"The fact that you would even consider doing this for me, means a lot, but the more I think about it, I don't want you to do it," Hermione said. "Please, just forget I asked."

"Why?" Antonin inquired.

"The dark lord is better at detecting lies than anyone. If you go in and lie to him, he is going to know it and most likely kill you. I can't send you on a suicide mission," Hermione said.

"Awe, that is so sweet." Antonin chuckled. Although he knew she was right about Voldemort's ability to detect lies and the probable outcome of such an endeavor, he didn't believe for a minute that she would actually care about that. "But what is the real reason?"

"That is the real reason," Hermione said honestly. "If I asked you to do something nearly certain to get you killed and you indeed died, I would feel something you probably never experienced in your life. Guilt."

Of course, Antonin had experienced guilt before. That thing in the vault knew exactly what buttons to push, to bring out all the guilt in him, to leave him defenseless, but he wouldn't touch that subject with a ten-foot pole. Most of the time, he would shield himself from it by changing the topic of the conversation. Now was a good time for that strategy. "Or maybe you think I would just use this to set you and your friends up with some kind of trap and I understand it. I can't think of a single good reason that you would trust me."

"Actually, I can think of one. You threw the killing curse at the horcrux after we told you it had the dark lord's soul in it. That has got to mean something," Hermione said.

"Yeah!" Antonin picked up the book on unforgivable curses again. He flipped to the chapter on the killing curse. He looked to make sure Cyrus didn't have any handwritten notes in this chapter and much to his relief, he didn't. "According to this, just like the torture curse, it takes a strong desire. You must really want the target dead, otherwise, the spell won't work." He kept a hold of the book but turned it to Hermione so she could see that for herself. Then he closed the book again but kept a hold of it. "When it is revenge, someone you hate, someone who has really wronged you, the spell is easy, but for an everyday situation, where the only reason you are fighting is because you are on opposite sides of a war, it is pretty much a useless spell." This was why he made his own version of a killing curse, but he didn't see any reason to explain this to Hermione.

"Vol…" Hermione gulped, then she huffed in annoyance. Antonin was right about this; no doubt about it, she couldn't even say Voldemort. "The dark lord doesn't have a problem with it."

"That is because he is king psychopath," Antonin said with a bit of a snicker.

Hermione chuckled remembering that she referred to Bellatrix as queen psychopath. "Long live the royal realm of crazy!"

"More like death to the king," Antonin said.

"Would you still say that if he were the dark lady, wearing a sexy dress, or would you daydream about Voldy in that case?" Hermione asked. She found it interesting that she could say Voldy, but not Voldemort.

Antonin laughed going beet red. Clearly, she was teasing him about his crush on Bellatrix, which he couldn't deny that when it came to her, he was guilty of thinking with the wrong head, something Cyrus had teased him about before in a far cruder way. Hermione couldn't help but laugh too.

The sound of the door opening went unnoticed over the sound of their own laughter when Harry, Daphne, Ron, Astoria, and Cyrus wheeled in a cart laden with a sumptuous dinner. Although Hermione had her back turned to them, the tantalizing aroma of the beautifully plated food tickled her senses. "What is that delightful smell?"

"That would be your dinner," Cyrus responded with a smile.

She turned around with a look of surprise on her face, that quickly changed over to a smile. Her dinner looked as good as it smelled, which triggered her hunger. Then she turned to Antonin. "I haven't even tasted the food yet and I can already see why you are a fan of his wife's cooking." Then she looked up again and noticed Harry and Ron both staring at her.

"Your friends were worried about you," Cyrus stated flatly. "I trust Antonin is behaving himself."

"Much to my shock, he has been very helpful," Hermione admitted with a nod.

"Excellent." Then he turned to Antonin. "And I trust she has been behaving herself."

Hermione's jaw dropped in surprise that her own behavior should be questioned.

"What? You are questioning Hermione too?" Harry asked, barely audibly.

"Cyrus is neutral," Ron told Harry, not being at all surprised by that.

Antonin nodded. "Yeah, she certainly has been. I am having a very nice time with her." His words trailed off once he noticed Harry and Ron standing there with horrified looks on their faces. He wished Cyrus didn't bring them here, but he wasn't going to make an issue out of it, especially where he wanted to ask a favor from Cyrus later.

Hermione could tell her friends were getting the wrong idea. "We were just talking, and he was helping me find things on horcruxes," she said to set the record straight. "I was expecting far worse."

"So was I, but glad it didn't go that way," Antonin admitted.

"Me too," Hermione agreed.

"Excellent, glad to see the two of you getting along," Cyrus said with a slight nod of the head.

Antonin passed the book on unforgivable curses to Cyrus. "You might want to put this one in a more secure location. Lock it in a safe, or just burn it." Then he whispered to him, "it is practically a signed confession."

"Darla," Cyrus called out. A female house elf suddenly appeared in front of them. "Would you be a dear and put this book in my private office?"

"That would be Darla's pleasure master." She smiled and took the book from him.

"Thanks, you are the best," Cyrus said.

Darla turned her attention to Harry. "Harry Potter, Darla is honored to meet you."

Harry let out a nervous laugh, feeling not at all comfortable with his boy who lived fame. "Nice to meet you too." Harry forced an awkward smile.

Next, Darla focused on Daphne. "And you are right. He is very handsome."

Daphne's face went beet red. She laughed as she covered her face with her hands.

Then Darla focused on Harry once again. "Darla heard so much about you. She loved what you did for Dobby," she said. "But there is no need to do the same for her. Her master is very nice."

"I really miss Dobby," Harry said with a bit of sadness in his voice. "How did you hear about that?"

"I might have mentioned it." Daphne blushed with a bit of embarrassment.

"During the second task of the Triwizard tournament, you tried to save them all," Darla added. "And even ended up saving a girl you didn't even know."

"I might have mentioned that too," Daphne admitted.

"Seems like you talk about him a lot," Ron said in a slightly annoyed tone.

"Yeah, she does." Antonin looked at Hermione with a bit of a smirk on his face.

"From what Darla heard, you are a real hero and so modest about it too," Darla said before vanishing with the book.

"As you can see, your friend is doing just fine," Cyrus said.

"I am still not convinced she isn't under an imperious curse." Ron folded his arms across his chest.

"Oh, for crying out loud. Antonin, just to make a point, try to use an imperious curse on me. Something harmless that I would be willing to do anyway, like kiss Harry full on the mouth," Daphne requested.

Cyrus glared at his daughter. "I mean if that is ok with Harry?" Daphne stuttered.

Harry nodded as a wide grin spread across his face.

"I am not so sure your father would approve of me attempting something like that," Antonin refused.

"Go ahead. Try it." Cyrus nodded, indicating he was ok with it.

"Ok." Antonin whipped out his wand and pointed it at Daphne. "Imp…" He suddenly gulped. "Imp… What the…. I wonder if I can do it wordlessly." He tried and after a few moments he said, "Nope."

"Ron, if you think he is faking, you try it," Daphne requested.

Ron pointed his wand at Antonin. "Imp," Ron gulped and couldn't finish the spell.

"I am just glad that didn't work," Antonin said, sounding a bit annoyed. "I didn't volunteer for this."

Hermione glared at Ron. She couldn't believe it. That was totally uncalled for, and she was going to give him a piece of her mind, but Cyrus beat her to it.

"He is right. Listen, young man. I have rules in my house, and you do not attack anyone under my roof. If you do something like that again, you will have to leave," Cyrus scolded Ron.

"I wasn't going to do anything harmful. Just make him tell the truth about what he is doing to Hermione," Ron said.

"Force me to lie about it, more likely," Antonin retorted.

"Still, you should have stated your intentions first and asked for permission. I'm sure we would have reached some sort of agreement," Cyrus said.

"I trust him about as far as I could throw him without using magic," Antonin said. "I would not have consented to that."

"And what about all the people you killed. Did you have their consent?" Ron retorted. Of course, he thought of his Uncles when he said it, but he didn't want to give Antonin any emotional ammunition to use later.

"That is just the nature of war." Antonin rolled his eyes at Ron. "I didn't do anything to any of them that they wouldn't have done to me if the situation were reversed."

"We had the chance to kill you," Ron retorted. "But- "

"Oh please. The only reason you didn't is because stopping that thing in the vault was more important, " Antonin argued.

"No, this was last year," Ron said.

"I don't have the slightest idea what you are talking about," Antonin replied.

"We could have destroyed you so easily, but we chose to spare you. So no, not everybody on our side would do the same to you," Ron retorted with a holier than thou attitude.

"Oh, honestly Ron." Hermione rolled her eyes at him. "Harry and I chose to spare him. If you had your way, you would have killed him and for the exact same reason. Don't be a hypocrite!"

Antonin looked at Hermione totally stunned for a few seconds. Being told they had the chance to kill him and didn't take it was shocking all by itself, but that paled in comparison to the fact that Hermione seemed to be taking his side.

"See, she is under an imperious curse. That is the only logical explanation for her taking his side." Ron pointed at Antonin.

Harry wasn't so sure. Clearly, Antonin was shocked by what Hermione said, which he found unlikely if it was the result of a spell he cast. Besides, Hermione is big on principles. She had problems with elves being used as servants, even when the elves were completely ok with it. She had a problem with it when she thought he had given Ron his liquid luck potion for the Quidditch tryouts or when he used the Half-blood Prince book to gain an unfair advantage. Furthermore, she wasn't wrong. Ron used that exact same 'it is what they would do to us' argument that night at the diner.

Hermione glared at Ron. If looks could kill there would be no way he would have survived that, then she pointed to Astoria. "And you must have her under an imperious curse too. That is the only possible explanation for why she buried her head in your lap," Hermione said in a raised voice.

Cyrus folded his arms and glared at Ron. Daphne covered her mouth and tried her best not to laugh. Antonin didn't even try to suppress his laughter. If he liked Ron and Cyrus wasn't here, he probably would have congratulated him instead.

"You saw that?" Ron shuttered going beet red. Astoria cringed too looking down at the floor.

"You let that happen?" Daphne chuckled while trying to suppress a much stronger laugh. "Seriously, you never heard of privacy charms or locking a door?"

"I think we proved the imperious curse doesn't work in this house." Harry struggled to say that without laughing. He wanted to smooth things over.

"Yeah, that is a big part of why I agreed to it. I knew it wouldn't work," Daphne declared. She looked at Antonin. "You had nothing to worry about."

"Exactly. Cyrus probably used the same spell to block anyone from using the imperious curse the same way he blocked anyone from saying the dark lord's name," Hermione said.

"Vol-" Ron gulped unable to finish saying that name.

"Vold," Harry started to say it and got further than anyone else. Cyrus arched an eyebrow at Harry. "Vol... de..."

Daphne leaned in to kiss Harry. She closed the remaining gap between them. Their lips met in a slow and languid dance, tender and unhurried. Their mouths moved in perfect synchronization, a symphony of desire and tenderness. Daphne's hand slid from Harry's chest, entwining her fingers with his as their bodies pressed closer together. Time seemed to stand still as they lost themselves in the depths of this intimate moment. Each caress of their lips sent shivers down their spines.

Several minutes passed, but they remained locked in this timeless embrace, refusing to let go. They kissed as if the world could end at any moment, as if this moment alone could sustain them for eternity.

"Get a room," Astoria said. "If you two don't break it up soon, you will end up making a big mess here in the library!"

Finally, their lips reluctantly parted. "Just so you all know, that wasn't because of anyone's imperious curse. I needed to stop Harry from saying the dark lord's name," Daphne proclaimed.

"Good girl." Cyrus nodded in approval.

"Thanks dad!" Daphne said with a bit of a smirk on her face.

"Listen, Harry, Daphne is right. If for whatever reason you can say the dark lord's name, don't. There's a taboo trigger on it that would alert the Dark Lord to our location. Antonin warned me about it," Hermione said.

"Why would he do that?" Ron glared at Antonin.

"I don't want him showing up here anymore than you do," Antonin admitted.

"Right, you will probably summon him here after everyone goes to sleep and have everybody murdered," Ron accused Antonin.

"With an imagination like that, you should go work for Rita Skeeter. She loves blatantly making stuff up," Antonin said.

"An infamous Death Eater plots to kill the Dark Lord's most-wanted in their sleep... I think this one looks way too truthful for Rita Skeeter to publish," Ron replied with sarcasm.

"Let's not forget that he threw the killing curse at the horcrux after we told him it had the dark lord's soul fragment in it. I think it is safe to say he isn't exactly a member of the dark lord's fan club anymore," Hermione said.

"Ok, you have a point," Ron admitted. He was about to say more, but then he suddenly stopped talking.

"Glad that is settled. You two, enjoy your dinner," Cyrus said. "Antonin, I would like to talk to you later tonight, privately."

"Definitely, there is something I wanted to talk with you about too," Antonin agreed quickly.

"Splendid. Meet me in my private office after supper," Cyrus said. Everyone left, except Antonin and Hermione.

"One thing I can't help wondering, why did you take my side over your friend Ron," Antonin asked.

"Ron is wrong. I am not taking sides," Hermione said.

"Not taking sides, you sure sound like Cyrus," Antonin said with a snicker, "Speaking of our host, I suspect his daughters will receive very different treatments. Astoria is probably going to get in trouble for what she did with Ron while Daphne probably did something very similar with Potter, but she will not hear one word about it," Antonin said. "Other than good girl!"

"By the way he reacted, I think you're right. And you are right about Daphne too, she isn't a gold digger, it's all Cyrus. Harry is good enough for Daphne, Ron is not good enough for Astoria... Yeah, Cyrus' definition of good definitely has nothing to do with blood purity... I wish for Ron to get a very 'pleasant' experience with his father-in-law..."

"Cyrus will certainly grant your wish," Antonin chuckled.

Hermione then shook her head, reminded of her own determination to not get jealous and said, "Actually, no, I wish it works well for him. For real."

Antonin was about to ask what had changed her mind all of a sudden, but then his face quickly morphed into a far more serious expression... Ah, fuck, he thought to himself. Then he decided to change the subject to see what kind of answer he would get. "What did you think of Dumbledore? He is the one Cyrus wanted for head of the ministry."

"Dumbledore would have been perfect for that role. He is a genius, and very wise too," Hermione said.

"He had a very high opinion of you too," Antonin admitted. Then he immediately wished he hadn't said that, as it would result in questions, he didn't want to answer.

"What? You talked to Dumbledore about me? When? Why?" Hermione asked.

"Actually, he did most of the talking," Antonin admitted sheepishly. "It was a while ago, obviously. I forgot the exact date. I sent him a letter a while back, intending it to be completely anonymous, but hey, he is Dumbledore. Of course, he knew it was me and yeah, he let me know it."

"Ok, I am curious what did you write to Dumbledore about?" Hermione asked.

"I have the actual letter. Dumbledore passed it off to Cyrus just in case I contacted him again. He even wrote me a reply that I never saw until it was too late," Antonin said. Then a letter suddenly appeared in his hand. "If you want to read it for yourself, go ahead." He passed the note to her.

Hermione glanced at the note, then back at Antonin. "I owe a lot of my good grades at Hogwarts to the detailed manuscripts Dumbledore wrote on many subjects, and this is his handwriting. Are you sure you didn't accidently give me Dumbledore's reply instead?"

"You're very intelligent indeed." Antonin remembered Dumbledore's claim that Hermione was one of Hogwarts' most brilliant students. At the time, he assumed the old man was just speaking out of sentimentality and affection for a pupil, but now he realized it wasn't. "You're right about it being his handwriting, but I didn't mix up the notes."

"I don't understand," Hermione admitted.

"I 'borrowed' a forgery quill from the Senior Undersecretary to the Minister for Magic to write the letter." Antonin laughed. With a flick of the wrist a large silvery-white feather appeared in his hand. "Ok, so borrowed might be the wrong word. I might have kept it and she 'forgot' she even had it or what she planned to do with it."

"You probably saved Dumbledore a few headaches with that one," Hermione said, then she read the letter silently to herself.

The ministry you fought so hard to keep in power is now more corrupt than ever. As bad as the previous one was, to my knowledge they never sent dementors into muggle areas to hunt down children. It gets better, by better I mean worse! They are giving the kid a disciplinary hearing for using underaged magic in front of a muggle, which he only needed to do because the ministry sent dementors after him in the first place. If that isn't enough, they changed the time and location of the hearing in hopes that the kid would miss it completely. And way to reward you for your misplaced loyalty to them, it is also very intentional on their part to keep you away from this railroading, er, hearing too. The correct time and place is August 12, 8 AM in courtroom ten. And you wonder why I hate the ministry. This kind of crap is business as usual for them.

"Wow!" Hermione said. "I know what hearing this refers to. First, I am glad you informed Dumbledore about this. From what I heard, he was a big help at that hearing, but you can't blame the entire Ministry for the acts of one or two whack jobs. Besides the regime you helped put in power is a thousand times worse."

"Yeah, that is almost exactly what Dumbledore said," Antonin chuckled. Then he took on a far more serious expression and mumbled, "he said if I ever got what I wanted, the ministry out with Vol, you know who in charge, I would really regret it…. And he was right."

"Wait! I could have sworn that this hearing was before the mass break out at Azkaban," Hermione questioned.

"Consider the source? The ministry. They knew people would already find them incompetent over the breakout itself. Imagine if, on top of that, they admitted they had no idea when it actually happened, or who was the culprit. So, they took a page out of Rita Skeeter's book and made things up. A date shortly before they realized it, and a culprit they found believable... Sirius Black came to my rescue," Antonin laughed at how absurd that story was. "Do you think the Dark Lord would stay vulnerable without the bulk of his army for months after his return?"