|Of Crimson Joy
Author: LittleRobbin PM
"Life isn't always black and white, Granger. There are just shades of grey," Hermione learns about the price of forgiveness and trust when Draco Malfoy joins the Order, three years in to the war.Rated: Fiction M - English - Tragedy/Romance - Draco M. & Hermione G. - Chapters: 18 - Words: 108,331 - Reviews: 355 - Favs: 682 - Follows: 213 - Updated: 04-01-11 - Published: 10-11-10 - Status: Complete - id: 6391019
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's Note: Here it is - the revised version of 'Of Crimson Joy'. Chapters should be coming quite quickly now, but I make no promises :P Enjoy :D
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters or plot connected with Rowling's original books. Just the Fanfiction plot
Oh, rose, thou art sick.
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night,
In the howling storm:
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson Joy:
And his dark, secret love
Does thy life destroy
- William Blake, The Sick Rose
The first time Draco Malfoy saw Hermione Granger since that fateful night at the tower was in his own sitting room, while she writhed and twisted on the ground before him. It had been difficult, despite that he had hated, hated Granger and her pompous brains and her annoying hair, because it was always difficult to watch his Aunt Bella torture someone. The light in her black eyes, and the way she licked her lips, shuddering at each pained cry that tore free from Granger's hoarse throat... it was enough to send echoing shudders of disgust through his own too-thin, too-pale form.
But this was Granger, the girl who had sat not three seats away from him in most lessons, her bushy hair obscuring his view more than once. This was a piece of his childhood, a part of the life where he had been the one on top, and for this, he craved her presence. She screamed and lashed and convulsed and clawed and it was enough to resurface his own memories of the Cruciatus, tearing through his body like a thousand white hot knives. But this was Granger, and he had always known her. So he didn't look away. He forced his eyes to remain fixed on her arching figure, not blinking once, not even when his vision began to blur from the dryness of his eyes.
And when Bellatrix finally, finally let up - because the Dark Lord was insane but not stupid, and Granger had information - always had information - the bushy brunette lay shuddering on the ground for all of six seconds. Then, in halted and obviously pained movements, she moved. One hand flat on the ground, then the other. Arms bent, then gradually straightened. Knees pushing her up the rest of the way. She wobbled precariously on her feet and Draco had to resist the urge to run forwards and steady her, because this was his childhood and he should be the only one making her tremble like that.
She'd spat at the Dark Lord's feet.
The second and third curses were no less in intensity and utter malice than the first. But something seemed to have cracked in Granger. Something had broken. She was numbed to it all. She writhed and twisted, and screeched and cried. But when Bellatrix lifted that wand again, sure enough, she rose to her feet and this time a triumphant smirk, worthy of any Slytherin, curled the corner of her mouth, a trail of blood spilling down her chin - red, just like his own, not black or brown or dirty, but crimson and wet.
He thought that he'd never seen her so beautiful as she looked in that moment, proud and defiant and knowing that death was about to take her and having the nerve to smirk at her soon-to-be killer. And the insight that her death would be no less painfull than any pure-blooded fool that had been stupid enough to defy the Dark Lord hit him like any Cruciatus he had ever experienced. Her death would be no less unnecessary or soul-shattering. It would be no less.
Even months after they had escaped - all parts of that bloody Golden Trio, with some help from a house-elf that had once been loyal to his family and brought him cookies, even when he didn't deserve it - the image of her blood, gently tracing the slope of her chin, had haunted him. Mocked him. Because once again, Hermione Granger, Gryffindor know-it-all, Head Girl wanna-be, was undeniably right.
The second time he saw Hermione Granger, two years had passed, he'd been tortured within an inch of his life and his mother had just died.
It had been the Dark Lord's plan. Personally, he'd thought it was rather stupid and incredibly see-through. He, of course, kept this oppinion to himself. Because, while it wasn't illegal to have such thoughts - the Dark Lord insisted there were no laws, and therefore nothing was technically illegal - Draco was quite certain that death would be the result of that particular comment, one of the highest-ranking Death Eaters or no.
"Ah. Draco," the Dark Lord's drawl sent a shudder through Draco's spine that was familiar to him. It was a feeling he had always hated, and thought he probably always would, even now after all the crimes and sins he had committed - that deep, dark, breath-stealing fear that felt like ice and adrenaline and fire pounding through him all at once. But today... today he welcomed it. Reveled in it. It made his heart stutter to life - the first emotion he had felt in days (weeks, months, years).
The Dark Lord was happy with himself. Draco had come to learn how to read the Snake's emotions over the years through the level of fear in the room. There was that glint in his eye that was rather smug for someone who proclaimed themself an immortal God. At first, Draco put it down to the third aniversary since the war began - that night on the tower when his wand had sparked it off. But then he noticed Bellatrix lurking in the background, the disgruntled frown that marred her otherwise beautiful face. Snape, only a few feet to the left of her, expression as blank as Draco's own. Other faces too - Rabastan, Rodulphus, Avery, Crabbe Sr., Dolohov, Goyle Sr, Greyback, Macnair, Mulciber. The Inner Circle. What was left of it, anyway.
"Look at him," And everyone's eyes snapped up to Draco, obeying the command without a second thought. Draco remained straightbacked, feet slightly apart, face unreadable - the perfect soldier. The Dark Lord smirked. "My heir. My son. My protégée."
Draco bowed low at the waist and, as he did so, remembered the countless times he had bowed in this room before, when it had been the most spectacular ballroom in all of pure-blood society and he'd had his pick of beautiful women to spin in his arms.
"Rise, my son. Stand before me that I may appraise you. Tell me, Bellatrix," he added after a moment. The woman at his side snapped to attention with all the eagerness of a puppy being called to their master. "Is your nephew not a fine wizard?"
"He is.. honoured to have your praise, my Lord," Bellatrix breathed, chancing a distasteful glare in Draco's direction. A risky move indeed, showing such dislike for the Dark Lord's own heir. But, where at another time he might have killed the woman for such an open display of disobedience, now the Dark Lord merely chuckled. Draco's hairs might have stood on end, had he allowed his body to respond in any such way.
"Do not worry, Pet," their Lord crooned mockingly. "You are still my favourite." It was a taunt at best, a downright insult at worst. Still, Bellatrix simpered under the praise, a flushed crimson spreading over the cheekbones that so resembled his mother's. But the Dark Lord was turning his attention back to Draco and so he crushed any thoughts of his mother, and stared straight ahead, allowing the public inspection.
"Strong. Powerful. Cunning... but is he willing to do whatever is necessary to serve me, I wonder?"
"My only wish is to serve you, My Lord," Draco replied calmly, not too fast, without hesitation. And yet, the Dark Lord's mask of light amusement slipped, and his gaze was suddenly pouring into Draco, searching, searching. Draco allowed the intrusion. It was vital that the Dark Lord feel he had complete control. But there were ways of hiding memories other than Occlumency. The invasion lasted barely seconds, and then the Dark Lord was smirking once more, moving to circle Draco.
"Good," he praised. "Impressive. But even my most willing servants have their flaws." His eyes flickered behind their slits to some nameless face on Draco's left and he thought he heard a gasp."Weaknessesss." The 's' sounded low and long and Draco fought the grimace it provoked.
"I have no weaknesses, my Lord."
"Yes. Well. We shall see," his voice was louder now, directed at the rest of the gathering. He always was one for theatrics. Draco swallowed his annoyance easily. "I have a mission for you. One I would only trust with one of my most loyal servants. It will require you to use your every ounce of stealth and cunning."
Draco waited, because inturrupting would surely end in a Cruciatus, and he didn't mind being patient. The Dark Lord waited until he had reached his throne before continuing, smiling lazily at Draco from the over-extravagant chair. "The Order of the Phoenix have been looking to convert you for years now. For some reason, Potter-" Here a low hiss ran around the room. He stifled it with an impatient wave. "- seems to think you will betray me."
"An unfounded notion of Gryffindor bravery, I assure you," Draco replied, with enough of a drawl to have a few other Death Eaters snickering.
"Undoubtedly," the Dark Lord agreed. He leaned forward on his knees, observing Draco over the steeple his long, pale fingers created. "But you cannot deny the opportunity such notions present." Draco quelled any curiosity the comment stirred, swallowing down any questions. After a pause, the Dark Lord continued, "I want you to go with Snape to their Headquarters. I want you to beg that Potter filth for asylum. I want you to promise him you will fight for him, that you have betrayed me and wish to help him and his pathetic rag-tag army. And then, just when he thinks he can trust you... I want you to destroy him."
"You wish for me to spy on the Order?" Draco asked after a pause, the first hints of uncertainty creeping in to his tone.
"Not exactly. I have Snape as my spy. And even while they believe him to be loyal to them, no one ever truly trusts a spy. No," the Dark Lord concluded, "I want you to be one of them. Talk like them, fight with them. Sink into their inner-circle. Bring them down from the inside."
When the Dark Lord paused expectantly, Draco nodded his head once - as if he could have refused. Lips curving up in to a sneer, the Dark Lord clapped his hands together, the sound making several of the Inner-Circle shift anxiously. Fear was a second Master in the room, commanding, domineering, leaving them wondering which reaction would be the right one to any given comment. But the Dark Lord was apparently in no mood for punishment tonight. In fact, he barely glanced at his audience, his sole focus on the man directly before him.
"Excellent. I knew you would not let me down. But..." The hesitation, the uncertainty, the slight pause - it was all for effect, of course. For a brief moment, Draco wondered what would happen if he were to simply stop playing. If he were to roll his eyes or sigh his frustration. Demand that the Dark Lord make himself clear for once, or simply remain silent. But the Snake's lips were thinned and pale, and his eyes danced with anticipation. The wondering lasted a mere second before Draco stepped up to the role.
"Yes, my Lord?"
"It would look terribly suspicious for you to turn up unscathed, the picture of perfect health. You are renowned for being one of my most favoured servants. Why would you turn away now, when you have everything to gain?" He did not wait for an answer. "No. It would simply not do. We will have to work to make it... realistic." There was a glint in his eyes that Draco recognised and his stomach rolled at the suggestion. But he was a Malfoy, a soldier, and he knew his part in this. So he clenched his jaw, bowed his head, lowered his eyes.
And in the low tone of his father, he replied, "Your wish is my command, my Lord."
He did not look up to see the Snake draw his wand, or the way he twirled it lazily between his fingers first, as if contemplating how best to execute his plan. He heard the calm declaration of "Crucio!" White pain took over, burning, agonising, thought-robbing, and he did not know anything else for a long time after.
She had been on a mission that night he first arrived. It had not been a success. They were misinformed and unprepared and the Aurors leading her were inexperienced because the older ones were off on far more important missions. Fighting six to one, it hadn't taken long for the retreat flare to shoot through the battlefield. Not before a Severing Charm sliced cleanly through her shoulder and out the other side. Not before Seamus Finnegan fell, the green light of the Avada still in his eyes.
She was supposed to be returning with the rest of her team-mates to some Ministry-designated safe house on the coast. But she was cold and wet and tired and she had just seen someone she had known since the age of eleven crumple at her feet. She needed home and warmth. And the nearest thing she would get to that would be Grimamuld Place.
She'd been expecting the usual glow of the fire to be lighting the kitchen, and the smell of Molly's cooking lingering in the air. Had relied on Harry's sulking presence, and his poor attempts to hide the fact that he resented her amount of freedom, even if it did have her coming home covered in blood - not always hers, but always, always there. But the portkey threw her in to a scene of chaos.
Her first thought when she saw the figure sprawled and convulsing on the kitchen floor was God no, please not Harry, please not Ron. But then she caught a flash of white-blond. Her second thought had her pulling her wand out on instinct, before it could register that there were at least four other highly trained Aurors surrounding him and he was clearly in no condition to fight.
He was pale. No, pale was not the right word. He had always been pale (with a complextion she had always secretly envied, but would never, ever admit to), even in the very height of summer. But the man lying in front of her was like a faded version of Draco Malfoy. A thin sheet of sweat coated his skin, giving it an almost ectoplasmic glow which made her sleep-addled mind wonder if he wasn't already dead and Molly's healing spells were all for nothing anyway. But his body was convulsing too hard for a ghost. And the ground out curses escaping his clenched teeth were enough to make her wince, stumble back at the venom in his tone.
Her foot knocking a chair had Lupin finally noticing her and thrusting a damp cloth in her hand. The smell of Ether, thick and heavy, reached her nose and she retched when it mixed with the iron tang of her own blood. But Lupin was giving her orders - press it down over his nose for five seconds, every fifteen seconds, and for Merlin's sake Hermione, don't let him suffocate! - and orders always had to be followed. So she dropped to her knees and pressed the cloth to Malfoy's face. She thought maybe she did it a little too hard because he coughed and spluttered before he passed out.
She counted - one, two, three, four, five - lifted the cloth away, started counting again. One, two, three, four - Molly was running spells over Draco's bare chest with a familiar urgency, muttering observations under her breath out of habit. - seven, eight, nine - There were no physical wounds, as far as she could see. But Hermione knew that meant nothing. There were curses far worse than the Cruciatus, which were designed to lay dormant until hours after the victim was hit, before tearing their way through that person's body.
Malfoy stirred. Her eyes flickered upwards only to lock with his gaze. She expected the usual venom and hatred and disgust through the haze of the Ether. But there was only some mild sort of curiosity. And then he was reaching up one hand and for one horrifying moment, she thought he might caress her. Her breath stuck in her chest, her spine turned to stone. But his finger slipped down her cheek, to the cut that would probably leave a scar on her chin. When it came away, her blood stained the skin there, dark and glistening in the dim light of the kitchen.
She almost choked when his hand fisted in her hair and he dragged her down with a painful tug so that her face was mere inches from his.
"See?" He ground out, and it took a moment before she did see the cut trailing down the side of his neck, blood pooling behind his head on the faded linoleum floor. "It's just like mine." As if she had been the one to ever dispute the fact.
She held his gaze the entire time she held the cloth over his mouth, waiting for the moment when he slipped back in to oblivion. She didn't let him stay consious long enough to talk after that.
Later, when Molly had done all she could do, and Malfoy had been moved up in to one of the spare rooms, Lupin would explain to her how Snape had seen him defy the Dark Lord - had shown them all the memory - and how he had been tortured until he was begging them, pleading with them to kill him. She would make the appropriate noises of agreement when Molly expressed her sympathy and hatred of children being forced into war, and pretend not to see Lupin's pensive frown that had him silent the rest of the evening. She would calm Harry's almost-violent declarations that Malfoy was most definitely up to something.
But, that night, when she was finally tucked up in bed, Malfoy asleep just one floor above her, all she would remember was the way he had stared at her blood, almost transfixed, and the childlike certainty when he'd proclaimed that, "See? It's just like mine." She would think that maybe Malfoy had started to heal. Maybe there was hope for him. She would curse her abominable habit of being drawn to undeniably lost causes and determine to be extra unforgiving, just to make up for the weakness of her own thoughts.
She would think of his finger coated in her blood. "See? Its just like mine." And the unspoken message - we are the same.
It was three days before Draco recovered enough to last an hour without the constant pain potion top-ups, and a further four before the Weasley mother proclaimed him fit enough for interrogation. He refused to speak to the tatty werewolf he recognised as an ex-professor. He refused to even acknowledge the Aurors they sent in, one after another. Whenever the Weasley mother would come in with a meal (always heavily guarded) he would make one simple request.
"I want to talk to Potter."
The Weasley woman made a clicking sound behind her teeth but otherwise ignored him. He might have grunted his annoyance, if not for the fact that just breathing sent shudders of pain up his spine. He settled for glowering at her until she left the room, then sinking back in to his flimsy pillows, exhausted by that small effort. It was hours before his door creaked open again and, from the otherwise stillness that had settled over the house while he slept, he could assume that it was late.
The figure moved stealthily across the room, and Draco tracked his movements with a carefully masked wariness. A long moment passed, during which the two men simply regarded each other. It was surreal in a way, Draco mused, to be faced with one's childhood nemesis after so many years. Potter had changed - he was a man now, less scrawny, and there was a light dusting of stubble covering his face. He looked tired - not because of the late hour, but the kind of tired that came of a child who had been forced into adulthood too quickly and spent most of their time simply trying to stay afloat. The kind of tiredness that sucked you dry and left you a hollowed-out shell.
It was the kind of tired that Draco had been feeling since he was sixteen years old. And he wasn't sure how he felt, seeing that same feeling reflected in a boy he had always prided himself on being so different from.
"What are you doing here, Malfoy?" Potter asked, and Draco wondered if the pondering frown that crinkled that famous scar meant he was having the same thoughts and feeling just as disconcerted by it all.
"Well," Draco said, somehow finding it within himself to drawl. "Since the last thing I remember is passing out from the pain and then waking up here, I can only assume I have been kidnapped and am being held hostage until further notice."
Potter regarded him coolly for a moment. "This isn't a game, Malfoy."
He tried to smirk, but had a horrible feeling it simply came across as a tired smile. "Life is a game, Potter. All we can do is play the hand we're dealt and hope for the best."
"Is that what you're doing? Playing with us?"
"I've heard your lot have been looking to recruit me," Draco answered instead. "Severus is apparently more insightful than I gave him credit for. He seemed to realise I was going to switch before I did." He sighed when Potter didn't reply. "I have information. Names, places, plans. I am limited in what I am actually able to reveal. But I shall do what I can."
"How would we know you weren't just lying? Sending us headfirst into traps your precious Dark Lord has waiting."
"Because your Aurors have more than one way to tell if a person is lying - even the most skilled Occlumens. And there's no way they would follow any information without having it backed up by at least three other sources. You wouldn't be relying on my word alone."
"In that case, what makes you think we even need you?"
This time, Draco knew his smirk was fully-formed. "Because I'm Draco Malfoy, son of Lucius Mafloy, Public Enemy Number Two, until someone did me a favour and finished him off. I'm the Dark Lord's heir - ex-heir-" he added with a slight grimace. "I doubt he'll be welcoming me back with open arms any time soon."
"And why now? Why now, when Voldemort is at his most feared? Surely it would be more profitable for you to stick to the winning side?" It was Potter's turn to smirk. "Or do you expect me to believe that you've had a sudden change of heart and come to your senses?"
Draco rolled his eyes. "Potter, it's like you don't know me at all. I'm tired of tiptoeing around that hypocritical, half-blood Snake's feet. I'm done playing the snappy sidekick. Being rid of him would be more profitable to me."
There was a long moment of silence. Seconds ticked by, counted by the rain now tapping a light stacato tune on the window. Draco was only mildly surprised when Potter sank down in to the chair beside his bed, leaning heavily on his knees. There was an odd sort of weariness behind those glasses, that made something in Draco's chest burn. Because this was Potter and Malfoy, arch enemies by nature, meant to eternally hate and bicker and duel. This was a part of his childhood that he wasn't ready to let go of yet. And bloody Potter had already gone and left him behind.
"Is that the truth, Malfoy?"
His smirk faltered. Flickered. Died. His eyes shut without him making the conscious decision to do so. The silence pressed down on him, and he blamed it for the thick tone of his voice when he finally spoke again. "The truth."