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Chapter 12 : Hermione: Veritaserum
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I did not sleep a wink since Christmas Eve and that was not because I wasn’t tired. That evening, nobody went home to the safe confines of their beds and therefore no one spent Christmas with their families. Mr and Mrs Weasley, Ginny, Bill, Fleur, Percy, Audrey, George, Angelina and baby Fred must have been having a great time without us at the Burrow. In a way, I missed Christmas. Ever since we missed one in 1997, I vowed to make an extra effort to celebrate - not that I minded visiting Harry’s parents’ graves that winter. I felt honoured to have been a part of it. Harry now visits them and their old house every Halloween (or whenever he feels in the mood) in their memory and Ron and I go with him when he needs the company.
Harry and Ron had sat in on a few more interrogations, but I knew they couldn’t wait until the next morning, where Draco would be given the Veritaserum.
After leaving Evie to lock him up, I had rushed to get his wand checked over with a witch on the floor below. It was 10½ inches, ash, with a dragon heartstring core. It also used to bear allegiance to a witch named Ulrika Maynard. Draco had its trust now. Maybe she was a death eater…
The wand clutched in my hand, I headed back to the main office to find Evie and Robards glaring at each other. They had probably just finished arguing.
“Excuse me? Mr Robards?”
“What?” he spouted rudely, still looking at Evie.
I jumped a little. “I have Mr Malfoy’s wand here.” Then I told him its properties and the previous owner.
“Good.” He took it from me and walked across the office to place it with the other confiscated wands. Evie and I followed him. With a flick of his wand, a tray with a glass of water and a few sandwiches appeared. “Take these to his cell.”
The tray fell into my hands. “I-I’d rather not.” He frowned at me ruthlessly. “Sir.”
“Oh? Do you wish to keep your job?”
Evie fell into our conversation. “Hermione has a lot to do.” I could tell that she did not want me near Draco as much I did not want to be near him at this moment in time. I did not need the temptation. “She needs to go through the transcription and prepare for tomorrow -”
“Get it done. Now,” Robards ordered. “Give him the food, then get back here and do the rest of your work. I don’t want any arguments. Now, hurry up, before he starts complaining.”
I sighed. “Yes, Sir.”
The tray ahead of me, I left Evie and Mr Robards to fight it out.
Leaving the heavily lit offices and trailing to the cells made me feel as though this were Azkaban. The Ministry had extended the building so that the cells were directly on this floor for convenience. It had been suggested that they would be near the courtrooms, but Mr Robards is an impatient man. He wanted the interrogation rooms and the cells close to him while he worked.
There was a row of about fifty cells lined up in the grey corridor and only twelve of them were filled. As I walked to the farthest cell, there were many calls behind me from the prisoners when my face passed their windows.
“Help me. Please.”
“You scum, let me out now. I’ll find you one day, I swear I will.”
“When I get out of here …”
“You’re a pretty girl …”
The shouts really frightened me so I hurried a little. Keeping my head down, I opened up the small cat flap designed to shove meals through on Room 012.
I pushed the glass of water through and shoved the plate in. I was under an obligation to retrieve the cup and plate, so I waited.
Draco was lying on his bed, staring at the ceiling, a knee up and the other leg was hanging off the bare mattress onto the stone floor. His arms were behind his head to substitute a pillow and it sounded as though he was singing to himself. I pushed my ear closed. Yes. He was definitely singing and he didn’t have a bad voice. He could hold a note and his voice was soft and strong. Leaning my head against the brick wall, I watched and waited for him to finish. I guessed that singing was his solace so I chose not to interrupt and found myself enjoying the soft curls and springs his mouth made.
Three songs later, he finally noticed me - or rather the food. He leapt up, drank quickly and finished the sandwiches just as fast. With a tap of my wand, the plate and cup disappeared.
“Not quite a Christmas dinner,” he whispered.
“You’ve had more than me,” I muttered. I hadn’t gotten a chance to eat with all of the jobs I had to do. My stomach ached and I had missed the Christmas meal the Ministry had offered in the Food Hall.
He looked over my face. “You look tired.”
“I am. Haven’t slept since yesterday morning.” He wasn’t paying attention to me.
Draco had slid his hands through the tiny gap and held onto my hands, gripping them tightly.
“Help me, Hermione.” His thumb slid slowly over my hand. “You know I’m innocent.”
I looked away from his sad grey eyes. “There’s nothing I can do. Technically, you were a Death Eater. Do you want me to lose my job?”
“Do you want me to lose my freedom?”
I flashed back to when I was in his home. “I thought you didn’t care about freedom?” Instantly I felt guilty for saying this. He had said those words in terms of devoting his life to a baby; spending years in Azkaban was nothing like that.
No matter how angry he looked at my words, he still gripped onto my fingers. “You broke your promise,” he told me clearly, but with a low voice.
“You said I’d never see you again.”
“Is that why you walked away from me in Diagon Alley?”
“I walked away from you because I thought it would help. I thought not seeing you again would help me get over you.”
So, he wasn’t over me…
“And now you’re here,” he continued.
“I had no idea that I’d see you again.” Had fate brought us together? “What were you doing in Australia?” I asked with a smile.
He smiled too, but barely. “You know why I was there.”
“I have to stay with Ron. And I’m going to marry him.”
He let my hands go and paced his small cell. “Go ahead and marry someone you don’t love, Hermione. Someone who doesn’t know you cheated on them. Someone who thinks you’re a virgin. Someone who doesn’t know that you thought you were pregnant …”
“Please don’t try to make me feel any more guilty.”
“Listen, I don’t care if you marry him.”
He shook his head. “You don’t love him. And I cling onto that fact hoping that the love you do have is saved for me.”
My heart felt as though it were trying to escape from my chest. “Draco, I don’t think that I -”
“Open the door,” he ordered.
“I can’t let you out.”
“I don’t want to leave.” He bowed his head and whispered, “I want you to come in.”
My entire body froze - but only for a second. In the next, my wand had waved and I lifted the seven enchantments on the door and pushed down the lever. What the hell was I doing? No matter how hard I tried to focus on my fiancé upstairs, my body felt an intense pull to him, to Draco.
The air inside the cell was cooler than the corridor but I barely noticed because my blood was pumping hotly around my body. Draco pulled me into his arms and kissed me. A full, warm, loving embrace which forced my eyes shut.
“Draco…” He kissed me again. “I need to -” Another kiss. “- get back.”
His tongue forced itself between my lips and his arms secured themselves around my neck. That shut me up. Uh-oh. I was getting that feeling again. And I guessed he was too because we both toppled onto the bed. Even when I wanted to protest, my voice would not let me try. Besides, my lips were busy. He pressed me into him. Who would have ever thought that such a feeling could send me to the edge? It was as though I might die; that was how much I could not stand being so close to him yet so far away. Being pressed to his body was not close enough. My hands were under his shirt in a shot and his were going over my top half excitedly.
Then I heard him unzip his trousers - a reminder of my treachery and dishonesty.
I jumped off him.
“What?” he said, breathing heavily.
“I can’t. Not again.”
“You want this as much as I do,” he said angrily.
“But Hermione -”
I scurried out of the cell and locked it up. Then I ran.
I dreamt that I was with Draco. My head had been filled with what could have been and that never relented as I slept. Sprawling out on my desk with my head on a pile of parchment was the best bed I could assemble.
I grumbled and waved my hand around.
“Hermione? Get up!” Harry shook my shoulders and lifted me up.
“What?” I said groggily.
“You should have been up an hour ago.”
“I’m tired, Harry.” My head flopped back down onto the desk.
“I haven’t slept in nearly three days,” he revealed. “Now get up. We’re interrogating Malfoy in five and you’re supposed to be getting the Veritaserum.”
My head shot up.
“Thought that would interest you.” Harry smiled and helped me out of my chair. “Ron’s sitting in on another interrogation now and he should be meeting us there.”
I nodded and then I was struck with an idea. “I’ll get the Veritaserum on the way to the toilet. I’m bursting.”
Harry stood aside and I fell out of my chair. On the other side of the office, sandwiches were being passed around so I grabbed three as I headed out of the door. The Veritaserum would be in the stockrooms so I half ran and then stopped in front of the red haired witch at the desk.
“Yes?” she asked looking down on me.
I swallowed my last sandwich hard and twisted on my hair to give it some kind of order. “I’m here to collect a small measure of Veritaserum for the interrogation of Draco Malfoy.”
She sniffed snootily and looked down at her list to confirm the instruction. Then she turned to a row of shelves and handed me a small dark blue bottle enough for a thorough confession. “Thank you.”
My feet carried me to the toilets and I emptied my bladder quickly, then darted to the sink. After washing my hands, I said, “Here goes.”
After pulling the stopper from the neck of the bottle, I tipped the colourless and odourless potion down the drain and refilled the bottle with water from the tap. Then I washed my hands again to remove any incriminating evidence from my skin.
As I hurried to Interrogation Room One, all I could think of was getting caught. What if they knew it was water? What if they gave me Veritaserum and found out what I had done? But it was the right thing. Draco had not hurt anybody and he certainly did not deserve to be in Azkaban for having a rotten family. I hoped that they would release him once they realised he had done nothing wrong. And if I had to help him lie to them, to cover up an ambiguous truth, then so be it.
Draco’s questioning had begun seven minutes late thanks to me, so I slid in, handed Mr Robards the Veritaserum and sat down.
“It’s about time, Miss Granger,” he said impatiently.
“Sorry, Sir.” Flicking through previous manuscripts, I prepared for the interrogation to begin.
Robards stated the date, time and people present. Then he handed the Veritaserum to Ron and all of a sudden, my lungs could not take in nor release any oxygen.
“Sir?” Ron asked.
“I have to be somewhere else. I’m sure you two boys and Miss Puckle can take it from here.” He headed to the door.
“You mean, we get to ask him questions?” Ron said stupidly.
“If it’s not too much for you…” Mr Robards muttered in an ill manner.
“No … no it’s fine.”
My eyes shifted between Ron and Draco as the door locked. The barrier went down and then Ron took a step closer to Draco. Harry sat forwards nervously. All Draco did was watch Ron intently, not once taking his eyes off him.
“Open up,” Ron said.
Draco did as he was told and held his mouth open. Ron looked surprised. What was he expecting? The water trickled into Draco’s mouth. What did Veritaserum taste like? I had never had it before. Did it taste like water? Had Draco had it before? Did he know that he would not be obligated to tell the truth?
Draco turned to Harry.
In response, Harry repeated all of the questions which Mr Robards had asked him the previous night about the murders. The answers were the same.
Ron stood beside Draco pointing his wand at him and grunted crossly. I bet he wanted Draco to slip up. I had not spoken to Ron for the whole evening since Draco had insinuated that we had been together, but it did not seem to affect Ron much.
Just as Evie was about to wrap up the questioning, Ron said, “What have you been going to Australia for?”
The scrolls of parchment fell from my grasp and Harry helped me with them and then sat back down eagerly awaiting his reply. I desperately tried to catch Draco’s eye, but he would not look at me.
“I’ve been looking for someone.”
“Who? Your mother?” Evie asked.
“Are you deaf? She asked you two questions,” Ron said shrilly.
“No, I’m not deaf,” Draco said smartly.
“We’re not going to get anywhere with this,” Evie moaned. She turned to whisper to Harry, “Can you wrap this up while I go and get his release papers?”
“Evelyn Puckle no longer present,” Evie said aloud for the sake of the transcription. The quill wrote down her words and the time. She stormed out of the room, no doubt angry at the loss of sleep and energy over yet another innocent wizard.
I could finally breathe now … they were letting him go …
“You think you’re really smart, don’t you, Malfoy?” Ron asked bitterly.
“I don’t think I am. I know I am,” was Draco’s response. I wondered if Draco noticed that he did not feel the urge to spill the truth. “Unlike you.”
“Shut up,” Harry said. “I thought we stopped being rude to one another at Hogwarts.”
“You thought wrong,” Draco said guiltlessly.
“Do you remember Harry, what he said to Hermione in Diagon Alley?”
“Ron, don’t …” I said from the corner. That day he had promised that he’d get Draco back for what he said to me.
Draco looked at me for a moment and then looked at Ron.
“Do you realise how much you hurt people?” Ron spat.
“Always,” he said, as if he were obliged to tell the truth. Maybe he was pretending. Or perhaps this was some sort of placebo effect taking over him.
“That’s my fiancée you insulted.” Ron pointed at me and then put his wand close to Draco’s neck.
I stood up.
“Actually, she wasn’t your fiancée at the time. She was just your girlfriend then,” Draco said quietly.
“I’m going to give you one chance to apologise,” Ron said.
Draco shook his head. “I’m not apologising.”
“Why?” Harry asked.
“Because that’s what she needed to hear.” What was he talking about? “She needed to hear those words.”
“Why, because she’s a mudblood?” Ron spat angrily. I ignored his use of the derogatory word.
Draco’s grey eyes fixed themselves on my face. “Because that was the only way that she’d be able to forget about me.”
Oh God. Oh no! He’d just told the truth, I know it. I understood. He had been horrible to me so that I could get on with my life without him, but why had he answered truthfully? What the hell was he doing? Had there been traces of Veritaserum left in the bottle? There couldn’t have been because he said that he knew nothing about Dumbledore’s death and that was a lie …
“What do you mean?” Harry said, looking at me than back at Draco.
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN?!” Ron shouted, pressing his wand into Draco’s chest.
“Ron, what are you doing?!” I pushed his wand away and stood between them.
“Hermione, move,” Ron said darkly.
“No. You’re not allowed to hurt the suspects and I don’t want you to lose your job.”
“That’s enough. I don’t want to talk about what he called me. Interrogation terminated at nine thirty-eight.” The scrolls of parchment rolled themselves up and rested on my chair after a signal from my wand.
Ron pushed me aside and instantly, he was by Draco’s side again. From behind him, I saw Ron shift a little and then Draco grunted. “You stay away from me and my fiancée.”
Draco’s head was low, but he was laughing. I realised that Ron had punched him in his stomach and Harry had stood by and let it happen. “Are you sure you’re not going to wear that name out? Fiancée. She’s barely that. You can’t even put a ring on her finger, you cheap son of a -”
Ron vaulted at him then and the chair fell backwards. I gasped as Draco’s head hit the hard floor with a thump and I rushed down beside him. Ron, being sensitive about his lack of money, took his comment to heart and began striking Draco’s face like a punch bag.
And Draco just took it. He didn’t even bother putting his hands up.
“RON, STOP!” I yelled while pushing on his shoulder to get him off. Harry finally acted and dragged Ron backwards.
The previous minute had all felt as though it ran in slow motion. Now, when hardly anyone was moving, did time suddenly seem fast.
I pulled my wand out and began muttering all the Healing spells I knew while waving my wand over Draco’s bloody face.
“What are you doing?” Ron whispered.
“What does it look like?” I said bitterly. “Evie or Mr Robards will be back soon and if they find out you lost your temper…”
Harry and Ron said nothing, but just sat down in the corner speaking quietly. I hoped Harry told Ron how out of order he had been.
“Close your eyes,” I ordered Draco. He did so and I siphoned the blood off his face. Looking over my shoulder, I saw that the boys were still deep in conversation, so I let myself stroke Draco’s cheek with my little finger.
“Thanks,” he whispered.
“For?” I asked.
“Not letting them give me Veritaserum.”
I shrugged and said quietly, “Next time - and hopefully there won’t be a next time - I shan’t help you.”
He sat up and I reached out to help him stand. He batted my arm away and sat in the chair just as Evie strode in with a parchment and quill in her hand. “Sign here,” she told Draco, pointing to the page.
He leant over and read the parchment quickly, then signed.
“You’re free to go,” she said with little cheer in her voice.
“Thank you,” he said.
“You’ll be fined two hundred and fifty hundred galleons for Illegal Cross-Continental Apparition. It must be paid within a month or face further court action, but besides that, you can go as soon as you’re ready.”
“Can I Apparate?” Draco clearly did not care about two hundred and fifty galleons, the rich wizard that he was. Ron seemed to notice this also and scowled.
“Not in here.” Evie told him to follow her. “I’ll take you into the main building and I’ll get you your wand.” Draco slipped past me and out before I even had the chance to say anything.
*1st March 2000
After a quick trip to the bathroom I laid down on the additional bed, sighing in the darkness, waiting for the hallway light to go out and Ronald to return so that I could bid him goodnight. The creaky floorboards signified his entrance, so I rolled over and called out, “Goodnight Ron.”
He didn’t reply at first, so I sat up, eyes adjusting to the darkness. Only then did I realise that the sun was due to return and that it would be morning soon as the light sky peered though the curtains impatiently.
“I’m here,” he had muttered softly.
I chuckled. “Goodnight.”
“Yes?” I replied.
“I know I haven’t always shown it, but I really appreciate you.”
“Ron, I know. There’s no need to -”
“No, wait. I need to say this.” He sat on the edge of his bed, his eyes closed tight.
“Sometimes I don’t think about what I say or even how other people will feel after I’ve said them. With you, I’ve learnt the hard way … I never wanted make you feel bad, but I only mess up when I feel something so deep inside myself that nothing makes sense. And nothing does when I’m with you. Hermione … I think I love you. No … I know I do. I love you.”
Instead of beating faster, my heart stilled for a moment. No breath could escape my lips. Even though we were engaged and preparing to marry some time this year, Ronald had never said he loved me. It was always implied, an unspoken bond we had formed over the years. And as my heart found itself again, I leant off my bed, sat up, stood up, walked over to him and flung myself into his arms.
“Ron … I love you too,” I whispered into his ear.
He laughed. “Yeah?”
“Of course I do,” I told him sincerely. Deep within me, I know Ron was meant for me and nothing or no one was going to change that.
Swelling with happiness, I kissed him softly and he joined in with as much fervour, holding me tight. Within moments, our clothing was on the ground and I was laying with Ron doing as lovers did, becoming one in that entwining act. And within those moments, I knew I was where I needed to be. With Ron. Forever. As he kissed my lips, my neck, each part of my skin and I him, not one single thought of Draco Malfoy passed through my mind. All I could think about was Ron and how much I had anticipated this single event, how much Ron had given me by participating.
And as I laid through the aftermath, wearing nothing but a smile and my sleeping fiancé on my arm, I felt happy. Although this was not my first time, it was better. It was with the right person and I could remember all of it. Every tiny detail swam about in my mind as I stroked Ron’s arm while he snored away.
“Happy Birthday, Ronald,” I whispered into the air.
On the whole, the day was great. Ronald and I continued to steal glances at one another over the breakfast, lunch and dinner table, my face turning a bright red whenever our eyes connected. Ginny and Harry were getting uncomfortable, I could tell, but who cared? I didn’t. Last night was the best night of my life; Ronald had made love to me.
After more great food from Mrs Weasley, party arrangements were made with much more finesse than that of a few days previously. Mr and Mrs Weasley were going to leave the Burrow and head to see Andromeda Tonks and Teddy for the night in order to be out of the way.
“It’ll be the first time that they’ve left the house to me,” Ron told Harry and I in his room that evening.
“So they trust you?” I asked.
“Hardly. I’m twenty and I know they’re nervous.”
“Not many people are coming, are they?” I said.
Harry spoke this time. “Well, Ron invited most of Gryffindor House, so no doubt there’ll be Hufflepuffs, Ravenclaws and all of their friends. It’ll be a madhouse. Everyone will want a glimpse of us after the whole Voldemort thing. I bet the Press will try to get a look in too.”
“I hope not.” I bit my lip thinking about that wretched Bernie Swattle and how much he had already ruined my life.
As I had predicted, a few days later Swattle had gotten wind of the party and a small segment was mentioned in the Daily Prophet on the night before the party. I threw the paper down onto the dining table and yelled, “That’s it! Cancel the party!”
Harry and Ron sat up straight and looked angrily at me.
“No way,” Ron said.
“We can’t, Hermione,” Harry said. “It’s too late now.”
“Maybe we should,” Ginny chipped in quietly from the staircase. She entered the kitchen and picked up the paper from the table. “Now everybody knows. Everybody. And there will definitely be some people there that we don’t want.” Ginny’s eyes bored into my own. I knew what it meant; Draco would have found out about it and may try to make an appearance. It had been about three months since he was cleared of any charges concerning his Death Eater days, three months of silence. I had not seen or heard from him and I was enjoying my life without having to look over my shoulder wondering whether he was going to crop up. And now Ginny had noticed an obvious opportunity. If he wanted to, Draco could blend into the party to see me and I did not want that to happen. He was out of my life now. These three months I had been ridding his face from my memory and spending time with Ron, loving him, kissing him and appreciating how much he loved me.
“We could just cast a few spells,” Ron threw off. Harry nodded in agreement.
“No,” I said. “We need to put a cap on the guests.”
“Invitations have already gone out,” Ron said.
“So? Write to them all.”
“All of them? By tomorrow?” Ron stood up and stood beside me.
“Calm down, Hermione.” He kissed me softly. “I’ll sort it.”
“Okay,” I gave in. “But remember, we don’t want this to happen again. I won’t let our wedding turn into a circus too.”
“I won’t, Hermione.” He kissed me once more and then rejoined Harry in organising safeguards against the newspaper and any other unwanted guests.
Ron had forgotten about what Draco had said at the Ministry - the part where he said I needed to hear what he said to forget about him. Clever me, I twisted it into something so complicated that Ron could not be bothered to understand. I felt bad for lying yet again, but I wanted to keep our relationship whole.
It was an odd feeling knowing that I would be someone’s wife one day. Ron’s wife; Mrs Weasley. Somehow that name will always belong to Ron’s mother and sounded odd when attached with mine. Hermione Jean Weasley. I may as well get use to it now, because in a few months, it will be a reality. It went without saying that we would be getting married outside the house like Bill and Fleur. I hadn’t decided on my dress yet, but Ronald and I had chosen a peach colour to be our theme. We could have a peach tent, peach and white roses, peach buttonholes, peach bridesmaid dresses … generally, peach. Every day, I would think about it, walking down the aisle in my dress. I’d have dreams where I would be wearing a different dress each time, a projection of my own indecision. Ginny and I had been poring over wizarding seamstresses’ catalogues, deciding on a style so that I could have one made. And each time I would get a little bit sadder over the fact that my mother wasn’t here with me. I imagined us going to a few muggle bridal shops at least, to see if I wanted one from there instead. But without her, what was the point? I knew Draco had been looking for my parents and so had ever since that day they found out, but again nothing. It seemed that by making them forget about me, they were more lenient to go exploring around Australia and traces of them were growing fainter by the day. I wanted my father to walk me down the aisle - not Mr Weasley, as much as I loved him. If only I could find out what progress Draco had made …
Did I mention that with each dream, not only would the dress change, the man at the end of the alter would also? Every time that I would convince myself that I was over him, my dreams would say otherwise. I would never get to the end of the aisle in the dream. I would be walking, I would look down at my dress and then see the back of a man waiting for me. Sometimes he would have ginger hair and sometimes blonde and no one person reoccurred the most. It was pretty much equal and so it was decided that I didn’t quite know what I wanted, but I would never tell anyone. Ron was convinced that I wasn’t fearing his birthday party, Harry was convinced that nothing could tear Ron and I apart and Ginny was convinced that I had truly forgotten about Draco.
But was I?
*Important quote alert!!* 'Next time - and hopefully their won't be a next time - I shan't help you.' The next few chapters will be where the main plot outlined in the Prologue will begin. I hope you liked the chapter and please review to let me know
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