Chapter 5 : Laughter
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Draco was pacing his bedroom whilst awaiting a returning owl from Potter. He looked at his watch. It had only been ten minutes since he had sent the letter informing him of the sighting, and Draco couldn’t even be sure it would have reached him; it was Sunday after all.
He made his way to the Living Room and almost keeled over with shock as his fireplace ignited and Granger toppled out.
“Fucking hell, you gave me the fright of my life!” he exclaimed, trying to calm his racing heart.
“I have just been to the ministry and seen Harry,” she began.
“Oh, that, yes…I was going to let you know at the Leaky Cauldron tonight…” he said.
“You didn’t think I needed to know straight away? Malfoy, it was obviously him tailing me last night! What if he’d caught me, what if it happened again? I couldn’t cope with that, it cannot happen, I don’t know-“ Hermione couldn’t finish before Draco interjected.
“Calm down, would you? Of course you need to know but I you have protection around your apartment, there’s no way he could get to you as long as you were inside,” Draco stated.
“But what if I wasn’t inside, Malfoy?! What then?!” she screamed, “And wait…how do you know about the protection on my apartment?” she asked warily.
“Every Auror has it…and I made it my business to make sure you had extra protection around you. I thought that was the least I could do, considering,” he said, as he looked down at the floor.
Hermione was stunned. She did not know whether to be angry that he had interfered in her life after she thought he was no longer a part of it since Hogwarts, or whether to be grateful that someone was looking out for her. She decided not to address the matter.
“Never mind that. I want to know what is going on,” she said, and Draco could tell she was getting more and more agitated. She went over towards the door and before he could catch her, Hermione went towards the Dining Hall.
“Granger, please don’t go in there,” he started, but she had already entered the room.
“Hello Hermione,” Pansy said sweetly, a slight look of guilt upon her face.
“Pansy was just going, weren’t you Pans?” Draco said pointedly, giving her a knowing look.
“Er, yes…yes I was just going. Nice to see you Hermione,” she said, and left.
“What was that all about? Why was she here? Why did you send her away?” Hermione questioned impatiently.
“We were just having breakfast, nothing important,” Draco mumbled, desperately trying to find a way of changing the subject. “Now why don’t we sit down? Are you hungry?”
Hermione gave a perplexed look. She seemed to be confused as to why she was even at Malfoy Manor, more so as to why Draco Malfoy had invited her to join him for breakfast. She started laughing, so much so that tears sprung to her eyes.
“What’s so funny, Granger?” Draco asked, wondering if she was under some sort of curse. Maybe she’d been Imperiused, he thought.
“I am in Malfoy Manor!” she managed to choke out, “and Draco Malfoy, a man I hate to the depths of my being, had just invited me to breakfast!” she laughed hysterically. “What on earth has the world come to?!”
“Erm, yes, I suppose it is a bit odd,” he mused, and began to chuckle with her.
They continued on like this for some time, both in tears by the end at what a ridiculous situation they were in. When they both finally managed to calm down, there was a tension between them that was different to any other that Draco had experienced. He could tell that Granger hadn’t laughed like that for a very long time, a fact they both realised in quick succession. Silence enveloped them as the laughter ceased.
“Well, would you like some breakfast Hermione?” Draco asked carefully.
Hermione’s eyes widened and she looked entirely lost for words. Realising what had just happened, Draco began to feel slightly hot as his face reddened.
“What did you just call me?” Hermione asked.
Regaining his composure and collecting himself, Draco said simply “Your name. It is Hermione, isn’t it?” he asked. She looked blankly at him.
“Yes, I suppose it is. But shouldn’t you be calling me ‘mudblood’ or something?” she asked, a dark expression taking over her delicate features. Draco once again blushed, and looked away from her face.
“I told you last night, I have changed. That is a disgusting word, and one I do not intend on using to address you or anybody else. Now, as it is clear you don’t want breakfast, I suggest you go home and sit tight until our meeting tonight. I have to go to the ministry,” Draco said hurriedly.
With that, he steered Hermione back into the Living Room and all but pushed her into the fireplace, back to her apartment.
Once Draco arrived at the ministry, he headed straight for Harry Potter’s office. Without knocking, he stormed through the door to find Harry deep in conversation with a woman he had never seen before. She was of an average height, and seemed to be in her mid 20’s. She had the darkest hair Draco had ever seen, which ran down the length of her back and stopped just short of her hips. He only realised he was staring when Harry started shouting.
“What are you doing here Malfoy? You can’t just burst in here, I’m in a meeting!” he exclaimed.
“Ah, you must be Draco. Pansy has told me a lot about you,” the woman simpered, winking at Draco.
“You’re Gwendolyn Prince, I take it?” Draco asked, having now returned to his usual professional self.
“The one and only,” she said, with a dazzling smile.
“I was just gathering a statement off Miss Prince concerning the suspected sighting of Thorfinn Rowle before you rudely interrupted,” Harry scowled.
“My sincere apologies, Potter,” Draco said sarcastically, “but I’m sure, since I am the one who provided you with such information, that whatever Miss Prince has to say can be said in front of me,” Draco said with his most charming smile aimed toward Gwendolyn.
“Oh yes, how lovely! Maybe we can get to know each other a little more,” she said with another wink.
“We are here on a purely professional basis, Miss Prince. I’m sure you can both appreciate what a serious business this is. Rowle is a very dangerous man and it’s about time he was apprehended.” Harry said.
You don’t know the half of it, Draco thought ashamedly. However this was enough to snap him back to reality and out of thoughts of what he’d like to be doing with Gwendolyn other than this meeting.
“As it so happens, Miss Prince and I have just finished. She informs me that around 11.15 last night, she was on her way home from late night shopping in Diagon Alley when she saw a man running towards her. He had blonde hair and had a large build, and by the brief glimpse she caught of his face, Miss Prince is more or less certain that it was Rowle,” Harry went on.
“That’s good enough for me,” Draco announced, “are there Aurors on patrol of the alley?”
“Of course. They were sent out at 9am this morning and will be patrolling in shifts for the next 48 hours. We also have Aurors in every place Rowle is known to have hidden in the past such as the Shrieking Shack,” Harry finished.
“Sounds like you have all bases covered,” Draco nodded to Harry, “please keep me updated”.
Draco shook Gwendolyn’s hand and was just about to leave the office when a question from Harry stopped him in his tracks.
“Why are you so keen to get Rowle sent to Azkaban, Malfoy? I know he’s a Death Eater but there’s many more of them out here and you’ve never shown such an interest before,” Harry asked curiously.
Anxious not to give anything away regarding Potter’s best friend, Draco said “No reason in particular, I just know him to be one of the most ruthless. He was a friend of my father,” he muttered, and quickly excused himself.
He had not yet told Hermione that Rowle was his father’s closest friend. He had been at the Manor many a time, and Draco had often seen him torturing animals as well as prisoners that the Dark Lord had captured and imprisoned at the Manor. When Draco saw him attack Hermione, it was through his own selfishness that he had not helped her; he knew that if he had stopped Rowle or told anyone of what he saw, he would have been tortured and probably killed. Knowing what he knew now, and seeing the effect that his actions had on Hermione, he wished he had acted differently.
Hermione landed with a thud in her apartment, a little shaken from the moments previously. Things seemed different between her and Malfoy. Since when had they been on first name terms? She thought.
Brushing the thought away, deciding to bring it up later when she met Malfoy at the Leaky Cauldron, Hermione realised she had not yet written the letter she had intended for Ron. She stepped over to the desk drawer in her living room and grabbed a piece of parchment, quill and pot of ink. Sitting on the sofa, she pondered what to write. It was always so difficult to think of what to say; since her life only comprised of going to work and coming home, she had little to really talk about. It wasn’t likely that she’d tell Ron about meeting Malfoy, he’d throw a fit. Although it had been years since Ron had last seen him, too, Hermione knew that the old prejudices and hate were still present for all of them. Harry had no choice but to be civil with Malfoy as they often had to work together, but she knew what Ron was like. It was very hard for him to forgive, no less forget. She began her letter as she usually did.
It’s been so long since I’ve heard from you, how are things in Romania? I hope you’re being careful and haven’t got any more burns from that Horntail.
Your mother came round a couple of weeks ago and said that she’d spoken to you and that you’ll be coming home soon! You’ll have to come back for the wedding anyway, so why don’t you make it an extended holiday?
There’s not much going on here, just the usual work stuff. Harry gave me a few days off work as I’ve been feeling a little ill. Nothing to worry about though.
Hope to see you soon, please owl back.
Deciding that there was not much more she could say, Hermione sealed the letter in an envelope and left it on the side to send later. Huffing a great sigh, she once again sat on the sofa and picked up a book she had left on the coffee table the week before. Hogwarts: A History was by far her favourite book. Curling up comfortably, she settled down, intent on having a good read to distract her from what she had stupidly agreed to do later. In one hand, she still held tightly onto her wand. If it really was Rowle in Diagon Alley last night, she would have to be on her guard.
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