LDW - 24
And now...Now I'm busy...Busy again
I feel like sitting down but
I'm still thinking...Thinking about my friends
In my garden...moments
But now I'm speaking out
Speaking about my friends
Now I'm speaking out
Thinking about my friends
Daphne Greengrass did not let herself sleep despite the long hours of the flight. She had never expected or thought she would ever want to travel on a muggle airplane, yet here she was, sitting next to Harry Potter on a large jet, high over the Atlantic Ocean, heading to a place called Atlanta, Georgia. Harry had explained that they would need to go through Muggle - or non magical - customs, before they changed to a different plane to fly to Texas.
The small group of magicals understood that to decrease the chance of Cho Chang discovering their arrival they would travel via Muggle methods; it would be more difficult for a witch or wizard to monitor Muggle traffic than wizarding travel systems.
After speaking with Croaker, Harry readily acknowledged that it was unlikely that Cho Chang would have a way to monitor international Portkeys or even domestic Portkeys within the United States, and Harry wanted to minimise the risk of their being discovered.
Fleur had accompanied them, and initially had been thrilled with their first class seats and the views they had out the window. However, she was less than impressed with what they were served for wine and champagne during the flight, but decided that it was better than not having anything else to drink during the long trip, so she had continued to drink. The flight attendant was initially hesitant to keep filling her glass, however she had not shown any signs of being inebriated so she continued to bring the beautiful French woman her requested beverage.
Daphne turned to Harry. "So, how many times have you travelled by plane?"
Harry closed his eyes tightly for a moment before he answered stiffly, "This is my first time, actually. I was never allowed to accompany the Dursleys anytime they travelled that far."
Daphne narrowed her eyes, she could detect there was more to his past than he was letting on, but decided the middle of a Muggle airplane was not be the best place to press him for more information.
Eventually they arrived at Bergstorm Airport and arranged for a cab to take them to the home which they had rented for their time in Austin. The large house on top of one of the many hills in Austin was secluded, and a gate at the bottom of the long and winding road that led up to the mansion gave them the necessary privacy for their quest against Muggle eyes.
The next day Hannah and Neville, who were as determined as them to track down Chang, also arrived at the house. The group gathered in the large common room on the ground floor to review the information Staci and her contact, Gregorio Cortez, had provided to them.
Harry summarised the information from a notebook in front of him for the benefit of the others. "This area has had rapid growth over the past ten years due to the Muggle technology field. There have been many new companies formed here, and many non-magicals have moved to the area. As a result, other businesses are growing rapidly on the non-magical side."
"How does this apply to us, and Cho Chang?" asked Neville.
Harry consulted his notes. "There are also a number of magical businesses in the area. Not unlike much of the US, the magical population is more integrated within the non-magical side of things. They just work on keeping the magical side hidden from the Muggles, or non-mag, as they call them here."
He paused and took a glass of wine Fleur handed him as she came out from behind the bar with drinks for everyone. He sipped, smiled a thanks at Fleur and continued.
"Gregorio Cortez has been able to forward some information to Staci, who in turn passed it along to us. They finally have a lead on Chang. It has taken longer than we anticipated, and some of that may have to do with how widespread the magicals are across the US and how well they seem to integrate with the non-magicals."
Harry took another sip of wine. "The MacUSA has confirmed that there is a new magical business, a magical import business, that was started several months ago, using what is called a 'road house' or restaurant as the front for this business. The transactions for selling the magical imports occur in a private backroom. So far, the MacUSA has not detected any obvious illegal transactions, but the owner has a limited history, which makes her suspicious."
"And the owner is Cho?" asked Hannah.
Harry shook his head. "It's not that easy. The owner is someone named Tan Hao, and there is minimal background information on her. We presume this is Chang under an alias as well as under some sort of disillusionment or maybe Polyjuice Potion."
"What else do we know about her and this shop?" asked Daphne.
"Not much yet," Harry answered with a small shrug and a sigh. "So we wait while the MacUSA gathers a little more background information for us. Seeing as how we are left in a waiting game here, perhaps we should take some time and enjoy some of the non-magical benefits of this community."
Fleur, who was once again standing behind the bar, perked up. "I hear that some place called Sixth Street should be a lot of fun."
Harry smirked, yet shook his head. "No, not yet anyway. We should get more accustomed to this area before we head there of all places."
"What is Sixth Street?" questioned Hannah.
"A busy section near the middle of the city," said Harry, "which becomes busier at night due to the number of bars and venues where people go to drink and listen to live music."
"And have entirely too much to drink as they try to have entirely too much fun." Daphne added with a knowing grin.
Fleur pouted. "Oh you lot are no fun."
Two days later the group was sitting at a table on one of the many balconies at the Oasis Restaurant, meeting for dinner, as they watched the sunset over Lake Travis.
A tall woman walked by their table, bumped into the back of Harry's chair, and dropped an envelope into his lap, only to disappear with long strides inside the building.
Harry took a cautious look around. "Could she have been any more obvious?"
That elicited a round of chuckles from the rest of the group.
Daphne bumped his shoulder with hers. "Don't be so grumpy, love. Go ahead and tell us what they found out about Chang.'
He shot her and exasperated look, yet opened the folder and quickly perused the information. He was still reading when the appetisers arrived, and the rest of the group decided to have a go at them because it seemed he wouldn't finish reading the new information any time soon.
At last he looked up. "We know where her shop is. This information also confirms Tan Hao is who we think she is." He reached out for the platter of appetizers in the middle of the table and popped a cheese filled chili nacho into his mouth, chewed, swallowed, and took a sip of his beer. "Chang most likely has some surveillance set up to warn her if any of the people she knows might be looking for her. The American Aurors also warned she apparently has something to detect magical disguises on anyone who walks down the hallway from the roadhouse to her magical business in the back."
"So, why not bring in MacUSA Aurors?" asked Hannah. "That should be enough grounds for a raid."
"It's not their fight. It's ours," said Harry. "To them, Tan Hao has simply set up a magical business without giving accurate personal information. Cho Chang is a wanted magical criminal from magical Britain, and the ICW already stated it was our problem."
"What about Staci?" asked Daphne.
"She is working with the ICW, she had been trying to find someway to track down Barnes. That mission apparently has concluded, so she said she would meet up with us when she had the chance. Apparently there are some loose ends and a fair amount of paperwork to complete to make the ICW happy as that involved missions in at least one South American country."
Neville gave a slight nod. "So now what do we do?" he asked in a thoughtful tone. "We know where she lives. Or at least we know where she works."
"We don't want to cause a problem in a non-mag neighbourhood," said Harry, "we're not even officially sanctioned to be here. We're trying to stay under the radar, to use a non-mag phrase."
"What's a radar? Is it a large object?" asked Hannah.
Harry sighed, he needed to explain non-magical terms again to his friends on top of everything. "No, it's a Muggle technology that can be used to detect things, such as planes flying in the sky. It means we want to be undetected by her and any others."
Harry took another bite of nachos from the plate in the middle of the table. "Back to Cho, or Tan, as she is now using this name. She has her hair pulled back into a tight bun, she is wearing robes that appear to be traditional Chinese style clothing. She is not wearing any makeup, and has magically made her face appear older, adding wrinkles to how she looks. Also, this information indicates that she is not speaking with a British accent, but speaks in a way that would suggest English is new to her and she claims she has just moved here from China."
Harry let that information sink in for a moment. "She is often yelling at the staff that run the restaurant side of her business, coming out from the back occasionally to check on things. There is a backroom that has a sign that reads 'Private Parties Only.' This is apparently where she conducts the business of selling the magical imports."
Daphne nodded in understanding. "So, all we have to do, then, is go down to her store, confront her, and apprehend her?" she asked, as if to get all the important points straight.
"If only it were that simple," replied Harry. "What we have learned is that her store was equipped to have wards that block the use of Transfiguration charms as well as something that appears to work not unlike the Thieves' Downfall at Gringotts."
"But somehow we need to find a way to get close to her, to either apprehend her or..." Neville's voice trailed off as he left the remainder of what he had to say for his friends to discern on their own.
Just then a blonde woman pulled up a chair and joined them at the table. The group of friends shared indignant looks, and Harry already opened his mouth to send her away.
The blonde gave him an amused smile. "I heard from Shack that you were all gathered here and it wasn't too hard to track you lot down," she said in a voice that was oddly familiar.
"Hermione!" Harry gaped at her.
"I told you I prefer to use the name Jean," she gently scolded him.
Harry's cheeks pinked. "That's still going to take getting used to."
"And my completely new looks aren't? Bloody hell, Harry, I don't even look like the old Hermione anymore," she said and shook her blonde mane, which caused Harry to squirm in his seat.
Neville smiled at the friendly banter between the two close friends. "So, you tracked us all the way down to the heart of Texas, just to say hello?"
"Not just to say hello, Neville," replied Jean/Hermione. "I want to help, and from what I already overheard, and yes, Harry, you speak way too loud about these matters in a way too public place, I'm the best one to help you get into her special store."
Hannah opened her mouth as if to protest but Jean/Hermione waved her off. "Cho Chang left me with orders to kill my best friend. As far as she knows, I'm dead. I'm a non entity to her. She won't be expecting Hermione Granger, although she would definitely recognise her, but she really won't be expecting me and she would have no reason to recognise me."
"Then perhaps we should return to our little villa on the hill and discuss the details of a plan," said Harry.
The following week the group of friends decided it was time for action. They made their way to the area south of Town Lake and came upon the roadhouse that was run by Tan Hao.
Harry put his hand on Jean's shoulder. "Look, we all know this is emotionally hard, for you more so than the rest of us, so don't be afraid to say you want to hold off."
Jean smiled at Harry and patted his hand. "Thanks Harry, but I will be fine. I need to do this. Ever since that time in the bathroom with the troll and you saved me, I've always been there with you, through thick and thin. We all need this, to finally put this whole mess behind us." With that she gave Harry a quick hug and entered the roadhouse.
She made her way to the bar and took a seat. The waitress came to take her order for drinks and handed her the menu.
"A sparkling water, please." She gave the waitress a bright smile. "Once you get me my drink I would love to talk with the owner about any specials she may have out back."
The waitress nodded. "Just a moment, sugar, I'll be right back."
Jean opened the menu and pretended to be interested in the offered choices, twirling some of her blonde curls with one hand. From the corner of her eyes she noticed a stern looking Asian woman stepping out from the back room and approaching her.
"Hello, miss," said the woman, clearly hesitant to be speaking with this stranger. "What is it that I can do for you?"
Jean tilted her head to one side. "Oh, I have just heard about how you have so many interesting items, or artefacts for sale in your private room, I just had to see what you might have."
Tan narrowed her eyes at the blonde seated in front of her. "Have we met before? I don't think you've been around here at all. I would have recognised someone like you."
Jean continued twirling her hair. "I'm sure you would have remembered me, but, no, I'm new here in Austin. We've been living up near Dallas for a while, but not much magical business up there, daddy couldn't stay busy enough with his work."
Then she took a slow look around the roadhouse and turned back to Tan. "This place seems all comfortable like, and friendly too." Jean turned her smile up as she looked back at Tan.
Tan was a little taken aback by the forwardness of the young woman in front of her, but she had been in Texas for a while and even the witches and wizards came across more friendly than she was used to, just like the non magicals. "Is there anything you are particularly interested in, artefacts you said?"
Well, as a matter of fact," said Jean, "I am planning on getting a place of my own soon, so I am hoping to find some items for a house or an apartment. I just can't imagine having to do all those chores on my own." She held out her fingers which had long and exquisitely painted nails. "After all, I couldn't let something happen to these beautiful fingers."
Tan sighed, why did she have to deal with another rich spoiled witch from Dallas? "When you finish your lunch, we can look at what we have out back." She turned to walk to the private back room, paused and added, "Are you sure we haven't met before?"
Jean sat up straight and gave Tan a look of indignation. "I'm just sure I would remember it if I had ever seen you before."
Tan frowned and took a step towards her.
The front door of the restaurant banged open, and a thin blonde man strode into the restaurant. By the dark look on his face he was out for a brawl, and the staff rushed towards him to intercept him.
Tan froze and gasped, her eyes staring at the young man as if she saw a ghost.
The young man shook off the staff who surrounded him like flies, pushed them aside and continued towards the bar. "I know she's here, and I know who she is."
He wore a long cloak, quite unusual for Austin at that time of year, one arm hidden inside of the cloak. In a quick motion he pulled his arm out from under the cloak and pointed his wand at the Asian woman.
Tan jumped back, towards Jean, with an agility no woman of her supposed age possessed, grabbed the young blonde witch, and twisted her in front of her like a shield.
Draco glared at the woman. "Let her go, Chang, this is going to be between you and me!"
Jean froze in Chang's grip, damn, she'd been too cocky and had been taken by surprise by Malfoy's appearance, and now Chang had taken her as a hostage. She should've known the bitch would do something like this, she had next to no scruples, and backed into a corner she'd act like a rat fighting for life. How were the chances she wouldn't get in a crossfire between Chang and Malfoy? Double damn, she'd just got used to her new appearance.
"You should have died Malfoy, you got lucky," cried Chang. "You won't be so lucky this time."
With a slight jerk of her right hand a wand appeared and was immediately shooting out a bolt of orange magical energy.
Draco had his own wand out and the spell splashed against his quickly raised shield. "You're a coward, Chang, using a stranger as a shield."
"You'd know all about that, Malfoy, wouldn't you?" Chang sneered. "You had quite the history of sneak attacks on other students when you were at school."
Malfoy sent a blue spell to the right of Chang, who responded by moving to her left, still holding Jean around her neck with her left arm.
The staff and the few other customers in the restaurant screamed and ran out onto the street.
Jean took this opportunity to duck and roll to her left. The force of her movement caused Chang to let go of her or risk falling over and leaving her self open to another attack from Malfoy.
A bright red spell hit the counter near Chang, a shower of debris rose and pelted down on Chang, who had to block some of it with her arm to keep her eyes from being hurt.
"Stand down, Chang," ordered Malfoy.
"Never!" Chang spat. She turned and pointed her wand at Jean, who was on her knees near her and scrambling to her feet.
Before she could finish her spell a bright red light came from Malfoy's wand and hit her square in the chest.
Chang collapsed to the floor.
Jean pulled herself up and looked down at her. Blood dripped from Chang's mouth, and her empty eyes stared up to the ceiling.
Jean looked back at the blond. "Bloody hell! How, what, oh Merlin!"
"Who the bloody hell are you?" asked Malfoy, his wand held tightly in his hand, pointed at the gorgeous blond woman in front of him.
Footsteps thundered behind Malfoy as several people ran into the roadhouse.
Draco turned to see Harry Potter, Neville Longbottom, Hannah Abbot, and, out of all people, Daphne Greengrass in addition to that French Veela from the TriWizard Tournament approaching him, all with wands drawn.
"Well, well, well, if it isn't the Boy Who Lived and all of his little friends." He sneered, old habits were hard to overcome.
Jean stared at the man who had just killed Chang, once in her life at a loss for words.
Draco turned his gaze back on her. "I know all the others, but you, I don't know you. Such a pretty face I would never forget."
"You, you just saved my life," said Jean.
Draco shrugged. "Cho Chang was an evil bitch who deserved to die. I wasn't about to let her kill anyone else."
"She said she tried to kill you before?"
Draco nodded. "Yes, but as I am standing here, she obviously failed. She killed many people and was responsible for many deaths, including a witch I respected, even if I never told her. She deserved worse than this for what she did to Hermione Granger. And then she was just about to kill you, just now, for no apparent reason, other than to distract me."
Jean just stared at him.
Harry and Daphne shared a look. The corners of Daphne's mouth twitched, while Harry had the expression of a man who couldn't believe his eyes and ears.
"Someone check on Cho," said Hannah, breaking the awkward silence that followed after Draco had proclaimed why he had attacked Chang.
Jean and Draco were still locked in a staring contest.
Daphne pushed past Jean and knelt down next to the fallen Asian witch. Her features had returned to those of the young Cho Chang that they all knew. Daphne hesitantly reached out and felt that there was a large area on her chest that had been severely wounded by the blasting hex that Draco had cast.
Daphne turned around and looked up at the two who were staring at each other. "She's dead, Jean."
Draco was surprised to see a tear had formed in the corner of the Jean's eye. Before he could say anything, Jean launched herself at him and pressed her lips against his. After a minute he managed to push her away.
"Not that I'm really complaining, but I don't even know you," he said, his cheeks feeling rather hot.
Jean stepped back and looked away, hiding her own blush in response to her sudden actions that surprised her as much as all of her friends.
Draco shook his head. "Well, that was one way to introduce yourself, Jean." He looked from her towards Fleur and then back towards the blonde witch who had just assaulted his lips in a very pleasurable way. Well, if that was the usual reward for the hero, he all of a sudden understood Potter's saving people thing.
"So, Jean, were those tears of sadness that I killed her, or tears of joy that you were saved?" He waited for a moment, and once again looked back and forth between Fleur and Jean. "Hold on a tic, are you two related?" He turned to Fleur. "Didn't you have a little sister you had to save during that tournament but everyone's hero here saved her for you? Is this your little sister all grown up?"
Fleur sneered at Draco. "No, she is not my little sister, she is my friend, although we are related."
Draco put away his wand and held his hands up. "Relax, it's Delacour, right? I meant no harm. And she jumped at me."
Before anything more could be said several people rushed into the roadhouse. The lead man took out his wand and cast a large area notice me not charm on the group. "What in blazes is going on here? Who started a magical fight in front of the non-magicals? And who killed that woman, Tan Hao isn't it?"
Before anyone could respond to his questions, two people arrived by apparating on the other side of Harry and his friends, facing the MacUSA aurors.
The lead auror shouted at the two new intruders. "Who the hell are you and how did you just arrive through the barriers I put up?"
The group of Aurors now had their wands pointed at the duo who had managed to apparate through the magical barrier.
The woman who had just arrived winked at Harry and then turned back to face the head Auror. "My name is Anastasia Demetrios, MacUSA Auror services, and special agent for the ICW." She nodded towards the man with her. "And this is Gregorio Cortes, also a special agent for the ICW."
The lead auror gaped and needed a few moments to get his bearings. "Well, then, that explains how you made it through the barriers, but it does not tell us anything about why you are here."
"ICW business," answered Gregorio. "That woman -" he pointed down at Chang's dead body "- is wanted for war crimes by the ICW. The ICW and the British DMLE have been searching for her for many months. She has multiple charges of murder outstanding against her, including that of her own father, not to mention many other charges of accomplice to murder and terrorist activities against wizards and witches in Britain."
"That woman, that dead witch, is Tan Hao, recent magical immigrant from China," said the lead Auror. "She established her business here legitimately. And someone came in, used magical force in front of non magicals, and…"
Staci cut him off. "Look more closely, sir, and you will see that this Tan Hao, as you call her, does not look like the witch you thought she was."
The American Aurors moved over to look at the body. "So, she was killed by someone. And it appears that you may have been correct about Tan Hao. The body surely doesn't fit the description we have of her."
"Her name is Cho Chang," said Gregorio. "As I already stated, she is wanted for many crimes. We will need to bring her body to the ICW headquarters and notify the British DMLE. Would you like to contact your own supervisors or just the Magical British Consular office?"
The lead American Auror was irritated. "What are we supposed to do about this situation? Just let you walk in here, with no jurisdiction and murder someone because they are wanted elsewhere?"
"The woman, Cho Chang or Tan Hao, or whatever her name was, well she was threatening this woman, Jean," said Draco. "I came to confront her about her aforementioned crimes, and she took this woman hostage and tried to kill her. She started to cast 'Avada Kedavra' but I sent a blasting hex her way to knock her back and interrupt her spell. At the same time she moved in front of my spell, and I got her square in the chest. I didn't mean to kill her, it was an accident."
The American Auror captain gave him a suspicious look.
Jean looked distraught and turned to the Auror.
"Mister Malfoy here saved my life. I came here to try and do some business when Mr. Malfoy arrived, apparently to apprehend her for her previous actions, and then the fight started."
The lead auror looked around at the group. "And how many of you are witnesses to these events?"
"Most of us were outside when our friend, Jean, came in to speak with Tan, or rather Chang, about looking at some of her artefacts," said Harry.
The Auror shook his head slightly as he stared at the young man in front of him. "You're that Harry Potter dude from England. Trouble follows you everywhere!"
Staci stepped towards the lead Auror. "Yes, he's Harry Potter, and your superiors should know that he is here, unofficially, but being given the opportunity to help track down a dangerous witch who has so far, until today that is, eluded capture."
The group of Aurors looked back and forth between Staci and Harry and then turned back to the unmoving body of Cho Chang.
The lead Auror addressed Staci. "So what do you expect us to do with this body?"
"File a report, document your investigation, and let these people leave," she said. "I'm taking them with me to the regional ICW office in Virginia, then I expect they will be heading back to England. So, you better finish your questions pretty quickly…"
Several hours later the questions from the MacUSA aurors had all been answered and the group found themselves back in the large room with the bar on the ground floor of the villa they were renting in Austin.
"I thought you said we had to go back to your office," said Draco as he walked around the room.
Staci smiled at him. "We could go back to my office, but I mostly said that to get the local Aurors to back off. And this place is much nicer."
Draco shrugged his shoulders and sat down at one of the small tables by himself. He kept glancing over at Jean, wondering about the kiss they had shared earlier, but he had resigned himself to that being just an emotional outburst from a distressed young woman.
"Listen up, everyone," Staci said, looking around the room. "The MacUSA and the ICW are wrapping up their involvement with this whole British Magical fiasco, for lack of a better term. There will be no further investigation into any of your involvement with what happened here. With the death of Cho Chang it seems to many that everyone responsible for the attacks against the pure bloods and Death Eaters in England has either been apprehended or killed. The conspiracy from MI-13 has come to an end. While it will not bring back those who died, and I understand that many of you lost family as well as dear friends, remember that you all played a part in bringing this series of atrocities to an end. Now, on a more formal note, I understand that you have this villa rented for the rest of this week. It has been brought to my attention that unless you have specific work visas, or have an itinerary for travel already planned out, that the MacUSA expects that you all will be leaving. We can arrange for either magical or non magical transportation for you back to England, or wherever your destination may be."
There were sighs of relief from around the room. Fleur went up to the bar. "Seems like a good time for margaritas for everyone!"
Jean went up to the bar and spoke quietly with Fleur, while Hannah and Neville held each other on a couch and Harry and Daphne sat together at another table. Staci decided to give the group some room and made her way outside.
As Draco sat by himself and looked around the room he became more uncomfortable, so he too decided to head outside.
Having not been to the villa before, he decided to give himself a little tour, or at least a walk and some privacy. He walked up the drive that encircled the house and came upon a small square pool in the back of the house. There was a small waterfall built over rocks at one side, and he just stared at the water cascading down as he considered his day. He had no real plan other than to take out Cho Chang out of a desire for revenge once he discovered that she had escaped to Texas. His father's old connections from various dealings did turn out to be useful in navigating certain channels of information which led him to the city of Austin. But he hadn't really thought about the consequences of his actions. It turned out he was quite lucky that the events transpired the way he did and he was not facing charges of murder, for revenge itself was clearly not an acceptable alibi.
A hand reached out and touched his shoulder, which startled him and he spun around, nearly falling backwards into the pool. The hand reached out and grabbed him by the arm, helping to steady him.
"You seem to be avoiding me," said Jean.
Draco rubbed his face and looked away from the beautiful blonde witch. "It's been an emotional day. I came here to kill someone, which I did, but instead of murder it was done to save someone else's life." He raised his eyes to look at Jean. "And then, there is what happened. I never saved someone else's life before. Not like that. That's what Potter does. He saves people. I usually just piss off everyone around me."
Jean slowly reached out with a hand and caressed his cheek. "But you did do something, you saved someone. You saved me."
"I don't even know you," said Draco and backed away from her touch. "I'm not the hero, and most people would say I'm not a very nice person. You don't really know me at all."
Jean withdrew her hand and shrugged. "I do know you saved me. I do know you cared enough to act. I do know you spoke about this other witch, Granger, and that you blamed Chang for killing her."
"Yeah, well, Chang tried to have me killed, but the DMLE back in Britain saved me, and one of the Aurors died instead," said Draco. "And this Granger, I don't think she ever liked me, not that I would blame her. I was an arse to her. Just because she wasn't a pure-blood. But she was smart. Hell, she was brilliant. And she had a mean right hook," he added with a slight smile. "But Chang, she did something to Granger, made her turn on her best friend, Potter. And that got Granger killed."
"You don't seem to like Harry very much," said Jean.
"I tried to befriend him when I first met him, years ago," said Draco. "But that backfired on me. I guess I was jealous of him, everything always went his way. He even saved my life once. He did that even despite our previous rivalry. But he did. That's the sort of thing Potter does. Not me." He crossed his arms across his chest and sulked a little.
Jean considered his words, and then pursued her own questions about Draco's motivation for his actions. "But you came here, tracked down Chang, all because she tried to kill you?"
"Well, actually, no," said Draco. "I know I have alienated or angered plenty of people. But Granger, she was a mud..., a Muggle born. Chang and the people she was working with, they had a goal of taking out the pure-bloods, the supremacists, the Death Eaters. The ones who discriminated against the Muggle born. The ones who tortured and killed witches and wizards like her. That's what got me thinking, really thinking hard about all of this. Granger was a Muggle born but she became a victim just because she was in the way. Chang wanted to use her to kill Potter. Potter, the half blood, the savior of the magical world in Britain, who defeated the Dark Lord and the Death Eaters. But the ideals of those who took out the pure-bloods, attacked the Sacred 28, that really didn't matter to her. Vengeance and jealousy and anger, that is what motivated her. It's what motivated the Death Eaters and my own family. I finally decided that to make up for things I had done, for what my family had done, I had to take action. Chang was the one I needed to deal with."
Draco looked up at Jean after he finished bearing his soul to this stranger. He looked into the eyes of the beautiful blond witch and saw his reflection in them, and he turned away.
Gently she reached for his shoulder once again. "Why did you turn away? Am I that horrible of a person? Do you regret saving me?"
Draco shrugged her hand away again and turned slowly back to face her. "No, not at all. You're a very beautiful woman, and I don't really know anything about you. You didn't know anything about me, other than I had saved you, and taken out Chang, and then you kissed me. And now I just told you how I am not really a nice person."
Jean stepped a little closer towards him. "Yes, you saved me. Yes, you bared your soul, told me of the things you did, things you believed, things that you realised were wrong. You changed. You travelled across the world to avenge someone you treated poorly. I can admire that."
Draco allowed his lips to curl into the slightest of smiles at her words. He reached out to her with his hand, and gently cupped her cheek. "You don't hold my previous faults against me? My past is not pretty. I was a bully and a bigot."
"You were, but you showed the true you today," said Jean with a smile. "You showed who you truly are, so what if no one knew this side of you before. Your actions today can define the choices you make going forward. And you tried to save me, you did save me, when you knew nothing about me."
Draco smiled at her a little more. "I don't need to know anything about you. Or anything more. You're friends with Potter and his friends. I don't know how or why. But you're telling me that you can overlook my past. Then I don't want to know anything about your past. I'm fine just getting to know you here and now."
"But what if you didn't like my past," said Jean. "We all have secrets."
"Keep yours," said Draco. "I don't want to know them. Really." He leaned forward to kiss her when his foot slipped on the wet rocks near the pool, he lost his footing and fell sideways into the shallow pool. As he was falling, he reached out and grabbed a hold of Jean's arm, and she came crashing into the water on top of him.
As the two stood up, soaking wet, in the waste deep water of the shallow pool, Fleur had just come up to bring them their margaritas.
She smirked at them. "Not sure if this is a fight or something much more interesting, but I brought you some drinks." Fleur placed the glasses down on a nearby table and watched the two climb out of the pool. "I could help you dry off if you would like."
"That would be great, thanks," replied Draco before Jean could manage to say anything.
Fleur snapped her wand into her hand and quickly cast a drying charm on each of them.
"So, are you two okay, or do you need a chaperone?" she asked with a smile.
"No, no, we're fine, really," said Jean who was blushing and avoided looking at Draco.
"Yeah, we're good," said Draco and turned back to Jean. "We're good, right?"
Jean smiled awkwardly. "Yeah, of course. We're good." Tears welled up in her eyes, and she ran past Fleur without saying another word.
Fleur moved as if to follow after Jean, but instead turned back to Draco. "What exactly did you do to her?" Her tone made clear she was not happy with the last reaction from Jean.
"Nothing, well, um, not exactly nothing," stammered Draco. "We talked, I told her about my past, about how I was kind of a jerk when I was younger. And how everything that happened since Potter defeated the Dark Lord led to my seeing things differently, and then how Chang being responsible for Granger's death made me determined to do something, something to help put a stop to the stupid fighting that is tearing apart our society."
Fleur tilted her head at his words. "Wait, you told her Granger's death affected you?"
"Yeah, well, it did, but don't tell Potter that. So, um, we ended up kissing. And then we slipped into the pool, and then you came out. She's quite the emotional one, Jean is," said Draco. He shifted on his feet, his face frowned with his discomfort with where this conversation was going. Then he looked back at Fleur. "You two look a lot alike, but you said she's not your sister."
"We're kind of related, but she's a really good friend," said Fleur by way of explanation. "We have a special bond, I would say. So, if you ever do anything to hurt her, I will track you down and teach you just why you never want to piss off a Veela."
Draco raised his hands."Understood, really, and I don't need anything like that. It's just something is different about her. I can't explain."
Fleur handed Draco the margarita, and she took the other one.
As Draco took a sip he questioned Fleur. "Aren't you going after her?"
Fleur waved off his question. "No, not right away. She's probably with Harry and Neville and the girls. She'll be fine, they'll take care of her."
"But you said she was a friend, that you had a special bond," he said, confusion evident in his tone.
"Yes, we do, but the others can help her right now," she said. "Right now I'm trying to figure you out."
"I already told you the basics of what I told Jean. Oh, and for the way I treated you back during the tournament thing, I'm sorry, I was kind of an arse back then," offered Draco contritely.
"You still might be kind of an arse," said Fleur with a slight laugh, "but if what you told me is true, and you don't hurt her, ever, then I'm okay with you two getting together. Also, I accept your apology. Also, Jean is good friends with everyone inside, especially Harry. And the two of you have a history, if I am not mistaken."
Draco shrugged. "I was fed lies from my father all my life. I thought I was at the top of the world when it came to witches and wizards and everyone was beneath me. I offered Harry my hand in friendship when I first met him, and he turned me down. Granted, the way I spoke to him and belittled Weasley at the time, I can't blame him. Potter was famous for something he did that he can't even remember. He was a hero and he had fame, and he did nothing for it and knew nothing about it. I held that against him for the longest time."
"Are you saying that you got over those feelings?"
Draco took a long slow breath. "I guess what I'm saying is that eventually I did. He knew I was up to something when we were in our sixth year at school. He saw me falter when I couldn't kill Dumbledore, I only disarmed him. I eventually figured out that Harry was present and saw the whole thing. But by that time I realised I was in way over my head. The Dark Lord, he was threatening me and my family. None of us had much choice in the things we did. But I went out on a limb once. He was captured. He and Granger. They were being held at my home. My aunt, Bellatrix, she asked me if it was Potter who was with Granger. Granger had done something to his face, made it unrecognisable. I knew it was him, but I lied to my aunt, to Bellatrix Lestrange. She would have killed me if she knew I had lied to her. Then, well, then she tortured Granger. I heard the screams. I couldn't do anything about it. I was too scared. For myself, I didn't act because I was afraid for myself. It wasn't long after that I was back at school and the final battle took place. We were trying to catch Potter and his group. We met up with them in the Room of Requirement, the Room of Hidden Things. And things went downhill. I could have died, I nearly died. Potter, well, despite everything, despite all that I had done to him and his friends, despite the way we had acted towards each other, Potter saved me. He pulled me up onto his broom and he outflew the FiendFyre that had been cast."
He took another breath. "So, I guess I owe him, a life debt or something. But you would know about that too, wouldn't you."
Fleur did not respond to his comment and turned away from Malfoy at those words.
After a moment of silence between them, Draco spoke up again. "So, yeah, I guess I learned to respect him. Doubt we'll ever be friends or mates or anything, but I can respect him. And if Jean is close to him, then I can respect that. Potter is a good man, he's proven that time and again. He may not be the most skilled and powerful wizard…"
Fleur couldn't help but interrupt him. "Oh, don't fool yourself on that one, you have no idea how powerful he really is. You just never saw it at school. Not his real power and skill."
"Whatever," said Draco dismissively. "But whether or not he is skilled or powerful, the man, the wizard, he is one of the luckiest wizards there is. Oh, I know he would argue against that. I know he lost his parents and his closest friends. But in a fight, in a battle, things always go his way. At least in the end they do, so yeah, it might be skill but there has to be some luck."
"And your point with all of this?" asked Fleur.
"The most important lesson to learn in the magical world is don't get into a land war with goblins, but only slightly less well known is this: don't get into a battle with Potter, especially if anything important is on the line."
"Why, Malfoy, that's almost profound," said Fleur with a slight smile.
"They are words to live by," said Draco. "And at this point, I choose life."
Fleur nodded and smiled at Draco for his words. She took one more sip from her drink, then took a deep breath. "I really should go check on Jean though, she is about as close to me as a sister could be." With that she turned and headed back into the villa.
Fleur walked into the main living room to see Jean seated at a table with Hannah and Daphne, each with a hand on her back, apparently comforting her.
As Fleur approached Jean looked up at her, with eyes red and puffy from her tears.
"Why am I so emotional all of a sudden?" she asked Fleur.
Fleur walked over and gave her a hug and pulled up a chair to sit in front of her and took her hands in her own. "While you are not a Veela, and you don't have a Veela's allure, you have part of me inside of you. It changed you. I believe you are a much more emotional being now. Hermione, she was very logical, very deliberate in her thoughts. Hermione pushed her emotions to the side so she could analyse everything critically. You are not able to do that. Emotions aren't bad things, Jean. You can embrace your emotions, you just need practice in dealing with them."
Jean wiped her eyes as she nodded as she spoke with Fleur. "But, Draco, how the bloody hell could I be so emotionally caught up in him. He hated Hermione. He treated the old me like dirt."
Fleur took a deep breath before she answered. "He told me a little of what he told you. He has changed. The war, the terrorist attacks, and then the attempt on his own life followed by what happened to you, as Hermione. All of those things have shaken him to his core. As evidenced by his actions today, he does seem to be a changed man." She then gave a soft laugh before adding, "Hell, he even just apologised to me for how he treated me during the tournament several years ago."
"But he doesn't even know me," said Jean, choking back her tears.
"He knows enough that he saved your life, that he is attracted to you," replied Fleur. "Maybe he can sense some of the old Hermione inside of you."
Jean's eyes went wide. "No, no, I don't want him knowing who I was. I don't want anyone else knowing who I was."
Hannah leaned over and hugged Jean once again. "The Draco we knew at school was an arse. But maybe he has changed. Now, clearly not as much as you have, but still, he seems to be different."
"You kissed him, big deal," said Daphne. "It's not like you shagged him, So, you're attracted to him. Then date him, or not. See what happens. Hang out with him. Go on a date, or two."
"Or more," said Hannah with a smile.
"We won't judge you for what you do, going forward with him," said Fleur.
"Unless of course he proves himself to not have really changed and you continue to date him, then we might have to have words with you," said Daphne.
Daphne gave Jean a hug, got up and went over to where Harry and Neville were seated. She could easily tell that the two of them were not exactly comfortable with all of the emotional outpouring that had been going on. She sat down next to Harry and asked, "So, your thoughts on all of this, whatever this is, between Jean and Draco?"
Neville smiled at Harry, relieved that he was not asked that question.
Harry squirmed a little in his chair before answering. "Well, it's bloody Draco Malfoy. And I know Jean is not exactly Hermione, but she's still my friend, one of my first friends. And, I know how he treated her in school, how he treated everyone. So, I don't trust him. But maybe he has changed. Today he showed that he has. And I can work with that."
"Good," said Daphne. She stood up and pulled Harry up with her and into a hug.
After their embrace ended, she looked from Harry to Neville and back, and asked, "So, now what?"
"What do you mean, 'now what?'" asked Neville.
"You beat the bad guys, the war after the war is over. What are your plans now?"
"Go home, get some rest, and start sorting things out another day," answered Neville.
Harry laughed with his friend. "I can support that."
AN : It's been a long time in finishing this story. Again, special thanks goes to Dorothea Greengrass for her editing. Essentially the story is done...considering an epilogue...but we'll see. I have a number of other stories partially written and some just outlined. - Xavras
Lyrics: © 1977, "New Feeling", Talking Heads, Talking Heads '77. Written by: David Byrne