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If Spring Ever Comes by sand_dollar
Chapter 9 : The Secret Agent
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 10

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I come awake all at once, the way I used to when we were living in the tent. Heart pounding, I reach for my wand with one hand and Hermione with the other before remembering she’s not there.

I hate sleeping by myself. The room is dark and silent, and I’m not sure what awakened me. A dream, maybe? I can’t remember what I was dreaming about; I never can. I sit up in the darkness, listening, but I can’t hear anything except the sound of my own breathing. Maybe living at Durmstrang is just making me paranoid. They say it happens to lots of Aurors - after a while you start hearing things that aren’t there, imagining Dark wizards behind every tree. Look at Mad-Eye Moody, for instance…

Yeah, and look what happened to him, a voice in my head says. Even with all his talk of constant vigilance, Barty Crouch managed to catch him off guard. I’ve been thinking about Barty Crouch a lot lately. I wonder if he took Polyjuice all night long, or if he let himself resume his natural shape at night the way I do? I’m careful, of course. I make sure I’ve got my locks charmed shut, and I do a Disillusionment Charm on myself before I get into bed, just in case. Not that anyone could get in without me knowing it - I don’t think - but still.

What if they did get in? the voice in my head persists. What if they’re in here right now?

Bloody hell. I slip silently out of bed and light my wand. A quick check of the room shows that it’s empty. Still, I feel too uneasy to go back to bed just yet. I light a candle and sit down in an armchair, reaching for the copy of Chess Monthly that arrived for me by owl this morning. Hermione’d be pleased to see me reading, wouldn’t she? Even if it is just a magazine and not a book that weighs more than she does. Harris must have arranged for the subscription when he still thought he was going to be here. It’s a little more than I ever wanted to know about chess, but it’s not such a bad read - although I’d rather have a Quidditch magazine. Or the Daily Prophet - or even the Quibbler. I did think about setting up a subscription to the Prophet, but all the news would be out of date by the time an owl made it all the way here. Wherever “here” is. I’ve managed to explore most of the grounds - at least, the bits that don’t end at the edge of a cliff - but it doesn’t tell me much except that we’re in the mountains somewhere. Hermione always reckoned Durmstrang was somewhere in northeastern Europe… she thought maybe Siberia or -

What the hell was that? I blow out the candle and reach for my wand again. It sounded like it came from outside. I edge cautiously toward the window and pull the heavy draperies aside, just a little bit.

The moon is bright, and I can make out the figure of a man near the drawbridge. The bridge been lowered - that must have been the noise that woke me. I press my face against the window, trying to see who it is. The man turns his head in my direction and I hurriedly draw back, but I’ve seen his face. It’s Kirilov, the Dark Arts professor. As I watch, he hurries across the bridge and disappears from sight.

Now where could Kirilov be going at one in the morning? I’ve tried getting to know him better, but he’s brusque to the point of rudeness. I’ve been here nearly three weeks now, and I haven’t managed to get him to say anything beyond “good morning” and “good evening”. Only I reckon I’d better think of a way, because it’s looking more and more like he could be the key to this whole thing. I wonder why he didn’t put a Silencing Charm on the bridge before he let it down? Didn’t he think anyone might wake up? Or didn’t he care?

I wish I had Hermione here to talk things over with. Well, I can think of a lot of things I’d rather be doing with her right now than talking, but there’s no denying she’s helped me figure things out before. Gawain says Aurors aren’t supposed to talk about their cases with anyone, not even husbands and wives, but what Gawain doesn’t know won’t hurt him. Anyway, I miss her. And Harry. I try to think what Hermione would make of Kirilov, but it doesn’t work. It’s not the same as having her here.

Kirilov doesn’t come back, although I watch at the window for over an hour. Finally, chilled to the bone, I get back into bed and fall into an uneasy sleep.

It’s Dorika who gives me the idea. “Alvays I am hearing about your class from my first-years,” she says to me at breakfast. “I am vishing I am a first-year myself, so that I too might be a chess piece!” She laughs, but her eyes are wistful.

“Why not join us tomorrow?” I offer impulsively. “You’ve got that hour free, don’t you?”

Dorika’s face lights up. “You are sure? You vould not mind?” she asks eagerly.

“I’d like to have you,” I say. And that’s when the idea strikes me. “In fact,” I add carefully, “I wouldn’t mind observing one of your classes as well. I think it’s interesting to see how other people teach, don’t you? And the subjects are a bit different than the ones I took when I was at Hogwarts - really, I’d like to observe as many different classes as I can.”

“You are most velcome to join us in the conservatory,” Cezar Gradin offers, looking up politely from his newspaper. He never says much, but he’s been pleasant enough on the few occasions when I’ve found myself next to him at the table. I usually try not to sit next to him because he’s always got dirt under his nails. Occupational hazard when you’re a Herbology teacher, I reckon, but the food here is unappetizing enough without having dirt added to it. Or maybe that’d improve it.

“Thanks,” I say. A few of the others indicate that they wouldn’t mind, either - but Kirilov stays conspicuously silent. He’s pale and heavy-eyed this morning - signs of a sleepless night?

“And vat about you, Fyodor?” Dorika prods. “I am correct in thinking that the Dark Arts are not taught at Hogvarts, yes?”

“Yes,” I say. “I mean, no. We had Defense Against the Dark Arts, but - "

“Hardly the same,” Kirilov says, finally condescending to speak. He gives me a dismissive look before adding, “I am sure you vould not approve.”

“Just the same,” I say firmly, “I’d really like to observe your class some time.”

Kirilov looks annoyed, but he can’t really say anything when all the others have agreed. “Very well,” he says, tight-lipped. “Ve vill see if ve can find vun vhich vill not shock your Hogvarts sensibilities too much.” He nods briefly at the others and leaves abruptly.

Excellent - I’m finally getting somewhere. Of course, I’m going to have to sit through about a dozen classes - including the Durmstrang version of History of Magic - but never mind. If I can watch Kirilov interacting with his students, I’m sure I’ll be able to guess which ones he’s recruiting into the Brotherhood of Blood.


“If I were you,” Basil says softly, “I’d ignore them and concentrate on my career.”

I look up to find him watching a trio of gossiping law clerks. It’s all too obvious from their furtive glances in my direction that they’re talking about me. “That’s exactly what I am doing,” I protest. “Or trying, anyway.”

“You’re not trying hard enough,” Basil says briskly. “Wasting your time researching giants and merpeople… I’m telling you, Hermione, there are more important issues at stake.”

“Like what?” I demand. “Do you think I ought to petition for a four-day work week, like those idiots in Magical Games and Sports?”

“Magical Games and Sports barely put in a four-day week now,” Basil says, dismissing them with a wave of his hand. “They’re always taking long weekends to go see Quidditch matches - I can’t think what they’re complaining about. No, I’m talking about something far more important.”

“What?” I ask, interested in spite of myself.

“I told you,” Basil says maddeningly. “You’ve got to have lunch with me if you want to hear about it. I am not going to talk about it here.” He glances at the law clerks again and lowers his voice. “I’ll be honest with you, Hermione - I need your help. You’re one of the cleverest witches I’ve ever met.”

I can’t resist. “Fine,” I say. “One lunch.”


Gawain and I wait, motionless under the Cloak, until the footsteps die away. I look at Gawain, but he shakes his head soundlessly. I force myself to stand still in silence for an endless five minutes before he finally gives the signal to Disapparate.

“Well?” I say, once we’re safely inside.

Gawain only gives me an impatient look and starts briskly checking the place for jinxes. I suppress a sigh and join him.

“It’s all right,” Gawain says at last. He takes a seat at the rickety table and motions for me to join him. I pull up a rather unsteady-looking chair across from him, looking around curiously. This is one of the Auror Department’s “safe houses”, but I haven’t ever been in this particular one before. I can see why we don’t bother with it much - it’s not what you’d call well-furnished, and the neighborhood was a bit on the unsavory side. Still, it’s somewhere we can talk.

“That proves it, doesn’t it?” I say eagerly. “Jeremy Gamp’s definitely in with the Brotherhood of Blood, and he’s recruited Lucius Malfoy to join them.”

Gawain nods. “It would appear so,” he says.

I think myself that he’s being a little over-cautious. Jeremy might not have used the exact phrase “Brotherhood of Blood”, but it’s fairly obvious he’s part of a group of purebloods that’s planning to overthrow the current Ministry of Magic. He was circumspect during his first meeting with Lucius, but he’s let more and more information slip during the three subsequent meetings that followed. Lucius, equally careful in the beginning, went so far tonight as to offer up as much of the Malfoy gold as needed to “further our aims.”

“Jeremy came right out and said they were planning to get rid of Kingsley as soon as possible,” I remind Gawain. “That’s treason - or something - isn’t it?”

Gawain looks mildly amused. “Or something,” he allows. “However, Harry, I must remind you that he has not disclosed any details. If questioned, Gamp could easily make a case that he wished to replace the current Minister through a perfectly legal appointment by the Wizengamut.”

“We’re never going to get anything we can use this way,” I say impatiently. “Gamp’s too bloody careful. We need someone on the inside.”

Gawain shakes his head. “Impossible,” he says calmly. “A stranger would be treated with suspicion by Gamp and his associates. And before you ask, Harry, I cannot allow you to use Polyjuice Potion and transform yourself into a distant cousin of the Notts or the Montagues. Anyone attempting to gain entry into Gamp’s circle would most certainly be followed, and it would be highly suspicious if two of my Aurors suddenly decided to take up distant posts in foreign countries.”

Damn it. I hate when he reads my mind. “So we keep watching them,” I say, suppressing a sigh. “And if he does say something to incriminate himself - "

“Then we will continue to watch him,” Gawain says calmly. “The Minister is under our protection, as you well know. It would be unwise to give away our position until we know who their leader is.”

“You don’t think it’s Jeremy, then?” I ask. I don’t either, but I want to hear what Gawain says.

“Certainly not,” Gawain says. “Gamp is a recruiter, nothing more. He’s been sent to England to gather supporters and funds. Once he has accomplished his mission, I feel sure that he will be recalled.”

I frown. “Then why do they care about our Ministry?” I ask. “If they’re not even based in England - "

“I am not entirely sure that they do,” Gawain says softly, and waits.

“Oh,” I say, getting it. “But Malfoy does, and they want his backing.”

“They want his gold, certainly,” Gawain agrees. “Malfoy is far more likely to be generous, after all, if he feels it will benefit his own position - and he prefers to live in England. Rumor has it that he very much disliked being exiled.”

I’m silent for a few minutes, thinking. “Will we follow Jeremy when he leaves?” I ask.

Gawain’s eyes meet mine. “I do not believe it will be necessary,” he says. “We have someone in place already, do we not?”

I realize, startled, that he means Ron. “Durmstrang,” I half-whisper, and Gawain nods.

“Have you heard anything?” I venture carefully. Gawain doesn’t want me to talk about what Ron’s doing, but surely it’s safe to speak here.

He shakes his head. “The first Quidditch match is next weekend,” he reminds me. “We shall likely be able to learn a great deal then.”


I never thought I’d be looking forward to seeing Krum of all people, but it just goes to show you what homesickness will do to a person. Even though he doesn’t know who I really am - and I can’t ask him about Hermione or my family, obviously - at least I can find out about Harry. And maybe Krum’ll bring me a Daily Prophet or something. I’m going mental not knowing what’s happening at home.

The kids are getting excited, too. There are six teams - not sorted by house, like at Hogwarts, but ranked according to ability. The sixth and seventh years are on the better teams, obviously, but there are a couple of second and third year kids that look to be shaping into pretty decent players. I’ve watched a number of practices - partly as a way of getting to know the kids better outside of the classroom, and partly because it makes a nice break from chess. I mean, I like it and all, but enough.

Meanwhile, I think I’ve got a pretty good idea of which kids have had contact with the Brotherhood. They’re quite easy to spot - a tight group of fifth, sixth and seventh years who look down on the rest of the school with an attitude that makes Draco Malfoy look positively humble. They’re polite to the teachers - barely - but I’ve noticed the rest of the kids pretty much give them their way on everything. Not all of them are in my classes - chess is optional after third year - but a few of them are, including Boris Androchev’s older brother, Grigor.

“Professor!” Anya’s at my side, tugging at my sleeve. “Professor, I vish to tell you that I am vriting to my father and I am telling him that Chess is my favorite class.”

“Is it?” I say, feeling slightly astonished. I never thought I’d be much good as a teacher, but it seems like at least one kid likes me. “Well, that’s really great, Anya. Tell your father I said you’re going to be an excellent chess player, and you just might be able to beat him the next time you play.”

Anya giggles. “My father is also an - " She hesitates and then sounds the word out carefully “ex-cell-ent player. It means very good, yes?”

“Yes,” I say. I glance around and can’t help feeling relieved that none of the other teachers seem to be in sight. Still, it’s just as well to be careful. “Hadn’t you better get to class, Anya?”

“It is only History of the Magical Vorld,” Anya says dismissively. “It is not so interesting as Chess. I vill see you in class tomorrow, Professor!”

I watch as she hurries off. Grigor Androchev and a few of his mates are watching her, too, and something about it makes me uncomfortable. “You’re going to be late, Grigor,” I say sharply.

Grigor stares boldly back at me for a minute, and I wonder if he’s going to answer back. I sort of wish he would - I wouldn’t mind putting him in detention. I might be able to get him to accidentally spill a bit about the Brotherhood. But after a moment he turns away. “Come,” he says to his friends, and they follow. One of them mutters something foreign, and the others laugh - not a nice laugh.

They’re definitely involved - if there’s anything to be involved in - but for the life of me I can’t figure out how I’m going to prove it. I wish there was a Marauders Map for Durmstrang.

The seventh years are my last class of the day. I’ve given them a new defensive strategy to work on, and I walk up and down the aisles checking on the game play. I’m helping two of the students when I hear the whispering start. It’s coming from the desk where Grigor Androchev’s been paired with a boy called Nikolas Something-or-other. (I can barely manage their first names, let alone the surnames.)

“Something wrong, Grigor?” I ask, turning to face him.

“It is an insult to my family, asking me to play with him,” Grigor says, looking contemptuously at Nikolas.

“Why?” I ask, startled. Nikolas isn’t one of the half-bloods - I’d never force one of them to play with a snob like Grigor - and as far as I know, he’s well-liked by the other students. “I matched you according to ability. Nikolas is a slightly better player than you are, but you should be able to keep up.”

There are a few hastily muffled giggles from behind me, but I don’t turn around. Grigor’s face reddens, but he doesn’t answer.

“Nikolas, do you have a problem with Grigor?” I ask mildly.

Nikolas hesitates. “I think, Professor, it is best if ve find other partners,” he says apologetically. “I do not vish to be disturbing the class.”

There’s something going on here, but damned if I know what it is. “Fine,” I say. “Nikolas, you can join Katya and Irina. Observe them for fifteen minutes and then trade places with one of them.”

Nikolas brightens. Katya and Irina are the two prettiest girls in the seventh year. “Thank you, Professor!” he says happily. He manages to knock over a chair in his haste to join them, but the girls politely pretend not to notice.

“Vat about me?” Grigor asks sulkily.

“Since I can’t trust you to be polite to your fellow students, you’re going to play against me,” I tell him.

“But this is unfair!” Grigor protests. “You vill vin, alvays.” He folds his arms. “I vill not do it.”

Thanks, Grigor - you just made this really easy for me. “Oh, I think you will,” I say smoothly. “Only we aren’t going to play now. Instead, you will join me for a detention this evening. Report to me at eight o’clock.”

Grigor opens his mouth. “Don’t,” I warn. “Not unless you’d like detention for the rest of the week as well.” This is sort of fun, this giving out detentions.

Grigor glares, but he’s smart enough to keep his mouth shut. “You can read over the chapter in your book while everyone else practices,” I tell him, and walk away.


“Where are we going?” I ask, hurrying to keep up with Basil as he sets off down the street. “And you might slow down - my legs aren’t as long as yours.”

“Sorry,” Basil apologizes. He slows his pace to a snail’s crawl. “Better?”

I think of telling him I’m not exactly his great-grandmother, but at least I’ll have a chance to catch my breath. “It’s all right,” I say instead. “Ron’s tall, too - I’m always having to tell him to - " I break off in confusion, but Basil doesn’t seem to notice.

“Let’s go in here,” he says abruptly, turning into a nearby tea shop.

We’re far enough from the Ministry to be able to avoid most of our co-workers. A pair of elderly witches near the door eye us with interest, but I keep my head down so they won’t recognize me.

“Over here,” Basil says, leading me to a table in the corner. I make sure I have my back to the room as we sit down.

“Now,” Basil says, once an indifferent-looking witch has sent menus soaring in our direction. “I suppose you’re wondering what this is all about.”

“Of course I am,” I say impatiently. “Do get on with it, Basil.”

He looks amused. “Most girls would have denied it,” he says. “You’re very refreshing, Hermione.”

I’m not sure if that’s a compliment or not, but I don’t particularly care. “Basil,” I say warningly, and he laughs.

“All right,” he says. He looks around and lowers his voice, suddenly serious. “Are you aware that a number of pro-pureblood laws are still on the books?”

“They can’t be,” I say at once. “Kingsley repealed every piece of legislation that Pius Thicknesse put through. It was one of the first things he did when he took office.”

“I’m not talking about those,” Basil says. “I’m talking about the laws that were already in place - before Thicknesse; before Scrimgeour; even before Fudge. Laws that many people aren’t aware of - laws that may not even be enforced most of the time - but laws that are, nonetheless, in existence.”

I stare at him. “Like what?” I say blankly.

“For instance,” Basil says. “Did you know that as a Muggle-born witch, you are prohibited from owning a house-elf?”

“I wouldn’t want to own one,” I answer automatically. “You know perfectly well that I think all house-elves should be free.”

“Nonetheless,” Bail persists. “If you wanted a house-elf, you couldn’t have one. Now, your husband could own one - he’s a pureblood, isn’t he? - but if you applied for one yourself, you’d be turned down.” He grins at me. “So would I, as a matter of fact - I’m a half-blood.”

“I know of at least one half-blood with a house-elf,” I argue, not wanting to mention Harry by name.

If Basil guesses, he doesn’t let on. “I’d be willing to bet your friend inherited his - or her - elf along with a house,” he answers. “That’s allowed.”

“The elf being considered nothing more than a piece of furniture, I suppose,” I say, annoyed.

Basil sighs. “We’re getting off track,” he says. “I wish I hadn’t used house-elves as an example - I’d forgotten you had a bit of a thing about them.” He holds up a hand as I open my mouth to protest. “My point, Hermione, is that there are a number of antiquated laws in place that need to be researched and repealed. Will you help me?”

“Yes, of course,” I say, privately resolving that I’m going to have one more go at reforming the House-Elf Legislation while I’m at it. “What do you want me to do?”

Basil promptly reaches into his pocket and pulls out a thick scroll of parchment. “I’ve listed every law that even mentions blood status in the wording,” he says, unrolling several closely written pages. “Now we have to go through and prioritize them.”

I don’t mind helping - I’ve been longing for a project to take my mind off things - but I know Basil well enough to wonder what he’s up to. He’d never be this interested if there wasn’t something in it for him. “Why are you doing this?” I ask abruptly.

“For recognition, of course,” Basil says promptly. “I want to be Head of the Wizengamut one day. This is the sort of thing that will get me noticed.” He grins at me. “And you, too, of course. You’re far too intelligent to waste your time on all those little do-gooder projects you seem to be so fond of.”

“I want to help people,” I say indignantly.

“You will,” Basil says placatingly. “I’ve told you before, Hermione - once you have the Wizengamut’s backing, you can do whatever you like. I’ll personally promise you right now that if you help me on this, I’ll do my utmost to get your next petition passed - even if it’s something completely pointless.”

“I - well, all right,” I say, swallowing the insult. I wouldn’t be surprised if Basil did make it to be Head of the Wizengamut one day. He’s awfully ambitious.

“Bless your little reformer’s heart,” Basil says happily. He motions to the waitress. “What’s good today?”

I study the list while we eat. Goodness, some of these are ancient. “I’ll go straight to Magical Records when we get back,” I say.

“You may have to use the Hogwarts library as well,” Basil says. “I’ve found a number of things there that I couldn’t find anywhere else.” He peers at me. “What’s wrong?”

“Hogwarts,” I admit, blushing. “I’m afraid they’ll all ask me about - Basil, you must have seen what Rita Skeeter wrote about me; don’t pretend you haven’t.”

“Of course I saw it,” Basil admits at once. “I suppose it would be a bit uncomfortable for you - all your old teachers prying, that sort of thing. Very well, I’ll do the Hogwarts research.”

“Thanks,” I say, looking down. “I appreciate you being so - well - "

“Not nosy?” Basil suggests and grins. “My dear girl, it’s the best thing that could have happened to you. Now you can really concentrate on your career. Weasley was holding you back, you know.”

“He was not!” I say furiously.

“No?” Basil says, lifting an eyebrow. “Very well, then - let’s agree to disagree. Meanwhile, can I count on your support?”

I want to argue - how dare he say that about Ron - but I’m supposed to be letting everyone think we really have split up. Anyway, I want this project. “Yes,” I say reluctantly.

“Excellent,” Basil says, pleased. “Ah, here’s the food. Looks quite good, doesn’t it?”


I wait until he’s about to Disapparate before I speak. “Hello, Draco,” I say softly.

Malfoy starts and looks around wildly. “Who’s there?” he snaps. “I demand that you show yourself at once!” He’s trying to seem tough, but only succeeds in sounding terrified.

I pull back the Cloak, just long enough to let him see my face.

Malfoy groans. “I might have known,” he says, disgusted. “What the hell do you want?”

“I want to talk to you,” I answer. Malfoy looks nervously over his shoulder at the Manor. “Not here,” I add quickly. I’ve taken the precaution of doing a Muffliato Charm, but if Lucius or Narcissa should come home unexpectedly, I don’t want them to be greeted with the sight of their son apparently having a conversation with himself in the front garden.

“We could go inside, I suppose,” Malfoy says unwillingly. “My parents are both out.”

I know, I almost say, but I restrain myself. Lucius has probably guessed that he’s being followed, but there’s no point in rubbing it in. “I think we’d better go somewhere else,” I say instead. “Will you take my arm?”

Malfoy hesitates. “You’re not going to bring me to Azkaban or anything, are you?” he asks suspiciously.

He really is an idiot, isn’t he? “Why the hell would I do that?” I say impatiently, without pausing to choose my words more carefully. But my tone evidently convinces him, because he puts out a reluctant hand.

“Fine,” he says. “But it’s got to be quick, mind! I’ve got important plans.”

Yeah, right. I grab his arm and turn with him on the spot.

“Where are we?” Malfoy asks, looking around a few seconds later. “We’re not in the Forbidden Forest, are we?” He clutches his wand and half-turns in a circle, peering suspiciously at the trees.

He looks like he’s about to wet himself. I’m half-tempted to say yes (and Ron definitely would have) but I need Malfoy to keep his wits about him. “No,” I admit. “We’re in - some other forest. Hardly anyone ever comes here, but it’s not magical or anything.” As a matter of fact, we’re in the Forest of Dean, but I don’t want to tell him that in case I need to use the place again. I don’t think there’s any chance of running into campers or hikers this late in the season, but I came here before I fetched Malfoy and put Muggle Repelling charms around this clearing, just in case.

“Oh,” Malfoy says, losing interest. “A Muggle place. Well, what do you want, Potter?”

“I told you,” I say calmly. “I just wanted to talk. It’s been a few years since we’ve seen each other, and I just wondered how things were going.”

“Right,” Malfoy says, his eyes narrowing. “Because we were such close friends. I suppose the Aurors put you up to this.”

“The Aurors have nothing to do with it,” I answer, truthfully enough. Gawain’s probably going to kill me when he finds out what I’ve done, but we weren’t getting anywhere just watching people.

“If you think you’re going to trick me into saying anything about my father, you can think again,” Malfoy warns.

“It’s not about your father,” I say. Not directly, anyway.

“Oh, so we’re just catching up for old times’ sake?” Malfoy says sarcastically. “Right, then. I’ve spent the last few years being bored out of my skull in New Zealand. Then we came back. End of story.” He grins at me maliciously. “I heard you got married. Congratulations - Ginny’s pretty hot for a blood traitor. Of course, if she’s anything like her brother, she’ll probably get bored and ditch you. Not that I blame him, mind - I’d rather marry Moaning Myrtle than Granger.”

He’s just asking for it, isn’t he? Ron would have flattened him, but I have to let it go. I need his help. “Been seeing rather a lot of the Greengrass family since you got back, haven’t you?” I say casually.

Malfoy’s grin fades. “So?” he says truculently.

“So, nothing,” I say, still casual. “Astoria’s a nice girl.” She just has really bad taste in boyfriends. “I’m just worried about some of the people she’s having to associate with these days. Her future brother-in-law, for instance.”

I’m taking a big risk here - for all I know, Malfoy could go straight to Jeremy Gamp and tell him the Aurors have their eye on him - but I’m betting that his concern for Astoria will take priority. I watch carefully, measuring the effect of my words.

Malfoy’s face betrays him. “Jeremy Gamp,” he says at once. “Why? Do you know something about him? You don’t think he’d try to hurt Astoria, do you?” He’s trying to stay calm, but there’s an edge of panic in his voice. I remember Clarissa and feel briefly regretful, but the truth is, Astoria really could be in danger.

“I think Jeremy Gamp would hurt anyone who got in his way,” I say quietly. “He’s trouble, Malfoy. Can’t you tell?”

“I don’t know what you mean,” Malfoy mutters.

“I think you do,” I say. “What’s he really doing here? And don’t tell me he’s in love with Daphne, because I’ve seen them together.”

Malfoy grins reluctantly. “Astoria said that, too,” he admits. “She doesn’t like him much.”

“Clever of her,” I say. “Although it could be dangerous. I hope she hasn’t said that to anyone but you.”

Malfoy looks down, not answering.

“He’s got some rather odd friends, don’t you think?” I persist.

“They’re not odd,” Malfoy protests. “They’re just foreign. Gamp went to Durmstrang.” But his face says otherwise.

“Not a very friendly lot,” I remark. “I don’t like to think what they’d do to a girl like Astoria if she got in their way. I don’t suppose they’d show her much mercy.”

“What do they want, then?” Malfoy asks loudly. “Why can’t you stop them? You’re supposed to be the big hero!”

“All heroes need help, Draco,” I say softly.

“Oh, no,” Malfoy says at once. “You’re not dragging me into this, Potter!”

“Isn’t it worth it?” I say persuasively. “Isn’t Astoria worth it?”

Malfoy’s resistance crumbles. He gives me a look which almost makes me like him. “Do you really think she’s in danger?” he asks pathetically.

“You can save her,” I tell him.

Malfoy looks away for a minute. “All right,” he says at last, straightening his shoulders. “What do you want me to do?”

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