< >Draco lay in bed that night, staring up at the ceiling. He was tired, but he couldn’t sleep. How could it have been so easy? To have a place to stay in less than twenty-four hours after he left London . . . how? It was almost too easy. He knew in the back of his mind that something would happened, but pushed it away, and turned onto his side, determined to sleep, and he did.
< >In the morning, Draco woke to the cry of a rooster, and looked out the window. The morning dawn was beautiful, but he saw clouds in the distance, and knew the day before had been the last day of summer, for now it was fall, though it wasn’t even September yet. Summer was over, however, and autumn was arriving.
< >He yawned and stretched as he walked downstairs in the clothes he had worn the day before. Pena was in the breakfast nook, cooking breakfast. She gave him a peck on the cheek when he entered the room.
< >"How was your sleep, dear?"
< >"Wonderfully relaxing, Miss Andrews. Now, if you will excuse me, I will be going to the train station for a few hours. It should be in by six-thirty and I think I should get some more necessities when the town opens . . . that should be around . . .?"
< >"Eight or eight-thirty. The town opens whenever it wants to and closes whenever it wants to. If it doesn’t open until nine, come and see me at the restaurant." Pena smiled at him. "Well, you’d better get a move on!"
< >Draco nodded and smiled at her, then left through the front door. As he left the farmhouse, he felt eyes on his back, but refused to show that he noticed by looking over his shoulder. He knew it was Helena, staring down at him from an upstairs window.
< >He arrived at the train station about thirty minutes later and sat on a bench on the very small platform, only about five feet off the ground, ten feet wide, and thirty feet long, at the most.
< >The train arrived a while later and only one man got off and one woman got on. A young boy with bright red hair and freckles stared out of his window at Draco. Draco made a face and the boy giggled and mirrored the face. Draco got up and left. He had no luggage - why would he?
< >He went to the Muggle pay phone and dropped a coin into the slot and dialed a number. "Yes," he said to the person who picked up the phone, "I would like to wire some money from my account to your affiliate bank in - I don’t care if you aren’t open for business! You shouldn’t be answering your phones if you aren’t open yet, should you?" he demanded, slamming down the phone. He cursed and trudged to Pena’s small restaurant, or breakfast, or whatever it was called.
< >"No luggage?" Pena asked him as soon as he walked in.
< >Draco stopped for a second, startled, and continued to the bar she stood behind. He shook his head sheepishly. "I travel possibly too light, but I do have money. I tried to get some wired just a few minutes ago, but the idiots picked up their phones, acting as if they were open - they weren’t." He shook his head with a sigh and sat down at the bar.
< >"Need anything to drink?" Pena asked him, smiling.
< >He smiled mysteriously at her. "A vodka martini would be wonderful, but I’ll settle for that fabulous orange juice you make," Draco replied.
< >Pena laughed and brought him an orange juice. "I’ll add that to your bill," she teased.
< >Draco took a sip of the juice, then set down the glass. "How much will that be, by the way?" he asked in a low voice. He saw it made Pena uncomfortable. "I’m sorry if the question sounds a bit forward - " Draco began.
< >"No, of course it doesn’t. We would have to settle the matter sometime, anyhow, and why not get past it," Pena said, waving it off. She told him her price on his board rent and it surprised him how little it was.
< >"That small? I couldn’t possibly pay you that, while you board and feed me!"
< >Pena looked away, but said nothing. "It will hold us out for another month and no more protest. I invited you into my home and asked you a fair price. Please, Mr. Draco Jennings, take it. I could not ask for anymore, nor could I ask for any less. It brings me so much shame and the doctor bills for Livvie are . . . well, let’s just say they are rather large and leave it at that, all right?" She walked away from the counter.
< >When the town woke and began to get busy, Pena shooed him out of the store, directing him toward the small bank, the grocery, and men’s clothing store down the street a ways. He wouldn’t let her push him out, though, without giving him a grocery list for the house.
< >Draco went to the bank first and had the teller wire about four hundred pounds from the bank account under the name "Draco Jennings," one of his many false names, and the name he would be known asin the town. He showed his valid identification card and took his money to the men’s store where he bought necessary clothing for wherever he chose to go in the future. A respectable suit that when he wore it, made him look nothing like he did in normal Muggle pants and jacket.
< >Unfortunately for Draco, all of his regular clothes were stored at an American Express - under the name of Robert S. Graham, Idaho state - United States of America - resident. If nothing else, he had a wardrobe or three in his Venice apartment, under the name of Smithly E. Hemming, Jr., as the locals and permanent residents knew him. But he liked buying new things, especially clothing. He felt as if he was going into another life, but the truth was, in three months tops, he’d be back to swindling people in London and Moscow, and who knew where else . . . It was what kept him fat and fed.
< >Around eleven, Draco returned to the Andrews house, carrying four bags in each hand. Two, his own, and the other six for Olivia. His wallet still had one hundred pounds in it, despite all the buying that morning.
< >When he walked into the house, he was surprised to see Helena in the kitchen, and not Olivia. "Where is your mum?" Draco asked her calmly as he began unloading the groceries.
< >Helena peered into the bags and looked satisfied. "Sleeping," she said coldly. "She had a headache. Mikaela and Peter are in the living room, watching the tele." Her eyes narrowed at him. "Why don’t you go watch them?"
< >"Are you trying to get rid of me?" Draco asked, smiling at her humbly.
< >"Of course not," Helena sneered. "No, I wanted you here, the whole time. You just waltzed in with your smiles and good manners and charmed the whole family - except me.” She turned her back on him as she put away a box of cold cereal.
< >"Ah," Draco said, frowning in quizzical thought. "Are you jealous?" His eyes sparkled contemptuously.
< >Helena snorted, not looking at him. "Of you? Hardly."
< >Draco raised his eyebrows doubtfully. "I hardly believe that," he said.
< >"I have the run of the house when Mother is ill," Helena told him coldly, turning around defensively. “Grandmother has her own work to keep the money in and my only concern of you is not to steal any of our belongings, to stay clear of me, and to pay the rent in full. Nothing more, nothing less.”
< >Draco put up his hands in mock defense. "I can barely live with that! Let me at least take the silverware!" He threw back his head and laughed mockingly.
< >Helena glared at him. "You think you’re so special, coming from London. Well, you’re not all that special, and I’ll tell you that now. Maybe you can sweet talk yourself out of things, or just flash a reassuring smile, but it will not work with me, like it does with my mother and grandmother. And the children don’t know any better.”
< >Draco blinked in surprise and stepped backward. "If you are thinking what I think you are thinking, that is just sick," he said coldly. "I would never touch you or your family. How could you think such a thing? I could never hurt this family."
< >"What am I supposed to think, pretty boy?" Helena snapped.
< >The young man glared at her menacingly and took a step forward. "I had the love of my life before I even turned eighteen and I lost her. I lost her in less than two years because I was forced to give her up. If or when that happens to you, my dear Helena, you will stop. You will literally stop. Your heart will halt and you will forever be trying to forget the pain that happens everytime you breathe. You will not have any feelings for anything. Nothing.” Draco forced himself to not cry and continued. “I left her, Helena, the hardest choice I have ever made in my life, and I am not about to take advantage of your family’s hospitality for taking a sad, lonely man in.” He pulled his bags off the counter. “Think about that.” He stormed from the room.
< >Hermione threw down the paper on Arthur Weasley’s desk. “There it is. Happy, now? Just be warned, though, Arthur, I am the editor of the Daily Prophet now, and I can print any damn thing I want, and people will believe me, especially more than you at this point in your career. I can’t wait until the next election.” She stormed out of the office and down the hall.
< >She jumped on her broom outside the building and flew back to the offices of the Daily Prophet. Hermione disregarded anyone tried to speak to her and slammed the door to her office shut with a large bang that shook the building.
< >Hermione fell into her desk chair and leaned back in it. She slowly opened the top drawer and pulled out a framed photograph. It made her want to cry. It was a picture of Draco and herself outside Hogwarts in their last days there as students, smiling at the camera happily. Colin Creevey, her best photographer on staff at the moment, had taken their picture then.
< >She closed her eyes, but a single tear escaped, and slid down her cheek.
< >About an hour after that, there was a knock on the office door, and Hermione’s secretary peeked in nervously, unsure why her employer was either angry or upset - no one could tell. “You have a visitor, Ms. Granger.”
< >Hermione sighed and got to her feet, straightening her dress suit; she did not wear her wizard robes very often, because she spent a lot of time visiting her parents and friends in the Muggle world. “Thank you, Alona.” She walked past her secretary and out into the hall.
< >“Just another one - that’s it! One more, yes,” Colin Creevey said hurriedly, snapping his camera wildly around the man who obviously wish to see Hermione. “Could I trouble you for one more - thanks - ”
< >“How are you, Mr. Potter?” Hermione said over Colin’s head easily. He was still short.
< >Colin stopped hitting the shutter of the camera when he heard the firmness in Hermione’s voice. He glanced at Harry Potter. “I’d better get these developed,” he muttered, walked away, but calling over his shoulder softly, “Thanks for you time. Nice to see you again, Harry.”
< >Harry smiled after Colin, then looked to Hermione. “He’s still at it, I see . . .”
< >Hermione glanced at him, saying nothing, and began walking back to her office, Harry following behind. “You shouldn’t talk about Colin like that,” she said, sitting at her desk. “He is one of my best photographers and I hate to see any of my employees or friends shamed or humiliated in the eyes of anyone.” She closed the office door with a wave of her wand as Harry sat down across from her.
< >“I didn’t know you cared so deeply about people.”
< >Hermione glared at him. “Why did you come?” she demanded. “I haven’t seen you for months and I was never sure if I wanted to see you again - but now, I’m sure of it,” she snapped.
< >“Is this about the Weasleys?”
< >“Of course it isn’t, you fool,” Hermione sneered. “I was just threatened yesterday by Arthur and all you can say is, ‘Uh, is this about the Weasleys?’ Where is your common sense?”
< >Harry stood up and removed a fold newspaper from the folds of his robes. He tossed it on Hermione’s desk. She didn’t have to even glance at it to know what it was. Her article. Front and center page.
< >Hermione looked up scornfully at him. “Did you come to chide me?” she asked.
< >“Of course not. Just to comment on it.”
< >“Oh, I’m delighted. Mr. Harry Potter himself - comes calling on my doorstep just to comment on my article!” Hermione exclaimed bitterly, clapping her hands together. Her cruel smile lashed into a glowering stare. “Say what you have to say, then leave.” Her voice was malicious and biting as she glared at him.
< >Harry smiled. “You met Draco again?”
< >“‘Met’ is a word. A mere one.”
< >“You had an encounter with him, then?”
< >Hermione glared at him. “He ran into me, twice, then ran for dear life when he saw who it was, or if he even recognized me. I recognized him, of course. He disappeared after he left the Leaky Cauldron and no one’s seen him since,” she said coldly. “Is that what you want?”
< >“Details, details.”
< >“There is one good thing about the press,” Hermione said, smiling at him coyly, “I don’t have to say what I don’t want to say, and I can say what I want to say. This is not a time for the latter.”
< >Harry sat down with a sigh. “The Ministry is looking for Draco all over the country and in parts of Asia. We don’t know where to look and we thought you might know where he might be.”
< >“You mean, Arthur thought I would know exactly where Draco was because - ”
< >“Precisely.” Harry sighed. “Can you believe that they think they need a lawyer to help them get information out of you that you don’t have?” He smiled at her innocently. “I am kidding, Hermione, believe me. I work for the Ministry - I don’t live for them.”
< >“You were once a prominent private detective, Harry, and still somewhat are. That's why they need you.“ Hermione stood up and Harry followed her. She extended a solemn hand and he shook it uncertainly. “You can be assured, Harry, that I have no idea where Draco might be. I suggested the United States, but that’s only a theory.” Harry smiled mildly. “But,” Hermione added in a hard voice, “you might want to stick with private investigating instead of toiling with the Ministry, the bastards.”
< >Harry raised his eyebrows dubiously, but said nothing to challenge her opinion. “Good-bye, Hermione,” he said, nodding at her. He turned and started toward the office door.
< >“Good-bye, Harry - have a nice life,” Hermione sneered, sitting back in her seat.
< >Harry stopped just before he touched the doorknob. He turned slowly around. “What is the matter with you?” he demanded sharply. “Have you gone insane? I was supportive and - ”
< >“He left, Harry, that’s what’s wrong with me,” Hermione snapped, jumping up, and pointing an accusing finger at him. “I didn’t mind that so much, but the constant beatings of being accused as a home wrecker, an imbecile for falling in love ‘with blood like his,’ and so much more that you will never go through!” She dropped her finger and gripped the edge of the desk with her hand, her knuckles turning white. “Leave, Harry. You may have been supportive, but you did nothing.”
< >“Hermione, the Weasleys - ”
< >“The Weasleys were the worst and you know it. People I had once considered family were enemies. Ginny and Ron - well, Ron was subtly clear he didn’t care what I did in my private life and Ginny was apologetic, but not even you said anything remotely comforting to me after he left. Never - and still, not to this very day! You did not even try to stop the Weasleys from browbeating me with sarcastic comments and snide remarks, when you stood right beside me!
< >“You leave my sight! You disgust me to the core. I once considered you my brother in arms, like I considered them family, but now you all are filthy, pus-loving asses who care about no one except themselves! GET - OUT - OF - HERE!” Hermione shouted, pointing toward the door.
< >Harry stared at her a moment too long and she threw his paper at him. It burst into flames just before it hit him and he jumped back. “LEAVE!” He left, nearly running, but dignified enough not to full-out gallop down the hall. Hermione saw her secretary and a few reporters staring at her through the open door. She stormed to the door and slammed it shut, shaking the building in her wrath.
< >A few days later, Draco and the children saw Pena and Olivia off to the train station, promising to not set the house on fire, and waving furiously as the train pulled away from the platform.
< >Helena was waiting for the three in the kitchen when they got back home, giving Draco a dark look. He ignored her and bent to tickle Peter who squirmed and laughed, swinging around, trying to get Draco back.
< >The two children finally went up for their naps around two and Helena left to tend to the sheep, who were going out a little late for feeding. Helena and a collie - the only other dog besides Anna on the farm - named Bruce hiked up into the hills far beyond the house and Draco was alone.
< >He was restless, but just as tired, so he decided to take a bath. A long, warm bath. That was what he needed. He hated putting up with the suspicious, irritable, disapproving looks from Helena, and he needed to clear his head, but he wasn’t going to raid Pena’s cabinet of gin and wine, though she had told him to take whatever he liked, just not to get drunk. He promised and that was a promise he was going to keep.
< >It was a wonder to him why he wanted to drink so much alcohol at the time. I’m becoming a silent drunk, Draco told himself mirthlessly. It was true, though, in his mind. A foolish, sad, young drunk with nothing to live for except conning people out of their money.
< >Draco slipped into the warm water of the bathtub with a sigh, settling back and closing his eyes. He cupped his hands in the water and doused his hair with it. He was about to reach for the bar of soap when he heard the doorbell ring and stopped.
< >There was a sharp rap after a moment or two of silence and Draco jumped out of the bathtub, nearly sliding into the bathroom door. He looked around frantically for a robe, but all there was in the room was a bath towel. Scowling and cursing angrily, he wrapped the towel around his waist and ran down the hall, shouted “Coming!”
< >Draco stumbled down the stairs and flung open the door, breathing hard. “Yes?” he croaked, bowing his head down to breathe.
< >The man standing in front of him with a younger one behind him made a noise of embarrassment. “I - I’m sorry. I could - I could come back and - ”
< >“No need,” Draco said a bit sharply, looking up with his eyes. “Did you need something gentlemen, or may I return to my bath?” He glared in annoyance at the younger man who avoided his eyes.
< >“I am Mr. Randall White, and this is Jeremy Brown. We are detectives and - ”
< >Draco stared at them in amazement, but said nothing.
< >“ - we were wondering if you had seen this man.” Mr. White held out a still picture of a shrewd looking man in front of Draco’s face. “He is a wanted man throughout Britain, Russia, many other parts of Asia, and even the States. He is possibly armed and very dangerous.”
< >Draco looked closely at the face that mirrored his own - at least when his hair wasn’t wet and brown looking as it was then. There was then the question of eyes which needed to be a different color, something instead of his normal blue. He had spoken a soft charm, while the man whispered something to his partner, to turn his eyes brown in order to trick the detectives. “No, I have not seen him.” He looked up at the detective suspiciously. “Should I have? Is this man running around out here? There are children in this house, you know!”
< >“No, no,” the detective said quickly, pocketing the photo. “He was last spotted in London about five days ago, but there’s no telling where he went - though, of course,” he added quickly, “it is doubtful that this man is out in the country. He would probably try to blend in somewhere busy.” He shrugged. “We’re just checking wherever we can.”
< >“Hmm,” Draco said, nodding, and rubbing his chin. “Say, how did you two get out here? No car?”
< >Mr. White shifted his weight, which was quite a lot, actually. “No, er, we came out by train, and I told Mr. Simmons that we should take a walk.” He smiled nervously. “He needs to lose weight.”
< >Draco forced himself not to point out that ‘Mr. Simmons’ had previously been announced as ‘Mr. Brown,’ and it was quite clear to them all that Simmons/Brown didn’t not need to lose weight. The man was well-built and although strangely shy, could have taken Draco down in an instant with his two-percent body fat. Mr. White, though, had obviously eaten a tad too much fudge in his life and could have stood to lose a few himself.
< >“Well, gentlemen, I should be letting you go, and get on saving the world.” Draco smiled cheerily at them. “I apologize for sounding a bit grumpy. I had to run down from the upstairs bath in this.” He chuckled at himself in the towel and shrugged innocently. “Good luck catching that convict.”
< >“Thank you, sir, for your time,” Mr. White said, nodding. "I am sorry we disturbed you."
< >Draco smiled at him, said good-bye, and closed the door. He then slowly walked upstairs, back to his ruined bath, his hands shaking at the thought of coming so close to being caught.