Chapter 1 : The Beginning
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The war was over. He was really dead. Voldemort was no more. The crowd cheered, and everyone ran to the Boy Who Lived, smothering him in kisses and hugs and praise. Except for us. We were lost in each other. We had made it. We had found all the horcuxes, destroyed them, and then beaten Voldemort and we didn’t lose ourselves. I looked into his caring, honest blue eyes, and I felt a fire burning in my soul. I let it wrap around me as his arms did the same, and I wanted to hold on to this moment for the rest of my life. I was happier than anyone could possibly be, and the fire that threatened to consume us was a welcome heat, a welcome change from the constant cold we had been living in. I let out a breath I didn’t know I had been holding, and on that breath, a giggle crossed my lips. He looked down at me, smiled, and I knew, in that moment, that this was what we had been fighting for; Love.
After I returned to Hogwarts for my 7th year (without Harry and Ron, might I add), I began to think about the future I wasn’t aware I would have. Now that we were safe, that I had my whole life ahead of me, I could think and breathe and I knew I would have to live not only for myself, but also for those who had been lost. I passed all my N.E.W.T.s with flying colors, of course, and I knew I would be able to do anything I wanted, where ever I wanted; and not just because of my grades.
Harry had become head auror, Ron had gone to work with George at the joke shop, and Ginny was following her dreams of becoming a famous quidditch player. Kingsley was the Minister of Magic, and I went to him after my N.E.W.T grades had come in. I showed him them with a look of pride on my face, and he smiled at me.
“Where would you like to work, Hermione? You can have your pick of the place…Hell I might even let you take my job.” He winked at her, and she smiled at his familiar, deep voice and laughed at his joke.
“No worries Kingsley. I would never take your job from you. Actually, I was thinking about doing some work in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. I have a lot of preliminary research done, and I’d like to continue the work I started while at Hogwarts.” I stiffened, and lifted my head up. “There needs to be some serious changes around here.”
He chuckled at me. “I agree with you completely, Hermione. When can you start?”
And that is how I got to this point in my life. 5 years later, and I had furnished some new laws for magical creatures, most of which allowed more rights to those that were so horribly treated. After a while, I had done as much as I could do, and I decided to try my luck in Magical Law Enforcement. I, of course, needed only to ask Kingsley if I could be reassigned, and not a day later I was on the squad. That is how I came to be in this dirty warehouse, tied up, and surrounded by 6 hooded figures. This was supposed to be a routine check-up, which is why they had sent me. If they had known what was waiting here, I would have at least had Harry and a couple of his top aurors with me.
As it were, I was trapped, my wand taken from me, and no way of calling for help. I clenched my hands, and felt the engagement ring on my finger cutting into my palm. I felt the tears well up behind my eyes, thinking of my fiancée, but I pushed them back; I would show no signs of weakness in front of these creatures.
“So…the brains…hmm…what are you doing here all by your lonesome, Granger?” The voice…it was sickeningly familiar…
“Malfoy??” I practically shrieked as I recognized his voice. He laughed, a high, malicious sound, and I shrank back into the chair.
“Yes indeed, Granger,” he removed his hood, and his blonde hair fell into his face. “So again, what are you doing here Granger?”
“That’s none of your business Malfoy. Untie me this instant! Harry is on his way right now; is this how you are going to repay him? He saved your life!” I was disgusted by how I had gotten myself into this position.
“How dare you make demands of me?” He spit on my robes, and continued, “I owe Potter NOTHING. He saved my life, my mother saved his. We are no longer in his debt. In fact, I believe he owes me. He did sentence my father to death after all.”
I wiggled in my chair, knowing that this couldn’t be anything but bad.
“Now, tell me why you are here Granger. And I might not hurt you.” His lips curled maliciously, and I sat up straighter. I refused to tell this pathetic excuse for a man anything about the Ministry’s personal business. I closed my mouth tightly, pressing my lips into a thin line. He must have gotten the hint, because his eyes glinted with anger. “Fine. If you won’t tell me, I will just have to make you.”
I didn’t flinch. I was used to pain, and I had to be able to undergo any kind of torture in order to be considered for the squad. I wouldn’t let Malfoy be the person who ruined my career. He laughed, a little softer this time, but still cruelly. “Oh dear Granger. I’m not going to torture you. That is too messy with too…unpredictable of results. Besides, I’ve seen you under the Cruciatus Curse…it does very little to loosen your tongue.” He paused for effect, “However…Veritaserium will loosen anyone’s tongue.” He nodded to the figure farthest away from me, and I did my best to remain calm, clear my mind, and begin fighting the effects of the potion that had yet to enter my system. If I was lucky, he would not phrase his questions correctly and I could get away with half-truths.
“Open up Granger.” He spread my lips apart, but my teeth were clenched tightly. He grabbed my jaw, and forced my mouth open. He forced the liquid into my mouth and, before I could spit it out (or bite him) he forced my mouth closed and held my nose. I had no choice but to swallow the potion or to drown in it. I chose the latter. The clear liquid slipped down my throat, leaving a slight burn on the way down in a manner similar to firewhiskey. I gagged, trying to make myself vomit, but Malfoy grabbed me around the throat, making it impossible for anything to come up (or to breathe). He looked at me questioningly, and I nodded, glaring at him the whole time.
“Good. Now, Granger…What are you doing here?”
“Sitting. Tied up by a bunch of no good, rotten pathetic wastes of space.” I said. Well, it wasn’t a lie.
Malfoy pinched the bridge of his nose in annoyance. “Seriously Granger? That’s how this is going to play out? Fine. I know how to get around your little tricks. What job did the ministry send you here to do?”
I tried to hold back the onslaught of words that wanted to escape my mouth. I managed to choke back some of them, and the sentence that formed was, “Minister…routine…check…interestedintheproperty.” The last few words jumbled together in their rush to get out of my mouth.
“Hmm..interesting…and why is the Minister interested in this property?”
“I don’t know.” I held back the rest of the truth that wanted to spill forth. He didn’t ask, so I didn’t have to tell.
“Well what do you know?”
“Well, as I’m sure you can imagine, I know quite a lot. I know that your father suffered at the hands of a dozen dementors before he was finally put out of his misery. I know that your mother has become weak of late. I know you are nothing but a low-life who can’t seem to make anything of his life and instead live off of mummy and daddy’s money.” The sound of his hand hitting my cheek cracked ominously in the room. “Well, you wanted the truth, right?” I could see that he was becoming angry, which was good. If he was angry, he would be sloppy. His cheeks were flaming with anger, his eyes bright and shiny with flames of rage.
His words belied the fire I could see raging beneath his features as he spoke in a cold, calm voice that was almost sinister. “If you speak of my family again, I shall kill you Granger.” We stared the other down, both too stubborn to be the one to back down first. “Now, I am going to ask you again. What do you know about the Minister and this property?”
I couldn’t stop the words this time, “all I know is that he wanted me to come down here and make sure it was actually abandoned. It’s a routine check that has been occurring for some time now. This was my first time on the job. I don’t know what the Minister could possibly want from a run-down dirt heap that houses filth like you.” As the last words left my mouth, the door to the aforementioned dirt heap was blasted from its hinges, and I was met with the most wonderful sight in the world; a black-haired, green-eyed man wearing glasses holding his wand so that it pointed directly at Malfoy’s heart. I sighed in relief, and 10 other aurors came in the door, each one apprehending one of the hooded figures. However, before they were tied into binding ropes (the kind that you can’t apparate out of), they all turned on the spot and fled. Malfoy was the only one left, and he simply nodded at Harry and turned to me saying, “thanks for the info Granger,” before he too turned on his heels and disappeared.
Harry let out a curse before muttering, “diffindo,” to release me from my bonds. “Are you alright ‘Mione? Did they hurt you at all?” His green eyes were filled with concern for me, and I relaxed as the truth continued to spill from my mouth.
“No, no, I’m fine Harry, really. I just got a good sharp slap from Malfoy is all. Oh, and he used Veritaserium on me to get information on the Ministry wanting this property. I couldn’t tell him much, just that they were interested in it. I don’t know much more.” I smirked as I thought of all the other truths I had given Malfoy. “I did tell him a few things about his family he might not have wanted to know.” My smile grew wider and more wicked. It disappeared soon though, because Harry looked disappointed in me. “I’m sorry. I guess it was a cruel thing to do. But I had to do something! I couldn’t tell him the truth!”
“I know Mi, I know. It’s alright. But there are some things you should know. Let’s go back and debrief you at the Ministry. I called Ron, he said he would meet us there.”
“Oh great…He’s going to be furious I got sent out alone you know…I’ll never hear the end of it…” The words that I normally would have kept to myself continued to flow. “I won’t get an ounce of peace tonight now…GODDAMNIT HARRY!” I yelled because he started to chuckle at my inability to control my words. “You couldn’t have waited until AFTER the Veritaserium wore off? You are such an arse…” I covered my mouth quickly, but he only chuckled. “Oh shut up you. And find my wand!” I stomped off while he “accio Hermione’s wand.” Surprisingly, it flew into my hand instead of his. I stared at it for a moment, smiled, and stuck it in the pocket of my robes. I turned on the spot and apparated directly into my office at the Ministry, and took the few minutes I would have before someone came knocking (no one else can apparate into my office, a neat little spell I stumbled upon while reading) to tidy up my appearance so that Ron wouldn’t freak out as much. I used my wand to heal the scratch marks that had been left on my wrists and ankles from the ropes, the bruise that was forming on my cheek, and the red spot around my throat. Then I did a quick glamour spell to make my hair look more organized and quickly did it up in a relatively nice bun. Hopefully it would appear that I had only had a routine day, and nothing out of the ordinary happened. Of course, it wouldn’t help if the Veritaserium hadn’t worn off yet…
“HERMIONE!” I heard his voice and my heart leapt into my throat. He was banging on the door, and I opened it so fast that he almost hit me. I let him take me into his arms, and I held him for a moment, enjoying the minute or so before he would start questioning me. He truly was an amazing person. I loved him with all my heart and soul. I breathed in his familiar scent and let the smile creep along my face. “Hermi-“ I cut him off with a kiss that left us both breathless.
“I love you, Ron.” I said, though it was surprising that he had even heard me, it was so low.
“And I love you, Mi,” his voice was equally low, and had a husky quality that made a shiver run down my spine. “Which is why you need to be more careful!” I sighed as he pulled away and started in on his rant.
“Yes, yes I know. I need to be more careful. Don’t go in without back-up. Yada yada yada…Do you know how many times I’ve heard this speech, Ron? I know you love me, and want me to be safe, but you don’t need to worry so much about me! You know I can take care of myself.” I rolled my eyes at his stunned expression. “I’m sorry, the Veritaserium hasn’t worn off yet...”
He raised an eyebrow. “Oh really? So, tell me Hermione…When did you know you were in love with me?”
“Ronald Weasley! How dare you use my condition for your own personal gain?? I’ve always loved you, you fool. Since third year at least. You were just too ignorant!” I huffed, and he put his arms around me.
“I know, such a fool. So, tell me Hermione…” he lowered his voice to a whisper, “what are you going to do to punish me tonight for being such an ignorant fool?”
I gasped and gulped at the same time. A tingle ran along my skin in all the places it came in contact with him. “Curse you Ronald!” and then the words flowed out of my mouth. I told him in exquisitely delicious detail exactly what I was going to do with him, and I felt his body stiffen and his mouth was on mine. Between kisses I continued, and I believe I very nearly got jumped in my office. He moaned, and his hands were roaming my body, sending delightful shivers of fire through my skin and my veins. As I was about to drag him to the floor and do everything I had just described, someone coughed and brought us back to reality. I became very flustered, as I prided myself in being a modest person, and snogging my fiancée, though obviously acceptable, was definitely not something I did in public on a regular basis. I felt my cheeks flame, and saw that Ron was only grinning broadly. Thankfully, it was just Harry, and I smiled at him sheepishly, hoping he would just continue on to the debriefing.
“Ron, I’m going to have to ask you to leave for a moment so that myself and the Head Enforcer can debrief Hermione.” Thank you Harry James Potter.
Ron grumbled, but left the room. After he was gone, Harry turned to me and asked, “were you just about to shag my best mate on the floor of your office?” I blushed profusely.
“Of course not! What do you take me for?”
“Ah good, it seems the Veritaserium has worn off finally.” He winked at me, and I smacked him on the arm.
“Curse you Harry Potter…Let’s just get this done with alright?” I walked around and sat at my desk to wait for my boss to show up. Harry took a seat across from me, and a moment later a tall blonde walked in and I nearly fell out of my seat. I pointed my wand at his face. “What the hell is Malfoy doing here Harry?” I nearly screamed at him, for Harry had not made any movements of surprise when Malfoy had walked in.
“Hello to you too Granger.” He looked down at Harry and nodded. “Potter.”
“Hello Malfoy. Hermione, put your wand down. He is the Head Enforcer and you will not threaten him.”
“Oh right! Like he threatened me this evening? Are you kidding me Harry? What the bloody Hell is going on?! And where is Justin? I thought he was the Head Enforcer!” I still had yet to lower my wand. My mind and my heart were racing, and my breath was coming in jagged pulls.
“Hermione, I will tell you everything, but you have to lower your wand. You trust me don’t you?” Harry asked.
“Yes…yes of course…” I lowered my wand and took a deep breath. I sat down in my chair, and Malfoy sat in the one next to Harry. I looked back and forth between the two, picked up my wand and closed the door with it, and mumbled “Muffiliato.”
“Alright. Explain, please.” I said as patiently as I could. I wanted answers, and these two were going to give them to me.
“Ok. So, to start with, we think Kingsley is up to something. We don’t know what, but I have been having Malfoy looking in to it. The people you saw him with today call themselves “Followers” and Malfoy has managed to insinuate himself into their ranks and moved up to the top. He is the second in command. We know that the building Kingsley had you check out houses more than just dirt. There is said to be a secret basement in one of the buildings around there, and Kingsley has had his eye out on all of them. In that basement is said to be an artifact so powerful, even Voldemort would have feared it.” Harry said all of this with an air of unease, and I felt a little queasy. I stood up, unable to stay still, and started pacing around the desk.
“Ok…so what do we do? What can we do to stop him?” I asked Harry, determined to ignore Malfoy. Unfortunately, he was the one who answered.
“Well, for now, I am going to be continuing to scout out the Followers, and see if they know what is in that basement. I am almost at that point. Kingsley must think there is something in there that is either dangerous or powerful, or both. The real question is whether Kingsley wants to use it or to destroy it. We don’t have the answer to that yet. In my opinion, our first order of business should be to find out what is in that basement.”
I was still looking at Harry while Malfoy gave his speech. He simply nodded in agreement with Malfoy. I sighed, and sat down heavily in my chair. “Fine. What do you want me to do?”
This time, it was Harry who spoke. “Well, we need you to act like you have no idea what is going on. That you think Malfoy is part of the Followers, and that we have not had this conversation. You need to continue to follow any and all orders Kingsley gives you without question. And make sure he doesn’t think you are on to any of this. Can you do that for us Hermione? You might just be the most essential piece to this puzzle, per usual.” He gave me a wink and a smile, and I smiled back slowly.
“Yes, I can do that. Is there more information I could be looking in to?”
“Oh we all know how Granger loves her research.” Malfoy said with a sneer, but he pulled a piece of parchment out of his robes and handed it to me. “It’s enchanted so that only you can read it. It’s quite a bit of stuff that might be related, but most of it should be in the Ministry’s library.” He paused, and looked at Harry, then back to me. “However, it would be bad to leave a trail as to what you are researching, so make sure you take out a lot of random books from the library. It’s no secret you love reading and researching, so it won’t surprise anyone.” He pulled another piece of parchment out of his robes and handed it to me. “I have made a list of other books that you should take out along with the others. This will make it seem like you are literally finding things at random to read. Now, if people ask you anything about why you are taking out these books, make sure you use your abundance of wit and lie. Be vague, say you heard someone talking about it at lunch, or that you saw something in the paper that you wanted to learn more on. Whatever you do, do not let ANYONE know what you are doing. If Kingsley finds out what we are up to, there will be dire punishments.” He finished his rant, and moved to leave his chair. “Now, I must not be caught conversing with you, so if you would lift the enchantment on your office to allow me to leave?” He looked at me questioningly, but I picked up my wand and murmured the spell under my breath. He nodded, shook Harry’s hand, and apparated with a slight pop.
“I need some air…are you and Ginny still coming over for dinner tonight?” I asked Harry, trying to get out of this stuffy topic and on to something that I didn’t have to whisper under my breath.
He smiled, “yes of course. We will be there as soon as Ginny gets back from practice.” He moved in to hug me, and I sank into the familiar comfort that was my best friend. I breathed in his smell deeply, and then broke away, smiling.
“I’m going to head home early. Will you send Justin an owl for me? Let him know what’s going on? I’ll see you tonight.”
“I will, see you tonight. Ron should be right outside still, pacing like a crazy person like always.” We both chuckled, and I walked out and, sure enough, Ron was there, pacing. I took his hand and turned on the spot, envisioning our little flat on the outskirts of London.
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