AUTHORS NOTE: This is my first fan fiction. Feel free to review if you want to, but please do not feel obligated. If you have some criticisms I would be happy to hear them (well, mostly happy.) About 70% of the story is written already- so I promise I won't leave you hanging (rookie mistake)!

As a warning- this is rated MA for a reason! IT GETS DARK. Torture, rape, and Voldemort being an incredibly creepy dude are just some of the themes. Please do NOT read this if it is not your cup of tea, or if you are young and impressionable- YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! Also, the first chapter is the worst in terms of graphic violence, so if you are with me through that- the ending is happy.

Now with that ominous and slightly cheesy note out of the way….

All Hermione could feel was the pain of the dagger cutting into her arm, carving into her skin. Above her, Bellatrix laughed. It was an insane, unhinged, and maniacal laugh that Hermione knew would haunt her dreams if she ever made it out of this bloody manor alive. And Hermione was a smart enough witch to realize that her chances of survival were slim to none.

"HOW DID YOU GET INSIDE MY VAULT?" Bellatrix screamed.

"We…didn't… it's… fake." Hermione sobbed. She couldn't open her eyes- the world around her was just too painful. At least that was one thing she could control; she didn't have to watch them while they tortured her. She thought that maybe if she kept her eyes closed, the blackness would envelop her and she would fade peacefully into death. Like floating away.


Hermione felt nothing but pain. It was as if she were on fire, and being stretched from the inside out. The only thing that she could hear was this horrible, pitiful screaming sound. She wanted to help the poor person who was making such a horrifying noise. Then Bellatrix's curse lifted, the pain stopped, and Hermione realized that she was the one screaming.

Everything seemed fuzzy. She laid, crumpled on the floor, unable to even process what was going on around her. When she finally had the strength to open her eyes, she realized that the whole world had gone blurry. She heard voices, but they were muffled, as if her ears were filled with water. She knew that there was a commotion going on around her, but she couldn't make out any of the individual people. Then she felt a strong hand drag her upright into a standing position, and she felt a knife being pressed to her throat.

Whatever leftover adrenaline was still in her body allowed her to focus, and keep conscious.

"Drop your wands, or she dies!" Bellatrix voice shrieked from behind her. She felt the blade dig in, breaking the surface of the skin on her neck. She was able to focus on the faces of Harry and Ron, as they slowly lowered their weapons. Then Harry's eyes moved to the ceiling above her head, and Hermione wondered what he was looking at. She couldn't bring herself to find the energy to move her head back, but she gasped when she suddenly felt herself being pulled backwards by Bellatrix. The chandelier crashed to the ground in the area where they had just been standing. "Call him, Lucius." Bellatrix shrieked.

"Nooo," screamed Harry.

"Go! Please, Dobby." Hermione half screamed, half pleaded, using the last of her energy. She knew that neither Harry nor Ron would ever leave without her. She saw Dobby look at her, nod, and then take hold of both Ron and Harry. Together they disapperated with a crack, but not before Bellatrix hurled her knife straight at Harry's heart.

Hermione felt one small moment of triumph- her friends were safe. Then she succumbed to the darkness and fainted.

Draco watched as his parents paced around the room, looking frantic.

"Did you call him?" His mother asked.

"Yes." His dad looked scared, but his eyes fell on Hermione's unconscious form.

"We don't tell him that Potter was here. Just say we captured the mudblood bitch. He will praise us, kill her, and no one will be the wiser."

"Agreed," said his Aunt Bellatrix. Draco knew that she was unswervingly loyal to the Dark Lord, but apparently her fear of loosing favor with him overrode her desire to follow him completely- how very Slytherin, he thought.

Hermione began to stir on the floor by his feet.

"Listen, mudblood," Lucius said, crossing over to her prone body. "We captured you alone. You know that if you tell The Dark Lord that you helped Potter escape again he will make you death even more drawn out and painful. His mind can come up with scenarios so sick that your pure little heart would not even dream of them being possible. So if you know what is good for you, say nothing."

She nodded, looking completely broken. She was bleeding from several places, and her eyes had a glazed, dead look that Draco had seen before when Voldemort had made him watch as he tortured other wizards. He wished that she had escaped. He didn't want to have to watch her scream anymore. When Potter and Weasley had shown up with they crude escape attempt, Draco couldn't bring himself to try and seriously hurt them. He had even given up his wand in a tussle with Potter so that he wouldn't have to hurt anyone. If only he had gotten to Hermione before his psychotic aunt. Now she was stuck here in his own little circle of hell. Voldemort would come, and he would kill her just like he had killed so many others before her.

But this wasn't some nameless muggle- this was Granger. This was the girl he had cursed for beating him on every test they had ever taken. This was the only girl to ever hit him. This was the Gryffindor golden girl, bookworm extraordinaire, and innocence personified. He knew with an unflinching certainty that if he had to watch her die, it would break him. He had already seen so much death. He saw that she was terrified, but he just stood by as his self-disgust festered, and the entire group waited for the Dark Lord to arrive. He wondered if he would ever be man enough to stop just standing by.

Unfortunately Hermione had fully regained consciousness due to her fear. She tried to fight with her sluggish mind. I need a plan. How can I escape? But her brain was entirely unhelpful; she couldn't get past the fear of Lucius Malfoy's words. What could Voldemort really do to her that was worse than the cruciatus curse? She didn't want to die. She wanted to defeat Voldemort, live a long life, and make the wizarding world a better place. Her terror was rising, like bile in the back of her throat, threatening to suffocate her. Then she heard the graceful footsteps of a man walking towards their group, and she realized that her previous terror was nothing compared to the heart-pounding, gut-wrenching nausea she was experiencing now.

"My Lord," Bellatrix purred. "We have captured the mudblood bitch, the best friend of Harry Potter." The way that she looked at Voldemort reminded Hermione of a lovesick teenager. It was absolutely revolting. Then Hermione stared as he slithered into the room, coming to a stop right in front of her crumpled form. He was simply the ugliest creature she had ever seen. He didn't even look human anymore.

"What iss thiss? The pure little mudblood. You are the one who has been helping little Harry Potter hide from me. I have heard the stories. The clever girl. The kind mudblood. Champion of the weak and liberator of house elves. The girl who dares think herself an equal with thosssse she is not fit to touch."

On the word touch he leaned down and pressed a long cold finger against her cheek. She shuddered.

"Does my touch repel you? Many would kill for the mere possibility of me laying a finger on them, but you, mudblood, reject me. I had thought to just feed you to Nagini, but now I have a much greater plan." He turned to address the death eaters who were in the room.

"It is our duty to teach mudbloods their status in my new world order. As a prize to the Malfoy family for bringing me this gem, I am giving her to them. This high-and-mighty Gryffindor, Harry Potter's closest friend, mudblood, and symbol of all things that I despise, I want you to break her." His voice was cold. "She is to become the family pet. After all, what boy doesn't want a pet" He gestured to Draco, who had been standing quietly slightly behind his parents.

"And as a thank you for my generosity, you, Draco, are going to prove to me right now that she is not as pure as she pretends."

Draco thought he was going to throw up. After everything he had been forced to do to survive living with Voldemort, he thought that there was nothing that would surprise him anymore. He had tortured, watched people be murdered and done nothing to help, and even watched the bodies of the dead being feed to that bloody snake. But this, having to rape a classmate while his parents and Voldemort watched was so heinous. Was survival really worth this?

"I'm waiting Draco." The dark lord crooned. "Either you do it or your father will, and then he will open up your ass for daring to disrespect me when I give you a gift."

With that he waved his wand and Hermione suddenly was naked, curled in the fetal position on the floor, her arm still bleeding slowly.

Unsure of what to do, he looked at his mother who gave him a nod. She was trying to encourage him that things would be all right. That this was just one more task to complete for survival. The alternative to not doing it was worse.

He swallowed hard, realizing that there was really nothing left to do but get this over with as quickly as possible. Turning to Hermione, jaw set, he realized he had never been less aroused in his entire life. How was he supposed to make his body want to do this?

As he unbuckled his pants he suddenly felt a weird tingling go through his body, as if it had fallen asleep from the waist down. His eyes flicked quickly back to his mother and father, just in time to see her wand disappear up her sleeve. Then he suddenly realized the real purpose of her spell; he was now hard.

He hadn't yet been able to make himself look at Hermione's face. He grabbed her roughly by the waist and pulled her up onto her hands and knees. This way he didn't have to see her face, though he couldn't do anything about the crying or screaming that was burning his ears and crushing his soul.

He couldn't feel it, as he raped her. He realized from her initial outcry that she must have been a virgin. This war is no place for a virgin, he thought morosely. He had learned that lesson long ago, when his own virginity had been taken. A few more quick thrusts and he pulled away, his cock spraying across the back of her ass, though he didn't feel any sort of orgasm. He tucked his cock back into his pants and stood up calmly. All he wanted to do was to get away so that he could cry, and maybe kill himself. But Voldemort was saying something, so he had to wait.

"Ohh, what fun. Well this will work out just perfectly. Congratulations Draco on your new pet. I shall of course be dropping by to make sure that you are training her properly. She can sleep tied to your bed, or in a cage if she needs to be punished. When you are through with her I want her to have forgotten her own name. She should respond only to pet, or puppy. I like the sound of that. Don't you puppy?"

Hermione just continued crying and shivering on the stone floor.

"I said, DON'T YOU PUPPY?" He screamed.

"Ye..e..ess." Hermione sobbed.

"Good girl. Now Draco, if you fail to train her properly. Well, I have no use for a defective pet, and I will kill you for disappointing me. I hate it when people disappoint me. " He turned to leave the manor.

"I almost forgot, she will need clothes" With a bored flick of his wand a thin golden chain encircled her waist, where it connected with another chain that ran between her legs. Her upper arms were adorned in gold arm cuffs and around her neck was a thick silver chain that connected to a golden chain leash. The end of the leash floated lazily through the air towards Draco until it rested in his hand. It also seemed that The Dark Lord had altered her appearance, removing all of the hair on her body and taming her hair so that it flowed in smooth ringlets down her back. He had also darkened her eyes with dark makeup so that she looked like a concubine, being served to her master. A short robe made of translucent black chiffon and silk fell open at her sides, enhanced the illusion even more than her previous nakedness. She looked broken, but still beautiful.

With that the Dark lord walked out.

Narcissa Malfoy was the first to break the silence, "You heard the Dark Lord, Draco, take her to your room. And here, dear, take this spare wand in case she tries to attack you."

Hermione was beyond caring what happened to her as she followed Malfoy to his room. Everything was just too horrible for her mind to process fully. She didn't care what Malfoy did to her now. It had seemed that Lucius was right; Voldemort had known exactly what would crush her spirit. Loosing her friends, having the word mudblood carved into her, and then being raped was too much.

Malfoy was still holding her leash as they entered his room. As soon as they crossed the threshold he muttered "muffliato." He immediately dropped the chain, fell to his knees, and vomited all over the carpet.

"I am so sorry. So… sorry…sorry." He muttered as he got up and we ran to his bed and heaved the comforter off. As he approached her, Hermione cringed inward, thinking it was another attack. But all he did was fling the entire comforter around her shoulders, so that her previously naked boy was covered. Then his hands moved to her throat and he unclipped the leash and threw it across the room so that it was as far away from Hermione as possible. He then backed away from her, until the backs of his legs hit the edge of his four-poster bed, and he sat down upon it. He then muttered, "So… god-damned… sorry" as he buried his head in his hands and wept.

Hermione watched him as he sat on the bed crying. She looked to the door, thinking that maybe she could make a run for it. But out there was Lucius, Narcissa, and Bellatrix, as well as any other death eaters who were lurking around Malfoy manor. At least in this room she had a blanket. Realizing that Malfoy didn't plan on attacking her again, she let go of any residual adrenaline coursing though her system and crumpled, crying, onto the floor, still cocooned in Malfoy's comforter.

Somehow she had fallen asleep from sheer exhaustion. In her dreams, she saw Bellatrix and Voldemort holding out dog treats saying, "There's my pet."

She woke up screaming.

"It's ok, it's ok, it's ok" Draco whispered, trying to calm a frantic Hermione.

She was so distraught, and for a few minutes all she could do was try and force herself to breath slowly. Air came in through the nose, out through the mouth, like her mother used to do in yoga. God that felt like a lifetime ago- she thought. Oddly, the contrast between her memories of doing yoga in her parent's living room and her current terror curled up on Malfoy's floor calmed her. There was some good in the world. Even if she couldn't see it right now.

Finally she felt brave enough to look up at Malfoy.

"It's not ok," she said, meeting his eyes for the first time.

"I know," he said, just as stoically. "But I don't know how to make it better. Honestly, Granger, I am barely surviving here."

"And you have to look out for yourself, who cares about some mudblood. It's a good thing you hate me." She sighed, "I guess that makes this easier for you- that I'm disposable."

Malfoy was surprised. She said it without a hint of anger or sarcasm, but a quiet acceptance. It seemed that she was aware of his prejudice, and wasn't even going to waste her breath pleading with him. It made Draco sick. That she could be so sure that he was not going to fight for her. Yes, in the past he had called her a mudblood, but that was when he was an ignorant git. He had always thought that she was a person. When had he become this person, this monster? As he crouched over her, being careful not to touch her, he made a vow to himself. He may not be good enough to deserve to survive. He may have become this jaded, inhumane, coward, but he was going to save her. He was going to make sure she survived. Because there shouldn't be a world without Hermione Granger in it, and he was going to make sure the future had a fighting chance. Even though he had never liked her at Hogwarts, there was no denying that she was one of the few witches of their age who could change the world. Maybe if he could just save her then his slate would finally be clean.

There had been silence in the room while Draco made his vow. Finally he touched her hand and sat down completely on the floor. They were now on the same level.

"Hermione, I am not going to leave you. You are NOT GOING TO DIE. We are going to survive together. And if we can't do that, then you are going to survive alone."

Her mouth was slightly ajar, and Draco couldn't help but think how vulnerable she looked sitting there cocooned in his comforter.

"Promise me- you won't give up. Because if you won't give up, I won't give up."

She nodded.

"Say it. Say 'I won't give up.'"

"I won't give up."

It seemed that after that declaration, there was a newfound bond of trust between Hermione and Draco. It was not a very strong bond, but it was there.

Draco had also realized that Granger was naked under that short black excuse for a robe.

"Do you want some clothes? I think I have some pajamas that might fit you. Anything has got to be better than nothing."

"Yes… please."

So Draco went to his closet and pulled out his old worn-out England quidditch pants and a shirt. He laid them on the bed, and then he walked into the bathroom to give her some privacy.

Alone in the bathroom he sat down on the edge of the bathtub and did what any good Slytherin does best, he started to plot.

First, was escape an option?

Answer: no. They were in the middle of the Dark Lords base camp. Also, apparition had been suspended when the Dark Lord came to stay, so the only way in or out (except for elf magic) was through the front gate. Because he was an official, mark-carrying death eater, he couldn't just disappear with Hermione. They would be hunted down, and then he would be killed. She would be killed or worse - brought back to the manor.

He supposed it would be slightly possible to attempt to escape and then split up if they managed it. He would most certainly die, but she might have a fighting chance. It would all depend on whether or not Voldemort thought she was important enough to chase after, or if his pride had been bruised by their escape. So all in all, escaping at the moment was not looking like the best plan.

So, second problem. If they had to stay, how did he protect Granger?

He would try to keep her in his room as much as possible. He couldn't trust his parents. He knew they were both as afraid of the Dark Lord as he was, and they were also trying to survive until this was over, but they didn't care about Hermione at all. They were likely to serve her up to Voldemort if they thought it would grant the Malfoy family favor.

She would have to play along. He had spent months learning that playing along and following orders was the best way not to get killed. Playing along was going to be a lot harder for her, as she was supposed to act like his personal pet.

So was there any way to make that easier? What if they could talk without the Dark Lord listening in? Then at least she could follow his lead, or tell him if she was about to break under the stress.

Well, he thought, getting up from the edge of the tub- that was enough of a plan to be getting on with. He needed to talk it over with Granger, and see if maybe she had any better ideas.

So he moved back into the bedroom.

Hermione was not sure which shocked her more, that Malfoy was willing to help her or that he had left her alone in his bedroom. She had briefly thought about trying to make a run for it, but just as quickly realized that there was no way that she could make it to the edge of Malfoy manor without getting caught. Even if she did, she didn't have a wand, so she couldn't apparate. The chances of success were infinitesimal, and the consequences if she got caught were too severe for her to risk her life on a foolhardy plan.

After she dressed, she heard Malfoy come back in from the bathroom.

"We need to strategize," he said. "If we try to escape from the manor, we are both most likely going to die. My guess is that the Dark Lord would never stop hunting for either of us. He doesn't like when people disobey him." He shuddered slightly, as if he was remembering something horrible.

"Hopefully, we can find an opportunity to convince him that you died, or that we both died. Then he won't come looking for us. But until then the only safe play is for us to do what he commands. From what I've seen, you don't live for very long if you can't follow the Dark Lord's orders."

"Draco, I don't know if I can go through that again," Hermione said honestly. "Every time he touched me, I wanted to scream. My skin felt like it was crawling with beetles. And then you raped me." She was crying silently now.

"I know it's no excuse, but if I hadn't my father would have. Then because the Dark Lord was displeased he probably would have tortured us both."

"I know." She paused, "that's what makes this so messed up."

"I've been thinking. What if there was a way that we could communicate privately, away from the Dark Lord, and then it wouldn't feel as horrible. It would still be traumatic, but at least you wouldn't be alone. You would know that I hate him every bit as much as you do."

"Unumentis" Hermione whispered.


"More commonly known as the mind meld charm, it allows two wizards to connect with each other so that they can speak without verbalization. Lifelong auror partners mainly use it to respond to threats cohesively. It's almost like a telepathic connection. But it is only broken by death. Most people call it the soul-bond, because it is said that the wizard's very souls can not be broken apart."

"Figures you would know. How do we do it?"

"You do realize that you just willingly decided to tie yourself to me for life. It is deeper than just communication. You will be able to sense when I am in pain, or when I feel threatened. It will not matter if I am right in front of you or if I am half way across the world. It will also hurt when I die. I've read stories about pairs where one partner killed himself, and the other partner was so racked with guilt and pain that he was driven insane by severing of the bond. "

She took a breath, and Draco almost smiled. It was like they were back at Hogwarts again, and she was been a snotty little show off. Heck, some of the bond descriptions she just gave were probably word-for-word from a library book.

"That means, even if we are both lucky enough to survive this war, you will still be tied to me until either of us dies. Are you really willing to do that with a mudblood? One you don't even like? This is a life-altering charm, Malfoy."

"First off, if were are going to be sharing our thoughts, you should learn to call me Draco. Second, I think we are going to need to do this if we want to survive. And…" He paused, taking a deep breath.

"And, I don't want you to think I like this. Making you my pet, it's sick. I don't want you to ever think that I am like him." He hung his head.

For the first time, Hermione leaned over towards Draco, and put her hand on his shoulder. She could tell that her touch startled him, and he looked up suddenly.

"I do trust you… Draco. Not very much, but enough to try."

"It is a little odd, hearing you call me that."

"I keep expecting for you to call me mudbood, Granger, or little-miss-know-it-all."

"I never called you that last one. It isn't even very creative. Are you sure it wasn't Weasel?" He smirked, "I pride myself in coming up with better nicknames than that."

And though Hermione never would have believed it an hour ago, she smiled.

"Well now that we are stuck together, you have all the time in the world. Impress me."

"I do have one I call you." His face went slightly pink, "I will tell you tomorrow; I have a feeling we are both going to need something to look forward to."

Hermione nodded, "Ok, tomorrow."

"Now, we need to preform that charm. I want a few hours to get used to it before we have to fool other people."

"Are you completely sure?"

"Yes, Granger."

"Hermione. If I am going to call you Draco, you have to call me Hermione."

"Right, sorry. Yes, Hermione. I'm sure."

"Alright, the spell is kind of dangerous to preform. If either of us rejects the bond, we will both be in serious pain. Usually, this is done with a team of healers on standby, but I guess we don't have that luxury. First our foreheads have to be touching, and then we both have to concentrate on opening our minds. You should try visualizing opening a door or pushing back a screen around your brain. Then once we feel the presence of the bond, you are supposed to summon a memory of the person that you are trying to bond with. It has to be a good memory, if not the bond will sour, and we will not be able to communicate clearly."

"Do you even have any good memories of me?" Malfoy interrupted.

"One night I was walking to the library and I heard crying coming from an abandoned corridor…" Hermione could see it like it was yesterday.

Even though it was the beginning of fourth year, she was still going to start studying for her O.W.L's. She had been angry with Harry and Ron for teasing her about being such as know-it-all, so part of the reason was she just wanted some peace and quiet. She loved her best friends, but sometimes they were just such- boys. The noise had startled her. Turning into the corridor she saw Hannah Abbot curled up against the wall, her head resting on her knees. Her crying had mostly stopped, though she hiccupped every few seconds, and her eyes were still misty.

"What's wrong Hannah?" she asked.

"Oh, nothing. I am just being silly. You see, I had a sort of crush on Cormac McLaggen. Today he found out. I was just sitting in the great hall eating breakfast when he comes up to me and starts laughing at me and saying such awful things."

Hermione just nodded and kept patting her hand, knowing that she shouldn't interrupt.

"He told me I was ugly, and that he would never kiss a Hufflepuff. He said he would rather go on a date with one of Hagrid's blast-ended-skrewts." She squeaked the last word and started crying again.

"I am so sorry Hannah. Listen, he's not worth it. He's just a stupid boy."

"Yea, that's what Draco said."

"Draco, Draco Malfoy?" Hermione was shocked.

"Yea, he was there. He actually stood up for me. He said that McLaggen was just upset that Gryffindor had lost to Hufflepuff last year in Quidditch. He told Cormac, in front of the whole school, that he was a sad little prick and that he would personally write a letter to Cormac's mum saying what a pathetic excuse for a man he was. Then he gave me his handkerchief and told me that Cormac wasn't worth another thought. He was so sweet."

Hannah fiddled with the white fabric in her hand, and Hermione saw the Malfoy crest embroidered in fine silver thread in the corner.

Hermione pulled out of her reverie, and looked at Malfoy. "Even though you weren't there, I still remember thinking 'maybe it is just us. Maybe he is secretly a good guy, and the hatred runs too deep with Harry and Ron for us to see it.' I don't know, but in that moment I actually liked you."

Draco sighed. She was right. He had always felt like he turned into this other person whenever Potter was around. Weasel and Granger had gotten that too because they were always so close to Potter. Maybe, he needed to forget about that so that he could keep Granger safe.

He searched his memories trying to come up with a good one for Hermione.

"It was our first potions class. You had all of this bushy hair and had already become the class know-it-all. Do you remember Snape yelling at Potter for not knowing a bezoar, and you had your hand raised so high, desperately wanting to prove that you knew the answer." He laughed.

"This doesn't sound like a particularly good memory."

"I'm getting there, Hermione, don't rush me. Anyways. It was after that. Snape asked up to get out our cauldrons and brew a simple potion- a cure for boils. Your cauldron was close to mine, and you finished before I did. I remember looking up at you right as you were done, and the potion turned the deep blue color that it was supposed to be. You looked like you had never seen anything so amazing. It was almost like you were being introduced to magic for the first time. I had never seen such a pure love of magic. I thought maybe my parents were wrong. Maybe magic can choose anyone."

He finished his story, looking at her. "You came a long way from a potion to cure boils."

She just smiled. "Ok, let's do this."

They both sat down cross-legged on the floor, foreheads touching. Draco tried to imagine the top of his skull splitting open and then peeling back. Hermione used his replacement wand to cast the spell. "Unnumentisss" she whispered, moving the wand in a complicated zigzag motion.

Draco began to feel like there was a worm made entirely of light and warmth crawling up his forehead from where he was touching Hermione. It seemed to travel up to the crack in his skull that he had envisioned, until it slipped into his mind. He started concentrating on Hermione. How brave she was. How clever. How good and pure. He focused completely on that one moment, were her eyes had lit up and she had stared in wonder at the magic she had just created. Then there was a blinding flash of pure white light that seemed to engulf both of them, which faded as quickly as it had started.

"It's done." Hermione said, though she sounded like she had just run a mile. Draco realized that he was out of breath as well.

"Did it work?"

"I think so, from what I read. A white light means a good bond. Red is a love bond. Green is true friendship. We would have been in trouble if it had glowed black."

"Well, what does white mean?" Draco asked.

"I don't know. White bonds are really rare according to what I have read. Most are green. I don't think anyone ever classified it, other than saying it was good."

"That's good then."

They sat in silence for a few moments, both trying to catch their breath. Hermione's yawn broke the silence.

"We should either try communicating, or go to sleep." She said sleepily.

"We need to at least try. No one expects me to be up and moving before noon anyways, and the more time you spend in here the safer it is."

"Ok, well I think it is almost like writing a letter. You focus on the words that you want to say and then you try and send them through space and towards me."

"Alright Granger, I'm thinking of a number between one and ten."

Malfoy screwed up his face, concentrating so hard that he looked constipated.

"I got nothing." She said, after a minute and his face starting to turn pinkish.

"Well, lets see you try" he said, sounding annoyed.

Hermione thought of a piece of parchment, and on it she used a big white feather quill to write the letter eleven very clearly. Then she visualized a thin string, connecting her brain to Draco's, and she watched as an invisible ant carried the parchment down the string and towards Malfoy's brain. She imagined the parchment unrolling so that it covered the top of his head like a funny hat. Then the paper dissolved, and she saw him look at her with awe.

"Eleven," he whispered.

"That's right!"

"Damn, Granger, is there anything you can't do?"

Hermione smiled. If it had been Ron she had done this with he would have complained about how she always got everything first try. He had been bitter since their first year, when she corrected him on his 'swish and flick' movements in charms class. If it had been Harry sitting here, he would have just rolled his eyes and said that he expected nothing less. Draco's compliment took her by surprise.

"I thought you were going to start calling me Hermione. And don't cuss."

He screwed up his face again, but then let out a breath and relaxed. All of the sudden Hermione could feel a slight tingling in the front of her skull. It wasn't unpleasant, like the feeling you get when your foot falls asleep. It was more like a cool breath right up against her skin. Then she heard a soft voice in the back of her mind.


She smiled- the git. It didn't sound like his speaking voice exactly, which surprised her. Instead it was deeper, more soothing, as though he was trying to calm her. She had to admit it was a pleasant voice. She tried their new communication again.

Does my 'head' voice sound different from my speaking voice?

Yea, it is not as whiny. The way he said it, Hermione could tell that he was joking, so she didn't take offense.

Yours is deeper, more masculine than your actual voice.

I want to try something. Standby.

All of the sudden Hermione felt a rush of grief and guilt. It was so much that she though she was going to be sick. Her stomach was forcing itself out of her body through her esophagus, but it seemed to have gotten stuck around her pharynx. She couldn't speak. Her eyes were watering and her tongue felt three times is normal size.

STOP, please.

Then just as suddenly as the feeling had come, it stopped.

That was how I felt, when I realized what he wanted me to do to you. I am so sorry Hermione.

At that moment Hermione realized that he really was going to protect her. He couldn't fake a feeling that horrible, and she knew instinctively that he couldn't lie through the bond. So she moved closer to him until she could rap her arm around his shoulder.

I don't blame you, she sent through their new bond.

But I blame myself, he answered back quickly, growing more comfortable with the bond.

She thought about the safety that she felt now- the fact that she had been able to smile (more than once) in the last hour. She thought about how, as odd as it seemed, Draco Malfoy had become an ally. She took all of those feelings in a glowing ball of yellow light and sent them to Draco. She felt as he received them, how the weight dragging him to the floor seemed to lift.

"We should go to sleep," she whispered. "I don't know about you but this has easily been the longest day of my life. I need unconsciousness for a while."

"Alright, I will take the floor." Draco mumbled, moving away from her.

"What if someone comes in and see us? You can't show me any outward kindness, or it could mean beatings for both of us."

"You shouldn't have to sleep on the floor."

"Honestly, Draco, that is the least of my problems." Hermione said with a tone of finality. She moved back to her makeshift den under Draco's comforter.

Just before going to sleep she sent him one last message.

Thank you.

Why are you thanking me?

For giving me back my hope.