sun setting behind them.
“Hermione, shut up and let me talk!” Gabriella snapped.
The door opened to reveal Fred and he froze, his jaw dropping on sight of Gabriella.
“Hello, I’m Gabriella Laverne. I’ve come to see Mr. Ronald Weasley with Hermione.” Gabriella introduced herself, her hand extending gracefully towards a drooling Fred. He shook her hand awkwardly and said, “Come in.”
He led them into the living room and they sat on the sofa, waiting for Fred to go and call Ron from dinner. Footsteps could be heard and soon, Ron and Harry had appeared in the living room. Gabriella’s eyes focused on Harry and warmed instantly.
“Hello, I’m Gabriella Laverne.” She shook hands with both of them, her fingers lingering on Harry’s hand longer than necessary but the move wasn’t awkward. “I’ve come to discuss an important topic with you, Mr Weasley, about Hermione.”
Ron’s eyes hardened at Hermione and he turned to Gabriella. “And what topic would that be?” he asked though his voice clearly betrayed that he knew exactly what the topic was.
“I was wondering if it would be okay for Draco and Hermione to send owls to each other frequently.” She said it simply, straight to the point. Her voice was sweet and sugar-coated though and she smiled warmly at Ron.
“And why should Malfoy receive owls from the outside world when none of the other prisoners do?” he countered.
“Because he’s innocent,” Gabriella replied again in that convincing, sugary voice. Her eyes flickered to Harry for a second before they returned to Ron. Ron was so taken aback by her abruptness that he sat quite still for some time, simply staring at her.
“And you believe that he is innocent, do you?”
“Of course. I know Draco like a brother. He may have an unkind side to him, but I am positive that he is no murderer.”
Ron squirmed in his seat. “There is no evidence to support that, Miss Laverne.”
“You never know Mr Weasley. Perhaps you haven’t unearthed any evidence to prove his innocence. Back to the situation in hand. Will you allow Hermione to send letters to Draco?”
Ron contemplated this for a while before replying. “Only because she is my friend-” Hermione snorted doubtfully and looked away. Ron continued irritably, “and because I don’t want to see her upset.”
“That’s very kind of you. And will you let Draco respond to the letters?”
“Yes,” Ron muttered against his own will.
“Thank you. You have been most helpful.” She stood up to leave and Hermione imitated her.
“Won’t you stay for desert?” Harry asked, smiling at Gabriella.
“Perhaps another time, Mr Potter. I hope to see you again soon. I am staying with Hermione until tomorrow evening,” she added, hoping he would drop by tomorrow.
“I’ll see if I can arrange a visit in my schedule.” Harry said and Gabriella smiled triumphantly to herself.
“Goodbye then.” And she grabbed the moody Hermione by the hand and apparated her out of the living room.
“Wow,” Harry muttered, staring at the place where Gabriella had been only seconds earlier.
“Yeah, you’re telling me. I swear that girl can make you do things you don’t want to do.”
A/N: Filler chapters are real boring, no?
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