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Chapter 6 : Meeting
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He rested his elbows on the desk in front of him and held his head in his hands. There was something that just didn’t add up with this Thorfinn Rowle business. Why would a wanted Death Eater show up in Diagon Alley of all places? It was very odd. There had been no sightings of him or any others for months now, so why would he make himself so vulnerable to capture now? There was no doubt that he believed Gwendolyn Prince, but something just didn’t sit right.
Then there was Malfoy. He had taken a great interest in the case. Harry chuckled lightly to himself at the thought that Malfoy probably had more of an idea than he about where Rowle was hiding; after all, his parents were Death Eaters and he himself had almost become one.
When Harry first accepted his post as Head of the Auror Department, he was surprised to be told that Malfoy would occasionally be working with him. He had no idea that Malfoy even worked at the ministry, as he hadn’t been seen since a year after the last battle. As it turns out, Malfoy had gone abroad and apparently returned a changed man. He now worked with ministers all over the world. He had, of course, been subjected to interrogation upon requesting a job at the ministry. However, using Veritaserum, it was found that Malfoy was no longer a part of the Death Eater circle and he had no idea of the whereabouts of any of them. Now though, Harry thought, that may be a different case. He decided to set a tail on Malfoy to keep an eye on his movements. He certainly had been acting odd when he came to the office earlier. Writing a quick letter to Neville Longbottom, another senior Auror he had employed, he asked him to come to the office immediately. He would ask him to follow Malfoy’s every move and to report back with anything suspicious.
Draco paced around his library, wearing circles in the expensive plush carpet beneath his feet. He was worried about Granger. Although he had put up extra protection around her apartment from the moment he had returned to the country two years ago, a dark wizard such as Rowle would surely have his ways of getting to her. Last night he almost had.
No matter how hard he had tried over these last years, he had never received any solid information about where Rowle was hiding. It was as if he’d disappeared off the face of the Earth. Until now he had thought it safe for Granger as long as they heard nothing of that bastard; it meant he was still on the run and wasn’t anywhere near her. How wrong he’d been, Draco thought as he collapsed onto a nearby chair.
Hearing the patter of small feet enter the room, Draco looked up to find one of his house elves, Slinky, with a small tray of food.
“Slinky thought Master might like some food, sir,” she squeaked in her tiny voice, “and Slinky also came to remind Master that he only has an hour before he must travel to Diagon Alley for his meeting, sir,” she concluded as she set down the tray on the table next to Malfoy.
“Thanks, Slinky. I suppose I’d better eat something, I feel sick enough already,” he mumbled as an afterthought. All he wanted was for Granger to listen to him, to understand that he had constantly been looking out for her. The regret he felt as a result of the way was eating away at him.
He did not expect forgiveness. Hermione Granger was a bold woman who was never afraid to say what she thought, a trait which he had experienced from her these last couple of days. He was sure that tonight he would hear a lot more of what she thought of him, and it wouldn’t be pretty. Really not knowing what to expect, he dismissed Slinky and ate the sandwich she had prepared for him quietly.
Once he had finished, Draco went back to his huge bedroom. The whole place was draped in emerald hangings, and in the far corner stood a king-size four poster bed, with black satin sheets. He loved that bed, but he felt awfully lonely in it. Not only was this a room too big for one person, but the rest of his house was wasted too, he thought solemnly.
Striding over to the bathroom, he took a quick shower in order to revive himself and chose a pair of light jeans and black sweater to wear. He covered himself in his cloak, making sure his wand was stowed away carefully inside, and left his room to head for the Living Area. He checked his watch. Twenty minutes until he was to meet with Granger. Deciding it was better to be early than late, he stepped into the fireplace with a deep breath and sped towards the Leaky Cauldron.
Having read her book for a couple of hours, Hermione realised that she had little time before she were to meet with Malfoy. Deciding not to shower again, she went to her wardrobe and stared at the array of dark clothes she owned. Somehow her clothes reflected the woman she felt she had become now. Nothing bright caught her eye, the wardrobe consisting of only greys and blacks. Making a mental note to stop being so miserable, Hermione chose a black blouse and grey pencil skirt which showed off the curves of her hips. The least she could do was make Malfoy think she wasn’t completely defeated; she would much rather have dressed in tracksuit bottoms and an oversized t-shirt, but thought better of it. As much as she felt hopeless inside, she tried her hardest to make sure this didn’t show.
Adding a touch of mascara in front of a very small compact mirror she found in her handbag, she decided she needed no more makeup. She looked presentable. Not that she had to for Malfoy, he was nothing special of course.
Pulling on her cloak, she stepped over to the fireplace with a quick glance at the clock; she was ten minutes early.
The Leaky Cauldron was eerily quiet for this time of night, with only a few locals huddled around the bar. Draco realised he had no idea what to order for Hermione.
After quick deliberation he settled on a Butterbeer for each of them and took them over to the table furthest from the bar. Checking his watch again he realised there was only ten minutes until she arrived. His stomach churned as he waited, when he saw the door to the bar open. Stood with windswept brown hair and a nervous look on her pretty features was Hermione Granger. Her eyes scanned the room until she spotted Draco and she cast a glance at the other drinkers before making a beeline for him.
She sat down opposite him, putting as much space between them as she could. She still felt slightly repulsed in his company but this feeling was beginning to subside with each day she saw him. What an odd feeling, she thought. When a minute had passed in silence as they both looked anywhere but at the other, Hermione decided enough was enough.
“Let’s just get to the point Malfoy. I want to know why you asked me here,” she said assertively.
Draco took a second to think about his answer. There were a million things he wanted to say to this woman but he couldn’t find the words to say it all.
“I hope you were careful on your way here. I’m doing what I can to ensure your protection in your own home, but there’s not much I can do when you’re-“ Draco rambled but was cut off my Hermione’s stern voice.
“I am perfectly capable of looking after myself, Malfoy,” she snapped, heat rising to her face.
“Yes, you were very capable of that last night when you were strewn over the cobbles of Diagon Alley,” he said sarcastically.
“Don’t be such an arse! What do you want with me?” she quizzed and a look of shame once again crept onto his face.
“I wanted to let you know what has happened in the five years since I last saw you,” he said, as they both mentally recalled that horrific night, “and I wanted to apologise again for…”
Hermione looked away from him. Malfoy could see that her eyes had glazed over and it was clear that she was recounting the events, mentally scolding him for being such a cowardly little prat.
“Well, now you’ve apologised,” she said, snapping back to reality. “But as for what you’ve been doing with your life, I have no interest in that whatsoever. If that is all, then I won’t be wasting any more of my time with you,” she noted, and went to stand up before Draco grabbed her wrist.
"Wait, please,” he begged.
Hermione stared down at the hand that still gripped her, amazed that he had the nerve to touch her. She recoiled, unable to stand it any longer. She rarely let anyone touch her, let alone a man. Sitting back down, her eyes bore into his.
“You have ten minutes. If I think what you have to say is worth anything, I’ll listen. If not, I will leave,” she said, “without anybody stopping me,” she added with an angry look at him.
“Thank you. Well, where to begin,” he mused, “there are many things you don’t know about me, Granger, but much has changed since our time at Hogwarts. My life was controlled entirely by my parents. Do you think I enjoyed having to be in the inner circle of the Dark Lord’s followers?” he said with a questioning look at her.
“Since you fought on his side in the war and injured goodness knows how many innocent people then I would say yes, you did enjoy it!” she scolded.
“I had no choice. You have no idea the power my father held over me, as well as my mother. I wouldn’t have put it past him to give me up to the Dark Lord, should he have so wished. He would have had me killed if I put a step wrong, I don’t doubt that,” Draco said solemnly, thinking of the times Lucius had let Voldemort torture him.
“Well poor little Draco whose daddy didn’t love him,” Hermione interjected with a roll of her eyes, “I didn’t come here to listen to you whine about how terrible your childhood was, I came here for answers. How could you have just stood by and watched what that animal did to me?” she asked accusingly, hot tears pricking at her eyes.
Draco stared into her deep brown eyes and said “I was appalled with what I saw. I felt sick to the stomach and still do every time I think of that moment,” he said, closing his eyes. “If I had turned on Rowle in the midst of the battle, he would have killed me in an instant. He was a great friend of my father’s and I knew how ruthless he could be. I knew he wouldn’t have given it a seconds thought before murdering me in front of you,” he finished with a sigh. How selfish he sounded.
“So you let him attack me to save your own skin? How very typical of you,” Hermione spat.
“It wasn’t like that, Granger! Believe it or not I was trying to protect you, too,” he continued, “if I had tried to wrestle him from you, you would have been caught up in the fight and we could have both been killed!”
Hermione considered this. Yes, maybe that would have been the case. But if it was her, she would rather have died than see that happen to anybody, enemy or not. As if he could read her mind, Draco continued.
“I am not like you, Granger. I never had anybody I could call a true friend, and back then I would have saved my own skin before saving anyone else’s. That’s different now,” he commented, looking straight at her. “There’s more I have to tell you, other than that I’m sorry. I want you to understand how sorry I’ve been since that day,” he said.
“What are you talking about, Malfoy?” Hermione quizzed.
Draco sighed. He didn’t know how she was going to take what he said next, or whether she would even believe him at all.
“I spent two years abroad, campaigning for Muggleborns rights. The whole time I was away, all I thought of day and night was Rowle and what he did to you. It tormented me every second and I couldn’t stand it any longer,” he was begging to talk quickly now, “I couldn’t live with myself thinking that he had gotten away with it, that he could do that to someone else,” he continued.
Hermione stared at him as he continued to ramble on. He looked less like his calm and collected self. He looked as if he had lost control.
“I didn’t know what to do, Granger. I knew I couldn’t change what had happened, but I could stop it from happening to others. And I could stop him from ever coming near you again. That’s why I started by putting up extra protection around your apartment,” he finished.
“I am a trained senior Auror. What makes you think I can’t take perfectly good care of myself?!” Hermione asked.
“You don’t understand what these people are like. He knows Dark Magic beyond anything you could ever imagine. If I hadn’t put up the defensive spells on top of the protection you already had, he could have got to you. If that was what he wished,” Draco muttered as an afterthought.
Hermione stopped breathing for a second, a thought dawning on her that she hadn’t considered in a long time. Maybe he would come back for her, maybe he wasn’t finished with her, she thought.
“Do you mean to say,” she whispered, “that you think he is coming after me?”
“I honestly don’t know. Ever since I returned to the country, I have done all that I can to find and catch that bastard, but until today I have heard very little of him. If it truly was him following you in Diagon Alley last night, you need to be more careful,” Draco warned.
Hermione hadn’t heard all of what he had said. She was stunned that he had been trying to find Rowle, that he had been trying to protect her. This was not the Malfoy she had known years ago. Why would he, pureblood heir to Lucius Malfoy, help a mudblood like her?
“Wait…,” she started, “you’ve been looking for him? Why would you do that?” she asked.
“Like I said, I couldn’t stand the thought of him hurting you again,” Draco said quietly, looking down as though his shoes were suddenly very interesting.
There was a new kind of silence erupting between the two now. Hermione pondered all that he had said, and wondered whether he was truly sorry. He certainly looked sincere, and she saw a pain in his eyes that she hadn’t witnessed before in their days at Hogwarts. Draco continued to look down, wondering what she was thinking.
In an attempt to lighten the mood, he said “Wow. Hermione Granger, lost for words. Has that ever happened before?” he jested.
She rolled her eyes again and said nothing.
“There was something I wanted to ask you,” Draco went on, “because I’m sure you want to find Rowle and destroy him as much as I do. I want you to help me find him,” Draco asked.
Hermione looked at him. She never in a million years thought he’d be the one asking her for help after what happened. She didn’t even know that she wanted to give it to him. One thing she did know was that she would do anything in her power to see that disgusting worm brought to justice. The only reason she hadn’t so far was out of fear; nobody in her life knew a thing about what happened that night, and she had never felt she had anybody to talk to. It seemed that that was changing, and Hermione gave a deep breath before answering.
“Yes. I do want to find him. I will help you,” she admitted finally.
Draco attempted a small smile in her direction, one which was not returned.
“Do not take this as forgiveness, Malfoy. What you did was disgusting,” she continued as he hung his head once more, “but I do appreciate what you have done since. What do you need me to do?”
“For a start, I want you out of that apartment. You are not safe there,” he said seriously, looking for a reaction from Hermione.
Anger bubbled inside her and her voice rose as she said “I will not be forced out of my own home by that scumbag! He has destroyed my life for years! Where do you propose I go? You must understand, I have nowhere else to go!” she cried, causing them to receive a few disgruntled looks from the other customers at the bar.
“There’s always Malfoy Manor,” he said calmly.
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