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She read for what felt like ages, but when she glanced at the clock, only an hour had passed. “Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.” She muttered to herself.

She ate the food that Kreacher brought her, and then turned back to her book and tried to follow the explanation of a Dark Locator spell that was described there. She was practicing the wrist motion, when there was a soft knock at the door.

"Come in," she said absently not seeing who entered, as she continued flicking her wrist in the odd movement, the book open on the bed beside her on the bed.

"You're swishing your wrist too much." Draco said, looking at the book. "It's more of a snap. And why are you trying to do the Mortalis Quaerere curse?”

Hermione’s head jerked up at the sound of his voice, and she fixed him with a glare. “Just practicing.”

Draco stalked across the room, grabbing the book he snapped it closed to look at the cover. “In tenebris: Spells, Hexes, and Curses? What are you reading this for?” He demanded.

“I don’t know if that’s any of your business.” Hermione said, reaching for the book in Draco’s hand.

Draco stepped out of her reach, and asked quietly, “Isn’t it though?”

“Well, yesterday I might have thought so.” Hermione snapped. “But then you disappear; no note, no message, after telling me a cryptic Charles Dickens quote! And I wake up to find Harry standing at my door like the palace guard, refusing to tell me why, and then I see your name in the papers and no one can find you!”

Draco looked at his feet, and there was a long silence before he whispered, “I didn’t think you heard me, the quote I mean. I thought you were asleep.”

“Well I wasn’t.” Hermione said. “And then Kingsley tells me that you’ve met with Yaxley. Draco, what were you thinking?!”

“That I had to protect you.” He said softly, toying with the binding of the book.

“What?” Whatever Hermione was expecting, it wasn’t that.

“Look, I had a small window of opportunity to convince the Death Eaters that I’m still one of them. I had to try and gain their trust back.” Draco explained. “I wanted to find out what the plan behind kidnapping you was. The Lestrange brothers are animals, but they’re not that bright. They didn’t come up with that plan on their own. There’s an end game here, and we need to find out what it is!”

“So, you’re trying to get back in to the Death Eater circles?” Hermione asked.

“Well, I’m not much use as a double agent if I can’t get information from the other side.” Draco said with a smirk. “Not that Kingsley will let me.”

“Honesty time Draco,” Hermione said, crossing her arms. “What is going on with you. Kingsley send you to the Healer, why?”

“Because I’m having withdrawals and he wanted to see if he could sort me out.” Draco admitted.

“Did he?” Hermione pressed.

“Well, it’s not like there’s a potion for Dark Magic Addiction.” Draco snapped, and then winced. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that.”

Hermione just looked at him, he still hadn’t looked her in the eye.

“You didn’t answer my question.” Draco said, paging through the book.

“Well, I decided that since I’m stuck here and not able to move around, I would start learning everything I can about Dark Magic.” Hermione said, gesturing to the pile of books beside her.

“Why on earth would you do that?” Draco snapped.

“Because you can’t fight what you don’t understand.” Hermione said simply. “I’ve spent most of my life learning how to defend myself from the Dark Arts, but not as much actually learning what they are, aside from some very specific things.”

“You can’t do these spells Hermione.” Draco said pleadingly, shaking his head, “They’ll ruin you.”

“I’m not actually doing the spells Draco. Not yet anyway.” Hermione explained. “But I am trying to learn as much about them as I can. Wand motion tells you a lot about the casting of the spell.

“Not yet?” Draco asked, incredulous.

“Well I’m not saying I won’t ever try some of them, for the sake of my research.” Hermione explained.

Draco raked his hand through his hair. “This isn’t a game Hermione! This isn’t DADA class, you’re not earning extra points by figuring out a clever jinx!”

“I’m well aware of that Draco.” Hermione said, chillingly. “You forget that I’ve dealt with some of the darkest magic there is, and walked away from it.”

“I don’t though.” Draco said. “Because you haven’t told me what happened to you last year.”

“Everyone knows what happened to me last year.” Hermione cried. “I’m pretty sure someone has written a book about it by now!”

“I know what the papers say, what did you call it? ‘The public story’?” Draco argued. “I don’t know what you were really doing!”

“Well I have no idea what you were up to last year either, if we’re splitting hairs Draco!” Hermione’s face was flushed, and she yelled. “You said you did Riddle’s bidding, what was that? Torturing people? Killing them?”

Draco sat on the bed opposite Hermione, and to her surprise, he said softly, “I knew we would have this conversation eventually.”

“What?” Hermione said, shocked.

“I’m not an idiot.” Draco said, laughing bitterly. “You’re always telling me that I’m a good person, and you argue with me when I disagree. But I knew eventually your curiosity would get the better of you. This is the part of the story when you find out just how evil your boyfriend really is. ’I am in so far in blood that sin will pluck on sin’”

Richard III.” Hermione whispered.

Draco nodded. “Do you really want to know?”

“Yes.” Hermione said softly. “But that doesn’t seem fair, since I can’t tell you what I was doing last year. Not without an unbreakable vow.”

“I don’t mind.” Draco said, sitting on the edge of Hermione’s bed. “But can I do something first?”

Hermione nodded, “Sure, what do you need to…”

But Draco had silenced Hermione with a searing kiss. He slipped an arm gently around her waist, and pulled her has close as he dared. He twisted the other hand into her curls, trying to memorize every part of her.

When he let her go, Hermione seemed in a daze. After a moment, she asked, “What was that for?”

Draco shrugged, and moved to sit on the other bed. “Just making a memory.”

Hermione looked at him oddly. “Why?”

“Because,” Draco said sadly, “Once I tell you my story you might not want to see me again. Which would be completely justified.”

“Draco, don’t be overly dramatic.” Hermione said rolling her eyes.

“I’m not Hermione.” Draco said, taking on a detached tone. “Just let me get this out. Please don’t interrupt.”

“Okay.” Hermione agreed, suddenly realizing why she hadn’t ever asked this particular question before.

“Well, obviously you know all about my mission from sixth year.” Draco said, wringing his hands. “After I failed to kill Dumbledore, and fled with Snape, I was sure the Dark… Riddle… was going to kill me.”

He seemed to be struggling with what to call Voldemort as he told the story. “To my surprise, we fled to the Manor. I felt like such a failure, I was so miserable that I was honestly ready to die.”

“To my utter disbelief, Snape made it seem as though we had worked together to kill Dumbledore. That it was the plan for me to distract him, so Snape cold make his move.” Draco said, sounding bitter. “Now that I know why he did it, it makes more sense, but at the time I figured he was setting me up. Death Eaters aren’t exactly team players.”

Draco rubbed his temples. “I didn’t leave the manor again, until the next school year started. R-Riddle used it as his base, coming and going with prisoners and informants. He… he gave me another job. He said since I’d come through for him successfully at Hogwarts, I was trustworthy enough to be put in charge of his prisoners. He had me make sure that no one could escape, making sure they had just enough food and water to keep them alive.”

“When he wanted to see one of them, I’d drag them out of the dungeon, and up to the parlor he used. If he didn’t kill them, I’d drag them back. By the time the summer was over, I was thrilled to return to school. Of course that presented an entirely new set of challenges, because I was given pretty much the same job… dragging students to and from the dungeons for the Carrows'. Only it was worse, because I knew most of them.”

Hermione noticed that he had tears running down his face. “I stood around watching innocent people get tortured, and murdered. People I could have easily helped. But I was too worried about my own sorry hide to do anything but watch.”

“By the time the break came, and I was back at the manor, I was so broken and terrified that I didn’t want Riddle anywhere near me.” Draco fisted the tears away. “He’d become so unstable by that point, that he’d kill if you moved in the wrong direction. When you lot turned up, I refused to identify Harry because I was petrified that my aunt would call the Dark Lord back.”

He looked up and met Hermione’s gaze. “That’s why I didn’t tell them who he was. I wasn’t being heroic, or trying to protect anyone. I was a coward. Dozens of lives are on my head because I was a coward.”

“That’s the real mark of a Slytherin.” Draco spat. “Selfishness.”

There was a long silence, and after a while, Hermione spoke up. “You know, the Sorting Hat wanted to put Harry in Slytherin.”

Draco’s head shot up. “You’re joking.”

“No, I’m serious.” Hermione said quietly. “He told us in second year, during the whole 'Heir of Slytherin' thing, after everyone found out he was a Parselmouth. He’s only in Gryffindor because he asked the hat not to put him in Slytherin.”

“Wow, I wonder how all of this would have turned out if he had been put in Slytherin?” Draco pondered. “Why aren't you demanding that I leave? I’m responsible for dozens of deaths.”

Hermione sighed. “Draco, I’m not going to pretend that I agree with all of your choices, but you didn’t actually kill anyone yourself.”

“I as good as killed them.” He said, ducking his head. “I didn’t help them.”

“Draco, you were a pawn in all of this as much as Harry was.” Hermione said softly.

“Harry wasn’t a pawn,” Draco said. “He was fated to kill Riddle.”

“Harry will probably skin me for this, but you need to hear the whole story.” Hermione said, taking out her wand. “Give me your hand.”

“Why?” Draco asked, confused.

“Because I’m doing the Unbreakable Vow, now give me your hand.” Hermione insisted.

Draco looked at her skeptically. “You don’t have to do this, Hermione.”

“Oh, don’t get your knickers in a twist.” Hermione scoffed. “I’m not going to turn into your Aunt Bellatrix because I do one Unbreakable Vow. Give. Me. Your. Hand.”

Draco acquiesced, and took Hermione’s hand. “You know how to do the spell?”

“Yes, I learnt it after our previous conversation about it.” Hermione said simply. “I figured you’d get curious too.”

Draco sighed.

Perpetua.” Hermione said, flicking her wand in a complicated motion over their clasped hands. “Do you Draco Lucious Malfoy, promise to keep the details given to you regarding the past year a secret, speaking about them only to those involved in the situation?”

“I do.” Draco said coldly, he could feel the slight darkness of the spell tugging at his willpower.

“And do you promise never to attempt to replicate the Dark Magic used by Tom Riddle mentioned in this conversation, or attempt to help another replicate it in any way?”

“I do.” Draco said, sounding suspicious.

“And do you promise if questioned on your knowledge of My, Harry, or Ron’s actions regarding the past year, that you will only provide information available in public record?”

“I do.” Draco said, starting to sound irritated.

Iuravit.” Hermione said, twisting her wand away, and leaving the faint impression on their wrists of the Vow.

“Well that was thorough.” Draco growled.

“It’s necessary.” Hermione said simply.

“It had better be.” Draco said coldly, rolling his shoulders and letting the affects of the spell wash over him.

“Do you have a handle on yourself?” Hermione asked, watching Draco closely.

“I’m fine Granger.” Draco growled, his eyes dark.

“Clearly not.” Hermione said, reaching for her wand.

“What are you doing?” Draco demanded.

“Oh calm down.” Hermione said rolling her eyes. “I just want to try something”

“What?” Draco asked, leaning away from her.

“I have a theory.” Hermione said. She flicked her wand, and cast a Patronus, sending the Otter to go and sit beside Draco. “I would suggest you cast your own, but I’m guessing you’re probably not capable of that right now.”

Draco shook his head, feeling his mind clear as the Otter climbed up and sat on his shoulder. “That… that’s actually helping.”

“I thought it might.” Hermione nodded. “You look calmer already.”

“Yes.” Draco said, sounding distant. “My headache is gone too.”

“Good.” Hermione said, smiling for the first time in a while. “I’m glad. Not so jumpy now?”

“No… I, Merlin.” Draco said, raking his hands through his hair. “It feels… I can’t explain it. How long can you hold this for?”

“I guess we’ll find out.” Hermione said, keeping a grip on her wand. “Draco, have you ever heard of a Horcrux?”

Draco shook his head.

Author's Note:

The books quoted in this chapter are Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, and Richard III by William Shakespeare.

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