definition: cin*der n. A burned or partly burned substance, such as coal, that is not reduced to ashes but is incapable of further combustion.
While sitting in the small, tattered easy chair staring into the depths of the reddish fire, Draco Malfoy could have never guessed the turn his evening was about to take.
For the majority of the last five years, he'd been working his way into respectability. He was shunned from the wizarding world the day the Dark Lord fell, and rightly so. As a twenty-four year old adult, Draco had re-evaluated the meaning of life and had tried to pull respectable wages as a telemarketer ever since. Draco found work with a telephone company who knew nothing of his past as a wizard. He had no friends, he barely had possessions, and his family was dead.
That's what they told him, anyway.
He had no idea where his family's riches were, and he didn't care anymore, because with those riches came the vicious reminder of his father's sins. He cringed at the thought of his father; even though he'd been nasty and forceful to Draco, he'd also been Draco's father. He tried not to be bitter, but it was a daily battle with himself.
The night was tainted by soaking rains, and it was pitch black outside, so Draco decided this particular evening was the best time to throw himself his monthly pity party. Just as he settled in to think about all he'd lost, there was a frantic knock at the door.
"Help me! You've got to help me!" shrieked a voice on the other side. Curious, Draco rose from his chair and walked hesitantly to the door.
"Who's there?" He asked, trying to catch a glimpse of the figure through his window.
"Please help me! They are coming!" came a female voice. He cautiously opened the door, only to have the voice's occupant run him down in an attempt to free herself from the rain.
"Hide me! Please Hide me!" Draco shook himself off and turned to face the frantic woman.
"If you would please--Granger??" He said in disbelief.
"Please Draco, Please hide me, they are coming!" Hermione Granger stood before him, her cloak completely soaked from the downpour outside. Her usually dark almond eyes were clouded with a piercing fear, and she was rasping for breath.
"Uhm- We are not on a first name basis, mudblood," He spat nastily, squinting his eyes at her. He knew it was harsh, especially since worse could be said about him, but it was essential for her to understand that he was still in command and in control despite his meager accomodations. She began to sob, dropping to her knees pathetically..
"Please, Please, I'll do anything, please hide me, if only for a few minutes!!" He heard shouts issuing from outside and knew that someone was indeed after her. He looked back into the fearful eyes, sighed, and decided that he would hide her, if only for his pure amusement. After all, whoever was after her couldn't be good. He restrained the insults he desperately longed to let escape his mouth.
"Fine, follow me."
"Oh-oh thank you, thank you!" She cried, as Draco turned and led her upstairs. He pulled on one of the ceiling tiles, and a stairway emerged.
"This is to the attic. I doubt they will find you here. It will be hot and stuffy up there, but I trust you'll live." He smirked at her, but his moment was interrupted by several violent pounds on his door.
"Draco Malfoy! By order of the minister himself, we order that you let us in so that we may search your house for a fugitive!" Draco ran downstairs and opened the door before the Aurors could break it down.
"What is the meaning of this?" He asked angrily, for he was quite miffed at his evening being interrupted twice.
"Malfoy, my name is Orion Candise. I am the head auror at the Ministry of Magic. We have orders to search every house in the area for one Hermione Jane Granger Weasley. Have you seen or heard anything suspicious in or around your house recently?"
"No sir. I've just been by myself all evening long."
"And what time did you arrive home this evening, Malfoy?" The auror was seemingly taunting him, knowing that Malfoy could barely set foot in the wizard world without a glare, a tongue lashing, or even worse.
"6:30, sir. I made myself a turkey sandwich and then I searched through newspapers for another job." It killed Malfoy to address the man like this, but he wasn't on the best terms with the Ministry. Still, anything he could do to thwart their intentions would satisfy him.
"Very well. Please stand aside as we search the premises."
"Of course," Draco said, clearing the entrance for the other aurors to search the house.
"Draco Malfoy," one of them said, and the voice could have only belonged to Neville Longbottom.
"Who the hell made you an auror, Longbottom?" Draco asked incredulously, staring at the man.
"The Minister of course. He seems to think that with all my-- ah-- experience that I was perfect as an auror. And I happen to think that he was right. Now will you please get out of my way so that I can do my job-- after all, I do have an important job to do, unlike you!" Draco stood aghast at what Neville had just said to him. He was almost impressed- it had been the perfect insult. It almost reminded Draco of...well, himself.
"Indeed," Draco said, more angry at the ministry than ever. He knew he should be careful, and even grateful- after all, the ministry had cleared him of all charges, and didn't even snap his wand, which at the time he thought was imminent. The truth was that Draco had never really killed anyone, he'd just been a part of Voldemort's inner circle. And that, some people thought, was enough to warrant the dementor's kiss. However, he had had two people vouch for him at his trial- Remus Lupin and Hermione Granger. They both knew that he was innocent, even if no one else had believed him. At the time, he hated everyone, especially Granger, the mudblood. Times were different now, and here he was, harboring a criminal in his two story shack.
"Well," he thought, "at least I don't owe her anymore." Still, he couldn't figure out how she'd known where he lived; he didn't think anyone from the wizarding world even knew he was alive anymore! He heard a crash from upstairs and realized that the aurors were tearing his house apart. One of them was downstairs, ripping the cushions of his couch, moving furniture about as though it was junk taking up space.
"Candise, I can't find anything in here, looks like its clean. We've searched up and down and there is no trace of any foul play," Longbottom's voice came from the one room upstairs.
"Right, well, Malfoy, be sure to let us know if you see anything strange."
"Of course, sir. Good night, sir." Malfoy let the words drip off his tongue with such a sugary sweetness it was a wonder they didn't search the house a second time because of his arrogance. They didn't seem to notice, however, and left without another word.
After a good five minutes, Draco sprinted up the stairs to the place where Hermione was hiding.
"Granger?" He called into the small dark room. She answered him with a quiet sob. He didn't know what to do; consoling crying women wasn't exactly his forte. Still, he pressed on, for no other reason than to get the blubbering fool out of his attic. "Come on, woman, come out of there!" He saw her leg descend down onto the ladder, and he sighed with relief.
"Oh thank you, thank you!" She repeated.
"Don't mention it. Just call us even. Now, care to tell me why three very pissed off aurors just searched my house looking for a fugitive?"
"I didn't do it, you know I didn't do it! Please, oh please," She moaned, as though she was lost in her own little world.
"Didn't do what?"
"It's not true, you know it isn't, you were there, you saw, I didn't do it! Ohhh," she cried. He swallowed. he hated what he was about to do.
"H-Hermione, listen. Sit down, I'll put on a pot of tea, and you can tell me all about it."
"Merlin, what am I going to do?" She asked, large tears pouring down her cheeks.
"You're going to come with me to the kitchen and we are going to drink tea. Come on."
"This-this isn't the Malfoy I kn-know. Why didn't you turn me in? You could have, I was right there, but you didn't. Why?"
"Because I hate the ministry as much as you do. Now come on, woman, let's go." She obliged, following him down the steps to the kitchen where he put on a pot of tea.
"You don't understand what you've just done for me," whispered Hermione, looking up at him. It was then he noticed what she really looked like. Her face was cut and bleeding. Her wet clothes stuck to her bronzed skin and her brown hair hung in wet ringed curls. She looked almost childlike, so small and scared.
"Tell me what is going on," he said, forcing the most kind voice he could.
"They've made a mistake, it's all a lie."
"What is all a lie?" he asked, exasperation clouding his voice. If they were going to talk in riddles all night he'd rather just see her off with a piece of bread and go to bed.
"The ministry-they think I- they believe I killed...that I killed..." she trailed off as fresh tears clung to her black eyelashes.
"They ministry thinks you killed who?" Draco asked expectantly.
"H-Ha-Harry! The ministry thinks that I killed Harry!" She screamed, almost relieved to finally verbalize the truth.
"Harry? Harry-Harry POTTER?" Draco asked, his gray eyes wide.
"Yes!" She choked, looking down into her tea.
"But-but that's impossible. It's...it's not possible," Draco said, his mind swimming with cold memories.
"I know. I knew you'd understand. I knew you'd see it was all a lie," she
seemed grateful to finally have an ally.
"I watched him die, I saw him fall myself, and itís not possible you killed
him...is it?" He asked, eyeing her closely.
"No. no, no, it's not possible! You know how he died, you watched!"
"Yes, I know...where did this ridiculous claim come from?" Hermione's eyes widened as she tried to answer, but at that particular second she seemed to deflate, her head falling slowly to the table as her body began to writhe and shake, panic finally taking its toll on her exhausted features. Draco watched in horror, rising from his place.
"Hermione," he stated steadily, watching her. "Who said this about you?"
"No. No,no,no,no!" She screamed.
"Hermione! Who said this about you!" The shaking stopped as soon as it had started. She stood up, as though nothing had happened, looked into his blue-gray eyes.
"Ron," She said simply. "My Ron...my husband...he did this."
A/N ( a year later)- I just thought I should clarify that Hermione was having a panic attack. It kinda looks weird if that's not described. if you've never had a panic attack, it's one of the most frightening things ever. Just thought I'd clarify :) A/N (Two years later)- wow. I really love this storyline even though it's so old and outdated now. I just updated and edited it a bit!