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The Redemption of a Pureblood by elf_princess16

Format: Novella
Chapters: 11
Word Count: 30,852
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: 12+
Warnings: No Warnings

Genres: Drama, Romance, Action/Adventure
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Dumbledore, Krum, Draco
Pairings: Draco/Hermione

First Published: 08/06/2004
Last Chapter: 07/15/2005
Last Updated: 01/02/2015

Summary:

(Huge thanks to Jaydah for the banner!) A powerful spell is cast on a wizard who must take a chance at love if he wants to survive. How will he overcome his hatred of the world and everyone in it? How will love enter his stone cold heart? Presenting an appropriation of Beauty and the Beast.


Chapter 1: Prelude
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PRELUDE

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters in this story or the plot. JK Rowling own the characters, Disney (or whoever wrote Beauty and the Beast) owns most parts of the plot.

The tale begins at the peak of night
T’was dark, no lamp, no sight
Magic grew with thick deception
Giving a chance for human redemption.


Once upon at time...

There lived a wizard in his mansion out in the middle of a deep forest in England, a place secret and dark. Only few ever visited him and those few only came if they desperately needed to. For this wizard was as dark as his house and his heart as hard as the metal gates that surrounded his abode. He lived alone except for the few pointed eared and snout faced servants who scuttled around in fear, doing his will. And what did he preoccupy himself with all day? Why, practicing the dark arts of course. When he was not reading about famous evil wizards in his large library, he was brooding about in his cold domain eating, drinking and feeling sullen.

Now we can get a good picture of this wizard. He was young enough, perhaps in his early twenties, but he was not happy. He hated himself and everyone. He had even hated his parents who were now as good as dead, locked up in a wizard’s prison and guarded by foul creatures. That is why he had decided to live in seclusion. And seclusion is what he received, even more so after the strange coming of a visitor that changed his life forever.

One stormy night, when the hundreds of candles began to dim, there was a sudden and eerie Bang, Bang at the large wooden front doors. A wary servant jumped in fright and took up a half melted candle from the nearest table and stepped toward the entrance. It opened the door slowly and looked through the gap up into the face of a wrinkled old man, saturated from the rain and standing bent at the threshold.

The servant breathed a deep sigh of relief and hastily ushered the old man inside, greeting him with a warm toothless smile and a woolly blanket. The old man was grateful and sat on a stool by a small hearth. Some other servants, who had been spying behind the corner all the while, came rushing toward him with a mug of tea and some slippers to warm his cold feet. The old man only smiled as he accepted the small offerings and it was a while until he uttered a word.

‘Is your master available?’ He asked finally, after sipping the tea once.

The servants exchanged worried glances before replying. ‘Master is home but must be sleeping by now. Better to stay the night and leave in the early morrow.’ They squeaked.

‘There will be no need to stay here this night.’ Came a deep, low, shattering voice from the dark. The servants visibly shuddered.

The old man stood up slowly and looked into the wizard’s stone face with a pleading expression. But before he could speak, the low voice interrupted him.

‘I do not welcome travellers kindly to these parts and certainly do not invite them to stay here. You will return my belongings and leave immediately old man or you will see the grave sooner than expected.’ At this he glared at the servants, who shrank away.

The old man was taken aback but stood firmly. ‘I beg you to let me stay until the storm is over, sir. I cannot go outside in this whether for my legs will not hold my frail body for long. I do not ask anything more-’

‘You will do as I say. I do not care for your pathetic tales. You came here of your own free will for whatever reason. There must be a reason after all this is the only place for miles. But I do not care to listen to your stories. Leave!’

‘I was lost.’ The old man cried.

‘Leave!’ Roared the wizard, eyes ready to kill.

Unexpectedly, the old man stopped quivering and he stood up straight and tall. Slowly but astonishingly, his appearance shifted and all at once he was transformed into an able bodied, confident and powerful man.

‘Then it is true. You have become a very dark wizard.’ Said the man, still old looking due to the long grey hair that hung loose down his back. But his face was strong and made him look younger. His eyes twinkled fiercely yet they were not unkind.

The young wizard’s eyes widened and he gave a startled cry and stepped back. ‘Dumbledore!’

‘That’s right Mr Malfoy. I have come here to right a wrong.’ Said the old man calmly.

‘How, why are you here.’ Malfoy was confused, but still very fearful.

‘I have my ways of tracking people.’ Dumbledore stepped closer, unwary of any dangers that might be looming in his shadow.

‘What are you doing?’ Malfoy hissed suspiciously.

‘With the fall of Voldemort, you are now considered to be the darkest and most dangerous wizard on earth, even hidden temporarily in your cave. Therefore I have come to make sure you do not become as deadly as the last dark lord was. I will try to keep the world at peace.’ Said Dumbledore gravely, reaching for his wand.

Malfoy whimpered when he did not find his own wand.

‘Malfoy, your heart is cold. I will give you a chance to redeem yourself but you only have a limited time. I have a rose. You will keep this rose safe for your own protection. You have until all the petals have fallen to change your heart or you will certainly die.’

‘What?’ Malfoy said incredulously. ‘How do I change? What do I have to do?!’

Dumbledore smiled. ‘You have to make someone fall in love with you.’

Malfoy snorted. ‘You must be jesting. Fall in love with me?’ When there was no response his face paled dramatically. ‘You’re serious?’

Dumbledore nodded. ‘I do not expect it will be easy but you have time. Do what you will with it and good luck.’

Dumbledore turned his back to Malfoy, aware that he was quite safe. Malfoy stood vulnerably on the last step of the stairwell. He looked shattered and cowardly.

‘Please, don’t leave. Stay the night, have some bread and wine. Forgive me! I was mistaken. If I had only known it was you-’

Dumbledore’s voice rose above Malfoy’s pathetic tantrum. ‘You will find a wine red rose in your bedroom. Do not move it from that place. I must leave now.’

Despite all efforts, Malfoy was unable to persuade Dumbledore to forgive him. In moments, the old headmaster had left and mysteriously disappeared into the night.

The young wizard stood helplessly in the entrance hall. An hour passed before he slammed the doors behind him, his face crestfallen. A servant stepped awkwardly closer to him and offered him a goblet of tea.

Malfoy looked at the servant, disgusted to see compassion in it’s eyes and suddenly all the hatred in the world escaped through a barrier and consumed his senses. He trembled with fear and rage at the fate that had befallen him. There was nothing to do. No woman would fall in love with him so he would stay forever in his home, locked away from the world and never EVER let another person come near him.

Suddenly he roared. A loud, ear splitting roar that shook the mansion from roof to floor. Even the wizard was startled at the sound for it seemed alien to his ears. Then there came a sudden stab of pain in his gut. It carried through the rest of his body and he rolled into a ball with the extremity of it. What was happening?

But then it was all over and he lay panting on the marble floor, beads of sweat forming profusely all over his body. When he finally struggled to his feet he found it hard to balance himself. He felt...different. He called for a servant to come to his aid but nobody came.

‘Stupid house elfs.’ He murmured. Then something else came to his attention. A candle seemed to move in the dark. Then a clock appeared behind it. What was happening now?

‘What is this?’ He said to himself more that to anybody else.

From the candle came a startled cry. ‘Master!’

There was a shocked silence. All at once the wizard spun around, rushed clumsily to the far end of the hall and reached a large mirror. Another roar rent the still air.

In the mirror was the image of a large, hairy beast with small pointed ears and long sharp teeth. A tail hung from it’s backside down to the floor. The only familiar feature left from the once handsome man’s face was his eyes; deep pools of grey.


Chapter 2: Small Country Paradise
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‘Happy Birthday to you,

Happy Birthday to you,

Happy Birthday dear Hermione,

Happy Birthday to you.’

‘Hip hip, hurray!’

‘Quick, make a wish.’

‘I am father.’

‘Now blow out the candles before they drip everywhere.’

‘Yes, I know.’

Hermione smiled bashfully up at her visitors as they clapped and cheered for her. In the corner of her eye, her father, Michael Granger, was fervently bustling about trying to locate a decent sized knife. When he had found it he rushed forward to hand it over to her.

‘If you make the knife dirty you have to kiss the closest man!’ Someone shouted from in the midst of the large crowd.

‘Now George, we won’t go that far.’ Said Michael, his voice somewhat more serious than it had been before.

‘Sorry Mr. Granger, It was only a joke.’ George replied mischievously.

Hermione laughed at her friend’s cheeky behaviour, knowing that her father was very protective of his only daughter. She began to cut the huge chocolate cake which was decorated with gold and red icing on top to represent the Gryffindor colours. Yellow jellybeans spelled her name on top.

‘Father it is marvellous.’ Hermione said appreciatively.

‘It’s not everyday that your favourite daughter turns twenty one.’ Michael replied warmly.

‘When do you get to open your presents?’

‘Harry, Ron, you made it!’ Hermione jumped up, almost tipping her piece of cake in the attempt of embracing her best and oldest friends.

Ron smiled brightly. ‘Well we couldn’t miss it, could we?’

‘But how did you manage to get away from work?’ Hermione asked.

‘I finished my paper work early and persuaded dad that your party is a lot more important than starting tomorrows papers.’ Ron had recently become secretary to his father, Minister of Magic.

‘And nobody needed my help at work. It seems all the dark creatures are having a holiday today.’ Harry had finally finished a course in Auror Studies and was a first class Auror at the academy.

‘I am so happy you could come. It isn’t the same without you.’ Said Hermione merrily.

‘All right, hurry up then. Open our present!’ Ron laughed, handing over a medium sized package.

‘Oh, you shouldn’t have.’ Said Hermione.

She used her wand to unravel the neatly folded wrapping paper and shrieked gleefully at what was hidden inside.

‘An album of all the photographs we took from school.’ Harry said.

Hermione seemed at a loss of words. Finally, ‘Father, look what Harry and Ron gave me!’

‘Very fine indeed.’ Michael nodded approvingly. ‘And how is your fiancé, Ron?’

Ron grinned and replied brightly. ‘Genevieve is coping quite well with the pregnancy. Only four months left before the Ronald Junior comes!’

Hermione grimaced. ‘Is that what you want to call it?’

‘Why not?’ Ron was baffled.

‘Uh, no reason.’ Said Hermione quickly.

Ron continued to stare at her for some moments, trying to work out the meaning of her question, but was soon interrupted.

‘But what if it turns out to be a girl? The doctors are not always accurate.’ Michael said.

‘Wizards use magic to find out sir.’ Harry informed him.

‘Ah.’ Michael winked at Harry after coming to the realisation.

Further discussion was interrupted when Ginny announced that it was time for the opening of the presents. Everyone began to chatter and shout in approval.

‘Mine first!’ Called either George or Fred.

‘And after all the presents are open we will begin the dances!’ Michael announced. Then he turned to Hermione and said softly and sadly. ‘If only your mother could have been here to see you now.’

Hermione held his hand gently. ‘She is watching over us all the time father, from wherever she is.’

Hermione danced and ate cake while the night flew by, happy to have her mother’s death distracted from her mind for once. It had been three years already since the train accident, which had taken her life, and now it was just Michael and herself left on the farm.

It was a beautiful area that they lived in, with green pastures and knolls and amazing gardens surrounding the property. Not far away, in fact it was only a ten minute walk, was a hamlet inhabiting just over two thousand people. It was perhaps the most peaceful and stunning place Hermione had ever seen and living a muggle life with her father was no discomfort.

Hermione’s favourite place to go in the town was the small rural library that actually contained many of her favourite novels. Now that she no longer went to school or studied she was able to spend a lot of time reading fiction books such as Jane Austin’s works.

Although she had received a certificate in medicine, when Hermione moved into her father’s house she had decided to open up a bakery in the town and it was quite prosperous. Her most regular visitors were a group of old ladies who would get together for tea. They absolutely loved her croissants and jam donuts. Of course they were not aware that Hermione provoked magic to assist in her cooking. But nobody really needed to know that.

Sunday arrived with a dazzling sun shining through the curtains and illuminating the cosy room that Hermione called home. Being a light sleeper, Hermione woke immediately from the glow and felt altogether very refreshed. She followed routine by stretching, yawning and slipping into her slippers. With a quick wave of her wand she was able to tidy the living room, which had lay dormant with party hats, wrapping paper and paper plates and cups the entire night.

Hermione detested uncleanliness, as did her father. Yet they had been far too exhausted the previous night to bother with cleaning it. She would have done the job easily but she refrained from using magic in her father’s company, as he still felt uneasy about it.

Breakfast was eaten slowly as usual. Hermione loved taking her time consuming her delicious home made porridge with fresh cow’s milk from the farm and topped with golden sweet honey. It was at this time that her father entered looking very tired.

‘Hermione, it’s only seven thirty. You should have woken me to help with cleaning the living room. You must be exhausted.’

Hermione offered him a bright smile that reflected her bright mood. ‘Actually, I feel marvellous. Thankyou so much for last night.’

‘It was a pleasure. Have you any plans for today?’ Michael asked.

‘I might go into town to return a book. Then I’ll quickly check on the store and make sure my employee closed up properly. Did you want to walk with me?’

‘Oh I don’t think I can. Didn’t get much sleep. Heading back  to bed now.’ He mumbled.

Hermione quickly rinsed off her dishes. In an orderly fashion, she combed her hair, dressed into a simple summer dress, greeted her pony Ember, put on some boots, marched down the pebble driveway and paced away toward the tiny town.

It was only eight O’clock when she reached the library and had to wait several minutes before chubby Mr. Gable, the librarian, bustled toward her, keys juggling between his chunky fingers.

‘Early again?’ He greeted her. He was not a man accustomed to hearty welcomes but he was a kind man and Hermione was quite fond of him.

‘As usual.’ Hermione said lightly.

‘What book are you looking for today, Miss Granger?’ He asked.

‘I’m not sure. Something exciting to compensate for the lack of adventure in my life.’ Hermione said.

‘Well as far as I know, all the “exciting” books are in the far left row up the back.’ Mr. Gable pointed.

Hermione handed him her due book before heading toward the recommended area of the library. Here she found many adventure and fantasy novels containing authors she both did and didn’t know.

‘Hmmm.’ She mused. She went through many of the old covered books, narrowing down her choices. ‘No I have already read Lord of the Rings and Lord of the Flies sounds too violent to me. Aha! I’ll read The Chronicles of Narnia.’

‘Interesting choice.’

Hermione jumped in fright as she realised Mr. Gable was standing over her shoulder.

‘You have read this book?’ She asked, after recomposing herself.

‘Of course. I’ve read all the books here.’ He barked.

‘So is it worth reading?’ She inquired.

Mr. Gable’s gaze drifted to the cover of the book. ‘Well I loved it when I read it at the age of nine. I can’t say it would be quite as impressionable if I read it now.’

Hermione nodded slowly. ‘I suppose it won’t hurt. I’ll try anything once.’

‘Good.’ Was his reply. He grabbed the book and scanned it on his computer then pushed it roughly into Hermione’s arms.

‘Thank you.’ She said unconcernedly. She was quite used to this treatment and thought nothing of it.

Satisfied with her latest discovery, Hermione walked briskly to the entrance of her bakery named “Gladly Granger’s Bakers” and tested the door to see if it was locked properly. She did this often because a few months ago, Grace, one of her employees of seventeen years of age, had forgotten to lock up. Luckily the store had not been robbed. It seemed nobody was interested in steeling day old bread so Grace was kept from being sacked.

Hermione began her journey home and was too impatient to wait till she arrived back that she began reading her book immediately. She hardly noticed that as she walked aimlessly, she was also passing the town pub. She was startled when a heavily accented voice called her name.

‘Herm-own-ninny!’

‘Viktor? Oh, hello.’ She waved distractedly.

After finishing school in Durmstrang, Viktor Krum had moved to England while training for Quidditch. He still fancied Hermione to her great displeasure and just so happened, "coincidentally", to move into the same town that she lived in. Unlike Ron had always teased, she did not return Viktor’s feelings.

‘Vell, vat is a lovely lady such as you doing on this beautiful day?’ He asked, while circling her very closely.

Hermione restrained herself from grimacing at the smell of vodka on his breath. ‘Just reading.’

‘Humph.’ Helooked at the book held lightly in her hands and frowned.

‘Vee von’t be needing this.’ He grabbed the book and flung it onto a bench nearby.

‘Hey!’ Hermione said crossly. ‘Viktor, please.’

‘How many times do I haff to ask you to call me Vicky?’ He slurred.

‘At least once more, like always.’ She replied bitterly.

He clasped his hand over hers. ‘Let us go for a walk together Herm-own-ninny. Enjoy the sun.’

‘Really, Viktor. I must be on my way. Father is waiting for me.’ She walked a little faster after retrieving her book. But he caught up.

‘My luv you vill come to me soon. Vy not now?’ He asked before stumbling foolishly on a large stone.

‘Honestly, I don’t share your feelings Viktor. Please realise that and stop talking about us being together.’ Hermione was beginning to feel quite fed up with him.

‘But of course you luv me. Everybody does-’ Suddenly he collapsed onto the ground and stopped moving.

Hermione hurried over to his body and began to worry until she was close enough to hear his soft snores, lifting the reek of alcohol into her face.

She coughed in disgust and left him there in the middle of the pathway. What an arrogant fool he had turned out to be!

Hermione rushed home where she wiped off the dirt that had accumulated onto the book and sat down angrily. Her mood didn’t improve until noon when her father entered the house wearing overalls and a farm hat.

‘Guess what?’ He said excitedly. ‘I was called while you were out and I’m being asked to go to Australia for a business conference!’

‘That’s fantastic! When do you leave?’ Hermione asked.

‘Well, if I decide to go I will have to leave on Tuesday.’ He said slowly.

‘Why wouldn’t you go?’ Hermione asked with confusion.

‘Well, I don’t want to leave you on your own.’ He answered.

Hermione rolled her eyes. ‘I think I’m old enough to stay at home by myself father. Twenty one remember?’

‘Yes all right then.’ He said gleefully. ‘I’ll only be gone for a little while. Perhaps a week or two.’

‘That’s fine with me.’ Hermione replied. Michael used to be a dentist but after his wife had died he had looked in a different direction. Now he was part of a big software company and often had to go to conferences and other important meetings but never overseas. She knew he was very excited about going to Australia. He had always wanted to go there. The beaches are supposed to be fantastic.

‘Just as long as you bring me back souvenirs.’ Hermione said light heartedly.

‘Certainly.’ Michael called as he walked to his room to change out of his garden clothes.

Hermione stood up. ‘Father, I am going to take Ember for a ride. I’ll be back soon.’

‘Okay, have fun!’


Chapter 3: Darkness Falls
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CHAPTER 3

The trees whisper of a dangerous threat
The zither strings create a net
To succumb that which enters it’s walls
Fate encloses as darkness falls


It was not quite late afternoon yet but the towering trees heavily shadowed the area around the main road. The day was peacefully silent, warm and perfectly delightful.

Riding Ember was one of Hermione’s favourite leisure pastimes and always took her mind off worries or problems, such as those of Viktor’s adamant affections toward her, that no matter what she did it was impossible to brush him off. He could make her furious at times! But due to her pleasant nature, she resisted the temptation to be rude and deliberate in his presence.

That was probably why he was yet to comprehend her feelings and messages. Any other person would have obviously taken her hints, but not Viktor. He was as ignorant as a blind, deaf and dumb mule. No doubt that was the reason he stuck with Quidditch, he couldn’t do anything else with the exam marks he had managed to score himself.

One thing Hermione needed in a man was sophistication and intelligence. A man like Viktor was far too arrogant, sleazy and spent most of his time at a pub drinking till he passed out. He was a man who seemed to always have air headed girls following his every move, but she dismissed that as being due to his famous position in the wizarding world. Hermione shook her head impatiently, forcing the unwelcome thoughts from her mind.

Bringing her attention back to the present events, it suddenly struck her that this place was not entirely familiar to her. Although it looked uncannily similar to the road she normally traversed, it had certain elements that gave it away as being divergent. For instance, the trees had a definite darker shade of green and the grass on either side of the road was somewhat drier than usual.

A shiver crept uneasily up Hermione’s spine, triggering a spasm of discomfort. The presence of evil omens surrounded her and before she knew it, the sunlight began to withdraw behind ominous clouds. She was caught unwary and off guard, and due to confusion she hesitated to turn around and ride away. All the senses in her body screamed to run but her body held back for no apparent reason.

Then the noise came from the darkness causing Hermione to gasp. One loud howl pierced the chilly breeze, followed by another and soon several more. Ember began to trot nervously. Hermione stilled her and tried to listen carefully.

‘Easy girl.’ She whispered calmingly, though she felt far from composed herself. The last thing she needed at the moment was for Ember to panic and gallop away into the night.

Steadily, she began to move backwards quietly. If she could get away unnoticed she would be safe. When the howling could be heard no more, Hermione relaxed slightly and began speeding up a bit.

She was stopped in her tracks as a dark growling figure stepped from out of the shadows. Ember began to whinny and kick the air. Her eyes rolled in their sockets as she began to panic.

‘No!’ Hermione cried in alarm. ‘Turn around the other way!’

Ember had lost control as several other identical looking figures appeared in the midst of their path. Hermione reached for her wand but in doing so lost her footing and fell from her horse. Ember hurtled away from her in a maddened rush. The creatures did not follow.

Hermione stood very still, fortunately not hurt from the fall – yet. The creatures glared at her unmoving, silently communicating with their fellows as though deciding what to do with her. Something made Hermione’s skin crawl more than it had before. She had seen this sort of creature before.

‘Werewolves!’ She gasped, regretting her slip immediately as it caused the creatures to shift in their stance.

Time suspended along with her breath. Her fingers gripped her wand tightly as she conjured a spell in her mind. A quick flashback to Defence against the Dark Arts in her third year with Snape reminded her that these creatures could not be defeated by just any wizard or witch or by just any wand. Panic gripped her and she felt helpless. At any moment they would attack and she would be finished.

Why did they tarry? By now they had been given plenty of opportunity to advance upon her but they stood staring at her. Perhaps they were confused because she was not moving. Were they afraid? Surely not!

Hermione’s body was wracked in shivers, both from fear and cold. Steam was emanating from her breath but she had no time to consider the odd change in temperature. She reached a sudden decision. She had to make the first move.

With a shocking outcry, Hermione shouted a protection spell that knocked a few of the creatures out of her protection circle. She knew they were dazzled and surprised by the brilliance of light and took her cue to run for it. Not knowing in which direction she was heading Hermione simply fled hoping to reach safety. Either way, she had to keep running or she wouldn’t have a hope of escape.

Not far behind her were the clear sounds of running feet—or paws. If only she had a broom! The werewolves would certainly have caught her by now if it were not for the spell surrounding her but the dreadful thought that its effects were weakening kept her speeding ahead. She prayed that there would be a place to conceal herself and find shelter.

The rumble of thunder in the distance did not distract her determined strides. Hope surged through her at the sight of a black outline just ahead. It appeared to be a gate. Hermione’s speed increased and she felt the spell diminish again. They would catch her any second now.

The gate was so close, so reachable. Finally she caught hold of the metal poles, pushed forward and with great relief, it opened allowing her to enter its supposed security. With one final surge of effort, she slammed the gate shut. The wolves yelped and barked with disappointment. They jumped against the poles angrily, their eyes wide and eager to sink those sharp white teeth into her ripe flesh.

Hermione turned her back on the foul creatures, not wanting to stare into their daunting eyes that burned her own. Another gasp escaped her and she stopped abruptly, looking up at one humongous shape. There was no moon to reflect on the object and reveal its identity but Hermione knew it was a house. A very, very large house. Again the feeling of foreboding left its imprints in her mind.

She reached the door, knocking as loud as possible. There were no lights from the windows, no indication that the place was inhabited. From walking to the front veranda it was apparent that the grass had not been cut in a very long time. An image of the Riddle house flashed through her mind. That had been where Voldemort had met his downfall a few years ago. She knew this was not the same place though it had a similar feel to it.

Five long minutes passed but nobody had answered her call. A light rain began, followed by strong wind and threatening thunder. She had to get inside.

She thanked her luck that the door swung open willingly allowing her to pass through easily. The entrance hall was completely dark. She figured that no one resided there and that she must be entirely alone. The thought did not comfort her though she was extremely relieved at her close escape. But how would she get home?

Wanting to see where she was walking, Hermione muttered ‘Lumos’ with her wand…but his had no effect. She attempted again but nothing happened. Confused that her wand was not working, she returned it to her pocket. What was happening? Had the wand snapped or chipped? It didn’t feel like it.

It took a while before her eyes adjusted to the darkness. Odd, the place was not stuffy or dust ridden. Nor did it seem abandoned. It just seemed empty. Maybe the person or people who lived here were temporarily absent.

Another thought entered her mind. Why had she never heard or known about this place? Surely she had not travelled far from her home? The thoughts flooding her brain caused Hermione to feel faint. She casually dismissed them, thinking she would deal with the problem in the morning. For now she would find a place to rest and hope she was not caught by anybody. If that did occur, she would simply tell them the truth and hope they would be kind to her.

With one last attempt she called out ‘Hello?!’ And heard her voice echo through the hallways and bounce off the walls. That made her feel lonely and homesick. Why hadn’t she been paying attention to where she was going? That way she would never have gotten herself into this sticky position.

She curled up onto the floor beside the front door. At least there was carpet. The sound of intensely falling rain hammering on the ground outside calmed her and her eyelids grew heavy.

Sleep was almost about to overcome her when there was a sudden sound that caused Hermione to snap back into attention. Fear gripped her as she listened warily. It was hard to escape the sound of drumming rain and the pounding of her heart to hear what else might be looming ever closer to her.

This time she was unable to call out due to the tightness in her throat. Her tongue was dry, eyes alert, ears strained and muscles tensed. She could not make anything out in the darkness but knew she was no longer alone. Something was watching her. The standing hairs on her neck and prickling of skin told her so. This was no ordinary place.

Her heart skipped a beat at the sight of candlelight coming from behind a corner. There came another sound. Was it the sound of footsteps? Mechanically she reached for her wand, forgetting its uselessness.

Then a voice shattered the silence. ‘Is anybody there?’ It called in a soft fearful voice.

The voice sounded so familiar to Hermione that her fear began to evaporate. The voice seemed to come from a small body, and it was not frightening at all.

‘Hello?’ Hermione called.

This time her summon was answered and the light began to grow stronger.

‘Who’s there?’ The little voice said shakily.

‘I’m sorry to disturb you, it was storming and I was chased by wolves-’ She began but stopped as she saw who the approaching creature was.

Before her stood a tiny figure, no taller than her knees. ‘Why, you’re a house elf!’ She exclaimed.

The elf did not seem surprised by her reaction. ‘That is true miss. I hope my form does not offend you.’

Hermione shook her head in wonder. ‘No, not at all. Uh, could you please tell me what this place is?’

‘This is an old castle long ago erected for my masters. These days it is all but empty.’ The elf said sadly.

‘Who were your masters?’ Hermione asked.

She was not answered because a movement from the elfs chest made her jump and squeal. ‘What is that?’

‘It is a clock imprinted onto my chest. It serves as a reminder that time is running out.’ The elf replied

‘What kind of magic is this?’ Hermione said.

‘A curse miss. A terrible curse.’ The elf shook it’s head sorrowfully.

‘A curse?’ Hermione asked.

The elf was about to reply but was shut up by a loud crack of thunder outside.

Hermione stared at it, very puzzled.

Deciding to not intervene with the obviously secret “curse” story, Hermione continued. ‘Listen, I am very sorry to intrude on you tonight but I was wondering if I would stay the night? And if you could tell me how to get home in the morning.’

A loud horrifying roar from above cut off Hermione. A quick glance at the elf in front of her confirmed her fears. This was no happy social meeting. Instinct told her this person was the “master”. Who else would inflict such callous fear?

To her great despair, the little figure scuttled away to leave her to fate’s decision. She jumped to her feet, ready for a fight.

A large figure emerged from the top of a large flight of steps. Hermione froze in horror. This was not human at all. It was far too big to be human. Gradually it descended, its breath heavy and ferocious. It leaped down the last few step, landing with a loud thud and turned to face her. Hermione was very still, holding her breath in her chest. Time elongated as they both stared in each other’s directions.

‘Who dares enter my house!’ The creature stormed.

Hermione whimpered silently, almost wetting her pants. She had never been more afraid in her life. More than ever she wanted to scream and run, but what chance did she have of escaping both the master of the castle AND the werewolves outside?

The creature stepped ever closer to inspect the intruder. The silence angered him and he let out another thunderous roar. It sounded uncannily like a lions roar, only much more fearful.

A sudden break of moonlight streamed in through the window, illuminating the creature’s face. Hermione lost control. She screamed with all her might and ran to the door, thrusting it open and running for her life. The rain saturated her robes immediately and chilled her to the bones but she continued running until she reached the outer gate. She was about to open it when the fresh sound of barks and howls filled her ears and she stopped dead in her tracks. What was she going to do now?

A bolt of lightning flashed through the sky, striking a tree not far away. This left Hermione with one choice. She must find shelter. And the only shelter around was the castle. But she would not re-enter it again.

Instead, she reached the veranda and positioned herself in an area that was not wet. She would not let her guard down, not fall asleep in case the beast came to get her. When she had settled herself in the most comfortable position she could manage, Hermione cradled her head and wept until all her tears had run dry. She felt helpless and afraid. She was little less than a hostage in a foreign land. How would she find her way out and reach her father?

Her father! He would be so worried. Would he send out help to find her? Surely he would. Hope surged through her at the thought. Perhaps everything would turn out well, but in the meantime she must be cautious. She had never seen anything quite as ugly and terrifying as the beast-like creature she had just encountered. There would be no way she would go anywhere near it again.

*Father, come quickly! *


Chapter 4: Trapped
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Chapter 4

Hermione rolled to her side, hugging her soft pillow closely. The blankets and sheets felt so warm and delicious with the help of softly glowing sunrays seeping through the material. Her half conscious mind half registered the unfamiliar feel of her position and the knowledge that her bed was not usually quite as comfortable as this. A slight frown appeared on her forehead at the strangeness of it all. Now that she had woken herself from that blissful slumber, her wide brown eyes fluttered open to observe the surroundings.

Odd, since when did she have bed curtains placed around the bed? And since when was her bed this big? Hermione’s eyes widened as a rush of memory inundated her mind. Her heart skipped a beat at the sound of scuttling feet only a few feet away from where she sat. Heart in her mouth, Hermione drew the curtains so see what awaited her on the other side.

‘Miss is finally awake!’ Squealed an energetic female house elf.

Several tiny figures rushed up to greet Hermione, all holding different assortments of paraphernalia.

‘We brought clothes-’

‘And some food-’

‘And a hair brush too!’ Different elves offered, all seeming eager to please.

Hermione was at a loss for words. This was certainly a surprising start to the day. And where was she?

‘Ah, listen, thankyou dearly for all of this but exactly where am I and how did I get here?’ Her last memory had been of sitting frozen on the hard wooden floor of the luminous veranda. She did not recall passing beyond the threshold or even moving for that matter.

For some moments there was no response. All the elves looked at each other for support until finally they all turned their gaze to the elder looking elf in the centre of their cluster. He soon realised what was expected of him.

‘Me? Oh all right then.’ The elf looked fretfully at Hermione, it’s ears drooping and eyes widening for effect. ‘We snuck out of the castle to bring you in this morning. It was little before dawn and Master had retreated to his bedroom.’

Hermione was absolutely horrified. ‘I’m IN the castle? And you say that your master is unaware of my presence? Oh no.’

The elves looked worried. ‘Do not be dreading your stay here miss, no harm will come to you.’

‘We have a feeling the Master will be more than happy to have you here, after we have a talk to him-’ One elf began to say but he stopped when he realised that the others were glaring at him threateningly.

‘Ooops.’ It said.

‘I don’t know what you are talking about but I insist that you show me the way out immediately. I need to return to my own home.’ Hermione rose and began heading for the door.

The elves quickly followed her, blocking the door. ‘What are you doing?’ Hermione asked, a little frustrated with the creatures. Why wouldn’t they allow her to leave?

The female elf smiled brightly up at her. ‘Will Miss be leaving her apartment without even dressing?’

Hermione glanced down at her clothes, realising that she was only wearing a simple nightgown. She didn’t even want to think of how that got on her.

‘Well perhaps I will change first but then I am not hesitating to leave. And I won’t have you stopping me.’ She said firmly. They all nodded briskly, a few twitching and grinning with too much force that it became obvious there was something going on that Hermione did not like the feel of. The last thing she wanted to happen was to be delayed and possibly encounter that horrible creature from the previous night.

‘Don’t stand there and watch me!’ She said when none of them made a show of moving. Perhaps if they left she would be able to sneak away undetected. That is if they did not hide behind her door.

That seemed to shake them off for the moment. She looked about the room for the riding clothes she had arrived in but they were nowhere to be seen. How strange. Those silly elves had probably stolen them. Oh well, maybe the large polished cupboard had some clothes in it. Hermione observed that the room was definitely beautiful. The furniture was well preserved and spotlessly clean. Now that the sun shone brightly in the sky, even the castle property from the window’s view seemed lovely. Only the grass needed cutting but apart from that it was quite stunning.

From what she could gather, Hermione realised that this particular room faced the back of the castle, overlooking a great valley and numerous crowded gardens that once would have been magnificent. Hermione gazed at the sight in awe. Why was it not being cared for? There was definitely a mystery to this place and she felt a curious itch to unearth it build up inside her. But no, she must not think of such things. Her aim was to leave this place for good and keep far, far away from it. Warning people of it’s existence would be wise because unwary people could easily find themselves in dangerous situations such as the one she faced herself.

Mind made up, Hermione strode determinedly to the cupboard and opened it easily.

Her jaw dropped with intense incredulity, eyes sweeping over the contents inside. Dresses and gowns of every colour hung elegantly inside, invitingly shiny and soft. Hermione had never seen such fabric nor such intricate designs. These clothes had obviously never been worn and all looked like garments one would wear to a ball or fancy party.

The doors shut with a little slam. She shouldn’t have seen those, now all she could think of was what she would look like dressed in one of those.

‘Wow.’ She muttered.

‘Is Miss dressed yet?’ Said one of the elves, poking it’s head through the door curiously making Hermione jump.

‘No, sorry. I wasn’t able to find any normal clothes.’ She replied, short of breath.

‘Your morning dress is already hanging by the dresser Miss.’ The elf replied bashfully.

Hermione glanced over to the other side of the room and saw a much plainer dress hanging loftily. ‘Thankyou.’

The elf smiled before exiting. She knew it would be reporting to the other elves.

Examining this new dress, Hermione couldn’t help feeling a little deflated. It was blue and white and probably made from linen with a little blue bow at the top. It was designed like a strapless dress but had two very thin straps that held it in place. The dress fell down to just below her knees.

Looking in the mirror Hermione had to agree that though it was not her style, the dress certainly looked good. Do I look thinner? She examined.

Next moment all the little elves entered hurriedly. Hermione was pushed into a chair, one elf grabbing a comb, another placing bottles of gel, moose and hairspray onto the bench.

‘What are you doing?’ Hermione cried in exasperation.

‘Please just relax Miss, it will make our job a lot easier.’ These were certainly the most bossy elves Hermione had ever encountered.

‘I don’t want you to do this, I just want to get out of here!’ But it was no use. The elfs held her firmly in place and worked on her hair. It felt weird and she had no idea what they were doing.

Half an hour later and the busy elf that had been working on her hair gazed at her happily; it’s hands shaky and skin perspiring. Hermione couldn’t help feeling a slight pity toward the creature. Most people would have given up on her hair.

Her hands were snatched by two others and she found herself being carried into another room that led off from her own. Inside was a lavish bathroom with a grand mirror. Hermione stared at her reflection, unable to speak.

‘What have you done to my hair!’ She shrieked. It was short and tangled with wiry looking stuff and stuck out here and there.

‘Wait!’ Said one of the elves. He climbed onto the sink under the mirror and began to pull things out of her hair. Slowly, and to Hermione’s immense relief, bits began to fall back into place…only, this time it looked completely different.

‘Oh.’ She gasped at the sight. Long tendrils of golden brown locks flowed gently down her back. Not only was her hair curly and shiny, it was no longer a bushy puff.

The elves stared admiringly at her reflection making numerous sighs. One elf even began to sniff and it’s chin wobbled. Hermione didn’t know what to say.

‘Thankyou.’ She mustered.

‘It was our pleasure Miss.’ Said the elves. ‘Will Miss be wanting her breakfast now?’

Hermione’s mind snapped back to reality. ‘Oh no, I have to leave.’

The elves exchanged alert glances. One particularly nervous elf stammered, ‘Buy you must stay! Master…has ordered it.’

‘What?’ Hermione filled with dread. That monster knew she was here already?

‘He says you must stay and meet with him and see the castle.’ Chipped in another elf.

‘Do I have any choice?’ Hermione asked, fearing the answer.

Predictably, all the little heads began to shake simultaneously.

Hermione sighed. ‘Very well.’ Though she did not like the thought of what lay ahead. The monster wanted to see her? Probably in the kitchens where she would quickly become it’s lunch. What ever happened, she must stay alert and fight for her life if it was necessary. She wouldn’t be taken without a fight.

OPPOSITE END OF THE CASTLE

‘Will Master be served breakfast in the dining room this morning?’

‘Just bring it here.’ The beast replied to the anxious elf in the usual bored tone.

‘Yes Master.’ It gazed expectantly at two other of its comrades who were waiting in the corner for orders. They came forward hesitantly.

‘We was wondering sir, why you scared away the lady.’ Said one brave elf.

The beast’s eyes rested scrutinisingly on the little creature. ‘I didn’t scare anybody away Bardy, they choose to fear me.’

‘Master please pardon my nosiness but it seems to me that you could have been friendlier.’ Replied Bardy boldly.

‘How do you expect me to react when someone breaks into my home!’ The beast growled.

Bardy, whom was the only servant in the castle that could speak to the master in such a manner and get away with it, continued to argue. ‘Think of what you is saying sir. Of course you realise anybody would have done the same in such circumstances.’

‘What does it matter anyway, huh?’ The beast said grumpily.

The elf looked up gravely. ‘Has master already forgotten about the curse?’

The beast bared it’s teeth. Of course he hadn’t forgotten about the stupid curse that had ruined his life. ‘Is that what this is all about? You want me to invite the woman in and fall in love with her?’

The watching elves became suddenly hopeful. ‘And we Master would finally be free again!’ They squealed together.

The beast let out a harsh roar of laughter but quickly stopped and eyed the creatures menacingly. ‘I hope you fed her to the wolves!’

‘We did not feed her to the wolves master, because though you seems to want to be trapped here until you dies, the rest of us do not want to watch. And when you dies what will happen to us?’ Bardy said with firm resolution.

The beast ignored the comment, leaning backward languidly onto his bed. ‘It doesn’t matter anyway, she would be long gone by now.’

The elves exchanged knowing glances that were not undetected by the master. He eyed them suspiciously. ‘What have you done?’

‘N-nothing.’ Said one stammering elf.

Bardy was not afraid of the beast’s reaction. ‘She is in the castle, probably eating breakfast.’

‘WHAT!’ Bellowed the master. He jumped out of bed immediately and began pacing the room. ‘How could you let this happen? Nobody enters my abode without my permission!’

‘We did it for your own good sir. At least I know I am tired of waiting for a chance that may never come again. THIS is your chance.’ Bardy turned to him, holding up a towel and a huge suit.

‘What’s this?’ The beast growled again, taking one brief glance at the garments.

‘These are your clothes sir, for you to wear when you introduce yourself to the lady.’ The elf replied.

‘But what is it?!’

Bardy looked puzzled by the question. ‘Just a simple shirt and slacks.’

‘Exactly how do you expect we to fit into these pieces of garbage?’

‘Mabby (the knitting elf) made these for you quite some time ago. It is now time to wear them.’ Bardy placed the clothes neatly onto a stool and with a quick gesture to the other elves, headed for the door.

‘Oh and sir, where shall I take the lady to meet with you?’ Said Bardy, hiding a cheeky smile. He knew how to deal with the master having lived with him since the day he was weened.

‘To hell.’ Grumbled the master.

‘The gardens it is.’ Said Bardy before exiting the room.

The garden, which Hermione was led to, stood nearest the castle. It wasn’t very large or beautiful because of the dead grass and lack of flowers but it held a certain beauty to it. Within seconds Hermione had formed a tiny strategy in which she could easily remodel the entire area and make it alive again. For surely it had once been well looked after, the remains clearly revealed this detail.

A sudden noise behind made her jump with fright but it was just the little elf that had followed her.

‘I beg your pardon Miss, I was not meaning to frighten you.’ Said the elf apologetically.

Hermione smiled kindly at it. These elves certainly had better speech than any other she had ever met. They even almost had formal English accents, meaning their masters would have been extremely noble and high class. That was no surprise considering where they lived.

‘May I ask your name?’ Hermione asked.

The elf relaxed. ‘My name is Lediny. What is yours?’

‘My name is Hermione. This place is very beautiful.’ She said awkwardly, not really knowing what else to say.

‘It is indeed, though it used to be much more lovely before…it happened.’ Hermione was suddenly confused but the little elf hastily changed the subject. ‘I was born in this house about ten years ago and raised by my father, Bardy. I don’t have many duties anymore, I manly dust and polish.’

Hermione began to take a liking to Lediny.

‘Bardy.’ The elf said proudly. ‘He is the oldest servant of the master.’

Hermione’s stomach filled with nerves, remembering whom she was waiting for. ‘What is your master like?’

The elf looked at her thoughtfully. ‘It is hard to say. He keeps to himself a lot but daddy is quite fond of him. He says although Master is angry sometimes it is only because he is sad.’

Hermione was confounded by this answer. ‘Why is he sad?’

The elf looked a little worried by the question. ‘I am not sure I am allowed to say.’

‘Oh.’ Hermione felt another surge of curiosity, for the mystery of this place grew deeper by the minute. For indeed there was a great mystery here that seemed to be waiting for someone to unlock it.

‘Master will be arriving shortly, I must leave you.’ The elf didn’t stick around to hear Hermione object.

She groaned inwardly, not especially wanting to meet the frightful monster on her own. She had been told enough however to know that she was not in immediate danger but still there was reason enough to be careful. At the same time she reminded herself that just because something looked different did not mean it was bad. She had learnt that lesson after having been friends with Hagrid at school. Those were the good old times. Except for the constant fear of Voldemort of course. At least he wasn’t around any more.

‘So’ said a deep low voice, dragging Hermione from her thoughts.

She spun around to see that dreaded figure that had only hours ago had glanced at her with deadly eyes. Now, although it did not look pleased with her, she had the impression that she was causing it almost as much unease at it was she.

‘You are the one who broke into my home.’ It said.

‘I didn’t break in, it was unlocked and I had no choice-’

‘Humph.’ The beast stared at her grumpily. It looked quite ridiculous standing there with tight fitting clothes that were not suited to a beast. This caused Hermione’s fear to lessen.

‘What do you think of the garden?’ The beast asked.

‘Uh, well it needs some weeding and watering but apart from that it is quite lovely.’ Hermione forced herself to speak strongly, not wanting to show her uneasiness. Though they say that dogs can sense fear. But this was no dog.

‘I think you’ve had enough of a look.’ He said, for he was clearly male. ‘I don’t like being outside.’

Hermione followed him back into the castle where he called for an elf. ‘You, Mabby, lead us through the castle.’

‘Certainly sir.’ Said Mabby looking delighted.

‘Mabby is the dressmaker. She made the dress you are presently wearing.’

‘Oh, it is lovely indeed.’ Hermione said politely.

The elf beamed. ‘I have made many more for you to wear.’

‘Oh thankyou but I won’t be staying very long.’

The elf looked puzzled. Before she could speak however, the beast interrupted.

‘You won’t be able to leave the castle for some time.’ He said tightly.

Hermione could have slapped herself for saying that out loud but now it was too late. ‘But I mustn’t stay here, my father doesn’t know where I am and he will be awfully worried.’

‘It is too dangerous to leave the gates now. The wolves will hunt you down.’

‘But surely they only hunt at night.’ Hermione tried to reason.

‘Not these ones. They know you are here and will stay close by until they give up.’ The beast replied.

‘And how long will that be?’ Hermione’s voice was rising beyond her control. This was ridiculous. She couldn’t stay here!

‘I don’t know.’ Replied the beast. ‘Here is the main lounge and the fireplace.’

Hermione observed the lounge room with great admiration. The ceiling was ever so high, like the ceiling at Hogwarts in the Great hall.

Mabby led the two through many areas of the castle and they were now coming toward other sleeping compartments. Grand staircases led to different rooms and the walls were decorated with marvellous paintings and semi-precious stones. Yet Hermione’s mind was restless at the thought of being trapped in this place.

‘Could I possibly be able to send a letter to my father telling him that I am safe?’ She compromised.

‘And how will you be sending that letter exactly?’ The beast mocked.

Hermione faltered but realised that this place was obviously connected to magic seeing as the servants were elves and decided to risk it. ‘Do you have any owls?’

The beast gazed at her curiously, almost as though he saw familiarity in her face. ‘What did you say your name was?’

‘Hermione.’ She said slowly, realising she couldn’t make up a name after revealing it to the elf outside. Curse her stupidity.

Almost as though what she had said was a curse, the beast stepped back drawing in a sharp breath and looking violently alarmed.

‘What’s wrong?’ She asked anxiously.

‘Nothing.’ He snapped. ‘I have to go, if you want you can continue wandering with Mabby. I will send a letter to your father.’

Hermione stared in bewilderment as the beast paced away. Why had he reacted like that to her name?

‘Would you like to see the Green rooms?’ Mabby asked, distracting Hermione from her thoughts.

‘Oh, sure.’



Chapter 5: Getting Along
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TO THE ADMIN: When i first tried to upload this chapter it was refused but i can't see why. If again it is unaccepted, could you please let me know the reason so i can correct it? Thankyou!

TO THE READERS:

I realise it must be confusing with all the deleting and posting I’ve been doing and so I apologise but the truth is I wasn’t too happy with my story. So that’s why I’ve gone back and rewritten it from this point. It’s only two chapters, though still inconvenient. I hope you agree that the story is better with the changes. This way I can also see a clearer path with where the plot is going. Before I was fighting writers block but now that I am more focused (school being finished) I can see where this is going.

Again I apologise but hope you enjoy the chapter.

AN/ Thankyou to everyone who has stuck to this even through the rough patches.

CHAPTER 5

Mystery, oh history, pray speak your name,

Unlock your riddle and end the game

Things are happening, it’s so befuddled

Mind is swimming, just so muddled.

There was no doubt about how Hermione felt. She was confused, tired, afraid, apprehensive, and curious…but above all, she was completely and utterly surprised that the entire affair surrounding her was not indeed a horrible dream. Oh no, it was very, very real.

Many unanswered questions plagued Hermione’s mind;

For one, where the hell was she?

Secondly, how did she end up here, a place never heard of? And how was she going to get away?

Thirdly, why had she never learned of such a creature as the apparent “master” of the castle?

Also, there was obviously some sort of magical involvement concerning the situation for the elf with the strange markings on his chest had spoken of a curse. What curse?

Trying to think logically, Hermione grabbed a quill and ink and began scribbling on a piece of parchment.

CLUES TO THE MYSTERY

That seemed to be a fitting title.

So what were her clues so far?

INVOLVEMENT OF A CURSE- EFFECTS KNOWN:

CREATED MOVING CLOCK ON ELF’S CHEST. DON’T KNOW THE MEANING OR SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS.

Hmmm, that won’t be enough to help. What else?

WHAT I’VE BEEN TOLD ALREADY:

THERE WERE APPARENTLY MANY MASTERS LIVING HERE ORIGIONALY THIS LEADS TO THE UNUSUAL LANGUAGE SPOKEN BY THE ELVES. THEY SPEAK MUCH BETTER ENGLISH THAN OTHER ELVES I HAD EVER ENCOUNTERED. OBVIOUSLY, THE MASTERS HAD TRAINED THEM TO BE LIKE THAT AND WOULD HAVE THEMSELVES BEEN POMPOUS AND WEALTHY PEOPLE, APART FROM THE OBVIOUSE FACT THAT THE CASTLE IS VERY OPULENT…

THE WHOLE STORY ABOUT THE WOLVES OUTSIDE IS A BIT FISHY. BY THE BEHAVIOUR OF THE ELVES, IT SEEMS THEY WANT ME TO STAY FOR WHATEVER REASON.

MY MAGIC DOESN’T WORK THOUGH THIS PLACE IS HEAVILY INFLUENCED BY MAGIC. WHAT COULD BE THE REASON? DOES IT ALSO LINK IN WITH THE CURSE?

LEDINY SAID SOMETHING PERCULIAR THIS MORNING…‘It is indeed, though it used to be much more lovely before…it happened.’ WAS SHE TALKING ABOUT THE SECRET CURSE? WHAT ELSE COULD SHE HAVE MEANT?

THE MASTER IS APPARENTLY SAD, CAUSING HIM TO BE GRUMPY. WHY IS HE SAD? WHEN QUESTIONED ABOUT IT, LEDINY REFUSED TO ANSWER SAYING, ‘I am not sure I am allowed to say.’

That was not the first time a question has been dismissed, Hermione mused. Could the beast’s sadness also be related to the curse? One more thought entered her mind and she quickly wrote it down…

THOUGH THE MASTER (WHO REMAINS UNNAMED (?)) APPEARS IN THE SHAPE OF A LARGE BEAST, IT IS PERCULIAR THAT HE SHOULD ACT WITH SUCH HUMANLIKE MANNERISMS. WAS HE ALSO TRAINED BY OTHER MASTERS? BUT WHY IS HE THE MASTER NOW?

Hermione dropped the quill and read over the sheet of parchment. There was far too little information to begin a solid theory but she wasn’t known as the cleverest witch that had ever attended Hogwarts for nothing. Words began to spring out of the page.

CURSE >SAD >HUMAN

With a trembling hand, Hermione shoved the piece of parchment under her pillow. It wasn’t time to be concentrating on such a complex puzzle. Obviously her mind was tired and therefore creating silly imaginative conjectures and theories. How asinine to think that for a moment she almost believed the beast could be human. What a ridiculous prospect. Ha! She laughed at herself, dismissing the idea from her mind. She tried to be a little too clever sometimes, trying to solve life’s wonders. Well she had to be careful not to let her mind travel too far.

No, she would wait until the morrow before continuing her quest. With the knowledge that she was trapped in the castle for who knows how long, looking for clues would be the perfect way to spend her time. And if she was lucky, maybe something positive would come of it all. After all, everything happens for a reason.

Maybe she could even help cure the beast of his depression. Because although she felt afraid of the creature, there was something about him that was…different. Something about his energy projected feelings that were difficult to discern. It was almost as if his soul was searching for something. But what?

Yawning, Hermione extinguished the candle beside the bed. She practiced a few breathing techniques in order to rid herself of all these crazy thoughts.

--

‘Master, what is the matter?’ Asked the loyal house elf Bardy, his expression showing consternation for his master. He was right to feel concerned, for the beast was pacing to and fro across the flaming hearth unable to sit still and be calm.

‘Nothing’s the matter.’ The beast snapped in his usual manner. It was now quite late at night and the beast had not set foot out of his spacious bedroom. This was not unusual but he rarely seemed so troubled about anything.

‘Bardy is aware that master is not telling the truth. Come now, master can surely tell his problems to his faithful servant?’ The intelligent elf said coaxingly.

The beast sighed and ran his paw-like hand through the matted fur on top of his misshapen head. ‘If you’re so wise then perhaps you can guess what is bothering me.’

‘It is the lady?’ The elf predicted.

The beast’s eyes narrowed and a soft growl escaped the tight chasm that was his mouth. ‘You guess correctly. It is the girl.’

The elf shook his head bewilderedly. ‘What could possibly be the matter with her? She is kind natured and good looking, at least from the perspective of a humble elf. Is it that you are afraid of love perhaps?’

‘No! It is that I know her and she knows me. At least, she knows the old me.’ The beast said savagely.

The elf’s eyes widened. ‘But surely that is a good thing. It will make your task easier!’

‘You don’t understand, we went to Hogwarts together. She was the friend of my enemy, and furthermore, a muggle born. There couldn’t have been a worse person to have come here, don’t you see? This won’t work!’ The beast continued pacing fiercely, eyes blazing in concurrent accord with the intense flames that illuminated part of his hideous face and cast the other in shadow.

The elf gazed gravely at the beast, ready to give his advice as he had always done. ‘Master, your school days are past and both you and the Lady have matured. If you cannot forget your asinine prejudices that were once forced upon you by your parents then everything is failed and perhaps it is your right to suffer the consequences. I am sure that by acting appropriately, the Lady will forgive you for she has a good heart. If you are too weak to cast aside your ego, then by all means, let yourself plummet into the darkness of death. It is your choice. I am not entirely sure of how a human’s mind works, but to an elf, life is much more sacred.’

The beast had stopped by now and was staring intently at the hearth, listening to the wise words of the old elf. He tried to feel defiance toward Bardy but could not disregard the truth in his words. Life was in fact quite precious to the beast and even the task that lay before him was preferable than dying. He must forget his old feelings toward Hermione, though it ground at him. All he had to do was make her fall in love with him, not that he would fall for her. Then the curse would be lifted and he would never have to see her again.

‘You are right my old friend.’ The beast said after a long pause. ‘Why waste my life because of a silly obstacle that could be easily overcome.’

‘You will let her remain then?’ Bardy asked, already knowing the answer.

‘Of course. She must remain here until the curse is lifted and she will be treated like a proper guest. Make her feel welcome and homely so that she will enjoy her experience. Then she will easily fall into my trap.’ The beast said with an awkward grin that exposed two top pointed teeth.

Bardy bowed low and left the room silently to allow the beast time to think. He only hoped that the Lady would respond to the master’s charm and quickly fall in love with him. The plan would have to be quickly wrought out, for only three red luscious petals remained loosely attached to the cursed flower.

The following couple of days were surprisingly splendid for Hermione. The weather was perfect but she hardly spent any time in the sun. Her mind was well spent on her task. She hadn’t found much to satisfy her thirst for knowledge but she did manage to add a little more to her clues list.

Upon encountering the elf that had the strange chest markings, Hermione had found difficulty in acquiring any specific information. All she could decipher from his mumbling tones was that the clock was a reminder of TIME, which was running out or something. His words were very confusing to understand and shortly the nervous fellow had, again, disregarded her questions and made some excuse to take his leave.

Apart from that incommodious encounter, Hermione had spent an unanticipated amount of time with the beast. It seemed he truly wanted to make her feel like a welcome guest and his peculiar mood from their first talk together was quickly placed at the back of Hermione’s mind.

It isn’t to say she had forgotten about her real life or her despair of being away from home and not knowing when she was to return. She was still wary of the beast and his servants, though they were on constant good behaviour. But she had to adjust to her surroundings, as she had no other choice. So while in the company of others, she acted merrily and unsuspiciously, enjoying the comforts that were offered to her. But in privacy, her own investigations and curiosity were unleashed as she sunk deeper into the mystery.

--

‘You must go outside sometimes, especially in this glorious weather!’ Hermione said cheerfully.

The beast grumbled and stepped away from the light that was entering in from the window in the dining room. Two elves disappeared into the kitchen with the breakfast dishes, leaving the two alone at last.

‘I don’t like it.’

‘Why not?’ Hermione asked.

‘Because, it’s too…happy.’ He said lamely.

Hermione rolled her eyes. ‘What’s wrong with that?’

‘You ask too many questions, you know that?’ Hermione hid a laugh.

‘I do not.’

‘Do too.’

She was about to reply with another ‘do not’ but stopped herself when a vision of her and Ron bickering entered her mind. In was rather childish.

‘I am going for a walk this morning if you care to join me?’ She offered.

He raised his eyebrow. ‘Now you sound like you’re the master of this castle.’

‘Is that a yes?’

With a final moan of resignation (though it hadn’t taken much persuasion) he agreed to take a brave step into the sun.

‘Argh, it’s hot.’ The beast huffed.

‘It’s lovely. I suppose all that fur must feel like a winter coat.’ Hermione replied sympathetically.

The beast nodded but Hermione could tell that he was uncomfortable talking about his condition, for whatever reason. So she changed the subject.

‘If only these gardens were being cared for, they would look absolutely splendid!’ She exclaimed. It was rather a shame to let it all go to waste.

‘As you probably know, elves are not accustomed to garden life and I certainly don’t spend time here. If you want it looking nice so badly, it’s yours to rescue.’ He said in an almost bored tone.

This gave Hermione a slight rush of elation at the prospect of yet another challenge. She loved challenges.

‘Thankyou.’

‘Well look, it isn’t all that bad. There are flowers already growing in some areas.’ He pointed to a few clusters of green where flowers were indeed growing. ‘See there are…those pink ones…and the yellow ones too.’

‘Rhododendrons and day lilies.’ Hermione corrected.

‘Yeah. Those.’

‘Oh! Winter jasmines.’ Hermione rushed over and picked a stem of these flowers and smelled them with pleasure written all over her face. ‘Have you smelled these?’

The beast stepped away. ‘No, they’re just flowers.’

Hermione let her jaw drop. ‘Just flowers?! How could you mean that?’ But then, upon seeing his expression, another thought came to mind. ‘Oh wait, you can smell can’t you?’

His eyes widened with surprise at her assumption. ‘Yes, of course I can smell. I just don’t really care about flowers. They are a girl thing.’

‘A girl thing?’ Hermione couldn’t believe her ears. This beast reminded her of young boys who hated pink and believed in “girl germs”. It struck her again how curiously humanlike the beast was.

She walked straight up to him. ‘Here, smell them.’

He paused before taking a tiny sniff of the flower, only to please the demanding girl.

All of a sudden he began huffing and puffing. Hermione was stunned and didn’t know what to do. ‘Are you all right? Oh, no! Are you allergic?’

All at once he too a huge breathe in and let out a huge sneeze.

‘Bless you.’ Hermione said, almost in relief. It was only hay fever.

The beast practically recoiled at her words. ‘Please, I don’t need blessings.’

He was about to say more but was cut off by another fit of sneezes. ‘See why I don’t go outside?’ He said grumpily.

Hermione giggled as she followed the beast back inside. What a whinger!

You can see why she acted comfortably around the beast; he was completely harmless. He behaved more like a grumpy old man than a scary monster. The reason he lived in hiding was obviously because the rest of world would see him as evil and be afraid of his looks, and probably kill him. At least, that’s what Hermione assumed.

And so it was, everyday the beast treated Hermione to a wonderful time. When in her company he continuously had to fight back the knowledge of who she was and remind himself that things were different now. He hated his father and the cult of evil worshippers that he had belonged to. He hated everyone, good or evil. So it made no difference what girl had ended up at his castle, just that this was an awful coincidence. But despite their differences, the beast realised that he too enjoyed her company.

He also realised just how different Hermione had turned out to be. Instead of being the snobbish “know-it-all” girl from Hogwarts, she was kind, gentle spirited and genuinely trying to be friendly to him even though he must look completely hideous. He even found himself warming to her looks. Not that it meant anything; it was only natural to take in account a person’s looks.

Another thing that kept him in better spirits than he had been in for a long time was the fact that he felt a friendship forming. Not only was it a foreign sensation to have a genuine friendship, but he realised this was the first step to his ultimate goal. Was it really possible for her to fall in love with him?



Chapter 6: Search For An Answer
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I updated! Again, I hope this chapter doesn’t confuse anyone and thankyou to my reviewers I’m glad you like this story so far! Oh, and Merry Christmas to everyone!

CHAPTER 6

The beast bent in front of his mirror, trying adamantly to flatten the fur that stuck out in all direction on top of his head. When he could not succeed, he growled deeply and sneered at himself with frustration. He thrust the wooden comb onto the floor, resulting in it scattering to bits.

‘Having a bad hair day master?’ Bardy said with amusement, watching the sight from the door.

‘Come in and close the door.’ The beast said dismissively. ‘Is there anything you could do to fix this?’

‘Your…hair?’ The elf said, hiding a smile.

‘Yes, hair…or fur. Whatever!’ The beast snapped in his usual grumpy manner.

‘You’re not telling me you are suddenly vain just because there is a beautiful lady in the castle master?’ The elf mocked, but not arrogantly.

‘Of course not, I’ve always despised my hair.’ The beast replied a little too quickly. ‘Anyway, it doesn’t matter. Are the kitchen elves serving breakfast yet?’

‘As soon as you arrive sir.’ Bardy replied, reinstating a tone of servitude.

‘Good. I will come now.’ Bardy was about to leave but he was interrupted. ‘Just one more thing, do I look alright?’

Bardy’s eyes glimmered and he smiled despite himself. ‘Fabulous.’ He replied.

It was true, the beast was in fact becoming quite frustrated by his own appearance, especially now that there was a guest in his home. He needn’t have much to worry about however because Hermione had grown accustomed to his brutal exterior after three weeks of spending half of each day in each other’s company, and was instead liking herself to his personality. Looking beyond the reserved and cautious harshness of his immediate personality, it was easy to see and lonely individual who longed for company and kindness.

From experience, Hermione knew that his actions reflected the lack of love and attention in his past. Perhaps it was his gnawing need for a friend that made him keep her at his castle. By now Hermione was certain the wolves had disappeared, probably the day after her arrival, but she stayed, not wanting to desert the wretched creature. It was almost as if she had taken him into her care.

It was upon meeting with the beast for breakfast that morning that Hermione once again noticed the beast’s humanlike qualities. This realisation continually reminded her of the need to find information about the history of the castle, especially who the owners had been.

An opportunity arose that very day, August 15th. The beast had a surprise for her.

‘I have something to show you this morning.’ He said.

‘I wonder what?’ She said curiously.

‘You’ll see. I thought it would be of some interest to you.’ He replied mysteriously.

Hermione looked at him with open eyes. ‘You have to tell me now, I’m so curious!’

‘Really?’ Replied the beast. ‘I hadn’t taken you for a curious person.’

Hermione stared confused at the statement, not knowing what to make of it.

The beast merely smiled and said, ‘You will see soon enough.’

Hermione hadn’t thought that the beast would actually show her anything worth while so she was utterly thrilled when he led her into a very large, majestic library.

‘I’ve never seen such a large library, not even in London!’ She exclaimed with joy.

‘I knew you would like it.’ He replied, unable to hide his glee at her reaction though he knew she would love it.

‘How could you know that?’ She asked briefly.

He shrugged. ‘You just seem the type that likes books.’

‘You have excellent intuition then because I do love books!’ She said. ‘What books do you have here?’

‘Why don’t you take a look?’

Hermione raced from one bookshelf to another, almost skipping the whole time. The beast watched her with amusement. She hardly opened any books in her ecstasy but simply read the titles, looking for something familiar or interesting. She felt a sudden wave of concern and disquiet upon noticing that many books were related to the dark arts. This was curious information indeed; she would take note of this new clue and write it on her parchment.

The beast studied her, unaware of her calculating mind. It had not occurred to him that she might be suspicious of his dark art books; in fact, it had been a while since he had examined those books himself that he hardly thought about the consequences of Hermione’s discovery.

But she had turned to him with a brilliant smile and thanked him for the delightful surprise. He felt warmed, as usual, by her bright moods and even a soft glow of contempt at her happiness. So this is what it felt like to be nice to people?

The beast had never really been kind to anyone. He realised it wasn’t as bad as he thought it would be. He felt a stab of regret and resentment toward his father and family of death eaters. Once again they had deprived him of something useful that could have helped him a long time ago. Why, he would not be in this mess now if it weren’t for their philosophies.

But that was in the past; he would not continue to dwell in another time when he had enough to deal with in the present. It was no use wasting his thoughts on the people he despised anyway, it would only place him in another fowl mood. He couldn’t afford black moods when he was trying to win a lady’s heart.

THAT NIGHT:

Somewhere in the distance, the sound of thunder echoed luminously. Any sign of pale moonlight or stars had vanished, replaced by stark black. A low moaning sounded through the night and the forest trees danced in unison to the fast rhythm of the wind.

Hermione woke with a start by the sudden ear-splitting sound of panicked birds chirping outside. Rushing to the window, for the curtains were almost blowing away, the alerted witch gazed at the scenery that met her eyes. She had not seen weather this bad in a long time; in fact, she had never seen such a violent storm brewing.

The sky was plagued with flashing lightning and the dark clouds moved quickly, looming over the countryside, stretching beyond the distant hills. Hermione grabbed her cloak, shivering as a cold draught entered from under the rattling shutters of the rickety windowsill. The pressure against the glass was frighteningly powerful. It must have been very strong glass to keep from cracking.

Hermione fought to keep her mind from thinking about what she had learned from Divinations. Naturally she had dropped the class after a few lessons, but before hand she had read the entire textbook for the subject, learning it back to front. What was troubling her was the distinct feeling that told her this storm was a bad omen; that something dreadful was or had already happened. However, she forcefully brushed the thought aside, reminded herself that Divinations was a load of rubbish.

Outside her spacious compartment, Hermione heard the sound of scattering feet, and hushed but hurried voices. She crept to the door, holding a lantern in front of her. She poked her head out of the door, frightening the small group of elfs with the sudden light.

‘Why is Miss not sleeping?’ One elf asked, it’s trepidation revealed through it’s trembling voice.

‘I was awoken by the storm.’ Hermione replied calmly, accustomed to the nervous nature of the elfs. ‘Is this weather normal around here?’

The elfs merely exchanged glances as they usually did when they were asked a question but his time decided to ignore hers. ‘Miss should go back to bed and not worry. The storm will be over in the morning.’

They scattered away into the deep darkness before Hermione had the chance to retort.

How odd She thought. It was obvious that something was wrong and her curiosity got the better of her.

Barely minutes later, the brunette found herself wondering through the dark in close pursuit of the tiny creatures. All she wore was her fluffy slippers and her cloak that were not doing much to keep her warm. It was not long before she ascertained the location where the vague sound of conversation, or argument, was taking place.

With furrowed brow, and with long stretched ears, Hermione again wondered what on earth was going on. Surely it was not a simple case of storm phobia?

The voices grew clearer as she drew nearer…

‘All your talk of fate is not helping the master Bindy. There must be something we can do!’

‘Like what? We is not able to make it happen.’ A high-pitched voice sounded, announcing Bindy’s reply.

There was silence. ‘But…there is only two petals left now. We is not knowing what time is left.’ The first elf’s voice was somewhat softer this time.

A few voices murmured, ‘Poor Master’ and Hermione felt herself moving ever closer to the ajar door that lead to the kitchens; and the assembly. A few faces reached her view as she spied on the group.

Not taking much careful precision, Hermione managed to let her weight slip casually onto the door, causing it to move ever so slightly, yet also created a tiny creak.

Fortunately the sound of the storm outside drowned out the sound but to Hermione’s horror, one head turned around suspiciously. She hid in the shadow, holding her breath tightly and hoping she wouldn’t be caught. She realised it was time to leave. It was no use getting into any predicaments and lose the beast’s trust.

She began making her way back to her apartment but stopped in her tracks when a thought struck her. It was the perfect time to investigate the library for information. Nobody would interrupt her or be suspicious and she could stay there as long as she wanted without disturbing anybody.

It was a direct rout to her destination. She felt the familiar exhilaration upon entering the hall full of ancient looking books. Even the aroma of paper excited her senses and she itched to bury herself in a large book. She fought to control these urges and managed – just.

It was a horrible realisation, seeing just how many books related to black magic and seductions into evil complacency. She feared that the beast was involved in black practices but discharged the notion by reminding herself of his gentle spirit and kind regards. He could not be a servant of evil. There was no way.

Hermione frowned in concentration. That meant that whoever lived here previously was or were heavily influenced by it. And if that was so, they had probably been in league with Voldemort, unless of course they had lived a very long time ago.

Another thought presented itself. Her discussions with Lediny, Bardy’s young daughter, had given her the impression that the castle had been thriving and a busy place before ‘…it happened.’

And she was only ten years old.

After reading several passages from a book on animal experimentations a crazy thought popped into her head. What if the beast had been some sort of experiment by the previous owners of this castle? At least it would explain the fact that she had never heard of that particular type of creature.

Somehow she doubted this new theory. Even magic couldn’t create a new species. But could it manipulate the genes of an animal, and transform appearances?

She wondered around the library some more, wondering if she was ever going to find what she was looking for when all of a sudden the large windows at the end of the room flew open and a gushing wind came blowing in. Hermione ducked as books flew out of their posts and hurtled across the room. She had to get out before one knocked her unconscious.

Unfortunately for her there was no escaping until the books closest to the window had all fallen out of the shelves. The books closer to the door were still in their rightful positions. She crouched on the floor with her arms over her head until finally and miraculously, the windows closed on their own accord. It seemed the wind had swung them back into place and astonishingly they hadn’t cracked or broken.

Hermione heaved a sigh of relief until she noticed the mess. She groaned loudly but realised she couldn’t possibly be put to blame. The house elves would certainly have a big job ahead of them, she thought sympathetically. Maybe she should help them out.

She was about to make an exit but taking one last look at the bare shelves she noticed something peculiar. One book alone stood unmoved. It was large and black and had no inscriptions upon it. It was curios that this book alone should not fall though it was in the most vulnerable position to the blast of furious wind. Something drew her closer to inspect this detail.

She was just tall enough to reach the height of the book and closed her fingers around its cover. Her attempt to bring it down was futile however, because it only moved downward about forty-five degrees, and that took some force. She could not pull it any further. How could it be stuck when there wasn’t anything holding it to the shelf?

All of a sudden, the bookshelf began moving on its own. Hermione froze as it came forward and then slid to the side revealing a tiny cluttered chamber. Hermione, having realised the purpose of the book, warily peered inside the chamber. It was dark and her lantern had extinguished due to the forceful wind. But a shade of moonlight appeared momentarily from behind a blanket of dark clouds and revealed a small section of the room.

It looked a bit like a study really, with a desk and cluttered books. There were many spider webs, Hermione observed. For how long had this room been deserted and forgotten?

She shivered with the powerful sense of foreboding. She mustn’t stay here. She began to edge away, the moonlight having now completely vanished. Quickly she turned hoping the shelf would put itself back in it’s place when something suddenly touched her foot.

She jumped.

Turning, heart pounding in her chest, Hermione saw that it was just a scroll that had rolled out of the room. She picked it up just in time to see the shelf move back to its original position. Opening the scroll to see its contents was futile for the room was far too dark to see any writing. So she resigned to having a look once back in her lodging.

She was once again startled.

What lay in front of her both frightened and bewildered Hermione. There was nothing on the floor. It was as if the wind had never knocked the books over for they were all back on the shelves neatly tucked away.

What’s happening? She asked herself, now frightened beyond control. She ran for it, not turning back until she was safely in her quarters. She lit every candle in the room and buried herself within a pile of blankets. Something very strange had just occurred.

Was she hallucinating? Going mad?

Shakily she unrolled the scroll that was evidence of her sanity and stared at what lay within. It was a family tree.

Suddenly her eyes widened with curiosity. Finally she had found something useful.

She read the names slowly, looking for familiarity. It was a long scroll, many names. It took some time before she reached the bottom section. And there, in neat ink writing, were the clear names of the final generations. This time, the names were very familiar:

Lucius Malfoy---Narcissa Malfoy

Draco Malfoy

Hermione slumped back against her pillow in a dead faint.



Chapter 7: A Discovery
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I just want to thank everyone profusely for your wonderful patience and great responses. I have bad news though. I’ll be going away for a two-week holiday so obviously I won’t be updating till after I come back. SORRY! Anyway, I hope you like this chapter, there’s not long to go!

AN/: If your wondering about my weird spells, they are all written in Latin so I didn’t REALLY make them up. I just stuck the words together.

CHAPTER 7:

Time comes when the weak must be strong,
Let go, just follow the heart song
Hope remains when there is no fear
Find the calling and keep it near.


Hermione paced back and forth, one hand touching her chin, the other crossed over her chest in a contemplative manner. Her brain seemed to be sizzling up with the extra load of information that had landed itself mercilessly upon her. She just had to sort it out correctly, and in order.

So whatever did happen to Draco Malfoy after the downfall of Lord Voldemort? Hermione found it strange to be thinking of the boy that she had went to school and rivalled with for so many years. It had been a while since the last time she saw or heard news of him.

It was just after the majority of Death Eaters had landed themselves in prison, when last she came across him. The year they had graduated from Hogwarts to be exact. Everyone knew that Draco Malfoy was destined to be a Death Eater too, to follow in his father’s footsteps. But he had been too young thankfully when Harry Potter finally vanquished the Dark Lord. So Malfoy had not taken part in the struggle. He was last seen at a memorial held by the Ministry of Magic, a remembrance day for the people who had died at the hands of He Who Must Not Be Named.

Draco had unexpectedly turned up along with the rest of the wizarding community to partake in the sorrowful event. Perhaps he too had lost a loved one. Hermione, Harry and Ron had been too immersed in the situation, especially in comforting poor Harry, to take much notice of Draco’s brooding presence.

After that day, Hermione had never seen him again. Her last memory being his departing back walking into the woods, never to return. However it was not the last she heard of him. Less than a year later the papers had began spreading rumours of another uprise of darkness. There had been a series of unfortunate events, such as muggles mysteriously dying and even witnesses who had claimed to have seen a man near the scene of the crimes, fitting Draco’s description.

Unfortunately the crimes were never solved but suddenly stopped occurring. Then the Daily Prophet had discontinued writing about it and Draco was lost to the past. Life continued with renewed peace, and that was when Hermione moved in with her father. She remembered well during that time the Order of the Phoenix had attempted to track down the source of evil that terrorised innocent people but because she had never joined, the outcomes of their furtive work was unknown to her. But life had gone on.

Now Hermione was forced to face the fact that she could easily be within the mysterious Malfoy Manor. I say mysterious because nobody had ever seen or known where to find the Manor, except for the Death Eaters of course. The question remaining was, was this wretched beast a slave or pet to the infamous Malfoy family or was he himself Draco Malfoy?

It led to her previous notion that the beast might indeed be a human being. But the though was preposterous. How on earth would Draco Malfoy become a horrid beast if it were not for a potion of spell of his own backfiring on himself? This is what Hermione’s intelligence told her, yet in the back of her mind somewhere something nagged at her. It kept pressing that her first thought could, no matter how ridiculous it sounded, be the correct presumption.

That’s how Hermione came to her next decision. She decided to find out the truth once and for all. She needed magic, and she needed it now.

All it took was a little persuasion from her elf friend Lediny and a tiny bit of hypnotism, which she had learned from Divination books to get some good and proper answers. It seemed that all magic was stilled by the “horrible” curse laid upon the master and the castle. It was a matter of being inside the gates of the property and all magic was dispersed. Hermione did previously have an idea about the interconnection between the curse and her lack of powers but nevertheless, she couldn’t help but breathe a deep sigh of relief at the news that her wand wasn’t latent or that she had become a squib!

The poor elf had stumbled out of her chamber in disarray, not knowing what she was doing there. Hermione hated having to use her like that but she had no other choice.

Now don’t start thinking that Hermione was taking everything rather well because in the depths of her mind she was practically panicking. You would be too if you thought you were trapped with a wizard who had at one point been labelled “The Next Big One” after Voldemort. That was another reason why she was so eager to dismiss the idea of Draco being the beast. The beast was just too nice!

Anyway, Hermione was used to finding herself in sticky situations, as she was the friend of Harry Potter so she knew not to lose herself in these circumstances. What she needed to do now was somehow get outside the gates. This was actually a lot easier than she had expected.

With all her time alone, it was easy to sneak outside and over to the gate. Sure it was locked, but only by a twisted chain that was easily untangled. It was too easy! Yet she counted her lucky stars because if it were a heavily protected gate then the werewolves would have mauled her to death before she could call for help.

Only briefly Hermione pondered on the ease of escape. She could easily run for it if she wanted to. But she couldn’t leave; just couldn’t. She was too deep in her investigations to throw it all away. But even so, it wasn’t as if she hated being there. She got along nicely with everyone including the sardonic master. It chilled her to think that he may be the very same person she used to despise. They were so completely different.

It was now with wary eyes and ears that Hermione pulled out a few objects from a sack that had been carried down from the castle. She quickly tested her wand by saying quietly ‘Lumos’. Excellent, it worked.

The rest of the sack’s contents included mixed herbal ingredients, a small mirror, a tiny cauldron that had been found in a storeroom and a small wooden spoon from the kitchen to do the mixing. It would have to do for now.

This was not a potion that Hermione was familiar with so she was a bit anxious about getting it right. But if all did turn out well, then she would have all the clues she needed. Soon enough, the potion was bubbling away. It turned many colours in the course of it’s brewing. It went from green to orange to brown and finally to a clear tea colour.

Satisfied with her effort, Hermione whispered an incantation over the cauldron.

‘Iustum subter supter Aperio exsto esse’

The potion fizzed with contentment and completion. This would definitely work.

Her plan was not to be put into action until that night when she met the beast for a game of backgammon and a cosy cup of tea. This had become an every night activity before going to bed. It also gave Hermione the opportunity she needed.

‘It was a fine day today, was it not?’ The beast exclaimed much to Hermione’s surprise.

‘Well you’re in a good mood I see. Surely the sun did not cause this sudden change?’ Hermione joked light heartedly. Fortunately, the beast had become accustomed to her sense of humour and did not mind being teased.

‘Not at all. It is simply your presence that makes me joyous.’ The beast replied with a cheeky grin causing Hermione to blush.

‘Well, I am glad then. My day has been rather pleasant as well. I spent quite some time outside.’

‘Ah yes I noticed. That is why you did not see me until now. My apologies, but I am yet to become accustomed to the overly fresh air and the too clear for it’s own good sky. Not to mention the overly bright and too warm I could die heat. Did I mention I don’t like going outside?’

Hermione giggled. It was more the way the beast tried to joke with her that made her laugh. He was very charming. Draco Malfoy was charming too, especially with the girls, Hermione thought. Not with her of course, because she was a Mudblood. This thought returned some of the forgotten bitterness to her face.

‘Are you alright?’ The beast asked curiously noticing the sudden change on her countenance.

Hermione startled. ‘Oh sorry, I was daydreaming. Now, where were we.’

‘I was just about to beat you at backgammon.’ The beast pointed.

Hermione frowned. ‘Wait a minute…the pieces are all in different places. You’re cheating!’

‘What? Me?’ The beast feigned innocence.

‘Yes you!’ She said with exasperation. ‘I declare a rematch. And this time I’m not going to waver my attention for one second. I’m watching you.’ She gave him a scrutinising stare.

‘Hey! I was only playing for you since you seemed too occupied in your own thoughts. And I was trying to make you win, I just, made a few mistakes.’

‘By accident I’m sure.’ Hermione said sarcastically.

The beast sighed with emphasis. ‘Fine, we’ll rematch. Just to make you happy.’

‘Humph!’ Hermione enjoyed these common exchanges. It was what made her like the beast so much. He was just like Ron or Harry, cheeky but kind. Definitely not Malfoy. There was no way. None at all.

She consciously patted the tiny bottle of potion, which was hidden underneath her robe. As soon as the elf came with the tea she would be able to use it. On the chair beside her lay a small oval mirror that she had brought unnoticed. She would need that as well in order for her plan to be successful.

No sooner had she thought this, the elf emerged through the door carrying a silver plate with two identical cups of tea that steamed deliciously.

‘Here you are Madam, Sir.’ The elf placed the cups on a table beside the game of backgammon and departed just as quickly as it had come. The beast didn’t raise an eye. He was watching the game intently, scheming his victory.

Let him scheme, Hermione thought. But how do I get the potion into his tea?

‘Oh!’ Hermione almost beamed at the sound of crashing plates outside the door. There truly was a god looking out for her. This was the perfect opportunity!

‘Excuse me.’ The beast stood grumpily to see what all the fuss was outside, for there was now a racket of noise. It sounded as though an argument was ensuing between a group of elves. Hermione hid a smile.

The beast turned back to her suddenly and his gaze penetrated hers accusingly. ‘And don’t even think about cheating.’

‘What? I am sorry, but I would NEVER stoop that low.’ Hermione said pompously, lifting her chin.

The beast grinned.

As soon as he was out of sight Hermione grabbed the potion and dropped most of it’s contents into the beast’s cup. It sizzled for a moment but instantly it was back to normal. She picked up the mirror, cast a wary gaze to the ajar door, and whispered,

‘Consulo veritas imago’ Although magic didn’t work in the castle, she knew this incantation would because she had charmed it to withstand the curse when she was outside earlier. Unfortunately, she had not been able to do the same to her wand, heaven knows why.

‘Silly house elves. Can’t do a thing without getting into a mess.’

Hermione almost jumped to the roof at the sound of the beast’s booming voice. ‘Oh, right!’

The beast cast her a swift suspicious glance and his eyes shot to the board. ‘What have you done?’

‘Nothing!’

‘Then why do you look so guilty?’ He said, smirking. Oh god, that smirk was so familiar.

‘It’s just your mind making you see things.’ Hermione said dismissively. The beast seemed to take her word for it as nothing on the board was amiss.

Hermione almost fell off her seat with anticipation when the beast slowly but surely lifted the cup to his lips and took a sip. All seemed normal as he placed it back down.

‘Ouch, still a bit hot.’

Hermione almost laughed with relief as the beast evidently didn’t notice anything odd about his beverage. ‘Why do you keep looking at me funny?’

‘I’m not!’ She snapped.

‘Yes you are.’

‘Oh sure, how am I looking at you?’ She crossed her arms.

The beast drooped his shoulders, leaned his chin to rest in one hand and gave a very goofy dreamy look.

Hermione would have slapped him if he sat nearer. ‘I did not look at you like that!’

‘Hey, I’m the one who can see your face so I would know.’ The beast replied.

Hermione came back sharply. ‘It’s called wishful thinking.’

There was a silent pause. The beast was impressed. Hermione was a feisty one.

Suddenly he yawned. ‘It must be getting late.’

Hermione snapped out of her trance. She had been staring at the beast for quite some time and she didn’t like it. ‘Yes it must. But I am content to stay here some time longer and read a book.’

The beast nodded dreamily, his eyes glazing over with sudden tiredness. ‘This is strange. I’m usually not this sleepy till a lot later. If I didn’t know better I would think you had drugged me.’

Hermione froze in fright. Had he caught her out? Did he know she had put potion in his drink? But she was able to relax when she realised that he was only playing with her. ‘Don’t be silly.’ She said in an almost shaky voice.

She hadn’t anything to worry about for he was asleep almost instantly. Soft snores told her it was safe to put her plan into action. Hermione drew closer gripping the mirror tightly.

The fire light in the hearth flickered uncannily and a stream of moonlight flowed gently through the window, casting shadows about the room.

Hermione gulped and raised the mirror to face the beast. She didn’t look for a few moments, afraid of what she might see. But slowly she turned her gaze and witnessed what she had been dreading.

There, in the mirror’s reflection was a sharp pointed and pale face. Atop that face was a mop of soft blond hair that reached down to caress a strong chin. Yes, Hermione knew this person. She would recognise Draco Malfoy’s face anywhere.

Her heart almost sunk within her. This didn’t make any sense. How could the beast be Draco? Even more, how could Draco be a beast? At least it all explained his human-like mannerisms, his wealth and home, his populous of servants and his brooding nature. But still there was one big puzzle; how come he didn’t recognise her? Or if he did, why was he treating her so nicely? And how, for goodness sake, had he managed to become so companionable and decent?

So maybe that was more than one puzzle. Hermione looked at his sleeping form. It was so innocent, so…beautiful. Those were the right words, even though she felt disgusted to refer to Draco as being beautiful.

It dawned on Hermione finally. But of course, I keep asking myself all these questions when it is completely obvious. His transformation is the curse! That’s why he looks like a beast, because of some nasty curse!

But that didn’t explain the other changes. Had he simply decided to become a better person after a lot of thinking in this place? Because he had obviously spent a lot of time there alone and what else had he been doing all this time?

Hermione remembered something else.

‘But…there is only two petals left now. We is not knowing what time is left.’ That had been part of the conversation Hermione had spied on. And that meant that the “master” AKA. Draco only had a short time left until…something happened. But what?

Before she could think any further however a startling noise nearly scared her out of her skin.

‘What are you doing?’ Sharp piercing grey eyes looked at her accusingly.

‘N-nothing.’ She stammered.

The beast frowned. He had woken up suddenly to see Hermione standing over him looking troubled and holding a mirror. He had no idea what she was doing but he wanted to find out. He grabbed the mirror from her small delicate hands.

‘No!’ She protested. Why did she resist?

He looked at her with confusion before looking into the mirror. Slowly, as the moonlight illuminated his reflection, it dawned on him. He felt anger rise from nowhere in particular.

Throwing the mirror to the ground he jumped to his feet and stepped deadly close to Hermione. She whimpered.

‘So Hermione. ‘He spat. ‘You know.’

Hermione cowered under his gaze. ‘Yes but I can explain.-’

He growled so loudly it cut her off. ‘How dare you. Get out of my sight!’

‘But’

He seemed to grow ten times larger before her and she backed away slowly. ‘Draco listen to me…’

His eyes glowered ferociously as she said his name. ‘Don’t you dare call me that you stupid Mudblood. Now get out before I make you, and I can promise you don’t want me to do that.’

His threat sent shivers of pure terror through Hermione’s body and before she knew it she fled; away from the beast and away from the cold black castle.


Chapter 8: Realisations
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Hello everyone! I’m back from my holiday and ready with another chapter. I really enjoyed writing it too, was up until two in the morning. Anyway, I hope you like it just as much as I did after that horrible wait.

CHAPTER 8

Screams rent the dark chilled night. Flocks of frightened birds sped across the sky while lights in houses began switching on one after the other and the sound of babies cries added to the disturbance. Just as suddenly an eerie silence surmounted the tiny village before an eruption of doors slammed open from all corners and people began filing in the street, each asking questions to their neighbours and receiving confused answers.

One man struggled to disentangle his way out of the alarmed rabble and with a ladder climb onto the roof of his old dusty cottage. He cupped his hands around his mouth and called for silence. His order was granted; the crowd froze in shock and looked up to see the perpetrator. Now that the terrifying and mysterious screams had stopped, they were able to hear the man properly.

He was short and stout, middle aged. Not usually one to seize attention in social groups, he now stood before them grave and wary, the only one who could keep a steady mind.

He began by calming the nervous women, telling them to go back to their rooms and look after their children. He then addressed the men. One by one they took orders, not objecting to his command. Soon they set out armed with guns and farm tools as they searched the outskirts of the forest, which neighboured their vulnerable hamlet, hoping to find the cause of such a late hour panic.

The search did not last long, as the object of their search was soon discovered, buried in a heap of rocks and leaves.

^*^*^*^*^

Draco Malfoy stood straight and tall overlooking the moonlit lake that he had crossed upon arrival at the ancient school that was Hogwarts. It didn’t stir the least bit, in fact it mirrored his expression; still and unreadable. Even the air was tranquil and not a sound disturbed the darkness.

A hand reached his shoulder but it took a few moments before he turned around to face the girl with the frizzy brown hair. A soft breeze began to play with his own blond hair.

‘Granger.’ He said without seeming surprised.

‘Malfoy?’ Hermione on the other hand was not expecting this face to meet her gaze. ‘What are you doing here?’

‘I may ask you the same question.’ He said calmly. This was not like Malfoy, he seemed changed.

‘I-uh’ She stammered. Why was she there?

‘The moon is full. Sit with me if you please.’

Obediently Hermione placed herself on the soft grass next to the person she had once feared and detested. But it felt different. It was peaceful. It was right.

Hermione wanted to speak, but no words came from her lips. Instead, Draco began talking but it was a strange kind of language.

‘I could stay here forever. Under the moon’s rays and in this tranquillity.’

‘It is lovely.’ Hermione agreed, somewhat perplexed. Was this really Malfoy? She noticed a wrinkle on his brow. ‘What is wrong?’

‘Nothing can last. Soon it will be daylight, and my destiny will call me. I will never enjoy this sight again.’

Hermione frowned. ‘What are you talking about?’

Draco looked seriously into her eyes. ‘It’s funny where the roads of fate may lead you. Perhaps yours will be a happier one than mine.’

Hermione felt a wave of pity for this boy who looked so much younger than she had ever seen. Surely he couldn’t be the black hearted Death-Eater-To-Be that she had known.

She took his hand in hers and gently squeezed it. ‘Perhaps yours will be better than you thought.’

She thought she saw a hint of a smile rise about his lips under the light of the glorious moon but suddenly his eyes widened with a terror that sent chills up and down Hermione’s back. A luminous cloud cast them into a sort of darkness and the breeze became a violent wind.

Hermione stood up immediately, heart racing in her chest. It was all she could do but scream when the boy that had been right next to her began to suddenly transform. His shape enlarged, became more muscular and surmounts of hair or fur began sprouting all over his body. The face twisted and distorted into a hideous visage. A loud roar pierced the previously silent air.

Before she could think, or move, she toppled over and everything went black.

^*^*^*^*^

‘Miss, wake up. Can you hear me? How many fingers am I holding up?’

The voice was a distant echo in Hermione’s head. Why would anybody ask such foolish questions when she was trying to sleep? She tried to roll over but found that her body wouldn’t obey her wishes. This was frustrating. She began floating up into awareness and the voice grew stronger and louder.

She managed to open one eye but her vision wavered. Somebody’s nose was inches away from her face but it was all very blurry. She groaned and immediately realised just how parched she felt. She thanked her lucky stars when a cup of water touched her dry lips and she began gulping down room temperature water. The cup was drawn away however when she began coughing slightly.

What was wrong with her? Where was she?

‘It’s ok, she’s awake.’ Came the same masculine voice. ‘Probably a small concussion and apart from that a few bruises. She may take a few days to fully recover.’

What? What were they talking about?

‘You said she was found in the woods unconscious? You were right to call me immediately. Just make sure she gets plenty of rest.’

‘Doctor, thank ya so much for yer time.’ Came a heavily accented voice that sounded a little like Hagrid. But this particular man was a lot softer spoken.

‘That’s ok. But tell me, has anyone been able to identify her yet? Do you know where she comes from?’ Asked the doctor with some concern.

‘Yeh, me wife’s best friend identified her as the young daughter of Mr. Granger from the other side o’ town. He owns a farm up tha’ way. But apparently he ain’t here. Gone overseas for some sort’ a reason.’

‘Very well. I’ll leave it up to you then. Maybe you can find the person she called for in her sleep. What was it, Draco? Anyway, Have a good day Mr. Knightley.’

‘Same ter ya.’

Hermione fell back into a deep sleep, this time dreamless.

In the meantime, the Malfoy Manor was a place of utter anxiety. The elves scuttled about the place in a frenzy, some pulling their hair and ears. The chores were not getting done. And Master Malfoy was safely locked away in his room.

Anger, frustration, fear, regret and sorrow overwhelmed the beast as he lay awkwardly on his mattress. He had not slept in two days, his mind plagued with the memory of his shock and sudden, unthinking rage. It had always been like that. His temper always got the better of him. Now his only chance of survival was gone, probably miles away. And it had only just occurred to him that she might not have gotten back home safely.

A hint of guilt stung his heart. But it was her fault! How dare she stick her nose where it didn’t belong. How dare she drug him!

Yet all these thoughts combined in his head to reveal one hidden regret. He didn’t want her to go. After her departure, the castle was back to its cold, moody and depressing state. Somehow she had made it lighter, happier.

What am I thinking? He thought suddenly. He squashed a pillow heavily onto of his face and let out a muffled scream.

‘You are in love.’

Wait, did I just think that? But it isn’t true.

‘Shut up, I am not. This is Granger, the Mudblood we are talking about.’ He told himself firmly.

‘But you are in love. You let your guard down and she entered your heart.’

Ok, I’m sure I didn’t just think that. Unless I’ve got voices in my head!

‘Who is that? Why are you in my head?’ He growled.

‘I am not master, it is I, Bardy.’

The beast threw the pillow off his head and bolted to his feet.

Oh. Right.

‘How did you get in here without magic? The door was firmly locked.’

Bardy’s lips twitched into a cheeky smile. He held up a slightly bent wire. ‘Miss Hermione taught us some very useful tricks during her stay.’

The beast remained silent. He didn’t want to think of her any more. He wanted his last remaining days to be spent in peace. Eventually he spoke.

‘What do you want?’

‘I came to see how you were. Bardy was worried when you did not come out and thought the petals must have all dropped. But there is still one left.’ There was a sad note in his voice.

‘Only one?’ The beast tried not to sound surprised.

Bardy nodded gravely. ‘It is not easy but I must discuss some matters with you sir. About when…you are gone.’

‘You will be free. All of you.’ The beast said without hesitation.

Bardy looked on the verge of tears. ‘Master Malfoy, it has been a pleasure serving you. You have shown strength like none other in your family. You have emerged a fine man at heart.’

The beast felt touched to hear his old friend speak in such a way. ‘I thank you for the kind words but I cannot pretend to live up to them. I have not been a good person in this miserable life of mine. But I have been privileged to know such a fine elf as yourself. You have taught me to grow more than my parents ever could.’

‘But you are wrong sir. You have become a better person. Your father, or his father would never have befriended a silly old elf. They would never say we were to be freed. They would never have left the gate unlocked…’

The beast’s head shot up. ‘What? But I…’

‘You purposefully left the gates unlocked so that Miss could leave if she wanted to. You could not keep her locked up against her will.’

‘At first I did lock them but then…’

‘You fell in love.’ Bardy finished the sentence.

The beast fell into silence once again. It was finally sinking in. Now, that he had banished Hermione away from him forever, now that he had only days left to live, now that he realised he did not care for such trivial matters such as being a pure blood of muggle born, now that he regretted being the ferret he was back at school.

He recalled the night Dumbledore had arrived at his abode and cast the spell on him.

* ‘Malfoy, your heart is cold. I will give you a chance to redeem yourself but you only have a limited time. I have a rose. You will keep this rose safe for your own protection. You have until all the petals have fallen to change your heart or you will certainly die.'

Dumbledore smiled. 'You have to make someone fall in love with you.' *

‘My heart was cold. But I have changed. If only I could prove it to him. But it is too late. Nobody will ever know that Draco Malfoy had a change of heart. Nobody will ever know that I was not like my father.’

^*^*^*^*^

‘Herm-own-ninny!’

Hermione stiffened at the unpleasant voice. Just what I need, she thought.

Viktor strode across to the bedside where Hermione sat with a breakfast tray. His voice was filled with concern but his eyes showed little sign of real anxiety. She sometimes got the feeling that he wasn’t really in love with her. It was all a game. His infatuation grew from the fact that she was the only girl NOT interested in him. She was a challenge.

Trying to hide her disgust, Hermione allowed a forced smile to greet the large nosed man. ‘Why Viktor, what are you doing here?’

‘I ‘eard about your accident and came quickly.’ He grinned, and from behind his back he suddenly revealed a large bunch of…Butterfly Weed Flowers? Honestly!

‘Uh, thanks,’ Hermione said slowly and a bit unsure. ‘They are, beautiful.’

‘Yes indeed. Go good with your…’air.’ Viktor said lamely.

Hermione raised an eyebrow. ‘My hair is brown.’

Viktor stared blankly. Maybe he was colour blind because the orange flowers so blatantly did not suit he hair. Had he been drinking again?

‘Look Viktor-‘

‘Vicky.’ He corrected. Hermione’s nerves itched.

‘Whatever. It is very nice of you to come here but really I am fine. I just need some rest.’

‘Very vell my sveet.’ He bowed and left the room. Hermione could vaguely hear the sound of chatter from outside, recognising the gentle Mr. Knightley’s voice. He and his wife had been awfully kind to let her stay in their home but she would soon be off to her own place as soon as they allowed her.

In the meantime Hermione slowly chewed away at her toast while contemplating on the recent events. As for the accident, all she remembered was running for her life in the deep dark forest before tripping. Everything had gone blank after the fall. Then she had the strange dream about Draco before waking up in this home.

Images of her dream kept popping up in her mind and thoughts of her last night at the castle haunted her. She certainly hadn’t been prepared for the beast’s reaction though it was understandable (knowing his nature) and scolded herself about not taking extra precautions in case he woke. Which he had.

Confusion made her head spin slightly so she lay her head onto the pillow. Many questions continued floating about her head. The beast, or Draco, had changed. He was not the evil and manipulative boy she had once known. He had proven his good qualities by treating her as a friend even though he must have known who she was all along. It occurred to her that his initial shock upon hearing her name the first time was due to his realisation of her identity. But he hadn’t thrown her out or acted nastily. He had welcomed her. And she had let him.

Full realisation crept into her head. She had feelings for him. But how? He was an ugly beast. Surely it was impossible to fall in love with someone of another species?

Be truthful Hermione, a voice in her head argued. You knew all along that there was more to him than what met the eye. And when you found out who he was you were almost relieved with happiness though you didn’t realise it then.

What? That isn’t true…

Of course it is true. You found familiarity with his eyes right from the beginning and that’s when it started. That’s why you were so easily led to suppose that Draco was the beast after finding the family tree. That’s why you pitied him and wanted to help him!

Hermione squeezed her head between her hands. Was she going mad?

Stop it, just stop it!

The voice faded.

Suddenly Viktor came bursting into the room and ran up to her, his eyes alert. ‘Vhat is this about Draco Malfoy?’

Hermione froze. How did he know?

‘The man said you spoke ‘is name, you were calling for ‘im!’ Viktor was flinging his arms around wildly.

‘Viktor please calm down!’ Hermione shouted.

‘Ee is alive? What did he do to you Herm-own-ninny?’

‘Nothing, he did nothing!’

‘Then vy vere you calling ‘is name? Vhat happened in the forest?’ He demanded.

‘Look, I got lost is all and fell into a ditch or something. Draco did nothing to me but treat me nicely so you leave him out of it.’

There was a silent pause.

‘You saw him?’

Hermione gulped. She had a bad feeling about this. ‘Yes…’

‘He is a very evil vizard, my luv. You must tell me where ee is.’ Viktor said with forced calmness.

‘What? No you are wrong! He isn’t like that at all. He is actually really sweet.’ She said sadly.

‘Fine.’ Viktor snapped, looking furious. He got up and left the room. Hermione sighed with relief. That was close.

It wasn’t until dinner that night that Hermione’s relief was shattered. Mr. Knightley was in a bothered mood and upon asking a few simple questions found the cause of his troubled situation.

‘I don’ know what that Viktor man is plannin’ but it must be serious. He seemed in a right rage earlier. Was sayin’ somethin’ about gettin’ some help and finding tha’ man you was talkin’ abou’ in yer dream.’

Hermione’s cutlery fell to the ground with a lot of noise sending Mrs. Knightley off her seat in fright.

‘When did he say he was leaving?’ She said in a rush.

‘In the mornin’ I think.’

‘Oh Mr. Knightley, thankyou so much for your hospitality but you must let me go. I am perfectly alright now.’

‘You cannot mean ta go along with ‘im do ya?’ The man said with surprise.

‘That I do sir. I have no choice. And really, it is nothing to worry about.’

‘Well please remain the night miss, for they won’ be gone until mornin’.’

To keep the family from unnecessary concern, Hermione agreed to spend one last night in their company. But she would leave early the next morning to stop Viktor Krum once and for all from making the biggest mistake of his life.


Chapter 9: Making Haste
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Wow, yes it’s been a long time but I am back and this story is almost over! Sorry this next chapter is short but I hope you like it.

What was feared is suddenly transformed,
The spell is broken, appearance reformed
No more darkness, only light
No need for lamp, courage is sight.

Dawn was approaching as a band of half drunken, grisly wizards stomped and chanted down a deserted narrow road. With the hooked nosed Viktor Krum leading the way, the rest were sure to follow. Though they had little idea of what direction to head, a smaller, usually hidden path emerged amongst the dark trees. An eerie magic drew them toward this unfamiliar lane. Though it could have led to anywhere, the group unconsciously stumbled in the direction that would ultimately lead them to their destination.

The traumatic memories of the days of Voldemort were still fresh in mind. The last thing the wizarding community needed was for another evil to uprise and cause a similar devastation. The handful of eager men would have their revenge and this was the perfect opportunity. Krum had selected the group of able-bodied wizard acquaintances to aid him in this brave quest. It was to his favour that they all admired him as a successful Quidditch player, for it added to their vigour.

Little did they know that Draco Malfoy had no intention of causing misery upon the world, for he was lost in his own. A fitful dream disturbed his sleep. Drenched, the beast awoke to see the embers dying in the hearth. It was close to morning. Limbs trembling ever so slightly, he managed to lift himself out of bed and onto the comfortable chair in front of the fireplace. Without much effort the fire was newly blazing but it danced aggressively, sending unexpected sparks onto the stone floor.

Unfortunately a tiny flicker had attacked his hand and a vague scent of burning hair crept up his nostril, causing his to emit a loud sneeze. The noise echoed through the room unbearably. The beast felt a responding sensation of utter and depressing loneliness. Hopefully the afterlife (if there was one) would be better than this. Perhaps it was like some people said, sunny with large fields, waterfalls and flowers. My god, people idealised that image? He preferred his current situation.

Oh Hermione, won’t you come back to me!

Somewhere in the distance a blackbird cried its morning song and a light rain began.

Back in the village, Hermione hardly waited for the family to wake before rushing off. Her first and only visit was to her home where she scribbled two notes; one for Dumbledore to tell him a brief description of recent events and what may be about to take place and the other was to Harry to ask for his immediate help. As much as she wanted to be on her way, Hermione knew that if indeed Viktor were to lay siege to Draco’s Manor, she would hardly be capable of stopping him. Especially without magic.

The owl departed just as a light rain sounded outside.

In a flash Hermione had conjured a raincoat and wasted no time in commencing her long journey. The sky was lightening but that would make little difference once she reached the perimeter of the forest. In the time it took to reach the outskirts of her cottage, Hermione had braved herself and prepared for what might lie ahead. Her main consolidation was the fact that she had faced many such evils in her lifetime, and this was not the worst of them.

The rain grew heavy as she sent a silent prayer that Harry would receive her letter and come to her aid before it was too late.

At that moment the group of spirited men continued their guttural chant down the blindingly dark road, only this time there was a vague element of apprehension in their voices. Now that reality was dawning, the idea of facing the most terrifying wizard on earth wasn’t quite as appealing as had previously been. But the thought did not slow them down. No, their minds were still quite made up.

Things only started to get shaky when one man, Niles, attempted to charm his coat into being warmer. It was quite a shock when his wand disregarded his incantation. Another attempt proved futile so he questioned his comrades with some bewilderment. Some rolled their eyes, for Niles was well known amongst them for being an asinine chap, but one by one they realised that no magic worked at all. They started to worry.

That’s when a large black building appeared suddenly from the outside the woods, revealing a soft glow of morning light. They stopped dead in their tracks, some making signs to ward off evil. Some, stupidly, retrieve their wands. Viktor cursed at his hesitation and urged the group on.

‘Come men, don’t let zi sight impale your courage. Ve ar’ many against zis one vizard after all.’

They nodded in unison without muttering a word. Together, like a school of fish, they hurried to the gate. A wave of fear soon washed over them as the gate, without a single effort, swung open to let them through. The bravery of the men was now at test.

‘This is too much. I’m off!’ Cried one man, running at an incredible speed in the opposite direction.

Viktor let him go but eyed the rest sternly. Nobody else attempted to escape, but were visibly shaking in their pants. Viktor began a speech of encouragement, preparing them for attack.

In the back of the crowd two men whispered amongst each other.

‘Mate, better we leave too like old Barney. Who’s to know what this Malfoy bloke is capable of,’ One said nervously.

‘No!’ The other replied. ‘D’ya really want to go back in there where ya might get lost? Who knows what creeps around in the dark in that forest. Nah, I say we’re safer with the dark wizard. Remember what Viktor said; only one of him, many of us.’

The first was quick to reply. ‘But nothing attacked us on our way here. I didn’t even here a peep! And who knows how powerful this evil wizard is anyway. Did you here what the Prophet was saying about him round the time He Who Must Not Be Named was killed? They said he was the next one, maybe even more powerful. One of the journalists even suggested he was working right under You Know Who!’

‘First of all, ya can’t trust everything ya hear in the papers. No one’ll ever be as powerful as You Know Who. If this wizard was, he would’a made a move by now. And second of all, nothing attacked us because we were in a group. If ya go back now, you’ll be breakfast for sure. I don’t even want’a think of what could’a happened to Barney by now.’

‘Quiet in zi back!’ Viktor ordered, causing the men to jump in fright. It did however shut them up, and any thought of fleeing had escaped their minds.

‘Ok, so ve can’t use wands. Vhat else does everybody ‘haff?’ Cried Viktor.

‘I’ve got a knife!’ Someone yelled triumphantly.

‘Is zat all?’ Viktor looked exasperated.

‘Wait!’ Someone shouted. ‘Look over there, near that birdbath. There’s a heap of shed tools!’

And so he was correct. Just near one of the walls that surrounded the perimeter was an ancient looking birdbath with weeds crawling all the way around it. But just a few feet away was a stock of tools such as shovels, pitchforks, picks and rakes. It was an omen indicating sure victory. Surely it was no coincidence that these tools had just happened to be there. At least, those were the thoughts of Viktor and his men.

With an eager signal toward his troops, Viktor headed for the main castle entrance. A small push on the door let them straight in. Indeed, everything was going according to plan very easily. Somewhat too easily.

Back in the castle, Bardy and the rest of the elves were preparing themselves for another day of chores. A depressed atmosphere lingered in throughout the halls and was contagious to any in the near vicinity. They mopped and moped, swept and wept, but it didn’t change anything. These were the final days of their habitation at the castle and with their precious master.

A strange cry was heard in the distance that bewildered and frightened a number of elves that heard it. Quick to alert the others, they crept to a window and peered outside. Just visible, and with the aid of their extra perceiving elf eyes, the group of invaders were detected. This gave cause to an uprise of panic. The beast was promptly alerted.

‘Master, strange men have come here and have broken into the grounds! What shall we do?’ One asked in a desperate tone.

Draco was shocked at first but defeat was evident in his expression and he slumped his shoulders forward (even further than they had been previously). ‘Take the rest of you and get away. Don’t worry about me.’

The elf, and certainly the handful that accompanied him, stared with jaws open. ‘But master, you cannot defend yourself against so many men-’

‘And I don’t plan to,’ he cut in. ‘Don’t you see? (He points to the rose at the window table) One petal left. One measly petal! It doesn’t matter what happens to me now, I’m just going to die anyway.’

The elves were horrified by his talk. ‘You can’t mean that we would leave you- our master?’

The beast stood and walked over to his dressing cabinet. Thrusting it open, he grabbed a handful of assortments and threw them at the floor in front of the beady-eyed elves.

‘There, I am no longer your master.’

The near-to-tear elves could not reply because the next second, Bardy was rushing into the room looking stunned but determined. One glance at the scene made he stop for a moment and gape in shock but he quickly composed himself and addressed the elves.

‘Make haste all of you. To the kitchens immediately,’ Bardy ordered.

They quietly made their way out, giving the beast one last sorrowful glance. Bardy made no such piteous departure. Instead he gave the beast a curtly nod and swiftly disappeared.

So they are gone, thought the beast. And now I await the final journey.

-

Hermione sped through the overgrown forest; unaware of time and unconcerned of her own exhaustion. Fortunately, no wolves or other vicious creatures came to attack her but not far from her destination, a man came running with a wild look in his eyes. He had been ecstatic to see her and with reassurance that he was on the right track, he rushed off just as quickly.

Unfortunately, this meant that Viktor was indeed at the castle and must have others with him. By the time she reached the familiar black gate, Hermione was huffing and puffing, clutching her stomach for breath. Stumbling and falling to her knees, she glanced upward to look at the pinkish sky and saw a most awful sight.

The gate was already open and the door to the main entrance had just slammed shut.


Chapter 10: Battle In The Castle
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CHAPTER 10

Hermione rushed to the door in a heartbeat. She listened for sound but all was silent so she quickly stepped inside. Where could the men have disappeared to so soon? Her immediate intension was to find Draco as soon as possible. He wouldn’t even know what was happening. An image rushed into her mind of Draco lying in bed, eyes closed, limbs spread and smothered with blood. Fear caused Hermione’s body to shake uncontrollably but she didn’t let herself panic.

She took the quickest path that lead to the beast’s chamber. Hopefully the party of determined men would not be on the right track, after all the castle was massive with many passages and links. But they would be heading upward.

Hermione found a torch of fire in the hall she passed through. This was a good sign. She grabbed it, using it to find her way through the darkness. She rounded a corner and her heart almost missed a beat as a terrifying clamour from bellow crashed through the early morning stillness.

Shouts of men arose along with the clattering of metal utensils. Hermione realised the sound was coming from the kitchen. Oh no, it must be the house elves! What should she do? Go help them or search for the beast? But what if the beast was with them?

Feeling completely torn, Hermione decided to continue on her way up to the chamber. If Draco was there sleeping he would need to be warned. If he weren’t, well she would return as quickly as her legs would take her.

Fortunately her instincts were correct. After anxiously pounding on the door to the beast’s room and a quick call for him to recognise her, the door swung open to reveal wide, horrified eyes.

Draco grabbed her arm and looked at her with wide, disbelieving eyes. ‘Why are you here? You need to go!’

Hermione hardly gave herself time to catch her breath. ‘You need to come with me. There are men attacking the castle and they plan on killing you! Oh Draco, I’m too late and it’s all my fault!’

‘What!’ He looked mildly surprised. ‘Yes I know about the men but what are you saying about this being your fault?’

She was almost in tears now. ‘Viktor found out about you because I can’t keep my mouth shut. I didn’t think he would go crazy and come and attack you. I don’t even know how he found his way here! But it’s all my fault, I had to tell you.’

She said it all in a rush while trying to stop the tears but they streamed down her face uncontrollably. Draco didn’t blame her at all, he knew it wasn’t her fault and he told her so. ‘It’s ok. Stop crying.’

He wiped the tears away but his expression immediately changed from compassion to alarm. ‘We have to get moving. You shouldn’t have come. If they are after me they will get you as well.’

‘I wouldn’t have left you…’

‘No time for talking, go to the west wing and use the old passages there. It will lead you to the back route and into the garden. From there you can get away from here without being seen.’

Hermione gazed into his face with exasperation. ‘You can’t mean that I’d leave you here alone after coming all this way!’

‘That’s exactly what I mean,’ the beast replied sternly.

Hermione felt a spark of frustration. ‘Your coming with me now. Don’t even try to protest.’

‘I’m not leaving this place. What would be the use?’

‘I don’t suggest we leave Draco,’ Hermione said slowly. ‘At least not yet. For now we have to help the house elves.’

Draco was startled. ‘What do you mean? What happened to them?’

‘I heard fighting in the kitchens and it can only be them.’

‘I told them to escape!’ He grabbed her hand and began racing downstairs. Hermione was surprised but didn’t question the beast’s knowledge of the attack. They were now close enough to hear the battle that was taking place in the kitchen. Squeaks and shouts combined in the melee to reveal that the elves were indeed endangered. Surprisingly, Hermione detected a cry of pain from a man. Were the elves fighting back?

Out of nowhere a heavy body leaped onto Hermione and Draco, sending them clamouring to the ground. The beast leaped to his feet, avoiding the blow of their new attacker. He was a wild looking man with a sharp kitchen knife. He took no notice of Hermione; instead his eyes startled at the sight of Draco. It seems he wasn’t expecting an enormous beast to be living in the castle. Apparently Hermione had not been the only one ignorant of Draco’s situation.

He gave a cry of help before taking another swing at Draco, who easily avoided it. ‘Run, damn you, run!’ Draco shouted to Hermione.

‘No!’ Even when he thrust her away from him she did not flee.

Two more men rounded a corner and stumbled as they saw the scene. Hermione was blinded by their torches and a spasm of panic squirmed into her soul.

Suddenly fuelled by determination, Hermione leaped forward. A torch was as good as any weapon in the circumstances, and she had one at the ready. She thrust it into the face of one of the men who cried out in pain. Another man swung a dagger at her, causing her to lose grip of the torch. As it fell the oil it spilt carried blue flames, which clung greedily to the man’s clothes.

‘Fire!’ Another shouted.

As another group of angered men charged around a corner toward them Draco grabbed Hermione’s arm and dragged her away with him. He moved so swiftly she was hard able to keep up with him.

Soon they reached the southern stair but Draco didn’t slacken his pace. Unfortunately, two more men rushed at them fiercely determined to kill Draco. They assaulted him two on one and he had absolutely no weapon of defence. Hermione shouted in panic. Without much thought, she grabbed a small table from nowhere and flung it at the men. It hit one square in the back.

He turned with anger and charged at her, faltering slightly at the sight of her. ‘You’re a girl!’ He exclaimed in shock.

She stepped closer and in that instant retrieved a knife she wore strapped to her upper thigh. Her hands emerged from the slit in her under garment, armed with the naked blade.

Unfortunately she was not quick enough to utilise the weapon, as the attackers’ own knife was suddenly at her neck. Hermione feigned collapsing, startling the man. As he faltered, Hermione jumped up swiftly grabbing a piece of wood, which she used to knock her attacker out. Surprised at her ability to repel her assailants, Hermione sped off to defend Draco.

Hermione found Draco engaged in a fight. He was defending himself quite well except for a scratch in his cheek, which was bleeding a little. He turned to see Hermione approaching desperate to help ward off the attacker, he summoned all his strength and punched the assailant to the floor. ‘I thought you’d left! Oh and by the way, well done with the other fellow,’ He said upon noticing the unconscious man.

‘Draco look out!’ Hermione squealed. But it was too late. A hand grabbed him, turned him around, punching him back. Draco staggered to his feet unarmed and lunged at the man. Hermione was overwhelmed by a sense of fear and dread. Grasping her dagger she charged at the enemy and threw it at him. It missed. The man didn’t look too pleased with her and lashed out striking Draco on the head. Hermione screamed when she realised the blow had rendered him unconscious.

The man slapped her across the face with full strength sending Hermione onto the ground. The man began kicking her body then picked it up and threw her across the room. She shouted again in pain, her whole body throbbing. She rolled to her knees, amazed to find nothing was broken.

The man did not give up. He punched at her stomach sending her back to the floor. The blow winded her and she could hardly move. Looking up she saw the man raising his knife ready to stab her. She screamed, eyes closed.

But nothing happened. Suddenly a hand grasped hers and flung her upward onto furry shoulders. Draco had saved her and was now running back upstairs away from the beaten men in the corridor.

‘Where are we going?’ She gasped.

‘To the North Tower. They won’t find us there.’

‘You can let me down, I’m alright now.’

‘No,’ he said. ‘This way we’ll get there quicker.’

Hermione felt a sting of defiance. Did he think she was useless? Hadn’t she already knocked a man out?

Draco seemed to sense her frustration because he added, ‘I’m glad you stayed. You fought well, impressive for a muggle born.’ There was a hint of cheekiness in his voice that made Hermione forget her anger.

After some time they reached the entrance to the North Tower and Draco let her down. He was panting profusely and Hermione let him know she could climb the stairs herself. He consented.

‘What about the elves?’ Hermione asked suddenly.

There was a pained expression in the beast’s grey eyes but he replied, ‘they must manage on their own. My duty is to protect you.’

Hermione felt both moved and guilty. Her heart went out to the elves and hoped that they were alright. Over two hundred steps later and they reached the top of the tower. It was a circular room that was evidently used for storage. However, it was surrounded by large windows almost level with the floor. Hermione dared not look down and stayed somewhere in the middle.

They stared at each other for moments in silence. Both had thoughts whizzing through their minds and were somewhat in shock.

‘I hadn’t planned to fight.’ Draco admitted.

‘You were just going to let them kill you?’ Hermione was bewildered.

‘Why not? I’m going to die anyway,’ he said with a defeated tone.

Hermione paused for a moment. The mystery of the castle and the beast was still in the back of her mind. She realised that Draco had been cursed into a beastly creature but why? What did she not know?

‘Draco, what do you mean? What is this curse and how did you get it?’ Her eyes pleaded for an explanation.

Draco sighed heavily but realised it was time to tell her everything. ‘It all started with the rumours from the Ministry. Though it was true that I had power and all the dark magic needed to build up a large force, I was lazy. In my heart I didn’t really want to lead the path my father set for me so I bided my time. However, my associates still went on muggle killing sprees and I was blamed for it.’

He paused for a moment, the horrid memories flooding his mind. Hermione prodded him on with a quick ‘yes?’

‘So then one night I had a visit from an old man. I was cruel to him and tried to send him away though there was a terrible storm outside. It was the biggest mistake of my life.’ Draco looked straight into Hermione’s eyes.

‘The man was Dumbledore.’ He stated.

‘He cursed you?’ Hermione gasped.

‘Yes, and he had a right to. I was transformed into this monstrous being and forced to live a dark life without magic and only my servants for company.’

Hermione couldn’t believe her ears. ‘But you are not bad! Surely there is a way to break the spell. Dumbledore would not have cursed you without any hope of your redeeming yourself.’

‘You’re right. There is a way.’ Draco paused, a spark of hope in his heart. It was not too late, there was still a petal left. But suddenly he let the thought go as he realised that Hermione could never love him.

‘What is it?’ Hermione asked expectantly, eyes shining with hope.

‘No, I’m wrong. It’s too late now anyway.’

‘What do you mean?’

Draco avoided eye contact. ‘When Dumbledore cursed me he also left a rose. It symbolises the time I have left to live.’

Hermione cut in, ‘Like the moving clock on the elf’s chest!’

Draco was surprised. ‘Yes, that too.’

Hermione suddenly grew very cold. She remembered overhearing the discussion between the elves many nights back.

‘But…there is only two petals left now. We is not knowing what time is left.’ The elf had said.

‘How many petals are left Draco?’ She hardly wanted to know the answer.

‘Only…one’

‘But you’ve changed! Surely that would be enough to transform you back to your old self and save you.’ She exclaimed.

‘It is not. There is something else.’ He faltered. He could not tell her. It wouldn’t make a difference.

‘Draco, you have to tell me now. How long before you die and what can I do to prevent it!’ Hermione was starting to panic again by the look on the beast’s face.

‘Any minute.’

Hermione trembled. ‘Draco I swear if you don’t ell me now I will- I’ll’

‘Kill me?’ He offered.

‘No!’ He eyes widened with shock. ‘Don’t even say it.’

She rushed to Draco and began shaking him. ‘Tell me!’

Draco was startled and seeing that he could not get her off of him, he surrendered. ‘Alright already, I’ll tell you.’

Hermione sat back and he took in a deep breath. ‘Someone has to fall-’

‘Herm-own-ninny!’

Hermione and Draco jumped in fright. From the ajar door stepped a very dangerous looking Viktor Krum, sword ready in hand.

‘Viktor!’ Hermione gasped.

‘Viktor Krum?’ Draco spat. ‘You’re the one trying to kill me?’

‘Yes, and vith good reason!’ Viktor looked venomously from Hermione to the beast.

‘Viktor, you must listen to me and stop this ridiculous attack! Draco is not who you think he is.’ Hermione tried to reason.

Viktor bellowed with insane laughter. ‘You are correct Herm-own-ninny! He isn’t even human! He is an evil beast and I have come to rid of him once and for all. And look at what he has done to you. He has put a spell over your eyes so you cannot see his true nature. Don’t vorry my love, I will rescue you from his clutches!’

‘Viktor, stop!’

‘It’s ok Hermione,’ Draco snapped. ‘I can deal with this lunatic.’

‘No!’

Hermione tried to shield Draco but was quickly thrust out of the way. Thus the fight commenced between the two men. Draco towered over him but was unarmed. Hermione couldn’t handle it. Viktor was swinging his sword; Draco was punching blows and thrusting his claws. They were fairly even, both good fighters.

Glancing around the room Hermione found nothing that could be used as a weapon. When she saw Draco get cut across the arm and blood seep to the ground, her heart almost failed her. Was this the end for him? Would he die before the last rose fell?

Hermione wasn’t going to sit there and watch him die. She rushed forward and leaped onto Viktor’s back. He cried in dismay but managed to hurl her off without looking back.

Draco looked over at her with concern and in that moment didn’t see Viktor’s expression of triumph.

‘Draco!’ Hermione shouted the warning but it was too late. Draco’s eyes widened as he felt the sword plunge into his flesh. He staggered backward, clutching his stomach. Viktor leaped and shouted with glee. Hermione’s eyes clouded with tears. She tried to rush over to him but Viktor snatched her arm and slapped he face with anger.

‘You still go to him? I am your hero Herm-own-ninny, I saved you now and you still choose him?’ Viktor was fuming.

‘I never chose you Viktor. You’ve always been a bastard but I didn’t think you could stoop this low!’ Tears were freely flowing down her cheeks now.

Viktor’s hold tightened and she screamed from the pain. ‘Let me go!’

‘Never,’ he growled.

Hermione was desperate to get to Draco. He lay silent on the floor, a pool of blood circling him. He’s dead, he’s dead! Her mind repeated.

Hermione snatched her hand away from Viktor but he quickly grabbed it again and forced her to the edge of the room. Completely desperate now Hermione did the only thing she could think of. She kissed Viktor. She kissed him hard and long, feeling the tension of his grip slowly release.

His hair blew with the wind that came through from the window behind him. His face scrunched up into an arrogant grin. ‘See? I knew you vould come around.’

Hermione smiled sadly into his face and then pushed him as hard as possible.

Bewilderment fluttered momently on Viktor’s face, if he didn’t see the kiss coming he sure as hell didn’t see this. Bewilderment soon turned into panic as he began to fall all the way from the top of the North Tower to the ground smashing through the stone pavement below. This was not quite the impression he had hoped to make. Hermione turned her head unable to watch his fall. She heard his scream of terror and the sickening thud as Viktor’s body hit the ground. Suddenly everything was silent.

Hermione was instantly by Draco’s side, not caring for the blood that was now staining her gown.

‘Draco!’ She shouted at him. ‘Draco can you hear me?’

There was no movement, no glow of life left within him. ‘Please don’t die, please don’t die!’ She cried because she knew there was no hope. She cried because she had not confessed her love to him. She cried because she had come too late and this was entirely her fault.

At that moment, the door flew open again. This time Harry and Ron appeared with flushed faces. Their expressions were first that of disgust and shock at the sight of Draco’s body but quickly changed into grave, almost sad expressions because they realised they had come too late.

Hermione hardly noticed them in her distress. She rocked backward and forward, cradling Draco’s head as if it were a delicate baby.

After a short minute of silence, Harry placed his hand on her shoulder and said softly, ‘We’ve cleaned the rest up and most of the elves are safe. I read your letter and came immediately. I’m sorry we were late.’

And he was sorry. Though he didn’t know what had come to pass over the last few weeks between Hermione and Draco, he believed her story that Draco had a good heart. He felt no animosity toward the fellow, especially now that he was dead.

Ron came around Hermione’s other side, his eyes mirroring the sadness of Harry’s. ‘You must really love him,’ he whispered.

Hermione cried out loud. ‘I do love him! I love him more than you could ever imagine. Do you hear me Draco? I love you.’

The three of them sat in silent surprise as one last breath of air was released from Draco’s body. At the same time, on a table beside the window in Draco’s chamber, the final petal on the rose drifted slowly to the ground.


Chapter 11: Dumbledore's Return
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Well it seems the final chapter has finally arrived. Gosh, that took way longer than planned. Hope you can forgive me… Ok a few notes about this chapter, it took me ages to get it complete this last week because making it interesting is a lot harder than I thought. So yeah, I hope it’s interesting.

Also, I’ve included at the bottom of this page a section with a few “special features” in case you’re interested. Oh well, here it is…

CHAPTER 11:

An owl was rudely awakened from its slumber by a chillingly atmospheric breeze. Focusing its sleepy eyes on the surrounding area from a tall tree, which it called home, the creature was able to see the scene below clearly.

The beast was lying dead on the floor of the North Tower with Hermione sobbing piteously over him. The boys, Harry and Ron, stood nearby still struggling to come to terms with what had just occurred and right down below, on the concrete pavement, was a splattered human body; that of Viktor Krum. Harry and Ron were oblivious to this fact.

Sensing new forces of power arrive, the owl decided it had had enough. The air was dense with emotions, magic and death. With an annoyed toot, the bird flew away into the distance, just in time for the arrival of Albus Dumbledore.

‘Professor!’ Harry momently felt a temporary surge of hope as the old wizard appeared from the door. Though Draco had always been perceived as a sadistic and arrogant fool, Harry was actually feeling quite struck with grief over his death. Hermione’s letter to Harry had only briefly explained her experience with Draco in the castle and her conviction that he was wrongly accused by the wizarding world as well as inform him of Viktor Krum’s plan of attack, which had been most shocking. It had taken some effort to convince Ron that Hermione was too smart to be deceived by a Malfoy and he reluctantly became resigned to help because “she is our best friend after all”.

Now Harry was experiencing an assortment of emotions; sadness, grief, pity and exhaustion. It had been a long morning. What a terrible shame it was that Draco was killed at a time when he could have been redeemed amongst the magical folk with the clarifications of Harry, Hermione and Ron. In what direction would events turn now with the arrival of the Headmaster? What would be his reaction to this tragic situation?

‘My dear friends, I am deeply sorry for my tardiness. I was…indisposed.’

Hermione shot a speculative look at him through a mist of tears. A stab of resentment struck hard at seeing the old man’s emotionless features. In all the years she had known him, Dumbledore had appeared to be a mysterious and powerful wizard, always on time to save the day. What could have possibly delayed him now? Why did it seem as though he didn’t care? He might have saved Draco’s life, but no, that probably didn’t fit into his schedule. Through a shaky voice Hermione began to speak. ‘The men who attacked this castle are all taken care of. If you look out the window you will see the remains of the late Viktor Krum on the pavement (there was no humour in her voice) and if you look here you will also notice that Draco, innocent as he was, did not escape a similar fate. Now please indulge me, what was so important that kept you from coming to our aid?’

Harry and Ron exchanged nervous glances at Hermione’s cold tone. This was unexpected. Surely she realised that Dumbledore would not have been late unless there was a good reason? At the same time, the news of Viktor’s death was shocking to them. Ron paled considerably; Viktor had been his Quidditch hero. Krum’s actions in coming to the castle were ruthless and unexpected, but the man would be sorely missed in the wizarding world. Harry wondered how Viktor had fallen from this height. Had Draco pushed him in the fight?

Dumbledore sighed inwardly at Hermione’s reaction. He knew it would not be easy. ‘I apologise again miss Granger, but it was difficult to leave the school. I tried my best, I assure you.’

‘Well you’re too late.” Harry gasped at Hermione’s sharp retort.

Dumbledore stared gravely into Hermione’s stony eyes. ‘Am I?’

The headmaster was greeted with a confused pause and all eyes upon him. ‘Professor, I don’t know what you’re playing at but even you know that magic is incapable of bringing people back from the dead. So unless you intend on defying the laws of magic and science, then please kindly stop wasting my patience.’

Ron gazed in shock horror, never before having witnessed Hermione act with disrespect toward a senior, and never believing he would. He could empathise with her sorrow but surely that didn’t excuse this sudden sharpness? It just wasn’t Hermione’s nature.

Dumbledore remained ever so calm, as per usual. ‘The saving of Draco’s life is very much a part of my agenda, Miss Granger. That is why I have come now, instead of lingering behind at Hogwarts to berate a group of students who had thought it amusing to set firecrackers on Mrs. Norris’s tail, thus distracting Filch so that they could ransack his office to reclaim some unauthorized possessions.’

‘I don’t see how you can be humorous at a time like this. Don’t you believe in Draco’s innocence? Can’t you see that he was never a threat in the first place?’ Hermione’s voice faltered with sadness and disbelief. The events that were taking place were bewildering, like a bad dream. The man she was in love with had just died, and the person she had summoned for help, the person she had always looked up to with admiration and trust, was behaving as though the entire matter was unimportant, or even a joke.

Harry spoke up. ‘Wait, sir did you say that saving Malfoy- err-Draco’s life is your agenda? I might have heard wrong but I doubt I am mistaken. Surely at this point there is nothing you can do.’

Hermione’s interest rose, as though sensing an unheard answer in Harry’s question, but her rage and disbelief still plagued her mind. Obviously there was nothing to be done about Draco’s death. She would be foolish to let her hopes rise at Harry’s comment.

Dumbledore’s voice became quite firm. ‘Miss Granger, this is no joke. I understand how you are feeling but if you would please remain silent for some moments, I think it is time I explained everything to you from the beginning.’

Taking some control over the crashing wave of fury and grief ignited within her, Hermione gave a curt nod to indicate her acquiescence. However, her hand lingered on the long golden mane of her beloved as she tried to absorb the information that began pouring from the wise man’s lips.

‘A few years ago in this very Manor, Draco lived a quiet, secluded life dedicated to the practise of the dark arts…’

All jaws dropped as Dumbledore related the incidents of the night of his visit to the castle in which he scrutinised Draco’s behaviour and placed a horrible curse on him resulting in the transformation of his appearance.

‘YOU put him under this curse?’ Hermione gaped in utter incredulity.

‘You must understand Miss Granger, rumours about Draco’s mischief were flying about quicker than a snitch. If they were true, then we were all going to be in a lot of danger. Nobody knew where he was hiding out or if he was planning any acts of terrorism. After a lot of research I stumbled upon some information within the Ministry of Magic concerning Lucius Malfoy’s estates. With the help of a certain prisoner from Azkaban (and some Veritaserum potion) I was able to track down this location. I pride myself at being an excellent judge of character, so naturally, after Draco verbally abused and then threatened to kill me, I was quite sure he needed to be constrained. Instead of handing him over to Azkaban, I decided to give him a less damning punishment. My decision provided a chance for the man to redeem himself.’

Hermione laughed harshly. ‘You mean to tell me that turning him into a beast and locking him in this dark and chilling place for years is not damning?’

‘NO.’ Dumbledore said with assertion. ‘It was a much better alternative than to rot like all the others in Azkaban.’

‘How can you say that?’ Hermione’s eyes now brimmed with fresh tears. ‘He is dead! Was that your plan too?’

‘Please Miss Granger, let me finish. This curse was an opportunity for redemption, in which I believe he has finally achieved. If you would kindly cease this constant interruption, maybe I will be able to inform you of some very important facts.’

Hermione felt slightly ashamed of herself but did not allow the emotion to show. After all, what could he possibly say to rectify the situation?

Again, the headmaster sighed. He knew this was going to be difficult to explain, as was expected, and after all everything had gone according to plan. He had foreseen a similar circumstance all those years ago. It was time to put the final touches of his plan into motion. It would soon be over.

‘As a parting gift, I gave Draco a single red rose with the promise that once all the petals had naturally fallen off, he would die. However, there was one way in which he could remedy the curse, and that was to change his heart. As a means of monitoring his change someone with a true heart would have to declare his goodness, and the perfect solution was to have someone fall in love with him.’ Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled as Hermione gasped in shock. He smiled. ‘The magic of the rose was designed to draw one with a pure spirit to the castle. It seems it chose you Miss Granger.’

‘But-how? Why? I mean, I don’t understand! You’re saying that I was intentionally brought here and made to fall in love with Draco? I was almost killed. Twice! And what if it hadn’t worked? Or has this all been against my will?’

‘Hermione, calm down!’ Ron exclaimed.

‘Calm down? Calm down?’ Hermione was nearing hysterics. How could everyone else be so relaxed at a time like this?

Seeing where the situation was heading, Dumbledore did the only thing he thought necessary. ‘lenteme-laxoficus’ Hermione felt as if a warm hand was running down her spine as the spell hit causing her to immediately sooth. She took a deep breath and muttered a soft “Thankyou.” Then her expression turned to puzzlement. ‘Headmaster, you just used magic! How? All this time, my wand has not worked within the perimeters of the castle.’

‘Ah, yes. Part of the curse was that magic could not be exercised within the grounds by any living creature be that human, beast or house elf. It would have been imprudent to allow a dangerous man/beast in possession of all the magic he wanted. However, now that the curse is broken, so are the wards to magic.’ Harry quickly tested his wand with the “lumos” spell and proved the headmaster correct.

‘In reply to your previous questions, it is necessary to explain,’ Dumbledore continued, ‘that the magic of the rose is an old an ancient one, quite mysterious even to me. I cannot say why it chose you Miss Granger; fate works its web entirely independently to mere humans or wizards. Do not be mistaken however, your feelings and intentions have belonged to you alone. Viktor Krum also had full control over the decision to come here though it is no coincidence that his actions aligned with the fall of the final petal. It was Draco’s time and Viktor’s too, so it seems.’

Hermione’s head spun with all this information. Still confused, and rather shocked, she allowed her defiant expression to drop and focussed all her attention on the conversation. She gazed back at Draco’s lying form with a mixture of expectation that he would surely wake from a slumber and regret that they had spent so little time together. ‘Sir, if the rose drew myself and Viktor to this place, how can everything have been of our own free will?’

‘It is the greatest unanswerable mystery, I am truly sorry but even I cannot explain the ways of fate. I would say that the magic of the rose recognised your qualities and merely showed you the way. Similarly, it allowed Viktor to discover the castle both because he was to be the instrument of Draco’s death and because, as it seems, it was also his time to pass away.’

‘Sir, I don’t fully understand,’ Harry’s brow was slightly wrinkled with consternation and thought. ‘From what I gather, this curse was placed in order for Draco to turn good, and you say that you think he has achieved this because Hermione has fallen in love with him? (That thought was still taking some getting used to) Because you seem to have opposed Hermione’s statement of being able to bring one back to life, am I to understand that you actually plan on bringing Draco back?’

‘That’s impossible,’ Hermione stated flat. She wasn’t going to let Harry bring fresh hope into her heart. The prospect was simply ridiculous. Every book she’d ever read defied the possibility.

‘Miss Granger is quite right,’ said Dumbledore with a surprisingly bright voice that further shocked the group. ‘But the fact of the matter isthat Draco is not dead.’

Hermione emitted a short incredulous laugh. ‘You can’t be serious. Isn’t it obvious that things didn’t all go according to plan? Maybe he could have been saved but…it’s too late.’

Ron, who had been quite silent during the entire time felt overwhelmed with sympathy. By the strained look on Hermione’s face, it was evident that she had been through a lot. He hoped Dumbledore truly could help the situation.

Dumbledore remained silent for some moments, contemplating the situation and deciding to be straightforward lifted his wand toward Draco’s still body, he warned the others to move. With uncertainty, Hermione, Harry and Ron scurried behind the tall wizard. ‘Please inform me, Miss Granger, did you profess your love to Draco before he died?’

Hermione frowned. ‘He did exhale once after I said…but what does that matter?’

‘It matters very much. It means that Draco cannot be dead if the spell worked, which I am certain it did.’

‘But what-’

‘He is in a magically induced coma.’

Hermione tried to speak but no words came out. She was dumbfounded. Everything was happening too quickly, it was all so surreal. If she heard right, Draco was not really dead? She dared not think. But what if it was true? Dumbledore wouldn’t lie…

‘How can he come out of the coma sir?’ Ron asked and scrunched up his nose. ‘She doesn’t have to kiss him does she?’ Suddenly this whole thing had a certain fairytale atmosphere to it. (Except of course for Viktor Krum who’s ending was rather morbid).

Dumbledore chuckled. ‘No, I simply have to end the spell with a few easy flicks of the wand.’

Hermione tensed with anticipation. ‘Could it be?’

‘Whatever happens, do not panic. I know what I’m doing.’ The three youths nodded at the order.

With eyes closed, Dumbledore concentrated on the task at hand. With the proper movements and incantation this was sure to work. ‘Indubitatus defixus-anguis’ His wrist made a swishing movement, then pointed right at Draco’s chest. ‘Ciris-ab-migratu’.

The others watched in astonishment as a globe of white effulgent light shot into Draco’s body, illuminating it momentarily before the entire body lifted inches off the ground and sagged down in a final heap. Dumbledore muttered, ‘Incendio’ causing the body to explode into flames. In the blink of an eye all that was left was a pile of ash.

Hermione’s mouth dropped open. Don’t panic, she told herself. There is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this. Surely. ‘Ah, sir, what did you do?’ Her voice was a little high pitched.

‘Did it work Professor?’ Harry questioned with an equal element of alarm in his voice.

‘There is only one way to find out,’ the headmaster announced. ‘In his room, on his bed. Hurry but don’t wake him!’

Hermione rushed off down the stairs toward the master bedroom while Harry and Ron lingered behind with Dumbledore. ‘Should we follow?’ Ron asked.

‘Better to leave her for a few moments.’ Harry said in a quiet voice.

The door to Draco’s room swung open with desperate force. Hermione stood panting at the entrance, gathering her remaining strength. As her eyes focussed on the pale form of Draco (who was no longer a beast) lying on his bed, she began to weep. Moving with heavy steps toward the figure, Hermione forced herself to stay calm at the sight of the wounds. They were still very fresh but the blood was clotted enough to stop its flow.

‘Scourgify.’ The quick spell cleaned up the red stains on Draco’s stomach and chest, which to Hermione’s utter relief, was moving up and down slowly. A smile dared to creep onto her face even as she checked his wrist for pulse- just in case. Dumbledore had been right all along and saved the day after all. She would have to apologise and thank him afterward.

Looking into the face that she had not seen for so long, Hermione realised it had not changed a bit. It was still as beautiful as she remembered; only for once there was no smirk to ruin it. Lying there, Hermione could not imagine this man having a single thread of evil within him.

‘I thought I had lost you.’ She whispered into his ears. She realised she hadn’t expected a response, but continued anyway. ‘Don’t ever scare me like that again.’

Some few minutes later, Dumbledore approached to cast some healing spells over Draco’s body and reassured Hermione that he was not offended by her former statements. ‘It was understandable.’ He smiled knowingly.

‘Professor Dumbledore, how long until he wakes up?’ Hermione asked with a pleading tone.

‘Perhaps a day or two. I want to give enough time for his body to fully recover. The spell I used to seal the cut is not quite as speedy as some others, but it will leave his flesh unscarred and completely recuperated.’

‘Sir…’Hermione hesitated. ‘What about Viktor Krum?’

Dumbledore gave her a knowing glance. ‘You pushed him for your own protection.’ Hermione’s eyes widened. How did he know? He continued, ‘I will explain to the ministry that his fall was the result of an act of self-defence. You needn’t worry.’

Two days sounded like a short time, but it felt like an eternity to Hermione who waited impatiently in the castle with the house elves. The tiny servants had fought bravely against the siege of men. Many had also been wounded, but none fatally. They now accommodated their guest with alike anxiety, and hopes that their master would be well soon. Harry and Ron had stayed for one day but had their own lives to get on with and were sure Hermione could manage on her own. If she needed them, they were only an owl away. Dumbledore departed to Hogwarts that night, returning to his principal duties and preparing for a big day with the media.

All the while Draco lay oblivious to the passing time.

-

Hermione found him sitting on a bench in the garden staring out at the field of flowers.

‘How are you feeling?’ She asked softly. He was still for a moment before looking up. The sun was strong and he placed a hand above his eyes to shade them. ‘I feel like I’ve never had a bruise in my whole life. But my energy level is still quite low.’

‘That’s because you haven’t done any exercise in years.’ She laughed. ‘Your going to have to get in shape if you want me to stick around.’

‘You’re delirious if you think you can resist a Malfoy, especially this Malfoy.’ He grinned widely and Hermione knew he was right.

After thirty-eight hours Draco had finally woken from a deep sleep to find Hermione’s slumbering form on a chair next to his bed. At first he was completely bewildered and couldn’t remember where he was or what had happened. The biggest shock had come when by chance he noticed his body lacked a lot of hair. A quick dash to his full body mirror confirmed his suspicions and then a warm glow of ecstasy alighted his features at the realisation of what must have happened.

Hermione.

The only explanation was Hermione. But that must mean she loved him and had therefore saved him. For two minutes he had struggled with himself over waking her but eventually he managed to knock over a stool in his impatience and she startled awake anyway. Seeing Draco standing across the room had seemed like the perfect wake up call. With the speed of light she was in his arms. Explaining what had happened seemed practically unimportant so she kept it brief. ‘It’s over. You’re back.’

The morning after had conveniently shone bright with mirth and there was a festive atmosphere within the castle grounds. The house elves were preparing a special welcome back breakfast.

Draco held Hermione’s hand gently. ‘I haven’t thanked you properly for what you’ve done.’

‘You don’t have-’

‘Ssh, I must.’ He interrupted. ‘When you left the other night I was deeply regretful. I thought you would never return. My goodness, I realised how foolish I’ve been all these years. I’ve wasted so much of my life. If it weren’t for you, I may never have had a proper life at all. Now I hope to start one from scratch. And I want you to be a part of it.’

Hermione smiled. She certainly wanted to be a part of it. But now she wasn’t in the mood for soppy talk. She wanted to brighten up the mood with some fun.

‘Draco, you don’t happen to own a lake on this property do you?’

He glanced at her curiously. ‘No but there is a dam about ten minutes away from here. I used to visit it all the time in the summer. Why? Do you want to have a picnic there?’

A playful smile lit up her face. ‘Well actually, it’s quite a warm day so I was wondering if you wanted to go for a swim?’

‘I suppose. What’s that smile for? What have you got planned, ha? Don’t you worry, this cat isn’t afraid of water.’ Draco straightened his back and lifted his chin to the sky.

Hermione laughed and stood up. ‘That’s not what I’m worried about. Just make sure you wear a shirt when we get there, a floppy belly can be very unattractive.’

Draco’s eyes widened. ‘What! Oh, I’m going to get you for that Hermione Granger, you just wait!’

Hermione shrieked in delight as she ran for it all the way up the Manor followed closely by a grinning Draco.

The riddle is broken

Fate has spoken

The zither’s nets tear

Allowing the heart’s walls to repair

The human is free of magic

This tale is not at all tragic!

(Except for Krum, of course!)

Special features

First of all I would like to thank everyone who had read and reviewed this story. The feedback has been fantastic and really helped me to keep writing (even if some chapters took a little while to get posted).

I was inspired to write Beauty and Her Beast while I was listening to Celtic music; yeah I know it sounds strange. What happened was I decided to write a poem, the one that I’ve posted with every second chapter. I don’t know why or how I decided to base it on the Disney cartoon Beauty and the Beast, it just kind of happened. So I wrote the poem one night and did some thinking and realised that it could end up being a perfect idea for a fanfiction. And vuala! I basically wrote the story around the poem, as well as keeping to most of the story line from the cartoon.

This is the poem all together…I hope it made sense:

BEAUTY AND HER BEAST

POEM

The tale begins at the peak of night,

T’was dark, no lamp, no sight

Magic grew with thick deception

Giving a chance for human redemption.

The trees whisper of a dangerous threat,

The zither strings create a net

To succumb that which enters it’s walls

Fate encloses as darkness falls.

Mystery, oh history, pray speak your name,

Unlock your riddle and end the game

Things are happening, it’s so befuddled

Mind is swimming, just so muddled.

Time comes when the weak must be strong,

Let go, just follow the heart song

Hope remains when there is no fear

Find the calling and keep it near.

What was feared is suddenly transformed,

The spell is broken, appearance reformed

No more darkness, only light

No need for lamp, courage is sight.

The riddle is broken

Fate has spoken

The zither’s nets tear

Allowing the heart’s walls to repair
The human is free of magic

This tale is not at all tragic!

DELETED SCENES

Ok so this basically from the last chapter. My father thought it would be funny to add some macabre humour about Viktor Krum’s death (boys will be boys) but I didn’t include them in the chapter. Here they are:

1)

‘How can he come out of the coma sir?’ Ron asked and scrunched up his nose. ‘She doesn’t have to kiss him does she?’ Suddenly this whole thing had a certain fairytale atmosphere to it. (Except of course for Viktor Krum, he was smashed and dead and it seemed he was going to stay that way. If this story is going to have a fairy tale ending it is not so for Krum. He drew the short straw; he got the pointy end of the stick.).

2)

‘Professor Dumbledore, how long until he wakes up?’ Hermione asked with a pleading tone.

‘Perhaps a day or two. I want to give enough time for his body to fully recover. The spell I used to seal the cut is not quite as speedy as some others, but it will leave his flesh unscarred and completely recuperated.’

‘What about Krum?’ Hermione asked, ‘is there something you can do about him?’ ‘Yes,’ replied Dumbledore. ‘We are having someone scrape him up now. If it’s any consolation, the pavement will be repaired within a week. I think you better focus on Draco, at least he will recover in two days.’

Thanks again everyone!

Elfie

http://www.harrypotterfanfiction.com