Rating:
R
House:
Astronomy Tower
Characters:
Harry Potter Hermione Granger
Genres:
Romance Mystery
Era:
Multiple Eras
Spoilers:
Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban Goblet of Fire Order of the Phoenix
Stats:
Published: 03/19/2005
Updated: 03/19/2005
Words: 15,353
Chapters: 1
Hits: 1,179

And Suddenly

Lissanne

Story Summary:
Hermione poses as Harry's wife for her first assigment following her father's death; they're tracking a Muggle in Kong Kong selling wizarding items. While undercover, they begin to realise that perhaps they're not just pretending...

Posted:
03/19/2005
Hits:
1,179

Hermione Granger walked as quickly as possible past her superior's office in an attempt to remain undetected but, to her chagrin, was unsuccessful as he caught sight of her and waved her into his office.

"Hermione! Come on in." She took a deep breath and pasted on a false smile as she entered the room to come face-to-face with Gabriel Von Dukan. "How are you doing today?" he asked her.

Hermione smoothed down her robe. "I'm fine, thank you, Gabriel. Something you wanted to talk to me about?" Hermione had the same conversation with him, day in and day out. Gabriel would try to wheedle some kind of weak emotional reaction out of her, and she would refuse to lose her composure in front of him.

"Yes, yes," he said absentmindedly, gesturing towards the seat opposite his desk, which she took. "I wondered if you felt up to a field assignment."

Hermione's eyes widened slightly. "What type of assignment?"

Gabriel brushed back a lock of hair off his forehead. "I need a female agent to pose as one half of a married couple. There's a Muggle in Hong Kong who's selling wizard items on the black market and we've been liaising with the Hong Kong Ministry to try and find out who his contact in the wizarding world is. We've already recruited an Auror for it, one of the best we have -- and he specifically requested you as his partner."

Hermione stared at her boss. "He asked for me? Who is it?"

"Someone you're well acquainted with," Gabriel said with a smile. "In fact, he's waiting for you in your office. He'll fill you in on the details." His face sobered somewhat. "If you don't feel you're ready for this, Hermione, you don't have to do it. Nobody will hold it against you."

Hermione blinked rapidly; it had only been four weeks since she'd lost her beloved father, Charles, to a fatal heart attack. In all her thirty-one years of life, nothing had devastated her more than losing her father. The last month had been difficult; Hermione just tried to live each day as it came. Sometimes she had good days, some were bad, but her strength and determination not to fall apart were keeping her going. And her two best friends in the whole wide world were always there to pick her up when she stumbled.

"No, I'll be fine, Gabriel. Thank you for giving me this assignment. I won't let you down."

"Of course you won't, but I'm not the one you need to thank." With that, he smiled a dismissal and went back to the myriad parchments scattered on his desk.

Hermione rose out of the chair, trying not to run back to her office. Who she found there waiting for her was the last person she honestly expected, but the one person she couldn't have been happier to spot.

"Harry!"

Her best friend looked up from where he was perched on the edge of her desk, cleaning his glasses on the bottom of his shirt. "Hey!" he said, sliding the glasses back on.

Hermione couldn't help it; she flung herself into his arms and hugged him tightly. "I'm so glad it's you," she said, her voice soft.

Harry embraced her, kissing her nose as she pulled back to look at him. "I wouldn't have anyone else as my wife," he said, stroking her cheek gently. "Good day or bad day?"

"Okay day," Hermione said honestly. "Better now, though. When Gabriel told me I was worried for a moment it might have been Darien." Darien Whitehouse was someone she'd dated a few times; for Hermione, it hadn't been anything serious, but he'd made out it that had been the grand romance of his life and she'd dumped him for no apparent reason. Hermione had thought it best under the circumstances to keep her distance.

Harry smiled. "No, not Darien. Just me. Listen, I can't stay because I've got a meeting in ten, but why don't you come over tonight and I'll cook you dinner. We can go over everything."

"I'd like that. You know how much I love your cooking." Hermione did love Harry's cooking, something he was quite good at. "What's on the menu?"

"Shepherd's Pie?"

"Sounds wonderful."

Harry got up off the desk and kissed her cheek, his lips lingering for a few seconds. "I'll see you tonight. Owl me if you need me."

"Okay. I'll bring the wine." She waited until he'd disappeared out the door before dropping into her chair. Suddenly, the day didn't look so bad after all.

~*~

Hermione was well and truly grateful to be out of the Ministry by the time she arrived on Harry's doorstep, wine in hand. He swung the door open and greeted her with a kiss as he ushered her in.

"Dinner's in the oven, so it won't be long. I thought we could go over the case after dinner."

"Sounds good to me." She followed him into the kitchen and watched as he opened the wine and poured them each a glass.

After dinner, they moved into the lounge room to sit near the fire. "So fill me in. What exactly is this case all about?" Hermione said, settling onto the lounge and throwing a pillow on her lap.

"Okay. Here's what we know." Harry picked up a small gold tube and held it in the middle of his palm. With a wave of his wand, a long piece of parchment came flying out of it to hover mid-air above. "Both the British and Hong Kong Ministries have been tailing this Muggle for almost a year. His name is Stanley Chan; he was born and raised in Hong Kong. He's fifty-five, been married for twenty-three years, four children. On the surface, he runs an antique company, buying and selling from all over the world."

Harry paused to take a mouth full of wine and let loose another piece of parchment. "From what we've discovered, though, it's just a cover. While he does have a legitimate business consortium which owns the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong, he's selling things he has no business even knowing about, let alone should be in possession of."

"Such as?" Hermione sat forward on the lounge, her curiosity piqued.

"Mostly ingredients for various potions that are illegal. Last month we tracked him selling blood from a vampire."

Hermione was unable to stop the gasp that escaped her lips. "Where is he getting all this stuff from? Does he have a wizard in the family somewhere?"

"No," Harry shook his head. "We traced both his and his wife's families back for five generations. No sign that any of them, nor those they married, have a drop of magical blood."

"So he must have a contact elsewhere, then. Any known associates in the wizarding world?"

"None whatsoever. None that we can find, anyway."

"If this person has eluded the Ministries, then he must be someone worth finding."

"Precisely. Problem is, we don't know the first thing about him. We don't even know if it is a he."

Hermione summoned the parchment containing Stanley Chan's details and read over it thoughtfully, absorbing all the information. "So where do we fit into this whole scenario?"

Here, Harry smiled and sat on the coffee table opposite Hermione. "We are James and Jane Evans, a wealthy British couple who are looking at purchasing one of Stanley Chan's most expensive Muggle items up for sale -- a vase from the Ming Dynasty."

Hermione raised her eyebrows. "James and Jane Evans?"

"Not my idea," Harry chuckled. "The powers that be thought it would be easier for us to remember our new identities that way. Our birthdays, if asked, are the same except we were born in 1981. We met at a private Scottish boarding school where we became friends. We started dating five years ago and have been married for three."

Hermione smiled. "That should be easy enough to remember. So we're going to Hong Kong to meet this Stanley Chan?"

"We are. We're leaving tomorrow night. Mr. Chan has bought us first class tickets."

"We're flying on a Muggle plane?"

Harry nodded. "We have to play the Muggle part perfectly so we don't blow our cover."

Hermione sat back on the lounge again, putting her empty glass on the table beside Harry. "How is he communicating with this contact of his, then?"

"You ask all the right questions, Auror Granger." A third piece of parchment was released from the gold tube. "Wait for this... he's been observed sending an owl at seven o'clock every morning without fail."

"He's sending owls?" Hermione couldn't keep the disbelief out of her voice. "How is it we don't know who this contact is then?"

"Ah, here's the best part." Harry looked at her evenly. "Every owl makes it across Kowloon Bay... and then vanishes."

"Vanishes?" Hermione's mind started to tick over as her Auror instincts kicked in. "How can an owl just vanish?"

"We don't know. I've watched the surveillance; it's the oddest thing. It simply disappears into thin air."

Hermione studied Harry, deep in thought. "Does it disappear in the same place?"

"Every time."

"Hmmm," she said, getting up and pacing his lounge room in circles. Harry watched her silently; he knew better than to disturb her when she was thinking this way. "What if--" Here she stopped, then shook her head. "No." She continued to pace, waving her arms about as she mentally ran through various theories. "What if...." Hermione stopped pacing and looked at Harry; he could tell by the glint of excitement in her eyes that she'd thought of something. "What if there is no owl to begin with?"

Harry rubbed his hands on his thighs. "Explain."

"Well, think about it, Harry. Why would a Muggle use one of the most obvious forms of wizarding communication which could also be intercepted? Surely his contact, whoever that is, must have realised that one of the Ministries would eventually find out about Stanley Chan and investigate him."

"Highly plausible. Do carry on, Auror Granger."

"Maybe the owl is a smokescreen. Maybe that's what Stanley Chan's contact wants us to see. There's this old spell I once read about in which you can conjure up an image that is only visible for a small amount of time. It takes a great amount of concentration to do it and-- " Hermione stopped talking and sat back down opposite Harry. "The person casting it has to be in the general vicinity."

"Which means that his contact must be in Hong Kong." Harry grinned. "You're just so smart. No wonder I wanted you to be my wife!"

Hermione rolled her eyes, not hiding her smile. "And here I thought it's because you knew that nobody else would put up with all your bad habits."

Harry clutched his chest in mock pain. "You wound me with your words, wench."

Hermione raised her eyebrows and fixed him with her best glare. "Wench?"

"Er, witch? Wife? My very best friend in the entire world?" His eyes twinkled at her as he gave her the grin that always made her melt. Hermione couldn't help but smile.

"Saved yourself there, Mr. Potter, but don't think you can get out of everything with a grin."

"Seems to work on you every time," Harry teased.

Hermione picked up the pillow next to her and smacked his arm with it. He winced and rubbed his arm. "Baby," she accused, rising out of her seat. "I think I'm going to head home." Harry got up with her and pulled her into his embrace, holding her to him tightly. "Thank you for dinner," she said as her arms snaked around his neck.

"Anything for my favourite witch," he whispered in her ear before kissing her cheek. "Why don't you bring your luggage straight here after work and we can get ready here?"

"Sounds like a plan. I'll talk to you in the morning." She kissed him goodbye and headed home, praying that this night would be different and there would be no dreams.

~*~

The next day dragged something terrible for Hermione and she was finally glad it was over. She stood once again in Harry's kitchen as he whipped them up something light. "You're beginning to spoil me," she said.

"Can't have you not eating," Harry pointed out.

"Won't they feed us on the plane?"

"Sure. But this is just in case whatever they feed us doesn't agree with our palates. Remington told me Muggle plane food is horrible."

Hermione cast him a dubious glance. "Bollocks. It was perfectly fine every time I flew when I was younger. Why would they serve horrible food?"

Harry shrugged. "I have no idea. But I'm not waiting until 11pm to be fed."

Once they'd had an early supper, Hermione double-checked her extensive list to ensure they had everything they needed. They were just about ready to go when Harry took a small velvet box out of his pocket and went over to where Hermione stood. "Left hand, please," he said. Hermione held her left hand out as Harry took two rings out of the box. "Your wedding and engagement rings," he explained as he slid them onto her third finger.

Hermione stared at the rather sizeable diamond Harry had placed on her finger, which was surrounded by six emeralds. "Don't tell me that's real."

"It sure is. We're supposed to be a wealthy couple, remember? It's on loan from a jeweller in Diagon Alley. It's been charmed so it can't be removed from your finger until the counter spell is given. Don't want you to lose it." Harry brought her hand up and kissed it gently, a tender gesture that made Hermione's eyes shimmer with tears. She looked down and noticed he'd already slipped a gold band onto his finger. An emotion she couldn't pinpoint swept over her and she felt the sudden compulsion to hug Harry and never let him go. She settled for giving him a quick squeeze, then taking a step back and grabbing her jacket.

"Ready to go?" Harry asked her, holding out his hand.

Hermione reached out and took it. "Ready as I'll ever be."

They caught a Muggle taxi to Heathrow airport. Dressed for the part, Harry had donned a Muggle suit and Hermione a long skirt and elegant blouse with a jacket. They'd both cast a spell to alter their appearances, which changed their hair and eye colour and removed Harry's scar; it had been specially written to fall away when they were alone. They'd also charmed their suitcases to be lightweight, even though they carried much more than Muggles would have been allowed, and after checking in, they headed to the first class lounge to grab a cup of tea before boarding.

Once settled on board, the flight took off without delay and they were soon airborne. Hermione settled into her chair to read a book, having given Harry the window seat. It wasn't long before she noticed he was surreptitiously examining each of their fellow passengers in first class.

"Something wrong, James?" she said, careful not to refer to her partner by his real name. Once they'd stepped outside Harry's house, they were no longer Harry and Hermione.

Harry's eyes appeared to linger on one passenger in particular, who sat four seats behind them on the other side. "No, darling," he said in a normal voice that could be heard by anyone. He put a small amount of pressure on her hand, a silent indicator that she should move closer, and Hermione leaned in as Harry did the same. "We're being watched," he whispered as his lips touched hers.

Any question Hermione might have had died the second she felt his lips brushing lightly against hers. Hermione knew that kissing Harry in public was going to be part of the assignment, but she wasn't prepared for the shiver that went through her as he kissed her. He pulled away after a few moments, but stayed close. "There's an Asian bloke sitting on the other side, four rows back. He was near us at the airport, too. Chan might have sent him to watch us."

Hermione nodded slightly to let Harry know she'd understood, and couldn't help but lean in for another quick kiss. Her heart was beating wildly against her chest and her skin was warm and tingly. Taking a few moments to compose herself, she settled back into her chair and then got up to use the bathroom, which gave her the opportunity to check out the suspect in question.

By the time she got back to her seat, Hermione was fully composed and back into Auror mode. "You're right," she said quietly, making sure they couldn't be overheard. "His eyes followed me all the way to the bathroom and back again."

"Maybe he just thinks you're devastatingly sexy and couldn't keep his eyes off you," Harry said with a smirk.

"Ha ha. Your wit and humour astounds me, Evans."

"I know. That's why you married me."

Hermione merely rolled her eyes and went back to her book, but was pleased to note that Harry's hand somehow managed to find its way to her thigh and stayed there.

~*~

They touched down in Hong Kong in the early evening and collected their luggage before heading out to find the chauffeur they knew would be waiting for them. James and Jane Evans had been written in small, neat black writing on a piece of cardboard that their driver, wearing a crisp black suit and matching hat that made Hermione want to laugh, was holding. He bowed politely and took their bags from them, leading them out to a long, black limousine.

He drove them to the Peninsula Hotel. Not only was it owned by their host, but it was also well known in the Muggle world as one of the most luxurious in Hong Kong. Their check in had already been organised, so Harry was only required to sign a form, and then they were led to the Peninsula Suite. Hermione was trained to hide her reaction, so it wasn't until the bellhop had left them alone that she whistled in amazement. Their suite was nothing short of spectacular; with the bedroom showcasing panoramic views of the harbour, a private balcony, conference room, two separate sitting rooms, a mini-gym, private office, three private washrooms, two separate dressing areas and a fully equipped kitchen and butler's pantry, Hermione could safely say it was the most incredible hotel she'd ever seen, let alone stayed in.

But before she could get a word out, Harry had placed his finger against his lips, indicating for her to keep quiet, then got out his wand and cast a few spells which would search for any hidden microphones or cameras. Nothing was found, so Hermione talked with assurance they were not being overheard.

"Oh my God, Harry," she murmured, opening doors and looking out windows. "Have you ever seen anything this marvellous?"

"Nope." Harry flopped down onto the enormous couch, stretching out. "It is rather nice, isn't it?"

"Nice? It's just nice?" Hermione shook her head. "I hate to think of how much one night costs."

"I'm sure Stanley Chan can afford it."

"He's paying for this?"

"In a manner of speaking. We're staying here free of charge, Mrs. Evans. He wants us to buy this Ming vase, you know."

"And quite badly, I'd say. How much does he want for it, anyway?"

Harry told her the exact figure had to be negotiated, but gave her a range in British pounds and then the conversion into galleons. The amount of money mentioned was large enough to make Hermione's jaw drop. "And we're supposed to have this much money?"

"I told you, we're rich."

"So it would seem." Hermione perched herself on the edge of the couch next to Harry, gazing out the window at the view. "I wonder how Mum is."

"You want to ring her?"

"No, it's okay. She'll have checked that our flight landed safely. I'll call her tomorrow." Hermione sighed, her thoughts drifting to her father, as they often did. She felt Harry's hand on her back, rubbing it soothingly, and she marvelled at just how well attuned they'd become to each other. They'd been best friends for twenty years now. Twenty years. Sometimes Hermione wondered if she could ever remember her life before Harry and Ron were in it; sometimes she wondered whether she really wanted to.

She closed her eyes and relaxed, then actually moaned softly when the couch shifted under Harry's weight as he moved to sit behind her, tucking her in between his thighs. He started at her shoulders, his fingers working magic on her tired body, then moving down her spine gently.

"Mmmmmm," Hermione murmured. "You can stay."

Harry laughed, moving slightly, and it made her very aware of just how closely together they were sitting. She trembled slightly as his fingers continued to dance over her skin.

"Just relax," he whispered in her ear. She took a few deep breaths and obeyed, and found herself concentrating on nothing except how good Harry's hands felt. When he was done, she leaned back against him as his arms went around her, and they sat together silently for a few minutes, lost in their respective thoughts.

A knock at the door interrupted them. Harry got up to answer, and in came an unfamiliar man who bowed politely and placed an enormous basket of goods on the table. "Most honourable Mr. and Mrs. Evans," he said, bowing again. "My esteemed employer Mr. Chan bids you welcome to this beautiful city and kindly requests your presence at dinner tonight at 8pm in the Red Room." Without waiting for a response, he bowed again and disappeared.

Hermione blinked a few times and looked at Harry. "We've been summoned, in the nicest possible way."

"Yes. I was wondering how long it would take him to want to see us for himself." Harry held his hand out. "Well then, the honourable Mrs. Evans, shall we get ready?"

Hermione smiled and allowed Harry to pull her off the couch. They went into the master bedroom, where their suitcases had been left, and cast a few quick charms that unpacked their suitcases for them and hung all their clothes up neatly. Once that was done, they both showered, each taking one of the bathrooms, and dressed. Harry donned an elegant tuxedo, complete with bow tie, that Hermione didn't mind privately admitting made him look incredibly sexy. She, in turn, wore one of the designer dresses she'd brought along for formal occasions; she picked the dusty rose one. It was a sleeveless A-line made of expensive French silk, with dozens of tiny diamonds embroidered on the bottom. It was a truly beautiful dress and Hermione felt lucky to be wearing it.

"I feel like a princess," she admitted, coming out of her dressing room. Gold Manolo Blahniks and a matching gold handbag completed her ensemble.

Harry took her in and let out a low whistle. "You look like a queen," he said softly. Hermione smiled at him and watched as he rummaged through the bag he'd taken on the plane. "You're missing something, though. A few things, actually."

"I am?"

He didn't answer, taking out a tiny blue box and placing it on the bed. Waving his hand over it, Hermione stared at it as it grew bigger. Opening the lid, Harry took out the most beautiful necklace Hermione had seen. It was what appeared to be a large pink gemstone, surrounded by the diamonds that made up the chain.

"Wow," Hermione said. "What is that, a sapphire?"

"A pink diamond, actually. More rare and expensive than the sapphires. Turn around." Hermione did so, thankful she'd pulled her hair up into a French roll, and let Harry put the necklace on her. She touched the big jewel delicately.

"It's gorgeous."

"And these go with it." He handed her a pair of drop earrings that matched the necklace, and she put them on.

"I'd better be careful with all this jewellery," Hermione said, frowning thoughtfully.

"It can't be taken off you, not without the releasing spell. Anyone who tries to remove it will have their fingers burnt."

"Ouch."

"Besides, anyone who tries to touch you anyway will incur the wrath of a jealous husband." Harry grinned at her, the grin that made her heart flip-flop, and she grinned back.

"Jealous husband?"

"Most definitely." He held his arm out to her and she placed her hand on his elbow. "Who wouldn't be jealous with such a beautiful wife?"

His laugh could have been heard two floors down as Hermione hit him with her handbag.

~*~

They found the Red Room and entered precisely at 8pm. Hermione was beginning to realise that everything about this hotel was grand; the Red Room, which could hardly be touted as having been imaginatively titled given that all the d├ęcor and furnishings were red, was no exception. Harry and Hermione took in the scene carefully, analysing it as their Auror training had taught them. There were approximately twenty tables in all, each sitting four people. About half the tables were currently occupied; Hermione assessed that many of the attendees were likely henchmen of Chan's. She wondered if his wizarding contact was here, possibly in disguise, but all of the people in the room bar them were Asian and nobody appeared to stand out.

Stanley Chan was not hard to spot, so they made their way over to where he was seated. "Mr. Evans," he said, rising from his chair and holding out his hand. "I am honoured to finally make your acquaintance."

Harry shook his hand firmly, maintaining eye contact. "The honour is mine, Mr. Chan. May I present my wife Jane?"

Hermione held out her hand for Chan to shake, but he surprised her by kissing it instead. "Mrs. Evans, you look exquisite," he complimented her. Releasing Hermione's hand, he turned slightly to his left and gestured to the delicate woman who sat there. "This is my wife, Ling."

"How do you do, Mrs. Chan," Hermione said politely. Mrs. Chan did not acknowledge Hermione in any way, and both Harry and Hermione looked at their host curiously.

"Forgive her lack of response," he said smoothly. "She is what you call shy around people she doesn't know well. Please, come and join me for dinner."

Harry and Hermione sat down at the table, and after Harry surreptitiously made sure their food was edible and hadn't been laced with anything, they enjoyed a sumptuous smorgasbord of food, with no less than seven courses brought out. Harry and Chan talked incessantly all the way through the meal; Hermione could tell by the careful questioning that Chan was trying to glean as much information about them as he could. Harry was giving only as much information as he wanted Chan to have, and Hermione was pleased that Harry had taken the lead; however, she was slightly annoyed by Chan's apparent dismissal of her. After his initial greeting, he hadn't so much as looked at her.

"Perhaps you and your lovely wife would join us for a dance?" Hermione groaned internally; now that dinner was over, she was so full she could barely move. However, Stanley had already pulled his obviously reluctant wife to her feet and had led her to the small dance floor that served at the room's centrepiece, so Harry and Hermione followed suit.

She felt a tad self-conscious at first because it didn't look as if anyone else was going to join them, but after the two couples had spun around the floor a few times, others joined them, although Hermione felt they were more for background than anything else.

Harry took advantage of their proximity to talk to Hermione quietly, making sure to draw her close so they wouldn't be overheard. "First impressions?" he said in her ear.

Hermione shifted her head, outwardly appearing to be snuggling closer to her husband, making their dance a little more intimate, but in reality positioning herself so she could whisper to Harry and keep an eye on Chan's goons. "He's clever," Hermione admitted. "He was asking some good questions in order to find out as much as he could without making it obvious."

"I thought you'd pick that up," Harry said with a smile. Noticing Chan's eyes were on them, he kissed her cheek softly. "We're being very carefully observed by at least five people in this room."

"I noticed that too." Hermione pulled back and placed her arms around Harry's neck, putting on a grand show of playing the happy wife. Their faces were so close they were almost touching, and Harry kissed her as he slid his arms around her waist. She broke out in goosebumps from the feel of his lips on hers, and she felt an inexplicable sense of loss when he pulled away.

"Cold?" he asked.

"No," Hermione said, not elaborating. She looked directly at Chan and smiled at him when she saw, unsurprisingly, that his gaze was already upon her. "It's creepy how he keeps staring at us," she told Harry. Harry merely grunted in response, and kept a tight hold on her as they danced slowly. Hermione rested her head on Harry's shoulder and closed her eyes for a moment, letting her guard down and allowing herself to feel safe in his arms.

~*~

Chan let them retire to their suite around eleven, and they removed jackets, shoes and jewellery. Harry went over to the windows that made up one side of the lounge room wall and stared out at the city, awash with bright lights. After a few moments, he opened the doors that led to their private balcony and went outside, unmindful of the cold night air that blew around him. Hermione shivered and slipped on his jacket, going out to join him. She leaned on the balcony railing next to him.

"We have a big fat nothing so far, don't we?"

Harry glanced sideways at her and nodded. "So far. I was trying to get him to somehow slip up about the wizarding stuff he sells, but he was much too clever for that."

"I wondered if perhaps his contact was there tonight, using a potion to disguise himself."

"I thought of that too, but didn't sense anything out of the ordinary."

They both sighed and went back to staring at the night, wondering where to go from here. Suddenly, something occurred to Hermione and she kicked herself mentally for not having thought of it previously.

"Harry, what if Chan doesn't know who his contact is?"

Harry merely raised an eyebrow at her; he was used to her coming out with some rather strange statements. "How can he not know who his contact is?"

"No, I mean obviously he knows who it is, in a sense. He communicates with this person on a regular basis and knows how to get in touch with him, assuming it is a him. But what if he doesn't actually know anything about this wizard? It's possible that this person is keeping a low profile so if Chan was to get caught, he couldn't implicate the wizard in any of it because he doesn't know anything about him!"

Harry stared at her, processing her train of thought. "You think the contact has been deliberately vague with Chan to avoid capture? Chan doesn't strike me as the kind of man who would do business with somebody and not know every detail there was to know about him."

"He could be feeding Chan anything. But think about it, Harry. Chan is selling what a Muggle would perceive to be some pretty unusual items. He has no way to authenticate them. He has no way of knowing where they came from. So what makes us so sure that he's even aware of who he's really dealing with? He's already taking big risks by selling this stuff; and for that matter, does he even know who he's selling it to? And why him? Why Stanley Chan? Why would a wizard use a Muggle as a middle man to broker deals?"

"Because obviously this wizard knows he cannot risk being identified. He's gaining the items for sale illegally and is aware of the penalties for selling said items, which is why he's shifting it all to a Muggle. What's the worst that could happen to Chan? He'd be Obliviated. A wizard would be arrested and tried. That's why he's using a Muggle, and from what we know of Chan, he already had a wide underground of contacts before he started selling the wizarding items. He's been selling illegally on the black market for years." Harry paused, his face a picture of thought. "Chan must know he's selling to wizards; what would a Muggle want with powdered unicorn horn or vampire's blood? They're meaningless to Muggles; and besides, Muggles don't really think unicorns and vampires exist anyway. It's possible Chan just thinks the items are fake, but is making a nice wad of tax-free cash for moving it so he takes the money and does what he's told."

"Still, I think it's possible Chan knows nothing about this contact of his, other than how to contact him. He could be getting the items by owl."

"It's very possible, Hermione." Harry took her hand in his and, upon feeling how cold she was, rubbed it. "But we need more information. I think we're going to have to start digging around quietly and see what we turn up."

Hermione nodded. "You want to nose around tonight?"

"No," Harry said thoughtfully. "Let's leave it until tomorrow; I want to spend a little more time with Chan. We have an appointment at 2pm to see this Ming vase he wants us to buy. We can go for a walk tomorrow night." He brushed a stray hair off her face. "Besides, you look beat. I know I could do with some sleep."

Hermione didn't bother to argue, because she was exhausted after the flight, the meal and the dancing. She allowed Harry to lead her back into the suite, then grabbed her pyjamas and went into the bathroom to change and get ready for bed.

Harry was lying on his stomach on the bed in the master bedroom, rifling through the ubiquitous folder of information hotels left in every room, when Hermione came out. "Find anything interesting?"

"Room service is hideously expensive. But I guess that's to be expected, given this is a five star hotel."

Hermione climbed onto the bed next to him and stretched out, resting her head on the quilt and closing her eyes. She stifled a yawn and sighed, her body beginning to relax in anticipation of sleep. She felt Harry reach over and play with her hair gently, but she didn't open her eyes, choosing instead to just enjoy his touch.

"You want me to sleep in one of the other bedrooms?" His voice was low and quiet. He was leaving it up to her; if she wanted to sleep alone, she could, but if she wanted him to stay, he would. Sometimes Hermione was amazed at just how considerate Harry could be, given his upbringing; he knew without having to be told that she may not want to sleep alone in a strange city.

"No," she said, taking his hand in hers. "Stay."

That's all she had to say.

~*~

When she woke the next morning, Hermione was a little disoriented; she knew she wasn't sleeping in her bed, and there was something lovely and warm wrapped around her. She blinked a few times, lying still while she shook the fogginess of sleep off, and took stock of her surroundings. Of course. She was in Hong Kong on assignment, posing as Harry's wife to trap the Muggle selling wizarding items. And the something warm wrapped around her was Harry; at some stage during their sleep, he'd spooned up behind her, his arm draped over her.

Hermione was reluctant to move. Not only was it the first night she'd been able to sleep through without dreaming, it had been quite awhile since she'd woken in someone's arms, and even longer since that someone had been a person she truly loved. And love Harry she did, of that there was no question. She'd loved him a very long time. Shifting carefully in his arms so as not to wake him, Hermione turned over so she could gaze upon his sleeping form. Content just to look upon him, Hermione wondered if perhaps the love she felt for him was changing, shifting into something deeper.

Unable to resist, she slowly raised her hand and gently caressed the features of his face, her fingertips running over his forehead and eyes, cheeks, nose, jaw and mouth. When she reached his mouth, his lips pursed slightly to kiss her fingers, and Hermione went to draw back, realising she'd woken him, but Harry held her fingers up and kissed them again.

"Good morning," he said, giving her a slow, downright sexy smile. Hermione couldn't help but smile back, then raise herself to lean over him and kiss him gently. She slid out of bed and into a robe before she was tempted to do anything further, then went and showered, taking her time and enjoying the hot water.

Harry had breakfast waiting for her when she came into the dining room; it had obviously been brought up by room service and he'd kept it warm with a simple heating charm. Harry was dressed and clean shaven, his wet hair combed back neatly.

"What's on the menu?" Harry lifted up the various silver lids off the trays and Hermione was presented with a sample of every breakfast food she could ever have named, and a few she wouldn't have thought of. "You know who'd kill to be here right now, don't you?"

"Ron," they said simultaneously, laughing.

~*~

After a leisurely breakfast, they had a few hours to kill before their appointment, so they decided to go for a wander around the city. They'd agreed to wait until after dark before snooping around and Harry wanted to see if they were still being trailed.

Which, as it turned out, they were. Two tall, burly henchmen followed them as they wound their way through various shops and markets. Harry laced his fingers through Hermione's, not wanting to lose her in the crowd. He could never have anticipated the effect waking up next to Hermione would have on him; they'd certainly shared a bed before, but there had never been such closeness or ease about it. It was almost as if they slept together every night. He glanced over at her as she perused a stall of scarves and handbags and, not for the first time, considered just how beautiful Hermione Granger really was. Harry realised he was so lucky to have her in his life; he didn't know what he'd do without her. He brought their joint hands up to his lips and kissed the back of her hand affectionately.

She smiled at him and picked up a scarf with her free hand. "Do you think Mum would like this?"

"Sure. You going to buy it for her?"

"I think I might." She let go of his hand to dig out some dollars, then paid for the scarf and tucked it safely in her bag. Once she was done, Hermione took hold of Harry's hand again and they continued on.

After grabbing a small lunch and making note that the two goons Chan had assigned to follow them were still in sight, they made their way back to the hotel to prepare for their meeting with Chan. They dressed in appropriate attire for a Muggle business meeting and were shown into Chan's office at precisely two o'clock. Like the hotel, the office was adorned with expensive knickknacks; the floor was made of Italian marble, which Hermione knew was not cheap.

As they came into the room, they saw he wasn't alone; they were introduced to Mr. White, an associate of his. Hermione was instantly suspicious about this "associate"; there was something about him that seemed... familiar. He wasn't Asian like Chan and his cronies, and spoke with no discernable accent. It seemed to be a blend of several, which made Hermione think he was purposely hiding his true accent. But there was nothing extraordinary about his appearance; brown hair, brown eyes. No marks or scars visible. She looked at Harry and smiled, her eyes relaying what her mouth couldn't in the present situation, and he came over to kiss her, whispering a muted, "I know" against her temple. He, too, had picked up whatever it was about this mysterious Mr. White.

"Let's get down to business, shall we?" Chan said, spreading his arms wide. "Mr. White, the vase if you please." Mr. White went over to the glass table that was deliberately placed near the lounge on the right, and opened a tall, long case. Very carefully, he pulled out the Ming vase. It was worth an absolute fortune, something Mr. White was obviously aware of as he carried it over to the desk, placing it in front of Harry. "Here she is, James," Chan said smoothly, calling Harry by his assumed first name in order to create an air of familiarity and seal the deal. "Isn't she beautiful?"

Harry didn't answer, instead standing to pick up the vase. He turned it over and over, examining it carefully. Hermione didn't miss the subtle waving of his hand over the base of it, although she wasn't sure exactly what it was that Harry was checking for. Instead, she merely sat quietly and tried to stop herself staring at Mr. White. Her brain was telling her she knew this man, had met him before, but she couldn't, for the life of her, think how and why.

"This is a very nice piece," Harry said. He looked up at Chan, smiled, and dropped the vase onto the floor, watching calmly as it shattered into dozens of pieces. The other three occupants of the room gasped out loud; Hermione rose out of her seat and placed her hand on Harry's arm.

She opened her mouth to say Harry's name, but caught herself in time. "James!" she hissed. "What on earth are you doing?" Her eyes widened at her partner, but he refused to meet her gaze.

"Please don't worry yourself, Mrs. Evans," Chan said. "Your husband has an extremely good eye."

Hermione's eyes flicked to Chan. "Would somebody please tell me what is going on?"

"It was a fake," Harry said. "But it's a good question, darling. I think I'd like to know what's going on, too."

"I had to make sure you were legitimately interested in making a deal, Mr. Evans," Chan said. "You didn't bring an appraiser with you, so I assumed you were somewhat of an expert yourself."

"Given that you've delved quite deeply into the backgrounds of both myself and my wife, Mr. Chan, you would already know that. Now stop wasting my time. Either you have a Ming vase you wish to sell or you don't. Which is it?"

Chan narrowed his eyes at Harry, then nodded once without moving. Mr. White went over to a large painting of a Chan ancestor that hung on the wall behind the desk and removed it, revealing a rather large, black safe behind it. He put in the combination to open it and the heavy door swung open. Inside was the real Ming vase, which Mr. White handled with even more care than the previous one.

Once again, Harry picked up the vase. Hermione held her breath as he studied it; then, apparently satisfied, he placed it on the desk in front of him. "It's perfect. How much do you want for it?"

Chan grinned widely, and Hermione tried not to grimace at the almost grotesque way his face contorted. "Let's negotiate a price, shall we?" He indicated towards the seats in front of him, and they sat back down while Harry and Chan nutted out a price agreeable to them both. Once the deal was done, they shook hands.

"I'll have my solicitor draw up the contract for the sale, which I'll get to you as soon as possible."

"Wonderful. I'll go speak to our bank now to organise the transfer of the money, which will take seventy two hours to come through."

Chan nodded. "I do hope you plan to stay in Hong Kong until the transaction is complete so you can continue to enjoy my hospitality."

Hermione realised what it was about Chan that bothered her; he was too slick. She would have been perfectly happy to head back to London that night, but knew they had to stay until they had more information.

"When you have the time, there is another matter I would like to discuss with you," Harry said. Chan raised his eyebrows in interest. "Privately," Harry clarified, glancing at Mr. White.

Chan looked at them blankly, his face betraying nothing. "Of course. I am a very busy man, you understand, Mr. Evans, but for you, I will make an exception. How about the day after tomorrow at five o'clock? You can then both join me for dinner as my esteemed guests."

"We'd like that."

No, we wouldn't, Hermione added silently under her breath. It was obvious they were being dismissed when Chan got out of his seat and Mr. White stepped forward, so they took leave from the office. Chan made a deliberate show of kissing Hermione's hand, which she wiped on the back of her skirt once they shut the door. "If he slobbers on my hand one more time, I'm going to do something very bad to him."

Harry laughed and placed his arm around her shoulder. "Do you want me to shoot him death glares if he comes near you again?"

"If it means he won't touch me, yes." She hit the button to summon the lift and waited until it arrived.

~*~

"I need a drink," Harry muttered upon their arrival to the twenty-sixth floor, where their penthouse was located. Going over to the liquor cabinet, he poured himself a whiskey and Hermione a vodka and tonic while she called her mother, after having placed a scrambling charm on the line to ensure their conversation could not be overheard. Once she was done, she took the glass Harry had left by the phone and sipped it slowly. She didn't normally drink so early in the afternoon, and not while she was working, but like Harry, she was tense and needed to relax.

"Tell me we know that Mr. White from somewhere."

"We do," Harry confirmed. "I just can't place him, but there's something terribly familiar about him." He went over to the telescope that sat near the balcony doors and looked out at the city through the lens. Letting out a sigh, he loosened his tie and joined Hermione on the white couch.

"Do you think he could have been Chan's contact in disguise?"

Harry didn't answer for a moment, taking another mouthful of whiskey. "Perhaps." They sat in companionable silence for a few long moments, and then Harry patted her leg. "Let's go out for dinner to a really swanky restaurant. My treat."

Hermione smiled and covered his hand with her own, their fingers lacing together. "I'd like that. We've got a long night ahead of us."

"We have." They had made plans to wait until nightfall then take their own, private tour of the hotel to search Chan's office in the hope it might yield something useful. They knew from their surveillance he did keep a limited quantity of the wizarding items he sold somewhere nearby, as he'd been able to produce extra items upon request almost instantly, which ruled out their theory that his contact only sent one thing at a time.

They changed into something more comfortable and wrote out some reports required by the Ministry, updating their superior as to the progress of their assignment. Once they'd sent everything off by their specially arranged stealth owl, they relaxed for an hour or so and then got ready for their outing.

Transported by the limousine Chan had at their disposal, Harry gave instructions to the driver and he deposited them outside The Golden Dragon. They savoured a delicious meal, and afterwards Harry was able to persuade Hermione to take a spin with him on the dance floor. They swayed along to the live band, joined at various times by other couples, and discussed various nuances of their case quietly so as not to be overheard.

Hermione had enjoyed their dinner and time alone so much that she was reluctant to head back to the hotel, but they had a job to do and a limited timeframe in which to do it, so she didn't complain as Harry led her back to the limousine. They were not surprised to run into Chan on their way back to the suite, and they made a big show of bidding him good night and making him aware they were retiring for the evening.

Stanley Chan was a creature of habit; they knew he retired every night at midnight without fail. He had what appeared to be an expensive Grandfather clock in his office, and once it began to strike twelve, he would pack up his things and put them away.

When it hit midnight, they changed into black apparel and packed a bag with equipment they would need for their expedition. They couldn't use Apparition as a means of travel, because it was possible Chan's wizarding contact was in the hotel somewhere and would be able to detect the magic needed to propel them from one part of the hotel to another, so they had to resort to sneaking around the Muggle way. Hermione made sure to include parchment and a special duplicating quill so she could record any information they might find; also tucked inside was a Portkey that had been rigged to bring them back to their suite. However, this was only to be used in case of emergency, because once it had been activated, it would disintegrate upon arrival at their destination.

Harry shrank the bag and tucked it into his pocket, then rummaged around the bag that sat by his side of the bed for something. Hermione, who paused at the doorway, looked at him over her shoulder. "What are you looking for?"

"This," he replied, pulling out the cloak he'd gotten for Christmas when he was eleven.

"Your invisibility cloak? What did you bring that for?"

"Because I don't want to take any risks that Chan might find out we've left the suite. We already know he hasn't bugged inside here, but that's not to say he doesn't have a camera installed outside in the passageway. If he sees us leave, he'll know we're up to something."

"We are up to something!"

Harry grinned and followed Hermione as she headed for the front door. "I know that, but he doesn't and I'd like to keep it that way." Once they reached the front door, he stepped up behind her, taking the back because he was taller, and threw the cloak over them. Placing one arm around her waist, he pulled her back against him.

"Won't it look strange if the door opens and nobody comes out?" Hermione asked.

Harry paused, giving it thought. "I suppose so. But we have to get out somehow. There's a fire escape next to the lift, head for there."

Once they'd got the door open, they moved as quickly as they could to the fire escape, then stopped as the door slammed shut behind them. Hermione paused; they had to move carefully under the cloak, making sure to walk together with perfect synchrony or they might get caught. "You okay?" Harry whispered in her ear.

"I'm fine. Let's go."

Their suite was located in the Peninsula Tower; they knew that Chan's living quarters were on the level above his office, which was on the eighth floor of the main building. To get from one tower to another, they had to cross the main lobby, so by the time they'd gone down twenty-six flights of stairs and up another eight, they were both breathing heavily and sweating under the cloak.

Once they reached the door that opened onto the eighth floor, Hermione tried the handle to find it was locked. She waved her hand over it, uttering a whispered Alohomora, and the door swung open without protest. They reached the heavy oak doors that guarded the entrance to the inner sanctum of Chan's office without resistance, but then again, they hadn't expected to encounter anyone. Nobody could access the eighth and ninth floors unless they had a special card that activated the lift; and these had only been given to Chan, his wife, and those he trusted.

Once they were safely in the office, they remained under the cloak and checked for cameras and microphones. Each one was located and a spell cast by Hermione, which made them useless for an hour. Anyone looking through the camera would see an empty office, as it had been before Harry and Hermione entered it. Harry threw off the cloak and they both took a few deep breaths before lighting the ends of their wands.

"Right, where do we start?"

"Why don't you go through his documents," Harry said, pointing to the filing cabinets backed against one wall, "while I open the safe and see exactly what he's got hidden away."

They moved quickly and quietly. Hermione pulled out file after file and moved the quill over them, which then transcribed the words onto parchment. She recorded the dates, prices and names of buyers for all sales he'd made in the last year; these might yield information useful at a later date. Harry sifted through the contents of the safe, describing each item as he pulled it out; hovering near his ear was a small, flat silver disk that recorded the details and took a picture.

They were so caught up in recording as much as they could that they almost didn't hear the noise of someone entering the outer doors. Looking at each other in alarm, Hermione grabbed the quill and parchments with one hand and picked up her wand, casting a spell that neatly returned all Chan's documents to their rightful place in the cabinets. Harry did the same with the safe items, barely allowing them time to fly back inside before he was shutting the safe door and putting the painting back up over it magically. He grabbed Hermione around the waist and threw the invisibility cloak over them as they both said "Nox", and they slowly shuffled back as someone entered the inner office. As they hid in one corner, Hermione looked over at the desk and saw with horror that she'd left a piece of parchment behind.

"Accio parchment!" she hissed as quietly as possible, and it flew across the room into her hand. She prayed that their new arrival hadn't seen it. Harry tightened his grip around her waist as the lamp on the desk was turned on.

With illumination, they could see that their visitor was none other than Chan... and he wasn't alone. Chan eased himself into his chair and gestured to another on the opposite side of the desk; the other guest sat down. As he did, the hood of his cloak fell back to reveal his identity.

Harry placed his hand over Hermione's mouth to prevent her shocked intake of breath being heard as they both stared at none other than Draco Malfoy.

"Have you moved the items yet?" Malfoy asked in an almost bored voice.

"Not yet, Mr. White," Chan responded, and Hermione felt Harry shift slightly behind her and move his hand away. No wonder they had both thought him familiar. But why was Chan calling him Mr. White? Hermione began to think hard, and it didn't take her long to realise that Narcissa Malfoy's maiden name had been Black. She should have thought of that. Now was not the time for self-flagellation, though; they had to keep very quiet and very still, and listen to the conversation.

"Why not?" Malfoy countered. "I've already told you, there's something about this Evans couple I don't like. I don't trust them."

"I checked their backgrounds thoroughly before bringing them here," Chan said. "There was nothing that made me suspicious of them. They are wealthy, Mr. White. I cannot turn their business away."

"You're too greedy, Chan," Malfoy said accusingly. "I've already told you, you can make triple what you earn from selling this Muggle crap. All you have to do is sell more of the items I give you."

Chan shifted in his seat. Hermione couldn't tell if he was uncomfortable or nervous, but something about his demeanour wasn't right. "I am happy continuing our arrangement as it is."

"Fine," Malfoy said, rising out of his seat. "Just give me the money and I'll be on my way. But don't say I didn't warn you."

Chan's hand disappeared underneath his desk and a small drawer suddenly popped out; Hermione surmised there was a secret button underneath. He took out a rather large velvet sack and placed in on the table in front of Malfoy, who opened it and peered inside. "Excellent," Malfoy said, apparently happy with what he saw. He reached inside his cloak and pulled out an envelope, sliding it across to Chan. "Here's your cut."

Chan merely nodded. "You will be in contact again soon?"

"When I'm ready," Malfoy said dismissively. "I'll see myself out." He rose and headed for the exit without a second glance, but stopped once he reached the doors. "When are they leaving?"

"I have an appointment with Mr. Evans the day after tomorrow. The money for the vase will be through the day after that. They should be leaving in three days."

"Good." Malfoy nodded and disappeared without another word. Once he was gone, Chan exhaled loudly, then aimlessly shuffled a few things around on his desk. After a few minutes, he pushed the drawer closed and stood, turning the lamp off and leaving the room.

Harry and Hermione waited a few minutes before they allowed themselves to move. "Oh my God," Hermione said, still stunned by the identity of Chan's contact.

"Let's get back to the suite immediately." Hermione couldn't see Harry's face, but she could feel how tense he was, so she obeyed without question.

~*~

Once they got back safely, they discussed what they'd seen and heard, and an initial report was written up and owled back to the Ministry without delay. A team would be assembled and sent to Hong Kong to help with the capture of Draco Malfoy, now that they knew exactly who it was they were after. They still had to play their roles for now; they couldn't afford to tip Chan off that they knew who he was dealing with.

Hermione found herself on edge and unable to sleep once she'd changed into her pyjamas and gotten ready for bed, even though it was one in the morning. Harry had climbed into his side of the bed as soon as he'd come out of the bathroom, and she actually thought he'd gone to sleep until he spoke. "You coming to bed?"

"Not yet," Hermione answered as she stood near the window. "You sleep, though. I'm just thinking."

She heard the rustle of blankets being pulled back, and felt Harry's arms go around her waist as he came to stand behind her once again. She rested her head against his shoulder and breathed in; he smelled like... Harry. She couldn't describe it, but even if she hadn't known it was him, she would still have been able to tell. He smelled like soap and sweat and smoke from the fire he'd stood in front of when they'd gotten back.

"Thinking about Malfoy or your Dad?"

She actually had been thinking of Malfoy, although her father was never far from her thoughts. Every morning since her father's death, she'd woken with him on her mind. Sometimes she dreamed of him being right next to her, watching her sleep. Sometimes she was a little girl again, and he was pushing her on the tyre they used to have roped up to the old tree out the back. Sometimes he was sitting up in his coffin, telling her not to cry, and she always woke from that particular dream screaming.

Hermione was tired. She was tired, and shocked about Malfoy, and missing her father, and it finally all got the better of her. She told Harry about her dreams, and how she'd sometimes wake from them in tears. She told him how she wished she could see her father just one more time to tell him how much she loved him. Once Hermione was done talking, she realised her face was wet with tears.

Harry turned her around and kissed her forehead, and then led her over to the bed, where he sat her down on the edge of it and kneeled down in front of her. There was enough light from the moon and the city below them for her to be able to see his face.

"Hermione, he knew. He knew you loved him. Don't ever doubt that for a second."

"But it hurts, Harry." Even as she said the words, her chest tightened painfully and more tears leaked from her eyes. "I still can't believe he's gone. He'll never see me marry or have children. I'll never be able to pick up the phone again and hear one of his awful jokes." She laughed in spite of herself, but the smile soon faded. "I can't--" Hermione paused, choking on her words. "Harry..."

"I know." Harry cupped her face and wiped her tears away with his thumbs, then leaned his forehead against hers as she cried. And cry Hermione did. She let it out, big, heaving sobs that didn't seem to end. Harry hugged her to him, rocking her gently until finally, the sobs subsided and she sniffed.

When Hermione pulled back, she thought of what Harry had last said... and she realised something that had never really occurred to her before. Harry did know how she felt. He was likely the only person other than her mother who truly understood her loss. He could feel her pain at having lost her father, because he'd lost his too. He'd lost both his parents and he'd never really known them.

"You do know," she breathed, her hands coming up to his face. "You do understand, don't you, Harry?"

Harry looked straight into her eyes. "Yes, I do."

Hermione gazed at him in wonder. "I'm sorry," she said.

"What for?"

"I had thirty-one years with my father. You only had one."

Something in Harry's eyes told Hermione that he understood what she was saying. She realised that all these years, no one close to Harry had really been able to comprehend his loss; perhaps Sirius had, but Harry had lost him too. And suddenly, Hermione wanted so desperately to take all of Harry's pain away; the pain of losing his parents, the pain of living for so long with people who had starved him of food and love and affection, the pain of having friends who had come from loving families and had never really been able to understand what it had been like for him growing up.

Only now could she truly appreciate the depth of what she felt for this man; losing her father had made Hermione reassess how she felt about those left in her life. So she did the only thing she knew could. She closed the distance between them and began to kiss his face; sweet, tiny kisses all over. She kissed his forehead, his eyes, his nose and his cheeks. She kissed his jaw and the scar that made him famous. Harry's arms stayed around her waist and his eyes remained closed, even when she pulled back.

"I love you," she said as she kissed his mouth.

At first, the kiss was gentle; merely lips pressed together, with no attempt to deepen it. After a few seconds, Hermione pulled back and Harry opened his eyes. They stared at each other as they took in what was happening between them. They could easily have stopped it, but neither of them wanted to.

This time, it was Harry who kissed Hermione, and she pulled him close as he slid his tongue into her open mouth. Her body tingled with electricity as it awakened for the first time in so long; Hermione felt herself come alive in the circle of Harry's arms.

Every time they separated to breathe, they were back together within seconds. Hermione would have been quite happy to sit there and kiss Harry until the end of time. She ran her fingers through his hair as she kissed him, marvelling at how soft it was. Harry had released her lips and was now kissing his way down her neck, and she kissed the top of his head as he shifted her hips closer to him.

He made his way back up, gently biting her earlobe, and she shivered as his lips found hers again. There was nothing tender about their kiss this time; it was passionate and hot. Hermione made no attempt to stop the moans that were rising from the back of her throat, and she whimpered when Harry's hand slipped underneath her pyjama top to touch her bare skin. When his hand reached her breast, she broke away from him and rested her head against his, relishing the feel of his fingers as they caressed and stroked her softly, and after a few moments, she pulled his hand away, slid back onto the bed, and drew him on top of her.

An hour later, Harry was asleep, curled up on his side with his arm over Hermione's chest. She lay on her back, as awake as she'd ever been. Hermione admitted to herself that the thought of sleeping with Harry had crossed her mind from time to time; when she was younger, she'd done the same with Ron. As close as the trio had been for twenty years, certain feelings and thoughts were bound to crop up every now and then, and she was aware that they were both attractive men in their own way. She had always thought, however, that if it ever did happen, afterwards would be awkward and unsure. Such an event changed the nature of a friendship and once you crossed certain boundaries, you couldn't go back.

But as Hermione lay there, her hand running up and down Harry's arm, she couldn't have been more wrong. Sure, they would have to talk about where they went from here because obviously, things were very different now. Hermione knew she loved Harry and it was very possible she was falling in love with him, if she wasn't already. She didn't regret making love to him for one moment and she was sure, given the way he'd held her afterwards and kissed her almost possessively, that he felt the same way. However, any discussions of this nature would have to wait until they were back in England and off this case. While the timing was poor, she felt that perhaps it was a bridge they should have crossed a long time ago.

She turned over onto her side to face Harry and cuddled up close to him, and he roused from his slumber to kiss her forehead. "Sleep," he murmured.

"Yes, I'll sleep," she whispered, and finally closed her eyes.

~*~

When Hermione awoke the next morning, the first thing she realised was that the bed was empty. She sat up and was happier than she thought she should have been to see Harry hadn't disappeared; he was on the balcony, a bathrobe wrapped around him. She pulled the sheet up to cover herself decently and watched him for a few moments, studying his outline against the gloriously sunny backdrop.

He turned in her direction and smiled when he saw she was awake. She smiled back as he came inside and crawled onto the bed, hovering over her on his hands and knees. "Good morning," he said, leaning in to kiss her. Hermione closed her eyes and did nothing but savour the feel of his lips on hers; still something new to her, but wonderful just the same. She could certainly get used to kissing Harry.

Pulling back, she kept the sheet up over her breasts with one hand and placed the other on his cheek, the feel of his stubble rough against her fingertips. "How did you sleep?"

"Very well. How about you? Any dreams?" His face showed a glimmer of concern.

"No, no dreams." She couldn't resist kissing him again, her lips lingering on his.

"Mmmm," Harry murmured. "I could get used to that."

Hermione smiled, a warm glow rising within her. Harry didn't regret their night together any more than she did. She kissed him once more before speaking. "We really should look over all the documents I copied last night. Gabriel will be expecting a full report of what happened."

Harry sat back on his knees, his eyes twinkling. "Not everything, I hope."

Hermione smacked him with a pillow, and he yelped with laughter. "I'm serious, Harry. I need to owl him a report today."

"I know." Harry's smile faded. "We have a free day today because we're not due to meet Chan again until tomorrow afternoon, so let's have some breakfast and get it done. Then perhaps we can venture out and do a cruise on the harbour or something."

"That would be lovely," Hermione admitted. "I'm just going to take a shower first."

"Excellent," Harry said, jumping off the bed. "I'll come wash your back."

Hermione opened her mouth to tell him she was perfectly capable of washing herself, thank you, but the smouldering look in his eyes killed any protest she might have had.

~*~

Once they'd showered and eaten, they got comfortable in the lounge room and looked over everything they'd recorded the previous night. Harry took out the silver disk and flipped through the pictures of the items held in the safe, making notes about what he thought their purpose was and how relevant they appeared to be to their case, while Hermione made small, neat lists containing all the information Chan had in his files on the Muggles who'd bought from him. She cross-referenced them from the files the Ministry already had and pointed out those she felt were worthy of further investigation.

They ate lunch in their suite and kept going until everything was completed. Once they'd owled their reports off, they took a cruise around Kowloon Harbour, complete with Chan's henchmen. Harry didn't let Hermione go, either holding her hand or placing an arm around her waist, and Hermione snuggled close as they stood on the outside deck, taking in the view.

"We have terrible timing, you know," she commented, hoping to start the discussion she knew would come up sooner or later.

"We sure do." Harry kissed her forehead and then grasped her chin with his hand. "I want you to know something, Hermione. What's happened between us is a great thing and I'm not sorry it happened. While our timing isn't the best, because we're going to have to concentrate on this case, I don't consider this to be some sort of... fling. This is real, for me. This is it." Hermione opened her mouth to speak, but he held a hand up. "Let me finish. I'm not just saying it because I think it's appropriate and I don't want it to sound trite. You need to know, Hermione. I love you. I always have, ever since we were young. But now it feels different, and I'm willing to follow wherever this takes us, if you are too."

Hermione nodded, her eyes misty. "I am." He released her chin and she leaned in to kiss him.

~*~

Based on the reports that Harry and Hermione sent, the Ministry sent a team of Aurors to Hong Kong to capture Draco Malfoy and question Stanley Chan. The team of five arrived via Portkey just after they'd gotten back from the cruise, which meant they appeared directly in the suite without being detected. It also meant that Harry and Hermione had to watch their interaction, as they didn't want to let on something had changed between them.

One of the Aurors sent a stealth owl to order some dinner for the rest of the team, while Harry and Hermione ordered room service as normal. Harry filled the team in on the events of the last two days and filled in the gaps where requested, and the team leader, Olivia Hargitay, in turn brought them up to speed from the Ministry's end. It was discussed amongst the seven Aurors that Harry and Hermione would keep their appointment with Chan and try to get him to admit he was selling wizarding items, and then Olivia's team would take over. Discussion then moved on to how they were going to capture Draco Malfoy.

"I don't think he's staying in the hotel anywhere," Harry said. "He must have a place nearby. He met Chan in the early hours of the morning, although that was more likely to have been Chan's idea, but he was also present at our meeting yesterday afternoon."

"Does he know who you are?" Olivia asked.

"He's suspicious," Harry admitted. "He told Chan he didn't trust us."

"Do you think he might try and eavesdrop on your meeting tomorrow?"

"Absolutely," Hermione said. "When Harry mentioned wanting to talk to Chan about a private matter, Malfoy was definitely listening. His body tensed slightly. I was watching him."

Olivia nodded. "We really need to try and catch him in the act. Harry, what you need to do is ask Chan for something he won't have on hand. Try the vampire's blood, because we know Chan only had enough for the order placed last month. He'll have to contact Malfoy and, with any luck, Malfoy will hand deliver."

"I don't think so, Liv," Harry countered. "He's already suspicious of us as it is. He's not going to take any risks now." Harry stared down at the parchment scattered all over the floor thoughtfully. "Malfoy's smart. He's eluded capture and even detection up until now. We're going to have to move very carefully if we want to get him."

The group discussion was interrupted by the arrival of room service, prompting the team to cloak themselves and their equipment, and soon after more food arrived via owl, so they all ate and tossed around ideas on how best to proceed with Malfoy's capture.

Hermione could tell that Harry was determined to get Malfoy by any means possible. She recognised the look on his face, and knew he would risk a great deal to achieve it. Tamping down the flare of worry that welled inside her, Hermione tried to pay attention to the conversation, but all her thoughts continued to circle around Harry.

Finally, after agreeing that the best way to proceed would be to play it by ear and see what happened the next afternoon, the group spread out to find sleeping quarters, converting lounges and tables into mattresses and conjuring up pillows and blankets. The master bedroom and one of the others had been left empty for Harry and Hermione to use, and it was with a heavy heart at the knowledge she would have to sleep alone that night that Hermione bid everyone a good night and went to the master bedroom to change and clean her teeth.

When she came out of the bathroom, Hermione found herself being pushed against the wall and kissed to within an inch of her life. She was so stunned that she wasn't able to react for a few seconds, but when she realised that Harry had snuck into her room she relaxed, her arms going around his neck and her hands playing with his hair as his tongue slid over hers and curled around it, making her moan.

When he let her go, she pressed her body up against his. "How did you get in here?" she asked breathlessly.

"Through the door." He grinned cheekily at her and kissed the side of her neck.

She pinched his bottom and he yelped. "Smart arse," she said. "I mean, how did you get away?"

"You must have forgotten I'm an Auror, Miss Granger. I'm trained to be sneaky." His face sobered as he looked at her. "I couldn't let you go to sleep without kissing you good night, could I?"

Hermione sighed. "I really wish you could stay."

"So do I." He kissed her nose. "But I can't, not with all the people here."

"I know." Still, Hermione was reluctant to let him go, and she kissed him deeply to show him she meant what she'd said. Eventually, they separated, breathing heavily. "You'd better go."

"Yeah." Harry remained on the spot until Hermione nudged him, and he kissed her one last time before leaving the room, ensuring nobody was hovering outside the door. With a final smile at her over his shoulder, he slipped out into the darkness, leaving a melancholy Hermione behind. She climbed into bed and tried unsuccessfully not to think about Harry, and eventually fell into a restless sleep.

~*~

Harry and Hermione had an appointment with Chan at five the next afternoon, so the team spent the morning going over their plans and taking to the streets in search of any sign of Draco Malfoy. While they were fairly certain he didn't live at the hotel, as Chan did, they knew he was likely close by. Harry had suggested that Malfoy wouldn't allow a Muggle like Chan to do too much without keeping an eye on him; he knew Malfoy most likely hadn't overcome his blatant hatred of all things Muggle and only tolerated Chan because he could make Malfoy money.

They searched as many rooms in the hotel as they could without attracting attention to themselves; then, splitting up into smaller groups, they canvassed the surrounding areas. They hadn't honestly expected Draco Malfoy to simply show up in the street, so they weren't too disappointed when they didn't find him.

As the time drew nearer for the appointment with Chan, Olivia's team carefully positioned themselves in the main building near Chan's office. Two were assigned to the enormous hotel lobby; two more wandered from floor to floor, and Olivia placed herself on the eighth floor in the fire escape nearest Chan's office.

Harry and Hermione promptly arrived at the agreed time and were ushered in by two of Chan's bodyguards. Chan rose from his chair to greet them, then dismissed the guards with a wave of his hand.

"So, Mr. Evans," Chan began. "What is this private matter you wished to speak with me about?"

As rehearsed, Harry cut straight to the chase. "An associate of mine has informed me that you sell some... unusual items." Harry stood and moved to stand behind Hermione's chair, his hand resting reassuringly on her shoulder.

"Unusual items?" Chan's expression gave nothing away.

"My wife and I are in need of vampire's blood," Harry said bluntly. "We understand you are a man who knows how to get such a thing."

Chan's eyes narrowed slightly. "And this associate of yours," he said, emphasising the word 'associate' as if it was tainted. "What is his name?"

"His name is irrelevant to this discussion," Harry said smoothly. "Can you get it for us or can't you?"

Chan pushed his chair back slowly and rose out of it, and Hermione was sure her heart was beating so hard against her chest that it was going to come bursting out. Her Auror instincts told her something was going to happen, something bad... but before she could activate the small signal to call Olivia and her team in, Chan had whipped out a wand from nowhere and pointed it straight at her.

"CRUCIO!" he roared angrily, and a searing pain overtook Hermione's body. She slid out of the chair and onto the floor as she writhed in agony. She could hear herself screaming, but she didn't know if it was just in her head or whether noise was actually coming from her body. She tried to concentrate and focus to throw the curse, but the pain was so blinding that all she could do was cry out.

As suddenly as it had hit her, the spell was lifted, and Hermione pulled herself up to see Harry had sent Chan flying into the wall behind him, his wand knocked out of reach. Chan picked himself up and rushed at Harry, and the two of them grappled for control. Harry tried to point his wand at Chan, but the older man knocked it flying before Harry could utter a curse. With a roar of rage, Chan's hands curled around Harry's neck and squeezed. Harry was strong, but Chan appeared to be inexplicably stronger, and Hermione could see Harry's face turning an alarming shade of purple. She tried to stand, but couldn't muster the strength to get to her feet, so she picked up her wand, which had clattered uselessly to the floor beside her, and waved it in a figure eight pattern to summon Olivia and the team.

To their credit, it took them a matter of seconds to overpower the guards on the door and come busting in. Chan was no match for five Aurors, and once he was surrounded with their wands pointing at him, he let go of his hold on Harry's neck and put up his hands in surrender. Harry went straight over to Hermione and helped her to her feet, and she leaned in to kiss his neck softly, not caring who saw her do it.

"You okay?" he asked in a low voice, which brimmed with anger.

"I'm fine. Are you hurt?"

"No." His face told another story, but Hermione let it go for now and they turned to look at Chan.

Chan slowly shuffled on the spot until he was facing Harry and Hermione, and with a grimace, uttered something under his breath.... and small sparks of light began to come out of the top of his head. His appearance began to alter as a ring of white light moved down his body. Once it was done, before them stood Draco Malfoy.

"Fools," he sneered, his face twisted into an ugly leer. "Did you really think a few disguising spells would trick me? You think I didn't recognise you the second you walked through the door? Nice try, though."

Olivia smiled tightly and spoke. "Draco Malfoy, you are hereby summoned to appear before the Ministry of Magic to answer to the charges of smuggling and illegally selling prohibited items. You are also charged--"

"Do shut up," Malfoy sneered, interrupting Olivia. "I'd love to hang around and chat, but I really must be going. Until next time, Potter. And there will be a next time." He spoke in an ominous tone, then pulled the edge of his cloak up over his head before anyone could stop him... and vanished.

All seven Aurors stared at the space which Malfoy had occupied not more than two seconds previously. "Where the bloody hell did he go?" one of them asked.

"Shit!" Olivia swore. "He must have had some sort of Portkey hidden on him so he could escape." She cast a spell to try and trace the elements of the magic Malfoy had used, but he was long gone.

They all exchanged glances, then slumped defeatedly.

"Where's the real Chan, then?" Hermione asked tiredly. In the midst of what had happened, nobody had thought about the man Malfoy had been impersonating. Olivia split her team up into two and had them scour the hotel for Chan, who was eventually found unconscious in his private living quarters.

The Ministry was promptly notified of the events and more wizards arrived, including a member of the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes, who subsequently wiped Stanley Chan's memory of all dealings with wizards, since it was unlikely Malfoy would approach him again.

Gabriel Von Dukan was among those who came to Hong Kong, and he cornered Hermione as she was being treated by a Ministry Healer. Once she assured him she was going to be fine, he moved on to talk to Olivia, who was in the process of explaining once again what had happened. The Ministry went through and erased all traces of anything magical so that when Stanley Chan woke up the next day, he would remember nothing about his dealings with Draco Malfoy or James and Jane Evans.

By the time the Healer was through with her and she'd answered some cursory questions, Hermione was ready to collapse. All she wanted was to hold Harry and sleep for a thousand years. From the looks they'd been able to exchange, she knew he felt the same way.

They returned to London with Olivia and her team, and once they'd given yet another debriefing to their department heads and made it clear they would be all right, Harry and Hermione were told to take a few days off to recover and rest. For once, neither of them argued, and Harry escorted Hermione back to her flat.

Once they got inside and dumped their suitcases, Harry turned to Hermione and opened his arms, and she willingly went into his embrace, holding him tightly as she slumped against him. The shock of everything that had happened eventually sunk in, and she began to cry. Her chest still twinged with pain as she moved, so she let Harry guide her to her bedroom and together they laid down on her bed.

Her tears subsided and they were simply content to hold each other. Daylight streamed through her window, as it was only morning in London because London was seven hours behind Hong Kong, so Harry got up to close the blinds and then went back to Hermione. He lay still as she kissed his neck softly, the outline of finger marks visible. He would likely be bruised come morning, but he didn't care how bruised he was. What had shaken him more was the curse that Malfoy had inflicted upon Hermione. What if he hadn't been able to knock Malfoy's wand out of the way? What if he'd somehow been incapacitated and unable to help her? He gathered her closer, and her fingers came up to rest on his lips.

"Don't, Harry," she whispered. "It wasn't your fault. I know what you're thinking."

Of course she did. She always had. He kissed her, thankful that he had this woman in his life.

~*~

Two years later

Hermione opened the balcony doors of the Peninsula Suite and stared out over Kowloon Bay, breathing in deeply, before turning back to her husband. Harry had thrown himself onto the bed and was stretched out, watching her as she stood in the sun. This time, they were not acting. There was no assignment. Exactly one year previously, Hermione had slid a gold band onto Harry's finger with a promise to love, honour and cherish him for the rest of her life. And that was one promise Mrs. Hermione Potter fully intended to keep.

She smiled and joined him on the bed, moving into his arms as he pulled her close to kiss her. "It's a lovely surprise, Harry," she said, pulling away to look at him. Hermione had not been told where they were going for their anniversary. "Returning to the scene of the crime, as it were."

"Well, this is the room where we first made love," Harry pointed out, pressing a kiss to her jaw.

"I'm well aware of that. I'm really pleased you chose to come back here. There's plenty we never got to do last time."

"Under the circumstances, I'm surprised we got to do anything. I wonder how Stanley Chan's going." Stanley Chan and his consortium still owned The Peninsula Hotel, but he kept all his dealings legitimate -- and only dealt with fellow Muggles. The Hong Kong Ministry of Magic had kept an eye on him for six months afterwards, but when he'd shown no sign of selling anything remotely magical, they'd closed the case and owled the British Ministry, who did the same.

"Well, we can hardly go and ask him without arousing suspicion," Hermione said. "I'm sure he's fine. And much better off without having Malfoy to deal with." Draco Malfoy was still in hiding, and no trace of him had been found for two years. Harry had quietly pursued him, but had yet to get a lead. Somehow, Hermione thought Harry would always be after Malfoy for what he'd done to her, but she hoped the news she was about to give Harry would make him rethink his decision to hunt Malfoy down.

She propped herself up on one elbow. "Yes, it is a lovely surprise. And since you had one for me, I think it's only fair that I have one for you."

"Oh?" Harry perked up, and he looked at his wife adoringly. "What kind of surprise?"

"Well, I can't tell you much about it. All I can tell you for now is that you'll have to wait about eight months for your surprise to arrive."

Harry frowned. "Eight months? That means..." He trailed off when he realised exactly what Hermione meant. "Oh my God," he said, breathing in excitedly.

"Hello, Daddy," she said, brushing away an errant lock of hair off his forehead. She lay back and cupped his face in her hands, and pulled his head down so she could gently kiss his scar. "I love you so much, Harry."

Harry blinked rapidly a few times and leaned down to kiss his wife, infusing as much passion and love into the kiss as he could. "A baby," he breathed in wonder. He kissed her lips, her cheek, then drifted down and pulled her shirt up so he could kiss her tummy. Hermione ran her hands through his hair as his lips caressed her skin, then pulled him back up into her embrace.

As she kissed her husband, the father of her child, Hermione Potter couldn't think of anywhere else she'd rather be than right where she was.

~*~

Notes: My thanks must go to Merin and Francesca for their most excellent betas; between the two of them, they picked up a lot of little errors I'd made. I also want to thank Mel, Cindy, Jen and Anne U, who read this fic at various stages, for becoming my cheer squad and encouraging me to finish.

This fic was written for the Harry/Hermione ficathon on LJ; my challenge was: Hermione and Harry are Aurors and are partnered together for a case.

The Peninsula Hotel does indeed exist; I linked the Peninsula suite from their site and used their description of it, altering the wording slightly. I couldn't find a description of what lies on the 8th and 9th floors of the main building, so I used them for Chan's office and living quarters. The Golden Dragon restaurant was made up by me, although it's quite possible such a restaurant exists in Hong Kong.

Fans of Law & Order: SVU might recognise the team leader's name; actress Mariska Hargitay plays Olivia Benson.

Thanks for reading! Feedback is always appreciated.