Chapter Thirteen: Seduction
Over the next few days, I was pleasantly surprised by both Draco's and Ron's behavior. Ron still did something to separate us almost every time we touched, but his actions were less hostile and more playful. Draco didn't frown every time he saw him anymore—he even tried to make a show of playing with him once, though Ron didn't exactly oblige. He did insist, however, that Ron stay off the bed.
Lord and Lady Greengrass finally left, relieving a huge amount of the tension in the house, but not before sitting me down for a stern talk. Apparently I had a month to come up with some new information on Draco, and if I couldn't do it they would send someone else and I'd be done. Ron, Draco, and I discussed it, but couldn't come up with a solution that would both satisfy the Dark Lord and keep Harry safe. It was painful not to have a concrete plan in place, but all we could do was keep thinking about it and hope one of us came up with something.
Daphne was still around, and it seemed like she was starting to warm up to me. She tried a few more spells for Ron's scars, but eventually gave up when I told her it didn't really matter to me any more. She helped me pick out the wedding colors (we settled on green and silver—ingenious, I know) and took me shopping for a wedding dress. My heart about stopped when I looked at the prices, so I decided that I just wasn't going to. I don't want to know what the one I finally ended up with cost.
On Daphne's last day staying with us, we all sat at the dining table together for breakfast. Draco had, begrudgingly, decided that Ron could be in the dining room with us when we didn't have company (I convinced him Daphne didn't count). Ron was especially happy about this new arrangement, since I would feed him bacon under the table.
The Daily Prophet was delivered, as always, and Daphne opened it up. After a few minutes, she frowned.
"Did you know Amycus Carrow lost his memory?" she said, looking up at us.
Draco raised his eyebrows. "No, I didn't."
"I think I heard something about it," I said quietly.
"What happened?" asked Draco.
"He was attacked by the rebels," Daphne said, sounding horrified. "At the Weasley's old house, it says. He can't remember anything at all."
"I wonder who's responsible," Draco said thoughtfully.
I glanced up. He was looking directly at me, hiding a smirk. I fed Ron another piece of bacon and shrugged, hiding my own small smile.
"Who knows? Could be any one of them."
Draco's smirk grew more visible as I took a bite of my omelet.
"Oh!" Daphne exclaimed, her eyes opening wide. "There was a break-in at the Emperor's palace!"
Ron's ears perked up, and Draco's smirk disappeared. I almost choked on the omelet.
"Last night!" She skimmed the article. "'Authorities say nothing was taken, but it is believed that the Emperor's vault was the intended target.'"
"Did they catch the burglars?" I said, probably sounding a bit too eager.
"One of them." She narrowed her eyes. "Seamus—Finnigan? Oh, I remember him! He was the one always blowing things up!"
Ron stood and ran out of the room. I used it as an excuse to leave as well. As I'd suspected, he ran straight to the bedroom and was pawing the closet door.
I opened it without a word, and we both stepped inside. He transformed the moment the door was closed and began pacing the room.
"This doesn't make sense! The target was the Old Ministry, not the palace! We weren't ready for that one!"
"Okay Ron, calm down," I said, putting my hands on his shoulders. "Why don't you start by filling me in?"
He sighed and forced himself to sit down. "We've been planning raids on a number of the Emperor's private vaults—there are a couple in Gringgotts, one in the old Ministry, one in his palace, and we think two others somewhere. Actually, they may not be vaults at all, just places with high security."
The color drained from my face. "This sounds awfully familiar."
He nodded. "He made more, Herm. It only makes sense. Only this time, they're not only guarded by spells and enchantments, but by at least two death eaters twenty-four, seven."
"I didn't think his soul could handle any more tearing!"
"He either found a way to strengthen the remaining fragments, or he doesn't care."
The door opened and Draco entered. "Good thing Daphne was the only one in there, and good thing she trusts you, because your exit was definitely suspicious."
"Sorry," I sighed. "Was there anything else in the article? About what happened to Seamus, maybe?"
"Finnigan's in Azkaban, awaiting trial—which is to say, awaiting interrogation and torture."
"When is the trial supposed to be held?"
"Day after tomorrow. I can get us seats there if you'd like, but I don't think that would be such a good idea with the display you just put on."
I shook my head. "No. We need to get him out of Azkaban before then."
Draco scoffed. "You want me to plan an escape from Azkaban in less than forty-eight hours? Impossible. I'm sorry, but your friend's beyond help."
"Not if we intercept him while they're bringing him to the trial," said Ron.
Draco eyed him curiously. "I'm listening."
"There's a lull in security during the transition from Azkaban guards to Ministry guards," Ron said. "Once the prisoner arrives through the floo network, he's put into a locked and enchanted room, bound of course, and left there for about ten minutes while paperwork is filed, rooms are prepared, and so forth. Two guards stay outside the door, but the rest leave."
Draco didn't look completely convinced. "And you know this how?"
"For the past year and a half, I've been planning to use it to get Hermione out of Azkaban."
I raised an eyebrow. "Ron, why would they have brought me to the Ministry?"
He let out a small laugh. "Yeah, that was the flaw in the plan. We were hoping they would bring you in for questioning if we did something drastic enough, something with ties back to me or Harry."
"It's possible, but it's risky." Draco frowned. "If Hermione or I are seen there, it could ruin everything, and you're supposed to be dead."
Ron looked at me. "Hermione, you still have the coin, right?"
I pulled it out of my pocket. "We need to know the exact time they're transferring him first. Draco, do you think you could possibly find that out?"
Draco sighed. "Why are we doing this again? Risking everything for someone who's completely insignificant."
"He's our friend," I said before Ron could voice his own reaction. "And we don't leave anyone behind."
"What were they looking for, anyway?" Draco said, sounding exasperated.
"Just trying to cause trouble," said Ron with a shrug.
"No, Ron," I said. "We need to tell him the truth."
Ron pursed his lips, but didn't voice an objection.
"Have you heard of horcruxes?" I said.
"Of course," Draco said, almost rolling his eyes. "I thought that might be how the Dark Lord managed to come back from the dead."
"Well, you were right. He made six of them, splitting his soul into seven parts. The year leading up to the battle of Hogwarts, we hunted them down and destroyed them all," I sighed, "we just couldn't beat him."
"What, and you think he made new ones?"
"Right after the battle, he went to Egypt for a few days, and reportedly came back with some ancient wizarding artifacts from there and from Greece," Ron said, standing, "but no one else ever saw them."
"So how do you know they even exist?"
"Because it's what makes sense, Malfoy," said Ron, sounding annoyed. "He did it once, why wouldn't he do it again? His palace was built just after that, with a huge vault, and he added a vault to the old Ministry. They were built to protect pieces of his soul."
"Or his gold, or any other number of things."
"Regardless," I said quickly, "that's what they were looking for at his palace. But right now, we need to focus on Seamus. Can you get that schedule for us, Draco?"
Draco hesitated, then let out a sigh. "I'll see what I can do." He looked up at me. "Honestly, though, you might have to sweet-talk Blaise."
Ron growled. "Out of the question."
"Blaise is Junior Head of Security at the Emperor's headquarters. He'll be able to tell you when, where, how—whatever you couldn't possibly want."
"So why don't you ask him?" said Ron. "You're friends."
Draco scoffed. "I may have asked him to be the 'best man' at my wedding, but we are most certainly not friends. He wants me out of the way just as much as anyone."
"Invite him over for dinner," I said.
Ron rounded on me. "You can't be serious!"
"I am completely serious, and you are going nowhere near him," I said, putting my hands on my hips. "This is for Seamus—I have to try, and you'll only get in the way."
"There is still a dungeon downstairs," Draco offered.
Ron growled again, but he knew I was right. After a minute, he sighed. "Fine."
"I'll go send the invitation," said Draco, and he left the room.
"Well, what do you think?"
I did a twirl in the green dress I'd picked out. Ron looked up at me, sighed, and looked back down at the ground. "You look beautiful," he muttered.
I put my hands on my hips. "That didn't sound very convincing."
"That's because I hate this plan."
"Do you have a better idea?"
"It's too risky," Ron groaned and stood, "and not just because he might wonder why you're asking so many questions. What if he tries to go too far?"
"Ron, I know how to handle myself."
"Not around guys like him you don't." He took my hand. "Let me be down there with you. I promise, I'll only intervene if it's absolutely necessary."
"Your track record speaks otherwise." I shook my head. "Besides, I know you. Whatever mindset you went in there with, you'd end up tearing his face off."
Draco entered the room, bringing our conversation to an end. I let go of Ron's hand and approached him.
"What's your opinion? Should I change?"
Draco smiled as he looked me up and down. "No, you look perfect. Although that dress would look much better on your body than Astoria's."
"Too bad that's not an option," I laughed. I heard Ron make a noise behind me, but ignored him.
"Blaise should be here any minute. Shall we?"
I took Draco's arm, then turned halfway around to glance at Ron. "Are you staying in here, or are you coming out to the bedroom?"
He scowled as he transformed into a dog and walked out of the secret room with us. He immediately ran over to the bed and jumped on it. Draco glared at him.
"Leave him," I said, rolling my eyes. "He'll just jump back up the minute we leave."
When we walked into the hall, Draco paused and pointed his wand at the closed bedroom door.
"You're locking it?" I said with a frown. "You realize he's a dog, right? He can't turn doorknobs."
"I wouldn't put anything past that dog," Draco muttered.
I sighed inwardly as we made our way downstairs. When we reached the dining room, both Daphne and Zabini were already seated. Zabini stood as we entered.
"Blaise!" I said, beaming. "I'm so glad you could make it at such short notice!"
"Anything for my favorite couple," he said with a smirk.
Draco and I took our seats, him next to Zabini and me next to Daphne, and started to eat. Zabini and Draco fell into some conversation about servants, but Zabini sent me a flirtatious look every time Draco wasn't looking. I returned them to the best of my ability.
Daphne cleared her throat. "You didn't tell me we were having company on my last night," she whispered.
"I'm sorry," I said sincerely. "It was a last minute decision. Draco suggested it and, well, frankly I wanted to see him."
Daphne was quiet for a moment. "If you ask me, you have your eyes on the wrong man. Whatever the Emperor thinks of Draco, he's a good guy. Blaise? Not so much."
"Careful saying things like that," I said after a minute, dropping my voice even lower. "You don't want people to think you're in league with Draco."
"Is that a threat?" she breathed.
"Heavens, no!" I said, a little louder than I meant to. The boys paused in their conversation and gazed at me.
"Daphne was suggesting we change the wedding colors to green and cream," I said, putting as much disgust into my voice as I could. "I'm wearing white Daphne! I can't have cream as one of my colors!"
"You're right, I'm sorry," she said quickly. "I don't know what I was thinking."
"Neither do I," I said, rolling my eyes. When the boys resumed their conversation, I caught her eye. She sent me a small, thankful smile.
We fell into silence. When there was a lull in Draco and Zabini's conversation, I cleared my throat.
"Blaise, what do you think of the break-in?" I said casually.
"I think the rebels were off their rocker to try to break into the palace," he said with his mouth full. "It's unbelievable that all but one of them escaped."
"You're in charge of the prisoner's transport, aren't you?"
He sat up a little straighter, a smug grin on his face. "Yes, I am. Well, me and Yaxley, but he's given me the reigns on this one."
"Good for you," Draco said, patting him on the back. "About time they started showing you the respect you deserve around there."
I let the conversation move on to something else, not wanting to appear suspicious. When everyone was finished eating, I was the first to stand.
"Blaise, if I remember correctly, you mentioned something about a book you were looking for last time you were here—I think I might have found it in the library. I'd be happy to show you."
Zabini's grin turned sideways. "That would be great. Draco, if you don't mind me stealing your fiancée away for a moment—"
"As long as you bring her back," said Draco. He sent me an encouraging smile as I let Zabini take my arm and walk down the hall with me.
"I never said anything about a book," he whispered in my ear.
I laughed. "You think I'm interested in books?"
He smirked. My nerves increased slightly as we walked further away from the dining room, but I hid them. When we reached the library, we stepped inside, and he immediately closed the door and pushed me against it. It took all my self-control not to push him off when he started kissing me.
Fighting all of my instincts, I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled him closer. He kissed me hungrily, with increasing passion, until he moved his lips to my neck and reached for my zipper—
"I have to ask you something," I breathed, starting to panic.
He grunted, but continued kissing my skin, started unzipping my dress—
"What time are you transferring Finnigan?"
He pulled back suddenly and stared at me. "What?"
"I think Draco may have been involved in the break-in, and I want to question Finnigan," I said, breathing quickly. "All I need is five minutes alone with him—just tell me when and where."
He groaned. "You want to talk about this now?"
I put my hand on his cheek. "As much I want to, you know we can't do this here," I said, doing my best to sound disappointed. "But if you can get me those five minutes with Finnigan, I could be yours again by the end of the week."
He thought for a minute, then nodded. "I'll put in a request for a visit—"
"No!" I said with a frown. "No one can know but you and me."
Zabini furrowed his eyebrows. "Why?"
"Because," I sighed an exasperated sigh as I walked a few paces away from him. "The Emperor's losing faith in me. I don't want to report anything to him until I'm absolutely certain."
I watched him consider me anxiously. He was hesitating, unable to make up his mind. In a last ditch effort, I ran to him and jumped in his arms, kissing him desperately. He held me so tight I was afraid I was going to crack a rib.
"All right, Love," he breathed when our lips parted. "Anything for you."
A/N: Looking forward to your reviews! You guys are amazing :)