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Arabesque by CelticKisses

Format: Novel
Chapters: 25
Word Count: 98,899
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Drama, Horror/Dark, Romance
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Lucius, Narcissa, Draco, OC
Pairings: Draco/Hermione, Lucius/Narcissa

First Published: 04/28/2006
Last Chapter: 09/12/2009
Last Updated: 09/12/2009

Summary:
Beta|Phoenix_Flames - Banner|the_tofuubeaver|



Hours became a painful ticking of seconds. The edges of the world were blurring. Her eyes were swollen shut or pinned open; she couldn’t tell through the pain. All she knew was the tight circle of his arms. The soft tickling of his breath on her neck as he held her. The way it felt to curl into his side and hope for oblivion; wish for the end. She was wishing for it - most profoundly. She no longer wanted to go on, to live like this.


Chapter 1: Watch the World Burn
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Listed at The Ultimate Story List
Dobby Awards 2007 Best Wielding of Genre
Dobby Awards 2007 Best Romance




Please Note: This story is undergoing revisions. There are inconsistencies throughout at this moment. Thank you for your suspended imaginations for the time being as I give this piece a kick in the butt ^_^




Hours became a painful ticking of seconds. The edges of the world were blurring. Her eyes were swollen shut or pinned open; she couldn’t tell through the pain. Either way, she couldn’t see. All she knew was the tight circle of his arms. The soft tickling of his breath on her neck as he held her. The way it felt to curl into his side and hope for oblivion; wish for the end. She was wishing for it - most profoundly. She no longer wanted to go on, to live like this.

Her arm protested painfully as she came fully to consciousness, dreams slipping away like silken threads. She felt as if she was clawing through the undergrowth of the deepest forest. Night circled her. Her head was heavy and throbbing. She was awake enough now to take in her surroundings; the bed she was lying on and the sheets wound around her legs. The smell in the air was familiar and comforting, but she could not place it. For no apparent reason she gasped in pain, as if her body was remembering what her mind had not yet grasped.

A dark, velvet voice whispered her name. She turned over to find him there, the source of that comforting haze that hung about her. His hands trailed down her jaw and over her shoulder. She followed them, surprised by the wad of white that she found was taped to her arm. She raised her arm, staring at it as her mind grappled with the appearance of the bandage. She tried to remember what it meant, why it was there.

Moments like this, moments where one finds themselves vulnerable and empty, these are the moments where our lives are shaped by those around us. What matters now, what will make the difference between whether you will live or die, is who you have to hold on to when the world closes in on you and your eyes see no more.




“NARCISSA!”

Draco, who was in his own room on the other side of the manse, slammed his trunk violently closed as his father’s voice echoed throughout the halls. He was ready to go. He was aching to escape this place.

“Narcissa!!”

Draco kicked the trunk. Why didn’t the man just send a house elf to find her instead of bellowing throughout the entire mansion like a fool? There was a violent noise in the hallway as what was presumably a vase met its death on the floor. Thirteen more minutes until his lift was here. Thirteen more minutes and he would be free – never have to return here ever again.

“You know he is looking for you,” he said over his shoulder.

“I can hear him,” his mother answered from where she was standing next to the bed post, a lace handkerchief twisting violently through her fingers. “I’ll deal with him when you leave.”

“He will deal with you sooner than that if you don’t answer him, and you know that, Mother.”

“Don’t treat your trunk like that. It’s been in the family for years. Your own father used that trunk when he was just a - ”

"-Mother," he interrupted. She stopped, heavy set eyes on his. They would not hug. They would not kiss each other goodbye. They stood there, staring at each other for a moment, wordless, before he grabbed his trunk and hauled it into the hallway.

“Draco!”

Draco froze. He had been mere yards from the door, from freedom. He turned, allowing the trunk to drop to the ground with a slam. His father was standing at the end of the hallway, between him and the only way out.

“Where’s your mother? I’ve been calling that damn woman!” Draco did not acknowledge the question. “I asked you a question, son.”

Draco looked away from his father as a hand wound in the front of his shirt and violently wrenched him forward.

“I’m right here, Lucius,” Narcissa said softly, emerging from Draco’s bedroom with a black bag in her grasp. Lucius released the boy as she handed it to her son. As soon as the bag had left her grasp, Narcissa was falling backwards against the wall. She fell to the floor with a small cry, tears stinging her eyes.

“Does that make you powerful?” Draco shot at his father.

“Do not tempt me, boy.” Lucius rubbed his knuckles absentmindedly, entirely focused on the woman who was crumpled at his feet. “Stay out of my study, Narcissa. You do not belong in there. Do not touch my books,” he said to his wife. He turned then, without bidding Draco goodbye, and disappeared. Draco was too busy tending to his mother to notice.

As soon as Lucius was gone, Narcissa dissolved into tears. Draco knelt on the ground next to her, silent and untouching. This was the way of things. The only people who ever touched in the house were Lucious and Narcissa and none of them were glancing caresses. Narcissa would inevitably fall and Draco would inevitably sit with her until she was spent.

Draco sat down on the floor, his back against his trunk. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes. Soon. Soon he could leave. He stayed that way for some time, his mother's soft sniffling echoing throughout the hallway.





The Head’s common room was outwardly no different than any of the other common rooms at Hogwarts. The entrance was, much like the Gryffindor common room, behind a portrait and the location was not, like all of the houses, the secret it was supposed to be. Hermione had arrived by train about four hours ago and been, to her utter delight, greeted by none other than the looming shape of Hagrid at the station in Hogsmeade. They had wedged themselves in one of the school carriages and chatted enthusiastically about their time spent apart the entire trip, Hagrid mentioning haphazardly that the Head Boy was supposed to have come in by train as well earlier in the day and never bothered to appear, leaving Hagrid waiting outside for almost three hours until Hermione had showed up.

Hermione sighed to herself and lay her book down next to her on the cushioned seat of the common room couch. Ever since she had received her letter from Hogwarts stating that she had been chosen as Head Girl with the unlikely nomination of Draco Malfoy as her counterpart, she had been terrified to begin this year. It was stated that it was required for her to arrive a day early in order to prepare for the arrival of the student body the following day. She had yet to see her counterpart and she was piqued.

Turning to the crackling fire, she clenched her jaw in irritation. She had to form a resolution against the foul personality of her new roommate or she would never survive this year. What had the administration been thinking, placing such a person in a place of authority? It was the most preposterous idea she had ever heard. In fact, upon opening the letter, she had proceeded to uncharacteristically throw an extremely breakable glass figurine at her bedroom wall in frustration.

These apartments were rather nice, however, she was forced to admit. They were very lushly decorated, not leaning towards any specific color or any specific house. The artwork was very interesting, and the hearth was even the same size as the one she was used to in the Gryffindor common room.

Her admirations were violently interrupted as the portrait flung open and a large black trunk was hauled through. She was startled and froze where she stood until she registered that is was Draco Malfoy himself coming into the room.

“Well then,” she huffed as she regained her composure. “How lovely of you to show up.”

“Who do you think you are, Granger?” he snarled as he stepped into the room, brushing off his sleeves and looking about him. “My mother?” His cape somehow managed to make him look much more menacing than usual; the way it swirled about him as he turned. Hermione did not reply. “Granger, I am talking to you,” he said in an aggravated tone.

“I won’t respond if you’re going to be rude,” she informed him.

“Oh, really?” he laughed, pulling the cloak off his shoulders and throwing it over the arm of the chair nearest him. “What was that then?”

He was doing it already! Hermione savagely bit her tongue, refusing to be goaded by him. He had only been in her presence for five minutes and she already wanted to strangle him. She shook her head back and forth to clear it. Do not let him bother you! Establish your dominance now! This is your only shot to show him he cannot trample you if you must live together.

“I know,” Draco said. “My very presence is intoxicating.” He didn’t say it smugly, or as if he even believed it, it was more a sarcastic remark meant to set her on edge. He was teasing her: goading her to fight back.

She settled back onto the couch and met his eyes. “I am sure I am just hungry,” she said levelly.

Draco snorted as if he didn’t believe it and crossed his arms against his chest, eyes apparently intent on the intricate stone working of the fireplace. After a moment of awkward silence, Hermione cleared her throat in an attempt to get his attention, and upon failing, began to speak whether he was listening or not.

“We need to meet with the Headmaster tomorrow, but for now we’ve been left these instructions,” she held up a piece of parchment with the Hogwarts seal emblazoned on it. “They explain what to do tomorrow for the welcoming of the student body. We will meet Hagrid at the front doors tomorrow evening at six and follow him to Hogsmeade where we will help the students get in their carriages and the first years into their boats. I’ll leave it on the table here so you can read it.”

Draco did not respond, and Hermione left him standing there, choosing to close herself in her own room for the night rather than deal with his attitude.

Upon reaching the Hogsmeade Station the next evening, dusk had already settled into dark, and lanterns appeared at even intervals to guide the students towards their transportation to the castle.

“We are responsible for the first years,” Hermione reminded Draco as they stepped towards the platform.

“I am aware,” Draco hissed back.

Hermione turned from him and grabbed a lantern, raising the cry for first years to accompany them towards the lake. Draco fell into step behind her. As soon as they reached the lake, however, chaos ensued.

“Do you think you could try to be nice to them?” Hermione growled under her breath as they loaded the last of the first years into the rowboats. One of the girls had tried to clamor into one of the boats far too quickly and tipped the entire thing over. Draco had laughed as the girl burst into tears.

Draco ignored her and went on to mumble how stupid this was, and all the carriages had just left, so did they have to take a bloody rowboat too?

Hermione was about to retort, and not kindly, when she was distracted by a blur of movement behind her. She turned to find an empty carriage waiting off to the left with a crest emblazoned on the door. “No,” she said, stepping to the carriage. “I don’t believe we have to take a rowboat.”

As she approached the carriage, she realized that there was an odd insignia engraved into the door. She lightly skimmed a hand over the design of a proud roaring lion and a snake slithered around it and two crossed wands, and frowned. “This carriage must be specifically for the Heads,” she observed. “I’ve never seen it before.”

Always the charmer, Draco walked past her and threw the door open and disappeared into the depths of the carriage, saying “Splendid,” over his shoulder.

She sighed irritably and climbed in after him, sitting on the seat across from him, the goal being to get as far as she could from him. He was leaning into the corner, arms stiffly crossed. As soon as she had settled, the carriage lurched into motion. They reached the castle fifteen agonizingly silent minutes later.

Professor McGonagall was a woman who appeared to thrive on chaos. She seemed to be at her best when things around her were falling to pieces, and she could rush in and make everything right. Apparently, Draco and Hermione were late to the feast because as soon as they passed through the large doors into the Atrium, the professor was instantaneously swooping down on them.

“I’m about to bring the first years in. The two of you should already be seated!” she cried as she pushed them through the doors. As they separated from each other and made their way towards their appropriate tables, Dumbledore’s voice was booming through the hall in a moment that felt completely staged.

“Welcome to another year of excellence at Hogwarts!” he said. “Please join me in acknowledging the appointment of your new Heads; Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger!” As if the old man had known they would enter the hall at just that very moment.

Hermione, entirely embarrassed at this point, scuttled her way down the Gryffindor table as they screamed and hollered at her. In front of her, a bit farther down, Harry and Ron were smiling and waving her towards them. She graciously smiled back and hurried to them, quickly taking the seat between them and trying her best to use their bodies to hide her from view.

“Please assist me in welcoming the newest members of our staff,” Dumbledore continued speaking. “This lovely woman will be your newest professor. As you are all aware, the Ministry of Magic has added a new class to our curriculum to promote cultural awareness and the production of well rounded individuals from this prestigious school.”

As he spoke, a slender woman with long, black hair stood from her spot at the head table. “Professoressa Dianna Gragnani,” Dumbledore gestured to her, and polite clapping ensued from the students. Dumbledore, however, was completely unperturbed by the young woman and continued on. “Professoressa Gragnani will be teaching the new ballroom dancing and classical ballet class that has been added to all of your schedules, as I said before.”

As can be imagined, merely the mentioning of this class set the teenage witches and wizards in the hall to groaning. Dumbledore showed no acknowledgment of this except for the slightest tweak of a smile. He gracefully took his seat as food appeared on the table and all thinking of classes ceased.

“So, Hermione,” Harry smiled across the table at her. “Head Girl. We knew it was going to happen.”

“Congratulations, Hermione!”

“Ay, you’ll get me out of detention now, right?”

“Seamus, no one can help you with that!”

The Gryffindors joyfully laughed at each other, happy to be in each other's presence once again. Hermione laughed with them, feeling lighter than she had in quiet some time. The chatter was all over the place. Who had you met during your vacation? Where had you stayed? What had you accomplished? Who had you kissed? Who were you planning on kissing now? Around and around it went, and soon Hermione was pulling away into her own thoughts as she ate her pumpkin pudding.

Ginny woke her from her reverie. “Who was the idiotic wizard that had decided housing two teenage wizards, often of opposing houses, together for an entire year was a good idea? What about privacy? What about physical boundaries between opposite sexes?”

“It’s Malfoy she’s living with, Ginny,” Ron said through his mouthful of cake. “Not Viktor Bloody Krum.”

Hermione glanced across the hall at the brooding Head Boy and decided there really was nothing to worry about concerning the physicality part, but what about privacy? Was he going to be a prick all year?

“Speaking of crumbs,” Ginny laughed, watching her brother.

“Miss Granger,” Professor McGonagall’s voice flitted over Ron’s left shoulder, and he sputtered in embarrassment, the crumb shower infinitely increasing. Ginny clamped a hand over her mouth to keep from giggling under McGonagall’s scrutiny. “If you will come with me please.”

Hermione rose from the table, the reality that she no longer would be returning to the Gryffindor common room suddenly and violently hitting home. Harry smiled up at her.

“We’ll catch up with you later, Hermione,” he said. Ginny waved. Ron was too busy trying to keep his mouth closed and pick up his mess.

As she bid her goodbyes to her house mates, Professor McGonagall was across the hall retrieving a very sour looking Draco Malfoy. She met them at the large doors that led to the atrium.

“Headmaster Dumbledore has business with another professor this evening, so he has asked me to give you the rundown of your rooms and then you will meet with him tomorrow,” she explained as they made their way back to the Head common room.

“Your separate dorms are to be kept locked at all times. You will not enter each other’s rooms,” Professor McGonagall commanded as they turned down a hallway lit periodically with dying torches.

“No worries there,” Draco mumbled just loud enough for Hermione to hear.

“Of course,” Hermione replied to the professor.

“You will be responsible for organizing the prefects’ meetings as well as orchestrating most school events. You will report directly to the Headmaster.” They came to a halt outside of a portrait. Professor McGonagall turned to them. “Do you have any questions?” she paused.

“No, Professor,” Hermione responded.

“Fantastic,” Draco muttered as he started off towards the stairs.

“Not so fast, Mister Malfoy,” McGonagall called after him. “There to your right is a kitchenette. It is not stocked with food as of yet. If you wish anything to be provided, leave a note for the house elves. As you are both Heads and at the top of your class, this kitchenette is a privilege to accommodate long hours of study. Do not abuse it. You are expected to report to at least two meals a day. You will have a meeting for the prefects as soon as possible to get the year under way and make the schedule for their patrolling duties. Get a good night’s sleep. You have a lot of work to do.” She turned on her heel and was immediately gone.

“About time the old bat shut her trap,” Draco mumbled as he disappeared up the stairs. A moment later, Hermione heard the shower turn on with a loud hiss.

She stood still in the center of the common room and attempted to take a deep breath. She was here. Albeit it had all happened so fast she was amazed she remembered getting here, but this was now home. She moved to the couch before the fire and collapsed into it, suddenly feeling extremely exhausted. She found herself desperately wondering if she was qualified for this job. Especially with the boy she was expected to execute it with.


Chapter 2: Of Professor Dianna de Loustre and Triple Pirouttes
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“Granger!” Bang. Bang. Bang.

Hermione groaned and rolled over, pulling the sheets over her head. What in Merlin’s name..?

“Granger!!” Bang. Bang. BANG.

“Aargh! Go away Malfoy!” She threw her pillow over her head.

There was silence for a moment and then he yelled back, “Fine! But class starts in fifteen minutes!” and then she heard him stomp away down the stairs.

She sat bolt upright. Fifteen minutes! She had overslept? Hermione tumbled out of bed and scrambled, fighting with her covers, trying to locate the shoes she had thrown off last night. Once they had been coaxed out from beneath the bed she threw her robes on and was halfway down the stairs when she realized she had forgotten her books and bag upstairs and had to run all the way back up to retrieve them.

When she finally reached the common room she was in a right foul mood, which was not quelled by the sight of the Head Boy, strewn out across the common room’s large squishy couch with a cup of steaming liquid in his hands.

“What are you doing?” She was halfway to the portrait. “Class is starting!” She had now reached the portrait and was pushing it open when laughter reached her ears. She stopped cold.

“You’re pathetic, Granger.” He swung his legs back over the couch and she realized he was dressed in loose black pants and a cotton undershirt, not his school robes.

“What are you laughing at?” she growled.

“Oh! Help!” He threw his hands in the air and fell back against the couch, overcome with his own sick humor. “I’m going to be late!”

She dropped her messenger bag and stomped over to him. “You’re a git, Draco Malfoy! A foul, loathsome, dimwitted, ignorant, ghastly, arrogant, evil little cockroach! With greasy hair!!” she added.

He stood slowly from the couch and started walking towards her. Fearfully she backed away until she felt the cold wall at her back. She was trapped. He put one arm against the wall, blocking her in on one side and simply stared at her. He didn’t have to say anything for her to know he wasn’t laughing anymore, he was ticked off as could be, and he had the upper hand. Then he pushed off the wall, turned on his heel, and disappeared up the staircase.

Hermione, who hadn’t realized she was holding her breath, gasped in air. How was she supposed to live with him for a year?

After she had collected herself she gathered her things and checked her watch. Foul git. There’s still an hour until class. Breakfast had just started so she exited the common room. She’d much rather sit down there alone until Harry, Ron and Ginny came down than endure the Head’s common room knowing he was lurking somewhere.

Upon entering the Great Hall Hermione was instantly calmed by the overwhelming aroma of cinnamon, scrambled eggs, French toast and the like. She took a deep breath, allowing the smells to permeate every nook of her senses and then ambled her way to the table.

She looked up towards the rasied dais where the teachers sat and waved to Hagrid with a smile. She scanned the table. Professor Flitwick was deep in conversation with Professor Trelawney, who, considering the devastated and confused expression on his face, seemed to be being told of his certain untimely death-per usual. She rolled her eyes. Further down the table, Professor Sprout was perched next to a pinch nosed man with dark hair that fell over his eyes who wore a high collared robe; Professor Pintalis, the Dark Arts teacher who had set the record by holding the job for an entire year and returning for a second.

She plopped into a seat and pulled a bowl of cinnamon porridge to her and was sprinkling it with sugar when Professor Dianna de Loustre walked in. Hermione had suspected that Dianna de Loustre was a muggle-born, but this just threw all doubt out the tower window. The professor was wearing a bright ruby silk robe that covered a white track-like jacket and shorts. Her shoes were flat; she had flesh-pink colored tights and those ballet leg warmers that fell over your feet and shins. Hermione almost dropped her porridge filled spoon in her lap in surprise.

“Whoa,” Ron ungracefully plopped into the seat to her right and Harry appeared more gracefully on her left. “That’s quite a statement.”

“That’s an understatement,” Harry mumbled into his goblet and Hermione snorted in a very unlady-like way.

A few moments later most of the student body had groggily entered the Great Hall, taken their seats, and the room was coming to life as they began to wake up.

Hermione was startled as Professor McGonagall appeared behind her and handed her a thick piece of cardstock. She scanned her schedule over greedily as soon as it was handed to her. “Potions first?” She peeked over the piece of parchment and Harry nodded. She looked to Ron, who frowned.

“I have Sinistra first,” Ron said.

“Astronomy? In the morning?” Harry raised an eyebrow.

“Sprout second?” Hermione wondered hopefully. Both boys nodded. Her eyes continued down the page and she groaned. “Loustre third?” They nodded again. “Well, thank Merlin you’re in that class with me.” Harry was frowning. “Well don’t look so pleased about it.” She mumbled.

“Did you see who we are double blocked with?” Harry wondered.

Hermione glanced back at her schedule. “Slytherins!“ Of course. Obviously they were grouped with the Slytherins. That was the way the unvierse worked.

The conversation was brought to an abrupt halt as the Great Hall began to empty for the first class of the day. Harry and Hermione said their goodbyes to Ron and then set off to the dungeons for potions. There was nothing quite like having Professor Snape first period to brighten up one’s day.

Hermione and Harry claimed a table as close to the back of the room as was possible and had just gone to sit down when the door was pushed open, slammed against the stone wall, and Professor Snape breezed in.

“You think he could ever make a quiet entrance?” Harry wondered and Hermione giggled in agreement.

“Take out your cauldrons and begin this-” he pointed his wand at the board and script began to scrawl across it “-potion. And I suggest doing it correctly as you will be testing it on each other.”

By the time Hermione had finished brewing the potion and tested it on Harry (with no side effects, unlike Harry’s potion which had left her with webbed fingers and pink cat-like ears for a quarter of an hour) and transplanted the newest batch of fanged fly traps for Professor Sprout she was tired, dirty, and not at all in a good mood.

She had to trudge her way back to the common room to shower and change into the tights and leotard that were required for Professor de Loustre’s class. After looking in the mirror she had also opted to throw a pair of cotton pants and a tee shirt over the ensemble.

She was making her way to the newly renovated third floor corridor that had been restricted in their first year, where the class was being held when she met up with Harry and Ron who were wearing the loose black pants and form fitting white tee that, humorously, she had seen on Draco Malfoy that very morning and were the required dress for the males in the class.

“Good times here, huh?” Harry gestured to the corridor.

Ron groaned. “I’d rather not remember them if it’s all the same to you, mate.”

“It’s not fair that you guys get to wear pants while we have to wear these contraptions.” She pulled at the leotard as they finally came to a door that had “Dance Studio” etched into the wall next to it.

“I guess this is it,” Harry pushed the door open and stopped cold.

The dance studio was nothing like the outside corridor, nor any other classroom in Hogwarts for that matter. The floor was polished and hardwood, the walls were lined with barres at about waist height. There were similar barres off in one corner that looked like they were portable. There was a large pile of mats in another corner. One side of the room was an entire wall-to-wall, ceiling-to-floor mirror.

On a table at the far side of the room was a black box, blaring sound next to a pile of smaller, thin rectangular boxes.

Hermione raised an eyebrow. “I didn’t know there were any electrical outlets in Hogwarts.”

“Electra-whatsits?" Ron asked. “And where is that noise coming from?”

“The radio over there on the table,” Harry said.

“Rahdi-who?” Ron stared in wonder.

The conversation was interrupted as a woman in a red leotard, flesh colored tights, and red ballet flats entered the room. Her hair was slicked back in a tight bun at the base of her head. She pointed her wand at the radio and the sound died away.

The class was divided, Slytherins on one side, Gryffindors on another. The woman walked forward, silently scanning the mass of students disapprovingly.

“From now on you will be at the barres and ready to begin warm ups the moment you arrive,” she pointed to the barres that lined the room. “Ladies will have their hair pulled back in a tight bun, as mine is,” she gestured to her head. “You will also remove the pants and jackets,” there was snickering from the males in the group “-Ladies.” She finished with a scornful glare. Hermione scanned the room to see that every girl had had the same idea she had and had thrown some type of covering over their tights and leotard. “The dress code for this class is flesh-pink tights with a black leotard for women, and black dance pants and a form fitting white tee for men. And your dance shoes, of course. I need to be able to see your bodies.” She began to walk among them, ensuring they were following her instructions to remove the clothing that she had specified. “My name is Professor de Loustre,” she stopped as if she was waiting for something. “Well, say it,” she ordered.

They all attempted valiantly and she raised her hands to stop them, her eyes scrunched as if the sound caused her physical pain. “Dianna will do," sge conceded. "To the barres please.”

Everyone moved slowly to the barres, having no idea what was going on, all except Draco Malfoy who strode to the center of the center barre. “Chop, chop, people!“ Dianna clapped her hands, scaring them all into moving quicker.

“You will observe me doing the specified exercises here on this center barre and then replicate them exactly.” She levitated one of the portable barres to the center of the room and then flicked the radio on. A waltz tune began to filter through the room as she positioned herself at the bar. “First position!” she called out.

“First position?” Ron, who was next to her, mumbled questioningly. “She hasn’t moved.”

“Her feet Ron! Look at her feet!” Hermione whispered back as she turned her feet in the same manner.

“Plie!” the woman cried as she bent low to the ground.

“I don’t think my body does that,” Harry grumbled from Hermione’s other side.

Dianna was watching them struggle disgustedly in the mirror. “Isn’t there one of you who has danced a day in their lives?!” Her eyes fell on the blonde haired young man before her.

“You,” she pointed to him.

At first he was so caught up in his warm ups that he hadn’t heard her. An elbow in his side from Blaise Zabini caused him to raise his head.

“What is your name?” Dianna crossed her arms and leaned against her bar.

“Draco Malfoy,” he replied. Great. Just great. He had been hoping he could get by without attracting any attention; he didn’t want everyone to know about his past time. Of course, in a room full of people like this, his training stuck out like a sore thumb.

“Come out here and show me what you were doing,” she gestured to the barre as she stepped away from it.

He grasped it tightly and took a deep breath. No one else in the room mattered, not when his hand was on this barre. This barre was home. It was safe.

He began his warm ups, which may have begun in a plie in first position but certainly didn’t end in one. He had devised his own warm up routine years ago and apparently Dianna de Loustre had never seen the likes of it. She raised a perfectly groomed eyebrow in his direction. “How long have you studied?” she asked him in an extremely unconversational voice.

He counted silently in his head. “Seven years,” he answered and there was an audible gasp from the class.

Dianna was now walking in vulture-like circles around him. “I see. What styles have you studied?”

He flinched. So much for my reputation, he thought bitterly. “Jazz, lyrical, ballet, and ballroom.”

“You’ve already studied ballroom?” she wondered disapprovingly.

“Merengue, mamba, samba, cha cha, and the tango,” he answered.

“There’s a delicious image,” a girl quipped and was shushed immediately by her Slytherin friends.

“Tango, huh?” Dianna said. She pointed to the floor before the mirror. “Show me a backwards triple pirouette. “

He shrugged and walked forward. She stopped him with a loud noise and raised a finger. “But start with an amalgamation of an anchor step followed by a ball-heel step to the right. Bend your knees; I don’t want sloppy moves. You will then chassé turn into your triple pirouette. Carriage must be high. No limp arms.” Dianna stepped back and half the class’ mouths fell open.

“What did she just say?” Harry asked in awe.

“An amalgamation is a combination of two or more movements,” Hermione answered softly, her eyes to the ground and an odd expression on her face.

Draco stepped back and closed his eyes. Deep breath. It was a piece of cake. She was testing him. There was no dance that those steps would be used in because they were from three different styles. He opened his eyes and smirked at the reflection he saw in the mirror.

Piece of cake. Eat you’re words, amateur.

He launched into his anchor step and followed it with a ball-heel step then his triple pirouette, which he landed perfectly.




Chapter 3: Of The Power of The Inner Beat and The True Meaning of Dance
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“That was . . . I cannot believe .. . what a showoff!

It was breakfast the day after Malfoy's episode in Ballet and Ballroom Dancing and Hermione was still mumbling to herself.

Ron looked to Harry and raised any eyebrow. “You alright, Hermione?”

Distractedly Hermione waved him off. “Yes. Yes, I'm fine.”

Harry leaned across the table. “You haven't stopped muttering about Malfoy since yesterday. We have that class again in ten minutes. Are you going to be able to make it through?”

Hermione came out of her reverie at his words. “Oh Merlin, I forgot we have to endure that class everyday . . .” She let her head drop onto the table.

~*~*~*~*~


“Alright class!” Dianna was dressed in vibrant purple pants that were tight around the thighs, baggy below the knees and ended at about mid calf. Her shirt was a white tank top with two in inch wide straps. She had black jazz shoes on her feet and a bright purple headband holding her hair back, which was messily thrown into a ponytail.

Her students were gaping at her. Was this the same teacher that had greeted them yesterday?

“This is how your classes will work.” She clapped her hands together and leaned against the mirror. “Days will switch off. Ballet, then Ballroom. Ballet, then ballroom. Today is a Ballroom day.” She glanced around at her students who were all dressed in the black leotards, pink tights, black pants and white shirts that they had all been commanded to wear yesterday. “What are you all wearing?”

She was greeted by blank faces. She approached the students and pointed to one of the girls in the front. “What is this?”

Hermione stepped forward. “You told us to wear these yesterday, Professor.” She said. “You said-“

Dianna cut her off. “Yesterday was a ballet class. Today is a ballroom class.” She turned from them and picked up her wand. “I will give you five minutes, and five minutes only, to put on the proper attire. Get your hair out of those buns and into ponytails girls. Boys, roll up your sleeves and change those shoes. This style of dance cannot be hindered by such things.” She turned back to them. “Well get moving!”

They scrambled for their bags. As Hermione joined the throng of girls heading for the lavatories she saw Malfoy sitting on the floor, his back against the wall. Ready to go and smirking to himself.

The inside of the girl's lavoratories was a mass of pandemonium. Every girl had dug out the odd pants that they had been ordered to get over the summer and was eyeing them warily.

“My mum had to go into a muggle store to get these.” One of the Gryffindor girls said.

“Mine too.” One of the girls agreed.

“Let's go girls!” Dianna's voice called to them from outside in the studio.

There was a collective groan as they all entered stalls.

Once they had all donned the new attire they tied their jazz sneakers to their feet and met up with the rest of the class in front of the mirror.

“Now.” Dianna was lightly dancing before the mirror as she talked. “You will not normally wear those sneakers in this class, but I don't expect you to start off in these.” She gesture to her feet and a few girls sucked in breath. She was wearing three-inch heels. She kicked her leg up in the air and twirled to the right. “That's nothing. Wait till you try pointe.” She smirked at them and literally leapt to the table in the corner where her radio sat. “Would you all please form three lines before the mirror?”

As she turned on her music, which was music the non-muggle students had never heard before, they all pushed and shoved their way to the back of the class. Draco Malfoy strode his way right to the center front. After the unlucky ones had been pushed to the front as well, Dianna sat down on the floor.

The class eyed her with confusion. She rolled her eyes. “Honestly,” she said. “Everyone on the ground! Do I have to narrate your entire lives to you? On the ground!”

Reluctantly they all dropped down to the polished floor, Draco did so with a coy smirk on his face.

Dianna lay on her back, hands behind her head and knees up. “You should all recognize this as the basic crunch.” She demonstrated. “Say good bye to it. You won't be doing it in here.”

Smiles erupted around the classroom.

Oh, just you wait. Draco smiled to himself, knowing full well what coming.
“Instead,” She continued. “You will become very friendly with these.” She raised both legs straight up in the air, ankles crossed, knees locked, and started to crunch. “You will do eight of these!”

Mouths dropped.

“You will then do eight of these!” She bent one leg at the knee, keeping the other straight. “Then switch legs and do eight more!”

Mutterings began around the class. Was this woman insane?

She then lowered both legs and held them parallel to the floor, knees locked. Now, when she crunched the only part of her body touching the floor was her bottom. “Then eight of these!”

Hermione was beginning to feel sick.

She brought both legs back up in the air as she had in the first demonstration and only this time as she crunched she crossed and uncrossed her ankles. “Then you will finish with sixteen of these!”

As she brought her legs back to the ground there was utter and absolute silence. She smiled. “And that's just the first ten minutes of warm-up my children.”
Hermione met Harry's eyes. “Our Quidditch warm-ups aren't even that extensive.” He whispered.

She pulled out her wand and turned the music up. “Let's go! Get crunching!”
Everyone laid back on the ground, and most of them gave a valiant effort, but hardly anyone got past the first set, and only Draco Malfoy and two other girls were able to finish the entire series.

Hermione made it through the first two until she reached her limit and was reduced to laying spread eagle on the ground, huffing. Harry, who was next to her only made it two sets further.

“Oh.” Ron moaned. “The agony.” He was clutching his stomach.

Dianna was sitting against the mirror, her knees pulled up under chin, watching the entire spectacle with an amused expression. “Don't worry.” She said after the last set was finished. “By the end of this year you will all be able to finish the series.” She stood up. “Or you will fail.” She added casually.

She gestured for everyone to stand and they all struggled back on their feet. She waved her wand at the radio and the music changed to a heavy drum filled beat. She turned to the mirror so she could watch the entire class. “Fifty jumping jacks!” She demanded.

Hermione almost smiled. Well I can do that!

“Like this.” She started jumping, only every time her feet left the ground she crossed them and uncrossed them.

Hermione's inner smile immediately disappeared.

Dianna began counting as they all began jumping with her. The woman had enough energy emanating off her for the entire class.

At the end of the fifty jumping jacks she stopped with a smile. “We'll stop there for the day and add a new set everyday.” She said it as if it were the most exciting news they would ever receive. Hermione thought she was going to crash and burn right then, and just think, there was still at least forty minutes left to the class.
“Form five lines please,” Dianna commanded, “six people deep.” They moved quickly into the formation she had requested; they were learning that this woman meant business. “I'm going to start by showing you some very simple dance steps. Each of these we will use frequently throughout the year. When I teach you an actual dance, it will be an amalgamation of these steps. You will be able to learn faster and learn more technique if you know the basic steps.”

Hermione was trembling inwardly. This was way out of her league. Spout out the exact number of suspected werewolves currently occupying Europe? She got it. Recite the doctrine of the Original Class of Merlin? She was your girl. Dance in front of a mirror in funny looking pants and tight shoes with her hair pulled back in the oddest way . . . she could not do this.

“Everyone face the mirror and look at their bodies.” They all acquiesced to the peculiar request. “The bottom half of your body, from your torso to your toes is called your base.” She drew a line down her chest that divided her body in two. “This line represents your center. Your center is where you focus your balance.”

The class nodded in understanding.

“This is called an 'attitude'.” Dianna faced the mirror and simply raised her leg in the air with her knee bent. “Nice and easy now.” She held it and met their eyes in the mirror. “Try it please.” She said.

They all balanced on one leg, raising the other in the air; some farther than others.

“Commendable.” She praised them, returning her leg to the floor. They relaxed
.
“This is called a 'grapevine'.” She started with her feet shoulder width apart and then stepped across her right foot with her left and then out with her right. It looked like she was gliding sideways along the floor. They all tried it with her without her prompting, earning a large smile. “Fabulous!” She cried out, moving on to the next step.

“This is a 'sway'.” She leant to the right and left as if she was basking in a mild ocean current. “Another easy one.” She smiled. “A 'swivel'.” She simply turned, or swiveled, her body around in a circle. “A few terms you need to understand,” she turned back to the group. “Lateral movement is when you move across the floor. Yes?” She paused for questions. When there were none she continued. “Beat is the steady counting of music. You will need to all find your own beat. I can provide the basic one, two, three, one, two, three, but without an inner metronome, you can never hope to dance.”

Hermione's eyebrow knit in confusion. What was that supposed to mean? Of course, if she just learned the beats and could count rhythms in her head, she would be able to dance. She relaxed a bit, but then was affronted with another idea. I can't dance. I've never been able to dance.

“For the first few weeks of class I will use these words and remind you what they mean, and we will constantly be adding to our 'dancer's vocabulary'. If you wish to dance, you must look, act, and speak the part.” She smiled. “Let me correct that, if you wish to pass you must look, act, and speak the part.” There was a warm chuckle from the Gryffindors in the room, but even the Slytherins didn't seem to mind this woman much.

Dianna sat down on the floor before them, inviting them all to sit with her. Hermione was stunned. A professor? On the floor? Students? On the floor?

“This year I want to cover not only some classical ballet, but the fox-trot, mamba, samba, cha cha, waltz, latin swing, salsa, and we will finish with the most passionate dance of all; the Argentinean Tango.”

Draco smirked.

Hermione had seen the tango once on the television before she had started going to Hogwarts. She had thought at the time that the dance was the most beautiful thing she had ever witnessed. The passion between the two dancers was so intense you could see it in the way their bodies moved.

She couldn't do that.

“We will have a recital at the end of the school year after your juries.” A hand rose in the back. Dianna smiled. “Ah yes, juries. A jury is what we call your final exam. You will be expected to perform before a jury of your teachers, myself included, and you will be graded on your performance. You will be expected to answer dance term questions and to demonstrate basic steps. You will also compose your very own piece to present to the jury.”

Hermione's insides knotted.

Dianna glanced at the muggle contraption on her wrist. “Oh my! It's already time to go!” She rose from the floor gracefully. “Tomorrow is a ballet day, do not forget your tights and leotards!” She called to them as they retreated to the appropriate dressing rooms.

Once inside an empty dressing stall Hermione leaned her head against the cold stone wall. She had to do this everyday? She tugged off the dance gear and pulled her uniform skirt back on. She had to go back to the common room and shower before the next class began. She felt disgusting. She groaned. The common room. Hopefully Malfoy would forego using their bathroom to shower, if he was showering at all.

She gathered her things up in her arms. He probably wouldn't she thought to herself as the memory of yesterday's performance came back to her. She shook her head as if to shake the offending thoughts away.

For years she had dreamed about that man she had seen on that television show, dancing the tango. The way he had moved, the lithe power he possessed.

That was the way Draco Malfoy danced.

Chapter 4: Of Dreams and Failed Planning
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The darkness around her was suffocating as she tried to breathe in deeply. She couldn’t see before her, or in any direction around her. The hushed voices of the girls standing around her were deaf to her ears as she reached down to adjust her shoes. Her stomach was fluttering and her toes were numb.


A small line of light appeared on the ground before her and began to expand as the darkness disappeared. She held her head high and plastered a smile on her face, the whispering around her instantly dissipating.


As the sweet sound of music filled her ears, she changed her pose with it. The bright lights were obscuring her view ahead of her, only emitting darkness. She, however, had no problem with that.


Her legs moved on their own accord, her arms changing positions without thinking. Her entire body flowed with the sounds that she had grown accustomed with over the months.


Soon, everything around her had disappeared: it was only her and her body, evolving into the music itself. The music quickened, her pace quickened. The music slowed down: her movements slowed down, too. Her smile faded as her face changed into one of concentration. As her movements changed, they became more difficult. But all the same, they were enchanting, fluent and exotic.


As she raised her arms above her head, she paused for a moment to rethink all her moves, just as she had planned. Her feet were pointed, and she smiled once more to the darkness ahead of her.


She lowered her hands, but held them outwards from her body as she moved her feet daintily, traveling in a circle of small leaps and jumps. As she twirled to the side, she stopped, positioning her arms and her legs in a position that would soon help her.


The sudden change of music made her steps quicken as she ran, before raising both of her legs in the air, falling once more to the ground, and she prepared to finish with the finale.


As the music slowed down and was held on one note, she raised one of her arms in front of her chest, angled to the right position, the other pointing towards the opposite direction, angled downwards. She breathed in deeply, trying to concentrate as hard as she could.


She pointed her toes with all her concentration, before raising her leg in the air so it would be parallel to the ground.


As the sound of pleased mutterings hit her ears she was suddenly reminded of the voice that was not adding to those whisperings.


The voice that would not ever again.


She suddenly felt her mind turning inwards on itself, falling inside her own fears her vision became black. Angry voices dimly echoed in her ears as tears stung her eyes.


He wasn't coming back this time, she had said. It was done now; they would have to move on.


She took a deep breath but it was already too late as she lost her balance and everything fell around her. The hard ground was jarring against her knees, and the pain was so acute that the darkness that had overcome her vision cleared.


There were the hushed whispers again, as people scurried onto where she was to help her up.


But she didn't let them.


The lights were dimming.


Hermione sat bolt upright, her breath coming quickly and her heart pounding in her chest. Her hand flew to her heart as she blinked the sleep from her eyes. She felt so odd.


The room was dimly lit by the early morning light as she turned towards the window with a sigh. She swung her legs over the edge of the bed and cringed. Her muscles were tight and sore and the pads of her feet stung as she stepped onto the cold floor to make her way to the lavatory.


As she put toothpaste on her tooth brush, she thought about what she had dreamt about.


But what did she dream about? Her mind thought, and it thought hard, but all she could muster were the— all she could muster were the feelings. The pain, the anguish, the hurt. Did her dream revolve around that?


It must have, Hermione thought miserably, as she spat out the last of the remains of her tooth paste into the sink. She brushed her hair slowly, her mind once more searching for last night's dream. But it never came.


She slipped into her robes and stockings. However, when it came to her shoes, she winced in pain as her feet hit the sole. She hissed in a cry before slipping into the other one.


Drawing out her wand, Hermione whispered the incantation she had read in one of her school books. "Terrenus levamentum."


In an instant, her feet stopped hurting and they relaxed in her shoes. She sighed in content before grabbing her bag on the ground. She moaned when her back had moved, and she rose up slowly as the pain increased.


She heard the sound of Draco in the room on the other side of the wall, but she paid no attention. There were much more important matters at the moment. Maybe I could try and use that spell on my body, She thought quickly, before nodding to herself.


Hermione raised her wand, pointing it at herself. "Terrenus levamentum," she whispered. As the white glow shot from her wand, she smiled brightly. Except, her happiness was short lived. As the spell hit her body, she felt nothing change. She looked confused for a second, before pointing her wand to her body once more. "Terrenus levamentum," she said a little louder. The same result: Nothing happened.


She groaned in frustration, before trying to repeat the spell three times. Again, nothing happened. She soon gave up, walking slowly towards the door, groaning every so often.


The walk to the Great Hall, needless to say, was painful.


"Hey, Hermione! Good morning!" Said Harry happily. Hermione smiled weakly at him, before taking a seat next to him.


"HeMionOdmring," Ron tried to say, as he stuffed eggs in his mouth.


"Ronald, please talk without food in your mouth," she said, exasperated. He shrugged before swallowing.


"I said ‘good morning Hermione,’" he said, and Hermione nodded to show that she understood.


She buttered her own piece of toast before taking baby bites on it. She wasn't that hungry; and her mind was still trying to figure out what she had dreamt of last night. Besides, raising her arms made her whole body sore.


"I'm not that hungry. I think I'll just go to my first class, early," she announced, before standing up and wincing slightly.


"Are you okay, Hermione?" Harry asked, and she nodded, forcing a smile.


"Yes, I'm fine. Good bye Harry, Ron," she said, walking out of the Great Hall, not waiting for an answer from her best friends. She definitely was not in the mood today.


As the young brunette entered the Arithmancy classroom, she noticed that no one was in there, including the Professor. She shrugged before walking to the front of the classroom and sitting down at one of the desks. She moaned; somehow the seats were relaxing to her muscles. But before she could enjoy this moment any longer, her thoughts were interrupted.


"Excuse me, I believe that is my seat," A voice drawled, and Hermione bolted upright, before glaring at the person that had spoken.


"I never knew that you sat in the front, Malfoy," she spat. "I always thought you liked to be at the back and not listen or take notes." She smiled sweetly at him, folding her hands on the desk.


"Shut up Granger," he growled, taking his bag that was on the ground, leaning against the desk. "I don’t know why I even bothered," he sneered, slinging the bag around his shoulder and walking to the back of the class.


Hermione rolled her eyes. Stupid Malfoy. Thick Malfoy. Doesn't know his manners, well, at all. Well, you could never expect that much from him.


She jumped when she felt a breath tickling her cheek. "You'll be sorry," he breathed from behind her, and her whole body went rigid. He laughed softly as her muscles slowly unclenched one by one. She let out her gasp of air in a giant exhale before reeling around on him.


“Exactly what will I be sorry for?” She asked as she stood. He turned to meet her eyes, leaning casually against the nearest desk, his arms crossed against his chest. He smirked.


“The question is, what will you not be sorry for?” He asked through grit teeth.


She pursed her lips. “That’s an empty threat, Malfoy.” She hissed back at him, her voice far more sure sounding than she felt.


He uncrossed his arms as he stepped towards her, his eyes never leaving hers. She backed away with every step he took until her legs met her desk. She wished nothing more than for students to enter the room now.


“Say it again, Granger.” He grinned maliciously. “Go ahead.”


She swallowed, but couldn’t find her voice. He nodded satisfactorily as he backed off and turned to make his way to the back of the class.


“Ah, Miss Granger, Mister Malfoy.” The Professor said as she breezed into the room. “The headmaster wishes to see you in her office immediately. You are dismissed.” She waved towards the door.


Hermione’s stomach fell as she gathered her books to her and made for the door. Now she had to walk down to the headmaster’s office with him. Perhaps she could get enough of a head start to get there far before he did.


“Granger,” A voice said from her left.


Or not.


“Yes, Malfoy. I noticed you are there. You don’t have to give yourself a royal introduction.” She kept her eyes forward.


“Feisty?” He inquired with an approving tone.


“Disgusted.” She cast him a quick glance before averting her eyes back to the hallway.


He laughed. “Go ahead.” He encouraged. “Look again. Had you ever wondered how I got to look like this?”


He was apparently referring to the way his shirt bulged over his arms and the toned quality his chest appeared to have through his shirt. She suddenly became flushed. “No. Not at all.” She said too quickly.


He grinned. “Didn’t suspect it was dance, did you?”


That sounded oddly like an honest question.


“No.” She said simply.


His laughter echoed up to her as they turned the last corner. “You really can’t dance can you?” He said out of nowhere.


She stopped cold. Her eyes closing of her own volition as the pain swamped her. “That’s none of your business.” She said as soon as she had recovered.


He looked oddly at her, but didn’t say anything.


“Cricket Crunchies,” She said as they reached the entrance to the Headmaster’s office. As soon as the entrance was made visible, Draco stepped before her, cutting her off. She rolled her eyes behind his back as she too stepped into the dimly lit hallway and the doorway sealed itself.


She jumped as the door shut behind them and they were cast pretty much into pitch darkness.


“Scared?” A cruel whisper flitted through her right ear.


She scoffed as she pulled her wand and muttered “lumos”. She smiled a fake sweet smile before she set off down the corridor. Behind her Draco grinned before following.


The Headmaster was waiting at the end of the tunnel-like hallway with a scowl on his face. “I apologize for that. The torches seem to not want to light today for some odd reason.” He turned and stepped through the door.


He gestured them into two seats before his desk as he took the one behind it.


“As the new Heads, you have many responsibilities that need to be taken care of.” He began.


Hermione nodded and wondered if she should perhaps take notes? She turned towards Draco and scowled. He was slouched back in his chair, probably not listening at all. She sat up straighter.


“Have you organized the first prefect meeting yet?” He asked as he pulled out a few pieces of parchment from his desk and a quill.


“Uh . . . No.” Hermione floundered.


Dumbledore raised a disapproving eyebrow but did not raise his head. “I see.”


“Have you yet decided when and what the first ball will be? And if we are even having one?”


“No.” Hermione said softly.


“Have you checked with Hogsmeade to see when we can take our first trip?” Professor Dumbledore raised his head and set down his quill, eyes focused on Hermione, who was feeling smaller by the moment.


“No.” She said in an almost inaudible voice.


“Miss Granger, I must say,” He removed his glasses. “I am disappointed. You’ve always been one to stay ahead of the game, whatever is the matter with you this year?”


“I’m sorry.” She mumbled.


“Be that as it may, you need to start on these issues. They are very important, and affect not only you but your schoolmates. You were chosen for this job because it was believed that you could handle it. Is it going to be too much?” He arched an eyebrow.


There was silence for a moment as Hermione struggled through her embarrassment to find words.


“She said she was sorry.” Draco sat forward. Dumbledore’s eyes immediately switched to him.


“Excuse me Mister Malfoy?”


Draco got to his feet. “She said she was sorry. We’ll start on it tonight. You can stop nagging on her now.” And with that he turned and left the office.


Hermione gaped after him. What had gotten into him? Speaking like that to the Headmaster?!


She stood and awkwardly gathered her things. “I . . . I’m sorry Headmaster. . . I’ll . . .we’ll get right on it.” She stumbled as she followed him out the door.


As the door shut behind her the Headmaster sat back in his chair, still a bit shocked, gazing at the door they had just passed through. He shook his head and smiled as he went back to the book he had before him.


Out in the hall Hermione was scampering to catch up with the tall blonde. As she reached his side he didn’t acknowledge her.


“Uhm. Thank you.” She said softly.


“For what?" He said gruffly, his eyes never leaving the hallway before them.


“For what you did back there. For standing up for me.” She said.


He stopped and turned abruptly, causing her to bump into his chest. “Look, Granger.” He hissed down at her. “I wasn’t standing up for you. I don’t stand up for anyone but myself. He was pissing me off the way he kept going on, so I left.” He started off down the hallway again.


She processed what he had said before starting after him again. “You stood up for me.” She insisted. “It had nothing to do with him annoying you.”



He didn’t answer as they reached the classroom door once again and he disappeared through it.

Chapter 5: Of Private Lessons and Bloody Feet
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“Are you going to help me at all?” She dropped her quill in aggravation as she turned to face the large couch in the center of their common room.

He was stretched across the full length of it, one arm dangling off the edge over his head and dressed in his dance clothes for some odd reason. She immediately averted her eyes when they fell on the pale skin that was pulled taunt over the muscles in his arms. Dance clothes were very flattering on him.

“No.” He replied without even opening his eyes.

“Well, why not?!” She huffed. “You’re Head Boy. You heard Professor Dumbledore, we have a very important job to do.”

“I’m sure you have it completely under control, Princess Mudblood. And unlike you I don’t give a rat’s ass about what the Headmaster thinks. I have nothing to prove. So go organize your committee or whatever you are doing Queen of the Muggle-born.”

For a moment she couldn’t even respond and when she did it was through great struggle.

“What?”

He ignored her as he pushed himself off the couch. He towered over her.

“Why did you say that?” A hurt feeling washed over her. He was pushing open the portrait. “Where do you think you are going?”

He turned back around to find the small brunette glaring angrily at him, hands on her hips. He almost smirked at the sight.

“I’m going to the dance studio. Not that it’s any of your business. ” His eyebrow quirked daringly.

Her fists clenched. “I need you to sit down here with me and concentrate.” She said through gritted teeth.

Now a smirk did appear on his face as he leaned against the doorframe. “The Great Hermione Granger needs my help.” He stated with obvious amusement.

She fought the blush rising in her cheeks. “No.” She insisted. “I simply need you to do your job.”

He appraised her momentarily before making his way to the chair at the table that was unoccupied.

With a large sigh of relief she pushed her notes towards him and began to explain what they needed to do.

*~*~*~*~*~*


November dawned cold and dreary with a pounding rain assaulting the grounds of Hogwarts.

Hermione was eating her lunch very slowly, simply dreading going to Dianna’s class. She hadn’t improved any and the rest of the class was well aware of her frequent escapades to Dianna’s office where Dianna would rant and rave about her disappointment with the girl.

Why didn’t she just fix it?

She sighed and laid her spoon back on the silver plate.

Because it hurt too much. That’s why.

Then there was Draco Malfoy. It was obvious Dianna adored the git. He was her star student and she made it painfully apparent every chance she got. When she had designated their dance partners for the year, every single girl, excepting Hermione, had been practically drooling to get him as their partner. Slytherin and Gryffindor alike. Hermione had been paired with some nameless Gryffindor third year who stepped on her feet almost as often as she did his.

The only improvement was that Draco had, for some reason, taken on his duties as Head Boy. In fact, Hermione could almost say that he had been entirely helpful. They had organized several meetings, set the date for the first Hogsmeade trip this weekend and even picked a theme for the first ball next month.

The bell rang throughout the hall and with a growing disappointment Hermione bid goodbye to Harry and Ron and made for the girl’s changing stalls.

*~*~*~*~*~*


“Hermione Granger! Point those toes!” Dianna thundered from the other side of the warm up bar. Hermione cringed and pointed her toes more. Dianna was not satisfied. “Hermione, I want to see you after class.” Dianna whispered in her ear as she passed by. Hermione hung her head as Dianna moved on down the bar, handing out little helpful tips as she went, but mostly encouraging words.

“What beautiful poise, Draco! Ten points to Slytherin!” Dianna clapped happily and moved on down the line. Hermione looked up and sneered in the blonde’s direction. I’m sure I’ll hear of this when we get back to the common room. He’ll just rub it in my face.

“Hermione! Wake up! We’re moving on now!” Dianna’s voice thundered into her thoughts once again and she became aware of the fact that the class was moving the bars out of the center of the room and changing their shoes. “Character shoes on, my children!” Dianna turned her back on Hermione to address the class.

Hermione scurried to her bag and pulled out her character shoes. I don’t see how anyone can dance in these contraptions. Who was the brilliant one who said ‘Oh, let’s dance in high heels’?!

After the female half of the class had put on their character shoes and resumed their spots before the mirror, Dianna started teaching a modern dance that involved lots of sliding to the side and shimmying to the front, neither of which Hermione couldn’t seem to get the hang of.

By the time class was over, Hermione was a ball of sweat and a jangle of nerves. She slowly put her shoes away and then redid her pony tail just to buy time. Once the class was gone she walked to Dianna’s office door.

“Take a seat.” Dianna was removing her point shoes and Hermione grimaced at the sight of her teacher’s bloody feet. Why did people put themselves through that? She sat down.

She knew . . . She shook her head. No. She did not know.

Dianna took a deep breath and massaged her temples. “Look, Hermione. I’m going to be honest with you. At the rate you’re going, there’s no way I can pass you for this class.”

Hermione’s heart stopped. Not pass?

“This is disappointing to me.” Dianna looked her square in the eye. “I think you are holding yourself back.”

Hermione’s head dropped and she stared at her clasped hands. Dianna sighed. “I am a dance teacher, Hermione. I’ve danced all my life. I know a dancer when I see one.”

“I don’t dance.” Hermione replied vehemently.

Dianna held up a hand but pushed the subject no more. “I don’t have any options left, except one. Are you willing to rectify the issue? Are you willing to work for this grade?”

Hermione nodded. She would do anything.

“Good.” Dianna stood from the desk and went to her shelf where there were all kinds of dance shoes. She was preparing for her next class, selecting out a pair of black jazz sneakers. “I’m assigning you a tutor. You will have until the final jury, and if you can’t show me a decent dance by then, I will fail you.”

Hermione stood from her chair. “I’ll do it.” She said.

“Good.” Dianna sat down and began to tie her shoes on to her feet. “Draco Malfoy will meet you here at 7:30 tonight for your first session.”

“What?!” Hermione cried. “Draco Malfoy?! I can’t work with him!”

“Then you will fail Miss Granger.” Dianna replied coldly. “He is the best dancer in this class, and you need the best.” She finished with a frown. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I believe we both have classes to be getting to.” And with that Dianna left.

Hermione’s stomach sank. Private dance tutor sessions with Draco Malfoy? She grabbed her bag and left through the studio door, she wanted to be gone before the next class got in.

*~*~*~*


That night she went back to the common room and changed into her Capezios and a breezy practice skirt. She tied her hair in a tight pony and grabbed her dance bag and a water bottle. She stopped before the mirror in her room before she went out the door. Off to meet the dragon. She thought to herself Merlin, what am I getting into?

She grabbed a zip up sweatshirt as she left the common room, Draco must have already gone to the studio.

Once she reached the dance studio she slowly opened the door. Music was coming from within. She was surprised to see Draco before the mirror, dancing alone.

She entered and softly shut the door, watching him. She frowned. He was impressive. He moved as if gravity was not a rule for him, as if it didn’t apply to his body.

She gently cleared her throat and as he landed a triple pirouette perfectly.

He looked up and frowned. “How long have you been standing there?” He growled as the music switched off.

“Only a moment. . .” She answered, slightly embarrassed.

“Put your stuff down and let’s get this over with.” He told her.

*~*~*~*


An hour later, things still weren’t looking so well.

“One, two, three. One, two, three. Down, up, up. Down, up, up. One -ow!- two, three. One, two, three. Down, -ow!-”

“Sorry!”

“-up, up. One, two, three. One two -ow!” Draco stopped and let go of her waist with a frown on his face. “Can’t you keep your feet to yourself, Granger?”

“I’m trying!” Hermione threw her hands in the air in defeat and turned her back on the large studio mirror. “I just can’t dance!” She dropped down on the floor with her back against the wall and hugged her knees to her chest.

Draco frowned again. “Well of course you can’t dance. Not with that attitude.”

Hermione grumbled from behind her knees. “Look who’s talking.”

Draco walked to the black stereo that sat on the table at the far corner of the room. Their professor, Dianna, being a muggle born, preferred to use her muggle contraption to play their music for class. To Hermione’s surprise, Draco knew how to work it and switched it on. A song began to play that she had never heard. The beat was slow at some points and fast at others, it had a dancy rhythm. A beat that made you want to move. If only she could dance.

Draco walked back to her and held out his hand.

“What?” She asked. “I’m done. I’m going to fail. I’ll never be able to dance!”

“Just shut up and take my hand.” He replied.

She grumbled and took his outstretched hand. He led her to the center of the room. “Look at yourself.” He commanded, turning her to face the mirror.

She turned away. “I’d rather not.” He grabbed her shoulders and turned her back to the mirror. “Alright, fine.” She planted her feet and raised her eyes to the mirror. The sight of her body in it’s perfect poise was disconcerting. It was habit. She immediately changed her stance.

“Why did you do that?” He asked.

“I . . .I was uncomfortable.”

“No. That was perfect, your body was perfectly balanced, your feet even and your core was in the center. That’s not a stance you just happen on by mistake and you walked to the mirror and planted yourself in it.”

The music was still lilting through the room. What were those instruments? “It was an accident.” She insisted.

With an eyebrow raised he walked around her in a circle.

“What do you think you are? A vulture?”

“Shut up, Granger.”

He took her right arm and raised it to shoulder level. “Hold that right there.” He said. He ran his hand down the length of her arm, bending it slightly at the elbow and bending her wrist upward. He then posed her fingers, the middle slightly pointed down and her pointer and ring tilted up, as if there was a pencil between them. “Hold them still.” He said as she started to slip.

She was startled and jumped, but returned to the pose he had created. He then circled around her, analyzing her stance.

“Why are you staring?” She asked irritably.

“Will you just shut up for five whole minutes?” He stepped forward again and took her leg, stretching it out to the side. “Straighten out your foot. Point your toes as straight as they will go.” She did as she was told. “Straighter. You aren't the giant squid.”

“I am pointing them!” She protested.

“Not enough!” He then moved back up and took her left arm. “I was watching you today when Dianna had us do our Arabesques.” He again ran his hands down her arm until he reached her elbow, this time he held it out before her, and curved it slightly across her body. “Stand up straight.” He commanded. She grimaced. “Do as I said! Do you want to pass this course?” He was right in her face now. “Well do you?”

“Yes.” She answered quietly.

Apparently satisfied, he moved on to her other leg. “You’re gonna have one shot at this.” He said. “Raise up on your toes.”

“In this pose?!” She cried out.

“That’s what an Arabesque is Granger! You’re wearing point shoes. You might as well use them.” He replied, crossing his arms and leaning against the mirror. “We will not move on until you rise up on your toes and hold that pose until I am satisfied.”

Dear Merlin, how she hated him at this moment. “I can’t.” She whispered.

“Why not?” He asked from the mirror. “What’s stopping you?”

“I just can’t.” She replied, still holding the pose he had set.

“Oh, really?” He raised an eyebrow. “Who’s stopping you? Dianna’s not here.”

She turned her head away and allowed her arms to drop to her sides.

“The class isn’t here. I’m encouraging you. So tell me, Granger. Who’s stopping you?”

She pulled her legs back in and stood normally once more. She couldn’t look at him.

He stalked over to the stereo and shut the music off. He leaned against the table, bracing himself with his arms, his back to her. “No one’s stopping you, but Hermione Granger.” He answered.

She blinked back tears. He was right. The stupid arrogant git was right. She turned and grabbed her messenger bag and stalked out of the room, the door slamming behind her.

He sighed in frustration as the door slammed. When was she going to learn? He switched the stereo back on and went before the mirror, kicking off his dance shoes as he went. There was nothing like a good practice session to get the muscles tired and the mind off everything else.




Author's Note:
Heh heh *embarassed grin*. I can explain. I really can. See . . . I no longer will be using the services of a co writer. It did not work out, and there were many things that got this decision to the point it's at, most of which I can't tell you guys. *sorry . .hands cookie* I'm almost gleeful at the fifty or so reviews I got that were correcting the mistakes in the last post because it just shows that you are all reading along so critically ^_^ Which makes me happy. To clear up the confusion I have gone back and edited the chapter and so you all know I will say it here: Yes. They share the Head's Dorm. Yes. Dumbledore is in fact the headmaster in this story. And yes, I do dance, but not so avidly as my character's in this story. I've done lot's of research and lot's of it comes from personal experiences and things I have seen. As does all of your writings ^_^ Thank you to every single one of you that offered to lend me assistance with the writngs of this story and I've contacted quite a few of you thus far, and will probably contact more of you in the future to gather your experiences as well. All in all . . . thanks for all the support guys! *gathers reviewers into rather large group hug*

Chapter 6: Of Dips and Bad Dreams
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

A.N. One of my readers sent me a song that was inspired by this story! Is that not amazing? It is! So these lyrics were inspirired by the first five chapters of this story and were written by Gryffindor1992

I Can Dance (I Will...)

Verse 1
Listen to me now,
Listen to me,
I am a person you know!
I have feelings too!
Just stop forcing me to do what you want me to do.

When standing on my toes seems hard,
Can I reach out, take your hand?

Chorus
I'll try,
Though I can't guarantee,
That I will,
All I can do is try,
Try to dance,
Try my best,
Try not let you down.

Verse 2
Hold up now!
Hold on a second,
Give me a break,
Let me breath!
Stop showing off with the perfect way you land.

When standing on my toes seems hard,
Can I reach out, take your hand?

Chorus

From arabesque to pirouette,
All of it is a mess,
I just can't dance,
I try, I try,
I just can't dance.

I try, I try,
You try, you try,
You try to teach me,
But it's hopeless,
You look at me,
I look at you.

You adjust my position,
Say "Try again",
I do thought I'm not sure I can.

Chorus x2

You never were this nice,
Never were this kind,
You help,
Help me to dance,
Help me to fly,
Soar off into the sky,
To my heaven,
Where all my dreams come true,
Where I can dance.

Hold up now!
I can dance,
I will dance!
If I try, if I try,
I might just get there.

Chorus

When standing on my toes seems hard,
Can I reach out, take your hand?...


Isn't that awesome? I love getting stuff like that *hugs* Also: I'm looking for dancers to aid in my research. My email is listed on my personal website, as is my AIM and MSN . . . feel free to contact me with stories . . . experiences . . . anything at all. (Oh! In case you were wondering the research is for this story . . . as you all know, I do dance, but some of this is beyond me.. that's where research comes in . . . pretty convincing though, eh?)

This chapter is dedicated to Miss Angie Longbottom of TFO (aka Harrys_Patronum) Happy Birthday Love!


~*~*~*~*~


The darkness around her was suffocating as she tried to breathe in deeply. She couldn’t see before her, or in any direction around her. The hushed voices of the girls standing around her were deaf to her ears as she reached down to adjust her shoes. Her stomach was fluttering and her toes were numb.

A small line of light appeared on the ground before her and began to expand as the darkness disappeared. She held her head high and plastered a smile on her face, the whispering around her instantly dissipated.

Step, touch, turn, kick.

Step, kick, land. Smile.

As the sweet sound of music filled her ears, she changed her pose with the floating melodics. The bright lights were obscuring the view ahead of her, only emitting darkness. She, however, had no problem with that.

Her legs moved of their own accord, her arms changing positions without thinking. Her entire body flowed with the sounds that she had grown accustomed with over the months.

Turn . . . 3, 2, 1 and step-touch.

Not a glitch. Not a single misstep.

Soon, everything around her had disappeared: it was only her and her body, evolving into the music itself. The music quickened; her pace quickened. The music slowed down; her movements slowed down too. Her smile faded as her face changed into one of concentration. As her movements changed, they became more difficult, but all the same, they were enchanting, fluent and exotic.

Step touch, allemande, 4 ,5 ,6 and plie 3, 2, . . .

As she raised her arms above her head, she paused for a moment to rethink all her moves, just as she had planned. Her feet were pointed, and she smile once more to the darkness ahead of her.

She lowered her hands, but held them outwards from her body, as she moved her feet daintily, traveling in a circle of small leaps and jumps. As she twirled to the side, she stopped, positioning her arms and her legs in an arc that would soon help her.

A roar like the wind; the noise of approval.

The sudden change of music made her quicken her feet as she gently ran before raising both of her legs in the air, falling once more to the ground. With the conclusio nof this move, she prepared for the finale.

As the music slowed down and was held on one note, she raised one of her arms in front of her chest, angled to the right position, the other pointing towards the opposite direction, angled downwards. She breathed in deeply, trying to concentrate as hard as she could.

Queen.

She turned abruptly, in a perfect pirouette, then stepped forward once more.

She pointed her toes with all her concentration, before raising her leg in the air so it would be parallel to the ground.

As the sound of pleased mutterings hit her ears she was suddenly reminded of the voice that was not adding to those whisperings

The voice that would not ever again.

Blinding light.

Breathe deep, raise arms, 3, 4, 5, 6, up.

She suddenly felt her mind turning inwards on it's self, falling inside her own fears, her vision became black. Angry voices dimly echoed in her ears as tears stung her eyes.

He wasn't coming back this time, she had said. It was done now, they would have to move on.

She took a deep breath but it was already too late as she lost her balance and everything fell around her. The hard ground was jarring against her knees, and the pain was so acute that the darkness that had overcome her vision cleared.

And then suddenly, crashing down.

The lights were dimming.


Hermione awoke and sat bolt upright in bed, panting and sweaty, her sheets twisted hopelessly about her. She looked around the room and was surprised to find her self in her bed; safe.

She swung her legs off the side, gasped as her sore feet touched the ground and then choked back a sob as her head fell into her hands.

After she had regained her breath she pushed herself off of the edge of the bed and tried to stretch her sore muscles out as she padded her way lightly down the hall towards the bathroom.

Tonight’s the second practice session with Malfoy. She thought as she softly made her way to the end of the hall. I’ll never survive this.

So lost was she in her thoughts she didn’t knock as she reached the bathroom and pushed the cracked door open the rest of the way.

She gasped.

“Didn’t you ever learn to knock?” He didn’t even turn around to face her.

Good thing too because her face was a furious tinge of pink and she could not tear her eyes from his back, his shoulder blades, his spine which disappeared beneath the waist of the uniform Hogwart’s trousers.

After enduring a moment of her silence he turned around, casually leaning against the sink, he arms across his chest, a scowl on his face.

The room was suddenly very small.

“I .. . I-I’m sorry.” She managed to get out before turning to go.

At the sight of her limp he called her back. “Wait.”

She stopped and turned to face him, wondering what in Merlin’s name the prick wanted now?


“Sit on the edge of the tub.” It wasn’t a question.

She silently acquiesced, a tad frightened to be in the room, such a small room, with him.

He disappeared for a moment and then calm back bearing a glass jar and a roll of tape.

He held the items out to her and she stared at them in shock. Was he being . . . Kind?

“I don’t have all day, Granger.” He said in a very unkind tone.

She was shocked at the sudden switch of emotions and her muscles locked,.

With a frustrated gruff noise he took her right foot, dipped her hand in the salve and forced her t orub it over her sores. He then roughly bandaged it.

“I’m not going to listen to your groaning tonight.” He said as he went to leave. “Put that salve on two more times before you come meet me tonight. And make sure you change those disgusting bandages before hand too.” There was no kindness in the words and he immediately left.

Numbly she rubbed the salve on her other foot and bandaged it as well, a tad surprised that the achy feelings had all but disappeared.

~*~*~*~*~


The day went by irrevocably quick paced. She was miserable and dreading that night so acutely that even Dianna’s class flew by in a painful blur and she suddenly found herself across from two scowling red heads and a less than pleases black haired Potter.

“Mione are you sure you’re alright?” She cringed at the nickname but nodded.

“Of course I’m alright.” She insisted.

Ron glanced frustrated at Harry who awkwardly cleared his throat. “It’s just . . . You’ve been ver distant this year.” Harry said.

Now Hermione scowled as she finished the last of her pumpkin pie and raised her eyes to the frowning expression of Ginny Weasley.

“Are you worried too?” She asked as she gathered her bags.

The red head frowned but did not respond.

“Where are you going?” Ron demanded as she began to walk away.

“I have to get changed.” She said apologetically. “I have tutoring.” Then she darted off through the large doors.

Ron violently stabbed at his food. “Bloody Malfoy.” He grumbled.

“Ron we know she doesn’t like having to go to tutoring with him.” Harry tried to reassure him.

“She spends an awful lot of time with the prick.” He stabbed his roast beef again. “Especially considering how much we all hate him.”

Seeing that Ron was sinking into one of his moods again, Harry withdrew.

It was painfully obvious that Ron was harboring romantic notions towards their friend and he agreed she was spending far too much time with the blonde haired Slytherin.

Thirty minutes later she flew through the studio doors, utterly out of breath.

“I’m sorry, you weren’t waiting long were you?” She asked politely as her bag dropped to the floor.

He had been leaning against the mirror, arms crossed against his chest, when she had entered and now he pushed himself towards her with a scowl. “Long enough to make me irritable.” He responded.

“And that’s different from when?” She mumbled to herself.

As he reached her, he grabbed her hand and tugged sharply causing her to twirl into him and upon his release twirl out, landing so quickly that she had no time to gain her footing and she fell backwards with a loud plop onto her bottom.

He turned away from her as she collected her bruised dignity.

“Today we are working on a basic turn. I saw your attempts in class and felt almost bad for that first year you were stepping all over.” He said with a scowl.

She followed him to the mirror, purposefully avoiding her reflection.

“Take my hand,” he said as he held his arm out towards her.

She silently acquiesced, questions in her eyes, his hands was smooth, like polished marble, and very cold.

“Now, I am leading. Do not begin to turn yourself into my arm. I will pull a certain way and you will come to me.” He tugged her arm without warning and his arm wound around her midriff until she found herself wound against his chest, his scent was overpowering and oddly warm. “All you need to worry about is holding your head’s position and your opposing arm’s.”

He pulled again and she spun out once again. This time, instinct took over and she landed well balanced, one foot before the other, her opposing arm held just so.

“Good.” He said. She knew this was the best praise she would receive and celebrated in the small victory, slowly relaxing and preparing to spin again.

Without warning he spun her in again, this time she did not allow her opposing arm to her caught under his arm, holding it across her so that when she came to a halt their palms were touching.

He spun her out again without warning, but due to her mental rejoicing, she was caught unawares again. She stumbled and he scowled . “Do it again.” She had to do it four more times before she got it well enough to satisfy him and then at least seven more times when he added her neck posture to the mix.

By now she was dizzy and the heady scent of his cologne, or whatever it was about him that smelt so good, was overpowering her senses.

“Do it again.” He commanded as she did another small joyful dance in her mind for nailing the move again.

She braced herself again, he pulled her in, she executed the step perfectly, neck poised,, on her toes. He suddenly bent over her, and her world tilted backwards as she cried out in alarm, her arms flying around his neck.

“Granger!” She slowly peeked open her eyes. “Granger I’m not going to drop you.” He ground out.

She gulped. Yeah right. But loosened her hold.

“This is a dip.” He said. The blood was rushing to her head. “Keep your arms around my neck but loosen them before you strangle me.”

She blushed slightly and did as she was told.

“Now allow you head to fall back.” He said.

She allowed all the tension in her neck to fall away, leaving her throat entirely and uncomfortably exposed to him.

“Good.” He shifted her hands slightly. “Now wrap your left leg around my waist.”

She pushed herself back into a standing position. “What?” She cried incredulously.

He scowled at her. “This is a dip from the tango, Granger.” He said as if that were explanation enough.

He stepped towards her again, hands on her back, dipping her violently backwards.

She remained stiff.

“Leg up!” He demanded.

With a frustrated groan she hooked her leg around his waist. He was apparently unsatisfied because he grabbed her thigh, pulling her leg up higher. “There.” He said gruffly. “Now we’re going to do the spin again, only a double. On the second spin you use your leg to turn around me as I throw you into the dip.”

He released her suddenly, causing her to stagger backwards as she regained her center of balance. Her head was spinning. She grit her teeth as he took her hand once again. “1..2...3.” He counted before spinning her in quickly.

She spun in once, out, then in again so quickly her head reeled. As she came into his body again she found that wrapping her leg around him allowed her to keep her balance as he gracefully dropped her inches away from the ground. The drop was quick, and he caught her smoothly, her head tilted back, and her hair falling from it’s pony tail and splaying across the ground. Her heart was suddenly pounding violently and she realized she had been holding her breath.

She slowly raised her head for the verdict, praying he wouldn’t ask her to do it again.

She was surprised by the closeness, her leg still wrapped around his waist as he held her in the dip.

“Good, Granger.”





Chapter 7: Of Changed Paths and Sudden Discoveries
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“Bloody Arsehole!” He yelled as he launched towards the other boy. “Keep your hands away from her!”

“Ron please stop!” He ignored her words and pulled back for another punch. “Ron he didn’t mean it!”

He felt hands on his arms, trying to restrain him, but he tugged and pulled at them, trying to get his hands around the neck of the disgusting boy before him. “You stay away from her.” He growled as he felt the hands on his arms tighten.

The boy raised his head, eyes gleaming and blood streaming from his nose. “She’s not your property, Weasel Bee.” He grinned crookedly and turned his eyes to hers. He noted how still she became as those eyes gazed over her. How much brighter the marks around her swollen eye became and how transfixed she was. There was no fear. “She belongs to me more than you could ever know.”

He struggled again and pulled against those who were holding him back and the blonde staggered to his feet. She caught him in her arms and they shared a slow, deep kiss. He felt nails biting into his biceps now but finally he broke away and began to run towards them. Everything started to go black as he struggled forwards. It was as if he was running through water, and with every step he took they were two more steps away. Soon they had all but disappeared and the black completely came across his vision.
Ron woke up panting and sweating in his own bed.

~*~*~*~*~



Ugh. I’m going to be late. I’m going to be late. Hermione was scrambling around trying to locate her other heel which had decided to hide on her. I don’t even want to go on this stupid trip. Harry and Ron are acting stupid, Ginny is being ridiculous, and Malfoy is going to be there. She snatched the shoe, which peeked out from behind her trunk and slipped it on her foot as she hopped to the door. Of course I see him all the time. Day and night. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner. Homework, meetings, and then tutoring. I just can’t get away from him.

As she reached the door she grabbed her jacket, which was lain across a chair, and then flew out her dorm room and down the stairs into the common room. Thankfully, Draco was no where to be seen as she slipped her jacket on and exited their dorms. The hallway was mostly deserted and very cold. She hugged her arms around herself and mentally ran through the list of things she had to pick up while she was in Hogsmeade. If she was going to be subjected to the trip, she might as well make it worthwhile. For the briefest flicker of a moment she wished she could slip into some other group of friends for the day, considering the only ones she had were mad at her.

As she skipped down the steps that led into the courtyard, her breath beginning to fog out before her, she realized that that was untrue. She did not want to join just any group of friends. She certainly did not want to join Malfoy’s.

“Hermione!” She stopped abruptly and turned towards the source of the voice. “Hermione where have you been?!” Padma Patil was much taller than she had been last year, and her hair had been cut into a short bob that ended right above her shoulders. Next to her, her sister was smiling, much shorter, and with far longer hair, but her eyebrow was pierced. Hermione stared at them, wondering when they had changed so very much. “Hermione, girl, where have you been all this year!?”

“I… I’ve been here.” She stuttered.

The girl’s laughed and each slipped an arm through hers. “Today you simply have to, like, walk around with us! We’re going to, like, all the best stores!” They steered her away despite her meager attempts to shake loose. They continued to jabber, like chickadees, to her as they neared the group of students huddled together waiting for the carriages to Hogsmeade.

Parvati was detailing her new pair of boots to Hermione when they passed Ron, Harry, and Ginny, standing with Seamus and Dean. Hermione tried to catch one of their eyes but as soon as she was in view each and every single one of them turned their backs on her. All except Harry, who cast her a woeful look, and then put a hand on Ron’s shoulder, who shrugged him violently off. Harry said something in his ear and he turned around, whispering something angrily back to Harry, who whispered something back and Ron looked immediately as if the wind had blown out of his sails. He turned to her but her vision was suddenly blocked by another body.

“Granger.” A deep, familiar voice said from above her head.

With an inner groan she looked up at Malfoy. “What do you want?”

He smiled crookedly at her before making a sweeping gesture towards a carriage that she now noticed held the Head’s symbol.

“We have to ride together?” She said a bit too loudly. Next to her he laughed as he took her arm and began to walk towards the carriage.

She turned with pleading eyes to the twins, but they were staring in awe at the blonde dragging her away. “We’ll see you in Hogsmeade!” They chorused together before turning to each other and whispering excitedly.

“Can’t you let go of my arm now?” She said up at him as they reached the carriage door. It was the first in the line, heading the train of student bearing coaches. He smirked as he opened the door and rudely stepped in before her, ensuring she would have to lift herself in after him without help. “You are an indecent creature, Draco Malfoy.” She sneered at him as she finally managed to clamor into her seat.

He set his gaze fully on her and smiled, a mouth full of dazzling teeth. “I’ve been told as much.”

She crossed her arms and decided she didn’t have the energy to banter with him today. She settled comfortably into the crook of the seat as the carriage lurched forward. “Why didn’t you just have that Zabini kid, or Parkinson ride with you in here? I would have just gone with the Patils.”

“It wasn’t for your benefit, although you should be thanking me for saving you from those two-” he stopped to search for a word but apparently couldn’t find one that matched the grimace on his face, so continued. “But as much as you would have enjoyed their company, is about equal to how much I enjoy Zabini and Parkinson’s.”

She sat upright, leaning forward, interested in this little bit of information. “I thought they were your friends. Or rather, the nearest thing someone like you could call friends.”

“Someone like me . . “ He mulled that phrase over for a moment before smiling at her. “I suppose you could say that.”

She huffed and leaned back in her seat. “You’re in an awfully chipper mood.” She pouted into her scarf. Was it just her then? She was the only one who was so glum?

He looked out the window and was silent for the rest of the trip, and she did not push anything out of him. Whatever it was that had altered his personality, it probably existed with brevity and therefore should not be over analyzed, else wise her head would hurt more than it did presently. Merlin forbid.

Upon arrival in Hogsmeade she dropped from the depths of their carriage first, then quickly scuttled into the crowd to be lost amidst the sea of strangers before any twins or ex best friends could sight her.

*~*~*~*~*~*


Later that night she was settled into the couch before her tutoring session, waiting for Malfoy, a letter clutched in her hand. It had oddly been delivered by Owl Post during dinner and she was curious to the contents, but she had a horrible foreboding sensation.

She finally gave in to her curiosity and unfolded the letter.

Dearest Daughter,
How is this year so far? I imaging you are doing wonderfully. You always had a beautiful talent for embracing the idyllic senses of the mind. You’ve always captivated people; I was always captivated by you, I always will be. You are the most beautiful daughter a mother could ask for, outwardly and inwardly.
Do you remember the man I wrote of? Oh dear, did I write you of him? Things have been in such a state of upheaval since you left that I don’t know what to do with myself! I fear my mind has gone a-wandering and lost it’s self in those fields of imagination I know you traverse so often.
Dear, I digress so easily. I was writing to tell you there is no need to return home for Christmas break! I know you love to stay there with your friends, maybe you can go to the Weasley’s again this Christmastide, I know you love that! As for me, I will be in Paris with Ricardo. Oh Hermione, aren’t you ever so excited? I think Ricardo might propose! I must remember not to be a scatter brain when in France, I talk too much sometimes, do I not?
I’m sorry this note is so very short, but Ricardo is waiting in the car, we have French lessons and then we’re going to dinner at his parent’s house. His parents Hermione!
Give Harry and Ron my Christmas wishes, and I will see you in the spring!
Happy Christmas!
Mother


“Ricardo?” She whispered under her breath. “Ricardo?” Her breath hitched as she analyzed the note once again, her eyes blurring. Don’t come home for Christmas break? “Paris? Mother is going to Paris?” She crumpled the note up violently as disdain for her mother washed over her. Paris for Christmas with Ricardo and she dos not want me there. “Propose!?” She unwrinkled the letter and read the lines over and then leapt to her feet and thrust it into the fire, watching as it burst into flames. That’s what I think of Ricardo, Mother. I hope you have a nice flounce in Paris.

“Granger?”

She turned abruptly, falling backwards on her hands as if she were a child caught with her hand in the cookie jar. She could feel the hot embers very close to her fingertips. It was uncomfortably warm.

He cocked his head to the side, one eye crinkling a bit as he regarded her coldly. “Are you ready to go?”

She took a deep breath and shoved the entire letter to the back of her mind as she rose to her feet. “Yah.” She said brightly. “I was just waiting for you.” She didn’t move. He raised his eyebrows and gestured that she should then start walking towards the door so they could leave, and feeling like an idiot, she did so.

He walked a few paces behind her as they traversed the empty halls, until they reached the studio, where he stepped before her to enter the room first.

“Alright let’s start right away.” He said quietly. “You warmed up after dinner right?”

She nodded as she took her place before the mirror.

“Good. Arms up.” He commanded as he lit the torches that surrounded the room. She did as he said, only she now anticipated these exercises, she half tuned him out as he called out directions to her, she was far away, fuming over her mother’s letter. Fuming over a past she wished she could forget. Ricardo shouldn’t bother her so much. But Ricardo was not her father.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*


“You need to get this.” He said as he slid down the mirror front, coming to a halt against the ground. “She’s testing us tomorrow. You know that. You need to pass. What is it that’s on your mind tonight? What the hell is stopping you?” He shouldn’t have been growing frustrated. He shouldn’t have outwardly showed his frustration because he knew by now that all that did was cause her to lock up more.

She huffed and crossed her arms, coming out of the position she had been attempting to hold. “What do you care if I fail or pass?”

“What you do now reflects me.” He growled at her. “If you fail that test tomorrow it shows one of two things; either I can’t teach you, or you can’t dance.” He stopped, his voice dropping. “And I know it’s neither of those things.”

The air whooshed from her lungs and she suddenly felt very empty, she cast her eyes downward obediently. She needed to quit the obstinate routine. Malfoy or not he was trying to help her save herself from herself. “How can you be so sure?”

He didn’t reply. He rose from the floor and walked to the stereo, hitting the large button on the front. A light and airy tune flooded the semi dark room; a violin, cello and flute trio.

“Take your stance.” He said.

She closed her eyes and let the music fill her before slowly obeying.

She couldn’t do this. Her mind panicked. She could not do this. He was asking the impossible.

“Arms up.” He said.

She raised her shaking limbs, her eyes on the mirror now, but focused above her head so she could not see herself. She hated that reflection. Her eyes reminded her of her mother’s. Her nose was her father’s. Her stance was that of a stranger. She tuned it out.

“Prepare!” He commanded. She was no longer sure of where he was, she wasn’t seeing clearly anymore. He was a disembodied voice, telling her to walk up the stairs and not peek from beneath the black bag over her head. She would hang soon. It would be over soon.

Her legs locked and every muscle in her body screamed in protest. She panicked as she tried to relax them, but only caused herself to panic more and tighten more. She was reliving the nightmare. The floor was falling beneath her and the noose was tightening.

He’s gone forever.

Her eyes clenched shut as she fought back the pain.

We’ll have to move on. You and I. We can do it. We can live without him. We don’t need him.

“Up!” He called to her.

She took a deep breath as her muscles obeyed jarringly where her mind could not and suddenly she had taken that final step off the executioner’s block. She had hurtled herself off the cliff, kicked the chair from beneath her. Everything was falling away and the ground was rising up to meet her. She collapses, gathering her wounded self into a huddled mass. She pulled her legs to her chest and allowed the tears to fall freely.

Oh Hermione, aren’t you ever so excited? I think Ricardo might propose!

There was a moment while he stood there staring at her in shock, at her crumpled body, her shrunken posture, where something clicked inside of him. It was as if someone had flicked a switch, or thrown a lever. Something to jump start his cold heart which was rapidly beating in his chest.

So now he knew. Now he knew he could have walked away at any point in time and why he had not. Now he knew why when he was adjusting her position he so delicately ran his hands over her arms and legs, adjusting her waist just so. Now he understood why his assignments were not being done and he wasn’t eating dinner. Why he was here in this studio with this girl who was everything he was told to hate.

Emotions make you weak my son.

He full heartedly agreed to this statement at that very moment when he gazed at her tears pooling in a silver puddle on the dance floor.

And he also came to the startling conclusion that he didn’t give a damn.

“Hermione?” He asked softly as he knelt next to her. He reached a hand out towards her but she pulled away quickly and without a ward she had pushed herself to her feet and staggered across the studio, the door slamming shut behind her with a violent thud. It was that noise that woke him up and he was after her immediately.

She was not in the hall and he had a horrible moment where he had to decide what direction he needed to go in. Giving over to his better judgment he took off for their Common Room. Normally he knew she would have gone to Weaslette or Potter, but he wasn’t blind and he had seen the way they had been treating her lately.

He ignored the blinding sensation the knowledge that it was his fault they were ignoring her thrust at him.

It took a matter of moments to reach the Common Room and he flew through the portrait and then shut it softly behind him as he entered the dark apartments. The living area was almost completely in blackness, but he could tell she was not there. He made his way through the kitchen, and then the hallway that led to the staircase that went up to their separate dorms. He stopped at the base of the stairs and strained to hear anything at all that might clue him in to which direction she had disappeared in. Silence greeted him coldly. He went up the stairs two at a time, forgoing his room on the assumption she would not choose to hide in there, checked her room, and then turned his attention to the dark bathroom door that was the end of the hallway. This was it. She had to be in there even though there was no light pouring from beneath the door frame.

He gently pushed the door open and stepped into the darkness, closing it behind him once more, closing himself in the dark space. Now he could hear her soft sobbing as he stepped farther into the darkness. He could not see anything in front of him and silently hoped he would not step on her.

He reached down until his fingers grazed the cold side of the bathtub and by the sound reaching his ears he knew she was perched on the edge of it. He slid to the ground before her as he hands groped through the darkness until they found her arm, and then her shoulder, and slowly her face wet with tears.

“Tell me.” He said softly. It was all the prompt she needed before collapsing in violent tears as if she was once again that eleven year old girl in her memories. He took her by the shoulders and pulled her to him as he fell back against the sink base and she settled against his chest, her face tucked into his neck, her tears sliding coldly beneath his collar.

He let her stay like that, immobile against him, his arms wrapped around her as she spent herself. He did not pretend to understand what was wrong, and he made no assumptions. The one thing he did know was Hermione Granger was a beautiful young woman who was strong at heart, strong like his mother. A girl who used to laugh and then suddenly turned into an upright cold being. A person who had a passion burning in them to dance. A fire he had seen in her eyes but not dared speak of. Someone who obviously knew how to dance and why to dance and had done it often. Someone like him.

He felt as if he was clutching a broken piece of glass. He wanted so badly to put it back together, to appreciate it’s former beauty. A stained glass window is not a stained glass window if broken and shattered on the floor. It no longer retains the entire picture, but the tiny shards still sparkle their individual colors; holding a hope of a greater picture to once more be brought to light. They are still beautiful pieces of glass, even when broken.

She suddenly regained her composure and pushed herself from his chest, but she did not move from where she had fallen against him on the cold floor. She seemed to be calculating everything that was happening, but couldn’t put it together.

He wished he could see her face.

“I’m sorry.” She said softly after a moment.

“Why?” He hadn’t meant to sound so cold. But old habits die hard.

She stiffened and pushed away from him till she was perched against the tub again. He leant his head against the sink base and closed his eyes. He had to be careful or he was going to hurt her. His tone was far too cold from years of embracing a cold demeanor. She didn’t know yet what he had discovered. She still saw Draco Malfoy; enemy number one.

“It’s been almost exactly six years.” She whispered.

“Six years since what?” He prompted gently.

She took a shuddering breath and went to say something, but it never left her mouth. He was resigning himself to having to find some other way to get her to talk to him when he heard her move and then felt a warmth on his side as she lifted one of his arms and snuggled against him beneath it. Desperately quelling the feelings that swamped through him head to toe, he relaxed as he heard her sigh.

“Six years since he left.”

Draco shifted so that he could find her face and ran a cold finger down her cheek bone. “Since who left?” He questioned.

“My father.” Her voice choked on the edge of that word. “It’s been six years since Father walked away from me and my mother. Six year since he packed his bags and left me alone.”

He didn’t know how to handle this situation, it was suddenly out of his control. He would probably have a party if his father ever decided to just pack his bags and leave. It would make his life so much more simple if he did so.

“I was eleven years old and the prima for the upcoming performance.” She whispered into the dark.

Suddenly he had a foreboding sense of danger fall over him. He was near the source of discovering why she no longer danced. He stiffened, not daring to move and frighten her and loose his chance at knowing what drove you so far you lost your passion.

“It was the upper class’s show, but the teacher asked me to perform the finale. I felt so important, strutting about in my specially colored leotard and tiara. I was the only one who got to wear white, and my father-” She strayed off for a moment. “-he tucked a white rose in my hair that morning.”

He tightened his arm around her. It felt unbelievably amazing to be sitting here with her.

“Before I left for the theatre they fought. Which wasn’t anything new, but this one was bad. I heard them screaming, but I hid in my room and covered my ears, pretending I was on stage and everyone was applauding for me. I couldn’t hear them fighting over all the applause. When we got in the car she told me he was leaving. She said we’d make it through without him and that we didn’t need him. All I could think about that night when I went on stage was everything that had happened. Things they had said. My father was the only one who supported my dream to dance, and yet he wasn’t there to see me. Mother thought I could never make a living doing it and ought to put my mind to books. With Father gone I had no chance of continuing my dream. All of these things kept running through my head and when I entered on stage I couldn’t force a smile to my face. I reached center stage and prepped for my big step, the Arabesque.” Her voice was becoming thick with tears again. “It had been the marvel of my studio, the Arabesque that I could execute, at the age of eleven. My teacher applauded me endlessly. My peers hated me for it. And there I was in my little leotard and tiara and I rose up on my Pointe shoes, my mind reeling and screaming at me that he was never coming back, and my knee buckle. I feel on my ankle, put myself in a cast for four months. I haven’t danced since.”

The quiet echoed around them as he groped for words to respond, to comfort her in some manner. He took hold of her firmly and moved her till she was pressed against his chest, his arms tightly wrapped around her and her face buried in his shirt. He pressed his cheek against her hair, breathing deeply the comforting scent. “You will dance now.” He said softly. “You and I. I’ll show you. I’ll help you remember.” And even though he knew she could not see his face, he pulled her back as if he could look her in the eyes. “And I swear to Merlin, next time you fall, I will catch you.”

Chapter 8: Of Disease and The Future
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]



“You’re telling me this will take care of the entire problem?”

The room was cold and dank. The grandiose fireplace burning in the decadent hearth towards the back of the chamber did nothing to quench the chill, neither did the demeanor of any man present. It was nigh dusk and everyone’s nerves were magnified by the looming dark; amplified by the suppressing silences.

The short man before him nodded with enthusiasm, his three chins wobbling grotesquely as he smiled to reveal a set of decaying yellow teeth. “It shall. Every last one of the little buggers.”

Lucius stood from the sofa he was perched on and moved towards the fireplace, deep amidst his own thoughts. He stood close to the flames, subconsciously aware that he could not feel the heat. He had not been able to feel the warmth for a very long time. He looked down at his hands and regarded them with intense scrutiny. He could be the great scourer. He could be The Cleanser. He could be greatly rewarded for his efforts, which now seemed to be on a much grander scale than that morning. This plan would take time and precision. Patience. But with these small sacrifices he could accomplish the greatest feat of all.

“And what exactly is it that you want in return for this information?” Lucius turned back towards the short fat man.

The man smiled, the grin spreading slowly across his features, cracking over his cheeks like a great widening precipice. He put his hands together in a mockery of thought. “The joy of being around while you put my children into action. As you undertake this project of mine. I provided the brains, I wish to watch the brawn. I wish to observe the methodical thought process that accompanies the unleashing of my creations.”

Lucius found himself amused. Sad, pathetic man. “Stay out of my way.” He commanded and then summoned a house elf to settle his guest into a room. He gave explicit directions that the man be placed as far as possible from his own rooms. He’d stick the man on his wife’s side of the castle. She deserved it.

At that moment, as if she had felt herself in his thoughts, his wife appeared at the study door.

“Lucius?” She asked as she entered the room, timidly and with her head bent towards the stone floor.

He sighed and collapsed into the sofa once more, immediately a house elf was at his elbow with drink and sustenance. “What do you want?” He asked in a frigid voice as he raised the crystal glass to his white lips.

She scuffed her foot on the floor, but that and her downcast eyes were the only sign of her fear of being in the same room as him. He rejoiced in that fear he evoked in her. It had taken years to beat into her. Years to push through her thick head. Years to show her he was the boss, and she was bound to him irrevocably to do as he wished. To cater to his every whim.

“I was wondering if you had received any correspondence from our son?”

He didn’t even pause to think about his answer before replying, “No.” His tone was of dismissal and she sighed brokenly as she turned to exit. As the door snapped shut behind her he tossed a piece of parchment into the fireplace that he knew she had seen. Words scrawled on paper he had purposely left where she could see their son’s name scrawled on the front, and he tossed it towards the flames, delighting in the swiftness with which it shriveled in the heat.

*~*~*~*~*


“Ron.”

The voice was somewhere to his left but he ignored them all the same.

“Ron, wake up.”

He was wide awake. He was awake enough to feel the burning sensation in his chest. He was awake enough to be confused and depressed. He was awake enough for the setting sun drifting lazily through the high windows to cause a pounding pain behind his eyes and he was certainly awake enough to answer. But he didn’t.

“Ron, quit being an arsehole and respond.” His sister’s voice interrupted and seconds later her face appeared before him. He had been lying on the desk, head in his arms, face away from them, for most of the free period now. He was looking to make it the entire thing but they had been poking at him and prodding him for nearly three fourths of an hour now.

“What do you want?” He raised an eyebrow at his youngest sibling before turning his head away from her, only to be affronted by his best friend’s visage.

“Mate, you feeling ill?”

He groaned and sat up, running his hands through his hair in frustration. “I’m fine.” He replied in a clipped voice.

“You’re a bloody bad liar.” Harry said.

“This is over Hermione, isn’t it?” His sister predicted correctly. He chose not to respond, but his silence was answer enough. “I'm sick of your moping, Ronald. Get off your arse and go talk to her. I am so sick of the woe-is-me routine.”

Ron raised his head quickly to glare at his sister and then looked to Harry for support on how bad of an idea that was to only find that Harry was looking thoughtfully at his sister. “Don’t tell me you agree with her.” He groaned.

“I think maybe you should just do it Ron. You’ve been waiting for almost two years now to do something about it . . .you might as well do it now.” Harry answered.

“It hasn’t been two ye-” He stopped with a firm look from Harry and sighed, running a hand through his hair. “All right I’ll talk to her.” He said as he pushed up from his seat. Considering it was the final period of the day, he should be able to escape the classroom without too much of a problem. He would just slip outside the doors and take a quick walk around the grounds before going to speak with her. You know, to plan his thoughts. He wasn't running away from the problem. He tried to assure himself. He wouldn't do that.

As soon as he had disappeared through the doors Ginny turned towards Harry with a disgruntled expression, moving into the seat next to him. Dean and Seamus also crept their ways towards the table; all silent.

"I didn't know his feelings were that deep for her." Harry said, breaking the silence abruptly.

"What do you mean?" Dean had never been quick on the uptake.

"He's not eating." Harry sighed. "He's not even sleeping-"

"He sleeps all class." Seamus laughed.

"At night." Harry amended. "He just sits there."

"And you're sure it's over her?" Ginny questioned.

"It started when he found out Malfoy was tutoring her. I think he might start sneaking down to spy on them. He's constantly talking about finding out what's going on and what they're doing." Harry sat forward. "He's convinced that Malfoy's going to hurt her in some way."

"Malfoy's a nasty piece of work but I don't think he's stupid enough to do something to her in Hogwarts." Seamus said. "He's not the sharpest tooth in the dragon's mouth, but he has that evil calculating aura thing that evil people have, you know?"

Ginny's eyebrow quirked in disbelief. "I can't believe I actually understood the nonsense that just came from your mouth."

"Are you mad at Hermione?" Dean asked, averting his attention to Harry.

"No." Harry admitted, eyes towards his hands. "I'm worried about her, of course. I don't agree that Malfoy wouldn't do something to hurt her." He said softly. "But I'm no where near where Ron is. I wish I could speak to her, but Ron is making it impossible."

"I could glomp him over the head and stuff him in a closet so you could get a moment with her." Ginny mumbled, more to herself than the room at large.

Harry looked up at her, a smile spreading across his face. "Gin . . . I think that's a good idea."

Ginny looked up, startled, as did the others. "Knocking my brother out? I'm for it." She grinned.

"Maybe not knocking him out . . . but that's along the right line." Harry stood. "Meet me in the common room."



*~*~*~*~*~*




She stiffened at his words and shrunk away from his hand that was so delicately cupped beneath her chin. She shook her head, trying to clear it enough to stand or form a coherent thought. Warning bells were screaming in her mind. This was Malfoy. This was abnormal. This should not be comforting. This should not feel safe. This was not safe.

“What’s wrong?”

She could hear the frown in his voice. She pulled herself back up on the tub’s edge. She was hurting his pride, a dangerous thing to do, but entirely necessary to retain her sanity.

“Nothing’s wrong.” She mumbled. “Everything’s wrong.” She corrected herself. “Everything.” She allowed her face to drop into her hands, bent over her knees as she perched on her small porcelain cliff.

He was as still as stone. He noted how small the room has just become and how suffocating the blackness was. His eyes had adjusted to the point where he could see her sitting before him, her arms wrapped around herself. Contrary to a moment ago he did not want to reach out to her. He didn’t want to touch her at all, but he couldn’t move to leave either.

“I’m sorry I followed you in here Granger.” He said truthfully. There was some gap that had dissipated between them. Some gaping hole that they had never neared for fear of falling in, and now they had tried to jump across it and found the space to be far too large. Far too frightening, and they were pulling back.

She stood quickly, wiping her eyes as she did so. She made her way towards the door as he pushed himself to his feet, pausing as her fingers wrapped around the doorknob. She opened her mouth, breathed in as if she was about to say something, and then closed it a moment later as if she thought better and exited the room. He stayed where he was until he heard the finality of the click of her door closing and then he too made his way towards his dorm. He was stopped by a loud knocking on the portrait door.

He paused outside his bedroom for a moment, waiting for her to exit her room and see who it was, but she never did, and the knocking became more persistent. With a groan of frustration he closed his own half ajar door and made his way down the stairs and across their common room floor. He was met with a very unwelcome sight as he opened the portrait.

“What do you want, WeaselBee.” Draco crossed his arms and leant against the frame of the portrait hole, a sour expression on his face. His blood was riled as it was from earlier and this particular person was not going to help the situation any.

“I want you to back off and I want to talk to Hermione.” He said and made forward as if he was going to force his way into the room. Draco stepped back in the doorway and the redhead stopped in his tracks. “Move.” He said in a low growl.

Draco’s own voice growled back a long string of obscenities in his mind, but he managed to keep his arms tightly crossed against his chest and his mouth shut.

“Did you hear me?” Ron was beginning to loose steam. He wanted to see Hermione, to tell her that he was sick of playing games, but he couldn’t if the lard ass didn’t get out of his way.

“I did.” Draco replied coolly.

“Then move.” Ron demanded. He was beginning to doubt whether or not this had been a wise idea.

Draco laughed bitterly and his hand moved towards the portrait. “I want you to know I am going to greatly enjoy slamming this portrait in your face.” He said.

Ron extended his arm as Draco’s own moved past him and for a moment Draco was still, wondering why the Weasley was staring so intently at his shoulder. He looked down himself to find that his shirt had a large wet spot with smeared blackness all over it. Mascara tears.

“Where’s Hermione?” It was a firm question, tinged with slight panic and anger. He took another step closer to the blonde who’s expression bordered that of a wolf before it pounced on a victim; dangerous.

“None of your business.” Draco replied firmly as he moved backwards into the room. Ron took the opening and followed him, shoving the portrait shut behind him. “I think you and I should have a chat, Malfoy.” He said.

Draco’s hands were in fists. “Oh please.” He said mockingly. “Do enlighten me with your witful chatter.”

Ron took three rash steps closer to the blonde until he was centimeters from his face and then ground out, “Stay away from her.”

Draco laughed and pushed hard on the other’s boy’s chest, causing him to stagger backwards. “Weasley you have nothing on me. You can’t fight me. You can’t beat me verbally. You might as well leave before you upset the Princess.”

Ron’s eyes lit with an inner fire at the reference to his former best friend. “I doubt my hurting you would upset her.” He said. “She hates you.”

Draco felt the wind blowing out of his sails at those words. She did hate him. He knew that. And he hated her. He hated her. With the breath he dragged in he also pulled in the resolve to hate her. Hating was safe. The indifference was a wall that could keep everything in and everything away.

He hated the way she allowed her hair to do what it wanted. He hated the way she corrected him. He hated how she was the only one who even dared to correct him. He hated the way the air smelled after she got out of the shower and he hated that stupid white bathrobe she padded around in in the morning. He hated how she silently made herself coffee in their small kitchen and he hated how she then silently disappeared up the stairs with it. He hated how she hugged her textbooks to her chest when she walked down the halls and he hated how her skirt bounced against her thighs. He hated that he noticed that.

“I’m going to go to bed now. I’d appreciate it if you let yourself out.” Draco went to turn away but a fist connected solidly with his face, causing him to fall hard to the ground. He looked up at the blazing boy standing above him, still as he gauged the situation. There was an anger blazing inside of him that was mounting and rolling and he knew it was going to explode any minute.

“Get up!” Ron demanded. He wanted to brawl it out with him. He wanted an outlet for his pent up frustration and he was willing to pick a fight with an opponent he subconsciously knew could land him in the hospital ward for a month.

Draco launched so quickly at the other boy that there was no time to react. Ron found himself on his back with three solid punches to his face and one to his stomach before he could kick the other boy away. Draco dove at him again and they rolled dangerously close to the fireplace, flames reaching out from the hearth and greedily licking at their sleeves; trying to find a way to catch, mirroring the fire that was burning through each of them.

Draco twisted away and caused Ron to hurtle into the brick wall next to the hearth, a sickening thud echoing around the room.

*~*~*~*~*



The darkness around her was suffocating as she tried to breathe in deeply. She couldn’t see before her, or in any direction around her. The hushed voices of the girls standing around her were deaf to her ears as she reached down to adjust her shoes. Her stomach was fluttering and her toes were numb. She had been waiting for this night for weeks.

After fiddling with her Pointe shoes she reached up and toyed with the tutu that was wound tightly around her waist. She smiled as she ran her hands over the velour leotard. Tonight was her night.

“DON’T YOU DARE WALK OUT THAT DOOR!”

A small line of light appeared on the ground before her and began to expand as the darkness disappeared. She held her head high and plastered a smile on her face, the whispering around her instantly dissipated.

“YOU WILL NOT LEAVE ME ALONE WITH THIS CHILD!”

As the sweet sound of music filled her ears, she changed her pose with the floating melodies. The bright lights were obscuring the view ahead of her, only emitting darkness. She, however, had no problem with that. It was a release for once to be enveloped in blindness.

Her legs moved of their own accord, her arms changing positions without thinking. Her entire body flowed with the sounds that she had grown accustomed with over the months.

“I CAN’T STAY IN THIS HOUSE ANY LONGER!”

Soon, everything around her had disappeared: it was only her and her body, evolving into the music itself. The music quickened; her pace quickened. The music slowed down; her movements slowed down too. Her smile faded as her face changed into one of concentration. As her movements changed, they became more difficult, but all the same, they were enchanting, fluent and exotic.

“I HOPE YOU ROT IN HELL! YOU ROTTEN SON OF A-”

As she raised her arms above her head, she paused for a moment to rethink all her moves, just as she had planned. Her feet were pointed, and she smile once more to the darkness ahead of her.

She lowered her hands, but held them outwards from her body, as she moved her feet daintily, traveling in a circle of small leaps and jumps. As she twirled to the side, she stopped, positioning her arms and her legs in an arc that would soon help her.

“I WANT NOTHING MORE TO DO WITH YOU OR THIS FAMILY!”

The sudden change of music made her quicken her feet as she gently ran before raising both of her legs in the air, falling once more to the ground. With the conclusion of this move, she prepared for the finale.

As the music slowed down and was held on one note, she raised one of her arms in front of her chest, angled to the right position, the other pointing towards the opposite direction, angled downwards. She breathed in deeply, trying to concentrate as hard as she could.

“I AM NOT COMING BACK.”

She turned abruptly, in a perfect pirouette, then stepped forward once more.

She pointed her toes with all her concentration, before raising her leg in the air so it would be parallel to the ground.

As the sound of pleased mutterings hit her ears she was suddenly reminded of the voice that was not adding to those whisperings

The voice that would not ever again.

“THIS IS ENTIRELY YOUR FAULT.”

She suddenly felt her mind turning inwards on it's self, falling inside her own fears, her vision became black. Angry voices dimly echoed in her ears as tears stung her eyes.

He wasn't coming back this time, she had said. It was done now, they would have to move on.

“Goodbye.”

She took a deep breath but it was already too late as she lost her balance and everything fell around her. Only this time, her eyes snapped open as her body met the firm chest of a figure she had not seen near her before. She sighed as she breathed deeply, and then her heart stopped in her chest as she recognized the powerful presence and the cold hands tightly gripping her back. She looked up into the bright startling blue eyes of Draco Malfoy, her breath hitching in her throat.

She sat upright, her hand flying to her chest as she tried to catch her breath. It was only a nightmare. It was only a nightmare. It was only a nightmare. She scooted her feet over the edge of the bed and bent over, allowing her heartbeat to stop racing and her thoughts to stop swirling violently around her head.

It was only a nightmare brought on by the events that had been heavily weighing on her mind before falling asleep.

It was only a nightmare. It was not real. It would never be real.

Sharp angry noises echoed up to her from the common room accompanied by loud crashes. She slid her feet into her slippers and wrapped a sweater around herself before slowly making her way towards the common room. Angry grunts and labored breathing met her ears, and upon descended the final stair she inhaled deeply in shock.

“Draco Malfoy and Ronald Weasley you stop this instant!” She cried.

The two boys fell back from each other, both regarding her with bright burning eyes. Draco had a small tendril of blood snaking over his brow and from the corner of his mouth. Ron was gingerly padding at the area slightly above his eye which was bright red and raised. Both were breathing in and out laboriously as if they had run around the castle grounds multiple times.

Her hands flew to her hips, her heart racing. “What’s going on? Ron, what are you doing here?”

Ron was indignant. “What am I doing here?! That’s the first thing you ask me!? Not, what the hell are you beating up my best friend for, Malfoy?!”

Draco turned towards the boy and spat viciously, “I’m sure if she cared she would have!”

Hermione stepped back, wishing she hadn’t entered the room at all. She suddenly found herself too hot in her robe as she gazed over the burning blonde in the corner. She was acutely embarrassed to be in the same room with him as his words filtered through her ears. I’ll catch you. He had said. I’ll teach you to remember to dance. Was he going to keep that promise? Did she want him to?

“What are you doing here Ron?” She asked, her gaze falling on her red former friend. For they were no longer friends. There was some vicious creature blossoming inside her that was raging at the knowledge that the small trickle of blood that was creeping down Draco’s cheek; the one he stubbornly refused to wipe away, was drawn by this person she had once possibly accepted as her future love. She knew he doted on her. She had always known that somewhere in their friendship there was something else waiting to wake up, and it eventually did for him, and she had felt guilty at times that it had not for her. She had wondered if perhaps something was wrong with her, but now she knew there wasn’t. Now she felt as if somehow this was the way it had to be. She didn’t know if Draco was the one these feelings were aimed at, or even what these feelings were, but she knew they weren’t for Ron and she knew that Draco has just sacrificed a great deal to give her the comfort he had only half an hour ago. All she could do was reciprocate in kind.

“I think you should leave, Ron.” She said softly, both heads turning towards her in surprise.

Ron sputtered for a moment before rising to his feet, his eyes never leaving Hermione’s. He finally exited the portrait, leaving a heavy silence behind him as she finally found the courage to turn and look at the other being in the room.








Chapter 9: Of The Vixen and Jealousy
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~*~*~*~*~*~


Hermione never thought of silence as palpable. She never thought it had a taste or scent. She never considered it to have a texture or weight. She never thought it had a temperature. The truth was, the room was silent. Not just any silence, but the silence that occurred before something momentous. Her nose burned from the metallic scent and the back of her throat was dry from the acidic taste. She felt as if the air around her was too dense to breathe, and she was burning and freezing at the same time. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

He moved quickly. His movements reminded her of the great, large panther in the zoo by her home that she had visited in the summers before Hogwarts. Currents of electricity were rolling off him in waves. The air was charged with it. He stopped centimeters from her face. His voice was low, bordering a growl, which erupted from deep within his throat. His words were not vulnerable, but they weren’t cruel either. “I don’t understand what’s happening.”

She didn’t either.


~*~*~*~*~*~



Ron’s face felt as if it was cracking in two. His head was pounding and his vision kept blurring in and out in one eye. There was a cool wetness trickling over his upper lip and down his cheek that he consistently wiped away but that kept making a new track down his face. He walked like a man who had just learned of his own execution. His eyes were fixed on one spot as he moved, and as Harry opened the portrait to go track him down and instead found him standing as he was on the threshold, his eyes held their focus on that invisible fixation.

“Ron?” Harry asked in alarm. Ginny rushed over at the sound, her hands flying to her mouth as Harry pulled Ron into the common room and pushed him down onto a couch. “Ginny go get my wand. It’s on my night table, next to my bed.” Ginny nodded and ran off.

Dean and Seamus appeared behind the couch as Ron laid back, his eyes closing. Harry shook him. “Ron, what’s going on? What happened to you?” Ron’s eyes stayed closed. “Ron! Come on mate,” he pulled him back into an upright position, “Stay awake! Tell me what happened!”

Ron groaned and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, regarding the red streak across it. “Malfoy,” he said simply.

Harry felt his anger bridle. “You got in a fist fight with Malfoy?” Ron nodded. Trying to lighten the mood now that he knew his best friend wasn’t in danger of dying he said, “Well, next time make sure Hermione’s there to stop you from getting your arse kicked.”

“She was,” Ron’s eyes flashed with something Harry didn’t recognize.

“She was there?” Harry was on his feet.

“She is there,” Ron corrected, his voice without emotion.

“You left her there alone with him? After what he just did to you?”

Ron raised his eyes to Harry’s, focusing them for the first time since he had stumbled into the common room. He didn’t say anything.

Ginny came running down the stairs at that moment with Harry’s wand in hand but Harry was already on his way out of the common room.



~*~*~*~*~*~




Needing desperately to escape, Hermione had found herself wandering the hallways in her shorts and button-up sweater; her arms wrapped around herself. After Draco’s admission they had moved towards the couch and sat in an awkward silence for almost ten minutes before he had risen to his feet and disappeared up the staircase without a word. Unable to stomach the thought of passing his room on the way to hers, she headed out the portrait hole. It was very late, so late that not even the prefects would be patrolling the hallways. It was entirely by chance that Harry was able to find her.

“Hermione!” he called. “Hermione wait!” he ran the entire distance between them.

Hermione stalled in her steps and looked back to find Harry just catching up with her, worry written across his face. He took her arm. “Harry, what’s wrong?”

He took a moment to catch his breath, assessing her with his eyes. “Ron just came back to the common room,” he said.

Hermione fought to keep no emotion from showing in her face. “And how is he?” she asked in straight tones.

Harry was at first in disbelief of the situation. “Did you send him away?” his brow was furrowed.

Hermione steeled herself. She was going to lie, and then decided there was no one else she’d rather talk to then Harry. “Oh Harry!” she exclaimed, throwing her arms around his shoulders in a hug. “Everything has been so miserable this year!”

His arms went around her back. “You want to talk about it?” he asked.

Hermione pulled back and away and sniffed. She felt now as if she was on the verge of tears again. All of the pent up frustrations from that evening had gathered behind her eyes and the confusion was pushing them forward and out. Harry walked a way down the hallway until he came to an alcove that had a bench nestled into it’s shadows. He sat down, waiting for her to join him.

“What has been going on this year with you and Malfoy?” Harry asked as she sat down. “Why have you been so distant and—” he noticed the sparkling sheen to her eyes and put a hand over hers, “are you going to be okay?”

“Harry,” she said softy, “you’ve always been a best friend. At the very least, you’ve always been the only friend who attempted to understand me.” She turned to face him. “Can’t you see that Ron and I aren’t supposed to be? That I simply don’t have feelings like that for him?”

Harry sat back against the stones. “Everyone expects it,” he said.

She nodded sadly. “But that doesn’t mean it’s true.”

He was quiet for a moment. “What about Malfoy?”

She took a moment to gather her very jumbled thoughts. “I’m… I’m not sure,” she said. “He’s been . . . kind to me this year. He—” she stopped as her mind was flooded with what had happened in the bathroom. She shivered but she wasn’t cold. Harry slung an arm around her, and she fell into his hug, her head resting on his shoulder. “Harry . . .” she started. “I don’t hate him,” her voice was so soft that even she barely heard herself.

“What?” He sat upright and she pulled away.

“I don’t,” she said firmly.

Harry ran a hand through his hair as he took a moment to process that idea. “Alright,” he struggled to say, “Then what about us? About you, me, and Ron?”

“There is no ‘Ron and I’,” she said wearily. “But you and I will always be friends. At least, as long as you want to be my friend. . .” she trailed off.

They both reached to hug the other at the same time. After a moment he pulled her back and set a hand warmly on her face. “No matter what you decide to do about Malfoy, I’m going to back you up. I promise I won’t let something like that ruin our friendship. Even if it is Malfoy,” he ended on a bitter note. “But don’t expect me to be any nicer to him. Don’t expect me to like him or be around him or—,” a large crash interrupted his sentence mid word and they both jumped to their feet, but the corridor was seemingly empty.

“I better get back to the common room. He’ll have gone to bed by now.”

Harry nodded. “You’re still welcome in the Gryffindor common room, Hermione. You are still a Gryffindor.”

She smiled sadly. “No,” she said, “I’m Head Girl. I don’t have a house. I have a common room and I share it with a sleeping dragon. I walk softly and I talk quietly and I still find myself stepping on the shards of glass scattered about the floor.”

“Things are going to be alright,” he said. “Are you ready for the exam in Dianna’s class tomorrow?”

She shook her head. That was what she had been preparing for when she had had an emotional breakdown with Draco and then that had led to the bathroom and her falling into his arms and that had led Ron to her room and Draco to beat him up and that had led to her kicking Ron out and desiring desperately to run to Draco and heal his wounds. She had forgotten about the exam. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Harry,” she said as she turned and began her trek back to the common room.


~*~*~*~*~*~


What just happened? Draco was pacing around his dorm. Unlike most males of the age of seventeen, his room was immaculate. There was not one shred of clothing on the floor and not one belonging out of place. Why did she look so hurt? Why the hell do I care? He sat on the edge of his bed, across from his dresser which supported a large, ornate, silver-lined mirror. His head fell into his hands. She threw Weasley out.

I hate her. He assured himself. I hate her. He raised his eyes to his reflection, his hands sinking into his hair. Bloody Merlin I don’t hate her. His chest was warm in the places where he remembered her touching him and that frustrated him as his mind fought against it. The spot on his shirt had dried, but there was a black stain on his shoulder that was not going to disappear. He was angry with himself because he wanted to go to her. He was angry in general and frustrated at everything around him because of this underlying thought, and he wanted nothing more than for the red head to come back so he could put his fist to his face once again to relieve the pent up emotions that he couldn’t make sense of.

The only way to alleviate this sense of edginess was to go to her and to put it completely out in the open. He was attracted to her, for one reason or another, and he didn’t see any reason why right now he shouldn’t have her.

With that thought in mind he rose from his bed and made his way to his door, and then across the hallway to her dorm where he opened the door without knocking to find her room entirely empty. This led him immediately out of the common room with a sense of worry he wasn’t used to feeling and down the same corridor that she and Harry had met in. It was here that he stepped into the shadows as she was talking with her friend of seven years and watched as Harry slipped his arms around his small friend in what was only a comforting gesture, but one that sent Draco’s sensibilities to the wind. It was his angry reaction that had sent the loud clattering through the corridor that had startled the two friends. And as he raged his way back to the common room he found himself experiencing a most unconventional emotion towards one of muggle parentage such as she; jealousy.


~*~*~*~*~*~




Narcissa Malfoy was consistently perceived as a cold woman who was married to an even colder man and whom had birthed an equally cold son, but common impressions can often be misleading. The truth about the pale blonde was that she was a delicate creature. She walked around her own house as if she was merely an unwanted guest and she was now being forced to tolerate the presence of a crude short, balding man that her doting husband had placed in “her” wing of the manse.

In all honesty she had come to despise her husband very slowly, even though he had been so very cruel to her. She liked to think that she was a very tolerable person, but this man who had been appeared in their home so suddenly was sincerely trying her patience. He was crude. There was no polite way to put it. He left the toilet seat up and he wiped his nose on his sleeve as if he was a child of three. He talked with his mouth full and she had to beg the house-elves to practically push him into a bath on his fourth day in residence with them. Now she was truly at wits end with the man as she had discovered he had purposefully kicked one of the house-elves in her employment. She had spent all morning in her room preparing herself to meet her husband. There was some hope in the back of her mind that if she remained pretty and homely and wifely that he would someday love her again. She could never face the fact that he never had and so went on living in her own world of blissful, yet miserable, ignorance.

“Mistress Malfoy,” a petite house-elf knocked on her door and she rose. “The master said he will see you later tomorrow.”

Her cheeks colored. “Tomorrow? I must speak to him today!”

The house-elf smiled kindly, but sadly. “I am sorry Mistress,” she said as she closed the parlor door.

Narcissa sank back into her vanity, her hand delicately placed over her heart. “I must see him today,” she reassured herself as she slid her feet into a silk pair of slippers and padded her way out of the door and down the stone corridor to her husband’s library.

She stopped before the door and steeled herself. He was going to be very angry with her, but she had every right to complain about the presence of that man in her wing of the house. She went to push open the heavy oak door but stopped, her hands in mid air, as voices reached her ears.

“When do we let them go, Lucius?”

She cringed at his voice. She just couldn’t escape that creature. It was a good thing she had not opened the door because if she had walked in on a private meeting that her husband was holding the punishment would have been most severe. She knew she should understand now why her husband had said he’d see her tomorrow, clearly he was busy, but she was his wife and for some reason she felt the fire behind that statement today. She stayed where she was. If he wished to push her aside for that man then she felt she could justify her eavesdropping.

“Christmas, Gustave.” Lucius’s voice hissed. “I will release them during the holidays when there is the most movement of people to and fro and they can have the largest impact.”

“You don’t think your big bad friend has gotten suspicious of you acting without permission?” Gustave laughed.

“My Lord will award me for my efforts, I assure you,” Lucius replied coldly. Gustave laughed. “You are sure that this will work as you have described?”

There was a moment of silence. “Every last muggle born,” he replied.

Narcissa inhaled sharply. Things were becoming a tad clearer in her mind now. She withdrew from the heavy door, not wishing to overhear anything else from that conversation. She had heard snippets and such around the castle over the past few days and she now felt very frightened of whatever it was her husband was planning to do. She desperately wished for the safe comfort of her son and hurried off to her rooms to pen him a letter imploring him to come home for the Christmas holidays to see her. She snuck this letter to the house-elves after some finagling to override Lucius’s order that they not allow her to owl anyone, and they sent it on it’s way to Hogwarts.


~*~*~*~*~*~



After her comforting conversation with Harry, Hermione was able to return to her dorm room and sleep through the entire night. Upon waking the next morning she found herself with a large headache and a building dread for the exam she would have to face later in the day which she knew she was entirely unprepared for. Rather, she was over prepared in the sense that she now truly could face the fact that she should be the second best dancer in the class, but she also knew there was no way she would magically be able to perform in front of the class. Especially considering that he would be there in the room.

She floated her way miserably through breakfast, which she ate alone in the small kitchen attached to their common room, and then through first and second period (in which she quite efficiently avoided not only Draco, but Ron and Harry as well) and then through lunch which she managed to finish before Ginny and Harry and Ron even sat down at the table.

Her avoidance of everyone close to her was going extremely well until it came time to report to the dance studios. She changed in the common room so she could avoid the locker rooms and then trekked the long way down to the dance studio so she could avoid accidentally meeting anyone in the halls who may want to talk. She even not only stood in the back of the room, but off to the side, so she wouldn’t have to be near anyone, but Dianna de Loustre seemed to have a sixth sense that enabled her to zero in on one’s uncomfortable zone and she repositioned Hermione in the middle of the entire group during warm ups. Coincidently, she found herself three people away from a very fuming and red faced Weasley who had a large black and blue mark on his cheek and two people away from Draco Malfoy who had a very pleasing cologne on today.

It was an extremely miserable class.

By the time it was her turn to step up to the front of the class and perform her Arabesque, she was positively a wreck inside because she had phased herself out after watching every classmate get up and perform adequate to exceptional ones. Draco had, of course, stood, taken the position, and awed everyone. His words echoed back to her as she looked into the mirror and his cold eyes met hers in the reflection.


“She’s testing us tomorrow. You know that. You need to pass. What is it that’s on your mind tonight? What the hell is stopping you?”

“What do you care if I fail or pass?”

“What you do now reflects me.”


She turned her eyes away and took the first position, she could clearly her his voice in her head, guiding her as he had in their sessions.

“Take your stance.”


She closed her eyes and let the music fill her before slowly obeying. She couldn’t do this. Her mind panicked. She could not do this.

“Arms up.”

She raised her shaking limbs, her eyes on the mirror now, but focused above her head so she could not see herself. She was acutely aware of everyone watching her.

“Let’s go Miss Granger we don’t have all day,” Dianna said.

“Prepare!”


Her legs locked and every muscle in her body screamed in protest. She panicked as she tried to relax them, but only caused herself to panic more and tighten more.

She had failed again. But this time not only had she failed herself; she had failed him too.


~*~*~*~*~*~



After Hermione’s final class she skipped dinner and waited in her dorm room until seven o’clock when she would have to go down and meet Draco in the dance studio. She knew after her performance today he would be displeased and his attitude throughout the day had conveyed even more but she couldn’t quite pin it.

Her suspicion was confirmed as he entered the studio by way of blowing through the door violently and then throwing his dance bag against the wall. He did not look at her, or acknowledged her presence in any way as he strode to the stereo.

She took her usual spot in the middle of the room before the mirror and he turned to face her, his eyes as cold as they had been in the mirror earlier that morning. He walked to her, circling around her, eyes focused on her with a fire behind them that made her entirely uncomfortable. “You failed today,” he pointed out.

She swallowed the lump that had grown in her throat. As if she wasn’t aware. She raised wide eyes to his, but he was unforgiving. He took sharp steps towards her until he was a hands breadth away, his eyes cold on her face. “I’m sorry,” she said in a whisper.

“Sorry isn’t nearly good enough,” he replied as his arm shot around her waist, pulling her against him.

She froze as he took one of her hands in his and her other hand settled on his shoulder instinctively. He took three steps forward and then two sideways, twisting her around. He was pushing and pulling her violently with him by the hand that was clasped on her waist. Her heart beat a rapid panicked rhythm in her chest as she realized this was a dance of punishment, but for what she couldn’t guess.

He had now kicked his leg between hers, pulling it back so hers was caught in the uptake and he pulled her back in a movement that created a long straight line along her back. She was almost at a forty five degree angle to the ground, completely suspended in his arms and if he let go, she knew her face would make harsh contact with the ground. She didn’t know the movements he was pushing her through and she didn’t know where this dance was leading and she didn’t understand the anger behind it. Everything was moving too fast.

“Draco?” she gasped as he spun her out and then pulled her back in, her back colliding with his chest and both his hands moving down her sides, her hands still twined with his.

“You’re quite the little actress,” his voice whispered in her ear. She turned her face away, completely exposing her neck to him and he nuzzled his face into the opening. She closed her eyes and he wrenched her away from him, turning her in wide spins and pushing her from one side of the room to the next.

You’re going to hurt her.


“What are you talking about?” There was a bite of anger in her tone but as he almost swept her feet from beneath her she felt all the blood rush to her head, and all the resolve she had against him went with it.

She was talking as if she had no idea. As if she didn’t know he was aware she was snuggling up to him all watery-eyed and then running off to Potter all woe-is-me. And then there was that red-headed Weasley git too! She was playing both sides, the little tramp. She was just a temptation sent to put him off guard, and bloody hell if he was going to allow that to continue. There was no battle this little vixen could wage with him that she could win. “I followed you last night,” he said through clenched teeth as he again pulled her against his unforgiving chest, this time she found her mouth inches from his, his breath hot on her cheek.

He no longer had control over himself as he pushed her down and she crumpled to her knee, the other leg stretched along the floor behind her, her hands in his.

“Why?” It was a gasp, not a question, and instead of an answer he pulled her back on her feet, spun around her, held his arm at an angle where she was forced to twist around him, and then threw her backwards into an abrupt dip. To keep herself from falling she did exactly as he had taught her; wrapped her leg tightly around his waist. His hands moved apart and his arms slipped completely around her until she was completely being supported by him and then his mouth was on hers.


Chapter 10: Of The Beginning of Draco and Hermione
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Author's Note: Ah, hello all my little ones. Yes, yes, I come bearing the fruits of my four hour labor at this keyboard. For all those wondering at any point in time when updates are coming or whom are looking for sneak peeks or just wondering where I have been and what I am doing or a multitude of other things (including a dance dictionary that is in the works) please visit my personal website. The link is nice and handy there on my author's page.

For all interested fans, a new series that I am extremely fond of will be published after this chapter is validated. It is quite an adventure; a work I am extremely proud of. It is titled "Atonement" and for all fans of my work, you will not be dissapointed. You can find out more on my website. In fact, the new website layout is themed to this series ^_-

This story was nominated in the Dangerous Liasons Awards, again, you can find out information on my website and if you are a fan I would love your support! I will post (ha ha, again on my personal website) how you can vote for this story as soon as I find out ^_^ So check back in there as often as you can.

Thank you for all your incredible support thus far, It's rather overwhelming the amount of reviews you all leave and they are all so positive and uplifting. I do answer all of them. Always. So please make sure you check back in to see my reply ^_^

I shall now stop blathering because I'm sure you'll want to be getting to the whole reading part. *closes mouth*

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At first Hermione was numb to the invasion he was raging on her. Her hands drifted up to his shoulders as he pulled her back upright and against him, her leg dropping from his waist. They were three paces form the mirrored wall; three paces that were covered in moments as he pushed her against the reflective glass, his hands braced with fingers spread on the cool surface on either side of her head. The kiss was over before her mind had completely come to grips with the fact that it was happening at all. He released her lips, his head dropping and his breath racing. For a few moments he did not move his hands from her waist and there was but a sliver of space between them. A torturous, tempting, sliver of space.

Hermione exhaled, realizing she had pressed herself tightly up against the mirror. Even her hands were splayed against it now. She couldn’t move because she greatly feared the closing of that gap. She stayed as immobile as possible for as long as possible. She remained so as he turned from her and put his forehead against the mirror on her right, his fist thudding into it with frustration. He turned so his back was pressed against it and then slid to the floor. His arms draped over his bent knees and his head leant back against the cool, reflective, glass. He closed his eyes as he fought to return his breath to a normal rate.

He finally raised his eyes to hers and she felt as if someone was slowly dumping a pail of warm water over her head. It tingled as it, whatever it was, made it‘s way down her arms and into her fingers, then over her hips and finally it pooled at her toes. Her legs gave way beneath her and she slid down the mirror, landing next to him.

“Why,” his eyes closed and he appeared to be fighting some great inner turmoil, “Why did you go to him last night?” His face was resting against the mirror, his chest still rising and falling rapidly.

“You’re jealous,” she gasped in sudden understanding. She fell back, throwing her arm over her eyes, trying to hide from his intense scrutiny.

There was silence for a few agonizingly long moments before he finally responded in a quiet voice, “This isn’t going to go away, is it?”

She didn’t know how to answer. “Truthfully,” she said in a moment of desperation. Perhaps the truth was the best course. “I’m terrified,” she admitted the cast her eyes downward towards her hands.

He moved closer to her and she watched mutely as his hands curled around hers. “Truthfully,” he said softly. “I am too.”

She turned her face away at his words, but he would not relinquish his hold on her hands. “I know you and I have never enjoyed each other’s company, or even been civil to each other, but there’s something about you that is driving me crazy. There’s these stupid little things that you do that haunt me all day. I was sure for seven years that I had you pinned and now I suddenly can see how very wrong I was. You’re the most complex-”

“-you don’t know me, Draco,” she interrupted.

“I think I want to.” It was a hard thing to come to grips with for him.

She indignantly wrenched her hands from his. “You think!?”

Before she could work herself into a tizzy he placed a hand on the side of her face and pulled her lips against his. She stopped all protesting instantly.

“Yes,” he said hoarsely. “I think I do. The only thing I am sure of right now is that I should not. All I know is I’ve always been a bloody selfish bastard and that will never change and for some unexplainable reason I want you and I will have you. I want to know why my blood burned like it did last night when I saw you with Potter.”

She shook her head. “Everyone-”

Draco was on his feet. “To bloody hell with ‘everyone’! Since when do you care about ‘everyone’, Hermione Granger?”

“Since being with you has forced me to imagine what my life would be like in such a case!” She too rose to her feet. “Don’t you understand what would happen if you and I were together?”

“You’re right.” His threw his hands to the side. “Why would I want to be with someone who is going to throw me to the wolves like that?”

“My friends would never speak to me again,” she said softly.

“Because they’ve been treating you so well lately,” he said sarcastically, crossing his arms against his chest.

“You are in no place to be casting judgment on those who are cruel to others,” she declared.

He turned away from her. “I’m going to tell Dianna you need to be paired with me in class; to further your tutoring.”

“What?” she gasped indignantly. “Why would you do that?”

His moved from where he was leaning against the mirror and settled his hands on her hips. “Because I want to dance with you and you won’t do it any other way.” She felt that odd water feeling creeping over her again. “Because I want to be around you and because I told you, I’m selfish.”

That line of thought should not only have offended her sensibilities, but frightened her, however, it accomplished neither. “What will everyone say?” she wondered.

“That you’re lucky?” He smirked. “If I hear the whispering correctly in class.” He stepped away from her. “Or perhaps you’re worried about offending your current partner? I understand he’s a . . master… at catching you when we dip in the salsa. If you want I’ll curse him so he is unable to participate in class and your conscience can be free for getting a new partner.”

“He’s only dropped me twice,” she blushed.

He came at her quickly, grabbing her around the waist and throwing her backwards. “Yes,” he said. “But you see, I’ve never dropped anyone.” He pulled her back up, spun her away from him and then walked towards the radio as if nothing had just happened. “I think we’ve done enough practice today. How about we go back to the common room?” He picked up his bag from where it had landed when he had thrown it earlier and then looked at her expectantly.

She swallowed the lump that had grown in her throat. “To .. Go back to the common room… to do what?” she finally managed.

He laughed at her frightened expression. “I’m going to ravish you, of course,” he smirked. She inhaled audibly and her fingers tightened around her dance bag’s handles. He laughed again. “How about a cup of hot chocolate?” he said with one quirked eyebrow.

She relaxed a little. “That sounds fine.”

“Yes,” he laughed at her back as she walked through the door before him. “No mad ravaging of innocent girls in our common room.”

If at all possible she blushed even darker.



~*~*~*~*~*~



“So your family doesn’t celebrate Christmas?” she asked in honest shock. He set a third cup of hot chocolate next to her and settled into the armchair slightly to her left. They were curled up in the cushions of their own couches before a crackling fire, sipping hot chocolate and talking. She couldn’t decide if she was more shocked at the fact that he was a good conversationalist, speaking to her like a human being, or that he made exceptional hot chocolate.

“Never have,” he sighed into his cup. “My father isn’t the type to ‘deck the halls’ or ‘trim the boughs’.” He said dryly, looking over his rim at her with smoldering eyes. She swallowed hard.

“It was the biggest celebration of the year in my family,” she said softly, casting her eyes on the fire instead of his face. She was still a bit weary at his suddenly easy attitude and couldn’t manage to tell if he was being sarcastic to make her laugh, or to make fun of her. Her mind was still incapable of grasping the idea of sitting here sipping chocolate with Malfoy.

“Your father sounds like a prick,” Draco concluded, setting his cup down. “And your mother doesn’t sound like she has all her priorities straight either.”

She sniffed into her cup. That may be true, but she still loved them. “They’re my parents,” she protested.

“That doesn’t mean they don’t screw up,” he said. “Just because they gave birth to someone like you doesn’t elevate them to the status of all knowing gods. They’re still muggles,” he finished contemptuously.

Her cup almost slipped from between her fingers. “What?” she turned to him. “I’m a muggle, Draco. At least, I’m muggle born. That’s half of who I am.”

Realizing his blight Draco was silent for a moment, his eyes towards the floor. “I’m sorry,” he finally concluded. “Half of who I am has been taught to hate half of who you are.”

She set her cup on the table and stood. “Thank you for the drink, Draco. I’m going to head to bed now.” She didn’t wait for an answer as she disappeared up the staircase and the echo of the click of her closing door echoed down to him.

He sat silently before the fire for a few moments, thinking on her response to what he had done to her in the dance room. His thoughts were interrupted by a loud clicking on the window to the far side of the room. He set his cup down on the side table, next to her half full one, and made his way cautiously to the other side of the common room, drawing his wand as he walked. He stopped abruptly as the creature on the other side of the glass came into view.

“Desdemona?” He pocketed his wand as he reached for the window vise. The large falcon flew into the room and deposited a letter on the table, threw him a glare and then took flight out the window again. He picked up the piece of parchment with a wary hand. Desdemona was his mother’s falcon, but she had been taken away from his mother when his father had ordered her not be allowed to send correspondence to anyone. He especially would not want her sending correspondence to their son. This did not deter Draco and he still wrote in the hopes that his mother saw at least the letters addressed to her and knew he was still writing, whether she was able to read them or not.

Draco sat down carefully and looked at the seal pressed into the letter. It was hurried and looked as if the wax had not had time to dry before it was quickly hidden. He was frightened to open it. After a few moments of adjusting to the idea and thinking through every possible thing that could be in the letter, he slipped his fingers beneath the wax and unfolded the heavy parchment. He was not expecting the desperate plea he found inside.

His mother wanted him to come home.

~*~*~*~*~*~


“Ron, honestly, slow down!” Ginny was scampering after her older brother with an armload of books. He, on the other hand, had nothing in his hands, yet ignored the small girl beside him and her load.

“Ron! Quit being an arse.” Harry turned to Ginny and took some of the books from her arms and then chucked one of the smaller ones at the back of his best friend’s head. Ron finally stopped and turned around to look at them, one hand rubbing the back of his head and an angered, annoyed, expression across his face. His black eye had melted into a dim circle that made him look a little sick rather than the victim of a beating. “Your sister was calling you.”

“What do you want Ginny?” Ron growled, his eyes still riveted on his best friend.

“I just thought you’d like to know that the prefects are proposing a winter dance, for the Christmas holidays, and are presenting it to the heads at tomorrow’s meeting.”

“And? Why the bloody hell would I care?”

Ginny huffed and picked her thrown book up from the ground. “If you weren’t such a pigheaded arse you’d appreciate it and take the chance to ask Hermione to go with you and fix what you’ve done to your friendship.” Ginny turned on her heel and set off in the opposite direction without a backwards glance.

“Did you really have to throw a book at my head?” Ron asked as Harry set in step beside him.

“I’ve wanted to do that for a few weeks now actually,” he shrugged.

“You think I should do it?” Ron asked.

“Do what?”

“Ask her to the dance?”

Harry stopped walking, Hermione’s affirmation that she wanted nothing of the romantic sort to do with their friend ringing in his mind. It was an underhanded thing to do, but Harry couldn’t bear the thought of her falling for Malfoy, and thought the best way to prevent that, despite what he had said to her, was to push his pigheaded best friend to convince the girl she didn’t want Malfoy. “Yes, you should ask her. Maybe Ginny’s right and it will fix all of this.”

Ron smiled for the first time in days. “Feel like some butterbeer?” he asked, slinging an arm over his friend’s shoulder.

~*~*~*~*~*~


They were running along the edge of cliff that hugged tightly to a large lake, laughing loudly. Ron and Ginny were perched beneath the large oak off the embankment and a ten year old Harry was before her in the water up to his knees, his hands digging around in the mud.

“Careful,” she declared.

“Or the lake monster might get you,” Draco’s voice came from behind her. She looked over her shoulder and saw the startling figure of a seventeen year old. He was leaning casually against the rocks, his arms crossed. She turned to look back at Harry but he was suddenly gone and cold fingers were wrapped tightly around her arms.

She was scared for a fleeting moment before she turned around and the fingers suddenly warmed and she saw Harry’s laughing face. “Scared yah, didn’t I?”

Hermione sighed in relief. “Yes, you did.”

He was now walking along the rock edge, teetering ever so as the breeze picked up. “You remember how we went to that beach last summer and I told you I couldn’t swim?”

She laughed. “Yes. I still don’t believe you.”

He smiled. He obviously could swim, but liked to joke with her. “I really can’t,” he said with large eyes.

She laughed and gave him a gentle shove, but he lost his balance and tottered backwards over the edge.


Time suddenly stood still and the clear calm summer day was gone. She found that she was no longer watching the ten year old Harry fall, but the seventeen year old, his eyes closed. The air became thick and static. Dark masses of cloud rolled overhead and the wind become suddenly violent. It was quickly growing dark. The lake surface was freezing slowly, the crystals forming like icy fingers crawling over the waves as they hardened, and she found that she was no longer ten either.

"HARRY!" she screamed, her long hair whipping her in the face. His body met the frozen lake with a sickening crash, his head falling backwards and tiny tendrils cracking around him from the impact. "Harry!” she screamed again, but he did not move and the world began to rotate around her like a top. She was instantly no longer standing by a lake, but in a dark forest.

"Hermione!" she heard a male's voice calling to her. "HERMIONE!"

In a panic she turned in an entire circle, trying to find her path, any path; which way to go.

"Hermione!" They screamed in agony. She choked back tears and took off towards what she hoped was the source of the voice. She could hardly see where she was running and her clothes kept getting caught on the twigs that groped for her in the darkness. She was running blindly towards their voice; their agony filled moans.

There was a sudden moment where her feet stopped moving and she nearly collided with a large tree before her. The wetness on her cheeks stung in the cold air as she sniffed and drew a ragged breath.

"Hermione!" she heard again, but just as she started towards the voice once more, another, different, cry arose from the opposite direction. "HERMIONE!"

Torn between the two voices, she walked three steps in one direction and three in the other and wound up in one large tangle of feet and exasperated confusion. She sank to the ground, her hands rising to her face and tears threatening to spill over.

"Hermione,” a voice whispered in her ear.

She jumped, startled, and shot to her feet, turning around quickly, but no one was there.

"Hermione." The whisper said in her other ear. She could feel their breath dance across her skin and turned abruptly, but again there was no one behind her.

She wrapped her arms around herself as she began to shake, in the distance she heard another agonized scream; "HERMIONE!"

"Hermione, are you afraid?" The whisper was in both ears now and she cried out in alarm and jumped almost clear across the small glade she was standing in.

The voice laughed, this time in the distance, and she turned slowly to find herself standing about ten feet away from a dark black robed figure, their face hidden within the folds of their cloak. She couldn't find her voice.

"Cat got you're tongue?" The voice hissed at her, echoing around the clearing, neither distinctively male or female. She could hear every voice of every person she had ever known in that sound. She could hear Ron, Harry, Ginny, their professors, Draco, everyone within that one voice.

"Who are you?" she whispered into the darkness.

They laughed and their voice became distinctively Draco. "I'm you're worst nightmare," they said.

She whimpered in fear as her hand rose to her mouth and they took a step towards her.

"I'm everything you've ever hated," they said in Harry’s voice. "Everything you've ever loved," they said in Ginny's voice. "and everything you will ever loose," they said in that powerful mixed voice again.

"What do you want?!" she screamed the question through her fear and over the calling of her name in the distance. The callers were getting closer, their shrieking growing louder and more painful.

The figure stepped closer to her and slowly reached up to pull down their hood, revealing a haggard and drawn face that sent her crashing to her knees. "You're time is coming, Hermione." Ron hissed at her.

She couldn't raise her eyes to the disgusting figure before her. She couldn't make her voice leave her throat. Her hands were clenched so tightly into fists that the right hand had begun to bleed of nail marks.

There was a sharp cry next to her and she turned and looked down only to see Harry's body strewn out next to her, blood dripping from the corner of his mouth and one eye disfigured and closed, a motley of black and blue. She shrieked in fright and fell backwards, her hands landing on soft flesh. She whipped around and her hands flew to cover her mouth as a scream fell from her lips.

"Hermione," Draco gasped, his gruesome hand reaching for her.

She scuttled backwards on her hands, trying to get away from their gazes, but stopped as they touched slick shoes. She looked up, only to find the cloaked figure, it's cloak back over it's face, standing above her. She shot to her feet and realized tears were streaming down her cheeks.

They extended a hand that she never got a good look at, for it was quickly around her neck, squeezing tightly. "Time is running out,” they said. "Time has just begun," It squeezed tighter and she gasped, her hands instinctively rising to cover it's and try to loosen their hold.

"Hermione!” a distant voice called. "Hermione!"

She was gasping by now, the world dizzily spinning out of control. The figure holding her laughed and it was Ron's laugh at first, and then Draco’s deep laugh.

"Hermione!"

It couldn't be Draco’s laugh, however, because that was Draco’s voice calling to her. . .

Her mind began to slip away as it tried to find oxygen and failed. Her body stopped moving and her hands slipped from the figure's. It let her go and she began to fall backwards, only she never met the ground, she kept falling and falling until she jerked away, mid scream, in Draco’s arms.


"Hermione," he said in a tight voice. "Hermione, bloody hell, Hermione wake up."

Suddenly all the mobility returned to her and she sat bolt upright into Draco’s chest, her arms thrown around his neck and her breath coming in gasps.

"Bloody Hell," Draco cursed as she tried to catch her breath. Her face was sticky with tears and at the acute pain in her hand she stretched it out before her to find four deep crescent moon shaped cuts in her palm. She pushed away from his grasp as she tried to reorient herself with her surroundings. “I fell asleep on the couch. I woke up to hear you screaming. You wouldn’t wake up at first, you scared the bloody shit out of me.”

“Merlin, Draco,” she exclaimed, throwing her arms around him again. Without even thinking about it he wrapped his arms tightly around her. This movement sent them off balance and they toppled over, she landing half on-half off him and content to remain so as she buried her face in his black tee shirt.

He rest a comforting hand on her head. “Don’t move,” he whispered to the darkness around them.

“Thank you, Draco,” she turned her face deeper into the folds of his clothing. “Hold me tighter,” she whispered.

And this was the beginning of Draco and Hermione.

Chapter 11: Of The Head's Loo and Bruises
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Author's Note: Wowie. Now this is one long chapter. I do hope you all enjoy it... I'm rather fond of it ^_- (You'll see why heh heh). For all interested parties, "Atonement" has been posted and validated and I would LOVE to have you all reading it. I know you will all enjoy it ^_- I'd like to remind you that although I do a ton of research and have a pretty good base of experience in the dance world, I'm not a dancer by trade. Dance is used in this story to further emotion. (Symbolism for all my critical and analytical readers out there!) So if there are things that are wrong, I apologize, if they truly bug you, point them out, but I have done my best to present you with the most accurate descriptions I can. Just tuck the 'possible room for error' into the back of your mind when reading the technical dance stuff ^_- I think we've done well so far. Always feel free to contact me with questions/comments/suggestions/etc. Thank you to everyone for your wonderful overwhelming support! I love presents! Thank you to Misty_Rey, scarletheartedlioness, and Hushabye_Mountain for the stories they wrote and dedicated to me. There is nothing more rewarding than playing muse and inspiration to other authors. You all supremely rock. And Good lord almighty above, have you looked at that review number lately? My goodness you are all too sweet and I wish I could just box you all up and take you home. (I've also joined the HPFF forums... if you want to ask me a question about me.. or my writing.. or any of my stories... go to my meet the author topic (link on my author's page))









“Mister Malfoy, I must admit that I am rather puzzled by your request,” Dianna’s hands were clasped together before her, anchored to the desk by her elbows as she leaned towards him with a quirked eyebrow.

“I believe it will be a crucial additive to her tutoring to pair her with me in class. The pathetic bloke she’s dancing with now doesn’t know his left from his right. You’ve seen him; he’s dropped her twice.”

Dianna sighed and leaned back in her chair, regarding her star pupil carefully. “Draco, it will not further you in any way to pair yourself with someone of her level. When I asked you to tutor her I was not of the impression it would compromise your progress.”

Draco’s smug smirk belayed that he believed one of two things; he knew it wouldn’t happen, or he didn’t believe Dianna had anything further to teach him. He was, in fact, thinking both.

“As you may, or may not, be aware, the Ministry of Magic instituted this course as an outreach to students to make them culturally aware and well rounded individuals. It was begun in an attempt to broaden your horizons,” Dianna’s fist pounded onto the desk. Draco did not flinch, merely raised an eyebrow. “I don’t give a damn about any of that tripe,” her hands flew in the air in defeat. “I better see some solid progress in that girl, Mister Malfoy. She’s got one chance to pass her jury.”

Draco’s head declined slightly in acknowledgement as he stood from his chair, picked up his bag, and made for the door to her office. Dianna was right on his heels as he exited.

“Attention, my lovelies!” she said loudly as she entered the room. “Mister Malfoy, get that mess of hair pulled back from your face,” she called as she passed him.

Draco sank to the ground in his customary position at the front of the room, tying his hair back, as Dianna flicked some music on. Warm ups were no longer conducted in class because Dianna had declared them a waste of class time. She expected everyone fully warmed up and dressed to go as soon as she decided to begin class.

“Miss Granger, if you please,” Dianna gestured for Hermione to come forward.

Hermione rose slowly, acutely aware of so many eyes on her and deliberately ignored Ron‘s, and even Harry’s, eyes as she passed them. Draco was in front of Dianna, leaning back on his hands with a disinterested expression across his face.

“Miss Granger,” Dianna said as Hermione stopped before her. “You are being reassigned to partner Draco Malfoy,” she then turned her back and walked towards the mirror as the class broke into ill disguised whispers.

“Today,” Dianna began loudly as Hermione tentatively took the vacated seat next to Draco, “We begin lifts,” Dianna clasped her hands over head, stretching casually as she talked and paced before the mirror. “We will start with simple jumps and escalate from there. I would like everyone to rise. Be sure there is plenty of space between partners, please.”

Under the loud movement of everyone getting on their feet, Hermione whispered to Draco over her shoulder, “I can’t believe you actually did that.”

“I told you I was going to,” he smirked as he put his hands on her waist.

“Girls in front of your boys. Boys hands on their waists!” Dianna watched this awkward exchange for a moment before intervening with a frustrated sigh. “Boys!” She put her hands on her ribs, directly beneath her chest, “This is not the waist!” She moved her hands to her hips, “Neither is this!” She moved her hands to settle on the side of her stomach in the indentation above her hips. “This is the waist. If you aren’t holding her here and pushing under her ribs, her feet won’t ever leave the ground.”

Draco chuckled in her ear and she shivered. “If you’re like Alice Tethor it won’t matter where you grab her, she isn’t getting off the ground period.”

“Draco!” Hermione scolded, “Don’t be cruel!” His response was another deep chuckle.

“Ladies, please assume second position. Men, your feet are roots. You must imagine them grown into the ground. You are her base; her stronghold.” Dianna made her way through the class, checking to make sure all the boy’s had their feet placed directly under their hips. “You must maintain your balance. You will have to train you arm muscles or you will never be able to hold her in the air and flip her and all the other fun stuff we will get to.” She stopped for a moment, her hands on her hips. “Mister Weasley, if you drop your partner today I will fail you both. Feet apart.” Ron shot her a venomous glare as she continued down the row.

“Now, if you would all plié,” she demonstrated at the barre at the front of the room, her heels toward each other and her toes pointed toward the opposing walls. “Remember to keep your hips squared and front. Miss Patil don’t lean forward like that and Mister Finnigan please don’t use Miss Brown to keep your balance!”

“Will you relax?” Draco’s fingers tightened on Hermione’s waist. “You learned to plié in beginning ballet years ago. Bend your knees. I’m not going to let you fall over.” Hermione exhaled slowly, willing her body to relax and trust his words.

“Now, girls are going to jump, small jumps please, your toes should be the last part of your body to leave the ground. Use your bent knees. Make sure your core is centered. Do not rely on your partner to get you off the ground! You must be able to take flight alone. You must be able to fly alone, ladies. Gentlemen, you will lift up.” Dianna demonstrated again. “You must push up under her ribs as she jumps. As I said, you will need to build your upper body strength for the forthcoming choreography. Yes, this means homework.”

Ignoring the groaning of her students she plowed on. “I want the boys doing our warm up routine push ups at night before bed and in the morning upon waking. You will also use the Gravitas charm to build your arms.” Dianna pulled her wand from where it was tucked into her ponytail and said; “Gravitas!” Promptly two translucent orbs appeared on either end of her wand. She handed the wand to Neville Longbottom. “Here. Try it.” Neville was unprepared for the weight and he pitched forwards.

Dianna clucked in disappointment and took the wand back. “Ladies, I want you doing curl ups, sit ups, push ups, all kinds of ups! You need to build your muscle tone so your gent has something to grab on to!”

Harry’s hand raised and Dianna called over her shoulder as she walked back to her mirror, “No, Mister Potter, Quidditch warm ups have nothing to do with my homework assignment and you may not count them so.”

“My team’s warm ups are just as harsh as this. The babies should stop complaining. No wonder Gryffindor team always loses,” Draco muttered.

Hermione stiffened and Draco mentally berated himself for slipping again. After a few breaths Hermione tried to move on by saying, “You’re still playing Quidditch?”

“I’m captain,” he replied shortly.

“Oh,” she said meekly. “I hadn’t noticed you leaving for practice.”

“Now if I could see everyone try the jump please,” Dianna interrupted.

Hermione focused her eyes on the mirror before her. Dianna began to clap a simple beat. “On the beat! Five, six, seven, eight!”

Hermione found she wasn’t quite ready and was entirely caught off guard. She tried to jump and bend her knees at the same time and would have ended up on the floor if she had been partnered with anyone else. Draco somehow not only lifted her the small amount she was supposed to jump but he managed to make it look effortless and graceful.

Around them the rest of the class was thudding loudly back to the ground.

“No! No, no, no, no, no!” Dianna thundered. “We are not griffins in tutus! We do not stomp!”

Hermione took another deep breath and readjusted her feet beneath her. She was going to be ready this time. She was determined.

“What was wrong with your arms ladies? Did you forget you had them? Were some of you thinking they would magically propel you into the air? Put them on top of your partner’s hands!”

Hermione’s insides jumped a bit as she did; Draco's hands were very cold.

“This time I want to see some effort. Ladies, your goal is to get your rump as high as his chest. Men, word to the wise, don’t try to hold her there just yet. You won’t be able to at this point until you build up your arm muscles. In fact, just for fun we’ll have a little demonstration of this point at the end of class to show you what I mean. Perhaps it will encourage you to complete your assignment.” Dianna leaned against the front barre, elbows against the mirror. “Now, off you go. Five, six, seven, eight!”

There was a sudden eruption of groans around the studio and quite a few thuds from couples that promptly fell or partners promptly dropped. Hermione found she hardly had to work at all and the ordeal was over seconds before she had registered it had begun. She had done it.

Dianna’s hand came across her face in disgust. “I suppose if you both fall it doesn’t count as ‘dropping’ your partner.” She shook her head. “Again!”

The class scrambled back in to position and the music changed to a fast, pounding beat. “Five, six, seven, eight! Five, six, seven, eight!” Dianna counted. “Leap on the pick ups my little ones!” she commanded. The class began a rigorous game of balance and leap; one Draco was apparently a master at for Hermione never once lost her balance. The rhythm became a pulse and soon she was numb to everything; his hands lifting her and his body behind her, her fear of falling, the class around them, all she knew was that pounding pulse. Five, six, seven, eight! Five, six, seven, eight! Prepare, leap, descend, and land! Prepare, leap, descend, and land!

“Keep your heads up ladies!” Dianna called somewhere in the distance. “Lock your eyes on that reflection. See yourself flying and don’t grimace Miss Jefferson. You love to fly! You love this moment! Hold your core! Keep yourself centered! Knees bent! The ground is unwanted; push it away! Keep that back straight! You are proud to be free of it! Gentleman! Eyes off her butt if you please! You are roots to the ground! Stay grounded! You want her to fly, but you are her only way back to the ground! You want her to come back to you so you cannot fly with her, no matter how much you want to! Let me see it!”

Hermione’s stomach muscles were screaming in protest and small beads of perspiration dotted her forehead. She was growing short of breath. Behind her she could hear Draco’s slightly steadier breathing rhythm and forced hers to match it.

“Five, six, seven, eight! Prepare, leap, descend, and land!“

She heard a sharp thump but kept her eyes on her reflection, fighting to keep the pain from in her arms and knees and back and stomach from showing in her expression.

“Mister Weasley, I told you it was a failing mark for the both of you if you dropped her!”

Hermione couldn’t help it; her eyes closed in a quick grimace of discomfort. Thankfully, at that moment Dianna commanded they stop. The entire class simultaneously slid to the ground.

Dianna regarded them coolly. “Did I say you could sit?”

As everyone fought to regain their footing, Hermione held a tentative hand to her side, kneading the muscles gingerly, unaware of Draco’s observing eye.

“Resume you positions, please,” Dianna said.

Draco’s brow creased as Hermione stepped awkwardly in front of him. “You going to be able to do this?” The question was asked in a cold tone, but she was touched nonetheless, knowing the intention behind it. “Apparently we’re working on getting your upper body in shape.”

“Aren’t you the least bit tired?” she asked as his hands fell on her waist again. The coldness was soothing this time.

“Unlike you, I’m not out of shape. I’ve never stopped my dancing routine, so my muscles have never had a chance to deteriorate on me. You’re in for a long haul,” he warned.

“I would like to show you all why what I’ve requested you do for homework is so very important. You will now take your partner and hold her in the air. She’s going to almost sit on your chest, but most of her weight will be supported in your arms and your root into the ground. Don’t fool yourselves. It will hurt. Your arm muscles will scream at you and shake and burn. Ladies, you may find bruising on your waist, you may not be able to sit certain ways or turn certain ways. Your body is a stubborn beast. You must train it. Stretch yourself to your limits, but remember, in the end, you do have limits. You must take care of yourselves! Get plenty of rest, and cold compresses work wonders for sore muscles. Now, girls, please be sure to point those toes. Floppy feet are disgusting. I want you to keep your hands on your partner’s for now. We will deal with proper poise later. Go on the count. Five, six, seven, eight!”

Hermione felt a sudden weightlessness that was incredibly surprising. She squeezed Draco’s hands tightly, wishing they weren’t digging into her sides so much. Her neck felt heavy and it was a constant battle to remain straight and poised, her eyes on the mirror.

Around them couples were dropping to their feet at a steady rate. Hermione suspected Draco could hold her up there till sunset, so she was startled when he set her on her feet. The three or four couples left descended only seconds after. Hermione turned questioning eyes to him as Dianna dismissed them with a gleeful smile, reminding them to do their homework and promising there would be more fun tomorrow.

“I don’t need to prove anything, Hermione, and you’re not ready to try to.” She agreed, but it was still disheartening to hear. “You’re doing that wrong,” he said, looking at her hands. She had subconsciously been kneading the muscles in her sides, hoping they’d unclench.

“Whatever do you mean by that?” she asked as he stepped forward.

“Move your hands,” he directed, pushing her hands away and putting his own in their place. “You have to do it in circles. The point is to force the knot in the muscle to unclench, not tighten it up further.” As he was speaking his fingers were doing as he said; kneading in small circles. She jumped, a small bubble of laughter escaping.

“That tickles!”

He rolled his eyes.

“I’m going to take a shower before dinner, so don’t hurry back,” she said as she grabbed her bag and exited, leaving Draco as the only apparent person left in the studio.

Draco shook his head and made his way to his bag, pulling the tie from his hair as he went. “You always slink up behind people when they aren’t looking, Weasel?” he said nonchalantly over his shoulder as he bent down to grab the strap of his bag.

“I want to have a word,” Ron growled.

“Sure about that? If I remember correctly, it didn’t go so well last time.”

“I don’t actually want to have a conversation with you,” Ron continued, “I only want to know why the bloody hell she’s your partner now and I want you to know if you bloody touch her again like that I will personally do something about it.”

Draco leaned back against the mirrored wall, arms crossed. “Such as?”

Ron swallowed; nothing came to mind.

Draco laughed. “Green isn’t your color, Weasel-bee.”

“Are you saying I’m jealous?” Ron spat.

Draco slung his bag over his shoulder and leaned forward. “Yes,” He walked past him.

“Malfoy!” Ron called.

“She’s my partner because I say so and you gave your ’warning.’ You’re dismissed Weasley.” Draco’s fists were clenched as he pushed through the studio door. He was guessing that pounding the shit out of Weasley would not make the girl all too pleased with him.


~*~*~*~*~*~

By the time Draco reached the common room Hermione was completely showered, dressed, and reading a book on the couch. He dropped his bag by the door and made directly for her chair, bracing his hands on the arm rests.

“Bloody hell, you smell good,” he murmured into her neck.

She laughed and pushed him away. “You don’t! Go shower!”

He groaned but trekked his way up the stairs and she heard the door shut and the water start a moment later.

Draco turned the water as cold as it would go before stepping in. His skin crawled at the temperature, but he welcomed the sensation. Anything that kept him from going numb was welcome. The cold did wonders to the pain in his body.

Should I heed Mother’s plea? She must be in a terrible place if she had risked contacting him in such a way. If his father found out… The hairs on his arms stood on end. He switched the temperature to the hottest setting.

If his father found out he would beat Mother to an inch of her life. It wasn’t a new concept within the family structure. Draco had never, in all six years of attending Hogwarts, gone home for a holiday break. Hogwarts sure as hell wasn’t home, but it was a far cry from going back to that place.

The air in the bathroom faintly held the scent of her shampoo still; it was entirely distracting. He leant over, analyzing the bottles on the edges of the tub, grabbing a black one. He flipped open the cap, took a deep breath, and then unscrewed the cap entirely, placing it back on the edge of the tub as the scent swept through the shower. Distraction be damned.

His mother was the only person that had ever cared for him. He had to go back. There was no reason for him to stay over break anyways.

Hermione. He remembered her mother’s letter and was forced to switch the water back to the coldest setting. She had no choice but to stay.

What was the worst that would happen to her? There was no chance she’d be injured, unlike his mother. She was entirely safe here at Hogwarts. Loneliness was the only thing she would suffer. No matter how much he relished the idea of staying with her and breaking down her walls, his mother’s plea was burning within him.

Draco, my little dragon, come home to me, my child. I am frightened.

He would just have to focus his efforts towards the girl when he returned.

~*~*~*~*~*~

“Are you ready to go?” Hermione asked as he descended the stairs. “I hope you don’t mind, but I ate while you showered. I figured you wouldn’t care since it’s not like we can walk down and eat together.”

He stopped on the final stair, trying to decide if it did bother him.

“I brought you back something,” she smiled sweetly. “It’s in the kitchen. You can heat it up after the meeting,” she stood and walked towards the portrait.

He wished he were still in that cold shower. The sweet smile was unsettling but the sucker-punched feeling in his gut had to do with the unidentifiable emotion accompanying her actions; the foresight of caring enough to bring something back. He noticed her awkward walk, his mind flying back to the time when his muscles were just beginning to build up and accustom to the strenuous movements he was insisting on.

He stopped her, as she was about to reach the portrait. “When we get back,” he said softly, “I’ll show you how to ease your muscles.”


~*~*~*~*~*~

“All right,” Hermione shuffled the parchment in front of her, carefully avoiding eye contact with the blonde next to her. They had purposefully sat at opposite ends of the table from each other. “I believe that’s it for today. Are we all agreed?”

A tentative hand rose in the front row of seating.

“What?” Draco had his feet on the table and was leaning back in his chair.

The girl was a fifth year and obviously terrified to be speaking to Draco Malfoy so she turned to Hermione. “We prefects would like to propose the consideration of a holiday ball.”

Hermione sat back. “Well,” she took a moment to think about it, “I don’t see why not,” she turned to Draco.

“If you want one,” he shrugged.

Trying to hide an unexplainable blush, Hermione shuffled her papers again. “We will have a holiday ball. I will leave it to the sixth year prefects to organize everyone. We will require a volunteer list and detail as well as cost summation. Bring it to me as soon as you are ready and I will present it to the Headmaster. Meeting adjourned.”

Everyone happily rose, chatting excitedly amongst themselves. Hermione took her time gathering her things, she wanted to be last out so she could walk back with Draco, but she had no such luck.

“Hermione?”

She looked up and stifled a groan. “Yes, Ronald?”

He shuffled his feet, his hands in his pockets. “Could I walk you back?” She looked up, about to say no, realized she couldn’t, and saw Draco nod to her as he slipped out the door, leaving them alone.

She sighed, “Sure,” and grabbed her things.

The walk was silent almost the entire time, right until they reached her hallway.

“Hermione…we’ve been best friends forever, and it makes me sick to think anything would get between us…anyways…I wanted to know, will you go to this holiday ball with me?”

Hermione stopped dead right outside the portrait hole. “What?”

“Will you go with me to the holiday ball?”

“I haven’t even gotten it approved by the Headmaster yet,” she put her hand to her forehead.

“Will you go with me, or not?” his voice rose.

“Problem?” A cool voice interrupted. Both parties turned around to find Draco sweeping up the hall, his robe billowing behind him.

“Malfoy, bugger off. We’re having a conversation,” Ron ground out.

“Not outside my portrait hole with that tone of voice you’re not,” he said in reply.

Ron stayed still for a moment, waiting for Draco to leave, which he did not. Finally he awkwardly asked, “What’s your answer, Hermione?”

“I don’t think it’s a good idea, Ron,” she replied as she stepped inside the portrait. Draco did not move. Ron waited long enough to have a staring contest with Draco’s imposing presence before standing down and sulking off.

Draco entered the common room to find Hermione waiting inside. “You said you have a way to fix my muscles,” she reminded him. She had dropped the edge of her shirt just as he walked in to the room, but not before he caught a flash of color on her waist.

“Do you have a bathing suit?” Draco asked.

Hermione blushed. “Of course…but why?”

“Go put it on. I’ll meet you in the loo.”

Hermione closed her door behind her and made her way to her trunk. Why did her bathing suit have to be a two-piece? It was ‘the thing‘. All the girls wore them, but at this moment she was considering wearing ski pants and a sweater rather than face Draco Malfoy in a bikini.

As she was rummaging through the trunk to locate said bathing suit she came across two articles of clothing she had previously worn in dance practice but recently only as pajamas. The sports bra and short black shorts weren’t exactly body encompassing, but they were a far cry from the exposure of a bikini. She made her way skeptically to the bathroom.

Draco was perched on the edge of an ice filled tub. His robe was draped over the sink and he had rolled the sleeves of his white shirt up, leaving the top few buttons undone.

He didn’t say anything about her chosen apparel, but grabbed her hand and pulled her closer, turning her so he could get a better look at her right side. There was a purple blotch surfacing on her waist. He touched it softly with a critical eye.

“I’m right handed, that’s probably why this is the only side that’s bruised.”

“I assure you, the other side hurts just as much,” she had her face turned away.

“All right, in the tub,” he commanded.

“In that?” she turned quickly.

“You’re keeping your clothes on so what’s the fuss? Climb in.”

“That tub is full of ice!”

“You can thank me later,” he said dryly, taking her arm and supporting her as she stepped in.

“Oh Merlin. Oh Merlin. Oh my Merlin. Dear Merlin. This is so cold!” she swore.

“Sit,” he commanded.

She closed her eyes.

“You have to sit down, Hermione. If you don’t ice those muscles they will lock up. Now stop being stubborn. I’ve had to do this countless times. Bend your knees. Sit down.”

She held on to his arm and slowly lowered herself in to the cold slush, emitting exclamations of her discomfort as she went. He then settled himself opposite her on the edge of the tub.

“You’re going to stay?” she asked through chattering teeth.

He smirked. “I could leave, but I figured you would want someone to distract you from the comfort of your bath.”

She nodded, wrapping her arms around herself.

“I’m going home over the winter holidays,” he said after an awkward moment of silence.

“Oh,” she said, her voice down heartened. “It’s-It’s alright. I’m s-sure someone else w-will be s-staying.”

“Want to talk about what just happened in the hallway?” he tried after a minute.

She turned her head away. “I told him no.”

Draco stood up and leant against the sink. He took a deep breath. “You know I can’t take you.”

“I know,” she said softly behind him.

“I think you should go with him,” he said.

There was an angry sloshing as she got on her feet. He grabbed the nearest towel and threw it around her, helping her step on to the bathroom rug and gently rubbing her arms and shoulders as she stood there shivering and wet.

“Why do you want me to go with him?” she asked angrily.

“I never said I wanted you to. I said you should. There’s no way in bloody hell I want you to go with some other bloke,” he ground out.

She was silent for a moment. “I don’t want to go with him,” she said softly as she wiped some stray water droplets from her face.

“It will keep them off our trail that much longer,” he insisted. “And it won’t exactly be like you’re there with him, because I’m not letting the two of you out of my sight to begin with.” Her shivering had finally subsided. “You should get dressed and go to bed before you get sick,” he said softly.

She sniffed and wiped her hair back from her eyes, “Okay, I’ll…I’ll tell him tomorrow.” She left the room and he closed the door behind her. He practically ripped his shirt as he tugged it off and didn’t bother to remove his black pants before sinking into the ice filled tub, the click of her door shutting echoing back to him.




Chapter 12: Of Tradition and An Unwanted Date
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Author's Notes: I am dreadfully sorry this update took so long. Things are a bit hectic in life right now and Celtic made some boo boos so it got stuck in the que for a very long time heh heh. Before we begin I have a few housekeeping things to go through with you.

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2) My beta, VampireKisses, is currently going through all of the old chapters and betaing them. As I publish these I am adding chapter images, like the one you see below. Enjoy them ^_^.

3) I have joined The Dark Arts. If you wish to request a graphic of any sort or view my graphic gallery, you can find me over there at the username CelticKisses. There are links to TDA from the main page of HPFF. I will no longer accept requests through e-mail and instant messengers unless you contact me to explain why you cannot access the TDA forum. (Keeps it all organized for me ^_^) Please, for all that is holy, do not leave graphic requests as reviews. Don't think I don't know you aren't reading the story when you try to disguise it and say Great story! I hear you make banners...." and then go on forever about your request and even leave an e-mail address. One: I won't contact you like that. Two: I have to report those things. So behave.

4) I ask that you all check up on my website often, there are many updates you don't hear just reading my author's notes. ^_^

5) The poll has ended and the results are in. The one shot you choose for me to write a prequel/sequel to is "The Staircase"

Thank you so much for all of the support everyone. 1000+ reviews on chapter 12 is absolutely mind boggling and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.






They were running along the edge of a cliff that hugged tightly to a large lake, laughing loudly. Ron and Ginny were perched beneath the large oak off the embankment and an eleven-year-old Harry was before her in the water up to his knees, his hands digging around in the mud.

“Careful,” she warned him. A slight breeze rippled through the air, causing her legs to itch. She looked down to find that the odd scratching against her thighs was due to a white tutu wrapped around her waist. Her pointe shoes were laced up her calves in matching pearl white.

“Or the lake monster might get you,” Draco’s voice came from behind her. She looked over her shoulder and saw the startling figure of a seventeen year old. He was leaning casually against the rocks, his arms crossed, a pair of identical pointe shoes dangling from his hands. She turned to look back at Harry but he was suddenly gone and cold fingers were wrapped tightly around her arms.

She was scared for a fleeting moment before she turned around and the fingers suddenly warmed and she saw Harry’s laughing face. “Scared yah, didn’t I?”

Hermione sighed in relief. “Yes, you did.” With surprise she noted she was now in jeans and sneakers. Her head began to throb; right behind her temples.

Harry was now walking along the rock edge, teetering ever so as the breeze picked up. “You remember how we went to that beach last summer and I told you I couldn’t swim?”

“Yes, I still don’t believe you.”

He smiled. He obviously could swim, but he liked to joke with her. “I really can’t,” he said with large eyes.

She laughed and gave him a gentle shove, but he lost his balance and tottered backwards over the edge. His hands reached out to catch anything to hold his balance, his fingers curling into the material of the tutu that now clung to her hips again. She watched in horror as the flimsy material gave way and fluttered after his falling body.

Time suddenly stood still and the clear calm summer day was gone. She found that she was no longer watching the eleven-year-old Harry fall, but the seventeen year old, his eyes closed. The air became thick and static. Dark masses of cloud rolled overhead and the wind become suddenly violent. It was quickly growing dark. The lake surface was freezing slowly, the crystals forming like icy fingers crawling over the waves as they hardened, and she found that she was no longer eleven either.

"HARRY!" she screamed, her long hair whipping her in the face. His body met the frozen lake with a sickening crash, his head falling backwards and tiny tendrils cracking around him from the impact. "Harry!” she screamed again, but he did not move and the world began to rotate around her like a top.

Draco appeared next to her, his head bent. He paid no heed to her standing there; he seemed to be deep within a world of his own. The pointe shoes he had been clutching before he now held away from himself over the cliff edge. With an unreadable expression on his face, he opened his hand and allowed the ribbons to streak through his fingers, the shoes landing within inches of Harry’s fallen form.

She was instantly no longer standing by a lake, but in a dark forest.

"Hermione!" she heard a male's voice calling to her. "HERMIONE!"

In a panic she turned in an entire circle, trying to find her path, which way to go. She was shivering in the matching white leotard she was still wearing. Her pointe shoes sunk into the mud of the forest floor, turning a dull brown.

"Hermione!" They screamed in agony. She choked back tears and took off towards what she hoped was the source of the voice. Running in the dance shoes was practically impossible. She was moving blindly towards their voice; the agony filled moans.

There was a sudden moment where her feet stopped moving and she nearly collided with a large tree before her. The wetness on her cheeks stung in the cold air as she sniffed and drew a ragged breath. With a frustrated noise she bent over to unlace the shoes form her feet, only to find herself glaring at a pair of sneakers once again.

"Hermione!" she heard again, but just as she started towards the voice once more, another, different, cry arose from the opposite direction. "HERMIONE!"

Torn between the two voices, she walked three steps in one direction and three in the other and wound up in one large tangle of feet and exasperated confusion. She sank to the ground, sinking into the mud, her hands rising to her face and tears threatening to spill over. As she dragged her hands over her cheeks muddy finger streaks followed their wake.

"Hermione,” a voice whispered in her ear.

She jumped, startled, and shot to her feet, turning around quickly, but no one was there.

"Hermione," the whisper said in her other ear. She could feel its breath dance across her skin and turned abruptly, but again there was no one behind her.

She wrapped her arms around herself as she began to shake, in the distance she heard another agonized scream; "HERMIONE!"

"Hermione, are you afraid?" The whisper was in both ears now and she cried out in alarm and jumped almost clear across the small glade she was standing in. She was once again bedecked in dance clothes and shoes.

The voice laughed, this time in the distance, and she turned slowly to find herself standing about ten feet away from a dark black robed figure, their face hidden within the folds of their cloak. She couldn't find her voice.

"Cat got you're tongue?" The voice hissed at her, echoing around the clearing, neither distinctively male nor female. She could hear every voice of every person she had ever known in that sound. She could hear Ron, Harry, Ginny, their professors, Draco, her mother, everyone within that one voice.

"Who are you?" She whispered into the darkness.

They laughed and their voice became distinctively Draco. "I'm you're worst nightmare," they said.

She whimpered in fear as her hand rose to her mouth and they took a step towards her.

"I'm everything you've ever hated," they said in Harry’s voice. "Everything you've ever loved," they said in Ginny's voice. "And everything you will ever loose," they said in that powerful mixed voice again.

"What do you want?!" she screamed the question through her fear and over the calling of her name in the distance. The callers were getting closer, their shrieking growing louder and more painful.

The figure stepped closer to her and slowly reached up to pull down their hood, revealing a haggard and drawn face that sent her crashing to her knees. "Your time is coming, Hermione," a pale blonde man hissed at her. He bore a striking resemblance to her current roommate.

She couldn't raise her eyes to meet his. She couldn't make her voice leave her throat. Her hands were clenched so tightly into fists that the right hand had begun to bleed. The red trailed over her palm and dripped steadily onto the pointe shoes, which were now entirely blood red.

There was a sharp cry next to her and she turned and looked down only to see Harry's body strewn out next to her, blood dripping from the corner of his mouth and one eye disfigured and closed, a motley of black and blue. She shrieked in fright and fell backwards, her hands landing on soft flesh. She whipped around and her hands flew to cover her mouth as a scream fell from her lips.

"Hermione," Draco gasped, his gruesome hand reaching for her.

She scuttled backwards on her hands, trying to get away from their gazes, but stopped as they touched her slick shoes. She looked up, only to find the cloaked figure, its cloak back over its face, standing above her. She shot to her feet and realized tears were streaming down her cheeks.

They extended a hand that she never got a good look at, for it was quickly around her neck, squeezing tightly. "Time is running out,” they said.

In that moment Hermione’s heart clenched tightly. “Daddy?“ she squeaked.

The hood fell back from the face to reveal that it was indeed her father. He squeezed tighter and she gasped, her hands instinctively rising to cover his and try to loosen their hold.

"Hermione!” a distant voice called. "Hermione!"

She was gasping by now, the world dizzily spinning out of control. The figure holding her laughed and it was Ron's laugh at first, and then Draco’s deep laugh.

"Hermione!"

It couldn't be Draco’s laugh, because that was Draco’s voice calling to her.

Her mind began to slip away as it tried to find oxygen and failed. Her body stopped moving and her hands slipped from the figure's own. He let her go and she fell backwards. As soon as her rear touched the ground the scenery changed and she was no longer in a forest, but a dance studio.

She looked around and her eyes came to rest on Draco, standing before the mirror, his head bent, and his profile to her. His arms were braced on the barre. She felt like a child of three. It wasn’t the fall that hurt, but rather the actual act of falling. It was the realization that she could fall. As if she was a young child who had just fallen off the monkey bars for the first time. She swallowed painfully.

“Draco,” she said in a scratchy voice. “You said you’d catch me.”

He turned, not ever meeting her eyes. She saw that he had the white pointe shoes held tightly in his hands. He deliberately began towards the studio doors and as he passed her he threw the shoes at her feet, exiting without a second glance.



~*~*~*~*~


“Hermione!” a voice called. She stalled mid reach for the clasp of the classroom door. “Hermione Granger!”

Hermione turned around to find a small fifth year running towards her with a piece of parchment trailing behind them. “Can I help you?”

“I have - the - list - you asked - for,” the girl panted as she handed the parchment over.

“That was fast,” she noted as she scanned over the handwritten scrawl. “But everything seems intact. I’ll take this to the Headmaster now and send you a note on the verdict. I’d appreciate it if you spread the word of his answer for me.” The girl didn’t move, only stared at her with an odd expression. “Yes?” she asked impatiently.

“Are you skipping class?”

“I have a free period,” she replied tersely.

“Oh, alright. My name is Georgie Biggle. I have Transfiguration next, you can send me the note there and I will spread the word for you.”

Hermione said thank you and set off down the hall. She hadn’t meant to snap at the girl, but since waking up this morning she had been experiencing the most painful headache she could ever recall having. She was used to recurring nightmares; she had dreamt of her stage accident since its occurrence years ago, but last night’s dream had woken her in a cold sweat. She had never been so terrified. She had spent all of first period trying to piece together the puzzle. What did the dream mean? Why was she having it? Why had it suddenly been so different?

The other reason for her major headache was that she had agreed to tell Ron that, if the Headmaster accepted this ball, she would go with him. She found she couldn’t even be appropriately mad about the idea because Draco was right about the entire situation. There was no way they could publicly be together in any sense other than tutoring, class, and prefect meetings. She did, however, take some form of comfort from his promise to not let them out of his sight the entire night. Now all she could do was hope there was a flaw with the younger years’ plans and the Headmaster would deny them the privilege to hold the ball.

Before she could knock on the Headmaster’s door it swung open and a cheery voice called to her; “Come in, Miss Granger!” She stepped across the threshold, suppressing a smile. The portraits must have warned him of her imminent arrival. “Please, take a seat,” Professor Dumbledore was at the large bookshelf behind his desk, teetering on a ladder as he reached for a particularly dusty volume.

Hermione settled into the chair across from his desk as he dismounted the ladder and took his own seat, opening the book before him, a cloud of dust erupting around him. She coughed slightly. “Professor, I have a proposal from the prefects.”

Dumbledore nodded but his eyes were busily scanning the book before him. “Ah yes, they wish to have a holiday dance, am I correct, Miss Granger?”

Hermione smiled, bitter inside. “Yes, that is the plan.”

Dumbledore pulled his nose from the binding of the book and sat back in his chair, his hands settling comfortably across his stomach as he gazed over his half-moon spectacles at her. “You are discontent, Miss Granger,” he observed.

Hermione sighed. “That is neither here nor there, with all due respect, Professor,” she said. “I have this list here, if you would just review it-”

Dumbledore took the list she proffered and took a moment to glance over. “January the twelfth at seven p.m.” He nodded as he spoke what he was reading aloud absentmindedly. “Staff and Faculty invited,” he chuckled. “How considerate,” he continued scanning the page. “Ginerva Weasley heading the decoration committee-” he read off a list of names and their designated duties before setting the list before him and setting is gaze on her once more. “This is very thorough, Miss Granger,” he said. “There is no reason for me to deny the request.”

Hermione’s stomach clenched and she found herself fighting an overwhelming sense of nausea. She took the list back with a shaky hand. “Thank you, Headmaster,” she said as strongly as she could.

“I leave the rest in your very capable hands, but there is one matter I wish to discuss.”

Hermione, half way out of her seat already, settled back in with mild confusion gracing her expression. “Yes, Headmaster?”

“Will you be observing the traditions set forth with the usual procedures of a ball?” he asked.

Hermione found herself at a loss for words. “Traditions?” she asked. “Procedures?”

Dumbledore nodded and rose from his seat once more to pull a book from his collection and open it before them on the desktop. “Balls are not thrown for giggles, Miss Granger,” he explained as he opened to an ornately engraved page in the volume. The lettering was gold and there was a black mask decadently embossed into the decoration of the page. “There is tradition and customary rules and responsibilities that accompany the event.”

Hermione nodded to show she was following.

“As you are well aware, due to the ball we held in your fourth year, not all of a ball is about free flowing fun,” Dumbledore smiled whimsically. “Ah, when I was a younger man, the stories I could tell you about-” he stopped and cleared his throat. “The Yule Ball held in your fourth year, you were in the honorary promenade.”

“Promenade?”

“As I said, balls are not thrown for fun. They are thrown to celebrate an event.”

“Well in this case we are celebrating the holidays,” she suggested.

“Yes, but we can’t have the Christmas season lead the dance, now can we?”

Hermione did not pretend to understand. “I am confused, Professor.”

“The Yule Ball was held in honor of the champions participating in the Tournament, thus, it was the champions who let the dance. This ball is indeed in honor of the holiday season, but as you and Mister Malfoy will be heading the planning committee, it will be your responsibility to lead the dance.”

Hermione felt ice instantaneously crawl through her veins. Her fingers froze and she found she could not bend them. Dumbledore, misreading her expression hurriedly added; “This does not mean you and the Head Boy must be each other’s dates, but you will both require dates and must lead the customary opening ceremony together. The positive side to this is you have already learned the traditional dance for your fourth year. I merely recommend brushing up on it before taking the floor together,” Dumbledore chuckled as if recalling a fond memory. Meanwhile, Hermione had just thawed out her body and attained the ability to move once again.

“Oh,” she said on a ‘whooshed’ breath.

Dumbledore stood and returned the book to his vast shelving unit. “January the twelfth at seven it is, Miss Granger. You should probably be heading out now, so as not to miss your next class.”

Hermione said a rushed and insincere thank you and then exited his office. As soon as she reached the door she made a mad dash for the common room.

~*~*~*~*~


“Do you hear what I’m saying, Draco?”

Draco did not pull his eyes from the fireplace he was staring so intently at. She had been uncharacteristically quiet during their entire dance class and now he was discovering why. “Yes, I hear you,” he grumbled. “Did you talk to Weasel yet?” Hermione threw her book, hitting the wall just to the right of the fireplace. He turned around. “You’re over reacting.”

“Over reacting?!” she gaped. “Did you honestly hear me?!”

He turned back to the fireplace. “Is the idea of dancing with me publicly so repulsive?” his voice was cold.

“You know that’s not it,” she sighed and settled into the armchair to his right. “I don’t want to ask him,” she said firmly.

“You’re not,” he replied, trying to ignore the fact that she was still wearing her dance shorts. Damn spandex. “You’re accepting an offer that was already made.”

“Why are you so calm about this?!” she shrieked, on her feet once more.

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Hermione, listen. You’re going to the ball with Weasley because I am not taking you. I refuse to take you. “

She felt as if her lungs caved in at his words. Her hand rose to her chest, grabbing the material over heart with a death grip. “And if I refuse to take him?”

“Then you’re screwed, Hermione,” Draco said as he rose from the couch, “Because as you just told me, the Headmaster told you we are both required to have dates.”

“Well, who are you going to take then?”

He shrugged. “Pansy Parkinson, most likely.”

Pansy Parkinson?“ she gasped. Draco did not respond. He walked to the small kitchen across from the common room and pulled out his wand and a mug. “Pansy Parkinson?” she whispered to herself as she sank onto the couch.

Draco mixed the brown liquid in his mug with his wand tip, his back purposefully to her. It was easier when he couldn’t see her, her body and her facial expressions. This attraction to her was unreasonable. The only thing he could explain the odd sensations away with was a strong desire to possess her. Of course, hadn’t he already told her as much? Why was the girl so distraught over the entire situation? He raised the steaming liquid to his lips then set it back down and stuck his wand back in it, deciding it was still too bitter.

Of course, then again, if the feeling was anything like what he felt knowing he was pushing her to the red headed Weasel; he felt he could possibly understand.

There was a loud sound from behind him and he turned to find Hermione had knocked all of his books onto the ground and was on her way out of the room.

“I blame this all on you, Draco,” she said as she reached the portrait. “I blame the entirety of what we both know will happen that night, on you,” then she slammed the door behind her.

He set his mug on the countertop and went to the sink, turning the water on cold as far as it would go, splashing it across his face. He braced his arms on the sink edge, allowing the water to drip over his facial bones. It was just a physical attraction, he told himself. There was one way to fix it, and that was to continue as he was. All he had to do was ensure not to allow emotional attachments. He had to prevent moments such as those in the bathroom after her admission and his consequential promise to always be there to catch her. He just had to avoid moments that would be confusing to his own mind, never mind hers. It was just a physical attraction.

~*~*~*~*~


“Ron,” Hermione asked as she ventured towards the table he and Harry sat at in the back of the library.

Ron ignored her completely.

“How are you, Hermione?” Harry asked without looking up from his textbook. She smiled slightly. His diversion wasn’t out of spite, like Ron’s; he was always like this when stuck on a particularly difficult problem in his homework assignment. It brought back fond memories of nights before the Gryffindor common room’s fire. Memories she instantly repressed.

“I’m good, Harry,” she set her stack of books on the table, stalling for all the time she could. “Dumbledore approved the ball proposal earlier today.”

Ron’s head finally rose from the book he was pretending to read, which was incidentally upside down.

“Congratulations, Hermione,” Harry spared a second to grace her with a quick smile before burying himself in his book again.

Hermione sighed, there was no way to postpone the inevitable; it only made it all the more painful. “Ron,” she asked. “May I speak to you privately?”

Ron, apparently still in a foul mood form the night before, frowned. “Whatever you have to say, you can say it in front of Harry.”

Harry turned to him with a burning glare. He apparently didn’t agree.

“I just want one moment,” Hermione said in a begging tone; praying he would not make a scene.

Harry nudged Ron in the ribs, casting him a significant look. A silent conversation seemed to pass between them before Ron pushed his char away from the table and stood. He wordlessly made his way towards the never-ending stacks of books on dusty shelves. He found an empty aisle and she followed him into it, coming to a stop as he leant against the shelf and crossed his arms. “Well?”

She took a deep breath. She didn’t want to do this. She loved Ron, yes, but as a brother. She couldn’t imagine him touching her in any way or dancing with him closer than a meter. “I changed my mind. I will go with you to the ball.”

Ron’s expression changed drastically before he was able to control his thoughts. He immediately settled it back to a nonchalant expression. “You were pretty clear on not wanting to go with me last night.”

“Things changed,” she gulped. “I decided I wanted to.” What she really wanted to do was bite her tongue off so this conversation would be forced to end.

Ron moved closer. She forced herself not to withdraw. Not to cringe. “Alright, we’ll go together. If you ask me nicely.”

Her mind was screaming all sorts of obscenities at him. She found herself running through a list of curses and hexes she could send at him. She didn’t find this response to her friend of seven years odd in the slightest. “Will you go to the ball with me?” This whole lying thing was becoming easier and easier. It frightened her.

“Of course I’ll go to the ball with you,” he stepped closer to her again, a cocky smile on his face.

“I’ll see you around then, Ronald. I have homework back in the common room that needs to be done for tomorrow,” which was an entirely preposterous notion because she always had her homework done days ahead of time. Ron was in such a state that he didn’t even notice this incongruity.


~*~*~*~*~



“Bloody Arsehole!” he yelled as he launched towards the other boy. “Keep your hands away from her!”

“Ron please stop!”

He ignored her words and pulled back for another punch.

“Ron he didn’t mean it!”

He felt hands on his arms, trying to restrain him, but he tugged and pulled at them, trying to get his hands around the neck of the disgusting boy before him. “You stay away from her,” he growled as he felt the hands on his arms tighten.

The boy raised his head, eyes gleaming and blood streaming from his nose. “She’s not your property, Weasel Bee.” He grinned crookedly and turned his eyes to hers. He noted how still she became as those eyes gazed over her. She looked like a porcelain doll with her pale face and the clean and crisp tutu and leotard that hugged her body. The only imperfection was the dark circles under her eyes. The purple and black splotches like bruises that, despite the passage of time, still refused to disappear. The light in the room showed how much brighter the marks around her swollen eye became and how transfixed she was. There was no fear. “She belongs to me more than you could ever know.”

He struggled again and pulled against those who were holding him back and the blonde staggered to his feet. She caught him in her arms, worry written clearly across her face, and they shared a slow, deep kiss. He felt nails biting into his biceps now but finally he broke away and began to run towards them. Everything started to go black as he struggled forwards. It was as if he was running through water, and with every step he took they were two more steps away. Soon they had all but disappeared and the black completely came across his vision.
Ron woke up panting and sweating in his own bed.

~*~*~*~*~


Narcissa Malfoy pulled her robe tightly about her as she made her way down the dark hallway. She was barefoot, and her hair was splayed about her face in wisps, but as indecent as this may be viewed, she did not care. She was running to the library, running to some sort of sanctuary. Running from her husband, and Gustave, and the letter from her son that had yet to come.

Narcissa’s world was closing in on her. It was slowly becoming smaller and smaller. She felt as if she was locked in a black room with no windows. No oxygen. No candles and no food. She was dying. Suffocating.

She gently tugged the massive library door open and then softly closed it behind her. The marble stones were bitingly cold on her feet. The fire on the opposing wall crackled merrily within it’s own world of ignorant bliss. She hurried towards it and the small circle of heat it offered her. She turned her back to it, allowing the flames to warm her back and feet, as she scanned the shelves, wondering where to begin.

Defaeco Immunda…

That was what she had heard him say. Latin. The first thing she needed to do was find a Latin dictionary. After she looked up those words, she would know if she should retreat or go forward. If her husband and Gustave wished to cook up plans in her house, she would be aware of them. Whether they wanted her to be or not. They had yet to catch her spying and eavesdropping on them. She felt a false sense of dexterity.

Gritting her teeth she darted from the fireplace and into the shelving that lined the middle of the room. She scanned the rows of books until her eyes caught the title of one “Romanian Dialects” and she paused. She ran her fingers over each cover as she passed it until her eyes fell on her prize. “Latin Prefixes, Suffixes, and Definitions”.

She pulled the massive volume from the shelves and struggled with it as she made her way to the desk, which fortunately was near the fire. As she set the book on the deep mahogany a cloud of dust erupted and she found herself swatting away the air and coughing as silently as possible into her robe. As the dust settled she slowly lowered herself into the armchair behind the desk.

So this was the moment where she found out if her husband was the monster, or the monster’s puppet. She opened the cover of the book and the smell of decaying paper filled the room. The pages were hard and water stained.

Did being the hands and fingers on the arm of a monster make you, as a part of that monster, a monster too?

She turned to the D section.

Where had Gustave come from? Was he a servant of the Dark Lord too?

Da… Db… Dc….

Why had Draco not sent her a letter yet? Had her husband intercepted it? Oh, how she wished he was here now. It had been a long time since Lucius had dared to hit his son. Sometimes Narcissa felt that the pent up frustration came out in his own path of verbal abuse to her.

De…

Why was she doing this again? No matter what her husband was doing, she had heard them talking. The Dark Lord knew nothing of it. Lucius thought that his actions would reap some great reward, but Narcissa Black knew better. Narcissa Malfoy, however, only hoped her husband was correct in his assumptions.

Defaeco

There it was. She sat back in the chair for a moment. She didn’t have to go through with this. It was not as if she had anyone she could tell if she learned her husband was working on some ancient forbidden spell. The only person she cared about was her son, and he would come home as soon as he received her letter. She was sure of that. Nothing would keep him from coming home to her.

Defaeco - v - to cleanse, purify, purge.

Narcissa’s breath hitched in her chest as she flipped to the I section in a blind panic.

Immunda - n - unclean, impure, dirty, foul.

Narcissa fell back against the arm chair, her hand clenching the fabric above her heart.

Defaeco Immunda. To purge the impure.



Chapter 13: Of The Malfoy Manse and The Demise of a House Elf
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Author’s Note: Hello my lovelies. I am dreadfully sorry for the delay (I seem to always be apologizing with one excuse or another) but as most of you know, I have no internet access at the moment and can only access my internet life from other people’s computers. This is a problem I hope to rectify as soon as possible. The wonderful thing is that you all are (and have been) so supportive that I know as soon as I can come back, you will all be here for me.

Please enjoy this chapter, and if at all possible, please keep in mind it was not sent to my beta due to the reasons stated above.

I miss you all greatly, and your writing! As soon as I return officially I will update everyone on all the new things and such that are going on. Please enjoy!


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December the nineteenth dawned cold, white, and very wet. The previous evening Draco had spent ensuring all his belongings were in place for his trip to the train station and he now sat on the edge of his bed with his head in his hands and a blinding headache. What other choice did he have? He feared for his mother’s safety. He feared the great hole that now existed once again between he and Hermione. It was unexplainable. It was inevitable. It twisted him inside to watch her go about her day so utterly alone. She was too proud to seek out her old friends, and they were too stubborn to forgive her. All except the Weasley, who now tried his best to be about her every second. He fluttered around her and tried to carry her books and get her drinks and offer her a robe when the air got the slightest bit chilly. She rebuked him coldly and consistently.

She hadn’t spoken to him since word had gone around that he was taking Pansy Parkinson to the ball. His stomach flipped. His father would be pleased at least. He had hinted at the possibility of a union between the Parkinsons and the Malfoys for quite some time. Of course, merely the fact that it would please him was enough for Draco to do his best to avoid her, but the credit for his avoidance of her could fall directly to the girl because she was, in all honesty, a pug-faced cow.

With a sigh he rose from the bed and reached for his wand. In a few hours he would be in his own rooms, hopefully with an easy conscience after seeing that his mother was alright, and he could right himself. He had felt very detached as of late.

As he leant over for his suitcase his muscles groaned. Dianna had recently formed a new dance class; a smaller group of talented people, to further the study of pointe and the harder latin rhythms. Dianna insisted that Hermione did not belong in the group of eight students, but he had privately dished it out with the professor that if Hermione didn’t go, he didn’t go. Besides, the smaller class size was good for her as it allowed her to come a bit more out of her shell. She was almost to the usual class’s level now. The downside to this being she was now dancing at an average level in an above average class. He did his best to buffer her within the studio, but it killed him to watch because in her tutoring he had seen the flashes of how great of a dancer she truly was. Dianna must have seen them too, for when Draco voiced his thoughts in his argument, the professor went silent and then mildly agreed to allow her entry into the class.

The small group met at the same time the usual class did, but in a second studio next door. They were unsupervised for most of the period and learned most of their dances together. Draco led the pack, Hermione trailing along miserably behind him. The usual class had forfeited pointe shoes in favor of jazz sneakers as most of the students were far too untrained, undisciplined, or weak and inexperienced to ever attempt pointe to it’s full.

Now it was time for Christmas vacation and upon returning there would be the final preparations for the Christmas Ball. Draco’s head spun as he exited his dorm and made his way into the common room.

Hermione was no where to be found. He held no illusions that she would be present to bid him farewell, but it stung none the less. He left the common room without a backwards glance.

~*~*~*~*~*~


…some ancient spells are reliant on the transfusion of blood from one being to another. All magic is connected to blood; the person’s ‘self’. Blood is therefore a most coveted ingredient within potions and different types of blood from different people of different pasts and connections are appropriate for different things. One caster may require the blood of one person for a successful potion, but a caster of the same may require an entirely different person’s blood for the same successful results. It all depends on the relationship between caster and donor and the desired outcome. In ancient Europe ‘bloodletting’ was a common practice where wizards of high rank would collect the blood of individuals for stock purposes.

In today’s modern society the practice of bloodletting has died out as most potions requiring the use of blood are considered ‘dark magic’. However, the transfusion of blood may be a cure for some of the more darker and mystical spells currently with no antidote. In the seventeenth century a wizard named Gustave Franklin the third met…


Hermione set her textbook down and groaned, her head falling into her arms on top of it. Nothing she had just read made any sense because her mind was so sleep deprived. She could hardly concentrate on the words on the pages at the point. With a noise of defeat she closed the hard cover and reached for her parchment and quill. Draco was leaving today. She had a week off from dance class, from tutoring, from Ron and Harry and the rest of the world. A week to sit by the fire by herself and read. It would be a wonderful week.

Wonderful if she wasn’t going to be spending Christmas alone while he mother flounced off with some man named Ricardo who was not her father. Wonderful if she didn’t have to dread Ron escorting her to the Christmas Ball. Wonderful if Draco would be here with her even though she hadn’t spoken to him in full sentences for a few weeks.

Hermione began to gather her articles with the intention of returning to her common room. Perhaps if she moved quickly enough she could deter Draco from leaving so swiftly. Perhaps she could steal a few moments with him that she could hide away in the place at the back of her mind where he always lurked.

She was almost out of the common room when a voice stopped her in her tracks. She was so startled by the unfamiliarity of the sound that one of her books slipped from her arms. She turned to find a sullen red head standing behind her, their arms open as if begging for her to rush into them.

“Hermione,” she started. Her cheeks were red, as they often got when she was embarrassed, and her eyes were cast downwards, fearful of rejection.

Hermione slowly lowered to the ground to retrieve her lost text and then gently pretended to reorder the stack of articles in her arms so she was not forced to look the other girl in the face.

“Hermione,” Ginny started again. She sighed. Whatever it was that was weighing on her mind was very heavy indeed.

Hermione cleared her throat. “I was just leaving. It’s alright.”

Ginny stopped her with a hand to her sleeve. “No, I don’t want you to go,” she amended. She took the books from her confused friend and set them on a nearby table and then led Hermione to two large cushioned chairs at the back of the stacks. “I want to talk to you, Hermione.”

Hermione warily lowered herself into the proffered chair and set eyes on her red head companion’s face that showed no sign of the fear she felt.

Ginny took a deep breath and tried to say something, but no words come out. She stopped for a second and then took Hermione’s hand in her own and begun once again. “Hermione,” she said. “I want to talk to you because I’ve seen how you have existed for the past few weeks and although I was upset with you, I can’t bear to watch it anymore.”

“Why were you upset with me? What did I do to upset you all?”

Ginny sighed and absent-mindedly began to play with the bracelet clasped around Hermione’s wrist. “I guess it was more fear rather than anger. We were all rather frightened by the prospect of you spending so much time with Malfoy. Most of the anger probably should have been directed at him, after all, hindsight is twenty-twenty.”

Hermione shifted uncomfortably. “Why does he frighten you so greatly?”

Ginny sat back, her expression of shock and mild anger. “Why does he frighten us? Have you forgotten the six years before this in which he tormented us relentlessly? Have you forgotten the cruel things he has said and the torturous things he has put Ron and Harry through? Have you forgotten his pet name for you is ‘mud-blood’? How can you co-exist with that creature?”

Hermione was on her feet. “Enough! Ginny I won’t sit her and listen to you slander him. You don’t have to accept him, but I have. If this is meant to be an apology for your treatment of me then continue with the expressions of regret, but say no more on his character. He has done more for me this year then you, who are supposed to be my friend, has.”

Ginny was so taken aback by the outburst that she sank back into the armchair as if drained physically. She shook her head. “You sound as if you’re in love with the git, the way you defend his honor.” Hermione turned from her friend and began the trip back to the table that her books rested on. “Hermione wait!” Ginny ran to meet her. “I am sorry for what I said about him. I can clearly see that it offends you and if you feel so strongly then there must be something I am unaware of about him. Something only you have seen. I know you have a sturdy head on your shoulders, but as the friend you spoke of just seconds ago, I have to warn you. Please. Please be careful Hermione. He is a snake.”

Hermione shook her head in silent disagreement but did not try to leave. She could feel she was teetering on the edge of an unsteady ridge. If she left now she may loose out on the chance to have a friend once again, and it was apparent now that Ginny was desperately fumbling to make it so.

“Just tell me you can bear to give him a chance, or to remain impassive towards him, and you can stop stumbling over finding a way to apologize to me without damaging your great pride.”

Ginny smiled. “I promise I will remain more-or-less judgment free in respect to Draco Malfoy until he does something to prove you wrong once and for all.”

Hermione sighed in defeat and took her friend’s hand. “I suppose that is good enough.”


~*~*~*~*~*~*~



“Narcissa! Where is that bloody woman? Narcissa!”

Narcissa appeared at the base of the staircase, her night robe trailing behind her and her arms clasped about her. Her husband was dressed in dark sweeping black robes. He held his wand at his side. Lurking behind him, as ever, was the fat Gustave. Narcissa fought to control her expression as he made a rude face towards her.

“I am here, husband.”

“Where in bloody hell were you? When I call you, you come to me. I don’t care what it is you are doing, you drop it where you stand and respond to my call.”

“Yes, Lucius.”

“Now,” he gestured both she and Gustave into the library and Narcissa felt the hand of fear settle about her throat. Lying on the desk she has sat at last night was a particularly ominous looking Latin dictionary. She inhaled sharply and cast fearful eyes to the tall man who stood behind her. Behind them she could hear Gustave chuckling merrily to himself.

“Pray tell me, my dear one, why has this dictionary appeared here on my desk?”

She swallowed the lump in her dry throat but could force out no sound. He took the upper part of her arm in a tight grip and forced her to walk closer to the desk.

“I find it to be the strangest thing, you see, because this book is usually on the top shelf of the stack over there,” he pointed to a shelf that was to the left of the fireplace. As if to accentuate the point Gustave crept his way over to that wall. Although he was bent over in his disfigurement and could never have reached the shelf, he pointed upwards and sniggered again.

“I do not know, husband,” she managed to squeak out.

Lucius cast her a dangerous breath and forced her into the chair. Gustave mirrored the action, settling into the armchair slightly off to the side and out of her view. Lucius’s wand came crashing down on to the book and she jumped. “I believe you should figure it out rather speedily,” he warned her in a low growl. Gustave,” he called over his shoulder.

The portly man jumped to his feet and went to the door, pulling a house elf in after him. The poor creature squeaked and tears streamed down it’s dirty face. Narcissa went to rise to her feet but was pushed back into the cushions.

“I do not take well to the idea of your misconduct, wife,” Lucius said as he strode to the trembling house elf. The poor creature could not even raise her head to look him in the eye. “It is my understanding that this elf has assisted you in your misbehavior.”

Narcissa stood and reached a fearful hand towards them, as if she could stop him with the mere idea. Her husband was a fearful, unstoppable force. She could do nothing.

“Tell me, vermin, what did you do to assist my wife?”

The creature visibly fought against his demand, but had no choice but to respond honestly. “I helped her to send a letter to your son, Master.”

“And how did you do so, after I had expressly forbid it?”

The creature raised tear filled eyes to her mistress, who could only gaze back with her own tears streaming down her cheeks. She hung her head in defeat. “You said that we were not allowed to give her the use of an owl to send correspondence to her son that told of happenings here and asked of his well being there.”

“And?” Lucius stepped forward, his wand raised.

The house elf gulped as sobs wracked her small body. “You never said she could not send a letter to her son to ask him a question, Master. You never said she could not ask him questions!”

Lucius’s angry growl rent through the room and he the tip of his wand ignited. She flew across the room, her head colliding with the far shelf. Narcissa started forward with a cry of ‘no!’ before she was frightened back in to silence by a stern glance from her husband. The small female did not rise.

“You thought to make a fool of me?” he asked the immobile pile of rags. “My orders were explicit.” He turned to his wife with a fire burning in his eyes. Narcissa had backed herself up against the hearth, the fire licking dangerously at her heels. “What was so dreadfully important that you dared risk my wrath, Narcissa? Tell me!”

Narcissa bit her lip and shook her head, tears streaming silently over her cheeks.

“You will tell me!” Lucius’s wand raised.

“She has nothing to say to you,” a new voice said as a body stepped between he and his wife. “She sent an owl asking me to come home.”

“Draco,” Lucius snarled the name, but stepped down.

“You haven’t changed much since I left,” Draco observed as he set his trembling mother into the nearest chair.

“You have,” his father mused in a pleased voice. “Why you even came home and then stepped between us. Why, I do believe that is a first. My son has a backbone after all.”

Draco cast his eyes towards the still body of the house elf. “Did you mean to kill her?” he asked coldly.

His father didn’t respond, only gesture to the cowering man in the corner, who in turn bent over and scooped up the house elf and went towards the door.

“Who is he?” Draco asked as Gustave reached the door.

“You have missed many things, son,” Lucius offered in way of explanation. “He is merely a temporary guest of mine. He is working on … a business venture with me.” Lucius took a moment to regard his wife, who could not meet his eyes, and then turned a smile to his son. “How nice of you to come visit,” he said before sweeping from the room.

As he shut the door behind him, Narcissa collapsed into tears. “Oh Draco,” she sobbed. “My son, I knew you would come home.”

Draco allowed the woman to settle her composure and occupied his self by looking at the book the entire scene had started over. “Did you remove the book?” he asked her after a moment.

“I had to, Draco! I had to see what your father was doing! Something terribly wrong is happening, my son. Something terrible. Something that may push your father out of favor of the Dark Lord permanently.”

“Why do you care so greatly if the Dark Lord favors him or not?” Draco picked up the book and walked towards the empty space on the far shelf.

“Because it is your father,” she said as if it were enough explanation. “Because it is Lucius.”

Draco sighed as he pushed the dictionary back in place. All of these books did nothing but remind him of Hermione, who he desperately missed. That point annoyed him greatly, as he could not explain it away. He went back to his mother and helped her from the chair. “I believe we have much to catch up on, Mother. Let’s go to your parlor and you can tell me why you feel something terrible is going to happen and what you were doing with a Latin dictionary.”

As they made their way out of the library they passed a wall of portraits. Draco did not stop to look at these, at least he had not since he had been a young child. The portraits were a family tree of sorts, chronicling the great house of Malfoy and it’s counterparts. Draco had spent hours staring at the faces, wondering if he would be as great as them some day. In such favor with the dark powers. Now as he passed it he did not see the faces of people he admired. He saw his mother, a young Black, a woman with long blonde hair billowing in the wind and a sly, cunning smile on her face. It was remarkable what happened to people. Remarkable how a picture could move and speak and act as representation of a true being, yet be nothing more than the echo of a promise that never came to the light.


Chapter 14: Of The Virus and Blood Tears
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Author's Note: Are you proud of Celtic? This update was uber fast to make up for the delay in the last one. As ever, enjoy!

~*~*~*~


There were some things that Draco would never understand. As he followed his mother down the long hallway that led to her apartments he knew one thing for sure, he would never understand her. He would never comprehend how a woman like Narcissa Black metamorphosed into a woman such as Narcissa Malfoy. They were polar opposites of each other. Could human nature really change so greatly within one being?

His mother’s parlor was a decent sized room that branched into her inner apartments. As the Malfoy Manse was a castle of the medieval construction, it held true to the basics of such a building. Her apartments would have belonged to the great lady of the house when the castle had held people of noble birth. Draco’s father, however, probably was under the impression Malfoys of noble birth still resided within its walls. Draco had his own wing of the castle to himself, as did his father. Family gatherings weren’t frequent within these walls.

Narcissa delicately settled into a settee, but Draco did not take the vacant seat next to her, choosing instead to pace the floor before the hearth. There was a moment of silence as he walked back and forth and Narcissa fidgeted with the material of her robe. Draco was mulling over the repercussions for returning home. He would have to confront his father tomorrow. He wondered how his father and mother were at all compatible. What was it that evoked such steadfastness in her?

A few years ago Draco had stumbled across a neglected diary in one of the rooms in his mother’s hallway of the manse. The pages had been tipped with yellow and the cover was water damaged. It screamed of age when he opened it. Inside he had found writing in his mother’s hand from when she had been his age. That diary was the only way he had had to come to know the people his parents were. He learned what they had been like when they themselves were in Hogwarts and whom they had hated or who had followed them around adoringly. The words of his mother from back then were very different from her words now. She had seemed almost pixie-like in that diary. She cared about nothing. She had been shallow and cruel. She believed she was beautiful. She believed she deserved everything life had to give her. When he turned to look at the small, frail creature sitting before him he wondered, ‘who is this person?’ Where had she come from?

“I should call Lacy and Huey to take care of,” she stopped and sniffed, “Evie.”

Draco was shocked to realize that he hadn’t even known their house elves had names. Of course they would have names, he had just never taken the moment to even consider they were alive. “Evie was the one in the library?” he asked.

His mother nodded. Her face was cold and smooth; not one single tear. “She was my favorite,” she admitted in a whisper. The knowledge shocked him. There was compassion in this house. His mother had not only known their names, but had been close enough with them to feel attachment towards them.

“You can deal with that later,” Draco said as he turned to the hearth. “We have more pressing matters at hand.” Draco turned from the mantle to face his mother. “What were you doing with a Latin dictionary?”

“I was looking up something,” she replied. She now had a lace-edged handkerchief clutched in her hand. She was tearing at it as if it would give way to pieces in her grip.

“Mother, please don’t be coy with me. What was so important that you risked father’s library?”

“I overheard something he said to that Gustave creature and I needed to know what it was,” she shivered as she mentioned Gustave’s name.

“What was it you overheard?” Draco asked, trying to convey patience in his voice, which he did not feel.

“Something horrible,” she whispered. “Something very horrible.”

Draco took a deep breath and moved closer to the woman. “Mother, please, I can’t help you if you don’t tell me.”

She raised large eyes to his and sighed. “My son, there is nothing you can do.”

Draco shook his head and walked past her to a gold tray that sat on a table in the corner. He poured himself a glass of the dark fruit juice from the pitcher. “He doesn’t want me here,” he said as he raised the glass to his lips.

“But I do,” Narcissa said.

“I shouldn’t be surprised,” Draco said as he took another sip. “He never did.”

“Your father loves you,” Narcissa instantly rebutted.

Draco laughed sharply. “My father does not love. He feels no such emotion. No Malfoy does.” He set his goblet down with a loud clink of glass on glass. His mother said nothing. “Why did you call me home? I never come back here for the holidays.” In fact, it wasn’t just that he ‘didn’t’ come back, he didn’t even ‘want’ to. He did not want to even when school wasn’t in session.

“I missed you,” she replied feebly.

“It’s more than that. I came all this way and now you need to tell me, truthfully, what it is that was so pressing that you called me home from school, which in seven years you have never done.”

Narcissa’s gaze fell to her lap where she was now fidgeting with the black robe she was wearing. “I told you, something terrible is happening.”

Draco lost his patience. “I’m exhausted. I’m going to my room for the night. I suggest you stay here: away from him. I’ll stay long enough to find out what is going on and then I am leaving.” As he opened the door a small squeak startled him. A small house elf scuttled through the doorway.

“Pardon Lacy, Master,” the female bobbed a curtsy.

He looked back at his mother with a raised eyebrow. She beckoned the little creature to her.

“Lacy, please go find Evie,” he heard his mother command as he exited the room.

“Evie? Lacy saw her in the kitchens before dinner Madam. Lacy saw her, she was-”

“She’s dead, Lacy. Please go find her.”

~*~*~*~*~*~



“That bloody fool,” Lucius stormed. “That good-for-nothing pup!”

Gustave laughed from where he was sprawled out, his body encompassing the entirety of the settee. A toothpick dangled above his three chins. “He’s your son, Lucius.”

“He’s a disobedient whelp!” Lucius supplied. “The Dark Lord would never tolerate such behavior.” Lucius picked up a glass vial in such a hurry that it shattered in his grasp. Blood trickled from between his fingers. He grabbed the tablecloth with an irritated growl and held it to the gashes.

“You said your son has not yet been initiated,” Gustave raised an eyebrow as he popped a plump plum into the cavernous depths of his mouth.

“It won’t be long now; especially as our plan comes to fruition. The Dark Lord will be practically begging for his service. And mine,” Lucius threw the tablecloth onto the ground and kicked it beneath the table as he reached for a second vial.

“If, and only if, the plan ever comes to fruition. You’ve yet to find a way to spread them,” Gustave looked about as Lucius turned his back and with a shrug, he spat a wad of saliva and seed over the side of the couch.

“All we need is a subject, Gustave. Just one ignorant fool who can take the disease some place where it can find as many victims as it wishes. Somewhere where it can cause catastrophic damage.”

A small smile creased Gustave’s face. “A place like Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry?”

Lucius froze where he stood. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Right under that mudblood lover’s nose; right under the Ministry of Magic’s nose. “They won’t even know what hit them, and by the time they do, it will be far too late for it to matter. It’s absolutely perfect.” Lucius settled in the chair across from Gustave’s bulk, raising a goblet with a curiously scented liquid swirling in its depths to his mouth. “Tell me again how the creatures work.”

Gustave smiled. “The virus is of the blood variety. It can only be contracted through the exchange of fluids. It leeches onto magic and uses the energy to suck its host’s body dry. Symptoms include sporadic bursts of uncontrollable magic through the host’s body, external bleeding, vomiting, fever, dehydration, and ultimately death. Pureblooded individuals are immune to the virus, as are muggles. The virus only works when there is a concentration of magic in the blood to be removed. Muggles have no magic to feel the effects and purebloods have no human aspects for the virus to attack. Anyone can be a carrier, but only halfbloods and mudbloods will feel the effects. The disease has three stages. Once stage three has been reached, it will be incurable.”

“And how long will it take the victims to reach the third stage?” Lucius’ eyes sparkled as he sat forward.

“It depends on the individual and the concentration of magic in their blood,” Gustave removed the toothpick from his mouth and moved to sit forward as well in an obtrusive rolling motion. “The less magic in the blood, the quicker the death will be.”

Lucius sat back with a satisfied smirk. “We’ll infect Draco and he will unknowingly spread the disease throughout the school. It’s flawless.”

“From what I’ve witnessed of your darling baby boy, I highly doubt he will allow himself to be injected with the virus,” Gustave noted.

“Leave that to me. He won’t have a choice. In fact, he won’t even know.”



~*~*~*~*~*~*~


“Well, we’re all packed.”

Hermione let the book she was reading drop into her lap. She forced her face to remain expressionless and her voice impassive as she said, “Oh, well, have a happy Christmas.”

Ginny sighed and stepped through the portrait into the Head’s common room, her arms crossed against her chest. “You’re moping,” she noted.

Hermione shook her head. “No, I most certainly am not.”

Ginny laughed in mocking disbelief and sat down in the adjacent arm chair. “You’re staying here all week? Alone?”

Hermione sighed. “I have Crookshanks.”

Ginny’s eyebrow quirked. “And he’s good for what exactly? Making sure you aren’t attacked by rabid mice while the castle is mostly deserted?” Hermione didn’t reply. Ginny rose to her feet. “I’m staying.”

“You can’t skip out on Christmas with your family,” Hermione protested. “Especially with your family.”

“Have you told Ron you’re planning on staying here alone for an entire week?”

Hermione’s silence was answer enough.

“Exactly what I thought. You know as well as I do that the second he finds out he’ll be back here. Therefore, because I have eyes in my head and have seen the way you’ve behaved towards him since the beginning of this year and because I know if I’m here we can convince him not to be, I am staying.”

“All right,” Hermione proclaimed in defeat. She noticed the trunk next to the portrait. “I take it now is when you go inform them?”

Ginny threw her hair over her shoulder. “They’re leaving any minute.” She headed towards the portrait then stopped. “Come with me.”

Hermione groaned as she pushed herself up off the couch. “Fine. But I’m hiding around the hallway corner or a suit of armor.”

“Fine, fine.” Ginny said as she took her friend’s hand and stepped into the hallway. “By the way, I’m staying in your common room with you. There’s no way I’m staying by myself in the Gryffindor Tower.”

“Who’s the big tough girl now?” Hermione smiled.

They traveled in silence to the entrance of the Grand Hall. As they came into earshot, the voices of Harry and Ron reached them. Hermione ducked into an alcove where she was able to peak around the corner just enough to see what happened as Ginny continued on into view.

“Ginny! Merlin where have you been? We’ve got to be in Hogsmeade to catch the train in fifteen minutes. Mum will murder me if we miss that thing.”

“Ron,” Ginny leaned against the wall. “Tell Mum and Dad that I love them. I’m staying here for the week.”

Ron was so caught up in ushering them out the door that at first he didn’t hear her words. “All right Ginny. That’s fine. Get your trunk over here.”

Harry, however, stepped forward with concern apparent on his face. “You can’t stay here all by yourself for a week, Gin.”

“I’m staying with Hermione,” she said in a low voice out of the corner of her mouth.

“Can I stay too?” Harry shot back and he turned back to his best mate, who had just realized what his sister had said.

“You are NOT staying here alone for the week!”

“Why? You don’t want to spend a week with my big brother?” she whispered back.

Harry glared at her as Ron stormed over, preventing them from continuing. “If you are not on that train when it reaches King’s Cross Mum will have my head for Christmas dinner!”

Ginny rolled her eyes at her big brother. “You’re completely over reacting,” she informed him.

Ron’s mouth dropped. “I,” he fumbled “am most certainly NOT!”

Ginny sighed and put two fingers to her temples, rubbing firmly. “Stop yelling. You’re giving me a headache.,” she said in a startlingly calm contrast to Ron.

“YOU HAVE A HEADACHE? You’re worried about your HEADACHE when you just casually waltzed up to me and announced you were staying in a deserted castle ALONE for an ENTIRE WEEK and skipping out on the family Christmas?!”

“I’m staying here with Hermione. Shut up, Ron.” Ginny’s hands were on her hips.

Ron stopped rampaging. He stared at his sister as he processed this new information. “Hermione is staying here alone for Christmas?”

“No,” Ginny corrected. “I’m staying with her.”

“She was invited to come with us,” Harry pointed out. “Mrs. Weasley invited her at the train station at the beginning of the year.”

Ginny glared venomously at Harry. “Well for obvious reasons she has chosen to stay behind,” she replied in a near growl, her eyes on Harry’s: that thickheaded numbskull.

“I’m not letting both of you stay here alone,” Ron declared.

“You don’t have a choice,” Ginny informed him.

“Yes. I do. I have the biggest choice as you are my sister and she is my-” he stopped as he tried to find a word.

“That’s what I thought. The only thing you are right now is her date to the ball and that’s it. And that is entirely your fault in my opinion.”

Ron’s cheeks were aflame. Harry stepped between the two. “Perhaps it is a good idea if she stays here for the week. As long as you are here with her,” he supplied.

“What?! You’re on her side?!”

“Listen to me, mate,” Harry turned to Ron, who looked about ready to explode. “She needs a break. I hate to say it, but she needs a break from you-” Ron’s mouth opened and Harry quickly added, “-and me.” He turned to Ginny. “I think a week with just Ginny might help her open up to us again.”

Ginny couldn’t help herself and added; “If you hadn’t been positively hovering about her every second of the day since she accepted your invitation to the ball you wouldn’t be in this situation.”

Ron dove towards his sister and Harry’s outstretched arm stopped him. “Every second she spends with me is one she doesn’t spend with Malfoy!”

“We have to leave, Ron. We’ll miss the train and if none of us come home your Mum will be positively furious.”

Ron stopped. “Is Malfoy here too?” His eyes glittered with hate.

For a moment Ginny considered telling him he was just to get him riled up again. “Malfoy left this morning. He won’t be back till the end of the week. I’m moving into the common room with her, so you don’t have to worry about either of us being alone. I promise we’ll use the buddy system and eat all our veggies while you’re gone and do all our homework before going to bed nice and early.”

Ron bit back a retort and shrugged away from Harry’s grasp. “Fine. I’ll make up some excuse to tell Mum.”

A broad smile spread across Ginny’s face as she leapt at her brother in a hug. “Thank you!”

Ron pushed her away. “Yeah, whatever,” and went for his suitcases. “Is she going to come say goodbye?”

Ginny stopped. “Erm. She’s… in the library.”

“Figures,” Ron sighed. “I’ll see you at the end of the week.”

As the boys made their way out the door Harry paused and turned to look over his shoulder. “Ginny!” The redhead stopped and turned, looking at him with a questioning expression in her eyes. “Take care of her.”

Ginny smiled and waved then turned and skittered around the corner and out of sight. Hermione grabbed her as she ran past. “Thank you,” she said.

Ginny slipped her arm through Hermione’s and pulled her down the hall. “You can thank me by telling me what exactly it is you do with this wicked boy in your common room all alone.” Hermione made a noise of disapproval and Ginny laughed. “If you expect me to start growing keen on the boy, then expect me to start teasing and prodding you. There is no other way.”

Hermione sighed. “There was one instance… well maybe two.”

Ginny’s mouth dropped and she stopped walking. “Merlin, I was joking. You mean… you really do have …”things”… to tell me along those lines?”

Hermione blushed. “Will it help you learn to like him?”

“I doubt anything could make me learn to-”

Hermione cut her off. “Accept him? Accept that I may like him?”

Ginny sighed. “I guess we’ll find out, won’t we?”



~*~*~*~*~*~


Everything was black. The room he was in was black. The space before him, and behind him, was as black as night. He felt heavy. Mind, body, and soul; heavy. He knew but one thing: he had to find her. He set off into the blackness and in a matter of moments found himself at the entrance to their common room. He flew through the portrait and stood immobile in the center of the room.

“Draco,” Hermione’s voice beckoned from the darkness. He could only see spots of dark and the shapes of furniture, which were even darker. He tentatively picked his way across the room. “Draco,” her voice moaned in pain.

He made his way around the couch before the fireplace and as he neared the stairs, his foot made contact with something. The fire suddenly flared into brilliance and he looked down to find a bloody mess at his feet.

Hermione was sprawled on her back, her hair about her face and blood trickling out of the corner of her mouth. She tried to speak as her eyes met his, except nothing but violent coughing came out. He dropped to his knees and reached for her hand. Her fingers were tangled through a bunch of ribbons which appeared to have been white at one time, but were now streaked with crimson. Attached to these ribbons was a pair of pointe shoes, blood trickling from her hand and over the toes. He tried to pry her fingers away from the ribbons and she screamed, a second stream of blood trickling over her lip.

He slid his hands beneath her neck and pulled her up on his lap. “Merlin, Hermione,” he breathed. His hands were groping at her face, trying to wipe the blood away. “Please. Talk to me. Say something. Anything.”

Her mouth opened and closed but sound refused to emit. Slowly her body became heavy in his grasp and her eyes shut, her head drifting limply to the side. Suddenly she vanished. The room was lit as if it was a normal evening. A fire crackled merrily in the fireplace. He slowly rose from his knees, his eyes riveted on the spot she had just been laying. There was no blood; no sign she had ever been there.

He raised his hands to his face, and then ran them through his hair. When he dropped them he noticed a cold, wet, feeling and looked down to find red streaming between his fingers. Startled, he clenched and unclenched his fist and raised it only to find as he blinked the feeling and the color was gone.

“Malfoy!” a man’s voice beckoned from upstairs.

Draco rushed up the stairs, taking them two at a time, to find once he reached the end there was an infinite amount of doors and a foreign hallway that stretched on as far as he could see.

“Draco!” he heard her call, her voice pleading.

“Malfoy!” This time the male’s voice dripped with anger and shock. Draco started down the hallway at a run. What door? What door did he pick?

“Draco!”

“Malfoy, no! Leave her!”

Draco stopped. There was no choice. The voices were coming from all the doors. He turned to face the closest one and took a deep breath. He didn’t know what he would find on the other side.

“Draco, please! Oh, please! Let him go! Draco!”

“I swear on my parents’ graves, Malfoy, if you don’t let her go I will kill you.”

“Tell them Draco!” This last cry ended in a shriek. Draco hurtled towards the door before his resolve could disappear on him. Behind the door lay a scene that stopped him cold. He saw himself on the floor, Hermione in his arms, and Harry across from them with his wand pointed at them. Behind Harry, a female body with long hair splayed about them lay motionless.

“Draco,” Hermione sobbed, clutching at his shirt. “Tell them,” her voice cracked. It was but a hoarse whisper.

“Hermione.” He watched himself in shock. His face was streaked with blood and his hair hung limp in his eyes; eyes that never left the brunette’s who hung limply in his arms. “Please don’t leave me.” He was surprised at the sound of his own voice. It was hoarse as well. It was full of so much pain.

“Malfoy,” Harry was nervous. He was anxiously shifting his weight from foot to foot and the hand holding his wand was shaking. “I didn’t want to believe it.”

“Believe it!” Draco’s self cried. He was horrified to see tears creeping down his own cheeks. He had to get out of this room. He turned to go back through the door, but the door was gone.

“It just isn’t possible!” Harry screamed at him.

“You’ve seen them! You’ve watched it all happen, Potter! Damnit! She’s getting weaker!”

Something grabbed him mid-stomach and he had the odd sensation of being ripped backwards. The room disappeared and he found himself in blinding darkness once again. He carefully began to pick his way through the blackness. His foot hit something hard, and after groping about he deduced that he had stumbled across a staircase.

At the top of this staircase was another dark hallway, but this hallway had a definitive end: a door. He gently pushed the door open and stepped inside, closing it behind him once more; closing himself in the dark space. Now he could hear a soft sobbing as he stepped farther into the darkness. It was Hermione.

He reached down until his fingers grazed the cold side of something that felt ceramic, a bathtub, and by the sound that reached his ears he knew she was perched on the edge of it. He slid to the ground before her as his hands groped blindly until they found her arm, and then her shoulder, and slowly her face wet with tears.

“Tell me,” he said softly. It was the only prompt she needed before collapsing in violent tears. He took her by the shoulders and pulled her to him as he fell back against the sink base and she settled against his chest, her face tucked into his neck, her tears sliding coldly beneath his collar.

“Catch me, Draco,” she whispered into his shirt. “Catch me before I’m gone,” and she vanished.

Draco shook his head. Something wasn’t right. Something wasn’t-

“I was the prima ballerina.” She was standing before him, her hair wet and covering her face. Her back was hunched. A white nightgown trailed about her feet. There was a small trickle of red making it’s way down her cheek from her eye. She was crying blood.

He took a step away from her and she was gone again.

“He was the only one who supported me. He put a white rose in my hair that morning.” She was right behind him. He whirled but there was nothing there.

“It had been the marvel of my studio, the arabesque that I could execute.” There was two of her now. They spoke in unison in a voice that grated against his ears. One stood to his left and one to his right.

“Catch me, Draco,” a third said from behind him. “Catch me, Draco,” they all chanted together. “Catch me, Draco.”

Suddenly they all disappeared and just as quickly as they had gone, he felt the light pressure of hands on his shoulders. Her voice whispered in his ear, “Catch me, Draco. I’m falling.”


Draco sat upright with a gasp, his blanket pooling around his torso. His breath came in pants and his hand immediately reached to his chest where a sharp pain was beating. It was just a dream, he told himself. It was just a dream.



Chapter 15: Of An Abduction and Infection
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Author's Note: I would like to take a moment to thank you all deeply for your support. This story has recently been nominated in the HPFF Dobby Awards and made it to the finals. It is up for Best Wielding of Genre and Best Romance. To all of you out there I wish you to know that it is extremely rewarding and gives me all sorts of fuzzy warm feelings. If you wish to continue to show your support and discuss the story as well as learn more about the Dobby Awards and when voting on the finalists will start go to the HPFF forums. While you are there please check out the other finalists! There are some wonderful things listed there!


~*~*~*~*~


Hermione stood in the middle of the common room, her dance tights on beneath her shorts and tee. She reached up and pulled the hair from her face, securing it with a tie behind her head. She took a deep breath as she turned to face the window on the other side of the room.

It was daybreak. The sun was just rising over the edge of the mountains, but she could not sleep. She hadn’t slept at all last night. She had found herself tossing and turning. The sheets kept twisting about her legs and midriff; constricting her. The pillow kept lumping up and choking her; cramping her neck. And then to add to all the turbulent emotions she was experiencing; Ginny snored. Even down here in the common room she could hear the light and airy snore erupting from her friend who dozed blissfully unawares up in Hermione’s room.

Hermione took a deep breath and turned away from the window. She didn’t know why she was doing this. She didn’t see why she bothered. Dance had left her. She had given up on it so it had given up on her. Could you use lose talent? If you ignored it did it get taken away and given to someone else? Someone who deserved it?

She sighed and closed her eyes. 1...2...3. She breathed deeply and planted her feet firmly beneath her. 1...2...3. Another deep breath. She curved her arms in an arch and slowly raised them before her as she exhaled. 1...2...3. Deep breath. She extended her left leg and traced a semi circle on the floor before her, allowing her arms to fall slowly in an arch to the opposite side. 1...2...3. She stepped forward, her upper half bending backwards in a slow fluid movement. She stepped to the side, her right arm trailing behind her as if dancing on a slight breeze. 1...2...3. The dance was a slow waltz. In her mind she could hear the lilting tune of a music box she had had as a child. Just a simple dance, yet she found a tear falling from her closed eye lid and making it’s way down her cheek as she turned again. 1...2...3. Three steps to the left, three to the right. Her arm extended behind her, then swept past her and then above her head. She turned, making her way around the room, humming the music box’s song to herself as she twirled. 1...2...3. Her arms swept above her head and then separated, pushing out to the side. Always there was that base step: 1...2...3.

She allowed her body to give into to the music entirely. She let her mind drift away from the confusion she felt. She let it breathe on its own. She stopped thinking and just did what she had ached to do for so long now; she danced. She really and truly danced. She didn’t worry what she looked like. She didn’t think about her mother, or her father. She thought of nothing.

She made a second sweep around the room and found her dance suddenly changing. Suddenly she was dancing around an imaginary partner, swaying like the breeze towards each other but never fully touching. His hands briefly graced her waist and she spun away, coming back to nothing but the emptiness of the air around her.

Her leg arched backwards off of the floor and she turned, her arms arching over her head. The music in her mind began to wind down and she came to a final resting position, her arms bent delicately to the side, and one foot extended behind her. Her eyes stayed closed.

“Wow,” interrupted her violently.

She jumped, startled, and reached back to pull her hair out of its binding. “Ginny,” she said in embarrassment.

“You can dance,” Ginny breathed. She was sitting on the staircase, her hand on her chest as if she was struggling to breath. “You can really dance.”

Hermione reached down and rolled the tights up so they were hidden by her shorts. She said nothing.

“This entire year you’ve been at the bottom of our class, and yet, you can dance like that,” Ginny stood and made her way down the staircase. “Did he teach you that?”

Hermione went to the window and cracked it open. It was uncomfortably warm in the room. “I suppose you could say he did.”

“Suppose? Did he teach you that dance?”

“No,” she admitted softly. “He just taught me that it was alright to do it.”

Ginny sighed and settled on the back of the couch so that she was still facing her friend. “I don’t understand,” she admitted.

“I gave up dancing,” Hermione said. “I gave it up a long time ago and he showed me that it was safe to come back to it. He’s taught me that I need to dance what I feel, and in doing so I can find what’s missing in here,” she put a hand to her heart. “When I stopped dancing, something abandoned me in here. I don’t know what it was, and I don’t think he even knows he showed me all of that, but since he started tutoring me I feel closer and closer to finding it again.”

Ginny stared at her, unblinking. “That is so romantic,” she said slowly.

Hermione whipped around. Romantic? As in tender and loving? As in the one thing she didn’t dare associate with their relationship? “Hardly,” she said, not entirely sure if she was assuring herself or Ginny. “It’s his job. He has no choice but to instruct me.”

Ginny crossed her arms, a frown coming over her face. “Please, Hermione. Even if you are going to lie to me, don’t lie to yourself. There’s something going on with the two of you.” She caught her friend’s hand and pulled her to the couch, forcing her to take the seat next to her. “Tell me what has happened between the two of you. Has he kissed he you?”

“Yes,” she said. “One night in tutoring; after I failed the arabesque exam. He was so angry with me he threw me into this tango I couldn’t do and ripped me from one side of the studio to the next and then threw me into a dip and kissed me.”

Ginny sighed. “And has he ever held you?”

Hermione fidgeted uncomfortably in her seat. “One night I ran out of the studio and he followed me all the way back here and into the loo. I told him about my father and he held me as I cried.”

Ginny was shocked. “You told him about your father? He held you in the loo?”

“And then one night after that I was having a nightmare and I woke up screaming and he was there in my room and he held me then too. That time he fell asleep there-”

“DRACO MALFOY FELL ASLEEP IN YOUR BED?!” Ginny cried in horror.

Hermione cringed. “Good Merlin, when you say it like that it sounds so horrid.”

“I think I need more air,” Ginny said as she ran towards the window Hermione had cracked earlier and threw it open completely. Snow drifted over the window ledge and into the room, but Ginny didn’t care. “I can’t believe this.”

“He hasn’t kissed me since that night,” Hermione said as she stood up and went towards her friend. “But every day I find myself thinking about him and agonizing over him and the worst part of all of this is,” she took a deep breath and met Ginny’s eyes, “I miss him. I know it hurts all of my friends and I know it’s wrong in every way possible and it’s not like me at all, but I miss him so much it hurts and I can’t sleep. It’s tearing me up inside. I don’t understand it at all.”

Ginny smiled. “I think you love him,” she said.

Hermione looked out the window. “Do I?” she asked.

Ginny took her hands. “Hermione, I don’t think you’re asking the right question.”

“What is the right question?” she asked her redheaded friend.

Ginny sighed. “You shouldn’t be asking if you love him. You should be asking can you love him.”


~*~*~*~*~


When Draco awoke the next morning, at first he didn’t know where he was. The hangings on the wall were familiar. The bed sheets were familiar. Even the clothes draped across the chair next to this bed were familiar. But the air was foreign. The scent about him was entirely foreign. He refused to sit up, just stared at the ceiling above his bed for a few minutes as he pondered this. Then it hit him; her shampoo. Hermione took a shower every morning and he would wake up, every morning, to the scent of her shampoo. The air here was stale. He groaned, pushing a hand to his forehead as he sat up.

“About time you opened your eyes,” a voice said from his left.

He jumped out of the bed and had his wand in his hand in a second. The man on the other side of the bed laughed, his three chins wobbling on his chest. “What are you doing in here?” he demanded.

Gustave smiled at him, an utterly repulsive grin filled with yellow and decaying teeth. “Who is “Hermione”?” he asked. “You talk about her a lot in your sleep.”

Draco brandished his wand. “Get out of my room,” he said through grit teeth.

Gustave laughed again. “Lower your wand little boy. I’m not here to have a morning duel. Why, I haven’t even had my second breakfast yet.”

Draco’s brow arched as he thought to himself, Second? Why does that not surprise me? The big tub of lard with legs is sitting in my room. “What do you want?” he asked, slightly lowering his wand.

Gustave regarded him for a moment. “I wanted a proper look at you,” he said vaguely.

“You got your look. Now get out.”

Gustave shook his head, oily hair bouncing on his forehead. “I’m not finished yet.”

“Finish quickly,” Draco pocketed his wand and pulled a shirt from the chair behind him, sliding it over his head.

“You’re Father doesn’t like you very much, does he?” Gustave asked.

“It’s a mutual feeling,” Draco retorted.
Gustave made a noise of interest. “I have heard that you are not a philanthropist, but I wasn‘t entirely prepared for such a cold demeanor, I must admit.”

“I am a Malfoy,” the boy replied. “We are not known for our loving and joyous interiors.”

Gustave laughed. “You are much more amusing than your father, however. I tire of his company.”

“Why are you here?”

“I told you, I wanted to get a good look at you.”

“No. Why are you here in my house?” Draco was still standing stiff on the opposing side of the bed. His wand was gripped tightly in his hand. This man had an aura of danger that emanated off him in waves.

Gustave smiled again. “Ah, that is the question, is it not? My question for you is what would you do to find out?”

Draco snorted and pocketed his wand. “I am not that interested in you,” he informed him.

Gustave rose to his feet, a mountain in the room. Draco crossed his arms against his chest and leaned against the metal bedpost. “I like you, Draco Malfoy,” Gustave nodded in approval. “But you’re not in a position to be so forthright,” his voice turned dark and his presence suddenly filled the room. Draco felt suffocated. “I hold your future in the palm of my hand, boy, and you don’t even know it.” Draco snorted, daring him to step closer. Gustave’s presence settled and the air lightened. He smiled. “Your father demands to see you,” he said politely. “I’m sure he has missed his only child and wishes to catch up on things.” Gustave made his way to the door. “Remember, young Malfoy,” his voice drifted to Draco as he opened the door and made to leave. “You are a Malfoy. You are but a playing piece in a very large game.” And with that he was gone.

With frustration Draco kicked the edge of his bed. Bloody Hell how had that overgrown mushroom gotten into his suite? He ran his hands through his hair. His father wanted to see him. He had no choice but to go. Today he would devote to finding out what was going on in this house and then he would catch the first train back to Hogwarts. The back of his mind added a small ‘and Hermione’ to the end of his sentence and he kicked the bedpost again.

~*~*~*~*~


In his study, Lucius Malfoy was eating his breakfast before a roaring fire when his son entered without even knocking. “A fat hippogrif appeared in my bedroom this morning and said you wanted to see me,” he said.

Lucius gestured coldly to the seat across from him. “Sit down, my son.”

Draco made his way to the table, but did not sit in the chair. “What did you want to see me about?”

Lucius cut a piece off of the chunk of meat on his plate and regarded it coolly. “Your mother has been causing me many headaches these last few months.” He said it conversationally. As if it was the same as stating the weather was very warm.

“If you weren’t so cruel to her then-”

“A woman needs a firm hand,” he informed his son as he put the meat in his mouth. “She needs to be taught discipline.”

Draco’s mind strayed to Hermione. He pictured her in his mother’s shoes and his stomach contracted. “Have no worries, Father. I will be leaving very soon.”

“That is good to know,” the man smiled. “Do you see that vial there on the desk?” he asked. Draco turned. “Take it.”

Draco reached forward and picked up the vial, turning the glass this way and that in order to examine the fluid green contents. “What is it?” he asked.

Lucius ignored the question. “Gustave is a man of many talents. He never attended a wizard school, so his powers were never honed as society expects of all wizards. They are rather…rampant.” Lucius speared what looked like a hard boiled egg with his fork. “He attended a muggle school where he received the knowledge that he is using to assist me in our…business adventure.”

“I truly could care less,” Draco informed him as he lowered the hand clasping the vial to his side.

Lucius’s eyes strayed to that hand and he continued. “Your mother has been locked in her apartments. If you wish to see her you will have to request my permission.”

“You cannot cage her like an animal,” Draco said, anger in his voice.

“She has been snooping about this house and attempting to interfere in my affairs. I can do whatever I wish.”

“You cannot make everyone around you comply with your every whim,” Draco informed him. He was getting angrier.

“Ah, but I can,” Lucius said as he took a sharp dagger to the meat left on his plate. “It is about time for you to initiate, Son.”
Draco would do no such thing. “I have no desire to be a part of your scheming.”

Lucius laughed. Draco did not see the irony. He was already wrapped so tightly in his father’s scheming and he could not see it, never mind escape it. “You will initiate into the ranks of the Dark Lord. You have no choice.”

“I have every choice!” he yelled, his fists clenching tightly. “I am not your puppet!” He didn’t realize the glass in his hands was so fragile until the force of his contracting fists caused the glass to shatter and drive the shards deep into his hand. He yelled in pain, grasping his wrist. The glass pieces stuck out of his palm like mountains out of a valley. The green liquid had already absorbed into his skin as he ripped a napkin off of his father’s table and held it beneath his hand to catch the blood.

Lucius smiled at him. “You will be a part of it, Draco,” he said. “You will be the center of it all.”

Draco left the room, anger dripping off of him. The pain in his hand was almost unbearable and whatever had been in that vial stung greatly. He made his way to his mother’s apartments without even realizing it.

He tried to open the door, but as his father had said, it was locked. At that moment a small house elf was making it’s way down the hall. He fumbled for a moment as he tried to recall the name that went with the face. “L-Lacy?” he asked.

Lacy bobbed a curtsy and looked at his hand, shock on her face. “Lacy see Master is bleeding!”

“Open this door, Lacy,” he demanded as he cringed. His hand was twitching and each contraction caused the glass to bite deeper into his palm.

“Yes, Master!” Lacy cried as she raised her hand to the door. “Lacy open the door!” The door swung open and he strode in, slamming it behind him. “Lacy get bandages to clean it! Lacy be right there!” he heard the creature scuttle off down the hallway.

He stood in the center of his mother’s parlor for a moment, completely unaware of what to do. He was seventeen. What was he doing in his mother’s room? Just because he had gotten a scratch? Was he running to Mum? At seventeen?

Before he could change his mind and retreat his mother came running out of her room, her hair trailing down her back and a night robe tied around her. “Draco!” she cried as she saw the blood soaked napkin. “Dear Merlin what has happened?” Lacy tottered in behind her mistress with a tray full of anesthetics and wrapping.

“Just an accident, Mother,” he said as she pushed him into a seat and took the napkin from his hand.

“This is glass!” she cried as she picked up a pair of tweezers. “Why is there glass in your hand?”

“It was just an accident,” he said again.

Narcissa knelt before her child and picked all of the glass from his hand with the small pieces of metal. Her touch was cold and gentle, and it shocked Draco. This was not how his childhood had been. If this had happened but a year ago his mother would have been too involved in some party for purebloods or her hair to sit here and pick glass out of his palm. Things were changing in his house and he wasn’t sure how he felt about it.

“There,” Narcissa proclaimed as she secured a white piece of bandage around his hand. “That should staunch the bleeding and keep it clean so it doesn’t get infected. We will have to change it later as I’m sure when the bleeding stops it will nearly have bled through.”

Draco was silent for a moment as he regarded the crisp whiteness on his hand. He tried to flex his fingers but found the tugging on his palm was painful. He met his mother’s eyes. “Thank you,” he said softly.

She smiled softly as she stood. “You’re welcome, Draco.”

“Mother,” he said as she turned to walk away. “I think I need to return to Hogwarts.”

Her expression fell. “You’ve talked to your father? You don’t think he’s up to something?”

“I know he is,” Draco said as he stood. “Which is why I must leave. I spoke to him this morning and it sounds as if whatever he is planning he wants me to join him.”

Narcissa’s face went white. “Draco, please-”

“I won’t join him, Mother.”

“He is your father you can’t-”

“I will not initiate as a Death Eater.”

Narcissa sighed and sat down. “Are you sure you are making the right decision? Leaving?”

“I can think of no other way to ensure he cannot use me as a pawn in whatever twisted game he is playing.”

Narcissa sighed. “I understand,” she said. “But we are all pawns, my dear one. We are all pawns in this game. We all belong to the Dark Lord, even you.”

“I belong to no one,” he said vehemently. “I have yet to decide at all if I will initiate into His service. But right now I want nothing more than to go back to school. I think you are safe here, Mother. Else wise I would not leave.” Narcissa turned her face from her child. “I know you love him, Mother. I don’t understand it, but I know it. I don’t think he is worthy of it, but I know it is there. I know it hurts you. I know he hurts you. But I know you love him even through it all.”

“He is Lucius,” she said. “He is my husband.” It was her explanation for everything. It wasn’t pure love. It wasn’t clean and it wasn’t white in goodness. It was a tainted love. Twisted and masochistic. It was painful. It was black, but it was all she had.

“Goodbye, Mother,” Draco said as he kissed her forehead.

“Goodbye, my son,” she said softly.

~*~*~*~*~


“I spoke to your son this morning.”

“Was he as pleasant to you as he was to me?” Lucius drawled as he flipped through the pages of the book before him.

“The entire conversation was at wand point,” Gustave laughed. “How did it go this morning?”

Lucius smiled. “I gave him the vial and I goaded him until he let his emotions get the better of him. The vial shattered in his hand. He is infected.”

“A vial shattered in your hand a few nights ago,” Gustave reminded him. “You are infected as well.”

“Bloody good that does us,” Lucius growled. “I don’t interact with-” he paused and snarled, “-muggle borns.”

“Your son is nothing like you, you know,” Gustave said. “He fights back.”

Lucius looked up coldly at his business partner. “What is it you mean by that?”

Gustave seemed unperturbed by the threat in Lucius’s voice. “Your son will come after you when he realizes what you have done. I don’t see the power to be in the Dark Lord’s service in him. He likes leading far too much.”

Lucius settled back in his chair, slamming his book shut as he did. “Draco was a spineless coward when he left for school this year. He’s been a coward all his life. I don’t understand this sudden steel rod that is laced through his being.”

Gustave smiled and reached for the grapes that sat decorously on the side table. “I think perhaps I have an idea.”

Lucius raised an eyebrow, clearly conveying he was listening.

“When I met with your child this morning he was dreaming.”

“You’re trying my patience, Gustave.”

“He was having a nightmare I believe, judging by the thrashing and the name he kept mumbling. It all sounded rather painful.” He popped a grape in his mouth.

Lucius frowned. “What name?”

Gustave smiled. “I think you have a definitive way to spread our creation.”

“I swear to Merlin if you don’t start speaking sense I will Crucio you out of this room,” Lucius stood, his hands pounding onto the desk.

Gustave took a moment to analyze the grape he held and put it in his mouth before turning is eyes intently to Lucius. “The name,” he said slowly, “was Hermione.”

Lucius froze. His lip twitched ever so slightly on the right side. He could hardly form words. “W-what did you say?”

“A girl’s name; Hermione,” Gustave laughed as he squeezed a grape too hard and the seeds spit out across the floor.

Lucius walked calmly to the shelf next to his desk and stood before it for a moment before reaching up and pulling the entire shelf down on the floor. Books scattered with a loud roar.

Gustave chuckled as he pulled the vine skeleton out of the bowl. “I take it you are familiar with this name,” he laughed.

“She’s a muggle born. She’s a piece of filth not nearly clean enough to walk past my son, never mind him dream about her.” Lucius stopped. “He was dreaming about her.” He let that thought settle as he thought of every hex he knew. He was envisioning placing them on that idiotic brat of his. A Malfoy dreaming about a mudblood!

A house elf who had heard the commotion came running into the room and Lucius whipped out his wand, sending the tiny creature flying backwards into the wall with a startled squeak. “That jumped up teenager has stood by Harry Potter’s side for seven years, thwarting many of my attempts to serve the Dark Lord to the fullest.”

“Perhaps you may not need to worry about her much longer,” Gustave noted.

Lucius stopped. “I refuse to believe it. I refuse to believe my son is somehow involved with her.” He turned to the fireplace, watching the flames dance, he said; “But if it is true, she would be the perfect candidate, and if he does have-” he snarled, “-feelings towards the mudblood, he deserves punishment.”

Gustave sat up. “I know where you’re going, but she’s in Hogwarts Lucius. She’s impossible to get to.”

“It’s the Christmas holidays, Gustave,” Lucius said lowly as his mind formulated the final touches to his abduction plan. He turned to a portrait of a bent old woman to his left. “Go to your portrait in Hogwarts. Find out if Hermione Granger is in the school for the holidays.” He turned back to the fireplace as the frame emptied. Gustave thrummed his fingers on the side table as they waited. A few moments later there was a squeaky voice from the portrait.

“Barney the Blathering say she is in the Head’s Common room this instant. The castle is mostly empty.” The woman bowed.

“We’ll take her while the school is empty,” Lucius hissed. “We’ll bring her here to the manor and we’ll make my son regret every thought that was in his head that night.”



Chapter 16: Of A Sudden Bout of the Floo and the Unfortunate Mistake of Huey the House Elf
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Author's Note: Please excuse all the typos in this chapter. I have edited it myself, having not been able to send it to my beta just yet. So blame all errors on me, not my wonderful beta. ^_^

I will be taking a brief leave of absence starting around August third. From the 3rd until the 24th I will be in a third world country, so, you guessed it, no updates. I do, however, have it arranged for an update to be submitted by a trusted friend while I am away, so that you don't have to suffer so long without another chapter. If all goes well, you will recieve chapter 17 while I am away, but won't recieve responses for your reviews until I return. ^_^

And again, thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who has supported Arabesque in the Dobby Awards thus far.

~*~*~*~*~*~



“Elf!” Lucius bellowed.

“You are not fond of your help, are you?” Gustave laughed. “Don’t tie too many of them up. I want supper to be served as soon as possible,” he rubbed his large abdomen fondly.

“Shut your trap, you loathsome creature,” Lucius growled at Gustave, who merely laughed in response.

There was a loud ‘POP’ as a house elf apparated into the room to answer Lucius’s call. The little creature was trembling as he bowed to the blonde man. “Huey is here, Master.”

Lucius turned and strode across the room, deliberately treading on the poor thing’s foot as he did so. “It is my knowledge that house elfs can leave and return to Hogwarts at any time they wish,” he turned to the elf, “Is this true? Tell me in all honesty, filth.”

“I-it is true,” Huey squeaked. “Huey has never tried o-of course, but Huey has h-heard others say t-that-”

“I want you to go to Hogwarts, Vermin,” Lucius interrupted. “Find the Head Student’s dorms and bring back the girl.”

Huey’s eyes grew wide. “B-but Sir-”

“You have one hour,” Lucius said, his back to the quivering elf.

Huey took a great shuddering breath and looked as if he was about to say something, his eyes heavy with water. He apparated from the room with another loud ‘POP’.

“Lucius, perhaps I am being too forward, but I can’t help but rethink this entire course of events,” Gustave said as Lucius settled into his desk. “Is it wise to kidnap one of Dumbledore’s prize students?”

“I don’t care if it’s bloody suicide,” Lucius growled. “My son needs to be taught a lesson.”

“What good will it do to infect this girl? What if he has no attachment to her?”

“Then she will be just another way to spread the virus. It’s a win-win situation for us.”

Gustave considered this for a moment. “You trust a house elf to get her out? And how do we get her back in?”

“Your questions are trying my patience,” Lucius growled in a dangerous tone. “The next hour will be spent in absolute silence, Gustave.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


Draco put the last of his belongings into his trunk with a heavy sigh. He was returning to Hogwarts this very evening. He couldn’t stand to be away any longer. Whatever his father and his father’s fat friend were up to was not going to endanger his hypochondriac mother, however, he found he feared greatly for Hermione who was left entirely by herself in the abandoned castle. He was dreaming about her constantly. It was unexplainable to him. He had never felt this way before. It was utterly foreign. He had a horrid sense of foreboding he could not shake.

He heaved his trunk to the fireplace on the other side of his bedroom and pushed it across the grate. With a last look about the room, he threw floo powder into the space and stepped into the eruption of green flames.

When Draco stepped out of the fireplace he was at Hogsmeade’s station. The night air was chilly, and a light dusting of white covered the ground. His boots crunched as he trekked his way towards the ticket station.

When he settled onto the warm train he laid his forehead against the chilly window. His skin was burning and yet he was freezing. He hugged his coat tightly about him and settled back into the seat as the train lurched into motion. His hand, swathed entirely in white bandages, was throbbing, which was not helping his comfort level in any manner.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~



“Wow,” Ginny said as she tried to swallow the last of the horrid brown liquid Hermione had made her. “Hot chocolate, eh?”

“Draco made it for me once and I’ve been trying to duplicate it, but I haven’t had much luck. I think I may be getting closer, what do you think?”

Ginny, who was thoroughly disgusted by whatever was in her cup -which tasted nothing like hot chocolate- tried to smile. “Did you put cocoa in it?”

“Of course I did.”

“Could have fooled me.”

Hermione groaned and took the cup out of the red head’s hands. “I knew it! It’s horrible!” she cried as she went back to the kitchen.

“Why are you so concerned about this stupid hot cocoa anyway?” Ginny asked as she propped her feet up on the couch in the seat the brunette had just vacated.

“Because it has to be just right!” Hermione called from the kitchenette. “It just has to be perfect!”

“Well maybe the library has a recipe or something, although I am thoroughly enjoying the knowledge that the great Hermione Granger is bad at something. You can’t cook either, can you?”

“Shut up, Gin,” Hermione scolded as she handed Ginny yet another cup of steaming brown liquid.

“Are you serious? Another one?”

“Just drink it,” Hermione grumbled.

“I’ll drink it if you’ll tell me more about what has been happening between you and the blonde one.”

Hermione protested for a moment and Ginny made as if to dump the contents of her mug onto the ground. “Aright!” Ginny settled back with a smile. “I’ll tell you. What do you want to know?”

After a moment of thought Ginny said, “I want to know why you can dance and don’t. It’s so you can have private lessons with him, isn’t it?”

Hermione turned away from her smiling friend. “I can’t really explain it. It was just as if when my father walked out my passion for dance did too. I was suddenly afraid; as if I was alone and in being so alone I couldn’t get up on the stage. Maybe with Draco here with me I don’t feel alone anymore. Maybe it’s that simple.’

“Or maybe you are pulling my leg,” Ginny said.

“Maybe you should drink your cocoa,” Hermione shot back.

“Maybe you should go find out how to make cocoa and stop trying to pass this stuff off as it,” Ginny said.

Hermione groaned. “Alright. Fine. You stay here and I will go down to the kitchens. I’m sure I can get one of the elfs to teach me how to make it.”

“Thank Merlin,” Ginny sighed as she stood and dumped the contents of her mug into the fireplace. Hermione grabbed a sweater from the back of the couch as she made for the portrait. “Take your wand with you,” Ginny commanded as she settled into the sofa. “I’m going to take a quick nap. Wake me when you have real chocolate.”

“I’ll be right back,” Hermione said as she exited the portrait.

Ginny watched the fire dance for a few moments before her eyes drifted shut on her. Just a few moments later she woke up to a loud ‘POP‘. There was a small very frightened looking house elf staring at her. She jumped in surprise and the house elf responded with it’s own squeak of fear.

“You frightened me!” Ginny cried as she sat up.

You frightened Huey!” The house elf insisted, it’s gnarly hand covering it’s heart.

“Well- Huey is it?- did she send you up here for me? Did she get lost in the kitchens?”

“Huey is afraid he must take you with him, Miss,” the house elf took her hand.

Ginny yawned. “Alright, alright. Let me grab my sweater.”

Huey would not let go of her arm. “There is no time, Miss. Huey must take you now. You must come with Huey.”

“Pushy little thing, aren’t you?” Ginny said. “Alright, let’s go then.”

Just as Huey was disapparating with the girl, the portrait swung open. A very tired looking Draco stepped into the room just in time to see Ginny’s look of shock and the house elf clinging to her arm.

“Huey?” he asked, startled, but they were already gone.

Draco dropped his belongings where he stood and rushed to the spot where Ginny and Huey had just been standing. “Shit!” he swore as he looked around. “Damnit!” There was no sign of them. His bastard father must have sent Huey to take Hermione.

Hermione.

“Hermione!” he sprinted up the stairs. Her door was propped open and he hurtled inside, throwing it back on its hinges. “Hermione!” The room was completely empty. A spare bed was set up next to hers. Ginny Weasley must have been staying with her. He left her room and took a quick glance into his own room, knowing she was not likely to be in there. He ran the length of the hall and when the bathroom proved to also be empty he dashed down the stairs once again, fear clutching his chest. As he descended the final stair a petite brunette made their way into the common room.

“Ginny, they gave me a really easy recipe! I’m going to go try-” she stopped dead where she stood, her eyes locked with his. “Draco,” she said in a gasp.

“Merlin, you’re alright,” he exhaled.

Hermione looked around the room, confusion on her face. “You’re not supposed to be back yet,” she said as her eyes fell on his hand. "Good Merlin, what happened to your hand?"

“I came back for you,” he said softly.

Hermione took a step towards him. “Where’s Ginny?”

“I think my father sent one of our house elfs to capture you-” Hermione gasped in a sharp breath, “-but the elf took Ginny by mistake.”

“What?!” Hermione cried. “Merlin, no! Is she alright? How do you know this? Draco, what’s happening?”

Draco’s head started to spin violently as her voice continued to crescendo. He fell onto the couch, his head bent over his knees. “Hermione-”

“Are you alright?” she appeared at his side with concern written on her face.

“I’m fine,” he assured her. “I’ve just had this horrible headache since leaving my home this morning. It’ll go away soon. I’m sure it is just from worrying,” he raised his eyes to hers.

“He took Ginny,” Hermione murmured in a very scared voice.

Draco reached out and pulled her to him in a tight hug. “I’m going back for her now. Without my trunk I should be able to fly out. I’ll go get my broom.” He went to untangle himself from her, but she would not release him. He was startled for a moment. He looked down to find her head leaning against his chest, her eyes tightly closed. “Hermione…”

“I missed you,” she said in a whisper.

He smiled despite himself. “I missed you too,” he admitted.

She stood, allowing him to dash to his room and grab his broom. When he returned he ran right past her. He was about to leave when he stopped and turned around. “I’ll be back as soon as possible-with Ginny.” He made it into the hallway, the portrait shutting behind him, before he turned around again and sprinted back into the room. He grabbed her arm, turned her around and left a soft kiss on her forehead before disappearing without a word.

Hermione found she was shaking as quiet settled about her and she fell onto the couch. She hugged her arms about her, tucking her feet beneath herself and settled back to wait for their return.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~


As Draco flew across the grounds of Hogwarts he had to fight to keep his mind from shutting down on him. He was burning hot now. His head would not stop spinning. The trees whizzing past below him was not helping the matter any. Neither was the searing anger coursing through his body. That bastard. That bloody coward of a bastard. He was positive his father had been after Hermione, as he had no contact with Ginny. The Walrus must have leaked what he had overhead in Draco’s room. He contented himself by imagining all the things he would like to do to those two men as he flew the rest of the way to his father’s manse. He was finding that steering with one hand bound in bandages was difficult, but the adrenaline rush he was experiencing did not allow him to feel the pain in his palm.

When he finally arrived it was nothing short of a blizzard out. He lightly descended from his broom and left it on the ground as he stormed the stairs of the front door and burst into the house with a loud clang.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


“WHAT IS THIS?!” Lucius was storming through the library, a squealing elf in tow. He had grabbed Huey by the small tuft of hair on his head.

“Huey is s-sorry, Master. Master told Huey to take the girl in the Head’s d-dorm. T-this was the o-only g-girl in there! Huey is s-sorry!” the elf sobbed.

“Leave him be!” Ginny protested from where she lay on the ground before the couch.

“Shut up, blood traitor,” Gustave growled to the girl at his feet, kicking her in the side for good measure.

“Huey is s-sorry,” the house elf sobbed, its chest heaving.

“I don’t give a damn if you are,” Lucius threw the elf into his bookcase. Huey slid down the shelving, landing on the floor as books fell onto his head one after another. “You failed to complete the task I had set!”

Huey was now so overcome with sobs that he could not answer.

“Don’t hurt him!” Ginny cried.

Gustave grabbed Ginny by the back of the neck and hauled her to her knees before him. “Watch, pretty girl. Watch what happens,” he hissed in her ear. Ginny struggled violently but could not escape his hold.

“I will show you how I deal with creatures that cannot follow orders,” Lucius growled as he raised his wand to the elf. “Avada Kedavra!” he cried.

Huey instantly fell still against the bookcase, one single and final tear escaping his eye. He stared blankly ahead, his large orb-like eyes hauntingly vacant.

“No!” Ginny cried.

“Shut up!” Lucius turned his wand on Ginny. “Gustave, take this brat down to the basement. I’ll deal with her later.”

Gustave smiled as he hauled the girl to her feet and set off out the door.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


“Master Draco!” a voice squeaked as Draco thundered down the hall. “Master Draco! They took the Miss to the basement! Hurry!”

“Lacy?” Draco looked down at the creature with mild surprise.

“Lacy knew Master Draco would come. Lacy knew it was wrong. Lacy knew! Lacy knew they would hurt Huey! Lacy did!”

“Slow down Lacy,” Draco said as they turned a corner. “They took Ginny to the basement? What happened to Huey?”

“Master killed him!” Lacy cried. “Master did!”

Draco was off to the basement before the poor girl could properly compose herself.

“Master Draco, wait! Lacy has the key!” Lacy scuttled after him.

Draco took the back staircases all the way down to the basement, not wishing to draw the attention of any more occupants of the house. Once he neared the basement door, a consistent banging met his ears. He placed his hands on the wood door. “Ginny!” he called. “Ginny Weasley!”

The banging stopped for a moment. “Draco Malfoy?”

“I’m coming in. Don’t hit me,” he commanded. “I’m going to get you out.”

Lacy drew a skeleton key from her apron and handed it to Draco, who set it in the lock. It turned with a satisfying click and the door swung open.

Ginny stepped out of the darkness, fear in her eyes. “You’re going to get me out?”

“We don’t have much time,” he turned to Lacy. “Lacy, I order you not to tell anyone I was here. You didn’t see anything and you have no idea how Ginny escaped.”

Lacy nodded and bobbed a curtsy before apparating from the room. “Be careful, Master Draco.”

“How are you going to get me out of here?” Ginny asked skeptically as Draco pulled her from the room and shut and locked the basement door behind them.

“We’re flying on my broom,” he said.

“Its snowing out there!” Ginny cried.

Draco shrugged off his cloak and threw it around the girl’s shoulders. “I know,” he said.

“You’ll freeze,” she protested half heartedly.

“Only a little,” he said as they turned the last corner before coming to the back door. As they exited the manse Draco pulled his wand. “Accio Broom!” he cried, his broom soaring towards them as it unearthed it’s self from a mountain of snow. “Get on,” he commanded. Ginny skeptically straddled the broom, Draco climbing on in front of her. “Hold on tight,” he said.

“How will you be able to get us back? I can’t even see what’s in front of us!”

“Do you trust me?” he called over the wind. He was shivering.

“No!” she yelled back. “But Hermione does, which is good enough for me! Now get me out of here!”

Draco kicked off from the ground and then rose into the air at a frightening speed. The wind was violent and snow hit their faces like pieces of glass raining from the sky. As they zoomed their way back to Hogwarts, Draco found his headache getting increasingly more painful and distracting. Ginny’s arms around his waist was causing a burning pain in his midriff. Every time he dove to avoid hitting a sudden obstacle she would tighten her grip and he would have to fight hard to keep himself from vomiting. His shaking was becoming so violent it was hard to steer.

When they landed safely in Hogwarts territory he dismounted the broom, taking her arm and dragging her back towards the castle. They were in the Head’s dorm within five minutes.

“Draco!” Hermione cried in relief as they fell into the room. He was shaking so severely he couldn’t answer her.

“The bastard made me wear his cloak the whole way back. Its snowing viciously out there and he was doing that the whole way,” Ginny said as Hermione led him to the fire.

“Ginny go grab the comforter off of my bed! Quickly!”

Ginny left Draco’s sopping cloak on the ground and dashed up the stairs. Hermione had her arms about Draco in a tight hug, his own arms were wrapped around his self, trying to restore some semblance of warmth.

An attack of sneezes wracked his body for a moment and then he wordlessly pushed Hermione away and turned to the side, vomiting all over the floor.

Hermione put a hand to his forehead and gasped. “You’re burning up! You have a horrible fever! And you still haven't told me what happened to your hand!”

His shivering had subsided a bit and Hermione helped him clamor onto the couch. She took out her wand and cleaned up the floor and then ‘accioed’ a pan from the kitchen and left it on the side of the couch. “I’ll be fine,” he insisted in a hoarse voice as Ginny came hurtling down the stairs with the comforter off Hermione’s bed.

The two girls tucked him tightly into the couch. “I’ll be upstairs,” Ginny said softly, leaving Hermione to have a moment with him.

“It’s just a cold. It happens when you travel in the cold weather,” he said. He hadn’t had a fever since he was a child.

Hermione disappeared for a moment and then reappeared with a cold, wet cloth. She pressed it to his forehead. “Actually,” she said in her know-it-all voice. “You have the flu, not a cold.”

He attempted to smile but his head hurt too much. “Is your friend alright?” he asked.

“Thanks to you,” Hermione moved the cloth to the other side of his head. “Your fever is so high,” she mumbled to herself.

“I’ll be fine,” he sneezed.

“Was your mother alright?” Hermione asked.

Draco turned towards the couch cushion, his eyes closing. “I think I’ll just get some sleep,” he said softly. He said nothing else and soon his breathing became steady and rhythmic. Hermione sat there for a moment, just watching him. Every few minutes he would shiver, and she tucked the blanket tighter around him. He was sweating, which was a very good sign. Hopefully he would sweat out the fever by morning.

Hermione sighed and poked her wand at the fire, sending the flames crackling a bit more fiercely, before curling up on her side next to the couch and allowing her own eyes to drift shut.



Draco awoke in the dead of night, a dying fire casting a small but warm glow about the room. He was soaked in sweat. His head was still spinning and his stomach was doing flip flops inside of him. If he had the strength he would go down to the hospital wing, although he highly doubted the healer would be there. It was Christmas, after all, and she probably had a family of her own to be with.

Draco pushed himself into a sitting position and pulled his sweat soaked shirt over his head. He felt disgusting. That simply action made his muscles feel like rubber and he sank back onto the couch cushions with a groan. He turned to the fireplace again and noticed a body on the floor next to the couch. He had time enough for it to register in his mind that it was Hermione and the thought warmed him in a very pleasant way before he lost consciousness again.



Chapter 17: Of Harry's Overreaction and An Unconventional Tango
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“Is the lump going to eat something?”

“Shh, Ginny. Be quiet. He’s still asleep.”

Ginny reached back and pulled her long red hair into a tight ponytail as she leaned against the counter. She had come downstairs this morning to find Hermione asleep on the floor next to the couch Draco was asleep on. She had shaken her friend awake and dragged her into the kitchen. Now Hermione was scrambling around the room trying to put together something for breakfast.

“Why can’t we just go down to the Great Hall?” Ginny asked.

“Does he look like he can make it up to his room, never mind the Great Hall?” Hermione asked as she scavenged for a bowl.

Ginny’s eyebrow quirked. “Actually, he looks like if you try to feed him your definition of food he may be worse off then he already is.” A retching sound met their ears and Ginny grimaced. “Point proven.”

Hermione scowled at her friend as she poured some dry oatmeal into a bowl and whipped her wand towards the small stove where a pan began to fill itself with water and then set to boil. “I’ll be right back,” she said as she left the room.

Ginny moved towards the stove and looked into the pot, water splashing up into her face as the it started to boil. She mumbled to herself as she accioed a hand towel to wipe off the pan‘s regurgitation.

“Good morning,” Hermione smiled at him as she knelt next to the couch.

Draco’s only response was to groan, his eyes closing. The blanket he had on him was pulled up to the juncture of his arms and shoulders, his arms laying on top of it. His hair was sticky and hung in his eyes. He groaned again.

Hermione muttered ‘evanesco’ as she pointed her wand towards the pot at the side of the couch and the result of the retching sound they had heard disappeared. She put a hand above his brow, wiping his hair from his forehead. “You’re not as warm as you were last night,” she said. “We should move you up to your room though. This couch can’t be comfortable at all.”

“You shouldn’t be around me,” he mumbled. “You get sick.”

“I have a fantastic immune system,” Hermione laughed. “I hardly ever get sick. In fact, I haven’t had the slightest trace of even a cold in the past three or four years.”

Draco’s eyes drifted shut and he shook his head. “Should go away,” he said.

“Ginny! Bring me a glass of water!” Hermione called to the kitchen. “We need to get you some fluids or you’ll dehydrate,” she told Draco as she reached for his shoulders. “Help me sit you up.”

Draco was absolutely no help at all, however. Hermione managed to get him into a sitting position, his head falling back against the couch. She frowned as Ginny appeared with a tall glass of water. “Do we have any straws?”

Ginny shrugged. “Since when do I live here?” she asked. “Accio Straw!” she cried. Nothing happened.

Hermione sighed. “Will you help him hold his head up?”

Ginny looked as if she was herself going to vomit. “Look, Hermione. I know he saved me and all… but I’m still having trouble with this whole ‘help Draco’ thing.”

“Hold his head!” Hermione yelled.

Ginny shook her head but did as she was asked.

After Hermione had forced the water down his throat she turned to Ginny again. “Now grab onto his right side and help me get him upstairs.”

“What?”

“Ginevra Weasley, you heard me!” Hermione cried.

As Ginny slung one of Draco’s arms over her shoulder and they began to make their way to the staircase she grumbled discontentedly under her breath. “First she tries to poison me with mud in a mug and now she’s having me help Draco Malfoy - the poor sick boy- up to his bedroom and-”

“I can hear you,” Draco’s hoarse voice caused Ginny to jump.

They topped the stairs and Hermione pushed on Draco’s door and it swung open. His room was the same size as her‘s, but far less- ‘homey’. Everything was wrought in black iron; the bedposts, mirror, and wall hangings. There was a dresser, a large bed, mirror, desk, and bookcase in the room; that was all. Even his bed linens were black as night. Hermione and Ginny led him to the bed and he fell onto it, rolling onto his side and curling into a ball.

“Have you ever brewed a headache reliever?” Hermione asked Ginny, sitting on the edge of his bed.

“Does a headache reliever for hangovers count?” Ginny smiled. “The twins used that one often.”

“I guess it would have the same effect,” Hermione shrugged. “I don’t know one off the top of my head, but I do know it exists. I don’t want to leave him here alone to go scour the library for the recipe.”

Ginny smiled. “I’ll take care of it,” she said. “I guess I owe him that much.”

As Ginny exited the room Hermione fell back onto the far side of the bed from him when she suddenly remembered the food she had left in the kitchen. “Ginny!” she yelled. “The boiling-”

“-I got it! Don’t worry!”

Hermione settled back down, sleep claiming her before she had realized her eyes were closing on her.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~


Darkness is a creature all in itself. Maybe children weren’t so foolish; being afraid of the dark. Adults assumed it was the child’s imagination, that the child was picturing ghoulies and ghosties in the dark that weren’t there, the truth of it being that children do not fear imaginary creatures. They fear the actual darkness itself. Dark can change shapes, can morph from one thing to the next before your eyes can focus. It has a mind entirely of its own. Draco found himself standing in a room filled with such a foe: darkness. There was no apparent boundaries to the space he was standing in. It was just blackness.

The bed sheets had been kicked to the floor; the occupants of the bed both tossing so viciously in their own dream worlds.

Light is not just the absence of dark. It emanates from within. It is good intentions and morals echoed into the visual spectrum. Most people do not fear anything in the light, but that makes absolutely no sense. You see, if there is a time one should be truly frightened of things coming after one’s self; tis when one stands in the light. The dark can be used as a shield, but where can a person hide when they are bathed in light? Hermione’s eyes ached from the blaring brilliance of the long hall she was standing in; a hall that seemed to stretch on forever to eternity.

Ginny was kneeling on the common room floor, an entire floor away from the victims of sleep. She could neither see nor hear their torment as she leaned over the contents of her cauldron. She pulled out her wand and stoked the flames in the fireplace higher, completely oblivious.

Draco was cold. He could hear his father’s voice.

‘You see that vial there? Take it, son.”

A round glass tube suddenly appeared in his hand. He looked down at the small object with peaked curiosity. It’s contents were an odd color, and moved about the tube as if alive. He tipped the vial upside down and watched as the liquid crept its way down the sides of the bottle, and dripped onto his wrist. He dropped the vial, surprised at the sudden cold on his skin. The contents of the vial had now taken on a goop consistency and was expanding, engulfing his entire arm and making its way up to his shoulder.


Draco groaned. He was shaking again. Next to him, Hermione was also turning fitfully.

Hermione was sitting in front of the Gryffindor fire place. She had her legs pulled up to her chin and was leaning against the couch. Above her Ginny was sprawled across Harry’s lap.

“I told you he was nothing but trouble, Hermione,” Ginny was cooing in Harry’s ear.

Hermione didn’t turn to either of them. She had just noticed the edge of the room were blurring; as if she was in the midst of a water color painting. Black was creeping into the corners. She turned to her side, only to find the floor was no longer there.

“Have you seen my brother?” Ginny asked Harry.

Harry smiled. “Ask Hermione.”

Ginny turned to Hermione and her face was suddenly not there any longer. Her skin was all intact, but it was smooth and creaseless. Hermione jumped back.

“Have you seen Ron?” she heard Ginny’s voice.

Wordlessly she shook her head. There was a sudden thumping and the three of them turned to find Ron coming down the boy’s staircase. He was a milky blue color, his skin flaking off in some areas. One of his eyes was scarred over and shut.

Hermione scampered to her feet as he limped towards them.

“Hey, Ron!” Ginny’s empty face called to him.

“How are you feeling, Mate?” Harry asked in a jovial voice.

Ron’s mouth opened to respond, but no sound came out. Harry and Ginny nodded as if they had heard words and understood them. Hermione continued to back away in horror as she realized that Harry had no hands attached to the ends of his arms. She suddenly found herself falling backwards. She landed with a definite thump into the fireplace she had been staring at only moments ago.

She screamed in agony as the flames kissed her skin, but not one of the other occupants of the room turned to look at her. She continued to scream.


Draco awoke with a start. It took him a moment to realize he was in his own room. He forced himself into a sitting position, a hand going to his forehead. His skin was warm, but not abnormally so. His head was still spinning a bit. A sharp knock on his door caused him to reach instinctively for his wand.

His door swung open at the same time he looked to his right and found a brunette girl clutching one of his pillows, tears on her face.

“I have a headache potion for you,” Ginny Weasley stepped into the room with a steaming cup. “Actually, it’s a hangover potion but Hermione and I think it will do the same thing.”

Draco downed the cup in one sip as Ginny’s eyes roved to Hermione. “She looks dreadful,” she raised an eyebrow. “What are you doing awake anyway?”

“How long have I been asleep?” he rasped, his throat was dry.

Ginny took back his cup and, using her wand, refilled it with water, handing it back to him. “You’ve been asleep about twenty one or twenty two hours. I’m surprised she’s been out as long as she has been.”

“How long has she been here?” he turned to look at her.

“Just about as long as you have,” Ginny’s voice was obviously disapproving.

Draco reached over and brushed hair from Hermione’s face and she groaned. “I think she’s having a nightmare,” he said.

“Don’t wake her!” Ginny cried. “Mum says its bad to wake someone when they are dreaming. She says its how our mind works through our problems. Especially through our nightmares.” Draco cocked an eyebrow at the redhead but moved closer to the edge of the bed. “How are you feeling now?” she asked.

Draco shrugged. “A bit stiff, but thanks to that potion my headache has cleared. I feel a little groggy but the overwhelming desire to retch has passed.”

Ginny sat on the edge of the bed. “Hey, by the way, thanks for coming after me,” she said uncomfortably.

“You’re her friend. I wouldn’t have left you there.”

“Even though you did get deathly ill,” Ginny smiled.

“Maybe not deathly but Hermione was right. It was a bad case of the flu. Most flus only last twenty four hours or so,” he shrugged.

Hermione thrashed violently, interrupting their conversation. She was crying.

Draco turned to Ginny but she shook her head. “You can’t wake her! Its not a good idea!”

“She’s in pain,” Draco protested.

“She’s not really in pain,” Ginny said. “Its just a dream.”

Draco thought back to the dream he had just had and the echo of the memory and knew she was wrong. Dreams could hurt you. He grabbed her arms as she sat bolt upright and screamed.

Ginny was so startled she slipped off the edge of the bed. Draco wrapped his arms around the sleeping girl. “Wake up, Hermione, come on,” he lightly shook her.

It took a few seconds, but finally her eyes opened. She pushed away from him and violently ran her hands over her arms and face, as if there was something on her she was trying to wipe off. She was gaping in air.

“It was just a dream,” he assured her. “Its alright.”

She suddenly realized he was sitting up in bed and talking coherently and stopped moving. “You’re okay?”

He smiled. “I’m fine. You were right, just a little bout of the flu.”

“Of course she was right,” Ginny snorted. “She’s ‘Hermione’. When is that girl ever not right?”

At Ginny’s words Draco threw back his head and laughed. It was a rich velvety sound that reminded Hermione of chocolate, and before she knew it she was laughing too, and then Ginny joined in and the air in the room seemed to lift infinitesimally.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


The week wound up within the next few days and students began to drift back into the school. The place came back to life quickly. Draco regained his strength within two days of his bout of the flu and was soon escaping the common room every night to visit the dance studios once again. Ginny had moved back into the Gryffindor tower. The three of them had decided it would be most wise to not explain to Ron and Harry when they returned what had happened in their week of vacation, however, the boys were still suspicious.

“How was your week?” Harry asked Ginny at breakfast the day before classes resumed.

Ginny swallowed the lump of food in her mouth too quickly and coughed. “It was uneventful,” she said. Next to her, Hermione became very interested in her toast.

“Have you got your robes for the ball yet?” Ron asked her.

Hermione kept her eyes on her toast. “Yes,” she said.

Ron, frustrated that he was getting the cold shoulder, tried again. “Did you have a nice Christmas? Get anything good?”

Hermione sighed, picking up her fork and pushing her eggs from one side of the plate to the next. “Ginny and I opened our presents together. It was nothing special. Tell your mother I appreciate the sweater.”

Ron went to open his mouth again, but Harry shook his head, dissuading him from continuing. Ron violently speared a sausage with his fork.

After breakfast Harry grabbed Ginny’s arm, keeping her from following after her brother. “I’m not as dense as Ron,” he frowned. “What happened while we were away. The two of you can’t even meet Ron and I’s eyes while speaking to us.”

Ginny wrenched her arm from Harry’s grasp. “I told you, nothing happened.”

“Ginevra Weasley, don’t lie to me,” Harry followed her as she stormed down the hallway.

Ginny, ever the temperamental red head whirled on him. “Draco took care of me. So stop asking questions. I was fine. Hermione was fine. The only time I was in danger was when she tried to feed me some mud she insisted was ‘hot cocoa’.”

Harry froze. “Malfoy took care of you? What the bloody hell does that mean, Ginny?”

Ginny stopped, her face paling as she realized what she had let slip. She turned to face him. “You can’t tell Ron. He’ll overreact.”

“I’m about to overreact. Worry about my reaction right now and we will deal with your brother later,” Harry’s face was stone.

Ginny looked about the hallway to ensure they were not within ear shot of anyone else before pulling Harry into a dark corner. “Over the Christmas Holidays I was abducted by the Malfoy house elf and taken to the Malfoy Manor where Lucius Malfoy murdered the poor creature and then locked me in his basement and then Draco appeared a matter of moments later and flew me back to Hogwarts but it was during a blizzard so he got the flu but now we are all fine and peachy. Nothing to worry about.”

Harry’s hands were in fists. “WHAT?!”

Ginny sighed. “You’re overreacting,” she said meekly.

Harry sputtered for a moment. “Hermione is living with that creature and his father abducted you?”

“Well, no. He was actually trying to abduct Hermione,” Ginny stopped. “Merlin I need to tell Draco. I don’t think he knows!” Ginny tried to run down the hall, but Harry followed her.

“Ginny, don’t run off on me!”

“Harry I’m sorry but I have to go tell-” she was stopped by Harry’s hand on her arm.

“Are you trying to tell me that you -of all people- are now calling Malfoy by his first name and are concerned about things that involve him?” Harry’s face was riddled with disbelief.

Ginny stalled. “Dear Merlin, I suppose so. I owe him, Harry. He saved my life. Merlin knows what Lucius would have done to me. He killed the house elf who brought me instead of Hermione to him. Draco stormed through that house and threw me on his broom, even gave me his cloak so I wouldn’t freeze, all because I’m Hermione’s friend.”

Harry though this over for a moment. “Gin, it doesn’t feel right… but if you trust him-”

“Maybe Hermione is right. Maybe there is something about Draco that we can’t see.” The words sounded absolutely pulled out of her.

Harry shook his head. “I don’t think so, Gin. I think he has some sort of ulterior motive for seeming to become so close to Hermione. He’s a Malfoy. He doesn’t care about anyone. He would sell out his own mother if the opportunity arose to save his own rear.”

Ginny bit her lip. “I don’t know, Harry. Perhaps you are right.”

“I’m glad you told me. I’m going to be keeping a closer eye on Malfoy from now on. I think it’s best we don’t tell Ron though.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” Ginny nodded.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


“How are you feeling?” Hermione sank on to the couch next to Draco later that evening.

Draco groaned and allowed his head to fall back against the couch’s arm. “Stiff.”

“That’s your own fault, you know,” she scolded. “You’ve been in the dance studio for at least four hours. I told you you are moving too fast after just recovering from such a nasty flu.”

“How come you haven’t gotten sick yet? You were there with me the whole time,” his eyes were closed and Hermione smiled.

“I told you, I never get sick.”

“Never?”

“Never ever.”

He snorted. “I’m choreographing a new dance,” he admitted.

“For pointe class?” she gulped. That class was painful enough as it was. She hated being in the small advanced class when she clearly wasn’t advanced.

He opened his eyes, his head still resting on the arm of the couch. “No,” he said. “For us.”

“For us?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said, pushing himself up into a sitting position. “I’m going to teach it to you and then you will perform it at your jury and pass and show everyone that you really can dance.”

Hermione’s limbs went cold. She shook her head adamantly. “I appreciate the effort, but please, no.”

“You have no choice,” he resumed his relaxed position.

“Of course I have a choice!” she replied indignantly. “I have every choice! You can not make me dance!”

“Don’t throw a temper tantrum,” he said. “You’re above throwing tantrums.”

She huffed. “I don’t want to do it. I can’t do it.”

“You will do it. We’ll do it in tutoring.”

Hermione, realizing this may mean she was getting out of pointe, asked; “What style?”

Draco did not answer.

“What style is the dance, Draco?”

“It’s a tango,” he said finally. She sighed in relief. “It’s a tango done in pointe shoes.”

“What?!”

“You heard me.” It was infuriating how cool his tone was and how he kept his eyes shut the entire conversation.

“The tango does not have anything to do with pointe shoes!” Hermione cried.

“It does when I choreograph it,” Draco smirked. Hermione fell silent for a moment, her eyes focused on the flames that leapt before them. “We need to rehearse for the ball first,” he said, one eye peeking open to look at her.

She stiffened. “The ball you are taking Pansy Parkinson to.”

“No,” he growled. “The ball you are taking Ronald Weasley to.”

“It’s your own fault I have to go with him, remember?” she scolded, arms crossed against her chest.

Draco sat up, taking her arms and forcing her to look at him. “You don’t seem to understand, Hermione,” he said in a low voice. “You don’t seem to have the foresight you usually exhibit. What do you think people would say, thinking we were together? Don’t you understand what your ‘friends’ would do to you if you let me take you to that damned ball?”

Hermione cast her eyes downwards. “They’d never speak to me again.”

He released her. “Exactly,” his voice cracked. “Pansy Parkinson will raise no suspicions. I have no choice but to take her.”

Hermione’s chest was tight. It hurt. “I love Ron. I really do,” she said. “But I love him like a brother. Its not for lack of trying. I’ve known forever how he feels. I’m not an idiot, I just ignore it. I’ve even tried to imagine kissing him, but it just feels wrong.”

Draco did not meet her eyes. “All we have to do is prance around the hall a few times together and then we can resume pretending to despise each other.” He turned to find Hermione staring vacantly ahead, her eyes not focusing on anything directly. He too allowed himself to stare vacantly before him, catching her hand in his. “I don’t like Pansy. I did for awhile, but then, well things changed.” He squeezed her hand. “If Weasley even breathes too close to you…” Draco trailed off but Hermione knew what he was saying despite his unfinished sentence, and she was calmed slightly.






Chapter 18: Of The Long Anticipated Ball and Long Anticipated Battle
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The days until the ball were limited. Time was slipping ever so precariously through Hermione’s hands and she was powerless to stop it. If it wasn’t essays due it was exams. If it wasn’t exams it was a dance test. If it wasn’t a dance test it was tutoring. If it wasn’t tutoring it was Draco‘s brusque attitude as of late. If it wasn‘t Draco being an unexplainable jerk it was… the list never ceased. The date was January the sixth, the ball was in just six days.

“Draco, I want to talk to you,” Hermione called to him as he was about to pass where she was sprawled on the couch.

He slowed in his steps. “Hurry up, I’m in a rush.”

“Where are you rushing off to?” she swung her legs over the edge of the couch and sat up to face him.

He ran a hand through his hair and she noticed he was clutching a pair of pointe shoes and a pair of men’s character shoes. “I need to meet someone and then I’m going to the dance studio.”

Hermione pretended she had not picked up on the inflection he gave the word ‘someone’ assuming he was referring to Pansy. “You spend all of your time in that studio now,” she observed.

He shrugged, but did not answer.

“I want to talk to you about this insane tango-pointe dance you claim to be choreographing.”

He moved towards her, placing his hands on the back of the couch. “Yes?”

“Draco, you know as well as I do that it is physically impossible to do a tango in pointe shoes.” She stopped but he said nothing. “Impossible,” she reiterated.

Draco sighed. “I promise you that it is not impossible. Stop thinking inside the box. There is a way to do it.”

Hermione shook her head.

“The thing about you, Miss Hermione Granger, is that you’re too book smart for your own good. As soon as something is mentioned that involves thinking in a nonlinear way you simply can’t function.” He moved away from the couch.

Hermione stood. “That sounded borderline insulting,” she said.

Draco stalled in his steps, his back to her. He sighed and turned back to face her, his hands to his sides, open in apology. “I didn’t mean it to sound so cruel. I just-” he stopped again and struggled for words before allowing himself to fall into the couch cushions. “My mother sent me another letter.”

Hermione gingerly sat next to him. “What did it say?” she asked.

“The usual,” Draco grumbled as he played with the laces on his shoes. “She’s panicking…thinking that my father is up to something.”

“Maybe he is,” Hermione supplied.

“I have no doubt that he is,” Draco answered. “But I doubt it is anything of consequence. If the Dark Lord had given him a task I would know about it. Mother would have mentioned it. She tends to fret. She is mostly worried because she doesn’t know what is prompting him to be so secretive, but she knows he is up to something.”

Hermione was caught unawares by his statement. His father was a servant of the Dark Lord. Sometimes she forgot that he was so closely linked to the Death Eaters. Forgot that he was hovering on the border of Death Eater himself. “Do you love your Mother?” she asked before she realized what she was asking.

Draco’s eyes turned hard and his gaze was ice cold as it focused on hers. “Why?” he demanded.

Hermione sputtered. “Never mind.”

“I think I’ll leave for the studio now,” he said as he pushed himself to his feet.

Hermioe found she was suddenly scrambling for a way to keep him from leaving her angry; from leaving a rift between them. “Draco -wait.”

With an annoyed glare he turned to face her a third time, eyebrow cocked.

“Tomorrow we need to rehearse the opening dance for the ball. You know it’s this week and we haven’t practiced at all.”

He grunted a unintelligible reply and exited the room, leaving her feeling off balanced and slightly depressed. He had been moody and borderline cruel all week. His behavior was unexplainable and she was having a rough enough time dealing with life in general without him sneaking around all the time and glaring at her so often. She settled on to the couch with a heaving sigh.

A few halls away Draco stopped his rampaging and leaned against the cold stone wall. He knew it was unfair. He knew he was hurting her but he couldn’t stop. It was his defense; his cruelty. It was to keep them both safe. He knew things were going to explode soon.

Six more days passed in an absolute blur, the morning of the Holiday Ball dawning cold and white. Hermione had lived in a state of confusion for the past three days as she ran about being the perfectionist that she was, supervising decoration committees and food committees and music committees and the like. On top of all that classes had ploughed on and she had had a surplus of homework. It was as if the professors were relishing in the cruelty of the entire situation.

Hermione hadn’t seen Draco the entire day. He had woken in the morning before she had come down to the common room and left without telling her where he was going. Of course, she had to remind herself that there was no reason why he would have to tell her where he was going, but perhaps it would have been decent for him to have done so. She was positively furious with him at the present moment because his disappearance meant that she was forced to handle all the last minute panic-details alone. She could have killed him for that.

Preparing for a ball was tiresome. Not in the “running around to decorate” way but in a “putting on makeup and primping hair and otherwise beautifying one’s self” way. She had never cared much for primping. Even being a dancer on stage had not altered that. She preferred the natural look. But, tonight was different and she found herself casting a glamour over her body as she stood before the mirror in her sparkly dress. Tonight she felt as if she was fighting for something, and she refused to allow herself to admit that it was a jealous streak over Pansy Parkinson. After staring at her own reflection for another three minutes, and then feeling thoroughly disgusted with her level of vanity this evening, she turned and stalked out of the room.

Hermione’s decent from the staircase was positively cinematic, and it nauseated her. She wished her dress blended in better with the crowd, but it did not. She wished she hadn’t smoothed her hair down and shadowed her eyes because it was painfully obvious that she had put an effort in to looking different for this event. And people were staring.

“Hermione,” a voice caught her attention. She turned to find Harry coming down the stairs, Ginny, bedecked in a beautiful emerald gown, on his arm. “You look great,” he said with a smile.

Beside him Ginny grinned. “Beautiful,” she agreed.

Hermione was flustered by the comments and turned away, only to come face to face with Ron, whose cheeks were an unbecoming shade of red. “Hermione,” he breathed.

“Ron,” she said in response.

There was an uncomfortable moment of silence where no one knew what to say. Hermione cleared her throat, but was saved as yet another voice echoed across the hall. “Hermione.”

She turned and her breath caught. Draco was striding towards them, clad in black from head to toe and frowning profusely. He was devastating. Trailing after him was Pansy, also clad entirely in black, her gown a tad on the short side; on the bottom and the top. When Draco stopped before her, regarding her with a heavy expression, Pansy slipped her arm through his and stared intently at Hermione, dislike painted in all sorts of colors across her face.

“Draco,” was the only word Hermione could squeeze out of her mouth.

“Pansy,” Draco scowled and subtly shrugged away from her touch. Pansy did not notice his rebuff.

“Ginny, Harry,” Ginny pointed to herself and her date. “Now that we’ve all met-”

“I’d like a moment,” Draco said, his eyes not leaving Hermione. No one moved. “Alone,” he said in a dark voice.

Harry and Ginny nodded and went to walk away when Ron opened his mouth. “Not a chance,” he growled.

Hermione turned to Ron with a beseeching glance, but Draco’s reaction stopped her from forming any line of thought. “I didn’t ask you to stay, Weasley. I’d appreciate it if you stepped back, as this is Head business and I don’t see a Head’s badge pinned to the second hand robes of the Great Underachiever.”

“Listen, Malfoy,” Ron hissed as he stepped between Hermione and Draco, scowling. “You have no right to talk to me like that.”

Next to Draco, Pansy decided it was about time she added her two cents. “Drake, I don’t want people to see me standing here talking to the Mudblood and Ratter Tatter Weasley, so let’s go in.” She reached for Draco’s sleeve and he firmly pushed her off.

“Wait for me inside, Pansy,” he said in a low voice. “Granger and I have to open the ceremony and I can’t have you hanging on my back as we dance.” Pansy pouted but turned on her heel, haughtily stalking into the crowd. “You too, Weasley,” Draco said. “I’m not into threesomes.”

Hermione scowled at Draco. “Don’t be crude,” she scolded him.

Draco bit back the retort that rose to his lips, and turned to Ron again. “I won’t ask again.”

Ron raised his eyebrows, clearly challenging the boy. Hermione panicked. “Ron, Ill see you inside. Draco is right, we have some Head business to deal with. I’ll be right there. It would be nice if you would be kind enough to find me something to drink for after the opening dance,” she tried to smile but failed.

Ron shook his head, his eyes hard and leveled with Draco’s. “I’ll be watching you all night. Don’t come near her.” And then he stalked off.

Draco’s fists were clenched. “I hate him. You know that?”

Hermione did not answer his question. “I’m a bit upset with you right now,” she informed him.

“You look-” he stepped closer to her and she had to control her reaction carefully as they were in the midst of the entry way to the Great Hall and some stragglers were still filtering through the space “-amazing.” His voice dropped.

“Did you hear me?” she hissed, trying to keep her head clear. “I’m furious.”

Draco stepped back. “Why?”

“Because you disappeared for the entire day and I was left all alone to deal with all of the last minute details and supervising the set up this afternoon was no picnic!”

“You know if I had been there I would have been no help,” he said.

Hermione almost stomped her foot in frustration. “I needed help!” she insisted.

“I wasn’t with Pansy,” he said softly.

Hermione tried to pretend the information had nothing to do with her current fit, but the fight drained out of her nonetheless. Draco almost smiled. “What were you doing all day?” she managed.

Draco did not answer her question. “Are you ready to do this?” he asked.

She shook her head. “No. Its some consolation that we won’t be the only ones on the dance floor, after the first few seconds anyway. But I in no way wish to be doing this.”

“You’re very brave,” Draco nodded.

“I can’t do it,” her eyebrows raised.

“Just look at me,” he said as he started towards the door. “Don’t pay attention to anything else.” As he crossed the threshold of the Great Hall, and cheers arose from the students within, Hermione decided that would be entirely impossible.

“And now, dear friends, students and faculty alike, I give you your Head Boy and Girl; Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger!” The applause that followed the Headmaster’s words was tumultuous. “Now,” he continued as Draco and Hermione reached the center of the dance floor and Draco took her hand in his, “our Heads will open the Ball with the traditional waltz.” He raised his wand and a lilting ¾ drifted through the hall.

Hermione followed Draco to the center of the room, her eyes focused intently on the floor before her. Draco stopped, reaching for her and her breath hitched in her throat. She did not look up at him. He placed one hand on her waist and took her other hand in his, taking a deep breath she knew was for her benefit. She tried to mirror his move, trying to bring the calming sensation on, but to no avail.

“Why is she dancing with him?” she heard whispered as they turned about the room and passed different groups of people.

“She’s a horrid dancer. He should be dancing with someone else, someone more talented.”

“She’s Head girl though!”

“So what? That’s not a good enough reason. Anyone could have opened the ceremony. We didn’t have to be submitted to this.”

“Look at me,” Draco said. His voice startled her, her eyes meeting his before she could stop them. “Listen to the music,” he said in a husky tone. He was trying to distract her from her paralyzing fear and the voices all around them, but it was not working.

“Honestly, I could do it better.”

This last voice sent ice streaming through Hermione’s arms and legs. She felt almost like a stone statue that was being carted ungracefully around the room as her eyes met those of the latest speaker, their smirk still sitting crooked on their mouth and their eyes smoldering.

“You are a fantastic dancer, Pansy,” the girl next to her said as if in sudden realization.

“I know,” Pansy’s eyes never left the couple, and Hermione could feel them boring through her back. Draco seemed unperturbed.

As the dance ended, after what seemed like a century, Hermione quit Draco’s presence without a word and, ignoring the now less than enthusiastic applause, she made her way to where she saw Ginny sitting alone at a table. Unfortunately, her first impression was completely wrong and by the time she realized it, it was far too late to turn around and make a graceful exit as Harry and Ron had both risen to their feet from where they sat on either side of Ginny. Ginny was frowning.


Ron reached her first, wordlessly thrusting a glass of water into her hands. She looked up at Harry and he tried to smile at her, but Ron shot him a scathing glance.

~*~*~*~*~


After two hours of sitting in the same spot at the same table and staring at the same place on her skirt, Hermione had decided she hated balls. No, not just hated, but loathed. Ron was horrid company. He did not dance. He spent all of his time with a drink of punch in his left hand. Every few moments he would twirl the contents of the glass before tipping it over his lips. His eyes were dark.

Hermione had given into weariness and boredom and folded over the table, her head in her arms tilted away from Ron’s visage. She was on the border of sleep when a large commotion broke out on the dance floor. At first, she did her best to tune out the noise, but eventually the clamor become so forceful she had no choice but to raise her eyes to the scene being made on the dance floor; a scene she was horrified to behold.

On the center of the floor was a raven haired beauty, her limbs encompassing a blonde who’s very posture gave him away. Hermione didn’t look for more than a second and her imagination did the rest for her. She felt as if she was going to be sick. She stood, her chair clattering over sideways behind her. Ron laughed, his gaze never leaving the cup he held before him and the swirling liquid inside it.

“Not such the Prince Charming, is he?” Ron mused. “He seems to prefer Pansy, anyway. That must be quite the blow.” He raised his glass to his lips, smiling slightly.

Hermione felt bitter tears prick at her eyes and took off through the crowd and out the open doors of the entrance hall, onto the lawn. Ron carelessly took one final swig of his drink, wiped his sleeve across his mouth and rose to his feet. He cast a scorn ridden glance at Draco, who was watching Hermione leave, a tortured expression on his face as he tried to get Pansy off of him.

Ron exited the hall in search of Hermione, whom he found beneath a large weeping willow at the edge of the lake. She was sitting on the ground and her knees were pulled up to her chest. He stopped before her, hands in his pockets.

“Explain it to me,” he said softly.

She raised her eyes to meet his, her face expressionless.

“How is it that he was able to break through your walls? What is it that he did that I can’t?”

Hermione shook her head. “Ron, I don’t want to hurt you.”

“Its too late for that,” Ron said in a flat tone.

“I love you like my own brother, Ron,” Hermione insisted, her hands raised imploringly.

Ron grabbed her wrists tightly and pulled her to her feet. He was far too close. She could smell the fruit punch on his breath. His fingers were tight, but almost gentle all at the same time. “I don’t want that kind of love,” he growled. “You just need to be shown what you are missing with him. You think what he gives you is the best it gets, but that isn’t true.” With this proclaimed he pulled her closer against him and had his mouth over hers before she could properly protest.

A million things ran through her head at once, the last of which being that this was wrong. Just wrong. She froze, not knowing what to do. The pressure dissipated before her poor mind could convey the message to push him away.

“I swear to Merlin and all that you hold dear, if you ever touch her again without her permission I will do far worse then cause a temporary link between your face and my fist. I swear to you, you would be a fool to pursue her past this point.”

Hermione sagged against the tree trunk, eyes focused blearily on her savior. He practically blended into the night with his midnight colored robes.

“You see, Hermione?” Ron claimed as he took a large step back from where Draco was now standing before the brunette girl. “He’s violent and he proves it at every turn. One day he will turn around, like the snake he is, and bite you.”

“I’ll show you my fangs,” Draco growled, his fists balling up.

Ron shook his head and centered his eyes on Hermione’s. He had never looked so vulnerable and it broke her heart. He held his hands before him, slightly to the sides, palms up in a beseeching manner. “Hermione,” his voice was a low whisper. “Don’t do this to me. Don’t walk away from me with him. I won’t be able to stand it.”

Hermione said nothing. She turned her head to the side, unwilling to meet his eyes. After a few moments of dead silence she took a steadying breath. “I told you,” she said. “I love you like a brother. I really honestly do. I don’t want to walk away from you in any manner. I just can’t give you what you are looking for.”

“But you can give it to this bastard here?” Ron shouted.

Hermione flinched and Draco instinctively stepped between the two of them. “She’s given you her final word, Weasley. Take it and go. Don’t torment her anymore.”

“What the hell do you care? Why are you even here? Don’t you see, Malfoy? If it wasn’t for you I would be where you are standing! This is entirely your fault and I will never stop hating you for that! If it wasn’t for you I would be exactly where you are standing and she would be telling Harry or some other guy that she loved them like a brother because she was in love with me!”

“That is some vivid imagination you have,” Draco crossed his arms against his chest.

“Isn’t your date missing you?” Ron sneered.

“The wonderful thing about Pansy is that she’s incredibly dense. I’m sure she’s occupied with Crabbe or Goyle at this time and when I go back in she won’t even remember I left.”

Hermione tried to pretend his comment didn’t hit her square in the gut, but it did and she made the mistake of physicalizing that point. Draco turned to face her, and much to Ron’s disapproval, he reached out to take her hand. After he had secured her fingers in his he turned to Ron once more.

“I’m sick of squabbling, Weasley. Hermione told you how she felt about the situation and I am sure that if she ever changes her mind she’ll inform you.” Draco then turned with the intention of leading Hermione through the night and back into the castle where he was going to insist she go up to the common room instead of returning for the last hour of the ball, when Ron stepped forward in one last appeal.

“I’ll tell everyone.”

Draco stalled in his steps. “No one will believe you,” he shook his head.

“I’ll tell them what’s going on between the two of you.”

“Nothing is going on between us, Ron,” Hermione interjected. “Nothing except that Draco seems to be the only person out here who cares about my feelings at all.”

“I do care!” Ron insisted. “That is why I will do everything in my power to keep you from falling into his trap!”

“I’m standing right here. There is no need to talk in such a manner about me.”

“Ron, don’t be absurd! I think someone must have spiked your punch or pumpkin cake or something because you have been acting so strangely all night and I don’t want to be around it anymore! If you want to talk to me in a civilized manner then come find me! You know where I will be!” With that said she turned around and took off for the castle at a run. Draco followed immediately after her.

Ron did not return to ball.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


“I want you to go upstairs. I’ll make your excuses for you if anyone asks and I’ll meet you up there as soon as I can get away.”

Hermione nodded and then looked up at Draco with an odd look on her face. “Thank you,” she said.

He looked away, into the hall where Pansy could be seen dancing between Draco’s old cronies. “I have to talk to you,” he said, swallowing.

“Alright,” she said, prepared to listen.

He turned back to face her, taking her arms above the elbows. “Not here. I’ll come upstairs. I’ll meet you.”

“Alright,” Hermione said shakily as she started up the stairs. “I’ll meet you there then.”

Draco didn’t make his way into the common room for another hour and a half. When he finally did appear it was very late and Hermione was curled up on the couch half asleep. He touched her shoulder gently as he walked into the dark common room. She stood and he took her hand, forcing her to follow him up the stairs and into this room where he began to strip off his heavy cloak and jacket.

“I hope you don’t mine but I am so hot in these clothes.”

Hermione shook her head and uncomfortably sat on the edge of Draco’s bed as he bustled about his room. She was silent.

“What are you thinking about?” he asked.

“Your father’s elf meant to kidnap me,” she said slowly.

Draco slammed the door to his closet. “Yes.”

“Why? Why did he send one of his servants after me and what happened when you got there to get Ginny back?”

“Its been almost two weeks,” he said. “Let it go.”

“I was almost kidnapped by your maniacal father!” her voice rose. “My best friend was! Aren’t you the least bit concerned?”

“You sound like my mother,” he said under his breath as he turned away.

Excuse me?!“ she hissed to his retreating back. “Face me, you coward.”

Draco’s entire body stiffened. He slowly, very slowly, turned to regard her. “Don’t you ever call me a coward.”

Hermione’s eyes flared. “I’ll call you whatever it pleases me to call you. Explain yourself. What do you mean by ‘you sound like my mother‘?”

The wind wooshed out of Draco’s sails in one fell swoop. His focus fell to the ground between them. “You care too much for those who don’t deserve it,” he said in a hoarse voice. A deep throaty whisper. “You see things in people that no one else sees.” His eyes met hers and her heart hammered in her throat. “I’m sorry. Sometimes you just remind me of her. The similarities can be distressing.”

Hermione was distressed alright. “You think I am like Narcissa Malfoy?” she breathed in disbelief.

“No,” Draco stepped closer. “I think you are like my mother. Narcissa Malfoy is a façade that a very lost woman is forced to wear by a man she thinks she is in love with.”

“So you think I’m lost.” She was having difficulties breathing.

He reached a hand to her face and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “Sometimes,” he admitted. “Sometimes its like you don’t know whether to curse me or kiss me.”

“Sometimes you’re right,” she smiled only she was terrified. They were talking about kissing… did that mean they were acknowledging that some sort of relationship existed between them? They both knew it was there but they had never actually spoken of it. “So you think that I wear a façade?”

“I know you do,” he answered.

“No, I don’t,” she protested.

“We both do,” he said. “You walk around every day pretending that you don’t feel something for me and I walk around pretending I don’t feel anything for you. You pretend you’re happy and I know you’re not.”

Hermione felt like she was dreaming. “You feel something for me?” she squeaked.

He rolled his eyes. “Sometimes frustration, sometimes anger, sometimes I want to throw you against a wall and brain you with your own dance shoe,” she laughed and he leveled his eyes to hers “and sometimes I want just as much to be like we were that night you told me your secret. Or the night you woke up from a nightmare to find me there. Sometimes.”

Hermione’s breath caught in her throat.

“I told you once that I was selfish, and its true. You would never guess how hard it is for me to deal with Weasley. But the selfishness does not end there. I’ve been horrible to you. Not just in the years before this one, but recently as I pushed you away because I was terrified of what you made me feel. I’ve been cold and distant and mean when I want nothing but to be the opposite. And with you I feel almost as if I could be. I can’t stop thinking about what you did for me, when I had the flu. How you sat there with me the whole time. I can’t help but to think I wouldn’t have it in me to care for someone like that.”

Hermione’s eyes closed. “I don’t know,” she admitted. Maybe he didn’t have it in him. But that idea bothered her far less than it should have. “Draco-” she started, but his lips cut her off.

“I’m sorry I punched your friend,” he said against her skin.

She shivered. “I’m not.”

He grinned against her mouth. “Alright, I’m not either.”

She allowed her hands to trail up his arms and clamp behind his neck as he swept her off her feet and she found herself buried in the sheets of his bed, his mouth moving over her silently.





Chapter 19: Of the Death of a Loved One and Isabella the Unfortunate
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A.N.: For all of you who make graphics and are a fan of this story, please visit my website (link on my author's page).


This was it. This was the moment she had been unknowingly yearning for all along. This was the place where she found Eden: his arms.

Draco’s sheets were not silk, they were not 600 thread count Egyptian cloth. They were black as midnight. They were cool and slippery against her back. They were wound around her legs.

Draco’s skin was luminescent in the dark. He was not white, he wasn’t really even a color. He was transparent and made up more of a glow than a solid shade. As she trailed her fingers down his chest and over his navel she tried to decide on the hue of his skin, but could not. He caught her fingers as they neared the hem of his black slacks, which had remained on his body the entire time.

“Don’t do that,” he scolded.

She smiled slightly. “Are you ticklish?”

He scowled at her as his fingers tightened around hers. “Of course not.”

She shook her head. “Despite the fact that I can’t imagine the great Malfoy Dragon having such a weakness, I think you are.”

“Try to find out and I will eat you like the dragon I am,” he grinned.

She stilled, allowing her head to fall onto his chest. His arms tightened around her. “This is a little disorientating,” she admitted softly.

“I like it,” he said.

“You like me being disorientated?”

“I like you here in my arms in my bed with my sheets wound around you and your hair all over my pillows and that adorable shy smile on your face,” he said as he tugged her dress straps back over her shoulders.

Hermione blushed profusely. “Oh,” she said meekly.

He shifted, her head falling off his chest and onto the bed. He loomed over her, his bangs falling across his eyes. “If anyone should be disoriented its me,” he said. “You’re everything I’ve been taught to hate and yet I find myself desiring nothing more than your company or contact between our skins. I find this coiling beast in the pits of my stomach that unfurls angrily any time other men walk around you or look at you. Especially that redhead git,” he turned away from her, seemingly entranced by their reflections in his mirror.

She placed a hand on his cheek and turned his face back to hers. “We must be careful and not let anyone see us together,” she warned him. “Your describing dangerous things.”

“Nothing could be more dangerous than this,” he whispered into her lips.

“Promise me, Draco,” she said.

“I promise you,” he captured her lips again. After a moment he added, “What am I promising?”

She moaned softly. “Promise me you won’t let anyone see us. They won’t accept us. They won’t understand.”

“I promise,” he sighed.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


Hermione awoke the next morning alone in Draco’s bed. His door was open and the sounds of water running echoed to her from down the hall. She went to turn over and found her head lurched with the motion. She instantly felt as if she was going to throw up.

As she struggled into a sitting position, her head hanging over the edge of the bed, Draco strode back into the room, a towel wound around his lower half and water dripping from the ends of his hair. “Are you alright?” he asked, concern lacing his tone.

She pushed her hair from her face as she stood. “Yah,” she said in a vague tone. “I just feel a little funny. I’m sure after I eat something I will be fine.”

Draco nodded, quelling the overprotective urge that surged through him as she staggered to the door and then into her own room.

As she closed the door behind her the urge to retch became unbearable and she vomited all over the floor. She slid down the door, reaching for her wand and tipping it off the end of the bureau as she met the ground. She waved it shakily, the mess disappearing instantly. She felt horrid. Getting dressed in her school uniform was a battle that she just barely won. Getting down to the Great Hall to eat a breakfast she could not imagine eating was a war she almost lost. By the time she sat down at the table she was seeing double. She picked up what she thought was a fork, splitting her palm wide open by the sharp blade of a knife. She watched in mild fascination as the red liquid gushed from her palm, but she was not conscious of anything around her.

“Dear Merlin she’s sliced open her palm!” someone yelled.

“She looks like she’s going to faint!” that was Ginny.

“Grab her!” Harry commanded.

Someone reached for her and there was a mumbled curse. “Damnit! She’s still holding the knife!”

“Get it out of her hands then,” Ginny impatiently instructed.

The edges of Hermione’s vision was going dark.

“What’s going on?” she heard Draco.

“None of your business, Malfoy,” she recognized this voice as Colin Creevy.

“You’re bleeding, Creevy,” Draco informed him.

“It doesn’t matter. I’ll take her down to the infirmary.” She was swept off her feet in an instant. The joggling motion sparked the familiar nauseous urge in her stomach and, unable to control it in her state, she threw up again. She was unconscious the moment after.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


“What happened to her?”

“Madame Pomfrey said its the flu.”

“You think she caught it from Malfoy?”

“That’s the obvious choice.”

“But why was she so disorientated? That’s not characteristic of just a bout of the flu,” Harry’s deep voice was laced with concern.

“I don’t know, Harry,” Ginny responded in a tight whisper. “Malfoy was really out of it.”

The sheets on this bed were scratchy. She was freezing. The air was light; clean smelling. Through her closed eyelids she could see white.

“But what about Colin?” Ginny asked. “He was fine until he got here. Madame Pomfrey healed his hand, he should be as good as new.”

“He doesn’t look good, does he?” Harry answered vaguely.

What was wrong with Colin? She tightened her hands into fists, an uncomfortable pulling resulting in her left palm. She groaned and Ginny’s cold hands were instantly on her face.

“Hermione! You’re awake! Merlin you gave us a scare!”

Hermione’s eye blinked open, the afternoon light pooling in through the windows burning her retinas. She gave another small whimper of discomfort as she tried to assess the damages. It took a moment for her eyes to focus on the infirmary bed hangings that surrounded her.

“Madame Pomfrey healed your hand right up, but she thinks you’ve caught the flu. So much for never getting sick,” Ginny smiled.

“I never get sick,” she protested. “I’m not sick.”

“Whatever you say, Hermione,” Ginny rolled her eyes. “You were so out of it this morning that you split your hand open without realizing it and then threw up all over Colin Creevy and Harry here and then passed out.”

Hermione looked to Harry with an apologetic expression and he waved his hand in dismissal. “What about Ron?” she croaked.

Ginny and Harry looked sufficiently uncomfortable for a moment before Harry said, “He said he and Malfoy got into it last night. He tore up our dorm room; shattered a lamp and almost broke the tiling in the bathroom sink. He wouldn’t give details but he painted you a bunch of nasty colors and then told me I was not allowed to talk about you to him or around him. He didn’t even bother coming down to breakfast this morning. He’s furious with you. What happened between him and Malfoy last night?”

Ginny, who exhibited a bit more tact than Harry did, changed the subject. “What happened last night? Were you out in the cold air? Something must have happened to trigger the flu bug.” Little did she know that the subject of what had happened last night was no better then the one to do with Draco and Ron.

Hermione tried to push herself into a sitting position. “Where’s Draco?”

“No idea,” Ginny settled on the edge of the bed. “I saw him lurking on the other side of the Great Hall as Colin carried you down to the infirmary.”

“I’m right here,” his voice was the most soothing medicine she could ever ask for. He rushed from the infirmary door to her side, kneeling on the ground next to the bed. He took her hand. “I’m sorry it took so long for me to get here and I’m sorry I couldn’t bring you here myself.”

“Its not your fault. I understand,” she said as she allowed herself to settle back into the pillows.

“Oh look, Prince Charming has dismounted from his great white steed to grace us with his joyful presence,” Ginny sarcastically muttered as she left Hermione’s side, a bit of a smile twitching on her face.

Draco turned to Ginny and Harry, and in a very uncharacteristic moment said, “Thank you for staying with her.”

Ginny almost smiled at him. Harry frowned and crossed his arms against his chest. “Perhaps you’ll tell us what she will not. What happened between you and Ron?”

Draco, without even missing a beat, replied, “Weasley decided manners were no longer important and that it was not required to have a woman’s permission before touching them.”

“My brother did what?!” Ginny shrieked.

“Draco, please,” Hermione said in a low voice.

“Weasley confronted Hermione on the grounds during the ball and I was forced to step in.”

Harry divested this information slowly, turning his back from the bed and towards the still figure of Colin Creevy.

“Are you sure your all right? Your white as a sheet,” Draco said, concern laced throughout his words.

“I’m fine. Should you really be here?”

He ignored her. “You have a fever too,” he added as his hand softly trailed across her forehead. “Your eyes are dilated and puffy.”

“Thank you, Doctor Malfoy,” Hermione ground out. “Should you really be in here?”

“Until someone comes in and I have to hide, yes,” he replied.

“Draco, I think Hermione’s point is valid. Its not a good idea for you to be seen in here. Not if the two of you are attempting to keep it a secret that you’ve been romantic with each other.”

Draco’s head whipped around so fast Hermione imagined she heard it crack. “What did you say?” Draco said as he slowly uncoiled from the ground.

“Oh please, Draco,” Ginny waved a hand at him. “Its positively scrawled across both of your faces and the way you are looking at each other now. I’m no idiot.”

Draco took a step towards the red head. “Please, Ginny. Keep your overly perceptive mind turned away from the ideas you’ve just stated. Keep them to yourself.”

Ginny smiled. “No one would believe me anyways.”

“Draco, please, what if someone walks in?” Hermione grabbed his hand.

“Stop fretting. If anyone gets to fret it’s me.” He picked up her hand, examining her palm. “I don’t understand how this thing just suddenly manifested itself. You were fine last night.”

Harry snorted in the background.

“Shut up, Potter,” Draco shot over his shoulder.

“Madame Pomfrey thinks she’s caught the flu bug, you know, the one you so graciously exposed her to.”

“Then why hasn’t the old bat given her a healing draught? Why is she suffering in the middle of a blasted magical infirmary?”

“She hasn’t had a chance just yet with Creevy over there moaning and groaning every ten minutes,” Ginny said.

A low moan erupted from the bed across the room. Its occupant thrashed violently, the white sheets rippling as if a monster was beneath them. Madame Pomfrey rushed out of her office and Draco quickly ducked below the other side of the bed, out of Madame Pomfrey’s view.

“What’s going on?” Hermione asked after she realized her head felt far too heavy to lift from the pillow. Ginny’s expression was not helping the overwhelming feeling of foreboding that crept through her body.

“Colin is just proving my point,” Ginny said softly. She tried to keep the worry from her voice but failed.

“Merlin what is going on!?” The elderly healer’s voice rang through the high windowed room. “The boy is bleeding!” Madame Pomfrey turned and bellowed for her small assistant to come quickly. A spritely woman scuttled across the room a second before Madame Pomfrey drew the curtains around the bed shut and there was a long drawn out male scream.

Draco’s fingers tightened around Hermione’s and she scrunched her eyes tightly against the noise of the commotion.

“Well,” Ginny cleared her throat as silence began to drift across the room a few minutes later.

The curtains were abruptly pulled back and the small pixie-like woman who aided Madame Pomfrey went scuttling across the floor, one of her hands cradled against her stomach, blood trailing down her white smock and onto the floor. Behind her Madame Pomfrey was muttering; “Clumsy girl! There’s enough blood from the patient without you adding your own to the pot!”

“Blood?” Hermione squeaked.

“He cut himself on the knife you were holding this morning,” Harry offered as an explanation but Ginny shook her head.

“Madame Pomfrey healed that when he first got here; before the fever set in. This must be something different. Something Madame Pomfrey can’t heal.”

“Can’t heal?” Draco asked from his hiding spot.

“It must be magical then,” Ginny continued. “Whatever is wrong with Colin must have to do with magic or a healing spell or draught would have taken care of the problem. And whatever it is it must be something-”

“Isabel prepare the floo! We must get this boy to St. Mungo’s! I can’t stop the bleeding and his fever is far too high!”

Hermione decided her head wasn’t worth it and forced herself to sit upright. What she saw was haunting. Madame Pomfrey had left the curtains open, leaving a clear view of the teenage boy who was convulsing on the hospital bed. The sheets were splotched with red and from where Hermione sat it looked as if he was crying blood tears. He had bit his lip as he thrashed and blood was streaming over his chin and trickling down the side of his neck. His fingers were white from where he grasped the sides of the bed. His face was puce, his eyes yellow. Not a sunny yellow, or a lemon-happy-yellow, but the color of parchment after it has sat in the elements for a long time, unprotected from the damages of time. His face was sunken and his expression pained. He screamed again and blood bubbled over his lips. He convulsed one final time before lying still on the bed. He was dead before they could wheel his bed to the fireplace.

~*~*~*~*~*~


“I don’t understand what happened.”

“Everything will be okay, I promise.”

“What could have happened to him? Who could do that to someone? What’s going on Draco?” Hermione sat with her face buried in Draco’s shirt as he rocked her back and forth gently while she sobbed her heart out. He ‘shh’ed her every once in awhile and ran his fingers gently over her hair, but all she could do was hiccup in reply. There was no misery quite like this. He had been there just two hours ago. 120 minutes. 7,200 seconds. His body was probably still warm, wherever it was. Colin Creevy; dead. She just couldn’t process it. After Madame Pomfrey had pronounced him to be deceased she had distractedly given Hermione a draught and packed her safely into the arms of Draco, whom she had tripped over as she approached the bed. She hadn’t even stayed to see if it worked before rushing to call the Headmaster. Ginny, Harry, Draco, and Hermione had been sequestered for the night under the demand of the headmaster to not tell anyone what they knew. They were to wallow, alone, in their grief until a way was found to tell the school body that an otherwise healthy student had suddenly died an unusual, painful, bloody death.

Ginny, unable to stay silent and pretend everything was alright in the Gryffindor common room and still numb from the entire course of events, was wandering through the infirmary shortly after Hermione had been released into Draco’s care when she had stumbled across the small fairy-woman curled into a dark corner of the room, tears streaming down her cheeks. The redhead, emotionally unstable as it was, sank to the floor next to the healer in training and wiped the tears from her face with her fingers, trying to comfort the woman and alleviate her guilt, but there was no remedy to be found for such a wound. Guilt was a poison that ate away at one’s soul.

“Its all my fault,” Isabella sighed. “Its all my fault!”

“How is this possibly your fault?” Ginny wondered as she admired the slight woman’s fine features. She had never met the woman before tonight. Her reaction was puzzling.

“Its my fault the boy died. Me and my clumsiness!” The woman moaned in self loathing. “I always mess up! I always do! If I hadn’t sliced my fingers open on the edge of the goblet-” she held up her bandaged fingers as proof.

Ginny took the young woman’s hands in her own and leveled with her. “I used to be like, you know. It took me a long time to realize that not everything was my fault. Especially in a situation like this. You did not kill Colin Creevy. Some sort of spell or rotten magical food or something killed him, not you slicing your fingers open on his goblet.”

Isabella was comforted by the words, and looked up to the girl with a small glimmer of hope in her eyes. There was a sudden ‘POP’ that caused the two of them to glance about the room, but after not seeing any immediate danger they sunk back into their grief together. Sadness has that effect, acting as a blanket to our senses and dulling our abilities to sense danger.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~



“Begun it has, Master.”

The room was ornate. Silver. Wrought black iron. A desk sat at one end, a fireplace on the wall to the right. At the desk sat a sallow looking man, a small grin twitching on his face. “Tell me,” Lucius drawled to the small house elf, who was shaking like a leaf. “Who was it? Was it the mudblood Granger?”

“It was a young boy, Colin Creevy, Master.”

Lucius froze. “A young boy?” His fingers wrapped around the edge of his desk. The smile disappeared. “How did this happen? How did it skip the mudblood?”

“Excuse Jake, Master,” the house elf continued, “but Jake believes the boy was not the only sick one. There was a girl in the hospital wing too, Jake saw her,” Jake nodded as if to prove his own story was truth. “And Jake saw another woman before he came here I the infirmary and Jake saw that she was crying. She cut herself while tending to the Creevy and they shared blood. Yes, Jake thinks there are more sick people in Hogwarts.”

Lucius took his seat once again, calm coming over his face. “Of course,” he said thoughtfully. “It could not be an immediate thing and if what you say is true then it will continue to spread. Soon Hogwarts will be infested and they won’t have any idea what has hit them. I will punish my son and all those born who think they are worthy to hold the title “witch” or “wizard” who are not.” At that moment Gustave sauntered into the room. He looked from the quivering elf to Lucius and smiled.

“Good news?” he asked as he took a seat, the couch groaning beneath his weight.

“Most wonderful,” Lucius concurred as he flipped his hand, dismissing the house elf from his presence.

The house elf exited with a loud ‘POP’ as Gustave allowed a smile to cross his cheeks. “The plan is working then?”

“Everything is going well. The first death occurred today. Some boy named ‘Cheevy’ or ‘Cheasy’,” Lucius confirmed. “It will only be a matter of time before I exact my revenge.”

Gustave grinned. “In the meantime you may wish to take a peeksie outside the study door. I do believe your lady-wife has assumed a post there and has overheard many conversations such as this.”

Lucius flew to the door with a roar, throwing it open and pulling the startled woman into the room. He threw her onto the fireplace hearth where her head bounced against the stone and she lay motionless. Lucius, upon seeing the still figure stopped in his movement. He regarded her for a moment before turning from her prone figure with a look of disgust. “I’ll deal with her later when she is in a state to remember it.”

“Shall I watch over her?” The glint in Gustave’s eye was entirely unfriendly as he raked his gaze over the woman.

“No, we need to get dressed, Gustave. Very soon there will be an inquiry at the Ministry and all the important people will be beckoned forth. We must look our best.” He strode from the room, stepping across his wife’s still body as he went.


Chapter 20: Of the Eulogy for a Black and The End of a Rope
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Author’s Note: Hello all my faithful ones. I wish you all to know how grateful I am that you have been with the adventure this far. There are a few housekeeping items I wished to highlight for you:
1) Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for the immense enthusiasm you all show to this story. Your reviews and dedication are heartwarming and I thank you for all of the time you spend writing them for me.
2) My website is being revamped and will very soon be housing some goodies for you who have been pestering me about taking graphic requests again. Surprise!!
3) I am a little sad to announce it; but there are only five more chapters left to this story. We will be ending at a nice even twenty five chapters.
4) But there is good news!! The Forsaken Ones will be making its debut when the twenty fifth chapter is posted. What is The Forsaken Ones you say? Well, many of you have been acquainted with it before, but if you have not; you are in for quite a thrill. If I may take a moment to toot my own horn; it’s the best piece of work to ever come from me to you and it has almost two years of life behind it already. If you thought this story was twisted…. Oh just you wait.

Please enjoy my loves.


~*~*~*~*~*~



When Narcissa came to there was a warm trickle running down her forehead. She pushed herself into a sitting position, her hair hanging limply over her face. It took a moment for her to realize she was on the floor of her husband’s study and then a cold dread pummeled through her veins. Her heart seized and her hand flew to her mouth. Her husband was killing children.

A child was dead and her husband was responsible.

Unable to help herself Narcissa gagged. She fought the urge to throw up, choking on her own fluids as she forced them back down. She struggled into an upright position and staggered towards his desk, sending papers flying everywhere.

Lucius had found her. He knew she had been listening at the doors. He knew she was aware of his plan. She knew he had engineered a super virus with the intent of murdering mudbloods. He wanted to be back in the Dark Lord’s graces but it would never happen. Never. He was murdering children!

Narcissa flew towards the study door, wanting nothing more than to escape from this dark room. He had killed her house elves. He had threatened her life. He had tormented their son. He had infected their child with a murderous disease.

Narcissa’s legs gave out beneath her as she ran down the hall and she fell forwards, knocking a large vase to the floor. It met the ground with a loud noise and then skittered about the hallway, porcelain shards surrounding her. She extended her hands in an abrupt reflexive action and pieces dug into her skin. She cried out in pain and rolled onto her back, grasping her hands to her chest. She arched her body in agony as her spine met the ruined vase. She lay there for a moment, hot tears streaming from the corners of her eyes and into her hair.

How had she gotten here?

In one bleak moment of realization Narcissa saw her final path stretch before her. She pushed herself up from the hallway floor while taking a deep breath. With this breath she drew in just enough courage to complete this one last task. There was no satisfaction in living if one learned nothing from the roads one traveled. Narcissa did not wish to die a waste of human flesh. She would accomplish something from her time in this world. Her son could not hide from her, his mother; a woman, how he felt about the girl he lived with. Narcissa grabbed her cloak from the chair next to her bed and stepped towards her fireplace.

Her final moments on this earth would matter. She would not disappear like the mist.

~*~*~*~*~


Hermione was lying on the common room couch, her eyes half closed. Something was terribly wrong with her. There was a dull ache that penetrated to the very marrow of her bones. She was aware of every centimeter of her body, for every centimeter was on fire. Draco had left her side only a moment ago to see what was happening outside; in the world of Hogwarts, and she was already shivering from cold. She pulled the blanket closer around her and realized the bandage she wore around her hand was hanging miserably from one side of her palm. The wound was bleeding. It looked as if it had just been inflicted. She sat upright, the blanket falling away, as she grabbed her wrist, holding the bloody wound before her.

With a sense of mild fear she walked slowly to the kitchen, her eyes never leaving the slice in her palm. She turned the faucet in their small kitchen on and allowed warm water to flow over the cut. She hissed. The water felt like thousands of tiny daggers.

There was a sudden loud bang from the common room and Hermione whipped aroud, fear seizing her heart. As she turned bloody water flew from her hand and splattered against the wall and across the tile floor. Her eyes widened in disbelief as a tall, lean, blonde woman stood from the hearth and stepped ueasily into the room. She hugged her cloak tightly about her.

“Narcissa Malfoy?” Hermione asked in disbelief.

“Hermione Granger,” Narcissa rushed forward and Hermione scuttled away, placing the table between them. “Where is my son?” Her eyes were watery and her arms were sliced open from her palms to her elbows.

“He’s not here,” Hermione sputtered. “You’re bleeding.”

Narcissa seemed to be entirely unaware of her injuries. Her shoulders suddenly sagged in defeat and her entire demeanor collapsed in on itself. “You must tell him for me,” she sniffed. “You must tell him that I love him and I will always watch over him.”

“Mrs. Malfoy,” Hermione started, entirely unsure of how to address the woman standing before her. “Are you alright?”

Narcissa gave a small whimper, as if she was swallowing her tears and then turned her back from Hermione. “Listen to me,” she said. “Do not ever let anyone tell you who you are.” She quickly strode towards the fireplace and then wheeled around once again as if she wanted to say more, her eyes riveted on Hermione’s.

Hermione found her skin crawling as she gazed back at the woman. There was no way to define the sheer dread in her eyes. The hollowness. They were flat and lifeless, black as night in their despair. “Never let anyone tell you what you must become, Hermione Granger,” the blonde woman said as she reached into her pocket. “People will come in and out of your life like the wind. Hold on to the ones you love. Don’t ever doubt that love. Your heart knows better than your mind, for it is not plagued by what it hears people say should be and should not be. If you love than it is real and it is the truest and most wonderful thing you can ever hold on this earth. Don’t ever be someone you will regret when the day comes for you to breathe your last.” Narcissa threw a handful of powder into the fireplace and it roared to life. “Tell my son I love him,” she said in a shallow whisper. “Tell him not to fear those words. I know they are what he fears even beyond being forced to join the ranks of the death eaters. I blame myself for this. It is the most unknown notion to him, it is hard for him to comprehend and he may get frustrated at times. But, Hermione Granger, tell him its okay to love and to say it.”

“But Narcissa - he will be back any moment just wait-” she tried to say. But Narcissa was gone.

Hermione sat on the couch, her mind frozen.

“Tell my son it is okay to love and to say it.”

She was shivering again and the blood from her hand was trickling unchecked over her knee and down her pant leg. The air in the room was so cold.

“Don’t ever be someone you will regret when the day comes for you to breathe your last.”

Hermione found she was crying and she didn’t know why. Draco came back in the room sometime later to find her still sitting in the same spot, tears streaming down her face. Draco set the plates of food he had gotten from the Great Hall down on the kitchen counter and then was at her side, pulling her into his arms where she continued to sob. He rocked her back and forth, repeatedly asking her what was the matter, if anything hurt, if she was too cold or too warm, if she needed more of the pain relieving draught they had been given from the infirmary. All she could do was grasp his shirt front tightly and hang on as if he was the only thing keeping her from falling over the edge of some great precipice. The bleak resignation in his mother’s eyes haunted her vision; it was all she could see. Her words echoed in the room was all she could hear. She couldn’t bring herself to tell him she had been here. She couldn’t tell him her advice about loving or being yourself. She couldn’t tell him then.

Her was gently stroking her arm when he realized she was bleeding. He jumped to his feet, pulling her with him, practically picking her up, and brought her to the sink. He turned the water on and forced her to rinse the cut out and then he took the hand towel next to the sink and wrapped her hand tightly within it. She was standing there next to the counter when he turned his back and her legs gave out on her. He couldn’t turn cak to catch her in time and she knocked the side of her head on the countertop. In desperation he fell to the floor with her in his arms, completely at a loss as to what to do. After a few moments her breathing began to slow once again and the stream of tears became a steady trickle instead of a waterfall. She hiccupped into his shoulder and he gently rubbed her back, his mind racing to discover the source of her distress.

“Tell me about your mother,” she rasped.

“My mother?” He asked in surprise. “Tell me what’s wrong first. Where does it hurt? Are you alright?”

She shook her head. “Tell me about your mother,” she said again.

“Mother,” he started. “I don’t think she wanted me to know about her past, but I found her diaries in the lower keep of the castle when I was young. I-I . . .after I read them I wasn’t ever able to look at my father the same way again,” he admitted. “Her story was not what I had expected, nor was she the person I had thought. It forced me to reevaluate my entire family. I suspect hearing the story in her own words is why I became so attached to the idea of protecting her. I almost saw her as a vulnerable girl-child.” Draco cleared his throat and from where Hermione’s head rest on his chest she could feel his heart thudding. The last thing Draco wanted in the entire world was to tell her this story, but the look in her eyes and the lilt of her voice was something he could not refuse. If this was what she said she wanted, he would do it.

“Mother met my father at Hogwarts. They were in their fifth year when he finally noticed that she was alive, and he took her to the end of the year ball. My father was a different man then; he wasn’t a deatheater.” He took a deep breath. “She wanted to be a healer, but gave it up once she married my father. The diary said she no longer saw any point in it, her life was the opposite from the one a healer lived. It was against the principles, and besides, my father would not allow her to hold any job or commit to any studying.

“From what pictures I have seen she was beautiful. They had friends who were loyal to them and led almost normal lives. Except, my father’s family was so deeply immersed in the dark arts that he really knew nothing else. His father left him no choice in who he was to become. The Dar-…Voldemort-was not very powerful back then, but my grandfather believed wholeheartedly in his ideas and it cost him his life. I was told Voldemort killed him himself, but I doubt any Malfoy has ever been that important to him. He pushed my father to also pledge his allegiance to the Dark Lord. My father had his own opinions on what made a proper wizard - none of which entirely respectful, but certainly not on my grandfather's par - but they were very soon beaten out of him. The man Mother had fallen in love with began to dwindle away before her eyes until there was hardly a man left to love at all. He gave into his father and vowed his allegiance to Voldemort.

Draco looked down at her, to see how she was taking this information and then continued. “Every deatheater is given an initiation task before he receives the deathmark and is allowed in Voldemort’s inner circle; my father’s was to kill my mother.”

Hermione groaned as if in great pain. “I don’t understand,” she whispered. “Your mother is alive. Your father is a death eater.”

“Emotional ties make you useless to Voldemort,” he said in a soft voice, his eyes towards the fireplace on the other side of the room.

“What did your father do?” Hermione pressed.

“He told her to meet him in a secret place, where his plan was to kill her.” He met her eyes.

He was going to do it?” she asked, appalled. “Didn’t he love her?”

She loved him. She loved him with every ounce of being in her body. But he no longer knew what love was. He was driven by desire - to please The Dark Lord -to please his dead father - but never for himself. Never for my mother. She met him in the place he asked her to, the place where they had met, where he had first kissed her. Right here in the gardens of Hogwarts and he cursed her.”

The words seemed to flow out of his mouth as if he was just facing what had happened, like he had been told the story, but then put it in the back of his mind and pretended he never knew. She could see the pain in his face.

“The curse backfired and at first he believed that he had in fact killed her because she lay immobile on the ground. Her diaries say that she still isn’t sure what happened next, suddenly her mind was simply filled with a black void; everything was dark. She couldn’t see around her and she cried out his name: yelling for him to come and pull her out of the pain and the dark but he didn’t answer. I don’t know what he did, whether he stood over her, wondering what curse to use next, or if he walked away and felt guilty and returned. I believe that it was the former, but either way, when my mother finally could crawl from the darkness, she was lying on her back and felt as if she had just woke up from a deep sleep. He was standing over her, an unidentifiable expression on his face. She began to cry. ‘Do you love me at all, Lucius?!’ She said that he couldn’t meet her eyes, and all she could do was believe that some part of him wasn’t dead. Some part of the man she loved was not dead. But I don’t believe my father was ever a kind man. I don’t believe he ever loved anyone but himself.” He took a deep breath again.

“Mother says that it was the curse that aged her so very much more than she really is. She says it’s the curse that attaches her to my father; to the life she leads. She can’t escape, Hermione. She couldn’t then, she didn’t have the strength to leave him, and she can‘t now. Instead she went with him and received her own deathmark, believing somewhere in her heart that he still loved her and there is absolutely no escape for her.”

“You’re mother is a deatheater too?” Hermione whispered.

“Only because she believed she loved my father. She still loves him, you know.” He gritted his teeth. “Even though he did all those things to her, all those things to me. . .” His eyes clouded over as he recalled the memories. Hermione reached for his cheek, his mother‘s words ringing in her head. “For awhile, I loved him too. Any child is born loving their parents, but he constantly pushed me. Nothing was good enough. Nothing. I couldn’t have friends. I had to be the perfect son and I had to embrace the dark arts. It was so much easier to simply pretend I had no opinion; that I wanted exactly what he was telling me I wanted, then to fight. I guess I just broke inside and couldn’t fight. I became like him while trying to fight to not be like him. Just as he became like my grandfather while trying not to.” He laughed wryly. “He cursed me too . . .when he cursed mother. He bound me to him as effectively as he did her.”

“You aren’t bound to anyone you do not wish to be bound to,” Hermione said softly into his neck as his arms wrapped tightly around her. “No one can tell you what you are to be.”

“You’re too innocent to understand,” he said into her hair. “I have fought him for some time now and I know that I am not winning. One day he will get the better of me and I won’t know where it came from.” He pulled her as tightly against him as was physically possible and his eyes closed. “Oh Merlin, Hermione, I don’t want to walk the same path he did.”



~*~*~*~*~*~


Narcissa fell across the hearth of her own bedroom with a startled sob. The room was vacant. Despite the fact that this was her sanctuary, she knew she was not safe. He would come home soon and then he would come for her. It was time.

Her heart ached. She wished she had less regrets than she did. She wished she did not love him as she did. Narcissa mechanically walked to her bed and began to strip the sheets off of it. If she had been allowed to possess a wand this would take only a matter of seconds, but Lucius had stripped her of this privilege years ago.

Once the bed was naked she took the sheet and twisted it into a long chord, which she then tied unto it’s self so that it was tightly secured to the wooden beam above the bed and one end hung limply down towards the floor.

Narcissa sat on the edge of the mattress and tried to stop her hands from shaking so violently. This feeling; this rush that was running through her veins, was euphoric. For the first time in over thirty years she was going to do something that was all her own. She was going to create a masterpiece; a piece of art that was entirely hers. Narcissa walked to her dresser and selected a jet black ribbon, which she then used to tie her hair behind her head. She powdered her face, removing all signs of distress. Once her inner ugliness was not reflected in the mirror she took a steadying breath and put her chin in the air. She was the daughter of the great family Black. She was part of something much larger than this.

There was a commotion in the hallway which signaled that the moment had arrived. Someone had stumbled across the broken vase and the trail of blood leading away from it.

She returned to the bed as Lucius’s voice echoed outside of her door. He was coming. She grabbed the end of the sheet and smiled at it. She closed her eyes, wrapping it tightly around her neck before climbing atop the mattress and extending her arms slowly out and to the sides. She stood there for a moment. Lucius was demanding that the house elf before him move and open the door to her room.

“Oh, my Lucius,” she sighed. “I won’t live in your senseless hate any longer.” There was a loud squeal and the door knob rattled. Narcissa closed her eyes and took a step forward, then all was Black.

Lucius blasted the door down with his wand and strode into the room, thunder riding in behind him. Gustave stood at the door, unavoidable shock on his large unpleasant face.

“Narcissa,” Lucius snarled as his eyes fell on the body of his wife. She was beautiful in a way no one had ever noticed as she created her own peaceful rhythm. But Narcissa did not hear him; she had escaped.



Chapter 21: Of Black Satin Ribbon and Cold White Ice
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“Hermione, are you feeling well enough to go to the dance studio?” Draco asked as they stood from the kitchen floor.

She took a moment to assess her body and then nodded. “I just feel a little achy --- a bit shaky even. Maybe dancing it off would be a good idea.”

He nodded. “I’ll meet you down there then.” He watched her make her way slowly to the staircase to change and couldn’t help but feel worried. “Are you sure you can make it there on your own alright?”

“I’ll be fine,” she called over her shoulder as she made her way slowly up to her room. “I’ll be there in just a moment.”

Draco, who was already wearing loose clothes, grabbed his dance bag from the corner of the common room where he usually left it and set out the portrait hole. He hated this sneaking around. He knew it was what she wanted and in the long run it was sensible and really the only choice they had, but she was sick and he was worried she should not be walking around the hallways at night alone.

He reached the studio, threw down his bag, and started warming up. If she wasn’t here in five minutes he would go looking for her, he promised himself. Five minutes flew past in a blur and before he had enough time to bolster himself in panic she was walking through the door, a slight smile on her face.

“You made it,” he said as he walked towards her.

She smiled, casting him a puzzled expression. “Of course,” she said. “I’m stiff, goodness knows. I need to warm up before we start.”

Draco nodded, took her hand, and led her towards the center of the room. She gracefully sat on the floor and he kneeled before her. “Give me your foot,” he said. She extended her foot forward, leaning back on her hands as he put the bottom of her shoe to his stomach. “Alright take my hands,” he commanded. “Contract the muscle. Extend and then loosen. Go on, do it.” She did as she was commanded. When he was satisfied that her legs had been stretched thoroughly he moved behind her. “Put your arms in the air,” he said. Again she did as she was told and he tugged and pulled and bent her every which way. It was not until fifteen minutes of this had passed by that he let her go. She fell back on the floor with a huff.

“I feel like pudding,” she said.

He laughed. “Better pudding than pulling a muscle and not being able to dance your final jury.”

Talking about final juries set her immediately on edge. She sat up, pulling her legs tightly to her chest, which was still feeling rather tight and compressed. “Juries…” she whispered.

Draco knelt before her, placing a hand on her kneecap. “I won’t let you fail your jury,” he said. “There’s no way.”

“I assure you,” she mumbled, “there is.”

“Get up. Stop moping and come here,” he beckoned as he stood and took a few steps back.

She smiled, pushing herself to her feet. She had to stall for a moment as she reached an upright position and her head swam.

“Are you alright?” he asked.

She nodded and stepped into his outstretched arms. “I’m alright. Just move slow.”

“Why don’t we start working on your jury piece?” he suggested. She groaned. “Juries, you realize, are only weeks away?”

Hermione stilled. “Weeks?” she asked. “Truly? Weeks?” The unavoidable panic seized her.

“Don’t you dare,” he said forcefully. “Don’t you dare do that to yourself. There is no reason you won’t pass that jury. You’re one of the best dancers in that class and you know it. Stop shorting yourself and dance.”

“I can’t dance in front of anyone, Draco. You know that.”

“I don’t give a damn what you think you can and cannot do. I’ve worked with you for months. I know better than anyone, even better than you, what you are capable of and I tell you right now that you are one of the best dancer in the class.”

“It doesn’t matter if I can dance when I am alone, or with you. No one cares, Draco. A good dancer is not judged by what she does when no one is looking. That jury is my only chance to show Dianna that I can dance, but I am terrified to do it because going in there she will be dead set on the idea that I am a horrible dancer.”

“If I could go with you I would, but I can’t. You have to do it alone. I know you can.”

“I wish I had as much confidence in me as you do,” she laughed softly. “Unless you want me to throw up, probably on you, don’t spin me too much,” she added.

He laughed and slipped a hand on her waist. “If you insist,” he said as music lilted through the room. She closed her eyes, planning to absorb the music in the little recesses one escapes to when they wish to do such a thing, but found that all she had was an overwhelming urge to sit down and fall asleep. She wrenched her eyes back open, training them on the small area where his chest met his neck and dipped inwards as he started to lead her across the floor.

“Naturally, you’ll do these steps without me guiding you,” he said as he stretched with her to the right, their left legs extended backwards and then sweeping towards the front once more.

“What if we cloaked you, or spelled you, so that you could come into the room and dance with me. You know, just push my limbs where they need to go and I’ll smile like a good little marionette and we’ll pass.”

He laughed again. “Are you suggesting we cheat?” he teased. “Why, I never thought I would see the day.” He let go of her waist and, momentarily forgetting her current condition, spun her quickly out and back into his stomach. She gasped, her eyes snapping shut as an abrupt pain shot through her back and out her chest like a metal rod. Her legs gave out beneath her, the feeling of numbness and pins and needles overwhelming her. He slid to the floor with her, catching her from hitting her head on the wooden paneling. “Hermione?” he asked, mentally berating himself for being such a brute. “Are you alright? I am sorry.”

But Hermione did not have time to respond because at that moment the door to the studio flew backwards on its hinges and Ginny came running into the room as Hermione started to cough violently. Ginny stood in the doorway for a moment, concern and panic painted across her visage. She was breathing heavy, as if she had just gone on a long run, and her hair was flying around her shoulders. She looked from Draco to Hermione and back to Draco. Everything in the room went still; frozen in the calm before a storm.

“Draco,” Ginny finally said.

“I spun her too hard,” he said miserably. “Here I am promising safety-”

“-Draco-” Ginny tried again. She had overhead Dumbledore and the man from the ministry. She knew someone had to tell Draco and it would be better if Hermione was able to do it. First she had to get them to pay attention to her, however.

“-and I let her go into -”

“-Draco!-”

Draco brushed a clump of hair from Hermione’s face as the coughing finally subsided and Ginny came to the end of her rope. “Can you stand up and-”

“DRACO YOUR MOTHER IS DEAD!”

Draco stopped. His hand froze where it was on the side of Hermione’s face. Hermione drew a laborious breath, her eyes riveted in horror on Draco’s eyes as they slowly drifted shut and one - a single lone, solitary - drop of water escaped from the corner of his eye. It happened so quickly and was gone so suddenly that Hermione thought that perhaps she had imagined it. When he opened his eyes again he did not look at her. He helped her to her feet.

Her hands grasped his upper arms. “Draco,” she said softly. “You’re trembling.”

He helped her to the door where he passed her into Ginny’s arms. He then exited the room and was gone into the darkness of the hallway - not ever saying a word the entire time.




Draco had not come back to their rooms. In fact, Hermione had not seen him since last night when Ginny had run into the studio. It was now dinner time, the first time she had gone down to the Great Hall to eat since she had been released from the hospital; since Colin Creevey had died.

The hall was oddly quiet. People sensed something was wrong. Everyone knew something horrid had happened. All the students knew Colin was missing. They knew something was going on in the school. They noted Draco’s absence. They saw Hermione’s quivering shoulders, as if she was so cold she could not stop moving. They noticed the way Ginny hung her head and the anger with which Ron was hacking at his meal. They were aware of the youngest Creevey’s absence as well.

When Dumbledore slowly rose to the podium everyone slowly set their forks back on their plates and turned their eyes to face him. The quiet, if it was possible, became thicker and heavier. Hermione gasped, struggling to breath through it.

“My dear-” Dumbledore’s voice broke as he began to talk and he softly cleared his throat. The small sound echoed about the room. “-friends.” His eyes, the brilliant orbs behind his half-moon spectacles, were sad and vacant. “I am obligated to share very sad news with you all this evening.”

A girl at the Ravenclaw table was crying. The student’s were shifting in their seats. As much as they all wished to know what was going on, no one actually wanted to know. It was a paradox there was no solution for.

“Yesterday we endured a tragic event. It is my duty to inform you that above all, you are safe in this castle. Your professors are here to protect you and keep you happy and safe. Together we have been able to ride the winds of peril before, and we will do so again.” Dumbledore’s words were cold. They dripped ice as soon as they left his mouth and they hurt the ears. He took a deep breath. “Yesterday afternoon, one of our students; Colin Creevy-” he paused, his eyes closing as if he was in great pain “passed away in the infirmary.”

The uproar that ensued was overwhelming. Hermione clamped her hands over her ears and rose from the table, intent on escaping the pandemonium. People were crying, staring vacantly at the wall in shock, screaming at each other. She tried to push herself towards the doorway as the professors watched the chaos helplessly. They didn’t have the heart, or the strength, to demand them quiet themselves. To demand they not grieve.

“How does this happen!?” a boy yelled.

“How did he die?!”

“People don’t just up and die! How did it happen?!”

The yells started to merge into one until the shouting was nothing but an overbearing maelstrom of cacophony. Hermione finally managed to stumble into the hallway and then everything went black.



“I told you he was nothing but trouble, Hermione,” Ginny was cooing in Harry’s ear.

Hermione didn’t turn to either of them. She was too distracted by the blurring edges of the room. It was as if she was in the midst of a water colouring. Black was creeping into the corners. She turned to her side, only to find the floor was no longer there.

“Have you seen my brother?” Ginny asked Harry.

Harry smiled. “Ask Hermione.”

Ginny turned to Hermione and her face was suddenly not there any longer. Her skin was all intact, but it was smooth and creaseless. Hermione jumped back.

“Have you seen Ron?” she heard Ginny’s voice.

Wordlessly she shook her head. There was a sudden thumping and the three of them turned to find Ron coming down the boy’s staircase. He was a milky blue color, his skin flaking off in some areas. One of his eyes was scarred over and shut.

Hermione scampered to her feet as he limped towards them.

“Hey, Ron!” Ginny’s empty face joyfully called to him.

“How are you feeling, Mate?” Harry asked in a jovial voice.

Ron’s mouth opened to respond, but no sound came out. Harry and Ginny nodded as if they had heard words and understood them. Hermione continued to back away in horror as she realized that Harry had no hands attached to the ends of his arms. She suddenly found herself falling backwards. She landed with a definite thump into the fireplace she had been staring at only moments ago.

She screamed in agony as the flames kissed her skin, but not one of the other occupants of the room turned to look at her. The continued to laugh together. Laugh and laugh and laugh whilst she continued to scream and scream and scream and scream …


Hermione woke up with a start, darkness meeting her eyes. She blinked, but it did not go away. She took a moment to assess herself. She hurt. Her muscles were rigid and sore. Her feet were oddly cold. Her throat burned. Her head was pounding. Her hands were shaking. She tried to brace herself and sit up, but none of her limbs responded.

“Miss Granger,” a voice whispered from somewhere above her. Her vision was milky and blurred, she realized. The person was only splotches of gray color in the darkness. The figure sighed. “I expect the news of your dear friend’s loss has just settled in since you last left me.” Hermione blinked again and finally the school healer came into focus looming above her. “Although you don’t seem to have been able to shake this flu,” Madame Pomfrey was musing to herself. “You are burning up.”

Hermione let her eyes drift shut again and Madame Pomfrey left her side quietly. Another child was being hustled into the room and needed a bed and her attention.





Draco sat on the edge of his mother’s bed a slim, and shiny, black ribbon slipping through his fingers. There was the numb pain in the center of his chest that he kept rubbing at but that would not dissipate. His whole body was tight.

On the other side of the room one of the last remaining house elfs was dutifully packing up his mother’s things. He watched, completely silent.

How had she died? a small voice whispered in his ear. He closed his eyes. She hadn’t been sick. She hadn’t been in need of anything when he left. He had been sure she was safe her. Her death was his fault. If only he had stayed here a little longer. If only he had found out what was so wrong in her world that she had called him home to begin with.

His fist tightened and to his horror the ribbon he grasped slipped from his fingers. He snatched it up and regarded it for a moment. It was not unlike the others he had seen his mother tie in her hair before. There was nothing unusual about it. As he was looking at this little piece of material his eyes fell to the side of the bed, where a stack of sheets was piled up. He rose, intent on discovering why his mother’s bed sheets were thrown haphazardly on the floor. His mother was meticulous about the state of her bedroom. He could not recall one instance where even one shoe had been out of place.

He grabbed a corner of one sheet and gave it a great tug and, much like a giant snake, the sheet slithered up from the floor; a long rope of bed linen. Draco closed his eyes against the new knowledge. He didn’t want it. He dropped the sheet and walked stiffly towards his mother’s bed. She had done it. She had killed herself. He knew it in the very marrow of his bones. And if he had not left her here alone, maybe she wouldn’t have done it. This was his fault. This was his father’s fault. He had driven the only person in Draco’s life who loved him to the grave. If only Draco hadn’t left her here.

He lay back, her pillow welcoming him into its folds as if he was falling into a motherly embrace. He reached up, tying the black satin around his head, covering his eyes, and then lay there on that bed. Drowning in self loathing.

Everything was black. The room he was in was black. The space before him, and behind him, was as black as night. He felt heavy. Mind, body, and soul; heavy. He knew but one thing: he had to find her. He set off into the blackness and in a matter of moments found himself at the entrance to their common room. He flew through the portrait and stood immobile in the center of the room.

“Draco,” Hermione’s voice beckoned from the darkness. He could only see spots of dark and the even darker shapes of furniture.. He tentatively picked his way across the room. “Draco,” her voice moaned in pain.

He made his way around the couch before the fireplace and as he neared the stairs, his foot made contact with something. The fire suddenly flared into brilliance and he looked down to find a bloody mess at his feet.

Hermione was sprawled on her back, her hair about her face and blood trickling out of the corner of her mouth. There was a black ribbon wound around her head, covering her eyes. She tried to speak, except nothing but violent coughing came out. He dropped to his knees and reached for her hand, simultaneously ripping the ribbon from her face. Her fingers were tangled through a bunch of ribbons which appeared to have been white at one time, but were now streaked with crimson. Attached to these ribbons was a pair of pointe shoes, blood trickling from her hand and over the toes. He tried to pry her fingers away from the ribbons and she screamed, a second stream of blood trickling over her lip.

He slid his hands beneath her neck and pulled her up on his lap. “Merlin, Hermione,” he breathed. His hands were groping at her face, trying to wipe the blood away. “Please. Talk to me. Say something. Anything.”

Her mouth opened and closed but sound refused to emit. Slowly her body became heavy in his grasp and her eyes shut, her head drifting limply to the side. Suddenly she vanished. The room was lit as if it was a normal evening. A fire crackled merrily in the fireplace. He slowly rose from his knees, his eyes riveted on the spot she had just been laying. There was no blood; no sign she had ever been there.

He raised his hands to his face, and then ran them through his hair. When he dropped them he noticed a cold, wet, feeling and looked down to find red streaming between his fingers. Startled, he clenched and unclenched his fist and raised it only to find as he blinked the feeling and the color was gone.

“Draco,” a waman’s voice beckoned from upstairs.

Draco rushed up the stairs, taking them two at a time, to find once he reached the end there was an infinite amount of doors and a foreign hallway that stretched on as far as he could see.

“Draco, my darling child,” he heard her call, her voice pleading.. Draco started down the hallway at a run. What door? What door did he pick?

“Oh, my lovely little dragon, won’t you come here?”

“Mother!” he found himself shouting. “Mother where are you?”

“Draco, my darling child.”

Draco stopped. There was no choice. The voices were coming from all the doors. He turned to face the closest one and took a deep breath. He didn’t know what he would find on the other side.

“Draco, please! Oh, please! Let her go! Draco!”

“I swear on my parents’ graves, Malfoy, if you don’t let her go I will kill you.”

“Tell them Draco!” This last cry ended in a shriek. Draco hurtled towards the door before his resolve could disappear on him. Behind the door lay a scene that stopped him cold. He saw himself on the floor, Hermione in his arms, and Harry across from them with his wand pointed at them. Behind Harry, a female body with long hair splayed about them lay motionless.

“Draco,” Hermione sobbed, clutching at his shirt. “Tell them,” her voice cracked. It was but a hoarse whisper.

“Hermione.” He watched himself in shock. His face was streaked with blood and his hair hung limp in his eyes; eyes that never left the brunette’s who hung limply in his arms. “Please don’t leave me.” He was surprised at the sound of his own voice. It was hoarse as well. It was full of so much pain.

“Malfoy,” Harry was nervous. He was anxiously shifting his weight from foot to foot and the hand holding his wand was shaking. “I didn’t want to believe it.”

“Believe it!” Draco’s self cried. He was horrified to see tears creeping down his own cheeks. He had to get out of this room. He turned to go back through the door, but the door was gone.

“It just isn’t possible!” Harry screamed at him.

“You’ve seen them! You’ve watched it all happen, Potter! Damnit! She’s getting weaker!”

Something grabbed him mid-stomach and he had the odd sensation of being ripped backwards. The room disappeared and he found himself in blinding darkness once again. He carefully began to pick his way through the blackness. His foot hit something hard, and after groping about he deduced that he had stumbled across a staircase.

At the top of this staircase was another dark hallway, but this hallway had a definitive end: a door. He gently pushed the door open and stepped inside, closing it behind him once more; closing himself in the dark space. Now he could hear a soft sobbing as he stepped farther into the darkness. It was Hermione.

He reached down until his fingers grazed the cold side of something that felt ceramic, a bathtub, and by the sound that reached his ears he knew she was perched on the edge of it. He slid to the ground before her as his hands groped blindly until they found her arm, and then her shoulder, and slowly her face wet with tears.

“Tell me,” he said softly. It was the only prompt she needed before collapsing in violent tears. He took her by the shoulders and pulled her to him as he fell back against the sink base and she settled against his chest, her face tucked into his neck, her tears sliding coldly beneath his collar.

“Catch me, Draco,” she whispered into his shirt. “Catch me before I’m gone,” and she vanished. Draco looked down, startled that all that lay in his grasp was a single black ribbon. He shook his head, his grip vise like on that cold piece of material.

“I was the prima ballerina.” She was standing before him, her hair wet and covering her face. Her back was hunched. A white nightgown trailed about her feet. There was a small trickle of red making it’s way down her cheek from her eye. She was crying blood.

He took a step away from her and she was gone again.

“He put a white rose in my hair that morning.” She was right behind him. He whirled but there was nothing there.

“I tied the rope around my neck and then I danced,” There was two of her now. They spoke in unison in a voice that grated against his ears. One stood to his left and one to his right. Her words made no sense. One of her images reached for his left hand and wrenched the ribbon from him. She danced around the room, the ribbon trailing behind her.

“Catch me, Draco,” a third said from behind him. “Catch me, Draco,” they all chanted together. The dancing one was smiling and singing her plea. The one on his right was crying and the one on his left never let her eyes leave his. “Catch me, Draco.”

Suddenly they all disappeared and just as quickly as they had gone, he felt the light pressure of hands on his shoulders. Her voice whispered in his ear, “Catch me, Draco. I’m falling.”


When Draco opened his eyes he was startled by the blackness that affronted him for he was sure it was morning. Remembering the black ribbon he had tied around his head the night before he ripped it away and the room came into sudden brilliance. There was a small bird outside the window, singing in a mockery of joy.

At the end of the bed someone, presumably a house elf, had laid out a black robe of mourning for him to wear. The cape was thick and coupled with heavy black boots for trudging through the snow of the graveyard. Practical - yet all it did was raise a bubble of nausea inside him as he imagined his mother frozen in that ground.

He dressed slowly. He was to ride over with his father. Stand next to his father during the ceremony. Look as if he grieved with his father. When all along he wished to plunge a dagger in the depths of his father’s chest. He blamed his father just as much as he blamed his self.


She can’t escape.. She couldn’t then, she didn’t have the strength to leave him, and she can‘t now. Instead she went with him and received her own deathmark, believing somewhere in her heart that he still loved her and there is absolutely no escape for her.

Mother had proven him wrong. She had indeed found an escape and as greatly as it pained him, he admired her strength. He wished her now to bless him with that strength. He would greatly need it today.



Hermione blinked her eyes open wearily and was startled by the sheer feeling of unwell that enveloped her. Madame Pomfrey was immediately at her side and Hermione was startled by the dark circles under the healer’s eyes. Her confusion showed on her face. Madame Pomfrey sighed. “You’ve been asleep for two days, Miss Granger,” she said wearily.

Hermione pushed herself into a sitting position, adrenaline rushing through her. All of the beds around her were full. Not one of the occupants looked to be able of any conscious activity.

“I don’t understand what is going on,” the healer was saying. “But they just started pouring in. They all have the same symptoms.” Madame Pomfrey was smoothing over Hermione’s sheets, almost as if she did not realize she was speaking aloud. “They all came in here just like you did. They all have the same symptoms. I think-” Madame Pomfrey stopped and walked back towards Hermione’s head. “I think they all are suffering from the same thing,” she said in a slight whisper. “Its as if they are all sick with the same thing,” her voice betrayed her horror for if such a thing was true - who knew what it would mean for Hogwarts. “We have a spell we wish to try,” she finished

Hermione was startled. “A spell?” she asked.

“Yes,” Madame Pomfrey said as she helped Hermione climb out of the bed. “We’re a little concerned and we think this may help.” As they reached the large vacant area in the middle of the room Madame Pomfrey took Hermione by the shoulders. “You do not have to do this,” she said to Hermione. “We aren’t sure if it will work, it shouldn’t hurt you any, but we don’t know if it will help at all. You see, you might be our only help in finding out what is going on. You see, Hermione, they all have your symptoms,“ Madame Pomfrey gripped Hermione’s hand. “Do you agree to have the spell cast on you even though we are unaware of the side effects?”

Hermione had a fleeting moment of remembrance where she saw Colin Creevy’s yellow eyes staring at her and blood trickling over his body and she realized she didn’t have a choice. Anything this spell did to her could not be worse than bleeding to death from some weird illness. “Yes,” she said resolutely.

Madame Pomfrey nodded. “I don’t know if this will hurt,” she said softly.
“Hasinth“ she said, wand pointed at Hermione.

A silver wisp drifted from the point of the wand and curled about the tip like smoke. It slowly wafted over to her and she watched, fascinated, as it danced before her. She reached for it, completely entranced, and it reached its own wispy fingers to her. Once it touched her skin, she gasped at the coldness. The mist pulled back, and then, as if changing its mind, came forward again, curling around her fingers.

It started to spread, up her arm and once it reached her elbow her teeth started chattering. She wanted to wipe it off but she could not lift her other hand to do so. She tried to rub it against her gown but it kept spreading, chilling her to the bones. She looked at her hand and it was a gray-blue and emitting a steam; the water vapor that forms when you step outside on a cold day and breathe the cold air. She continued to try and wipe it off but it kept spreading. Once it had reached her shoulder she dropped to her knees because the pain was so acute. She had to close her eyes because it felt as if they were being gouged out from the inside. Pins and needles kept shooting up her arm and then moved across her chest. She felt like her lungs and heart were blocks of ice inside her body.

Her vision was no longer of any use to her. All her senses began to shut down one by one. First her sight, then the feeling in her legs and arms. She felt as if the very blood in her veins was freezing. Her sense of smell was the third to go. She felt trapped in her body. Like she was in a dark room and the way out no longer existed. She was contained and could not fight back. She didn't know when her hearing went, but eventually there was a dull ringing in her mind and she knew she was now deaf. The last thing to go was her sense of taste. She could feel her body stopping all movement and everything freezing up and then her tongue felt like a piece of rock in her mouth. A cold piece of ice. She wanted to scream. She opened her mouth and took a deep breath, preparing to when suddenly everything was gone. She was lying on her back, on the cold floor and she was looking up at the ceiling. Her breath was coming in great heaving gasps.

“Miss Granger!” Madame Pomfrey was at her side, pulling her into an upright position. “Miss Granger, are you alright?”

Hermione was so cold. She was shivering, her teeth chattering together. “Did it work?” she asked.

Madame Pomfrey was silent for a moment and Hermione looked up to her with an inquisitive look. “Miss Granger,” the healer cleared her throat. “I don’t think it helped any,” she said softly.

“Why do you say that?” the girl wondered as she went to stand up, but quickly found out her legs were paralyzed.

“Please, don’t try to move, Miss Granger,” Pomfrey said as she scooped the slight girl up and placed her back in the bed. “I want the headmaster to look at you before we decide anything.” Then she bustled off.

Hermione was afraid. Surely whatever was now wrong was better than a disease that caused you to bleed from the inside out? Surely the headmaster could fix this? She tried to stand once more and was able to drag herself to her bed. She pulled herself up halfway onto the mattress before the coughing over powered her. She slipped off the mattress, her hand covering her mouth. She pulled her knees to her chest as she settled on the floor with her back against the bed. She was so cold. Her body felt as if it was being dipped into a bath of ice. Her skin had an odd bluish tint and she could not decide if it was real or a trick of the light and her unclear mind. She continued hacking until Madame Pomfrey came through the door once more, Albus Dumbledore behind her. Hermione pulled her hand from her mouth and held it before her in a beckoning plea as they rushed towards her. She had enough time to register with horror the red blood dripping from her palm before she lost consciousness again.

Chapter 22: Of the Lord's Anger and A Discussion Between Cat and Mouse
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Author’s Note: There is a prayer in this chapter that is based on a Christian Prayer of Mourning. The use of its words is not meant to offend anyone who is not of that religion. It is not to say that I support, participate, or encourage/do not encourage any peoples to support/participate/etc. in this religion. I merely used it for the beauty of its words. Please do not analyze it farther than that.

I have a rather large announcement. As most of you know, Arabesque is coming to a close. In fact, we are three chapters away from the end of the story. Although this is a sad event, it is also a joyous one for my next big adventure is about to begin - and this one is massive! Through this story I have met so many new people, authors and reviewers alike, and grown very fond of you all. It is because of your support that I have not only been able to finish this story, but write something of the nature of the piece that is about to be revealed and even (yes, it is true) have the strength and confidence to work on an original manuscript for publication.

As many of you are aware, my next project was so massive I took on a co-author. You may know her, HPFF’s Dobby Awards 2007 Winner of Best New Author; MajiKat. Together MajiKat and I have been working diligently on The Forsaken Ones and it is set to be released on February 2, 2008. Because of the sheer enormity of this story it has its own website. (Please believe me when I say this piece is enormous - I don’t use the word lightly.) MajiKat and I truly, honestly, and very deeply, appreciate and love all of our readers so we hope more than anything to be able to share this piece with you as we believe it is not only a great adventure, but a vehicle for a profound statement. Please visit either of our personal sites to find more information on how to find the world of The Forsaken Ones and where you can read it and be involved in all of its surrounding entities.

And please enjoy this next chapter of Arabesque and know that though I have gotten behind on responding to my reviews - I always take the time to read each and every one of them and respond to them all.




“There is nothing so trying as the time after the passing of a loved one.” It wasn’t a chaplain, a minister, or a priest that presided over this ceremony. It was a death eater in a black robe, face hidden by a dark hood. The field was abandoned other than the circle of mourners around his mother, who was laid out on a dark slab of obsidian in the center of the crowd. Everyone was wearing black.

Draco stood stiffly at his mother’s head. The way the wind blew through the space, gently tugging at the edges of his hood and the hemline of his robe, was soft like a kiss. Next to him, bent over in age, was his mother’s father - her own mother had passed on before Draco’s birth and Draco suspected there was extra motive behind his Grandfather’s presence as this was only the fourth time in his existence he had ever seen the man.

Directly across from Draco, at his mother’s feet, was his father. The hood did not hide the sneer his father wore, nor the careless expression in his eyes. Gustave peeked from behind Lucius and caught Draco’s eye, smiling and waving at him. Draco felt sick. His hand curled tightly into a fist, the black ribbon from his mother’s room sliding between his fingers and rippling in the breeze.

“As we mourn the death of Narcissa Malfoy and make thanks for her life, we also remember times when it was hard for us to understand, to forgive, and to be forgiven. Heal our memories of hurt and failure and bring us to forgiveness and life,” the man leading the ceremony was saying.

Draco felt a bubble of hysteria pop in his throat. Forgiveness? Forgiveness? What was this thing he spoke of? Was it tangible? Was it something he had even ever known?

“You who brought us to birth and in whose arms we die, in our grief and shock contain and comfort us; embrace us with your love, give us hope in our confusion and grace to let go into new life.”

He held a sudden epiphany; Hermione had never let go. Draco felt as if ice was slowly spreading through his fingers and up his arms. That was why she couldn’t dance; she had never let go. She was holding on to the sorrow and the guilt and the confusion from everything that had happened to her. He looked up to the grey sky, flakes of snow falling softy on his face and melting away with the warmth of his body. If she was to embrace the grief - to use it - she could do it. She could dance again, unrestricted by the ropes she was binding herself with.

“You who hear the cries of our grief, for you know the anguish of our hearts. It is beyond our understanding and more than we can bear. Accept our prayer that as Narcissa has been released from this world's cruelty so may she be received into your safe hands and secure love. We pray that justice may be done and that we may treasure the memory of her life more than the manner of her death.”

The manner of her death. It was as if the man, whose voice he could not recognize behind the black depths of his hood, was mocking him. The manner of her death. It was as if he was casting judgment on a woman he couldn’t possibly know. Draco wanted to open his mouth and scream it across the length of his mother’s body. She had killed herself but it wasn’t her fault. She had done the deed but the blame should be laid at her husband’s feet. Just as he now stood at hers.

“In the face of death we discover how many things are still undone, how much might have been done otherwise. Redeem our failure. Bind up the wounds of past mistakes. Transform our guilt to active love and by your forgiveness make us whole.” The man lowered his hands and walked towards the body, wand held aloft. Narcissa’s long blonde hair had come undone in the wind and was now freely flying about, gently tickling across Draco’s skin every few seconds.

“Incendio,” the man said in a gravelly tone and fire shot from the end of his wand. The slab of obsidian was suddenly completely aglow. Draco was forced to raise his eyes from the fire that lapped over his mother’s skin and through the flames he finally caught his father’s attention. Lucius raised his chin higher. Never, he seemed to say. Never shall she escape. Never has she held power over her own self. Never. Not even in death.

“And now to you who is able to keep us from falling and lift us from the dark valley of despair to the bright mountain of hope, from the midnight of desperation to the daybreak of joy; to you who be power and authority, for ever and ever, we release our child into your hands.”

Never has she been free.




“Miss Isabella Izani?” the healer came into the room silently. She hadn’t even heard the door shut behind them. Her eyesight had faded so greatly that all she could make out was the blazing insignia of a crossed bone and wand on the healer’s chest. “I want to speak with you for a moment. Do you think you are up for that?”

It didn’t matter if she was or not, she didn’t have the strength to open her mouth to say yes or no. The healer pulled a chair up to the side of the bed. “When you were first admitted,” he said softly. “You told us what happened - everything you did - that day. You said you had tended to one of the students in Hogwarts who died that day.”

The healer paused, but she said nothing.

“I need you to tell me once again what it was you did, everything you did, said, or touched, while helping the school healer tend to the boy.” After a moment of silence the healer urged once more, “Please, Isabella, this is very important.”

Isabella felt as if she was fighting through a thick fog. She realized she was fighting for clarity when perhaps clarity was not to be found. She would have to speak without seeing who she spoke to. She would have to speak without being able to hear the words. Breathe underwater and trust air would come. “He was-” she struggled. “He was shaking. On bed. Shaking and yellow.”

The healer nodded. “Yes, Isabella.”

“He was bleeding. Eyes. Mouth. Ears. Coughing and bleeding.” Isabella took a deep breath, her whole body straining with the effort. Something warm was tickling her chin and crawling down her neck. “I was holding a goblet. It had potion. He thrashed. I dropped. Goblet shattered. I tried to pick it up. Clumsy. Finger sliced.” Isabella’s eyes closed as she felt a horrid sensation wriggle through her abdomen and across her chest. “I ignored blood first. I reached for him. He-” Isabella was shaking, her arms rigid at her sides. She dimly registered the scraping of the metal chair the healer had been sitting in against the floor. “He bit me.”

Isabella’s body was disconnected from her mind. She was shaking, she was sure, but she didn’t know why. Words stopped coming. People were rushing into the room. Things were slipping away. Things were black.

“Did she say anything useful?”

The healer hung his head. “She was bitten. We didn’t catch that before. It wasn’t a blood transference it was saliva - a different fluid. She was infected earlier in the timeline than the Edgecomb girl that died this morning. It must be in the transference. A blood transference kills faster than any of the other fluid transfers.”

The healer he spoke to nodded her head. “I’ll call the Headmaster.”




“Lucius.”

Lucius turned around abruptly at the voice. He was unable to stop the feeling of many things slithering over his back as the unnatural way the speaker hissed their words slid into his consciousness.

“Lucius,” they spoke as someone who knew their words were always listened to; soft and slow and deliberate. “I am disappointed in you.”

Those words… Lucius was prostrate on the ground seconds after they had left his mouth. “Master,” he breathed, his face touching the earth.

“Lucius Malfoy, my wayward pet.” Voldemort was standing close enough that his hemline touched Lucius’s face as it was manipulated back and forth in the wind. “I have heard many displeasing things as of late.”

“Never, My Lord,” Lucius groveled. “Never have I done anything to cause you displeasure.”

“I assure you that that is a statement of untruth,” Voldemort’s voice dropped. “Sit up,” he commanded.

Lucius pushed his body upright to find that the red snake eyes were holding his own captive. He was afraid. “I have heard that you are taking action without my permission.”

“If I do anything to displease My Lord it should be known that my action is only ever to serve My Lord further.”

“You must understand, Lucius,” Voldemort hissed. “How difficult it is for me to take this answer when your actions are so dangerous to my own person!”

At the panicked manner in which Voldemort’s voice raised Lucius froze in horror. Voldemort strode towards him, grasping the front of his mourning robes and hauling him off the ground. “How dare you take action without my permission. How dare you, you insolent filth,” Voldemort, in a show of strength no normal human being could exhibit, flung Lucius across the ground. “You dare defy me? You dare raise a man from the dead to engineer a virus that could kill me?”

“My Lord,” Lucius stuttered, his hands up in defense. “My Lord, I never-”

“Do not lie to me, Lucius Malfoy,” the Dark Lord boomed. “Gustave Franklin III. The seventeenth century dark wizard who developed the very basis of my practices. The wizard - the first - to understand the importance of blood. You. Brought. Him. Back.”

“I did not-”

“DO NOT DARE DEFY ME, LUCIUS MALFOY!” The Dark Lord had drawn his wand. He closed his eyes, sheer slips of lids closing over the dilated, angry pupils. He spoke again, his voice that quiet, restrained tone it usually was. “Gustave was burned at the stake over two centuries ago, Lucius Malfoy. Now tell me, how is it that such a man came to be standing next to you at your wife’s funeral services?” A smile tugged at his lipless mouth and he added as an after thought, “My condolences.”

“Master-”

“I have heard of the horrible course of events recently occurring at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I hear the school has been placed in a state of lockdown - they are not allowing anyone in or out of the building. There has been two deaths in the school and three in the group that they sent out to that hospital. Do you know what the odd thing about all these deaths is, Lucius Malfoy?”

Lucius did not attempt to respond this time.

“They are all muggle borns, Lucius. Do you understand what I am saying? All the children dying are muggle borns.”

Lucius raised his head to meet his Master’s eyes.

“This virus you have created kills off muggle borns.”

Lucius, suddenly realizing what it was his Master was saying, looked to the ground in defeat.

In a mockery of camaraderie the Dark Lord sat on a stump he summoned forth from the earth, gazing at where his servant groveled on the ground before him with hate filled eyes. “Educate me, Lucius,” he commanded. “Tel me how this virus works.”

It took a few tries for words to fall from Lucius’s lips. “It-” he stuttered. “It is based on the principle of magic concentration in the blood. It leeches on to the non-magic part of the blood and feeds off the magic. A muggle could catch it, as well as a pureblood, but neither will feel the effects because they do not have both parts of the whole. The virus’s killing power comes from the way that it eats away at the magic in the blood. It uses the non-magic aspect as a tether and the magic as food. It eats away at the infected from the inside of the body and works its way out.”

The Dark Lord was silent for a moment. “And tell me, Lucius, can it be cured?”

Lucius was silent for a moment as he weighed his words carefully. When he did respond, the air became heavy with the answer. Draco, from where he stood hidden behind a tree off in the distance, just close enough to make out the conversation being held, felt the wind knocked from his chest.

Before he had even had a chance to regain his lost breath he had turned on his heel and was running. Running back to Hogwarts. Running back to her.







Chapter 23: Of the Nature of the Ultimate Sacrifice
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Author's Note: So I've been thinking as I've been working on these last chapters (dangerous, I know) and I think I might add a chapter or two in to the end of the story. I'm not sure quite yet - but it may happen. I am hoping you all won't mind hanging on for a bit longer if it does. ^_- Please enjoy. And remember to check your review responses! I have been chugging along in responding and thank you for your patience with me!




The figure lying on the bed hardly even resembled her. He walked slowly one step at a time towards her, the tears becoming heavier with each step he took. Her bruises shone bright as stars in the dark night sky. They were grotesque against her paleness. Her skin was so milky that it looked almost blue. She was so pale she was almost see-through. Her head was tilted back at an odd angle and her fists clenched the blanket at her sides. Her breathing was shallow and wheezy. It sounded painful and raspy; like the air wouldn't fill her lungs.

Once he reached the side of the bed he realized that the loud throbbing he was hearing was inside of him. His chest was constricting. He wanted to trade places with her more than he had ever wanted anything in the world before. Slowly he reached his hand out towards her face, steeling himself not to pull back. Her skin was still an unearthly temperature. He whispered her name and she wrenched her eyes open.

She wheezed his name before her head tilted back in a wave of pain. He was forced to turn his head away. "D-don't-t . . . cry. . ." She wasn't even able to look at him. The pain racked her body in waves. "I . . . I f-fight it . . .. For-r …. you,” she proclaimed before her body went completely limp again. Her hand fell off the side of the bed and for a moment he could only look at it; afraid to touch her.

He suddenly felt the oddest sensation and reached up to his cheek to find that tears were freely slipping across his skin. He dropped to his knees, sobs racking his body as he shook in grief. He couldn't articulate the pain in any other way. He took her hand in his own and put his head in his arms on the bedside. He screamed; the scream of a man who is losing everything he loves.

After his body had calmed he settled into a cushioned chair that Madame Pomfrey brought forth from the depths of her personal office. His head hurt. This was ten times worse than losing Mother. At least when that happened he had had Hermione to turn to. She didn't even know how much just her presence soothed him. Now he sat here watching the very same girl barely able to take full breaths.

He was mad at himself. He never should have trusted them with her. This was entirely his fault. The ice had stopped, never reaching her heart, but it had penetrated her lungs. That’s what they had told him. They had used some disbanded spell that froze her blood in her veins to try to cure her. Now there were tiny crystal shards left in her lungs and there was nothing that could be done. Madame Pomfrey said that they would have to melt on their own because she was too afraid to take action again, not when they weren’t sure what the specifications of this virus even were.

“Hermione,” he whispered in her ear; not knowing if she could even hear him. "Keep fighting. Please-" He had no tears left and even if he had, he hadn't the strength to cry them.

Madame Pomfrey appeared at his side and gently placed a hand on his shoulder. "Draco," she said quietly, noting that he never took his eyes off the girl in front of him. "You have to take this. Dumbledore wishes you to."

"What is it?" he asked uncaringly, not glancing up.

"A sleeping potion," Pomfrey replied. “I have spoken to the headmaster and he has agreed that, although the infirmary is segregated from the rest of the school, we are going to let you stay here. You have been exposed to her for so long that we can’t be sure whether or not you are infected as well.”

"I won’t take it. She could wake up while I'm out, or something could go wrong. I'm not moving from this chair." I'm not letting go of her hand. Ill keep her alive by sheer will if I have to.

"I promise, Mister Malfoy,” Madam Pomfrey said, moving between him and the bed so that he had to focus his eyes on hers. " If she shows any signs of waking up, or the slightest change, I will cast the counter charm for the sleeping draft."

Draco thought for a moment before surrendering and taking the cup from her. He sat down on the bed directly next to Hermione’s. He kept his eyes trained on her as he tipped the potion back. A few seconds later her image was imprinted on the inside of his eyelids as he collapsed backwards on the bed.

When he woke up she was gone.




"Mister Malfoy! Please!" A harried Madame Pomfrey was trying to talk some reason into a raging Draco, but Draco was beyond reason as he liberally picked up a chair and threw it at the opposing wall.

"You drugged me! You put me to sleep and then you took her away! Where is she!?"

“Please, Mister Malfoy! You are disturbing the other patients!” Madame Pomfrey begged.

“Where is she!?” Draco demanded again.

"She's in St. Mungo's, Mister Malfoy," a calm voice replied from the doorway. Madame Pomfrey looked like she would faint with relief as Albus Dumbledore walked into the hospital wing. "Now, please, calm yourself before I am forced to Stupefy you."

Draco stood straight, his fists clenching at his sides. He reached a hand up and brushed his hair back from his face. Through grit teeth he asked, "Why is she gone headmaster?"

"It was the only way to save her, Draco,” Dumbledore continued in his calm voice. But that tone, meant to soothe, was grating against Draco’s nerves. “She was not the only one who went, I had several students transported to St. Mungo’s.”

Grasping the gravity of the situation, Draco collapsed on the nearest bed. He closed his eyes and sat very still. He stayed like this for many moments and the professors watched him curiously. "She's scared,” he whispered with his eyes still closed. "She's alone." His voice cracked. He opened his eyes and turned a steel glance towards Dumbledore. “I want to see her,” he demanded.




Hermione woke up to the dull remembrance of severe pain. She felt tiny pinpricks every time she breathed in. She lay still for a moment with her eyes closed and focused on inhaling shallow and slow. This worked for a little while; until she started to cough.

Every cough felt like knives were being plunged into her lungs. Madame Pomfrey came bustling over and placed a handkerchief over her mouth. After the fit had subsided, Hermione fell back against her pillows, her eyes closing in exhaustion.

Madame Pomfrey tucked her in and as she was walking away she looked down at the handkerchief, horror claiming her. On her way out the door to find the headmaster, she dropped the cloth in the waste basket, the blood still staining her hands a dull red.

Hermione’s muscles ached. Every time she moved, they screamed. It was dark out and she was alone. There was a nagging feeling in the back of her mind that she couldn't make sense of. To further her vision she slowly pushed herself up on her elbows. This was when she noticed Draco in the bed next to her. He was stretched out in a graceful cat-like sprawl that he often assumed on the couch in the common room, only his features were pulled in a tight expression.

She wanted to call out to him. She wanted him to wake up and hold her. She wanted to borrow strength from his arms, but her legs would not move, so she couldn't walk to him. Her voice wouldn't call out, so she couldn't say his name, even whisper it into the dark room. As tears of frustration were about to spill over her cheeks, the ward door was thrown open and Dumbledore strode across the room, his robes billowing behind him. He was followed by an anxious looking Professor McGonagall and a very tired looking Madame Pomfrey. Madame Pomfrey detoured from the group as another patient began to cough and Hermione was abruptly reminded of the black cloud that was slowly taking over Hogwarts.

"Hermione? Are you awake?" A concerned Professor McGonagall leaned over her and put a damp cloth on her forehead.

"Yes, Professor," Hermione muttered, oddly touched by the gesture.

"Listen, Dear," Professor McGonagall said as she gently sat down on the side of the bed next to Hermione. "We have to move you. Madame Pomfrey has noticed that you are coughing up blood. This means that the ice crystals are not melting on their own, but are embedded in your lungs. We don't have the resources to available to heal you.” Hermione’s eyes fell to the side, on Draco’s blonde hair and the way it dusted his eyes. “You won’t be going alone,” McGonagall continued. “There are a handful of students that we feel must be moved immediately.”

“Why weren’t we brought to St. Mungo’s sooner if this virus is so horrible?” Hermione asked, her voice a whisper.

“We couldn’t risk infecting the wizarding community. We had no idea how the virus was spread, but we believe now that it is by the exchange of fluids. We can ensure no one is further infected by simply keeping patients away from those who are not sick, but some of you are in frightening states. We still don’t know how to cure this virus and it is quickly proving to be too powerful. As you know, we have lost numerous lives to it as it is.” Professor McGonagall’s eyes closed as if there was a pain inside of her she could neither quell, nor find the strength to outwardly show. Hermione remembered how, on the first night she had been introduced as Head Girl to the school, she had thought that this woman thrived on chaos. She could now see how wrong and unfair her assessment had been.

“What about Draco?“ she protested as she tried to push herself up.

“Hermione, please don‘t over exert yourself," Madame Pomfrey warned but Hermione had already started coughing and was lying on her back, holding her sides as tears glossed over her eyes.

"Turn her over!" Professor Dumbledore demanded. "She'll drown in her own blood if you don't flip her!" Hermione couldn't see anything. The world had gone black, shrunk to her body. It had become a circle of pain. Her lungs screamed and her throat clenched. It wouldn't stop. She felt like she was falling into a deep abyss. As the darkness enveloped her mind, she didn't regret it.

"She's blacked out," Dumbledore said as the brunette went limp in the bed.

Professor McGonagall wiped her forehead on the back of her hand and Madame Pomfrey began to change the sheets, which were now stained with blood.

"Albus, after we bring her to St Mungo's someone will need to speak with Draco about what happened."

“Yes,” Dumbeldore sighed heavily. “Bring him to my office when the time comes. I will explain to him what is happening. I am sure the staff would not object to him being present as a visitor if I explain the situation to them. After all, if he is going to be infected by her it will already have happened. No harm can come to him in St. Mungo’s.”

"Do you believe it wise to separate them, Albus?" Madame Pomfrey asked timidly. “They seem to make quite a fuss about it.”

"No,” he said as Professor McGonagall and Madame Pomfrey picked up the slight body. “But it is only for a short period of time.” He turned to the healer. “Poppy, please send me notification once all of the student’s have been transferred and Master Malfoy wakes up.”

“Yes, sir,” Madame Pomfrey bobbed in consent and then hurried off as another student started to cry.




Draco had been brushed aside. Dumbledore had told him to wait in the infirmary as he dealt with some things in his office and then they could discuss transporting Draco there. Draco didn’t believe that bullshit. Albus Dumbledore had let things get this far. Hermione was dying - dying - and Albus Dumbledore was the one Draco blamed for it all. It was Dumbledore who had let them try that spell on Hermione. It was Dumbledore who was responsible for the safety of the student’s in his school.

Draco’s thoughts were interrupted by a very loud commotion on the other end of the infirmary. He turned to find Madame Pomfrey bodily holding the ward door shut as she extended one arm towards the nearest table where her wand sat - which was completely out of reach. On the other side of the door a string of swears were falling over the lips of an extremely distressed redheaded girl.

“Open this damn door right now!” she was screaming at the healer.

“You are not allowed in here! This area is closed to the student body!” Madame Pomfrey protested.

“Draco Malfoy is in there and he is not sick! Let us in right now!” Ginny screamed one last time. She managed to squeeze her way through the small crack of the door and Madame Pomfrey angrily took a step back, allowing two boys to fall into the room behind the girl.

“I will be informing the Headmaster of this,” she told them. She did not have anymore time to argue with them, however, as the girl in the bed three away from them started to convulse. Madame Pomfrey ran towards the young girl and Ginny, Harry, and Ron, ran off in the other direction, to where Draco was perched on the empty bed Hermione had been in only hours before.

“Draco!” Ginny cried as she hurtled between the beds. She was crying, tears streaming over her swollen cheeks. Harry and Ron approached the bed at a much more sedate pace. Harry’s expression was all piss and vinegar. Ron refused to look at anyone.

“Why is he here?” Draco asked Ginny, malice dripping from his body as he regarded the redhead.

“Because even though he has been a foul git, Hermione and us grew up together. She’s important to us. To all of us.”

Draco stood from the bed and went to the window. He was going mad staying here. He did not want to wait for the old bat to come back for him. Who knew how long it would be before he did. What if Hermione di- … no. No, he would not even allow himself to think like that. “I’m going after her,” he turned and announced to the three.

“We’ll go with you,” Harry said as he stepped forward and took Ginny in his arms. She turned her face into his neck and continued to cry. “Where did they take her?”

“St. Mungo’s. They tried to cure her by using a freezing spell. They thought it would stop the virus from further gestation, but all it did was attack her body. Ice formed in her veins and the shards landed in her lungs. They almost killed her. Now the pieces of ice will not melt. She’s dying.”

“I know a way into Hogsmeade,” Harry said quietly over Ginny’s sniffles. “Can you get us to St. Mungo’s from there?”

“Yes,” Draco turned to face them. He tried to take a deep breath but his chest was too tight. He tried to imagine what living without her would be like; but he couldn’t. It was impossible to live without air.




Night had settled its arms around the infirmary. Madame Pomfrey sat in a chair in the center of her ward, her hands in her lap. She hadn’t slept in four days. She was exhausted. Her heart was sick. Every few hours another child would wake up and start to scream. She had lost three already. Four if you counted Isabella, who had been in St. Mungo’s when the virus claimed her. All of these children were slipping through her fingers and she could do absolutely nothing to stop it. She was helpless. She spread her hands before her, palms up as she regarded them. Hands were a healer’s prize possession. They allowed them to comfort, to heal, to pass on redemption and kindness. Something was wrong with her hands. She had always believed she was graced with a gift, but now?

A sudden cry arose behind her and wearily she made her way to the bedside of a small second year Ravenclaw. She, too, had been in the infirmary for a few days, seemed to be alright for a few days, and then yesterday she had been admitted again. The child had been unconscious for almost twenty four hours. Now she was screaming, blood streaming from the corner of her mouth as she shook on the bed. Poppy grabbed her arms, crying, “I won’t loose another one! Stay with me, Vicci!” but the girl went still a moment later and Poppy could do nothing about it. For the first time since she had been hired at Hogwarts she sank to her knees at the bedside of the dead girl and started to cry.




St. Mungo’s was surprisingly easy for a band of four teenagers to reach. They made it into Hogsmeade undetected, even though there was absolutely no hope of all four of them fitting under the invisibility cloak. They caught the Knight Bus once they were in town and road it from Hogsmeade into London until they reached the façade of an unusual decrepit old department store. They exited the bus and regarded the derelict mannequins in the window. The sign above them proclaimed; “Purge and Dowse, Ltd. Your one stop shop for all your personal needs!” Only the words were slowly vanishing with time. Draco ploughed forward.

Once inside the lobby Draco headed straight for the information desk. Harry, his arm around a sniffling Ginny, followed behind him. Ron, still gravely silent and eyes cast down, brought up the rear.

“I’m looking for my sister,” Draco said as he reached the desk. The witch on the other side of the marble countertop had short cropped brown hair and wore sharp pink glasses. She was chewing a large wad of bubblegum.

“Your sister?” she asked skeptically as she regarded the teenagers behind him. “And they are?”

“My cousins. Can you please tell me where she is?”

“Name,” she sighed as she looked at her roster. “And reason for stay.”

Draco hesitated for a moment. “Hermione Mal-” he stopped. “Hermione Granger, is her name.” Hermione Malfoy? Was he loosing his mind?

“And floor?” The witch raised an eyebrow at him.

He had no idea what floor. If they sent her here with the group they would be on floor two with the magical bugs. But Hermione had also been infected by a spell.

“Floor?” The woman asked impatiently.

“She should be on the fourth floor; spell damage.”

The woman stopped chewing her gum and looked him in the eyes for the first time. “I am sorry,” she said sincerely. Many people on the fourth floor were permanent residents. She turned back to her roster. “Ah, yes, here she is. Hermione Granger. Spell Damage. Wing E, Room B. Just take the lift all the way up and go as far down the hall as you can.”

Draco was walking towards the lifts before the woman had even finished speaking. Harry mumbled a quick thank you for the group before they rushed after him. The three barely made it onto the lift behind him before the doors closed.

The door to Hermione’s room was closed. It was the only closed door in the entire hallway. She was the last door, at the end of the hallway where there were no windows. Once they reached the door Draco turned to face them. “Wait here,” he said. He set his hand on the doorknob, the cold penetrating deep. He shivered as he turned the handle and the door gave inwards.

The temperature in the room was much colder than in the hall. The walls were white. The bed she lay in was white. He gently closed the door behind him; she looked as if she was asleep. He stepped towards her and everything else in the world fell away; his dead mother, the fact that she was so violently ill, that the git Ron was in the hallway, that it was obvious Harry and Ginny had something between them by the way they clung to each other, that his father hated him, that he hated the world, that friends were dying this very moment.

There was a chair by the head of her bed and he slowly fell into it, he could not pull his eyes from hers. She looked angelic, asleep and not coughing. Not in pain. He hadn’t seen her awake for a few days now. He had constantly been in her presence, and yet not. He missed her eyes.

He reached for her hand, closing the cold fingers in his own. Her breathing was almost regular. He watched the sheets rise and fall for a moment as he reveled in the fact that she was alive and he was here with her.

Maybe they couldn’t hold each other’s hands publicly and walk around Hogwarts. Maybe they couldn’t talk to each other in the Great Hall, or go to the library together, or look at each other when they danced in class, but when they were together; they were together.

He reached across her and gently brushed the hair from her eyes. He stood and released her hand so that he could sit on the side of the bed, he then braced his arms on either side of her head. Leaning over he lightly brushed his lips over her forehead and the bridge of her nose. Her eyes opened suddenly and were darkened with panic for a brief passage of time as she registered who was looming over her. He reached down and pulled her into his arms.

His body was so comforting her eyes fell shut on her. She let her face fall into his neck, against his skin, and inhaled deeply. A sudden sharp pain in her side that accompanied this breath jolted her from the feelings of security she had been experiencing. Draco was on his feet instantly. He held her by the upper arms as her body arched and her head fell backwards. She was gasping for her, her eyes wide and unseeing. Her pupils were so greatly dilated that her eyes appeared to be black. She gasped for a moment before gaining control of her body once more. There was a spot of blood on Draco’s shoulder and she reached up in horror to wipe it away, but he grabbed her hands and pulled them to his face.

“Hermione?” His voice was hurt and confused. She started to cry.

“Don’t look at me,” she sobbed as she allowed her hair to fall across her face. “I’m sick. I’m disgusting.”

Draco took her face in his hands and gently forced her to look at him. He met her scared eyes for a moment and realized with a sharp jab that she was not pushing him away, but truly scared. Frightened. Terrified because she didn’t understand what was happening to her. He would do anything to protect her. He knew this now in the bottom of his heart. He was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, yet he could not voice it to her. He could not look her in the eyes and say, ‘You’ve changed my life. I love you so much I will die for you.’ He just could not say it.

Draco took her face again and kissed her forehead, his kissed trailing down her cheek and under her jaw. His breath was warm against her cold skin and after a few moments she could take it no longer and pressed her lips against his. He was startled by the cold metallic taste of blood that still lingered in her mouth.

“Hermione-” he started. Now was the time. All he had to do was open his mouth and push air out and make sounds and she would know the agony that was eating him alive. “I-” he stopped and she regarded him for a moment. “I-”

Hermion’s eyes drifted shut. “Something isn’t right,” she whispered.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

Her hand flew to her chest, tightly grasping the white gown she was wearing and pulling at it. “My chest. It feels -so tight- I can’t-” she was gasping again. “Draco- I can’t breathe-” she was gasping for air now. As he slipped his arms about her waist her head fell back and she started to shake.

The door flew open and Ginny, Harry, and Ron hurtled into the room. They crowded about the bed. As soon as Ginny saw her best friend convulsing in Draco’s arms she ran out of the room, screaming for help.

“What’s wrong with her, Malfoy?” Harry cried in fear as he grabbed the corner of the sheet and wiped the blood from Hermione’s neck, where it had dribbled from her mouth. Draco was silent. “What’s wrong with her!?”

He wasn’t ready to loose her. Not now. Not ever. He wouldn’t allow her to slip through his fingers like his mother. He would not loose another woman to the angel of death. He handed her off to Harry and rolled up his right sleeve.

“What are you doing?” Harry cried. “There is no time for this! Get a healer!”

“A healer will not be able to do anything to help her,” he replied in a soft voice as he pulled his wand from his robe. He regarded it for a moment, then, realizing it would not be able to do the job, set it aside. Funny, how in the end magic was not going to help him. He walked to the dinner tray that had been left on the other side of the room and pulled a knife to his side.

“What are you doing, Malfoy?” Harry asked, eyes wide. Hermione was wheezing in his arms, her eyes rolling back in her head. There wasn’t much time left. Draco walked forward.

“There is only one cure for this virus; the blood of a pureblood.”

Harry shook his head. “You are not making any sense, Malfoy. We don’t have time for this. What do you know about this virus?” It wasn’t a question, more a condemnation to point out his unsuitability to be parading about speaking as if he was knowledgeable of anything, but Draco ignored it.

“This virus- it was orchestrated by my father. I know everything needed to be known about it.” Draco stood before Harry, the knife at his side shining bright silver.

“What are you going to do?” Harry asked. “What is it you know that we don’t?”

“My father is filled with hate. He killed my mother, I will not allow him to kill Hermione as well,” Draco took an abrupt step forward and Harry instinctively took one back. “He is the one behind all of these deaths. He made a disease; a virus, that is passed through the fluids of the body. An indirect transference, say one you would get when kissing, does not pass the virus on quickly. It allows the sickness to gestate in the body. It eats away at the body before it attacks all of the organs. That’s why the victims bleed as they do before they die. A direct transference, blood to blood, as was the case with Creevy and Hermione the first day she was infected, causes an immediate reaction. The virus joins with the blood and races to the heart. Its an almost instantaneous death.”

“You haven’t told me how you are going to save her!” Harry yelled as Hermione’s eyes closed and the shaking spread throughout her entire body. She was now almost impossible to hold on to. “Where is Ginny with the bloody healers?!”

“I told you, Potter,” Draco said in a chillingly soft voice, “The healers won’t help her now.”

“Then what are you going to do?” Harry asked.

Draco raised his eyes, meeting Harry’s for the first time in years. “Haven’t you been listening?” he asked calmly. “The only way to save her is to flush the disease out - with ‘pure blood’.”

“You can’t, Draco,” Harry replied in sudden understanding, his eyes falling on the knife Draco was clutching.

“I don’t have a choice. Who else will do it? She’s mine to save,” he said, raising the knife. “My life is my own to trade for hers. I do it gladly.”

“You don’t have to end your life to save her, surely?” Ginny came running back into the room, breathless from her exertions, healers flocking behind her. She stopped dead in the doorway, blocking them from being able to pass as she took in the scene before her.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

“Draco, you can’t do this,” Harry insisted. Draco looked from Harry to Hermione, still shaking and coughing in his arms and knew that that was untrue. He had to do it. He looked back to Harry, and Harry knew it too. Draco stepped forward, taking Hermione in his arms as he sat on the edge of the bed. Harry sat across from him. “What must you do?” he asked.

“We will have to cut her arm-” he said, taking her pale arm in his hand. Her skin was like porcelain. “I will stab-” he stopped, for some reason talking was becoming difficult “I will stab myself here,” his hand went to his chest. “You must make sure that my blood mixes with hers. It will combine with hers and in doing so there will be no magic-less part to her. The virus, which attaches to the non-magic part of the blood and feeds off of the magic, will have nothing to survive on.”

“You can’t kill yourself, Draco,” Harry said. “She will never forgive us for letting you do that.”

“I don’t care. I won’t watch her die.”

“Why must you do it this way?” Ginny finally found her voice. “Why can’t you just cut your arm as well?”

“The blood must come from my heart,” he replied softly. “And that will kill me.” Harry and Ginny went silent. Draco leaned over Hermione. Time was running out. Her skin was yellow, fading into a dirty brown around her eyes. Her hair was stringy and lacked its usual luster. Her body was still shaking and instead of coughing up blood it had now just begun to stream thickly from her nose and mouth. “Hermione,” he whispered. “You tried to tell me before, but I wouldn’t listen. Its not loving that makes a person weak. Its pretending you don’t have weaknesses. Its thinking that a loved one causes a hole in your armor against the world. I am sorry I did not tell you before, but I was afraid. I see now. I love you. I love you more than I love my own life and I would give anything, absolutely anything, for you. With my kiss I will force air into your lungs. With my screams I will force you to open your eyes. My arms will be your strength. You will not die, Hermione. I will not let you.” With that said Draco braced himself and raised the knife.

“What are you doing, boy?” a healer from the hallway cried out in shock. “You will not be allowed to commit such violence in this place of healing.”

Draco closed his ears to the discontent being expressed behind him. He gripped Hermione’s hand with his free one and closed his eyes. He brought the knife upward and held it there for a moment, steeling himself quickly as he brought it thrusting downwards.

The knife was suddenly wrenched violently from his hands. Before he could do anything to stop him, Ron plunged the blade deeply into his chest and fell to the ground at their feet.

“NO!” Ginny cried in horror as her brother slumped to the floor. Harry stood immobile, bodily keeping Hermione from falling onto the floor as well. Draco, shocked beyond functioning, knelt at the boy’s head.

“You may love her, Malfoy,” Ron wheezed. “But she would hate us for allowing you to commit such an act. I won’t have you die and leave my… sister… with no one to care for her. How dare you,” he tried to breathe but his lungs were not expanding. “try to do- that-” his head fell to the side. “Do it quickly before there is nothing left,” he said.

Draco, completely numb at this turn, took Hermione’s arm and made a large slit. Her beautiful, pale skin split apart seamlessly, red bubbling warmly from the slice and streaming over his fingers. Between the three of them they moved the two bodies close together and set Hermione’s arm onto Ron’s bleeding chest. Only moments later, Ron slumped stiffly, his body becoming far too heavy to support.

Everyone previously paralyzed by these actions now swarmed into the room. Ginny was sobbing, her brother’s head in her lap. Her hands were grasping his face. She was screaming at him; “RON! Ron, please. Oh Merlin, please, hear me! Don’t. Oh, please, don’t. Please,” she begged. Harry was standing behind her, his hand on her shoulder, silent tears falling from his eyes. Draco was sitting on the bed, Hermione pressed against his chest, his arms holding her tightly. Her head was limply hanging backwards. He wasn’t sure if she was breathing, but blood was now seeping from the corners of her eyes. She was crying bloody tears. Her eyes were vacant, her face expressionless. He pulled her to him, burying his face at the juncture of her neck and chest, his eyes stinging with tears.

The healers, seeing one dead boy on the floor and a girl beyond help clutched in the other boy’s arms stalled in their steps. Slowly many of them began to trickle from the room; other patients with a hope of surviving needed tending. They could do nothing for a boy who was already dead.

“Please, Hermione,” Draco was whispering against her skin. He was rocking her unresponsive body back and forth. “Wake up, Hermione. Please, wake up.” He was just about to let go; to give up hope of having saved her. To face a reality where she was not present, when her chest heaved. Life flowed through her body in a surge and her eyes flew open. She took a deep, shuddering breath, and looked bewilderingly about the room her eyes falling from Draco to the dead body of one of her best friends; the knife still plunged in his heart.

She shook her head back and forth, tears coming to her eyes. She wanted to scream. She wanted to rage about the room. She wanted to hold him one last time but she didn’t even have the strength to clutch at Draco’s shirt. He held her tightly; the only force keeping her upright. She gave in, her eyes trained on Ron’s expressionless face and the blood pooling in Ginny’s lap and cried silently, anger, pain, and sorrow melting together into numbness.

Chapter 24: Of the Burial of a Brother and the Decay of a Granger
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Author's Note:
What have I learned? I’ve learned that life never stops moving. I’ve learned to hold on to things dearest to me and try not to look back at what is slipping by that you just could not hold on to anymore. I’ve learned that there are some things that just don’t matter and so many that do. I’ve learned that there is good in every single human being. I’ve learned to never doubt that ever again. I’ve learned to love strangers and to humbly accept praise and the support of people I may not know. But most importantly, I’ve learned to move on.

I would like to take a moment to apologize to you all. How completely unfair for me to leave you stranded and hanging without a single word from me for so very long. Thank you for all the personal messages I received expressing worry and encouragement - you are all such kind, sweet people. Its been so long and I miss you so very, very much.

It is because of you - because of the reviews I found when I finally got the guts up to sign on my account again - that I found I could sit down and work on this piece again. I tried, I really tried, after the accident, but things were different. Things had rearranged themselves and suddenly some things were just not important as others. I lost interest in a lot of things I had loved before - things really changed. But I want to come back and I want to keep writing and I want to continue this story because there is so much more I want to tell you - and I’ve decided, at this moment, if I can find the strength to do it - there will be a sequel. I’ve bounced between these two endings for quite some time now - almost a year. Weighing them against each other and mulling over the consequences of either one. Now, I think, I might take the road that brings you to the sequel. If I do it will be for you. I hope for all of your support and understanding as I try to bring what I see to life. I will make a final decision on the matter as these final chapters come out.

A few drafts of this chapter happened - some of which actually ended the story, but when I reread them I realized I was taking a cop out - giving up. There is no reason for that. I want this to go on and I want to be able to give you what I see in my head - I just hope it can happen!!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your belief in me and your patience as I attempt to piece my life back together. Thank you for supporting me and thank you for loving the words I give you. I love hearing from all of you. I love having this relationship with you. I love giving you this story. 

If you are looking for me between chapters - go to my personal website and find the link for "The Forsaken Ones" or join my mailing list and you will get information about it or MSN me. I'm always on my MSN and I love chatting and then I can personally point you towards "The Forsaken Ones" ^_- Which, I honestly believe, is my best piece of work thus far.

I hope you enjoy and forgive me for my absence.

 







 

Hours became a painful ticking of seconds. The edges of the world were blurring. Her eyes were swollen shut or pinned open, she couldn’t tell through the pain. Either way, she couldn’t see. All she knew were the tight circle of his arms. The soft tickling of his breath on her neck as he held her. The way it felt to curl into his side and hope for oblivion; wish for the end, She was wishing for it - most profoundly. She no longer wanted to go on, to live like this.

Her arm protested painfully as she came fully to consciousness, dream slipping away like silken threads of a spider’s web. She felt as if she was clawing through the undergrowth of the deepest forest. Night circled her. Her head was heavy and throbbing. She was awake enough now to take in her surroundings; the bed she was lying on and the sheets wound around her legs. The smell in the air was familiar and comforting. She gasped in pain, for no apparent reason. As if her body was remembering what her mind had not yet grasped.

“Hermione,” a dark, velvet voice whispered above her. She turned over to find him there, the source of that comforting haze that hung about her. His hands trailed down her jaw and over her shoulder. She followed them, surprised by the wad of white that she found was taped to her arm. She sat up, staring at it as her mind grappled with the appearance of the bandage. Tried to remember what it meant. Why it was there.

“Don’t push it,” he said softly. “Take it easy.” He sat on the bed in front of her, watching with eyes that looked as if they had not closed in sleep for quite some time.

This bandage. What was this bandage for? She looked to him, confusion apparent on her face.

“You’re in shock,” he said, unsurprised. “Just move slowly and try to relax.”

She pushed herself completely upright, small blotches of black popping in the corners of her eyes as if she was going to pass out. She closed her eyes, holding on to the sheets until the spasm passed. When she opened them he was standing at the foot of the bed, his back to her.

“Where are we?’ she asked. Her voice was hoarse and cracked most pitifully.

“This room,” he said as he gestured about them, “belongs to your mother, Hermione. You’re home.”

“Home…” she mulled that word over for a moment. Home. She was home. But why would she be home? Why was Draco Malfoy in her mother’s room? Why was there a bandage on her arm? So large and white… Why did her head hurt? Why was she in her mother’s room? In her mother’s bed? With Draco here? Why wasn’t she at Hogwarts?

Hogwarts. Hogwarts…Harry…Ginny… Her chest locked inwards, caving in pain. Hogwarts…Transfiguration… Head Dorms…. Something wasn’t making sense. She was holding a bunch of keys in her hand and she couldn’t find the lock they went in to.

“Yes, you’re home,” he said softly. He was watching her, but he wasn’t helping her make sense of the muddled mess her head was in. Her thoughts felt too big to hold inside. “You need to get dressed soon. We have to go.”

“We have to go? Where are we going?”

Draco’s expression twisted painfully for the briefest of seconds and then, just as quickly, was composed and vacant. “Please get dressed,” he whispered as he left the room.

Outside the room he met Harry and Ginny, both of whom were dressed in black mourning robes with matching, scratched, red eyes. They looked up and he shook his head. Ginny turned into Harry’s shoulder, silently crying.

Harry’s hands clasped in front of him, his eyes focused on the veins and tendons as they became more prominent.

“She doesn’t remember,” Draco said. “It won’t last. Her mind’s shut down to cope with the pain. She’s in shock.”

“To cope…” Harry said distantly.

“She knows something’s wrong, but its not there for her right now.” Draco was walking towards the staircase when he suddenly turned back to face them. “I don’t want her to go today,” he said.

“Malfoy, its not your call!” Ginny cried in pain.

“You Bastard, how could you say such a thing?” Harry turned away, hot tears unashamedly leaking over his cheek. “She has to be at his funeral. She has to be.”

“And what if it breaks her? Huh, Potter? What if seeing him lying there in his coffin pushes her over the edge? I won’t take that chance.”

“I could give a damn about your feelings right now,” Harry murmured as his hand softly drifted over Ginny’s hair. “He was her brother. He died for her. She will be there.”

“You can say that so nonchalantly,” Draco’s jaw tensed, one hand fisting. “But you won’t have to pick up the pieces. You haven’t sat by her side for two days while she cried out the name of another man.”

“Don’t flatter yourself, Draco,” Harry said. “She’s been one of us all along. She would have chosen one of us over you at any point.”

Draco started down the stairs. “You’ve ripped everything from me - you and your desire to be the only ones in her world. It was my place to die for her. If it had been me she could have mourned and moved on.” He looked away from them, down the staircase he had mounted. “But now I must watch as an irreparable rift is cleaving her in two and I can’t stop it. Because I’m not him. Because I never was and because I never mattered as much. Not when it came down to it. I didn’t have the history with her; the years of memories and laughter. All I’ve been from the beginning is something to fear and tread lightly with. An experiment. Would I break first? Was I worth the risk? Was I going to change enough to bend myself around someone like her? Could I possibly turn my back on a family; a lineage, of dark serving bastards?”

“Draco,” Harry started. “We never-”

“-Bullshit, Potter. I’m a Malfoy, remember? We aren’t human. We don’t care. We serve our Dark Lord and breed sons vile enough that Mother Earth should reach up and swallow us hole. We are better off six feet in the ground. That’s how we are meant to exist. We are dead from the moment we are born. We greet this world of self serving pricks, already cast in our lot. As a Malfoy I cannot feel. I cannot desire. I can only serve. And serve I was content to do until I met her. Never fight, only do as I was bid. Mindless and without passion. Desire nothing. But I do desire,” he took a few more steps down the staircase. Harry stood from his spot on the floor.

“Draco, I’m sorry.”

“I desire a life of freedom. A world where I can make those choices for myself. “ He looked back at Harry. “I desire her.” He gripped the railing with both hands. “I want her to look at me like she did him. The way she does you. As if she’s never questioned the trust she has for you. As if there is no reason to be wary, to hold anything back, to cry.”

“You’re speaking nonsense, Draco,” Harry said. “You’re just upset.”

“You’re uncomfortable to see it, aren’t you?” Draco asked with a small smile. “You’re uncomfortable to know I’m human.”

“Kids!” a voice called up the staircase. “We need to be going soon!”

There was silence for a moment.

“My mother committed suicide,” he said abruptly. “Not too long ago. To escape my father.”

“That’s horrible,” Ginny gasped. “Draco, we didn’t know-”

Draco laughed. “It was the smartest thing she ever did; escaping him. I killed her though. I left her there, defenseless and without a way to escape. So she had to find her own way. “

“Hermione has nothing to do with your mother,” Harry said.

“No,” Draco sighed. “Maybe not to you. But everyone I am supposed to protect, Potter, finds a way to slip through my fingers.” He looked back at the door Hermione was currently behind. “Maybe its because I’m so upset over her. Maybe I’m just speaking nonsense after all.”

At that point there was a soft click and the door swung open. Hermione was standing there, holding her dress to herself with one hand as the other one hung useless at her side, the bandage a blaring white against the black fabric. Tears were running down her cheeks. “I can’t-” she started and stopped.

Draco moved towards her but Ginny beat him to the door and pushed her friend back inside, closing the door behind them.

“She doesn’t have any idea what’s going on,” Draco said.

“How are you so sure? You said she was dreaming about him so she must be aware.”

“That’s subconscious, Potter. It doesn’t have anything to do with her now. Her mind is shutting its self down to protect her. She knows something is wrong she just can’t put her finger on it. You cannot expect her to go to this funeral.”

“Are you kids ever going to be ready?” A brunette woman was coming up the stairs. She was slight and slender, possessing many features of Hermione’s. Draco moved over to make room for her to join their huddle in the hallway.

“Mrs. Granger,” Draco started. He turned to face the adult but she was considerably smaller than him. He had to look down to meet her eyes. “Mrs. Granger I think you should keep Hermione home today.”

“And I think she needs to be at her best friend’s damn funeral,” Potter growled.

“Harry, as a guest in this house you will watch your language,” Mrs. Granger scolded. “Now,” she turned back to face Draco. “I’m not familiar with you young man, my daughter never told me anything about you and I’ve never met you before when I’ve met these others, so I don’t know anything about you and your relationship. I would like to know, however, what makes you think you are in a place to judge what my daughter should and should not be doing today.” Mrs. Granger’s hands went to her hips in an exact imitation of Hermione.

“Because two days ago your daughter watched a best friend of her’s commit suicide on her behalf and she is so distraught over the matter her mind is blocking it all out. And because,” he took a breath. “I’m her boyfriend and I have her best interests in mind.”

“Like freaking hell you are!” Harry cried, infuriated.

“Language Mr. Potter!“ she declared once more. “You’re her boyfriend?” Mrs. Granger seemed to need a moment to digest that bit of information as she looked the tall blonde up and down. “Well then,” she said matter-of-factly. “I suppose you would have a say in the matter. You think she is not ready?” Harry sputtered angrily in the background.

“Mrs. Granger, I don’t want to keep her from it. I’m afraid though. Afraid that if the trigger for her mind to wake up is the actual physical body of her friend it will shatter her.” Draco seemed to be having difficulty speaking.

Mrs. Granger cleared her throat. “Alright then,” she said. “I have a compromise.” She looked to Harry. “Hermione will go to the funeral with us,” she looked back to Draco, eyes intense and demanding as she met his own. “But she will stay in the back, away from the casket. Are we all agreed?”

“Fine,” Draco agreed.

“This is absolutely ridiculous. The day we bury the best man anyone could dream of having in their lives and there is freaking rules to play by.”

“Harry Potter I have had enough of your mouth for one day,” Mrs. Granger sighed. “Now we must go or we will be late.” Mrs. Granger strode to the door and knocked softly before opening it and stepping inside. She left the door open behind her and Draco and Harry drifted towards it.

Hermione was sitting just inside the door on the edge of the bed, a vapid expression on her face. Ginny was fixing her eyes in the mirror on the far wall.

“Are you ready, my dear?” her mother asked gently.

Hermione nodded, looking down at her dress in confusion. “Where are we going?”

“Damnit,” Draco swore as he elbowed past Harry and into the room. Mrs. Granger seemed to be at a loss for words.

Draco grabbed Hermione by the back of the neck, pulling her into him in front of everyone. “Trust me?” he asked softly.

She nodded mutely.

“We’re going to go out for a little bit. Just hold my hand and don’t let go and then we can come home and you can go back to sleep.” He brushed a strand of hair behind her ear. Mrs. Granger looked on with an approving expression and Harry sighed in defeat.

The ride to the Weasley house didn’t take too long with the aid of magic. Hermione was curled up in the backseat against Draco’s side and Harry was pouting on the other side of her. Ginny had claimed the front seat next to Mrs. Granger, who was driving them all over. Hermione seemed to have reverted back into a child and Draco hated it. All he could do was gently pat her head or stroke her arm, as if she was a sulking three year old.

As soon as they reached The Burrow Mrs. Weasley was on top of them. She grabbed Harry to her bosom and held him there for a long time, sobs racking her body. Harry let himself be held despite his seventeen years and after a moment the grief over took him as well. Ginny could not stand to watch it and ran to her mother a few moments later, the three of them collapsing in on each other. Draco helped Hermione exit the car from the opposite side, putting the large metal thing between them and Ron’s mother.

“Why don’t we go get something to drink?” he suggested, steering her away. But Hermione looked over her shoulder for a long while as they did so. After a moment she turned back forward, lost in thought. A level of awareness had returned to her that made him nervous.

“What are all these people here for?” she asked as they weaved through the somber crowd.

“To say a goodbye,” Draco answered.

“I heard what you said to my mother,” she said abruptly.

Draco froze. “You did?”

“I heard you say you were my boyfriend. I was wondering when we had decided on that.”

The panic swooped out of him in one large breath. He smiled slightly. “We can talk about it later,” he said. “When there aren’t so many people around. But don’t you think it’s a good word for it?”

She nodded. “Well, I suppose it is.”

“Here,” he handed her a cup of water and she took it in one shaking hand.

“What happened to my arm?” she asked suddenly. “And why do I recognize all of these people but can’t remember their names?”

Draco started, hoping a valid excuse would come out, but he was interrupted.

“We are gathered here today to mourn the loss of one so young.”

“Draco,” Hermione said, her eyebrows knit in confusion. She gave no indication she had heard the man at the front of the crowd. “All these flowers… all these…. Lilies…”

“Hermione, take my hand,” he said, voice bordering on frantic as she reached for the bandage.

“Why do I have to wear this thing? What’s under it?” She grasped the edge and pulled before he could stop her.

The birds stopped chirping. The wind picked up slightly. The colors dimmed. The world seemed to stop all together as she looked at the garish slice in her arm. It ran the entire length of her forearm and was hideous and puckered. The edges were dark red and angry. The skin swollen purple and black from the pressure of the incision. All at once she understood. Her knees gave out and she cried out in pain. He caught her before she met the ground but he could not stop the damage from being done. Without the pressure of the bandage to hold the edges of the skin together the cut began to seep.

She was sobbing. Sobbing so loudly that the people near the back of the crowd, closest to them, were looking anxiously over their shoulders. She was scrambling to her feet again and pushing away from him. She could hardly see through her tears. She was angrily shoving through the crowd, scrambling to get to the front. He shoved his way after her, not stopping to apologize as he stepped on feet or toppled people over.

As she came completely into view the man in charge of the ceremony stopped speaking. All eyes were on her as she mounted the stairs of their home altar. She did not stop until she had reached the coffin. She stood before it for a second , still and silent. Draco finally reached the front of the crowd.

“Hermione! No!” he cried.

But it was too late. She grasped the edge of the coffin and threw it upwards. A bleeding scream rent the air and did not stop. Draco was swallowed by the crowd as people reached for her, dragging her away from the body. She kicked and scratched, hollering the entire time. Angry tears streaming down her face. Her arm was bleeding but no one seemed to notice. They got her on the ground and tried to pin her, to calm her, to soother her in any way possible.

It was at that moment his resolve formed. He turned his back on the coffin and his fists clenched together so tightly the tendons in his wrist screamed in protest. He was going to find Gustave. He was going to find his father.

He was going to kill them.

Chapter 25: The Perfect Arabesque
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Author’s Note: I am sorry for the inconsistencies in the story at this time. My beta is currently in the process of editing the previous chapters with me and with the conclusion it will all make sense again. A few key plot elements have been altered as well as the name of the dance teacher. I am so sorry for the temporary confusion as we go through this process. Please enjoy.





When I look back to my days at Hogwarts, my memory blurs. I remember colors more vividly than faces. I remember words, more explicitly than events. I remember Draco and how he stood by me but he has gone now.

I find that five years have not brought me closure. I have discovered more than many people do in their lifetimes, and I have lived more honestly, openly and fully, than many before me have and many after me ever will. I loved once. I loved someone who gave their life for me, someone who put me back together after I had fallen to a level I should never have returned from. That is how I have reached this cross in the roads; this epilogue.

You see, it’s been five years and I have been unable to speak of what transpired in those days until this moment. Until I found this aged quill and made the acquaintance of this particular piece of parchment. Funny, how it sometimes works that way. All you need are the proper circumstances and the truth will come pouring forth and you can do nothing to stop it. I wonder now if I would have changed anything. If I would still have fallen in love with him as I did if I knew what would come of it. I find I can picture no other ending to the story. No other way out than the one we took.



I was escorted from the funeral and the proceedings continued without me. Ron was my brother; his blood ran in my veins and yet my presence had not been required. Funny, how the truth was. Draco followed Ricardo, my mother’s boyfriend himself, to the upstairs bedroom he had yet to see in all of his stay; the room belonging to me alone.

Ricardo kicked the door open with his foot and carried me over the thresh hold, depositing me on the lavender covered bed on the far side of the room. He left immediately after, excusing himself by saying he needed to find mother and make sure she knew her daughter was alright.

I remember that my eyes were open and staring blindly at the ceiling above me. My hands were clenched in fists around the blankets I lay on. Blood was seeping into the purple, turning it a mottled russet. Draco reached for my arm, taking his coat off and setting it beneath the seeping wound. He then turned away, looking about room for a clean piece of cloth. He grabbed the first thing he saw, a white camisole, and ripped it down the side, creating a large, clean bandage. He then gently raised my arm and pushed the skin together, tying the material as tightly as he could using his mouth and open hand.

“Hermione,” he said softly, running a hand over my hair. “It’s alright.”

“He’s dead,” I said emptily. “Isn’t he?”

“He died for you,” he said, hand trailing across my forehead and down my cheek. “He gave his life to you.”

My eyes closed, tears leaking from the corners. “Why?”

He was silent for a moment. When he finally did speak his voice was almost inaudible. “Because he loved you.”

“What happened to me?” I finally asked.

Draco took my hand, slowly and softly explaining to me what had happened. He told me everything he could, everything that made sense and did not. He told me what his father had done to his mother, to me, and to him. And then he gave me his vow.

“I will kill him, Hermione,” he said, eyes unable to meet mine. “I will kill him.”

And I knew it was true, though neither of us could have grasped then what that would have meant.



It’s been only three years since his death and yet all I can imagine is the child, the boy he was when we met. The man he became is a mystery I may never understand. I will never forget the care he took with me. Things I never saw back then have awoken me in a cold sweat for these three years. I remember vividly the time he dunked my sore body in a tub of ice, the time he held me up and taught me inch by inch how to move my body to perform a perfect arabesque.

And when I begin to think of it all I realize there is no such thing. There is no ‘perfect arabesque’. The body will always turn away from the desired angle. The foot will always be too high or too low, the hands too hard or too soft, the face too distant or too penetrating.

Yes, I loved him once, but I suppose that time has stolen even that from me.



I was kept in my room. Visitors were turned away and at the end of three days I was taken from my home and back to Hogwarts. My duties as Head Girl were lifted and fell upon the shoulders of a Hufflepuff prefect. I would not leave our common room. I drifted from my bedroom to the couch before the fire. I ate very little of what Draco brought to me. Madame Pomfrey was forced to come to us to inspect my arm, though there was little to be done about it. The cut refused to heal even with the aid of magic. It continued to pucker and swell, skin drawing closer together in a battle it looked as if it might lose.

Draco began to think I was not letting myself heal. At the end of the second week he could take no more. He had just come back from the dance studio to find me sitting on the floor, mere feet from the flames and he threw his bag across the room in anger. I didn’t even flinch.

He vaulted across the room, grabbing my shoulders and hauled me around to face him. “Wake up!” he cried. “Stop this! Stop it!”

He told me that I remained vacant, eyes glazed, staring back at him expressionless.

“You have to get up! You have to! You have to dance, Hermione! Your Jury is next week! For fuck’s sake, get up!”

My eyes drifted close but I gave no other response. “That’s it, Hermione. I have had it.”

Draco stormed up the stairs and into the bathroom. He was gone long enough that I became completely entranced with the flames once more and his reappearance startled me.

He leant over, picked me up and carried me upstairs. He stood with me in his arms for a second, hovering over the icy bath. I wouldn’t look at him. In desperation he let me go and I fell into the tub, cold water sloshing over the sides. I was completely emerged for a moment and then my eyes shot open and my hands shot out of the water and grappled for the sides. I couldn’t find leverage so he grabbed on to one hand and I shot upright, gasping and spitting water out of my mouth. Then I began to cry.

I screamed, kicking at the base of the tub with bare feet and sending water spraying across the entire bathroom. I hit the porcelain sides with my fists and all the while I cried, a guttural and disgusting sound spewing from me. Draco let me go, watching with mild fascination and horror. When I had finally spent myself I lay back in the water, shivering and panting, clutching my right hand to my chest. We sat like that for a while, silence the only thing between us.

“What will I dance?” I finally said.

“What?” he asked, coming to sit on the wet edge of the tub.

“My jury,” I said, voice gravelly. I looked up at him, tears in my eyes. “What will I dance?”

Draco grabbed me then, pulling me, wet body and all, to his own. He wound his hands in my hair. “We’ll put something together from the steps I taught you already. You can do this.”



I have known failure unlike many human beings have ever known. I have known the taste of blood and the taste of pain. I have known the darkness unlike any human should ever see. I have known the tunnel without a light at the end.




Standing before the panel for my final jury I felt a fear I had never known. I knew I could not fool them. I knew they would see right through me. Who had I been trying to fool? I could not dance. I never had been able to dance. I never would dance again. Nothing anyone did would ever fix that. I was a failure at this; my greatest passion.

“Miss Granger,” Professoressa said. “Are you ready to begin?”

I was frozen in the center of the room. I might have nodded slightly but I wasn’t sure. I was lost in my own thoughts, limbs unable to move. The music began to drift through the room. I was supposed to be moving. I was supposed do something now.

“Miss Granger.” That voice sounded like McGonagall, although what assistance the Transfiguration professor could give for a dance jury was lost on me. “You’re music began.”

The music stopped. “We will try again,” Professoressa said.

I took a deep breath, head lifting. Their faces were blank. None of them seemed to be expectant but I knew better. I knew. The music began again and I begged my muscles to do something, anything.

“Miss Granger,” Professoressa said. “It is time to dance now.”

“Dianna, perhaps you should give the child an extension. She’s recently lost a very dear-“

“No, Minerva,” Professoressa said, standing. “Miss Granger and I had an explicit deal made. If she dances this jury she has a chance of passing. She must dance. She must do it now.”

“Dianna, surely-“

“No, Minerva.” Professoressa made her way from behind the table and stood before me, assessing me with sharp eyes. Her face was not unforgiving but it was not merciful either. “Hermione, the true test of the artist is when they can stand up before adversity and still give the world their gift.” Professoressa tipped my chin upwards. “Child, you will dance now or you will fail. You are a dancer and that is what we do.”

“Dianna this is completely unnecessary, clearly she is not prepared to do this,” Professor McGonagall protested.

“Then she will fail,” Professoressa stated simply. “That is it. You would do the same for one of your own students if they could not perform what they needed to. What is the difference between dancing under stress and casting a spell under stress? Why should my art form differ from yours? No. Miss Granger will dance. She will show us all now what a true dancer does when they are in pain. We will start again.”

Professoressa primly took her seat. I closed my eyes, breathing deeply and knowing every word she had said was the truth. This was my last moment. This was my chance. I could hear nothing, though I knew the music was playing. I knew Draco was standing outside the door. I knew he was watching through the window. I knew he would be angry with me but I could not move. Move, foot. I begged. Bend, leg.

I took a step forwards, foot pointed. I was unsteady, my movement disjointed. I allowed my back to arch and my body bent backwards, one arm carefully making its way over my head. I straightened and opened my eyes, stepping backwards as he had demanded. My arms lilted forwards and I saw it; that bandage.

My vision went white, blood pounded in my ears. Why should I dance? Why should I? What reason was there to dance now?

My body froze and I was unable to tear my eyes from the bandage. What was so alluring about it? What drove me to stare at this white piece of cloth so intently so many times throughout the day?

It was him, I realized. It was Ron. This was all that was left of him. This white bandage. It was all I had in the entire world to hold on to. I clasped my arm to my chest and suddenly I was sobbing. My knees buckled and I continued to cry as they slammed violently into the ground.

The music continued to play, drifting through the room, unworried about the panic and turmoil that lay around it. The professor’s rushed for me. Hands grabbed at me. I continued to cry. Somewhere in the mix Draco came in to the room and took me away from them all. I saw Professoressa as I passed through the doors and her eyes met mine for the briefest of flickering moments. Professoressa looked away.


There is no fix for what is supposed to be. I have given up everything I ever knew. I am certain of nothing. I find solace at Ron’s grave; solace I can find no other place on the earth.


I failed my jury, as I had suspected. It was the first thing I had ever failed at and yet I found very little of me truly cared. When Madame Promfrey had come to check on me this evening she had been smiling. She chattered like a magpie the entire time she was here. They had used Ron’s blood to make a potion that had cured all the sick students.

Ron’s blood.

They had taken it from him, put it in a vial, and given it to others. Just like that. They were cured.

Draco knocked on the door, not waiting for me to respond before coming into the room. He had a steaming bowl of porridge in his hands. He handed it to me wordlessly. He turned to leave the room.

“You’re angry with me,” I said, setting the bowl on the side table. My arm was uncovered now. Madame Pomfrey wished for the skin to breathe. There would be a vicious scar, she had said.

Draco paused by the door, turning to face me. I noticed he was grasping something tightly in his other hand. “I’m not angry with you,” he said.

“I’m angry with myself,” I admitted.

Draco came to the foot of the bed, settling himself down amidst my mussed blankets. “Give me your arm,” he said.

Without question I raised it to him, skin less angry and swollen then it had ever been before. The edges no longer created a gaping open wound but were coming together. It was scabbed over and mottled purple and yellow, but it was healing. He unwound a black satin ribbon from his hand and tied it midway around my arm, the bow tickling the skin of my inner arm. “You will heal,” he said, kissing the skin.

I bit my lip in an effort to keep from crying and flew at him, falling into his arms. He shushed me, gently petting my head and holding me close.

“I’ve been asked to perform the final dance in the recital,” he said after a moment.

“Recital?” I asked, pushing away and blinking up at him.

“They cast it from the juries,” he said. “They’ve asked me to close it.”

“That’s quite the honor,” I said softly.

“Will you be there?” he asked, eyes on my arm.

I was quiet for a moment. “Of course,” I said. “Of course I’ll be there.”



I remember that reality was a distant cloud in the days after he returned to me, his father’s blood on his hands. I remember there came a point where the world would stop spinning and I would find myself standing there, looking down at what had happened and wondering how I could fix it. Fix everything. Fix me. Fix him.



I stood in the shadows of the Great Hall, pressed as far back against the wall as I could get. The show had been in progress for well over an hour by the time Draco took the stage. He was in all black, as was usual for him. He took center stage and stood there for a moment, looking out at the crowd with no expression to his face. He shifted and I realized he was holding his wand. He pointed it at his throat.

“I am supposed to be performing a solo dance for you all this evening, but I’m here to inform you that I cannot do that,” his voice rang throughout the hall.

Cold shock swept through me. What on earth did he think he was doing? I stepped from the shadows and his eyes found me. He took a visible breath and then turned back out towards the rest of the student body.

“I’ve learned something this year that, perhaps, many of you may find to be quite a bit shocking.” He stopped, looking down, a small smirk creeping on to his face. “I’m only human,” he said.

The people around me were whispering. Professoressa was standing in the back of the Great Hall, arms crossed tightly against her chest, an expression of extreme disapproval on her face.

“My mother was murdered this year,” that brought quite the few gasps. “The same man who took my mother from me almost took the only other thing in the world I care about. I am leaving after this and most of you will never see me again.”

I found I was unable to move. I was stuck where I stood, blood pounding in my neck and ears, entire body cold.

“There is something I know about her that no one else knows and they must.” He turned to me then. “Hermione, please come up here.”

The coldness I felt seemed to radiate throughout the room. It took a few tries before I could get my feet to move and if it hadn’t been him standing there beckoning me it would never have happened. I mounted the stairs and went to his side and he pulled me to him.

“I can’t do this,” I protested.

He pointed his wand at his throat and then set it on the edge of the stage, taking my hand and pulling me away from the edge. “Yes, you can. You deserve this and you will do it.” He ran a hand down the side of my face. “You will dance, Hermione, and I won’t let you fall.”

He put a hand behind my shoulder blade and took the other in his. A beautiful waltz lilted through the air and I closed my eyes, settling my free hand on his shoulder. “You said you were leaving,” I suddenly remembered, the shock of being called onto the stage wearing off. “What do you mean?”

“I promised you, Hermione,” he said. “I will find vengeance for you.”

“You’re going without me,” I said in understanding.

“Yes,” he said, lifting an arm so that I would spin under and around. “I would never put you in danger like that.”

“What will I do?” I asked, coming back to face him.

“You’re dancing,” he said with a soft smile.

With a bolt of panic running through me I realized he was right. He dug his feet into the floor and around we spun, weaving through each other effortlessly.


Voldemort killed my beloved. Thomas Marvolo Riddle himself came to our apartment one night and pulled Draco from our bed with his own hand. Draco had known death was coming for him. He did not fight back. He locked his eyes with mine, reaching towards me in a way that conveyed all that I needed to know. The green light from the outer room was so brilliant it blinded me for a moment. I screamed, shock radiating through me. I vaulted from the bed, hurtling out of the room and into the next. He was on the floor, limbs askew and face soft with the peace he had made for this outcome. Dear God, how I had not wanted it to come to this. Even the slight of the Dark Lord hurt me. I wasn’t worth his time; my death was not important enough to him.

I wanted death at that moment. I grabbed on to him, wrapping my body around his own and pulling him as tightly to me as I could. Part of my cheek lay on my arm, the puckered skin of my scar rough and uncomfortable. It was the memory of the smell of the blood of that wound, the memory of the metallic scent of the blood on his clothes when he returned after the murder of his father and a man resurrected from the dead, Gustave, that brought tears into my eyes. I cried that first night. I haven’t cried since.

The sun continued to rise and set without him. Time continued to progress.

Draco wasn’t supposed to be with me. He was supposed to have died that day and Ron had swooped in and ruined it all. His selfless act had ruined everything, had brought us to this. You could not delay the pain. I was meant to mourn Draco. The two years we spent together were borrowed time – time I should have lived with another. Draco was not supposed to be mine and we knew it but we couldn’t let it go. We clung to each other, desperately wishing for other circumstances.
Draco had taught me what I needed to know to survive. He had taught me that it was okay to be me and it was okay to fail if only you stood up again; if you danced once more. I will move on with my life embracing the joy I now can feel. I kiss that scar every morning when I wake and sometimes I fall asleep with a black satin ribbon wound between my fingers.

I stand before the window now, hair tied back from my face and arms raised. I no longer need the music; I hear it on my own. I no longer need him to hold me up; I know he is there. I don’t see him, but I feel him. He gave me back the life I had known as a child. I find joy and beauty in dance unlike I ever had before.

“Mummy!”

I realize I have been swaying in the sunlight before this window for quite some time, thinking on him. A beautiful blonde child darts in to the room, her tiny dance shoes clapping against her legs as she throws herself at me. I scoop her up in my arms and plant a large kiss on her cheek.

“Mummy we’ll be late!” she cries, kissing me back.

I scoot her out the door and pick up the piece of parchment, folding it many times before placing it in an ivory box that sits atop my dresser. She’ll never know him. She may never see a picture of him, for I have none. She may never know his name, for I never say it. She won’t ask for years just yet who he even is – and I won’t tell her.

It is something I have pondered late at night as I lay in our bed alone. He and I were never supposed to be together. Death chose him, he resolved to meet it, and once that particular opportunity had passed he spent all his time waiting for the next. And yet, if Ron had not done as he had and given me his life, I would never have her.

“Mummy!” she appeared in the doorway again.

“Come here and let Mummy tie your hair back,” I said to her, arms outreached.

She ran over, throwing herself on the bed and sat before me, prim and proper young lady that she was. I reached behind my own head, withdrew the black ribbon, my hair falling about my shoulders, and reached up to gather her own.

Once the bun was set atop her head and the bow tied I patted her on the bottom and pushed her towards the door once again. “Mummy’s coming,” I assured her.

She darted out with a laugh and I turned back to the window, hugging my arms about myself. Perhaps we had given each other the only thing we could. I gave him a reason to escape the life he did not want, a life of only dead ends and subservience. He gave me a daughter who loved to stand before the window and spin around in circles, a simple waltz drifting through the air. He gave me joy.

“Arabesque!” I called to the door. She turned, peeking her head in. She giggled in the way only a small child could. “Ara, don’t forget to pack your white leotard this time, alright?” I smiled. She nodded, small footsteps running away down the hall.

Maybe I was wrong, I thought as I turned to the window one last time, maybe there really was a perfect Arabesque.



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