Title: Prevention vs. Exposition

Author: Julian-Juliana

Rating: M (read warning for details)

Pairings: Draco Malfoy/Hermione Granger; Draco Malfoy/Penelope Clearwater; (past) Draco Malfoy/Astoria; Draco Malfoy/OFCs; Hermione Granger/Ron Weasley; Hermione Granger/Theodore Nott.

Warning: language, violence, torture, gore, adultery, implicit sexual themes, voyeurism, heavy sexual innuendo, light slash, minor character death, major character death, and drug references, divorce, OOC. (If you don't like, don't read. If you do read and don't like, don't comment your distaste on everything I warned about, I beg.)

Summary: Draco Malfoy, now a decent Auror employed at Headquarters, is doing his best to find the murderer of his friend Adrian Pucey. The deeper he digs into the investigation, he discovers a conspiracy that could throw the entire Wizarding World into chaos. To help him solve the case and prevent destruction of all that is familiar, he will need the help of anyone who will believe his outrageous theory. Unfortunately, the only one who seems to believe him is Hermione Weasley nee Granger, and she's got enough problems of her own.

Author's note: Just for clarification, this story will be a Dramione. It will not start that way, but I'm a great believer in strange encounters which result in relationships. Let's read about one, shall we?

Enjoy the Chapter 1. Please R&R!

He was pissed to the bleedin' bones. Literally, it felt like his skeleton was effing sopped in Firewhiskey. His limbs were heavy, and his head wanted to break off his neck and roll back down the stairs.

Bloody flat! His mate, the soddin' bachelor that he was, felt it necessary to garnish his surrounding with something a little less prestigious and purchased him a roomy pad on the top floor of the building.

But it wasn't like Draco Malfoy trekked up all of those stairs. Just a few flights before remembering there was a blasted elevator. He'd apparate, but even in his non-sober mind, he knew he'd splinch himself something gory and fierce. Probably get killed or some rot. It certainly would be poetic justice. His mother had always warned him of the dangers of drinking and apparating.

Groaning, Draco leaned his forehead against the wooden door and fished for his wand. Theo's wards would allow him entrance once he waved his hawthorn at the doorknob. He heard the dead-bolt unclick, so he turned the knob and entered, feeling relieved but somewhat peeved that it was pitch black. He couldn't see a thing.

Slowly, Draco entered the flat and closed the door behind him. Soon his eyes adjusted, and he was able to make his way through the sitting area and to the door of the kitchen. Frowning, he looked down at the bottom of the door and saw that the lights must be on inside.

Was Theodore awake at this hour? Preposterous! The bloke was one of those hard-core swots who bedded no later than 9:30 and that was with female companionship.

Hm. Perhaps he wanted a late night snack?

Perhaps Draco should open the door and see what the bloody hell his mate was doing in the kitchen at three o' clock in the morning.

While loosening his tie even further, he pushed the swing-door open and inquired through a yawn, "Mate, why are you awake at this hour, and can I have some tea?"

His eyes blurry and somewhat closed, he heard a startled gasp that most certainly did not belong to Theo, let alone a male. Once his vision was able to focus and adjust from the overhead light above the island counter, his eyes settled on a woman standing at the refrigerator with the door still open. In her hands were a cream puff and a glass of milk. She was also wearing Theo's old Quidditch jersey from Hogwarts from that one year he played.

Focusing on the hemline of it, he skimmed her legs and deemed them respectable. They weren't terribly long, but they were toned and adequately proportionate to her average height. They were soft looking but sturdy and appeared to have a rounding voluptuous shape the farther they went up, like she'd easily be able to bear a child or several.

Her lady bits and torso were modestly covered by the jersey, and he decided her bosom was decent enough. Not overly huge but not disappointingly small. They were perky and full looking underneath the green and silver material.

Draco's eyes continued their adventure northward and then stilled when recognizing her face. Or more rather her hair and then her face. Long and curly and shamefully untamable were prefect adjectives to describe her locks. Hermione Granger's locks, that is.

"Granger," he sputtered and backed away, as if the island between them wasn't enough to separate them.

"Malfoy," she breathed out, her chest catching. She swallowed and let the fridge close before setting her snack on the counter. "This…This isn't what it looks like."

It was as if he hadn't guzzled that entire vintage bottle of Ogden's Finest. Sober like a humble priest, Draco stared in complete befuddlement at the witch in his best friend's kitchen wearing his mate's clothes and eating the bloke's food.

At three bloody A.M. in the morning, no less.

"What are you doing here?" he managed to ask because there was no logical explanation as to why she was there. Well, he could think of an explanation, but he was not going to go there. Not yet. He'd dwell in the state of oblivion for a few minutes longer.

"Uh…" she croaked while wringing her hands which brought his attention to them and a violent wave of something...(nausea? astonishment? befuddlement?) consumed him. It took all of his will power not to fling himself back into the sitting room and go screaming to Theodore wherever he was and demand a bloody explanation.

Her left hand was not naked. And why should it be? It hadn't been for nearly eight years. For that long and even a few months longer, a ring had always occupied the slender digit. Draco did recall a day where she wasn't wearing it, and he just happened to pass by her office on his way to see Theo, his working inhabitance being the next one over. That slight glimpse he spared in her office, her small finger was not slender but puffy and visibly swollen from being seven months pregnant. That had been five years ago, nearly.

"Granger." Her name sounded foreign on his lips. True, Granger was not her name had not been for a long time, but even the brief moments they had together since Hogwarts, he could never stomach calling her Weasley.

Her small mouth was shaking, her entire body trembling out of fear. She stepped forward and braced herself against the counter and said in an ironically steady voice, "Please don't tell anyone."

And there went his state of deniability. In four words, Hermione Weasley nee Granger indirectly told him that it was not all right for her to be at his mate's flat at such an indecent hour. In four words, the woman indirectly told him that she should be elsewhere, perhaps even wearing her husband's uniform instead of Theo's.

Disappointment in her and his friend, egged on Draco's emotions. He had little room to judge, and Weasley wasn't his friend by any sort, but he had come to respect him as an Auror and as a partner on a few cases they had together a few times a year. The man had a talent for strategy and impressively applied it to the field when capturing Dark Wizards.

The disappointment digressed but was still present; however, jealousy took over which was completely irrational on his part. There wasn't any practical reason for him to feel such a way, but yet, it stung to see the woman who starred in his teenage wank fantasies sneaking about like an unfaithful trollop with someone who wasn't him.

Draco admitted to himself long ago that he fancied the bint during Hogwarts and for a while after. He even thought about finding a way of breaking her and Weasley up, but then they got married so fast, and he struck a distracting fancy to Daphne's younger sister, Astoria, for a couple of years. He thought about marrying her because they wanted the same things at the same time: a Pureblood wedding, more money, and a Pureblood heir with blond hair. Unfortunately, her unstable ex-boyfriend broke into her family home and cast a Stupefy on her as she was walking down the stairs for her morning tea.

There was no denying the pain he felt when receiving the news of her passing. In his way, Draco loved her and maybe it would have be considered settling if they had married, but there were far worse people to settle with than Astoria. She was stunningly pretty, had a nice bum, laughed at his jokes, liked the feeling of galleons in her purse, and adored babies. The girl was never without her coin bag or cheque book, but she photographed for a hobby. In her spare time, she took pictures of newborn babies all posed and nearly naked for the parents.

Her funeral had been brutal and watching Daphne was pure agony, but Draco reckoned she got her closure. Two days before Miles Bletchley went on trial, he was sustained in a solitary jail cell at the law enforcement station three floors below his own. However, Bletchley did not awake the following morning after his night rest. According to the coroner, the man's heart seemed to have simply stopped beating. According to the file that Draco snatched for a quick read, there had been traces of magic but no known spell. It was compared to the Avada Kedavera curse but more subtle and more painful.

An investigation pursued, but no law officer or detective came up with any explanation aside that one of the security guards on the floor had been Obliviated. But Draco wasn't too worried about it and had let law enforcement do their job. He refused to wonder about who killed the monster that took away his shot at happiness. He had a feeling, though, that Daphne knew something.

"Well," Hermione said, tearing him out of his thoughts. She worried her bottom lip, and he was overcome on how attractive she became over the years. Given that she hadn't been unfortunate looking since the beginning of fourth year. She was the kind of pretty that flourished with age, and Draco couldn't help but selfishly think of how unfair it was the Theo snatched her before he got the chance.

"Well, what?" he asked, purposefully placing his attention on the snack she was going to consume instead of her face.

"You're not going to tell anyone are you?"

Only one thought came to mind and he snorted in slight disgust, "No one would believe me if I did, but uh…I think I'm going to sleep here for the night. Theo has an extra bedroom and since I'm assuming you are not sleeping there, it's still vacant. I'll…perhaps see you in the morning."

He left her in the kitchen and was irately alert, fancying breaking into Theo's liquor cabinet and nicking another nightcap. Instead, he wandered the hall and cast a frown at Theo's slightly open door before disappearing into the guest bedroom where he didn't sleep a wink until his eyes finally closed early in the morning. He couldn't have been asleep four minutes before the door burst open, being replaced by his friend. Theo's finger pointed threateningly at him, his hair matted and wild from sleep and, undoubtedly, sex.

"You saw nothing," his friend seethed lowly. "So you bloody well say nothing."

The door slammed, the sound echoing off the starchily, plain white walls and after a minute, Draco wondered if he dreamt the whole thing. When he got up and left the room to find coffee, he witnessed Granger rushing out the door while hopping on one foot, trying to put on her high-heeled pump while chatting on her Muggle cellphone.

"I'm on my way right now. No, it's fine. Plath will understand why I have to leave early. He's not as severe as you imagine, Ronald. He has a family, too. You don't need to worry. I'll be there as soon as I can. Yes. I love you, too. Bye, bye."

And then she was gone. He heard a popping noise outside of the door, knowing she had disapparated without even noticing he'd only been five feet away from her.

Theodore was at the dining table reading the Daily Prophet while his half-eaten toast lay forgotten on his plate as did his half-smoked cigarette still smoldering in the neighboring ashtray. His hair was no longer mussed but presentable for work which was where he would be heading off to in the next twenty minutes.

Opening his mouth to speak, Draco was quickly cut off by his friend informing, "Granger got a call that her daughter is at St. Mungo's being treated for appendicitis and will not be joining us for breakfast. Shame. She usually prepares omelets."

"I wasn't asking," Draco muttered and sat at the table and thought it very odd that Granger made omelets for Theo. Making an egg cuisine for your secret lover wasn't something he imagined when thinking of an unfaithful spouse. What honestly came to mind was a series of discreet rendezvous-like meetings at obscure, expensive restaurants that led to long, passionate shags at some hotel.

And that was if you liked the person.

If the relationship was purely physical which Draco was more familiar with, especially these last few years, then you didn't even have to buy the chit dinner.

So making omelets was not in the criteria familiar to Draco when it came to cheating wives. True, he never bedded a woman with that sort of commitment, but since Astoria, many of his relationships had been simultaneous. Not even a year ago, he was courting four women at the same time and none of them cooked him omelets. But some did expect dinner pre-shag.

Not all of them, thank Merlin! Ever since his not marriage to Astoria and not moving on properly to another witch, Lucius put a limit on his funds. And when he said limit, he meant he was currently without any form of inheritance and had to live off his Auror wages until he married. For a semi-respectable occupation, the pay was exceptionally meager. However, if and when Draco ever caught a fugitive or made a bust, he got bonuses. It was well-known at the office that he jumped like a hyped up puppy whenever Potter came marching between the cubicles with a folder in his hand.

Draco missed the limitless funds and the lazy vacations with the vintage wine and the beautiful women who didn't expect a Floo call in return. To say the least, those days had been brief. After the war, he spent a wee bit of time in Azkaban with his father awaiting his trail. When Potter testified for them in the Wizengamot, he was out and spent some time in Italy with Blaise and then quickly returned to Wiltshire. Draco had been nearly nineteen for five months when Potter confronted him and suggested he get into the Auror program.

Bugger off, he told the bespectacled git but then took the time to think about it. The idea was preposterous. It was damned debatable whether he should be the one arrested and not the arrestor. But his mother…

Blast that woman!

His mum insisted that he join the Auror program to restore respect to the Malfoy name.

He politely declined.

She then bellowed, 'Are you deaf? I wasn't asking, Draco Lucius Malfoy? I was demanding. Now you go talk to the Potter boy this very instant!'

Now he was a reputable Auror with a pitiful monthly cheque, a flat not near as nice as Theo's, and two girlfriends who were more interested in each other than him. It had started out as an experiment for all of them which escalated into cancelled dinner plans and 'Bianca and I really just want a girl's night tonight. You understand.'

Running a hand through his sort of greasy, messy hair, Draco made a coughing sound and leaned back in his chair. "So she makes you omelets, huh? That's…that's nice."

Theodore set down his paper and drank from his coffee cup and then informed, "She sometimes cooks bacon, too and garnishes the dish with a mint leaf. Honestly, I don't much care for breakfast, but when she makes it, I eat it. She tells me I have to before I attend an all day meeting."

"Oh," Draco said softly, hoping that he didn't give off the vibe of how uncomfortable he was about Theo's 'all day meetings'. He really had no right to judge given his Auror status, having faced difficult decisions in the field. Yet it still bothered him that he was best friends with a Hit Wizard and not the kind sanctioned by the Department of Law Enforcement. Theo's level of work was more...advanced.

Not that Theodore had divulged him of such details, for the occupation had become part of the Unspeakable Program in the Ministry. Nevertheless, Draco wasn't born yesterday and was part of the ministry in the law enforcement aspect. He picked up on the signs. Even when Ronald Weasley hadn't, poor sod. Bloke gave no indication that he knew of Hermione's real job. For all he knew, she was making bank as an international representative of the Care of Magical Creatures for Western Europe. If Weasley had done a bit of homework, he'd realize that those representatives make less than Aurors and would wonder how he and his wife can afford dance lessons, piano lessons, Muggle badminton lessons, and pre-wand tutoring lessons for their daughter.

"Unfortunately, Hermione is gone and was unable to feed me; therefore, I made toast," he explained and gestured to his place of crispy bread with a nod of his chin. "I burnt it."

"Why don't you get a house-elf then?"

"She won't allow it."

Draco frowned at that, utterly confused. The bint killed people for a living and shamelessly cheated on her husband but banned her lover from having a house-elf? Great Gods, she was a strange creature.

"She is aware that they get paid now. Can't just enslave them like you used to," said Draco.

"I told her that, thus, resulting a fortnight of me and my hand."

Raking his fingers across his face, another question rose in Draco's mind and feared what the answer would be, yet he had to know. "How long has this been going on? I'm assuming it's not new."

"No, it isn't, but the less you know the better. Possible chance of deniability if needs be."

"Right," Draco said vaguely and lightly scoffed, opening his hands in surrender. "I suppose that's gracious of you if Weasley ever finds out. But this is simply…Theo, this isn't like you."

"If you are addressing my lack of morals and ethic, Draco, then you should know better than to say such lies."

"What I'm saying is that you usually avoid things that promise a disastrous result."

At his words, Theo leaned back in his chair and interlocked his fingers, a pensive expression in place. After a pregnant pause, he drawled, "And what if it doesn't end disastrous…for me, I mean? What I have with Hermione could very well end in my favor. Things have gone swimmingly so far. Like I mentioned before, she makes me omelets."

Appalled by his mate's response, Draco braced himself momentarily, scrounging for a response that would make his usually sensible friend see reason. Finally, he grasped at a thought and went with it.

"But I bet she makes them for Weasley, too. He doesn't seem starved when coming into work each morning." He snapped his fingers at another thought popping into his head and pointed at Theo. "He's also not without a packed lunch most days, and from what I've gathered of those meals, they're definitely not prepared by a man."

"His mother…" Theo's words faded when Draco shook his head and scratched at his neck.

"Yes, her passing two years ago was saddening…and dangerous. Weasley was suspended from the field for the six months after because he let Vivica Dolohov get away. Plus, I almost…you know…died on that mission."

Theo's gaze hardened, his wrinkled, slouched brow casting a foreboding shadow over his hazel eyes. Draco was very much reminded of the Theodore Nott Senior. Their resemblance was uncanny, especially at this moment.

Nott Senior was a madman and supposedly somewhere in the tropics with half of the Nott's liquidated assets, spending his time away where no one could recognize him, specifically his son. From what little Draco knew about their father-son relationship was that Theodore was trying to find his father for two reasons: Money and more money. The reward money for Senior's dead or alive capture was worth one million galleons. With the old man knocked off, Draco's friend would get the rest of his inheritance, become a Hit Wizard as a hobby of some sort, take the money and restart Nott Enterprises.

"I'm well aware of the medial tasks Hermione is required to perform underneath her matrimonial vows."

"Yes, because part of the I do requirement was for Weasley to have breakfast and lunch made for him by Granger. I'm sure she was accepting of that. Face it, Theodore, everything she's doing for you, she's doing for another man. Her husband."

"You're silly attempts of dissuading me away from mine and Granger's relationship aren't working. If everything was peachy between those two, then how come she propositioned me?"

Well, that was alarming? Granger initiating the affair. Draco had a difficult time believing that, so he cocked a dubious eyebrow and expectedly Theo folded with disgruntled sigh. "Fine, it was I who first propositioned her and of course she refused outright. For all the times following, she dodged my requests for her companionship except one time. And that was all it took. A foot in the door. She could've easily kept denying me or let me have her once, but no. She willingly comes for me…in more ways than one. Now if you will excuse me, I have a meeting scheduled in Berlin in twelve minutes, and I believe you are late for work." Theodore got up from his seat, adjusted his tie and cuffs, and went to exit the dining area. Before rounding the corner, he spared Draco a glance and said, "And, oh. Since I'm assuming Weasley will not be in attendance today at the office, I'm merely worried over Potter. Refrain from letting him think you're harboring a secret. It was not my intention for anyone to know about me and Hermione. You upset her quite a bit last night. The only way I was able to persuade her from ending things between us indefinitely was your ultimate and messy demise if you spoke of this to anyone. I would very much loath the idea of killing you, Draco. It would leave Zabini as my only ally. We can't have that, can we?"

Theodore didn't wait for an answer and vanished around the corner.