Draco had been stalling his return to London for three days now. There was no reason for him to stay after the woman who he thought was Hermione’s mother turned out to be a different person. A thought kept nagging him, what if they were actually her parents, but they were lying to protect her? If that was true then it meant that Hermione could be anywhere in this city.
This was hopeless, Draco sighed in frustration. He had tracked the Wilkins and have been lurking outside their house and following them most of the time but nothing seemed to happen. He even broke into their house and no sign of Hermione was there. Maybe it was just pure coincidence. Or maybe Monica Wilkins didn’t even look like Hermione and his mind was playing tricks on him.
A sudden movement snapped Draco out of his deep thought. He looked around him but nothing seemed different. He was about to decide that it was probably a cat when he saw a shadow move in the backyard of the Willkins’ house. He approached the shadow carefully and with every step he was becoming more convinced that the shadow might be another trick by his mind.
The figure was of a girl, a mass of very familiar brown hair framed her face. She looked like she was trying to look through the window. He walked closer and something cracked under his feet.
Alarmed by the noise, the girl snapped her head up and looked at him. Any doubt Draco had about her identity vanished as he saw the look of horror on her face.
“Granger!” he stared at her incredulously. But he was talking to thin air. Hermione jumped away from him and started running in the opposite direction. He ran after her but she was already turning into another street. When had she become so fast!
Draco followed her, letting his legs take him as far as they could. This could go on forever, he thought grimly. She seemed very familiar with those streets, unlike him. She stopped for a minute, grabbing one of the bins in the street and threw it him in an attempt to stop him. But he waved it away with his wand. No longer caring whether or not he could be seen by a Muggle, Draco took out his wand and pointed it at Hermione’s feet. She stumbled and fell, second later he was pinning her to the ground.
“Get off me! GET OFF ME, MALFOY! I’m going to kill you I swear.” she was flailing her arms frantically everywhere, trying to claw at his face.
Draco tried to take hold of her hands but she aimed something between a slap and a punch at his face and he fell back. Taking the precious chance, Hermione ran again. Enraged, Draco pointed his wand at her and yelled “Petrificus Totalus”. the spell hit here right before she was about to turn into another narrow street.
Hermione fell to the hard ground with a thud and Draco instantly regretted his actions. He went over to her, she was unconscious and as he lifted her off the ground, he noticed that there was a trail of blood. Draco cursed himself loudly, he braced Hermione’s stiff body over his chest and apparated them back to his house.
Hermione’s eyes fluttered as she half opened them. She felt dizzy and it was a long moment before the blur that clouded her vision had faded. She gradually let her eyes get accustomed to the bright lights around her and then started scanning the room. Her eyes instantly fell on the man who was sitting by the bed. Hermione’s eyes widened in alarm, she looked around her trying to think of a way out.
“You can’t escape, Granger. And I doubt you’ll need to escape at all. Calm down.” Draco reached out for her hand but she flinched away.
"Don’t touch me.” she warned.
“Alright” he raised both hands up.
“Look, if I wanted to kill you I would’ve done it the moment I saw you. And if I wanted to imprison you, you wouldn’t be in my bed now.”
“You were trying to kill me, I didn’t do this to myself_” she pointed at her head “_and prison sounds more appealing than your bed.” she struggled to get off the bed. Standing on shaky feet, she swayed for a moment as she tried to regain her balance. Draco grabbed her shoulders and pushed her back to the bed.
“I wasn’t trying to kill you, I was trying to stop you.” he explained “Who knew you could run so fast!” he mused.
“Years of living on the run sort of help you improve that skill.” she sneered at him.
“Look, as unbelievable as this might sound, I really want to help you. And honestly, you have no way out of here without my help. This is the Malfoy Manor, you can’t apparate out of it. The only way you can get out is through the door and I’d love to see you trying." he smirked at her.
Hermione eyed him suspiciously for a moment before speaking “How are you going to help me, then?” she asked.
“First, go have a shower; you look terrible.” he said, standing up.
“How I look isn’t any of your business, Malfoy. Answer me.” she scowled at him.
“Are you trying to tell me that you aren’t desperate for a decent bath?” he raised an eyebrow at her. “Come on.” he urged as he extended his hand for her, she hesitated a bit but took it eventually.
“Take your time.” he said as she slammed the door in his face.
Draco sat on the bed patiently, waiting for Hermione to come out. This was better than Christmas, he smiled wickedly. But his smile faded when he saw a drop of blood on the pillow next to him. Bloody idiot! He scolded himself, out of all the spells in the history of magic, he decided to use a spell that would knock her down on the hard ground. A house elf would’ve been cleverer than that! But he did heal her, didn’t he? It didn’t matter, Draco had learned the hard way that fixing something doesn’t change the fact that you broke it in the first place.
She looked like a ghost of Hermione, he brooded. She had lost half of her weight, there were dark shadows underneath her eyes, bloodshot eyes. But they still gleamed and glittered as bright as ever. Her hair was much longer now and untrimmed yet it still framed her face almost protectively. The past years must have taken their toll on her but she was still the same, she hadn’t lost an iota of the fight in her. And Draco sighed in relief at that thought; his worst fear was a broken Hermione.
Hermione emerged from the bathroom after too long, dressed in a grey bathrobe that went past her knees. She tried to push her hair back, away from her face and it kept dripping water everywhere.
“Why didn’t you dry your hair?” Draco asked
“I don’t have a wand.” Hermione replied.
“Yes, where’s your wand? I haven’t seen it with you, did you drop it back in Australia?” he asked
“I..don’t have a wand at all.” Hermione shook her head “I haven’t had a wand for the past seven months, there was this man, he recognized me and wanted to take me to...you-know-who. We fought and I escaped but he managed to break my wand. I never got the chance to find another one.” she explained.
Draco stared at Hermione, his mouth gaping. A witch or a wizard’s worst nightmare is living without their wands. Having to use a wand that wasn’t yours was bad enough, but having no wand at all was horrible.
“So, how did you manage without a wand?” he asked.
“Well, I thought it was a good chance for me to practice wandless magic. I was always good at it.” she raised her chin up proudly. Draco’s mouth twisted in a smile, she was probably the only person he knew who would find a silver lining in such a difficult situation.
“Alright, I’ll try to find you a wand.” he said.
“Why?” Hermione asked.
“I’m sorry?” Draco frowned at her
“Why would you find me a wand? Why didn’t you kill or imprison me when you had the chance? And why do you say you’re going to help me?” she demanded
“I’ll find you a wand because you’re a witch and witches usually need wands. I didn’t kill or imprison you because I don’t want to. And I’m helping you because I want to.” Draco shrugged.
“Oh! How thoughtful of you! Really, Malfoy, what do you want from me?” she looked at him through narrowed eyes.
“Look, if I have found you two or three months ago I would’ve had absolutely no power to help you. You’re on top of the ‘Wanted’ list, you’re a Muggle-born and you’re one of the insurgents and Potter’s best friend, this is recipe for disaster. But then something happened_” he sat down on the bed next to her and she moved back, ignoring her gesture, Draco continued.
“You see, our society have changed, most muggle-borns aren’t safe now. They fled away, and those of them who are still here are treated as servants. And then there are the blood-traitors, the Weasleys as an example. Arthur Weasley have been demoted to a lowly job in Gringotts now, his wife and his children are scattered everywhere and we weren’t able to track them down yet, his son Geroge fled the country recently.”
Hermione’s heart sank at the news she was hearing, she had been trying to contact them but to no avail. “However, blood-traitors specially the Weasleys got...fairer treatment. They had trials where they could defend themselves. Arthur and George Weasley denied having any more loyalty to Potter and they had absolutely no information about the insurgents, so they were spared.”
“They would never say something like that!” Hermione fumed at him.
“That’s what happened, Granger. I told you things were different now. Ginevra Weasley, though was a different case. She was barking mad, she cursed and tried to slap one of the Death Eaters when he was taking her away and refused to reply to any questions directed at her.” Draco shook his head in amusement and Hermione grinned, that was definitely something Ginny would do.
“So as a result, she received a death sentence. However, and that’s the important part, she said she was pregnant and that the father was Blaise Zabini.” he added. Hermione gasped in shock.
“Yes, we all gasped when we heard this. But appeared out it was true, Blaise was the father. In this new society, a Death Eater is the highest rank anybody could possibly achieve, there are healers, wand makers, professors, an endless list of jobs. But eventually, a Death Eater ranks above them all, because they serve the Dark Lord directly. So being a Death Eater has some privileges, their families are as secure as they are. When Ginevra said that, she saved her own life; she was bearing a Death Eater’s child and that protected her from the death sentence.”
“Ginny would never...I mean...she..maybe she was forced.” Hermione grimaced at what Draco just told her.
“She wasn’t forced into anything, Granger. She just had a sense of self preservation and she was smart enough to act upon it.” Draco shrugged.
"No, you don’t know her, she’s not like that.” Hermione shook her head and frowned at him.
“Alright, it doesn’t matter, this is not about her; it’s about you.” Draco dismissed Hermione’s talk about Ginny.
“I’m not sure I get it...” Hermione’s brows furrowed in confusion.
“It’s simple, Granger.” Draco held Hermione’s gaze, “I could let you walk out of the Manor, I won’t report finding you, but you’ll be on your own without the minimum protection of a wand. Or you can have my child, that will provide you with all the protection you could possibly need, and I’m willing to give you that. Choice is yours.” he offered, his eyes burning into hers.