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Hunting The Hunters by FutureAggie09
Chapter 17 : Undercover At Last
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 29

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Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the longest chapter in this story thus far. I thought about splitting it into two chapters, but I figured I'd just go ahead and let you guys read it all =) Enjoy!

“Hermione?” Harry said tentatively, looking at the woman in front of him who did not resemble his friend in the slightest. They were meeting in the secure room that Harry had rented at The Leaky Cauldron in London.

“Of course—don’t you recognize me?” replied Hermione, a nervous giggle escaping her mouth. She knew how different she looked.

She and Brooke were the same height, but there the similarity ended. Brooke had high, fine cheekbones and black, wavy hair. Her blue eyes were deep and ringed by a thin line of black eyeliner. Where Hermione was slender, with curves where they should be, Brooke was model-thin and lithe.

Hermione had had to borrow some of Brooke’s clothes to make the transformation complete. She wore a see-through black mesh top over a black corset, with tight black jeans and high black boots. The only part of her ensemble that wasn’t black was the silver studded belt that looped around her waist. The all-black ensemble was not something Hermione would have chosen for herself, but it was important if she was going to successfully impersonate Brooke Locke.

Harry shook off his surprise and immediately got down to business. “The black market auction is at this address.” He handed Hermione a small slip of parchment. “Brooke’s—I mean your uncle has been in Azkaban for the last 20 years for using the Cruciatus Curse on a dog. His legacy of cruelty is the reason that you’re allowed into this auction; the sellers of the Dark Curses had heard of him, so they were quick to allow you into the auction.”

Hermione nodded, uncomfortable in the strange clothing she was wearing.

“They’ll likely check everyone for magical surveillance devices, so you’re going to be on your own for the actual auction,” Harry said. He looked haggard and worried. “Hermione, you don’t have to do this. Just say the word and I’ll have someone else—”

“Harry, I’ll be fine,” Hermione interrupted him, trying to quell the
nervousness fluttering about in her belly.

Harry hesitated before he said his next words. “I’m trying to be objective here,” he said shakily.

“Go ahead,” Hermione said softly, curious as to what he was trying to say.

“If you were any other Auror, I’d tell you that in order to preserve your cover, you shouldn’t contact us unless there is an emergency and you need help,” Harry muttered, his eyes down.

“Harry,” sighed Hermione. “I can handle this by myself. You should treat me like the other Aurors. It’d be safer for me not to rendezvous with you while I’m undercover. Don’t worry so much…”

Harry nodded, still downcast.

“Listen to me,” Hermione said, putting her finger under Harry’s chin until his eyes met hers. “I’ll be careful. I’ll call you at the first sign of danger.”

Harry pulled himself together, though worry still shone in his eyes. “You’re right. I’ll go back to the office. very careful, all right? And don’t forget your Polyjuice Potion, or how to activate the memory spell.”

“I won’t.”

Harry drew her into his arms for a tight embrace before he left the room without looking back. Once he was gone, Hermione squared her shoulders, took a deep breath, and looked at the slip of parchment Harry had given her. “62 Gordon Circle, 9:00 p.m.” The street was a familiar one, and there was a park nearby that she could safely apparate to. A quick glance at the clock revealed that it was time for Hermione to get going, lest she be late.

Hermione closed her eyes and disapparated, concentrating on the park near Gordon Circle. She reappeared in the dark shadow of an enormous oak tree. The night was quiet as she tucked her wand in her pocket and headed toward the street where this auction was to take place. Her boots echoed unfamiliarly on the cobblestone road. Small, one-story buildings were scattered sparsely along each side. Number 62 was no different from the rest, with a heavily-graffitied door that was shut tightly.

She knocked on the door, which opened immediately. “Name?” said a tough-looking man wearing a muscle tee and black leather pants.

“Brooke Locke,” Hermione said confidently, slipping into the role of her undercover self.

The man checked a scroll of parchment and then nodded. “We accept only Galleons for our merchandise. Your money must be left here and will be returned to you if necessary.”

Hermione handed the man the sack of Galleons that Harry had given her.

“Thank you. Down the stairs and to the left.”

“Thank you,” Hermione said respectfully, walking in the direction she was told. Her heart hammered in her chest as she went down the stairs and through the door to the left.

She found herself in an amply-lit room filled with about twenty people all milling about. Chairs were set up in the center in front of a raised stage, but no one seemed to be sitting down yet. Before Hermione got two steps into the room, she felt herself being grabbed by strong hands. Her hand went instinctively to her wand, but she didn’t draw it.

“Hold still,” said a man’s gruff voice.

Hermione obeyed, muscles tensing, as she was patted down for listening devices. He muttered a spell that swept over Hermione like a sheen of feathers. “You’re clean—you may enter.”

Hermione joined the group of people inside the room, looking around discreetly. The people in the room were well-dressed and looked like they had money—Hermione recognized a few from criminal watch lists. There were mostly men, but a few women were present as well. She was half-afraid to see Malfoy there, but was extremely relieved that he was not.

The ringing of a bell suddenly pealed throughout the room, and everyone began meandering towards a seat. Hermione followed their lead and found herself a seat roughly in the middle.

A woman and a man made their way into the room and onto the stage. Dressed alluringly, the woman had everyone’s attention almost immediately. Hermione, however, was focused on the man. He was tall and lean, with salt-and-pepper hair and lines on his face that put him at about age 50.

“Welcome,” said the woman; her voice was rich and clear. “I’m Ariana and I’ll be your host for this evening. This is August Sappington.” The woman gestured briefly towards the man. “There are two items up for bid tonight. Without further ado, I will present the first item. This is the Inside-Out Curse.”

The door opened and the man who had been guarding the door walked in, dragging a struggling elderly man.

“No! Let me go!” cried the man, tears dripping down his face. He was dressed in tattered clothes and had the look of a homeless man. “Who are you?!”

August waved his wand gracefully in a complex movement and with a horrible squelching noise, the man’s skin ripped and literally turned inside out. Blood oozed slowly from the man, who began shrieking horribly as he fell limp on the ground.

Hermione stiffened in her chair, fighting the urge to curse August Sappington into oblivion. Tears of disgust and pity formed in her eyes, and it took all of her strength to stay in her seat. The other members of the audience showed no reaction to the curse that had just been performed in front of them. Rather, they were actually clapping! Hermione joined in after a brief moment, fighting to keep control of her emotions.

“Shall we start the bidding at 300 Galleons?” the woman cut in, her composure flawless.

August remained silent, staring at the audience intently. Hermione could instantly see where the power lay here. August may not be the highest person in this organization, but he was certainly higher up than the woman was.

When the bidding reached 750 Galleons, Hermione cut in, her clear voice rising above the others to say coolly, “Twenty-five hundred Galleons.”

A hush fell throughout the room, though soft whispers could still be heard.

Ariana cleared her throat. “Any other bids? No? Sold, to Brooke Locke.”

The next curse was just as horrible as the first one, but Hermione stayed out of the bidding. She had reached her limit of the money that Harry had given her from the Aurors’ funds. The second curse was sold for 1,000 Galleons.

Once the bidding was over, Hermione was immediately approached by Ariana. The person who had won the other curse was approached by August and led out of the room. “Please, come this way,” she said softly, exiting the room through a small door in the corner.

Hermione followed, memorizing her surroundings as she did so. “I will now take you to someone who will give you the incantation for the curse and show you how to use it,” Ariana explained, leading the way through a small, poorly-lit corridor.

Ariana pushed one of the doors open and backed up to allow Hermione entrance. “Thank you for coming today. I will be back to escort you out.”

Hermione moved past her and into the room. It was a very small room with nothing in it but a chair in which a man was sitting.

“No way,” Hermione breathed, seeing who awaited her in the room. Draco Malfoy. Hate and anger rushed through her; she had not forgotten his betrayal over a month ago. However, she realized that he had no idea who he was; she looked nothing like her real self. She fought to keep her composure.

Malfoy smiled and swept over to her, shutting the door. “Miss Locke,” he said graciously, kissing her hand softly. “Pleasure to meet you. I’m Draco Malfoy. I hope you understand that this is merely a formality, since you are a new customer.”

Hermione didn’t even have a moment to prepare as Malfoy raised his wand and said firmly, “Legilimens.”

A smooth, almost menthol sensation swept across her mind. Hermione instinctively gathered her defenses and threw up mental walls against him, breaking eye contact. With a frustrated growl, Malfoy was forced out of her mind before he could ascertain whether she was a danger or not.

“Now listen, Miss Locke,” Malfoy said quietly, his voice quite deadly. “This is not an option.” He took a step forward, closing the distance between the two of them.

Hermione tried to back away from him, but was stopped by the wall behind her. Malfoy was mere inches away from her now, his grey eyes coolly looking into her bright blue ones. She couldn’t get to her wand without touching him, and she didn’t want to get hostile just yet.

“Look, Mr…” She paused, acting like she didn’t remember his name.

“Malfoy,” Malfoy reminded her, his brows coming together in a frown—he was clearly unused to people not remembering his name.

“Right. We’re a pureblooded family of high standing in society,” she said meaningfully, trying to win him over. “If you haven’t heard of me, perhaps you’ve heard of my father, Winfred Locke, or my grandfather—”

“Your family means nothing to me,” Malfoy interrupted, sliding his hand carefully into her pocket and removing her wand. “Who your parents are shows nothing about your character.”

Hermione’s body tensed as he took her wand; she fought the urge to attack him and get her wand back. “That’s hypocrisy if I’ve ever heard it,” she muttered, remembering all his words from Hogwarts. Every “Mudblood” comment was etched into her brain forever.

“Excuse me?” hissed Malfoy.

“Nothing,” Hermione replied, attempting to keep the venom out of her tone.

“As scintillating as this conversation is, enough is enough, Miss Locke,” Malfoy said quietly. “Imperio!”

An intense calm flooded Hermione’s mind, chasing away her fear and anger, as well as all of her thoughts and emotions. Relax, she heard Malfoy’s voice murmur sensually in her mind. > Let me into your mind. Do not resist.

Resist! cried a very small voice in her mind that sounded like Harry’s.

“Legilimens,” Malfoy said again, his eyes boring into hers.

The smooth, cooling sensation of Malfoy’s mind settled over Hermione’s. As some of Malfoy's concentration was taken away from the overlying Imperius Curse, Harry’s voice in her mind grew stronger. Resist! Malfoy was drawing closer to the memory of Hermione taking the Polyjuice Potion.

With an immense effort, Hermione whispered, “Prima.” A flash of heat swept through her body, making her face flush and her temperature rise slightly. The memory charm that Harry had created for her activated and Hermione felt a tingling sensation settle over her brain.

Malfoy withdrew from her mind a moment later, satisfied, and ended the Imperius Curse.

“I apologize for any discomfort, but as this is a rather sensitive business, I needed to know that you are someone we can trust,” Malfoy said. “Are you ready to learn your curse, Miss Locke?”

Hermione restrained her sigh of relief; the memory charm had worked and Malfoy had been fooled by the collection of the real Brooke Locke’s memories that had been superimposed over her own. Since Harry had placed the charm over Hermione earlier, the word Hermione had spoken was the only thing needed to activate it; no wand was necessary, luckily. Malfoy handed her wand back.

Malfoy was her link to this group of people, but she did not think that he was the creator of the curses. Hermione was certain that if Malfoy was behind making these curses, she would have recognized at least one of his Hunters by now. She’d never seen Ariana or August before today, and the men guarding the building were unfamiliar. What Malfoy was doing here was a mystery, and the only way she’d solve it was by getting close to him.

“I am,” she said, pitching her voice low and sensual.

Malfoy threw her a startled glance, a slow smile curving upon his lips as he recognized her meaning. “Then I will show you how to use it properly,” he said silkily, his eyes raking over her body as he took in every detail. It was clear that he liked what he saw.

Wasting no more time, he told her the incantation carefully and made her repeat it for him several times until he was satisfied that she had it correct.

“The wand movement looks like this,” said Malfoy, waving his wand in a swift series of complicated movements that Hermione’s sharp eyes immediately captured and memorized.

“So, like this?” she asked innocently, replicating the wand movement perfectly except for the last loop, which she purposely messed up. She didn’t want to appear too talented, in case he somehow sensed something amiss.

“Close,” Malfoy said, clearly impressed. He positioned himself behind Hermione, resting his left hand on her waist and pulling her close to him. His right hand settled over hers and he gently guided her wand in the correct pattern for the curse. “Just like that,” he murmured softly, his breath warm against her ear.

Pressed up against Malfoy’s body, Hermione suddenly found it difficult to breathe. She could feel her heart beating faster just from being so close to him. It was in that adrenaline-infused moment that she realized something important and unbelievably shocking: she was attracted to him. She didn’t like him, and she certainly didn’t love him, but she did find him attractive, and her body was reacting accordingly.

However, Hermione was a well-trained and dedicated Auror. She played upon her body’s reaction to Malfoy by allowing herself to inhale sharply enough for him to hear. Malfoy lightly stroked the back of her hand with his fingers in response, his other hand tightening ever so slightly on her waist. It intensified the tingling in her veins and Hermione found it difficult to stay focused. His scent drifted over her, a tempting cologne she had never smelled before.

“I really need to get going,” Hermione said, her tone purposely showing how much she regretted saying this.

“Don’t you want to test out your curse?” Malfoy purred. His lips actually brushed her ear as he said this, eliciting an involuntary shiver from the young woman in his arms. “I have another one I could show you—not a curse, per se, but a rather exciting little charm…”

Hermione pulled away at hearing this, leaving a surprised Draco Malfoy behind her. “The Pleasure Charm?” she said scornfully. “That’s the pickup line you’re using?”

Malfoy’s face tinged red with embarrassment. Hermione whirled around, aiming her wand at the only chair in the room. Speaking confidently, she said the incantation for the curse Malfoy had just taught her. Her wand flew through the air seamlessly and black light shot from the tip. With the sound of ripping fabric, the cloth on the chair turned inside out, sending white stuffing flying everywhere.
Malfoy stared at her in awe while she simply smiled sweetly. “I think I’ve got it now. Thanks.”

Malfoy seemed to be realizing that she wouldn’t fall for any of his usual tricks. “You’re right,” he said smoothly, changing tacks. “That was an inappropriate thing for me to say. Let me make it up to you by buying you dinner.”

Hermione bit her lip, thinking. Malfoy really was a womanizer; he’d barely known her ten minutes and he was already putting the moves on her. She didn’t trust him as far as she could throw him, but like it or not, he was her ticket into this gang. As long as he didn’t find out who she truly was, she could use him to get to the head of the gang and eventually arrest the whole lot of them.

Making up her mind, she met his gaze and replied with perfectly-faked sincerity, “I’d love to.”

“Excellent. Since we’re done here, how does a late dinner tonight sound?”

“Perfect.” Since Hermione was undercover, she was not allowed to contact any of her friends or the Auror office, lest she be followed and her identity discovered. Therefore, she had no plans for that night. Malfoy wasn’t her ideal companion, but the sooner she discovered the identities of the people responsible for these curses, the sooner she could go home.

“I just have a few things to take care of here and then I’ll be free. Ariana will be here momentarily to escort you outside,” Malfoy explained. He picked up his suit jacket, looping it over his arm as he opened the door for Hermione.

“Uh, Mr. Malfoy?” Hermione said, hanging back inside the room.

“Call me Draco,” he said warmly, waiting for her to continue.

“Draco,” she repeated, keeping her eyes on the floor as if she was ashamed of what she was about to say. “Can I come with you instead of waiting outside? It’s late and I’d rather not be outside by myself…”

Malfoy remained silent for a moment, his grey eyes thoughtful. Then he nodded and winked. “Pretty girl like you, we wouldn’t want anything bad to happen.”

Hermione rolled her eyes inwardly, but the only reaction she showed Malfoy was a relieved smile.

“Follow me,” he said, leaving the room ahead of her. The hallway outside the room was pitch-dark.

“Where are the lights?” Hermione asked, slightly nervous despite herself.

“All of our customers should be gone by now,” Malfoy replied, his voice floating out of the darkness. “The halls are kept dark other times, since the only people allowed to be here know their way through. Don’t light your wand; it’s not allowed.”

Hermione reached out in the dark and found Malfoy’s arm. She absently noticed the muscles in his arm as he guided her down the dark hallway and up a flight of stairs. They entered a room that was thankfully lit.

Three men stood in the room, deep in conversation, but they looked up as Malfoy walked in. August Sappington was one of them. There was a sharp contrast between him and his two companions. August was dressed as Malfoy was—a suit and tie—while the other two were simply wearing casual robes.

They looked as if they were brothers; both had brown hair, brown eyes, and similar wide-set eyes and strong jaws. August’s eyes penetrated into Hermione with suspicion.

“Did Ariana not arrive to escort Miss Locke from the building?” asked August, speaking for the first time. It took all of Hermione’s control not to react when she heard his voice. It sounded like an animal had attacked his vocal cords; his voice was a harsh and scratchy whisper with an undertone of menace.

“No. I haven’t seen any signs of her,” Draco answered coolly.

August nodded to one of the other men in the room, who left immediately. “If I could speak to you alone, Draco?”

Without waiting for an agreement from Malfoy, August gestured towards the door. “If you wouldn’t mind,” he said to Hermione, his tone making it quite clear that it didn’t matter whether she minded or not.

Hermione glanced at Malfoy briefly, but his stony expression left her no clue as to what she could do. “Of course,” she replied, walking out of the room and shutting the door behind her. Once in the dark hallway, she peered into the room through the small crack between the door and the doorframe.

August’s face was angry and stern as he spoke to Malfoy, but his voice was too quiet to hear. Malfoy said something in reply, and August’s face contorted with annoyance. In a swift movement, August slapped Malfoy hard across the face, the sound echoing even back to Hermione.

She gasped, muffling the sound with her hand. She waited anxiously to see what sort of curse Malfoy would use in retaliation, but to her utter shock and surprise, he took it in silence, staggering back a step.

August said a few more words to Malfoy before waving his hand in an obvious dismissal. As Malfoy walked towards her, Hermione backed away from the door so it wouldn’t look like she was spying. The door opened forcefully, revealing a clearly angry Draco Malfoy.

His grey eyes were cold as ice and his face was pale but for a red mark that stood out on his cheek where he’d been struck. “Let’s get out of here,” he growled, grabbing her arm tightly and dragging her into apparition.

They reappeared in the bar of The Leaky Cauldron, to Hermione’s intense surprise. This late, there were only a few patrons in the bar.
The flash of fear that Hermione had felt when Malfoy forced her into side-along apparition faded away as she recognized their surroundings. “How dare you just—”

“August was not pleased that I brought a customer back without his permission,” Malfoy interrupted bluntly. “It was for your own safety.”

“I’m pretty good at taking care of myself,” Hermione said automatically. Then she remembered that she was supposed to be gaining Malfoy’s trust. “But thank you,” she added, a smile on her lips.

At seeing Hermione’s genuine smile, Malfoy relaxed slightly, some of the anger leaving his face. “You’re quite welcome. Can I buy you a drink? This bar isn’t exactly my kind of place, but it’s getting rather late.”

“Sure,” Hermione replied, following Malfoy to the bar. “I need to use the bathroom first.”

Once she was in the bathroom, Hermione glanced into the mirror at her unfamiliar reflection. She fixed a few strands of hair that had gotten out of place. After checking that she was alone, she pulled the small vial of Polyjuice Potion that had been concealed in her boot. It had been nearly an hour since she had taken her last dose, so with a look of distaste, she tossed back her head and downed the potion.

“Hey,” she greeted Malfoy, sitting down next to him at the bar.

“What do you drink?” he asked, calling Tom, the bartender, over.

“Uh, I’ll have a St. Clements, please,” Hermione said, naming a non-alcoholic drink; she was not about to make the same mistake twice by letting alcohol impair her judgement.

“St. Clements and a gin and tonic,” Malfoy told the bartender.

Tom nodded and began mixing the drinks.

“So,” Malfoy said, turning to Hermione. “What drives someone like you to an auction like the one you attended tonight?”

“Someone like me?” Hermione said lightly, taking a sip of her drink. “What does that mean, pray tell?”

“You don’t seem quite like the type to use—products—like what we’re selling,” Malfoy clarified bluntly. He downed half of his glass in a practiced swallow.

Hermione laughed lightly. “I don’t see how you can know me that well by now, Draco.” Her laugh let him know that she meant no offense by her comment, and her eyes gazed deeply into his.

Malfoy was intrigued by this woman. She seemed somehow familiar to him, but he couldn’t quite figure out how. The way she spoke…it seemed that sometimes she was telling him the truth and other times she was acting like someone else. He always liked a challenge and was glad that someone as interesting as Brooke was his assignment. Besides the fact that he genuinely liked her, this was business as well. August had been suspicious over Hermione’s gross overpayment for the curse and ordered Draco to investigate. Draco’s specific orders were to win her over and investigate whether or not she was a threat to them in any way.

As furious as August had been that Malfoy had brought Brooke into the back of the building, the assignment still stood. If Draco ever had a hope of being trusted enough to meet the creator of the spells, he would have to work his way up the ranks by obeying August’s instructions. August would pay in the end, however. No one struck a Malfoy without consequence. No one.

“Then I suppose you’ll just have to tell me more about yourself, won’t you?” he said softly, resting a hand on hers on the bartop.

Hermione felt her face flushing as Malfoy’s hand touched hers. His skin was warm and soft; his fingers gently stroked the back of her hand as he gazed intensely into her eyes. It was no wonder he got all the girls that he did; he could be very charming when he wanted to be.

“What do you want to know?” she found herself asking.

The next hour passed without either of them noticing; they talked about nothing and everything. Malfoy asked her questions about everything from her favorite color to her career. Hermione answered his meaningless questions (favorite color, favorite food, etc) with real answers about herself, but the important questions were given with the information that she had been provided from the real Brooke Locke.

Malfoy seemed genuinely interested in her responses, but was reluctant to answer any questions about himself.

Hermione began glancing at the clock nervously when it neared the hour-mark when she would need to take another dose of Polyjuice Potion.

“Is there somewhere you need to be?” Malfoy asked after the third time she did this. He was on his sixth drink by this time and seemed to be finally relaxing. Their chairs were much closer by this time; his left leg was lightly resting against her right one. Malfoy pushed his hair out of his eyes, cocking his head as he waited for her response.

Hermione desperately didn’t want to leave yet; she could sense that Malfoy was only one or two drinks away from totally relaxing his guard. All the same, she needed to take another dose of Polyjuice, and the rest of it was upstairs in her room. “No,” she lied quickly.

Malfoy raised an eyebrow.

“I was just wondering what time they close,” was Hermione’s lame reply.

“Much later than 10:45, I promise you,” Malfoy quipped, flashing her a bright smile.

“Of course,” she giggled, formulating a quick plan. “I have to go to the bathroom; I’ll be right back.”

Malfoy nodded, his usually bright eyes dulled slightly by alcohol.

Hermione walked quickly into the bathroom. From there, it took her barely five minutes to apparate up to her room, take another dose of potion, put a small vial with another dose into her boot just in case, and apparate back downstairs into the bathroom.

When Hermione got back to the bar, she noticed Malfoy had another full drink in front of him. She smiled wickedly. Malfoy was about to make the same mistake she had made months ago.

“I'm back,” she said, putting her hand on his arm as she sat down.

Malfoy kissed her on the cheek in welcome. “This bar shines brighter with your return,” he said, grinning cheekily.

Hermione had never seen him this happy and relaxed; she couldn’t help but smile back. “That was remarkably cheesy,” she informed him lightly as she took a sip of her drink. “So.”

“Yes?” Malfoy questioned when she didn’t continue.

“I just realized that you know so much about me, yet I know practically nothing about you,” Hermione said, a hint of coaxing in her voice. She wished that she’d mastered Legilimency, but sadly, mind-reading had never been her strong suit.

Malfoy had reached the point of no return now, and the best part was that he didn’t even seem to realize it. His face was flushed and he was blinking heavily; he was clearly intoxicated. “There’s not much to tell,” he answered, taking another unwise sip of his drink. “I’m Draco Malfoy, and I have a lot of money. That’s all most people see, anyway. That and the fact that my father was a Death Eater.”

Hermione was struck by a sudden flash of pity.

Even through his inebriation, Malfoy saw her expression and scowled. “Don’t feel sorry for me. My parents love me very much, no matter what their allegiance was during the war.”

“I don’t feel sorry for you,” Hermione murmured, watching Malfoy’s face carefully. “I’m just wondering what you do for a living.”

“I make sure the bad guys get what they deserve,” he replied, smirking. “Like the Aurors, but I’m much more effective.”

“I’m really interested in your curses,” Hermione pressed, a look of admiration on her face. “Do you create them yourself?”

A look of distaste crossed Malfoy’s face. “No, I don’t. Not that I couldn’t; I just have better things to do in my life,” he justified.

“Of course you do.” Hermione’s heart raced. She was so close to getting the information she needed. “It’s August who makes them, isn’t it?”

“Definitely not,” Malfoy snarled. “That fool only sells them and handles the day-to-day business. But that’s quite enough about the curses, my dear. I could get into trouble for telling you our secrets.”

Hermione sighed in defeat, though she made sure not to let Malfoy see it. “It’s getting late,” she said softly.

Malfoy misread the disappointment in her tone and thought she was disappointed about leaving. “Can I see you tomorrow?” he asked, standing up to pull her chair out for her.

Hermione smiled at his gentlemanly gesture. Who said chivalry was dead? “That would be lovely,” she replied warmly.

“After all, I do still owe you dinner,” Malfoy continued, winking jokingly. He dropped a handful of Galleons on the counter of the bar. “I’ll escort you home,” he said as they headed for the door of The Leaky Cauldron.

“Actually, I’ll be fine on my own,” Hermione insisted, not wanting to give away the fact that she was staying at The Leaky Cauldron. Questions might arise as to why she was staying in a hotel room instead of a house.

“Are you sure?” Malfoy frowned.

“Quite sure,” Hermione said firmly. “Thank you for a nice evening.”

A charming smile graced Malfoy’s lips. “The pleasure was all mine,” he said, kissing Hermione’s hand once more. “Shall we meet for dinner tomorrow at La Lanterna at say, 7 o’clock?”

“That sounds perfect.”

“I look forward to it.”

There was a crack of disapparition, and then Malfoy was gone.

So...what did you think? The plot thickens... I'm a little nervous about this chapter, but I hope it came over well. Please leave me a review and let me know if you liked this chapter, along with any ideas you have about where the story's going. I'm always open to new ideas =) Thanks for reading!!

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