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A/N: I have based this story loosely around the poem by the same name, by John Donne. Hope you like it!

Death be Not Proud


DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.



~o0o~

Adjustments

An insignificant patch of sunlight crept across the floor, fighting a losing battle with the growing darkness. Walls that had once been white, or some other pale colour, were coated in grime and dust. Draco scowled, pushing his blonde hair from his forehead. Surely, they could have given him, a Malfoy, a better room. He sighed. By the looks of the entire house, he was lucky his room had a door and four walls. The bare timber floor was old and worn, covered in scuffmarks and strange dark patches Draco did not want to think about. It was always cold and murky in his room, the only light coming from a lamp on the wall and the weak sunlight that managed to crawl through the smudged, curtainless window.

They had, at least, given him something to entertain himself with. A large bookshelf graced one wall, filled with dusty old tomes on various magical topics. Draco had even discovered some Muggle books in there. At first, he had tossed them away, not wanting to soil his brain with dirty Muggle thoughts, but after reading his way through the entire magical section of his personal library, he had reluctantly reached for the discarded books. One of them he found quite interesting. It was about a man who went to Hell, or something like that. He was yet to finish it. The title had intrigued him – The Divine Comedy, and he had laughed, thinking how much that represented his life at that moment. Pulling his robes tighter around his body to keep out the chill, he settled back in the lumpy lounge and began reading, ignoring the plume of dust that rose around his head as he shifted his position.

The door crashed open, banging loudly against the wall, and Draco looked up, startled, jumping slightly. Granger tumbled in, her hair a tangled mass of gleaming chestnut curls, her skin milk pale. Draco sighed, rolling his eyes with a bored expression, turning back to his book. He didn’t want to talk to her today, and he wondered briefly why she was bursting into his room so dramatically. There was always something theatrical going on around the house. Ever since he had been imprisoned in his dark room, he had done his best to avoid all contact with the Order. It was difficult, but most of them wanted to stay away from him as well, and for that he was grateful. All but Granger, it seemed. He sat back, feeling his body sink further into the battered old lounge, flicking his book open again and resumed his reading. He could hear her ragged breathing in the background, but he ignored her, his eyes skimming over the text in front of him.

“Malfoy,” she whispered, her voice low. Draco frowned, glancing up. She sounded … different. Granger was standing near the door, her figure bathed in dusty light, her head hanging low, gripping the wall for support. Her wand dangled from her hand, and Draco narrowed his eyes, noticing for the first time her robes were torn and muddy, open at the front, showing her denim jeans and white blouse. The knee of her jeans was ripped, and there were scratches on her face and neck. Draco felt his stomach turn when he noticed a large, spreading crimson stain, standing out in dramatic contrast against the crisp white fabric of her shirt. She slowly lifted her head, her eyes dark and coated in pain.

Draco flew to his feet, the book falling to the ground with a thud.

“Granger, what the hell happened to you? You look worse than usual,” he added, unable to resist insulting her, even though he could tell it would mean nothing to her in her present condition. She swayed on her feet, the hand gripping the wall slipping a little, and Draco felt himself take a few steps towards her on instinct, preparing to catch her if she fell. She turned her deep brown eyes on his face, her skin colorless, drained of blood.

“Granger, what’s going on?” Draco asked, suddenly feeling very afraid. Something was terribly wrong. He knew the Order had left on a raid that morning, leaving him behind, as usual, with a guard, who, Draco realized, had mysteriously vanished. Even after ten months, they still did not trust him, pestering him for information constantly, firing question after question at him until his head hurt and his temper had risen to dangerous levels. Last night, he had overheard Scarhead and the Weasel muttering about some mission. Apparently, Draco had at last given them some worthwhile information, and they had located a nest of Death Eaters. Draco turned his gaze to the woman standing in the doorway.

“I killed him,” she whispered, and Draco hissed in shock as she fainted to the ground. He rushed to her side, kneeling beside her and lifting her head into his lap. Part of him rebelled, the evil nasty part that lurked beneath his skin. He should just leave her there, forget what he had seen and the words she had uttered. Just walk away, shut the door and leave her body in the hall for someone else to discover. He sighed. No, Potter would murder him in his sleep if he did nothing to help his know-it-all Princess. As he looked down at her helpless body, something stirred in his chest, and he swore loudly, cursing Granger, the Order and his miserable situation with a string of spiteful words. Gently, he touched a hand to her face. She was ice cold, her skin clammy and pale. With a sigh, Draco scooped her into his arms, amazed at how light she was. He carried her towards the lounge, laying her down gently, supporting her head with a cushion. He bit his lip at the pool of red on her shirt. Bending down, he pulled her robes open further, lifting her shirt so he could take a better look at the wound.

A long gash ran the length of her creamy stomach, starting at one hip and ending just below her left breast. It was not deep, but wide, blood spilling in a steady stream onto her skin. Conflicted, Draco glanced at her face. She was sapped of colour, dark shadows resting beneath her eyes. Her lips, lush and soft looking, were almost white, the edges tinged with blue. He fought a fast and silent war with himself, and decided to help her. It would not look good if she were found dead outside his room.

“What the bloody hell have you been doing, Granger?” he muttered, staring at her. At the sound of his voice, she opened her honey-coloured eyes, automatically reaching a slender hand towards her stomach. Draco grabbed her wrist, holding her hand away from her body in a firm grip.

“No, don’t,” he said softly. “You should go to the hospital.”

Granger shook her head, her breathing coming fast and shallow. She seemed to be in an incredible amount of pain, and Draco was suddenly annoyed at her. Why had she come here? Why come to him? Why not one of her wonderful, self-righteous friends?

“No…hospital,” she croaked, and he scowled.

“You’ve been ripped apart by something,” Draco growled, looking again at the angry red wound. She shook her head again, her eyes bright and feverish. Draco sighed, sitting back, staring at her. “Alright,” he said at last, thinking hard. “What can I do? Who can I get?”

Her eyes widened. “Just … let me die.”

She sounded so defeated, so small and sad that for a moment, he considered letting her do what she wished. Stubbornly, he shook his head, not sure why he was even thinking about disobeying her. His life would be much easier if she was dead. There would be no one to annoy him, no one to try to force him into conversation, no one to pretend to care about what happened to him.

“No, I won’t do that,” he said gently, reaching out and stroking her hair, finding her forehead damp with sweat. Her eyes flickered to his face in confusion, questioning and full of pain. “It’s not very Gryffindor of you, Granger,” he added. “Giving up. I thought you lot prided yourself on your courage.”

“Courage only gets people killed,” she gasped, her eyes closing. Her head lolled to one side, and alarmed, Draco grasped her face between his hands, shaking her slightly. She moaned and opened her eyes, and he breathed a sigh of relief.

“What happened?” he asked again, his voice gentle, his mind spinning. Who was dead? The nasty little voice inside him hoped it was Potter. Ever since Draco had been dragged to Headquarters, Potter had made it very clear that his life was worth nothing to them. Granger opened her mouth to speak, a trickle of blood running from the corner of her lips. Draco cursed. He had to do something, and fast. She was going to die.

“Granger, I need your wand,” he said bluntly, plunging his hand into her robes, searching the line of her body, pushing the pleasant feeling of her curves against his hands to the back of his mind. She fought him, pushing at his hands, her quick, agitated movements causing her wound to pulse with fresh blood, soaking the sleeve of his robe. “Give me your wand.”

“No … you can’t…”

Draco sighed. “I know very well what your precious Order says, but if you don’t give me your wand, you’ll die,” he snapped. She was unbelievable! Stupid, insufferable woman, he thought viciously, fighting her hands away from his, resuming his search. He found her wand, pulling it from the pocket of her robes. He hadn’t noticed her hide it on her body when she came in. Draco held her wand in his hand, enjoying the tingle of power he received, the electric spark that raced through his blood. He had not held a wand since he had been at Headquarters, Potter having taken it from him the minute he arrived, his arms pinned by his sides by Weasel and Longbottom, his face bloody and his shirt torn. Well, Draco thought smugly, turning Granger’s wand in his hands delicately, let’s see what Precious Potter has to say after I save his treasured little witch.

He turned his gaze back to Granger. “This is going to hurt a bit, Granger, but to be honest, I don’t care,” he snapped, the suppressed sadistic monster in his chest enjoying hearing her whimper. Draco touched the tip of Granger’s wand to her wound, watching in satisfaction as the gaping red gash slowly closed up, the flesh knitting together. She uttered a sharp moan, and promptly fainted.

“You’ll have a scar, I’m afraid,” Draco whispered to the now unconscious woman. “Not that it matters; what’s another ugly mark on your already tarnished skin?” Her eyelids fluttered, and Draco repeated the healing spell on her face and neck. He lent closer to her face, drawn by something unknown as he watched the scratches heal. She looked so sweet and innocent lying there, her mass of hair spread out beneath her head, her eyes closed, her lips slightly parted, her skin ethereally pale. Without knowing why, Draco pressed a light and tender kiss to her forehead, before reeling back, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

'What the hell is wrong with me?' he thought, sitting back against the base of the lounge, turning his face away from Granger. True, she had been his only companion, of sorts, since he had arrived, speaking to him whenever she brought him his meals. He asked her once why she did it, why she was the one to wait on him, and she had answered that no one else would come near him, in case they murdered him. Draco had not seen daylight, or the outside world, since he came to Headquarters. He still did not know where he was exactly; the noise from outside the building told him they were in a city, London probably. He had not seen a newspaper or communicated with anyone for ten months, except for Granger. Potter’s little interrogations could hardly be called communication – Draco sat, sweating and swearing under the effects of Veritaserum, while Potter threw questions at him in a continuous line of assault, both of them becoming more and more agitated when Draco’s answers failed to give the information the Order wanted. When he first arrived, Granger had been the one to interrogate him. He could not begin to presume why that had changed.

Draco returned his gaze to Granger’s face. She was still pale, but her breathing had returned to normal. He wondered whether she truly did care about him, like she had claimed, or whether she was merely buttering him up, keeping him on side. Draco shook his head and frowned. It was not like her to lie, especially about feelings. He had learnt that about her; she was honest to a fault. He knew she was attracted to him, at least the physical side of him, and there had been many occasions over the last few months in particular when Draco could easily have kissed her and taken her to his bed. A shudder passed through him at this thought, both of pleasure and of disgust. She was a Mudblood, but he was still a man, with a man’s needs. He smiled, remembering the impassioned argument he had heard her having with Weasley in the kitchen one evening.

“I don’t know why you bother with that git, Hermione,” Weasley spat, his voice dripping with anger. Draco listened carefully, leaning casually against the doorframe of his “prison”. He heard Granger sigh in exasperation.

“'That git’ as you so eloquently put it, has been rather useful to us, Ronald,” she snapped. Draco leant back into the shadows as she flung open the kitchen door, storming into the hallway, a silver tray containing his pitiful dinner in her small hands. Weasley followed her out, talking all the while.

“I just wish you’d let one of us come up there with you. I don’t trust him.”

Granger snorted in a very un-ladylike manner. “Do you honestly think Malfoy could get the better of me? He doesn’t even have a wand,” she said, stepping onto the landing at the base of the stairs.

Weasley muttered something under his breath.

“Don’t be ridiculous, Ron!” Granger replied with a laugh. “Draco Malfoy is not trying to seduce me! But if you think I need protecting, then come up with me now, and see for yourself.”

Draco gave a little jump. What the hell? Was Weasley jealous of him and Granger’s strange little relationship? He shuddered with revulsion at the thought of touching her Mudblood flesh. Granger was speaking again, and Draco turned his attention back to her voice, raised in cold anger.

“Besides, what does it matter, Ron? It’s not like you would care, is it?”

Draco felt his heart beat gather speed. He had always assumed Granger was in love with the little Blood Traitor. Weasley was always hanging over the petite brunette’s shoulder, talking to her in his simpering little voice, or finding ways to touch her. Curious, Draco listened harder.

“Hermione, please, don’t say that. You know that’s not true,” Weasley whined. Draco heard her footsteps on the stairs, so he slipped further into the room, retreating to the musty bed they had provided for him to sleep on. He sat down, waiting, chewing his lip.

“Why do you like him anyway?” Draco heard Weasley snarl. There was a lengthy pause before Granger answered him.

“I don’t know,” she admitted, her voice carrying through the open door. “I just think there is more to him than we guessed. It must be hard for him, Ron, stuck up there all the time. It’s no wonder he’s short with us.”

“Don’t pity him too much, Hermione. He’d probably slaughter us in our beds if he had the chance,” Wealsey replied darkly, and Draco smirked, amused. The thought had crossed his mind.

Granger sighed. “Don’t be an idiot. True, he’s temperamental and bothersome at the best of times, but you cannot really blame him for being vexed. I wouldn’t want to be in his situation.”

Draco snorted. Stupid Mudblood. What would she know? He lay back on the bed, a small smile playing on his lips. He could have fun with this. Weasley was an idiot, and his jealousy could provide hours of amusement. Draco had been dying for some conflict, and Weasley had always been an easy target. All his attempts to get a rise out of Potter had failed, and he’d never felt so bored in his entire life. Tormenting Granger was hardly exciting anymore – after months of annoying her, she no longer fell for his traps. Footsteps sounded outside the door, and quickly, Draco pulled his shirt over his head, exposing his toned chest. His smirk increased as he heard Granger’s polite knock on the door, followed by her sharp intake of breath. Draco sat up and stretched, his muscles working. He knew they rippled – years of Quidditch had given him an incredible physique. His eyes found Granger’s face, and he chuckled to see her deep brown eyes fixed firmly on his chest.

“Granger,” he drawled, his voice lower and huskier than usual. Slowly, Draco climbed to his feet, stepping towards her, beckoning her closer. “Smells fantastic,” he continued, motioning to his dinner, fighting off a wave of nausea. The food they gave him could hardly be called food it was so disgustingly plain. “Did you cook that?” he asked, forcing a smile and stepping even closer to her, taking the silver tray from her hands. He could see the confusion in her eyes, and she was staring at him, her mouth slightly open. In the corner of his eye, he saw Weasley step up behind her, leaning against the doorway, his eyes narrowed suspiciously, shooting daggers in Draco’s direction.

Draco laughed. “What’s wrong, Granger? You look shocked to see me almost naked. I thought you’d be used to it by now,” he said softly, watching her expression carefully. She scowled, a faint blush creeping into her cheeks, and Draco smiled, bringing his body even closer to her small one, the tray the only thing between them. In the doorway, Weasley clenched his fists, his face flaming. Draco set the tray down, and stepped closer to her.

“What do you think you are doing?” Granger hissed at him, her voice low and angry. Draco smirked again.

“Just having a bit of fun, Granger. Your boyfriend over there looks ready to throttle someone. I don’t think he can decide whether to kill you or me first,” Draco whispered, purposefully lowering his head closer to Granger’s shocked face. He heard Weasley growl and he chuckled with satisfaction. It was too easy.

“He’s not my boyfriend,” she snapped, glaring at him. She gave him a hard shove on the chest, pushing him away from her, just as Weasley strode fully into the room, his face thunderous. Granger turned to him, forestalling any words or actions.

“Ron, forget it. He’s just being his usual arrogant, egotistical self,” she said in a bored voice. Draco simply smiled, crossing his arms over his chest. He threw the petite brunette a wink, and Weasley scowled, stepping forward, Granger’s hand pushing against his chest. She threw Draco a toxic look, but he could not help notice her gaze lingered on his chest and the broad muscle of his upper arms. His smile widened, and she glowered at him, before turning around and heading for the door, dragging Weasley with her.

“See you later, Hermione,” Draco called, watching her freeze at his casual use of her first name. She did not turn until she reached the door, shoving Weasley roughly into the hall. They watched one another; Granger hesitant and Draco proudly arrogant. Her eyes pierced into his skull, and suddenly he didn’t feel like laughing anymore. There was something so intense in her honey eyes; something that set a fire in his stomach. Her eyes traveled the length of his body, from head to toe, and back up again, her gaze drawing over every inch of him. A feeling of vulnerability washed over Draco, shattering his cool facade. Even though she was Mudblood Granger, she was still a woman, a soft, curvy, almost beautiful woman, and the way she was looking at him …

Draco growled deep in his throat, turning away from her, reaching for his shirt. He threw himself down on the floor, his back to the door, pulling the tray into his lap. He felt hot, and at the same time chilled, small beads of perspiration dotting his forehead, his skin puckered into gooseflesh. His heart beat strongly in his ears, and he cursed under his breath, alarmed at how easily his body had betrayed him.


Draco sighed, pulling his gaze away from Granger’s face. After that strange evening, things had been different between them. She was more guarded, and he was snappish and impertinent towards her. An air of tension had built up between them, a crackly, electric air, the impatient sensation in his body so intense he wanted to scream, and Draco had been mortified that he was responding to her presence that way. What had started as a little game to piss Weasley off had backfired seriously, and he found himself thinking about doing things to her body that made him feel sick. He knew she was not getting any action from Weasley, since they were not together anymore, and he seriously doubted they were still sharing a bed, if they ever had been. Potter, he knew, was still attached to the little Weaselette, so Granger was not getting anything from the Boy Wonder, unless the Quartet had become more open minded in their nighttime interactions with each other. The day Draco had suggested to Granger that they throw caution to the wind and jump between the sheets together had earned him a rather hard slap across the face, even though he promised to take her places Weasley would have only ever dreamt about.

There had been coolness between them for months now, underlying a fierce curiosity about one another that had nothing to do with him being Draco Malfoy and she being Hermione Granger. Draco wanted to kiss her, he wanted to touch her, and her presence became painful. She would never allow it, and he knew he should not be thinking about it, but sometimes, her eyes would linger on his face a little longer than usual, her expression soft and wistful, her lips parted slightly, her cheeks flushed, and he found himself thinking that maybe his desire was not unfounded. It was in those moments when he wanted to grab her, crush her body against his and kiss her into submission. Intuition told him to stay away from her, but a carnal beast lurked beneath his skin, and whenever he saw her, heard her tinkling laughter floating up from downstairs, the beast roared into life, making him edgy and tense.

He wanted her, and he suspected she knew it. There was a knowing look in her eyes when she came to see him, and he didn’t like it one bit.

Granger groaned, and Draco lifted his eyes to her face, scanning her features. Her skin had a little more colour, her lips returned to their usual plump pink, luscious and inviting. Without thinking, Draco rose to his knees beside her, pushing a gentle kiss on her mouth. He had not meant to do it, and he had definitely meant to pull away the minute it happened, but when she responded, her mouth opening and her lips moving slowly against his, all caution flew out the window. He nibbled gently at her bottom lip, and a small moan escaped her. One of her hands found its way into his hair, the other gripping his shirt weakly, attempting to pull him closer. Draco pushed his tongue into her mouth, tasting her. She was as sweet as he had imagined, and he deepened the kiss, wanting to get as much of her as he could. His hands moved up the sides of her body, and she whimpered when his fingers brushed her tender flesh.

“Sssh, Granger, you’re fine. So very, very fine,” Draco whispered against her lips. Her eyes flew open at the sound of his voice, and she immediately pushed him away.

Breathless, Draco sat back slightly, his body on fire. Her lips were swollen and her eyes glazed, but underneath the sheen of desire, he could tell she was furious. He waited patiently for the storm to hit.

“Malfoy, you foul, conceited, disgusting prat!” she snarled, attempting to sit up. With one hand, he pushed her back down, shaking his head.

“Stay still, Granger,” he ordered, and she glared at him. “You need to rest.”

She growled at him, pushing his hand away. “Don’t touch me you repugnant bastard.”

Draco laughed. “You weren’t complaining a minute ago. Is that the thanks I get for saving your life? I thought you’d be more grateful.”

She frowned at him. “What are you talking about?”

“You don’t remember? God, Granger, you stumbled in here bleeding all over the place, begging me to let you die,” Draco said, watching her face closely. She was looking at him, shocked and confused, and he sighed. “You really don’t remember, do you? You said you killed someone. What happened this morning?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Malfoy,” she snapped, her face paling.

“You’re a terrible liar,” Draco replied with a small chuckle, climbing to his feet. He handed her her wand, and she took it, pocketing it immediately. “I’ll go tell them you’re alive, shall I?”

“Don’t you want to know who I killed?” Granger asked him coolly, and he shrugged.

“No, unless it was Potter. That would really make my day,” Draco replied, heading towards the door. “Anyway, it’s not that big a deal, Granger. You get used to it.”

“I don’t think I could ever get used to being a killer, Malfoy. I’m not like you,” she snapped.

Draco laughed mockingly, turning at the door. “Oh no? This is war, Hermione, so you had better learn to get used to it. By the time it is over, you will have killed a lot more than one lousy Death Eater.” He stepped into the hall, but not before Granger’s voice reached his ears, low and filled with remorse.

“If only…”

***

Hermione took a deep breath, her hands slipping down to lift her shirt. The horrid wound was healed, leaving nothing but an angry red line and a mass of dried blood. With a sigh, she let her shirt drop, feeling on the verge of tears. She had killed a man. She had drawn her wand and struck without mercy, watching as he fell, his eyes wide with shock, his heart frozen in his chest. She squeezed her eyes closed, forcing the tears back behind her lids. She had killed, murdered in cold blood. She had uttered an Unforgivable Curse, enough to land her a spell in Azkaban if the Ministry still cared about such things. She shuddered, a feeling of remorse rising to consume her. Regardless of what Draco claimed, regardless of the fact they were at war, there was no way she would get used to this feeling.

After almost a year of fighting them, Hermione was still not accustomed to the senseless violence and destruction she encountered during a raid. She had been inducted into the Order several months before graduating from Hogwarts, along with Harry, Ron and others from their year, including Neville, Luna and Ginny. After graduation, they had joined the Order at Headquarters, 12 Grimmauld Place. It had been strange at first, all of them living together under one roof, battle plans taking place straight after dinner, members dropping around at all hours, bringing tantalizing pieces of information with them. It was surreal to think that once, when they were still at school, she had spent a lot of her time here. But then, at that stage, none of them were allowed to be part of the Order’s plans, no matter how much they wished it. Now, Harry was practically running the show, leading them into battle with the determination and fortitude of an experienced warrior. Voldemort was still at large, weakened since the destruction of four Horcruxes. Harry had done well.

Hermione rubbed at her face. She was exhausted. The raid had gone to plan, the Order surprising the Death Eaters, disposing of them quickly and efficiently. Thanks to Draco’s cooperation, however unwilling, none of their members were severely injured, save herself. Two Death Eaters had lost their lives, one killed by her own hand, and two more were in custody. Hermione could barely remember making it back to Headquarters. She had been wounded badly, and was in incredible pain. Ron had urged her to get out, to let them finish up, and so she had somehow managed to apparate back in one piece. The house had seemed strangely empty when she arrived, falling to her knees on the kitchen floor. No one answered her weak calls for help, and so she had dragged herself up the stairs to the one person she never thought she would turn to. Draco Malfoy.

Had he really saved her? Hermione glanced down at herself again, at the long mark running the length of her torso. There was no other explanation – he had saved her life, just as he said. She lay back and closed her eyes, waiting for Draco to return, remembering the night he had been captured.

“Remus, I’m worried. They should have been back before now. Do you think …”

“Hermione, don’t worry yet. They are only half an hour overdue, but you know how these things are. Something very easily could have held them up, something trivial. Besides, we weren’t entirely certain anyone was going to be there, so they may turn up empty handed,” Remus replied softly. The two of them were sitting in the kitchen, Hermione nursing a mug of Butterbeer. Ron, Neville and Harry had gone ‘hunting’, as they liked to put it. Hermione snorted, thinking how Neanderthal they sounded. She half expected them to do a war dance around the house whenever they returned from a successful ‘hunt’.

She closed her eyes, sinking into thought. The boys were after Malfoy. No one had seen him since the end of sixth year, after his attempt on Dumbledore’s life. Harry had watched as Malfoy and Snape had disapparated outside Hogwarts gates, vanishing without a trace. Hermione sighed, wondering what had caused Malfoy to raise his head, over a year after he disappeared. She had accompanied Harry and Mad Eye to the Malfoy Manor, searching for any clues that may lead them to Draco, or his father. The place had been deserted, nobody there except for an old house elf, scared out of her wits. They tried to persuade her to return to Headquarters with them, but she would not leave her Master’s house. She would not talk either, and while she had felt sympathetic towards the elf, Hermione had also been annoyed, feeling the whole thing had been a waste of time. They would never find the Malfoy’s. Lucuis was too slippery, and Draco, well, Hermione suspected he was running scared.

A report had come in that morning, claiming Malfoy junior was hiding out in a small village in the Scottish Highlands. Nothing was mentioned about Lucius or Narcissa, or Severus Snape. The whole thing was, in Hermione’s mind, suspicious. Where were Malfoy’s doting parents? Where was his mentor, the man who had so callously and mercilessly murdered the greatest Wizard of their time? She had argued against the hunt, wanting the boys to wait until they had more information, but Harry was so excited about finally getting his hands on Malfoy, hoping he could lead them to Snape, that nothing she said would change his mind. Ron, being Ron, simply went along to back Harry up, and Neville went to get his own revenge on the boy who had tormented him so much at school.

The kitchen door flew open, and Hermione was on her feet in an instant, her wand drawn and pointed at the door. Harry came through, unmarked and looking as healthy as he had when he left at midday. Hermione breathed a sigh of relief, lowering her wand and flashing him a smile.

“How’d it go?” she asked, and he grinned.

“See for yourself.”

She gasped as Ron and Neville came through the door, a very dirty, angry and annoyed Draco Malfoy held securely between them. Malfoy swore loudly, aiming a kick at Ron, who snarled and smacked him in the side of the head. Hermione studied the prisoner covertly from under her lashes. He was a lot thinner than she remembered, but still lean and muscular. His cheeks were sunken and his eyes dark and hollow, masked my deep ringed shadows. He looked like he hadn’t slept in weeks. He was taller too, his hair long and matted, coated in dirt. His skin, usually so clean and gleaming, was sallow and he was paler than ever, as if he had not seen sunlight in months. She could not help it. A giggle escaped her lips. Here was her sworn enemy, the bane of her existence, totally at the mercy of the Order. Malfoy lifted his head, sneering in her direction.

“Mudblood,” he hissed, his eyes narrowing and his face mottling with rage. Harry lent forward and slapped him, hard, across the face. A trickle of blood ran from Malfoy’s nose, and he sniffed, but held his head high.

“Mione, do we have any Veritaserum handy?” Ron asked, and she nodded, turning to rummage through a cupboard. She found the vial of clear liquid quickly, handing it to Harry, who motioned for Ron and Neville to sit Malfoy down. He fought them all the way, only relenting when Hermione lent forward and pressed the tip of her wand against his cheek. His eyes flashed daggers at her, and she smirked at him, feeling incredibly powerful all of a sudden.

“Be careful, Malfoy,” she whispered. “Contrary to what you may believe, this ‘Mudblood’ knows exactly what to do with her wand. Trust me, I will not hesitate to hurt you. In fact, it would give me the greatest pleasure to see you squirming, ferret.”

Malfoy turned his face away from her and she sighed, sitting back in her chair, her wand raised and pointed at his face. Harry stepped towards him, the Veritaserum in his hand, and Malfoy scowled.

“I already told you the truth, Potter. You don’t need that stuff.”

Harry laughed scornfully. “Do you honestly think I believe you, Malfoy?”

“Believe what you want, then,” Malfoy snapped. “But I told you the truth.”

Hermione frowned, leaning towards Ron. Neville had bound Malfoy to the chair, and Ron had taken a seat next to Hermione, leaving Neville standing behind Malfoy with his wand pointed at the blonde’s shaggy head.

“What did he say?” Hermione asked. Ron scowled.

“Some cock and bull story about wanting us to find him. He says he has left Voldemort. Load of shit if you ask me,” Ron replied, his eyes on Malfoy.

Hermione watched with interest as Harry forced Malfoy’s mouth open, pouring a liberal amount of potion down his throat. They waited until it took effect, Malfoy sneering at each one of them in turn. Hermione returned his look with a bored expression. Somehow, he did not upset her anymore. Seeing him powerless and alone stripped him of all his supposed glory. She watched as Malfoy’s head snapped up, his eyes fixed on her face, blank and glassy. Harry nodded, and she began the standard questions. They had decided that Hermione would be the main questioner in their interrogations when a more senior member of the Order was not present, a position she had reluctantly accepted. Something unnerved her about seeing a person under the effects of Veritaserum. Remus felt the same way.

“Why did you leave Voldemort?” Hermione asked, watching Mafloy’s face carefully. This was the question. The rest of his answers had been what they expected, and they had learnt nothing new.

“He killed my mother,” Malfoy snarled, and Hermione could not help but gasp. Harry looked at her in surprise and she fought to keep the tears away. No matter who or what Malfoy was, he was still human, and still suffered like the rest of them. She swallowed.

“Why did he kill her?”

“Why do you think, Granger? I was not a good enough little solider,” Malfoy spat.

“What do you mean by that?”

“I mean, Mudblood, that I did not want to be in his service anymore, and he knew it.”

Ignoring his insult, Hermione thought quickly. “So you let us find you?”

Malfoy laughed. “Let you? I’m the one who sent the letter. Yes, I wanted to be found. I want revenge on him. I want to see him dead.”

She sat back, stunned, as Malfoy’s head fell forwards onto the table. Ron’s mouth was hanging open, and Remus was looking thoughtfully at Malfoy. Harry and Neville hauled the unconscious man to his feet, intending to take him away and lock him up. Remus walked forwards, motioning for them to stop.

“I have a better idea. Let him help us.”

“Are you nuts?” Ron yelled suddenly, making Hermione jump. “He’s a bloody Death Eater!”

Remus nodded. “Who better to catch Death Eaters, than a Death Eater?”

Harry frowned, considering the idea. “What if he won’t help us?”

“He will,” Hermione said suddenly. She was sure of it, recalling the look in his eyes when he told her he wanted revenge, when he told her his mother had been murdered. “And if he doesn’t, then we lock him up. At least give him the chance to make his choice. Harry,” she said quickly, as Harry opened his mouth, “we cannot loose this opportunity. If he can tell us anything about Voldemort, anything useful, don’t you want to know?”

Harry sighed, and then nodded. “Fine. We’ll take him upstairs, chain him to the wall or something. Regardless of what he says, I don’t trust him, Hermione.”

“Neither do I,” she admitted truthfully, her eyes on Malfoy’s drooping head and shoulders. She felt a surge of pity for him. He looked terrible, and she could only wonder where he had been and what he had been doing all this time. Harry and Neville dragged Malfoy from the room.

Everything changed after that night. Ron suggested that Hermione be Malfoy’s personal gaoler, an idea that did not appeal to her. Harry agreed with Ron, saying simply that if he had to go anywhere near Malfoy, he would most likely kill him. Ron, Hermione knew, would do the same. Although not purposefully malicious or violent, neither man would lose the chance to beat Draco Malfoy to within an inch of his life.

The following morning, Hermione climbed the stairs to Malfoy’s room, a plate of food and a pitcher of water in her hands. He screeched at her to get out, throwing a book at her head, and she in turn tossed the food on the floor, dumped the water over his head, and hexed him. Fuming, she stamped her foot, watching as he scowled murderously at her, rubbing his arm. She had hit him with a rather impressive Stinging Hex, and already nasty red welts had appeared on his skin. Wandless, he was not at all frightening, and she laughed, stepping further into the room, picking up the pitcher and refilling it instantly. He looked ridiculous, sitting on the floor, his hair streaming water, his face twisted up in a scowl.

“You’re filthy, Malfoy,” she snapped at him, noticing again how dirty he really was. “What in Merlin’s name have you been doing?”

“You don’t want to know,” he snarled at her. She wrinkled her nose.

“You reek, you know that? I’ll get you some water for a wash,” she said simply, turning to leave.

“I don’t know how you expect me to wash myself, Granger, when my hands are tied. Unless you are offering to do it for me?”

Hermione felt her cheeks grow red. She turned back to face him, meeting his steely grey gaze. “I’m surprised you would even consider letting a Mudblood touch you, Malfoy, let alone bathe you. I’ll get the water.”


Hermione sighed again, pushing herself to her feet with difficulty, her hand gripping her stomach. He infuriated her, drove her insane, but still, she knew she had come to care about him. Her thoughts wandered to the kiss he had given her, the kiss she had so passionately responded to. There was something so inherently dangerous about the cool blonde. As much as she knew she should stay away from him, he drew her in. He radiated power and assurance, although imprisoned and under guard. He was calm and collected at all times, even when complaining incessantly about his dwellings, or the food they gave him, or anything at all. Hermione was also well aware of how physically attractive he was, with his pale skin, storm cloud eyes and shining blonde hair. The mystery that was Malfoy simply added to his aura of cool and danger – she had no idea who he was sometimes. The whole time he had been with them he had never let anything slip about himself.

Hermione groaned, her heart twisting painfully in her chest. Ron. They were not together anymore, not officially anyway. Sometimes, late at night, when the truth of the horrible situation they were in managed to break down her strongly built defenses and crawl into the tender recess of her heart, Hermione found herself seeking the comfort of Ron’s arms again, losing herself in the innocent sweetness of his love. He did love her, she knew it, but ever since the war began in earnest, she did not have the heart to truly love him back. The possibility of losing him outweighed the desire to let him love her, to let herself love him back. The time they spent together was painful, Hermione never giving Ron everything she had, and Ron knowing she never would. The intensity of his love scared her, jealousy blazing in his eyes whenever she climbed the stairs to Malfoy’s room.

Malfoy … Hermione growled in frustration as his face floated before her mind, his eyes alight with eager desire, his mouth curved into a seductive smile. The way his silky blonde hair fell over his face, his skin so pale it shone in the darkness, so smooth it may have been carved from the finest marble. She longed to give in to him, to let herself go with such reckless abandon she forgot who she was, forgot the truth of the world outside her thoughts of him. She longed for him to take her away from herself. In truth, she had wanted him to kiss her for a long time.

She heard Draco’s footfall on the stairs, and she pushed all thoughts of his lips out of her mind, struggling to stay on her feet. Draco swept through the door, closing it and locking it behind him. Hermione gasped, suddenly very frightened. He may have been wandless, but he was still physically stronger than she was.

“What are you doing?” she hissed, her insides turning to ice. He shushed her quickly, raising a finger to his lips.

“Something’s wrong,” he whispered, coming to stand by her side. She staggered a little, feeling weak and disoriented, and Draco slipped his arm around her waist, holding her steady against him so that her body burned where it connected with his. He looked at her, his eyes dark and troubled. “Correct me if I am wrong, Granger, but even when you lot are out doing your thing there is normally a skeleton crew hanging around the house.”

Hermione nodded, feeling tense and apprehensive. Draco sighed, pulling her a little closer.

“Well, at the moment, there is no one else here. Hermione, the place is deserted.”

“What do you mean, ‘deserted’? Malfoy, what …” she began, but he placed a finger on her lips. She glared at him, her anger springing into life. She raised a hand, ready to slap him.

“I mean none of your lot are here. There are Death Eaters downstairs, Granger. We have to get out of here,” Draco said urgently, his eyes fixed on the door. Hermione shook her head.

“Impossible, Malfoy. The place is protected. No one can find it unless Harry wants them too. Fidelus Charm,” she hissed. “So you must be wrong.”

“Not unless Potter has been captured,” he replied bluntly and Hermione felt the blood drain from her face.

“No, he can’t be … he was right there. They were all dead, or knocked out,” she stammered.

Draco sighed. “Look, we can work it out later, but now we need to get out of here. Can you apparate?”

“You!” Hermione spat in a dangerously low whisper, bunching her hand in his shirt, shaking him with as much strength as she could muster. “You sent us there! What have you done, Malfoy?”

“Hey, don’t throw your accusations at me, Granger! You are the only person I have spoken too in, oh, I don’t know, ten months! How would I have done something like this, huh? Have you forgotten why I am here in the first place?” Draco hissed in her ear, his breath sending a shock wave through her body. He gave her a little shake, lifting her chin with one hand to look into her eyes. “I didn’t do this! I don’t even know where in Merlin’s name we are! Believe me, if I wanted Potter dead, I’d have done it myself, wand or not.”

Hermione gasped as Draco’s fingers bit into her side, clamping down on her muscles. He pulled her closer, pressing her against his body until she was certain there was not a part of them not touching. Hermione had regretted her words the minute they left her mouth. She knew he had nothing to do with this, but she was terribly frightened and blaming him was easier than accepting the possibility the others were in trouble.

“Can you get us out?” he asked roughly, and she shook her head. She was too weak to apparate. Draco sighed. “Well, don’t blame me if we end up somewhere Godforsaken. You need to release me from the anti-disapparation jinx, Granger, or we’re dead.”

Nodding, Hermione pulled out her wand, pointing it at his chest. Before she could do anymore, Draco gripped her body tightly, sending them both spinning away into the darkness.

They hit the ground with a thud, Hermione falling back, crushed by Draco’s weight. She shoved at him, ignoring how good it felt to have him lying on top of her, and with a groan, he rolled away. She opened her eyes and looked around, taking in their surroundings. They were in a very dirty, almost bare room. Dust floated through the air, filling her lungs, and Hermione coughed violently, pushing herself onto her elbows and rolling away to one side, her hand over her mouth. Her eyes streamed with water and her lungs burnt.

“Where are we?” she choked, looking to Draco. He was on his feet, and at the sound of her voice, he offered her his hand, pulling her to his side. “What is this place?” she asked again. Draco did not answer. He released her hand and wandered towards a small cupboard with a broken door, sitting against the wall. Carefully, he forced the door open, reaching in and removing a bottle and two glasses, coated in a thick layer of dust.

“Give me your wand,” he demanded softly, and wordlessly she passed it over, thinking perhaps she was mad, willingly giving a former Death Eater her wand. Draco tapped the glasses, cleaning them instantly. He turned to her, holding up the bottle. Firewhiskey. Motioning towards a small table and a battered lounge, he raised his eyebrows, and Hermione nodded, following him across the room. They sat in silence as Draco poured them both a liberal amount of alcohol, handing Hermione a glass. He raised his own as if in a celebratory toast, and she tipped her glass towards him, feeling like she was dreaming. The pain in her stomach had ceased, and she was feeling stronger.

“Where are we, Malfoy?”

Draco sighed, sitting back against the mouldy old lounge, a small smile on the corners of his lips. “Home,” he answered, taking a long drink of firewhiskey. Hermione frowned, her brain working at top speed.

“So this is where you were all that time? Here? You?” She could barely believe it. Draco Malfoy, living in total squalor. This place made Headquarters look like a palace. Draco flashed her a ghost of a smile.

“It’s not really my ideal surroundings, Granger, but I stayed alive,” he replied softly. “I would much rather have been sitting back sipping my drink from a crystal glass, in the Manor, with my parents. Well, with my mother anyway.”

Hermione swallowed nervously, stamping down on her fear. She had to tell him. “How long were you here before …”

“Before I called on the worlds savior? About six months,” he answered, refilling her glass. Hermione blinked, startled. She did not remember drinking it, but accepted the second glass, enjoying the warmth spreading through her body and the pleasant buzzing in her veins.

“Do you really think Harry…” Hermione began, her voice trailing off, feeling close to tears. He had to be alright. He just had to be. After everything he had gone through…

Draco shrugged. “I don’t know, Granger. I’d say he’s alive. They wouldn’t just kill him; the Dark Lord would murder them all. They would have taken Potter to Voldemort, that I can tell you. The rest of them,” he paused and looked at her sadly, “would be dead.”

Hermione put her head in her hands, letting the tears come. Ron, Neville, Tonks … she snuck a glance at Draco. It was possible he was lying. But then again, he had not told them a single lie since they imprisoned him. That thought only made her cry harder, and as she sobbed, Draco slid his arm around her shoulders, pulling her close to him. She turned and buried her face against his strong chest, her body raked with choking sobs. Draco stroked her hair gently, murmuring words she could not hear into her ear. The sound of his voice, deep and rich, was soothing, and Hermione felt the tears begin to dry up. She would grieve for them later, when she knew for sure what had happened. Sniffing, she pulled out of Draco’s arms, finding his eyes searching her face so intently she blushed. They were close, their faces inches apart, their eyes locked together, and Hermione felt a bolt of heat flood her body that had nothing to do with the firewhiskey.

“Draco,” she murmured, holding her breath as his face came closer to hers. “We shouldn’t …”

“You called me Draco,” he whispered, his hand finding her hair, pushing it back from her face. She blushed again, before giving herself a ruthless shake, pulling away from him.

“The man I killed …”

He rolled his eyes. “Now that’s romantic, Granger.” Draco lent closer to her, and Hermione shivered. His lips were so soft, so inviting, and they were right there, right in front of her, waiting to be kissed. She shook herself again, determined to tell him the truth, even if he hated her for it.

“I killed Lucius,” she whispered.

~o0o~

A/N: Sorry about the cliffhanger...well, no i'm not :). Leave a review please!

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