AN: So sorry everyone, for this update taking so long and for what I have to do with it. I have had some bad news for my family and starting next week will once again be busy with doctors. My other story, The Other Trio is almost finished, so it will be finished fully. Give and Take wasn’t finished however, so given that, I don’t want it to be an unfinished story. I will now have to wrap it up in two chapters, so at least there will be a conclusion even if it is abrupt. I do apologize, but I mentally won’t be able to give it justice after things start next week so this is the best I can give you. Once things settle down again for my family I have other stories that are going to be written. I hope you all will keep an eye open for them in the future. Clumsy.
Hermione was quiet on the return trip to the office. They had just finished interviewing Pansy Parkinson, not her favorite person to begin with, and she’d been treated just as snidely as usual by her school nemesis. Draco grabbed her hand and pulled her into an alley.
“What’s up, you’re much quieter than usual after interviewing a victim? Draco said running a finger down her cheek softly.
“I don’t know honestly. I have always hated that girl, but….I still felt sorry for her and I guess I just never thought I would.” She answered hesitantly knowing he was close to Pansy.
He kissed her softly, “I understand, what she went through was rough. Now I want to say something to you because I don’t want you to be caught off guard when I bring it up in a few minutes with Stella and Blaise.”
“I had suspicions before talking to Pansy, but I wasn’t going to mention it before in case I was wrong only because it’s going to put your back up instantly.” He said with a sigh. “After listening to her though I’m even more confident. I don’t think this has to do with house at Hogwarts. I think it has to do with Dumbledore’s Army actually.”
Hermione gasped and pulled away from him. “What the hell!”
“Hear me out, please!” Draco said.
Hermione walked out of the alley to the small park across from where they were and continued to a secluded area and sat on a bench.
“Alright, what makes you think that? I will admit there are a few members who have been victims, but Pansy was the farthest from a member of the DA Draco.” Hermione asked.
“I don’t think the DA is the target Hermione, I think one of the members is the one guilty of these crimes. I also have suspicions that it is one of three members.” He told her.
Hermione looked him in the eye for a second then started laughing, “Draco, I know every one of the DA members, there is no way any of them could do what you are suggesting.”
“I want to have three of its members watched. Plus Hermione, I’m beginning to suspect you aren’t safe either; you are the only person from that school I have ever heard referred to as princess. Each one of these victims the perpetrator said the same thing to, Sweet Dreams Princess.” He said.
At her confused look he continued. “Pansy recognized the voice, but that it wasn’t Slytherin. She said it was someone we had run in's with and that for some reason it reminded her of Quidditch. That narrows it down so much for us. We had most of our run in’s with Gryffindor’s and the DA and I don’t think this is a Gryffindor either so that leaves the DA.”
As much as Hermione wanted to argue with him that none of the DA could possibly do these things she had to admit his reasoning made sense. Though animosity with Slytherin was a school wide feeling, it really was Slytherin and Gryffindor that had run in’s, the other houses staying as far from them as possible. Only a few instances stood out in her mind with conflict coming in the way of the other two houses and Slytherin. So if you take house out of the equation, it makes sense to look at the DA which had quite a lot of trouble with that house.
“Okay Draco, I will try keeping an open mind, who are the three you suspect, maybe I can narrow it further, but I doubt this is about me.” She finally spoke.
“Well, we need more than one phrase to say it’s about you, that’s just something I started thinking about. I feel like we need to watch Ernie Macmillan, Terry Boot, and Zacharias Smith” At that final name something clicked for Hermione.
“Well, eliminate Ernie because he’s too gently for this and had no affiliation with Quidditch. Terry and Smith both played for the House teams and Smith did commentary. Of the two, I’d suspect Smith because there’s something not right with him. Nobody wanted him on the DA, he overheard some people talking and that is how he ended up one of us. He was usually hexed quite a bit in practices and everyone picked on him because he was such an ass.” Hermione told him, then looking down at her watch she jumped up. “We have to be in the team meeting in five minutes Draco.” They hurried back to the alley and disapparated back to the Ministry.
There wasn’t time to meet with Stella and Blaise before the meeting, instead they ran for the conference room at the end of the hall and just made it to their seats before Bill called the meeting to order.
“Now that our final two members have decided to grace us with their presence I suggest we start.” Bill said grumpily. “I would like to start with Harry, Jennifer, Shawn and Chloe. Have we made any progress?”
Jennifer cleared her throat and said, “Not as such, sir. We have had a fourth murder to deal with this week.”
Harry continued. “They are all Muggle, all from roughly the same area of London, and all male.” He passed out photographs to Hermione, Draco, Blaise, and Stella.
“We are trying to find any link between the victims and all we’ve been able to come up with is that they all attended the same school. They were all within the same two years and no more than a year apart in age. It sounds similar to the rape cases except that instead of rape, their murder victims.” Chloe said.
Hermione finished listening before picking up the photos. She always hated looking at pictures of brutal crimes, her stomach never had gotten used to it even though she was frequently the one snapping the shots. When she looked down she couldn’t even make a gasp as she felt all the blood drain from her face and watched the darkness fall over her eyes as her stomach clenched. She stood to run and grab the trash can to vomit, but fainted before she got two steps.
“I’m glad you caught her, Draco thanks.” She heard Harry say although it sounded far away.
“What happened, do you think she’s sick?” Draco sounded worried.
Harry answered again, “No, she’s never done well with the gore she sees on the job. Reminds her of things she’d rather forget.”
“Thanks Harry for keeping my secrets so well.” She answered them as she opened her eyes. She groaned as she tried to sit up. They had lain her down on the floor of the conference room. Someone was shoving a glass of water in her hand.
“Drink it.” Bill said worriedly.
“I’m fine, and in this instance Harry was wrong. That’s not what was wrong, please let me up and I will show you what is wrong.” Hermione said.
She was helped to her feet, and once everyone was seated she grabbed her pile of photos. She pulled out the first one and pointed to it saying, “His name is Brian Cooper. This is the scar I got when he pushed me down in 3rd grade.” She pointed to a scar just next to her elbow. She held up the next one, “This is Eric Johnson and I had to have stitches above my eyebrow when he hit me because I wouldn’t show him how to jump halfway up a tree in one jump. That one is Tommy Murphy, he sprained my ankle when he caught me turn a leaf to a butterfly. The last one is Sandy Bergman; he’s the first boy to break my heart.” By the time she was finished her hands were shaking and Bill, Draco, and Harry were all on their feet.
“Everyone out but Hermione and Harry, now!” Bill ordered. Everyone got to their feet and hurried out, except for Draco who refused to move.
“I’m not leaving Hermione.” He said forcefully.
“We need to figure this out, what’s the connection with Hermione and these murders?” Bill asked Harry.
“Correction, sir. Connection with Hermione with these murders, and the rapes.” Draco said. Every eye turned to him. “We were late because I was explaining my theory to her. I think whoever the rapist is, he’s got some morbid fixation on her, and I also believe he’s a member of the group known as Dumbledore’s Army.”
Harry raised an eyebrow when he said this but Draco just held up a hand to finish. “I have narrowed it in my mind to three members.”
For the next hour and a half Draco explained his theory to Bill and Harry. He went through his reasoning but could only tell them that his reasons for the three were just gut instinct. They all agreed that they needed more than gut instinct, but Harry and Hermione had agreed about Smith, so Bill agreed to have him followed for the time being. Hermione was immediately removed from both cases because they didn’t want to give defense attorney ammunition by saying she was personally involved in the cases. They were just about to break up the meeting when Blaise ran in the door all blood having left his face.
“Sir, Harry, Hermione I don’t know how to tell you this. There has been another rape, this time a Gryffindor. I am so sorry to tell you all this, but Ginny is in St. Mungo’s.” He sadly told them. They all left at a run.
Ginny’s attack seemed to further them in the idea that this wasn’t about House after all and that Draco was probably on to something. In the four hours they had been gathered in the waiting room at the hospital, Chloe and Shawn had been able to eliminate Ernie from the list of three, he had a rock solid alibi for every rape and three of the murders which left Terry Boot and Zacharias Smith.
Hermione felt guilty, if she was the reason this maniac was raping and murdering, then it was her fault Gin had been hurt. Draco left to get her a cup of tea and Bill came and sat down next to her and grabbed her hand. “I can see those cogs turning, and you’re wrong you know.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She lied.
“It is no more you’re fault than any of the victims, including Gin. You are a victim here as well. I thought I would come tell you I’ve had some information from everyone we put on the case. Once word got around that Ernie was being investigated, Smith packed up and disappeared. We’ve got all the Aurors and teams on alert. They’ll find him.” Bill said.
Before Hermione could answer Harry came back into the room, pale and tired and you could easily see he’d been crying. He walked over and wrapped his arms around Hermione, needing her and Ron who was on his way home.
He looked at the family gathered around him, “She’s going to be okay physically. She was beaten pretty badly, she put up a major fight as you can imagine. She just lost the fight this time.” He started crying again. He squeezed Hermione’s hand for strength. “She is asleep for now; they gave her a dreamless sleep potion so she won’t be plagued with nightmares. She’ll be needing all of us for a while as she heals, they have given her options. She was offered counseling and the healers also offered to obliviate the memory once criminal proceedings are finished which is the option I hope she’ll take, but she hasn’t decided yet. If she chooses counseling, it will start next week. Molly, they said you are welcome to sit with her, but nobody else should be in there when Gin wakes up until she asks for you.” He explained to her family and Molly turned and ran out of the room.
“Hermione, I don’t want you returning to your house. Until further notice, I want you to stay at the Burrow because you won’t ever be alone there. We weren’t able to protect Ginny, but we won’t see the same happen to our other little sister.” Bill said. When she opened her mouth to disagree he held up a hand. “I can make it an order.” Putting his foot down.
Draco escorted her home to pick up some belongings for her extended stay at the Weasley home. When they were finished he took her to the Burrow and promised to come see her every day and kissed her goodbye before heading back to work to find Smith and finish this.
After two weeks Hermione was restless and edgy, her daily walks were the only time she had to herself to think. She was also desperate to find who’d done these things to her friends, and with all the leads they had Terry Boot was cleared and Zacharias Smith damned by DNA for both the murders and the rapes. She just didn’t understand how it was about her realistically. She’d not spent any time alone with him ever, rarely even talking to him when others were around.
Poor Gin was staying here as well while Harry worked as hard as Draco and Bill. She didn’t blame Hermione for what happened to her and had decided that she’d rather do the counseling than have her memory tampered with no matter how horrible the memory was, it was hers and she’d rather learn to live with it in a healthy way than have it erased because she’d been too strong her entire life to accept any other option.
Ginny was taking a nap so Hermione left the garden to go for her daily walk. She was enjoying her solitude when she got the feeling she was being watched, and not in the sense of her family watching her for her safety. This felt altogether different, and invasive. When she turned around she couldn’t see anyone, so she shrugged it off and continued. The next time she felt it she wasn’t so lucky. As she turned around, she was hit by a full body bind curse before she could protect herself, and she looked up to see Zacharias Smith standing over her. She couldn’t scream out as he picked her up and apparated them away.