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Chapter 16 : An Attack, An Arrest, And An Assignment
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“Malfoy!” said Hermione, her eyes flicking to either side of the room to make sure that the room was empty but for him. She pushed away the anger she felt at seeing him and resisted the urge to fly at him with her firsts raised. She would eventually get even with him but for now, she had a killer to worry about.
Surprise showed on Malfoy’s face for just a split second before his familiar smirk took over.
“What the hell are you doing here?!” Hermione whispered menacingly, aiming her wand directly at his heart.
“What are you doing here?” Malfoy countered, his voice low.
“This is the likely hideout of a serial killer!”
“I’m aware of that,” Malfoy scoffed, his wand held at the same level that Hermione’s was. Neither of them was taking any chances with the other. “I should clarify. How did you find him?”
Hermione advanced on Malfoy cautiously, her eyes flashing at his insult. “I got my job back.”
“I see that,” was the amused reply. Malfoy moved opposite of her in a slow circle, refusing to let her get close.
“Are you the killer?”
“Blunt and to-the-point—I like that,” said Malfoy easily, his grey eyes calculating. For once, he wasn’t wearing robes. Rather, he was wearing dark blue jeans and a black thermal long-sleeved shirt. They fit him well, but Hermione had never seen him in casual dress before and if she hadn’t been so angry, she might even have laughed at him. “No, Granger, I am not a serial killer. I don’t need to rape women to get off, nor do I particularly enjoy—”
At the word “rape,” Hermione sent a nonverbal stunner lancing across the distance between them. Malfoy tucked and rolled across the floor, barely avoiding the well-aimed charm.
“What was that for?!” he hissed, getting to his feet gracefully. A quick spell through his mind was all it took for a shimmering bubble to appear around him, blocking Hermione’s next two spells.
“The fact that the victims were raped was never told to the newspapers,” Hermione replied, stalking over to Malfoy.
Just a few inches away from his face, Hermione put her magic aside to focus on another attack aspect of her training. Her fist slid through Malfoy’s magical shield like butter and struck him hard in the jaw. As Malfoy’s concentration slipped, the shield fell and Hermione kicked his wand out of his hand in a smooth movement that would have made her instructors proud.
Malfoy was no pushover however, and he reacted with lightning speed, shaking off the pain in his jaw. His fist shot forward, hitting Hermione directly in the gut.
“I have contacts everywhere,” he said silkily, catching his rival as it seemed she was going to collapse. “And you hit first, so let’s not be having any talk of arresting me for assault.”
Hermione held her stomach in pain, leaning heavily into Malfoy’s arms. She barely noticed when Malfoy took away her wand; he could really pack a punch.
“Take your time,” he murmured, a twinge of concern in his tone. He rubbed her back in small circles that were surprisingly gentle.
The sensation of a man being so gentle with her was extremely foreign, and Hermione felt herself getting lost in the feeling. The men that she usually encountered were ones at work who saw her as one of the guys, and the most contact she had from them was in the workout room when sparring. The last true relationship she’d had was Ron, and that had been over two years ago. Her Auror instincts warned her that this was no time to get distracted, however, and she fought to regain control.
As the worst of the pain faded, Hermione pushed free of Malfoy’s grip.
“Now listen,” Malfoy said, taking the hint and backing away.
“No, you listen,” Hermione hissed, snatching Malfoy’s wand off the floor and aiming it at him with a steady hand. “I don’t know how you got here and I don’t really care, but this ends here. I’m arresting you.”
“On what charge?” All traces of humanity were gone from Draco Malfoy’s face, leaving only a cold mask of indifference. He aimed Hermione’s wand at her.
“Where do I begin? Murder, kidnap—” Hermione broke off, listening hard.
Silence filled the room as she cocked her head to listen carefully. Seconds later, her reaction was vindicated as she and Malfoy heard a second sound from overhead. They both snapped into action as if they had one mind. At the same time, they tossed their wands back to the proper owner and took up opposite positions on either side of the closed door.
Adrenaline coursed through Hermione’s veins as she locked eyes with Malfoy. He looked utterly calm, his wand held firmly in his hand as he waited patiently for the door to open.
“Please!” cried a woman’s voice from the hallway. “I have a son, please don’t do this! Please!”
“He’ll be better off without you,” was the hoarse, guttural reply. A slap rang into the silence, followed by more sobbing.
The door kicked open and a woman was shoved inwards, falling to the ground harshly. Her red hair covered her face as she remained where she lay, her body wracked with sobs.
Then entered her abductor, who was the largest man that Hermione had ever seen. At least 6’7”, this monster’s face perfectly matched the sketch from Hermione’s file. His eyes were empty and cold as a shark’s; he gazed upon his victim predatorily, not even glancing at Malfoy and Hermione on either side of him.
“Put your hands up!” Hermione said, keeping her voice strong as she aimed her wand up at the man. He jerked in surprise, but reacted faster than she’d thought he could. He whipped out his wand, a curse forming on his lips.
The woman shrieked and hurried into a corner.
“Stupefy!” yelled Hermione. Her spell hit the huge man, and Hermione relaxed in anticipation of his collapse. The stunner, however, was simply absorbed by the man’s vast chest.
The man dropped his wand with a pained grunt and punched outwards at Hermione. Hermione absorbed the worst of the blow with her left shoulder, resisting the urge to scream from the force of it. She stumbled backwards a step, but before she could attack him with another spell, the man’s mouth opened and he began screaming.
Malfoy stepped out from behind him, a cruel sneer on his lips as he tortured the man with his wand. The killer fell to the ground.
“Malfoy, stop!” screamed Hermione, rushing over to push Malfoy’s wand down.
Malfoy deliberately kept his wand on the man for long seconds more before he finally released the curse. The killer slumped against the wall, his limbs twitching as he recovered from the pain of the Cruciatus Curse.
“Together,” Malfoy directed, gesturing towards the criminal with his wand.
“Stupefy!” the two yelled at the same time. The killer collapsed under the influence of both stunning charms.
While Malfoy immediately got busy binding the man, Hermione walked over to the sobbing woman in the corner.
“Are you injured?” she asked softly, placing a hand on the victim’s shoulder.
“No,” the girl replied hoarsely, looking up. Her tearstained face wrenched at Hermione’s heart, and she helped the young woman to her feet. The intended victim of the serial killer was similar to the other ones: early twenties, model-thin, red hair, skimpy clothing. She was quite pretty.
“What’s your name?” Hermione inquired, pulling off her outer robes and wrapping them around the shivering girl.
“A-Angela. Why am I so cold?” she whispered, getting to her feet shakily.
“You’re in shock, but you’ll be fine,” Hermione reassured her, putting her arm around the girl.
“He’s ready to go,” Malfoy said briskly as he approached the two of them. The man lay unconscious by the door, bound tightly and securely. “Here’s his wand. I’ll take her home.” He gave the witch a winning smile which she hesitantly returned.
“I can take you to St. Mungo’s,” Hermione insisted. She looked intently at the girl, who was looking less frightened by the second as she gazed at the handsome Hunter.
Angela’s eyes ran over Malfoy’s body slowly and she nodded. “I’ll be fine with…?”
“Draco,” Malfoy replied confidently, holding out a hand for her to take. Angela shrugged off Hermione's robes and handed them back. “Well, I’ll see you around, Granger,” he said jovially, a smirk playing about his lips.
“Count on it,” the young Auror growled. Malfoy spun in a circle and disapparated with Angela. “Bastard.”
Once Malfoy had departed, it was a simple matter of Apparating the bound criminal to the prisoner transport office of the Auror department.
A mere hour later, Harry’s jaw dropped as Hermione dropped a file on his desk. “Case closed,” she said, smiling brilliantly.
“In one day?” he asked, his green eyes wide as they scanned Hermione’s neat writing. “That’s—that’s incredible…”
Hermione opened her mouth to ask for her next assignment, but Harry interrupted her. “What happened there?!”
Hermione looked down at her shoulder where Harry was pointing. She'd forgotten to put her robes back on and as such, she was now wearing just the tank top and jeans that had been under them. The bruise from the serial killer’s punch was a mottled red and purple. It ached terribly, but she’d managed to ignore it thus far.
“Oh, he got off a hit before I subdued him,” Hermione said carelessly.
“Where are your robes?” Harry asked concernedly. “You know you can’t make an arrest unless—”
“They got muddied up in the chase,” Hermione lied, deciding on the spot to keep Malfoy to herself until she figured out what to do with him. “They’re in the wash right now.”
Harry nodded, accepting her answer. “Take the rest of the day off,” he told her, stamping the closed file of the Surrey Slasher with his official seal. “Get that bruise healed up if you can.”
“All right,” Hermione agreed, turning to leave Harry’s office.
“Oh, and Hermione?”
Hermione grinned and left the office. She went home and immediately sank into the bathtub, filling it with hot water. It didn’t take long for her muscles to relax and for the water to take some of the ache away from her bruised shoulder.
Over the next month and a half, Hermione pursued every case she was given with all of her strength and perseverance, earning herself the nickname of “The Bulldog” because of the way she sunk her teeth into cases and didn’t let go until she had solved them. She did not encounter Draco Malfoy even once during the 4 cases that she managed to close in this timeframe, and for that she was grateful. Even the arrests of the Hunters had dropped off a bit, so instead of several bound criminals received per week, there had only been two in the entire month and a half. Hermione had decided that the next time she saw Malfoy, she would have to arrest him. He had used an Unforgivable Curse in her very presence, and for that she would need to arrest him. Regardless of the fact that he had assisted her in bringing in the Surrey Slasher, he was a criminal himself, and Hermione had no choice but to uphold the law. In gratitude for his help, however, she promised herself that she would not actively pursue him. That would be the only leniency she would show him.
One day, after Hermione turned in her report on the latest criminal she had apprehended, Harry called her into his office.
“Hermione,” he said, gazing absently at the picture on his desk of Ginny and their newborn baby. His face softened briefly, but then hardened again as he realized she was in front of him, waiting. “I have an assignment for you.”
“An assignment?” Hermione asked curiously. “Not a case?”
“It’s very important,” Harry said, running a hand through his hair. “I’m going to need you to go undercover.”
Later that evening, Hermione lay in bed and stroked her kitten softly. She’d named the sweet little male Romeo, after a character in her favorite play. “You’re going to live with Ginny and Harry for a little while,” she murmured. “I won’t be able to come back here for awhile while I’m undercover.”
Romeo purred and butted her hand with his soft head.
“Tonight’s going to be my last night here for a long time,” she sighed, looking up at the ceiling of the apartment she called home.
Anticipation and anxiety dominated her in equal turns. Harry had offered her an undercover job on a very important assignment.
For years, new Dark spells and curses were being used by criminals that had never been seen before in the Wizarding world. These spells were unnecessarily cruel and had the added ability of being immune to healing spells and potions. It was believed that they were being created by a small group of Dark Wizards and sold to the highest bidder.
They had been a thorn in the Auror Department’s side for quite some time, but lately, the influx of new curses had risen to an unprecedented level, warranting immediate action by the Aurors.
“I’m not going to lie to you,” Harry had said. Worry lined every aspect of his face. “It’s going to be extremely dangerous. We already lost an Auror to them last year. However much it pains me to put you in danger, you’re the most talented Auror I’ve got. This is getting extremely serious. There’s an entire ward at St. Mungo’s just for the victims of these incurable curses. We need to get to the head of this organization.”
Hermione had immediately agreed, of course, and Harry had given her two days to make arrangements. It would be ill-advised for her to return to her own apartment, which said “Hermione Granger” on the lease, so she’d begun by paying her rent in advance for the next four months, not knowing how long she’d be gone. Harry and Ginny had agreed to take care of Romeo while she was gone. That was pretty much the extent of Hermione’s preparations for this assignment, except for memorizing her cover story.
She was Brooke Locke, a member of the pureblooded Locke family. Brooke Locke was a real person, but had agreed to give some of her hair in order to make a Polyjuice Potion to assist the Aurors. The real Brooke Locke was currently in a safe house, so that no one would see two Brooke Lockes walking about. Brooke had not wanted to agree to this entire plan, but she was facing a life sentence in Azkaban due to her husband’s suspicious death by smothering and had made an agreement with the Aurors to reduce her sentence.
Hermione’s task was to outrageously outbid the competitors in the next curse auction and then somehow make her way into the graces of the inner circle. Her ultimate goal was to find the person who was actually creating the terrible curses.
All of Hermione’s supplies were packed and waiting for her on the table. Tomorrow she would begin her dangerous assignment.
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