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Chapter 3 : Neighbors
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"Stupid Weasley." Her head throbbed. "Stupid Malfoy."
The cold water soothed her throat but it didn't help her head, or ease the stab of pain at the sight of Ron's toothbrush.
I could use it to clean the toilet, she thought bitterly, putting the glass down.
Because of a limited amount of time to do laundry lately, she had only a few selections in her wardrobe and picked a silky beige dress shirt and black trousers. She bent down to get black high heels out of the bottom of her closet and then threw her hair up into a loose bun.
While grabbing a muffin out of the pantry, Hermione wondered for a moment whether she would encounter Ron today. What would she say if she did? The thought was almost repulsing to her because she didn't desire to come across him, at least not right now.
When she first walked out on the porch she was distracted by voices before she even attempted to apparate. There was a young couple standing on the front porch of the house next-door that was sold just a day or so ago. One of them, the man, had blonde hair and the younger woman next to him had long, silky chestnut brown hair down to her bottom. The woman was one of the most beautiful women Hermione had ever seen.
The woman kissed her significant other and said, "have a good first day at work. Sorry about last night, love."
When the man returned her kiss and turned around, Hermione's heart almost stopped it felt. Her new neighbors were none other than Draco Malfoy and who she assumed to be his girlfriend, Astoria, a Slytherin two years younger than their year she had seen in the Prophet on Malfoy's arm with the announcement he was released.
Hermione then apparated, with a frown firmly planted on her face.
It was a Sunday, so the Ministry wasn't so crowded because most witches and wizards wanted the weekends off to be with their families. Family time was a very important thing to most, especially after the war.
Hermione walked in a fast pace toward the middle elevator in the Atrium and scrambled to push the button to get her to the second floor where her department's headquarters was located.
"Good morning Harry," Hermione greeted her best friend, who jumped into the elevator right after her. He was one of the only ones to come to work on Sundays because he was attempting to finish up his Auror training after two years and always tried to get ahead on work anyway. This was not unlike Hermione, who was also finishing her Detective training which took just as long. Ron wasn't as serious about finishing his training because he also worked part-time at Weasley Wizard Wheezes, so knew that he would be okay financially if it took a little longer to finish joined with Hermione's income.
Hermione wasn't about to tell Harry about her trip to the Leaky Cauldron, so she just smiled at him and said brightly, "just a little bit of difficulty sleeping after last night's events. I'm okay though, honestly."
"Good. We haven't seen Ron since he left last night, so we have no idea where he is."
"I know where he probably is. Either at Lavender's or his mum's," Hermione said venomously, shaking her head.
"Yeah, probably. What a git he is. I don't know what's gotten into him. Honestly, I am surprised you didn't break it off," Harry said.
"It's hard," Hermione said with a frown. "I love him a lot."
"I know," Harry replied with a nod, understanding completely, as he thought of when he had to break it off in his sixth year with Ginny.
"Well, I have new neighbors," Hermione announced, when the two of them stepped off of the elevator onto the second floor. She didn't want to dwell on the subject of Ron and herself.
"Oh really, do you know them?" Harry wondered curiously.
"I do unfortunately because it's Malfoy and his girlfriend," Hermione said with a roll of her eyes. "I saw them saying their goodbyes this morning before he left for work."
"Oh, that is just bloody wonderful. You are always welcomed to come and stay with Ginny and I," Harry chuckled jokingly.
"Thanks for the invitation but, as long as they don't bother me, I should be alright. Malfoy doesn't scare me," Hermione said with a grin, following Harry into the department.
"Well that's good," Harry said cocking his eyebrows. "Because I believe he’s starting in your department today. It's part of his probation to work for us, so he can prove he is truly on our side now and somewhat pay for what he's done. It was part of our agreement to let him out early for his 'good behavior’. I overheard your boss and mine talking about it yesterday before I left."
Hermione gaped at Harry in disbelief. Was Malfoy everywhere she was now? First at the pub, then in her own neighborhood, now in her work too? Her worst nightmare was beginning to happen.
"Why didn't you share this with me last night?" Sneered Hermione.
"Well erm... I was going to, but the other things happening kind of delayed things a bit," Harry grinned in reassurance at his best friend and put a hand on her shoulder. "I'm sure it will be okay. Just keep your distance and he shouldn't bother you. He definitely got a taste of his own medicine in Azkaban."
Hermione shook her head again and then smiled at Harry. "Have a good day then, see you later."
Harry squeezed Hermione's shoulder once more, before taking off in the opposite direction towards the Auror offices and Hermione turned and did the same. She arrived at her office just in time to face her boss, with a stunned smirking Malfoy standing beside him.
"Miss Granger, how are you?" Troy Barkner greeted, throwing out a hand to shake her's.
Hermione accepted the exchange and then said with a crack in her voice, "Good, and you sir?"
"I am well, very well. I expect you know this dashing young man beside me?" the old man asked, beckoning his hand toward Draco beside him.
"We know each other, yes," Hermione answered, as confidently as she could muster.
"I am sure you’ve also heard from Mr. Potter, that he would likely be joining us today?" Barkner went on.
"Yes sir, he just told me actually."
"My pleasure, sir," Hermione forced herself to say, but she really wanted to throw a jinx or two his way when he patted Hermione's shoulder and took off the opposite direction.
"I knew I could count on you Hermione!" he called back to her, before turning a corner.
"Don't think for one second that I will listen to a word you say Granger," Malfoy spat, crossing his arms in defiance.
"What makes you think that I would even want to sit in that office of your's?"
"Do you think I want an ex-con in my office? Do you think that they want to share the department with you?" Hermione asked, with a look toward her co-workers, making him shut up as a few people around them started looking on with glares.
Hermione refused to argue any longer and motioned for him to follow her into her office when she successfully shut him up. Malfoy sat in a chair across from her desk, and she noticed him briefly looking over her figure after she finished picking up a stack of papers.
"This is our cases. I have finished about half of them and passed the ones on to the Aurors that I had to. If possible we handle things unless they get too much for us and then they step in," Hermione started to explain, opening some of the huge packets of parchment with faces of possible suspects on them and ignoring what she just witnessed.
Hermione looked at the first one,
Neighbors have reported to muggle Police that this woman, aged 35, had been threatening her children that she would "use the cruciatus curse on them if they don't quit disobeying". Neighbors are concerned that the woman is practicing 'voodoo' or 'witchcraft' and claim that the children are also heard screaming in pain from time to time. Muggle police are not sure how to continue in this investigation-
Malfoy also read with Hermione and then shook his head. "Ridiculous."
"Yes it is. So now all we have to do is get some parchment together and go to her house to investigate where the muggle police couldn't. This case is most likely a minor one and therefore will not have to be reported to the Aurors," Hermione told him, getting up and crossing the office to get a binder full of parchment.
"Wait, what do you want me to do Granger?" Malfoy asked, confused.
"This is stupid. Maybe the kids deserved to be cursed?" Draco spat, rolling his eyes.
"Leave then! If it weren't for you being with me, you would be in much lighter spirits about it and no child deserves to have the cruciatus curse set upon them. What is wrong with you?!" Hermione yelled at him.
"I have no choice but to be here with you, mudblood. If you think for one second I would ever enjoy being in the same room as you you're wrong!"
"I wasn't saying you would, just never mind. Come on Malfoy you have no choice or you can head on home and go to another trial," Hermione said, with a frown on her face because she was attempting to hold her tongue. Having Malfoy around was just as bad as she thought but she was in no mood to fight with anyone, especially him, after having the fight with Ron the night before.
The two of them left the office and Malfoy dragged slowly along behind her, obviously not wanting to be there.
The weather was cool in the street that Hermione and Draco walked into, after apparating into a secluded area.
There were cars parked in the street and the atmosphere was damp from a recent rain fall. The place wasn't too far out from London and it seemed oddly familiar to Draco, but he couldn't pinpoint why.
The two of them stayed close together as they made their way to the house, which was located a little ways down the street. Draco stayed an awkward distance away from her but followed in her footsteps.
Hermione arrived at the front porch and knocked nervously on her door.
"Who's there?" a female voice called.
"This is Officer Granger and Officer Malfoy from the Ministry, here to just ask you a few questions," Hermione told the woman through the door, hoping she didn't recognize either name.
The woman slowly opened the door. She was a woman in mid-thirties and there appeared to be no kids home at the time. Being so young, the children still went to primary school because they had not yet received their Hogwarts letters.
"What do you want? What have I done wrong?" the woman asked in a low voice, opening the door more, so that they could see her full figure. She was not a beautiful woman but she was indeed pretty. She had red curly hair and brown eyes and kind of reminded Hermione of Ginny.
"We just a have a few quick questions for you. We will be leaving shortly," Hermione told the woman. "Can we come in?"
"Yes," the woman said, stepping aside and letting them both come in. She seemed to have a very hard stare on Draco which Hermione thought was suspicious.
"Please sit," the woman offered, pointing a slender arm in the direction of her couch. There were kid's toys scattered all throughout the woman's living room. Pictures of a child with a toothless smile sat on the end table, beside the sofa Hermione and Draco were directed to sit on. Hermione noticed a table with a huge portrait of a handsome man, with a candle lit in the front. She couldn't help but wonder if he was killed in the war but she wouldn't dare ask.
The two sat down. Draco kept an obvious distance away from Hermione and refused to make eye contact with the woman in front of them.
"Go on with what you’re here to say then young lady," the woman sneered, with a glare at Hermione. She was not enjoying their company.
"I am here on behalf of the Ministry of Magic located in London, United Kingdom. I was sent here today because of a complaint filed against you by the neighbors that live near you."
"They said that they hear various screaming’s and threats coming from you against the children. It was said that your muggle neighbors have heard you say that you have been threatening them with the Cruciatus Curse which is, as you of course know, illegal." Hermione spoke softly and carefully, eyeing the woman's every move and she kept staring at Draco who looked extremely uncomfortable.
"Why is that boy out of Azkaban? I saw in the Daily Prophet that he got out just yesterday!" the woman asked Hermione, with a vicious glare Draco's way, her hand was on her wand in the left pocket of her jeans.
"I am the one asking questions right now Mrs. Harmonda," Hermione tried saying calmingly.
"That boy was with the lot who killed my husband! I saw him! He was with them!" the woman said, her dark brown eyes starting to bug out as though a flashback of a terrifying memory consumed her and tears filled her eyes.
"Mrs. Harmonda!" Hermione pleaded. "Please calm down. It must have been somebody else!"
"No, no... the man who took away my wand was him. He was the one who restrained me from stopping them killing my husband! And you let his lot into the Ministry? How dare you step into my house!" the woman yelled, pointing a finger at Draco.
"I assure you it must have been someone else!" Hermione said, panicking now.
"I recognize the eyes, officer. It is him indeed!"
"Mrs. Harmonda, if you don't sit down right now and finish this questionnaire with me, I may be forced to restrain you! You may have seen someone like him but it was not him!" Hermione said warningly as Draco stood up, alarmed by the woman who was now raising a wand at him but lowered it once more, as Hermione finished scolding her.
Mrs. Harmonda shook her head violently. "As you wish, Officer Granger. Maybe I am mistaken but I won't let someone who might have helped kill my husband stand in my house and I surely don't wish them out of Azkaban. They deserve to die just like my Victor did. And they will."
Draco cautiously sat back down by Hermione again, looking extremely pained, as though he may have been seeing the exact same thing as the woman had as he swallowed hard. And Hermione knew that Mrs. Harmonda was speaking the truth, Draco's eyes told her that.
The woman admitted to threatening her kids with the Cruciatus Curse, but only out of innocent anger. She promised that her children were disciplined as any young child should be and that the neighbors were mad anyway. In Hermione's opinion, Mrs. Harmonda needed help herself. And possibly Draco too.
It was misting as Hermione and Draco walked down the street. Draco didn't have his usual trace of a smirk on his face and Hermione wondered what he was thinking.
"Did you do what that woman accused you of?" Hermione wondered, scared to ask but wanting to know very badly.
"That's none of your freaking business," Draco said to her harshly. But his eyes were so pained Hermione thought that he might cry.
"I know you hate me Malfoy but I won't judge you, just tell me."
"I don't wish to share anything with a mudblood, thanks. I'll see you tomorrow. We get off at six, right? Because I'm done with this today," Draco said, looking at a handsome black watch on his wrist.
"Yes," Hermione answered quietly, a little shaken by their assignment today.
With a sharp pop and not another word, Draco was gone.
A/N: So Draco is working for Hermione now.. and he's her neighbor. How much worse can things get?
Hopefully things will get better for Hermione. But right now they are looking pretty crappy..
It all gets more intense from here ;)
and a special thanks to my beta, Kirsty for her hard-work in editing my story ;)
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