Chapter 11 : Snooping
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“I’m sorry Gin,” he said.
“How can she not be here?! I need her for the wedding plans, I can’t do this without her!” Ginny said, flopping down on the plush red sofa and burying her face in her hands. She looked defeated. Leaning back again, she stroked a tender hand over her bump, tracing small circles to comfort herself.
“Of course you can. I’m still here remember,” Harry smiled. This probably wouldn’t be any comfort to her seeing as he’d been pretty useless so far in planning the wedding. He thought of how difficult it must be for her; Fred, Arthur and Ron were all supposed to be here to help. Two of them obviously couldn’t, and Ron just seemed too busy to bother with any of them.
She sighed walked over to the window on the other side of the room. Harry looked at her frame and could see how much she had grown recently. He’d spent years wanting to become a dad, but now the time was looming he was more scared than he’d ever been, and that included fighting Voldemort. He didn’t really know how to be a good dad since his had never been able to show him. How he longed for his parents to be here to offer some words of wisdom.
Ginny stared out of the window at the rainy street below. “Something isn’t right, Harry. We know Hermione. She’s always been one for organisation and she was really enjoying this wedding planning. She hasn’t been right for ages, but why would she just up and leave now? I know she says she’s with her parents but still,” she mused.
“I don’t know. I agree there’s something going on, I just have no bloody idea what it is.”
He paced over to Ginny and enveloped her in his arms. He wished he could wash away all her pain and bring back everyone she loved. Hermione was her best friend, and even she was gone now. He couldn’t help but think that they were losing everyone and everything that mattered.
Draco awoke in his far too comfortable bed feeling refreshed, having had the best night sleep in a long while. He stretched his broad arms above his head and smiled to himself. He felt hopeful today. Last night with Hermione had been somewhat different, and he felt as if she might finally be starting to forgive him. It wasn’t that he expected this, far from it, but the way she had reacted when he told her about that night was definitely better than he had expected. He thought she’d accuse him of being a liar, of trying to excuse his behaviour by making it up. Odd really that she hadn’t come to that conclusion given his reputation in the past.
He heaved his legs over the edge of the bed and sat for a while, staring at the small picture of his mother in an ornate silver frame on his bedside table. He missed her somewhat, and wondered what she’d say if she could see Hermione living in her house. He laughed, thinking she’d probably disown his for having ‘her kind’ in the manor. He got up and had a hurried shower, keen to get to work today. It was about time they started making plans to find Rowle and bring him down.
When he finished his shower, he dressed in comfortable jogging bottoms and a t-shirt, feeling relaxed. Looking at the clock he saw that it was almost 9; normally having breakfast at 8, he worried that Hermione would be waiting for him in the dining hall and made his way there. However, she wasn’t sat at her usual space at the table. He exited the vast room and made the long journey down the corridors towards her bedroom. He had given her the largest room in the manor aside from his and his parent’s which was left empty at all times. He regretted this decision greatly, annoyed at himself for choosing to put her so far away from him; he’d grown very protective of her and wished she could be closer. Along the way he almost tripped flat on his face, and when he looked down he was irritated to see a large orange ball of fluff. Crookshanks wound himself around Draco’s legs, eager for attention that he obviously wasn’t receiving enough of.
He scooped the cat up and carried him the rest of the way to Hermione’s room, figuring he’d rather that than trip over him. He was much more a dog person, he thought, as the cat shed its ginger fur all over his dark t-shirt.
Having finally reached Hermione’s room and knocked the door loudly. Surely she must be awake by now, he thought when she didn’t answer. He knocked once more and still no answer. He was beginning to worry now. He knew he should have given a room closer to his. He pushed the heavy door open with the one arm that wasn’t holding Crookshanks and glanced around, not seeing Hermione. The cat leapt out of his arms and made himself comfortable on the expensive silk sheets, clawing snags in it as he went. Draco walked towards the bathroom door and his shoulders sagged in relief when he heard the water of the shower running.
The door to the bathroom was slightly ajar and he heard Hermione humming an old Weird Sisters tune. He smirked to himself and no sooner than he was about to walk away and wait over at the desk for her than the water stopped pouring. He turned away modestly, but couldn’t help looking once he was sure she would be covered by one of the fluffy towels he had sent to the room for her. He peered through the door once more and saw the fair skin of her shoulders, dripping wet from the hair that flowed down her back. He watched the droplets trickle down in patterns, stopping at the top of the towel. Her skin looked so soft.
All too soon she swung around. “What the hell are you doing?!” she shouted, trying and failing to cover herself up more.
“Shit, I’m sorry! I was worried about you when you didn’t answer the door, I was just coming to let you know breakfast’s ready,” he said, looking anywhere but at her as she closed the door in his face.
“Give me five minutes!” she called. He left the room quickly, practically running back to the dining hall.
Hermione dried herself and dressed quickly in one of her own jumpers and a pair of leggings. She didn’t really want to give Draco the satisfaction of knowing she liked the clothes he had bought for her, especially after she’d just caught him snooping on her.
She sat at the edge of the bed whilst drying her hair with her wand. She muttered the spell to make it straight, thinking as she did so about the last person who’d seen her naked. It must have been her parents when she was a very small child. Her hair now dry, Hermione set her wand down on the bed next to her. At 23 years old, she had not had a steady boyfriend, since her relationship with Ron at Hogwarts could definitely not have been described as ‘steady’. The only intimate relation she ever had was that which had been forced on her by that vile man during the battle. Since then, Hermione had never let a man so much as look at her without blanching, and only occasionally let Harry touch her in an embrace. Dirty blood, dirty body, she thought to herself, suddenly feeling the overwhelming urge to cry. She breathed heavily, willing herself to stay calm and strangely, it worked. She was beginning to have much more control over her emotions than she had when she was a teenager, now able to keep herself together. Pasting a smile on her face, she got up and left for breakfast.
Just as she’d said, Hermione entered the dining hall five minutes later looking slightly wound up. She sat in the seat to the right of Draco and looked at him angrily.
“Look, I’m really sorry about that. I was just worried that something had happened,” he said, and her expression softened slightly. It was strange that he was looking out for her.
“Fine, but if I catch you again you’ll find a valuable part of your anatomy will no longer be connected to your body,” she said sternly.
He laughed and they both tucked into the pancakes, bacon and porridge that was displayed in front of them. Draco noted that Slinky was going to far more trouble than usual now that Hermione was staying with them. Normally it was just toast and eggs for him. They both finished their breakfast and gulped down their pumpkin juice.
“Don’t you drink tea?” Hermione asked.
“Isn’t that some kind of muggle drink?”
“Well, yes I suppose it is. You should try it sometime,” she said. “I’m sure you’d like it.”
“I’ll ask Slinky to bring some to us later. We have to start work today,” he said and she nodded in agreement, enthusiastic to start doing something. She hated sitting around leisurely. Work had been her only distraction since Hogwarts.
“So, where do you suppose we start?” she asked.
“Well, as I told you yesterday, I’ve got files on Rowle and the others in the library extension. I figured that’s as good a place as any to get started; it might give us some kind of clue as to where he’s hiding out.” Again she nodded and followed suit as Draco stood to leave.
They made their way to the library, Hermione stopping occasionally to look at the numerous portraits lining the walls. Around halfway to the library, she saw a large black cloth covering part of the wall.
“What’s under there?” she asked, acting like her usual curious self.
“My parents. Portraits of every Malfoy that ever lived here line the walls of the manor. Those are two which I’d rather not have to look at every day.”
The tone to his voice told Hermione not to ask questions. She already knew pretty well his feelings towards his mother and father. When they reached the library, Draco unlocked it as he had done yesterday and they stepped inside. Hermione was yet again overwhelmed by the sight of all those books and wondered whether she’d ever get used to it.
Draco turned to her and said, “Can I trust you?”
Thrown a little off-guard, Hermione blinked up at him. “What do you mean?”
“Well, seeing as we’re both going to need access to the files in here, I suppose I need to let you know the exact location. That means you’ll be bound by the Fidelius Charm. Can I trust you?”
“Yes!” she said excitedly, and Draco couldn’t help but laugh at her childlike reaction. She was like a kid in a sweet shop. He was always going to tell her anyway, he just liked to tease.
“In order to enter the room, you must say: The Unreachable Room, Malfoy Manor.”
She nodded, and did as he said. A small door appeared, right behind the chaise longue which she had been sitting on yesterday. She followed Draco over to it and ducked under the doorway. The room behind it was almost the size of the library next door. Draco walked over to a large grey filing cabinet in one corner of the room and Hermione went to rummage on the shelves in front of her. More books lined the walls and she chose one at random: The Darkest of Curses – For Best Effects, Use on Muggleborns. She dropped the book almost as if it were on fire, causing it to land with a loud thud on the carpet beneath her feet.
Draco spun round at the noise, walking over to Hermione who was staring at the ground. He followed the gaze and seeing what she had dropped, said “Hermione, that belonged to my parents. All of this stuff did.”
“I don’t want to hear it, Malfoy. I can’t believe I thought you’d changed,” she said.
“Oh so it’s Malfoy now, is it?” he said, “I thought you’d know by now that you can trust me. I am not like that anymore,” he growled and stormed out of the room, leaving Hermione seething.
She picked up the book and put it back on the shelf, sighing. Looking across the shelf she saw more similar titles and couldn’t help her disappointment. She really had thought he’d changed. She walked back into the library, longing to be far away from those horrible things, and wandered up the aisles. She came across the desk where she had found Draco’s diary yesterday and picked it up once more, reading through a few entries. Tears springing to her eyes, she realised how much she’d learnt about this man in a matter of days. She did trust him.
Draco paced the corridor back and forth, almost wearing a hole in the carpet. Running a hand through his hair he shot a curse at a nearby wall, earning a few choice words from a couple of the portraits as the bricks around them cracked.
He leant against the wall and slid down it until he was sitting on the floor. Why did this have to happen now? He finally thought he was getting somewhere with Hermione, she seemed comfortable around him and she even liked his friends. Well, one of them and that was a start. He took a few minutes to calm down, beginning to understand why she’d got her wand in such a knot. The books in there had just reinstated the way he’d treated her at school and it was no wonder they thought they were his. After all, they were in his house. He didn’t even know why he hadn’t got rid of them yet. Once he had relaxed and cooled off, he stood and opened the library door quietly and went over to the separate room. Looking around, he found she wasn’t there. I’m sick of playing hide and seek with this girl, he thought glumly. Why couldn’t she just stay put?
He went back into the library and started searching the aisles for her. He was sure she hadn’t left the room since he had been sitting right opposite the door and after a quick search he found her. She was sat at the corner desk in the Dark Arts section. His heart sank as he saw what was in her hands.
His heavy footfall had caused the floor to creak and Hermione looked up. She opened and closed her mouth like a fish, obviously stuck as to what to say. They stared each other out for a while and Draco said evenly, “What are you doing?”
“I-I-I was just curious, I didn’t realise what it was until-“
“Don’t lie to me! You and I both know that there are protective spells on that book so you must have realised what it was when you opened the fucking thing!”
She looked slightly abashed at him talking to her like that. She’d never really seen him so angry and it scared her so much that she cowered away as he continued shouting,
“I’ve let you into my house and done everything I can for you, so why can’t you let private things stay private?”
“I’m s-s-sorry, Draco. I don’t even know why I read it,” she said quietly, having the decency to look quite ashamed with herself.
He looked over at her and could see the apology in her eyes. He knew he couldn’t stay angry with her for long.
“Whatever, Granger,” he said.
“Oh so it’s Granger now, is it?” she smirked and stood up to walk over to him. “Draco I’m really sorry, okay? I shouldn’t have been so nosy.”
“No change there, then,” he smiled, “but please understand that the things in that room are not mine; they’re in there for a reason. I don’t look at them, I locked them away because they all belonged to my parents.”
“I understand, but I don’t know why you’d even bother keeping them.”
This made Draco think. Why did he keep them? He was being genuine with her, he had never and would never read those books so it didn’t really make sense to have them in the house. Resolving to have Slinky get rid of them, he said “Isn’t it about time we got started with the work we were supposed to be doing?”
She nodded back at him and they went back to the other room together, closing the door behind them. Draco once again walked over to the filing cabinet in the corner and motioned for Hermione to sit down at the small round table to the right of it. She did so, and once he had rifled through the files for several minutes, he joined her with a thick folder in his hand. The name was written in neat script: Thorfinn Rowle. A large picture with the word ‘wanted’ above it screamed out at them from the front of the folder and Hermione recoiled at the sight of it. It was the same picture that had featured in the Daily Prophet during the mass breakout from Azkaban long before the war.
“Now, as I said, these files are automatically updated every time the ministry adds new information to their copies. Blaise has got every minister of every country on the lookout for Rowle so we may find some leads in here. The folder certainly looks thicker than the last time I looked,” Draco said.
He opened the folder and reams of parchment fell out. Hermione picked up a piece dated two weeks before that said he had been seen in France. That wasn’t too far away and she assumed that would have been the last place he’d been before the time he followed her in Diagon Alley. She picked up another piece of parchment, dated only yesterday.
“Oh Merlin,” she said quietly, eyes wide.
“What is it?”
“This was updated by the ministry yesterday. It says two ministry wizards spotted Rowle in Australia,” she said.
“Okay…I don’t understand the problem, that’s the furthest he’s been for a while by the looks of things,” Draco said.
“Before the war, when I thought Voldemort would come looking for me while I was with Harry and Ron looking for Horcruxes, I modified my parents memory’s so they couldn’t be traced to me,” she gulped, “I sent them to live in Australia and that’s where they decided to stay.”
Tears were forming in her eyes and Draco put his hand over hers, which was still holding the parchment.
“I’ll contact Blaise straight away. Write down the address of their house and I’ll make sure they have extra security, the best possible,” he insisted, and Hermione relaxed a little under his touch. “Don’t worry, we’ll make sure they don’t come to any harm. It’s most likely just coincidence, there’s not much chance that Rowle knows they live there.”
He hurried out of the room and once he was in the corridor he cast his patronus and sent a message to Blaise, urging him for information. He didn’t yet want Hermione to see the form his patronus took; that would just be too embarrassing for him, and he still had a shred of pride left. He returned to the room to find her in tears at the table.
“Hermione please don’t worry.”
“What if he knows they live there? If he’s been following me then he’s bound to know all sorts of things,” she howled, burying her face in her hands. He hated it when she cried, never knew what to do with himself. They certainly weren’t at the stage of their friendship – if you could call it that – where he could hold her, though he so wanted to. They sat together for a while, his hand tracing circles on her back softly.
Hello everyone! Sorry it's taken a while to publish this chapter, the queue was longer than expected and I didn't get around to uploading it when i wanted (real life can be distracting!). I hope you enjoyed the chapter, more to come soon :) Oh and thank you again, I've had over 2000 reads so far which is great. Keep the reviews coming! Hannah x
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