< >Hermione tore the paper to shreds. “Damn them!” she shouted. “For God sakes, I wish I knew who those idiots are! ‘Associated Wizard Anonymous Press’ my ass! Those idiots who couldn’t care less about a person - ” She threw down the rest of the newspaper onto her desk and it burst into flames in her rage. And the article had been absurd, poorly written, and downright insulting. If it had been turned into her, she would have ripped it up and written it over herself.
< >“PERCY!” she yelled a moment later, slamming her fist down on the desk. Her voice rocked the building, but she was the only one who didn’t notice. She kicked her chair away from her, but slowly pulled it back, and dropped into it. She put her face in her hands and wept fully for the first time in many years.
< >There was a knock on the door and Colin walked in, looking slightly rigid. “Hermione?” he asked slowly, carefully. “I - I need to say something to you . . . yeah . . . er . . . what I wanted to say was - ”
< >“Oh, good Lord, Colin, just spit it out!” Hermione yelled, looking up at him.
< >“I didn’t say a word about it,” Colin said automatically, “but you’re probably right on who you think, Hermione . . . I remember exactly what happened to you and Draco, though, Hermione.” Colin shook his head, his eyes looking at the ground, but he regained his courage and looked her straight in the eye. “That was love. I was there when he left, Hermione, don’t you remember? We all were. Ron, Ginny, Harry, Crabbe, Goyle, everyone.
< >“What is your bloody point, Colin?" Hermione half-heartedly snapped.
< >“I saw it in his eyes that day, Hermione. Do you know what I’m talking about?” He didn’t wait for her to answer. “I saw in his eyes that it was the most horrible moment in his life. In both your lives. His eyes said it all and you missed it, or you refuse to believe that a man who speaks a lie could not possibly tell the truth with his eyes . . .
< >“As he turned his back and walked away, I saw him shaking, Hermione,” Colin told her gravely. “If I knew any better, I would have thought he would have turned around with tears in his eyes and run back to you, beggining for your forgiveness. But he didn't. What I know is this: He knew that he had made the biggest mistake in his life right at that moment and he felt a duty to leave, trying not to hurt you anymore . . .
< >“You still love him. I don’t know if he still loves you, but a man who runs away from the woman that he loves, shows the shame of love, in my opinion. If he was not in love still, he would not have run. He would have made a game out of it, like he has done before, but did he? No. Not at all. He ran from his greatest fear in the world, Hermione. You. Maybe the AWAP made it seem like he ran from you because they hate and loathe a person like you, but that is not the case.”
< >Colin sighed, shaking his head. He closed his eyes from a moment, then opened them again to look at Hermione. “I personally doubt he killed anyone, Hermione. And I know you value my opinion. Find your love. Find him. Protect him. You are the only one in this world who can.”
< >Hermione produced a weak smile. “I doubt you’ll ever say anything like that to me again, Colin,” she told him softly.
< >Colin smiled at her. “Did I say something?”
< >She laughed quietly. “But I thank you for that. I needed to be told that exactly.” She closed her eyes to stop her tears. “I value your opinion greatly, and I agree with it, most of the time, and this is one of those times. Draco could not have killed a soul even accidentally. He is not that kind of person . . . but the person he seems now to be is . . . but I still love him. In my heart . . . and my soul . . . I cannot abandoned him.”
< >Colin stepped up to the desk and took her hands in his, squeezing them gently. “Go, then, Hermione,” he said urgently. “He needs you more than he or you even know. Find him. Hide him - ”
< >“Protect him.”
< >“And love him.”
< >“But what if I cannot love what he may have become?”
< >“You will have to trust your instincts and make that decision yourself. I cannot help you or give you advice in that matter, because I have never been in love, and I couldn’t possibly comprehend that reality that reaches beyond my grasp,” Colin replied, letting go of her hands.
< >Draco dressed a while later in a dark blue bathrobe, smoothing his hair back as he walked downstairs. He found Helena in the kitchen, looking angry. Her eyes burned with an unseen fire when he walked into the room.
< >“What did I do this time?” he sighed, leaning against the door frame.
< >“It’s what you didn’t do,” Helena sneered, throwing the old newspaper she had been reading the day he met her onto the floor in front of him.
< >Draco stared down at the front page, saying nothing.
< >“Recognize him?” Helena demanded slanderously.
< >Of course Draco did. It was him. Draco Malfoy. An enlarged picture of himself on the front of the Muggle newspaper. The picture was old, over a year, but he looked nearly the same. He lifted his head to look at Helena.
< >“You murdering scum,” Helena began to scream, advancing on him with a raised fist. “You lying, thief! I’ve known for days, but I wasn’t sure until those brutes caught up with me as I walked the sheep in!” She uncurled her fist to slap him, but he caught her arm, whirled her around, pinning her arms behind her back, and clamped a hand over her ready-to-scream mouth.
< >“If you bite me, I’ll bite you back,” Draco hissed into her ear, digging his nails into her wrists. “I’ll let you go if you promise to answer every question I ask of you, do you understand me? You know of me, you know what I can do. You are not a fool. Will you answer my questions?”
< >Helena nodded and he let her go. She spun around and stepped backwards until she had her back pressed against the kitchen sink. Her eyes held hate and suspicion as she looked on at the criminal in her kitchen.
< >“Did you tell them?” Draco demanded, stepping toward her threateningly. “Did you tell them anything about me? That you knew who I was and where I was? If you did, just kill me now, and get it over with! My dead body is worthless to them!” He threw up his hands helpless and paced, muttering to himself incoherently.
< >Helena stared at him, but answered. “I did not say a word - but I almost did.”
< >Draco sighed and leaned against the kitchen wall. “Why didn’t you?”
< >“Because of what I saw,” she replied hollowly.
< >“What did you see?” Draco asked, confused.
< >Helena narrowed her eyes, folding her arms across her chest. “I’m surprised you don’t know. The magic.” Draco paled and she smiled satisfactorily. “Yes, the magic, Draco Malfoy. I didn’t tell them because of the trick.”
< >“It wasn’t a trick. Magic is a craft. Many master it, but few see the joy it can fulfill in people. That is why I showed your brother and sister, because they would forget it when they were older, and they were delighted by it. Magic, to the normal humans, is only told in fairy tales, or shown off by a magician who only uses mere sleight of hand and stage tricks, but real magic is beautiful. It is a gift . . . And you didn’t tell them because I use magic?” Draco demanded sharply.
< >Helena nodded solemnly. “They were not the police or guards. They were looking for you. Yes, many are looking for you, but these men were uncomfortable, and looked quite disturbed. They told me you had not seen the man and I wondered why they were such idiots. Unless, you had used some trick on them they hadn’t noticed, and for Pete sakes! There it is! Your hair was darker - and still is, since it’s wet - and your eyes! Brown!” She laughed, as if it was funny.
< >Draco slowly move his hand in front of his eyes and when he lowered his hand, they were back to being blue. “Did the men leave?” In any other situation, he would have been smiling at Helena’s expression, but this was not a time for games.
< >“As far as I know,” Helena said, trying hard not to stare at him. “Why?”
< >Draco went to the kitchen window and peered out the linen curtains. “If they even thought I could possibly be me or if I knew something, they’ll come back. They want to arrest and charge me with fraud, grand and petty theft, and murder.” He looked away from the window.
< >“So you did murder someone.”
< >He was almost as quick as lightning. He appeared in front of her in the blink of an eye. “No,” Draco said darkly and quietly. “I have never killed anyone in my life. I’ve come close to it, but that was when I was a jealous, spiteful kid.”
< >“Wonderful. Murderous at eleven,” Helena sneered.
< >Draco snorted disapprovingly and walked away from her. He threw up his hands in the air and turned around to look at her. “So, what now?” he demanded. “You going to turn me into the Muggle police? I doubt this town even has a magistrate!”
< >Before she could answer, there was a sharp rap at the door.
< >Draco paled and closed his eyes. When he opened them again, they were brown, and his hair slowly turned darker, as he wasn’t concentrating completely. “They’ve come back for me,” he moaned, slumping into a chair. “Give me a kitchen knife and I’ll slit my wrists now. It’s better than Azkaban!”
< >Helena stared at him, then walked slowly, out of the kitchen to the front door. He couldn’t move to protest or stop her. He couldn’t even think. Draco put his head in his hands miserably, closing his eyes, expecting the worse.
< >“Hello, again, miss,” White’s voice said pleasantly. “Is it your brother we spoke to earlier? You didn’t seem to have much time to speak with us at the time. We hope we aren’t bothering you . . .”
< >Yeah, right, Draco muttered to himself.
< >“Yes, Henry is my brother,” Helena replied solemnly, surprising Draco so much he jumped and stared out the kitchen door, even though it was impossible to see her and the “detectives.”
< >“Henry, is it?”
< >“Might we speak with him?”
< >“He is feeling a bit sick, but come in anyway,” Helena said in a voice loud enough for Draco to hear clearly. “Follow me - he is in the kitchen, drinking tea.” Draco, having enough sense, made a cup of tea appear in front of him.
< >White, Brown/Simmons, and Helena walked into the kitchen a second later.
< >“Detectives?” Draco asked blankly, looking up from his tea.
< >“Nice to see you again, Mr. Andrews. You are not well?” White asked.
< >Draco raised his eyebrows in fake amusement. “You could say that. If you had been here a minute longer earlier, you would not have been a happy or clean man, I can assure you, Detective White.”
< >White smiled idly. “Oh?” he asked aloofly, uninterested. “We came here to ask you a few questions, if that is all right.” It wasn’t a question and Draco knew it wasn’t - very clearly. These men would get what they wanted.
< >Draco cleared his throat, giving a forced cough. “Of course.”
< >White sat across from him at the round, kitchen table. “It is about the man we spoke to you of earlier.”
< >“Oh? And what about him?”
< >“His name is Draco Malfoy,” Brown/Simmons said.
< >“Newspapers are just as informative as you are, Detective,” Draco said.
< >White waved the remarks off. “We are worried that he might be in this area. We detected magic here . . .”
< >Draco threw back his head and laughed. They assumed he was Muggle and they would wipe his mind later. “Detectives, please,” he laughed. “Do not try your stupid tricks on me!” He held up the tea glass and it changed into a martini.
< >The detectives stared and Helena tried not to.
< >“Is that your answer? Draco Malfoy may be magic, but so am I, and I am the only magic in these parts, besides the two of you.” He smiled and took a small sip of the martini. After he had done so, he turned the glass back into tea. “And don’t even try to tell me you detected magic!”
< >“Have you seen the latest newspapers, Mr. Andrews?” Brown/Simmons asked slowly.
< >Draco shook his head. “Not for at least a month, but Draco Malfoy has been in the papers for years, now, hasn’t he? I tend to like quiet country life.” He sighed. “Why should have I have seen them, Mr. Brown - or is it Simmons?”
< >Brown/Simmons reddened. “It’s Jeremy Pollack.”
< >“Reginold Whitney,” said White.
< >“Nice to meet you,” Draco said curtly. He turned to Whitney. “You both need to work on it. It’s pathetic how obvious you make yourselves. Now, what about the newspapers?”
< >Whitney pulled at least three dozen wizard newspaper clippings out of his jacket, setting them on the kitchen table in front of Draco. “Take a look at these when you get the chance. We are sorry we bothered you.” He rose to his feet, but his eyes landed on Draco’s right hand.
< >Draco didn’t dare look, but he knew exactly what the detective was looking at. He stood up and coughed, using his right hand so the detective could see it even better. Why try to hide it? It had been spotted and it look more suspicious if he stuck his hand in his pocket. Whitney glanced at a staring Pollack who looked quite ill.
< >“No trouble,” Draco returned pleasantly, following Whitney and Pollack out onto the front porch. Both men looked extremely uncomfortable. “I will take a look at those papers when I get a chance. Thank you for them.”
< >“You are welcome, Mr. Andrews,” Whitney said, and he and Pollack left.
< >Draco nearly slammed the door and leaned against the door, trying to catch his breath. “I have to go!” he cried, his hair and eye color returning instantly in pure fright. He sprinted from the front door to the staircase.
< >Helena grabbed his arm before he could get a hand on the banister, though. “Why?” she demanded, staring deep into his fleeting eyes that looked in every which direction all at once, never once stopping as she did.
< >“Because they’ll come back!” he cried, jerking away from her. He ran up the stairs, leaving Helena in his dust, and he threw all his clothes into the small suitcase he had purchased in the town. He had also taken all the rest of his money out of his Jennings account, since he had nothing better to do that morning.
< >He scribbled a note to Olivia and Pena, dropped double the money asked for into an envelope, and left both the note and envelope on Pena’s bed for her when she got back. Draco ran back down the stairs, tripping as he tried to pull on his shoes.
< >Helena stood in the same spot he had left her in and he ran past her. He grabbed the newspaper articles, tucking them under his arm, and grabbed a bit of food and water that he would need, and a box of matches, then ran out of the kitchen.
< >Draco, about to run out the door, stopped, and looked her directly in the eye. “Helena, for God sakes, when the Ministry comes, claim you don’t remember having a conversation with me at all. Your memory is wiped all the way up to just before you talked to those two idiots, but don’t tell him that, just don’t act like you had a second conversation with those idiots!
< >“If you don’t, they will wipe your memory. They have no right to, but they will. Believe me. I’ve seen it. Don’t do it. Don’t let on you remember Whitney and Pollack; greet them with confusion. Please, for the sake of yourself and your brother and sister.” He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Give them my love. I hope your mother is all right.”
< >With that, Draco swooped out of the house, and was running across the field until he disappeared down a hill, bound toward the woods. He was gone from the lives of the Andrews family, leaving the only people he’d ever loved. He missed Mikaela’s giggles and Peter’s laugh. But they were distant memories by the time he reached the ridge of the forest and he knew he couldn’t dwell on memories for long.
< >Hermione went home right after Colin left and gathered a few of her things, then jumped on her broom, and rode quickly back to her office to gather a few personal items she’d been careless to leave.
< >“Hermione!” someone yelled, running up to her, trying to thrust papers into her hands as she hurried down to her office.
< >“Not now!” she snapped angrily, brushing past the man.
< >“But - but - but - Ms. Granger! The fugitive - ” the news researcher, Allan Greenspan, sputtered, “Draco Malfoy - he’s been found! Mr. - Mr. Weasley just informed the press!”
< >Hermione spun around and stared at him.
< >“At - at least the Ministry knows where he is. He was disguised, but the ‘detectives,’ as they called themselves while looking, spotted a particular ring on Malfoy’s hand - the ruby ring! They had to leave to get back up, but they are heading back there this instant to arrest and charge him!” Greenspan ended his hurried speech and handed Hermione an address on a slip of paper. “Mr. Weasley told me to give this to you, Ms. Granger, and - ”
< >Hermione looked at it for a second, then ran to her office, grabbed her things, then rushed out of the building. She yelled over her shoulder to Greenspan and to anyone who was listening, “I’m going on vacation, but tell Colin to get his ass over there! I know you have that address written down somewhere, Greenspan, so get him over there, damn it! Right now!”