My beta, who has started school already, was not able to beta this chapter. However, because I'm starting school again, I wanted to get this chapter out before I woulnd't have time to do so. Anyway, if you see typos or confusing parts, be sure to let me know so I can fix them! :) Thanks.
CHAPTER SEVEN: DEAD OR ALIVE
Draco knew he was taking a risk in casting the spell, but he had to do it. Granger was on the brink of death, and Potter wasn't doing a thing.
“What are you doing?” demanded the Gryffindor, who would have been much more intimidating if he'd ever filled out after puberty. As it was now, the Wizarding World's hero looked more like a speckly nerd than the hot wizard god over which Witch Weekly swooned.
Draco looked back down at Granger, who was collapsed against the sofa. He had barely thirty minutes before she died.
"Malfoy, I'm an Auror now," Potter tried to say threateningly. "Tell me what you think you're doing."
"I'm trying to help her." Draco said, though he couldn't keep the doubt out of his voice. He explained, "I would have used a statis charm, if this were an ordinary curse, but dark curses react badly to statis charms. Stupefy won't slow it down too much, but I might be able to get a potion together...”
“Don’t let her die in my house!” Draco’s mother warned, her wild blue eyes flitting around the room. “I won’t allow our names to be tarnished once again, Draco!”
"What are you going to do, Draco?" Daphne asked with a strangely cruel smile. "You wouldn't want to let the Mudblood die, would you?"
"Shut up, Daphne!" Pansy said firmly. "What if what she says is true, about the genetics? What if someone's trying to kill her so that they can let Purebloods die out? Rita Skeeter said as much!"
Daphne smiled, reminding Draco eerily of Blaise. "Then she's dead, and we'll never know."
"She's dying now!" Potter yelled, his voice breaking. "I'm taking her to St. Mungo's, regardless of who's out there. You are just as bad as they are."
“They won’t be able to save her in time,” said Draco. “And she might not make it through the Floo system."
As soon as he cast that Stupefy, Draco had known that there was no going back – he would have to save Granger. What other choice did he have?
Well, he could let Granger die, and then he wouldn’t have to worry about the Department’s newest mission for him. Somehow, though, from Blaise’s warning, Draco didn’t think that letting her die was such a great idea. Granger would become a martyr for her cause, if her powerful friends had anything to say about it.
Draco took a deep breath, slowing his rushing mind to a halt. “The curse the hit wizard got her with is killing her, and I think I know which one it is.”
“You think?” Potter growled. “What if you’re wrong?”
“Then you’ll be just as well off as if I weren’t here in the first place,” Draco said. “I think I know a potion that can save her. I have to go to Malfoy Manor to find the book with the instructions on how to make it.”
“You can’t go to Malfoy Manor!” exclaimed Pansy. “It’s owned by the Ministry now.”
“We don’t have time for this!” Draco shouted. He grabbed a handful of Floo powder, knocking the whole jar over in the process.
He stepped into the hearth and Flooed straight to Malfoy Manor. He rushed up to the library, not even taking time to savor the feeling of returning to what was once his only refuge. The large, never-ending room of shelves and study nooks was nice for hiding in, but it wasn’t always perfect for finding things quickly.
Fortunately, Draco knew exactly what he was looking for – he snatched it off the desk that was situated at the entrance and shot out of the room, practically flying down the stairs into the parlor where the hearth was. He summoned his potions kit and his cauldron, barely losing pace as he snatched it out of the air.
“Grimmauld Place!” he yelled.
He stumbled out of the fireplace, nearly colliding with Potter. “Quickly,” Draco said as he set up the cauldron. “Open that book to page one-thousand. It should be around there somewhere – it’s the Bordeaux Antidote!”
Potter was already opening the book, tearing through the pages as if they weren’t as priceless as they are. Draco clenched his jaw, ripping his gaze away from the irritating Gryffindor hero and looking back at Granger. She’d been moved to the parlor’s couch now, and she was lying end to end. Draco supposed that his mum was now less annoyed about blood on her furniture and more terrified about the possibility that one of the members of the so-called “Golden Trio” could die in her house.
Sweat rolled down Granger’s brow, sticking her frizzy brown hair to the sides of her face, and a tourniquet was wrapped tightly around her shoulder in an effort to stop the blood flow. Realizing that even the stunning spell was fading under the curse’s influence, Draco turned back to his potions book. He had to read the first paragraph three times before he could process the first step.
“I need some dragon blood!” he yelled finally.
He looked up in time to see Potter grabbing the vile and passing it over with the expert hands of someone accustomed to working under pressure. Draco tossed its contents into the heated Cauldron. It sizzled loudly.
Draco started to hear Granger’s moans, and he stirred faster, watching the way Potter rushed to her side.
After half a minute, Draco stirred three times and added some asphodel. He glanced over to Daphne, who was seated at the outskirts of the room, watching him with a deep frown. The Slytherin was probably ruminating more over the fact that Draco had access to Malfoy Manor than the possibility that Granger would die.
A sound like a pot boiling started suddenly.
“Step away from her!” Draco yelled, when he realized what was happening.
Pamela stood quickly, pulling Potter with her. They were just in time. Swirling black smoke exploded from Granger shoulder and surrounded her in a dome, hiding her from view.
“What’s happening?” Potter asked, his voice cracking.
“She’s about to die,” Draco said, but he kept working on the potion, trying to at least finish a bastardized version of it. Granger was worse than he thought. He shouldn't have spent so long deciding what to do.
He could only hope that his revised potion would last long enough for him to make a real cure.
“It’s the last stage of the curse,” Daphne explained to the stunned room. "The mist will devour her body whole, leaving no trace of her, except the caster's magical signiture."
Potter didn’t react well to his comment, though, he grabbed Draco’s wrist tightly, and Draco met furious emerald eyes. “She’s not dying today, Malfoy! Not here, of all places! She may just be a Mudblood in your narrow little mind but she’s everything to me! Save her, or so help me – I’ll make sure you regret not doing anything!”
Potter released his hand roughly, and Draco grabbed his bruised wrist with a wince. It was hardly Draco’s fault that she was dying – or, it sort of was, but Potter didn’t know that.
Draco pulled out his wand and waved it over the cauldron, chanting the dark spell needed for the potion’s completion. That rush that comes from casting a dark spell rammed through him, and he gasped at the sudden change. He was overcome with intense focus and purpose, his body pulsing with the feeling of invincibility.
He rushed the potion over to Granger, casting a Bubblehead charm on himself so he could maneuver through the toxic dark smoke. He slipped his hand behind Granger’s head, and tipped her head up so that he could pour the potion down her throat, casting a Bubblehead charm on Granger so that she wouldn’t keep breathing in the toxic smoke.
“Come on, Granger,” he said nervously. “I really don’t want Potter to kill me.”
The smoke didn’t clear, so Draco rushed to the source of the problem. Through the smoke, he could barely see her shoulder, but he blindly reached for it, unwrapping it from its ineffectual tourniquet.
He moved his head closer, so that her shoulder could move into his bubblehead charm. He knew it was a risk, but he needed to see if the smoke was still billowing out – it wasn’t. The potion had worked to stop the progress of the curse, but the injury was like an endless black hole in her flesh. Around the edges blue-purple skin disappeared beneath her shirt.
With shaking hands, Draco pulled up her shirt, hoping the curse hadn’t reached her heart . It hadn’t, but his gut sunk when he realized her chest wasn’t moving – was she even breathing?
With trembling hands, Draco slipped his finger onto Granger’s neck to check her pulse.
Ba-dum……… ba-dum……………. ba-dum……………… ba-dum………………
“No!” Without thinking too hard on what he was about to do, he took a deep breath and moved his mouth to Granger’s, giving her his breath. He moved away and slammed his palms against her chest four times.
He checked her pulse again.
… … … “No!” Draco shouted. He could feel Granger dying below him. He knew that without air, her organs were shutting down – the potion hadn’t worked.
In desperation, he leaned over and delivered another breath of air to her starved lungs. He pumped her chest again, his hands thumping harder than before.
Granger gasped, eyes opening wide and mouth taking in her own breath of air. “Wha’s?” Her voice was barely there, but it was enough to give Draco some hope.
“You’re dying, Granger!” he yelled. “But you need to stay conscious, can you do that? If you lose consciousness, you might never wake up again… Focus on breathing!”
“Deep breaths!” Draco yelled, moving his hands to Granger’s shoulders. He stared fiercely into her eyes. “If you die, then Potter kills me. You don’t want that, do you? You don’t want Potter to kill me, for his own sake if not mine, yeah?”
“Why… are you… helping…”
“Shut up, Granger! Now’s not the time to be asking that! You need to stabilize so I can finish the potion. Got that?”
Granger blinked, and Draco noticed that the black smoke seemed to be dissipating. “You’re going to be okay, Granger, just keep those deep breaths, alright?”
Relief swept through Draco as Granger’s eyes cleared up and her breathing became steady again. The smoke was almost completely gone now, and when Draco looked up, he could see everyone else in the room.
They were staring at him in surprise, his mother frozen at her spot by Daphne. Pansy and Pamela were huddled together, their eyes wide in fear. Daphne’s brow was furrowed, her calculating expression reminding Draco of a shark. Potter was kneeling next to Granger, his shaking hands moving her hair from her sweaty face.
Draco realized he was straddling Granger, and he moved away from her quickly, back to the cauldron. “She’s stable for now,” Draco said, realizing that he must’ve been yelling a lot because his voice was hoarse.
He cleaned the cauldron and started working again, but he heard a voice. “Malfoy,” Granger said.
Draco looked up, his eyes finding the tired brown ones of his Mudblood rival.
“Thank you,” she said.
For some reason, Draco was relieved to hear Granger say that. It lifted some great weight from his shoulders that he hadn’t even realized had existed.
Potter didn’t say anything. Instead, he was staring down at Granger as if she would disappear at any moment.
The rest of the room regarded Draco in shock.
Finding his voice, Draco said, “I’ll try not to be offended by everyone’s surprise.”
He refocused his attention on restarting his potion, barely noticing that his mother had moved up behind him.
“We just didn’t realize you had such a talent for healing,” she told him, gently placing her hand on his shoulder. He relaxed a bit, surprised at the touch. His mother rarely touched him, and it felt oddly nice.
“I spent whole summers in Malfoy Library, remember?”
“But you never told me you had such an interest…” Mrs. Malfoy trailed off.
“Father would have preferred that I studied something to improve my marks,” Malfoy snapped bitterly as he added some hemlock to the cauldron. “Healing spells and potions have little to do with how many Outstandings I can score on an OWL. Perhaps I should’ve studied ahead more – better OWLs might’ve earned me a scholarship when...” Draco trailed off, his brow furrowing.
The truth was that there had always been a slightly rebellious side to him. Guiltily researching healing when his father told him he should be studying ahead had been his only outlet – the only part of his childhood that, in retrospect, had belonged to him.
His mother stared at Draco, a strange expression in her eyes. “I’m glad you chose to study healing. If you hadn’t saved Granger’s life…”
“It’s not like we cast th curse on her,” Draco said. “We wouldn’t have been blamed for it. Besides, I didn’t do all that much. I learned some non-magical techniques to use when someone’s dying and magic won’t help. ”
His mum’s eyes travelled to Potter though, and it was only then that Draco realized how magically tenuous the Gryffindor was. “Ah, damn,” Draco whispered. “Is he…?”
“He’s unable to control his magic,” whispered Draco’s mother. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Magic was literally cackling off his skin while you were with Granger.”
Horror overtook Malfoy in a second. “He’s powerful,” Draco said.
“More than he knows, which only makes him more dangerous,” his mum replied. “Stay away from Potter and Granger, Draco.”
I wish I could, Draco thought, wondering whether the Department really had the ability to control Potter and his friends.
Draco had a feeling that things might’ve been easier if he’d let Granger die and Potter have a break down. Then, he wouldn’t have to deal with Potter or the Department. He could be comfortably dead, and that didn’t sound too bad right now.
“I need to finish the potion,” Draco said tiredly. “Merlin forbid it all happens again before I can heal it completely…”
His mother nodded, staring at Potter with renewed respect. “I will retire to my quarters to sleep. Be careful, son. What you were saying earlier, to Granger – perhaps it’s not too wise to take such a strong position in opposition to her. Whether he knows it yet or not, Potter will be the next great power in the Wizarding World, and Granger will be at his side. They’d make good allies but dangerous enemies.”
Draco shook his head. If she only knew…
It took hours to finish the potion, and only when the sun was just creeping up over the horizon, was it ready to be activated. Draco picked up his wand, but Potter’s voice stopped him.
“It’s dark magic you’re using to finish the potion, right? But how can a healing potion be dark?” Potter asked.
Draco relaxed his wand arm, looking at the raven-haired man with trepidation. His mother had gone up to her rooms to sleep, though Daphne, Pansy and Pamela were sleeping in various places around the parlor.
“Dark magic is dark because that is its nature,” Draco explained to Potter. “It can do just as much as light magic can – only it’s more powerful. It takes more than just magic from the caster. I’m sure there’s a light spell out there that could help her, but not nearly as well as this one. Granger was hit with a dark spell, and the best way to heal a dark spell is to use dark magic.”
“What would St. Mungo’s use?” Potter asked.
“It depends. St Mungo’s would have to jump through a few hoops before they used a dark spell or potion, but they’d do it to save a life.”
Draco brought his wand up over the cauldron.
“What does it feel like?” Potter asked suddenly.
For a moment, Draco had the horrifying picture of Potter as a Dark Lord. If it ever happened, historians would go back to this moment, when a childhood rival told the mentally unstable and powerful wizard all about the rush of casting a dark spell. Draco grimaced at the odd image of the Gryffindor on the Dark Lord’s human throne.
“It’s like a drug,” Draco explained. “It gives you a temporary high, but there’s a fall. It takes your sanity, if you’re not strong enough to control your urges to use it.”
“Like Bellatrix Lestrange,” Potter said.
“Yeah, but that sort of addiction happens after a Dark Wizard or Witch goes on a few sprees – starts casting dark spells left and right in the heat of a battle with the high of the dark spell-casting fueling them.”
Potter nodded, and then rushed over to Granger when he saw her stirring. Draco cast the spell on the potion.
“Wake her up,” he told Potter. “She needs to swallow this.”
When Hermione finished swallowing the potion, she could see Harry and Malfoy’s heads looming in her swimming vision. “What’s… what’s going on?”
“Do you feel any pain?” Malfoy asked.
Hermione shook her head, jumping when she felt Malfoy’s cold hand on neck, moving aside her shirt to look at her shoulder.
She couldn’t help the nervous skip of her heart at the sensation. Confused, she met his eyes.
“Your shoulder looks better,” he said clinically. “I don’t see any sign of the curse, aside from some scarring. If it feels the least bit sore, you need to go to St. Mungo’s immediately.”
There was a knock at the door. Startled, Harry’s head swiveled to the entryway. “I’m going to go answer the door. They must’ve sent us an Auror escort.”
“Be careful,” Hermione said, watching him leave in concern.
When he was gone, she turned back to Malfoy, who was observing her pensively through a fringe of his white-blond hair. He'd grown it out since Hogwarts, and had it not been for the worry on his brow, he'd look eerily like his Death Eater father. “I didn’t realize that you and Potter…” Draco trailed off suggestively.
Hermione furrowed her brow in confusion until she understood what he meant. “Oh, no! Not at all. We’re just friends – really close friends. He’s still with Ginny.”
“It must be nice to have him around to protect you,” Malfoy said.
“Yeah,” Hermione agreed. “He’s always there for me. My parents have no memories of me anymore – I had to do it to hide them during the war. They’re all the way in Australia now – a single, childless Muggle couple. Harry’s the only family I have right now. And Ron, well…”
“That was never going to last,” Malfoy said, though he looked away after he said it, perhaps realizing that he’d crossed some sort of line. Malfoy shifted back a few steps. Hermione sat up a bit.
After an awkward silence, Malfoy admitted, “The Dark Lord had a whole team of Death Eaters searching for your parents – he wanted to use them as bait.” Malfoy winced. “I didn’t know any of them that well, but from what I heard…when they told the Dark Lord that your parents were impossible to find, the Dark Lord tortured them into insanity. You must’ve hid them well, though, because the next team he hired couldn’t find them either, and they knew what would happen if they failed.”
Hermione knew she shouldn’t be relieved about that news, but she couldn’t help it. She’d spent so long worrying over whether it had been the right thing to do, but it had been the only option, aside from taking them with her. It was oddly nice of Malfoy to say that.
“I’m sorry,” Malfoy said suddenly.
Confused and a bit worried, Hermione asked, “About what?”
Malfoy looked surprised he’d said anything. “I’m sorry you were injured. I might not agree with what was in the Prophet, but I don’t think you deserve to die because of it.”
Hermione raised a brow. “Uh, thanks, I think,” she said. “And I’m sorry about what I said, at the trial. I really didn’t realize that you wouldn’t be able to go to Hogwarts. I would have been willing to loan you money though. I think even Harry would’ve, if you’d asked…”
“Yeah,” he said, wincing. Hermione sheepishly realized that she'd probably just insulted him again. “Can you stand?”
“I think so… I just feel dizzy now,” Hermione said. “But there’s no pain anywhere.”
Harry walked back into the room, a half-dozen Aurors behind him. “Ready to go?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Hermione said. She put her feet on the side of the couch, and stood a little shakily, holding onto Harry's shoulder for just moment.
“So…” Harry said, looking at the three slumbering women in dread. “Who’s going to wake up Pamela?”
The Aurors were oddly gruff when they ushered Hermione, Pamela and Harry into a Ministry car. It was tiny, but Hermione shouldn’t have been surprised when she slipped inside. It was as if the walls of the car had been stretched width-wise, and the floor had been dipped down two feet. Dark leather seats were situated along the inside.
Harry scooted into the cab next to Hermione, and the Aurors went to the other side of the “car.” Pamela kept her distance from Harry, choosing to join the Aurors. Hermione wondered about that – she seemed scared. Had Harry lost control of his magic again?
“There’s something I have to tell you,” Harry whispered when the car started moving.
“What is it?”
Harry looked up at the Aurors at the other end, who were all trying to avoid Harry’s gaze. He cast a Muffiliato charm, causing Hermione to raise a brow. “It’s the Head Auror,” Harry explained. “I’m not exactly his favorite person.”
“But you said you liked the Auror program.” Hermione was starting to get nervous. Why hadn’t the Aurors greeted Harry?
“I do,” Harry said quickly – maybe too quickly. “I mean, it’s great. They don’t give me special treatment or anything, and I don’t even come into contact with the Head Auror that often. I’m still in training.” Harry nervously clenched his hands in his lap. “He keeps trying to – I don’t know how to describe it. It’s like he’s trying to set me up. I’m not really sure.”
“Didn’t you report him?” Hermione demanded.
“No, well, sort of. I didn’t have any proof. He phrased it strangely when he tried to bribe me – he started out by talking about all the trainees that he’s graduated early. He suggested that he was thinking of doing that for me.”
“It makes sense,” Hermione said. “You have all that experience from war – ”
“No, Hermione, it doesn’t make sense,” Harry said irritably. “I’m no better than the other trainees! They caught up quickly to me after the first month. The amount of spells and theory we learn every month is easily equal to all of what I learned at Hogwarts. Why do you think the program is so hard to enter? The other trainees were at top in there years at Hogwarts. Some of them had spent years trying to enter the program. I’m lucky to even be there.”
“They hired you because of your potential, then. You’ve defeated a Dark Lord, and you’ve proven yourself more than capable in high-pressure situations. I don’t understand, though, why you haven’t told me any of this before now.”
“How could I?” Harry asked quietly. “While you were moping about not being able to do anything, I was doing everything you love – stuffing my brain full of random spells I’ll probably never remember years from now.”
Harry took a deep breath, and Hermione made an effort to calm her rushing mind. “But that means…”
“After talking about promoting me, the Head Auror told me that the paperwork I was doing should be the least of my worries. He’d take it off my hands. I told him I thought it was important. It’s… well, I can’t talk about the case too much, but it involves an investigation into some reporters from the Daily Prophet that have been murdered. He told me that he’d deal with it, but I knew he didn’t mean that he’d actually finish it. Files disappear all the time at the Ministry when nobody’s looking, and the Head Auror never does that sort of paper work. I made a magical copy of the file and gave the original to him. After he left, I finished up the file’s paperwork.
“The next morning, he called attention to the file, asking me in front of everyone where it had gone. When I pulled it out, he was really angry, Hermione. He didn’t yell, but he had this terrible expression, and later that day he told me that I’d regret it, what ever ‘it’ is.”
“You need to report this,” Hermione demanded.
“Sometimes, Harry, you are so impossible! What about Kingsley Shaklebolt?”
“The minister has plenty of other problems to deal with,” Harry snapped back. “He doesn’t need to be dealing with this too.”
“But his Head Auror could be corrupt.”
“I doubt Kingsley has much say in that. Kingsley is more a figurehead than anything else these days. The Wizengamot has been electing department heads.”
Hermione shook her head. “Why doesn’t the paper report this?”
Harry frowned. “Hermione, I didn’t think the Head Auror could do that much to me for what happened yesterday, since it was self-defense, but the Aurors in this car… When I greeted them at the door, they barely responded. I know these people, Hermione, and they are barely looking at me!”
“They’re guilty about something,” Hermione said, panicked. “What if they’re going to fire you?”
Harry shook his head. “The Auror Department would need a very good excuse to fire me – the media would go crazy if they did.”
The car was slowing to a stop, when something occurred to Hermione. “What if they’re taking us to the people who were after us? What if the Head Auror is in on the hit wizards? Hell, what if it’s all some sort of Ministry conspiracy!”
Harry’s lips tightened, and he shook his head. “I doubt the Ministry was involved with hit wizards. Even the Wizengamot isn’t that evil.”
Hermione really hoped that Harry was right.
After he finished packing away his potions kit, Draco closed his book, grimacing at the damage Potter had done to its binding. It had always been his favorite, before the Ministry had taken it.
Daphne and Pansy had left after Pamela had woken. Pansy had made a point of saying that she would have gone as soon as Granger had been cured, if she hadn’t fallen asleep. Draco thought that Pansy had seemed too defensive, but he didn’t correct her.
If anything, he should discourage Pansy from worrying about Granger – it was, after all, part of his newest job.
“Explain this.” His mother’s voice startled Draco from his musings. He dropped the book on the table and turned to his grim-faced mother.
His eyes flickered to the headline of The Daily Prophet:
Draco Malfoy Captures Remaining Death Eaters on Final Mission for Ministry; Malfoy Family Manor is Returned
“I didn’t think the timing was right last night,” Draco said, his eyes meeting his mother’s assertively. “Aren’t you happy? You can return to Malfoy Manor with me – ”
“What did you do to make this happen?” his mother demanded, her lips drawn in a white line.
Draco hesitated, “I had to trick them into trusting me, which wasn’t too hard. The most challenging part was getting them all in one place, where I could trap them – ”
“No, Draco,” his mother scolded. “I meant, who did this for you? What do they expect in return?”
Draco shook his head, not allowing his rapidly beating heart to betray him. “You have it all wrong, Mum. Can’t you believe it? Have you lost that much faith in me as your son?”
Mrs. Malfoy growled uncharacteristically. Throwing the paper to a side table. “You want me to play that game again, Draco, do you? You want me to pretend that you’re actually just a good man, saving his country or whatever nonsense. But don’t think I don’t know your game! Your father would be proud, if he believed this headline, which he probably would. He sold out his Death Eaters too, after the first war. Your father would do anything to hold onto his precious reputation.”
“I’m nothing like him!” Draco yelled, surprised at the ferocity of his own voice.
His mother shook her head. “No, you’re not. It might be okay if you were, but you’re not,” she agreed, her voice trembling. “You’re not your father because, while he might be capable of actually capturing these Death Eaters, you aren’t. Someone did this for you,” his mum said, pointing at the flashing headline. “And now, those people own you, Draco.”
Draco silenced, his gaping mouth shutting just as quickly. Did his mother know about the Department? “What are you saying?” he asked. “Who do you think owns me?
“I haven’t a clue,” she said, “but you’ve made a terrible mistake.”
Draco let out a frustrated sigh. “You underestimate me. Everyone does, and I’m sick of it! Is this really so unbelievable?”
“I raised you, Draco. I know what you are capable of doing. You wouldn’t be able to catch twelve Death Eaters, let alone trick them, and you wouldn’t turn in old housemates like Theodore Nott for your reputation.”
Draco scowled. He shrunk down his potions kit and book and shoved them into his pocket. “Don’t expect me back anytime soon,” he said harshly. He didn’t give his mother enough time to answer, Apparating away on the spot.
When Harry, Pamela and Hermione reached the Head Auror's office, a middle-aged man with a thick moustache and stern eyes stared at them overtop half-moon glasses.
Hermione tried to hide the repulsion she felt as seeing that hardened man behind the same type of glasses that Albus Dumbledore once wore. She was never too good at disguising her facial expressions, though, and she was afraid that, from the Head Auror’s smirk, he knew what she was thinking.
“Today, Mr. Potter,” he began, as the other Aurors shuffled out of the office and closed the door behind them, “is the day that I get you out of my hair.”
Hermione gripped Harry’s wrist, trying to warn him about what the Head Auror was doing. It was clear that he couldn’t fire Harry – yet. But, if Harry attacked him or lost control of his magic…
“Harry,” she said abruptly, causing the two men to turn to her suddenly. “Can we get through this quickly?” It was the first thing that came to mind – refocus the Head Auror’s attention. “Is there some sort of debriefing we should do before you set up Ministry wards around Harry’s flat and Pamela’s house?”
“Ah, right, she speaks,” the man said spitefully. “Hermione Granger, if I am correct?” he asked.
Hermione nodded. The man’s gaze skipped over Pamela, and he said, “How about your flat, Miss Granger? Do you not need protections?”
Hermione explained, “I’m staying with Harry for now, until I can find my own place.”
The man sneered. “I appreciate the sentimental addition to your explanation, but it is no concern of mine what – or, rather, who – Mr. Potter does in his spare time.”
Hermione tightened her grip on Harry’s wrist, and when she looked up, she was startled at the expression she saw. Harry’s face was a stony – his eyes staring at a spot just above the Head Auror’s right shoulder. Hermione wondered how much practice Harry had at controlling his temper around this revolting man.
“Nothing?” the man asked. “Well, it was worth a shot. What about this, then, Potter: you’re on probation.”
Hermione raised a brow. “Why would he be on probation?”
“Are you joking? The Auror Department would be showing favoritism if they didn’t punish Mr. Potter for losing control of his magic during a battle. Those hit wizards might’ve attacked him, but they had families too. All criminals deserve a fair trial before the law, and self-defense will only take you so far.”
Hermione backed down, reminding herself that this man only wanted to provoke a response.
Harry’s voice startled her from her musings. “What does this probation mean?”
“It means that, until further notice, you will only attend the theoretical portions of your Auror training. In addition to those three hours of theoretical lessons, you will be doing all of my paperwork.”
Harry clenched his fists, but his expression barely flickered.
“Oh, and did I mention? I haven’t done paperwork in a long time. It’s been an entire year, I believe. Sometimes, it’s wonderful to be your own boss.”
Harry let out a breath of air, and he opened his mouth to say something, but the door swung open.
“I tried to stop him, sir,” said an Auror.
Right behind the Auror, Minister Kingsley Shaklebolt strode into the room. His dark eyes traveled through the room like an eagle’s, landing ultimately on the Head Auror.
“You will ward their residences,” he ordered. "I will hold you personally responsible to the media for any breaches that might occur in the future."
The Head Auror grimaced, but his expression took on a falsely subservient look. “But of course.”
Kingsley turned to Hermione, Harry, and Pamela. “Come with me,” he said assertively. “I need to talk to you somewhere private.”
“Would you like me to get your office ready, sir?” asked the Auror behind Shaklebolt.
“No, I said somewhere private, where I don’t have twelve different monitoring spells tracking my every move.” He turned to Harry, Hermione and Pamela, “We will go to the place where your favorite house elf died,” he said.
“I’m not a part of this!" Pamela blurted out, and every in the room turned to her in unison. Nervously under their hard glares, she said, "I don’t want to be around all this anymore. I just want to go home!”
Startled, Hermione asked, “What do you mean?”
"It's too much... I want to go back to my life," Pamela said tremulously.
“We can take care of the Squib,” the Head Auror volunteered unenthusiastically. “We’ll put her in her house after we ward it.”
Kingsley nodded. “You two – I’ve lifted the wards for you.”
Kingsley and Harry left right away, but Hermione couldn't help sparing one last glance for Pamela. She hoped that Pamela would be okay. Hermione finally realized how terrifying this whole ordeal must have been for someone who's grown up without violence.
"Goodbye, Pamela," Hermione said before she clenched her eyes and Apparated to Shell Cottage.
Please remember to leave a review if you have a second, even if it's just to say you're reading. Thanks to daretodream, academica, D2Diamond, Bookworm530, and granger_ for reviewing the last chapter!
I'm going on hiatus until I have more time to write. Check my author's page for the status of my hiatus, but I might be able to come off it quickly in October to post a chapter.
Best of luck to everyone else who's returning to college!